Friday, December 11, 2015

My Top 12 (mostly) Indie Books for EVERYONE on Your List!

For the holidays this year, I'm planning to give a lot of books. I want to support authors I've met and had be helpful to me over the past year or so, or books that I've found and loved or sometimes both.
Also, seriously... who needs more "stuff"? So buy a book.

Selling books is hard for many authors these days. Buying their books is a nice way to give a cool gift and support an artist.

Without further ado: My top 12 list of (mostly) Indie Books for EVERYONE on your list!
A link to buy each book is included. Happy Holidays!

12. Sci-Fi/Fantasy:
Sojourn: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

This book started as a group of gamers and has turned into the #1 selling anthology of speculative fiction on Amazon. Plus, this is one of my awesome editor's projects and I love her.

11. For the dude on your list who loves music:
Cross Dog Blues

 I met this author at a small business Saturday and loved his book. It's told with a blues voice that conveys a tone that follows exactly with the story.

10. For the dude on your list who likes humor books:
The Pequod's Coffin

This book is a great chance to laugh and be entertained by the idiocy of corporate America.

9. For girls age 9-12 on your list:
Flexible Wings

A compassionate and kind-hearted approach to the social topics: adjusting to moving and making new friends, struggling with trying something new (swimming), living in a military family, enjoying a rich cultural identity.
8. For the lover of New Adult books on your list:
The Language of Flowers

This book deals with a similar girl to Seffra (although older) and does an absolutely stunning job with the language. It's honest and accurate and I loved it.

7. Book Club/Literary Fiction:
Yellow Crocus

The intertwining life of a slave and the child she helps raise. Strong female characters, conflict, morals.. unflinching honesty and beautiful writing.

6. Book Club/Literary Fiction:
(If it gets a slash, it gets 2 suggestions!)
The Pearl that Broke Its Shell

A cultural novel with unique women's stories of living in Kabul.

5. Nonfiction, Light-hearted:

I Work at a Public Library

A Light-hearted Wonderful Book by a Librarian who spends her days making the world a better place. No, really.

4. Memoir:
Hands of my father

I met this author at a small writing conference. The author is as fascinating, personable, and gregarious as any could be and his book reads so smoothly. A fascinating life!

3. Children's Picture Book:
Painting for Peace in Ferguson

Beautiful pictures with a rhythm to the words that follows the paintings that people did on boarded up windows amid the riots in Ferguson. I've read this approximately 1,000 times with my children and I love the words AND the pictures and the age-appropriate message that comes through.

2. Publishing:
Book Marketing is Dead

If you're interested in his book, you should totally check out his website. It's FULL of useful, nuts & bolts suggestions on improving your marketing.

1. Young Adult Memoir-style fiction:

Between Families

(obviously, it has to be my book, especially because I'm giving away all the rest of the old cover copies in preparation for the new cover. I'll be donating to child advocacy groups and individuals and colleges across the country until I run out.)

Check out the new cover! The new cover is only digital for now (and Derek Murphy made it for me,) but I'll post when a new cover is finalized after the 1st of the year.


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Kirkus Review is in & reposted here


Mitchell’s debut novel follows a young girl through abuse and abandonment, and eventually to a residential treatment center, where the act of confronting herself may be her most difficult challenge yet.

Seffra Morgan loves her glamorous, charismatic, and fun mother, Linda, despite the fact that she’s a criminally negligent, violently abusive addict, sometimes leaving Seffra alone for days without food. Hunger is one of the most poignant themes of the book, haunting Seffra as she thinks, “The chance of having to sleep on a dirty hotel room floor was totally worth my mom’s attention and some good food.” After Linda permanently leaves Seffra on her own, the 12-year-old begins making desperate choices. After she survives a horrendous attack, she ends up in Castlerock, a residential treatment center that readers soon realize houses only the most traumatized and debilitated children. Mitchell articulates the details of child welfare services very well, depicting a realistic, well-meaning system of teachers, social workers, nurses, and law enforcement officials. The Castlerock treatment center offers the author an opportunity to introduce other children into the narrative, providing context for Seffra’s behavior and emphasizing the scope of child abuse. However, the novel’s biggest accomplishment is how it assumes Seffra’s point of view as she internalizes her trauma. She’s an exceptionally complex character who seeks her mother’s love while simultaneously expressing destructive anger. The two impulses are entwined at one point when she thinks, “My anger pushed away for a few moments and I felt the rush of my mother’s smell, and how much I loved her and I was sad with need and longing.” Mitchell subtly allows the character to develop and readers’ empathy will grow as they accompany her out of childhood and into adolescence.

A heartbreaking story that gives voice to often overlooked children.

Monday, November 16, 2015

There was something steeping in my pot this morning. Something I was going to write or say or do but it seemingly evaporated in the series of small talk and now I'm not sure where I set it down. Was it a set of keys? Or maybe my glasses. That's it, I was missing my glasses that helped me see how specific it was.

It was perfectly spelled out in neat rows that let you see how great my idea was. It wasn't convoluted in a series of clauses, set aside and defined until you couldn't remember the meat. It had sharks teeth and the smell of a pipe smoked by the side of the crick. Not the creek, that's the wrong sound. It tastes wrong in my mouth. Not like cinnamon candy, stolen from a bowl I wasn't invited to touch.

Or the deep comfort of swirling snow, knit burgundy mittens holding a paper cup of coffee and breathing in all that steam while the snips of cold melt on my glasses. Was that why I couldn't see what I was going to write about? Was it the steam or was it the glasses? Was it just that I was so disorganized that I forgot it? Or maybe that the thing wasn't a thing you could see at all but only smell and sense needs waiting.

I'll wait. It will come back.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The truth behind Between Families

I was bullied as a kid. I'll probably never know why and I am certainly not unique in my experience but I still feel weird about it. Girls from my class would turn and hate me in a minute. No warning, no reason why. They dumped my desk, left it full of notes that said "bitch," pinched me as they walked down the aisles. Then in a second it would be over and I'd have friends again. When in the midst of an incident, I missed school, faking illness. They'd call at all hours of the day and night and hang up and then do it again, and again, and again. At the time it was unsettling and I'd get scared and cry. I'd take the phone off the hook and put it back on a couple of hours later.

The first time I considered suicide I was about 9 years old, I think. I think that because I remember holding a butter knife against the pale blue of the veins just under the skin of my wrist and wondering if I could cut them with that knife because I wasn't allowed to use sharp knives yet.

When I was 10, we moved to St. Louis and I lost all my outlets, all the things I felt good doing. I stopped swimming or dancing or doing gymnastics.

