Thursday, September 30, 2010

Speak Up

“You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”

- Laurie Halse Anderson, Speak

It’s Banned Books Week from September 25 – October 2, 2010.

Tahereh is hosting reviews of banned books today. I signed up, but I hope she doesn’t mind if I do things a little differently. Instead of reviewing a banned book, I’m reviewing the banning of a particular book.

Last week, I noticed writers were changing their profile pictures to read “Speak Out” and several bloggers wrote posts about Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak, which is about a girl finding the courage to speak out after being raped. The book has won awards. The book is being banned in Missouri. The book is being called pornography.

Here’s one of the best posts about it by Crystal Cook.

And here’s what the author, Laurie Halse Anderson had to say about the controversy surrounding her book.

This was my letter to the editor of “News Leader”, where the book was called pornography (I know it could be more eloquent, but I wrote it in haste.):

My letter is about Laurie Halse Anderson's Speak being slandered and banned. Authors of YA books like Speak don't write books to sensationalize sex. They are written because they reflect what's going on in teens' lives and help them cope. Taking a few scenes out of context and using buzzwords to incite fear is not good journalism.

Everyone knows the best books are always banned. The small-minded can't grasp the greatness of what the books are accomplishing. The funny thing is, the teens get it.

If you want to add your opinion, here’s the link to News Leader Letters to the Editor .

AND for every 25 comments on Lisa and Laura's blog , one copy of Speak will be donated to a library. Please comment.

If you want to know whom Speak is for, read this powerful piece by Tabitha Bird . It's called This is Why I Write. She brought tears to my eyes and gave me chills. The book would’ve been perfect for someone like her, had it been written when she needed it most. How many other teens are out there that need Speak now?

HERE is a LIST of children’s books on Amazon that have been banned one time or another:

A few favorites of mine on the list:

Harry Potter Books 1-7

The Lorax

Flowers for Algernon

Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl

Blubber, A Light in the Attic

Where the Sidewalk Ends

The Giver

A Wrinkle in Time is also on the list, which I just finished reading with my children. It’s odd because there are so many positive references to God and prayer, but I know the part that got to the naysayers. One of the characters mentions people who have fought against evil over time, and Jesus was lumped in with great thinkers like Copernicus and Gandhi.

Worse than the list itself are the seemingly silly reasons for the bans.

But banning books isn’t silly. It’s devastating for the author. Some make the argument that it sells books. That may be true. But when I think about how much love and parts of myself I put into each piece I write, digging into the deepest experiences and emotions, I would be devastated to have someone want to stop people from reading my books. A rejection is one thing, but at least someone is weighing the merits of my work. With banning, those people are trying to prevent people from reading it at all, and coming to their own conclusions.

Stories are supposed to help readers understand or even be allowed to escape their world. The books that push the envelope in some way, make people think, tackle a difficult subject, are usually the ones on the list. So in some ways, it’s a compliment.

And if you writers think, “That’s not me. I’d never write anything to upset anyone,” read the list of reasons why those books were banned. Some rationales are so odd; it probably didn’t occur to many of the authors that their content could offend anyone… until their books were banned.

As for me, this week, I’m standing by banned books.

“The books that the world calls immoral are the books that show the world its own shame."

—Oscar Wilde

If you want to read other participants in writing reviews for Banned Book Week from Tahereh's Blog :

1.Grab a Pen

2.The Rejectionist

3.Claire Dawn

4.Jessica Denoire

5.Pimp My Novel

6.Mia Hayson

7.Book Dreaming

8.Writing Investigated

9.Natalie Nuttall

10. Merit Badger

11. Writer's Flow

12. this little life of mine

13. Matthew Rush

14. Tea and Biscuits

15. The Horned Doe

16. tracy edward wymer

17. The Girdle of Melian

18. Chazley Dotson

19. Erastes

20. Heady Stories Continuing

21. Write On: Words on Craft

22. YA Muses

23. Confessions From Suite 500

24. Claudie A.

25. Literary Jules

26. Roni Loren (Fiction Groupie)

27. J. Leigh Bailey

28. Shallee McArthur

29. Speak Up

30. Heather McCorkle

31. YA Audiobook Addict

32. One Finger Typing

33. No Rest For The Lazy

34. Joann Swanson

35. Killer Chicks

36. erica and christy

37. Renae Mercado (The Siren's Song)

38. Liz Writes

39. Bethany Yeager @ Ink Splattered

40. Nowhere Fast

41. Life in Retrospect blog

42. Mesmerix @ Scribbler to Scribe

43. Taffy's Writings

44. Still Growing

45. Vicarious Reader

46. Nicola Marsh

47. Three Dead Moths in my mail box . . .

48. NerdGirlTalking

49. Marieke's Musings

50. Dancing With Dragons is Hard on Your Shoes

51. . . . and we're blogging

52. The Sithlord

53. Writers' Ally

54. Cursings and Musings

55. Jessica: Cover to Cover

56. Dominique

Tuesday, September 28, 2010


“Art has never been a popularity contest.”
- James Levine

I find it difficult to promote myself. Blabbing about my life on a blog is different. But when I have a guest post or enter a contest, and have to ask people to read or participate in some way… shudder.

