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.

How to Get the Most from a Writing Conference

If you are interested in getting your book published, writing conferences are the place you need to get yourself to. A conference is where industry professionals gather.  You’ll find agents, editors, published and aspiring authors in the mix. To get the most from writing conferences it is important get organized in advance.

Most conferences have a tentative schedule available for you to see when you register. I review the schedule months in advance to see if I can submit to a contest or send in pages for review by a panel of authors or in a written critique. Some submissions might be addressed at a workshop anonymously, but at other times you must face public critique. Read the directions carefully and don’t submit if you’re uncomfortable standing in front of a room full of people who are pointing out flaws in your story.

Offer in advance to volunteer at the conference. It not only gives you an opportunity to meet new people, but it shows potential agents and editors that you care enough about the industry to give your time.

Writing conferences are business events, so dress professionally. Hotel conferences halls are notorious for being freezing cold so plan to dress warmmmmm. If you don’t have a business card, have some printed. If you’re not yet published, you can put freelance writer as your title. You can give your card to other authors and if you pitch your manuscript, you can leave a card with the agent.

Before you leave for the conference, print out the schedule. Circle the workshops and panels you would like to attend. Make a mental note of people you would like to meet and books you would like to purchase.

Once you arrive, search out people who write in your genre and make new friends. Absorb all the fascinating new information being offered and be inspired to take your writing to the next level.

Sleuthfest is March 1-4 at the Embassy Suites in Boca Raton. It’s known to be the top conference in the southeast for writers of mystery and thriller. If you go, I’ll be wearing a pink boa around my neck to show that I’m a volunteer who is selling raffle tickets. Stop me and introduce yourself, I love to meet new people.

Book Review: If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo

I love books that open my eyes, books that tell stories that are outside my experience, especially ones where the characters come to life on the page. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is one of those books.

I knew when I purchased it that it was written by a transgender woman about a transgender teenage girl. That’s why I chose it. I wanted to better understand. And I’m happy to say that If I Was Your Girl did so much more than that.

Bouncing between Amanda Hardy’s pre-transition life and her post-transition life (where her body caught up to her reality), the story conjured in me an enormous sympathy. At one point, after taking her first hormone treatment, Amanda lets herself “dream of how good life could be every now and then.”

Every now and then?! How heartbreaking that a good life “every now and then” was the most she could hope for. I have no doubt that a lot of people—not just teens—can relate to that, even if they can’t relate to Amanda’s specific experiences.

So, yeah, I felt for Amanda, but I also sympathized with her parents. Their reactions and attitudes felt very real to me, and I understood the fear that influenced all their decisions. As Amanda’s father said to her, “Everything that made you happy, from the way you wanted to walk to the toys you wanted to the way you wanted to dress… it put you in danger.”

If I Was Your Girl is about a girl who doesn’t want to disappear anymore, who takes charge of her life and learns to love herself. That’s the kind of character journey that tugs at my heart and makes the story still resonate long after I’ve finished the book.

Not a Rebel Among Us

In Gretchen Rubin’s The Four Tendencies, she explains that people fall into four categories which are defined by how they respond to expectations. Here is the quick and dirty on the four types.

Upholder – meets both inner and out expectations

Obliger – meets outer expectations but not inner expectations

Questioner – resists outer expectations while meeting inner expectations

Rebel – resists both outer and inner expectations.

 

Throughout her book, Gretchen mentions writers and how the tendencies play out in their lives.

Upholder writers can write well without deadlines. They don’t need an external system of accountablility for thier writing. An upholder is someone who can quit their day job and write a book because they have that internal accountablilty.

Obliger writers do well with deadlines – like say, a weekly critique group, where you should have pages to read each week. An obliger who quits a day job to write a novel, even a novel that is under contract, will have trouble unless there are set deadlines all along the way.

Questioner writers don’t need the external accountability, but they want to know why they are doing what they are doing. It’s unlikely that a questioner writer is going to write what you suggest.

Rebel writers….they might write if they feel like it that day…but they might not…ever…feel like writing.

Of course, I asked The Tuesdays to take the Four Tendencies quiz, and you can to! https://www.surveygizmo.com/s3/3706759/Gretchen-Rubin-s-Quiz-The-Four-Tendencies

Can you guess how we fared?

Here’s a hint – three upholders, two questioners, and one obliger.

Upholders – Faran, Melody, Cathy

Questioners – Jonathan and Stacie

Obliger – Joanne

 

It’s your turn! Take the quiz and tell us how you did!

