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Viewing Blog: Life, Words, & Rock 'n' Roll, Most Recent at Top
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The place where YA Author Stephanie Kuehnert babbles about writing, music, and life in general!
Statistics for Life, Words, & Rock 'n' Roll

Number of Readers that added this blog to their MyJacketFlap: 6
1. New Newsletter, New Contest

Hi! I’ve been away for a while, too long probably. Away from social media. Away especially from the writing world (outside of the fabulous Rookie mag of course). But I am on my way back. There are things in the pipeline. Things I want my readers to know about. And I just miss you all and want to chat and do better at keeping in touch, so....
I am launching a newsletter!
Or you can use this form!

Subscribe to Stephanie's newsletter!

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The first issue is due out on October 27th, just in time for my favorite holiday, HALLOWEEN! I plan to send it out monthly for the rest of this year and then after that it will depend on my writing schedule, but quarterly at the very least.
It’s going to include my latest writing news (so you’ll be the first to know about what is going on with my books), sneak peeks of my work and into my writing process. I’ll also share my latest obsessions--whether that be books, bands, podcasts, TV shows or whatever other weirdness is going on in my brain. And of course there will also be.... CONTESTS!!! 
In fact, I’m going to kick it off with something Halloween appropriate! Everyone who signs up for the newsletter by October 26th, 2016 will be entered to win this, signed by me: 


You can get bonus entries by reblogging my Tumblr post about the contest, tweeting about the newsletter and contest (just be sure to tag me, @writerstephanie) or sharing one of my images about it (the one at the top of this entry or the two that follow this paragraph)/creating your own on Instagram (again, just tag me. On Instagram, I am @stephaniekuehnert)

Also, just a quick note to say that if you were signed up for my newsletter or street team before, you will need to sign up for this new one if you want to continue getting news. I’m using a new service so I can’t transfer things over.
Again, you can sign up for the newsletter here. I am really excited to share what’s going on with my writing and in my world with you, my fabulous readers!

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2. GCC Presents: Denise Jaden's A Christmas Kerril

On sale now - A Christmas Kerril by Denise Jaden!

In this modern take on a holiday classic, high school junior, Kerril, faces her past, present, and future to be reminded of the good in others, and in herself.

Haunted by the memory of the worst of her divorced parents’ public Christmas blowouts, Kerril, will do almost anything to avoid the upcoming tinsel-filled season. Unfortunately, a teacher with a grudge casts Kerril as the lead in the school’s holiday production. To add to the misery, she will star alongside ultra-awkward Adam as her love interest. Wanting to ditch the play, Adam, her parents, and Christmas altogether, Kerril accepts an invitation to take off to a cabin with her ultimate dream crush, Perry – only Perry may not be the guy she hoped he was, and it’s not until she’s left Adam behind to fend for himself onstage that she realizes he might just be the guy of her dreams.

Get this new novel by Denise Jaden before October 15th at the special release price of only 99 cents!

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3. On Publishing and Perseverance

I keep a five-year journal, which is basically two composition books where each page =a day and I divide it into five sections and record a couple of lines about what happened on that day in a given year. I am on year four, so I’ve got quite a bit of history to look at every day when I sit down to make my notes.

A year ago yesterday, I was devastated. My top-choice editor had passed on the project most dear to my heart since Ballads of Suburbia. (I don’t know if anything will ever be dearer to me than Ballads…) It was my “grief book,” if regular blog readers remember me talking about it and it had been out on sub for a year at that point—I know because I revisited the hopeful “It’s going out on sub!” entry from 2013 a couple of weeks ago. My hope had already been hanging on by a thread. This editor was one of the only remaining from the first round (Yes, sometimes it REALLY takes that long. They are just THAT busy.) and since she’d told my agent she was still considering, I’d taken that as a good, hopeful sign. Or I tried to. Honestly I spent most days pretty depressed about my career then. Honestly, most of the journal, which starts in 2012 and thereby covers two full manuscripts and two partials/proposals  going on submission is REALLY fucking depressing on the career front. I mean, during that time period I went back to therapy because I was so depressed and I moved across the country to try to reclaim my life (both things were hugely successful—those are the brightest spots in the journal).

Anyway, so back to May 19, 2014. I was devastated. I believe I ate only a chocolate cupcake for lunch (though that might have been May 23rd, 2014, when we got the rejection from another editor who was really high on my list) and according to my journal I cried for two hours. I noted that my agent was insistent that I should NOT be so upset. The rejection was one of those “positive” rejections. The editor insisting that she loved my work and would love to work with me, but something in this particular project was just throwing her—that’s why she’d sat with it for so long. My agent told me that she’d used the rejection to start a conversation with the editor, to pitch her my next project and she was SO excited about it.

I would not be consoled though. This was now 4 years and 3 projects of rejection and I just felt like I was at the end of the line. This next project, the one that my agent and this editor were so excited about, I told myself it was the last one. If it didn’t sell, I was done.  And dammit, I really meant it this time.

A year ago today, I Skyped with a friend of mine who did an Angel Card reading for me. I’ve been a long time believer in Tarot, horoscopes and the like, and I desperately DESPERATELY  wanted some good news. My friend really wanted to give me some, but the cards did not show what I wanted to hear. She saw a lot of strife and heartache with the “grief book”—in fact, the card that represented it had an image with a heart and five knives going through it! More than one editor had told me there was too much going on and I might have to rip it apart to fix it and I COULD NOT see how, but the Angel Cards seemed to be saying the same thing. “I think you’ll sell it eventually, but not for at least another year and not without a lot of changes. I do think you will sell something else first, though,” my friend told me. And she repeated this a bunch of time as we went over the details of the cards. I did not like this. I did not want to hear it. Selling something wasn’t good enough right then. I wanted my “grief book” which I’d put so much of my own grief from the past few years’ failures into, to succeed, to vindicate me.

One image that showed up in more than one of the cards though, was dark horse, who seemed to be pulling me forward in one image and watching over me in another. “Do you know someone with dark hair?” my friend asked. “Because it seems like they are really looking out for you and fighting for your success.”

“My agent has dark hair,” I said.

“Trust her,” my friend insisted.

I did. She’d stood by my side through many, many rejections. She’d sent me a copy of The Little Engine That Could when I was blocked. I sent a few more morose and despondent emails (esp after rejection from the other editor I really wanted to work with) and told myself to believe, one more time.

In the second week of last June, my agent sent my new book proposal out. I haven’t looked at those journal entries yet, but I vaguely remember writing them and there wasn’t as much hope or fanfare as there had been with the previous three submissions, even though my agent was telling me that she really had a good feeling about this one. So good it scared her, she admitted at one point, but I figured she was still trying to cheer me up.
Then, just a week later, a gorilla rang my doorbell, and after dancing to “Celebration” by Kool & the Gang, informed me that I needed to call my agent.

I would have been shocked even without the gorilla. We’d sold the new book, my Young Adult memoir, to Julie Strauss-Gabel. She’d taken a year to reject my last manuscript (and please be aware that she’d also rejected a manuscript before that) and a week to offer on the new one. In the span of a month, I went from one of the darkest places in my writing life to the absolute most triumphant.

There are two reasons this happened. 1. I kept writing. Even when I didn’t want to. Even when I was so certain nothing would ever come of it again. 2. I had a really good agent. One who saw opportunity where I couldn’t: in that “positive” rejection.

Also, that Angel Card reading was right—maybe it was a higher power, or maybe it was my deepest gut feelings and fears that I shared with my friend and she interpreted—the “grief book” wasn’t ready. It needed to be ripped apart. Recently, I’ve figured out how and I’ve been toying with it while I wait for Julie’s notoriously tough revisions on my memoir. I can’t say now if it will ultimately sell as my friend, but dissecting the book is going to teach me a hell of a lot about craft, and given the current learning kick I’m on, that is all I can ask for.

I post this today to remind any writers who are struggling with rejection—whether you are published or not—that if you keep writing and keep reaching, you’ll get there.

I also post this because I’m feeling lost and trapped in other parts of my life right now and I’m hoping that similarly, a few weeks or a month, I will experience the same triumph.

Just keep swimming, my friends.

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4. Great Read Alert: Falling For Alice YA Anthology!

Out Now: Falling For Alice YA Anthology, Celebrating 150 Years of Alice in Wonderland

Denise Jaden, along with four other authors, are celebrating their unbirthday of their new Alice-in-Wonderland themed anthology with you! To celebrate these five new YA stories, she's giving away an entire BOX of great YA fiction to one lucky winner on her blog!

She's honored to have her story among some amazing other authors, including Dawn Dalton, Shari Green, Kitty Keswick, and Cady Vance. You will love all of their stories!

Here's a little bit about the anthology...

New Alice. New Wonderland. New stories ​to love.

From ​the modern Alice dumped in the Aquarian ​Age of the late sixties, to the ​present day Alice, tormented by body image and emotional issues, to the Alice of the future, launched forward through time and space, FALLING FOR ALICE offers five fresh takes on ​Lewis​ Carroll’s classic tale. For 150 years, people all over the world have fallen under Alice in Wonderland’s spell. ​Now, follow five Young Adult authors down the rabbit hole to discover Alice like you’ve never seen her before. One thing is certain—this is not your mother’s Alice.

And if you have not seen it yet, here is the book trailer...

Here are a few places where you can purchase the anthology:

Or ask your local bookstore or library to bring in a copy. Follow these five authors down the rabbit hole, and happy reading!

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5. 20 months in Seattle & Why it is Home

Today marks 20 months since I moved to Seattle. After the first year, I stopped counting, stopped taking a moment to observe that it was the 5th and counting back to July of 2013, doing the math. But I’ve never stopped observing that I’m here. I still don’t take it for granted. I still have several moments each day where I marvel to myself, “I’m here. For real. This city. It’s mine.” It starts when I look out the living room window and see the sunrise, the mountains, the rain or the fog. It continues when I walk to the bus stop, observing the contrast in the colors between the water and the sky—blue, gray, sometimes with a hint of pink—watching the boats move across the Sound. Then I walk onto the campus where I work and am delighted by the smells—the flowers, the greenery, there is something no matter what the season. I watch the sky change out the window all day. Sometimes blue, sometimes gray, sometimes changing back and forth. Sometimes there are rainbows. In the winter, darkness begins to fall before I leave. In the summer, it’s still bright as noon at five pm. On my walk home, sometimes I see the Mountain. I always see the skyline from the Jose Rizal bridge. Sometimes it’s already dark, sometimes the sun is setting, sometimes the sky and the Sound are unbelievable shades of blue, sometimes shades of misty gray. Every time I think, “This is perfect.” Every time I take a photo. I have hundreds of photos from my living room window, from my bus stop, my walk home. I have hundreds  and hundreds more from our walks and hikes during the weekend, from the parks, the forests, the mountains, the beaches. On the surface, they many of them may seem the same—trees, beach, gray waves, blue sky, sunset, skyline—but look closely and each is different. Each is perfect. I can’t pick a favorite.

