Supporting Trans Kids Means Finding Empathy

I haven’t posted in SO long! Mostly I’ve been writing about transgender stuff in private. But it’s Pride Month, and I’m feeling full of pride. And I need something fresh on this blog!

Most of my private writing has been about exploring sadness–something I’m not used to feeling, let alone writing about. It seems to be a thing that happens to people in midlife. We become softer. Things seem to move us more easily. At least, that’s how it is for me. I’d like to think this is the beginning formation of wisdom. Wisdom is definitely on my list of goals as I tiptoe into old age. One thing I’m beginning to grow wise about is Empathy. Having a transgender kid has unlocked layers of empathy in me that I didn’t know I lacked. So, here is my first post in around two years. If you like it, and want to read another post I wrote about being the parent of a transgender teen, read this one, too, called Love In the Time of Transition.



At first, Empathy came at me like a fire tornado. I’d given birth to my first child and my world suddenly filled with the sounds of an inconsolable screeching baby. Warm baths didn’t help. Car rides didn’t sooth my child. Fresh air and long walks only served to alert my neighbors of my baby’s discomfort. One thing that would work for about five minutes was holding the baby tightly to my chest as I jumped on my bed—queen mattresses stacked on the floor of our small apartment. Those 5-minute increments were so precious that I jumped for hours a day and eventually broke two box-spring mattresses in the 3 months of colic. Changing my diet seemed to help, too, though I could never pinpoint the hows or whys of it.

But mostly nothing I did would make the baby quiet down or fix the problem. My child was much more than a problem to be fixed. My child was too real and too human. Too suffering of something the world called Colic but didn’t understand enough to treat effectively. I cried along with my child, desperately wishing away this thing my baby was suffering. Then, exhausted, I had that eye-of-the-storm moment of quiet amidst chaos, where I closed my eyes, let go of my struggle, and accepted that this wasn’t my fight. I wasn’t a terrible mother. Sometimes babies hurt and adults couldn’t intervene with solutions. At best, I played a supporting role. While I held my baby and whispered that we were in this together, my crying moved from frustration and anger and willful desperation for change and became crying because my baby was hurting. It was pure. My child hurt. I hurt.

Weeks later, I rocked my baby to sleep. The screeching had waned to a general fussiness to an eventual general calm and overall well-being. I felt moved by the way my child had grown into a healthier happier baby. Perhaps it had to do with how I changed my diet and held him close, but mostly it seemed that he did it on his own, in my general vicinity. I felt moved that a human so tiny could have that much independence, will, and strength. I was incredibly proud to bear witness.

Seventeen years later, when this same kid came out to me as transgender, empathy would whisper uncomfortably in my ear as I quietly struggled to call my child by a different name and use different pronouns. I was that new mom all over again whose role was to hold my child close and give reassurance that we were in this together even though mostly I cried and secretly wished it away—a bias I’d face later. A trans life is not a lesser one. That’s wrong thinking.

Once again, my child suffered. This time in silence. It was something the world called Transgender and again didn’t understand enough to treat effectively—not physically, socially, or politically. Suddenly my world was filled with the sounds of a name and pronouns that felt like lies every time I said them. It was a stranger’s name. It was a stranger’s pronouns. I messed up all the time, which I knew hurt my child’s feelings. I worried about the weirdest things: Did putting my child in gender-neutral clothing cause this? What happened in Utero? Did my diet screw up my child’s hormones?

When my child came out as trans, the bathroom bill in North Carolina had just become newsworthy, which added to my worries. Indiana was introducing it’s own bill. And now my in-laws were coming to town for Thanksgiving. I asked my child what name and pronouns to use when family came to town. My child wasn’t ready to come out to them yet and asked us to go back to the birth name and birth pronouns while they were here. Though the name and pronouns were incorrect, the relief I felt was akin to when my baby was colicky, had cried for hours, and had finally fallen asleep. It washed over me fully. I knew it was temporary, but man it felt so good.

When family left town and I had to return to my child’s gender-affirming name and pronouns, my anxiety set in again. But I could sense relief washing over my child. Oh, I thought. I get it. It was a very small but real understanding of the incongruity my child felt. It wasn’t an eye-of-the-storm moment this time so much as quiet nudge that reminded me I wasn’t a terrible mother—that sometimes children hurt and adults can’t intervene with solutions. So my crying moved from ignorance and willful desperation for change and became crying because my child was hurting. It was pure. My child hurt. I hurt. I don’t presume to fully know what it’s like to be trans, but I felt the truth of my child’s identity for the first time that day. He was my son and always had been. Empathy had crept in.

