Links Galore

Lots of link-y goodness:


Upcoming Events: Buttonwood Books and the Boston Teen Author Festival!

A couple of new and excellent events to add to the calendar!

On Wednesday, August 13 at 7pm, I’ll be at Buttonwood Books in Cohasset, MA with fellow 2014 debut YA author (and all around delightful person) Skylar Dorset. We’ll be BrOEEmsCAAAGCN2talking about writing, being debut authors, how awesome YA is, and more.

And then on September 27, I’ll be part of the 2014 Boston Teen Author Festival at the Cambridge Public Library. Other authors on this year’s schedule include local favorites like A.C. Gaughen, Sashi Kaufman, Diana Renn, and Erin Dionne; and I might just fangirl myself into a frenzy over fellow Candlewick author M.T. Anderson.

Check out the Appearances and Interviews page for more info, and mark your calendars now!


The Secret Life of a YA Writer in a Traditional MFA Program

This month at Ploughshares, I’m sharing a little of my experience at a traditional MFA program and ending up a YA writer.

I know other YA writers who went through traditional MFA programs and weren’t as happy with their experiences, but I appreciated having the time to focus on craft and technique. And I think it helped that my program was a little more flexible than most–I got to take classes outside of my genre, and also crossed over a lot with the publishing program.

Obviously you don’t need to get an MFA to be a writer or learn/practice craft. There are a million different ways to be a writer and you have to find what works for you.

Click through to read the full post, and enjoy the Lost gif.

My Interview with Aisha Saeed at Story and Chai

Today’s post comes via Story and Chai, a fantastic website about diverse narratives created by Jennifer Zobair. I’m talking with fellow YA author and agent-sister Aisha Saeed about The Chance You Won’t Return, mental health, writing from outside your own experience, and more.

Aisha asked lots of thoughtful questions, and I’m so glad to have the opportunity to talk about The Chance You Won’t Return and what I hope readers get out of it about Alex and her family’s situation.

Click through to see the full interview, and make sure to check out the rest of Story and Chai!

Links Galore

A few good links for the middle of the week:

Quote of the Day

“Writing is a job, a talent, but it’s also the place to go in your head. It is the imaginary friend you drink your tea with in the afternoon.”
― Ann Patchett, Truth and Beauty

This perfectly describes the writing process for me. Yes, it’s a job and can be hard and not everyone has that skill, but it’s also the way I process the world and how I go about my daily life. It makes me think “Oh, I bet this WIP character goes to Catholic school,” or “This is exactly how this WIP character first realized she loved X.” I love spending time in these worlds and with these people who don’t actually exist.

My Interview with the Fearless Fifteeners

Today I’m at the Fearless Fifteeners blog, talking with my wonderful agent-sister and 2015 debut author Anna-Marie McLemore about The Chance You Won’t Return, writing, romance, neurological differences, and what I’m not afraid of.

Anna-Marie asked some fantastic questions, and I’m excited to share the interview with you all. We actually had to cut some material because we talked too much. But here is a little of the extra Q&A:

I’ve heard you say that one of your favorite writing tips is not to develop writing rituals. How has this proven good advice for you?
I know I would use rituals as a crutch (“I only write at night!” “I need to have coffee while I write!”) so telling myself that rituals don’t get the work done means that I can potentially sneak in writing time anywhere/anytime. Not that I always do, but at least it’s one less excuse. ;)

Do you have any writing rituals that have crept in anyway? A favorite time of day to draft? A favorite drink or snack while revising?
As much as I love coffee and tea, my favorite writing beverage is lots and lots of water. Woohoo hydration! I also tend to like drafting at night, but that might be because I do the day job thing so most of my writing time is in the evening. My biggest ritual is probably having carefully crafted playlists for each project. I can write without them, but I love having a book soundtrack playing in the background for inspiration.

Make sure to check out the Fearless Fifteeners blog for the full interview, and get to know some awesome 2015 debut authors like Anna-Marie.

Links Galore

A few good links for today:

Ten Reasons Why You Should Read…Open Road Summer

Around this time of year, I start craving summer vacation, even though I’m way out of high school. Even if I can’t take a summer off, I can turn to some awesome summer vacation-y reading. One of my new favorites? Open Road Summer by Emery Lord. I’d been looking forward to this one for a while and it so delivered. Here are a few reasons to read Open Road Summer.

1. Not a Nice Girl
There are a lot of nice girls in YA–girls who are shy and do what they’re told and wish things could be different. Reagan O’Neill is not a nice girl and I love that. Don’t get me wrong–she’s loyal and funny and the kind of best friend you want around. But I love that she’s also bold and fierce and funny and flirty and makes mistakes. She’s the kind of girl I wouldn’t have expected to be friends with in high school, and would have found myself totally drawn to before realizing “Of course we’re friends!”

