David Henry Sterry

Author, book doctor, raker of muck

David Henry Sterry

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The Book Doctors: Tips 4 Pitching to Get Published

The Book Doctors at Book Con breaking down presentation tipsas they explain how to pitch your book to get published.

The Book Doctors Bring Pitchapalooza to South Carolina

The Annual Bluffton Book Festival Kicks Off Year Four with a Pre-Festival Event That Will Allow Writers to Pitch Their Books to Award-winning and Bestselling Literary Agents!

PITCHAPALOOZA will take place on Saturday, October 5th from 2pm-4pm atthe Old Town Bluffton Inn

(Bluffton, SC – September  18, 2019) – The Bluffton Book Festival is a family-friendly, three-day event whose mission is to raise literacy levels in the state of South Carolina and specifically Beaufort County through fundraising activities. The festival benefits the local literacy center, as well as the national bookselling community. In addition, the festival brings awareness to local and national writers. The 2019 events will take place Thursday, November 21st – Saturday, November 23rd throughout Bluffton and Hilton Head Island. Each year the festival offers something new and unique. This year, festival activities kick off in October with PITCHAPALOOZA, an ‘American Idol’ for books. Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their books to the bestselling author and agent team of Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, co-founders of The Book Doctors! They represent award-winning and bestselling authors, including poet and Newbery-winner, Kwame Alexander.

“I am always looking for ways to assist writers” says Bluffton Book Festival Founder, Rockelle Henderson. We’re excited to bring PITCHAPALOOZA to the area and to have Arielle and David judging the competition. Even if you are not one of the twenty selected, this is a room you want to be in if you are a writer.” At the end of PITCHAPALOOZA, the judges will pick a winner who will receive an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book. Click here to register for PITCHAPALOOZA.

The fun for everyone continues in November! Come party with us on Saturday, November 23rd on Calhoun Street from 10am-3pm, as we host New York Times’ bestselling author and illustrator, JAMES DEAN and his brand new book, PETE THE CAT AND THE PERFECT PIZZA PARTY (seating is limited so make sure you register a space for your little one when registration opens this month at blufftonbookfestival.com)! Look for more featured authors participating in various festival events including actress and debut author, TINA LIFFORD, the breakout star of the critically acclaimed drama, ‘QUEEN SUGAR,’ from Executive Producers Oprah Winfrey and Ava DuVernay for OWN Network.

More literary entertaining events to look out for during the three-day schedule include:

  • Pat Conroy inspired lectures at the Bluffton Library
  • Cooking demo & tasting sponsored by Billy Wood Appliance in Bluffton with local celebrity chef, SALLIE ANN ROBINSON; featuring recipes from her newly published cookbook, Sallie Ann Robinson’s Kitchen: Food and Family Lore from the Lowcountry
  • “Authors in Conversation” at the Arts Center of Coastal Carolina
  • VIP Featured Author Reception and Masquerade Ball
  • Workshops and Author Panels
  • Food vendors, Face-painting, and Storytime.

For more information about the festival (#BBFsc19) and all of the events, please visit our website at www.blufftonbookfestival.com. Keep up with events on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, or join our mailing list. To become a sponsor, please contact us at 843-707-6409.

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www.theliteracycenter.org

LAST NJ BOOK DOCTORS PITCHAPALOOZA 2019 OCT 12

Attention WRITERS! The Book Doctors present their LAST NEW JERSEY PITCHAPALOOZA OF 2019 @ Morristown Festival of Books Oct 12. You get 1 MINUTE to pitch your book! Countless writers have gotten deals from pitching at the American Idol of books. This is your shot! Are you gonna take it?

THE BOOK DOCTORS PITCHAPALOOZA OCT 12, MORRISTOWN FESTIVAL OF BOOKS


Will Smith, OJ & Me: Confessions of a White Asshole on Narratively

This is the true story of being a White Asshole in black sitcoms. The first time I thought it must be a coincidence. But by the fourth or fifth time, I couldn’t help but wonder: Was I REALLY a White Asshole?

Portrait of a White Asshole as a Young Man

Susan Bolotin Editor-in-Chief of Workman, with The Book Doctors talking About How to Get Successfully Published

Great insider information about how to get successfuly published and be a professional writer from Susan Bolotin, Grand Poobah of one of the greatest publishers in the world, Workman Publishing.

Patricia Spears Jones & the Book Doctors on Poetry, Publishing, & Finding Your People

The incredible poet Patricia Spears, Jones talks about being a poet, writing poetry, being a publisher, finding your community of writers, getting your poetry out into the world, and building your career as a poet

The Book Doctors & National Novel Writing Month’s Grant Faulkner on Writing & Publishing Success

Grant Faulkner, Dir. of National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo for short, talks to The Doctors about overcoming discouragement from others, crashing your own gate, writing a terrible first draft, editing it so it gets better and better, and becoming part of a community of writers who support and nourish each other.

