Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Inside the Author's Studio with Ali Cross

Today, I am super happy to have Ali Cross at my blog for a special edition of Inside the Author's Studio. Ali blogs here and her new book BECOME was released last week. Remember that one lucky commenter will receive a copy of BECOME (U.S. only please). 

What is your favorite word? JOYFUL!

What is your least favorite word? Um I’m not sure if I can say it. It’s a four letter word that starts with c and ends with t and is a very, very ugly word people sometimes call a woman. Blech.

What turns your current MC on? Ooh. Maybe I could say that word. ;) Hm, what turns Desi on? I think that would be fingertips gently traced over her neck and behind her hair.

What turns your current MC off? Someone trying to control her.

What sound do you love? I love the sound of my children’s laughter, or the sound of my husband singing “You Are My Sunshine” in a sleepy voice when I need a little comforting in the middle of the night (I have nightmares sometimes).

What sound do you hate? The sound of people fighting.

What is your favorite YA quirk? Oh heh heh. Um? Uh. (I’m about as eloquent as Desi, here). I don’t think people, and maybe especially teens, tell the truth about their feelings. So I tend to write teens that don’t tell the truth. I am suddenly doubting my answer here—wish I had a funny quirk to share, but Desi’s kind of not funny. Probably because I am not funny. :P

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? I would have liked to have a more of a career in singing. I sang for a few years with Opera Idaho—but I would have loved to sing at the Met or New York City Opera. But if you’re asking for something I have never done, even in part, I’d say large animal vet.

What profession would you rather bathe in a vat of urine than attempting? Hahahaha! It would have to be something really bad for me to prefer the cat urine—that stuff is horrid. Worse than horrid. Shiver. And I just now realized you did NOT say cat urine, but I’m not going to change what I wrote because everyone can agree that cat urine is baaaaaaaad. Yet I would rather bathe in that than be a potato sorter (again).

If John Green exists and sits at your table at a SCBWI conference, what would you like him to say to you? First, I’d like to hope I didn’t snort my drink, or spill it on him, as I am wont to do around awesome, funny people. Then I’d hope he’d get right up in my face, give me that intense look he has and say, “Dude, you are the best nerdfigher anywhere and your words DO. NOT. SUCK.” 

This was a lot of fun Christa! Thanks so much for having me at your blog today! You’re the best!

Thanks to Ali for joining us!!

Friday, November 11, 2011

When Silence Destroys The Lives of Others...

Audre Lorde once said, "Your silence will not protect you."

Nowhere is this more evident than in the Penn State events over the past few days. I have many, many thoughts on this issue, but first, I think it is important for you all to know exactly the timeline of this abuse. Because it's not like this just came up this week. And not everyone knows how far back and how deep this case goes. Nor do they know how many people knew what was happening and chose not to say anything.

C.C. Finlay gives a very accurate and thorough timeline here. Please note the number of incidents that occurred and when they began. 1998. 1998 was the first time Sandusky was caught. And there were four incidents in which the abuse was witnessed by other people. Four. Legal action was not taken until the fourth incident. By Finlay's count, fifteen people knew about this abuse prior to legal action being taken. FIFTEEN.

And how many boys were abused between 1998 when the mother of one of the victims first reported what happened to her son and 2011 when Sandusky was finally indicted?

It's horrifying. It's staggering. FIFTEEN people. This is not just an issue of Paterno's silence not protecting him. This goes so much further than that. It speaks to a rape culture in which obvious abuse goes unreported or gets pushed under the rug because the abuser is a good guy and expresses remorse. It speaks of the culpability of those who kept silent for fear of losing their job. It speaks to the world at large and why so many people feel the need to defend Paterno.

I'm sick about all of it. I am sick of people not saying things when horrible things are happening. We all have a responsibility to stop abuse. If nothing else, we have a responsibility to SPEAK. We have a responsibility to SPEAK LOUDER when no one listens. This is not complicated. These were children. There was never a question of acquiescence in this. This is a very obvious case of abuse and STILL people are fighting about it.

I worry so much about the messages we are sending our children. I worry about what we are saying and the culture we are creating. Why would anyone who has been abused want to come forward when all they are met with is denial or rationalizations for not reporting? And what about the cases that aren't obvious? The cases where someone has been drinking and is raped or someone is wearing a short skirt and hitting on guys and is raped? If ten year old boys aren't being protected, why would a sixteen year old drunk girl date raped at a party be believed or protected?

I don't know what to say except SPEAK and SPEAK LOUDLY. A friend of mine once told me when she had teenage sons, she insisted that they be responsible for every girl at the parties they attended. They were to make sure all of them left safely and didn't get in situations that left them vulnerable. I thought this was an awfully big ask, but then she told me, "It's not enough for my boys not to be perpetrators, they have a responsibility, we all have a responsibility to stop others from being perpetrators. That's how our children should be raised. If they don't look out for each other, no one will."

Friday, November 4, 2011

Is the R-word the worst swear word???

