Is it Christmas yet??

Have I blogged about Christmas yet? Not this year! I'm already anxious for Christmas.

I love Christmas. It is truly my favorite holiday. And I'm not talking about the over commercialized Christmas that stores start selling stuff for before Halloween. Mostly, I love Christmas traditions and time with family and… well, ok… food. I love Christmas food. It's the best kind of food.

snowflake cake

You agree with me, yes? (I decorated that cake by myself by the way!… took a long time… can't wait to do it again this year!)

Every year my family has a HUGE Christmas party. When we lived in California and had a huge house we had twice as many people and four times as much food. Of course now we have fewer people, but it's still awesome. We have our friends from the church come over, and friends from other places too. My ballet teacher's family, our employees and teachers, the kids' school friends. Our (fake) tree is exploding with ornaments, the table is filled with food—and people bring more when they come—and there's always someone on the baby-grand piano—usually me or Hannah—playing Christmas hymns that the whole party sings to. Of course the main attraction is Mom's homemade eggnog. She makes two batches: the "kids" batch and the "Adult" (spiked, but not too spiked) batch. And as people slowly leave, Dad reads the Christmas story, and our closest friends stay and watch us open our Christmas pajamas (another one of those traditions).

You want to see the whole story on a greeting card?

So would I.

This would be the card I would use, replacing each photo with a great shot from the former year's party. Six pictures is enough to portray quite a lot of joy, isn't it?


Shutterfly has Christmas cards, New year's cards, thank you cards, and every other type of cards you can think of for an awesome price, envelopes included. Head on over there before the holidays and stock up while they still have free shipping on orders over $30 (Offer ends Nov. 3). I received free cards in exchange for this post. Receiving the cards does not influence my post.

Review: CSN Mukluks


4 Stars

I had the opportunity to use a coupon at CSN Stores, and I ended up getting an adorable pair of Mukluks. They're the tall size in the Godiva coloring.

CSN also offers a short size in Godiva, and a Vintage coloring in both sizes.

They are lined with a faux fur and extend to mid-calf. the drawstring on the front lets me tighten or loosen them so I can wear anything under them, from tights to leg warmers to jeans and I can tuck them in and tighten them comfortably.

The shoes themselves are made to regulate heat. when it's really cold, my feet stay warm, and when it's warm out, my feet can breathe and they don't sweat too much. They're also REALLY comfortable, and really cute.

The rundown of why I like them: 74098_457444766729_805041729_5415056_8223990_n

1. Warm—and I'll need it up here. Supposedly it gets down into the single digits.

2. really pretty. I love the fair isle patterning and coloring.

3. the warmth regulation is convenient, especially when it's cold in the morning, warm in the afternoon, and cold at night. I only have to wear one pair of shoes!

4. The adjustable drawstring front—I can wear them with any pants and trap the heat in.

5. the sole is about an inch thick: so even walking through cold puddles is ok, because the fabric of the shoe doesn't get wet.


Tiny complaints:

1. slippery when wet. I have to dry them off before I walk on a linoleum floor inside (or be very careful), because they're really slick.

2. the lining on the bottom moves a little under my toes, so it feels weird sometimes and I have to straighten it out.

3. They feel just a little on the big side. Most size 9-s fit me with a little room, but my feet are wide so it's ok. These almost feel like they're bigger than 9-s. But they've got room for thick socks!

4. Not a lot of arch support.


So the good certainly outweighs the not-so-good in this case. I love these shoes! I'll probably wear them from November to April (Supposedly it stays icy for a while up here). I'll do a follow-up post once the snow hits.

Review: Lips Touch: Three Times

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor
Genre: Young Adult, paranormal/fantasy, romance
ISBN: 9780545055857
Published: October 1st 2009 by Arthur A. Levine Books
Rating: 5

Three stories. Three kisses, all with horrible—or wonderful?—consequences. Goblins hunt girls who long for what they don't have. The most beautiful voice can't be heard, even by a lover, or all who hear it will die. A young girl has been thrown into something she never chose, for a reason she doesn't know, with memories that aren't her own. Welcome to paranormal love.

