Now that Eddie’s Choice is launched, I’m playing around with ideas for the next book. I know it won’t be another Hamilton High story, not that there aren’t plenty of teen issues to explore in fiction: a homeless teen struggling to stay in school, maybe a transgender person who’s been kicked out of their house? But no, I’ll leave that to someone younger and better versed in the ways of social media than I am. I’ll jump ahead and write about life in the 80s. Not the 1980s. Life in the 80s age group. Should it be a sequel to collection of personal essays titled Over 70 and I Don’t Mean MPH? Or should it be a novel featuring a woman in her late eighties. If it’s Over 80 and I Don’t Mean MPH, I’ll have to stick to the truth—close to the truth, anyway. If it’s fiction I can give the old lady adventures and trials beyond anything I care to personally experience. As my born-in-the-late-1890s, quilt making Arkansas aunt would say when faced with a challenging decision, “I’m piecin’ on it."
With the publication of Eddie's Choice, the 11th book in my "True-to-Life Series from Hamilton High, it seems time I should stop neglecting my website and get current. So, for starters, November 3, 2019, was Book Launch day, and I'm thrilled to finally have Eddie's story available for readers. Some of you will remember Eddie Barajas from my previous book, Shut Up. Told from his older brother Mario's point of view, it is the story of the love of two brothers, and of the older brother's struggle to rescue nine-year-old Eddie from the clutches of a sexual predator.
The reason several characters from early books show up again when they're older is that I sometimes wonder how they're getting along after having been through hard times. And for the past several years I found myself sometimes wondering about Eddie. How did his earlier molestation affect his later years? Had he managed to get past the severe anxiety that so often goes with such trauma?
I also found myself wondering how the increased hatred and animosity exhibited in our present political climate might be affecting teens. The only way to discover how growing hatred and division affects young people, or to learn how Eddie's doing as an older teen, is to write the story. So I did. More about that soon.
I'm pleased to be headed south on Highway 99 next week, and to be visiting schools in Fresno, Alhambra, San Gabriel, and Santa Barbara. I always love talking with teen readers about books, mine and others, and leaning what's currently popular. This time, in addition to book talks, I'll be gathering information and background to help me get started on Book #11 in the Hamilton High Series. After writing two books for adult readers, I'm very eager to get back to Hamilton High.
New Wind Publishing set an ambitious goal for the 2016-17 school year: to reach 1,000 readers by giving 100 sets of each of the ten titles to schools, youth programs, libraries and juvenile detention centers. Details are available at http://newwindpublishing.com/?page_id=607, but here's the progress to date.:
I'm so happy to learn that 916 Ink, a Sacramento non-profit dedicated to increasing youth literacy through creative writing, just won $33000 in grants to work with over 260 incarcerated youth and low-income kids in Sacramento in fall 2016!
Over the past three years, I've been fortunate to be involved with 916 Ink programs at the Sacramento County Youth Detention Facility. It's important and, sometimes, life-changing, for Incarcerated youth to become published authors. It's also important that their stories reach a range of readers. Below are books from detention facility writers. The $33,000 grant money means soon there will be many more such books, many more such published writers.
This past Wednesday I and my New Wind Publishing friend, Anara Guard, visited a group of Hamilton High series readers at a nearby Teen Age Pregnancy/Parenting program. There, childcare is provided for the teens' babies and toddlers while young mothers and fathers continue work toward high school graduation and also learn important parenting and life skills. Few districts in California provide such important services. Shame on California, but kudos to Folsom Cordova Unified School District for helping young parents gain the strengths and insights needed to make good decisions as they move forward with their lives.
What fun it is to talk with such engaged young readers, and to soak up their ideas and insights.
During a school visit few months back, I mentioned that Erica, in If You Loved Me was a mix of white, African-American, and Chinese.
A strong voice off to my right said “Lauren.”
I turned to the speaker. “Lauren?”
“Yes. Lauren. It was Lauren, not Erica. Erica’s the girl in But What About Me.”
It took only a moment for me to realize my error. I thanked her for setting me straight. This same girl later caught me in another error of detail. It would have been embarrassing had I not been too old to be embarrassed.
I spoke with my fact-checker, Miss G. R., during a break. A bright young woman (obviously brighter than that day’s guest speaker), a teen mom living in a difficult situation, working diligently to finish high school, G. R. told me that she’d been so caught up in reading Baby Help, and in worrying about Cheyenne, the baby in that story, that she nearly forgot to feed her own baby. “Nearly” is the key word here.
When I returned home, before I even unpacked, I reread If You Loved Me. Then I slipped a note and a copy of my most recent book into a padded envelope and sent it off to
Miss G. R., promising to reread the other nine books in the series before my next school visit.