Empathy Through Books

In my last post, I wrote about my invitation to participate in Shenandoah University’s 33rd Children’s Literature Conference. I presented yesterday to a small group of about ten people. But there were about twelve sessions all running concurrently, so I was thrilled to have ten!

IMG_1443

I covered a bit of the history of LGBT literature, from the pulp novels of the 50s and 60s – with their legally mandated tragic endings – to the current wealth of YA/NA books. But there is a gap in books available for middle readers – kids old enough to be aware of their otherness, but not old enough for dating or romance stories.

The theme of the conference (as you can see from the mugs above) was We Are What We Read. In my opening slides, I added that we also long to read what we are. I certainly knew I was gay before I was ten, and I wanted so much to see myself in the pages of the books I read. Kids in that middle age range need to see older LGBT characters modeling what they will grow into, to know those relationships are just as healthy and normal as heterosexual ones. Of course, not all relationships are healthy. Kids also need to read books in which young characters deal with unpleasant, real-life scenarios.

Divisions and divides mostly occur when people have never had any exposure to those who differ from them. Books provide kids (and adults) a safe way to bridge those divides and see the ways in which we’re more alike than different.

I hope I opened a few eyes to what is lacking and what is out there, including some of our smaller lesbian and gay presses that offer so much more than just the offerings from mainstream publishers.

The coolest thing of all was that right after the short sessions, we got to listen keynote speaker, Lois Lowry, who has twice won the Newbery Medal. Her talk was fantastic, but it echoed much of what I said about finding empathy through books. I’m glad I went first!

Oh, and the next best thing is that I’ve been invited to return next year!

Advertisements

Wowed and Humbled and Terrified

This has been an incredible week for me. Thanks to the efforts of a dear friend who has been an advocate for my books, I’ve been invited to participate in Shenandoah University’s Children’s Literature Conference!

Screen Shot 2018-06-15 at 7.32.08 PM

I’ve participated in panels and sessions at the Golden Crown Literary Conference but, to be honest, most of us in the lesbian fiction genre will never be bestsellers outside of our tiny niche. We have very loyal and wonderful readers, but they are small in number.

This Children’s Lit conference is an entirely different part of the literary universe. This is its 33rd year. The presenters and guests are world renowned. They are major award winners (think Newbery Medal) and have been on the NY Times bestseller list. They are mainstream, major bestsellers in children’s literature. This is rarified air.

The organizer of the conference, Dr. Karen Huff-Stewart, has been so gracious and excited about the addition of an LGBTQ element.

I’ll be speaking about four of my books that feature young protagonists. Like me, the girls in my books knew at a very young age that they were different. There are a lot of books now written for very young children with two moms or two dads, and tons of YA books written for teens in high school (and thank goodness for all of them!), but there are very few written for kids in between – too young to be worried about dating or romance but old enough to know who they’re drawn to or that they identify differently.

RisingFTAshes_Smashwords

the-portalfinalflat                               THE STANDING STONESjpeg

MISERERE_eBook

I cannot tell you how excited and how terrified I am about this opportunity. Wish me luck!

 

 

Privacy and GDPR

If you’ve been online at all recently, you probably realize that there is a new set of online privacy laws going into effect in the EU that are affecting pretty much all of us. Any website or other online entity that does business in Europe or reaches readers in Europe must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation.

I’ve been as concerned as everyone else about my own online privacy, and I’ve done what I think I can to protect it. But I’ll be honest. This new set of regulations is an absolute pain in the butt. I am not computer literate. WordPress is not making this easy, at least not for me. And I am finding this a real time and brain energy drain.

And cookies. Cookies are supposed to be something to eat. I don’t now and never have understood the use of cookies online.

So, to keep it simple for now: I’ve deleted the Facebook button that connected to my author page because we all know what they’ve been up to. I have never had a contact form on this page, but you have had the option of signing up for email updates when I post a new blog. If you don’t want to receive those any longer, you have the option of unfollowing. I’m going to delete the “Follow this Blog” button in the sidebar for the time being.

