Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Max the Writer

Max BodachI completely missed the article Max wrote for the Daniel Island newspaper because we were down in FL for the Gregorian Chant workshop. Here's A Capitol Experience.

Max is also working as an investigative reporter for The Gyrene Gazette. Looking forward to reading them. It's this article on his work with the SGA that led to his appointment: https://sga.avemaria.edu/news/2018/gazette-sga-changes He's going to AZ to learn more. 

He sent me a link about the physician who's trying to bring healthcare to rural areas in FL: https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/05/us/rural-florida-hospital.html It shocks me when big companies try to stop these ventures. Shame on them. When I think of what Indian doctors accomplish on a shoestring in India, and how affordable healthcare can be, it makes me mad how inflated our own system is.

Anyway, I hope to archive some of Max's writing on my blog. So proud of him. I still remember him banging out his Magic Basketball Shoes story when he was in 4th grade. He was so utterly engrossed, the short story became a novella. I should try to find it and digitize it. Over the past decade, it's the stuff on my blog that hasn't been lost.

The weekend I was in Charlotte, NC he was in DC at the American Enterprise Institute. He's their Executive Council Chairman down in Ave Maria. I think it means he organizes events for them. Boy these kids clean up nicely! 

Thursday, October 11, 2018


These reviews are long overdue but between book deadlines and the Carolinas conference reviewing these new books fell to the side. So without further ado:  

Disappeared by Francisco X. Stork was a deeply moving story told through the alternate viewpoints of a brother and sister, who are involved in exposing the disappearance of beautiful girls in Juarez, and who now must disappear themselves, because their lives are in danger. My heart broke for their mother, but I have hope that they will be reunited. The boy, Emiliano, has to make many difficult choices. I love characters like this who do the right thing eventually, but struggle throughout. It took me a few chapters to get used to third-person present tense narrative, but the story is so compelling, it was no longer a distraction. He's an author I've followed closely since he published Marcelo in the Real World because at the heart of each of his books is a moral dilemma.  

Mr. Stork also read my book! It is so wonderful when an author you admire reads your work. He said, "Bound is a realistic, honest, portrayal of a young woman's struggle to overcome physical, emotional and social burdens. Her journey toward the growth that is found at the heart of those burdens is one we should all make. A courageous book about courage." 

The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr was such a joy to read. I think the lessons of music can be applied to writing. But I'm getting ahead of myself. The story is about Lucy, a concert pianist before the age of 14, but who is now trying to live a more typical life (as if there's any such thing) going to school, having friends, etc. This is another family story, with the weight of expectations weighing down its young characters, but I found the parents strangely absent, both physically and emotionally. It's the grandfather who has the big personality. Lucy's return to the piano via the younger brother's piano teacher is a road to healing. I don't typically go for stories about the rich and famous, but Zarr is an amazing storyteller, her characters unique and flawed, and it's always satisfying to accompany them on their journey.

I don't often talk about book design but I really liked how scenes were separated by quarter notes, flashbacks in the Intermezzo, and the different sections of the book labelled: Tempo Rubato, Free Cadenza, Con Brio Con Fusco, Da Capo

So, at the top of the book it says: Play like no one is listening. How do you write? Do you write with an ideal reader in mind? Or just for yourself? Do you write to the market? Would you write if you knew nobody would publish your work?   

Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys is a book that focuses on four characters out of the thousands of refugees who are desperate to board the ill-fated Wilhelm Gustloff. I didn't know this piece of WWII history in which Poles, Prussians, Lithuanians, Latvians, and Germans evacuated because the Russian troops were advancing. The Russians torpedoed the Wilhelm Gustloff and over 9,000 people perished. I must admit that I'd have preferred a nonfiction book over the fictionalized version. Jumping back and forth from these four characters' viewpoints (the chapters are really, really short so you don't inhabit any one character for more than 2 minutes) was disorienting. Perhaps that was the author's intent. Yet, Ruta is an amazing storyteller because I kept reading in spite of my annoyance. She quotes Primo Levi at the beginning: "We the survivors are not the true witnesses. The true witnesses, those in possession of the unspeakable truth, are the drowned, the dead, the disappeared." She exhorts us to think about how we remember history and to not let the truth disappear when the survivors are gone. I knew Ruta from the Blueboard and still remember when she sold her first book, which remains a favorite: Between Shades of Gray

Second Nature: A Love Story was compared to Bound in a review, so I had to check it out, especially since it's written by one of my favorite writers, Jacquelyn Mitchard. I was immediately drawn into Sicily Coyne's story. Burned and left without a face at the age of 13, in the same fire that cost her father his life, the story continues with Sicily engaged to be married to her childhood sweetheart, only to discover a terrible secret. She walks away from the marriage and agrees to a face transplant (still in its infancy) to begin a new life. She embraces it fully and with it come consequences that force her to make even more difficult choices. I loved how Sicily's life meshes with those of the Cappadoras (I knew them from The Deep End of the Ocean), how detailed all the medical descriptions are. They never feel forced because Sicily is an artist, specializing in drawing the human body in all its glory. I've always loved the intersection between art and science and this book delivers. It also brings many ethical questions to mind, including the entire medical transplant industry. What I found extraordinary was the beauty of the statistically impossible. Miracles, really.

