Comfort found in the bottle isn’t comfort all at or so they say and plead their case though looks and passing remarks Comfort found through lies and sweaty deeds isn’t comfort all at so let me take the comfort that is honest after all, I can’t lie to a bottle.
Life has a way of complicating and un-winding itself all at once, which way it goes is up to the user. Sometimes a day goes both ways at once.
This summer, I have been struggling to finish my first book, make enough money to pay my bills, complete multiple on-line classes and work on other writing projects. I had this idea that I could finish a second book before August. I haven’t been doing very well or at least I don’t think so. What I was doing was moving slowly but surely forward.
Then the bottom fell out of my emotional world last Thursday. Everything seemed hopeless and I slid back into the depression that I have been fighting most of my adult life slammed into me. I struggled for most the day to get myself together.
My roommate’s husband tip-toed around me as the tears just poured out. I called the colleague who I am collaborating with on a unit plan and told her that I was sending her what I had and won’t be up to working on it anymore that day. It was hard, but I just couldn’t text what I needed to say. I donned thick sun-glasses and when out to run some errands including laundry which really couldn’t wait.
And that is when the narrative changed. My support system kicked in and even though I am still struggling to figure things out, I feel better equipped now to hand things then I did the last time I was spirit slammed by depression. And I am writing.
I am writing and I finished a chapter on a project entitled Eden, last night. It feels good.
My heart still aches and I know that depression is lurking ready to pounce, still, there is something to be said for throwing yourself into work at times like theses and trusting that some how everything will work out.
As a reader, I am rather picky when it comes to reading books that others recommend. It took me about five years before I picked up any of the Harry Potter books and that was the result of being stranded in an airport pre-Kindle. Mainly, because everyone I talked to about the series loved it like crack and I don’t do drugs. So as I was reading the Fault in Our Stars and ran across the quote below, it was easy to fall in love with the book and its two protagonists, Hazel Grace Lancaster and Augustus Waters.
“Sometimes, you read a book and it fills you with this weird evangelical zeal, and you become convinced that the shattered world will never be put back together unless and until all living humans read the book. ” (pg 33)
This was the type of zeal that I have been running from most of my life in making my reading selections. And Hazel Grace understood it and put it into words that make sense to others. Because let’s be honest, telling people that the book they love is crack and you don’t do drugs is a metaphor that most find difficult to comprehend, which leads me another thing that helped me to fall in love with the book. The metaphors.
Augustus Waters, the male protagonist, loves them. His favorite is placing an unlit cigarette between his lips and never lights it. He doesn’t give it the power to kill him. A metaphor like the sad swing set that resides in Esther’s backyard that has never been used.
The antagonist in the book is cancer, non-discriminating cancer. Cancer that takes the lives of children as well as adults. Yet, it is cancer that brings Hazel and Augustus together. They met at a cancer kid support group that Hazel’s mom makes her go to in order to help her deal with her depression, a side effect of as Hazel would say dying. Did you expect me to say cancer? Sorry, no, the book is quite direct when it tells you that Hazel Grace Lancaster is dying. She will never be cancer free. It is also quite direct when it comes to the reality that cancer kids experience.
It is Hazel Grace’s love of a book entitled Imperial Affliction that leads the two on their greatest adventure, a trip to Amsterdam to meet with the author. The book is about a young woman like herself who has cancer and it ends in mid-sentence. The implication being that the book’s protagonist, Anna, has surcome to her cancer. Now, both Hazel Grace and Augustus want answers to their questions about happens to the characters after the book ends. Did the Dutch Tulip man marry Anna’s mother? Was he really a con-artist? And what about the hamster? Unfortunately, for the two of them, the author one, Peter Von Houten, is a miserable drunk who only cares to dwell in his own misanthropy. There are no answers in Amsterdam.
There is however love to be kindled and passion to be set on fire. This is where Hazel Grace falls in love with Augustus. You knew it was going to happen, but Green lets the love affair between these two build slow so you connect to them. You want them to have their happily ever after. But, cancer, our ever present antagonist, doesn’t care. You will and you may end up crying. As another reviewer put it, this book will break your heart. It won’t do it in the way that you think it will which is why this book made the New York Times Bestseller list.
While I can appreciate that an emotional book like John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars isn’t for everyone, I cannot appreciate some of the critiques of it. Do we really have to criticize because it involves deeper emotions in order to promote other books?
Yes, there are other YA authors out there that people will enjoy and there are a ton of books that don’t get the attention they deserve. Bashing one book in order to promote another or more importantly bashing people’s genuine reaction to the book just seems wrong to me. And a little like bullying. There is nothing wrong with crying. I think it actually speaks to John Green’s talent as a writer that he invokes just deep responses in readers. I love books that help me escape my day to day, but books also have the power to do other things like make us think, feel and sometimes, cry.
striking like a knife
marks on hearts
sticks and stones
A writer’s mind can’t be contained in a meme.
Successful writers share some traits with unsuccessful writers.
What makes one successful and the other not could be a matter of skill or it could just be luck.
Writing remains both a skill and an art form.
It is taming madness.
It bring chaos to a thousand thoughts, but most of all it is work.
A lot of work.
And it is time for this writer to get back to it.
This Star Won’t Go Out
By Esther Earl, Lori Earl & Wayne Earl with John Green
A while back, my friend, Kevin, gave me a formula to use for reviews. It goes something like this one-third summary, one-third what others have thought of it and one-third positive or negative critique. He told me not to be afraid to criticize the books I read. It makes the review more authentic. You can’t like every book you read or everything about a book. Except, there is nothing I didn’t like about this book. Even when it made me cry. And it did. Several times.
