Look

Look, it has been difficult to write much of anything that feels worthy lately, living in this world. This morning the news is a child suicide bomber who killed 50 people at a wedding. The suicide bomber was no older than 14. There is flooding, and people have lost their homes. There are fires, and people have lost their homes. There are so many people in this city right now who don’t even have a home. I walk through the park early every morning to get to this place where I write, private, paid-for, electric key fob for entry, twenty-four hours a day someone guarding the door downstairs, and all around me in the park I cut through, people on the benches sleeping, huddled, sleeping on the grass, backpack protected in their arms or under their heads, sleeping sometimes with their cardboard signs “please help me get home.” In the winter, in the snow, someone made an igloo behind the benches, a fort really, a white belly in which to sleep, but I wonder if the cardboard on the ground kept out the cold. In the morning, it was empty, but I imagine for some hours of the night it was safe inside. In summer, people sleep out in the open. It’s hot. Two girls on a bench in the middle of the park, one lying down with her head in the other’s lap, the other sitting upright, guarding every door, but her eyes had closed. She’d succumbed to sleep. I wanted to stay and watch their bags for them, so nothing would get stolen, but I kept walking, it’s not for me to look. There used to be a woman who danced around a cardboard box in the mornings, a handwritten sign on it saying she wanted to open a dance school, a frightening frenzy in her eyes that kept me from looking her in the face and I feel guilty for it, but she is gone, I haven’t seen her in a few mornings, more, maybe, I wasn’t paying attention, I didn’t count. Sometimes I think about how that tree nearby was where people used to be hung. There was a young man with intricate tattoos who slept on a flattened box under the construction awning right outside the building where I write. He slept on his back. He twitched in his sleep. I wonder what he dreamed. One morning his sign said, “I wish I was dead.” He is gone, too. This morning, two men with loaded carts were there in his place, fighting. I walked the curb like a balance beam to avoid them. Sometimes I get yelled at if I come too close, What are you looking at? But I wasn’t looking. The worst thing is we’ve been taught not to look.

Today, they got my order wrong at the café, but I didn’t say anything, pretended I didn’t mind, though I did. I mind so much. But who am I and does it even matter? Today, I don’t think there’s any air-conditioning on at my writing space. I guess because it’s Sunday. I guess because most people are away on vacation. But I’m here and I have nowhere to go on vacation, and I’m trying to write, and I’m hot. I think about the absurdity of my life all the time now. I was flown to a small city in South Carolina two weeks ago to talk about a book I wrote. I stayed in a nice hotel and whenever I was in my room, I wore the hotel’s robe. I never thought I would be the kind of person who would be flown somewhere and stay in a place that had a special robe. So I wore the robe. I got every last second I could out of that robe. I don’t even know if anyone cared that I was there at the book festival, but I did. Who am I, I thought, and why is this happening to me? I stared in the mirror at myself in the hotel’s white robe, just made myself stand there, just made myself look.

I have two weeks left to finish my novel. The deadline is real. There is so much more I want to say that I haven’t yet gotten down in words, and the jumble of them and the stress and the worry of being good enough and the panic of what might happen if I’m not. And yet, think of it, look: You are writing a book. What kind of life is this? I may have dreamed of it when I was young, but in a hazy way, on a cloud, for lucky people, unreachable for someone like me. I’ve always wanted impossible things, things I should not want, things someone should take away out of my hands. That’s my personality. I had an innocent crush on Axl Rose when I was fourteen years old. I only recently learned that he’s a monster. I had posters on the wall of a monster when I was fourteen. There were things I wished for then, I can vividly see them. I wanted someone to love me. I didn’t know if anyone ever would. I am in my room with the door locked and outside my stepfather is making noise in the kitchen, loud, so I can hear it. Back then, he was the monster I knew. My world was so small then, it was bad and small and I was nobody and I was nothing and no matter how many times I wished for all the things, I never thought I would be sitting here decades later, loved, and with my dream come true. My book is due in two weeks. Someone wants to publish a book of mine, and here I am writing it. I looked across the table at the person I love last night, who loves me back, and he has brown eyes, dark, deep, I could never get tired of staring at them, but when I was fourteen I didn’t know for sure if he would even exist. He looks nothing like Axl Rose.

There is a girl who killed her father with a gun. Was that yesterday’s story in the news? Was that last week’s? She was protecting her family, her mother, her siblings. For years they had been abused by this man, terrorized by him, watched him flaunting that gun, and the police didn’t help and no one helped and so what did the girl do? What did she do for her mother, for her siblings, for herself? She got that gun, and she waited for him to be asleep on the couch, and she shot him in the head.

She turned fourteen in jail. This is true.

Her mother called the girl her hero. Also true.

