I’m so excited to share with you that my middle grade novel SOMETIMES BRAVE is available wherever books are sold. Ten-year-old Hazel has always had an amazing imagination–a little too amazing her dad sometimes says–but even she can’t pretend away the fact that her family has just become homeless, her best friend Jilly isn’t speaking to her, and a tornado is on the way. Through friendship, family and the love of a sweet old dog, Hazel will discover there are many different kinds of brave.
Little hands arrow
toward the water,
toes tempting the dock’s edge.
Lean forward, I say.
A little further, I urge.
You can do it my brave boy.
Wide eyes watch—
In one bold movement
he takes flight
My eyes watch—
Making sure I
have taught him
how to swim.
His world grows
as he stands
toes tempting the edge of life.
Filled with first
Lean forward, I say.
A little further, I urge.
You can do it my brave boy.
He dives in.
And I hope
I have taught him
how to swim.
Why should I? When
beds beg for napping,
trees for climbing,
pansies for picking,
ice-cream for scooping.
Who am I
to disappoint them?
Hi John. This is Steph. You know, from WSU?
Oh-yeah, hey! How are you doing with all of this? I totally miss actually going to classes.
Me too! So I was just wondering—if you might want to be in my bubble.
In your—what’s that again?
You know, as states open they’re recommending people pick their bubble of ten people that they interact with. And everyone in the bubble agrees not to interact with people from another bubble and it keeps us safer until, well I don’t know, there’s a vaccine or no more new cases or something.
Oh! That’s a cool idea. Sure. Well I mean, probably. But I might want to just check out what other bubbles are out there. Like what if Melissa McCarthy just happens to have an open spot in her bubble. She’s like hysterical! I mean this is a big commitment.
Dude, Melissa McCarthy does not have a spot in her bubble for you.
I know, but now I just want to make sure to get in the right bubble.
You didn’t even know about the bubbles until I told you!
But now that I know about them, I have to really think about this. The bubble you’re in could really affect the future.
Not really. Its just who you hang out with.
Oh John! So sorry, just got a text from Grace. She’s taking the last spot in the bubble.
Wait! You can’t just ask me and then kick me out already!
I guess I actually can. Good luck finding your bubble.
Shit. I wonder if I can find Melissa McCarthy on facebook.
We pray to the last roll of toilet paper.
And prostrate ourselves at the feet
of the UPS delivery man.
Our new chapel—Zoom.
Our daily confessional—Facetime.
We worship our savior The Tiger King.
And contemplate the gospel
of true crime TV.
Pizza rolls are our communion.
Masks and gloves
our Sunday best.
Janet: Hi Sheila! Thanks so much for planning this Zoom bookclub. What a great idea!
Sheila: You’re so welcome. And welcome to Grace! Glad you could make it.
Grace: Thanks for inviting me.
Laila: Hi all! I’ve missed seeing you in person. Good to at least see your faces. And nice to meet you Grace.
Grace: Thanks. You too.
Michelle: Hey girls! Got your wine ready?
Sheila: Got it girl! Cheers!
Janet: Okay, everyone have their snacks ready?
Michelle: This is so like the Brady Bunch! Hi Marsha! Hi Cindy!
Sheila: Hi Mrs. Brady! Hey Alice!
Janet: You guys are ridiculous! I’ve missed you. Okay, but really. Did everyone make a snack that goes with the theme of the book?
Grace: Oh, sorry I didn’t know about that.
Janet: No problem. Just when we can meet again in person, we all bring a snack that goes with the book. It’s really fun.
Michelle: As long as we have wine!
Janet: Sheila is that your cat? She’s really loud.
Sheila: Say hi to Marshmallow! I don’t know what I would have done without her during this quarantine. She’s such a sweetie!
Janet: Okay but she is really fucking loud right now. Can you put her in another room or something?
Sheila: Really Janet!? No I will not put her in another room!
Michelle: Okay, let’s just chill out girls. Have some more wine! Cheers!
Sheila: Michelle, you really do drink too much.
Michelle: Fuck you Sheila you fucking cat lady!
Janet: Actually you do Michelle. Let’s be real.
Michelle: Oh yeah, Ms. stupid theme fucking snacks? No one thinks that is a good idea, Janet.
Sheila: Yeah, that is really annoying Janet. No one actually wants to do that.
Grace: Um, sorry but are we going to talk about the book?
Michelle: Grace, I’m not sure you’re going to fit in here.
Janet: Yeah, sorry Grace but I don’t think this is going to work out.
Sheila: I’m going to boot you out of the Zoom call Grace. Sorry! Bye!
Janet: She was such a downer.
Sheila: Yeah, we should stick to our original group from now on. No newbies.
Michelle: Totally agree. Cheers!
