Happy Book Birthday to the paperback edition of 17 & GONE, on sale today!
I haven’t yet held a paperback of 17 & GONE in my hands—if you do, please send mea photo—but I am told that the paperback really is on sale today, and so I am choosing to believe it. If you haven’t read it yet, I hope you’ll consider buying the paperback edition with Libba Bray’s beautiful blurb on the front cover, and the…
Bright Before Sunrise: One Night That Changed How I See the World
“One night can change how you see the world. One night can change how you see yourself.”
To help celebrate the release of Tiffany’s Schmidt’s new book, Bright Before Sunrise, I wanted to share one night that changed me, just like in the book. I mean, there had to be a night like that in my life, right? Doesn’t everyone have one of those nights?
So I started sifting through my memories. I thought and thought over it. Something about my writing career… Something that made me into the person I am today, with her fourth book on the horizon… Something I could pinpoint and say, THAT’S how it happened.
But, after digging and musing and remembering, I see that the biggest life-shifting night in my life isn’t at all about being a writer or reaching that part of my dream, but it’s shaped my life more than anything else. It’s the night of October 16, twenty years ago, when I first connected with a boy who would become my college boyfriend, my real-life-after-college boyfriend, and years later, my partner in this life I’m leading.
I can’t go into detail about what happened on this incredible night that changed every single aspect in my future because my other half likes things kept private. But I can tell you this: It was unexpected. I had no idea that night would shift my future forever.
And life-changing moments are often like that: Exhilarating. Thrilling. (Romantic!) And totally unexpected.
Congratulations, Tiffany, on your new release!
Itching to know more about the book?
About BRIGHT BEFORE SUNRISE…
Jonah and Brighton are about to have the most awkwardly awful night of their lives. For Jonah, every aspect of his new life reminds him of what he has had to give up. All he wants is to be left alone. Brighton is popular, pretty, and always there to help anyone … but has no idea of what she wants for herself. Her seemingly perfect life is marred only by Jonah, the one person who won’t give her the time of day, but also makes her feel, well, something. So when they are repeatedly thrown together over the course of one night, anything can—and does—happen. Told in alternating chapters, this poignant, beautiful novel’s energy and tension, amidst the humor and romance, builds to a new beginning of self-acceptance and hope.
About Tiffany Schmidt…
TIFFANY SCHMIDT lives in Pennsylvania with her saintly husband, impish twin boys, and a pair of mischievous puggles. And while she thinks sunrises are quite beautiful, she’d rather sleep through them. Send Me a Sign was her debut novel. Find out more about Tiffany and her books by following her on Twitter @TiffanySchmidt or visiting www.TiffanySchmidt.com.
Fellow writers! By any chance will you be at the #AWP14 conference in Seattle later this week? If so, here is where you can find me (if, in fact, you’d like to find me):
I fly in to Seattle Wednesday night and will likely be starving after the long flight, hoping against hope that I make it to the hotel before the lobby restaurant and room service closes for the night, but that’s not your problem.
My panel is the first day, Thursday morning, and if you’re interested writing YA or children’s books, I hope you’ll join us:
Thursday, Feb. 27: 10:30 am to 11:45 am
Room 618/619/620, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
R151. Commercial Literary Fiction (Not an Oxymoron): The Place of Craft in Writing and Teaching Children’s and Young Adult Literature. (Micol Ostow, Stephanie Kuehnert, Laurel Snyder, Sara Zarr, Nova Ren Suma) 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. If you can’t make that, I have a whole list of panels I’m trying to hit during the conference, most of which I’ll keep to myself, but here are a few panels I am trying not to miss. If you happen to be there, and see me, say hi! I can be shy in crowds.
Thursday, Feb. 27: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Room 604, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
R263. How to Write About a Murderer. (Madge McKeithen, Jessica Handler, Arlene Kim, Kate Sweeney, Nick Twemlow) Can a writer adopt an alternate persona or innovative style to explore disturbing subjects? How does altered identity or medium affect a writer’s process and a reader’s experience? Five writers who work in prose, poetry, film, audio, and visual art discuss examples of their adopted personae and structural choices and give examples of ways these applications break boundaries and add perspective in articulating story. Participants discuss one another’s work and choices that have inspired theirs.