I lived in St. Louis for a long time. A lot of it was unhappy, isolated times in my life. My dad came out of the closet just before my freshman year of high school. This was in the days when many people still thought it was completely acceptable for a mob to attack a person with no other cause than that person's sexual orientation. And I had a dad, the most loved person in my life other than my mother, who could be a victim of this. And if he made it through that, there was still all the judging. People might think he was evil, or that I was.

I was young and I was scared. I kept it a secret for the first couple of years that I knew about him. I would fly to Chicago where he'd moved and have these great visits where I met all his fabulous new friends and went to gay restaurants and they were in awe of how collected I was about the whole thing. But that was a lie. It was a comfortable relief to be there, honest about my dad and happy and seeing that everyone was happy and okay.

It's easy to be collected about a thing when it sits neatly folded up in a compartment of your life, never to be seen by anyone who might judge it.

I did eventually tell people about my dad. And that actually went just fine. After years of worrying what the backlash would be for someone that clearly did not fit into their own skin the way mine misfit me, the result of my dad's homosexuality fell silently into a comfortable quirk about me. No one cared.

But the other problems of my family stayed tucked tightly away. Those continue to be required secrets. I did not share them then and I'm not allowed to share them now. Back then, I didn't fit in my skin. I was awkward. I looked around and saw friends who had great grades and ACT scores and SAT scored. I hadn't even figured out how to sign up and that I kept a secret along with all my others. I'm not sure how much of it was shame and how much of it was just my role to keep it together, but when I was 17, with college on the horizons, I couldn't keep it together any more.

I attempted suicide.

I continue to this day to be ashamed of that. I'm honest about it to people. But ashamed.

It was important for me to do it. I got the help I needed and have never suffered from that debilitating depression since.

But sometimes when I go back to St. Louis, it's like the ghosts of those feelings lurk in the locations I used to frequent. The insecurity, the shame, the constant comparisons I used to do.

I know all these brilliant, accomplished people that I love and am proud of there. I see them and am awed by what they're doing with their lives. And if they came to Colorado and I got updated on their new strides, I'd hold them up a trophies. "Do you know who I know?" My friends are awesome.

But when I'm there, it feels different. It feel haunted by the 8 year old girl I was who was never good enough.

Seffra is more me than I realized when I was writing her. She was supposed to be for the kids I'd known in treatment centers. She was supposed to represent their struggle. She was not supposed to be me.

But nearly a year after the book's come out now, I can see how much her of her story is actually mine. The bullying, feeling out of place, dirty to men, the suicide-- those were me. Are me.

Especially when I go back to where it all still feels raw and vulnerable. I'm there to promote a book that has not been a copy-selling success.

The number of copies sold are the dirty secret of author's lives, I think. Most authors, most books, sell less than 1,000 copies. Mine hasn't yet reached 500 if we're talking paper copies. I've been the finalist of an international award but I'm still secretly terrified no one likes me. Such is the truth of vulnerability, of life.

And as my 8-year-old self and my 10-year-old self, and worst of all, my 17-year-old self go about life there, packed neatly away in my suitcase, I'm reminded in my life's most vulnerable ways of how hard it is to put yourself out there. I keep me tucked away and talk about my professional experience. I don't talk about my suicide attempt or my mom and her struggles. I hope people will like the story and it will be successful but it's financially a flop. And maybe that will be the case no matter what.

Maybe it's just hard to sell books. I certainly know statistically that's true. Or maybe audiences can smell the way I hold back. The formal nature of my lie of omission. And maybe it keeps me from connecting.

So here are the lessons I've learned since the book came out:

1. I need to be honest about my own vulnerability. Otherwise anxiety and insecurity will make me crazy. I'm no good at faking things. It comes out other ways.

2. I am happiest when I connect a lot to my husband and kids and when I ski and run and play soccer and write and work. St. Louis and I can only be distant friends. It's a fabulous city and I just can't.

3. Anything in life is better when you talk about it honestly to a friend. Thank you, Chris, my friend I talked through an entire breakfast with about book publishing and how NOT perfectly it's all going. This was after going to see Stevie Wonder live the night before. FYI, listening to Stevie Wonder live makes everything awesome always. I've tested it. It does.

4. Seffra is me in a reimagined life.

The final thing that made me feel amazing was coming home and at a work event where I met someone very high up in my organization who told me I was his hero. Literally used that word. He somehow knew a lot about the work I've been doing on this book. He has books ready and waiting for publishing, more connections than I do, more letters after his name than I have including the important PhD. And he bought a book from me. I'm wowed.

I'm going for a run now. Please buy a book here if you haven't and want to read about Seffra.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Art is not bleached

In the wee hours, before the light, after the dark has long since settled, when the couch feels alone and cold, I read and the light is too bright from a screen but my own ideas are too dark to leave in focus

So I let my legs chill themselves into the cold colorless leather and read about women in a dust storm who don’t know their husbands are testing an Atom bomb.

When I think I can sleep, I creep back to my bed. Let myself fall further into a new mattress, the luxury of life sinking into my hips. It is hours before the children will climb on top of me and compete for my kisses and I will fold them into me, one tucked into each arm and me smiling and kissing with stale breath they don’t yet complain about. But not yet,

Now I lay there thinking of the blank of the page. The false whiteness of bleach and the way it hides the fibers of reality. The way I’d like a pen to cut into those fibers, slice right in, into the depth where you can see layers. Then for my pen to morph into microscope so I could tease out the idea fibers, dark and hidden within and under the bleached page. Why is off-white unacceptable to my printer? Why does it look strange as a document. My shirts are never that color. I don’t bleach reality out of our lives. I hide in the fibers, and look for the strains of dark. Soap gets all the cleaner life needs to be.

My husband and I talked about what art is. This is one of my favorite topics, art. I used to cringe at the association of writing with art. Art is out of my league. I’m not good enough, talented enough, cool enough to sit with the adult artists on the cool grass, a broken picnic table bench, splinters and sunburns our companions. The artists and I were once not conforming enough to sit at the cool blue Formica bench tables in the high school cafeteria. We dropped out, didn’t we? I guess I didn’t. I went on to college and so did they, but still, we’re still not at the same table. Weren’t then, aren’t now. But nod to each other in halls.

These days, I’m less skittish of the idea of art as words. I don’t make that cut yet, but I know the Haven Kimmels and the Barbara Kingsolvers and the Isabel Allendes are in the cool club, the cool grass, the cool breeze is between their toes, it comes through their pens, taps out in keystrokes with a rhythm and cadence of clacking, dancing fingers.

And what makes an artist then? My husband says the difference between enjoying a medium (songpaintingsculpturewriting) and it being art is in the darkness. Art doesn’t give into the darkness all the time but neither does it shy away from its realities. It’s not bleached.

