Monthly Archives: October 2009

Kwizera Inspirations: Telephone

This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, “Kwizera Means Hope”.

A far off tinkling floated in.  “What’s that?” I asked.

“A telephone,” Louise answered.  “Installed last week.  It took a couple of months.”  She looked up from her carrots.  “Mm.  Months.  Then we had to find five men to dig the trench for the telephone lines.  Then it took another five or six weeks.”

Goodness!  These people even have a telephone?  I wondered how many telephones existed in all of Byumba Town, in all of Byumba Prefecture.

On March 2, 1995, I had just returned to Byumba from our office in Kabale, Uganda (an hour north of the border), with our secretary, one of our nurses, a drum of diesel and a milk canister.  The latter two had been tied in the bed of my pick-up.

Unfortunately, the milk canister wasn’t tied tightly enough, and all the milk poured out into the bed as we bumped along dirt roads.  We also lost several liters of diesel and the drum acquired a hole.

While unloading the pick-up at our house in Byumba, hands covered in fuel and sour milk, the Rwandatel man showed up and asked me to supply five men to dig a trench for installing our phone.  We arranged for him to come back the next day when we could have five men from the surrounding area in need of work to help us.

The phone was finally installed and working on March 16th.

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New WIP Week

It has a beginning and an end and a dreaded middle, in theory, at least.  A working synopsis with lots of details and exciting stuff planned.

Eight chapters written and counting (about eight thousand words out of a target 50,000). 

I just rewrote the beginning, again, but I’ll probably do that several more times anyway.  Such is the beginning of a novel.  And in some ways your first sentence, paragraph, page, is the most important.  It has to grab the reader and keep them reading. 

Of course, the dreaded middle has to keep them reading, too.  That’s next on my to-do list.

And hopefully I can sustain the enthusiasm I’m learning from my littlest guy.

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Kwizera Inspirations: Volcanoes

This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, “Kwizera Means Hope”.

II.  Volcanoes

One of the Virunga volcanoes loomed on the western horizon as I trudged up the hill from the tea plantations in the valley to the tarmac road in the weak early morning light.

Virunga Volcanoes in RwandaThe Virunga volcanoes lie at the conjunction of three central and eastern African countries:  Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire).  They are home to mountain gorillas, made famous by Dyan Fossey and the movie, Gorillas in the Mist.

The volcanoes are sometimes visible from Byumba, the town in Northern Rwanda where “Kwizera” is set.  It depends on the clouds and the sun. Strangely – unless you’re familiar with meteorology, I guess – you cannot see the volcanoes on bright, sunny days.  Only right after it has rained.

Obviously, the closer you are to the volcanoes – in Ruhengeri or Gisenyi, perhaps – the more likely you are to see them, as in the above picture.

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A look on the bright side

Here’s a mid-week pick-me-up. Read this post by the Guide to Literary Agents on good things that come from rejection letters. A humorous and mostly-true list of reasons to appreciate your agent rejections.

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Kwizera the Suzuki

This is part of a series of posts discussing the real-life places, people and events that inspired scenes and characters in my young adult manuscript, “Kwizera Means Hope”.

I.  Maruti

Suzuki Maruti GypsyOnce upon a time in Rwanda, there was a Suzuki Maruti Gypsy (ours was all-white with our NGO name lettered in black on each side).  The Maruti was a cute little cross between a car and a … a wagon … and a … a moped.  I could push the car out of the way BY MYSELF.  And sometimes I had to push it because it wouldn’t always start when we needed it to.  Rwandan country roads were hard on a transmission.

I usually drove a Land Rover or a pick up, but every now and then I had to drive the Maruti.  And every time I did, I felt like I needed to give her encouragement to get up one of the thousand hills of Rwanda.  Rwanda’s nickname is Land of a Thousand Hills.  One of its most famous hotels – the Hotel des Milles Collines, from the movie Hotel Rwanda – is named for that topography.

To really give someone, or something, encouragement, it must have a name.  When I learned that the word for hope in Kinyarwanda was kwizera, I decided that was the perfect name.  I called her Kwizzie and would pat her dashboard whenever we climbed a hill together.  It worked.

When I decided to write about Rwanda for teens, the name Kwizera came back to me.  And the fact that it means hope gave me the theme I needed for the book.

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Continued Love for a Book

The new school year has begun and my brand-spanking-new reader is in a new grade with a new teacher and a new reading program. 

He is supposed to read for at least ten minutes every day.  He gets to choose two books to bring home each night to read to us.  We record the time spent and the book titles on a daily log.  And we get to include our input – whether we find the books too hard or too easy or anything else we want the teacher to know about his reading.

His teacher explained to us that the new program is designed to develop life-long readers, as well as giving him the practice he needs for his reading to improve.

One of the really neat things is that now he is excited to read to us again.  And to read from books that over the summer he thought too hard for him.  But since his teacher says these books are at his level, he’s more than willing to give them a try.

Long live life-long readers!  Long live books!  Long live first grade teachers (and all teachers)!

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