Author Natalie Rompella has a new middle-grade novel, COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED DOGS, we got the 4-1-1. (Four questions we ask every author, one Mafia’s choice, and one photo.)


  1. What was the inspiration for this book?

My love of sled dog racing. And baking.

  1. What is your writing process? (Do you write every day? A certain number of pages? etc…)

I write almost 365 a year. It is rare I don’t write anything. For freelance work I usually have quick turnaround times, in which case I do schedule how much I need to get done in a day (five workbook pages, etc.).

I have found if I’m not inspired to write, it does me no good to stress about it and force it. If I’m not in a rush, I’m better off getting non-writing related things accomplished and out of the way so when I do get in a groove, I don’t have to worry about the laundry or catching up on phone calls. My brain will figure stuff out on its own, so I usually end up emailing myself random words as reminders. I usually remember what they mean later.

As for where I work, unless I’m needing to type, I won’t sit at my desk. I prefer working on my couch curled up in a blanket by the fire (and next to my dog).

  1. What is the best piece of advice you’ve received regarding writing?

To not waste decision making on mundane things. Instead of going through emails in the morning (which you make many decisions on without even realizing it: keep or delete? Where to file?), start your day by writing. Otherwise, you’re already decision-drained before you even begin. This is very hard to actually do, but I am attempting it.

  1. Congratulations on your recent book release. I remember reading the beginnings of COOKIE CUTTERS & SLED RUNNERS back when we were in a critique group together, in Illinois, years ago. How long has it been from when you started writing it to publication? Can you share that journey with us?

I’m not sure exactly when I began that novel but, yes, you probably did hear early versions of it! I know I was pregnant with my now 8 1/2 year old when I had shoved it in a drawer indefinitely. But then it won an SCBWI Work-In-Progress grant and I pulled it back out to work on again. In my defense, I have not been solely working on this novel since then. I had two children in that time, worked on picture books and other novels, and have been doing a lot of freelance educational work. In December of 2015, I participated in a Twitter pitch and an editor at Sky Pony Press favorited it. She asked for some revisions and it went from there.


  1. What type of research did you do to get all the sled racing details?

This was my favorite topic to ever research (although perfecting the recipes in my book was also fun)!  I attended sprint races in the Midwest as well as the Iditarod—a long distance race in Alaska. Yes, I got to go to Alaska as research (that’s what I used my SCBWI grant for). I went to Anchorage and Willow to see the two starts of the race (ceremonial and official). Because one of the Iditarod mushers was who encouraged me to go to the race, I got to go behind the scenes and see all of the mushers preparing for the race. I learned a lot about the mushers and the dogs and their special bond.

I also befriended a young musher in Michigan who let me see her dog yard. Via email, she helped with a lot of the wording and logistics of racing for me since I don’t race. Around the time I won the grant, I also adopted my first dog. Ever. Having her around helped with little details regarding dogs that I didn’t know.


Please share one fun photo with the Mafia readers.

Here are some links to find Natalie Rompella and her latest release…

Thank you for sharing your 4-1-1 with us, Natalie. The Middle Grade Mafia wishes you the best of luck on your writing adventures!

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