We’d like to thank Miriam Busch (miriambuschauthor.com) for this blog post! Since attending the Whole Novel Fantasy workshop, she earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Hamline – where, coincidentally, Laura and Anne teach. Bone Gap, the novel by Laura Ruby that Miriam talks about below, won the 2016 Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature and was a National Book Award finalist.
Bone Gap won the Printz Award! Bone Gap won the Printz! I’ve been yelling about this book for over a year, periodically hugging it and dancing around my house. Bone Gap is a gift to the world – the more readers, the better. A huge THANK YOU to Laura Ruby for writing it. And congratulations!
By now, I’ve lost track of the number of other accolades Bone Gap has received but even if, by some freakish twist in the universe, this book had eluded recognition, Laura Ruby would still garner uncountable stars — it is possible that her brilliance as a writer is equaled only by her brilliance as a teacher.
In 2011, I attended my first Whole Novel for Fantasy workshop, led by the remarkable duo of Laura Ruby and Anne Ursu (who warrants her own post!). I had signed up on a whim, having in my possession a wreck of a draft and an impressive lack of clues. I certainly didn’t take myself seriously as a writer – the acceptance came as a surprise.
But then, wow. A week with these deeply committed and extraordinary mentors changed everything. Everything.
Laura’s a true story-seer. She dissects and explains layer upon layer of story — the light bulbs popping above participants’ heads that week could’ve illuminated a small country. She’s also one of those gifted teachers with gymnastic flexibility: if a concept doesn’t get absorbed one way, she tries another. And another and another. Laura finds a way to speak to each writer’s strengths to further understanding of the work ahead, and she does it with care and kindness, and never a hint of impatience at even the most basic of questions.
Laura teaches with such shining grace and humor, and here’s the thing: the kind of guidance Laura gives her students requires enormous focused attention – attention she could be pouring exclusively into her own writing. But for much of the year, Laura dedicates herself to teaching, to helping students grow and reach further and believe in their work. In her thorough manuscript letters, Laura details strengths and offers revision suggestions, sometimes radical ones — but always, always with the caveat, “this is just my opinion. You are the writer.”
I still read the letter from my first novel that Laura workshopped. I read to uncover layers of understanding about the work – but also for this: when Laura Ruby says, “You are the writer,” eventually, you start to believe it.
What a gift. I am immeasurably grateful.
And because no set of words about Laura is complete without mention of a kitty: here’s Fergus, waiting for Laura to return home from teaching: