Career Expo

Once again, this past Wednesday, I was a “storyteller” at Mankato’s Career Expo at the Civic Center for area high school freshmen and sophomores.

The event includes rooms of “Storytellers” who sit at tables. The students “speed date” around the tables, finding out about the various storytellers’ journeys to their current careers.

I talked about becoming a writer. Of course, I had spent over three hours preparing a 9-minute spiel about what it takes to be a writer. That went out the window with the first two groups, NONE of whom had the slightest interest in becoming a writer. So I just told my story about learning to follow my own passion instead of doing everything I was told to do to be “good” and to succeed.

As far as I could tell, out of the dozens of students I saw, perhaps three were interested in writing. When I expanded the concept to music and visual art, I’m sure there were at least a dozen.

An amazing number of sophomores want to do construction or childcare as careers. I had a couple determined to be surgeons or family physicians, and quite a few future computer programmers or engineers. One future video game developer. (I was surprised that it was only one, but more power to that one girl who said it). I wonder how many studies have been done about how much perception of career changes between age fourteen and twenty-one.

In the long run, it was lots of fun, and I had some good laughs with most of the groups. The poor first group of two didn’t get much out of it, I’m sure, because they were self-conscious and not willing to pretend to be interested. After I warmed up, however, it was a good experience, and I think–at least I hope–that everybody got at least some tiny spark of info from our ten minutes together.

Lies about being a writer:

Being an author makes you famous.

Being an author makes you rich.

Truth:

You have to do it because you love it so much, you can’t imagine doing anything else.

Therefore:

Follow your passion, even if it’s only for your own satisfaction in life.

 

A poem I wrote (I’m not a poet) but here goes…

Selfies at Age Sixty

 

My mother lives inside my skin

In the mirror, her smile cracks across my face, above

her chin,

soft jowls that started sagging at my

fifty-eighth year, but the only way I remember her chin,

the wrinkles that frame her lips under

my skin all disappear in the wide open smile

so I smile

and smile in

A world of selfies that Mom would have eschewed.

 

Why do you cover your mouth, your hand

across your smile? I ask her, studying her face in the mirror,

my own peering back, hers long buried.

I look so goofy, she says across the years, as she said

long ago. My mouth is

so big. A crater on my face when I laugh.

No! I cry. Your smile is beautiful, isn’t it? Is my smile goofy?

No, she insists from beyond the grave. Not yours. Only mine.

The same, I say.

She shakes her head, her hand

Across her mouth.

 

I know the day in high school I saw myself laughing in the mirror

And saw my mother’s face,

covered my mouth, that smile too big. I understood

and started putting my hand over my laughter,

too.

A legacy.

I catch myself laughing,

My hand gone to

My mouth like

A tic.

 

But now,

But now,

I wear purple* and smile

And laugh,

Mouth wide open,

with Mom, move my hand

from my mouth

to my phone,

and all my selfies

are of both of us.

 

*”When I am an Old Woman, I Shall Wear Purple,” by Jenny Joseph

Gap Life by John Coy

Gap Life

I’ve been remiss on reviewing books I’ve read. School and grading papers will do that to me.

GAP LIFE by John Coy is a delight. I read it early in January, and Cray, the protagonist has stuck with me. I find myself wondering how he’s doing on the adventure he undertook at the end of the book. To me, that’s the sign of a terrific character: he becomes so real that he takes on a life of his own and we wonder what he’s doing long after closing the final pages of the book.

Cray is all set, at high school graduation, to follow in his domineering father’s footsteps. His secret terror: that he cannot do it, and hasn’t told anyone.

Every teenager struggling with “What do I want to do with my life?” — and even every college freshman or sophomore struggling with that question–needs to read this book. That’s not because John Coy provides answers, but because the book makes us feel not alone. That, in fact, is exactly what great literature should do: help us recognize that somewhere, in our pain or struggles, we are not alone.

Society tends to make us feel all alone when we don’t know what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we have an overbearing parent who tells us what we want. Society makes us feel alone when we don’t want what our parents want for us or what society wants for us, and yet we flounder because we can’t counter the pressure, unable to articulate what we do want–probably–because we have never been given the freedom to explore our own desires. This book is all about that struggle.

GAP LIFE is not a dystopian drama where life-and-death hang in the balance. It’s the internal workings of a real human character whose skin we jump right into, whose struggle becomes ours as we read the first page. Not life-and-death, no, but life-and-death of the human soul and spirit. We can’t put the book down because we want to keep breathing with Cray, to discover if he will have the strength to find his own dream and then to follow it, and if he can connect with Rayne, the only girl he knows who follows her own heart. Most of all, I think Cray is a character we like so much we want to hang out with him, be inside his life, and keep walking with him, long after we’ve finished this book.

