From One Experience to Another: Award-Winning Authors Sharing Real-Life Experiences through Fiction

From One Experience to Another: Award-Winning Authors Sharing Real-Life Experiences through Fiction


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From One Experience to Another: Award-Winning Authors Sharing Real-Life Experiences through Fiction by M. Jerry Weiss

Fifteen of the most distinguished authors for young adults draw upon their own experiences to create fictional stories that explore adolescence. The authors--including Gordon Korman, Walter Dean Myers, Richard Peck, Susan Beth Pfeffer, Nancy Springer, and Neal Shusterman--also write introductory essays explaining their stories' origins.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780613078290
Publisher: San Val, Incorporated
Publication date: 08/28/1999
Product dimensions: 4.50(w) x 6.94(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range: 12 - 17 Years

About the Author

M. Jerry Weiss is Distinguished Service Professor of Communications Emeritus, New Jersey City University. A teacher, writer, and lecturer, he has won numerous awards and honors, including the 1997 International Reading Association Special Service Award and the National Council of Teachers of English Distinguished Service Award. He lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

Helen S. Weiss is an author and scholar of humor. She lives in Montclair, New Jersey.

Read an Excerpt

"The Truth About Sharks" by Joan Bauer

The noise seemed faraway at first, like a foghorn blaring in the distance. It was a persistent, ringing, irritating sound. I hated it. I pulled my down comforter over my head, but the noise got louder. It would continue to get louder, too, until I did something. I lifted my head from beneath the covers and saw unhappily that it was morning. I did not do morning, being a devout night person. I gripped the sides of the bed to steady my angst-ridden body and lumbered toward my closet as the noise got louder.

"I hate this!"

I threw open the closet door, lamely stretched my arms upward to find the source of the noise and turn it off, but my mother, the rat, had hidden it well this time. I searched through shoe boxes, purses, then I found it. I grabbed the alarm clock and pushed the on button to off.


I dropped to the floor ignoring the knock on my door. All noises were unwelcome in the morning. My smiling mother opened the door and regarded me slumped on the floor.

"There you are."

I shook my head. "It's a mirage."

"Beth," said my mother, "the day has begun; I suggest you do the same. You have to go shopping, wash the dog...."

My mother is a morning person. I made a pitiful noise and curled into a ball.

"Don't push my buttons, Beth. The party starts at five."

I sighed deeply, indicating my level of stress. I didn't see why I had to go to Uncle Al's birthday party that would be nothing but torture because Uncle Al was, basically, subterranean.

"And," my mother ordered, "don't say anything about this party either because Al is my brother who has his faults like all of us do...."

I don't tell sexist jokes at the dinner table.

I don't suck food through my teeth.

"And we're going to go and honor him and make it very clear that we love him."

Nothing came from my lips.

Mother stared at my lips just to make sure nothing would. "You can have the car, Beth, from now until one, then I absolutely have to have it."

"It's ten-thirty already."

"Then you'd better get cracking."

"I hate mornings."

"What a joy you are to me," Mom said and walked off.

I pulled my best black pants from their hanger, the pants I had spent a fortune on, the black pants that now hung dull and lifeless, hopelessly stained by guacamole dip that was dumped on me and them in sheer hostility by Edgar Bromfman when he was doing his Ostrich in Search of a Mate imitation at Darla Larchmont's party. I loved those slacks. They had power.


They went with my best beaded vest that I wanted to wear to Uncle Al's party because Bianca, my hideous cousin who always dressed to kill, would be there with her latest gorgeous boyfriend to snub me and make me feel insignificant and toady. She learned this from Uncle Al, her father.

Reingold, my black toy poodle, whined torturously at the door. I let him crash in, a rollicking, teeny ball of fur. I picked him up.

"Reingold, you who see all and know all, tell me where in Fairfield County, Connecticut, I can get a vastly important pair of black power pants."

Reingold licked my neck and wiggled.

"Reingold, your wisdom exceeds even your cuteness. Of course, I will go to that new store on Route 1 in Norwalk. And there I will find them."

Reingold followed me into the bathroom. I gave him a drink of water from a little Dixie cup, washed my face fast, brushed my oily brown hair that hung exhausted on my shoulders; I threw on gray sweats. There was no doubt about it, I looked seedy.

"You're going out like that?" Mom asked, staring.

"Yes." Beauty would come later. All I had going for me now was personality.

Mom touched my bangs. "Maybe if you just --"

I put on sunglasses. "I won't see anyone we know."

Mitchell Gail's was a huge store; five stories, to be exact, with too many choices. My mother said that was the problem with the world today -- too many choices. Paper or plastic? Regular, premium, or super? Small, medium, or grande?

