Welcome to my gorgeous new website! Many, many thanks to Erin and Phil Ulrich of Design by Insight for every beautiful detail and Will Bogel of Mr. Darcy Designs for the Blogger redirect. They’ve made this little corner of the Internet truly feel like home.
I’m celebrating this new start with a MAY B. giveaway I’m calling courage and hope. I inscribe this on every copy of MAY B. I’m asked to sign. These two little words encompass everything I think of May, who she is and what she can handle (whether she knows it or not).
I’ve borrowed May’s bravery on a number of occasions — while running the last miles of a grueling race, in facing situations where I’ve felt ill-equipped, when the book itself was left orphaned and in limbo after Random House shuttered the doors of May’s initial imprint, Tricycle Press.
Of all the things May’s taught me, it’s been the courage to be truthful with my fiction that has impacted me the most. But outside of the historical era the story’s anchored in, what kind of truth is there in a story that grew out of my imagination?
I’d read two verse novels before starting MAY B. because the book was never meant to be written this way. It was after my first attempts at drafting that I felt the distance between what I was imagining and what was on the page. Truth was missing. So I returned to my research, namely the first hand-accounts of frontier women, where May’s voice came to me in their spare, guarded letters and journals, words that echoed their environment and the harsh reality of their day to day.
Round about the time I started drafting May as a verse novel, I remember my mother asking me what I was working on. I tried to explain to her this new beginning that was like nothing I’d ever done before. I wasn’t ready to call it verse — certainly not poetry —but this I knew: it was the most honest thing I’d ever created, and despite my lack of knowledge and skill, that’s what saw me through.
If an author is approaching a book honestly, there is little room for her to hide. The work itself will confront her every time she opens it. It will force her to reflect. And the thing this manuscript brought to me again and again as I spent time with May and Teacher and Miss Sanders were my own shortcomings in the classroom.
In creating a character whose needs weren’t fully understood or met by her teachers, I had to admit the times I’d not done all I could for a child, whether those limitations came from time constraints, lack of skills or knowledge, or worst of all, not caring for one student as much as the next. It was an ugly thing to face, but this truth let me most honestly examine May’s struggles and feelings of frustration, hurt, and confusion. The writing became a way to know my students more fully, a way to ask forgiveness.
With each new book, I find new reasons to hold back, stay guarded. It’s hard to courageously expose the hundreds of writing techniques I’ve yet to master, the thousands of ways I’m flawed. But May has taught me I can’t go back — and I don’t want to. Because writing truth is the only way to breathe life into a character. Only when I’m pushed to be courageous will I find the words I truly need to say.
I want to start a conversation here about courage and hope — what these words mean to you, ways you’ve seen them lived out, things you’ve learned because of them. If you blog, consider sharing a picture, a memory, a quote, a story — anything — that represents one or both of these words, then link back here so other readers can share in the celebration. If you don’t blog, share your courage and hope thoughts on Facebook and Twitter, using the hashtags #MayB. and #courageandhope. Ten participants will win paperback copies of MAY B.
The contest is open between now and February 25 to US residents. Please mention the giveaway and discussion in your post and link back here, following the steps below, or by commenting on Twitter or Facebook. So excited to have you join in the conversation!
Valerie Geary says
Love the new look, C! So fresh and so clean. Plus the birds!! Adorable. I will ponder this idea of courage and hope, and share my thoughts soon.
Look at that little birdie right next to your name. Looking forward to what you come up with!
Sherrie Petersen says
It’s gorgeous! And it fits you perfectly 🙂
Thanks, Sherrie! I think so, too.
Erin Ulrich says
It has been a joy to work with you! I’m so glad we were able to connect via your redesign. My girls are so excited about May B., and I can’t wait to read it, too! 🙂
Likewise, Erin! You’ve put up with my lack of computer skills so gracefully and your work is perfection. I’d love to keep in touch (and send business your way, too).
Lorna Wheaton says
So lovely to see this post via Twitter. Coincidently, May B. is one of my #MustReadin2014 titles. After reading this post, I am even more excited to read it and share it with my daughter whom I mention in my linked up post. We are rallying the courage and the brave again as she sustained another concussion in a recent ski accident.
Lorna, your poor girl! So glad you’re joining in.
terry lynn johnson says
I LOVED LOVED LOVED this book!! Loved this courageous character and I’m so happy that even more people will get to read it now in PAPERBACK. Congrats!
I really love the BLUEBIRDS! Great new look!
Canadian here, so can’t join the give way, but have fun!
Thank you, Terry!
I know it’s wrong to covet but I covet your beautiful website. The birds make me weak in the knees! And it celebrates May B. but has left room for your other books to come. Love it.
My very first book sale, eons ago, was cancelled the summer before the book was to come out. I thought I was going to die. I even stopped writing for awhile. . .until my darling son (then 7 or so) had the courage to point out to me that I was crabby all the time. “You need to start writing again, Mommy,” my wise one said. So I did. And have been ever since. It takes guts every day to tune out the noise of publishing and tune in to that very soft voice that belongs to the stories I’m meant to tell.
Oh, Kirby, thank you. And thank you for this honest look into your writing. I just read Madeleine L’Engle’s WALKING ON WATER, and her children told her the same thing — you need to be writing, Mom.
The fact that I had something unique to say is the small bit of courage I held to those years before publication. I’m going to take your advice and keep that in the forefront now.
Emily Dickenson’s poem comes to mind whenever I think about hope. It portrays hope as a singing, everlasting bird that “perches in the soul,” freely giving hope to those in the midst of dark storms without asking anything in return. This kind of hope inspires courage with its beauty and ability to soar above one’s circumstances, but does not necessarily demand it. Here is her poem:
“Hope” is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—
And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—
I’ve heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
How I love Emily, and how I love this poem.
Your website looks beautiful. Congrats. It was nice to be reminded of your wonderful book. I read it a couple years ago and enjoyed it very much.
Thank you, Rosi! I’m thrilled with it.
Caroline, your website is gorgeous.
For me, any kind of “Art-ing” represents courage and hope. We live in a world where, unless a book or a film or a song is a massive commercial success, there’s a sense of “why bother?” But bother we must, for the soul’s sake if for no other reason.
Having survived 2013, my debut year as a published author, this lesson has returned to me anew. I’m deep into the work of creating a new novel, which means I’m deep into the work of battling self-doubt, artistic frustration and all the pressures that come with both. My weapons of choice in this battle? Courage and hope. Sometimes, they are all we have.
Thanks for starting this conversation!
I love so much about this because all art is ultimately for the soul’s sake, isn’t it? It’s what makes us fully human and fully alive. Hold onto your courage and hope as you draft! There’s nothing like a new project in all its fragile glory to remind me how much I don’t know and still need to learn.
Faith E. Hough says
Beautiful new site, Caroline! (And it’s so easy to comment. 😉
I’m glad you started this conversation, as it’s been a reminder of how much courage and hope I see in those around me every day. I wrote a post about my grandmother, one of the most courageous people I’ve had the honor to know…actually, May reminds me of her.
Faith, your post is just plain gorgeous. And to think my May reminds you of your grandmother — I’m honored, plain and simple. Thank you for introducing me to her today.
Barbara Watson says
Approaching our writing honestly. What an all-around beautiful concept. Because when we do, like you’ve stated, we approach ourselves honestly.
Lovely new website, paperbook goodness, and conversation, Caroline. I have added my thoughts, aided by St. Alphonsus, since he’s keeping me company all year. Link is: http://vijayabodach.blogspot.com/2014/02/on-hope.html