Blue Pinwheels and Child Abuse

This week, my local county courthouse lawn was glittering with hundreds of small blue pinwheels. I assumed it was symbolic of something, but I wasn’t sure what.
I later found a story by one of our local news outlets explaining that the pinwheels are there to bring awareness to the fact that April is National Child Abuse Prevention Month.
My attention was caught. As you know, child abuse is a primary theme in my books, the Mailboat Suspense Series. And as I recently shared, I was myself emotionally abused as a child, into my adult years.
I love that it’s “Prevention” month and not “Awareness” month. The more I research broken families, foster care, etc., the more I ask what we can do to prevent children from ever being removed from their families in the first place.
In other words, what can we do to stop child abuse and neglect at home? What can we do to get help for the parents so that the children don’t have to suffer?
I know not every broken family situation can be saved. But speaking from my own experiences of childhood emotional abuse, I can’t help but believe that my life could have been markedly different if my mother had accepted the mental health options that were available to her. Instead, it somehow became more acceptable to ignore the problems than to address them.
That’s why, for me, the problem of child abuse begins with normalizing mental health care for adults. An unhappy parent cannot raise a happy child. An unbalanced parent cannot raise a well-balanced child.
But with proper mental health care, the future could be far brighter for both the adults and the children.
So… take care of your mental health, yo. If not for you, then for the kids in your life.
P.S., for more information on National Child Abuse Prevention Month, check out the resources at the Children’s Bureau, a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. And see if there are any events in your town where you can listen, learn, and/or volunteer.

Charles and I Are ScreenCraft Semifinalists!

Previously, I promised to keep you informed of progress toward a film or TV adaptation of the Mailboat Suspense Series. Well, Charles and I did a thing recently, and it turned into a BIG DEAL.

About a month ago, we put together a written pitch for the Mailboat story as a TV series and submitted it to the ScreenCraft Virtual Pitch Competition.

To be honest, we threw it together last minute, figuring that, at the very least, we’d get professional feedback and learn how to write better pitches in the future. And at best, there was a shot at landing the Grand Prize and being personally introduced and recommended to influential names in Hollywood.

Today, we learned that we made the semifinals. 

As I write this, ScreenCraft hasn’t released the official numbers yet, but if it’s anything like the last time they ran the contest, Charles and I are one of 100 semifinalists out of perhaps 900 total entrants.

Charles and I may have danced in the living room, and Angel may have run up and down with one of her favorite toys. Fergus opted to steer clear of the chaos.

To be clear, this latest development is entirely separate from the TWO prior inquiries into my film and TV rights for the Mailboat Suspense Series. I’m carefully nursing those along, as well.

Next in the ScreenCraft competition, Charles and I have to submit a short video pitch, which will determine whether we make it to the finalist round.

But regardless, we now get to add our semifinalist status to our credentials (my first, Charles’ THIRD), and Charles informs me… that’s a big deal in Hollywood.

There’s a lot of work left to do, but Charles and I are so excited! Wish us luck as we keep pushing forward. All of this is so much easier knowing I have you guys at my back, putting the wind in my sails.

“Are You Bailey?”

My fans ask it with a squint in their eye. They ask it with a hint of a smile–because they love Bailey–and a hint of concern–they know Bailey’s life in an abusive foster home is a wreck.

I’ve never seen the point in evading the question. In fact, I’m surprised more people don’t ask.

“Yes,” I tell them. “I’m Bailey.”

To clarify, I was never in foster care. I was never physically abused. I was never sexually abused. But I was mentally and emotionally abused for the first twenty-six years of my life. So while our exact circumstances were different, the ways in which it affected us are the same.

My fans absorb what I say. They nod quietly. Their eyes are full of sympathy. They ask no further questions. It would be impolite. It’s not their place to pry.

And until recently, I was okay with that. My abuser suffered brain damage and is incapable of comprehending the harm she does. I feel no need to blame or harass her for things that aren’t even entirely her fault.

Nor do I feel the need to kick the bee’s nest. As often happens with mental illness, my abuser vehemently denies her illness and takes strong offense to anyone who suggests there may be something “wrong” with her.

But the longer I write, and the larger my platform grows, the more I ask myself what my role is in this world. Do I have a passion? A charity? A cause? I have your ear. (Thank you for that, by the way.) What do I want to speak into it? If I could choose some good to try to do in this world, what would it be?

The words that come back are these:

Take care of your heart. Take care of your spirit and your soul. Take care of your emotions. Take care of your mind.

In short, take care of this thing we call your mental health. I’ve seen what happens when you don’t.

I write about broken people. Bailey believes she’s worthless, invisible, and unlovable. Tommy struggles to talk about matters of the heart and believes he’s too much of a failure to help Bailey. Ryan believes the narrative that he’s shifty, immature, and unreliable–and he doesn’t believe he could break that mold. Monica tries to bury her pain under a fierce exterior and flawless performance.

Yes, it’s a suspense series. But ultimately, it’s not a story about stopping the bad guy and saving the world. It’s the story of how broken people fought bravely to not be broken anymore.

That’s what I write about in my novels. And increasingly, it’s what I want to write and speak about more openly, with the veneer of fiction removed. The stories I tell are real stories. Mine, yours, a lot of people’s. There’s power there. The kind that can save lives and change the world we live in.

Going forward, you might see me writing more about what happened to me and how it led to the stories I write. As I do, I hope to normalize conversations about our mental health. About our hearts and what’s going on inside them.

We’re all broken, somehow or another. That’s just life. With my words, I want to inspire people and help them to be a little less broken.

There’s a comments section down below. How about dropping a note of encouragement, a prayer, or a positive intention–for you, for me, for anyone you know, for the other fans, or the world at large. Let’s spread some joy.