Afternoon from my bus stop
Sunset from my bus stop

Puget Sound from Lincoln Park

A gray but beautiful day at the beach

From eighth grade through most of high school, I had periods when I was so depressed that I saw the world in shades of gray sometimes. I told people this and I’m pretty sure they thought I was exaggerating, but it’s real. I have a bunch of gray memories. I also have a bunch of black holes where memories should have been but I was too sad, too angry, too broken, so my brain replaced moments and feelings with a scrawl of black ink. After high school and into my early twenties, those black holes were my own fault; they were blackouts. I worked through all of this. I worked hard. With therapists, with pen and paper, with painful and uncomfortable conversations with friends and family, with love from friends and family and the man who would become my husband. Things got hard again in 2010. Life is hard. It throws things at you. Sometimes all at once. There’s grief and illness, there’s money woes, there’s major disappointments in your career. It happens to everyone. It’s hard to handle for everyone. But when you are a person who saw in shades of gray, who cut open her arms and/or drank heavily to cope, who is full of self-blame and hatred, hard can start to feel really scary. Hard can start to feel like a trap or even a death sentence. By 2012, I was desperate and scared. I was seeing gray, feeling suffocated by my mistakes and self-perceived mistakes. I also knew people were whispering about me, things like “Debbie Downer,” and it hurt. I was mired in the gray and I didn’t want to be, but as anyone else who has been there knows, it’s not easy to escape. I went back to therapy, to the difficult conversations. I worked and I thought and I weighed out what I had to do. I knew I had to take a risk. I don’t like risks. But I had to. So I did. And here I am.

I am home.

Two years ago, I wrote about why Seattle. I called it my heart city and tried to explain what that meant. I’m not sure if I got it quite right. I seem to keep redrafting it in blog posts and essays and a chapter of my memoir and maybe that’s sort of what I’m doing here, but just with new terminology; now I am trying to explain why Seattle is home. I’m going back to Chicago for a visit in a couple of weeks. Some friends and family members refer to this as me “coming home.” I haven’t corrected them because I didn’t want to hurt feelings, but a little voice inside of me always pipes up, “No, Seattle is home.” Chicago is where I’m from. It’s where many of the people I love reside. But Seattle is home now and here is why:

This year has been hard so far. Last month in particular. Another one of those periods where things are thrown at you all at once. So much stress on so many fronts plus the flu. That’s why I haven’t blogged in a while, not here or even to my Seattle photos Tumblr. But in the middle of it all, I took an afternoon to myself. I went downtown and saw this:

(*Whispers* This, all of this, is mine.)

I also noticed the daffodils in full bloom in front of my building. In the middle of February.

The trees, too.

I had a mountain view from my window when I was sick. Sometimes I even see eagles there. I can get out for fresh air and sunshine without freezing to death in February. I can run year-round. I walk everywhere. I am surrounded by so much natural beauty that it isn’t hard to pull myself out of my thoughts and worries and say, “Hey, look around! This is yours. This is yours.

Seattle has helped me find and practice gratitude. It has helped me work on calm and inner peace. I’ve made friends here more easily than I have anywhere else or at any other time in my life. And that’s not just about the people (though they are awesome), that’s about me and what I’ve found within. I’m still shy. I still worry. I still get sad. But this city centers me. No, it allows me to center myself. When the stress and the bad and the sad descend, I look out the window, I breathe the air, I wait for the bus, I stare at the sky, the water, the flowers, and I center myself. I say, “I am here, I am grounded, and I brought myself to this place. I can keep going through anything.” It was the missing piece that I needed. It was the challenge I had to set for myself to find my own strength. Seattle has given me what the girl who saw in shades of gray thought she would never have: happiness and hopefulness. That’s why Seattle is home.     

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6. GCC Presents: Eileen Cook and her new YA novel REMEMBER

My fellow Girlfriends Cyber Circuit author Eileen Cook is thrilled to announce that her book REMEMBER hits shelves February 24, 2015.

 About the Book:

A thrilling tale about what a girl will do to get back a memory she lost…or remove what she wants to forget.

Harper is used to her family being hounded by protestors. Her father runs the company that trademarked the “Memtex” procedure to wipe away sad memories, and plenty of people think it shouldn’t be legal. Then a new demonstrator crosses her path, Neil, who’s as persistent as he is hot. Not that Harper’s noticing, since she already has a boyfriend.

When Harper suffers a loss, she’s shocked her father won’t allow her to get the treatment, so she finds a way to get it without his approval. Soon afterward, she’s plagued with strange symptoms, including hallucinations of a woman who is somehow both a stranger, yet incredibly familiar. Harper begins to wonder if she is delusional, or if these are somehow memories.

Together with Neil, who insists he has his own reasons for needing answers about the real dangers of Memtex, Harper begins her search for the truth. What she finds could uproot all she’s ever believed about her life…

“Compelling combination of twisty mystery and realistic romance." (Cat Patrick, author of FORGOTTEN and JUST LIKE FATE)

Interview with Eileen
Where did the idea for Remember come from?

I’d read an article about some scientific experiments being done with memory. The scientists were looking for a way to reduce the difficulty war veterans have with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. It occurred to me if people could get rid of very traumatic memories, there would also be a market for people who wanted to get rid of all sorts of memories.

I began to wonder what types of things might go wrong once you begin messing around with someone’s memory. It can be relatively easy to confuse what is a real memory from what someone might tell you happened. What if something you were sure was true, suddenly seemed to be uncertain, possibly a lie?

Once all these questions were swirling around in my head I knew I had a book- all I had to do is write it!

If the Memtex procedure existed is there any memory you would like to forget?

I think everyone has some memories they would like to forget, but even the difficult ones have shaped who I am so I’d have to hang on to them.

Tell us a behind the scenes story about writing the book.

I decided that I wanted the main character to ride horses competitively- a subject I know nothing about. I was lucky enough to have two close friends who grew up riding and were able to share all sorts of details and were willing to read early drafts to make sure I had things correct. Now I know more about saddles than I ever expected.

What are you working on now?

It’s a thriller that involves Italy, a possible murder and two best friends who may be enemies. There’s nothing better than writing a book that includes a research trip to Rome, Venice and Tuscany. I ate my weight in pasta, took thousands of pictures and wrote pages and pages of notes. Here's a contest to win REMEMBER!

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7. Two New Exciting Books!!! Rookie Yearbook Three and This is Your Afterlife!!!

I love October. October 3 (my wedding anniversary) and October 31st (the best holiday of all!) are my favorite days, but today, October 21st, is really giving them a run for their money because not one, but TWO books that I've been eagerly awaiting are coming out. I seriously couldn't be more excited about these books if they were my own: ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE, edited by Tavi Gevinson, and THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE, the YA debut by my hilarious, brilliant, amazing, simply-not-enough-cool-adjectives-exist-to-fully-describe-her critique partner, Vanessa Barneveld!

Let's talk about the amazing Vanessa and her book first. My books would basically not exist if not for Vanessa--well, they definitely would not be as good. We became online critique partners (Vanessa lives in Australia where I really hope to visit her one day!) shortly after I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE sold in 2007. She's read multiple versions of both of my books (and some not-published manuscripts as well) and was a total lifesaver during the revisions of BALLADS OF SUBURBIA in particular, reading and immediately responding to the changes I was making at 3 am (this was where it was very convenient to have an Australian CP). She's got an eye for character and an ear for voice, which have helped me a ton, but those plus her incredible sense of humor have made her manuscripts a blast for me to read over the years and I AM SO FREAKIN' EXCITED that readers EVERYWHERE get to be swept into one of Vanessa's worlds.

Here's the lowdown on THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE!

When the one boy you crushed on in life can't seem to stay away in death, it's hard to be a normal teen when you're a teen paranormal.

Sixteen-year-old Keira Nolan has finally got what she wanted—the captain of the football team in her bedroom. Problem is he’s not in the flesh. He’s a ghost and she’s the only one who can see him.

Keira's determined to do anything to find Jimmy's killer. Even it if means teaming up with his prickly-yet-dangerously-attractive brother, Dan, also Keira's ex-best-friend. Keira finds that her childish crush is fading, but her feelings for Dan are just starting to heat up, and as the story of Jimmy’s murder unfolds, anyone could be a suspect.

This thrilling debut from Vanessa Barneveld crosses over from our world to the next, and brings a whole delightful new meaning to "teen spirit".

Here's the book trailer:

I devoured THIS IS YOUR AFTERLIFE. It was funny, it was sad, it kept me turning pages, and best of all, it reminded me of my own teenage years when I was obsessed with the Ouija Board and longing for the psychic abilities that Keira has. If you are looking for great ghost story with laugh-out-loud moments and more thrills than chills, this is it.

To celebrate her launch, Vanessa is throwing a big, online bash on her blog from tomorrow, October 22nd through October 31st. It will be filled with guests, including me! I'm doing a post and a giveaway (of an anthology featuring a ghost story I've written) on October 30th. I hope to see you there!

And now.... (drum roll)... on to ROOKIE!!!!

I've had the privilege of being a part of Rookie magazine since it launched in September of 2011. (Remember this super-excited blog post when it debuted?) I'm still in awe of everything that we do. The Yearbooks feature the best of the best of our online pieces for each year as well as some cool added bonuses. This is our first Yearbook with Razorbill and since I'm a Penguin/Random House author too now, I'm think that's pretty awesome. I also have two essays in this one, which feels like a huge accomplishment.

Here's the lowdown on ROOKIE YEARBOOK THREE!

Rookiemag.com is a website created by and for young women to make the best of the beauty, pain and awkwardness of being a teenager. When it becomes tough to appreciate such things, we have good plain fun and visual pleasure. When you're sick of having to be happy all the time, we have lots of rants, too. Every school year, we compile the best from the site into a print yearbook. Behold: our Junior year!

In Rookie Yearbook Three, we explore cures for love, girl-on-girl crime, open relationships, standing for something, embracing our inner posers, and so much more. Featuring interviews with Rookie role models like Sofia Coppola, Amandla Stenberg, Greta Gerwig, and Kim Gordon, and a bonus section chock-full of exclusive content including a pizza pennant, sticker sheet, valentines, plus advice and contributions from Lorde, Shailene Woodley, Dakota and Elle Fanning, Grimes, Kelis, Sia, Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer of Broad City, Haim, and more!

I know!!!! Amazing, right? Can't wait to go home and pore over my copy!

And if you are in the New York or Toronto areas, there are events celebrating the release TOMORROW, October 22. There is also an event in Brooklyn on November 5th. All of the details are on the Rookie Events page. Go if you can and tell me how fabulous it was!

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8. Exciting New Book Alert: Foreign Exchange by Denise Jaden!


Denise Jaden's new young adult novel, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, is officially available to the world! It is an Editor's Pick and for a limited time, it is available on the Evernight Teen website for only $4.49!

Here's a little more about the book:

Jamie Monroe has always played it safe. That is, until her live-for-the-moment best friend, Tristan, jets off to Italy on a student exchange program. Left alone with her part-time mother and her disabled brother, Jamie discovers that she is quite capable of taking her own risks, starting with her best friend's hotter-than-hot older brother, Sawyer. Sawyer and Tristan have been neighbors for years, but as Jamie grows closer to the family she thought she knew, she discovers some pretty big secrets.

As she sinks deeper into their web of pretense, she suspects that her best friend may not be on a safe exchange program at all. Jamie sets off to Europe on a class trip with plans to meet up with Tristan, but when Tristan stops all communication, suddenly no one seems trustworthy, least of all the one person she was starting to trust-Sawyer.

