Monday, October 15, 2012

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: A Smidgen of Sky

A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget (Harcourt Children's, November 6, 2012)

The Plot (via Amazon) Whether she likes it or not, ten-year-old Piper Lee DeLuna is about to get a new family. Four years after the plane Piper's daddy was piloting disappeared, her mama is remarrying. The way Piper sees it, Mama's being plain disloyal. Besides, who'd want to get stuck with a prison guard for a stepdad and that weenie, Ginger, for a stepsister? But when Piper Lee hatches a foolproof plan to get the wedding called off, it quickly spirals out of control. And by the time Piper realizes what she’s done—and just how much she really cares about her new family—it might be too late. Told in Piper Lee's irresistible Southern voice, A Smidgen of Sky is about new families and new beginnings.

Why I Liked It:

The cover, for starters. Who doesn't like sunflowers?!

I totally believed in Piper Lee, and her voice. (In fact, I'm kind of befuddled that Dianna Dorisi Winget isn't a Southerner!) I believed in Piper's inability to accept her father's death--after all, his body was never found. I believed in her not wanting her mother to remarry. And I believed in her attempts to get her potential step-sister, Ginger, in contact with her mother again which, in 10-year-old logic, would put the skids on Piper's own mother's marriage to Ginger's dad. (In fact, Piper does something so awful in connection with this subplot that it looks like the repercussions may end up breaking up the planned remarriage.)

I was gripped by the climax of the plot, in which there's an incident at the prison where Piper's potential stepfather, Ben, works. Ginger's worry about her father's safety, Mama's attempts to keep it together, and Piper Lee's realization about the harm she's caused did actually make my own eyes moisten. Powerful writing!

After I finished A Smidgen of Sky, I was so impressed that I contacted the author for a mini-interview. Here's what I found out about Dianna Dorisi Winget:

1) Tell me about the writing of SMIDGEN OF SKY. How did the idea come to you? 

I wish I could remember how the idea first came to me! I’ve always been intrigued with the South and knew I wanted to set a story there. The character of Piper Lee came to me before the story. I think things just slowly evolved into the book it became. Plus, I married into a step-family, and know some of the great challenges it can present, so the idea of Piper Lee resisting her mom’s remarriage was a natural.

2) Tell me about your publishing journey. 

My publishing journey was a long and often frustrating one, interspersed with just enough success to keep me going. I sold a number of short stories and articles to children’s magazines, which helped to get my foot in the door, and boosted my self-esteem. But my dream had always been to write MG novels. I decided early on that I would never go the self-publishing route, I was only interested in traditional publishing. So to mak a long story short, I spent years trying to perfect my craft, querying agents and editors, getting rejected, and trying again. Little by little, the form rejections turned into encouraging notes scrawled on the side of my manuscripts, and I realized I was getting closer. 

My agent, Mary Kole, who I signed on with in 2010 has been terrific and made the long search for an agent worth it.  Even after finding Mary, it still took 16 months to sell Smidgen. Many times I really doubted it would ever happen, but Mary was always there to bolster my sagging spirits. When the book finally sold to Harcourt, I’m not sure which of us was more excited! She put together a great article “Story of a Sale,” that tells the nitty-gritty of selling my book. Here’s the link if you’re interested. http://kidlit.com/2011/07/04/story-of-a-sale-fly-a-little-higher-piper-lee-dianna-dorisi-winget/

3) What are your favorite middle grade books? What are you reading right now?

I love so many books I’m not sure I can pick a favorite. My all-time favorite would have to be Where the Red Fern Grows. Recent books I’ve read and really enjoyed include “The One and Only Ivan,” “The Lions of Little Rock,”  and the YA novel “52 Reasons to Hate My Father.”

4) If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
Probably to Sicily, since I’m Italian and that’s where my dad’s family is originally from.



(At which point--you've guessed it!--the Don got really energized and put Dianna's name in the hopper for this year's Order of the Eggplant.)

If you want to know even more about Dianna, here's her WEBSITE.

Thanks, Dianna, for answering my questions, and for writing such a powerful middle grade novel. Folks, look out for this one!

Have a Marvelous Middle Grade Monday, Everyone! Ciao!!