Haunted at 17: A Giant Link Round-up and a Huge Thank-you

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Thank you.

Just thank you.

Thank you to everyone who wrote a Haunted at 17 story and shared it online. I was kind of floored at the response. I spent the week sharing five Haunted at 17 stories here—all five from people who reached out to me and offered their stories to share in full on this site. Here are the five I featured:

Cordelia Jensen: “When I was 17, in 1993–94 Manhattan, I was haunted by AIDS. My father’s sickness an omnipresent force in my life. I tried to push it away with Yearbook, with partying, with Phish shows, and with ’80s movies, but it was there, no matter what.”

Jennifer Gennari: “Seventeen was the sex year.”

Madeline Claire Franklin: “The past haunted me. A moment in time haunted me. Being silenced haunted me. Being silenced still haunts me.”

Courtney Leigh: “…When the priest said homosexuality was wrong, there was a hitch inside this girl inside me. Slowly I began to notice her more and more. Soon she couldn’t keep as quiet or as still.”

Melissa Montavani: “By the time I turned 17, death had been haunting me for years. I was convinced that I wouldn’t make it into my 20s or 30s because I’d found a lump at the back of my neck.”

There are so many more. I want to share them all with you, every last one. So I spent today capturing quotes, collecting links, and making a list…

What Haunted YOU at 17:

Will Ludwigsen: “What haunted me was the possibility of inheriting my father’s glib charisma, his zeal for seizing opportunity, his anxious aggression and temper in a full-tilt battle with the world. What haunted me was the possibility — the probability — that I had sociopathic blood in my veins.” Read more here.

Samantha Mabry: “What plagued me was a narrow-minded, irresponsible determination that prevented me from seeing the joy of the present—the journey, as they say—and always had me hurtling towards the future.” Read more here.

Vanessa Barger: “I was haunted by my inability to look at them and say, ‘If you don’t want to be seen with me all the time, then why bother being friends with me at all?'” Read more here.

Kelly Jensen: “What haunted me at 17 … is the very thing that now I can finally and truthfully own. I guess this is the first time most of the people in my life, if they read this, will learn.” Read more here.

Natalie Whipple: “By the time I was 17, I was desperate for recognition and wanted so badly to scream, ‘Look at me! SEE ME! I’m right here!'” Read more here.

Singularly Em: “At 17, what haunted me, consumed my every waking hour… was my obsessiveness, my self-destructive love for my abusive girlfriend, my depression, and most of all… distance.” Read more here.

Beth Fred: “I really didn’t know the one word answer to what haunted me, but I’ve found it. The fear of being unlovable. The fear that the adults in my life were right about my lack of worth.” Read more here.

Susan Adrian: “I had no belief that I could do it. I didn’t have a lot of self-confidence, and what I did was fragile, and false.” Read more here.

Mame: “My seventeenth birthday was spent on a New Orleans street corner.” Read more here.

Marisa Reichardt: “By 17, I was afraid of falling asleep at night and not waking up in the morning. I was afraid of dying without having left something worthy in my wake.” Read more here.

Rebecca Barrow: “So what haunted me through 17, that year of parties and older boys and getting far too drunk in the warm safety of my friends’ homes? What haunted me was the idea that it would all go back to before.” Read more here.

Sarah Wedgbrow: “I don’t remember being haunted at seventeen, but I am often haunted today by my seventeen year-old self. And I’ve been systematically trying to destroy her.” Read more here.

awholehandful: “What haunted me at seventeen was my quest to not be alone, and my obsession with finding the perfect person to settle down with. Of course, when I was eighteen and decided I needed to stop looking for a guy and just enjoy my life, I met my husband.” Read more here.

Elana K. Arnold: “I tried to become a ghost, starving the fat from my bones, floating my thoughts away on exhalations of smoke.” Read more here.

Katie L. Carroll: “As winter and basketball season approached, I struggled to keep my mini panic attacks from becoming noticeable. What if my one poor grade in pre-calculus junior year tarnished my transcripts? What if I didn’t get into my top college? Or any college? What if my relationship was too good to be true and he dumped me out of the blue?” Read more here.

Takayta: “So, what’s haunted me at 17? Well, for starters, I’m actually 17 right now… I think what haunts me now is just the fact that I’ll be going to college next year, and the fact I’m almost an adult… I just have to brace myself, be prepared, and be positive no matter what happens.” Read more here.

Adrianne Russell: “On the surface, 17 looked awesome. A cute running back called me his girlfriend, I had my own car, lived in a big house in an economically uplifted suburb, made good grades, and was well on my way to being voted one of the Most Popular Seniors in my all-girls private high school. But underneath? Utter fear.” Read more here.

Elena: “I was in love with the idea of being seventeen thanks to pop culture. Ladytron sings ‘they only want you when you’re seventeen’, Broken Social Scene has ‘Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl’,  Stevie Nicks talks about the edge of seventeen, the list goes on. Braces crushed my dreams.” Read more here.

Jennifer R. Hubbard: “At 17, I thought it was all behind me. I didn’t see how much I still carried with me.” Read more here.

Lindsay Leggett: “When I was seventeen I thought of myself as somewhat of a ghost hunter. I wasn’t actively searching, but I never turned down an opportunity to go somewhere creepy.” Read more here.

Reynje: “I think I wanted someone to ask. Part of me wanted them to say: “Are you okay?” so I could say “no.” I wanted to grab their hands and push them against my chest so hard they would break through my sternum, snapping my ribs like dry sticks.” Read more here.

Katie: “At seventeen, I was haunted by desire. Not only desire to be loved and touched and wanted, but desire to make a name for myself, to be wild, to be known. I was desperately afraid of not being known.” Read more here.

pdxjess: “When I was 17, I was still haunted by the death of the first boy I ever slow danced with. He had reddish brown hair, freckles, the biggest smile, and an even bigger temper.” Read more here.

