Thursday, February 12, 2015

Eating Disorders & Young Literature

Writers have power. We hold the ability to point out wrongs in the world and work out ways to make them right through our stories. Using good or positive efforts of a character can also bring real life to the forefront. Our interpretation of reality can influence opinions. We can motivate. But all scenarios we consider to include in our fiction come with responsibility. 

I have a soft spot for kidlit, as you already know. That's what I do. That's what I write. The offbeat, quirky, or aloof character with a special talent aka paranormal, naturalistic, or magical is what attracts my heart the most. 

This past summer I began searching the deepest parts of my passion for writing, why I love the creepy and strange over the contemporary or normal - whatever normal really means. I discovered that any characteristic with the spice of supernatural feels safer to me, like tapping into the emotional reality of a contemporary situation would be any different. #Snort ... But for some odd reason, my brain and heart saw it that way. 

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That revelation moved me to a place inside myself that, I know now, had been waiting to be released for a long time. Though creating characters with otherworldly issues will always be a love of mine, I decided to take the life's journey of a character I'd had in my heart forever and give her her due. I spent the next three months mapping out a contemporary young adult story, fully outlining each and every chapter, and completing a full-length synopsis.

This story is real life. It's very dear and close to my heart. It's fiction, but some of its scenes have been inspired by my life as a teenager. And that's what leads me to my true purpose today: raising awareness for eating disorders. 

February is Eating Disorder Awareness Month. It's a plague of mind, body, and soul that can touch anyone at any age, but most prevalent among tweens, teens, and college students, who are still trying to discover who they are, who they are supposed to become, and where they fit into their world. For us writers that's middle grade, young adult, and new adult fiction. 

Last year, I provided links to sites where you can find out more about the truth behind eating disorders, how people use them to cope with life-out-of-control. You can find those HERE. But this year, I'll leave you with the blurb I created for that YA contemporary story I mentioned above that I'm currently writing.
Seventeen-year-old Carly Foster learned early in life to keep her emotions hidden. Weighed down by the instability of her mother’s severe depression, she exists behind a wall of ginger smiles and loyal school work, the ability to feel dulled and numb. Her only reprieve is dance, where the safety of rhythm and movement free her to feel.
Liam Blake moves into town in a raging storm of aloofness, yet stalked by the popular crowd like a celebrity. His ‘rich boy’ status is in total contrast with his disheveled leather jacket and grimy baseball cap. Carly finds him rude, always staring at her but never saying a word. Though strange, his attention awakens a longing in her heart, which frightens her. So when an offer to study dance through a prestigious program, she clenches on to her Liam distraction and chance to escape her family pain. But then her mother is diagnosed with a physically debilitating disease, forcing Carly to abandon her dreams. 
Crushed beneath the gravity of it all, Carly spirals, plummeting off a ledge of self-destructive anorexia and drug use that sets the stage for a dangerous night she may never recover from. And, for reasons Carlie is still unaware of, Liam is the only one able to catch her … if she’ll let him.
My hope is in sharing even a glimpse of my experience with eating disorders through fiction, I'll inspire at least one young person to discover that they are stronger than their problems.
 photo Sheri2.png

25 comments:

  1. Sad when kids get to the point that starving themselves is the only thing they feel they can control. Or when the pressures to be thin get that great.

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  2. Good for you tackling such a hard topic. I've spent my entire life with body issues and made some stupid choices as a kid that messed up my relationship with food forever, but worse, my best friend battled bulimia for years. I think it is so important for young people to see issues dealt with head on. Also Appearing (my latest YA, still in editing phase) skims the edges (insecurity made a bit better when circumstances force some fitness activities) but that is as brave as I've gotten on the matter--showing a healthier approach without saying much about it.

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  3. I had an eating disorder I'm college. It's a hard thing to quit. It's a power thing, well it was for me. I felt like I had very little control over my life, but I had control over the food.

    Great post, Sheri

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  4. I think you're writing about such an important topic. I wish you the best with it. Sometimes it's difficult to delve into difficult subjects, but it makes you brave and a stronger writer for it.

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  5. Excellent post, Sheri. Best of luck writing about this, it's a great thing when authors tackle such weighty topics.

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  6. What a great post. Thanks for sharing part of yourself with us. I think the fact that you have written a book with parts of your personal experience included in it will really have an impact with your YA readers (and other readers as well). I have no doubt your writing will help teens. :)
    ~Jess

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  7. Eating disorders are a huge life problem for teens and adults. I'm glad you've tackled it!

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  8. We keep an eye on our kids and constantly reinforce beauty comes from within. Great post. The world needs more of these.

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  9. Although I didn't experience an eating disorder as a teen, I was aware of some students who starved themelves to keep a slim, slender figure. It's a sad situation and I think it's absolutely wonderful that you are giving this character a chance to share her story :-)

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    1. Thank you for the encouraging words, Angela. I truly hope it helps, even one teen out there.

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  10. Excellent post. Glad you're healthy now and able to reach out to help others. That voice of experience can reach so many.
    Sadly we lost a girl in my high school to an eating disorder, and I've taught many kids with similar issues. One of my daughter's friends has been hospitalized a few times, but seems on the road to a healthier lifestyle now.

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    1. So glad your daughter's friend is on the mend. It is a scary disorder, one most people misunderstand. The thing about this story, it's not just about an eating disorder, but about how the girl uses it to deal with her mom's depression and illness. I've waited so long to write it because it's going to take a lot out of me emotionally, but I want it to be real and raw.

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  11. A story like yours can certainly inspire young readers to see that they are not alone and hopefully there is help out there for them. Best of luck with your writing this novel.

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  12. I didn't know this month was dedicated to eating disorders. So good that you're taking on this problem in a story. I agree that it's a serious issue, so go, girl.

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  13. I think it's great that you're tackling this important topic. So many teens nowadays deal with this. Last year, I read Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it for some reading research. :) Hugs!

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  14. I think it's great that you're tackling this important topic. So many teens nowadays deal with this. Last year, I read Winter Girls by Laurie Halse Anderson. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it for some reading research. :) Hugs!

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  15. I really enjoyed this post. I loved how you really examined why you were shying away from writing certain types of stories--and how you faced that and are brave enough to tackle it.
    I have a close friend who struggled with these issues, so I know how important this is for teens.

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  16. That's a great topic to cover for teenagers and couldn't be better written than by someone who's been through it.

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  17. Creating characters with otherworldly issues is my thing as well. Occasionally I'll branch out and write something different, though. Oddly enough, it's those stories that seem to stand out the most. Best wishes for your important topic!

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    1. Thanks for pointing out that your out-of-your-comfort-zone writing usually stands out more. That really encourages me!

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  18. Wonderful post. It is such an important issue especially with young people. I have cousins who have been in and out of institutions for years struggling with eating disorders. It is devastating.

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    1. It IS devastating. Most people don't understand that, either. Thank you for sharing!

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  19. You are an inspiration, my dear. And that is going to be one powerful book!

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  20. Good for you. It's something more girls face than most people realize. I struggled with it a little when I was a teenager.

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    1. The teenage years are so tough. Really. As adults, we have all these responsibilities, but we also have the freedom of knowing ourselves. The teen years can be so confusing, trying to figure out where we fit in. A healthy view of self can be a struggle.

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