Sunday, August 29, 2021

Dear 11-year-old Disaster....

By Charlotte Bennardo

Geez. Eleven is tough. And you know what? The next years are going to be even tougher. There will be bullies, a move to a strange town where you fit in less than where you are now, times when money is scarce, and too many days when you doubt yourself and withdraw. At eleven, you don't know where to turn, who to talk to, or what to do. Sometimes, it won't feel like it will get better.

Photo by Karyme Fran├ža from Pexels

But hang in there, kid. You're stronger than you think. You have an inner fortitude you'll learn to trust. All that poetry you're writing now? Well yes, it's pretty bad, but you'll get better. You'll learn your craft. You WILL get books published. You'll have wonderful- and terrible experiences- which you will use in your writings. Don't be afraid to dream big or work hard. And even though you may think it, others are feeling the same way. So say hello to that strange kid who keeps to himself so when you meet up years later, he thanks you for your kindness. Don't take to heart the mean things the popular crowd says because they don't know you, and after graduation, they disappear. Take Russian history because the teacher, Big Daddy Clingon, is a cool hippie and he also teaches creative writing. Ignore the English teacher who trashes your writing because for some reason doesn't like you- you'll be a published writer, something she never achieves. Middle and high school won't be even a major part of your life, so you will survive and move on. You will find your way. It won't be perfect, but then not many things are. True perfection is found in never giving up your dreams. 

See you in a few....


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Dear 11-Year-Old Me

 Dear 11-Year-Old Me:

That teacher who told you you're stupid? He's stupid.

That girl you think is your best friend? She's not. 

Those girls you so want to be friends with that you're willing to act like a jerk to impress them? It's not worth it. Be nice. You'll regret every unkind word for the rest of your life.

When all the cool girls join the no-cut community cheerleading squad, DON'T DO IT.  You don't realize it yet, but you're the most uncoordinated person alive. Go ahead and accept that before you ruin the fun for everyone else and completely embarrass yourself.

Spend more time with your grandparents. You're going to miss them more than you can possibly imagine.

Help your mom more. She works way too hard and you take her for granted. Hang out with both your parents more. You'll treasure the memories, so make as many as you can.

Save those crazy cassette tapes you and your brother make. They're hilarious and will be even more hilarious when you're old. 

Those stories you wrote about the girl who can stop time by saying her name? Do not throw them away. I beg you: DO NOT. You're going to get an amazing book deal in a few decades based on those stories, and you'll so wish you still had them.  

Oh, and by the way, strap in. Middle school is going to be pretty horrible. OK, REALLY horrible. But you'll get through it; I promise. Hang in there, kid. You're tougher than you think.


Old Me

Ginger Rue's latest book, Wonder Women of Science, is co-authored with rocket scientist Tiera Fletcher, who is currently working with NASA on the Mars mission. The book profiles a dozen amazing women (besides Tiera!) who are blazing new trails in their respective STEM fields.

Wednesday, August 25, 2021

The Lesson of Tailpipes (Holly Schindler)

 Hey, girl,

You're 11, and it's August, which means you are probably on some road trip. In fact, you are probably in the RV, which is a disaster. It leaks and constantly breaks down, and on one trip, you will have to pull to the side because the tailpipe falls off.

You have two cats at home, but you are surely traveling with your dog, Winnie. Not that you need a picture, but here she is, by the disaster of an RV:

To keep occupied on the road, you are surrounded by books. You have a Walkman and plenty of tapes. You never go anywhere without your George Michael. 

You have a notebook, too. You are working on stories. 

And you are dreaming. 

Here's the thing: Many of your dreams will come true. You will see your own book on a shelf, and it will even accompany other kids just like you who are on their own summer road trips. You will always be surrounded by music and stories. 

And dogs. There are always dogs.

But even when dreams come true, life goes on, as imperfect as ever. Even with books on bookstore shelves, tailpipes will still keep falling off of your RV--metaphorically speaking. 

So get used to it, girl. Learn to keep rolling while crazy things happen. 

In the meantime, have a great time on that road trip. Scratch Winnie's head one time for me.

--Older Holly


Holly Schindler is the author of The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky; a corresponding activity book is now available!

Monday, August 23, 2021

Dear Me at Eleven--Can You Imagine Our Flower? Smack Dab in the Imagination by Dia Calhoun

 Dear Me at Eleven,

If you can use the imagination I know you possess, this letter will give you comfort. If you can't, I advise immediately deleting it.

The good news is, you will get back to the garden and the tree and the backyard you are being torn away from. 

The bad news is, this will take forty-five years. Although you will find other joy in your life, you will also suffer. I know you don't want to hear this. Who would?

The good news is this suffering will create brilliant flowers in our garden that would never have grown there otherwise.

