Fordian Fun

WWYK

By the end of my day presenting to grades 7-12 at Waterford Jr/Sr High School, I was backed into a corner by a mob a middle school students looking for signatures and selfies. “They sold out of books. Sign my arm,” one kid said, and so I did. The bell rang and a teacher told the group they needed to get to class. They didn’t budge. With phones in hand they wanted pictures. They got them, and then I packed up, went home, and collapsed.

Fortunately the drive wasn’t far. I live in the town in which I presented, which boasts a K-12 school for the tight-knit community. To say the day was a success would be a gross understatement. Because as I sat, after hours of presenting, my phone began a slow and steady explosion that would last the rest of the weekend. The students had found me on Twitter, and the teachers and parents, and others in the community, on Facebook. And all were positive:

I was even invited to a local diner 🙂

I cannot express how fantastic it is to receive such swift and positive feedback. I have done a fair amount of presentations, and never has the outpouring of support been so strong.

Maybe it’s because I’m from the town. Possibly it’s because I high-fived every student as he or she walked in. It could be that the kids connected with my message or my writing. I don’t honestly know. It could be simply that I went into this presentation as I always do, with the goal of pouring my heart out, and the kids noticed this. Yes, I have pretty engaging books to read from, and a slick Prezi that accompanies my talk, but I tend to think it’s the willingness to look like this that makes all the difference:

Whatever it was, I cannot say thank you enough to the faculty and staff for inviting me in. And a special thanks to the English department and Mrs. Clinton for doing so much work behind the scenes to make the day a reality.

Thinking back on my own high school experience, I can count on one hand the amount of presenters who came and fired on all cylinders and truly connected with the school and with me. It is my hope that for the students of Waterford, my presentation is one they will remember in such a positive light, because damn did I have fun 🙂

high five

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Status Update

LP release

When I get incredibly anxious, as I have been recently, I begin to doubt. Myself. My work. My voice. Then I shut down. I simply have no interest in communicating because I’m afraid what I might say. That I might reveal too much.

And this is what I have been anxious about and holding onto: I won’t have a book out in 2015.

That’s it, which I know is pretty ridiculous. Many authors do not publish a book a year. And so many unpublished authors would kill for my “problem”. Yet, at the same time, if it shut me down, I need to give it attention and not merely rationalize the feelings away.

I have spent close to two years working on LOOK PAST. It’s been downright exhausting, because I’ve had to push myself so very far as a writer. From interviews to research to simple plotting, the novel has high demands. And then this past summer, after receiving excellent advice from my agent, I rewrote the entire manuscript.

That rewrite paid off, because that is the version that sold. But it has sold with a caveat. The manuscript is due for yet another a massive overhaul, which is why you won’t see it until 2016.

Recently, after announcing the sale, I’ve had much congratulations, which I’ve enjoyed, but I am so thankful for my one friend, who after realizing I wouldn’t be releasing a book this upcoming fall, asked, “Are you okay with that?” He understood. I’ve been on a roll, and the momentum has helped fuel me. And now?

It’s a mere bump in the road, I’m sure. But from this juncture, eighteen months feels like an unplanned detour.

I’m coming around to the idea, and know it is for the best, but it’s been mentally taxing. Fortunately, writing is great therapy for me. So while I’ve been riddled with doubt, I’ve been writing. Just last week I finished the first draft of a novel that forced me to dig even deeper as a writer than I had to with LOOK PAST.

So, my takeaway is that maybe this is what happens when you push hard and you get way outside your comfort zone. It takes a little bit longer to assimilate all that has been learned. I’m holding onto that, now, instead of my anxieties, and know I will still enjoy fall of ’15, just not nearly as much as I will fall of ’16.

 

Bearing Witness to Violence, a guest post at Teen Librarian Toolbox

Hey, I have a guest post up over at one of my favorite sites, Teen Librarian Toolbox. You can read it here, or click the link below, and read at Karen’s site. She has a treasure trove of excellent content, so be careful to set aside a few hours.

Bearing Witness to Violence, a guest post by author Eric Devine — @TLT16 Teen Librarian Toolbox.

