Thursday, December 11, 2008

Two teen scribes and their writing mom make up a novel family

Posted By on Thu, Dec 11, 2008 at 8:05 AM

Nathan_Goldman_thumb_200x369.jpg
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

National Novel Writing Month.

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.

Gershun's

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

other."

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

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