Chris Crutcher’s “High School Commencement Address that Will Never Be Heard”

Chris Crutcher is my literary idol as well as a wonderful person. If you have not read his books, get thee to a library/bookstore and get to readin’. Your life will be richer for it.

The High School Commencement Address That Will Never Be Heard
by Chris Crutcher

Good afternoon to NO parents, teachers or administrators and to ALL graduates. It’s my great honor not to have been invited to speak to you on this momentous occasion.

As members of a species with five digits per hand, you have often been given things in tens; amendments, commandments, Top Ten lists, etc., so it makes sense that I follow that format. In my lifetime I have not amended anything of consequence and most of what I’ve commanded has been ignored; so… Crutcher’s Ten Meanderings.

One: Don’t eat kale.
_ It’s really good for you, but it does NOT taste that great and plays havoc with your false teeth. (Wait…is that just me?)

Two: Don’t listen to me. (If you WERE listening you could stop here…but you’re texting with the kid three rows back).
_ I’m an old guy. I’ll tell you my vast experience is the reason you should do what I say; that I don’t want you to make the mistakes I made, and can smooth your path if only you’ll listen. But that’s a lie. I graduated from high school in 1964 – near the end of the rule of reptiles – and my memory of that time is clouded by wishful and convenient thinking, which is to say I remember being a lot smarter than I was. So high-five your own screw-ups. For whatever reason, “learning the hard way” is accompanied by embarrassment. Welcome it. We are a trial and error species that refuses to embrace our errors. We call them mistakes. Worse, we call them sins. We refuse to celebrate the very things that teach us. Your elders, those surrounding and rooting for you today, cannot make those errors for you. We have our own work cut out.

Three: Stay alive.
_ Be amazed at your existence. Life gets scary sometimes; can make you consider an early exit or take risks that promise to end badly. But you won the lottery times a billion just getting here. One misfired sperm or rotten egg going all the way back past salamanders and you don’t even make this scene. As much as there is a difference in our ages, you and I have a unique thing in common; we’re both as old as we’ve ever been. We have a history we know and a future we don’t. My history is longer and hopefully my future shorter than yours, but we both have the capacity – even the duty – to influence the quality of our futures through our knowledge of our histories; a unique gift we can’t afford to squander, or cut short. So make it last…and make it worth it.

Four: Fight tyranny with your every fiber.
_ Whether or not you believe you live in the greatest country in the world, you live within a legal system structured to allow you to find your own greatness, however you may define that. HUMANS, mostly white men, have tried to diminish that rule of law through exclusion for most of our history, but TRUE rule of law, laid down by our Constitution, calls for HUMAN equality. Which means: policies of racism, homophobia, misogyny, gender discrimination, and whatever else I’m forgetting, are the policies of tyranny. I was born in the year following World War II (exactly nine-months, as my mother tells it, from the day my father returned from Europe) so, though I didn’t live through that war, every adult in my childhood fought against, or witnessed from afar, the ultimate threat to our liberty. That’s long ago history to you; you were born into one of the great MATURE democracies, but you would do well to remember that diminishing freedoms to one American opens the gates of threat to all Americans. If you are inclined to take your independence for granted, don’t.

Five: Do not hit your kids.
_ And no fair calling it spanking and whacking away. If you did it to an adult, it would be assault. Your kids learn one thing from being hit: to hit. It doesn’t really hurt you more than it hurts them. They won’t learn not to do what you’re hitting them for; they’ll learn that the person responsible to love and protect them is willing and able to hurt them, and if you do it often, they’ll realize that a time will come when they can stop you. In my lifetime the two places I most often heard, “Spare the rod, spoil the child” were church and child abuse support groups.

Six: Do not use the word “perfect.”
_ “Perfect” is a word inserted into the English language only to make us feel bad. It is the only word I know defined by what cannot be. “Nobody’s perfect.” We hear it all the time. Well, if nobody’s perfect, there’s no point in talking about it. A perfectionist is someone who spends his life feeling bad because he can’t live up to standards no one else lives up to either. A perfectionist spends an inordinate amount of time scolding herself for every mistake and scolding the rest of us for not feeling bad for ours.

