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JPC Allen Writes

Inspiration for Beginning Writers

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Sid Fleischman

Writing Tip — The Power of Voice

human-722702_1280The McBroom Saga was the first instance I can remember of a book having a distinct voice. And because it was a voice very similar to my grandparents’ speech, I was attracted to it and have been trying to write in dialect ever since.

As a kid, I desperately wanted to write a story in the same style as Mr. Fleischma. I remember telling a story, to a space heater, one winter day in the dialect of my West Virginian relatives.

In high school and college, I was attracted to other stories written in dialect like Damon Runyon’s Broadway short stories and some stories by Rudyard Kipling told in one of the many dialects of the British Isles.

When I began writing regularly in college, I always tried to write dialogue in dialect and use it for my current book set in West Virginia. So my wish to write like Mr. Fleischman came true.

Side Note

This is just a personal complaint of mine, but picture books as long as the McBroom Saga are rarely published any more. Compared to the brevity of style used in contemporary picture books, one McBroom book is the kids’ equivalent of War and Peace.

h4495This is such a shame. When my kids were younger, they wanted a strong, complicated narrative with interesting illustrations. Some picture books now are so short they hardly seem worth reading.

To find the longer picture books my kids wanted, I had to hunt for books that were thirty, forty, or fifty years old. I asked our local librarian for recommendations. I think there is still an audience for this kind of picture book, kids who are just starting chapter books but still like illustrations.

Okay. Complaint over.

 

Writing Tip — Favorite Stories — the McBroom Saga

h4495Last month, I wrote about The Mysteries of Harris Burdick, a children’s book that can provide inspiration for authors of all ages. This month I am writing about the first book I remember reading as a child that still has an influence on me as a writer.

I discovered McBroom’s Ghost while sitting in the waiting room of my doctor’s office, something I seemed to do a lot when I was a kid. I don’t remember the exact reason I selected this book, maybe because I had read all the others.

It began like this:

“Ghosts? Mercy, yes – I can tell you a thing or three about ghosts. As sure as my name’s Josh McBroom a haunt came lurking about our wonderful one-acre farm.

I don’t know when the confounded dry-bones first moved in with us, but I suspicion it was last winter. An uncommon cold winter it was, too, though not so cold that an honest man would tell fibs about it. Still, you had to be careful when you lit a match. The flame would freeze and you had to wait for a thaw to blow it out.”

That beginning immediately hooked me because I had never read a book written in a dialect before and the dialect was very similar to the way my mom’s parents spoke.

As I read further, I fell in love with the book when I found out the McBrooms had eleven children. I was one of four kids and always wanted to be part of a bigger family with oodles of siblings. I also like the way the father Josh McBroom called his kids, “Willjillhesterchesterpeterpollytimtommarylarryandlittleclarinda!” My mom would holler all our names together like that, too.

I read many books by the author Sid Fleischman and enjoyed almost all of them, but the McBrooms remained my favorites. I read at least one more of the books from the series as a child but didn’t discover all of them until I was an adult. I have read the Saga over and over to my kids.

Since this post is running long, I will talk about how the McBroom’s influence followed me as I developed as a writer.

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