I am thrilled to announce that I am now represented by literary agent Tabatha Pope of SBR Media! Tabatha is a powerhouse in the YA community in Texas. We’ve been acquaintances for years, familiar with one another’s work, so imagine my happiness when I saw a tweet announcing that Tabatha is now an agent! I queried her, she fell in love with my latest book, FIND THE MOON, and given that she knew my other books as well and I knew of her life’s work: a tapestry of putting books into teens’ hands, I truly believe this is a perfect match! Tabatha’s representing FIND THE MOON, and she’ll also be working to move THE PATIENCE TRILOGY‘s foreign and audio rights–something I didn’t think was possible at this point. I’m excited at these opportunities! Be sure to check out SBR Media and Tabatha’s submission page: she’s accepting queries right now! SBR Media on Twitter Tabatha Pope on Twitter Tabatha Pope on Facebook
Author-to-Author: a YA fiction author teaches teen authors to write a book! Scroll to the red text below for enrollment links!
I’m now instructing teens online! Check out this opportunity that begins December 5, 2020! And–check out the FREE class info at the bottom of this page!
Are you a teen who loves to write? I guide aspiring authors ages 13-18 from the comfort of your homes! You will develop strong literacy while learning to craft character, making setting a powerful component of story, and telling an authentically amazing story, one week at a time!!
I’m an award-winning author, longtime English teacher, and freelance editor. I will not only present engaging lessons, but I will also do a deep dive into your writing submissions and provide one-on-one coaching to help you, an aspiring author, to tell the story that is dying to break out of your mind and flow beautifully onto the page.
Whether you are a “good” English student or not, if you have the desire to write a story that’s dying to be told, I can guide you to see it to fruition. I utilize my expertise as well as respected resources, meaningful video clips, and an overflowing mental “toolbox” that’s stocked by over two decades of teaching.
Overview of the Class*
Week 1: Welcome! Let’s talk about your protagonist.
Week 2: Building the setting, and why it’s important.
Week 3: Conflict: why “I want” is the seed of your story, and why you need a major and a minor “want”
Week 4: World-building: your protagonist and antagonist’s foils.
Week 5: The inciting incident: ladies and gentlemen, you cannot look away!
Week 6: Where are you going?
Week 7: Complications: throw what ya got at your hero.
Week 8: Speaking of heroism…what’s the problem with being brave?
Week 9: The undercurrent of your story: the tension is building!
Week 10: Do you feel it? Magnetic forces are pulling your protagonist toward the show-down. . .
Week 11: The antagonist’s motive and what he/she has to lose.
Week 12: Confronting the conflict: will yours burst like fireworks, splatter like paint, or sputter like a car out of gas?
Week 13: Consequences of bravery: there can’t be smiles without some tears.
Week 14: Wrap up your sub-plot! Do you know where it is?
Week 15: The role of setting in the denouement (falling action): is this where your protagonist wants to be?
Week 16: Happy ending or hopeful ending? The big finish.
Week 17: How to publish your book: options for being able to hold a hard copy in your hand.
Week 18: Celebrating “The End” and sharing your favorite scene(s)!
*Please note: if it is apparent that the class as a whole is not sufficiently grasping a concept, it is possible that we would spend more time on a topic. I am YOU-centered, not pacing-schedule-centered. Supporting your needs is my priority.
Schedule: I am offering this class through two online outlets: KidPass and OutSchool. You should check out their platforms to decide which approach works best for your family. The class will be identical in both outlets. Via KidPass: Saturday, 3:00-4:00 P.M. Central Time Zone *Click on “Schedule.” Note the free “Drop-in” class on Nov. 28, then please click on “Semester” to view the 18-week course. KidPass offers a $25 credit to all who sign up!
60 minutes weekly; students will submit their writing assignments by 11:59 PM on the subsequent Wednesday, in order to have feedback prior to the next Saturday class. Beth will respond to student queries and responses in the interim between homework submissions and class.
This is a multi-day class guiding kids through writing a book. Currently, 3 sections are planned: Pricing: $10.00 per week ($180 for the entire 18-week section ).
Max students: 20 per KidPass class per section, & 18 per OutSchool class per section.
Section 3: 2021-2022 *This session is not yet listed on KidPass, but it is listed on OutSchool.
