K.B. is generously offering a book giveaway of her first novel, GRAY RAINBOW JOURNEY, but with a twist: a contest. To win this novel that has won the USA Book News Best Books Award For Multicultural Fiction and the President's Book Awards For YA Fiction, K.B. challenges you to write in 100 words or fewer, based on the synopsis below, why you would like a copy of this book. Please enclose within the comment, and include your email address. The winner (announced on 2/24/12) will receive the book, plus have their winning composition posted on K.B.'s website.
Do you live in the Everglades or close by? Please describe to this Northerner what this area of Florida is like.
I once lived in the Glades before my job took me to the Florida East Coast. Probably the most picturesque description would be to Google the Everglades. It is derived from a Mikasuki word meaning "River of Grass". I lived in Belle Glade, taught in a little school in Pahokee (meaning "Grassy waters"). Both are basically farm towns near Lake Okeechobee ("Big Water"), the largest fresh water lake in Florida, and the seventh largest freshwater lake in the United States. You can Google pictures of the lake and the towns. For an idea of what the the Seminole chickees (houses) mentioned in the novels are like, click here
For more information, I always recommend a brief study of Native American boarding schools and history of the reservation system. Movies such as "Geronimo" (with Native actor Wes Studi in the title role) are fairly accurate, historically. Also, "Son of the Morning Star"; and of course the iconic "Dances With Wolves". I addressed the issue in question in one of my blogs:
Please tell us about your rescue cat?
Chief, my kitty, adopted our family in 2002. He was about 4 months old at the time. We were attending a Wednesday evening prayer services on the Seminole Reservation. As we entered, he leaped from some hedges and befriended my husband, Jim, and me. Afterward, he was still waiting outside and once again, singled us out. His beautiful, irresistible green eyes asked, "Will you take me home with you?" Well, the rest is history. He and his sister, Sabrina, who is four years older than he, presently occupy a very special place in our home and hearts.
A Christmas Aftermath by K.B. Schaller
I know. Christmas 2011 is gone. The trees are tossed, presents opened, I'm still recuperating from exhaustion, and a blog like this seems after the fact. But I wrote it because there are lessons here.
Firstly, there aren't many Native American Christians--only an estimated 3-8% are--so when church attendance falls it really shows. For a number of reasons, ours has fallen to less than half of what it was only a few years ago.
Several pastors have come and gone, so the remnant flock had not held a Christmas pageant--once a "biggie" in our little church--for quite some time.
Then an Oklahoma Creek Indian minister and long-time friend to our congregation notified us that he would serve as interim pastor until a permanent one was installed. He asked no salary. He wanted only to see our struggling church re-embrace a sense of community. His message was simple:
"Unless we love one another as Christ loved us, there can be no regeneration here."
The elders decided that a Christmas pageant complete with speaking parts, costumes and music would be just the spark to re-ignite and unify everyone again--because on "the rez", everybody comes to celebrations!
A friend reminded the elders: "KiKi(that's me) has a degree in performing arts and used to write and direct plays at our academy before it shut down."
I live some eight miles from the rez, but it was a worthy project, so I placed my novel-in-progress on hold and took on a diverse cast of elders (the singers) to 'tweens, teens and 2 four-year-old actors in a church that opened for rehearsals only three evenings per week. More daunting, a lot of activities compete with rehearsal attendance during holiday seasons. And I had only two months to pull it all together.
Script written, there was the challenge of presenting on a stage little more than twice the size of the average kitchen. Not to worry, though: a couple of seamstresses promised to make costumes while others would handle props, scenery, etc.
It seemed simple enough, but there was hardly a rehearsal where there were not absent performers: Soccer practice. Parties. Family outings. Furthermore, as our date inched nearer, involved in pre-holiday preparations, neither seamstress delivered a single costume as promised. Or donated even a yard of fabric.
Well, I'd learned, bed sheets from a Goodwill store could yield a lot of shepherd garbs--and even a red robe for King Herod (portrayed by the Oklahoma pastor). As I churned out some 18 outfits, most nights I didn't get to bed before three a.m.
Then there was the woman who didn't understand fine-tuning a performance--to her, I was continually "changing things", being too demanding, while others bragged on the "great job" I was doing, but invested no sweat.
Performance day drew closer. Key characters still flubbed their lines. Among the adults, tempers flared. Cliques formed. The very divisions we were trying to heal hovered as darkly as ever. I struggled against resentment, prayed for power to overlook. Forgive. Remain focused. And to keep faith.
But in the midst of my angst loomed yet another setback: just before our December 18 performance, our final three rehearsals were cancelled--they conflicted with too many other scheduled activities. We would face performance day "cold". I almost lamented having taken on a thankless project that had morphed into a living thing that was swallowing me alive.
The 18th arrived. There was the usual Sunday sermon, then members and guests gathered for a scrumptious-looking holiday luncheon beneath our thatched, open-air chickee. But for me, costumes needed ironing, the stage to be set up…
Then finally, armed with cameras, beaming parents and others I hadn't seen for a time quickly filled the church. My mouth went dry. What, I wondered, would be the outcome?
The music began. The sanctuary went quiet. I gave the cue. And only then, in that lifting moment, did the atmosphere lighten. Every actor's memory seemed to kick into high gear. With only a few whispered prompts to the youngest, that performance—that Nativity retelling (one of the three kings wore Indian Chief garb and headdress) was our best yet!
After the Indian Hallelujah finale, parents carefully tucked programs into purses and shirt pockets. Some stayed to chat. And upon most of us, a sense of community settled again.
Will it sustain? Bump up membership? Yield the healing fellowship so badly needed? Only time will tell.
The greatest lessons, I think, though, were of sustaining our faith in times of testing when God seems to be silent; and patience with others who are not in step with us--who are "marching to the beat of a different drummer."
K.B. Schaller, journalist, novelist , conference speaker, is author of Gray Rainbow Journey (National Best Books Award Winner, USA Book News; Winner, President's Book Awards, Florida Publisher's Assn., YA Fiction) and Journey by the Sackcloth Moon (both OakTara). She lives in South Florida, where she is currently writing a third novel in the Journey series. http://www.kbschaller.com/