In the writing room right now ...

In the writing room right now ... I have taken down the brown "butcher" paper that held ideas, photos, drawings, and my hand-drawn maps and plot outlines for the past five or six books. I've placed all those items into three-ring binders, and cleared the deck for paintings and photographs that involve courage, as I move forward in GHOSTKEEPER, the new novel set in Lyndonville, Vermont. My 1850 Vermont adventure THE LONG SHADOW is under contract with Five Star/Cengage -- I will give you a publication date as soon as I know! Scribbling lots of poems, too. And there's a possible route to publication of the "Vermont Nancy Drew" novel I built on Wattpad (see right-hand column). Yes, I guess I do like multi-tasking! How about you?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Autumn Adventure from Texas Librarian Analine Johnson

Remember the video trailer for The Darkness Under the Water, crafted by Texas librarian Analine Johnson? (It's in the righthand column here on the blog.) Analine wrote today with a Big Announcement! I'll let her tell you in her own words:

Hi Beth, I Have great news to share with you. I don't know if you follow the School Library Journal but they are holding their very first 'Book Trailee Awards'. I'm so excited to share with you that my trailer for The Darkness Under the Water has been nominated for the category: adult created for secondary. I need your vote! So please spread the word. Voting started today and will end on October 22nd. Winners will be  announced that evening at School Library Journal Leadership Summit on the Future of Reading in Chicago, IL.

http://www.schoollibraryjournal.com/slj/home/887006-312/school_library_journal_trailee_awards.html.csp

Analine Johnson
Librarian
Rodolfo Centeno Elementary
Laredo, Texas


I hope you'll vote for the trailer, and spread the word. Who knows? We are one of only 24 trailers selected for the finals!!

Thursday, September 23, 2010

American Library Association "Banned Books Week" and Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK

Eleven years after publication, Laurie Halse Anderson's YA novel SPEAK is under attack again -- but this time, defenders of the book and the right to read freely are speaking up more clearly than ever, thanks to social media like Twitter and Facebook.

To read the ALA explanation of "Banned Books Week," Sept. 25-Oct. 2, click here.

For School Library Journal's interview with author Anderson, click here.

And here's the synopsis from the back of SPEAK, where the protagonist has been raped -- a far cry from what its critics are labeling "pornography":

Melinda Sordino busted and end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so her old friends won’t talk to her, and people she doesn’t know hate her from a distance. It’s no use explaining to her parents; they’ve never known what her life is really like. The safest place for Melinda to be is alone, inside her own head. But even that’s not safe. Because there’s something she’s trying not to think about, something about the night of the party that, if she admitted it and let it in, would blow her carefully constructed disguise to smithereens. And then she would have no choice. Melinda would have to speak the truth.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Perspective: Now Is Not Then

The photograph here of an "elderly Chinese man with queue" (as it is described on a California website that doesn't identify the photographer or source) got me thinking in a different way about the (very real) basement laundry space owned by Sam Wah in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, from 1886 to 1921. Mr. Wah's murder, officially unsolved, is one of the centers for the background history of my book in progress, Cold Midnight. Knowing his shop was in a basement -- and knowing the damp fierce chill of most downtown basement spaces here in Vermont today -- originally gave me the sense that his shop location reflected both bias against strangers, and cheap rent available for unwanted shop space.

But at the start of last summer, I toured Boston's Chinatown, courtesy of the Chinese Historical Society of New England, and saw the many businesses that utilized cellar spaces. In fact, there seemed to be a loose arrangement of industrial-type businesses (like a print shop) in the basements, grocery stores and restaurants in first-floor rooms (slightly higher up than sidewalk level), and meeting spaces and residences above those.

Reflecting on this photo reminds me: Don't assume that a basement space meant the same thing to a Chinese immigrant in 1886 that it means to a downtown merchant today.

That's a crucial attitude to keep fresh during historical research and while writing: Now is not the same as then. And that's why the original material -- in this case especially, the writings in the local paper about Mr. Wah and his business, as well as the narratives that today's Chinatown residents share -- are so important.