Book Nerd Interview
Like her main character, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together.
In addition to her mechanic's hat, Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a library media specialist. One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say "I'm working" when reading middle grade novels.
Why is storytelling so important to all of us?
Storytelling gives all of us a voice. It’s how we work things out, and also how we experience things without actually doing them firsthand.
What’s the one thing that readers would be surprised to find out about you?
That an easy one. Most people are surprised when I tell them I’m a slow reader. A very slow reader. I like to tell young people that because I want them to know it’s okay to read at their own speed.
When did you write your first book and how old were you?
Even though I liked to write as child, I don’t think I actually wrote a whole book until I was in my late 20’s. Before I wrote middle grade fiction, I tried my hand at writing picture books. None of those picture books were ever published, but I learned a lot about writing while I was working on them.
What was the greatest thing you learned at school?
Learning to read was the greatest thing I learned in school because reading is how we learn everything else.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
Slow and steady
In your book: THIS JOURNAL BELONG TO RATCHET, can you tell my Book Nerd Kids Community a little about it and why they should read your novel?
Eleven-year-old Ratchet determines to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. She tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.
Living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts, Ratchet spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage – not exactly normal for a girl. Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad in a whole new way.
I think kids should read my book because it’s the kind of book I like to read – one with heart and soul and guts.
For those who are unfamiliar with Ratchet, how would you introduce her?
She’s a smart, kind, thoughtful girl who wants more than anything to find her place in the world.
If you could introduce one of your characters to any character from another book, who would it be and why?
I think I’d like Ratchet to meet Karana from ISLAND OF THE BLUE DOLPHINS. Both of these girls are strong and resourceful, and besides becoming friends, I think they could learn a lot from each other.
If you had to choose, which writer would you consider a mentor?
For this book, I would choose Norma Fox Mazer because her book WHAT I BELIEVE inspired me to write RATCHET. Mazer’s whole story is written in poetry, and it gave me the idea to come up with my own unique format to write Ratchet’s story.
You have the chance to give one piece of advice to your readers. What would it be?
Persevere to achieve your dreams and don’t give up. Be teachable along the way and you’ll be able to learn all you need to learn in order to succeed.
What’s the most memorable summer job you’ve ever had?
I was a Camp Invention Counselor, which is a day camp for kids who like to invent things. This job inspired my husband and me to come up with our own summer camp – Small Engines Camp. We taught kids how to take apart and put together small engines. Learning how to do this gave me the idea to make my character Ratchet a mechanic.
What scares you the most and why?
Don’t laugh, but cockroaches; and I don’t think you really need a reason except that they send shivers up my spine.
What is your greatest adventure?
One great adventure I had was going to China to teach English. I went there in the summer of 1988 and 1991 and taught conversational English to Chinese elementary and middle school teachers. And no, I don’t speak Chinese. My students already knew how to speak some English. I was there to help them improve their English skills. China is a beautiful country and many of my Chinese students became wonderful friends.
When was the last time you told someone you loved them?
I tell my husband and my daughter every day that I love them.
Who is the first person you call when you have a bad day?
I talk to my husband first, and if I’m having a bad day because of a writing problem, he tells me to call one of my writer friends, and I have lots of writers friends and we all help each other out a lot.
When was the last time you cried?
Several weeks ago, I got my first review from Kirkus, and I cried. Not because it was bad, but because Kirkus gave me a starred review. They were tears of joy!
Where can readers stalk you?
My website is www.NancyJCavanaugh.com
There you’ll find links to my blog, Facebook, and Twitter. I’d love to hear from you!
If only getting a new life were as easy as getting a new notebook.
But it's not.
It's the first day of school for all the kids in the neighborhood. But not for me. I'm homeschooled. That means nothing new. No new book bag, no new clothes, and no friends – old or new. The best I've got is this notebook. I'm supposed to use it for my writing assignments, but my dad never checks. Here's what I'm really going to use it for:
Ratchet's Top Secret Plan
Project Goal: turn my old, recycled, freakish, friendless, motherless life into something shiny and new.
This year, I'm going make something change.