Thursday, May 30, 2013

Again - Hoping for never again

     I wrote this piece because I am moved and bewildered and saddened by the number of teen suicides that have occurred in our community recently. Why does this keep happening? Why must these bright lights be snuffed out when they are just beginning to shine? My heart aches for the families, the friends, and my mind can’t help but question the reasons.

     In Whisper, my young adult trilogy, I suggest that dark forces are weaving into the minds of teens, suggesting destructive behaviors, trying to steal their joy, their very souls. Whisper is a work of fiction, but sometime I can’t help but wonder…

     I pray for all of the families who have lost loved ones to suicide. And I pray that these terrible forces that are leading  young people to take their lives may be extinguished by all that is right and good in our world and beyond.


   Tragedy strikes.


     A mother’s scream confirms the terrible truth of it as her greatest nightmare reaches out and slaps her in the face. No one hears her, but soon the world finds out. And soon, the men and women wearing the “I’m in charge” name tags compose and distribute an email to all families in the school district, explaining a horror that can never ever make sense.


     And counseling is offered to all of the students. And lovely memorial services are planned and attended by many.  And the girls and boys are sitting in their algebra and physics classes with big puffy eyes and runny noses, trying their best to focus on x plus y and gravity and motion, but how can they? The unthinkable has happened.


     And, a minute later, everyone has texted and tweeted about the terror that has struck their little town – “did u hear what happened to so and so?” “did u hear what he or she did?” “it’s awful.” “I can’t believe it.”

     Really? Because it’s certainly happened enough times to be more than believable. Three times in one school year seems quite a lot for a horror such as this… and yet.

     It keeps happening.

     And the mothers and fathers keep on screaming long after the buzz has left the screen.

      And the rest of the world continues with x plus y and gravity and motion and texting and tweeting and emails and sleep. And they forget the punch to the gut they felt when the news broke. They forget how they couldn’t breathe for a second when they found out. They forget to remember how precious life is, even in the valley of teenage discontent.



Sunday, May 19, 2013

Pennwriters Conference 2013~ Pitch Perfect

     It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the 2013 Pennwriters annual conference held in Pittsburgh, at the Airport Marriot, where the corridor outside of rooms 203-208 was filled with chattering teeth, sweaty brows and more deep breathing than a yoga class. This was where aspiring-to-be-published authors waited in line for their turn to pitch their book to an agent, face to face for ten whole minutes. Scary stuff, right?

     Not really.

     As unpublished writers, we tend to harbor a sense of insecurity about how others view our authenticity. We know, or at least think, we’re good at laying pen to paper (fingertips to keyboard,) but we’re terrified of being judged, especially by people who get paid for having the “right” opinion.  I mean, their words can make or break us. They can agree to read our manuscripts, to take us on as clients and sell our projects into print, to make our dreams come true. They can flat out reject us for any old reason they like. Maybe our books aren’t a fit for their companies. Maybe they don’t dig our turquoise flatform open toed shoes… Who knows, really?

     So, in the midst of totally freaking out over having only two hours and thirty seven and a half minutes left before my oh so pivotal pitch appointment with an editor from a big name publishing house (who was never ever going to buy a book from an unpublished, unrepresented writer anyway...,) I had a bit of a revelation.

     I was there, at the 2013 Pennwriters conference, to learn something. And getting ten whole minutes in front of a successful editor meant that, even if I knew he wasn’t going to buy my book, I could ask him a slew of really important questions and get answers from an expert.  After this seemingly common sense tidbit struck me, I stopped wigging and started pondering all of the information I wanted to take away from this place.  Information that would help me make good decisions about my work in the future. I stopped shaking. My heart stopped trying to punch its way through my chest. I was ready to interview this guy.

     I ended up pitching to four agents and an editor at the conference. I also did my best to casually speak with other agents and professionals, not to try to sell them my book but to pick their brains for the answers I was seeking.  I left the conference overflowing with ideas and information and so grateful to these talented and knowledgeable individuals who’d shared their expertise with me.

      Funny, we, as aspiring-to-be-published authors had put these agents on pedestals, made gods out of them as well as demonized them. They’re just people doing their jobs. Some of them are superstars in their industry and have so much to teach us at venues like these conferences. Others… not so much superstars…  A few seem as nervous sitting across from us and our lists of questions as we may be pitching to them.  Maybe they are the ones with the shaky hands, funny faces, squeaking voices. Believe it or not, it happens.

     Ultimately, it was the best of times. I got what I paid for and so much more. Sure, for the first couple of hours,I may have sprouted a few gray hairs and a stress pimple worrying about my big chance to shine, but after I came to my senses, I sucked up all the good stuff I could get.  Great job Pennwriters! I’ll definitely be attending next year’s conference.