I don’t even know how to articulate the sickly stew of emotions this story stirs up.
Author Francesca Lia Block is currently trapped in a hell of financial runaround with Bank of America. The creator of Weetzie Bat and author of over two dozen books is in danger of losing her home because she, like hundreds of thousands of others in this country, got screwed over when the housing finance bubble burst. Now with one of those “underwater” mortgages, where she owes more than the property is worth, Block can’t get Bank of America to even answer her calls or give her honest answers. She’s posted her story on her facebook page and on her blog in the hope that getting the word out far and wide can help. I’m not sure what can be done or how spreading the word will help, but it’s the least I feel I can do.
If anyone has any suggestions what else can be done, besides spreading the word, please let me know.
The mixed emotions come from a number of points of connection. I met Francesca Lia Block in 1990. July 27, 1990, to be exact, at Dark Carnival Books in Berkeley. I know the date because she wrote it in my copy of Weetzie Bat when she signed it, but I remember other details not on the titles page of the book. I remember it was an afternoon signing, a warm late July day, and that I got there early enough to kill time scouting out books on writing query letters and checking out the store’s privately-made collection of Clive Barker rubber stamps (one of which I bought). I remember being afraid of saying something stupid when I got my book signed (I still feel this way, always, even when the authors are friends), and wondered if I should mention that after reading Weetzie Bat that I was inspired to tell my own Los Angeles stories. Never mind that I was still thinking in terms of screenplays and not fiction, and that I was thinking of YA as an aside to my “real” writing. I was young(er) and didn’t really understand what life was telling me to do in those days.
It was on that day in July of 1990 that seeds of my writing for children and young adults were planted. Less seeds really and more like bulbs waiting out the cold winter of the 1990s for the spring of my late-blooming consciousness. I did, indeed, tell Francesca that I was thinking about writing my own teen LA stories, and she smiled and said “You should! Do it!” I don’t know what it is about a total stranger enthusiastically embracing ones buried and latent dreams, but in that brief exchange it was as if she’d cut through a fog of doubt in a way that allowed me to find my way out. Eventually.
Another intersection is that Francesca settled in my old home town of Culver City. If I’m correct, she now lives approximately six blocks away from where I grew up. When she talks about her kids being able to walk to school, playing at the local park, I know those places. The main library not far away is where I discovered Little Nemo in Slumberland, where I worked on a report on William Saroyan for 7th grade English, where I curled up and delved into Vonnegut. These neighborhoods are full of good, simple single family homes that were part of the mid-20th century housing boom. These are not extravagant palaces, not the So Cal homes of excess where the rich and famous loll and lounge. These are middle class neighborhoods whose “value” was assessed and inflated during a time of greed. It makes me sad to think that my modest, simple home town has become a place where an author of books for teens is scrambling to hold on.
I don’t know what else to say. These times we’re living in are far too full of these stories, far too full.