Author Spotlight: Nancy Tandon
Jan. 7, 2022
We are excited to feature author Nancy Tandon and her debut middle grade novel, THE WAY I SAY IT, (Charlesbridge January 18, 2022)
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|Cover designer: Chris Hsu
Tell us about yourself and how you came to write for children.
Hello and thanks for having me! It’s so fun to be here after years of using Kidlit411 as a source of information and inspiration. I’m a middle grade writer embarking on her third-ish career. I started in elementary and outdoor education, then worked in a hospital setting as a speech/language pathologist. Years later when the stars aligned and the cloud of early motherhood lifted, I began to focus on one of my own childhood passions – writing stories.
Congrats on your middle-grade debut, The Way I Say It! Tell us about the book and what inspired you?
Thank you! I am so excited for this story to reach the audience I wrote it for. The Way I Say It (Charlesbridge) is about a sixth-grader named Rory who can’t say R sounds (and therefore can’t say his own name). He thinks that’s his biggest problem until an accident forces him to confront conflicted feelings about a former friend. The two boys struggle to reconcile old wounds as they navigate their new normal with the help of speech therapist Mr. Simms, heavy metal music, and Muhammad Ali.
As you can probably guess, my clinical work as a speech/language pathologist was the inspiration for this story. In the outpatient setting, I worked with a number of kids with articulation disorders who specifically had trouble saying sounds in their first names. When I began to create my main character, I started with a question: what would middle school be like for a kid whose first name speech-sound difficulties persisted past early childhood?
Was your road to publication long and winding, short and sweet, or something in between?
My path to publication was a no U-turn toll road with orange cones, detours, horrible merges, potholes, frost heaves, black ice, dead ends, fender benders, traffic jams, and rusty guard rails. After a construction delay of five years, I’m thrilled to finally reach my exit!!
For anyone reading this who is on the long and winding path: the only way through is to keep going. Notice I said my road had no U-turns. Dogged, stubborn persistence is what will get you to your goal. Don’t give up!
What projects are you working on now?
I’m so excited to be working on edits for my second middle grade novel, The Ghost of Spruce Point (Aladdin, summer 2022). Set in a coastal Maine town, this story follows a group of friends as they work to unravel a witch’s curse while contending with an even more terrifying prospect: growing up and growing apart.
I joke that my first book took so long to find its way that in the meantime I wrote and sold a whole second book. But it’s a joke with a great punchline!
What are some of your favorite classic MGs? New ones?
I have always loved middle grade! It feels like I got to that reading level and kind of stayed there. There is something so pure and true about the hearts and minds of kids during that time in life. I remember being in my childhood bedroom and being shocked that Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia) could control my emotions like that. And when I read Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry, 11-year-old me wrote a fan letter to Mildred Taylor because I was so, so affected by the story. (Guess what? She wrote back! I wish I still had that letter!) Bottom line, I was fascinated with the way these stories had invaded my senses and literally changed me as a person.
Today, I read middle grade constantly and continue to learn and grow from the wonderful new work so many talented people have created. Some of my recent, holy cow that was so good reads include 2021 debuts: Alone by Megan Freeman, A Place to Hang the Moon by Kate Albus, and 365 Days to Alaska by Cathy Carr. All three are very different stories, and isn’t that just so fun? You never know where and how you’ll be transported when you read middle grade!
Some other titles that have invaded my senses recently are A Wish in the Dark by Christina Soontornvat, When You Trap a Tiger by Tae Keller, Efren Divided by Ernesto Cisneros, From the Desk of Zoe Washington by Janae Marks and A Comb of Wishes (coming 2/8/22!) by Lisa Stringfellow. It actually stresses me out a little bit thinking about how many good books there are! I want to read them all!
What advice would you give to aspiring authors?
Write down your goals and put them somewhere prominent. Then, do one thing every day that moves you toward those goals. Even if it’s just reading one paragraph in a book about craft, you’ll be moving forward. Be persistent with your little steps. They add up over time! Don't ever give up.
What is something most people don't know about you?
I sang in a cappella groups in high school and college. (Think Pitch Perfect but with me as the nerdy girl in the back vs. the Anna Kendrick character.) It was fun!
Where can people find you online?
Nancy Tandon is a former speech/language pathologist and author of two middle-grade novels, The Way I Say It (Charlesbridge, 1/18/22) and The Ghost of Spruce Point (Aladdin, 8/2/22). Nancy lives in Connecticut with her family and is a fan of popcorn, reading, and literacy outreach programs of all kinds.
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