Why Writers Need to be Listeners

In this world there are talkers and there are listeners. A writer is both. Many may not agree with me, but here are my thoughts on this.

A few months back, a friend and I spent the afternoon together. About half-way into our visit she said, “I’m doing all the talking.” And it was true, I suppose. But seriously, I didn’t mind. I was simply enjoying listening to what she had to say. It had been awhile since we’d last talked. I knew what was going on in my life. I wanted to hear about hers.

What my friend didn’t know is that all writers talk and most times we’re the centre of the conversation, and…. monopolize? Oh yeah, we monopolize alright since there’s usually no one else around, we, and our characters, are the centre of our attention.

Writers do a good deal of talking in their heads. We talk to our characters and sometimes we talk to ourselves. We also do our talking on the page. We talk and we talk and we talk, talk, talk, talk. We say the same things over again but in a different way, and then the next day we start all over again—same conversation since we didn’t get it right the day before! So while the words may not come out so others can hear us, you can be sure we writers talk. My friend had nothing to apologize for. Sometimes with all the “talking” I do in the run of a day it’s simply nice to let someone else take over for awhile.

So with all the talking that takes place in a writer’s life I firmly believe that writers also need to be listeners. We need to fine-tune our hearing so that we can allow the story to come through to us from that place where stories reside before the writer breathes life into them. We have to be conscious of the wants and needs of the characters we write about. We need to listen to what they have to say even when they say things that are not to our liking. We need to listen to the hearts of our characters and find out what makes them tick. What are their likes and dislikes? Their biggest fear? We need to be their best friend or, in some cases, their worst enemy, and we do that by listening. An author who is a good listener learns to respect their characters and give them the freedom to tell their story in their own words, and in their own time.

So to my friend who thought she was being selfish and dominating the conversation all I can say is that sometimes there’s a time to talk and sometimes there’s a time to listen. Hopefully, we tap into that balance somewhere along the way. A writer is both talker and listener. We’ve mastered both of these arts and if we haven’t yet mastered them we’re constantly working to achieve it.

I’m taking a bit of a break from blogging until the New Year. My life will be much less complicated then. I’m looking forward to catching up on my blog reading and I’d like to check out some new blogs from the followers I picked up this past while.. Have a wonderful Holiday and I hope to see you in 2015!
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Supporting Your Author Friend

This post could have been written by my family and friends. It’s all about how to support your authorly friends out there, and since my friends and family have been awesome enough to support me through the publication of two books I wanted to let others in on their tips for supporting an author friend. (I bet most of them didn’t even know they had such tips!) Through the years my friends and family have come up with some ingenious ways to put the word about my books “out there.” I thought I would share these with everyone else out there who would like to know ways to support a certain author but are a bit uncertain about how to do that. Believe me there are plenty of ways, and my friends have done a super, stupendous job.