It’s selective. It can seek to draw out the light but it does not bleach it out, does not seek to erase it, more to sun itself on a picnic bench. The songs of Michael Franti make me think of this. How we can make something wonderful that calls us all to be in light and let the sun burn the love onto our skin. Or it can be just another dance song, poppy, pixy-twit sweet and light. We like it. We down the sugar, but it’s bleached out white sugar. Not the rawness with browns and grays mixed into off-white.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Letting thoughts wander until you swoop them up into pages

I like shopping for things online even though it doesn't get me out of standing in line. In the mountains where we live, the post office does not generally deliver to homes. Which means we all have PO boxes and elicit a certain amount of scrutiny from retailers and banks and also have to stand in line for all our packages that don't fit in our letter-sized PO boxes. It's annoying but it's also a nice time for my mind to wander.

In stores, I find my need to pay attention to everything exhausting. I get overstimulated from an hour of shopping because I simply must look at EVERYTHING and everyone in the store. This is tenfold more difficult if either, much less, both of my children are with me as then I must also be vigilant for their locations and that's no mean feat. It means that in addition to the lay of the store and its contents and sales and customers, I also keep track of my kids and within 15 minutes I need a margarita.

But online, I can focus on just searching for what I want and then the line at the post office is time for my thoughts to be free. I don't have to focus them, they can wander. And I love wandering thoughts. My time to have thoughts and decide which ones are precious enough to wrap up in a cloth and hold dear to me as a babe is as precious to me as writing. But I have to wrap them up and convert them to something or they get jumbled up together. I write to do that. And that's been undone lately. I haven't been in a routine.

Our lives are in total transition. It confounds any attempt at routine, our life right now. I just started a new job as the Disabilities Services Coordinator for the college where I was working as an instructor. It's awesome but a big job with a lot of details to chase. I make more details in the interest of sustainability and doing things right. Damn me! My husband is starting a new job as the director of a small non profit that provides advocates for victims of assault. My oldest son is about to turn 5 and starts Kindergarten on Wednesday. My younger son is 2 1/2 now and starting at Montessori next month.

Thankfully we finally bought a 2nd car so that's helping with this business of 4 jobs and two school changes and soccer practice and soccer coaching and OH MY! How do normal people do this stuff?

I've spent at least $150 on school supplies. I thought things were supposed to get cheaper with the kids going to school but oy! It ebbs and flows and the increase in income always seems to come along just when we need it. So life's good.

Still, I have floater ideas that need time and key strokes and editing to tie them up and make them take shape so I can figure out how to hold them and which ones to keep and which to release and which should be upcycled to something I can craft into a book. Did I say book?

It's time. I said all along that when my oldest started school, that's when I'd work on the 2nd book. So that's this week right? I'll get the whole book done this week right? No? No. But I'm preparing. I've been consuming books like I'm about to go on a diet, which in a way, I am. I don't usually read while I'm writing so I suppose doing all this reading is preparation. I hope I get my voice just right. I hope the bundles of baby-sweet thoughts make their way across dreams, swaddled up tight and warm and delivered to my arms where I can turn them over to you. You know, after sucking the goop out of their noses;)

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Cathartic things I've done
Chopped down a tree with a chain saw while standing on a chain link fence
Taken a hatchet to a tree stump while angry
Scribbled furiously on a piece of paper
sprinted full speed

Proud family moments
When my mom and I played swords with the giant dead tree limbs we'd just cut down with the chainsaw
Moving my sons' bunkbeds apart the very day my oldest admitted to being afraid of spiders as the reason he didn't like sleeping on the top bunk
Watching my son pedal his bike for the first time and letting go knowing he might fall and turning to see my husband walking behind us with my other son on his shoulders.
My husband getting a job as the executive director of a victims advocacy agency and doing so memorably by talking about the importance of targeting men and boys to end violence

Things that make me happy
Watching Aspen leaves flutter
Feeling fresh air on my arms
Finding out someone liked my book
Finishing things
Peeling the lint out of the dryer trap
My son whispering that he wants gentle kisses on his cheeks in the morning when the light has just snuck in but he snuck in first.
Helping students find a way to learn and have fun doing it

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

To dust we have already returned

As I looked up at the clouds turning gray and showing their dust this evening, I wondered at all the incantations of my cells. How many pounds of times I've made myself over and dropped dust here or there? Whether my dust may have had your finger in it writing "you wish your girlfriend were this dirty" on a car. Or maybe I've been in the way of your bustling Eastern European cleaning woman, who hurries me away in a bucket. Maybe I get dumped out on the lawn, only to feed into... a thistle.

The hairs and skin and nails I've lost over the years, how many raised beds would they fill? Where have they gone?

Maybe my hair, once tight at the follicle to my scalp, so close to my skull, so close to the buzz of ideas in my brain that simply does not turn off but continues to tell stories as I sleep; maybe that hair has wrapped up in a nest and fed regurgitated ideas to baby doves. Maybe I am part of the cloud I just saw, graying and standing out against the ever bluer sky. Maybe I've made it beyond mountain tops and over oceans.

Maybe you and I have met and made lightening in the jolts of moisture between us as your dust and mine met in a monsoon over India. Maybe I'm flying right now, drifting and dreaming of buzz and idea. Maybe I've landed after all this in the red, red earth and become the dust under bare young soccer-playing feet, scuffling me under toenails and into cuts that will be easily disregarded in favor of more running, more goals.

Maybe that same red earth, dust of me, I've driven it back to the snow where I need to be. Thrown myself up into a cloud and come back to Colorado. I've coated myself in a layer of snow on a powder day, making you raise your goggles, "Is the snow red?"

Maybe I've already been all the places I'd ever want to go. Maybe I'm a rainbow in Maui right now. Maybe I'm in a darkened sky and you're here reading in the pitch. Maybe...

Friday, June 26, 2015

In 1993, my father came out.

It was five years later that Matthew Shepard was murdered.

For the first year after my father came out, I didn't tell anyone. I'm not new to openness and honesty so imagine a highly social 14 year old girl who simply does not tell a soul that her father has dropped the biggest shock of her life in her lap. I didn't tell because I was afraid.

I was afraid someone would hurt my dad. I was afraid he'd get AIDS and die. I was afraid someone at my school would find out and hurt me or make my life a living hell. I wasn't over-the-top in these fears. At the time, people were permissible hazed for this sort of thing. I was at a conservative school. I was genuinely afraid of the hate that might come my way.

But then I was at a pride parade where I thought, I can't be here pretending to be "proud" if there I don't tell a soul. So I went home and said, oh well. If it costs me all the social groups in the world, this is who he is and this is who I am. I'm proud and I have to be honest to be truly proud.

And I did.

I went home and told anyone, any time it came up, that my dad was gay. And interestingly no one batted an eye. I was lucky that way. I'd love to take credit for being brazen in the way I presented the information, and I was. Or give credit to the people who didn't let it influence any part of what they thought of me, because good on them. But in all reality, I think I was just lucky. I didn't get picked out as a target for the hate of that time period toward gay people.

