Tag Archive: firsts

The time I almost quit

We give a lot of glory to the big milestones in this business. Finishing a draft, getting an agent, going on sub, announcing a book deal. The smaller wins get love too– things like writing each day, starting a new book on craft, or meeting a reading goal are celebrated. But sometimes what we fail to talk about as a community are those moments when we come close to giving up. The gritty underbelly of all of the good things tends to get glazed over with a pretty dollop of success. When you do see somebody’s good news, you rarely think about what happened for that person to get to that point. You don’t see the near-misses or the almosts, the messy drafts that go nowhere or the tears. I share a lot of my own good news on social media– book deal announcements, photos of my neat and organized writing space, snippets from what I’m working on. But today, I felt compelled to talk about the side I don’t show as often. My own gritty underbelly, in the form of the day I almost quit writing entirely.

Shelved, but not forgotten.

It was spring of 2013. I was getting married in less than a month, so needless to say, my life was incredibly busy with wedding preparation. I had been querying a New Adult manuscript since December with some interest and several requests, but no offers. I was totally convinced that it was only a matter of finding the right agent for my project. And one day, I got an email regarding one of the full requests. They wanted to set up a time to talk to me about my book. On the phone. It was THE call, I was sure of it! Much flailing ensued. This was my moment, after six months of querying. Everything was coming together for me.

But the phone call wasn’t an offer. It was an R&R, which I pretended not to be disappointed about. I tried not to get my hopes up, and I diligently set about making the changes that the agency wanted to see. I pored over my manuscript, certain that I was making it so much better. I could practically envision the book deal announcement. When it was ready, I sent it back and kept my fingers crossed for good news.

But it wasn’t good news. There was an email passing on the project less than a week later, on a Friday night when I was binging on Shark Tank in my pajamas. I’d like to say I took the news well, but I remember crying in my apartment. I had an opportunity and I fell short. What if another opportunity never came? I wasn’t good enough. My manuscript wasn’t good enough. Every single doubt I had ever cast on myself bloomed around me, sucking me into a dark cloud. I didn’t even want to look at my computer, and suddenly the dream of being a published writer was ridiculous and unfathomable. I was glad only a few people in my life knew that it was my goal to become a published author, because it was less embarrassing to only fail in front of my immediate family. With that one rejection– one person’s opinion– I convinced myself that I should just give up entirely.

And I did give up. For one week, two weeks, three weeks, a month. I didn’t open a Word doc or create anything new. I focused on all of the other good things in my life. My wedding. My mini-moon. My friends and family. My dog. Summer weather and patio season and long walks and barbeques. I think I needed that break, needed to let myself be upset over something that really hurt. I needed to let myself feel the sting instead of glossing over it the way I usually did. I needed that time away from writing.

I told myself that life was easier without the rejection and judgment that comes with being a writer, or trying to be. And it was easier. But it wasn’t me. I was happy, but I wasn’t creatively fulfilled, and for me, the two are tied together in a knot that can’t really come undone.

Picking myself up and trying again was not easy to do. But I did it, slowly at first. I sent more queries, knowing that they might end the same way, with rejection. But I also knew if I didn’t send them, my book would never see the light of day. I became more active on Twitter, despite my shyness, and I started entering contests. I worked on a different New Adult manuscript and let myself believe that it was my best work yet. I truly believe that the art of creating that book might have saved me from quitting entirely. (This is part of the reason why I believe always working on the next thing is so important!)

That new manuscript? I didn’t query it very widely before a new idea lodged itself in my head and wouldn’t leave. That book was Firsts, and I wrote it over a furious and magical three-week period. Then I heard about a contest called Pitch Wars, and my life was forever changed.

Not finding an agent with that second book really didn’t sting at all. It was a totally different experience then the first time around. All of my expectations weren’t hinged on one manuscript. I was so excited about Firsts and getting into YA writing that I felt a sense of possibility, like anything could happen. And a couple months after Pitch wars ended, my dream of getting an agent did happen, and then I dared to think even bigger and let myself believe the book would sell. After it did, I dared to believe I could keep selling books. And I have.