Today, I entered Anthony Bourdain’s essay contest. Alesa Warcan saw it and thought of me. I needed to write what it means to cook well in under 500 words. In my typical writing style, I married history, my life growing up, and my philosophy about cooking.

The chances of me getting many votes are probably slim since the contest has been open since July and ends in two days, but I might as well try. I don’t think number of votes changes my chances, but I may have read the rules wrong. At least if I have a few votes, I won’t look like a complete loser.

Here are the rules, in case you want to enter before 09/30:

And just to warn you, I’m doing a post on another blog on 10/06 and I’m being interviewed on Nicole Zoltack’s blog on 10/09. I apologize in advance for next week’s promotions!

Monday, September 27, 2010

Scarlet L

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry, I'm sorry”

- Berry, Buck, Mills, Stipe. “Southern Central Rain (I’m sorry)” R.E.M.

For those of you who have missed my substitute teaching escapades, I have one that’s so embarrassing, I shouldn’t even be sharing it. This is like what NOT to do if you want to be a sub. My debacle is your entertainment.

The school year began a few weeks ago… without me. The new sub system is now first come, first serve. So if I don’t click on “Available Jobs” at the right time, there’s nothing. I finally saw a pre-k job, and while I thought, Do I really want a pre-k job?, the opportunity disappeared. (Disclaimer: I was called for a 2-day job on the first day of school, but I had already taken myself off the list because I had a job interview. I didn’t get the job.)

Demoralized, I called Human Resources. This is what I found out:

Yes, the subs were having the same problem as me, pressing the button over and over.

Yes, the gatekeeper used to distribute the jobs fairly during lean times.

There have been only about 10 jobs per 50 subs per day, up to that point.

But I shouldn’t worry because cold weather is coming, so teachers will be sick soon.

Where’s Swine Flu when you need it?

Then a job popped up for NEXT WEEK. Even though it was a math tutor gig (read: suicide mission), I took it. At this point, I was desperate.

Wednesday morning, around 7:45 am, a job opened up to teach P.E. at the Montessori school the next day. Sigh of relief. Those of you who have followed by blog for a while know about those gym jobs.

I perked up. My husband perked up. Truthfully, I think he was ready to divorce me. I’ve been in a whirlwind of writing and have had a few tiny ego boosts. But that doesn’t pay the bills… yet.

Cheerily, I drove the children to school. Somewhere on Beacon Street, almost at the school, I wondered, Is today the 21st or the 22nd? The job was for the 22nd. But that was the next day, right? I asked my son to check his calendar on his iPod. He didn’t bring it. Believe me - that’s even crazier than me not knowing the date. (In my defense, we were told any new jobs that came in after 6:30 am would be calls rather than online.)

I pushed the pedal to the metal the rest of the way to school, and threw them out of the car.

“Why are you in a rush?” my daughter asked.

“I have a job, TODAY. And I’m supposed to be there NOW,” I cried.

Start time: 8:00. Actual time: 8:40.

Then I sped off as I fumbled for my phone. These were desperate times so I paid for information. (Gasp!) I said something like:

“I’m Theresa Milstein, and I’m supposed to sub gym today, but the job posted late, and I thought it was tomorrow. I’m sorry. I’ve never done this. I’ll be there in about 20 minutes.”

“No problem,” the secretary chirped other line.

Beacon Street on the way home is always a long line of cars making their way into Boston. Have I ever mentioned that I HATE being LATE? At this point, I was chanting in my head over and over, It’s okay to be late. It’s okay to be late.

Okay, maybe I was saying this aloud. Don’t judge me.

HOME. I threw breakfast and lunch into a bag, slipped on some gym shoes, and was about to leave. I knew this teacher worked at two schools, so I decided to make sure she was at the one school first. In my frazzled state, it looked to me like she actually started at the other school.

AACK! I called the secretary at the other school and said (see my quote above). And she responded (see my quote above).

I sped to the other school, knots in my stomach. But then I remembered this school doesn’t start until 9:00 am, so I’d only be fifteen minutes late. Not too bad. Maybe I’d luck out and first period would be free.

Parking was too easy. I ran to the gym. The other P.E. teacher seemed surprised to see me. Then he told me she was at the OTHER school ALL DAY.

At this point, I was beginning to wonder why anyone would even consider hiring me for a full-time job. Not only did I have the wrong date, but I’d also read her schedule for the wrong day.

Once back in the car, I called information again and told the secretary at the first school and told her what I’d done. Got to the school. Guess what. Go on, take a guess.

It was street cleaning. (Should I just give up and go home now?) Driving in reverse an entire block, I snagged a spot.

Time of arrival: 9:30 am.

The secretary had me sign in without a trace of judgment on her face. I apologized again.

