Sunday, May 30, 2010

An Interview With Roseanne Parry: The Perfect Interview for Memorial Day

Hey, guys, I know a lot of you are celebrating Memorial Day this weekend. Some of you may have cookouts, go to the beach or the mountains, or just hang out with your family or friends. As you can see, I'm working this weekend but I'm also celebrating by hosting an interview with Roseanne Parry, author of that extraordinary book Heart of a Shepherd. It's all about a 12-year-old boy whose father gets deployed to Iraq for two and a half years. (see my review here)It's realistic fiction, which means there is no magic, worldwide conspiracies, or space battles, but it's still one of the favorite books I've read this year. (Realistic fiction is great because it deals with the issues we have to face in the real world, guys) Since this is the holiday dedicated to remebering and honoring those who serve or have served in the military, this was the perfect time to interview the author of such a story. I'm very glad and honored that she gave us this interview. But I've talked long enough. Let's hear Ms. Parry!
Why is it cool for boys to read?
It’s cool for boys to read because some of them grow up to be amazingly cool book editors and literary agents like mine. They get to work with books all day long, and nobody says, 'stop that reading and do something useful!' to
My agent’s name is Stephen Fraser and he’s a book-loving boy who studied children’s literature in college. (It’s true! You can major in books!) He went on to become an editor and is now an agent, which means he helps books that he loves find the right publisher.

My editor’s name is Jim Thomas and he is also a book-loving boy who majored in English and went straight to New York City to work in the book business. He works in the Random House building, which is on Broadway. In case you were wondering, the editor is the person who takes my story apart like you would dissect a squid to see what’s really in there. And then he helps me put it together so it runs right, just like a working engine.

Why is it cool for boys to write?
Power! Writing is all about power.
Any short stroll through history will tell you so. Pick a tyrant and you’ll see a person who tried to control whether or not people learned to read and write, and what they were allowed to read and write. Nazi’s burned books. Terrorists close schools. Slave owners don’t allow their slaves to read and write.
And yet, as bad as those bad guys are, there have always been people, just like us, who paid attention to what was happening in the world and wrote down their ideas and shared them with others.
At the founding of this country, when Jefferson and Hamilton and Washington and Franklin were debating what to about the rights of Americans, there was a man who kept writing things down. He was no taller than your average fifth grader and a very shy person. Yet he had this great idea about the importance of human rights and the value of checks and balances in government. So James Madison wrote those ideas down and they became the basis of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. And this quiet and shy bookworm of a man became our fourth president. Yup, that’s power.

Why is it cool for boys to read realistic fiction--books with no aliens or magicians, no world-dominating villains, and nothing blows up?

There is a reason they make movies about cowboys. A rancher in any given day might face rattlesnakes, cattle rustlers, mountain lions, drug dealers, wolves, lighting, earthquakes, bears, or wildfires. Who needs magic when real life is packed with all these possibilities?
If you liked all the cowboy stuff in Heart of a Shepherd, you should give Bull Rider by Suzanne Morgan Williams a try. It’s got all that great cowboy stuff plus rodeo stuff!

What made you become a writer? And what made you write this particular book?
I was not much of a writer when I was in school. For one thing, sitting still was not ever a talent of mine. Also I am a terrible speller.
But I always loved making things up. My brother and sister and I spent whole summer days in the woods making up adventures with our favorite book characters. Our stories usually had sword fighting, magic, and eating blackberries. Frodo and Bilbo and the Narnia kids often came along and helped us defeat a rotating cast of dark wizards, corporate pollution makers, dragons, and Nazi spies. I continued to make up stories when I became a summer camp counselor then as a teacher and a mom.
It wasn’t until I had a houseful of kids that it occurred to me to write down the stories. I’m still not a great speller and I don’t love to sit still either. But here’s the cool part about being an author. I can write anywhere I want. Sometimes I work in my tree house and sometimes I go to Forest Park and work in a tree.

I wrote Heart of a Shepherd because there was this character in my head that I really loved—a youngest boy with a whole bunch of brothers. And he was trying so hard to be a man among the men of his family and yet he wasn’t really like them. So what’s a boy to do when he loves his home and his family even though he doesn’t really fit in? I had to write the book to find out what would happen to him.

