Dianna Dorisi Winget's Blog: Middle Grade Matrix

April 20, 2018

I just returned from my trip to Osage Beach, Missouri to attend the Missouri Association of School Librarians' (MASL) Conference, and accept the Mark Twain readers award. It was a great trip filled with "firsts." My first visit to Missouri, the fabulous St. Louis Zoo, beautiful Tan Tar A Resort, and of course, my first Mark Twain award!

I'm not sure how many school librarians were in attendance, but I'm guessing it was at least 600, many of whom I got to meet personally during my workshops and book signings. How fun to be surrounded by so many book lovers! I also got to share the story behind my latest book, JUST LEFT OF LUCKY, and share the story of my publishing journey so far.

During the awards banquet, my award presenter was a smart, sweet 5th grader named Kennedy, who made me tear up by expressing her heartfelt love and enthusiasm for A MILLION WAYS HOME. I was also privileged to be in the company of the three other award winners--Emily Arnold McCully, author of Strongheart: The World's First Movie Star Dog, April Henry, author of many YA mysteries, and Amy Engel, author of The Book of Ivy.

What a fun and enjoyable experience overall! I plan to post a few pics to my website soon, so check back. Now, back to writing.
A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget
Just Left of Lucky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Sliver of Sun (Piper Lee DeLuna, #2) by Dianna Dorisi Winget
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March 10, 2018

If the title of my post makes you think fan letter, I'd say, well yeah, fan letters are pretty terrific! They're awesome morale boosters, powerful pick me ups, and something authors love to return to time after time.

But ... really, in the crazy, crowded world of today's publishing industry, where most of us feel like tiny minnows in an ocean of sharks, I strongly feel that the greatest gift you can give an author is a review. We live in a review-ruled world--and I'm not just talking books. If you're even an occasional online shopper you already know this. It doesn't matter if you're in need of a new razor, a bedspread, a new iPod, a cruise to Mexico or a motel in some obscure little town--there's bound to be reviews--dozens, hundreds, sometimes thousands.

Do you read the reviews before you buy something? I sure do! And why not? As a consumer who tries to wisely spend my money, I benefit greatly by reading the honest reviews of others who have experienced that product or service. For example, I recently found some sheets I wanted to order. They were lovely and a great price. But then I noticed a number of reviewers complained they seemed to run small and were tough to stretch over the mattress. Hmm. I resumed my search.

Not long after, I decided to order a particular dog bed for my dachshund. (And we all know our dogs deserve the very best we can give them, right?) So why did I choose the one I did? Because of the twelve reviews, all were 4-5 stars and said things like, "durable, soft, great quality, my dog loves it." And guess what? All those things were true and she DOES love it. In fact, she's snoozing away on it while I type this. So, I was quick to add my own 5 star review.

So, back to book reviews. If you read a book you like, love, or appreciate in some way, why not write a brief review here on Goodreads, and on Amazon? (These are certainly not the only places you can post it, but may be two of the most helpful to an author). And if it was your child who loved it, help him or her write one. The review doesn't have to be long or complicated--a couple lines will do. Shoot, you can write it once and then cut and paste after that. (My trick) It's fun to share your opinion and goes a long way to encourage other readers to take a chance. This is doubly true if it's a new book, and triply true if it's self published. Believe me, the author will be so very thankful and will likely repay you by writing another book you'll enjoy! Now that's what I call a win-win. Don't you?
A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Sliver of Sun (Piper Lee DeLuna, #2) by Dianna Dorisi Winget
Just Left of Lucky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
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Published on March 10, 2018 17:06 • 67 views • Tags: authors, book-reviews, publishing, readers

January 20, 2018

After several years without a new book, I'm SO excited to share my new middle grade, Just Left of Lucky. It tackles the topics of homelessness and poverty, but has lightness and hope, too ... and a dog! (A super cute one, I might add!) Check out the cover below.

It was an article in my hometown newspaper about the ever increasing needs of our local food bank here in north Idaho that really got me thinking about the topic of poverty and homelessness. It's a subject most of us don't like to think about, and yet the problem is so very real, in towns and cities large and small, in every region of the country. I started to imagine how difficult it would be for a child in this situation, how awkward or embarrassing it would be to have your friends find out you were homeless, and how far you might go to keep your situation a secret. I wanted to try and portray this experience in a realistic way, while still offering some hope and light. This is what I've tried to accomplish with Just Left of Lucky. The stories I heard, and the things I learned while researching this book, have forever changed my view of homelessness. I hope it might do the same for others.

