Monday, November 24, 2014

Defending Decisions in a Disaster

Guest Post by Yvonne Ventresca

In my young adult novel, Pandemic (Sky Pony Press, 2014), only a few people know what caused Lilianna Snyder's sudden change. She goes from a model student to a withdrawn pessimist who worries about all kinds of disasters. After her parents are called away on business, Lil’s town is hit by what soon becomes a widespread fatal illness. With her worst fears realized, Lil must find a way to survive not only the outbreak and its real-life consequences, but also her own personal demons.

Writing Exercise One:
During the Spanish Influenza of 1918, people worried about the flu being spread in remote areas by the mail carrier. With no easy way to notify the community of deaths, people used colored ribbons on their doors. A silver ribbon, for example, meant the death of an elderly person. In Pandemic, Jay Martinez creates a blog for local high school students to keep in touch about illnesses, deaths, and requests for needed supplies.

How do the technological advances of the last hundred years change society’s reaction to deadly contagious diseases? What are the pros and cons of social media and news coverage in today’s world compared to historical outbreaks?

Writing Exercise Two:
During any widespread contagious disease, decisions need to be made about how a vaccine or a medicine would be distributed among the public. In Pandemic, Lil sees one expert on TV discuss the antivirals that are available in limited amounts to help victims of the bird flu.  The expert says about the fictional disease (Chapter 26):

“All citizens between fifteen and fifty are at risk…So, who gets it first?  Pregnant women?  People with preexisting conditions, like asthma?  But we can’t expect the emergency system to work if those on the front lines aren’t protected.  Not only doctors and nurses but EMT volunteers, police, and firefighters are expected to help the ill.  With the flu so easily transmitted, is it fair to ask them to do so without some kind of protective measures?” 

If you had to make the decision, how would you go about distributing a medicine or vaccine during a widespread deadly illness? What factors would you consider?

BIO: Yvonne Ventresca is the author of Pandemic, a contemporary, realistic young adult novel about an emotionally traumatized teenager struggling to survive a deadly flu pandemic. Yvonne’s other writing credits include two nonfiction books for kids, Avril Lavigne (a biography of the singer) and Publishing (about careers in the field). Yvonne lives in NJ with her family and two dogs. You can learn more about Yvonne and her writing at

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