Sunday, March 14, 2010

A New View of The Unfair & Cruel

My son Colton and I went on a run together today and somehow we began talking about the importance of having a philosophy for your life; of finding a moral compass; of having sound reasons for what you believe to be right and wrong. Colton has a great moral compass, and every time I see him put it to good use I'm filled with a wonderful sense of pride. And relief. I know it will serve him well throughout his life, and that although it may lead him through some rugged terrain, he'll be glad he followed it. He's also reading The Running Dream manuscript, and there's a segment in it where one of Coach Kyro's "philosophies" comes out: "Life isn't about what happens to you, it's about what you do about what happens to you." And really, that's the key to life. Bad things happen to good people--they just do. But it's how you deal with those bad things that will either scar you and scare you, or make you stronger and more determined. And being stronger and more determined will eventually take you where you dream of going. It's funny how that works. Of course I didn't have that little gem of knowledge in my back pocket when I was in middle school being bullied by girls whose parents seemed to buy them whatever they wanted. Or in high school when my dad made me drop the transmission of my clunker car and change the throw-out bearing of my myself. Or in college when someone torched our family's business. During those times I just thought the world was unfair and cruel. Which it can be. But if you can make it through those unfair, cruel episodes, life can also be joyous. And that's what you've got to keep in your back pocket. The belief that things will get better. Meanwhile, let me present a new perspective on the unfair and cruel. They are what make for good writing. No one needs to tell you to remember the traumatic times. You'd love to forget them, but can't. So instead work with them. Scratch that. Make them work for you. It's experiences in life that give us something to write about, and since good fiction is applied tension, you'll have an arsenal of good material if life hasn't been peachy (and not a whole lot if it has). Does the girl who jabbed me in the derriere with a sewing pin in seventh grade have a multi-book contract with Random House? No, but I turned her into Heather Acosta, so she's in a bunch of books! Would the kids whose parents give them brand new cars when they turn 16 know how to write effectively about the grimy underbelly of a car, or what transmission fluid feels and smells like? No, but I do, and it sure came in handy when writing Sammy Keyes and the Curse of Moustache Mary. And the people who torched the family business--where are they? Not in jail where they belong, but they're living with themselves and I don't imagine that to be a very good existence. Not exactly justice, and yet...from their actions came such angst in me that I started writing. This doesn't undo what they did, but if I didn't agree with Coach Kyro it would have been easy to become bitter and jaded and resentful because of it. Instead, I became a writer.


Pooja Dimba said...

I loved this post.
Its so true.
I mean my friends are always telling me, "You have such a interesting life." and since they are in eighth grade and I am in seventh they love to hear about all the drama thats happened to me.
Lets just say I am waaay to opinionated and I love to share my opinions on things... and people don't like that much! :D
Like in 4th grade this girl made all the girls hate me. I sat where we lined up alone for 4 or 5 months!
But then 4 boys asked me to play tag with them and I said yes.
And people tell me to forget it but its like demented into my brain.
And so many rumors are spread about me.. and it bugs me.. because anything that has to relate to Pooja Dimba spreads like wild fire!
And you are absolutely right about the writing it out.. its great!
Great Post!
Yay first comment.

bookfreak said...

Its true about what you said that it can either "scar you and scare you, or make you stronger and more determined." Sixth grade for me was the worst year, in between losing two best friends and having boys find out i liked them, I was overwhelmed. My two "best friends" had been talking about me behind my back and so i left and i got a new friend and for a while she was my only friend. Then these guys found out that that me and my friend liked some guys and told THEM. However, my ex best friends helped me get out of my comfort zone and find new friends. As for the guys, well they're my friends now. I say that out of every problem you have to deal with, you gain something, be it experience, knowledge, a friend, you gain something as long as not too blind to see it. I, personally am thankful towards all those people that gave me those challenges because now i know that I'm strong enough to get through almost anything, with God of course. Wow this comment is really long. Wait but i also have too ask, someone jabbed you with a sewing pin? Here i was thinking that it was something that you thought of!
-bf =D

xzx583 said...

That's a great philosophy. If nothing bad ever happened to anyone, we wouldn't know how to cope with things. If you can use your bad times, and turn them into a story, that's very smart.
P.S. I LOVE YOUR BOOKS! (Sorry, I had to put that in at least one comment)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Interesting to hear your stories. I know we all have them! And yes, the jab came from real life -- that's what authors do! We blend fiction and reality and don't let on what's what. Thanks for chiming in!

Jinnyd said...

Ouch! Did you punch her in the nose afterwards? I wouldn't blame you if you did, but if not what DID you do about it? Hopefully everyone believed you about it and not Pin-Poker Girl?

Anyway, it's probably definitely true that all writers gather up at least one small thing from their lives for their books (or a lot, in Charlotte Bronte's case--LOVE JANE EYRE COOLEST CLASSIC EVER! ahem...), and that brings me to my question:

Remember telling us about having adventures a very short while ago? How have your adventures given you ideas for books? Specifically, have you ever based a Sammy adventure off of one of yours (except for the pin-jabbing one, of course).

neonina05 said...

