• From the Mixed-Up Files... > Book Lists > Interview with Dianna Dorisi Winget
  • OhMG! News

    New-Oh-MG-critter

    April 11, 2014:
    Fall 2014 Children's Sneak Peek
    A peek at forthcoming middle grade books (as well as picture books and YA books) in a round-up from Publisher's Weekly. First printed in the February 22 issue, but now available online. Time to add to your to-read list. Read more ...

    April 9, 2014:
    How many Newbery winners have you read?
    You could make a traditional list of all the Newbery Medal Award-winning Children's Books you've read, but there's something so satisfying when you check them off and get a final tally on this BuzzFeed quiz. Read more ...

    March 28, 2014:
    Middle Grade fiction is hot at 2014 Bologna Children's Book Fair

    For the second year in a row, publishers are clamoring for middle-grade, reporters Publishers Weekly. "I’ve been coming [to Bologna] for 12 to 15 years, and I’ve never had as many European publishers asking for middle-grade," said Steven Chudney of the Chudney Agency. Read more ...

    February 14, 2014:
    Cybils Awards announced
    Ultra by David Carroll (Scholastic Canada) wins the Cybil for middle grade fiction; Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud (Disney Hyperion) wins for Speculative Fiction. Read more.

    January 27, 2014: And the Newbery Medal goes to ...
    Kate DiCamillo won the Newbery Medal for "Flora & Ulysses"; Rita Williams-Garcia won the Coretta Scott King Author award for "P.S. Be Eleven." Newbery Honor awards to authors Vince Vawter, Amy Timberlake, Kevin Henkes and Holly Black. For all the exciting ALA Youth Media Award News ... READ MORE

    November 12, 2013:
    Vote in the GoodReads semifinal round

    Readers' votes have narrowed the middle-grade semifinals down to 20 titles. Log in to your GoodReads account and vote for your favorite middle-grade (and in other categories, of course). Read more ...

    November 9, 2013:
    Publishers Weekly Top Children's Books of 2013

    Middle-grade and young adult titles selected by the editors of Publishers Weekly as their top picks of the year. Let the season of "top ten books" begin! Read more ...

    October 14, 2013:
    Middle Shelf: Cool Reads for Kids debuts January 2014

    Shelf Media Group, publisher of Shelf Unbound indie book review magazine, will launch a new free digital-only publication for middle-grade readers. The debut issue features interviews with such notable authors as Margaret Peterson Haddix and Chris Grabenstein as well as reviews, excerpts, and more. Middle Shelf will be published bi-monthly beginning in January 2014.
    Read more ...

    September 19, 2013: Writer-in-Residence program at Thurber House

    Dream of time and space to focus on your own writing project? Applications now being accepted (11/1/2013 deadline) for The Thurber House Residency in Children's Literature, a month-long retreat in the furnished third-floor apartment of Thurber House in Columbus, Ohio. Read more ...

    September 18, 2013: Vermont College of Fine Arts Scholarship opportunity

    Barry Goldblatt Literary launches The Angela Johnson Scholarship, a talent-based grant for writers of color attending the MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults program at VCFA. Up to two $5,000 grants will be awarded each year. Read more ....

    September 16, 2013:
    National Book Awards longlist for youth literature

    For the first time, the NBA is presenting lists of 10 books/authors on the longlist in each category. The 2013 young adult literature list includes five middle grade novels and five YA. Read more ...

    Sept. 13, 2013: Spring preview
    Check out Publishers Weekly roundup of upcoming children's books to be published in spring 2014. Read more...

    August 21, 2013:
    Want to be a Cybils Award Judge?

    Middle grade categories are fiction, speculative fiction, nonfiction. Applications due August 31! Read more ...

    August 19, 2013:
    S&S and BN reach a deal
    Readers will soon be able to find books from Simon & Schuster at Barnes & Noble. The bookstore chain was locked in a disagreement with the publisher over how much it was willing to pay for books. Read more ...

    August 6, 2013:
    NPR's 100 Must-Reads for Kids
    NPR's Backseat Book Club asked listeners to nominate their favorite books for readers ages 9 to 14. More than 2,000 people nominated titles, and a panel of Newbery authors brought the list to 100. Most are middle grade books. Read more ...

     
    July 2, 2013:
    Penguin & Random House Merger

    The new company, Penguin Random House, will control more than 25 percent of the trade book market in the United States. On Monday, the newly formed company began to take shape, only hours after a middle-of-the-night announcement that the long-planned merger had been completed. Read more ...

