Dec 28, 2023

KLC Podcast, Buffalo Flats, Ep. 1: Introduction (Transcript)

Anne-Marie Strohman: [00:00:00] Welcome to the very first episode of the Kid Lit Craft Podcast.

This season we’re gonna do a deep dive into Martine Leavitt’s YA novel Buffalo Flats, and we are excited to dig into craft with you.

I’m Anne-Marie Strohman and I write picture books, YA, and some Middle Grade. And I also write short stories for adults. I have an MFA in writing for children and young adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Erin Nuttall: Hi, I am Erin Nuttall and I also have an MFA from the Vermont College of Fine Arts in writing for children and young adults. And I love writing YA, a little bit of romance, a little bit of feminism, and I also dabble a little bit in middle grade.

So Anne-Marie, how did we meet?

Anne-Marie Strohman: We met our very first semester of Vermont College of Fine Arts. I really don’t like to share rooms. and so I had signed up for a single and [00:01:00] lucky me, across the hall from me was Erin Nuttall. And so we got to be faux roommates. We would leave our doors open with the fans on at night and Erin would stand in my doorway and we would talk about books, and writing, and our families, and all sorts of stuff very late into the night. And then we have continued that friendship since.

Erin Nuttall: Yes! That is a true story right there. We were faux roommates. I had signed up to have a roommate, although I didn’t want one, shh don’t tell, and was really happy that for some reason they didn’t give me one but I did get a wonderful, nerdy roommate in Anne-Marie. It was a true joy to find someone who loved to chat about the same things that I do: craft and theme and stories and writing. And a lot of other stuff too.

Anne-Marie Strohman: First, let’s talk about what Kid Lift Craft is. It’s a [00:02:00] website that I started a long time ago that looks at mentor text to discover the mechanics of what writers do. Mostly because I wanted to improve my own writing and reading what other people do, figuring out what they do well and applying it to my own writing is a great way to learn. And I just was doing this exploration anyway and decided to share it out in a website form. And then Erin had this idea!

Erin Nuttall: I did. Earlier this summer when it came out, I had read Martine Levitt’s Buffalo Flats, and I loved it. I was talking to Anne-Marie and I said, this is what a YA novel should be. This is a perfect book. And I was telling her how I just really wanted to tear it apart, use it to help me figure out how to make my own writing better. And Anne-Marie was like, that is a great idea! And I was like, I know, right? And then [00:03:00] she surprised me and said, you should do that and we should do a podcast while you do that. And I was game! I actually surprised myself a little bit. I never had aspirations for a podcast, but I do really enjoy talking about this stuff, so why not? Why not do a podcast and let others also learn from, from Martine because, I don’t think there’s a better teacher.

Anne-Marie Strohman: Erin, why don’t you start us off with our vocabulary this time. Let’s do Kidlit, craft and mentor texts.

Erin Nuttall: Kidlit is probably pretty obvious. It’s any kind of writing that is directed to children. So that could be, picture books or magazine articles, middle grade, YA, graphic novels. Kids are a different audience than adults. They have different expectations, different needs, different wants, different impatience levels. And craft is figuring out the [00:04:00] mechanics and the tools of how to do that, how to write for children. What are the ways that we can improve all the different pieces that make up a story and mentor texts are a really fantastic way to do that. You can use almost any book as a mentor text whether it’s well-written or not well-written, there’s a variety of ways to do it but basically you take a book that either you like how they did something, be it dialogue or backstory or setting, and figure out how they did it. Or you could even take a book you didn’t like how they did, what they did in setting or backstory or dialogue or any other, but those are the three that are in my mind right now and figure out what they were doing that you didn’t like and why that is. Mentor texts are really, really great way to improve your writing, and that is something that we get to do on this podcast with Martine Leavitt’s, Buffalo Flats.

Anne-Marie Strohman: So we [00:05:00] both have been lucky enough to work with Martine in our MFA careers. I did a workshop with Martine that really cracked open how to organize a whole novel and how to plan a whole novel. And I was a little bit jealous of you, Erin, because you got to work with Martine for a whole semester.

Erin Nuttall: I did, and you were right to be jealous, I worked with her for a whole semester. She helped me with a contemporary YA that I had been working on and she just really helped me figure out actually I can’t even name one thing. It was a lot of things. It was a semester’s worth of things. I do feel really lucky that I got to have her as a faculty advisor and that I can call her friend.

Anne-Marie Strohman: You call this the perfect book. What drew you to this book? And maybe you can tell us a little bit about what this book is about.

Erin Nuttall: All right. Well, a lot drew me to the book. Like when I say [00:06:00] that it’s the perfect book, I just couldn’t find anything that was annoying or needed improvement and you know how I am, I’m kind of a critical reader, to put it mildly. But everything just fell into place. It’s the story of Rebecca Leavitt who lives in the northwest territory of Canada in the 1890s. She wants more than anything, her own piece of that beautiful land. And Martine explores the themes of family and romance and duty and nature, religion, friendship. And she does it in a short 230 pages, which is. Wow is right. An interesting fact is that Martine used historical sources and a lot of family history sources as the Leavitts are her husband’s family. And she used them to inform her story. So it’s not a nonfiction or a memoir or anything like that. But she [00:07:00] did use history to help her tell this story.

Anne-Marie Strohman: So what can people expect from the series?

Erin Nuttall: Well, for one thing, it won’t be long. We’ll be short, we’ll have short episodes. Which I think is important because my brain can only listen for so long before it’s like, ahhh, I don’t remember anything. So we’ll have a number of episodes focused on different Kidlit craft topics. And we will be using Martine’s book as a mentor text. So, hopefully, you will want to dig into this with us and nerd out and learn all the things that Martine has for us to learn about; desire, metaphor, opening chapter, opening scene, character, romance. I mean, who knows how many episodes we’re gonna have, but it could probably be a hundred. I’m not promising a hundred, but it could possibly be that many.

Anne-Marie Strohman: We will not do a hundred.

So this podcast will be relevant for really anybody [00:08:00] working on a novel;

Erin Nuttall: I think anyone who wants to write better any type of writing actually and while it will definitely be focused on kids, and this is a YA novel, I think if you want to be a better writer period, there are things to learn from Martine.

Anne-Marie Strohman: We are going to end each episode with one beautiful sentence. And Erin, you chose our beautiful sentence this week. What is it?

Erin Nuttall: Okay, so it is actually the first sentence of the book, and it sets the stage for who Rebecca is and what we’re going to learn about her. It’s a beautiful sentence because Martine is a master of language and you’ll know why as soon as you hear it.

“Rebecca had heard her father and others call this land God’s country often enough that she wasn’t as surprised [00:09:00] as she might’ve been to come upon him, one warm spring evening sitting on the tor overlooking Buffalo Flats.”

Anne-Marie Strohman: And we’ll be talking about that sentence in depth in our next episode. That is it for today. We are so excited to take this journey deep into craft with you.

And if you’re excited too, you can find more content like this at kidlitcraft.com. You can find us on social media at KidLit Craft, and you can support this podcast on Patreon.

Erin Nuttall: Please download episodes, like, rate and review us and let your writer friends know about the podcast. We’re excited to nerd out with you.

Anne-Marie Strohman: Thanks for joining us. See you next time.



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