Here's the summary:

Twelve year old Shannon can't believe she's living in a car with her Aunt Junie and little dog, Boone. After all, the move from Idaho to Washington was supposed to make things better, not leave them homeless. Mortified, Shannon is desperate to keep their situation a secret--not just from the kids at school, but also from the persistent, somewhat mysterious resource officer who keeps asking questions. When Aunt Junie becomes too paralyzed with discouragement to look for a job, capable and creative Shannon takes the reins and comes up with her own plan to fix things. But before she has a chance to put it in motion, their homelessness is revealed and the worst happens--Shannon is separated not only from Aunt Junie, but from her beloved Boone, and placed in a foster home. What will happen to Shannon's plan now? How will she rescue Boone? And will her family ever be together again?

And here's the link to the book's page on Amazon if you decide it's something that interests you.

Thank you for helping me welcome, Just Left of Lucky!

Happy reading!
Just Left of Lucky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
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Published on January 20, 2018 08:23 • 81 views • Tags: homelessness, just-left-of-lucky, kidlit, middle-grade, new-books, poverty, social-issues

January 4, 2018

I know it's been quite a while since I posted anything new, but I have a good (imho) excuse. I've been hard at work on final edits of a brand new middle grade!

JUST LEFT OF LUCKY, is a realistic story about homelessness and poverty, but contains humor and light as well ... and a dog, of course! It will be available in both print and ebook form within a month or so, so stay tuned :)

More soon ...

A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Sliver of Sun (Piper Lee DeLuna, #2) by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget
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Published on January 04, 2018 07:26 • 99 views • Tags: just-left-of-lucky, kidlit, middle-grade, new-release, realistic-fiction

November 3, 2017

As a middle grade author, I'm always looking for new ways to interact with young readers. Skype has proven to be a great way to make virtual visits when the physical distance is too great. But what if there are too many kids to Skype with? I had this surprising dilemma crop up recently when I was contacted by a librarian/media specialist in Ohio who told me the sixth graders in her school were reading A Million Ways Home and wondered if I did author visits. I immediately offered to do a Skype visit and asked what time frame she might be thinking about. Well, imagine my surprise when she told me the school consisted of only sixth graders--700 of them--and they were ALL reading my book! WOW! Amazing, isn't it? But way too many students to virtually visit all at once, since she wanted them to have the opportunity to ask questions. She offered to break them into groups of 50 or so at a time, but we both agreed that would make for a very looong day for her and me both. So what to do?

She asked if I might consider making an author video she could share with her language arts teachers, who could in turn share it with students at their convenience. Well ... I have to admit the idea was both intriguing and intimidating. I know some authors have been making videos for a long time, but not me. But how could I turn down 700 students? So, I agreed to try.

It didn't take me long to discover I don't like seeing myself on my web cam. My small office doesn't have great lighting. My dachshund likes to bark in the background. Also, my words sounded scripted and unnatural. Finally, after a number of failed attempts, it dawned of me that the video didn't have to be perfect. It just needed to be fun, friendly and from the heart. I threw away my script, quit worrying about the less than perfect lighting and made my mouthy dog part of the video. It's four minutes, uploaded onto Vimeo, and best of all, the sweet librarian told me it was Great! Yeah, I know she's probably just being nice, but still :) Here's a link in case you're curious. https://vimeo.com/240207608

I will make another video answering a selection of the students' questions once they've had opportunity to come up with some. And you know what? I'm actually looking forward to it!
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Published on November 03, 2017 16:20 • 152 views • Tags: author-videos, middle-grade, school-visits, vimeo

September 22, 2017

As authors, we're always on the lookout for new ways to engage with readers, share our journey and showcase our books. And while social media can be a great tool, it can also be overwhelming--so arises the interesting topic of Instagram. My daughter, who just turned 20, has loved it for several years. I always resisted joining considering it just one more form of social media to gobble up my time with little real benefit. But then last winter my daughter and her best friend decided to take a 5 week trip to Thailand. (From a mom's perspective, my first response was EEEK!) I knew that most of, if not all, her trip would be showcased on Instagram, so of course I had to join to keep an eye on her. You might be able to guess what happened next. Yes, Instagram is fun and addictive ... but, I mused, could it also be useful to an author?

