Saturday, January 5, 2013

October Mourning

One of the highlights of NCTE 2012 for me was sitting next to Leslea Newman at a dinner party.  The dinner was lovely, we shared great conversation, and lots of laughter was floating around the table.  Strangers who shared a bit of time together.  After dessert, we circulated to the other three tables and had books signed by the other authors (those posts are coming).  Delightful.
     In the airport and on the flight home, I read her book October Mourning:  A Song for Matthew Shepard* and I only wish I had read it before dinner.  I know that it's made its way onto several award lists (including the Nerdies) since that time.  Ms. Newman's book is a lasting tribute to Matthew Shepard, whose life ended far too early and whose senseless death is unimaginable.  Fortunately, Ms. Newman found the courage and respect to tell Matthew's story.  As I was sitting the airport reading, tears were welling in my eyes (read the poem "Every Mother's Plea" and you'll understand).  Ms. Newman's honest, poignant, and compassionate story is heart-wrenching.  Her sixty-eight poems capture the horrific events of that October night from the points-of-view of everyone and everything that surrounded his death, including the moon, the fencepost, the sheriff, his mother, the rope... it's not an easy read, but an important one.  
     As a writer, you'll notice many tools Leslea used to weave her incredible piece.  You'll notice that she shares an explanation of the poetic forms she used when writing the text.  You'll notice that she included an explanation of epigraphs used throughout the text.  You'll notice that the "Afterward" is just as important as the poems contained in her story.  You'll notice that writers who take on tough subjects can do so with grace and honor, even when writing about tough subjects.  You'll notice that writers who have passion produce amazing results.  You'll notice that when a writer writes with purpose, the reader is changed forever.
     If we were having dinner tonight it would still be lovely, we'd still share great conversation, and lots of laughter would float around the table.  Strangers who shared a bit of time together would still leave all the better.  After dessert, I would have leaned to my left and said, "Thank you!"  Thank you, Leslea.

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*(the only reason I put it down in the airport was because some of my Ohio friends were at the next gate and we had to visit a bit before we both took off... but that's another story).  


  1. Thank you for this lovely post! I hope more shared dinner parties are in our future!