Thursday, March 5, 2015

20 months in Seattle & Why it is Home

Today marks 20 months since I moved to Seattle. After the first year, I stopped counting, stopped taking a moment to observe that it was the 5th and counting back to July of 2013, doing the math. But I’ve never stopped observing that I’m here. I still don’t take it for granted. I still have several moments each day where I marvel to myself, “I’m here. For real. This city. It’s mine.” It starts when I look out the living room window and see the sunrise, the mountains, the rain or the fog. It continues when I walk to the bus stop, observing the contrast in the colors between the water and the sky—blue, gray, sometimes with a hint of pink—watching the boats move across the Sound. Then I walk onto the campus where I work and am delighted by the smells—the flowers, the greenery, there is something no matter what the season. I watch the sky change out the window all day. Sometimes blue, sometimes gray, sometimes changing back and forth. Sometimes there are rainbows. In the winter, darkness begins to fall before I leave. In the summer, it’s still bright as noon at five pm. On my walk home, sometimes I see the Mountain. I always see the skyline from the Jose Rizal bridge. Sometimes it’s already dark, sometimes the sun is setting, sometimes the sky and the Sound are unbelievable shades of blue, sometimes shades of misty gray. Every time I think, “This is perfect.” Every time I take a photo. I have hundreds of photos from my living room window, from my bus stop, my walk home. I have hundreds  and hundreds more from our walks and hikes during the weekend, from the parks, the forests, the mountains, the beaches. On the surface, they many of them may seem the same—trees, beach, gray waves, blue sky, sunset, skyline—but look closely and each is different. Each is perfect. I can’t pick a favorite.

Afternoon from my bus stop
 
Sunset from my bus stop

Puget Sound from Lincoln Park

A gray but beautiful day at the beach


From eighth grade through most of high school, I had periods when I was so depressed that I saw the world in shades of gray sometimes. I told people this and I’m pretty sure they thought I was exaggerating, but it’s real. I have a bunch of gray memories. I also have a bunch of black holes where memories should have been but I was too sad, too angry, too broken, so my brain replaced moments and feelings with a scrawl of black ink. After high school and into my early twenties, those black holes were my own fault; they were blackouts. I worked through all of this. I worked hard. With therapists, with pen and paper, with painful and uncomfortable conversations with friends and family, with love from friends and family and the man who would become my husband. Things got hard again in 2010. Life is hard. It throws things at you. Sometimes all at once. There’s grief and illness, there’s money woes, there’s major disappointments in your career. It happens to everyone. It’s hard to handle for everyone. But when you are a person who saw in shades of gray, who cut open her arms and/or drank heavily to cope, who is full of self-blame and hatred, hard can start to feel really scary. Hard can start to feel like a trap or even a death sentence. By 2012, I was desperate and scared. I was seeing gray, feeling suffocated by my mistakes and self-perceived mistakes. I also knew people were whispering about me, things like “Debbie Downer,” and it hurt. I was mired in the gray and I didn’t want to be, but as anyone else who has been there knows, it’s not easy to escape. I went back to therapy, to the difficult conversations. I worked and I thought and I weighed out what I had to do. I knew I had to take a risk. I don’t like risks. But I had to. So I did. And here I am.

I am home.

Two years ago, I wrote about why Seattle. I called it my heart city and tried to explain what that meant. I’m not sure if I got it quite right. I seem to keep redrafting it in blog posts and essays and a chapter of my memoir and maybe that’s sort of what I’m doing here, but just with new terminology; now I am trying to explain why Seattle is home. I’m going back to Chicago for a visit in a couple of weeks. Some friends and family members refer to this as me “coming home.” I haven’t corrected them because I didn’t want to hurt feelings, but a little voice inside of me always pipes up, “No, Seattle is home.” Chicago is where I’m from. It’s where many of the people I love reside. But Seattle is home now and here is why:

This year has been hard so far. Last month in particular. Another one of those periods where things are thrown at you all at once. So much stress on so many fronts plus the flu. That’s why I haven’t blogged in a while, not here or even to my Seattle photos Tumblr. But in the middle of it all, I took an afternoon to myself. I went downtown and saw this:






(*Whispers* This, all of this, is mine.)