    March 28, 2013: Big at Bologna

     This year at the Bologna Children's Book Fair, the focus has shifted to middle-grade.  “A lot of foreign publishers are cutting back on YA and are looking for middle-grade,” said agent Laura Langlie, according to Publisher's Weekly.  Lighly illustrated or stand-alone contemporary middle-grade fiction is getting the most attention.  Read more...

     

    March 10, 2013: Marching to New Titles

    Check out these titles releasing in March...

     

    March 5, 2013: Catch the BEA Buzz

    Titles for BEA's Editor Buzz panels have been announced.  The middle-grade titles selected are:

    A Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson

    Counting By 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan

    The Fantastic Family Whipple by Matthew Ward

    Nick and Tesla's High-Voltages Danger Lab by Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

    The Tie Fetch by Amy Herrick

    For more Buzz books in other categories, read more...

     

    February 20, 2013: Lunching at the MG Roundtable 

    Earlier this month, MG authors Jeanne Birdsall, Rebecca Stead, and N.D. Wilson shared insight about writing for the middle grades at an informal luncheon with librarians held in conjunction with the New York Public Library's Children's Literary Salon "Middle Grade: Surviving the Onslaught."

    Read about their thoughts...

     

    February 10, 2013: New Books to Love

    Check out these new titles releasing in February...

     

    January 28, 2013: Ivan Tops List of Winners

    The American Library Association today honored the best of the best from 2012, announcing the winners of the Newbery, Caldecott, and Printz awards, along with a host of other prestigious youth media awards, at their annual winter meeting in Seattle.

    The Newbery Medal for the most outstanding contribution to children’s literature went to The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. Honor books were: Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz; Bomb: The Race to Build--and Steal--the World’s Most Dangerous Weapon by Steve Sheinkin; and Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage.

    The Coretta Scott King Book Award went to Hand in Hand: Ten Black Men Who Changed America written by Andrea Davis Pinkney and illustrated by Brian Pinkney.

    The Laura Ingalls Wilder Award,which honors an author for his or her long-standing contributions to children’s literature, was presented to Katherine Paterson.

    The Pura Belpre Author Award, which honors a Latino author, went to Benjamin Alire Saenz for his novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, which was also named a Printz Honor book and won the Stonewall Book Award for its portrayal of the GLBT experience.

    For a complete list of winners…

     

    January 22, 2013: Biography Wins Sydney Taylor

    Louise Borden's His Name Was Raoul Wallenberg, a verse biography of the Swedish humanitarian, has won the Sydney Taylor Award in the middle-grade category. The award is given annually to books of the highest literary merit that highlight the Jewish experience. Aimee Lurie, chair of the awards committee, writes, "Louise Borden's well-researched biography will, without a doubt, inspire children to perform acts of kindness and speak out against oppression."

    For more...

     

    January 17, 2013: Erdrich Wins Second O'Dell

    Louise Erdrich is recipient of the 2013 Scott O'Dell Award for her historical novel Chickadee, the fourth book in herBirchbark House series. Roger Sutton,Horn Book editor and chair of the awards committee, says of Chickadee,"The book has humor and suspense (and disarmingly simple pencil illustrations by the author), providing a picture of 1860s Anishinabe life that is never didactic or exotic and is briskly detailed with the kind of information young readers enjoy." Erdrich also won the O'Dell Award in 2006 for The Game of Silence, the second book in theBirchbark series. 

    For more...

     

    January 15, 2013: After the Call

    Past Newbery winners Jack Gantos, Clare Vanderpool, Neil Gaiman, Rebecca Stead, and Laura Amy Schlitz talk about how winning the Newbery changed (or didn't change) their lives in this piece from Publishers Weekly...

     

    January 2, 2013: On the Big Screen

    One of our Mixed-up Files members may be headed to the movies! Jennifer Nielsen's fantasy adventure novel The False Prince is being adapted for Paramount Pictures by Bryan Cogman, story editor for HBO's Game of Thrones. For more...

     

  • Subscribe!

    Get email updates:

    Enter your email address:

    Delivered by FeedBurner

Interview with Dianna Dorisi Winget

Book Lists

You’re a Pacific Northwestern writer, living in Idaho, how did you come to write a novel set in Georgia—filled with all those delicious Southern phrases?

People ask me this all the time, and I’m ashamed to say I still haven’t come up with a very good answer. I’ve always been intrigued with the South. It just seems to be a more laid back, genteel type of place. At the time I was writing the story, I had a close friend from Oklahoma. She shared all sorts of first hand experiences, phrases, and lots of other tidbits that really helped me make A Smidgen of Sky feel authentically Southern. Plus, I love peaches and Southern accents . . . so there you go.

