On being what we are

++ This blog post originally appeared at Kim Wilkins

I grew up in Redcliffe in the 70s and 80s, when it was pretty rough and socially cover Ember Islanddisadvantaged. In fact, I was pretty rough and socially disadvantaged too. We were welfare class. My dad had an accident at work and was on sickness benefits, which he spent almost wholly on beer. My mum worked hard to support us all. I was bullied at school, never really fit in, and went to work in rubbish jobs in fast food.

Then I finally got my act together, went back to high school, then got out of town.

For a long time, during my university studies and with my new inner-city friends, I was faintly (if not entirely sometimes) embarrassed about having been a Redcliffe chick, one who used to hang out with boys in cars or wag school to sit on the jetty and smoke. I didn’t speak of it. I made myself anew; I tried to stop saying “Me and my friends” went somewhere or did something, or “brought” when I meant “bought”. I got a PhD. I published books and spoke elegantly and eloquently in public places.

Then one day I was coming home in a plane from Sydney, and we flew over Moreton Bay, that body of grey-blue water that I grew up looking at. And it struck me how magnificent the bay is, how it gives me the feeling of being home, of being somewhere that everything is all right. I looked down at the islands, and a story idea came to me. The story became Ember Island, the book I worked on over the summer. Imagine my surprise and delight when they sent me the cover and the jetty on the front is actually Redcliffe jetty. “We managed to get an actual picture of Moreton Bay,” the publisher told me excitedly. But she couldn’t know just how familiar that part of Moreton Bay is to me. Redcliffe jetty, on my book cover. Fifteen years ago I would have been appalled. But now, this just fills me with strange pride.

I am a Redcliffe girl. I did work at every fast food chain you can think of. And then I did something different; and I am not a better or worse person for growing up rough around the edges. I am so proud of this book and the fact that it is set somewhere unexotic, maybe even parochial. I am what I am, and I am proud to own it.

On Writing Companions

IMG_3661All writers I know have companion animals.  And if you were to ask writers why this is so important to them, the responses will range from being inspired by the beautiful muse that rocks up when you look your cat or dog in the eyes, or the comfort, and the quiet unconditional love they give as they sleep by your side.

While life as a writer is filled with magic, frustration, and all kinds of wonderful, it can also be a very lonely place.  Often sitting at the keyboard for hours at a time, alone, lost in our worlds of story telling.

Our pets may sit at our feet, or near our side and some even dance across the keyboard just to remind us to have a break, a cuddle or both.  Felines are particularly good at this, and really, they only want to help.  They somehow know when we are getting close to the end of the chapter: truly they aren’t annoying us as much as we think, they are simply showing us, if we stop and pause, even if only to remove said cat from keyboard, the words we might be struggling for in the final sentence suddenly begin to flow.

But besides all our animal companion shenanigans, there is the quiet comfort when we are entrenched in our stories, when we forget to eat, forget to sleep, forget to shower or even get dressed, oh how I love the fetid nightie.  The quiet comfort when we hold our head in our hands and grumble and swear and beat ourselves up for being useless for not finding the words, for not finding the sentence that sings, but despite all that our pets love us just the way we are.

Our animal companions wait patiently, lovingly, and unconditionally.  They forgive our outbursts of rage and frustration even when we ignore them for hours and forget to feed them too!  It’s about now though you can guarantee they will watch your every move with a keen eye, and as soon as we move, their quiet pitter-patter besides us reminds us as writers that we are never, ever really alone.

On the romance of work

Image: gumtree.com.au

++this blog post originally appeared at: Kim Wilkins

When I was a little girl, I read a book that would affect me profoundly. It was Gladys Malvern’s The Dancing Star, first published in 1944, an account of the life of Anna Pavlova, written for children. Like many little girls, I dreamed of being a ballet dancer but unfortunately I was very very bad at dancing and didn’t progress beyond the one disastrous Christmas concert (let me just say: if you’re a blue fairy and you’re with the pink fairies when you’re not supposed to be, you stand out). But it wasn’t the stuff about ballet that affected me so deeply, it was the stuff about work.

According to the book, Anna Pavlova was obsessed with dancing. She practised all the time. She did it until her toes bled and she just. kept. going. This notion, that one could work so hard and push through barriers of extreme discomfort, really took hold of my imagination. From that moment on, I understood the incredible romance of work: diligent hours spent on something that mattered to make an outcome appear in the world.