Dear Temp Services Manager,
We would like to lodge a complaint
against your employee,
Hired, due to his
supposedly stellar skills
highlighted on your website.
Boredom is the impetus for
reviving long lost skills
He will create the space
for developing new talents
And be an engine for introspection
meditation and grace
The perfect antidote to worry, rush
After many weeks in our employ,
he has shown himself to be dull, draining and full of despair.
And has, in fact, created a workplace culture of apathy and anger,
an atmosphere of staleness and stagnation.
The other employees have reported finding themselves
in a fog of fraying nerves, fading hope and lost marbles.
In conclusion, we believe you greatly exaggerated Boredom’s skills
and abilities and we request a full and immediate refund.
Also, please come fetch him because we cannot get him to leave.
Madison has never seen a line at the Idea Shop. But now it snakes out the door, down the sidewalk and around the corner. Not seeing anyone she knows that might let her cut, she joins the back of the line. The man in front of her turns. “Can you believe this? People are totally freaking out about this virus.”
I’m kind of freaking out. Madison tries not to scratch an itch on her nose. The man has on a knit winter cap even though its warm outside. His black horn rimmed glasses wink in the sunshine. “It would be hard to be stuck inside for weeks without any ideas though,” Madison says.
The man rolls his eyes.
“It could happen,” Madison says. “People are already starting to self-quarantine.”
He shrugs. “What do you write?” asks the man narrowing his eyes at her. “Wait, let me guess.” He points at her. “Kid lit, definitely kid lit.”
She shakes her head.
He crosses his arms. “Hmm. Romance? Definitely some kind of chick lit.”
“You mean Women’s Literature?” Madison crosses her own arms, mirroring his posture. She widens her eyes and tilts her head to one side.
“Yeah, okay. Women’s literature,” he says making air quotes with his fingers.
“I write short stories,” Madison says uncrossing her arms but sticking her chin out like she’s daring him to take another jab.
“Well hopefully not horror or fantasy. I heard King and Gaiman were here earlier and totally wiped out those sections. Like those guys need ideas. Save some for the rest of us, dudes. I swear, if I see Billy Collins, I’m totally tripping him.”
“You’re a poet then huh?”
“Yes, I am. A poet.”
They’re about half way to the door. Madison can see they’re only letting in one small group of people at a time. What if they run out of ideas? She’s had a terrible stomachache ever since this started. Now her head is pounding too. She watches people come out of the store clutching their plastic bags stamped with the Idea Shop logo, a brain with a happy face on it.
The man stands on his tiptoes to get a better look. “Did Ocean Vuong just go in? Oh c’mon man! He stomps his foot like a toddler gearing up for a tantrum.
Madison shifts her weight from one foot to the other as she watches the line shorten. She can make this work. Whatever ideas are left. It will be okay. This has become her mantra, “It will be okay. It will be okay.”
They’re finally at the door. The red-vested employee counts them off as they go through. “Five at a time,” he says in a monotone. “Five at a time. Social distancing please.”
Madison separates herself from the Poet as quickly as she can. She has never seen the shelves so empty. The fluorescent lights hum and wink as she walks through the HUMOR aisles. The shelves labeled SLAPSTICK and PRURIENT still have a few ideas left but the HEARTWARMING shelf is bare.
She walks quickly through FANTASY and HORROR and the Poet was right, they are almost completely empty.
Her heart is beating fast. What if she really can’t find an idea?
She hears yelling and a flood of people wash past her. She can hear the employee yelling, “No! Five at a time! Stop!” People are pushing her and grabbing at any idea they can get their hands on. Now the employee is yelling, “One! One idea limit per person!” No one is listening.
People clutch as many ideas as they can hold to their chests. Madison is knocked into a shelf and slides down to the floor. She tucks her head in her arms, trying to make herself as small as possible as feet and arms and legs surround her.
Someone reaches down, catches her hand and pulls her up. It’s the Poet. He pulls her through the mass of crushing bodies. They are out in the sunshine. She sucks in a deep breath. Police sirens fill the air.
The Poet gently takes her arm and directs her away from the store. “Are you okay?” he asks.
She shakes her head. “I don’t know.”
The Poet has lost his hat. His bald head shines in the sun. His glasses are askew and cracked. He pulls in a shaky breath and hands her an Idea Shop bag. “Take care of yourself,” he says and walks away before she can think of what to say.
She climbs slowly into her car as police cars pull up to the front of the store. The world is all flashing lights and screaming sounds. Madison opens the bag, peeks inside, and smiles.
It will be okay.
I would like to write something beautiful
And something hideous
I would like to write something hilarious
And something heartbreaking
I would like to write something whimsical
And something terrifying
I would like to write something brilliant
And something vapid
I would like to write something poetic
And something instructional
I would like to write