And here's what people are saying about FOREIGN EXCHANGE:

"Denise Jaden's newest novel, FOREIGN EXCHANGE, is a must read for contemporary YA fans. The characters leap off the pages and readers will furiously turn pages to keep up with the fast pace and intriguing premise. Definitely add a copy of Foreign Exchange to the top of your reading list."
~ Janet Gurtler, Rita Finalist and Best Selling Author of I'm Not Her

"I loved the well-drawn relationships in Foreign Exchange - the tension between Jamie and her mother, Jamie's tenderness with disabled brother Eddy and especially the intense chemistry between Jamie and Sawyer. Their off-limits attraction and the increasingly dangerous hunt for his sister had me racing through the final chapters."
~ Jen Nadol, author of The Mark, The Vision, and This is How it Ends

"Foreign Exchange takes you on a thrilling ride through the exotic streets of Europe into the dark side of the fashion world. Our charming heroine will stop at nothing to save her best friend. A sweet dose of romance keeps it light."
~ Lee Strauss - author of The Minstrel Series

"Foreign Exchange is a fresh contemporary YA that will keep readers compulsively turning pages until the very end. Combining international intrigue with a steamy forbidden romance makes for a can't miss read."
~ Eileen Cook, author of Year of Mistaken Discoveries.

"A pitch perfect voice and delicious chemistry between the characters kept me turning those pages!"
~ Tara Kelly, author of Amplified and Encore

"Foreign Exchange is heart pounding and suspenseful...the teenage dream of escaping the boredom of suburbia by travelling Europe and spending quality time with a hot guy shifts into a dangerous nightmare."

~ D.R. Graham, author of Rank and the Noir et Bleu MC series.

"Denise Jaden is a force to be reckoned with! I loved her new book so much. This one is a thrill ride with full realized, lovable characters, and a refreshingly unique premise."
~ Rachel Shane, author of the upcoming Alice in Wonderland High

Have you seen the trailer yet? It's here too!

Help Denise celebrate online today and spread the word about her new book baby.

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9. Exciting New Book Alert: Finding Paris by Joy Preble

I am really excited about Joy Preble's book that's coming out next year! Details just dropped this week while I was in Hawaii (more on that soon, promise!) and I had to share them because I think my readers will be as into this book as I am!

FINDING PARIS, by Joy Preble—coming April 21, 2015 from Balzer and Bray/Harper Collins

A page-turning, evocative novel for fans of THIRTEEN REASONS WHY and SPEAK, about a girl who must follow a trail of mysterious clues to discover what happened to her sister.

Sisters Leo and Paris Hollings have only ever had each other to rely on. They can’t trust their mother, who hops from city to city and from guy to guy, or their gambler stepfather, who’s moved them all to Las Vegas. It’s just the two of them: Paris, who’s always been the dreamer, and Leo, who has a real future in mind—going to Stanford, becoming a doctor, falling in love.

But Leo isn’t going anywhere yet… until Paris ditches her at the Heartbreak Hotel Diner, where moments before they had been talking with physics student Max Sullivan. Outside, Leo finds a cryptic note from Paris—a clue. Is it some kind of game? Where is Paris, and why has she disappeared?

When Leo reluctantly accepts Max’s offer of help, the two find themselves following a string of clues through Vegas and beyond. But the search for the truth is a not a straight line. And neither is the path to secrets Leo and Max hold tightly.

“An inspiring story of lost souls, and the hope and compassion that must piece together a family long exiled and devastated by secrets.” – Adele Griffin, author of THE UNFINISHED LIFE OF ADDISON STONE

“FINDING PARIS is a compelling page- turner. It's a road trip story, a mystery, and a romance all in one.  Add to that Preble's pitch perfect descriptions of place and you've got a real winner.  I couldn't put it down.” –Jennifer Mathieu, author of THE TRUTH ABOUT ALICE

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10. Things I’ve Learned About Writing a Memoir—And a Personal Challenge

So, I’ve been working on my YA memoir for a little over a month now. It will be coming out from Dutton, though I don’t know when yet (hopefully 2016) and it still doesn’t have a title, so I’m just calling it “The Zine-Style Memoir” or “The Memoir.” It’s a VERY different experience than writing a novel, which doesn’t surprise me, but um, I must confess… I thought it was going to be easier than writing a novel! Why not? I don’t have to come up with a plot or characters, it’s just MY LIFE and I know what happens. But as it turns out it, The Memoir has its own set of challenges. Here’s what I’ve been grappling with so far:

  1. It’s just as emotional, if not more emotional to write. I write intense books. If you’ve read them, you know that. I deal with heavy shit like addiction, abuse, sexual assault, depression, self-injury and I don’t pull any punches. The reason I write so honestly about these things in my fiction is because these are the stories I needed to read as a teenager. And why did I need to read them? Because I was going through all of that shit. And now my job—the one I signed up for in some moment of total insanity (kidding… sort of)—is to rehash all of that very real shit that I went through. Now I’ve been doing this for a while in my essays for Rookie, but now I’m spending all of my writing time doing that, which is not exactly fun. I mean, I knew what I was getting into, and for the most part, I’ve processed all of this stuff in therapy (and through writing fictional versions), so it hasn’t been too detrimental to my emotional well-being—my revisions on BALLADS were actually much worse… at least, so far. BUT when you get up at 5:30 am to write and/or you spend most of your Saturdays writing like I do, it can be… unsettling. I went to a party on Saturday night after writing all day and it took me a couple hours to pull myself out of my own head. And some days I get to work and just feel anxious and tightly wound all day for no reason—except I spent the first hour of my day recounting a horrible fight with my childhood best friend. So yeah, it’s emotional work and I expect that it will get harder.
  2. This is what research looks like:

    Yeah, those are my diaries. Clockwise from the top, they are from grade school (as you may have guessed from the pink kitty), 8th grade, summer before and all of junior year of high school, the two composition books are from my senior semester of high school (I took a journal writing class and I had A LOT to say, so much that when I filled them, I went back to black-and-white cat journal and finished filling it during the rest of what would have been my senior year when I was living on my own in Madison, Wisconsin), and the last journal is from my year at Antioch College and the two years I lived in Madison after dropping out (I was the opposite of productive then). Conspicuously missing are 7th grade (that was a very bad year and I tore my journal—also a Star Trek log book—to pieces, and I think, flushed them down the toilet) and freshman and sophomore year. That was a green spiral bound notebook. My abusive boyfriend demanded to read it in my sophomore year, so I ripped out a bunch of pages and REWROTE THEM. I’d saved the ripped pages and tried to reassemble/rewrite the whole thing on a couple of occasions, but since I never did it all, this led to confusion later about what was real and what wasn’t and eventually I threw the whole thing away. It kind of sucks because my memory is imperfect and these diaries (along with calls to my mom, who usually is my medical resource for my novels) are the easiest way to jog it. Well, easiest in terms of remember what happened when. Re-reading them is actually horrible. Like when this book is done, they might all go in the trash. And no, this isn’t me being critical of my writing skills (those aren’t actually that bad), this is because of my worst discovery about memoir-writing so far, which is…
  3. Writing about yourself sorta makes you hate yourself.  I cringe every time I flip through any of those old diaries (aside from maybe the grade school one—not that I can flip through it because I thought what I’d written was so damning, I tore the pages out and stuffed them in an envelope addressed to my cousin presumably because I trusted her to dispose of them in the unlikely event of my tragic demise). The 8th grade one is pure obsessive love. Yeah, it was my first crush. That’s probably normal to a degree, but holy shit is it embarrassing. I thought I was going to marry this guy and have three babies (the Ouija board told me so). I thought I was gonna die when he asked another girl to the graduation dance. It includes other things I’d rather not recall either like when I got into Pearl Jam just to impress my best friend’s new friend. I hate Pearl Jam, but boy did I convince myself that I loved them, just to fit in… at a time that I swore I was done trying to fit in.

    The obsessions and the hypocrisies are the worst and they continue through all the journals. I’ll blast girl for spreading rumors and “girl hate” while saying the most awful, hateful things about her. And during the fucked-up relationship from my late teens there are actual entries written in my own blood. The worst of the worst though is from the summer between sophomore and junior year right after my abuser and I broke up when I was still in love with him and that period after I realized what he’d done to me, but I still loved him. Of course the anger that followed was not any easier to stomach.

    Basically reading these diaries forces me to revisit the weaknesses that I hated most about myself and also forces me to look at how self-centered and cruel and angry and awful I was at times. I have to recognize that I was not always a good person and I made A LOT of mistakes. Of course this book is about identity and how the many pieces of us come together to form something whole (or mostly whole). I thought I was writing about that in a retrospective way, but I’m realizing now that there is still going to be some self-understanding and self-forgiveness that is going to have to come from the writing process. And while I’m in the thick of it, I’m going to have to remind myself that I’m not that person anymore and I learned from both her good and bad decisions and traits.
  4. Just because my life has an arc or a “plot” doesn’t mean I’m not going to have to make major structural decisions within each essay/chapter and for the book as a whole just like I would for a novel. This has been my biggest writerly problem so far. I sold the book on proposal and I thought I had a solid idea of what it would be—more like a collection of essays than a memoir. But as soon as I started writing in earnest, I realized it wasn’t really working. I can’t just plug this essay fromRookie about my struggle with self-injury in to the place where it seems to fit best chronologically—junior high because that’s when the cutting started—because the essay covers my whole journey, from twelve to twenty-two or twenty-three. Reading that and then reading the next thing about me being fourteen and struggling with self-esteem or something, it’s jarring. It doesn’t flow as a narrative. It makes you feel like fourteen-year-old me should be better off because she was at the end of that last piece (even though she was also in her twenties). My editor noticed this, too, of course, and we talked about it for an hour. I have ideas about how to fix it, but the structure still feels very murky right now. That seems to be happening within each essay/chapter I write too. I start off one way, then change my mind, then end up with alternate versions of each piece. It’s frustrating and I don’t want it to be. I know that if I agonize over structure now, it’s going to really slow me down and it’s all going to change later. So this has led to…

The Plan

I need to create the puzzle pieces. Only then can I dump them out on the table and figure out how they fit (and probably reshape a bunch of them, but that doesn’t go well with my puzzle metaphor). So I want to write really rough versions of the essays/chapters/parts of the story I know I need to tell. I’m doing it linearly right now, but this might be the time to jump around (in a way I haven’t done since I wrote my first novel!) and write in chunks, some of which will probably feel really unpolished and incomplete. The problem is I HATE unpolished and incomplete. I hate rough drafts and it is hell for me to get through them. Speeding through did help me with my last novel, though, and in this case, so I don’t waste a lot of time figuring out a structure that will change once I have all the pieces, I think it’s going to be essential. To make it work, I’ve set up…

The Challenge

I decided pretty much arbitrarily that I would like to write all of the rough pieces by November 1st. This is going to be a pretty enormous challenge because I work full-time, I teach a class once a week, and… I’m going on vacation from October 2-8. So yeah. This might be totally unrealistic. But what the hell. Setting intense deadlines works for me (as long as I don’t get too angry at myself if I can’t make them, which I am promising here, publicly, that I won’t. Hold me to it, please!). Conveniently, the place where I teach, the Hugo House, is running a 30/30 fundraising challenge this month! Basically if you sign up, you commit to writing 30 minutes every day for the first 30 days of October. So I’m doing it. 30 minutes a day. Even on my anniversary trip to Hawaii. (Writing on the beach is great, right?) I am trying to raise some funds for Hugo House, which is an incredible organization for writers, so if you want to cheer me on and donate a few buck to a good cause, I’d love it. Here’s my fundraising page. You can also join the challenge if you are so inclined and I hope you will! In fact, if you are a YA writer (or a friend of mine!) you are welcome to join the team, my I've formed with my YA class (and my friends!)

