Tomorrow Is a New Day

Here’s a little piece of writing advice I give myself. I give it a lot, but it’s always worth hearing:

Tomorrow is a new day.

Today can be a big nothing. Today can equal 0 in word count, or deep into the negatives below 0 if I get carried away cutting. I can feel like the book is going nowhere today. I can feel like a crap writer today. I can doubt every single thing there is to doubt today.

And yet… the thing about a bad writing day is that it is only one day.

Tomorrow is a whole new start if I want it to be. Tomorrow could become a big sizzling something. It could equal 2,100 in word count—or more, possibly, much more. The book could go surprising, exciting places tomorrow. I could be worth something tomorrow. Tomorrow could change the whole game.

So I’m giving myself this advice before I go to sleep tonight:

Tomorrow is a new day.

The New Novel and 5 Things

I don’t mean to ignore this blog. It’s only that I’ve been working on my new novel, sharpening all my thoughts into one single point of a thought, trying to gain myself some good words and some good pages until they (somehow?) form themselves into a full manuscript and I slap my name on it and turn it in.

Things happening:

Thing #1: I came to a big decision to stop freelancing—copyediting and proofreading on a per project basis for different publishers—I’m not sure yet for how long, at the least for a couple of months, but a voice inside me is saying maybe for good.

Thing #2: The deadline to turn in the first draft of my manuscript is coming up fast and I really want to make it.

Thing #3: If you can’t find me on this blog, you can always find me here or here, though I shouldn’t be on there either, really, if you want the truth.

Thing #4: I’ll have an exciting piece of news to reveal about Imaginary Girls soon. It has to do with the book. And how more people will get to read it if they want, somewhere I can’t say yet!

Thing #5: An author I admire like you have no idea just emailed me while I was typing this post to say some incredible things about my book, which this author just finished reading and… I’ve lost all train of thought and can’t remember what the original Thing #5 was supposed to be!

Must stop with the things. I have to finish writing this chapter. Anyone else writing away like mad this month? Are you stopping for snacks? Any advice on neck aches and word count success? I deserve a snack, right?

In Which I Wish It Was 1989*, Back Before This Distracting Thing Known as the Internet

My mom sent me this card for my birthday. This is how I want to be.

Thanks to a jolting pep talk from my other half, a motivating talk with my oh-so-wise agent, and the great sea ahead that is my unfinished novel, first draft imminently due to my amazing editor, who will surely direct me to a vast, sparkling sea of revisions…

…I am wondering how to balance Writer-Me with Author-Me with Human Being–Me.

Do I have to turn off the whole internet, or can I restrain myself to only doing certain distracting things during non-writing hours?

What say you, distracting internet?

___

*I’m sure someone knows when the internet was invented, but I don’t, and I don’t want to distract myself by looking it up.

Say Hi to the Winner of the First Imaginary Girls Giveaway

The giveaway to win a signed ARC of Imaginary Girls closed last night, a minute before midnight, and I just want to say thank you so much to everyone who left a comment to enter! I’m absolutely thrilled that so many people want to read the book.

There were 189 official entries… and out of those 189 my other half, who also happens to be my web designer, E (E is the one who designed and coded my two websites, and he’ll be redesigning novaren.com inspired by the Imaginary Girls cover very soon!), had to pick just one. He wrote a randomizing script late last night, tested it a few times, and then handed it over to me…

And, instantaneously, the randomizer picked the lucky winning comment:

Congratulations, Grace! I’ll be emailing you soon for your mailing address.

And if you didn’t win this particular giveaway, just know I’ll be giving away another ARC soon, and more!

Follow this Facebook page for a bookmark giveaway announcement.

And follow me on Twitter for future giveaway news.

If you’re on Goodreads and want to win a copy of the hardcover book, enter this giveaway sponsored by my publisher Penguin.

Thank you so much to everyone who commented over this past week on the giveaway post… you make me all the more excited for June 14!

Who’s Your Book For?

My books are pretty personal, even though they’re fiction. Imaginary Girls was inspired by, and written for, someone special to me, someone I’ve loved since she took her very first breath in the upstairs bedroom of the farmhouse she was born in and I saw her open her eyes.*

Of course that person is my little sister, Laurel Rose. (Our family likes to call her Rose.) I’ve written before about Rose—for example, here, looking back on a photograph of the day I left for college. Since then, I grew up, and she grew up, and though we live in different cities we’re still very close, inside, where it counts. You’ll find her name on the dedication page of Imaginary Girls.