David Henry Sterry Was a Professional White Asshole on The Fresh Prince with Will Smith

I was a preofessional white asshole on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Will Smith was awesome. Here’s the clip.

Wayetu Moore & The Book Doctors Talk about Books, Writing and How to Get Published

Great interview with Wayétu Moore, writer extraordinaire, about books, writers and publishing with the Book Doctors

Brad Parks Interview with the Book Doctors

The Book Doctors interview amazing author Brad Parks. He has so many useful & fascinating things to say about how to become successfully published writer.

The Book Doctors! Book Con! Pitchapalooza!

Book Con, June 2, Javitz Center, New York City, 10:45AM, come pitch your book to the Book Doctors! This is your shot! Are you going to take it?

Olive, 11, Is Our Child Mentor: Here’s the Video

Do you have social mediaphobia? Scared opf Twitter? Terrified of Facebook? Shiver at the thought of Instagram? Get yourself a tween mentor. They know how to do everything on social media because their brains are hardwired that way. And, the work for Kit Kat bars.here’s a video we made to show you how.

The Art of the Query: for Submission Purposes Only

The Book Doctors break down exactly what you and make an awesome query letter, and how to customize your query for submission purposes only

Book Doctors Free Webinar

The Book Doctors offer a free webinar, where they will give you some of the keys necessary to unlocking the door to the publishing kingdom. How to get a book deal. How to find an agent. Whether to publish traditionally or with a hybrid publisher? Is self-publishing the right path to take? Ask questions! This is your shot. Are you going to take it?

The Book Doctors How-to-Get-Published Writing Advice Compilation

The Book Doctors scoured our archives to bring you some of our top writing advice from 2018. Ask us questions in the comments. Visit us at https://thebookdoctors.com. SUBSCRIBE: https://goo.gl/9VaE9C.

The Book Doctors Announce 2019 Schedule

The Book Doctors will be travelling from LA to NY, the World Wide Web to Kauai, helping talented amateur writers become professional authors. Come join us, and say hello when you do!

Online Nanowrimo Pitchapalooza Mar 16 3pm
Montclair Literary Festival March 23, 24, Montclair, NJ
William Paterson Annual Spring Writer’s Conference April 6 Paterson, NJ LA Times Festival of Books April 13-14 USC, Los Angeles
Rutgers Writers Conference Jun 1, Rutgers, NJ

Book Con June 2, Javitz Center, NY NY 
Kauai Writers Conference Nov. 8-10 Kauai, HI

 

 

    

 



Like Vanessa, Tami Charles, "book cover"

Tami Charles on Writing for Kids and Getting on Good Morning America

We first met Tami Charles at a Pitchapalooza at the great independent bookstore, Word, in Jersey City; and we immediately knew she was a star. We met her again a year or so later at a book reading by Arielle’s Newbery-Award-winning client, Kwame Alexander, where we got the news that Tami had landed a book deal. Just another reason to go to awesome author’s events! Tami carries herself with such style and was so articulate, funny, and altogether together, we immediately thought she was a person who would succeed in any business. And it turns out she has, in the business of books. We found out she had a book coming out, and now that it has arrived, we decided to pick her brain about what it takes to get published when you write for kids.

 
                                                                                           Tami Charles
 
                                                               

The Book Doctors: Tell us about your debut novel Like Vanessa.

Tami Charles: Thirteen-year-old Vanessa Martin has always watched the Miss America pageant with her Pop Pop. Even though she often dreamt of herself on that stage, she’d never seen a woman of color win. That all changes on September 17, 1983, when Vanessa Williams makes history as the first black woman to capture the title. That sets young Vanessa on her own path to enter her school’s beauty contest. Problem is, her father and the resident mean girl think she doesn’t stand a chance.

TBD: How did you get a big star like Vanessa Williams, who is the Vanessa in the title, Like Vanessa, to give you a blurb?

TC: A little bit of luck and a whole lot of blessings! Vanessa Williams is a former Miss America. She’s the reason why I participated in the Miss America program while in high school. So it was natural that I reached out to fellow pageant friends (and my writing community) for advice on ways to connect with her. Luck would have it that she was holding a show at a local theater and after pitching the novel to her agent, I was granted a meeting with her after her performance. I gave Ms. Williams a copy of the novel, we chatted a bit, and took some pictures. I kept in touch over the course of a few months and was honored to receive a glowing endorsement from her for the novel’s cover.

TBD: Tell us about your path to publishing Like Vanessa?

