Sunday, August 15, 2010

Writing About Life

My friends tease me because I write middle-grade and young adult books about sad or challenging-type subjects.

The truth is, I'm a social worker and thus interested in others' lives, especially when they're different from (or in some ways the same) as mine.

I've written several children's books over the last several years that will never be published. They're not good enough or there isn't a big enough "market" for them or their time has passed, as in the case of my Holocaust YA set in a Polish orphanage. Editors want Jewish memoirs more than Holocaust fiction, so for now this ms is on the shelf.

My first published book, BENNI and VICTORIA for kids 8-12 was a time travel set in a kids' institution in Maine both in modern times and when that same place was a private girls' school a century earlier. Benni was a poor Puerto Rican kid, age 10 whose Mom, a drug addict, had abandoned him. Victoria was 7 and from a wealthy family in the 1800's. Neither one knew where their mother was because Victoria died of diphtheria before she found out what had happened to her mom and Benni's mom disappeared. Nonetheless, they became friends and helped each other.

My second book, also a middle-grade novel, was HYPER HARRY, about a nine-year-old boy with ADHD who made his older brother, Ted's life pretty bad sometimes. Eventually, once Ted's parents realized how seriously Harry's problem affected the whole family,things got better.

My latest ms., SHELTER, is for kids 12-up.It's set in a domestic violence shelter where the Castillo family--Mom,Miguel (14) and Ellie (16) end up after Mr. Castillo's treatment of everyone, including their dog, becomes intolerable. Shortly after they arrive at a domestic violence shelter, Ellie's boyfriend gets controlling and abusive and they have to deal with him as well as court,new school for the kids, new job for Mom, and finding an apartment. Achieving all this and coming out stronger is something I see on a regular basis at the DV shelter where I volunteer. The courage of these women and their kids gives me hope and is why the book ended on a hopeful note.

Not one of the stories or plots in my books is factual. They're fiction--a compilation of multiple families, individuals and relationships in various jobs, and plenty of research. Yet these people and their struggles have made a huge impression on me. They've made me think, forced me to struggle to understand and inspired me to look for ways to help them find their own solutions.

Writing about them helps ME. It helps me put things in perspective, shows me how people in trouble must determine the outcome of their own stories, and gives me hope when the characters in my novels do just that.

We all have some way to deal with our own struggles and experiences. Writing is mine. What is yours?

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