Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sunday Teaser time - Dreaming Anastasia

Well, it looks like DA is scheduled for a September release. Will keep you posted on the exact day. And suddenly that's looming closer than one would think. Maybe it's just this time of year; once I hit spring break, which for me is this week, the rest of the school year kind of slides into place and we start planning ahead for next year and sometimes I feel like I'm already there. Maybe it's the book events I'm starting to plan - various fall book festivals I'd like to attend, SCBWI LA in August... But the excitement is building. (gives tiny little squee sound)

In any case, it's teaser time.

One of the most enjoyable and also challenging aspects of Dreaming Anastasia for me is that the novel has three narrative voices - sixteen year old Anne, handsome mysterious Ethan, and Anastasia. The challenge for me as writer was, of course, to keep those three voices distinct and separate. Anne is a contemporary sixteen year old girl. Ethan is an eighteen year old guy - who (not to give too much away) may not exactly be as contemporary as he'd like Anne to think. And then there's Anastasia, who as I've mentioned, is not quite as dead as the history books say.

From a writer's perspective, this means I'm balancing not only historical elements, but language and gender, too, in addition to the usual character issues. Add in minor characters such as Anne's best friend Tess, who plays a significant role, Anne's mother and Ethan's friend Professor Olensky, and my wonderful witch Baba Yaga, and there are a lot of voices simmering in the story pot.

My first draft of the novel had actually been in 3rd person, so when I shifted everything to 1st person present tense, that upped the ante as well. That POV gives everything a pressing intimacy. None of my characters could hide behind that 3rd person narrator. Even if they wanted to.

All of this has impacted me as a writer and as a teacher of writing and literature. I must admit I find it sort of dumfounding how often that word voice is thrown around rather cavalierly in education circles. The assumption seems to be - at least in the world of our Texas standardized testing in language arts - that voice is quickly and easily developed in student writing. That a few little tricks -use lots of adjectives, Suzy! Show don't tell! - and wham - our kids will develop their writerly voices. In fact, their standardized test essays are graded for it.

Any writer, editor, agent, publisher will tell you - it just ain't that easy! Voice is something we know when we read it. It is often more nebuloulsy defined in our heads than standardized test makers would like, developed through hard work, practice and yes, probably a little talent, too. It is not easily taught or easily achieved. Nor should it be.

And look at the digression that this post took. You can tell that school is still on my mind today.

As for Dreaming Anastasia, I look forward to sharing those voices with you come September. In fact, I'm so excited I can hardly wait!

Til next time...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh JOy!!! I can't wait to read it. I can't wait to see you! National Book Festival?