Friday, May 25, 2012

Street Kids Teaching a Writer

Check Edith's blog today for my post on my main character's mom, Ardyth the Witch.

* * * Here's Edith Parzefall! * * *

While Strays of Rio (MuseItUp) isn't a teen book, one of the main characters is fourteen-year-old Luiz, a street kid in Rio de Janeiro. He and his gang are the true heroes of this novel, surviving and enjoying life against all odds.

As part of my research, I visited Grupo Ruas e Pracas, a street kids project in Receife, Brazil. Their German partner organization RUA e.V., which I've been supporting for several years now, got me in contact with the social workers there.

We couldn't have timed our visit better. While we were there, Grupo Ruas e Pracas attended a community event in a nearby park and ran a drumming workshop for street kids in the walled-in backyard of their premises. Ear-deafening but intoxicating rhythms.

The kids were well-behaved and excited to have foreign visitors. The social workers happily answered my many questions. I'd done plenty of research on the situation of street kids in Brazil, knew the worst case scenarios, and sometimes found it hard to reconcile these with the happy kids fooling around and laughing. They'd already been with Grupo Ruas e Pracas for some time, no longer having to fend for themselves on the streets.

When a ten-year-old wants to bum a cigarette, it's certainly a powerful reminder of their background. Or a social worker telling me not to let one of their young charges take photos with my camera. I wanted to slap my forehead for doing that. Did I think him a potential thief? Yes, very likely stealing once was a way for him to get food.

When I watched the boy excitedly snapping pictures and scrutinizing the results on the little display, I couldn't wrench the camera from him. When more of the kids wanted to take photos, the social worker intervened and rescued my camera. Comparing the photos later, I realized that while I'd been hunting for faces, my young fellow photographer aimed for objects that intrigued him, for example the drums lined up without kids and teachers getting in the way.

These kids and the social workers at Grupo Ruas e Pracas taught me a lot. Without them, Strays of Rio would have become a weaker book. The novel started out as a thriller focused on drug gangs, death squads, corrupt police, impunity of the rich, but after my visit with Grupo Ruas e Pracas, the street kids became the true heroes of the novel while the war for money and power rages around them.

Watch for Edith's novel, Strays of Rio, to be released from MuseItUp Publishing this September.


  1. Thanks so much for featuring the heroes of my novel, Marva.

    Anyone interested in meeting Marva's witch, Ardyth, hop over to my blog:

  2. Hey, Edith. I had no idea you were so involdved with the street kids of Rio. I'd envisigaged a visit from you, but now I understand why your writing about them carries so much authenticity. Way to go! I'm sure everyone will love the charming characters. They sure look exuberant.

  3. Thanks Francene! I couldn't have written the book without their help and the inspiration I drew from them.

  4. You just proved how necessary visiting the location is when you truly aim for authenticity. Your characters have the personalities of real people and that's what endeared your street kids to me. A most worthwhile book, timely and topical. I highly recommend it.
    A lovely post Edith.

  5. Thanks so much, Wendy! I'm really happy to hear that you find my characters convincing and recommend the book. Only three or four months to go... I can't wait.

  6. Wow. The things writers do to research their books! Do you think the kids will be satisfied with your portayal of life as a street kid? I know I am looking forward to the book coming out.

  7. An experience I wouldn't want to miss in exchange for anything. Tough question, Rebecca. I suspect they might feel quite amazed that anyone would want to write about their lives.

  8. Thanks for telling us about this amazing experience. I look forward to your thriller, Strays of Rio, coming out from MIU.

  9. Thanks for letting me share these great memories on your blog, Marva!

  10. Wow Edith,
    I've done research, but I have to say this is far and beyond.

    Doing personal research makes me want to read the book more.

    Thanks for the interesting topic and blurb. On my TBB list for sure.

  11. Hi Edith,
    You really do get involved in your stories! This is amazing. Such an exciting way to gain insight into characters. I am eagerly waiting for Strays to be released. Congratulations on a great post. This is riveting information and underlines the importance of research and empathy with your characters.