I’ve been swamped with revisions and thought I’d ask my talented friend, Beth Kephart, to host today’s post. Beth kindly agreed and it made me all sorts of happy. I mean, have you visited Beth’s blog? Her blog is beautiful prose and color.
And she’s here!
Please welcome Beth…
Dear HipWriterMama (who is indeed a very hip, very fine writer, not to mention a very great mother and dear soul) invited me here for a guest post, and I said yes, of course. It’s really great, for one thing, to hang out in her well-decorated, thoroughly well-organized space. (I’m already feeling calmer.) But it’s also really wonderful to have a chance to talk here about my new book, THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE.
HEART was a long time coming. Written shortly after I journeyed to Juarez with my husband, son, and about two dozen others, it stayed put for awhile—bought by HarperTeen but put onto a back shelf while work on NOTHING BUT GHOSTS proceeded. Sometimes books need to stew, and HEART certainly did, for while I had the landscape down, and while I had captured my love for the gorgeous children that we’d met in a squatters’ village known as Anapra, I did not yet have a sufficiently firm grip on my two protagonists, Georgia and Riley. I knew Georgia, my protagonist, to be a middle child, as I am a middle child. I knew her to be sturdy, responsible, strong-seeming. I knew that she was wrestling with something deep within, but I had not named it yet. Georgia sees a flier, in the story, announcing a goodwill trip to Juarez. She decides that she must go. Something is drawing her to the raw and the unknown, but in my first drafts of the book, it wasn’t entirely clear to me what that was.
Riley, Georgia’s best friend, is a character I discovered one night at a restaurant as I watched a beautiful slip of a girl tell stories to a friend. She was familiar to me; I sensed I knew her inner story. She was Riley; I have no idea where that name came from. I put her down on paper and then I waited to move more knowingly within her world.
I need time away from books to make them right, and I took about a year away from HEART. When I returned to it, I was aching for it. I wanted to be with it, and with nothing else. Jill Santopolo, then at HarperTeen, was asking some interesting and on-point questions. I wanted to answer her, but more than anything: I wanted answers for myself.
HEART matters to me because it is about a real place suffering very real turmoil. It is about that question: What can we really do to make a difference in the world? I have always sought to write books that somehow make a difference, and if I can, with HEART, bring attention to Juarez, if I can help girls who are battling with the secrets with which Georgia and Riley do battle, then I will feel as if the journey that I took with HEART was ultimately the right one.
Guest post by Beth Kephart
Thank you so much, Beth!
If you want to know more about Beth, check out her WBBT interview, her writing tip on bringing emotion to the page, and her interview podcast with Barbara DeMarco-Barrett. Beth’s kindness, her talent, her spirit simply shines.
THE HEART IS NOT A SIZE received a starred VOYA review and was named to the Indiebound list for spring. Please join Beth at Barnes and Noble, Devon, PA on Educator’s Day, April 13th at 3:30pm or for the book’s launch party at Children’s Book World, Haverford, PA,
EDITED TO ADD: In the spirit of Jennifer Hubbard’s Library Challenge, I’ve decided to tweak things and take up Beth’s call to action and make a difference for the children in Juarez. I’m currently researching a couple organizations–Missions Ministries and the Juarez Children’s Education Program–they help build homes and educate the children in Juarez. Hopefully, I’ll be able to nail down the right non-profit fund in the next day or so and will update the information on this post.