Very true. =) I mean, when life comes at you like that (in a bad way), the best thing to do -- at least for me -- is to keep moving. That's my philosophy: Keep moving forward. (same as Walt Disney)

Also true about writing about it. You have to actually have experiences to write about what people will would think is tragic, or dramatic, or just interesting, I suppose.

sammy4ever said...

okay, you should really write a book about YOU. you're such an inspiring person! your blog posts should be turned into a book, i mean, they're funny, creative, interesting, and full of meaning. and it really makes a person think, you know? i can't wait to hear from you again!
and i can't believe someone actually jabbed you with a pin! i bet they're feeling pretty bad now. and see, that's the thing! everyone makes mistakes, everyone gets angry. but that doesn't make you a revenge-seeking monster. it just makes you human. and it's those who choose the right way to deal with that anger that end up happy with their lives.
i really hope that made sense, because it kind of did from my point of view.

Nicole said...

wow, do you think the girl who stabbed you with a pin knows you're using her as inspiration for a character? i mean, lots of people know about the SK books and she might've recognized your name on the cover and picked one up and read it...oooooh. just wondering.
also i think it's cool how even if Sammy's character isn't based exactly off yourself, still the way you write in your blogs and some of the things you say sound like things Sammy might say or how she talks, so when i'm responding i'm thinking "ahhhh, this is SO cool, not only am i talking to one of my favorite authors, but it's almost like actually talking to Sammy Keyes herself"
and i just want to add that i think my favorite part of your writing is probably your use of italics (at least in the SK series), because you do use them a lot and i don't know if other authors try to stay away from using so many italics or what, but i just love it in your books and it makes Sammy's thoughts seem so....real. haha, well thanks for the post, have a great week!

bookfreak said...

Where did the wrestling idea come from, in sk and the psycho kitty queen? Did you just think that it was cool and you wanted Sammy to be able to do it? or from something else?=D

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

bf: I just thought, what should replace Bargain Books? Like SM needed another SHOE store? And then it hit me how cool (and wild) a pro wrestling school would be. No connection to reality -- just my wacky little mind :-)

Nicole: Funny about italics! I like 'em, and think they're very Sammy, but other people believe they should be used sparingly. Those people probably don't go snooping around their neighborhood in high-tops, though, so let them have their own unitalicized life.
Oh, and thanks for the compliment re Sammy / me. We are different people, but I do think she's had an influence on me :-)

S4E: The Jabber doesn't know! We moved to a different town when I was in high school, so I don't know what's become of her. I'm going back to a class reunion this summer, so we'll see if she's there. Should be interesting! And thank you for the comment about the blog posts. That was very nice to read. I actually have sort of an outline for a book that would be stories behind the stories -- like Max in Hollywood Mummy? Oh, what a story THAT is! I'll probably write that after the series is complete. Meanwhile, it's ALL FICTION based on NOBODY REAL (tee-hee).

QJ: I didn't know that about WD, but I like it! Thank you!

JinnyD: I'm pleading the 5th...AGAIN! And check out my comment above for the answer to your other question. I'm afraid I've drawn on, h-hm, several experiences...

EVERYBODY: Thank you -- I love your thoughtful questions and comments. The Cammy (and Sammy) Crew is awesome!

Stefunny said...

"I didn't know that about WD..."--it took me a while to figure out that by "WD" you meant Walt Disney. For a minute I thought you meant yourself. :P

Wild About Words said...

Tremendous post, Wendelin!

Jinnyd said...

Hee hee hee... sorry the 5th is being overpleaded! And now that the sun is finally out after all winter, I want to get out there and have adventures! But homework is calling......blecch. :-P

NADrift said...

So did SK and the Sisters of Mercy come from nuns stealing from your church's collection basket?

Rose Sellman said...

wow that was a great post! i have a lot of things that have happen to me that i could write about but i never thought of it.

Elizabeth said...

Thank you so much for this post! "But it's how you deal with those bad things that will either scar you and scare you, or make you stronger and more determined." I think my mentality of late has been all wrong, I've been feeling scarred and for some reason thought it worked well with strength. But holding on to the pain is making me weaker and bitter, so I'm going to let go once I'm free from the situation. Anyway, excellent food for thought, so thank you :). And sorry I haven't commented in a while (not that it really matters), just been really busy. I've read the posts though!

Anonymous said...

Wow, you're right...the rumors. It's been so long since I've heard of anyone that has such experiences.
Oh god, sixth grade. What a hell. I recall people calling me and my only friend 'freaks' and lesbians. When in fact, I've no doubt most of these boys KNEW that I had a crush-my first one too-and at the same time I think broke another guy's heart (although i didn't realize this until yrs later). I learned a lot about guys that year. And what happens when you deal with the wrong ones.
There was another group of guys that year in another class that yelled obscenities in my ear everytime they saw me, just because of one TINY argument I got into with them.
So, I wasn't very popular that year, and let me tell you it doesnt get any easier.

