Sioux is a St. Louis middle school teacher, freelance writer, and member of several writing groups. She is a facilitator and consultant at St. Louis Gateway Writing project, part of the National Writing Project.
Linda O’Connell’s book review:
Sioux Roslawski, created her middle grade, historical fiction novel,
Greenwood Gone: Henry’s Story, with grace. The saga of twelve-year-old Henry Simmons, published by Editor 9-1-1 is available NOW! This riveting, multi-layered story about family, race, and loss will appeal to adults as well.
A true, horrific event took place on May 31, 1921, in Greenwood, Oklahoma. One hundred years have passed, and still, most Americans are unaware of the painful event that happened in the thriving, peaceful, Black-owned community of banks, businesses, residences, and churches. The area known as Black Wall Street flourished in the northern part of Tulsa.
Sioux Roslawski brings the gripping, and gut-wrenching details of shocking destruction to life through the eyes of twelve-year-old Henry Simmons.
A likeable protagonist, Henry, living a secure, happy life, has his sense of dignity, right and wrong challenged. A decent, young man with a loving family and good upbringing, he witnesses unbelievable horrors as he watches his community, the residents, and his life destroyed completely, the result of racial hatred.
Henry’s escape and adventures along the way are presented with highly-charged emotion, honesty, and a prophetic vision.
This haunting story is written with a keen eye and will keep readers engrossed until the last page. The ending made me sigh with satisfaction.
Welcome, Sioux. Congratulations on your debut novel. What inspired you to write Henry Simmons’ story?
Sioux Roslawski: Thanks so much, Linda. I attended a teachers’ national conference, and a presenter immersed us in a historical event that all the attendees in that full banquet hall were ignorant of---The Tulsa Race Massacre. It upset me that teachers didn’t know about it. It wasn’t being taught in U.S. history books, not even Oklahoma history books. That is when the kernel of an idea was formed---the idea that our country needed to stop sweeping these tragedies under the rug.
Please tell readers what your writing process was like. How long did it take to write Greenwood Gone: Henry’s Story… from idea to publication? You mention that Henry helped write this story. Can you explain?
Sioux Roslawski: Five years ago, I sat down in front of a computer every school day in class during the month of November, and my students and I participated in NaNoWriMo---National Novel Writing Month.
I taught three English (writing) classes, so I had a little more than two hours every day to write--- surrounded by middle school students. However, I didn’t have a first draft finished that first school year. The next year, I finally finished it, and sort of a second draft.
The following year, I had it edited, and received such specific, spot-on feedback that I was able to rewrite it almost from scratch. The third draft was tight. It had tension and a plot that was engaging.
Did you plot your main character, or did you get to know Henry as you began to write?
Sioux: I didn’t plot the story, unfortunately, so the first and second drafts stunk up the place. However, with the help of an editor I hired, the third draft really flowed.
And yes, I got to know Henry as the story unfolded. I didn’t write the story; Henry wrote the story. I don’t know how to explain it, because it’s never happened before, and I doubt ever will again. Things happened to Henry in the story. I didn’t plan, outline, or think of them. They just happened as I was typing.
For example, one character takes a bag on a dangerous trip, and everybody wants to know what’s in the bag. It is a great effort to take this bag. No matter what happens along the way, the character hangs onto the bag. A writer friend was reading a draft of my story and asked me to reveal what was in the bag. I didn’t know until months later when the character opened the bag, and I discovered the contents.
I don’t know if it just happened because so many voices have been silenced, and this one voice simply erupted, or if I channeled someone from 1921. I just know it was a weird and exhilarating ride…
Do you have a writing talisman, habit (for me it’s barefoot and a cup of tea), that you engage in as a writer?
Sioux Roslawski: I have a metal pig with wings that sat next to my desk. I bought it years ago, thinking I’d get a book published when pigs fly. Well now, I’m going to hang it from the ceiling, because pigs really can fly!
Do you have a favorite writer quote? Which authors inspire you?
Sioux Roslawski: I love the simplicity of Guy de Maupassant’s “Get black on white.” Get ink on paper. Get words down on the paper.
I love some of Stephen King’s novels. I adore Joe Hill’s writing (Stephen King’s son.) I am in awe of Chuck Palahniuk, Sandra Dallas, Jodi Picoult, and Leonard Pitts, Jr.
Any tips or advice for writers?
Sioux Roslawski: Don’t give up. When I was feeling really low--- when I had sent out more than a hundred queries to agents and publishers, and nobody wanted to represent me or publish my manuscript--- I looked up some famous books that had been rejected many times. The Help, a book I love, was rejected sixty (60) times. What if Stockett had stopped there? It was her 61st query that snagged her a “yes.”
Sioux, is there any writing advice you would like to impart?
Sioux Roslawski: Go with your gut. I hired Margo Dill as an editor--I just had a feeling she’d do a great job, but she didn’t do a great job; she did a brilliant job! For me, small and personal is a good thing. Margo bends over backwards to showcase her authors, and every one of her decisions--- editing, choices, regarding the book cover--- are reflective and spot-on.
One more thing about your writing routine.
Sioux Roslawski: I wish I could say I write every day. I wish I could say I have a routine, you know, like “I write every evening after dinner.” I don’t. Most of the time, I write in the early morning (4 or 5 AM) when I’m the only one up. It’s just me and the dog. Late in the evening works for me as well. However, what does keep me writing on a regular basis is my writing critique groups. If I haven’t written something, and we have a meeting coming up, I will definitely spend a few evenings drafting something. I don’t want to go to a meeting empty handed. If I did, I’d miss out on an opportunity to get feedback, and for me, that’s invaluable.
Thank you for sharing with readers. I thoroughly enjoyed reading Greenwood Gone: Henry’s Story. I believe your book should be required middle school and high school reading. Henry Simmons will remain with me for a very long time.