Monday, February 25, 2013

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday - May B. and Author Interview

I'm excited to announce the winner of the signed, hardcover copy of DESTINY, REWRITTEN by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.  I must say it is so shiny and pretty! Let's throw some confetti for 

Danielle Hammelef!

Congratulations!  You should receive an email from me shortly.

Now, on to today's Marvelous Middle Grade Monday post, which was recently named a 2013 ALA Notable Children's Book.

by: Caroline Starr Rose
Schwartz & Wade Books 2012
I'm embarrassed to say that I finally read May B. a couple of weeks ago. I won a signed copy last year from Kathryn Fitzmaurice's blog and can't believe I waited so long to read it! It was amazing, the writing in verse was made for this book. I felt like I was on the prairie, the simple life just like the writing style. As a huge fan of Laura Ingalls Wilder, I even read all the non-fiction books and visited some of her homes, I loved this new look at the prairie.
But, before I continue, let me share the first page of the book:
I won't go.
"It's for the best," Ma says,
yanking to braid my hair, 
trying to make something of what's left.
Ma and Pa want me to leave
and live with strangers.
I won't go.
Doesn't that take you straight to to prairie?  May's parents want her to go and live with another homesteader whose new wife is having a hard time adjusting to life on the Kansas prairie. And her pa promises it will only be for a few months, just until Christmas. But little do they know that May will end up alone and on her own when an early blizzard strikes. Through her strength and resolve, May determines to survive and see her family again.
As a special treat, I was able to ask author, Caroline Starr Rose, for more details on her writing and the background of May B. My questions and her responses are below.

Did May B. start out as a novel in verse or did that happen during the revision process?
May B. started as prose but very early in the drafting stage changed to verse. I was frustrated with the distance between the character and her world and what I was putting on the page. In looking back over first-hand accounts of pioneer women, I found their terse, contained way of communicating mirrored verse. Realizing this allowed me to tell May’s story most honestly and show her world as directly as I could.
May B. has dyslexia. What led you to this decision about her character?

On school visits, I love to tell kids authors are mean people. What I mean by that is they must not give their characters what they want (at least not straight away), but must make them face their fears and weaknesses. Without this, there is no change. Without change, there is no story.
I knew early on that May wanted to be a teacher and tried to find the biggest obstacles I could to keep her from this goal. Pulling her out of school and giving her a learning disability (in an era where this would have been completely misunderstood) fit the bill.
You have a couple of very interesting posts on your blog about soddy houses. Tell us a little about the research process for May B.
I read a lot of first-hand accounts, as I mentioned above. Two of my favorite books were READ THIS ONLY TO YOURSELF: THE PRIVATE WRITINGS OF MID-WESTERN WOMEN and PIONEER WOMEN: VOICES FROM THE KANSAS FRONTIER. In writing historical fiction about an era (rather than a specific event), I felt a tremendous need to be true to the people of the time and their circumstances. I hope that shines through in what I’ve created.
Did you have an agent before or after May B. and tell us a little bit about the history behind the book.
I started May in 2007, signed with my agent in fall 2009, and sold it in spring 2010. May B. was my fourth novel and tenth book overall (I write picture books, too).
One last question for my writing friends - As a writer, how important to you is it to have good critique partners or a critique group?
Essential. I no longer meet face-to-face with my critique group but have a handful of on-line friends I know I can count on for read throughs. What I’m finding I need is to have fellow writers who are willing to read an entire manuscript multiple times. For me, it’s hard to see character growth, story arcs, and the like from snippets of drafts shared piecemeal. While I ask a lot of my readers, they ask the same of me, and I learn just as much reading their work critically as I do from their insight. Really, good critique partners are part editor, part writing class. I’d be lost without them.

Thank you so much, Caroline, for sharing some background on May B. and your writing process.

And thank you to all of you for stopping by today. For my favorite MMGM blogs, check out the links to the right on my website. Have a great week!