word craft


Avi’s 2024 Summer Blog Series

Joseph Bruchac

From Avi: As I did in the sum­mer of 2023 and the sum­mer of 2022, I’ve invit­ed 13 admired mid­dle grade authors to write for my blog for the next three months. I hope you’ll tune in each Tues­day to see who has answered these two ques­tions we’re fre­quent­ly asked by read­ers. You should have a list of ter­rif­ic books to read and share by the end of the sum­mer … along with new authors to follow!

Where did you get your idea for a specific book of yours?

Rez Dogs

There are a num­ber of things about my new, mid­dle grade nov­el, Rez Dogs that make it dif­fer­ent from any book I’ve done before. In fact, before I go any fur­ther, I should point out that, even though I am list­ed as the author, I did not write it. 

Nope — I dic­tat­ed it into my cell phone. 

At this point, let me back up about five years. That’s when we got a new pup­py, a rather large minia­ture poo­dle, we named Kiki, (By the way, that’s not a French name. Ki means earth in the Abena­ki lan­guage.) The Kik­er is an enthu­si­as­tic high-octane baby, and if she doesn’t get her morn­ing walk, she’s about to burst. Those morn­ing walks come at the time when I was usu­al­ly writ­ing before she came along. But I fig­ured out how to do two things at once. With her leash in my left hand and my cell phone in my right hand, I could talk into that lit­tle word-catch­ing device any­thing I might oth­er­wise be tap­ping into my com­put­er. Then send it to myself in an email. Which email I would paste into a file and revise as needed.

At first, what I was dic­tat­ing were haiku. I have been com­pos­ing at least one every day for the last five years. (Over 1800 at last count.) Then I began to talk about things I was remem­ber­ing and things I was see­ing as we watched the change of sea­sons on our morn­ing strolls. Much of that end­ed up in a new non­fic­tion book of mine called A Year of Moons.

And then came Covid. It inter­rupt­ed a lot of things for me, espe­cial­ly trav­el and see­ing oth­er folks. But it did not total­ly change the life that my wife Nico­la and I were liv­ing in our cab­in on a nature pre­serve in the Adiron­dack foothills. We still had plen­ty of room to go out­side, and I could take my long morn­ing walks on the desert­ed log­ging road that runs past our property. 

Because of Covid, my thoughts often turned to what young peo­ple were expe­ri­enc­ing as a result of the enforced lock­downs all around the world. Then I began to think more specif­i­cal­ly about how it was affect­ing Reser­va­tion com­mu­ni­ties. I have been to many of them over the last half cen­tu­ry and have a lot of friends there. In my mind’s eye, I began to see a young woman on one of those com­mu­ni­ties — such as Indi­an Island or Pleas­ant Point in Maine. Then I saw a dog by her side. Not a poo­dle like my part­ner Kiki but one of the old reser­va­tion dogs that looks at least half wolf. And that is when I knew I had to tell their sto­ry, and the title for the book came to me.

That title, I should point out, was cho­sen before my favorite new TV series appeared — the one named Reser­va­tion Dogs that focus­es on sev­er­al mod­ern-day Native teenagers and an Okla­homa reser­va­tion. (Quite a few folks I know have been in that show and I even have pic­tures in my phone of some of them pos­ing in past years with me.)

Richard Ray Whitman Reservation Dogs Joseph Bruchac
Richard Ray Whit­man of Reser­va­tion Dogs and Joseph Bruchac

Anoth­er dif­fer­ent thing about my nov­el is that it end­ed up being writ­ten in verse. That was a first for me  — although it will not be my last. I’ve just com­plet­ed anoth­er nov­el in poet­ic form and I’m work­ing on a third one.

I did not know I was com­pos­ing it as poet­ry until I fin­ished the first chap­ter and then read it aloud to myself—something I do with every­thing I write. That was when I real­ized my line breaks and the flow of the nar­ra­tive had a poet­ic rhythm, one that matched the rhythm of my walk­ing. Con­sid­er­ing that the term “feet“ is reg­u­lar­ly used in poet­ry, that should not have been sur­pris­ing to me.

Anoth­er aspect of the nov­el is that it is built around tra­di­tion­al sto­ries being nar­rat­ed by my main character’s grand­par­ents. And all of those sto­ries relate to dogs. That is anoth­er thing I had not planned. It just hap­pened. But it is true that through­out my own life, dogs have always been there. In fact, dogs play a major role in a num­ber of my books, includ­ing a his­tor­i­cal fan­ta­sy writ­ten for young adults  — re-edit­ed and about to be re-issued — a nov­el named Dawn Land

Fur­ther, inso­far as Mali lis­ten­ing to those sto­ries her grand­par­ents tell her, les­son sto­ries that relate to Mali’s life, that’s also some­thing that ties into my own life. I was raised by my grand­par­ents and wher­ev­er I’ve gone — includ­ing my trav­els in Europe and Africa — I’ve always grav­i­tat­ed to elders who had sto­ries to tell. So, you might say, Mali is a bit like me. 

What’s your best writing advice for young writers?

Think­ing back on my own life and what­ev­er suc­cess I’ve been for­tu­nate enough to enjoy as an author, there’s one piece of advice I like to pass on to young writ­ers. It’s sim­ple, but some folks find it hard to do. BE A GOOD LISTENER. 

I’ve heard it said by many elders that we humans were giv­en two ears and only one mouth — so we were meant to lis­ten at least twice as much as we talk. It’s amaz­ing the things you can learn if you just lis­ten and keep listening. 


Joseph Bruchac

(pho­to by Trish Miller)

A recent book by Joseph:

Dawn Land

About ten thou­sand years ago in the north­east, the Abena­ki — Peo­ple of the Dawn Land — cre­at­ed a thriv­ing com­mu­ni­ty in social and eco­log­i­cal bal­ance with nature and with each oth­er. One of the finest sons of the Peo­ple is Young Hunter, who ded­i­cates him­self to becom­ing a pure hunter. But a shad­ow is cross­ing over this place, threat­en­ing his beloved home­land, and Young Hunter is called to its defense. The deep-see­ing one of his vil­lage, Bear Talk­er, tells him that the change will be brought by beings of great pow­er, with cold hearts and a ter­ri­ble hunger, and Young Hunter has been cho­sen to fight them. “This young one will do things for the peo­ple,” Bear Talk­er thought. “If he sur­vives … if he survives.” 

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