Weeks later, I would stand at a rally, and watch my son give a speech on the Statehouse steps asking his community to fight for his rights. He was counting on us since he was too young to vote. I was moved that this now healthier and happier teenager could have that much independence, will, and strength. I was moved by the confidence he had to tell his community that he was proud to be trans and that someday he hoped he’d be proud to be trans in Indiana. Perhaps his bravery and confidence had something to do with how I found empathy and supported him, but mostly it seemed that he did it on his own, in my general vicinity. And I was incredibly proud to bear witness.

We know support of Trans youth matters. A 2012 study found that 57% of transgender youth who did not have supportive parents attempted to commit suicide in the past year, while just 4% of transgender youth with “very supportive” parents did. I learned at the National PFLAG Convention in October that our LGBTQ+ youth still overwhelmingly come out to their families via text, letter, email, or third party because they are scared they may have to live with the memory of their parents non-affirming reaction. Support can come in many forms, but it must first come in the form of empathy. Our transgender kids—like all kids—can and will grow into incredible adults with or without us. If we parents don’t show up with empathy, if we don’t choose to bear witness, we’ll miss out on their most dignified and courageous moments of growth.

I Have a Son


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His name is August.

It’s strange to read it, I know. It’s strange to write it, and I’ve had months to get used to the idea.

A lump rises in my throat as I write it. I’ve asked myself many times why I struggle to look forward to being around the (freer and happier) son who’s been there all along instead of grieving the daughter, Eleanor, I thought I had. But it remains a struggle. It’s going to be a while, I think, before the strangeness melts away.

It’s hard to know how to approach my community with this. I’ve been working on this post for days. August’s coming out isn’t as simple as just telling people I have a transgender son on a need-to-know basis because we’re all going to have to adjust to using a new name and new pronouns. It’s going to feel strange for all of us. We’ll probably all have more questions than we’re comfortable asking or maybe we won’t know what to say to each other or to August at all.

Personally, I envisioned myself the parent that says the hardy, courageous, and inspiring thing to her suddenly-more-vulnerable kid who’s on a path the world hasn’t embraced, a path many won’t acknowledge is even there. I want to say to August, “BE YOU no matter what because you’ll give the world your best talents and your best love when you’re honest about who you are.” But this time it’s just harder to say it. Not that he even needs me to say this. He’s confident enough without my cheerleading. But wouldn’t life be so much easier for August if he didn’t have to get people on board who knew him as a girl? If he didn’t have to worry about legalities and additional oppression? If he didn’t have to worry about medical decisions and insurance? If so many things…?

As if hiding who he is and pretending he’s a girl for the rest of his life would be easier.

Is that what I want for my kids: an easy life? An easi-er life? An easy-ish life? Well, that’s naive of me.

So I’m putting that aside to face August’s transition, which is really more of a transition for us. What we will now see on the outside is what has always been locked in August’s heart and mind. It’s a complicated, emotional human experience. So is coping with cancer or getting pregnant at the exact wrong time or losing a pregnancy or going through a divorce or shedding a religious belief or any number of things that involves losing love and finding love–sometimes at the same time.

It’s what we humans do.

Any of these complicated, emotional human experiences can be wholly awkward to deal with.

So, if you feel strange or don’t know how to feel about August transitioning, we get it. We’re a mix of “Yay!” and “Huh.” and “Eek.” And “Are you sure?”

Yes. He’s sure. It’s us who aren’t.

So we’ll say awkward things to each other and to August (that are born of respect and kindness but may get lost along the way), but the important thing is that we say them to each other–that we’re all vulnerable enough with each other that we allow each other to roll around in the awkward of love, loss, and change and come through to acceptance together.

That being said, I’ve turned off the comments on this post to keep the trolls away. Friends and family members, please feel free to interact with this post on Facebook, by email, or in person if you’d like to.

We understand that a lot of people don’t really get what it means to be transgender. We’re still learning about it, too. What follows are some good transgender resources (articles, comics, videos, etc.), which August and I found together. They range in depth, scope, and perspective.

