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Happy Monday Everyone! I’m excited to have author Natalie Rompella here to share about her debut MG contemporary COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS. Natalie is also the author of a picture book, Edgar, Allan, and Poe and the Tell-Tale Beets, and a number of non-fiction books for children. Natalie’s new book sounds like it tackles many of the friendship issues that middle schoolers face as well as a main character who must deal with the challenges of living with OCD.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Most kids would dread the start of middle school and the year-long Explorations project that comes with it, but Ana knows that her + her best friend Lily + their plan to write and sell their own cookbook is a recipe for success. Lily's not just the perfect partner in culinary crime--she's also the only person in the world who understands Ana's need to wash her hands five times before picking up a spatula, and would never make fun of her for it.

But Ana and Lily's plan for edible entrepreneurship turns into one big baking disaster when they're assigned to different partners for their projects. As if it wasn't bad enough that Lily seems more excited to get to know her new partner than bummed about being separated, Lily and her new friend plan to use the cookbook idea for themselves--and they didn't even ask! Worse, Ana's partner is Dasher, the strange new girl from Alaska, and she wants to do their project on the weirdest thing imaginable: sled dog racing.

Dasher's dogs are scary, slobbery, and decidedly not germ-free, but Ana thinks she's found a loophole when she agrees to bake pancakes for spectators while Dasher mushes in a local race. That is, until Dasher sprains her ankle and has to drop out of the running. Can Ana learn to mush--and overcome her anxiety--in time to save her friendships, finish her project, and compete in the big race?

Hi Natalie! Thanks so much for joining us.

1. Tell us about yourself and how you became a writer.

I have enjoyed writing since I first learned how to write. My 4th grade teacher was a big influence though, as she let my friends and I stay in at lunch recess everyday to write.

My professional writing career stems from grad school. For one of the classes, we each had to come up with a final product. I wrote a children’s book. My professor liked it and said I should try to get it published. Although that piece never got published, it got me interested in pursuing writing for children. Due to my Master of Education in science education, I ended up getting freelance jobs writing elementary science materials and going from there.

2. Awesome how you got encouragement from teachers along the way. Where did you get the idea for COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS?

I wish I could remember! I got the idea for sled racing from research I had done for another book. And the baking comes from my personal love. It all just organically came together.

3. Were you a plotter or panster when writing this story? Did you think this process worked for you or are you changing it for future manuscripts?

I was a pantster for sure! I never knew what was going to happen next! I find that just writing-as-I-go does work for me for first drafts. Then I outline what I’ve written and add to the plot where needed.

4. Share a bit about Ana as a character and how she developed as you told her story.

Ana has obsessive-compulsive disorder. Her biggest enemy is herself. Through all my research on OCD as well as personal experience, she really wrote her own story. My hope is for readers with OCD to relate to her and those without it to understand what it’s like to have unwanted thoughts.

5. That's great that she came so easily to you. What was a challenge you had in writing COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS either before or after you began working with your editor and how did you overcome it?

It’s always a challenge where to begin a novel. The first chapter probably took more time than
writing the rest of the novel! There’s so much that needs to happen do to grab a reader’s attention in just a couple of pages: introduce the characters, choose actions that are of high interest to kids, and present the problem.

6. I know what you mean about the first chapter! You are also a successful non-fiction writer for children. Has that helped you when writing and getting your MG fiction book published? What made you decide to make the leap to fiction?

I started writing fiction around the same time as I started writing nonfiction. However, I think I had more opportunity writing nonfiction in the educational market. There are fewer people with a background in science education who have also taught elementary education. My true passion has always been middle grade fiction, though.

7. That's great that you can write both because it gives you more opportunities to pick up work. Share about your road to publication in general and how you got your contract for this book.

I began writing for the educational market. Although I don’t think it helped me get a contract for this book, it did help with writing skills. I learned to write on a deadline, watch word count, and edit my own work. I received a contract for this book based on a pitch I had tweeted on #PitMad. My editor, Rachel Stark at Sky Pony Press, favorited my pitch, and it went from there.

8. I've found the same to be true about honing my own writing skills from my contract writing. How are you marketing COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS? Is this different than your picture book and non-fiction books? How has your prior marketing experiences helped you decide on marketing for your new book?

