Tandon has worked as an elementary school teacher, a speech-language pathologist, and an adjunct professor of Phonetics and Child Language Development, all of which helped plant seeds for stories about awesome kids doing brave things. She is also the author of The Ghost of Spruce Point, forthcoming from Aladdin/Simon & Schuster (2022). Nancy lives in Connecticut with her family and is a big fan of literacy outreach programs of any kind.
Susan Williams of M. Judson Booksellers, Greenville, South Carolina, served on the panel that selected Tandon’s book for Indies Introduce.
Here, Tandon and Williams discuss writing for children.
Susan Williams: Your book is such a wonderful exploration of how friendships change as we grow. What inspired you to tell that story?
Nancy Tandon: There’s nothing like watching your own kids grow and change to bring back memories of the sliding landscapes of early friendships! We talk a lot about “girl drama” but it was my son in particular who opened my eyes to the fact that all kids face these issues. Not all friendships are meant to last forever, but I wanted to tell a story about friendship lost and regained through hard work. If the person is worth it, it’s possible!
SW: The Way I Say It deals in a frank and often funny way with two serious topics — speech issues and traumatic brain injury. How difficult was it for you to find that balance in the novel?
NT: It wasn’t hard at all, because using “gallows humor” is one of the ways I deal with tough situations in real life. I’m not saying that’s always a good or even healthy thing, but in times of stress I find myself leaning toward jokes and lightness, or at least a juicy pun. That’s how it was on the page, too. A lot of emotions and heart went into writing this story, and I’m glad I was able to give myself (and therefore readers) some breaks along the way as well.
SW: Since you have a background in speech pathology, how do you handle people in your life who feel a character in your books is based on them?
NT: There are some realistic situations for both Rory and Brent that I can understand people might recognize as parts of their own journey. However, it’s been a few years since I’ve done clinical work, and these characters really are their own selves, no one else! I will give a shout out to one of my very first patients, two-year-old Camille who couldn’t say "k." She planted the seed!
SW: What's the best advice you got as a beginning writer that you wish you had followed? And on the flip side, any advice you wish you didn't follow?
NT: Ironically, I have one answer for both questions. I wish I had been better about following this advice: don’t follow all the advice you’re given! Early on, I felt I needed to incorporate every piece of feedback from every source of critique. It took time and experience for me to trust myself to delineate what was helpful and what I could ignore.
SW: Let's say you've had a really bad day and nothing is going right — what is your go-to, always-makes-you-smile, feel-good movie?
NT: The combination of quirky characters, quaint village, fantastic soundtrack, and delightful food in Chocolat does it for me every time!
The Way I Say It by Nancy Tandon (Charlesbridge, 9781623541330, Hardcover Middle Grade, $16.99) On Sale: 1/18/2022
Find out more about the author at nancytandon.com.
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