Beginning: Sept. 11, 18, 25; Oct. 2, 9, 16
Middle: Oct. 23, 30; Nov. 6, 13, 20, 27
End: Dec. 4, 11, 18; Jan. 8 (2022), 15, 22
I have a B.A. in English, minor Secondary Education, M.Ed. in Reading, and over 22 years of experience teaching writing to middle-and high schoolers. I recognize the essential truth of any classroom: all students must feel comfortable and safe being themselves in order to learn. I am committed to preserving an accepting classroom environment that includes guiding students through writing exercises that are constructive and safe.
Supply List: You will be provided with a (free) individual digital notebook that is rooted in Google Docs. A gmail account is needed to access and utilize this resource, and I will need to create this individual digital notebook Google Doc for you, prior to the first class. I will also share Individual Quick Write documents with you; those will also be rooted in Google Docs.
During weeks 16-17, I will share my experience of guiding my former face-to-face students through the process of using an online book publishing service that is specifically for students. The publishing service cost varies, but in the recent past, the cost of a book was between $12.00-$24.00, depending on page count, utilization of color, etc.
Please note: I am not responsible in any way for the service you and your parents ultimately choose to publish your book, should you choose to do so, nor am I affiliated in any way with any online book-publishing service. I make no money off your book. I can only share my experience in the realm of helping students turn an idea into a book that can be held in one’s hand. The service I’ve used in the past maintains an online “bookstore” where additional copies of individual books are available to be purchased for a long time afterward.
If you do not choose to publish your book, there is no other cost or supplies needed than those stated above. All you really need to succeed is your imagination, a quiet work area, and some time to write your assignment (grow their book) each week!
FREE STUFF ALERT!This is a special FREE online class presented by KidPass Live Stage (https://kidp.as/live). KidPass Live Stage is a free livestream series that is open for the community and showcases many of the incredible classes and instructors on KidPass.
Got a teen who wants to write a book but is unsure how to start? Beth guides aspiring authors ages 13-18 from the comfort of their homes! Kids should leave this class with a spark of an idea that will enable the seed of an idea to take root!
This award-winning author, longtime English teacher, and experienced editor will present an engaging lesson to help your aspiring author begin the story that is dying to break out of the mind and flow beautifully onto the page. This is a 60-minute one-time class that precedes the 12/5 start of an 18-week class, so be sure to check it out! Beth has a B.A. in English, minor Secondary Education, an M.Ed. in Reading, and over 22 years of experience teaching writing to middle-and-high schoolers. She recognizes the essential truth of any classroom: students must feel comfortable and safe being themselves in order to learn. She is committed to preserving an accepting classroom environment that includes guiding students through writing workshops that are constructive and safe.
Whether your child is a “good” English student or not, if he or she has the desire to write the story that’s dying to be told, Beth can help make it a reality. In the 18-week class, she will provide each student a Google Slides-based digital notebook that will be added to weekly. She utilizes meaningful video clips and screensharing. Students are expected to have their cameras on and mics muted while instruction is occurring, although the chat feature is enabled at all times and classroom discussion is threaded throughout the lesson.
Note that as a KidPass Live Stage performance, this class and your participation may be posted on KidPass social media. Since it is formatted for a large audience, there will be limited instructor interaction. If you enjoy the class, please visit the instructor’s KidPass page where you can find other class offerings and formats including small-group, interactive classes. Learn more about KidPass Live Stage at http://kidp.as/live.
I’m querying my fifth novel, sixth book overall. My latest is FIND THE MOON, about a teen girl whose truth that cost her everything just might save her. Read more about FIND THE MOON here.
In the process of all this querying, I’ve been educating myself because even though I’ve been a traditionally published author for over 10 years, I still want to stay on top of what publishing currently looks like. I amicably parted with my long-time agent last year because I knew that I was nearing the completion of FIND THE MOON, and I wanted to switch gears to a representative for whom YA fiction is a more significant focus of their efforts. I am encouraged that I’ve gotten requests for the full manuscript pretty quickly after querying. I attribute this to FIND THE MOON having a very strong premise by virtue of working on it with Kate Brauning of Breakthrough Writers’ Bootcamp. She outright “fangirled” over what she was seeing in the pages, which was reassuring and gratifying!
As of this moment, 3 agents requested (and have) my full manuscript, and 1 has the first 50 pages, but since I have not yet had an offer of representation/ signed on the dotted line, I’m still carefully researching and querying agents who seem like a good fit for my work, and I’m hopeful that I’ll sign with an agent by July.
