Thursday, January 14, 2010


I have a peculiar relationship with disasters.

On the one hand, I am riveted by them. Many people are. There's the rubbernecking aspect, the simple desire to satisfy curiosity. And there's the element of shared experience. A shared experience doesn't have to rise from bad news. It's one reason why the Olympics have lasted as long as they have. But there is an aspect of a catastrophe, natural or man made, that makes its observers part of a bigger whole.

How I differ from other people when something truly awful happens is I benefit from it. It's a small indirect benefit, but I have to acknowledge that I do. I was inspired to write Life As We Knew It from a crappy movie I watched on TV one day. It's a piece of fiction birthed from another piece of fiction. But it sold shortly after Hurricane Katrina and I'm certain that particular disaster affected how people responded to my book. LAWKI isn't an adventure book. It's about the everyday necessities of survival. Katrina wasn't an exotic disaster in some faraway country we know about only from geography. It was right here in one of our fifty states. Its people were our people.

I can't write adventure books. They're beyond my capabilities. I can only write about people I can understand in situations I can understand. Miranda and her family, Alex from the dead and the gone and his family, are our people. Only they're fictional stand-ins for real human suffering.

I had two other ideas for this blog entry, but both can wait, and it seemed wrong to write about other things. I even thought about writing an entry on Pat Robertson and his particular brand of evil. But even that seemed frivolous.

Ironically, I got a partial payment for the French rights to LAWKI and d&g in the mail yesterday. I tithed from it (something I never do) and sent the money to UNICEF. It was a very small drop in a very big bucket, but it's money that wouldn't otherwise be going to Haiti.

Here's the list from CNN of organizations that are helping out. I'm sure anything you give will be appreciated. And if you can't afford to give money, then give a helping hand to someone, anyone, today. Goodness has a ripple effect. It becomes part of a shared experience.


Paige Y. said...

I think LAWKI and the other books sell so well because people know natural disasters happen and they wonder if they could survive one.

I cannot imagine the horrors going on in Haiti right now. I pray that the world will do whatever it takes to help a group of people who have already suffered so much from poverty.

Emily said...

Is it strange that you were the first person I thought to write after this horrific disaster in Haiti? Having just reread all three of the books, disaster and tragedy was already fresh in my mind. There is nothing as sad as knowing there are children who have no safe place to sleep, no mother or father to tuck them in and kiss them goodnight, and no hope of a "normal" life in sight. I, too, just made a donation to UNICEF. Sigh. So sad.

Lulu said...

That was a fantastic post. You hear about something this horrid and there is a moment of disbelief. There is no way this happened. However, it has and we all must help in some form or fashion. Thanks for your sincere words.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi to Paige Y. and Emily and Lulu-

Apparently several millions of dollars have been raised by the simple act of texting a certain number into your cellphone. Each donation is maybe ten dollars (I forget the exact amount) but enough people have done it that a lot of money has been raised.

Such a simple act but when tens of thousands of people do it, it really adds up.

My word verification is "dined." I've dined a lot over the years. It's just one of the many pleasures I've taken for granted.

Jon said...

I love disasters for the same reason Paige said so, I like to imagine how I would survive.
I cannot fathom though how awful it must be for the people of Haiti, having to drag out their children's or parents bodys from the rummble.
On a different side of things, what is the french title for LAWKI. My french teacher wants to order it.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hi Jon-

I don't think the French publisher knows what the title is going to be.

I just went to their website (Pocket Juenesse) and put Pfeffer into their auteur search box and came up with nothing.

So I'm afraid your French teacher is going to have to wait (although I'm thrilled at the thought of such an order!).

Anonymous said...

Governments are sending enormous amounts of money and other aid to Haiti. I take the closer-to-home route.

Here, the teen homeless shelter was closed, and great difficulty has been encountered in finding another suitable building. People are, generally, against it.

Yet teenagers freeze to death here. The government is not sending billions, or any other aid to save those teens lives. The full responsibility falls upon the community, which has, in addition, local knowledge of the problems associated with homeless teens, sullies forward movement.

May the people of Haiti receive the assistance they need.

Anonymous said...

A PS from the same Anonymous. I know better, but was caught up in one of the local issues. One does not supplant the other.

Money is coming from governments, but how that is used is another issue entirely.

I have it on the best authority that money sent to the following organizations will be utilized directly for the people -- Architects for Humanity, and Save the Children, are two.

In addition, local churches have people working in Haiti on a regular basis and seem to have an insiders ability to put money to best use.

Susan Beth Pfeffer said...

Hello Anonymous and thank you for both your comments.