Monthly Archive: June 2016

June, briefly

With my lovely agent-sis Samantha Joyce and the #TeamKrush books we found at Chapters!

Overall, June was a pretty fantastic (and busy) month. It started with a YALSA BFYA nomination, which was such a surprise and an incredible honor! The weather has been hot and sunny (my favorite!), and a truly wonderful celebration took place– my sister’s wedding. It was a very special and unforgettable day! Later in the month, I went to Toronto for a book signing event at Chapters with fellow authors Jenny Manzer and Catherine Lo, and a panel at the Canadian Writer’s Summit conference with Jenny, Catherine, Jen DiGiovanni, and Wendy McLeod MacKnight. Both events were so much fun. I felt so energized being able to talk about my path to publication with readers and writers at varying stages of the process, and I was grateful to be able to meet up with so many writer friends while I was in the city. (Erika David, Samantha Joyce, and Tanaz Bhathena, I adore you all!) The weekend was exactly what I needed to recharge and recenter myself going into the summer.

This month, I have been…

Working on: I am officially project-hopping. While the revision of one YA contemporary manuscript has most of my full attention, I’m cheating on it with two other WIPs. One is a draft of a NaNoWriMo project from 2014, which just goes to show that sometimes distance and time away really do make the heart grow fonder (and give you the space you need to figure out what wasn’t working). The other is still in the magical early stages where anything is possible, but since there’s a mystery element and things are getting twisty, I think some plotting will be required in the near future.

Reading: It was another slow reading month for me. I’m usually a very fast reader, but lately I’m not turning pages at my regular rate. I’m chalking it up to the humidity, which makes me extra sleepy! But I was able to finish The Cresswell Plot by Eliza Wass, which came out at the beginning of the month. It’s dark, haunting, and feels completely unique in voice and theme. I also read Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally, which is arguably one of the most beautifully written books I’ve read, and a fantastic fusion of music and love and identity. It doesn’t come out until November, but I highly recommend preordering a copy!

Watching: Besides Game of Thrones, which I’m full-on obsessed with (helloooo, Jon Snow!), my husband and I started watching Billions, which is smart, dynamic, and very interesting. I’m a big fan of Damian Lewis, who plays one of the leading roles. There’s only one season out so far, but I look forward to watching more!

That’s my world in June! Looking forward to what July brings (including a book event in Traverse City with my amazing CP, Emily Martin). And stay tuned for something fun happening next week!

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:

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