I am a person who has written a book about a boy who brings a gun to school.

I wanted to write a book about a bullied boy.

I wanted to write a book about what it feels like to fall apart from the inside.

I wanted to write a book about what happens when a broken boy is pushed.

In December 2012, shortly after I began writing the first draft of Until I Break, a young man walked into an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut with a semiautomatic rifle and killed 20 six and seven year olds and six adults.

I stopped writing.

I had to. Moving forward with this story didn’t feel right. It felt like I was sensationalizing, glamorizing. Putting a gun in the hands of an unstable character seemed reckless. Like I was making a mockery of the recent tragedy as well as the 88 other school shootings that took place between the Columbine massacre in April of 1999 and Sandy Hook Elementary School. It was then that I stopped watching the news, too. I couldn’t watch any more crying parents. I couldn’t watch any more tiny caskets and graveside services for children. I couldn’t listen to any more politicians sending thoughts and prayers. It was all too much.

And then there was the Boston Marathon bombing, which was followed by a shooting at MIT. The tragedy in Santa Monica, California. Washington Navy Yard in DC. Ft. Hood, Texas. Isla Vista, California. Marysville, Washington.

Somewhere in all of that tragedy, in a sea of “thoughts and prayers for the victim’s families”, I started to write again. Angry words pounded out on the keyboard in the dark while my own children slept, safe for at least a few hours. I’d send them off to school the next morning and pace the floor from the time the school bus pulled away from the corner until the time the school bus returned to that same corner eight hours later. At night I would write again.

Charleston, South Carolina.

Thoughts and prayers. Senseless act of violence. Hate crime. What are we doing to each other? When is it going to end?

There’s a feeling of helplessness when shitty things happen. What can I possibly do to help? What can I possibly do, as one person, to change anything? It’s easy to change your social media profile picture to reflect whatever color the masses have decided to declare the official “support” color for this week’s catastrophe, or some other form of slacker activism, but what does it really do? The country seemed numb. Everyone shouting from his or her protected glass boxes, no one really acting. A few shouted louder than others, sure. A few took their activism past slacker level, sure. But for the most part, we all just sat, shredding tissues and counting the days between this calamity and the next, hoping to get past ten this time.

Chattanooga, Tennessee. Roseburg, Oregon. Colorado Springs, Colorado. San Bernardino, California.

Somewhere in the tangle of tears and tiny caskets, in the throes of thoughts and prayers, an editor found Until I Break and deemed it publishable.

“This is an important story,” she said.

We worked together to get it right. To make sure the story I set out to tell when I decided to write about a bullied boy all those years ago was really the story I was telling. She was one of several gut checks along the way for me, to make sure there was no sensationalism. No glamorizing.

Five months from publication. Orlando, Florida. Members of the LGBTQ community are gunned down in a nightclub. 49 are killed. 53 are wounded. They were dancing.

Hate crime. Thoughts and prayers. Senseless tragedy.

No. Wait. Something’s different this time. There is still a wave of rainbows covering social media. But we're shouting. Our anger doesn't end in only thoughts and prayers. We aren’t numb this time. We’re writing letters. We’re speaking out, and we're louder. 

Filibuster. Fifteen hours. Sit in. “I’ve had enough.”

We’ve all had enough.

I wanted to write a book about a bullied boy.

Bullied. In the time it has taken me to write this book, that word has become an umbrella term. It can mean anything from harmless schoolyard chants of “baby baby stick your head in gravy” to pointed, repeated and sometimes violent attacks on our country’s most vulnerable, marginalized citizens. It’s lost its effectiveness. For me, the sentiment is still there.

I wanted to write a book about what it feels like to fall apart from the inside.

I wanted to write a book about what happens when a broken boy is pushed.

I wanted to write a book about when feeling marginalized and vulnerable tips over to the point when consequences are no longer valid. Tunnel vision sets in and feeling safe and feeling powerful are the only things that matter.

I wanted to write the truth.

I am a person who has written a book about a boy who brings a gun to school.

Kara M. Bietz, June 2016