Thursday, December 17, 2009
The Thursday Excerpt
I had the pleasure of meeting Kathy last year at the Book 'Em Festival in Virginia and she's always full of smiles! Her excerpt is from her upcoming release, MOCKINGBIRD.
Synopsis of MOCKINGBIRD (Penguin / Philomel April 2010):
In Caitlin’s world, everything is black or white. Things are good or bad. Anything in between is confusing. That’s the stuff Caitlin’s older brother, Devon, has always explained. But now Devon’s dead, and her father cries a lot. Caitlin wants to get over it, but as an eleven-year-old girl with Asperger’s, she doesn’t know how. When she reads the definition of “closure” in the dictionary, she realizes that is what she and her father need. In her search for Closure, Caitlin discovers that not everything is black and white--the world is full of colors--messy and beautiful, and it is through this discovery that she embarks on a road which leads her to find both healing and Closure.
Excerpt from MOCKINGBIRD:
At home I go to my hidey-hole in Devon’s room. I take his piece of notebook paper with me. The one that says EAGLE SCOUT PROJECT. The one with the list of supplies for his chest. The one that says he’s going to teach me. I stare at the list trying to find Closure. I keep hoping that somehow the Devon-ness of the list will give me the answer but it doesn’t.
I look up at Devon’s carving of SCOUT and wonder if I can still be Scout if the person who called me Scout is now gone. I still want to be Scout for him. Devon said, If you want to be a Scout you have to Work At It. I know he was talking about Boy Scouts and Eagle Scouts but he also said that about anything I had to do. You have to Work At It Scout. I KNOW, I told him because he said it a lot lot lot and sometimes I don’t want to hear the same thing over and over and over. Especially if it’s hard. And Work At It is VERY hard. I Work At It ALL the time. My whole day is Work At It. Sometimes I don’t want to Work At It any more. Like when I FINALLY get my own friend and then Mrs. Brook TAKES HIM AWAY FROM ME! It’s just—too—HARD! It’s—NOT—FAIR!
I hear Dad calling my name but I don’t want to come out of my hidey-hole. I’m busy stuffed-animaling the carving of SCOUT. It’s warm and soft and quiet and safe in here. And I don’t have to Work At It. I’m thinking about staying here. Living here. Forever.
Finally when Dad says, Answer me please Caitlin! I answer because he asked nicely.
The door opens. Caitlin? His voice sounds funny. Are you in here?
I’m under the dresser.
What are you doing in here?
Thinking about what?
Thinking I’m going to stay here and make this my room now.
It was always supposed to be mine. I asked Devon if I could have it.
He’s quiet for a minute. Then he takes a deep breath. When Devon was gone to college.
He IS gone.
I hear the squishy breathy sound of Devon’s mattress squishing. But . . . he’s not just gone to college. He’s gone . . . forever.
I don’t tell Dad that I didn’t ask Devon if I could have his room when he was gone. I asked him a different way.
And Devon said it was a weird way and I shouldn’t say it like that and I asked why.
He said people would get upset.
I don’t want Dad to get upset.
So I don’t say what I really said: Can I have your room when you’re dead?
I think maybe I understand what Devon meant. Because now I have a recess feeling in my stomach.
I slide out from my hidey-hole and crawl past Dad’s shoes to my room. I get a clean piece of paper and make a sign. It says, Devon’s Room, and I draw Devon’s eyes in the top left corner. In the top right corner I draw his mouth with his lips curled up to show he’s happy. I draw his crooked nose in the bottom left corner. His chest is in the bottom right corner. It’s still not finished. And I guess it never will be.
About the Author:
As a resident of Virginia, Kathy Erskine was devastated by the 2007 shootings at Virginia Tech. In the aftermath of this tragedy, Kathy was driven to understand how community and family--especially families with special needs children--dealt with this violent event, and how our lives might be different if we understood each other better. In writing MOCKINGBIRD and telling the story of Caitlin, a young girl with Asperger's syndrome, she walked into the fragile world herself and, like Caitlin, offers us something "good and strong and beautiful."
Kathy was a lawyer for 15 years before turning to her first love, writing. Her novel, QUAKING (Penguin / Philomel 2007), was one of YALSA's Top Ten Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She lives in Virginia with her husband, two children, and her dog, Maxine.
Find Kathy at her website Kathy Erskine & Blog