The word social media didn’t really exist when my other books came out. Now I promote my work on my Facebook author page (https://www.facebook.com/AuthorNatalieRompella/) and on Twitter (#NatalieRompella). I’m not sure I completely understood the importance of self-marketing back then as I do now, and I like being able to promote my book from my desk chair.

9. What advice do you have for aspiring writers?

Realize that writing is a journey. It takes time. You’ll have many choices of directions to go. Try out different ones; you may surprised where they take you.

10. What are you working on now?

I am working on edits for a nonfiction picture book I have coming out in July of 2018 titled The World Never Sleeps (Tilbury House Publishers). It shares the hidden life of various insects and other small creatures during a twenty-four hour cycle.

I am also writing a discussion guide to go with my novel. Hopefully, it will be on my website within the month.

Thanks for sharing your advice, Natalie. You can find Natalie at www.natalierompella.com

Natalie has generously offered COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through December 23rd. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter either contest.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This giveaway is U.S. and Caanda

Middle Grade Monday was started by Shannon Messenger. You can find the participating blogs on Greg Pattridge's blog.

Here's what's coming up:

Tomorrow I'm participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Giveaway Hop

Thursday, December 21st I'm participating in the Midwinter's Eve Giveaway Hop--my last post for the year!

Wednesday, January 3rd I'll be back with an interview with debut author Sara Holland and a giveaway of her YA fantasy EVERLESS and my IWSG post.

Monday, January 8th I have an interview with debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon and a giveaway of her contemporary YA I'LL MISS YOU WHEN I'M GONE

Wednesday, January 10th I have an agent spotlight interview with Elizabeth Bewley and critique query giveaway

Hope to see you tomorrow!


S.P. Bowers said...

Congrats on what sounds like an awesome book! Happy Holidays, Natalie!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Great she found her editor in a Twitter pitch.

cleemckenzie said...

The story sounds very sweet, and I love anything about dogs, so this goes on the Christmas wish list. Thanks Natalie and Natalie!

Pat Hatt said...

Writing sure can go many a place in each person's journey. Let it flow and enjoy the ride.

Brenda said...

Edgar, Allan, and Poe and the Tell-Tale Beets is a cute title for a picture book. Cookie Cutters & Sled Runners sounds like a really fun book too, I'm quite fond of the cover. Congratulations on both books. Have a lovely week Natalie.

Greg Pattridge said...

That's great that she writes both fiction and non-fiction. It taken me long enough to get it right on the fiction side, I don't know that I'd want to tackle a non-fiction project. You never know though... (Hope I didn't miss your link for today's MMGM. I'm still in a learning phase for this linky task.)

Sherry Ellis said...

Writing certainly is journey! Lots of twists and turns along the way. Good luck with the book. It looks cute!

Nick Wilford said...

Awesome that you found your editor on #PitMad. It's a great opportunity. Getting a grounding in educational writing sounds good too. There's a lot to be learnt from non-fiction.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

I feel so cheated in my childhood. Where were all these great books when I was that age? I would have loved to read about those girls and overcoming fears. Congrats to Natalie.

Suzanne Warr said...

I always find it fascinating to read of other writers process, and reassuring somehow to know that everyone finds their own path and method of getting there. Thanks so much for this interesting interview to both of you!

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

What a great title for the book. It's sure to attract young readers attention. Congratulations and thanks for sharing about your other work with us. Have a wonderful week.

TL said...

This story sounds so great, and I love the title.

Adaline said...

I really like the premise of this book...and it's awesome how Natalie writes both nonfiction and fiction!

Rosi said...

This sounds like a great book. Congratulations on making the move from non-fiction to a novel. That's a big step. Please let someone else win. I am buried in books.

Heather B said...

Sounds like a great book. Thank you for sharing!

Angie Quantrell said...

This sounds like a fun book! And what a combination (sledding and cookies). Readers will learn some new things. :) Congratulations!

Unknown said...

Would love to win this fun book! I mentioned the contest on Twitter. monicachess26(@)gmail(.)com

mary said...

Great advice Natalie! I can't wait to read your book!

Danielle H. said...

I love the idea of this book and the challenge facing the main character. I've read many books with sled dogs and will enjoy this one too. I also love to bake so this is extra sweet for me. I shared on tumblr: http://yesreaderwriterpoetmusician.tumblr.com/post/168682240792/natalie-rompella-interview-and-cookie-cutters

pailofpearls said...

I already follow on GFC. Would love to enter to win this.

Elaine Skye said...

Sounds a really good read💋💋