Yakity Yak

Not much blogging because I’ve been busy talking on the telephone…

Do you remember that quaint way of communicating in which the receiver can actually hear inflection, gasping, snorting, and real live air moving in and out of a voice box?  When “LOL” had a noise attached to it  — and I don’t mean a clicking sound on a keyboard?  

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of speaking with two gentlemen (in the real sense of the word) who were Pedro Panes and lived in the Holy Family Orphans’ Home.  I appreciate how openly they shared their memories.  Their experiences were different and similiar in many ways, but both highlighted the warmth and connectedness they still feel from the Marquette community.  According to a database shared by one of the gentlemen I mentioned, 53 Pedro Panes lived here throughout the course of the mission. 

I’m working on an article for a regional historical magazine about the role the Holy Family Orphans’ Home played in Operation Pedro Pan.  (This research is strengthening the chapter book, too.) And, while secondary research is quick and easy, it never beats a good old-fashioned noise-filled conversation. 



Fear, Schmear…

“There is no writer’s block; what stops us is fear of rejection.”

                                                 author Jacqueline Woodson

Commitment Trumps Beauty

A small but curious group attended the SCBWI Networking Day gathering on Saturday, March 6 — despite a postcard-perfect day in Marquette.  UP here in the land of six months of snow and cold, we live for a heady 59 degrees in March.  Coming inside on this day was a testament to passion.  I’m sending a special shout out to Boni Ashburn, the traditionally published author in our midst, who answered hundreds of questions with grace and good humor.  Additional attendees included Meredith Ammons Ollila, Larry Buege and Phyllis Pokela.        

left to right back row: Boni Ashburn, Carrie Pearson, Meredith Ammons Ollila. Front row: Phyllis Pokela, Larry Buege


I’m excited to share that I’ve finished a first draft of my upper middle grade chapter book, Exile.  Normally I’m sort of a quiet person, so those who know me will be surprised I had 15,500+ words in me.  I’m happy to tell this story — it’s about time…

The plot synopsis follows:

This historical fiction, upper middle grade chapter book is for readers aged 12-14.  The main characters in the story are based upon the lives of real people.  However, this book is not a complete representation of their lives or the events that occurred. 

Set in an orphanage in 1962 just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is the story of how friendship saves two culturally dissimilar 12-year-old boys who are tragically disconnected from their families.  This is the first story written for children readers with a main character who was part of the Pedro Pan mission, the largest political exodus of children ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.  

Danny suddenly finds himself a half-orphan after his mother dies, his father succumbs to alcoholism, and he is handed over to an abusive family friend.  Danny runs away and lands in the Holy Family Orphan’s Home in Marquette, MI.  This orphanage is the foster home for 30 boys who are part of the Pedro Pan mission, which brought over 14,000 children as exiles from Cuba during the first tumultuous years of Fidel Castro’s communist regime.    

Danny and Emilio, a Cuban exile, come together through Father Timothy, the monsignor in charge of the orphanage.  Because Cubans primarily live at the orphanage, their food, music, and emotions permeate the environment.  Danny enters a milieu very different from his experience in a small Midwestern town. Outside the orphanage, Emilio faces discrimination, language barriers, and living conditions vastly different from his former life experience.

The boys find common ground through their mutual desire to return to their old lives and their interest in baseball.  However, when an older Cuban boy bullies Danny, Emilio must choose his alliance and the clash between cultures becomes clear.   

Outside influences and abandonment wounds threaten their tentative friendship.  But, when they accept that their old lives are gone forever and recognize the value of their friendship, they forge an unbreakable bond — and find hope in their future.


SCBWI Networking Day

Click on “News” above and you’ll find out more information about Networking Day in our area.  I’m hosting and bringing something chocolate, something caffeinated, and something interesting.  You’ll have to come to find out what.  RSVP required to [email protected] or 906-228-4465 (so I know how much of the stuff to bring.) 

This is a great opportunity to share, get new ideas, and move forward on your dream of writing and/or illustrating and publishing children’s books. 

Thank you.

Just wanted to give a shout out to people who offer their quiet spaces to writers (whose lives are anything but quiet) to create.  I have a person like that in my life.  Because she has written a book (a very scientific and important textbook) and because she is a shameless promoter of other’s dreams, she understands how valuable this quiet space is to me.  Thank you, P.S.


A little heavy, a little light and some Yeah!

Heavy:  If you are interested in middle grade historical fiction (the genre in which my chapter book will live), you must read Milkweed by Jerry Spinelli.  Lisa Wheeler (www.lisawheelerbooks.com) recommended it to me and she was right on.  It’s a powerful, heart-pounding, shocking account of the atrocities of WWII told by a 6 or 7 year old orphan.

Light:  Check out this book writing rap by Erin Dealey.  Cute!

Yeah! Completed the first draft of the first two chapters of my (as yet untitled) manuscript!  

Just a number?

The more I learn and talk about the Pedro Pan mission, the more incredulous I become about how many Americans have never heard this part of our history.  Fourteen thousand forty-eight children (14,048!!) flew clandestinely to the United States UNACCOMPANIED by any adults to be cared for (by complete strangers in many cases) until their parents could join them here or bring them back to (a more safe/free) Cuba.  It seems this mission and the impact it made on our country, on Cuba, and on the children and their families, has been overshadowed in chronicled US history by the Bay of Pigs invasion, Cuban Missile Crisis and the Cold War.  While those are certainly worthy topics for the history books, where is the chapter about these 14,000 children?            

Dazed and confused

My eyes are blurry from reading everything I can about the Pedro Pan mission.  I want to understand what was going on in the minds of Cuban parents, American politicians, foster families/orphanages, and of course, the exiled children, prior to starting the manuscript.  There are several good adult books written about this subject, each representing the authors’ biases and perspectives.  I’m hoping to piece together my own interpretation of what happened and why using this information.  Right now, I’m just confused.  

I’ve decided to tell this story in alternating chapters of an American orphan and a Cuban exile who become friends at the orphanage.  Today, I worked on my character study for the American orphan.  I feel like I know him already and appreciate his resilient spirit.  However, I feel so sad for him and his little life.