So, if you don’t hear from me much next month (aside from vacation pics on my instagram and tweets about my writing progress), you’ll know it’s because of my lofty goal. What are your big goals for October?  

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11. I'm Teaching My Dream YA Class--And You Can Sign Up For It NOW!

I had the most amazing summer (see my Tumblr for proof, it is filled with whale-watching and hiking adventures), but I’ve always loved fall and its back-to-school vibes. I’m ready to get down to business on my own writing so that I can get my new memoir out to you all as soon as possible. (I’ll be looking for early morning and Saturday writing buds on Twitter!) But I’m particularly excited about this fall  because in addition to getting back to writing, I’m getting back to teaching!

I love teaching Young Adult Fiction as much I love reading and writing it. Being in a room with other writers who are just as passionate about YA as I am and working with them on their ideas.. it doesn’t even feel like a job! It’s an incredible privilege that keeps me inspired to work on my own manuscripts.

I got my start teaching YA at Columbia College Chicago where I taught semester-long courses to undergraduates and graduate students. I got to help them start their novels. At least 40 pages were due to me at the end of the course and most students went well beyond that. Of course, I really missed those writers and their characters and often found myself wishing that I could have seen the story through a full draft. The same thing happened to me when I taught online for Media Bistro. Those classes  lasted twelve weeks and the students—most of them working professionals who were out of college, but driven to carve out time to finish a novel—produced ten pages a week. Still, not quite a full draft. 

When I moved to Seattle last year, I started teaching at Hugo House, an incredible organization for writers in one of the most literary cities. Like with Media Bistro, my students were mostly working professionals (and one very committed high school student who will probably be published before she graduates college!) who were very serious about completing a YA novel. They came to me in various phases—some with a fresh idea, others with a NaNo book that was SO close to be ready to go on submission—and again, I fell in love with their stories and characters and was awed by their writing ability and commitment. But alas, our classes were only 6 weeks! This was a real stab to the heart!

Then Hugo House offered me the DREAM teaching opportunity… a YEARLONG YA MANUSCRIPT CLASS!!!! I said yes in an instant because finally, FINALLY, I’ll get the chance to work with my students through a WHOLE manuscript. It might be something they’ve already started, maybe even wrote an entire draft of, or it might be a fresh new idea, but I’ll get to the be there, through the plotting, the discovering, the messy middle, all the way to THE END!

This fabulous, wonderful, total-dream-come-true class will start two weeks from today on Wednesday, September 17th. It runs from 7:10 to 9:10 pm at the Hugo House in Seattle. It will go until the end of May (with breaks for the holidays of course!) for 32 total sessions. Two of those sessions are weekend publishing intensives—one with general (and very valuable) information about the publishing biz and one specific to YA with a kid-lit agent coming to visit us.

The first third of this class—fall quarter—will focus on generative and craft activities to help build your story world, useful whether you are starting from scratch with a brand-spanking new idea or getting back into ongoing material. We’ll be working to  will develop and polish the teen voice, pace your storylines, and write the engaging characters that readers of young adult fiction have come to expect. Since every writer is different, we’ll also work to set personal goals and establish a writing schedule to help you meet them. The last two-thirds of the course—winter and spring quarters—will be more of a workshop. Every student will get a chance to receive feedback from the entire class (and me, of course!) and we’ll be working in small critique groups, so you’ll have a space to receive regular feedback, encouragement, and support as you work your way through toward “The End” and beyond into revisions and line edits.

So, if you live in the Seattle area and have a YA novel in your head or on your laptop that you want to see all the way through, please register! I’d love to have you! If you don’t live in the Seattle area, but have friends who do please, please, please spread the word! I want to fill this class with awesome writers! If it takes off, hopefully I’ll be able to do more classes like this (and yes, maybe online!).

BONUS: For those of you in the Seattle area, the fabulous Karen Finneyfrock is also teaching a great YA Craft Class called Doorways to the Young Adult Novel in October also at the Hugo House. It's a six-week class, so if you can't commit to a full 32-week class, TAKE IT. Or if you are just really committed to pounding out that novel, take BOTH of our classes! They don't conflict time-wise and will only compliment each other. And for those of you ANYWHERE, read Karen's new YA, Starbird Murphy and the World Outside! It was my absolute favorite read of the summer! I seriously can't recommend it enough! If you love books with unique, fully drawn characters on a real journey to figure themselves out, you'll love this. Also Karen is a poet. The language in this book... I have a serious writer crush. She has a way with words like no one else in YA!

Happy Fall, Happy Writing, and Happy Back To School! What are your writing or school-related plans?

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12. BIG NEWS from a singing gorilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I’m still floored.

And I’m beyond grateful.

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

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

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13. GCC Presents: Judith Tewes!

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

My Soon-To-Be Sex Life

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

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

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

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

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

About the Author:

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

The Book Trailer:

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14. One Year Seattle-versary!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Washington Arboretum

Washington Arboretum

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

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

December Fog

Seattle Skyline from Alki Beach on sunny spring day

Golden Gardens

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

The view from my apartment window:

The view from the trail I regularly run:

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

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

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

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

Fremont Solstice Parade

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

Alki Beach

By waterfalls:
Snoqualmie Falls
Wallace Falls State Park

By trees:

By mountains with amazing views:

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

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

Mercer Nature Slough

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

San Juan Islands Anniversary Trip

We saw a fox

and alpaca

and Mount Baker on the ferry ride back to Anacortes

Olympia in fall

Tacoma, Defiance Point Park, New Year's Day

Valentine's Day trip to the magnificently rain WA coast

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

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

Fully vegan Thanksgiving for two

Crossing the finish line of my first 5K

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

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

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15. GCC Presents: Sara Hantz!

Abi Saundersabi saunders hi-res 1600x2400 Will The Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up by Sara Hantz is now available!

About the book: Abi Saunders might be a kickboxing champion, but when it comes to being the center of attention, she’d rather take a roundhouse kick to the solar plexus any day. So when her trainer convinces her to audition to be the stunt double for hot teen starlet Tilly Watson, Abi is shocked—and a little freaked out—when she gets the job. Being a stunt double is overwhelming, but once the wig and makeup are on, Abi feels like a different person. Tilly Watson, to be exact. And when Tilly’s gorgeous boyfriend, Jon, mistakes Abi for the real star, Abi's completely smitten. In fact, she’s so in love with her new life, it isn’t long before she doesn’t have time for her old one. But when the cameras are turned off, will she discover running with the Hollywood A-list isn’t quite the glamorous existence she thought it was?

You can buy the book here:
  Barnes and Noble
  Book Depository

What Others Are Saying: "Abi Saunders is a kickass heroine with a story full of action and heart." Melissa Walker author of Ashes to Ashes and Small Town Sinners.

"Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up delivers the good stuff - kickboxing stunt double, Hollywood A-listers, mistaken identity, romance. This one is a contender!" Linda Gerber, author of the Lights, Camera, Cassidy series.

"Will the Real Abi Saunders Please Stand Up packs a delicious punch of realism and Hollywood magic in one hit." Allison Rushby, author of Being Hartley, the Living Blond Trilogy and Shooting Stars.

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16. GCC Presents: Terra Elan McVoy!

Terra Elan McVoy's Criminal, Out in Paperback!

Nikki’s life is far from perfect, but at least she has Dee. Her friends tell her that Dee is no good, but Nikki can’t imagine herself without him. He’s hot, he’s dangerous, he has her initials tattooed over his heart, and she loves him more than anything. There’s nothing Nikki wouldn’t do for Dee. Absolutely nothing. So when Dee pulls Nikki into a crime—a crime that ends in murder—Nikki tells herself that it’s all for true love. Nothing can break them apart. Not the police. Not the arrest that lands Nikki in jail. Not even the investigators who want her to testify against him. But what if Dee had motives that Nikki knew nothing about? Nikki’s love for Dee is supposed to be unconditional…but even true love has a limit. And Nikki just might have reached hers.

Beyond the Book: Terra's Thoughts

In advice to writers, Stephen King says, “Write the truth.” Ernest Hemingway also famously said, “Write what you know.” My thesis director and writing mentor, Mark Winegardner, went further to say, “Write what you most want to understand.” It was this thought that motivated me to start writing Criminal. In 2011, I heard about a murder case in which a young man was accused of killing one of his girlfriend’s parents, out in broad day. When I discovered he had an accomplice—another young woman with whom he’d also been romantically involved—I was even more intrigued. “Who would do such a thing? And why?” Of course I was thinking of the shooter, but really I was most perplexed by the second girlfriend—the one who allegedly helped him do it. Who was she? Why did she go along with it? Did she know about his other girlfriend? And what happened to her after the fact? Reading helps us to imagine things we haven’t experienced on our own, and to, ultimately, empathize with our fellow humans. In writing Criminal, I aimed to explain to myself—and to therefore understand—what it would be like to be a girl very different from me and most of the characters in my other books: someone without resources, without confidence, without an education or good family, and often without hope—so much so that she’d participate in such a horrible crime. The result of my imaginings (and my research) is in this book. I didn’t write it to justify, or excuse, any kind of criminal behavior in the slightest. Instead I hope that in doing so, my readers and I can get closer to understanding that people who make terrible choices like this are more than just the results of their crimes.


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17. 20 Years Gone, 10 Years Found

Tomorrow marks twenty years since Kurt Cobain's death, but this is less about him and more about me because with that anniversary comes another one that is harder for me to explain, a personal turning point that is just as significant—no, maybe more significant.

I've tried on many occasions to put what Kurt Cobain and Nirvana's music meant to me into words. I think my story is similar to a lot of Nirvana's fans no matter when they discovered the music—in the thick of when it was all happening, like me, or a decade or so after Kurt's death. I was lost, broken, and angry. I'd been bullied, and even though I had a few good friends, I was so depressed that I still felt like an outsider, an alien. Above all, I felt voiceless. And then along came this man, this band, who understood all of that, who knew what it was like to be trapped in school with no recess, to "miss the comfort of being sad," who channeled it into noisy, distorted guitars and gave those difficult feelings a voice. That, in turn, gave me the courage to use my voice because if Nirvana could do it and change the entire world, surely I could do it to empower myself.

Then April 8, 1994 happened. The day we learned that Kurt's depression and addiction had won out over his voice, silenced it with a shotgun blast. I heard about his suicide from the girl who'd been my best friend since third grade and she delivered the news is a nah-nah-nuh-nah-nah sort of sing-song. She didn't like Nirvana, saw them as one of the new differences that had been cropping up between us. And I would learn later, she was pissed at Kurt, thought him a selfish coward for taking himself away from his family on purpose when just a year earlier, cancer had taken away her grandmother, her family without giving anyone a choice. I was pissed, too. I called him selfish in my journal, asked him how he could do it to his wife and his baby. I didn't write, but I remember thinking, "And how could you do it to me?"

Me in my bedroom at 14, November 1993
This is probably where my story differs from other Nirvana fans. My story is so tied to the fact that I was fourteen when Kurt killed himself and I was a pretty fragile/angry/depressed fourteen. His suicide flicked a switch inside of me, it dialed my self-destructive, "oh, fuck it" feelings up to eleven. It made me want. Desperately want. I wanted a tribe. I wanted mosh pit bruises. I wanted to taste and try everything. I wanted to live. Not all of this was bad. It was time for me to come out of my shell and when I did many of the friends I found were amazing and so was the music and the shows and those mosh pit bruises. But since self-destruction lurked underneath it all, there was a lot of ugliness, too. A lot of mistakes. A lot of pain. A whole fuck-ton of anger. I emerged with scars and foggy memories as well as crystal clear ones I wished I could erase—especially that day almost exactly a year after Kurt's death when a boy who idolized him taught me that saying yes once means saying yes forever. (God, why do so many boys who idolize Kurt get it so fucking wrong? "He's the one who likes all our pretty songs... But he knows not what it means...")

