The Power of Consistency

by | Apr 12, 2021

April 2021 Newsletter

Book Reviews

Over the last three years I’ve written about 50 reviews for middle grade readers for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette. When I look back at the total list, it feels like quite an accomplishment. But it’s not like I wrote them all at one time; it started with “Pennybaker School is Revolting,” by Jennifer Brown, to my most recent one, “Here in the Real World,” by Sara Pennypacker. (Hunnh, weird! Pennybaker … Pennypacker). (Many of them are also on my website —

I have received more reader feedback about those reviews than any other writing I’ve done. The audience is people I already know and live near, so when I bump into acquaintances they often mention having read them. Sometimes I hit a nerve: once I got a letter, an email AND a phone call from three different people about the same book review (a non-fiction account of women pilots in WWII called Fly Girls). I enjoy writing the reviews in any case, but hearing from readers — as any writer will tell you — gives your day an extra zing.

But I digress…

My point has to do, not with recognition, but with consistency. What started three years ago has resulted in a body of work. Author Gretchen Rubin (“Happiness Project”) talks often about how it’s not the big things we do occasionally that count, so much as the small things we do consistently that count in the end. I find myself harking back to that observation daily, whether regarding exercise, other self-maintenance, or writing.

We writers don’t have control over the publishing process, but we can write every day. A little bit, every day. If you keep at it, those little bits add up to something. It helps to envision an audience. It can be an audience of one. For example, in addition to working on a novel and several non-fiction projects, I’ve been excavating childhood memories, as I mentioned in last month’s newsletter. I am writing them with the idea that some day my children (okay, audience of two) will stumble across them and have a better idea of where, when and how I grew up. It’s been fun and surprising what you can uncover that you hadn’t thought about in a long time.

Last month I was struggling with the notion of interiority, to get more into my main character’s head in order to make him more likeable? Well, along comes Sara Pennypacker’s book, “Here in the Real World.”

Her main character has many of the qualities I think my main character has. And I noticed, as I read, all the ways she helped the reader get into the character’s head, beyond sighs, shrugs, and grimaces. Very exciting and spot on to what I was struggling with!

You know that adage: “When the student is ready, the teacher appears?”  This is an example of that. So I have bought a paperback copy of this book and am getting ready to dig in, to dissect it and try to apply her techniques to my own writing. Perhaps there will be an update next month, if I keep at it, a little bit every day…

In addition to “Here in the Real World,” other middle grade books I’ve read this month:

  • 365 Days to Alaska, by Cathy Carr
  • The Rise and Fall of Charles Lindbergh by Candace Fleming
  • The Simple Art of Flying by Cory Leonardo
  • The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer Holm
  • Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
  • Reeni’s Turn by Carol Grannick

Another fun thing I discovered:

The Public Science Lab (NC State)

“Ecology, Evolution and Biodiversity of Humans and Food” Website:

If you are at all interested in food, flavors, and how humans interact with food, this website is for you. There is also a wide range of projects and teaching resources that look like a ton of fun! I found this because my father-in-law mentioned a book called “Delicious: The Evolution of Flavor and How it Made Us Human,” by Rob Dunn.

And a bit of good news:

Alexandra the Great book cover

I earned my first royalty check for “Alexandra the Great: The True Story of the Record-Breaking Filly Who Ruled the Racetrack”!!! Apparently only one in three books “earn out,” at least according to my source. Because the book sold slowly, I didn’t think I’d earn back my advance, so it gave me a real boost to find the check in my mailbox.  

Until next month, I hope your daffodils are blooming and the sun is shining wherever you might be.

Alexandra the Great book cover

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