Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Reflections, Accomplishments & Hopes for a New Year

It's that time of year when we take a hard look at what we've done and assess how we want to improve and move forward. This is something I'm doing constantly, but it does seem important to take a moment to write it all down, especially since I feel like I have learned a lot about myself this year, and especially this past month or two.

I started out 2012 miserable and full of self-doubt. It was a long-time coming. These feelings had been building for a couple of years, so I declared 2012, the year of re-evaluation. I had to figure out what made me happy. More specifically, I had to figure out if writing still made me happy or if I was done, ready for a complete change of career and life focus.

I went back and forth, up and down about this. I'd spend a month deeply in love with storytelling and then three months hating every word I wrote or hating myself for writing. I felt like I'd finally gotten on the right track again in September and then had an absolute breakdown, my biggest crisis of faith yet in November, which I documented in this piece for Rookie--possibly the best, most honest, real and in-the-moment piece I've written for Rookie.

In July, I decided to go back to therapy for the first time in roughly nine or ten years. I was deeply depressed and anxious, especially about writing, and I couldn't do the re-evaluation thing on my own. It was one of the best decisions I've ever made. Not only did I benefit personally, I figured out a lot about my own writing. I put all the writing tips I gleaned from my therapist in this YA Outside the Lines post.

Perhaps the most important of those tips was be grateful for and recognize my accomplishments, big and small. So here's what I've done in 2012

  • Knitted one hat and one scarf for my mother, and one hooded baby blanket for my friend's first child. Started my first knitting project for myself, a skirt.

  • Taught 16 students in a Young Adult Fiction class at Columbia College and read well over 1000 pages of their work.
  • Grew lettuce, strawberries, tomatoes, green beans, many varieties of peppers, many types of herbs, quite a few flowers.

  • Made countless vegan meals, tried and even invented several new recipes.
  • Got my eleventh tattoo. (It's Latin for "breathe.")
  • Joined my local library board.
  • Tended bar three nights a week and briefly made a tumblr about my adventures.
  • Visited my favorite place on earth, Seattle.

  • Saw (and met!) Mark Lanegan (whose music inspires my writing big-time), as well Garbage, Social Distortion, and several amazing bands (and legends like Iggy Pop!) at Riot Fest.
  • Hosted a college friend for about half the year and went on adventures with her like to my first Renaissance Faire.

  • Visited with several other friends from out of town, reconnected with my childhood best friend/sister after she moved back, spent as much time as I could with my amazing teenage niece who is my heroine, and made the ultimate birthday package for my BFF to celebrate eighteen years of friendship.
  • Went to my first Comic Con where I met people like the stars of one of my all-time favorite shows, Twin Peaks.

  • Went to my first RT convention, participated in a panel about boundaries in YA and in Teen Day. Met Francine Pascal, author of the Sweet Valley series that ruled my childhood.

  • Watched the last five seasons of Buffy for the first time, all five seasons of Angel for the first time, and most recently, watched all of the first season of Game of Thrones in 3 days.
  • Turned old t-shirts into new shirts, and in one case, a dress.

  • Celebrated my third wedding anniversary in Portland, Oregon. We also visited the gorgeous Oregon coast and met up with one of my best writing buds, Tara Kelly, who took this photo of us.
  • Nursed my elderly cat/best friend of 17 years, Sid, for several months and then said a sad but beautiful farewell to him the weekend after Thanksgiving and wrote him a tribute.
  • Wrote 17 columns for my local newspaper, the Forest Park Review.
  • Wrote 20 essays, some deeply personal, others pure fun, for Rookie as well as countless reviews of books, movies, TV shows, music, hot chocolate, candy, and electronic items that do and should exist.
  • Wrote my first essay for Ms. Fit Magazine, a real world feminist fitness magazine that will debut in January of 2013.
  • Made zines with my niece and her BFF at a Rookie Road Trip event.
  • Took part in an amazing reading to celebrate the release of ROOKIE YEARBOOK ONE.
  • Did a vlog to celebrate the release of the DEAR TEEN ME anthology, which features my letter to my teenage self about an abusive relationship.
  • Researched (both by visiting the library and sneaking into a cemetery after hours) and wrote my first short story in umm... eight years? It's a ghost story--my personal twist on a local urban legend about a hitchhiking phantom flapper--which will come out next October in an anthology called VERY SUPERSTITIOUS published by Month9Books.
  • Went on a writing retreat in Arizona.

  • Wrote about 50,000 words of one YA novel (ie. the Modern Myth YA)
  • Wrote about 60,000 words of another YA novel (ie. the Contemporary YA)
Yeah, looking back, even though I often beat myself up for not doing enough... that's a lot of stuff! Sure, I wish that total of 110,000 words could have been on one novel so I could feel like I finished a big project this year. And of course what I really wish is that "sold a book" could be one of the bullet points, but I worked hard and I have to be proud of what I have accomplished and the difficulties like losing Sid that I got through.

