Sunday, May 29, 2011

write on!

It's not that I don't want to post more often - because I do. It's just that I spend very little time online right now. When I do get a chance to use the laptop I realize how disconnected I've become to the online world of children's writers.

All's not lost, though. I'm working on a new project, I have a great new critique group, and I'm reading some very good books. Just finished Miriam Toews' new release, Irma Voth, and loved it. I like the way her story developed, closer and closer to the SECRET and then it's out and everything else falls into place. Miriam Toews was writer-in-residence at our local library a few years past - just before her breakthrough novel, A Complicated Kindness, was released and she was most encouraging and supportive with my then unpublished manuscript of my first book.
(I say first - fingers crossed and working hard - so that it will not, hopefully, be my only published book.) Toews' writing is funny, smart and oh so sensitive. I keep hoping that if I read enough great books, I'll eventually write one. On the other hand, reading a great book is a reward in itself.

Besides the reading, writing, and critiquing, there's also a garden to be edited (or weeded, watered, and talked to). There are various young people drifting through my house - usually in a hurry - looking for food, socks, head phones, rides, car keys - or even - a bit of encouragement.

Then there's the day job. Big changes in the last month. It's a good thing I like walking because with my new route I'm walking two hours more a day. You know what they say, what doesn't break you, only makes you stronger. I feel strong. But all I really want to do is get my next book published. So, write on, I shall.

Happy writing, reading, editing, and gardening to everyone.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Wretched Land Review

This decade-spanning saga of a family in eastern Ukraine begins in 1907 and ends with Ukraine's independence in 1991. The story follows the lives of Dmytro and Khrystina Verbitsky and is based on the lives of the author's grandparents. They lived through several famines (including the Holodomor), the Bolshevik Revolution, WWII, the death of Stalin, and finally the slow disintegration of the USSR.

The book was a page-turner. The story is very well-written and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in this era of history. There's a lot of the historical framework added so that the reader understands the bigger context and not just this particular family's experiences. My only quibble would be that I'd have liked a family tree added. The Verbitsky couple had such a large family and I had trouble keeping track of them. I had to keep turning back and forth to remind myself.

But quibble aside, the book is full of positive vibes, in spite of much sadness. It's obvious that a lot of soul went into the creation of this work. On more than one occasion I was brought to tears. One example is during the German retreat when the collective's barn is set ablaze and Khrystina almost dies.

Another profound moment is right near the end of the book after the war. It's peacetime now, yet the family is still having difficulties. Khrystina says, "What's wrong with out children, Dymtro? Why are they so cruel to other people?" And Dymytro replies, "Nothing is wrong with our children. It's the war. It has made them cruel."

The book is brimming with wisdom and love in spite of personal tragedy. It's powerful stuff and I wish the author, Mila Komarnisky, much success with it.

Visit her website for more info. www.komarnisky.com

Monday, May 9, 2011