Goodreads Giveaway of Leaving Kent State

Going on now at Goodreads! Happy Valentines Day!

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Leaving Kent State by Sabrina Fedel

Leaving Kent State

by Sabrina Fedel

Giveaway ends March 15, 2017.

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Valentine’s Day Reads for Kids

I love holidays, and Valentine’s Day in particular is a good one because what’s not to love about love, right?

Here are some books that I think are perfect for reading on this special day with your little love and why I love them:

Picture Books:

Pandora, by William Mayne If this book doesn’t make you believe in the redemptive power of love, then there is seriously something wrong with you.

 

 A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker Sometimes we don’t realize how much we need a friend until we realize we love them already.

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant Dogs. Love. Heart strings. You get the picture.

Early Chapter:

Davey’s Blue-Eyed Frog by Patricia Harrison Easton A princess who needs to be saved by a kiss and a little boy who has better things to do. What could go wrong?

Mango’s Revenge by Stephanie Logue When this Parrot escapes for a day off, love of his family brings him home.

Middle Grade:

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo Dogs. Love. How weird the South can be.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt In which our heroine has to choose between young love and mortality. Not as easy as you might think.

Young Adult:

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith Smith was way ahead of her time with this quirky coming of age love story.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke Beautifully written high steam punk fantasy with bubbling romance. What’s not to like?

And, last but not least, let me just mention that Leaving Kent State has a classic romance story line that I hope you will enjoy.

Happy Valentine’s Day reading!!

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Calls for “Another Kent State”

Last week, a Michigan GOP official made comments on twitter that called for “another Kent State” as a response to college protests at UC Berkeley. The protests were in opposition to a white nationalist and provocateur who had been invited to speak by the Berkeley College Republicans. Unfortunately, the protests turned destructive, with demonstrators causing property damage and hurling objects at police officers before the University cancelled the speech out of concern for public safety.

Berkeley’s chancellor defended the group’s right to invite this speaker, though he made it clear that he himself found no use for him, calling the speaker a “troll and provocateur who uses odious behavior in part to ‘entertain,’ but also to deflect any serious engagement with ideas.”

Unfortunately, however, the negative actions of the protesters brought more attention to the speech that didn’t happen than it probably would have otherwise garnered. The Trump Administration immediately called it an attack on free speech and intimated that it would consider cutting off federal funding to the school as retaliation. The Nixon Administration would, I think, have been proud.

The statements of the Michigan political operative were more concerning. He said:

“Violent protesters who shut down free speech? Time for another Kent State perhaps. One bullet stops a lot of thuggery.”

Another comment read in part “I’m thinking another Kent State may be the only solution [sic] protest stopped after only one death. They do it because they know there are no consequences yet.”

These statements were, thankfully, met with immediate rebuke from other politicians, both republican and democrat, as well as Kent State University. Additionally, this man deleted his Facebook page because of comments he said were “hateful.” He made several attempts to “clarify” his words, claiming that he had not meant to incite violence, but rather was calling for an end to the violence, fearing that it might otherwise bring about the same sort of tragedy that occurred at Kent State.

Looking at his statements, however, I cannot believe his denials that he meant only to tamp down violence for fear of the lives of protesters. You may judge his statements for yourself, but to me they are clearly an approbation of the force used at Kent and an invitation to use that level of force today, presumably when he doesn’t agree with the protesters.

The force used at Kent State killed four people. Allison Krause and Sandy Scheuer were in the honors college. William Schroeder was in the ROTC. Jeffrey Miller believed that peace and love could change the world. Schroeder and Scheuer were not even there to demonstrate. They were among the hundreds of students who had stopped to watch on the way to their next class. Allison Krause, the day before the shootings, had placed a flower in the barrel of a guardsman’s rifle saying “flowers are better than bullets.”

These are the young people who were mowed down by the National Guard. The average distance of the unarmed students killed from where the guard fired was 345 feet. Not one of them posed a threat, lethal or otherwise, to the Guard. There had been objects thrown at the Guard, including empty tear gas canisters, but not one of the Guardsmen was injured.

The students had had no warning that the Guard would fire. They were peppered with 67 rounds of M1 bullets in a matter of about 13 seconds. William Schroeder was shot in the back as he tried to flee. Sandy Scheuer never even made it that far. Her purse still clung to her arm, her books scattered around her on the pavement of the Prentice parking lot.