BACKGROUND INFO: For those who don't know, 6-9yo's are obsessed with swear words. The knowledge of such is the topic of much recess conversation. My kids talk about the F-word, the A-word and the S-word frequently (but hilariously, they don't actually know what the words are, just the first letters).

So this is the dinner conversation with my 9yo two nights ago:

9yo: One of the boys found a swear word in the Spanish word search.
Me: Yeah? Seems kind of weird for a word search.
9yo: Yeah, he said it was the worst one EVER but I don't know if it's a swear word.
Me: Huh.
9yo: It was the R-word.
Me: Hmm...I don't know any R swear words. Not even in Spanish. I think he was making it up.
(30 minutes later)
9yo: I keep thinking about that word. Can I write it down and you tell me if it's a swear word?
Me: Okay.

And then she hands me a slip of paper and the air whooshes out of my lungs.


I was speechless. I didn't know what to say. My daughter doesn't even know where babies come from (I'm a feminist, I am ready and willing to have that conversation with her, but she has ZERO interest so I don't push it). How the heck was I supposed to respond to this piece of paper?

This is what I said: Jojo, this is a terrible word for many reasons. But it's not a swear word. It's a grown up word that I don't think you're ready for yet. But when you're ready, I'll tell you. I don't want you asking other kids what this means. This is a conversation for you and me to have when you're older.

I have no idea if this was a good response. I've been stewing about it ever since. Part of me is glad that this boy thinks the R-word is the worst swear word. Part of me wonders how he heard it in the first place (although honestly, it could have been anywhere). Part of me wants to pull my daughter out of school and protect her from all this. She's 9 years old. I don't want her introduction to sex to be wrapped into violence.

But the truth is, mine was. And I have worked for many years with an organization (The Voices and Faces Project) whose mission is to not brush the issue of rape under the rug. Whose mission is to deconstruct the rape culture we live in so that good dialogue can happen around this issue and change can be affected.

I worry that by not explaining this word to my daughter, I am (possibly) allowing someone else to create the lens for her. But still, I'm not ready to tell her yet. At the SCBWI LA conference, Donna Jo Napoli said we must write about horrible things not only for those who have experienced them, but also for those who haven't so that those who have been sheltered may develop empathy and compassion. I agree with this completely. And yet, when my 9yo wants to know what rape is, the words can't form in my mouth. And I'm not convinced that they should. Yet.

I'm very curious as to what other parents would have done in this situation. Did I miss an opportunity for dialogue or am I rightly allowing my daughter to hang on to her innocence for a little bit longer???

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Inside the Author's Studio with Nova Ren Suma & A GIVEAWAY

It is time once again for you all to meet another fabulous YA author. Today's guest for Inside the Author's Studio is Nova Ren Suma, author of the absolutely wonderful IMAGINARY GIRLS. Be sure to leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of IMAGINARY GIRLS. 

1.     What is your favorite word? I’m afraid it might be the word just. (I mean, just look at my first drafts before I start revising and reining myself in. I seem to adore that word so much I just use it constantly. I just can’t help it.)

2.     What is your least favorite word? Can’t. (When someone tells me I can’t do something, I immediately get fired up and decide I can and I will.)

3.     What turns your current MC on? Mystery.

4.     What turns your current MC off? Being locked for hours in a coat closet.

5.     What sound do you love? A pounding rainstorm—especially when heard from beneath an umbrella while walking through the park at night, or through an open window when I’m indoors and dry, or (my favorite) while in the passenger seat of a car that’s driving down a long, dark road.

6.     What sound do you hate? Jackhammers on the sidewalk when I am trying to write! Not even earplugs or music can keep the sound out of my head, even from twelve floors above the street! Can you see it drives me insane!

7.     What is your favorite YA quirk? (i.e. The Colonel’s desire to give everyone nicknames) Lists. 1) I love it when a narrator suddenly breaks into list form to tell you important things. 2) Or even random things. 3) Because often what’s revealed in the list colors everything else in the story. 4) Or acts as a diversion. 5) And I always enjoy a good diversion. 

8.     What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? Do you ever wonder about being something completely other than what you are? After a day sitting in a chair and agonizing over words, I do. So if I were a different person entirely from the person I am—and by that I mean if I were a physically coordinated, graceful, fit, and brave person—I’d be a surfer. That’s all I’d do. I’d surf, nap on the beach, and wake up early the next morning to go in the ocean again. I should probably admit that I’ve never surfed before and I can barely swim, but watching from afar it seems so exhilarating. So worry-free… aside from sunburn and sharks, of course.

9.     What profession would you rather bathe in a vat of urine than attempting? Debt collector. That’s something I’d never do to anyone else, even with a gun to my head.

10.     If John Green exists and sits at your table at a SCBWI conference, what would you like him to say to you? “I read your book and I loved it.” Don’t we all wish he’d one day whisper such beautiful words into our ears? (And one day, if he does indeed exist and I ever get to meet him, I’ll probably say those very words to him. Because I’ve read all his books and I love them.)

Thank You Nova! Isn't she adorable? Go follow her on Twitter: @novaren