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Today is my son’s sixteenth birthday. (Happiest birthday, amazing Orion!) As most of you likely know, O inspired the character of Hunter in the Crank trilogy. He is, biologically speaking, our grandson, who we adopted when my daughter’s life (and so, ours, too) spun totally out of control. But we’ve had him since he was a baby, and consider him solidly our son. He was the candle, the one flicker of hope, in that dark, dark time of my life. And though he is growing into a man, he will always remain a source of light for me.

In the wake of the last few days, I worry about his future, and the future of all our children. Theirs is a world torn apart by war and senseless violence. Of fiscal uncertainty. Of a growing dependence on technology, at the expense, perhaps, of self-reliance and personal interconnection. Here in America, they witness the power of money and the celebration of possessions. Athleticism is prized, genius bullied. The generations before them have allowed greed to destroy reason. Natural resources have been pillaged. The planet is warming. This is a time of doubt.

And yet, every child is a candle of hope. Inside each is limitless potential, waiting to be tapped into. The solution to every problem is locked inside at least one of them. Someone just has to give them the key. That may be a parent. A teacher. A clergyman. A librarian. A mentor. A stranger. People are not meant to walk through life alone. But too many children are forced to, or at least believe that is true. Too many feel isolated or singled out for derision. Too many are hurt, often by those who should love them the most. Sometimes abused. Sometimes cut to the bone by words.

I worry about the future, yes. But I am determined to be an instrument of change. Despite the difficult times in my life, I have been blessed. My family continues to grow, to heal, to love. I am surrounded by a brilliant circle of friends and peers. I have tapped into my own personal potential, built it into a fantastic career, with an ever-expanding cadre of readers. Not only do my books entertain them, but they have helped more than a few through their own dark times, given hope and understanding that no one is truly alone.

Now, with Ventana Sierra, I will be helping young people in a most tangible way, fanning candles of hope into flames. When I finally leave this earth (no worries, I plan on sticking around for a very long time!), I will continue to make a difference and, with luck and a lot of help, positively influence the future. Worrying about it is fine. Giving up on it is unthinkable.

Today, family and friends are coming over to celebrate the holidays and my son’s sixteenth birthday. What a party it will be, filled with joy, and cheer, and love. I’m sending a little of all three out to every one of you today. And every day.

12 Days of Christmas Contest

First off, I celebrate Christmas. Please don't be offended by that. I love my Jewish friends and my Muslim friends and my Buddist, Wiccan, Hindu, other, questioning and non-believer friends, alike! But I like the idea of the 12 Days of Christmas, and this is my contest, so there it is. Here's how it will work. For the next 12 days, I'll post a Hopkins' books trivia question. You'll have 24 hours to answer it, and those who do correctly will go into a random drawing for books, CRANK t-shirts, posters, pictures and other Hopkins swag (YES I SAID SWAG!). 

The questions will get harder each day, so we'll go backward. Day one, 12 winners. Day two, eleven winners. Etc. Doesn't this sound fun? I'll post the first question tomorrow (Monday, 12/10) morning, no later than 8 a.m. Pacific. Time's up for answers when I post question two. I need from you, on every entry: Your name, email, and mailing address. Plus the correct answer, of course. In the subject line of your email, I need the Question #. So "Day One Question" or "Day Two Question." Please email to ellen_hopkins2@yahoo.com

Best of luck. I promise to be creative!
Ellen 

Our New Nonprofit, Ventana Sierra

You may have seen mentions somewhere of a new nonprofit, Ventana Sierra. This is my vision, my way of helping young people in need well into the future. My books may have helped them emotionally, but now I want to help in an even more substantial way.We hope to have the pilot program in place by January 1, 2013, and we're working hard to get there. So what is Ventana Sierra?

The program will focus on young people, 18-25, who have big dreams but no way to realize them. Ventana Sierra will provide housing, transportation, meals, life skills classes and education, including GED and community college programs, and trade training--apprenticeships under professional electricians, plumbers, landscapers, roofers, etc. Our goal is to guide our clients onto solid career paths that will allow them to become productive members of their communities.

We foresee serving youth transitioned out of foster care, or turned out on their own by caregivers unwilling or unable to continue care, as well as those who simply can't make it on their own. The desire to succeed must be there. Applicants will be screened, and priority give to determined individuals with career goals in mind. Those accepted must agree to live substance-free in shared family-style housing for the duration of the two-year program, and maintain successful evaluations throughout. As a way of giving back to the program, clients will help refurbish properties for those who will follow them, creating dynamic forward movement into the future.

We are in the process of acquiring our first house, and hope to have it in place by the turn of the New Year. Our website is under construction, but will soon have applications available. As this is our first year, and we're still seeking funding, one house serving up to six clients may be all we can offer, but we're hoping to double that within eighteen months. 

