Stonehenge in Southern Indiana

 

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Southern Indian is not flat and full of corn like the rest of the state. The glaciers that flattened the top two thirds of the state and dug out the Great Lakes stopped about an hour south of Indianapolis leaving the gently rolling hills of Brown County and the Hooseir National Forest. On top of one of the hills, Browning Mountain it’s called, although I wouldn’t say it much resembles a mountain, are dozens of enormous rectangular stones arranged in patterns.

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Scientists say that the type of rock comprizing these stones is not from the region. There are plenty of quarries in southern Indiana where it could have originated, but it didn’t. So the question is – what is it? Is it man made or naturally occuring?

Having seen the stones myself, they are so precisely rectangular, even given the effects of time, and arranged in such regular patterns, that I can’t imagine they are anything but man made.

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Could the indiginous people of the area from thousands of years ago have erected a stone circle of the likes of Stonehenge in southern Indiana? I think the answer is yes. The other question, though, is how did the stones get on top of the mountain? It is a pretty tough two hour climb to the top going steadily up hill. Did they have some kind of technolgy that has been lost over the ages? I think it would be easy to simply say that the stones are naturally occuring since we don’t have the answers to these questions, but I’m not sure that we would be correct.

Ancient cultures may not have been as advanced as we are technologically, but they may have had a wisdom about the energies of the earth and the Universe that we have lost. It is definitely food for thought. What do you think?

 

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Cultivating Resiliency Through Books for Teens ~ PLA in Indianapolis

This past week I was at the PLA, Public Library Association, conference in Indianapolis signing books and giving a presentation on “Cultivating Resiliency Through Books for Teens.” I even had my picture in the paper for the event! John Green gave a presentation, too, and I don’t know how I beat him out!

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In the paper! Bigger picture than Jane Pauley!

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Signing Books

 

 

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With a Fan ~ Love those librarians!

Here’s my presentation! I was rather nervous at first, but got it under control. :)

Fiction isn’t real, but it is true. Especially when it is about real issues that impact teens. Reading about difficult topics is a non-threatening way to experience the trauma and consequences, and ultimately hope, through the characters in the book. Perhaps it is something they personally have experienced or a friend has experienced. Or something that the teen will encounter in the future. They may identify with the characters which can alleviate feelings of isolation and instill the understanding that they are not alone.  When you see a character dealing with abuse or divorce and then moving beyond it and healing, you create hope.

Fiction is a great teacher. It is a safe place to confront the difficult issues that teens deal with every day. I’ve always believed that information is power and communication is the key. Writing stories about difficult issues like drinking, divorce, sex or self-destructive behavior does not cause teens to engage in that behavior. On the contrary, it helps them develop tools and skills to use when confronted with those issues in real life. Reading fiction about difficult topics is like reading a self-help book as an allegory. Studies show that the reader experiences the same feelings and emotions as the character in the book she is reading.  This is truly empowering because it allows them to experience life within the safety of the pages of a book and formulate opinions and strategies for how they might behave or react in real life. Banning or withholding books that deal with difficult topics does not protect teens. It keeps them from learning valuable lessons and gaining knowledge. It is knowledge that helps teens become resilient.

So Fiction is a powerful tool in creating resilient teens. The messages are deftly woven through the story so that while the reader is entertained, they are also presented with a subtle, deeper meaning.

The Field

-          When I was developing the plot and conflict in The Field, I asked my teenaged children and niece, then aged 15, what issues would be the most true-to-life and relevant to them. They suggested drinking as it was something that really came up among their peers. Like it or not, kids are drinking in high school. They also suggested parents divorcing, as so many of their friends and acquaintances were experiencing that in their lives.

-           In THE FIELD, the main character, Eric, struggles to figure out how to help his best friend Will who starts abusing alcohol to deal with his parent’s divorce. At first Will’s drinking doesn’t seem too bad. Who else is he hurting? But the possibility exists that he could get caught and thrown off the soccer team jeopardizing the success of the entire team. As Eric tries to talk to Will about the drinking and his parent’s divorce, Will becomes more and more hostile. The deterioration of their friendship follows the same downward spiral as Will’s descent into drinking. Eventually Eric washes his hands of Will saying “I know he’s dealing with the mess his dad left, but I’m done. I don’t need to be his punching bag.”

-          When Will puts his life at risk driving drunk, Eric knows he can’t abandon his best friend and it is his refusal to give up on Will, even in the face of Will’s hostility, that saves him.

