Secondly I want to thanks everyone who voted and blogged about my cousin's charity, Tipping Points. I haven't heard from him yet if they ended up getting the grant, but it meant a lot to both him and me to see so many people so enthusiastic about his project. Thanks for spreading the word. And now of course, there is a lucky winner of an ARC of Ballads of Suburbia to announce.... Steph Su from blogger, please email me at stephanie at stephaniekuehnert dot com to claim your ARC!!! I don't have them just yet, but if you send me your address I will ship it out as soon as I get them. For the rest of you, fear not, I will have PLENTY of opportunities to win ARCs once they arrive!
Now, let's get on to today's Woman Who Rocks, Jocelyn Pearce. I'm particularly thrilled to be interviewing Jocelyn because I think she is fabulous and the collection of essays she contributed to Red: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today is one of my most prized books. Because I think everyone should own a copy, I will be giving one away as the prize for one lucky commenter this Wednesday!
You might also know Jocelyn from her blog, Teen Book Review. That's how I first met her. In fact, she was the person outside of my friends or family who emailed me and told me they were looking forward to IWBYJR, meaning she was kinda like my first real fan. That's pretty damn cool. As a writer, I feel hugely in debt to book bloggers like Jocelyn, and I think they rock, so that's another reason why I chose to interview Jocelyn. But enough of me blathering about how great she is. I'll let her speak for herself. So without further adieu...
Q: How did you get involved with Red? What about the project drove you to submit an essay? Tell us a little about your essay and why you chose to write on that topic?
Jocelyn:I have serious trouble with on-topic writing. If not allowed to choose my topic, there are often long tangents. Ask my English teacher, seriously--my writing on Brave New World also includes a rant about how we've been brainwashed to follow directions no matter how stupid and that's why we're all doing the assignment (luckily my English teacher is pretty cool and just laughs). So how does this lead me to Red? Simple--I found a link to the call for submissions on a blog I can't remember, went to the website, and saw that someone was looking for teen girl personal essays about anything. How cool is that? Write about whatever you want, and you might get published? That was definitely something I was up for. I didn't really think I had much of a shot at being chosen, but I wrote what was on my mind that day (my embarrassing crush on a soccer player at school earlier that year--I was feeling nostalgic and reflective), and sent it off. I didn't think anything more about it until the email arrived saying my essay had been chosen!
Q: Was Red your first publication credit? How long have you been writing and what are your goals for writing in the future? Novels, nonfiction, journalism?
Jocelyn: I had a poem published in middle school in some anthology of young poets, but at this point I have a suspicion that the standards weren't particularly high for being selected, so I consider Red my first "real" publication. I've really been writing, quite literally, for as long as I can remember, and I don't have a cute story about it or anything--I was just a little kid writing unintelligible scrawls of a story next to my unidentifiable drawings (for people, I used to draw a circle with two lines--legs--coming out of the bottom), and then a slightly older kid writing down stories that were blatant rip-offs of my favorite books in notebooks, and then a pre-teen and teenager typing up stories and poems and essays on my computer (in varying degrees of quality). I can type 110 words per minute, so you know I have a lot of practice! As for future goals....I'm not really sure. I'll just keep writing, whatever I feel like writing, and see where it takes me. I'd like to finish a novel just because I never have, but not necessarily get it published (I mean, sure, that'd be nice, but it's not the goal or anything). I'm also slightly interested in journalism, but I don't have a lot of experience there, and I'm going to college for something else (International Politics and History) so who knows when/if that'll actually be a part of my life. So to sum up the rambling--I'm not sure where my writing'll take me or if it'll only be part of my life as a hobby in the future, and I'm okay with that, either way.
Q: In addition to your own writing, you also do authors everywhere a huge favor by running and fabulous book review site. Can you tell us a bit about why you decided to do that and what you enjoy most about the huge community of teen book bloggers out there?
Jocelyn: I had written reviews for some other websites, but I'm a little too independent for that (and also don't work well on deadlines--we all have our faults), so I decided to start my own blog, for a little less structure and (hopefully) more fun. And, it has been! Sometimes I have trouble keeping up with it, what with work and school and everything, though. What I enjoy most...I guess that'd be the great friends I've made through blogging, the connections with people I wouldn't have had without it. Yeah, the people in this community are pretty awesome.
Q: Who are the women who inspire you/rock your world? Maybe they inspire you as a writer or artist or maybe they are just helping you get through the teen years. They don't have to be famous either, family and friends totally count!
Jocelyn: I'm inspired by a lot of people, in different areas of my life, but I guess the top of this list, because this is not about anything specific in my life, just how I want to live it, my aunt, who has gone through a lot and stayed strong through it--even though the specifics of her life aren't what I want for myself, I know I'll face a lot of challenges (have already, honestly) and I'd like to be as strong as she is through everything, and come out on the other end still strong, and still optimistic.
