Wednesday, June 27, 2012

RAPE GIRL - Book Review & Author Interview

On first meeting, Alina Klein (link) seems like any other writer--quiet and observant, not too flashy. She's tall with smooth, well-behaved light-brown hair, and she has a reassuring, calm smile.

Alina Klein
Basically, she's the exact opposite of me. 

So when we started talking about our books, and she told me about her latest RAPE GIRL, I knew it was going to be something powerful. A little earthquake.

She explained SPEAK (by Laurie Halse) is about a girl who's raped and doesn't tell anyone, and everything falls apart.

RAPE GIRL is about a girl who's raped and does report it, and everything still falls apart.

And it's based on personal experience.

First, I'll just put it out there, I rarely know the right thing to say at any given moment, which is why I'm a writer and not a public speaker. So I didn't know what to say. I just read her book.

I'm still trying to decide how to explain this small volume that basically says everything. In brief, perfectly worded passages, Alina makes you feel these things through her fictional character Valerie:

-The awkwardness of throwing your first "parents out of town" party.
-The weird-fun-sickness of being drunk for the first time.
-The guilt of being too hungover the next morning to care for your little sister.
-The numb, helpless, confusion of being raped.
-The horror of a rape exam combined with a first-time pelvic exam.
-The shock of learning that telling your mom, reporting it to the police, means telling the world.
-The betrayal of your best friend believing him.
-The strange mind-trip of group therapy and not feeling "raped enough" to be there.
-The inward-turning, the loss of faith in the system, the self-doubt...

I know this sounds like a downer, depressing story, but it's not. It's very enlightening, and it ends on a note of such hope. It's how I understand Alina can meet me and be what she is--confident, calm, reassuring. And she's a tireless supporter of rape victims. (See her "Empowerment Project," link.)

Sure, I cried several times while reading. Alina's a beautiful writer, and it was almost too much to think she'd suffered a similar experience as Val. I also empathized with Val's poor mother, who blamed herself for going out of town and "letting" this happen.

But I'm so glad I read it. It's out now, so run grab a copy--Stat!

Amazon (link)
Barnes & Noble (link)

Now for the interview:

LTM: Everyone's asking (or will), so here goes: How much of RAPE GIRL is your story, and how much is fiction?

ABK: This is a tough question, actually. I have been asked it before, and I know people are interested. But the "real" parts are so entwined in the fiction, it would be difficult to pick them apart without deconstructing the whole story. It's certainly a novel and not an autobiography. To be honest, that's all it ever could be. My own rape and the trial that followed are a blur. The details are long gone, but the emotions have lingered. So I tried to write from those. My personal story was included most often as kernals of truth that I built upon. Like the one I shared in a blog post about the girl who became Valerie's friend.  One scene I did borrow pretty much wholesale from my own life, however, was the one where Valerie is faced down by a group of boys in the school office. Only for me they were at the courthouse.

 LTM: Writing this book took guts, I imagine, going back and facing that experience again. What made you decide to do it? 

ABK: The need to write RAPE GIRL crystallized after I read SPEAK by Laurie Halse Anderson.  I cried when I reached the end of that book, because unlike Melinda, when I spoke my life exploded. It shouldn't happen that way, but it does, and people need to realize that, or nothing will ever change.

LTM: I loved how you showed Val's inner dialogue when talking with people, then her breakdown. What's the one thing you wished people had said after your experience? (Or the thing someone said that meant the most.)

ABK: I'm sure people said a lot of supportive things to me that I've forgotten. I wish that weren't the case. One thing I think would have meant a lot, and which I'd like to say to every other survivor out there, is from my book:  "They say that rape is the only crime in which the victim has to prove her innocence. And I want you to know, I believe in your innocence. You don't have to prove anything to me."
Get it, share it

LTM: That rape exam was horrifying. Actually, Val's entire experience with police and authorities left me outraged. At the same time, logical Leigh wonders how else can they get evidence? What do you think having gone through it? What must change? What's sort of inevitable?

ABK: I don't know how, or if, the collection process of the rape kits can change. Probably not for the sake of the few cases that actually make it to court. What isn't inevitable is the treatment of survivors by authority figures. There are amazing advocates who travel the country provide training to doctors and law enforcement officers to help them interact in a more empathetic way with survivors. Still, no matter how gentle they may be, each step in the process is one more trauma to navigate after being raped.  The true travesty of rape kits, however, is the fact that hundreds of thousands of them remain untested after survivors underwent the grueling collection process. See for more information. Spread the word.

LTM: As a mother of two girls, I related to the mom-character's guilt feelings. At the same time, I wondered, how can something like this be predicted/prevented? Have you thought of this? I feel sure you have. What's your take?

ABK: Rape can't be predicted or prevented by potential victims. That's my take. You can do everything right and it can still happen to you or to your daughters or to someone else you love. This is why the focus should to be shifted toward educating the people most likely to commit rape and not the ones who may suffer it. Preventing rapists is the only thing that will prevent rape.

