Writing for the Voiceless, a guest post by Nanci Turner Steveson
Welcome to the Midnight at the Shelter Blog Tour!
Follow along as we celebrate the release of Midnight at the Shelter (November 1, 2022) with behind-the-scenes looks from author Nanci Turner Steveson, plus 5 chances to win a copy!
I have always written books that speak for the voiceless. I didn’t set out with that idea in mind, I just wanted to tell stories that helped kids see they could overcome challenges. But my writing evolved that way and all four of my published books have that theme in common. I’m going to guess they were the ones published because the stories were written from a place in me that recognized how it felt to be muted. To not be able to say what I needed to say. To be afraid to speak up.
In Swing Sideways the main characters, two girls who meet one summer on a farm, each have secrets they can’t, or won’t, tell. Secrets that changed the trajectory of their lives at that crucial pre-teen time when kids are trying so hard to find their way. Secrets that made their chance meeting and friendship so profound, just what the other one needed at that time.
My second novel, Georgia Rules, is the story of a young girl who moves to a rural maple farm in Vermont that was owned by her absent father’s family for generations. Magnolia Grace’s father had already passed by the time she and her mom moved there, but he had arranged everything so she’d get to know and love him before making a decision that would erase him from her life forever.
Lizzie Flying Solo features a recently homeless girl who moves with her mother to a transitional housing shelter after her father is arrested for white collar crimes. Lizzie is determined to keep the secret of what happened, and to not make friends in her new school who might ask too many questions. But when she befriends a frightened new pony in a field at a horse farm through the woods, she knows that to be able to help him, she’ll have to learn to expose herself and fight for what she wants.
But when my small-town veterinarian asked me to write Midnight at the Shelter, a story told through the point of view of her own three-legged rescue dog, not only did I feel the pressure of writing someone else’s story, but my editor at the time had a very different view of how the story should be told. I had my vet’s voice in one ear, my editor’s in the other, and to be honest, it stumped me for a long time. I was struggling to figure this out. Would a dog telling this story know what an elbow was? Did he understand Googling? How would he react differently from humans when faced with a variety of situations? How did they sort out who was in charge of a pack? No elections, I was pretty sure.
I rewrote the first 60 pages of that story at least a dozen times. I have chapter after chapter that were discarded, themes that didn’t work, and at one time I had 64 characters. All the while I was hearing two opposing views of how the book should be written. There were many times I thought I was in way over my head. I cried, I walked away, and yes, I probably threw a few things, too. The enormity of my task didn’t stop there as more time went on, I knew I was writing, once again, on behalf of the voiceless. I was speaking a message to those who couldn’t speak for themselves, and that message was designed to save a lot of animal’s lives. And it terrified me that I would fail.
One evening I went to dinner with some friends and while sitting in our booth, someone came in with a support dog. I watched them cross the room, the person sat down, and the dog went obediently under the table, leaning ever so lightly against the human’s leg. That’s when I had an a-ha moment. I excused myself and climbed down under the table, sitting there for about 20 minutes, seeing for the first time what it looked like to a dog. And something clicked in my mind. I saw things differently, heard things differently, and it really helped me turn a corner. After that, I would often go to my vet’s house and gather up MahDi (the main character), his sidekick Ozzie, and their buddy Koda, and bring them back to hang out with my own rescue, Sufi, when I was writing. I would pile them all around me and study them, then write, watch some more, then write. They were my own little cheering section. But the magnificent thing that happened was realizing, regardless of the other voices telling me how to write, this story was being told for ALL the millions of rescue animals in shelters around the country waiting for just the right home. That was my real task, and once I started listening, really listening to them, this story flowed out with all the passion of my first three.
And if you are wondering, no, I have not been back to that restaurant since my evening sitting on the floor under the table. 🙂
About the Book
Written with a distinctively doggy voice, great humor, and plenty of heart, this novel from acclaimed author Nanci Turner Steveson is a perfect pick for readers looking for a touching animal story in the vein of Because of Winn-Dixie or Marley & Me.
Rescue dog MahDi is happy helping his human partner, “MomDoc,” with the important work at her vet clinic and the local animal shelter. The two of them make a good team, caring for the town’s pets and matchmaking rescue animals with the families who need them.
When the shelter is suddenly down a staff member, the animals have to deal with a new caretaker: Huck, an unpleasant man who seems to have no problem threatening the animals he’s supposed to care for. As more dogs crowd into the shelter than are going to new homes, MahDi begins to worry that if MomDoc isn’t around, there is no telling what Huck might do.
With three perfectly good legs, the heart of a true leader, and his pack mates by his side, MahDi is willing to risk everything to save his shelter-friends from an uncertain future.
“Each dog’s story illustrates one of the many ways dogs come to need new homes and how wonderful rescue animals can be.”
“Alternating dogs’-eye views propel this immersive pack story from Steveson… Themes of love, hope, and belonging resound throughout, balancing the sometimes-dark content.”
About the Author
Nanci Turner Steveson grew up in Connecticut, England, and Texas, always with a book in one hand, the reins of a pony in the other. She wrote her first “novel” at the age of nine about a wild horse named Liberty. Nanci works with the Off Square Theatre Company as a stage manager and youth-performer shepherd. She is a reading fairy to book-hungry children and a riding instructor. The mother of two grown sons, Nanci lives in a meadow at the foot of the Grand Tetons in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with her Arabian horse and a 100-pound rescue dog named Story. She is the founder of the Literacy for Hope project, dedicated to getting books into the hands of the homeless.
- Five (5) winners will receive a hardcover of Midnight at the Shelter by Nanci Turner Steveson
- US/Canada only
- Ends 11/27 at 11:59pm ET
- Enter via the Rafflecopter below
- Visit the other stops on the tour for more chances to win!
Blog Tour Schedule:
November 14th — Mama Likes This
November 15th — YA Book Nerd
November 16th — Pragmatic Mom
November 17th — Teen Librarian Toolbox
November 18th — YA Books Central
Filed under: Blog Tour
About Amanda MacGregor
Amanda MacGregor works in an elementary library, loves dogs, and can be found on Twitter @CiteSomething.
SLJ Blog Network