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Author of "Confessions of a Closet Catholic" *Winner of the 2006 Sydney Taylor Book Award* http://sarahdarerlittman.com
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1. Teen Author Reading Night - Tomorrow!

How cool is a library with a TURRET?!



As a kid, I would have dreamed of creeping up to the top of the turret with my library books and being able to read in the window seat of a round room.

But tomorrow night, I get to read at this awesome edifice. Not in the turret, unfortunately. Downstairs. But to make up for the lack of turretosity, I get to read with these amazing authors:

Tara Altebrando, Dreamland Social Club

Matt Blackstone, A Scary Scene in a Scary Movie

Christopher Grant, Teenie

Alissa Grosso, Popular

Blake Nelson, Recovery Road

Gae Polisner, The Pull of Gravity

Nova Ren Suma, Imaginary Girls

Melissa Walker, Small Town Sinners

The festivities start at 6pm, Jefferson Market Library, 425 Avenue of the Americas (off 10th Avenue). Hope to see you there!

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2. OMG, where did it go? A Life, After Contest

I was talking to someone last week and she observed, "You have a lot of transitions this year." I'd been feeling very stressed and unsettled recently and ascribed it to any number of things but that was one I hadn't pinpointed. But it's true. It's been a year where I've had to confront some very major life issues - like realizing I'm really in that "sandwich"generation part of life when we had to take the very difficult decision to put my dad, who has been suffering from Alzheimers (how I HATE HATE HATE that disease) into an assisted living facility in March. On my birthday. Happy Birthday, Sarah. You are really ARE middle aged.

And then there are the happy, joyous moments, like when my son turned 18 recently.



We had a big barbecue for his birthday, with family and his friends. His college and high school age friends played soccer and video games easily with his 1st grade and nursery school age cousins. It was a wonderful celebration. As I posted on Facebook that morning, "Eighteen years ago today, after 48 hours of labor, this smart, handsome kid was born. Like all really meaningful things in life, I had to work hard for him."




On Wednesday, Josh is graduating from high school. I keep hearing my Grandma Mollie, who's amazing singing voice I did NOT inherit, singing "Sunrise, Sunset" in my head, as teen me accompanies her on the piano.

Four years ago, in what I feel was a gift from G-d, but was probably more the vision of Executive Director Scott Bezsylko and Head of School Beth Sugerman and the wisdom the the school's Trustees, Winston Preparatory School decided to open a campus in Norwalk, CT.

When Beth told me that Josh was admitted, I started crying, so great was my relief that my son would finally be at a school where I thought his strengths would be appreciated and his areas of weaknesses supported. And most importantly, where he could feel safe. Things had gotten so bad that about a month before the end of 8th grade, I pulled him out of his middle school and said said I wasn't sending him back until they could provide him with a safe environment. The school's solution? To have him complete the year by doing independent study in the guidance office, thus further stigmatizing him.

Attending Winston Prep changed his life. It's not to much to say that it saved his life. When he was being bullied every day, his grades suffered. He was so depressed he was on medication that, it turned out from a later neuropsych we had done, slowed down his cognitive functioning, but it had helped him get through the pain of living through each day at school.

He touched on the both the depression and the bullying when he asked about "life is hopeless" and "mortal enemies" in our now famous StoryCorps interview, which was when he was in 7th grade:



The environment at Winston has allowed Josh to thrive and grow into the young man he is today - someone who really cares about what is going on in the world, who has been following the Arab Spring as avidly as some other teens follow the World Series or the World Cup, who will great me first thing in the morning with "Did you see what is going on in Misrata?" or "Who do you think is worse, Gaddafi or Assad?"

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3. OMG! Where did it go? LIFE AFTER contest!

I was talking to someone last week and she observed, "You have a lot of transitions this year." I'd been feeling very stressed and unsettled recently and ascribed it to any number of things but that was one I hadn't pinpointed. But it's true. It's been a year where I've had to confront some very major life issues - like realizing I'm really in that "sandwich"generation part of life when we had to take the very difficult decision to put my dad, who has been suffering from Alzheimers (how I HATE HATE HATE that disease) into an assisted living facility in March. On my birthday. Happy Birthday, Sarah. You are really ARE middle aged.

And then there are the happy, joyous moments, like when my son turned 18 recently.



We had a big barbecue for his birthday, with family and his friends. His college and high school age friends played soccer and video games easily with his 1st grade and nursery school age cousins. It was a wonderful celebration. As I posted on Facebook that morning, "Eighteen years ago today, after 48 hours of labor, this smart, handsome kid was born. Like all really meaningful things in life, I had to work hard for him."




On Wednesday, Josh is graduating from high school. I keep hearing my Grandma Mollie, who's amazing singing voice I did NOT inherit, singing "Sunrise, Sunset" in my head, as teen me accompanies her on the piano.

Four years ago, in what I feel was a gift from G-d, but was probably more the vision of Executive Director Scott Bezsylko and Head of School Beth Sugerman and the wisdom the the school's Trustees, Winston Preparatory School decided to open a campus in Norwalk, CT.

When Beth told me that Josh was admitted, I started crying, so great was my relief that my son would finally be at a school where I thought his strengths would be appreciated and his areas of weaknesses supported. And most importantly, where he could feel safe. Things had gotten so bad that about a month before the end of 8th grade, I pulled him out of his middle school and said said I wasn't sending him back until they could provide him with a safe environment. The school's solution? To have him complete the year by doing independent study in the guidance office, thus further stigmatizing him.

Attending Winston Prep changed his life. It's not to much to say that it saved his life. When he was being bullied every day, his grades suffered. He was so depressed he was on medication that, it turned out from a later neuropsych we had done, slowed down his cognitive functioning, but it had helped him get through the pain of living through each day at school.

He touched on the both the depression and the bullying when he asked about "life is hopeless" and "mortal enemies" in our now famous StoryCorps interview, which was when he was in 7th grade:



The environment at Winston has allowed Josh to thrive and grow into the young man he is today - someone who really cares about what is going on in the world, who has been following the Arab Spring as avidly as some other teens follow the World Series or the World Cup, who will great me first thing in the morning with "Did you see what is going on in Misrata?" or "Who do you think is worse, Gaddafi or Assad?"

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4. Why I write

I am not a NYT best-selling writer. While my books have won awards and made lists, when it comes to publishing, I'm "mid-list". Sure, I hope that some day I will "break out" into the big time. There have been plenty of difficult and frustrating moments when I've thought "If I only could be inspired write about vampires/wolves/faeries/paranormal romance" or whatever the publishing phenomenon du jour happens to be. But alas, it doesn't work that way. I write best when I'm writing about a subject that fills me with passion. Maybe it comes from starting my professional writing life as a political op-ed columnist.


I've also been told that I'm hard to "brand" because the subjects of each of my books have been so vastly different. It makes it harder for readers to know what to expect when they pick up a Sarah Darer Littman book - unlike say a reader of Sarah Dessen or Ellen Hopkins.