Through my search for a new partner-in-publishing, I discovered resources that are helpful, surprising, and, in one case, revelatory of what is apparently sort of a secret in the publishing world. . .but before I begin sharing these resources, I feel that I should disclose that I do have queries and/or the full manuscript on submission with some, but not all, of the following agents/agencies. While this could appear to some cynics as maximum sucking up to the agents, my purpose in sharing the following is to help my fellow writer-types gain insight into what can feel to new and intimidating to authors (and not-so-new authors, like Yours Truly). Chalk it up to my other profession–I’m an educator–a high school English teacher–so sharing ways for others to better understand tough stuff is in my bones.
Cracking the code to “inside publishing” can feel like trying to scale a daunting (oil-slicked) wall in an attempt to gain a quick glance into an “agents-only” clubhouse, but the following very-helpful agents/agencies effectively step out of the clubhouse, open a portal in the wall, and invite authors in. I sense graciousness in these respective agents’ resources for authors, and these offerings are both valuable and reassuring to those of us who volunteer ourselves to be vulnerable when we query, since the very act of doing so is risking rejection of our book baby. The whole process is daunting and anxiety-provoking, but as the old saying goes, “Knowledge is power.” Here we go with resources from helpful folks:
BookEnds Literary Bookends has a great informative blog that syncs with their YouTube channel. Thus far, I have found their blog entry/video on simultaneous submissions, The Unfairness of an Exclusive Submission, to be the most memorable as I go through this process of cold-calling people that I hope will find what I put on paper to be what they’re looking for.
When I was a newbie author, circa 2006-2007, and I queried agents with my first novel, I contacted one agent at a time, and since publishing is a glacial process, finding an agent took the better part of a year. Back then, my perception of the expectation was that one should query just one agent at a time, because to do otherwise was disrespectful to the agent. But Jessica Faust helped me understand the process differently. She writes, “Giving an agent an exclusive takes away the opportunity to interview all possible agents. Simply because no one else has your material. It would be like hiring the first contractor who shows up at your house without the chance to get bids from others.” The insight gained from agents Jessica Faust and James McGowan in this blog post/video also clarified my understanding of what to do when one has simultaneous queries out and an agent requests an exclusive, for example, if the agent gives significant feedback and requests revisions, it’s reasonable for that agent to expect an exclusive submission. Jessica tells us what to do with regard to the other agents who are likewise considering the manuscript at that time.
Tia Rose Mele, Talcott Notch Literary Services Tia is a junior agent and the director of audio rights at Talcott Notch. Her outreach efforts add to authors’ abilities to increase their knowledge about publishing because she solicits questions from her followers about what they’d like to see on her blog, which addresses her agenting life. Her voice is authentic, and the commentary is indicative of interest in helping authors understand the world of publishing more clearly. My favorite blog post of Tia’s so far is “My Submission Process,” because this is something that is not always clear to authors. Tia does state in her blog post that all agents have their own processes, but I appreciated her drawing the curtain back on how it works for her. (As a side note, I cannot find the Twitter thread at this time, but I @Tia and asked her about her process for keeping her authors informed as to the progress of submissions, and she told me that she creates a Google Spreadsheet and shares with the author the list of editors to whom she has submitted, as well as feedback received. I really liked that.
Print Run Podcast Erik Hane and Laura Zats, the agents who comprise Headwater Literary, have a phenomenal podcast called Print Run. According to their site, “Its aim is simple: to have the conversations surrounding the book and writing industries that too often are glossed over by conventional wisdom, institutional optimism, and false seriousness.” And they deliver. I like the Print Run podcast because it does not pretend that agents are anything but regular people, just like authors, and everybody has the same goal: to produce a damned fine book.