These stories were fantastic. There were three things that stuck out about them:

1. None of them had happyland syndrome endings where everything wraps up perfectly. In fact only one of them ends at the end of the story: the others solve the main conflict and wrap up nicely. Taylor didn't have to write all the way to the end because I knew what was going to happen and was satisfied exploring the rest in my mind.

2. They pulled me into the story with the first sentence. There was no "I'm going to give this a try and maybe it'll be worth reading." No, it was enchanting and enticing from the first word, and it was because of the creativity in the prose and the language.

3. Great writing. Beautiful intricate descriptions that stuck with me and gave me the feelings Taylor wanted me to have—whether they be enticing and sensual, or terrifying and upsetting.

Here are my thoughts on the individual short stories:

Goblin Fruit

Really?… Wow… why was that so good even though it had a horrible ending?… and was it really that horrible? Yes, it really was. I had to double check and make sure that it really was the end! I'd been wondering for a while 'can an author write a good book with a good ending that isn't happy?' answer, Yes. Laini Taylor can.

Spicy Little Curses Such As These

This story was horrid and sweet at the same time. I had a thought of how the story would end, but the ending turned out to be much different. It wasn't perfect, but it was perfect enough to leave me smiling and feeling satisfied for the characters.

The Hatchling

I could not visualize how this story would have a happy ending, and it certainly wasn't perfect—there is one character whom I still fear for her sanity. But I was so amazed an the unwinding of the mysteries and secrets of the plot and was more pleased than I thought I would be with the conclusion.

For wonderful writing, creativity, and fantastic characters, I give this one five stars and two thumbs up—get it, first chance you can.

Content/recommendation: Ages 15+ for some language, little sensuality. No explicit violence or language, no sex.

This review is copyright Haley Mathiot and Night Owl Reviews 2010.

Some quick reviews

I'm going to post a few quick reviews (I'm slightly backed up.) but I'll still try to give you an idea of my opinion on all these things.

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk: A Modest Bestiary by David Sedaris
Genre: Humor
ISBN: (Hardcover 9780316038393;) (Audio 9781600244995)
Published: October 5th 2010 by Hachette Audio (first published September 17th 2010 by Hachette)
Rating: 4

David Sedaris always makes me laugh. His humor is centered around the kinds of things that people aren't really supposed to talk about, but he can get away with it because he is, after all, David Sedaris. If you like Sedaris and you've always been a fan of talking animals, this one is for you. If you've never heard Sedaris, you may or may not like him. His humor is certainly not for children and can be inappropriate. But then he seems to write inappropriate things just because he can. Recommended for ages 18+


Chasing Brooklyn by Lisa Schroeder
Genre: Young Adult
ISBN: 9781416991687
Published: January 5th 2010 by Simon and Schuster
Rating: 4

Brooklyn's boyfriend Lucca died, and then her friend, Gabe, went off the edge because of it and died soon after. And now Gabe is scaring her in her dreams. Nico is being haunted by his brother Lucca, who is constantly telling him to help Brooklyn. But Brooklyn won't talk. Brooklyn is empty, and broken, and terrified. Nico has no choice but to chase after her if he wants to rescue her and let Lucca rest in peace. Then Nico begins to see why Lucca fell in love with her in the first place.

I liked Chasing Brooklyn more than I liked I Heart You, You Haunt Me. I think it was because there was another character involved that I liked. Nico was a great character. I still thought the ghosts interacting with the humans was a little over the top, but it wasn't as bad as IHYYHM. There was one aspect that could have been more developed, but for the sake of spoilers I won't explain in detail. Basically I wanted a little more direction out of her haunted dreams. But all in all, I tore through this book very fast, I enjoyed it, and I found myself re-reading sections. It had a good plot, great characters, and a wonderful ending.

Chasing Brooklyn is part of International Book Tours. Check out IBT for more reviews.


The Single Girl's Guide to Meeting European Men by Katherine ChloƩ Cahoon
Genre: Advice, informative, travel guide
ISBN: 9781608320585
Published: October 1st 2010 by Greenleaf Book Group Press
Rating: 4

I wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Single Girl's Guide. At first I thought it was a memoir, then a novel, then a collection of stories. Turns out it is actually a guide book for meeting European men! Yes ladies, there is hope for all of you American women who are tired of American men and want someone foreign.

