September in Review

Whew! It’s been quite a month, leaving me little time to pop around to people’s blogs, for which I apologize! As for my own blog, in case any of you were wondering where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing, lately, let me bring you up to date.

The first of the month, we attended the backyard wedding of our close friends’ son. During the week that followed, I met with a friend (Sept. 3rd) before she headed off to Europe for the next six months, did a little photo editing for a retiree’s album (Sept. 5th) and attended my writers group meeting(Sept. 7th). In between events that week, I was dropping by the Manitoba Writers’ Guild to sort out their neglected library.

The following week, Hubby decided to replace the Master Cylinder in my car after I told him my brakes seemed to be getting a little mushy. I didn’t expect him to pull it out the day after I mentioned it (Sept. 9th), but he did. Unfortunately, he didn’t get the chance to actually replace it. His ankle (that he sprained a couple of weeks previously during the barn raising) was causing him pain and he decided to wait until it felt better to finish the job. While I waited for my car to be operational, I read The Fault In Our Stars and started writing my review of it, which I will post soon. It brought up a lot of memories, as I knew it would.

My niece set her wedding date for 2 p.m. Friday the 13th. As luck would have it, that was the exact time Hubby, The Estimator, needed to submit a tender for work and couldn’t drive me to the ceremony. I was frustrated because I had hoped to get my hair cut and nails done but, with no vehicle, I could not get where I needed to go without a long bus ride with several transfers. I attempted to do my own nails, trying to be patient between coats of polish so they’d dry properly. They turned out okay, but definitely not as good as a professional would have done. My daughter offered to pick me up and take me to the wedding, but that would have entailed her heading across town, in the opposite direction, to pick me up, then back across town to the wedding. Since I’d also wanted to get a dress for the reception, I decided to take the bus to the mall to find something suitable. Hopping on another bus and, after transferring downtown, I got to the right stop and walked the couple of blocks to Fort Gibralter, a re-creation of an historic site, set during the time of the fur trade in the early 1800s. In hind sight, I should have let Daughter bring me to the ceremony. They went to the wrong place and missed the ceremony completely! Good thing I’d brought the video camera and shot the entire thing for her and her dad to watch later.

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The reception was in ‘the haunted hotel’, what my niece calls the historic Fort Garry Hotel. It resembles a small castle and is over 100 years old. There is reported to be spirits roaming its halls and sharing rooms with guests. Niece was hoping to see one on their wedding night, but I believe she was disappointed!

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This picture of the Fort Garry Hotel is from the Wikimedia archive and linked to the hotel’s website, in case any of you thought it might be a good place to stay, if you ever visit Winnipeg.

Okay, on with the month. The day following the wedding (Sept. 14th), Hubby decided to put in the newly purchased, refurbished Master Cylinder in my car. He called me out to the garage to help because the location of the MC was tight and my hands are half the size of his. We struggled for about an hour to get the nuts over the bolts that hold it in place and another half hour to tighten everything. Then we bled the brakes. During the whole process, I realized to my dismay, that brake fluid would make great nail polish remover! 😦

Everything seemed fine – until I went to drive it on Monday (Sept. 16th)! The brake pedal only went halfway to the floor and it took all the pressure I could muster to get the darn car to stop! Something was obviously still wrong with the brakes. Hubby thought it was just a matter of having the MC bled better as well as the brakes on each wheel, a job that required a lift and a more able-bodied person to do it. He said I should take it to the local auto-body shop where our friend’s son worked, so on the Wednesday (Sept. 18th), I did. Wednesday evening, Hubby had to drive me to a meeting of the Resource and Development committee for the Manitoba Writers’ Guild and pick me up after the meeting ended because it’s a little scary downtown at night and I didn’t want to stand at a bus stop.

