My younger son Joel teaches at an inner city high school in Denver. It’s a tough job for not much money. Last weekend, he recounted a particularly difficult week in which nearly everything that could have gone wrong did. “But it’s okay, Mom,” he told me. “I’ve even picked out what I’m going to wear. I’m really excited to start next week.” (Below: my son Joel!) “Why is that, honey?” “Well, I know this coming week can’t possibly be any worse than this past one.” We both laughed, and when I spoke to him yesterday, in fact, the following week had been better—not great, but better. It was a good reminder for me. This past week was rough. My mom’s dementia has grown so much worse and a couple of painful conflicts in my extended family have continued to simmer. Regardless of what’s going on in my life, however, the reality is that sometimes, issues feel quite manageable, and other times, they really don’t. Depression has dogged me for most of my life. Despite the meds and the years of therapy, my sadness can periodically weigh so heavily I feel as though I can barely breathe. Like right now. But I know that at some point, this latest bout will lift. And hey— maybe it will even be next week. So, I’m heading to my closet to pick out some nifty outfits.
My mom used to complain that she’d figured out the identity of the bad guy in books by Mary Higgins Clark way before the big reveal. Honestly, that never bothered me. I’ve always loved Clark’s storytelling ability, and even when I correctly suspected who the villain was, I kept right on turning the pages. Still, as any mystery writer can tell you, endings for our whodunit tales can be tricky. When it comes to revealing the guilty party, we want to leave our readers satisfied. We’re advised not to be too predictable. Surprise is good. So are unexpected twists. But there is a danger. We do have to lay some groundwork. We have to develop plenty of hints and foreshadowing not only for our red herrings, but for the actual culprit, so that the reader feels the ending, while not necessarily expected, is understandable. If we don’t, we risk irritating our readers. Recently, for example, I read Karen McManus’s Two Can Keep a Secret. McManus is a wonderful YA mystery writer, and I enjoy her work. I was riveted throughout her story—until I got to the end. In her story, teenage girls had gone missing and murdered, and the entire focus of the book had been on the teens and their slightly older siblings who had some connection to the victims. But (spoiler alert!) the revealed killer, a prominent attorney and the seemingly happily remarried stepdad of one of the protagonists, had barely appeared in the story. Unless you count [...]
If readers have enjoyed a writer’s book, I’ve noticed that there are two questions they repeatedly ask. The first is usually some variation of, “So what’s your next book about?” and the second is, “Where do you get your ideas?” Recently, I decided to redo my website (currently in progress) and took a stab at responding to these two questions for a new “In the Works” section. Here’s a brief description of Leisha’s Song: On scholarship at Stonefield Academy, a prestigious New England boarding school, academically gifted seventeen-year-old Leisha has fallen in love with singing and become close to Ms. Wells, her vocal coach and mentor. So, when Ms. Wells suddenly resigns and disappears with no warning or even a forwarding address, Leisha is shocked. And worried. She needs to track her teacher down, make sure she’s okay. Cody, a sensitive cellist from an ultra-wealthy conservative white family, insists on helping her. Sparks fly, clues multiply, and romance blossoms, despite the disapproval of their families. Leisha’s desire to be with Cody and pursue music rather than medicine puts her on a direct collision course with her African-American grandfather, the only parent she’s ever had. But an even more immediate threat looms—because as Leisha draws closer to the truth about her teacher’s disappearance, she puts her own life in grave danger. Like many writers, the kids in my life inspire me! And now here’s what I wrote about where I got the idea and inspiration for this story: Years [...]
What a thrill to meet the award-winning writer Sharon Draper at the SOKY Book Festival this past spring. Before the festival doors even opened, we had bought each other’s books! It turns out that her daughter is a dancer, so she wanted to give While I Danced to her as a gift. And I devoured her deeply moving novel, Out of My Mind, which is used in classrooms all over the country to promote understanding of kids with disabilities. Sharon Draper with Kristin O'Donnell Tubb at the SOKY Book Festival Draper’s warmth and caring about kids and the complications of their lives is nowhere more apparent than in her middle grade novel, blended. Full disclosure: the subject matter of this book, the trials and tribulations of eleven-year-old Isabella whose divorced parents, one of whom is black and the other white, are in constant conflict, hits especially close to home for me. My oldest grandson is also a blended kid, with a white dad and a black mom who are not together. So I guess you could say that I really empathized with Isabella who gets caught in the middle, moving between households and negotiating relationships with her parents’ new partners. Her problems extend to the outside world where she has to deal with other kids’ curiosity about her identity and the harrowing experience of being shot in a racial profiling incident. On their way to her piano recital, she and her older brother are pulled over and [...]