Because I wasn't quite sure what to expect from TSGG, I can't really say it met or fell below my expectations. It was interesting (some of the stories were pretty funny!), There was definitely some good advice… but keep in mind that I'm certainly not the dating professional to ask (It's me remember?… the one who is having her father arrange her marriage? yes, I'm serious.) so I can't really tell you how well the advice will work. I will say that most of the "attention grabbers" are somewhat familiar to what has happened to me in the past, and I will say that through reading the stories, Cahoon seems like she knows what she's talking about.

This book is also a great travel guide. There are places to go, hours and phone numbers, and specific people's names mentioned to enhance your European adventure.

Review: Little Green Dresses

Little Green Dresses by Tina Sparkles
Genre: Sewing and craft
ISBN: 9781600851216
Published: September 14th 2010 by Taunton Press
Rating: 3.75

Never shop retail again with this chic and sweet collection of DIY patterns from a former host of DIY Network’s Stylelicious, Tina Sparkles. Joining the green movement was never so easy — and cost saving! With Sparkles’ stripped-down approach to patterning and sewing, the delightful dresses, tops, skirts, and pants in this fashion-forward project book will not only raise your eco-IQ, but open your eyes to new methods for sewing garments. Author Tina Sparkles, a talented and imaginative designer, offers up an array of project ideas that are both earth- and user-friendly. Readers can pick and choose the patterns that suit them best, from A-line, tiered, and bubble skirts to “body tube” dresses and “cap-sleeve cutie” blouses. Included are sewing and shopping resources and a fitting guide.

Little Green Dresses is a very creative interesting craft book. The instructions are good, and Tina has step by step instructions for how to cut or create your own patterns, or make your own based on the ones in the book.

As far as the dresses themselves: They are all very unique. It's hard for me to visualize how I personally would wear some of them. Some are really cool. I like most of them. Some are just odd.

But then I was never much of a fashionista. My sister used to match my clothes for me. And I'm amazed I haven't gotten kicked off campus for some of the things I've worn.

Still, most of the dresses have a very artistic appeal to them. Only a very few do I actually dislike.

The only reason I don't give this book a 4 or a 4.5 is because, although they are very creative and interesting, some are impractical and I can't really see someone wearing them for anything other than a very specific occasion.

Recommendation: intermediate/advanced seamstresses

Review: Tracy Anderson's 30-day Method

Tracy Anderson's 30-Day Method
Genre: Exercise
ISBN: 9780446562041
Published:September 20th 2010 by Grand Central Life & Style
Rating: 4.5

When reviewing fitness books, I look for books that tell the reader how to fully use their bodies. I really like Anderson's method for two reasons:

1. She knows muscles. She knows how they work, she knows how to train them. In the book, the concept of using certain muscles to perform an exercise is clearly explained. This is a crucial part of muscle training.

2. She had a good balance between aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise, and she has put them together in a good way.

Anderson was a dancer, she also took Pilates (the right way) and I could see both of those influences in her method. Don't get scared away by that—even if you've never seen the inside of a ballet studio, you'd be just fine working her method! But there is a reason that it is said that dancers are the athletes of God: because they are. Combining cardio (aerobic exercise) with Pilates (conditioning) and dance (alternating engage-disengage exercise to increase stamina) is the perfect combination for weight loss and muscle toning.

Now how to get there if you have never experienced any of that?

Anderson breaks the book down into different sections. The exercise portion, where she fully explains every stretch, position, and movement, is well described for the absolute beginner. More athletic users or advanced athletes would benefit also, but they wouldn't have to read the descriptions of the movements in their entirety.

The DVD is very good: It features Anderson working the exercises in the book enough time to hear the description, see all the details, and do it yourself.

There is also a section in the book with some great meals. The first section is a very thorough introduction that I do not recommend skipping! You'll learn tons about your body! I was also amazed at how much research Anderson did to create this method.

The only thing I don't like: The cardio routine has no verbiage. I expected some talking, either voiceover or real time, with some counting or some description of what you should be doing. However, it was just music and Anderson dancing. It would take me, who has been dancing for almost five years, two or three times doing the DVD to get the combinations. It would be a lot more difficult and confusing for someone who doesn't have practice taking what they see and converting it for themselves.

