Thursday, October 25, 2001

Since finding my feet back here in Victoria, have been hard at work revising the Pony Express novel for Orca. We are contemplating a title change as 'Jo's Triumph at Ruby Lake' was only ever meant to be a working title. Alas, Jo doesn't actually triumph anywhere near Ruby Lake, so this must change. Some ideas include:
Rider Last
Orphans Preferred
Jo's Triumph
Horse Before Rider
... and, with any luck, some brilliant suggestions by my editor, Maggie.

Most of the revisions to the manuscript posed few problems. Here are a couple of examples...

Maggie suggested Jo (a girl who, in 1860, disguises herself as a boy in order to be able to get a job as a Pony Express rider....) seems a bit blase about riding (she has spent some time in an orphanage and the riding is supposed to be a pretty exciting experience for her...)
Nikki fixed this by adding some more bonding moments between horse and rider on the ground and more communication between rider and mount during the riding scenes when Jo is thundering across the barren landscape of Utah Territory...

Maggie noted that the motivation of the bad guy, James, is a little unclear during the final scene (can't tell you what happens or it will spoil the ending).

Nikki fixed this by adding a bit more dialogue between James and Jo and changing the way James barges into the cabin where she and the militia are waiting for him.

Maggie does not like the use of italics throughout the text to indicate Jo's innermost thoughts.
An easy fix for Nikki who just changed everything back to regular old Times Roman.

...and so on...

A more difficult problem to address was Maggie's concern that the Paiute Indians are portrayed negatively in the story. This is true. Jo (and just about everyone else) are either terrified of or quite hateful to the Indians of the area. This may be historically accurate (there were some pretty horrendous battles fought in 1860 resulting in casualties on both sides) but is not politically correct today. So, off I went to search for some plausible (more positive) encounter Jo might actually have enjoyed with some member of the Paiute nation. Lo and behold I discovered a wonderful character, Sarah Winnemucca, a terrific advocate for her people who might have been active during the period when Jo is riding around in the wilds of Utah Territory.
I've ordered her authobiography (from a rare book dealer in Idaho...) and tracked down a biography here in our public library system. Maggie (somewhat alarmed at this development) has given me an extra three weeks to revise the manuscript. My hope is that I'll be able to orchestrate a believable encounter between Jo and Sarah. Failing this.... well, I'll come up with a plan B if I have to.

Meanwhile, the length of the book is getting to be a problem. The Orca Young Readers Series includes books from 12,500 - 15,000 words. Though some are a bit longer (up to about 22,000 words), Jo's Triumph is already at 21,000 and is likely to grow with the addition of this new sub-plot. On this point, Maggie was adamant I was not to stretch the book much longer. Therefore, for each word I add about Sarah Winnemucca, I'll have to delete something from elsewhere in the manuscript. This should be lots of fun!

While I wait for my reference books to arrive, I am working on the revisions to StableMates 7 (more on this another time). Apparently Pat Cupples has started work on the cover design.

In other news.... did an hour-long interview on CFUV last night with three other children's authors: Margaret Thompson (EYEWITNESS, and a story in the anthology, BEGINNINGS: STORIES OF CANADA'S PAST, Sylvia Olsen (NO TIME TO SAY GOOD-BYE, and Maggi de Vries (CHANCE AND THE BUTTERFLY. And, yes, by coincidence, this is the same Maggie who is my editor at Orca). Airing today on Richardson's Roundup - a segment taped last week at the Vancouver International Writers Festival with Loris Lesynski. Also visited grade six and seven students at Hampton School yesterday. Thanks to Ann Warren for organizing things! Made posters to send to the Country Quill store in Ontario. They are hosting a book signing at the Royal Winter Fair on November 4th....

Ok - I'd better stop now - those StableMates 7 revisions are not doing themselves!

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