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Posts reviews of picture books and teen fiction; suggests useful book sites, software, and book-related products; some news about children's books, and more.
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I used to think that I should keep my blog “writerly” and professional. But readers often like to know things about the authors they read. And if you follow me on Twitter or FaceBook, you’ll frequently see photos I post of my little dog Petal. So I’ve been thinking for a while now–Cheryl, this is silly. Why not post photos to your blog, too? Maybe not *every* time, but…sometimes. (smiling) I love my dog so much, and I love it when people enjoy her, too, so it’s fun to share photos of her.
Petal in her flannel cow-star PJs, catching a stick. (Hey–it was a cold summer day. )
Petal is such a sweet tempered and beautiful-soul dog. You might be wondering why she’s wearing clothes in most photos. She’s a Chinese Crested–a hairy hairless dog (she has more hair than most Chinese Cresteds do). She doesn’t have any hair on her belly or sides, and grows a small amount on her back, but a lot on her head, tail, and feet. Because she’s a (mostly) hairless dog, in the summer if she’s not wearing PJs she gets sunburn in 15 minutes outside, and shakes from being cold in the air conditioning, and in the winter, she must wear PJs, sweaters, and when we go outside, a down coat, to keep warm.
My first dog, Willow, was also a Chinese Crested, and also very sweet tempered. I loved her so much and found it so painful when she died, that I had to get another dog of the same breed. I’m glad I did. Chinese Crested dogs are so sweet, loving, and lovable. And dogs give such unconditional love!
Petal on a warm summer’s day without her PJs.
Petal is a playful, happy, sweet-tempered little dog, and she is my family. Since I work at home all day, writing, editing, and working on book promotion, Petal is with me all day–usually pressing her paw or back or side against me as I sit on the couch and work. She’s such a sweetie! She also interrupts me after I’ve been working too long, and insists on me playing with her or giving her treats, which is a good thing, because otherwise I would work far too long. Petal is so good for me! And I love her dearly. Since writers often work in solitude for long hours, I think it helps a lot to have an animal companion. Petal sure helps me!
Petal snuggling with me.
Petal lying on my legs as I write. Yes, I write and edit by hand! I think it’s more creative and intuitive, more deeply connected to what I need to say.
Petal making sure she’s connected to me as I write. (smiling)
Petal snuggled up with my best friend Jo. Petal loves Jo, and Jo loves Petal. Perfect!
Petal looking up at me on our walk.
I have so many more photos of Petal! (laughing) But I think this is good for now.
Do you have an animal companion who’s part of your family? I hope so. They give so much joy.
By: Cheryl Rainfield
Blog: Cheryl Rainfield: Avid Reader, Teen Fiction Writer, and Book-a-holic. Focus on Children & Teen Books
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I love it when readers post photos of my books in the wild! It feels so good to see.
I love this one reader–and writer–G. Donald Cribbs, reading HUNTED. It made me laugh!
I think this one of SCARS at Starbucks by Kaylah Krysdell Urquiza is so cool–it shows how well loved and well read Scars is!
And (ahem) here’s one of me so happy to have the final copy of STAINED–which comes out Oct 1st! I’m so excited!
It’s a delight to see people taking photos of my books and sharing them. I love knowing my books touch people.
Have one of my books? Want to be featured here on my blog? Take a photo of you or your pet “reading” one of my books, or my book out somewhere, and email it to me at Cheryl @ CherylRainfield (dot) com, and I’ll put it here.
By: Cheryl Rainfield
Blog: Cheryl Rainfield: Avid Reader, Teen Fiction Writer, and Book-a-holic. Focus on Children & Teen Books
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My advance bound copy of STAINED just arrived (it doesn’t release until Oct 1st)–and it is gorgeous! Absolutely beautiful. It felt so good to get in the mail today! (In STAINED, Sarah, a teen with a port-wine stain and body image issues, is abducted, and must find a way to rescue herself.)
There is so much excitement and joy in seeing (in person) the book you wrote–the finished copy–for the very first time. I admit that I was so excited to get STAINED that I ran and showed five different neighbors, and then a friendly teller at the bank who always loves to hear about my writing, and my hairdresser, and the clerk at the grocery store who’s always friendly with me. (Laughing) And they were all lovely about it, joining in with my excitement and enthusiasm.
And there is also SO much good feeling in holding your finished book in your hands for the first time. In running your hands over the cover, feeling the texture (or smoothness), breathing in the scent of the book, seeing your name on the cover, seeing the way your manuscript became an actual, finished book. Taking in the effect of the cover, the weight of the book, the color of the pages, the fonts used. Feeling proud of your hard work, your dream–and of the publishing team who helped you. My editor, Karen Grove, was fantastic, helping me make STAINED a stronger book, and everyone I worked with at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt was lovely.
I think the book designer Liz Tardiff did an absolutely beautiful job. I love the purple dripping from the title on the cover–so fitting when Sarah has a purple port-wine stain on her cheek, and she feels stained by it and the way people judge her, as well as by the abduction and rape. I also love how easy it is to read the one-liner and my name on the cover. I really love the cover–it reminds me of Ellen Hopkins’ books–but I’d already seen the cover (in digital form). What I hadn’t seen and realized was how gorgeous the paper for the dust jacket is. It’s a lovely matte finish with a wonderful, almost grainy texture–a surprise and a delight to hold!
And then the end papers are a deep, rich purple–tying perfectly into the title (and into the port wine stain on Sarah’s cheek), and also the first line description on the inside flap, and my name and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s info on the back flap.
And then a nice surprise, to me, was to take off the dust jacket and see the title in that vivid, shiny purple, overlaid on top of black, along the spine.
I am so lucky to have a cover and a book design I love. I’m so happy! I had a lot of fun with the photos and STAINED; I hope you can tell. (grinning)
Here’s one of me reading STAINED. I know that books can save lives. Books helped save mine, and I still get reader letters every week from teens (and adults) telling me how SCARS helped save them. I hope that STAINED will also be a book that will save lives.
I didn’t used to be able to say or even feel that I was proud of myself…but I am, now. I know my books reach people who need it. I know I write emotional truths, break silences, and talk about abuse and trauma and healing, queer characters and strong girls and things that I care about deeply. I know I’m writing the books I needed as a teen and couldn’t find. So today–with the arrival of STAINED (out Oct 1st!) I feel proud.
Thank you for allowing me to share my excitement and happiness with you over STAINED. (smiling)
And (ahem) if you noticed the blue and orange fabric in the corner of my photos, that is a pair of Petal’s (my little dog’s) pjs. heh.
I LOVE this collaborative song and message for peace and equality: A Better Place. It’s catchy and feel-good and beautiful. I wish more women were featured and for longer, and Canada, too–and I also wish they’d mentioned sexual orientation in the text as another way we should all be equal (or another form of oppression) and poverty (perhaps that’s caste?)–but it’s wonderful song and message. It made me feel good to watch; I hope it does you, too.
A Better Place from Playing For Change on Vimeo.
SCARS audiobook is now available for pre-order! It releases Sept 1st–a month before STAINED releases. The SCARS audiobook is read by Emily Bauer. It’s a different cover than the original book, but it’s still the same book on the inside.
