Thursday, August 29, 2013

Interview with Ruth White

Late at night Ruth White sat, pecking away at what she describes as her "clunky, black Remington typewriter". In those early days, before her career revolved around writing, she wrote whenever she had a chance, using her childhood for inspiration. "My father was a coal miner," she says, "and at the time of his death in 1948, our family lived in a coal camp called Jewel Valley." Since then, White has written thirteen beautiful books for pre-teens, but it wasn't an easy journey.

Life after her father's passing became rough because her mother was unable to find a job in such a small, mountain town. "But we had books and an occasional movie in nearby Grundy," White says. She and her sisters particularly liked Doris Day, Debbie Reynolds, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and Gene Autrey. Then, she and her sisters acted out scenes from these movies, and from books, to make their own fun. White comments that they "became creative by necessity." When I asked her how she kept track of all her memories for use in her books, White said, "I really don't know how I keep track of all those memories, but whenever I need one, it's out there."

White went to college in the sixties with no idea what she would major in. "In fact, I didn't think I would last in college for four years, mainly because I had no money. But somehow I worked my way through." Towards the end of her college experience, she decided to become a teacher. She taught 7th and 8th grade language arts for ten years, earned her librarian's degree and was a school librarian for another ten years, and then for eleven years she was a librarian for a private metaphysical library. "All those positions influenced me in different ways," White observes.

"I was also a wife and mother during those years so you can imagine how difficult it was to pursue a writing career. But once again, I  managed." She write whenever she could, and spent many evenings at that Remington typewriter. Finally, her book Belle Prater's Boy won a Newbery honor in 1997, and she was able to leave her 9-5 job and become a full-time writer.

White recently published a love story for adults that she says is based on her "mother's early years living on an isolated mountaintop in Southwest Virginia." It is called Diary of a Wildflower, and can be found on Kindle.

White also commented on what she has learned about the craft of writing, saying, "I have learned that the real writing is done in the re-writing," White muses. "The first draft is just a sketch of what I want to say. In the second and third and sometimes tenth and twentieth drafts, the actual sculpting takes place."

