Monday, December 31, 2012

Teaching a Character Development Class! - 1/20/13

Hey, you budding writers!  I'm teaching a class on character development on Sunday, January 20, 2012 at the Writing Pad in Los Angeles.  Care to spend the day with me and your favorite protagonist?  You can find the details on YA Character Collage:  Crafting Your Story From the Inside Out.  Be sure to check out the other awesome offerings on finding an agent, screenwriting, YA, you name it. 

Hope to see you there!

New Year's Eve 2012

alcohols,beverages,celebrations,champagnes,popping,corks,parties,special occasions

I am notorious for asking people to reflect on New Year's Eve.  I want to know what they thought about the old year, what they experienced.  I want to hear it all distilled into a simple conversation.  And then I want to know about their aspirations for the new year.  What will be remembering 365 days hence.

Everyone hates it. 

To a person, there is a shifting, leg-crossing and un-crossing discomfort, as if I'm about to give them a pop quiz on successes and failures in their life.  I've been told, "I don't like thinking about that."  Or "I dunno," or "Why do you do this!"

The reason is simple.  I'm a writer.  I tell stories.  I'm a reader. I like to hear stories, too.  What is a year but a clearly marked chapter in a life?  That doesn't mean that every chapter has to be scintillating.  We've all read books that pull you along and then, suddenly you can't wait to stick a bookmark in it  (I'm thinking Prince Caspian chapter 2 or so, From Hell chapter 4).    You are done.  You don't have the attention/patience/love to give it anymore.  Until an hour or so later, when you do.  And you keep on reading.

So, if you think your year has been dull, or miserable, or not worth mentioning, think again.  So much has happened in this last chapter that you might have forgotten.  Think about it.  And then, as with all good writing, every chapter ends with a little (or a big) cliffhanger.  What.  Happens.  Next? 

That's 2013 calling.  What will you do to answer it?
Happy New Year, Everyone!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Sandy Hook, A Plea

An unspeakable crime was committed today at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newton, CT resulting in the deaths of 20 innocent children and six of their teachers.  My deepest condolences go out to the families of the victims.

 Five years ago, another horrific act took the lives of 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech. 

I come from a family of teachers.  Three of my four bridesmaids teach.  Violence in the classroom strikes a particularly deep chord for me.  Today, a different chord was struck:  My husband is a graduate of Virginia Tech.  Once upon a time, he was also a student at Sandy Hook Elementary. 

In both Sandy Hook and Virginia Tech, the crimes were committed by young men.  In a September 2012 survey of mass shootings by Mother Jones, of the 61 incidents since 1982, 11 took place in schools and almost all of them were committed by men under the age of 30.  Time and again today I heard "experts" say that most of these killings are planned well in advance, that the killers often share their plans with others.  But no one listens.  No one takes them seriously until it is too late.

As a young adult writer I was struck by this fact.  It's the eternal condition of the kid to be ignored, sidelined, not listened to.  It's one of the reasons that I, as a kid, turned to books and storytelling.  It was a way to hear and be heard.   Now, I was lucky.  I had parents who cared, who taught me, who showed me right from wrong.  But they could not always take the time.  And when they couldn't, there was always a book.  Reading gave me a way to learn about the world without having to suffer every pain directly.  In that way, books taught me empathy.

Listening to the news today, I tried to think what I would say to the children who survived today's attack.  What books are out there to help them deal with grief, with loss, with the inexplicable.  And then I wondered, what I could do to help? 

As a writer, I ask you, what can we do to help.  How do we reach the child before he grows up to become a killer?  How do we reach the children who might end up beneath their desks or in a closet hoping they live to see Christmas? 

It is evident to me that, somehow, we are failing our young men.  Somewhere along the way, they are getting lost, angry, sick and they act out in horrific ways. 

I am not a doctor.  I am not a counselor.  I am not even a parent with children of my own.  But I am a writer.  I write for teens to show them a path out of darkness. 

It doesn’t get darker than this.

So, students, teachers, fellow authors let's put our heads together and come up with a new path.  How can we help stop this from ever happening again?