historical middle grade fiction

Story Structure – The Virgin’s Archetypal Journey

I recent posted about a Webinar I attended that focused on story structure. The presenter, Beth Barany, has graciously provided a link to the Webinar that also included helpful slides. I highly recommend you take time to view it.

nail down.jpegI’ve recently struggled to nail down the proper structure for my current work in progress. After the Webinar, however, I resonated with a form Beth called “The Virgin’s Archetypal Journey”. Several of the structure categories Beth discussed were ones I’d never heard of before, including this one. Beth emphasized that the word “virgin” in this structure’s title doesn’t refer to a lack of sexual encounters. Rather, it describes a main character who experiences an internal change because he confronts the story’s conflicts and obstacles. These challenges cause the protagonist to discover a dormant, unproven potential that lies within. As the main character acts on this discovery, it changes not only the protagonist, but also the world  he inhabits. This structure differs from the Hero’s Journey where the central figure overcomes obstacles that lead to an inner change, resulting in the hero selflessly saving the community.

The differences between these two structures illuminated the darkness of my writer’s block as I realized that I was trying to make my protagonist a hero, when in reality, he was a virgin!

Beth outlined and described a list of thirteen beats that formulate the world of a character whose storyline fits the virgin’s archetypal structure. The originator of the Virgin’s Archetypal Structure, Kim Hudson, explains her understanding of this construct in an article titled,  “The Virgin’s Promise, a New Archetypal Structure“. I’m still trying to digest all of this new information and would love to hear your take on it!

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Categories: authors, books, historical middle grade fiction, inspiration, links, Story Structure, Structure, The Virgin's Archetypal Journey | Leave a comment

The Silver Coin – The Aleppo Connection

Silver Coin Cover
John Dewey once said meaningful learning occurs when successive learning experiences “are integrated with one another. It [a learning experience] can be built up only as a world of related objects is constructed.”

That’s one of the tasks of volume 3 in the middle grade historical fiction series Ancient Elements –  The Silver CoinThis adventurous series about life in Ancient Mesopotamia relates to the 6th grade social studies curriculum.

The Silver Coin includes maps and scenes of Sam’s father on a caravan trip from Babylonia to Tyre in search of a treasure and revenge. Dagon’s caravan travels through the ancient city of Halab, known today as Aleppo. The teacher’s guide provides information helping teachers relate current events in Aleppo to Dagon’s 1780’s BC experience of the city, giving students, as Dewey suggested, a meaningful learning opportunity  where “successive experiences are integrated with one another.”

More information at: www.mariesontag.com and www.thebronzedagger.com

Categories: Aleppo, Syria, Omran, current events, authors, books, current events, historical middle grade fiction, social studies | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New WIP – All That Glitters – With STEAM

I’m excited to move forward with my new middle grade historical fiction work in progress, tentatively titled, All That Glitters. Yesterday I visited Oak Hill Memorial Cemetery, the final resting place for several people from the Donner party, including Virginia Reed, who was thirteen when she came West with her mother, stepfather, and siblings.

In my middle grade historical fiction story, All That Glitters, the thirteen-year-old historical character, Virginia Reed, befriends my (fictional) thirteen-year-old character, Daniel, and his ten-year-old sister, Hannah, orphaned siblings who travel West with a guardian, Jim Savage, in 1846 (Jim is an historical figure). Jim, along with his wife and my two fictional characters, Daniel and Hannah, travel with the same wagon train as the Donner Party, but before reaching the Salt Flats they leave Fort Bridger sooner than the Donner party, so Jim and my fictional characters don’t get caught in the winter storms as do Virginia and the other families. My characters later meet up with Virginia after the Donner Party survivors reach California in the spring of 1847.

In the meantime, Jim and my fictional character, Daniel, fight in the Mexican-American War, discover gold, run trading posts, befriend Indians, then lead a battalion into Yosemite to rout out marauding Indians who attack trading posts and miners – miners who have trodden the Native Americans’ lands and killed their people. The Mariposa Battalion members become the first white settlers (historically true!) to set eyes on Yosemite as they attempt to take the Ahwahneechees to a reservation. Friendships, prejudices, revenge, forgiveness, justice and injustice abound as Daniel and Hannah try to find their way in this middle grade coming of age historical fiction novel.

bancroft-libraryI recently visited the Bancroft Library on the UC Berkeley campus which specializes in housing first and second-hand documents from the 1800’s in California, especially the California Gold Rush period, to help fill in some holes in the research I’ve conducted so far.

I am about one-third of the way through the manuscript and am excited to continue. A friend who now works as a STEAM TOSA teacher (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math focus, teacher-on-special-assignment) suggested I include STEAM ideas at the end of each chapter. This will make the book even more useful to 4th grade teachers who want to include STEAM activities when they discuss US westward migration as part of 4th grade social studies, and also very valuable to home-schooling parents. I visited my friend’s classroom yesterday to see a STEAM project she created for 4th grade students. She has them making covered wagons, using the engineering design process. Very exciting!! I’m hoping to collaborate more with her as the manuscript develops. Stay tuned!

