Chapter 1 Maddie
In Grade 5 my class teacher assigned us all a task. We had to keep a
Thought Journal for a period of three weeks. In the notebook she provided, we
had to record anything we saw or heard, random things we thought about,
newspaper clippings, magazine articles – basically anything that was of
interest to us. The object of the task was to have group discussions at the end
of the three weeks about the issues that we felt strongly about. The teacher
believed that our Thought Journals would help us identify those issues. Once we
had discussed them in our groups, we would then be able to decide which issues
we had in common and which were the most important to us all. The next step
would be to research the important issues we had identified as a group, then
put together a presentation which we would show our parents one evening after
It sounds good in theory, right? The problem was only a few of us took
the Thought Journals seriously. Writing down some very random thoughts the
night before the due date defeated the whole object of the exercise. I had
never been a ‘Dear Diary’ type of girl, although I had always loved to write.
Diaries with little locks on, given to me as presents on birthdays and
Christmas, have always remained unopened and untouched amongst other junk in
the bottom drawer of my dresser. There was something about them that seemed both
frivolous and soppy. I’m sure people who kept diaries didn’t really start each
entry with ‘Dear Diary’, but in my mind they did and that’s what made it seem
all a little pathetic.
But even though a Thought Journal did the same thing as a diary, it felt
different somehow. Thought Journal sounded more serious, more intellectual than
a silly diary. Recording my thoughts made me feel important, as if my thoughts
really mattered. A notebook instead of a pink hard cover diary with flowers,
bows and a lock, made me feel as if I was above silly thoughts about boys I
liked and girlie gossip. The notebook made me feel as if I had something
important to say and that if the world ended, then the next inhabitants of
Earth would find my Thought Journals and know what it was like when I lived.
Well, that’s what I thought when I was in Grade 5. Now I’m in my senior year of
High School and my Thought Journal is all that keeps me alive.
Chapter 2 Arek
The sirens and flashing blue lights brought everybody outside. There is
something about someone else’s drama that attracts fellow humans, rather like
flies to a pile of dung. Or bees to a can of soda. How many people stop to look
at a bad car accident? It’s not because they want to help. It’s because they
want to see. People want to be grossed out. They want to see torn-off limbs
propped up next to a car tire. They want to see that body covered in blood and
shards of glass. They want to exclaim and gag and gasp at the horror of it all.
People are drama queens and that’s no lie.
Hot on the heels of the first responders and emergency services are the
press. News vans, cameramen and reporters with over-sized mikes. Desperate to
display people’s misery for the world to see. Shoving mikes in bystanders ́
faces – “What did you see? What did you hear? What do you know about the
victim?” And of course the unspoken question, “What little bit of shitty gossip
can you share about the victim?” And so the victim of a particular disaster is
stripped of everything. Nothing is too sacred or too private not to be shared
with the vultures eagerly gulping down every tidbit of information. The worst
though, are the people who come forward pretending to have known the victim,
making up the anecdotes they share on the fly.
It’s almost worth living just to hear the shit they share. Lie after lie.
Relating false memories in a sort of parallel universe. Creating their own
reality. Pity none of it is true. Fake news, maybe there’s something in that
And so, as Todd ́s gurney holding his body bag is rolled into the waiting
ambulance, you can hear the collective sighs of the onlookers. “If only we’d
known. If only he’d told us he was depressed we would have helped him. If only
he had said he was planning on hanging himself in the bedroom we would have
been there for him.”
If only you actually gave a shit.
If only those fake tears rolling down your cheeks
If only you had made the time to actually know
Another teen lost to suicide.
Another family heartbroken and emotionally
Kids at our high school will try and picture what he
looked like and share reminiscences that are actually of somebody else. And
those who should be held culpable will carry on as if nothing happened and even
make suicide jokes.
Nobody will be held accountable.
No amount of casseroles and lasagnas dropped off at the grief-stricken
family ́s home will bring Todd back. The community rallying around? What a
they want is to find out the gory details. Nothing is going to change.
Nothing is ever going to change.
The crowd swells as more neighbors come to gawk. People start talking to
neighbors they haven’t spoken to in years. There’s nothing like someone else’s
drama to get communication going again.
I was standing behind Principal Timmins when he
turned to an officer and I heard him say, “Thank goodness he only committed
suicide and didn’t go gun ́crazy at school. At least it’s just him and not a
whole lot of others.”
We wouldn’t want our school to look bad, would we? Good to hear our esteemed
principal really cares
about us kids. I moved away before the officer had time to reply to Timmins’s
insensitive comment. I always thought Timmins
was a dick. Great to know what I thought has been confirmed.
Todd wasn’t my friend and I’m not going to pretend he was. But he was more
than just an acquaintance. He always aspired to be one of the Cool Kids, which
meant he ignored me at school. But as we lived in the same street, we often
walked home together and Todd would try and impress me with the things he got
up to with the Cool Kids. So I knew quite a bit about what was going on in his
life. I also knew from things he said that he didn’t quite fit in, no matter
how hard he tried. What I could never have foreseen, was that he would end up
killing himself. Something bad must have happened to make him think that life
wasn’t worth living. My gut feeling, is that the Cool Kids are somehow
As I walk away from the crowd and head home to dinner, I mull over in my
mind the last conversations I had with Todd. Trying to find clues in the things
he had said. Looking for answers. Why kill yourself? What did they do to you?
There are days when I feel what’s the point of everything. Why bother
getting out of bed just to go to school to pretend to learn when all you do is
try to survive the day unscathed. But even though I often think life is
pointless, I’m not sure I’d ever go to the extreme of killing myself. Why give
them the satisfaction?
Living might be the only way to defeat them.
Then again, who knows and would they really care? And with that sobering
thought, I open the front door to the house where we do not talk to each other.
In Grade 4 my teacher told me that I was a good writer and could write books one day. Then when studying to be a teacher, some of my lecturers said the same. I have always been an avid reader, reading every genre possible. I think that it was my love of reading that got me interested in writing.
I write the kinds of books I like to read. I don’t enjoy fantasy or science fiction because they are not real. Although I do like dystopian. Even though my books are fiction, there are always real experiences that I know about running through them. My friends have to be very careful #justsaying
I self-published so it wasn’t difficult. I was living in China when I wrote my first novel.
I want to provoke thinking and discussion, as well as awareness of some of the issues I write about. People can be cruel and awful to each other. Maybe I want to shock a little, make the reader act.
I love the characters and how they take residence in my mind. Whenever I am driving or waiting, whole scenes play out in my mind like a movie or conversations happen in my head. I feel sad when a novel is finished as if feels like I am saying goodbye to friends.
Time. I am a school teacher and principal, so I often have hectic amounts of work.
Finding time is not always easy. Setting yourself a routine and sticking to it is imperative.
Write about what interests you and what you feel passionate about. Read plenty of books. To be a writer you have to first be a reader.
Realistic fiction, true crime, thrillers, psychological thrillers, mystery. Basically anything that hooks me in, has a twist and makes me think.
I’ve lived and worked in 11 different countries, I love cooking for my friends and I am addicted to traveling. And I’ve survived cancer three times.