Recently I was at a school in Harlem, giving my standard presentation of how I became an author and what my work is about, and I found myself at the section on Press Play, which many of the kids had read, and I was nervous to speak about the story’s roots. There, before me, sat multiple athletes and the athletic director, and I looked at them and said, “I hate jock culture. That doesn’t mean I hate athletes or sport, but I do detest the privilege athletes are given merely because they are strong, or can run fast, or throw a ball well. Those same privileges, by and large, are not afforded to students of similar academic prowess, and that is a problem.”

Boy do I know how to work a crowd :)

Yet, in spite of the bristling athletes and the way the director looked at me, they began to nod as I talked about how I looked at this concept in my work.

Press Play is about Greg Dunsmore, who is his own worst enemy. Bullied for being overweight, he has turned to his phone and the movies he makes with it for solace. He lies with his film and has a reputation because of it. He is a pariah, especially in a school dominated by its devotion for the boys’ lacrosse team. So in his senior year, for his film class documentary, as a way of demonstrating he is more than the lies and the taunts, Greg decides to film his weight loss. He wants this for himself, not for them, or possibly as a way to make one honest film. Therefore, he sets out with his “friend” Quinn to train. While doing so, the boys hear something going on during the lacrosse team’s indoor practice in a nearby gym. Greg grabs his phone and they investigate. This sets in motion the dilemma of the novel, because Greg finds the team brutally hazing the underclassmen and gets it on film.

What does one do with such evidence? Go to the principal or the authorities. But how does one do that when the principal is the coach and seemingly everyone in the town has either played the sport or is financially connected to the team?

And so the story takes on these two dimensions: the will-he-won’t-he-Hamlet-like waffling of Greg, alongside the increasingly horrific abuse. This scenario is an unfortunately common parallel to so many who find themselves in sexually violent scenarios. Who can you trust when your trust has been taken? How can you move on when you have experienced what you have, and yet in your gut know others may be victims?

Because it’s all about power, and so often victims have only their voice matched against entities infinitely more powerful than themselves. And so they stay quiet, and who can blame them?

Yet, here we have Greg, witness to the acts, with evidence, and in the age of all things internet, the possibility of a voice powerful enough. But he’s a liar. Has proven that time and again. What can he do, after years of being abused and subsequently and callusing himself with lies, to now help these victims?

I’ll let you read the story to find that out.

But I can tell you that after I detailed this scenario to the athletes and the school’s athletic director, it opened up a conversation in which the director asked about hazing in their school’s program.

Now, on the spot like that, I’m not one bit surprised that the kids said nothing occurred. So of course I asked, “Does it not occur, or do you not recognize it for what it is?”

That caught them off-guard.

And I think that this question is the key to the #SVYALit program. Replace “hazing” with “rape” and then ask the same question above to a teenager who isn’t comfortable talking about sex, much less a violent encounter with sexual elements. I think the response is universal, and is the one I received from the boys: shrugged shoulders, and a “maybe.”

This is why I am proud to be a part of the conversation. Because teens do commit violent acts against one another, and many have sexual aspects that make them rape. And yet teens are not fully aware of this, nor how to talk about it. Therefore, the chat Anthony Breznican, Joshua Cohen, and I will have on 1/28 is important. Hazing abounds in high school, in small incidents and in massive, conformist ways. And often it teeters on, and then falls into, sexual assault, and may be the one area in this spectrum of violence where boys are more represented than girls. That worries me. That predilection, or at least that shoulder-shrugging acceptance of violence, sexual or not, paired with the privilege of athletics, is a noxious creation.

Please, tune in, or catch our conversation after the fact. The angles of this issue are vast and knotty, and only through relentless exploration and discussion will we ever make headway. Because a shrug in the face of the aftermath of such violence is not only unacceptable, it is reprehensible.

Join us on Wednesday, January 28th, 2015 at 12 Noon Eastern for a Google Hangout led by Press Play author Eric Devine and featuring Brutal Youth author Anthony Breznican and Leverage author Joshua C. Cohen. The topic will be hazing. Learn more about the #SVYALit Project.