Piper Lee knows a lot about airplanes, her mother’s fiancé works in a prison… What kind of research did you do while writing A Smidgen Of Sky?

I had a lot of fun researching the South itself. I learned about things like how to make sweat tea, where chiggers are found, what the bark of pecan trees feels like, ect, ect.  As far as the aviation theme, here in my hometown of Sandpoint, Idaho, there’s a really cool place called the Bird Aviation Museum and Invention Center. It’s owned by Dr. Forrest Bird and his wife, Pamela. Dr. Bird invented the Baby Bird respirator, which has saved the lives of countless infants. I interviewed the Birds three times for various magazine articles, which meant I got to make several visits to the museum. So that definitely played a part in Piper Lee’s love of airplanes.

As far as Ben’s job as a prison guard, I studied pictures, and read a number of articles on prison riots—what provoked them, how they were handled, and what the outcome was. The dialogue of the reporters was based on transcripts of actual news stories.

Your characters wrestle with difficult issues—loss, forgiveness, jealousy, and the consequences for impulsive actions. Why do you think it’s important to explore serious themes for middle-grade readers?

Kids today are faced with so many issues at such a young age. The lucky ones have caring parents or other adults to guide and direct them. But so many children today seem to be floundering. While books certainly can’t take the place of an attentive parent, they can at least open a dialogue, and maybe help a struggling child feel less alone. I’m sure that some youngsters who read A Smidgen of Sky will find themselves in the same tricky situation as Piper Lee—trying to adjust to a new step-family, and having a tough time. As they read about Piper’s mixed emotions, and see how she tries to cope, maybe it will help validate their own feelings, as well as offer some good (and not so good) ways of dealing with the situation.

As far as Piper dealing with the consequences of her actions—have you noticed how rarely TV shows and movies show characters having to face up to what they’ve done? It’s kind of crazy. I think sitcoms are the worst. Kids on these shows do all sorts of wild, disrespectful things and get totally away with it. Their actions are portrayed as a joke. So my editor and I both thought it was important to show readers that Piper Lee’s impulsive antics led to some real consequences, just as they would in real life.

I really liked the way your story emphasizes the importance of Internet safety. What inspired this subplot?

Kids are trusting by nature, and technology is so second nature to them, many don’t stop to realize that it could actually be dangerous. Since Piper was already using the Internet to search for Ginger’s mom, it only seemed logical that at some point she’d search for her own dad as well. And since Piper was so eager for any news, I could totally picture her believing anyone who claimed to have information. So the plot twist of an Internet predator just naturally evolved.

What are your tips to readers to make sure they stay safe online?

Always remember that people online are “invisible.” You really have no way of knowing who you’re communicating with, so be extra careful when it comes to talking with, or friending people you don’t know. Always ask a parent or another trusted adult before giving out any personal information online.

Adults are often absent in middle-grade books, so I really like the way A Smidgen of Sky shows Piper Lee’s relationships with her mother, new step-father, and especially her elderly neighbor Miss Claudia. Why do you think it’s important for children to have adult mentors in their lives?

The common advice to leave parents out of kids literature has always been one of my pet peeves. Adults should play a big role in the life of an 8-12 year old. You don’t want them to take over the story, of course. It’s important the main character solve his or her own problem. But I never understood the claim that kids don’t like to read stories that contain adult characters. I read voraciously as a child, and I was never turned off by adult characters. I expected them to be there. I think it’s a little different for YA, because by then a youngster is slowly moving away from the family, that’s the natural course of events. But even in YA, it’s unrealistic to pretend that adults don’t exist.

Tell us about one of your own mentors.

The foremost one would have to be my mom. She was always there for me to talk with and turn to with problems while I was growing up. I still consider her my best friend. That’s why I retain my maiden name (Dorisi) in anything writing related, and why A Smidgen of Sky is dedicated to my mom and dad. Without their support and encouragement, I really don’t believe I’d be a published author today.

Finally, your book opens with a dreaded and despised yellow bridesmaid dress. I have to ask—what’s your worst bridesmaid dress encounter?

