Tag Archive: laurie elizabeth flynn

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!

December, briefly

Tree decorating fun!

Ah, December… the last month of the year, and possibly my favorite month of this year? (Which is saying a lot, because I have been pretty vocal about how much I hate any kind of snow that isn’t Jon Snow.) But this December has really been amazing for a few special reasons. Not to mention, Christmas is a magical time on its own. I love the traditions– picking out a tree and decorating it, reciting National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation word for word, making pancakes and bacon on Christmas morning– and as much as I don’t love my annual procrastination when it comes to buying gifts, I was able to relax and really enjoy the holidays this year.

This month, I have been…

Working on: For the first time in several months… not very much! After finishing the first draft of a new YA thriller last month for NaNo, I took a few weeks off to mentally recharge. It worked, because I’m itching to get back to new words!

Reading: I finished Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon, and it really was everything. Heartfelt, hilarious, and so insightful, with characters who felt real. I’m not surprised that this book has not only been optioned for film, but will be an actual movie next year! So excited to see Maddie and Olly on the big screen. I also read Beautiful Broken Things by Sara Barnard, a story about the twists and turns of female friendship (a theme I am forever excited about reading in YA). And I was lucky enough to read Riley Redgate’s sophomore novel, Noteworthy, in ARC form before its 2017 release date, and I completely fell in love with it! It’s both funny and serious, a study in gender and what that means, and explores sexuality and sexual orientation with so much nuance and sensitivity.

Watching: Aside from the traditional Christmas movies (National Lampoon! Scrooged! A Christmas Story! It’s a Wonderful Life!), my husband and I binge-watched the first season of Stranger Things and were completely captivated. Not the most Christmas-y show, but… we couldn’t stop watching! I’m a huge Winona Ryder fan, so I was very excited to see her on TV, and I really liked the entire concept… the dark, twisty nature, plus the Stephen King-esque vibe. Can’t wait for the next season!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season and enjoy the last days of December before we ring in 2017!

The Hanging Garden Winter Gala

I’m thrilled to be part of this year’s Winter Gala at The Hanging Garden, a site I love featuring short fiction by YA authors. My story went live today– it’s about girls, crushes, bad decisions, and words speaking louder than actions. Each story is based on a GIF prompt, and I chose this haunting image– a heart bring traced on a girl’s shirt– and conjured up a story around what I thought it meant.

GIRLS LIKE US, by Laurie Elizabeth Flynn

I loved when Siobhan got fat. You could tell she hoped nobody noticed. She always used to wear super-tight clothes. It was too much and not enough. It’s like nobody ever taught her that if you’re going to show your legs, cover up your boobs. Maybe nobody did teach her. We all knew the rumors about her mom, that she was out getting drunk five nights a week. But they were just rumors, because Siobhan didn’t have any girl friends to invite over who would actually know. And besides, having a crappy mom is no excuse for how she acted.

When she started getting fat, she came to school in frumpy clothes. Overalls and hippie-style dresses and hoodies. She let herself go. And I loved it.

It probably makes me sound like a bitch that I enjoyed Siobhan getting fat. But she stole my boyfriend, or the guy who would have been my boyfriend if she didn’t sleep with him first, just like she slept with everyone else. Kevin was supposed to be mine. Everyone knew I liked him. Everyone knew we made out at my birthday party the weekend before school started. Everyone saw his hand on my ass, his lips grazing my cheek. They saw us go into my room together. What they didn’t see was when Kevin put his hand under my shirt and I slapped it away, and what I never told anyone was how stupid I felt after, that I should have let him touch me.

Siobhan obviously did.

Read the rest of the story at The Hanging Garden here!

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!

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!

12697046_10156733478570105_301672623667568802_o

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.

 

My OLA Experience

As a proud Canadian, I was more than a bit excited when my publicist at Raincoast Books reached out to see if I could do a book signing at the Ontario Library Association Super-Conference in Toronto. The signing took place last Friday, and the best part is that my lovely friend Catherine Lo, author of How It Ends, was signing her ARCs at the same time! It was so great to meet teachers, librarians, and bloggers who are so passionate about books and education. Getting to sign and dedicate books to students and libraries was so cool—I hope the teens enjoy reading Firsts!

