Today our blog showcases
Beth Anderson Schuck,
the author of "The Orchard"
published in the
2020 IWSG anthology
Voyagers: The Third Ghost.
Beth is sharing her current WIP,
a middle grade historical novel
with the working title
Alma’s Recipes for Life.
A Labor of Love
by Beth Anderson Shuck
I have been working on a middle-grade historical fiction manuscript since I retired a few years ago. The story is based on my Norwegian grandmother’s teen-age years, which occurred in the early years of the 20th century. I have combined her life events with my research on the setting and time period in Marshalltown, Iowa where the story takes place. It has been a labor of love to bring her story to light.
I have always loved historical fiction especially stories set long ago and those involving women taking on new roles in society for their time period. I suppose I believe in the adage that if you don’t understand history, you are doomed to repeat it. Thus, it seems reading about history even via fictional works, is a great idea for young people.
The setting for the story allows me to showcase some topics that still challenge our society today and so I hope this personal story will resonate with readers. Child labor and the accompanying lack of formal education and the challenge for new immigrants to assimilate while retaining their ethnic identities are some of the issues I raise in the manuscript. It includes some adult themes such as death and a bit of romance so I would call it upper middle grade appropriate, for ages twelve to fourteen.
The story focuses on Alma, my paternal grandmother as she experiences working as a cook for a wealthy family. At age 13, she quits school to work full time, as her family needs money. Her employers, the Sowers live a life very different from hers and she compares their experiences with her own. Alma begins to realize her parent’s preferences for her differ from her own goals especially as her world expands via her work. Through the story, Alma determines how to balance her family’s beliefs with her own and what she wants to carry forward into her adult life.
There is a tragic element to the story as Alma’s younger sister dies from tuberculosis, (TB). During this time period, TB was endemic in some urban areas often affecting the poor. Treatment prior to antibiotics was isolation often at a sanitarium. To avoid sending their young child away and to avoid the stigma associated with the illness, the family hides the diagnosis. This, of course creates issues for Alma.
My grandmother’s sorrow from these events wasn’t evident or even known to me, her youngest grandchild. I appreciated her love, of course, and her baking, sewing and sense of humor. My grandfather grew up just a few blocks from her and was friends with her brothers. He was a ‘railroad man’ from an early age. He won Alma over after a long courtship and they were married for 74 years! He plays a role in the story, as does a ruby ring they gave me when I turned thirteen. It was a special ring my grandfather gave to Alma’s sister as a birthday gift. Since she died young, it was returned to Alma and she chose me to have it. I treasure the ring and the story behind it.
I’m in final editing mode with the help of my critique group and hope to shop the manuscript in 2021. The current title is Alma’s Recipes for Life as her recipes play a role in the storyline and I’ve included them as part of the manuscript.
Beth Anderson Schuck is a retired librarian who believes reading can take you anywhere. She writes historical fiction featuring willful female characters. Being in nature whether hiking, birdwatching or gardening makes her whole.
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Coming on Wednesday, November 4, 2020 . . .
Would you like a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents? Well, you're in luck, because on January 20, 2021 the Insecure Writer's Support Group will be hosting its next Twitter Pitch. Come back next Wednesday, IWSG Day, to get some great information on twitter pitching from IWSG founder and science fiction author Alex J. Cavanaugh.
Till next time ~
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If you haven't read Beth's short story "The Orchard"
in VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost, you can find it here.
You can order a copy of
VOYAGERS: The Third Ghost
at the links below.
Print 9781939844729 $13.95
EBook 9781939844736 $4.99
Juvenile Fiction - Historical / Action & Adventure /
Fantasy & Magic
Fantasy & Magic
Amazon - Print https://www.amazon.com/dp/193984472X/ - Kindle https://www.amazon.com/Voyagers-Third-Ghost-Yvonne-Ventresca-ebook/dp/B083C4WPR5/
Barnes & Noble - https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/voyagers-yvonne-ventresca/1135912991?ean=2940163430857
"The Orchard" ~ A mystical story with young protagonist Nels,
whose magical powers connect her to nature in rugged, remote Utah.
Life back then was rough, never mind the added challenges your grandmother had. Hope you get to bring her story to the world, Beth.
What a wonderful idea for a story. Good luck with shopping it around. DLP has another upper middle grade that deals with some of those issues.
I hope Beth does, too, Alex! Take care, Captain!
I think so, too, Diane. It was generous of Beth to share her personal photos, so meaningful. Be safe!
Sounds like your grandmother faced a lot of challenges. Good luck writing the book!
Thanks for visiting, Sherry! I'm glad I didn't have to face what my grandmothers did. I want to try that mystery pie. Take care.
That sounds fantastic, Beth! I, too, have been working sporadically at doing something with my grandmother’s life—she is the inspiration behind Mattie in my story, but I’ve never really gotten a hold on what would make it a good book. Looks like your grandmother gave you some great material :D
PS, I think her Mystery Pie might be the Mock Apple Pie that was circulated during the Depression and/or the war? I’ve seen that with saltines somewhere before.
Hi, Rebecca! Casting about for the right angle is challenging. I hope it comes together for you like it did for Beth. All the best to you.
I think you're spot on, Rebecca.
Please read my post
"Trying to make others smaller also makes us smaller!" So true, Rajani! The whole point of our blog is the exact opposite of what you wrote. In the Insecure Writer's Support Group, we try to encourage and build each other up. Thanks for visiting, and good luck with your writing!
TY, indeed her family experienced much heartbreak, but Alma was a treasure to me.
TY. I’m struggling during the lock down, but Im also determined to tell this story.
Yes, you’re right. I’ve seen it with either Saltines or Ritz. It actually is tasty...
Thank you. I am hopeful that I can locate a publisher. The topics are important so that should be a plus.
It is amazing what our ancestors went through. I find that time period fascinating and fun to write. Good luck with your story!
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