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?

Monday, August 22, 2011

Autumn in the Air! Research on the Desk ...

After a sweaty day yesterday, and a warm bright start to the morning today, the wind has shifted and it's now a sweater day. The robins nesting under my window finally persuaded their second brood to fly last week. I suspect the small-ish ones still pecking their way across the backyard are the newly grown flyers, feeding up before heading south next month.

Life's been wildly busy. Three more writers in my "circle" are celebrating plans for Voyage -- the Brigantine Media fiction imprint that's published The Secret Room -- to publish their books next year. It's exciting to see fiction taking off for press owners Neil and Janis.

Meanwhile, we're just 18 days from the launch party for The Secret Room (at St. Johnsbury Athenaeum on Friday Sept. 9, at 4 p.m. -- come if you can!), and lots of other events are lining up. The Amazon page for the book is "live" and I've started a discussion there; there's a review button, too, for those of you with advance copies. So far, the page has some small frustrations, including how long Amazon claims it would take for a copy of the book to ship. Neil will try to straighten that out, but meanwhile, if timing matters, please take advantage of the "Buy the Book" button in the right-hand top corner of this page, and Neil and Janis's team will get your copy right out to you, directly from the publishing house.

More busy-ness: F.D. (my collaborator on this summer's novel) and I are probably in the last stretch of the first draft of Opal of the Mountains. And I'm using some careful study of other authors' choices around character depiction, to polish Cold Midnight (that's the novel set in 1921).

Most important of all, I've found online the journal of an African American man who lived in Vermont in the 1700s, and whose experience of "freedom" here was mixed, to say the least. It's an important baseline for The Secret Room and other books that deal with the Underground Railroad in Vermont, because it sheds a vivid light on the declaration heard so often here, "Vermont was against slavery from the start. In fact, Vermont's state Constitution even banned slavery."

Well, yeah -- it did. But you know about fine print, right? Vermont's fine print was, "no adult slavery." Look at what that meant for Boyrereau Brinch when he settled down in Vermont with his wife and had children ... http://docsouth.unc.edu/neh/brinch/brinch.html -- oh, my aching heart. There's a lot of injustice in the world, even in the places we think are most fair and free.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three Moons of Summer

Photo taken in Finland by rosipaw -- thank you for letting this photo be reused!
Last month, for a poetry reading north of here, I wrote a poem in the voice of Thea, Shawna's best friend in The Secret Room. The poem "takes place" in the summer after the year described in the book; it will be part of how the sequel opens up. (Yes, that's the real writing life -- The Secret Room will finally be available for purchase on 9-10-11, and if the sequel's going to come out appropriately, it has to get written this fall!) I'm sharing the poem today because it fits into some discussion we're having on the Facebook teacher group for the book, but it's a bit too long to place in a Facebook post (smile!). Here it is:


The Three Moons of Summer

There are more than three, of course: one for tonight,
its faint sorrow hanging over the cornfield,
one for the next night, slim and pale,
as though throwing up dinner made her into
a waxed princess, faint but glowing. Thea knows
there are more than three moons in summer. 
Summer lasts almost forever.

Across the road, close enough to hear
if she yelled from her window, her best friend sleeps.
It’s so unfair. Shouldn’t your best friend know
when you’re crying? With wet eyes, the moon doubles.
Great. Now there are two moons in one night.
And the stars blur, and Thea’s chest aches,
her nose is dripping from crying.

What can you do when nobody comes
to hold you when you cry? Thea blows her nose.
Wipes her eyes. Counts, the way her friend says
some people count their blessings.

One moon for June, the strawberry moon,
when school ended. The moon tide pulled
the peepfrogs into song, pulled summer into place.
One moon for hope and swimming in the lake.

The second moon is July: round and golden,
heavy, thick, like something you eat for dessert
that lingers in your stomach all night. Thea sits straight
at the windowsill, pinches her arm, silver with moonlight,
pinches the places he didn’t kiss. Another tear
leaks down her cheek. Ignore it.

One more moon, the one for August. Corn on the cob,
and clothes for school. Everyone comes back
from their vacations. So will that boy.  Dry now,
Thea takes a long breath. Decision settles
light as moonshadow in her hands. She’ll tell.
She’ll tell her best friend what happened.

But only when the night is dark, when rain-clouds cover
the way-too-beautiful stars and moons of summer.

Beth Kanell
2011

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fiction and History in the Classroom

An unusual view of Stamford, New York.
While I'm revising The Long Shadow and Cold Midnight, and writing a first draft of another book, I'm also counting down the days until THE SECRET ROOM is released, on 9-10-11 (I love that date! perfect for number lovers everywhere).

Because Shawna and Thea explore a mystery with roots in their town's history, the publisher (Janis and Neil at Voyage) and I have been corresponding with teachers about using this book in the classroom.

Here's a Middle Grades suggestion from Candice Gockel in Stamford, NY, a 5th/6th grade teacher: "I see this novel as a great jumping off point for a local history project. I think my students would be swept up in the excitement of possibly uncovering local mysteries, as well as providing great hands-on research and learning opportunities for my students."

I took a quick look and found a history of Stamford -- whose early settlers had ties to Stamford, Connecticut.  There are some intriguing gaps in the history I found: enlistment for the Civil War, but what was happening in town during the Underground Railroad years? Why was the first newspaper founded in 1851? I can imagine a mystery taking place that relied on who was publishing the paper and what his motives were! And another that takes into account the villages of the town, the differences between them, the way families settled. Plus, because the town is in the Catskills, there must be stories of the tourists and summer residents, including some from various ethnic groups that could be surprising. Wow!

If you're looking for possible "local mysteries" for your class to investigate, let me know where you are and I'll suggest some possible "mysteries in history" for your students.  Same offer for book groups -- tell me where you are, and I'll "investigate" and report!