The Writer’s Handful with Terry H. Watkins

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to!

Today we hear from Terry H. Watkins, whose brand new and affecting novel, Darling Girl, will celebrate its book birthday this week. Kirkus Reviews had lots of good things to say about this coming of age story, including this: “a powerful drama that impressively manages to both haunt and inspire.”
Terry has lots of things to do this week, including entertaining her new kittens. And still, she has time for a little book conversation.
Welcome, Terry!
Did you write today? If yes, what? If no, why not?
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Yes, I’m working on an outline for my next book. I took a research trip to Ireland in April and I’m still sorting through all that material and figuring out how to use it.
What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?
I started a historical novel set in colonial America when I was thirteen. I abandoned it after about three chapters. The next thing I wrote was forty years later when I wrote some poetry while teaching pattern poetry to 8th grader. I started writing my novel Darling Girl when teaching writing the personal essay to those same 8th graders.
What are you reading right now?
I’m obsessed with John Connolly’s Charlie Parker detective series right now. His themes: sins of the fathers, the nature of evil, Is morality absolute or situational and the way he mingles the spiritual/supernatural with the mundane really interest me. I’ve just started reading There, There by Tommy Orange, a look at contemporary Native American life.
terry writers handful 1What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)
Don’t worry about what other people think about you because mostly they don’t. I was very self conscious for much of my life. I’m glad I finally started following it.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

My writing would be a snake because it sheds its skin. My second book will be unlike my first book in so many ways or at least I hope it will. I hope that my readers will be comfortable with that.
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Terry H. Watkins has worked in banking, computers, for a nonprofit educating girls about STEM opportunities, and in education teaching middle-schoolers everything from American History to Comic Books to Philosophy to Writing, until she retired and began writing shortly thereafter. When not writing or traveling, she reads and putters in the garden. She shares a home with her husband —Mr. Wonderful – three cats, and a great deal of clutter.

 

The Writer’s Handful with Sarah Ward

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Mondays + Writers = Finally something to look forward to!

Today’s Writer’s Handful is a conversation with Vermont writer, Sarah Ward, whose new book, Aesop Lake, was just released in paperback from Green Writers Press. This young adult novel is no light-hearted romp among the unicorns and fields of daisies, but instead tells a story full of the complicated relationships and actions young people are engaged in these days. Kirkus Reviews calls the book “A mindful dissection of how allied strength can combat hate.” Something, dare I say, we all might learn from.Aesop-Lake_Cover_MKTsml-768x1155

 Welcome, Sarah!

 Did you write today?

Yes. I edited a dialogue that I overheard at the 4th of July Parade. The dialogue was between a sarcastic father and his fourteen-year-old son. The boy was dressed in cargo shorts, a striped shirt and gold shoes, which his father deemed inappropriate, and proceeded to tease him for. The boy’s long curly brown hair was held in place with a reversed baseball cap, that could not hide his embarrassment and frustration. His only option was to jump on his skateboard and ride away. I’m not sure where I will ever use this scene, but it felt real, and impactful.

What’s the first thing (story, poem, song, etc.) you remember writing, and how old were you when you wrote it?

When I was in first grade, my teacher, Mrs. Partridge would ask all of us to put our heads on our desks and listen to the instrumental recording of Peter and The Wolf. It was my earliest introduction to classical music, and it flipped a switch inside of me that storytelling could be more than See Spot Run. Each character was represented by an instrument, and their voices were so distinct that I felt connected and inspired. After the recording ended we were given time to write in our journals. I was only six, but I had been reading since I was four, and had already begun to tell stories, and read books. Then I started writing my own stories for the animals in the story of Peter and The Wolf. I created new stories about what happened to the bird, the duck and other characters. While they were only a few sentences long, my teacher was ecstatic with every attempt I made, and hung them on the wall for all of the class to see.

Bundle Sticks - Aesop Lake Signed
Illustration by Lindsay Ward


What are you reading right now?

