There is Evil Out There And We All Need to Fight It

Real life can be more cruel than books.

It’s a hard truth.

Us writers often hear from editors, “Can you make the villain more understandable?”

We often hear, “Nobody would do something so horrible in real life.”

But sometimes villains aren’t understandable. Sometimes real life is full of horrors and cages. And it’s often only those of us who get to live safe lives, bubbled lives, who have problems understanding that such evil exists.

It exists.

Sometimes that evil is a person.

Sometimes that evil is a policy.

Sometimes that evil is both.

As a writer for kids and young adults, I get to know how brilliant and passionate and beautiful kids and teens are. As a writer for kids and young adults, I have a responsibility to speak for them when they can’t speak for themselves, but also to stand aside when they demand a place to speak their own truths.

I posted this on my Facebook yesterday because Gabby the Dog is wise and we have good conversations.

Cooking with a Writer Black Bean Soup Recipe
Gabby the Dog

Me: Gabby, when you meet people who are little or fragile or sick and they want to pet you, it’s like… Well, it’s like you become even more gentle and loving. Like the more fragile the people are, the kinder you become.

Gabby: Of course.

Me:

Gabby: What?

Me:

Gabby: Doesn’t everyone always act like that? You have to be more gentle with the people who need gentleness.

Me: No. People are not always like that.

Gabby:

Me:

Gabby: They should be.

 

 

Why This Matters

On April 6, Attorney General Jeff Sessions called for a “zero-tolerance policy for criminal illegal entry.” Since then, most numbers show that the United States government took over 2,000 kids from their parents and/or legal guardians at the country’s border.

Kids are detained. They are no longer free.

Kids are separated from their parents. They have lost the people they know.

What is evil?

Evil is the opposite of good. This policy is not good. Hurting kids, detaining kids, pulling them away from their loved ones? None of it is good.

“This is a spectacularly cruel policy, where frightened children are being ripped from their parent’s arms and taken to overflowing detention centres, which are effectively cages. This is nothing short of torture. The severe mental suffering that officials have intentionally inflicted on these families for coercive purposes, means that these acts meet the definitions of torture under both US and international law,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s Americas Director.

On a local social media page, a man I know decried the fact that the kids are ‘not in cages,’ and said all the families that were separated were separated because they had acted illegally.

According to Amnesty’s website, “Amnesty International recently interviewed 17 asylum-seeking parents who were forcibly separated from their children, and all but three of them had entered the USA legally to request asylum.”

Legally.

Of those interviewed, 14 out of 17 parents interviewed had entered legally.

“The claims of the Trump administration ring hollow. This cruel and unnecessary practice is being inflicted not only on families crossing irregularly, but also on those seeking protection at ports of entry. The majority of these families fled to the US to seek international protection from persecution and targeted violence in the Northern Triangle, where their governments are unwilling or unable to protect them,” said Guevara-Rosas.

This isn’t new, the man on social media said. The man I know. It started before, he said. Nobody cared before. If it even exists now, he said.

Back in January, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen said, “We’re looking at a variety of ways to enforce our laws to discourage parents from bringing their children here.”

Former Secretary of Homeland Security John Kelly, current chief of staff, talked about this separation policy back in early 2017.

It exists. It is evil.

And people are caring now because of multiple reasons, but one of the main reasons is that the policy (not the law) shifted, and another main reason is that people know about it now.

For background, check out Amnesty’s report from 2017 called Facing Walls. The first link is to the press release. This link is to the longer report.

Sometimes it feels impossible to battle evil policies, systemic racism, sexism, bigotry. Sometimes it feels impossible to even battle the evil within our own selves.

It’s not.

Good people, mediocre people, dogs, whatever. What we need to do is support the work of the people actively exposing evil and who are actively working against it. We need to amplify the voices of the children and parents who are suffering. We need to remember what it is that we as people stand for.

What do you stand for?

 

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

Families Belong Together “opposes the cruel, inhumane and unjustified separation of children from their parents along the U.S. border with Mexico and at other ports of entry into the U.S.  We protest the conditions in which these children are kept. We protest the irreversible trauma that has already been perpetrated on these children and their parents for the crime of seeking a better life.”

Check out its website here and find out what you can do to help.

The Poor People’s Campaign is “a national call for moral revival” in our country. The campaign follows in the path of Martin Luther King Jr., and calls for nonviolent civil disobedience.

Amnesty International is an organization, I focused on in the NEED books, and its aim is for a world where everyone has human rights. That shouldn’t be such a hard thing, but it is.

The children’s book community is also rallying. You can go here and donate to Kid Lit Says No Kids in Cages. 

Its statement reads:

As members of the children’s book industry who have built careers with teen and youth readers around the world, we jointly and strongly condemn the inhumane treatment of immigrant children evidenced by the United States Department of Justice in the past week. We believe that innocent children should not be separated from their parents. We believe the “Zero Tolerance” directive issued by Attorney General Jeff Sessions is cruel, immoral and outrageous. We believe the Department of Justice is engaging in practices that should be restricted to the pages of dystopian novels. We demand and expect better, and call on our readers to do the same.