LIFE, AFTER is my quietest book to date. It was well reviewed (well, except for Kirkus, but my reviews from Kirkus grow progressively worse with each book, so I'm expecting to be prostrate in bed with a chocolate IV drip after I read the one for WANT TO GO PRIVATE?) and was awarded a 2011 Sydney Taylor Honor. But it wasn't picked up by the chains and it hasn't set the world on fire.

Sometimes I get sad and discouraged, because I really love this book and it means a lot to me for so many reasons. But then, on Friday, I got an email from someone who had read it. She'd immigrated to the US with her family about five years ago* and identified so strongly with Dani, the main character in LIFE, AFTER that she thought that Dani's story was really my story, and asked me if I still kept in touch with the characters in the book, and how I dealt with my father. She told me that I was "a courageous woman" for sticking up for Jon with the bully.



It really touched me that anyone would identify with my characters that strongly. I wrote back to her, explaining that I was born in the United States, but having moved to another country and been teased for my accent and using the wrong words for things, I did draw on my personal experiences for Dani. I told her that my son had been badly bullied in middle school, and that I wished there had been a person like Dani who had the courage to stick up for him when other kids were mean to him. And I told her that I know both how it feels to be depressed myself, and how debilitating it is for the entire family to live with someone else who is depressed and angry and refuses to seek treatment. So while LIFE,AFTER is a complete work of fiction, I drew on all of those things to write it.

I also wrote to her: I hope that Dani's courage will always inspire you to stand up for anyone you see being treated unfairly. It's not always easy to do what is right, but it is so, so important. Edmund Burke, a famous British statesman and political theorist said: "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing." That goes for women, too. (He lived a long time ago, when women weren't as liberated).


I thought I was writing to a teenager. But she wrote back to me today and told me more about herself. She is working at a job she was told by her father was the job that was available to her. But her mother (who I want to celebrate and hug) has been encouraging her and her sisters to study and learn and be independent. So she is studying to get a degree in what she really loves, while working at the job she was told was told was the only option.

She wrote that her mother has told her that "educa

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5. Help us stop dangerous pracitce of weight grades and enter to win a copy of PURGE

I've struggled with distorted body image for most of my life, and was actively bulimic as an adult in my thirties. My novel, PURGE, while a work of fiction, is based on my very real struggle to overcome the voice in my head that told me that I was fat, ugly and worthless.

The response to PURGE from both teens and adults has told me that I'm not alone in this struggle. So many of us struggle with negative body images and issues with food, even if it isn't at the stage of being a full blown eating disorder. Young teens are especially susceptible; eating disorders and body image issues (including self-harm) are on the rise.

Dr. David Rosen of the University of Michigan says epidemiologic studies show the numbers of children and adolescents with eating disorders increased steadily from the 1950s onward. A recent analysis by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality says hospitalizations for eating disorders increased most sharply -- 119 percent -- for children age 12 and younger from 1999 to 2006.


Now there’s something that will make this worse – many states are now sending “weight grades” and BMI scores home on students’ report cards. Can you imagine the affect that will have?

Cheryl Rainfield, author of Scars and I were having a discussion about this on Twitter and we were both so upset about it that we had to take action. We decided to start a petition. We hope you'll join us in fighting this very dangerous practice.


To help encourage you, I'm giving away two copies of PURGE. To enter, sign the petition and tell me you have in the comments. For extra credit entry, tweet about the petition and tell me you've done that, too. I'll give away the first book on May 31st and the second book on June 30th.

Thank you for caring!

Live Strong and Be Healthy...

Sarah

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6. Celebrating National Libraries Week: Why authors LOVE libraries

It's National Library Week and what better time to celebrate the places that are havens of learning and community for all citizens and the wonderful,incredible librarians who make it all possible.

Libraries have been a beloved part of my life for as long as I can remember. Being able to go to this magical building where kindly, people would hand me books, encouraging me to discover new worlds, opening my young mind to new ideas, but best of all, making friends in the characters who stay with me to this day.

Now, especially, when library funding is under threat, we need to be vocal and active in our support for this beloved and necessary institution.

I recently joined the ALA's Authors for Libraries The ALA asks each author who joins to write a quote about why they love libraries. Here's mine:

Libraries are an essential cornerstone of our democracy. But my love of libraries began as a young girl, before politics held any meaning for me, when these wonderful people helped me find books where I explored new worlds and made lifelong friends. Libraries made me a writer, but more importantly, they made me a thinker."


The ever energetic Katie Davis has worked incredibly hard to put together an amazing Podcast O'Love for National Library Week. I forgot to say my name, but I'm the one who talks about the Marylebone Road Library in London.

<http://player.wizzard.tv/player/o/j/x/130211888946/config/k-10e8296d599a2983/uuid/root/height/200/width/200/episode/k-7371bce99d5ececf.m4v>

Please help spread the word about National Library Week - and support your local library however you can!

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7. Typing the 10K

Every time I start a new project I go through the same panic. That same sick feeling of dread and insecurity, that same voice in my head that asks: "What if the previous book(s) was just a fluke? What if I can't actually DO this?"

At first I thought it was just my second book blues - and boy did I have a dreadful case of them, probably not helped by the fact I was going through a lengthy and horrible divorce.

But despite the fact that I've now written and published three, soon to be four, novels there's still that anxiety whenever I start a new one that I won't have what it takes to pull it off again.

I heard the incredible Laurie Halse Anderson speak about writing a while back, and it gave me comfort when she talked about finding the right tools for each book.




I've kept those words close, because for me they're so true. When people ask me about my "writing process", the honest answer is that it changes with every book. There are certain things that have evolved and are consistent. I've learned to try to write the first draft as quickly as I can - I aim for 1,000 words a day when I'm in the first draft stage. I've started trying to outline more or at least write a synopsis - something I had to do for the books I've sold on proposal.

Today I hit the 10,000 word mark on my latest WIP, the one I'm calling The Funny YA for now. I'd been struggling to hit my 1,000 word a day stride on this one, partly because of family craziness and partly because it's told from four POV's and it took me a while to get a handle on the voices. But in the last week, as I approached the 10K mark, my characters started to come alive. And they started misbehaving, the rotten miscreants. I went back and looked at my outline and realized that they've already deviated in a big way, but I like where they're taking me, so I'm just going to hitch a ride for now and see what happens.

Looking back, it's about this point - I think it was 11,000 words - that I realized that I needed to completely rewrite WANT TO GO PRIVATE? from third person to first person. Something wasn't working, but the minute I made that decision and started rewriting in 1st person, the book came alive and suddenly I figured out a structure that made sense and added tension and suspense.

During my Second Book Blues phase I used to feel really bad about myself, because I'd hear about authors getting three book deals on a two page proposal. (That was back in 2006. Maybe things are different now.) But I need to write to figure things out. I spend a lot of time researching, thinking and taking notes before I start writing. I can try to make outlines. But it's not till I get my butt in the chair and struggle through those first ten thousand words that I have any idea where the novel is really going.

