I’m so pleased to shine the MUF spotlight on Donna Gephart’s new novel Abby, Tried and True, which releases next week from Simon and Schuster. Kirkus Reviews calls it, “A touching story about finding inner strength during a challenging time” and educator, Colby Sharp, calls it “phenomenal!”
(Donna has generously offered to send a signed copy of Abby, Tried and True to one lucky winner–US only. See details at bottom.)
All About the Author
Award-winning author Donna Gephart’s previous middle grade novels include: The Paris Project, In Your Shoes, Lily and Dunkin, Death by Toilet Paper and others. Her first picture book, Go Be Wonderful, comes out March 30th from Holiday House. She’s a popular speaker at schools, conferences, and book festivals. Donna lives in the Philadelphia area with her family and her canine office assistant, Benji, a sweet retriever mix. Visit her online at www.donnagephart.com. Autographed copies of her books are available from Inkwood Books.
All About the Book
Please tell us a bit about Abby, Tried and True.
Abby is an introverted 12-year-old whose best friend moves to Israel and she’s sure it’s the worst thing that could happen to her. She’s wrong. Her beloved, hilarious older brother is diagnosed with testicular cancer and everything changes. Abby and her two awesome moms have to help Paul get through surgery and treatments. It’s hard on everyone. Meanwhile, Abby tries to navigate seventh grade without her best (and only) friend by her side in a world that feels too loud and too busy. One of the things that brings Abby joy during this difficult time is the mysterious new boy who moved in next door. Abby explores her feelings for this boy while she also tries to figure out who she is and how she’ll manage the challenges in her life. Colby Sharp did a terrific video review of the book here.
What was the inspiration behind this book? You’ve mentioned it took you seventeen years to figure this book out. Why was it so difficult to write?
About 18 years ago, I was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. Getting through surgeries and week-long treatments in the hospital were some of the most challenging experiences of my life. I wanted to find a way to translate those experiences and emotions into a powerful story for young readers. It took many, many attempts to find my way into telling a deeply meaningful story that would resonate with young readers without it being too overwhelming. I think I managed to do that by telling the story from the sister’s point of view. I also included humor and the hopeful budding new romance between Abby and the boy who moved in next door.
All About Being an Introvert
I think a lot of people have wrong ideas about what being an introvert means. Did you do research on introverts, and if so, were you surprised at anything you learned?
The biggest aha moment I had from my research was recognizing that I am an introvert. I always love traveling and meeting new people, so I thought I was an extrovert. But it’s more about the environments in which one thrives. I thrive in a quiet environment where I’m able to be very interior. I can’t stand shallow conversations. I want to talk about things I find meaningful. Some people think being an introvert is the same thing as being shy. It’s not. Being shy means you have a fear of social judgement. Being an introvert means you thrive in a quieter environment, you don’t need a jumble of people around all the time. Solo projects are more appealing than group work. Much of what I learned came from Susan Cain’s research, which she shares in this illuminating TED Talk.
What would you like readers to come away with after reading the book?
I never write books in hopes of imparting a lesson or moral. I want readers to feel less alone in the world and more emotionally connected with each other. I hope my books cultivate empathy and remind us to be a bit kinder, a bit more understanding because really, we never know what someone else might be going through.
A Tip for Writers
What is your best tip for aspiring middle-grade writers?
I write middle grade because that’s the period in my young life I remember most clearly. I write middle grade because it was a challenging time for me and I felt alone; I don’t want my young readers to feel so alone as they go through their own challenges. I write middle grade because at bookstores and at the library, those are the books I’m most drawn to. If you’re an aspiring middle-grade writer, ask yourself WHY you want to write middle grade? Why does it matter to you on a deeply personal level? Your answers will be the foundation of your journey.
For more writing tips from Donna, click HERE for this archived MUF post.
Good advice! What are you working on now?
I’m trying my hand at writing funny chapter books and, of course, I’m writing my next middle-grade novel. After writing about a girl whose brother is diagnosed with cancer, my new book is funny. I think we can all use a little more funny these days.
I totally agree, Donna. Thanks so much for sharing!
Please click the giveaway link below BEFORE SATURDAY MIDNIGHT and comment, retweet, follow MUF, etc. for a chance to win a signed copy of Abby, Tried and True. The winner will be announced on Sunday, March 7.