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!


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?

Monday, July 28, 2014

BIG NEWS from a singing gorilla

Last month, I tweeted this seemingly mundane thing about gorgeous weather, tattoos and farmer's markets putting me into good mood:

But in reality there was more to the story. Way more. I was bursting with a huge secret. "I literally cannot tell you how this day could get better" was my little nod toward that. I mean, don't get me wrong, the farmer's market, the perfect Seattle summer day, and my impending tattoo plans were wonderful, but literally I could not say how or why my day was so freakin' above-and-beyond-my-wildest-dreams amazing. Now I finally can because this announcement ran in today's print edition of Publishers Weekly:

Yeah. My next book is going to be a zine-style memoir (think a bunch of my personal essays from Rookie illustrated and woven together to create a cohesive story of my life from ages um 8 to 25) and it is going to be published by Dutton and edited by the one and only JULIE STRAUSS-GABEL, who I have been DREAMING of working with for YEARS.

Here is a summary of how I've been feeling since I've received this news:

I always thought that that last image of Sally Draper is how I would actually react when I got the call, but here is the actual (albeit slightly blurry) reaction shot taken by my husband:

Yes. That is a gorilla in a tuxedo. A singing, dancing gorilla in a tuxedo. Amazing Agent Adrienne decided that this news was something that a simple phone call COULD NOT cover, especially since we've worked so long and so hard for it. Those of you who have been following this blog or Twitter or Facebook or elsewhere know that for me getting published AGAIN has been an even harder experience than getting published the first time. My last book, Ballads of Suburbia, came out almost five years. It sold six years ago. In that intervening period (i.e since January of 2009 when I finished revisions on Ballads) I've written a couple of YA partials, a full YA novel and an adult novel that haven't found homes yet. I've also been writing for Rookie since it launched in September of 2011.

I signed with Adrienne in October of 2011. She's been the one shopping all of those projects I mentioned above. She's seen me through many moments of writer's block, self-doubt, and full-on crises of faith. She once sent me a copy of The Little Engine That Could to remind me that she believed that I would get through my WIP and I would find my way back to the bookshelves. It was her unceasing faith that kept me writing and pushing through rejection, hard times, and heart break. I'm still working on the words and some sort of grand gesture to thank her. A grand gesture like the one she made on Tuesday, June 17th at 8 pm when she sent a gorilla to my door. I'd told her that I didn't have a proper "The Call" story because I'd received emails not phone calls about my previous two sales. This is definitely "The Call" story to end all "Call" stories and here it is as I told it to my critique partners (who fortunately I was allowed to tell early on because otherwise I would have died). 

A couple important items of note to the story: Scott is my husband and apparently he and Adrienne had been colluding over Facebook messages for a week once Adrienne was aware that Things Were Very Likely Going To Happen (she never told him I had an offer, she said she wanted to send a surprise to "encourage me") and I sprained my ankle a few weeks ago and was icing it because I'd gone running when I got home from work (I showered before this all went down thankfully, but I am sans makeup, hair drying weirdly, and in a random t-shirt--I mean, really, Charlie Brown Halloween shirt, I have to remember you forever?)

But without further adieu, THE CALL as told in some version or other to Tara Kelly, Jeri Smith-Ready, and Alexa Young (ie. the women who along with Adrienne who have continually kept me going for the past 6 years):

So at 8 pm our door buzzer goes off, and I am mystified because you know, packages don’t get delivered that late. I’m in the process of icing my ankle so I tell Scott to answer the buzzer. He says there’s something at the door for me. I’m like, "I didn’t order anything, am I fucking getting served or something?" (Because of course my mind goes to the worst possible thing...) Scott was like, "Well, you better go down and sign for it." At that point, I was almost kind of pissed, like why is he making me limp downstairs instead of signing for me and who is this interrupting Orange is the New Black? 

Then I open the door and there is a gorilla in a tuxedo with an iPod dock boombox asking if I’m Stephanie. 
I was so beyond confused that at first it didn’t even compute when he said, "This is from Adrienne," because I was thinking it was some sort of joke maybe from my friend Eryn or Beth Ellen, who have that sort of sense of humor and knew I’ve been dealing with some shit lately. Also, not gonna lie, there was still a small part of me wondering if this was some elaborate way to mug me (you can take the girl out of Chicago, but…). The gorilla had to ask if he could come in, so I ushered him into the lobby of my building and I guess at that point Scott had arrived and took this picture: 

The gorilla started playing “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang (which was my first cassette tape because when the Cardinals won the World Series when I was a kid it was their theme and I was obsessed. I cannot recall if this is in the memoir or was just a lucky bit of fate) and at that point my brain finally put two and two together. Adrienne. Your agent. Celebration. Dancing gorilla. But at first I still couldn’t even let myself believe it. At one point some of the people in the apartment nearest the front door came out and were like, “What is going on? Why are we celebrating?” And I was like, "I have no idea!!!"

