Read Don't Ever Change Online

Authors: M. Beth Bloom

Don't Ever Change

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Advance Reader’s e-proof

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HarperCollins Publishers

This is an advance reader’s e-proof made from digital files of the uncorrected proofs. Readers are reminded that changes may be made prior to publication, including to the type, design, layout, or content, that are not reflected in this e-proof, and that this e-pub may not reflect the final edition. Any material to be quoted or excerpted in a review should be checked against the final published edition. Dates, prices, and manufacturing details are subject to change or cancellation without notice.

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Contents

Cover

Disclaimer

Title

Preface to a Classic

1. What do I Know

2. Standing in It

3. The Usual

4. Here’s a Door and it’s Open

5. Great

6. Dickinson’s Darcy, Milne’s Pooh

7. Chinese Bombs

8. Jennifer at Bat

9. What’s Up

10. Sad Story

11. Go Ahead, Check

12. Two Very Important Conversations in Between Two Very Disappointing Texts

13. We’re Going to Have a Motto

14. Nightmaring

15. There You Are

16. Second Course

17. Lonely Gets Lonelier

18. Sobtown, Mass.

19. The Whole Thing

20. Incentive

21. Gchatting With Lindsay

22. Idea for a Play

23. Rep

24. The Fifty-First State

25. So What

26. We Should’ve Stayed on the Hill

27. Foreshadowed

28. Frenching Foster

29. Not the Only One

30. Just Regular Pressing

31. Jobs

32. Ring Tones

33. “The Toaster” by Eva Kramer

34. Elephants

35. Those Who Can’t do, Get Taught

36. Good Counselor, Bad Counselor

37. Reading Things

38. Scrutin’ Eyes

39. Style War

40. Pediatricks

41. The Finalist

41. Jokes

42. Vancouver

43. It’s Zack

44. Passport

45. Deadja vu and the Curse of the Coyote

46. I Am in Trouble

47. Crying Through Confetti

48. A Break

49. Vhs

50. Christy and the Case of the Missing Clipboard

51. Another Idea For a Play

52. Different Types of Camps

53. Dropping It

54. Black and White

55. Check Her

56. Muddy Wisdom

57. Upon Meeting Lindsay

58. You Without Me

59. Imagine All the People

60. Postcard From the Islands

61. The Weirdest Date in the World

62. The Roush Solution

63. Not Always

64. Thorough

About the Author

Also by M. Beth Bloom

Copyright

About the Publisher

UNCORRECTED E-PROOF—NOT FOR SALE

HarperCollins Publishers

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AMERICA, I, AMERICA
is a play about freedom and being an American girl, and it’s the first thing I ever wrote. I was in the sixth grade. For my middle school’s Fourth of July celebration, I picked Erica Bordofsky to play the lead role, which she accepted with a bit too much humility, and that made me question her star power. “You’ve got to
sell
it,” was what I told her. “It’s about
America
!”

But ultimately, the final production turned out totally shallow and historically inaccurate and extremely disappointing. At that age, when we’re still so young that we can do anything—be nurses or astronauts or princesses or cops—I chose to do this: write. So I began thinking of myself
as
a writer, but a frustrated one, because Erica insisted on mispronouncing her final line as “America, I Am Erica,” over and over, to a confused assembly of students and teachers.

That’s the first thing you learn: being misunderstood.

The second thing is all those old, “classic” books they make you read. They’re all about the same themes—the Plight of Man, Man’s Epic Nature, Man Versus Society, and whatever else—and there’s
always
some depressing metaphor like a river or a war. The overall message I learned about Coming of Age is that if it’s a true “classic,” then only a boy is allowed to do it, and that’s why I hate Holden Caulfield and I hate Huck Finn.

If I’m either going to be left out because I’m a girl, or I’m going to be misunderstood, then I’d much rather be misunderstood; I’d rather have Erica Bordofsky bombing onstage, missing the entire point.

And I’d rather it be because
I
wrote it. Because it’s
my
story.

