Sunday Interview – Belle Jarniewski

Today’s guest is a wonderful woman I have known since Junior High. I am very proud to call Belle my friend. Although she is an extremely busy woman, she was gracious enough to spend some time with us talking about a cause near and dear to her heart. Along with her work with the Manitoba Holocaust Heritage Project and the Freeman Family Holocaust Education Centre of the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada, she compiled and edited documents and personal histories in a book called Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors (under her married name of Millo) If you didn’t see Friday’s Review, you can check it out here). Without further ado, please welcome her to my blog.

Belle Jarniewski

Hi, Belle! I am so glad you found the time to talk to us, today. To begin with, since my readers don’t know you as well as I do, would you please tell them a little about yourself?

Well… I was born and raised in Winnipeg, the child of two Holocaust survivors. That in particular was the reason I became involved in all of this. My own parents both lived through such tremendous tragedy and trauma and yet had the courage to start life anew. Both of their stories are in the book. My father was the only survivor of his entire family, including his first wife and child – whom he never saw, as his wife was pregnant when he was mobilized into the Polish Army. All were murdered by the Nazis. My mother was a survivor of Auschwitz. When I was growing up, people didn’t really talk about this. For one thing, growing up in River Heights, I didn’t know any other kids whose parents were survivors – for whom this reality was their family history. The survivors themselves didn’t really begin to speak publicly in large part until the 1980s. By then, my mother had already passed away. My father died in 1983. However, they had both spoken about their experiences ever since I could remember. My father wrote his wartime memoirs in 1946. I felt that somehow I owed them a debt for having been brave enough to have had children after having actually witnessed children murdered in front of their eyes.

I attended Ramah Hebrew School for elementary school, then JB Mitchell, Grant Park and Vincent Massey. I have a B. Ed and a Cert. Traduction. I have taught French and been a translator from English to French. Since I became involved in the Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre, and took over as Chair in 2009, that has pretty much taken over most of my time and I have not been working as a translator, anymore. We have been involved in some fascinating programmes, that I will mention further, below. I have just been accepted as a candidate in the Master’s programme at the University of Winnipeg in the MA Theology. I’m very excited to go back to school – part time, of course!

I don’t know how you’ll find the time, but good luck with your courses! 🙂

When and how did you first get involved in the Manitoba Holocaust Heritage Program?

Originally, I was asked to transcribe some questionnaires. You see, the MHHP was a project that began about 20 years ago. Questionnaires were sent out to survivors or their descendants to fill out. Now, the project was originally to be a data base for researchers. For some reason, nothing was done with these questionnaires and photos (which some of the respondents had sent in) and they just sat around collecting dust. That’s when I joined the committee. The DVD also then sat around. So…

They decided to create a book like Voices? 🙂

One day, one of the survivors said to me – “The DVD is sitting around. Nothing has been done.”  He also indicated that he had participated in Steven Spielberg’s Shoah project but felt that not enough people could see these tapes. Even his own family watched it once and that was it. The tapes – there are several thousand of them – are a very important video recording of survivors’ stories. However, he was right – they are expensive to acquire – so students, for instance, would not have access to them. He asked me, “What if you took those questionnaires and turned them into a book?” Without really thinking it through, I said yes.

That was quite the undertaking! How long did it take to acquire the information and compile it all?

From that moment on, it took about two years. The first thing I did was send out a letter to about 150 people – all the people who had originally completed the questionnaires as well as others in the community of whom we knew were survivors. We published ads as well, indicating that I was going to write this book. I wanted everyone to have a chance at giving me their complete story as opposed to just the questionnaire. There were some who had already, sadly, passed away and so, if I couldn’t find someone in their family to help me, then I included the questionnaire only. In the end, I had 73 stories – some of which had never been told to anyone before – even family members. There were also wonderful photographs, which truly portrayed a world lost. I really worked night and day on this for two years. It consumed my life. Many times, I was working with people who were dealing with a story that was several decades old. They needed to remember dates, places, etc. so I often had to do a lot of research – with databases, or even calling the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and Yad Vashem in Israel for help. I also hoped from the beginning, to get the book into Manitoba schools. Therefore, I made sure to add footnotes that would explain historical and Judaic terms.

