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No. In fact I’m rather critical of my own work and often wish I could do a bit more editing. That’s not to say I dislike my own work. The opposite is true.

I selected this image to suggest that even though I’ve loved every one of my pets through the years, I’ve loved other people’s pets as well. The relationship is different with your own pet. You know that animal intimately, just as an author knows her/his own work intimately. But it doesn’t prevent you from admiring the beauty, grace, humor, and style that is another’s.

(This question came to me from Ancillae Assumpta Academy in Wyncote, Pennsylvania)

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An excellent question. Thank you. In fact a story develops on multiple planes. Research helps shape it, current events help shape it, what is going on in my own life helps shape it. Every day, all day long, choices are being made during the writing and editing process. Dead ends are pursued and rejected. Seemingly dead ends open up and reveal a passage to the next part of the story. Eventually the story has its own unique shape and structure because of the choices I’ve made during those months of work. After a year of trying to bring my thoughts, ideas, characters, plot, setting, etc. into focus, the book arrives on my editor’s desk and shortly thereafter returns to me with questions, concerns, suggestions. And the process begins again. It’s fascinating to think of how many different books could have emerged during this process, books that were not written, sacrificed to this one story line that managed to dominate all the myriad options available to me as I wrote.

(This question came from East Prairie Public School in Skokie, Illinois.)

CONCERT TIME

For anyone who might be in Vermont tonight, the 11th of May 2019, or tomorrow afternoon, you might enjoy attending one of the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus concerts. I’ll be singing with 70+ other women making beautiful harmonies.  And one of my poems will be read as part of the concert. I’d love to see you there.

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P.S. If you do come, please introduce yourself to me after the performance.

Happy Mother’s Day!

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I loved the experience of researching and writing STOWAWAY. Using the journals kept by Captain Cook and Joseph Banks, as well as the shipboard artist, Sydney Parkinson, I felt more immersed in primary source material than I have felt writing any other book. It’s important to me to be as accurate as possible when writing historical novels. Having the words of the men aboard Endeavour at my fingertips through the entire writing process gave me confidence that I was as close to an authentic recounting of the journey as it was possible to get.

Signing on Saturday

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I’ll be signing NIGHT JOB, reading from the book, and visiting with readers at Everyone’s Books  on Elliot Street in downtown Brattleboro on Saturday, November 10th, 2018 at 11 in the morning.

I hope to see you there.

P.S. Don’t be deceived by this back door view of the bookstore taken years ago. It is warm and welcoming  and chock full of excellent books, calendars, and anything else a reader might want or need.

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Today Birdman, aka Mark Norton, would have been gleefully observing his birthday.

In September, one of the tales of his childhood will be available as a new picture book, NIGHT JOB, published by Candlewick Press and beautifully illustrated by Brian Karas. I hope some of you will have a chance to look at it. It’s really quite lovely, just as Mark was.

Witness

Scholastic presented me with multiple choices and together we selected the images we agreed best represented the characters I had created.

The photographs come from the Walter Dean Myers photograph collection, and the photo albums of the families of Edith and Herbert Langmuir, Dean Langmuir, and Joan Lacovara, relatives of an employee of Scholastic Inc.

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Esther’s way of speaking was inspired by a little book I read near the beginning of my research for WITNESS. In THE STORY OF OPAL, Opal Whiteley, speaks in an unusual way for reasons unexplained to her readers. The authenticity of Opal’s diary has been challenged but I loved the way it established her character, whether it was true or not. Because I wanted to impart to readers a sense of my character, Esther, being the child of immigrants, and because I wanted to create her character as one of innocence and naivete, Opal’s mode of speech seemed the perfect starting point.

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I discovered mention of “Revealed Jesus” in the 1924 newspapers I used in my research. It’s important to remember that news was not reported in the way it is today. Though the 1924 newspaper referred to William Seymour as being both alive and in Texas, he had made the move to California long before his death two years earlier, in 1922. Perhaps the paper was referring to his movement and his followers more than to the man himself. I honestly can’t remember and my research is no longer in my possession so I have no way of reviewing the original articles that inspired the “Revealed Jesus” poems. My characters knew only what they read in the paper or what they might have heard in conversation. Authors must decide whether to be true to what their characters actually knew or to give them knowledge which would make the book historically correct though not an accurate portrait of the time. My choice was to keep the book true to what the characters would actually have known. An excellent question. Thank you.

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The names of the plants were chosen for their sound. I simply explored the names of plants that grow in Vermont and selected the ones I imagined would delight the ear of my character, Esther.