Saturday, June 25, 2022

BLUE WILLOW: A Book that Lillie and Kate Read-- Part II and Insight into Revision

 Back in 2014, I posted this:

As some of my faithful blog readers know, my story includes Lillie and Kate uncovering a china cup that belongs to both their families. Over the process of writing Half-Truths, I've played with different china patterns. My friend and writing mentor, Joyce Moyer Hostetter, suggested the popular Blue Willow pattern. When I posted this picture on Facebook, several friends commented about their grandmothers' collections. 


Becky Levine and Joyce chimed in that I really needed to read the book, Blue Willow, which they remembered from their own childhoods. After reading it I realized I'd found a book that both girls would have enjoyed and a story that could provide a rich subtext for Half-Truths.


Winner of the Newbery Honor in 1941, Blue Willow recounts the story of a family shaped by the Great Depression. Ten-year-old Janey Larkin longs for a permanent home for herself and for her most beloved possession, a blue willow china plate that belonged to her great-great-grandmother. Her father is an itinerant farm worker who struggles to support Janey and her stepmother.  When the family moves from one farm to another, the plate goes with them but stays packed away. "…never, Mrs. Larkin had declared long ago, would it be put out as a household ornament until they had a decent home in which to display it. In the meantime, it was kept sadly tucked away, a reminder of happier days before its owners had become wanderers in search of a livelihood." (p. 23)

Because the plate had belonged to Janey's mother, it had become a part of her memories that were mixed up with "Mother Goose rhymes and gay laughter and a home of their own.  And because the willow plate had once been a part of all this, it had seemed actually to become these things to Janey. It was the hub of her universe, a solid rock in the midst of shifting sands." (p.23)

That draft was from both girls' POVs. As I wrote in 2017, I returned to writing from Kate's POV alone.  In the current draft, Blue Willow china is still an important link between the girls. But my young beta readers and Deborah Halverson said that the china did not clearly reveal how the girls were related. If more than one reader has a problem with something in my manuscript--I need to fix it!

So, how to tackle this? I did some brainstorming and side writing. I started a new document and recorded every time I mentioned the china. That helped me to see the gaps where Blue Willow fell off the story radar and where I needed to build more connections between the china and the characters. 

I found several places where I could add internalization and dialogue showing Kate's assumptions and false conclusions. It was like figuring out where the puzzle pieces should fit. By the time I had worked through this brainstorming exercise, Blue Willow had gained more importance in the story. In the end, the girls discover how the china is the clue that solves their ancestry mystery.

This blog took a few hours to write. Inserting more information about the china connection took many more; it is just one of the story threads I am deepening in Half-Truths.

And that my friends, is what re-vision is all about. 

By the way, during a recent visit to Joyce's house, I ate from Blue Willow,


and discovered that the pattern adorns other things besides plates!




Do you have a favorite revision story? Or, maybe you enjoy Blue Willow too. Please share in the comments!






15 comments:

Rosi said...

The Blue Willow china is beautiful. We had some when I was young. I have no idea whatever happened to it. I'll be interested to see how this plays into your final story. Thanks for the post.

Marci said...

What a beautiful & thorough post. Your book sounds like it’ll be wonderful!! I look forward to reading it one day.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thank you, Marci!

Natalie Aguirre said...

That's great that you figured out how to fix the problem in your story. Yes, revisions can take a long time. I'm just about ready to start revising my current manuscript. I like revising more than writing the first draft, so I can't wait.

Valinora Troy said...

What a great story! That blue china pattern is really familiar to me too! The book sounds like it's coming together nicely too :)

Carol Baldwin said...

Blue Willow is popular in Australia too, Valinora? How cool!

Carol Baldwin said...

That's a good attitude, Natalie!

Jane Heitman Healy said...

BLUE WILLOW by Doris Gates was one of my favorite books as a kid. Our neighbors actually had Blue Willow china. Thanks for those memories AND for the good revision lesson--separate out the part you need to focus on and analyze it. Good work!

Rosie Russell said...

Our grandmother collected Blue Willow, too. I'd love to hear more about the story behind it.
Great post. Thanks for sharing.

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks Rosie. You can look up the story online!

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Jane! You will resonate with my Half-TRuths!

Greg Pattridge said...

Just when you think you're done... another idea to strengthen your story arrives. Thanks for the insights into your revision process.

Carol Baldwin said...

Very true, Greg!

DMS said...

I have always thought Blue Willow was beautiful. Sounds like your book is making progress! I love that another story helped you piece together more pieces of the editing puzzle. Interesting to learn about your revision process. It takes a lot of time, but is so worth it in the end. :) ~ Jess

Carol Baldwin said...

Thanks, Jess! I am trusting that you are right about revision!

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