2. Nice Guys
Matt Finch, y’all. Meet your new YA crush. Matt’s a former child music star who’s trying to make it as an adult in the music industry. He’s talented and funny and and sweet and open. I just love his chemistry with Reagan.

3. Best Friends Forever
The romance in Open Road Summer is fantastic, but it’s just as much about friendship, which is so refreshing. Reagan and Dee feel like girls who have known each other forever and will always be in each other’s corners. Dee is such a fun character in her own right, too–she doesn’t exist just as a plot device for Reagan, which is how so many “best friend” characters end up feeling. She’s got her own stresses and struggles to deal with, like trying to figure out how to balance wanting a career as a musician with wanting a regular life at home with the guy she loves. (Okay, maybe I need a Dee sequel.)

4. Music and Lyrics
Emery Lord, are you secretly a country-pop-folk music guru? Music pervades Open Road Summer, which makes sense as the main characters are all on a cross-country music road tour. Usually I feel like music lyrics in books fall flat, but Emery seriously nails them. Whenever characters are singing/playing/listening to music, I felt like I could hear the song myself. The only other time I can really think of this happening was with The Commitments by Roddy Doyle. This is major praise coming from me, guys.

5. Road Trip
Reading Open Road Summer was like getting a mini-vacation. The characters cross the country, hitting Memphis and LA and Charlotte and Chicago and lots of stops in between. Even (especially?) if you’re not taking your own road trip this summer, this book will give you all those good travel vibes.

6. Behind the Scenes
Emery does a great job of looking at the life of a rising musician and what challenges, excitement, and stresses go along with that. We get to see the good things, like adorable fans who are just so freaking excited to hear their favorite songs, and the bad things, like pregnancy rumors and being trapped in a photoshoot without getting to eat any of the craft service food without risking makeup ruin. I love that Dee understands that this life has major ups and downs, and her frustrations never feel whiney.

7. Family Ties
For a book largely about friendship and relationships, there are also a lot of awesome family dynamics in here. From Reagan’s complicated family situation to Dee’s supportive family to Matt’s situation with his mom, there are a lot of interesting looks at what it means to be a family and how we connect when times get tough. A majorly pleasant surprise.

8. Photo Opp
Dee’s not the only talented friend in the relationship–Reagan’s a photographer who documents her time on the road. I loved this aspect of her personality, and also that Reagan mentions things like particular types of cameras and having taken classes at school and photo editing. It wasn’t a major plot issue, but it made Reagan feel that much more real.

9. YA/NA
“New Adult” has been a phrase that’s been batted around a lot over the last couple of years, and I feel like reading Open Road Summer made me think “oh, this is kind of what it is.” Dee and Matt are navigating their careers, and Reagan is figuring out where her life is going next. Although I’d still classify Open Road Summer as pretty clearly YA, I can see it having a lot of crossover appeal to slightly older fans, and I think it’s a good indication of what New Adult could be.

10. Emery Lord Is Awesome
Emery and I are agent-sisters (yay Taylor Martindale!) and she was one of the first people I interacted with post-signing. From the first email exchange, Emery has been one of the sweetest, funniest, most genuine people in the YA world. I’m so excited for readers to experience her lovely book and to see her career grow.

Open Road Summer is available now, so make sure to add it to your summer reading list!

Wood Sculptures, Books That Make You Cry, and Writing Sympathetic Characters: A YA Panel in Barrington, RI

photo 1 (1)

The Panel!

Last night I was part of my first YA author panel, hosted by the Barrington Bookstore and the Barrington Public Library. Having grown up in Rhode Island, this was a really fun and exciting opportunity for me.

On the panel with me were Tara Sullivan, author of Golden Boy, Katie Cotugno, author of How to Love, Bianca Turetsky, author of The Time-Traveling Fashionista series, and Katie Davis, author of Dancing with the Devil. Our moderator was the wonderful Alyisha Foley, librarian and blogger and kidlit enthusiast. Alyisha had great questions, and I loved hearing my fellow panelists talk about their own experiences writing books for teen readers and about their own young reading experiences.

A few favorite moments from the panel:

  • All of us agreeing that middle/high school are so freaking hard and basically when you need books the most.
  • Also agreeing that sometimes spoken communication is hard–long live the text/email!
  • Talking about what why flawed characters are compelling and real.
  • Tara Sullivan sharing an ebony wood sculpture. (Made me flash back to all those good Habo and Kweli moments!)
  • Bianca Turetsky’s shoutout to the Baby-Sitters’ Club.
  • Getting to sign The Chance You Won’t Return for RI family and friends, including the parents of some of my friends from high school.

photo 2Thanks so much to Anika Denise and Barrington Books for organizing such a great panel, to the Barrington Library for letting us use their wonderful space, and to everyone who came out on a Wednesday night to hear us talk about the awesomeness of YA!