Can you imagine those flowers? Will you draw me a picture of one? Before you are ripped from the garden, please bury your picture in a time capsule at the foot of the tree.

I promise to find it. I promise to sing about you. I promise we will sing our songs together.



Dia Calhoun

Friday, August 20, 2021

Middle Grade Wisdom

 As a middle grade author, I spend a lot of time trying to get into the "head space" of my eleven-year-old self. Many memories of things that I've experienced and the perspectives of life I had at that age are difficult, embarrassing, or just plain awkward, and for the most part, pretty typical. It's the reason my middle grade readers are able to relate to my characters. But, when I get into that middle grade "head space," besides all that difficult, embarrassing, and awkward "stuff," there are many positive, fun, and carefree memories and perspectives. As a middle grader, I got to enjoy life before "adulting," which, at times, when life gets hectic and stressful, I wish I could go back to some of those carefree childhood days. So, instead of my adult self giving advice to my childhood self, for this blog post, I think I'll get back into that middle grade "head space" and let my eleven-year-old self remind my adult self a few important things to remember that might be a good way to step back from "adulting" and enjoy a moment of carefree childhood.

  • Take a wandering walk through the neighborhood, not for exercise, but just for fun. Don't time yourself on your phone or track your steps on your watch, just wander. Stop and look at something if it seems interesting or ask a person if you could pet their dog. And most importantly, don't think about your "To Do" list for one, single minute.
  • Read a picture book aloud to yourself or to someone else. Choose one of your favorites or something brand new.
  • Sit by a window and daydream. Think about anything except what you should be doing instead of daydreaming.
  • Find a coloring book and some crayons and turn on an old favorite kids' show like "Sesame Street," "Clifford," or "Between the Lions."
  • On a rainy day, quiet everything in the house, lay on the floor, close your eyes, and listen to the rain.

Though I know there are many words of wisdom I could probably impart to my eleven-year-old self, which might have made life a bit easier, I think my middle grade self has some wisdom for all of us. Especially those of us who write for middle grade, but also anyone who would like to spend an hour or two forgetting their "Adulting To Do" list and enjoying a moment of carefree childhood.

Wishing you a few carefree moments,

Nancy J. Cavanaugh


Thursday, August 19, 2021

True Love: Writing

 Dear 11-year-old Abigail,

You’ve been responsible nearly all your life. You tend to your cats and dog, gardening and baking. 

But don’t forget to tend to your dreams and aspirations. 

You have a deep passion - for the arts. From the moment Dad gave you a large piece of paper and crayons to draw a picture, you instead started writing a story about a cat. You were four. Fine arts and dance also feed your fire. But writing. Writing is your true love.

Not everyone will be thrilled that you type away, story after story. Kids at school asked what you were writing and you told them, “A book.” They laughed at you. I’m proud you did not stop writing after that. In high school, your drawing and painting truly blossomed. It was another solid leg to stand on. It won’t be until much later, but you’l be a ballerina yet, too. 

Don’t listen to your boss who looks at a story of yours with a huff. Who laughed that this was how you spent your time.

The good news is, you will find so many writing mentors throughout junior high snd high school. Mr. C, Mrs. S, Mrs. English, Mrs. Wegner. As a writer, you'll meet writer friends all across the United States. 

You’ll write for a living in reporting for a long time. At night, you worked on your first MG novel. You were  swept up in the story, and didn’t leave the chair for hours. It was a terrible first draft. But it was still a manuscript for a book. 

Abigail, at 11, you already tried to write a book. The passion is inside you. Explore it. Believe in you. Believe in your love for the  writing and books. I can tell you, full heart turned out, you will find that writing will write you out of some complex issues. It will bring you closer to people you love. You can write your way out of so many corners. 

Writing will save you. 

Go forth. Write your heart out. 

Happy Reading!

Saturday, August 14, 2021

11 don't be so blue, here's my ode to you -- Jennifer Mitchell

Dear 11- year old Jennifer,

You made it out of that awkward stage in life; you can now wear Sesame Street shirts and Mickey Mouse shirts without fear of worrying if others think you “cool” enough.  Your dream of becoming an elementary teacher has come to fruition, and oddly enough you work for the same district you graduated from. You even wave hello to some of the same teachers that guided your career decision from time to time.  And guess what? You are still reading some of the same novels they read to you to your own students. This is because you want to give them the same magical experiences you were given. 

Family still remains a huge component of your life, and those kids you hoped you would have actually exist and they are in college pursuing their own set of dreams.  That is an achievement you will be the most proud of!  Spending time with the ones you love is a gift that you will continue to be thankful for.

Though being an introvert will probably always be a trait that isn’t easily overcome, you will be proud of yourself when you try new things and take a risk (even when it seems scary at the time).  In the end it will produce memories and hopefully more character.