I think they somehow comprehended before I did because they said congrats and went inside as the song was ending. Then the gorilla was like, "Congratulations!" and I think he maybe said we had an offer, but I’m actually not sure, he told me that I had to call Adrienne RIGHT NOW. And I said, "I don’t have my phone!" Scott tried to give me his and I’m like, "Dude, I don’t know her number." So then the gorilla gives me his phone which is already cued up and dialing Adrienne and he instructs Scott to video tape it. Good thing, too because the conversation is kind of a blur. Basically, all I remember is saying, “Hi, Adrienne, this is Steph, I’m, uh, calling from the gorilla’s phone?” And I think she said something like “I promised you a good 'The Call' story.” And I said, “So this is it? This is The Call?” And then she told me, “Well, worst case scenario, we're selling your memoir to Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton.” And I practically passed the fuck out while Adrienne laughed. Of course she was totally kidding about the whole "worst case scenario" thing--it was actually the "dream come true scenario." 

After more giggling on both ends and me stammering, "Oh my god," we said goodbye to the gorilla. (I did not tip the gorilla! I feel bad about this! I had no wallet though. Maybe Scott tipped him? Maybe that isn’t necessary???) Then I went upstairs, called Adrienne back on my own phone and got all of the details. I also asked, "Is this actually real?" several times. As I mentioned earlier I’ve wanted to work with Julie for years (and for you writers out there, she has passed on more than one of my manuscripts—it really is about right book, right time). She’s edited some of my favorite books including both of Nova Ren Suma’s masterpieces, Imaginary Girls and 17 & Gone; Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door (as well as the forthcoming Isla and the Happily Ever After, which I’m currently devouring) by Stephanie Perkins A.K.A. my fellow YA writer named Stephanie with brightly colored hair; If I Stay by Gayle Foreman, and of course, Looking for Alaska by John Green, A.K.A., the book my first agent told me to read when I expressed some shock about her idea to shop my first novel as a YA.

Adrienne also thought Julie would be perfect for this project, so by the next day (right before I posted my “I cannot tell you…” tweet), even though we had interest from other publishers, we were only negotiating with Julie and Dutton and by Thursday, June 19th at noon, we’d officially accepted their offer. The book hadn’t even been on submission for two weeks (it was barely a week when we got the offer). Since it took over a year to sell my first book and I’ve had other things out for even longer than that, I was floored.

I’m still floored.

And I’m beyond grateful.

And now I’ve got about half a book to write, so…. I’ll conclude the same way I did in my recent YA Outside the Lines blog post about the best advice I could give aspiring writer me or any aspiring writer is that nothing will go as expected: “The things you didn’t or couldn’t plan often turn out better than you possibly could have imagined.”

Thank you to everyone who has supported me and to everyone who is as excited about this book as I am!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

GCC Presents: Judith Tewes!

My Girlfriends Cyber Circuit bud Judith Tewes has a new book launching today from Bloomsbury Spark. Here are the deets!

My Soon-To-Be Sex Life

Charlie is down to her absolute. Total. Last. Resort.

Despite a thoroughly comprehensive list of potential cherry poppers, er…suitors, and careful plotting, Charlie is three weeks into her devirginzation campaign, still untouched, and getting desperate. In the movie of her life, this aspiring screenwriter is giving herself a PG, for please, get some.

Her project goes into freeze frame when her mom checks herself into rehab and packs Charlie off to live with her estranged, or just plain strange, grandfather, Monty. How is she supposed to get a date when she has to go pick up his Depends?

Enter Eric, a hot rehab grad on the road to redemption, and the only one who can make Charlie rethink her strategy. The more she gets to know him, the more convinced she becomes that is the one, and not just another to add to the list of people who will abandon her.

In this hilarious and heartbreaking story of one girl’s detoured road to womanhood, Charlie’s list develops a life of its own – right when she realizes there’s so much more to lose.

