First off, there is an awesome scholarship being offered at the Writing Barn for Write! Submit! Support! an awesome online class that I’m teaching in 2018. The class is for novelists of all genres, but the scholarship is for middle grade authors.
DETAILS ABOUT THE AWESOME SCHOLARSHIP
Katherine Applegate, Newbery winning and NYT bestselling author, and good friend of The Writing Barn has created the Mary Carolyn Davies/Wishtree MG Write. Submit. Support. Scholarship to be awarded to:
- either (1) MG writer for the full amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($1800)
- to be shared by (2) MG writers for half the amount of a Write. Submit. Support. registration ($900)
This scholarship honors poet, novelist and playwright Mary Carolyn Davies.
While most people know me as a young adult author thanks to the NEED series, I am in the middle of TIME STOPPERS, a middle-grade series published with Bloomsbury and before my time at Vermont College of Fine Art’s MFA program, I was a newspaper columnist, editor and poet. I think it is super cool how writers can write across platforms and how their work can change as the world changes, their understandings change, and their own needs change. So! Don’t be hemmed in by just writing one thing!
This is a photo of me after receiving VCFA’s distinguished alum award. You can tell I acting in a super distinguished manner right after that. Kekla Magoon also received one. She was way more poised.
So, to harken back to that era of writing, here’s a column that was in a paper a few years ago. It ran alongside an article about drug use in Maine and the lack of care for transients with alcohol and/or drug dependencies.
It wasn’t until well into the afternoon that we found him, dead beneath a shed on Water Street. Then he was only spotted because an oil spill into the Union River brought firefighters and reporters close by.
We noticed his naked feet first. Then we saw him stretched out between car tires and a garage door.
The Bangor Daily News reporter I was with told the firefighters who were still down by the river trying to mop up oil.
“Guys, there’s a body up here,” he said. His voice was quiet, still, a nothing voice and the words fell out into the world and for a moment nobody moved.
But Kenneth Butler was more than a body. He was a man.
According to Ellsworth police, Kenny Butler had a long history of medical problems, including heart trouble. No one’s quite sure where he was living before he died by abandoned car tires last week.
On a normal day, people go missing. Sometimes that gets noticed. Sometimes it doesn’t. On a normal day, people die. Sometimes that gets noticed. Sometimes it doesn’t.
I noticed Kenny Butler’s death. So did that Bangor Daily News reporter. So did his family.
Kenny Butler drank a lot. He did drugs. He couldn’t go to our county’s only shelter on cold winter days because they don’t allow people who are using drugs or who are drunk. Sometimes when people detox, they have seizures. Sometimes, they get violent. So, Kenny crawled beneath the basement of a shed, wedged himself between an old door and some tires. Then he died, in the cold, alone.
The police came, put on their purple latex gloves, strung up yellow tape to cordon off the area. As they took over, I thought about who Kenny Butler might be. I thought too about people who go missing from our lives by inches every day. The phone calls we fail to return. The smiles we are sometimes afraid to give.
I didn’t work anymore that Friday. My little girl, Em, stood close by all afternoon. She tugged on my sleeve.
“I don’t want to die alone,” she said.
Her eyes filled and just underneath that edge of sadness, awakening floated.
“I don’t want you to die alone either,” she added.
The wind whipping up off the Union River grew even colder that Friday afternoon. I knew what she meant. She looked up at a treehouse we were working on. It’s high among four trees. We could have stood on the platform, but there weren’t any walls yet, only tree trunks and branches separating us from falling, sheltering us from the sky.
“It’s the living you don’t want to do alone,” I told her. “That’s more important than the dying.”