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Monday, October 22, 2007

Cries for help...

Cries For Help…

There's been a frenzy of school violence in the past few weeks. Bomb threats, weapons in middle schools, open threats written on school sidewalks. Yet aside from Virginia Tech coverage, while scouring national papers, the most recent prominent article in Time magazine was this heart-wrenching, though six-year old, article. The Boston Globe and USA Today are equally as old…

Boston Globe:
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2007/01/04/a_new_chance_to_stop_teen_violence/

Time:
http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,999473,00.html

USAToday:
http://www.usaweekend.com/00_issues/000416/000416teen.html

Why is it that something that is almost epidemic only gets media attention when there's blood spilled? They give these "threats" minimal attention, sending what message to troubled teens? The Virginia Tech shooting was covered on TV for over 30 hours…so the message is loud and clear, and the teacher in me cringes to know that they get a heck of a lot more than their "15 minutes" these days.
I'm a fan of the media, obviously as an author, I can't live without them. But by and large, it's a reactive industry. Yet with the power to reach millions, imagine what the media could do if they targeted a cause a month… The high-powered papers could combine forces and have outreach facilities join force. They could have hotlines, prevention tips, and information for parents on how to recognize the signs and possibly help kids who might become our next newspaper headline. Just imagine…
We could choose different topics every month: Drugs, gangs, gun-control. With the media's help, this could become an Oprah-sized solution to problems that are very likely going to be the undoing of our nation. It's hard to imagine that Corporate America wants kids to kill other kids, but with their vast resources, you have to wonder why no one sees the epidemic or has thought it's time to do something about it. Haven't we done the same thing with gangs and drugs? Now they're so commonplace, we don't even know where to start to diffuse these issues.
Teachers know the problem is too real, kids have known it for decades…it's time for the rest of the country to step to the plate and take a swing at one of the scariest trends in our nation's history. It isn't just about bullies anymore, because as much as we know about cliques, those who tease aren't just generating tears anymore. They're stirring hate in with a society filled with guns, anger, and a vast internet of people frothing at the mouth for violence. It took eight years for Columbine's numbers to be eclipsed by the Virginia Tech tragedy. Do you really think it will be eight years before another one tops the list?
There's an act of school violence every 2.3 seconds in this country… While you read this article, at least 10 schools fell victim to a gun brought to school, someone assaulting a classmate, or God forbid, severe injury or death. If that doesn't get the media's attention, I shudder to think what's coming next.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

D.C. -- One Rung Higher

When I became an author – a split second after signing my first book contract – I had visions of the New York Times Bestseller List, mile-long lines at my book releases, and Capote-like reverence from everyone around me. Instead, I learned the trek is long and climbing each rung that ultimately leads to the NY Bestseller List is a slow process. Those lines take years to form.

I saw it firsthand Saturday… I was an author invited to the National Book Festival in Washington D.C. I watched people walk around like Ken Burns, Joyce Carol Oates, David Baldacci, and the one I waited in line to meet: Jodi Picoult. Regular people who’ve topped that bestseller list, normal folks who put pen to paper and likewise leapt into that “famous” category. What I learned is that they’re just like me…hard-working authors appreciating their fans. Jodi Picoult couldn’t have been kinder. With literally hundreds of people in line, she smiled for pictures, signed multiple books, and seemed to know what every author should remember: without readers, authors end up with day jobs and old copies of their books gathering dust in warehouses.

Encountering 200,000 readers, fans, autograph-seekers – it puts the craft in perspective. I got my first hand cramp from signing my name so many times, it became illegible. What a feat to accomplish! It gives me new fuel for my speaking engagements, new topics I will now be able to cover. Fans of my YA book can get a glimpse of Dregs on a new teens site now, which is pretty cool.

The other aspect to visiting D.C. for the first time encompassed visits to the awe-inspiring Lincoln Memorial, the White House, and the most memorable for me: The Vietnam Memorial. With a perpetual lump in my throat, I absorbed our history, our reverence for those who serve our country, and it humbled me. I may write books, but there are people out there inspiring books to be written. The quote that “freedom isn’t free” has new meaning for me now. For every veteran or anyone currently serving our nation’s military, I salute you, and I thank you for the privilege to do so.

Perhaps there’s in book in me about that, waiting to be told.