Sooooooo the coolest thing that I believe as an author, Amanda M. Thrasher, and organization, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, that we are a part of on an annual basis is the TLA (Texas Library Association) Conference. I have attended this conference for years, signed as a featured author for at least five years, and we have committed as a publisher, for now, four years.
Being an author first, and a co-owner and CEO of an independent press founded by authors, we continually try to locate and find ways that bring the most ‘bang for our buck’ for our authors. What exactly does that mean when it comes to TLA? In case you are not familiar with TLA, it is a professional organization promoting librarianship and library services in Texas. Through legislative advocacy, continuing education events, and networking channels. The conference usually has between 5000 to 6500 attendees, if not more, and often consist of librarians (academic, public, and private), educators, consumers, category buyers, publishers, vendors, to name a few.
Being that it takes place during the week, most attendees go on their companies time and dime. This is good for us, (publishers and authors) because the visitors are pre-registered and literally plan up to a year in advance to attend the conference which brings a different type of ‘crowd’ versus people just look for something entertaining to do. So what do all of those people do?
Everyone attends sessions as they listen and learn about new techniques, equipment, products, and don’t forget they all get to network and socialize as well. Meeting the authors is always a big draw, especially the featured authors, and so many fantastic publishers are represented such as Penguin Random House, Scholastic, McMillan, Disney, Chronicle Books, Capstone, Hachette Book Group, Simon & Schuster, Little, Brown, Book Co., to name a few…. Oh yeah, and us 🙂 as well, Progressive Rising Phoenix Press.
I am not big on the author to author events (me personally), that become book swaps. However, I will always tell our authors, or any other that ask, that I believe in this particular trade conference. This one is worth saving your $’s for and vesting in the trip. It moves yearly, location, but is always in Texas. We network; share our work with the librarians, teachers, and readers. Sign books, and pick up book orders. I have attended and signed at ALA, BEA, and TLA. For us, PRPP, I still believe we receive the most value for our vested dollars in this event. If you have ever considered going, as a company, but you are not sure if it is worth it or if you are an author and you do not know if you should spend the dollars here are my top reasons for doing so:
1) It is a professional trade show; attendees are pre-registered, and that means a guaranteed X amount of participation.
2) Attendees are there with a purpose to do the following: Place book orders for their locations, receive free books for review, and to share new talent or books with their districts. If you have a new title or an old title with limited exposure, it is the perfect place to share your work with the experts or potential real buyers.
3) It is expensive, yes, but with a joint effort it can be done and is worth the $’s spent due to the added benefit of buyers, readers, vendors, librarians, educators, all under one roof at the same time.
4) Networking with different schools, librarians, teachers, readers, is priceless, especially when they are all book lovers and want to be there with you.
5) We have placed multiple bulk orders through this conference, introduced new titles and authors, and re-launched older titles.
6) Negotiated contracts for services authors cannot receive on their own, such as Lexile scoring, contact made through TLA.
7) Received great submissions & we do not solicit authors.
8) Met librarians, teachers, educators, and others that we have stayed in touch with and shared our catalog, and new titles over the year. They have come back, and picked our latest work, sharing it with their districts.
9) Featured author area: the authors are reviewed and scheduled to sign. The advertising is great, and visiting with people as you sign your work is fantastic, but having them come back year after year, remembering you from the year before as they look for your new work….is…..priceless.
10) Often it seems as if we accomplish more at this one trade show than at ten regular author events. Those often seem time-consuming, turn into author swaps, and end up with minimal unit sales.
Many of us belong to groups including social media groups. Often added without our knowledge, some groups I know nothing about the subject matter at all, and yet there I am, added. I won’t lie; I spend very little time socializing online, socializing period. I’m not necessarily an unsocial person, but like most people these days I’m spread pretty thin, and I’m incredibly busy. Between my family, personal writing time, and work, spare time is a real issue. But recently a social media group sent out a question that ended up in my inbox, and it caught my attention. It was a great question, which made me stop, read the question and think.
What was your proudest professional moment?
I thought about that question for several minutes. We all have proud personal moments, kids and family rising to the top of the list. But the proudest professional moment, I hadn’t given that particular question much thought till right then.
I think on a personal, professional level, having Barnes and Noble Small Press Division, NY, at one-time purchasing three of my titles, little author, and a small press was a huge professional moment for me. They don’t stay there long, store category buyers list, and it’s not the same as .com. line. That was a huge accomplishment at the time, knowing we have great titles with sales under their belts, large author platforms, that have been declined over and over again for the category buyer store purchase. That ranked pretty high for me, as an author, as a proud professional moment. Starting a business with my business partner, a press founded by authors, in a competitive industry and personally being invited to discuss our company with our print managers at LSI/Ingram in TN was huge. Touring the plant, negotiating a contract that was feasible for us as a company and beneficial for our authors was also a proud professional moment. But one of the proudest moments I can remember, professionally, was the day I received a letter from a Site Director, Jeremy McNair, for one of the after-school programs that he managed at an elementary school on behalf of another organization. I had been asked to conduct a month-long workshop with multiple sites. Listed as one of my locations the letter stated the following:
My name is Jeremy McNair, and I am the Site Director for the YMCA program at Butler Elementary School. This past Monday, you came and spoke to my students about your book and the writing processes behind them. The past two days since then have been completely filled with the kids telling me how much they learned and enjoyed your presentation. I wish I could take the time to tell you every story, but I’ve typed up several of the letters that they’ve written to you and copied them to the end of this email. Your drive and passion were well received and noted by all the children and staff, and I know that your impact will resonate in a huge way in all of their lives.
Thank you so much for your dedication to your craft, but even more than that, thank you for sharing it with the children at Butler. They were left truly inspired.
This touched me in such a way, as did the letters from the students below (read them, and you’ll see what I mean, precious) that it reminded me of why authors/writers do what we do. Why we share our work, spend time, and encourage our future young writers to tap into and use their imagination to create beautiful future works. Over the years I’ve participated, completed, and accomplished many things that other people would be proud of, but this to this day ranks as one of my proudest professional moments.
Letters from the students below (they’re in a laminate paper for protection) but click on the image to enlarge and read.
I have two teenage daughters at home. My son, now grown, survived the teen years. I’m certain my girls will as well, though they’ll likely receive a few bumps and bruises along the way. Heartache, fallouts with friends, and decisions about future life goals will leave a few scars.
Dating, according to many teens these days, is often nothing more than a hook-up. Sound shocking? Yes! But according to teens, it’s normal. In fact, they rarely call dating, dating anymore. It’s often just referred to as hanging out. I’m hanging out with so-and-so, and then onto the hook-ups. This behavior of hooking up and even random hook-ups is considered normal for many teens. How do I know? I spoke to groups of teens and they spoke candidly and with no fear of their behavior. Local Dr’s told me they treat teens on a regular basis of two to three times a week for STD’s. I know… WHAT?!Scary? It is! It’s not that parents and schools aren’t talking to these kids about the dangers of sexually transmitted diseases or having sex too young because they are, it’s that kids, especially teens, often think that they’re invincible and nothing can happen to them. Some teens were treated over and over by the same Dr. for the same STD, and this is a national problem, not a community issue. In addition to the physical dangers of this type of behavior, the kids often aren’t prepared for the emotional and complications that can come along with behavior that they’re not ready for.
