Monday, April 26, 2010

All Light Beneath Ferns Stuff

When I wrote Light Beneath Ferns, I didn't really think in terms of genre. I just wrote a story about a girl who was a loner and wanted to stay that way because she was going to move in a new direction. A strange direction, but a new one. When it came out, I got emails from people telling me it wasn't romantic enough for a paranormal romance. Or it wasn't scary enough. Most of these people were within ten years of my age, which puts them way, way out of the age range for this novel which is about 14.

But of course some folks got it. I got emails from young teens who read parts of this at sleepovers and were creeped out. That was pretty much the idea. Then there were a few adults who loved it and wrote to me. One of these adults is Donna, who wrote probably my favorite review so far of this story.

Now, onto teens. As you know, they infest my house, leave shoes everywhere, carefully place empty milk cartons in the fridge and hog the computers. They are forgiven however as they took pity on me as I tried to make a simple book trailer.
Listening to me complain, they came over to the computer and put together this book trailer which I think is amazing. It's not a polished, marching band kind of trailer, but what's cool about it is that it is made by teens-

I have to especially thank Tiffany J. for her patience - not with the trailer, but with me and my technical blankness. She is responsible for the effects, and essentially the trailer as I had given up, Emma picked out the music which I think is perfect, Philip did a cameo, and Christopher explained to me that not everyone is meant to be technically competent. At least Christopher was patient enough to get me started. I think they did a great job! If you want to see more book trailers, you can watch and vote on your fav here.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Girl Bullying

One thing I remember from the fifth and sixth grades was my closet. I kept all my "old" stuffed animals in the back, along with my Barbies and crayons. That way, if anyone stopped by, they would only see my perfume and lip glosses - all the stuff that everyone in my middle school owned. But I still locked the door and dragged out the crayons and Barbies when the coast was clear.

I distinctly remember why: I did not want to become Carol. Carol was the girl who openly talked about breast development, brought her ballerina sweatshirt on the field trip, and refused to wear a bra even on Tuesday, assembly day, when we had to wear white blouses. That meant we could easily inventory the girls who wore bras and those who didn't because the straps were visible.

Tween girl world is a treacherous place, with so many rules to follow that it seemed like a new world. Well, it was a new world, and one that I navigated only when I had to. I was glad we lived right by the beach, away from the housing developments where all my "friends" lived. I could still read on Saturdays, walk on the beach and revisit Barbie and her stewardess suit. I didn't have to worry about bras or pretending to like boys.

Carol was bullied. But not in the way boys were bullied: they punched each other in the nose, they shoved and hit. They were sent to the dean and suspended.

We were much more covert. We did something called relational bullying, or social bullying. We isolated Carol. She didn't attend sleepovers or get notes passed to her or go to the mall. When we had to work in groups, we moved our chairs tightly because no one wanted the teacher to say, "Let's see who has room for Carol." No one had room for Carol. No one spoke to her. Eventually, the teacher had her work with boys because we didn't pass the paper to her. I'm not sure how she survived sixth grade.

There is a tremendous amount of attention paid to bullying these days. PTA's are giving workshops on bullying, Dr. Phil is talking about it, and kids are dying, literally, as a result of bullying. There is the Internet now, and myspace which has replaced our passing of notes and "slam books" - stapled together looseleaf in which we wrote anonymous comments about each other. I never wrote in one. I used to move my pen across the top of the page and close it (while everyone watched) Then I passed it on to the next girl. I was terrified of that book, way too terrified to ever actually write in it.

I'm not sure if this type of girl bullying is recognized. It's not as obvious or direct as posting pictures or writing comments in cyberspace. The girl behind most of the bullying of Carol was popular and bright, a highly unlikely suspect. Researchers say that is the way it usually is. The social bullying increases that girl's social status while robbing the victim of any social status.

I used to wonder if the teachers knew what was going on; they seemed oblivious. Placing Carol with the boy group was pretty much the social death knell for Carol.

The problem with this kind of bullying is its subtle nature. It's might be difficult for adults to detect, but it's widespread: most women I talk to either remember or were the class Carol.

I've read about Carols in YA, but these protagonists were isolated in more of a Carrie situation: one of their parents was really, really odd or they did something highly unusual that weirded their classmates out. I don't see much attention being paid to this less visible kind of bullying, and I wonder if that's because you need to be in it, or have gone through it, to recognize it.

Last week, Emma cleaned her closet out (my kids clean their rooms when they are not under direct threat as often as Haley's Comet blazes past) because "Sandy" had worn one of the hoodies that Emma has. She had to go through all her clothes to make sure nothing she had was like "Sandy's" because, you know...she explained. I nodded. Sandy is the class Carol. I asked her what the teachers did to help Sandy. Emma looked at me, "Help her? They don't even know."

So little has changed.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Family Vacations

We took a family vacation over Easter break, and family vacations are important because it gives us an opportunity to argue as a family and not in smaller groups of two or three.

And I love my kids' sense of roughing it: you had to walk outside the door of the hotel room to access the microwave. They had a suite with a fridge for their drinks and ice cream, but that microwave...

Emma informed me that there are hotels that leave a chocolate on your pillow after they make your bed. At our hotel, housekeeping actually forgot to make up the room. Poor Emma.

Here are some pix from our trip, beginning with the patron saint of Philly:

That's actually at the entrance of the Franklin Institute (not far from the Franklin Parkway, and that's over the Franklin Bridge -- you start getting the idea as soon as you drive in)I liked this one, also from the Franklin Institute:

and an early aviation engine in a room that Christopher really enjoyed:

The city skyline of Philly looks like anywhere else to me:

But I think my fav is this one of Philip (yes, who else?) on the sky bike, an actual bike you can ride up near the ceiling of the Franklin Institute. He may be over six feet and 16 now, but he's still a kid:

We ended up at the Camden waterfront, at Emma's fav place in the world: an aquarium. She took a picture of this lovely pair:

I think they learn a lot more than they realize on these trips.

At one point, after walking most of the day and using the hotel pool (it was indoor and heated, just wonderful), my kids were, for once, as tired as I was at the end of the day. While the other families were playing friendly games of Scrabble and Boggle, we were lying (all five of us) on the king size bed arguing about points made in a documentary on the Shroud of Turin. Things got quiet until one of the narrators announced that the Resurrection was "the greatest paranormal event of all time" - that was an interesting argument.

Everyone is kind of staying to themselves after getting back. Pretty soon, we will have recovered from all that togetherness.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Happy Birthday, Philip!

Remember turning 16? Philip did on March 19, but we only had a small family party for him on that day. We celebrated last weekend; it's amazing how different he looks now than he did even last year.

No more little boy.

I remember people coming up to me around Christmas time (my bd is in February) and saying, "Amazing that you are going to be 16 on your next bd. It's unreal." I never got what was so special about turning 16 until I had my own kids. It really does seem like a transition. Plus, in NJ you can drive.

Anyway, here are some pictures from what we've been up to, beginning with a family basketball game:

and a quick bd moment with Philip:

I think I changed how I thought the year I turned 16 simply by virtue of telling people, "I'm 16." It sounded so much more official (I actually remember using that word when talking to my girlfriend back then) than 15. 15 just sounds so much younger. Or at least we thought it did.

Did you change when you were 16? What do you remember about it the most?