Friday, May 6, 2016

Six Things from Nancy Cavanaugh ~ by Patricia Toht

Author Nancy Cavanaugh and I met on a blind date. 
Lovely, but no, not a date date.

A blind writing date. 
Not as lovely, but I'll take it!

Many (so many!) years ago, I saw a notice that SCBWI members interested in forming a critique group were gathering at the local coffee shop. I showed up, nervous about what to expect. 

Photo by Bread for the World
Well, lucky me! I met two wonderful writers, Nancy Cavanaugh and Greg Daigle. We formed a critique group that, despite the comings and goings of members over the years, still exists today. The group lost Nancy when she moved - imagine her leaving blustery Chicago for sunny Florida - but she remains always supportive.
This is Nancy:

She is unflappable, eternally optimistic, and an incredibly hard worker. Her first book was published eighteen years after she started writing for kids! To celebrate her third book, JUST LIKE ME, I've invited her to share six lessons that she's learned along the publishing road.

Me: What's one thing you've learned about rejection?

Nancy: Before I signed my first contract, I spent 18 years collecting rejection letters, so I have lots of experience when it comes to this! I knew that, if I wanted to succeed, I had to learn how to improve my writing. All those rejections over the years pushed me to study the craft of writing as well as the middle grade market. Little by little, I became a better writer until finally I wrote something that stood out in the slush pile.

Yes, you read that correctly, readers. Nancy found her way to publication through the SLUSH PILE!

THIS JOURNAL BELONGS TO RATCHET was Nancy's first book and arrived in 2013 to great acclaim. It received a starred review from Kirkus, was an NCTE selection, and won the gold medal for the Florida State Book Award. In my home state of Illinois, it was recently on the nominee list for the Rebecca Caudill Award.

Me: What's one thing you've learned about writing the next book?

Nancy: Though I have slightly more confidence as a writer than I did before my books were published, there is still always that moment when I doubt myself and my work. There seems to be a point in every manuscript where I really wonder if I'll be able to turn my current work-in-progress into something that is worthy of being published.

Me: What's one thing you've learned about working with an agent?

Nancy: Having an agent is like a coach - someone in your corner to help you navigate the publishing industry. If it weren't for my agent, Holly Root, I most likely would still be collecting rejection letters. Working with Holly has allowed me, not only to get a book published, but to actually have a career as a children's author. I'm so thankful for her enthusiasm, support, and amazing expertise!

Me: What's one thing you've learned about working with an editor?

Nancy: I am so fortunate to have worked with Aubrey Poole [at Sourcebooks Jabberwocky] on three books. Working with her has been one of the most wonderful parts of my author journey. Her vision and insight for each of my books has propelled them to be better than I ever imagined they could be. I am so grateful for the opportunity to have an editor like Aubrey!

Nancy's second book, ALWAYS, ABIGAIL, came out in 2014 and became a Texas Bluebonnet Award nominee.

Me: What's one thing you've learned about school visits?

Nancy: School visits have become a super, favorite part of being an author! As a former teacher, I feel like school visits are all the "good" parts of teaching - having fun with the students and getting them inspired and excited about reading and writing; without any of the "bad" parts of teaching - grading papers, going to meetings, etc. It's a huge treat for me to spend the day with students and teachers. Sometimes I feel as if they inspire me more than I inspire them!

Nancy in action at a school visit.

Me: What's one thing you've learned about promoting your book?

Nancy: Promoting my book has been more fun than I had imagined it would be! Because of my publisher, Sourcebooks, I've had so many wonderful opportunities to get my books into the hands of people who are real book champions, and this has made all the difference in the world.

Nancy's latest book, JUST LIKE ME, was released on April 5. The story is about an adopted Chinese girl trying to find her place in the world. The book is tied with heart strings to Nancy. She and her husband, Ron, adopted their daughter, Chaylee, from China. 

Discover more about Nancy at her website,

Follow Nancy on Twitter at

Find out more about Holly Root here, and more about Sourcebooks Jabberwocky here.

Keep an eye out for more of Nancy's books. A little bird whispered in my ear that she's hard at work on her fourth novel...


  1. Great success story and show of perseverance. TY Nancy and Patty.

  2. I'm inspired by Nancy because she persisted for so long, and worked hard to improve her writing. She has a stubborn confidence, though it may wobble now and then, that kept her going till she produced work that has consistently received accolades and awards. Congrats, Nancy, and thanks for a great interview, Patricia.

    1. That's exactly what I admire about Nancy's writing journey, too, Pat. Add in that she's a fun, wonderful and compassionate person, and I'm lucky to know her.

  3. Thank you, Nancy and Patty, for an inspiring post about the road traveled to reaching publication. Congrats, Nancy, on the new book :)

    1. One of Nancy's presentations is about her long journey to publication. She has her head superimposed on a turtle's body for 'slow and steady win the race.' So funny!

  4. Great interview. I can relate to the years and years of writing and revisions and rejections, etc. However, the good news is persistence pays off. Good for her!

  5. Thank you, Patty, for sharing six things from Nancy Cavanaugh.

    I am encouraged by Nancy's perseverance throughout her journey of becoming published. I look forward to reading her latest book.
    ~Suzy Leopold

  6. We here in Florida are so lucky that Nancy moved here & could be eligible, via the heartug debut MG novel, RATCHET, to win the FBA gold - much deserved.

    And the cover of her latest looks like it could be a poster in many schools, libraries, bedrooms & home offices of writers. Brava! for this new one & the future ones & the previous ones.

    Appreciations Patty for sharing about your talented & longtime book pal.