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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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I attempted to start this book many times with no success. I would bring a first chapter to my writing group, read it, then throw it away. I probably drafted seven or eight first chapters. Part of the challenge was converting the impressions and memories of an eighty year old woman back to the sensibilities of the child she had been. Another part of the challenge was separating the woman I knew from the fiction I wished to create. But possibly the hardest challenge was simply finding the voice. One night, after several frustrating months of disappointing false starts, I posed a question to myself before going to sleep…How can I capture this girl’s voice? In the morning, in the shower, it came to me…letters. Once I put Dear Tovah at the top of the page, everything began to fall into place.

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

IMG_4341 - Copy                                                     editor, agent, inspiration, muse, beloved friend, Brenda Bowen

Reading and writing provided me escape when I was young. Writing, even when I was a fledgling author, supplied me with an identity and a network of wonderful people from whom I could learn. It filled a deep hole in my soul and gave me a multitude of reasons to embrace each day, the good and the bad of it. So I suppose it could be said that no one single thing, but, instead, everything, my entire unique and particular life, has influenced my writing the most. Perhaps that’s a very broad answer but it’s an honest one and one I suspect holds true for most writers.

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

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