#VirginiaReed
#GoldRush
#Yosemite
#MariposaBattalion

Categories: California history, Donner Party, gold rush, historical fiction, gold rush,, historical middle grade fiction, social studies, Virginia Reed | 1 Comment

Ancient City of Palmyra

Friday, 5/15/15

SYRIA-CONFLICT-ARCHAEOLOGY-PALMYRA

A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows a partial view of the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning when I read this news post, I felt like someone punched me in the stomach:

Islamic State fighters on Thursday reached the outskirts of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra, one of the most important cultural heritage sites in the Middle East.

“If I.S. enters Palmyra, it will spell its destruction,” Syria’s director of antiquities, Maamoun Abdulkarim, told Agence France-Presse. “If the ancient city falls, it will be an international catastrophe.”

Palmyra lies at the crossroads of several ancient empires, and is packed with the ruins of 1st and 2nd century temples…”

Six months ago, the name Palmyra meant nothing to me, but, since December, I’ve so entrenched myself in researching this area that my visceral reaction took my breath away.

The final book in my Ancient Elements middle grade historical fiction series (The Silver Coin) follows the main character’s adventures from Egypt (the setting for book two, The Alabaster Jar, coming this fall), to Tyre in Phoenicia as he searches for his uncle. In book three, Sam, now fifteen, sails from Egypt to Crete with his friend Keret where they must escape the clutches of King Minos. Sam and Keret then sail to the island of Cyprus and finally on to Tyre. Meanwhile, Sam’s father, Dagon, recently released from a Babylonian jail, joins a caravan traveling to Tyre in hopes of finding his brother, Zim, and his son, Sam. Unknown to Sam, Sam and his uncle hold the keys to a treasure box that promises to make Dagon an extremely rich man.

That’s where the city of Palmyra comes in. In researching the route I wanted Dagon’s caravan to take, I considered having them travel through the ancient city of Palmyra. I learned that some caravans in 1780 BC took this faster, shorter desert route through Palmyra as they travelled from Babylon to Tyre, but others chose the easier trek that followed the Euphrates River north from Babylonia through the kingdoms of Mari and Yamhad, and then west to the Mediterranean Sea and south to Phoenicia. I opted against the desert trek through Palmyra, but not until I had researched this ancient crossroads from the east to the west. Here’s a map I created of Dagon’s route. Notice Palmyra located in the kingdom of Qatna, an oasis in the desert crossroads between Babylonia and the Phoenician coast.

Dagon'sRoute2

A picture taken on March 14, 2014 shows the sanctury of Baal in the ancient oasis city of Palmyra, 215 kilometres northeast of Damascus. From the 1st to the 2nd century, the art and architecture of Palmyra, standing at the crossroads of several civilizations, married Graeco-Roman techniques with local traditions and Persian influences. AFP PHOTO/JOSEPH EID        (Photo credit should read JOSEPH EID/AFP/Getty Images)

This morning as I read the article on modern-day Palmyra, I studied the article’s photo of the ancient temple of Baal for several minutes. Having existed for over 3,000 years, historical gems like this may soon be destroyed. Dagon saw these sites as he traveled. The juxtaposition of this current image with what I’ve seen in my mind’s eye while writing The Silver Coin gave me pause. No, it gave me more than pause. That punch in the stomach evidenced the ache I felt for the people who live there now, anger over those who wreak such destruction, and a sense of loss for future generations that may never see these sites in their lifetime. It also pushed me to finish the last few chapters of The Silver Coin so students can read about these places in historical fiction before we humans obliterate such archaeological jewels from the face of the earth.

shot of destruction

 Go to http://www.dw.de/nimruds-cultural-heritage-destroyed/av-18300712 to see the above video showing ISIS members destroying artifacts in Iraq.

 

 

Categories: Aleppo, Syria, Omran, current events, books, current events, historical middle grade fiction, social studies | Leave a comment

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Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant

That Ranch Life

A Donkumentary of City-Turned-Country Livin'

Blissful Scribbles

Musings through the journey of writing my first novel

ACFW - DFW CHAPTER a.k.a. DFW Ready Writers

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Bay Area Writing Group

Northern California Chapter of American Christian Fiction Writers

Letters to Noah

Spoken words are fleeting, but written words last beyond a lifetime.

Sontag Writing Dreams

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

marsha ottum owen

I make Children's Books

Under His Wings

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

Cathleen Armstrong

"Nothing happens unless first a dream." Carl Sandburg

A Writer's Diary

Author, Educator, Consultant