Friday, July 26, 2013

A Love Letter to Writers...

So I was originally going to title this post, "I gave him my heart, he gave me a pen" and discuss reviews and how to weather them and all of the feelings that come with public critique. But the fact is, I don't really know the answer to that and I'm sure there are many writers out there with way more skills in teaching you to develop a thick skin than I have.

Instead, I'm going to blog about writers. So as some of you know, I just got back from a writer's retreat in Savannah with my online author debut group The Fourteenery (yes, my debut is 2013, but it's pretty late in the year so they let me slide in).
The trip itself was pretty amazing. Yes, I started writing again (woot!). Yes, I ate a ton of food. Yes, I got lost on a run and had a panic attack. Yes, I cried a lot. Yes, I laughed even more. And yes, Amber Lough did refer to me as Jesus at one point during the weekend.

Here's the thing about writers: when you meet them, wherever they are in the process, they are generally so FOR you. I suppose there is competition and weirdness about publishing and indie vs traditional and for hire writers vs stand alone writers and commercial vs literary vs whatever the hell you call my broken kind of writing (psychopathological drama?), but I have been pretty lucky in not experiencing that. Mostly, I've been completely gobsmacked by the kindness and love of other writers.

I see it every day, all over the place. A general willingness and excitement for others to succeed. I see writers offering crits and feedback to other writers. I see writers beta reading and helping line edit and generally supporting other writers on days of suck. The fact of the matter is: we are each other's biggest allies. We promote each other's books, we read, we tell people about the books we love, we buy books as gifts, we go to book signings, we squee online when cover reveals happen, we congratulate and console. This is the writer life.

And it mostly happens online, which for some people is a bit weird. But to be honest, this is where our colleagues are unless we go to retreats or conferences. So I guess you sort of need to get used to it. And be willing to put yourself out there a little bit.

The bottom line: I adore you, writer friends of mine. I'm grateful for your presence and for all the gifts you give me. I hope you all succeed. I hope you sell the books and are happy with your lives. You all deserve it.


P.S. Speaking of conferences, Jolene and I and many of you all are going to SCBWI in LA in one week. I love this conference because I get to see old friends and I get to see Jo who lives in Alaska so it isn't easy for us to connect otherwise. And I'm so very grateful for this. For all my writer people. Come find me if you're there. I'm the sort of tall, loud one.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Silencing the Voiceless

So yesterday, I stumbled upon this article about the banning of Laurie Halse Anderson's SPEAK and I have not been able to stop thinking about it since. I'm going to put aside the ridiculousness of considering a book about rape to be "child pornography" for the time being and instead just talk about book banning.

We all joke that we should be so lucky to have our books banned because it will increase our sales. Kids love to read that which they aren't supposed to, right? And while that may be true, the reality is that book banning sucks. It sucks for authors, but more importantly it sucks for readers. Because no matter what banned books might do in bringing up issues of freedom of speech, etc., the truth is that banning books keep people from reading books that they may desperately need.

And now I'll talk about banning books that address difficult issues. I think why it hurts me on such a visceral level that SPEAK continues to be banned is because I know so many people who needed that book. Similarly, I know so many people who didn't realize they needed it and it turned out to be life-changing for them.

The fact of the matter is that for teens, disclosing rape is often difficult and more often than not, they do not first disclose to parents, teachers, social workers, authorities, etc. They disclose to their friends. Did you hear that? They disclose to their friends. So now, we have completely untrained teenagers being the first people to hear when a rape happens. And that is a turning point for them and for the survivors. Because what these friends say MATTERS. If friends victim blame or slut shame or ask questions like, "What were you doing with that guy? How come you drank so much? Why did you wear that? How come you stayed out so late?" then the survivor will absorb that information and that may be the thing that stops them from ever talking about it again.

Which, let me tell you if it hasn't become abundantly clear with recent media, this silence will eat them alive. So the irony of Laurie's SPEAK being silenced is so sad and sickening. Because of course the theme of the book is about talking. Which we must do, whether it makes us uncomfortable or not.

The article stated that the blogger felt that boys were made to feel uncomfortable reading passages out loud. I don't even really know what to say about this. I'm not super interested in people's comfort levels when it comes to rape and open discussions. I am drawn to things that help open minds and hearts, help teach people, help people respond appropriately to hard topics. SPEAK does this. 13 REASONS WHY does this. THE ABSOLUTELY TRUE STORY OF A PART-TIME INDIAN does this. These books have all been banned. A lot.

Teens are first responders to a multitude of issues that their friends face. If we give them no tools, no resources, if we refuse to engage in discussions that might make them uncomfortable, we perpetuate silence. We make rape victims who already have been disempowered feel as if they have no voice.

I cannot condone this. Ever. SPEAK. SPEAK. SPEAK.