Author Archives: Michele Weber Hurwitz

The Gift of Reader Letters

I’ve been feeling a bit wistful lately. My three children, who provided much of my inspiration and connection to the story lines and characters in my first two middle grade novels, have gotten older. Funny how that sneaks up on you. Two have graduated college. One has a job. The other is looking and hopefully, will find. And my youngest — always the last for everything, she’s quick to complain — is off to college this fall. Our house, once full of interrupted conversations, endless shoes at the front door and disappearing food, is quieter. Neater. Slower-moving, somehow.

I admit that I worried about reaching this moment — not only as a parent, but also as a middle grade author. Would I still be able to write realistic dialogue or imagine scenes or even, come up with ideas if I wasn’t around middle graders? How could I write about them if I wasn’t a part of their world, laughing at their silly jokes and knowing the trends and listening to their chatter?

While it’s true that I no longer have middle graders around me on a daily basis, I’ve come to realize that I have something I didn’t have before, when I was unpublished and working on those novels — countless heartfelt emails and letters from readers. Although I dreamed of being an author when I grew up, I never summoned the courage to write to one when I was younger. I did, however, write to David Cassidy. Sadly, he never answered.

Letters, notes, and emails from readers are a gift. Not only do they keep me connected to kids’ thoughts and dreams, they make me reflect, crack up, and sometimes, tear-up. But more importantly, they remind me why I write. Why I do this. Why it matters.

So thank you for writing. We authors appreciate it more than you know. Here are some of my favorites.

Mann elementary 2016 visit (1)

Mann 1Mann 2Mann 3Mann elementary 2016 visit (2)Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days, and Calli Be Gold (Wendy Lamb Books), and the forthcoming Makers Vs. Fakers (Aladdin 2017). Find her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

Cici Reno Giveaway Winner and a Happy Book Birthday

The winner of the giveaway of Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker is D. Lee Sebree! Congrats! You’ll be receiving an email from us soon. Thank you to all who commented.

The Mixed-Up Files also would like to wish a very happy Book Birthday to a champion of children’s literature, Donna Gephart, whose book Lily and Dunkin publishes today. 27066007

It’s a powerful story of two 13-year old friends, one a transgender, and the other struggling with bipolar disorder. Our Mixed-Up Files blogger Barbara Dee interviewed Donna last fall about her feelings on this novel. Check out the interview here.

Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker by Kristina Springer

We’re pleased to welcome author Kristina Springer to the Mixed-Up Files today. She’s the author of several books, both middle grade and young adult. Her newest title, Cici Reno: #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker, released on April 19. We’re giving away one copy — info at the end of the post!

Cici is the cool, funny yoga girl that all the middle school girls rely on for advice. But after summer break, Cici is disconcerted when she sees that her best friend Aggie has grown up a little faster than she has. When she helps Aggie with advice on her crush, Drew, by going online and doing all the talking as if she’s Aggie, Cici starts crushing on him herself. And for the first time in her life, Cici Reno doesn’t have a clue.

Cici Reno SpringerQ: Welcome, Kristina! Tell us about your inspiration for Cici Reno and her story.

A: My first spark of inspiration for Cici (and the book itself!) happened in yoga class one day. We had this really cool, laid back teacher that day and I remember thinking, I bet her kids are so cool. Then it hit me to write a book about a cool yoga kid whose mom owned a yoga studio. I also drew inspiration from the Cyrano de Bergerac play as well as my own foray into middle school matchmaking in 7th grade. Of course back then we didn’t have the Internet so it was more three-way calling type of stuff.

Q: There are Twitter feeds and yoga poses interspersed through the book. How fun! Are you an avid Tweeter and/or yoga enthusiast?

A: I do love Twitter! I’m @TinaSpringer on there. And I love yoga! I first tried a yoga class one day a few years ago and fell in love with it. It really does make me feel tons better physically and calms down my racing mind. I introduced it to my two daughters (9 and 11) and they love it too and take classes with me.

Q: Cici likes to give relationship advice to her friends. Is this something you do as well? Or did when you were younger?

A: Oh yes. I loved giving advice to friends in school. I don’t think I was nearly as good at it back then as Cici though. I’m much better at it today. My four kids (7, 9, 11, and 13) are always running their school dramas by me and I do my best to give good advice.

KSpringer_ColorQ: Do you have a favorite character or moment from the book?

A: Yes! Cici is definitely my favorite and I don’t want to give away too much but I LOVE the hockey rink scene in Chapter 27.

Q: What was middle school like for you? Do you draw on your own experiences when you write?

A: Middle school was fun! I loved hanging out with my friends. I was in band (flute) and chorus and I worked on the school newspaper. And just like how Cici and her BFF Aggie spend lots of time at Cici’s older brother’s hockey games, I spent most weekends at my older brother’s soccer games. Which meant I was forever crushing on one soccer player or another. And a giant YES on the second question. I constantly draw from my middle school experiences for my books.

Q: You’re also the author of two YA novels, as well as the “Just Your Average…” series. What are you working on now?

A: I just finished outlining book 2 in the Yoga Girl series and I’ve written the first few chapters.

Q: You live in a Chicago suburb and often like to use a Chicago area setting in your novels. Have you always lived in the Chicago area?

A: Yes, except for when I attended Illinois State University — then I went a couple of hours south.

Q: Tell us about your writing routine. Do you outline? How do you get your ideas? Do you know how a story will end when you start to write?

A: I tend to be able to see the beginning and end of a book right away. So I always kinda know where I want to go with it. With this book I didn’t make a strict outline ahead of time but I would jot down scenes as I thought of them and throw all those notes into a Word file. Then as I wrote the book I’d read through all my notes for ideas on where I wanted to go with each chapter and loosely organized it there. The last thing I did was figure out the yoga poses that Cici would Tweet at the beginning of each chapter because I wanted the pose to help with a situation that happened in that chapter. As for how I get my ideas, sometimes it’s a memory from when I was in school that I spin into something else and sometimes a setting will spark an idea like being in the yoga studio.

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Back cover of Cici Reno #MiddleSchoolMatchmaker

Q: If you could eat lunch with anyone, would would it be and what would you eat?

A: I never got to meet my maternal grandmother so I’d like to have lunch with her and I’d eat any yummy Italian dish she cooked.

Q: Now for some fun stuff. What’s your favorite ice cream flavor? Where would we find you on a Sunday afternoon? And if Cici Reno became a movie, who would play her?

A: Cookie Dough. On Sunday afternoons, I’m either chilling at home with the family or at a family function. We have a big family so something is always going on! A movie, hmmm. Probably someone who looks like Rowan Blanchard from Girl Meets World but a whole lot shorter.

Thank you Kristina for joining us today! We are offering a GIVEAWAY of one hardcover book (U.S. and Canada residents only). Please comment below to be entered. Namaste!

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of the forthcoming Makers Vs. Fakers, fall 2017 from Aladdin Books, as well as The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Wendy Lamb Books. Visit her at micheleweberhurwitz.com.