Author Guest Post: Mara Purnhagen

Thursday, October 21, 2010 |
Mara Purnhagen

  • Tagged
  • Past Midnight
  • One Hundred Candles
  • The Other Life


Mara Purnhagen:
Mara Purnhagen cannot live without a tall caramel latte, her iPod, or a stack of books on her night stand. She has lived in Aurora, Illinois; Kalamazoo, South Carolina. She presently lives outside Cleveland, Ohio with her family and two cats.

Can Kate Morgan stand up for herself—without being labeled a snitch?

Kate is just as confused as her best friend, Lan, when she arrives at Cleary High to find the building's been "tagged" with a life-size graffiti mural. Could the culprit be one of their friends or classmates? And is the kind-of-amazing creation really vandalism, or a work of art? She's tempted to stay out of it—mostly because, as the police chief's daughter, she's worried about being labeled a snitch. But when the same mysterious graffiti starts appearing throughout the state, putting more pressure on the authorities to catch the vandal, her investigative instincts kick in.

Now Eli, Kate's favorite coworker at the local coffee shop, is MIA. With Lan preoccupied with her own boy troubles, Kate needs to figure out some things on her own. Like why she can't stop thinking about Eli. And what she will do when all the clues about the graffiti point to someone she's close to…

Kate Morgan

I hated Awards Day. At my high school, the last Tuesday of the year was reserved for a three-hour long ceremony in which students received awards for achievement. It was a big deal, with teachers handing out certificates to the best student in each of their classes, coaches bestowing letterman jackets and pins, and club moderators passing out long ribbons. It was a small school—about 400 students—and we all had to attend and cheer for our classmates. There was always one outstanding student who received an award for everything, to the point where they’d have to give him or her a paper grocery bag to carry all of the chunky medals and shiny plastic trophies.

And then there was me.

I went through four years of high school without ever once being called to the stage to receive an award. Not even a certificate, which I would have happily framed. I was a good student but not great. I didn’t participate in sports because I had to work after school. I was firmly planted in the middle of everyone: not an underachiever but certainly not an overachiever, either. And Awards Day simply reminded me that I wasn’t really great at anything.

The worst part of the ceremony (besides sitting for three hours straight and clapping every two minutes) was the end, when our principal would look out at all of us and smile. “Some of you didn’t receive anything today,” he’d say. “But maybe if you try harder, you can stand up here next year.”

I swear, he looked right at me when he said it. I was convinced that I was the only student who hadn’t gotten anything. And I resented his words. I did try! If they gave out a ribbon for cleanest locker or quietest kid in class, I’d be rolling in them. But as a typical high school student, I didn’t yet know what I loved and the only thing I was good at was staying out of trouble.

Kate Morgan, the main character in Tagged, is a little like my high school self. She’s not an athlete or academic superstar. She has an after-school job. She admires her best friend and harbors a crush on a guy. But more importantly, she’s still trying to determine her talents. I wanted to create an “average” character, someone who doesn’t stand out but is quietly trying to do her best.

There are those lucky people who seem to be born with a unique talent. Maybe it’s an amazing voice and gift for song. Maybe they are an inherently great athlete or mathematics whiz. There are a lot of us, though, who struggle to figure it out. For a while, I tried everything. Once, I signed up for a ping pong competition during lunch. I had never played ping pong, but I wondered: what if I’m good at it? I was out in the first round.

Yes, I felt sorry for myself at the time, more than I should have. I didn’t want to be average. I wanted to excel. Now that high school is a misty memory, I know that sometimes the best opportunities to discover our passions aren’t available to us until later. If Kate Morgan is loosely based on a high school version of me, she won’t really shine until college. And that’s fine. That’s better than fine—it’s outstanding.
Thanks to Mara for stopping by!


Anonymous said...

Lol, that is how I felt about the shows. I didn't like having to sit through them. You usually saw the same people each year. Blah...

Natalie (Mindful Musings) said...

I TOTALLY understand about "Awards Day." When I was in high school, I hated that assembly, even if I got awards. Spending three hours in a gym crammed with loud, sweaty, unhappy teenagers is NOT my idea of fun.

Bella said...

lol I think even most of the people getting awards hate awards day; it just made them targets for bullies most times, or put shy people on the spot and was awful

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