Friday, October 28, 2011

Navigating My Blog

If you are new to this blog, you might not notice the tabs on top of the blog posts. If you click on "Half-Truths" you'll find past posts which document my progress in writing my historical novel. 

Click on "Writing Workshops" for a list of my writing workshops. I can tailor workshops to meet your students' needs.

Click on "Teaching the Story" to find out more information about my book and for some free reproducibles.

Click on "Talking Story" and you'll find a brief description of the newsletter which I publish bimonthly with Joyce Hostetter and directions on how to subscribe. 

I appreciate all of you who receive my blog notifications via e-mail and who follow this blog. Every once in awhile I sponsor giveaways for followers only. Follow now, and look for another giveaway soon!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Multi-Racial Read #7: The Color of Love

Sometimes there are books that speak for themselves. The Color of Love an autobiography of Gene Creek, "a blue-collar son of the South" is one of these. Gene's life-journey is noteworthy for one significant reason: in the Jim Crow South his mother, rejected by her alcoholic husband, fell in love with a black man. This book is the story that documents the life-changing events which then Gene experienced.

Gene recreated his family history as best as possible. Here are some excerpts:

Advice which he received from his maternal grandmother when Gene admitted to hating his father:
"Mean he is," Grandma said. "But you shouldn't hate him for it. People who hate other people are miserable people. There's enough hate in this world already, honey, especially here in the South. White people hate the colored and the colored hate the black." p. 127

When his mother revealed her love:
"You could have knocked me over with a feather. It was 1961; we lived in...the heart of Dixie. I knew to the southern man there was no greater sin than race mixing. The prevailing views of most white southerners concerning blacks where not news to me. I knew that the majority of the white world--including my father--considered blacks less than human." p. 145

"To me it boiled down to one simple issue: mama loved me, I loved her, and she loved this man [Tuck]. I'd heard it said in church. 'You have to walk it like you talk it.'... 'If you love this man and he loves you, then the color of his skin doesn't matter,' I said to Mama." p. 148

Reflecting on his anxieties the first visit to Tuck's house:
"On the night of my first visit with Tuck, I was as nervous as a cat in a room full of rocking chairs...A black man with a white woman and a white boy? Where could we go together that wouldn't trigger threats and admonishments and probable violence? We couldn't eat at a downtown restaurant or shop at the department store or stroll in the park together." p. 157

When white teenagers were harassing Tuck and his mother:
"'Don't worry, Tuck said. 'They can't do anything to us as long as we're in the car.' Somehow he remained calm. It occurred to me that this was nothing new to him. Getting cussed and chased by white men was just a way of life for most black men in the South." p. 164

A talk with Tuck:
"Tuck and I talked while Mama made supper. 'You know, I love America. I fought for this country during World War II. When we were fighting against the Nazis, I figured that we were fighting for freedom. We believed that we when we came back home we'd be treated as equals. But that didn't happen. In fact, in some ways it got worse. We couldn't even wear our uniforms in public when we got back. When I was discharged in 1946 the people at Fort Bragg told us not to leave the base in our uniforms because blacks were being beaten and stripped of their medals and even the buttons on their coats." p. 168

At the hearing when Gene was taken away from his mother after his step-brother, Randy, was born:
"What choice did she have? Had she admitted the truth--that Tuck was the Negro father of her son--she would be confessing to a felony according to North Carolina's anti-miscegenation laws. And if she was convicted of a felony, she and Tuck faced prison, and what would happen to Randy and me?" p. 209

Gene, Tuck, and Randy, 1962


This true story may seem unbelievable to those who are younger than I am. To be honest, as a person who grew up during this time period in the North, I also shook my head many times in disbelief. Gene's mother and Tuck were married in 1979--six years after North Carolina repealed the anti-miscegenation law. By then, I had graduated from college with no clue how one day I would be touched by this story. 

Gene concludes the book with his honest confession:

"While writing this book, I did gain understanding, and with it came forgiveness, but I have not forgotten. The facts are this will remain a part of my life, as long as there is life. I'm not sure complete healing is attainable. I don't think I will ever forget, and I'm not sure I should." p. 258

I, for one, am glad you didn't, Gene.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guest Blogger: Joy Rancatore on "The Book Whisperer"

Social media like Facebook enable you to become reacquainted with people you haven't seen or heard from in years. That was the case with Joy Rancatore, who I first knew when she was a young girl growing up in South Carolina. We connected a few years ago and I discovered that she's now a mother of two little ones, a writer, photographer, and homeschool mother.  

She recently posted this review on Goodreads and gave me permission to share it with you.

May I just say I would LOVE to meet Donalyn Miller, hang out with her at a local coffee shop and enjoy letting a latte grow cold as we discuss our love of books and share recommendations back and forth. Her conversational tone in The Book Whisperer made me feel as though I was having a discussion with a best friend. Many of her memories of growing up with her nose in a book conjured up flashbacks of my own childhood and brought smiles to my face and an occasional laugh.

