AU English Professor receives grant to write novel

Thu, 2010-09-16 14:11 -- univcomm
September 16, 2010

Traveling around in a covered wagon in the early 1900s through the Appalachian Mountains is where you will find an adventurous 10-year-old girl named Anina. She is the main character in the new young adult novel, "A Star for Robbins Chapel," written by Anderson University English professor Deborah Miller Fox.

Anina has trouble fitting into a community because of the superstition surrounding the unique star-shaped birthmark on her face and because of her family’s gypsy lifestyle. Anina finally finds a place where she is accepted in a mountain cove called Robbins Chapel. Here is an excerpt from the book when she meets a benevolent stranger who welcomes Anina and her family into his home:

Anina knew her family wouldn’t stay long, but a small flutter—like the lovely wings of a Luna moth—stirred in her chest. Just one more day in this cove, she whispered. That’s my wish tonight. She wanted to see this place by daylight, explore its nooks and crannies to find something that might explain this stranger’s willingness to take in gypsies.

robbinschapelMiller Fox received a 2007 Falls Faculty Development Grant that allowed her to travel to Robbins Chapel, a town located in Virginia. Miller Fox’s research also took her to the Museum of Appalachia in Norris, Tenn.

"The one thing the novel was missing was a clear voice of the landscape and characters," said Miller Fox. "I needed to capture the voice of the people who lived in this place. I needed to look at the mountains, drive along the roads and look at the creek and trees as a writer. I was grateful for the faculty grant that allowed me to experience all this."

Miller Fox’s memories of rural Virginia were the ones of her childhood as she visited her great-grandmothers, who lived just a few miles from Robbins Chapel in Pennington Gap. "I knew Robbins Chapel was a real place," said Miller Fox, "but I had never actually been there." After finding the town, interviewing its people and exploring its scenery, she discovered a place that was the perfect setting for her novel.

Since 2003, "A Star for Robbins Chapel" has gone through many revisions. "I have completely recomposed the book three or four times," said Miller Fox. The novel actually started out as a metaphorical star. "I’m not really sure where Anina came from, but somehow, rather than writing about a star, it became this young girl," said Miller Fox.

Miller Fox believes the book appeals to a wide audience but speaks most pointedly to adolescent girls. "Anina has a deformity, but she is strong-willed. And finally," she said, "she sees her birthmark as part of her beauty and not a distraction from her beauty." Miller Fox reassures potential readers, however, that the book also has plenty of adventure, mystery and biblical images to keep all types of readers entertained. "A Star for Robbins Chapel" went to press at the end of August and is expected to be released this month.

— P. Aaron Vogel is a 2010 graduate from Fairmount, Ind. He majored in communication arts and earned a minor in marketing. Vogel is an associate with Fifth Street Communications, writing on behalf of Anderson University’s Office of University Communications.

Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.