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Fear

Since the election, I’ve been more invested in music. I’d always loved it, just as a fact of life rather than an active passion. Harper Lee—white-savior-y though To Kill a Mockingbird is—put it well in the context of reading: “One does not love breathing.”

I escaped into happiness and fluff, or if not those, other people’s problems. Glossy, joyous love songs; songs about lost family and partying in spite of exes and loving someone so much you can’t find the words for itabsolutely anything with a beat. With my earbuds in, I was either happy or crying over a life I’d never lived, and I loved that.

And then last week I listened to Halsey’s “Control,” and everything went to shit.

The pre-chorus goes like this:

I’m bigger than my body

I’m colder than this home

I’m meaner than my demons

I’m bigger than these bones.

I love Halsey’s debut album, Badlands. It’s incredible, powerful, nuanced. It also came out in 2015, and I’d had it on repeat ad nauseam since, so I hadn’t really listened all the way through again since around mid-2016. But I was doing some intensive cleaning around the house that’d take about an hour, so I opened Spotify and played it on a whim and didn’t think much of the decision.

When “Control” came on, I was overwhelmed. There’s really no other way to describe it: I was overwhelmed, I was emotional, and I sang along with the chorus anyway.

And all the kids cried out, “Please stop, you’re scaring me”

I can’t help this awful energy

Goddamn right, you should be scared of me

Who is in control?

Goddamn right, you should be scared of me.

“Control” is a song from 2015 about Halsey’s bipolar disorder. It has nothing to do with the 2017 political climate or how people are feeling after the election, and least of all how I’m feeling. But that’s the thing about art: it takes two. The artist can write or draw or sing or paint or express anything, and there are miles between them and me, and sometimes when the art’s in transit it shifts and slides and bumps into things, and it takes on a new shape by time it gets to the person experiencing it.

I’ve been scared since the election. Not that I wasn’t terrified before—I’ve been scared since I was four and I realized I’d rather hold hands with boys, not girls. But the election instilled this new fear in me, one both more removed and more immediate. I have woken up afraid every day since November 9th, 2016.

And singing along as I was vacuuming the living room—saying “Goddamn right, you should be scared of me”—it was hard not to imagine singing this song, even just this line, to Trump. To his supporters.

What a necessary thing right now, to be not the scared one but the scary one.

I think of this now when I’m calling my reps. I’ll be thinking of it when I vote in the New Jersey gubernatorial primary in a week and a half. When I’m following the special election results across the country.

I’ll be thinking of it in 2018, and I’ll be thinking of it in 2020, and I’m thinking of it every day in between.

This man and his supporters who want me and people like and unlike me dead, or deported, or jailed, or outlawed or banned or erased or non-existent:

You’re right. You should be scared of us.

Donate to Fox Benwell’s Medical Transition, Get a Critique!

[UPDATED July 2: Alex Yuschik is also offering critiques—see below!]

Howdy, friends! My knightly buddy Fox Benwell (who you know from his Twitter, site, and acclaimed debut, The Last Leaves Falling) needs some help. You can—and should—read his story here, but in summary: he needs a procedure done, but the out-of-pocket costs are ridiculous for one person to bear. He’s turned to fundraising on GoFundMe with a goal of ten thousand pounds, and I super want to help get him there—Fox is the loveliest, most compassionate friend, and he deserves this.

So! This is what’s going to happen.

I’m a YA writer represented by Heather Flaherty at The Bent Agency. I’ve been chosen for Pitch Wars twice—once in 2013 with author Laura Tims as my mentor, and once in 2015 with multi-published author Helene Dunbar. I’m also an editorial intern with senior editor Kate Brauning at Entangled Publishing, working mostly with YA at Entangled Teen. I’ve been involved in contests like Beth Phelan’s #DVpit, where I worked with dozens of writers on honing their queries and pitches. In short, I know my stuff, and if you donate to Fox’s GoFundMe, I’m going to help you with your stuff. I only ask that your work be middle grade or older in age category. That’s the only restriction I’m placing on this offer right now, and that’s only because I’m not super familiar with picture books, early readers, or chapter books. Any genre will be accepted.

Anyway, here are the goodies:

If you click here and donate £5 (or, for us Americans, $6.64), I will critique your query letter OR your first five pages, your choice. Email proof of donation (screenshot, link to your donation on Fox’s GoFundMe, whatever) to markobrienbooks at gmail dot com along with your query pasted in the body of the email or the pages attached in .doc or .docx.

If you click here and donate £10 (or, for us Americans, $13.27), I will critique your query letter AND your first five pages. Same instructions as above, but please include both.

If you click here and donate £15 (or, for us Americans, $19.91), I will critique your query letter AND your first ten pages. Same instructions as above.

If you click here and donate £25 (or, for us Americans, $33.18), I will critique your query letter AND your first twenty-five pages AND I will do another round with you. This means you’ll have as much time as you’d like to implement my initial edits, and I’ll provide the same level of feedback on your revised query and pages when you send them back. Same instructions as above.

If you click here and donate £50 (or, for us Americans, $66.36), I will critique your query letter AND your first fifty pages AND I will do up to two additional rounds with you. Same instructions as above.

If you click here and donate £100 (or, for us Americans, $132.73), I will critique your query letter AND your first hundred pages AND I will do up to two additional rounds with you. Same instructions as above.

If you click here and donate £200 (or, for us Americans, $265.46), I will critique your query letter AND your full manuscript AND I will do up to two additional rounds with you. Same instructions as above.


Alex Yuschik is offering critiques as well! She’s a freelance editor who works with Kate (#TeamBrauning ftw) at K&A Editorial and she’s represented by Bridget Smith. She’s completed two publishing internships, one with literary agent Mary Kole, and another with editor Theresa Cole at Entangled. She’s also a weirdo who’s doing math grad school, but that is neither here nor there.

She’s offering a single-pass full critique (100k words or less) if someone donates 100 pounds (or more). Up to two of these are available! Contact her at alex.yuschik at gmail dot com.


If you’re an author, blogger, intern, editor, or agent and have anything you could donate to this (critiques, books, ARCs, consultations, or pretty much anything else), please get in touch with me at markobrienbooks at gmail dot com. If we get significant interest, we’ll set up a more official page.

Thank you all. So much love.

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