When Disaster Strikes

We’re back! Thanks to Sandy, and lack of internet access, the Femmes took an unplanned break from blogging. Did you miss us? We missed you!

Don’t forget to enter our anniversary contest. There’s good news…because we’ve been on hiatus, we’ve decided to extend the entry period until the end of the month!  We can’t wait to award one of you a brand new NOOK SIMPLE TOUCH! To enter, click on the link below.

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/d514c70/

 

Surf already pounding the day before Sandy

 

Not too long ago, two Harlequin editors tweeted that they were looking for stories built around natural disasters. Having just been through a 7.6 magnitude earthquake while vacationing in Costa Rica, my thoughts immediately turned to how I could craft a story around an event such as that. Not once did I think a disaster right in my own backyard would give me fuel for a story. Things like that just don’t happen in New Jersey. When you think of New Jersey, you think of humid summers, sometimes nasty winters, glorious springs, sunny beaches and breathtaking fall foliage, but not natural disasters.

If you live on this planet, you can’t be unaware of the happenings in the northeast US over the past two weeks. Superstorm Sandy slammed the tri-state region, and our perspectives on life, weather, and the people of our area got knocked on their butts. Whoever would have thought a storm, creating damage of such epic proportions, could happen here?

Well, it did, and many of the citizens of the Garden State, as well as the neighboring states of New York, Connecticut and Delaware, will be brushing themselves off, cleaning up, and rebuilding for years to come. Living near the shore myself, I was without power for nearly two weeks. I am in a position to view, firsthand, the devastation in our area: the wrecked beaches and boardwalks, the destruction of some of my favorite restaurants, the washed-away homes, the depleted dunes and nesting grounds of various endangered bird species. Luckily, I can also help some of my unfortunate neighbors, people of all ages, races, and economic circumstances, to just get through one day at a time. Family and friends have endured such tremendous destruction, loss, and heartbreak, it is unimaginable, and yet, they persevere.

As I grumbled about not having power, my very helpful friend next-door said, “Just think. As a writer, now you have some inspiration for a story.”  She’s right. As I interact with the people around me, I am amazed to see the grace with which they are handling the adversity handed to them by Mother Nature.

In the grocery store yesterday, I thoughtlessly said to the cashier, “Can you believe I’ve been calling JCP&L every day for over a week, and they only just fixed my power today? All of my neighbors got their power back last week!”

She commiserated with me for a bit. Then I asked, “So, how did you make out in the storm?”

“Well,” she replied, “All the houses around me are condemned, but ours is okay. We have to gut the bottom floor, so we’re all crammed upstairs right now. Luckily, my dad is a contractor, so he can rebuild our house himself.”

Facepalm! Here I was, complaining about having to rough it without power for two weeks, and this young girl, who, I later found out, lives in one of the hardest-hit towns, was living in half her house!

I’ve seen and heard stories of people heroically coming from all over the country to help us. Then there are the stories of the looters, the criminals, the beating of a police officer at a local gas station when tensions got high, the stabbing of a clerk at a 7-Eleven. Disasters bring out the best and the worst in people. They exaggerate the human condition, in both positive and negative ways. And they provide tremendous fodder for us as authors.

The story I would have written about an earthquake is much different from the story I would write about a hurricane. Now, I have the firsthand memories of what it looks like, sounds like, feels like and smells like to live it. Before, anything I would have written would be based on research and imagination. Now, experience can inform my story. We are lucky as writers to have this kind of catharsis for our pain, and to be able to glorify the fortitude of the human spirit, so that perhaps others may have hope and begin to heal.

I leave you with a photo of the real Jersey Shore, the one that will soon be restored.

Hugs,

Jaye

 

Least terns on Sandy Hook

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18 Comments

  1. So glad to see the femmes are back! We missed you. I’m sorry you had to suffer through Sandy. But I have to admit, I WANT to read the book you’re going to write about it!

    Reply
    • Diana, I’m definitely taking down ideas. Now it might not be a hurricane that hits New Jersey, but there are elements of the survival aspect of this situation that really make a good story.

