“There is no writer’s block; what stops us is fear of rejection.”
author Jacqueline Woodson
A small but curious group attended the SCBWI Networking Day gathering on Saturday, March 6 -- despite a postcard-perfect day in Marquette. UP here in the land of six months of snow and cold, we live for a heady 59 degrees in March. Coming inside on this day was a testament to passion. I'm sending a special shout out to Boni Ashburn, the traditionally published author in our midst, who answered hundreds of questions with grace and good humor. Additional attendees included Meredith Ammons Ollila, Larry Buege and Phyllis Pokela.
I'm excited to share that I've finished a first draft of my upper middle grade chapter book, Exile. Normally I'm sort of a quiet person, so those who know me will be surprised I had 15,500+ words in me. I'm happy to tell this story -- it's about time...
The plot synopsis follows:
This historical fiction, upper middle grade chapter book is for readers aged 12-14. The main characters in the story are based upon the lives of real people. However, this book is not a complete representation of their lives or the events that occurred.
Set in an orphanage in 1962 just before the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is the story of how friendship saves two culturally dissimilar 12-year-old boys who are tragically disconnected from their families. This is the first story written for children readers with a main character who was part of the Pedro Pan mission, the largest political exodus of children ever recorded in the Western Hemisphere.
Danny suddenly finds himself a half-orphan after his mother dies, his father succumbs to alcoholism, and he is handed over to an abusive family friend. Danny runs away and lands in the Holy Family Orphan's Home in Marquette, MI. This orphanage is the foster home for 30 boys who are part of the Pedro Pan mission, which brought over 14,000 children as exiles from Cuba during the first tumultuous years of Fidel Castro’s communist regime.
Danny and Emilio, a Cuban exile, come together through Father Timothy, the monsignor in charge of the orphanage. Because Cubans primarily live at the orphanage, their food, music, and emotions permeate the environment. Danny enters a milieu very different from his experience in a small Midwestern town. Outside the orphanage, Emilio faces discrimination, language barriers, and living conditions vastly different from his former life experience.
The boys find common ground through their mutual desire to return to their old lives and their interest in baseball. However, when an older Cuban boy bullies Danny, Emilio must choose his alliance and the clash between cultures becomes clear.
Outside influences and abandonment wounds threaten their tentative friendship. But, when they accept that their old lives are gone forever and recognize the value of their friendship, they forge an unbreakable bond -- and find hope in their future.
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