1. Buy the book-– A lot of my friends bought the book for the simple reason that they knew me, and while most of them have read it, I know a few who haven’t yet read it but still chose to support me as their friend and that’s an awesome way to think. For them, the words, “I’m not a reader,” just don’t exist. And, sure, you might not read, either, but you can always have the bragging rights that your friend is a published author as you show off your personally signed copy of their book to others. It’ll look great on your shelf. Everyone will be impressed that you know an author!
2. Attend readings and signings whenever possible. I can’t stress enough the importance of seeing a friendly face when an author is out their doing authorly duty. Don’t assume that throngs of people will show up and no one will miss you. These things are notorious for not being well attended unless you’re so famous that people come running the moment your name is mentioned. Even if you’ve previously purchased a certain author’s book and you’re in the vicinity when they’re doing a signing or reading, pop in and have a chat. It won’t cost a thing but it will mean SO much to your friend. The worse thing in the world is sitting for hours and having no one stop by to even chat. It can make you feel insignificant and maybe even invisible. I’m big on the chatty thing. Whenever I’m at an event I can count on some of the good people of E. Dalhousie to stop by and say hello. Remember, you don’t need to buy a book every time your author friend is signing books. Taking the time to acknowledge an author makes us feel loved.
3. This is also a great time to mention book launches. Try, at all possible, to come out for launches to show your support. I’ve been tremendously fortunate to have such a strong support from family, friends, and the community in general. Every author should be so lucky!
4. Give books as gifts. Wow! My friends are constantly giving out my books to people on their gift list. I mean you’re buying a gift anyway, and a signed copy is such an awesome thing to give and receive. I just had a call the other day by someone wanting a few more copies for Christmas gifts. Cool!
5. Put a request in at the library for your friend’s book. Library sales make up a healthy portion of books sales— seriously. Right after both of my books were published friends told me they put in a request to the library in their area to get in copies. Awesome, I know!
6. Talk about the book to others. Word of mouth is the best way to spread the word about any book. My friends are constantly on the look-out for opportunities to tell others about my books. One friend said she keeps a copy of my book on her coffee table to show people who come to visit! It’s simple thing but it can make a big difference.
7.Write reviews and rate the book for Goodreads, Amazon or Chapters. Again, that’s letting others know about a book they might not otherwise hear about. It’s costs nothing but your author friend will be so appreciative.
8.If your author friend posts about her upcoming book on Facebook or other social media sites, share. Share, share share. When I posted a photo of my contributor’s copies that arrived I had numerous shares from my friends. So much so that Facebook told me it showed up in the newsfeed of over 1200 people. I was flabbergasted.
9. If you’re a blogger, blog about the book. The blogging community is very supportive of authors. My blogging friends have blogged about my books, interviewed me on their blog, and even reviewed my books on their blogs. I love the support from this wonderful community.
10.Look for opportunities to support your author friend. Here are two inventive way friends of mine have helped put my book “out there.” One, a retiring teacher emailed to tell me this. “I was asked to pick out a book for the PRMS Home and School to donate to the Library in my name. After I had picked out a music one,(she was a music teacher) I had allotted money left over – guess what I chose??? “Flying with a Broken Wing” of course!!!!!!”
and…
When asked to donate an item to a basket for a friend who was out on sick leave, a family member included a signed copy of one of my books. Now are these not two of the awesomest (is awesomest a words?)ideas for people to come up with.
11. And one last thing. Support doesn’t have to come from the pocketbook. My friends are constantly asking me how the writing is coming along, if I’m working on anything new and generally encouraging me along the way. And, you know what? I love them all for it. I’m not sure my friends truly understand how important it is for any author to know that others are interested in our work.

So, you see what I mean about how awesome my family and friends are? Hopefully, you’ll find these tips helpful and they will inspire you to come up with some ways of your own to support the authors in your life. You do have authors in your life, right?

Have you any tips of your own that you’d like to share when it comes to supporting an author, perhaps something my friends haven’t thought of yet?

On Being “Common”

The other day I referred to someone as being “common.” Okay, so that kind of sounds like a bad thing–to be common, I mean. But it’s not and I’ll tell you why.

In my little corner of the world we use the word “common” to describe someone who is down to earth, certainty not pretentious, someone who is just “everyday,” someone you can be yourself around, no matter who you are. No need to put on heirs when you’re around someone who is just plain old “common.” A “common” person has the ability to put others at ease no matter what the circumstance. I have some people like that in my life, and I think it’s a trul wonderful thing.

Sometimes people can feel a little awkward when they find out I’m a published author. I’ll admit that people have been nervous around me in the past, at least until they get to know me. That’s when they find out I’m just an ordinary person (no bells or whistles, no fancy clothes or jewelery) and, well, writing is just something I love to do. I don’t know why. I guess we all have to have something we’re passionate about and why we feel drawn to one thing over another will likely remain a mystery. Some things just are they way they are, no sense trying to analyze them to pieces. Acceptance is a wonderful peace-maker.