This is why I don’t hold much with the myth of inspiration: the idea that somehow you must have about yourself the perfect set of preconditions for creativity to be bestowed upon you by a muse. Coleridge stopped writing “Kubla Khan” when a “gentleman from Porlock” stopped by on some business or another, and interrupted his flow of inspiration (Coleridge clearly never had responsibility for small children, who are magnificent porlockers). The myth of inspiration is pleasantly mystical, I suppose, but it isn’t nearly so effective as work.

Work in the early morning hours when the family is asleep. Work until late when the words are flowing. Work on a freshly printed manuscript with a brand new pen while it rains outside. Work when it all seems too hard and your metaphorical toes are bleeding and you have to push through the pain. Work on something you care about so passionately that, like a new lover, you can’t leave it alone. Art, when viewed in this light, is not a divine bolt from above, but the sweet, constant labour of real human beings manifesting things with their feet in the soil. And there is no idea about art more pleasing to me than that.

On “Isabella’s Gift”

It’s a very strange thing, selling a book before it’s finished. Now that Australia, Germany, and the US have bought “Isabella’s Gift”, I need to finish it. I’ve written about 70 000 words so far, but have paused for a few weeks while I catch up on some research.

The main part of the story is set in 1901. Isabella Winterbourne survives a shipwreck off the coast of Queensland, Australia, and sees it as a chance to escape her husband’s oppressive family. But the only trinket she has by which to remember her infant son is tied up with a Winterbourne family treasure that they are not so keen to let go of. Isabella takes refuge with the lighthouse keeper at isolated Daybreak Point, but increasingly finds it difficult to know whom to trust. Intertwined with this story is the story of Libby, one-hundred and ten years later, who returns to her childhood home of Daybreak Point to repair a lifetime’s strained relationship with her sister, who runs a struggling tea-house business in a town that is changing and developing fast. I’d love to tell you more about this aspect of the plot, but that’s where I’m up to at the moment. There are a few too many complications in the present-day plot, so I’m looking at culling them. I’ll be thinking about that while I research the telegraph service in Queensland in 1901.

Of course the best part of the research involved in this book is the time I have to spend at the Sunshine Coast. It’s a two-hour drive from where I live, and spectacularly beautiful. I took the photograph above at Peregian Beach in April (Australian autumn) on a balmy evening when the water was still warm after the sun went down. These are the few lines I wrote in my notebook that evening, that have made their way into the story. The rest of it should be published in about a year. I’d best get cracking.

Libby floated on her back for a while, letting the waves carry her. Salt water on her lips, hair streaming behind her. Then she waded back out onto the beach and sat on the sand to dry by air. The sweet bruise of dusk in the sky. Brazen pinks and golds gave way to subtle purple and pewter. She was wrapped in velvet: the soft sand, the sea mist over the headland, the temperate breeze, and her own human softness, her own flesh and muscle and aching heart.

On mountains and books

Mount Coot-tha
Mount Coot-tha at dawn

I walk up a mountain three or four times a week. It sounds much more hard-core than it actually is. I live in the foothills of the mountain, Mount Coot-tha, and it’s technically not actually a mountain at just a whisker under three-hundred feet (Brisbane, where I live, is pretty flat). But nonetheless, it is covered in fantastic bush tracks and can take you from its foothills to its summit, surrounded by the tangy scent of Australian flora and the sounds of birds calling and water running. I do it on different days and at different times. I like it best when my dear friend Mary-Rose walks up the mountain with me late in the afternoon: we use the walks as informal therapy sessions and it always seems to go quicker in company (the whole walk, up and down, takes about an hour).

There is a difficult point, just past halfway on the walk, where the path takes a steep and rapid ascent: one set of very deep stairs that make my heart pound and always make me pause to catch a breath. It would be easy to give up at this point, because after it the walk gets hard. The incline is more marked but the summit is now visible. Up and up and up. I often think, as I do this walk, how very like writing a book walking up the mountain is. I start out energised and full of certainty. I make my way through the gentle inclines then, as I hit the middle of the book, it starts to get hard. A point passes of acute difficulty: getting the middle written in such a way that the story is pulling together logically and moving in the right direction towards the end. But the effort it has taken to get that far temporarily cripples me. I want to stop. I want to start a new book instead and blow off all my deadlines. But I have to keep going, and pushing until everything starts to ache. Then I’m on the last piece of the track, and the summit is just there, and I know if I just push a little harder I’ll get there and I’ll be able to celebrate (cue Rocky music).

