What do we tell the children?

by Faran Fagen

My daughter points to the gunman and asks, “Is that a bad man?”
We watch the terrible news unfold at the school shooting just minutes away, not realizing Blair has entered the living room.

I stare at her green eyes. It’s a yes or no question. But it’s not simple. Or concrete, like when we play Candyland and you pick the Lollipop card and take that spot on the board.

Instead of answering Blair, I’m silent. I think of the many school shootings that have rocked our nation since Columbine in 1999, most of which Blair, 5 years old, never heard of.

The strip at the bottom of the television reads 17 dead at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School. Seventeen. One of the worst school shootings on record in a city known as the safest in Florida. The 18th school shooting of 2018, and it’s only Valentine’s Day.

I tell Blair that a sad, angry man hurt people and will go to jail, and that seems to satisfy her curiosity for the moment. Then I think of the 17 families that lost a daughter or son, and that hollow feeling returns to my stomach. The same punch to the gut every time I hear about another shooting.

So I do what I do when I get that sick feeling. I write. Get thoughts on paper. To try and make some sense.
I hammer it into my head. Yes, it happened at Douglas, the pride of Parkland, a community known for close-knit families. Where I have friends. It also happened a few years ago at a Connecticut elementary school full of innocent children.

If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere.

If you’re like me, with every news bulletin in the last year that there’d been another senseless shooting, your stomach clenches. First thought: please no fatalities. Second thought: How could anyone do this? Third thought: Is this ever going to end?

According to reports, since the 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Connecticut, there has been an average of at least one school shooting per week.

So how do we stop it?

Fingers have pointed at violent video games and movies, mental illness, gangs, terrorism plots, cyberbullying, revenge, sparse gun control and social media gone wrong. To name a few.

Unlike the cards in Candyland, the answer isn’t easy. But I know this – every attacker in every shooting shares the fact they felt alone or alienated somehow. Shunned, ignored, humiliated, bullied, isolated.

The two killers in the Columbine shootings were constantly harassed and bullied, and one of them wrote in his journal about his hatred for the human race.

Another shooting occurred in 2007 that killed 32 people on Virginia Tech’s campus. Picked on by other students at a young age, the shooter was described by his college professors as a troubled loner.

The shooter of the Newtown massacre was described in various articles as friendless and isolated.

Some of these tragedies contained heroes like Victoria Soto, a 27-year-old teacher at Sandy Hook Elementary, who hid students in a closet and died trying to shield them from bullets. It’s already being reported that Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach at Douglas, died shielding students from gunfire.

Every time a shooting happens, I look at pictures of the slain and that knot tightens in in my stomach.
In December of 2012, the media posted picture after picture of the 20 children killed at Sandy Hook. The children look so happy in those pictures. Their entire future ahead of them. I swallow hard thinking that those kids will never experience their graduation, or even their first kiss.

Those 20 kids’ moms and dads had to bury their own children – an act too terrible to imagine.
All because of attackers so utterly lost that they resort to the unthinkable.

It used to be okay to feel alone. In Oh the Places You’ll Go, Dr. Suess says alone is something you’ll be quite a lot. But in the end you’ll succeed, “98 ¾ percent guaranteed”.

Now, being alone is a crisis. Somehow, we’ve lost our ability to cope. And have hope for someone utterly abandoned from the American dream of love and family that’s supposed to be so easy to reach.

As I kiss my daughter good night, I look deep into her green eyes. She wraps her arms around my neck and squeezes tight. She’s tucked safely under the covers. The television is still on in the other room, recounting the day’s carnage.
Yes, Blair, there are bad men in the world. Lost, hopeless, desperate, and alone bad men. Some live nearby, and I can’t always protect you from them. And I’ll never be the same.

Two New Tuesday Books

It’s somebody’s birthday everyday, but on Tuesdays, it Book Birthdays! For anyone who has ever tried to write a book, we know what labor is! I have yet to have my own Book Birthday, but I love celebrating everyone else!

