Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Yankee Girl and a Giveaway


My apologies if you receive this blog post twice. I am reposting it since it didn't seem to get sent out  the first time and I wanted you to have a chance to win this fantastic book.

Two girls. One white, one black. The South and civil rights. Given my own work-in-progress, Half-Truths, how could I not read Yankee Girl?


Drawing upon her own childhood experiences, the author, Mary Ann Rodman, writes in her author's note: "Like Alice (the protagonist), I was the daughter of an FBI agent. In the summer of 1964, my family moved from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi. My father was one of 150 special agents ordered to Mississippi by President Lyndon Johnson." These agents were assigned after three young civil rights workers who were helping African Americans register to vote, disappeared.

As the title suggests, Yankee Girl is 6th-grade Alice Ann Moxley's story. Her "new normal" opens with the moving truck unloading her bike in front of her new home. Fresh from Chicago, she encounters the Southern drawl, pimento cheese, and whites who call colored peoplenigras. Her parents are sympathetic to civil rights and Alice is torn between her concern for Valerie, the lone African American girl who integrates her school, and wanting to make friends with the kids in her class who ostracize and mock Valerie. 

Alice's internal struggles make up a good part of the novel as the reader sees Alice's awakening to what Valerie experiences. After Alice doesn't stop her classmates from sending Valerie mean Valentines, Valerie stays home from school. When she calls Alice ostensibly to get their math homework, Valerie shares some of her anxiety about her father's upcoming civil rights event with Dr. Martin Luther King. After Valerie shares some of her painful childhood experiences, Alice dreams thatEmmett Till challenges her to stand up for her friend. 

After Valerie's father dies, she moves out of town and Alice regrets never telling her that she was sorry for not befriending her. But in the final image, Alice moves on to junior high where she meets Valerie's cousin. Despite the whispers of "Nigger lover, nigger lover" all around her, Alice brings the new girl to her cafeteria table, where two of her friends are waiting.

Mary Ann Rodman did such a wonderful job of integrating historical fact with fiction, that I tried googling Valerie's father, Reverend Claymore Taylor. When I couldn't find anything about him, I checked with Mary Ann. She wrote:

"Reverend Taylor is a combination of Medgar Evers and a man named Wharless Jackson, who was my dad's last unsolved case (and never will be solved since all the informants and witnesses are dead or deep into hiding so they will never be found.) Medgar Evers was killed in front of his three children in the driveway of his home (he was the Ms. state president of the NAACP). Jackson was a civil rights activist who worked at the Goodyear Tire plant in Natchez, Ms. Mr. Jackson was promoted to a supervisor's position, the first for a black man in that plant. That night when he got in his truck to go home, he discovered that 'someone' (most likely the KKK) had wired his ignition with dynamite. There was nothing left of him."

At the end of the author's note Mary Ann writes: "My mother once said, 'You know, someday you'll be glad you lived in this time and this place. You are seeing history in the making. You can tell your children and grandchildren about it.'

She was right."
Mary Ann Rodman at 10-years-old


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Ms. Rodman is giving away an autographed copy of Yankee Girl. Leave a comment and I'll enter your name in the drawing. I'll pick a winner on Monday, November 4. Please leave your email address if I don't have it.

Congratulations to Lisa Fowler who won last week's giveaway, Hill Hawk Hattie.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Yankee Girl and a Giveaway!

Two girls. One white, one black. The South and civil rights. Given my own work-in-progress, Half-Truths, how could I not read Yankee Girl?


Drawing upon her own childhood experiences, the author, Mary Ann Rodman, writes in her author's note: "Like Alice (the protagonist), I was the daughter of an FBI agent. In the summer of 1964, my family moved from Chicago to Jackson, Mississippi. My father was one of 150 special agents ordered to Mississippi by President Lyndon Johnson." These agents were assigned after three young civil rights workers who were helping African Americans register to vote, disappeared.

As the title suggests, Yankee Girl is 6th-grade Alice Ann Moxley's story. Her "new normal" opens with the moving truck unloading her bike in front of her new home. Fresh from Chicago, she encounters the Southern drawl, pimento cheese, and whites who call colored people nigras. Her parents are sympathetic to civil rights and Alice is torn between her concern for Valerie, the lone African American girl who integrates her school, and wanting to make friends with the kids in her class who ostracize and mock Valerie. 

Alice's internal struggles make up a good part of the novel as the reader sees Alice's awakening to what Valerie experiences. After Alice doesn't stop her classmates from sending Valerie mean Valentines, Valerie stays home from school. When she calls Alice ostensibly to get their math homework, Valerie shares some of her anxiety about her father's upcoming civil rights event with Dr. Martin Luther King. After Valerie shares some of her painful childhood experiences, Alice dreams that Emmett Till challenges her to stand up for her friend. 

After Valerie's father dies, she moves out of town and Alice regrets never telling her that she was sorry for not befriending her. But in the final image, Alice moves on to junior high where she meets Valerie's cousin. Despite the whispers of "Nigger lover, nigger lover" all around her, Alice brings the new girl to her cafeteria table, where two of her friends are waiting.