I’m at the steep stairs at the moment in my new novel, Isabella’s Gift, which I’m delighted to announce has just been bought by Touchstone, my publishers for Wildflower Hill in the United States. I have held it together through the middle, and everything is set up and ready to go to write the rest of the book, but it seems so very difficult right now. So I’m standing there, puffing and panting and aching in my big muscles, gathering my energy for the next few months. I’ve glimpsed the summit, but I’m not close enough yet to be inspired by it: only daunted.

But I’m not going to stop. If there’s anything walking up mountains teaches a girl, it’s to keep going. The view from the top is marvellous. Wish me luck.

On how we got here

With the launch date for my book, Wildflower Hill, in the US and Canada steadily getting closer, I thought I’d share with my new readers some of the thoughts and feelings that went into the creation of this manuscript in 2009. These entries were first published on my other blog, as my fantasy writer alter ego Kim Wilkins (find out more on my bio page), and have been edited for your convenience.

December 20, 2008

I have taught so many wonderful writing students over the years, and I always seem to know the answers to their problems (sometimes they don’t listen to my solutions… at first). So it embarrasses me greatly to admit that I’ve been struggling with my own writing for close to six months now. Dr Kim can’t even diagnose herself, let alone write an appropriate prescription. I don’t know what brought it on. Perhaps it was publishing book #20 Gold Dust. A milestone–like those milestone birthdays–making me take stock.

The problem is, I have a surfeit of Really Good Ideas. And because I write across so many genres now, I don’t know quite where to throw my energy. Fab idea for children’s book time-travelling series. Cool idea for Brisbane goth YA novel. Desperate keen to write a chicklit all-girl band story. But I’ve narrowed it down to two:

An adult historical fantasy novel, working title “The Garden of the Mad King”, set in an alternative version of Anglo-Saxon England, about five daughters of a tribal warlord and the different paths they take when their father grows too ill to rule.

or

A Kimberley Freeman saga, working title “The Field of Clouds” (Wildflower Hill), about a poor immigrant woman in Tasmania in the 1920s who goes about creating a fashion empire; and her grand-daughter in the present–fleeing a broken relationship and career in London–who inherits her grandmother’s house and all her hidden secrets.

I really can’t decide which one first. On the one hand, the fantasy novel speaks to my soul on so many levels. Get back to the magic, Kim, it says. But the work involved is huuuuge, and there’s 2 books in there I just know it (though trying to deny it to self). On the other hand, the Kimberley Freeman beckons like a crisp new beach-read novel. Let’s have fun, it says Let’s lie on the beach and get lost in it!  Frocks! Shoes! Glamour! (Though, admittedly, hard to type on the beach).

There are other pros and cons to both, some involving contractual obligations, some involving the ongoing viability of my membership to the SF community, some involving how tired I always am because my children wake before six every morning.

But the solution made itself clear to me just the other night. I know it sounds like madness, but listen to this.

I’m going to write… BOTH! Yes, I’m going to write the first chapter of each over the next few weeks. Then if I still can’t choose, I’ll write the second chapter of each. And so on. I’ve always sworn I couldn’t write two books at once, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And I do have the luxury of both a well-paying part-time job and a stay of execution on an imminent deadline.

Of course, it could all be a disaster and, if it is, you’ll hear it here first. But I think the most important thing of all is that I write something. I get very grumpy if I’m not writing and if that was you I shouted at when you took my spot at Toowong Village car park last week I’m very sorry. But I did have my blinker on first.

Wish me luck.

Kim

December 26, 2008

I’ve been plagued by constant headaches for four weeks. My doctor assures me they are most likely “tension headaches”. What could I be tense about?

I have started both stories. I have planned the first few chapters of each, done a little research, and written an opening paragraph for each. Here are the first drafts (subject to change at whim):

 

Blood. It smelled like the promise of something thrilling, as much as it smelled like the thrumming end of the adventure. It smelled like her father when he came home from battle, even though he had bathed before he took her in his arms. Still the metal tang of it lingered in his hair and beard, and, as she smashed her skinny, child’s body against his thundering chest in welcome, he smelled to her only of good things.