Thursday, Sept. 19th, the shop bled each wheel’s brakes but, in the process, noticed that the hoses to the two rear brakes were crimped. They felt they should be replaced as that might have been the reason the brakes were locking up. When that didn’t solve the problem, they informed me that it might be the Booster behind the MC. I authorized them to take it apart to see if there was something wrong with it. They found a crack and said they would order me a new one, which should be available Friday (Sept. 20th) in the morning. By mid-afternoon, I was getting impatient because my Creative Gathering was about to start and I still had no car to get me out of town to the place where it was to be held. At 3:30 they finally called and said the place that had promised to send them a new Booster did not actually have one in stock and would have to have one shipped in for an additional cost of at least $100 – and no other parts store in the city had one for my old clunker! They suggested they could send it out to be refurbished but it wouldn’t be ready for the weekend.

In utter despair, I posted my car troubles on Facebook. Almost immediately, the step-mom of the mechanic messaged me that she wouldn’t need her car for the weekend so I could borrow it. What a lifesaver! I thanked her profusely and, as soon as Hubby got home from work, which is usually an hour earlier on Fridays than any other day of the week, I started loading up the truck with all my crafting supplies. We arrived on her doorstep, expecting to see her, but her hubby opened the door with a confused look on his face. She apparently had not told him about the situation and there we were, expecting a vehicle. Since she was still at work and would not be home for at least another hour, he kindly offered me his beautiful new Camry Hybrid. What a lovely car to drive! Hubby told me not to get too comfortable with it, though. We cannot afford a brand new car like that!

I finally made it all the way out to Friedensfeld for the Creative Gathering. I was an hour and a half late arriving, but knew I had until midnight to get some crafting done, as well as the next day from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Shortly after I arrived, dinner was ready – a scrumptious lasagna with a Caesar salad and garlic bread. For these gatherings, the food is almost as important as the creative process! The photo below, taken by the owner of The Scrapbook Cottage and organizer of this twice-a-year event, features the venue after everyone left Friday night. Each table held 4 scrappers plus all their stuff. The tables were placed end-to-end with an aisle down the middle. I estimate there were about 130 crafters and eight or more helpers/cooks/servers – quite a big group! In the top right-hand corner is the stage and right in front of it is where my sisters-in-law and I sat.

Photo: That's all for tonight folks- see you in the morning:)!!

During each Gathering, one can attend classes on card-making, scrapbook layouts and other crafty things. There are also many sketch challenges where we are given a basic layout and an example, then we run with it. I made 8 Christmas cards, a thank-you card for my car lender, and a birthday card for my brother using the challenge sketches as a guide. (Photos to be revealed on a Crafty Wednesday, coming soon. 🙂 ) All-in-all, it is a fun event and gives participants the opportunity to concentrate on their craft and get inspiration from their fellow crafters. I was so happy that I had the opportunity to go, thanks to my dear friends. 🙂

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As much as I enjoyed my crafting event, it meant missing the opening ceremonies of Thin Air, Winnipeg’s International Writing Festival. I wasn’t too disappointed because I knew I had signed up to drive authors to and from the airport as well as to the various events around town and out-of-town. On Sunday afternoon (Sept. 22nd), Hubby drove me down to the Hospitality Suite at the Inn at the Forks, where the festival was being coordinated and I had to tell them I couldn’t accept my Monday driving assignment because my car was under repair. Fortunately, they were able to find a replacement. Late Monday afternoon (Sept. 23rd), I did get my car back and, in the evening, was able to drive myself downtown to ArtSpace so I could attend a board meeting of the Writer’s Guild.

On Tuesday morning (Sept. 24th), I picked up two authors from the airport and drove them to the hotel. I stayed around The Forks so I could help out with the School Stage performance at the MTYP (Manitoba Theatre for Young People).

After the School Stage performance, I went to the Millenium Library, the largest one in the city, to await the arrival of Jan Andrews, who wrote The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley. (You may remember my review and interview. If not, click on the links.) As a result of the car fiasco, I had been unable to see her other readings. It was lovely to meet with her in person.

