April 14th, 2009

It's my birthday and I can post if I want to

From yesterday's Publishers Lunch:

April Henry's STOLEN, about a kidnapped blind girl who must escape before she's murdered, to Christy Ottaviano at Christy Ottaviano Books, by Wendy Schmalz at Wendy Schmalz Agency

This deal is not brand spanking new, and the book used to be called Shadows Walking Backward, but there were good reasons to delay the official announcement, and the publisher wanted to change the name.

I think this new partnership with Christy is going to lead to great things!



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Life is strange - a crime reverberates down the years

I was looking through some old journals at entries I had written around my birthday. In 1993, a man shot two Portland visitor guides, killing one, and then carjacked cars, shot more people, etc. The living guide, a 23 year old college studnet, came to our hospital. Everyone wanted to talk to her, but the cops said not to let her until they interviewed her again. My beeper and cell phone kept going off. Bryant Gumble sent her flowers. Someone else snuck into the hospital to try to get a photo of her.

This is what I wrote in 1993:
"The police didn't want her talking to anyone until they had had her positively ID the guy. They also wanted, as evidence, the bullets from her chest and right arm. And for some reason, they didn't want us to tell the media that was the reason they couldn't talk to her. I spent all day on the phone, hedging over and over, while journalists of every stripe begged for a family member to talk to, or a still photo, or something they could show their viewers/readers.

And in between I sat in the hospital room and talked to her and the woman she called her "other mother," watched as that woman brought her lipstick and rubbed oil on her skin so it wouldn't look ashy on the TV screen, ran a pomade through her hair. Her arm was in a cast, part of it was gone, and she told me about how she had wanted to be a surgeon. I use the past tense, but for her it was still in the present tense, that her arm still had the fine motor coordination she would need to perform surgery. Every three or four minutes my beeper would go off and I would leave the room and talk to one more cajolling reporter. Some of them called her room instead of me, in spite the code of cooperation that exists in this state, but were given away when they asked for her by her full name. She was nervous and excited and not hurting much at all. Later, after the detectives finally came and took away the flattened bullets in two baggies, she held her own at a news conference, eyes black and snapping. How had she felt? What had it been like to hear the TV sets in the pawn shop behind her exploding as he shot at her again and again? Was she planning on going back to her job? We escorted her in and out, gave her tips on what to say beforehand. It went well. We left shortly afterward, after congratulating ourselves and her.

Two days later, she called, asking if one of us needed to escort her to the funeral for her co-worker who was killed the same day she was shot. Nah, we really didn't need to do that. The feeding frenzy was over, but she didn't realize it. Now the attention was somewhere else, for a while on the grieving man's family, then later on the victims of some new tragedy. Her arm? I don't know what happened to it. Maybe it works and maybe it doesn't. It will make a good story for new people she meets, but the general public - guided by the media - will never be interested in it again. Too small a story for a "where are they now?" piece. Maybe a sentance in a summary paragraph in a story about the many people touched by crime.
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So today I got curious and googled her. Here's what I learned about what happened next.
- Within the next 18 months, she had a baby. In the next ten years, she had two more.
- A single mom, she met some charming, charismatic guy. She didn't know about his past convictions for domestic assault.
- He moved in with her.
- He choked her.
- They broke up.
- They patched things up.
- They broke up again.
- Smiling, he came by to get his things. When she turned, he hit her dozens of times with a hammer.
- When the cops came, he said he would kill her if they came in.
- They tasered him twice.
- At his trial, he said she hit him first.
- Now he's in prison.

I wonder what would have happened to her if she hadn't been shot that day?



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