The other thing I wanted to see more of was proper stretching techniques. I honestly have yet to find a book that explains how to properly stretch without injury (it is possible!). My recommendation to anyone who uses this awesome program: stretch well. Stretch correctly. Get a dancer or a sports doctor to give you advice if you need it.

Recommendation: Ages 14+  for anyone serious. This program takes time, energy, and commitment. If you can't commit to about two hours of your day, it's not for you. If you use the program, make sure you follow instructions very carefully to avoid injury! doing exercises incorrectly is a very fast way to end up in the physical therapists office (I can tell you that from personal experience, though not experience from this book).

Review: The Island

The Island by Elin Hilderbrand
Genre: General adult fiction, Romance
ISBN: 9781607882404
Published: Published July 6th 2010 by Hachette Audio
Rating: DNF

Summary from Goodreads: From New York Times bestseller Elin Hilderbrand, a new novel set on Tuckernuck, a tiny island off the coast of Nantucket.

Four women-a mother, her sister, two grown daughters-head to Tuckernuck for a retreat, hoping to escape their troubles. Instead, they find only drama, secrets, and life-changing revelations.

I read (listened to) about half of The Island before I put it down for one reason or another, and I just never picked it up again. What I did read, I enjoyed. It had good pacing, it had good plot in the first part of the story. If it had followed through with that the whole way, I would have given it about 4.5. But when the characters got to a certain point, I felt like I knew what was going to happen at the end of the story, and I really didn't want to bother reading to get there.

So in summary, I have mixed feelings about this one. On the one hand I enjoyed what I read, and on the other hand I put it down and didn't want to bother reading the rest. You make your decision based on your patience level I guess.

As far as the reader, it was a little slow and smiley sounding, but it wasn't hard to listen too.

Content/recommendation: Some language, ages 16+

This religious post is guaranteed to offend you.

no matter what side you're on, this one will bother you. I promise.


Normally I would post this on my personal blog, but I wanted people to hear about this. It's sad and disappointing. I was not the only one who fled to the girl's bathroom to sob after the experience.


First of all, the following I heard from a fellow classmate and his friends, who had been on campus for more than one of these experiences. There is a traveling evangelist who goes around to different college campuses all over the united states. he holds up signs that preach the gospel in a very unloving verbally violent offensive way such as "you deserve hell" and the like (I don't remember the exact verbiage.) He stands on the UC lawn and talks into a microphone, and has someone videotape it. He preaches until someone hits him, then he sues the school. That is how he funds his ministry.


Talk about using Christ for personal gain.


When I heard it back in September, it irritated me. I didn't really expect it to be so bad though.


He came to school today. And I did get a chance to talk to him, and the things he was saying to the other students were horrible. He was calling them evil horrible sinners, telling them things like "you are all going to burn in hell!" and stuff like that. One guy cussed him out, and he started fighting with him.


Jesus didn't act like that.


and that was what I told him. I told him that Jesus preached the truth in love. Jesus didn't fight with people. and yet he argued with me and then ignored me when I wouldn't go away. I was furious. I every muscle in my body was shaking and I was crying by the time I left. when the guy started ignoring me, one of his assistants started talking to me.


Eventually I just gave up and left. I cried in the bathroom for a good half hour. a few other girls came in and we talked and managed to calm down with each other's help, but for the rest of the day I've gone out of my way (WAY out of my way) to avoid walking past that area again. Last time I saw, the students were chanting something at him.


The thing that gets me is that he just made my job a whole lot harder. Now everyone who experienced that is going to have a bad vision of Christians and of Jesus Christ. I couldn't give a crap about my reputation—it's pretty much ruined anyway. But Jesus' reputation is seriously tainted.


One girl said he comes back every year.


and the police can't get him off campus. They tried, but because of freedom of speech they can't do anything until it gets violent.


For those of you who are hurt: please pray that God changes the heart of this guy and forgives him. Pray that God will use the Christians on my campus as tools to show the others what Jesus really acts like.


