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On those drawer darlings

While looking through the various folders on my computer recently, I realized that I’ve completed eight books.

And started about twice that many.

In an effort to stay organized, I give each book a folder. But some of these “books” don’t quite materialize, and the folders don’t have much to show. Some are partway toward being a completed novel– one has over 30,000 words, while another is encroaching on the 50,000 mark. Some are a lot less far along– a few chapters in, or even just a few pages. As I clicked through the neglected documents, I felt an overwhelming sense of guilt. I had abandoned them. I never gave them a chance.

Or did I?

A drawer darling that just may be resurrected.

A drawer darling that just may be resurrected.

More than once, I’ve wondered—am I commitment-phobic? Am I just in it for the glorious honeymoon period, when everything feels shiny and effortless, before it becomes a big confusing mess? Do I take a hike when the words dry up and sentences feel like a massive undertaking and that paralyzing feeling of “what’s next” takes over?

I honestly don’t think so. I’m pretty sure my prognosis is that I’m just a regular writer.One thing my journey to publication has taught me is that most of us have lots of those half-started, half-finished, halfway-maybe-something projects in our proverbial drawers. Some of them are terrible and we’d never show them to a single soul. Some of them might become something, someday. So why do I still feel guilty that my drawer darlings exist?

I think it’s because such a huge part of success in writing is persevering through the hard times and never giving up. You’ll hear a lot of writers (myself included) say that habit is the key to success. You have to put in the work and commit in order to finish something. A first draft only has to exist, not be anywhere close to perfect. But not everything makes it even to first draft status. Those not-finished somethings don’t mean you didn’t commit or that you didn’t care. Making the choice to abandon a project isn’t the same as giving up. Maybe you’ll go back to it in a week, month, or even two years. Sometimes, distance is the best solution. And sometimes, the book just isn’t working, and you have to accept that. Accepting that it didn’t work isn’t a failure– it’s growth as an artist.

I can’t even fathom how many thousands of words of mine will never see the light of day, how many hours of work I put into projects that nobody will ever see. Maybe some people would deem that a waste of time, but I’m okay with it. None of the time and effort was a waste, because I was writing and learning and honing my skills, even if I didn’t see it at the time. I can go back to one of those abandoned folders and see why a project wasn’t working, why an idea fell flat. I can resurrect it. Or I can leave it, because the passion isn’t there anymore.

A writer’s imagination is a crazy-awesome place. There’s so much going on in there– your imagination lets you build worlds and characters out of nothing. That’s kind of like magic. Don’t cover all that with the heavy blanket of guilt. Let those words be wasted, if that’s the best thing for you. Let those drawer darlings gather dust. They’ll still be there, if– and when– you ever go back to them.

Spotlight on Sixteens: Genesis Girl

Genesis Girl by my Sixteen to Read sister Jennifer Bardsley is such an original, thought-provoking book. It’ll hit bookstores everywhere June 14, but you can read about it here first!

Some days, I feel kind of horrified by the influence technology holds over my life. I’m joined at the hip with my phone. My fingers are glued to my tablet. My iPod is on full blast. So I was immediately intrigued by the premise for Genesis Girl, which is set in a future where the aftermath of a brain cancer epidemic brought on by cell phones scared parents though to entrust their children to a leader who would keep them safe and technology-free. These children would grow up to be Vestals, and would have no Internet footprint. This makes them extremely valuable. Companies want them to advertise their products, knowing there is no chance that a Vestal could have a sordid backstory traceable online.

The main character in Genesis Girl is Blanca, a Vestal who is auctioned off to the highest bidder. Except instead of being on billboards and magazine covers selling soap, Blanca’s buyer, Cal, has a different idea. He wants her to act as his daughter, and help him gain a relationship with his estranged son, Seth, who is the total opposite of Blanca—technology-addicted and the operator of an online blog intent on exposing Vestals. But even though she’s fundamentally opposed to everything he stands for, Blanca finds herself falling for Seth, although she’d never admit it. When she starts to learn more about the Vestal leader and the secrets of her past are brought to the surface, Blanca must tap into the courage to do what she’s never been able to—think for herself, and make her own decisions.

