Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Love Blind's release & Why I'm Grateful for Jolene

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! The day for LOVE BLIND's release is finally here. The journey of this book has been a long one, and if you'd like to read more about it, you can do that here. Suffice it to say, we first wrote this book in a series of back and forth emails and a Word doc in 2011 before I'd ever met my collaboration partner Jolene Perry in real life. 

A few things you need to know about the book: 
1. This is probably the "lightest" book I've ever written. (Though fair warning, everything is relative and I'm me so don't think it's all kittens and unicorns. SLJ said, "it hits hard, exploring issues such as depression, homosexuality, and loss of virginity." But truthfully, it's quite a bit lighter than my other books. Oh Christa. )
2. I wrote Kyle's part, Jolene wrote Hailey's part. We wrote a lot on top of each other's parts. It was messy and fun and Jolene is the easiest collaboration partner a person could ask for.
3. This is the closest to a "happily ever after" that I've ever gotten. It was not really meant to be a love story when we started off. If you ever meet me in real life, I'll tell you how much this book changed from start to finish. (Fair warning again: "love story" is a relative term for me and I doubt anyone will be doing any swooning. I'm not really the swoon kind of writer. Poor Jolene. She writes a lot of swoony guys, and this time I made it next to impossible for her. Heh.)

And now I will make a list of my absolute favorite things about Jolene and why I'm so lucky to have her in my life:

1. Every time I call her she's in the midst of doing some project for someone else. I have never known anyone who is so willing to step in and lend a hand to whatever endeavor. 
I have no idea what Jo is doing here but this is not unusual behavior.
 2. Jolene is one of probably 4 liberals in her town in Alaska. She's married to a dude who prosecutes sex crimes and they are a real-deal love story. Also, while I'm wandering around Chicago walking my dog and taking my kids to the library, Jo and her husband are doing things like snow machining. Or whatever. ALASKA!
This is Jo & her husband. They live in this place with woods!
3. Jolene writes love stories, but more importantly Jolene writes about girls who make bad choices and who have a million reasons why they should probably give up and then they figure out a way to keep going. This is her central project as a writer and if you know anything about Jolene's relationship with her daughter, you know that lifting that girl up and making her believe that anything/everything is possible is Jo's central project in life.

I mean, for real, aren't they the cutest?
4. Jolene is one of the most chatty and warm people I have ever met. We have made our way to SCBWI in LA for several years because it's the halfway point between Alaska and Chicago and Jo manages to draw in everyone. She is hilarious and infectious and incredibly creative and easy to talk to. And probably the most important of all, she is up for whatever nonsense I am dropping at her feet.
With Jolene at the Bean when she decided to drop her life and finally come meet me here. 
So here's the book description:

Shy high schooler Kyle Jamieson and Hailey Bosler, a musician with degenerative blindness, team up to tackle a bucket list of greatest fears in this compelling novel that explores what it means to take risks.

It starts with a list of fears. Stupid things really. Things that Hailey shouldn t worry about, wouldn t worry about if she didn t wake up every morning with the world a little more blurry. Unable to see her two moms clearly. Unable to read the music for her guitar. One step closer to losing the things she cares about the most. 

For a while, the only thing that keeps Hailey moving forward is the feeling she gets when she crosses something off the list. Then she meets Kyle. He mumbles when he talks at all and listens to music to drown out his thoughts. He's loaded down with fears, too. So Hailey talks him into making his own list. 

Together, they stumble into an odd friendship, helping each other tackle one after another of their biggest fears. But fate and timing can change everything. And sometimes facing your worst fear makes you realize you had nothing to lose after all.

And here's where you can buy it: IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, Amazon

Monday, January 11, 2016

On Rock Bottoms...

Today marks the publication of my third YA novel, OTHER BROKEN THINGS. There's a lot of me in this book, a lot of honesty and hurt and acceptance and trying to figure out how to fix yourself. Release day is usually my reminder day, the day I remember that I'm doing the greatest job in the world because I get to be creative and make art. An auspicious and happy time for most authors.

But when I think about this book and all that went into it, I can't help but think about rock bottoms (which is maybe not the most happy thing for a release day, but stick with me, we'll get there).