TC: Like Vanessa was not my first book. I’d written quite a few others and had gotten rejections galore. After taking some time to work on my craft, I began creating this novel, which had been an idea in my head for years. I wrote Like Vanessa during National Novel Writing Month (Nanowrimo) of 2013, edited it through the winter, shared it with my critique group, hired an editorial consultant to prepare it for submission, and then started querying in spring, 2014. I was super thrilled to land my agent, Lara Perkins of Andrea Brown Literary, with this manuscript. Together, we edited some more and went out on submission to publishers. To my surprise, I landed a two-book contract at Charlesbridge Publishing, with the fabulous Karen Boss serving as editor.

                                                                                  Like Vanessa by Tami Charles


TBD: You also do picture books. How did you hook up with a great publisher like Candlewick?

TC: I love writing picture books and Freedom Soup was actually my very first book deal, even though Like Vanessa published first. My agent pitched the book to an editor at a different publishing house. While the editor liked the story’s concept, she felt there was someone else better suited for it, given his love of Haiti. Carter Hasegawa at Candlewick made an offer on my debut picture book and it’s been great working with him. We even have another picture book together entitled A Day With The Panye, publishing in 2020.

TBD: Tell us about the Daphne books.

TC: In front of her followers, Daphne is a hilarious, on-the-rise vlog star. But at school, Daphne is the ever-skeptical Annabelle Louis, seventh-grade super geek and perennial new kid. To cope with her mom’s upcoming military assignment in Afghanistan and her start at a brand new middle school, Annabelle’s parents send her to a therapist. Dr. Varma insists Annabelle try stepping out of her comfort zone, hoping it will give her the confidence to make friends, which she’ll definitely need once Mom is gone. Luckily there is one part of the assignment Annabelle DOES enjoy — her vlog, Daphne Doesn’t, in which she appears undercover and gives hilarious takes on activities she thinks are a waste of time. She is great at entertaining her YouTube fans, but her classmates don’t know she exists. Can Annabelle keep up the double life forever?

 
                                                                           Definitely Daphne by Tami Charles

TBD: Why should a writer whose writing books for kids join SCBWI?

TC: The reasons are endless. SCBWI provides a sense of community for writers of all levels. I have met some of the kindest, most helpful writers because of this organization. We have critiqued each other’s work, provided a shoulder to cry on during times of rejection, and raised our pom poms to celebrate industry milestones. Also, the opportunity to meet and learn from powerhouse agents, editors, and art directors at conferences is priceless.

TBD: How did you get on Good Morning America?

TC: Again, a little luck and a huge dash of sisterhood! A pageant friend who coordinates bookings for Good Morning America posted on Facebook that she was looking for home cooks to feature on a Thanksgiving segment. I dub myself a wannabe chef, plus my debut picture book, Freedom Soup, is about a traditional Haitian holiday meal (bonus recipe included), so I had to take a chance. I provided my recipe and an audition video and got a call, asking to appear on the show. I had the time of my life and hope to do more television segments in the future!

TBD: What’s the key to a writer making a video?

TC: I’m not sure that I’m the expert here, as I still have my training wheels on. I’ll say this: just be yourself and have fun. Authenticity is what will connect you to potential readers.

TBD: How are writing and getting published different when writing picture books, middle grade and young adult books?

TC: There isn’t much difference between the three, I’d say. Maybe on the logistics end, since middle grade and YA books are longer. With picture books, the word count is much shorter, but there’s a lot to consider, especially with leaving room for the illustrator to shine. That’s not the easiest task!

TBD: Who inspires you?

TC: This is a trick question! I could take up pages on this one, so I’ll try and keep it short: My family, particularly my husband and son, and countless writers fighting the good fight with the words and art they put on the page: Kwame Alexander, Rita Williams-Garcia, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, Meg Medina, Edwidge Danticat, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, Vanessa Brantley-Newton, Floyd Cooper, Margarita Engle, okay I’ll pause here. But yeah, these folks give me hope!

TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for other writers?

TC: Blinders on! There’s no time to worry about what other folks are doing. Their success will look different than yours and you certainly can’t measure yourself against them. Success comes in all forms. You wrote a paragraph today? Celebrate that. Got a six-figure book deal? Good for you! Starting to get “nicer” rejections? Don’t worry. Your “yes” is coming. Hold the vision you have for yourself and trust that with razor-sharp focus, you’ll get there.


You can follow Tami Charles on Twitter @TamiWritesStuff, Instagram @tamiwrites, or her website: www.tamiwrites.com.

Check out the inspiration behind Like Vanessa here:


Tami Charles: Former teacher. Wannabe chef. Debut author. Tami Charles writes picture books, middle grade, young adult, and nonfiction. Her middle-grade novel, LIKE VANESSA, has earned Top 10 spots on the Indies Introduce and Spring Kids’ Next lists, along with three starred reviews. Her picture book, FREEDOM SOUP, debuts with Candlewick Press in fall, 2019. She also has more books forthcoming with Capstone, Sterling, and Albert Whitman. Tami is represented by Lara Perkins, of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.

Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry are co-founders of The Book Doctors, a company that has helped countless authors get their books published. They are co-authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How To Write It, Sell It, and Market It… Successfully (Workman, 2015). They are also book editors, and between them, they have authored 25 books and appeared on National Public Radio, the London Times, and the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book ReviewGet publishing tips delivered to your inbox every month.

JOIN THE BOOK REPORT TO RECEIVE MORE INTERVIEWS AND TIPS ON HOW TO GET PUBLISHED!

Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry have helped hundreds or writers get successfully published. They wrote The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published.

 

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The Book Doctors Return to Rutgers Writers’ Conference

The Book Doctors are SUPER psyched to be bringing Pitchapalooza back to Rutgers Writers’ Workshop this June 1. Come pitch your book!



The Book Doctors Invite You to Kauai for AMAZING Writer Conference

Aloha! The Book Doctors are headed to Hawaii.

Pack your swimsuits and manuscripts and join us at the Kauai Writers Conference, November 5 – 11, where we’ll be presenting with a cavalcade of world-class writers, agents and editors. Do yourself and your book a favor and come to the Garden Island, where bestselling and award-winning writers will help you get your manuscript ready for the world; where top agents and publishers (not the typical young and inexperienced publishing folks who normally show up at these conferences) will be ready and waiting to hear your pitch; where four-day master classes on how to build a platform (with us!) and how to turn life into art (with mega bestselling authors Christina Baker Kline and Kristin Hannah and Alice Hoffman), among many others, will be served up with mai tais with little umbrellas in them.

Because this is such a rare and wonderful opportunity, we asked if our readers could receive a 10% discount. And the kind folks at the Kauai Writers Conference have said YES! The code is bookdr789. Enter it on the checkout page.

We hope you’ll move fast because they are almost out of rooms at the hotel (great conferences sell out super fast). The conference hotel is the place to be. While you can stay anywhere on the island, the conference hotel is where you may run into the agent or editor of your dreams one night in the Tiki Lounge! This is how careers get made.

The Book Doctors: Getting an Author Platform Without Going on Twitter Facebook Instagram etc

If you plan to query agents, pitch editors, or self publish, get your writing into the world before you have a book because it proves there’s an audience interested in your subject.  Where to start? We’ll tell you how to pitch big publications and niche. Here’s what we cover: 

  • Publications that will build your platform
  • Examples of bylines that landed book deals
  • How to pitch publications and follow up
  • Self-destructive impulses to avoid 

 

WRITERS BEWARE! THE BOOK DOCTORS SHOW YOU HOW NOT TO BE SCAMMED!!!

Disreputable author service companies often masquerade as legitimate publishers. Here’s how to publish a book without getting scammed. Ask us questions in the comments.

 

David Henry Sterry Predicts World Cup Final on NPR

Honored as always to be talking about World Cup on National Public Radio.

 

And here’s me in Newsweek on flopping!

David Henry Sterry on NPR: the Art of World Cup Flopping

As always it was a great honor to be on National Public Radio, this time talking about the art of flopping in the World Cup.  Apparently cheating is the international language.

https://www.npr.org/2018/07/01/625079032/the-art-of-flopping-in-soccer

Open Call for Submission to Anthology: How I Kicked Opioids

Open Call for Submission to Anthology: How I Kicked Opioids

I became addicted to opioids.  It was horrible.  I wrote a story about it for the Daily Beast.  I want to help people who were in the same miserable position as me.  So I’m putting together an anthology.

Are you now, or have you ever been, addicted to opioids? If so, we want your story.

We are putting a face to the epidemic of opioid addiction that is wrecking America.

Whether you’re an athlete or line cook, an artist or a lawyer, a CEO or homeless,  a soccer mom or an anarchist, a Goth teen or a veteran, gay straight or transgendered, religious or atheist, white black or brown, or anything in between, we want your stories of opioid addiction and recovery.  

America’s search engines are jammed with searches like: “how to kick oxy”; “how long will I feel the withdrawal symptoms”; “natural remedies to detox from opioids”.  With stories of desperate compulsion, crushing dependence, personal loss, near-death experiences, and the inspirational personal triumphs over addiction; this anthology will help show how many ways there are to get off these drugs that have ruined so many lives.

We are looking to end the shaming stigmatism applied to opioid addicts.  Addicts aren’t moral defectives, society’s dregs, losers with no self-control, to be tossed onto society’s broken pile.  They are us.

Your story will make a difference. Your sharing will save lives.

