Countdown to BREAKOUT: Visiting a Character’s Neighborhood

Countdown to Breakout is a 23-day blog series about the three-year writing process for BREAKOUT, my new novel for young readers, which earned starred reviews from both School Library Journal and Publishers Weekly. It’s about a small-town prison break and manhunt that change the way three kids see their neighbors and the place they call home. Why a 23-day series? Because this book was inspired by the 2015 Clinton Correctional Facility prison break that led to a 23-day manhunt in June of 2015. This blog series runs from May 14th to June 5th, release day for BREAKOUT. If you enjoy the posts, please consider pre-ordering the book!

Visiting a Character’s Neighborhood

One of the expert readers who read a draft of BREAKOUT really pushed me to work harder to develop Elidee as a character and suggested that one reason I might be struggling with that was because I didn’t understand where she came from. Most of the other characters share my small-town background, but Elidee had just moved to the mostly-white town of Wolf Creek from Highbridge, a neighborhood in the Bronx. A neighborhood where I’d never spent time.

I obviously couldn’t conjure a different background for myself, but I could at the very least spend a day in Elidee’s neighborhood, paying attention. So the next time I was in New York City for a writing meeting, I took the train to Highbridge. I visited the art museum near Elidee’s neighborhood and peeked through the fence at the community garden.

I wandered by school as classes were letting out, and noticed that some kids walked past Yankee Stadium on their way home, along a street with fruit stands, and where baseball players’ faces are painted on the buildings.

I stopped in at the deli up the street and ordered a chopped cheese sandwich, which was greasy and wonderful.

I went to Mullaly Park, which would have been Elidee’s neighborhood park. I noticed where the basketball courts and skateboard ramps were, and how the 4 Train thundered by every so often.

I took pictures and notes so I’d have more details about Elidee’s world in the Bronx. Then I went home, back to my revision desk, with a better sense for what she must have missed when she moved away. There was a lot to miss – more than I’d been able to imagine without visiting. But I knew that Elidee also needed something to love about Wolf Creek, even if it was a small moment. Tomorrow’s post is about the strawberries.

Today’s Assignment: If you moved away from the place where you live now, what small and unexpected things would you miss?

 

Breakout cover imageThanks for joining me on this part of the Breakout writing-process journey! If you’d like to read the other posts in this series once they’re all posted, you can find them here.  I hope you’ll also want to read BREAKOUT for yourself, and I’d love it if you’d consider pre-ordering now. Here are some ways to do that:

PRE-ORDER SIGNED COPIES OF BREAKOUT FROM THE BOOKSTORE PLUS

If you’d like a signed copy, you can call my local indie booksellers at The Bookstore Plus at 518-523-2950 or order online here and note in the comments field how you’d like your book signed. I’ll personalize and sign it for you, and it’ll be mailed out on release day! 

PRE-ORDER BREAKOUT FROM ANOTHER FAVORITE BOOKSELLER

You can also order from your own favorite bookseller, either online or in person at the store. (Indie bookstores are always my favorite because that way, you can buy a great book and support a business in your own community. You can find your nearest indie bookseller here.)

Bloomsbury is offering a great incentive for pre-orders, too – a free poster and set of bookmarks to share. Details about that are here.

And if you live near one of the cities where I’ll be on book tour this June, please come by and say hello!

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One Comment

  1. Maureen Morrison
    Posted May 28, 2018 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I love this idea and cannot wait to take myself on a beach observation trip in a few weeks. My MG (WIP) novel takes place in Ocean City, NJ which I grew up visiting, but there is also a retirement home aspect that could use more sensory description. Bring on summer!!!

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