Saturday, December 27, 2008

Teaching HIstory through Fiction

Authorsnow! has passed on a Scholastic link about teaching historical fiction in the classroom. The article's author, Terry Lindquist, teaches grade five social studies. Grade five and six kids are at that amazing point in life where they want to know and they have the basic skills to engage in meaningful feedback. I was totally impressed with the engagement of a grade six class when I first 'tested' my fledgling manuscript of The Kulak's Daughter.  

Two points she addresses, especially caught my attention. First, Ms.Lindquist says "it puts people back in history." Focusing on one character's point of view as historical events unfold demonstrates the 'seven blind mice' principle. 

The other point that she mentions, and I'd like to stress, is that historical fiction can present 'the complexity of issues.'  We'd all love to have events and people clearly defined as good or bad - but the truth is always a bit more difficult to find. And in the end, we want kids to see themselves as part of an ever-developing history. After all it's ourstory and it's incredibly dynamic. 

Word of the day: dynamic-pertaining to energy or power in motion, relating to tending towards change  (as opposed to: static)

Friday, December 26, 2008

Another Christmas at the hospital

My mom fell again, and fractured her pelvis. Poor mom. She's at the stage where getting in or out of bed is risky.  

While she recovers in the hospital, my brother and I will try to get her into a nursing home which means we have to go through a 'panelling' process.  'Panelling' involves various professionals who have to assess and approve her placement into our province's nursing home system. And everyone knows the stresses involved when dealing with a bureaucracy. 

Hopefully, it'll be sooner rather than later, so that my mom will feel safe and secure. I want her to be able to enjoy the release of my book - or should I say - her book.

Thanks to all the people who work over Christmas - the paramedics, the nurses, etc. Society is a complex place and it's great when it all works. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Christmas Past


I'm stuck in history - always looking back. This time of year it's my own history I remember. 23 years ago, on a snowy December night, my husband drove into a greyhound bus. Our six month old daughter's baby seat had been just moved, the week before, to the back seat. (In those days rear-facing infant car seats were allowed in the front.) That saved her. 

I'd just come off maternity leave and was still nursing my babe. I was eager to get home from work and relieve my full breasts. And when my ride home never came, the fear that grew in my gut was powerful. 

The weeks that followed are etched into my memory as permanent history. They didn't think he'd live through the first night. But because my blood-covered baby was going to be all right, I could face his uncertainties. The coma, the rehab, the future ... it was possible because my baby was okay. She gave me such strength.

Her first Christmas was wonderful and horrible at the same time. The man who emerged from the two week coma was nobody I knew. His infantile behavior was frightening. He tore open gifts like a toddler - unable to be interested in what was inside - . But I don't want to get into the recovery process. We always looked forward and were in complete denial of the long term effects of traumatic brain injury.

It's a long 23 year story and I don't want to go on about it, but just want to say, I remember the shock of walking through a pre-Christmas shopping mall and being assaulted by the Christmas muzac, by the lights (that weren't on medical machines) and by the frivolity of shoppers. The memory of that loneliness, of not being part of Christmas, has stayed with me. 

And so I wish everyone, not a merry Christmas, but a peaceful and safe one. Drive carefully and enjoy the gift of the 'present.'  And to the 'outsiders' of Christmas 2008 ... all  I can offer is a warm, well-intentioned touch of empathy. Peace.
 

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Bookwormed

I've been bookwormed by Marsha Skrypuch  This means I'm supposed to:
1. Open the closest book - not a favorite or most intellectual book - but the book closest at the moment, to page 56
2) Write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five sentences following
3) tag five innocents (or more)
4) Do the same for your manuscript.

So here goes.
The book is Stacy Nyikos's Dragon Wishes, page 56
      
The faint smell of roasted garlic noodles and hot sin chicken still hung in the air.
"I'll, um, I'll babysit Lori and Isa. We don't need Mrs. Chen. I can do it. Really."
"That is a large responsibility. Ah-lex. So much time. When would you do your homework" Auntie Ling asked.
Alex looked at Isa.

Ah, and now the innocent victims. I shall pass this forward to  


And here's a wip from years ago that I've dredged out of a drawer (It should no doubt stay there - but there's a publisher looking for sports stories with an end-of-the-year deadline and so I figured I'd polish this a bit and send it out - I'm totally more into the historical fiction mindset at the moment.)
page 56 from "Lost for Words"
"Hey, Keith, it's me, Dino. You remember me." Dino speaks loudly and slowly.
Keith keeps grinning.
Dino doesn't grin back. Instead, he looks over at Keith's mom. Her face looks like a happy face sticker, except for the tears in her eyes.
Smashing a soccer ball against the pink wall of this room would feel so good about now.


