Sunday, January 9, 2011
Mushing with author Terry Lynn Johnson
Um, what's a snow hook? I know nada about mushing, but have just learned that a snow hook is like a parking brake. And in dangerous moments a dogsled racer might toss the metal clawed hook into the snow to quickly stop a team.
I found out about snow hooks and other fascinating things in the debut novel by Terry Lynn Johnson, DOGSLED DREAMS. The book will hopefully soon find its way into the hands of middle grade readers and onto shelves of school libraries. Terry also has a terrific teacher's guide with educational and fun activities available on her website.
You want a thrilling taste of this story? Read the first chapter.
Anyone who loves dogs will be drawn to this tale of a twelve-year-old girl's yearning to race sled dogs. She has to overcome her own self-doubt as well as blizzards and wild animals. The story is packed with realistic details, which is not surprising when you find out that the author raced her own team of eighteen Alaskan Huskies. Besides dogsledding, Terry steps out in snowshoes, paddles kayaks and canoes and sails. She lives on the edge of wilderness in Whitefish Falls, Ontario, Canada.
I asked Terry, who writes for outdoor magazines, a few questions about how DOGSLED DREAMS came to be.
Q: When did you decide you wanted to write a book for kids and why?
A: I took a correspondence writing course three years ago with a mind that I wanted to write my memoirs. My writing tutor suggested I try writing fiction for kids after she read some of my magazine articles. I'm so glad, because I don't know if I would have tried it.
Q: Why do you believe sled dogs will interest kids who may live where it never snows or where neighborhood dogs may be viewed as threats, not friends? What do you hope kids may learn about a relationship with a sled team?
A: I believe kids are interested in learning new ways of seeing things. That's the best part of writing for kids. And if you put them in the scene so they can hear the dogs, smell the dogs, feel the dogs, then hopefully they will care about the dogs. Dogsledding is about more than going fast down a trail. I hope readers learn that the trust mushers and their dogs must have in each other is a magical thing - that's what makes this sport so special. The book is full of technical information too, including a diagram at the back with dog positions, parts of the sled, etc along with a list of resources.
Q: How would you sum up the changes the dogs bring to your main character?
A:Perhaps that Rebecca is more confident in her own abilities, that she is a good musher who cares for her dogs. And maybe she's learning to live more in the moment like the dogs do.
Q: If there was one thing you'd like people to take away from reading your book, what would that be?
A: That most mushers love their dogs beyond words or explanation. Also, if you work hard, you can achieve your own dreams.
Q: What are your dreams for this book? Where do you hope it will go and into whose hands?
A: I'm currently gearing up for a junior musher video contest on my site, so I'm dreaming that there will be lots of cool entries to watch of great kids with their dogs! I am also hoping that it is read by all those that approached me when I raced my own team and asked about the lifestyle.
Q: Any booksignings or events coming up?
A: My local bookstore Chapters in Sudbury will be hosting an event next month. As well, I'll be in Cannington Feb.26 at the dogsled races there signing books and doing a reading at the library. I'll post more specifics and other dates on my website.