Thursday, January 22, 2009

Book Block: EMMY & THE HOME FOR TROUBLED GIRLS by Lynne Jonell

Woo-hoo, a middle-grade book this time! I really do love all the variety that people have sent in!

Written by Lynne Joell

Title: Emmy & the Home for Troubled Girls
Author: Lynne Jonell
Genre: Middle-grade / children’s fiction
Format: Hardcover
Length: 368 pages
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co.
Release Date: October 14, 2008

ISBN - 10:0805081518
ISBN - 13:9780805081510

This is my second novel for children ages 8-12, and a sequel to Emmy & the Incredible Shrinking Rat.

Emmy Addison is an ordinary girl—almost. If you don’t count the fact that her parents are rich (very), her best friend is a boy (and a soccer star), and she can talk to rodents (and they talk back), she’s very ordinary indeed. But she hasn’t been that way for long... It was only a few weeks ago that Emmy and her friends Ratty and Joe got rid of the evil Miss Barmy, the nanny who had nearly ruined Emmy’s life—and the lives of five other girls who went missing. But Miss Barmy is now only six inches tall, and furry to boot. How much harm can she do?

The most necessary building block of my books is the seed, the beginning idea from which everything springs. This most often takes the form of a picture in my mind. If I’ve got an image that won’t leave me alone, I have learned that there is power there. So I play with it, and eventually I discover the story that is hidden within the seed.

For the first Emmy book, the initial image was a dream of a curved line on a piece of green paper. When I drew this, it grew into a plant, which sheltered a girl, who suddenly was pulling a wagon, which contained a very dramatic and self-pitying rat; and the story was off and running.

A few chapters into the first book, Emmy’s evil nanny (Miss Barmy) appears outside a shop in which she is hiding. I had a very strong image of Miss Barmy’s lizard-skin shoes, metal-capped, and a cane she carried. The cane was carved with little faces. They were, Miss Barmy had told Emmy, girls she had “taken care of”. Miss Barmy was saving a blank patch on the cane for Emmy’s face, someday; and although other grownups admired this as creative and interesting, Emmy found it exceptionally creepy.

I didn’t know where this image came from, but my writers’ group reacted strongly, and I knew there was something there. So I left it in. And by the time I ended the first book, I knew I had to write another, in which I could explore what had really happened to those little girls, and where they were now.

Just recently, I realized that this cane is a vivid metaphor for a certain pathological personality type. Miss Barmy used the children she had hurt, as a way to prop herself up; a way to convince herself that she had power, over vulnerable children if over nothing else. But I only understood this months after completing the sequel—I had no idea what the cane meant when it first appeared in my mind.

I think, as writers, our subconscious minds push up images, snatches of songs, tantalizing odors, evocative phrases; and we need to pay attention. These incoherent fragments are the first tiny green shoots of something that has an elaborate root system already in place. I watch for these. I kneel down and give them my full attention; I water, fertilize, weed, I do everything in my power to coax the stories up. But without the seed first rotting in the ground for years and years, and then sending up a first exploratory frond, I have nothing to work with.

Where To Buy The Book: Amazon

Lynne’s website:


ryan field said...

I like this one too. And I like the post about building blocks. It gets into the creative process that happens whether we are conscious of it or not.

Nancy said...

It's interesting to learn how people form story ideas. I'm not a visual person at all, so I can rarely relate to the "image that sticks in my head." For me, it's the voice of a character that compells me to write. This story looks so cute. Maybe the girl I babysit for would be into it ...
Nancy D'Inzillo

Ruth said...

I loved Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat, and I'm looking forward to this one!
Also--re: the "This Land is Your Land" clip--thanks so much for posting it. I hadn't seen it, and Pete Seeger is one of my personal heroes. :) He looked simply jubilant while they were singing.