Then I made it to the gym as the 2nd class ended. Thank goodness there are two teachers assigned to most of the gym classes. The P.E. teacher was nice about it. He wouldn’t even let me give him an extra prep to run a group myself. I worked my butt off the rest of the day to shine up my tarnished reputation.

I’m the teacher with the Scarlet L.

It was good to see the kids, who’d grown over the summer. But one four-year-old stepped on top of child. The other teacher told her to, “Say sorry.” She sobbed instead. She had to sit on the sidelines. She sobbed some more. We gave her about seven opportunities to apologize and join the class. She refused. And sobbed.

This girl put everything in perspective. At least I didn’t trample anyone, but had only been tardy. And I apologized (many, many times). I didn’t even sob.

Friday, September 24, 2010

BlogHer and Butterflies

Thank you to everyone who read and commented on yesterday's BlogFeast entry.

Please check out my post on BlogHer. It’s an abbreviated version of one I’ve posted on this blog

I also had a previous post on BlogHer.

I’m hoping to be a regular contributed to BlogHer .

Today I need to focus on the positive, so I’m going to share a piece my daughter wrote when they were studying butterflies last spring. I can’t tell if it’s fiction or nonfiction.

This was her assignment:

Some of our butterflies have hatched. We read and talked about the life of a butterfly. Tonight write a story about butterflies and the things they do.

They needed to use these words:







Painted lady



Here it is about a Painted Lady Butterfly (typos included):

I’m finlly out. Time to pump my wings. You know what I’m hugry. I need to use my proboscis (wich is a tongue) to eat. I’m done so its time to fly.

Oww. Something smells good. I smell with my antennaes. I go get redy to mate. Owww a male paited lady butterfly is following me. Mals are territoryul.

I need too pollinate flowers. Now I’m going to mate. Time for me too lay eggs.

I’m going to eat nectar. I tast with my feet.

Butterflies live for a fewe weeks. The eggs must be laed oneder a leaf. If a caterpiller is not hached on its food it will walk in circls and diy.

Have a happy weekend. Let’s hope we all find our wings!

Thursday, September 23, 2010



Today is the day of the mouth-watering Blogfeast hosted by Jaded Love Junkie .

My short entry is from my YA fantasy The Mist Chasers.

Here’s a description of the story:

Eve and her best friend Adam are the sole witnesses to a mysterious mist that obliterates a Walmart. Walmart is the first of many disappearances. While Eve and Adam are trying to find the source of the mist, Eve finds out Adam has a thing for her. The problem is, she has a thing for Brad.

This excerpt is from the day after the first McDonalds disappears in Eve’s town:

Two all beef patties

Special sauce

Lettuce, cheese”

A bunch of kids from choir stood up during lunch, with their hands over their hearts for an impromptu tribute song for the demise of McDonalds. I sat at a table by myself because Adam was nowhere to be seen. He’d refused to acknowledge my existence in class, even though I tried to make eye contact. I attempted to catch him in the hallway after science, but he’d disappeared in the crowd. In my attempt to just be friends, did I lose a friend?

Another student sat down across from me and looked at the chorusing students and said, “Don’t they know that Burger King is just down the road from where McDonalds used to be? It’s not like they’ll never eat another fast food burger again.”

When I realized who was talking to me, my heart stopped for a few seconds. He smiled his trademark smile, like he was in a tooth-whitening commercial, and I smiled back. It was Brad, one of the hottest guys in my grade, who had smiled at me in Math class. Years ago, Adam teased me for liking a football player. “You don’t even like football,” he reminded me. “You’d be bored.”

Adam had a point. Besides, everyone knew football players only hung out with other football players and cheerleaders - it was like some unwritten rule. For all I knew, maybe it was written somewhere. There were some exceptions, but not many and none seemed to last very long. What would happen when we graduated high school? Would we be allowed to associate with just anyone?

I grasped at something witty to say to Brad. “Burger King doesn’t have those tasty little onions on their burgers.” Passable.

“But Burger King flame-broils! It tastes much better,” he made a mock-wise face. So cute.

Blonde hair, always perfectly messed up - blue eyes that you could see a room away - muscular, but not too bulky. Was it obvious I was gawking? Normally I soaked in his beauty when I thought nobody was looking.

I came up with, “But they both microwave them anyway.”

He laughed. I forced a small chuckle.

Brad leaned over the table, giving me goose bumps. He whispered, “Notice how different everyone is being about McDonalds compared with Walmart?”

I leaned closer. “Yes. Why do you think that is?”

“Walmart is our parents’ store. This feels more personal.”

“Then why are they treating it like a joke?” I asked.

“My psychology teacher said people are getting used to it. The shock has worn off. We were expecting this to happen.”

“That’s true,” I admitted.

“There’s only one thing to do,” he said, with a cocked eyebrow.

“What’s that?”

“I’m taking you to Burger King.”

Hope you enjoyed it.

Please check out the other feasters:

Tomorrow, I’m going to have a post on BlogHer: BlogHer

Please come back for the direct link. Thanks!