Tag Archives: fear

In the storm

Photo credit: Wayne Lynch
Photo credit: Wayne Lynch

Fourteen years ago I was on a canoe trip in the Canadian backcountry with my grandmother, my parents, my husband, and our infant son.

*Note: This is not as weird as it seems. My grandmother was Ontario’s first licensed female canoe guide. My father practically grew up in a canoe, and so did I. All of us trekking out into the wilderness is just what we do.

Anyway…

We’d set up camp and pitched a tarp when a huge storm rolled in. I put our son in his bright yellow rain suit onesie (yes, they make these), and the rest of us pulled on our rain gear. As the storm intensified, we gathered under the tarp. The campsite began to flood and we huddled together with my son in the middle of our circle. Rain sluiced down our backs and puddled around the high patch of ground we were gathered upon.

My grandmother joked about us being like a herd of musk ox, who gather their young into the middle of the herd for protection, and indeed we were just like musk ox weathering a storm or the threat of predators.

This is us now. In the storm. The biggest, worst storm I have seen in my years on this planet. I won’t lie—I’m scared. I have never felt this vulnerable or this disappointed in humanity. My belief that most people are fundamentally good is shaken, deeply. But I keep thinking about that storm and about my herd.

Moving forward, we must be musk ox—big, powerful, badass, and working in unison. We must gather together with the most vulnerable in the center. Our future is the young people of today—the queer kids, the Jewish kids, the kids of color, the kids new to this country, the girls who don’t want to be groped, the boys who want to be kind. We have to keep them safe and also teach them how to deal with this kind of fundamental threat to our humanity.

So shake the snow off your shoulders, people, and circle up.

 

 

What World Do You Want?

When a young black woman is pushed, insulted and harassed at a Trump rally—
When armed men destroy Paiute sacred lands—
When a man tells a woman that she has to carry a child of rape—
When there are so many mass shootings that I can’t remember the details—

When anger is everywhere I look—

I get angry too.

I don’t want a world of racism and institutionalized privilege, violence and hate, ignorance and distrust.

But you know what?

I don’t want to be full of such anger either.

Screen Shot 2016-03-02 at 7.32.11 AMToday I offer you my hope for the world instead of my rage, and I challenge you to turn darkness into light. The world we will get is the one we can imagine, the one we can build with our hearts and our hands.

Share this hope. Or better yet, share your own.

What world do you want?

A #Readdukah Realization

I was planning on posting a Jewish book a day for all of Chanukkah as part of the #Readdukah celebration of Jewish themed books. You may have noticed that I flamed out after six. Mostly that was because days seven and eight fell on the weekend and I was busy having fun with my family, but also I realized that I have not read nearly enough Jewish children’s books!

So in lieu of days seven and eight, I’m adding an addendum to a New Year’s Resolution (look at how prompt I am with that!). My plan in the next year is to focus on reading books by and about marginalized voices. In addition to my list of books by authors of color, I plan to add more Jewish authors and also Muslim authors.

I firmly believe that books can bring us together across vast differences, and our world needs this more than ever right now. Let me leave you with a quote that I have returned to again and again for solace and encouragement. (I wish I knew who wrote it, but it has been attributed to multiple sources.)

I love these words because they remind me that our task really is a simple one:

Make gentle.

Find compassion.

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 8.22.38 PM

 

Ready to burst

Sculpture by David Kracov in honor of Rabbi Rossi Raichik, who saved over 2,500 children from the effects of the Chernobyl disaster
Sculpture by David Kracov in honor of Rabbi Rossi Raichik, who saved over 2,500 children from the effects of the Chernobyl disaster

Burst, rupture, explode, surge, gush, hurtle, plunge… A day in my life brought to you by the thesaurus. Everything is full to bursting. In some ways, that’s exhilarating. In others, challenging.

The good rush—

I am drafting a new novel, and it is pouring out of me, surging through the cracks, waking me up at night. It is a blazing, fragmentary, kaleidoscopic whirlwind of a book that is driving me into new territory.

The lightened future—

We are going to move, to pack the wagon, to reverse the trail, to embrace something new.