After my signing (we went through all the boxes of books!), I experienced a serious fangirl moment when I got to meet the one and only Courtney Summers, who was signing copies of her most recent book, All The Rage (aka my favorite read of 2015). Courtney is one of my writing idols, and her YA inspires me endlessly—when I go back and reread pages from her books, I’m always left in awe of how honest and unflinching her voice is. She’s incredibly sweet in person and now I adore her even more!

Later in the day, I got to meet up with two fabulous writer friends. I had the best hot chocolate and great conversation with Erika David. Erika and I first got to know each other during a writing contest a few years ago, and kept in touch after the contest was over. Erika is one of the most thoughtful writers I know, and such a kind person. We later went into a Chapters Indigo to see if Firsts was there… it wasn’t, but it was still great to talk books with a fellow author!

Before my train departed, I met up with Samantha Joyce, one of my agent-sisters! I felt like I knew Sam already since we’ve been talking online for awhile now. It was so wonderful to chat in person about books, hobbies, our amazing agent Kathleen Rushall, supportive husbands, and our paths to publication. Sam’s debut, Flirting With Fame, comes out February 29… you can preorder it here!

Overall, my first OLA experience couldn’t have been more fantastic. The Raincoast Books team is utterly amazing– I’m so lucky to be working with them! The day went by so fast, and I feel so lucky to be part of a truly wonderful community of smart, funny, talented book people. Next up is my launch party on February 10 (details are here!), and I hope to see some of you there!

January, briefly

It’s hard to sum up January as “briefly” when in reality, it was anything but. As far as months go, it was larger than life, and one of the most fun and exciting times of my life. (Please note, “fun and exciting” are not words I ever thought I’d use to describe a January in Canada.) I’m still getting back in a groove after Firsts had a spectacular book birthday and I had truly wonderful trips to Boston for ALA and Toronto for the OLA Super-Conference. For all of you who have read Firsts, or shared some love, or reached out in any way—thank you, from the bottom of my heart! I am truly overwhelmed by your kindness and so proud to be part of the kidlit community.

This month, I have been…

Working on: Two different YA contemporary projects. Both messy. Both complicated. Both of which totally have my heart. One is a completed first draft, and the other is almost there. Next up, revision-land!

Reading: I have read some seriously amazing books already this year—talk about starting 2016 on a high note! First up was Natalie Blitt’s The Distance From A to Z, which came out on January 12. You can read my rave review here! Then I finished my amazing editor-sister Anna-Marie McLemore’s The Weight of Feathers (which was nominated for a Morris Award)! I was able to meet Anna-Marie in person at ALA and can now vouch for the fact that she’s not only freakishly talented, but also incredibly sweet.

I was able to take plenty of ARCs from ALA, which left my suitcase heavy but my heart happy. On the plane ride home, I started Jeff Zentner’s The Serpent King, a book that had been on my radar for what felt like forever. I’ll post more about this one later, but quite simply, it’s a masterpiece.

Next, I finished The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos, which is twisty, beautifully written, and entirely unpredictable. This one came out on January 26, and you can read my review here!

To end the month, I read Summer of Sloane by Erin Schneider in one sitting. (Well, I was laying in bed… does that still count as a sitting?) It was the perfect read to transport me from freezing cold Canada to the beaches of Hawaii and I love how funny, heartfelt, and real the story is.

Watching: My husband and I have been mainlining Weeds on Netflix, and I think the series is compulsively watchable. I love how non-traditional the heroine (anti-heroine?), Nancy Botwin, is. She’s often selfish and cruel, but also smart and resourceful. I’m also a huge fan of the dark humor.

Well, that’s January in a nutshell. I’m looking forward to sharing some exciting content related to Firsts in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

%d bloggers like this: