GSA

I have such love for this group of middle schoolers. They’ve just finished their Capri Sun and their cheese and crackers. We’re here to do a writing exercise, to talk about how to create characters.

I tell them that writing saved me. That I knew I was queer when I was five and that I knew I lived in a family hostile to the truth about me. That I would not be safe if I were honest. I needed the outlet of writing, the world I could create there for myself, but I had to be safe. So I created characters. I wrote poems. The world as imagined. The character as shield and knight.

“Maybe you create someone heroic,” I tell the kids. “Maybe someone quick-witted and brave. Someone who always knows what to do. Or maybe you create a villain. Someone to experience the dark on your behalf. Maybe you create a mouse. Someone unnoticed — a quiet observer. Maybe you create a character made up of 5 of your favorite people.”

They pour themselves into the sheets of construction paper. They’re so earnest. I remember middle school as a time when we tried not to be earnest. When we were embarrassed by our enthusiasms. But these kids are not like we were. One of them keeps administering hugs. She asks first, whenever someone seems sad. They keep reassuring each other, “This is a safe space.”

A place perhaps where a character mask isn’t necessary. Whatever that may feel like. To be you at rest. Essential you. Undiluted you. Full of yearning. Your character. Not as shield or knight, but as solace, as community, as nurturer. Your self creating. You’re self-creating.

2 thoughts on “GSA”

  1. again, all I can really say is <3.

    I'm grateful you are there sharing your story with youngsters, who are willing to listen. Writing, too, was a safe space for me in my childhood. It saved me, perhaps more than once.

    Lately, how I feel about writing and telling my story has changed – I think so much that I spent so much time and energy in my childhood fantasizing how I wanted things to be – that I didn't see things how they were. I couldn't see things how they were – I didn't have words for what was happening to me. Furthermore, I didn't know how to name feelings and needs and wants…

    Now, I'm reluctant to tell my story, even to myself: I ask, over and over, "Was it really that bad? Were there so few happy moments?"

    1. That’s fascinating. I like the ways our ideas of story and memory and self change. I couldn’t write now like I wrote when I was 24. Partly it’s because I see the world differently, but partly it’s because my skill set is different now. Even my sentences have changed. Don’t let your editor do your writing. Write first. Edit later. It’s like that liberating Anne Lamott quote: “You own everything that happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should’ve behaved better.” If you sat in a room with people who experienced the exact scene you’d experienced, you’d all describe/remember/articulate it differently.

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Jill Malone

Jill Malone grew up in a military family, went to German kindergarten, and lived across from a bakery that made gummi bears the size of mice. She has lived on the East Coast and in Hawaii, and for the last seventeen years in Spokane with her son, two dogs, a hedgehog, and a lot of outdoor gear. She looks for any excuse to play guitar. Jill is married to a performance artist and addiction counselor who makes the best risotto on the planet.

Giraffe People is her third novel. Her first novel, Red Audrey and the Roping, was a Lambda finalist and won the third annual Bywater Prize for Fiction. A Field Guide to Deception, her second novel, was a finalist for the Ferro-Grumley, and won the Lambda Literary Award and the Great Northwest Book Festival.

Giraffe People

Giraffe People

Between God and the army, fifteen-year-old Cole Peters has more than enough to rebel against. But this Chaplain’s daughter isn’t resorting to drugs or craziness. Truth to tell, she’s content with her soccer team and her band and her white bread boyfriend.

And then, of course, there’s Meghan.

Meghan is eighteen years old and preparing for entry into West Point. For this she has sponsors: Cole’s parents. They’re delighted their daughter is finally looking up to someone. Someone who can tutor her and be a friend.

But one night that relationship changes and Cole’s world flips.

Giraffe People is a potent reminder of the rites of passage and passion that we all endure on our road to growing up and growing strong. Award-winning author Jill Malone tells a story of coming out and coming of age, giving us a take that is both subtle and fresh.

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A Field Guide to Deception

A Field Guide to Deception

In Jill Malone’s second novel, A Field Guide to Deception, nothing is as simple as it appears: community, notions of motherhood, the nature of goodness, nor even compelling love. Revelations are punctured and then revisited with deeper insight, alliances shift, and heroes turn anti-hero—and vice versa.

With her aunt’s death Claire Bernard loses her best companion, her livelihood, and her son’s co-parent. Malone’s smart, intriguing writing beguiles the reader into this taut, compelling story of a makeshift family and the reawakening of a past they’d hoped to outrun. Claire’s journey is the unifying tension in this book of layered and shifting alliances.

A Field Guide to Deception is a serious novel filled with snappy dialogue, quick-moving and funny incidents, compelling characterizations, mysterious plot twists, and an unexpected climax. It is a rich, complex tale for literary readers.

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Red Audrey and the Roping

Red Audrey and the Roping

Occasionally a debut novel comes along that rocks its readers back on their heels. Red Audrey and the Roping is one of that rare and remarkable breed. With storytelling as accomplished as successful literary novelists like Margaret Atwood and Sarah Waters, Jill Malone takes us on a journey through the heart of Latin professor Jane Elliot.

Set against the dramatic landscapes and seascapes of Hawaii, this is the deeply moving story of a young woman traumatized by her mother’s death. Scarred by guilt, she struggles to find the nerve to let love into her life again. Afraid to love herself or anyone else, Jane falls in love with risk, pitting herself against the world with dogged, destructive courage. But finally she reaches a point where there is only one danger left worth facing. The sole remaining question for Jane is whether she is willing to accept her history, embrace her damage, and take a chance on love.

As well as a gripping and emotional story, Red Audrey and the Roping is a remarkable literary achievement. The breathtaking prose evokes setting, characters, and relationships with equal grace. The dialogue sparks and sparkles. Splintered fragments of narrative come together to form a seamless suspenseful story that flows effortlessly to its dramatic conclusion.

Winner of the Bywater Prize for Fiction, Red Audrey and the Roping is one of the most memorable first novels you will ever read.

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