As a writer, I like to write about about ordinary people, those unsung people who perhaps never have their stories told, but nonetheless deserve to have them told. We’ve all heard the adage that everyone has a story. Most people seem to believe that about other people’s stories and not their own, as if their story isn’t one worthy of being told.

But we are all important, (and we all have a story, every one of us) yet unimportant at the same time. By that I mean, that not one of us is any more important than the other. What we do for a living isn’t who we are, but simply what we do. Perhaps that’s something we should keep in mind when we’re meeting someone whose work, or life we admire, someone we might even think of as being more important in the world. Deep down we’re all the same—common. What makes us different are our life experiences, and isn’t that absolutely wonderful? To be different, I mean, to be able to share with one another the things that makes us truly unique in the world.

And since words can have a different meaning for all of us, I’m a wee but curious. What are you’re thoughts on being common? In your world is it something good or bad or in between?

Coping with the Darkness

The darkness these days makes me feel like staying close to home especially in the evenings. I want to sit by a fire and drink hot chocolate, curl up with a good book (we always say a good book as if we’d ever want to read a horrible one) maybe sit with the characters of the novel I’m writing and ask them a few questions, make them explain the who, what, when , where and why. Dream. I want to dream and imagine and pull the darkness in close like a warm fuzzy blanket. I want to feel the comfort of these dark nights knowing that I am safe and warm.

In about a month the days will begin to lengthen. Right now it seems a long ways off. This time of the year is my busiest and I struggle to find the time to do all the things I’d like to do.  Its just the way things are and there’s not much point in complaining.

These past few days I have barely found time to write and that makes me feel even more rushed for time.  Writing slows me down, helps me settle into a world of my own making with characters I’ve created that seem far too real for me to say I made them up. I sometimes wonder  about the people and places a writer creates.  How much of it is imagined and how much resides in a small corner of our beings? How much of it is really real? I mean, really REAL. I know, this all makes me sound weird, but aren’t writers supposed to be a little weird?

How are you coping with the shorter days? Do you mind the diminished daylight hours?

Hearing With a Broken Ear—the sequel

Life has a way of making us stop and smile from time to time. Today was one of those days for me. I just learned that Miss Charlotte has started reading “Flying With a Broken Wing.” She has a bookmark to keep her place and she told me it’s the first book she’s read without pictures. Remarkably, she’d been reading since she was three (something I would never have believed possible had I not seen for myself.) Her mother tells me it will likely be a long while until she gets to the end of the book since she starts back at the beginning with each reading session. I was also told that a certain porcelain deer with a broken ear caused Miss Charlotte to declare “That’s Hearing with a Broken Ear.” Perhaps that will be the title of a sequel. You really have to love some of the things kids come up with.

This evening I picked up a copy of In the Company of Animals: Stories of Extraordinary Encounters,” an anthology of animal stories by writers from across Canada published by Nimbus Publishing. It was edited by Pam Chamberlain, the same editor I worked with when I wrote a piece for the Country Roads Anthology a few years back. Seeing my name in the acknowledgement of this book was kind of cool, not to mention knowing a few of the writers. I picked the book up at the local Coles and got a bit of a surprise when the young man swiped my Plum Rewards Card and declared, “Oh my God, your Laura Best!” I’ve got to be honest, I don’t often get that reaction, in fact I never do. It seemed a little surreal. I was just surprised that he recognized my name.

Fall is my busiest time and I don’t expect to have much time for myself until later in December. I’m still squeezing in some writing time most every day. I’d like to finally finish the novel I’m writing and get back to some earlier work..and who knows, “Hearing With a Broken Ear,” might beckon to me… I have a few craft events to go to in December and of course December means Christmas and Christmas means, well, a lot of work. I hope to get back into blogging more after the New Year. I’ve missed not checking in with my blogging friends. It seems as though I’m saying the same thing over and over. There’s never enough time. I just need to learn how to stretch out my days. Perhaps that’s something to work toward in the new year.