One last thing. Our family is so incredibly appreciative that there are resources available right at our fingertips: to learn about transgenderism, to find support groups, and to interact with people who have similar stories. The Internet isn’t always a place for shaming or bullying others. Thanks to all those people who wrote the articles, provided support, and shared their stories so that we could find them.


Here’s a basic FAQ of Trans Questions and answers from PFLAG (New York chapter). What is PFLAG? Learn about it here. Our family is a member of this tremendous organization (Indianapolis chapter). If you’re interested in coming to a meeting with us, let us know.

To understand more about the gender spectrum and gender identity, explore this site: but these pages are especially good: and

Some more trans basics in video format (annoyingly blurry, but good info) explained by transgender male, Tony: Trans 101

A quick word from transgender teenager, Alex, about gender identity

Hear transgender teenager, Benton, answer the question “When did you know you were trans?”: HOW DID I KNOW I WAS TRANS?

Benton Coming Out (live)A really cool video where he comes out to his class and explains the difference coming out made to his quality of life

Listen to transgender male, Chase, explain gender dysphoria

Understanding the difference between your child’s sex and his or her gender identity with parent, Jodie Patterson: Mom, I’m not a Girl I love this mom! She’s my new hero.

More from Jodie Patterson on accepting our kids for what is in their heads and hearts, not for what their bodies look like: Raising Penelope

Read about some transgender misconceptions

Here are some tips on How to Respect a Transgender Person 

Here’s a comic about what not to ask a transgender person: Trans Trip-Up; Read also: No, you may not ask about my son’s genitals

Words from some other parents of trans kids: 8 Things Parents Want You to Know



Rejections, Hardiness, and 9/11


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This is a photo of Eleanor and me from 1999, I think. I was looking for one from 2001, but I’m terrible at keeping photos and memories organized. But basically when I think back on 9/11, I remember that Eleanor was too small to undeIMG_2109r-stand what was going on and had the world in front of her. So did I. So much of the person she was becoming was hidden from me. I had no idea how I would or could influence her; mostly I just wanted her to take a damn nap. I’d given birth before I’d even chosen a career path. In a couple years, this little girl will say something funny that inspires me to write a picture book that will go on to get rejected. But I’ll fall in love with writing. I’ll keep at it, eventually moving on to YA novels that I’ll be positive will sell before she graduates from high school. I’ll be wrong. But, I’ll still keep at it.

I’ll start a blog, which celebrates both the absurdity and wonder of the teenage years and the angst and joy of parenting. The kids will become teens, so I’ll write less about them because dang, I never really asked permission in the first place and maybe I’ve been kind of invading their privacy. And I’ll grow weary of not having good writerly news to share, so my blog will grow cold.

This is my first post in about a year. All in all, writing has been a less enjoyable journey than I thought it would be. This month, for instance, I was reminded to renew my SCBWI membership, which marked my 10th year with this beautiful organization. It also reminded me that it’s been over ten years now that I’ve been collecting rejections. This week brought three book rejections, which marks a new milestone: I’ve officially tipped the scale at over 100 rejections since my career start. I’ve been a little wallowy.

On the bright side, Eleanor and Magnolia are teens who happen to enjoy reading and talking about books, even my books. We also love talking about other life stuff, for instance the weirdness of high school and what the future holds. Where most parents feel estranged from their teens, I’ve never felt closer to my kids. This is a rare and remarkable thing that I treasure. Eleanor, now a senior, has herself fallen in love with writing and joined my critique group. I’m in my golden age of parenting. I feel weepy when I think of my kids leaving for college. I’m not a weeper. Josh is the weeper. Eleanor once said something like, “Yeah, my dad cries over poetry, TV shows, baby animal videos. There’s something at least once a month. But if I see my mom cry? Shit. Something is going down.” Well, college is about to go down.

This morning as I was scrolling 9/11 anniversary Facebook posts, Eleanor asked me if I wanted to read her college essay. Yes. Of course I did. I haven’t asked her if it’s okay to share any of it, so I’ll only say that I wept when she said her mother had been one of the fiercest and hardiest people she’s known–that she’d seen me at war with a myriad of life’s elements (physical and emotional: she mentioned my nerve disorder and the rejections streaming in over the years) that perhaps helped her raise her chin, keep her eyes hard, and meet the hard stuff in life head-on.

