Global Autism

Today is one of those controversial days, this month sometimes less than joyful.

April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day and April is dubbed Autism Awareness Month. (Yes, April is also National Poetry and Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but allow me to focus on one for a bit, please.)

There are some in the autism community that despise this month, this day especially, because they don’t agree with some of the organizations that have over-run things with their own agendas and publicity. No matter what some groups have done, this month is still be a great opportunity to share your stories—whether your own or your family’s—and bring to light the joys and frustrations of life on the autism spectrum.

Today, I’m wearing blue, and all month I’m sporting a bit of blue hair and an Autism Awareness ribbon. These visual tokens give me conversation starters to share with others about my own family’s journey, as well as direct people to great advocates on the spectrum like John Elder Robison, Dani Bowman, Erin Clemens, and A.S.P.I.E.

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Over the coming weeks, I’ll share a few more autism-related posts (including literary news you’ll want to stick around to hear.)

As for the other worthy cause, National Sexual Assault Awareness Month, I highly suggest reading Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Several different times she and her publisher helped raise money for RAINN in April. One year I donated to RAINN and Laurie, in return, donated to Autism Society of America. A win-win situation of awesomeness.

Now I’ll branch over to the National Poetry Month. Here’s a haiku I just wrote about some of the feelings one might deal with on the spectrum:

All thoughts are spinning
Mind, body, crowded senses
Breathe, wrap me in weight.

What are you passionate about this month?

Photographic Evidence

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I’ve been playing hooky
Running away from stress
Enjoying the weather
And forgetting my whole mess

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I’ve been playing hooky
And seeking out beauty
That comes this time of year
While running after cuties

I’ve been playing hooky
I have my proof, you see
All that I’ve been doing
Is inspiration for me
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All for Love: A Middle Grade Reader Romance

In celebration of attending my first SCBWI conference this weekend, I’d like to share my love of literature with you. I’ve been reading middle grade novels since I was of age—I never grew out of the genre. Even though I thought I was writing a young adult novel, on the sixth draft I discovered it was actually MG. It makes sense because my absolute FAVORITE novels are all categorized as MG, and more often than not, they are marked with “Ages 10 and up” or “10-14” for the reading level.

There are MG books marketed for eight to twelve year olds. Those novels are typically set in upper elementary school grades and are slightly longer than chapter books (think Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing and How to Eat Fried Worms.) But what I’m focusing on today are those magical coming-of-age novels that have universal themes that related to everyone from tweens to adults.

Well beyond the first three Harry Potter books—which did make it socially acceptable for adults to venture into the children’s section—there is a plethora of life-changing literature to be found in the fiction section for younger readers. These books are deep and rich with truths of life and death.

The following list is my challenge books. I dare friends and family who “don’t read kids books” to read one and no one has been disappointed. Most of these titles are award winners and the majority won the Newbery Medal. Trust that honor—the children’s librarians at ALA know what they’re doing! I’ve divided my list of the TOP TEN MIDDLE GRADE NOVELS into three sub-genres to make it easier to find what might interest you the most.

Historical (pre-1950s):

  • Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (This book captures the emotions of slavery in New England during the American Revolution. It is cross-merchandized in the YA section because of its heavy subject matter, but is listed as ages 10 and up.)    
  • The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi (An awesome sea adventure set in the 1830s.)
  • Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse (A novel in verse about the dust bowl in Oklahoma beginning in 1934.)
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts by Gennifer Choldenko (Haven’t you always wanted to know what it was like to live on Alcatraz? A son of a guardsman in 1935 shares his story.)
  • A Year Down Yonder by Richard Peck (Spend 1937 in the middle of nowhere Illinois with a hillbilly granny. Hilariously funny. You could cheat and listen to the audio—it’s brilliant.)

Science Fiction edge:

  • A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle (Classic. Enough said.)
  • The Giver by Lois Lowry (Futuristic/dystopian—before it was trendy—and deeply moving.)

