Writing Your Own History

“History tells us what people do; historical fiction helps us imagine how they felt.”
Guy Vanderhaeghe, as quoted in “A Good Guy,” Quill & Quire, Sept. 2011

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Cynthia Rylant’s picture book, When I Was Young in the Mountains, is based on memories of growing up in the Appalachian Mountains of West Virginia.

Many of Robert Newton Peck’s books, including his Soup stories, are loosely based on his childhood in rural Vermont.

Laura Ingalls Wilder’s Little House on the Prairie books are based on her childhood in the American Midwest during the late 10th century.

John Fitzgerald’s Great Brain books are also based on his childhood experiences, although they are set several years before he was born in Utah in the early 20th century.

Many of Laurence Yep’s novels, including The Dragon’s Child which tells of how his father came to San Francisco when he was a young child, focus on his family’s Chinese ancestry.

Most of Mildred D. Taylor’s novels, including Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry are based on the family stories she heard while growing up in Ohio.

Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan was based on the life of the author’s grandmother.

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Anne Ylvisaker’s novel The Luck of the Buttons was inspired by a photograph of her grandmother taken in 1927.

Kerry Madden’s novel Gentle’s Hollow was based on stories of her husband’s childhood in North Carolina and Tennessee.

Kristin Levine’s novel The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had was based on her own family’s history in Alabama.

Some of  Tomie dePaola’s books, including 26 Fairmount Avenue,  describe his own childhood.

Jacqueline Woodson’s picture book Visiting Day is based on events in her childhood: visiting her uncle who was incarcerated in prison. The illustrator, James E. Ransome, used his own memory of visiting his brother to create the dramatic full-page pictures of the prison.

Click HERE to find more novels based on historical facts.

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Nicola Campbell’s picture books, Shi-Shi-etko and Shin-Chi’s Canoe, were inspired by hearing her family’s stories about growing up in the interior of B.C. and being sent to residential schools.

Click HERE to find more stories about the aboriginal people of North America.

Picture 4Esther Hautzig wrote The Endless Steppe , a novel about her family’s exile to Siberia during World War 2.

Audrey Couloumbis wrote War Games , a novel based on her husband’s childhood in Greece during World War 2.

Jane Yolen wrote and illustrated a picture book, All those Secrets of the World, about her childhood memories of her father going to war.

Lois Lowry’s Crow Call, about a little girl getting to know her father again after his return from World War II, was based on a memory from her childhood.

Click HERE to find more novels about World War II.

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Eugene Yelchin’s Newbery Honor book Breaking Stalin’s Nose was based on an incident in his childhood in Russia.

Thanhha Lai’s novel in verse Inside Out and Back Again was based on her memories of coming to America from war-torn Vietnam when she was ten years old.

Suzanne Collins, author of The Hunger Games, has also written a picture book, Year of the Jungle: Memories from the Home Front, about receiving postcards from her father, who was stationed in Vietnam when she was six years old.

Click HERE to find more novels about conflicts from 1945 to the present day.

Click HERE for tips on writing your own true story.



Good Luck!

“Luck affects everything. Let your hook always be cast; in the stream where you least expect it there will be a fish.” Ovid, Roman poet
“It is the mark of an inexperienced man not to believe in luck.” Joseph Conrad, author of Heart of Darkness
“When you get as lucky as I got, you have to work as hard as possible to earn that luck.” Daniel Radcliffe, actor in Harry Potter movies
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“…it is human nature to secretly suspect that the things that happen to people are really their own fault in some way. That we bring our misfortunes upon ourselves. Even if the bad things that happen to us are clearly just a case of bad luck, there’s a kind of underlying belief that there’s a certain amount of bad luck in the world and it attaches to people who are less deserving.” Polly Horvath in One Year in Coal Harbor (p. 80)
“Luck is not something you can mention in the presence of self-made men.” E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web
“…a powerful religious belief that success comes to the virtuous and failure to the undeserving….a just world in which the rich are worthy and the poor are not.” William Marsden, Postmedia News in The Vancouver Sun, Mar. 15, 2014
“What’s important is to be able to see yourself, I think, as having commonality with other people and not determine, because of your good luck, that everybody is less significant, less interesting, less important than you are.” Harrison Ford, actor in Ender’s Game
“Luck is believing you’re lucky.” Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire

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 Muth, Jon. Zen Shorts. New York: Scholastic Press, 2005.
Includes the Zen story of ‘The Farmer’s Luck’.

“Strange as it may seem, I still hope for the best, even though the best, like an interesting piece of mail, so rarely arrives, and even when it does it can be lost so easily.” Lemony Snicket in The Beatrice Letters

So Good-luck came, and on my roofe did light,
Like noyse-lesse Snow; or as the dew of night:
Not all at once, but gently, as the trees
Are, by the Sun-beams, tickel’d by degrees.
Robert Herrick, 1591-1674

Click HERE to find more books by Polly Horvath.