I mean, duh, of course I wept. It was kind of like, huh, I influence her. And it was kind of like, oh thank god. And it was kind of like, wow, we did it, she’s going to be so good at life. And it was kind of like, oh dang, she’s watching how I deal with rejection.

I wept because my books may fail, but my parenting hasn’t. I want to tell that young mother in the photo that her baby is going to amazing! I want to reach back and tell her to buckle in because she may never have a writing career, but the struggle will not be for nothing. I want to tell her to stop fantasizing about showing her kids what she’ll look like in a successful career because the way they see her in a failing career will shape them beautifully. I still hope for a time they see me succeed at getting a book published, of course. But, that’s a different blog post.

And then I wept because it’s 9/11 and there are mothers that lost out on seeing what their daughters will become. There are daughters who didn’t get to watch their mothers go to war with life. So, it seemed a good time to write a blog post. To be thankful that I was thrown into parenthood and that I’ve gotten to wallow around in both the love and suffering of life.

Throwback Thursday with Shannon Lee Alexander


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Given the trendiness of Throwback Thursday, I’m re-branding my beloved series of guest author posts called “Self-Deprecating Sunday.” Self-Deprecating Sunday started because I’d written a YA novel about a girl in R.O.T.C. in high school. I was looking for photos of myself in my uniform–had to get the description of the uniform just right. I found some of those photos. I’m the one in the ridiculous glasses,  on the right. EPSON MFP imageEven beyond R.O.T.C., it really cracked me up to look back on all the outfits I wore and what I knew was hip and cool, so I started showcasing some of that on my blog. So much of being a teen is about exploring your identity; it’s partly why I love writing about teens. We all get through the awkward years–some of us with more flair than others, and it is fun to look back. Young adult authors around the Internet joined in with me to celebrate their youthful escapes.

Today, I’m thrilled to have my friend and Critique Partner (Capitalized because she’d just that good), and debut author, Shannon Lee Alexander, join me for our first installment of Throwback Thursday! Her wonderful novel, Love and Other Unknown Variables hit shelves Tuesday and is getting some beautiful reviews.

So without further ado, here’s Shannon Lee Alexander doing her Throwback Thursday thing:

My family moved to a small southern town when I was in fifth grade. I immediately met two amazing friends, my Em, to whom Love and Other Unknown Variables is dedicated, and Avery, who was the kind of friend you could just be with. Also, her mom had a shiny tiara and a scepter encased in a glass table in their living room, which I always thought was pretty cool.

My parents were Yankees. They’re totally southerners now, but back then, we were all somewhat confused by southern customs. For example, barbecue did not mean cooking out on the grill. It was some strange, vinegary, shredded pork concoction that southern people would go to war over if someone were to question its honor.

And then there was cotillion. Everyone assured my mother that every proper southern young lady should be attending cotillion. And while I was not so good at proper, I was desperate to fit in, so I begged to go. Basically, at cotillion, boys and girls at the awkward age of thirteen are forced to learn ballroom dancing. I was slightly tall, and hated sticking out, so of course, EVERY SINGLE TIME I’d end up paired with the shortest boy in class. It was unpleasant for us both.

I think maybe etiquette was taught, too, but by that time in the evening I was too overwhelmed from having to dance with a boy to pay attention. I just wanted the watered down lemonade and cheap cookies that were calling to me from the refreshment table in the corner of the room.

Today’s picture is of Avery and me dressed for the first shannon TBTcotillion. My dad was pretending to be grumpy about us going off to dance with boys. We’re laughing, but inside I wanted to cry. Growing up is a strange Tango of wanting to be grown and wanting to stay small.

As a fun aside, Avery and I fell out of touch during college, but recently rediscovered our friendship. Our shared love of reading brought us back together. Her blog, Flutters and Flails, is even featured on the back cover of Love and Other Unknown Variables, which was a fun surprise to us both!

Thank you, Shannon, for joining me. I’m so happy you’ve stopped by the blog. Readers, check out Love and Other Unknown Variables, a beautiful story of love, hope and ache of growing up.

And, if you’re a YA writer and wish to be featured on Throwback Thursday (formerly Self-Deprecating Sunday), please contact me at jody(dot)mugele(at)gmail(dot)com, or leave a comment.