I walked past the stocky, stern security guard who was picking her teeth, a visual reminder of Uncle Al's bash tonight. Maybe they knew each other. She glared at me through frigid, gray eyes and touched her name tag, MADGE P. GROTON, SECURITY GUARD. The woman needed a life. The sign above her read, SHOPLIFTERS WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW. I should hope so. I caught sight of myself in a full-length mirror. Who would know that beneath the greasy hair, sallow skin, and baggy sweats there lived a person of depth and significance? I groaned at my vile reflection and headed for the pants section.

I found four pairs of black slacks, size 10, and one pair, size 8. Hope springs eternal. I walked into the dressing room, past another larger, more threatening sign -- SHOPLIFTERS WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW -- just in case any thieves missed the first warning. A sweet, round saleswoman showed me to an empty changing room. Her name tag read HANNAH. She had sad eyes.

"If you need anything I'll help you," Hannah said.


She looked down.

"Must be the pits working on a Saturday," I offered.

She shook her head. "I'd rather work. It's better than sitting home. My boyfriend was cheating on me with this manicurist. I saw them kissing in his apartment."

"I'm sorry."

She laughed, not happily. "He said he never really loved me; I was too fat." She looked at her plump arms.

"He's a jerk. You're not fat."

"I'm just going to work, save my money --"

"-- Hannah!" It was the store manager. Hannah shrugged stiffly, let out a long, painful breath, and left.

Males. I was between them at the moment. Probably just as well given my last boyfriend's sizzling attraction to blondes -- a little problem we were never able to work out since I'm a brunette. I observed a moment of silence for Hannah's pain. Then I tried on the size 8 pants. I could zip them up exactly one-eighth of an inch.

Okay...size 8 is still a dream.

On went a size 10.




The fourth pair hit me mid-calf.

I tried the fifth. Not bad. I turned in front of the mirror. Not perfect, but doable. And with my beaded vest these could be downright smashing. I put on my shoes, left my coat and sweatpants in the changing room with my purse underneath them. I shouldn't leave my purse there, but I was in such a hurry. I said to Hannah, "I'll take these, but I'm going to keep looking."

"They look nice on you."

They do, don't they? I smiled at the beckoning sale sign over a rack of pants right by the elevator that I'd not seen before. I walked toward the rack and was just reaching for an excellent pair of size 10 black silk pants marked 50 percent off, which would keep me within my budget, which would be a miracle, when a rough hand came down hard on my shoulder and spun me around.

"That's not the way we play the game," Madge P. Groton, Security Guard, barked.


"That's not the way we play the game," she repeated, pulling my hands behind my back and pushing me forward.

"What are you talking about?"

She was strong. She pushed me past the a line of staring customers, into the elevator. She squeezed my hands hard. A cold fear swept through me.

"What," I shouted, "are you doing?"

"You were going into the elevator wearing pants you didn't pay for. We call that shoplifting around here."

"No, I was --"

She pressed my hands tighter.

"You're hurting me!"

"Shut up!"

Tears stung my eyes. My chest was pounding. I had seen a TV show about what to do if you're falsely arrested. You don't fight, you calmly explain your position. There was an explanation. I would give the explanation to this person at the right time and I would go home and never set foot in this store again. If I panicked now...

The elevator door opened and the guard shoved me forward past the jewelry counter like a mass murderer, past Mrs. Applegate, Uncle Al's nosy neighbor, who stared at me like she wasn't surprised.

"Ma'am, I'm innocent," I said.

"Yeah, and I'm the Easter Bunny." She opened a door that read SECURITY, and pushed me inside a dingy beige windowless room with the now-familiar sign: SHOPLIFTERS WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW.

"Please, Ma'am, Ms. Groton..."

My whole body was shaking.

"Take them off," she snarled.


"Take the pants off. Now."

I stared at her. "You mean here?"

She put her hand on her gun. This was crazy.

"I get a phone call, right?"

"You are in possession of stolen property."

"Ma'am, I know you're trying to do your job. Just listen to me. I was going to buy these pants. I told this to the saleswoman. I left my coat and my pants and my purse in the changing room. Believe me, this is a big --"

"Take them off." She leaned back in her chair, enjoying her power.

I felt my face shaking like tears were exploding inside. I was sick and terrified. My mind reached for anything.

I remembered that article I'd read about sharks. If you're swimming in the ocean and a shark comes at you to attack, hit him in the nose, the expert said.

I looked at Madge P. Groton, Security Shark.

"No, Ma'am. Not until I get my pants back."