What all these four authors have in common is...me. If you like their writing, you will enjoy mine. If you like mine, you will enjoy theirs. When I was in queryland, I often used both Francisco Stork's and Sara Zarr's books as comp. titles. I think it really helps to know where your book fits with others. 

A friend and I were discussing what constitutes a YA book. He felt that Bound is for adults. It's true enough that adults can enjoy it and get tremendous satisfaction. However, the story is solely from Rebecca's point of view and she's still not grown up. It's a very different matter when you have a character like Scout looking back at events from long ago as Harper Lee does in To Kill a Mockingbird. So, it's the sensibility that makes one book YA and another adult. That said, I knew that Bound would have a crossover appeal to adults. I think the best stories don't have an age limit or barrier. I'm still reading beautiful picture books.  

Monday, October 8, 2018

Credo: I Believe

Our priest, Msgr. McInerny, is doing a series of homilies on the Nicene Creed, which we recite every Sunday. You can listen to them by clicking on Latin Mass homilies. He packs a lot just in 10 minutes. Here are some notes I took on the first four words: 

I believe...

What is belief?
1. It is accepting something is true on the authority of someone else.
2. Belief is not the same as understanding. We might not understand how electricity works but we believe that if we toggle the light switch, the light will come on. 
3. Belief is a free act of the will. It has a basis in trust. Can we trust God? He is the author of Truth. He cannot deceive. 
4. It is reasonable to believe. Faith without reason is superstition.
5. It is for everybody. You don't have to be educated or smart to have it. It is free. 
6. You'll never understand everything. There is a supernatural mystery. 
Paganism is trying to reach God through imagination. In Catholicism, God unveils Himself. He opens Himself to us. Jesus Christ comes down to us, becoming completely vulnerable. He suffers and dies to save us. We are fallen creatures, redeemed.  

St. Augustine said, "I believe, that I might understand." 

I believe in God...
We can believe in the Creator by looking at creation. It is reasonable. 
Here I must recommend an amazing book by Fr. Thomas Dubay: The Evidential Power of Beauty.  
Goodness points to God, the fact that we have a sense of right and wrong. 
Philosophical pride--the temptation to put God into a science box.

Obstacles to faith: our own sin and that of others, that which causes scandal (ex. clergy sex abuse).
Tell me about the God you do not believe in.--when our spiritual fathers fail us. 

Evelyn Waugh used to very caustic in his remarks. People asked, "How can you be Catholic?" And he'd reply, "I'd be so much worse if I weren't." That always makes me smile because whenever anybody grumbled about me, I'd say, "I could be much worse." As a recent convert, I can assure you I really was much, much worse.

Today, many have no interest in religion at all. We are surrounded by Unbelief. 

Atheism on the rise. No reference to God at all. When asked, "What religion do you practice?" the answer is often, "None." Unbelief grows as more and more people are born into it. Yet, young people are hungry for what's missing and religion is being restored into their lives. And if they don't fill that hole in their heart with God, they'll fill it with something else. 

It's as Augustine says, "My heart is restless until it rests in You, O Lord." 

We can counter unbelief if we meditate upon the mystery of our own existence. 
What does it mean to be born, to live and to die as a human being? 

I love our church so much. Even the architecture points to God. Michael and I love to make a date for nocturnal Adoration. It is a peaceful and beautiful time, two hearts to Heart.
Let me close with Missa Brevis in F--I hope we get to sing it again. This is often called the Credo Mass for the many times we sing Credo Credo Credo during the Credo. I believe! I believe! I believe! Lord, help my unbelief.


Friday, October 5, 2018

Interview and Giveaway on Dreamwalks

The beautiful and talented Janet Lee Carey, author of contemporary and fantasy children's literature has an interview with giveaway on her Dreamwalks blog for the month of October: https://janetleecarey.com/dream-walks/author-vijaya-bodach-bound/ 

Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Carolinas SCBWI Conference Recap

I've missed seeing my Carolina writer friends so much and was pleased to know that none were affected severely by Florence. Of course, many towns north of Myrtle Beach are still not in operation. This is going to be a long recovery and many had just recovered from Matthew two years ago.

