Rubescent Jewels: A Novel Excerpt

Now that I’m a senior, you’d think my family would acknowledge something good about me, but I’ve slowly been turning invisible. Not like in comic books or old black and white movies on Sunday afternoon but the kind where people seem to look through me. When I walk into the living room Mom doesn’t acknowledge my presence but keeps her eyes fixed on that one spot in the wall. The hole we don’t talk about.

The one that’s all my fault.

Oh, I know. I fucked up. Shouldn’t have messed up Kourtney’s purse. But imagine what would have happen if she told everyone I was in her gang? Then I’d be beyond outcast, part of a freakizoid group.

Hell, I was barely clinging to Lisa’s friendship. She’d already been asked to three parties this year. Once right in front of me. I stared into the chick’s back and pulled on a stray thread unraveling from my t-shirt while waiting to hear, “Joy, you can go too.”

She just walked away.

One late Tuesday I got back from Lisa’s to find Kyle on his belly watching Superfriends on T.V. Even though I walked right in front of him half-blocking his view he kept his jaw in his hands. He didn’t even whine to Mom.

She was slumped in the club chair staring off into space.

I glanced from one to other, before trudging down the hall to drop off my books and binder. When I came in again both were still transfixed on other places. I opened my mouth to say, “Hello? I’m here. Do you see me?” when I noticed the shattered glass on the kitchen floor. I tiptoed toward it wondering why Mom hadn’t cleaned it up yet.

When anyone has dropped something, she was usually so quick to sweep up the broken shards you’d think a flash of lightning had just passed over the floor. When I say anyone, I mean me.  As Ronny always pointed out, I’m the clumsy one in the family. As if I didn’t know.

The glass was spread all over the floor. The quatrefoil pattern (Mom taught me that phrase for four-leafed when she picked out the avocado green linoleum) now looked like it was covered with jewels. For a moment I was transfixed by the beauty of rough-cut diamonds shining on four-leaf clovers.

Then I noticed a ruby amongst all those clear diamonds. I reached down to touch it and realized it wasn’t a piece of red glass but a droplet of blood. Recoiling, I pulled my hand back to see three more stains on the beautiful tableau, a trail of red flowers leading to the sink.

 Don’t look. I curled my hands into fists and stepped closer. There in the sink Mom scrubs daily until it sparkles like yellow daisies was a towel blooming blood.

I wasn’t high but my brain felt foggy when I turned back to Mom. She wasn’t just slumped but hunched over clutching her gauze wrapped forearm.

“Mom, you okay?”

She didn’t answer but kept staring at the hole in the wall. I knelt at her feet and touched her arm just above the bandage. She didn’t so much as flinch. Gently placing a hand over hers, I uncurled the clenched fingers from around her arm. A rose stain the size of my fist lay in the center of the cloth.

My heart fluttered. Red was a new color. Black and blue I was used to. Black and blue you could hide with make-up. Black and blue stays beneath.  But this…

“Mom?” I waited long seconds, but her eyes remain fixed and staring. After rewrapping her fingers around the bleeding arm, I strode into the living room.

I bent down next to Kyle. “What happened?”

Even at thirteen he knew enough to put a finger to his lips before pointing toward his room. My head a jumble, I trailed after him dreading what I’d hear. Once we were safely behind a closed door, he whispered that Ronny’s drink tasted bad so he threw it on the floor.

“Mom didn’t make it right,” he explained.

I give him an exasperated look but didn’t argue. He was always making excuses for his father. “Then what?”

“He told her to clean it up, well started to make her…” His voice trailed off.

“With his fists?”

“He didn’t mean it. He was just trying to get her to do it right.” Kyle jut out his lower lip and hugged himself.

There was no point explaining. Kyle would make this what he needed to.