More on Hazing at TLT:

Take 5: Hazing

Initiation Secrets: Press Play and a look at hazing with author Eric Devine

Breaking Tradition: BRUTAL YOUTH author Anthony Breznican on the fight against hazing

Meet Our Guest Blogger:

Eric Devine is the author of fearless fiction: Press Play, Tap Out, Dare Me, and This Side of Normal. He is also a high school English teacher, husband, and father of two girls. Eric is represented by Kate McKean of the Howard Morhaim Literary Agency.

About Press Play:

Greg Dunsmore, a.k.a. Dun the Ton, is focused on one thing: making a documentary that will guarantee his admission into the film school of his choice. Every day, Greg films his intense weight-loss focused workouts as well as the nonstop bullying that comes from his classmates. But when he captures footage of violent, extreme hazing by his high school’s championship-winning lacrosse team in the presence of his principal, Greg’s field of view is in for a readjustment.
Greg knows there is a story to be told, but it is not clear exactly what. And his attempts to find out the truth only create more obstacles, not to mention physical harm upon himself. Yet if Greg wants to make his exposé his ticket out of town rather than a veritable death sentence, he will have to learn to play the game and find a team to help him.
Combine the underbelly of Friday Night Lights with the unflinching honesty of Walter Dean Myers, and you will find yourself with Eric Devine’s novel of debatable truths, consequences, and realities. – October 2014 from Running Press Kids

PRESS PLAY Pub Day Contest

jimmy-fallon-elmo-happy-dance-saturday-night-live

Yay, it’s Pub Day! And to celebrate the fact that Press Play is out in the world, I’ve created a fun and interactive giveaway. You have the opportunity to win a signed copy of Press Play, as well as this long-sleeve T-shirt.PP Shirt-1

From today, 10/28, through Tuesday, 11/11, you have one job––to create a video. What kind, and what to do with it are below:

*You do not have to be a Tumblr user to enter. You just need to go to the site. I promise*

  1.  Go to a bookstore. Record yourself making a big deal about finding Press Play on the shelf. Maybe you can even talk it up to other patrons. It’s your call, just make it fun for everyone.
  2. If you’ve already gone to the bookstore or to one of my signings, and, therefore, have a copy, there’s no need to go to the bookstore. Make a video in which you discuss the awesomeness of the book. It doesn’t have to be you sitting in front of the camera, talking. However you want to create the “review” is up to you.
  3. Once you’ve recorded, you’ll need to upload your video to YouTube or to Vimeo so that you have an Embed code or URL
  4. With video complete, go to my Tumblr: http://initiationsecrets.tumblr.com/
  5. See that “Submit” tab?Step 5
  6. Click Submit and you’ll see this:Step 6
  7. Now, enter a name and email. I need to be able to tell you that you’ve won 🙂Step 7
  8. Now, you’ll need to change “Text” in the upper, left corner to “Video”Step 8
  9. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready and the screen will look like this:Step 9
  10. Paste in your Embed code or URL and Submit

Sweet, right? I know. I’m looking forward to seeing all the videos, the antics, the creativity. And I’m excited to hear your reactions to my work.

Go, have fun. Enjoy Press Play.

Your Weekend Plans involve PRESS PLAY

PP B&N Poster

Hey, everybody! We’re a week out from the publication day for Press Play, which means my normally anxiety-ridden self is overflowing with neuroses. But it also means it’s time for you to get your hands on copies AND to have a chance to see the trailer on the big screen.

Yup, from 10/24 through 10/30, at  Regal Cinemas in Colonie, the trailer will play during the ad space before all PG-13 and R rated movies.

Therefore, movies like Gone Girl, The Maze Runner, Fury, The Judge, Guardians of the Galaxy, Dracula Untold, and Left Behind will all be playing my trailer as you settle in with your popcorn. Do feel free to tweet to me or post to Facebook that you’ve seen it. Go ahead and snap a picture if you’re feeling brave. 

However, I know that seeing the trailer is cool, but getting the book is better. And so if you want to be some of the first people in the Capital District to get your hands on copies, I have two events prior to publication day where you can get a copy and my signature.

On Friday, 10/24, from 4:oo until the party winds down, I’m back at McGreivey’s for my Launch party. If you’ve been before, expect the same good time. If you haven’t, expect free appetizers from 5-7, drink specials at the bar, and a packed house of people celebrating my latest creation.