Just for fun because hey, I’m as silly as the next person, what title can you come up with for a sequel to “Flying With a Broken Wing?” I vote for “Running With a Broken Leg.”

A Disease, a Wedding and an Anthology

I have a disease. It may be incurable. Some of you know this already and some of you have suspected it for some time, but have remained silent. Please don’t pity me. I really don’t like pity. The disease I have keeps me awake at night, keeps my mind buzzing, makes me wonder just what the future holds in store for me. Some say this disease is caused by the bite from a rare bug, one that can bite you quite early in life or later on. It doesn’t discriminate. For some, it’s a lifetime struggle. The bug I’m talking about, of course, is the writing bug. No surprises there!

Yeah, I’ve been writing. A lot. Writing and editing and revising and writing some more. Writing takes up a great deal of my time, and when I’m not writing I’m often thinking about the story I’m writing. It is a disease, really it is. One that I may never recover from. One I hope they never come up with a cure for.

But that’s not all that’s been going on with me these days. More than writing I’ve been living and working and taking some family time. Family time comes before writing time. No contest. I have two precious grandbabies now who need snuggles and kisses and hugs, so many hugs. And I have a wedding to plan. Yes, wedding.

After being widowed for 26 years, my Mum is getting married next weekend. I couldn’t be happier. The family couldn’t be happier. To be honest, this is something none of us ever expected, least of all my mother. But the world is a mysterious place. Sometimes life throws things our way, and even when we fight against them we end up realizing that resistance is futile. I’m a bit older now than Mum was when she found herself all alone. It wasn’t easy. Many of you know that on top of all that she’s visually impaired. Luckily, she has five kids. And now a soon to be second husband.

“Everything will be all right in the end… if it’s not all right then it’s not yet the end.” Love this quote by Deborah Moggach, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel and it reminds me of my Mum’s story. I have Gary Doi to thank for making me aware of the quote. He’s the editor of the new anthology I’m a part of, along with 25 other people, titled, “Fly Like an Eagle.” It’ll be for sale on Amazon within the next few weeks. The proceeds will go to SORCO, a rescue rehab and release facility, in the Okanagan Region of British Columbia, for raptors such as eagles, hawks and owls. I feel honoured to be a part of this project, a project that gives back.

So, for now that’s what’s up with me. Oh, and not to mention a forty hour regular work week, can’t forget that. I’ve been missing my blogger friends and looking forward to getting caught up with what you all are doing.

Anything new in your corner of the web?

10 Ways to Avoid Buying That Author’s Book

We’ve all been to those events, you know the ones, where local authors are set up pedaling their wares. It can be kind of uncomfortable for the average won’t-be-book-buyer. Especially when said author is located in a spot that you have to pass on your way to where you’re going. I mean, there they are sitting out in front of the bookstore in the mall, or at some festival or fair or market that has absolutely nothing to do with books. What the heck’s all that about anyway, right? What nerve, what gall. It’ kind of like being ambushed if I’m being perfectly honest. You know. You’ve felt it. It’s not like you’re expecting someone to be selling books, least of all the author of those very books.

Well, fear no more. Over the past five years of attending book signing and some of those a fore-mentioned “other events” I’ve learned a thing or two when it comes to not buying that author’s book. Actually, it’s not all that complicated. You just have to know the right thing to say and the proper way to carry yourself. Keep your wits about you and above all don’t panic. You’ll survive. I promise.

So, for all of you won’t- be-book-buyers these next 10 excuses are for you.

1. Listen to that little voice in your head. You know, the one that says, “Tell her you don’t read.” Who can argue with that? If you don’t read, you don’t read. Case closed. Keep on a walking, my friend, you’re in the clear, maybe even click your heels as you’re walking away. You’re so cool– you, you , person who just does not read.

2. Stop at her table for a few moments. Gently run you hand over the books. Appear interested, but not too, too interested. Slip in a comment such as, “One day I’ll have to invest.” The author will be giddy thinking that you’re talking about actually buying one of her books when in reality you’re talking about opening up an RRSP. She’ll never know the difference.