I also noticed the daffodils in full bloom in front of my building. In the middle of February.



The trees, too.



I had a mountain view from my window when I was sick. Sometimes I even see eagles there. I can get out for fresh air and sunshine without freezing to death in February. I can run year-round. I walk everywhere. I am surrounded by so much natural beauty that it isn’t hard to pull myself out of my thoughts and worries and say, “Hey, look around! This is yours. This is yours.


Seattle has helped me find and practice gratitude. It has helped me work on calm and inner peace. I’ve made friends here more easily than I have anywhere else or at any other time in my life. And that’s not just about the people (though they are awesome), that’s about me and what I’ve found within. I’m still shy. I still worry. I still get sad. But this city centers me. No, it allows me to center myself. When the stress and the bad and the sad descend, I look out the window, I breathe the air, I wait for the bus, I stare at the sky, the water, the flowers, and I center myself. I say, “I am here, I am grounded, and I brought myself to this place. I can keep going through anything.” It was the missing piece that I needed. It was the challenge I had to set for myself to find my own strength. Seattle has given me what the girl who saw in shades of gray thought she would never have: happiness and hopefulness. That’s why Seattle is home.     

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

GCC Presents: Eileen Cook and her new YA novel REMEMBER

My fellow Girlfriends Cyber Circuit author Eileen Cook is thrilled to announce that her book REMEMBER hits shelves February 24, 2015.

 About the Book:
A thrilling tale about what a girl will do to get back a memory she lost…or remove what she wants to forget.

Harper is used to her family being hounded by protestors. Her father runs the company that trademarked the “Memtex” procedure to wipe away sad memories, and plenty of people think it shouldn’t be legal. Then a new demonstrator crosses her path, Neil, who’s as persistent as he is hot. Not that Harper’s noticing, since she already has a boyfriend.

When Harper suffers a loss, she’s shocked her father won’t allow her to get the treatment, so she finds a way to get it without his approval. Soon afterward, she’s plagued with strange symptoms, including hallucinations of a woman who is somehow both a stranger, yet incredibly familiar. Harper begins to wonder if she is delusional, or if these are somehow memories.

Together with Neil, who insists he has his own reasons for needing answers about the real dangers of Memtex, Harper begins her search for the truth. What she finds could uproot all she’s ever believed about her life…

“Compelling combination of twisty mystery and realistic romance." (Cat Patrick, author of FORGOTTEN and JUST LIKE FATE)

Interview with Eileen
Where did the idea for Remember come from?

I’d read an article about some scientific experiments being done with memory. The scientists were looking for a way to reduce the difficulty war veterans have with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It occurred to me if people could get rid of very traumatic memories, there would also be a market for people who wanted to get rid of all sorts of memories.

I began to wonder what types of things might go wrong once you begin messing around with someone’s memory. It can be relatively easy to confuse what is a real memory from what someone might tell you happened. What if something you were sure was true, suddenly seemed to be uncertain, possibly a lie?

Once all these questions were swirling around in my head I knew I had a book- all I had to do is write it!

If the Memtex procedure existed is there any memory you would like to forget?

I think everyone has some memories they would like to forget, but even the difficult ones have shaped who I am so I’d have to hang on to them.

Tell us a behind the scenes story about writing the book.

I decided that I wanted the main character to ride horses competitively- a subject I know nothing about. I was lucky enough to have two close friends who grew up riding and were able to share all sorts of details and were willing to read early drafts to make sure I had things correct. Now I know more about saddles than I ever expected.

What are you working on now?

It’s a thriller that involves Italy, a possible murder and two best friends who may be enemies. There’s nothing better than writing a book that includes a research trip to Rome, Venice and Tuscany. I ate my weight in pasta, took thousands of pictures and wrote pages and pages of notes. Here's a contest to win REMEMBER!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Two New Exciting Books!!! Rookie Yearbook Three and This is Your Afterlife!!!