Seven: Do not confuse respect with fear.
_ When I was a lad there was a TV cowboy named Wyatt Earp, who had also been a real cowboy. On television, Wyatt, played by Hugh O’Brien, brandished a sidearm called a “Buntline Special.” It looked like a pistol, but the barrel was nearly rifle-length. An oft-uttered Wyatt Earp line that caused great consternation in me was, “Respect comes out of the end of a Buntline Special.” Uh, excuse me, Wyatt. That’s not respect; it’s a bullet. Wyatt Earp and a whole bunch of flawed cowboys and business-folks and teachers and housewives and househusbands coming after him believe that if you scare someone – if you threaten them with something they believe you can and will do, they will show you respect. And well they might; SHOW it…right up until they don’t have to. Then they will show you contempt. Respect and fear: one’s good; the other, not so much.

Eight: Don’t worry about your mediocre grade point average.
_You wouldn’t have had any fun at Harvard anyway, and those of us who came before you have mucked up our ability to evaluate your intelligence so badly that your grades reflect, more than anything, your ability to memorize stuff you’ll never use.

Nine: Never let beliefs handed down to you before you had the capacity to develop your own, stand in the way of seeking truth.
_ AS you develop your own beliefs, remember this: if they elevate one group over another, if they present themselves in blacks and whites rather than greys, if they disregard acceptance or reject celebration of differences, if they don’t include taking care of your oh-so-finite planet, they need work.

Ten: Celebrate relativity.
_ Nothing exists without its opposite. Things are what they are in relation to other things; a hugely important piece of information for living here on the blue marble. There is no joy without despair, no courage without cowardice, no loyalty without betrayal, no freedom without oppression. Every goal we set includes the possibility of failure; and self-contempt, should we allow it. The laws of probability say everyone here already knows that. But even when you fall short, if your goals are righteous, they remain. The full richness of being alive requires that you recognize and embrace relativity. Ask yourself: Do I appreciate joy more than I reject despair? Do I embrace courage more than I fear cowardice? Do I love loyalty more than I loathe betrayal? And most of all, do I honor freedom – not only for myself, but for everyone – more than I hate oppression?

Eleven: Move.
_ You may have heard the saying “Your body is your temple” in order to get you to take care of it. Well, it may be your temple, but it’s also your car. It’s your bike. It’s your skateboard. It gets you around. When our species came down out of the trees and the frontal lobe – the rational brain – was developing, we moved up to seventeen miles a day, staying ahead of what was trying to eat us and chasing down what we needed to eat; which means our THINKING brain developed on the run. It only makes sense to change our own oil every three thousand miles and refuse to let our fan belts fray. Movement helps us focus; it clarifies purpose while helping us breathe easier. Movement lessens depression and anxiety. There is no mind/body dichotomy. The two are inseparable. Keep them moving.
(Side-note: When someone tells you, “By God MY ancestors never came out of the trees!” offer your condolences.)

Twelve: Allow no time for fear.
_ Most of what you’re afraid of will never hurt you, and you can’t imagine some of the things that will. Either way, you won’t see it coming, so time being afraid is time wasted.

Thirteen: Guns put holes in things.
_ What so often leaks out of those holes, is life. When someone tells you “Guns don’t kill people; PEOPLE kill people,” report them immediately to the Dumb Police. In my youth there was a public service TV ad that began with a set of keys dangling from the ignition of a car. A passing teenager spied the keys, looked quickly both ways, hopped in and drove off. Fast forward to cops pulling said teenager out of the car in cuffs. The somber announcer said, “Remove your keys. Don’t help a good boy go bad.” Keys don’t steal cars; kids do. But not without the goddam keys.

And speaking of the Dumb Police, the mathematical control freaks among you may have reported me at the moment my Ten Meanderings reached eleven, but few high school students have reached this educational promised land without the aid of EXTRA CREDIT. You can throw three out and still get an A…with one exception. You can’t hit your kids.

I’m featured this month on the SCBWI-Austin site!

 

Hey guys! My SCBWI chapter did an author profile interview: I talk about my day job, what I hope readers find me to be, and give a hint about the super-secret project I’ve been working on for the past year… I also mention Chris Crutcher & Cynthia Leitich Smith!

http://austin.scbwi.org/2017/06/01/member-interview-beth-fehlbaum/

 

 

Hope in Patience ebook is FREE this week!

