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My Writer's Journal

The Crazy Season

Just when I want to spend all my time working on my new book, BEAUTY'S DAUGHTER, I'm being pulled in several different directions while I try to keep up with lots of projects.

On Saturday I fly to Philadelphia to give an 18-minute talk at a TEDx conference at Arcadia University. I've never done PowerPoint, it's being recorded, and it has to be EXACTLY 18 minutes. Emails fly back and forth arranging for transportation, etc. I'm nervous.

At the end of April I'll be in Chicago to participate in an International Reading Association panel. But some of the other writers have had to drop out, others have been shifted around, I don't yet have travel arrangements or book signings confirmed, or much of an idea on how many people will be attending. I'm to meet this week and next with the other writers to figure out how it will all fit together.

I was invited sign books at a bookstore in June, but the bookseller had the wrong book in mind--THE WILD QUEEN will be available, but VICTORIA REBELS won't be out until January. Then I had to contact the publisher to find out if books would actually be available in time, once we realized which book we were talking about.

Last Tuesday I gave a presentation at Parents Night for the workshop I'm doing in June at the Albuquerque Zoo--but first I had to spend time at the zoo to learn what facilities will be available. I plan to talk about Charley Darwin, his boyhood and his Beagle voyage. After I'd spent an hour or so polishing up my presentation, only one parent showed up.

In July I'm teaching a weeklong writers' workshop in Taos on writing for Young Adults. Yesterday a Taos bookstore contacted me for a list of the books I'd like to have for sale. ("All of them" is not the right answer.) I decided what I thought would work and looked up the ISBN numbers for both hardcover and paperback editions. I haven't even begun to think about what I'll organize to keep students engaged and excited for a whole week .

A few days ago a seventh grader emailed me, asking me to explain my theme and goals in writing PATIENCE, PRINCESS ELIZABETH for her RTL--Response to Literature, she explained. I had to write back that I have no idea what the theme is because I don't think that way. My goal is to tell a good story, and I have no educational goals in mind. This was not what her teacher wants to hear, so I had to cook up an answer. We've now had 4 emails back and forth for clarification. I get a LOT of emails asking for help.

I found out yesterday that CLEOPATRA CONFESSES is coming out in paperback in June with a gorgeous new cover. Nobody had told me! I just happened to see it on and quickly got that up on my Facebook page. I'm trying to Tweet 3 times a day, post on Facebook every day, and write a blog post every week that makes some sort of sense.

What I REALLY want to be doing is working on BEAUTY'S DAUGHTER, but this is spring--beautiful and always very, very busy. Read More 
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On becoming a writer: Part IX

Back to the saga of my life as a writer. The move from Albuquerque to Denton, TX, in 1990 was wrenching, but that dislocation brought me in contact with new people and new ideas. Back in Chapter VII I talked about the idea for WHERE THE BROKEN HEART STILL BEATS: The Story of Cynthia Ann Parker, set in Texas in the 19th century.

But then I stumbled upon a new bit of Texas history: the African-American community of Quakertown that had thrived within the town of Denton at the beginning of the 20th century--thrived until the white people of Denton decided that the small enclave in the heart of the town would make a wonderful park and contrived to get rid of the black folks who had their homes, businesses, churches and school there. I researched the actual history of Quakertown, as well as the town of Denton, the state of Texas, and the place of black people in the US. And then I invented the characters to tell the story: Rose Lee Jefferson, her family, her friends, her community. The result was WHITE LILACS, published in 1993, and the sequel, JUBILEE JOURNEY, which picks up the story of the Jeffersons 75 years later, published in 1997.

When I'm asked, "What's your favorite among the books you've written?" the answer has long been WHITE LILACS, because it was such a challenge.  Read More 
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BEAUTY'S DAUGHTER: HERMIONE, The Daughter of Helen of Troy

Nothing like a new project to get me excited! During a dead period last fall, while I was waiting....and waiting....and waiting for word on VICTORIA REBELS, I used the time to read Homer's ILIAD and ODYSSEY and found myself pulled into the world of the ancient Greeks. (I probably read at least parts of them in college, but that was a long time ago.) Women did not fare well in those days, when the guys were out merrily slaughtering each other and the gods were behaving badly, and I got caught up in the story of Helen of Troy, who left her husband and ran off with Paris, sparking the Trojan War that lasted for ten years. Helen: the most beautiful woman in the world! What would it have been like to be Hermione, the daughter of that divinely beautiful woman?

The publisher said Yes to my proposal, and now I'm deeply into the research, fleshing out the characters, figuring out how the plot should unfold. The research is quite different this time around, because these are ancient stories, mostly myth with a dollop of history, none of it consistent. It's a real stretch for me. And quite a leap from Victoria and from the Hotline series I was working on just two weeks ago. Read More 
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