      Jaye

      Reply
  2. Jenna Blue

     /  November 12, 2012

    Jaye,

    Even those of us who are getting back to an adjusted “normal” here are still so focused on what we’ve been through and ongoing recovery efforts for so many that have been so hard hit, so I’m glad you chose to blog about it, because it’s all we’re thinking about anyway. I think you (and your neighbor) are right: fodder for writing. Everything that happens, even tiny things, can spark the gem of an idea, a flushed out emotion for a character, a plot twist…living life–good and bad–makes us richer writers!

    Jenna

    Reply
    • There is definitely a new normal around these parts. It involves lots of Red Cross trucks and trucks from out of state. Lots of kindly strangers who only want to help. Clothing and food collection centers and shelters. It’s going to be interesting to hear the news the kids bring home with them from school this week. And to make the stories into a novel that ultimately doesn’t marginalize what anyone, anywhere in the world, goes through in the face of such tragedy.

      Reply
  3. Nicole Doran

     /  November 12, 2012

    Jaye,
    We’ve all had those moments in the past weeks where we think we have it bad and then realize that so many have it so much worse. It’s crazy to see and hear about the devastation to this area. My former childhood home and street on Staten Island is a disaster – many houses are condemned. I have a feeling there are going to be a whole lot of stories set around this crazy storm. You’re right though..the “shore” will be built back up – better and stronger for sure.
    Glad the Femmes are back too!
    Nicole

    Reply
    • Nicole, it breaks my heart so see what Staten Islanders are going through, and the help they seem to be lacking there and in the Rockaways. This is going to be a long recovery…

      I hope you and your family and friends made it through okay.

      Hugs,
      Jaye

      Reply
  4. Lori

     /  November 12, 2012

    Welcome back Femmes! I’m glad to hear more and more people returning to reality.
    Jaye – I’ve been thinking the same way as you with a story (I’m sure all of us have). I decided to pass on it but for those who try I thought I’d make a suggestion and maybe a spark would light. The agents and editors should get swamped and quickly with ideas. I would look for the forgotten stories and inspirational ones to catch their attention. A strong voice with a small idea was the avenue I was going to look down. I hear covenant house is suffering bad it could be good for YA writers or the new adult writer genre that is up and coming. I have a cousin who’s house was destroyed. She picked everything up and went to NC to live with her brother’s family for a few weeks. Take the girl out of Jersey might be another angle. That’s my two cents. Good luck to any who will attempt this story. It is going to hard on your stomachs and minds.
    Lori

    Reply
    • Thanks, Lori! As you said, I’m sure a lot of writers have been thinking along this vein. I don’t know that I would even set it in NJ, or base it on Sandy, as much as I would take the experience…the sounds, smells, sights, etc. and incorporate them. From every experience, good and bad, comes a new realization of life and its challenges. I can totally develop a hero, heroine, conflict, and plot from it.

      I’m so sorry about your cousin’s house. My sister-in-law was hit hard, too. I hope your cousin is able to get through it all.

      Hugs,
      Jaye

      Reply
  5. Jaye, what a beautiful and wise post! It is hard to wrap my mind around the damage Sandy did to our area. I drive around my little town where huge ancient trees still lie alongside the street, waiting to be cut up and carted away. It hurts my heart. But it’s nothing compared to the people who lost houses, and even the land they were built on. That makes my heart break.

    Yet I saw so much kindness and cooperation. The fact that our power was restored by a utility crew all the way from Mississippi is just extraordinary to me. Folks and local institutions opened their doors to those without heat and light and electricity. We all joked about bad hair days and wore hats. Truly, the generosity and resilience of the human spirit is a wonderful thing.

    Reply
    • Thank you, Nancy!

      We are going to be living with this for a long time…the sheer scope of the debris, downed trees, construction material, the humanitarian aid, clothing and food collection, displaced pets…the list goes on and on. Our power was also restored by a crew for Mississippi…apparently at 1:30 in the morning. I met a line worker from Ohio in the store who looked at me with the kindest eyes and listened to my tale of woe. Just outside my neighborhood, there is an aid group from a Baptist church in Oklahoma, as well as a Boy Scout van from Oklahoma. Another group from Mississippi has set up showers, washers and dryers, and food tents in our church parking lot. And on and on…the kindness of strangers is unbelievable and inspiring!