That’s right! This week ONLY, the Book 2 ebook in THE PATIENCE TRILOGY, Hope in Patience, is FREE on Amazon! Get yours here!
Are you more of a paperback person? Here ya go.

Get Book 1, Courage in Patience ebook here for just .99! The paperback’s here!

Book 3, Truth in Patience ebook here for just 2.99! Here’s the paperback.

If you like what you read, try my most recent book, Big Fat Disaster, in ebook and paperback.

It’s true!

Staying In is the New Going Out: #Read4Refugees!

I’m staying in to read one of my favorites: Jennifer Brown’s HATE LIST!

Authors are banding together to raise money for refugees. From the Read 4 Refugees fund-raising site: https://gojanegive.org/read4refugees/

 

“A generous donor has pledged to add a $10,000 bonus donation if we raise $50,000 by March 20! So please donate and share now! Campaign ends March 31, 2017.

All donations go to support RefugePoint, a stellar nonprofit that provides lasting solutions to the world’s most at-risk refugees. RefugePoint saves lives by helping refugees to resettle in the U.S., Canada, Australia and other countries. Through services including healthcare, counseling, skills training and small grants, RefugePoint ensures refugees can find safety and pathways to self-reliance, no matter where they are. Read more about their work in the New York Times.”

YAFest in Easton, PA! See you in a couple of weeks!

I am so excited–and honored–to have been invited by the YAFest PA organizers!

It’s Lisa Cresswell’s newest, CRAWDAD–and a Giveaway! Enter to win!

 

Welcome to the Crawdad Book Blog Tour!

For the whole month of January, my new contemporary young adult novel Crawdad, will be featured on the blogs of some of my besties – authors and book bloggers who support the readers and writers of  diverseYA – and I couldn’t be more pleased. I hope you can visit them all and enter the giveaway.  Here’s the schedule:

Magic of the Muses – Eileen Schuh January 1

Rich in Variety January 8

Beth Fehlbaum Books January 15

CJ Burright January 22

Twinjas Book Reviews January 29

 

~About the Book~

 

Seventeen-year-old Jamil Ramos grew up on Alabama’s Gulf Coast believing his mom, Loretta, was his only living relative. She put a trumpet in his hands as a toddler and sparked his love of jazz. But when Loretta drops a bomb on Jamil from her deathbed- she’s not his mama and his daddy is still alive, living in Charleston, S.C. – his world is turned upside down.

Now, with the only mama he’s ever known gone and the Loyola University trumpet audition less than a week away, Jamil has trouble feeling his music. When his band teacher tells him to get it together, Jamil decides to hitchhike to South Carolina over to find his father and get his questions answered. All he has is a name –Leon Ramos.

Jamil relies on the kindness of the strangers he meets-a gay teen kicked out of his home, a runaway prostitute, and a street musician-as he makes his way across Florida and Georgia trying to avoid the cops along the way. But when Jamil is robbed of his most prized possession, his trumpet, his plans go anywhere but where he’d hoped. That trumpet was supposed to be his ticket for a scholarship, the only way to college his mama could give him. Lost and alone without it, Jamil wonders if finding his father is worth risking his future.

You can find Crawdad in print and e-book on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Goodreads!

~About the Author~

Lisa T. Cresswell has been writing middle grade and young adult books for what seems like a mighty long time. She can never seem to make up her mind if she likes reality or fantasy, so she writes both. She also likes lemon jasmine green tea, dark chocolate almonds, and lots and lots of coffee. And of course, BOOKS. ALL THE BOOKS!! You can see all of her work at www.lisatcresswell.com 

~Enter the Giveaway~

Enter to win one of three copies of Crawdad to be given away in January!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I’d LOVE to visit your school!

What Librarians are Saying About My Visits to Their Schools:

Mission High School Library had the pleasure of hosting Beth Fehlbaum this fall.  She spoke to over 350 of our students. Her presentation had them all hanging on her every word. She welcomed their questions and gave them honest answers. Many of them stayed behind to talk to her about their experiences and many stopped just to give her a hug, it was something to see. In my 6 years hosting authors at our library, I can honestly say no one has captured the attention of the masses quite like Beth.  Her message is powerful, inspiring and hopeful.