Fast-paced and action-packed, this was a book I had a hard time putting down. I desperately wanted Blanca to claim the life Cal wants her to have, complete with freedom and the ability to do the things she wants to do. As a main character, she’s very intriguing—because of how she was raised, she has no idea what she wants in life or how to achieve it. Her journey to find herself is, for me, the most fascinating part of the story.

I love how completely original the concept of the story is. Jennifer Bardsley has envisioned a future wherein technology isn’t just at one’s fingertips, but in them, in the form of finger-chips. Blanca is disgusted with how dependent people are on technology. Having never been online, she’s at the opposite end of the spectrum. It’s a commentary on our society today– how sometimes, it’s almost impossible to disconnect from our devices.

A thought-provoking, imaginative, and totally unique story—I’m looking forward to the sequel!

You can add Genesis Girl to your Goodreads bookshelf and preorder a copy!

Visit Jennifer Bardsley’s website to learn more about her!

Spotlight on Sixteens: How It Ends

How It Ends is one of my favorite debuts of 2016, and it just so happens that Catherine Lo is one of the sweetest and most thoughtful writers (and she’s a Canadian gal, too!). Getting to know her and her writing has been a highlight of my debut year! Her book comes out on June 7, but for now, here’s my rave review!

Confession: I was totally awkward in high school. I never felt comfortable in my own skin. I focused on track practice and schoolwork and most of all, friendships. As a teen girl, my friendships were everything to me. But since my best friend went to a different high school, I was kind of a loner.

And as someone who felt painfully uncool basically a hundred per cent of the time, I still remember the heady feeling when someone I thought was way out of my popularity league talked to me. So when I first read the blurb for How It Ends, I knew I could relate to Jessie completely—how when Annie, the cool new girl, first talks to her, she feels like Annie must be talking to someone else. I’ve been out of high school for years now, but that one line brought me right back.

Reading about the evolution of Jessie and Annie’s friendship was so visceral and real. Catherine Lo intertwines their vastly different personalities so beautifully and shows how they complement each other and make each other stronger. I loved the use of dual POV here, because with a story like this—a story so intricate and brimming with so many emotions—getting inside both girls’ heads was really important.

But while Jessie and Annie complement each other, they achieve the level of closeness that only comes with a lot of trust that the other person won’t hurt you. Trust, which is precious and fragile, and can be chipped away at in bits or torn apart completely.

It was fascinating to me to see Jessie and Annie interpret people’s words and actions in such different ways. There were times when Jessie didn’t understand Annie and Annie didn’t understand Jessie, and you just want to hug them and tell them to talk it out and make up, since that’s what best friends do. But they’re teenage girls, and it’s not that easy. When the secret Jessie is keeping from Annie gets out and Annie lets Jessie in on what she’s hiding, you just know those secrets aren’t going to stay contained— I was literally holding my breath waiting for the fallout.

I saw parts of my teenage self in both Jessie and Annie. I was insecure and lonely, but I was also bold and stubborn. I was both a leader and a follower. I made good choices and bad ones. It’s impossible to put labels on girls, because the second you slap us with one label, our instinct is to slither out of it and become someone else. I loved that Jessie and Annie had so many facets to their personalities. They felt like real people. They felt like parts of me from years ago. And a book that does that— a book that makes you see yourself in the characters, that makes you think what you would have done in their situations, or what you would have done differently— well, that’s not just a book anymore. It’s an experience. This one will hurt your heart and make you think long after the last page.

Add How It Ends to Goodreads and preorder your own copy!

Check out Catherine Lo’s website to learn more about her!

A YALSA nomination!

I received some truly fantastic news yesterday. Firsts has been nominated as a 2017 YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) Best Fiction for Young Adults pick! I couldn’t be prouder to be in such great company with some amazing YA books, including some of my fellow Sweet Sixteens.

The full list of nominees is up here.

Time for celebratory champagne!

 

 

 

 

Here’s the entry from the nominations page:

May, briefly

Some months, I start out strong and lose energy as the days get longer and my motivation wanes. May was the opposite. While I struggled at the beginning of the month, I soon hit my stride and was able to make some great progress. I feel like I have struck a good balance with writing, revising, reading, and just enjoying life– especially now that the weather has warmed up enough for me to ditch pants and boots in favor of shorts and flip-flops.

