December 1, 2018

Rosa Parks - This Day in History

AP Photo

This day in history, December 1, 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat to a white man.

Imagine that moment. She was a passenger on a segregated bus, blacks in the back, when the driver yells for her to give up her seat. In that split second she chose to say, “No.” Knowing she was breaking Montgomery, Alabama’s bus segregation law. But also knowing that local civil rights leaders were planning to challenge the racist law.

Rosa Parks was a seamstress. A member of the local chapter of the NAACP. She was woman trying to live a decent life who made the split second decision to do something to make it better. To take a stand by not giving up her seat.

I can only imagine how much she shook inside while the white man (men?) bellowed at her. I would suppose he demeaned her by calling her names and pointing out her inferior status. I also suppose it might not have been the first time in her life that she was demeaned. It would hardly be the last, regardless of the change her last moment decision brought. She was arrested for her refusal to give up her seat, so that means the tension stayed on that bus, directed at her for however long it took them to contact authorities and for the police to arrive. It probably escalated. During that time, she surely second guessed her decision. Maybe even considered apologizing and letting it defuse. Yet, she stood strong. She dug in her heels and she refused to give in.

Her arrest prompted a bus boycott, which began on Decemer 5. Despite the fact that they didn’t have social media to spread the word, the boycot was wildly successful. And it lasted almost a year. Seventy percent of Montgomery’s riders were black, so the boycott nearly devastated the public transportation system. But finally the Supreme Court ended Montgomery’s bus segregation laws and Rosa Parks was among the first passengers on the desegregated bus system.

Rosa Parks died in 2005. The US Senate passed a resolution to honor her by allowing her body to lie in state in the US Capital Rotunda.

A seamstress. From Montgomery, Alabama. Who made a split decision to stand up for herself and others like her who were being wronged under the law.

October 8, 2018

How Your Voice is Like a Necklace...or a D.J.

Reprint of a blog post from February 2010 (before I sold my first manuscript!)

At dinner last night my husband and I were tucked into a romantic little table for two (okay, romantic is stretching it, but a girl needs an imagination in this era of open, well-lit restaurants).  We were whispering, and I was blushing and giggling (yes, more imagining) when suddenly the person in the booth behind me drew my attention.  I turned and poked my head over the top of the booth and sure enough it was a local disc jockey that I listen to most mornings (one of my favorites, btw).  I recognized her voice.

Authors are always told to find their voice.  But is it possible to develop a writing voice so strong that someone would recognize it on the opposite side of a tall booth?  To develop a recognizable voice, an author employs a unique use of words, phrases, and writing techniques that places an author's "stamp" on their work. It is recognizable to the reader, even if they don't know who the author is.  It ebbs and flows throughout the author’s work, not sustaining the entire way.  It works to pull a reader through the story.

Tamora Pierce has what I feel is a distinct voice.  It is rough, real and relatable. Maggie Stievfater’s voice is lyrical and musical and flowing.  Each of their main characters have their own unique voice that carries through the book but the telling of the stories are identifiable by the author’s voice.  

Let’s liken the creating of a story with making a necklace. First the author has to create the plot.  This is the strand of the necklace.  Will the author choose a thick cord of leather as the base?  Perhaps a delicate filament of gold or a strong rope of silver will act as the constant line running through the story.  Will it be a short choker, or will it be so long you can double it if you choose? Then the author makes an intentional choice in words, whether they be pearls or gems, beads or stones, they will set the tone of the storytelling. Then our author decides whether to crowd the strand or space the decorations apart.  Will there be a big emotional piece of bling hanging in the middle or several smaller, sparkles interspersed throughout? Finally, what kind of clasp does the author choose to pull the whole thing together?  Will it simply tie into a knot or will the clasp be complicated and have a safety chain in case it breaks?  The author does this again and again. Some authors create drippy, jeweled chains and others create tribal wear.  Each new piece is unique but there is usually a common look or feel to the jewelry that is similar and recognizable.

I don’t know that I’ve found my voice yet, but I have ruled out what isn’t my voice.  As much as I’d love to sound like Maggie, I don’t have it.  Nor am I brave enough to sound like Ellen Hopkins.  

My D.J. friend said that auditory identification has backfired on her before when she was yelling at her kids in a store and someone recognized her voice.  I wonder, can an author’s voice backfire on her?

Go forth and seek your own unique voice but avoid the backfires. 

August 22, 2018


We're all readers here, right?

Thank you for visiting the website for authors, Kai Strand and LA Dragoni. Feel free to browse their book pages and read the blog. If you can't find the answer to your question, hop on over to the contact page and drop them an email. 

Award winning author, KAI STRAND, is often found exploring hiking trails and snapping pictures of waterfalls in her Oregon hometown. Wife and mother of four, Kai uses her life experiences to connect with young readers. Kai has given numerous presentations throughout Oregon about her work and the writing process. She loves interacting with teens and gaining their insight on their latest reads as well as what they would like to see in future stories.

When a number of story ideas, intended for the grown ups among us, wouldn’t stop needling her, a new pen name was born. Under the name LA DRAGONI, she writes about love and all of its complications, joys, and triumphs. She haunts ghost towns and old cemeteries and calls it research.

Kai/LA does classroom visits in person and via Skype as well as teaches classes and workshops. Contact her directly if you are interested in booking her.