The truth is, my dreams didn’t change from when I wrote that first book. But my expectations did. I went from feeling like I would fail if a book didn’t get me an agent or published to being okay with any given book not being the one. Because I can always write more. The words won’t dry up if I write too many. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The more I write, the more efficient I get, and the less I get attached to any one darling. My advice? Get comfortable with whatever you’re working on not being “the one.” Don’t consider any writing you do a waste of time, because it never is. And let yourself mourn the losses. Admit that it sucks to be rejected. When you’re done grieving, I promise you’ll come out on the other side stronger than ever.

My first two books are currently trunked, but they were some of the best use of my time. Maybe I’ll go back to them someday. Maybe not. But they’re the foundation upon which everything else was built, and for that I’ll be forever grateful.

2016: The Debut Year

I think I filled my quota of Firsts puns long ago, but… this really was a year of many firsts! So I keep saying it anyway, because the firsts kept coming as the months went on. My first book came out. I got to travel to other cities to promote it. I spoke on panels and attended conferences. I met my critique partner, fellow authors, one of my lovely publicists, and my amazing editor. I had a launch party. I signed more books than I can count. I cheered for my fellow debut authors and read as many of their books as I could. I got to see my book on shelves, was able to call myself a published author. Family and friends bought my book. I heard from so many readers who told me Firsts had an impact on them.

But now that the year is almost over, I’m realizing 2016 was also a year of lasts. It’s the last time I’ll ever get to call myself a debut author, which is bittersweet, because I have had such an unforgettable time being a Sweet Sixteen and Sixteen to Read, and part of the debut community. At the same time, I’m so excited to move forward into what 2017 has in store… I happen to know some very exciting and wonderful things are on the horizon!

I don’t know what word I would use to describe 2016, if I had to sum it up in one word. (I’m an author… there are too many perfect words!) Thrilling. Intense. Full. Busy. Fun. Looking back, the year feels both extra long and super short– like it wasn’t that long ago I was celebrating my book birthday with flowers and champagne, but at the same time, that I have come so far and learned so much since that day. I feel like I’m able to put things in perspective more now than I ever was in the past. I learned from my mistakes, figured out what was working, and was able to achieve balance. I had my moments of stress and anxiety, but took away important lessons from the tough times.

Most importantly of all, I realized what keeps me happy and sustained, after the debut hype started to fade. And that was writing”The End” on three new books.(I amend my earlier statement. “The End” are the most beautiful words in an author’s vocabulary!) That’s what I’m taking into 2017, more than anything else. The knowledge that working on the new thing, the next thing, anything, is what keeps me happy and inspired. Because my heart and soul is being a writer, and that means writing.

I’m so very excited to ring in the new year and so ready for everything that comes with it. Happy New Year, everyone!

August, briefly

August has been a ridiculously busy but fun month. Basically, my attention has been focused on three things: revision, Rio, and Pitch Wars! I watched as much of the Olympics as possible and was so inspired by the amazing performances by our Canadian athletes. And speaking of inspiration, the talent in Pitch Wars has totally blown me away. I remember how nerve-wracking it was being a mentee the year I entered Firsts (back then, it was called Fast Girl), and now I can confirm with certainty that being a mentor involves just as much anxiety. Choosing a mentee was not an easy task, and I’m honored that so many talented authors submitted their work to me. I wish I could have chosen several mentees! But there could only be one, and the story that captured my heart was Still Breathing by Mary Dunbar. I’m so excited to work with her… you’ll be hearing lots more about Mary and her beautiful manuscript later!

#TripleTriple success!

#TripleTriple success!

This month, I have been:

Working on: August has been a full-on revision month! I finished revisions on two different projects, and now they’re out of my hands. (Although, for a writer, nothing is ever truly finished until you hold that first copy of your book!) I feel very positive about both projects and am proud of what I accomplished. Going into the fall, I’m looking forward to changing gears and drafting again… there is nothing as freeing and rewarding as fast-drafting a project and seeing where it goes, learning about the characters and their motivations as I write. There are two projects I’ve made some initial progress on, so the next step is figuring out which one to focus on first.

Reading: ALL things Pitch Wars! I requested material from several of the authors who submitted to me, and was so impressed by what I read. These books made me laugh, made me tear up, got me angry, made me think, grabbed my attention, and kept me up way past my bedtime. I can’t even begin to describe the extent to which these stories impressed me. I look forward to seeing all of them on bookshelves someday, because I have faith that will happen!