      Hugs,
      Jaye

      Reply
  6. Great perspective, Jaye. We were without power for twelve days. Luckily, no further damage sustained than just some stir crazy family members (me included). Seems petty to complain about it, when so many others had it worse.

    No doubt it’ll take a while for NJ to recover from this one. But it was wonderful to see the help from other areas of the country.

    Reply
    • Joanna, yes, sometimes I feel guilty for complaining about no power and the relatively minor damage to my property, but as a counselor friend of mine says, just because you didn’t lose as much as someone else, it doesn’t mean you don’t have the right to be angry, afraid, frustrated, sad, or whatever else you are feeling. So many people were severely impacted by this storm that most of us probably know at least one person who lost, if not everything, than a significant amount. Because I live close to the shore, I know quite a few, including my sister-in-law, several teachers in our schools, my kids’ music teacher, and at least two of my son’s friends from school. It hits really close to home, here. So while I am thankful I’m not in their position, I’m allowing myself to get ticked off…as long as I don’t let myself start wallowing in it. And as we’ve all recognized at this point, the kindness of strangers is so heart-warming.

      Hugs,
      Jaye

      Reply
  7. Hi, Jaye. A heartfelt post. I’m grateful to only have been without power for 6 days and luckily, I was able to spend most of that time at my parents’ house. I have friends impacted and can’t get back to their home for 6-8 months. It’s sad what they’re going through. But through all the sadness lies the spirit and support I see from people donating supplies and time to help out those in need. It makes me proud to be from NJ.

    Reply
    • Maria…ditto. Even through adversity, NJ rocks! It’s going to be difficult for quite a while here…we’re living daily with tent cities, National Guard trucks, military helicopters, Red Cross vehicles, etc. It’s hard to get away from it. But I have no doubt we are all going to be stronger for it.

      Reply
  8. Hi Jaye, Very reflective post. I’m glad the lives of the Femmes are getting back to normal (internet was just restored at my home). Two weeks without power was preferable considering all those people whose homes were destroyed. Neighbors are staying at my family’s home on LBI, which was one of the few homes not flooded. My father’s 66 Mustang Convertible was ruined – it was mostly sentimental value as he finally had the car up and running just before he died.

    But with all that all said, NJ is a great state and we will help each other recover.

    Michele

    Reply
    • Amen about the back to normal, Michele! You were without power even longer than we were. So sorry about your dad’s Mustang…but so glad your family home in LBI is okay. Looking forward to another afternoon there next summer. When are we taking that boating course? 😉

      Reply
  9. R.A. DeFranco

     /  November 18, 2012

    Great post, Jaye, and all the thoughts in the comments as well. My town didn’t get hit very hard. There were some here without power for a few days and enough issues that schools were closed for a week, my office was also closed for a week due to lack of power. Personally, we never lost power and suffered minimal damage to the yard. In fact, the 2nd storm to sweep through took down more shrubs, etc. than Sandy, but I suspect she got them started. As a result, I suffered a bit of survivors guilt. Even though I opened up my home to those who needed a shower, warm place to hang their hat, etc. it will never feel like enough. We have donated supplies to shelters and the Red Cross, and it still doesn’t feel like enough. One the writing front, I was just getting ready to start NaNo for the 2nd book in a YA Fantasy series I’ve been working on based on Elemental Gods living between two worlds, the Jersey Shore and what I’m realizing now is an alternate universe. I wasn’t sure how to start the story, but it now starts with Sandy. My kids needed a wake up call, and boy did they ever get it with her!

    Glad all the Femmes are back, safe and WARM!

    RoseAnnn

    Reply
    • Hi RoseAnn! You’re not the first person I’ve heard say they feel a bit guilty for getting off so easily. You’re wonderful for helping in all the ways you were able. We, too, have been trying to pitch in. We have several facilities that opened up here to distribute donated food and clothing, as well as cleaning supplies, diapers, and other necessities. That’s going to be a way of life here for awhile, I guess. 😦

      It is a good, if a hard, lesson for our kids…for them to realize that bad things can happen, and to make the best of it, help our neighbors and friends, and to maybe not take everything for granted.

      Reply

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