Your book is set on a ranch in eastern Oregon. Did you ever live on a ranch or know people who did?
I went to college in eastern Washington where I met lots of kids who grew up on farms and dairies and ranches in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and the Dakotas. I loved to hear them tell stories about their hometowns and schools. I’ve visited in Malhuer County; it’s a strikingly wild and beautiful place.

In your book, the father is deployed to Iraq for two and a half years. Do you know anyone currently serving overseas?
My husband was a veteran of Desert Storm, so he was in Iraq a long time ago. I have several relatives who have deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan over the last few years. One is there now, and one of them has recently returned from deployments to earthquake relief missions in Haiti and Chile. Being in the Armed Forces isn’t only about fighting. It’s also about providing emergency help for people all over the world. I do worry about my nephews and brothers-in-law when they are deployed, but I’m very proud of them, too.

What will do for Memorial Day?
In the last 7 years my family has made a tradition of celebrating Memorial Day by making a temporary chalk memorial in downtown Portland. We go down to Waterfront Park with a bucket of sidewalk chalk. We draw a cross or star or crescent for every service member who has died in the last year. It’s a simple thing to do. It takes about an hour and a half with all of us working together, and it makes a memorial about 150 yards long. I like it because it reminds me that each one of the chalk marks was somebody’s son or daughter or sister or dad or best friend. It’s easy to spend the weekend on picnics and the beach and buying clothes on sale, but really Memorial Day is for remembering that war costs us something precious and irreplaceable.

Aren’t you writing another book? Would you tell us about it?
Second Fiddle is my next novel. It will be out in the March of 2011. It’s a road trip adventure story about three girl musicians who live in Berlin right when the Berlin Wall is coming down. They see some Soviet officers murdering one of their enlisted men, so they rescue him and run away to Paris! It was tons of fun to write.
I lived in Germany from 1990-1992 when the story takes place so it was great to revisit my memories of Berlin and Paris. It was also a fun book to work on because music is an interest I share with my agent and editor. I play the violin. My agent sings and my editor plays guitar and drums and has his own rock band. See, I told you those guys were cool!
What do you like to do when you’re not writing terrific books?
I love to ride my bike and hike and ski and paddle and sail. One of the great things about Oregon is that I can do all those things right here. Portland is a great town for bikes, so in the summer I try to have 2 or 3 no car days a week.

Which do you like better—cheeseburgers or pizza? What do you like on them?
Golly, do I have to pick? Here’s the perfect compromise: Cheeseburger Pie! The boy reader in my house has been making this recipe since he was about 9 years old. Here’s how he makes it.
Pie crust
1. Mix 1 1/3 cups flour and ½ teaspoon salt together with ½ cup of shortening.
2. Squash this up with a fork or pastry blender until it looks like a bowl full of tiny white peas.
3. Add 3 or 4 tablespoons of cold water and mix until the dough sticks together in a blob.
4. Get a pie plate and squish the dough flat on the bottom and up along the sides.
5. Bake the crust at 450 degrees for 15 minutes.
6. In a skillet, cook 1 pound of ground beef plus 1 chopped up onion and 1 clove of chopped up garlic until it is brown and good smelling.
7. Turn off the heat and stir in ¼ cup of flour, 1/3 cup of dill pickle liquid, 1/3 cup of milk, ½ cup of chopped up dill pickles and 1 cup of shredded cheese. (you can use any kind of cheese. My boy likes cheddar. He also likes to add a little celery salt.)
8. Spoon this into the pie crust and bake for 15 minutes.
9. Sprinkle the top with another cup of shredded cheese and cook it for about 5 minutes more. (When we have tomatoes in the garden my boy likes to slice them thin and put them on top of the filling, but he hides them under the cheese.)
10. You can decorate the top with pickles and ketchup. It serves 6 normal people or 4 very hungry people.

You seem very cool. Could we make you an Honorary Guy?
Yes! I would love that! Thank you!

We thanks YOU, Ms. Parry! In honor of your terrific books and for this wonderful interview, we're going to give you the greatest honor we can possibly bestow and make you an Honorary Guy. No, no--don't go all modest on us and say you don't deserve this amazing award! If anyone has earned it, it's you!
Thanks once again, Ms. Parry, and enjoy your Memorial Day! And you, too, all you reader guys. Don't forget that, as Ms. Parry pointed out, reading is the key to power and freedom--and be sure to remember the brave men and women who have fought throughout our history to make sure you have the freedom to read what you like.

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