Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Notes from Conrad Storad's Workshop at ANWA Conference Feb 25-26

Notes from ANWA Conference, February 25-26, 2011

Notes from Conrad Storad’s Friday morning presentation: “Sonoran Desert Tales,” Making Non-Fiction Fun for Young Readers.

Conrad Storad spent 25 years editing ASU’s Research Magazine. Since retiring from that position he has spent his time writing science and nature books for children. He has published 38 children’s books. He calls his books fun non-fiction, though his editors call some of them informative fiction.

Storad first talked about where to go to get information to write about when writing non-fiction for kids. He said that it isn’t necessary to go to the places you want to write about. There are many resources available, such as libraries and the Internet.  He also recommended talking to experts; scientist, engineers, doctors, and professors. He said these experts don’t talk like normal people. He sees himself as an interpreter for his young audience.  Storad said, “I use words and sentences that are easy to understand so that kids can understand the science.”

In this writing environment, every word, every sentence becomes very important. He said, “Try to explain day and night in 85 words so that a kid can understand it.” It is not easy writing. Kids have very short attention spans and are very visual. Storad shared his opinion that the Internet is turning us all into ADHD sufferers because of all the different information that is instantly available “just a click away.”
Storad had class members do a writing exercise. He emphasized that our number one tool is the brain. Other tools include paper, pen, word processor, a computer. The materials we use in writing are words, sentences, etc. He said if we learn something in story form we are much more likely to remember it. For the exercise, class members were assigned the task of writing for 15 minutes, describing a rainbow to someone who has never seen one—an extraterrestrial alien. Class members shared their work.

The second writing exercise Storad gave the class was to choose to write about one of several different animals and make it exciting for a child audience. Class members were given a sheet containing a small amount of information about each animal. They were told to write to the title: “All About Eating.” 30 minutes were given for writing, after which the class members shared their work with one another.

To conclude his class, Storad read one of his stories to the class, the way he does when presenting to a group of children. He used slides of the pictures in his books and puppets to keep the attention of his audience. Autographed books were raffled for door prizes

Friday, March 11, 2011

Book Review: Journey of Honor, a love story

From the back cover:
Disowned, she came to America anyway. Attacked and left pregnant by a vicious mob, she still pressed on. Finally, in spite of being accused of theft by the vilest of her attackers, Giselle tries to remain as upbeat and uncomplaining as a prairie wildflower as she travels on to Zion.

Thoroughly disillusioned with the ugliness and cruelty of slavery in the South, Trace Grayson leaves his young medical career to go west, hoping to leave bigotry and hatred behind. He begins taking goods by teamster train to sell in the territories. However, this fourth time across, in July of 1848, he's stuck in St. Joseph, Missouri, waiting for enough wagons to join the train so that they can leave.

Knowing that if they don't start west soon, they'll be caught by snow in the mountains, Trace is thrilled when the final wagon signs on. Then, when the beautiful, young Dutch girl traveling with the last wagon is falsely accused of stealing and is detained, the whole trip is jeopardized. Thrown together by circumstance, Trace and Giselle team up to begin to figure out just how to make this epic journey across a continent a success.

With a deep sense of honor and an equally strong sense of humor, together they learn to deal with everything except the one trial that neither of them can overcome.

My review:
I liked the premise of this book. I thought Hawkes had a great story idea and her characters were lovable. I was pulling for the protagonists the whole trek west. It was a sweet, clean love story. I also enjoyed the historical aspect of the novel, as I have pioneer ancestors and like imagining their struggles on their journey to the mountain West.

However, it is the historical aspect of this novel that caused me some trouble, because there are some pretty major historical inaccuracies in it. The first I noticed were the words "racist" and "racism." I happen to be old enough to remember when those words first started to appear in the American vocabulary. It was the late 1970's or early 80's at the very earliest. Before that we used the word "prejudiced." I'm pretty sure nobody used the words "racist" or "racism" in the 17th century, though I admit I wasn't around then.

The other historically inaccurate matter is that of the LDS Church's treatment of blacks. The novel is set in 1848 and a major plot point is that blacks can't hold the priesthood or go through the temple. This is not accurate. In fact, blacks were afforded the same privileges as whites until 1878, when Brigham Young made changes to that policy. Hawkes really should have done better research on this matter before writing this novel.

That being said, it is still a fun story to read and I think readers will enjoy it as long as they're not too hung up on historical accuracy.