The following is the above-referenced NON-Shameful Secret: Erik and Laura’s episode titled Work Life revealed something that I had no idea about: most agents and editors have full-time jobs in addition to agenting, or, at the least, they are working other part-time jobs to make ends meet. This is in such conflict with the image I had of most agents, and I think many others do, too– which is why I’m so grateful that there are people in publishing willing to tell it like it is. Erik and Laura reveal that it’s frowned upon in publishing to reveal this truth about having to work jobs other than agenting to make ends meet, as if to do so somehow casts a shadow on the concept of agents as living glamorous lives. They stated that talking about the other jobs they have is “frowned upon.” Think about it, y’all: when you see a literary agent portrayed in a movie, they’re not, as Laura shares she has done, sharing a hotel room with another agent to save money at a conference that they had to pay their own way to attend, and taking along a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter so they can eat while out of town! I find that just like the impression people have of agents, the general public has an impression of authors that comes from the movies, not reality. (Castle, anyone?) The majority of authors also have full-time jobs that actually pay the bills–even prominent authors–of which I am not. When I landed my first publishing contract, my fellow teachers at the time assumed I was going to quit my job and live the rich writer’s life. I laughed. I would love to be offered a huge advance–who wouldn’t?– but the majority of authors do not receive huge advances. Plus, we receive royalty payments twice a year, and our agents get paid when we get paid. Agents work on commission. They, like their authors, do not make money if their authors’ books don’t sell. While Erik states that there are some salaried agenting positions, he and Laura are really up front and bold about telling the truth about what they have to do in their own lives to make enough money to pay the bills. I’ve been a traditionally-published author since 2008, but my day job as a teacher provides money for bills, health insurance and a pension; my job as an author does not. When I am eligible to retire in two years, I intend to supplement that pension by freelance editing and writing full-time, but I am realistic enough to know that even with my backlist and when FIND THE MOON and my subsequent books sell to a publisher, the odds of writing making me a wealthy person at any time are very low, but I don’t write for the money. I write because, as Harper Lee said of reading, “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” I suspect that most people who are agents or editors likewise cannot imagine themselves not working around books in some way. I just hope most are lucky, as I am, to be able to have the ability to create using words in both my jobs, and I hope that if folks in the publishing industry are ashamed of having to work jobs outside of agenting to pay their bills, they will let go of that dark shadow. There’s no shame in it.
Speaking of shame (awesome segue, right?) another topic the Print Run podcasters address is the issue of rejection, which leads me to another highly recommended Print Run episode: Am I Good Enough? This one really helped me be less anxious about submitting to agents because there is so much out of our control that may lead to a rejection at that time.
My daughter Kristen, an ICU nurse in a COVID unit in Dallas, posted this video with a caption of gratitude: “When your patient rapidly declines and all hands are on deck. What an amazing team of people I work with. Thank you so much for all your help today…” What strikes me most from this video is that all these people are trying to save ONE LIFE THAT MATTERS. Think about that. This ONE LIFE MATTERS. This person matters to the people who love him or her. When people scoff at the seriousness of this virus, I wish they would consider the ONE LIFE (and many more) that they are impacting with their selfishness and refusal to acknowledge the pain they are inflicting on everyone by insisting that their right to do X, Y, Z matters more than even ONE LIFE. As Kristen’s mom, HER LIFE MATTERS SO MUCH TO ME, and she and her colleagues are risking their lives daily to try to save even ONE LIFE. This is why I am enraged by the callousness of doubters, of those who demand the country reopen, of those who support the president in spite of his abdication of duty to his citizens. This is why I will never forgive you for your support of him. This is why our relationship will never be the same: because your selfishness refuses to value even ONE LIFE other than your own, and perhaps that of the fetid mass of narcissism that you love so much.
