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Tenmile by Sandra Dallas




“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 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.

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.).  When he 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.



“A fast-moving tale that
leaves readers plenty to ponder.”


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