This is the one thing that's consistent through all my books, and I've learned to accept and embrace it as and essential part of my process.

How I end up getting from the 10K to the end is a another story, which I'll save for a different post.

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8. Moving my blog, alas...

I haven't been the most consistent blogger, but now that I'm integrating my blog with my website and trying to blog more consistently, I'm finding Livejournal is just too inconsistent a platform for me to trust. It's freaked out on me twice in the last week, once when I was about to run a big contest for Smartpop, and again yesterday, and the amount of spam is just getting too crazy. So with great sadness, I'm moving my main blog over to Blogger. I will try to cross post or if I can figure it out, do an RSS feed back here. But if you can do the Google Follow thing, I hope you'll follow me there. xoxo

Sarah

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9. And the WINNERS ARE....(drum roll)




Congratulations to: "Moriah D" (hylianvampire at hotmail.com) and Natalierisk04 at yahoo.com! You are the two tributes from District 10 who will receive copies of THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the contest. You all had such great books and now my TBR pile is even longer than it was before! You should be hearing from either me or SmartPop asking for your address shortly!

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10. ALA/OIF Privacy and Youth Conference

Is privacy dead, or do kids just use a different vocabulary to describe it? How can we as adults help to give kids the information they need to make informed choices about privacy, and encourage them to think critically about privacy issues in all aspects of their lives, both online and offline?

These are some of the issues we grappled with at the ALA/OIF Privacy and Youth Conference, held in Chicago March 24-25th. Those of you who follow me on Twitter might have noticed the stream of #youthprivacy tweets.

The conference was the kickoff to a new phase of privacy initiatives from the American Library Association's Office of Intellectual Freedom following the success of the annual Choose Privacy Week (May 1-7, 2011). For over three years, ALA/OIF, assisted by two grants from the Open Society Institute, has been focused on creating a national conversation around privacy. The Youth and Privacy conference came from the following realization:


The future of privacy advocacy and protections in the United States really depends on young people’s awareness of the long-term importance of personal privacy protections (particularly regarding use of the Internet and social media), and how government surveillance of citizens’ activities poses a chilling threat to our nation’s future. Libraries are ideal places for youth to learn about privacy and see it in action, given our long history of protecting the freedom to read.



David Levithan suggested I go (thank you, David!) because I've written extensively about the Patriot Act and FISA in my political columnist life, and also because my upcoming book WANT TO GO PRIVATE? is about a high school freshman who develops a relationship with an online "friend".

When I was at Scholastic for the NY Teen Author Festival, the On Our Minds Blog asked us me why kids (and adults) should read every day. This was my answer:



That was an important part of this conference for me. It was also how I got into an argument, via Skype, with Cory Doctorow. Yeah, *that* Cory Doctorow.

So here's the thing. I have used monitoring software on both my kids laptops since 2006, which I found out that my daughter had been the victim of a cyberbullying incident. One of her 5th grade friends was mad at her and created a website called "Ihate_______"(insertdaughter'sname). I didn't find out what was going on until the situation had been going on for well over a month and a half, and my daughter had responded to the friend with a serious of emails.

When I did find out, I had a long talk with my daughter, and even though she had initially been the victim, I revoked her Internet privileges for several weeks. Why? Because I told her by retaliating instead of coming to me, she hadn't used good judgment and further, the way she'd responded in those emails wasn't the way I'd brought her up to behave.

I'd expected a fight when I took away her computer but she handed it over without a peep. I honestly think she was relieved.

What blew my mind, after talking to the parents of the other kids involved, was the level of denial. One mom said, "Oh, but they're such good kids, I can't believe they'd do anything nasty." I wanted to forward her some of the emails her little darling had been sending, filled with foul language and vitriol - IN FIFTH GRADE!

I'm not saying these weren't good kids. They are all "good kids". What I am saying is what we all know - that even "good kids" can behave badly online. Look at the way adults Add a Comment
11. The Reaping: DISTRICT 10- THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE Giveaway!




I thought it ever so appropriate that I was chosen to represent District 10 in Smart Pop Book's Panem-Style Reaping Giveaway for the new anthology THE GIRL WHO WAS ON FIRE - Your Favorite Authors On Suzanne Collins'Hunger Games Trilogy.



After all, I'm a former farmer's wife who spent 10 years in South West England amongst the cows in the beautiful Bride Valley in Dorset.


Cows grazing in the Bride Valley, Dorset (Photo: Ben Pentreath)

I was thrilled when I was asked to be a part of this anthology, because it gave me a chance to expand upon a blog post I'd written about my take on the political undertones in MOCKINGJAY just after I'd finished reading it. Politics and YA fiction. It doesn't really get a whole lot better than that. You can read an excerpt of my essay, The Politics of Mockingjay, here.

And now I get to give away TWO COPIES of the anthology to YOU! And that means ALL of you, wherever in the world you might reside. No ethnocentrism here!

Here's what you do to enter: The BookPage blog asked Suzanne Collins: What do you hope these books will encourage in readers?

Her answer: I hope they encourage debate and questions. Katniss is in a position where she has to question everything she sees. And like Katniss herself, young readers are coming of age politically.



In the comments, tell me if a book has ever inspired you to think about and even challenge the status quo.

Have at it, Rabble Rousers!

Edited:I realized it's unfair of me to ask you without telling you about a book that have made me think. Probably my biggest influence was ANIMAL FARM, by George Orwell. My son just played Old Major in a brilliant production at his school, and I still get goosebumps when I hear that final sentence, which is so simple yet one of the most memorable lines ever.

I also think Orwell's essay POLITICS AND THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE should be mandatory reading for every high school student in a democracy.

Winners will be picked by Random.org, and will be announced on April 5th.

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12. Thoughts on being a 2011 Scholastic Arts and Writing Juror

This year, for the second time, I was privileged to be a National Judge for the 2011 Scholastic Arts and Writing Awards. I was particularly excited to be a judge in a category that resonated so much with me in both my author and political columnist lives, the new Creativity and Citizenship: Art for Social Change Award.

Here's what the award is about:

From the women's suffrage movement to the civil rights movement to saving the environment, Americans have used the arts to create an awareness of history and promote social change. Teens in grades 7 – 12 are encouraged to submit their works of art and writing that address contemporary social issues important to them. Three winners will be selected to receive $1,000 scholarships and select works will be included in the National Scholastic Art & Writing Awards Teen Exhibition in June 2011. This special award is presented in collaboration with the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia.


It was such an honor to be a judge for these awards because of the feeling of hope I felt reading these works. They were as diverse in style and subject as the composition of our nation itself. These were not the voices of teens who are only obsessed with celebrity and Jersey Shore and who is going to win American Idol. These writers were keen observers of what is going on in not just in the US but in countries across the globe. Whether they chose poetry, script writing, persuasive essay, personal memoir or fiction, the teenagers in this category were concerned with deep issues of social justice,losing a valued cultural heritage, the mistreatment of women, feeling displaced in one's own neighborhood by gentrification. Their writing made me cry, made me angry, made me want to reach through my computer screen to hug them and tell them "Don't give up! Your words give you a voice, and a voice gives you power!"