But hanging out and worrying if your kid is hooking-up isn’t the only danger that goes along with teens social lives today. Dying to grow up, surrounded by social media promoting just that, some kids think they’re more mature than they really are, jump into physical relationships taking on more than they can emotionally handle. The problem is they often don’t understand the dangers of that until the emotional rollercoaster starts. Some teens are forced into sexual situations prematurely, especially if they’re not thinking clearly because they’re impaired by using drugs or alcohol. Obviously, the fallout is devastating and can be life-altering.
Concerned about the accounts that I heard from teen after teen, fearful my teens would find themselves in a dangerous situation themselves, I set out to write a novel that would imitate a true-life threatening situation. The situation that occurs in the book, takes place too many times and affects too many young girls/women and boys/men. This type of situation, as in the book, becomes increasingly complicated when the relationship has been a lasting one and something terrible happens. Lines are crossed, emotions are suddenly confused, and lives are forever changed. My hope is that if only one person reads the book, thinks twice about getting into the type of situation described, then I’ve done my job as an author and accomplished what I set out to do with the message in this piece.
I believe I pulled the overall message of Bitter Betrayaloff in regards to showing how the dating situation effects young boys/men and girls/women differently due to their emotions and how they handle a dating situation. I believe the scenes that show the destruction of the relationship depicts what happens to some teens when they find themselves in dangerous situations.
I’ll be one of the authors on a panel at the TeenBook Fest by the Bay, speaking to over seven hundred teens about this book. It shows the dangers of miscommunication while being impaired and how great kids make terrible mistakes that affect them for the rest of their lives. The book has won two awards, The Mom’s Choice Awards® (MCA), Gold, which evaluates products and services created for children, families, and educators. The program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products, and services, and the New Apple Literary Award, both for YA. If you’re a teen, parent, educator, youth group leader, or a librarian, this book may interest you.
Picking a college wasn’t turning out to be as easy as Reece had hoped. The school he wanted to attend was out of state and hadn’t made him any kind of offer yet. His coach had written letters of recommendation. His grades were good, game films highlighting his plays were in the hands of several recruiters, and services that assisted students and parents were working on his behalf. But the waiting part was no fun. His parents wanted him to stay in Texas, but agreed not to stand in his way if a school he liked came knocking.
Reece wanted two things: to attend a D1 school and receive an out-of-state offer. Truthfully, he hadn’t thought too much about Payton or what she thought. There were 347 D1 schools that he was aware of, scattered across forty-nine different states. Some colleges were smaller, private schools and some larger universities, but the odds of Reece receiving a full scholarship were excellent. Coach had said a full ride was more than a realistic possibility; it was a probability, especially riding on his brother’s reputation. Reece idolized his brother and wanted to follow in his footsteps, not easy to do, but he never once felt jealous or envious of his brother’s success. Coach always bragged about Royce and Reece. Proud to have coached them both in their high school years.
“Just like Royce, son. You are capable of playing for a D1 program,” Coach Duncan would say. “You know, those programs can generate millions of dollars in revenue annually for the schools. And like your brother, you could handle the pressure of performing and the expectations of winning.”
Reece believed Coach and worked hard at proving him right. Payton cringed when Reece talked about the schools he wanted to attend, because she knew it meant the inevitable—he’d be leaving. He’d get so excited. His eyes would light up and he’d get animated as he talked. She was happy for him, but sad for herself. Despite the heaviness she felt weighing on her heart and in her head because she missed him already, she tried her best to encourage him. He called her to tell her about an email Coach had received asking about his eligibility. He could tell she was down by how quiet she got on the other end of the phone. Now he knew why he hated to call. He’d rather send her a text than talk.
“You know we’ll stay in touch every day and hang out when I come home.”
“Well, yeah,” she replied, kinda shocked that he had to actually state it. Surely that was understood. Wasn’t it?
“Just checking. You sound down or something.”
Payton shook her head, and then realized she needed to answer. He couldn’t see her through the phone.
“Sorry. I’m fine.”
“I’m almost there. Are you ready?”
“I will be by the time you get here,” she said. “If you let me off the phone!”
When Payton climbed in, Reece raised the console divider in the front seat so she could sit next to him. He’d crank the aux and she’d lay her hand on his leg, unless he was holding hers in his. She loved Friday nights, even more than Saturdays. It was the excitement of spending real time with him after being in school all week. They were going to the movies with Reece’s friends. Aubrey didn’t have a date and even though she could have joined them, she opted out. Payton didn’t mind. All of her attention was on Reece anyway.
“You smell good,” Reece said as soon as Payton climbed into the truck and turned to give him their customary kiss hello.
She knew the perfume she’d sprayed all over her clothes and neck was his favorite perfume; smiling coyly, she kissed him again.
“Trevor might bring some girl,” Reece stated nonchalantly.
Payton laughed. “Like just some random girl, seriously?”
Reese shook his head. “Right! I didn’t ask. He said he might bring some girl. I don’t care who.” He took a sip of Coke. “But I think her name begins with an S. Samantha, Sydney, Sophie, something like that. Chase is coming as well, but I doubt he’ll bring anyone; no one will date that loser.”
As they turned onto Trevor’s street, they saw Trevor outside, leaning against his car with a pretty girl standing next to him. She was tall, slim, and blond. Payton didn’t recall seeing her before, but gave her a quick once-over as they walked toward the truck.
“This is Stacie,” Trevor announced as they climbed into the back.
“Stacie,” Reece repeated, glancing at Payton.
“Hi, Stacie, nice to meet you.” Payton made the introductions for everyone.
Reece looked at Trevor as the girl climbed into the truck and gave him a nod of approval. How did Trevor score a date with that? Trevor looked as if he hadn’t quite figured it out either; he seemed to know exactly what Reece meant as he grinned big, shrugged his shoulders, and threw up his hands. No complaints from him. They had met during one of his classes. She was a transfer. Totally used to rejection, Trevor was bold enough to ask her to go out with them that night. Shockingly she had said yes, and here they were. She was undeniably hot and he wasn’t. Weird.
“You never know if you don’t ask, bro,” Trevor muttered as he patted Reece on the back.
Payton leaned over the back of the seat and spoke to the girl.
“You’ll get used to it. They talk to each other as if we’re not here, and they do a lot of things in groups.” She laughed out loud. “They say girls are bad about doing everything together. OMG! These guys. Stick around, you’ll see.”
Trevor grabbed Stacie’s hand, not sure if he’d actually see her again after that evening, but she didn’t seem to mind. More of Reece’s friends were waiting for them at the movies than they’d expected. Doug, Shane, Tristan, and Lisa. Additional introductions were made, tickets bought, and seats found. Sci-fi was not her thing, but Payton was just glad to be there. The boys enjoyed it, though; she knew because they were relatively quiet throughout the entire show. Unusual.
“Where to?” Payton asked as the credits rolled.
“Lake. Tiger’s trail,” Trevor suggested. “Denis said there’s a party up there tonight.”
Returning to the truck, Reece nodded, turned up the music, slipped his hand into Payton’s, and they took off. Trevor was right. Trucks, cars, and kids were everywhere. There was no telling how long they had until someone called it in, but they were there now. The typical classic red plastic cups found at every teen get-together were being passed around. Beer was drunk by most, but others were slamming liquor brought by kids who could get their hands on it. Some of the kids pretended to drink it. Peer pressure. Payton was one of those kids. She held onto a cup that was handed to her and pretended to sip what was in it. Fake IDs were something else that kids seemed to have easy access to. Payton was dying to look into that, but hadn’t quite been brave enough to attempt it yet. Reece didn’t need one. If he needed anything, Royce took care of him. It was common knowledge that teens were able to get their hands on just about anything they wanted or needed if they had a few dollars. If the price was right, someone always seemed to know someone who could get it or whom to ask. At these parties vodka floated around because it looked like water, was easily found in most homes, and easily mixed with soda, juice, or just about anything else. Every time Payton was handed a drink with vodka in it, her mom’s voice would ring in her head. Kids on booze: not only illegal, but lethal. Her mom had recited these words for years, hoping Payton would avoid the teen drinking scene. Payton was an observer and Reece for the most part was too, unless he was planted somewhere for the night and even then he didn’t usually overdo. But he didn’t mind enjoying the scene with his friends and usually he had fun no matter what, especially with his girl by his side. Handed a beer, Reece shook his head and pointed to his truck.