I did a little research and was surprised by the number of authors , illustrators and other creatives who have accounts. (Yeah, I realize I'm a little late to the party:) Even more impressive was the myriad ways Instagram is being used. I found images depicting favorite books, writing related trips, hometown bookstores and libraries, favorite cafes and other writing spots, award events, fan letters, people/places/pets that inspired their writing, ect, ect, ect. In short, authors are using Instagram to share a good bit of themselves and their writing lives with fellow writers, fans and anyone else who's interested.

I set up a separate Instagram account just for my writing and although it's only been up a month or so, I've already come into contact with a couple dozen librarians, teachers and fellow writers. And you know what? It's really fun, and it's only taking up a few minutes of my day. Very soon now (October 5th) I'll be headed to Kansas to receive the William Allen White award for A Million Ways Home, and I'm really looking forward to sharing highlights of my trip. If you'd like to come along for the ride, you can find me on Instagram at dianna.writes.

If you're on Instagram and have special ways to use it, please share a comment :)

A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Sliver of Sun (Piper Lee DeLuna, #2) by Dianna Dorisi Winget
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Published on September 22, 2017 09:51 • 150 views • Tags: authors, instagram, kidlit, social-media, william-allen-white-award

August 16, 2017

I've been a voracious reader since about the age of ten, and I've enjoyed so many books over the years, I've forgotten the titles of the vast majority. But there are always those few, very special books that have such a powerful impact for one reason or another they become permanently imprinted in your heart and mind. It might be the message of the book, a particular character who feels just like you, or maybe it was merely timing--the right book fell into your hands just when you most needed it. At any rate, here are four books that had a lasting impact on me.

Charlotte's Web--I'm not sure, but I think this may have been one of the very first chapter books I read all by myself. I've always been a softie when it comes to animals, plus I grew up with farm animals, so Fern and Wilbur, Charlotte, even Templeton, all had a powerful effect on seven or eight year old me. It reinforced on my mind that animals have feelings too, that even spiders have redeeming qualities, and that stories don't always end just like you want them to.

Where the Red Fern Grows--I don't care what age you are, this has got to be one of the most devastating, but beautiful tales ever told. It had a direct effect on my future writing because it created in me a love for literary style, as well as a desire to write through the eyes of middle grade characters. It's also directly responsible for my decision to never ... I repeat, never ... kill off a dog in one of my stories. Making a reader cry can be a great thing, and I have no qualms with occasionally killing off a human character if the plot demands it, but a dog ... absolutely not.

The Outsiders--I'm not sure there was a single girl in my 7th grade class who didn't groan when we were assigned this book. I mean, what twelve year old girl wants to read about three teen boys in a gang? But long before the book was finished, most of us were singing a far different tune. A powerful, moving tribute to family, and how it's affected by social class, this is the story that opened my eyes to the fact that not every family situation was as idyllic as my own. It's also one of the first books I remember that was told in first person, and when I realized how close it had drawn me into Pony boy's perspective, I knew that first person is something I wanted to try out as well. My three published novels to date are all told in first person.

Stein on Writing--I've lost track of how many books I've read on the craft of writing. I've gleaned at least a measure of insight from most of them--a lot from some. But if I had to pare down my library to only a single title on fiction writing, it would be this one by Sol Stein. It had a tremendous influence on how I write dialogue and craft characters.

So there you have it. The top four books that have most influenced my reading and writing life. I'd love to know yours.
Charlotte's Web by E.B. White
Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
The Outsiders by S.E. Hinton
Stein On Writing A Master Editor of Some of the Most Successful Writers of Our Century Shares His Craft Techniques and Strategies by Sol Stein
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Published on August 16, 2017 13:44 • 174 views • Tags: books, middle-grade, writing, writing-inspiration

June 12, 2017

A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget Life on Mars by Jennifer BrownI was over the moon excited to learn last month that A Million Ways Home is the winner of the 2017 William Allen White Award--the young readers choice award for Kansas! It won the sixth to eighth grade category, and Jennifer Brown won the third to fifth grade category with her novel, Life on Mars. I'm so looking forward to meeting Jennifer and the wonderful committee behind this award. I'm especially looking forward to meeting many of the students who voted for our books! The celebration will take place in Emporia, Kansas on October 6th-7th.

