Friday, March 25, 2016

Listening to the Story

I have been reading Jennifer A. Nielsen's A Night Divided, a gripping tale of Gerta, a girl whose family is divided by the Berlin Wall. I became a Nielsen fan after reading The False Prince; and I was very excited when I realized our school librarian had ordered A Night Divided.
I have not been disappointed. Gerta's story has prompted me to read more about the Berlin Wall, the history behind it, what the people of East Berlin experienced, how the people in West Berlin were affected by it.
Great writing does that...prompts the reader to dig a little deeper, wonder more, ask questions that may or may not be answered.
I was several chapters into the book when I flipped to the back to read Nielsen's acknowledgments. I do that sometimes...well, all the time.
I read every word. I wanted to know exactly how many individuals and groups Nielsen credited with creating Gerta's story. Who did she thank? Who was in her corner? Who pulled Nielsen through when she felt stuck?
This is what I read:
"There was nothing logical about my decision to write this book. The timing was too tight, I was already contracted for a different trilogy, and, as was pointed out to me more than once, I wasn't a historical writer.
But Gerta was insistent, constantly interrupting my thoughts..."
I sat there for a moment; and then I reread Nielsen's words. Jennifer A. Nielsen, a published author, living the writer's life, still had to contend with that voice in her ear...pointing out that she wasn't that kind of writer. Really? I read it again.
And Gerta...her character, was in her corner, fighting for the story to be told. I was fascinated. I read the paragraph to my students. I share books with them often; but I don't always share with them a paragraph from the author's acknowledgments. Maybe I should do that more often...maybe always.
"Did you hear that?" I asked. "Did you notice how Ms. Nielsen had to NOT listen to the voices telling her she couldn't do this, that she was not a historical writer? What if she had given in...we wouldn't have this great book! We wouldn't know this character. Thank goodness Ms. Nielsen listened to the story...the story that needed to be told!"
* * *
I can't tune the negativity out sometimes. Those voices...
"Other work is more important."
"You don't really have time for this."
"You'll never get anything published."
"The market's too saturated."
"Who would want to read that?"
Sometimes, I'm ashamed to admit, I listen. I don't write.
But this month, I tried extra hard to listen to the story...and then the next story...and the next. I listened to the stories; and I wrote them. Some days, I had to hold my ears to shut out the words that would stop me. Some days, I could barely hear the story whispering; but sometimes, those stories roared!


  1. Thank you for your post today! I so loved your experience with what the author had to say...that little voice telling her NO...that little voice is a struggle for all of us. What a GREAT example to share with our students and for you to share with us.

  2. "Some days, I could barely hear the story whispering; but sometimes, those stories roared!" - this ays so much - we need to listen to our writer's voice.

  3. "Some days, I could barely hear the story whispering; but sometimes, those stories roared!" - this ays so much - we need to listen to our writer's voice.

  4. I'm glad you have blocked that voice, because you've written wonderful slices this month. You have such a great voice to tell your stories. I will have to check into this book. Thanks for the push.

  5. Stories want to be written. Thee is no holding them back. Glad you let your stories prosper and thrive.

  6. I, too, am a compulsive Acknowledgments reader :) I enjoyed learning about the leap to which this reading led you and the connections you made.

  7. Our writer's voice is a powerful vehicle to set our thoughts free. Well done, post.

  8. I read this to my family aloud. Such a book! Your last paragraph is really powerful - hope you hear lots of roaring!