This is in many ways a quiet book. I didn’t look at any other reviews until just now. Some critics say there wasn’t enough conflict to be engaging. And lots of marketers eschew “quiet” books. Their loss. Their big loss.  This is a quiet book that is as big as the human heart. John Coy creates an everyday life that we jump right into because of its clear, smooth prose and delightfully consistent detail: those things that make an everyday life, so that we are living inside Cray on every page. Everybody–parent, teacher, librarian, kid, grandparent–should absorb this story.

Good luck in your life, Cray. I’ll remember you for the rest of mine.

 

Slider’s Son update!

Slider’s Son To be published this Septemeber–2017!  North Star Press!

A murder! The boys smell something while playing baseball…It’s a body hidden in Grant O’Grady’s best friend’s basement… Who? How? Why? The story unfolds…

At the tail-end of the Great Depression in small town, North Dakota, Grant O’Grady wants nothing more than to be a major league baseball pitcher. Everything changes when he realizes the danger his best friend faces. Hatred threatens to destroy Grant and his friends from the inside out. When Grant and his dad, Sheriff Slider O’Grady, find a man murdered, life as they know it unravels, and Grant has to help fight the prejudice of the era toward his best friend (his catcher) who is half Mandan Indian.

Grant comes to grips with the power within himself—to hate or not to hate, to be a friend, and to stand up for what he hopes is right.

We’ve done what appear to be the final edits. We have a BOOK COVER–soon to be revealed! We have blurbs for the back and inside the front cover…It’s real, and it’s happening soon–seven months from yesterday!

I had a dream…

IMG_4124In the midst of some distraught sleepless nights between Election Day and Inauguration Day, I had a series of recurring dreams. They are still vivid in my mind, so I decided I had better write them down. I don’t think I’ll forget them, but rather I feel as if I should go on record having said this before it actually happens.

In each dream, I was with a different person or family. Each had voted for Trump, and was telling me how He-Who-Must-Not-Be Named had NOT made good on campaign promises to help the “little guy”: to provide jobs, to help small businesses, to make taxes bearable, to “fix” healthcare. Each person was disappointed and angry.

Some of these people I knew and some I didn’t recognize, but in my dream, they came to me to voice their discontent. From there, they traveled to Trump Tower in NYC since Trump was hiding out there instead of living and working in the White House.

In the first dream, a small crowd was gathering around the doors of the building, all yelling, “Let us in!” “We want to talk to you!” “You promised us!” “You lied to us!”

In each subsequent dream, the crowd grew and grew. By the final dream (and I haven’t had the dream for many weeks now–not since Inauguration Day), the crowd filled the streets around Trump Tower, and spilled to fill all the surrounding blocks–as big as the crowds resisting on the day after his inauguration. Everyone was yelling: “You lied to us!” “You lied to us!” “You promised!” “You promised!”

I believe that many many people who voted against Hillary already feel this way–I believe voter regret will be bigger in the next four years than it has EVER been. There will be those who blindly believe he’s making America great again, if they don’t look at the repercussions of his edicts and appointments. However, I’m afraid my dream is well on its way to seeing the light of day. I’m worried for this country, but we will keep on keeping on.

 

What can we do?

image-1

Today, the country is in an uproar, as it should be, about Trump’s executive order and travel ban.

One suggestion that has been made, if Trump requires Muslim registration–like Jewish registration in Nazi Germany–like Japanese registration here during WWII–that we should ALL register as Muslims.

Here’s an article addressing the possibility. I think you can click it and enlarge it.

I’m ready to join my Muslim friends in this way if our country comes to this.

 

While I’m at it, read IT CAN’T HAPPEN HERE by Sinclair Lewis, written in the late 30s. The man was a visionary.  Read it!

More Bob Feller, etc.

Today, I came upon this article by Bill Livingston, journalist for the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  Since I discovered Bill in a recorded interview about Bob Feller, while doing research for my historical novel, I have followed Livingston’s sports reporting. His voice is fresh, honest, and reads like a captivating short story. Every time. I’ve become a fan. And I like baseball, but for the first time, I’ve laughed out loud reading about the Cleveland Cavaliers, for example.

8a94084f56747d49

So…the article links to a series of photos of Bob Feller. I’ve included three of them here, just because I’ve been such a big Bob Feller fan. You can see more at the link above. My Bob Feller “Rapid Robert” fandom has grown even more while doing research about Feller to create the character Grant O’Grady, title character in my book Slider’s Son, who idolizes Bob Feller.

