Congratulations to Sandra Warren who won my ARC of BE LIGHT LIKE A BIRD. In this week's post, Monika Schroeder provides some behind the scenes information about writing her newest middle grade novel AND offers an autographed copy as a giveaway.
CAROL: I’m curious about the backstory behind this book. It’s very different than your previous books and I’m wondering how you got interested in the topic of landfills. Why Michigan? Do you have a personal connection to the area or the topic?
MONIKA: My husband is from Michigan and we inherited a cabin that his father built on an island in the Upper Peninsula. (We actually got married there.) Here is an excerpt of my answer regarding the setting I gave for an interview with School Library Journal:
"I often start a book with setting. The 'seed idea' for Be Light Like a Bird came to me the first time I saw a landfill. My husband and I had cleaned out the cabin my husband inherited from his father in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. I couldn't believe it when he drove all the stuff to a landfill nearby, a big hole where people bury unwanted items. In Germany we recycle or incinerate most of our garbage, so it left an impression on me when I saw a guy dropping a vacuum cleaner, a book shelf and an entire carpet into this landfill...a cemetery for junk.
I learned more about this landfill and read about the people in the community who had fought its expansion. Then I asked myself a "What if...?" question: What if there were a girl who loved birds and whose bird watching was threatened by the expansion of the landfill? Once I had that girl in my mind I found myself asking more and more about her life. How did she get to Michigan's Upper Peninsula? And why was birding so important to her? I learned that her father had recently died and that her mother had more or less dragged her up north. She was grieving and lonely and once she arrived in Upper Michigan she came up with a plan to make her mother stay. From there the story of Wren developed."
CAROL: How did you come across the turtle and Native American connection? I assume that is true? It definitely adds another dimension to the book.
MONIKA: In my research I found articles that mention the ceremonial use of turtle shell rattles among Chippewa Indians and several archaeological sites around the Great Lakes contained fragments of turtle shells. I did, however, not find any written evidence of the excavation of a Native American burial site on the Upper Peninsula with such rattles. I had read stories in the paper about constructions sites for road building in the area having to be stopped after possible Native artifacts or remains were found.
I called the former head of the Sault Tribe Office of Cultural Repatriation in Sault Ste. Marie, MI and asked him about the shell. He said in our phone conversation that turtle rattles were used for many purposes but they also were burial gifts and under the right soil conditions they could survive and be found.
The article the librarian finds and uses in the council meeting remains fictional, but I think that is okay, given the possibility of such findings.
If you haven't already, you can read my review of Be Light Like a Bird on last week's blog. Plus, Monika is generously giving away an autographed copy; leave me a comment by October 20 for a chance to win. If you are new to this blog or share this on social media, I'll enter your name twice. Please, let me know what you do and leave your email address if I don't have it.