More to come very soon. I promise to keep you informed of our progress and will let you know as soon as the application process begins. I'm so excited!
I need your help. I really, really want to keep writing both young adult and adult novels. On the YA side, I'm covered. You guys have been such great supporters! Many, many thanks. You've probably seen by now that I just signed a contract to write two more YA novels. Look for them in 2014 and 2015. 

Where I could use your help is on the adult side. See, bookstores place orders according to how well the last book sold. And libraries don't always know what adult titles to purchase. I'm hoping to grow my adult book numbers, which will allow me to keep writing them, too. Here's what you can do.

Buy a copy of COLLATERAL (or TRIANGLES) for you.
Buy one for a friend or relative. Think holiday gifts. :-)
If your local bookstore doesn't carry them, ask them to order the book(s) for you.
If you know someone in the military, be sure to mention COLLATERAL. For every copy sold, I will personally donate $1 to veterans' services.
No $$ for books? No problem. Please lobby your local libraries to purchase one for their collections! Let them know why my books are important and why you think COLLATERAL would appeal to many readers. A phone call should do, or if you happen to drop in, tell them in person. And have your friends give them a call, too.

Now for the something in return. Check out my last post here about the Signed Collection Contest I'm sponsoring and be sure to enter. Bonus: everyone who enters will receive a signed bookplate for their book or a signed postcard, if it's an e-book. And if you tell me which libraries you've talked to, I'll send you a signed postcard, too.

That's it. I appreciate whatever you can do. Now I'm off to work on that 2014 YA, RUMBLE.

Signed Collection Contest

So I'm really hoping all of you are planning to add COLLATERAL to your Ellen Hopkins bookshelf. It releases on November 6. That's TUESDAY! To encourage you, if you purchase the book this month, I'll enter you in a drawing to win one of three signed Ellen Hopkins collections. Here's how to participate:

Buy COLLATERAL before December 1.
Take a picture of yourself holding the book and email it to ellenhopkins@charter.net no later than November 30, 2012.
In the subject line of your email, put COLLATERAL Contest.
Be sure to include your name, the date of purchase and where you purchased it. E-reader purchases are fine. Take a pic with you and the book on your reader.
If you win, I'll ask for a mailing address where I can send the books.
That's it. Winners will be chosen randomly and announced December 1.

If you already own one or more of my books and win, great. Be generous with one of your friends. And if you happen to be connected to the military, please check out the Appearances page on my website, www.ellenhopkins.com I may be coming to a base near you in the next few weeks.

It's All About Equal Rights

I’ve debated writing this post. I’m sure I’ll offend someone, and that’s not what I’m trying to do. But this is important to me. And whether or not you realize it now, it’s important to you, too. Most of us have decided how we’ll vote in this election. But if you’re not sure, or even if you’re just lukewarm about the candidate you’ve chosen, I hope you’ll consider carefully what I have to say.

The economy still sucks. Maybe President Obama could have done better. Probably not, with a Congress determined to stall the recovery. I doubt Romney could have done better, and his math doesn’t add up when it comes to his fixes. But that’s not my biggest concern. Economically, things are improving, albeit too slowly. Under either man, that will continue.

My biggest concern is equal rights. Something, to my confusion and chagrin, still doesn’t exist in this country. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has stated that , despite its wording, the 14th Amendment only applies to race. He was quite clear that women specifically are not protected equally under the Constitution. (Find links to all the information I offer at the end of this blog.)

My generation, and the one just before, fought long and hard, championing the idea that every US citizen should enjoy the same rights under the Constitution. EVERY citizen. Equality means no exceptions because you’re gay or Latino or atheist or female. Can anyone reasonably argue this shouldn’t be so?

President Obama has demonstrated forward movement on this front. He signed the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. He supports gay marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, and mandated hospitals must allow gay partners visitation rights. He also supports a woman’s right to choose what to do with her personal body parts, and that is no small thing.

FACT: Under Romney/Ryan, both a woman’s right to choose and access to affordable birth control would be in danger. Romney has sworn to defund Planned Parenthood, which offers a variety of important healthcare services to women who can’t afford them any other way. Abortion, FYI, represents only 3% of the services they provide. The 97% include affordable cancer screenings and birth control.

I won’t argue Roe v Wade here, but I will say that repealing it won’t make abortion go away. It will just return us to coat hangars. Oh, except for the wealthy, who have always had access to the procedure. The generations of women who followed mine have never NOT had choice. Whatever your personal philosophy, I beg you not to give up the right to CHOOSE your own path, nor the access to affordable birth control. Sex is as much a woman's right as it is a man's. It doesn't have to lead to pregnancy and unwanted children. 