When it was launched, there was extensive media coverage and you were right in the middle of it. What was it like to present this tome to the world?

It was an extraordinary experience. It is really only as time goes by, as well, that I am realizing that I was lucky enough to have had the honour to have completed this project. When I receive letters from as far away as Poland and Holland, it’s truly gratifying. When I hear the book mentioned at the funeral of one of the people of whom I wrote – that means so much to me. The book was placed in each and every high school in Manitoba. That means that students will have access to all these very important stories which took place all across Eastern and Western Europe. The stories are all so different – some of the survivors were in concentration camps, others were hidden, others still were partisans. Many of the survivors in question were the same age as the students. In fact, some of our survivors were among the 1000 orphans that Canada accepted after the end of the war. They were all teenagers. I can only imagine how this must affect a student when he or she is reading it and imagining the same experience.

I know there are more holocaust survivors in Winnipeg than the over 70 individuals & families represented in this book. Have more people come forward to talk about their experiences since the book came out? If so, will there be a second volume to include them, too?

There are some who have come to me to say that they would have liked their or their parents’ stories in the book but for some reason didn’t know about the project. We will have to see about adding stories if we go for a second printing.

What have you done in this field since the book came out?

What our organization does on an ongoing basis is to bring students to our Centre (The Freeman Family Foundation Holocaust Education Centre at the Asper Campus) to hear firsthand presentations from survivors. These presentations are absolutely free of charge. We also hold a symposium once a year at the University of Winnipeg for grades 9-12 where we welcome up to 2000 students from all over Manitoba. We have a guest speaker in the morning and different programmes each year in the afternoon. Often, the morning speaker is a survivor from outside of Winnipeg who is used to speaking to large groups. However this year, we brought in Father Patrick Desbois from Paris, France who together with his organization Yahad-In Unum, has been identifying the locations of mass graves of Jews and Roma in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union since 2004. He is able to do this by interviewing the remaining witnesses. He was a tremendously powerful speaker. This year, we recorded the symposium and uploaded it onto Youtube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VoyprDPOuQ4


And part two at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WcuTPJiZGOU

The following day, both Father Desbois and Lt. Gen. Roméo Dallaire spoke to the greater community on the subject of indifference. That was an incredible experience! 

Last year, together with the Ridd Institute for Religion and Global Policy of the Global College, UW, we brought in an exhibit from Dachau called Names Instead of Numbers which told the individual stories of inmates of Dachau concentration camp. The exhibit took place at Westminster United Church. It was a wonderful interfaith project. Docents from both communities participated. My father, incidentally, was liberated from Dachau at the end of the war.

If someone wanted to learn more about the Holocaust and its survivors, what are some resources you would recommend?

If you go to our website at www.ffhec.org and go to the Symposium Guide – there is an extensive suggested list of books and videos that I have compiled – as well as great information for any educators out there.

Are there any media sites you would like to share?

Same as above – but especially the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum site: http://www.ushmm.org
And Yad Vashem’s site: http://www.yadvashem.org

Do you have anything else to say before we say goodbye?

The Shoah is a narrative of individual human stories and it must become part of our entire human narrative. The tragedy of the Shoah must become a narrative belonging to all of humanity. For if not, we take the terrible risk that one day far off into the future when the survivors, the second generation and even the third generation are gone, the Shoah will become but an anomaly of history. We cannot allow that to happen. The Shoah most tragically is a human story. If we don’t hear that it IS a human story, then we will not have learned.

Thanks, Belle, for doing this. BTW, how have book sales been, so far?

Terrific! We printed 1600 books and have about 300 copies left!

That’s wonderful! For anyone who is interested in purchasing Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors, it can be found at McNally Robinson Booksellers, www.ffhec.org, or in person at the Jewish Heritage Centre (143 Doncaster Street, Winnipeg, open Mon. – Thurs. between 9:00-4:00) All proceeds from the purchase of the book go towards Holocaust Education.   

