Saturday, July 19, 2008
Finding secrets in the Shadows of Greatness
Last night I was (for once) in charge of the television remote. While flipping channels, I came across the Hallmark movie "Homecoming", starring the late Ann Bancroft.
The screenplay was based on a best-selling mid-grade novel of the same title. The first of seven in the "Tillerman" series, by Cynthia Voigt. Having read the book twice in my search to understand the makings of award winning mid-grades, I immediately dropped the remote.
I'm sure Ms. Bancroft wasn't aware that it would be her last film, but she certainly gave it her all. In my humble opinion, her portrayal of Abigail Tillerman,"Gram", was so right on the money, that I found myself hanging on every word. Maybe it was partly because, to my amazement, the script was almost word-for-word in keeping with Voigt's novel. To me, this was a true testimonial to the power of a well written, tightly worded novel.
Writing rules; Make each word count, propelling the story forward.
In fact, Cynthia Voigt does more than write a tight novel. She keeps her readers feelings and reactions in mind as well. I found that in the second Tillerman novel, "Dicey's Song", Ms. Voigt gives many of her sentences double meanings. Each sentence works every word, in order to eek out as much emotion and complexity from her characters as possible. Sometimes, it's what her characters DON'T say, that makes us understand them better. That in itself is amazing. It's no wonder "Dicey's Song" earned a Newbery medal, and an honored spot on my bookshelf.
I'm sure that Cynthia Voigt, Frances O'Roark Dowell(Dovey Coe), Madeleine L'Engle(A Wrinkle in Time), and others will influence the final outcome for my current mid-grade work-in-progress, "Hasty Liberty". I have learned so much from them, and the many other Newbery winners I've been devouring in the past few years. I hope that in some small way, I can do them all justice. If I turn out a well written novel, I'll have them to thank, as well as you.
"Who we are is the combination of every place we've been, every experience we've had, and every person who has reached out and touched our lives."