Yep, that was me.
The girl passing around a well-worn copy of ARE YOU THERE GOD? IT’S ME, MARGARET, to the delight of my giggling friends?
Guilty as charged.
The kid who snuck-read her older sister's copy of THE CAT ATE MY GYMSUIT and DEENIE?
You guessed it.
But I was hardly a book worm. I was more of a closet reader, sneaking words at night.
During the day I was acting like every other “normal” middle grader—pursuing my dream of becoming a superstar.
For me, that meant ice skating. My plan? Become the next Dorothy Hamill and make the Olympic team by 1984. (Yep, I even sported Dorothy’s signature wedge haircut.)
I still think about sixth grade me—the honors student who spent every non-school moment gliding around a musty ice rink. So what if my jumps barely left the ice. So what if I constantly placed next-to-last in local competitions. I loved the ice and was determined to practice and make it big.
Sixth grade Stefanie felt invincible one day, then defeated the next. (The cold, hard ice has a way of delivering a wallop of reality.) I missed my older sister, away at college. I yearned to stop the chatter of the “skating moms”, who mistook my 57-year-old father for my grandfather. Unlike most of my friends’ mothers, my mom worked full-time, putting in long hours as an industrial nurse. I was proud of the “RN” next to her name. Yet I also felt different. And let’s face it. In middle school, different isn’t always good.
I’d love to swoop back to 1981 and plop a stack of contemporary middle grade books smack-dab on center ice. I would have devoured the following stories:
SUGAR AND ICE, by Kate Messner
BREAKING THE ICE, by Gail Nall
Plus, I would have loved these novels about the many forms of family:
TOUCH BLUE, by Cynthia Lord
THE TRUTH ABOUT TWINKIE PIE, by Kat Yeh
ONE FOR THE MURPHYS, by Lynda Mullaly Hunt
Novels like ABSOLUTELY ALMOST, WONDER, and A CROOKED KIND OF PERFECT would have reminded me that I had strengths and weaknesses, and that it was fine not to have everything figured out by age twelve.
Eventually, I discovered that my strengths involved reading and writing. (Camel spins and axels? Not so much.) After hanging up my skates in high school, I went to college and earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s in language arts curriculum and instruction. Seven years of elementary teaching later, I left the classroom to raise a family.
And now, I write.
I write because I remember my sixth grade self: the reader, the skater, the daughter, the little sister.
I write to tell stories of perfectly imperfect families, the importance of striving for dreams, and the strength that comes from facing adversity.
I write because somewhere deep inside, I remember sixth grade Stefanie.
And I want to tell her it’s going to turn out okay.
Stefanie Wass writes middle grade novels from her home in historic Hudson, Ohio. A member of SCBWI and finalist in the 2012 National Association of Elementary School Principals Book of the Year Contest, her nonfiction credits include the LA Times, Christian Science Monitor, Seattle Times, The Writer, Cleveland Magazine, Akron Beacon Journal, This I Believe, Cup of Comfort, and 15 Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies. Catch up with her on Twitter @stefwrites and her website: www.stefaniewass.com.