Welcome Joyce Ray, author of Feathers & Trumpets, A Story of Hildegard of Bingen!
Hildegard agonizes over the origin of her visions. Is God speaking to her? Does she dare share her secret? In 12th century Germany, she could be declared heretic and burned at the stake. In a life fraught with challenges, Hildegard emerges as the most dynamic 12th century female voice.
Enduring a beginning unimaginable to today’s teens, Hildegard strains against the ascetic lifestyle of Jutta, her mentor nun. Relationships with Volmar, her monk tutor and Richardis, her daughter nun, bring joy to Hildegard. But does she allow herself to love them too much?
Feathers and Trumpets chronicles the life of the recently named saint and Doctor of the Church against the backdrop of a rich tapestry we know as the Middle Ages.
Joyce Ray’s nonfiction work includes Women of the Pine Tree State: 25 Maine Women You Should Know and other titles in the America’s Notable Women series
What was the most difficult element to cut/change during the revision process and why?
It was difficult for me to cut several chapters from the end of the manuscript. The novel evolved from a biography, and I wanted all the important elements of Hildegard’s life to be included. Striving to achieve that goal blinded me to the real climax of my story, and I resisted eliminating these chapters which were essential to my character’s life but not to the story.
What authors do you love for their sentences? How about plot? Character?
I love Cynthia Rylant and Beth Kephart for language. Two representative titles are: Appalachia, The Voices of Sleeping Birds by Cynthia Rylant, illustrated by Barry Moser (Harcourt Brace, 1991); Small Damages by Beth Kephart (Philomel, 2012)
Deborah Wiles delivers every time with character! I love Each Little Bird That Sings (Harcourt, Inc., 2005)
And Katherine Paterson for everything!
What nugget of craft advice has been especially helpful to you?
I’ll pass on two bits of advice. For the first two semesters I wrote picture books, or what I thought were picture books! I couldn’t even say the word “novel” if it applied to my writing. Then I heard Norma Fox Mazer and other wise mentors say, “Just write down the scenes and fit them together like pieces of a puzzle later.” And it worked!
Eric Kimmel told me to make my mantra “Persistence and volume.” Feathers and Trumpets‘ journey to publication took 13 years. Don’t give up!
Who were your advisors at VCFA?
Marion Dane Bauer, Eric Kimmel, Jane Resh Thomas and Carolyn Coman
How did attending VCFA affect your writing life?
VCFA made me part of a community of writers and elevated my writing to a lifelong adventure. I began to see what made books work. My critical analysis skills developed, and my critiquing skills improved. Most importantly, I learned to write from my heart.
Feathers & Trumpets, A Story of Hildegard of Bingen, (Apprentice Shop Books, LLC, March 16, 2014)