Monday, February 24, 2014

ESSENCE Countdown: The Beginning of the Beginning

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
Pop quiz for you writers: have you always known this is what you wanted to do? Did you ever turn away from writing--cave into society's pressures and pursue "normal" hobbies instead?

Like I said in my last "Countdown to ESSENCE" post, I decided I was going to become an author when I was five years old. I couldn't even read then, so I stole one of my dad's massive, three-inch binders and crammed it with haphazardly drawn stories. The stories I drew were complicated, yet I insisted on reciting them verbatim to anyone and everyone who would listen.

My "picture stories" graduated into real-life stories when I was in third grade. I can still remember my dad's ancient work computer, with its complicated WordPerfect software and its inability to save files with names that made any kind of logical sense. That computer was magical to me, and the stories I cranked out made me feel more alive than anything I'd ever done before.

I continued writing through middle school, and I exchanged my go-to animal stories for ridiculously cliche, epic fantasies. But then I began to notice something. The other kids around me--with the exception of my childhood best friend Allen Walker--WEREN'T writing ridiculously cliche, epic fantasies. They weren't writing at all, and the fact that I was made me feel... well... weird.

Nerdy. Awkward. Not normal at all.

I began to hide my writing. I wouldn't even let my (incredibly supportive) parents read my work anymore. Instead, I yanked the pages off the printer the second they printed, and I squirreled them away in notebooks and hid them under my bed like I was doing something wrong.

I would downplay how much my stories meant to me, and I stopped writing altogether my freshman year of high school. Instead, I dove into sports and other "socially acceptable" pursuits, and the remnants of my writing only survived in homework assignments and the thick journals I filled with news about my friends and the boys who were finally starting to notice me, too.

(Now, don't get me wrong. I dug the sports. I was on the soccer team, the swim team, the cross-country team and the track team, and the athletic world was--and still is--my jam in some respects. I just find it sad that I managed to bury my very biggest passion because I didn't know how others would feel about it.)

It wasn't until after I'd graduated college that I returned to my roots and decided to actively pursue my childhood dream of becoming an author again. Even then, I kept this pursuit on the down-low, and I didn't even tell most of my closest friends until I'd already secured a literary agent.

Why? People weren't weirded out when they heard I wanted to be an author like I expected. Instead, they were excited--stoked for me, even--and their instant acceptance of something I had so carefully hidden made me realize what an idiot I'd been for ever hiding it in the first place.

What was I afraid of? Being judged? Or was it failure? Did I feel like I needed an agent's stamp of approval before I had the right to claim I was a writer?

Whatever the reason, it was a dumb one. I should have had faith in my identity as a writer from the beginning--literary agent or not--and I should have written some incredible stories during those formative high school and college years. I will never know what I could have come up with back then, and my heart is heavy at the realization that those words are lost forever.

(Hear that, high school and college readers?? Stop reading this, and start writing right now. There will never be a better time to begin!!)

How about you? Did you ever downplay your love of writing--or were you strong enough to resist the peer pressure of "normalcy" during your adolescence? If you hid it, what made you finally decide to own it? And what advice would you give aspiring young writers to help them overcome their writing insecurities?

Monday, February 17, 2014

ESSENCE Countdown: Taking the Plunge

Photo Courtesy of Andrea Westmoreland
Hello, everyone! My debut novel ESSENCE's launch date is creeping ever closer: t-minus three months, two weeks and counting... Yipes!

In the flurry of everything that has been happening lately, I find myself being pulled backward and forward at the same time. I often think about my childhood self--that wiry, bow-legged five year-old who proudly decided she was going to be an author before she even learned how to read. I also think about my thirty-two year-old self--the present-day me who seems collected and controlled on the outside, but who is absolutely SPINNING OUT at the realization that my original life's dream is looming just on the horizon.

What if I fail?

What if everybody in the entire universe hates ESSENCE?

What if I'm incapable of becoming the person my five year-old self so confidently believed I would be?

These are scary thoughts, and they have been rattling around in my head ever since my amazing agent Hannah Bowman sold ESSENCE to Amanda Rutter and the crew at Strange Chemistry Books last summer. Here are a few more:

What if I'm a fraud?

What if I can't do this?

What if I let everyone down?

But you know... I'm beginning to realize that sometimes, you just have to take a leap of faith. I poured my heart and my soul and my guts into ESSENCE--more-so than I did with any other book I've ever written. And I had a blast writing it--so much so that I would miss an entire night's sleep sometimes. I've never felt so possessed by a story before, and I've never let a book write itself the way I let this book write itself.

And you know what else? I'm sure some people are going to hate it. That's the truth of our reality, and there's nothing I can do to change it. So... Why worry? People will buy it or they won't; they will like it or they won't.

At the end of the day, that doesn't change the fact that I did this. I chased this dream and pinned it down before it could slip away. I decided I would regret holding back more than I would regret failing spectacularly.

So... Here goes. Time to take the plunge.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Check out the "NO PLACE TO FALL" Cover Reveal!!

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
One of my very favorite things about being a young adult writer is the opportunity to get to know other young adult writers. We have shared so many triumphs and struggles, and we have supported and uplifted each other so much through the years.

Timing-wise, a lot of us started our path to publication at the same time. Therefore, it's only natural that many of us are debuting at the same time, too.

For this reason, 2014 is the book year I'm looking forward to the very most. So many incredible people have books debuting this year, and I absolutely cannot wait to talk a spin through my local bookstores and see their names on the book spines.

Because here's the thing I've realized: there are PEOPLE attached to those books you see in stores. They are eclectic, gifted, determined and wonderful, and I'm absolutely honored to know so many of them.

One of my very favorites is Jaye Robin Brown. She has been my soul sister in so many respects during this journey, and her dubt NO PLACE TO FALL will be released in Fall 2014 by Harper Teen. Her exciting news... Her cover art got released yesterday! Woooohooooooo!!!

Please click HERE to check out her gorgeous art, and make sure to enter to win her giveaways!

Congrats, JRo; I couldn't be happier for you!!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Countdown to my Debut!!!

Oh my goodness, everyone. Please forgive my extended hiatus, but I have some exciting news...

My debut novel ESSENCE will be hitting bookstores on June 3, 2014!! That's only three months and three weeks from now!!!

Photo Courtesy of zeebedee.zebedee
I am in the final stages of revisions and reviews, and I should be getting finalized cover art in the next few weeks. I have had two glimpses of my cover so far, and I am SOOOO happy with the direction my amazing cover artist is taking. The cover really encompasses the spirit of the entire book, and I absolutely can't wait to share it with you.

I also have some exciting giveaways and blog tours up my sleeves, so please stay tuned for many exciting things to come. I have also added a (very panic attack-inducing) countdown on my sidebar, so please stop back often and hyperventilate with me as we count down the days until my release.

In the meantime, I would be absolutely honored if you wouldn't mind clicking HERE to add ESSENCE to your "To-Read" stack on Goodreads. (Please "friend" me on Goodreads, too!)

You can also pre-order ESSENCE here:
  1. Amazon (US)
  2. Amazon (UK)
  3. Amazon (Canada)
  4. Barnes & Noble
  5. Random House
Please let me know if you have any questions or publicity ideas, and thank you so much for stopping by today. I absolutely can't wait to share ESSENCE with you! :)