A week after the SCBWI conference and I am still living in this strange floaty place in my mind, wishing there was a way to articulate how singular this experience was for me.
From each of the stellar keynotes to the amazing breakout sessions and one awesome manuscript critique, I came away with an almost tangible sense of being exactly where I needed to be over the course of those four days in Los Angeles.
I’ll probably continue to share parts of my conference weekend as time allows,
but deadlines and school being back in session for the smalls are going to make for some
interesting time management challenges that will require old school ninja skills to
One special part of this conference was the opportunity to hear Ruta Sepetys speak. Having read her book and knowing some of her story, it
was impossible to hear her talk called: You Can’t Break the Broken: Writing Emotional Truth without shedding tears and feeling my heart clutch in my chest.
Besides the amazing book and the absolutely incredible talk, I got the chance to meet Ruta during the conference–at Starbucks of all places. While waiting for our drinks I told Ruta how her book moved me, and just how special I thought it was, how I never knew about Stalin’s brutality during the war. She was lovely and gracious and well…we had a moment there in the hotel lobby.
In her debut book, Ruta tells the story of Lina, a 16-year old Lithuanian girl who is deported with her family during Stalin’s reign of terror in 1941. We follow Lina, her brother Jonas, and their mother as they are separated from her father and sent to Siberia, where every moment is a struggle against starvation, disease, the impossibly harsh climate, and human brutality. But there is also love, and kindness, and the desire to triumph in spite of everything.
The chilling part about reading this book is that while it has been fictionalized for the purpose of telling this story, this story is true. Many of the things that happened to the individuals in this story were related to the author by survivors and incorporated into the book.
|Ruta signing my book. Sorry it’s blurry!|
Another reality brings a layer of weight to the book: Sepetys’ grandfather was an officer in the Lithuanian military. When the war came to their door it set events into motion that the author herself only discovered when she returned to her ancestral home and had the chance to speak to her family there.
Check out this video featuring Ruta talking about her book. Watch it to the end. I just. Just. *sigh*
I can’t recommend this book more highly. I could not stop reading without knowing how it ended. If my gushing and the volume of 5-star reviews at Amazon.com and the starred Kirkus and Booklist reviews are not enough to convince you, check out the link to the video above. You will not be disappointed.