Today’s Friday Feature is Lynda Mullaly Hunt, debut author of ONE FOR THE MURPHYS and founder of Book Train.
Lynda, welcome to the blog! What’s it like being a debut author?
Well, I have to admit that it’s pretty over-the-top amazing. I am just as excited about it as I was when the book was released—although I’ll admit to being less shocked these days. At that time, I’d wake up every morning and remember and be happy all over again.
Truly, I am humbled by it all. Knowing how characters in books have become so important to me, I am awed to know that Carley has impacted readers. Every letter or e-mail means so much to me. I’ve received a few that “sound” like Carley wrote them. Those really blow me away.
Of course, you are going to know about all of this very soon, right, Tara? 🙂
I will! GOLDEN BOY comes out June 27th, 2013. I can’t wait… it still feels so surreal now! Can you tell us a little more about ONE FOR THE MURPHYS?
Sure! Twelve-year-old Carley Connors is thrust into foster care after a heart-breaking betrayal and is left on the steps of the Murphys, a happy, bustling family.
Carley has thick walls and isn’t rattled easily, but this is a world she just doesn’t understand. A world that frightens her. So, she resists this side of life she’d believed did not exist with dinners around a table and a “zip your jacket, here’s your lunch” kind of mom.
However, with the help of her Broadway-obsessed and unpredictable friend, Toni, the Murphys do the impossible in showing Carley what it feels like to belong somewhere. But, when her mother wants her back, will she lose the only family that she has ever known?
That sounds like a powerful book. And what a moving topic! Did the process of writing ONE FOR THE MURPHYS inspire you to start your new project, Book Train?
Indeed. But it was the process of putting myself out there after its release more than actually writing the book. I would speak at teen shelters and leave stunned. Saddened. Sometimes inspired, too, but I often felt just…just really sad for these kids who had so little. In speaking with social workers or reading blogs about kids in care, I’d seen that kids in care rarely have books of their own. Knowing that books made such a big difference for me once I discovered them in sixth grade, I began to think about wanting to do something but had no idea how to go about it.
Then late one night while on Twitter (when all the trouble happens, right? :)) I was chatting with some fellow book nerds/supporters of children’s literature and overall “kid people.” One of them had made a sweet comment about jumping on the “love Train” for One for the Murphys after having read it. My brain makes weird connections—particularly to music. As soon as I saw that comment, Book Train fell into my head in its complete form and I responded there on Twitter about the idea. I even posted this link that night: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kQvmCzILBfE
Then, I felt compelled to pursue it. Late that same night, I set up the preliminaries of the blog. Then I looked for an artist to do the logo (who, conveniently, is married to me) and started researching nation-wide for contacts I knew I could depend on to get the train rolling. I have been blessed to find others who feel strongly about this project. Again—“kid people.” I am also blessed to find supporters in the author community—such as you, Tara!
So, there you have it. Book Train was inspired by disco—Proof that ideas can come from anywhere. (Perhaps the train engineer needs a white, three-piece suit?)
Can you tell us a little bit more about Book Train?
Sure! Book Train is just a place where I connect people who want to help with people who are in a position to assist them. No fuss. No muss. No red tape.
People can send one book or a bunch. They can ship them on their own or they can order from an online source such as Indiebound, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon and have the books shipped directly (free shipping in some cases). These sites also offer an opportunity to send a free message with a purchase. If you send your name and address, you will receive a postcard that will serve as a Book Train thank you and also a tax receipt (we are not non-profit yet—but working on it! Deductions can be taken a year retroactively, so anyone will be able to write it off.)
The book is delivered to the DCF/Foster Care office and placed either on a shelf for social workers to come and “shop” for books when going out to visit kids or is placed in a backpack for a new foster child. (Children are most often removed quickly and are unable to go back for their belongings; this is important for their safety in the face of a situation that can become difficult for the adults involved. So, these kids only own what is on their backs when they leave.) The books are organized by interests and age group, so the social workers can make a match between child and book. We are now looking into providing bookplates, so that the kids will have a book with their name in it.
There is a strong theme in One for the Murphys – “Be someone’s hero.” One thing I’ve learned in all of this. Social workers. Foster parents. They are heroes. The real heroes. In the trenches every day. Dealing with things most of us can’t imagine. And in the face of all of it, the truly heroic ones stand firm in their job to protect. To speak for those with no voice yet. No doubt, though, that there are many foster children who are heroic as well. Many of them. You don’t have to build a billion dollar company to change the world. You only have to make a real difference in one life. These people do that over and over. I am in awe.
Book Train sounds like a phenomenal idea! I know, as a kid, moving around from country to country, how important books were for me. I can only imagine how much more vital book ownership would be for a kid dealing with displacement, loss, and trauma.
Lynda, thanks so much for sharing, and good luck with all your future endeavors! I wish both you, and Book Train, great success.
Thanks so much, Tara. I have really enjoyed my visit here. And, I wish you success as well.
If YOU would like to BE SOMEONE’S HERO add a book for a foster child to your Christmas shopping list, please head on over to their website: http://booktrainforkids.wordpress.com/