Friday, Feb. 28: 10:30 am to 11:45 am
Room 3B, Washington State Convention Center, Level 3
F140. Magic and the Intellect. (Lucy Corin, Rikki Ducornet, Kate Bernheimer, Sarah Shun-Lien Bynum, Anna Joy Springer) In her essay “The Deep Zoo” Rikki Ducornet writes: “the work of the writer is to move beyond the simple definitions or descriptions of things… and to bring a dream to life through the alchemy of language; to move from the street—the place of received ideas—into the forest—the place of the unknown.” On this panel five fiction writers intend to describe, depict, illustrate, and otherwise expose this movement from known to unknown in order to ask: what do we mean when we say “magic”?
Room 612, Washington State Convention Center, Level 6
S245. Small Town Girls. (Caroline Patterson, Leslee Becker, Beverly Lowry, Tami Haaland) Small towns are places where life is lived up close. Four writers of poetry, nonfiction, and fiction from across the United States will explore their lives as girls in small towns—the restrictiveness versus the freedom, censure versus the subterrannean social life, and the freedom of the natural world versus the restrictiveness of the social world.
Saturday, March 1: 4:30 pm to 5:45 pm
Aspen Room, Sheraton Seattle, 2nd Floor
S257. How Far Do You Go: Sex in YA Fiction. (Sarah Mlynowski, Robin Wasserman, Adele Griffin, E. Lockhart) The only thing more awkward than adolescent sex is writing about it. These writers have published an extensive, wide-ranging variety of books for teenagers that touch on themes of early sexual experience and all its attendant issues. From the question of age-appropriate content to technical points of writing a thrilling kiss to the challenges of exploring the implications of a sexual awakening, the panel is sure to engender lively, candid conversation.
And on Friday night, I very well may be stopping through here to meet up with my fellow YA people in town for the conference:
AWP with a dash of YA Friday, February 28 at 6:30 pm
POLAR BAR (it’s in the Arctic Club, Seattle) 700 3rd Avenue
*This YA drinks night isn’t an AWP event—and is open to the public!
Otherwise, I’ll be around—hope to see some friendly faces!
Earlier this month, you could find me high up in the Santa Cruz mountains of Northern California, not so far from San Francisco, at a beautiful artists’ sanctuary called the Djerassi Resident Artists Program. I was gifted a writing residency there once before, in 2012, but my visit this month was to share my love of the place—and its inspiration, its magic—with my fellow YA and middle-grade…
some acts of courage are not grand or sweeping or dramatic at all. sometimes they are so small when you look back, you look past them. sometimes it’s not the moment you committed to keep going but the moment before that, when you were on the ground and felt only your defeat and you were so scared and alone in it, you weren’t sure if you could get up—or even if you wanted to—but you would take this breath and the next one and the one after that, just in case.
"Every time I mention to someone that I want to go into publishing they pat me on the back and give me this ‘I’m sorry your cat died’ look of pity and it’s becoming harder and harder to remain optimistic. Is the publishing industry really on its way out, or is there still hope for us bookworms?"
Yes, absolutely. Maybe I’m a fool, but I don’t think the book business—and especially the business of editing—is going to disappear.
That said, it’s going to change. Change is inevitable, and I’ve already seen seismic shifts over the course of my own career. Adaptation and evolution is the only way (in biology and books) not to disappear.
The question is HOW we change. That’s a choice we all make together: writers and publishers and readers.
Personally, I’m flummoxed by the idea that MORE books (we already have way too many) and LESS curation is the salve we need.
We all love books and we deserve to have the best that books can offer. Things are going to change, but I do believe you have the power to say how.
“I now wander the earth, a ghost, with no intent to write, but carrying a spark in my fingertips, which keeps me in a state of constant fibrillation, neither dead nor alive, a will-o’-the-wisp of stress, art, and the hours.”—Mary Ruefle, “A Minor Personal Matter” (via invisiblestories)
Are you teaching anymore online YA writing classes next year? ty!
So flattering—I’ve gotten a few emails lately and now this question here, and I just want to say thank you for wanting to take a YA writing class with me. Last year and the year before I taught some online YA novel writing classes with Mediabistro.com, but I don’t have any plans at the moment to teach another online workshop with them in 2014. Sorry about that!
I do have two weeklong in-person workshop & retreats with me at an artists colony in California, but both sessions (February and June 2014) are full. Spaces are limited due to housing.