In my early twenties, I started to come out of that.... Well, I started trying at least. I was still drinking too much sometimes, still in a fucked-up codependent relationship, still feeling married to my past. I'd taken a bit of a break from Nirvana in my late teens; sadly, they reminded me too much of that asshole boy. But when I was ready to crawl out of that bloody, angry, booze-drenched hole I'd dug myself into After Him, I turned to those songs again. Kurt's howl reminded me that I could howl and I needed that more than anything. I became obsessed. I spent hours on message boards, talking to other fans, trading bootlegs and memorabilia, trolling eBay for the limited edition vinyl and mint copies of the magazines I'd cut up and collaged my bedroom with as a teenager:

A piece of the Nirvana collage between my windows that I started in eighth grade

In retrospect, I think I was trying to go back and fix it. I still didn't have the strength to get out of my alcoholic codependent relationship, so instead I avoided it by locking myself in my office and trying to time-travel back to 1994. Maybe with enough bootlegs, enough vinyl, enough magazines I could do it. Maybe in alternate 1994, Kurt wouldn't die, or even if he did, I would do a better job of living through it, of surviving high school, of being punk and artsy and weird without being destructive. I would just have a bunch of really cool friends, which is what I did find on the message boards. More specifically, I found them on the Hole message board because that's where the girls were and I didn't really want to talk to boys about Nirvana. I'd spent real 1994 listening to boys talk about Nirvana. It was old. It was boring. And half the time, thanks to my 1995 boyfriend, I didn't trust male Nirvana fans. I wanted to talk about them with girls. Girls like me who heard something in the music, heard the respect they'd never gotten from male artists before and turned it into self-respect, heard a voice that made them feel understood, that made them feel invited to create and did create something—something far more interesting than all the boys who picked up guitars to emulate Nirvana. ("I like the comfort in knowing that women are the only future in rock and roll."- Kurt Cobain)

Even though so much of my obsession seems silly now, like some weird version of therapy that I feel uncomfortable talking about most of the time (the fact that I'm blogging about it now might seem to indicate otherwise but I'm basically pretending this is my journal), I don't care because those months—no, those years, really—locked in my office trying to time travel back to 1994 brought me my girls, Jenny and Eryn, two of my very best friends in the entire world:

Jenny, Eryn, and me at Viretta Park, Seattle, April 5, 2004

After exchanging emails, letters, and packages, Eryn and I started talking on the phone. She's a couple of years younger than me, but her heart broke like mine had when she heard about Kurt's suicide, and like me, she'd watched the news coverage of the vigil in Seattle and wished she was old enough to go. She'd promised herself that she would one day. I had too at some point, but I'd forgotten about it and while talking to her, I wondered if maybe that forgotten promise had fucked things up for me. Maybe if I made the pilgrimage, I could let go of my teenage baggage. So Eryn and I started planning our trip and recruiting people to accompany us to Seattle in April of 2004 to pay homage to Kurt on the tenth anniversary of his death.  This was the beginning of a real transition for me—from trying to time travel to trying to find closure.

I was home sick a couple of weeks before we were to meet in Seattle, me coming from Chicago, Jenny and another friend of hers from St. Louis, Eryn from Denver with another friend of ours from the message board who'd come all the way from Australia. While zoning out on the couch to the bootleg Nirvana videos that were my greatest comfort then I realized how significant the trip was. Ten years. A part of me had needed to do this for ten fucking years. So if I was going to do it, I should DO IT all the way. I pulled all of the Nirvana biographies I owned off the shelf. Heavier than Heaven by Charles Cross was the most detailed, giving exact addresses or solid descriptions of locations. I tore up tiny pieces of paper and marked each important mention: childhood homes, recording studios, concert venues, shady motels where Kurt escaped to shoot heroin, the morgue where he was cremated. I wanted to see it all. I NEEDED to see it all. I took the book upstairs, shut myself in the office and painstakingly Mapquested everything. Yeah, Mapquest. These were the days before Google maps with street view and integrated public transportation schedules, before GPS and smart phones. Or at least before I could afford them. I was still in college and had saved for a year to go on our week-long trip. We were renting a car for a day, but reliant on public transit for the rest, so I went back and forth between Mapquest and the King County Metro transit website trying to locate everything and fit it all in to our schedule. Eventually I came up with a full itinerary. Eryn was as excited as I was. The others might have been a bit freaked out by the depth of my obsession, but they didn't show it. Jenny, who'd volunteered to drive the rental car, exhausted herself so we could do it all: the bridge and the childhood homes in Aberdeen, Hoquiam, and Montesano, the site of Nirvana's first show at a house party in Raymond, the Pear Street apartment in Olympia, and even McLane Creek where Charles Cross described Courtney, Wendy Cobain, and Frances spreading some of Kurt's ashes.

Me under the Young Street Bridge, Aberdeen, Washington

Jenny, me, and Eryn at McLane Creek, Olympia, Washington

Last week, Eryn sent me a link to a New York Times article by a dude who had gone to all of these places and wrote an ultimate guide. Not gonna lie, I was a little bitter. We did that ten years ago back when Aberdeen was not into celebrating Kurt Cobain at all—when there was no park by the bridge and people at gas stations misdirected you because they didn't like Kurt or his fans. I pitched the story of our journey to every major publication I could think of, but had no takers. Maybe ten years wasn't long enough. Maybe the interest in Nirvana is extra high now because of their impending induction into the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame. Maybe I didn't have enough writer cred yet. (Okay, I definitely didn't; I was still four years away from publishing my first book and seven from writing for Rookie.) Maybe writing about Nirvana has long been dude territory and no one wanted to hear a woman's point of view on Kurt Cobain and how he transformed her life twice—once as a junior high misfit and again when she went to Seattle at 24 to retrace his footsteps and light up his name.

Our tribute to Kurt at Viretta Park on our last night in Seattle, April 10, 2004

But that's okay because I wrote it anyway and for an essay site created by a woman named Hillary Carlip, who'd inspired me as much as Kurt did when I was teen. Hillary helped me shape it into the thing I wanted it to be: less of a Nirvana travel guide, more of the story of a personal journey. Go ahead and read it if you want because I don't really want to rehash it. It was a huge moment for me, the moment I finally started to let go of my past, but it happened ten years ago. That's why after a little bit of bitterness and venting that someone else got to write the piece I'd researched, lived, and wanted to write ten years ago, I quickly realized that I didn't care. Now any Nirvana fans, old and young, who still need to go on that journey have a guide and that’s a good thing. Hopefully it will lead them where it led me: to blaze their own path.

This brings us to that other anniversary, the one I am far more focused on than the twentieth anniversary of Kurt Cobain’s death. Ten years ago around this time I found the place where I belonged and something clicked inside of me—maybe that self-destructive switch turning off?—and I started to set myself free. It was definitely a process. Even though I had the giant “It was” revelation on April 10, 2004 that I documented in my “Ten Years Gone” essay, disentangling from ten years of damage wasn’t that simple. I didn’t go straight home, break up with my alcoholic boyfriend and move to the city I’d fallen in love with on my ten-day trip. In fact, I stupidly bought a house in the city I knew I didn’t want to live in anymore with the guy I knew I shouldn’t be with. But I was changing on the inside. I was thinking non-stop about Seattle—not about Kurt, but about my experience there. That was and still is the hardest part to explain, the way I fell in love with Seattle and drew strength from it sort of in the same way I did from Nirvana’s music. Sort of but different. I did my best to explain it here and also here and now I explain mostly in pictures on my Tumblr. I have to admit that I feel self-conscious sometimes about its connection to Nirvana. It’s not just because the depths of my obsession in my early twenties was strange and personal, but because that makes it less mine somehow.... Or worse, it keeps me tied to my past, and my love for Seattle, my moving here, is not about my past—quite the opposite. When I fell in love with Seattle, I started fighting to live in the present and to give myself a future.

My trip to Seattle in 2004 was the farthest I’d gone from home on my own, without the boyfriend, without any link to teenage me (well, besides the Nirvana fandom). The girls I was meeting up with were new friends, internet friends. They became best friends, people who knew and understood me as well (and better in some ways) as those who’ve known me most of my life, but that bond was forged during our trip. In some ways that week was more intense than spending four years of high school or four years of college together. And though Nirvana brought us there, our friendship was so much than that. The shit that we’ve gotten each other through and that we’ve celebrated together over the past ten years proves it.

Me, Eryn, and Jenny on my wedding day, October 3, 2009

My relationship with Seattle is quite similar. Nirvana may have brought me there, but the old venues where they played or recorded, the house where Kurt died and the park next to it is not what made me fall in love with it. Much as I loved grunge and 90s music, I’d never thought of the city as some sort of Promised Land—that’s probably why I’d forgotten my fourteen year-old promise to go there someday until I talked to Eryn. It was just a faraway place, a rainy and gray place from what I’d heard. Just a place. Except from the moment I arrived at the waterfront, I knew it wasn’t a place. It was the place. My place.  

My first glimpse of the Seattle waterfront, April 3, 2004
But like I said, it was a process to get there—a process that involved a lot of visits. I took my boyfriend there in December of 2004, partially because I already missed Seattle so much after six months and partially as a test. If he saw the city the way I did, maybe our relationship would be worth salvaging. He didn’t. The two of us finally broke up after I took another trip to Seattle with Eryn in April 2005. It quickly became a tradition for the two of us, sometimes Jenny joined us, too, and once we went with a couple of other message board friends and one of my best friends from college. That was the fifteen year anniversary of Kurt’s death, so we did Nirvana-themed things then, but for the most part my trips with Eryn or Eryn and Jenny had changed—we went in June or August instead of April, we always visited Viretta Park, but we spent most of our time exploring the rest of the city, especially the parks and beaches, the places I had nothing similar to back in Chicago.

I stopped hanging out on message boards and collecting. I’d found my girls, and once I’d started ridding myself of the damage and baggage from my past, I didn’t need it anymore. Actually, I didn’t have room for it anymore. I was too focused on my own art and building my first healthy romance with a guy I would eventually marry. I did still buy the music—the reissues of Bleach, Nevermind, and In Utero as they came out, and I had to have them on vinyl. The music will always be my everything and to paraphrase Britney, one of our diarists at Rookie, when your favorite band is no longer, has been no longer for more than a decade, and will never create anything new because the frontman is dead, you take what you can get. You listen closely to remastered songs to hear something new, you relish lives tracks and the scraps of partially written songs. (I’m sure that Britney actually said this much better. She writes insanely insightful diaries for Rookie. You should read them.) But aside from the music and a recent impulse buy of a special edition commemorative Nirvana Rolling Stone, I’ve stopped collecting.