Mary Ann Rodman did such a wonderful job of integrating historical fact with fiction, that I tried googling Valerie's father, Reverend Claymore Taylor. When I couldn't find anything about him, I checked with Mary Ann. She wrote:

"Reverend Taylor is a combination of Medgar Evers and a man named Wharless Jackson, who was my dad's last unsolved case (and never will be solved since all the informants and witnesses are dead or deep into hiding so they will never be found.) Medgar Evers was killed in front of his three children in the driveway of his home (he was the Ms. state president of the NAACP). Jackson was a civil rights activist who worked at the Goodyear Tire plant in Natchez, Ms. Mr. Jackson was promoted to a supervisor's position, the first for a black man in that plant. That night when he got in his truck to go home, he discovered that 'someone' (most likely the KKK) had wired his ignition with dynamite. There was nothing left of him."

At the end of the author's note Mary Ann writes: "My mother once said, 'You know, someday you'll be glad you lived in this time and this place. You are seeing history in the making. You can tell your children and grandchildren about it.'

She was right."
Mary Ann Rodman at 10-years-old


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Ms. Rodman is giving away an autographed copy of Yankee Girl. Leave a comment and I'll enter your name in the drawing. I'll pick a winner on Friday, November 1. Please leave your email address if I don't have it.

Congratulations to Lisa Fowler who won last week's giveaway, Hill Hawk Hattie.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Hill Hawk Hattie and a Giveaway!


Hill Hawk Hattie by Clara Gillow Clark, fiction for upper elementary school girls, tells the beautiful story of 11-year-old Hattie Belle in the late 1800's. With her mother dead, Hattie is left alone with her father, a rough logger who makes his living by rafting the logs down the Delaware River. 

One day her father comes home and announces that Hattie is going to pass as his son and join him on the river. Concerned that she's no longer "his girl," Hattie still settles into the logging routines and befriends 13-year-old Jasper, another logger's son. 

Clara Clark describes the trip down the Delaware in vivid detail. The reader gets to experience the perils of riding through rapids on a raft that can break apart any minute and how fearful Hattie is that the other men will discover her identity and turn against her father. 

Towards the end of the book Clark uses the metaphor of Hattie's journey to show Hattie's inner life. In reflecting on her mother's death Hattie confides to Jasper, "I think my ma got stuck in her mind somewhere between her fine home in Kingston and our hills. Somehow, I think it just pulled her apart, like a raft breaking apart on rocks you can't see." (p. 146)  

After they get off the river, Hattie discovers that her father has a different plan for her life.  A river of thought spun around in my head, floated together, fit into a pattern like logs and lash poles, pieces that shaped the story of our journey, mine and Pa's. "You taking me to Kingston, Pa?"
Young and old enjoy Hattie's adventures! This is
the infamous Uncle Bob devouring the novel in
two days. 

When I received this book several years ago I thought I'd give it away on this blog. But after my husband's uncle read it and recommended it, I fell in love with it too. Now I have a 7-year-old granddaughter who I think will also love it. Fortunately, Clara is willing to give away an autographed copy herself.  

Clara also now makes felt dolls of her characters! This set of Hattie and Jasper dolls, plus the teaching guide sells for $19.95 plus postage.



And last, but not least, Clara, who is presently teaching at several Highlights workshops, also offers critique services at reasonable rates. You can best reach her at this email address.  


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To enter this contest, just leave me a comment and your email address if I don't have it. Clara and I would love it if you shared this on Facebook or Twitter too.  And since my blog followers now number 99, if you become a new follower, I'll enter your name twice, and I'll reach the 3-digit mark! 

I'll draw a winner on Friday, October 25th. Thanks in advance for entering!

Monday, October 14, 2013

I'm On Tour!

Last week Becky Shillington tagged me on her blog tour and as you'll see at the bottom of this post, I'll tag three more writers. I hope you'll enjoy this post and check out my fellow bloggers.


What are you working on right now?
As many of my faithful blog readers know, I'm writing my first work of fiction, Half-Truths. This link will take you to a list of posts about the evolution of my book.

Although I've been working on the story for at least six years--my first blog post about researching the novel was in 2007--the story actually started out as a picture book about Wing Haven.  I fell in love with this bird sanctuary and the history surrounding it when  my youngest daughter and I visited when she was 5. (She will turn 22 soon, so you do the math!!). 

There were too many stories to fit into a 2000-word-picture book (that was before picture books had a 6-800 word count) and the book morphed into a book for boy readers. I spent months devising a book based on a real story of a young boy rescuing a robin and bringing him to Wing Haven. When my son-in-law informed me that no boy would read a story about a robin--I went back to the drawing board.  

This time, I started imagining a young woman (Kate Dinsmore) who moved from Cheraw, South Carolina into the high society of Myers Park. Her world radically changes when she meets the light-skinned granddaughter (Lillie Harris) of her grandmother's cook. After writing the book from Kate's POV, Mary Kate Castellani an editor at the 2011 SCBWI-Carolinas conference, recommended writing it from both girls POV. I completed that draft this summer and have begun the third "major" draft (there were many starts and stops that I haven't counted in that number!). I am deepening the characters and working on both girls' story arcs. 