I love October. October 3 (my wedding anniversary) and October 31st (the best holiday of all!) are my favorite days, but today, October 21st, is really giving them a run for their money because not one, but TWO books that I've been eagerly awaiting are coming out. I seriously couldn't be more excited about these books if they were my own: ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE, edited by Tavi Gevinson, and THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the YA debut by my hilarious, brilliant, amazing, simply-not-enough-cool-adjectives-exist-to-fully-describe-her critique partner, Vanessa Barneveld!

Let's talk about the amazing Vanessa and her book first. My books would basically not exist if not for Vanessa--well, they definitely would not be as good. We became online critique partners (Vanessa lives in Australia where I really hope to visit her one day!) shortly after I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE sold in 2007. She's read multiple versions of both of my books (and some not-published manuscripts as well) and was a total lifesaver during the revisions of BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in particular, reading and immediately responding to the changes I was making at 3 am (this was where it was very convenient to have an Australian CP). She's got an eye for character and an ear for voice, which have helped me a ton, but those plus her incredible sense of humor have made her manuscripts a blast for me to read over the years and I AM SO FREAKIN' EXCITED that readers EVERYWHERE get to be swept into one of Vanessa's worlds.

Here's the lowdown on THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE!

When the one boy you crushed on in life can't seem to stay away in death, it's hard to be a normal teen when you're a teen paranormal.

Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.

Keira's determined to do anything to find Jimmy's killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira's ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.

This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to "teen spirit".

Here's the book trailer:



I devoured THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. It was funny, it was sad, it kept me turning pages, and best of all, it reminded me of my own teenage years when I was obsessed with the Ouija Board and longing for the psychic abilities that Keira has. If you are looking for great ghost story with laugh-out-loud moments and more thrills than chills, this is it.

To celebrate her launch, Vanessa is throwing a big, online bash on her blog from tomorrow, October 22nd through October 31st. It will be filled with guests, including me! I'm doing a post and a giveaway (of an anthology featuring a ghost story I've written) on October 30th. I hope to see you there!

And now.... (drum roll)... on to ROOKIE!!!!

I've had the privilege of being a part of Rookie magazine since it launched in September of 2011. (Remember this super-excited blog post when it debuted?) I'm still in awe of everything that we do. The Yearbooks feature the best of the best of our online pieces for each year as well as some cool added bonuses. This is our first Yearbook with Razorbill and since I'm a Penguin/Random House author too now, I'm think that's pretty awesome. I also have two essays in this one, which feels like a huge accomplishment.

Here's the lowdown on ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE!

Rookiemag.com is a website created by and for young women to make the best of the beauty, pain and awkwardness of being a teenager. When it becomes tough to appreciate such things, we have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you're sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of rants, too. Every school year, we compile the best from the site into a print yearbook. Behold: our Junior year!

In Rookie Yearbook Three, we explore cures for love, girl-on-girl crime, open relationships, standing for something, embracing our inner posers, and so much more. Featuring interviews with Rookie role models like Sofia Coppola, Amandla Stenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Kim Gordon, and a bonus section chock-full of exclusive content including a pizza pennant, sticker sheet, valentines, plus advice and contributions from Lorde, Shailene Woodley, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Grimes, Kelis, Sia, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City, Haim, and more!

I know!!!! Amazing, right? Can't wait to go home and pore over my copy!

And if you are in the New York or Toronto areas, there are events celebrating the release TOMORROW, October 22. There is also an event in Brooklyn on November 5th. All of the details are on the Rookie Events page. Go if you can and tell me how fabulous it was!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Exciting New Book Alert: Foreign Exchange by Denise Jaden!

FOREIGN EXCHANGE is out NOW!

Denise Jaden's new young adult novel, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, is officially available to the world! It is an Editor's Pick and for a limited time, it is available on the Evernight Teen website for only $4.49!

Here's a little more about the book:


Jamie Monroe has always played it safe. That is, until her live-for-the-moment best friend, Tristan, jets off to Italy on a student exchange program. Left alone with her part-time mother and her disabled brother, Jamie discovers that she is quite capable of taking her own risks, starting with her best friend's hotter-than-hot older brother, Sawyer. Sawyer and Tristan have been neighbors for years, but as Jamie grows closer to the family she thought she knew, she discovers some pretty big secrets.


