age range: 8-12
genre: contemporary fiction with historical flashbacks
Crystal Allen’s website
Please tell us about your book.
THE LAURA LINE is about Laura Dyson, a thirteen year old, overweight girl who has dreams of being a model…or a major league baseball pitcher. Because of her weight issues, students make fun of her to the point that Laura begins to believe that she is all of the ugly things her classmates say she is. It’s not until Laura ventures into an old shack on her grandmother’s farm and finds a ledger filled with documents from the female ancestors in her history, (all of them named Laura) that she begins to stand up for herself. Now, Laura Dyson not only knows who she is, but has evidence of all the wonderful things she can become.
What inspired you to write this story?
My mother raised my oldest brother and sister in an extremely small, one-room, family-built house on my grandmother’s farm. I missed my opportunities to tour this family landmark, but I knew it held valuable history, along with proof of the strength and determination of my mother. I wanted to honor her, and the house, in some way.
Could you share with readers how you conducted your research or share a few interesting tidbits you learned while researching?
Talking with family members and memories of growing up on my grandmother’s farm in Indiana were the biggest tools I used when writing THE LAURA LINE. However, while visiting Boston one summer, a replica of the Amistad was docked in the Naval shipyard, and people were encouraged to tour for free! Since the Amistad was going to make a “cameo” appearance in THE LAURA LINE, I thought this was an excellent opportunity for some research, and the price was perfect! With camera in hand and money for snacks, I took off to the shipyard, expecting a fun day in the sun.
But that’s not what happened.
Touring that schooner caused such an emotional stir in me, I was completely caught off guard by its affect from the moment I stepped onboard. I had no personal ties to anyone aboard the Amistad, yet I wept right there at the shipyard as if I did. To see pencil-drawn portraits of the captives, some as young as seven-years-old, took all of the fun out of my day. I knew the story of the Amistad, but standing downstairs, in the belly of that schooner, put the whole story in my face. This was no longer a research project. It was now personal.
Even though the THE LAURA LINE is based on fictional characters, I felt as if I met the first Laura that day. She was real, and she needed me to feel her pain, her fear, her frustration, her hunger, her tears, her anger. I rushed back to the place I was staying and began to empty out everything I had felt that day, whether it was in complete sentences or not. I will never forget that experience.
What are some special challenges associated with writing historical fiction?
Making sure each Laura was given a talent that existed in her era, and the materials, left by each Laura, were believable.
What topics does your book touch upon that would make it a perfect fit for the classroom?
THE LAURA LINE teaches its readers:
Love yourself. Love your “Line.” Live your dreams.