Today I’m so delighted to introduce Mixed-Up Files readers to Danielle Joseph, author of everything from picture books to young adult novels. We recently spoke about her middle-grade debut, Sydney A. Frankel’s Summer Mix-Up, which will be published this coming Tuesday, November 1. Danielle has generously offered a signed copy of the book along with some swag to one lucky winner. So don’t forget to click on the Rafflecopter at the bottom and follow the prompts for a chance to win. (USA only.)
Danielle is the author of the picture book, I Want to Ride the Tap Tap (Macmillan, 2020) and the young adult novels Shrinking Violet, Indigo Blues, and Pure Red. Shrinking Violet was adapted into the 2012 Disney Channel movie, Radio Rebel starring Debby Ryan. Danielle is a former middle school creative writing teacher and has been teaching writing workshops for more than ten years. She was born in Cape Town, South Africa and currently lives in Maryland with her husband and three children. Visit www.daniellejoseph.com for more information about her and her books.
About the Book
Dorian: Please tell us a little about Sydney A. Frankel’s Summer Mix-Up.
Danielle: Sydney A. Frankel’s Summer Mix-Up is about best friends, summer shenanigans, and overcoming your fears. It’s also about navigating the transition before starting middle school. Most importantly, this book is for anyone that has ever felt a little different from the crowd.
Dorian: Sounds great! What was the inspiration behind this book?
Danielle: The original idea for this book actually came from a conversation I had with my eldest son. He was in fifth grade at the time, and he told me he didn’t want to enter the school spelling bee because he didn’t want to win. The winner would have to represent the whole school at the county spelling bee. Just like Sydney Frankel, my son didn’t like being in the limelight. This was the little nugget that I needed to get this story rolling.
Dorian: I can definitely relate. Were there any autobiographical elements in the book?
Danielle: Like my son, I was also very shy growing up, so I was definitely able to draw from some of my own experiences while writing this book. I was also a very tall kid who grew early, like Sydney, so some of those details are from my own experiences.
Dorian: What would you like readers to take away after reading Sydney A. Frankel’s Summer Mix-Up?
Danielle: I would love readers to connect with the characters in the book. I want them to know that they are not alone and that we all have different anxieties and fears. That things aren’t always what they seem on the surface and that even the most confident seeming person has their own struggles.
Dorian: What were some of your favorite middle-grade books when you were a kid?
Danielle: As a kid, I always wanted to be Judy Blume or Beverly Cleary. They were my literary heroes because their characters jumped off the pages and their humor was spot on. I was also a big fan of Bridge to Terabithia, Harriet the Spy, and Ronia, the Robber’s Daughter.
Dorian: You’ve written novels for the young adult audience and a picture book as well. What did you find was different about writing for the middle-grade reader?
Danielle: My process of writing is similar for everything I work on, I like to write a skeleton draft and then weave in everything that is missing. But when writing for the middle-grade reader, I really tried to make sure there was someone in the book that everyone could connect to on some level. For some kids this might be the first time they’re reading a novel completely on their own, and it was important to me that they could easily relate to the story.
Writing Tips and Rituals
Dorian: I love that idea! Did you run into any stumbling blocks while writing Sydney A. Frankel’s Summer Mix-Up or was it smooth sailing as you wrote?
Danielle: I definitely had stumbling blocks. I always get stuck in the soggy middle. I want to hurry up and get to the finish line. When this happens, I leave notes for myself in the manuscript about things that will happen in later chapters. Then when I actually get to those scenes, I’m happy to have some ideas already laid out.
Dorian: Do you have any writing rituals regarding where you write, whether you listen to a certain type of music, what beverages or food you must have next to you, etc.?
Danielle: I love to have a hot beverage while I write, either coffee or tea depending on the time of day. And I will never say no to chocolate.
I play music often when I’m drafting but like silence when I’m revising. And since I work from a laptop, I work from different spots—my patio, family room couch, dining room table and home office. In non-Covid times I love to write from cafes. But these days, it’s usually all about my dog Ringo, a two-year-old mini doodle. We move spots when he gets bored.
Dorian: So cute!! What are two of your best tips for our readers who also write?
Danielle: One of the best things you can do is listen to the world around you. By that I mean, sit in an outdoor setting, and listen to people passing by. How do they talk? What are they saying? This is especially important when you are an adult writing for kids. Don’t lose touch with how kids communicate today.
The other thing is to give yourself a break. So often writers want everything that they put on the page to be perfect. Allow yourself to brain dump and free flow write. No one has to see your first or even second draft . . . Often, I’ll sit down and write and think everything I just wrote is trash. However, when I read it over the next day, I usually find plenty to keep me going.
Dorian: Great tips! Can you tell us a little about the turtle pin that’s one of your swag items and how it fits into the novel?
Danielle: The turtle is a starring pet in Sydney Frankel. I don’t want to give too much away but readers will meet the turtle! He belongs to a friend of Sydney’s and gets his own pin because he’s cute!
Dorian: Do you have anything else in the works that you’d like to tell us about?
Danielle: It hasn’t been announced just yet, but I do have an upcoming picture book biography about a female freedom fighter that I am so excited to share with my readers.
Dorian: That’s wonderful! Thanks so much for talking with us and for donating a signed copy of Sydney A. Frankel’s Summer Mix-Up along with a bookmark and turtle pin.
Readers: Don’t forget to try your luck below from now until Saturday at midnight.