This month, I have been…

My book baby hanging out at Chapters Indigo in London!

My book baby hanging out at Chapters Indigo in London!

Working on: Thanks to some brilliant notes from my amazing CP, I was energized to finish revising one of the YA contemporary projects I completed this year. It’s from a boy’s perspective and I had such a blast writing it, and while revising can sometimes be the painful, sobering aftermath to fast drafting, this time I was able to go in and fix what needed to be fixed to make the book stronger. In the meantime, I’m also drafting something new– it’s dark and moody and messy and I’m not quite sure where it’s going, but that’s part of what makes me love it so much.

This month also meant the end of my Boys Tell All series. I’m thrilled that so many people followed the stories– we’re up to nearly 150K views on Wattpad! If you missed the series, you can read all the stories on Wattpad or Tumblr.

Reading: Sadly, I didn’t do nearly as much reading this month as I normally do. I finished Everybody Rise, which my lovely editor was kind enough to send me. It was a really fun read about climbing the social ladder in 2006 Manhattan, and the lies and scheming that go into fitting in with the elite crowd. I also read How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather, which comes out in July. I loved this one– the main character, Sam, has such a snarky, smart voice, which I adore in a narrator, and the plot kept me guessing with unique twists and turns.

Watching: I’m full-on obsessed with Girls, a show I have been wanting to watch for awhile now. I’m a huge Sex and the City fangirl, so Girls feels like a younger, messier version, and perfectly encapsulates the uncertainty of being in your early twenties and the doubt, passion, and urgency that dictate life. Plus, I love the humor– I definitely laughed out loud more than once. Lena Dunham is brilliant and basically my new life idol… I can’t believe she created this show at such a young age. (Next up, I want to read her book!)

June will be a busy month– my sister is getting married (I’m her matron of honor!), and I’ll be heading to Toronto to participate in a bookstore event and the CCWWP conference as a panelist with some amazing debut authors. More updates soon!

Spotlight on Sixteens: In The Shadow Of The Dragon King

When I was a teenager, I was full-on obsessed with The Lord of the Rings. I had practically memorized the maps of Middle Earth and imagined how cool it would be to escape my life and go on a quest with the characters. (I also had a huge crush on Aragorn, but that’s beside the point…)

Anyway, reading Tolkien spurred my love of dragons and fantasy. I have massive amounts of respect for any writer who can create a fantasy world out of nothing and make it feel real, as real as the world in which we live. J. Keller Ford proves that she is such a writer in the first book in her Chronicles of Falhallow series, out May 31 with Month 9 Books!

In The Shadow Of The Dragon King is a riveting read. It’s rich with details and has an ethereal quality that’s hard to describe, but as I was reading, I felt like I could escape into the words and be in the world Ford created. The main characters, Eric and David, feel so genuine and authentic. Eric lives in the enchanted realm of Falhallow, while David lives in the modern world—until he finds himself called to Falhallow. Further complicating the plot is David’s best friend, Charlotte, who he has more than friendly feelings for. To destroy the dragon, Eric and David have to learn to work together and trust each other, which is a bit more difficult in reality than it sounds in theory.

I’m so excited for teens to discover this book and fall in love with it like I did with fantasy when I was a teenager. In The Shadow Of The Dragon King is a story with a timeless, classic feel, and I’m looking forward to the next installment in the series!

Add In The Shadow Of The Dragon King to Goodreads and preorder a copy!

Check out J. Keller Ford’s website here.

Spotlight on Sixteens: Please Don’t Tell

I was lucky enough to get an ARC of this book at ALA Midwinter, where I was even luckier to have the lovely Laura Tims sign it for me. But I had no idea exactly how lucky I was that I had my own copy until I started reading… because I was literally underlining quotes from every single page and dog-earing at random. (Sorry, book!) It’s not an understatement to say I was floored by the writing. It’s bold, gripping, original, evocative, poetic, jarring. It’s light as a lullaby, beautiful as a song, loud as a scream. Sentences hum with electricity, with passion, with raw fear and rage.

