Category: Out of the Dust


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When I write in free verse I usually avoid formal constraints. Though I do love occasional internal rhyme, I try not to overdo it as too much makes the work seem self-conscious and contrived. Instead, I arrange the  verse to suggest the rhythm and cadence of the character’s native language or accent. I think of my novels in verse more as theater than as one long poem.

A writer must carefully balance foreshadowing. Too much and it feels manipulative. Too little and the reader feels disoriented. Either way the reader is pulled out of the book and a writer never wants that to happen.
The foreshadowing is there…perhaps when reading the book again someday you will find what on first reading eluded you. 
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I agree.

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While researching, I come across multiple articles on certain events. I also peruse numerous advertisements for everything from baby bonnets to basketball games. I make an effort to fold these bits and pieces from the period into my narrative in a way that reflects how often I came upon them in my research. So yes, the events in the book, from the accidental fire to the curiosity about the Dionne quintuplets received multiple mentions and attention in the media of the early 1930s.

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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.

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

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That’s a difficult question to answer. Perhaps the most surprising thing I learned is that even after researching for a full year, after reading thousands of pages of material, both primary and secondary sources, I could never recreate an historical period with absolute confidence. I needed to make so many leaps of faith and asked the reader to leap with me. My respect for historians and journalists rocketed over the years as I realized how precise they have to be. At least, in writing fiction, the bar is not set quite so high for factual responsibility. I did my best in understanding the sensibilities of the time period and representing time and place with reasonable accuracy, but I fear I never rose as completely to the challenge in my two year writing process as a good journalist does in a week.

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

road trip with kate to arizona 2016lc 033When I’m researching I am filling myself with the events of the historical period and those events clearly leave a mark on the work…the birth of quintuplets in Canada, for instance, or the eruption of a volcano, or the discovery of dinosaur bones. But events happening in the contemporary world of the writer might have an impact on the events woven into the author’s book, as well. In the case of OUT OF THE DUST, I honestly can’t remember current events entering the landscape of the story. There would, of course, be values, knowledge, and experience of the living writer seeping into the decisions he/she makes in designing the story. But Big Picture contemporary events might be difficult, in many cases, to transpose and weave into an historical setting without jarring the reader. Even if the writer deftly altered contemporary events to fit into the historical setting, I think in many cases there would be less of an organic flow than the writer might desire. Certainly, while I was writing SAFEKEEPING, a novel set in the near future, many events happening in the world at the time of the writing were integrated into the story. Perhaps contemporary fiction is more apt to be colored by what is going on in the greater world of the writer, while historical fiction is less likely to be overtly influenced by the author’s world.

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 I most certainly did. The type of poetry that uses the shape of the poem to illustrate the idea behind the poem is called shape or concrete poetry. Perhaps you’d like to try writing some, too.