I didn’t even see Hit So Hard, the documentary about Hole’s drummer Patty Schemel until it had been out on DVD for a while, and when I did, I reacted to the old video footage of my teenage idols in a surprising new way. Instead of wishing I could time travel back to the early 90s and live forever in the period before everything went wrong, instead of being pissed at Kurt for leaving behind the baby girl he clearly loved and the people who clearly loved him, I felt that empathy he'd written about over and over again in his note. I remembered being 24, still grappling to understand teenage me, something he must have been grappling with too and during his meteoric rise to fame. I remembered being 26, right after that long, codependent relationship finally ended and struggling to find the ground beneath my feet. Even after I found it, I still battled depression. Hell, at 32, just a couple months before I watched Hit So Hard, depression and severe artistic blocks combined in such a way that I was regularly writing journal entries wishing for my own death. If this has happened to 26 or 27 year-old me, I might have picked up a shotgun (or my version of it, which would have been a razor blade and a cocktail of pills) but instead I picked up a phone and made an appointment with a sliding-scale, feminist therapist who helped me remake my life. I survived. It was surreal for 33 year-old survivor me to watch 26 or 27 year-old Kurt, the man I’d always thought of as my savior, and want to go back and tell him that it would be okay. It could have been okay. He could have survived. Not for me, not for his art, but for the people who loved him. Yes, outliving and outlearning your idols is a very strange experience indeed.   

Right around that time April 2014 became a different sort of anniversary in my mind—my ten-year anniversary with Seattle. In late 2012, I started to grow anxious. I told my husband that I felt pathetic for wanting to live in this place for almost ten years, but not being brave enough to go for it. I had to be there by the ten-year anniversary. Had to or I’d feel like I failed myself. This is when the biggest change in me happened, bigger than “It was,” bigger than my break-up, bigger than publishing my books and becoming an artist in my own right. It’s still so fresh that I haven’t been able to fully unpack it yet, though I tried in this Ms. Fit Mag series. All I can say is that I feel like a fully-formed person now, one who let go of fear and self-imposed limitations to become brave and assertive enough to go after what she wants and live how she wants to live. I am new in this new city. I am the person that I dreamed of being ten years ago when I was still trying to time travel to fix it. Time travel wasn’t necessary. Fixing wasn’t necessary, processing was and I did that through cross-country travel, through friends, and through art.

It’s still a work-in-progress. It was only a couple of months ago through a conversation with Anaheed Alani, one of my brilliant editors at Rookie, that I realized how connected to my past I remain in my art. I expect that settling here in Seattle, living fully in the present and dreaming of the future, will change that immensely over the next ten years (or hopefully over the next year or two!). It’s a little bit scary, seeking inspiration in new places, but mostly it’s exciting and hopeful.

So what does tomorrow bring? April 5th, 2014, the twentieth anniversary of the death of my teenage hero, the man who sort of brought me here, the man who I outlived, what does it mean to me now? It’s been a little bit bizarre because ten years ago and especially twenty it felt like it meant as much if not more to me than it did to the rest of the world, but not this time. There’s been a frenzy of stories—the creepy, crying statue in Aberdeen, the newly released photos from the suicide scene, all of the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame hoopla, and that New York Times piece that briefly stirred my writerly jealousy. I’ve clicked on them, skimmed, and then closed the browser window and glanced out the real window at the Seattle sky that I consider mine now.

A Seattle morning as seen from my house
What tomorrow brings for me—what tonight brings actually—is my girls. Jenny and Eryn as well as my college best friend Jenny and Lynn, a message board friend turned real-life friend when she came to Seattle the first time five years ago. We will go to Viretta Park and I’m sure I’ll bring flowers and light a candle to pay tribute and say thanks because I’m still very grateful for what Kurt and his music did for me. He helped me find my way to this path. I do still wish he could have found his way to one that helped him, but mostly I'm just grateful that I did survive. I made my way here to this beautiful, healthy life that is fully mine and I don’t need to retrace footprints, I’m leaving my own and so are my girls. That’s what we will really be honoring and celebrating this weekend and I think Kurt would have appreciated that.

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18. GCC Presents: Jeri Smith-Ready!

This Side of SalvationJeri Smith-Ready (author of the Shade trilogy) makes her contemporary debut in what Kirkus calls "a captivating story of family heartbreak."


Everyone mourns differently. When his older brother was killed, David got angry. As in, fist-meets-someone-else's-face furious. But his parents? They got religious. David's still figuring out his relationship with a higher power, but there's one thing he does know for sure: The closer he gets to new-girl Bailey, the better, brighter, happier, more he feels.

Then his parents start cutting all their worldly ties in to prepare for the Rush, the divine moment when the faithful will be whisked off to Heaven...and they want David to do the same. David's torn. There's a big difference between living in the moment and giving up his best friend, varsity baseball, and Bailey---especially Bailey---in hope of salvation.

But when he comes home late from prom, and late for the Rush, to find that his parents have vanished, David is in more trouble than he ever could have imagined...

What Others Are Saying:

"THIS SIDE OF SALVATION is impossible to pigeonhole. It's a mystery, a love story, a tale of friendship, of prejudice, and of a family overcoming tragedy...Jeri Smith-Ready has her finger on the pulse of American youth." --- Printz Honor winner and NYT Bestseller Elizabeth Wein

"This is a frighteningly realistic story that delicately handles the issues of religion and family---an emotional mystery sure to be popular and perfect for discussion." --- VOYA, **Highlighted (Starred) Review**

"[A] smart, well-rounded, and unpredictable tale...bringing to light issues of belief versus free will, spirit versus body, and family versus self---while never being heavy-handed." Booklist, **Starred Review**

"This book has some of the best written, strongest, and most satisfying character dynamics that I have read in a long time...There are no extreme moral rights and wrongs in this book. These people just are, and they work, and they make this story beautiful." --- Bibliopunkk

Giveaways Galore!

Jeri has two ongoing giveaways to celebrate the release of This Side of Salvation.

Join the Rush swag fest: free EXCLUSIVE swag for everyone who orders TSOS on or before Monday, April 7.

Superfan contest (March 31 -- April 9): share the TSOS characters' "trading cards" on your social networks to earn points. Biggest Superfan wins the grand prize, but there's a chance to win a book and a gift card every day you play!

Here's the first day's card, featuring the main character, David Cooper:

Cat blogging meets book birthday!

Meet Misha and Twinkle, the real-life inspiration for the cats of This Side of Salvation, on PulseIt, the official site of Jeri's publisher, Simon Pulse.

Order the hardcover:

Order the ebook:

Find Jeri

Visit Jeri's website, or follow her on one of these sites:

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19. GCC Presents: Jessica Brody

Unforgotten_CVRUNFORGOTTEN, the second book in the Unremembered Trilogy by Jessica Brody, is now in stores! Some memories are better left forgotten... After a daring escape from the scientists at Diotech who created her, Seraphina believes she is finally safe from the horrors of her past. But new threats await Sera and her boyfriend, Zen, at every turn as Zen falls prey to a mysterious illness and Sera’s extraordinary abilities make it more and more difficult to stay hidden. Meanwhile, Diotech has developed a dangerous new weapon designed to apprehend her. A weapon that even Sera will be powerless to stop. Her only hope of saving Zen’s life and defeating the company that made her is a secret buried deep within her mind. A secret that Diotech will kill to protect. And it won’t stay forgotten for long. Packed with mystery, suspense, and romance, this riveting second installment of Jessica Brody’s Unremembered trilogy delivers more heart-pounding action as loyalties are tested, love becomes a weapon, and no one’s memories are safe.

Get a Special FREE Purchase Gift!

Download the first 5 Chapters FREE!

See Jessica on Tour!

Play the Unforgettable Fan Challenge (with guaranteed prizes for all Unforgettable Fans!)

  Haven't read Unremembered, the first book in the trilogy? Click here to learn all about it and read the first 5 chapters free! Also be sure to check out, UNDISCOVERED, the eBook novella told from Zen's point of view!


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20. AWP and my upcoming class at Hugo House!

I love teaching and sharing knowledge/talking about YA Fiction just as much as I love reading and writing it, so I'm particularly psyched that I've got a couple of upcoming opportunities to do so even though I've got a busy dayjob right now (and meanwhile, having been keeping my nose to the grindstone before and after work to finish my proposal for my zine-style essay collection!)

The first will be the AWP (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) Conference, which is being held in Seattle this year (perfect timing! It's like yet another present for moving here!) from Wednesday, February 26 through Saturday, March 1st. I will be on a panel on Thursday, February 27th from 10:30 am to 11:45 am with Micol Ostow, Laurel Snyder, Nova Ren Suma, and Sara Zarr in Room 618/619/620, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6!

Stellar line-up, right? I KNOW! I feel so lucky to be chatting with these brilliant woman and I think our topic is pretty damn interesting:

Commercial Literary Fiction (Not an Oxymoron): The Place of Craft in Writing and Teaching Children's and Young Adult Literature

Young Adult and Children’s literature are exciting, increasingly popular markets that many writers want to break into. How do you make your manuscript—or help make your students’ manuscripts—stand out... and sell? How does being commercial mean respecting the reader, not something crass? Five published YA and Children’s authors will present exercises they employ in their own writing, and in workshops they teach, to develop authentic voice, characters, and story worlds that editors will snap up.

Please come and see us if you are in town for AWP!

Then, I will actually be putting these teaching techniques I'm talking about into practice in Seattle this spring! I'm teaching a Young Adult Fiction Workshop at Hugo House, which begins on May 1st! This workshop will be focused on generating material and getting regular feedback from critique partners in class, though we will still talk about craft and I’ll bring exercises to the table in each class. This should be super helpful for anyone who is trying to finish or revise a draft of a YA book and it will be motivating for anyone who is just starting a draft because you’ll be encouraged to bring in up to 10 pages a week.

Because of the workshop style, this class will be capped at 10, so register ASAP! Registration is open for Hugo House members now and will open to the general public on 2/18!

I hope to meet all sorts of new writers at AWP and at Hugo House this spring!

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21. When you doubt Dylan Farrow, You doubt me

Last Saturday, the New York Times ran an open letter from Dylan Farrow about being sexually abused by her father Woody Allen. I read it on the couch while my husband was making pasta. I started to cry, stopped, read the first paragraph aloud to my husband, choked up, stopped. I didn't write about it. I didn't even post on Facebook or tweet about it, I just liked and retweeted the things other people said so much more eloquently than I could. At night in my office when I was supposed to be working on my book proposal, I read a lot of articles and blogs in support of Dylan and skimmed the ones in defense of Woody because they left me feeling sick. Friday night while my husband ran into the bank, I scrolled aimlessly through my Facebook feed and saw that someone had posted the word, "Finally," and a link to Woody's defense of himself.

"Finally?" I thought. What does that mean? Finally he gets a chance to defend himself? Finally he makes a statement. Why finally? Why do we have to let this powerful, old white man take the mic back? Why is that something we should be eager for?  Oh, right. Because it's the way of the world.

I didn't want to click on the link. I didn't want to know what he had to say.

I clicked on the link. I read a couple of paragraphs. Scott came out of the bank. I locked the screen and ranted briefly that finally Woody Allen had responded and of course he was saying Mia brainwashed Dylan and why is this the world we live in. Then I changed the subject to how I had to pee. I think I ranted about it again later and then changed the subject once again. This has pretty much been my week, ranting privately to a person that I know completely understands why I'm ranting and then changing the subject because that is all I can handle emotionally.