Oh, my goodness, finally a chance to get this off my chest! When I was fourteen, my older brother (and only sibling, no less) asked me to be a bridesmaid in his upcoming wedding. I was beyond excited, since I’d never been in anyone’s wedding before. Then his fiancé ended up picking these extremely low cut bridesmaid’s dresses that my parents refused to let me wear! I’m not sure who I was more upset with, my parents or my future sister-in-law. But in all fairness, she did turn out to be a pretty good addition to the family. So, I’ve forgiven her . . . pretty much.

Want to share any tidbits about current works in progress?

I have a second MG novel, “True as Steel,” which is under consideration by my Harcourt editor right now. The first chapter is posted on my website. And for all the young readers who (hopefully) fall in love with Piper Lee and want to now what happens next, I’m about two-thirds of the way through a sequel to A Smidgen of Sky.

 Please a comment to win a copy of Dianna Dorisi Winget’s novel A Smidgen of Sky.

Sydney Salter is the author of My Big Nose And Other Natural Disasters, Jungle Crossing, and Swoon At Your Own Risk. You can find out more at www.sydneysalter.com 

16 Comments

12 Comments

  1. Jill  •  Nov 7, 2012 @6:55 am

    Sounds like a good read! The subplot certainly sounds interesting and not one I’ve seen in MG before. Great idea.
    I like the title too. Congrats on your success and thanks for the interview/giveaway offer.

    Jill

  2. Dianna Winget  •  Nov 7, 2012 @9:04 am

    Thanks, Jill! The title went through quite a few variations before we finally found one we could agree on. Glad you like it.

    Jill Reply:

    @Dianna Winget,

    That’s so interesting! I’ve never really considered how title debates might be a long process. It would be interesting to know of other published books that were originally “x” name before the confirmed one was chosen.
    I think titles are hard. Some come easy, but other times it can difficult to find the right one. Luckily, you got a good one :)

  3. Greg Pattridge  •  Nov 7, 2012 @7:28 pm

    I was a bit worried at first as my manuscript shares some of the same themes. Thankfully after obtaining a copy of Dianna’s story I found very few similarities in their story lines. I can also say A SMIDGEN OF SKY is a beautifully written novel dealing with many contemporary issues kids will instantly relate to. What a great read and a welcome addition to the Middle-Grade line-up.

    Dianna Winget Reply:

    @Greg Pattridge, Thanks, Greg!

  4. Betsy  •  Nov 7, 2012 @8:04 pm

    I completely agree with parents/adults being important in kids’ books, and also dislike the idea that they should be left out! And it’s very exciting to hear about a book from an Idaho writer, since I’m also from Idaho (Moscow). :)

    Dianna Winget Reply:

    @Betsy, Thanks, Betsy. Yah! for Idaho.

  5. Jennifer Rumberger  •  Nov 7, 2012 @8:29 pm

    This sounds like a great middle grade book. I’ve added it to my to-read list!

  6. Llehn  •  Nov 8, 2012 @12:05 am

    What a great title. Internet safety is a big issue!

  7. Dianna Winget  •  Nov 8, 2012 @8:40 am

    Thank you Jennifer and Llehn. I appreciate the support!

  8. Pat Wooldridge  •  Nov 8, 2012 @9:44 am

    A Smidgen Of Sky has GOT to be a delightful read. I can tell from your interview that it’s just my kind of book. When I find such a book, a real keeper, I never let it go. :)). I’ll be very interested to get into this one, will use it as a reward for meeting a crucial deadline—of which, at the moment, there are several; one commissioned horse portrait and others to do with sending the proper materials to a list of publishers as I put together what each of them is requesting. I like these kinds of deadlines. They mean that somewhere along the way, something positive will happen.

  9. Dianna Winget  •  Nov 8, 2012 @11:16 am

    Wonderful, Pat. I hope Smidgen serves as a great reward! Let me know what you think.

  10. PragmaticMom  •  Nov 8, 2012 @5:27 pm

    I’d love to read it!

    Sydney Salter Reply:

    @PragmaticMom, You’re the winner of A SMIDGEN OF SKY. Please email me your address: sydneysalter AT mac DOT com and I will send the book ASAP!!!

  11. Linda Andersen  •  Nov 9, 2012 @6:18 pm

    Dianna,

    Saluting you for setting your book in another area of the country and doing so much research about airplanes, prison guards, southern customs, etc. You took on a lot of challenges. Writing about something you’re familiar with is challenging enough for most of us.

  12. Dianna Winget  •  Nov 9, 2012 @6:44 pm

    My next book is set in Spokane, Wa, here in my neck of the woods. But I couldn’t stay away from the South, which is why I’m working on the sequel to Smidgen. It keeps me from getting bored :)