Please help us let your light shine! Send your story, brief bio, and if you have a website or blog, send that too! And pass this on if you now someone with a story to tell.  Below is a description of the book.  Thanks!  Send to :sterryhead@gmail.com

 

How I Kicked Opioids

Soldiers & Rock Stars, Octogenarians & Goth Teens, Working Stiffs & the Chronically Unemployed

Tell True Tales of Addiction & Recovery

Opioids are a plague upon the land, a pestilence of biblical proportion which is laying waste to America, from the heart lands to the hollers, the penthouse to the flophouse, the suburbs to the urban wastelands, from the redwood forests to the Gulf Stream waters.  It destroys people from the top of the food chain to the bottom, CEOs to homeless, movie stars to garbage men, bluebloods to rednecks to black sheep. 

The president of the United States and Congress, talking heads on all the major news show, and an online feeding frenzy are proof that America can’t stop talking about the death grip opioids have on our country.  How I Kicked Opioids will take a deep dive into the epidemic, with true stories ranging from 500 to 2,000 words, putting a face to some of the millions and millions of Americans who have wrestled with this insidious addiction that breaks homes, spirits and souls.  Then we’ll witness the triumph of the will, and the inspirational redemption that shows us just how resilient we humans truly are. 

How I Kicked Opioids began with 1200 words published in The Daily Beast. Doctors, recovery specialists, and civilians reached out and passed it along.  Many comments were from the readers who themselves have gone through a similar experience. 

Misery dances with comedy, and raw truth battles denial, as Shakespeare’s mirror is held up to America and we see ourselves at our best and worst, in sickness and in health, in tragedy and triumph.

David Henry Sterry, author of the Daily Beast piece, conceived and put together a similar anthology that landed on the front cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review.  Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rentboys: Professionals Writing about Life, Love, Money and Sexcontains a similar mix of accomplished literary writers and people who have never published a word in their lives.

Praise for Hos, Hookers, Call Girls and Rentboys: Professionals Writing about Life, Love, Money and Sex:

“An eye-opening, occasionally astonishing, brutally honest and frequently funny collection from those who really have lived on the edge in a parallel universe…unpretentious and riveting … This collection is a wonderful reminder that good writing is not about knowing words, grammar or Faulkner, but having that rare ability to tell the truth, an ability that education and sophistication often serve to conceal. While we are all, I suppose, in the business of surviving, some really are surviving more notably than others. The collective cry for identity found in this unsentimental compilation will resonate deeply.” – New York Times

“The selections range from triumphant to harrowing, making up for a lack of style or form with passion. The book is heavy with raw emotions ranging from celebratory to shameful. It’s not all dark and heavy: Sterry’s own account of his experience is touching and sentimental, characteristically blunt, funny and honest. This volume houses some real gems.” – Publishers Weekly

                                              

“The prose in this volume is fresh and the tales are both heart-rending and hilarious, sometimes simultaneously. What’s most striking about the volume is how relevant these intimate and detailed chronicles are for any reader.” – New York Press

 

“Sterry has managed to bring together a rich tapestry… Some of the narratives are polished and savvy, some are as hard and rough as drug addiction that dogs a body and soul. Others reveal a tarnished realism about painful truths. The writing is diverse and eclectic … In its entirety, in its insistence that the gamut of personal histories, it is a reflection of the human condition, and speaks to a broad audience.” –Barnes & Noble.com

The Book Doctors: How to Get Published – Should I Got to a Writers Conference?

I Kicked My Opioid Addiction with Marijuana on Daily Beast


After I had my knee replacement I got addicted to opioids in about ten minutes. This is how I kicked my addiction. I wrote this as a cautionary tale for anyone with pain. Or anybody prone to addiction.

I Kicked My Opioid Addiction with Marijuana on Daily Beast

The Book Doctors Have New YouTube Channel

 

I Was a Birhtday Present for an 82 Year Old

When You’re Too In Love

A dad explains how to play it cool in front of your big crush

I Am Scientifically Validated as Expert on Preventing Human Trafficking

I don’t know how this happened but here it is.  Look it up.

https://www.amazon.com/Ending-Human-Trafficking-Modern-Day-Slavery/dp/1506316735/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1523377124&sr=8-1&keywords=Ending+Human+Trafficking+and+Modern-Day+Slavery%3A+Freedom%27s+Journey

 

I was Raped. My Girlfriend Was Raped. So I Wrote a Book.

I was 17 when I was raped.  By a stranger.  

I was 16 when my girlfriend confessed to me that she was raped.  By a family member.    

I’ve been grappling with these two events for the last decade as I wrote a novel about a 16-year-old orphan boy.  I didn’t even realize that I was writing about these two events until nine years in.  But I did know pretty early on that I wanted to show it’s possible for teenagers to experiment with their sexuality in a way that’s powerful, safe and enjoyable for all parties concerned.