So today, and every day that I see progress toward truly equal rights, I feel amazingly blessed. I feel grateful to see where we're headed. I feel grateful that when my son says he wants to marry the guy painting the house (he's also said he wants to marry a few girls his age,) that I can say, "you can marry anyone who you feel is the one and who feels the same way about you."

Make Matthew Shepard and all those who have fallen to the hate that went before proud. Be proud of the progress. And grateful. I am.

Monday, June 1, 2015

I'm dying... a writing prompt... not for reals.

I'm reading Tuesdays with Morrie with one of my classes this summer. I'm supposed to be teaching it but I think the truth is that I learn far more when I teach than I ever do just muddling about in the world on my own. I learn from my students and from the deapths with which I study materials trying to see it through their eyes, anticipating their responses, wanting to share the light of artful reading and writing with them. I want my passions to be catching, sparks that send them on to love it too, or at least enjoy it more than they had previously.

So we're reading Tuesdays with Morrie and I've just given them the writing prompt that they've been told they're dying of ALS. Right now. What do you do?

So I've decided to do this prompt in order to be sure to not let my excitement hinder their response time and in order to give time and space to think about this great book. So what would I do? I've got ALS.


I'm going skiing while I still can. That's the first thing. But shit, my hands won't work forever. So do I learn to write by getting used to the voice to text software so that I'll be able to write longer or do I get as much as I can down while I can still type?

I definitely read books. I hug my kids, of course, but I'm not sure there's much more I could possibly do that. I'm always hugging and kissing on those babies who aren't babies anymore but I can still see their baby faces and their soft, soft cheeks. I have some crazy sex with my husband because, seriously? How much longer will I be able to move these ways?

And pay someone else to clean my house because why on earth would I spend one single other moment folding laundry or clean another toilet... uh ever?

Other than a vacation though, I'm not sure exactly what I do. Ah?

I swim. And swim and swim and love that water around my body.

We go to the hotsprings and I do backflips off the diving board over and over and we go to Belize and snorkel and I go to that water park in Kansas city with the epic-sized waterslide and piss my swimsuit riding down that thing. BUt I do it. Because I can't. Not ever again.

Then I get depressed. I take drugs trying to make it go away. Trying to run from it. Then I regret the time I lost that I could've written or read or watched movies. I love watching movies.

Then I think of what to do to deal with the logistics of the illness. Tonight, the moment of diagnosis, I give my husband a copy of this book and make him promise that we can talk about it all. Because in this book is written exactly how to live. To live.

And also how to die. And I'd want to talk to him about how I wanted to die. And this book would be the vehicle for me to tell him how.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Was writing this book therapeutic? Q&A on suicide, bullying, trends in treatment, and the next book

Q&A from Readings 

I was in St. Louis last week promoting my book. I give a talk with a few readings in it where I talk about a lot of the issues in the book and give some anecdotes from my professional experience. I like to have people write their questions down so that they can ask things anonymously. I've written up a Q&A from the 2 talks I gave most recently which includes answers to some questions which were asked aloud as well as some that were written.

Narrative as Therapy

This question was more of a comment that I found interesting from a psychiatrist who'd read BetweenFamilies. He seemed to see narrative as a means of separating the self out of it, in order to see the value of a person/character. Then by externalizing and finding solutions to the problem through narrative, integrate those same solutions back into the self. I love it. I hope so.

Was writing this book therapeutic?

Yes and no. There were parts that were just work and other parts I found helpful.

The No- When I was 17, I attempted suicide and there are scenes from the book that came directly from that experience. I still feel guilty about having done this and writing about it opened that wound up for me. I'm not sorry I wrote about it, but I wouldn't say it felt therapeutic.

The Yes- I stole from my own life when I wrote Seffra's bullying and sexual exploration scenes. I found writing about them made me more able to see myself as a normal protagonist and watching the way I wanted it to go for her and the way I'd dealt with those issues was validating and cathartic.

How have treatment centers changed since the 1990s when Between Families takes place?

I can't speak for all treatment centers but will try to give a general idea of some changes that have taken place.

1. There are fewer children in institutions today than in the 1990s. Legislation and best practices have caught up to the concerns about institutionalizing children and so the number of children spending time in treatment has been greatly reduced.

2. Children stay in treatment centers for shorter periods of time than they used to. The standards for how long children stay has also changed. Seffra, in that way, is more indicative of current practice. When she was in treatment, in all actuality, she would have stayed much longer, more like a year and a half or two years. For the purposes of story arc, I made her stay more along current lines of 6-12 months.

3. Restraint policy has made huge strides in reducing the frequency of restraints. I mention this in the front matter of my book, but children are physically restrained far less frequently and the standard for when it is acceptable to restrain has changed. Even since I started working with kids in the early 2000's, these things have changed. It used to be that children were restrained for non-compliance, meaning, they didn't do something an adult told them to do. That is unacceptable and reportable as institutional child abuse in today's treatment world. Children are only permitted to be physically managed, or restrained if they are a serious threat to themselves or others. Obese children are not restrained as the danger to their health is too risky, and children are not allowed to nap after a restraint due to the health risks.

4. Treatment centers are fewer and farther between and I believe they provide broader and better programming now. The reduction in the number of children going into institutions and their shortened stays as meant that the centers who have continued to provide treatment have changed to accommodate the clients that they get. This means they take a wider variety of client and so many different needs are met in one location. Additionally, the approach has been (in most places) to come from a place of compassion and try to take into consideration the needs of the child and the meanings of the behavior, so as not to simply manage an environment but to provide a short term place for a child to be in a truly therapeutic environment and to stabilize before moving onto as to close a home environment as possible. For example, when I worked in residential, we had a sensory room so that kids who had trouble with sensory integration could go to a room for breaks where there was a therapeutic swing, weighted blanket, and other items to provide for their specific needs.

Some philosophies and spiritualities propose that everything that happens to us has opportunities to help us grow from the pain we go through. For adults who have experienced traumatic abuse and have difficulty moving out of being in victim mode, do you believe that all people have the capability to heal and rebuild their lives, or is that the fortunate exception?

The cases that I saw where I was genuinely afraid there was no coming back, I can number on one hand. I am an optimistic person by nature, but I believe most all people have the capability to do much, much more than any of us could conceive. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best, "what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us."

I don't know that it feels like that when we're in the thick of it but I absolutely believe it to be true.

Has a neurochemical relationship been established to explain the resultant health issue of high ACE scoring in people?

