The United States' Office of Stability raids an outlaw concert.
The guns and chaos fail to silence a defiant singer passionately
crooning Bright Eyes' "I Must Belong Somewhere." The concert is a
violation of the America's ban on emotion, an attempt to end violent
crime. A bullet silences what fear cannot, leading the heroine to fight
against the government's suppression of what makes us human.
This alternate world is from 16-year-old Nathan Goldman. Goldman, a
Shawnee Mission East High School junior and aspiring science-fiction
and fantasy writer, penned this repressed world as his third crack at
The idea came to him while studying at a young-writers workshop at
Southern Illinois University. A fill-in-the-blanks exercise -- "_______
requires a _________ and a ________" -- became Goldman's
yet-to-be-titled science-fiction novel. After drawing three words from
three buckets, Goldman had this sentence: "Crying requires a partner
and a witness."
Goldman says he explored why crying would require a partner and a
witness. He wrote a summary of a world in which the American government stemmed violent crime by snuffing out emotional acts, unless
approved by the Office of Stability. Americans must sign a contract in
order to laugh, cry or love. Citizens not only need the contract but a
partner in the act and a legal witness.
Goldman imagined a society embroiled in rebellion, turmoil and
extremism: musicians considered terrorists for holding underground
concerts, a church preaching salvation through eradication of emotion.
"It's about one person who doesn't necessarily have a lot of power but
who realizes that even if she can't destroy this, she needs to fight
against it because it's not what she believes in," Goldman says.
Goldman isn't the only would-be novelist in his family. This year,
Goldman's mother, Martha Gershun, and 13-year-old sister, Sarah
Goldman, each wrote novels as part of the nationwide challenge to
write a 50,000-word novel in 30 days. (You succeed if you finish.)
"Nathan basically said, 'Mom, if you're ever going to write it,
National Novel Writing Month is kind of a cool motivating factor. Why
don't you take the opportunity?' " says Gershun, the former executive
director of Reach Out and Read, a national literacy organization.
Gershun accepted the challenge.
book is biblical fiction, a rewrite of the five Books of Moses from
a managerial perspective, comparing charismatic leadership (Moses) with
practical leadership (Joshua). The book follows Moses and Joshua as
they lead the Israeli people from slavery out of Egypt to the new land.
"My novel is really a management parable," Gershun says. "I just wanted
to tell a story about how it takes both kinds of leadership. I think
people in the real world make a mistake of thinking it's one or the
Sarah Goldman, an eighth-grader at Indian Hills Middle School, wrote a
fantasy book, which her mother has yet to read. Gershun says, "It's about
what happens if things you think are fiction turn out to be true."
Two years ago, Nathan Goldman wrote his first novel, Reaper,
a metaphorical tale of insanity with vampires repressing their
blood-lusting cravings. He was a ninth-grader. It wasn't his first
novel attempt. He tried to write one in sixth grade, finishing 40 pages
before giving up.
"I've always been interested in writing and want to pursue that as a career," Goldman says.
Last year, Goldman didn't reach the 50,000-word mark. He stalled out at 30,000 words but finished the novel, Anatomy of an Eyeball,
over the summer. He tapped an idea from eighth grade: The
world has two godlike beings, one representing total
understanding of the universe, the other total ignorance. When people
die, they choose total understanding or ignorance. Goldman wanted to
explore free will and the gray areas between good and evil.
Goldman says this year's novel is his most advanced work. He sent
me the first chapter of his novel last week. I finally read it
yesterday. It was raw but captivating. I'm looking forward to
reading the final draft. -- Justin Kendall