Who Will It Be?

About Me

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I am a native North Dakotan, a professor at Westminster College in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a YA writer. My first book, The Predicteds, is due out from Sourcebooks Fire in September. I'm represented by Alyssa Eisner Henkin of Trident Media Group. When I'm not writing or teaching writing, I'm an avid reader and an enthusiastic listener of podcasts (especially podcasts about books). I'm a fan of taking long walks on sunny days, browsing through the library on Saturday afternoons, and watching embarrassingly bad TV at any time. My favorite color is lunch.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Crisis Mode

I'm really bad in emergencies. I'm the person who starts running around in circles and asking irrelevant questions about family history of heat rash while someone bleeds to death in front of me. Case in point: I once came upon a woman having a seizure in the parking lot of my favorite burrito joint. Instead of calling 911 immediately, I ran inside the burrito store and told my husband--and fifteen burrito patrons--that I was intending to call 911. (I did make the call and the paramedics arrived and she was fine, by the way).

So tonight I'm returning home from a walk with my husband when my neighbor yells for me to come and help her. Her sweet little girl had fallen off a chair and cut her finger very badly. Her two other little girls were understandably quite upset. My neighbor asked me to sit with the kids while she rode in the ambulance and met her husband at the hospital. While we waited for the paramedics, my job was to hold a dishtowel on this poor little thing's mangled finger. As soon as I saw the blood, I thought I was going to faint. But this kid is five and managed not to even cry really. She even told me--in great detail--how it all happened. By the time she left in the ambulance, I needed a Xanax. (Think of her poor mom!)

All I can say is thank goodness I'm a real doctor and not a medical doctor! (Credit for that line goes to my friend Rulon Wood who taught me that PhDs are way better degrees than MDs).

(Even though we're all completely useless for the most part.)

(Unless Jane Eyre severs her finger).

Tonight's coveted courage award goes to my five-year-old neighbor, her twin sister, and their little baby sister, all of whom handled themselves with grace and good sense. Let's hope they all grow up to be doctors! I'll stick to PhDing.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Fudge: The Midlife Crisis Years

I first read a library copy of Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume when I was in second or third grade. I adored it. I managed to get a hold of my very own copy of Superfudge shortly after that. I read it until the cover fell off and I had to tape it back together. (My copy of Blubber is equally mangled; when I was about ten, I found a garage sale paperback that was already pretty tattered. Right before the cover disintegrated, I traced it in the hope of being able to draw my own replacement!) I loved those Judy Blume books more than just about anything else in the world.
Last week I found an audio copy of Double Fudge at the library. It’s read by Judy Blume herself, and she’s a terrific narrator. I want to call her up and invite her over for coffee and apple cinnamon muffins on my patio. At the very least, I want to write her a really long fan letter.  Reading those books again feels like visiting my very best friends from childhood.  And I still love them just as much!
I wish Judy Blume would write just one more novel telling me what Peter and Fudge Hatcher are like as middle-aged men. I assume that Peter followed his dad into advertising. He has two daughters and a dog. Tootsie grew up to be a dentist. Jimmy is a professional hockey player. Fudge is most certainly unemployed, save for a few stints as a game show contestant and a couple of viral videos. I’m quite sure he lives in Peter’s basement.   
All of Judy Blume's books were instrumental to me. I see the world the way I do now in part because of those books. They weren't just entertainment to me (though I did find them entertaining); more than anything, they taught me how other people think and live. And isn't that what literature is for?
If I can write a book that speaks to just one reader the way Judy Blume spoke to me, I’ll feel like a successful writer.
Then I'll quit writing and just watch more TV.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Earthquake Whistle

A few years ago, during a faculty meeting, we were all presented with whistles (nice ones, with lanyards!). The idea behind the gift was this: if the big earthquake strikes—Salt Lake City is on a major fault line—my fourth-floor office is likely to have a garden-level view. The whistle will presumably help the search and rescue team find me. I know! This is not the story you want to hear when presented with a gift. “Look! I’ve purchased for you a rubber suit! It should protect you against the rabid dog I see slobbering behind you.”
I see a few problems with this whistle plan; for one, the idea that I might need a whistle because I’ve somehow survived a four-story plummet into a pile of rubble scares the liver out of me. For another, I don’t carry that whistle at all times. What if I’ve just popped across the hall to use the bathroom? I guess that’s what the fancy lanyard is for. Every time I open my desk drawer and see that whistle, I get a little nervous. Honestly, it’s not that loud. (I’ve taken it on a few test runs). If I’m buried in rubble, I’d prefer a trumpet.  Or a gong. Do they make lanyards for those?
The earthquake whistle came to mind this week because it’s spring break (spring!? Ha. Hardly.), and I’ve been using my break (break!? Ha. Hardly.) to catch up on paper-grading. I feel metaphorically buried; that whistle would come in handy right about now. “Please find me! I’m buried in papers of all kinds. Please help!”
I’m making decent progress, but I feel very cheated out of spring break. Consider the whistle blown.