Margie Longoria
Librarian, Mission High School

Hello!
Beth Fehlbaum visited my school Library last Friday at Cano Freshman Academy in Harlingen, Texas, for an Author’s Visit. Beth was very engaging and informative, and my students loved her. She not only booktalked her books, but provided a presentation on how writing can be therapeutic to students. She encouraged them to write anything that they felt and get their ideas and thoughts out on whatever it is that they are dealing with.

I work with fourteen and fifteen year old students whose attention is not easily kept, but she held their attention through their entire presentation, and at the end of the day I had multiple students asking to borrow the book and e-book! She made her entire presentation herself through Prezis and showed booktrailers that she has made as well as found on her books. My students loved seeing someone who has actually been published and have had success in writing in the flesh. Her technology use is great and she was very prepared In advance and was able to send me her presentation ahead of time.

Beth has a very genuine heart and it shines through her presentations. She uses her teaching experience to captivate an audience and hold them until the very end. She made a huge impression on my students, my staff, and myself. I highly recommend her for any speaking positions and also as a presenter. Beth was amazing, and I loved having her in my library.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or any way that I can be of help.

Stephanie M. Galvan, MLS
Library Media Specialist
Dr. Abraham P. Cano Freshman Academy


I’d Love to Visit YOUR School!

Program: Writing: A Great Way to Work Out Your Stuff!

Writing from real life: students learn how to recognize the “material” they have in their own lives—and how to use it to write narrative, expository, poetry, drama—any mode of writing that tells the story that is dying to get out.

Q & A (Ask Me Anything!), book signings, and talk with students after the presentation.

Honorarium: $750-$1200 per day: all day: 8 AM – 4 PM. (As many presentations as can take place during that time.) OK to split between schools. Books must be available for purchase.
*Daily fee does not include travel expenses: flight, hotel if more than 4 hours from my home.

NOTE: I have a special place in my heart for Title 1 schools. TALK TO ME before you decide that this is not a do-able situation.

Interested? Contact me: bethfehlbaum@gmail.com

I am an author of gritty YA fiction as well as an experienced (nearly 2 decades) English teacher. I currently teach English I, Pre-AP English, and Remedial English Lab classes in a small rural district in Henderson County, TX.

I specialize in working with struggling learners from low socio-economic backgrounds. While I now teach the general-ed population, I taught Dual Language ESL classes for 8 years, transitioning kids from reading/writing Spanish to doing so in English, so I have a special understanding of the challenges English Language Learners face.

My book, Hope in Patience, was named to the 2011 YALSA Quick Picks for Reluctant Readers, and another of my books, Big Fat Disaster, is on the Spirit of Texas-High School Reading List for 2015-2016. Chapter previews of all my books are available on my website, http://bethfehlbaumbooks.info .

You will find a list of the events I have presented programs for, below.


School Visits:

I offer a program that uses what I do– writing from real life–to teach students how to recognize the “material” they have in their own lives that inspires expository and narrative writing as well as poetry and drama. My current program is called, “Writing: A Great Way to Work Out Your Stuff.”

While I am thrilled to read from my work in conjunction with my visit–and in connection with the program I present–I know that the educational component of hosting an author is important, and I want to be there for you to support your efforts to improve your students’ mastery of writing. I am happy to provide a lesson plan that is correlated to your state’s standards.

I write edgy YA fiction; thus far, my four books have dealt with Childhood Sexual Abuse (CSA) and/or Binge Eating Disorder. However, my objective of a visit is to discuss the concept of writing from one’s own experiences in a way that supports the objective of writing improvement and brainstorming. In other words, I will not be presenting a seminar on Childhood Sexual Abuse– unless you want me to do that. (Hope that eases your minds, LOL).

INTERESTED? Contact me! bethfehlbaum@gmail.com


Teen Bookfests: 

I love attending bookfests, and that includes prepping ahead of time for panel discussions. I am very interested in combining school visits with attending your bookfest. I am willing to present writing workshops in addition to answering questions about my work.