Vanessa Brantley Newton got us started off with a story about a farmer, his wife, and their little goat who had sensory issues and was dyslexic too. And the way she tells the story of this little goat who fell into a pit and managed to still get out is one that is only she can tell. She *is* the little goat. I loved hearing her story, her struggles, her triumph. She mentioned "diversity designed by adversity."  The thing that stuck with me is how she kept making art even when times were hard and there wasn't any money for food, let alone art supplies. And it's not what's expected of an African American. However, when opportunity knocked, she was prepared! I've read many of her picture books and now I can enjoy them even more. She's an amazing storyteller on and off the page. And can she sing! She sang You Have to Be Taught from South Pacific. She's pictured here with Teresa Fannin, who is our Regional Advisor, and who works tirelessly (with Bonnie Adamson) to make this a memorable conference for all. Thank YOU, Teresa.

Vanessa and Kelly Starling Lyons shared how they fell into writing and illustrating chapter books [CBs]. These are bridge books between the EZs and the MG novel. They are written for children ages 6-10 and have a wide range from 1,500 to 15,000 words. They tend to be very character driven, with a plot that moves right along. Think Junie B. Jones, Ramona, and now Jada Jones

Both these ladies are excellent teachers. The majority of stories will revolve around family and friends because that is their world. And as always, develop your character with these basic questions (replacing Jada with your own main character):
What does Jada want?
Who or what is standing in her way?
How does she solve the problem?
How is she changed?

I have so many CB ideas written down! And I hope some of them are marketable! My kids loved these and though they are part of a child's life for a short time, perhaps only for a couple of years, they are beloved books. I still remember learning to read by myself at age 6 and how the world opened up for me. I would've loved Jada then, a girl much like myself. I was reading the Brer Rabbit books written by Enid Blyton at the time and I saw myself in those animal characters. 

I was super-excited to meet Tammi Sauer. I've known her for a long time on the Blueboards and remember when she sold her first PB, Cowboy Camp! She has sold nearly 30 PBs with many more in the pipeline. And these are books you want to read over and over because they bring so much joy! Not only is she talented, she's delightful and generous. And when she's on, she puts on a show! She takes the prize for entertaining!!! She shared her PB secrets--it's stuff you know, like the necessity of reading, having conflict, using word play, words that sing, etc.--but the way Tammi presents it is completely unique. Don't miss a chance to see her. 

Rebecca Petruck has a new book out: Boy Bites Bug! That title reminds me of my sister, who chased ants until the day one big one bit her tongue. Yes, she ate ants! But I digress. 

Rebecca's lecture on what to do when you are sooooo close was probably the most heart-breaking because we've all been there. The collective sighs said it all. But she provided some advice that she collected from published authors and the single best advice is to move on to the next story. I agree so much with this. Everything you learn writing a book can be applied to the next one. Of course, it has its own unique lessons to teach. The second piece of advice seems contradictory: Persevere. But it isn't really. Listen. Revise. Repeat. Don't stop making art. She shared how Carol Baldwin has been returning to a historical fiction book over and over, not afraid to gut it and start over from scratch. It is going to be so wonderful when it's finally published. 

Rebecca also mentioned the value of using professional editors, contests, and connecting with your tribe. She mentioned how valuable Pitch Wars has been, not just if you get picked to be mentored, but for its community. It's precisely to meet more writers from SC that I went to this conference. I really, really miss my vibrant critique group I had in WA, the monthly get togethers with the writers from a larger area. Writing is a wonderful profession but it's hard to grow in a vacuum. I have online partners but nothing beats having a little group where you can talk shop.

I know a lot of people go to conferences to connect with editors and agents, but for me, this was all about reconnecting with other writers. I want to build a kidlit community here, preferably on Daniel Island, because you know that it is the center of my universe :) I still get those darned migraines and wish to be free of them but until then, I get so much support. My dear Michael drove me up. I rode home with Rebecca Ivester and she managed to get me to church in time for choir practice. I was so happy to get to know her better. We are plotting...something. Stay tuned. 

Becky Shillington was my roommate and we tried not to stay up too late gabbing. She took such good care of me, letting me sleep in, making me a cup of tea, sharing her cookie. I am like an elephant, never forgetting a kindness. I learned that her husband makes really good naan, so I'm wrangling an invitation to stay with them for a day. I figure we can cook an Indian meal. By the way, I'm thinking I should have a BOUND workshop that's all about food. It'd be so fun. I made another batch of kalakand but this one is more like ras-malai, with cardamom and saffron. Yummm.