Nine other students were wounded that day, one of them paralyzed for life. Not one of them was armed. Not one of them was within a distance to cause the Guard any harm.

President Nixon went on television the night of May 4th and told the nation that he was sorry about the dead and wounded students, but that “tragedy is invited when dissent turns to violence.”

These are chilling words, not only for their inaccuracy of what occurred at Kent that day, but also in their their disregard for casualties when civil disobedience gets messy.

There is a balance to be maintained in a democracy between the right of citizens to protest and the right of other citizens to be safe. Civil disobedience in our nation’s history has at times turned deadly. Opposition to the Stamp Act during colonial times led to the tarring and feathering of tax collectors for example. Generally, however, the virtue of democracy is that, when people believe they have a voice, there is no need for violence. When there is violence by protesters, it is often limited to property damage or minor collateral injuries. Our police and courts are generally perfectly capable of handling these types of disturbances.

When the power of law enforcement is used inappropriately, however, catastrophic results such as those at Kent can occur. Kent State taught us that the right to use power on behalf of the people carries with it a tremendous responsibility. Free speech can only flourish in a society that protects and preserves this right fiercely. It can only flourish in a society that refuses to allow dissenters to be harmed.

And this is why the statements of this Michigan republican are so unacceptable and frightening. His words amount to the suggestion that the state has a right to silence dissent at any cost so long as there is any irregularity in the civil disobedience. His statements sanction the idea that government can escalate a situation to the level of deadly force to stop “thuggery” whether or not the situation warrants the use of force to protect other citizens. His statements create an Us v. Them mentality that attempts to sow silence into those who would use civil disobedience to protest.

The illegal activities at Berkeley that prevented the speaker from being allowed to speak were wrong and should be investigated and prosecuted as appropriate. But to suggest that those who were demonstrating should have been murdered in order to silence them is something else entirely. It is a chilling and unacceptable assault on the First Amendment. The fact that anyone could invoke the history of Kent State to justify that suggestion is the very reason why we must never forget May 4th.

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Resistance and the Main Stream Media