Jody Casella: “When I was seventeen I punched a girl in the face. Even now, many many years later, I can see her expression, her wide eyes, her mouth falling open, and her hands flying up in surprise. ‘You hit me,’ she said. ‘I can’t believe you did that.'” Read more here.

Alexandra: “At seventeen-years-old I was on average a year and a half younger than other college freshmen, which I never thought too much about. …For the majority of my life, I had been living the sort of life that those that are almost two years older than me live.” Read more here.

Jessica R: “I know what haunted me at 17 because it still haunts me today. I’m not haunted by ghosts. I am the ghost.” Read more here.

xdanigirl: “I was haunted by fear. Fear that I wouldn’t get into to the school I wanted…fear of leaving everything I knew to chase my dreams. Then it was fear of being a single mom, fear of not being a good mom, fear of failing myself and my unborn child.” Read more here.

Janet Fox: “Because, at 17, secure and happy with Mike, I decided one day to drop him like a hot rock. And I dropped him for his at-the-time-but-not-to-continue best friend. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But only in hindsight, from way down life’s road.” Read more here.

K. Ashley Dickson: “I was haunted by the discovery that the larger world was spinning at a dizzyingly fast speed, and I suddenly launched into that world, desperate to catch up with it and make myself part of it.” Read more here.


These are all amazing stories, each one true to that moment, that memory, that place, the truth of being 17, because we all have so many truths. I read every word—and I hope you will, too.

I tried to leave comments on all these posts—when comments were open—or contact everyone if I could find a way to contact you to see if you’d like some 17 & GONE swag in thanks. Please get a hold of me if I missed you, or if I missed your post.

I’m truly honored—humbled, really; surprised, also; plain thrilled—that so many people took part in this and shared their Haunted at 17 stories. Thank you for writing them and thank you for reading them and thank you for helping me celebrate the release of my haunted little book.

Haunted at 17: Featured Story #5

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Thank you so much for reading the Haunted at 17 blog series to celebrate the publication of my new novel, 17 & Gone! To mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question: What haunted YOU at 17? They answered, and now it’s your turn. 

Today I have the last featured Haunted at 17 story sent my way. It’s by Melissa Montovani. Read on to see what haunted her when she was 17 years old… and thank you again for reading all the stories.


Guest post by Melissa Montovani 

(Melissa at age 17.)

(Melissa at age 17.)

Saying that few things haunted me at 17 wouldn’t be completely accurate. The truth is closer to the exact opposite. While I had a small group of great friends, I still felt like I didn’t fit in, that my small town was just too small. One look at the baggy, figure hiding clothes that I wore, including the never-wear-shorts-or-skirts rule, and I remember how uncomfortable I was with my body. Yet all of these hauntings were merely floating on the surface of who I was back then. They didn’t define me. Or, if they defined me at all, it was only in part.

Because by the time I turned 17, death had been haunting me for years. I was convinced that I wouldn’t make it into my 20s or 30s because I’d found a lump at the back of my neck. Cancer was the bogeyman in my closet as a child because most of my grandparents died of some type of it. Entangled up in my worry about the lump was my equally weighty fear that when I did die, I wasn’t someone that people would remember. I figured that if pressed to do so, then some of my peers would say that I was a very quiet, shy, and possibly, stuck up girl with a great smile (maybe they’d mistake a painfully shy girl with snobbishness), but they certainly didn’t know the real me. And as much as I wanted them to, I didn’t know how to share the person I was with them.

However, it wasn’t just my own death and its threat to the shy girl I was that haunted me. A few years earlier, one of my favorite aunts died suddenly and left me with a lot of questions that still haven’t been completely resolved. Unlike everyone else in my life who’d died up till then, she hadn’t been ill, and at 31, she was younger than I am today. All that I really knew was that my aunt, who let me drive her car at 14, who introduced me to some of my favorite bands, and who stood up for me time and time again, had killed herself. None of “the reasons why” explained why I’d never see her again and the words about a knife didn’t explain how it occurred. I may have been a few weeks shy of 15 when she died, but at 17, the horrifying things I imagined happening with that knife still haunted me.

While a lot of time has passed, some of these ghosts haven’t gone away. I learned long ago that the lump wasn’t anything serious. I’m still shy, but nothing like I once was. I haven’t lived in that too small town for a long time, and over the years, I’ve developed more close friendships and come to love my body. But, sometimes, when I least expect it, the ghost that’s haunted me the longest—my aunt’s death—feels like a dull ache.


Melissa Montovani is the founder of YABookShelf.com, a young adult fiction book blog, where she has been writing content about YA authors and books since 2010. She writes freelance reviews for Canadian Children’s Book News and is the Toronto Young Adult Fiction Examiner for Examiner.com. She has an M.A. in English Literature and lives and works in Toronto, Canada.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss all the posts in the Haunted at 17 series, in which YA authors revealed what haunted them at 17… (Thank you to these generous authors for taking the time to write these stories and be a part of this!)

Thank you again for reading all the Haunted at 17 stories, here and elsewhere! I’ll be putting up a post featuring all the links that have been sent to me—and I’ll be contacting everyone who wrote a post to see if you’d like some 17 & Gone swag in thanks!

Haunted at 17: Featured Story #4

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Thank you so much for reading the Haunted at 17 blog series to celebrate the publication of my new novel, 17 & Gone! To mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question: What haunted YOU at 17? They answered, and now it’s your turn. 

Today’s featured Haunted at 17 story is by Courtney Leigh. Read on to see what opened her eyes and haunted her when she was 17 years old…


Guest post by Courtney Leigh

(Courtney at 17, in the black dress.)

(Courtney at 17, in the black dress.)

