Tuesday, January 01, 2013

Where I've been these last two months of 2012


My last blog post was on October 29th, 2012, during Hurricane Sandy. So much has happened since then. I've been off the grid at different times for different reasons, and I'd like to explain why.

Hurricane Sandy left us without power and heat for several days. I couldn't even use my cell phone. As you saw from my last post, it started with a lot of wind. The wind grew stronger and stronger, and the skies became dark. The wind howled. The power flickered on and off. We heard popping sounds outside and saw flashes of light. I didn't know it at the time, but what we saw and heard were falling trees bringing down power lines all over the place. Then the lights went out, and for the next few days we didn't have power or heat.

The first day after the hurricane hit, I stayed at home and try to work things out. It was cold in our little apartment, and it was getting colder. My husband, who is a freelance network television soundman, was hired to help cover the aftermath of the hurricane. He was away overnight. The following day I decided to venture out with my two kids. We walked about a mile and saw huge fallen trees tangled up and power lines. The supermarket was running on generators, which provided a minimal amount of light. The refrigerator and frozen sections were closed off, and the food in them was going bad. People bought what they could, mostly things like bread and cookies.

After a few days, my husband got a break from work, and was on his way home. He booked a hotel room in Philadelphia for the family, because we just couldn't stand being in the cold and the dark any longer. Amazingly, we got our power back almost as soon as he arrived at our apartment. I decided to stay at home, and he went with the kids to Philadelphia.

This was already a few days into November. NaNoWriMo had started, and because of Hurricane Sandy, I was already several days behind!

NaNoWriMo, for those who don't know, stands for National Novel Writing Month. Every year in November, writers from around the world commit themselves to writing a 50,000 word novel. Why My Love Life Sucks was my NaNoWriMo projects from a few years ago. Last year I wrote the outline for the rest of the series. This year I wrote the second book in the series, Why It Still Mega Bites.

So between dealing with Hurricane Sandy and working on my NaNoWriMo manuscript, I didn't feel I had time for blogging. I continued chatting with people on Facebook, but I was also mostly off the grid on Twitter. I've also been fairly active on Pinterest, because it's a nice break and doesn't take that much time. Mostly, I was working like crazy to get 50,000 words of Why It Still Mega Bites written.

And I did it! I won NaNoWriMo again in 2012!

November ended, December started, and although I had completed 50,000 words of Why It Still Mega Bites, the first draft of the novel wasn't finished yet. I decided to get it done in December. Apparently, many NaNoWriMo winners do that.

So my family prepared for a quiet December. The last month of the year is usually a quiet time as far as the news is concerned. My husband as a freelancer, and he didn't expect to be called out. Of course, you already know this year was different.

On December 14, a 20-year-old man took his mother's guns, shot her multiple times, drove to Sandy Hook elementary school, and killed six women who worked at the school and 20 first graders.

My husband was called out to work on the story, which he considers perhaps the worst story he's ever covered. This is a man who filmed at Ground Zero, just minutes after the towers collapsed. He has been to Darfur. He has seen numerous terrorist attacks in Israel. But this was the first time — and hopefully the last — he has ever seen an attack on so many young children. They were only six and seven years old. How can we even comprehend such a thing?

There have been times that I haven't blogged because I was too busy, or because I felt I didn't have anything worthwhile to say. Sandy Hook was different. I didn't blog, because there was too much to say, and I just didn't know how to say it. I was overwhelmed. I cried a lot. I wrote very little. And I couldn't stop thinking about those children, their teachers, and their families. Even now, two weeks later, I'm still crying as I type this.

A family member of one of the victims angrily asked my husband, "Why are you here?" As in "Why is the press here? Why can't we grieve in private?"

He replied, "We're here because the country wants to mourn with you."

The family member nodded. He understood. The country wanted to know what he had gone through, to feel his loss. The media was there to help, and it did help. It helped the rest of America understand what had happened, and Americans from around the country sent their support.

Like most people, I wanted to help. I realized I had written a book that had helped me deal with another tragedy. Ride of Your Life started as a story I had written in my head because I wanted to give the Great Adventure Haunted Castle fire of 1984 a happy ending, or at least as happy as such a great tragedy could have. When I was still a teen, that fire had killed eight teenagers  in a theme park I had visited many times and had known quite well. Ride of Your Life is about love connecting the world of the living with the ghost world and the Light, which is the story's version of heaven. That story had given me some comfort, and I thought it might help the teenagers at Sandy Hook, so I sent copies of the book to the nearby high school's library. I hope my story will help at least one teenager there cope in this difficult time. I know it's not much, but what can we do? We are all so helpless in the face of such atrocities, such evil. All we can do is remember and do our best to make sure such a thing never happens again.

So I didn't manage to finish the first draft of Why It Still Mega Bites. How could I when my mind was still reeling by the news? I've decided to put it on hold for now.

And that is why I haven't posted since October 29th.

Last week I went to the library to try to find a quiet space where I could work on it, and I ended up talking with the YA librarian. We arranged a book launch in February for Why My Love Life Sucks, which is why I've gone back to editing it. I want to have it finished and ready to be published by the end of the month. The launch should be fun. I've ordered heart-shaped lollipops and candy vampire teeth, and I've worked out a project to do with the kids. I'm going to teach them how to make an infinite story generator. There will also be a book signing, and maybe I'll do a PowerPoint presentation if I can figure out how.

I hope 2013 will be better. I hope it will be safer. I hope it will be filled with more reasons to smile and laugh, and fewer reasons to cry.

Let this be the year we all embrace the philosophy of Gilbert the Fixer. The world is broken. Let's fix it together.

Best wishes,

Shevi Arnold, the Storyteller's Storyteller and the Fixer's Fixer

5 comments:

kaylyn vanharn said...

And on to 2013. Another year full of unknowns for all of us.

Ann Eisenstein said...

Shevi, what an incredible couple of months it has been for you. My heart ached for you and your family as I read what you have been going through. I, too, wanted to write about Sandy Hook, but like you, I could not. There was so much to say and so little seemed to make any sense to write. I am sorry that your husband had to cover it. I am sorrier that there was such an unspeakable act of insane violence to cover at all. Congratulations on your writing. I look forward to reading both books. I hope your New Year is filled with peace, joy and love.

Judith van Praag said...

Dear Shevi,
I'm glad you're back in the bloggoshpere. With your post about your own experience, and that of your husband (bless his heart) you share the story of many, and that's exactly what writers (and people in the media such as your hubby) do, or are meant to do, to reach the world through the story of one, or a few, bringing an experience closer.
How wonderful that you're going to have a book party at the library, I love the program you have in mind. You put your money where your mouth is, as always, you are The Fixer.
Brava! "Mazzel & Broge" in 2013!

Shevi Arnold said...

Thanks, Kaylyn, Ann and Judith. :)

Shevi Arnold said...

Thanks, Kaylyn, Ann and Judith. :)