Jody’s Author Bucket List Challenge


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Shannon Lee Alexander, friend, critique partner, and 2014 debut novelist whose book, Love and Other Unknown Variables, is releasing from Entangled Teen on October 7, challenged me to share my Author Bucket List. You can see Shannon’s list here on her blog. And you can pre-order her book, here. It’s a wonderful book I can’t recommend highly enough if you’re into YA books with heart, humor, and hope. See how perfect the cover is? jpegI love it.

And here’s the blurb (I pulled from Amazon): Charlie Hanson has a clear vision of his future. A senior at Brighton School of Mathematics and Science, he knows he’ll graduate, go to MIT, and inevitably discover solutions to the universe’s greatest unanswered questions. He’s that smart. But Charlie’s future blurs the moment he reaches out to touch the tattoo on a beautiful girl’s neck.


The future has never seemed very kind to Charlotte Finch, so she’s counting on the present. She’s not impressed by the strange boy at the donut shop—until she learns he’s a student at Brighton where her sister has just taken a job as the English teacher. With her encouragement, Charlie orchestrates the most effective prank campaign in Brighton history. But, in doing so, he puts his own future in jeopardy.


By the time he learns she’s ill—and that the pranks were a way to distract Ms. Finch from Charlotte’s illness—Charlotte’s gravitational pull is too great to overcome. Soon he must choose between the familiar formulas he’s always relied on or the girl he’s falling for (at far more than 32 feet per second squared).

So, now bucket list. I think I’m supposed to do 10 items. I’m not sure I have 10. We’ll find out. These are in no particular order except for number 1, but here are some things I’d like to experience as an author:


1. Publish a novel. No-brainer.

     A) See my Publisher’s Wbucketeekly announcement for the first time
     B) See my ISBN number for the first time
     C) See my book cover for the first time
     D) See my mom, dad, sister, husband, kids hold my book for the first time
     E) Worry about book 2 instead of book 1
2. See a stranger reading one of my books in real life, like on a plane or a beach or the dentist’s office.
3. Write a screenplay. Maybe. The first long work I ever wrote was a stage play. It was utterly awful, but man, it was fun. It would be so much to learn to write a stage play or a screenplay well. But first I need to write a few more novels. I’m a slow learner.
4. See one of my novels become a movie.
     A) A good movie
     B) Adapt one myself, maybe?
5. See a YA book by Jody Sparks shelved next to a YA book by Jerry Spinelli, preferably Stargirl. It’s my favorite.
6. Speak at a conference–about writing. Big or small, whatever. The hardest thing will be trying not to accidentally curse. I love it so much.
7. Publish picture books. Funny ones. Toddler humor is the best.
8. See my kid(s) get published. If they want that.
     A) Ask them to sign their book(s) for me
     B) Bask
9. Write a series or a sequel. I generally prefer reading and writing stand-alone books, but ya know, why not?
10. Collect enough author-signed YA books that my library is envied. This is ridiculous and embarrassing. But there it is.


I should probably have loftier list items and it should probably include more things about meeting and working with other authors. Maybe things will look different once I start actually publishing books. Number 1 still feels like a massive hurdle. Now, who do I challege? Erin McCahan, Tina Ferraro, and Tammara Webber.



Ebola–Close to Home


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Here’s the thing: my husband could’ve been Kent Brantly. He stood in JFK Hospital JoshuaMugelein Monrovia, Liberia while their first Ebola patient came in. My perspective as a wife was first to be angry and irrational–why did you go back to Liberia? Holy shit. Get out of there now. Et cetera.

He did get out of there. His incubation period passed, and I knew he’d be fine. Obviously I was relieved.

Then Kent Brantly’s story hit the news. I felt for his wife. I wondered if she’d be a widow. I wondered a lot about what it would be like to be a widow.

As these wifely thoughts percolated, Josh filled in details about his experiences in Liberia. We often have our morning coffee on the porch together. And Josh brought back some wonderful coffee from Dr. Brisbane’s plantation. As we sipped our rich coffee, Josh frowned at how the nurses rationed gloves. His brow pinched together as he wondered if JFK would have to close down, and how would people get their medicines?, and think of the pregnant mothers who can’t get to the hospital. (As of today, the hospital had closed, but was reopened.) Josh speculated about the doctors and staff getting Ebola. His eyes became teary. “There aren’t enough doctors, already.” He didn’t say anything about regretting leaving Liberia because that’s not something you say to your wife.