Watching: To say I have been obsessed with the Rio Olympics is a bit of an understatement. If it would have been possible for me to sit on my couch for two straight weeks and do nothing but watch the Olympics, I would have festered there in my pajamas and made a pillow fort. I was jumping up and down when Usain Bolt completed his astonishing triple triple, and seeing Canada’s talent– including Andre De Grasse, Damian Warner, Lanni Marchant, and Penny Oleksiak, among so many others– made me incredibly proud. The Olympics are all about following dreams and pushing limits, and I think it’s impossible to not feel moved by the dedication and passion these athletes demonstrate to their sports. To be honest, now that Rio is over, I don’t know what will fill the void for the next four years! (PS you heard it here… De Grasse for gold in 2020!)

As much as I love summer, I’m looking forward to all things fall… the changing leaves, jeans and ankle boots, crispness in the air, and pumpkin spice everything. There’s an electricity in fall that always energizes me, so I’m excited for whatever September brings!

Pitch Wars Mentor Bio!

I’m beyond excited to be a Pitch Wars mentor for the first time this year! My career was greatly impacted during my time as a Pitch Wars mentee, when I was able to work with two amazingly talented mentors (hello, Lori Goldstein and Evelyn Skye!) to strengthen Firsts and get it ready for the agent round. I learned so much and grew a lot as a writer, and I came out of my shell, social media wise (I had previously been a Twitter lurker, but thanks to the welcoming Pitch Wars community, I shed a lot of that shyness). Shortly after the contest, I signed with my amazing agent, Kathleen Rushall, and had a book deal by the end of the year!

(If you’re interested in hearing about my experience as mentee, click here!)

Me! Don't let the smile fool you... I want all the angsty, dark, dramatic stories!

Me! Don’t let the smile fool you… I want all the angsty, dark, dramatic stories!

So, a little bit about me! I’m a proud Canadian girl and I live in London, Ontario with my husband and my beloved senior Chihuahua (aka the star of my Instagram and basically my life). I’m a former model and lifelong fashion addict. I love walking in the woods, thrift store shopping, wearing red lipstick, and indulging in nachos basically any day, any time. I write YA contemporary books. My debut novel, Firsts, came out in January and was recently nominated as a YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults pick. It’s the story of a high school senior named Mercedes who has an open-door policy when it comes to her bedroom, but only if the guy is a virgin. I’m also the author of a series of short stories, the Boys Tell All, sharing the perspectives of ten virgin guys from Firsts.

My Critique Style

I focus on both larger issues– plot, theme, characters, voice, and pacing– and smaller details, like sentence structure, misplaced commas, and overused words (my crutch word is “look,” in case you were curious). I’ll let you know the elements I love about your book, but I won’t shy away from letting you know what I think needs improvement. I’ll work extremely hard for you, and I want to collaborate with a mentee who isn’t afraid to dig in and make the big and small revisions needed to make a manuscript stronger. I want to work with someone who will think critically and kill darlings for the overall good of the pages. It’s your story, and I’m here to help you make it the best book it can be. I’m very open to bouncing ideas around and will do everything I can to help. I also want to make this fun for you! I’m pretty laid-back and approachable, and I want you to feel like you can come to me with any questions or concerns, any time.

My WisH List 

I’m mentoring YA, and I want ALLLLL the contemporary! Give me your flawed girls and boys, your messy relationships, your morally questionable decisions, your heartache and big mistakes. I love a good antihero– a protagonist who isn’t traditionally likeable, but someone you can still make me feel for. I love to see diversity in any form. Give me your dark, your edgy, your gritty, your raw emotions, your drama– maybe I’m a masochist, but feel free to break my heart! I’m not afraid of controversy and I’m definitely your girl for pushing boundaries.

I’m very invested in what feels real, and I don’t need a happy ending to be satisfied with a story. I’m fascinated by stories with an element of mystery and intrigue, where multiple layers exist and unraveling is required (complicated and twisty = me reading past my bedtime). I’m a huge fan of unreliable narrators and their secrets and lies.

I also enjoy creativity and inventiveness with storytelling– alternating timelines, unique perspectives (ie. second person, a la We Are The Goldens by Donna Reinhardt), and stories told in different and unconventional ways (letters, diary entries, lists, etc). I also like to laugh… I think a book that evokes the greatest amount of feels contains both humor and heartache.