Wednesday morning (Sept. 25th), as I was driving another author to The Forks from the airport, I stepped on the brake pedal . . . and it went straight to the floor! I was glad I had left plenty of room between me and the car in front of me, which allowed enough time for the car to actually stop. What a heart-pounding moment! I tried to keep calm and prayed that the car would stop each time I needed it to and that we would get to the hotel in one piece. I don’t think the author knew the danger he was in, as I tried to keep the conversation light and not focus on the not-stopping part of our drive. Once I was parked in the parkade, I called Hubby & told him what had just happened. He said I should call the shop that had ‘fixed’ my car. I called and we arranged for a towing company to bring the car back to them, at their expense, and they’d see what went wrong. I hung around The Forks, helped out with another School Stage performance and waited for the tow truck to arrive. It was kind of sad to see the old beater being hauled away like that.

I went up to the Hospitality Suite to wait for Hubby to pick me up after work. Shortly before he arrived, the shop called to inform me they’d found one of the gaskets, connecting the hose to one of the back brakes they had recently installed, was faulty and had cracked, leaking so much brake fluid that the pressure was reduced to almost zero. They replaced it and were about to take it for a test drive. Believing that the car would be ready by the time we got there, Hubby & I wove through rush-hour traffic and got to the shop in record time. The mechanic was still out testing the brakes when we got there. The guy at the front desk was surprised to see us, but he let us wait until the car came back to see what the verdict was. He also asked if I needed my car the next day. I informed him that I was scheduled to drive to two out-of-town locations and really needed the car to be ready. He was worried about sending me out on the highway in a car with brakes that had been acting up, so he got permission from the company’s owner to give me a rental car for the day. That would give them time to re-test the brakes and make sure everything was finally in working order. Hubby suggested, since they were keeping the car anyway, that they evaluate the condition of the emergency brake. That is something that will corrode if not used often, and since I have never needed to use it, they agreed to check it. The rental car was a lovely, fairly new, Volkswagon. Again, Hubby warned me not to get too attached to the vehicle!

Thursday morning (Sept. 26th), I was up bright and early, at The Forks just after 8 a.m. The author I was to drive was in terrible shape. He’d been up since 4 a.m. with a migraine and had been physically ill several times. He grabbed some oatmeal to go, hoping it would settle his stomach. I loaded his guitar into the trunk and off we went. We chatted a little at first, then he reclined his seat and I left him in silence to recover from his massive headache and nausea. It would normally have been only a 30 minute drive out to East Selkirk. I had printed out a Google map of the school’s location and had driven that particular bit of highway often, as it was the main route to our cottage. Once I turned off the highway, though, we ran into trouble. I didn’t realize there were two turn-offs to E. Selkirk and I had turned too soon. Using logic and a fairly good sense of direction, I’m proud to say, we finally arrived. It was a good thing we had allowed plenty of time to get there! By the time we arrived, the author had recovered enough to give an animated presentation of his poetry and got the young audience to participate by repeating parts of some poems and singing the chorus of one of his songs.

On the way back to town, my phone rang. The shop was calling to inform me they can no longer get a replacement for one of the three hoses to the emergency brake. I told them to just put everything back together. Since I never use it, anyway, there was no point to fixing it. We carried on in my wonderful rental car. The author asked me questions about the area’s history to which I happily answered to the best of my ability. I am always excited to present the town at its best. I dropped him off and grabbed some lunch before meeting my next ‘fare’.

Où est Tat Tsang? - NATHALIE FERRARI - JEAN MORIN

I found Nathalie Ferraris to be a wonderful French children’s author from Montreal. Nathalie was delighted that the students had read one of her books, Où est Tat-Tsang, about a fish – a treasured family pet – that went missing. The students had written summaries in French and they were posted on bulletin boards, one in the hall outside the library, the other in the classroom. The students were ecstatic to have the author in their class. They asked a multitude of questions, received autographed bookmarks, and had their pictures taken with her. It was such an enjoyable afternoon! 🙂

I regretted having to take the rental car back at the end of the day, but my car was supposedly all put back together and in working condition. The drive home was uneventful. Early Friday morning (Sept. 27th), I prepared and placed a pork roast into the slow cooker, headed for The Forks and drove another author to the airport. Back at The Forks, I grabbed some lunch before driving Nathalie to another French Immersion school out-of-town. The car performed admirably.