Though life has its challenges, you are blessed to be on the path of continued happiness! You will be glad to know that you are proud of what you have accomplished 35 years later.

p.s. Thank goodness the haircut we lived through at 11 was the worst one you have had to endure…. let’s never be fooled into short hair again :) 

About me: I am an elementary teacher in the Kansas City area. Sesame Street gets credit for my blog title :)

Thursday, August 12, 2021

What I Learned When I Was Eleven by Darlene Beck Jacobson

 I grew up in a humble household, sharing a bedroom with my younger sister Sandra. Mom grew up in poverty as one of 13 children, and had to quit school at 14 to help support the family. Dad suffered PTSD everyday due to his POW experiences in WWII and was unable to work. But there was never a day that passed that I didn't feel their love and words of encouragement. 

 We often don't think about the things we learn while we are learning them. But learn them I did. By the age of 11, I learned:

* The value of saving coins for days when cupboards were bare. Those coins went a long way toward a nourishing meal.

*  Creativity and imagination cost nothing. Paper, crayons, glue, and scissors led to hours of making everything from hats, paper chains, cards, and Christmas ornaments.

* A library card was a passport to untold adventures.

* An old sheet could be turned into just about anything.

* Home-cooked meals are an expression of love.

* Spending time with people of all ages helps you appreciate people of all ages. 

* Reading and writing are important and so is good grammar. Dad showed this by working crossword puzzles, reading a daily newspaper, and correcting Sandra and me whenever we used ain't or double negatives.

* Sharing a room, a bed, and a bathroom teaches patience, kindness, compromise. I also learned that getting along with your sibling is more important than always having your own way.

* Please, thank you, and I'm sorry are magic words.

* Dancing is good for the soul, even if you aren't good at it. It also builds confidence.

* When life gives you lemons, you can choose to make lemonade.

* Birthdays are special and should be celebrated.

 * Ice cream makes everything better.

* If things don't work out today, you get another chance to try again tomorrow.

Darlene Beck Jacobson tapped into her eleven-year old personality to write many of the poems in her verse novel WISHES, DARES, AND HOW TO STAND UP TO A BULLY, which is set in 1964 when she was 11 years old. Using her imagination is still her favorite past time.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

You're Okay, Kid

 Dear 11-Year-Old Me,

First, hear this and remember. You will be fine and happy and have so much more than you could have ever dreamed. That’s the end. This, however, is still near the beginning, which means you’ll need to muddle through some stuff before you get there. 

Don’t panic. This stuff I mention is honestly, truly, SO minor in the larger scheme of things. In the moment, your experiences will seem unfair, uncomfortable and will hurt emotionally. Also, once, physically...

You’ll be sitting in RG’s room joking about something and, out of the clear blue, she will slap you across the face. In that moment – to be a sport, save face, hold onto your dignity, prove you don’t break that easily, or something – you’ll find the strength to continue laughing with her, but OMG. That slap stings. So does the realization that she’s suddenly not the friend you want. Deep breaths, though. You have months to prepare for that. 

You only have weeks, though, to prepare for this. Right after Labor Day, you’ll start a new school where, last year, the teachers were forced to do something about the mean-girl issues. You’re about to step into that lioness’s den, and it won’t be pretty. 

Again, don’t panic. In just a year, better times will start rolling toward you. Soon after, they’ll stream in so fast and hard that you’ll be swept to a new world where you’ll have all the friends and family you need as constant and beautiful reminders of the fun, the funny, the pithy, and the poignant.

All that goodness will start pushing aside those harder times, the ones you’ve wanted to block from your mind. But please hold onto them. Please, remember how it feels to seem so alone and unsure and utterly mystified by the way life works. Those memories will provide so much fodder for your next chapter... 
... literally. 

When you start that next chapter – as in writing-a-book next chapter – you’ll come to find out that the hardest thing for you to do is putting your characters into messy, dark, and utterly impossible situations. Maybe it’s because it dredges up some of those old hurts. But remember...
You survived only to come out stronger.
Your characters will, too.

Dear 11-Year-Old Me, 
You’re off to a great start. Hold fast to your optimism. Understand how lucky you are to have such a solid foundation that will keep you steady through everything. Mostly, just keep being you.

With love and too many hugs, 
Older, Wiser Me

The award-winning author of The Gollywhopper Games series and The Seventh Level, Jody Feldman has so much more to tell her 11-year-old self, but it turns out she did okay on her own. 

Sunday, August 8, 2021

Dear 11-year-old Jane Kelley

Hey, you --

Feels kind of weird to be writing this letter. I still spend a lot of time hanging out with you. But kid-Jane didn't know that grown-up-Jane will be mining her miseries for story material. So thank you for that! You help me in other ways besides being the basis for my writing career. Trying to understand the roots of kid-Jane's sorrows will cause me to be more empathetic to other people's suffering. Eventually. 

