Author Archives: Michele Weber Hurwitz

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.

The Writing Barn in Austin, TX

Last weekend, I went out of my comfort zone (and my little writing space in a Chicago suburb) and journeyed to The Writing Barn in Austin, Texas for a “Mastering the Middle Grade” workshop. Before I arrived, I  knew that The Writing Barn was owned by author and writing teacher Bethany Hegedus, and set on seven and a half wooded acres about 20 minutes from downtown. But what I didn’t know is it’s a place where magic happens.

No, really. I’m not making this up. It might sound cliche but that’s why we have cliches–they’re so often true.

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The Writing Barn in Austin, TX

Twelve of us writer people arrived as strangers and left as friends, already planning our retreat reunion. We bared our souls, dug deeply into our works in progress, and learned invaluable lessons about craft from middle grade author Donna Gephart and agent Tina Wexler, our fearless program leaders.

The Thursday evening to Sunday morning retreat consisted of critique sessions for each participant, lectures, free writing time, a visit with authors Nikki Loftin and Kathrine Catmull, walks on the beautiful property, plus delicious food, lots of snacks, and abundant chocolate.

WB 12WB 8We ended the weekend by painting rocks, each of us choosing a word or phrase to represent our experience. They ranged from “trust your story” to “humor rocks” to “tribe.”

I’ve thought a lot about the word “tribe” and what it means to writers, who spend so much of our time as solitary, sometimes crazy creatures, bent over our keyboards, wracking our brains for just the right word, often doubting ourselves. During the retreat, I not only found a “tribe,” I also was reminded that writing takes courage. Sharing the story that only you can write takes courage.

WB 9Stepping back — so hard to do when we all have busy, complicated lives — can make a huge difference in your energy, your perspective, and of course, hopefully, your work.

For more info on upcoming retreats as well as classes and events at The Writing Barn, check the website. More photos from the retreat weekend can be found on The Writing Barn Facebook page.

 

Michele Weber Hurwitz is the author of The Summer I Saved the World in 65 Days and Calli Be Gold, both from Wendy Lamb Books/Penguin Random House. Both books are on state award lists. Find Michele at micheleweberhurwitz.com.

 

 

 

 

Happy New Year from the Mixed-Up Files!

We here at the Mixed-Up Files would like to wish all of our readers a very Happy New Year!

muf jan 1 #22015 was a wonderful year for us, and we hope it was for you as well. Our group of 26 contributors brought you close to 200 posts on the world of middle grade writing and reading. We hope our posts enlightened and inspired you, and kept you up-to-date on the ever-changing climate of children’s books.

We’re looking forward to doing more of the same during 2016 and can’t wait to share many terrific posts with you.

We wish you all a year filled with peace, joy, and love, and in the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson, many, many best days.

Happy New Year Quote - Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson