Saturday 17 December 2016

Guest Author Valerie Sherrard of Miramichi, NB.

Valerie Sherrard was born in 1957 in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, and grew up in various parts of Canada. Her father was in the Air Force so the family moved often, and was sent to live in Lahr, West Germany, when Valerie was in grades 6 and 7. It was there that a teacher encouraged her toward writing, although nearly three decades would pass before she began to pursue it seriously.

Valerie has made her home in New Brunswick since 1980. In 1985, her second child, Rebecca, died at the age of 19 months. This led her to a decision to foster children in need of homes and over the years she fostered approximately 70 adolescents for various lengths of time. Valerie also worked as the Director of a group home for teens for more than a decade. It was quite natural, in light of those experiences, that when she began to write in earnest, she wrote for young adults.

Valerie eventually gave up fostering and left her job at the group home and is now a full-time writer. She soon expanded her work to include picture books and middle novels as well, enjoying the challenges of writing for those age groups. To date, 25 of her books have been published.

This author’s work has been recognized on national and international levels and has been translated into several languages. As well, she has won or been shortlisted for numerous awards, including the Governor General, the TD Children’s Literature, the Geoffrey Bilson, the Ann Connor Brimer, and many others.

Her bibliography and link are listed below.

Valerie Sherrard: Excerpt from Rain Shadow
                                                            Copyright is held by the author. Used with permission.

Before the Beginning

My sister Mira is the sun and I am the moon. That is what she said to me one day. She meant it for mean, like when she tells me she is a jewel and I am a stone or she is a rose and I am a cabbage.

            When she says things like that I make a sad face. If I do that she laughs and tells me not to be gloomy because I cannot help being the way I am. Then she goes away and stops buzzing in my ear like an angry bee. The truth is, I do not mind the idea of being a stone or a cabbage.

Jewels are nice with their colour and shine. But I think stones are more interesting. Holding a stone can make you feel peaceful and calm. Some stones are mysterious, with lines and drawings in them. It is a mistake to ever think a stone is not worth looking at.

Or cabbages. Have you seen a cabbage grow from the first tiny leaves all the way to a perfect round ball of green? They are beautiful, and also delicious when Mother cooks them into a boiled dinner, or cabbage rolls or sauerkraut to go with the sausages the butcher makes.

But the moon! Of all the things Mira says I am like that is my favourite one. She is welcome to be the sun if she likes. That is fine with me. The sun has one face for every day. Even on days when the sky is full of clouds, the sun is there behind them, round and orange. It does not change.

The moon is never the same. Sometimes, the moon is a soft white ball, like a curled up kitten. Or it can be yellow or gray as if there is a very pale curtain hanging in front of it. Other times, it is a tiny sliver of light. Daddy says that is like a farmer’s scythe, sent to gather a basket of stars. Clouds and trees and other things look mysterious when the moon is behind them. But the best thing of all is the moon’s faces. It can smile or frown or look sleepy.

I have even heard the man who tells the weather on the radio talk about the different faces of the moon. Mother told me I was mistaken and that was not what the man said, but I heard him with my own ears. I don’t know what Mother’s ears heard, or how it could be different from what my ears heard. I asked her, but she told me to go and play and not be under her feet.

Mother never tells my sister to go and play when she asks a question. Mira says that is because she is fourteen years old and almost a grown up woman. Mira says that Mother cannot waste her time explaining things to me because there is no point.

Sometimes Mira says nice things to make me feel better when Mother is angry with me. But other times she makes her voice very, very quiet, so that only I can hear it, and she calls me the thing I do not like to be called, which is Retard.

I am what is called slow. That is why I am in a littler grade at school than other kids who are twelve years old.

Daddy says that I just learn things different from how other people learn.

He says, “Bethany, I think you might surprise a few folks some day.”

And he says, “There’s no call for one living soul to think they’re better than you.”

They do think it though – that they’re better than me. They think it and sometimes they say it. Only not in those exact words. There are different ways to say things. Sometimes you have to look to see what is hiding behind the words.

What I hate the most is when someone talks about me and looks right at me at the same time. It makes me feel like I am a dead bug in a glass case like we saw one time on a class field trip.

I don’t talk much myself. It doesn’t seem that I have a whole lot to say, usually, but that gives me plenty of chance to listen.

I listen very good. I think it might be my talent. Daddy says every last living person has got at least one special talent. It took me a long time to figure out mine because listening good is not a special talent that is easy to spot.

            Another thing about me is that I walk with a limp. I don’t know if that matters to you or not. It does not matter to me because I am used to it. One of my legs is a little shorter than the other, and that is the reason of the limp.

            I think that might be enough to tell you about myself. Mother says it is bad manners to talk about yourself too much. She says that will make people think you are full of yourself. That is one of those things that people say which has another meaning hiding behind it. Of course you are full of yourself. What else would you be full of? What Mother means by this is that people will think you are full of pride.

            A girl like me has no cause to be prideful.

I live in Junction, Manitoba. You might have heard of Junction before. Two years ago, in 1947, there was a lot of talk about this place. It went on for a long time. Folks kept saying the same things over and over about what happened.

            I did not know much about the girl who was the cause of all the talk. Her name was Gracie and she was in the same grade as my sister Mira. Gracie talked about her hair a good deal but that is not the thing I mostly remember about her. The thing I mostly remember about Gracie is that I took something that belonged to her one day. 

It happened during recess. Gracie and some of the other girls were rolling marbles at a plumper on the scuffed place near the side of the school. That is the best place because the grass is gone and the ground is smooth.

When Gracie took her turn, her marble rolled right straight into the plumper. That made her happy. She jumped up and down and clapped her hands. That was when I saw something fly out of the pocket of her skirt. It was shiny, and for a second I thought it was another marble. I looked for it and picked it up only it was not a marble at all. It was a penny, or actually, half of a penny, which is shaped just like half of a moon.

I was checking it over when I heard a voice ask, “What have you got there, Bethany?”

The person who said this was Mira. She was coming toward me with her hand out. Her face was steady and stubborn and I knew she would take the half penny from me. Sometimes Mira takes things she knows I want even if she does not want them herself. I knew she would laugh and say I was touched in the head. She would grab it from me and look it over and hold it up high so I could not reach it. After that she would toss it off in a field, most likely. It would all happen before I could explain that it belonged to the new girl, Gracie, and then it would be too late.

I am not a person to steal. I hope you can take my word for that. One time Mira told all her friends that I took something of hers, which was a lie. It was a silver necklace with three blue beads. It was true that I liked to hold it, but I did not take it. She lost it, probably, and then blamed me. That was the day she threw everything out of my drawers looking for it.

The time I took the half penny was different, because I really did take it. Only, I did not mean to keep it. I would have walked right up to Gracie and passed it back to her if Mira had left me alone. It was her fault that I ran and stumbled and fell and dropped the penny in the grass. I looked for it every recess for the rest of the week but I did not find it and after a while I gave up.

I thought that was the end of that half penny until one day, a long, long time later, I was making a daisy chain. There were lots of daisies in the grassy field next to the playground. That is where I was gathering them when I saw something twinkling on the ground. I squatted down and looked at it and I could hardly believe what I was seeing. It was Gracie’s half penny.

I would have given it back to her if I could have, but Gracie was gone then. So, I kept it. That is how I came to take something that belonged to someone else but you should know that was the only time I ever did such a thing.
Thank you Valerie for sharing your story and being a guest on the Scribbler.
Please visit Valerie's website to discover more about her work.

Valerie's Bibliography:

Down Here: 2015 (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
Random Acts: 2015 (PenguinRandomHouse Canada)
Rain Shadow: 2014 (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
Driftwood: 2013 (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
Counting Back from Nine:  2012 (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
Miss Wondergem’s Dreadfully Dreadful Pie: 2011 (Tuckamore/Creative)
Testify: 2011 (Dundurn)
Accomplice: 2011 (Dundurn)
The Glory Wind 2010 (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
There’s A GOLDFISH In My Shoe  2009 (Tuckamore/Creative)
Tumbleweed Skies  2009  (Fitzhenry & Whiteside)
Superstars: Vanessa Hudgens (biography) 2009 (Crabtree)
Watcher  2009 (Dundurn)
There’s A COW Under My Bed  2008 (Tuckamore/Creative)
Searching for Yesterday, A Shelby Belgarden Mystery 2008  (Dundurn)
Three Million Acres of Flame 2007 (Dundurn)
Speechless 2007 (Dundurn)
Eyes of a Stalker, A Shelby Belgarden Mystery  2006 (Dundurn)
Sarah’s Legacy  2006 (Dundurn)
Hiding in Plain Sight, A Shelby Belgarden Mystery 2005 (Dundurn)
Sam’s Light.  2004 (Dundurn)
Chasing Shadows, A Shelby Belgarden Mystery  2004 (Dundurn)
KATE, 2003 (Dundurn)
In Too Deep, A Shelby Belgarden Mystery  2003 (Dundurn)
Out of the Ashes, A Shelby Belgarden Mystery 2002 (Dundurn)

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