Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The book I write, the book you read...and the real wars.

Home from San Antonio, it was a wonderful conference! Hundreds of teens were invited by their libraries, so I got to talk to a lot of kids who had read or were reading The Resurrection of Magic books. I carried books with me, as always, and extra ones for the Teen Book Drop http://bit.ly/cxAYH8  and placed them  here and there….

One boy (about halfway through Sacred Scars) was concerned about Sadima. He was hoping that Thomas Marsham would leave her alone and that Somiss would never find her. He sounded protective, angry, like she was his sister and he would stand between her and anyone who tried to hurt her. When he was through talking, he stared at me. "Marsham and Somiss are both still alive in Book three," I said, finally, quietly. He tightened his mouth, nodded, asked me to write faster, then walked away.

One girl hated Franklin, because he could and should have killed Somiss when they were boys, she said. We talked about it, about how hard it would really be, to be a child faced with another child who was that strange/smart/dangerous--and how Somiss and Franklin are, in their sad, distorted way, brothers.

Three girls stood in a line before me and talked to each other, arguing over whether or not Gerrard was really from South-End, or if he had made up everything he told Hahp. I am still not sure. I don't know how Gerrard knows what he knows. I told the girls that he is the most interesting character for me; he rarely talks to me, in my head, or through my fingers and the keyboard. He is silent, angry, stiff, fierce, and, I think, scared.

…..And on the last day, in the airport, I saw a young man crying. I sat near him and after a few minutes asked him if there was anything I could do to help. He looked up and said this: "Can you make this deployment go fast?"

I put out my hand and he gripped it hard for a little while. Then he sat up straighter, squared his shoulders and hauled in that long breath, the universal human sound of acceptance and determination. We talked a little. He was carrying a book. He said he liked dark fantasy. I had one copy of Skin Hunger left in my backpack, so I signed it for him. Actually, I signed it to anyone who might read it because he said people always leave their books behind when they go home, to build a library for the incoming soldiers. Being a writer has made me a better human being--one of a thousand perks.

No matter how you feel about the wars our country is engaged in: http://www.anysoldier.com/WhereToSend/


guenhwyvar132 aka Jenn said...

Thanks for sharing how passionately people feel about the characters in your books. I feel the same way and am trying to wait patiently for the last book. Thanks for keeping us posted.

kathleen duey said...


It amazes me--but I have certainly felt that way about book characters myself,especially as a teen.

Thanks for writing. It's nice not to be alone in this room all the time!!!

Peni R. Griffin said...

I forgot to tell you when we were there: in the middle of your signing I was talking to an intense young man who was loving the conference because it felt so good to be around people who "got it" about books. I recommended Resurrection of Magic and told him you were signing right now; his face lit up and he dashed off to get in line. He was almost old enough to be deployed. I hope it doesn't come to that. But if he is, he'll be taking you (and other authors) with him.

kathleen duey said...

Peni, thanks--it was lovely to see you and Christine.

War always seems like such a failure of humanity to me.

Anyone wanting to help the soldiers: In the lists on http://www.anysoldier.com/
Soldiers write what they need, what they can't get, and what they would love to have in the war zones. Books are a frequent request. I can easily imagine the need to have another world to be in...when time allows.

the dragonfly said...

Thank you for doing that for a soldier. So much.

My husband is a sergeant in the Army, we are expecting our second child in July, and he might be going to Afghanistan soon (life in the Army = never knowing details when you want to!). It always means a lot to me when someone shows kindness to a soldier, so...Thanks.

Beverley BevenFlorez said...

Thank you for sharing the story of the soldier at the airport. My husband was deployed to Iraq in 2005, and it is something that forever changes them. Regardless of whether we agree with the politics of war, it's important not to forget the ones who are still overseas.

I would also add that if you have a family member or a friend who has recently returned from deployment, you should encourage them to use the VA counseling benefits they have earned. PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) is very common among veterans.

kathleen duey said...

I am anti-war and started marching against the seemingly endless "optional" conflicts when I was 16. But, yes, I know, war changes people forever. They do what they believe is right and necessary and they pay a huge price for it. I heard a Viet Nam veteran speaking to a group of much younger soldiers. He said this, "We know we aren't your brothers--every war is different. But we are your uncles, and we hope that if you need us, you'll let us know." So when I see soldiers I think, ok, I am their aunt. Or their cousin's best friend. Or something. We are connected by our humanity and I will not walk past them without saying thanks, telling them to take care...just somehow acknowledging their sacrifice and their presence and their courage.

kathleen duey said...

Dragonfly and Beverly, may peace come soon, everywhere, and your beloved husbands stay safe and come home soon and for good. I can't imagine *your* courage, and how long the wait must seem.

All best wishes,

Val Hobbs said...

Once again, you've given me chills. What a story, and how lovely that you could be there for this boy who needed you.

We live such a blessed life, we writers.

kathleen duey said...

Oh, Val, I wish there were something I *could* do for them, all of them, and all the men I know who still, 40 years later, wake up with cold sweats, shaking and scared.

Will you be at SCBWI in LA? If so, lets manage a meal and a talk, please.


Val Hobbs said...

Yes, I will be in LA. I'd love to have a meal and a talk. We'll make it happen for sure!

kathleen duey said...

Val, YAY! I am an early riser, too, so breakfast is an option...


Angela McCallister said...

I know it's a bit late to comment here, but I just linked over from Elana Johnson's blog and caught this post. I wanted to cry when I read it because I've been in his seat or pretty close to it, and believe it or not, a little understanding and compassion goes miles. My Christmas last year was made by caring strangers who sent me letters of encouragement, books, packs of gum and 5 hour energy shots (other stuff too, but those were my favorites). I don't know how I could have made it through the day without that package.

MBW aka Olleymae said...

Wow, I looove it when kids get caught up in the world of a book. That's what I love about reading, and it's so cool to see them experience it too.

Your books sound awesome by the way! I can't wait to read them :)

kathleen duey said...


Thanks so much for saying that. I hope you are home for good. Please take care and may your own writing fly. I hope your note will encourage people to visit anysolidier.com to see a thousand ways to help people make it through the days and nights so far from home: http://www.anysoldier.com/WhereToSend

kathleen duey said...

Olleymae, me too!
And I think it is wonderful that you are not that good at cleaning. It will mean more time for your writing and your art.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Kathleen, for your good wishes ( Moonmouse's blog.)
Bless you for your comfort to that young man.

Two of mine have been and returned.

kathleen duey said...



I am so glad your beloveds are home safe, and, I hope, home for good.

I was wondering a few days ago if there is a website where soldiers can anonymously post their experiences, or say whatever they wanted/needed to say. I wonder if it would help them, and help us understand. Surely it already exists? I will look.

Matthew Kirby said...

I think it's a wonderful thing that your stories inspire in your readers such passion, and such love for your characters. Something I think every writer strives for.

I also think it's tremendous what you did for that boy in the airport. Some of the most memorable gifts of my life have been books, and I am certain that young man will remember yours.

I'll be in LA at SCBWI as well. It would be nice to meet you.

kathleen duey said...

I am not speaking this year, or doing a workshop--I am only critiquing. So I will be more free than usual and hope to meet more people than I usually manage.

I love SCBWI LA!!