Where have you been?

Many people have been asking where I’ve been for the past few years.

Not on Facebook.

No new magazine articles.

Not at any literary events.

No big book announcements.

So where have I been? That’s a question I keep asking myself. What’s going on with the writing, Megan?

Well…

I’m in a slump. A HUUUUUUGE writing slump. Originally, I thought it had to do with my second heart surgery in 2015. For those of you who are followers of my blog and/or writing, you may know that I had open heart surgery in 2006. A MAJOR surgery. Like, so major, they had to stop my heart and quiet all brain activity and put me on a heart/lung bypass machine for 96 minutes.

The surgery I had in 2015 wasn’t as bad. I mean, it was still heart surgery. But there were no bone saws involved and no cracking of my sternum.

The surgery was to fix part of my descending aortic arch. I was getting little to no blood flow to my legs, which made them feel like they weighed two hundred pounds when I tried to walk. Not fun. After lots and lots of tests, they discovered that the radiation that created my radiation accelerated atherosclerosis of my carotid arteries (say that fast three times) had reduced the size of my descending aortic arch to the size of a two year old. And I’m slightly larger than your average two-year-old.

So in the summer of 2015, I had a surgery to fix it. I first had to find a whole new team of doctors because the docs who fixed me the first time around weren’t available anymore. One member of my open heart surgery team had died. Tragically. He was shot and killed while at work (in the very same place I had been going to every few months - the cardiac unit at Brigham and Women’s). He was shot and killed by the son of one of his patients who had passed away under his care. The man blamed Dr. Michael Davidson for the death of his mother and so he shot and killed him, robbing the world of a brilliant cardiac surgeon who would most likely go on to save thousands of lives with his surgeries and his top-notch medical research.

Dr. Davidson’s colleague (and one of his best friends) was the doctor who followed me on a half-yearly basis. Dr. Eisenhauer left the Brigham to head up a surgical department in a Maine hospital. I’m sure he was suffering PTSD after the shooting. I can’t imagine who wouldn’t feel that way. Yet, I still had to have a surgery, so I needed to find a new cardiac team, which led me to Mass General and an amazing team of doctors.

Around this same time, I had a new agent and a new book on submission and I was readying myself for entry back into the YA world. Until the passes started coming in. One by one by one. All writers get rejected. It’s part of the process. But after two YA novels and a huge anthology with brilliant YA authors I had put together, I didn’t think that it would be so hard to break through again. What I hadn’t realized was how competitive the Young Adult book world had become. Instead of wallowing in my rejections, I started to brainstorm with my agent about new book ideas.

But, as I started writing, I realized that the passion was no longer there. Something was different. The literary landscape was changing. Bookstores were closing left and right. And the world seemed to be changing right before our eyes as a ridiculous reality TV host and fake billionaire, Donald Trump, was leading the Republican primary and people were actually taking him serious in his bid to become the next president of the United States. It was absolutely absurd! But, the divisions were already in their early stages. I could feel the changes already taking shape.

I remember being on Facebook — my lifeline as a writer for the past few years — and the anger and vitriol being spread was alarming. People I admired, family members, old acquaintances were at each other’s throats over the idea of Trump becoming president. It was getting ugly. And I couldn’t believe the side where some people were landing. How could anyone support this bigoted, illiterate, racist, xenophobic, misogynistic, sexual predatorial buffoon?

It got to the point where I was sick of posting anti-Trump articles on Facebook, fighting with Trump supporters, blocking and unfriending people, total madness! So, I left Facebook. I’m still on there—you can still find old posts of mine—but I stopped visiting it daily, hourly, the way I used to. I needed a clean break.

Which is when I discovered Twitter.

I’ve been on Twitter in my #Resistance mode for a few years. I’m followed by everyone from Rosie O’Donnell to Tom Arnold to Michael Avenatti and even Barack Obama. I’m Twitter-verified (which is probably the only reason those folks would be following me) and that allows me to send my thoughts on Trump far and wide. And the people who troll me can easily be blocked.

The Trump effect has been powerful. Not only does his presence in the news media dwarf everything else that’s happening around the world, but things like books and literary news and artistic ventures are practically off the map. Can you think of a major news story that hasn’t tangentially involved Trump in the past three years? I can’t. And I’ve looked.

When people are scared, they either bury themselves in the news or run away from it completely. I was part of that first group. I am on a Tweet-name basis with several cable news pundits. Everyone from Rachel Maddow to Nicolle Wallace to the Rev. Al Sharpton has tweeted back and forth with me. The #Resistance has brought unusual people together. I truly never thought that I’d be DM-ing or Tweet-talking with Tom Arnold, Rosie O’Donnell and Jon Cryer. Or that we would all be brought together with one common goal — to end the insanity that is the Trump presidency.

