Kathie: Hi Nancy! I’m so happy that MG Book Village is part of the cover reveal for your middle-grade debut novel, THE WAY I SAY IT. I love watching authors launch their first book and feel honoured to be part of your journey. Please give us a synopsis of your story, and tell us when it’s set for release?
Nancy: Hi Kathie! Thank you for having me. What a treat and an honor to be here among such a supportive community of middle grade book lovers to share the cover of my debut novel!
THE WAY I SAY IT tells the story of a sixth grader named Rory who can’t say his own name. But being “the kid who still can’t say the /r/ sound” is just the beginning of his troubles. First Rory’s ex-best-friend Brent starts hanging out with the mean lacrosse kids. But then, a terrible accident takes Brent out of school, and Rory struggles with how to feel.
Rory and his new speech teacher put their heads together on Rory’s r’s (not to mention a serious love of hard rock and boxing legend Muhammad Ali), but nobody seems to be able to solve the problem of Rory’s complicated feelings about Brent. Brent’s accident left him with a mild brain injury, and he’s struggling. Should Rory stand up for his old friend at school–even after Brent failed to do the same for him?
THE WAY I SAY IT releases on January 18, 2022 and is available for pre-order now!!
Kathie: What was it about the idea for this story that compelled you to write it?
Nancy: In my previous career as a Speech/Language Pathologist, I worked with many kids who had trouble saying sounds included in their own name. For example, one of my favorites was a young girl named Camille. She couldn’t say the /k/ sound, and it led to a lot of confusion when people would ask her her name. It can be so frustrating when an articulation disorder interferes with someone’s ability to communicate, and especially when it impedes the production of something so personal — your own name!
I also worked in both inpatient and outpatient brain injury rehabilitation programs. There is a saying: “if you’ve met one person with a brain injury, you’ve met one person with a brain injury.” Recovering from a head trauma that affects one’s ability to communicate is a complex, highly individual road.
But no matter where a difficulty with speech or language stems from, at the core, there seems to be a common desire for all humans : we want to be heard and understood. I was compelled to explore what that might look like at the middle grade level, when kids are really beginning to figure out who they are and who they want to be.
Kathie: Is your main character based on an actual person, and can you give us one characteristic about them that you most admire?
Nancy: Honestly I did the “devious writer” thing and asked myself: what would be the worst name to have if you were a sixth grader who can’t say /r/ sounds? And Rory was born. But in the beginning, I struggled to make him a fully fleshed out character. He was very one dimensional. Then I attended a play put on by local sixth graders. The boy playing the lead had a distinctive speech pattern that my SLP brain registered as what we call “gliding of liquids” — essentially, replacing /r/ with a /w/ sound. But this kid was amazing. He owned the stage. He sang with the voice of an angel. And it hit me — I wasn’t letting Rory actually be himself. And who he is is a multi-faceted cool kid who makes mistakes but is driven to learn and grow. From there the story took off.
Kathie: What’s one thing about your publishing journey (so far) that’s surprised you?
Nancy: I had no idea when I started writing how many wonderful new friends I would make! I’ve met the most fascinating, talented people — both readers and writers. And I have relied on those friends to buoy me as I’ve been bobbing around in the pre-published waters for a looong time. I would not have survived without that raft!
Kathie: Let’s talk about your book’s cover. Can you please tell us about the illustrator and your involvement in the process?
Nancy: My publisher, Charlesbridge, has worked with illustrator Chris Hsu on other projects, and he was my editor Karen Boss’s first choice for the cover of THE WAY I SAY IT. Lucky for us, he was available! He’s incredibly talented; have a gander at his portfolio at https://chrishsu.net/ and you’ll agree!
I got to see an early version of the cover, and there were some minor tweaks after that. Both Charlesbride and Chris Hsu made the process very easy on my end! And I am so excited about the final product!
Kathie: It’s the moment everyone has been waiting for…here’s the cover for The Way I Say It!
Kathie: I really love the way the title is written in a speech bubble, and how the primary colors jump off the page!
Now, what’s a little-known fact about this story you can share with us?
Nancy: Many years ago, a few sample pages of this story won the Ruth Landers Glass Scholarship from the New England Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators. The fact that someone (not related to me) felt the story had promise truly sustained me in the long years on my path to publication since then!
Kathie: Where can we go to find out more about you and your writing?
Kathie: Thank you so much for taking the time to share some details about your upcoming book, Nancy. I look forward to reading it!
Nancy: Thank you, Kathie. It’s been my pleasure, truly. A huge thank you to all the volunteer hours that have gone into making Middle Grade Book Village a ‘one stop shop’ where people can find out about awesome stories for middle grade readers!
The Way I Say It is available for pre-order from the following:
RIVER BEND BOOKSHOP (Exclusive pre-order campaign! Specify if you would like your book personalized; your order will also include some super special surprise swag!)
Happy reading to all!
Nancy Tandon is a former teacher, speech-language pathologist, and adjunct professor of phonetics and child language development. As an SLP, she worked with many clients who had difficulty pronouncing sounds specific to their names, as well as people recovering from brain injury. Nancy lives in Connecticut with her husband and two children. The Way I Say It is her first novel. Visit her at http://www.nancytandon.com.