If a woman performs a job as well as her male counterpart, should she not be paid the same wage? If you don’t think so, WTH not? Yet, in the five states that come closest to gender-equal paychecks, for every dollar a man makes, a woman makes 75 cents. In Utah, the state with the worst record, women make around half (55 cents) of what men do, for the exact same work. Romney/Ryan embrace this inequality.

In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced to afford gender equality as a Constitutional right. There was a ten-year deadline to get enough states (38) to sign it into law. By 1982, only 35 states had done so. Instrumental in the defeat of the ERA in key swing states was the Mormon Church, which rallied members and poured money into the effort, much the same way it did with the anti-gay rights Proposition 8 in California during the last election.

Of course, the Mormon Church has an absolute right to its belief system. But its leaders wield power, and Romney has served as a Mormon bishop and stake president. In those roles, he went well beyond church doctrine. Once, he demanded a single mother give her child up for adoption. (Because, you know, a single mother can’t possibly parent well.) On another occasion, he insisted a woman whose life was endangered by her pregnancy carry to term anyway. (It is important to note that his superiors in the church didn’t feel the same way. Even within his religion, he is an extremist.)

Fact: Under Romney/Ryan, the gay rights we’ve accomplished will roll back.

Mr. Romney has recently stated gay people do not have the right to visit their partners in the hospital. He has vowed to roll back DADT and worse, to sponsor a CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT that would define marriage as between one man and one woman. In other words, not only will he not defend equality under the Constitution, he wants to alter it specifically to make sure a large segment of our society will never have equal rights. Again, no matter your personal views on the definition of marriage, this is quite simply an equal rights issue.

Romney has quite publicly said that he’s not worried about representing college students, the elderly, the working poor or others who pay no federal income tax (the infamous 47%), especially not those who need help from the government in the form of food stamps, unemployment or Medicaid. You know, those pesky things that keep poor people from starving in the streets or dying from strep throat.

This is the most troubling thing of all. That a man who assumes to be President of the United States would choose to roll back the equal rights we’ve already managed to accomplish. That he would not to serve every US citizen equally. That he would alter the Constitution to make damn sure certain segments of our society will forever be discriminated against. It is indefensible. And something I really hope you’ll consider before you go to the polls.

Breaking: the Romney campaign says Mitt still supports Richard Mourdock,despite the Republican senator saying in a recent debate that God intends pregnancies that result from rape. Following his logic, he’s saying God intends rape. This is reprehensible. Yet, Romney refuses to distance himself. Go figure.

http://news.yahoo.com/romneys-campaign-says-still-supports-mourdock-174308753--election.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/10/19/worst-states-gender-income-inequality_n_1987806.html?ir=Women&utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=769208,b=facebook#sb=1237240,b=facebook

 http://campaignstops.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/06/13/equal-rights-gay-rights-and-the-mormon-church/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/barbara-hannah-grufferman/will-america-kill-the-equ_b_893905.html?utm_hp_ref=fb&src=sp&comm_ref=false#sb=1237240,b=facebook

http://thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/romney-hospital-visitation-for-gay-couples-are-benefits-not-rights/politics/2012/10/20/51681?fb_action_ids=10151279757224884&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=aggregation&fb_aggregation_id=288381481237582

Teen Read Week Author Visit Contest

Yesterday I looked at my calendar and noticed I have nothing going on during Teen Read Week. That doesn’t sit well with me, since I’m a huge supporter of ALA, YALSA and, of course, encouraging teens to find a book they love and dive on in. I got to thinking that I’d really like to talk to teens that week. What better way than to visit a few high schools, totally on my dime? But with so many worthy schools, the only thing I could think of was to sponsor a contest. So here goes.

Rules:

1. Your school must agree to host me for two hours one morning, October 15-19. I will give my usual presentation, plus sign books, and that means…

2. Your school must have my books available for purchase either before or during my visit. Teaming with a local bookstore is probably the easiest way, or if you contact Simon & Schuster, they will offer a discount on books for an author visit.

3. Once those details are confirmed, please email one to three paragraphs, telling me why your school or public library is important. Please use this email address only: ellen_hopkins2@yahoo.com.

4. Time is short, so you’ll have to get busy! I need those entries no later than September 20, 2012. This is the info I need:

Your name

Your title (student, teacher, librarian, etc.)

Your school

Your contact information

Contact phone # for someone authorized to confirm my appearance

One to three paragraph essay on why your library is important

Four winning schools will be chosen by a random drawing of qualified entries. Travel, hotel, food and honorarium is included as part of the prize. Each visit must be early enough in the day to allow travel to the next location. US schools only this time. Will run a separate contest for Canada! Winners will be announced no later than September 25, 2012. 

