Thursday, August 23, 2018

Sharing a post on Catholicism

I've read as much of the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report on child abuse within the Catholic church as I can stand. I'm reeling from it. I don't know why this one has hit me worse than others--we've been down this road so many times before. As my husband reminded me last night, we knew a predatory priest, growing up. We knew he was after boys. Everyone knew, in silence.

I don't have my thoughts together enough to write about it. I'm under deadline and need to go concentrate on that. But meanwhile, here's a blog post I came across that resonated with me.

If you want to appreciate the scope of the problem, head to the site Bishops Accountability

Pope Francis has called upon the entire Church, predominantly lay members, to pray and repent. I say eff that. Let's throw these suckers in jail, and, if we can't do that (statute of limitations) let's at least throw them out of the priesthood. And maybe share the power--it's past time to ordain women.

Monday, August 20, 2018

Filling my Writer’s Rolodex

I’m in Ireland with my husband and both children—so so happy to be traveling as a family of four once again. The first time we came to Ireland they were seven and four—our first overseas trip. We loved it then and we love it now.

On one of the first days of the trip, my husband was trying to remember the name of a minor ancient Egyptian god—not Anubis, but like Anubis—and couldn’t. “Never mind,” he said, “I’ll go through my mental Rolodex. It’ll pop up eventually.” Our daughter, a child of the 21st century, was bemused by the word Rolodex. “You know,” my husband said, flipping through an imaginary file with his fingers. “I’m in the section marked ‘dog’—flip, flip—Cava—flip, flip—there’s Under, Polly—flip—Funny Face—flip flip—Heidi—

“Heidi?” Our daughter asked.
“One of my childhood dogs,” I said.
My husband was still flipping. “Anubis—“ he said. “I’ll get there. Might take some time. I’ll wake up in the middle of the night, and there it is!”

For me that’s part of the fascination and necessity of traveling: I fill my writer’s Rolodex. Sometimes I’m traveling for specific purposes—I went to England with a list of stuff I needed to learn for The War That Saved My Life. But on that trip I also learned things I didn’t realize I needed to know. I got lost on country lanes and found myself at the top of a windswept hill with a far-ranging view of the sea. That became Ada’s lookout hill.

I remember on my honeymoon being fascinated by odd Parisian toilets. Now European toilets are just another Rolodex card. Odd skinnny European trucks—same. It’s pretty simple. If every dog you’d ever seen was a German Shepherd, a toy poodle would astonish you. The more things you see, the more your mental Rolodex files expand.

For example, I know I’ll write a book sometime about a fictional castle, so I’m always looking to add to my castle Rolodex. On this trip we went to Kylemore Abbey, a “modern” castle built by wealthy Victorians with a marvelous walled garden. We saw Blarney Castle, half-ruined with strange mazelike passageways. Dundrum castle—a mere ruin with a sweeping view of the sea. The Rock of Cashel—a city stronghold. Each one different. Each added features to what castles might possibly be.

I’m also intrigued by wooden sailing ships. Always have been. We visited one of Ireland’s “coffin ships,” used for mass emigration during the famine. Mmm. I could see possibilities there. (My husband thinks the Irish Famine too depressing of a subject for a children’s book. See also “you can’t set a book on the Appalachian Trail” and “no one wants to read about a kid with a club foot.”) (Which is not to say I’ll write the book. Ideas are everywhere. Good ideas are harder to come by, and you can’t always tell which is which.)

Tomorrow we head home and I put my head down for a final week on the current draft of my Egypt Book, which is starting to really need a name. I’ve worked hard this vacation. My Rolodex is bigger now.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Warning: You May Love Gay People

I've been sharing with you how tremendously excited I am about the Appalachian Literacy Initiative, my new non-profit that will be giving brand-new high-quality children's books to area students in need. I believe access to books is a social justice issue. It's a battle I'm pleased to fight.

Today I heard that I teacher in a very poor, rural area, when invited to enroll in our program, declined--not because her students don't need books. They do. It's because two of my novels have an adult character who is gay.

I so wish I were making that up.

Earlier in the summer, I was having a lovely conversation on my porch with friends visiting from Scotland. I don't remember how the subject of transgender people came up, but my friend Calum said, thoughtfully, "I've never met a transgender person." It wasn't an important part of our conversation, but I recalled him saying it later a few weeks later, when I was reading post on Facebook by a transgender friend of mine, because I realized, reading the Facebook post, that if you met my friend for the first time now, after her transition, you would never guess she was transgender. It would never even occur to you. So my Scottish friend--and, in fact, all of us--have almost certainly met people who are transgender. We just didn't know their backstory.

The teacher who doesn't approve of gay characters in books is teaching a classroom of students, at least one of which, statistically speaking, is gay. As prepubescent kids, they may have no idea. If they are aware of their sexuality, they probably aren't going to talk about it, at least not with their teacher. They're ten.

No one becomes gay by reading about gay people. No one is prevented from becoming gay by avoiding books featuring gay people. We are who we are.

Gay people might be your young children. They might be your neighbors. They might be your beloved grandchildren, or your child's fantastic best friend. The number of gay people in this world is not dependent on your approval of them.

Be careful who you decide to hate. It may be someone you already love.