Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Good News

This is from, a website that documents instances of bullying:

“The statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:
  • Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC. For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
  • Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
  • A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
  • 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
  • According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30 percent of students are either bullies or victims of bullying, and 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of bullying
Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person." (source:

In recent national news here in the U.S., 12-year old Rebecca Sedwick and 15-year old Jordon Lewis committed suicide because of cyberbullying; there were nine cases reported last year internationally. So, what is the good news?

As reported by, one hundred non-acquaintances and one loving aunt came to have lunch with student Halsey Parkerson at South Salem High School in Salem, Oregon. Their goal? Show their support for him against the young man who had bullied him. Halsey’s aunt had sent out an SOS to one of her car clubs on Facebook and people came from far away as Vancouver, British Columbia in Canada. Once he understood the reason for the traffic jam and commotion, the school’s principal allowed the visitors to stay. In the end, the young man who bullied Halsey manned up and apologized. Halsey, to quote from the article, stated:  “It’s just unbelievable…I now know that whenever I am bullied I’ll raise my head up and say ‘Sorry, I have too many friends to think I’m being bullied……If you are being bullied, stand up and express yourself.”

This is the best example of family and community support that ever could be illustrated in actuality. Every single person who came that day to be present for Halsey made a positive, humanitarian statement and impact for change. Each individual cared enough to take the time, spend the money and put forth the effort to be there for one person, and ultimately for everyone who is bullied.

I read some disparaging comments on the article including “it was staged with actors” and “too facile in its resolution.” Well, if that is true, I would like to know who scripted that brilliant scenario? Who paid for it? Certainly one more hero on my list.

So many right things happened at this rally. One concerned aunt made a huge difference in the life of her nephew being bullied at school. Halsey literally stood up straighter when he knew he was supported by family, friends and community. The principal “let it happen”, dispelling a potential power struggle. And we, as individuals and as a group, saw another example of how we can make a difference. A simple courageous act effected changes. I wish I knew all the names of those involved so that I could acknowledge the individuals: Halsey’s aunt, the young-man-who no-longer-will-be-a-bully, the principal, and every single person who cared so much to rally for Halsey.

I hope there is a constellation where every hero has a star. One hundred and three new novae appeared on the Friday Halsey Parkerson was no longer the victim of a bully.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Scars in Our Brains

As anyone who has lived through a rough childhood can tell you, our brains remember much more than we realize they do. Learn more about some of the recent research into this area in this fascinating article from National Public Radio.

Childhood Maltreatment Can Leave Scars in the Brain
by Jon Hamilton, NPR Health News

Brain scans of teenagers revealed weaker connections between the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus in both boys and girls who had been maltreated as children, a team from the University of Wisconsin reports in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Girls who had been maltreated also had relatively weak connections between the prefrontal cortex the amygdala.

Those weaker connections "actually mediated or led to the development of anxiety and depressive symptoms by late adolescence," says Ryan Herringa, a psychiatrist at the University of Wisconsin and one of the study's authors.

Maltreatment can be physical or emotional, and it ranges from mild to severe. So the researchers asked a group of 64 fairly typical 18-year-olds to answer a questionnaire designed to assess childhood trauma. The teens are part of a larger study that has been tracking children's social and emotional development in more than 500 families since 1994.

Read the entire article at>>

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

A Few Good Reads

When You Reach Me
I would highly recommend the young adult novel When You Reach Me by the Newberry Medal Award winning author Rebecca Stead. This story is especially well suited for nine- to fourteen-year-olds who enjoy mystery, sci-fi and time travel. The characters Miranda, her mother, Sal (her best friend), and the Laughing Man are an integral part of a well thought out story line that emphasizes friendships, responsibilities and independence. The main character, Miranda, totes around her favorite book, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, which is the reader’s first clue that Miranda will be involved in something greater than her own reality. There is depth and complexity to this book that reads smoothly all through the conflicts and resolutions. Although an easy read in one sitting for an adult, I found When You Reach Me to be both engaging and satisfying.

The Paris Deadline
Names one of 2012's 10 best Crime Novels by Kirkus Reviews, The Paris Deadline by Max Byrd is a definitive period piece of writing set during the Jazz Age in Paris. The story serves nice slices from a buffet in the historical, detective, romance, and mystery genres. Well-documented, the descriptions of place and time  made me feel, taste and sense the reality of a bygone era, and I thoroughly enjoyed the action and intrigue. I am looking forward to reading more from this author.