In addition to offering for free the ebook, audiobook, & lesson plans for my novel, Courage in Patience in my capacity as an author, I have also been busy-busy-busy in my day-job as a high school English teacher. I have completed compiling resources that will result in writing a dystopian short story. As a basis for this, I used Christina Gil’s unit on Teachers Pay Teachers–IT IS EXCELLENT AND I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. I had to put materials together in such a way that I could email them to my administrators and have them print out hard-copy packets for our students without access to the internet/technology/or whose internet data limit is depleted, crippling their ability to participate on Google Classroom. If you are interested in my lesson plan/resource PDF to ease your own burden with respect to submitting your lessons, please contact me, but also purchase Christina Gil’s unit on Teachers Pay Teachers. You need her unit and its awesome information and the way she explains and builds the foundation in order to maximize success for you and your students. Even if we get to return to school prior to the end of the semester, I will still be using this unit. In addition to the materials in Christina’s Dystopian fiction unit, I pulled the texts off the internet where necessary and found nearly all the transcripts for the videos that are used in the unit, because I wanted to provide all the info even if kids can’t access the videos in the plan, and also included supplemental videos that I felt would be useful to aid student comprehension. Hit me up if you would like me to share with you what I submitted to my principals for them to print for students. http://bethfehlbaumbooks.info/contact/
I bought the audiobook, CALM THE F*CK DOWN. So far I like it a lot…
it’s also inspiring potential blog posts of what I, a person with
diagnosed Generalized Anxiety Disorder, am doing to cope. I’ll tell ya a
couple here–in case you, like me, are kinda wired to easily freak out:
(1) One thing I learned when I was in therapy was that having a PURPOSE
is key to getting out of my own head. That’s also emphasized in the
book, TRAUMA RECOVERY- SESSONS WITH DR MATT- that I cowrote
with Matt E. Jaremko, Ph.D., who is my former therapist. He taught me
that altruism goes a long way to pulling one off the pity pot. Even
though we are socially isolated, I try to think of something I can do to
ease others’ burden–and one thing I did was join with SCBWI in
providing resources for teachers. Check out this page–and help yourself
to downloading my first book, Courage in Patience. There’s also
teaching resources there–and I’m halfway through recording the audio of
the novel. If you prefer an actual ebook rather than a PDF, it’s on
Amazon for .99 http://bethfehlbaumbooks.info/courage-in-patience-novel-un…/
(2) I also learned that having a PLAN is HUGE. To-Do lists are still a
HUGE part of my life. I teach high school English and we are of course
moving to remote instruction. At first I spiraled, trying to come up
with ideas of how to best teach– and I think I’ve found it: we’re doing
a unit on DYSTOPIA! Timely, right? I’ll share those lesson plans with
y’all too, once I get them completed today. There are plans through the
last week in May, even though we haven’t yet been told we’ll be out
through then. I will simply adapt the lessons to in-person–happily so!-
if we get to return. (3) I’m also planning further as an author–I
will be hosting Zoom meetings to talk about writing–but I’m still
working on those (for obvious reasons, the day-job that pays the bills
takes priority there..) AND I’m also querying literary agents, so that’s
giving me something to do as well.
(4) I know y’all can’t tell based on my newsfeed–but I’m really
limiting my consumption of political TV. I repost credible info
here–but shows like Morning Joe are just feeding my anxiety–so I turn
that off –turn the TV off completely–and listen to music instead. The
Avett Brothers soothe me immensely. Speaking of music– go here–http://drmattbook.com—
and check out the PLAYLISTS that accompany our book, TRAUMA RECOVERY:
SESSIONS WITH DR. MATT. There’s music videos, suggested TV shows &
movies–lots of good stuff that goes with concepts in the book.
STEADY ON, Y’ALL! We will get through this by being kind to each other,
thinking of others, not just ourselves, having a plan, washing our
hands!–and staying HOME!
Well I’ve been lockin’ myself up in my house for sometime now Readin’ and writin’ and readin’ and thinkin’ And searching for reasons and missing the seasons. The Autumn, the Spring, the Summer, the snow. The record will stop and the record will go. Latches latched the windows down, The dog coming in and the dog going out. Up with caffeine and down with a shot. Constantly worried about what I’ve got. Distracting my work but I can’t make a stop And my confidence on and my confidence off. And I sink to the bottom and rise to the top And I think to myself that I do this a lot. World outside just goes It goes it goes it goes it goes it goes And witness it all from the blinds of my window. Three, four I’m a little nervous ’bout what you’ll think When you see me in my swimming trunks And last night in New York I got raging drunk Remember one time I got raging drunk with you Now, I can recall a time when we made the city Streets our playground, kissing in the fountains Filled with cigarettes and bottles Sped through Italian city streets of cobblestoneBecause we had to Because I loved you Because the damned alcohol Because what ever at allNow I’ve grown to aware of my mortality To let go and forget about dying Long enough to drop the hammer down And let the indolence go wild and flying throughBecause we had to Because I loved you Because we had to Because we had to Because we had to Because we had to Because we had to Because we had to
Source: LyricFindSongwriters: Robert William Crawford / Scott Yancey Avett / Timothy Seth Avett
To celebrate my upcoming birthday, I’m raising money for Building Better Kids. This is an organization within my school–although separate from the district–that provides food and more for some of our most vulnerable students. AND-because my FAVORITE part of my birthday is giving to others, everyone who donates at least 50.00 will receive a signed set of my PATIENCE TRILOGY! (See http://bethfehlbaumbooks.info/the-patience-trilogy/ for more info on those.) Your contribution will make an impact for Building Better Kids, whether you donate $5 or $500. Every little bit helps. Thank you for your support. Here’s where to donate: https://www.facebook.com/donate/229764884721557/10157762139163190/ Thanks!