My sincere thanks to the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers for inviting me to be a judge this year.

Today at 12 noon, you're invited to join me and several other national writing Jurors including two of my favorite writing peopleOlugbemisola Rhuday Perkovich and Courtney Sheinmel. Tune in to: http://tweetchat.com/room/JurorChat

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13. NY Teen Author Festival Recap

Last week was the third Annual New York Teen Author Festival and I was lucky to be a part of some of the awesome festivities.



On Thursday, I headed to DA BRONX to the Bronx Library Center as part of the Five Borough Read. I was on a panel with The Woman of Many Voices Maryrose Wood (note to debut authors - always try to read BEFORE Maryrose, because she is a seriously tough act to follow!!) and two fantastic debut authors, Margie Gelbwasser and Arlaina Tibensky.

It was the first time in my writing career (I hope not the last) that I've ever felt like a rock star. When we walked into the auditorium, there were already some sixth graders from Jonas Bronck Academy there, and some of the girls asked "Which one is Sarah?"

It's probably because my first writing gig was as a controversial political columnist, but my inner reaction is "Who wants to know?" I get that same reaction when I meet adults and they ask "Oh, are you the one who writes in the paper?" because I'm never sure if they're going to say they love my column or start ranting about how they think I'm a terrorist lover who is destroying America in 650 words a fortnight.

But I 'fessed up to being me, and I was so glad I did, because they'd apparently read PURGE aloud in class for a unit on body image and eating disorders and it had been a big hit. I'd brought a bunch of my Purge bookmarks, so I told the girls I'd sign them and soon I had a long line of fans waiting for their bookmarks BEFORE the reading. This has NEVER happened to me before and it was a pretty amazing experience.



The panel was terrific. I can't wait to read Arlaina's book, AND THEN THINGS FELL APART. The excerpt she read was hilarious, with fantastic voice. I blurbed Margie's book, INCONVENIENT, so you know I loved it - and so did the Sydney Taylor Committee, who made it a Notable Book this year. And Maryrose's book, THE HIDDEN GALLERY, the second in her Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, is too funny. I tried so many times as a kid to get the Palace guards with the Busbys to speak or smile and never succeeded, so I am jealous. Supremely jealous, I tell you!



I read an excerpt from my upcoming novel WANT TO GO PRIVATE? After the panel, one girl came up, so sweet and obviously really worried, and asked me: "What happens to the girl after she gets into the car?" I felt incredibly mean telling her, "I can't tell you - you have to read the book."

Was that wrong? I couldn't exactly say, "Don't worry, she'll be okay," because clearly Abby (the MC) isn't going to come out of the experience unscathed. Oh man. This author thing is really hard sometimes.

The best part was later that day, I got an email from one of the girls who'd been at the panel, saying she'd been to my website. She told me she was the one who'd asked me the question about how I'd got through my bulimia, and that I was her role model.

My kids would probably laugh to think that I'm anyone's role model - in fact I find it pretty intimidating - but it gave me a warm, snuggly feeling inside getting t

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14. Too many still ignorant about child sexual abuse

I'm reposting here my column from today's Stamford Advocate, because I think it's one of the most important ones I've ever written:

When one of my kids became involved with a theater production run under the auspices of a local Catholic church, I offered to volunteer with backstage help. In order to do so, I had to attend a mandatory 3-hour workshop on child sexual abuse awareness called "Protecting God's Children."

I was pleased that the church was taking such stringent measures, but didn't think the course had much to teach me. As a victim of child sexual abuse myself and further, having just researched and completed a young adult novel about Internet predators, "Want to go Private," I'm quite knowledgeable about the warning signs, the grooming process, and the need for constant vigilance. In fact, due to my own experiences, I'm probably hyper-vigilant. There were times, particularly when my children were the ages at which I had been abused, that I had to seek therapy because my anxiety about being able to protect them from harm was so acute.

Yet I ended up learning things I wish I hadn't. I learned that there are still people who believe that a larger percentage of kids lie than the statistics quoted and who are more concerned about potentially destroying the life and reputation of an adult than protecting a child.

I wanted to stand up and scream, "What is the matter with you people?" I wanted to grab the microphone from the moderator and, instead of the actors and actresses that portrayed victims of sexual abuse in the church's video, have them hear about the impact of child sexual abuse from someone real, live, in their community, who has lived with the consequences: depression, bulimia and attempted suicide, but has finally through therapy, hard work, and determination, come through the other side.

But instead, I sat there mute. Because no matter how many years have passed (it's been decades), no matter how many years of therapy I've had (many), no matter how well I think I'm doing (pretty awesome, thanks) in certain situations I can be thrown right back into that feeling of paralyzing helplessness, of feeling like I'm a confused, scared child in the darkness, a child without a voice.

When I got home, I was devastated. I stayed up, distraught and sobbing, until 1 a.m. I was angry that people didn't understand how doubting a child's word makes them feel like they're being abused all over again. I was angry that despite all the hard work I've done for years to put this thing behind me, despite my thinking that I've dealt with it, all it took was watching a few videos and hearing a few people say insensitive things to bring me right back to the Me I Was Before. Such is the nature of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But mostly, I was angry with myself, because I'm not that small, helpless, voiceless child in the darkness anymore. I'm a strong, successful, woman who worked damned hard to learn to use her words.

That's why, despite this being a deeply personal and difficult issue, I chose to write this column.

Recently, my book "Life, After" was named a Sydney Taylor Honor Book for Teens along with an incredibly important book called "Hush." The author writes under the pseudonym Eishes Chayil, or "A Woman of Valor," which indeed she is.

The main character in "Hush" is Gittel, who grows up in an unnamed Chassidic Jewish community (the author specifically intends it to be non-specific, because as she says, "all are guilty") and witnesses the sexual abuse of her best friend by a family member. For the sake of both families' reputations (critical to making a good marriage) she is told that nothing happened and she should be silent. Then her best friend, Devory, kills herself.

As she matures, Gittel struggles with the consequences of silence, both her own and the communal silence, where

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15. OK, Snooki - THIS MEANS WAR!

I've been seriously neglectful of my blog,*dusts off and waves to blog land* but anyone who follows me on Facebook or Twitter will know that I've had some, well, shall we call it ANGST about Snooki's book deal.

I mean, first there's the fact that she GOT a book deal. Then, there was the trailer.




"My castmates are very surprised that I'm an author, because they didn't even know I read books, but like I said on Ellen, I can go to frickin Barnes and Nobles and sit down and get a coffee and read a book, so for America and everyone to see that I'm writing a book, I feel like it's a big accomplishment for me."

