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T A Knox-Collins

I love books, especially Science Fiction. I write for children, am a graduate of Hamline University's MFAC program. I am committed to seeing diversity in kidlit and I can't help myself when it comes to rescuing dogs.

Month

May 2012

What Are You? I’m Human

Last month, I attended my 5th Conference of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. It was an inspiring and uplifting weekend. I look forward to these each year. I get to learn from the most creative, hardworking people and be encouraged by their amazing stories. It’s also a wonderful  opportunity to catch up with fellow writers that I haven’t seen in a while and exchange stories of where we are in our writing process.

On the first day, I attended an intensive on writing dialog in fiction, taught by the wonderful writer and teacher Matt De La Pena. What he taught was what I needed to hear and put into practice. So thank you, Matt. More about his class another time, perhaps. Matt’s books, on the other hand, caught my attention because his protagonists were mixed race, something I could identify with. The characters I write about are mixed race too. It isn’t something I do consciously, they’re just ‘born’ that way. It’s the world I live in.

As an introductory exercise, Matt asked us to look at ourselves in the past and choose two words to describe what we saw. There were a lot of wonderful answers, moving and funny. It took me a long time to decide on my 2 words. I tried to think of what defined my childhood, what came to mind when I looked at myself as a child or teen.

Growing up in Southeast Asia, I lived and went to school with people of every color. As is common with children, I never really noticed, until curious and well meaning adults started asking me the question I’ve never forgotten – “What are you?”
I’d tell them I’m half Chinese and half English. That’s the truth, after all.
“Ah,” they’d say. “That explains it.”
Explains what?
It explains why the bridge of my nose was higher than theirs, why I had ‘double eyelids’, why my cheeks were pinker, or why I spoke with an accent. Did I?
My being ‘half white’ became the reason I didn’t eat certain foods, didn’t understand certain customs, didn’t get the colloquialisms, behaved in ways considered more ‘Western”. The strangest comment I’d ever received was “That’s why you eat so much candy.” Go figure. It was the 70’s.
Finally, I decided the fastest way to end the conversation was to answer, “I’m human, what are you?” The stunned silence that followed was exactly the effect that that ten year old smarty-pants was going for.

The questioning didn’t end. You’d be surprised what people thought being mixed race implied in my teenage years – a story for another time.

So what two words come to mind when you think of your childhood? Then, if you’re a writer, what two words come to mind when you think of your protagonist?

I’m human. Funnily enough, these words work for me and my protagonist.

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The Reason for this photo

This title photo is fascinating, isn’t it? You know it’s not Earth, but it looks an awful lot like it. It has so much potential. It fires up the imagination, doesn’t it? It does for me.

Some time ago, I read an article – Astronomers had discovered several planets that might be able to sustain human life. And they weren’t too far away, well, by space standards. Later, we witnessed the terrible earthquakes that hit Japan and worries abounded around the meltdown of nuclear power plants.

My writer’s brain began to speculate – what if our life on Earth is coming to an end because we’ve drained it, exhausted its bounty, and just simply been careless with what we’ve been given? Our space programs are coming to an end, so the natural thing would be for private corporations to take over.

So, to put two and two together and make it equal five (that’s what a sci fi writer does, isn’t it?), I wondered what if. What if a private corporation created the technology for deep space travel? Who would volunteer for such a treacherous journey? In the early days of the space program, animals were sent out into orbit first, to determine if it was safe for humans.

So what if we created intelligent humans with no emotional ties to anyone on Earth to make this journey? What if they made it to one of these habitable planets? What would we do with them once their mission was complete?

And so began my journey with The Ark Chronicles.

Hopefully, this blog will become part of the journey too.

Here’s a link to the real story about this planet

This was me.

I found this photo on Facebook through a non-profit organization called Burning Through Pages. It sums up what reading has done for me in my life, and why I’m a reader and a writer today.

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