photo credit: Charlie Cox of Irish Rose Farm
UPDATE FROM SPRING 2015: THE FINAL TITLE FOR THIS BOOK IS...
THE LIGHTNING QUEEN
Hello, dear readers!
I can finally announce the news I've been hinting at for a while now (and which some of you already know via Facebook and Twitter)! Here's the official announcement of my new book deal!!!
Children's: Middle grade
Award-winning author Laura Resau's THE IMPOSSIBLE CARAVAN, in which an
indigenous boy and a Romani (Gypsy) girl form a friendship in rural
Mexico that spans the rest of their lives and embraces magic, music, and
predictions of impossible destinies, to Andrea Davis Pinkney of Scholastic, in a good deal, at auction, in a two-book deal, by Erin Murphyof Erin Murphy Literary Agency (world).
(Expected Publication Date: Fall 2015. And note that the title might change!)
You guys, I'm so excited! This is a new publisher and editor for me, and I've heard incredible things about them both. I've been working with Andrea on revisions this summer, and I keep pinching myself because she is a dream to work with... this whole experience, in fact, has felt like an abracadabrant dream.
I got the idea for this book about 15 years ago, when I was living in an indigenous region of Oaxaca, Mexico, teaching and doing anthropology research. I met a 96-year-old healer named Maria Lopez Martinez, lovingly nicknamed "Maria Chiquita," and her daughter, Fidelina. We immediately hit it off, and after Maria Chiquita gave me a limpia (spiritual cleaning involving chanting, praying, and beating me with bundles of herbs and spitting on me with alcohol), she and her daughter told me I reminded them of the gitana (Gypsy/Romani) women who used to visit their Mixtec village in the mid-20th century. They launched into enchanting stories about the caravans that would show outdoor movies and tell fortunes and bring joy and excitement to their community.
I could only find this small-resolution image of the three of us
I ended up becoming good friends with these women, and although Maria Chiquita passed away a year later, I went to her cabo de anno (that double nn is supposed to be an n with a squiggle above it but I can't figure out how to do that in blogger!) This was a beautiful candlelit gathering a year after her death in which we honored her spirit.
"Drops of Wax" illustration by Emma Shaw Smith
Maria Chiquita had a big effect on my life, and I ended up weaving her stories about the gitanas into a short story called "Drops of Wax" for Cricket Magazine
-- my first big publication. Fast forward about ten years, after I'd published seven books and was struggling with what I thought would be my next book-- a YA fantasy that my writing friends and I referred to as THE CHOCOLATE BOOK (or, THAT #$&*! CHOCOLATE BOOK). This was the spring of 2013, and man oh man, was this book giving me trouble! It was super-intricate, jumping around in time and space, leaping from one character's point of view to another... and then there was crazy-complicated fantastical world-building I was getting lost in...
Around that time, I took a trip to Half Moon Bay, California for an author visit and walked along the succulent-covered ocean cliffs. It had an almost magical effect on me... I started getting vivid glimpses of a new story.... a story that was for younger readers, and involved the Romani (Gypsies) and a Mixtec village... and it felt graceful and fun and soul-soaring to me. I decided I needed to give my poor brain a break from THE %*&!@ CHOCOLATE BOOK, and this new story was the perfect project. I jotted down bits of dialogue and scenes and imagery in the little notebook I carry around with me, and started getting really excited about it. It felt deeply special to me-- after all, the novel had been brewing in my unconscious mind for the past fifteen years. I'd written that short story, but I'd always had the sense that I wanted to weave some of its basic elements into a full-length novel someday... and the day had finally come!
The book was a pure joy to write... I ended up finishing a solid draft by the fall-- in less than six months, which is really fast for me. Then, for a few months, I asked some smart and generous writing friends to critique it, and I did a few revisions. By the winter, my agent was reading it, and then, in the springtime of 2014, Andrea Davis Pinkney made the offer. Then I had to sit on the news all summer long until the contract was signed and the deal officially announced. So... it's been a fruitful and exciting year!
SO many people have helped me with this manuscript... the acknowledgments will be looooong! My friends in the Mixteca region of Oaxaca were enormously helpful, and I feel bowled over with gratitude. And my writer friend, Ron Cree, contributed awesome real-life stories about some unusual pets he had as a kid-- this helped me with "character development" of the rescued skunk and duck in the book. (You can read his hilarious stories here
The abandoned, injured gosling my family and I rescued back in May 2013 was also a big inspiration for the duckling character in the story. Here
you can see photos of Baby Goose Grape (and also read another true, funny waterfowl story.)
My friend Charlie Cox helped with some of the Romani (Gypsy) elements in the story-- he lives on a farm on the outskirts of town, and has Romani vardos (caravans) and Gypsy horses! Here's
a post I did after he invited me out to his farm and graciously showed me his vardos.
Photo credit: Charlie Cox of the Irish Rose Farm
I've been interested in Romani cultures around the world ever since reading anthropologist Isabel Fonseca's ethnographic book BURY ME STANDING in the mid 1990's. It made me aware of the misconceptions about the Romani as free-spirited wanderers, and gave me a better understanding of the societal challenges they've faced, historically and current-day. And then, as I did research for my novel, I was fascinated to learn more about the Romani through books, oral histories, and documentaries (the recent movie Papusza
was wonderful and moving.)
Researching this book was the first time I used a Pinterest board
to collect images, and it was really helpful. Here are a couple images from the board that helped me visualize the Romani girl in my novel.
(Unfortunately, a problem with Pinterest is that it can be hard to find photo credits for images-- I don't know who took these pics, but if you do, let me know, and I'll give credit.)
I imagine the girl in front resembles my main character-- I love her confident, almost sassy expression!
Okay, I think this post is long enough for now! I have more inspiration/research background to share with you later, though... some of it involves my vintage Viewmaster and slide collection, actually. ;-)
On that note, I will bid you farewell! Thank you for coming by and sharing in my happiness... and I hope you're enjoying these first bits of fall.