The Chaperone
What is so fascinating about period writing and realizing one’s self? New York Times bestelling novel The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty is a truly surprising exploration of the main character, Cora Carlisle, and the fictionalized character of a young Louise Brooks before her stellar rise as a silent screen vamp. Set in Wichita, Kansas in 1928, the story addresses several political issues including Women’s Rights, treatment of orphans, and the KKK, all of which weave nicely throughout the personal stories of Cora and Louise as the older woman takes on the role of chaperone for Louise's summer in New York City. There are enough plot twists to make the Cora’s transformation from conventional to non-traditional both interesting and poignant. I found the story somewhat rushed, though, that left me feeling like the characters were not quite "fully dressed". But I still enjoyed the book and am glad that I read it.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Whatever Works for You...Just Write!

If you're a writer, chances are someone, or many someones, will ask you about your writing process. Some folks swear it's better to write with pen and paper while others are lost without their computer. Some cannot write without notes and a comprehensive outline while others dive right in and write by the seat of their pants. I say the process that works best for you is the BEST process.

Did you know that November is National Novel Writing Month? The organization NaNoWriMo challenges participants to write 50,000 words of a new novel in just 30 days (that's approximately 1,667 words a day). The idea is to get the words down on paper, emphasizing quantity over is a rough draft, after all. This technique can often help reluctant writers jump the hurdle of starting a large project like a novel.

Sometimes I'm asked the question, "What makes it so hard for someone to write?" My answer usually sounds something like this: "A blank sheet of paper. The sheer blankness ignites fear that engulfs our confidence, making it seem improbable that anything as paltry as a few words can impress anyone. My husband once told me that in a drafting class, he was told to draw a line across the sheet of paper; he had a beginning and from there, he could add, modify and complete his drawing. It works wonders for writers, too! Put your name, date, title, or simply start with a simple sentence you can remove later like 'this fascinating story by me is about a boy, his robot, and the girl who lives down the street who take a wild adventure on the planet Otumnu.'"

Another question I'm frequently asked is:  "Do you write everyday?" And my answer is no. My characters live inside my head, so I always have a working story, sometimes several stories at once. I think it is intimidating to some writers when we tell them “You must…” write, read, edit, do…, because it is a matter of style and preference. I don’t keep a journal, but I listen and observe and remember keenly little details that come into my writing. I have on occasion kept a dream record, which fascinates me years later, but I don’t write everyday. Sometimes, though, I will write all day and night, into the next day if I’ve gotten a scene that needs to be written down in its entirety.

It's always interesting to compare notes with other writers about their writing process when I meet them at book fairs or writing workshops...and, with the magic of the web, I can easily my curiosity about how various well-known authors write.

In a 2011 article for O Magazine, Maya Angelou describes her writing process: "I keep a hotel room in my town, although I have a large house. And I go there at about 5:30 in the morning, and I start working. And I don't allow anybody to come in that room. I work on yellow pads and with ballpoint pens. I keep a Bible, a thesaurus, a dictionary, and a bottle of sherry. I stay there until midday. About once a month, the management slips a note under my door and they ask, 'Please, Dr. Angelou, may we change the sheets? We know they must be moldy.' But I've never slept there. I just go in and sit down and work."(How to Write a Poem

According to author Susan Sonntag in a Paris Review interview in 1997, "I write in spurts. I write when I have to because the pressure builds up and I feel enough confidence that something has matured in my head and I can write it down. But once something is really under way, I don’t want to do anything else. I don’t go out, much of the time I forget to eat, I sleep very little. It’s a very undisciplined way of working and makes me not very prolific. But I’m too interested in many other things." (The Daily Routines of Famous Writers

Lev Raphael, author and blogger, says, "I don't urge my creative writing students to write every day; I suggest they try to find the system that works for them. I've also never worried myself about how much I write every day because I'm almost always writing in my head, and that's as important as putting things down on a page." (Who Says Writers Have to Write Everyday?

I firmly believe there is no right process for writing. I strongly urge you to try out various techniques and take some time to discover what works best for you and, please, don't be afraid to alter your process as you grow as a writer.