Middle Grade Escapade

posted in: Writing | 0

Hiya friends!

Long time, no write.

Well, that’s not true. I write every day, but . . . long time, no blog, I guess. I just don’t have as much time to do these anymore, and to be honest, I’m not sure if many people read blogs these days. However, I did promise to publish a few in 2024, and I am nothing if not a person of my word.

I’ve always considered myself a young adult writer, but the second book I ever wrote was an upper middle grade novel called THE EVOLUTION OF EVIE. I tend to come up with a character or two first (or a basic premise) and go from there. This character so happened to be a little younger than my others. However, Evie is quite special to me. Special enough that I thought her story deserved a second chance. So that spurred my decision to pick up this previously shelved novel that I wrote in 2016, dust her off, and make some improvements. I’m a better writer than I was back then, so I knew I could make this story better and try to get it out into the world once again.

When I queried THE EVOLUTION OF EVIE back in 2017, I actually had a decent request rate, but ultimately, no agent offers. I realized that I needed to start in a little different place and make some changes to the story, so that’s exactly what I’ve been doing. My goal is to send this book to a few mid-size publishers (that don’t require an agent) in the next month or two. I’m pitching it as a middle grade version of Mean Girls with science and horses. 🙂

Working on this story again, I realized how much of myself I really put into it: no, Evie isn’t based off of me, but the horse shows, her love of life science, and some of her sheer awkwardness are all things I can relate to. I taught middle school for 10 years, so I know what a pivotal time it can be, and this is certainly true for Evie.

In this post, I thought I would share a little excerpt from the book. If you’ve read NOT OUR SUMMER or any of my other work, I will say that this book is different. But it’s middle grade, so it should be, right?! It was a ton of fun to write, and I’m really enjoying revisiting this work as well.

I hope you enjoy!



“I’m afraid I have some bad news,” Kippie says as we sit across from one another at lunch the next day. I’m mid-bite into my cheeseburger and have to chew up my food before I can respond. 

“What is it? Are you going to be gone again for another doctor’s appointment?” That’s why she missed the last time, she’d told me.

Kippie shakes her head. “No, it’s not that.” She pushes up her glasses and frowns. It’s now that I notice that she hasn’t even touched her sandwich. “We’re moving. To Nebraska.”

“What? How come?” I try to hide the sudden wave of anxiety that’s come over me for all the wrong reasons. 

“My parents are separating.” Kippie stares down at her food. 

“Oh no. I’m really sorry to hear that, Kippie.”

She shakes her head. “I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. They always yell at each other. I don’t really remember them ever getting along.”

I wish I knew what to say to make her feel better, but I don’t have a clue. My parents have been fighting too. I hope that doesn’t mean they’re going to get a divorce. The longer Kippie and I sit here in silence, the more nervous I start to get. So naturally, I blurt out the first thing that pops into my mind. 

“I really hate Andrew Jackson. Did you know he’s the one who’s mainly responsible for the Trail of Tears?”

Kippie glances up and narrows her eyes a little. “Yeah, my mom told me that.”

How dumb of me. Kippie probably knows way more stuff about Cherokee history than I do. “I’m doing my history project on the Trail of Tears,” I explain. “I think it’s just terrible what the white people did to the Native Americans back then.” 

She nods again and then looks away. I take another bite of my cheeseburger, chewing slowly while trying to think of something else to say. I’m not good in situations like this, but then again, I’m not good in most situations with kids my age.

The next thing I know, Regina, with her pink apron and blue-checkered Vans is taking a seat next to Kippie. She puts a manicured hand on her shoulder. “You okay, hon?” Kippie looks up at her in surprise. “You just looked pretty sad over here. Thought I’d come check on you.”

Kippie attempts a smile. “Yeah, I’m just moving to Nebraska is all.”

“Oh no.” Regina tilts her head to one side and gets this sad look on her face—kind of like the one people give you when you tell them your great-grandma died. “I hate to hear that. We are definitely going to miss you around here.” 

This is why I like Regina. Kippie rarely even buys school lunches, but here Regina is, treating her like any other regular customer. 

Regina folds her hands in her lap and smiles. “You know, I had to move around a lot when I was a kid. I was an army brat. It’s tough, but you know what? I ended up making a lot of new friends that way. I’ve still got several good friends in Hawaii. That’s where I graduated from high school.”

“You lived in Hawaii?” I ask, a little in awe. I’ve always wanted to go there. The commercials always make it look so beautiful. 

Regina nods. “Sure did. Honolulu.” She pats Kippie’s shoulder again. “I bet you’ll do just fine at your new school.”

“Thanks,” Kippie says, but she doesn’t really seem all that cheered up. 

Regina gives her another smile and then stands, glancing back toward her register. “Whoops. Better get back over there. Looks like someone’s got a chocolate milk they need to pay for.”

I raise my hand in a wave. “Bye Regina.”

“What’s an army brat?” Kippie asks once she’s gone.

I shrug. “I’m not really sure. I don’t think Regina’s a brat though. I think she’s really nice, don’t you?”

“Yeah, she is nice. She’s probably the nicest adult at this school. It’s too bad she’s not a teacher.”

“She might not be so nice if she was a teacher and had to deal with bad kids all day long.”

The faintest smile comes across Kippie’s face. “Yeah, maybe not.”

As we go to dump our trays, the reality of Kippie’s news sinks in again. As terrible as I feel about her parents divorcing and that she has to move to Nebraska, I’m just a little more concerned about what’s going to happen to me when she leaves. 

Because who will I sit with at lunch then?