Saturday, April 21, 2018

Swallowing a Hair: An Author Event Horror Story (in verse)

In honor of National Poetry Month, here is a story in verse form from my first ever author event. This moment makes me cringe a little bit every time I think of it. I can only hope this poem does the same for you.

You know that feeling
when you sense a strand of hair
stuck to your tongue,
a foreign object that makes you want to gag
and spit
like a cat with a hairball
and you can't focus on ANYTHING
besides pulling it off
no matter how many
of your thumb and forefinger
it takes?

It was exactly that.


I was powerless in that moment,
standing with my book in my hands,
smiling back at the small crowd of faces,
some familiar,
some new,
all eager to hear
what I had to say,
all eager to hear me
read my book
for the first time

Perhaps I could have excused myself,
turned around,
pinched at the surface of my tongue,
and it would have been over
and forgotten
in a matter of seconds.


I didn't want that image in the minds
of my audience.

It took every bit of fortitude I possessed
but I forged ahead,
pretending that
the invisible, coiled intruder didn't exist
at a moment I cannot pinpoint,
it was gone,
washed down my throat
with a trace
of swallowed saliva.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Verse Novel Review: To Stay Alive by Skila Brown

by Skila Brown
Candlewick Press

TO STAY ALIVE by Skila Brown is a young adult historical verse novel told from the perspective of Mary Ann Graves, one of the survivors of the Donner party's tragic trek through Sierra Nevada in 1846.

Reading this book is like a journey. The story begins with a sense of anticipation as the Graves family heads west with their wagons full supplies and their hearts full of hope. The narrator, Mary Ann, is looking forward to a new life in California, where they will no longer have to suffer the hardships of winter.

As the journey progresses, anticipation gives in to weariness and tension. Mary Ann's traveling dress, at first crisp and green and new, gradually becomes more faded and filthy--a fitting metaphor for the human body and spirit when subjected to suffering.

Tension builds as the autumn nights grow colder and their supplies run low. Readers familiar with the basic story of the Donner party may find themselves wanting to shout a warning into the pages. When the inevitable happens, and the party becomes stranded due to winter's early arrival, readers' hearts will ache as Mary Ann watches the people around her succumb to hunger and cold, all while doing what she can to help herself and her family stay alive.

The verse in this story is well done. The way the author formats the poems, at times with words that jump jarringly about the page, is as effective as her choice of words at evoking the appropriate emotions.

TO STAY ALIVE is gripping, heartbreaking, and at times horrifying. An excellent, beautifully written story of survival.