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HarperCollins Publishers

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IT’S ONE OF
my last classes of my last week of high school. So I don’t know why Mr. Roush even has to get into it.

“It’s not that your story isn’t good,” he says. “It
is
good. Better than most.”

“Okay,” I say.

“But honestly, the truth is there are other subjects you might be better at writing about. Things you know more about. Things you’ve actually experienced.”

“But what I know is just . . . it isn’t
dramatic
,” I say. “I don’t want to write about mean girls in chem class, or babysitting.”

“I’m not telling you to,” Mr. Roush says.

“I don’t want to write about high school.”

“Why not?”

“Because it’s kind of . . .
trite
,” I say.

“The rest of my students don’t think so.”

“Exactly.”

“What are you saying?”

“Nothing, Mr. Roush. I’m saying they don’t think it’s trite, that’s all.”

But they should. Most of the stories in class this semester were about fairy-tale proms or teen geniuses or cliques of high school vampires, while mine touched on divorce and cervical cancer and domestic baby adoption. I don’t quite consider myself a Teacher’s Pet, but I
do
think of myself as a Star Student. I also think when you’re a writer, everyone’s life and everyone’s story is what they call Fair Game, so it doesn’t make sense to limit yourself to your own boring reality when there’s so much good material just a search engine or magazine article away.

Mr. Roush sighs, and hands me the printout of my story. On the inside of the cover page is a single word written in red ink. The word is
WHY
.

“Do you know why I’ve written this?” Mr. Roush asks.

“Because you want to know why?”

“I wanted to know why you chose to write this specific story.”

I shrug. “It was just an idea. I tried to think of something kind of sad and, you know, moving.”

“There’s nothing wrong with that. But it has to go deeper,” he says. “This story doesn’t have . . . depth. It doesn’t feel real.”

“When we were workshopping it, I thought you said you liked it.”

“I do like it, Eva. It’s well written. But that’s all it is.” He pauses, choosing his words. “There’s a difference between writing that’s
fictional
, and writing that’s
false
,” Mr. Roush continues. “Does that make sense?”

“You think my story is fake,” I say.

“Eva, listen.”

“You want me to write what I know,” I say.

“It’s clichéd advice, I admit.”

“But nothing around here inspires me.”

“Well, what about a boy?” He raises his eyebrows, smiles. “A love story.”

“What? No.”

“Just a suggestion,” Mr. Roush says. “There’s a million suggestions. You just have to ask yourself: what do I know?”

I stand there, trying to look like I’m pondering the question. I do all the crucial gestures: slow head nodding, fingernail nibbling, even a straightforward head scratch (not on top like “A Thinker,” that’s too goofy, just gently behind the ear, “A Thoughtful Person”), but what I’m really doing is counting. I decide if Mr. Roush doesn’t dismiss me by the time I get to twenty then I’ll say something respectful, like “I’ll think about it over the summer.” But if he hasn’t said anything by the time I’m at forty then it’ll actually be awkward, so I’ll just interrupt with an upbeat “See you at graduation, Mr. Roush,” and cruise.

Eleven
, what do I know,
twelve
, what do I know,
thirteen
, what do I know.

I make it to fifteen when Mr. Roush sighs and stands with a distant, foggy look in his eyes, like he’s just remembered something he hasn’t thought about in a really long time. For a moment he holds that pose, gazing past me at the empty room full of little personal desks, each with their own little personal writing tray. I wonder if he’s picturing all the fake writers like me who have flooded in and out of his class over the years.

“It’s a lot to process,” he says, still sort of daydreaming. “There’s so much a writer can draw from. Every life is rich. Just because you’ve read books about adult dramas doesn’t mean those are the only subjects worth writing about.”

“Don’t serious writers write about serious things?”

Mr. Roush’s eyes refocus. He smiles at me, warmer than before. “It doesn’t work like that. You just write and then you’re a writer. And you’re a good writer, Eva.”

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