I would also like to encourage you to check out the Youtube videos of this year’s symposium that Belle mentioned above. Although both parts are fairly long, the stories Father Patrick Desbois has to tell about his research is definitely worth the time and you’ll get to hear Belle’s introduction, too. 🙂

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Friday Review – Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors

While this is a pretty heavy topic, I still want to introduce you to this book, Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors. I could only read small parts of it at a time, because the stories these people had to tell were so horrific I could barely see the pages through my tears. It angers me when I read about how some people refuse to believe that the Holocaust ever happened. That is pure ignorance. Books like this are necessary to make us face the reality of that dark time in our history, in the hopes that it doesn’t happen again. Unfortunately, there are still countries who believe this kind of ‘cleansing’ is necessary and they must be stopped just like the Nazis in World War II.

Sorry for the rant!

Back to the book: it contains information on over 70 individuals and families living in Winnipeg, who survived the Holocaust, or Shoah, as the Jewish people refer to it. There are photos and copies of official documents, along with family histories, including those of the book’s editor, Belle Millo. Some of the data was only given in the form of a survey, because some of the people died before their stories could be told.

The surveys had been part of a project that the Manitoba Holocaust Heritage Project began many years ago, that blossomed into this incredible book, capturing the lives of those brave souls within its pages. It amazes me that, after their awful experiences, they could put it all behind them and embrace their futures. I suppose, when you’ve faced death like that, you treasure ever moment of life, from then on.

Voices only tells a few stories in the whole scheme of things, but there are thousands (millions?) out in the world who have experienced similar injustices. It’s good to know that there is now documented proof of what happened to those people over 70 years ago, so that their voices will not be lost and will be heard by each new generation.

I hope you will be able to read these stories at some point and pass them on to those who need to learn about this black era in history. Drop by on Sunday, when I will be interviewing the book’s editor. 🙂

Book blurb:

Documenting the stories of more than 70 local survivors and their families before, during and after the Holocaust, Voices of Winnipeg Holocaust Survivors was edited by Belle Millo, Chair of the Holocaust Education Committee. Gustavo Rymberg, formerly of Winnipeg produced the design and layout.

In addition to the written testimonies of the survivors, precious photographs further tell the story of a world that was lost, of entire families that were eradicated. Documents attest to imprisonment in concentration camps, confiscation of businesses by the Nazis, incarceration by the British on the island of Cyprus, to mention but a few.

Crafty Wednesday – reno update

Sorry I missed last week’s Crafty Wednesday post. I’m still struggling with the reno of the craft room and office. All that while still trying to create cards for people on a TV table in the rec room, which is really beginning to look like a wreck, with scrapbook supplies spilling into it and over furniture, while I rearrange things in my craft room.

The good news is my office is starting to look usable. I have a new desk. I have brought up the bookshelf from the craft room that held all my research materials, as well as three of my two-drawer file cabinets. Today, I went to Canadian Tire and bought shelves for the office along with the brackets and all the hardware. Now, all I have to do is put them up, but thought I’d take a break and let you know what I’ve been doing. Here is what the spare room looked like before I started:

spare room1 before

spare room2 before

Here’s what it looks like with my new desk in it:

new desk

new desk & tall bookshelf

I moved the small bookshelf over to the end of the bed, as you can see.

In addition to the shelving for the office, I also purchased the starter kit for the Mastercraft Easy Install Wall Storage System.

This is just the picture on the box. I haven't installed it yet.

This is just the picture on the box. I haven’t installed it yet.

While it was essentially designed to help organize garage walls, my Close To My Heart representative and instructor has this system in her craft room and it looks marvelous.

crafts room before

Craft room before

I am in the process of rearranging the desk and tables in the craft room so that I will have more wall space to set it up.

I've detached corner shelf and trying to pull back computer desk.

I’ve detached corner shelf and trying to pull back computer desk.

I’m also removing the corner shelf which, to me, always seemed to be a waste of space. The desktop computer isn’t working so I need to unhook it and get it out of this space, but I’m not sure about how the printer & router is involved so will have to wait until Hubby can assist me!