I’m looking forward to hearing how Emily reads it. I love being read to–to me it’s a treat, especially when the reader speaks with the emotion of the book and the characters.
How about you? Do you like being read to? Do you enjoy audiobooks? Or does it change how you hear a book?
Words are powerful, and spoken poetry can be especially powerful and evocative, especially when it tells a person’s truths, fights against oppression or injustice, and when it’s said with emotion. That’s what spoken word poet Denice Frohman did here at Women Of The World Poetry Slam with her “Dear Straight People” performance. I think it’s powerful and moving, and will make people think, or laugh, or empathize. What do you think?
You can also read more about this at Huffington Post.
Today I have a Q & A with Karl McMillen, the author of Triumphs and Tragedies: A True Story of Wealth and Addiction, and the founder of the Thelma McMillen Center. Triumphs and Tragedies was co-authored with Bill Hayes and Jennifer Thomas.
Why did you decide to share your story in Triumphs and Tragedies?
The explanation is in the subtitle: “A True Story of Wealth and Addiction.” That is, the juxtaposition of my acquiring of massive wealth, yet my inability to use it to save my two sons from addiction and my wife from cancer. I now use my wealth to continue the fight against addiction and to help families struggling with the same challenges my family faced. This fight includes my writing of this book.
Your story is so personal. How difficult was it to relive some of these moments while being interviewed for the book?
Certainly, that was difficult—the reliving of the tragedies. As I mention in the Introduction, sometimes even I can’t believe I survived everything that I did. But what was perhaps even more difficult was the examination of all this in hindsight; the realization of my enabling and the wrestling with all the “what-ifs.”
Can you tell us a little about McMillen Family Foundation, which sales from Triumphs and Tragedies supports?
The mission statement of the Foundation sets the tone for what we do: The McMillen Family Foundation provides assistance to eligible groups in Southern California that are dedicated to helping men and women who have been impacted, directly or indirectly, by alcohol and/or drugs. We give priority in funding to those non-profits that share our values and have produced tangible and measurable results; and we continually seek out new avenues for making a difference in the lives of substance abuse sufferers. To date, the Foundation has donated more than ten million dollars in the assistance of chemical dependency programs.
You also created the Thelma McMillen Center in honor of your late wife?
Yes. In 2003, I helped the Torrance Memorial Medical Center expand a program they’d had since 1991; that is, helping people live clean and sober lives. And because of what happened to my sons, I wanted to include a program to help adolescents troubled by drug and alcohol abuse. So I pledged $5.3 million—my largest donation to date, and their largest gift ever at that time—to fund The Thelma McMillen Center for Alcohol and Drug Treatment, which includes the Thelma McMillen Teen Outpatient Program. The McMillen Family Foundation now provides continuous support to what we
now affectionately call “Thelma’s Place.”
How did you build a multimillion-dollar business from the ground up, and what tips would you give to businesses?
While the horrors and pitfalls of addiction are a major part of Triumphs and Tragedies, the successes I’ve enjoyed in the business world are also a major aspect of the book and my life; all are so intertwined. If there is a “tip” that I could offer to would-be entrepreneurs and business people, it’s found in what some of my friends and associates call my “Golden Touch.” My success stems from the simple work ethic I learned from my father about working hard and understanding what people need in the way of goods and services. Then you add pure honesty in your dealings to that. You also need to see just how important your employees and partners are and treat them like gold. And your customers
Of course, my mind for “data” has helped a little, too! Along with a full knowledge of the field you are in, you need to understand business basics.
There is a quote in Triumphs and Tragedies that sums it up well: “This dynamic [the “Golden Touch”] is the combining of formal ‘book learning’ with ‘tool turning.’ It’s great to get that business degree, but it’s even more expansively practical if you can also hammer in the nail needed to hang it.” I had “calculations in my brain and calluses on my hands.”
Who struggles with addiction?
Anyone who has been touched by addiction: whether it’s through use by family members, friends, or themselves. And those numbers are huge. It spans all demographics. I can only hope that Triumphs and Tragedies will frighten and educate—frightening anyone who even has the slightest inkling to try drugs, and educating those whose lives and happiness suffer from its collateral damage.
Through all the hardship during your family’s battle with addiction, you found peace, and even sometimes humor, to help make it through. How’d you do that?
Triumphs and Tragedies opens with a scene that demonstrates just how one’s perceptions of things change after suffering the effects of drug addiction. One Christmas, Thelma and I were actually pleased and happy that both are sons were in the same jail at the same time—logistically, it made our holiday visit so much easier! There is juxtaposition for you; we all should have been in our warm beachfront home opening gifts, not in a cold “facility” watching deputies open heavy jailhouse doors.
But we sincerely appreciated just being able to be together.
What would you have done differently? You admit to yourself that you enabled your sons – how so, and how can parents avoid that?
That’s a difficult question. Because I still don’t have all the answers, and there’s no guarantee that anything I could have done would have changed things.
That said, I still think the answer lies in education. But I’m not talking about book learning. Know what your kids are doing. Know where they are. Stay very, very involved in their lives. Get them help quick and early if there are signs of problems. It’s not an excuse, but the drug epidemic that swept the youth of the 1960s took so many parents by surprise. We had no idea of what these drugs were or what they could do—and ultimately neither did the young people who were taking them. But things are different now in terms of sophisticated help and knowledge of what narcotics can do. What is not different, however, is that need for parents to be aware and involved in their children’s lives!
There are some stories in the book that not even your immediate family knew?
Yes. Some of the events that occurred are so shocking, involving my sons’ troubles with addiction and with the law. This includes my extensive outlay of resources, my trying to bribe a judge, and my helping my younger son flee to Mexico to avoid his lifelong incarceration.
This quote from Triumphs and Tragedies says it all: “Chris simply cannot go to jail for the rest of his life on this third strike! He jumps the 50-grand bail and heads for south-of-the-border sanctuary in Mexico.
And Karl helps.”
“When your child is headed for life in prison, you do whatever you have to do…”
The scope of the effects of addiction on my and Thelma’s lives, both emotionally and financially, is almost inconceivable.
After losing both your sons, how do you stay hopeful in your fight against addiction?
I want as many people to learn from my and my family’s mistakes as possible. That is why I wrote this book, That is why I established the McMillen Family Foundation; to support others who are also involved in this battle. My family did not suffer in vain—I believe that the lives of Mark, Chris, Thelma, and myself and what we all learned occurred for one reason: to help others.
About the McMillen Family Foundation
As of the end of 2012, the McMillen Family Foundation had given over $12 million to Southern California charities “dedicated to helping men and women who have been impacted, directly or indirectly, by alcohol and/or drugs” and who “share our values and have produced tangible and measurable results.”
To keep the goodwill going, Karl’s multimillion-dollar wholesale business, Todd Pipe, is set up to donate a full 20% of its profits to the McMillen Family Foundation ad infinitim. In addition, the Foundation will inherit all of Karl’s personal shares in Todd Pipe as well as seven key industrial properties he owns. In this way, Karl’s story, his generosity, and his mission will live on into the future.
All proceeds from Triumphs and Tragedies will be donated to the McMillen Family Foundation.