Four books. I can never read just one. 1. I’m reading an advanced reader copy of Barbara Kingsolver’s called Unsheltered, which I collected at the 2018 Book Expo in NYC. I absolutely love Barbara’s work, and own all of her novels and short stories in paper and audio. 2. Katherine Patterson’s Stories of my Life, that I picked up at her book signing last winter. One of my favorite children’s authors, and the author of my all-time favorite book as a child, Bridge To Terabithia. 3. Thea Lewis’s Wicked Vermont, which was just released this spring. Thea is another Vermont Author, and friend. I do my best to support other authors, attending their events, buying their books, and when I’m finished, I will write a review. I believe we all need this kind of support, and it builds good karma! And last, but certainly not least, 4. I’m re-listening to the Lord of the Rings, Trilogy. I’ve read this series every decade or so since my teens. I’ve listened to the audio version twice now, and absolutely love Rob Inglis’s voice. As soon as I’m finished with the trilogy I will sock myself away to watch the movies again, for the sixth or seventh time and love them just as much, but for different reason.

What’s the most important advice you ever received? (Writerly or otherwise.)

This past spring I was at the 2018 Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) conference, and I sat in on several panels about writing for young adults about challenging subjects. My new novel, Aesop Lake, takes on a hate crime against a gay couple, and one of my main protagonists, Leda, who witnesses the crime, has to choose between doing the right thing, or protecting her boyfriend and family. I asked one of the panelists, Sarah Aronson, how does she cope with negative reactions to her topics, since I’m assured that some will judge my book as too violent, anti-Christian, etc. (even though it is not), and Sarah’s response was, “as soon as this book is released, start writing the next one. Don’t get focused on any negative press, or the haters, because they don’t really matter. What matters is getting back to work, telling the next story that is ready to be written, and putting your energy into the creative process.” I can’t wait to do just that, as I’ve been thinking about my next novel for six months. I’m ready to go.

If your writing were an animal, what animal would it be? Because…

 I think my writing would be best characterized by a lemur because it often looks pretty straight forward, but there is more to it than meets the eye. There are layers of meaning and depth beneath the story, just as a lemur appears to be just another primate, but actually is quite different than others. Many of my stories have a matriarchal head of household, and strong mother-daughter relationships, which is similar to lemurs, who are one of the few known primates and mammals to have females in a social dominant role. Additionally, their social constructs are challenging, and this is true of most of my stories, given my twenty-five-years as a social worker. I tend to write stories about the darker side of families, domestic violence, hate crimes, depression and homelessness, which are topics which affect families—and women—in particular.

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Sarah Ward writes young adult fiction, poetry and journal articles in the field of child welfare. Over a twenty-five-year career as a social worker, Sarah has worked with young adults and families with harrowing backgrounds. She won the 2007 Editor’s Choice Award for the New England Anthology of Poetry for her poem “Warmer Waters,” and she is a member of the League of Vermont Writers since 2008. As a social worker, Sarah has published several journal articles, and was recently a co-author on an article published (December 2016) in Child and Youth Services Review titled, “Building a landscape of resilience after workplace violence in public child welfare.” In her limited spare time, Sarah enjoys a good book, a little yoga and a cup of tea in her home in Williston, Vermont.

 

TBT: Wagon Wheels Day Camp

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First day of camp; I was seven, Roger nine. We wore matching sneakers. I wished we were twins; in a couple of years I would cut my hair short and dress like a boy sometimes, hoping people thought we were.

We waited for the bus each morning at the end of our driveway on Greenwood Avenue, a stretch of road then that was sleepy, a huge, empty field across from our house, and up the block a Sinclair station with that big Dino the Dinosaur in front. A place where you would get free glasses with every fill-up, and where my brothers would buy bottles of soda by the case and sell them at the nearby little league games for a few pennies’ profit. These days Greenwood Avenue is four lanes in front of where our house was, and at the corner a car dealership takes up a complete block. 23cfbbaebb0a1ca4970266aa97b29fb2

Wagon Wheels had a talent show on the last day of camp. I don’t remember what Roger did for it, but I danced The Freddie with a bunch of little girls under the hot August sun.

School was just a month away.

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