I don't believe so. I think the score has been studied extensively in relationship to all manner of problems in later life and links to high ACE scores and heroin are distressingly strong. This is not based on research but I suspect intuitively that the significant stressers of trauma in early life happening at the same time as a body is developing the building blocks of cells and all its systems, interferes with those important processes and there are resulting long term health consequences.

In the case of an abusive situation that's been dismissed by Social Services, are there other options?

My experience in my own community is that there are many options and community partners who seek to help in these scenarios. The child welfare systems is overwhelmed and aware of the controversial nature of having cases with families and are attempting to offer voluntary services and send families to outside agencies for casework. It really is community by community though.

What do you hope people will take from this?

I hope the public will be aware of the lives that people lead, including people like Seffra and the kids I've known who she is based on. I hope people who have led these lives will take strength from Seffra; that they will see a gritty real character and sympathize and wish for her to succeed and in so doing will see and accept themselves in new light. I hope if someone has lived this way and this story did not resonate with them, they will write their own, better version.

I hope people will see strengths in Seffra and in kids like her. They are remarkable people.

When does the next book come out?

The good news is the rough draft is written! And while that's definitely something, there are many factors that will determine how long it will take for the second book to come out. Quality over expedience though.

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Ups and downs, Cancer and Rain

I'm in St. Louis right now visiting and setting things up to promote my book in the city that raised me and the city that raised Seffra. Yesterday I had a meeting with a woman at the school for social work at SLU, my alma mater. I genuinely enjoyed meeting this woman, gladly passed her a copy of my book, and look forward to her coming to a talk I'm giving on Saturday that's being promoted by Sex+ St. Louis. But it's not all books and praise.

The ups and downs feel so pronounced when you show up to your oldest favorite place to run on a sunny evening in the spring, the world the right level of moist, the trees green and full, the sun kissing between the leaves without yet scorching your shoulders. I looked forward to this run.

But a text came saying that my mom, who had just had a part of her tongue removed due to what we thought was a pre-cancerous growth, has in fact, got cancer.

Sure, they caught it early. It should be fine.

Wasn't I going for a run? Wasn't I enjoying a glass of wine by myself and the luxury of time before a flight? Wasn't that all just a moment ago?

I'm here and the trees are green and everything is blooming while at home it's mud season and the snow is melting and turning the trails to dogpoopsoup. I reconnected with the professor in college that made me want to teach in facilities. We had a leisurely lunch with good conversation and even though I forgot to feed the meter, I didn't get a ticket. That never would have happened when I was an undergrad.

I got a 2 star review. Oh well. That means the book's fully legit now right? Would you ever buy it that a book had all 4 & 5 star feedback? Someone always dislikes it once there are enough people reading. Such is writing. Such is life. I know people won't always like me. I just hope they dislike me for the right reasons. I guess I don't actually care that much why someone didn't like my book as long as a few people find some reality and hope in it, who could care?

When my 4 year old had his tonsils out in March, he had to stay overnight in the hospital unexpectedly. The recovery hadn't gone as smoothly as it was supposed to. He discharged just in time for us to part ways in the parking lot, my husband taking he and his brother home while I had a scheduled reading to give.

At the reading, I let go of my son and focused on my work and everyone came out okay. A friend gave me some leftover medication for my son that we couldn't get for him because all of the pharmacies had closed for the night after he was discharged. He got what he needed because I let go and went to work.

Yesterday, I had productive meetings and got to listen to my friends talk about all the things going on in their lives. I just wanted to listen. I missed my son's preschool graduation but came home to a video my husband took of the whole thing. He buzzed with excitement through the phone about what'd done at graduation and what he'd eaten at the party afterwards. It was good to hear him. It was good to hang up and be where I was and listen to what it's like to tour Jerusalem with 2 Jews, 2 different types of Christians, and an atheist, to tour a Palestinian territory without a head covering. It was good to be where I was.

Still, it's hard to be away instead of there bringing my boys who lick random things and chase my mom's chickens around over at my mom's house when I know it would lift her spirits and I could be making smoothies and telling her it's fine to have whiskey if that's what she wants. Fuckit, who cares? It's hard to be here, where I have time to write and run and think and cry. And yet if I were there, would I have time to cry about cancer and the essay I finished on the flight before I knew any of this about my aunt who died of cancer?

I hope the rains come and that I cry and write and let the help be with her where she is and the gift of time and rain and friends be with me where I am, there's something very cleansing about all of those things especially in combination. Next week, she'll have the rest of the cancer removed and we'll find out if there is a battle to be had, or merely a hurdle to get over. But for now, I'll just be here.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Hold space. Love the idea, hate the term.

Hold space. Love the idea, hate the term.

The term makes me think of disingenuous touchy feely people. They feel fake and desperate to tell you how much things touch them. You know, the ones who seem to never fart or get pissed off and mean to anyone because they're so busy living in tents with their guitars and their feelings. Blech.

I fart. And sometimes I'm a bitch with a bad attitude who yells at other drivers and has a mean streak when I'm tired. But mostly I'm pretty nice and want to be kind to the people around me, When my friends need someone to talk to, I like to be it. I want to be a person you can tell shit to that can let it be bad and overwhelming and all just too much, without intervention. I don't do it right most of the time. I want to swoop in and give you an answer. I want to help.

But that's not what hold space means. It means that being you has gotten so big you can't contain your whole self in 1 body right now. It means, being you has expanded out and rocked pieces of you a part, like a rocking chair that has simply been rocked too hard and now is tipped over and doesn't fit in the room right. You don't fit in your body right because there's just too much there to fit until you take inventory and reorder. What's going on with you is so big, it just doesn't fit neatly together.

AND meanwhile I have room. My self feels organized, like the cleaning lady just came and I had time to sleep and hold my kids and read a book, so it's pretty orderly around here so what do you need? Some space? No problem. I can shut up and give you a bit of storage space within myself. You can carve through what's on top, toss a few duffel bags of whatever my way. I can hold them until you're ready. I can let you spread some of yourself out willy nilly, haphazardly, and you can sort through stuff, organize and take the pieces back when you're ready. I can just hold that space for you like a spot at the table within myself. Pull up a chair. I'll try to let you talk.

Friday, April 10, 2015

For the love of books and generosity

The thing I pick up most in my house is books. Academic books, children's picture books/chapter books/board books, literature, parenting books. They're everywhere.

They're on the edge of end tables, and between the wall and the bed, and under the couch. I love books. I love books about science and books about parenting and fiction and memoir and research and children's books. I so, so love children's books. 

My kids know it and they know I'll sit down on the linoleum in the kitchen and read with them. They use this to their advantage and I'd stop... but... books? Fuck that. Don't stop. Or actually do. Stop! and sit on the floor and read and breathe close to their faces and kiss their cheeks and embrace them and this phase that will one day end. So if you finish the book and they say "again!" That's what you do.

