Tag Archives: juvenile fiction
Two Kids Riding Bikes
My defining moment happened on a summer day on Mayne Island nine years ago. If the neighbor’s grandchildren hadn’t been out riding their bikes I might never have written my first book. As I watched from my front porch, it was like a switch had been turned on and I was back on my bike, pant legs rolled up, pedaling down the road. I was strong, free, and independent, just enjoying life as a kid, like those two. I was eleven again, riding my bike, thinking my thoughts, feeling the same feelings. I had to write my book. That day, my own childhood, the children I had known, the books I’d enjoyed and the world of my imagination came together and spilled out onto the pages. I could not stop writing.
I had grown up in a Saskatchewan village — nestled among wheat fields and grain elevators. Like any village, ours was rife with gossip and legends. My imagination was haunted by the secrets and hidden mysteries I overheard while listening silently and invisibly to grown-up conversations. When I wasn’t skating or riding my bike, you could find me curled up reading. By the age of eleven I was writing the kinds of stories I enjoyed, and though I completed very few of them, I started many. I continued writing secretly while raising my family and working, but, always shy, I kept this part of my identity hidden.
But in 2005 I retired and had uninterrupted time. The first week of my retirement I saw those two kids and I started writing my first novel. My heroine, Magda, enjoys the same freedom I had. On her island where deer roam, fences are few, and farms and meadows lie on fertile land between hills and ridges, she rides her bike along quiet country roads lined with salal bushes, blackberries and wild roses, with her friends. They swim in the ocean and build rafts and shelters from driftwood. But all is not as idyllic as it seems on the surface. Magda, whose father and brother drowned in a sudden storm, learns that friendly people who have potluck dinners and bake blackberry pies for their neighbours, have dark secrets, both gruesome and terrifying. Magda’s adventures and her unbridled curiosity challenge the adults in her life.
I owe my three books and one “on the way” to the two kids riding bikes down a dusty road one sunny day nine years ago. Without that sudden coming together of everything I wanted to express, in one jolt, Magda and her friends would not exist
From my entry in CBC’s Writers Write: “Defining Moments”
I’ve ignored this blog for several months. I’ve been hard at work on my fourth Magda book. I’m on my eleventh revision now. I think it’s finally starting to come together.
Unless you’ve written a book I don’t think you know what hard work it is. And I won’t tell you how hard it is because I would never want to say anything that would discourage you from starting to write one. Let’s just say that you must really need to do this, really be obsessed with the need to do it! It will use you up, and make you find resources you didn’t know you had. And if you are that motivated, then writing books will give you great satisfaction.
So, you might not hear from me again for a while. Send encouraging thoughts my way, please. I still have a long way to go.
I write primarily for kids between 9 and 12, and my books are mysteries and adventure stories. I never read or write Sci Fi. But I’m reading a friend’s first novel to look for things that don’t work.
Why am I doing this? I’m helping out a friend and fellow-writer, someone who has done the same for me, in fact. I’m doing it out of friendship and gratitude.
What are my qualifications? I write. I can spot grammar and spelling mistakes. I can tell when the flow in the novel is bumpy. I can sense when a character does or says something that is “out of character.” And I know when there is too much telling and not enough showing, which brings me to my next question.
How am I unqualified? I don’t know how much explaining of technology is acceptable in a Sci Fi novel. I don’t know how much explanation of the fictional society’s peculiarities is enough. I don’t know if I can skip over the technical details that I can’t understand.
Please give me feedback if you’re a Sci Fi writer or reader, or if you’ve ever been a Beta Reader for someone’s Sci Fi book, on any other genre of novel, with which you’re unfamiliar.
I look forward to your comments.
Today I finished the 4th draft of my fourth Magda book. Feels wonderful. I’ve added 4,00 words since the 3rd draft. The plot pieces have moved around and the logic is falling into place.
Is it still a mystery? I don’t know. Is it a love story? Not really, though love is there throughout the story. Is it a book for kids 9 to 12? Maybe. It’s about kids, but perhaps the subject makes the book too painful for kids to want to read.
It’s the book I wanted to write, is all I know.
When I write the next draft, number 5, I’ll concentrate on imagery, mood, suspense, the language that makes up the story’s tone. This is the part that I love the most.
After the next draft, I hope to be ready to show it to a good editor. I know that I’ll be doing more rewriting after that. And so it goes.
Everyrosehasathornwrites, “It seems to be how tastefully it’s written that counts.”
My response is, I agree. I’m dealing with the taboo subject of child soldiers in my fourth book. I want to let my young readers know about this horrible situation without freaking them out so much they’ll stop reading. I’m treading very carefully.
I was one myself. Yup. I know how it is to be 11 or 12, with all the freedom and restrictions, joy and pain it involves. So when I write, I feel like that young person, and for a while I become her. I wake up to the smell of toast my mom is making, feel the pebbles through my runners, hear my bike’s tires on the road, taste the warm, ripe blackberries, see spooky shapes in the trees at night.
Writing is the most exciting thing I do. I’m never so alive, for such an extended period of time, as when I’m in my young protagonist’s body and mind, living her life. That’s why I write.
Mark your calendars. March 20, at 4:00 PM, the Mayne Island Library will be open to everyone who wants to hear about Magda and Brent’s adventures on Mayne Island. I’ll be mining my three novels for stories to interest and entertain, and I’ll also be reading from my fourth novel for the 9 – 13 crowd, the as-yet unheard stories of their further adventures! (This fourth novel is in its early stages.)
If you want to ask me any questions about writing, I’ll be happy to answer them the best I can.
See you at the Mayne Island Library on Wednesday, March 20, for some fun with books.
PS The Library is providing light refreshments, as well.