If you are considering going to to New England SCBWI workshop in Springfield, MA, in May, I will be on faculty there, and will be leading two sessions: a “Killer First Chapters” workshop and a talk about first-person voice. I will also be a special guest at the Highlights Whole Novel Workshop in September led by amazing authors and teachers Nancy Werlin and Sarah Aronson.
If any new teaching opportunities pop up—especially for online classes—I will be sure to make announcements on my website and blog appearances pages, which you can find here.
Thank you so much for wanting to take a class from me. I wish you all the best of luck with your writing!
Oh, fellow writers. So, while I work on the revision of what will be my fourth published novel (my sixth written novel, and none of this is counting any of the work-for-hire novels I’ve ghostwritten), I look up and keep seeing this ugly face in the mirror.
I thought, by now, now I’m writing book #4, surely, surely I’d have vanquished it by now. But no.
The funny, though not really ha-ha, thing I’ve learned as my career as an author moves on is that the doubts don’t go away. In fact, I could swear that they are all the more heavy on my shoulders and heavy-breathing in my ear than they ever were when I was first starting out, and surely before I published.
Before I published, I had no idea what would happen in the “real world” once my books hit the shelves. (If they even did.) If I got so lucky, would my books be despised, lauded, ignored, used as a stepstool to climb up and get a better book? All of the above, it turns out, but when you are in that place in your career when you don’t yet know, when the road before you is hazy and fogged up and could lead anywhere at all… Well, anything could happen.
I felt oddly positive back then. I had doubts, sure, but I also had so much blind hope. So many dreams. So much possibility.
Now here I stand with the third book—17 & Gone—out last spring and due to come out in paperback this March, and my fourth book—The Walls Around Us—getting closer and closer to what I want it to be as I work through this revision. And while I do look at my pages and realize I’ve learned so much and have gotten better as a writer, I find myself doubting so much more often than I did before my first book—Dani Noir—and then my first true book of my heart—Imaginary Girls—came out. The doubts are now something I war with every single morning as I sit down to write.
I look ahead now and I see the road. I see all the turns in the road. All the potholes. All the steep hills and the far drops. I don’t want to drive that road.
In truth, as we all know, I can’t really see ahead to the road (none of us can see the future to what will happen when our books come out, it’s always a mystery), but because I’ve been on the road a few times by now, I think I know what to expect and it’s coloring everything I’ve yet to experience.
It’s damning. I wish I could pluck some of my old innocence back and just write away, lalala. And yet, I’ve also learned so much from my previous experience and I want to build on that and grow.
The truth is, you only get one (possibly two, as I did in a way, because not too many people knew about Dani Noir, and it was middle-grade) chances at a debut.
I tell myself that, in a way, each new book is a new shot and a new chance at being the best you can be… But I also know that, in a way, each new book after the first one is jumbled up with what happened before. You can’t truly separate yourself, even if you change your name. (Sometimes I wonder about that.) Readers remember. Publishers remember. Bookstores remember. And you remember.
I think all of that has only made me doubt MORE. How is it possible to have learned so much, to have gained confidence as a writer and at the same time lost it and question everything?
I’m beginning to see that this is just a natural part of the publishing process for some of us. It’s a piece of this job. So now the job grows to include ways of getting past this.
So each morning when I sit down at the café table to write, I have to make the daily effort to sweep the doubts away. I don’t look in the mirror at the monster. I avoid picturing the road ahead. I try very, very hard to think nothing about the after.
I have to think only of the here-and-now, which is all any of us can control anyway. The here-and-now of writing this draft at this café table this morning.
