"This is the house that the Hinkle sisters lived in, and that's the muddy river where Thomas and Jackie fished together." Joyce Hostetter pointed out the car window as we drove around around her hometown, Hickory, NC--the setting for her Bakers Mountain Series. "See that old building? That's the hosiery factory where Junior worked for a few days. Over there is where the car mechanic lived who helped him fix his truck."
The Honeycutt family and their friends, who already had a special place in my heart from reading AIM, BLUE, COMFORT, DRIVE and EQUAL, became even more real as I saw the places where they lived, played, and worked--all within sight of Bakers Mountain.
|Bakers Mountain, photo courtesy Joyce Hostetter|
How did Joyce end up writing a series of books that rose up out of what was once a rural community? It all began when Carolyn Yoder, senior editor at Calkins Creek, suggested that Joyce find the story in her own backyard. When Joyce began researching the history of Hickory, NC, she discovered the Miracle of Hickory at her local library.
|Mural in downtown Hickory. Do you see Joyce?|
|Part of Joyce's real backyard. Photo courtesy Joyce Hostetter|
A few years after BLUE was published, I met Joyce in Birmingham, Alabama at a literacy conference. She was presenting on BLUE, I was presenting on Teaching the Story: Fiction Writing in Grades 4-8.
We bonded over reading and writing. We co-presented several times and continue to publish a quarterly newsletter, Talking Story. We are critique partners and good friends.
I felt Joyce's influence when I began brainstorming my own first novel. I rode my bike, walked, and drove through neighborhoods. What could have happened here? Half-Truths incubated. Ideas hatched. A novel slowly took shape. It changed. Got revised (many times!). Was reborn.
What did Carolyn mean when she gave Joyce that assignment? Possibly she was not only talking about an actual backyard but was also encouraging Joyce to reach inside of her own experiences to find something she could relate to and authentically show in her writing.
Let's face it. There might not be a compelling story about polio or pre-civil rights tension in your community, city, or state. Or, maybe you write science fiction or fantasy that's not even rooted in this continent or world--let alone in your neighborhood! How are you going to find that "backyard" story?
At the foot of Bakers Mountain and staring at Joyce's budding trees and the grass turning green I thought--my backyard is bigger than the crazy intersecting streets of Myers Park, NC. where my characters live.
For the first time on my blog, one fortunate blog reader will be able to pick which book in the Bakers Mountain Series they want to win! Leave me a comment by May 11 to enter this giveaway and tell me which book you are interested in. U.S. addresses only. Make sure you leave me your full name and email address if you are new to my blog.
Make sure you check out the other great books on Greg Pattridge's MMGM blog!