Thursday, August 22, 2013


It was the summer before I left for college. Thirteen cousins were over for the week, and mom had some things she needed to get done at the house. So the younger kids were at another aunt's house for the afternoon and the rest of us decided to spend one afternoon at the public pool. Mom dropped us off planning to join in a couple hours.
            A group of us rushed, without running, toward the diving board. The concrete was rough and sediment-y under my toes. I could feel the sun baking my skin. We stood in line at the diving board, making half of the line ourselves, and called out types of jump suggestions to each other. "Cannon Ball!", "Can you do a jacknife?", "Dive as far down as you can!" and so on. Finally we went back to our chairs full of damp towels for a rest.
            A group of them were sitting there, doing nothing.
            "Come on!" I challenged one cousin who was probably seven at the time, "Why aren't you swimming?" I expected a complaint about the water being too cold.
            "The lifeguard told me I couldn't." She mumbled.
            "What? Why?"
            She shrugged.
            "Which one? Take me to her?" I followed, not sure what to expect. Her older sister followed, too. She stopped next to a lifeguard on the edge of the pool, far enough away to stay out of it and let me get between her and the life guard. "Hi, my cousin said you told her she couldn't swim? Why not?" I was completely confused. And out of my element.
            "T-shirts aren't allowed in the pool." The lifeguard responded.
            I wish I could tell you what the lifeguard looked like but I have no idea. I'm not even completely sure it wasn't a he. I was too focused on trying to breathe steadily and understand what was going on and avoiding confrontation.
            "But they have to wear T-shirts-- it's a family rule." I tried to explain.
            I'm a dedicated introvert. I don't like standing out, I don't like being the center of attention, and I really don't like talking to strangers or being wrong. Generally, I feel drained by people and I need to get alone to recharge and feel more like myself. But there is no rule saying introverts have to hide away and stay out of conversations and stay away from people. I do enjoy being around people, to an extent. I like small groups of people where I don't feel challenged. But this was not the case that summer day. I was not able to ignore the problem and go on swimming or hide under my towel. If I didn't stand up for my cousins, there was no one here who would.
            The lifeguard tried to get back to watching the swimmers. "Sorry, it's a pool rule."
            "I don't understand." Why was it such a big deal to them?
            "Would you like to talk to the manager?"
            No. "Yes," I said, ignoring myself. My cousins were here for one week, we wanted to swim, my mom wasn't going to be back for a couple hours-- we weren't going to just sit under an umbrella that whole time, and we weren't about to go swimming without our cousins who had to wear T-shirts.
            I followed the life guard inside to where the offices were, and a couple sisters and cousins followed me. I'm not sure who all followed, I wasn't paying attention. I was too concerned about standing up to a stranger about established policies.   
            The lifeguard went into a room and came out with the manager. She was in her early twenties I think, and was wearing a lifeguard T-shirt, a name tag I didn't read, shorts, and one of those red lifeguard fanny packs.
            "What's the problem?" She asked, seeming genuine. The lifeguard left to get back to her post outside.
            I took a deep breath and tried to go slow. "My cousins were told they can't wear their T-shirts in the pool, but it's a family rule and their parents aren't here so they can't like ask for permission or anything." I held my arm. It was cold in this air-conditioned hallway.
            "Let me explain. We have this rule for a couple reasons. First, we have to know the swimmers are actually wearing a swimsuit, so white T-shirts are ok."
            I-- yes me-- actually interrupted. "But that defeats the purpose."
            "Actually, white T-shirts still keep you from being burned."
            "I didn't know that, that's cool. But the whole thing is it's a modesty issue and a white T-Shirt does nothing for modesty."
            She wanted to explain the rest of the reasons. "The fibers on the T-shirts will also get caught on the water slide and will slow it down, and also potentially rip the T-Shirt."
            Interrupting seems to be habit forming. "OK, I could tell them they can't go on the water slide. I think they'd be willing to do that…"
            "Well alright, but there's still the dyes in the T-shirts. They leak into the pool, and although they won't necessarily change the color of the water, we have to keep the pool at a specific pH and if we let everyone wear T-shirts it will be nearly impossible to keep up with it."
            By this point I was just indignant. I didn't understand why this lady couldn't just let my cousins swim. I didn't care that my face was red and that my palms were sweaty, I was too busy defending my cousins.
            "There are only five of them here- that can't be enough to mess it up…"
            She seemed to be surprised that I was being so persistent. Or maybe it was just me that was surprised. At any rate, she said "I just can't let you do this all summer-"
            I was so close. "They're only here for the week, and we're only planning to be here today and only for a few hours." It came out in a rush.
            "And no water slide."
            I nodded.
            "Alright then. Just for today."
            "Thank you!"

            She went back into the room, and we went back outside. I remember we were all excited, glad we had been given permission, glad I had somehow succeeded. We gave the OK to the cousins who hadn't heard the news yet, with the caution that they could not go down the slide. They scampered away smiling, but I just sat in the chair wrapped in a towel, trying to calm my heartbeat, wishing I hadn't needed to talk to anyone.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Food For Thought

108745From the book, "Our Father Abraham":

"The Church, firmly planted in Hebraic soil, finds its true identity in connection with Israel. The Church is fed, sustained, and supported by this relationship."

"One may say that for a Gentile to have a right relation to God he must humbly accept and appreciate a Jewish Book, believe in a Jewish people, thereby taking on their likeness through a commonly shared stock."

"Gentiles who had come to faith within the earl Church joined themselves to God's ancient people. They had to adjust to Israel, not the reverse."

Thursday, August 01, 2013

What (July) Smiles Are Made Of

-fireworks over the lake
-how sound carries so far and clear over water
-new journals
-new notebooks
-job interviews
-s'mores with diary-free chocolate
-an evening of just Grandma and I
-reading letters
-writing letters
-stationary, of all kinds
-the soreness from water-tubing
-collecting, organizing and analyzing data
-summer reading
-volunteering at youthgroup
-cooking and cleaning to worship music (especially my a cappella and Jon Foreman pandora stations)
-learning, of course. (This month, it's the Jewish roots of Christianity.)
-driving the boat
-the Bible Study I'm in, IMPACT 25:40
-the recency look with my hair in a bun
-getting back into routines
-talking with a college friend, about dreams, and the future, and the past
-making lists
-the people that read my blog :)