Month: June 2013

Repent and Believe… in Your Potential

It seems fitting to share this on The Birthday of St. John the Baptist.  Jesus had someone who prepared the way for Him, but I think each one of us can pick out our people who prepared us for the way.

I can identify several of those from my life, but very few of them were high school teachers.  In my world, adults were not people to be trusted.  On top of that, I went into high school from a grade school where I was mocked daily for my apparent ease with academics versus my absolute difficulty with anything physical.  Well before I graduated eighth grade, not only did I know I was not one of the “popular people,” but I also had a pretty good feeling that I wouldn’t like “them” anyway.  Then I got to a high school where the kids who did well in school… were the popular people?  What the what?  Okay, so those kids were also in sports, but still, academic success was part of the acceptance scheme.  You’d think I would’ve thought, “Just join a sport, and you’ll have it made!”  Again, see dyspraxia (linked above).  I didn’t know I had it at the time (I didn’t even find out it existed until my first two kids were born), but I knew there was something wrong with me.  I was not about to flaunt my failings and make the next four years like the previous eight-plus-kindergarten.

So I flew under the radar, academically speaking.  I was inclined to sit quietly in class rather than act out, and I was naturally bright (not  brilliant, for sure, but bright enough).  These qualities put me in “first track” classes, but I did not put forth any effort.  Thus, most teachers passed me along through the system with Bs and the occasional A.  I was Second Honors Girl.  That was just fine with me.

Then came junior year English.  My teacher–let’s call him Mr. S–was, I daresay, another bright introvert.  I zoned during his class, not due to any failing on his part, but due to my “under the radar” style.  Junior year was the year of the dreaded “literary research paper,” which in my heart, even then, I was excited about doing.  However, excitement over academics might have put me on the radar, so I did my paper half-assed (forgive me) and at the last minute.  Still, I assumed that I’d get my B and keep sliding on by.

I did get my B.  However, I also got a comment on my report card, printed in dot matrix on that super thin yellow carbony paper.  There lined up several “Is a conscientious student” comments was the first honest and thoughtful comment I’d received from a teacher in high school:  “Is not working to potential.”

At the time, I convinced myself not to care. Over the years, though, and especially after I began college, that one line kept coming back to me.  Someone else–a grown-up at that–saw potential in me?  I could do more than just slide by?  I gave it a try.  Over and over and over again.  I developed a work ethic.  I wrote articles, stories, even novels.  I submitted and submitted and submitted.  I got rejected and rejected and rejected… and I kept trying.  I tried not because I knew I was going to make it into the in-crowd of published writers.  I kept trying because I loved writing for the sake of writing.  And, well, I kept trying because once someone told me on a report card that I had potential.

As the years passed, I did start to get published.  When Jane_E, Friendless Orphan:  A Memoir dropped, I did spare a thought for Mr. S and wonder where he was so that I could thank him.  I knew he had changed careers, so I couldn’t go back to my high school and walk into his classroom and say, “Thanks for helping me be what I always wanted to be but was too scared and lazy to do.”

I got that opportunity over the weekend.  Our parish celebrated the 25th anniversary of our deacon’s ordination, and while he was making his “thank yous” just before dismissal, he pointed out his wife, family, coworkers… and his best man, his friend from college, Mr. S!  I bolted up so suddenly in my seat that my kids startled and asked me what was wrong.

“That’ s my high school English teacher!”

I cornered him after Mass and introduced myself.  I knew he wouldn’t remember me, but I wanted to let him know the difference that one small line made in my life.  Let me tell you, it’s really cool to be able to tell your high school English teacher that your second novel is coming out in November.

So, Mr. S, thank you.  I remember that a balloo is a bear, that wuzzle means “to mix,” and that I don’t need to be scared of what hard work will bring me.

Thank you.


Frightening Yourself on a Road Trip: A How-To

I snagged a copy of Stealing Jenny by Ellen Gable just before leaving on a road trip… that ended with our family staying in a cabin in the woods for two days.  What’s the premise of Stealing Jenny?  I don’t think I’m giving too much away, but think Catholic Misery (not Catholic guilt, silly–different animal all together):  a twisted soul kidnaps someone to, you guessed it, a cabin in the woods.  My fertile imagination was glad that I had my family around me the whole time.  There were mice in said cabin, but no kidnappers.  Phew.

My review?  I hate the use the cliche “fast-paced page-turner,” but it fits.  The characters were believable.  That is a huge compliment to a writer when bringing us characters who do things like–gasp!–practice NFP and chastity (sorry, folks, but no matter the morality I have espoused for myself, I am still a child of my culture, and if you’re going to write a character who lives a counter-cultural life, that character had better be three-dimensional).  The suspense was well-developed and well-handled.  There were a few characters I would have liked to see more fully-drawn, but all in all, Stealing Jenny was well worth the read.

If, however, you are planning on a trip to the woods and are easily frightened, save the read for when you’re back and safe at home.

This book trailer has been brought to you by St. Clare.

St. Clare, patroness of both weather and telecom, really pulled through for us on so many, many levels. I’ll be honest: when “produce a book trailer” was included in my contract, I thought, “A book trailer? Nobody watches those things!” But then I figured I’d give it a go and see what happened. I think I told God, “If You want a book trailer, fine, but You will have to make it really easy.”

Guess what He did?

I showed up at choir one night and asked the music director, “Do you know anybody who could do ’80s-style incidental music for a book trailer?” Two months later I got an amazing score from a local group whose contact dude “loves the ’80s and loves soundtracks.”

Then I asked our choral director if she knew anyone who does film editing. Little did I know that her husband does. So I called him to ask what he thought about locations for a shoot, somewhere with a creepy creek. “Well, I’m on a property with a creek right now. I could ask the owners…” The owners agreed.


I sent out a request on some of the local homeschooling email lists I read, asking for two actors. Two hours later I had my actor.


One day after that, the “screaming redhead” we needed walked into our creative writing club. I sat down next to her mom and said, “You have no idea how glad I am that you guys came today…”


I was overloaded with work to prepare for the shooting, including making an ’80s-style CYO basketball jersey. Then my dad’s car broke down and he needed me to drag all 3 kids to come out to my hometown an hour away and help him with transportation. Grumbling, I tried trusting this was all part of the plan. During a bit of down time there, I figured I’d call the shop that used to do the sports shirts for my CYO when I was a kid. Would you believe that Jackets’n’Things of Ambler didn’t have an old CYO jersey hanging around in storage, but they could make me one in less than an hour with no set-up fee, because they just happened to have the old hot press decal (or whatever it’s called) hanging around, even though that CYO hasn’t been in existence for about twenty years?


The weather for our first time block for shooting looked sketchy all week, in the long range forecast: first thunder and rain, then oppressively hot. The morning itself turned out to be sunny and beautiful.


As we were looking for a place for our screaming redhead to cross the creek, a DEER jumps out of practically NOWHERE and leaps across the creek at a PERFECT crossing.


All kinds of weird. All kinds of… well, easy.

So. I’m making a book trailer. I’m planning to have it premier on August 7, 2013 at the Catholic Marketing Trade Show during my time at the Catholic Writers Guild booth.