Just as only a partial view of my neighborhood is revealed through the frost on my window, only a partial understanding of the world was revealed to me in my home. In school I learned about friendship and societal rules along with reading, writing, science and math. Exposure to my teachers and my fellow students opened me up to the world and helped me to understand who I was and how I fit. I loved everything about school…except, perhaps, the tests. I loved learning, I loved those moments of understanding when I finally grasped a math concept or how two seemingly separate incidents in history actually connected. What is your favorite thing about school?
With joy, in 2000 I accepted an invitation to travel to Southeast Alaska and speak to enthusiastic students, librarians, and educators. The students in particular hoped I might write a book about Alaska but I shook my head no. I could never write with the authenticity of an Alaskan resident. However, while in Ketchikan, I visited Parnassus Books where I purchased more volumes about Alaska than I could carry. Most of the books were shipped back to my home in Vermont. But I kept a couple out to read on the plane. That is when I first learned of the Aleuts and their story. To my knowledge, no one had told their story to young readers and I feared no one ever would. This was such a risky project. How could I ever do the tale justice? I was very fortunate to have the assistance of several people with first hand experience who gave me honest criticism and helped me correct my misunderstandings and mistakes.
I fear the emotional, mental, and physical trauma of being relocated, of living in a refugee camp, has not changed significantly since 1942.
There are times when those campaigning for political office seem alarmingly unfamiliar with, and uninterested in, the American constitution; or even a general working knowledge of democracy. I felt compelled to begin SAFEKEEPING in 2010 when a small group of dissatisfied citizens threatened to divide and destroy the balance of our entire nation. It seems we are in a similar pickle today, six years later, perhaps as a direct consequence of that same divisive element which has managed to shift the political discussion away from civility, tolerance, and functionality. My hope is that the American people will make a wise and informed decision in the upcoming presidential election. SAFEKEEPING is an exploration of what might happen if we choose a candidate who does not understand how to keep the fabric of our country from unraveling.
I’ve experienced a fair number of snow and rain storms but I’ve never been in a full-blown dust storm.
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.
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When I was a child, escaping into books helped me through some challenging times. Creating worlds of words gave me both the power to comfort myself and a platform on which to construct a universe I controlled. Writing as a profession was a natural progression from that early childhood relationship with the written word. In my career as a writer I have loved the idea of opening young minds to new experiences, to helping them understand that survival is possible even under the most difficult circumstances, and to assist them in the evolution of their own innate compassion. It has been a blessing to do this work that has given me so much and to know it has been meaningful to others, too.
For additional information: http://www.childlitassn.org/phoenix-award
Life is a challenge. It tests us each day, whether we’re aware of it or not. Some days we disappoint. Some days we do so much good. Most days are a mix of the two.
With each decision we make, we have the opportunity to grow. It takes courage to live. But the rewards are so numerous and so diverse. They can be as minor as a “good job” offered by someone you respect. Or something more public like scoring in a game, or performing at a recital.
It would be foolish to submit an assignment if you hadn’t done the work. It takes courage to share that assignment with your peers even if you know you’ve given it your best.
Have the courage to make mistakes and then the courage to learn from them. Reading provides an excellent space where you can witness characters making choices and suffering through the consequences of those choices. How many times have you wanted to yell at a character, “NO! DON’T DO THAT!”?
Listen to that voice when it’s trying to guide you. It is very wise. It will help you to be brave without being foolish.
As a reader, I find certain books linger with me for months, for years, and occasionally for decades. Books have kept me afloat when I wondered how much longer I could hold on. They have taught me about decency and integrity. Books have shown me how survival is possible even when the odds suggest otherwise. Books have also taught me the elegance and beauty and power of language, not just for the message it contains but for the simple way it rolls off the tongue, the way it delights and excites every sense. Do I expect to have the same impact on my readers that certain writers have had on me? No. But I am grateful for every reader and for each opportunity to communicate and to share. If the reader feels less alone as he or she spends time inside one of my books, that’s enough for me.
Yes, yes, yes. I had many jobs before I became a full time author. I’ve worked as a nanny, a waitress, a librarian, a bookkeeper, a substitute teacher, an advertising secretary, a typesetter, and a proofreader. I was very good at some of these jobs and absolutely dreadful at others. I’m glad this writing thing worked out in the end.
Between research, interviews, writing and revising I dedicated about two and a half years of my life to creating LETTERS FROM RIFKA. The hardest part was finding Rifka’s “voice”. After I’d spoken extensively with my great aunt and read thousands of pages of information detailing the economic, political, religious, and social conditions of the early part of the twentieth century, I could not make the story come alive. It was lost, somehow, in all the facts I’d been steeping in. Not until I decided to write the book as an epistolary novel…as “letters”…was I able to cut through all the dry data and give youth and vigor to the narrative voice.