That’s it. You game? I am! Get busy.

Military Family Photo Contest

In celebration of the upcoming release of my second adult novel, COLLATERAL, I'm looking for a few good photos of your warriors (all branches of the military!) especially those that represent the relationship between warriors and their loved ones--spouses, partners, children, parents, each other, etc. I'd love to see pics that tell a story--your soldier's story. Please only submit photos you hold the copyright to. Winners will be required to submit a signed photo permissions form. Winning photos will appear on my social media sites. Winners will receive signed ARCs of COLLATERAL.

Rules:

Submit up to five of your best photos via email to ellenhopkins@charter.net.

Deadline for entry: August 1. Up to ten winning photographs will be announced no later than August 15.

Good luck! Looking forward to getting to know you, and your loved ones, through your pictures.
Ellen

In Praise of Responders

When I was little, we lived in Napa, at the back of a box canyon. Steep hills on three sides. Only one way out. It was beautiful California ranchland—green until summer, then browned grass, shaded by big oak trees. Serene and lovely. With one major problem. Fire.

There weren’t fires every day, of course, or even monthly or annually. But when they happened, they raged. The properties in Soda Canyon relied on wells, which required power to pump water. One summer evening, we watched a fire burning in the distance. I was four at the time and asked what we should do if a fire came close. My dad told me, “Save water. If the power lines burn, there won’t be any water.”

The next summer, a careless burn ignited a blaze at the front of the canyon. The wind picked up embers, carried them up the hills on both sides. That fire came burning straight toward us. We got the call to evacuate around ten p.m. As my mom put the dogs, cats, canary and my little brother in the car, I filled two bathtubs and three sinks with water before my dad chased me out of the house. He refused to leave. Our house had a wooden shake roof. He wanted to hose it down first.

Car loaded with kids and pets, my mom made a serious run for it. The fire burned all around us. On one side of the road was a dry streambed, so the fire wasn’t quite as close there. We were maybe two-thirds of the way out of the canyon when a tree fell across the road in front of us. Other cars were coming up behind us. My mom had nowhere to go.

I remember her crying and my little brother crying. I remember being terrified that we were going to burn right there. Suddenly, there was a knock on the window. It was a firefighter. His truck was on the other side of the tree, which had ignited on one end. While another fireman worked a hose against that hill, this one directed my mom, and the cars behind her, over the embankment and into the streambed. Somehow, we all managed to get around that tree, back up the embankment, and make our way to town.

Firefighters battled that fire for three days. Water was, indeed, an issue when the power lines went down. That water I’d saved? Firemen soaked gunnysacks with it and beat them against burning roofs. There was a picture in the newspaper of one firefighter, eye-to-flame as he saved our house with wet burlap. The paper called five-year-old Ellen Wagner a heroine for saving that water. But I knew who the real heroes were.

Today, I still live in the west, and wildfire is a huge threat every year. Last night, I posted photos on Facebook of a January fire that raged very close to our house through tinder-dry brush. Sixty mile per hour wind gusts blew that blaze across the valley on both sides of the highway. Firefighters put themselves between the flames and houses, saving hundreds. Their lives were on the line, as they are every time they go to work.

Obviously, they don’t fight fires every day. But when they do, the risk is great. These men are heroes. Those who claim we don’t need them have never been threatened by fire. Those who claim their benefits are too expensive have never seen a firefighter eating smoke. Those who claim firemen and cops and teachers are killing our economy are dangerously misinformed, shortsighted and looking for easy fixes where none exist.

President Obama is absolutely right. We need more firemen and cops and teachers and librarians. Government can work for We the People, and in these places it must. 

Live Webcast Saturday May 12

Hey all! If you're sleeping in/hanging out on Saturday morning, I'll be taking part in a live Webcast, talking about COLLATERAL. Here are the details:

Please join us Saturday, May 12th, for the live radio/webstream show "Circles of Change: Where Your Path is Created by Walking On It" from 10-noon PST (1-3 Eastern) on http://www.1041thetruth.com/ or in Southern Arizona, Journal Broadcasting's 104.1 FM.  
Dr. Zara Larsen is in her fifth season (approaching 300 shows and 700 podcasts) with the assistance of quite a roster of guests from across the US and overseas -- a mission to offer positive, pragmatic advice and often unconventional wisdom on personal career and organizational change. I will be the third  segment discussing COLLATERAL, so should be on at 11 am PST.
If you cannot join us live, the podcast will be posted May 15th at http://www.thelarsengroup.com/, and hosted on a mobile site from May 18th-25th. Opt in via smart phone by texting drzara to 313131 for the audio link to come your way.
Hope you can listen in, and please tell your friends.