Monday, October 25, 2021

Memorable Letters from Fourth Graders

 JANICE:  Recently I was going through a file of memorable letters from fourth grade children who read my Texas Trilogy. Once again they swept me away, and I want to share excerpts with you. Each paragraph is a separate unedited comment from a different child, different school.




 Dear Mrs. Shefelman,

"I know that it is hard for Mina to loose her mother at such a young age because my real father died when I was two. I think that your book should be expose to children because no matter what happen, they can still live their life as a normal kid and better days will come." - Karina

"Thank you for coming to Doss. I liked your hat and your smell. And I also liked "Paradise Called Texas" book." - Nan-Ku

'My favorite part of all three books is when Mina and Amaya first meet in Paradise Called Texas. I like it because it was two very different people meeting and able to understand each other." - Sabrina

"I like the way you put feeling and action into your writing. I can picture whats happening in a part of every one of your books." - Aaron

"I have been inspired deeply by your speeches and encouragement to find our gift. I am deeply interested in armory, art, maritime biology and the military. I have many dreams of being a swordsmith and creating the most beautiful swords, shields, lances and battle axes you can imagine." - Noel

"Have you ever had a moment of grief in your life? I have." - Marshal

"The sad part is that Mama died. I liked Mama so much but she just had to go. The rest of the story wouldn't be the same if she lived. So in a way, I really like Mama's death." - Jackson

I think you shouldn't make your books into movies because it takes away how you imagine what is happening in the book." - Suliana

"My favorite part of A Paradise Called Texas is when Mina put the little wood seagull on Mama's coffin it was so upsetting. I have gone through the same thing as Mina. My dad died this past year in October." - Andrew


"My gift is to write and I always thought of it as a long-term contest, to find as many things in the world as you can. It's also like a sport with a mind such as mine running as fast as it can, collecting ideas upon the way." - Paul

"Thank you for coming. I realy injoyed you visit becaus it was intrasting, injoyful and most of all becaus I mist Math and Spelling." - Stephen

Friends, you can't make this up! Never underestimate children's wisdom, dreams, and honesty. I answered them all - the grievers, the dreamers, the wise and the funny ones.

Wednesday, June 30, 2021

New Work-in-Progress

 JANICE:  Now that my latest book project, Village Without Men, is in the hands of the publisher, I have begun a historical novel set in ancient Athens during the time of Pericles - the golden age. The working title is Aspasia's Choice. Such an ambitious project means research, research, and more research, which I find fascinating, especially visual research. The images give me the power to make images in my head, which turn into words on paper. Here we have a reconstruction of the Acropolis.

And one of the theater of Dionysus at the base of the Acropolis. I once sat on these steep seats and listened to Beethoven's 9th Symphony.

 Not only do I need settings, I need to know about daily life, how the people dressed, what they ate, what their houses were like, etc. The basic garment of both women and men was a chiton. After much searching I found this simple drawing of how a chiton works.

And I need images of the characters. Here is the main character, based on a historical person.

Maps and plans are helpful, such as this one of Athens Agora.

And this plan of a Greek house helps me write scenes of my characters at home.
So, whenever I can't write, it is because I can't visualize the scene, which means more research to get in touch with that moment in time and place. As David McCullough, author of the Pulitzer Prize winning biography of John Adams, said, "I've been living in the 18th Century for seven years, and I'm not coming back." Well, I'm living in the 5th Century BC, but I will be back so I don't catch the plague that came to Athens in 430 BC.