Writing My First Novel: Creating a Style All My Own 4

It hangs on my wall to remind me to write. Artist Unknown.

Does anyone else take risks when they write? Do you wish you had not later if you do?

I took a huge gamble when I wrote my first novel. The first reviewer recognized my strengths and my weaknesses and recommended that I get editorial help. I listened.

Yet, when my first editor failed to see why I wanted to begin Mia’s journey into this world with her watching from heaven, I fumed. And when she also told me everything about Mia’s character was unbelievable and I should only write from one point of view, I refused to listen. I even demanded to have a different editor, one that actually had a clue about Asperger’s. My second editor is a child psychologist, so I no longer had to explain the entire story. What a relief!

Why did I demand to write the story my way? There are several reasons. First and foremost, my daughter’s true story inspired this story. I needed the reader to be able to see Mia’s parents’ family differences, so they could understand how this contributed to misunderstandings, and even misdiagnosis. I did not add conflict to make either family look bad. I added conflict because books require conflict to make them interesting and because there really were misunderstandings on both sides.

I needed the reader to know Mia’s mother’s story too, so they could clearly see the love between Mia and Francesca from the start. I understand that many have a hard time with Mia watching her mother from heaven. Did I mention my husband and Mia’s father are both Chinese Americans. Did anyone see the movie Mulan?

Why then is it so hard to grasp that Mia might have watched her mother from heaven? Many Chinese believe their ancestors are important, and they pay respect to them for years after they die even taking food to the cemetery for them. Buddhist and many other Eastern religions believe in reincarnation, so why is it so far-fetched to believe that Mia could watch from heaven and choose her mother?

I also needed Francesca and Mia to both identify traits of Asperger’s that the average reader would have missed just as the doctors did. Yes, I get that this made some of the story seem redundant, but any parent of a child with special needs of any sort will tell you how important it is that others see our children as they are, not as they appear.

I wanted Mia’s story to be a story of family love, not just of Asperger’s and bullying. I wanted people to see a loving family and to clearly see Mia’s kind and loving nature before they saw the effects of bullying.

My little novel received recognition from three unrelated sources prior my getting the results from 19th Writers Digests Self-Publishing Book Awards in January. Yet, when I received the judges comments, I was devastated. Why? Basically, the judges validated everything the first editor, the one I fired, tried to tell me. They hated that I started the story with Mia watching her mother from heaven. This is the part that all three felt was unbelievable. They all three also hated that I used two points of view.

Yet, here is what Kirkus said:

“The author sets Mia’s first-person narrative within a larger family story told from Francesca’s point of view as she grapples with Ben’s exasperation over Mia’s problems, tussles with her difficult Chinese-American mother-in-law and weathers the heartache of her parents’ deaths. Writing with a limpid prose style deftly infused with medical research, Walker does a remarkable job illuminating Mia’s offbeat perspective from within; she makes it more a personality than an affliction. The book’s advocacy impulses occasionally overheat, as when Francesca goes ballistic over an incident in which mean girls tease Mia at school. Still, through Mia’s story, Walker dispels much of the mystery of Asperger’s kids while revealing the richness and promise of their lives.

A poignant and enlightening coming-of-age saga.”

Here is what Tony Attwood, the world-renowned psychologist and author of The Compete Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome had to say:

“There are many facts within fiction. This captivating story provides invaluable insights into the childhood of a girl who has Asperger’s syndrome. Fiction allows the author to explore different perspectives and add poignancy to the experiences of sensory sensitivity and being bullied and teased of someone who has Asperger’s syndrome. The title Delightfully Different describes Asperger’s syndrome but also the qualities of this novel.”

Here are the rewards it received from the Young Voices Foundation:

Seal of Approval in the Inspirational/ Spiritual category

and 2 Bronze awards:

Regional Fiction/ Youth/ West Pacific

Regional Fiction/ Teen/ Young Adult/ West Pacific.

I have heard stories of how many successful writers received rejections in one form or another. I know how many years it can take for a book to take-off even if published by a traditional publisher. Yet, I have hesitated to share my rejections with you. Just a FYI: I had not planned to write the second novel from two points of view or to cover as long of a time span anyway. The second book is from Cal, the brother’s point of view. It will address cyberbullying and Cal will help stop it by working closely with the FBI. You can read the first installment here.

So, now that you know, who should I listen too? The book is not selling like I would like. Do you think the judges are right and this is the reason? What would you do with this information if it were your novel? Would you continue the story?

No U Turns in Life Either 5

In Life Either

Bullying affects families not just the child who experiences it. This is why I am continuing Mia’s story from the point of view of her brother, Cal. Those of you just beginning to follow my blog might not know who Cal is. You can click on the menu to Cal’s Story Begins to find out. You may need to click pages from the menu to reach it depending on your reader source.

I ask those of you who know my family to realize that both stories are works of fiction despite being based on my daughter’s experience with bullying. Still, I want to be clear here. Bullying really did affect our entire family much more than her diagnosis did. Damage done by any type of abuse cannot be undone, but it can get better and it can help others to avoid pitfalls.

We are all mending and just the other day my son touched my heart when he told me that his sister’s experience taught him to be tough. He has learned good comebacks to use when kids try to bully him because of this. He said my work and his sister’s experience have taught him the value of being kind to others. I am so proud of him.