Bob got drafted right out of high school to pitch for the Cleveland Indians. Grant, a 13-year-old pitcher wants to be the next Bob Feller more than anything in the world.

Here’s Bob’s high-kick wind-up.

signing-ballsHere’s Bob Feller with young fans.

 

holding-baseball

And here’s Bob showing a hold on the ball for a pitch, I assume.

And this one is of Feller with his wife and sons. He’s holding the catcher’s mitt his dad used when Bob pitched to him as a kid. I love it.

All these photos are used from the Cleveland Plain Dealer wire services, on the site linked above, and from the Dennis Goldstein collection.

Teaching, (and aging early as a result), and the rewards

My friend and former student, Corey Taube just posted on Facebook:

teacher-stressedHAHAHA.

This is SO true for the last two weeks, while I grade research papers and stress trying to get everything done for everybody at the end of the semester.  I feel ancient and exhausted.

I have had some moments of pulling my hair out, but I’ve also had some moments where I’m reduced to tears over the beauty of a student-crafted argument in a final research paper.

Then. I just read this one.

I am sitting in awe for a moment. This semester, as usual, my Composition class read “Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” by Mark Haddon. The narrator in this book is on the Autism Spectrum. One girl in my class who had several mental health diagnoses in the past (Borderline personality disorder, bulimia, ADD, bipolar disorder, depression, and anxiety), recognized herself in the protagonist’s characteristics. She committed herself to a mental health facility and asked to be tested for Autism Spectrum Disorder. Bingo. Her self-diagnosis was spot-on.

THEN, she did her research paper on the misdiagnosis of women on the Autism Spectrum. I just read it. It’s beautiful. It’s far more than I expect from a freshman research paper. It’s beautifully done, crafted, and supported with serious research material. Women, more socialized as girls to respond emotionally, learn to mask their symptoms, and withdraw in social settings instead of acting out, and don’t get recognized as being on the Autism Spectrum. Those who are functional and intelligent students get by in every way…and sometimes diagnoses don’t happen until twenties or later.

Anyway, the point of all of this is that I’m stunned and grateful, and as much as the picture above is true, this is one of those moments when teaching is far, far, far-and-away worth every painful moment of fatigue.

Snowfale Dazzle Night in Mapleton with Freya!

Freya and I have been invited to sign books at the Library in Mapleton at the Snowflake Dazzle evening event. I LOVE this event on Christmasy Main Street, Mapleton.

November 30

5 p.m.-8 p.m.

Freya will be happy to meet and greet everyone, and I’ll have books for sale and signing, including Woof and Wag; Bringing Home a Dog  and Beauty Missing, Hair Hissing: Medusa Tells All.  I also have some copies of Jake Riley: Irreparably Damaged, and Chasing AllieCat.

in-the-woods

Slider’s Son! And is anyone else sick of paranormal…?

Slider’s Son will be published September 2017.is

I wish my agent George Nicholson were alive to see this happen. He “loved” this manuscript when he read it, and that meant the world to me since he never used that term with my other novels, although he certainly championed them.

I’m getting my ducks in a row–wait, no, I’m not getting them in a row yet, but I’m herding them toward rows–for publication in ten months. That means setting up some book events and making myself available for young writers’ conferences and book fairs, libraries, schools, and, and, and…and it means lots of work, which is exciting work and fun work. I love doing book events.

However, it also means lots of social media time and online promotion. THAT I’m not such a big fan of. But I’ll do it. I’m delighted that North Star Press promotes its own authors’ events. That gives me great hope. I’m excited to publish this book with them.

The BEST news right now is that I found out last week that I will be receiving a Prairie Lakes Regional Arts Grant (PLRAG) Mid-Career Artist Grant to help promote this book!  I’m excited. And GRATEFUL!

Okay, besides the excitement,  I sat down to write here because I just followed a thread of a YA book promotional publicity group, thinking ahead to that social media aspect of publication. EVERY, and I mean EVERY book in the top thread was paranormal romance, time travel, or dystopian. A few dozen books down, I found one realistic-fiction romance book. Is anybody else sick of paranormal romance and dystopia? I really do love historical fiction. That’s what I love to read, and that’s why I wanted to write Slider’s Son, based on true stories, but set in the 1930s. I’m following my own passion, and it’s not the trend right now, but that’s okay!

Okay, that’s my vent for the night. In spite of the vent, I really am EXCITED to have Slider’s Son out in the world!