At Little Flower, I found ...

Friday, May 16, 2014

First among the privileges of attending writing festivals is this: the young people you meet. Just look at those Little Flower Catholic High School girls. Look at those faces, that youth, those smiles, that Sister-Kimberly-Miller-inspired love for books. These students made the enormously successful first Little Flower Teen Writing Festival a few brief Saturdays ago. They (along with all the hard work of Sister Kim and Kate Walton) were the reason we were there.

But the twenty writers who gathered for this event also had the chance to talk with, and support, one another. That, too, is excellent stuff. That, too, makes a weekend.

Today I'd like to share a few opening lines from two of the new books that I brought home, to entice you to go out and find these books for yourselves.

First, from Jennifer Hubbard, author of Try Not to Breathe and The Secret Years, comes her new story, Until It Hurts to Stop, about a teen trying to overcome a legacy of brutal bullying, a teen trying to believe in her own worth. (It's also about hiking, about which Jenn knows a whole lot.)

That story begins like this:
My friend Nick reaches across the cafeteria table and drops a knife into my hand. "Happy birthday, Maggie."

I turn the knife over in my hand. I have always wanted one of these. I've borrowed Nick's often enough, out on the trails.

I know I should hide it. It's a Swiss army knife, not a weapon, but our school gets hysterical over nail clippers. They'd probably confiscate it and put me on some list of budding terrorists.

Even so, I can't resist stroking the smooth metal and snapping open the different tools: the nail file, the screwdriver, the tiny scissors. Best of all, I love the tiny scissors....
Second, from Elizabeth LaBan, a story inspired by an assignment the author herself was given as a teen—to write something called a "tragedy paper." LaBan's novel (The Tragedy Paper) is told in two voices—that of an albino boy who leaves a record of his last semester in a boarding school behind, and that of the boy who discovers and ponders the tale.

That story begins like this:
As Duncan walked through the stone archway leading into the senior dorm, he had two things on his mind: what 'treasure' had been left behind for him and his Tragedy paper. Well, maybe three things: he was also worried about which room he was going to get.
If it wasn't for the middle item, though, he tried to convince himself, he would be almost one hundred percent happy. Almost. But that paper—the Irving School's equivalent of a thesis project—was sucking at least thirty percent of his happiness away, which was a shame on such an important day. Basically, he was going to spend a good portion of the next three months trying to define a tragedy in the literary sense, like what made King Lear a tragedy? Who cared? He could do that right now—a tragedy was when something bad happened. Bad things happened all the time. But the senior English teacher, Mr. Simon—who just happened to be the adult overseer of his hall this year—cared. He cared a lot, and he loved to throw around words like magnitude and hubris....
Of course, no matter how many books I own, I'm always wishing I had room and time for more. But here, for this rainy day, are the start of tales from my big reading pile.


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