As she sinks deeper into their web of pretense, she suspects that her best friend may not be on a safe exchange program at all. Jamie sets off to Europe on a class trip with plans to meet up with Tristan, but when Tristan stops all communication, suddenly no one seems trustworthy, least of all the one person she was starting to trust-Sawyer.


And here's what people are saying about FOREIGN EXCHANGE:

"Denise Jaden's newest novel, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, is a must read for contemporary YA fans. The characters leap off the pages and readers will furiously turn pages to keep up with the fast pace and intriguing premise. Definitely add a copy of Foreign Exchange to the top of your reading list."
~ Janet Gurtler, Rita Finalist and Best Selling Author of I'm Not Her

"I loved the well-drawn relationships in Foreign Exchange - the tension between Jamie and her mother, Jamie's tenderness with disabled brother Eddy and especially the intense chemistry between Jamie and Sawyer. Their off-limits attraction and the increasingly dangerous hunt for his sister had me racing through the final chapters."
~ Jen Nadol, author of The Mark, The Vision, and This is How it Ends

"Foreign Exchange takes you on a thrilling ride through the exotic streets of Europe into the dark side of the fashion world. Our charming heroine will stop at nothing to save her best friend. A sweet dose of romance keeps it light."
~ Lee Strauss - author of The Minstrel Series

"Foreign Exchange is a fresh contemporary YA that will keep readers compulsively turning pages until the very end. Combining international intrigue with a steamy forbidden romance makes for a can't miss read."
~ Eileen Cook, author of Year of Mistaken Discoveries.

"A pitch perfect voice and delicious chemistry between the characters kept me turning those pages!"
~ Tara Kelly, author of Amplified and Encore

"Foreign Exchange is heart pounding and suspenseful...the teenage dream of escaping the boredom of suburbia by travelling Europe and spending quality time with a hot guy shifts into a dangerous nightmare."

~ D.R. Graham, author of Rank and the Noir et Bleu MC series.

"Denise Jaden is a force to be reckoned with! I loved her new book so much. This one is a thrill ride with full realized, lovable characters, and a refreshingly unique premise."
~ Rachel Shane, author of the upcoming Alice in Wonderland High

Have you seen the trailer yet? It's here too!



Help Denise celebrate online today and spread the word about her new book baby.

Friday, October 10, 2014

Exciting New Book Alert: Finding Paris by Joy Preble

I am really excited about Joy Preble's book that's coming out next year! Details just dropped this week while I was in Hawaii (more on that soon, promise!) and I had to share them because I think my readers will be as into this book as I am!

FINDING PARIS, by Joy Preble—coming April 21, 2015 from Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins

A page-turning, evocative novel for fans of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and SPEAK, about a girl who must follow a trail of mysterious clues to discover what happened to her sister.

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can’t trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who’s moved them all to Las Vegas. It’s just the two of them: Paris, who’s always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind—going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love.

But Leo isn’t going anywhere yet… until Paris ditches her at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris—a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared?

When Leo reluctantly accepts Max’s offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is a not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold tightly.


“An inspiring story of lost souls, and the hope and compassion that must piece together a family long exiled and devastated by secrets.” – Adele Griffin, author of THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE


“FINDING PARIS is a compelling page- turner. It's a road trip story, a mystery, and a romance all in one.  Add to that Preble's pitch perfect descriptions of place and you've got a real winner.  I couldn't put it down.” –Jennifer Mathieu, author of THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Things I’ve Learned About Writing a Memoir—And a Personal Challenge

So, I’ve been working on my YA memoir for a little over a month now. It will be coming out from Dutton, though I don’t know when yet (hopefully 2016) and it still doesn’t have a title, so I’m just calling it “The Zine-Style Memoir” or “The Memoir.” It’s a VERY different experience than writing a novel, which doesn’t surprise me, but um, I must confess… I thought it was going to be easier than writing a novel! Why not? I don’t have to come up with a plot or characters, it’s just MY LIFE and I know what happens. But as it turns out it, The Memoir has its own set of challenges. Here’s what I’ve been grappling with so far:

  1. It’s just as emotional, if not more emotional to write. I write intense books. If you’ve read them, you know that. I deal with heavy shit like addiction, abuse, sexual assault, depression, self-injury and I don’t pull any punches. The reason I write so honestly about these things in my fiction is because these are the stories I needed to read as a teenager. And why did I need to read them? Because I was going through all of that shit. And now my job—the one I signed up for in some moment of total insanity (kidding… sort of)—is to rehash all of that very real shit that I went through. Now I’ve been doing this for a while in my essays for Rookie, but now I’m spending all of my writing time doing that, which is not exactly fun. I mean, I knew what I was getting into, and for the most part, I’ve processed all of this stuff in therapy (and through writing fictional versions), so it hasn’t been too detrimental to my emotional well-being—my revisions on BALLADS were actually much worse… at least, so far. BUT when you get up at 5:30 am to write and/or you spend most of your Saturdays writing like I do, it can be… unsettling. I went to a party on Saturday night after writing all day and it took me a couple hours to pull myself out of my own head. And some days I get to work and just feel anxious and tightly wound all day for no reason—except I spent the first hour of my day recounting a horrible fight with my childhood best friend. So yeah, it’s emotional work and I expect that it will get harder.
  2. This is what research looks like:



    Yeah, those are my diaries. Clockwise from the top, they are from grade school (as you may have guessed from the pink kitty), 8th grade, summer before and all of junior year of high school, the two composition books are from my senior semester of high school (I took a journal writing class and I had A LOT to say, so much that when I filled them, I went back to black-and-white cat journal and finished filling it during the rest of what would have been my senior year when I was living on my own in Madison, Wisconsin), and the last journal is from my year at Antioch College and the two years I lived in Madison after dropping out (I was the opposite of productive then). Conspicuously missing are 7th grade (that was a very bad year and I tore my journal—also a Star Trek log book—to pieces, and I think, flushed them down the toilet) and freshman and sophomore year. That was a green spiral bound notebook. My abusive boyfriend demanded to read it in my sophomore year, so I ripped out a bunch of pages and REWROTE THEM. I’d saved the ripped pages and tried to reassemble/rewrite the whole thing on a couple of occasions, but since I never did it all, this led to confusion later about what was real and what wasn’t and eventually I threw the whole thing away. It kind of sucks because my memory is imperfect and these diaries (along with calls to my mom, who usually is my medical resource for my novels) are the easiest way to jog it. Well, easiest in terms of remember what happened when. Re-reading them is actually horrible. Like when this book is done, they might all go in the trash. And no, this isn’t me being critical of my writing skills (those aren’t actually that bad), this is because of my worst discovery about memoir-writing so far, which is…
  3. Writing about yourself sorta makes you hate yourself.  I cringe every time I flip through any of those old diaries (aside from maybe the grade school one—not that I can flip through it because I thought what I’d written was so damning, I tore the pages out and stuffed them in an envelope addressed to my cousin presumably because I trusted her to dispose of them in the unlikely event of my tragic demise). The 8th grade one is pure obsessive love. Yeah, it was my first crush. That’s probably normal to a degree, but holy shit is it embarrassing. I thought I was going to marry this guy and have three babies (the Ouija board told me so). I thought I was gonna die when he asked another girl to the graduation dance. It includes other things I’d rather not recall either like when I got into Pearl Jam just to impress my best friend’s new friend. I hate Pearl Jam, but boy did I convince myself that I loved them, just to fit in… at a time that I swore I was done trying to fit in.

    The obsessions and the hypocrisies are the worst and they continue through all the journals. I’ll blast girl for spreading rumors and “girl hate” while saying the most awful, hateful things about her. And during the fucked-up relationship from my late teens there are actual entries written in my own blood. The worst of the worst though is from the summer between sophomore and junior year right after my abuser and I broke up when I was still in love with him and that period after I realized what he’d done to me, but I still loved him. Of course the anger that followed was not any easier to stomach.