But this will mean that sometimes there are books in the bathroom or the kitchen or on top of the dryer. Meh? Who cares? I love books and bookstores too.

I love quirky used book stores and big posh book stores with cocktails. I love college libraries and tiny public libraries and little free libraries. In retirement, I could imagine spending incalculable hours around books, reading them, writing near them, hoping they whisper their best combinations to me and bring me hope and inspiration and maybe even some pocket money in the process. But...

I'm reminding myself about this because I'm going to do an event in a bookstore this weekend and that always scares me. I get nervous about whether people will show and worry that I'll look like a loser with a book no one wants to read or no friends or whatever like I'm some doubt-ridden adolescent. I worry that the owners won't like me or want to promote my book. It's all nerves. I'm good with people and this will be fine. If it's a good turnout, great. If it's small, I get a chance for more meaningful interaction with readers and writers and there's nothing bad about that. So, more than worrying whether the owners will like me or no one will be there, I'm focusing on the chance to be amid information, lovers of words, and great great books.

Publishing a book is seemingly covered in these pitfalls of insecurity. Before the publishing part, I was afraid I might offend someone or of the people who wouldn't like it. But now that it's here, the book is out... I'm far more afraid that no one will care enough to be bothered. I'm more afraid no one will read. 

At first I tried that cheerleader, pretending-all-is-awesome response but I just can't do that. When I've been honest about my vulnerability lately, I've been able to shiver and shrug it off and get onto a problem-solving place where inspiration happens and I'm suddenly so busy with ideas, I don't know how to get the time to follow through on all of them.

At the beginning of this publishing idea, I was hopeful that I might make a financial contribution to my family. I was hoping to give a return on the investment my husband has placed in my writing in the form of... money. But that's just not really what this phase of my writing career is about and it's definitely not what this book is about. We have food. My husband's not worried. So I should focus on working for the sake of the work.

I'm reminded of the purpose. Get people to read it. Make sure people know that these kids exist by using the book as a vehicle to tell a true story. Make sure those from this life find the book.

And in light of that focus, I'm cultivating generosity in myself and giving away everything I can. I'm doing talks and trying to schedule free writing workshops I'll teach to teens with the book as a backdrop.

April is child abuse awareness month. I tried to find a way to give the Kindle edition of the book away free all month, but there's no way to do that. Instead, I'm using the maximum 5 days at the end of April to give the book away. I hope you'll read it. I hope you'll review and recommend it and make it get noticed. The link is here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Conservation, The Weirdness of Me, and how being an Indie author means I get both!

I've been teased for a long time for my obsession with conservation. My roommate in college used to see how far down in the trash can she had to hide recycling before I would not notice and actually throw it away, because if it was on top, I always took it out and put it in the recycling.

So when I started sending out review copies of my book, I decided that rather than buying packaging, I would make it out of what I could find around the house. I started making boxes and such out of the paperboard and cardboard that was headed to recycling anyway. Reduce... hmmm... couldn't get that one done, but reuse is next on the list, so I'll do that.

This became a challenge with my most recent venture in learning self-promotion: a Goodreads Giveaway. I offered up 25 copies to be mailed to lucky winners (who hopefully all rate and review the book with glowing recommendations... ahem.) But mailing out a copy here and there is one thing, mailing out 25 is another.

But I decided that I would continue to be weird-me who pulls things out of recycling and uses them to pack up books. I added stickers sometimes for effect.

The Giveaway ended yesterday, and I had spent a ridiculous amount of time and packing tape last week devising boxes. Today it was gorgeous out. I joked that I should continue the conservation efforts by walking the books over to the post office to mail using a wheel barrow. It was gorgeous out after all. So I did.

I am officially the first person to ever to walk a wheelbarrow full of handpackaged books into the Silverthorne post office.
And this is why I like writing and being an indie author.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Magnus & the big chin thrust

I think it's generally best for me to not know much detail about how I'll feel about a particular challenge before I face it. That way I can take it as it comes and I seem to take each step in stride, or well, maybe some tears but mostly ... stride.

Amid beeping machines and movies in my 4-year-old's hospital bedroom, I just read Chrysanthemum to my 2-year-old. I love that story. The basic premise is that a little girl loves her name until kids at school pick on her for it. She thinks it's perfect but then the other kids pick on her for being named after a flower.

My 4-year-old is named Magnus. I'd always liked the name and have a cousin in Sweden named Magnus, who is soft-spoken and kind and I'd always liked him. I wanted a Swedish name and my husband liked Magnus so that's what we picked.

When he was a baby and people would ask about his name, their eyes would grow wide and they'd say, "well, that's a BIG name!"

It sounded strange to them and I could tell because he was a small child but with a big name. Then it turned out he really is this huge person. I don't mean physically; I mean, he's practically invincible.

Last week, at a program I teach with childcare, a bigger kid told Magnus that he didn't like him. I was indignant when he told me, "what a jerk!"
"He wasn't a jerk, mom. Don't call him that!"

Magnus went on to tell me how he'd asked the kid why he didn't like him and the kid had said because he's a little kid. But then said-kid had helped him beat a Mario game and by the end he thought the kid had changed his mind and liked him.

That was Magnus-the-great's response to a kid not liking him. "Oh really, why don't you like me?" And then he determined to change the kid's mind. No hurt feelings, no crying, and it had worked.

This same child post-anesthesia yesterday had to be kept breathing by being held by his mandible in something called a chin thrust while I held oxygen to his face. Trust me when I tell you this is no gentle hold. A nurse means business if she holds someone this way. She means BREATHE.

He spent the night crying and whining and having nightmares. He looked so vulnerable curled in his hospital bed. His body in a wheelchair was impossibly tiny. He's breathing now, oxygen saturation not where we want it so still in the hospital, but no one's forcing him to breath by holding open his airway and forcing life in. He's breathing but I'm still catching my breath. Maybe I should skip over that part and go straight on to the next thing, which happens to be a reading of my book.

I was just about to cancel when I saw myself in the newspaper.

I went and tried out my reading skills amid a friendly crowd at a bookstore that really fits me. It's quirky and dusty with hand-written signs. Two good friends walked up together just before the start of the reading. I had been so stressed with all the ups and downs of Magnus's surgery that I pretty much lost it in relief when I saw them.

I made it through the reading, largely not thinking about Magnus. But figuratively anyway, my friends held me by the chin and I breathed and read.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Alicia Who Sees Mice

I was just in the bathroom thinking my gratitude thoughts like a good little bobblehead. I found boots that fit my skinny ankles AND are waterproof and not hideous at the thrift store and bought brand new leggings that are so soft I feel like I'm in jammies and then I looked down and wouldn't you know? A hole in my crotch. No smartass, not that one. My neck's not that long. A hole in the crotch of my leggings. Grrr.

