Listen with the intent to understand, not the intent to reply. —Stephen Covey

I was going to write about querying this week. I have merely dabbled in it and am now ready to go full tilt. But, as I diligently research agents, a voice whispers and demands to be heard. Her name is Lizzy. She is 16 years old and she is in pain.

Lizzy is a cutter. She does not want attention. She just wants to curl up under a sprawling tree and melt into the earth. She thinks, she worries, she feels—and, oh my, she hurts. Lizzy knows all of the things that cause her agony. She can list them as clearly and perfunctorily as her first grade spelling tests. But her thoughts are not as numbing as those lists. They’re painful. And, the only thing that eases them is a razor.

I will query Raven’s Path and Love Denied. I will also continue to write historicals. They are too much a part of me to set aside for any length of time. But, I feel that I must listen to Lizzy too. She is speaking to me in snippets and is anxious to share her story.

Jo dangled her new bracelet in front of Lizzy’s nose. Not that she’d know it was new if Jo hadn’t shoved every purchase of silver and cheap tawdry designer rip off in front of her nose since last semester. “Look, this is just like Angelina Jolie’s when she was with that ugly older guy. See the skeleton in the middle? She was so cool then.”

Lizzy gave her a quick applaud with an “Oh!” but really she was sick of it. She could clearly see the strips of purple, of yellow, of healed brown. Jo pretended she was hiding the cuts, but really she was dressing them up, wrapping them in glamour and yelling “Look at me!” She got pulled out regularly by school guidance for “the talk.” She’d return all coy and humble but she was preening at the attention. A peacock amongst swallows.

Jo cut for show. She cut for attention. Maybe she felt some pain. Who knew? But, she screamed for someone to feel sorry for her. Well, Lizzy knew cutting and she didn’t feel anything for the scars on Jo’s arms. She didn’t feel anything for Jo. As a matter of fact she didn’t give a shit about World History either.

She pushed from the desk and stood, gathering her papers and shoving them into her bag. Mr. Hobard stopped talking and stared at her, the hand that had been swirling through the air frozen, the whiteboard marker clenched between fingers suspended midair. His eyes bulged like that guy in that stupid movie her mom watched over and over, alone, laughing too loud and too much. They popped right out of his head.

“Lizzy, what’s up? You’re giving Hobard a heart attack.”

Lizzy could care less if Hobard keeled over in front of the whole class. She needed to get out. Needed to grab some air. Needed to leave the fake pain and go prick her own.



  1. Such a tough subject to write about, but if the character is calling out for you, you need to listen.

  2. Sadly, I've spent too many hours with girls like Lizzy. I guess their voices still haunt me.

  3. I've taught a lot of "Lizzies". Keep writing her. Her voice is clear.

  4. Thanks, Zan Marie. As long as she keeps talking, I'll keep recording.