The coming breach—

I am decluttering. My house is an overstuffed suitcase about to face TSA. I want to purge and winnow. I want the fleet-of-foot lightness of canoe trips and the gallivanting international travel of my twenties. I want to discard before we rupture.

The full heart—

This silly puppy sleeping upside down at my feet. My daughter’s head nestled on my chest. Her whispered I love yous. My son charging toward high school, ready to take on the world. This spouse of mine who shares the load and washes dishes and makes me laugh.

And you, friends. Definitely you.

This is bursting at its best.

The paralysis of trying to “do it right”

Cosplayer Ryosama as Cowgirl Ed (Photo by Digital Celsius)
Cosplayer Ryosama as Cowgirl Ed (Photo by Digital Celsius)

Children’s literature is powerful.

I know this because certain books have changed my life. They have changed the way I view the world and my place in it.

I know this because of the brouhaha that explodes whenever some journalist writes about whether young adult fiction is too dark, too complex, too negative, too whatever.

I know this because of the  #YAsaves response to criticism of darkness in YA.

I know this because the campaign to increase diversity in children’s literature has taken over my internet feeds and sent reverberations through media culture in general. (Check out #WeNeedDiverseBooks)

The companion to the power and influence of children’s literature upon real, live, beating-heart humans is the pressure it puts on me as a writer of children’s literature to “do it right.”

Author Christa Desir captured this exactly in her review of THE BUNKER DIARY by Kevin Brooks. (Read the whole thing here.)

I’m fascinated by the burden of responsibility that seems to fall on the shoulders of those of us who write for children. I’m not completely clear who decided on the rules about YA books, but there seems to be an insistence that if the books are going to be about difficult things, then they need to somehow “save”. I have long hesitated at this notion that YA Saves because I think it puts us in the position that we must then acknowledge that the opposite can be true too. That if we’re going to assert that YA books save lives, then we have to allow that they can damage people. And this power makes me very uncomfortable.

I am only me and yet I am trying to write about people different from me with experiences far broader than my own. I want to “do it right.” I want to be authentic and reflective and respectful and honest. I want my books to be “true” even in fiction.

And in all this striving to tell stories that stretch beyond me, there is a very real danger of paralysis as a writer. In a recent conversation with my coauthor Kiersi Burkhart about our middle grade series Second Chance Ranch, I found myself expressing some very real fears about my ability to write diversity. I care so much about doing it right that I was afraid to do it at all. I can’t write about gamers. I can’t write about an overweight character. I can’t write about a black girl.

But the alternative?

Not writing.
Or worse, only writing about a bunch of skinny white girls who love horses.

I can’t face either of those alternatives.

In the midst of all this angst, I found Kate Brauning‘s wonderful post on Pub Hub about Writing Ethical YA. You absolutely must click here and read the whole thing, but let me leave you with the line I found most encouraging, the one that allowed me to shake off the paralysis.

If you’re showing real life and helping fill in the gaps, you’re doing just fine, and I want to read your book.

Thank you, Kate. This is exactly what I needed to hear. Now to get back to that black cowgirl who loves cosplay and isn’t super psyched about her weight…

Sometimes you need to hole up and lick your wounds

In general, I’m an advocate of the “YES” principle (also known in my world as “JUMP”).  I’m a risk-taker.  I push myself.  I want to try new things, hard things, scary things.  I’m not crazy or an adrenaline junkie.  Instead, I believe in forward motion and growth rather than stagnation or withering.

Except right now… I’m curling up in my den and licking my wounds.

Over the weekend, my family was a serious car wreck.  We were in a series of blind S-curves when a car blasted toward us half-way into our lane.  My husband had a split second to try and get us out of the way, and a likely front-end collision turned into more of a side blow, taking out the rear tire and axel.  Somehow we all walked away from a car that is likely totalled.

We humans have this remarkable capacity to forget.  We forget pain.  We forget fear.  We forget that every second of every day we balance on a well-honed edge between life and death.  Remembering takes me out at the knees, steals my breath, pummels me with the echo of loss.

I know I’ll come up swinging again, but today–and for as many days as it takes–I’m burrowing in and tending to some gashes.