How does Half-Truths differ from other works in its genre?
As far as I can tell, there isn't another book that is set in Charlotte on the eve of the civil rights movement. In addition, I am hoping that the alternating points-of-view will deepen both white and black readers' perspectives on race, prejudice, and privilege. 

Why do you write what you do?
Initially, I was intrigued with the challenge of finding the story in my own backyard that Carolyn Yoder posed to my friend, Joyce Hostetter. I also love seeing how the actions, thoughts, and decisions of previous generations influence a person's "now." And I think it's pretty cool to visit places that in Charlotte and think, "My story happened here."

How does your writing process work?
Research (reading books about the era, civil rights, Charlotte history, dialect, fashion) and interviewing experts--folks who lived during this time period--are intermingled with my writing. I actually do less research now, but still find libraries I need to visit and people I want to talk to. I like to write for a few hours in the morning, but my days don't always unfold like that.  

Any departing words of wisdom for other authors?
Don't give up, seek and receive input from writers who you trust, and believe in your story. But most of all, 
      PERSEVERE!

A path in Wing Haven that Kate and Lillie probably walked on
as they persevered in their goal of friendship.
Here are three more bloggers who I hope you will visit as they go on tour next:

Janice Green whose blog combines family entertainment with Bible lessons. 
Becky Levine who has a blog full of writing tips. 
Janie Sullivan who is the director of the Center for Writing Excellence, runs writing contests, and sponsors writing classes.  



Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Guest Blogger for Write2Ignite

Last year at this time I attended the Free Expressions seminar, Your Best Book. If you missed my recap of that great writing workshop, today I am guest blogging about it at Write2Ignite. I hope you'll click on over to learn more about "Creating Voice and Deep Point of View."

Lorin Oberweger, Brenda Windberg, Emma Dryden, and me!

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Congratulations to Gail Hurburt who won Lisa Kline's book, Season of Change and thanks to all who entered. Stay tuned for more giveaways later this month: Hill Hawk Hattie by Clara Gillow Clark and Birmingham, 1963 by Carole Weatherford. 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

"What Else Do You Have?'" - Part II and a Giveaway

Last week Lisa Kline explained the editorial process behind creating her Sisters in All Seasons series. Today she shares more of that process as well as her own personal adventure writing the books. 


In the past, I have focused on my characters, let their actions and dynamics unfold, and shaped the story as I have gone along. In Write Before Your Eyes, for example, I had the idea of a girl who found a magic journal in which everything she wrote came true, and when I started writing all I knew was that what she wrote would get messed up and cause lots of trouble. I worked out the exact nature of that “trouble” as I wrote. I practically wrote myself into a corner, in fact, and my fearless writing buddies, Chris Woodworth and John J. Bonk, helped me brainstorm my way out of it!

I was not able to work that way on the Sisters in All Seasons series. I simply did not have the luxury of time. Each book had to be written in about seven months, and one I ended up having to write in less than five. I had to write synopses and plan the story ahead of time. I had to know where Stephanie and Diana would be at the end of each book before I started writing. In some series, the characters don’t age, but in mine, they do, so that was a complicating factor. I determined that to finish I would need to write at least two pages a day. On the last book, I wrote three. It was stressful, but also very good training.

Of course, I wasn’t in it alone. I had a lot of help. My editor and I had a great email relationship, and I sent questions to her as I was writing, and she’d always answer promptly. We did quite a bit of brainstorming via email. She was always encouraging and supportive. My agent helped navigate the business part of it. And I was so grateful to have Chris Woodworth, my loyal writing friend, read and comment on each book as I finished it. She came to know my characters really well. I also asked my mentor from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Ellen Howard, to coach me on the last book, and her help was invaluable. Another resource for me was Martha Alderson, who calls herself “The Plot Whisperer.” She has made a series of videos and I watched them over and over as I produced my daily pages.

Working on the series was a real adventure. With each book, I discovered new aspects of my characters – I discovered, for example, more about Stephanie’s difficult relationship with her mother. Stephanie had a telephone conversation with her mother in the first book, but she didn’t appear. She was in only one flashback. However, in a later book, Stephanie’s mother became a more prominent character, and I had a chance to flesh her out more. This was a lot of fun. It was as though I’d had a brief glimpse of her at an earlier time but now had a chance to study her more deeply. It was like walking through a foggy wood and gradually having the fog clear in various places.

While I initially panicked, working on this series ended up being a gift in so many ways. I loved my two characters; each of them was a piece of me, I suppose. I got to send them to my favorite places in North Carolina, and let them have adventures with wildlife that as an animal lover, I’ve always wanted to have. Several young readers have told me how much they love the books, and that has warmed my heart. This series has truly been a labor of love.  

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Lisa is sharing this love by giving away a copy of the fifth book, Season of Change

Leave me a comment by Saturday, October 7, and I'll enter your name in this contest. If I don't have your email address, make sure you leave that too!