She leaned toward me; her face was tight and mean. "You do what I tell you."

I took a huge breath and looked at her hard.

"No, Ma'am."

Her face darkened. She punched a button on a large black phone, said into the receiver, "I've got one. Send a car."

Nausea hit. I choked down vomit. My heart was beating out of my chest. Madge P. Gorton, Security guard, took her handcuffs off her belt and clinked them on the cracked linoleum floor again and again.

"If we could just talk to that saleswoman,"I tried, "I think we could clear this --"

"That's not the way we play the game."

I leaned against the wall and pushed down the screaming voice inside that shouted I was innocent because Madge P. Groton had made up her mind and the Easter Bunny himself couldn't change it. And a car was coming for me with police, probably, which meant jail, probably, I could get thrown into jail with dangerous people and no one was going to listen. I'd never get into veterinary school, never see my dreams fulfilled. My life was over at seventeen.

"I need to make a phone call, Ma'am. I need to call my mother."

"I bet you would."

"The law says I get to make a phone call."

"You can do it at the station."

"Ma'am, my purse and coat and pants are still in the changing room."


I checked my watch: 1:10. My mother was waiting for the car. She wouldn't be getting it soon. I lowered my head and started to cry.

"I've seen you kids," she snarled. "You think you can take anything you want, call your parents, cry some fake tears, and it's over, huh? You think wrong."

"I didn't do it."

I jumped at the harsh knock on the door. A big policeman with leathery skin entered with his hand on his gun. He listened to the security guard's story. I told him she'd made a mistake, but it didn't seem to matter. No one believes prisoners.

"Don't ever set foot in this store again," warned Madge P. Groton.

Don't worry, lady.

The policeman took my arm firmly and we walked out of the store, past Mrs. Applegate, past jewelry, and purses, and leather gloves, and scarves, past the Clinique counter with those white-jacketed technicians, to the waiting police car.

"You have the right to remain silent," he said the sickening words to me. "You have the right to an attorney. If you do not have an attorney, one will be appointed for you."

He opened the back door of the squad car, I got in crying.

The door shut like a prison gate.

"It wasn't worth it, Miss," he said, got into the front and drove off with Mrs. Applegate staring after us.

I slumped down deep in the seat and looked at my feet because I was sure everyone I'd ever met in my entire, complex life saw me in the prisoner section of the squad car.

"Officer," I whispered, "I know you're doing your job. I know that security guard was doing hers, but I've got to tell you, if we go back to that store, I've got a witness who knows that I didn't do it."

This was a definite gamble. I didn't know if that saleswoman would remember me. I told him about the saleswoman. "Officer, I am really scared and I don't know what else to do. Would you let me try to prove I'm innocent?"

He stopped the car and stared at me through the grill.

"Look, sir, I know I look really weird. I had to buy some slacks for my uncle's stupid birthday party and my mother needed the car in a hurry, so I just jumped out of bed and hadn't figured on getting arrested. I mean, I normally bathe. I normally look better than this. Corpses look better than I do right now. I sound like an idiot."

The policeman searched my face. "Which salesperson?"

I put my two innocent hands on the grill. "Her name was Helen. No. Hortense. Wait -- Hannah. Yes! She had just broken up with her boyfriend who had been cheating on her for months with this manicurist and he said he'd never really loved her because she was too fat, which she wasn't -- a little plump, maybe, but definitely not fat -- and she was giving up men. At least for the moment."

He stared at me.

"Not that men are bad. I mean, some are. But you know that. You arrest bad people and that's a really good thing."

I was digging my own grave. He would take me to a psychiatric hospital. I would be locked in a room with no sharp objects. I looked away.

"Please believe me, Officer. I'm not really this strange!"

The officer sighed deeply. "I don't have time for this." He rammed the patrol car into gear, did a perfect U-turn, and headed back toward Mitchell Gail's.

"Oh, thank you, Officer! You are a wonderful person, a --"

He held up his hand for me to stop. I bit my tongue. I didn't ask what would happen if Hannah wasn't there or didn't remember me or was Madge P. Groton's best friend.

"Don't try anything funny," said the officer as he opened the squad car prisoner door and I got out.

"I won't." This was the most humorless situation I'd ever been in.

"I do the talking."

I nodded wildly. We walked through the front door, past jewelry, purses, and Madge P. Groton, who nearly dropped her fangs when she saw us.

"Just checking something out," said the officer to her and kept on walking to the elevator.

"What floor were you on?" he asked me.

I held up four trembling fingers.

"You can talk when I talk to you."

"Right," I croaked.

