rosanne_parry (rosanne_parry) wrote in classof2k9,

Finding our Voices

I think for many of us the journey of becoming a writer has been one of finding the voice of our character and polishing that voice to perfection. Then when that magical moment occurs and we realize our characters no longer belong just to us, but become travelers in the world of books, we are faced with decisions to make about our author voice. How will we represent ourselves off the page?

In many ways we are in a golden age for this. There have never been as many venues for promoting books as there are today. Websites, blogs, twitter, book trailers, pod casts, email list serves, and many others, offer a writer a place to speak off the page. One of the benefits of this class has been the yearlong fellowship of writers searching out just this issue. How will we as authors speak to our readership and in particular to booksellers, librarians, and teachers--our beloved BLTs as we have come to call them.

From the start our champion of voice-finding has been Albert Boris. He is Bev's co president and from the start was the one who helped us forge a group identity by making space in our business meetings for water cooler chat. It was that bonding over the silly and sometimes heartfelt pieces of our writing lives that we really found our voice as a group.

As some of our faithful blog readers know, Albert suffered a stroke almost exactly a year ago, and as a result temporarily lost his voice. I confess this is something I greatly fear. Communication is my world and to lose it is almost too painful to contemplate. For weeks I simply could not believe that our young, vibrant, energetic, Albert was not chiming in on our group emails. It broke my heart to have him miss out on the joy of launching the class when he had been at the heart of our group’s formation. In his first few messages to the group after his stroke, a string of disjointed letters was all he could manage. But our Albert didn’t give up. His year has been one of learning to find his words again and it has been nothing short of inspiration to me. The first time he wrote an email with a whole sentence that made sense, I cried with relief and joy and pride.

He joined the group of 2K9 authors who presented their work at Andersons Bookshop over the summer. He had made enormous progress in his speech and we found him as warm and funny and generous as the Albert we’d met in all of our hundreds of emails the year before. A few weeks later I was very honored to read an excerpt from his book Crash Into Me at the Maryland SCBWI conference as a part of the panel the Class of 2K9 was presenting. It is a remarkable book about the difficult topic of teen depression and suicide. Albert handles the material with the wisdom of a person who has served as a school counselor for decades and the humor of someone who wears that wisdom lightly. Crash Into Me is not a book I thought I would like, but I was won over by the strength of Albert's writing and the importance of the topic.

If I lived closer I would have spent the year bringing Albert's family casseroles and offering car pools for his kids and all the other things a community does. Unfortunately, a hot dish does not carry well from Oregon to New Jersey, and I have never met Albert in person. But every time I visit a bookstore, for an event or just browsing, I chat up the book seller and bring out my handy 2K9 post card with all of our beautiful covers on it and say, "Have you read Crash Into Me? This is a voice you just have to hear."

It's not dinner but in my opinion, of all the things we have done as a class this year, it’s that one-to-one conversation that matters. “Read this. It’s a voice you should hear.”

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