I just finished the book, and I’m sharing part of it because I keep seeing parents asking if there’s anything they can show their teenagers about how to deal with this stuff.  I’m hoping this will be an example for boys and girls (and maybe men and women) of what true consensual sex is.  And maybe a guide on how to treat people who’ve suffered in ways that you don’t understand and can’t possibly imagine.

My heart goes out to everybody who has been devoured by predators.

Ask for help.  Tell your story.

From The Valley of Love & Delight: A Ghost Story

1

A Blade of Shame

“Did somebody hurt you?”  Finn asked softly in the Love Shack.

Elizabeth Winter-Rivers chewed her lip and nodded.

“When you were a freshman?”

Yes.

“Was it somebody you knew?”

Yes.

“Was it somebody in your family?”

She shook her head.  No.

“Was it somebody at school?”

Elizabeth jerked stiff.

“Did he make you do stuff?”

Yes.

“Oh my God!”  He shook his head hard.  “I’m so sorry.”

“He was so smart and handsome, and I see now how he groomed me and seduced me, told me how I didn’t have be who my parents were forcing me to be, how much more mature I was than all the other kids, how I was the brightest mind of my generation.  And of course I believed it because I wanted to believe it, and once he had me, he made me do things … he said if I told anybody …” Elizabeth choked up.  Pulled it back together.  “He said he’d hurt me, and nobody would believe me.  So I didn’t tell anybody.”

“That is so sick!”  Finn’s jaw screwed tight. 

“It was horrible, it hurt.  I … I felt like it was my fault …”

“Who was it?”  Finn asked soft.

“It was a teacher, my English teacher.  My parents found out, they saw something on my phone, a text he sent.  They went crazy.  In their own Winter-Rivers way.”

“What did they do?”

“Well, since they’re on the board, they put the fear of God into him, then they fired him.  But they wanted to keep the whole thing hushed up, so they had Headmaster Doggert get rid of him.  Nobody ever said anything.  They told me I couldn’t tell anybody.  I shouldn’t be telling you.  But I had to.  I felt like I was going to explode or something.”

“So what happened to him?  I hope he’s sharing a cell with somebody named Stiletto.”

“No, they just swept it under the rug.  Doggert wrote him a recommendation and he’s at St. Paul’s now.”

“No way!”  Finn was furious.  “What?  No!  Why would your folks do that?  Don’t you wanna see him punished?  Plus, I’m sure he’s probably doing the same thing to some girl at St. Paul’s!”

“I see pictures in my head of him doing stuff to me and … I can’t help it …  everybody keeps trying to fix me up with boys, but it’s no good, even if I like them …” Elizabeth started shivering and couldn’t stop.

He gently picked up one of her fingers.  It felt like glass that would crack if you squeezed it too hard.  Her shoulders shook.  Eyes crunched shut.  He slowly pulled her towards him.  She did not resist.  Body shuddering, breath catching, Elizabeth quaked. 

Finn thought his heart might crack.  He whispered like a lullaby:

“It’s alright … it’s okay … it’s alright … it’s okay… it’s alright … it’s okay…”

Finn’s shirt got wet.  From her tears.  The beat of her heart was so loud in the cage of her ribs.  He would’ve been happy to hold Elizabeth pretty much indefinitely.  Doing all the good he could.  Being useful.  Shaker-style.  He’d been talking his mom down off the ledge since before he could remember, but seeing it through Elizabeth’s eyes; it dawned on him that maybe comforting sad battered females might be a special skill.  And it filled him so full.  To suck up all that poison festering inside her.  From being broken into.  Broken in two.  Broken.

Elizabeth melted into Finn, and she was part of him and he was part of her, and they were part of the Love Shack, the Shakers and the Berkshires; part of the stars, the moon, the universe. 

He wondered if maybe that was God. 

Finn had no idea how long she’d been in his arms when she finally stopped crying, caught her breath and pulled away. 

He saw a blade of shame slice into her.  He heard alarms shriek in her ears.  “I’m sorry, I can’t do this,” she said.  “I have to go–”

Elizabeth charged towards the door like she was running for her life.

2

Life Sucks if You Can’t Breathe

“The same thing happened to my mom.”  Finn said it loud enough to stop Elizabeth.

She stood in the doorway, battling her desire to bolt.

“Only it was her dad, not her teacher.”

Elizabeth turned around and looked at Finn.

“He was a sick, evil monster.  When my mom told her mother, the old hag slapped her and called her a whore and a slut.  So Granny was a sick evil monster, too.  My mom had nightmares, flashbacks, paranoid delusions, like I said, she had a million disorders.”