Visit McMillenFamilyFoundation.org for more information on resources for you or anyone you know battling addiction.
Get a free SCARS bonus short story when you sign up for my author newsletter. This short story has never before been released, and is only available to my newsletter subscribers.
My newsletter will let you know about my new books, contests, books on sale, free books or short stories, bonus material, and other goodies. I’ll be having a contest when STAINED is released this October, and a book blog tour where you can also win goodies. Don’t miss out on hearing about my books and contests! (smiling)
I used Grammarly to grammar check this post, because even though I trained as an editor and a writer, I don’t always see the mistakes and typos in my own work.
I think it’s easy, as a writer, to become discouraged and weary and have that negatively affect your writing. There are the rejections and the negative reviews that sting your soul; the working so hard on your writing and on book promotion (which are both full-time jobs) that tire you; and the upheavals and uncertainty in the publishing world that bring anxiety or financial instability. And if you focus on your writing as your sole means of earning a living, writing can start to feel like a chore, as well as bring pressure. All these things can take the magic and joy out of writing.
And there can be such incredible magic writing. When you create a story out of just letters and words, and your soul and imagination, and that story makes a reader care about the characters, have greater compassion, or feel what it’s like to be someone else–that is magic. When you’ve written sentences and phrases that powerfully, even poetically say truths that you need to say, or that you know will make someone feel and think in ways they didn’t before–phrases that feel just right when you read them aloud–that is a joy. Knowing you’ve written a book that grips readers so much that they can’t put the book down–that feels exhilarating. But if you’ve lost that joy and magic, writing just feels hard.
So how do you get back that joy? You read. Re-read old books you loved and found comfort in, and let the magic of a great storyteller take you places that only a storyteller can. Read new books that excite you and make you feel and care about the characters. If you pick up a book that you don’t enjoy, just put it down, then pick up another one. Keep doing that until you’ve found a book that pulls you in and doesn’t kick you out of the story, a book that you can’t stop reading but don’t want to finish because it’s so good, a book that makes you care deeply about the characters. That book will help feed your creativity and soul, and remind you why you write. That book will help you love writing again, and write with more passion.
And don’t stop there. Read as often as you can. Stuff yourself full of books–books in your own genre, and books outside of it. I believe that reading novels helps us write better. We can learn through osmosis, through absorbing the story and all it has to tell us, through feeding our creative selves. As Ray Bradbury says:
“If you stuff yourself full of poems, essays, plays, stories, novels, films, comic strips, magazines, music, you automatically explode every morning like Old Faithful. I have never had a dry spell in my life, mainly because I feed myself well, to the point of bursting.”
And when you’ve finished a book that you absolutely loved, think about how it made you feel and what it gave you–hours of delicious pleasure and escape; peeking into someone else’s life or knowing you’re not alone; pure delight in a story well told. Think about how it made you want to tell everyone about this fantastic book, how it made you want to write that author and thank her. Then realize that that’s what your books give other readers–that joy and magic, that escape and validation. You have become a favorite author for someone else, just the way other authors are your favorites. What an incredible, amazing thing to have happen!
So read what you love and let yourself write what you love. It will bring joy and passion back into your work.
It does for me. What do you find works for you?
I am honored to have children’s and YA author, and adult non-fiction author, Lois Duncan post here today about her writing journey, her daughter Kait’s murder, and how she came to write her newest book One To the Wolves: On The Trail of a Killer, about Lois’ and her family’s personal investigation into Kait’s murder after the police dropped the unsolved case. Ann Rule said One To The Wolves is “chilling…gripping…a riveting true story of a mother’s fight for justice” which sure makes me want to read it! You can be sure I’m buying a copy. Lois also has a website on her daughter’s murder, so if you lived in Albuquerque in 1989 and know anything that might help, please let her know.
I love Lois Duncan’s books–she has written some of my very favorite books that I have read over and over and over again, including Down a Dark Hall, The Third Eye, and Stranger With My Face. They helped me dream, hope, and gave me some escape in the years I was being abused and tortured, and they fed my soul. They still do. I love Lois’ skill as a writer–her books grab me and don’t let me go until the end–and I also admire her for her honesty, courage, and strength in writing about her daughter’s murder in both Who Killed My Daughter?, and now in her newest book One To The Wolves: On the Trail of a Killer. (You don’t have to have read Who Killed My Daughter? to read One To The Wolves.) Lois Duncan is someone I admire and love. I hope you’ll read Lois’ moving post here, and then go buy and read One To The Wolves.
WHEN FICTION BECOMES HEARTBREAKING FACT
by Lois Duncan
I’m the author of over 50 books, best know for my young adult suspense novels in which teenage heroines are in life threatening situations. Seven of those books (most notably I KNOW WHAT YOU DID LAST SUMMER) made it to Hollywood. I enjoyed writing those. I loved creating dangerous situations and building suspense as my heroines fought to save themselves. Of course, they all managed to do that. Those novels had happy endings.
Then, overnight, the subject that I’d been treating as fiction became horrendous reality. My own teenage daughter, Kaitlyn Arquette, was chased down in her car and shot to death in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The “heroine in jeopardy” was my own child, and I couldn’t re-arrange the plot to make her save herself. I couldn’t produce a happy ending. And, when police dropped off the unsolved case, shrugging it off as a “random drive-by shooting” while ignoring strong evidence that Kait was assassinated because she was preparing to blow the whistle on organized crime, there didn’t seem to be hope for any ending at all.
At that point I stopped writing fiction. I had no heart for it. Instead, I wrote our true story, WHO KILLED MY DAUGHTER?, in hopes that it would bring informants out of the woodwork and prevent the facts of Kait’s case from becoming buried.
It accomplished both purposes. It also produced information that we never could have imagined when the first book was published. I discovered, just as Cheryl Rainfield has with her books, that The Power of the Pen is the strongest weapon in the world.
I’ve now written ONE TO THE WOLVES: ON THE TRAIL OF A KILLER, which chronicles our family’s on-going efforts to put the pieces of this hideous puzzle together. The picture that has emerged is both shocking and terrifying.
ONE TO THE WOLVES has just been published as an e-book. The publisher is Planet Ann Rule, (yes, the nation’s top-selling true crime writer now has her own publishing company). It can be downloaded to Kindles, Nooks, and other such devices. As yet, it’s not available as a hardcopy, although we hope it soon will be.
Lois Duncan and Ann Rule
The wolf on the cover of this e-book is a drawing Kait made at age ten. Apparently she already was having nightmares about a predator who would come for her eight years later.
Thank you, Lois, for your moving, powerful words. They made me cry. I hope you find the person who killed your daughter. I love your strength and courage, writing the books you have. And thank you so much for your kind mention of me and my books!
One To The Wolves is available on:
and other ebook stores.
Teen librarian Karen of Teen Librarian Toolbox (@TLT13 on Twitter) spotted STAINED at ALA 2013 and not only got herself a copy (hurray!) but also snapped this pic to let me and others know she was looking forward to reading it. It felt so good to see!
Note that this is the ARC (Advance Reader Copy) of Stained with the old cover.