It was fun to run into my very first room-mate, Jacqueline, and Viviane, who has a new picture book coming out next month--Teach Your Giraffe to Ski. I also made a couple of new friends. And last, but not least, I got a big bear hug from Donna Earnhardt, author of Being Frank, and our keynote speaker. What Scares You? Well, write it anyway. Sorry, she said it much better with stories from the Bible, LOTR, Ella Fitzgerald, and a reading of Oothar the Blue by author Brandon Reese himself.

Hope and Fear ask the same question. What if? How will you answer it? I'm leaving you with a poem that Donna shared:
Hope is the thing with Feathers by Emily Dickinson and my sweet Benny, who allowed me to finally type up a few notes.

Hope is the thing with feathers 
Art on folder by Ashlyn Anstee.
That perches in the soul, 
And sings the tune without the words, 

And never stops at all, 
And sweetest in the gale is heard;         
And sore must be the storm 
That could abash the little bird 
That kept so many warm. 
I’ve heard it in the chillest land, 
And on the strangest sea;        
Yet, never, in extremity, 
It asked a crumb of me.

Friday, September 28, 2018

You Are Enough

I’ve been blogging for ten years, yet never entered a writing contest on someone’s blog…until now. Positive Writer is hosting You Are Enough writing contest: http://positivewriter.com/writing-contest-you-are-enough/  I hope my entry achieves what it’s meant to do—to make you believe in yourself and your writing abilities.

You. Are. Enough.  

Read those words slowly. Believe. If you have a desire to write, know that you already have what it takes to write. I know because this truth has been borne out in my life many times over and I have observed it in others as well. I’m not a brilliant scientist, yet I foster my curiosity about the natural world. I’m not much of a musician, yet I sing and make a joyful noise, lifting my heart and mind to God. I’m not a great writer, yet I have stories that only I can tell, and so I write. I believe that every deep desire is written upon our hearts by our God and He would never place that desire without the necessary graces to make them happen. However, we must cooperate with Him. 

What does cooperation look like? It’s working towards those dreams. You want to be a writer? Then write! No time? Steal it. Write during a lunch break. Get up fifteen minutes earlier. Treat it like you would a lover. No space? Write at the kitchen counter. In your car (when it’s parked!). Or your bed. No money? You only need a cheap notebook and pen. You can get a free education at the library. Sacrifice something else. When people say they have a passion for something, it means they are willing to suffer for it. That’s passion. So. No excuses! Remember, you are enough. Take the example of Mother Teresa, who did what she could, where she was, with what she had, and God blessed it enormously. 

We tend to be our own worst enemies. We have doubts. Fears. These are all real and legitimate. But when we make decisions based on our doubts and fears, we end up choosing the wrong thing. I know because this truth has also been borne out in my life many times over. I love medicine, but was afraid to be in debt, so didn’t pursue it. I love children, but was afraid of the time they take to raise, so stopped having children. I have stories that burn inside me, but I’m afraid of what others might think of them, so tear them up when they show up on the page. But I feel the most alive when I’m cultivating the gifts God has given me, when I write what I believe, what I know to be true, even if it frightens me. So I’m learning to place my trust in God, asking him to be with me when I write. Who shall I fear when God Himself is with me? 

You say you want to write. Then write!

You. Are. Enough. And may God bless and prosper the work of your hands.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

In Praise of the Local -- Island Expressions

I always try to shop locally and one of the most wonderful things about living on Daniel Island is that everything I need is here. About the only time I leave the island is on Sundays to go to Latin Mass at Stella Maris. Yes, this is how small my life is and I like it just fine :) 

My interview with Heath Ellison of Daniel Island News is up. A friend of mine saw it before I did--our newspaper was soggy by the time I found it. I doubt many on the island will even see it because of Florence. I shouldn't complain when so many people have lost their homes in NC and upper SC. It's better to have a Cat 4 hurricane blow through quickly than this awful slow-moving Cat 1/tropical storm. The torrential rainfall has caused devastating flooding. 

Anyhow, newspapers are notorious for cutting off the ends of things if they're running out of space, so my book signing/meet-the-author event didn't show up. Locals: I'll be at Island Expressions on Tuesday, Oct. 9th from 4-6 pm. I hope to see you there. I picked up a dry copy of the paper from the lovely shop--it's the place I go when I need to get a unique gift. The best part is that many of the items are made by artists in the area. So thankful for local arts and crafts.   


Finally, here's a very useful website that lists all newspapers in the US: http://www.usnpl.com/  Local papers are always happy to publish community news so if you have a book to promote, never hesitate to contact your newspaper.