When I was 17, I was haunted by the girl living beneath my skin.

Up until then I didn’t know she was there. I thought I was everything I appeared to be. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed, fresh-faced, top-ten-percent cheerleader, thespian, band nerd, and tennis player. I loved my family, hated breaking the rules, had the best and most beautiful friends. With only 90 students in my graduating class, “small town” almost isn’t small enough to describe it. We were sequestered, secluded, and protected somehow from that harsh, unforgiving rest of the world. I lived next to a creek which connected to a river, and my brother, my sister, and I would traipse up and down the shallow liquid lengths for fun in the summer. We worked with our parents in a 2-acre “yard” almost every weekend when the weather allowed. The land we lived on had been in the family for hundreds of years. It still is. I could breathe in the wholesomeness. I could feel it under my hands and on my face and in my bones. It was so warm and soft and easy.

That’s what I remember most, how easy it was. It was the simplest thing, the simplest truth for us to say, “I can’t believe we live here. We are so lucky to have this place—this town and these people. Things are good here. Things are deep down good here.” I believed it for a long time. Longer than I like to admit. Sometimes, even now, I feel a deep burning shame for how long I let myself believe these things.

Luckily for me, there was the other girl, the one under my skin. She had ears under my ears that heard other things. Her ears heard the quiet, unsaid words. The way no one protested at the use of racial slurs. The way no one argued when a boy in my computer literacy class said there are no important women in history. Her ears heard the silent existence of varsity athletes hazing the freshmen, domestic abuse next door, child molestation in our school system.

The girl had eyes under my eyes. She saw the way her friend’s boyfriend pushed her out of his truck or yanked her by the wrist and then how her friend wouldn’t break up with him. She saw that there were no black students in the hallway, nor any Asians. She saw how the white students rarely acknowledged the brown ones and vice versa. Her eyes didn’t always understand what they saw, but they did see.

Every Sunday I went to mass with my mom. This girl went, too. Her heart beat beneath my heart, and when the priest said homosexuality was wrong, there was a hitch inside this girl inside me. Slowly I began to notice her more and more. Soon she couldn’t keep as quiet or as still. One day she got her voice under my voice, and she said, We have to leave. We have to go somewhere else and be someone else. I didn’t know why she said this or why she sounded so sad when she did. Because I was happy. I was lucky. Everything was good. And yet she said this and I had to listen. Seventeen was the year I quit volleyball. It was when I dropped out of math. When I cut my silky golden strands up to my ears and dyed them almost black. I kept my thoughts more and more secret, twining them with hers. I turned inward, toward the girl under my skin. Until I couldn’t stand it anymore. Until I was so brittle that I needed to pick and peel away at everything the girl beneath my skin heard and saw and felt. Seventeen was the year I began to molt.

Not soon after, I left my too-small town. The girl who’d been living under my skin blossomed and grew and strove. It took her, now me, a long time to forgive the place I grew up in. Now, the only girl that haunts me is the one I could have been, that shining golden girl, the one who didn’t listen or see or feel the truth around her.


Follow Courtney Leigh at @CourtLeighLove.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss all the posts in the Haunted at 17 series, in which YA authors revealed what haunted them at 17… (Thank you to these generous authors for taking the time to write these stories and be a part of this!)

Haunted at 17: Featured Story #3

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Thank you so much for reading the Haunted at 17 blog series to celebrate the publication of my new novel, 17 & Gone! To mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question: What haunted YOU at 17? They answered, and now it’s your turn. 

Today’s featured Haunted at 17 story is by Madeline Claire Franklin, and was originally posted on her blog. I’m reposting it here so everyone can read this powerful story about what haunted her when she was 17 years old…


Guest post by Madeline Claire Franklin

(Madeline at 17, on the right, wearing, in her words, "that inexplicable polyester shirt.")

(Madeline at 17, on the right, wearing, in her words, “that inexplicable polyester shirt.”)

Being 17 wasn’t a bad time really: I was dating an older boy (+1 cool point) from a different high school (+1 cool point), who was the lead guitarist in a decent rock band (+100 cool points). I had my night license and a hand-me-down $500 car from my older brother, so I could drive anywhere, anytime, and that’s what we did most weekends. We’d drive out to haunted roads and cemeteries, or to rock shows downtown, or to out-of-state Denny’s where we would sit in the smoking section burning through soft packs of cheap cigarettes, drinking bottomless cups of coffee, thinking we were so damn cool.

So what haunted me at 17, you ask, when I was so clearly living large and loving life? Well, like most hauntings, it was complicated, vaporous, and hard to define. The past haunted me. A moment in time haunted me. Being silenced haunted me.

Being silenced still haunts me.

A little back story: I’m the youngest of three (well, 3.5 but that’s a tale for another day), and one of the most unobtrusive people you’ll ever meet. I learned from a young age that if I wanted to get a word in edgewise at the dinner table I had to shout, or cry, which itself never produced any desirable outcomes. Instead, I learned to be quiet and patient, and to bite my tongue instead of raise my voice. Among my friends, I was known as the quiet one–the shy one. I disappeared in the classroom, in the halls. And in high school, even with dreadlocks and piercings or bright green hair, I somehow managed to pass unnoticed, unheard.

I filled notebooks with the words I didn’t say. I wrote essays to give voice to the thoughts I never spoke aloud, and novels to tell the stories that my friends and family didn’t have the attention span to hear. By the time I was in high school I was used to my words going unheard. But there came a point when being unheard became absolutely unsustainable–only, I wouldn’t realize that for nearly a decade.

I was 15, and I’d just broken up with my first longterm boyfriend. And, as 15-year-old douche bags are wont to do, he was telling people we’d had S-E-X, because at 15 nothing is more interesting to others after your breakup than that one big question: did you guys do it?