If all teachers were like Donalyn Miller, I would stop homeschooling my children today! She encourages other teachers and administrators to allow children to read--freely and a lot--in order to make them book readers for life and, as an added bonus, do better on required standardized testing. Why is her opinion not more widely adopted as truth when, clearly, her methods work? I have known for years the road to success for everyone--whether they are a "natural" reader or not--is paved with hardcovers, paperbacks and e-books. In order to understand life, learn about the world around us and gather facts and skills necessary to everyday life, we MUST read! And, as Miller says, reading shouldn't be a school thing; it should be a life thing. I lost my passion for reading in high school and college amidst all the required reading and class-shared novels. It took me several years to rediscover the joys of reading for pleasure and purpose and, often, both at once!

While I am an advocate for the great need of better training in grammar and punctuation in schools, I agree with Miller that simply reading good literature serves as invaluable examples. I would love to find out more about how she approaches teaching these things or if that falls into another teacher’s block.

I jotted down several wonderful quotes from this book. Here is my favorite: "Reading changes your life. Reading unlocks worlds unknown or forgotten, taking travelers around the world and through time. Reading helps you escape the confines of school and pursue your own education. Through characters--the saints and sinners, real or imagined--reading shows you how to be a better human being." 18

I do have to include my opinion on the book as a whole. I thought Miller's content was outstanding and well-presented; however, I was disappointed to discover grammar and punctuation errors throughout the book. Also, the placement of some of the pull out materials and the references to them were confusing.

The Book Whisperer is a must-read for teachers, parents, school administrators and readers.

Joy grew up with a book in one hand and a pen in the other.
She presently lives in Slidell, La. 
Thank you Joy, for sharing this review.  The Book Whisperer reinforces my motto, "If you want to write, read!" 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

COMFORT: A Book Trailer that Will Leave You in Tears

I am so proud of Joyce Hostetter and her daughter Wendy Davis. 

Joyce, the author of BLUE and COMFORT, asked Wendy to create book trailers for both books. I shared the one for BLUE here. (If you haven't viewed it yet, do this first!) Now, watch the trailer posted below. Than mosey on over to Joyce's blog where you can enter to win this pair of books. 

Just don't forget the Kleenex.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Do You Know a North Carolina Poet?

Joy Acey, a prolific children's poet, recommended this mentoring opportunity for a North Carolina poet. If you know of a middle school, high school, college, or adult poet who might qualify, please forward this information. 

Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series

The 2011-2012 Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet for Eastern North Carolina is Michael White, who teaches in the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Wilmington. Dr. White will mentor a student poet at the middle school, high school, and college level as well as an adult student poet not affiliated with a college or university. Guidelines and application form for the student poet positions may be found at:

Applications, due by November 1, 2011, should be sent to Coordinator of the GCDP Series for the Eastern Region: Dr. Rebecca Godwin, Department of English and Modern Languages, Barton College, Box 5000, Wilson, NC 27893.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

In Which I Take My Own Advice

If you have taken a writing class with me, than you have heard me extol the virtues of the red pencil as your best friend. One of the themes of Teaching the Story is that revision happens on many levels. Writers must be ready to delete their "word treasures," rewrite  sentences, add or remove paragraphs, and sometimes condense pages and pages into one paragraph. There are times when a writer finishes a piece, only to realize that what she has completed isn't exactly what she wanted to say and must begin again. In addition, one change often necessitates changes in the entire work. 

I created the "Writing-Revising Cycle" to reflect this dynamic. Feel free to download this file and use it as your own reminder or use it with your students. 

As it turns out, I find myself in the middle of this writing/revising process with my own work-in-progress, Half-Truths. Having completed the first draft at the end of last year, I have been editing it chapter by chapter. Aware that some writers totally rewrite their work in the second draft, I was thinking I could avoid that step.

I was wrong.

As I mentioned in my last post, I recently attended the SCBWI-Carolinas conference. I was fortunate to have ten pages of my manuscript critiqued by Mary Cate Castellani. Her feedback was both encouraging and heart-stopping. She liked my writing and the voice of my two characters. But since the story's main characters are of different races, she thought it would be a more marketable work if I re-wrote it from the viewpoints of each character using alternating chapters.  

I had never thought of that. 

After feeling both shock and denial (I lost track of how many times I said to my writer friends, "I can't believe I have to start all over again!"), I began to re-plot my story.

Since I needed to "see" the entire story, I used white and striped note cards to show the alternating chapters. I laid it out on my dining room table. This is what I ended up with:

Having gone through the "Writing-Revising Cycle" many times, I'm now back at the beginning. But believe it or not, my dread has been replaced with excitement and energy. I agree with Ms. Castellani. I think my book will be far richer as a result.

Now, if you'll excuse me, Chapter 1 is waiting for me. 

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear from you. Where are you in the writing-revising cycle?

THE NIGHT WAR: A MG Historical Novel Review

  By now you should have received an email from my new website about my review of THE NIGHT WAR by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley. (It'll com...