3. Ask her if the book in the bookstores. When she says yes, tell her that you’ll probably pick one up there some time in the future. She’ll love you for it, and by throwing that word, “probably” in there you’re getting off without a true commitment. Clever.

4. Ask for a full synopsis of the books on her table. Trust me, authors love that part. Leaf through the books one by one. Read a few passages, silently. Ask what age group it’s for. If she says young adult simply mention that your grandchildren are too young. If she says middle grade just say the opposite. She can’t argue the age-appropriateness of her books, right?

5. Remember, appearing interested will always endear that author to you. She’ll probably believe whatever you have to say. Ask if her books are fiction or non-fiction. If she says fiction, you know what you have to do. Sound rather disappointed and say, “Gee, I only read non-fiction.” If she writes non-fiction, you get the picture, tell her you only read fiction. Now if she happens to write both fiction and non-fiction you need a back-up excuse because if you don’t come up with something quickly you may just end up having to make a purchase. But have no fear, when all else fails here’s a handy, dandy excuse that will always work in a pinch…..

6. “I don’t have any cash on me or else I’d get one.” Remember, adding that little, “or else I’d get one,” will show her you’re serious. Can’t argue the no money excuse.

7. Another dandy excuse that often works well is this: Stop at her table and pretend you’ve already read her books. Her smile will be like a ray of sunshine, especially when you mention how much you enjoyed them. But for God’s sake don’t overdo it. She may just ask you what your favourite part is and the jig will be up. You’ll need make a quick exit. Fake chest pain if you must, but scram tout suite.

8. Stop at her table and introduce yourself. Tell her you have a book coming out next week. She won’t know the difference. Authors love other authors. Chances are she’ll congratulate the hell out of you because all authors know just how difficult it is to find a publisher after that book is written. And you know what, after all that congratulating is over, she won’t even care about selling her book. She’ll be just itching to buy yours. Now that’s a plan!

9. Promise to come back a little later. Find out how long she’ll be there to make sure you don’t happen to stumble on through before she’s done for the day. I mean, she’ll never see you again, right?

10. Remember, you can always distract her by talking about the weather. Weather talk always works no matter where you go. You don’t have to be weather-lady Cindy Day to appreciate the local Maritime weather. Canadians can talk forever about the weather. We’ve had plenty of practice. Throw in a, “I heard we’re going to have an early winter,” and you could keep her talking forever.  Book talk will always take a back seat to weather talk. Trust me. I’ve fallen for that one, myself, a time or two.

So there you have it, all the excuses you should ever need to avoid buying that author’s book. One final little tip I’ll leave you all with. If words happen to fail you, hey, we can’t all be wordsmiths, here’s something that will always get you out of buying that author’s book. Resist making eye contact. Keep trucking right on by that author’s table. It’s not like she’s going to jump out and stop you from passing. It’s simple, just pretend she’s not there. Make her feel invisible and she’ll probably believe she is. So long as you don’t slow your gait, you’re in for smooth sailing but, above all, remember not to look. Not even a sideways glance. If she detects even the slightest bit of acknowledgement on your part she’ll be smiling her face off to try and get your attention. She might even say hello. If you get that friendly hello all your hard work could go down the drain. Just saying.

So there you have it. 10, or actually 11, ways to avoid buying that author’s book.

Now it’s your turn. Can you think of any other ways to avoid buying that author’s book? I’d love it if you’d share some of your experiences. Or just come up with some inventive things to be silly like I did.

Soaring Into Freedom

The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. ~~Jim Morrison

Summer 2014 394This quote seems rather fitting for a post on freedom as I sifted through some of the photos I took last week at the zoo. The subject of freedom has been circling my head since our resent visit. And yes, all the animals there are caged in and certainly not free. But the image of these two bald eagles stayed with me more than the others. I’m sure they were injured and rescued at one point, obviously unable to fly since there were no restrictions stopping them from taking flight.