Librarians and Author Visits

The Tuesdays welcome Diana Perri-Haneski, media specialist at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School.

 

www.tuesdaywriters.com

What do Librarians/Media Specialists want from authors and author visits? 

By Diana PerriHaneski 

 

Every day I connect Young Adults with Books they will want to read. Yes, kids of all ages are still reading books, the ones where you turn the paper pages and the ones that you swipe pages on a phone, iPad, or computer. Students want hardback, paperback, Kindle, Nook, or Overdrive e-books purchased and borrowed from the library. I’m always on the lookout for YA books and authors that will motivate our students to read and write. As the Media Specialists at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, I love the challenge of putting a book in the hands of a student that will intrigue them to open it up and read. Sometimes visitors see a novel placed on an eye catching promotional display, they pick up the book and start leafing through it while they are waiting, and later check it out. Often their friends recommend a book, or they see one at the book store and come to the library in search of it. Every day I am inspired to help students that can’t find a book they want to read or think they don’t like to read. I prepare and read many books so I can share that title or author that might get their attention. I will often excite curiosity in a library visitor after chatting with them a bit to find out their hobbies, and interests.  This time builds relationships and leads me to show them books that will appeal to them.

A question like: What was the last book you read that you loved? Helps me find the right book as does getting a published author to visit the students at school.  When an author comes to visit students in person or via Skype, it creates an interest in the author’s books. 

What do Media Specialists/Library Teachers want from writers? 

I purchase books that help students learn and complete assignments based on the curriculum, and I buy books for them to read for pleasure. My goal is to createa collection of books and materials that reflect the needs and interests of our school community. The YA books students look for, are books where they see themselves, see others, and take them places they have never been or would never want to be. Florida award winning author Adrian Fogelin agrees and says, “Authors who can write books that show the reader experiences they haven’t had by bringing experiences into stories, and take them to places they’ve never been, they also validate who they are when they connect with a story , and make sure that they see themselves in books. 

When authors visit schools they get a chance to be around the kids they write about. Guest authors have asked to eat in the cafeteria in order to have conversations with the students and hear how they talk, and get new, updated vocabulary. Fogelin adds, authors want to make sure are on target with their writing. They often write from their own childhood and that isn’t always the same. It’s also important to connect with teachers since they are allies. She adds,School visits help energize the authors, teachers and the students. 

What are the books that kids look for? 

Young Adult literature professor at USF, Dr. Joan Kaywell, believes “books can save lives.” She says “authors like Laurie Hale’s Anderson, Ellen Hopkins, Jay Asher, and Sharon Flake have published books that cover serious hard to talk about topics like bulimia, bullying and suicide.” 

After reading books by these important young adult authors, I am more alert to possible struggles, more understanding and better equipped with language to deal with the situation. When I read, Fogelins, “Crossing Jordan,” I was better prepared with vocabulary for speaking with young people about and dealing with prejudice.

I always saw the value in making sure my students can find themselves in a book now I realize a reader needs to see others as well. 

It’s a pleasure to performs as matchmaker between books and Reader’s.

ReadREADRead  

 

 

 

Free Friday!

It’s that time of year again, time to start back at my day job.

 

For me, it’s a love/hate kind of thing.

I love the kids I work with, but I hate giving up my writing, thinking, walking, just existing time.

It’s kind of like being immersed in a daydream, and having someone snap you back to reality.

The reality is that I’ve got to work. But the dream is that one day I will be able to just write.

Just write.

That sounds good, doesn’t it? But the thing is, we don’t ever get to just write, do we?

There’s the researching and the brainstorming. There’s the outlining and creating. There’s seeing the problems you have in a manuscript, and figuring out how to make it work anyway. And that’s just the writing part.

What about the rest? There’s marketing. There’s making connections with readers. There are appearances to plan and workshops to write.

But the key for me is time management. Because how do I make it all work? It’s a challenge, for sure. But then as an author it’s all part of what we get to do. It’s a privilege to write for kids. It’s a pleasure to meet with them. It’s the reason we do this writing thing to begin with. To have an opportunity to reach as many people as we possibly can and to have an impact on their lives.

So while I’m setting my clock for 5:30 AM and trying to work in bits and pieces of an artist’s life around my day job demands, I still dream of a day when I’ll get to create full time. Or at least Netflix binge, walk, market, plan and then write full time. Life. Is. Full. Especially when you’re an author, and I don’t want to miss a thing.