Q: I often ask my older WWRW guests to reflect on their teen years and offer advice to teen girls, but you are in the thick of it right now, so I think your advice might be extra insightful. What helped you survive high school?
Jocelyn: It's been essential for me to have people in my life who are not a part of my high school world. I love my school friends, and hate my school, but I need to have people I can talk to who don't go to my high school. Make connections with people who are not part of your high school drama. Find a pen pal or get in touch with a cousin who lives far away--anyone, really. On the slightly pessimistic side, if your school social life goes sour, you'll still have someone to talk to, and anyway, it's great to have someone to talk to with a different perspective on things than everyone else in your life, and someone who won't be talking about what happened at lunch or in English class when high school is the last thing you want to think about (we spend eight hours a day there, so can't the other sixteen be spent thinking about other things sometimes?). Far away friends are amazing.
Q: Now for my standard questions: what was the first album you bought and the first concert you attended? Be honest, we like to hear about the roots of our rockin' ladies.
Jocelyn: This is embarrassing. Both parts of it. The first album....That would be Avril Lavigne in fifth grade. Before then, the only music I knew from my friends was boy bands and Britney Spears, and none of that ever appealed to me, so it was fifth grade before I heard some music that I actually really liked, and that was Avril Lavigne. Which is embarrassing now, but she was cool when I was ten! As for the first concert...This is really embarrassing because I do love music, and I'm almost eighteen, but the only concert I've ever been to was a school benefit show where some school alumni and a band made up of kids from my school played, and while it was at an actual concert venue, everyone around was a classmate or one of my classmates parents. So I like to think this doesn't count...or won't as soon as I actually go to a real concert.
Q: Please dish about the moment where you felt most like a rock star. Maybe it was a moment of big success in your life, an "I'm Not Worthy!" Wayne's World type moment where you met someone cool, or a time where you just got the rock star treatment.
Jocelyn: I felt like a definite rock star when I went to New York City in Fall 2007 for the first time, because I wasn't just there to be a tourist and visit colleges (though I did both of those things)--I was there for a launch party to celebrate Red's release. And then, I was at an amazing party whose sole purpose was to launch a book I'd been a part of! I actually signed books (and felt like a fraud). It was a pretty amazing rock star evening.
Jocelyn, you were totally not a fraud signing those books! Your essay in RED is amazing and there are a ton of other great essays too. So I'd imagine anyone who doesn't have this book will want it and if that's the case.... You are in luck! All you gotta do is leave a comment. And since I will be on vacation next week and there will be no WWRW, you have TWO WHOLE WEEKS to enter! I will announce the winner on April 15th when my guest will be Sarah Quigley, author of the forthcoming YA Book, TMI!
I would like to say that I loved Jocelyn's advice to fellow teens. I loved my penpals in high school and they are such a great outlet!
Lastly, since I'm leaving you without a woman who rocks next week, here is something cool to check out. You may have heard of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Contest. Well there is a really interesting one called Punk Rock Girl by Kate Tyler Wall. Here is the description of it:
“My mother always claimed I turned out the way I did because she watched ‘American Bandstand’ every day while she was pregnant…literally my first memory is hearing the words ‘rock and roll.’” Music, especially punk rock, sustains Maria Farrell through adolescence, her parents’ miserable marriage, and her mother’s mental illness. She becomes an English literature professor and tries to follow her gambler-grandmother’s advice to never settle for the wrong man or be afraid to take chances on her own. After her mother’s death, she returns to her hometown at age forty to fix up and sell the family house. She is assisted by her best friend, Claudia, who is coping with her own house renovation and a career-ending illness, and her mother’s helpful neighbor, Natalie. Then Maria asks another neighbor for landscaping advice and learns he is the L.A. punk legend she and Claudia listened to in high school, now hiding out in the suburbs. Getting to know Jeff (aka Dirk Strange) gives the widowed Natalie an unusual male role model for her children and encourages Claudia to launch a new career. And Jeff and Maria help each other understand their families’ troubled histories and their own fears. Could an aging Zen punk gardener really be that third seven Maria’s been waiting for all her life? Inspired by a punk radio show, PUNK ROCK GIRL is a story of family, friendship, and romance, set to music. Even readers who aren’t interested in punk will appreciate the story’s reminder that you can use what you love to overcome past traumas and obstacles.
You can find it here and download the excerpt for free. If you like it, leave a review of it as I believe that is how the book will get to go on to the next level. There definitely need to be more books about punk rock girls in my opinion!
Anyway, comment away to be entered to win Red: Teenage Girls in America Write On What Fires Up Their Lives Today and tune in tomorrow to hear about my upcoming vacation, woo hoo!