 

…or…

 

Beattie Blaxland had dreams. Big dreams. Fashions and fabrics, riches and respect. In her bed, rolled out on the floor of her parents’ room in their finger-chilling tenement flat, she imagined in vivid, yearning detail a future version of herself: poised, proud, almost regal. She had never imagined—nor believed it possible—that she would find herself pregnant to her married lover at the age of only eighteen.

Apart from the fact that they both start with “B”, they don’t really have much in common, do they? So far it’s not hard work because I’m not really taking it seriously. My friend, writer Grace Dugan, who is studying medicine, showed me how to find my “blind spot”. You hold your index finger in front of you and look straight ahead. Then, as you move your finger outwards, you eventually hit an area that your eye can’t see. Your finger disappears. Well, that’s where all my writing problems are at the moment, safely tucked away in my blind spot. It’s quite nice; like being drunk on champagne. Quite nice except for the headaches, that is.

January 21, 2009

You may remember that I have been working on both the fantasy novel and a Kimberley Freeman novel for a few weeks. We did a farmstay back near the glaciers a few nights ago that really changed everything. As I was sitting out on the front deck, looking at the mountains and the horses and the sheep, it was as though a vein opened up in my imagination and all the images started pouring out. I tightly plotted the first few chapters and then decided I actually had to write something, and I’ve been adding little bits ever since. Then, today, I had a little nap while my daughter slept, and woke up with a prologue complete in my head: and I love it. So Wildflower Hill wins, and I will save my Mad King for later in the year.

February 13, 2009

Have you tried first, second, and third? No, not bases. Persons? I’m talking viewpoint, not teenage sex (that should get me a few extra hits this week).

After feeling despondent about my first chapter of my new book, I had a 3am epiphany about what was wrong with it. I had written it in 3rd person (“she did this, she did that”) when I really should have written it in 1st person (“I did this, I did that”). All right, it wasn’t so much an epiphany as a strong suspicion, and the only way to test if I were right was to rewrite it. I balked at this of course. I am Dr Decisive when it comes to writing (usually, until book #20 stole my mojo), so it was very painful for me to have to go back to the drawing board over such a small mechanical thing.

But wait, not so fast. Not such a small mechanical thing at all. Not just changing the pronouns. Because I chose to rewrite rather than just edit, I found that the moment I switched into first person, good stuff started to happen.

You see, the usual argument over whether to choose first or third person is simple, and goes like this:
First person = direct & engaging, but limited access
Third person = great access, but loss of directness
Second person = only crazy people write this way

I’ve never had much trouble creating a direct, emotional connection in third person, so it’s my usual preference. But on this occasion, I found that using first person forced me to account more fully for the character’s feelings and motivations; that I couldn’t gloss over anything anymore; that I had to be specific. Compare for yourself:

 

Beattie Blaxland had dreams. Big dreams. Fashions and fabrics and fortune. In her hurley bed, rolled out on the floor of her parents’ room in their finger-chilling tenement flat, she imagined in vivid, yearning detail a future version of herself: poised, proud, almost regal. She had never imagined-nor believed it possible-that she would find herself pregnant to her married lover at the age of only eighteen.

 ~

I had dreams. Big dreams. Not the confused patchwork dreams that invade sleep. No, these were the dreams with which I comforted myself before sleep, in my hurley bed rolled out on the floor of my parents’ finger-chilling tenement flat. Vivid, yearning dreams. A life of fashion and fabrics; and fortune of course. A life where the dismal truth about my dismal family could never touch me again. One thing I never dreamed was that I would find myself pregnant to my married lover, just before my nineteenth birthday. All through February, I obsessively counted the weeks and counted them again, bending my mind backwards, trying to make sense of the dates. My stomach flipped at the smell of food, my breasts grew tender and, by the first of March, I had finally come to believe that a child-that Henry MacConnell’s child-was growing inside me.

Please don’t take this to mean that I think all stories should be written in first person: far from it. First person has massive pitfalls, especially for the inexperienced writer (where every first person character winds up sounding exactly the same as the others). But this actual switch of perspective has me feeling like I’m inside the story well and truly now, that it’s possible to write it well and on time, and that I will enjoy the company of my latest imaginary friend.

March 16, 2009

Recovered from my illness with a new determination not to drink any Coke Zero and generally to live healthier. And, after a long time away, returned to my story. To my 23 000 words. Only to find that a good percentage of those words were the wrong ones.