“Dude, I’ve got a full truck tonight.”
His attention turned to Payton as he reached for the cup and handed it to her.
“Babe, yours is gone, you can have it.”
She wanted to shake her head and decline as well, but against her better judgment she held out her hand. Noticing the hesitation on her face, Reece pulled her toward him and whispered in her ear.
“You’re good, you’re not driving. Plus, you’re with me.”
He put his arms around her waist, leaned forward, and kissed the back of her neck. She turned around to face him and he pulled her even closer, kissing her with such intensity that her stomach filled with butterflies. She kissed him back just as hard. As he pulled away from her, he whispered something so softly she wasn’t quite sure what she’d heard. Were they thewords, as in the real form and not a version of them, like he usually said, or number digits in his texts? That’s what they sounded like; surely she hadn’t missed the words? Tugging at his sleeve, she asked him to repeat what he had said.
“Wait. What? What did you say?”
“You heard me,” he countered with a muffled voice so no one else would hear him.
“No, really. What did you say?”
“I love you, babe,” he whispered again, bashfully the second time. He kissed her on the cheek and turned back toward his friends, joining their conversation as if he hadn’t just said the most important words she’d ever heard.
Seriously, the words! First thing she wanted to do was say them back, but she couldn’t because he was talking to his friends. Then she wanted to text her BFF, Aubrey, but she couldn’t do that either, because Aubrey would want details. Super excited, madly in love, how could she have known what would happen next?
I received an email yesterday from a friend, fellow author, who knew of a child who had killed themselves due to a cycle of bullying. I didn’t know the details, and I didn’t ask about them; I knew it never should have happened. It happens too often, and these days, with social media, anyone can be a victim.
This issue breaks my heart, kids being bullied at school or elsewhere, but being pushed to the point of a child taking their lives is gut-wrenching in the worst possible way. I often wonder what the child/ teen was thinking in those last moments. How disturbing that they’d be in that position at all. Did anyone, anyone, stop to think about their mental well being before push, push, pushing, them over the edge that one last time? And therein lies the problem; no one has a clue what someone else is going through or deals with on a daily basis in regards to mental health issues.
What is manageable for one kid, isn’t manageable for another at all. I have a child that has suffered from issues that no one knows about, and I wonder about the thousands upon thousands of kids that experience the same. They’re fragile. They’re beautiful. They’re undeserving of being pushed because they’re different. Until my child was stronger and could fend for themselves, if need be, I lived in fear on a daily basis of losing them to the world. I was fortunate, but even as an adult, their struggles are real.
This topic, bullying, is so near and dear to my heart I wrote a piece titled The Greenlee Project. It’s a book about the consequences of bullying and cyberbullying is a Gold Recipient of the Mom’s Choice Awards, the 2017 International Book Award Winner for YA Social Issues, and won the first place at the 16th annual North Texas Book Festival (NTBF) for YA and General Fiction. It showcases the all-too-common anonymous and cruel betrayals of others through social media, of such magnitude that it devastates a young teen, her friends, family, and the community.
Cyberbullying or bullying affects not just the victims, but everyone around them. After being the target of cyberbullying, what Greenlee does next is shocking. I sincerely hope you enjoy my work and if you have a tween or teen, you’ll share this book with them. If this book prevents one child from being hurt or causes kids to think twice about their actions, then I’ve done my job. Enjoy this excerpt.
All rights reserved. Published 2014 by Progressive Rising Phoenix Press, LLC Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The bus pulled away from the curb slowly, but the shift in gear caused such a jolt that it shook Greenlee’s whole body and woke her up, leaving her dazed and confused. Her eyes tried to focus on the fabric pattern on the seats. It hadn’t registered to Greenlee that she was still on the bus until then. A stale odor wafted through the aisle and filled her nostrils. The smell was nauseating, but brought her back to reality quick enough . . . Greenlee stared out the window with no idea where she was. She didn’t recognize a thing. Hanging her head in her hands, she closed her eyes and thought back to the events that had taken place and brought her to this moment.
Cole’s laughter had rung in her ears and flashbacks of kids pointing fingers and laughing at her raced once again through her mind. Embarrassed, she sank down in her seat. Her heart burdened and heavy, she knew that she couldn’t stay there much longer.
Glancing out the window, Greenlee tried to recognize something, anything, but she realized without a doubt that she was lost. She panicked. Nervously she stood up and moved toward the front of the bus. As if she were invisible, she avoided eye contact and waited for the door to open.
The bus stopped and the doors swished open. Greenlee noticed that the bus driver was staring at her. The woman had an odd look on her face and her mouth opened as if she wanted to say something, but she didn’t. Greenlee couldn’t discern if the lady was concerned or if she owed her more money. As if purposely biting her tongue, the driver simply shook her head, clenched her mouth shut, and waited for Greenlee to step down. As soon as she did, the doors closed behind her and the bus pulled away.
Greenlee stood on the pavement, not sure which direction she should go. Her phone vibrated and it occurred to her that she hadn’t talked to a single person all day. Avoiding people forever was impossible and she knew that, but for now it seemed like a plan. She had twenty-eight missed calls, eleven voicemails and fifty-four texts. Greenlee deleted them all without listening or reading a single one of them. She couldn’t deal with it, not right then anyway, even knowing the consequences for what she’d just done. Marianne’s intentions were good, but she was becoming a problem with her nonstop calling. The phone vibrated again and against her will, Greenlee answered.
“What’s up?” she asked.
“Are you kidding me? What’s up? That’s all you have to say?” Marianne said angrily.
Greenlee didn’t want to talk, let alone argue with her. She already felt like a piece of malleable meat, beat to a pulp for someone else’s enjoyment. Regardless of Marianne’s intention, being chewed out wasn’t her idea of a phone call. Her cell phone pressed against her ear, Greenlee heard the words, but her mind was a million miles away. For the first time, the saying in one ear and out the other made total sense to her. Marianne kept talking but Greenlee wasn’t listening . . . then dead silence. Finally, Marianne had caught on.
“Okay, I’m sorry, I admit it. I’m not thinking clearly. I’m worried about you. Are you all right?” Marianne asked softly.
What a stupid question! Of course, she wasn’t all right. Greenlee didn’t respond. Her throat felt as if it was closing up and she couldn’t breathe. Who was she kidding? She couldn’t have talked through the tears anyway. She wanted to scream into the phone, “No, you idiot; I’m not all right. I’m anything but all right. I’m a mess. How come you don’t know that?” Keeping her mouth shut, she just listened.
“Greenlee, where are you?”
Greenlee glanced at the street sign above her head and mumbled the name of the street written on the sign above her, adding, “I don’t really know where I am. I mean I’m not sure that I really care.”
“I can send someone to come and get you,” Marianne said quietly.