I adore character-driven boy POV stories that feel incredibly authentic (think Carrie Mesrobian’s Sex & Violence or Perfectly Good White Boy).

Above all, the most important thing is voice. I swoon for voice. Voice will keep me reading, even if the plot needs a lot of work. Voice is what sets your story apart.

To get a sense of the kind of work I gravitate toward, here are some of my favorite YA books:

Anything and everything by Courtney Summers and Amy Reed

The Truth About Alice by Jennifer Mathieu

Tease by Amanda Maciel

Fault Line by Christa Desir

Uses For Boys by Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke

I’m not the best mentor for… 

Fantasy, magical realism, sci-fi, and horror. I don’t read widely enough in these genres to be an effective mentor, nor have I ever written in them (unless you count my cringe-worthy high school attempt at high fantasy)!

Abby thinks you're awesome. And so do I!

Abby thinks you’re awesome. So do I!

I’m so very excited to get to know you all. If you’re on the fence about hitting “send,” know that I was in your position too, and I can honestly say my career wouldn’t be where it is today if I hadn’t taken the chance. You have nothing to lose and everything to gain!

I’m very active on Twitter, so if you have any questions or just want to chat, please follow me @laurellizabeth!

 

 

 

 

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Six months later

Today is July 5. Which means Firsts has officially been out in the world for six months. I can’t even begin to thank everyone who has bought the book, requested it at their local library, wrote a review, or reached out to me to let me know what the story meant to them. My experience as a debut author has been beyond anything I could have hoped for, and I’m extremely grateful.

English and Spanish editions meet!

I recently started thinking about where I was two, three, four years ago. Two years ago, Firsts was on submission, and I was probably checking my email for the two hundredth time of the day, hoping for good news but steeling myself for bad. Three years ago, Firsts didn’t yet exist, and I thought maybe I sucked at this whole writing thing. Four years ago, I was finishing my first “real” book, a New Adult contemporary. I was too afraid to tell anyone outside of my boyfriend (now husband) and immediate family members that I was even writing a book. I knew there was a very good chance I’d never have a book published and I didn’t want people thinking I was a failure.

So, for two-three-four years ago me, the one who had no idea what to expect, and for anyone else in the same boat, I thought I’d write about some of the things I’ve learned in my first six months as a published author.

You still have worries and insecurities. They’re just different ones now. Before getting published, all I wanted was to get an agent. Then, all I wanted was a book deal. Now that I’m a published author, I want to keep building on that dream and putting books out in the world. There’s always something else you’re striving for, something bigger and brighter, even when your dream comes true. Try not to obsess about whatever that something else may be, and enjoy the stage you’re at.

You still check your email a lot. At least, I do. I remember thinking that if I ever got an agent and got out of the query trenches, I wouldn’t be such an email addict. Then submission happened. Then a book deal happened. I consistently check my email, respond to emails, and send new ones– in fact, far more so than ever before. But the familiar ding of a new email coming in hasn’t become any less exciting!

Social media is important, but it’s not everything. I stressed out about social media– was I active enough? Was I tweeting about the right things? Was having a blog worth my time? Should I get Tumblr? And honestly, the answers are different for each writer. My thought is, be active on social media when you can and when it feels authentic for you, and use it to engage with readers, librarians, bloggers, authors, and other people in the bookish community. If you hate the idea of one particular platform, don’t make yourself be on it, because you’ll just resent the time spent there. If you don’t want to blog, don’t force yourself to think up post ideas. I love being on Twitter and Instagram, and I really enjoy blogging, so I focus on those areas. I’m finally in a place where I feel comfortable with social media– where it’s fun again instead of being stressful, and where I can not check my feeds for a few days and be okay with it. Know that if you’re absent from the social media world for days, weeks, even months– people will understand. Hell, they might not even notice, because they’re stressed out about the same things.

Promotion doesn’t have to break the bank. Promotion is another thing that varies wildly from author to author. Some writers go on book tours and seem to be in a different city every other day. Some do lots of school visits. Some have snazzy book trailers. Some send bookmarks and postcards to libraries. Some have really cool swag. Some do amazing giveaways. Some do all of the above, and others do none. Do what you can to promote your book, but don’t make yourself miserable over it. For Firsts, some of the most fun I had was writing a series of short stories from the perspectives of the guys Mercedes hooks up with. (You can read the series here!) I shared the stories on Wattpad, where they have now surpassed 190,000 views. I also did giveaways– some of which were successful, others not so much. Get creative: if you want to try something outside the box, go for it!

