Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Call For Submissions: middle grade short stories

The bullies of today become the inmates of tomorrow.

Sad, but true. Not only do the bullied face a hard life of low self-esteem and potential chemical use, the bullies themselves face a much higher risk than their peers of spending time behind bars in their adulthood.

Bullying makes you mean. It makes you disregard other's feelings and safety. It turns off the power switch to dignity, self-respect and personal responsibility. In short, picking on your peers today creates the adult monsters of tomorrow.

Since these are all issues important in my line of work, I urge everyone to do their share to stop bullying in its tracks. A step that starts long before middle school lunch table drama and high school death threats. A step that begins with kindergartners who have yet to solidify their behavior patterns--who still have a chance of becoming something more than the inmates in years to come.

My editor at Elephant's Bookshelf Press takes this message to heart and is heading up a middle grade anthology of short stories on bullying. If you'd like to contribute--or know someone who might--please follow the submission guidelines below:

  • Short stories should be geared toward middle grade students (roughly 7-12 years of age), and should be no more than 2,500 words long.
  • Short stories can be told from the points of view of the bully, the bullied or the bystander and should have a clear resolution that shows the appropriate way of dealing with bullying.
  • These stories should be engaging and not preachy. From historical to futuristic, kids need to connect to the story, the characters and the message. In other words, don't write down to these youngsters, but help empower them to come up with their own solutions.
  • Short stories must be submitted by February 15 to (the acquisitions editor on this project) with the words "EBP bully anthology" in the subject line.
  • No payment will be made for accepted stories, though an author bio, links to a website or blog, and a free copy of the anthology will be provided to included authors. 
Projected publication date: May 5

Happy writing!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Just Wow! As I watch the world crumble...

The world has gone crazy.

As in crazy-Crazy. With a capital C.

An inmate on death row fights his impending lethal injection (at taxpayer expense) because the medically approved drugs have not been used before and it might cause him undue anguish and worry and maybe at the moment of death, a little bit of pain.

Excuse me for a minute while I process this. A man who brutally raped and murdered a pregnant woman is constitutionally protected and DESERVES the right to die peacefully?!?!?

What about his victim? Shouldn't we consider her last hours, last minutes, last seconds--hell, her last breath--when she pleaded and fought for her life and the life of her unborn child? Did she get to die peacefully with no pain and no worry? Where is her constitutional right?

Or let's consider this: two teens who laced a young lady's drink, gang raped her, photographed her nude body and then shared the pics around school to classmates got a slap on the wrist--one a thirty day sentence and the other a whopping 45 days. A third is yet to be sentenced.

Lest this sounds about right to you, I would like to add the final detail to this tragedy: the young gal committed suicide eight days later because of the mental anguish she was going through after being drugged, raped and put on public display. I can't imagine that her death by hanging was worry free and painless.

Sadly, I see no true justice in these stories, only a gross misunderstanding of when rights are forcibly taken and when they should be based on one's own actions.

In my mind, those who rape or murder in cold blood have forfeited their rights to a peaceful, worry free existence--or death. After all, they have forcibly taken the life of another--cruelly ripping from murder victims every last right they were entitled to along with their last, gasping breaths. Likewise, rape is neither painless nor peaceful. Certainly, living as a victim isn't worry free. In fact, it condemns survivors to live every future moment tainted by the memories, suffering, fear and pain of their assaults. The course of a survivor's life--and every relationship in it--has been irrevocably changed. Their lives are no longer their own.

Now, whether I believe in capital punishment or not isn't the issue. The issue--my issue--is the way we seem to spend more time, money, effort and compassion on a criminal's rights than on the rights, dignity, pain, suffering and endless hell that the victim's are plunged into--if they survive at all.

In this respect, I fail to see why the scope of cruel and unusual punishment entitles prisoners/convicts to not suffer any pain or worry when the reason they are behind bars is for the pain and suffering they have caused others.

I am infinitely saddened when I see the death penalty carried out by a victim of sexual assault upon herself, while her perpetrators walk free. Free to live, love and assault again.

Furthermore, My heart breaks for the pregnant mother who fought for her life during a brutal assault that culminated in not one, but two, deaths. True her murderer was finally euthanized, but to much public and judicial outcry. Even in his death, taxpayer money will be spent to sue our own government for carrying out a sentence that was legally handed down, all because it took longer for him to die than for past inmates--he passed away after twenty-five minutes--and he "appeared to gasp" for air during his lethal injection.

Two simple many times did his victim gasp for air as she was being stabbed and beaten and how long did her torture last?

Compounding the issue of a death row inmate's constitutional guarantee to die peacefully is the fact that it is illegal for the general population to die peacefully. I used to work in the health field and was repeatedly told by cancer patients that their treatments were more painful than the disease. I know first hand that death does not whisk you away poetically on a single, quiet exhalation.

New Mexico is under the magnifying glass for allowing a doctor to prescribe medication that will end a terminal patient's life when that sane, terminal patient has deemed that living is simply too painful to continue. NM is only one of five states that protects a terminal patient's right to die peacefully--in a very limited fashion.

So, the message we are sending is that the only people who deserve to die with as much dignity and comfort as is possible in death are those who have destroyed another person's life.

The world is a Crazy place, my friends.

As a writer, I'm not sure which is worse: our reality or the sickening realities found in many dystopian novels today. What do you think?