Then we got word that Dr. Brisbane had indeed gotten Ebola. Soon after, word came that he died. I never knew him, but I’ve been there while Josh grieves his friend, so I’m sure Dr. Brisbane was a wonderful man. (I still can’t seem to brew that last pot of Monrovian coffee from Dr. Brisbane’s plantation.)

Then another Liberian doctor died. And some of the staff.

The news crews came. Josh was interviewed five or seven times, I think. I was struck, but not surprised, by how much was edited down–the parts about real people dying and about a Liberian hospital in need of things as basic as gloves and power cords–while the fear that Ebola could come to America was reported over and over. It’s a valid fear, but only one part of the story.

In other news, Kent Brantly and Nancy were coming home for treatment. I was happy for Kent’s wife. She wasn’t going to be a widow. America can contain and treat two cases of Ebola.

But what about the Liberian doctors? What about the Liberian widows?

All my thankfulness that my husband was home safe got wadded up with the realness of people dying and the unfairness of white vs. brown and rich vs. poor and educated vs. uneducated. It’s a strange, sad entanglement. I’m married to a man who has an important skill. He’s promised to his family–a husband and father, and he’s committed to skillfully treat sick and dying people and manage disasters. It has suddenly become harder to ask him to choose the family–harder, but not impossible. I’m selfish for me and my kids. I do not wish to be a widow.

Dr. Brisbane (and many others) made a choice to keep doctoring the people of Liberia. He could’ve retired to his coffee plantation. But he went to work at the hospital. And it cost him his life. His wife is widow. Fourteen kids lost their dad.

Josh was recently published in the New England Journal of Medicine. He wrote an essay about Dr. Brisbane and his sacrifice. It is a beautiful and well-written essay. You should read it.

There are things we can do. We can help Liberian nurses get gloves. We can help Liberian doctors get equipment they need to stay safe while treating patients. There can be fewer widows and orphans. Please consider donating to The Dr. Sam Brisbane Fund. (If you want to hear Josh discuss how the  money will help, watch this video.)

An R-rated Post about Editing


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Fair Warning: this post is nasty. If you like your editing like you like your Cards Against Humanity, then you’ve found your people.

I’ve often said my critique group (Lovingly referred to as the YA Cannibals) is my church. They’re my support group for all things writing. When I’m losiwriteng faith in the nebulous world of publishing, I lean on them. They accept me “just as I am,” but not my writing just as it is. No. They forgive it for it’s sins, but demand a more faithful offering the next time around. And occasionally, Instead of telling me, “This line is boring,” or “This section isn’t moving the plot along,” etc., Rob shows me that I’ve got some work to do. Rob takes the cardinal rule of writing very seriously.

One result is that most of the sentences or events surrounding the edits have changed in my manuscript, if not exactly as Rob suggests. Another result is: I’ll never see my sweet characters the same again.

Sidebar: Rob’s writing is truly excellent and if you’re into zombies, you should definitely read his zombie books, All Together Now and All Right Now.

Here’s a preliminary pitch for what the book is about (You may have seen a different pitch on the blog earlier, but the book has since changed a bit): 

Tam’s never felt at home with the way her parents examine her life under a microscope–sometimes literally. But that’s okay, because Tam, Carl, and Imogen have been their own nation, under God, indivisible with predictability and friendship for all ever since their moms met at a fertility clinic 18 years ago. But when Tam’s Golden Retriever, Honey, viciously attacks Imogen leaving her entangled in physical and emotional scars from what seemed to be a freak incident, Imogen becomes distant. And Carl and Tam become closer as they uncover the sinister truth behind Honey’s attack–a truth about cloning that not only threatens the lifelong friendship, but may threaten their identities and even their lives.