And for those of you who look down on Christians, and are hurt or angry because of the unlovingness of this man: I'm sorry. I promise we're not all like that.

Review: Last to Die

Last to Die by Kate Brady 
Genre: Crime Thriller
ISBN: 9780446541534
Published: August 31st 2010 by Grand Central Publishing
Rating: 4


(from Goodreads)

A ruthless killer hides in plain sight, portraying the ideal citizen while hatching a horrific plan. Sins of the past have come to light and now the time is right for revenge. Six desperate women will be brutally murdered as punishment for the secrets they've kept hidden...
Detective Dani Cole is devastated to discover that a young woman viciously killed in a local park was someone whose life she'd helped redeem. Her investigation becomes even more personal when it leads her to Mitch Sheridan, a renowned photojournalist. The two share a painful past...and an attraction that sparks as they race to find the killer. But danger is much closer than anyone imagines. For in the shadows, this calculating criminal has a new target: Dani Cole.


I enjoyed Last to Die. I remember enjoying One Scream Away more I think, but then it was last year. The plot was very well thought out and complex, and because of that and the somewhat unclear writing style, at times I just followed along and hoped it would clear up in the end. It did, and everything was explained. I wouldn't have understood what was going on if it hadn't been for alternating the viewpoints between the protagonists and the antagonists, though.


The ending with Dani and Mitch could have been a little more, I think. It almost felt a little empty, like it was lacking some physical or mental release of tension. In fact there could have been more between Dani and Mitch the whole way through… her falling for him for the second time seemed just too easy.


All in all though, the plot was great, the writing was readable though a little confusing at times, and the characters were likeable. Dani and Mitch (ok…especially Mitch) definitely hold a place on my list as top hero's.


Content/Recommendation: language, some sex. Ages 18+

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Keep your eyes open for a review coming soon.

NaNoWriMo is next month!!!

NaNoWriMo stands for National Novel Writing Month. And I have absolutely zero time to write a 50,000 word novel. However, I might work on one anyway… Just to see how much I can do.


And in honor of NaNoWriMo, The Marshal Plan ® is hosting a contest!


Get a Fiction Makeover for National Novel Writing Month!

A Contest Sponsored by The Marshall Plan®


In celebration of National Novel Writing Month (November 2010), Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett, leading literary agents and authors of The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software and The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing ebook, are sponsoring a contest for aspiring novelists. Send them a proposal for your novel for a chance at winning a free copy of the software and a free Fiction Makeover—professional advice on revising your material for better chances of a sale!


Contest rules:

Entrants must not have published a novel with a major commercial publisher. Submit the first 25 (no more!) double-spaced pages of your novel, any genre, along with a synopsis no longer than 1 single-spaced page. Send your material in one .doc file as an email attachment to: Submission deadline: November 15, 2010. Winners will be announced on November 30, 2010, on as well as Facebook and Twitter. Entrants who do not follow rules exactly will be disqualified.

Become a fan on Facebook and follow on Twitter for contest updates and writing tips.



2 Grand Prizes:

· The Marshall Plan® Novel Writing Software ($149 value)

· A copy of The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing Ebook ($10 value)

· A Free Fiction Makeover for your novel proposal: top literary agents Evan Marshall and Martha Jewett will tell you what you need to do to get your novel published faster in today's competitive publishing climate.

3 Runner-Ups:

· A copy of The Marshall Plan® for Novel Writing Ebook ($10 value)


Click Here to learn more!


Are you planing on participating in NaNoWriMo? Find me on the website (username is Haleyknitz)

Fall Break!!! and other random updates

Wahoo! So I've survived almost six weeks of school :D It has totally flown by and I've enjoyed nearly every minute of it. The only part about college that I don't like is the weekends.


You heard me.


I really kind of hate weekends. There is nothing to do and nobody to hang out with. (well, the fact that I only have like six friends doesn't help that.)


Other then that, it's awesome.


Fall break is October 14-19th, and I'm going to attempt to do some serious reading. I think I'll try to read my Bible through in a week. I think I can… I calculated that it's only about 175 pages a day or so. and over the summer, I'd read 400-page novels in a day. I think I can pull it off.