I guess the biggest question is what came of my self/life evaluation in the year of evaluation?

Ultimately, I've decided that while writing doesn't always make me happy and the current state of my career (or more specifically the way I've had to cobble together way too much work that pays way too little to support my writing habit), writing will always be a part of my life. I'm hoping that 2013 will bring adjustments and changes that will make me happier. The biggest one is that my husband and I are hoping...or at this point PLANNING to move to Seattle in summer of 2013. I need a fresh start in a place that I actually like. I grew up in Chicago and came back for school, but then got stuck here. It's not where I feel like I belong. I'm hoping that going where I feel like I do belong will shake things up a bit. It will definitely mean a job change. Bartending has its moments and it did inspire an entire (though as of yet unsold) book, but like all service industry jobs it can be really draining and demeaning. I have discovered a love of teaching this year and especially a love of writing for and connecting with teenage girls via Rookie. I'm hoping to find a job that incorporate both of those things--maybe some sort of after school arts program for young people that I can teach in. I'm not sure what is out there, but I'nm hoping to find something, and it may be a full-time something meaning novel writing will have to fit in other places in my life. I want to have nights to read and spend time with my husband, weekends to go on adventures with him. That will be the priority once we move out west. 

Writing for Rookie is my other big priority. It doesn't pay much, but every piece I craft for them, I put my heart and soul into the same as I have my novels. I'm able to write incredibly personal things and I feel like I'm a part of the type of publication I'd been dreaming of since I was thirteen years old. Rookie readers are my audience, always have been, and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to share my words and stories with them.

As for my fictional stories, my novels, my career as Stephanie Kuehnert, YA author (or just author in general), I still hope and dream and work my ass off in hopes that 2013 will be the year it relaunches. (13 is my lucky number after all.) I'm taking much needed time off until after the New Year, but then I will get back back the Contemporary YA and I hope to finish it in a month or three. After that, I will return to and reevaluate the Modern Myth YA. Maybe I'll press on with it as it is, maybe I'll re-write it again, or maybe I'll decided it needs a different form--a TV pilot instead of a book, perhaps. 

I'm not setting deadlines or making specific goals. I just want to keep doing what I've been doing--finding the faith and the drive to keep writing and enjoy writing each day that I sit down to do it. To treasure life's sweet moments, to find something to be grateful for every day.

Oh and I think I might sign up for a spinning class....

What about you? What were your accomplishments big and small in 2012 and what are you hoping to do in 2013?

Thursday, December 20, 2012

GCC Presents: Laurie Faria Stolarz

Laurie Faria Stolarz latest book in the "Touch" series, DEADLY LITTLE LESSONS is out now! Here are the details on the novel and a contest that Laurie is running!


Camelia Hammond's trying junior year of high school is finally over...but her troubles aren't. After she discovers a painful truth about her family, she escapes to a summer arts program in Rhode Island. Determined to put family - and boyfriend - drama behind her, she throws herself into her artwork.

At the arts school, she gets caught up in the case of Sasha Beckerman, a local girl who is missing. Even though all signs suggest that the teen ran away, Camelia senses otherwise. Eager to help the girl, she launches her own investigation. Meanwhile, Camelia realizes how much she misses Ben, despite being committed to Adam.

But time is running out for Sasha, and Camelia will have to trust her powers if she's to save her. Will the lessons Camelia has learned in the past give her the strength to do so?

Author Bio:

Laurie Faria Stolarz is the author of Deadly Little Secret, Deadly Little Lies, Deadly Little Games, Deadly Little Voices, Project 17, and Bleed, as well as the bestselling Blue is for Nightmares
series. Born and raised in Salem, Massachusetts, Stolarz attended Merrimack College and received an

MFA in creative writing from Emerson College in Boston. For more information, please visit her Web site at

Karma Chameleon Contest

In celebration of the release of DEADLY LITTLE LESSONS, I'm so excited to announce the launch of a brand new contest. I'm calling it Karma Chameleon - yes, after the Boy George song from the '80's (in case any of you have heard of it; if not, you can YouTube it for fun). I'm naming it that, not because of Boy George or his song, but because the contest is all about karma - good karma that is, and the spreading of it, and because, five books later, I thought it'd be the perfect time to celebrate Camelia from the Touch series (recall that Camelia's real name is Chameleon).