After the session, I drove her back to The Forks where she was to await her ride to the airport. I rushed home to finish making a thank-you dinner for the car-lenders. We ate dinner and played some Canasta. We girls won by a small margin then they headed home. I collapsed in my chair, ignoring the stack of dirty dishes. Hubby & I watched a bit of TV, then I fell asleep. Hubby woke me on his way to bed, so I dragged my butt off the chair and went to bed, too.

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Chez Sophie sur le pont is the structure sticking off to the right of the bridge in this photo (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Saturday morning (Sept. 28th) was a cool, wet autumn day. I hurried out to meet Hubby’s cousins for brunch at Chez Sophie sur le pont. You may recall my foodie post regarding this fine French bistro. I had been to the one on Avenue de la Cathedrale and had expressed my desire to try the one on the Provencher Bridge (sur le pont), so was very excited that it had been chosen as the location of our next Cousins Brunch. The food was just as delicious as the other restaurant and I was happy to recommend the sandwich I had previously tried. This time I tried the croque monsieur au saumon fumé, a sandwich with smoked salmon, swiss cheese, onions and béchamel (a creamy sauce) and then the whole sandwich is encased in cheese and broiled. YUM! The soup du Jour was cream of carrot. While my one sister-in-law was not impressed, I thought it was delicious, although I think I liked the cream of sweet potato soup better.

I stayed for about an hour and a half, enjoying the company, but I had somewhere else I needed to be. I expressed my regrets and ‘flew’ down to the Park Theatre on Osborne to catch the last portion of the Thin Air Volunteer Appreciation Lunch. While I didn’t eat – I was still stuffed from my other lunch – I was able to chat with the other volunteers I had seen while working the School Stage events and in the Hospitality Suite. When it was over, I whipped around to my friends’ house to drop off the ticket I had purchased for the Stroke Recovery Association’s fundraising dinner. Hubby wasn’t interested in attending and since I had neglected him so much during that whirlwind week of volunteering, I thought it best to just stay home, for a pleasant change of pace. We caught up on some of the TV series premiers that had occurred during the week and went to bed at a reasonable time.

Sunday afternoon (Sept. 29th), I aimed for McNally Robinson Booksellers to attend a meeting of TWUC (The Writers Union of Canada). The Chairperson, Dorris Heffron, was in town and wanted to meet the members of the Prairie chapter of the organization. She discussed the history of the Union and what benefits were available, in case we were unaware of them. We actually did get a few people out to the meeting who were thinking of joining, so I hope we encouraged them to become members. After the meeting, our Chair needed a ride to a restaurant that was sort of my way home, so I gave her a lift. After this past week, I think I should get my chauffeur’s license!

Finally, on Monday (Sept. 30th), the last day of this unbelievably busy month, I spent the morning writing out this update. In the afternoon, I sorted, folded, and put away the clean laundry I had been neglecting. That evening, I volunteered to sell tickets at the door to a Guild event called In Dialogue. Poets Sue Goyett and Sarah Klassen read from their repertoire of work. I’ll go into more detail at another time, as this post is already too long!

Now you know just how hectic the past month has been. So, what did YOU do in September?

Sunday Review – Jan Andrews

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Good morning, dear Readers!

Today, I’d like to introduce to you, Jan Andrews, a well-known Canadian author who has penned many children’s books (Ella: An Elephant–Un ElephantVery Last First Time, Out of Everywhere, The Auction, Twelve Days of Summer, Stories at the Door, Rude Stories, When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew: Tales of Ti-Jean), as well as a Dear Canada story called Winter of Peril: Newfoundland Diary of Sophie Loveridge, and she has, most recently, published The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley. (If you haven’t read my review of it, yet, you can find it here). In addition to the written word, Jan is also a storyteller, sharing stories in the most original way much like our earliest ancestors did around a campfire. She is a fascinating, adventurous woman with a sense of humour, as you will see. Please give her a warm welcome!