Growing up, I was taught about nature’s wisdom, survival of the fittest, and all that realistic stuff that make kids cry into their pillow at night. While at times it might have seemed cruel I now wonder about the efforts we make to rescue animals if a part of that rescue keeps them from doing what they were meant to do.

I imagine an eagle soaring through the sky and think that flying above the treetops must be a remarkable thing, to know that sense of freedom. An eagle that can’t fly seems like an injustice and by rescuing it in this way perhaps we simply traded its “reality for a role,” an animal now held in captivity, a reality that suits our own agenda.

Many of us think that life, no matter how diminished, is far more important than the quality of that same life. It is a subject that I find fascinating as I try to imagine how it would feel to be that earthbound eagle, to have once known that freedom, yet never to feel it again.

What are your thoughts on freedom? Are you an earthbound eagle or do you prefer to soar?

Not a Blog Post

I’d been planning all week to write a blog post….. but it didn’t happen.
I got busy and, well….. it just didn’t happen.
Family came to visit, not to mention that I work everyday. Throw in an appointment or two, grocery shopping, a trip to the zoo, one picnic, two blueberry pickings, a marshmallow roast, a trip to Digby , some writing and….it just didn’t happen.
I can assure you the post I had planned was quite clever, a real discussion-maker, the subject being something I’d been planning to write about for some time now, but….
As you can see…..it didn’t happen.

That’s all I have to say at the moment…Hopefully, I’ll pull that blog post together for next week because, as you can see, this week…..it just didn’t happen.

So, tell me what your week was like. Did you do anything different, read a book, go some place special? Because if you’re looking for a post here…

It just didn’t happen.
And…
This is NOT a blog post.
Now it’s your turn…..

Interview with Marsha Skrypuch

Today, it is my pleasure to welcome author, Marsha Skrypuch to my blog.

silver2Marsha Skrypuch (pronounced SKRIPP-ick) prides herself on being the only children’s author in Canada who is a dyslexic princess, and has received death threats and hate mail. Marsha writes about those bits of history that have been shoved under the carpet. Her specialty is writing about how children are affected by war. Her settings have included World War I, World War II, the Vietnam War, the Armenian Genocide, and the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor).

Marsha’s latest book, Dance of the Banished is being launched Friday, August 22nd.

Based on true events, a compelling story of love and hope published on the 100th anniversary of World War I.

downloadAli and his fiancée Zeynep dream about leaving their home in Anatolia and building a new life together in Canada. But their homeland is controlled by the Turkish government, which is on the brink of war with Britain and Russia. And although Ali finds passage to Canada to work, he is forced to leave Zeynep behind until he can earn enough to bring her out to join him.
When the First World War breaks out and Canada joins Britain, Ali is declared an enemy alien. Unable to convince his captors that he is a refugee from an oppressive regime, he is thrown in an internment camp where he must count himself lucky to have a roof over his head and food to eat.
Meanwhile, Zeynep is a horrified witness to the suffering of her Christian Armenian neighbours under the Young Turk revolutionary forces. Caught in a country that is destroying its own people, she is determined to save a precious few. But if her plan succeeds, will Zeynep still find a way to cross the ocean to search out Ali? And if she does, will he still be waiting for her?

1.Your latest book, Dance of the Banished, is being launched on August 22nd. Can you tell us where the inspiration for this book came from? <

Dance of the Banished was a novel that I was destined to write because so many themes I’ve written about in the past became inextricably twined in this one.

A few years ago, two local historians approached me with a set of newspaper clippings from 100 years ago. The old articles related an incident in my hometown of Brantford Ontario about 100 foreign workers who were rounded up in the middle of the night on suspicion that all hundred of them had tried to blow up the local post office together in an act of treason. The context: World War I had just been declared. These men had come from Ottoman Turkey. They were ultimately interned as “enemy aliens” in Kapuskasing, Ontario.