“I can’t feel anything, everything just … shuts down.”  She stared off with far-away eyes, like a black-and-white photograph of herself.

“I’m sorry … no one deserves that.”

“Thanks.”

“I wanna kill him,” Finn growled.  “Don’t you wanna kill him?” 

“No.  Yes.  I don’t know … I can’t …”

“I think murdering somebody’s better than messing with them when they’re a kid.  It screws you up for the rest of your life.  I saw it every day with my mom.”

Elizabeth took in a giant breath, then blew it out like exhaust.  “Wow.  You’re right.  I thought I’d feel worse, but it’s like I can finally breathe.”

“Hey, life sucks if you can’t breathe,” Finn said softly.

“Yup.”  Elizabeth’s lips slid into a lopsided grin. 

“What happens to you,” Finn said, “is totally normal for somebody with PTSD.  They used to call it shellshock.  There’s actually a test you can take for it.”

“Really?”  Elizabeth looked like she was scared to hope.

“Yup.  My mom went over it with me a like billion times when I was kid.”

“That’s just … bizarre.”  

“Is it?”  Finn asked.  Thought.  “Yeah, I guess it is.”

“What kind of test is it … exactly?”

“Well, it’s a bunch of questions about how you react to different things.”

“What kind of questions?  Do you remember any of them?  What were they?”

“Well, like …” Finn fished back through his files.  “Do you ever have recurring memories?”

“Yes.  What else?”

“Ever have flashbacks?”

“Yes.”

“Ever dream about it?”

“All the time.”

“Do you ever feel like you’re outside your body, watching yourself?”

“Ohhhhhhhhh yes.”

“Do you get triggered by things that remind you of the event?”

“God, yes.”

“Is that what happened the other day when we were …?”

“Yeah,” Elizabeth whispered.

“Do you ever run away from people because you’re afraid they might  like you, and you might like you back?”

Heavy dark nod: Yes.

“Ever get the feeling that it’s literally impossible for you to have a normal happy life?”

“Doesn’t everyone?”

“Well, I do, but I’m Finn, Son of Junky.”

“Riiiiiiiiiight.”

“Do you have a hard time concentrating?”

“What?”  Elizabeth asked.

“Ever have a hard time concentrating?”

“What?”

“Do you have a hard time–”

“Gotcha!”  She cracked a little grin.

“Nice!”  Finn wiggled his finger at her.  Then he took a deep breath.  “Yeah, you have full-blown PTSD.  Good news is, just learning about it is like part of the cure.  Especially for sexual trauma.  Isn’t that cool?”

“Yeah.”  She swallowed hard.  “Sexual trauma …  wow.”

“Just admitting you’re a freak helps.  Lucky for you, there’s lots of us.”

“Lots of whom?”

“Freaks.”  Finn shrugged like it was obvious.

Elizabeth laughed loud, harsh and barking, like it hurt coming out. 

She thought for a long time.  Or maybe it was a minute.  Finn couldn’t tell. 

Finally, a smile ran crooked across Elizabeth’s lips.

Finn cocked his head: “Whaaaaaaaaaaat?”

“I have an idea,” she said.

“I like it already,” he said.

3

Finn’s Telltale Heart

“Like this?”  Finn was flat on his back staring at the moon and thanking his lucky stars shining through the Love Shack roof.  “And I’m gonna just lay here and … not move?”

“Perfect.”  Elizabeth sat on him with a liquid grin, skirt billowing out around them.  “You don’t think it’s too weird?”

“I think it’s just weird enough.”  Finn said.  “So.  I have an idea, too.”

“I like it already.”

“What if we talk about what we’re doing while we’re doing it?”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Well, with PTSD, the part of your brain that’s in charge of emotions lights up like the Vegas strip and you freak out.  But when you talk, the part of your brain where the commander of your ship hangs out can do like a manual override.”

“That’s totally contrary to the fundamental principles of the Winter-Rivers Dynasty.  But it does make sense.”  Elizabeth looked optimistic.  Or like she wanted to be optimistic.  “Continue.”

“So, theoretically, let’s say I was interested in making out with you.  I might say, ‘Elizabeth, I think I’d like to make out with you.’”

“Okay.”  She rolled it over in her head.  “Finn, I think I’d like to make out with you.”

Finn was sure Elizabeth could hear his telltale heart banging away in his chest. 

Elizabeth leaned her lips down in the Love Shack and kissed Finn so soft he shivered.

“What was that?”  She sounded like an alarm going off.

“That was me … shivering,”

“Is that good, or bad?”

“Good,” he said.  “Really good.  Like epically good.”

Elizabeth’s face looked relieved and happy.  Then it got serious.  “Was that a … decent kiss?”

“Well, to be honest I never really made out with anybody except you, the other day, so I have zero data for comparison, but personally, I think you’ve got mad kissing skills.”

