Many years ago I spoke at NCTE. After my presentation, a woman came up to me. She was full of life, had a loud voice, and a terrific smile. “I’m LuAnn Staheli,” she said, “and I teach in Utah.” She went on to tell me that she read my novels and loved them. She was especially fond of If I Forget, You Remember as it reminded her of a family member.
I was so grateful to see a friendly face in Colorado. To have LuAnn approach me several times that weekend. To have her show me around. Let me know what I was supposed to do. She pointed out the famous people. We talked books. Writing. Teaching.
It goes without saying that LuAnn and I became fast friends.
What a pleasure to know her.
To know she loved me.
Over the years I have gone to LuAnn when I’m sad, happy and when I needed advice. LuAnn knew everything. About books. About writers. About writing. She had me visit her classes. We did a presentation together. She showed me how to save money. She tried to get me to talk more about myself and my books. And when The Chosen One was nominated for a Whitney Award, I asked if I could sit with her at the ceremony. “I would love to sit with you, Carol.”
By the way, The Whitney Awards are a fancy affair. I bought a dress. Wore a pushup bra. Heels. Was completely out of my element.
Not LuAnn. She took me in, introduced me to everyone and before the announcement of who won in the YA category, she leaned close. “The girls look like they’re fighting to get free,” she said of my bosoms. I laughed and rearranged ‘the girls’ right before I was called on to the stage as the YA winner.
LuAnn was ballsy. She spoke her mind about writing. She loved fiercely.
And I loved her right back.
I’ve known for a while my friend was sick and had a chance to go see her a couple weeks back.
We’d been keeping in touch on Facebook, but I needed to tell her, with my mouth, that I loved her.
That afternoon, I let her know she was the 2015 mentor of the year for Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. We talked that maybe she could accept the award from home. That we could film her acceptance speech. That maybe she would be at the conference in June.
As she worsened, several friends and I prepared to go to her house this morning.
To award her and speak our love to her in front of her family.
Here’s what I would have read from Chris Crowe: LuAnn, thank you for being, not just a champion of good books for kids, but also for being a friend and supporter of education. Many of our graduates are now successful teachers because of you. We always knew we could count on you to provide our students with great experience.
From Ann Edwards Cannon–a blurb from her book The Shadow Brothers: “Everything in life changes. Everything. Seasons, styles, the two you grew up in, the people you know, even the way you feel about all the people you know. All those things change. In fact, change is about the only thing you can really count on. Still, it’s like Diana said the night I first heard her sing. You can still decide to care. You can decide to love someone even though they’ve changed. Maybe you can even learn to love them because of it.”
From illustrator Julie Olson: LuAnn, a fellow Spanish Fork writer, was one of the most kind-hearted and generous people with her talents and knowledge. I sincerely enjoyed working with her occasionally on the youth writer workshops at the jr high in town and greatly appreciated her support and friendship through the years. LuAnn truly made a difference.”
That didn’t happen.
LuAnn passed away last night, peacefully, at 2:18. All night I tossed and turned, waking at one point because I couldn’t breathe, worrying about my friend.
It’s been a hard few months.
And now here’s this writer without words.
This is what writing has done for me–given me friends that I will love forever. Sure. There are books and having them published is fun. But the best part of writing are the people I have met. My best friends. The people I am at home with. The people who have changed me.
LuAnn. Thank you for your friendship. I was at home with you. You changed me. You are a part of me.
I will miss you terribly.
Cheryl Van Eck:
I recently read a book that had an “open for interpretation” ending. I didn’t like it.
It wasn’t an “open for a sequel” type of ending. It was more like, “I, the author, couldn’t decide which of these three endings I wanted so I’m presenting them all and you can choose your favorite.”
On the other hand, this technique was done beautifully in LIFE OF PI. The author presented two versions of the story, and admitted that he was allowing the listener to decide for himself. Now, for me, there was one very clear interpretation of that story…however, the entire English class I was in at the time disagreed with me and called me a pessimist.
They’re probably right. But still.
LIFE OF PI worked because both endings, in reality, were equally plausible. Or equally implausible, if you will. But the one you choose reveals a great deal about you, the reader. And that’s what the greatest books do for us, isn’t it? Reveal to us parts of ourselves we didn’t know existed? Show us the innermost thoughts we didn’t know we had?
What are other examples of books where this technique is used effectively? Have any of you attempted it?
This is my mom and dad:
Last Sunday they were married fifty five years.
No one in my family has ever been able to fit in my mom’s dress.
No one in my family has ever been as tall as my dad.
Also, my mom’s favorite movie is The Shining.
My dad’s favorite movie is The Milagro Beanfield War.
What are your parents wedding day pictures like? Huge wedding? Small wedding? No wedding? What about your MC’s parents wedding? Was it on the beach? In a church? On a rollercoaster?
What is your mom’s favorite movie?
What’s your dad’s?
Same thing with your MC . . . Get to know their background. Have some fun.
Most people wouldn’t guess my mom loves scary horrible movies. but she does. she loves scary horrible movies and playing the piano and reading books and eating chocolate.
Here is a picture of me and my sister and my mom.
My mom had that hairdo my whole life. I look at pictures of her with her first four kids (I’m the youngest of nine) and her hair is different. She pulled it up on top of her head and I wonder if it’s long. How long is it? how was she able to do it like that? I wonder when she decided to change it. Should I change mine? I wonder if she worried about it. I also wonder if she had smashed watermelon all over the floor.
What did your mom’s hair look like when she was younger?
What does it look like now?
What about your MC’s mom. Does she keep it the same decade after decade? Is it dyed pink?
Is there smashed watermelon on the floor of your MCs house? Does his/her mom keep up on that kind of stuff?
One more picture:
My dad loves my mom. My mom loves my dad. My dad is the most selfless person I know.
Write about your MC’s dad.
Write about his/her mom.
Maybe your own mom and dad.
I think we write to figure things out. I’m so far from figuring anything out but I do know my parents love each other. I know that is lucky. Most of my MC’s aren’t so lucky.
The more you know about your MC, what his/her family is like, especially his/her parents, you will know so much more about your story. Take some time to write all you can about those parents.
Here’s the Simpsons’ expose on the dirty secrets behind middle grade and YA novels. Neil Gaiman plays himself on this hilarious, and at times painfully accurate, episode that explores the business of publishing and the business of not-writing.
Last week—depending on who you talk to—I retired, resigned, got laid off, or got fired from my high-profile blogging position with THROWING UP WORDS, Inc. It was all Carol’s fault, well, Carol and the Fates who control the Ethernet. It might have been Andy’s fault as well. And Kyra’s. And Bart Simpson’s. And especially Lisa Simpson’s. Neil Gaiman, fortunately, had nothing at all to do with my retirement/resignation/lay-off/firing.
The good news, for the two of you who may still actually be reading this woe-begotten blog, is that I have been reinstated to my high-profile position as a junior apprentice co-blogger for THROWING UP WORDS, Inc. The bad news, for me, at least, is that the pay remains the same.
If I’m able to retain my position in this highly competitive, cut-throat business, I’ll probably post another blog next week.