We went to bed at eleven. I woke up at 1:30 am feeling angry and sick. So fucking angry and sick that I couldn't go back to sleep, so here I am, in a dark room, wrapped in a blanket, writing this. Because it just isn't okay with me that the last word on this is Woody Allen's. I didn't and won't read the rest of it (at least I hope I won't, I keep not wanting to read any of this), but I'm sure a lot of people did and I'm sure it will lead to a lot of victim blaming or at least a lot of Mia Farrow blaming because somehow it's more honorable and okay to say this vengeful woman implanted memories in her child's head than to say this seven year-old girl lied. Even though that's what you're saying. You're saying, "Dylan Farrow, I don't believe you." And the reason I haven't been able to talk/tweet/status update about this is because every time I hear someone say that they don't believe Dylan Farrow, I think they wouldn't believe me either.

As anyone who is close to me knows--hell, as most people who've read my blog, Rookie essays, and even my fiction know, I had a boyfriend who did things to me when I was fifteen. Who emotionally and sexually abused me. Who messed me up bad. I'm not going to go into detail here because I'm not succinct enough. I actually just wrote a fifty-page essay about it for the non-fiction collection I'm working on because it's that complicated. Most sexual violence is. I don't actually know any women who were just grabbed when they were walking down the street and assaulted--not to say that doesn't happen because it most certainly does, but all the women I know were violated by people they knew. Boyfriends, friends, neighbors, babysitters, acquaintances, uncles, brothers, fathers. For a lot of them, for me definitely, it's a gray thing that they aren't sure what words to use for. I didn't say no. I didn't say no because I was told that since I'd said yes in the past, if I said no, it meant I was saying, "I don't love you and I want to break up." So I had sex, or rather let sex happen to me on the floor of my best-friend-at-time's bedroom with tears in my eyes, too afraid to say that the ring I wore around my neck was bruising my collarbone and I was getting rug burn, and when I walked out of that room already ashamed, my "friend" hissed, "Slut," before I could explain myself. Like I could explain myself. I also had sex repeatedly on my knees in a dirty park bathroom during lunch period. I used to conjugate verbs and practice geometry problems in my head to keep from crying.

Okay, I guess I went into detail after all even though that is only a small part of a very complicated story. I didn't mean to. It's 2:46 am and I don't usually have much of an internal censor, but it's totally off right now. I might delete that later.

But the point is, I didn't know what to call that. I still don't know what to call that. When I confronted my abuser, he completely denied any sort of wrongdoing because he didn't force me to do anything. A male friend also told me that I couldn't call it rape or even abuse because I had not said no. I know or at least felt like a lot of other people doubted me. They also doubted the girl who was hanging out with my abuser one night and woke up with his hand inside of her because she was a slut/just wanted attention.

Every woman I know who has been violated, has been violated even worse by people questioning her, doubting her, saying that it's her word versus his and it's innocent until proven guilty and her word is not enough to prove guilt.

This is why it has been so hard for me to read/talk about Dylan Farrow. I take that doubt personally. Even though, I feel happy and healthy and whole now, almost nineteen years after my experience, the doubt creeps in and it hurts me. It gives me nightmares about my abuser for the first time in years. It makes me think I see him on the bus and have to take a deep breath and remember that I am in a city that to my knowledge, he has never stepped foot in. It makes me wake up in the middle of the night angry. Compelled to spend an hour writing a blog post when I should be sleeping.

But Dylan did a very brave thing by telling her story and it makes me too angry to think that Woody will get the last word. So even though this is only a blog post, not the New York Times, I had to take the mic back from him, and by extension, from the boy who told me, "I didn't do anything wrong, it's all in your head," and from all the other men who have hurt the women I love.

ETA: Glad to see Dylan taking the mic back, too. Also if reading this or any of the coverage of Dylan's abuse has felt triggering please go to rainn.org. They can help.

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22. GCC Presents: Kristina Springer!

For my first Girlfriends Cyber Circuit tour of the year, I'm happy to present one of my old Illinois SCBWI buddies, Kristina Springer, who is here to talk about her new book, My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours!

About My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours

Seventh grade was supposed to be fun, but Tori is having major drama with her BFF, Sienna. Sienna changed a lot over the summer—on the first day of school she’s tan, confident, and full of stories about her new dreamy boyfriend. Tori knows that she’s totally making this guy up. So Tori invents her own fake boyfriend, who is better than Sienna’s in every way. Things are going great—unless you count the whole lying-to-your-best-friend thing—until everyone insists Tori and Sienna bring their boyfriends to the back-to-school dance.

About the Author:

Kristina Springer is the best-selling author of THE ESPRESSOLOGIST, MY FAKE BOYFRIEND IS BETTER THAN YOURS, JUST YOUR AVERAGE PRINCESS, THE PAPARAZZI PROJECT and BOY SWAP. She has a Masters in Writing from DePaul University and she resides in a suburb of Chicago with her husband and children. Read more about her at http://www.kristinaspringer.com and follow her on twitter @TinaSpringer.

The Interview:

Q: What inspired you to write this book?

Kristina: I had my own fake boyfriend in 7th grade and I was thinking about that time and the idea for this book came to me.

Q: The main character of my first book, I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE, is the kind of girl I wanted to be (a rock star!), the MC of my second book has a lot more in common with teenage me. Is your main character someone you wish you could be, someone a lot like you, or your total opposite? How so? 

Kristina: She’s a lot like me actually. She comes up with crazy ideas/schemes and just has to carry them out.

Q: If there was a soundtrack for your book what are five songs that would be on it and how do they relate the story?

Kristina: I can’t even start to think of five songs. I listen to music in the car but can never remember names of songs/bands.

Q: In addition to writing books, I also write for a website for teens called Rookie, which has a regular feature called "Literally The Best Thing Ever," wherein we write about a thing that we think is super mega awesome (even if it is the type of thing that others might call a guilty pleasure, we believe there is nothing guilty about pleasure!) and explain why we think it is literally the best thing ever. It's generally a kind of unexpected thing, for example I wrote one about the soap opera, One Life To Live. I don't expect you to write a whole essay obviously, but can you briefly tell us what either you or your character (or both!) would say is "Literally The Best Thing Ever" and why?

Kristina: Gilmore Girls is literally the best thing ever. I can watch any episode again and again and never grow tired of the story line, people, the town etc. It’s like the perfect comfort show if I’m having a bad day. I love it and want to move to Stars Hollow, CT.

Q: What are you working on for us next?

Kristina: Another fun middle grade. I don’t want to jinx myself by saying too much but I’m loving it. 


Kristina is running a My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours Release Contest until 1/15/14.
Here’s what the winner will get:
 • A $20 gift card (Starbucks or Amazon, your choice!),
 • Autographed copy of My Fake Boyfriend is Better Than Yours,
 • Fake Boyfriend Emergency Kit, and a
 • Variety of bookmarks/stickers from all of her

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23. 2013's goals (mostly) achieved and 2014's UBERLIST!

After at least three (probably five if I'm honest) really hard years, I was determined that 2013 would be different. I mean, 13 is my lucky number, so it needed to be my year, right? And overall, I think it was. No, scratch that, it definitely was because it was the year I reclaimed my ability to be happy, forced myself to stop obsessing over what I couldn't control and totally made me miserable (ie. publishing and my writing career) and take ownership over what I could control (ie. where I live and what I do for a living.) 2013, as I said on my YA Outside the Lines blog post a couple of week ago, was the year I celebrated change and true happiness. I honestly can't break it down better than I did there, so if you haven't read that post, go ahead, I'll wait.

Moving here 

Seattle, AKA Heaven
was the best decision I've made in my entire life, aside from marrying my husband. It was a fantasy for so long until this time last year I decided to make it an actual goal. It was terrifying. It felt like there were so many ways I could fail, but I didn't and that changed me in so many ways. For the better. I feel a thousand times healthier than I did a year ago and a million times better than I did at the end of 2010 and 2011.

The second part of my "move to Seattle" goal was "find a way to support myself that is rewarding (ie. NOT the service industry) and gives me time to enjoy life, time with Scott, relax and write." I managed to pull that off, too. I have a better idea of what I want to do as a career now (besides writing, I've reconciled that I can't earn a living/center my life on that) and I do have time to relax and enjoy the life my husband and I are building for ourselves. I'm still figuring out how to balance writing with that. I have a plan and hopefully I'll be able to motivate to see it through. But my number one goal for this year was "Remember that enjoying the day to day moments with family and friends are more important than anything else. Enjoy the small things and worry less about $, job, etc." Zeroing in on that was just as essential as moving in making me a happier person. It will continue to be my main focus for 2014.

The other two goals I listed in my journal last year were to multitask less, which is something I'm continually working on (and the reason I blog a lot less because I've stopped trying to do ALL THE THINGS ALL THE TIME) and recommit to my health, which I definitely did because this is the year I officially became a runner. I run at least 5K every Saturday morning and I fucking love it (and still think I'm crazy for loving it).

I also had 7 writing related goals (plus an "overall goal"), too. I sealed them in envelopes (an idea I stole from Nova Ren Suma last year!) and opened them this weekend. There were two things that I didn't work on at all and have been moved to my 2014 list. There were also two goals (along with that overall goal) that I consider to be ongoing, but I did pretty well at. One is "allow yourself to set big goals, but don't beat yourself up if you don't meet them. Instead be grateful for what you achieved, reassess and set new goals." The other is "write as often as possible. Fit it in around your routine which is ever changing. But don't beat yourself up when it's not possible. Instead give yourself space to daydream and remember that recharging periods are part of the process." I kind of feel like the second half of 2013 was all recharging and I'm not sure if I'm okay with that, but it's a work-in-progress, much like my overall goal which is "Be Happy. Be happy with how you write, what you write, and where you are headed. Find something at the end of each writing session to be grateful about. Continue to rebuild our faith in yourself and your love of writing. Know that your routine and career is different from everyone else's and embrace that. Figure out what you love and keep doing it. Walk away from what is making you miserable--not challenges, misery. You know the difference. Trust yourself and live each day with gratitude." I definitely did my best with that and will carry it over as my mantra/overall goal for next year.In fact. I think it needs to be out of the envelope and tacked up on my bulletin board in all of it's Hello Kitty stationary glory.

Yes, I did write all of my writing goals on this stationary.

Then there were the three goals I either fully or mostly achieved. One was to try something new, even if it was just a chapter of a book. I listed a few things I thought I could try and I've only tried one of them, but it is the project that's first on my list for next year. I also did try a new story idea that maybe I'll mess with in the future. I consider trying new things to be an ongoing goal too.

Another mostly achieved goal was to read more. I wanted to read 2 or preferably 4 books a month. It may not sound like a huge goal--grad school Stephanie who definitely read at least a book a week would certainly scoff at it, but post-grad school Stephanie, bartender Stephanie who worked at night during her best reading time had been lucky if she read one book every month--one book every two months was probably what actually happened. This year I read 33--and might make it 34 depending on how I do with the book I'm currently reading. I probably could have done better if I hadn't been to exhausted with the moving to read for about a month. Regardless, I consider that a success, though my goal to read more nonfiction and craft books was a total fail. That's on the list for next year and I really am hoping to read 50 books all together.

My most concrete goal was this: "Finish [redacted, real title of The Grief Book]. Preferably finish a first draft by March 1. Definitely have it submission ready by summer. Write this book how it needs to be written. Don't compare it to past efforts. Just write." I finished my first draft on April 11th and it was on submission by the end of May. I think it's the best book I've written. It was definitely the fastest book I've ever written, started in August of last year, so completed, including a revision for my agent, in under ten months. (Though I did write the first thirty or forty pages in 2011 when I was cheating on my manuscript, so maybe tack a couple extra weeks on that. Oh but I also didn't work on it for the entire month of December, so yeah, I'm sticking with under ten months.) And now it's been on submission for half a year. This is distressing. This is what is making it hard for me to motivate myself to fit writing back into my life. But this part is also out of my control (unless I choose to self publish, which I don't want to do with this book. Other projects, maybe). I can't let this detract from what I actually achieved, which is the part that I could control. I kicked ass at that.