The elevator came and Madge P. Groton glared at us with poison death darts as we got in. I figured an actual policeman was more powerful in the food chain than a security guard, but I decided not to ask at this moment.

The elevator stopped at every floor. A little girl got on with her mother, looked at me and said, "What's the matter with her, Mommy?"

"Polly," said the mother, "don't be rude."

The elevator opened at the fourth floor. We got out. My eyes searched for Hannah. The policeman walked up to a gray-haired saleswoman.

"We're looking for Hortense," he said.

"Hannah!" I shrieked.

The woman pointed to Hannah who was folding sweaters and arranging them on a shelf. We walked toward her. Remember me? I wanted to shout. I am the person who took time from my busy schedule to listen to your problems with your scuzzy boyfriend; the person who cared enough to show you the healing touch of humanity during a particularly stress-packed morning in my life.

"Do you know this young woman?" the policeman asked Hannah.

Hannah looked at me and smiled. "I waited on her this morning. She left her purse and coat and stuff in the changing room. I've got them for you."

Madge P. Groton stormed up. "What's going on?"

"Just clearing a few thing up," said the officer.

Madge P. Groton dug in her spurs. "This girl is a shoplifter. I caught her trying to leave the store wearing merchandise!"

Hannah looked shocked. "Then why would she leave her purse in the changing room?"

Why indeed?

I smiled broadly at Madge P. Groton, Security Guard, whose face had turned a delightful funeral gray.

"And why would she leave her coat?" Hannah continued.

"It's worth at least as much as the pants. You made a mistake, Madge."

"Can I see the purse?" asked the officer.

Hannah ran to get it. I winced as he pulled out Tums, dental floss, breath mints, two hairbrushes, my giant panda key ring, a box of Milk Duds, three packs of tissues, my sunglasses, four lipsticks.

"You got a wallet in here?"

I reached deep within and pulled it out. He checked my driver's license. He counted the money. Seventy-five dollars.

"I think," said the officer, "we've got things straightened out here, wouldn't you say so, Ms. Groton?"

Madge P. Groton sputtered first. Her wide jaw locked. Her thick neck gripped. Her nose mole twitched. She turned on her scuffed heel and stormed off. The officer gave me back my purse, coat. "You're free to go," he said. "Just give the store back the pants."

"I never want to see these pants again. Thank you for believing me, don't know your name."


What a wonderful name. I thanked him again.

I thanked Hannah. I ran into the changing room, put on my dear, old gray grubbies, drew a penetrating breath of freedom, and raced towards my mother's Taurus. It was two-thirty. All I had to worry about now was the flaming war spear my mother would have singeing the lawn in honor of my late return.

I floored the Taurus, most unwise, since I'd had one brush with the law already today. I drove home, three miles under the speed limit (a first), thanking God I was a free American. I stared at the poster of the cholesterol-laden Dunkin' Munchkins nestled cozily in their box as the unrighteousness of it grew in my soul.

I'd been publicly humiliated.

Falsely accused.

I have my rights!

I rammed Mom's car around and headed back for Mitchell Gail's.

I am teenager, hear me roar.

I parked the car, stormed into the store past the SHOPLIFTERS WILL BE PROSECUTED TO THE FULL EXTENT OF THE LAW sign, right past Madge P. Groton, Security Neanderthal, to the Clinique counter.

"I need to see the store manager," I announced to a blond woman demonstrating face cream. "Immediately."

"Third floor, left by Donna Karan, left by lingerie, you're there."

Madge P. Groton was now guarding the elevator. I took the stairs two at a time, rounded left by Donna Karan, left at lingerie to the store office.

"Can I help you?" asked a tired receptionist with too red hair.

"Only if you're in charge, Ma'am. I need to see the manager."

She looked me up and down. "He's busy now." She looked toward the manager's closed office door. The sign read: THOMAS LUNDGREN, STORE MANAGER.

"It can't wait."

"I'm afraid it's going to have to, dear, you see..."

"No, Ma'am. You see. I was falsely arrested in this store by Madge P. Groton, Security Witch, and in exactly two seconds I'm going to call a very large lawyer."

"Oh, Mr. Lundgren!" the woman's bony hands fluttered in front of her face. She flew into his office. I walked in behind her. "We have a little problem."

Thomas Lundgren, Store Manager, appraised my grubby gray sweats, unimpressed. "What problem is that?" he said coarsely, not getting up.

I told him. The policeman, Hannah, Madge, the lawyer.

He got up.

"Sit down," he purred at me. "Make yourself comfortable. Would you like a soda? Candy?"

"I'd like an apology."

