Ask the Author: Q&A with Cathy Ringler

December 1, 2019 | by rebecca stewart | photos courtesy of cathy ringler

Every now and again a book comes along that gets you so excited, you just can’t stop talking about it. For me, that’s Miya’s Dream. A Middle-Grade book, written by Wyoming author, Cathy Ringler, it’s equally engaging for the adult reader – especially if said adult has kids similarly aged to the title character, Miya.

I’m currently re-reading Miya’s Dream with my 7th grader, giving us a chance to snuggle and chat about the tough topics, while giggling over the humorous moments sprinkled throughout:

“Miya’s eyes widened. She didn’t know if she’d ever seen a fatter or fuzzier horse. Dream’s stomach drooped…Miya stroked the gigantic dust bunny with legs. This horse couldn’t be a running horse. Another wasted trip,” (pg. 11). Miya’s first encounter with her stubborn, not-so “Dream”-like barrel racing horse.

Miya’s Dream takes the reader through a journey of classic middle school struggles, spotlighting the current generation’s unique challenges that technology has brought to the game. It’s relatable, heart-wrenching at times, humorous, and insightful.

Come behind the scenes as we get to know the author, Cathy Ringler.

Q: Tell us about Cathy – what are 3 things we should know about you?

  1. Family and faith are the most important things to me.
  2. I am a teacher. I was privileged to teach for 31 years. I spent the majority of my career in a two-room schoolhouse learning and discovering new things right beside my students. I now treasure the time I spend volunteering with young people.
  3. The most wonderful place in the world to be is horseback in the mountains.

Q: What was the inspiration behind Miya’s Dream?

A: Growing up, my family moved every two to three years, so I understand how it feels to be an outsider. I still cringe at the memory of all of those first days at a new school. Walking down the hallway, clutching my sack lunch to my chest, and realizing that the Fair Isle Sweater and hiking boots that were cool in Concord, MA. were an epic wardrobe fail among the miniskirted girls in Sulphur Springs, TX.

I wrote the book for kids who are struggling. I want to encourage them and help them understand that things will get better. Just as importantly, there are steps they can take to achieve that end. 

Q: Why young adult books?

A: Miya's Dream actually falls into the category of Middle-Grade books, but Middle Grade or YA, I enjoy interacting with kids. One of my favorite weeks every summer occurs when I volunteer at Camp Wannabe, a Christian horse camp in Powell, WY. The kids put their phones in a basket when they arrive and then are free to have fun without distractions or worries. There is a scavenger hunt, all kinds of games, and everyone’s favorite: swimming day at the pond…all on horseback.

Each kid has a unique perspective on the world. I learn so much from listening to them share their challenges and triumphs.

Q: Can you talk about the journey from the dream of writing a book, to creating your story, to seeing it published?

A: I loved teaching, and I loved teaching writing. I found that I was a better writing teacher if I was working on something myself. I was published in the local newspaper, a few magazines, entered some writing contests, but the important thing was when my students were struggling with revisions or voice or word choice, so was I. It made me a more empathetic teacher and a better problem solver. Even with a first-grade tooth fairy story. Especially with a first-grade tooth fairy story.

After I retired, I won the YA category of the Wyoming Writers contest with a short story about Miya. The judge wrote a kind personal note on my entry, suggesting that I turn the story into a book. I took her advice and wrote several short stories about the adventures of Miya and Jake.

 The next year, I pitched the book to Patricia Landy of Crystal Publishing. She loved the characters but told me that she couldn't sell linked short stories and that if I rewrote it in novel form, she would be interested in publishing it. I rewrote, revised, edited, and finally finished the book. It would have never happened without the support of family, friends, and a small but mighty writing group.

The very best part of all this is when a middle schooler comes up to me and says, I loved your book. I know just how Miya feels.”

Q: What middle-grade book (besides yours) would you recommend?

A: Two books that I read recently and highly recommend are: The Truth as Told by Mason Buttle by Leslie Connor and The War that Saved my Life by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley.

           What is your all-time favorite book?

A: I’ve read hundreds of books, so it's hard to choose one all-time favorite. I was the kid who thought the best way to spend a summer afternoon was in the treehouse munching an apple and reading Misty of Chincoteague. However, a book that I read recently and really enjoyed was called Blind Your Ponies by Stanley Gordon West. The setting is Willow Creek, MT. The characters are so skillfully depicted that if they knocked on my door right now, I’d recognize them instantly and invite them in for a cup of coffee.

Q: What’s next in writing?

A: I am currently working on the second book in the Miya/Jake series. In the upcoming book, Miya’s best friend Jake takes center stage. The themes are courage, resilience, and perseverance.

Q: What words of advice would you offer tweens/teens who are experiencing situations like Miya did in the book?

A: In Miya’s Dream, Miya does several things right as she tries to intervene for the new girl Abigail, while avoiding getting bullied herself. I’d advise the tweens/ teens to follow many of the same steps:

  1. When you see a kid on the outside of the group, step up. It’s scary, but you can be that friend. There is safety in numbers, and bullies usually prey on the kid who is alone.
  2. Find a safe place /teacher. Miya and Abigail go to the art room at lunch. The teacher, Mr. O., recognizes that Abigail isn’t interested in art, but he allows her to stay so she doesn’t have to face the cafeteria. There is always at least one adult in every school who will provide a safe place. It’s up to you to seek them out.
  3. When things are tough at school, it’s easy to get depressed and hide in your room. But force yourself to find one hobby or activity you enjoy and push yourself to excel in that. With Miya, it was barrel racing. I once had a student who became an expert on rockets. He could discuss every space vehicle that was ever launched. The other kids respected that.
  4. If you are cyberbullied, do not respond online. Miya did that correctly, but she should have informed her parents right away.
  5. Miya makes the mistake of hiding the bullying from her parents. A better option would have been to talk to them and brainstorm a plan of attack.

Q: Where can people get their copy of Miya’s Dream?

A: Readers can obtain a personalized copy from my website https://www.cathyringler.com, or they can order from Amazon or Ingram Sparks. If your readers happen to be in Cody, Wyoming, Miya’s Dream may be purchased both at the Custom Cowboy Shop and Legends Book Store.

Locally, you can purchase your copy of Miya’s Dream at This House of Books, 224 North Broadway. 

Originally printed in the December 2019 issue of Simply Family Magazine

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