As we enter a dark period in our country, where our new President is signing executive orders to ban certain immigrants from coming here, a ban that this morning was stayed by a Federal judge (as reported here), I have again been profoundly struck by the importance of what happened on May 4, 1970, at Kent State University.
Four days after President Richard Nixon announced that we had invaded Cambodia in our effort to fight the Vietnam War, unarmed students gathered on the commons at Kent State University to demand an end to the war. There had been ongoing protests across the country in the months leading up to the invasion, and often they had turned violent in more radical places like Berkeley or even Ohio State University. Kent was a sleepy little college town, known for its music and bar scene. No one expected what was about to happen.
As protesters and curious bystanders stood scattered about the lawn and Prentice parking lot, the Guardsmen trooped down to the practice football field, where they ended up trapped between a fence and the students. They turned and got down on their knees and pointed their rifles at the crowd behind them. A roar of laughter went up when they announced to the students “We have you surrounded.” Most believed that the Guard didn’t have loaded weapons, or that their rifles only had rubber bullets in them.
The Guard, realizing their mistake, trudged back up the hill to a small pagoda near Taylor Hall. Students thought the rally was over, and a number of them began the walk to noon classes.
Seconds later, the Guard turned in one swift movement, dropped their rifles into firing position again, and shot indiscriminately into the crowd. In thirteen seconds, they killed four, wounded nine, and blew out windows in at least two dorms firing more than 60 bullets from their rifles. The Vietnam War had come to America. Two of the students killed were in the honor’s college. One was in the ROTC.
As savage as this act was, it was the reaction of the Main Stream Media and the average citizen that is perhaps the most shocking of this shocking story. While the National Student Association called for a nationwide strike to protest the “appalling use of force” at KSU, the media reports left most Americans with the impression that the students had left the Guard with no alternative. They were led to believe, subtly and overtly, what many of the people whom they interviewed said: “They should have killed them all.”
Such a statement seems incomprehensible, yet it was uttered again and again, in extreme cases even by parents of students who had been at the rally.
While it is important to judge and condemn these types of overt sanctioning of authoritarian oppression, I found myself wondering how anyone could even say such things. But fear is a powerful force.
If you’ve been lucky enough not to ever know fear, then you should be very grateful. I have known fear. When America decided to intervene in Bosnia, I was torn. I believed it was our moral duty as the leader of the free world. But my husband was on active duty in the Marine Corps. I found myself questioning whether what was going on in Bosnia was something that was worth his life, or the lives of our friends. I had to remind myself that this was how Europe acted as it did while Germany advanced. Because suddenly I understood their fear. It is one thing to grandly pronounce that we must not tolerate aggression against the innocent. It is another to risk your loved ones making the ultimate sacrifice in order to stop that aggression. In the end, I had to support our intervention in Bosnia, but it was not without a new understanding of the price paid by those who stand up for right in the face of tyranny, especially when they could choose to stay silent.
It took time, but most of the truth has come out about that fateful day that forever changed not just the KSU campus but the entire country. The shootings at Kent State became the final straw in Americans’ tolerance for the Vietnam War. As is usually the case in this country, justice was half served, as several in the Guard went on trial for the shootings, but none were convicted. Instead there was a formal settlement. The DOJ refused to convene a grand jury, but U.S. Attorney General Mitchell found that the use of force had been “unnecessary, unwarranted, and inexcusable.”
This is why it is so important to remember our history. Just as I was able to understand my own fears over the crisis in Bosnia through the lens of how Germany had been allowed to take first one, and then another, and another, country in Europe, we must remember the lessons learned at KSU. The students, while on the side of history, were not popular with the Nixon Administration. Those who protested were continually being denigrated by Vice President Agnew as the worst members of our society, bent on destroying American values. But even more importantly, the Nixon Administration did everything it could to present the students, and anyone else who questioned their decisions, as radically dangerous. They systematically sowed fear in the American public of the student protesters in order to discredit these generally peaceful protesters. They were helped along in this by the fringe left groups, such as The Weathermen, who carried out acts of violence in the name of “justice.” While these groups claimed to be in stark opposition to the Nixon White House, they provided more than enough fodder to convince ordinary Americans that there was a dangerous element that our government was protecting them from, and this element included all of the students protesting the Vietnam War across the country. The Weathermen and their kind legitimized the Nixon Administration’s tale of terror, proving there was a bogey man that only the government could save us from.
The Main Stream Media was often complicit in this, as it was when it first reported on the KSU shootings. The very first reports out of the scene claimed that two National Guardsmen had been shot by students. This was patently false, and no evidence has ever surfaced that any students were even armed. Yet people rallied behind the Guard initially on the reports that made it seem as though the Guard had been left with no alternative in order to protect themselves, another patently false position. The news reported, falsely, that the Guard had feared for their lives as student protesters attacked them with rocks and other projectiles. While there was evidence of some rock throwing and empty tear gas canister throwing, none of this put the Guard in any danger of serious bodily harm.
Slowly, the Free Press began to truly investigate what had really happened, spurred largely and ironically on by the FBI’s investigation into the shootings which found that the story presented by the government was largely false. The Press began to look at the photographic evidence, the testimony of those who were there, including Guardsmen, and it found that the story it had been telling was simply untrue. For more on the aftermath of the shootings, visit here. But it took a very long time for that truth to come out, and a lot of damage was done in the interim.
President Nixon went on television the evening of May 4th and told our nation that it was unfortunate about the dead and wounded students but that “tragedy is invited when dissent turns to violence.” This was, of all his lies during his tenure, perhaps the most egregious. The dissent had not turned violent. But the National Guard had.
Kent State teaches us that it is imperative to demand from the Free Press the truth. It teaches us that the truth is often not an easy thing to discern, but that it does exist. Facts exist. The current Administration’s attempt to make us believe that there are “alternative facts” is part and parcel of the orchestration to discredit the Free Press. Just as Nixon tried to instill fear and alternative facts into the shootings at Kent State, our current President has tried to divide our country with fear and falsehoods. It is up to the Free Press to make sure that this is not allowed. But we must never forget the lesson that KSU teaches us: it is up to us to make the Free Press do it’s job.

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My Latest Review

Thanks to Isla Mcketta, I have a new review which you may check out here. When I was writing LKS, I was really struck by the parallels to our present time: social and civil unrest, racial tensions, terrorism (though in 1969-1970, this was largely domestic), and a general sense of upheaval and uncertainty. I love this review because it lets me know that these issues came forward in the way that I hoped they would. On inauguration day 2017, I feel especially blessed to be considered as a writer who has offered at least one reader hope. May we all forge a path to a brighter future together.