Triplet Sisters Raised to Believe they Must Kill Each Other

Sounds like the ultimate dysfunctional family, doesn’t it?www.tuesdaywriters.com

Three Dark Crowns is a luscious novel of poison, intrigue, and triplets who must fight for the crown.

Separated in the first few years of their lives, their mother knows what their gifts are. One will be a poisoner able to withstand any poison so much so that every meal and every drink will be tainted and not harm her.

The second will be an elemental who controls the elements – even fire – to do as she tells it.

The third will be a naturalist who can force plants to grow and wild animals to obey.

Raised separately, Katharine, the poisoner, Mirabella, the elemental, and Arsinoe, the naturalist, have been told that they must kill their sisters in order to be queen. Once they are sixteen, they have one year to accomplish the task. The last woman standing wins the crown and control of the island of Fennbern.

Kendare Blake http://kendareblake.com/ does a masterful job of weaving this story that is the perfect mix of world building, tragic love, and it creates such indecision in the reader (AKA – me!)

I don’t know which sister to root for!

And I have to wait until September for the sequel. Argh!

Three Dark Crowns is on the newest Florida Teens Read list. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v8CEjoyJ0xk You can also watch the trailer here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcaCrSOQ9kY

Which sister will you choose?www.tuesdaywriters.com

Adding My Voice

As a victim of sexual assault, I should have known this already, but I only recently discovered that April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM), a national campaign that raises public awareness about sexual violence and also educates individuals and communities in how to prevent it. So in honor of SAAM, and to help forward the cause, I’m giving away five autographed copies of my critically acclaimed, award-winning book, A Work of Art, via this Goodreads giveaway. I’m also making a nice donation to SAAM and buying this t-shirt via their website. I’ll wear it proudly.

Admitting I’m a survivor of sexual assault didn’t come easily for me. I, like many other victims, have been reluctant to talk about something that society tends to see as a taboo topic, or an uncomfortable topic, or a topic you don’t bring up because you’re ashamed and you don’t want others to see you as weak. I told myself for years that I didn’t have it that bad. That others I know had it much worse. So why talk about it? Why make an issue out of it? Slowly, my views on that are changing. And certainly a part of me—something deep in my consciousness—wanted to talk about it…which is why (and I see this now) I wrote A Work of Art.

Research has shown that readers of literary fiction tend to be more empathetic people, but it’s easy to overlook the fact that books can play a key role in creating awareness of sexual assault violence. A Work of Art delves into the shame and insecurity that many sexual assault victims suffer from. It also deals with love—how victims of sexual assault sometimes have a skewed perception of what love is, and how sometimes we can love those who victimize us.

Goodreads Book Giveaway

A Work of Art by Melody Maysonet

A Work of Art

by Melody Maysonet

Giveaway ends April 23, 2017.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway


Even if you don’t enter my Goodreads giveaway to win a copy of my book, I hope you’ll click here to check out all the good things that SAAM is doing and maybe add your voice to the cause. 

Have I got a book for you!

Or three if you prefer!

Confession: even though I’ve been a media specialist, I suck at returning books. It’s not that I want to keep them, it’s just that sometimes (okay, all the time) the due date passes. So I started downloading audio books from the public library. SCORE! They disappear from your device after the due date!www.tuesdaywriters.com

You can use the OverDrive app to connect to your local library. Broward County Library has a fantastic collection of audio books.

So these are some of the gems I’ve listened to in the past two months.

Ramie Nightengale by Kate DiCamillo. It’s the story of three girls who all have their reasons for wanting to competewww.tuesdaywriters.com in the Little Miss Central Florida Tire contest. One of the striking aspects of this story is how each character is distinct in this third person historical fiction story. Raymie is convinced that winning the contest will get her picture in the paper which will make her father see it, and come home after running away with a dental hygienist. DiCamillo captures the essence of what it means to be a child trying to figure out what is going on with the adults in their lives.

 

 

 

Ghost by Jason Reynolds. Ghost is the self-proclaimed nickname of the main character because he thinks he is just that fast. Not that he practices or anything. He doesn’t need to. One day after school Ghost comes across a track team practice. He sees this one kid who Ghost can tell thinks he’s all that and Ghost knows he can beat him. So Ghost goes onto the track and stands there ready to race. www.tuesdaywriters.comThe coach tries to get rid of Ghost, but he won’t budge. Coach lets him race just to get rid of him. Of course, Ghost wins. That’s what he wanted, so he leaves, but now the coach wants him on the team. Ghost isn’t too concerned. He knows his mother would never let him join the team, so he agrees to let Coach meet his mom.  Mom says yes as long as Ghost doesn’t get into trouble at school and does his homework. Uh oh.