The comment both surprised and alerted Greenlee to the unusual situation that she now found herself in. She declined. She had mixed feelings about that, wanting to be safe but at the same time not wanting to see or talk to anyone, at least not yet. She knew she faced an impending confrontation with her parents and she was avoiding it. Not for her sake, but for theirs—the humiliation she believed that she had caused them was too much to bear and having not been able to handle it only infuriated her.
“No, thanks. I’ll use the GPS and go from there. If I need you, I’ll call,” Greenlee said calmly.
“Greenlee, I just don’t think that’s a good idea. Are you sure?”
Marianne was disappointed, realizing that she’d been dismissed.
“Yes, I’m sure. I’ll call. Okay?” Greenlee said, knowing that she wasn’t going to call her back.
Greenlee was dismissive and Marianne felt ditched. Hurt and disappointed that Greenlee hadn’t trusted her, she reminded herself it wasn’t about her. Once again she forced the idea of contacting Greenlee’s parents out of her head, but had resolved in her mind that if they called her, she’d tell them what she knew. For Greenlee’s sake, she wouldn’t leave her out there in her mental state by herself.
Greenlee pulled up the GPS on her phone. She was twenty-eight miles from home. How in the heck had that happened? Suddenly she felt fearful and started to panic. She hit speed dial D.
“Greenlee, where in the hell are you? We’ve been trying to call you all day!” Matt Granger said.
He didn’t wait for her to respond and kept firing questions at her one right after the other and immediately Greenlee felt that she’d made a mistake.
“What are you playing at? Where are you? What are you doing?” he asked with a slight hesitation. “Where have you been?” After a pause, he said, “We’ve been worried sick!” Breathing deeply, he continued, “Greenlee . . . Greenlee, where are you now?”
Greenlee blurted out the first thing that came to mind. “Dad, I don’t really know,” she said. “And if you don’t mind, I really don’t want to talk about this right now!”
“You called me,” he snapped.
Her dad bit his lip, took another deep breath, and as calmly as he possibly could in that particular moment said, “Greenlee, we’re definitely going to talk about it; maybe not at this very second, but you can rest assured that we will talk about it!”
“Dad, please, could you just come and get me? Please.” Another slight pause and he could hear her exhale, “I don’t even know where I am . . . I know you’re mad and disappointed in me, but please, can you just come and get me?”
A combination of relief and fear swept over him with such magnitude that he was forced to bat away his own tears. The photo of Greenlee that sat on his desk didn’t help: all smiles, sparkling eyes, and freckles across her cute button nose. It took him back to the days when he’d lift her in his arms and swing her around and around until she begged him to stop. He took a deep breath and spoke as softly as he could without breaking down.
“I’m not mad at you, Greenlee,” he said softly, “or disappointed in you. Don’t say that. But we will talk about this and you know that we will!” He grabbed his jacket and his keys. “I’m on my way. Don’t move from that spot and text me the street address.”
“Don’t talk to strangers!” He slammed down the phone and left his office.
As the air chilled, Greenlee realized that she was starving and cold. She wondered if she should ask her dad to stop and grab her a bite to eat, but given the circumstances, she figured it wasn’t the best time to ask for a favor. She kept her head down, hoping to avoid eye contact with the people on the street. She wasn’t used to being in the city by herself, especially at that hour, and the hustle and bustle of people that spilled onto the concrete made her fearful. Fortunately, no one was paying much attention to her, and that brought her some comfort. She shivered as a gust of wind blew through her body. Her hands clambered to grab her sweatshirt and wrap it as tightly around herself as she could. She continued to wait for her dad, who seemed to be taking too long. In less than twenty-four hours she had gone from not wanting to see her dad at all, to feeling relieved that he was finally pulling up to the curb.
The car door opened and she slid into the front seat without saying a word. Her dad asked her if she was hungry and Greenlee nodded gratefully. He pulled into the first fast-food place they came to and he ordered a burger and a large coffee. Handing her the brown soggy bag, he continued driving home.
Greenlee spoke first. Her voice echoed with the sound of distress, her pitch inconsistent, and she frantically tried to compose herself to speak without trembling. It was impossible. Reaching over, he grasped her hand. He never took his eyes off the road and didn’t offer any kind words—his simple gesture was enough. It was heartfelt, meaningful, filled with love and compassion, and touched Greenlee beyond any words that he could have chosen anyway. Gently he squeezed her hand in his, and she tried to speak.
“I . . . I can’t go back there, Dad, I just can’t. I thought I could,” she said as the tears flowed uncontrollably down her cheeks. She swallowed, sucked in a gasp of air, exhaled, and tried to continue.
“The whole thing is just too unfreaking believable. I can’t wrap my head around it. I still feel so stupid.”
She wasn’t hungry anymore but took another bite from her half-eaten burger, chewed a moment too long, swallowed, and looked at him as he continued to drive.
“I’m begging you, Dad, please, please don’t make me go back there. I still need to do what I’m doing, just maybe somewhere new.”
Her words and the tone with which she said them broke his heart. He hurt for her. He was angry for her, angry at himself for not having known, and furious with the kids who were involved. His daughter! Terrible for anyone’s daughter, but it was his daughter. Swallowing hard, he struggled to find the right words. His voice sounded different than usual: shaky but soft, concerned, but definitely filled with anguish. Greenlee studied his face for a moment but was forced to turn away. Tears had filled her dad’s eyes, and though it would have killed him to know, Greenlee felt humiliation engulf her as she realized that she had inadvertently brought her father to tears and caused him such pain.
“It was cruel and I still want to kill him, hurt him, and the others for that matter,” Matt Granger said. “And of course I can’t kill him. I’m angry, no, make that furious! I’m disgusted and mad at myself for not protecting you.” He couldn’t look at her, but he had to ask, “Greenlee, how did I not know?”
Greenlee put down the burger and whispered, “It’s easy, Dad, I didn’t even know!”
He stopped at a red light, released his grip on her hand, and took a sip of coffee. Clearing his throat, he tried to speak again, but he couldn’t. The words simply would not come. Rage had taken over and fearful of scaring her, he put his foot on the gas pedal and moved forward into the flow of traffic again.
“If you don’t go back, you’ll have to transfer. If you transfer, they win. You can’t let them win. You are better than they will ever dream of being. I hope you know that. I hope, Greenlee, that you see just how amazing you are. I think you should return to school. I don’t know how hard this will be for you. I’d be lying if I said I did. But I do know this”—he hesitated, choosing his words carefully—“you have to do this; you have to do this for yourself.”
He never said another word and Greenlee didn’t offer any either, there was no point. The inevitable was around the corner, but how she’d deal with the situation once she went back to school, facing the people who had put her through hell, remained to be seen.
The principal had been calling their house all day long. He didn’t mention the calls the school had made to Greenlee.
“We assure you,” the principal had said, “if anything else has happened, anything at all, we will handle it appropriately. Any student that may have been involved in this dreadful situation, if it was brought up again, will be disciplined to the full extent that the district is able to.” He hesitated and added, “Mrs. Granger, you have to know that we do not under any circumstances approve of this behavior.”
The principal waited for any assurance that he was handling the situation appropriately, but that affirmation wasn’t about to come. Mrs. Granger was angry and her words were sharp and bitter.
“What am I supposed to tell her?” she asked. “That you’re handling it as best you can?” She wasn’t thinking, just spouting words. “How do I explain that you’re handling the situation to the best of your ability? Greenlee is devastated and rightfully so. She’ll never get over this.”
She despised the sarcasm in her own voice; she tried to bite her tongue, but the poison, the bitter tone toward him, continued to flow, her voice hissing as the words attacked on behalf of her daughter.