Well, I guess that’s it for today. I should go and figure out how to install the shelves on the office wall!

WordPress Family Award

The wonderful Jenny Keller Ford from the Dreamweaver’s Cottage has been kind enough to nominate me for the WordPress Family Award. Thanks so much Jenny, for thinking about me and my little blog, here!

family-award

Anyway, she has a few questions she would like me to answer. You’ll find my answers in blue.

1. Have you ever eaten a bug? Not that I was aware.
2. Have you ever been bitten by a horse? Not a horse but a horsefly! Ouch!
3. Have you ever ridden an elephant/camel? I rode an elephant at a small circus with my kids when they were quite young.
4. Have you ever made a wish upon a star and it came true? Not that I can remember.
5. Shoes or bare feet? Bare feet – except outside in winter! It’s dang cold up here in the frozen north, but I’m always barefoot in the house.
6. How old were you when you got/gave your first kiss? Fifth grade in a small snow fort in the school yard with a cute little British boy. Boy, did I get teased for that! Loved his accent, though, and still do! lol
7. Your favourite sound in the world? A young child’s belly laugh.
8. Your favourite smell? Cinnamon buns baking.
9. Paper books or e-books? Paper, most definitely.
10. Happiest moment of your life? A triple tie between wedding day & the births of my two kids. On my wedding day I was happy to the point of tears because I had waited four years from the time he first proposed and my kids’ births, well, I think that’s self evident. 🙂

The WordPress family is so huge, with such an amazing bunch of bloggers, it’s hard to choose who deserves the award more when there are far too many. The list would probably be a mile long! So, for those of you WordPress users who would like to answer the same questions as Jenny asked me, or any combination of the 10, please be honored to participate. Just let me know if you have blogged about it and provide me with a link so I can come by and read your answers – or you can answer the ones you like in the Comments section.

Have a wonderful Monday! 🙂

Sunday Interview – Colleen Nelson

Happy Sunday, Everyone! I’d like you all to welcome, again, the lovely and talented Colleen Nelson. She is a YA author and fellow Great Plains writer, among other things. You may recall my review of her first novel, Tori By Design and previous interview with her, as well as my review of her latest novel, The Fall.

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Hi, Colleen! Would you like to begin by telling my readers a little bit about yourself?

Of course! I live in Winnipeg and have two boys, ages 6 and 8, and three grown step-children. I was a teacher for about ten years before I had my kids and now I teach preschool, do a lot of volunteer work and write, write, write!

We know you now have two young adult novels published. Please describe what it was like to get them each out in print.

Tori by Design was a long, labour-intensive project because it was my first novel. I was lucky to have an amazing editor, Ms. Anita Daher, to coach me through the process.  I started writing The Fall soon after I found out Tori was going to be published, because I knew I wanted to write a book my sons would read one day (Tori is a bit girly!).

I learned so much from the writing and editing process with my first book, that writing The Fall was much faster. I still learned a lot working with Anita, but it wasn’t as grueling as with Tori. I equate an editor to a diamond cutter, bringing out the best and chipping off what detracts from the book. Anita is a master diamond cutter!

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How did the process differ between each project? How were they the same?

With Tori, I sort of stumbled along, losing my way a few times and doing massive re-writes. With The Fall, I wrote with intention. I knew the story I wanted to tell and who the characters were, which is why I was able to write it in about a year (Tori took four years). One of the main things Anita taught me when I was editing my first book, was that there has to be an emotional connection between the reader and the main character. I was conscious of creating that in The Fall from the beginning.

As for similarities in the process, working with the same team at Great Plains was a bonus. I had another wonderful launch at McNally Robinson and the staff was as supportive as always.

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The Fall is a very different book than Tori By Design. What sparked the idea for it?

Writing for boys required a different point of view than with Tori. Luckily, Ben, one of the main characters’ voices, came to me right away. He was a skater and had a best friend, Tessa. (Her voice also came to me clearly. In fact, she’s my favourite character.) But, of course, something has to happen to Ben, which is when I dug into my past experiences as a teacher.