The new cover (very Ellen Hopkins-esque — which I love and feel is a great compliment) looks like this:
I love when readers let me know they’ve got my books or seen them.
Do you love my books? Take a photo of you or your pet or a friend reading one of my books, or my book in a bookstore or conference or out in the wild, and email (or tweet or FB, etc) it to me, and I will feature it with a link to you. I might also make a video with the photos at some point.
If you own hard (paper copies) of my books and would like me to mail you a signed bookplate, email me at Cheryl @ CherylRainfield.com and let me know. If you’re a bookstore or library and you sell or lend my books and would like some bookmarks or signed bookplates, email me.
Today YA author Lorca Damon talks to us about parents teaching hate, and where she finds inspiration for writing her novels. I think her post is thoughtful and strong. Take it away, Lorca!
Children Don’t Know Hate; They Have To Learn It
Sometimes ideas for our writing come to us from the completely fantastical realm of subconscious, and other times, the topic hits a little too close to home to be ignored. The ideas for most of young adult novels came to in part because of the incarcerated juveniles I teach, but with my most recent book, Not My Kind, it was a girl at my daughter’s school who made me write.
At the parent meeting only days before the start of a new school year, parents looked around the room awkwardly as they realized that SHE was going to be in their kid’s class this year. Yes, THAT girl. The one no one talked to or invited to birthday parties or sleepovers. More than one parent’s eyes rolled when she walked in with her tattooed, pierced family, and several sets of parents made eye contact with each other only to make a face that said, “Great. Just what we needed.”
Here’s the real shame: this wasn’t high school, and the parents weren’t perturbed by some troubled teen and her host of outlandish behaviors. This was third grade, and the parents were less than thrilled that their children would be in the same class as the eight-year-old, pigtailed little girl whose parents own the local adult video and sex toy shop.
Yes. THAT girl.
At eight years old, she is already someone to be shunned and not played with, all because her parents are local business owners, businessmen who incidentally employ several people and pay a lot of money in sales taxes, sales tax money that benefits our schools. But just because it’s a legal business, doesn’t mean the rest of us have to like it.
And that’s the plot behind my latest title. In Not My Kind, Tanner Barrett’s parents own a small chain of medical marijuana dispensaries in their small, mountainous area of Colorado. And she is despised for it. Even though her parents own a legal business and support the community, providing jobs and medical supplies that benefits the entire region, she is a sub-par human being and the town’s whipping boy. The student body assumes she a slut because of her parents’ “loose morals,” and the faculty of her small high school assumes she’s a stoner who must have cheated or slept her way onto the honor roll. Even the people who are trying to be helpful can’t set aside their judgmental natures long enough to actually be kind.
Not My Kind is for anyone who has ever been judged unfairly, but will hopefully also speak to those people whose narrow-mindedness keeps them from seeing the good in the people around them.
Thank you, Lorca! I feel for that girl, and for the girl in your book. No one should be judged for who their parents are or what they do. And hatred and bigotry shouldn’t happen.
About Lorca Damon:
Lorca Damon is a YA author and teacher in a juvenile correctional facility. She writes the kinds of books she hopes her reluctant readers would want to read. Not My Kind is her most recent YA title, along with a Catcher in the Rye-themed road trip saga, Driving The Demon. Her newest YA title, The Bone Road, is coming September 2013. Follow her at LorcaDamon.com, or on Twitter at @LorcaDamon.
Get Not My Kind on Amazon
Also available at B&N, Kobo, and Smashwords.
I haven’t been to LGBT Pride day for a while. Not because I’m not proud or sure of being lesbian–I am!–but because as an abuse/torture survivor there are a lot of things that trigger me, and one of them is crowds. I can get claustrophobic, and the last time I was at Pride–which is a big deal in Toronto, and people come from all over to attend–the crowds were so thick that at some point we couldn’t even move, just stood there while people kept pushing us from behind and the sides and … wow, that was hard. I don’t like to feel constrained or trapped–I had enough of that growing up. I also don’t like bumping into people who’ve abused me–and sadly, some of them are in the queer community–or getting triggered by seeing some things (like S&M) that remind me of abuse/torture I’ve been through. And I also don’t like the feeling of heterosexual tourists coming to gawk. I love supportive heterosexuals attending and showing their support, and there were many, but there are others, too, who just stare and not in a friendly way. So…I got a bit turned off Pride.
I used to go every year, before Pride Day got overwhelmingly large and taken over by corporations and became a tourist attraction. Before lesbians and gay men had the right to marry in Canada. I went every year when it felt political, important to make a statement: Yes, we’re here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away! When we were still fighting for basic rights and respect (though there is still more to fight for). I especially loved the Dyke March, which felt needed; Pride Day itself seemed more predominantly geared towards gay men, including all the advertising. I went, I enjoyed it (though always struggled through triggers), and it felt important. Political. But I haven’t been in a few years. I lost the sense of doing something political and positive and powerful. But that meant that I also lost some sense of community spirit and celebration.
Even in a big, mostly pro-queer city like Toronto, it’s easy to feel isolated if you don’t take part in events or have a good community around you. I’ve had rainbow decorations up on my door since the beginning of June, and my gay neighbor across the hall had his up a few weeks earlier. It felt good to see…but not enough. So this year I decided to go. I felt happy that Prop 8 was voted down in the US (but sad that it’s taken so long to get even that), proud of Canada for giving lesbians and gay men the right to marry years ago ahead of many countries, and in need of some community spirit and celebration. I’ve experienced some homophobia and sexism lately in my neighborhood, including one event that shocked me, and so I really felt the need for celebration and just…being surrounded by many LGBT people. And those experiences also reminded me that even here in Canada, where lesbians and gay men have had the right to marry since 2005, and in Toronto where there is a lot of open-mindedness, there are still homophobic people who need to be reminded that every person has the right to love who the want to love. LGBT Pride is still political–and with people seeing it on the news over and over each year, it becomes more and more accepted The norm. Once I’d decided to go with my little dog Petal, and found that my best friend Jo was going to go with me, I felt excited.
Petal and me before Pride 2013
Going to Pride with my best friend Jo and my little dog Petal felt celebratory and fun–the way it should. And yet it also felt necessary–there is still homophobia that we’re all pushing against, oppression that we face. It’s important to have celebration and a sense of community, and days where it feels like there isn’t any homophobia at all. AND it’s important for heterosexuals to keep seeing us and being aware of us in large numbers…to know that we are a part of society. That we are part of “normal.”
Jo, Petal, and I attended Pride during the big Pride Parade. Since we couldn’t see anything–we were rows and rows behind people–we decided to walk around. It was a great idea, because most people were at the parade, so there was actually room to move around, to breathe, to take in the sights. And for me, that helped make it feel safer, easier, and truly fun.
Cheryl Rainfield, Jo-Anne Beggs, and Petal Rainfield at Pride 2013
I loved seeing all the festive rainbow decorations in stores and booths and on the streets, loved seeing all the people dressed up to celebrate, including some women who wore rainbow wings, loved seeing the variety of lesbian, gay, bi, trans, queer people out there and some of our supporters. Loved seeing how many resources there are here to help people, and also different ways to celebrate and affirm our LGBTQ community.
storefront at Toronto Pride 2013
But the best part? Being with my best friend and my little dog, being part of a celebration and feeling the good feeling all around. The sun was hot, almost burning, so it was fun to walk into booths that sprayed misty water and cooled us down. I loved going to the Photo Kissing Booth and having Sean Howard, a professional photographer, take a beautiful photo of Jo and me and Petal. It makes me feel so good to look at.