-           By the end of the novel, Will recognizes that not only did the drinking not help, it almost cost him his life. He also realizes that even though his parents are divorcing, his father still loves him.  The reader sees Will work through his issues and come out the other side.

-          I dedicated the book to my children and their friends and to Brett Finbloom, a soccer teammate of my son’s who died from alcohol poisoning the summer before his freshman year in college. Although I didn’t base the story in any way on Brett (it was already in rough draft when he died), the circumstances of his death emphasized the importance of having an open dialog with teens about drinking.

-          Brett’s family started a foundation called “Make Good Choices” and in the conversations they have with young people after their presentations, they hear over and over again from the kids how talking about drinking and not pretending that it doesn’t happen or simply forbidding it, helped them to work through questions they have and made them really think about the choices they make.

Indian Summer

-          In this middle-grade novel, the issues are not as difficult, but they are of utmost importance to a middle-schooler. Marcie is dealing with issues of peer-pressure, fitting in and doing what you think is right against insurmountable odds.

-          At the beginning of the novel Marcie lacks self-confidence in dealing with the popluar girls. She is thrown in with one of the girls, Kaitlyn, who is a little more worldly-wise and bold. With Kaitlyn, Marcie does things that she normally wouldn’t do.

-          Kaitlyn’s father is secretly developing old growth forest on the lake into luxury homes. Marcie wants to stop him, but doesn’t know how.

-          When she abandons Kaitlyn’s team in the middle of the sailboat race to save her elderly friend, Al, she has made a decision to follow her own convictions and not be swayed by Kaitlyn and the popular, wealthy crowd, even if it means she loses Kaitlyn’s friendship. As a result, she finds a way to stop the development of the land.

-          Marcie discovers that she can be true to herself and keep her friendships without compromising her own values.

By exploring real life circumstances and issues through fiction, instead of pretending that they don’t exist in an effort to protect or shield  young people, we gird them with powerful tools with which to deal with the difficult things that inevitably show up in life. Through knowledge we create empowered, resilient teens.

Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth and The Hero With A Thousand Faces, said,

“The big problem of any young person’s life is to have models to suggest possibilities.” He also said,

“We have not even to risk the adventure alone, for the heros of all time have gone before us.”

What all writers of fiction are really creating is Myth and as Joseph Campbell has concluded, there is power in myth.

Through the difficult trials of the hero’s journey, our protagonist, and our teen readers, are changed. They are stonger. They are resilient.

Upcycling

No, this does not mean bicycling uphill. I’m not even sure it is an actual word. I’m very into creating things and protecting the environment, and I’ve been able to combine the two with Upcycling. It best describes how I turned these shirts, a suit jacket from Goodwill with some random buttons and trim from my stash -

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into this custom pillow for my nephew Ben – thus the ‘B’! Shhhh, don’t tell him, it’s his birthday present.

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And these lamps I bought at Value World for $4 apiece (I don’t have a before picture, but they were shiny gold) to these French country beauties in my dining room after I painted them with off-white chalk paint. I’m still not sure about the beads, though.

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Winter Hike

It snowed six inches in central Indiana on Friday, so my husband and I went for a hike in Brown County Indiana. We weren’t going to be deterred by a little snow! Well, acutally I was. We hiked four miles of the total six mile trail. I just couldn’t slog through any more of the six inches of virgin snow. We did see several hunters, though. It is somewhat disconcerting to be out in the beautifully silent woods and come upon five men in camo with bright orange accessories, all toting riles. We didn’t see any deer. They were smart enough to stay hidden.

 

 

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The reward was having lunch at the famous, but inconveniently located Story Inn.

 

 

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Five Star Review for THE FIELD

Thanks you to Page Princess Blog for a Five Star (Crown) review of The Field!

“I loved this story of discovery.  Eric is examining his place in the world, his beliefs, and his emotional connection to friends and his girlfriend.  This story has strong messages of unified spiritualism and green energy.  Eric and Renee’s star-gazing date was a perfect example of a romantic and sweet alternative to the common.”

Review of THE FIELD – ” it really felt like I was inside a teenage boy’s head.”

When you are writing you always wonder if you are getting the character’s point of view right. Apparently I nailed it on Eric’s teen boy point of view. A male librarian reviewer recently told me that he though I was a man when he was reading The Field and this reviewer agrees that I got it right, too. :)

“Richardson did a terrific job of portraying this young male, and it really felt like I was inside a teenage boy’s head for the entire story (which was a little scary at times!). I’d highly recommend this book to any male young adult reader, and all the parents wondering about just WHAT is going on in their child’s head. It was a great read.”

~Naimeless Blog