When I was teaching junior high, a boy died suddenly. Watching how the other students dealt with his death was heart breaking. I say in my Author’s Note that ‘Grieving is difficult at any age, but being an adolescent complicates the situation’. I wanted to convey the confusing emotions that come along with grief and how each person handles them differently.

I thought you did a marvelous job portraying each of them – and that’s coming from a mom who had to watch her daughter & her friends go through a similar tragedy. 🙂

I found the POVs for The Fall to be presented a little differently, with Ben being in first person and the other two boys in third person. What was your reasoning for this? (not a criticism, just curious)

No criticism taken! At first, I wrote all three in first person. Ben was the main character and the other two characters didn’t speak until after the accident. As I was re-reading, I didn’t think Cory and Taz’ voices were different enough, so I switched them to third person to see if it worked better.

It was during the editing process that Anita suggested I make all three characters equal. I’d already come to know Cory and Taz as being in third person, so I kept their sections in that narrative.

Besides the obvious research into the sport of skateboarding, what other research did you need to do?

Surprisingly, I don’t know a lot about gang initiations, so that required some research. I also read some books, most notably ‘Raising Cain’ to get deeper into the adolescent male psyche. Boys don’t communicate or relate to others the same way girls do. I feel that society stifles their emotionality. I wanted the characters in The Fall  to present an honest portrayal of how males grieve.

But, as a writer, every day is research. I am always paying attention to how things look, smell, taste, what sounds I hear, anything that will add depth to my writing. Just driving through a new neighborhood provides research. I never know what will appear from my subconscious as I write!

Now for some fun questions . . .

Do you prefer chocolate or ice cream?

CHOCOLATE!!!!

What is your writing workspace like? (I’m in the process of redesigning mine and could use some pointers!) Feel free to attach pictures, if you like!

Lately, I’ve been relocating to the dining room table. I usually have papers, notes, calendars and coffee cups strewn around me. I’m a messy writer!

Me, too! That’s why I need a space with a door I can close when company comes over! lol

Do you have any rituals or items that help your muse speak to you as you sit down to write?

I read out loud a lot, to make sure the voice of the character is authentic, but that’s it.

Are there social media sites you’d like to share with us? (Facebook, twitter, blog, website, etc)

I have a website at www.colleennelsonauthor.com, a blog at www.colleennelson.blogspot.com and am on facebook , Colleennelson.547 and twitter @colleennelson14. Phew. That’s a lot of places to find me!

Are there any final words before we say goodbye?

Thank you so much for the opportunity to tell you about my writing. This book, The Fall, means a lot to me and I’m excited for people to read it!

Thanks for taking the time to speak with us, Colleen! 🙂

The Fall by Colleen Nelson

You may recall my review of Tory By Design by Colleen Nelson. If not, you can read it here. While Tory had a lighter tone to it, The Fall has a completely different feel. It is much grittier and courser than Tory, which is how it should be considering the subject matter. Set around the tragic death of a teenager, The Fall explores the effects it has on the boy’s three friends. Each teen tries to deal with the tragedy in their own way, which often leads to some very bad choices. Colleen delves into the topic with extreme sensitivity and creates empathy for her characters.

She adeptly brings the three boys to life. The main character, Ben, turns to his passion for skateboarding after Luke’s death in an attempt to put the tragedy behind him. Colleen’s research into the sport is evident by the terminology and expressions her character uses when he is in ‘Benjiland’, what he calls the zone he enters when zooming along on his board.

The surviving brother feels he should have been the one to die, not the ‘favourite son’. The tensions that arise because of that, push him away from his family instead of having them to lean on during the initial grieving period. He is essentially alone, dealing with the worst event of his young life.

The other friend shifts the blame for the accident onto Ben, hoping that will alleviate some of the guilt he feels. When that doesn’t help, he turns to a local gang for the acceptance that he doesn’t feel at home.

