If you have a minute—1:23 to be exact—watch this video of Eugene Yelchin talking about growing up in the Soviet Union and the tough choice he had to make. Yelchin’s 2012 Newbery Honor novel BREAKING STALIN’S NOSE is partially based on his own childhood.
The book begins with a boy’s letter to Comrade Stalin telling the Soviet leader his greatest dream--to join the Young Soviet Pioneers.
Of course, as seems to happen to main characters, the boy Sasha runs into trouble reaching his dream. He comes face to face with a hard, life-altering choice and in that choice defines himself.
Hard choices come with a cost. And though our own may not be as pricey as Sasha’s or Eugene Yelchin’s, they still demand courage.
I think of my daughter making the choice to pursue a career in screenwriting.
As she was going off to college to major in film, I remember speaking with the mother of one of her friends. The friend had also considered majoring in the arts, but her mother told me she had convinced the girl to major in business.
Perhaps that girl now has a good paying job and flew home for Thanksgiving with her family, while my daughter is twelve-hundred miles away in Los Angeles, working the holiday at a restaurant, sharing a bedroom with a friend to save on rent, and living daily in uncertainty about her future as a screenwriter. Sure, people all over the world are facing decisions that will cost them much more. But I am inspired by my daughter’s courage and willingness to bear the cost of following her heart.
What about you? Share whose courage fills your heart and makes you want to live with more authenticity, or tell me about a life-altering choice you’ve made.
Today I introduce you to Christine Kohler, author of NO SURRENDER SOLDIER due out Jan.18. Christine’s experience as a journalist gave her instant credibility in my eyes. Her YA novel is set in Guam and connects two wars–Vietnam and WWII.
Publisher's Weekly recently mentioned NO SURRENDER SOLDIER as a book helping teens make sense of war. Important for kids, whose country has been at war since they were born.
"War is a terrible thing, and many return with wounds invisible to the eye." -- Terry Pratchett, DODGER
This is true of all my characters in NO SURRENDER SOLDIER. The after-effects of war on people's lives are like contracting a genetic disease, even passing it down to future generations.
People often ask how I got interested in writing about war. I usually tell them about my experiences as a reporter living in Pacific-Asian nations. My heartstrings tugged when I heard the stories of refugees. So for decades I wrote about war refugees.
My first article in the mid-1980s was about Laotians who came to Hawaii to start new lives. My last news article on the topic was in the mid-90s when Russian Jews relocated to the United States.
On Guam's annual Liberation Day I interviewed Guamanians who had been subjugated by the Japanese during World War II. It was out of these stories while I lived on Guam, Japan, and Hawaii, plus my travels to the Philippines, Saipan, and Korea that led me to write about war in Pacific–Asia in NO SURRENDER SOLDIER.
Even though NO SURRENDER SOLDIER takes place in 1972 at the end of the Vietnam civil war and revolves around events from World War II, I don't think of my book so much as being about war as dealing with the after-effects of war on the individual.
As General Sherman said, "It is only those who have neither fired a shot nor heard the shrieks and groans of the wounded who cry aloud for blood, for vengeance, for desolation. War is hell."
And, regarding the survivors, he said, "Courage--a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger, and a mental willingness to endure it."
It is my hope that NO SURRENDER SOLDIER honors those-- on all sides of the battle lines-- who endured, survived, and rose above the pain of war.
Read more in-depth on this subject at Christine Kohler’s blog READ LIKE A WRITER.
Do you know someone who has survived war? Does anything in this article ring true for you? Please share your thoughts.
A month ago when Non-fiction for kids writer Kelly Milner Halls invited me to join in the Children’s Author’s Blog Hop, I happily told her I would love to. Then writing deadlines and prep for our Inland NW Regional Conference hit me head on. So here I am a month late. Which worked out okay because since Kelly tagged me, she started a new venture– video episodes on MSN. She’s written and filmed ten 3-minute videos, each exploring something odd and amazing. She’s perfect for this gig because she has written lots of books about odd and amazing things. Like ALIEN INVESTIGATION and IN SEARCH OF SASQUATCH. Click here to see her newest video Lulu the Hero Pig. And find out more about Kelly’s books and videos at www.WondersOfWeird.com.
So what this blog hop is all about is authors answering four questions about their current project.
What are you working on right now?
