16 July 2015

The Story Keeper by Lisa Wingate

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2015 Christy Award Winner


Lisa Wingate


Successful New York editor, Jen Gibbs, is at the top of her game with her new position at Vida House Publishing -- until a mysterious manuscript from an old slush pile appears on her desk. Turning the pages, Jen finds herself drawn into the life of Sarra, a mixed-race Melungeon girl trapped by dangerous men in the turn of the century Appalachia. A risky hunch may lead to The Story Keeper's hidden origins and its unknown author, but when the trail turns toward the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, a place Jen thought she'd left behind forever, the price of a blockbuster next book deal may be higher than she's willing to pay.


Praise for The Story Keeper:

"Not since To Kill a Mockingbird has a story impacted me like this." -- COLLEEN COBLE, USA Today bestselling author of Seagrass Pier

Wingate is, quite simply, a master storyteller. Her story-within-a-story, penned with a fine, expressive style, will captivate writers and non-writers alike. -- Booklist

The Wonder Years of Story
I grew up during a shift in American culture. My earliest memories are of that Wonder Years generation, when life was a little slower, more innocent in some intangible way. In the back of my mind, I see neighborhoods of average one-story, three-bedroom, one-income houses, where you came and went through back door, just like Ethel does on I Love Lucy. Every house had a mom in it, and if you were hungry she fed you, and if you were thirsty she gave you a drink. If it was summer, she probably made popsicles with an ice cube tray and toothpicks, or those old Tupperware Popsicle makers–in which case, you had to be sure to bring back the stick, or you didn’t get any more popsicles at that house. Moms had saved up their Green Stamps for that Tupperware, after all. Remember Green Stamps?
So many things aren’t the way they were just a scant few decades ago. So many of the daily activities that once required face-to-face human conversation can now be accomplished with no interpersonal exchange whatsoever. Shopping is a case in point. When I was a kid, a trip to town was something to look forward to. Even stopping for gas was a thrill. 
We kids were always filled with giddy anticipation when we pulled into the corner Texaco. Bill the Texaco man knew every car and every kid within a twenty-mile radius. He was the first man I fell in love with, other than my daddy. Bill carried lollipops in his pocket, and at the time, that seemed like a reason to offer my everlasting affection. The man could tell a great story, too. When I was a kid, stories were everywhere, like fruit hanging on low-growing branches, ripe for the picking. People told them in passing at checkout counters, at gas stations while windshields were washed and oil was checked, in the carpool line while moms waited for kids to exit the school, and at the post office as packages were being mailed.
We heard stories, pretended stories, we imagined stories, we played stories. No one had to tell us kids how to make up a story. We simply did it naturally. The air around us seemed to be filled with stories.
Sometimes I wonder if the past was really as good as I remember it being, or if, like first loves and favorite days at Grandma’s house, those bygone days take on the pearlescent sheen of memory, seeming a little grander than they were. When I was young, we kids spent our time roaming the neighborhood, scaring up games of tag and touch football, and building fantabulous forts from scrap lumber. As long as we were home by the time the streetlights came on, no one worried about us. We had a kind of freedom kids don’t have today. We had space to be and to pretend, to create and to wander. We had no concept of private property rights. Any tree was ours to climb, and every field was crisscrossed with bike trails. Yards weren’t fenced with tall privacy fences. Most yards weren’t fenced at all. We had grand names for every patch of woods—titles like “Sherwood Forest,” and “Peaceful Forest,” and “The Hundred Acre Wood,” which was actually about three-quarters of an acre, I think. Every kid in the neighborhood knew which forest was which.
At least once a week, we’d pack a backpack and journey down the creek behind our house. It wasn’t much more than a muddy ditch, but in our minds, it was every river from the Nile to the Amazon. We built dugouts on the banks and bridges across our favorite swimming holes. We hauled our toys down to the sandbars to play. We were Indians, mermaids, Tarzan, Zorro, and Swiss Family Robinson… without the parents. When we went on our excursions, and we traveled for hours, until we were sure we were miles from home. We imagined countless stories. We lived them, journeying until all the familiar neighborhood sounds were gone, until we were far enough away that we worried about whether we’d ever find our way back before we starved to death or were eaten by lions, attacked by hostiles, captured by banditos. Then, we’d hear someone’s mother sending out the supper call, and we’d climb out of the creek banks, and realize we were still in a neighbor’s backyard.
I love thinking back to those days, remembering the things we looked forward to—little wonders like jars of lightning bugs in summer and testing out the ice on nearby farm ponds in winter to see if we could make our own ice skating rink. But, above all, we looked forward to the stories, both real and make-believe, both heard and told, both seen and imagined.
I worry that these days our stories are being lost, that in our rush to do more, move faster, communicate in sound bites, we’re losing the underlying fabric of who we are. Our stories matter. Our stories teach. Our stories entertain.
Most importantly, our stories connect us to one another.
We need those human connections – not cyber-connections, or text connections, or connections formed in a hundred characters or less… but connections with real characters--the human kind. If you know a few, gather up the young people in your life and go visit. If you don’t know any, take a little time to look around. You’ll still find some here and there, looking for listeners ready to drink in a good tale.  Sit long, listen much. A story is not only a gift, it’s a legacy.
An inheritance that gives, and gives, and gives each time it’s told and told again.

-- Lisa Wingate is the international bestselling author of over twenty novels. Her latest offering, The Story Keeper, follows the journey of a New York editor who discovers a mysterious untold story on an old slush pile of manuscripts. Through Lisa’s weblog, TheUntoldStory.Guru, untold stories, both personally discovered and submitted by others, are preserved for future generations. More about Lisa can be found at www.LisaWingate.com or at TheUntoldStory.Guru

Selected among Booklist’s Top 10 for two consecutive years, Lisa Wingate skillfully weaves lyrical writing and unforgettable settings with elements of traditional Southern storytelling, history, and mystery to create novels that Publisher's Weekly calls "Masterful" and Library Journal refers to as "A good option for fans of Nicholas Sparks and Mary Alice Monroe." 

Lisa is a journalist, an inspirational speaker, and the author of twenty-five novels. She is a seven-time ACFW Carol Award nominee, a multiple Christy Award nominee, a twotime Carol Award winner, and a 2015 RT Booklovers Magazine Reviewer’s Choice Award Winner for mystery/suspense. Recently, the group Americans for More Civility, a kindness watchdog organization, selected Lisa along with Bill Ford, Camille Cosby, and six others as recipients of the National Civies Award, which celebrates public figures who work to promote greater kindness and civility in American life. Booklist summed up her work by saying, “Lisa Wingate is, quite simply, a master storyteller.” More information about her novels can be found at www.lisawingate.com.


More about Lisa can be found on her 

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