“Clearly I’m not thinking straight,” she muttered through gritted teeth. “My apologies to you for my tone, but not to those kids, and for that, I make no apologies. I can’t imagine, as I’m sure you can’t, how Greenlee must be feeling right now.”
She didn’t wait for an answer or say goodbye; she simply hung up the phone and burst into tears. Where was Greenlee? Why hadn’t she called? She glanced at the phone, but it still didn’t ring.
I used to have a snarky reply for every question. When I was a teen, my mother used to ask why I was so “smart-mouthed”. When I was college-aged and in a group of friends I considered to all be equally intelligent, I would let the sarcasm fly. I knew they would “get” it.
Looking back, I don’t know if I was eager for the laughter (even if it was only my own), or if I was guarding my emotions. Can’t get hurt if they think you don’t care, right?
But recently, I’ve noticed that I’m not as off the cuff as I used to be. The sarcasm comes out when I’m irritated or tired; it’s reserved for those special moments when I’ve been pushed too far.
When Dellani first spoke to the Cereal Authors about posting on sarcasm, I thought it would be easy. On the contrary, I’ve found myself at a loss lately. Thinking on it, I tried to trace back to where I had lost my everyday sarcasm. I believe I tempered it when I was raising my son. (There is only so much witty, sardonic banter one can throw at a five year old before it just sounds cruel.)
As my son developed into a teenager, I let it creep back and he seemed to take to it like a duck to water. Now, he’s the smart-mouthed one. (Maybe it’s a teen thing!)
In looking for examples of sarcasm in my writing, I’ve come across the conundrum of: Is this sarcasm or is it irony?
So, I thought I’d try and work that out this month, and in doing so, found that it is not a situation of Sarcasm vs. Irony. It is rather a hand in hand relationship.
Dictionary.com describes Sarcasm as “aformofironyinwhichapparentpraiseconcealsanother,scornfulmeaning…” and “mocking,contemptuous,orironiclanguageintendedtoconveyscornorinsult.”
It is usually delivered through dialogue or tone. Now, a person’s tone is somewhat difficult to convey in a literary piece without actually using a descriptive speech tag like “he said in a mocking tone.” (A bit subtle, don’t ya think?)
Irony has one definition that is just as vaguely symbiotic: “thehumorousormildlysarcasticuseofwordstoimplytheoppositeofwhattheynormallymean.”
However, irony can be more situational and punctuated by the use of sardonic, biting dialogue. And with its second definition: “an incongruitybetweenwhatisexpectedtobeandwhatactuallyis,orasituationorresultshowingsuchincongruity,” and “In Literature: atechniqueofindicating,asthroughcharacterorplotdevelopment,anintentionorattitudeoppositetothatwhichisactuallyorostensiblystated.”
There we go, as clear as day. A big, bright, sunshiny day.
For a crude example of the two, I came up with a situation in the blurry haze of the morning. Say that there are two characters riding an elevator together, and one guy passes gas. The other notices and remarks, “Nice. Thanks. We needed an air-freshener in here.”
Now, if that same gassy character is lying in bed, lets one fly, and then flips over in his covers and essentially Dutch Ovens himself. (That is not only karmic justice, but on the ironic side.)
I warned you it was crude. I’m not sure where I was going with this article, but it sprang out of a contemplation of myself. Like I said, I used to wield sarcasm in almost every social situation when I was young. I used it to not get too close or appear too vulnerable to those around me. One definition of irony rang true to me on this point. “(especiallyincontemporarywriting)amanneroforganizingaworksoastogivefullexpressiontocontradictoryorcomplementaryimpulses,attitudes,etc.,especiallyasameansofindicatingdetachmentfromasubject,theme,oremotion.”
Detachment from an emotion.
Yes, there it is.
That is what drives the sarcastic banter among several of my main characters. Especially those that have the most to lose by admitting their true feelings or having those feelings exposed. Sarcasm is their shield, as it was mine. (And still is on many occasions.) It is an essential element in them, their way of dealing with their world. I cannot picture them without it. And, I don’t think I would want to.
Just a musing for this month, as I approach the Half Century mark in my life, that I thought I would share.
Being a mother of two teen girls, I am often surrounded by groups of teenagers. The stories that they share from time to time are both disturbing and concerning. Teen novels often glorify teen dating and teen romances, but there are so many dangers out there in the real world that many people do not always discuss the ugly side of dating for fear of shaming their kids or admitting it could happen in their family communities. After listening to more than one story about terrible, dangerous dating experiences of teens, interviewing teens and listening to their examples of neurotic behavior when where actual individuals personalities were compromised and changed while dating due to their emotions, I was compelled to write a novel based on the ugly side of teen dating. I set about writing a book titled Bitter Betrayal, that shows the parallel lives of a teen boy and girl and how they think and react differently to the exact same situations that they find directly or indirectly involved in. I also wanted to point out how certain situations become dangerous and life-changing within in a blink of an eye.
The purpose of the book is to demonstrate how the simplest actions in the name of fun can have devastating consequences. Some results are everlasting and can’t be undone. And the circumstances and decisions themselves, due to the maturity level of impressionable teens, is often confusing and leaves lasting emotional scars that can take years to overcome, if ever. Consequences of reckless actions can put kids, families, friends, and communities at risk. I hope that the story I’ve written triggers discussions, emotions, and allows teens—girls and boys—to make smart, intuitive decisions, and that they remember to respect each other’s boundaries.
I understand that the Young Adult (YA) category covers the ages of thirteen through eighteen years. But I believe impressionable teens—thirteen through sixteen years old—aren’t as emotionally mature as the older teens, yet they’re in the same category. For this reason, I intentionally kept the language and descriptive scenes in Bitter Betrayal clean so all teens could enjoy the book. The book is a two-time award-winner (The Mom’s Choice Awards® Gold. (MCA) evaluates products and services created for children, families, and educators. The program is globally recognized for establishing the benchmark of excellence in family-friendly media, products and services, and an Apple Literary Summer Ebook Award winner). Here’s an excerpt; enjoy.
Cover for Me
“They say there are two sides to every story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth; there’s no exception to this one. But whose truth will you believe . . . his or hers?”
DTB CU there!
(Don’t text back see you there)
The message flashed across her phone, and that’s all it took. Not even a whole sentence and suddenly all she could think about was getting out of class. As her fingers frantically tapped away on her phone, Payton didn’t hear a single word from the kid speaking nervously in front of the class. Looking back, what was she thinking?!?!
Payton: Cover for me
Payton: Really? J
Aubrey: BTW 182
Payton: U don’t hate me 🙂 Luv u
Five, four, three, two, and the bell finally rang. Payton shot out the door. Aubrey, her best friend since sixth grade, shoved the books Payton had left behind in her own backpack. Payton’s behavior, though frustrating at times, wasn’t surprising. She was head crazy about that boy, Reece Townsend, and it helped that Aubrey liked him as well.
With less than ten minutes to freshen up, get across campus to her car, and make it to the dam in time to meet Reece, Payton didn’t have time for small talk with anyone. Dodging in and out of students, she avoided eye contact with as many people as she possibly could. The boy’s football coach, Coach Duncan, was headed her way. His voice, undeniably recognizable, bounced off the walls and echoed through the corridor before he was physically present. When finally in view, she purposely looked at her feet and rushed past him. No way did she want him stopping her and stalling her with questions about her brother and his playing time at college.
“Whoa girl, where’s the fire?”
