Hey everyone! Just a quick note to let y’all know that the winners have been drawn and Caren is in the process of notifying people. I’m not sure who is getting paperback and who’s getting ebook, so I didn’t want to post it incorrectly here.
Congratulations to the winners and thanks to Caren and Ylva for their generosity.
Good morning, people! It’s Sunday morning and I’m in recovery mode from my son’s eleventh birthday party. It involved too much sugar and far too many yelling, running pre-teens. Mercy.
Today, the fabulous Caren J. Werlinger is joining us to share some insight into her newest release, Turning for Home. Her blog post is filled with a beautiful, poetic sort of wisdom, and I hope y’all enjoy the read as much as I did.
One last thing, Ylva has graciously offered to give away FOUR copies of Turning for Home, two ebook and two paperback. I don’t think the paperback will be signed as they are coming directly from Germany, but you never know. Maybe one of the fabulous women from Ylva can clarify that for us. Regardless, there are FOUR books up for grabs. Leave a comment in the space below and I will draw the winner this upcoming Friday, March 27.
Different Kinds of Different
by Caren J. Werlinger
It is one of the ironies of life that we don’t truly appreciate some things until we can look back on them from the perspective of time.
Growing up has always been tricky terrain for kids who are different – different for whatever reason. I’m not sure that will ever change. Just a few weeks ago, Graham Moore revealed during his Academy Award acceptance speech that he attempted suicide when he was sixteen. “I felt weird and I felt different, and I felt like I did not belong.”
I knew as I was growing up in the 60s and 70s that I was lucky. I’ve written before about how I felt like a misfit growing up, but I had wonderful parents and fantastic friends who accepted my quirks. High school was actually a time I look back on fondly, unlike many people whose memories are horrific. But as I was working on my latest novel, Turning for Home, I re-examined my own growing up as I created characters for this story.
I am one of those who has always known I was gay. From my earliest memories, I knew I wanted a girl to like me, and I was always the hero in my games of make-believe. Even though I knew I was different in that way, it didn’t isolate me. I had lots of friends and always got into the four-square or baseball games during recess. Not like Eric Spain.
Did your school have that one weird kid, the one nobody wanted to play with or be friends with? Graham Moore might say he was that kid. In my elementary school, it was Eric. My memories of him are of a big kid, kind of lumpy and heavy, wearing clothes that weren’t too clean. He was kind of smelly (but probably all of us were, coming back in after playing outside on a hot day). He didn’t have any friends. He just kind of hung around, watching everyone else play. One day in third grade, I asked him if he wanted to play catch. He had a baseball mitt and ball. I had my mitt that day. I don’t know if anyone had ever asked him if he wanted to play. We played catch that day and for the next several. But he was so lonely, he wanted to play with me every day. I didn’t mind being his friend, but I didn’t want to be his only friend. I think I finally told him I wanted to play with other kids sometimes. I’m sure I hurt his feelings. We did play together sporadically after that, but it was always just the two of us. He was never welcome to join in with the other kids.
I hadn’t thought of Eric for years, until I began working on Turning for Home. I was thinking about the character of Hobie and remembered Eric. Suddenly, Hobie came fully to life.
The year after third grade, we moved, and I left Eric behind. By the time I got to high school, I had a wide circle of acquaintances, but there were four of us who were particularly tight. Two of us were lesbian, not that we had girlfriends or anything while in high school. I cannot explain why, but, within our little group, it was okay to be gay. I wasn’t stupid enough to think it would be like that with everyone, but as we fantasized about crushes on movie stars and singers and teachers, I felt free to gush about Barbra Streisand and Olivia Newton-John and my Spanish teacher. It was never a weird thing among the four of us.
When I was a sophomore, I developed a huge crush on a senior girl. I thought she was gorgeous. Rather than ridiculing me and rejecting my clumsy efforts at letting her know how much I adored her (including a bouquet of roses snipped from the neighbor’s bushes in the middle of the night), she was actually nice. She could have made my life a living hell, but she didn’t. She was nothing but kind to me, even though she most definitely was not gay.
The older I get, the more I realize how blessed and protected I was from the slings and arrows that accost so many teens, especially those growing up different.
In my story, my main character, Jules, was practically the last one to realize she was lesbian. She was a misfit for a lot of other reasons: a prickly tomboy being raised by her grandparents after her mother took off; a girl the other girls didn’t particularly like. Her best friend was Hobie, another misfit.
A generation later, a teen who lives in Jules’s hometown and attends the same high school reaches out to her. Unlike Jules, Ronnie already knows and accepts that she is gay. She has no friends, no one in whom she can confide, but in many ways, she’s a stronger person than Jules was at that age.
I find it interesting that, even as people gush about how much more open today’s teens can be about their sexuality, and how fluid that concept has become, there are still a lot of LGBT teens living in small towns with absolutely no support. A lot of attention has been paid to homeless LGBT youth in cities, but for those still in their small towns, those kids are often truly isolated, with no means of finding others like them. As Jules notes in the novel, the Internet makes it easier to be aware of what’s out there, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into making it more accessible. And kids don’t just feel different because they’re LGBT. There are lots of different kinds of different.
I hope they listen to Graham Moore’s inspiring message. “Stay weird. Stay different.”
Caren J. Werlinger is the author of seven novels, which have won two GCLS Awards and a Rainbow Award. She still works a day job as a physical therapist in Virginia where she lives with her partner and two canine fur-kids.