As a member of Southwest Writers, I was happy to give this interview about The Corn Whisperer:
What is your elevator pitch for The Corn Whisperer?
In the book, written for children 7-10, young Charlie is apprehensive about visiting his grandfather who lives at a pueblo in New Mexico. However, Grandfather Joe is a storyteller. He tells Charlie ancient legends to help him live a better life in today’s world. And, as a result, Charlie and Grandfather Joe develop a close relationship.
When readers turn the last page, what do you hope they take away from it?
A realization that cultural myths and legends hold universal truths that apply to everyday life. In this trio of stories, the lessons are about becoming self-sufficient, accepting and valuing change, and forgiveness.
To read the rest of the interview, visit Southwest Writers.
The Corn Whisperer has been named a finalist in the 2017 New Mexico/Arizona book awards in the following categories:
- juvenile book
- parenting/family issues book
- young readers book
What readers are saying about The Corn Whisperer:
- “This is a touching story about Charlie and his grandfather, both Native American, who bond after the storyteller, Grandfather Joe tells the boy legends from his childhood. It’s heartwarming to watch the boy grow in love and knowledge as their relationship develops.” –Jan
- “The well-researched and authentic stories are an easy read for children. Includes an afterword and sources.” –LWG
- “Wonderful book that captures the feel of the Southwest and the feel of childhood. Houser brings care and warmth to these native-based stories of life close to nature.” –Robert
Have you read The Corn Whisperer? Add your review to the above on Amazon.
On September 8-10, 2017, the annual Fiesta de Santa Fe in Santa Fe, New Mexico, will honor a promise made over 300 years ago. General Don Diego de Vargas’s skillful negotiations with the Indians in 1692 resulted in an agreement that would allow the colonists to return home to Santa Fe after 12 years in exile. De Vargas gave credit to La Conquistadora, the oldest statue of the Virgin Mary in the United States, for her role in the intercession and promised she would be remembered each year. But the promise wasn’t fulfilled until 1712 when the first City Council of Santa Fe issued the Proclamation of Santa Fe Fiesta. Signed by nine individuals, the Proclamation established the event that honors the colonists’ return to Santa Fe―a tradition that has been kept for 305 years.
Fiesta officially begins at 6:00 a.m. on September 8 at Rosario Chapel, the site where―in 1693―De Vargas and the exiled colonists camped outside the city walls, waiting to enter the city. A mass is held and the mayor of Santa Fe reads from the original 1712 Proclamation, which calls for religious ceremonies, celebration, and thanksgiving to La Conquistadora.
Throughout the weekend, the historic plaza showcases Santa Fe’s rich cultural heritage―an open-air fine arts and craft market, traditional foods, and dances that include Pueblo Indian dances, Mexican folk dances, mariachi dances, and matachine dances.
On the morning of September 10, a solemn procession―carrying an image of La Conquistadora―makes its way from the historic Palace of the Governors to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi where a mass is held.
The fiesta comes to a close on Sunday at 7:00 p.m. at the cathedral with a mass of thanksgiving followed by a candlelight procession. Participants wind their way from the cathedral through downtown streets to the top of the hill where luminarias light the way to the Cross of the Martyrs.
While writing The Corn Whisperer, I learned that some Native American legends are told only during certain seasons. For example, “Coyote Scatters the Stars” is a winter story―told during the time when the earth, animals, and plants are asleep, waiting for the return of the sun.
I learned that Native Americans consider oral stories to be more reliable than written stories. This came as a surprise because I think of verbal stories changing from one person to the next, like the children’s game of Gossip. But this does explain why there are different versions of the same legend. And, more importantly, each version is valued and preserved.
Storytellers are respected elders, such as grandfathers and grandmothers. Children gather around a fire after the evening meal, and the storyteller instructs them to sit straight and listen. The storyteller speaks slowly with a rhythm―giving the words time and space and repeating certain words. Storytellers measure out their stories over the years, reserving some stories for telling near the end of the storyteller’s life.
For Native Americans, storytelling is an important form of communicating wisdom. Told in the context of the storyteller’s culture and location, the story explains the listeners’ place in the universe, how they came to be, or teaches a lesson. Stories are told in an entertaining way―sometimes with a bit of teasing by the storyteller―so the audience will remember the stories and pass them on to the next generation.