Which got me thinking how I complain too much and why do I do that? Sometimes it's because I'm a grouchy pants. Sometimes I'm afraid I'm devolving into a family trait of being negative and complaining all the time and I definitely don't want that.

In writing it's more deliberate though. In writing I do it because I hate that fluffy crap that doesn't have the grit and substance of real life with holes in brand new clothes and all the pot holes that get us stuck.

The time I don't feel all that gritty? Teaching.

Especially teaching ESL.

Teaching ESL makes me laugh and laugh. And not fake, polite laughter, but deep belly-hurting laughter. I don't know how great I am at teaching it. Truth be told, I'm not sure I'm great at all. But dang if we don't have fun.

The funniest thing that ever happened was when a man accidentally used Urban Dictionary to look up "bottom," and gave a very strange definition regarding homosexuality that made me laugh so hard I cried and had to take five before I could even explain what had happened. Last week, I was teaching some mamas how to pronounce "brought" and kept using "bra" to get the verb sound right. One woman had forgotten one so every time I grabbed my straps and pulled my tits up, she started laughing. Then I laughed and we all just about died by the end of class.

And then one night, during a break in the high level class, I was trying to prop the door (it had gotten hot in the room from the computers.) A particularly nicely dressed, young Peruvian gal crept down to see if the stopper had gotten under a file cabinet. She pulled out a mouse trap complete with a dead mouse.

"AHhhhEEEEeeee!!!" Her scream pierced the entire lower level of the college.

More laughter, more tears as the class filed back in to see what was going on. Then we sat down to read House on Mango Street. She stepped out for a moment and when she returned and it was her turn to read the very next vignette was "Alicia Who Sees Mice."

I think that's the most fun night I've had all semester. Then I walked in,late, well after 10:00 PM (and keep in mind my bedtime is closer to 9,) and the toddler potty was in the exact center of the living room containing exactly one turd and one apple core. Life's gritty and full of turds and apple cores and soft new leggings and laughter and tears. I'm going to sew the damn hole up. Take that!

Monday, February 16, 2015

I love teaching. I love being there to witness the moment the dots connect and a person arrives at the Aha! moment of reading their first word.

My four-year-old read his first early reader book this weekend and it was all I could do to keep from jumping out of my skin. I don't think I was this excited when he took his first steps. OK, I was. He walked down the hallways saying "go, go, go!"

When I worked in residential treatment, I worked with two boys who did not know how to read a single word. Both were well beyond the ages when such things are learned. One boy had had his head fractured as an infant and the other was born with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. I loved these boys whole-heartedly. I worked with them daily on memorizing the sounds, developing ways to parse sounds by karate chopping words into syllables, and enjoying the sound of being read to. They were, after all, still little boys. After months of working together, I am proud of the progress they made in being able to decode (word-call,) simple words. It was a milestone for them when they first read words and I feel like it's one of the great experiences of my life that I got to be involved in it.

In particular, they learned to read "bad." Because these kids had such a massive history of abuse and neglect, the first time they decoded this word, I internally panicked. What came out of my mouth was "BAD KITTY" and a dramatically waving finger. We screamed "bad kitty," a lot that spring.

But, teaching adults is a wildly different world. I don't have to worry so much about offending, although I'm still extremely careful with feelings. Learning is a vulnerable process and care should be taken with other people's souls.

Last week, I was teaching ESL and one of the mommies quietly asked, whispered really, what the difference was between "bush" and the bad word.

After a moment of confusion, I wrote "bush" and "bullshit" on a small dry erase board and showed them to she and the other women in class that afternoon. They got their cell phones out and showed me translations that didn't really make sense and we laughed wildly while discussing when it was appropriate to use each and pronouncing each word carefully so that the mommies would be able to tell when their children were swearing in order to properly reprimand.

These moments are fun and meaningful and exciting and useful. Teaching is like that.

One of my first contacts with an ESL student involved a young man telling me that he had lived in a storage facility without a roof in Arizona for years as an adolescent. He was hiding from the authorities and so lived there because no one was likely to find him there. He described loving the stars.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Well, Brene, You're Right. I'm vulnerable.

I love Brene Brown. I am whole-hearted. I lean into the discomfort. I push myself and believe I am worthy of love and belonging.

Except sometimes when I don't. Sometimes I'm mean. Sometimes I'm unhappy. Sometimes I'm vulnerable in more than one part of my life and then I fall to pieces and need putting back together again. I'm built like humpty dumpty. Ok, not so much with the last part.

So the other night, I had had a really, REALLY busy day. This busy day followed a series of about 12 days where my four-year-old threw screaming fits exactly EVERY time we went anywhere.

So this morning, I get up, pack up the kids for tumbling lesson for Thing 1, then put them in the rec center childcare for 45 minutes while I work out, tumbling lesson for Thing 2, then drop off Thing 1 at gramma's, take Thing 2 for errands and napping in the car... I'm going to stop now because I'm sick of this so I'm certain you've begun skimming by now.

By the time it's evening and I'm to be 10 minutes late for work, I have to jet out still in my work out clothes. I should specify exactly HOW inappropriate for work they are here. On top we have: a torn open t-shirt that says "DOPE" across the bottom in red letters with a tanktop under and who-cares-what-else. SERIOUSLY. Torn. Dope.

And sometimes, especially when I'm teaching a writing lab late into the evening in a small extra use building, I see next-to-no-one and could keep my jacket on and get away with this, sort of. But it's hot in the lab and

Not tonight. Tonight, unbeknownst to me a small group of all the higher-ups and most important of the people who could ever give me a full time jobs are all coming to have dinner with a speaker whose been flown in. So every single one of them passes by the window where I am wearing said inappropriate outfit. Thankfully I am at least working with a student.

A student whose feelings have been hurt by an instructor who was not careful wording strong direct criticism. So after working with this student for an hour, I help him through some tears and hurt feelings and he leaves and I'm left to flail uncomfortably for the next couple of hours through being in my insanely uncomfortable skin.

I fail at: making flyers, blogging, responding to emails, smelling pleasant, and that's just the beginning. In between these failures, I spend my time obsessing about what a shitty mom I am and how badly I've handled everything, um, ever.

As the event lets out, a colleague of mine comes up and we make small talk. Somehow she ends up telling me she'd like to read my book. Instead of having a normal person's reaction to this I say,

"It's a great book." (and it is. But I say this in a voice that squeaks and smells of awkward vulnerability and weird eye contact and probably old sweat since I'm still in workout clothes from approximately 10 hours earlier.)
I laugh and then say, "it'll change you're life. Well, ok that's a joke but it's a good book."
She practically sprints away.

