Monthly Archives: February 2011

Kwizera Inspirations: Jean-Marie

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.

         Footsteps crunched the gravel.  A thin man in uniform strode toward us, tall as a eucalyptus tree.

…     The newcomer came to the edge of the fire, removed his hat, and inclined his upper torso in a slight bow.  “Muraho?”

         We answered and each shook his hand in the traditional way.  His touch sent a shock up the inside of my forearm.  The surprise of it was like a cup of cold water dumped over my head.  Who is he?

         His height could have blocked the sun had he been standing behind us.  Black eyes squinted in a long, lean face and my underarms got damp.

         Louise introduced him as Jean-Marie Nyagunga.  “I’m in charge of the border at Gatuna,” he explained in a warm voice that made my insides melt.

Jean-Marie, the love interest for KWIZERA’s main character, Cecile, was a very young lieutenant at the Katuna (the G and the K were often interchanged) border crossing between Uganda and Rwanda.  I saw him several times a week for the first four months or so of my stay in Africa.

One day, during my first month or so, I arrived at the border on my way to Kabale, Uganda, with my driver, John, a Ugandan English-speaking older man, perhaps in his fifties.  While walking away from our pick-up truck, John and Jean-Marie spoke in Kinyarwanda for a few minutes and laughed heartily.

I asked John what they were talking about.

“He asked me how many cows I would take for you, to marry you,” John answered.

“He can’t do that,” I said, my voice rising.  I turned to Jean-Marie and spoke in French.

“You can’t ask him that, he’s not my father.”

“Where is your father?” he asked.

“In the States.”

“Then what can I do?”

“You’ll have to write to him in the US.”  I smiled and waved goodbye as we had now reached the immigration office.

My father never did receive a letter from Jean-Marie, but Dad got a kick out of that story.



Filed under writing

Award Thursday

No Read-Through post today, my friends, except for me to say that I just finished Sarah Darer Littman’s Life, After and I cried. A very important story.

But let’s get some business out of the way.

First, in Monday’s post I included a tidbit about myself that wasn’t quite true. A couple of you did guess it – I do not always come straight to the point. I can’t help myself, but I am a bloviator. A few of you thought it might be that my husband doesn’t join me in foodie adventures. Let me set the record straight. I called him blade-wielding because he is a chef. He keeps me very well-fed. We absolutely do have foodie adventures together and he definitely wields a blade, in the form of a very cool chef’s knife that is just the most awesome thing for chopping anything. Like rejection letters. Just kidding.

One of you (good thinking, Margo B.) pointed out the unfeasibility of sea ducks hanging out at my parents’ pool. Well, I stretched the meaning a little bit. Sea ducks – no, just regular ducks hang out each Spring, sit on their eggs and bathe in the pool cover. It’s quite a sight. So, I didn’t mean for that to be the lie, but in a sense, it was.

Next, I was pleasantly surprised to win an award yesterday. The very intelligent Alison Stevens gave me the Stylish Blogger Award. Check out the other winners (they include my critique friend, Laura Diamond, and several new crusader friends) and give Alison’s blog a look-see. She is a scientist AND a writer – how cool is that?!

Now I must tell you 7 things about me and then pass the award to 15 new stylin’ bloggin’ fools.

1. I am tired of winter. I wouldn’t mind living somewhere that didn’t ever go below freezing. I lived that way once upon a time and I don’t remember missing the snow or the ice or the cold or the wind.

2. An African forest elephant once trumpeted at me and my Land Rover. In a forest. In Africa (at Lake Manyara, in Tanzania, to be exact).

3. In grad school, my roommate’s parents called the cops because we weren’t home one night when they called us.

4. My college used to do a campus-wide primal scream the night before exams started. Sometimes I miss that.

5. I am allergic to cats.

6. When we win the lottery (which we don’t play), I want to go back to school to get a degree in linguistics.

7. My part time job is pretty cool – I get to teach French children’s songs to elementary kids. It means I get to sing, and speak French, and be with (mostly) cute kids.

Okay, now I pass this award to:

Suzanne Lilly
Brenda Drake at Brenda Drake writes…under the influence of coffee
Stephanie Thornton at Hatshepsut: The writing of a novel
Zoe Courtman at No Letters on My Keyboard
Alison Miller at Left Brained by Day; Write Brained – all the Time
L.L. McKinney at Info Dump a la El
Amanda Milner at Amanda’s Twisted Truths
Lisa Potts at Pursuing Love, Laughter and My Elusive Muse
Miles McG at An Author’s Quest
Sari Webb at Confessions of an Aspiring Author
Julie Musil from Writing and Blogging Between Carpools
Tanya Reimer at Life’s Like That
Margo Kelly
Nicole Ducleroir at One Significant Moment at a Time
Rachael Harrie at Rach Writes…
Sarah/Constance/Pixie at The Precocious Scribe

Check out my new and old friends and give them some bloggin’ love.


Filed under Reading, writing

Bloviated Compassion

Our first Crusade Challenge is:  In 300 words or less, tell us one secret, one lie, one interesting quirk, one annoying habit, one of your best character traits, and one of your favourite things in the whole world.

The post can be in any format, including poetry, but must include the random words, “bloviate,” “fuliguline,” “rabbit,” and “blade”.

Yeah, I didn’t know what those first two random words meant either (until I read some of the posts of the other crusaders).

My brother had a rabbit when we were kids, but my dad wouldn’t let her live in the house.  She spent the winter in the garage (in NY) – actually, she spent part of the winter in the garage because she didn’t last the season.

But it’s very cool that my parents now have fuliguline friends who visit their pool every Spring, until their offspring are big enough to move on to their usual summertime home. 

One of my best character traits is compassion, despite my father’s on-again, off-again example.

