Monday, February 4, 2013

My Next Big Thing

Thanks to fellow children’s author, Linda Crotta Brennan (Marshmallow Kisses, Flannel Kisses, The Black Regiment of the American Revolution and the forthcoming When Rivers Burned: The Earth Day Story, among other books) for inviting me to participate in the online literary blog called MY NEXT BIG THING. 

The blog is a series of questions about works-in-progress and not yet published titles. Many national and international writers have participated in this. It gives readers a glimpse into the working life of a writer. Part of the fun is tagging someone else. It is with great delight that I will be tagging three other writers at the end of this post.

MY NEXT BIG THING is a novel chronicling the life of the 12th century’s foremost woman writer, an accomplished composer and an authority on natural healing, Hildegard of Bingen. As a young girl, she endures frightening visions, ill health and a beginning that is unimaginable to us today. She becomes a nun and then an abbess who is unafraid to challenge the male authority of the Church. Even though she devotes herself to God, she still feels the love and sting of human relationships.
Statue of Hildegard, St. Hildegard's Abbey, Germany

What is the working title of your book? FEATHERS AND TRUMPETS,     

Where did the idea come from for the book? In a sermon, my pastor referenced women mystics, and I decided to research them. Hildegard, whose parents tithed her to the Church at birth, immediately interested me. To me, the idea of being given to an institution was unimaginable. I thought young readers would be fascinated by the way Hildegard’s life unfolded.

What genre does your book fall under?  FEATHERS AND TRUMPETS is an historical novel for early YA readers.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?  A wonderful 2010 German film entitled Vision stars Barbara Sukowa. Any of these American actresses would also make a terrific Hildegard Susan Saranden, Jodi Foster or Meryl Streep.

What is a one-sentence synopsis of your book?  FEATHERS AND TRUMPETS is a novel of acceptance, courage and the love found in both human and divine relationships.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?  The road to this book has been long and winding, with the occasional pothole. The seed was an 800-word submission to Highlights! Next, as the beginning of a biography, it became part of my MFA thesis, thanks to two terrific mentors. Later, the manuscript became an experimental combination of alternating non-fiction and fictional chapters. Finally, my editor, Muriel Dubois, told me I was a poet, and “Please make it into a novel.” I submitted the first draft to her last June, and the revision process began.

What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? The books that come to mind are written by authors of stature, and I cannot compare my debut book with theirs. Karen Cushman’s Catherine Called Birdy and Mathilda Bone and Donna Jo Napoli’s Song of the Magdalene are examples of the type of historical novel I wanted to write. 

Who or what inspired you to write this book? Hildegard was a strong woman in a time when women had no voice at all. I feel it’s important for young women to know that even in the 12th century a woman found her voice and rose above challenges she encountered. Also, when I began the manuscript, it seemed that available books with Middle Ages settings lacked references to the Church. That was a time when the Roman Catholic Church had great influence. I wanted young people to have a complete picture of that period of history.

What else about your book might pique a reader’s interest? In 2012 Hildegard of Bingen was named Saint Hildegard and a Doctor of the Church.

When and how will it be published?  FEATHERS AND TRUMPETS will be published by Apprentice Shop Books this coming fall.

Now It is my honor to tag and introduce you to three other writers with BIG THINGS in the works Matt Forrest Esenwine, Terry Farish and Linda Booth Sweeney.

Matt Forrest Esenwine started writing at an early age - primarily poetry, short stories, and radio skits, which he would then record onto his father's Panasonic cassette recorder.  As he got older, Matt moved into acting, radio, and voiceover work.  His passion, however, was poetry, and he has had several poems published in numerous independent collections, including Metamorphosis Publishing’s Visions, the Tall Grass Writers Guild’s Seasons of Change, Assisi: Online Journal of Arts & Letters, The Licking River Review, The Henniker Review, and Changes, among others.  A publishing deal for his children’s poetry, however, has been a bit elusive – although he will have a poem included in a forthcoming anthology.  Matt lives in Warner, NH with his wife and son, and gains constant inspiration from them, his surroundings, and his two older daughters. Matt's Blog 

Terry Farish is the author of a number of acclaimed books for children and teens. Her latest book is THE GOOD BRAIDER. It’s a young adult novel in verse about a South Sudanese girl’s experience of war and immigration. In a starred review, School Library Journal wrote, “Viola’s memorable, affecting voice will go far to help students step outside of their own experience and walk a mile in another’s shoes.” Terry's Blog

Linda Booth Sweeney is an award winning author and systems educator with a passion for helping young people to “connect the dots:” to see beyond obvious and to recognize interconnections and dynamics among people, places, events and nature.  She is the author of several books, including The Systems Thinking Playbook, When a Butterfly Sneezes: A Guide for Helping Children Explore Interconnections in our World through Favorite Stories.  Her most recent book, Connected Wisdom:  Living Stories about Living Systems is translated into 9 languages and won awards at the 2011 New York and San Francisco Book Festivals.  Her work has been published by Highlights Magazine for Children, and numerous academic journals and magazines.  Linda’s first picture book, When the Wind Blows, will be published by Putnam in 2014.  Linda's Face Book Author's Page


  1. Joyce, your book sounds very interesting! I've heard of Hildegard, but didn't know anything about her. Thanks for including me! (btw, it doesn't appear your video link is working)

    Good luck with it!

  2. Hildegard has fascinated me for a long time, and it was interesting to see how you approached writing about her life. I can't wait to read FEATHERS AND TRUMPETS. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Hi Joyce,
    Congratulations on the soon to be published FEATHERS AND TRUMPETS!
    Warm wishes,

  4. This novel is long-awaited, Joyce. Can't wait to get my hands on it. Hugs.

  5. Thank you, writer friends, for sharing my excitement. It's so good to hear from you.

  6. Late to the party, but I'm thrilled to learn you are writing this book, Joyce! Can't wait to read it.


Comments welcome.