Back at it

Chris Crutcher was wonderful last night, so inspiring when talking about his commitment to writing realistic stories of courage for teens, funny, and passionate about our freedom of expression. I took pictures, but the Internet and computer problems continue here at the Forest, so I can’t post them yet.

Chris also read from DEADLINE, which sounds like a book I should go buy in hardback today. Watch Crutcher reading from his new book, courtesy of .

Am happy to report I got a clean bill of health from the doc. Some of you know this, but for those who don’t here’s the story. In the summer of 2002, I was diagnosed with two spots of malignant melanoma, the often fatal form of skin cancer. Thankfully, it was caught early. The docs cut away the offending spots and left me with a couple of long scars that cry out to be decorated with tattoos.

I have since had a dozen other lesions removed – none of them were cancerous. I avoid the sun like a vampire. That’s why I am so pale. I am proudly, purposely pale. I was never a sun worshiper, other than summer afternoons by Green Lakes as a teenager. I did have a couple of horrific sunburns as a kid. After 18, I pretty much stopped laying out for a tan. But I developed cancer.

Yes, my ancestors came from Ireland and England, but anybody can get melanoma. African-Americans die from melanoma. It killed Bob Marley. Just because your family came from Italy or China, or Nigeria does not mean you are safe. Now that summer is over, this is the perfect time to check your body for spots. Skin cancer is highly curable if caught early, so go look in the mirror.

Two questions: why is Jan Brett having her Syracuse signing in a Wegman’s? We have wonderful bookstores here, what are they – chopped liver?

And what do you think of depressing reading lists?

Back to writing…..

18 Replies to “Back at it”

  1. Thank you for spreading the word about melanoma. This summer my oldest daughter had to have two very tiny ones removed and she is only 33. It was a big shock. She is a redhead and didn’t even try to tan, besides that one of them was in a place that she never exposed to the sun.

    I urge everyone to check themselves thoroughly and go to the doctor if you have any questions.

  2. I just started DEADLINE yesterday at work and I am LOVING it so far–everything you’d want in one of his books, and yet somehow, quite unfairly, he’s become an even better writer. Had to tear myself away from it. I’ve been loving the voice of the narrator.

  3. Maybe by signing in Wegmans she’ll sell more? Except I probably wouldn’t to stop and listen to someone if I was buying groceries. Or buy a book at Wegmans in the first place. Is it just me, or is buying books at bookstores a hundred times more fun than off the internet or in grocery checkout lines?

  4. Glad you’ve gotten a clean bill of health, and thank you for sharing yoru story. I will definitely pay more attention, knowing that information.

    As to the depressing reading lists… I felt that way through a lot of middle school. By the time we read Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, I was so tired of feeling depressed and guilty that I hated the book.

    I re-read it two years ago and adored it. I needed that distance, and the education that came in the intervening years, to really appreciate it.

    I don’t think kids in middle school need to be given depressing books all the time. Those years are hard enough without being mentally assaulted by your required reading. I know my list was very heavy on the depressing side, but there were some books that I enjoyed.

    I do wonder why those kinds of the stories are the only ones chosen to share with students, why stories about hero’s journeys and hope appear less often than stories with large cringe-factors. (Not to sound like a total suck-up here, but that’s what I love about your books- they deal with tough issues in ways that inspire hope and healing and growing. They don’t just leave you in the middle of an awful situation with no ‘solution’ in sight.)

  5. Re: Depressing Reading Lists
    I once had to sit and listen to a (crazy) classmate rant at length about depressing reads in a children’s literature class. Classmate claimed that when her son was in middle school his class covered a unit on the holocaust. As part of this unit he had to read literature associated with the time frame. Classmate then claimed that because of the holocaust lit her son had to read that now as a 21-year-old he disliked reading. When she was done with her rant the entire class looked at her like she had three heads.

    In defense of depressing reading lists, when I worked at the public library one of the biggest circulating items among the middle school crowd was A Child Called It.

  6. Congratulations on your clean bill of health!

    “A town holds a lottery. At first it seems like an innocent exercise, but the author slowly reveals that the winner of the lottery will be sacrificed.”

    I remember reading that one in school. I actually liked it a lot, precisely because it disturbed me. Of course, I read and write depressing fiction of my own will. I noticed a few people complain about this type of thing in my school, but usually they only complained about one specific book (The Grapes of Wrath was pretty unpopular for that reason). I don’t think it’s as big of a problem as the author makes it out to be, or at least it wasn’t in my experience. Sadly, the majority of the students didn’t bother to do the required reading, so they had no reason to complain about the mood of the books. By the time teachers started offering this type of reading material (some of it was in elementary school in my honors classes, but it started in late middle school or high school for everyone else), anyone who was going to be turned off of reading already had been and the rest of us slogged through whatever we were assigned. This might have more to say about the culture of my school than the topic of depressing books, though.

  7. I think anybody who lumps The Lottery in with Day of Tears as “depressing,” or who suggests Housekeeping as lighter fare for teenagers, makes it hard to consider his or her argument seriously.

    In my experience, the books that get passed around my seventh grade with greatest enthusiasm are the ones in which the most preposterously gruesome tragedies follow upon one another most relentlessly. Not every kid likes that stuff, but it’s on the optional reading lists because some do.

    The texts we teach are much less frequently along those lines, and if the essayist is willing to excuse To Kill A Mockingbird for its merits, I wish she’d give us the benefit of the doubt and assume there’s some reason we’ve chosen the other novels she thinks are depressing, even if she hasn’t personally heard of them or bothered to read them, and that it’s worth asking what it is.

  8. The Lottery

    “A town holds a lottery. At first it seems like an innocent exercise, but the author slowly reveals that the winner of the lottery…”

    We actually just read this short story this year, and I thought it was very well written. It’s not depressing, it’s just showing a different type of society, and it’s building up a good suspense. I don’t like that he spoils the ending for you, that’s kind of the point of reading it; to find out what’s happening for yourself. I thought, overall, it was interesting and I didn’t see the ending coming. It may seem depressing to some, but it really is good writing.

  9. And as a follow-up, yesterday I told everybody about Jan Brett in the Wegmans, and we all cringed. First for her, then for her publisher, then for us. I was told at dinner Thursday that Jodi Picoult had some sort of deal with BJs where their cost for the book was 60% off.

    Do authors really want to turn their books and books in general into a commodity like a frozen pizza or a cheap tire? Maybe it boosts for a few people short-term, but I can’t see it having a great long-term effect, for authors or booksellers.

  10. I am so sad that I couldn’t find a ride to see Chris Crutcher. I really need to renew my liscence; it expired almost a year ago. I heard him speak a few years ago; his was one of the better talks of the day.

    Depressing reading lists- The Lottery is favorite short story. My favorite novels include Speak, Catcher in the Rye, and A Separate Peace. And for that matter my favorite films are The Hours and Magnolia. None of them are happy. But (minus The Lottery which I can’t help loving anyway, the irony and foreshadowing are just so fricking brilliant.) they are healing in a way. I find them quite comforting (again minus The Lottery). I think maybe you have to do a little living before you can really appreciate them though. I dunno, I’ve always been old for my age…

    Did you read the News Wednesday? Dubya vetoed the child health bill. I was spitting nails all day. I called both my senators and my congressman. To be honest, I’m still pretty pissed. I can’t believe we still have over a year of this shit to go.

  11. Crutcher reading

    The video of Crutcher reading DEADLINE was from Auntie’s Bookstore here in Spokane on September 17, the day before the book was officially released.

    Sorry for the shaky hand toward the end. It was my first attempt at manning a video camera.


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