With a sigh, I trudged back past my silent Mom toward the kitchen where I got out the broom and dustbin. Then, using my thumb and forefinger, I picked up four large pieces. Clunk. They thudded against the plastic trash bottom. Now you couldn’t even tell what had shattered on the floor. As I grasped the broom handle and dragged it across the floor, I understood why Mom always cleaned so quickly. Every pass of the brush erased some part of the story.

Sweep, sweep. The glass no longer sprawled in rubescent disarray but sparkled in piles. Brush. Swish. More of the quatrefoil pattern returned to its soft green.

The tinkling pieces cascaded into the trash like pebbles in a dying stream, yet the bristles kept seeking more fragments. I swept each corner, once twice, three times until every sliver was lying on the bottom of the plastic liner.

Soon the only reminder was the blood. Fucking smears on the linoleum garden. I ripped off a few paper towels and threw them on the floor. Then I stepped on the pile with both feet hoping that would soak up the stain. Still there. Shit.

With more urgency I grabbed another wad and moistened it. Get rid of it, now. I began rubbing like Hell to mop it up, but multiple strokes did little more than turn spots into blotches. I tossed a few bloody towels into the trash.

Began again.

Why the fucking stains wouldn’t disappear was beyond me. No matter how hard I scrubbed and scoured the smears remained. Without any help. Cartoons blared. Kyle kept his back to the kitchen. Mom’s gaze remained on the hole

Then I realized the stains were gone. Had been for several minutes. I hurled the last of the sopping pink towels in the plastic bag and tied it in a tight knot. This I carried to the outside bins. Slammed the lid shut.

When I returned to the living room everyone was gone.

Leaving me to float in silence like the invisible girl I was becoming.

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About Laurie: The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

 

Children Honoring Dr. King

This Martin Luther King Day I am thinking back to making an anti-bullying video last year. When I first heard about the contest, I thought it’d be a great way to teach my kids about how to deal with bullying. So I wrote a script, had some auditions, and started filming the munchkins in imaginary bullying situations. I was lucky to have such good actors this year who were open to retakes, but still it was pretty tough to try and fit filming into our already busy schedule. Most of it occurred during recesses.

And the due date was fast approaching.

One of the greatest challenges was finding a quiet place at school to film the scenes.  We don’t have any special equipment like muff-covered microphones or special lights. Just an IPad. We’d be in the middle of one with the kids rocking their acting and the bell would ring or a ball would roll our way with a second-grader right behind.

So with a groan I’d delete that take and try again.

On the last day before all entries were due, I tried taking the kids to behind the school, thinking that would be quiet and protected from the blustery winds of Santa Maria. And it worked, sort-of. But then there was another announcement while filming.

With recess over, what choice did I have? We were out of time so I had to use the scene.

And was surprised as heck with how good the video came out.

But would we win?

Weeks passed. No news. The kids kept asking me if I’d heard anything and I had to shake my head no. Then one morning there was an email in my inbox.

“Dear Laurie,

We are delighted to inform you that you are a Winner in the Take A Stand Against Bullying Video Contest sponsored by Oxy Skin Care. The Scholastic and Oxy teams were so impressed with the caliber of work; your students should be very proud!” I read the other morning as my fifth-grade students were getting out their homework.

“Yahoo! We won! We won!” I crowed jumping up and down in front of my astonished class.

“What, Ms. Woodward?”

“The video we made won the national contest!”

There was silence for a moment then a roar of cheers, applause and desk pounding so deafening  I was sure the principal would come in any second and tell us to quiet down. Kids leapt into the air, high-fiving each-other while I did a victory Salsa dance across the room.

I love being a teacher.

 

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The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

Burning: An Excerpt

Once, when I was a fifteen year old camper at Catalina Island camp, I snuck out to party in the lodge with some of the counselors. They were all all older than me, some almost twenty, and in my eyes way cool. I felt honored to be included with a group that had shared so much hippie wisdom with me,  that I probably grew an inch taller in that hour.

Well,  one minute we were all laughing and chugging down Boone’s Farm sweet wine and the next there was this horrific crash as I watched the party disintegrate into a jealous punching match.