My ways to cure creeping doubt include:
Rereading one of the books that inspired me to become a writer, or even a page from it, a little dip into that memorable magic and then slipping the book back in place on the shelf…
Reading an inspiring book on the process of writing (I’ve been carrying Still Writing by Dani Shapiro for weeks now, reading it in pieces in the mornings before I write)…
Listening to a happy-making song on repeat with headphones in and bopping around on the chair to myself…
Talking with a fellow writer and discovering, oh wow, she has the same worries I do and this is perfectly normal and I am not alone…
Talking with your best reader, the person who loves everything you write and believes in you (I hope you have this person—it could be your partner, your best friend, your agent, your mom) and let yourself hear the good, let the good outweigh any worries you have over any bad…
Find an old letter or email where someone said something amazing about something you wrote and read it once more, like it’s the first time. It helps to keep a little folder of these for future moments…
Close your eyes, picture the finished book in your hands, the one you will write, the one you absolutely will finish one day, and let yourself appreciate that feat that you know you will achieve…
Picture yourself as you were before, when all of this writing stuff was only a far-flung figment of your imagination. I like to picture myself at age 14–15, out in the woods behind my house with a notebook, this small-town girl who’d never even seen a real-live author in person, who loved to read and would never have really expected she would end up here, where I am right now, a WRITER. I think, to see me now, she would have cried in delight…
Fellow writers, those of you who share my affliction, help me out here: What cures your writing doubts and how do you face down your doubt monster?
Inspiration isn’t what gets your book written. Discipline is.
Inspiration is fickle: it shows up when you least expect it, all sexy and exhilarating and reminding you why you put your butt in that chair and turned off Tumblr and forced yourself to trudge through the valley of no-good, very-bad first drafts. Enjoy that inspiration while it’s there. Enjoy it thoroughly because it is rare and precious.
Just don’t expect it to show up every day. The only thing that needs to show up every day is yourself—and your determination to see this through to the very end.
“People give you a hard time about being a kid at twelve. They didn’t want to give you Halloween candy anymore. They said things like, ‘If this were the Middle Ages, you’d be married and you’d own a farm with about a million chickens on it.’ They were trying to kick you out of childhood. Once you were gone, there was no going back, so you had to hold on as long as you could.”—― Heather O’Neill, Lullabies for Little Criminals
“If you have any young friends who aspire to become writers, the second greatest favor you can do them is to present them with copies of The Elements of Style. The first greatest, of course, is to shoot them now, while they’re happy.
– Dorothy Parker”—(via thetinhouse)
“If I’d had children and had a girl, the first words I would have taught her would have been “fuck off” because we weren’t brought up ever to say that to anyone, were we? And it’s quite valuable to have the courage and the confidence to say, “No, fuck off, leave me alone, thank you very much.”—
If there were a Mount Rushmore of 20th-century authors, Doris Lessing would most certainly be carved upon it. Like Adrienne Rich, she was pivotal, situated at the moment when the gates of the gender disparity castle were giving way, and women were faced with increased freedoms and choices, as well as increased challenges.
She was political in the most basic sense, recognizing the manifestations of power in its many forms. She was spiritual as well, exploring the limits and pitfalls that came with being human, especially after she became an adherent of Sufism. As a writer she was inventive and brave…
As we age, we face a choice of caricatures; for women writers vis à vis younger ones, it’s Cruella De Vil versus Glinda the Good. I encountered my share of Cruellas along the way, but Doris Lessing was one of the Glindas. In that respect, she was an estimable model. And she was a model also for every writer coming from the back of beyond, demonstrating – as she so signally did – that you can be a nobody from nowhere, but, with talent, courage, perseverance through hard times, and a dollop of luck, you can scale the topmost storyheights.
We make a lot of young adult book lists at STACKED, and I know how useful they are for collection development and reader’s advisory purposes. They’re useful enough for me when I write them or read the ones Kimberly’s written. So I thought I’d make a list of some of our book lists, for those who are interested in digging deep into the various genres and themes within YA fiction.
I’ll add to this periodically as we update our book lists so that finding them all in one place is easy, useful, and convenient.
Get Genrefied Series
All of these lists focus on specific genres or subgenres within YA fiction. They each talk about the defining characteristics of the genre (or format!), followed by a big book list, and other websites and blogs to explore that delve even further into the specified genre.
“You have to surrender to your mediocrity, and just write. Because it’s hard, really hard, to write even a crappy book. But it’s better to write a book that kind of sucks rather than no book at all, as you wait around to magically become Faulkner. No one is going to write your book for you and you can’t write anybody’s book but your own.”—
There’s going to be a panel at AASL (School Librarian conference) this weekend called “Boys Reading: A focus on fantasy.” There are six well-respected, very cool middle grade fantasy authors on this panel. And they are all men.
And I have to ask: Why? Why can’t female authors discuss their readers as well? And what kind of image does an all-male panel talking about boys and reading present? What are we saying to readers, boys and girls?