Each boy comes from a family in which the father is either out of the picture or rather ineffectual as a positive role model. One father died in a car accident that the son survived. Another is an alcoholic, giving the son the impression one can drink away their problems. The third is a ‘Deadbeat Dad’, bailing on his responsibilities as a father. As a result, the teens are put under greater stress, adding to the downward spiral of their lives. Will they be able to pull up in time to survive? That will be up to you to find out! 🙂

The death of a teenager is always a tragic event, whether it is caused by an accident or illness. I found myself crying through many scenes, as I remembered my daughter’s grief when a friend of hers died, suddenly, just before her 16th birthday. While that was caused by an unknown illness, there were so many questions like, ‘Why did she have to die?’, ‘Was there something I could have done to prevent it?’, and a bit of survivor’s guilt amongst her friends, ‘It should have been me’. Each of Colleen’s characters consider these questions, too, and the guilt they feel at being alive when their friend was not drives them away from people who care about them.

This would be a fantastic story to use in a classroom, helping students see how the characters coped with their friend’s death. The discussions that could be initiated would definitely help other teens who may be dealing with a similar situation in their own lives. I highly recommend The Fall as a wonderful read as well as a resource for other teenagers who may be having a hard time coping with a friend’s death, too.

Book blurb:

Before Luke came into his life, all Ben cared about was skateboarding, and whether his father would ever remember that he was alive. Then there was Luke, and it felt like he was being carried along on some sort of wave. But then Luke died, and everyone at school thinks it’s his fault. Maybe it is. The Fall charts the lives of three boys as they deal with the death of their friend and brother. One turns to alcohol to escape his guilt. Another looks to a gang to replace what he’s lost. Ben needs to find a way to reconcile his role in Luke’s death and prove that he was not to blame. He must also learn that the man he will become is his to define.

About Colleen:

Colleen Nelson examines the consequence of choice in her novels, through believable teen characters in juxtaposing situations and social structures. She has lived in Japan and New York City, but currently resides with her husband in Winnipeg.

I hope Colleen will be joining me here on Sunday for my ‘Sunday Interview’, so you can learn more about this talented writer. 🙂

A Father’s Day Interview for YOU!

Okay, so it’s more of a quiz for you. Since today is Father’s Day, I want to interview YOU regarding this special occasion. I have devised some questions for fathers as well as their children. I’ll leave it open to whoever would like to answer them in the comments section. Hope you all decide to play along. 🙂

Swimming with Dad

Swimming with Dad

Addressed to the Fathers:

1. How did you feel about the birth of your first child?

2. For those who have more than one child, how did the second (third, fourth, etc) birth compare with the first?

3. What is your favourite part about being a dad?

4. What part about being a dad has been the most difficult?

5. What is the best piece of advice you could give your children?

My most memorable moment with my Dad as a grown-up

My most memorable moment with my Dad
as a grown-up

 

Okay, kids (even if you’re grown-ups), here are your questions:

1. What is your most memorable childhood moment you’ve had with your dad?

2. What is the best time you’ve had with your dad since you became an adult?

3. If you’re like me and your father is no longer among the living, what is the one thing you wish you’d said to him before he passed?

4. What is the worst present you think you ever gave your dad for Father’s Day?

5. What is the best present you gave him?

And now, a question for anyone to answer:

What will you be doing to celebrate this Father’s Day?

Whatever it is, I hope you all have a fantastic day! 🙂

Sunday Interview – Steve Wiegenstein

steve

Happy Sunday, Everyone! Today, I have another interview with Steve Wiegenstein. You may remember the last time we spoke, but if you are a recent follower or would like to read it again to refresh your memory, you can find it here (July 22, 2012). Before we begin, if you’d like to read an excerpt from his first book, Slant of Light, to familiarize yourself with the story,  you can find it here.

Hi, Steve! Thanks for joining me again! Before we talk about your sequel, please tell us how Slant of Light has been received. Of all the reviews you’ve received, which one is your favorite?