What do I charge?

As a teacher myself, I am all too aware to the financial constraints schools and libraries operate under. That’s why I try to work with interested parties so that their students have the opportunity to meet an author whose book(s) they read. I am available on a limited basis during the school year since I have ninth graders to teach, but I do take time off for events that are well-planned and have an enthusiastic audience. In addition, I am happy to do Skype/Google Hangout visits.

My basic requirements for visits are as follows:
1. If I’m flying to your location, I must have my expenses covered: that means airfare and hotel.
2. If I’m driving more than 50 miles to your location, I must be reimbursed for fuel.
3. I expect students to be familiar with my work. I am happy to partner with a local bookstore to do signings as a fundraiser for you.

In addition to covering my travel, I have a $750-$1200/day appearance fee that is negotiable based on your situation.  Please contact me before you decide there’s no way you can swing the fee and/or travel expenses. Let’s talk and figure out a solution. The fee for 1/2 day is $375-$600.00. I prefer to talk to groups of no more than 30 students at a time; however, I will work with you to give you as much “bang for your buck” as possible. As stated earlier: I’m a teacher. I get where you are coming from. Trust me.


PLEASE NOTE: With very few exceptions, I do not sell my own books: I do not haul a box of books to your location. I suggest that you partner with a local bookstore–an independent one, preferably–to make my books available for purchase.  Compared to many other mid-list authors, I charge much less to do school visits. However, the trade-off is that your students are well-acquainted with my work and my books are available to buy. Most bookstores will happily do on-site sales for you.

Book Festival Coordinators: While I am willing to appear to speak at your event, I do not attend events that require paying for a table and selling my own books.  Please keep that in mind before contacting me.

Thanks!


PRESENTATIONS/PUBLIC SPEAKING

2017
YA Fest, Easton, PA: panelist, topic & co-panelists TBA

Teen Bookfest By the Bay, Corpus Christi, TX: panelist, topic & co-panelists TBA

2016
Border Book Bash, Mission, TX, panelist, topic & co-panelists TBA

Veterans Memorial High School, Mission, TX: featured speaker, “Writing: A Great Way to Work Out Your Stuff”/Book Talk on The Patience Trilogy and Big Fat Disaster

La Joya High School, Mission, TX: featured speaker, “Writing: A Great Way to Work Out Your Stuff”/Book Talk on The Patience Trilogy and Big Fat Disaster

McAllen Book Festival, McAllen, TX: featured speaker, “Writing: A Great Way to Work Out Your Stuff”/Book Talk on The Patience Trilogy and Big Fat Disaster

Dr. Abraham Cano Freshman Campus, Harlingen, TX: featured speaker, “Writing: A Great Way to Work Out Your Stuff”/Book Talk on The Patience Trilogy and Big Fat Disaster

Mission High School, Mission, TX: TX featured speaker, “Writing: A Great Way to Work Out Your Stuff”/Book Talk on The Patience Trilogy and Big Fat Disaster

Texas Library Association Annual Conference, Houston, TX: Panelist: Spirit of Texas High School Reading List: award winner for Big Fat Disaster

Teen Bookfest By the Bay, Corpus Christi, TX: Panelist: “(How Characters Demonstrate the Ability to Be a Force for Good): ‘The Power of One’” with Guadalupe Garcia McCall and Tricia Leaver

2015
Teen Bookfest By the Bay, Corpus Christi, TX: Panelist: Realistic Fiction, with Lindsey
Lane

Colorado Teen Literature Conference, Denver, CO: Featured Speaker: “Writing From Real Life”

Montgomery County Book Festival, Conroe, TX: Panelist

2014
Texas Library Association Annual Conference, San Antonio, TX: Proposal Writer/Panelist:
“Don’t Talk About What? Religion’s Place in YA Fiction” with Patricia Dunn, Christina Gonzalez, Christine Kohler, Varian Johnson, Elsa Marston, N.H. Senzai, Tim Tingle

2013
YABFest, Round Rock, TX: Panelist, “My So-Called World,” with E. Kristin Anderson, Jessica Lee Anderson, David Levithan & Andrea Cremer, & Lindsey Scheibe

NCTE/ALAN, Boston, MA: Proposal Writer & Panelist: “Coming of Age, Then and Now: The Truth Remains the Same” with Selene Castrovilla, Shannon Delany, Ellen Hopkins, Jeri Smith-Ready

2012
Missouri SCBWI Conference, St. Louis, MO: Panelist with Jo Knowles, Deborah Heiligman, Selene Castrovilla, and Shannon Delany.