Iowa resident, Eliot Sappingfield’s book, A Problematic Paradox is born today!  Cue the confetti cannons. Strike the drum. Eliot attended the University of Iowa. (For many years, that was where I thought I wanted to go to school!  Out of state tuition was not an option, you understand, I’m sure.)www.tuesdaywriters.com

I love the title, and I love the cover! Jonathan will probably love this one as it is billed as Guardians of the Galaxy meets A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy! Sounds fantastic! It’s a book filled with chemistry, extra terrestials, and quantum physics where main character, Nikola Kross puts not only her school in danger but the entire galaxy. For more information about Eliot, go to https://eliotsappingfield.com/.

The second Book Birthday is for Claire Kann’s Let’s Talk About Love. Bring out the quadruple layer Boston cream cake with a sparkler on top! It’s worth your time to go to Claire’s website just to see the awesome water color crown! https://www.clairekann.com/.

Her book centers on college student Alice who has just broken up with her girlfriend. She didn’t want to. Margot is her roommate. She loves Margot, but Margot is asexual. She only agrees to have sex to please Alice, but it’s not what she wants. Then Alice meets a guy who gives her all the fluttery romance she’s been hoping for. Should she go for it even with Margot still sharing her dorm room?

Purple is the color of today’s releases:  www.tuesdaywriters.com

Happy Book Birthday Eliot and Claire!

I Went to that Conference!

Going to the conference really gets the creativity flowing! Saturday night at the SCBWI Florida Regional Conference is a dinner and costume contest. Here are most of the Tuesdays dressed as Dogs Playing Poker. You were supposed to dress as your favorite work of art.

Who doesn’t love a classic painting?

Of course, there were others like us who were selected as finalists.  See if you can guess who won?

The Marilyns



Bob Ross and his paining

The Girl with the Pearl Earring

When’s the last time you dressed in costume?

Go to that Conference!

Whether you are a beginner or have been writing for some time, you should make it a point to go to writing conferences. The first SCBWI Miami Conference I attended was after I had only been writing for a year.

I knew almost nothing.

Maybe it was too early for me to go? I read and re-read the conference brochure thinking about which speakers I would skip in favor of a nap in my hotel room.

I didn’t skip one word.

Napping was for losers!

I learned so much, and I found a group of other newbies to hang with.

So what do you write?

Mystery? Mystery Writers of America is having Sleuthfest in March 2018. http://sleuthfest.com/

Romance? Romance Writers of America will hold their annual conference in Denver this year. https://www.rwa.org/events

If you write for children, like me, you can still register for this weekend’s conference in Miami. (And you still have time to get your costume together for Saturday night!) https://florida.scbwi.org/

No matter what you write, there is a conference for you. Go.  You’ll be surprised how much you learn.

Wrapping up one year and starting another

Okay, I’ll admit it. I’ve gotten into a habit of allowing myself to get sucked into the news during what is usually my writing time.

I don’t like it. I don’t like that I’ve allowed myself to get off track.

And then I looked at my current rewrite. My circus story, Flying Blind, has had many lives already. I thought I was just fixing a few things here and there. Then I looked at the climax. You know how people can rewrite the beginning of a story a million times? Seems I’ve neglected the ending so far in this rewrite.

It was tough writing in the days running up to Christmas. We had school until December 22nd, but I did get in some great writing on the 26th and 27th – on the end and not the beginning.

What about today? I’m on a little vacay with the family. Won’t really get back to writing until Sunday. I’m back to setting a timer. It’s a guaranteed way to get on track.

How are you managing your writing in the new year?

Show Somebody Your Work, for Crying Out Loud!

I recently listened to a Louise Penny book about Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Surêté du Québec. It’s exactly the type of mystery that I love, so I searched out the first book in the series so I could read from the beginning. In the beginning of Still Life, one of the characters, Jane, decides to enter a painting in a juried art exhibit. The detail of the story explains that Jane has been painting for years and has never shown anyone anything she’s painted. Ever.

I was dumbfounded.

How can she expect to improve?

Many years ago I took a studio art class at Boca High. It was one of those evening classes for adults that only cost around $40 for six weeks. The teacher gave us a blank sheet of paper and asked us to draw a face. Most of us, including me, didn’t make use of the entire page. In looking at my drawing in particular, he explained that the eyes aren’t really that close to the top of the head. They are actually more in the center. In five minutes I was already a better artist!

So who’s looking at your work?

Your mother, spouse, children, and students don’t count.

