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On Mother’s Day weekend the Brattleboro Women’s Chorus performed their 20th anniversary concert. We’d been rehearsing since late Winter and all the music was written by our choral director, Rebecca (Becky) Graber. Above, I caught Becky and our sound engineer, Julian McBrowne, during a consultation. You can hear nearly the entire concert by following the link below. Let me know if you can spot me. Here’s a clue. I’m an alto. When the lower voices are singing alone, look carefully in that section for someone in orange.

http://www.brattleborotv.org/brattleboro-womens-chorus/bwc-spring-2016-anniversary-concert

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Next across the finish line will be ┬áMY THUMB, due in bookstores this summer. In this rhyming picture book the joy of thumb-sucking knows no bounds…or very nearly so. Inspired by my great-nephew, who, to the best of my knowledge, is still dedicated to his thumb, this book is dedicated to our one and only Asher.

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In the mid-1990s, after a snow storm on Mother’s Day, I decided I’d had enough of Vermont weather and began, with my husband, to explore other areas where the living might be a bit easier. One of our stops, Boone, North Carolina, held great promise. But in the end I realized, despite late season snows, Vermont really was my true home. Though I didn’t move to Boone, I wrote a book about it, a story about a boy and his father. That book, alas, was never completed, but a secondary character from the manuscript refused to remain in a file drawer. That character’s name was Justus Faulstich and she became the hero you know in JUST JUICE.

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Most definitely. That’s one of the reasons I write. You might try writing when you’re feeling that way. Perhaps it will help you, too.

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Absolutely not. No writer knows how their work will be viewed by the world. Such recognition comes like a lightening strike from out of the blue. It can stop your heart. It can also fill it with incalculable gratitude.

22april2013bc 005This photo of Lucille Burroughs was taken by Walker Evans during the Great Depression as part of the WPA project. When my editor began searching for a cover idea for OUT OF THE DUST, she stopped in a shop in New York City that featured photography. There she found a collection of Walker Evans’ images and selected this one, sending it to me with a post-it note attached, suggesting this would make a perfect cover. She had no idea how right she was. I, too, had been focused on this photograph while writing the book. It sat beside my computer along with several other images from the Agee/Walker book LET US NOW PRAISE FAMOUS MEN.

imagesIt is not easy to understand life on the Aleutians without spending an extended period of time there. I was fortunate to have Ray Hudson as a consultant. Ray taught on the Aleutian Islands for 30 years; he knows the people and culture well. Even with extensive research I got many things wrong in my first drafts. I am ever grateful to Ray for helping me see where I’d misunderstood and misinterpreted my sources and how I might more accurately portray the people of the Aleutian Islands.

photograph of Ray Hudson from the Prairie Home Companion website

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Yes. It is different. The writing process is different. Word choice is different. Literary techniques, also different. Weird as this sounds, even the physical and emotional orientation of the author toward the book is different.

This is an entirely inadequate response to this deceptively simple question. I welcome readers and writers to add their two cents.

I’ve experienced a fair number of snow and rain storms but I’ve never been in a full-blown dust storm.08march2013bc 020

imagesphoto by Ria Novosti

Because I had decided to use the epistolary format to tell Rifka’s story, I needed, within the internal logic of the book, to provide her with the means to write. She would not have had access to writing paper, nor the luxury to carry that paper with her. She also would have been unable to send letters. Rifka’s entries to her cousin were more self-soothing/interior explorations than a real attempt at correspondence. So, I decided to give Rifka a book to travel with. My Aunt Lucy remembered that she had carried books with her though she couldn’t remember the titles. Giving Rifka a book helped to expand the reader’s understanding of her character, as well as providing a vehicle in which she could record her tale. After doing a bit of research, I felt Pushkin, whose poetry I knew only in passing, seemed the best option…his work would have been in print and it’s possible Rifka’s family, particularly her cousins, might have had a copy of it. At that point I began dedicatedly studying Pushkin’s body of work. After going through it the first time, I combed thorugh it again, this time with Rifka’s journey in mind. I recorded sheets and sheets of quotes and excerpts from Pushkin’s verse and ultimately matched up a brief selection of his poetry with each chapter of my book, using the Pushkin quotes to prepare the reader for what was to occur next in Rifka’s story.

For additional information: http://www.childlitassn.org/phoenix-award

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