    Basically reading these diaries forces me to revisit the weaknesses that I hated most about myself and also forces me to look at how self-centered and cruel and angry and awful I was at times. I have to recognize that I was not always a good person and I made A LOT of mistakes. Of course this book is about identity and how the many pieces of us come together to form something whole (or mostly whole). I thought I was writing about that in a retrospective way, but I’m realizing now that there is still going to be some self-understanding and self-forgiveness that is going to have to come from the writing process. And while I’m in the thick of it, I’m going to have to remind myself that I’m not that person anymore and I learned from both her good and bad decisions and traits.
  4. Just because my life has an arc or a “plot” doesn’t mean I’m not going to have to make major structural decisions within each essay/chapter and for the book as a whole just like I would for a novel. This has been my biggest writerly problem so far. I sold the book on proposal and I thought I had a solid idea of what it would be—more like a collection of essays than a memoir. But as soon as I started writing in earnest, I realized it wasn’t really working. I can’t just plug this essay fromRookie about my struggle with self-injury in to the place where it seems to fit best chronologically—junior high because that’s when the cutting started—because the essay covers my whole journey, from twelve to twenty-two or twenty-three. Reading that and then reading the next thing about me being fourteen and struggling with self-esteem or something, it’s jarring. It doesn’t flow as a narrative. It makes you feel like fourteen-year-old me should be better off because she was at the end of that last piece (even though she was also in her twenties). My editor noticed this, too, of course, and we talked about it for an hour. I have ideas about how to fix it, but the structure still feels very murky right now. That seems to be happening within each essay/chapter I write too. I start off one way, then change my mind, then end up with alternate versions of each piece. It’s frustrating and I don’t want it to be. I know that if I agonize over structure now, it’s going to really slow me down and it’s all going to change later. So this has led to…

The Plan

I need to create the puzzle pieces. Only then can I dump them out on the table and figure out how they fit (and probably reshape a bunch of them, but that doesn’t go well with my puzzle metaphor). So I want to write really rough versions of the essays/chapters/parts of the story I know I need to tell. I’m doing it linearly right now, but this might be the time to jump around (in a way I haven’t done since I wrote my first novel!) and write in chunks, some of which will probably feel really unpolished and incomplete. The problem is I HATE unpolished and incomplete. I hate rough drafts and it is hell for me to get through them. Speeding through did help me with my last novel, though, and in this case, so I don’t waste a lot of time figuring out a structure that will change once I have all the pieces, I think it’s going to be essential. To make it work, I’ve set up…

The Challenge

I decided pretty much arbitrarily that I would like to write all of the rough pieces by November 1st. This is going to be a pretty enormous challenge because I work full-time, I teach a class once a week, and… I’m going on vacation from October 2-8. So yeah. This might be totally unrealistic. But what the hell. Setting intense deadlines works for me (as long as I don’t get too angry at myself if I can’t make them, which I am promising here, publicly, that I won’t. Hold me to it, please!). Conveniently, the place where I teach, the Hugo House, is running a 30/30 fundraising challenge this month! Basically if you sign up, you commit to writing 30 minutes every day for the first 30 days of October. So I’m doing it. 30 minutes a day. Even on my anniversary trip to Hawaii. (Writing on the beach is great, right?) I am trying to raise some funds for Hugo House, which is an incredible organization for writers, so if you want to cheer me on and donate a few buck to a good cause, I’d love it. Here’s my fundraising page. You can also join the challenge if you are so inclined and I hope you will! In fact, if you are a YA writer (or a friend of mine!) you are welcome to join the team, my I've formed with my YA class (and my friends!)

So, if you don’t hear from me much next month (aside from vacation pics on my instagram and tweets about my writing progress), you’ll know it’s because of my lofty goal. What are your big goals for October?  

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

I'm Teaching My Dream YA Class--And You Can Sign Up For It NOW!

I had the most amazing summer (see my Tumblr for proof, it is filled with whale-watching and hiking adventures), but I’ve always loved fall and its back-to-school vibes. I’m ready to get down to business on my own writing so that I can get my new memoir out to you all as soon as possible. (I’ll be looking for early morning and Saturday writing buds on Twitter!) But I’m particularly excited about this fall  because in addition to getting back to writing, I’m getting back to teaching!