Two of our ski boat drivers, Matt and Steve were on the floor rolling over and over in a vicious brawl. I guess they pined for the same counselor, a tanned California blonde named Gail. And when she turned her attention to Steve, Matt lost it. He attacked Steve with a vengeance even my step-father didn’t have.

They rose to their feet and I watched horrified as Steve’s face swelled under Matt’s bloodying blows.  He hit the door and then bounced back like a racquetball rebounding off a court wall. Even now Matt didn’t let up but hit him again and again as Steve tried like hell to block his blows.

“Stop!” I cried leaping out of the way. I shouted again but they kept at it. Now Steve bent over and head butt Matt in the gut forcing both of them against the pool table.

I retreated to the corner of the lodge and curled up into a ball. Why won’t they listen? I thought sobbing uncontrollably.

“You guys p-please, no more. No more. No more..”

I guess my tears must have finally got through to them because a moment later they were all gathered around me.

“This is horrible. You guys should f-forgive each other,” I begged between gulping sobs, hoping my  innocent eyes  would open their hearts.

They both shook their heads.

“But it’s wrong. There should be peace in the world.” I sniffled.

“Sorry, kid. That’s just a dream. Or a song on the radio. You understand?” Matt asked.

I shook my head. No, I didn’t. And all these years later, I still don’t.

(The above is an excerpt from a new novel I’m working on. I think this scene embodies its theme. )

The author of The Pharaoh’s Cry,  Portal Shift, Kidnapped Smile, and Dragon Sky from the fantasy series The Artania Chronicles,  as well as the middle-grade Forest Secrets. Laurie Woodward  co-wrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy. Her poetry has been published in multiple journals and anthologies and she was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant, poet,  and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes on the Central Coast of California. More about her work can be found at artania.net

You Are an Artist

Art. What does it make you think of? Is it a canvas splashed with paint or a sculpted bust? Do you think it’s important for our society and should children pursue this ethereal discipline?

Some would say no, arguing that children need reading, writing and math to compete in today’s global economy. And as a teacher, as well as an author I agree. Some of the time. I want every single one of my students to have the skills they need to succeed in an ever-changing economy.

But not by forgetting the people they are inside.

I believe that every man, woman, and child have a wondrous inside of them that is absolutely unique. It is their creative selves. And when we foster it, magic happens. That’s why I wrote The Artania Chronicles.

As a teacher, I’ve seen many changes over the years. And one of the saddest I saw was the increased emphasis on testing with less and less of the arts. It started to feel as if we were denying a beautiful part of children.  As I explored this idea, my mind began to turn art into living beings that carried out their lives in a parallel dimension.

That was the birth of Artania. There the Mona Lisa, the David, and the Thinker go about their lives. But they aren’t independent of us. For every time a human child turns away from his/her true self and denies their artistic gifts, an evil race gains power.

To me, the hunch-backed, yellow-eyed, dream-invading monsters, I call Shadow Swine, represent the destruction of that most beautiful part of humanity. That incomparable part that is our art.

Some of you might be painters whose canvases are splashed with color. Others might pursue dance or music. A few might find the art in their athleticism or acting or creating the perfect meal. Or perhaps you are a writer, like me, and love the places the words take you to.  But the cool think is that no one can act, sing, dance, paint, wordsmith, arrange, or bake exactly like you.

Because you are each an artist in your own way.

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

 

Interviewed to Address Bullying

“I’ve tried to keep my FB posts positive throughout the summer, but I can’t ignore the grim reality of young children committing suicide. Earlier this month, it was a 9-year-old Denver student named Jamel who hung himself after being bullied for being gay.” Radio talk show host, Dave Congalton, writes on his Facebook page.

“9 years old. 9.

