Today I have Rebecca Coleman, author of The Kingdom of Childhood, on the blog for a guest post. I really enjoyed reading this book. Below the guest post is my review and a chance to win the book for yourself! Enjoy!
Workshopping It, by Rebecca Coleman
I came to writers' workshops the way many writers do-- ready to present my little excerpt to a community of my admiring peers, prepared to receive validation of my talent. Mine was an online workshop, and after I emailed my first excerpt to the group, it took about half an hour to receive my first critique-- which informed me that my opening was dull and disjointed, my pacing glacial, and I clearly had no idea whatsoever about how to manage third-person point of view.
Now, after eight years and hundreds of critiques (both written and received), I've collected my share of writers-group war stories. On one group, for months I had begged an excellent critiquer to allow me to pay back her many favors-- and she finally assented by sending me her erotic alien-abduction novella. Another woman's idea of editing was to make marginal comments criticizing the rude behavior of my teenage characters, as if I was submitting the excerpt because I needed parenting help with those unruly kids. I tried to submit The Kingdom of Childhood to the group, but gave up when a member wrote, "An affair between a 16 year old and a 43 year old woman-- over here in Australia people are going to jail for that. Maybe age him a couple of years?"
But it was also through these groups that I learned the craft of writing. I figured out that readers appreciate not only pretty prose, but also plot hooks, story questions, likable narrators, and for characters' names to each begin with a different letter. I learned that whether or not I possessed the innate talent my mother always swore I had, I sure didn't have any of the skills, and one was useless without the other. Once I decided I cared more about being good than being flattered, I learned to love the pain of it. That's the beauty of a good workshop: it will make you a fine writer, and an unapologetic masochist.
When I was writing The Kingdom of Childhood, I skipped the critique groups that had served me well in the past and sent excerpts directly to trusted individuals I had met in those groups. I needed a new level of punishment, a finer degree of nitpicking. Because at a certain point in a writer's development, the process needs to become less like karaoke, with bystanders politely clapping at your half-drunken efforts, and more like boot camp.
These days, when I talk to aspiring writers, I always tell them the same three things-- find a good critique group, grow a thick skin, cultivate relationships with the people who are aiming highest. They'll be the ones writing your book-jacket quotes, down the road. And they will never, ever warn you that your plot is illegal in Australia.
Thanks for stopping by Rebecca!!
ARC: 400 Pages
Genre: Adult Fiction
Rebecca Coleman's Website
From Goodreads. The Kingdom of Childhood is the story of a boy and a woman: sixteen-year-old Zach Patterson, uprooted and struggling to reconcile his knowledge of his mother’s extramarital affair, and Judy McFarland, a kindergarten teacher watching her family unravel before her eyes.
Thrown together to organize a fundraiser for their failing private school and bonded by loneliness, they begin an affair that at first thrills, then corrupts each of them. Judy sees in Zach the elements of a young man she loved as a child, but what Zach does not realize is that their relationship is—for Judy—only the latest in a lifetime of disturbing secrets.
Review by Kate
THE KINGDOM OF CHILDHOOD, by Rebecca Coleman, is a story about a kindergarten teacher in her forties and a sixteen year old male student brought together under normal circumstances but soon their relationship develops into an affair that changes both their lives forever. Right from the start I fell for these characters and their seemingly innocent friendship that developed from holes in their lives, but as the relationship progressed the danger and wrongness increased into something terrible and tragic between these two.
For many reasons, I think this is one of the most thought and emotional- provoking book I've read this year. Initially seeing through Judy's eyes I felt bad for her since she spent her childhood watching her mother waste away and her father not seeming to care. Coleman slowly spread out the story of Judy's past in between chapters of her present life, which correlated to the slowly deteriorating relationship between Judy and Zach. Eventually I saw Judy for what she truly was, a deeply disturbed and dangerous woman.
I liked the alternating POV's between Judy and Zach. I found startling contrasts between how Judy felt and acted when she was with Zach and how he perceived her in those moments. Another thing that lingered in my mind while reading and long after was how addicted to each other they were. Even when they became aware of how wrong they were acting, when they were together those thoughts just went away. It boggled my mind how they justified their actions to themselves until they were wrapped up so tight with no escape. The maturity roles flipped in this book, where Zach soon lost all traces of childhood during the affair. His understanding for his mother's affair years prior came to light and he understood more than anything what she went through. I liked how Coleman made her characters understand their past thorough their present relationship.
I think this is a great book for book clubs. There are so many aspects of discussion that arise from each chapter of this book. Along with the relationship between Judy and Zach, there is the background of a Waldorf school. I never heard of this type of school before reading this book but I think the ideals of Steiner and how children should be taught at each step in their life is a topic that have the ability to cause great debate and discussion.
Overall, I would recommend this book to anyone who is looking for the next best thing in adult fiction.
Be sure to follow along the rest of the tour for excerpts, prizes, and take part in the scavenger hunt. Click HERE for more info!