I should say that Imaginary Girls is actually told through the voice of the little sister—Chloe—about her mysterious and almost mythical older sister, Ruby. In real life, I’m more Chloe than Ruby—when you read the book, and read more about Ruby, you’ll see why—though Rose and I do share some of the sister traits Ruby and Chloe share in the novel. But what’s absolutely true to life and not at all fictionalized is the love the sisters share, especially how Ruby feels about her baby sister, Chloe, who she pretty much raised herself.**

So you can imagine that I wanted Rose to have a copy of my book!

Here’s the photo my sister sent me from Philadelphia after she opened the package and found the ARC inside:

I think she has the most beautiful dark brown eyes. (My sister, not the ARC.)

Rose said, and I quote:

“The first time I saw it I jumped up and down (my dog Marley did too) and I cried and sashayed and discoed a little. Then I came home and pulled it together.”

During these moments she and I also exchanged many exhilarated exclamation-point-ridden communications via text message, and I can’t even tell you how happy it made me to be able to give her an ARC.

(Btw: I have a couple more ARCs, and right now the giveaway to win a signed one is still open… So YOU could be the one opening a package with my ARC inside and then sashaying and discoing a little! Just leave a comment on this post and I’ll pick a winner Monday night. Photos of discoing and sashaying fully optional.)

More about my sister: If you happen to live in the Philadelphia area, and like to eat food (uh, who doesn’t!), you should read her writing for City Paper, for the What’s Cooking? column, and for the food blog Meal Ticket! Every week, my favorite thing she writes is the Snack Time roundup, in which she cracks me up.

This post will eventually have a sequel, even if the book doesn’t, because there’s someone else*** who made Imaginary Girls possible. Unfortunately, he doesn’t like to be photographed… But more on him soon, I’m sure.

So… tell me: Who’s your book for?

___
* In Imaginary Girls, it’s said that Ruby witnessed her little sister, Chloe, be born at home on the futon. My little sister was born at home, too, and I actually did witness it. Then, I seem to remember that my mom had a big party—or maybe the whole day was a party… perhaps she can clarify. I remember it as an exciting, wondrous event—most of all because I was gifted with a baby sister.

** Imaginary Girls is clearly fiction—and the magical realism aspect of the story is just one element of that. Another is the fact that, in reality, Rose and I have the most adorable, fantastic mom, so we weren’t left to our own devices while growing up. You should meet our mom! My first book was dedicated to her, and in fact, the fierce loyalty and selfless love Ruby has for Chloe is a mirror of how our mom is for her three kids—me, my brother, and my sister. My mom does very important work helping many people, and I know I’m not the only person who thinks she’s magic. Here’s a photo of me, Rose, and Mom at a book signing in my hometown.

***  You’ll also find a certain someone on the dedication page of both my books: E. But that’s a love story I’ll save for another day.

My Turning Point

Not so many years ago, I had a turning point in my writing career. An “Aha!” moment. Something made me remember it yesterday and I wanted to share it here—to show how you might think you’re going one way down a certain path you’ve carved for yourself, but in fact there’s another path carved for you. There it is, waiting, glimmering in the near distance. It was your true path all along.

This story is about how I became a YA writer, because I didn’t start out as one.

My turning point occurred in June of 2007, when I’d just started a new day job at HarperCollins Children’s Books. I was a production editor, working on the copyediting team. I was so excited about the job, because I’d get to work on hardcover YA novels. And I was very serious about the job (so serious, and so determined to do well that I took all the procedural paperwork home in the evenings to study!), but you should also know that on the side, early in the morning and on weekends, I was a writer, too. I wanted to publish my own novels one day. That had been my dream for as long as I could remember, but it sure wasn’t panning out for me. I’d gotten my MFA a few years before and at the time I started this new day job I was revising—endlessly, hopelessly, living in a spiral of revising—a novel for adults that I was unable to let go. I could not get an agent for that manuscript. I was very discouraged. But I didn’t know what else to do, so I kept working on that novel. Or staring at it with gloom and angst and trying to wring from it what was wrong, as if it would one day find it had a mouth and would tell me. (It never did.)

So there I was, starting my new job at a new publishing house, being my Copy Editor Self and pretending my Writer Self didn’t exist. My boss was this great guy I was excited to work for. And my first couple weeks on staff were spent getting the hang of things, and picking up projects that the other, more experienced production editors had started, so I could learn from what they did. One of the very first projects assigned to me by my boss—the first novel, in fact—was to do work on a book by Laura Kasischke.

The manuscript had already been copyedited and prepared by another production editor. My task was to simply check the manuscript pages against the bound galley layouts, just to make sure no text had dropped out. I wasn’t even supposed to read it at this stage. Just make sure everything was in place so ARCs could be printed. A very simple, very quick job.

And yet.

And yet I started reading. And then I couldn’t stop. This book that I was assigned to work on that week was Laura Kasischke’s second YA novel, called Feathered. And it changed my plan for myself as a writer. Simply put, it changed my life.