LTM: Do you have any sort-of hopes for this book? Other than it being a runaway bestseller, of course (*wink*)

ABK: I have very grand hopes that my book will make a difference. That I can remove the stigma from the word "rape" (with my title alone, yes?) and open the topic for discussion. That girls will read it and know that the darkest times in their lives can be a source of strength and not an obstacle to it. That boys will read it and put themselves in Adam's shoes--and think twice whenever a girl seems less than enthusiastic about being touched. Yeah, I pretty much want to change the world.

Thanks, Alina! You rule. You're an awesome, brave person, and a great friend. Now everyone grab a copy and tell your friends.

And have a great week, reader- and writer-friends~ <3

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

TKP, Faith & the Farm

So when bloggy friend Carol Miller (link) invited me to join The Kindness Project, naturally I declined. "I don't post on Wednesdays," I said.

Then I got to thinking about it, and I decided I'm not that old. I can be a little more flexible. And here I am.

I'm a week late because I wanted to see what everybody else did before I posted. But I'm still a little stumped about what to say... Kindness is one of those things I feel like I should do.

The Kindness Project is supposed to be inspirational. It's to remind us that even when we're feeling unkind, still be kind. That alone can make a significant difference in the world both for us and for others.

That's really cool. And really hard.

Last week, members posted about all sorts of things, and they were all good. The most meaningful to me, however, was by our fearless leader. Carol took the day to quote from Mother Teresa. Here's the part I liked best: 

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. 
Give your best anyway.
In the final analysis, it is between you and God. 
It was never between you and them anyway.

Powerful stuff.

It's a good day for me to try TKP. I've had an interesting thing come my way recently, and I can't wait to tell you all about it. I have to wait, but you'll understand soon.

So it's cool, but at the same time, I'm still feeling weighed down and Anxious.

I'm second-guessing my decisions, and I feel like I'm always looking over my shoulder. The old timers tell us not to be suckers. Don't be so eager to get published that you give away the farm.

At the same time, I wonder, "Didn't those old timers have to give away part of the farm to get to the point of being able to say things like 'Don't give away the farm'?" Is it possible to get where you want to be without sacrificing anything?

I've never been very good at leaps of faith. I'm super Type A. I like all my ducks behaving just like I expect them to behave, and if I tell you I'll have something for you tomorrow, well, you'll probably get it today.

I'm rambling, but my point is I do have faith. And I do make thoughtful decisions and not foolish ones, and when I'm at that point where I've done all I can do, I... struggle very hard with letting it go. So I try to remind myself of that faith part again. 

Perhaps I've drifted from the kindness, but in the final analysis, it is between you and God.

Are you doing your best? Doing good work? Keeping in touch... (Wait, that's Garrison Keillor--!)

I'm sorry, Carol. I'm screwing this all up. Somebody make a goofy sound effect or talk in a funny voice...

Maybe we can just keep on encouraging each other. I know you do that for me all the time. Thank you~

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends. I'll do better next time. <3

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

New Schedule and a BIG Congratulations!

First, a big, huge congratulations to my awesome bleep, critter, birthday twin, and fab writer-friend Tami Hart Johnson, who is officially a national bestselling author!!!
Bestselling author

I'm just bursting over here, so you can imagine how she feels. Here, go check her out (link).

And grab your copy of her debut cozy mystery The Azalea Assault (link)! (The cover and link are also in my sidebar -->)

As for my New Schedule, starting Wed., June 20, I'm moving my weekly post mid-week to take part in a very awesome blogging event called The Kindness Project.

I'll do my first post next week. (I'm late, I know, but I just found out last night, and I need to see how it's done!)

For now, here's what it is, and feel free to join me now or in July:

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good. But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole. 

It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts. We post the second Wednesday of every month.

Want to join us? Grab our button and spread a little kindness.

In the meantime, check out our other cool participants listed below, and I'll see you back here Wednesday! Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends~ <3

The Kindness Project
Sophia Chang                         Sara Larson
Erica Chapman                      Matthew MacNish
Jessica Corra                         Sara McClung
Elizabeth Davis                      Leigh Moore
Christa Desir                          Tracey Neithercott
Sarah Fine                              Katharine Owen
Claire Hennessy                     Elizabeth Poole
Elana Johnson                        Lola Sharp
Amie Kaufman                        Michele Shaw
Liza Kane                                Meagan Spooner                     
Alina Klein                               Carolina Valdez Miller

Monday, June 11, 2012

Throwing Socks at the Ceiling Fan

Before I was an editor, before I worked in any form of news, before I had a master's degree, before I had any credentials other than a bachelor's degree and a post-baccalaureate certification, I taught tenth-grade English.

I think every college graduate should be required to teach one year, or at least student teach one semester at a public school.

