Last July, an Arizona author—Judy A. Grout—contacted me to inquire if I’d work with her as she polished her young adult manuscript entitled Chasing the Strawberry Moon: Hitchhiking (for girls). Judy had gotten my name from a mutual friend in Minnesota.
In our telephone conversation, she explained that a few months before she’d met an agent at a writer’s conference. After they’d discussed the novel’s plot and background, the agent asked to read the manuscript. A few weeks later, she sent Judy a full-page list of suggestions for how to improve the manuscript and make it more publishable. She expressed interest in seeing the manuscript again once Judy had worked on it. Intrigued by the title of the novel and by Judy’s willingness to continue polishing a manuscript on which she’d already spent so much time, I agreed to work with her. For a week, I read and made suggestions about plot development, sustaining suspense, creating tension, and showing character instead of just describing or telling about it—all of which were concerns of the agent. In September, Judy sent me a new manuscript in which she had incorporated her response to my suggestions. For two weeks we worked to polish that second manuscript, which had improved greatly. We both thought that she now had a manuscript that worked. She planned to do more with dialogue and format, but essentially she had written an entertaining and arresting young adult novel. Judy Grout is a mature writer. By that I mean that she was faithful to her story and accepted only those suggestions of mine that worked for her and for the characters and plot she envisioned. Insecure writers slavishly accept all suggestions made by their critique readers; arrogant writers accept nothing. Judy’s attitude made working with her pleasurable. Now her young adult novel has been published. Here’s just a brief summary of its plot, which is sure to keep you reading to the end of this hitchhiking romp.
Forced to flee Baywater, Minnesota, to avoid an arranged marriage to the local sheriff’s son, Patsy Schwartz hits the open road with her best friend, Virginia Burg. It’s 1939. Both the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl are affecting everyone’s life in the United States and war is sweeping across Europe. Before she settles for marriage to someone who might be part of that war, Patsy wants some adventure . . . hopefully in Hollywood where she’s determined to become a star.
The two girls trek across North Dakota, Montana, and Idaho, toward a café run by Virgie’s relatives in Washington. There they hope to rest from their adventures before heading south to California and the stardom that awaits them. On their journey, Patsy and Virgie encounter a cast of characters whose foibles and antics will both delight and dismay you. As the two young women thumb their way across the country, they ride with truckers; work for ranchers; meet Communists, preachers, and artists for the WPA; encounter women motorcyclists; and get treated to a meal by the Civilian Conservation Corpsmen.
And always, nipping at their heels, are the sheriff’s son and the Chicago hoods who have plans for Baywater, Minnesota, and that son. While this novel will be of great interest to young women, I found it equally interesting as well as humorous because the story helped me imagine my mom and her own dreams and adventures when she was young. The novel does, I think, accurately portray youth when we believe that all is possible. If you’d like to learn more about the plot and the background that led to Judy writing a fictionalized account of a true story, please go to the book’s page on Amazon. Or visit Judy’s writer's page, which features a short video of many of the scenes that Patsy and Virgie saw on their hitchhiking adventure.
P S: I apologize for the haphazard formatting of this posting. For some unknown reason, I just cannot get everything to line up as it normally does. Peace.