I went to a rheumatologist today in hopes of getting answers to a year’s worth of mysteries (see yesterday’s blog…) and I got some encouraging news (for now, at least… I hope it’s permanent good news, or at least as permanent as good news is)–namely, he believes I have osteoarthritis rather than rheumatoid, and he’s not as on-board with the theoretical propositions that I have any serious stuff going on like myositis (which causes muscles to deteriorate/weaken). But the reason I am dropping in to add a blog post is that this doctor was amazed that I have lost a hundred pounds (imagine how he’d have responded if I told him it was the SECOND time I’ve done it , ha ha ha,) although I’m positive I’ve lost those same pounds hundreds of times in my life), and he was also blown away by the attitude I have, which is, “I’m strong because I’ve worked so hard to be strong, and nothing is going to get in the way of me continuing to be strong.” He told me somebody should tell my story [me WHISPERING to you: I didn’t tell him my first 4 books are, in many ways, my story, and that my 5th book contains the most directly personal stuff since it’s non-fiction.] He said, “You’ll be able to handle whatever is going on with you; I can tell. So–what makes you such a determined person?” I said, “I rebuilt my life after it fell apart. I have worked incredibly hard to have the life I have today. I had a very traumatic childhood, and I had a mental breakdown when I was 38 and went through years of intensive therapy to become the person I am now. Being strong and feeling strong is very important to me. I don’t let things get in my way.” I thanked him for giving me HOPE and told him I am incredibly ENCOURAGED. He did say I have more osteoarthritis in my hands than most people my age, but that he does not see evidence of the sorts of conditions I’ve been told I probably have. Then he shook my hand and told me someone would come get me soon to schedule an appointment in 6 weeks–he wants to see me after the muscle biopsy results are in, and to see if the steroid he’s giving me for a few weeks to make what he called “the achies” to go away, works. So I was on Cloud Nine, and I went into another room to wait, then somebody came & got me. I said, “Are you the scheduler?” This lady said, “No, I’m supposed to take blood.” I thought, “Wha—?” Then asked her what she’s testing for, and I was told a laundry list of conditions including autoimmune disease, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, etc… in other words, all these things I was just told I probably don’t have. I was like this. So, to quote my husband, it’s more “Hurry up and wait.” Guess we’ll see…
I should be writing. My novel, that is. For the past, oh, two years (I’m positive I’m shaving off at least 12 months there), I’ve been writing the hardest novel of my life. With the help of Kate Brauning, founder of Breakthrough Writers Boot Camp, I found direction. With the growth of the protagonist, Kylie Briscoe, I found the story. And I should be writing it. Right now. But I need to write this first–I’ve put it off for far too long–so I cleared out the cobwebs on this long-neglected website [READ: I had to unsuccessfully attempt to remember my log in info then go through a couple days attempting to reset it.]. I’m embarrassed that one of the most recent posts was some New Year’s Resolution for 2019 that had as its goal to finish my work-in-progress and find a new agent. Alas, this post burning to get out of my brain is oozing with navel-gazing. It’s gonna be a bit of a long navel-gaze, too. Pack a lunch.
There’s a lot of my life in my first four books, The Patience Trilogy (Courage, Hope, and Truth)–which chronicled a teen girl’s journey to begin to recover from Childhood Sexual Abuse, and in Big Fat Disaster, in which the protagonist is the “fat girl” in an image-obsessed family. Being as “real” as possible in my writing and in my day-to-day life is how I connect with my readers (and family and friends and students.) I live my life out loud because I have learned that being human and fallible with others is a way of losing shame. Drag it into the sunlight and share the communion of being human and fallible. I believe that by acknowledging our struggles instead of existing in isolation, we are more able to see others as equal travelers on an arduous journey, so let’s tackle the trip together. Writing The Patience Trilogy and Big Fat Disaster led me to advocate strongly for others who experienced the same sort of trauma that lead my protagonists to destructive ways of coping–and I encourage people to seek professional help for what hurts. There is hope for recovery. Always. It’s that same advocacy for recovery that led me to team with my former therapist, Dr. Matt E. Jaremko, to write Trauma Recovery: Sessions With Dr. Matt, again offering hope for recovery and practical steps to pursuing it while telling, if I do say so myself, compelling fictional backstories of traumatized people seeking relief while modeling application of the easy-to-understand concepts within the pages.
