I am honored to be moderating this panel about diversity in children's picture books at the Frankfurt Book Fair!
This post first appeared on Beth Revis's Blog
Angela Cerrito is the author of THE END OF THE LINE, coming out from Holiday House in 2011. Her prose is lyrically beautiful, and I am fascinated with her life and all the places she's lived. I can honestly say, I wasn't sure which of her greatest adventures she'd write about, she's had so many.
Angela's story was one of the first I received--but as soon as I read it, I asked if she'd mind if I posted her story last. It's the perfect end to the two week adventure YOU all have been with me on, and I think you'll agree when you read...
Angela's Adventure of a Lifetime
When Beth asked me to write about an adventure, I immediately thought of living in China and Europe, of driving across the US with my husband (and our infant daughter), and many other adventures. So many, I realized that my greatest adventure began my sophomore year of college, when I was a Resident Advisor (RA).
It’s peaceful at a university the week before classes start. I had just finished hanging up name signs on the empty doors wondering about the freshmen girls who would move in, when I got the news. It was a good year for the university, more freshmen than ever before. There were so many students that the guest wing would be opened up on my floor and filled with freshmen of the male variety. Yes, males. Guys. Dudes. I had the good fortune to be the RA of the first ever co-ed dorm floor at the university.
I made more name tags and wondered about the guys who would move in.
Pacific University, Forest Grove, ORAnd that’s when my adventure began. My love was one of those 20 guys. We married before we graduated college and the adventure continued.
Our first home was a job that provided living accommodations. We managed a boarding house for mentally ill men. We stayed there at night in case of emergency, waking early to prepare a 5 course breakfast (and distribute meds, cigarettes, and rationed money) for more than a dozen men before heading off to classes and second jobs.
Other homes –and adventures -have included:
Hot-lanta (Atlanta, GA): This is where both of our beautiful home-birthed babies were born and life-long friendships were made. Atlanta is the city we consider our home when we’re in the US.
China: We spent a year in China learning language, cooking, and how to ride bikes in unbelievable traffic. We also made some great friends, got behind-the-scenes access to temples and the great wall and my love studied under the national pushing-hands competition winner and an 88-year-old tai-chi master.
Great Wall of China with oldest daughter, 11 months
The Italian countryside: From here I was able to take my grandfather to Sicily 80 years after he left –and we reconnected family ties that were almost severed by distance and time. We learned to drive automobiles in unbelievable traffic, more wonderful friendships were formed, and our daughters learned to speak Italian.
The adventure continues: We now live in Germany where we appreciate the orderly traffic, the many fests throughout the year and the opportunities to travel in Europe.
Yet, real life, the real adventure, is every day. Walking to the ice-cream shop on the corner, watching our kids advance a belt in martial arts, or perform their music on stage and struggling for words when a beloved pet dies. This amazing adventure is living through good and bad times and sharing them together.
Neptune's Grotto, Sardinia 2010
Sometimes my love will look up at me and say, “I can’t believe I married my RA.”
And sometimes I can’t believe it either!
I'm excited to announce that Holiday House is offering 5 ARCs to US readers through Goodreads!
I'm so honored to be interviewed by SCBWI Germany and to share some of the story behind the story of writing The Safest Lie. Also, they are generously offering a signed copy of The Safest Lie!
I'm excited that Kirkus has reviewed The Safest Lie (coming soon from Holiday House Books)
"Balancing honesty and age-appropriateness, Cerrito crafts an authentic, moving portrait. (Historical fiction. 9-12)"
Anna Bauman, 9 years old and Jewish, escapes certain death in Nazi-occupied Poland with the help of many who keep her hidden with a false Catholic identity. Read full book review >
When you’re 9 there’s not much you have control over – meals, bedtime, homework, the long walk to and from school. It actually feels like your life is a big long stretch of doing what you are told, no matter what. And kids of 9 carry a huge burden. They have the hugest imagination of anyone. They wonder about everything.
When I was 9, I wondered what it would be like to be a boy. I wished I could try it out for a few hours or a day. I wanted to talk to animals, really understand them. And I wanted to fly.
All of these dreams were realized when Mrs. Hawkins pulled her tall wooden stool to front of the class room, perched upon it and opened THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN by E.B. White.
She read and I became a boy (Sam Beaver). While Mrs. Hawkins words washed over me, I could talk to a swan named Louis. Not only talk with him, join him on his quest. And Louis’ quest is everyone’s quest – he had to find his voice (don’t we all?), discover the best way to show his love and he struggled to stay safe in a world that was often dangerous.
I don’t remember much about 4th grade. Did Mrs. Hawkins teach us long division? Did we make maps of the world? I bet we studied the Nile (we seemed to study it every year in elementary school). Honestly, I didn’t remember the name of my 4th grade teacher, so, last night I sent a text to an old friend.
She wrote: Mrs. Hawkins. Yeah, Louis the swan with the slate and the trumpet. I cried in class when she read it. (Thank you, C.S.!)
That’s something I remember. I cried too.
Mrs. Hawkins, I’m sorry for forgetting your name. And I’m sorry if I don’t remember the subjects we studied that year. But I know one thing for certain. Each day when you perched up on that tall stool and opened the book it was like you took the entire class in your arms, brought us to Canada and introduced us to Louis. Reading THE TRUMPET OF THE SWAN aloud was the best lesson you could have taught.
It helped me to find my voice. And to find my way in the world.
Author Rick Walton is collecting stories about reading aloud; share yours here http://whyreadaloud.wordpress.com/201...
My grandmother loved to take us on hikes and point out the edible plants.
“Don’t listen to her,” my grandfather would warn. “She ate poison ivy.”