Hi, Jan! Thank-you for joining us today!

That’s a pleasure. Thanks for having me.

To begin, would you please tell my readers a little about yourself?

I was born in 1942 and came to Canada from the UK in 1963. I went first to Saskatoon and that was a major culture shock. Nonetheless, I knew I didn’t want to go back to Britain. I wanted to make Canada my home. I’ve done that – completely and utterly. 

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Right now I live down the end of a road on a lake about 50 minutes drive from Ottawa. I’m stunned by the beauty of the place — all day and every day. I never take it for granted. The same goes for my partner, Jennifer Cayley. Coming home is always sweet, sweet, sweet.

I’m eternally too busy as the pair of us are prone to altogether too many “good ideas.” The latest is a small company called 2 Women Productions, dedicated to getting storytelling for adults more out there in the world. You can check it out at http://www.2wp.ca.

A majority of my readers consist of writers who are looking for that big break. How difficult was it for you to get your first book published?

The first one just sort of happened. It was in 1972 and you have to remember there were very few Canadian children’s books being published back then. I had a story I sent to Tundra Books. Tundra was a very new publishing house and May Cutler was very much in charge. They had plans for a series of what they called “mini-books for mini-hands.” Material for three books had been collected and the search was on for a fourth. Ella, An Elephant–Un Elephant was it. It seems to me the paperback version sold for 69 cents and the hardcover for $1.95. 

I don’t know that I’ve ever actually had what you’d call “a big break” although Very Last First Time, which came out in 1985, really did make an impact and is now considered an on-going classic. Mostly though I simply keep chugging along. My books have been shortlisted for most of the big awards, including the GGs (Governor General Awards) but that’s never guaranteed acceptance for the next submission. I have a number of manuscripts sitting in my files for which I’d love to find a home.

One of the problems is that I’m a tremendously slow writer so there are often substantial gaps between one book and the next. I’ve also produced books for all ages so it’s hard to keep readers on the edge of their seats looking for the next book out.

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Accepting the Silver Birch Express Award, 2012

Success comes in such strange ways too. I was flabbergasted that When Apples Grew Noses and White Horses Flew: Tales of Ti-Jean was even nominated for the Silver Birch Express Award in 2012. It never entered my head that a folktale collection could actually win!

Added to all this is the fact that I’ve spent a fair amount of time in the world of arts administration. Jennifer and I founded an arts education organization called MASC for having artists go into schools. This work led to the founding of a Young Authors and Illustrators Conference. Both MASC and the conference are still running although we’re no longer involved. I was the first president of Storytellers of Canada-Conteurs du Canada and ran its StorySave project for the recording of elder storytellers through the production of six CD sets. I produced a series of epic tellings every winter for thirteen years and this led to a number of complete tellings of such works as The Iliad and The Odyssey. I directed Ottawa Storytellers concert series at the Fourth Stage of the National Arts Centre – this for six years, also. It’s been fascinating and exciting but has, of course, taken up a considerable amount of my time.

I can imagine! 🙂

Once you’ve been past president of Storytellers of Canada you get inducted into the Loyal Order of Silly Old Persons (which I’m proud to say I instituted) - Jan

Once you’ve been past president of Storytellers of Canada you get inducted into the Loyal Order of Silly Old Persons (which I’m proud to say I instituted) – Jan

(Thanks for the giggle, Jan!)

How does the process of storytelling differ from writing?

Storytelling is much more fluid. With the traditional folktales I learn what’s happening in the story and tell out of its images. There are constant surprises, growing out of the interaction between teller and listeners. I don’t change the main events, of course, but the story does come out of my mouth somewhat differently each time. As a writer, I’m very precise. That’s why I’m so slow. The story seems to rise up out of the words. There are no really “rough drafts.” Tons will get altered/re-shaped/discarded but it still has to “feel right” with each go through.

That seems like a good way to work out any kinks in a story. 🙂

You’ve had several children’s books published. What was it like working with illustrators? Did the publisher assign them to you or did you get to choose your own? 