I loved people coming up to Petal (carried in my pouch–she doesn’t like crowds, either, and I didn’t want her to get stepped on) and patting her, stroking her, making much of her. Petal loved that, too (grinning). She always loves attention. And when Jo carried Petal for a bit, the same thing happened. Petal draws people who love dogs!
Jo carrying Petal, and someone coming up to pat Petal.
I loved having my photo taken a few times with Jo and Petal–my extended, chosen family–and getting buttons made from it. Loved seeing the political booths–anti-bullying, LGBT support, P-Flag (yay!), LGBT deaf communities–all mixed in with the also political but more celebratory queer t-shirt, button, bracelet, and do-dad booths. Rainbow flags were everywhere! And, looking up at the street signs at Church & Wellesley–our gay community area–I was proud of Toronto and Canada all over again for adding rainbows permanently to our street signs. (My cell froze on that photo, sadly.)
I also loved the SuperQueer T-shirt that Jo bought me. I love superheros, and I’m proud of being who I am and not hiding that I’m a lesbian, and Jo knows me well enough to know that that T-shirt would immediately appeal to me.
Cheryl in her SuperQueer T-shirt
I am happy I attended Pride this year, happy I went with my good friend and little dog, and found a work-around so that it wasn’t mixed in with triggers. This is the first time it’s felt completely, totally safe AND a really happy celebration; it felt healing for me–and still political. Still a reminder to Toronto homophobes, Canada, the world, that we are here, we’re queer, and we’re not going away.
I’m happy to have Mike Mullin here today, talking about writing with courage. I love his post, and I’m honored by what he wrote. I believe Mike Mullin already has lots of writerly courage, and it’s something I like and respect. I think it can help make deeper stories. Take it away, Mike!
Writing with Courage
When Cheryl invited me to be a guest poster on her blog, I knew immediately what I wanted to write about: courage. You see, I’ve been admiring Cheryl’s writing from afar for almost two years—since I first read Scars. And while there may be a few better prose stylists or a few better plotters working in young adult literature, there is no-one writing with more raw power—with more courage—than Cheryl.
Re-reading the paragraph above, I realize that “admire” is the wrong word for how I feel about Cheryl’s writing. Insanely envious is more like it. Seriously, when we finally meet, I’m going to steal a strand of hair from her to use in a voodoo ritual—your juju will be mine, Rainfield!
Courage, particularly in writing, is rare, precious, and essential. I certainly don’t have it in the generous measure Cheryl does. For over a year, I’ve been trying to write a blog post—yes, a mere blog post—about my own childhood brush with sexual abuse, and I’ve found I can’t. My experience was, thankfully, far less traumatic than Cheryl’s, but I still believe there are lessons we could take from what happened to me, if I ever found the courage to share it.
I was a voracious reader, but in fifth grade I had read absolutely nothing about pedophilia. While the subject is fairly well-covered in today’s young adult literature, it was then and is today—to the best of my knowledge—nearly nonexistent in middle-grade novels. Yet children are more likely to be abused as middle graders than as teenagers. I believe if I had read more about it—if our middle-grade literature had been darker—I might have been better prepared for what happened to me.
That’s not to say that I’m completely devoid of writerly courage. Achieving any measure of success as an author requires it. But I tend to mask the parts of my novels that cut closest to the bone in fictionalized flesh.
For example, I’m occasionally asked what my favorite part of ASHFALL is. (ASHFALL, my debut novel, is about a teen struggling to survive and find his family after the Yellowstone supervolcano erupts, plunging the world into a cataclysmic natural disaster.) I always answer that the scene in chapters 37 and 38 is my favorite. It was never part of any outline; I wrote it spontaneously while I was visiting my Uncle Chuck, who was dying of stage 4 colon cancer. The most difficult part of that visit wasn’t watching my Uncle Chuck die—we’d known he was going to die for some time—it was seeing his wife and children showering love upon him, even while they were trying, and failing, to hide their own grief.
In chapters 37 and 38 my protagonists, Alex and Darla, meet a woman who’s just lost her husband. She’s pulling three young children behind her on a toboggan, and one of them, Katie, is desperately ill. Alex wants to stop and try to help. Darla, who is far more practical than Alex, argues that they should go on—that they can’t help everyone who’s suffering. Alex wins the ensuing argument. They stop and try to help, but Katie dies anyway. I think the power of that scene flows from the fact that I chose to pour what I was feeling into it—despite the pain that writing it caused me. That, perhaps, is also a form of courage.
I believe writerly courage can be developed like any other aspect of writing. One of the reasons ASHFALL broke through and got published, while my earlier manuscripts did not, is that ASHFALL—despite its post-apocalyptic setting—is at its heart a personal story, a coming-of-age story based in my own teenage years. I credit one book in particular for helping me write closer to my own bones, Ralph Keyes’s Courage to Write. His numerous examples—particularly his stories of other writers’ struggles to find courage—inspired me to dig a little deeper and put a little more of myself on the page. If you’re an aspiring author, I highly recommend it. Perhaps I’ll re-read it soon, searching for inspiration to finally begin that blog post.
I knew I had something good in Chapters 37 and 38 of ASHFALL when my wife read them. We were on our way to an education conference in Pittsburg, and she was reading the manuscript out loud while I drove. (That’s a fabulous revision technique, by the way. By listening to your prose, you pick up errors that your eye will skip over while reading.) I heard a catch in her voice and glanced at the passenger seat. Tears were streaming down her face, shining in the mid-morning sun. I thought, yes! I’m a great writer and a terrible husband!
What about you? What inspires you to write courageously? Let me know in the comments, please.
Thank you so much for that thoughtful post, Mike! I think you have a lot of writerly courage–you wrote about grief and pain that you’ve seen and experienced. You dug deep.
People, you can find out more about Mike and his books here:
About Mike Mullin
Mike Mullin’s first job was scraping the gum off the undersides of desks at his high school. From there, things went steadily downhill. He almost got fired by the owner of a bookstore due to his poor taste in earrings. He worked at a place that showed slides of poopy diapers during lunch (it did cut down on the cafeteria budget). The hazing process at the next company included eating live termites raised by the resident entomologist, so that didn’t last long either. For a while Mike juggled bottles at a wine shop, sometimes to disastrous effect. Oh, and then there was the job where swarms of wasps occasionally tried to chase him off ladders. So he’s really glad this writing thing seems to be working out.
Mike holds a black belt in Songahm Taekwondo. He lives in Indianapolis with his wife and her three cats. Ashen Winter is his second novel. His debut, Ashfall, was named one of the top five young adult novels of 2011 by National Public Radio, a Best Teen Book of 2011 by Kirkus Reviews, and a New Voices selection by the American Booksellers Association.
About ASHEN WINTER
It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this trilogy. It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.