1) reading a book at frickin Barnes and Noblesdoes not make you an author.

2) You didn't even write the frickin book.Your frickin ghostwriter did

3) I'm not sure which is going to kill me first - laughing or vomiting - when I read the utter and complete crap you (and your ghostwriter) wrote.


We non-celebrity authors spend years in anonymity working hard to hone our craft. If we're lucky, we get a book deal. If we're even luckier, maybe that book achieves some modest success, mostly from word of mouth from readers, independent booksellers, bloggers and librarians, because Lord knows, unless your book happens to be chosen as a lead title, you're not going to get a lot of love from your publisher. Most of us don't have our publishers make our book trailers for us. We do our own.
And we certainly don't get appearances on Letterman and the Today Show.


Which brings me to why I'm finally at WAR with you and MS-NBC. For years, the day after the Newbery and Caldecott awards were announced, we've been able to look forward to seeing the winners honored the following morning with an appearance on the Today Show.

But this year, apparently, the traditional appearance by the award winners was nixed due to "a lack of interest and scheduling problems."

Who did they have instead? The spray tanned one. Frickin' Snooki, that's who.


Can we just have a collective "WTF?!!!!"

At a time when we bemoan falling test scores, everyone blames teachers, and that very network will be running a WHY KIDS CAN'T READ segment in 3-2-1, they chose to go with the barely literate, barely dressed woman who promotes heavy drinking and indiscriminate sex over the finest children's literature in the country?

SHAME ON YOU, MS-NBC!!

We need to show them just how wrong they were. Please join me in writing, calling or emailing MSNBC and expressing your displeasure with this appalling lack of judgment on their part.

You can email the Today show at: TODAY@nbcuni.com.
You can write to them by post at 30 Rockefeller Plaza New York, NY 10112.
You can place a telephone call to them at (212) 664-4602.


Here's my email:


As a person who makes my living with words, I still cannot find adequate expression of my disgust that you chose to invite the ubiquitous SNOOKI on the Today show in lieu of the traditional segment on the Newbery and Caldecott winners. In a few months time, when you do a segments on "Why kids' aren't reading?" or "The dumbing down of America," you can just look in the mirror and realize that you, The Today Show, are part of the problem, rather than the solution.
Disgusted. Absolutely Disgusted.


I hope that next January we will see our ALA Award winners back on the Today Show where they belong, and that Snooki has faded back into anonymity.

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16. The best gifts come from the heart

Last Friday I was fortunate to take part in an event sponsored by Kappa Kappa Gamma, the sorority I belonged to at Duke. We visited K through 1 kids in the after school program at the George Washington Carver Center in Norwalk, and gave them books to keep of their very own from the organization so near and dear to all of our hearts, Reading is Fundamental. (BTW, if you haven't responded to RIF's latest action alert, please do so NOW by clicking here.


From Blogpics


Dr. Susan Weinberger, (aka "Dr. Mentor") a former assistant Superintendent of Schools in Norwalk and founder of the Mentor Consulting Group read the featured book aloud in such an engaging way - she had the kids wagging their fingers and responding to the book's signature line with brio.




Before rewarding them with cupcakes, we did a craft. I'd suggested something that we have them make their own books, which they could write a few reasons why they loved someone special in their life and give it to them as a gift. My kids had done something like that for me at their age in school, and I still treasure those books - especially the observations like: "My mom is always reading books"and "My mom makes the best chocolate chip cookies in the whole world." :-)

As I moved around the room helping some of the kids to write, what became heartrendingly apparent were the stories between the lines of what I was writing. The stories where Mom and Dad didn't really figure - but thankfully there was an aunt or a grandparent who was a steady figure for the child. I wanted to hug all these kids but I also wanted to thank the person they were having me write to for being there for them.

Well, last night for Hanukkah, my son gave us a book of his own. I got all verklempt reading it, because it was about this:



Son is clearly thinking about the creature comforts that will be lacking in a college dorm, because the first few things were:




See - everyone thought that when I put chauffeur in my author bio it was a joke. They were WRONG!!!
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17. The astounding hypocrisy of book banners

Libraries and bookstores across the country have been marking Banned Books Week, the national celebration of our freedom to read held annually by the American Library Association. It comes at a time when that freedom is under attack more than ever.

In 1982, The Supreme Court ruled in Island Trees School District Board of Ed vs. Pico: “Local school boards may not remove books from school library shelves simply because they dislike the ideas contained in those books.”

Yet across the country, books with recognized literary merit are being removed from the shelves due to the demands of a vocal few.

Recently, in Missouri, Wesley Scroggins, an associate professor at Missouri State University wrote an op-ed piece in the Springfield News-Leader Filthy Books Demeaning to Republic Education in which he deplored the use of such classics as Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse Five and Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak. Scroggins also objected to sex education, wanting it completely banned from schools, because kids were taught about reproduction and how to use condoms. The horror. He objected to high school history classes viewing “Saving Private Ryan” because of “offensive (and violent) content.”

In a lengthy presentation to the school board, Scroggins included excerpts from the offending books with the “filth” highlighted, and concludes: “Requiring children to be exposed to this content at school is immoral. It is an abomination to God to expose children to this material and this content will never be part of a moral education.”

One imagines people like Scroggins sitting in their caves of “morality” with highlighter pens, looking for the naughty bits in books and completely missing the forest for the trees.
But it’s got me wondering if Mr. Scroggins has actually read his own Good Book. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve sat in synagogue reading the weekly portion thinking, Wow. Some of this stuff is pretty out there.

If I went through the Bible with a highlighter pen taking passages out of context, I could find an abomination or two. I’ll give you a few choice examples just from Genesis - Chapter 6:21, in which Noah sets a bad example: “And he drank of the wine, and was drunken; and he was uncovered within his tent.” Drunkeness and nudity in front of the kids. Tut, tut, tut!

Let’s move on to Chapter 19:8 – the wicked men of Sodom have come to Lot’s door, wanting to do the nasty with two angels who are guests in his house. What does Lot do? He offers them his virgin daughters instead! “Behold now, I have two daughters that have not known man; let me I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do yet to them as is good in your eyes, only unto these men do nothing.” A guy giving up his virgin daughters to be gang raped to save a pair of angelic male strangers. Yeah, just what I want my teenaged daughter to read. Really empowering message there.

Oh, but the Lot story gets even better in verses 31-36. Lot’s shacked up in a cave with the aforementioned daughters, who realize that Daddy Dearest is the only guy left “to come into us after the matter of all the earth.” They take turns getting him drunk and “knowing” him so they can “preserve his seed.” Thus, we learn in v36, “were both the daughters of Lot with child with their father.”

Seriously, if I wrote a YA novel with only a fraction of the “situations” in the Bible, the Wesley Scroggins set would be brandishing the highlighters and screaming for it to be pulled from the shelves. It’s their narrow-minded hypocrisy that it is the real “abomination to G-d.”

