Sunday, April 7, 2013

What is Your Story?

In this post, in which I have finally given myself permission to write, I wrote that I was inspired recently by author Ruta Sepetys, and hinted that I would reveal more later. It's now later!

Last month, I had the pleasure of attending the North Carolina Reading Association Conference. There were a number of well-known and fabulous authors there, including Jack Gantos, John Claude Bemis, Andrea Davis Pinkney, Steven Layne, Sheila Turnage, Allan Wolf, Ruta Sepetys and plenty of others I am sure I'm missing. 

However, Ruta Septys had the biggest impact on me. Not just because she clearly wove her presentation around the conference's theme, and not just because she was a riveting speaker - but because of her guiding question, "What is your story?"

Ruta has written two books, Between Shades of Gray, a historical fiction novel set in Lithuania and surrounds, based on true facts, real events and her own family's history, and Out of the Easy, set in 1950s New Orleans, also with an incredible amount of (real-life, up close and personal and at times, scary) research. At the conference, she spoke about her research for her writing. In addition to 'paper research', she went to both places - Lithuania and New Orleans, met and interviewed people at length, and in Lithuania, even put herself in the position of the survivors in her story in order to better understand and be able to write about . . . the truth. I won't tell you all the details - you must, simply must, click on the Between Shades of Gray link and watch her trailer. And then read the book. Warning: the trailer is 12 minutes, which is an anomaly in our three-seconds-or-less-to-grab-audience-attention world. But you must. So set aside a very worthwhile 12 minutes (after all, you just spent 12 minutes on Facebook, right?) and then read the book.

Not only was I struck by the depth of Ruta's research and desire to have Between Shades of Gray be as close to true events and history as humanly possible, but by her perseverance. She had been told by several people in the industry that "historical fiction doesn't sell", yet she persevered because her story, the story of those real people, needed to be told. The world needed to know the unimaginable truth of that history. The story needed to be told. It was finally bought in 2007 and released in 2011. Perseverance. 

And it got me thinking: what is my story? We all have multiple stories, but right now, what is the story that deserves to be told, that needs to be told, that the world needs to know the truth of that history? Who are the real people who visit your dreams until their truth is told? And I knew (see hint).

Ruta also spoke about her realization after writing Between Shades of Gray, that it was not necessarily about what she thought it was about. Each person she spoke with had a different idea of what her book was about: courage, survival, identity, perseverance, preserving memories, in times of adversity the "I" disappears for the "we", love. And that's okay. As long as we tell those stories as faithfully as possible.

Meeting Ruta Sepetys and hearing her presentation inspired me to complete my research and tell the story of people and events from over three hundred years ago - as faithfully as possible. Their story needs to be told.

So what is your story?

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