In doing research on alcoholics, "rock bottoms" came up a bunch of times. The questions were different but all circled around the same thing: what made you decide you were done drinking? when did you realize the only way out was up? what happened that you were finally able to see how sick you were?

As I told Nat's story in OTHER BROKEN THINGS, I thought about how in a certain way, we all have rock bottoms. Sometimes they're extreme and sometimes they're a series of steps spiraling down until you realize that everything is dark and hard and you can't see anymore and you can't remember where you're going or what you're doing and why you were even doing it in the first place.

When I examine my own life, I think about the blanket of regrets that I could wrap around myself. At one point or another, I have been a crap parent, a crap daughter, a crap wife, a crap employee, a crap sister, a crap student, a crap friend. I am what someone wittier than I would call "the okayest human alive."

At times I have wanted the people who love me the most to go away because they were also the people who saw me at my worst. I've often thought that it isn't the people who won't forgive you that are so hard to deal with, it is the ones who will, because they are the ones who have witnessed you at your absolute suckiest and isn't that a reminder we could all do without. (Though I know Carrie, Asher, and Jolene would tell me that those people also have seen you at your absolute best.)

Regret can become its own rock bottom, in the same way that resentment can—they are both diseases that are incurable if you hold on to them, and undoubtedly only toxic to the person feeling them, not the objects of their regret/resentment. And yet these emotions are hard to shake.

And so I think about this past year and how in a way it has felt like a rock bottom: I have failed professionally more than I have succeeded, I have dropped balls in my personal relationships, I have stumbled a lot as a parent, more than I thought I could. But here is the thing. All these failures, they weren't really a rock bottom (even though they felt like it at the time). Because they didn't compromise the things I value the most: compassion, integrity, forgiveness, honesty, grace.

My Natalie in OBT has given up the things she cares about the most: a true rock bottom for her. But even then, she finds a way out. Something I realized is possible for us all. Even if we do lose our way, even if we are truly at the bottom and have had our values compromised, everything keeps moving. Possible still exists. Above all, I have learned that tomorrow will be different than today, even if it's just the tiniest bit. There is a way out. It is hard and it is up, but as Glennon says, "We can do difficult things." Particularly if we know that we aren't doing those things alone.

Why yes, my stepsister did put my face on a Wonder Woman magnet.

So here's the cover and the blurb and buy links and all the sell-y stuff that I must do because it's my release day.

Natalie’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like getting in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.

Unfortunately, her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.

But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life, and things start looking up. Joe is funny, he’s smart, and he calls her out in a way no one ever has.

He’s also older. A lot older.

Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming, but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now, in order to make a different kind of life, Nat must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.

(And because I work at Anderson's Bookshop, you can call over there and get a signed copy shipped to you!)

Thank you always for all your love and support!

Monday, November 30, 2015

The Incarcerated Teen Book Drive...

So a few weeks ago, I went into Cook County Juvenile Detention Center to talk to some of the girls who would be participating in our forthcoming survivor testimonial writing workshop. I happened to bring a few copies of my books because I wanted them to see what came out of the workshop when I participated in it.

They signed up for the workshop, but more than anything, they were excited about the books. "We get to keep these? For real?" Their advisor told me they don't really get new books often, and sometimes they have to re-read the same ones. So I said, "Do you want me to put a call out to my author friends on Twitter and see if any of them might have a few paperbacks to donate?" Immediately she said, "Yes. That would be amazing."

Well, I put that tweet out and it got retweeted (the last I checked it was maybe 242 times?) and holy cow did the awesome YA community respond! Agents and editors and publishers and authors and bloggers and bookstores and readers and publicists. It was extraordinary.

And here is how it all played out...

I had to have a convo w/ my mail carrier (Thanks, Reggie, for giving me my own bin!)
This was delivered to my house on the 3rd day after my tweet

My kids were really into this project
The dog was less excited

And today I dropped off the first batch which they were thrilled about!
Batch #2 will be delivered in 2 weeks.

So I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who sent me books. I will do this book drive again next year. It means so much to me and to all the staff and teens at Cook County. You are all EXTRAORDINARY and make me believe in the goodness of the world.

A million thank you's to my donating friends!!!