I was so angry, but I was powerless to do anything but refute it–as if they’d believe me, the girl, who would of course not want anyone to know what a slut she was, because that’s what everyone thought (/still thinks) of girls who had (/have) sex in high school. And there I was, the girl no one ever noticed, suddenly the topic of scandal.

I had to tell someone, I had to make somebody hear me, because I hadn’t spoken back when everything happened, back when I should have broken up with him, back when my life fell apart for the first time in a long series of breakdowns. So I told my best friend, in the locker room, after gym class. I told her the hardest thing I’d ever forced myself to give a voice to: “The truth is, we did have sex. But I said no. And he didn’t listen.”

“So what?” she said, dismissive, shrugging, looking away, turning and talking to someone else like I hadn’t just carved out my guts and held them up for her appraisal.

At a time when I needed to speak, and to be heard, more than ever before in all my life, I had never felt more silenced. And I wondered if…maybe she was right? Maybe it was no big deal, after all? Maybe he hadn’t heard me. Maybe I was a slut. Maybe it was my fault. Believing that felt slightly better than believing I was someone else’s victim. Blaming myself, and hating myself, was infinitely easier than accepting the truth.

He transferred schools shortly after, and I didn’t dare mention it to anyone again. Those awkward days when I ended up in the guidance or social worker’s office at school, I told them my “irrational crying” was just stress, hormones, that I’d been sleeping poorly–anything but the truth, or what might have been true, or even an approximate version of the truth.

Then, the summer before our senior year, he came back to town. 17 would be the last year of my life that I would have any contact with him, but it was a hard and bitter year of silence, shame, and insidious ghosts. I ran into him at parties, his pupils dilated, tripping on cough syrup or god knows what. He tried more than once to corner me and talk to me, ask me about my new boyfriend, tell me how much he missed me. When fall came, he was back at school, sliding notes into my locker that told me in excruciating detail about his time in the psychiatric hospital, his drug-induced suicide attempts, his visions of God telling him how I still loved him, that I would be with him again in time. And even then, I was haunted by a kind of guilt–guilt that he was destroying himself under the guise of loving me, and guilt that I honestly felt he deserved to suffer.*

I survived. I graduated, and life went on. I fought hard to forgive him (yes, I did forgive him eventually), so that I could have my own life back. But in the end, as life after high school changed everything about my world, I realized it wasn’t a loss of innocence that haunted me at 17, or the ruins of a boy I once loved falling at my heels. It was the years and years of allowing myself to be silenced, of allowing my anger and sadness to go unheard. It was his betrayal, yes, but it was also the betrayal of the friends I had given my heart to as well, and a family that didn’t realize they were nurturing my silence. Every time my friends joked with him in class and I had to hold back my anger, every time he scared me with his horrific notes in my locker and I wanted to tell someone, but couldn’t–every time I wanted to shout or cry out, but didn’t–that was the thing that haunted me the longest, the deepest.

And on my darker days, it still does.

But, true to form, I don’t like feeling like a victim. And I’ve realized, finally, so many years later, that it was my own betrayal that hurt me most of all. I betrayed myself by buying into the silence, by buying into the lie that what I had to say was not worth saying, not worth taking up the lesson I had learned as a child, at the dinner table: that I could be heard if I shouted, if I cried. But learning to raise my voice–allowing myself, now, to be seen and heard–that’s probably the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn.

(So that this doesn’t end on a totally dark note, enjoy the caption my husband gave me on this picture of me climbing through a window when I was 17.)

(This is some “Clarissa Explains It All” shit right here.)

(This is some “Clarissa Explains It All” shit right here.)

*I haven’t seen him since I graduated from high school ten years ago, but I did hear, about 7 years back, that he’d been shot point-blank in the chest during a drug deal (or a robbery because of drugs? I don’t remember/care), and I actually laughed. He survived, but… I didn’t know that when I laughed.

(Originally posted on Ink, Blood, Magic.)


Madeline Claire Franklin has been writing, making movies, telling lies, and otherwise creating stories for as long as she can remember. She holds a BA in Media Studies/Production with a minor in Anthropology from the University at Buffalo, where she further expanded her storytelling capacity through film, animation, and the study of the human race.

In addition to her love of telling stories and researching dead people, Madeline is an avid traveler and lover of foreign cultures. She has contracted salmonella in Costa Rica, was bitten by a goat in the Sahara Desert, got salt in her eyes at the Dead Sea, and her pants once caught on fire while she was walking down a street in Spain. None of this deters her.

She currently resides in Buffalo, NY, with her husband and their growing menagerie of pets.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss all the posts in the Haunted at 17 series, in which YA authors revealed what haunted them at 17… (Thank you to these generous authors for taking the time to write these stories and be a part of this!)

But wait. I’m not done yet!

…Do YOU Have a Haunted at 17 Story You’d Like to Share Here?

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be listing all the posts in a round-up this weekend.

Even better, as you can see from today, I’ll be featuring five of your Haunted at 17 stories here in full next week. So if you don’t have a blog—or even if you’d already posted yours and want to include it here—email your story me.

And remember: You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


GIVEAWAY! 

Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST tonight!, Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.

Haunted at 17: Featured Story #2

17&Gone_banner_general

Thank you so much for reading the Haunted at 17 blog series to celebrate the publication of my new novel, 17 & Gone! To mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question: What haunted YOU at 17? They answered, and now it’s your turn. 

Today’s featured Haunted at 17 story is by Jennifer Gennari. Read on to see what haunted her when she was 17 years old…


Guest post by Jennifer Gennari

(Jennifer at 17 years old.)

(Jennifer at 17 years old.)

Seventeen is the sex year.