“Thank you.”  She looked very pleased.  Which made him happy.  “Finn, I think I’d like to make out some more.”

That made Finn even happier.  “I think I’d to make out with you some more too, Elizabeth.” 

She leaned into him again.  Where she touched his cheek, it got hot.  Lying there not moving, completely still, waiting for her to come to him, was weirdly exciting.

Her lips touched light on his.  A sigh came sliding out of Elizabeth.  Which made Finn sigh. 

She kissed him harder and her body was on his body and her hands were in his hair. 

He had to force his body to stay still.  He wanted to give her exactly what she wanted. 

Elizabeth pulled back.  He thought maybe she was having a flashback.  But no.  Her eyes were blazing blue and gold in the candlelight. 

“That was a very good kiss,” he said.

“Yes, it was very good very good kiss.”  Her voice was all breath.  “I never thought I could feel … you know, because of my …”

“Disorder.”

“My disorder.”  Elizabeth thought for a while.  “Finn, I think I’d like to make out with you some more.”

“I think I’d like to make out with you some more too, Elizabeth.”

 

Why I Love Turning 60

60. Today I am 60. Six months ago I was freaking the frick out about turning 60.  My grandfather  had been dead of black lung disease for decades before he could turn 60.  Tupac was dead 35 years before he could reach the big Six Oh.  It seemed like most of my life was behind me, that I should be planning my funeral and writing my obituary instead of my next book, shopping for adult diapers and boner medicine instead of buying a new pair of skinny jeans.

I’m a softball addict.  The first step is admitting you have a problem.  In January a bunch of my softball nutjob friends rent out the soccer dome and start practicing for the upcoming season.  We play Friday morning 9 AM.  Of course at that hour it’s mostly old retired softball codgers, coots and coffin-dodgers.  I took my turn hitting, and as is my wont, I whacked the ball around pretty good.  When I finished, a bunch of ancient softball zombies stampeded toward me.  Well, more tottered than stampeded – you could hear the metallic hips and knees clicking, clanking and clunking as they got closer.  They all wanted to know if there was any chance I was turning 60 this year.  I confessed that I was.  One after the other the softball geezers tried to make a compelling case for why I should play on their team.  They warned me that all the other captains of all the other teams were a bunch of one-foot-in-the-grave asswipe dirtbags.  Suddenly I realized.  I was the hot spring chicken studmuffin being feverishly recruited for Over-60 softball.  Instantly my world changed.  Instead of thinking about my funeral I was contemplating how I was going to dominate these old bastards, put my foot on their turkey wattle necks, smash their pacemakers and crush the life out of them.  When you’re a softball addict, it gets no better than that.

It dawned on me that apart from wonky knee, my body is in great working order.  I weigh the same as I did when I entered college a hundred years ago.  I achieve wood without taking a pill.  I’m no longer a slave to my penis.  It’s now who’s a slave to me.  Or rather, we work together with mutual respect and affection.  I have a brilliant, lovely, talented, sexy wife, who for reasons unbeknownst to anyone, loves and adores me.  I have a brilliant, lovely, talented, hysterically funny, slime-loving, fidget-spinning nine-year-old daughter for reasons unbeknownst to anyone, loves and adores me.  But more than that, I feel a calmness, a peace, an enjoyment of life that I’ve never had.  I don’t feel like I have to rush around everywhere.  I can say No to people who invite me to stupid stuff I don’t want to go to.  I have work that feeds my mind and soul.  There’s always great food to eat.  I have a house with a mancave hooked up to a giant TV where I can watch every movie or TV show ever made. 

For reasons still unknown to me, when I was a teenager, I decided I’d like to live to be 120.  Suddenly that seemed possible.  In which case, I’m only halfway through.  Imagine what I could do with my newfound peace and alleged wisdom in the next 60 years.  One of my life goals is to be the fastest 100-year-old on the planet.  Suddenly that too seemed possible.  Yes, in our youth-obsessed culture, sometimes I do feel invisible.  But I don’t care anymore.  For most of my life I constantly compared myself to others.  Naturally, being a rabid PTSD survivor, I always ended up with the fuzzy end of the lollipop.  There was always someone smarter, more handsome, more sexy, more accomplished, more successful, just plain better.  At 60 I find myself comparing myself to me.  Am I the best person I can be?  Am I making the world a better place?  Am I helping out people less fortunate than myself?  Am I being a great dad?  A great husband?  A great American?  A great citizen of the world?  But perhaps most importantly, a great softball player.

And that’s why I love turning 60. 

David Henry Sterry

David Henry Sterry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

David Henry Sterry

David Henry Sterry Going to BlogHer17 in Orlando

Psyched.  Stoked.  Excited.

 

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