Miriam Spitzer Franklin is a former elementary and middle school teacher who currently teaches homeschooled students and is a writer-in-residence with the Charlotte Arts & Science Council. Other jobs she has held include working as a frazzled and unorganized waitress at a number of restaurants, driving the Zamboni and working the skate counter at the ice skating rink, teaching ice skating lessons, and owning a toy and gift store with her husband, Scott. Miriam lives with her husband, two daughters, and two pampered cats in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Author: Miriam Spitzer Franklin
Page count: 256 pages
Genre: Middle Grade Contemporary
Tell us about your book:
Ten-year-old Pansy Smith wants to become an extraordinary friend to make up for all the mistakes she's made in the past....and she has only 14.5 weeks to reach her goal.
When Pansy chickens out of going to sleepaway camp with Anna, she realizes she's let her best friend down one time too many. Anna is right; Pansy has broken a lot of promises. But Anna suffers a brain injury at camp, and Pansy worries that she'll never be able to make things right between them, or even worse, that Anna will never be the same again. When she hears that Anna is going to have brain surgery in 14 weeks that might cure her, Pansy knows she's been given the chance she's been waiting for- a chance to get Anna back, by finally facing her fears and becoming extraordinary, the kind of best friend Anna deserves.
How long did it take to write the book?
I began writing a form of this book over ten years ago. The first draft was about a girl who wanted to become extraordinary, but her motives were totally different. Anna was a minor character in the book at the time. I queried agents and though I had some requests, I knew there was something missing so I put the manuscript away for a while. When I realized that Anna's and Pansy's stories needed to be linked, I took the manuscript out and rewrote again. Although I was able to sign with an agent with the new version, the book went through many more revisions before it sold a few years later.
What inspired you to write the book?
As a teacher, I've worked with children who persevere despite challenges, treat others with kindness, and are full of spirit and heart. Although they may not be the top students or the most talented in the typical ways that get noticed, they have extraordinary gifts that others may not recognize. My original plan for the book was to write about a girl who considered herself "hopelessly average" but wanted to become an extraordinary person by chasing after numerous goals.
Pansy's character is still based on the original character, but I transformed the story when I made Anna a major part of it.
I wanted to write about Anna because of a niece who suffered a brain injury when she was two. A sudden high fever led to a stroke and a brain injury, which changed her life and her family's life forever. I've always been amazed and inspired by the way her family accepted the challenges and focused on the joy that Anna brought to everyone. Even though their hopes and dreams for her had changed, they adjusted and learned that living with a child with severe special needs can be a gift that makes you view the world in a different way.
Talk about the writing process. Did you have a writing routine? Did you do any research, and if so, what did that involve?
I'm one of those writers who doesn't outline. I start with the character, exploring strengths/weaknesses, interests, and personality traits. I spend a long time brainstorming so that I know my character well before she even appears on the page. I come up with the main plot: what the main character wants, what obstacles stand in the way, and what's at stake if she doesn't reach her goal. I know where I want the story to end, though I won't discover how the character gets there until I begin writing. Once I have a rough draft, I send it to my critique partners for feedback, and then it's time to revise. By the time my agent offered representation for Extraordinary, I had completely rewritten the book numerous times.
Although Extraordinary dealt with some medical issues, I didn't have to do much research since I knew about it because of a family member's experience.
When working on a project, my goal is to write 4-5 days a week, for at least 2 hours each day. Occasionally, I'll have to get out of bed because a scene is playing itself in my head and if I don't write it down, I'll forget the whole thing!
What do you hope your readers come away with after reading your book?
We can't control all the circumstances in life, but we can learn to accept them and grow from them. Pansy is a person who perseveres despite challenges and is full of heart. I hope that readers will come away with an understanding that extraordinary things can happen, even when we least expect it.
Excerpt from book: (from page 30, when Pansy attempts to practice roller blading since she'd signed up for skating lessons with Anna and quit after one lesson)
I tried to step back out of the way. Instead of rolling backward, I rolled forward. Right into three outstretched leashes. My arms waved around in the air, and I could feel I was losing my balance, so I reached out for the leashes to keep from falling.
The skateboarder jumped off his board.“Whoaa!” he commanded his dogs, which might have meant “stop” in some languages but not in a language the dogs understood.
“Hey, wait, come back here!” the skateboarder yelled when he realized his dogs were no longer pulling him.
They were pulling me!
“AAAAHHH!!!” Screams echoed in my ear, and it took a second to realize they were coming from my mouth. The other people on the path turned into a colorful blur as I flew past, clutching the leashes. My heart dropped to my toenails and I finally got what people meant when they said, “My life flashed before my eyes.”
And then the craziest thing happened. The three dogs must have sent ESP messages to each other because together they turned, heading down the hill towards the lake.
“HELPPPP!!!!” I screamed. My rollerblades hit the uneven ground and my legs shook as I rolled over rocks and bumps.
“Tiko! Bansai! Moochers!” yelled the skateboarder.
I heard Andy calling my name, but I couldn’t answer him. I was being hurled toward my death. I was about to sink into the mucky lake, my rollerblades sticking out of the water to show where I’d gone. There’d be no Good Citizens party for me because I'd be dead. Which, of course, would disappoint Anna once she got better.
I wouldn’t be too happy about it, either.
Where can we go to buy your book?
Readers should be able to purchase the book wherever books are sold, both in stores and online.
Any other links or info you'd like to share?
Here's a link to my website: www.miriamfranklin.com
Here's a link to my website: www.miriamfranklin.com
You can also follow me on Twitter: @123miris