If anyone accuses me of not commenting for a long time, I was kinda busy. :)

Anonymous said...

Oh and btw I think these things have made me more stronger rather than more scared. Or maybe both.

I'm pretty bored now actually, waiting to get a copy of SK 13, among other things. I'm currently writing an original fiction story about a race of people living on another planet. (And getting stuck after every other paragraph) I have maybe 13 pages and it's not going on well.

Anonymous said...

I honestly have no idea what I'm doing. I'm, like, a high school newbie and I'm trying to write a 250-page(at least) novel =S

Hy, Wendelin, did you try to write a novel when you were in high school?

bookfreak said...

I'm waiting for both the Twilight Graphic Novel(waiting for the time I'm going to get it) and sk #13 =D ahhhh i LOVE books!=D

Remy said...

*pants* I *tears up. Eyes cloud* can't believe *wails* SAMMY KEYES IS GOING TO BE *coughs* OVER!!!! I mean, Sammy was such an inspiration to me. I started reading the books the summer before fourth grade, when I began going through my "detective" phase. I was the class slueth, you could say. I solved the mystery of the secret admirer. And, I'm good at cracking clues...sometimes. Also, I bought a pair of high tops. Chuck Taylor All Star. They are my beloved shoes, and even though they don't fit me, (They're, like, two sizes too small) they're still in the back of my closet. Also, fourth grade is when I found I wanted to be a writer. I'm in the middle of two stories, currently. A mystery and, well,realistic fiction. I'm on the lookout for a publisher... But, yeah. I always re-read the Sammy Keyes series. Sorta like Evangeline and the Crimson Kiss. Sometimes on Saturday I have an SK marathon where I just sit and reread the books. Sorry this post is so long.

Remy said...

Oh, Wendelin, I read Nicole's post about italics. I LOVE italics. It gives the sentence a whole new meaning!!!

Anonymous said...

This is interestingly funny--
A little bit before CHS came out, I had a dream where I actually read it.. the whole thing.
It was obviously wrong in the dream of course.
And that happened last night [with Wedding Crasher], but the funny thing is, it didn't really have to do with the synopsis that was written.
Instead,it was about something complteley different - it was like, Sammy moved into a regular apartment-- and it was really strange. Hmm.. (and Casey wasn't in it, at all).
It's strange that I read a whole [fake] book in my dream.. so basically I make up Fanfiction when I sleep.
That is so strange, but so typical me.
And I also can't wait to buy the Twilight graphic novel OR the new Clique book, These Boots Were Made for Stalking. AND the new series Rick Riordan is writing [coming May 4th], The Chronicles of Kane.
Oh, AND the new demigod series [by Rick Riordan].
And, MOST of all, SK 13! Gahh. [I
m not kidding-- if I were to pick only one of those to buy, I would get the SK one].
This comment had nothing to do with the post.. so here is what i think about the actual post-
I completely agree! I also think that people don't realize something until they've experienced it. For example, I was watching E! and they had a segment on "young deaths" and one was about a college that was involved with drugs, and one girl died one day because of the drugs and THAT is when the people went, "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't do this?".
Of course, having someone die to learn not to do drugs isn't the best way to realize it.
All I think is that some people learn from experience..
And whatever happened to Casey's old friends, on that note? Did he stop hanging out with them or is it just something that he doesn't mention around Sammy?

That's it, I guess.... bye!

Elizabeth said...

I had a dream where I read CHC too! And it wasn't good, at all. I can't remember everything, but I know I was ticked off and disappointed when I woke up and was eager to read the REAL book so I could put the fake version out of my head. The only books I'm currently wanting to read like crazy are Wedding Crasher and Mockingjay! GOSH I'm dying to read those! I love Sammy most, of course, but Catching Fire was a cliffhanger so I really want to read Mockingjay. Like. Now. Btw, xxCLxx, I love the badge you made! And the sketch of Cammy :)

Remy said...

xxCammyLoverxx: It's so cool how you love Fanfiction!!! I'm a little addicted to it!!! And the clique books, I just got TBAMFS, and it was OK, I guess. But, yeah. I just thought that was cool. And your badge is awesome!!!

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Levina: No did not try to write a book in high school. Never even crossed my mind. English essays were plenty long enough! There's no way I would have attempted it. Good for you for trying, but don't be discouraged. Live your youth. You've got your whole life to write about it. :-)

Anonymous said...

Wendelin-Oh, no, I'm not writing this 'cause I'm trying to be adult or anything, I just can't wait any longer to get it down. I think I've had this story in my head since I was 7 =T
but I'm Ok. I'm probably not writing as fast as you are but I'm goin on fine =))

regarding stuff everyone else is talking about-yep, there's no expression without italics, dot-dot-dots, parentheses and all that jazz. it gives the words life =}P
by the way-Wendelin, you're very nice :-)

Wendelin Van Draanen said...

Levina--a) that is the best reason to write. Get it out! b) I like the 'give it life' description. I totally agree, but some, uh, adults frown on it. Too bad :-) c) Thank you. So are you!