OK, that’s what my eighteen-year-old daughter just said, when I told her about responding to Nova Ren Suma’s call for blog posts to celebrate the launch of her book, 17 & GONE.

But I completely stopped talking. She was right—seventeen was the sex year.

I was a late bloomer. We had moved to Vermont two years earlier; I was fifteen, skinny like a two-by-four, and unkissed. I basically stayed silent my entire sophomore year, observing, eyes wide. The culture was so different from suburban Boston. In my new high school, many of the kids were dating the people they would marry. I studied the boots, the embroidered floral sweaters, and turtlenecks. Soon I was wearing red chamois shirts over jeans but my hair stayed long and straight.

My first kiss, horribly later than my younger sister’s first, was at sixteen. But the way it happened made up for the wait. It was summer and he was blond, nothing like me, and so sweet. One night, we walked hand and hand out to the bridge across the pond in the middle of the golf course. The frogs were croaking, and we leaned into each other, crashing against the rickety white railing.

I knew instantly I liked it. I liked it a lot. He was nice, but making out was awesome. Sex education was about how to say no and wait or, if you go for it, don’t get pregnant, don’t get STDs. But no one had mentioned the pleasure of fumbling and frantic needs met. The shocking greatness of hands on skin. Kissing felt good!

I was still shy, but I joined my friends in obsessing about landing a boyfriend. (In fact, years later, I realized that opposite-sex pursuit was not for everyone.) We flirted in the halls, passed notes in class, drove to clandestine keg parties on the off chance someone—anyone—would pair up with us. Every moment was about chasing after the promise of that electricity, that brief sensation of solidarity with another body.

That was me at seventeen. Yes, I wanted to fit in, and I never quite did. But I did have a boyfriend, and I learned just how great sex could be. (Thank you, Planned Parenthood, for protection!)

The only thing that haunts me about these good memories is the way grownups still aren’t honest about what preoccupies every adolescent—boys and girls. Sex at seventeen? If you’re ready, and he’s right for you, it’s OK. (And may it be wonderful, awkward, loving sex!)


Jennifer Gennari is the author of MY MIXED-UP BERRY BLUE SUMMER (Houghton Mifflin Books for Children), an ABC Spring 2012 New Voices title and ALA Rainbow List title. She is now at work on a young adult novel, LIFE, SUSPENDED. Visit www.jengennari.com or follow @JenGenn.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss all the posts in the Haunted at 17 series, in which YA authors revealed what haunted them at 17… (Thank you to these generous authors for taking the time to write these stories and be a part of this!)

But wait. I’m not done yet!

…Do YOU Have a Haunted at 17 Story You’d Like to Share Here?

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be listing all the posts in a round-up this weekend.

Even better, as you can see from today, I’ll be featuring five of your Haunted at 17 stories here in full next week. So if you don’t have a blog—or even if you’d already posted yours and want to include it here—email your story me.

And remember: You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


GIVEAWAY! 

Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.

Haunted at 17: Featured Story #1

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Thank you so much for reading the Haunted at 17 blog series to celebrate the publication of my new novel, 17 & Gone! To mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question: What haunted YOU at 17? They answered, and now it’s your turn. Starting today, I’ll be featuring (at least!) FIVE of the Haunted at 17 posts that you wrote and either posted on your blogs or emailed to me. 

Today’s featured Haunted at 17 story is by Cordelia Jensen. Read on to see what haunted her when she was 17 years old, in poem form…


Guest post by Cordelia Jensen

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Cordelia at 17. Photo taken by her mom, Mariette Pathy Allen.

When I was 17, in 1993–94 Manhattan, I was haunted by AIDS. My father’s sickness an omnipresent force in my life. I tried to push it away with Yearbook, with partying, with Phish shows, and with ’80s movies, but it was there, no matter what. Here are two poems about that time:

The Stranger on the Street

I escaped through playing quarters. Drinking wine coolers on the stoop. Wearing denim shorts and flipping my hair just right. For them. Running with girls who held the power of a room. Who knew how to shape it. I came home to the phone, gossiping with the girls I just left on the bus. On the streets, we would push each other into strangers. Walking fast. We would laugh as one of us crashed into someone. We didn’t care who. We had a game where we trashed bathrooms. We made music videos. We posed. See me? I was the butterfly catcher. I captured the beautiful about us, dried it out, and hung it up for the viewers. I lived nostalgia before it happened to any of us. The day I found out: I took each of you aside, I told each of you what was happening. A conference call. An emergency break-through. And AIDS became what was ignored as we chatted. AIDS became the stranger on the street I kept bumping into.


Caught in Evolution

When I turned 17, Dad took me on a walk.
He was slow, five months from dying.

We walked up, down one block.
Started on Riverside: Daddy’s head down, coat collar up,

His arms long and feet big like a monster crawling
Up from the sea, a creature becoming extinct.

It was windy with bright sun and I felt nervous,
Scared this would be a talk about sex or death.

My head down too, sometimes glancing at him, sideways,
We are closer to West End when he says,

“You don’t have to ask me permission to do anything anymore,
You are an adult. I’m going to treat you as an adult.”

My heart stuck in my throat, like a lozenge that cannot soothe,
Cannot candy coat what is swollen.

I still can’t find the words to speak my side of his life sentence.
I know he said it to release himself:

Time taking his t-cells away, he could check off
an item on his list of life tasks by calling me grown up.

It was also to free me of preoccupation:
As if I was the scientist obsessed with analysis,

determined to study him, a specimen caught
in evolution. After he said the words, standing still,

I looked past the Hudson, into New Jersey,
and wondered how many people were saying goodbye.


