Wednesday, June 12, 2019


Meet my long-ago writer and debut middle grade novelist Naomi Milliner of Olney, Maryland, the creator of today’s WEDNESDAY WRITING WORKOUT!

Naomi’s talent was a given.  Her stories were her stories, but they were stories that would resound in young readers’ hearts, stories that could make a difference.  Running Press and her agent Liza Fleissig obviously agreed!  On May 7, Running Press released SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS, and to stellar reviews.

I first met this novel’s magician-Hero Ethan in an earlier incarnation in a very early draft. Much of course has changed in the plot since we first worked together. Fortunately for readers, however, the story’s heart remains the same, thanks to Naomi’s real-life experiences with her young son who had Cerebellar hypoplasia, a rare condition that causes a baby’s cerebellum to be smaller than usual or missing, and her willingness to lovingly share those experiences.  Fact vs. fiction? Naomi knows that writer dilemma first-hand.

Running Press' catalogue copy says it all: “A debut contemporary novel about 11-year-old aspiring magician Ethan, who discovers that heroes come in all sizes, and real magic can be found in the most unexpected places.” Love and hope, it turns out, may be the best magic of all.

In a starred review, Booklist described SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS as “…charming, heartwarming….funny…moving.”
SLJ agreed.  “A strong family story for realistic middle grade fiction shelves.”
The Kirkus reviewer lauded the book. “The Millers' love for one another radiates throughout Ethan's witty, introspective narration. Jake is never a burden; his family members include him in fun activities and everyday life as best they can.... A warm, hopeful debut.”

Oh, to be teaching fifth grade again, so I could gift my students with Ethan’s authentically-told story.

IMHO: SUPER JAKE is also ripe for consideration by ALA’s Schneider Family Award Committee.

Just as Ethan’s hard work and patience pay off in this novel, Naomi’s hard work and patience have done the same.
Read Alex Villasante’s interview with Naomi at the Love Your Shelf Class2k19Books blog to learn just how many years Naomi stayed on task so Ethan could be in the world today.
Her debut novel’s success proves the truth of the cross-stitched motto that hangs in her living room: “Dreams have no expiration date.”
I’m sure Naomi’s character Daisy McKay, hopefully the star of her next novel, agrees. 😊


Thank you, Naomi, for gifting the world with SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS – and – for gifting our TeachingAuthors readers with today’s Wednesday Writing Workout.

Happy Wednesday Writing!

Esther Hershenhorn

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     My debut middle grade novel, SUPER JAKE & THE KING OF CHAOS, is about an 11-year-old magician named Ethan and his family, including his youngest brother Jake, who has special needs. Because Super Jake is inspired by my own family, a lot of the characters and events are real. However, it is a work of fiction, not a memoir.
I worked on this book for many years, and with every new draft, two things happened: there were more and more made-up characters and events – and - the book became stronger as a result. Fictionalizing the facts made for a much stronger story!
Try it yourself!

Think of a real event you experienced – something recent, not necessarily anything remarkable.

Write about it, describe it, in a few paragraphs, just as it happened, exactly as it unfolded.
Be sure to include REAL people, AUTHENTIC dialogue and a SETTING you know well. Include lots of concrete details.

Next, REWRITE the paragraphs changing any of the key elements – the people, the dialogue, the setting.


What impact did the changes make? Did they add humor? Suspense? Fantasy?
Which version do you prefer and why?

Now try this exercise with another person or group of persons who shared an experience with you.
Describe the REAL story as it unfolded.
Then take turns changing the key elements – the people, the dialogue, the setting.

1 comment:

Mary Ann Rodman said...

Esther--thank you for passing along Naomi Milliner's Writing Workout. This will be an excellent exercise for my advance Young Writer's Camp. Thank you to Naomi as well.