These are only some of the things happening in the world, and here I am, in my private locked space, writing a story I made up in my head? There are no monsters on my wall anymore. This morning, I tell myself, Just get the words down. The words for this story. That’s all you have right now. Your book is due in two weeks, and it’s not going to be what you want it to be, not yet. The world is going on without you. Let it. There will be another terrible thing tomorrow; you will read about it; you may cry. You will take it in, you will carry it, you will worry, you will think of how small you are, but you are here and so many people in the world have nothing and you should never forget that.

Yes, there are bad things everywhere, all around you, but you have been given this gift and you can’t squander it. Look.

The End of an Extraordinary, Wordless Year; Some New Hopes for 2016

My number (23)
My number (23)

At the end of every year, I have hope for the new year. Every year, I think of all the things I could make happen… all the things I want to try for, all the ways I might do better, do more… I am extremely ambitious, many times blindly and to my detriment, and it’s my ambitions that are always staring me in the face when I reach the last days of December. I get to the end of the year and I look back on all the things I didn’t accomplish and the guilt trip commences.

I have a box in which I wrote down all my goals for 2015 on little slips of folded paper, and I’ll be opening it on New Year’s Eve to see what came true and what didn’t. I can’t remember what they all were… but I am positive there are more than a few in there that I didn’t reach. I happen to know, too, that at least one important wishful goal actually did happen… and I get a lightning-zing of excitement knowing it did.

I’m not in the mood for my usual guilt trip this year, I have to admit. I don’t feel like I failed. In fact, I feel pretty great about what I was able to do this year, considering. I may not have written as much as I planned to in 2015—to be clear: not even close—but I’m seeing that this was a year about something else that was significant in moving my plan for the next chapter of my life forward. This was about other parts of my life, my public life, my teaching life. I may have disappointed myself as a writer, but as an author, and as a teacher, I surprised myself like whoa.

For me, 2015 was a mix of these things:

Publicly…

Walls_YE_fb_v7 (1)Publicly, this has been an extraordinary year for me. I had written a whole other blog post about how strange and shy I felt about seeing The Walls Around Us named to a number of Best of 2015 lists, something that didn’t happen with my previous books, but I ended up feeling too strange and too shy to even publish that post. But that did happen to The Walls Around Us. It happened… to me. I’ve never ever ever had the kind of response to a book I wrote until this year. The words I have said about this (“I am honored” “I am shocked” “I am thrilled”) feel utterly inadequate, so I will go wordless here . . .

The year of 2015 was also extraordinary for another reason: This was the year I did more public appearances and events and author-things than I ever have before—things that would have caused me to panic and want to hide my head in the sand before, things I never would have thought possible, knowing how shy I used to be. But things I had always wanted to be asked to do.

This year was the first time I was sent to a conference by a publisher. (ABA Winter Institute in Asheville, North Carolina, was my first-ever publisher-sponsored conference! I didn’t know how to be an “author” and took the subway home from the airport instead of a cab because I wasn’t sure if taxis were really okay!) After Winter Institute, I was sent to a number of other conferences, culminating with NCTE/ALAN in Minneapolis, and leaving me feeling proud of myself, amazed, and… I’ll admit… exhausted.

This was the year I had my first-ever launch party for a book I wrote—I was too shy to do this before. It was at my favorite local bookstore, with one of my favorite authors, and it went so well that I went away saying I don’t think I’ll ever need to do a launch event ever again.

I am immensely proud of myself for doing these things, and doing them well (I would say; I hope others agree!), and I’m also so grateful and happy that my publisher invested in me and thought I was worthy enough to send to conferences and festivals.

Here are some photo highlights from this whirlwind year of events (click the images for the full caption):

 

columbia id
My faculty ID card

This was also the year my teaching began to really take flight. I taught three private workshops at retreat centers. A dream came true when I taught a class this summer at my alma mater, Columbia University. And I was hired to join the faculty at Vermont College of Fine Arts, something I’d been dreaming about for years!

The Walls Around Us was reviewed (so very well!) in The New York Times. It collected stars. It made those end-of-the-year lists I never found myself on before. It made the Indie Next List, something I have always wanted.

This was also the year that I had a short story published in an anthology, another one of my dreams.

Talk about a pinch-worthy year.

Extraordinary, yes, oh yes, a thousand times yes.

But what about what was going on behind closed doors?

 

Privately…

Privately, I’ve been… distracted, overwhelmed, and having trouble writing something worthy enough to follow The Walls Around Us. There. That’s the honest truth.

Partly it was all the public events I was doing—my first time for so much of this—and the toll that took on me, after. There was a lot of recovery time, I kept getting sick and facing migraine headaches and other issues, and I found myself needing to retreat, needing to tunnel inside myself, needing to isolate, desperately needing to be alone.

For long stretches—and especially as the year comes to a close—I find that the only person I can be near is my love, E, who understands this part of me and knows how I get when I’m overwhelmed. He has a calming vibe I need right now. I feel better just sitting next to him, resting my head on his shoulder, holding his hand.