Read an Excerpt
The first two chapters are available on my website: www.ashenwinter.com. You may reprint the first two chapters in whole or in part on your website so long as you do not charge anyone anything to access them.
Find Mike On:
Barnes & Noble
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I’ve been waiting for this day for a while–the official cover reveal of STAINED (which comes out this November from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt)! All across the web today, you’ll see many book bloggers, librarians, reviewers, and some readers who have generously taken part in this reveal.
So, here it is–the cover of STAINED!
I really, really love this cover. I think it immediately tells the reader exactly what the book is about, just like SCARS does. You know just from looking at the cover that the girl has been abducted. And if you read the tagline–Sometimes you have to be your own hero
–you also know that Sarah has to be the one to rescue herself, and from that you know that she’s a strong-girl character. You don’t see all of Sarah’s face on the cover because she usually hides her port wine stain beneath her hair (she has body image issues, like many of us do). I love that my editor, Karen Grove, and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt asked for what I wanted, and listened! That’s such a good feeling.
So what’s STAINED about?
Here’s the official book description, which I love:
In this heart-wrenching and suspenseful teen thriller, sixteen-year-old Sarah Meadows longs for “normal.” Born with a port-wine stain covering half her face, all her life she’s been plagued by stares, giggles, bullying, and disgust. But when she’s abducted on the way home from school, Sarah is forced to uncover the courage she never knew she had, become a hero rather than a victim, and learn to look beyond her face to find the beauty and strength she has inside. It’s that—or succumb to a killer.
Like I did with SCARS and HUNTED, I drew on some of my own experiences of bullying, abuse, and trauma to write STAINED and to give it greater emotional depth. Like Sarah in STAINED, I experienced abduction, imprisonment, periods of forced starvation, mind control, and having my life threatened. And like Sarah, I tried hard to fight against my abuser, keep my own sense of self, and escape. I hope, if you read STAINED, you will see Sarah’s strength and courage, and appreciate her emotional growth as she reclaims herself.
And here’s the book trailer for STAINED; I hope you’ll watch it!
So, what do you think? Do you like the cover? Does STAINED sound interesting to you?
comes out Nov 19, 2013. If you want to make sure you don’t miss it, you can pre-order a copy:
The Book Depository (free shipping worldwide)
Books a Million
“My books aren’t good enough.” “My writing is crap.” “I’ll never…”
I’ve thought those kinds of thoughts many times over the years about my writing–before I was published, and even after. I have always struggled with worrying that my writing isn’t good enough, powerful enough, polished enough. Part of that is being a survivor of abuse, having my abusers intentionally go at my self-confidence. But in talking to other writers, I’ve found that part of it is just about being a writer and a creative, sensitive person in our society.
There’s a lot of rejection and criticism involved in the writing business, which I think can increase or at least reinforce insecurity and doubt–and there’s also a lot of vulnerability. As writers, we our baring our soul on the page. We are showing so much of ourselves, and the deeper and more fully we show ourselves–which I believe makes a more powerful book–the more vulnerable and insecure we may feel when others read and react to our work.
Before we first get published, we can receive hundreds upon hundreds of rejections for years before getting that elusive “yes” and a contract. And it can start to wear at our self-confidence; we may worry that our writing isn’t good enough. It’s painful to get rejections, over and over again, and it can feel like publishers or agents are saying that not only is our writing not good enough, but that we, as people, aren’t–because there’s so much of us in our writing.
And that’s really hard. We work so hard at our craft, and yet the quality of a novel is so subjective; it’s based on the opinion and life experiences of the reader or editor, and everything that makes that reader respond or react the way they do. It’s not the same as, say, turning out a finished product in a factory, where most people will agree on whether it’s finished or not, it’s beauty or lack of. Writing technique is important, and polished writing is important, but we all aren’t always going to agree on what is beautiful, moving writing and what is not. So we face repeated rejections as a writer, and that can feed our feelings of insecurity or doubt or not being good enough at our craft. And, it takes time to hone our craft. So we work at it, and we improve. And if we’re lucky, we have someone around us remind us that a rejection letter doesn’t necessarily mean that our work isn’t good enough to be published; sometimes it’s just that we haven’t gotten the right fit yet with the right editor or agent at the right time. But it still feels like a rejection–of our work. Of us.
And writers are often very sensitive people, and many also struggle with depression or self doubt or other things that make the repeated rejection even harder. But if writing is part of the fire that makes us feel alive, we keep writing and submitting.
Even after we get a book published, there’s rejection and criticism through reviews of our book. If we put a lot of our heart and soul into our writing, it can be incredibly painful and feel very personal when someone says they don’t like some aspect of our book or the book at all (though sometimes there’s something we can learn from it and take into our future work). I know some writers who don’t read their reviews at all because of how it can affect them. I know that I usually get many, many glowing reviews for my books, but that just one negative review stays with me, cutting into my mind and heart like barbed wire, making me doubt my writing, my talent, my worth as a writer, and it takes a lot of effort for me to get distance–something I am still trying to learn.
And once we’ve got a book contract, before the book comes out into the world, publishers ask us to see out blurbs–recommendations of that book–from other, more established and well-known authors. Some authors will never respond, some will refuse (which feels like a rejection), and some will be willing to read but not find the book fits for them, while others will like our work and lend their recommendation. But that whole process involves yet more rejection and can feed into our insecurity.
There also seems to be a natural stage that many writers go through in their writing and repeatedly editing a manuscript where we go into doubt and worry that our writing is crap. Maybe when we’ve become too close to the writing, maybe when we’ve gone over it too many times–but many writers seem to go there. For me, that’s a sign that I’m finished editing the manuscript, at least for the moment, and need to put it away for a while or submit it. It’s helped to learn that over many books, and to be able to see it, remind myself of that stage. But I still go to that place: my writing is crap.
And the rejection or possibility for more self-doubt doesn’t stop there. Even after we have a book or books published, it doesn’t mean we automatically get the next one published. We may receive rejections from publishers or editors still. Or we may lose a trusted editor, may have our publisher fold or be absorbed into another publishing house–changes that again can rock our confidence. Or we may not sell as many books as our publisher wants us to, or as we want ourselves to.
It can be hard not to compare ourselves to other writers who we see as doing better than us with their books, or to see the things that other writers do better than us. And yet it’s so important to be able to recognize our own strengths. I know I write with strong emotion and being inside the character well. I write with passion, I write with tension and fear that make great suspense, and I write about the things I care about, the things that move me, the things that I need to speak about. Those are all important to me. I also know that I have to go through my manuscripts every time and look for more ways to ground the characters in their surroundings and settings, add in more body language, more of all the senses, and layer in symbols. But that’s okay; that’s what we do as writers. We go in through our edits and we round out our characters and story worlds to make them the best that we can make them.
Before I was published, I thought that once I had books published the insecurity would fade, that I would feel more confident. And in some ways it has. I know that I’m a Writer, and that I’m making a living through my books; it’s something I’m proud of and feel good about. But even after having five books traditionally published and one self-published, even after several awards and many glowing reviews, I still struggle with insecurity and doubt about my writing. I still worry that what it’s not good enough, and I’m still always trying to make it better. I think that last part is actually useful–the trying to always learn more about the writing craft and make our writing more powerful. But the insecurity and doubt is not useful, and can get in the way.