Coach grabbed her arm as she tried to rush past him and her whole body swung around, forcing her to face him. Arm still in his grasp, he shook his head.
“Slow it down, girl! If only my boys had moved half as fast this morning.”
Managing a slight smile, she pointed toward the bathroom. Coach raised his hands in the air and shook them back and forth, stopping her from saying another single word. He wanted no part of what could pop out of that girl’s mouth. She was liable to say something for the shock value alone. He didn’t need to know, want to know, or care to know, for that matter. He let her on her way, no questions asked. A healthy spritz of perfume, lip gloss, duck-lip practice, and Payton climbed into her car. She must have sped, because she made it in record time.
“What took you so long?” he asked.
The love of Payton’s life, well, at least to a sixteen-year-old, love-struck teen. One look at his smile and she melted. It was bad enough that they attended different schools, but he was a senior, in the process of narrowing down his college options, which meant she’d be stuck there without him. The thought of it made her cringe. On a daily basis she obsessed about him leaving, even when he asked her not to, but she couldn’t help it. Not today, she told herself, pushing the thoughts out of her head.
The best part of his day was right then, as he watched her walk toward him. He was sitting on the back of his tailgate, swinging his legs back and forth, waiting for her to join him. He tapped the cool metal, her cue to jump up next to him. She grinned. So freaking hot! He always looked that way to her, and all she wanted to do was kiss that face of his! Her grin turned into a giggle.
“What’s so funny?” he asked.
“Whatever!” A cute smirk crossed his face. “Something, or you wouldn’t be laughing.”
She grabbed his face in her hands, laughed out loud, and kissed him before hopping up next to him on the tailgate. Right before she jumped up, Reece playfully pulled her back toward him instead. Now face-to-face, she brushed his sandy-brown hair to one side, revealing his green eyes. She could get lost in them; they were that pretty.
His breath hit her face. Truth be told, all she wanted at that moment was for him to kiss her, really kiss her. Move, Payton. Move now, she thought as she stepped back and took a deep breath.
“I’m just looking at you, that’s all. You’re kinda cute like that.”
He rolled his eyes. But Payton could tell by the boyish grin on his face that her comment had pleased him. She loved that look on his face. He looked a few years younger, like a real kid. It was sweet. She stared a second too long, capturing that face a moment longer in her mind.
“You know I’m supposed to say that kinda stuff,” he said as seriously as he could, but it wasn’t working.
He tapped the tailgate again and held out his hand. So thoughtful! Payton thought, and this time she jumped up and joined him. The long cotton skirt she’d chosen to wear that day wrapped around her legs as she swung them back and forth off the back of the truck. Sandals, painted toes, and a T-shirt completed her outfit. Her long dark hair, with a delicate headband complimenting her outfit, finished off her look.
“You look hot. But I know you know that, so I’m not going to tell you!” He laughed. “Just kidding. You look amazing. Beautiful as usual!”
Payton’s face lit up. She leaned in and kissed him gently on the lips. Funny thing, though, she thought Reece was the most beautiful thing she’d ever seen. They’d actually argued about that statement once. Guys aren’t beautiful, he’d stated. They could be handsome. Good looking, sexy, dope, hot, or even cute, but not beautiful! Men were not beautiful. But it didn’t matter what he thought. To Payton he was, and she could look at him all day long.
“Hey, you never did answer my question,” he said.
“What question was that?”
“Why were you late?”
“You idiot!” She nudged him playfully. “I’m not late; you’re early, and for the record, I’m the one who’s usually waiting for you!”
He held her by the elbows, leaned in, and kissed her quickly on the lips. She would have kissed him back, but he’d already pulled away. Just as well, she wouldn’t have wanted to stop, and that wouldn’t have been good, since time wasn’t on their side.
“Aubrey covering for you?” he asked as he rummaged through a sack next to him.
“Yep. Advisory. Shouldn’t be too hard.”
She was always late getting back when they met for lunch, but there was no way she was going to tell him that. He’d cut their time short for sure. Payton had never struggled with confidence before Reece, but he unknowingly made her question herself. She didn’t need to worry, though; she was popular, a good student, considered hot, and well liked.
“Whole or half?” he asked, holding a sandwich in his hand.
“Half,” she answered, knowing she couldn’t eat in front of him anyway.
The breeze was cool but not cold, a perfect day for a picnic on the back of her boyfriend’s truck. Why did they have to go back to school?
Reece’s phone buzzed. She didn’t glance at it, but she wanted to. It buzzed again. He didn’t read the text, but did check the time. Pointing at the sandwich she hadn’t touched, he nudged her to take a bite. She didn’t think he’d noticed she hadn’t eaten, but he had.
“We’re going to be late if you don’t hurry up. Eat.”
She leaned into his arm. It felt good just being close to him. The feeling of closeness made her want to kiss him, and she had no idea if he knew that. It was so stupid and irritating that she felt this way every time they were together. Not to mention when it was time to head back to school. It made leaving incredibly difficult. Payton missed him before they’d even left. Surely this was normal for a teen like her, wasn’t it? She looked at her sandwich just as Reece took a bite of his.
“I’m not really hungry.” She hesitated for a second, opened up her mouth to speak, but closed it again.
“What is it?” he asked, knowing she wanted to say something.
The words unexpectedly flew out of her mouth, surprising even her.
“We could cut class.”
Reece’s eyes darted toward her.
“Stay here and hang out a bit longer,” she added.
Payton Phillips suggesting they cut class. Sweet! He wasn’t sure if he was shocked, but he was definitely impressed that it was her idea. They’d been together nearly two years, but she’d never once insinuated they should cut class before. Grinning, he shook his head.
“I can’t. I’ve got a test this afternoon. No pass, no play, remember?”
Even though she knew he was right, her heart sank.
“But I can’t believe you just suggested that—it’s something I might think of, might, but I didn’t think you would.” Reese took a drink of his Coke. “Um. OK then. I think you just kinda got yourself in a bind. I might hold you to it later!”
She didn’t care. Hell, Advisory or Reece?
Seriously . . . was that a real question? Worth the trouble if she got caught? Hell yeah! Reece jumped off the tailgate of his white dodge and stood in front of her. One arm wrapped around her neck, one around her waist, he kissed her, a real kiss, and she kissed him back. An incoming text interrupted them. Flushed cheeks, heart racing, and although Payton wouldn’t have agreed in that moment, it was for the best that the text came in. They may not have left that spot for a while longer, and then they both would have been late. Not to mention Aubrey couldn’t cover for that long. After all, Aubrey wasn’t a miracle worker. Covering for lunch and half of sixth period, Advisory, was no problem, but more than that rose the red flags. Reece’s phone buzzed again; this time he answered the text.
Reece: K CUS – DTB
(OK See you soon, don’t text back)
“Hey, can I ask you a question?”
Reece shrugged his shoulders. “Sure.”
“How come when you text me sometimes, and apparently others.” Her raised eyebrows indicated she’d read his response.
“Yeah,” he said hesitantly.
“You don’t let me text you back?”
He looked puzzled.
“What are you talking about?”
“What’s with the DTB, don’t text back?” she asked.
Reece shoved his phone into his back pocket and packed up the trash. Payton waited for his response.
“What? Seriously?” He laughed. “That’s your question?”
She nodded. “Yeah. That’s it,” she said, moving her foot in tiny circles in the dirt. “Like, if you text me first, why can’t I text you a response back?”
He grabbed his phone and pointed to her texts. Now she wished she hadn’t asked such a stupid question. It felt like she was invading his privacy or something, but a simple explanation hadn’t seemed too much to ask for a second ago.