The reviews have been so gratifying! Not a negative one in the bunch, and only a couple that I would even describe as lukewarm. I have two favorites. One was from Sarah Johnson, whose work with the Historical Novel Society is something I admire greatly. She’s the book review editor for Historical Novels Review and maintains her own blog, Reading the Past. She wrote, “A thoroughly American story with more than regional appeal, Slant of Light is intellectually involving from the outset, and its flawed characters have a way of latching onto readers’ emotions.” I loved that description. My other favorite was from a historian, Stephen Rockenbach, who reviewed it in Nola Diaspora. He praised the book’s “flawless research and relentless attention to detail.” And coming from a historian, that’s high praise! Here are links to those reviews: http://readingthepast.blogspot.com/2012/05/book-review-slant-of-light-by-steve.html

That’s high praise indeed! Congratulations! 🙂

Slant of Light

How has life changed for you since Slant of Light was published?

Well, I’ve been going to a lot more fairs and festivals! I believe in this book so much that I spend lots of weekends doing speaking appearances and promotional gigs of one sort or another. Thank goodness, my wife has been a trouper and accompanied me on most of them. 

What was your most thrilling moment since having Slant of Light published?

Two moments come to mind. First is the launch event, when we completely packed Subterranean Books in St. Louis and sold the place out. The clerks had to take names and promise to send people books as soon as they got in a new shipment! The second was when I came home one day and found a letter telling me that the book had come in second for the Langum Prize for American Historical Fiction.

Fantastic! 🙂

I noticed a new section on your website –For Teachers’. Please tell us about it.

Some university instructors have started using the book in their English classes and I’ve had comments from secondary school teachers that they’d like to add it as an option to their students’ reading lists. So I asked a friend to create a teachers’ guide to the novel, and she did a marvelous job! It’s freely available for teachers to use in their lesson planning.

I’m glad they are studying it in the schools. 🙂

Do you know, yet, when the sequel to Slant of Light will be coming out in print?

I’m hoping for a fall release. The manuscript is at the publisher’s, now, and I’m waiting to hear if there are any changes requested. I’m eager for people to get their hands on it.

Would you like to tell us a little about it?

The working title is This Old World, from a hymn of the same name. Slant of Light ended with the dispersal of the men of the community with the outbreak of the American Civil War. This Old World begins with the end of that war and the return of the surviving men. In the interim, the women have been running the community for four years, so some tension will be evident. And in actuality, all of American society changed during that period. Pre-war beliefs and attitudes vanished forever, and everyone had to face a new reality of life in a society that was more mechanized, more impersonal, and in many ways harsher. This Old World explores those themes. A lot of readers’ favorite characters are back, but there’s a whole new crew as well.

I love anything historical. This sounds wonderful! 🙂

Are there any links you’d like to share?

You bet! 
My publisher’s website: www.blankslatepress.com
My own website: www.stevewiegenstein.com
Links to some reviews and a radio interview: http://www.stevewiegenstein.com/press_kit
I really enjoyed hearing your radio interview, Steve. I hope my readers pop over to give it a listen, too!
Thanks for joining us, today, and best of luck with This Old World. I hope we’ll hear from you again when it comes out in the fall. 🙂
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Book blurb for A Slant of Light:
Set during the brink of the Civil War, this beautifully written novel traces James Turner, a charming, impulsive writer and lecturer; Charlotte, his down-to-earth bride; and Cabot, an idealistic Harvard-educated abolitionist as they are drawn together in a social experiment deep in the Missouri Ozarks. Inspired by utopian dreams of building a new society, Turner is given a tract of land to found the community of Daybreak: but not everyone involved in the project is a willing partner, and being the leader of a remote farming community isn’t the life Turner envisioned. Charlotte, confronted with the hardships of rural life, must mature quickly to deal with the challenges of building the community while facing her husband’s betrayals and her growing attraction to Cabot. In turn, Cabot struggles to reconcile his need to leave Daybreak and join the fight against slavery with his desire to stay near the woman he loves. As the war draws ever closer, the utopians try to remain neutral and friendly to all but soon find neutrality is not an option. Ultimately, each member of Daybreak must take a stand—both in their political and personal lives.
Steve Wiegenstein holds a PhD in English from the University of Missouri and has taught at Centenary College of Louisiana, Culver-Stockton College, Drury University, and Western Kentucky University. He is currently the associate dean for graduate students at Columbia College in Columbia, Missouri, and is a board member of the Missouri Writers’ Guild. He lives in Columbia, Missouri.