I have written three YA novels set in Turkey during World War I: The Hunger/Nobody’s Child/Daughter of War. These three novels are about teen survivors of the Armenian Genocide, which took place in Ottoman Turkey during WWI.

I’ve also written two children’s chapter books about Armenian orphans who were rescued by Canada just after WWI: Aram’s Choice/Call Me Aram, (illustrated by Muriel Wood)
Additionally, I had written two books set during Canada’s WWI internment operations: Silver Threads, a picture book illustrated by Michael Martchenko, plus a Dear Canada diary novel called, Prisoners in the Promised Land: The World War I Ukrainian Internment Diary of Anya Soloniuk.

And my own grandfather had been interned in WWI.

So …. SEVEN books written about this era plus a family connection, yet here was an entirely new take on a story I thought I had already told.

Doing the research for Dance of the Banished was like peeling layers off of a long hidden secret. Ali, the Brantford man who was interned, and Zeynep, the fiance he left behind, were not Armenian, and they were not Turkish. Sorting out and piecing together just exactly who they were and what happened to them in WWI was like detective work. The novel is fiction, but based on facts. Their intertwining tales of heroism, compassion and love became all consuming for me.

2.Many of your books are written around the theme of war. Is there a particular reason for this or is it because you find the subject of war interesting?

The best known war stories are those told by the victors and I have no interest in retelling these, but I am intensely interested in the untold stories. Imagine yourself plunged in war, trying to stay alive from one minute to the next. What kind of person do you become? That’s a story worth writing.

3. Your bio mentions that you’ve received death threats and hate mail. Can you share any of the circumstances surrounding these threats and what your reaction was?

I wrote a picture book called Enough, illustrated by Michael Martchenko and published by Fitzhenry & Whiteside. That book came out in 2000, and it was this particular book that I got the most threats over.

Enough is a Grimm-like folk tale about a girl who saves her village from starvation by tricking the dictator into thinking the village is already dead. It is clear from the illustrations and historical note that the setting is the Holodomor in Soviet Ukraine. Holodomor means “death by starvation” and refers to the famine-genocide perpetrated by Stalin upon Ukrainians in 1932-33. Millions were killed, their bodies disposed of and ethnic Russians were moved into these villages, receiving the dead Ukrainians’ homes and land. Stalin was able to hide this crime for decades by bribing western journalists, including Walter Duranty, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing. George Bernard Shaw was another of his lying flunkies, which is why I’ll never go to a Shaw Festival performance in Niagara-On-The-Lake. But my story book didn’t touch on all that. It simply told a tale of one brave girl who stood up to an evil man.

Enough was the first commercially published story book to have been written about the Holodomor. When it came out fourteen years ago, there were still people around who considered Stalin to be some sort of saint, and in the year 2000, the Holodomor had not yet been recognized worldwide as an act of genocide. The post-Soviet propaganda of the time was that the Holodomor was a myth and anyone who claimed it happened was a Nazi.

The first bit of hate mail was actually signed. It came from a fellow writer whom I had considered a friend. She wrote that if Stalin had killed all of those millions of Ukrainians, they must have done something to deserve it. I shredded that letter and broke off contact with that person. A week or two later, another letter arrived. This one was quite different. There was a photo of a soldier shooting a child and block letters below calling me a Ukrainian Nazi pig. There were other incidents too: spray bombed swastikas, a phone call from a man who read my words back to me, then threatened to kill me, disturbing emails.

I called the police.

They took the threats seriously and collected the various letters as they came in (and were annoyed that I had shredded the first). For a time, I had to let the police know when I was going to be doing a public event. It was scary. The threats continued until 2006.

4. How many books have you written?Do you have a favourite and, if so, which one?

Dance of the Banished is my 19th book. Each is special in its own way. I’ll never write a book that I’m not passionate about.