I've also got some reviews to work on and some knitting projects to finish. More on those in a second. I have like… trash-bags full of yarn. But no money. The logical conclusion for Christmas gifts? knit them!


My sister is considering where to go to school next term… and the school she's looking at is actually my school's rival! She invited me to go with her to visit. I'm going to try to do so, and if I do, I'm going to wear my obnoxiously huge college sweater. Just because I can.


Here are the mittens I made:




Brownie points if you can guess what movie—inspired from a YA book—they're from.


Hint: it was the only part about the movie that I liked.


Keep your eyes open for some giveaways and reviews coming up!!

Cover lust

Yeah… these just make you want to staaaarrrreeee… hehe. love 'em.


















Steel by Carrie Vaughn




















The Iron Witch by Karen Mahoney


Falling Under by Gwen Hayes



Paranormalcy by Kiersten White


Wake Unto Me by Lisa Cach

Review: Knitting at Home

Knitting At Home: 60 Classics from Ella Rae Designs by Leanne Prouse
ISBN: 9781933027999
Published: Published October 5th 2010 by Sixth&Spring Books
Rating: 5


Knitting At Home aims to be more than a knitting book with pretty patterns. Specifically, it aims to inspire and create a desire to satisfy creativity. It accomplishes this wonderfully. There isn't a pattern in Knitting at Home that I don't like, and there are several I'm itching to start on.


The book has six sections: A Room for Living, Relaxing, Sharing, Retreating, Little ones, and It's the Weekend. Each one has a great collection of patterns.


There was a good variety of patterns in the book, between socks, fingerless mitts, bags, and decorations for the home. There were also a lot of throws and blankets. Now I've never made a blanket… but after flipping through this book a few times, I've never wanted to make one so badly (Alas, most of my yarn is at home and I'm stuck at college). Same with pillows. I never understood the idea of knitting a pillow, but when seen in the photographs in the book and when I saw the beautiful patterns, I desperately wanted one! There are also some beautiful sweater patterns, some nice socks, a cute pair of slippers, and even some felted stuffed dolls.


The patterns and the whole feel of this book drips creativity and inspiration: everything from the layout to the font to the color schemes. Both Leanne Prouse and her artistic director did a great job on Knitting at Home.


Recommendation: beginner to experienced knitters who like larger projects and projects for the home.


Knitting at Home is published on October 5th by Sixth&Spring books. Click here to pre-order!

Review: Dingle

Dingle: The Helpful Ice Cream Cone Delivery Dog 
by Audrey Kinsella
Genre: Children’s literature
ISBN: 9781449083625
Published: June 1st 2010 by AuthorHouse
Rating: 1

Dingle was a cute dog, and the characters in the story were likeable… but this book had the worst sentences I’ve ever read in a children’s book. It was mostly made up of fragments, and it made it hard to understand, even for me. And of all books to have fragments, a children’s book isn’t the one. I understand Adult literature… because Adults have a good understanding of the English language. But in the years where a child’s vocabulary and sentence structure are being formed? No, not a good idea.

Also, the pictures looked like clip art with speech bubbles. And I wasn’t sure what the whole speech bubble thing was about anyway. Was she trying to make it like a graphic novel? The words were printed in the speech bubbles, and then again at the bottom of the page, in blue or black ink, in a white box. I just didn’t understand, and it was distracting.

Spotlight: Self Publishing?

Self Publishing is becoming more common and more popular. What are the pros and cons, and what should you remember before you consider self publishing? Liberal Arts Colleges just published an article called Ten Things To Consider Before Self Publishing. Check it out at the link.

Liberal Arts Colleges also has lots of other articles you may find interesting about dating, food, test prep, and other stuff.