In any event, my writing was becoming a distant memory. I couldn’t even remember how to write a short story, let alone an entire novel. Why was this happening? I discovered that I wasn’t reading novels anymore, because I was too busy furiously consuming articles on how our presidential norms were being violated six ways to Sunday. (More like six HUNDRED ways.) I was no longer reading articles on the writing craft, and instead scouring pieces written by Michael Schmidt from the New York Times or Ashley Parker from the Washington Post for the latest travesties committed by our “president.”

I became a walking encyclopedia of political news. In the past, I could never have told you who the members of the President’s cabinet was. Now I can tell you who is there, for how long and when he or she will be replaced. I have never known who the Deputy Attorney General is/was, but now I can tell you a detailed job history of Rod Rosenstein (and it’s pronounced STINE, not STEEN, thank you very much).

I have had stress dreams about presidential pardons and congressional oversight. I have a burning hatred for men like Devin Nunes, Mitch McConnell and the spineless Paul Ryan. I had never sent a mean tweet in my life — I created an entire anthology on anti-bullying for crying out loud — but here I was basically saying “F— You!” to senators, congressmen and the president of the United States on a daily basis. I had become the online bully I had warned people about. And I was bullying some of the most powerful people in our country!

None of this was helpful for my writing process.

I soon realized that my love for the written word was changing. I valued words and language on a level that most regular “non-writer” people would never understand. Trump changed that for me. He took the beauty and the value away from words, essentially making them meaningless. Truth is no longer an absolute in the Trump era. I used to be in awe of how writers would get at the truth with insightful prose and evocative language. There used to be facts, but now we have #alternativefacts and #fakenews.

And so, I started to find my time writing (when it wasn’t angry tweets directed at KellyAnne Conway) useless. What was the point of writing a novel when the entire world was going off a cliff? If I wasn’t using my words to help combat this war on truth, what was the point?

I’m not sure why my writer’s block is so immutable. I could blame it on my heart surgery — that they removed part of my creative genes when they widened the tubes to and from my heart. It could be that I feel it is pointless in the face of so many things going wrong: both personally and globally. Things that are continuously battled: gun control, which would have saved the children in Parkland and, also, my cardiac surgeon. The idea that the bad guys are winning and that justice is meaningless pervades everything. What’s the point of having hopes and dreams of doing good in the world when the bottom line is that people with a lot of money and power will always win against the poor and the powerless. When you have money like Trump, you are untouchable. People fall into line behind him and support him just to get things that they want — they give up their morals, their consciences, their backbones (looking at you, Speaker Ryan) in order to gain a tiny bit of power. It is all so very disappointing and truly disgusting.

So, that’s where I am today. I’m trying to get back into writing, despite the fact that it all seems so pointless with the growing climate crisis, the fact that someone can lie and cheat and steal their way into the highest office in the world, the scary truth that many more people than I ever realized are racist and bigoted and have just been waiting for someone to come along and say that it’s okay to show your true discriminatory feelings and that it will be an acceptable way of living.

How do you write in the face of no hope? What ways do you battle these demons every day? How do you motivate yourself to do something that really isn’t going to make much of a difference in the world, save for providing a little mental escape from the daily injustices we are increasingly faced with? Let’s work through this together and see if we can all get things back on track. I may have had many operations on my heart, but I’m pretty sure it’s still in good working condition. The capacity to love and to care is still there. It’ll just take a little more time to get it up and running again.

Til next time…

P.S. You can follow my rants and ravings on Twitter here.

Write to save your life.

Want to save your life? Write!

Imagine this: writing has been found to help people solve their problems faster and live better lives. Simply reimagine your life, rewrite your own narrative, write down the way you want your life to be and watch as things fall into place. Truly an amazing way to look at how writing can save your life.

Letter to a Bullied Girl

Okay, so I'm kind of freaking out a little bit. I received an email from a follower of this blog. I tried to email her back, but her account wasn't accepting emails. The girl said that she was being bullied and that she has tried to commit suicide several times and that she knows she will again. She also asked for help on writing about her experiences with being bullied and wanted some advice.

The fact that I can't reach her is scaring me, so I'm posting the email (of course, I'm not using her name) I sent back to her. Hopefully she reads this and doesn't go through with any more suicide attempts. And hopefully this gives hope to others who might be struggling with the same thing.

In any case, I hope this letter finds the right person at the right time. (And please don't mind the long-windedness and emotional repetition -- I was very anxious to get this out to someone who was hurting, so I didn't take the time to self-edit.)