5. Your books are both fiction and non-fiction. When you come up with an idea for a book how do you decide if it will be a fiction or non-fiction book?

All of my books are factually based and I am nit-pickily maniacal about accuracy. I was able to write Last Airlift and One Step At A Time as narrative non-fiction because Tuyet agreed to let me write very specifically about her and she was involved every step of the way. Many of the people are still alive and available for interview.

I prefer the historical fiction for stories that are older. For these stories I rely on journals, diaries, newspaper accounts and government documents, plus survivors when I can find them. The people whose story I’m telling aren’t all alive though and they can’t all give me permission. My WWI and WWII novels are factually accurate, but the characters are composites of real people. I place these composite characters into real scenes and circumstances and then recreate dialogue. From a reader’s point of view, there isn’t a huge difference between my narrative non-fiction and my historical fiction.

6. The list of awards and nominations for your books is very impressive. What do you consider your best literary accomplishment?

The Order of Princess Olha, which was bestowed upon me personally by President Yushchenko of Ukraine in 2008 for my writing about the Holodomor in my picture book, Enough. Do you remember Yushchenko and the Orange Revolution, the precursor to what’s happening now in Ukraine? Putin’s minions tried to poison him by putting polonium in his soup, but he miraculously survived. The polonium pockmarked his face like a moonscape. He was the first democratically elected president of Ukraine and was the first to publicly acknowledge the Holodomor.

7. Do you have a favourite character in, Dance of the Banished? If so, who is it and why?

Zeynep, Ali’s fiance. She is very stubborn: this is her gift and her curse. She intrigued me with every scene and I could hardly wait to see what she’d get up to next.

8. Why do you write for children? Do you ever see yourself writing for an adult audience?<

Lots of adults read my novels. I see the slotting of novels as middle grade/ YA / adult to be more of a marketing thing than a readership issue. To me, a YA designation means an intelligent well-researched novel that leaves out all the words people skip over.

9. Just as your books inspire other authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

I didn’t learn to read until I was nine, but once I learned, I was drawn to big fat books written by Dickens and Alcott, but also by the historical novels that were in the bookcase outside my bedroom door. In the wee hours of night when everyone else was asleep, I’d take my flashlight and grab one of these novels, and read it under the covers: Daphne DuMaurier, Irving Stone, Taylor Caldwell, Annemarie Selinko, Victoria Holt …

10.Is there anything about your new book, Dance of the Banished that you’d like to share with us?

I struggled for a couple of years about how to tackle this story. There is so much untold history and many complex issues. About two years ago, I had the first draft nearly written, but I ended up deleting it and starting from scratch because the voice seemed wrong. I had tried to use the same technique that worked so well in Daughter of War – a revolving set of intimate third person narratives. A few months after that, I had a long chat with my editor Ann Featherstone about my problem with the voice. She suggested I write dual first person narratives. As soon as she suggested it, I knew that was the solution. Ali and Zeynep have utterly different experiences during the war and their voices are each very distinct. Once I was able to step into Ali’s shoes, and then Zeynep’s, the story practically wrote itself. I also found that by using these intertwining first person voices, the complexities of the story and history fell in place, clarifying but not overpowering the essential love story.

11.Are you working on a book now and can you share any of the particulars with us?

I have three books down the pipeline at the moment, and all happen to be narrative non-fiction. One is about a Ukrainian girl in WWII whose mother is executed for hiding Jews. Another is a picture book about a Vietnamese boy who escapes by boat with his family. Another is about a Vietnamese boy who stays in Saigon after it falls to the North, but escapes some years later in the most amazing way.

Thank you, Marsha, for sharing a bit about your writing life with us. I’ve been a fan of your work for some time now. It was a trill for me to do this interview with you. I wish you all the best with your new book.

To find out more about Marsha and her books check out her site here. For writers out there Marsha has included tips for writers on her site and you’ll find a lot of valuable information. Dance of the Banished is available at Amazon, Chapters and Independent Book Stores across Canada.

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