This year I'm doing something different in terms of goals thanks to Danielle Henderson, one of my fabulous fellow Rookie staffers (and now IRL friend because she moved to Seattle this year too!!!) She told us how she creates an uberlist for each year with 100 things plus the number of the year, so this year for her 114 things. I decided to do 100 plus the age I'll be turning, so I have a list of 135 things. Before you think I'm going to kill myself with an attempt to overachieve know that while I have things like:

Writing: Finish the proposal for the zine-style essay memoir book
Writing: Decide if I’m rewriting [redacted, real name of the bartender book]
Writing: Decide if I’m self-pubbing [redacted, real name of the bartender book]
Writing: Do whatever I’ve decided to do about [redacted, initials of the real name of the bartender book], that puppy needs to be out in the world.

I also have things like:

Reading: Read the damn magazines on the coffee table or let them GO.
Mental Health: Note at least one small thing you are grateful for in the 5-year journal every night.
Body: Build up to running 5 miles on Saturdays
Body: Try to get down to at least an 11:30 min/mile
Body/Fun: Learn to bellydance
Body/Fun/Explore: Go canoeing again at least once, try a new spot.
Family: Play with the cats every day
Crafty Stuff: Get back in action on the t-shirt project. You moved an entire plastic bin of too-big t-shirts across the country to make into fitted shirts or skirts or dresses or whatever so do it because otherwise they have to go to Goodwill and you will cry.
Crafty Stuff: Try new crafty DIYS, start with the ones that intrigued you on Rookie.
Crafty Stuff:Make a zine again for the first time since 1998. Even if it is just for you.
Food:Try baking again even though you think you hate it.
Travel: Go to Vancouver
Travel:Go to Mount Rainier and maybe camp but only if Scott understands that camping to me means in a cabin not in a tent bc otherwise ew
Travel:Go to the WA coast
Travel/Money/Love: Go to Hawaii if we can afford it and if not start planning/budgeting so we can soon.
Explore/Grow Yr Mind:Go to those Seward Park nature walks and learn about birds and bats!
Explore/Body:Keep finding more cool places for Sunday hikes.
Fun: Get another tattoo. At least one, preferably three. (0/1-3) And start one of the big pieces you keep talking about. (0/1) 
Fun:Finish rewatching Twin Peaks
Fun:Finish rewatching The X-Files
Fun:Rewatch Buffy
Fun:Watch Doctor Who
Fun: Go to at least one concert at mural
Fun: Go to at least one movie in the park
Fun: Go to at least one festival
Fun: Start [Redacted because it's a thing that makes me a bad role model... but you can probably guess from the context ;)] again because it’s legal here and I like it so why the fuck not

        Will I do all 135 things? Probably not. But I've got a support group of Rookie staffers who are 2014 uberlisters and I'm going to have a blast trying to do as much as possible, while at the same time keeping my eye on what is truly important to me like this stuff:

        Mental Health: As much as you love lists and plans, don’t get too obsessed and beat yourself up for not doing all the things at the exact times you thought you would.
        Personal Challenge/Mental Health: In other words, continue working on being laid back.
        Personal Challenge/Mental Health: Work on being patient
        Personal Challenge/Mental Health: Continue to work on being assertive
        Personal Challenge/Mental Health: Continue to appreciate your happiness
        Personal Challenge/Mental Health: Continue to work on living in the moment/everything Liz taught you.

        Just making the the uberlist was inspiring and helped me focus on what matters most, so I highly encourage it.

        What are your goals big and small?

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        24. GCC Presents: Denise Jaden!

        Rather than doing a traditional interview-filled blog tour, Denise Jaden is celebrating the release of her new nonfiction writing book, FAST FICTION, by dropping tips about writing quickly at every stop of her blog tour, and offering some awesome prizes for commenting on any of these posts (including this one!)

        The more you drop by and comment, the more chances you have to win these great prizes:

        Denise's Fast Fiction Tip: Keep looking toward "The End".

        Literally the best thing ever, for me, is typing the words “The End.” Those words come with a rush of satisfaction and joy and relief and calm. It’s not just completing the project, either. Part of the reason why this is the best thing ever is that I know I work really well off of a completed draft. After giving a draft a rest, I love looking back at the beginning, middle, and end, and seeing how they all flow together. I often read through and have a completely clear vision on how to revise my book without any outside input, at least initially. Plus, it’s fun to post on Facebook: Hey, I just finished another book!

        The Prizes:

        • Compliments of New World Library: They will be giving away A BOX of copies of FAST FICTION by Denise Jaden and GET IT DONE by Sam Bennett (US and Canada only):
        • Compliments of Denise Jaden, TWO BOXES of great fiction (US Only). Details on Denise's blog.
        • Audiobook copies of NEVER ENOUGH by Denise Jaden!
        • A critique of your first five pages, compliments of Denise's agent, Michelle Humphrey from The Martha Kaplan Agency!

        All you have to do is enter the rafflecopter for a chance to win (at the bottom of this post, I've included links to all of the other blogs where you can comment for more chances to win).

        About Fast Fiction:

        Writers flock to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) each November because it provides a procrastination-busting deadline. But only a fraction of the participants meet their goal. Denise Jaden was part of that fraction, writing first drafts of her two published young adult novels during NaNoWriMo. In Fast Fiction, she shows other writers how to do what she did, step-by-step, writer to writer. Her process starts with a prep period for thinking through plot, theme, characters, and setting. Then Jaden provides day-by-day coaching for the thirty-day drafting period. Finally, her revision tips help writers turn merely workable drafts into compelling and publishable novels.

        A portion of publisher proceeds will be donated to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo)

        Praise for Fast Fiction:

        “Fast Fiction is filled with stellar advice, solid-gold tips, and doable, practical exercises for all writers who want to draft a complete novel.”
        — Melissa Walker, author of Violet on the Runway

        “Being a ‘pantser’ I have always resisted outlining, but I have to say that Fast Fiction changed my mind! Denise Jaden takes what I find to be a scary process (outlining) and makes it into an easy and, dare I say, enjoyable one. Fast Fiction is a hands-on book that asks the right questions to get your mind and your story flowing. I know I’ll be using Fast Fiction over and over again. Highly recommended for fiction writers!
        — Janet Gurtler, author of RITA Award finalist I’m Not Her

        “Fast Fiction is full of strategies and insights that will inspire and motivate writers of every experience level — and best of all, it provides them with a solid plan to quickly complete the first draft of their next novel.”
        — Mindi Scott, author of Freefall

        “Fast Fiction provides writers with the perfect mix of practical guidance and the kick in the pants they need to finish that draft. This book is a must-have for writers of all levels.”
        — Eileen Cook, author of The Almost Truth

        Practical and down-to-earth, Denise Jaden’s Fast Fiction makes a one-month draft seem doable, even for beginners, any month of the year.”
        — Jennifer Echols, author of Endless Summer and Playing Dirty

        “One of the greatest challenges any writer faces is getting a great idea out of one’s brain and onto the page. Fast Fiction breaks that process down into concrete, manageable steps, each accompanied by Denise Jaden’s sage advice and enthusiastic encouragement. And anything that helps streamline the drafting process is a-okay by me! Fast Fiction is a great addition to any writer’s toolbox — I’ve got it in mine!”
        — Catherine Knutsson, author of Shadows Cast by Stars

        “Forget the fact that this resource is directed at those wanting to complete a fast draft — if you’re out to get your novel done, period, Jaden’s Fast Fiction will be the kick in the butt that gets you there, from story plan to ‘The End’. . . and beyond.”
        — Judith Graves, author of the Skinned series for young adults

        Where you can find Fast Fiction:

        Help an author out:
        Can't get a copy of FAST FICTION right now? I wonder if you'd consider helping out in other ways. I'd really appreciate any way that you can help!

        • Ask your library or bookstore to bring in FAST FICTION
        • Leave a review on Amazon (the more books are reviewed on Amazon, the more they will show up as suggestions for readers).
        • Mention FAST FICTION on Facebook, Twitter, your blog, or pin a link to Amazon on Pinterest
        Blog Tour Stops:
        Comment on any of the following blog posts celebrating Fast Fiction's release to be entered to win prizes galore! 
        (All Fast Fiction blog posts should be live by March 9th, or sooner. Contest will be open until March 15th. If any links don't work, stop by http://denisejaden.blogspot.com for updated links.)

        GCC Blogs:

        Additional Participating Blogs:

        Remember, all you have to do is leave comments to get lots of extra entries to win some great prizes. 
        Don't know what to comment about? Tell us the name of your favorite writing book!

        Share this widget here:
        http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/share-code/Y2QyYmEwOTMzNTUyNGRiYWY0NWE1YWE4YjBjN2I2OjQ=/ a Rafflecopter giveaway

        Or, if the Rafflecopter Giveaway doesn't seem to be coming up on this blog, access it here: http://www.denisejaden.com/FastFictionContest.html

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        25. GCC Presents: Eileen Cook!

        Year of Mistaken Discoveries Cover Year of Mistaken Discoveries by Eileen Cook is now available!

        About the book: Friendship is a bond stronger than secrets in this novel from the author of The Almost Truth and Unraveling Isobel. As first graders, Avery and Nora bonded over a special trait they shared—they were both adopted. Years later, Avery is smart, popular, and on the cheerleading squad, while Nora spends her time on the fringes of school society, wearing black, reading esoteric poetry, and listening to obscure music. They never interact...until the night Nora approaches Avery at a party, saying it’s urgent. She tells Avery that she thought she found her birth mom—but it turned out to be a cruel lie. Avery feels for Nora, but returns to her friends at the party. Then Avery learns that Nora overdosed on pills. Left to cope with Nora’s loss and questioning her own actions, Avery decides to honor her friend by launching a search for her own birth mother. Aided by Brody, a friend of Nora’s who is also looking for a way to respect Nora’s legacy, Avery embarks on an emotional quest. But what she’s really seeking might go far deeper than just genetics…

        You can buy the book here: Indie Bound Amazon Barnes and Noble Chapters/Indigo

         What Others Are Saying:
         “Cook combines friendship drama, boy troubles, romance, family conflict, and college application stress with a protagonist trying to understand who she really is in the wake of tragedy.” Publisher’s Weekly

         “Cook delves into some interesting questions about what is really important in life as well as the challenges associated with self-discovery and determining how far you’ll go to get what you want.” Booklist

         “An insightful, entertaining exploration of the impact of a suicide” Kirkus

         “Eileen Cook returns with Year of Mistaken Discoveries, a romantic tragi-comedy from the perspective of the most popular–often most hated–girl in high school: the cheerleader… Year of Mistaken Discoveries is provoking, fast-paced entertainment, and Cook successfully tackles some tough issues with a very light touch.” Readerly- The National Reading Campaign.

         “Given the choice between contemporary and paranormal YA, I will almost always pick contemporary and Eileen Cook is the perfect example of why.” Nerdy Book Club- Kelly’s Top 15 Books for 2014 

        "This book is amazing! Everyone should buy at least five copies." Eileen's mom.

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