You can also sign the petition here.

 

Writing News

I have a hard time writing about writing news on Do Good Wednesdays, but the third book in my middle grade TIME STOPPERS series comes out this August. It’s a really big adventure epic about kids fighting evil because apparently that’s what kids have to do. Actually, it’s what we all have to do.

And for more info about me, my books and podcast, check out my blog and website.

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The List in My Head

Usually, I have a little list in my head of THE COOLEST THINGS THAT HAPPEN TO CARRIE IN ONE WEEK. This is how I keep the horrible things from bothering me, and believe me thanks to Sparty’s breath smelling like the litter box and Gabby having some doggy indigestion, things haven’t been too swell around here. (Note: How goofy is the word ‘swell?’)

And, I think I already have a winner for the COOLEST THING THAT HAS HAPPENED TO CARRIE THIS WEEK!

I was out taking photos and all strung up with cameras and lenses when I saw a librarian walking across the parking lot.

She also saw me.

Her face lit up.

I instantly panicked and stressed about the overdue books in a bag in my car. I wondered if I had enough cash in my camera bag to cover my fines. Would she tackle me? Would she slap my wrists with something? I didn’t know… Maybe I could outrun her, hide in the produce section of Hannaford’s Maybe…

But then she smiled and said, “Carrie! I read your book!!!”

And then I remembered that she isn’t a librarian in my actual town. Doh!

And then she told me that she read my ancient, old book because another librarian talked about it on a listserv and then she said the most amazing words an author can hear: I LOVED IT, CARRIE. I really loved it.

YAY! A librarian I know loved Tips on Having a Gay (ex) Boyfriend.

But it gets better than that because then she hugged me!!!!

There is nothing better than a librarian hug. Except maybe a kid hug. But they are pretty close.

I hope you all get hugged by librarians this week or at least dog kissed. Gabby would be happy to provide the service:

And speaking about kissing… let’s talk writer advice here with:

Lines of Desire and Character Wants

Desire. It sort of sounds like erotica, but desire needs to be a part of all story. Not the rated-x kind, but the kind that relates to your character and your character’s longing.

Humans are always wanting, needing, and desiring.

We are born. We want to be fed. We want to be held. We want sleep.

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And we want hugs. Usually. But not all of us.

And so it goes all our lives. When it’s about your characters’ multiple levels of desire, it is often about yearning.

What is it that your character yearns for above all else? This is also often called the super objective. This is the place where readers connect with your character – this yearning. It’s what resonates with them. Why? Because they yearn too.

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A lot of writers have super objectives and desire lines inserted into their characters without even realizing it. Their character pops out yearning and it’s merely a tweaking of that in prose.

But sometimes? It isn’t that easy.

My Post-6 copy

So what do you need?

You need two main things: A concrete desire and an internal desire are the big ones that are meant to drive your character through most (if not all) of the book.

What is concrete? It’s something real, tangible. It’s making a team. It’s getting a kiss. It’s saving a town.

What is internal? It’s what happens on the inside. This is where the characters emotional desires are pulling her or him through the book. It could be a want for home, family, friends. It could be to feel worthy. It could be to feel loved. This propels the character through the book, too.

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Sparty just wants a good cuddle

So, along with that, in theater when we do character studies, we think about these three questions in every scene we play. So in writing, we’d think about these things in every chapter we write.

These are the characters’ questions:

I want –

I need –

I must have –

And we fill in the blanks. In each scene, we see those three objectives and how they relate to our character. We can do that with novels too. What is it that the character wants, needs, and must have (super objective, greater than all other objectives, the desire line of objectives)?

The super objective or must have is what creates that arc throughout the entire piece/novel/play – the want that provides the throughline and arc.

Pretty cool, huh?

Random note: You can do this for more than just your characters. You can do this for your life. What is it you want, that you need, that you absolutely must have?

DO GOOD WEDNESDAY

You want to make a difference in the world. I know you do.

According to its website, Amnesty International is “a global movement of more than 7 million people who take injustice personally. We are campaigning for a world where human rights are enjoyed by all.”

Zara in the NEED books was big into writing letters to political prisoners via Amnesty’s network.

This link brings you to a page where you can sign a petition to add your voice to thousands of others who are calling for an end to the assault on Syria’s Easter Ghouta.

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Random Marketing and Book Things

My nonfiction picture book about Moe Berg, the pro ball player who became a spy was all official on March 1 and I’m super psyched about it. You can order it!

Kirkus Review says:   A captivating true story of a spy, secret hero, and baseball player too.

The Spy Who Played Baseball

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The podcast, DOGS ARE SMARTER THAN PEOPLE, has a new podcast that came out yesterday.

And finally, I made a little video for my TIME STOPPERS books. Hopefully, the link works. I’m a bit worried about it not showing up.