nova's distractions

Mar 15


Keegan Gibbs


Keegan Gibbs

Mar 14

The Soundproof Room: An Exclusive Essay from Tin House Magazine



All month long, the Believer and its favorite cousin, the lovely and talented Tin House mag, are offering up a joint promotion where you can get a year-long subscription to both magazines for just $65. (Subscribe today! Here!).

To celebrate, we’re running “The Soundproof Room,” by Lacy M. Johnson, which can also be found in the most recent issue of Tin House. It is an excerpt from Johnson’s forthcoming Tin House book, The Other Side, which can be ordered here. We hope you’ll enjoy the piece, and consider subscribing to two great magazines that look nice on the shelf right next to each other.



I won’t be coming in today

Tell me everything, he says. Start at the beginning. He does not mean the playground at the preschool with the rainbow bridge. Or the kitten tongue like sandpaper on my cheek. Or the potpourri simmering in the tiny Crock-Pot on the counter next to the jar of pennies in the kitchen. Though any of these could have been a beginning to the story I tell him. I want to see it, his little notepad, but he leaves the room to make some calls. No, I can’t call my family. No, not any of my friends. Nothing to do but to look at my feet, which are suddenly very, very absurd. Someone should cover them with shoes and socks.

He returns to lead me down a dark hallway, where every office is a room with a closed door, through a kitchen, where coffee brews and burns, out a heavy steel door to a parking lot, an unmarked car. A detective’s car. He gestures, as if to say, After you.

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Mar 12

A pile of #17andGone paperbacks landed on my doorstep today. They look awesome, @penguinteen!

A pile of #17andGone paperbacks landed on my doorstep today. They look awesome, @penguinteen!

Mar 07

Edited manuscript, revision round 2. It’s thicker than I realized. #toomanywords

Edited manuscript, revision round 2. It’s thicker than I realized. #toomanywords

Mar 06

The Paperback of 17 & GONE

The Paperback of 17 & GONE:

Happy Book Birthday to the paperback edition of 17 & GONE, on sale today!

17&G paperback coverI 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…

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Happy Book Birthday to the paperback edition of 17 & GONE. On sale today!
[Indiebound] [Barnes & Noble] [Amazon]

Happy Book Birthday to the paperback edition of 17 & GONE. On sale today!

[Indiebound] [Barnes & Noble] [Amazon]

Mar 05

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?


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

Feb 25

Where I’ll be at #AWP14

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”?


Friday, Feb. 28: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

Room 101, Western New England MFA Annex, Level 1 

F261. The (She) Devil Inside: Unlikable Women in Fiction. (Rebecca Johns,  Julia Fierro,  Samantha Chang,  Marie Myung-ok Lee) “Bad men get to be king. Bad women get to swallow poison and die,” wrote Lisa Santoro in the Huffington Post. But why should we settle for such a fate for our female characters, as readers and especially as writers? Do fictional women always have to be sympathetic to be worth reading? Using examples from multiple genres, this panel will examine how bad women can make for good storytelling.


Saturday, March 1: 3:00 pm to 4:15 pm

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!

Feb 23

The Very First Djerassi YA Novel Workshop and Retreat

My blog about the VERY FIRST #Djerassi YA Novel Workshop + Retreat! Spoiler: It was amazing. Apply for 2015!


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…

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Feb 03

The paperback of 17 & GONE is to be published next month, March 6. (I keep looking to see if it’s true…it still is!) Same cover art, but my favorite part of the paperback is seeing Libba Bray’s incredible (and incredibly kind) blurb on the front now…

The paperback of 17 & GONE is to be published next month, March 6. (I keep looking to see if it’s true…it still is!) 

Same cover art, but my favorite part of the paperback is seeing Libba Bray’s incredible (and incredibly kind) blurb on the front now…