Dear ______,

Thank you so much for reaching out to me. First of all, I'm so sorry that you've gone through such terrible times with bullies. If you have taken the time to check out my latest anthology, DEAR BULLY: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, you will see that you are in some excellent company. So many of my author friends (many who share their experiences with bullies in the book) have gone through terrible bullying situations. I was bullied when I was in college and I thought that my situation was bad, but when I heard other stories, I realized that so many have gone through much, much worse. And they've all come out the other side. The fact that some of the most successful authors today were victims of bullying should give you some hope. They used their pain, their stories, their experiences to become the brilliant writers that they are today.

You need to join them and become one of those important voices. 

The fact that you've had so many suicide attempts saddens and frustrates me. You are a voice that we need to hear. The world needs to hear you. Don't take that away from us. This part of your life will feel so small and so far away if you can just get through the next few years. And then you will laugh at those who treated you badly, because you will be better than they ever were. You will be stronger, smarter, more resilient than your bullies EVER will be. 

Times like these when it feels like there is no end in sight to the bullying is when you need to turn inward and focus on yourself. Read. Write. Find others who share your passion. So many writers who were bullied as kids turned to books for shelter and escape.  Some of them said that at times they felt like books were their only friends; authors were the only ones who truly understood them.  And then they grew up and started writing for teens who were just like them -- giving them the lifeboat that they received when they needed it most.

My suggestion to you is to write, write, write, read, read, read. That's the best thing you can do right now. It will give you a sense of purpose and an escape from what you are going through right now. Once you have left those bullies behind, you will go on to do great things. But why wait? Do it now. Start writing your stories. Think about what you are going through right now and imagine that you are giving advice to a young girl, younger than you. A beautiful, talented, smart girl who was bullied so badly that she wanted to end her own life. Write to that girl and give her the strength to pull through and come out the other side. Stories like that are invaluable. Many of the authors in DEAR BULLY found themselves writing to their younger selves, giving them the advice they wish they had when they were your age. Most of them felt the process was therapeutic and wished they had done it earlier in their lives, so that it would help to heal old wounds. 

The wounds from bullying never really go away, just as the wounds from any traumatic experience linger. But they make you who you are. They make you stronger. And soon (very very soon) you will be at a point where you can look back at this time in your life as something that happened to you, but did not conquer you. You will not lose this battle. Don't let the bullies win. The wounds are there, but they have no power over you. Only if you let them. And you are stronger than that, I can tell.

So from one creative writing spirit to another, I'm wishing you all the best on this journey. You will survive this. You will overcome. And I look forward to meeting you on the bookshelves one day in the not-too-distant future.

Sending you one great big hug and the strength to wake up each morning and take on the day (and those hateful, mean-spirited bullies) no matter what. 

Love,
Megan

P.S. Please don't ever try a suicide attempt again. We need you, your voice, your heart, your spirit in this world. Think of all the people you can help with your words, the lives that you can impact and ultimately save.  

Amanda Bynes Identity Crisis?

I know that I typically only post about writing related topics, but for my next novel I've been doing a lot of research on mental disorders and juvenile delinquents. Now I now that Ms. Bynes is not a teen and has not been officially diagnosed with a mental disorder (though many speculate that drugs are behind her sudden apparent craziness). And yet, I have noticed another interesting aspect about this young star. She seems to be physically morphing into other young stars.

See if you can tell the difference.

1. Amanda Bynes or Lindsay Lohan?

2. Christina Aguilera or Amanda Bynes?

3. Olsen Twin or Amanda Bynes?

4. Ke$ha or Amanda?

5. Miley Cyrus or Amanda?

6. Amanda or Blac Chyna?

Whatever the case, we all want to see the former fresh-faced Nickelodeon star as she was seen here at the MTV Movie Awards. She was a beautiful, healthy girl once and she can be that girl again. 

Until she figures out who she is and comes through this identity crisis (and whatever else might be affecting her mental state), Amanda Bynes may just end up being another unfortunate casualty of the the Hollywood Child Star syndrome. I really hope she pulls through this.

"I’m sorry Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language."

These were the words used by one of the editors of the San Francisco Examiner newspaper when rejecting one of Rudyard Kipling’s short stories.

Think of how many authors today would be discouraged and would just completely give up writing if they read those words in a review or a rejection letter. I came across a list of famous authors who were rejected (often repeatedly) by agents, editors and publishers. 