There were days when I was reading this book that I didn’t pick it up because I knew I would cry. There is no denying the emotional impact of its pages. I can’t imagine anyone reading this and not falling in love with Esther Grace Earl. One would have to be heartless not to cry or at the very least tear up at her lost. And the book makes no bones about it. This book is about a young woman who lost her battle with cancer.
Esther Grace Earl died on August, 25th, 2010.
So why should you read a book that is guaranteed to make you cry? Why should you read a book about someone who dies ? Who lost her battle with cancer?
Because this is a book that needs to be read.
You need to read this book because it brings both reality and humanity back to cancer. It reminds us that even the brave die. Even good people die. It doesn’t make Esther out to be a saint, although if anyone deserves to be one, she does. It does put a face on cancer. A real and imperfect face, though a compilation of Esther’s journals, letters, photographs and v-blogs, Esther comes to life and enters your heart. Her words are aided with entries from her family’s blog and more personal reflections from friends and her siblings.
The introduction is written by John Green, author of the Fault in Our Stars. Green makes it quite clear that his now famous book was not written about Esther or her life. She inspired it, but it isn’t about her. After Esther’s death, Green began to write and write. As a writer, I know that sometimes an idea is sparked by an event and what follows becomes its own. So when Green tells us that his book turned movie isn’t about Esther, I believe him. Are their similarities? Yes, but they are few and far in between. Esther Grace Earl and Hazel Grace Lancaster are two different people who will steal your hearts. One real and one fictional. Both powerful.
After reading this book, it is easy to see how Esther could have inspired someone to write a book. She certainly inspired me and I never met her. I just read about her, but somehow through the book I felt like I was laughing along with her. She inspired so many because she was a genuine person who honestly cared about others. She was real with herself and others. When she was brave, she wasn’t trying to be brave she just was. She went through depression and normal teenage things like wondering when her first kiss would happen if ever.
The book is a compilation of Esther’s journals, letters, photographs and v-blogs. Along with entries from her family’s Caringbridge blog (Please note this is a link to site not the family’s blog ) and more personal reflections. It is well organized and the color coding is brilliant, it lets you know which are entries of her diaries, letters to her folks and the aforementioned Caringbridge entries.
My favorite part of the book was when Esther received her wish from the Make a Foundation. Something that Esther took her time in choosing. She didn’t want Disney or to meet a celebrity. She felt for much of her life that she had want she needed. When she finally did choose something, it was as unique as her. Something what allowed her to touch the lives of others. (Sorry, no spoilers.)
Towards the end of the book when I realized that we were getting to the end of Esther’s life, I thought that they didn’t give us enough, but then I got to the final section – Esther’s own fiction. It was beautiful and amazing. She wrote about her own cancer, bullying and the last romantic piece. This is not to diminish contribute of all of Esther’s friends and family. They were truly amazing and helped round off the book.
Since her death, her family and friends have begun an organization entitled The Stars Won’t Go Out foundation which is dedicated to helping relief the financial pressures for families who children have cancer. They help families to focus on their child’s treatment by providing funds to take care of bills or cover travel expenses. It began the day after her funeral when a young man stopped by her parent’s home with a note and five dollars. The note read as follows:
In my experience, in times of need, every bit helps. Although I don’t have much, I still would like to donate $5 to the Friends of Esther Fund. Esther was an inspiration to many. And no matter what adversity she was faced with, she always maintained a happy outlook on life. She never forgot to be awesome. She will be remembered forever. – Nerdfighter Jarid from Braintree
Another mandate of the TSWGO is to give funds towards other causes and projects that Esther would have supported. If you are curious as to what a nerdfighter is or want to learn more about TSWGO check out the links below or read the book.
A simple word or two and all the pieces fall in place
A simple word or two and everything is clear
for a moment, a whisper.
Everything seems possible
And it is
for a moment and a whisper
which doesn’t last forever
but in that moment
everything is clear
the horizon seems just a bit
And this so called
The spoken threat of
a thousand “adults”
Sets itself in
all we need
if only we could add
And use those lessons
our elementary teachers beg us
in our Real lives.
Where should my efforts go? A month into summer and I am still working on three different stories at once. I write pieces everyday and try my best to map them out so I know where things are going. I fret about not having the discipline to finish a full length novel.
I worry that in an effort to pay my bills this summer, I won’t be able to finish any of the projects on my plate.
I worry that my first book, Blood Child, will be a failure.
I worry about a lot of things.
And then I go back to writing. As much as I can, hoping that the spirit that possessed me until I finished Blood Child will happen again. Then I think to myself, I need to work on my craft. And I go back to writing.
You always have to go back to the writing that is what makes you a writer.
Last night, I had a great idea to do a review for the 4th of July on my favorite history books. Books that were easy to read and really informative. I would still like to suggest that you read through Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong. It is a great book and easy to read. Although I would like to point out that when I have taught history I never lied to my students. The textbook and curriculum were other stories. Whole sections of history were just skipped over and while others were only just skimmed over.
But one thing that really helped my students this year was when we read the Declaration of Independence in English class. Students were all familiar with the preamble which they have read over and over again, but none of them had really examined it.
The Declaration of Independence
The Unanimous Declaration of the Thirteen United States of America
When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive to these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security. –Such has been the patient sufferance of these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former systems of government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world.
The whole text can be found at www.monticello.org among other places or you can have it read to you at NPR.org (my favorite) If you do read the whole thing, read it like it is a Dear John letter addressed to the King of England. It really helped my students (and me) delve deeper into it.
Happy 4th of July Everyone!!
Legs cut smooth
by a razors edge
Preparations for the
potential of one lost kiss
For one lost touch
Gone in a moment
regretted for half a life