Saturday, December 20, 2008

Reading more books

I've added two more books to my 2008 reading list. The Unnameables by Ellen Booraem came out in October. Ellen and I were online classmates a year ago. The Unnameables is the kind of book that nourishes you for a long while. It's the kind of book you chew and mull over like dark, whole grain bread. It's fantasy and it's philosophy. It's funny and whimsical. Great read; great pondering.

Another book I've just finished is an advanced reader copy (arc) I picked up at TLA last April. Life in the Pit by Kristen Landen now has a new cover, I see. Both work for me. There seems to be a preference in publishing nowadays (especially for young adult) to have photographs on covers rather than drawings. I really liked the main character in this book and her best friend issues. Totally believable and another really great read.

As the year draws to an end, a pile of still unread books gathers dust on my shelf.  In some ways, I guess I've failed. I haven't even read all the class of 2k8 books - yet, and my one-book-a- week goal remains unfulfilled. But one book every two weeks isn't bad, either. So I'll focus on the positive, and say I've had an incredibly enlightening and mind-altering year of reading. Books are my life and it's quality not quantity that matters.

As long as there are books, I'd say, the world has hope - no matter what the economy. 

Monday, December 15, 2008

tough mom

I spent the day in the emergency ward at the Vic instead of facing -30 C. (plus windchill= -49) weather that my mail carrier job was offering me. Honestly, I'd take the weather. Bringing my almost 90 year old mom to the hospital is a reality experience that's tough. Getting old is brutal.

I haven't got the 'nursing personality'. What do I mean by that? Perhaps, that I'm a bit impatient - the kind of person who's always in a hurry and who's been lucky, so far, to have pretty good health.

My mom's been through so much - Stalin's collectivization, orphan-hood, Hitler's war, gulag inhabitant TWICE, then a new country, a new culture, etc. And when I see her body failing after nine decades of fighting to stay alive, I'm awed by her spirit, her fight to survive.

I think she has a few more years in her yet. Any person who's eaten dirt just to live has got to be tough.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

class of 2k9

I see the Class of 2k9 has launched their website. It's totally vibrant. Lots of color and a very appetite stimulating approach. (Book appetite, that is.) I wish them every success and will follow my could-have-been classmates (there are 22, I think) with interest (and yes, a bit of yearning). All that work that they've done, and continue to do, will no doubt create a bond that'll continue throughout their careers.

The AuthorsNow! website now includes a map so you can see that this is really an all inclusive site with new authors spread across North America. (Technology still leaves me totally in awe.) At last count, I heard that there are 96 authors listed (including picture books).

In spite of technology's amazing way to bond us authors through websites, blogs and such, it pales in comparison to the magic of books. Aren't they one of the most powerful ways to share ideas, to escape, and to create change? They're portable, don't need recharging and are quite user-friendly. The online world is only a tool to get to the inside-a-book world where imagination, and not technology, rules.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Launch of AuthorsNow!

Cynthea Liu is superwoman.  I'm not sure where in the world she lives -(methinks, maybe Chicago?), but in this strange new world of the internet she lives at www.authorsnow.com.

And I'm thrilled to be able to share that web address with dozens of other 2009 debut novelists. It's a place to connect with books, authors, and readers. 

As a class of 2k8 dropout (because of a change in my release date) I know that there are many benefits of collective marketing and the internet makes it so easy.

Because I'm a luddite when it comes to computer stuff, I feel so fortunate to have connected with the creator of Author's Now!  Thank you, Cynthea, for letting me particpate.

So please click on www.authorsnow.com and find out who's publishing what, where, and when.
(Including, of course, The Kulak's Daughter.)

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

old music

My family background is full of Naziism and Soviet communism. (Just in case you haven't noticed, since I do blab on about it a lot on this blog.) And I've focusing on my mom's childhood, what with my kids' novel coming out and all, but this evening I got totally sidetracked with some music from my dad's youth. Here's a link in case you're curious.

My dad had a lot of 78 records that I probably listened to more than he ever did. Man, the internet is just the most amazing place. The Reeperbahn featured in this Hans Albers song is the red light district of Hamburg. I got to stroll a bit of it back when I was young and traveling through Europe.