Here’s the sad truth from the New York Times: “Jamel’s death comes amid a startling rise in youth suicides, part of a larger public health crisis that has unfolded over a generation: Even as access to mental health care has expanded, the suicide rate in the United States has risen 25 percent since 1999. Middle- schoolers are now just as likely to die from suicide as they are from traffic accidents.”

Middle-schoolers are now just as likely to die from suicide as they are from traffic accidents?????

We’re going to discuss this on the radio today (Wednesday) at 5:05 on 920 AM KVEC with local teachers Laurie Woodward and Mila Vujovich-La Barre, both of whom are heavily involved in their school’s efforts to combat bullying. I certainly don’t have the solution, but it begins with dialogue. Hope you can join us.”

And join him we did, spending two hours brainstorming with Dave and callers about how to prevent and combat this blight on our society.

For the entire interview please click below. And let’s all work together to prevent further tragedies like these from occurring.

 

Radio Interview Part 1

Radio Interview Part 2

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Thank you Dave and Mila. It was truly an honor.

In addition to hosting a popular radio show for the past 26 years, Dave Congalton is a screenwriter, producer,  former director of the Central Coast Writer’s Conference, and award-winning author.  His books include Three Cats, Two Dogs: One Journey Through Multiple Pet Loss, When Your Pet Outlives You: Protecting Animal Companions After You Die, with co-author Charlotte Alexander and The Talk Radio Guest Book with co-author Deborah Bayles. His screenplay, Author’s Anonymous, starring Kaley Cuoco and directed by Ellie Kanner was released as a major film in 2014.

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For more information about Dave see: http://davidcongalton.com/# or http://www.920kvec.com/

 

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

Review of Number the Stars

Do people stand up to fascism? Who can find hope when their people are disappearing right and left? How does a single child survive a human-made holocaust? These are the types of questions Danes had to deal with during World War II. And their answer is found in Lois Lowry’s poignant novel, Number the Stars.

Number the Stars  is the story of two 10 year old friends, AnneMarie and Ellen, who live in Nazi-occupied Denmark in 1943. The story is told by the Christian, girl AnneMarie, as she watches what happens to her Jewish friend, Ellen, when the Nazis gain power. The events seem innocuous  until one day some friends of the family disappear, and their business is shut down, as the Nazi “relocation” of the Danish Jews gets underway.  What ensues is a heroic adventure that reminds us all of the best and the worst in humanity.

Not only moving, but educational, Lowry’s book is based on real events of the evacuation of Danish Jews from Copenhagen during WWII. It is heartening to hear that when the Nazis threatened to relocate all the Jews in Denmark, the Danish people came to their aid and smuggled almost the entire Jewish population, nearly 7,000 people, to the safety of Sweden.

If only all peoples could band together like this. Just imagine.

Highly recommended.

A teacher, Laurie Woodward is the author of  several novels including Forest Secrets, and the fantasy series The Artania ChroniclesShe also cowrote Dean and JoJoThe Dolphin Legacy and was a collaborator on the popular anti-bullying DVD Resolutions. Bullied as a child, Laurie is now an award-winning peace consultant and blogger who helps teach children how to avoid arguments, stop bullying, and maintain healthy friendships. She writes her novels on the Central Coast of California.

The Man Without a Home: A Poem

He emerged on the horizon

Of a crumbling walk

And paused

To swab his feet.

They were caked in dirt

And bleeding.

 

When I asked why,

He said,

Beware:

The falling snowflakes,

So beautiful as to blind,

That seep into cracks

And lie in wait

Year after year

To break your countenance

And turn it to dust.

Leaving it to blow

Aimlessly in the wind.

 

For what is love but

Cement formed

From a single mold?

Strengthened by steel

Hardened in the rising sun

Smoothed by a ballet of trowels

It becomes a single path.

 

So tread lightly on this esplanade

Of love beneath your feet

Skip rope, draw chalk figures,

And dance upon it,

Let it lead you to

Wondrous playgrounds

And home again.

 

This he said.

Before he continued

On his journey.

 

This man without a home