When sound started leaching from my world at age thirteen, I was terrified. The me that I knew and was more or less comfortable with, within typical thirteen-year-old parameters, was morphing against my will into some entirely other me, and I had no idea who that would be.
Between the lack of role models in real life and the lack of accurate and authentic representation on the screen or the page, all I felt was the loss of my old identity – I didn’t know what my new identity as a deaf person could be. Representation matters. Seeing myself in a book or a movie could have made such a huge difference, and I am have written the book that could have made that difference. Both for myself as someone who was so desperately trying to find a new normal, and as something to give to the many people around me who might have been well-meaning but who didn’t have the slightest idea how to interact with me.
SIGNS & PORTENTS is a Young Adult novel that I began several years ago, and which I just finished during my monthlong residency at the Anderson Center in Red Wing in June 2021! I have just begun the querying process, and very much welcome contact from any interested agents!
There are many elements of my own story in SIGNS & PORTENTS, but it has taken on a life of its own.
Suddenly and inexplicably losing her hearing a couple of years ago has utterly upended sixteen-year-old Lily’s life. The last thing she wants is more weirdness.
So when she meets an overly-friendly deaf girl named Claire who asks a bunch of intrusive questions, Lily’s first instinct is to run the other way. But how does Claire know so many specific things about Viola’s rather unique abilities? Abilities that Lily has tried hard not to think about, and certainly hasn’t told anyone about. Guessing what color someone is thinking of with uncanny accuracy — is that so strange? What about understanding a lot more speech and ASL (American Sign Language) than really makes sense? Or churning out prophetic limericks?
Lily’s curiosity wins out, and she learns from Claire not only about the magic that has been gradually building inside of her, but that she must find a certain object by a certain time to either fully manifest her powers, or lose them entirely. The problem is, nobody knows what the object is or by when Lily must find it.
A very old, very helpful, but frustratingly incomplete book yields some clues, while also providing dire warnings. Claire, her sweet CODA (Child of a Deaf Adult) brother Daniel, and Claire’s angry deaf friend Jake team up to help Lily try to find the object in time, as she both grapples with her deaf identity and attempts to stave off an ancient scourge who is following her… and who she knows will do something terrible with her powers if he manages to steal them away.