You don't know that, though. Although you did know that when a bad thing happened, you could get through it by thinking how it would make a good story someday. There was one so embarrassing, I don't know if you could learn much from it.

It's about a red rubber ball.

Gym class, as it was called then, was never good for Jane of any age. No matter what the activity. Rope climbing. Gymnastics. Square dancing. Push-ups. All were opportunities to humiliate you. Then the teacher introduced a unit called Rhythmic Gymnastics. It would involve dancing with balls. I know you thought you could handle this. You were creative. This was not competitive. And it didn't require any upper body strength. You even got to create a routine with your friends. 

But on the day of performance, the ball slipped from your nervous hands. It rolled across the floor. Each time you got close to picking it up, you kicked it. It rolled farther and farther away. And your classmates all rolled on the floor laughing. This humiliation felt so much worse because it wasn't even a real sport. You had failed at something ridiculous.

Dear 11-year-old Jane. You suffered for many many years with the idea that you were not athletic. That you were hopelessly clumsy. You stayed away from any activities in which you might have enjoyed being physical. Because you told yourself that you couldn't do them. 

No one ever told you that you just hadn't found your sport yet. No one ever said you would get better if you just kept trying. 

But you will find that sport. And you will get better. Because you love playing it.

Tennis anyone? 

Jane Kelley is the author of many MG novels -- including Nature Girl, where her character learns the valuable lesson that anyone who can walk can hike part of the Appalachian Trail. Jane also plays tennis, bikes, kayaks, canoes, swims, and hikes. None of which she learned in gym class.

Wednesday, August 4, 2021

Dear 11-year old Me

Dear 11-year old Jade,

You are a college student now, that's quite the leap from the fifth grade. Life is going well and you have already lived through a historic event and you're not even 21 yet. Pretty crazy, huh? All this great insight is coming from yourself in on a a quick trip to New York so it’s going to be short and sweet:

Keep working hard.

Always try your best.

Be yourself.

Don’t worry about what other people think.

Try new things.

Prepare to be very busy in high school and college.

And maybe sit out the last few minutes of that last indoor soccer game during your senior year (your uninjured self will thank me later).

About me: I’m a student at Missouri State University studying Electronic Arts (Video Production) and Screenwriting.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

Dear 11-Year-Old Irene Latham

Dear 11-Year-Old Me,

What gifts your parents have given you—
a houseful of siblings/playmates;
piano, books, and art supplies;
a home on a country road with endless
daylight hours to explore, imagine, dream.

Irene & Cinnamon (& Sugar)

You already know the important things:
     Broken bones heal best with ice cream,
books, games, sisters, and long walks outdoors.
Use this to heal yourself after other breaks
and losses, too.

     You don't need money—only imagination—
to have a good time.

     One devoted companion is worth
more than a million followers
online (you'll find out what this means later).

     Better to be quiet, than to say something mean.

Just as the seasons change, you'll change, too.
For now, savor the scent of hay and sunshine
as you hang out with the ponies in the pasture.

Keep reading and writing.

You won't believe it, but someday
you'll take those poems and stories
out of the drawers.

You'll stand in front of crowds to share your words,
with nary a quiver.

There are more surprises in store—
lessons you'll have to learn the hard way,
miracles, and for every heartache,
a forest-ful of fairy tale endings.

Every twist in the road brings you back
to all the things you value right now—
freedom, imagination, beauty, love.

Remember: You are beautiful.
You are enough.

Keep loving and creating,
and you will emerge
on the other side of every storm.


50-Year-Old Me

Irene Latham is a grateful creator of many novels, poetry collections, and picture books, including the coauthored Can I Touch Your Hair?: Poems of Race, Mistakes, and Friendship, which earned a Charlotte Huck Honor, and The Cat Man of Aleppo, which won a Caldecott Honor. Irene lives on a lake in rural Alabama.

Monday, August 2, 2021

10 Things I'd Tell My 11-Year-Old Self


10 Things I'd Tell My 11-Year-Old Self


 Me (on left) at about age 11 with my family

10. Never stop reading! It’s always going to be your favorite activity.

9. Keep your sense of humor. It will stand you in good stead!

8. When you have an opportunity to travel, take it. Learn from your experiences and talk to people who live in the place you’re visiting.

7. Get some exercise every day. You’ll be glad when you’re older! Long walks are always good.

6. Don’t let difficult people or situations stop you from doing what you want to do.

5. More interesting eating options are on the horizon! Just wait!

4. Try to overcome at least some of your shyness. People might actually want to talk to you more than you think they will.

3. Keep on observing. It’s okay to be more of an observer than a participant if that’s more comfortable for you, and it will help you with your reporting one day.

2. Keep writing. Don’t take years-long breaks from your fiction-writing.

1. Appreciate your family and friends. 


--Deborah Kalb