If you have commented on this blog, you’ve been asked for a user name and an email address to differentiate you from the tons of spam out there. If you do not want WordPress to have your email address, you may delete any comments you have made. If you can’t or don’t want to do that, I can delete them for you. Contact me at: cjwerlingerbooks AT yahoo DOT com

I’m going to create a new privacy page for this blog and copy this info into it. Until I can figure out how to upgrade to the new version of WordPress that is GDPR-compliant, this is the best this computer dummy can do. If I can’t figure it out, I will simply delete this entire blog and send it into oblivion.

 

The Hungry Time

I’m a bit late in posting this announcement of my spring fundraiser for The Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have done a spring fundraiser for the food bank and a fall/winter fundraiser for Pets of the Homeless.

Food banks get lots of support during the holidays. Thanksgiving and Christmas see a surge in donations to many of them. What many don’t realize is how much more demand there is at food banks in the summertime when school is no longer in session.

Screen Shot 2018-05-12 at 11.27.25 AM

So many kids in low-income families depend on free or discounted breakfasts and lunches at school. Even snow days, those magical days for most of us, aren’t good days for those kids. NPR did a story HERE on how devastating it is to those families when school is called for snow.

I remember clearly now astonished I was to read about how much demand there was in the summer – a time of gardens and fresh veggies and fruit and picnics with my family when I was growing up.

So, to do my bit, I’ll be donating ALL – 100% – of my May royalties to my local food bank. Sales are already off to a great start for the month, so thanks to everyone who has purchased a book of mine thus far. But we still have over half of May to go!

If you’ve been thinking about buying any of my books, this is a great time to do so! If you’ve already bought them all, bless you!

If you’re in a position to donate to your own local food bank, please do so. They can use all the help they can get at this critical time!

Peace and full bellies to all!

Caren

 

Why?

Why do we do what we do? For a living, for fun, for fulfillment?

Hermi Why

Have you ever known someone who loved her job so much she said, “I’d do this even if they didn’t pay me to do it.” Maybe you feel that way about what you do. I think I used to. In fact, when I had my own physical therapy practice, I did just that. Often. Staff and bills and rent all had to be paid before I could take a paycheck. It was just the nature of the beast. Or maybe I was just a really bad business owner. But I loved what I did, even when I didn’t get paid. Of course, it helped to have a very understanding and supportive partner.

Then I rediscovered writing, something I had loved doing when I was a child. I wrote on and off for ten years before I really thought about trying to get published. I’ve written before about what a strange journey that was. I finally got published just as the recession hit and bookstores—both LGBT and chains—closed all around the country. Then e-books and Amazon took over and changed the game for everyone.

Fast-forward ten more years.

I now work for someone else. I’m lucky enough to have a good job that pays the bills and provides me with good benefits. I know how blessed I am to be in that position, but I no longer am doing it just for the love of it. Most of the time, I like what I do, but when I’m ready to retire, I’ll gladly walk away and not look back.

And that day job makes it possible to do what I really love, but most definitely doesn’t pay the bills.

Writing is a weird thing. My PT degree and license tell me I’m a real physical therapist. It’s the same for other professions—your degree or qualifications or license tell you you’re real.

But when are you a real writer?

When you write? When you finish a novel? When you publish? When you win an award or hit a certain sales rank?

Screen Shot 2018-05-05 at 2.02.49 PM

I have now published thirteen novels, most of them under my own imprint, which means I’m back in business. And it wasn’t until this past March, when my most recent story, When the Stars Sang, was published that I started to see a significant bump in my sales.

Prior to that, I averaged 0-3 e-book sales per day. That is not a typo. I had ten novels published (plus two others with Ylva that I don’t have daily sales info for), and would often sell no books at all, for days at a time. A great day was 4-5 copies sold.

There were many days I wondered why I was doing this at all. I had started writing because I love it. It was a big leap to go from writing something just for the enjoyment and sense of fulfillment it gave to putting my work out there for others to read.