Anyone who reads my books and gets to know me eventually becomes aware that I rebuilt my life beginning in the early 2000s after decades of hanging on by a thread. My mind pretty much melted (nah, let’s be real: IT DID. IT MELTED, OOZED, SLURPED, BUBBLED, AND SLID AROUND FOR A WHILE. The years 2004-2008 are largely a blur; unfortunately for my children, those were formative years for them. Fortunately, their father, my husband is UH-MAZ-ING and any time anyone complements how fantastic my children are, I give their daddy all the credit. Fortunately, too, much of what they got into as far as trouble in those years is beyond my ability to remember it, AND also, when they tell me stuff that happened between 2004-2008, I’m usually hearing it as if for the first time, even though I was in fact THERE. ) I had a breakdown after decades of existing in a family-of-origin where I was only welcome as long as I was willing to pretend a lot of horrible shit did not, in fact, happen, and once I reached my saturation point and dared speak the truth, I–as well as my husband and daughters, were O-U-T out. It took a lot of time, blood, sweat, tears, money, determination, resilience, perseverance, other synonyms that mean “perseverance”, our pulling together as a family of five like YOU WOULD NOT EVEN BELIEVE, the steadfast presence and patience of Dr. Matt Jaremko, and mothah-effing-hard work to reach the point I’m at today, which is probably about as normal I’m gonna get [READ: not quite all the way but well-done enough that I can pass as “normal,” at least as “normal” as all the other quirky introverted East Texas bleeding heart liberals (the preceding descriptors, “East Texas” and “bleeding heart liberals” go together about as well as oil and water) who talk to her animals like they’re people and feed the neighborhood raccoons. Don’t look at me too funny, though; my husband bought the raccoons a wading pool. He’ll tell ya he did it for me, but do you really buy that?]
Took some fits and stops and starting over but as of today I am, at the ripe age of 53, in what I’ve thought of as “the best shape of my life”, which means in pretty good shape (I think…er I thought), and at a healthy weight (being able to write the preceding two words involved a lot of those fits and stops and starts, seeing as how Colby Denton, the protag of Big Fat Disaster, and I share Binge Eating Disorder,) but I’ve worked hard for the life I’ve carved out which includes rising at 3:15 A.M. Monday through Friday so that I can get my morning chores done–feeding animals mostly–yes, including those damned raccoons who are not above beating on my front door if I don’t get out there quick enough. You think I’m lying, but I’m not. I feed myself too and try to start working out by 4:30 A.M.–45 minutes on an elliptical–that’s my time to roll stuff over in my head and think about my day to come while listening to a podcast or audiobook OR while watching some true-crime TV show OR catching up on Colbert, etc. Then I hop on the recumbent bike and that’s my “write the book”-time and I do that until about 6:00 A.M., then I shower and leave by 7 to educate adolescents who fully recognize my weirdoness and seem to like it; at least most of ’em do, and those that don’t? Well, I generally wear them down to at least a smirk by Spring Break. I did have a girl tell me to my face that she hates my class and I told her that’s okay, ’cause some days I don’t like those people, either. I believe it’s a trueism for humanity–pause to remind you and myself remember how I’m all “into” being human and fallible and all that–that anytime one thinks one has it all or even semi-together, that’s time for life to throw a curve ball.
December of 2018, I had some blood work that came back weird: my liver enzymes were high. Throughout 2019, the enzymes continued to rise, and I had every blood test you can imagine, gall bladder sonogram, liver scan, a liver biopsy, all arriving at the same conclusion: there’s nothing wrong with my liver enzymes. I considered replacing my job description on my tax form–“teacher”–with “lab rat”–because I feel as if I have been the subject of trial and error for the past 12 months. Anyway, the only other organ that produces the weirdo enzyme levels is the muscular system. I had a muscle biopsy on December 5 and I’m still waiting for the results, but at this point the strong suspicion is an autoimmune disease such as myositis, which causes muscle deterioration, and I’ve also developed symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, leading my primary care doc to suspect connective tissue disease. I see a rheumatologist tomorrow, hopefully to get some answers that will inspire hope.