“Just once,” she answered, smiling at Grandpa to show he hadn’t gotten under her skin. In a lower voice, aimed at me and my sister, she said, “It was awful.”
Way back in the old days, when her children were young, Grandma was a Girl Scout leader. She informed her troops that she’d discovered wild strawberries in the woods. There was no fruit to be found, but she bit into a leaf.
“My entire mouth was on fire. I got poison ivy hives from the inside out.”
I preferred scratching my mosquito bites down to rows of scabs. That’s how much I hated itching. “All the way down your throat? Into your stomach?” I imagined worms wiggling under my skin, thinking about itching way deep in the gut.
Grandma said, “I spit it out, didn’t swallow a bit, but my whole body broke out. Everywhere. I really know the difference now.”
Grandpa didn’t caution us further; he wasn’t the type to repeat himself. He expected his words to be understood and followed, the first time he spoke them.
No matter what he said, we trusted her. She was our Grandmother. She could nurse an injured bird back to health, prepare a pasta dinner for 70 people, spin a cartwheel and do the splits, and name the birds just by hearing their songs.
So I opened my mouth, let her place a leaf on my tongue, and tasted spearmint.
There are words to describe abundance. When I think of a bountiful harvest, the pictures in my mind are not fields.
Instead, I see:
A mulberry tree providing food all afternoon as I read in its branches
Grandpa with his wheel of cheese, the biggest I’ve ever seen, patiently grating a chunck by hand
The loaves of bread my great-grandmother baked every day, rain or shine
A fig tree in my grandparents’ backyard, branches drooping, loaded with fruit
The vacant lot at the corner where Grandma sent Kelli and me to pull up chicory. We brought armfuls into the warm kitchen and she tossed the greens with boiled noodles.
Apples from the backyard tree, peeled, sliced, and coated with cinnamon and sugar for pie
Grandpa stirring a giant pot full of mustard greens, the fumes stinging our eyes. The air filling with the odor – it smelled like pee.
A long line of rhubarb by the back fence
Each of us with a bowl of popcorn, my Grandpa reclined, the bowl planted on his chest and his tongue darting out like a lizard’s for each kernel.
One mound of vanilla ice cream covered in Grandma’s home-made chocolate sauce
Some things in life are perfect.
My grandparents taught me that food is everywhere.
And the number one ingredient in every meal is love.
Be careful who you choose for a friend
Do your best
Do your very best
Sit up straight
If you think you can’t, you can’t
You can do anything
I love you
Look it up in the dictionary
Yes, a girl can be president of the US
(I doubted this was really true because there hadn’t been one)
There are female presidents of other countries, ours will have one too
No one should be treated differently because of the way they look
If you dream it, try it
Brush your teeth
Dreams take time
Keep practicing your music
If someone tells you they won’t be your friend unless...that person is not a friend
When you start something, don’t quit
Turn out that light an go to sleep
Tell the truth
If you tell a lie, you will end up having to tell another lie, and another lie, and another lie
I love you, no matter what
Don’t read in the dark
Slow down, you can’t be doing 100 million things and do them all well
Breakfast is the most important meal of the day
Take time to eat a warm breakfast
Don’t forget to floss every time you brush
Turn out that flashlight, put the book away and go to sleep
School is your job, I expect you to do well in school
Cheaters never win and winners never cheat
You can tell me anything
He’s too old for you
He’s too old for you, too
You met this guy where? I swear Angela I’m going to lock you in a closet until you are 18 –or 30
Birth control, birth control, birth control, birth control if I ever teach you one thing it is going to be about birth control
Sex is a beautiful and wonderful thing between two people who really love each other
Sex without love isn’t a beautiful thing
Sometimes when you think you are in love, you’re not
Wanting someone to love you and really being in love are two different things
If you don’t love yourself, you can’t love anyone else
Love isn’t two people giving 50%, it’s two people giving 100%
I think I could keep going on and on. My Mom is such an amazing person. She taught me not only with the sayings above, but by how she lives her life and shares it with others!
This was originally posted on Meandering in a Field of Words
The Weight of Words
If you kill someone you’re going to hell. That was the first sentence of the first draft of THE END OF THE LINE. It remained the first sentence through many drafts and it was the opening line of the first, second and third final versions. (I mistakenly thought about 10 versions were the final version).
Out it went to two editors and a few agents. (Thank you editors for your direct feedback; thank you agents for pointing out the need for more revisions.)
That line lasted as I gave the entire manuscript a major overhaul. If you kill someone you’re going to hell.
Before I sent the latest (but not last) final version out to the world, I evaluated every chapter, every page, every word.
I liked the line. I especially liked the word hell. It sounded strong, certain –final. But I considered that word, that one hell, in the context of the rest of the novel and it didn’t fit.
The line represents the thoughts (and fears) of Robbie, the main character. At no point in the rest of the novel does he think about hell. Also, he never reflects on his personal religious beliefs. He doesn’t spend time worrying about institutions or other people condemning him for his past. He’s already full of self loathing.
There was something else I had to consider about the word hell in that sentence. Hell represents the future or a possible future. In THE END OF THE LINE, Robbie isn’t focused on the future. He can barely cope with the present. He can’t escape the past.
Hell was dishonest. It promised the reader a character suffering with a crisis of religion, a character worried about his soul. This didn’t fit Robbie’s story.
Hell had to go.
And because hell was such a strong word, such a weighty word, it took more than one word to replace it.
The opening now reads: "If you kill someone, you are a piece of murdering scum. When I saw his body all twisted and still, I knew...I knew my life was worthless. It didn't matter what Dad said or how hard Mom cried. There was nothing they could do."
See the entire first page at www.angelacerrito.com
Have you ever struggled with one word or phrase in your writing? Maybe it was in a conversation, where you knew that each word counted, or a single word could be taken wrong?