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Writing the Story You Can’t Tell

When I entered my MFA program in 2014, I had no idea what a cathartic process writing is to most people who write. Sure, there had been times as a preteen or teen where I’d thrown some anger down on a page and called it poetry. But writing to me was something I loved that was separate from my personal feelings. Stories were all around us, and I reveled in the romance of bygone eras and Cinderellas waiting to happen. I didn’t need to be a maligned scullery maid to cheer when the heroine became exalted to her rightful place of respect and security and happiness. When my life was bad, I escaped into someone else’s by reading, or I escaped into some made up world I had created. Writing for me was about creating a story that someone wanted to read and those stories were all around us, but my life didn’t seem “bad” enough to intrude onto my pages.

So when I got to Lesley, it was almost remarkable to me how many of my fellow students openly embraced the therapeutic aspects of writing. My program includes five genres – Writing for Young People, Writing for Stage and Screen, Fiction (adult, because, of course you wouldn’t need to specify that), Creative Nonfiction, and Poetry. I think that the Lesley program is, at least among low residency programs, one of the more diverse in this broad range of writing disciplines. Yes, many of us overlap from one to another. I write poetry. I’ve written personal essays. And the program is designed to allow us to work within our genres but also to interact meaningfully with each of the other genres. Friendships cross genre lines, they cross semesters, they cross borders. It didn’t take long for me to realize that many of us, especially those in Creative Nonfiction and Poetry, viewed their writing as a therapeutic detox and residency as a form of emotional rehab.

Within days of coming to my first residency, people were spilling their guts all over the place-in classes, in their writing, in the dining hall. I began to see the way writing is, for many, many people, a type of therapy. People even half-joked on our student Facebook page about their MFA being better than their therapist, and cheaper.

Then, somewhere along the way of my MFA and post MFA years, my life became a soap opera without me being able to stop things from spinning out of control. There were days when it seemed that the harder I worked to stabilize things, the worse they got. Every day became an emotional war zone, and 2016 was, without a doubt, the worst year of my life to date. And somewhere along the way, my writing began to reflect this.

Last year, a Lesley alum who graduated from the program before me released a young adult book about a girl whose mother is a novelist who turns the girl’s mistakes into a bestselling YA book. In Katie Cotugno’s 99 Days, the protagonist is returning home for the summer before college after having fled town when her mother’s book exposed her betrayal of the boy she loved and his whole family. It’s a great premise, mostly because, when we use writing as therapy (whether through fiction, nonfiction, or poetry), we usually aren’t just telling our own painful secrets.

Creative nonfiction writers in particular grapple with these questions of how much is acceptable to reveal and whose truth matters. Placing the personal into a fictional setting allows us to circumvent some of those issues, but even then we are often faced with revealing more than we should if we dare to tell the story we really want to tell. Often we can’t take the risk, we can’t be the selfish mom in 99 Days who sees her daughter’s intimate life as marketing fodder.

The down side to not using writing as therapy, though, is that it stunts our growth, as both human beings and writers. Since my time at Lesley, I’ve realized that my writing has changed. It has become more personal, even when the subject matter is not explicitly linked to my current life. For instance, my latest WIP is a contemporary realism about a girl in mourning for her mom. I haven’t lost my mom, but 2016 was a year of deep grieving for me in other ways. Somehow, that grieving has found its way into the pages of my story, and my story is better for it.

I know what I want my next story to be about. But, like the mother in 99 Days, the story is just a little too personal. There are people it would hurt who don’t deserve to be hurt, and that means that I can’t write it. At least, I can’t ever try to publish it. I may write it for my own healing, or at least bits and pieces and scenes. I may write it as a type of therapy, like so many of my colleagues at Lesley have done. But even if I don’t write it, I know that the emotions that are roiling inside of me right now will somehow find their way onto the pages of my next book, and that’s a really good thing. Because writing is cathartic. It is a way to heal. And so is reading, which is why so many people love to read. In the end, these human connections we make through writing and reading enable us to process emotions that are sometimes too vast, too oppressive, too taboo. Through writing and reading, we label these beasts inside of us, corral them, and tame them.

So write the story you cannot tell. Write it any way you have to, and burn it afterward if that’s what is best for the people you love. But leave the seeds of those emotions in your writing garden, and grow them. They are what make your stories real.