When I get home, instead of asking directly for support from Rob, I whine about our son and he says he can't do anymore talking tonight (it's late and he's right it is.) and instead of saying anything smart, I nervously henpeck about him drinking my whiskey and any number of other things I don't actually care much about and he refuses to sleep with me (which I admittedly deserve.)

I spend hours that night tossing and turning and experiencing the hell of the evening over and over again.

The next day I wake up and cry to Rob about how I am spending a lot of time vulnerable. A LOT. And while I usually lean into it, it's all been too much. I tell him through tears how dumb I was the night before and how much pressure I'm putting on myself and how hard it all feels. The stakes are huge. I want to be a writer. I want to be a good mom. I need people to love this book. My son deserves the best of the best. And what if none of those things happens?

Publishing my book is intensely personal. A friend said when she was reading it, she felt like it was really personal to read it since she knows me and she felt like it was almost too intimate to read what I'd written. I knew exactly what she meant.

I spent years on this. I did the absolute best I could.

Doing the best you can, it turns out, is scary. Because there's no better. So if it's not good enough, that's the top.There's no better. You just failed after trying as hard as you could then.

Sure, the next book will be better than this one. I will grow as a writer for the rest of my life and continually get better at it and so someday I'll look back and think how much better I could have written this book. But for now, this is all I have. This is the best I could do. And I need it to be good enough to get to all those other books I'll write later.

And I get four and five stars. But those four stars are like in a performance review when your boss says, you're great here, here, here, and here and you have room for improvement here. I think oh god, four stars and you're my friend means that you really would've given it 2 if you didn't know me and what if everyone who sees the reviews thinks that too.

And you can see how this road of vulnerability can lead to insecurity and how much worse I can make ANYTHING if left to my own devices.

I am through-apnd-through honestly me. All the time. I'm genuine.

So if I feel like I said above, and I try to say "the book's great." It comes out weird. This is the closest I've ever been to knowing what it feels like to have Asperger's. My voice goes all flat and low and my eye contact is off and sometimes I say things as questions accidentally and then I laugh too loud and ... I mean to say, "yes, I'd love for you to read my book. thank you." But instead it comes out "I'm a weirdo!"

So instead of cheerleading and trying to convince anyone I'm anything but terrified, I started with my husband and said, "I'm spending all my time feeling vulnerable. And I can handle that in one area of life at a time but this, this is hard."

And he does what he does. He hugs me more. He tells me I'm beautiful more. He tells me, I am, in fact, not built like humpty dumpty at all but am sexy and that our 4-year-old is hard and we've all had a hard week. He tells me he's had a hard week with our 4-year-old too.

So then, when the next colleague, that very morning, congratulates me and asks about how I feel about the book, I'm honest.

I tell her it's the most time I've ever spent being vulnerable and that's good but it's hard too. And I sell a copy. Lean in.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

No is really a redirection, not a slap on the wrist

My older son is into mazes right now. I loved them when I was a kid too. I remember sitting in the back of the room with the other gifted kid who was never doing his work either (we were really terrible students,) making mazes for each other. It was so fast for me to visualize the path through the maze, especially if I started at the end.

I don't want to get all self-helpy on you or anything, but I've been thinking about the word "no." And not just because my younger son recently turned two. I've been thinking about it since my novel came out.

Since I released the book I've had to do a lot of asking and promoting and tossing ideas out. Nearly all of the time when I've asked things, they've been well-received. But no one's going to hear "yes," all the time. Not every road is a simple direct path, there's bends and turns and sometimes even dead ends.

I have this shame though when I butt up against the word "no." As though my asking were unjustified.

People are generally flippant about asking for things. "You can always ask, right? What have you got to lose?"

But the truth is I do feel like I lose something when I ask. It's generally worth the risk, but the let-down of "no," can be hard to bear. It makes me feel the shame of asking for something I didn't deserve, of stepping beyond my station, beyond where I've earned being.

The feedback on the book has been phenomenal. People are up late reading. They're telling friends. They're reading!

But I knew the negative would happen eventually and so it did. A woman told me in a terse tone that she had put down the book. She'd been offended by a scene in it and refused to read the rest.

And I was devastated and ashamed.

She was a librarian. I realized that I had wanted her to like my book because I'd wanted my passions to come together. It's kind of like when you really like two people and so you want those two people to like each other but they don't.

But after some time to process the whole thing, I decided it was worth it. She's not my audience. The library's job is to create a space where everyone can be and get engaged in reading and the community. My audience has appreciated the story. And not everyone will. At least my first (not-so-constructive) criticism was in person. At least it was direct. At least it wasn't a person who truly needed the story.

The library is not the venue for my book. The library should carry copies for sure. But that's not the place to promote it. The book is about serious problems. It's uncomfortable at times. And that's not what a library is for.

I'd asked and received the answer, "no."

I self-published. No one knows where the publishing industry is headed and I took a risk and put my neck out to do this. I don't have a reputation yet. So book stores see me as a risk. I'm asking them to take that risk and it makes me terribly nervous.

But if I think of the path this book is taking like one of the mazes my son does, I can see the end. In the end, I do well as an author. In the end, I'm moved by women who read my book and tell me their stories of being sexually abused, of living in residential treatment, of finding their paths. Someone notices the line that I loved writing most when Seffra is under her kitchen table carving in the under belly of the wood and how the fibers snapped like teeth breaking. As a reader, I live for lines that I can taste in my mouth or that move my mind across skies, lines that grind grit between my teeth.

When I tell my kids no, I realize how they don't want to hear it. Sometimes I get down on their level in order to try to help them see that "no" is not really a bad thing. They simply need to change tacks.

So I continue to ask. I realize that no is a dead end in the maze. It's the part that tells me I'm going the wrong way; I need to turn around so I can get to the end. No, is simply a redirection. It says, nope, not the library. It says I need to change tacks, try something else, connect with artists, connect with the disenfranchised. That is my path.

Here are the tacks that have gotten me partway through the maze:
  • I did my first live reading at a coffee shop in Breckenridge. It was terrifying and wonderful and people listened and I got one under my belt. Plus, I got to have an evening out.
  • I met the owner of a small book shop who invited me to do a reading at his shop and offered to carry my book
  • Colorado Mountain College where I work will be selling copies of my book and will be featuring me in their Speaker Series where I'll give a reading and a talk and sell books. This will be huge in providing credibility to me as a writer and will also be a tremendous boost to me professionally. Or so I think. I'm not at the end of the maze yet.
  • I have an author event scheduled at Bookbar in Denver and am very excited for the excuse to go to that venue and check out their digs.
  • I'll be having a release party soon and dang if releasing this book isn't something to celebrate the hell out of!
If you hadn't seen it before, here's the link to pick up a copy of my book, Between Families, which I am terribly proud of and hope you enjoy:

And if you don't, change tacks.