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  • Susan Stoderl

On Writing | A Kansas Middle-Grade Life Created Spunky NYC Middle-Grade Characters


Mission One: All in a Day's Work, Middle-Grade Fiction
On Writing

I am passionate about helping kids ages 8-12 years old navigate a complicated and sometimes treacherous world. Children often find themselves alone because of circumstances in their family. The parent(s) rarely want to have their kids on their own so much, but they can’t avoid it. Single moms and dads have trouble juggling work and maintaining a household alone. Parents with demanding jobs may not always be available. Some kids are orphans and raised by aunts, uncles, or grandparents.


My story led to the creation of my stories and characters. I was born to a very young and sheltered mother. My parents divorced when I was three months old, so my grandparents took me in. They added a three-month-old baby to their daily lives at sixty, with each having health problems. I lived with them until my freshman year in high school when I went to live with my mother to help raise two smaller children. In my grandparents’ tough life, children were adults. Everyone worked the same. I worked in my grandfather’s grocery store from the age of seven, because he needed rest in the afternoon after several strokes and heart attacks. I rarely played and read adult books, newspapers, and magazines because I had few children’s books. Severe asthma often kept me from playing and school.


Sophia of the Bright Red Sneakers series addresses that aloneness. Sophia and Pedro are two New York City kids, who are savvy, bright children and older than their years. Together, they build an extended family to be there for them and to protect them. One that includes telepathic animals who accompany them in their various adventures, sort of like imaginary friends.


My grandmother, always striving for upward mobility, saw that I received piano lessons, dance classes, and voice lessons. She thought I could raise my social standing, as well as that of the whole family. I dreamed about living in New York City as a child because she made it sound exciting and full of opportunity.


To follow my dreams, I created a fulfilling life in New York City, first in opera, and now in writing fiction.


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