So now what’s your answer?

A critique group is a great place to start.  Most writing organizations have lists of critique groups. Search Meetup groups. Find one that meets at a time and place convenient to you and try it out. My first critique group was not a fit for me. I kept at it and have been in several that worked!

Get a professional critique. Most conferences give an opportunity for such a critique at a nominal fee. If you’ve got an entire book, there are professional editors who charge by the page.

Here’s the bottom line. Whatever they say, use it to grow into a better writer.

Creativity for Writers

Are you participating in Nanowrimo or PiBoldMo this month? Confession time – I didn’t this year, but it is really fun to write fast. In a recent SCBWI Boot Camp event, Dorian Cirrone worked with us on the concept of writing fast. Working for say ten minutes and just seeing how many words you can get down on the page. It can be very freeing to allow yourself to let the words out without second guessing all of them.

So while participating in writing events like Nano or PiBo are a great way to connect the collective consciousness of everyone else going for fifty thousand words, it has the possibility to quash your creativity. Here are some ways to consider stirring up the creativity that may be dormant.

  1. Participate in a FaceBook challenge like sharing seven black and white pictures – a different one for each day – without any explanation. No writing involved, but taking pictures activates a different part of your brain.
  2. Cut pictures out of magazines to represent your characters. It makes them more real and looking for them is half the fun!
  3. Meme your characters! There are meme generators all over the internet. For this one, you might want to set a time limit because you really could get sucked into the vortex of wasting time on the internet. www.tuesdaywriters.com
  4. Haiku! Boil a crucial scene down into 17 syllables. (It’s fun!) (And revealing!)
  5. Blackout poetry – my students love this. Take a page from your book and create a poem by selecting words from the page. You can then create art around the poem you’ve created.         Remember that sometimes you have to step away from the project to see what it’s all about.            www.tuesdaywriters.com

Naming Things – Characters, Towns, and Files

I suck at naming things.

Okay, maybe not everything. I think we found the perfect name for our son. However, my husband, who I think is a genius at naming things was heavily involved.

One thing you might not know about Stacie is that she hates it when you decide to change a character’s name mid-book. So of course, The Tuesday try not to do that. I have done it though. C’mon, we’re all trying to find the next Katniss, right? In my current WIP my main character has been named Ana, Abra, and Fia. In the current rewrite, I’m thinking of changing it – AGAIN. (Please don’t kill me, Stacie.)

I have resorted to name generators. Google them. They’ve got fantasy name generators or ones where you can pick the nationality of your character. It can be helpful or a time suck.

There are some great old books like this one:www.tuesdaywriters.com Nicknames and Sobriquets of US Cities, States, and Countries. Sobriquet? Fancy work for nickname! (Try and use that in a sentence this week, and let me know what happens!) Published in 1979, this book gives nicknames of cities all around the US. Delray, where is where I live, is also known as, Florida’s Dissimilar Resort, The City in Florida with a Difference, The Island of Distinctive Resort Life, and the Luxurious City of Traditional Simplicity. Or how about this book? www.tuesdaywriters.comHandbook of Pseudonyms and Personal Nicknames published in 1982. Here’s an example: Lippert, Thomas Ray (1950?-) American Kidnapper – The Love Kidnapper. Just looking through these books can give a lot of story ideas.

Now for the real reason for this post. I rewrote the plot for my current WIP, shared it at critique group over a month ago, and now I can’t find it on my computer. What you need to know is that I work in Google Docs. Everything is automatically saved. However, Google lets your start a new document and saves it for you without requiring a name. You know what? That doesn’t really matter though, because I wouldn’t have named it something as easy as Plot – Flying Blind. Nope. I’d name it something like – trying out a new plot – or – amped up test.

This is where the genius of my husband comes in. Every time we are working together on the computer, he doesn’t move forward without saving the document and placing the document in the correct folder. I’m thinking, can we just hurry up? But he’s going to name it in such a way that he will be able to find it in less than three clicks. Why hasn’t this ability rubbed off on me yet? If we are working on a publisher document, he saves each version along the way: bookmark001, bookmark002, etc. (Sigh.) Maybe someday I’ll get it. Until then, I’ll be here searching through my Google Drive. Ugh.