About the Author:

Judith Tewes resides in small town northern Alberta, where she: writes, sings, plays bass guitar in an all-woman band, walks her three crazy labs, and suspects she's living the life of a superhero's alias.

The Book Trailer:

Saturday, July 5, 2014

One Year Seattle-versary!

A year ago today at around 3:30 in the afternoon, we drove through this tunnel and arrived in our new hometown.

It was a moment I'd been dreaming of for nine years, ever since I'd visited with a group of girl friends in 2004 and knew-- just knew the very moment I glimpsed Seattle on the bus ride into downtown from the airport that this was the city of my heart. 

It's scary though to take a leap of faith, to believe that just because you want something, because you feel it is part of your soul or your destiny or whatever, that you can go for it and it will work out. It was scary for me in particular because I've always been anxious, a worrywart. For years I focused on the many reasons I couldn't move--the townhouse I couldn't sell, the sorry state of my finances after my last leap of faith leaving full-time work to write (and bartend... and freelance... and teach...), and especially the overwhelming fear that I would fail.

I’m a perfectionist, a straight-A student, a Lisa-Simpson type. My failures and perceived failures haunt me. I was not supposed to be the girl who dropped out of college after a year, but I did. Then, my first attempt to live on my own failed when I completely lost sight of myself and the drive I’d had throughout childhood and high school and was forced to crawl back home to Chicago at 21 with a drinking problem, an alcoholic boyfriend, tons of credit card debt. Then there’s that relationship with the alcoholic that lasted years longer than it should have because I didn’t want to admit I’d failed by being with him. And let’s not talk about my writing career and all the missteps and failures I feel I made there (whether or not that is truly the case.)

But dwelling on these failures and letting my fear hold me back was killing me. In 2012, I found myself as depressed as I had been in the worst phases of my life—eighth grade, junior year of high school. I had to make a change. I went back to therapy and found a brilliant social worker named Liz Ledman, who pretty much saved my lifeShe was the first person who really asked me, “Why not? Why can’t you go to Seattle? Just GO and see how it all works out.” It was part of her way, I think, of teaching me to live in the present. Forget my past failures, forget my future fears of jobs, financial security, housing markets. Just go. 

Fortunately, my incredible husband, Scott was on board with this. So at the beginning of last year, we started planning. In June, we came out to Seattle to rent an apartment and then we went back to Chicago to pack. On the morning of July 2nd, we set off on a three-day drive across the country through the Badlands, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and into Washington with our two cats. There were some not so fun moments like right across the Wisconsin border when Kaspar freaked out and pooped all over his carrier, but for the most part it was one of the most incredible, scenic trips of my life and I hope we can do parts of it again (without cats and an overpacked car). It was the beginning of what would be the best year of my life and my marriage.

Me and Scott at the Columbia River in Washington
 I keep a five-year journal—a notebook where each page is divided into five sections so you can write a few lines about each day. I’m currently on year three. It has been incredible to track the difference in my mental health between 2012 and now. I’m a different person, a healthier and happier person than I ever thought possible. It’s also been funny for the last month or so to revisit all of my anxieties about moving: those days in Seattle when our housing prospects looked grim until we found a place in a prime location with a gorgeous view of Rainer and the Cascades; my OMG there is so much stuff to pack followed by procrastination followed by pure panic; my deep and horrible anxiety about the delivery of our moving containers (god, what a trainwreck it was to get those into the driveway next to our house) and then the fear that all of my precious, precious things would break in the process; my tearful but sweet goodbyes with friends and especially my mom and niece; and of course the horrible, all-consuming “must get a job and/or sell a book” state that I know will fill my journal entries until mid-August. Depending on my mood, these entries either ended with giddy hope or prayers to the universe that this leap of faith would be worth it.

