Saturday, June 4, 2011

Living with a Little Indian Boy

No, I’m not cohabiting with a child from India. I’m trying to put myself in the moccasins of a little Creek boy who lived in 1785 and yes, I do know that Indian in this context isn’t politically or even historically correct.

Being just a tad self-absorbed, I usually write only about myself:  my memories, my experiences, my opinions. Even when I wrote my three mysteries, which were fictional, everyone knew that the main character was guess who.

So, when I began to think about writing a fictional children’s book about six kids who all lived in the same place but at different times, I wasn’t sure I would have the imagination to dream up their lives or their story. My writer friend, Leslie, told me to let my characters tell their own stories and I believe that's good advice. But, before my character can tell me his story, I need to get to know him and to perhaps gain his trust.  So here I sit in the red Georgia clay in a Creek Village in 1785, and I must say it’s pretty hot and my deerskin chaps are itching me. However, that squash soup his mother is cooking over the open hearth smells pretty darned good. I do keep wondering, though, where my cell phone is and I'm yearning for a Diet Coke.

The idea for the book began five years ago, my first year teaching second-graders in Atlanta. We were studying Georgia History and we traveled to the Atlanta History Center for a field trip. We were wandering around with a docent who had managed to garner the attention of the adults much better than that of the little ones. The kids were too busy pushing buttons and each other to focus. However, when our guide mentioned that the Battle of Peachtree Creek (the first of three Civil War battles fought in the Atlanta area) occurred where the Bobby Jones Golf Course is now situated, several stopped their shenanigans and perked up their little ears.

“I live on Bobby Jones!” said one. “I live right behind it,” said another.

I’m not sure they got it but I did. My students live right smack on top of history and so do I! I needed to figure out a way to help them to feel the connection.

We went back to school and created timelines and we talked about the history of Atlanta back before it was Atlanta, but I still didn’t think they were understanding. To them (and to me to a certain extent), time is linear. We think of time as being from a different place. So, I thought about telling a story about different children who lived at different times but in the same place.

I ultimately decided on six different stories, one for each child: Tuck, a Creek boy in 1785; Susannah, the daughter of a white general store owner in 1825; James, an escaped slave at the Battle of Peachtree Creek in 1864; Rosie, a mill worker in 1910; Carl, a black kid in the midst of the civil rights movement in 1961; and finally, Jessie, a child who could have been my student in 2010.  I knew I needed to write about the history and social context for each of those times, but, because kids are kids, I also needed to make it interesting with some humor - a big job I began contemplating five years ago and one I'm still not quite sure I'm up for.

I am most fearful of writing about the earlier kids, especially Tuck, since his life seems most foreign to me and there are so many stupid ways I could misrepresent or diminish his culture, but I've decided to write it chronologically, attempting to be brave. Get it, brave? Indian brave? Okay, I guess I'm hoping that by saying everything ridiculous and embarrassing I can think of here on this blog, maybe it won't show up in the stories.

I'll of course let you know how it goes. But I must stop now as I think the soup's ready. I just don't know what I'm going to drink with it. 

Creek water? Are you kidding me?

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

What a fascinating idea. What a challenging idea. The outcome will be stupendous! Mary B

Anonymous said...

Oh why can't I comment, endless loop happening....

Anonymous said...

OK I can't post as wisewebwoman, only as anon. Strange doings on this comment box, Marcia.
I had said what a marvellous idea you had and I can hardly wait for more installments. it is sure to capture the imagination and the journey is always better than.....
XO
WWW

marciamayo said...

I'm trying to figure out what's up the my comment box.

schmidleysscribblins.wordpress.com said...

As one who spent hours and hours at the Census Bureau working on the race and ethnic questions which included the issue of labels (what to call those people who migrated to the Western Hemisphere from central Asia oh so long ago), and who fit the description (most people who identify as 'Indian' today really did come from India. For some strange reason, people from India think they are Indian.

So, I can appreciate your concern with what to call them.

As for the squash soup, remember all the herbs that make it tasty today came from Europe and the spices probably came from Asia. Just a thought.

I think it used to be easier to tell a story, even to a kid. Dianne

marciamayo said...

Thanks Dianne. I know who I'm going to contact for those pesky historical facts.

Bobby Gail said...

Have you tried Olga's squash soup? :)

marciamayo said...

No, but I'm going to give the recipe to Tuck's mother who's a whiz at the hearth.

Olga said...

I was worried that you were just going to take the summer off and do nothing. Glad to hear you have a project.

Cile said...

I'd give up all hope of marriage or winning the lottery, Marcia; from here on out you must now place your hope in finding an excellent editor to walk with you hand in had to the ends of your book. I suspect the correct people to help you with your concerns will appear when you need them.

I look forward to this story. I know you will make it interesting and capture the children's attention. I sounds like you've been working all your life to this moment to create it!

I saw a book when I was working Middle School that left a lasting impression on me. It showed the same piece of land over the centuries. It was done primarily with pictures and called "A Street through Time" by Anne Millard. REALLY cool idea of yours, I think!

Anonymous said...

marcia,
If you change your comment settings to "full page" it will stop this mess that blogger has started.
I love this brilliant idea you have for the book. Please keep going with it.
Arkansas Patti

Friko said...

You are a brave lady.

However, as you know all about kids and kids are kids at whatever period in time, you'll write a wonderful book. All you have to do is get the historical setting right.

Easy.

(sorry about that, but I'm only half joking)

marciamayo said...

thanks Patti! I will do it right now.

marciamayo said...

Aww friends, thank you so much. Your belief in me in a good indication that you don't know me all that well. However, I will try to prove myself wrong.

marciamayo said...

Cile, I'm going to check out that book.

Kate said...

Wonderful idea, Marcia. Have tons of fun with it, as you're sure to. Will wait to hear more...

paula devi said...

Hi Marcia, I am really excited about this book you have been marinating for so long. the premise is fascinating. The only thing I have ever published is ... well, nothing. But I am a voracious reader so here are my thoughts to add to the pile. This premise would also be a marvelous story about adults. But for now and the children - maybe there could be a second thread other than the land and changing times that links the children (not familial). Whatever you create will be wonderful, funny and ignite a beautiful spark of understanding for kids everywhere. Dibs on a copy for my grandbaby. Hey, maybe you'll be his teacher someday. fterall, he's already graduated to Level II at the Suzuki School in your neighborhood. hugs.

marciamayo said...

Paula, I know the Suzuki school in Buckhead and I've thought about the connection between the children. There will be one. Thanks, Friend!

Vagabonde said...

That sounds like such a great idea for a book. I hope you finish it soon before my two grandchildren grow up too much (4 and 2 and one coming in July.) When I was a kid in France I loved Indian stories (American Indians that is) and books on riding dogs in Alaska – that sounded so far out – like in a long way off in the boonies, not like “far out…cool”

Brighid said...

This is exciting! What an interesting premise for a book. I can hardly wait to read it, please get move'n, I'm not getting any younger here...

LC said...

Now who is superwoman. This idea is so fascinating. Promise to let us know where your first book signing will be. Got to be there with my copy!

Arkansas Patti said...

Love it, love it , love it. Thanks so much. Now neither of us has to be bereft.

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