Please Don’t Tell is told from alternating perspectives—the narrators are twin sisters Joy and Grace, and the timeline goes from Joy’s voice in the present to Grace’s voice in the past. I loved this fragmented style of storytelling, because it kept me fully engaged and so, so invested in the story. Each sister’s voice was distinct, and Laura Tims does a great job of showing the complicated web of sisterhood, and how guilt and regret and doubt can tangle even the strongest bonds. Through Joy and Grace, she also explores what it means to be a girl and how that can be warped and change shape and lose importance entirely. It’s heartbreaking, but also vividly real.

I don’t want to say much about the plot, because I don’t want to give anything away. I will say that it involves the aftermath of a party where Joy isn’t sure exactly what happened—and the events that follow, which lead her to believe someone else does know, and is willing to use it against her. It’s complicated, twisty, surprising, dark, and wholly, entirely captivating. I couldn’t put the book down and I didn’t want to. Consider me a die-hard Laura Tims fangirl—this is one of the most unique and daring YA books I’ve read.

Add Please Don’t Tell to Goodreads and preorder your copy before its May 24 release date!

Learn more about Laura Tims on her website!

My rock-bottom moment

2008 Laurie being generally ridiculous.

2008 Laurie being generally ridiculous.

The year was 2008, and I had just graduated with a postgraduate diploma in Journalism. I was living in Toronto, modeling part-time, renting a box of an apartment with my faithful little Chihuahua, trying to break into the news media industry. Some of my friends who had graduated with me already had internships, and some had actual jobs. Unfortunately, it was also a time in the economy when jobs were being slashed, so my internship had ended. I was struggling to fill my days, scouring the Internet for job postings and sending my resume to any job I thought might be a decent fit. I wasn’t expecting perfection. I just wanted to pay my rent and hopefully make some connections so that I’d be on my way to a job I liked.

Then one day, I got an invitation to interview for a local news station. After days and weeks of silence on the job front, I was grateful for the opportunity. But the morning of the interview, I felt completely discombobulated. I remember that it was a freezing cold morning and no matter what outfit I tried on, nothing felt right. I didn’t feel right. I felt more like a kid playing dress-up, like I was pretending to be someone else. I shook it off, chalking it up to nerves, and took the subway to my interview. I shook hands and smiled, and things got started.

It was terrible. Worse than terrible, actually. It was like one of those nightmare where you have a huge test you forgot to study for and wake up in a cold sweat, except the nightmare was actually happening to me. I was asked questions I didn’t know how to answer about politics and news stories and events I hadn’t even heard of. I was quizzed, using photos of political figures I couldn’t identify. I was massively unprepared and the interviewer knew it. I felt humiliated and stupid. At one point during the interview, I was asked, “do you even watch this news channel?”

Honestly, the answer was no.

After an awkward good-bye (“don’t call us, we’ll call you!”), I stumbled back onto the snowy Toronto streets, called my mom, and promptly burst into tears.

It wasn’t that I didn’t get the job. It was that in that moment, I admitted to myself that I never wanted the job. I knew in that moment that I didn’t want to work in Journalism at all. It wasn’t for me. My heart was in fiction, in the stories constantly churning in my head, in the characters who whispered to me and prodded the inside of my brain. I was just too afraid to say out loud that I wanted to be a writer, that it had always been my dream, that it was what I knew I was supposed to be doing.

It took me another few years before I started writing on a regular basis, before I took it seriously and made it a priority. But I’ll never forget that day in Toronto when I felt like I had hit rock bottom. I was so miserable and depressed and certain that I’d made a giant mess of my life. But looking back, I’m glad I looked like an idiot in that interview. I’m glad I failed. Because if I hadn’t, I might have taken a job I didn’t love and pushed my own stories to the back of my head forever and dismissed them as a silly dream. That failure let me admit something that I might not have otherwise. This isn’t your path. There’s something else you’re meant to do.

Rock bottom hurts. It really, really does. You get up bruised and broken and it’s hard to start climbing out. But rock bottom happens for a reason. Find out that reason, and cling to it, because that reason is what you’re intended for.

Spotlight on Sixteens: The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You

The book with perhaps the longest (and coolest!) Sweet Sixteen title is coming out May 17, and you can read my review here for Spotlight on Sixteens!