"Well, of course, we at Mitchell Gail's are appalled at anything that could be misconstrued --"

"-- This wasn't misconstrued."

"We'll have to check this out, of course."

I folded my arms. "I'll wait, Mr. Lundgren."

"Call me Tom." He snapped his finger at the receptionist.

"Get Madge up here."

I crossed my legs. "I'd call the police, too, Tom. Officer Brennerman. He's probably the most important one, next to the lawyer."

Tom grew pale; the receptionist twittered. "Make this happen, Celia," he barked. Then he smiled at me big and wide.

"We certainly pride ourselves on treating our customers well."

I smiled back and didn't say he had a long way to go in that department. The phone buzzed and Tom lunged for it. Maybe I'd can veterinary school and become a lawyer. Lawyers have power. No one gets worked up when you say you're going to call a veterinarian.

"I see." Tom said into the receiver. "I see.... Yes, Officer Brennerman, it was most unfortunate...a vast misunderstanding...thank you." He pushed a stick of Wrigley's toward me and mouthed, "Gum?"

I shook my head. Madge P. Groton had seeped into the hall. I said, "By the way, Tom, in addition to false accusations and public humiliation, your security guard told me to take off my pants in her office."


"It was a low moment, Tom."

"Tell me you kept them on."

I nodded as Tom moved shakily to the hall, his arms outstretched. "Madge, what is this I'm hearing?"

He shut the office door.

There were hushed, snarling words that I couldn't make out.

I racked my brain to think if I knew any lawyers, large or otherwise. I sort of knew Mr. Heywood down the street, but he was a tax lawyer.

The door opened. Tom grinned. "Madge is truly sorry for the misunderstanding."

Madge glowered at me from the hall. She didn't look sorry.

"Mitchell Gail's is terribly sorry for the...inconvenience," he murmured.

"Um, it was a bit more than an inconvenience."

"We would like you to accept a $250 gift certificate from the store for your trouble."

I thought about that.

"We'd be happy to make it $500 for all your trouble," Tom added quickly.

"I'll think about it, Tom."

"We'd really like to get this worked out here and now."

"I'm sure you would, Tom, but I'm going to think about it."

I walked into the hall, past Madge P. Groton, who was so penitent she looked like she'd bitten into a rancid lemon; past Celia, who was fluttering by the receptionist desk. I walked down the stairs and out the door.


It was three thirty-seven. All I had to fear now was my mother. I rehearsed my poignant speech all the way home. I was encouraged pulling into the driveway that there was no flaming spear on the lawn. Only a mother spitting fire.

"Mother, you're never going to believe what happened to --" I wasn't, of course. Even a profoundly angry parent cannot stay that way long when their beloved child has been falsely accused. It was all I could do to prevent Mom from driving back to the store and personally annihilating Madge P. Groton.

I was the hit of Uncle Al's party. I wore an old black dress, but there was something shining in my face that I could feel -- something, Mom said, that money could not buy -- empowerment. Mrs. Applegate had called my Aunt Cassie to report on my shoplifting, and even though Aunt Cassie had questioned my innocence, when I told her about Officer Brennerman, she turned pink and flustered and hurried away. I even took Uncle Al aside and told him that the joke he told before dinner offended me and all women through the ages and he apologized.

As for my cousin Bianca, she will probably always have a more glamorous life than me, but for a few brief moments that night it really didn't matter.

And regarding Tom and Madge, I decided to not call a lawyer. Tom upped the gift certificate to $650 and had Madge P. Groton personally apologize to me, which was like watching a vulture telling a half-eaten mouse that he didn't really mean it.

"I'm sorry for the trouble," she snarled.

Tom glanced at her.

"It was wrong of me," she added flatly.

"Thank you," I said.

Madge P. Groton backed out the door fast and ran down the hall. It was a great moment. Tom said she was going to work in another store and hoped that I would come in often and bring all my friends. I hoped the store was in Antarctica.

I clutched my $650 gift certificate and embraced budget-free shopping. I found the black pants that had started all the trouble -- they were marked down 40 percent now -- so I got them along with a cherry-apple-red pants suit and a leather jacket and four pairs of shoes and a silk blouse for my mother, who kept saying how proud she was that I had handled this by myself.

I guess I'd learned the truth about sharks: If one comes barreling at you, the best thing to do is hit it in the nose.

Excerpt from FROM ONE EXPERIENCE TO ANOTHER edited by Dr. M. Jerry Weiss and Helen S. Weiss. Copyright © 1997 by M. Jerry Weiss and Helen S. Weiss. Used by permission of Tom Doherty Associates, Inc.

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