Read your reviews at your own risk. I quickly learned that Goodreads wasn’t going to be a good place for me to hang out. I love going on there to review books, but I only had to read a couple of negative reviews for Firsts to feel pretty discouraged. That’s different for everyone– some authors love to read all their reviews. After all, we do have to have a thick skin in this industry. But we’re also sensitive and full of neuroses– that’s how we create something out of nothing. I respect all reviews and certainly understand that not everyone will like my writing. At the same time, I don’t need to actively seek out something that might make me feel a little bit less like writing that day.

You can’t control anything but your own words. And once you accept that, it’s a huge relief. There are so many aspects of this business that are beyond our scope of control, but if you focus on your words, your head (and heart) will always be in the right place.

Comparison really is the thief of joy. Being a debut author is an incredibly exciting time, but it’s full of ebbs and flows. One week, you might get lots of great news, then face down a few interminable weeks of radio silence. My advice is to not live in a perpetual state of expectation, and don’t compare yourself to someone else’s news. You’re not competing with your fellow authors. There’s room on the shelf for everyone, so go shout all the happy news and spread the love!

Fellow debut authors are the best people ever. I’m so incredibly grateful to have gotten to know so many other debut authors– online, in person, and in some lucky cases, both. It’s such a positive, encouraging support network of people who understand exactly what you’re going through.Getting to read their debuts has inspired me endlessly, and I look forward to remaining friends and cheering for each other as our careers go forward.

Seeing your book on a shelf is the coolest thing ever. It really is, and it never gets old.

Hearing that your family/friends/coworkers/strangers have read it is surreal/awesome/terrifying. But mostly just awesome.

Hearing from readers who loved your book will mean the world. Seriously, there’s no feeling like this. When a reader reaches out to me and lets me know Firsts made an impact, my day is made. This is why I write what I write.

Writing doesn’t get any easier. If there’s a magic formula for writing a book, I sure haven’t stumbled upon it. If anything, the writing got tougher after my book deal, perhaps because I felt a sense of expectation that wasn’t there before. Worries like, is this right for my brand? Will my agent like it? Will my readers like it? chiseled themselves into my brain and stuck there like banners. Everything I have written since Firsts has challenged me in new ways… and made me question whether or not I have any clue what I’m doing. (My critique partner can attest to this… I’m pretty sure I’ve sent her some panicky emails along the lines of, “I forget how to write a book!”)

Writing the next thing trumps all. This is what it all comes back to. That’s how you grow, and learn from mistakes, and keep getting better as an artist.

So, those are some of the things I’ve learned over the past six months as a published author. Looking forward to the next six months, and the six months after that, because I really am living my dream, and I know how lucky I am to be able to say that!

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!

Birthdays, milestones, and love

Today, my husband Steve is celebrating a milestone birthday. Firsts is dedicated to him—there was no question in my mind, from the moment I got my book deal, that it would be. To be honest, I had that dedication written in my head before I even had a book deal. I knew exactly what I wanted it to say.

His birthday got me thinking about love, and time, and how lost we writers would be if we weren’t moored by the support of people who adore us despite (or maybe because of) our strange rituals and weird routines and the click-click-click noise our keyboards are constantly making.

My husband and I have been a couple for just over five years. Shortly after we got together, I made the decision to seriously pursue writing. It was a big deal for me, saying that out loud to him. It made the dream more real somehow, gave it weight, instead of the fizzy quality of a dream. Before then, barely anyone besides my parents and sister even knew I was a writer.

I knew getting published was a long shot, but I decided to go for that long shot, and if I ended up falling short, I’d at least know I tried. So I wrote, and researched, and got ready to query. Steve and I had moved in together by the time I sent my first query letter. I was in our first apartment, sitting on the couch with a glass of wine, my heart hammering furiously as I hit “send.”

When I got my first full request, I was home by myself (I might have jumped on said couch, Tom Cruise-style, and squealed). Steve was the first person I called to share the good news with. When the request turned into a rejection, he was the first person I told, and the first person to tell me it was one opinion, that I was talented and capable and just had to persevere. He learned all sorts of terminology that was new to both of us, but becoming more familiar. Query and R&R and Pitch Wars and critique partner and NA and YA and out on sub. He learned them not because he had to, but because he loves me.

