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?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Rhymes for Young Ghouls: When Fiction Turns Fierce

These are "stills" from the Canadian award-winning movie RHYMES FOR YOUNG GHOULS, coming to our local "arts cinema," Catamount Arts, on October 31 (through Nov. 6). The Halloween timing will fit the photo you see above -- but this movie has a lot more to do with Vermont, and my book The Darkness Under the Water, than you might have guessed.

Discovering the horrors of Vermont's home-grown eugenics project, which targeted Vermonters of Abenaki (Native American) heritage in the 1930s, pushed me to write The Darkness Under the Water. What was difficult for me to confront -- the betrayal and medical crippling inflicted by our own mostly fair-minded state -- remains much more terrible and present for those whose families suffered in person from this. It was also the reason Vermont's tribal presence became silenced for decades. Census takers in 1980 recorded the state as "empty" of Native Americans; in 1990, when some measure of safety had been restored, so people could answer more honestly, the Census takers (naive!) asked, "Where did all these Native Americans come from all of a sudden?!"

Back to the movie: Filmmaker Jeff Barnaby confronts the parallel racism and oppression that were taking place in Canada, with a very up-to-date and eerily believable "revenge fantasy" film, as a pot-dealing "native" teen takes aim at the Indian Act and the local Indian agent who is threatening to place her in a residential school. If you like your history served up current, with a generous dash of dark humor and good performance, this could be your film. I know it's one I'm going to see (with thanks to Mr. Aldredge at Catamount for the effort of bringing it through the international network).

And if it makes you angry in the long run, about the treatment of Canada's "First Peoples" and our own -- I'll be glad.

Trailer here.

Globe and Mail review here.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

A Visit to the Library -- by Five of Us! Are You Coming, Too?

Sometimes Vermont is a very, very small state. Vermont authors run into each other often -- at tea or coffee, or online, or at the library or the town clerk's office.

Peacham, Vermont, memoir writer Gary Schoolcraft found the same idea in this that I found at about the same time: Let's get together on purpose.

So, half a dozen of us (changing in number depending who's available when) are jointly providing author events, selling books at yard sales and county fairs, and even marketing online sometimes (Gary has his Green Mountain Books Sales site just warming up).

And this coming week, on Thursday, we'll be at the best library in the state -- well, it's my own town library, so it means a lot to me! -- the lovely Davies Memorial Library in the "White Village" of Lower Waterford, Vermont. (You can learn more about the White Village and other local treasures here: http://waterford-vt-history.blogspot.com.) 

Here's the info -- hope you can join us!

Thursday, September 18th at 6:30 pm -- Local Author Round Table

History.  Mystery. Nature and the environment.  Fiction. Non-fiction. Poetry.  All set in our very own backyard!  Join us on Thursday, September 18th at 6:30 for a Local Author Round Table!

Authors Gary Schoolcraft, Tanya Sousa, Beth Kanell, Jerry Johnson and Alec Hastings will be on hand to discuss their writing- what, why and how they write followed by a discussion between author and reader alike.  Their books will be available at the event- read below for a brief bio of each of our guests.  All are welcome- see you there!

Gary Schoolcraft's book "When Kids Were Allowed to Be Kids" is a best-seller in our area. He describes his collection of remembered adventures as "a humorous look at life in the small Vermont town of Peacham during the late ’50′s and all of the ’60′s as seen through the eyes of a kid that was there." He shares snips from the book at his Facebook page, and has a website, http://www.greenmountainbooksales.com.

Tanya Sousa of Coventry is an award-winning author of environmental and agricultural children's books, novels, stories and essays. She specializes in topics focusing on human interaction with other living things/the environment - her most recent work is the ecological novel, "The Starling God", which has received five-star reviews to date from readers from all walks of life and around the country. Readers' comments and more may be found on the publisher's website page for the book: http://www.forestrypressproducts.com/the-starling-god-by-tanya-sousa/.

Beth Kanell of Waterford writes Northeast Kingdom adventure novels, with a touch of both mystery and history. So far, they've been set in North Danville, St. Johnsbury, and Waterford, and this year she finished a Barnet book and a "teen sleuth" book set in Montpelier. She shares her research and writing life at bethkanell.blogspot.com, and visits schools and libraries to tell tales of the true (and often criminal!) history behind her novels.

Jerry Johnson of Craftsbury is a well-published poet whose wish came true when he wrote "Up the Creek Without a Saddle": His dream was fulfilled when Vermont’s legendary master musicians, Jon Gailmor and Pete Sutherland, took 16 of his book’s 99 poems and set them to music. A beautiful CD of their songs comes with the book for free. It is Jerry’s gift back to Vermont, those who love the Green Mountain State, and people anywhere who love the natural world. Jerry’s books and background can be found at his website, www.vtpoet.com.

Alec Hastings just retired from teaching in Bethel, Vermont. To encourage adventurous reading among his students, especially the boys, he wrote the novel "Otter St Onge and the Bootleggers," which he describes as "a rip-snorting tale of Vermont moonshine smugglers during the Flood of '27." His connections to the area include his father's grandparents, who farmed in McIndoe Falls.

Contact the library at 748-4609 or davieslibraryvt@gmail.com for more information.


Sunday, September 7, 2014

What the Young Squirrel Showed to Me

Walking uphill on our dirt road on Friday, I noticed a very large and long "pinecone" that had been run over -- still mostly attached together, but fringed and shattered along its edges. Ten minutes later, headed back down the hill, I found this very young squirrel digging into it, extracting the protein-rich seeds.

The little squirrel (a red one) stayed on task and let me get closer than most adult squirrels permit. But finally he/she grabbed the biggest chunk of the cone and bounded off into the scrub and woods next to the road.

The squirrel's attention to the cone pushed me to wonder more about it. I looked up the cone today -- and that's why I put the term "pinecone" into quotation marks, as these fibrous seed carriers come on spruces and even birches, not just pines. But it does seem from my Audubon Society Field Guide to be a cone from a white pine.

I was really surprised to see the "cones" on birch twigs in the book. All these years admiring birches, and I've never looked at them closely enough to see what carries their seeds! A few pages later are photos of acorns; why didn't I even stop to notice that different kinds of oaks present different shapes and colors of acorns? Guess I was always just pleased to be able to say "oak" and "acorn."

As I look at the neighboring town of Lyndonville with intent to frame a YA mystery there (probably in 1898), I'm finding the same surprise at what I've walked or driven past without questioning, noticing, or naming. Lyndonville suffered two devastating fires in the first part of the 1900s, wiping out one side of its main street, then the other. Yet there are structures that date to 1898 on most of the "town center" streets. And only recently, my husband Dave (who lived in that town for two decades and has a great collection of postcard images of it) and I realized how many portions of the massive railroad complex from, say, 1855 to 1950 linger in town, repurposed or quietly shuttered and overgrown.


Soon I'll choose names for the teen and the two older women who'll make up the main characters of this book-being-planned. While those details come together, I'll also look around the town for traces that remain of the people I'm envisioning. I've already seen evidence of their lives (the real ones, not my fictional versions) in Census documents and 1890s advertisements.  Crafting a good story from these "seeds" means paying attention to the names and existence of what's already there.

Thanks, Red Squirrel. You've got me asking questions and seeking answers. Way to go.