Join me as I go back to December 2009 when I penned this blog for Bookreporter.com ~ a fabulous site for readers and writers.
Heather Gudenkauf — author of THE WEIGHT OF SILENCE — thinks back to one holiday from her childhood, when she learned a valuable lesson from a hasty decision and the help of a favorite book.
The holiday season was always a wonderfully chaotic time in my childhood home. With six children, two adults, a dog, a finch, two gerbils, and several hermit crabs all living under one roof, we had our share of adventures and misadventures. But unmistakably, we always had each other.
One of the most wonderful gifts I received the Christmas I was nine wasn’t from Santa Claus, but from my mom and dad. I could tell by its shape and heft that inside was a box of books. Books were highly valued in our home, but being the youngest of six, I rarely had a brand new, unmarred book of my own. I always received the chocolate-smeared, doodled-on books they didn’t want anymore. On Christmas Eve, with anticipation, I tore into the package and found a box set of Beverly Cleary books including one of my all-time favorites, RAMONA AND HER FATHER. Growing up, I wanted to be Ramona Quimby. I loved her sassiness, I loved her wonderful imagination, and I loved all the predicaments she got herself into and out of. Unfortunately, my personality was more akin to Ramona’s mild-mannered, best friend Howie than to Ramona’s free-spiritedness. While the snow swirled and the wind blew, I spent the remainder of my holiday break ensconced in my toy box, wrapped in a sleeping bag, holding a flashlight and reading my Beverly Cleary books. In RAMONA AND HER FATHER, Ramona managed to get a crown of burs stuck on her head, accused her teacher of having wrinkly elephant ankles, and called the elderly neighbor lady pie face. But in that same book Ramona also managed to convince her father to quit smoking, taught the reader how to make tin can stilts, was the best lamb in the Christmas play even though her costume was made up of old pajamas with faded bunnies on them, and taught me the lesson that family is what is most important.
In a matter of days, I had finished reading my books. Even at the age of nine, I was always on the search for something new to read, so I braved the cold and walked to a local used book store where I could trade my books in for credit toward more books. As I handed over my box of Beverly Cleary novels that my parents had just given me for Christmas, I knew I was doing the wrong thing, but that didn’t stop me. As I went to bed that night, my new books piled by my bedside, I found no joy in the adventures within their pages. I knew how hard my parents worked, I knew how carefully they picked out those books for me, but still I had given them away with little thought. And for what? A few used books, which on closer inspection, had stained pages that smelled liked mildew. I couldn’t sleep that night knowing that my actions hurt my parents’ feelings. The next morning, still feeling guilty, I asked my sister what I should do. “Go back and get them,” she told me simply. And not for the first time, and certainly not the last, I understood the wisdom in my sister’s advice.
I dug into my earnings from shoveling snow and tromped back to the bookstore. After a few frantic moments scanning the shelves in hopes of finding my box of books, I saw them, still within their case, still shiny and new looking. I paid for my books and brought them home with me, where they belonged. Now that was just the thing Ramona Quimby would have done.
I still have that copy of RAMONA AND HER FATHER. The pages are stained and smell a little like mildew, but no matter, I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I have shared my love for Ramona and the other characters that live on Beverly Cleary’s Klickitat Street with my own children. We have laughed over Ramona’s feistiness, groaned over the dilemmas she gets herself into, and pondered over the lesson that Ramona always manages to teach us… that family is the gift to be valued most.
— Heather Gudenkauf
Welcome to the Heather Gudenkauf’s Books Giveway for December!
This month three books are up for grabs for one lucky winner: An advanced reading copy of MISSING PIECES and the first two books in the Zoe Goldman series by the immensely talented Sandra Block ~ LITTLE BLACK LIES & THE GIRL WITHOUT A NAME.
To enter simply click on the leave a comment link at the top of this post and share your biggest holiday disaster (just read the following blog post to learn about mine!). Your comment won’t show up right away ~ but check back and it will be there. I’ll choose one random winner on Friday, December 11th.
While you’re here ~ feel free to browse around my newly updated site and then head on over to Sandra’s website ~ http://www.sandraablock.com
Thank you for joining in the fun!