“Really, you want to know why?” He didn’t wait for a response. “It’s simple. Sometimes I’m in class. Sometimes I can’t talk for various reasons. Like right now, I’m here with you, and dip-wad Walker is looking for me. Or sometimes I’m driving, at practice, whatever.”
He glanced at his phone to check the time. “But right now I’ve gotta go, and so do you.”
DTB. A way to communicate without communicating. Cute, wasn’t it? Was it? Why was she suddenly questioning it?
Back to school is right around the corner; some kids have already started the new school year, while others make final preparations. Usually, it’s an exciting time, but some kids dread the thought of going back to the place they feel the most insecure or where they’re an easy target for others entertainment. Bullying comes in all forms such as verbal, physical, isolation, and bullies themselves are often hard to identify. Sometimes they’re the stranger in the shadows, others, they’re the most popular kids on campus, and sometimes they hide behind being kind and respectful. But these days any kid given the right circumstances such as being in a group egged on by their peers, hiding behind a device, can feel empowered, and become hateful or bolder in their word choices than they normally would to others.
Social media has played a huge role over the years desensitizing kids to bullying acts that occur both physical and verbal. Behavior once considered unacceptable has slipped into the realm of socially acceptable, not only in teenage circles but often in households all across the world. Watering down meanness and turning it into humor is unsettling to me as a parent.
Outrageous name-calling or verbal onslaughts for the sake of the latest trend or lingo, can often turn conversations into subtle attacks that can cause harm and inflict damage in less than ten words. Especially if one has no idea how fragile the other person on the receiving end might be. Words and rumors causing reputations to be ruined, individuals isolated, and unfortunately, too many times we’re witnessing the unthinkable when tweens, teens, and sometimes even adults take their lives without a solid punch ever being swung. Weapon of choice these days? Phones mostly, but bullies aren’t limited to those, tablets, and the ol’ desk top still works as well.
Teen language and lingo is so foreign to me, it changes daily, and I have two teens still at home. It often sounds like slang bombardments with laughter attached. “I hate you.” “Everyone hates you.” “No one likes you.” “Drink bleach.” “Kill my self.” And I hate this one, “Kill yourself.” “Do it!”
If questioned the standard answer is the same, “I was just kidding,” or “It’s a joke.” Alternatively, “I didn’t mean it!” But unfortunately, fragile teens will take those type of words literally to heart. It wears on them and breaks them down. One has no idea of the fragile state of mind of young teens, many who are legally medicated without others knowledge.
According to the CDC, suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year. However, for every successful suicide, there are at least 100 suicide attempts. Unfortunately, many of those are related to bullying. Cyberbullying is experienced on some level by many kids today. Kids are killing themselves because the bullying is torturing them and affecting them to such a degree they’d rather be dead. How disturbing is that! Again, no one can tell how the fragile state of mind is of the child on the receiving end. Disturbing.
I was inspired to write a book that addresses bullying and teens, The Greenlee Project, it’s a MCA® winner for YA and General Fiction and has been named among the best in family-friendly media, products, and services by the Mom’s Choice Awards®. It also won for YA and General Fiction at NTBF. The Greenlee Project demonstrates the effect of using social media negatively. How it affects the victim, family, friends, communities, and even the bully or bullies that are sending the damaging texts. So-called good kids, unexpectedly, become the so-called bad kids. How? Easy, one touch of a button; send!
During my research for The Greenlee Project, I observed teens on different campuses, sat at football games and in cafeterias with the teens. Visited libraries, and interviewed teens, teachers, parents, and counselors. I have teens of my own, and my house is often full of kids. But I can honestly say I was shocked about some of the things I learned during my research.
We all know that bullying has existed for years, but no one will argue today it’s a different world. Social media can put the victim on a public platform delivering the maximum amount of damage within seconds. It spreads like wildfire.
We can’t take away nor do I suggest taking away devices. But be vigilant. Watch your teens. Bullies pick on kids of all sizes and economic status. They do not discriminate and most victims, once tweens or teens, do not openly share their feeling of being abused by other kids. If you’re looking for a book that will open up a conversation about this topic, girls, and boys, read The Greenlee Project with your teen. I gurarentee emotions will brought to the surface and a discussion will start. There are even discussion questions in the back of the book to assist with the topic. Don’t wait. Bullies come in all shapes and sizes.
Greenlee Lynn Granger is about to find out the meaning of technology used as a malicious tool: a normal teen one day, and ruined the next. Who knew a boy’s affections could turn her life into such turmoil? Becoming a designated project, a joke in front of the whole school, turns Greenlee’s life upside down. What she does next is shocking. An emotional glimpse into the reality of cyber bullying : cruel betrayal of such magnitude devastates Greenlee. Greenlee knows her choices will determine the future of her abusers. Her relationship with her family and friends strained, she’s forced to make mature decisions. Cyber bullying affects the victims and everyone who surrounds them. What a waste: what path will Greenlee, her persecutor, and family take?
We have all seen the devastating and lasting effects upon children, teens, their families, and the community as a whole, due to bullying and cyber bullying. This book sheds light on the impact that the bullying act has not only on the victim but also on the families of the victim and the bully, teachers, communities, friends and the person acting as the bully. Greenlee’s strength, courage and determination to stand up and right this grievous wrong is encouraging and inspiring. Greenlee could be any girl, anywhere, in America. And Clay Monning, a star athlete, could be any parent’s great kid. Peer pressure, bad decisions with horrific consequences, changes everything for both of them. Good kids, turned bad. How? Social media.
Reviewed by Stephen Fisher for Readers’ Favorite
The Greenlee Project by Amanda thrasher is a brilliantly written story about a selected few students who are considered to be the B.P. (Beautiful People) who truly believe that it is they who run the high school that they attend in today’s electronic society. The story begins with Greenlee Granger, a fourteen-year-old girl who is going through a huge social dilemma at school. After her father drops her off at school, instead of going inside, she decides to take a long ride on a public bus. Time doesn’t seem to exist until she finally gets let off, God knows where, in a town 20 miles away. She finally gets back to reality and calls her father to pick her up.
From here the story unfolds as you get to know her circle of friends and social status, as well as the cute new boy that just transferred to her school. Clay joins the football team because he was the star quarterback where he came from. Now he has to prove himself and make the team. When it comes time for him to be initiated, he is allowed to decide the ritual, and sets out to make it a memorable one, so he proposes “The Greenlee Project.” The only people that can know about the initiation are his new team mates. That is until queen bee, Laurel, sets her sights on Clay as well.
Amanda Thrasher does a superb job of describing the intense situations that arise when the elite crowd’s attention is threatened by those that they feel are beneath them. Ms. Thrasher also delivers the pressures that the B.P. experience to maintain their status quo. All of her characters are well developed and, by the end of this powerful story, Amanda adds some unexpected surprises that really put a twist in the outcome. The Greenlee Project is an eye opening, powerfully written book that I highly recommend for teenagers, faculty, and parents. Well done!
In the last year I’ve been suffering from writers block and I couldn’t understand why? I mean I could see the story clearly but I had trouble coming up with the right words. Every scene was a struggle, which led to me abandoning the story (Miss Mary Mack) several times. Then one day I was having a discussion with a friend who was having trouble dealing with her teenage daughter when she came to the realization that their problems were rooted in the fact that they were both so similar. Now if that isn’t the ultimate form of irony then I don’t know what is? However as my writer’s block continued, I read several articles on why authors write themselves into their work and reached a shocking conclusion: I was Miss Mary!!!