And now, Rob’s edits:

  • She clawed at Imogen’s thighs vagina, her head jerking back and forth, trying to rip through Imogen’s jeans.
  • Her hair and face were sticky with sweat. She covered my eyes vagina.
  • Mom took her hand off my eyes vagina. “Tam, call an ambulance.”
  • “James,” Mom said as she pressed her other hand against Imogen’s leg vagina, “We need to stop the bleeding.
  • I forced myself up and hurried, still shaking, to the kitchen where I’d left my phone in my backpack vagina.
  • Dad was crouched down next to them with his head cradled in his head vagina, breathing hard.
  • So I sat with Mom, head and eyes down, trying to ignore the hospital vagina smell and the intensity of all the other people waiting for their loved ones.  
  • She put her arm around me and kissed the top of my head vagina.
  • My foot vagina was bouncing my leg up and down.
  • I didn’t know if Mom was cursing because of what I said about Honey or because Imogen’s mom was walking toward us so fast that her lavender, oversized vagina scrubs were was sticking to her like a flag caught on it pole.
  • He always jammed his hand in his hair vagina and tugged at it a little when he was stressed.
  • Carl stuck his hand in his windblown vagina hair.
  • Carl’s shirt vagina was wrinkled, smudged, and wet from where I’d had my face all over it.
  • But as I watched Officer Greene come closer, (vagina) lips tightened across his rectangular face, I suspected that protective sentiment wasn’t true of pets gone wild.
  • I clenched my jaw vagina to keep from saying anything else.
  • I squeezed my eyes vagina shut like it could turn off the valve that released the urge to cry.
  • I stretched my calves vagina and quads, and set off down the dirt road.
  • I don’t remember falling asleep, but I woke up to light knocking on my door vagina.
  • My hand went over my mouth vagina like Mom’s did when she didn’t know what else to say or do.
  • Her favorite coffee mug sat empty next to her—the one that said, “vaginas women who behave, rarely make history.”
  • Mom pursed her lips vagina.
  • The children seem to love baking, and I am pleased to watch them work together to fill gaps in their development, giving them the best chance for a brain vagina that’s healthy and strong.
  • I missed his new sweater and his shirt and tie when I caught a whiff of his hoodie vagina as he took his seat, but forest green was a good color on him.
  • When I got home from school, Mom was snacking on popcorn vagina at the kitchen island.
  • “You’re fussing with the piping on the couch and your foot vagina is bouncing up and down like you’re revving up to run out of here.”
  • Horse and Buggy Wet Bottom Shoe Fly vagina Pie,” Carl said.
  • “Thanks,” he said, twitching his nose vagina and regaining his personal space.
  • “I know. But it would explain … Sugar’s records vagina.”
  • He licked his lips and rubbed his hands on his thighs. Sweaty palms vagina I presumed.
  • “And it must have been scary and painful as hell to have a dog’s rage vagina like … on you.”
  • My stomach vagina felt gross.
  • He rubbed my shoulders vagina up and down.
  • He wore a polo tucked into tight jeans that were bulging with vagina technology, keys, and his wallet.
  • My hand crept up his chest vagina and around his neck and he put his hand in my hair vagina nervously.
  • I slapped my hand vagina down on the table. “NO ONE is a third wheel. Got it?”
  • I was drumming my fingers against my thigh vagina.
  • Dad swept Imogen’s long hair away from her face and rocked her, his bearded chin resting on top of her head vagina.
  • I groaned, my vagina stomach turning to frenzied sort of sludge.
  • His arm wrapped vagina’d around me.
  • I felt my vagina jaw clenching.
  • “Too late for that. She just caught you red-vagina-ed handed.”
  • I’d found his weak spot, so I lingered, tracing my tongue along the edge of his soft, cool ear vagina.
  • “A hooded vagina rat?” he asked.
  • He had four wrinkles in his forehead vagina. He was sweaty.
  • Before Mom could answer, another cop was in my face vagina.
  • He was an older black man with graying hair shaved close to his face vagina.
  • Her voice vagina caught in her throat.
  • My voice vagina was all jammed up in my throat.


Donate (YA) Books and Boost Adult Literacy


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IndyReadsAd1So, I posted on Facebook yesterday that I’m excited to be a teen “shelf curator” for Indy Reads Books, and got a “What’s that mean?” response. So, hey, why not blog about it?

Magnolia and I started volunteering at Indy Reads in June. Besides being a beautiful and inviting bookstore with a friendly staff (and the only bookstore downtown Indianapolis), it’s a not-for-profit business. The majority of books sold come from donations and support Indy Reads, an organization with a mission “to promote and improve the literacy of adults and families in Central Indiana.” It’s been really fun to sort books, organize and shelve books, and see them find lovely new homes.