I’ve been in thriller mode as of late and have been reading many great ones as of late. Right now I’m reading the series by Robert Dugoni about sharpshooter and Seattle PD detective, Tracy Crosswhite. In MY SISTER’S GRAVE, Crosswhite must face the questions that still surround the twenty year old disappearance of her beloved little sister. Was the right man convicted or has an innocent man had to pay for a crime he didn’t commit?
I finished MY SISTER’S GRAVE in a matter of days and immediately picked up HER LAST BREATH. If you’re looking for a fast-paced, suspenseful read ~ look no further!
Have a book club? One of my favorite things to do is meet with fellow booklovers and talk books. Too far away? No worries ~ I’m happy to meet with book clubs via Skype or Google Chat. Feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can work together to set up a virtual visit.
I’ve been asked to try something new on my blog – a blog roll! It does sound like some kind of breakfast item, doesn’t it? But in this case it’s an opportunity for authors of different genres to respond to questions about their unique writing processes.
Pam Jenoff, the author of several wonderful novels, including the upcoming GRAND CENTRAL and THE WINTER GUEST. Five years ago, one of the reasons I was so excited to become a member of the MIRA author family was because how enamored I was with Pam’s books. I was lucky enough to meet Pam in person recently after years of communicating via email. I wasn’t disappointed ~ Pam is as smart and engaging as her novels!
1. WHAT AM I WORKING ON – I’ve been busily preparing for the release of my upcoming novel, LITTLE MERCIES and I’m currently working on my next novel, as of yet untitled. I always find it difficult to describe projects that are in their early stages but I’m delving into the intricacies of friendship, marriage, and how we can never truly escape our past.
2. HOW DOES MY WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS OF ITS GENRE? I attempt to do what all authors hope to do ~ create fictional worlds where readers want to spend a little time. People ask me all the time how my books are categorized and I never quite know how to respond. Are they literary, mysteries, thrillers or emotional family dramas? My hope is that they are all of these!
3. WHY DO I WRITE WHAT I DO? I’m intrigued by the idea of taking a fragment of an idea and examining it from all angles in order to see the different directions I can take the story. I’m especially drawn to writing about regular, everyday people who find themselves in extraordinary situations. For example, in LITTLE MERCIES, main character Ellen Moore, a typical mother, like so many of us, struggles to find the balance between her personal and professional lives. Ellen finds that one moment of distraction can have life-altering consequences and she turns to her family and friends to see her through a very difficult time.
4. HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS WORK? I ponder and think over a writing idea for a long time before placing pen to paper. Then I put pen to paper. Literally. I always begin my writing projects by buying a brand new journal or notebook expressly for my next project. I usually write the first fifty pages or so in longhand before I transfer the words to the computer. By beginning my novels in this way, I feel as if I’m able to find unique voices of each of the characters I create. I return to this special journal whenever I find that the words won’t come. Returning to paper and pen somehow seems to help me get me back on track with my writing.
AND THE OTHER PART OF THIS QUESTION, HOW DOES MY WRITING PROCESS NOT WORK? I have a lot of notebooks and journals stacked up around my house! Sometimes I have so many notes and ramblings in different journals it can be difficult to keep my ideas straight in my head. I tend to change my mind about some pretty important details while in the middle of writing a novel. I can choose to tell the story from the point of view of one character and then add three more. This leads to changing the point of view from first to third person and then back to first person. Needless to say, I create quite a bit of extra work for myself, but it’s all part of the process.
WHO’S NEXT –
Lesley Kagan – Lesley Kagan is one of my favorite authors and I especially love her novels WHISTLING IN THE DARK and GOOD GRACES. Lesley has this magical ability of making her characters come to life on the page. Lesley’s newest project, a novella entitled THE UNDERTAKING OF TESS will be released this summer. I’ll be first in line for this one!
Suzanne Redfearn – I had the opportunity to read Suzanne’s wonderful novel, HUSH LITTLE BABY, and was absolutely entranced. I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next!
Paula Treick DeBoard – I met Paula in NYC for Book Expo America after I had the chance to read her touching and thought provoking novel THE FRAGILE WORLD. Watch for its release at the end of October 2014!