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Laura McNeal and the Reader

Fletcher shooting, Waldorf School, Judy Huscher, childbirth, Arellano kidnapping, diary of an orange grove

From a public safety standpoint, it truly doesn’t matter whether you believe Eddy was an innocent victim or a guilty one.
From a public safety standpoint, it truly doesn’t matter whether you believe Eddy was an innocent victim or a guilty one.

Laura Rhoton McNeal holds an MA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and is the author, with her husband Tom, of four young adult novels published by Knopf: Crooked (winner of the California Book Award in Juvenile Literature), Zipped (winner of the Pen Center USA Literary Award in Children’s Literature), Crushed and The Decoding of Lana Morris. Laura’s solo debut novel, Dark Water, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the San Diego Book Award in young people’s literature in 2010. Her most recent novel is The Practice House (2017).

Editor's picks of stories McNeal wrote for the Reader:

  • What happened? A pioneer family's tragedy

  • Eric Fletcher and his wife Beatrice had attended the dove hunt together three or four times. Eric hunted, and Beatrice read magazines, talked to the other women, played with the spaniels. They left their two children, who were eight and six at the time, at home not because the Fletchers were alcoholics but because Beatrice didn’t like them to be near guns. (July 17, 1997)
Ed III's house at the Borrego Air Ranch. Eric watched his father pace with the gun, waited for a safe moment to enter the house, and discovered the bodies on the kitchen floor.
  • What’s going on in City Heights’ Waldorf School?

  • It attracts freethinkers who would call themselves spiritual, not religious. It attracts those who want alternatives to hospital births, circumcision, vaccinations, allopathic medicine (the kind prescribed by doctors), Ritalin, early weaning, disposable diapers, cribs, Disney videos, standardized testing, plastic toys, fast food, white flour, white sugar, and vegetables grown inorganically. (Feb. 21, 2002)
  • The death of Judy Huscher

  • In Encinitas, the mother of the strawberry co-op’s accountant called to Bette, the Huscher family’s former employee. Bette had come to live with her as a companion when the Huschers let her go. She told Bette what had happened to Judy, the story that was spreading, person to person, house to house, town to town. Like everyone else, Bette couldn’t quite take it in. (Nov. 7, 2002)
  • My life as a mammal

  • So like any sane, flat-chested koala bear, I asked the doctor if he knew a lactation consultant in town, and he made a phone call that probably went something like this: "Hi, Lottie. This is Dr. S. I'm sending over a new mother in a few minutes." I imagined him lowering his voice. "A little worked up, yes. Remember Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction?" (May 11, 2006)
Picking citrus, like riding horses, is more difficult than it appears.
  • Want to be sent home in pieces?

  • Saturday, June 16, was the eighth day that Eddy Tostado woke up in the same clothes. It was the eighth day that someone brought him a bucket to use as a toilet. But that afternoon, Asere and Morro let him come out of the closet, go into the living room, and listen, blindfolded and handcuffed, to the Copa Oro. (Apr. 7, 2010)
  • Diary of an orange grove

  • When we came to Fallbrook two years ago, we built our house on a hill above an acre of orange trees. They were planted in the 1960s by a man named Mr. Barr who, like us, was not a farmer. The leaves are green and eyeshaped, and beyond them to the north and south other hills are scored with avocado, lemon, lime, and orange groves, the distant rows curving in precise, parallel lines. (Jan. 4, 1996)
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From a public safety standpoint, it truly doesn’t matter whether you believe Eddy was an innocent victim or a guilty one.
From a public safety standpoint, it truly doesn’t matter whether you believe Eddy was an innocent victim or a guilty one.

Laura Rhoton McNeal holds an MA in fiction writing from Syracuse University and is the author, with her husband Tom, of four young adult novels published by Knopf: Crooked (winner of the California Book Award in Juvenile Literature), Zipped (winner of the Pen Center USA Literary Award in Children’s Literature), Crushed and The Decoding of Lana Morris. Laura’s solo debut novel, Dark Water, was a finalist for the National Book Award and the winner of the San Diego Book Award in young people’s literature in 2010. Her most recent novel is The Practice House (2017).

Editor's picks of stories McNeal wrote for the Reader:

  • What happened? A pioneer family's tragedy

  • Eric Fletcher and his wife Beatrice had attended the dove hunt together three or four times. Eric hunted, and Beatrice read magazines, talked to the other women, played with the spaniels. They left their two children, who were eight and six at the time, at home not because the Fletchers were alcoholics but because Beatrice didn’t like them to be near guns. (July 17, 1997)
Ed III's house at the Borrego Air Ranch. Eric watched his father pace with the gun, waited for a safe moment to enter the house, and discovered the bodies on the kitchen floor.
  • What’s going on in City Heights’ Waldorf School?

  • It attracts freethinkers who would call themselves spiritual, not religious. It attracts those who want alternatives to hospital births, circumcision, vaccinations, allopathic medicine (the kind prescribed by doctors), Ritalin, early weaning, disposable diapers, cribs, Disney videos, standardized testing, plastic toys, fast food, white flour, white sugar, and vegetables grown inorganically. (Feb. 21, 2002)
  • The death of Judy Huscher

  • In Encinitas, the mother of the strawberry co-op’s accountant called to Bette, the Huscher family’s former employee. Bette had come to live with her as a companion when the Huschers let her go. She told Bette what had happened to Judy, the story that was spreading, person to person, house to house, town to town. Like everyone else, Bette couldn’t quite take it in. (Nov. 7, 2002)
  • My life as a mammal

  • So like any sane, flat-chested koala bear, I asked the doctor if he knew a lactation consultant in town, and he made a phone call that probably went something like this: "Hi, Lottie. This is Dr. S. I'm sending over a new mother in a few minutes." I imagined him lowering his voice. "A little worked up, yes. Remember Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction?" (May 11, 2006)
Picking citrus, like riding horses, is more difficult than it appears.
  • Want to be sent home in pieces?

  • Saturday, June 16, was the eighth day that Eddy Tostado woke up in the same clothes. It was the eighth day that someone brought him a bucket to use as a toilet. But that afternoon, Asere and Morro let him come out of the closet, go into the living room, and listen, blindfolded and handcuffed, to the Copa Oro. (Apr. 7, 2010)
  • Diary of an orange grove

  • When we came to Fallbrook two years ago, we built our house on a hill above an acre of orange trees. They were planted in the 1960s by a man named Mr. Barr who, like us, was not a farmer. The leaves are green and eyeshaped, and beyond them to the north and south other hills are scored with avocado, lemon, lime, and orange groves, the distant rows curving in precise, parallel lines. (Jan. 4, 1996)
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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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