River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay

Guy Gavriel Kay

A couple of months ago, I was surprised to be contacted by people from Penguin Books, Canada, who asked if I’d be interested in doing an interview (see my interview with Julie Czerneda here) and a book review. The book, River of Stars, just happened to be written by one of Canada’s top fantasy writers, Guy Gavriel Kay. Of course, I responded with an enthusiastic, “YES!” They sent me an advanced review copy, which I finally had a chance to read, after weeks of busy life stuff taking up valuable reading time.

Image of RIVER OF STARS

As a writer of historical fiction myself, I am in absolute awe of Guy Gavriel Kay, considering the amount of research that went into creating this epic novel. His absorption of the cultural and historical elements of the time period is evident in his ability to infuse his characters with it. He describes places and events in such glorious detail and uses the mythology of the time to create his own mythical character, a man whose destiny snakes in, out, and around the lives of history’s key players. He protects and changes the lives of minor characters, as well – those who are greatly affected by the whims of a self-absorbed Emperor, the carelessness of a General in the Imperial army, the aspirations of high court officials and the conflict between north and south that embroils the country.

River of Stars is an elaborate tapestry, detailing the life and times of China’s Twelfth Dynasty. Its many characters are woven into the political intrigue of the day, each vividly painted by a master storyteller. The richness of his descriptions places the reader in the front row, center stage of a fascinating time in China’s history. The reader is immersed in the passions, the motivations, and the ambitions of his characters, witnessing each scene through their eyes.

I highly recommend River of Stars to any lover of historical fiction. Even if you have never read a piece of historical fiction in your life, I suggest plunging into the River of Stars. You will be carried away by the torrent of words, the ebb and flow of history driven by the characters trying their best to paddle their way to their destinies. I hope you will be hooked on the genre by the end of the book and become a fan, like me. 🙂

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Book blurb:

Ren Daiyan was still just a boy when he took the lives of seven men while guarding an imperial magistrate of Kitai. That moment on a lonely road changed his life in entirely unexpected ways, sending him into the forests of Kitai among the outlaws. From there he emerges years later, and his life changes again, dramatically, as he moves toward the court and emperor while war approaches Kitai from the north.

Lin Shan is the daughter of a scholar, his beloved only child. Educated by him in ways young women never are, gifted as a songwriter and calligrapher, she finds herself living a life suspended between two worlds. Her intelligence captivates an emperor and alienates the women at court. But when her father’s life is endangered by the savage politics of the day, Shan must act in ways no woman ever has.

In an empire divided by bitter factions circling an exquisitely cultured emperor who loves his gardens and his art far more than the burdens of governing, dramatic events on the northern steppe alter the balance of power in the world, leading, under the river of stars, to events no one could have foretold.

About Guy Gavriel Kay (from Penguin Books Canada‘s website):

Guy Gavriel Kay is an internationally bestselling author. He has been awarded the International Goliardos Prize for his work in the literature of the fantastic, is a two-time winner of the Aurora Award, and won the 2008 World Fantasy Award for Ysabel. His works have been translated into twenty-five languages.

Vulture – cover reveal

Sorry I didn’t get a chance to do a Crafty Wednesday post, yesterday. I worked all day, made dinner then headed out to speak to a Pathfinder group about my books and didn’t get home until nearly bed time. I hope that today’s post will make up for it by showing off some wonderful art work.

A few weeks ago I wrote a review for Surrender, the first of The Ferryman and the Flame series. If you forgot what it was about, or haven’t yet read the review, you can find it here and you can find my interview with the author, Rhi Paille here.

Now, I am excited to share with you the cover reveal for her latest book in The Ferryman and the Flame series – Vulture. Here it is:

Vulture

On Facebook, Rhi displayed the full wrap cover:

Aren’t they awesome? Credit goes to Regina Wamba of Mae 1 Design.

I think she did a fabulous job, don’t you? 🙂