Interesting that my boss had assigned me this particular book to work on… like he knew me or something. But still. I’m sure he didn’t want me reading the whole book right then! All he wanted was for me to do the bound galley check, make sure there were no major problems, and move it along. There would be time for a full read later—maybe not even by me, since I was so new. But something happened to me when I was working on those pages.

I read and I remember very clearly looking up, straight into the sun shining through the office window, lighting up my new glossy wooden desk and the bright white proof pages, thinking, I didn’t know a YA novel could be like this!

Thinking, What if—and this would be the first moment I’d consciously think this—what if I wrote a YA novel, too?

The book utterly stunned me. After I finished Feathered, I immediately borrowed Laura Kasischke’s other novel from off the office shelf—her first YA novel, Boy Heaven, first published in 2006—and this book would stun me even more.

Everything changed for me after devouring Boy Heaven, something fired up inside me that was personal and growing and growing until it took me over. I was so inspired. So excited. So full of… possibility.

This, a great change after the low point I’d hit trying to write—and rewrite and rewrite and rewrite—that manuscript I was working on in my off hours—one that was, in fact, my second attempt at a novel for adults.

I’d never told myself that I should write a YA novel before this, even though I’d done work-for-hire writing for kids to help pay my bills. “My” writing was for adults, I’d thought, even though I always wrote about teenagers and from young voices. Writing YA had really never come up—not in all my MFA workshops, though it seems so obvious now. (There wasn’t a YA concentration, or even classes on writing YA, at that time in my MFA program, so I guess that’s why it never came up.) All I can say is that it truly hadn’t occurred to me until I read Laura Kasischke’s novels.

Reading Laura Kasischke would lead to more eye-opening YA-fever moments: Story of a Girl. Lessons from a Dead Girl. Sweethearts. The Blonde of the Joke. Paper Towns. Months after this, an editor friend who worked upstairs began to lend me YA and middle-grade books (I won’t call her out, but if she reads this, she’ll know who she is). Soon enough, I’d discovered Thirteen Reasons Why. Wintergirls. When You Reach Me. And more. More, more, more.

The rest is history, I guess.

I now know why that novel I was endlessly, hopelessly revising when I started that day job was so stalled: I wasn’t supposed to work on it anymore. There was a reason I couldn’t get a break. I was supposed to do something else. This. This.

I have my former day job—and my boss, who assigned me that fateful bound galley check—to thank for this. And Laura Kasischke, a poet and a novelist for both adults and young adults—and, so you know, it was hearing about her new adult novel, The Raising, a novel I must get and devour immediately, that sparked this memory. Whenever I think of Boy Heaven and Feathered I know them as the books that raised the question in me. The challenge. What if I write a YA novel? That was the day this whole new path made itself known to me. The very one that turned me into the writer I am today.

So tell me: Have you had a turning point in your writing life, too? Was there a surprise moment that sparked it?

____

Psst. You can still enter my giveaway to win a signed ARC of Imaginary Girls. You have till Monday 11:29 p.m. to leave a comment on this post and you’re entered.

___

ETA Friday, March 4:

Some commenters below have asked what it was about Feathered that struck me so. I’ll tell you if you’re curious: Continue reading

Time for… an IMAGINARY GIRLS Actual Non-Imaginary Signed ARC Giveaway

Imaginary Girls, my debut YA novel, is a surreal story about two sisters and it’s about to be published this June… but if you want to read it, you may not need to wait that long.

Today is the day I give away one of the beautiful ARCs (advance reading copies) to one of you! Signed, too.

First, do you want to know what the book is about? Read about Imaginary Girls here.

Intrigued? I hope so.

Now, here’s what you could win:

ONE WINNER will get a signed ARC of Imaginary Girls—inscribed to you, or just signed however you want it:

Please note: This giveaway is for U.S. or Canada only, I’m sorry! In order to enter, you must have a mailing address in the U.S. or Canada.

Here’s how to enter, it’s pretty simple:

  1. Leave a comment on this blog post. That’s it!
  2. Really, that’s all you need to do.
  3. But—BUT this is important—please enter your email address in the comment form where it says “Email.” It’s private and only I will see it. That’s just so I can get a hold of you.

In the near future I hope to be giving away Imaginary Girls bookmarks, another signed ARC, and a pre-order of the hardcover due out in June. So if you’d like to know about those giveaways, please like this Facebook page or follow me on Twitter. I’ll announce the winners and future giveaways there as well as on this blog.

But you don’t have to do any of that in order to win this particular giveaway.

Just comment on this post or email me by 11:59 p.m. EST on Monday, March 7. I will use a randomizer to select the winner and announce it here.

So… just leave me a comment below! Thank you for entering!

Contest Closed!