It certainly doesn’t have to be this way—in his Guys Read anthologies, Jon Scieszka always includes female authors. I got to be one of them once, and my strategy for trying to write for an anthology marketed to boys was simply, “Write the best story you can.” I’m guessing most of the writers feel the same way and that more than anything else is the principle that guides Scieszka’s anthologies. Rule # 1 in writing for children: Respect your reader.
You write for this age group because you love your readers—the actual ones and the potential ones. You love the twelve- year-old-boy who hasn’t yet found the book that will hook him on reading, and you love the nine-year-old boy that reads secretly under his covers every night. You care about them, and you think about them, and you want to talk about them with teachers and librarians and other smart people who care about them and love them too. And you are qualified to, even if you don’t share their gender.
It seems like there’s a panel about boys reading at every conference. And, yes, we absolutely should talk about the literary and emotional health of our readers in all their permutations, we should talk about it endlessly. We should talk about boys, the boys reluctant to read, and the boys who love to read.
But we should talk about girls, too.
A couple things happen when we focus all of our collective attention on boys and whether or not they are reading. First, we tell boys that they are not reading, and that reading is not an inherently “boyish” thing to do. We expect them, in fact, not to read, and boys who love reading are outside the norm. Next, we start gendering books and telling boys that they like certain kinds of books, that they are interested in humor and adventure and fun. And they specifically do not like the sort of books that help kids at this age figure out how to be in the world, and they specifically do not like literary books or hard books or emotional books. And they absolutely positively do not want to read a book starring a girl.
When we give panels on boys and reading with only (or even predominantly) male authors, we tell boys they are only supposed to like books by men. (This will be surprising to JK Rowling and Suzanne Collins.) We tell them that only men have something to say to them. When we say boys won’t read books with girl heroes, we are constructing that reality for them. (It gets troubling in all kinds of ways—the act of reading as a child is about empathy for and connection with the protagonist, and it’s quite problematic to tell boys we don’t expect they can empathize with girls.)
And in all of this, we’re telling boys that we don’t expect a lot from them.
And in this conversation, the girls are rendered invisible.
Once, a lovely librarian from a school in Minnesota emailed me about a possible school-wide read of my book Breadcrumbs and wanted to gauge my interest in coming. I told her I’d love to do it and wrote it on my calendar. A couple weeks later she wrote me a very embarrassed email explaining that the committee had changed their minds and wanted a book that would appeal to boys.
Sure, I was bummed to lose the event. But it was the assumptions underneath that really got to me. Because:
a) Breadcrumbs appeals to boys. As do many other books with girls on the cover.
b) And, what about the girls?
We hear studies, again and again, that around fourth grade girls begin to lose their confidence, they stop talking in class, stop participating, and by adolescence their self-esteem is completely shot. Once boisterous girls become quiet, invisible. And as we are talking about the very real crises in boyhood, the girls are disappearing before our eyes.
And maybe we need to pay more attention. Maybe we need to make active efforts to take care of them, too—both to help them, and to show them that we see them, and they are worth taking care of. Yes, there have been studies that show that boys, as a whole, tend to lag behind girls in reading—and we must talk about that. But when we see a marked drop in self-esteem and spike in depression in a category that encompasses 50% of our children, that’s a crisis too.
Those years—from fourth grade to adolescence—those are the middle grade years. And we all—writers, teachers, librarians, publishing professionals—are dedicated to helping kids get through these years with books. Fundamentally, that’s what all this is about: we want kids to read not just for the act of reading, but because we believe books can play a profound role in a kid’s life and self-conception and relationship with the world. We talk about getting boys to read because we believe books can make their lives better in so many ways. So let’s open up the conversation.
And we could do fabulous panels on this crisis in girlhood and how we can help through books. We could do a great panel on how fantasy can empower them, and there would be male authors too because why wouldn’t we include them? We can talk about issues specific to female readers and specific to male readers, and we can include all kinds of voices in that conversation, because we want the kids to see that they matter to all of us.
Let’s look at the make-up of conference panels and for every panel on issues pertaining to boy readers, we ensure there’s one for their female counterparts. And lets ensure that these panels show that the issues pertaining to boys and girls are the province of all writers. Let’s keep having these conversations, and include everyone in them.