I value being healthy and strong and the person I fought so hard to become–and yet even though I can look in the mirror and see muscles where none were defined before, I am dealing with fatigue and other symptoms of stuff beyond my control and that is painful to me. Yeah, the other stuff like the hands being a mess and the biopsy site being a mess and the leg and the knees and elbows and blah blah blah I’m boring myself–that’s painful too. But what’s most painful is the “what if”-part.
I’m exhausted from the uncertainty, the lack of surety–and other synonyms for WTF (NOTE: the results for that synonym query led me to this)–the lack of answers and I’m worn down and tired from those same conditions in our country. I value truth. I value authenticity. I value care for others and myself. At this point, we are at the mercy of a person who assassinated the leader of another country’s government and his lack of consideration for the long-term effects is stunning. Jaw-droppingly STUNNING. To coin a phrase my friend used long ago to describe one of his passions, “Politics is my favorite spectator sport.” Anyone who peruses my Facebook timeline would conclude that it’s mine, too, although mine is not so much politics in general as it is making an attempt to inform others of what the truth is in a country currently (but please, God, PLEASE NOT FOR MUCH LONGER) helmed by a pathological liar and overall Worst Person. I despise Donald Trump. I abhor his enablers. I remain in a fairly constant state of awe (not the good kind, either) of those otherwise apparently intelligent people who support him, and when he was elected, I wept. When I woke in the middle of the night to the news that Trump was elected, my only living blood relative outside of my children–the only person I have left from my family of origin– texted me to tell me how great this would be–to just give the man a chance–and I responded with my frank assessment that has borne out to a degree that is stunningly awful.
Two days after the election in 2016, I was in South Texas to do a series of school visits in conjunction with a book festival, and I stood in my hotel bathroom attempting to get ready for the first visit but could not do so because I was sobbing into the phone to my husband. My heart was shattered–broken into shards, y’all–that people I am related to–the aforementioned one blood relative I have left–as well as members of my husband’s family–people whom I love and trust– would actually vote for a man who admittedly sexually assaults women. I did not understand, and still do not understand, how people who witnessed what I experienced to recover from being sexually assaulted as a child could, in any way, allow themselves to vote for a person who put others through the same hell I’d endured. Who were these people? Who are they? I am still uncertain, and fear that they will vote for him again in 2020 keeps me from asking where they stand now. I don’t want to know. I won’t be able to continue to interact with them if their answer remains “I support him.”
I work with people that I know support the Orange Anus Howler Monkey in the Oval Office; I teach students who wear Trump 2020 gear (I don’t acknowledge it; I may be a quirky weirdo, but I’m not a stupid quirky weirdo); I live in an area so Red that Democrats do not even run for office. (Don’t ask me to do it, either. I won’t even phone bank or door-knock because even though I’m GREAT on paper/a computer screen, and I even have one of the scariest jobs (to some people anyway–but not to me–that is, standing in front of adolescents and talking to them about stuff they are not interested in a lot of the time–which is why ya gotta use Jazz Hands, y’all!–I have social anxiety that is palpable enough that I know I am NOT your public office-type person)– and I am at a loss as to what to do to make a difference other than continually sharing FACTUAL reports, TRUTH, about what Trump is doing and how we can fight it. I give to candidates I support. I do behind-the-scenes stuff like writing letters/helping register voters in underrepresented areas. I write and call my Congressional rep & senators (Gooden, Cornyn, & Cruz: like they pay one whit of attention to anything I say or do).
And I’m coming to realize that I have to change course, find another way to cope– and I have to do that with the new reality I’m facing with respect to what I’ve come to think of as my “normal”–the physical self I’ve worked hard to gain, and what I am facing with the onset of condition(s) I did not ask for and it doesn’t look like there’s a whole lot positive to do about them but I’m gonna try my hardest and keep doing what I can to the best of my ability, damn the torpedoes– and I don’t know what to do with respect to our country except apply the same approach, albeit with less useless stuff like sharing news stories and more STUFF THAT MAKES A REAL DIFFERENCE.
To that end, I just completed John Pavlovitz’s Hope and Other Superpowers, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to you, too, whether you are dealing with health uncertainty or world uncertainty. It’s really uplifting and has concrete steps one can follow. And it’s got some fabulous quotes in it, too, one of my favorite being that John Pavlovitz would rather have explosive diarrhea or sit in a fire ant pile than have Trump in office (high five, John. Moi aussi.) And he also quoted Viktor Frankel, which is what I will leave you with: Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.