The contest is all about giving and getting - hence the karma part. As many of you know, the law
of karma, in its simplest definition, is that whatever you put out to the world - energy or otherwise,
good or bad - comes back to you. And so, in the spirit of good karma, let's spread some goodness. I
want to encourage readers to do a good deed, i.e. organize a fundraiser or food drive, volunteer to
tutor or teach something, visit the elderly or a children's hospital. All good-karma submissions will be
entered into a drawing to win autographed copies of some of my Touch series books. I'll be sharing
the most inspiring stories on my website and Facebook, and I'll Tweet about them as well (with your
permission, of course). For more information, see the official guidelines and rules on my web site:

Thursday, December 6, 2012

GCC Presents: Eileen Cook!

I love everything I've read by Eileen Cook thus far, so I'm excited to feature her new book, THE ALMOST TRUTH, as a part of here Girlfriends Cyber Circuit blog tour!


From the author of Unraveling Isobel and The Education of Hailey Kendrick, a smart, romantic novel about a teenage con artist who might be in over her head.

Sadie can’t wait to get away from her backwards small town, her delusional mom, her jailbird dad, and the tiny trailer where she was raised…even though leaving those things behind also means leaving Brendan. Sadie wants a better life, and she has been working steadily toward it, one con at a time.

But when Sadie’s mother wipes out Sadie’s savings, her escape plan is suddenly gone. She needs to come up with a lot of cash—and fast—or she’ll be stuck in this town forever.

With Brendan’s help, she devises a plan—the ultimate con—to get the money. But the more lies Sadie spins, the more she starts falling for her own hoax…and perhaps for the wrong boy. Sadie wanted to change her life, but she wasn't prepared to have it flipped upside down by her own deception. With her future at stake and her heart on the line, suddenly it seems like she has a lot more than just money to lose....

About Eileen Cook:

Eileen Cook is a multi-published author with her novels appearing in eight different languages. She spent most of her teen years wishing she were someone else or somewhere else, which is great training for a writer. Her latest release, Unraveling Isobel came out in Jan 2012.

You can read more about Eileen, her books, and the things that strike her as funny at Eileen lives in Vancouver with her husband and two dogs and no longer wishes to be anyone or anywhere else.

The Interview

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

EILEEN: Most often book ideas come to me as a collection of unrelated things. A bit of an idea here, another piece there, until it sticks together as one idea. This process can take months or years. This is one of the few books where I can remember the exact second I had the idea. I was on the ferry and saw a missing child poster. At the bottom there was an age-enhanced photo so you could see what the person might look like now. I had the thought "How weird would it be if I looked like the age enhanced photo?" In that instant the idea of the book dropped into my head. I ran back to my seat and wrote it down as fast as I could. I spent another week thinking over some different details, but I started writing almost right away.

Q: The main character of my first book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, is the kind of girl I wanted to be (a rock star!), the MC of my second book has a lot more in common with teenage me. Is your main character someone you wish you could be, someone a lot like you, or your total opposite? How so?

EILEEN: With the exception of pulling a few pranks, I was pretty much a “good girl” in high school. My main character, Sadie, is a teenage con-artist. Her dad has been in and out of jail her whole life and she’s learned that if she wants her life to be different, she’s going to have to be the one to make it happen. She and I don’t have a lot in common, but I really admire her guts.

Q: If there was a soundtrack for your book what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate the story?

EILEEN: First off we need a few songs that deal with the idea of missing someone. Partly because there’s a missing child in the book, but more importantly Sadie is trying to figure out who she is and what’s missing in her life.
Missing You by Black-Eyed Peas
I Miss You by Incubus
Sadie’s a con artist- so we need at least one good lie song.
Miserable Lie by The Smiths
The book also has some romance so we need a few love ballads to round things out.
The Way You Look Tonight- by Tony Bennet
Someone Like You by Adele

Q: In addition to writing books, I also write for a website for teens called Rookie, which has a regular feature called "Literally The Best Thing Ever," wherein we write about a thing that we think is super mega awesome (even if it is the type of thing that others might call a guilty pleasure, we believe there is nothing guilty about pleasure!) and explain why we think it is literally the best thing ever. It's generally a kind of unexpected thing, for example I wrote one about the soap opera, One Life To Live. I don't expect you to write a whole essay obviously, but can you briefly tell us what either you or your character (or both!) would say is "Literally The Best Thing Ever" and why?

EILEEN: I am addicted to David’s Teas. I’m not a coffee drinker (which is practically a crime in the Pacific Northwest), but I love tea. They have all sorts of amazing flavors, but a couple favorites are: Coco Chai Rooibos (coconut, ginger, cardamom and peppercorns) and Creamy Earl Grey.

Q: What are you working on for us next?

EILEEN: I am working on a new YA which is currently being called LOST TO BE FOUND, but stay tuned the title may change. It’s about a girl named Avery who decides to search for her birth mom as part of her senior project, but ends up finding out more about herself than she expected.