My love of snark is well-documented. There are few things I adore more in a book than a main character with a whip-smart sense of humor who knows her way around sarcasm. I knew within the first page of The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You that I had found my spirit animal in Trixie Watson, the book’s protagonist and beating heart. She’s no stranger to lobbing quick-witted insults and always has a well-timed jab at the ready, especially for her nemesis, Ben West. But what I love most about Trixie is her huge heart. She’s fiercely loyal and devoted to her two best friends, Harper and Meg.

Trixie’s senior year at the Mess, a school for geniuses, is ever-so-slightly derailed when one of said best friends, Harper, starts dating Ben’s best friend. See, Trixie has hated Ben since he broke her arm on the monkey bars—and even though that was ten years ago, Trixie hasn’t forgotten. Trixie and Ben’s rivalry is pretty legendary, and her sole aim in as a senior is to beat out Ben for the third spot in the school ranking. But when she finds out Ben might harbor feelings for her that go beyond mutual loathing, something she never thought was possible begins to happen—she starts to realize she might actually like him, too. When Harper gets expelled for cheating—something Trixie knows she would never do—Trixie and Ben team up to find out the truth, and get to know each other in the process.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is based on Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and there’s no shortage of plot twists and humor and romance, sweet romance! I absolutely adore Lily Anderson’s writing style. It’s incredibly fresh, unique, and laugh-out-loud funny.

The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You is a book that more than lives up to its name—and that’s no small feat, because that’s one hell of an awesome title. I’ll be wildly raving about and recommending this book to everyone, and consider me an official Lily Anderson fangirl for life!

Add The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You to Goodreads and preorder a copy!

Check out Lily Anderson’s website for more information!

 

Spotlight on Sixteens: Summer of Supernovas

Some books are so vivid and lifelike that they practically sparkle… well, Summer of Supernovas, out May 10, is one of those books!

People put their faith in a lot of things. Science, religion, music, friendship, love. Wilamena Carlisle puts her faith in the stars. But when Wil fears that her Fifth House—the house of relationships and love—is doomed, she’s on a mission to find her perfect astrological match before time runs out. Problem is, she falls for two brothers—one whom the charts deem right, and the other who couldn’t be more wrong. And Wil made a promise to honor her mother’s legacy, so she’s not taking any chances with cosmically doomed love.

On the subject of love… quite simply, I fell in love with this book. I know people often say how they couldn’t put a book down, but Summer of Supernovas was literally glued to my fingertips. One page—more like one line—of Wil’s voice had me completely starry-eyed. It’s quirky, unique, hilarious, and so insightful, all rolled into one unforgettable character. I wanted Wil to burst from the pages and become my BFF. Thanks to Darcy’s exquisite writing style, it often did feel like Wil was about to jump from the pages, vintage dresses and all.

This story is everything. It’s humor and heart and risks and disappointment and self-discovery. It’s fear and chance and comedy and tragedy and regret and forgiveness. Most of all, though, it’s about different kinds of love. Family love and friend love and romantic love. I adored Wil’s relationship with her Gram, who raised her after her mother died. And Wil’s dueling feelings for Grant and Seth, the brothers at opposite ends of the astrological spectrum, left me breathless and at the edge of my seat.

Wil ties her fate to the stars, and puts her faith in everything they offer. No matter how much or little a reader can relate to that, we can all relate to putting our faith, our hopes and dreams, in something another person might not understand. For this reason, I think Wil’s words are going to feel like a warm hug for all readers. She’s a heroine who is trying to do the right thing and honor her mother’s wishes and also make her own heart happy in the process.

There’s a line somewhere in this book that I love so much I wrote it down after reluctantly turning the last page: “Because it isn’t the stars keeping us together, it’s… love. And it always will be.” Whether you believe in destiny or not—if you read your horoscope religiously or couldn’t care less about signs—this is the kind of cosmic beauty immersed in every page of Summer of Supernovas. A book like this—a book this funny, heartwarming, and completely one-of-a-kind unique—comes around about as often as a supernova. Don’t miss out!

Add Summer of Supernovas to Goodreads and preorder a copy!

Check out Darcy Woods’s website for more sparkle and swoon!

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