There'd be a lot less debate about funding public schools or how hard our teachers work or even how different kids are today from how they were "back then."

So I taught tenth grade English, and at the end of that year, my students had to take the writing portion of the LEAP exam, Louisiana's standardized testing required for graduation.

Needless to say we focused on writing heavily, and needless to say many of them were extremely nervous about being required to write on a random topic in order to graduate. Or to write. Period.

Our mantra was "writing is a craft," and I explained that meant it was something you got better at the more you did it. I'd have them write something almost every day, pass it to a neighbor for "grading," and then go back and correct it before turning it in to me for the final grade.

It was a primitive version of critique partners, and I didn't even know it.

When I started writing books, I didn't know what I wanted to write. I'd get ideas for stories that I liked, or I'd get a character in my head, and I'd chase him or her wherever s/he led, whether it was back in time or outer space or just around the block.

My first book wasn't very polished, but I think my latest shows the mantra works. You do improve with practice, getting feedback, learning from mistakes.

When he was in high school, my older brother liked lying on his bed, taking off the socks he was wearing, and then throwing them at the ceiling fan while it was spinning.

Sometimes I'd lie on the bed beside him and watch, and we'd laugh about how far they flew or dodge the falling dust bunnies, depending on how long it'd been.

My writing path feels that way at times. Five completed MSs later, and I still don't know which genre I prefer to write or which my readers prefer.

I'm not sure it matters as long as I just keep doing it, learning from my mistakes, improving.

I can't seem to find my point today, I'm sorry. If you've made it this far, I guess it's just keep swimming. And if you're throwing socks at the ceiling fan, remember to dodge the dust bunnies. (Yes?)

Oh, and every one of my students passed the writing portion of the LEAP. I was so proud of them. Still am.

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! <3

Monday, June 4, 2012

Blogs & Pinterest & Zombies

I just read another post about how blogging isn't what it was a year ago. Many of this writer's friends are no longer posting, and s/he laments, "Blogging is dead."

My daughter recently got an iPod Touch. It comes with the same iMessage app the iPhone has. First, she could only text me. Now she has two friends she can text. One million text messages later...

zombie scanner app
Seriously, she texts constantly. Occasionally they also jump on Facetime and talk, but then they're right back to texting.

The good news is, I've got an easy thing to ground when she misbehaves or doesn't do her homework. My point is I expect this behavior to level out once the novelty is gone. 

Maybe that's a faulty analogy. Regardless, I'm not so ready to declare blogging dead. It's like any other social media--it works for some people, it doesn't for others.

Blogging moves slower, it requires brains, and Blogger often makes users emit weird noises... Much like a zombie.

Personally, I find Twitter bewildering. It's like I'm posting my random thoughts in the hopes one of my friends might be online at that moment to catch me and reply.

I've been admonished for this Luddite approach: Some other tweeter might respond, and I could make a new friend!

*nom nom nom*
But I'm kind of suspicious that way, and I'm not the type of person who chats with strangers about randomness. (Hmm... wait.)

My husband and I have lived in four different states and have friends all over the world. We use Facebook to keep up with everybody, share pictures, make jokes, remember when, share music, share movies, etc.

(Attention investors: I've never used it to buy or sell anything.)

I've always loved art and fashion and looking at photography in magazines. I also like finding unique items to buy and wear (or to dream of buying and wearing).

Me on Pinterest
Pinterest is the absolute most amazing outlet for my love, and every pin's a link to where you can find the item!

I don't use it to sell anything, but I have used it to buy stuff. (Attention investors: This one's sheer marketing genius.)

Goodreads I use when I remember to. Tumblr is simply baffling...

This silly little blog has done amazing things for me. I've had to cut back on posting, but...  (If you can recite my story, please skip to the "resume.")

I started this blog reluctantly, not expecting anything from it. I didn't know what to write about, and I didn't know a single other person with a blog.

Gradually, I met other blogging writers. We shared our writing mistakes, problems, fears, discoveries, ideas, successes, etc. Now we have a pretty tight circle of writer-friends, and I know of at least two who've sailed up the Amazon charts using blog tours.

For me, blogging has provided critique partners, feedback on short writing samples, actual writer friends, an agent. 

When I launched my editing business last year, blogger friends sent me clients, became clients, posted about it, told me where I could advertise. Now I have a steady stream of business. (Resume.)

Wait. That did all happen a year or more ago! Maybe they're right! It is dead, and I'm hanging out with... (insert shocking musicZombies!!!

I think it's more as a good blogging friend (M. Pax, link) said last week on another good friend's blog (link): You've got to find the social media outlet that suits your personality. Then you've got to interact with others using it.

Then she said, "Muuhhh... brains... nom nom nom..."

What do you guys think? Am I missing it? How do you view the social media outlets? Why are you still blogging--or are you quitting? Any good brain recipes?

Have a great week, reader- and writer-friends! <3