Contemporary:

  • Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson (My favorite novel of all time.)

  • Holes by Louis Sachar (Amazingly crafted, and supports a historical story within the present-day plot. Double bonus points!)
  • Listen by Stephanie S. Tolan (I just found this one about a year ago. Deceptively quiet, but so very tender. Great for dog lovers.)

Have you read any of these? If not, I dare you to read one!

What would you put on your list of favorite middle grade novels?

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Hope everyone had a magical weekend. Here’s a peek at one of our seasonal adventures.

On a side note, if you put both an orange and a vanilla flavored Tootsie Fruit Roll in your mouth at the same time it tastes like an orange creamsicle.
Autumn on the Gulf Coast came and went and came and… I hope it sticks around this time! The crisp weather of fall (if we’re lucky enough to receive typical seasonal weather) is invigorating. I usually get inspirational writing boosts this time of year but it hasn’t happened yet. So, I’m sitting at my desk with the table top fan blowing on my face, praying for the courage to step forward with my WIP. I haven’t made major progress on Corroded (because of other projects—and laziness) in at least two months. This blog is my jumping point to get back into the swing of things. I need to face the climax of the novel and conquer!
Even growing up in the also sporadic climate of coastal California, inspiration happened this time of year. I believe I began each of my novel length stories in the fall, starting at fifteen years old. The bulk of my poetry was written in autumn, with a generous helping of winter and some spring sprinkled in. Flipping through my poetry notebook I can count on one hand the poems written during the summer months. And speaking of poetry, I haven’t written a cataloged poem since I was pregnant with my oldest in 1998. Question to self: What’s up with that?!
But for now, I’ve got a terrifically awful poem to share. Remember, these poems are two decades old in some cases. Don’t hold it against me! This one happens to be from the autumn I started college, at seventeen years old.
Breath of Life
Days do ever pass Leaves turn golden and fall Attending our last class Is a walk down an endless hall
Sometimes it will seem Like it’s you against the rest But your light will forever beam You know you’re one of the best
So keep in touch With that strong sensation It will give you much Over-powering elation

Soggy Blog

Yawn. It’s close to bedtime but I haven’t written anything more than a few e-mails and a FaceBook status today. The need to put thoughts into words, to feel the letters and spaces flow effortlessly through my finger tips, was too difficult to ignore.
Sometimes I feel the need to write on paper. The mesh of print/cursive—that I was always corrected by the students for using when substituting in elementary school—is therapeutic some days. Especially when using one of my favorite Profile Paper Mate pens. The act of moving the pen over paper is art itself.
But other times, like tonight, I need the soft music of the keyboard—the gentle sound created is just enough to fill the void on a finally quiet night. Seeing the words fill the screen allows me to feel that I’m accomplishing something, even though I cheat and use a size 14 font.
It’s been a long day. From standing in line at the local Wal-Mart Supercenter for 30 minutes because their debit/check/credit card server was down to having to rush to a pediatrician appointment for the princess (no worries, it was her two year check-up) to dealing with the oldest child’s meltdown (and not backing down on the repercussions.) Yes, it’s been a long day!
And why am I blabbing about nothing? I suppose it’s about writing and life, as usual, but there is a deeper meaning behind this blog.
PROCRASTINATION.
Plain and simple. I’m avoiding my W.I.P. because I’ve spent over a month working on a short story. And this past week I’ve added a non-fiction magazine article to the mix so Corroded has been wilting in the heat of the southern summer. Well, hopefully its smoldering, but I feel so removed from it that I can’t help but think it’s less than it was… that I’m not able to return to the hundred plus pages without the storyline falling into the abyss of flatly written mush.
So, instead I choose to write a squishy blog. At least I’ve filled up a page in my document file. Any writing counts, right?
And to go along with this soggy puddle, here’s the first poem I have record of writing, way back at eleven years old.
Trees
Trees grow, very slow. By the sea and by me. They grow in lawns and by ponds. Very slow do they grow.