More rejections and requests trickled in over the next several months. In the meantime, Steve and I had many more firsts in our relationship. Our first Christmas together. Our first vacation together—Africa, a place we both felt drawn to. We got engaged and married and bought a house.

After a year and a half of querying, I got my first offer of representation. I called Steve from work, overjoyed when a fabulous agent wanted to set up a call with me. He made sure I was home from work in time to take the call and when I came out of my room bouncing up and down like a crazy person, he was ready with a bottle of wine. Later, he left me alone during revisions and dealt with my obsessive email-checking while I was on submission. He is the reason this website exists (I’m honestly the least tech-savvy person ever). When I got the call from my agent letting me know we had an offer from an editor I was incredibly excited to work with, Steve was the first person I told. (And yes, it’s possible to flail with someone through the phone.)

Steve has been with me through so many firsts. This past year was a blur of Firsts, quite literally. He hugged me when I was stressed out or frustrated and celebrated my victories with champagne and pizza. He made me feel like I could do anything. Three months after publication, he still does. And he always will.

So, today I’m celebrating Steve, the love of my life, the person who has stood by me through so many firsts. The person who is my last, my only, my everything. Writers, hug the non-writer people in your life who love you. They’re endlessly amazing. And if you have someone like Steve in your life– well, you’re very lucky indeed.

 

March, briefly

March went by so fast that I almost forgot it was time to write this post! Besides the fact that I was derailed by a bad cold for part of the month, it was great to see the snow melt (hopefully it stays gone) and some flowers (or maybe they’re weeds… but they’re pretty!) start to shoot up from the ground in our backyard. There’s something so energizing about the first signs of spring, and as soon as the temperature rises, I’m ready to ditch my winter coat and boots for my shorts and flip-flops.

This month, I have been…

Working on: Revising, revising, revising! I’m almost done a revision of a YA contemporary project that can pretty much be summed up in three words: Girls behaving badly. This book has challenged me and made me dig deep as a writer, and seeing the story come to life has been especially rewarding. Looking forward to working more on this one, because there’s nothing I love writing more than complicated girls and their stories.

I’ve also been posting the Boys Tell All stories, which are told from the perspectives of the virgin guys Mercedes hooks up with in Firsts. I’m sharing a new story every Tuesday on Wattpad and Tumblr, and there are 10 in total. If you’re a Wattpad user, you can check out the series here, or else you can catch up here!

Reading: I’ve read a few great books by the Sweet Sixteens this month. First, Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia, which is fresh, smart, and wickedly funny– plus, the main character is arguably an unlikeable female protagonist, so obviously I was destined to love her. Next, I read My Kind of Crazy by Robin Reul, which is my kind of book– full of humor, heart, and quirks. To finish up the month, I read The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You by fellow St. Martin’s Press author Lily Anderson. It’s a contemporary retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, and I was immediately sucked in by the witty voice and whip-sharp banter.

Watching: Since I’m now the proud owner of an Android box, I have a scarily vast wealth of movies and TV shows at my fingertips. The hardest part is deciding what to watch next (and not getting sucked into hours of viewing instead of writing, because I’m sadly not one of those people who can work effectively while a show plays in the background). The only good thing that came out of being sick this month was finishing the seasons of Sons of Anarchy I hadn’t yet seen. It’s such a compelling, gritty, well-acted show (and the eye candy that is Jax Teller doesn’t hurt, either).

That pretty much sums up March in my world! Looking forward to more mild weather, long walks, great reads, and writing progress in April!

On (not) giving up, or why writing won’t quit you

I’ve done lots of interviews over the past several months surrounding the release of Firsts. It has been such an honor to answer so many thoughtful, amazing questions from readers and bloggers and book lovers everywhere. I have been asked how I got the idea for Firsts (I still wish I had a better answer for that!), about my writing process, best parts of debuting, and lessons learned along the way.

There’s one question I have been asked several times, and it’s a great one.

Did you ever think about giving up?

To which I answered yes. There have been several times along the path to publication where I considered giving up on my dream of seeing a book of mine in print. I was querying, but getting more rejections than requests. I was learning, but not fast enough. I felt like there was an excellent chance I would never sell a book and nobody would ever read my work.

