Saturday, October 3, 2009

Tumbleweed Skies: If you ever wondered...

Copy of a letter to a classroom of students, whose letters made my day last spring!
(Condensed from the original)

What an awesome surprise it was to find your letters waiting in my mailbox today!  Ever so much better than bills and sales flyers, which (sadly enough) make up most of the mail I receive.  I read each of your letters carefully, and with great delight.  Thank you all for the compliments and kind words – they meant more to me than you can imagine!

I hope you won’t mind that I am writing one letter in response to all of you.  I would love to write to each of you individually, but I'm afraid I'm not very fast at letter-writing, and I don’t want you to have to wait that long for an answer.  You might all be finished high school by the time you hear from me!  So, I’ve decided to answer all of your questions and discuss the things that interested you here in one long letter.  But I am also sending signed postcards for each of you, which I hope you’ll like.

I’m thrilled that you enjoyed reading Tumbleweed Skies.  It was my first book for your age group and I loved writing it.   

Some of you wrote about your personal responses and thoughts on the book, which I appreciated very much.  It means a lot to know that you made emotional connections with Ellie and her experiences the summer she spent at Grandma’s house.  Some of you have had your own struggles, like illness or family problems.  We all face difficult things at some time, and I would like you to remember that there are two valuable and important things you can find inside yourselves when you are going through hard times.  Those things are hope and courage.  Keep going because change could be just ahead.

A lot of you wondered if there was going to be a sequel and a few of you even offered suggestions of things you would like to see happen in it.  (Thanks!)  Although I haven’t made any specific plans to write a sequel, I'm open to the idea if the right story should present itself to me.  For that reason, I can’t say for certain, one way or the other, if there may be a sequel someday. 

However, if you enjoyed Tumbleweed Skies, you may also like The Glory Wind.  The narrator of that story is a boy named Luke, and it also takes place on the prairies, in a similar time in history.

Now on to your questions.

What inspired me to write this story?  That’s hard to answer.  It began with an idea – and just grew on its own.  I guess you could say that it came to me out of thin air – it’s not based on anything real.

Marcy.  Many of you had strong feelings about Marcy.  I don’t blame you – she was bossy and annoying a lot of the time.  Did you wonder at all what made her that way?  I think there are clues in the story to help you see why Marcy behaved as she did.  Anyway, she wasn’t a very charming young lady, was she?  The way Marcy wanted things her way every time made her a bully, I would say.  But did you notice that she brought out some good things in Grandma and Ellie?  Grandma took Ellie’s side over the truck incident, and Ellie discovered how important Uncle Roger was to her when Marcy insulted him.

A few of you were disappointed that the truck didn’t run over Marcy.  You must have really disliked her a lot!  Did you wonder how the story would be different if that had happened?   I think our feelings toward Marcy may have changed from dislike to pity – and also, the scene that happened later would never have taken place.  No – I think it was best for Marcy to stick around.  Hopefully, as she grows up, she’ll discover that acting the way she does makes her hard to like, and she’ll learn to be nicer to others.

Why was Grandma so mean to Ellie?  Grandma was carrying around a lot of hurt, which came out as anger.  Anger is very often caused by hurt, and Grandma is one of those people who finds it very hard to let go.  Even so, there are signs that Grandma is beginning to soften up a little, and I think, by the end of the story, we can see that there is some real hope for this family to heal from the past and love each other.

What happened to Sammy the magpie?  Sammy flew away – healed and free.  Did you see anything similar in the situations Sammy and Ellie were in?

And a few questions that weren’t related to the story, but which I'm happy to answer:

Do I like math?  I like some kinds of math – it’s very useful when you’re shopping and you want to figure out which purchases are best, or when you’re planning to make something and you have to find out how  much material to buy and all kinds of other uses.  So, I would say that I like practical math just fine, but some of the more complicated kinds of math are difficult for me and I had to study very hard to learn them when I was in school.  Luckily, if you don’t give up, you can usually understand it at some point. 

Thank you once again for your wonderful letters!  I want to encourage all of you to keep reading – it’s more important than you might realize at this time in your lives.  And those of you who are interested in writing – good luck to you – I will hope to read one of your books someday!

Lastly, I want to thank your teacher for her commitment.  I can see that you all really matter to her, and I hope you know how blessed you are to have a teacher like that.

I send my very best wishes to each and every one of you! 

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