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As a former foster child, my passion is advocating for and with foster care youth, publicizing the challenges that they face and addressing their developmental and emotional needs through workshops.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Who is Cynthia Voigt?

Cynthia Voigt has described herself as a woman with three jobs. After her first marriage ended in divorce, Cynthia Voigt remarried and became a wife and mother. After vowing in college never to teach, she fell in love with teaching the minute she entered a classroom. Her "third job," of course, is as a writer.

While working as a full-time English teacher, Voigt displined herself to devote one hour of time to her writing each day. During her first year of teaching, she also made frequent trips to the library to familiarize herself with juvenile literature. Voigt's greatest strength as a writer is in her realistic characterization.

What to expect from Cynthia Voigt's writing:
- Well-developed characters
- Complex plots
- Authentic dialogue
- Skillful writing
- Detailed descriptions
- True-to-life emotions

Voigt's writing process begins with a question. She often mulls over thoughts and ideas for over a year before sitting down to write. The question that gave birth to the Tillerman series occured when Voigt saw a mother leaving her children in a parking lot. She wondered, What if their mother never returned?

The Tillerman Family Series
-Homecoming (1981)
-Dicey's Song (1982)
-A Solitary Blue (1983)
-The Runner (1985)
-Come A Stranger (1986)
-Sons From Afar (1987)
-Seventeen Against the Dealer (1989)

The first book in the Tillerman series introduces a group of children who have been abandoned by their mother in a mall parking lot. Dicey, the oldest, is concerned that she and her siblings might be separated and placed in separate foster homes.

Thirteen-year-old Dicey decides that the best course of action is to travel across the country and find a family member. She strong-arms her sister and two brothers into accompanying her on foot from Massachusetts to Connecticut.

The personalities of the Tillerman siblings ring true to life:
-Sammy, the youngest, is stubborn and headstrong
-Maybeth is quiet and has a learning disability
-James is intelligent, angry and overanalytical
-Dicey is strong-willed and protective

Three Books, One Scene
My favorite books from the Tillerman series are intertwined. Each of the three books I like best show the same scene from a different point of view:

-In Dicey's Song, Dicey faces down a teacher who has wrongfully accused her of plagiarism. Although Dicey has established a new home for herself and her siblings, there are many challenges to face. Her teacher's accusation is one of them.

-In A Solitary Blue, Jeff is startled out of his introverted silence by the courage that Dicey displays. Jeff is no stranger to abandonment. His mother is irresponsible, and her manipulative behavior has caused Jeff to distrust women.

-In Come a Stranger, the story that Dicey has written resonates with her classmate Mina. Mina had written an essay of her own, but knew in her heart that it was geared more toward entertainment than vulnerability. Dicey's raw honesty inspires Mina to come to her defense.


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