 

 

99 days by Katie Cotugno

Molly Barlow returns home for the 99 days between high school graduation and college. You know how parents can be so embarrassing when you’re in high school? Well Molly’s mother, best-selling author, gets out of her writing slump by penning a best selling story and then tells People Magazine that it’s based on her daughter’s love life…the time Molly was temporarily broken up with her boyfriend and slept with her ex-boyfriend’s brother. Everything in Molly’s life falls apart, and she goes away to boarding school but has no where to go until college starts. One of the things I liked about this story was the way Cotugno didn’t have to tell us every detail of those 99 days, and it worked!www.tuesdaywriters.com

 

 

What book have you read or listened to recently? Post in the comments below!

 

Free Write Friday

2016 has been a year. Yes it has.

Sides have been taken. Predictions made. Proven wrong. Then revisited. Twitter has taken on a whole new life and a whole new role in the political landscape. And no matter which side of the argument you were on, it’s a time of trepidation and unchartered territory for all of us.

But then again, we have books and movies and fandoms to save us, thankfully.  Full immersion in the worlds created by authors and screen writers is at an all time high.

Thank you Harry Potter. Thank you Star Wars. Thank you Marvel Universe. Thank you Barnes & Nobles and indie book stores. Thank you bloggers and podcasters and fan fic writers. You keep us living what we love.

And you know what? I sincerely believe that 2017 is going to be even bigger for those of us who work in the imagination trade. Yay us.

But until then here are a few of my favorite memories of 2016:

 

I didn’t actually see The Force Awakens until January 2016 so even though it came out in 2015, I’m counting it as one of my favorite memories this year. Reliving the magic of Star Wars meant remembering my parents (who are in everything, still) who always gave my siblings and me a love of magic in all forms. I couldn’t be more grateful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I was on the First Books panel for FL SCBWI January conference with fellow Tuesday Writer, Melody Maysonet.

 

Along with Steven Dos Santos, I presented a YA masterclass for the Big Read at Broward County Public Library.

 

The Tuesday Writers launched our group blog. First post was written by our lead-off batter, Jonathan Rosen. Yay us.

 

At the midyear SCBWI conference I met my editor, Annette Pollert-Morgan and had dinner with her and my agent, Nicole Resciniti where I pitched ideas for future projects using Jonathan Mayberry’s formula for pitching: start with the heart of the piece and show us why we should care. It worked! I laid the ground work at that meeting for the two book deal Nic and Annette and I penned. One book to be released November 2017. The other November 2018.

 

I experienced ALA 2016 and for the first time I found my own personal version of Nirvana. My Disney World. My Eden. And it all started, as most really good things do, with Harry Potter where Tuesday Cathy and I tried to win a prize. I’d like to say we left empty handed, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth as you see Cathy’s bookhaul:

 

Over the summer I was part of a multi-kidlit author panel for young writers in conjunction with Nova University. Honestly, it might have been the most fun thing I’ve done all year.

 

In July I did my first ever school visit as an author at Glades Central High School.

 

In August we adopted our third dog from Big Dog Ranch Rescue. A puppy we named Delilah who has brought us equal parts of deliciousness and destruction.

 

In October I turned my third manuscript in to my editor. Then I got to emcee an amazing literary event at EmKo on race and immigration sponsored by The Cream Literary Alliance.

In November my second book, The Homecoming was released. Much partying ensued. Also some silliness. As is my nature. You may have seen the pictures.

In December The Sister Pact was named one of Pennsylvania School Librarians Top 40 books of 2015. I was beyond humbled.

 

2016 has been a year. Yes it has. But it’s good to remember the highlights along with the lows. (My NY JETS are def a low but my Gators made it to the SEC Championship game. Go Gators)

 

This weekend will signal, for many people, a time of peace and kindness to all, for others a celebration in the ability to persevere, for others a renewal of core values and beliefs. For all of us, hopefully, it will be a time to be with family and friends. A time to remember that goodness and light exist even in dark times.

 

Thank you, Tuesday readers, for giving me this chance to wax sentimental about the previous year while facing the challenges and enjoying the rewards of the year ahead.

 

Peace to all of you whether this holiday season finds you in the beautiful snow lined woods or on the sunny beach.

 

Stacie