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Book Notes: Blended families star in Winget’s ‘Smidgen’

Sun., Nov. 4, 2012


Unlike her character Piper Lee, Dianna Dorisi Winget’s future stepchildren didn’t try to sabotage her marriage to their father.

“They’re both really good kids, but it’s still really difficult” to be a stepfamily, she said.

In “A Smidgen of Sky,” due out Tuesday from Harcourt Children’s Books, Winget tackles some of the issues surrounding blended families.

This is the Sagle, Idaho, author’s first published work of fiction. She’s previously published nonfiction books about pythons and snow leopards for school-age children.

Even before its release, “Smidgen” has garnered some praise: IndieBound named the book one of its New Voices Fall Picks for ages 8 to 12.

In advance of her novel’s release, Winget took time to answer some questions about her writing and what the future holds.

SR: Why write about the process of blending a family?

Winget: When I married my husband in 1992, I became the instant stepmom to a 4-year-old son and 11-year-old daughter. I know first-hand the rewards and challenges that come from trying to blend two families. And I know there are an awful lot of kids out there who are in that situation and struggling to adapt, so I guess the topic was a natural for me to write about.

SR: How did you channel your inner 10-year-old to write the story?

Winget: I love writing for middle grade, which is generally considered to be ages 9-12. Kids this age love to dream and imagine and lose themselves in a good story. I read voraciously at this age, and middle grade books are still my favorite to read, so I don’t really have to work that hard to write in the voice of a tween. I still feel like one myself!

SR: You grew up in central Washington, and now live in North Idaho. Why did you set your story in the South?

Winget: Lots of people ask me this, and I still don’t have a very good answer. I’ve always been fascinated by the South. I guess it feels a little more laid-back and genteel somehow. Plus, I love peaches and Southern accents. Are those good enough reasons?

SR: Which writers inspire you?

Winget: I really enjoy the work of Kate DiCamillo, Katherine Applegate, Wilson Rawls, Eve Bunting and Jerry Spinelli among many others.

SR: What’s next for you?

Winget: My second middle grade novel, “True as Steel,” is under consideration by my Harcourt editor right now. It just happens to be set in Spokane, and the first chapter is posted on my website. I’m also about two-thirds of the way through a sequel to “A Smidgen of Sky.”

Ferch’s winning ways

Shann Ferch, the Gonzaga Univeristy professor who writes under the name Shann Ray, has another award to add to his collection.

His collection of stories “American Masculine” won twice in this year’s High Plains Book Awards, for best first book and best short story.

Ferch, who was born and raised in Montana, accepted the awards during an Oct. 20 ceremony at the Yellowstone Art Museum in Billings. The awards honor writers and works that examine life in Montana, Wyoming, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Colorado, Kansas, Alberta, Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

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