Right now I am working on a YA historical novel set in 1660 Boston about Mary Dyer, a woman who challenged the towns religious persecution of Quakers. Some Quakers suffered whippings, had their ears cut off and were dragged out of town behind a horse and cart. But others, like Mary who would not stay away from Boston and refused to refused to renounce their faith, went to the gallows. Before her hanging, Mary said, “My live not availeth me in comparison to the liberty of the truth.”
How does it differ from other works in it’s genre?
My novel will differ from other YA fiction based on American history because the main character actually lives in present-day Boston. Her witnessing the hanging of Mary Dyer is not magic, this book isn’t fantasy, but it is mysterious. Religion becomes a place of exploration for many teens. Sometimes what they have taken for granted all their lives, suddenly doesn’t make sense. This book delves into that religious space that is very difficult to quantify.
Why do you write what you do?
I have a passion for stories about people facing great adversity with courage. Writing stories like the one about Mary Dyer and my upcoming book PURE GRIT: HOW AMERICAN WWII NURSES SURVIVED BATTLE AND PRISON CAMP IN THE PACIFIC has been my way of exploring courage. What it is, and where it comes from. One thing I see again and again is that in their darkest moments people have the opportunity to discover their true identity, and that gives them the courage to follow an inner compass toward some good greater than themselves.
What’s the hardest part about writing?
For me, the hardest part about writing for kids is the integrity it demands. I want to tell kids the truth, whether it’s the true story of American women in WWII, or a novel composed of events I’ve imagined. Writing the truth about war means you have to get very close to war. If you don’t experience it yourself, you listen to other people’s accounts of it, and you don’t turn away from the ugliness, the horrific loss of life. You let it move through you onto the page. Writing fiction, requires an honesty about your own life experience. What moves through you onto the page of a novel is the emotional truth of living in this world. I find the honesty of the writing process to be very difficult at times.
Now if I’ve taken you down a path that is too serious and dark, I urge you to check out Author Stacy McAnulty.
She writes funny books for children, books that usually star dinosaurs or dragons or dogs. DEAR SANTASAURUS, published by Boyds Mills Press 2013, is her debut picture book. She has two additional picture book deals in the works. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. And when she’s not reading, she’s tweeting or playing around online. (She tells her family it’s “marketing.”) Stacy lives in a cluttered house in Kernersville, NC with her 3 kids, 2 dogs, and 1 husband. www.stacymcanulty.com
I’m also tagging a friend who works with my same editor at Abrams/ Amulet--fantasy, steam-punk novelist Maureen McQuerry. Maureen’s published works include THE PECULIARS, a YASLA, Bank Street, Horn Book and Westchester YA best book; NUCLEAR LEGACY, an Independent Publisher’s Award winner and numerous poems in literary journals. In the tradition of the Dark Is Rising books, fantasy and myth come to life in Maureen’s forthcoming middle-grade duet. BEYOND THE DOOR and THE TELLING STONE are due out in spring and fall 2014. Connect with Maureen at www.maureenmcquerry.com.
Lastly, I’m tagging Nancy I. Sanders, who I first introduced on this blog when she published FREDERICK DOUGLASS FOR KIDS: HIS LIFE AND TIMES. Nancy is the bestselling and award-winning children's author of D IS FOR DRINKING GOURD: AN AFRICAN AMERICAN ALPHABET. Further, she has written more than 80 books for children, teachers and writers. Her favorite topics to write about are God, Bible stories, educational subjects, and African American history. Find out more about Nancy here http://nancyisanders.wordpress.com.
With these authors, I'm giving you a little of everything to choose from, funny picture books, fantasy YA & middle grade adventure, plus more non-fiction. Check 'em out!
Not long ago, if you heard the phrase book trailer, you might picture something like a bookmobile that drives around offering books in areas remote from the library.
But bookmobiles have been cast aside like card catalogs in this technology revolution. A book trailer is something your publisher says you have to have, along with your website, blog, Facebook, Twitter....
A writer would have to clone herself to do all the marketing and promotion necessary and still continue to write.
Or hire me and my new company to do it for you! Here's the first book trailer produced by Get Kdz Lit Media. You can find us at www.Getkdzlit.com.
I'm fascinated to discover little-known stories from history. Stories of people and events that provide a new perspective on why and how things happened, new voices that haven't been heard, insight into how the past brought us here today, and how it might guide us to a better future.
I also post here about my books and feature other authors and their books on compelling and important historical topics.
Occasionally, I share what makes me happy, pictures of my garden, recipes I've made, events I've attended, people I've met. I'm always happy to hear from readers, in the blog comments, by email or social media.