I hate to bloviate; I always come straight to the point.  I know, I’m just quirky that way.

I’m sure it’s very annoying to my friends that I blather on about writing and querying.

I love to share foodie adventures with my blade-wielding husband. 

Can you prove how well you know me by figuring out the lie?


Filed under The rest of my life, writing

Read-Through Thursday: Magic Under Glass

This is a series wherein I will discuss whatever book I’m reading or have just finished that week.  Feel free to post in the comments what you’re reading this week, too, or your own thoughts about the books I discuss.

2/17/11:  Magic Under Glass by Jaclyn Dolamore

I’m only halfway through this beautifully written fantasy set in an imagined world similar to our own a couple of centuries ago, but with the addition of fairies.  Nimira is a poor singer in a foreign land, chosen by a gentleman sorceror to sing with a clockwork man who plays the piano.  I could say more about the plot, but I don’t want to give too much away.  Basically there is some question about whether the automaton is really a machine or an enchanted man somehow trapped inside the machine.

An original concept + beautiful writing = a winner!

Here’s an example of Nimira’s voice and Jackie’s writing:

“If one spends too many hours in solitude, one starts to emote for one’s own benefit.”

Out of context, maybe this doesn’t strike you the way it did me, but I can relate to this line.  Nimira had been alone in her room for a while and got a little crazy – a little emotive.  I do this all the time (well, all the time when I’ve had the house to myself, which doesn’t happen all that often).  When my husband takes the kids to his dad’s for a weekend, I enjoy my solitude and the quiet.  But at some point, I decide I need to make some noise.  So I sing show tunes or eighties songs.  At the top of my lungs.  With LOTS of emotion.

Okay, the embarrassing peek into my non-writing life is now over. 

I return you to our regularly scheduled blog post.

(Which means I’m going back to revising Sophie – well, in between reading more of Magic Under Glass.)


Filed under Reading, The rest of my life

A Single Story

Recently a friend emailed me a YouTube video of Nigerian author Chimamanda Adichie’s talk entitled The Dangers of a Single Story. I have read one of her books and remember her coming to my area a few years ago to speak.

It’s a long video – 20 minutes – but so worth it.

The title led me to think it was about the fears of only having one story in us as writers, but I was so wrong. Her message is amazing. She means that it is dangerous to view a person or group of people as only having one single story. An important message on Valentine’s Day.

I’ll illustrate with an example from my own life.

The summer before my first year in college I learned the name of my new roommate and looked up her picture in the facebook sent out to all incoming students. I couldn’t wait to meet her. I was sure she would be my first real college friend.

She wanted nothing to do with me. She didn’t talk to me. Even though we had made the same friends in our house (I went to a college with houses, not dorms), she ignored me. I didn’t know what I had done or said to cause that reaction and none of our mutual friends were able to enlighten me.

Sometime that fall, I found myself in a sophomore’s room, laughing with my roommate and a bunch of friends, a couple of whom happened to be gay. Later that week, I found out that my roommate was gay.

Okay, so this didn’t change anything for me. I didn’t care who she felt attracted to. She still didn’t talk to me and I still didn’t know why.

Time passed. One day I went into the senior’s room across the hall and plopped onto her bed while she watched video of rats (she was a behavioral biology student doing thesis research).

“Things are better between you and Roommate, aren’t they?” she asked.

I nodded.  “Yeah, we’ve actually been talking and hanging out.”

“She came in here earlier, shouted, ‘I love my roommate’ and left again,” the senior said.

I grinned.  I finally had the friendship I had imagined all summer.

Why had she avoided me for the first month or so? She had taken one look at my picutre in the facebook and decided that I was a stuck-up priss who would hate her for being gay. So she decided to hate me first. You see, she saw me as only having one story, a prissy, gay-hating story (which wasn’t even true).

This is what people often do. We make snap judgments about people based on what they look like, or what we’ve heard about them, and we don’t always give them a chance to show us their real selves. Governments do this when they marginalize certain countries or parts of the world, or in deciding who gets aid and who doesn’t.

The dangers of seeing only a single story are real and can be applied in so many ways – our writing, meeting new friends, in business. How will you apply this information in your own life? Please tell me in the comments.


Filed under The rest of my life

Blog Crusade

Instead of a Read-Through Thursday post, today I pay homage to the awesome Rachael Harrie, creator of the Writers’ Platform-Building Crusade.

As Rachael says: “We have the passion and the drive to make it, but…we could all do with a bit of support.”

The 2nd Blog Crusade runs from February 1st through April 30th. Rachael is keeping a list of all of us who have chosen to participate on her blog. We just have to visit each other and get to know each other and leave each other comments (and tweets and Facebook posts, etc). And Rachael will group us together by what we write so we have a smaller group to really get to know.

And there will be monthly Crusades writing challenges – yikes!

Isn’t that a cool idea? I’m looking forward to making many new blogging writer friends.

Thanks again, Rach!


Filed under writing

First Line Blogfest Contest

Welcome to my entry in the It Was a Dark and Stormy Blogfest Contest, sponsored by Brenda Drake. Here goes nothin’:

Name: Vicki Tremper
Title: Kwizera Means Hope
Genre: YA

I did not want to pick tea for a living.

So, there it is. Please leave your critiques of that line in the comments. I appreciate any and all help – from my usual readers as well as from new friends. For my non-writing friends, you can participate too. Does this line make you want to read more? Does it intrigue you? Does it leave you with questions?

Check out Brenda Drake’s blog for more info. First lines will be judged on Wednesday, February 9, by literary agent Weronika Janczuk of D4EO Literary. And she’s offering critique prizes!

Milles mercis to Brenda and Weronika!


Filed under Getting Published, writing