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Author Spotlight: Hope Irvin Marston, Award-winning YA and Children’s Author

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Hope Irvin Marston is a member of the New York State Retired Teachers, the Greater Thousand Islands Literacy Council, the Jeff-Lewis Librarians Association, and the Adirondack Center for Writing, the St. Lawrence County Arts Council, the North Country Arts Council and SCBWI. She organized the Black River Valley Writers Club and served as its leader for several years.

In addition to writing 32 children’s books and several adult titles, Hope has been on staff for Christian Writers Conferences at Hephzibah Heights (MA), Montrose Bible Conference (PA) and at St. Davids Christian Writers Conference at Beaver Falls, PA. She has taught creative writing workshops at Jefferson Community College, the Jefferson-Lewis Teacher Center and the North Country Arts Council.

Her picture book series, MY LITTLE BOOK COLLECTION (Windward), has grown to eight titles thus far and has 125,000 books in print. She has a new release, Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest, which is suitable for ages 8-14 and was released by Windward Books on December 1, 2011. It’s a biography of Aisling (pronounced “Ashley”) Lara Shepherd whose goal is to some day run her own dogs in the famous Iditarod sled dog race held each March in Alaska. Born legally blind, from the time she was three she loved watching sled dog racing on television. Marston shared, “My book, written from information Aisling shared with me in hundreds of e-mail letters, follows her through the mushing season the year she is eleven, which is the year after I met her. That memorable year she conquered obstacles, dealt with heartbreak and loss, and achieved victories, while keeping her eye on the Iditarod. Any young person interested in mushing, will find Aisling’s experiences engaging, informative, and entertaining, whether they are a bit younger than she is in the book or considerably older.”

In 2008 when Aisling was 10 years old, she was one of three girls chosen from 8,000 nominees for a Real Girl of the Year Award, by American Girl. The award was given in recognition of her “demonstrating initiative, effort, impact and personal growth” in reaching her goal of someday running the Iditarod.  She exemplified those qualities by her dedication to rescuing, training and racing sled dogs. “I learned about her from an article in an online newspaper published near where we used to live in Maine. Since she lived in Norway, a town near Buckfield where I taught, I contacted her, went to see her and felt led to tell the world about this remarkable young girl with a broad vision, figuratively, if not visually,” shard Marston.

Kids need security. To know they are loved and they don’t have to follow the herd. They want us adults to listen to them, to hear them out without interrupting with judgmental comments. They want hope for a better tomorrow. They want direction and they want boundaries, though they may not realize that’s what they need or really are seeking. Reading books give children this and Hope Irvin Marston has done an outstanding job as an author writing books to support this very idea. Not to mention her latest book, Eye on the Iditarod: Aisling’s Quest.

Marston shared a memory of when she was within the age range of her target readership when we talked about the importance books have in a child’s life. “I am the daughter of a dairy farmer. We farm kids grew up with two parents who loved us, taught us to work and rewarded us with a stable home where we respected each other. We were secure. We knew the boundaries and stayed within them. Our parents loved each other and they were married for life. They taught us to be honest. To respect the boundaries of each other as well as individual rights. We learned to carry our share of the load. Not to expect to be waited on or receive handouts because we were too lazy to help ourselves. The breakdown of marriages and respect for the home has created a world of grown-ups acting like undisciplined children with no moorings…nothing to guide them into the straight and narrow paths that lead to an abundant life.”

This might be one reason Marston also choose to write Against the Tide: The Valor of Margaret Wilson, a historical fiction YA book set in 17th-century Scotland. Readers learn of the intolerance of the Covenanters, a people bound together by their loyal faith in Christ. Margaret Wilson is a young, earnest Covenanter who finds her pledged loyalty to Christ and his covenant is in opposition to King Charles II’s demand for absolute obedience. This story teaches the very principles Marston grew up learning from her family and shows this is something we repeat throughout our history.

Marston shared, “I joined 4-H Club when I was nine and was a member until I graduated from high school eight years later. That organization taught me many life skills and my involvement included weekly meetings and area gatherings. Our leaders were devoted to us and modeled what they were teaching. The highlight of those years was being chosen several summers to attend the 4-H Club Leadership Training programs at Penn State. It’s pleasurable to remember our song leader, Al Zimmer and the orchestra song he taught us, the police dog demonstration we witnessed, and the drawings of a caricature artist. During my senior year, I took my 4-H lambs to the Pennsylvania State Farm Show. A really big deal for me!”

However, if you’re more into picture books, Marston has that genre covered as well. Her wildlife picture books follow the same outline in they portray the life cycles of animals. “I am used to creating a framework for my story before I begin writing. That has taught me to get a skeletal outline of my other genre in place before anything else. It’s somewhat routine work, but it forces me to dig out information that I need to include in my story,” shared Marston.

Writing a riveting opening is a challenge and Marston has spent many hours laboring over the openings of her historical novels. Marston shared, “If they are not page-turners, my readers will find something else to read.” However, I find that impossible for this librarian turned author knows her stuff be it a YA novel to a picture book for kids. She has won awards for her writing and still has many ideas to share with her readers. “I am a Post-Depression child and the eighth of nine children who grew up on a dairy farm smack dab in the middle of the state of Pennsylvania. Books were a scarce commodity in our household so it was a red-letter day for me when the county bookmobile came to our school, which was located on the corner of our farm. What a thrill it was to climb into that vehicle, which was probably about the size of the Taurus van my husband drives, and choose one book from all those beckoning me from the shelves. After I read my book, I returned it to my teacher and borrowed a book another student had returned. It was through those bookmobile experiences I developed a respect for authors. I decided that someday I would write a book. It took me about thirty years to accomplish that goal, and the fun continues,” shared Marston toward the end our interview.

The World of Ink Network will be touring three of award-winning author Hope Irvin Marston books throughout February. You can find out more about Hope Irvin Marston’s World of Ink Author/Book Tour schedule here. There will be giveaways, reviews, interviews, guest posts and more. Make sure to stop by and interact with Marston and the hosts at the different stops by leaving comments and/or questions. For each comment, you will be entered into the big Giveaway at the end of the tour.

In addition, come listen to the February 6, 2012 to Blog Talk Radio’s World of Ink Network show: Stories for Children. The hosts VS Grenier and Irene Roth chatted with Hope Irvin Marston about her books, writing, the publishing industry and experiences. The show aired live February 6, 2012 at 2pm EST.

To learn more about the World of Ink Tours here.

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