Cordelia Jensen graduated with a MFA in Writing for Children & Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. Cordelia was Poet Laureate of Perry County in 2006 & 2007. She works at The Big Blue Marble Bookstore in Philadelphia where she teaches creative writing classes for kids & teens. She has recently signed with agent Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger for her YA novel in verse, Skyscraping. You can find her at: https://twitter.com/cordeliajensen


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss all the posts in the Haunted at 17 series, in which YA authors revealed what haunted them at 17… (Thank you to these generous authors for taking the time to write these stories and be a part of this!)

But wait. I’m not done yet!

…Do YOU Have a Haunted at 17 Story You’d Like to Share Here?

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be listing all the posts in a round-up this weekend.

Even better, as you can see from today, I’ll be featuring five of your Haunted at 17 stories here in full next week. So if you don’t have a blog—or even if you’d already posted yours and want to include it here—email your story me.

And remember: You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


GIVEAWAY! 

Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.

Bennett Madison: Haunted at 17

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My new novel, 17 & Gone, is now out in stores (!!!), and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I’ve asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? Here’s the last official post in the series (but stay tuned for next week—when I’ll be sharing some of YOUR posts here on this site!), with Bennett Madison revealing what haunted him at 17 years old…


Guest post by Bennett Madison

The most prominent feature of the suburban Maryland skyline—if one can even consider the suburbs to have a skyline—is the Mormon Temple in Kensington. From the Beltway, driving west away from DC and toward the outer suburbs, it appears out of nowhere, its beveled marble towers and golden spires unfolding upward like something in a pop-up book and towering over the trees that line the highway.

No matter how many times you’ve seen it, it is always a surprise. At night, it is lit up and iridescent but even in the sunlight it stutters against blue sky with a hazy, ghostly glow that seems to come from somewhere else.

The temple recalls a lot of things. It looks enough like the Emerald City that, for years, the words SURRENDER DOROTHY were spray-painted on the overpass that revealed itself along with the temple as you rounded a curve in the road. Growing up, classmates’ mean parents would try to trick them by telling them it was Disney World. That always struck me as underselling its magic—even a little kid knows that Disney World isn’t actually very enchanted at all.

For me, the temple was a ghost palace. It was a place that existed only on the horizon, something that I could never touch. It was a symbol of leaving home and of returning, and most of all, of being in-between.

When I was seventeen, I spent a lot of time on the highway. My father took the Metro to work and allowed me mostly-unlimited use of his old, gray Honda Civic hatchback and so I drove. With homework to do and things to be worried about, I was promiscuous in offering friends rides and thought nothing of spending hours in heavy gridlock ferrying them way out into the strange outer rings of the suburbs: Olney, Gaithersburg, Poolesville. Katie and Zarah and Emily could often be found riding shotgun, their bare feet pressed up against the windshield as they sang along with me to whatever mix tape I’d popped in the cassette player.

Other times the passenger seat was empty and I was off to meet up with guys my friends had never heard of. There was a fireman in Rockville; there was this one guy who lived in a cemetery out in Frederick. I’d drive out to them and then we’d go somewhere else: the movies, the mall, a parking lot.

More frequently, I would just be in my car alone, meeting no one. With no destination in mind, I’d pull out of the school parking lot, turn the music up and hit the beltway. I would travel to obscure fast food restaurants way out 270 or, when traffic was light and I could speed, I’d curl over to Virginia only to get off at any old exit, then turn around and go somewhere else, always hoping, somehow, that I’d find myself in a place where I was lost.

As far as I traveled, the Mormon Temple was always either right ahead or somewhere just over my shoulder.

Washington is, of course, full of landmarks. Even the pretty ones are dull and over-familiar and a little oppressive. They’re monuments to bureaucracy, to the city’s proud lack of poetry. The Mormon Temple, though, never gets blown up in movies; it’s not on any postcards except maybe Mormon ones. Even people who pass it every day mostly ignore it.

It is anonymous and forgotten. It is always a mystery. What is it. Where does it come from. What is it trying to tell you?

At nights on the road, looping for hours in a solitary race with myself, I would fantasize about having an endless gas tank. About being able to take an exit—any exit—and drive and drive and drive into darkness, never stopping or settling on any new place. In my car, I was a lonely endlessness shooting out into a future that felt terrifyingly blank. I was everywhere and nowhere. Then, just when I thought I’d managed to leave everything behind, I’d be startled by the sight of the temple in the distance, reminding me that, for now, I couldn’t untether myself completely.

The next day, I’d be back in school, where I was reminded at every moment of the fact that I was an irredeemable fuck-up with no prospects at all.

Seen on the left, the temple was the thing that held me in this place. On the right, on a clear day with no traffic, it was the thing urging me to leave. It seemed to tell me that even on the beltway, which is after all, only a circle that always leads you back to exactly where you started, there was always someplace else to go, unreachable maybe, but out there somewhere.

Non-Mormons aren’t allowed past the temple’s visitor center, and I’ve never even made it that far. While I’ve seen it hundreds of times from the road, I have a hard time imagining what it looks like from the parking lot, or even wrapping my head around the idea that it occupies an actual physical space in the world. The Mormon Temple doesn’t belong to me. I will never enter it. I like it that way. I prefer to keep it what it’s always been: an abstraction cast in moon rock, an unknowable elsewhere that, when I was seventeen, was just five minutes from home.


September GirlsBennett Madison is the author of several books for teenagers, including The Blonde of the Joke (HarperTeen 2009) and September Girls (HarperTeen 2013). He has also written a few other books and some other things here and there. He grew up in Takoma Park, Maryland, went to Sarah Lawrence College, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Find him online at bennett-madison.com.

Follow @bennettmadison on Twitter.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss the other posts in the series, in which YA authors revealed what haunted them at 17. Here are all the official Haunted at 17 posts… (Thank you to the generous authors for taking the time to write them and be a part of this!)

But wait. I’m not done yet!

…Do YOU Have a Haunted at 17 Story You’d Like to Share Here?