Mostly the publisher has chosen the illustrator, mostly I’ve had different illustrators for each new book. The thing you have to know is that it’s the illustrator’s job to take the words you’ve written and create the images out of their own response and vision; it is not the illustrator’s job to ask you what you want. You’re a team, each one of you doing what’s yours to do. Respect is crucial. Mostly picture books work through making the text as tight as possible. I sometimes make cuts when the illustrations are done because if something’s in the pictures it doesn’t need to be in the words. I’ve had wonderful illustrators. Their work has often revealed new levels of meaning and emotion to me. Each and every time the collaboration has led to the eventual production of a book that is far greater than the sum of its respective parts. 

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Nice! 🙂

Now, on to your most recent work, The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley – what inspired you to write about a foster child who doesn’t speak?

Who knows exactly where what comes from? It’s often very much a mystery to me. I did have three teenage foster kids in my life when my own kids were teenagers. I learned a lot from them and did, I think, gain some insight into their ways and needs. One of the things I realized was that each of these young women had developed some technique which was utterly crucial to her own survival but would also prove a significant block if it couldn’t be let go of when the time came.

I really can’t remember when I decided that Kyle would be silent. I do remember being absolutely amazed when he started painting. I hadn’t expected that at all. I’m hugely admiring of him — of his resiliency and strength. I believe very strongly that we, all of us, have within us whatever it is we need to manage. I believe too we always have choices as to how we will respond and act. Those themes inform all of my work both as writer and storyteller. Whatever I’m producing, they’re always at the heart. I’m sure readers will be able to see the effect that has on Silent Summer.

I started writing the book in 2007 so you can see what I mean by slow. Inevitably, there were times when I thought I should quit but I was always so attached to this kid. There’s a scene in the book where his current foster parent speaks of all she likes about him. I love those things as well. And there’s so much more she doesn’t know about – how through thick and thin he’s stuck to a sense of how he should be in the world, he’s made a commitment. Always and always, Kyle called me back.

There is, of course, also the crow that sounds like a chicken. How delicious is that?

That part was wonderful and I truly believe it’s possible! I have a cat who sometimes ‘twitters’ like a bird! I think it’s a ploy to lure the birds closer. 🙂

What was the most challenging part of writing Kyle’s story?

Finding the voice. I knew everything had to come through Kyle’s perception. This had its own innate challenges – especially as Kyle doesn’t speak till almost the end of the book AND he has a couple of voices in his head as a kind of backdrop to events. One voice belongs to his father – the ultimate put-down creep; the other to a strange sort of personage who appears to him as “an imaginary figment” but who functions as supporter and guide.

I developed a kind of stream of consciousness approach but there was always something missing. Heavens be praised for Anita Daher, my outstanding Great Plains editor. She suggested I try first person present. The results were immediate. Everything was freer, more immediate and alive.

I love Anita! She certainly has a way of helping us dig deeper to make our stories the best they can be. 🙂

Was the publishing/editing process different this time, writing for Young Adults rather than children?

Editing is editing. It’s there to bring out the best in any given work. No matter the genre, the good editor is the one who asks the right questions; notes the weaknesses; celebrates the strengths; respects the author’s vision and abilities; is clear about what he/she thinks. I’ve worked with outstanding exponents of the art/profession and I’m hugely grateful for that. (I should mention that I’ve had great publishers too!)

Are there any media sites you’d like to share?

http://www.janandrews.ca my website

http://www.jansstorytellingclub.wordpress.ca recordings I make of traditional folktales.

http://www.2wp.ca/jans-blogassorted thoughts on literature and life

http://www.facebook.com/jan.andrews.7927

http://twitter.com/janstories

http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/86080.Jan_Andrews

Having made the list, I should note that my website needs updating and contributions to both my written and audio blogs have been lagging of late. That’s because I’ve been wrestling with cancer and the resulting chemo. I was, in fact, in the middle to the huge re-write of Silent Summer occasioned by the change in voice when I got the diagnosis. Great Plains was wondrously supportive through this, relaxing all deadlines and letting me soldier on as best I could. I lost lots of energy but am recovering that nicely and am definitely planning to do what’s necessary to catch up on what needs doing in the media line. 