I’m editing a manuscript of mine right now that I deeply care about, and that in some ways exposes me even more than my other books have (and I always put so much of myself into my work). This has me feeling even more vulnerable and insecure about the writing than usual. I’ve been working from a critique of the manuscript from a fellow writer. I trust this writer, but the first three pages of her feedback are all about the things she doesn’t like and that don’t work for her. It is so much harder to work from the negative first (at least for me), and for me it increases my insecurity and starts those old negative messages running through my head. I found myself jumping at her suggestions, thinking I had to do everything she said in the way she said, even though some of it felt wrong for me and for the story I was trying to tell as I worked. There’s a lot right that she said, but some things just don’t fit for me, and I started feeling a bit stuck. So I had to take a step back and remind myself of the same thing I’ve always told other writers when I critique their work: “My feedback is my opinion, it’s subjective. Take what works for you, and ignore the rest.” Once I did that, the writing/editing flowed for me again, though I’m still battling insecurity and doubt.
What I’ve needed to re-remember is to trust my gut in my writing. I know I need to edit and polish my writing; I want it to be the strongest, the most powerful it can be. I want it to move readers, to touch them, to make them feel for and side with and understand my main character and the problems she’s going through. And I want to make a good enough living at my writing. And I want to always, always make a positive difference in the world through my books, even as they entertain. But I also have to remember that I am already doing that. I still get reader letters every week telling me how much Scars moved them, or helped them. And that’s something I need to hold on to. Not the doubt or insecurity or negative messages from the past.
I don’t write half-heartedly. I throw myself into my writing, I draw on my emotion and trauma to write, I make myself the character as I write. I pull up what I know and what I care about and weave it into the story. I always edit and re-edit until it sounds and feels right to me. So I have to trust myself. Know that I am speaking my voice through my writing, and am being heard and responded to. Know that I am putting my heart and soul into my writing. Know that I am doing what I can to make positive change into the world, while telling as good and as moving a story as I can.
So. I am going to try to trust in myself and my writing, and the many people that have told me my writing moves them–and I hope you will, too. Trust yourself, trust your writing, and believe in yourself as much as you can.
Wow! Just got another video review of Parallel Visions, this one from reader Kat Wells! It’s also really articulate and sweet and thoughtful. I love it! (beaming)
I absolutely love this video book review that reader Jacob Lasher (who also writes) did of Parallel Visions! (beaming) It’s thoughtful, sweet, and at times funny. You can tell he’s really thought about the writing and about what works for him in a book. It made me feel so good to watch.
BTW, Parallel Visions is still $0.99 for Kindle, Nook, and Kobo until some time tomorrow.
Check out this sweet, heartfelt, honest review of Scars by reader Jacob Lasher. Jacob’s read Scars five times already! (beaming) What a feel-good review from a reader.
Today’s guest post about the importance of books is by author and teacher Lorca Damon (YA novel The Earth is for Dancing). I so understand the escape a novel can bring, the way Lorca talks about. Take it away, Lorca!Books Don’t Do Anything
You’re right. They just sit there. They don’t play music or stream YouTube videos. They don’t even beep, although they do make a thudding noise if you throw them on the floor. But for the price of a book, someone who is hurting can be transported to a place away from the pain, loss, and hopelessness, even if it’s just for a little while. For my students, books represent a whole other dimension.
My students are between the ages of nine and eighteen years old, and they are in jail. For them, books take on a whole new meaning: choice. When you go to jail, there are no choices. THIS is the jumpsuit you will put on, including these previously worn socks and underwear. THIS is the cell you will live in, even though it is ten feet by twelve feet and has only a cot and a toilet. THIS is when you will eat, when you will shower, when you will exercise, when you will make a phone call. THIS is how many sheets of paper you can have in your cell, THIS is how you will walk in line. There are no choices.
Except the books.
In our jail, we have a gorgeous library filled with books on a wide range of subjects. To the teachers and the staff, the library represents taking pride in our facility and using our funds wisely. To the youth, it represents being able to make one choice, four days a week. Just that once, they can run their fingers along the spines, read the back covers, and find something to read without anyone telling them what to do or how to do it.
I would have to argue that all teenagers are in jail. No matter where they live or what they have or have not done, there is so little choice in their lives. THIS is where you will go to school. THIS is when you will wake up and go to sleep. THIS is the nice neat little box that your peers have decided you fit into, even if it’s not the box you wanted.
So go to the library. Run your fingers along the spines, smell the pages like I used to do when I thought no one was looking. Read every back cover until you know which one you want to read. Take it home, and escape.
Lorca Damon is a teacher and YA author. Her debut novel, The Earth is for Dancing, is available from Amazon
, Barnes and Noble
, and Kobo
. Her second title, Driving the Demon, is due out in May 2013 from Winter Goose Publishing.
SLJ created a list of picture books to help kids cope with tragedy because of the recent Sandy Hooks tragedy. I think it’s a great starting point–and I’ll bet we all have some books we would add.
I think books can help us deal with painful issues; books helped save me when I was a kid being abused and tortured. Books can help us by directly dealing with issues, or sideways through metaphor or fantasy. Books can make it easier to hear about and deal with painful things–and picture books are great at doing that.
Picture books aren’t just for young children; I think they can also be great tools for older children, and even adults, to deal with trauma or to find hope again. Because trauma and the loss of someone we love can also bring up anger, sadness, fear, grief, and depression, I would add these picture books:
The Heart and the Bottle
By Oliver Jeffers
This is a moving book that deals with grief and loss, and the way it can make you forget how to see beauty around you, or care about things, or be curious–and the way it can make you want to protect yourself and your feelings. And it reminds us how important it is to still feel and care about people, and the people we’ve lost–all using metaphor. It’s beautifully written and illustrated.
Michael Rosen’s Sad Book
Written by Michael Rosen, illustrated by Quentin Blake
This book deals directly with grief and death; Michael Rosen talks about losing his son and his mother, and how it makes him sad much of the time, or angry, and the way he deals with it and tries to make himself feel better. He does things like reminds himself that everyone has sad stuff, and he tries to do one thing he’s proud of every day and then focus on that when he goes to bed, and do one thing that makes him feel happy–and he writes about sad. He also talks about remembering the good times he had with his son and his mother. There’s a lot that people who’ve lost someone will relate to in this book. I wish the ending felt a bit stronger in a happy ending or more wrapped up, but it’s a good book.
Sometimes Bad Things Happen
By Ellen Jackson, photographs by Shelley Rotner
This book talks about some of the things that can make kids feel bad, including bad things they hear on the news, and then reminds them that most people want to make the world a better place. It also goes through some good coping methods for when bad things happen and you feel sad, scared, hurt or angry, including thinking of the good people you know, hugging a friend, looking up at the sky, etc. It has some good suggestions and a positive outlook, and may be a good tool for traumatized children.
The Boy Who Didn’t Want to Be Sad
By Rob Goldblatt
A book about a boy who doesn’t want to be sad so he tries to get rid of everything that makes him sad, shutting himself away from everyone and everything that could possibly make him sad–until he realizes that the things that make him sad also make him happy. It encourages readers to embrace even the things that make us sad, and to keep the people and animals we love in our life.