Personally I think every high school student should be required to watch the opening scene of “Saving Private Ryan”. Our elected leader

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18. Reality testing & the long road to trusting my gut

I wrote a blog post yesterday over at the YA Contemps about Trusting your Gut, in conjunction with the release of April Henry's new release GIRL, STOLEN, which I seriously cannot WAIT to read once I finish editing first pass proofs of WANT TO GO PRIVATE? and revising my graphic novel proposal.

Writing that post got me thinking about WHY it took me so long (into my forties) to REALLY learn to trust my gut. An email discussion with a high school friend last night cemented my thoughts on the issue, and made me realize that even though this is a hard post to write, it's a necessary one.

Did you know that one in three girls and one in five boys will have been sexually abused by the time they reach 18 years of age? Did you know that approximately one third of those victims are under the age of six?

*raises hand*

I do, because I was one of them.

When I look at the list of abuse symptoms, I've experienced some of them - not all. Some, I experienced on and off my whole life. Others more as a teenager. Still others waited to rear their ugly heads until the birth of my own children, particularly my daughter, made me fearful and anxious almost to the point of neurosis that someday this might happen to them and I WOULDN'T BE ABLE TO PROTECT THEM.

Yes, I had low self-esteem. Yes, I grew up thinking that I was defective. Yes, I ended up self-medicating with drugs and alcohol when I was in high school. Today I probably would have been put on prescription medication, and that would have been a good thing, because it really does the trick. But perhaps the worst thing my abuser did - and this continued in subsequent abusive relationships - was to damage, at a very young age, my all important gut instinct.

When you're a very young child, you trust adults to look after you and to be the good guys. Like many abusers, mine was known to our family and welcomed into it. To all appearances, he just doted on me. As my brother said many, many years later, "You were always his favorite." No one knew the price I paid in the middle of the night for the treats and the attention he paid me, and I was too young to really understand what it all meant. All I knew was that I didn't like that part of it. It made me uncomfortable and felt wrong.

Later, when I did come to understand, I was silent. It took me years to speak up about what had happened to me, and at first I always did it in the third person - "It happened to her."

The stage was already set though, for future abusive relationships. I was imprinted with the legacy of a man who was kind one minute and then hurt me the next. I think a big reason for this was because I didn't trust my own inner voice when it spoke to me.

Later, that distrust wasn't just because of my own insecurities. It was reinforced by the dysfunctional relationships I was in. When someone is constantly telling you that you're the crazy one, that your reality is the one at fault, you eventually start to believe them. After all, I was always the one on meds. I was always the one having to see a therapist. So I must be the one who was crazy, right?

But you know what? I finally realized, after a major crisis which required me to reexamine every assumption I'd every made about myself and my life in order to pick myself up off the ground and heal, that maybe, just maybe, I WASN'T the crazy one after all. I mean, yeah, I have my issues just like everyone else, but when it comes down to it, I'm actually pretty sane. (I can hear my kids and my boyfriend laughing when they read this, but humor me, my darlings ... ;-)

Once I had that epiphany, it took a HUGE amount of work, doing what my therapist called "reality testing" until I was finally able to trust my gut. What is reality testing? Well, a situation would occur and my gut would tell me, "This isn't ri

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19. And the Winner is...

(Drum Roll please)

Actually, I'm not going to tell you yet.

It was a tough call. There some great entries. I was tempted by @Cialina's

"#LifeAfter watching Rafael Nadal in Shakira's Gypsy video: watching tennis can never be the same."

Just in case you've missed this video (as I had, until Cialina alerted me to it's Rafa-y deliciousness) here it is:



Seriously Twihards - you don't KNOW the meaning of hot until you've seen Rafa in this video. Taylor, Schmalor.

But since I'd delegated my BF, the Webmeister, the duty of being Ultimate Arbiter, and what with him being a GUY and all, somehow Rafa's deliciousness didn't have quite the same...er...influence on him.


I was also a fan of @vleemahoney's entry "Hey, @mitaliperkin's BAMBOO PEOPLE & @sarahdarerlitt's LIFE, AFTER are birthday twins! #LIFEAFTER reading these will make you THINK and DO."

I just finished reading Bamboo People, and peeps, I think it's a Newbery contender. Mark my words.

But The Webmeister being a guy, he went for the GORE. Apologies to the #RebelsagainstMikesEmpire, but THE WINNER IS:

MIKE "No longer anyone's Cabana Boy but an AGENTED WRITER" JUNG with:

"There are bits of brain & skull everywhere, & that body over there smells like crap. #LifeAfter the zombie apocalypse sucks."

Your signed copy of LIFE AFTER will be on its way shortly!

Thanks to everyone who entered :-)

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20. Teen Reading Night Tomorrow

Calling all New York area peeps! Come join an All-Star line up (and me) for Teen Author Reading Night tomorrow at the scenic Jefferson Market Branch of the NYPL 425 6th Ave, at 10th St

The fun starts at 6pm and goes on till 7:30 and as well as moi you can hear:

Jen Calonita, Reality Check

Sarah Darer Littman, Life, After

Kieran Scott, She’s So Dead to Us

Alyssa Sheinmel, The Beautiful Between

Jennifer Sturman, And Then I Found Out the Truth

Maryrose Wood, The Poison Diaries

Please come!! Even if it's supposed to be, like a zillion degrees.

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21. Hellooooooooo!

*dusts off blog*

It's been a while. It's been a crazy summer, and alas, this poor blog has been terribly neglected. But I hope to post more regularly, even if the posts are short and sweet.

Just wanted to let you know about a few exciting things going on. First of all, a bunch of us who write contemporary realistic YA have banded together to form THE CONTEMPS.

Here's our press release:

AUTHORS TEAM UP TO SPOTLIGHT CONTEMPORARY REALISTIC FICTION FOR TEENS
“The Contemps” are Keeping it Real with Outreach, Resources and New Releases

Twenty-one authors have banded together to put real life in the spotlight and to keep readers up-to-date on the latest in contemporary young adult fiction.

“There are so many wonderful authors writing contemporary realistic fiction,” said Contemps co-founder Lisa Schroeder. “As much as we love other genres, the marketplace can feel dominated by paranormal, fantasy and dystopian novels. We want to celebrate the unique way that contemporary stories help teens feel they’re not alone in this real world.”

“The Contemps” officially launched on August 17 with a mission to help teens, booksellers, librarians and publishers connect with books that feature real-life settings, characters and situations. Group members range from debuts to veterans with several titles on the shelves, and all have new releases coming out between September 2010 and August 2011. They hope to not just build buzz for members’ books, but to create excitement and appreciation for the contemporary realistic genre in general.

In an August 6, 2010 article in The NY Times about the rise of Young Adult fiction, historian Amanda Foreman said, "Good Y.A. is like good television. There's a freshness there; it's engaging." The Contemps write about real teen issues in real-life situations with the energy and grittiness and passion of that age.

