Sunday, September 14, 2008


When I began writing the story of the murder of Angela Dales, the mother of our grandchild, I was not sure anyone would buy it or anyone would care. I just knew that I had to get the truth out. To my surprise, the reaction has been far better than I ever imagined.

The response from people at book signings, from colleges and universities, and from people who have read the book has been not only gratifying, but highly supportive. I have received letters, emails, and phone calls of support from places such as Ohio, Maryland, Arizona, and as far away as England. More than one of these individuals has indicated he or she would buy extra copies of the book and donate it to libraries in order “to get the story out.” I have had expressions of concern for my personal safety; I have had expressions of bewilderment and disbelief over the content of the book; and I have had expressions of outrage and anger--at the school, members of the legal profession, and elected officials.

The subject matter—the murder of a college student—is painful. At the book signings many have come up to me to wish me good luck, but have said they cannot read the book—the thought of a son or daughter being gunned down on a college campus is just too horrific.

In Oneonta, New York, a young man in his late teens stopped by the signing. It was clear that he and his buddy were hanging around at the mall. He was rather scruffy and unkempt. He kept lingering around the signing table and finally got up enough nerve to ask me some questions. He wanted to know what else I had written and what it felt like to have a book published. He asked in an awkward, teenage fashion, almost as if he did not want his friend to know he was interested in books.

I asked him if he wrote or liked to write and in quiet tones, as if he didn’t want to be heard, he said “yes.” “I have notebook full of poems and short stories,” he added. The young man indicated he had not finished high school and was working on his GED. In even quieter tones he volunteered that he had a poem published in a school paper once.

The young man was embarrassed to say that he liked to write, as if it somehow being creative undercut his masculinity. I had the feeling that for a brief moment he was opening up his inner self to me and revealing his dreams and aspirations. I could not help but wonder if he is getting any support or encouragement to pursue his creativity. I wanted so badly to tell him, “Don’t let anyone tell you that you cannot write; that you are not creative.” I wanted to tell him there are so many people around you who will tell you that writing is a waste of time—don’t believe them.

I wanted to tell him about Angie and her dream of writing a great novel. I wanted to tell him about the wonderful young woman whose aspirations, talents, and breath were snuffed out by a pistol. I wanted to tell him to never stop believing in himself. I wanted to tell him not to squander his imagination and creativity and write that great piece of literature, but I could not. I wish I had told him to pick up Angela Dales’ dreams from the blood-stained floor of the student lounge at the Appalachian School of Law and to write the book or poem that Angie wanted to write—I could not make the words come.

There are times when I can talk about Angie and there are times when I cannot.

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