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Tips to Keep You Motivated with Writing and Reading

Our celebrations of January 1 as our New Year has a somewhat murky history. According to the History Channel, we have Julius Caesar to thank for determining this date as our marker, when he followed the advice of an Alexandrian astronomer who told him to replace the lunar year with the more accurate solar year followed by the Egyptians. They incorrectly calculated the solar year to be 365 and 1/4 days (yes, Caesar is to blame for the original concept of leap year, too), and chose January 1st to begin the year.

By the middle ages, though, this miscalculation was messing with people’s calendars, so celebrating the new year on January 1st had fallen out of fashion. This led to our current Gregorian calendar.

The website Earthsky adds that January was also a natural choice based on the Roman feast of Janus, God of beginnings and doorways. Janus was depicted as having two faces, one that looked back into the past and one that looked ahead to the future. A god we can all relate to.

And so we choose this day of all days to celebrate Janus, to look behind us one last time before we start refreshed and reinvigorated. The question then becomes, how do we maintain this enthusiasm, particularly where our writing and reading are concerned? Here are my favorite tips for staying strong in the new year:

5. Build your community. Social media makes it easier than ever to find like minded people who share your love of reading and writing. Whatever your favorite platform is, twitter, instagram, Goodreads, or some other one I don’t even know exists, there are book lovers waiting to connect with other book lovers. Find them, they are your people.

4.  Even when you don’t have time to read all the books, stay up to date on the latest releases, make wish lists even if they are only in your head, and when you are able to commit to a book, you will have a vast selection collected from which to choose. Some great resources for finding books are Bookriot, Litpick, and NPR.

3. Steal time. Steal time to write and to read. Don’t wait for permission from anyone. Forge your own path toward your writing and your reading.

2. Be fearless. Write fearlessly. Read fearlessly. If you hate the book you’ve chosen, give it to charity. Make paper sculptures from its pages. Leave an honest review. But don’t blame yourself for not liking a book, even if its been hyped to the sky. Not every book is for every reader. Don’t try to write for every reader. Write the story you believe in and only that story.

1. If you truly love books and truly want to be a writer, don’t give up. No matter what. If there are days you don’t write or don’t read, that’s okay. Just don’t ever give up. It’s wrong, it will trespass on your soul and leave you feeling empty. Remind yourself that tomorrow you will write. Tomorrow you will read. For as many tomorrows as it takes.

These are my favorite truths to stay inspired. What are yours?

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December Happenings

Hi Everyone!

We had a great book launch on the 10th! Thanks to everyone who came out to join us! I’ll be having another Amazon giveaway soon, so please watch for that.

Today, I have a poem up with Mothers Always Write and you can check it out here. I hope you enjoy it-if you have a daughter, you will understand where this poem came from.

I’ve just finished my fall semester at work, grades are in (I’m SO happy about that) and I will be spending the next two weeks getting some projects ready for submission. I hope that you’ll get to spend this holiday season doing some of the things that you love to do.

If you read Leaving Kent State and are so inclined, please leave a review for it on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, the indie store where you bought it, or Goodreads. Reviews really help readers to decide to take a chance on an unfamiliar author, so leaving a review is a great way to let someone else find a book you’ve enjoyed.

If you’re ordering from an indie bookstore, you may want to mention that LKS is available through Baker & Taylor as well as Ingram. If your ordering site says temporarily out of stock, please go ahead and order, as my publisher is busy printing and will have them to you in the shake of a lamb’s tail (or two!) It shouldn’t take more than seven days to get it shipped out to you.

Stay warm!

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Leaving Kent State Giveaway!

Hi Everyone!

I”ll be giving away the bookmarks featured here to celebrate the release of Leaving Kent State on Friday. To win one of these handmade bookmarks, leave a comment below or visit my twitter and retweet the giveaway (@writeawhile). The giveaway ends this Friday, so hurry!

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Five Star Review for Leaving Kent State

img_3885I am happy to share that Leaving Kent State has received a five star review from a student reviewer at Litpick. You can read the review here.

The book will be available in just ten days, but you can pre-order here at Amazon.

Our book launch party will be December 10th at Mystery Lovers Bookshop in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, but you may pre-order through them (give an indie some love, please!) here.

Thanks for your support, and Happy Reading!

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