I love teaching Young Adult Fiction as much I love reading and writing it. Being in a room with other writers who are just as passionate about YA as I am and working with them on their ideas.. it doesn’t even feel like a job! It’s an incredible privilege that keeps me inspired to work on my own manuscripts.

I got my start teaching YA at Columbia College Chicago where I taught semester-long courses to undergraduates and graduate students. I got to help them start their novels. At least 40 pages were due to me at the end of the course and most students went well beyond that. Of course, I really missed those writers and their characters and often found myself wishing that I could have seen the story through a full draft. The same thing happened to me when I taught online for Media Bistro. Those classes  lasted twelve weeks and the students—most of them working professionals who were out of college, but driven to carve out time to finish a novel—produced ten pages a week. Still, not quite a full draft. 

When I moved to Seattle last year, I started teaching at Hugo House, an incredible organization for writers in one of the most literary cities. Like with Media Bistro, my students were mostly working professionals (and one very committed high school student who will probably be published before she graduates college!) who were very serious about completing a YA novel. They came to me in various phases—some with a fresh idea, others with a NaNo book that was SO close to be ready to go on submission—and again, I fell in love with their stories and characters and was awed by their writing ability and commitment. But alas, our classes were only 6 weeks! This was a real stab to the heart!


Then Hugo House offered me the DREAM teaching opportunity… a YEARLONG YA MANUSCRIPT CLASS!!!! I said yes in an instant because finally, FINALLY, I’ll get the chance to work with my students through a WHOLE manuscript. It might be something they’ve already started, maybe even wrote an entire draft of, or it might be a fresh new idea, but I’ll get to the be there, through the plotting, the discovering, the messy middle, all the way to THE END!

This fabulous, wonderful, total-dream-come-true class will start two weeks from today on Wednesday, September 17th. It runs from 7:10 to 9:10 pm at the Hugo House in Seattle. It will go until the end of May (with breaks for the holidays of course!) for 32 total sessions. Two of those sessions are weekend publishing intensives—one with general (and very valuable) information about the publishing biz and one specific to YA with a kid-lit agent coming to visit us.

The first third of this class—fall quarter—will focus on generative and craft activities to help build your story world, useful whether you are starting from scratch with a brand-spanking new idea or getting back into ongoing material. We’ll be working to  will develop and polish the teen voice, pace your storylines, and write the engaging characters that readers of young adult fiction have come to expect. Since every writer is different, we’ll also work to set personal goals and establish a writing schedule to help you meet them. The last two-thirds of the course—winter and spring quarters—will be more of a workshop. Every student will get a chance to receive feedback from the entire class (and me, of course!) and we’ll be working in small critique groups, so you’ll have a space to receive regular feedback, encouragement, and support as you work your way through toward “The End” and beyond into revisions and line edits.

So, if you live in the Seattle area and have a YA novel in your head or on your laptop that you want to see all the way through, please register! I’d love to have you! If you don’t live in the Seattle area, but have friends who do please, please, please spread the word! I want to fill this class with awesome writers! If it takes off, hopefully I’ll be able to do more classes like this (and yes, maybe online!).

BONUS: For those of you in the Seattle area, the fabulous Karen Finneyfrock is also teaching a great YA Craft Class called Doorways to the Young Adult Novel in October also at the Hugo House. It's a six-week class, so if you can't commit to a full 32-week class, TAKE IT. Or if you are just really committed to pounding out that novel, take BOTH of our classes! They don't conflict time-wise and will only compliment each other. And for those of you ANYWHERE, read Karen's new YA, Starbird Murphy and the World Outside! It was my absolute favorite read of the summer! I seriously can't recommend it enough! If you love books with unique, fully drawn characters on a real journey to figure themselves out, you'll love this. Also Karen is a poet. The language in this book... I have a serious writer crush. She has a way with words like no one else in YA!

Happy Fall, Happy Writing, and Happy Back To School! What are your writing or school-related plans?