YALSA/ALA Annual Conference, St. Louis, MO: Panelist with Jo Knowles, Deborah Heiligman,  Selene Castrovilla, and Shannon Delany.

2011
Crime Victims’ Awareness Week, Dallas, TX: Keynote Speaker: “Courage and Hope”

Greater Texas Community Partners, Dallas, TX: Featured Speaker: “Courage and Hope”

Enter my Goodreads Giveaway to win 1 of 5 print copies of COURAGE IN PATIENCE!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Courage in Patience by Beth Fehlbaum

Courage in Patience

by Beth Fehlbaum

Giveaway ends October 01, 2016.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

Limited time offer: COURAGE IN PATIENCE is FREE on AMAZON!

This week only: 9/19 through 9/23, the COURAGE IN PATIENCE e-book is FREE on Amazon!
Read the book that author Beth Fehlbaum originally wrote as “a therapeutic assignment.” Check out this interview:

3.13 FINAL Courage_Epub_cover

How has being a Texan influenced your writing?

Texas—especially rural towns—has a huge influence on my writing. In The Patience Trilogy, Ashley Asher is transplanted from an affluent Dallas suburb to tiny Patience, Texas, and a country town of about 2,000 people.

This mirrors my experience of 2003, when my family moved from a Dallas suburb to a small country town on the edge of East Texas. The pace is slower, the people are often more open and approachable, and, of course, these elements reveal charming eccentricities that make for great storytelling.

Why did you choose to write in your particular field or genre?

Edgy YA fiction chose me. I initially wrote the first draft of Courage in Patience as a therapeutic assignment. I was in recovery for trauma from childhood sexual abuse and learning to manage having Post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the experiences I had from the age of 8.

I was writing poems and short stories as a way of processing my grief and rage, and the only person I showed them to was my psychologist. He suggested that I try writing a novel. It took about four months of stopping/starting and always sending up stuck in asking, “Why?. . .Why did this happen to me?. . .Why did my mother ignore my outcry at age 14?. . .”

Finally, I gave myself permission to imagine the recovery process as someone else’s. That’s when the story began.

What was the hardest part of writing this book?

The main character, Ashley, experiences a horrific attack at the hands of her stepfather. Throughout the series, she has been unable to remember exactly what happened, because she blacked out. In the last book, Truth in Patience, she is triggered by something and remembers the incident in a visceral way. That was difficult for me to write, but I will say this: the growth and healing I experienced between writing Book 1, Courage in Patience, through Book 2, Hope in Patience, then in Book 3, Truth in Patience, enabled me to be able to address Ashley’s remembering in a way that I could handle it with grace and in a gentle way with myself.

I wrote The Patience Trilogy over the period of six years that it took me to go from a frozen-by-trauma eight year old in my mind to becoming an adult in the way I cope with the world.

What literary character is most like you?

Ashley Asher is basically me as a traumatized child/teen, and her stepmother, Beverly, is me as my adult “teacher self.”

Just as your books inspire authors, what authors have inspired you to write?

Chris Crutcher’s commitment to authenticity and truth telling are the reason I am the sort of writer I am. I happened to find his novel, Staying Fat for Sarah Byrnes, on my gone-away-to-college daughter’s bookshelf, and I read it from cover-to-cover in a matter of hours. That book changed my life, because after reading it, I knew there are stories inside of me that might help others.

I love Sherman Alexie for his honesty and no-holds-barred expressions of emotion, and Jennifer Brown’s ability to pull me into story is so keen that I find it difficult to adequately describe it.

What is something you want to accomplish before you die?

I worked so hard to overcome the first 38 years of my life in a highly dysfunctional family and claim my life as my own. Therefore, when I die, I want to leave a legacy of mentally healthy family members who have boundaries in place and are aware of their self-worth.