If you can’t make it on the 24th, no worries, I’ve got you covered the next day. On Saturday, 10/25, I’m at Barnes and Noble in Colonie, signing from 2-4. And hey, while you’re there, you can go see a movie. Please be sure to look for the poster at the top of this post, and, again, share it on every social media platform you are on.

And if neither of these dates work, not a problem, just check the flyer below for one that does. I hope to see you at least once, and I can’t wait for your reaction to the turbulent ride that is Press Play!

Sayreville vs. PRESS PLAY: when truth is stranger than fiction

Sayreville

I wasn’t surprised by the hazing allegations in Sayreville, NJ. I was disgusted, especially as details about the hazing came out, but not surprised.  I have been involved with athletics as an athlete and as a coach, and I know, firsthand, the danger of the locker room mentality. As an educator, I have heard more stories about abusive events than I ever wanted to. This isn’t to say I have ever been around circumstances of the severity of Sayerville. But I’m not sure that severity is the key issue. The complicit nature of those in the know, is.

Trust me, in no way shape or form am I blaming victims. Those boys have been traumatized. Nor am I so foolish as to expect the perpetrators to turn themselves in. They should, but that is not how they operate. My concern is with the rest of the team, the school, and the community. I do not live in Sayreville, and I won’t speak ill of a town reeling from such a scandal, but I think the question that needs to be asked–and hopefully is being asked by investigators–is who knew, what, and when?

The thing about teens is that they talk. They tell stories. Often they can’t keep secrets. Based on the media reports out of Sayreville, the hazing that occurred is as much tradition as is the support of the team. And so it is only fair to deduce that someone knew. Or a lot of people, really. Not just the team. Not just their immediate friends. But certainly the coaches, and maybe some of the staff; possibly administration. I’m willing to bet former players knew. Yet, no one spoke out, so far as we know. That fact speaks to the power of abuse and the grip it holds. Everyone feared speaking because of the potential victimization he or she would receive. With good reason.

In Press Play, the lacrosse team is involved in brutal and systematic hazing. No one talks because they know better. No one talks because the powers that be are complicit, possibly more than. No one talks because the town’s economy depends on the team. No one talks because there is no one to talk to.

Some people have had a problem with that concept, of students not trusting adults, or adults being cast in such a negative light. I respect that. And more often than not, teens should be able to trust adults. Except for when they can’t.

That’s why I was thrilled to see a recent review by a librarian who went back and reread Press Play after the allegations is Sayreville came forth. In her words, “I had to reread Press Play this week after hearing about the hazing in Sayreville, NJ, on the news. When I first read the book, it seemed like an over-the-top version of team hazing and bullying, designed to get people talking. After watching the Sayreville superintendent’s press conference on his decision to completely cancel their football team’s entire season, I realized that there is much more reality to this than I ever wanted to believe.”

No one wants to imagine that anyone is capable of being involved on any level with something so atrocious. But people are. And it is as bad, if not worse, in reality, than any fiction I can write.

The reviewer goes on to make a powerful statement in support of Press Play: This is well-written, gripping, and I recommend this for 8th grade and up.
I really want my…graduates in high school to read this. But I also want my 8th graders to read this. There is a lot of swearing, and the bullying scenes should literally make your blood run cold. The reason I want my 8th graders to read this is that I want them to think carefully about what kind of person they want to be when they get to the high school. What do you want yourself to do when the lights go out and you hear the wolf howl signal? Will you step up and say something, and will you keep saying something until someone listens? Will you hide in the back and say nothing while you watch? Or will you be laughing and egging someone on? What kind of character does it take to do the right thing in the face of certain ostracism, and possible violence?”

These are the questions posed to Greg, the protagonist in Press Play. He, who has been bullied and victimized for as long as he can remember, has to decide to step up or stay silent. His journey into the darkness is disturbing, but so worth the read if you care to understand the impotent rage that these athletes feel, these students feel, that you will feel.

Press Play will be published two weeks from today. Read, and continue the conversation, because events like the one at Sayreville are far from behind us.