Read this list the next time you receive a rejection letter or particularly painful review and it should give you the strength to carry on.

http://www.examiner.com/article/30-famous-authors-whose-works-were-rejected-repeatedly-and-sometimes-rudely-by-publishers

I've made promises I couldn't keep, but...

this time I mean it when I say I'm going to update my blog more often. No more excuses.

So I'm starting off with a question. Does anyone know how to link or add a Tumblr widget to Blogger? There are Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, GooglePlus and many other widgets available to add to Blogger blogs, but I have yet to find one for Tumblr. Are they in competition? Is Tumblr the one last thing on Earth not owned by Google or Amazon? Hmmmm....

In any case, even though this doesn't look like a blog, it's just a really jazzed up version of a regular Blogger blog.  I taught myself some HTML and made this thing look like a real website. On my homepage, some of the pictures are all smushed together and I need to figure out how to fix that. There are some random adds and widgets that have run amuck all over the place. But, overall, I'm pretty happy with how this has turned out.

Can you tell I'm procrastinating on my next novel?

And what is going on with my latest novel, you may ask? (Or maybe not, but I'll tell you anyway.)

I'm about 200 pages in on my first draft and I'm at that crucial 3/4 mark that I always hate. Why do I hate it so much? Because I'm one of those writers who doesn't really know how it's going to end until the reader does (just about). I like to think that if I can surprise myself by the ending, then the reader is really going to be for a surprise.

But, more than that, as I started researching the topic for this latest book, I got really intrigued by larger, complicated and infuriating issues surrounding it.  I'm keeping this topic hush-hush for now, but as soon as I've finished, you can bet that I'm going to be VERY loud and forthright with my opinions on this particular subject. I know that is hard to imagine, given how quiet I've been on the whole bullying situation.

And, yet, this issue has me even more riled up, even angrier and ready to shout even louder about the injustices.

But, I digress...

So, as I'm nearing completion of this book, I will be seated here at my computer more often and before I go posting on Facebook or Tumblr or Twitter or whatever other social media outlet designed for procrastination, I'll make every effort to stop here first and jot down a note or two about what it's like being right in the middle of the writing process.

Thanks for sticking with me. And feel free to follow me via any of the widgets lister above. I'm also on Tumblr. Which Blogger won't let me post or link to. Not sure why.  If someone can explain it to me, please do. Especially since one of my writer friends informed me that teens now think that Facebook and Twitter are for old people. Tumblr is the new hot place to be. And if you don't believe that, just ask MySpace how it feels when teens leave you in the dust. Not too much fun.  So check me out here at http://www.tumblr.com/blog/megankelleyhall.

You are not alone video

Just wanted to share an anti-bullying video that I pulled together over the weekend. I'll show you two versions. The first one goes a little fast and many people have told me that in bullying presentations, the quotes are too hard to read.  But I still like it, so I'll show it here.


The second one is trimmed a bit (in terms of pictures of celebrities) and slowed down so that kids can read the quotes during assemblies (which is why I created this in the first place).



Let me know what you think. If you like it, pass it on.

Thanks!
xxoo

So I know I promised....

...to update on a more regular basis. And I've already fallen short. Sorry about that. But until I come up with some brilliant and witty post that will be life changing for everyone, here are a few things that I came across on Facebook (where I apparently live -- come and visit me there once in awhile, won't you?) that I though I would share:

Enjoy! And Happy Valentine's Day to you all.  Just remember, any rejection you may receive isn't in vain, it's fodder for funny posts to share with others who feel your pain. 

❤ 

2012 Resolutions

So, first off, I haven't been so great at keeping my blog up to date.  If there was a way of linking Facebook posts with my Blogger account, then I'd be updating more than anyone would think possible. (So if anyone knows how to do that, email me at megan -at- megankelleyhall.com - thanks!)

In any case, I'm going to try to update here more often. It seems easier just to post on Facebook and Twitter, since I know that people will read what I have to say.  That sense of immediate gratification, you know? You put something up on Facebook and then BAM two seconds later you get a few likes, a few comments. You know that people are reading your work.  This is strange for someone who writes books. Especially since there is such a long period of time between putting your words on paper (or onto the computer screen) and having your books purchased in stores (or through Kindle) and having people read and then review them.  The process is long and tedious and angst-ridden.  Definitely not for the faint of heart.

So instead of psyching myself out and writing long-winded blog posts, I'm going to try to make them short and sweet.

I'm ending today's post with an image that has been going around Facebook today and I thought it was very appropriate and dead-on in terms of why people become writers in the first place.

Hopefully I will be able to keep up on my New Year's Resolution and keep this site up to date. In the meantime, if anyone knows how to link up Facebook and Blogger, let me know!

