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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Okay, I'm Taking a Cue from Earl and Getting Some Good Karma

I'm a big fan of public education. I went to public school (and can still sing my alma mater, "To Ridley High, we pledge our faith…"). And I spent the years prior to becoming an author doing PR for a nonprofit that works to improve Philly's inner-city schools. So as an author, I love doing things that showcase public school kids' talents, especially their artistic abilities. And as such, yesterday I got to be a judge for a student art competition. Great, right? Well, the not fun part was that the theme of the work was domestic violence.

The program, run through the Lutheran Settlement House and Mural Arts Program, offered students seminars on the abuses of domestic violence and then asked them to create a work of art that symbolized this theme. Let me tell you, the artwork was amazing. But the themes were incredibly sad, and far too personal. Most of the judges walked away thinking “these kids know TOO MUCH on this topic.”

For example, the contest was broken down into three age categories, and it was very tough to look at an eight-year-old’s drawing of spousal abuse equipped with verbatim dialogue in little cartoon “air bubbles” that seemed far too cruel and realistic to have been imagined. As were the teenagers’ paintings that depicted boyfriends controlling relationships with everything from fists to text messages.

Of all the pieces, there was only one that I thought showed optimism—a colorful painting of a woman having a fantasy of the perfect relationship. I voted for this one. Mostly because it was one of the few that didn’t show an angry male fist, or puppet strings holding up a woman, or a father shaking his son. After taking in all of that, I appreciated the message of hope (though I did still vote for some of those others).

The winning students will have their work displayed in a real art gallery in Olde City, Philadelphia. I can’t wait to go to the opening and meet the artists.

In other news—that has little to do with improving my karma, but might help my book sales—I will be appearing as a panelist at the Baltimore Book Festival. If anyone is in the area on September 27th, stop by the “Young Adult Panel” being sponsored by Book Divas. The event is free and open to the public.

I’m very excited about this speaking engagement. Partly because I’ve attended many conferences in my day, but I’ve never actually been on a panel. (Remember, I used to be a hotel reporter. I know far too much about Marriott’s franchisee brand standards.) And partly because my parents and my sister live in a Baltimore, so I’m guaranteed a cheering section! So come out, buy some books and meet my mom! Now there’s a conference slogan for you :-)

POP-CULTURE RANT: Gymnastics

It’s pretty sad when people who know nothing about gymnastics can watch the events and think the judges are smoking some form of narcotic. Is it just me, or does it seem like the announcers for NBC know more about the sport than the ones doing the scoring? And breaking a gold-medal tie with some convoluted computer program that leaves the end result up to one judge (damn you, Australia!) makes about as much sense as a shoot out at a soccer match. But at least soccer players get a few overtime halves before they have to go to that last resort. Nastia Liukin got bupkis. She ties the “16-year-old” Chinese gymnast (despite landing a better dismount), yet one gets a gold and another a silver all thanks to modern technology. But hey, at the end of the day, it will still be Nastia’s face on the Wheaties box and that’s what matters, right?

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