I can thank my magnificent literary agent for pointing out the obvious to me; that the first six chapters were bristling with extra scenes, ideas, and characters. I finished the phone call to her psyched up to do the cutting, rewrite the new, better, tighter, more engaging scenes, and return to the new writing with focus and vigour. But having just cut 7000 words from the MS, I feel rather despondent. It’s demoralising to see that word count at the bottom corner of the screen fall below 20 000– and well below 20 000, at that– when my imagination had prepared me to be at 40 000 or so this week. I have a research trip to Tasmania booked in a few weeks, and wanted to be vastly more advanced in the MS by then. It’s the literary equivalent of walking miles in the hot sun to the store, only to find you’ve left your purse at home. Except more exhausting. And there’s more of a longing for alcohol. And a tad more self-loathing.

So, once more into the breach, my friends. Onward to the new and improved 20 000 mark, and so on and so on. As Dory says in Finding Nemo, “Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…”

April 3, 2009

It works like this. I get up in the early morning, while it’s still a little dark. I tiptoe past the kids’ room and shut myself in my study.

Then I start writing. And words come. They don’t sit dammed up in my brain behind that invisible forcefield. They come out of my head, down my arms, into my fingers, out onto the keyboard, and appear on the screen. They come in their hundreds and sometimes in their thousands. Then I stop at breakfast time and get on with my day.

I’ve always been an early-morning writer, and I’m so pleased to be back in this space. Having suffered horrifically through the editing process (see below) it’s such a wonderful feeling of liberty to be writing forward again. The settings and characters are coming alive in my imagination, seeming more real every day. I have certainly written my way back in to this story.

Next weekend I’m off on a research trip in Tasmania. This is the first time I’ve researched Australian history for a story, and I’ve surprised myself by how fascinated I am. I managed to get hold of a book called E. A. Hoppe’s Australia, which is a collection of photographs taken over one year (1930) by a German photographer, and I’ve spent many hours poring over the pictures, soaking up the feeling, looking for those little details that will add the feeling of “realness” to the story.  In most photos, there are people looking back at me, and I’m trying to imagine them in those moments. What they were thinking, feeling; how each of their senses were engaged in that split-second when the shutter-eye closed and opened again. Slowly, but surely, I am falling under this story’s spell. And it’s wonderful.

April 11, 2009

I am at home. I am not in Tasmania, where I was supposed to be. Instead, I am stealing a few minutes while the children watch a Yo Gabba Gabba DVD, to catch my thoughts.

Astrid came down midway through the week with a violent gastro bug, and she was certainly not fit to travel, so we have cancelled the whole trip. The cancelled trip means that my crucial research will not get done; this means that my plans for my novel are in turmoil.

Workwise, I’ll try to turn this week into a positive. Ordinarily it’s impossible for me to write out of order, but perhaps I’ll just have to do that, and save the scenes that need the most research until a time when I can get away to Tassie. I’ve pulled out my notebook, and I’m going to break the story down, scene by scene, and see if I can set myself the goal of writing 15000 words this week (thus reaching 40000) by just plugging away with what I can do, rather than moaning about what I can’t.

I can hear a little squeaky laugh from the other room; she’s getting better. What is there to be miserable about?

May 14, 2009

Today, something interesting happened. Hurrah! I crossed the 60K threshold. Given I am planning for the book to run to 120K, that means I’m officially halfway. Some of the writing is horrendous, I must confess, but just yesterday as I was telling my mum about the story, I got a real sense of what the book is all about. I can’t wait to get to the end, so I can go back in and tweak all the things that need tweaking, make it all sit straight and work. Put simply, it’s a story about a girl who thought her grandmother was a nice old lady, and discovers–when she inherits her grandmother’s old house in Tasmania–that Gran was a lot more complex than originally thought. It has a bit of mystery, a bit of romance, and a lot of sheep. Lol!

June 22, 2009

On Friday night, I finished Wildflower Hill after a marathon 9000-words-in-9-hours writing effort (and if you were part of my FB cheersquad, I thank you very much!). I haven’t blogged until now because I simply haven’t had any words left in me. But now I’m here in the post-book vacuum, reflecting on the immediate aftermath of the book. I feel:
a. tired
b. disconsolate
c. disappointed
d. adrift
I can’t yet enjoy all the things I said I’d enjoy when I was done: reading–meh, gaming–meh, drinking a bottle of Veuve Clicquot–well, okay, that was fun but only while the bubbles were still popping.