Cheers!

A reminder

There are a lot of these going around online right now, but I wanted to put together my own video. This is a reminder to myself (and to others) why we created DEAR BULLY. This is not affiliated with the book nor is it being used to promote anything-- it's just a way to reflect on the increasingly damaging effects on bullying and why it has to stop NOW.

GCC Tours Jennifer Echols and LOVE STORY

Love Story

By Jennifer Echols

JenniferEcholsStanding.jpg
lovestory.jpg

From Jennifer Echols, the award-winning author of Going Too Far and Forget You, comes LOVE STORY(Gallery Books; July 19, 2011; $11.00), a provocative and powerful story of teen romance, set against the bustling world of a New York City university.

She’s writing about him. He’s writing about her. And everybody is reading between the lines.

For Erin Blackwell, majoring in creative writing at the New York City college of her dreams is more than a chance to fulfill her ambitions – it’s her ticket away from the tragic memories that shadow her family’s racehorse farm in Kentucky. But when she refuses to major in business and take over the farm herself someday, her grandmother gives Erin’s college tuition and promised inheritance to their maddeningly handsome stable boy, Hunter Allen. Now Erin has to win an internship and work late nights at a local coffee shop to make her own dreams a reality. She should despise Hunter… so why does he sneak into her thoughts as the hero of her latest writing assignment?

Then, on the day she’s sharing that assignment with her class, Hunter walks in. He’s joining her class. And after he reads about himself in her story, her private fantasies about him must be painfully clear. She only hopes to persuade him not to reveal her secret to everyone else. But Hunter devises his own creative revenge, writing sexy stories that drive the whole class wild with curiosity and fill Erin’s heart with longing. Now she’s not just imagining what might have been. She’s writing a whole new ending for her romance with Hunter… except this story could come true.

“A tremendously talented writer with a real gift for developing relationships.”

– Romantic Times Magazine

Jennifer Echols is the author of teen romantic dramas for MTV Books and teen romantic comedies for Simon Pulse. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama, with her family. Please visit her online at www.jennifer-echols.com.

Because of the upcoming release of the anthology I co-edited, DEAR BULLY (HarperTeen, Sept. 6, 2011), I've asked all the members of the GCC to share a personal bullying story here during their blog tour. Jenn was kind enough to stop by and share hers with us. Check it out:

Thank you Megan!

I have known my husband for a long time. In fifth grade, when he moved to my hometown in Alabama, population 15,000, he was the only Asian in my school. He seemed to get along great with everybody. It was only after we started dating when we were in high school that he told me how mean some kids had always been to him because of his race. Today he is a salesman, and he is served well by his knack for making a connection with strangers. Now I understand that knack is partly natural, but partly cultivated out of necessity.

We still live in Alabama, and our biracial white and Asian child is pretty unusual around here. So far, he seems to share my husband’s social prowess, but I am always on high alert for signs that he is having trouble. I guess that’s why some of my books feature people of color who are having trouble fitting in. My latest book, LOVE STORY, goes in the opposite direction. The hero and heroine are both white, and they grew up on the same Kentucky farm. But they find it impossible to get along with each other or make a real connection, whereas their friendships with characters very different from them, with very different backgrounds, are never questioned. So sometimes I’m interested in addressing the problem head-on, and sometimes I like to create a little utopia, with the kind of unjudgmental friends I hope my son will have growing up.

LOVE STORY

By Jennifer Echols

Publisher: Gallery Books

Publication date: July 19, 2011

Price: $11.00

ISBN: 9781439178324

Gallery Books is an imprint dedicated to publishing a wide variety of must-read books on a wide array of topics. The imprint was designed to showcase established voices and to introduce emerging new ones—in both fiction and nonfiction, and across a variety of genres. Some of Gallery Books’ bestselling titles include Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me Chelsea by Chelsea Handler, Still Alice by Lisa Genova, sTori Telling by Tori Spelling, and Oh My Dog by Beth Stern. Upcoming titles include I Know I Am, But What Are You? by Samantha Bee, Gunn’s Golden Rules by Tim Gunn, I Remember You by Harriet Evans, and Lisa Genova’s new novel, Left Neglected.

Simon & Schuster, a part of CBS Corporation, is a global leader in the field of general interest publishing, dedicated to providing the best in fiction and nonfiction for consumers of all ages, across all printed, electronic, and audio formats. Its divisions include Simon & Schuster Adult Publishing, Simon & Schuster Children’s Publishing, Simon & Schuster Digital, and international companies in Australia, Canada, and the United Kingdom. For more information, visit our website athttp://www.simonandschuster.com.