No matter how much I told myself it didn’t matter how many copies I sold or how many reviews I got, that I would still be doing this, that sense of gratification gradually shifted. Once I had published, which involved laying out the up-front costs of editing, cover, and formatting, gratification became inextricably tied to sales and reviews. Without those, it became really difficult to remember why I was doing this whole publishing thing. I don’t know if that change can be helped once you publish.

Recently, another writer I really admire was lamenting being in that very boat. Andi Marquette is an incredibly busy woman—writer, blogger, publisher, fangirl of various fandoms, advocate. She blogged HERE about her struggles with whether to continue writing for publication (and losing money at it) versus going back to her roots in writing fanfiction, where she puts her work out there for free. From what she says, that type of writing frees her from the very soul sucking worries of not recouping the money she has laid out to publish her books, and gets her back in touch with writing purely for the love of it.

I can absolutely empathize with her thought process. I know many authors who have stopped writing—or at least stopped publishing—altogether. That whole notion of the starving artist who can’t help but create even without success may be romantic, but publishing, if you do it right, is expensive.

When I released When the Stars Sang, it was with half a mind that if sales didn’t pick up with this book, I was going to have to do some serious thinking about whether this publishing gig was worth it.

For some reason, this book did reach more readers than my previous titles. It’s funny, because it’s not inherently different from my other novels. I felt a bit like the over-night success that only took twenty years to happen. It kick-started sales for all of my books that I’d not seen before. I’m still not a bestseller by any stretch of the imagination, and I fully expect sales will probably taper off again. I hope that doesn’t happen, but I’m trying to be realistic about this. After all, anything more than zero is an improvement, right?

I still don’t know the answer to when a writer becomes real, but this quote from The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams comes to mind:

“It doesn’t happen all at once,” said the Skin Horse. “You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

So, to those of you who have read my books from the beginning and to those of you who have only just discovered me, thank you. I don’t know if I could really stop writing, but your support makes it possible to keep publishing. And getting to do both is a gift I don’t take for granted.

Pax

On Eagle’s Wings

“And He will raise you up on eagle’s wings, bear you on the breath of dawn, make you to shine like the sun, and hold you in the palm of His hand.” Michael Joncas

Screen Shot 2018-03-30 at 7.47.42 PM

 

That hymn by Michael Joncas was another one my parents loved, and I loved playing and singing it for them.

This March 15th was the fifth anniversary of my father’s passing, and the 26th of March was the thirty-second anniversary of my mom’s death. I’ve written before about how Mom passed in the wee hours of Good Friday night, so even though the dates don’t often match up, Good Friday is always the day I mark to remember that milestone in my family’s lives.

Tonight, as the Christian world marks the vigil hours commemorating the days that Jesus was buried, Jews are keeping the festival of Pesach, Passover. It was Passover that Jesus and his friends were gathered together to mark for what became the Last Supper.

The same night… so many different interpretations of its meaning.

No matter what you believe or what traditions you keep or what you celebrate to mark the coming of spring, I wish you the joy of family and friends.

Pax

 

When the Stars Sang

My thirteenth novel is now published! When the Stars Sang is a beautiful story of a woman longing for the kind of home she hasn’t known since she was a child. She returns to Little Sister Island off the coast of Maine, the place she and her brother spent magical summers with their grandmother until the summer he drowned. It’s been almost twenty-five years, and she is pulled back by a call she can’t resist.

proofWHEN THE STARS SANG_dflat

Nearly twenty-five years ago, Kathleen Halloran’s brother drowned during the last summer they ever spent with their grandmother on a remote island off Maine’s coast. Like a siren’s call she can’t resist, Kathleen is pulled back to Little Sister Island. She leaves her job and her girlfriend, packs up her few belongings, and moves into her grandmother’s cottage.

Molly Cooper loves life on Little Sister, where the islanders take care of their own. Kathleen Halloran doesn’t belong here, and her arrival stirs up unwelcome memories for the islanders—including Molly’s brother. Molly is certain Kathleen will pack up at the first big blow. When she doesn’t, Molly begins to see maybe there’s more to Kathleen than she thought.

Sometimes, before you can move forward, you have to look back.