And given my love for teen literature, I volunteered to help curate the teen section. This means I get to review stock and pick the best YA and teen books to shelve in the store. I also get to recommend awesome books to shoppers–and recommend awesome books for management to purchase new because Indy Reads Books sells new books as well as used books. And if you don’t see what you want in the store, they can always order it for you at a discount.

So if you’re into books, or into helping support a great local Indianapolis business, or want to help improve adult literacy in Indiana, check out the store and buy books. And if you’re into helping me create a really fantastic teen section for young adult readers in my community, consider donating your young adult and teen books. Stop in to the store on Mass Ave., email me, or message me about book donations.

Of Corporate Meetings and Pedal Car Bars


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If you work or have worked in the corporate world, this meme likely resonates with you.

meetingI’ve been out of the corporate setting now for around three months and am more content than I’ve ever been. Instead of worrying if the team will actually adopt a new policy or if the client will actually implement the work we spent hundreds of hours on, I worry that I’m not saying what I want to say in my novel writing or that it won’t resonate with people the way I hope. But even if no one ever reads my fiction, I love the struggle of creating a thing that gives people a sense of personal and universal truth; and that’s what makes my life different now. They’re struggles I choose not struggles someone is paying me to nurture. I often wonder how many people really love their corporate jobs. It’s easy to assume that since it was never my first love that it’s no one’s first love. Maybe it is.

Last night, Josh and I went out on a date and the restaurant we chose was pretty meh. The crowd was not our crowd. The setting wasn’t inviting to us. The food was mediocre. We decided the restaurant was too corporatized. It was owned by a group, and you could tell that it was trying to reach everyone instead of cultivating a single personality of patronage. So that probably influenced what came next. We were sitting outside, and one of those pedal bars came down the street. If you’re not familiar, here’s a picture:


The idea is that you all get drunk and pedal around town while a non-drunkard gets paid to steer. As Josh and I watched it go by, I said, “Do you think anyone is actually having fun on that thing?” And then we started chatting about how it’s the perfect metaphor for corporate life. A group of people come together because someone organized it–and even that guy is sitting there the whole time wondering if he did the right thing and looking around to see if everyone is having fun. Then they all pedal around–some more furiously than others–going nowhere and drinking like crazy to get through it all-the-while never making any collaborative decisions about which way to go. Instead, they very strategically clog the flow of traffic.

I had some great times in my corporate life. I met some of my best friends and worked along some of the best people Indianapolis bred or attracted. I don’t regret it. I just think we’re meant for more than meetings and busywork. Did anyone ever fall in love because of a meeting? Maybe in spite of it. Does anyone ever look back on their life and say, “I remember this one time during a meeting…?” Well, maybe they do, but I’d bet the wonder and meaning of the moment came about because of the people and not the subject or project at hand. Is unrealistic to think that even in your work, you can and should have meaning?



Book Review: Noggin


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I loved this book! Noggin was my first John Corey Whaley novel, and I will certainly be reading more after finishing this funny and nogginbittersweet story that is the perfect follow-up to The Fault in our Stars by John Green or Love, and Other Unknown Variables, by Shannon Lee Alexander, or any other book that  takes you on a journey of loss and grief and teenage love and leaves you with a longing to make the most of life.

Noggin is a story about a teenage boy who has died of cancer but had his head cryogenically frozen until the day when doctors can attach a new body and give him a second chance at life. That day comes only 5 years after his death–much sooner than anyone could’ve hoped for and just long enough that everyone has grieved him and seemingly moved on, including his girlfriend who is now engaged. His parents are acting strange and his best friend isn’t acting himself either. But for Travis, it’s like he’s just had a nap. Adjusting is hard to say the least. And anyway, Travis knows that he’s been given a second chance for a reason, so he does everything in his power to get his old life back. Good idea, Travis. What could possibly go wrong?

I wish I’d thought of this plot. It is such a good metaphor for resisting all that adulthood brings with it–the thing that our beloved characters in The Fault in our Stars and Love and Other Unknown Variables will miss out on. And while we know that our friends in these books would have loved to have had the ache of adulthood, Travis must actually go through it before he’s ready, willing, and able. He does so bravely and stupidly–as you’d expect–and is all the more lovable for it.

I’d love to see this be nominated for the Printz this year. I’ve read a few tremendous books so far this year, and this is certainly one of them. So if you’ve just bawled your eyes out after reading The Fault in our Stars or Love and Other Unknown Variables, pick up Noggin.