Guest Post: Sharon Dogar

Today I'm pleased to welcome Sharon Dogar, author of upcoming release Annexed, to The Life and Lies.
Publication Date: Oct 04, 2010
Annexed by Sharon Dogar (Houghton Mifflin Children’s Book Group; October 4, 2010) is a compelling and devastating novel that tells the Anne Frank story from the point of view of Peter van Pels, the teenaged boy who also hid in the annex. From the claustrophobic attic where the two teenagers fell in love, to their betrayal and deportation, and on through the unspeakable brutality of the death camps, this novel is an original and riveting contribution to Holocaust literature.
Dogar hopes Annexed will encourage contemporary young adults to learn more about the people in the attic and the camps; that they will go read Anne’s diary; and that what they learn about the Holocaust and its victims will ensure that this horrific chapter in human history is never repeated.     
Peter van Pels
By Sharon Dogar,
Author of Annexed
What we know of Peter van Pels is almost entirely limited to Anne Frank's diary, and her own personal view of him. He was, it seems, a shy boy, helpful and good with his hands. Reading between the lines of Anne's diary I've tried to imagine what Peter was "really" like. How do I do that? Here's an example: on Peter's arrival in the Annex, Anne describes him as a "hypochondriac" who "won't amount to much." She's fed up and dismissive of his histrionics, as most clever, early adolescent girls would probably be.
Anne describes a boy who sleeps all the time, lacks any type of motivation, has strange physical symptoms and believes he might be dying. If a child in my counseling room felt this way, I'd suspect depression. In fact, from an occupational point of view Peter's depression makes sense; it's a reasonable response to real events. Having to go into hiding to save your life isn't merely depressing, it's terrifying. Peter's "symptoms" and his fear that he's "dying" reflect the reality of both his own situation and of those in the attic. It's possible that this is partly what makes Anne so angry and dismissive of Peter, she doesn't want to be reminded of how dire a situation she is in (not at this stage). She wants to believe that she's safe. Peter's constant 'whinging' (as she calls it) keeps on reminding her that she's in danger.
We all have our own ways of managing fear and difficulty. Anne creates a safe fantasy world for herself (as many writers do) whilst Peter turns his distress into physical symptoms. Looked at in this way, Peter's character takes on a potentially different meaning from the one presented by Anne.
By carefully considering Anne's brilliantly vivid descriptions of Peter, and analyzing what they might mean, I slowly created a picture of how I thought Peter might be, and he came to feel very real to me. Most writers have that feeling of "hearing" their characters voices. Peter's voice (as I heard it) was quiet, thoughtful, questioning, full of feeling and in the end, quite stubborn and determined to be his own person. I can't, of course, know what the "real" Peter van Pels was like, but then again, how well do any of us know each other? How well did Anne know him, and how much was her view coloured by her own needs and desires?
I miss thinking and writing about Peter. I will always feel heart-broken and horrified at the waste of his young, promising life, and the lives of millions of others that the Nazis judged worthless. When it came to researching, imagining and writing about Peter's life in the camps I already felt very close to the character I'd created. I no longer really wanted to take the novel (and Peter) on into Auschwitz. I put off writing every day. I read survivor's testimonies. I went for long walks. I had very bad dreams. I decided that if I was going to go on, and imagine a life in the camps for Peter, then I had to make sure that every part of the "story" of what happened was rooted in reality.  I studied the mechanics of life as a Jewish inmate of Auschwitz. I also realized that in imagining an ending for one person -- Peter van Pels -- I could try to describe the horror and systematic destruction of human life that was a Nazi concentration camp. And so I began to write the final section of the novel. It was written very quickly, almost in one go, and the words came surprisingly easily. Nonetheless, it's not something I would want to do again.
It may sound odd, but for me a part of the horror of human mass destruction is the total disregard those who kill fellow human beings show for the story that each and everyone of us holds within us; the story of our life. So in the end I gave Peter a story. It's probably not the story he would have told himself, but it tries to acknowledge that his story did not end with his arrest on August 1st, 1944, and that there is a story to be told. It may be horrific, it may not be something we want to think about, but Peter, and millions like him had no choice, they had to live it, and unlike the survivors who can give testimony, they died. In their millions. That doesn't mean that they can't be thought about, or that we don't have the right to imagine their story; for me it was the opposite, I felt compelled to create a story.

© 2010 Sharon Dogar
, author of Annexed

Author Bio
Sharon Dogar
, author of Annexed, is a children's psychotherapist who lives in Oxford, England, with her family. She discovered Anne Frank's diary as a child and then again recently when her daughter started reading it. While writing and researching this book, she spent many hours soaking up the atmosphere of the Annex. This is her third novel for young adults.
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