I started posting outlines last January and a friend suggested I was trying to put too much in the first chapter. She was right. I do not plan to post the complete story here, but I want to share the beginning with you and get your input.

Wow! Mia is practically glowing. I guess I would be too if I were her. How many people get to hear their high school orchestra play their composition at their own graduation? It’s amazing how far she’s come in the last seven years. I still remember the horror our family went through ….

Mia, what is wrong with you? Mom did you see that? She tried to hit me with her bag. Aren’t you going to do something?

Mom asked me to please be quiet until we got home. Then she just talked to Mia instead of punishing her. Mom’s raised eyebrows and piercing green eyes greeted me in the rearview mirror, when I started to say more. She actually made me feel bad for upsetting Mia instead of defending me like I thought she would.

She did try to explain after we got home, “I’m sorry this isn’t fair to you, but for now, I have to cut her some slack. She is going through a very rough time right now, and she didn’t actually hit you. I promise I will make it up to you later, and I certainly won’t allow her to harm you. For now, it’s probably best if you try to avoid her when she is upset.”

Yes, I knew all about Mia’s former friends and how they bullied her, but Mom’s explanation was more about Mia than I liked. What about me? Does Mom really think Mia’s problem isn’t affecting me?

This isn’t the first time I’ve tried talking to Mom about Mia. Just two weeks ago, Mia punched me in the arm on the way home from school. Mom’s response then was to pull the car over and refuse to drive until we both apologized. It was so unfair! Mia started it, and I was the one who was hurt just like today. I tried talking to Dad about it, but he sided with Mom.

I have to come up with a plan to get Mom and Dad to understand that Mia’s behavior is scary, and she is destroying my social life too. I can’t even have my friends over right now because we can’t upset Mia. What is that about? I live here too!

I retreated to my room and locked the door to avoid more of Mia’s abuse. Then it hit me! I learned arbitration skills at school. I needed to apply them at home. I unzipped my black backpack, pulled out my pen and paper, and sat at my desk as I thought of what to say.

Problem List

1. I need love and support just like Mia.

2. I need to be able to have my friends over.

3. I need Mia to stop abusing me.

4. I need someone to really listen and to really hear how Mia treats me.

5. I need help with my life sometimes too. After all I’m still a kid.

6. I miss our old family, the one where we ate meals together and discussed our day and where we actually went out to dinner sometimes.

Potential Solutions

1. I know you have to give Mia extra time. I get it I really do, but I need at least one of you to be there for me too.

2. I realize Mia is fragile, but how am I supposed to maintain my friendships if I can never have anyone over?

3. This should really be number one! I never bullied Mia. She has to stop bullying me and she has to have real consequences when she does.

4. Do either of you realize the awful things she says to me or really see the hate in her eyes when she looks at me? I need you to pay attention. You have to start seeing and hearing.

5. I need to be able to come to you when I have a problem too. I still need help with homework sometimes,  and I still need to talk about my day. This has to be okay. You have to make time for me too.

6. Why can’t we still go around the table and talk about how our day went instead of just talking about how Mia’s day went?  I understand Mia does not want to go out, but can’t the three of us still go out? Can’t Ah Ma and Ah Gung come over and stay with Mia?

I feel better. I have a plan. Now all I have to do is wait for Dad to come home and find a time to talk to Mom and Dad.

Beginning Cal’s Story 8

It is still wordless Wednesday here, but I need to say a few words as I share the outline below for the first chapter of my next novel. Much of Cal’s story takes place among the trees and birds of Hawaii, so today I am grateful for capturing a Japanese White-eye or Mejiro hiding in the banyan tree that overlooks Cal’s school. If you click on the photo to enlarge it, you might see a little green bird.

Cal is Mia’s little brother and his story begins when Mia is in fifth grade and he is third. He too has problems related to his sister’s anger after the bullying. Bullying not only affects the victim, it affects the whole family. This is what my son and I both want you to know. This is why there will be a second novel.

Chapter I: Angry Times

I. Anger

A. Mia’s not the only angry member of the family

B. My thoughts

II. Pleading my case

A. To Dad

B. To Mom

III. Venting and Acting Out

A. Getting in trouble at school

1. My friends don’t understand

2. I cannot explain

3. It sucks

B. Mom deals with it

1. Talks to teachers

2. Talks to Dad

3. Talks to me

4. Arranges for time just for me

IV. They get me and I get them

A. Support

1. From family

2. From friends

V. Light bulb Moment

A. Mia does not have this support even after Mom talks to people

B. I give Mia support

 

Bringing It All Together 9

This year I am scaling back. I will continue to be on Twitter and I will continue to post my blogs to Facebook. However, I need more time to take care of my health, to spend with my family and to work on my second novel, and I need to focus more on forgiveness and gratitude.

I am not giving up on my dreams for acceptance of differences and bully free schools. I will address the tough issues on this blog by bringing you stories of those who are helping, rather than the sad stories that the news media uses to hype up your emotions for a day or two. I also hope to do some presentations and to exhibit at some local venues this year.

I will be adding a couple of new pages to my blog, one for featured stories and one for my progress on my next novel, a topic I started addressing on my second blog. Maintaining two blogs is not working, so I plan to move my posts from my second blog to this blog.

Mahalo for your continued support as I make these changes.