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be listing all the posts in a round-up next week.

Even better, I’ll be featuring five of your Haunted at 17 stories here in full next week. So if you don’t have a blog—or even if you’d already posted yours and want to include it here—email your story me.

And remember: You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


GIVEAWAY! 

Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.


 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • 17&Gone_thumbIf you’ll be in New York City for the NYC Teen Author Festival, come see me and get a signed copy of the book! Full schedule here—look out for me TONIGHT, Saturday, March 23 at McNally Jackson or Sunday, March 24 at Books of Wonder!
  • Lost at Midnight Reviews is being truly amazing and is hosting a whole week featuring 17 & Gone. Go see what bloggers are saying about the book—and keep an eye out for a special giveaway for Lost at Midnight readers!
  • If you’ve pre-ordered 17 & Gone or plan to buy it this week (thank you so much for your support! it means the world to me!) and can’t be in New York City to get it signed, I have a way to sign your book from afar. Leave a comment on this photo on my Facebook author page and I may just mail you a signed and personalized bookplate.

Andrea Cremer: Haunted at 17

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My new novel, 17 & Gone, is now out in stores (!!!), and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I’ve asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? Here’s Andrea Cremer revealing what haunted her at 17 years old and what she worries haunts teenagers today even more…


Guest post by Andrea Cremer

I turned seventeen the summer before my senior year of high school. What felt like infinite questions and possibilities shaped my world: What would senior year be like? What colleges would I get into? Where would I decide to go? Is this when everything changes and my life really begins?

All in all my final year of high school was a great one, full of fantastic memories that I treasure, but hovering over it all remained this cloud of questions that shaded every experience with a gray of uncertainty. Questions and doubts like these are completely reasonable if treated that way, but allowed to run amok they can become obstacles to the joys of the present. Too often my questions became about who I thought I ‘should’ be rather than looking at my life, my experiences, my dream to better understand who I truly wanted to become as I stepped out into the world on my own.

So many years later, I was lucky to teach remarkable students at Macalester College. Each year meeting new freshmen, I was startled by how much more competitive the race to college admission had become and how overscheduled my students had been. Many of my students expressed relief because once they arrived at college they only had to focus on their classes instead of constantly trying to become the ideal candidate for admission at their college of choice.

Thinking about my seventeenth year, I often feel like I was haunted by the future, constantly chased by ghosts of what was yet to come. Those pesky spirits sometimes impeded on my happiness and my ability to feel confident in who I was, and even more so, brave enough to take the risks to become the person I truly wanted to be.

Between conversations I’ve had with my students and with teen readers I worry that now teens are even more haunted by their futures than I was. I hope that young men and women on the cusp of independence will exorcise those spirits and instead of fearing the future, to embrace the singular beauty of the present.


InvisibilityAndrea Cremer is the internationally bestselling author of the Nightshade series.  She taught for years at Macalester College in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and now lives in New York City.

Find her online at www.andreacremer.com.

Follow @andreacremer on Twitter.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss the other posts in the series. Throughout the week, more YA authors will reveal what haunted them at 17. Here are the Haunted at 17 posts so far…

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be featuring all the posts in a round-up when the week is over, on Monday!

You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


GIVEAWAY! 

Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.


 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • 17&Gone_thumbIf you’ll be in New York City for the NYC Teen Author Festival, come see me and get a signed copy of the book! Full schedule here—look out for me TONIGHT, Saturday, March 23 at McNally Jackson or Sunday, March 24 at Books of Wonder!
  • If you’ve pre-ordered 17 & Gone or plan to buy it this week (thank you so much for your support! it means the world to me!) and can’t be in New York City to get it signed, I have a way to sign your book from afar. Leave a comment on this photo on my Facebook author page and I may just mail you a signed and personalized bookplate.

NEXT UP…

What haunted Bennett Madison at 17?

Nina LaCour: Haunted at 17

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My new novel, 17 & Gone, is now out in stores (!!!), and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I’ve asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? Here’s Nina LaCour revealing the paralyzing fear she faced the year she was 17 years old…


Guest post by Nina LaCour

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(Nina LaCour at 17. Photo taken in her old bedroom in her parents’ old apartment.)

When I was seventeen, I was haunted by two versions of myself: the one I had been throughout high school and the one I wanted to be. Even though I had lived in the same town all my life and had known most of the kids since kindergarten, I never felt like I fit in. The people in the town belonged to the country club; they drove expensive cars; they lived either in sprawling ranch houses or in multi-story, newly built ones with high ceilings and swimming pools. The adults were tight-knit and gregarious. The kids were athletic and studious.

My parents and I did, and were, none of these things.

My mom and dad had plenty of friends, but they all lived other places. When I was a little kid their car was so old that my mom had to drive on the shoulder of the road when going up the hill that led to the public transit parking lot. We lived in an apartment on the main street. I had a paralyzing fear of team sports, never tried too hard in school, and, though I genuinely liked many of the kids I grew up with, often felt like a slightly different species among them.

I was lucky in many respects growing up, and perhaps the greatest respect was this: every day when I got home from school, I felt like I belonged. In the apartment, we listened to loud music, we danced around the living room, we sang as we cooked dinner. At the table every evening we had good conversations and every night when I went to sleep, I felt safe and I felt loved. We may not have had a nice, big house, but it was the best home.

But I was seventeen and high school was over and I craved a bigger space in which to belong. My parents’ apartment just wasn’t enough. My best friend moved away for school, but I was staying in the Bay Area to go to San Francisco State University, a commuter school with dorms for only a tiny percentage of the student body. Throughout the summer months between high school and college, I dreamed of the way I would belong in San Francisco. I had fantasies of sitting in crowded dorm rooms, talking and laughing late into the night with interesting people who were glad to have me as a friend. All of the self-consciousness I felt growing up, all of the out-of-placeness, would simply slip away and there I would be: a part of something.