That means that The Contemps' corner of the web (www.thecontemps.com) will be a little more self-disclosey than others. A number of activities are planned, including sharing from the authors' own teenage years, giveaways, spotlighting other contemporary realistic authors, and multi-author events. You might find a few naughty words thrown in (right next to the shiny clean ones). There may be stories about hanging out, making out, parents, best friends, sexuality, homework, high school bloopers, teachers, bullies, racism, parties, and pop culture. Look for some odd and lively mash-ups!

“We’re reaching out to a variety of audiences,” said co-founder Lindsey Leavitt. “We want readers, teachers and librarians to know about the wealth of awesome books out there. And we want the industry to know about the authors who create these books. There’s a strong market for contemporary realistic fiction, and we plan to demonstrate that.”

The members are: Brent Crawford, Hannah Harrington, April Henry, Kirsten Hubbard, Denise Jaden, Kody Keplinger, Jo Knowles, Lindsey Leavitt, Sarah Darer Littman, Michael Northrop, Sarah Ockler, Micol Ostow, Lisa Schroeder, Elizabeth Scott, Mindi Scott, Emily Wing Smith, Courtney Summers, Kristen Tracy, Melissa Walker, Sara Bennett Wealer, and Daisy Whitney.


I hope you'll head over to join in the conversation. We've also got a Facebook group and you can follow us on Twitter.


The animation of my son's StoryCorps interview of me, Q & A, is going to be on TV! Check out the listings of your local PBS station for this coming Tuesday. It will be shown at the beginning of the program POV. If you haven't seen the newest animation by Rauch Brothers Animation and StoryCorps, Danny and Annie, than you are about to see one of t

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22. The Politics of MOCKINGJAY (contains spoilers!!)

In addition to writing books for teens, I’m a columnist for the Greenwich Time/Stamford Advocate. Perhaps it’s because of my admitted political geekedness (I also majored in political science in college) but for me, the focus of the Hunger Games series was never about Team Gale or Team Peeta: the romance was a subplot. For the record, I started a Gale fancier and ended up firmly convinced Katniss would be emotionally destroyed by a relationship with him, and could only find happiness with someone like Peeta, for reasons I’ll explain later. For me, reading these books was always more about the system – a political system that would allow – not just allow but require - children to fight to the death in televised games.

I had a lot of time in the car driving along the highways of Pennsylvania on college visits with my son to think about Mockingjay, and I while I don’t know Suzanne Collins or her political views, I don’t think it’s any accident that this series was published when it was – after seeing the decisions made by our own government, and watching, with amazement and no small degree of horror, the debate in our own country about the tactics used in fighting the so called “War on Terror”.

According to the Christian Science Monitor
Collins said she drew her inspiration from imagining a cross between the war in Iraq and reality TV, after flipping through the channels one night and seeing the juxtaposition between the war coverage and “reality” programming.

I started as a regular columnist for the Greenwich Time in January 2003 on eve of the Iraq war. It was, perhaps, an inauspicious time to be a critic of the Bush administration in a largely Republican town, one where George H.W. Bush had grown up and the Bush family still had roots. Yet looking back, it was the right time, both for the paper and for me. The mail I got received the paper that my columns generated a strong reaction, both positive and vehemently negative. As for me, I was learning to find my voice as a woman and as a writer. Learning to deal with hate mail, where people made assumptions about my personality, personal life and character, based on a 700 word column, was great preparation for being an author.


What resonated so much for me when I read Mockingjay, what has stuck with me and been buzzing around my brain for days after, is that I felt I was reliving through Katniss some of the helplessness, frustration, anger, confusion and sense of looking at my country in Through the Looking Glass that I felt during the Bush administration’s “War on Terror”. When I read about American citizens being designated as “enemy combatants” and held for years without the right of habeas corpus. When I read about our government using water boarding a recognized form of torture for which we prosecuted Japanese officers after WWII, yet using the Orwellian doublespeak of “enhanced interrogation techniques” in an attempt to ameliorate their crimes.

But more than that, I was reminded of the letters I received after I wrote a column decrying our governments use of such “techniques” and after the abuses at Abu Ghraib were exposed.

When I wrote the column about water boarding I received letters from readers calling me, amongst other things, an “America-hating terrorist lover”. One woman actual wrote to me asking me how could I say it was torture since it left no physical scars – “it was just water.” And after all – these were terrorists we were talking about. The ends clearly justified the means, in these writers’ minds.

Here’s a paragraph from a column I wrote back in 2004 after news broke about abuses at Abu Ghraib prison:

“As for President Bush, by framing this

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23. Ahh academia...the ivy covered walls...the halls of knowledge...the Quidditch

I’ve spent the last few weeks trekking around various institutions of higher learning with my first-born in what my friend Jody half-jokingly calls “The College Death March.” It’s been quite the eye-opener, and not just from the sticker shock when you get to the “annual costs” part of the info sessions.

One thing I really can’t get over is the food. Gone are the days of “mystery meat” and “turkey tetrazzini” (or as we called it, “turkey tetrachloride”). Nope, it’s gotten to the point where I’m worried my son is going to choose where to spend the next four years solely based on the availability of sushi. Pretty much every college we went to offered not just vegetarian options, but vegan, gluten-free & kosher. And heaven forbid the little darlings should be without their lattes and macchiatos. Back in my day we had those big urns of coffee and teabags that you had to leave to steep for half an hour before they even turned the water brown. But since the annual tuition these days is what my parents and I paid for an entire four-year stint, I guess colleges have to provide a whole lotta lattes to provide a sense of value.

The technology is another thing that brings home just how long it’s been since my days in the ivory towers of academia. Forget the whole “looking books up in the card catalog” thing – I saw a quaint historical picture of that on a wall of one of the college libraries and wondered if they should frame me too. At one college you could look up online which washers and dryers were free and the machine would text you when your load was finished. When I was in college we went to this place called Suds, or “Wash and Slosh” as it was affectionately known, where you could do your laundry and drink beer at the same time.

Another college actually offered a laundry service. “OMG!” I exclaimed to another mom. “How spoiled can these kids be?” Then Jewish Mother brain kicks in: Well, at least that way I’d know he’d have clean socks and underwear. Sensible Mother Brain: The kid is gonna be 18. He’s going to COLLEGE. It’s about time he learns to do his own freaking laundry!

Lest we be concerned that all work and no play will make our Jack or Jill a dull kid (do parents actually worry about that when they’re paying so much in tuition?) kids have clubs we never dreamed of available. I’m fascinated by the proliferation of a cappella groups on college campuses. Every college tour emphasized the number of such groups as if it were a major selling point for the school. The Glee effect?

As big Harry Potter fans, after visiting a few schools we also started to ask the “Quidditch Team” question. Yes, dear Muggles, there’s now a rapidly growing International Quidditch Association complete with a Quidditch World Cup, which will held in New York this November 13-14. Call me a geek, but I am so there. Who knows, if they’d had a Quidditch Team when I was in high school, I might have ended up a jock. That’s if running up and down a field with a broomstick between your legs qualifies you for jockdom.

