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.


The Words Crafter said...

This brought back memories of Jack London books.....I loved them and this sounds like a great read, too. Thanks for the interview and the head's up.

Donna said...

Wow! I'm definitely putting that on my kid book gift list. Thanks.

Bish Denham said...

Great interview. This sounds like my kind of book! I LOVED Jack London's books and I grew up in the tropics, so I'd say where a kid lives has little to do with what he/she likes to read.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

WordsCrafter: I think you've got it right, and I hope today's kids are just as captivated by wilderness adventure.

Donna: Great! It's got so many elements that kids should love.

Bish: Thank you, and you're right that this should appeal on many levels to kids of all backgrounds.

Golden Eagle said...

Thanks for the interview! It sounds like a great book, and I love the fact that it's based on sled dogs--not something that comes up a lot!

Jemi Fraser said...

When I read the first chapter to my students on Friday - they all guessed what a snow hook was because of the story! :) It's a wonderful book!

Liza said...

I think kids love to learn about things that are different to them. This sounds like a great read.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

GoldenEagle: Exactly. It's got a fresh story to tell.

Jemi: How exciting that you're reading to students!

Liza: When you're a kid, there is so much to explore (well, there still is when you're an adult). I think they'll be intrigued by this.

Jan Morrison said...

I choose my books for kids by whether I will be sneaking them out of their rooms in the middle of the night. This one - for sure! And this adult loves learning about new things. Daily....
Thanks for a great interview and an intriguing sounding book.

Natalie said...

This looks so fun. I love a good survival story!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Jan: Ha! that's as good a reason as any to choose a book. And thanks.

Natalie: Yes. We all need that survival boost. :D

Stephanie Thornton said...

This sounds like a great book! I hope it finds its way into libraries and classrooms!

Robyn Campbell said...

I SO love Jack London. This is MY genre. Adventure. Love, love, love it! DOGSLED DREAMS sounds like my kinda book, doesn't it Pat? Definitely CANNOT wait to read it. :)

Junior musher, too. WOW! He's living my life. (My dream of my life. :) Of course the horses would be my sled team. HA!

Carolina M. Valdez Schneider said...

Love stories that feature kids living out their dreams like this. Such a great message. This is definitely a subject unfamiliar to me (aside from what I've seen in movies). Sounds fascinating! What a fun book for kids. Love that she wrote it after someone's suggestion. It's amazing how one comment can change your life.

Caroline Hatton said...

Thanks for this interview and for reminding me, as well as your readers, of the trust and partnership between animal and kid. It's an important and joyful concept for playmates, teammates, and readers ready to dream big.

Lydia Kang said...

I love how she started writing fiction...everyone's journey is so different. It looks like a great read!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Stephanie: Me, too, and thank you.

Robyn: I think you're right, this one is up your alley. And you could have a horse sled, yes!

Carolina: Isn't it amazing how other people can help open doors we might not? I think Terry's story will be inspirational to many people, young and old.

Caroline: I'm sorry for children who never have a pet or learn about that trust and love. This book intensifies that, of course. Thank you for the thoughtful comment.

Lydia: It's a great journey--both writer and book!

Suzanne Casamento said...

Love a book that hooks me and teaches me something new at the same time. Thanks for the interview!

Julie Musil said...

This book sounds like such a fun read. And I think the junior musher video contest is such a great idea. I'd love to see some of those entries myself!

Phoenix said...

This sounds like a fabulous book. My aunt is a teacher - I'll make sure to recommend it to her. Too often YA books with female heroes are focused on dating, popularity, etc. It's nice to see that change with this book!

PS when you wrote snow hook I immediately thought, "Toe Pick" from that ice skating movie. That's totally how my brain works, I think!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Suzanne: I never stop loving the learning, either. :)

Julie: Doesn't that video contest sound fantastic? I can't wait to see what the kids come up with.

Tracy: Oh, great! And, yes, this young girl has her heart set on an awesome goal.
Toe pick, that's hilarious. They're pretty gnarly. :D

Anna Staniszewski said...

I am so excited to read this book! I'm sure my dog will be looking over my shoulder the whole time. :-)

Talli Roland said...

Sounds like a great book! Thanks for the interview!

Kathy McCullough said...

I think kids will LOVE this book. They pretty much all love dogs anyway, and they are always interested in other worlds and regions. It's the perfect subject matter. I can't wait to read my copy. :) (As I am a kid at heart, AND a life-long dog lover).

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Anna: Hahahahaha! I'd love to see a picture of you and your dog reading. too funny.

Talli: Thank you!

Kathy: Hi and welcome. I think kids will be crazy for the dogs, who have such a huge role to play in all this.