First, we'll be signing books on the porch of the historic home of William Allen White on the evening of October 6. After that, we'll have opportunity to visit with the students who have come from all over Kansas for a sleepover at Emporia State University.

Saturday morning will begin bright and early with breakfast followed by more book signing, before we get to share in a parade around the campus. Later that afternoon will be the actual awards ceremony. It's such an honor to have A Million Ways Home chosen for this award, and I'm so excited to enjoy all the festivity. Maybe I'll even get to meet some of YOU!
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Published on June 12, 2017 17:51 • 158 views • Tags: a-million-ways-home, jennifer-brown, life-on-mars, middle-grade, william-allen-white-award

March 28, 2017

A couple of weeks ago I received the wonderful news that A Million Ways Home had won Missouri's 2016-17 Mark Twain Readers Award! Super exciting indeed! I had to keep quiet until the Missouri Association of School Librarians (MASL) conference made the info public. But now, I can shout it out to the world.

Up until a couple of years ago I didn't even know what state reading awards were. But when A Million Ways Home was chosen as a finalist on five state lists, I did some research and blogged about my new understanding. In case you missed it, here's a recap.

Turns out that state reading lists represent a whole lot of love, effort and dedication. And they have nothing to do with where the author lives :) Most begin with a selection committee made up of librarians, teachers and parents, who read a ton of books published within a certain time period and then nominate their favorites. These dozens of books are eventually whittled down to somewhere between ten and twenty titles which comprise the state master lists for each school year.

The master lists are released well ahead of time to allow teachers and librarians enough opportunity to order a substantial number of each title. Why do they need so many? Because . . . and here's the coolest part . . . these books are read and voted on by students throughout the school year. The book with the highest number of votes wins special recognition and often an award. So it's really the kids who get to pick the winner(s). What a great way to get kids involved and excited about reading.

Missouri's Association of School Librarians (MASL) offers four different reader awards broken down by age groups. Show Me Readers Award (Grades 1-3)
Mark Twain Readers Award (Grades 4-6)
Truman Readers Award (Grades 6-8)
Gateway Readers Award (Grades 9-12)

Knowing all what's involved makes me even more appreciative and honored to be the winner of the Mark Twain Readers Award. I'd like to offer heartfelt thanks to the award committee, as well as the nearly 2,000 Missouri students who voted for A Million Ways Home. I look forward to meeting many of you at next year's conference.
A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Sliver of Sun (Piper Lee DeLuna, #2) by Dianna Dorisi Winget
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Published on March 28, 2017 19:04 • 206 views • Tags: awards, mark-twain-readers-award, masl, state-reading-lists

March 8, 2017

When it comes to writing query letters, we authors tend to wring our hands, bite our nails and lay awake at night. Few things seem as daunting and intimidating as coming up with what we hope is a perfect query letter--or if not perfect--at least good enough to snag the attention of an agent or editor. The good news is, all that fear and anxiety is unnecessary, because writing an effective query is not nearly as tough as it sounds. Honest!

Shortly after the acceptance of my debut novel, A Smidgen of Sky, my then agent, Mary Kole from the Andrea Brown Literary Agency wrote an article for Writer's Digest on how to write a perfect query letter. I was so tickled to learn she'd chosen the original query I sent her when I was pitching Smidgen to agents.

The article was published in 2012, so I'd forgotten all about it. But just recently, an acquaintance on Goodreads stumbled across the link to the Writer's Digest piece, and was kind enough to let me know how much she'd enjoyed it. What's especially beneficial is not the letter itself, but Mary's comments that follow. I decided to blog about it in hopes that it might prove helpful to others. Here's the link.


Happy writing!

A Smidgen of Sky by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Sliver of Sun (Piper Lee DeLuna, #2) by Dianna Dorisi Winget
A Million Ways Home by Dianna Dorisi Winget
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Published on March 08, 2017 19:02 • 388 views • Tags: agents, manuscript-submission, query-letters

Middle Grade Matrix

Dianna Dorisi Winget
A place to share tips, questions, answers, dilemmas, complaints, and the many joys of writing for ages 9-12.
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