Hello Dear Readers,
I have a favorite quote from author James Michener that hangs above my desk:
I love writing.
I love the swirl and swing of words
as they tangle with human emotions.
Michener is expressing what authors strive for: connecting readers to feelings kept way down deep in each of us. I always have this goal in mind when I write true stories about young people caught up in significant historical events. Each of my books also takes readers on an emotional journey—one that invites them to identify with my main characters, and with them to dig down into those deep feelings to find the courage to overcome great challenges.
Readers find themselves asking, ‘What would I do if that had been me?’ An eighth grader wrote to tell me this: “I was having lots of problems at home. At school I was reading your book and I felt like I was in the story, trying to do the right thing. The boy in the book learned how to change his attitude and it helped him. It was hard but I changed mine. Things are better now. Thank you!”
Readers are often surprised by how much history they also learn from my stories. I’ve taken them into the caves of Vicksburg during the Civil War siege, into sod houses on the Nebraska prairie, to the streets of Victorian London, into Hitler’s death camps, aboard orphan trains traveling across the country, to the Civil War battle of Westport with Buffalo Bill, and into the fall of Saigon in the final days of the Vietnam War. My newest book is set in the Japanese American Internment Camps of World War II. With each project I have focused on exploring the inner emotional stories of the fascinating young people who lived these experiences. They have so much to teach us, if we will just pay attention.
Now I’m trying something new: I’m writing a play based on my book Surviving Hitler. I’m enjoying the challenge of reimagining this story for the stage. It’s slated for production by the theatre group at my local Jewish Community Center, but because of the pandemic, it will have to wait until we can once again gather in person for live theatre.
And speaking of the pandemic, one day a future generation will look back on the challenging times we currently live in, wondering how we got through it all. I think a picture will emerge of us as a people full of grit, grace, and steely determination, who fought our way to a better tomorrow. I’ve no doubt that young people will help to lead the charge. and that writers will find the right words—ones that tangle with human emotions—to share our story of today.