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Tenmile, My Fifth Midgrade Book

Volume XXII, Issue Four | Dec 2022

“Why don’t you write a book about a girl who wants to be a doctor?” my Sleeping Bear editor Barb McNally asked me.

Easy for you to say, I thought. You don’t have to come up with a plot. Still, I was at loose ends. I didn’t know what to write. Finding a plot, as I’ve said a hundred times, is the hardest part of writing for me. So why not at least give it a try? I came up with a story about a girl in a Colorado mining town in 1880 who dreams of getting away and going to medical school.

I love writing children’s books. Once I know the story, the writing seems to flow easily. It did with this one. Only it didn’t flow very well, as it turned out.

Barb is unusually kind. After she read the manuscript, she raved about my heroine, Sissy, and the other characters as well as the setting. She said it needed just a bit of work, however. We talked the story through, and when we were done, I realized what she really was saying was the manuscript sucked. So back to drawing board—again and again. I don’t know how many drafts I went through. Barb is a perfectionist, and I don’t why she didn’t throw up her hands and wonder why I just didn’t just quit and take up golf. Or maybe she did but was too nice to tell me. She kept saying I was almost there. The story just needed a little more tweaking. Finally, thanks to Barb’s persistence, Tenmile came together, and in the end, we were both pleased with it.

My nephew Nicholas and his new book: Tenmile
My nephew Nicholas and his new book.

The story takes place in the Tenmile Range of Colorado, the same mountain range I used in my adult books Prayers for Sale, Whiter Than Snow, and The Last Midwife. The mountain range is real—Breckenridge is on the Tenmile—but the towns are fictional.

Like all of my children’s books, Tenmile is dedicated to my grandson, Forrest (although he’s 20 and a bit old for midgrade books. My nephew Nicholas likes them, however.) When Forrest was learning to talk, he couldn’t say Sandra. The name came out Sissy, so that’s what he’s always called me, and that’s the source of my young heroine’s name.

Here’s how Sleeping Bear describes the story:

Life in 1880 Tenmile, Colorado, isn't easy. But it's all that 12-year-old Sissy Carlson knows. She's lived here her whole life, watching her father, the local doctor, tend to the town's citizens. And while the mountain setting is gorgeous, Tenmile is a rough gold mining town. It often feels like there's just a thin line between life and death. Mining is a hard job; men are hurt or even killed. Sissy sees the same thin line between the haves and the have-nots as she assists her father in his practice, seeing firsthand the personal and not-always-private struggles of his patients. Now that she's older, Sissy is starting to think of the world beyond Tenmile and where she might fit in. What opportunities might she find if she could just get away? What kind of future does Tenmile offer, especially for a girl? A poignant coming-of-age middle grade novel by New York Times-bestselling author Sandra Dallas.

The early reviews have been good. Kirkus, for instance, calls Tenmile “A fast-moving tale that leaves readers plenty to ponder.”

Dana and I were in Istanbul recently and spotted this man reading Little Souls.

Dana and I were in Istanbul recently and spotted this man reading Little Souls.


A Family Christmas?

Our family hasn’t been together for Christmas since before COVID. The first year of COVID, Bob and I had Christmas Eve dinner by ourselves, then participated in a service on Zoom with our First Presbyterian Church of Georgetown congregation. The next year, Dana stayed in New Orleans, while the rest of us sat six feet apart at Povy’s house and connected with our extended family over Zoom. Last year, we thought we would be together again. But the day Dana arrived, she found out she’d been exposed to COVID. She rushed around and finally found a test that gave her instant results—negative! We sighed with relief. Then Povy discovered she’d been exposed. It was too late for her to be tested. So she cancelled Christmas Eve dinner, and Bob, Dana, and I—and my brother—had dinner by ourselves. This year, we have our fingers crossed that we’ll all be together—in person, this time, not just in spirit. I hope that after the COVID years, you, too, will be with those you love during the holidays.


Sandra’s Picks

The books in my Denver Post column last month were so good that I decided to run the entire column.