I was sorry to learn about your illness, but I’m so glad you’re feeling better. 🙂

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Do you have any parting words or advice for my readers?

  • Being a writer isn’t easy. There’s a level of risk involved in everything you do. You have to live with that.
  • Know that the book you’re creating is way more important than you are. Do whatever it takes to make that book as good as it can be.
  • Have a certain amount of faith in yourself, the universe, the world around you but not so much it makes you self-satisfied.

Great words of wisdom, Jan – and speaking of risk, look at you rock climbing! I am very impressed! 🙂

Thanks you so much for joining us, today, Jan. It’s been such a pleasure. 🙂

Thanks to readers everywhere. As you can see above, I’m on Goodreads and would love to know what you think about Silent Summer or any of my other books.

I hope my followers will check out your books and give you glowing reviews! 🙂

Friday Review – The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley by Jan Andrews

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The Silent Summer of Kyle McGinley is the latest book from Jan Andrews, published by Great Plains Publications. It’s also one of her first Young Adult stories, and I think she’s done a marvelous job. Jan managed to get into the mindset of a child who has been abused and abandoned. Kyle’s trust issues are front and foremost, with good reason. He has never had anyone in his life he could rely on, until the Jones-Wardmans welcomed him into their home.

Having 3 foster kids in our family, I can certainly sympathize and understand some of the things Kyle was feeling. Although our nieces & nephew came into the family as babies and have grown up with all of us, we love them as if they had been born into the family. That being said, I doubt it would have been as easy for them if they had arrived as teenagers. These three were lucky enough to have stability, a home that has been the only foster placement they’ve had, unlike students I’ve known who were not so lucky.

Silent Summer explores the life of one such child who was bounced around from one place to the other since his father abandoned him at the age of eight. Now, as a teenager off to another foster home, he has decided that not speaking is his only way of controlling the situation in which he finds himself. Kyle steels himself against disappointment. He does not dare to hope that Scott and Jill, as they ask to be called, could possibly want him around forever. He questions their motives in his mind but does not have the courage to voice his reservations and ask why they really agreed to take him.

Despite his silence, he communicates to his foster parents through mime. The reader, however, is privy to Kyle’s thoughts and those of his imaginary figments – his father’s voice berating him and a new character that is more analytical and sympathetic, created to help him through this latest transition. Slowly, Kyle begins to adjust to his new life in the country with a dog, a cat, a herd of cows and an injured crow. The crow becomes a parody of Kyle’s life; abandoned, injured, and afraid. His new foster placement also allows him freedom to explore his creativity. Then, someone threatens to disrupt the peace he’d begun to feel – his father.

I thought this was a wonderful story. I sympathized with Kyle for reasons I mentioned above, but also because Jan was so meticulous about her character’s voice. It shines through, loud and clear, despite the absence of words to those around him. As an educator, I feel it would be a great addition to any classroom library, opening up the issue of fostering to a class – discussing good &/or bad experiences, changes that should be made to the current foster care system, and creating sympathy and understanding for those who have been through it. It’s also a terrific story for anyone who just wants to read about a teen trying to cope with a lousy life. You can follow his hopes and dreams, his anxieties and reservations. 🙂

 

Book Blurb (Great Plains Publications):

When no one listens, what’s the point of talking?

Kyle McGinley doesn’t say a word. Fed up with being shuttled from one foster care home to another, he has stopped speaking.  But at the home of Scott and Jill Wardman, with the help of a crow, a swamp, and an excess of black paint, he begins to think that maybe, just maybe, life could be better.

As long as his frigging dad doesn’t mess things up.

About Jan Andrews:
Four time finalist for the Governor General Literary Award, Jan Andrews is an internationally celebrated storyteller and author to more than a dozen books.