But the one that had me really bemused was “The Vagina Club”. As I tweeted along with a picture of it on the list of college clubs, “They definitely didn’t have this when I was in college.” I wondered what one did at such a club. Was it co-ed? The mind boggled. Further research revealed that the club had the noble purpose of educating about violence against women and “to work to reclaim the words that have been made taboo or insulting.”

After visiting nine schools, I still have so many questions. Do the tour guides have to take lessons in walking backwards? Am I ever going to get more feedback about our college visits from my son than a shoulder shrug and “I dunno”?

But most of all I wonder what happened to my little boy. And I ask myself if I’ve given my son the kind of upbringing so that he when

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24. Judaism - The YA Faith

I sat in synagogue on the first day of Rosh Hashanah listening to the Rabbi’s sermon about how we should bring our Judaism into our everyday lives and I started thinking about how my faith has always been a part of my life a great or lesser extent, even when I was in college and apparently told my father that I didn’t believe in G-d, something he told said to me years later was the most upsetting thing I’d ever said to him. The irony was that I didn’t even remember saying it. I was like, “Dad, I was in college! Doesn’t everyone question their faith when they’re in college?”

My ritual observance has had its ebbs and flows, but ultimately my neshama, my Jewish soul, calls me back. I’ve gone from being devoted as a tween, to questioning as a teenager, to agnostic in college, to searching for a deeper meaning in my twenties, and becoming more observant in my thirties and forties.

My first book, CONFESSIONS OF A CLOSET CATHOLIC, was about spiritual explorations, and how Jussy, the book’s protagonist, learned to find her own relationship with G-d and meaning in faith as opposed to merely accepting the path laid out by her family. Although I never went into my closet and confessed to my teddy bear, there was a strong autobiographical element in her spiritual confusion and questioning.

Sitting in shul on Rosh Hashanah, I was thinking about how Judaism is actually a religion made for teens and here’s why: it’s a faith based on ARGUING.

The teen years are all about questioning. Who am I? Why do I have to empty the dishwasher? What do I really believe in? Can you believe she wore that? Why can’t I have the car keys? What do I want to be in the future? Why did I have the misfortune to be born to the most EMBARRASSING MOTHER IN THE WORLD?

Questioning leads to discussions, which, more often than not, leads to arguments. Teens are very good at arguing. So are Jews. Ever heard the expression: “You put ten Jews in a room and you get eleven opinions” ? It’s true.

The reason is that arguing is an integral part of our people’s history. The Torah is filled with references to arguments between the Patriarchs and G-d. Dennis Prager wrote a terrific article about the lesson these biblical arguments provide for parents:

Parents who allow their child to argue with them retain (and even enhance) their authority, are more likely to be loved, and even more important, guarantee that the child will continue to talk to them. A child who is always forbidden to argue with a parent will eventually stop communicating.


One of my favorite festivals (except for the cleaning beforehand and the effect that eight days of eating matzo has on my digestive system) is Pesach, or Passover.

In the Haggadah, aka the Seder Instruction Manual, which we read from at the festive meal it says:


It once happened that Rabbi Eliezer, Rabbi Yehoshua, Rabbi Elazar Ben Azaryah, Rabbi Akiva and Rabbi Tarfon were reclining in Bnei Brak. They were discussing the Exodus from Egypt all that night until their students came and said to them: "Our teachers, the time has arrived to read the morning Shema."

We take pages and pages of the Haggadah to talk about how these four prominent sages were lying around all night arguing about the possible meanings of “the hand of G-d” and “his outstretched arm” and “all the days of your life,” and why we’re enjoined to talk about the Exodus from Egypt at night instead of during the daytime. PAGES, I tell you. When I was a little and stuck at the kiddy table I just couldn’t understand why we wasted so much time reading about all these long dead sages who sat around arguing about the meaning of words all night.

But that’s the whole point. They were arguing. In Judaism arguing is okay. It’s what we do. In fac

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25. I am Number 4 and the Loric/Aspergers connection

I just finished reading I AM NUMBER FOUR by Pittucus Lore (aka James Frey, of "A Million Little Pieces" fame and Jobie Hughes. I'm not a big reader of SciFi/Dystopian novels, other than The Hunger Games series, of which I'm a huge fan. Oh yeah and the Susan Beth Pfeffer books. This book got so much hype, having sold film rights before it was published blah blah, and I thought the premise was fascinating, so I thought I'd give it a whirl. It's a fast-paced read, and I can see reluctant readers enjoying it. The environmental message was laid on pretty heavy-handedly, and the character development was meh. But the plot kept me reading. It was the sci-fi beach read, if you know what I mean.

But one passage *really* annoyed me. The main character, John, one of 9 special children who escaped from the planet Lorien, has fallen in love with a human girl, Sarah, and he's talking to his guardian Henri about the possibilities of alien/human love.

It reminded me some of a conversation I had with my late great-uncle Sidney about how it was one thing to date a non-Jew, but when it came down it I had to marry a nice Jewish boy. But then John asks Henri what happens when the Loric try to have children with humans.

Henri answers:

It's happened many times before. Usually it results in an exceptional and gifted human. Some of the greatest figures in Earth's history were actually the product of humans and the Loric, including Buddha, Aristotle, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Genghis Khan, Leonardo da Vinci, Isaac Newton, Thomas Jefferson and Albert Einstein."


I read that and got pretty steamed, because most of the people on this list are actually on another list - a list of historical figures who are thought to have had Asperger's Syndrome. Da Vinci, Newton, Alexander the Great, Jefferson and Einstein - all of them are on multiple lists of people who would have been diagnosed with AS had it been a diagnosis at the time they lived.

Comparing Aspies to aliens isn't new. Temple Grandin famously described herself as "an anthropologist on Mars" when involved in social interactions - the phrase subsequently became the title of neurologist Oliver Sacks well-known book. An online community and resource for Aspies started by a college kid with Aspergers is called Wrong Planet.

But still - as the mother of one of these "exceptional and gifted humans" I happen to know full well that my son's birth had nothing to do with mating with an alien. No one knows exactly what causes Asperger's and/or Autism. I suspect there is some genetic component, because as I look around my family and my ex-husband's family, there are a variety of neurological disorders that, depending on how they are expressed, are diagnosed in different ways. In my totally non-scientific layman's terms, I think different people in the families have had different "switches" if you like turned on, and depending on the configuration, they might be diagnosed with bipolar, OCD, dyslexia, ADD, epilepsy, etc. I'm no scientist. I'm just a mom and a writer. But that's my observation.

Anyway, this appropriation by Frey and Hughes of the special qualities and contributions that people with Asperger's have made to human society for their alien race seriously pissed me off.

Okay, okay, it's a book. It's not even a great book. It's fluffy sci-fi, that's probably going to make a boatload of money. Yet I find myself still mad about this, a day after turning the final page.

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