No, I don’t go around murdering people, (although those thoughts do pop up in my head from time to time) I took pieces of my life and sprinkled them throughout the story. Miss Mary was in fact physically modeled after my first grade principal Miss Murray, who wore dark clothing that covered her body from head to toe. She also was a disciplinarian which made her a terrifying figure in the first grade. However she wasn’t evil, just tough.
I also had a fourth grade bus driver by the name of Miss Johnson who was sometimes called, Miss Mary. She didn’t really like driving a bus and insisted we all ride in silence. Weird, huh?
Then there’s me, I’m not too fond of children, I mean don’t hate them, I just prefer not to be around them. P.S. I come from a long line of women who were reluctant mothers. So I was able to draw on that when it came time to summon the callousness required for a villain. It was also then I realized that I was trying to make sense of my past. And guess what? Miss Mary is the perfect vehicle for that, I can run loose and do as much damage without really affecting anyone in the real world. The big plus is that I can kill and not wind up in prison. I guess this is what George R.R. Martin feels like every time he sits down at his computer. LOL!
Okay, I’m Getting To The Point!
When your work hits too close to home, it can be difficult to navigate through the story. If you have a real unresolved conflict in your own life, it may be near impossible to resolve the one in your story because you can’t imagine your characters finding peace. You know, the apology that never came, the relationship that failed, or the never ending dysfunction of a family, can really damage your perception and almost make you blind to the obvious. I know, I had this problem and the only way to get through it was to think my way logically through it. I had to know what readers or in this case society expected from this book. I had to dole out punishment and correct injustices. That doesn’t always happen in real life. I also had to step back and let my characters go their own way. Once I did that, their world unfolded and things began making sense again.
A Final Thought
As with most things in life, writing isn’t about you. Sure you can create worlds and characters but once you do so, they start to develop their own reality. Try as you may, you are not of their world and vice versa. Only a piece of you will live on in your work, but the rest of you gets to move on and make peace with the reality that is meant to be.
Bio: Rachel Rueben is author of YA, supernatural as well as romance books. Her work can be found her on the Cereal Authors blog as well as Wattpad. She is also a blogger at Writing By The Seat Of My Pants where she discusses self-publishing and rarely refers to herself in the third person.
The juice box was definitely against me. Its resistance was punctuated by a taunting titter. My efforts to open it were futile, it mocked.
No, wait. The snickering was not the juice box. It came from down the lunch table. I didn’t even have to look their way. I knew who was laughing, and I didn’t want to see if it was me they were laughing at. In my heart, I knew it was.
I continued to stab at the little cellophane covered hole with the sadly beveled end of the hard plastic straw like Van Helsing at the climax of a bad B movie. The final strike bent my straw, but rewarded me with a squirt of lukewarm apple juice in the face. An arterial explosion worthy of the best special effects artist in the business.
The laughter from the perfectly coifed girls at the other end of the table could not be ignored this time. My life was not a bad horror movie; it was a comedy and I was the hapless victim of a situational schtick.
Staring down at the lunch tray, I watched the juice drown my stale, rectangular pizza slice. At least, I wasn’t hungry anymore anyway. My appetite was ruined by the whispered jokes about me destroying the little paper box with my brute strength.
I closed my eyes and swore that if I heard one more comment from those four makeup-slathered, social media celeb wannabes about me being a “she-male”, I’d flip this table on their heads.
Not that I hold any direct animosity for She-males, or what have you, but I do resent lies being spread about me. And, I resent those who start the lies. Namely, Brittany. My mom says I spend way too much time worrying about Brittany, her crew, and what they think or say about me.
Mom says it doesn’t matter what others think, only what I know about myself. Yeah, she’s full of inspirational poster stuff like that.
Sorry, Mom. But, it’s hard not to see myself reflected in the eyes and jeers of my fellow students. My peers. What a joke. I have so very little in common with them that I hesitate to call them peers of any sort. Alas, for the next year or so, I must.
Of course, using the word ‘alas’ in casual conversation is one of the things these girls would tease me about. Can I help it if my grandfather read Shakespeare to me for the last fifteen years of his life?
The siren-like bell blared from the hall to announce the next class would begin in five. I gathered my sloshing tray and stood, never glancing at Brittany once. Fifth period was next. Gym class, right after lunch. Brilliant scheduling.
I woke up the other day recounting my dream several times as I did to try and remember it. The sights, the feelings, the familiar trappings of high school. I often dream that I’m back in school, but never had I wanted to write them into a story. This one was fun. Well, to me, running for my life and fighting creatures while possessing an unnatural strength in a dream is fun. Others may call it a nightmare. Either way, it spawned this new character. This is a little beginning snippet from what I will call my first Urban Paranormal Young Adult story.
It is such an infant at the moment that it has no name. Heck, I just came up with the protagonist’s name this morning. I hope you enjoy!
As we honor all of the dads around the world, I have to brag about mine, Martin Mulroy. I can not begin to tell you all of the sacrifices he has made over the years for our family, but I can describe a few.
A British Royal Marine, he learned the art of discipline at a very young age and taught all of us the same. From early morning workouts, keeping things tidy, a strong work ethic and leadership skills, the life lessons he instilled in us as children, teens, and young adults continue to be a part of our daily lives. And I can honestly say I still learn new things from this man.
As a young Marine, practically a kid himself, he sent his paycheck home to his mother to help support the family. He loved being a Marine, and like those before him, and currently, serving his country.
He moved our family all over England, each move better than the last, until a job offer, moved us to the United States. It was not a move he took lightly. He did it on behalf of our family. It was a great move so that he could provide a better life for his children. He believed in the dream, American dream, still does and taught me the same. As a family, we become American Citizens, and it was a day I will treasure since my mom (no longer with us), was so happy.
As a child, I never knew my dad worked as hard he did. It was something they (my mom and him) kept from us. An engineer by trade, this man I love so much, worked two jobs. One to pay our household bills, but the other to provide the luxuries we didn’t even realize was a sacrifice for them such as dance, music, and horse riding lessons. When he was home, they packed us up, packed a lunch, and took us all over England to the greatest lake districts, touring cities, hiking, museums, so we’d have the opportunity to see it all.
Parents often remind their children how hard they work to provide a better life for their families. I’m certain I’ve been guilty of that myself, but my dad, he never said a word. I was sixteen years old when I found out by accident how hard my dad had worked for us. My mom never mentioned it, and my dad never complained. Standing in the kitchen, while pouring a cup of tea, my mom softly asked me a question. “Amanda, why do you think he was gone so often for all of those years?” It had honestly never occurred to me that he was working a second job for our gifts of dance, music, and riding. Quite frankly I was shocked; two jobs, one for what we needed and one for things we took for granted yet enjoyed so much.
His expectations of what we were supposed to do were always delivered firmly but with love. And I wouldn’t dare defy him; even to this day. The things he taught me I still practice. Don’t be afraid of hard work; if you’re working, you’re earning. Work out regularly, stay fit; it’s good for your heart. You can have hundreds of acquaintances but real friends you can count on one hand; keep your circle small, and if you don’t have anything nice to say, keep it to yourself. Simple but wise words.
He’s still the only person in the world I can never say no to and will always try to please, even at my age. I still love his stories, though I’ve heard them a million times. Lately, those stories have become sweeter and more important as time seems more precious these days.
So “Happy Father’s Day” to all the dads out there, all of them, but especially mine, Martin Michael Mulroy!