By Patricia Thomas, illustrated by Chris L Demarest
This is a simple, sweet book about feeling sad and doing something to change it. It starts out with a sad boy and a sad father and a red sled, and then has them having fun in the snow, and coming home to hot chocolate, a hug, a sleep and a read. It is lighter than the other books, and not as in depth, but a good reminder that sometimes distraction and having fun can help feeling sad or down.
The Blue Day Book: A Lesson in Cheering Yourself Up
By Bradley Trevor Greive
A book that uses humorous animal photos to lighten the mood and help the reader hear what it being said. The book first talks about how you may feel if you’re feeling down, and then has some concrete suggestions that can help lift your mood, like taking a short nap, singing your favorite songs, be creative, talking to your friends or thinking about someone you like. It can help to lighten your mood (though it may also feel hard to read when things are really down).
When I Feel Sad (The Way I Feel Books)
Written by Cornelia Maude Spelman, illustrated by Kathy Parkinson.
A sweet, reassuring book about feeling sad. It talks about reasons you might feel sad, the way sadness feels, and some ways to deal with being sad and feel better, such as talking to someone, crying, getting a hug, and then using distraction. The illustrations are sweet and comforting, and may help some children.
And there are also many, many picture books that offer comfort and hope and escape.
What are your picture book suggestions for dealing with trauma and grief?
To celebrate the release of Parallel Visions: A Teen Psychic Novel, it’s on sale on Amazon for $0.99 until Dec 31st!
Kate sees psychic visions of the future and the past—but only when she’s having an asthma attack. When she “sees” her sister being beaten, she needs more visions to try to save her, along with a suicidal classmate—but triggering her asthma could kill her. Parallel Visions is the story of one brave, caring girl whose unusual gifts put her own life in danger.
I think this is the first ever Christmas that I’ve ever had that’s felt good/okay. I’ve had a rough month this December–some horrible abuse memories from this time of year, and some depression, deep sadness, despair, old feelings that come from the abuse and trauma–and during that time I also had to work on copyedits of Stained (which comes out next year). But I also had a lot of good. And today…today was actually good. I don’t remember a Christmas that I’ve ever been able to say that. This is new for me, and lovely!
Petal, my little Chinese Crested dog, brings me so much happiness. I started the morning with a lovely walk with her, and we saw and walked with many other people and their dogs who we both knew. That was a nice start to our day. I had fun giving Petal a bunch of presents throughout the day, including a really loud rooster toy (actually, three of them, to replace her favorite chewed up one), a bouncy bird toy, a soft stick toy, and a new bone, Christmas doggie cookie, chewies, and extra treats. Petal gets so much happiness out of little things–it’s a good reminder.
I also posted some photos of Petal and talked about her on Twitter and FaceBook, and had people responding, and that helped me stay connected to people and to good feeling. And I had email conversations with some of the people I care about most in this world, which also helped.
I unwrapped a beautiful, thoughtful present from a beautiful, thoughtful, dear friend of mine–Julie Shoerke–who also happens to be my book publicist.
She sent me this lovely piece of hanging art/poetry that says “You are so smart, caring, awesome” on one side, and “you are so witty, loving, amazing.” I don’t know about the “witty” part, but I do know that I try to be the others, and Julie insists they all fit. I really need reminders like that, still; my abusers taught me to hate myself and to not take in any good. I’ve learned, over time, to love myself more, but I can’t always hold onto tho positive, so this was a beautiful, perfect, thoughtful present.
I put up ornaments on the tree from two people I love dearly, including Jean (who is like a mom to me) which was a lovely reminder of them, and had two other gifts from some people I love, which helps so much. And I put up a flying pig ornament which arrived last night. I love flying pigs; I love the impossible becoming possible (which is a theme for me, and which comes out in my book Parallel Visions).
I bought myself most of my presents–it’s what I do without family, and it can often feel sad to me on Christmas and my birthday. As well as all the old stuff that comes up from my parents buying and then destroying my presents every year when I was a kid. But though presents felt sad this month, it didn’t today. Instead, parts of me enjoyed the things I’d bought them and receieved, and some favorite things came up with me and Petal on the couch.
I made a Tofurkey and potatoes and asparagus/spinach/onions/mushrooms – some of my favorite foods – and had chocolate cookies, and Petal had pure chicken dog treats.
I read and read–I’ve just gotten into Chris D’Lacey’s Last Dragon Chronicles, which if you haven’t read is comforting and fantastical and lovely, and I highly recommend them. (I went through Book One–The Fire Within–yesterday, and today I’m on Book Two, Ice Fire.) I also read my new picture books, all of which are new favorites and feel so good–Good News, Bad News by Jeff Mack; Andrew Drew and Drew by Barney Saltzberg; And Then It’s Spring by Julie Fogliano and Erin E Stead; John Jensen Feels Different; and, even though it feels a bit sexist to me, I also bought, opened today, and loved My Snake Blake by Randy Siegel and Serge Bloch (maybe because it feels like Crictor by Tomi Ungerer which I loved as a child).
I also bought and read some Christmas picture books (before the day), trying to open myself up to the idea that Christmas could be a good time of year. I now have some real favorite Christmas picture books, some that are sweet, some that are like poetry, and books I know I’ll come back to again next year: The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson and Jon Muth; A Pussycat’s Christmas by Margaret Wise Brown; Merry Christmas, Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (I love Amelia Bedelia); and Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney. I also found some winter picture books that I love and pulled them out; while not specifically Christmas, they still fit this time of year.
I watched part of a feel-good Christmas movie (A Holiday For Love); I’ve been watching feel-good Christmas movies all month. Feel-good movies and books help remind me of the goodness in people, and are so important for me when things are hard. I’ve spent time playing with Petal, and enjoying my gifts, having fun reading, and eating…and not working! Talking with good people on Twitter and Facebook and email (thank you, all!) And for the most part, I’ve stayed out of sadness and depression, and just…had a good day. I will hold onto this, and try to remind myself next year when things get hard around Christmas. I even found myself able to listen to Christmas music and be okay, even enjoy some of it, without it taking me down to the abuse. I didn’t think that could happen, especially when I was having a rough time this month. But it has, and today is good…and I am thankful. Thankful for healing and change, for the kind, good, loving people in my life, for people I connect with online, for my lovely, sweet little Petal, and for having enough food to eat, gifts to open, safety and warmth.
I hope you have all had, or are having, a lovely, lovely holiday filled with laughter, joy, and good feeling. I hope for healing, joy, and laughter for us all.
Nook readers – Parallel Visions is now on sale for just $0.99 on Nook! It took a while for my request to go through, but now it has. Enjoy!
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Parallel Visions–my new YA paranormal fantasy-is on sale for $0.99 on Amazon for Kindle and Kobo for Kobo ebook readers until Jan 19th.
It’s also available on Barnes and Noble for Nook for $2.99, or if you want to get it for Nook at the sale price of $0.99 you can purchase it for Nook at Smashwords.
If you want the print edition, you can purchase a copy on Amazon.