Wednesday, October 16, 2013

In Which Kirby Larson and "Story" Disagree

I am utterly thrilled to welcome my friend Kirby Larson to the blog today. As most (if not all) of you know, Kirby is a super-kind person and a super-brilliant author. To express my sincere thanks for this witty guest post, I am giving away one copy each of Kirby's most recent books:


(sequel to Kirby's Newbery Honor-winning book Hattie Big Sky)

To enter the giveaway, simply leave a comment below this post stating which book you'd like to win. Be sure to include your email so I can reach you. I'll announce the winners on Friday. 

And now, without further ado, heeeeere's Kirby!


Did you know that until about 1910, before bridges and train tubes, the only way to get to the Big Apple from most of the continental United States was via ferry? I didn’t either until I was digging around in history for my latest work-in-progress. Duh, Kirby: Manhattan Island! (Never pick me for your team if geography is involved).

Captivated by this notion, I mulled over old photos of the ferries, and the dashingly suited men and glorious hatted women riding them. My imagination had a field day. Just think of chugging across the North River (now Hudson River), all the while watching the Hoboken Terminal loom larger and larger into view.

I was so taken with this notion that, the next thing I knew, I wrote a ferry scene in my WIP. I even tapped into all the five senses! Gosh, it was fun.

Until Story tapped me on the shoulder, rubbing its head. “Excuse me,” it said. “I was traipsing along my arc at a pretty good clip and suddenly I crashed into this.” Story pointed at an inky block of text. The ferry section. “Do you know where in the heck it came from?”

I blushed, shrugged. “I might have an idea how it got there,” I said.

“You put there?” Story asked, rubbing a goose egg on its forehead. “Right in my way?”

“But it’s fascinating,” I said. “Think about it: People couldn’t reach one of the biggest cities in the world without crossing a river!”

“And?” Story pressed.

“Well, think of the color. The smell of the river. The chug of the ferry engine. The grime of the coal powered steam engines.” I tried not to sound too defensive. “It’s part of history. Facts are good.”

 “Okay. Sure. I’ll grant you that.” Story nodded. “Maybe I should’ve seen it coming. It’s not like this is the first time something like this has happened when you’re writing. But, to be perfectly honest, I’m having a hard time figuring out how this whole ferry scenario fits in.”   

I stared at the keyboard, pondering my reply. I glanced back up at the monitor and re-read the ferry scene. Story was right. Simply because this fact about ferry travel to New York City was fascinating, it wasn’t fair of me to shoehorn it in. To put it right in Story’s way. “Can I leave it, just for awhile longer?” I asked. I cringed at how whiny my voice sounded. “Maybe I can find a way to work it in so you won’t even know it’s there. This is only a first draft. Let me see what I can do.”

Long-suffering Story sighed. “I guess I don’t have any choice,” Story said. “Could you do me one favor though?”


“I could really use an aspirin.” Story rubbed its head again. “And maybe a helmet. I know how you are with those fascinating facts.”

This true story is brought to you by Kirby Larson, author of Hattie Big Sky, Hattie Ever After, The Fences Between Us, The Friendship Doll and Duke. Kirby is a founding member of the Just Say No to Expository Lumps Society. She may have once written an entire chapter about baking bread in a wood stove. (Thank goodness for critique groups and editors.)

Monday, October 14, 2013

I've been MIA because...

It feels like forever since I've been on Twitter or the blog or any form of social media. Email has been neglected. Housework has been neglected. Family has been neglected. Lately anything that doesn't involve staring at a laptop screen while simultaneously hearing voices in my head has been woefully neglected. Why?

Because I sold my second book.

I'm terribly excited, but also terribly terrified. I sold this novel, again to Michelle Poploff at Delacorte, on a single sample chapter and an outline on August 21. It will release early 2015. I have been working like mad to put together a readable draft--due on November 1.

Here is the one-sentence summary: A young white girl and her black best friend fight to protect their taboo interracial friendship amidst the KKK attacks and North Smithfield bombings of 1949 Alabama.

The book is tentatively titled STANDING TALL ON MULBERRY HILL. Like EVERY DAY AFTER, this story was also inspired by family events--though this time the inspiration arose from my maternal rather than paternal grandmother.

Why did I take so long to announce the sale?

Because as I said, I was (and am) terribly terrified--and terribly superstitious. I didn't want to jinx anything by opening my big mouth too soon. I first thought I would announce the sale once the contract arrived. Then I thought I would announce the sale once Random House had received the signed contract. Then I thought I would announce the sale once I had finished the first draft. (Are you sensing my fine skill at procrastination?)

All of the above have been achieved--by a couple of weeks. So why have I finally decided to announce the sale?

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend some time with Michelle on Friday. She came into Birmingham as a faculty member for our regional SCBWI conference. Michael and I picked her up at the airport and took her on a mini-tour of Birmingham, showing her many of the historical sites that are relevant to this new story. She mentioned that she would discuss both EVERY DAY AFTER and my forthcoming book at the conference. I figured if she was going to talk publicly about the book then I was being overly analytical (and overly superstitious) about the announcement.

So I have officially announced. Finally. Fingers double and triple crossed all goes smoothly with this next book and, more importantly, that I can do the heavy subject matter justice.

Michelle and me standing in Kelly Ingram Park in Birmingham. Directly behind us is the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. In the background to the right is the 16th Street Baptist Church where four little girls were killed by a KKK bomb on September 15, 1963. To our left is a gorgeous memorial to the four girls. It is the work of Elizabeth McQueen and is called "Four Spirits". One girl is releasing doves in remembrance of two boys who were also murdered that same day--16 year-old Johnny Robinson and 13 year-old Virgil Ware.