Even though the job anxiety lasted for six weeks after we moved (and through several heartbreaking “But that was the perfect job! Why don’t they want me?” moments), I knew almost immediately that my leap was worth it. My fears big and small were for naught. Packrat that I am, I was able to whittle down our stuff, pack it up, and though there were a few headaches with arranging the transit, it all arrived completely safe and sound. Seriously, not a single thing broke. (And therefore I can highly recommend Mayflower’s container move.) The drive across the country went well, even with the cats (though as I noted in my July 2nd, 2013 journal entry, “We should have brought baby wipes.”) and I even drove a few stretches on the highway (though admittedly I have hardly driven at all in Seattle because I’m intimidated by the hills and the traffic, something I should work on.). I have a great hairstylist (Danielle at Bowie Salon on Capitol Hill), great health care (Group Health), a great dentist (Smiles on Madison), a great vet (Jet City Animal Clinic) and neighbors in my apartment building to swap cat care with. I didn’t lose my local support network—I keep in touch with my best friends in Chicago the same way I have with my best friends that live in Denver, St. Louis, and San Francisco—and I found an amazing set of friends in Seattle, some who I’ve known for a long time, some who are brand new but it feels like we’ve been friends forever. Though my husband changed jobs once after we got here, he loves his current job and I love my job at Seattle University, a gorgeous campus that’s an easy walk or bus ride from my home where I get to work surrounded by people who share my same passion for books, learning, and social justice.

I did not fail. I succeeded in all of the best possible ways, in ways I didn’t even dare to dream about.

It’s weird to think about being here a year. Part of me feels like I’ve been here forever—maybe because this is where I belonged or this is where I finally came into myself, like the real me—the happy, joyous, capable of living in the moment me was born here. On the other hand, it does still feel so new. I’m constantly in awe of the view of skyline I get every time I go over Jose Rizal bridge on the way to or from home, in awe of the mountain, of the Sound, the long summer days, the changing sky, the many, many flowers. I’ve never lived somewhere with so many flowers.
Washington Arboretum

Washington Arboretum

Washington Arboretum

The garden behind my office building where I eat lunch
But I don’t think that awe will ever fade or go away. That awe goes hand-in-hand with my gratitude, which I've also started recording in a notebook this year. Each night I make a list of at least five things I'm grateful for and it always includes Seattle or some aspect of it--vegan pizza, delicious vegan food, hikes, legal weed.

I am so grateful to be here. To wake up to smell of rain or the dampness that never seems to fade even when the sun has been shining for a week. I’m grateful for cloudy days, foggy days, sunny days, rainbows, gray mornings that turn blue, gray mornings that stay gray. For the drizzle in the winter that makes it feel so good to go home, cook a warm meal and cuddle with your partner and furkids. For the glorious, glorious return of the sun.

December Fog

Seattle Skyline from Alki Beach on sunny spring day

Golden Gardens

I’m grateful for the view from my bus stop:

The view from my apartment window:

The view from the trail I regularly run:

Downtown as seen from the I-90 trail
Mount Rainier and Lake Washington as seen from the I-90 trail

And the spectacular sunsets I can walk down the block to see:

I'm grateful that all the places that I loved when I visited Seattle are mine now. I can spend time at the waterfront, at Pike Place Market or Viretta Park anytime:

Viretta Park on April 5, 2014
I'm grateful to keep discovering new parts of the city and surrounding area and taking part in Seattle traditions that make me feel like I'm a real resident:

Fremont Solstice Parade

I'm grateful that I'm surrounded by so much nature. By water:
Saltwater State Park
Canoeing in Mercer Nature Slough

Alki Beach

By waterfalls:
Snoqualmie Falls
Wallace Falls State Park

By trees:

By mountains with amazing views:

The view from the top of Little Si
The view from the top of Rattle Snake Ledge

By eagles and ducks and deer and slugs and snails and turtles:

Mercer Nature Slough

And I see those on our Sunday hikes, we have also taken a slew of long weekend adventures since we've been here--probably as many trips as we have taken together in the course of our marriage and I am very grateful for that!

San Juan Islands Anniversary Trip

We saw a fox

and alpaca

and Mount Baker on the ferry ride back to Anacortes

Olympia in fall

Tacoma, Defiance Point Park, New Year's Day

Valentine's Day trip to the magnificently rain WA coast

And the spectacular Hoh Rain Forest where we saw our first eagle!
Easter Weekend

Above all, I'm so grateful for the ways that this move has made me physically and mentally healthier and closer to my husband than ever.

Fully vegan Thanksgiving for two

Crossing the finish line of my first 5K

That’s a large chunk of my year in pictures, but if you want to see more (and all of the adventures to come), check out my tumblr.

I’m proud, ecstatic, and beyond grateful to call Seattle home. I miss my Chicago people (and am thrilled that my mom and niece are coming to visit soon!), but this is definitely where I belong. I feel centered, whole, focused, and inspired on a daily basis. Even on the dark days, I am able to find beauty and peace. I can’t wait for all of the adventures in the years to come.  Great risks do lead to the greatest joy. I highly recommend taking them.