I was placed on the waiting list for the dorms. I ultimately got a spot, but I had to move in a couple weeks later than everyone else. I told myself that it was those couple of weeks that screwed me.

I missed all of the beginnings: move-in day, orientations, freshman breakfast, movie night. I missed the first night of eating in the dining hall and the first morning in the big communal bathroom. Who knows what else I missed? I wasn’t there; I’ll never know.

What I do know is that after my parents finished helping me unpack, and my mother made my bed for me and cried and cried before setting out on the thirty-mile drive back home, I sat in my dorm room and I felt, once again, out of place. It wasn’t better than high school at all, and I was so shy and so paralyzed by who I wanted to be and how badly I wanted to fit in, that after a few unsuccessful attempts at making friends with the girl across the hall with the Betty Page hair and the job at Urban Outfitters, I avoided the dining hall at all costs and slipped away over the weekends, back to the suburbs, back to the warm apartment with its carpeted floors and my singing, dancing, cooking parents and my cute little brother who was always thrilled to see me come home.

I got out of the dorms as soon as I could, and slowly, over the next two years, I found friends to laugh with late at night, an apartment with a roof view of the Golden Gate Bridge, a handful of roommates, a girlfriend I couldn’t stop kissing, places to hang out all over campus, favorite cafes all over the city.

But none of that happened while I was still seventeen. All of that would come later.


The Disenchantments

Nina LaCour is the award-winning author of Hold Still and The Disenchantments. Her third novel will be out in 2014. She lives with her wife in Oakland, CA.

Find her online at ninalacour.com.

Follow @nina_lacour on Twitter.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss the other posts in the series. Throughout the week, more YA authors will reveal what haunted them at 17. Here are the Haunted at 17 posts so far…

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be featuring all the posts in a round-up when the week is over, on Monday!

You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


GIVEAWAY! 

Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.


 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • 17&Gone_thumbIf you’ll be in New York City for the NYC Teen Author Festival, come see me and get a signed copy of the book! Full schedule here—look out for me TONIGHT, Friday, March 22, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble or Saturday, March 23 at McNally Jackson or Sunday, March 24 at Books of Wonder!
  • The 17 & Gone Blog Tour is all about the images from my Pinterest inspiration board that I made while writing the book. The latest stop at the Mod Podge Bookshelf features an image that makes me think of an integral character in the story: Fiona Burke.
  • Kristina Perez has interviewed me for her Madeleine Project. Come find out my answers to some of the most important questions.
  • If you’re an artist or writer trying to piece together some kind of creative life, read my interview on Realizing Your Creative Life about growing as a writer and being vulnerable.
  • If you’ve pre-ordered 17 & Gone or plan to buy it this week (thank you so much for your support! it means the world to me!) and can’t be in New York City to get it signed, I have a way to sign your book from afar. Leave a comment on this photo on my Facebook author page and I may just mail you a signed and personalized bookplate.

NEXT UP…

What haunted Andrea Cremer at 17?

Adele Griffin: Haunted at 17

17&Gone_banner_general

My new novel, 17 & Gone, is now out in stores (!!!), and to mark the release of this story about a 17-year-old girl haunted by the missing, I’ve asked some authors I know to join me in answering this question… What haunted YOU at 17? Here’s a vlog from Adele Griffin in which she reveals an incident that happened to her at 17 years old and that still haunts her to this day…


Guest vlog from Adele Griffin

(Adele Griffin at 17, in blue! With her high school bff Holly.)

(Adele Griffin at 17, in blue! With her high school bff Holly.)

Adele Griffin reveals:

“I think it would be my worst nightmare to completely lose my sense of myself in this world.”

Watch the full video here:


Loud Awake and LostAdele Griffin is the author of a number of books for young adults, including LOUD AWAKE AND LOST (Knopf). She lives with her family in Brooklyn, New York.

Find her online at adelegriffin.com.

Follow @adelegriffin on Twitter.


MORE HAUNTINGS

Don’t miss the other posts in the series. Throughout the week, more YA authors will reveal what haunted them at 17. Here are the Haunted at 17 posts so far…

Feel inspired and want to share what haunted you at 17? If you write a post on your blog, leave a link or tweet it to me. I’ll send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like it, and I’ll be featuring all the posts in a round-up when the week is over, on Monday!

You don’t have to be a writer to take part in this. All you have to be is someone who was once 17.


GIVEAWAY! 

Want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a signed hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on this Haunted at 17 post will be entered to win. You can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. Closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. Two winners will be chosen.


 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • 17&Gone_thumbIf you’ll be in New York City for the NYC Teen Author Festival, come see me and get a signed copy of the book! Full schedule here—look out for me TONIGHT, Friday, March 22, at the Union Square Barnes & Noble or Saturday, March 23 at McNally Jackson or Sunday, March 24 at Books of Wonder!
  • The 17 & Gone Blog Tour is all about the images from my Pinterest inspiration board that I made while writing the book. The latest stop at the Mod Podge Bookshelf features an image that makes me think of an integral character in the story: Fiona Burke.
  • Kristina Perez has interviewed me for her Madeleine Project. Come find out my answers to some of the most important questions.
  • If you’re an artist or writer trying to piece together some kind of creative life, read my interview on Realizing Your Creative Life about growing as a writer and being vulnerable.
  • If you’ve pre-ordered 17 & Gone or plan to buy it this week (thank you so much for your support! it means the world to me!) and can’t be in New York City to get it signed, I have a way to sign your book from afar. Leave a comment on this photo on my Facebook author page and I may just mail you a signed and personalized bookplate.

NEXT UP…

What haunted Nina LaCour at 17?