Thursday, May 3, 2018

Guest Post: Breaking Out of My Comfort Zone by Stacy McAnulty


My comfort zone—quite literally— is my office. I share the space with my three dogs. It’s close to my coffeemaker and a bathroom. The internet is speedy, and the phone has caller ID (allowing me to choose which calls to answer). And I alone control the thermostat. I spend most of my waking hours in this home office, feeling safe and secure except when I start reading political threads on Twitter.

But as an author, this safe and secure feeling is not something I want for my characters. That would be boring and also, not true to life for most young readers. In my debut middle-grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, 12-year-old Lucy is a homeschooled math savant, who is academically ready for college. She’s content with life in her apartment and chatting with “friends” on math internet forums. But Nana decides to send Lucy to middle school for the first time, and Lucy ends up lightyears away from her comfort zone.

The start of the story is an example of a kid being forced out of her comfort zone. This was Nana’s idea (and Nana’s fault!). This is often the case for kids. They don’t choose to move to a new town. They don’t have a choice to participate or not in gym class. I can clearly remember the unit I hated most in PE class—gymnastics. I’ve never been able to do a cartwheel, and I’m as flexible as a dining-room table.  Gymnastic in gym class was agony. I’d fake injuries and illness to avoid tumbling across the large orange mat. But you can’t avoid a month-long unit. Eventually, I was forced onto the balance beam and uneven bars. Was there anything gained by forcing 12-year-old me to humiliate myself in front of my peers? I certainly didn’t go on to the Junior Olympics. It was more about learning to handle the uncomfortableness and embarrassment—something that happens to everyone, maybe not in gym class, but sometime during one’s public education. The seeds of empathy had been planted.

My dad tells a more uplifting story. When he was a kid about 7 or 8 years old, his mom (my sweet grandmother) told him to go play ball at the park with the other boys in the neighborhood. When my dad cried and refused to go, she dragged him to the field and left him. When he tried to return home, she locked him out of the house. (This was in the 1950’s and totally normal parenting.) With no other options, he went and played baseball. And as he tells it, he loved it and played for the next 40 years. Gram wrenched him from his comfort zone with great success.

Knowing adults can push kids into new activities and situations—sometimes with positive results and sometimes not. Then there are times when kids choose to make that leap for themselves. In the book, Lucy does not like to draw attention to herself in class. When teachers are looking for volunteers, she hangs her head and hides behind her hair as if she could make herself invisible. But there comes a point where she does speak up.  She can no longer stay silent.

Kids aren’t actively thinking, “I’m going to step outside my comfort zone.” Sometimes the choices are split-second decisions. Do I confront this person? Do I raise my hand when I’m not sure about the answer? And sometimes, they’re longer and more agonizing decisions. Do I try out for the play even though speaking in front of an audience is terrifying? Do I ask the teacher for extra help, something I’ve never needed before? Do I go to this event where I won’t know anyone? Big or small, kids are handling these issues often. It’s important for young readers to see characters doing the same things with both positive and negative results. Plus, it would be boring if we all just hung out in my home office all day. Although I do have lots sugary snacks to share.

About Stacy: 

Stacy McAnulty is a children’s book author, who used to be a mechanical engineer, who’s also qualified to be a paleontologist (NOT REALLY), a correspondent for The Daily Show (why not), and a Green Bay Packer coach (totally!). She is the 2017 Ezra Jack Keats New Writer Honor Recipient for Excellent Ed, illustrated by Julia Sarcone-Roach. Her other picture books include Earth! My First 4.54 Billion Years, illustrated by David Litchfield; Max Explains Everything: Grocery Store Expert, illustrated by Deborah Hocking, Brave and Beautiful, both illustrated by Joanne Lew-Vriethoff; Mr. Fuzzbuster Knows He’s the Favorite, illustrated by Edward Hemingway; and 101 Reasons Why I’m Not Taking a Bath, illustrated by Joy Ang. She’s also authored the chapter book series Goldie Blox, based on the award-winning toys, and The Dino Files. Her debut middle grade novel, The Miscalculations of Lightning Girl, will publish in May 2018. When not writing, Stacy likes to listen to NPR, bake triple-chocolate cupcakes, and eat triple-chocolate cupcakes. Originally from upstate NY, she now lives in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 3 dogs, and 1 husband.


About the Book:
Title: THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL
Author: Stacy McAnulty
Pub. Date: May 1, 2018
Publisher: Random House
Formats: Hardcover, eBook
Pages: 304
Find it: AmazonB&NiBooksTBDGoodreads

Middle school is the one problem Lucy Callahan can't solve in this middle-grade novel perfect for fans of The Fourteenth Goldfish, Rain Reign, and Counting by 7s.

Lucy Callahan was struck by lightning. She doesn't remember it, but it changed her life forever. The zap gave her genius-level math skills, and ever since, Lucy has been homeschooled. Now, at 12 years old, she's technically ready for college. She just has to pass 1 more test--middle school!

Lucy's grandma insists: Go to middle school for 1 year. Make 1 friend. Join 1 activity. And read 1 book (that's not a math textbook!). Lucy's not sure what a girl who does calculus homework for fun can possibly learn in 7th grade. She has everything she needs at home, where nobody can make fun of her rigid routines or her superpowered brain. The equation of Lucy's life has already been solved. Unless there's been a miscalculation?

A celebration of friendship, Stacy McAnulty's smart and thoughtful middle-grade debut reminds us all to get out of our comfort zones and embrace what makes us different.

"An engaging story, full of heart and hope. Readers of all ages will root for Lucy, aka Lightning Girl. No miscalculations here!" --Kate Beasley, author of Gertie's Leap to Greatness
Giveaway Details:

3 winners will receive a finished copy of THE MISCALCULATIONS OF LIGHTNING GIRL, US Only.



Tour Schedule:
Week One:
April 23, 2018: Beagles and Books - Interview
April 24, 2018: Mrs. Knott's Book Nook - Review
April 25, 2018: A Dream Within A Dream - Excerpt
April 26, 2018: Here's to Happy Endings - Review
April 27, 2018: She Dreams in Fiction - Excerpt

Week Two:
April 30, 2018: 100 Pages A Day - Review
May 1, 2018: Wonder Struck - Review
May 2, 2018: Nerdophiles - Review
May 3, 2018: The Underground - Guest Post
May 4, 2018: Feed Your Fiction Addiction - Review

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