Wednesday, December 13, 2006

JK: Wake Up


As part of my participation this past month in the Nature of Words, a writing feast set on Oregon’s High Desert, I agreed to judge the Rising Stars fiction entries. The pieces came from kids 15 to 18 and a second group from 19 to 25.


The first piece I picked up was written by a 15 year old high school sophomore. It was less than 1000 words, though they could submit entries up to 2500. It was one of the most exquisitely written pieces I have ever encountered. It was a disturbing subject, about a young man’s watching a girl commit suicide by throwing herself out of a window. (At least four of the entries by teens in that 15-18 age group used death or suicide as a subject, which says to me how they struggle with the ideas of mortality and the meaning of life. My admiration for those who write for young adults always goes up as you address these difficult subjects).

Anyway, Jordan Parson’s piece had a beautiful structure that when he read his winning work out loud yesterday, took the listeners in, then kept us there, holding our collective breaths, letting phrases like “She had torn the fabric of consistency” resonate on our ears and minds. This young writer had a mature grasp of detail. His observation of living, his ability to hold us spellbound, then take us to the place where as the narrator in the story he expresses gratitude that this young woman who died woke him up, suggests someone deeply committed to the work of listening, observing, and risking to express that. He is doing the hard work of a writer.

I asked him later if he had written his piece out of the experience of a suicide of someone he cared about. He said no, that his desk looked out onto this scene of people drinking their wine, talking of meaningless things, not noticing the cry of a child down the street, not paying attention to life, and he’d asked himself what it would take for them to “wake up. To notice.” He said, “I thought I would have to throw myself out of the window to get them to notice,” and that thought had inspired this fine, fine work.

I worried that those who heard him read would be uncomfortable by the intensity of the subject. But I hoped they would also see the talent and the risk inside his work. They did. The applause seemed to go on for minutes. He’d done what each of us as authors should be doing: help others see the world and become awake to it.

Now I need to do that in my work in progress, inspired by a 15 year old boy. I hope your work in progress goes deep, takes risks and helps us as readers wake up.

Jane Kirkpatrick, http://www.jkbooks.com, author of A Clearing in the Wild.

3 Comments:

At 6:39 PM, Blogger Michelle Pendergrass said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 6:40 PM, Blogger Michelle Pendergrass said...

I know that you meant well with the post, but it really bothers me.

When suicide is the third leading cause of death for our teenagers, this post seems so out of touch with reality.

I walked away from posting yesterday, but it has been bothering me ever since I read it.

 
At 6:07 PM, Blogger Karen B. said...

Michelle, you're right, it's troubling that today's teens are so obsessed with suicide. But I read Jane's post and was glad she was there to talk with this boy. And that she had the courage to ask what had inspired him. I trust God's divine appointments, and know Jane's interaction not just with this boy, but with the others involved in this event was steeped in His presence and truth.

That's really what we need to give our kids, God's truth, the sure sense of His love and presence. And in that light, I don't see the post as out of touch with reality, but immersed in reality. The reality of where kids are in their minds and hearts, of how they express those things, and of the beauty of thought and expression we would find in young minds and hearts if we just took the time to look.

My prayer is that this boy, and the others who found a release in writing, will continue to use his talents to inspire and to wake us up to what's going on around us.

Just my two cents...

Karen

 

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