BUT, the book is finished and that is a relief. Even if I doubt it now (and I don’t always… sometimes I think it might be quite good) I’ve got a complete story to work on: to massage and to coax into shape. And the promise of something new is always a good way to console oneself. Goodbye number 21, hello number 22.

July 25, 2009

I’ve just finished my first edit of Wildflower Hill and the whole process went really well. Now it’ll go off to my agent, who may have more to add, and then to my publishers, who will no doubt have much for me to fix.

For those of you embarking on a self-edit, the most important thing to remember is to be methodical and detached. You can get swamped in an edit very easily. I always tell my students that it is like autopsying a puppy. If you can’t be methodical and detached, then more puppies may die. Rule number one is to have a printed copy of the MS, and go through it first with a pen, marking what’s wrong. Don’t try to fix it on the first pass, just make a note in the margin about what’s wrong. (Okay, if you know the perfect substitute word then put it in, but in general don’t fix, just mark). I do this, all the while imagining that I’m not the person who has to fix it. Makes it far less overwhelming (though a little more pathological).

Then take your MS back to your computer, and start at the beginning making the changes you’ve noted. Do the easy ones right away (e.g. typos, deletions, small rewrites) in order. The ones that are a bit harder or need a bit more thought, mark them with a note (I used the “review” menu in Word for Vista) and keep moving on. Once you get to the end of the MS, you can count up your notes. For this MS, I originally had 63. Then you can work on screen, methodically fixing them one at a time. They don’t have to be in order: fix the easy ones first so you get a sense of satisfaction, seeing the number grow smaller and smaller.

For those big structural issues, isolate the sections that need to be worked on. For example, in this MS I had a love affair that felt a bit rushed. I isolated the problem to a particular group of nine chapters, then just concentrated on reading through those, weaving in an extra line here and there, and then writing one extra scene.

What always surprises me about editing (pleasantly, as I’m usually daunted and avoidant about doing the work) is how little is actually needed to effect big changes. I had a huge motivation issue with one of my characters: she does something that seemed awkward and implausible. So, again, I isolated the group of chapters that were bothering me and made a note for every scene on “how is she feeling about her current situation?”. It took minutes to identify that her feelings were inconsistent, and minutes again to excise the internalisations that didn’t fit and replace them with ones that did.

It’s impossible to know if the MS is working now. Ideally I’d put it away for a few months and come back to a complete read-through, and I don’t have the luxury of that time. The next person who reads it will have to tell me if it’s okay. So this is a good stage to seek feedback from trusted writing buddies. Certainly, the next pass will involve finessing the expression a bit more.

Right, on to the changing of the notebooks. All of this paperwork and research is being filed, and my next story’s notebook is making its way onto my desk. Onwards.

August 29, 2010

So. It hath happened. Wildflower Hill has hit the shelves. My bestie took this photo at the airport, so I have evidence.

There’s always an awkward feeling of vulnerability when I have a book published (yes, even after 21 occasions). It’s almost impossible to explain but let me try. Imagine you are at the supermarket, and you look down and realise you are wearing only your underwear. People may be appreciative of you in your underwear, but nonetheless you feel exposed. Later, when you go home, you try not to think about it, but your mind returns to it again and again. What have people seen of you? What do they now know or presume about you, from that moment of exposure?

You may remember Wildflower Hill from such tortured posts [as shown above]. But now it is a real book in the world and real people will read it and they will have their opinions. Oh yes they will. Some of them will write and tell me their opinions, which is always nice if they like the book; but is a form of torture if they don’t (not because I can’t handle criticism, but because the accepted wisdom is that one does not write back snarly emails) (oh, and I lied: I also can’t handle criticism). Also, there is book promotion to do. This involves being interviewed and having my photograph taken. Do you like having your photograph taken? Yes, well, now imagine that the photographs are printed in public places before you even know whether or not they make you look like a half-witted yet slightly lascivious Amish milkmaid.

All of it makes me want to crawl under a rock and hide, but there is still that little part of me that hopes that people will read my book and like it, and like the people in it. Because for a little while, when I was writing it, they meant an awful lot to me.