Monthly Archives: July 2019

Why Gayle Forman Inspires Me

This past week, I read Gayle Forman’s latest young adult novel, I Have Lost My Way. Like her previous YA novels, it’s a beautifully written and deeply moving work. Three teenagers from markedly different backgrounds are each suffering from devastating losses. Freya, a budding pop star, has lost her voice while recording her debut album, while Harun, a closeted gay Muslim, has lost his lover and is about to be sent to India for an arranged marriage. Meantime, Nathaniel has come to New York City after losing his father and feels he has nothing left to live for. Accidentally drawn together in the course of one tumultuous day, the three teens become a family of choice committed to helping one another cope and heal from their respective losses. As Freya discovers, “To be the holder of other people’s loss is to be the keeper of their love. To share your loss with people is another way of giving your love.” Forman’s compelling novels are beloved by millions. What particularly resonates for me is her hopeful theme of the redemptive power of love. While the families we are born into may not always be there for us, we can create intentional families of mutual support and caring, as well as work to repair existing relationships. This has also been a major theme in my own work, inspired not only by my own life but by the lives of so many brave teens I’ve worked with. Beyond her impressive body of work, [...]

By |2019-07-27T18:01:13-05:00July 27th, 2019|The Writing Life|0 Comments

Crying While Watching Morning Joe

I don’t usually cry watching Morning Joe. Well, that’s not quite true. The horrifying images of the inhumane and immoral treatment of immigrants at our borders have certainly brought me to tears. But yesterday, I cried about something good, something inspiring, the story Mike Barnicle told about Joe Biden’s generous outpouring of emotional support for his brother Pete when he was diagnosed with brain cancer. When Biden learned about what Pete was going through, he flew to Boston to spend the day with him. After that, he called him every single week until his death. Biden is a busy guy, but this is only one of many stories folks have told about his taking time to support and console others, especially those dealing with adversity and loss. Rather than folding his tent after the devastating loss of his first wife and infant daughter in an auto accident and more recently, the death of his son Beau, Biden has devoted his life to public service. He is one tough, resilient guy, a genuine survivor of unspeakable tragedy. But he also demonstrates and models empathy, a quality so sorely lacking in many of our current political leaders. To me, this is a big deal. Character counts. Resilience matters, toughness matters, and empathy really matters. Our children are watching. The world is watching. But the importance of character, especially empathy, goes way beyond the impression we’re leaving around the world or with our kids. Without the ability to put ourselves in someone else’s [...]

By |2019-07-17T11:59:59-05:00July 17th, 2019|Empathy|0 Comments

When an Elderly Parent Dies

My husband and I are at that age where if parents of our contemporaries haven’t yet passed away, they’re dying now. This past year, our sister-in-law’s parents both died, as did a dear friend’s mother. Saturday night, it was our turn. At age 93, my mother-in-law passed away. It wasn’t entirely unexpected. She’d been in ill health and suffered from severe dementia. By the time she died, I’m not even sure she knew who my husband was. Watching my husband grieve has reminded me that when a parent dies who’s in awful shape, feelings of love and loss comingle with relief. At last, the parent is no longer suffering or living with a dramatically diminished quality of life. But when a parent-child relationship has been complicated, as theirs was, the emotional head winds are even fiercer. My mother-in-law did not like children, and she had four of them. She came of age when that’s what women did—they got married and had children, whether or not they were brilliant students (as she was) and whether or not they would have preferred to pursue a professional career and be child-free. I know that my mother-in-law wanted to connect with her children and later her grandchildren, but she simply couldn’t. As my husband’s younger sister said, her message was, “I love you. Now can you get out of here?” I grieve for her woundedness that made her incapable of communicating warmth and unconditional love and acceptance to her children. I grieve for the [...]

By |2019-07-10T13:40:08-05:00July 10th, 2019|Death and Dying|1 Comment

Writing Out of Our Comfort Zone

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you’re right.” -Henry Ford My late writer friend Thelma Wyland used to tell me, “I was born without the poetry gene.” Of course, I knew that wasn’t really true. Despite her preference for short story writing, she created such evocative Haiku that musician and composer Frank Richmond was inspired to create a deeply moving original composition. Still, I’ve always felt I lacked the “short story gene.” Ever since I’d written “Woman in the Dugout” in seventh grade, all my ideas for fiction seemed to naturally gravitate toward novel length. So when Beth Schmelzer, who was kind enough to adopt me at my first Malice Domestic convention this spring, invited me to join with middle grade author Cynthia Surrisi and her in working on short stories to be considered for an upcoming Malice Domestic anthology, my initial thought was “No way! I’m not a short story writer—I write novels for young adults.” Of course, the theme of “Mystery Most Theatrical” intrigued me, since my background is in dance. And then an idea lodged its way into my pea brain, and I actually wrote a rough draft of a short story. It needs tons of work, but I know I’ll get helpful critical feedback for revision from Beth and Cynthia. Plus, I get to read their stories (which are really good) and enjoy this emerging tiny online writing community. Writing short forced me to be economical in a way that’s different from [...]

By |2019-07-04T09:42:48-05:00July 4th, 2019|The Writing Life|1 Comment