But ever since giving those interviews, I’ve thought a lot about that question. Generally, people think it only pertains to the trying times along that elusive path to publication. Once you reach that goal and see your book in print, there’s the expectation that you are confident and calm and the words flow every time you sit down at your computer. You have things figured out.

Well, that’s not exactly true. I don’t have less doubts than I do before. I just have different doubts. The brain is a scary place, especially when you’re in a creative field. The same brain that houses your dreams also takes your happy thoughts and puts shackles on them and turns good things inside out, analyzing them for flaws. The same mind that conjures up ideas can just as easily crush them.

I don’t think about giving up on writing these days, but I do have days where I think writing has given up on me. That my words are on strike, my characters holding up little signs that say “WE WANT A BETTER AUTHOR!” and chanting for me to get my act together. I have days where I have no clue how to write a chapter and moments when I read what I’ve just written and shake my head because it’s such steaming crap. Each book after Firsts has been a struggle for me. I’ve said in interviews that at times while writing Firsts, the book practically wrote itself. Well, that hasn’t happened since. Not a single word wrote itself.

But does that mean I forgot how to write?

I’ve realized that the answer is no. Because it’s impossible to forget how to care fiercely about something you love. Some days, you read over the words you put down and realize they aren’t as bad as you thought. Some days, they’re worse. But always, they are there, on the page, no matter how hard it was for them to arrive.

Fellow authors, no matter what stage of the process you’re at– don’t quit. Because I promise, writing won’t quit you.

Firsts Launch Party Recap!

I had been looking forward to the Firsts launch party for what felt like a very long time. I’m a huge fan of planning parties, and I wanted this one to be extra-special. After all, an author only gets one debut launch party!

My amazing publicist at Raincoast Books arranged for the party to be hosted by the Oxford Book Shop and held at the Landon Branch of the London Public Library, which was the perfect venue. I wanted the party to be interactive and fun for everyone, and it was definitely all that and more!

I had the idea early on to have a candy bar and sparkling cider, and one of my very talented friends made cupcakes with icing colors to match the Firsts cover. (This same friend, incidentally, ruined me in terms of cake frosting. Now I’m completely obsessed with hers!) I tried to color-coordinate the candy bar as well, and luckily for me, Valentine’s Day fell the same week as my launch party. I spent way too much time in the Bulk Barn picking out candy. The biggest challenge was not eating it before the party started!

When we arrived at the venue, Hilary from the Oxford Book Shop was already set up to sell books, and Carolyn and Nicole from the library helped me set up and get started. A reporter from Our London who had previously interviewed me took some photos for a local story that will run soon.

When people started filing in, it was incredible to see so many friends and family members who came out to the event. Two of my Sweet Sixteen friends, Catherine Lo (author of How It Ends) and Casey Lyall (author of Howard Wallace, P.I) both drove from out of town in bad weather to support me. I also got to meet two book bloggers in person who have been so wonderful—Jamie Victoria from Books and Ladders and Suzann from Alice’s Book Vault. It means so much to me that they drove all the way to London to attend the event! Overall, there was a great turnout, especially considering the fact that Mother Nature and I have a tumultuous relationship (she tends to wreak havoc on any events I try to plan)!

Choosing a reading was the most difficult part. I wanted to read something that wouldn’t make me giggle or blush too badly, and at the same time, something non-spoilery that would hopefully entice people.( I settled on Chapter Four.) I was very nervous to read in front of people (I always hated giving presentations back in high school), but I think despite reading too fast at the start, it went well overall!

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After the reading, there was a Q&A session. People asked such great questions, and it was so much fun sharing my thoughts and parts of my writing process with the audience. The Q&A was followed by a raffle draw for some books by my writer friends, then I signed copies of Firsts for everyone.

I really couldn’t have asked for a better night with better people. I feel like the luckiest author to have such a great support network behind me. I gave out a lot of hugs, but I could give a thousand more. Thank you to everyone who made this very special first so memorable!

And extra-special thanks to my friend Shirley Vander Heide for taking photos during the event. Thanks to her, I have a whole album I can look at every time I want to relive the memories!

 

 

Here are some more photos from the night! If you want to view the whole album, click here.

 

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