Friday, April 12, 2013

"Middleview" Interview with Debut Author Nancy J. Cavanaugh

Posted by Tamera Wissinger

Today Nancy J. Cavanaugh is joining Smack Dab in the Middle Blog for a guest “middleview” interview. Nancy’s debut middle grade novel, THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET, Sourcebooks/Jabberwocky, released last week, on 04/02/13. Congratulations, Nancy!

Middle Grade Author Nancy J. Cavanaugh
Here is Nancy's Official Biography:

Nancy J. Cavanaugh lives in Florida with her husband and her daughter.  She spends her summers eating pizza in her former hometown of Chicago. This Journal Belongs to Ratchet is her first book, but she has been writing for almost twenty years.

Like her main character, Nancy is pretty handy with a ratchet and is able to take apart a small engine and put it back together. In addition to her mechanic’s hat, Nancy has been an elementary and middle school teacher as well as a school library media specialist.  One of her favorite parts of writing for children is being able to say “I’m working” when reading middle grade novels.  She hasn’t read an adult book in years.


Eleven-year-old Ratchet determines to make a friend, save a park, and find her own definition of normal. She tells her story through the assignments in her homeschool language arts journal.

Living in a world of spark plugs, pistons, and crankshafts, Ratchet spends her days fixing cars with her dad in the garage – not exactly normal for a girl.  Even with the odds stacked against her, Ratchet endeavors to change her life and realizes her skill as a mechanic might just be the path to her first friend. But in the process, she alienates her father and discovers a secret she wishes she never knew. She finds a way to, not only accept the truth she discovers, but also accept herself and her dad in a whole new way.

Now it’s time to hear from our guest.

Smack Dab Middleview with THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET author Nancy J. Cavanaugh

1. What does your main character, Ratchet, want?

Most of all Ratchet wants to belong – to be normal, to have a friend, and to save Moss Tree Park for her dad.

2. What is in her way?

Her circumstances are her biggest obstacle.  Her mom is dead, her dad is kind of on the crazy side, and she’s homeschooled – none of these things make it easy for Ratchet to feel as if she fits in anywhere.

3. Did you know right away that this was your story, or did you discover it as you wrote?  How did the story evolve?

I always knew that Ratchet wanted a friend, wanted to be normal, and wanted to help her dad save the park, but I didn’t know how deep those wishes really were. These were all surface issues.  It was the belonging that really mattered.

4. Was THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET always for middle grade readers or not?  If so, why did you choose middle grade?   

Ratchet was always middle grade – her problems are middle grade and her relationships are middle grade.  If she were older she might be too cool for the whole situation, or she might have already accepted her situation and moved beyond searching for more.

5. What is the best part of writing for middle grade readers?

Innocence.  I’m an old fashioned girl at heart.  My favorite books to read, even now, are those written within the pure perimeters of middle grade. 

6. Ratchet tells her story through her homeschool language arts journal.  Why did you choose to write THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET in such a unique format?

I love to read books written in alternative formats, so writing one as a journal was especially enjoyable.  Although, as enjoyable as it was, it was one of the biggest challenges of writing this book; I kept having to figure out how to tell the whole story through Ratchet’s assignments. This made the writing of it feel very creative, and I believe it adds a whole other layer to the story. 

7. Since part of Ratchet’s journal includes her poetry writing, and in honor of National Poetry Month and Poetry Friday, would you share one of the poems from THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET with us?

This is a hard question because the poetry entries are some of my favorite, but here's the first poem Ratchet writes in her homeschool language arts notebook:

If only getting a new life
Were as easy as getting
A new notebook.
But it's not.

Couldn't face another year
Writing on those
Dad found them at a garage sale.
They smelled like wet dog.

I bought this notebook
With clean white pages
Because this year I need
                 White pages.
This year I need
                  A cardboard cover
                  In cool colors.
This year I need
                  Something new to write on
                  And to happen.

Thank you for sharing this poem with us and for joining us for a Middleview at Smack Dab Blog, Nancy. Again, congratulations on the release of THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET! We’ll look for it on bookshelves!


  1. The premise sounds fantastic. Looking forward to it.

  2. This sounds like a fun title; one more order card to write up!

  3. Thanks for stopping by Smack Dab, Nancy! Congrats on your release!

  4. Thanks to all who have commented! So happy to be part of Smack Dab in the Middle! It's a fantastic blog!
    Nancy J. Cavanaugh