Wednesday to-do list

1. Stare at our very, very, very long, snow-covered driveway. (We had another 10 inches last night.)
2. Mourn the death of our 26-year-old plow truck. Watch my husband, the mechanical genius who resurrected the old plow truck, de-snow the driveway.
3. Drink tea.
4. Revise – add new scenes to Act 3. (All day activity.)
5. Listen to BH on the phone looking for someone to plow us out. Make fresh coffee for a cold and hard-working husband.
6. Check on Mom and Dad.
7. Revise – make a few changes to earlier scenes based on yesterday’s conversation with the deputy sheriff.
8. More tea!
9. Look at email.
10. Continue pretending email does not exist in order to maintain focus on revisions.
11. Tea… with food, this time.
12. Watch Creature With Fangs frolic in snow.
13. Avoid wet paws.
14. Revise – more new scenes in Act 3…. make sure his emotions are unfolding in the right order.
15. Quick dinner.
16. If we’re plowed out, head to downtown Syracuse to listen to Suzan-Lori Parks speak. (I’ve never seen her plays, but I loved Getting Mother’s Body.)
17. Go to sleep.

Secret burning CATALYST question

Wow! Thank you everybody who took the time to write the thoughtful comments to yesterday’s post! I really enjoyed reading them.

A question in yesterday’s mailbag is somewhat tied in to this discussion. Kim writes: i am 17 and just recently read lauries book catalyst in my english class. AFter reading this book a few classmates and myself were having a debate. i think that mikey is not terris kid but they believe that he is, i would love it if you could write me back and let me know.

I do not have a copy of CATALYST handy, so I can’t give out the exact page number (I really do need to finish unpacking the boxes of books). But yes, Mikey is definitely Teri’s son. After the Really Awful Thing happens (I don’t want to give that away for those who have not yet read the book), Teri calls him her son. Later, Kate talks to her father who says he suspects that the Mikey was the product of an assault on Teri by her own father, a criminal disgusting pig of a man who died in jail.

I chose not to make a huge deal out of these points because this is not a book about Teri. It’s a book about Kate. Teri is the catalyst who helps Kate see the changes she need to make in her life. Kate – a high achieving academically-driven kid – develops empathy for Teri, who comes from a very challenging background, and finds out there is more to life than SAT scores.

How does this tie in to yesterday’s discussion? Directly. If you scroll down the yesterday’s comments to a heartfelt post by bananared17 you will see the reason I wrote CATALYST. I firmly believe in the need for high schools to help teens learn as much as they possibly can to prepare them for what lies ahead. But our culture (yes, a generalization, I know) has deluded itself into believing that the only road to success leads through a top tier college, preferably Ivy League. Now don’t get me wrong, top tier colleges are very nice, but not everyone can or should strive for them.

I think we need to redefine what the point of high school is. Is it to get kids into college? If so, it is almost working. 66% of high school graduates go to college now. Is it to prepare kids to succeed in college? Then we are failing miserably because the national college drop-out rate is 50%. And if we tell teens that “success=college degree” then what does that mean for those people who don’t have one?

I think success means being a kind, moral, hard-working person who in a small way, leaves the world a better place. For some people, that will require a college degree. For others, it won’t. Your journey is to find out how to live your life by your own code, in a way that will bring you joy and satisfaction. You do NOT need to know what you’re going to do with your life when you are 18 years old. Hardly anybody does. Be nice, be healthy, try a bunch of different things and you’ll figure it out.

OK, long post and way too much philosophy on only one cup of coffee. It is snowing again (yay!) and I have to go make up new scenes for my revised WIP.

added later WAIT! WAIT! Read this marvelous poem that reflects on all this stuff we’ve been talking about! (It is the poem by Thomas Lux selected for December 6.)

Can teens be compassionate readers? Compassionate people?

The weekend was mostly filled with revisions (two-thirds complete, I think, go me!), but we snuck in a church chicken and biscuit dinner at the fire hall and some dancing on Saturday night. All work and no play makes Laurie a cranky author. (See CATALYST for a great description of a church chicken and biscuit dinner. It is practically a sacrament for Methodists.) We wound up with a little more than 18 inches of snow. I am dying to put on my snow shoes, but those revisions are nagging, so here I sit.

Someone tipped me off to a fascinating discussion of PROM written by librarian Rachael Vilmar, whose blog, Your Fairy Bookmother, is a stitch. (Be sure to read her other reviews!)

She liked the book, but had concerns about the reading audience. In her blog, she discusses her fears that some book-loving teens might be judgmental about a character like Ashley Hannigan. She’s afraid they might not be able to find enough empathy to connect with a character whose life experience is so different from their own.

Then she brings up a larger, darker point… in a culture that prizes educational and economic success above all else, are we raising a generation that rejects people less fortunate or accomplished than themselves? Rachael puts it very well: “Are we promoting achievement at the expense of compassion?”

(The issue of achievement vs. compassion is a major theme in CATALYST, btw.)

I have heard this concern from a couple other librarians who have gave PROM to (privileged) teens and had the teen come back with a snotty attitude saying that she doesn’t like reading about “people like that” (aka working class). Many, many more kids loved the book, but the librarians were stunned at those few with the crappy attitude.

What do you think about this?

Room with a view

I write in the loft of our house. It is a timber frame house which means lots of wood, plus amazing stone fireplaces. We are still doing some work up here, so I’m not ready to show you my whole office. But the view out my view is particularly beautiful today, because it is snowing. We had ten inches on Thanksgiving, but that all melted and I was bummed. Today we’re enjoying lake effect snow, with occasionally thunder claps, so we get to call it thundersnow. I adore it. I’ll be spending all weekend up here revising, drinking tea, and watching the snow pile up.

Image hosted by This is what my world looks like today. Beyond the white blowing snow is a grove of maple trees.

A nightmare that will not turn into a book

So I’m having recurring nightmares again. No, it’s not a crying girl, or tornadoes, or insane dentists removing my teeth with small, silver hammers. Those are my old nightmares. This week I keep having bad dreams about speaking at schools. The school visit nightmare. ::shudders:: Oh, the humanity. The setting and people are always different but two elements are common – the room in which I am speaking has impossibly bad acoustics (frequently a cafeteria) and in the middle of my presentation, the audience and I have to stand up and change locations. In the dream I am frantic and frustrated because I am running out of time and I can’t finish my presentation and the organizers are disappointed because they had heard such good things about me as a speaker and they are less than impressed. (The students are always nice.) I wake up in a cold sweat.

BH suggests my subconscious is telling me to speak at fewer schools. He has a point.

Today is World AIDS Day. If you are a sexually active person who is not in a monogamous, long-term (and by that I mean years long-term) be smart and make an appointment to get tested for HIV today. This year alone, AIDS has killed more than 3 million people. In America, right now there are almost one million people infect with HIV. Half of all the new cases of HIV infection in America happen to people under 25 years of age. I’m begging here, folks – learn about this disease and protect yourself because I do not want you to die.

Looking for a cool thing to do? Grab a couple of your closest friends and get tested together. If you’re sexually active, testing should be a regular thing for you.

I am HIV-free and have been monogamous for years, so I won’t be getting an HIV test today. However, I am going to a doctor who is checking me out for skin cancer lesions. Maybe we should just call this Body Maintenance Day. Do something nice for your body!