Looking back now on 2015, I realize with a start that I became much more isolated than ever before, and have pulled away from many people. I’m not sure why I’ve put up this armor and hidden myself inside it, except that I think I needed to get through so much of the public part of my life and this was my best way to cope.

It’s made me melancholy though, at the end of the year during the holiday season, realizing how much I’ve isolated myself and how many people I’ve pushed away.

Then let’s talk about word count. Or better yet, let’s not.

Creatively, this was not a good writing year. The book I thought I had made progress on by the end of 2014 ended up not doing it for me anymore in 2015, and I made the difficult and terrifying decision to put it aside for now and work on something else. That means I’ve lost a year out of my publishing schedule, and I’m still not close to finishing a draft of the new book to turn in. I keep thinking of what some kind people are saying about The Walls Around Us, and I keep asking myself, Is this good enough? Is that the best I can do? Will I ever write anything I’m that proud of again?

I don’t know, but I am trying.

I also had a series of rejections all throughout the year to pretty much everything I applied for, but I have no bad feelings about it, because I know I’ve been lucky in the past. It’s not my turn right now. I’ll try again for some new things in 2016. I’ll keep trying.

 

Hopefully…

What do I see ahead for 2016? A whole lot of hopes.

My first semester teaching for Vermont College of Fine Arts begins in January. I’m hoping my first residency and semester goes well—I’m hoping it’s a good fit, for me and for them. My biggest hope for 2016 is finding a permanent teaching home, and I hope VCFA will be it.

I’m also working on that second book on my contract with my publisher, Algonquin. I will have a draft in my editor’s hands for sure in 2016, even with the little misstep I took this year. I’m hoping I can make it wonderful. I am hoping my editor loves it. I am hoping I love it.

I also hope to continue publishing with Algonquin and sell a new YA novel to them in 2016, but I have to finish this one first, so I’m hoping to be very, very productive so I can make both of these things happen.

And on a personal note, I hope that, in 2016, E and I are able to find ourselves a new home.

I ended last year in Sylvia Plath’s attic studio at an artists colony, thinking I was writing the next book I would publish (the one I ended up shelving), terrified about what the first trade reviews of The Walls Around Us would bring (and then they were shockingly wonderful), hoping I would be able to find a new teaching job that would help me balance my career (I found more than one).

I end this year at home in New York City, just having spent a solitary day alone at my writing space. I just had the most extraordinary year of my career, and I am intensely grateful. I have no new book coming out in 2016, so I have nothing to be so terrified about, do I? I have a lot of teaching to do, and a wildly intense schedule for the first half of the year that includes VCFA and two back-to-back Djerassi workshops. I have a book due. I really, really have a book due. And I have these giant ambitions, these hopes, these wants, these desires, these what-ifs.

To everyone who was a part of making my 2015 so incredible in so many ways: thank you, thank you, thank you.

To anyone I pushed away in 2015 because I was so overwhelmed and needing recovery time on my own: I hope you understand and can be patient with me.

Happy Year’s End. Happy New Year.

 

5 Things I Learned from Losing Another Hard-Drive

Part of my story as a novelist goes like this: It was the winter of 2008. At least I think it was 2008—my memory and sense of time passing has been going lately, so let’s just assume I know what year it was. It was the winter of 2008 (probably). I’d written a quick-and-dirty draft of a novel during November, my first-ever attempt at NaNoWriMo, and I didn’t “win,” and I didn’t like the experience because I’m a revise-as-I-go kind of writer, but it wasn’t a complete waste because I had about 200, 220 pages. Sure, I found those rough pages shameful. Still I had a draft. A physical something. A start.

Then my laptop died. The hard-drive turned on itself and ate its own head. All data was lost and not even the angels of Tekserve (an Apple specialist computer shop in New York City, known for data recovery) could recover it.

I lost the draft.

I mourned.

I raged.

But the good news is I would then go on to completely rewrite the book from scratch and that book turned into Imaginary Girls, and while I’m sure losing the first ugly draft was all for the best, creatively, it was still a painful way to get some good words down, you know?

I lost other pieces of writing in that hard-drive crash, too.

Not to mention photos, songs, diary entries, notes to myself, stuff. Lots of stuff. I lost A LOT.

Because I hadn’t been backing up very often.

You’d think a writer such as myself would learn a lesson from the Terrible Winter of 2008: The lesson that computers are flimsy things that cannot be relied on. The lesson that you can count only on yourself, if your self is smart enough to back your shit up.

Well, since the big crash in the winter of 2008, I went through a whole other laptop. (Which died and is a whole other story.) Now I’m on another new one, a shiny new Macbook Air that is less than a year old.

This shiny, new, practically perfect Macbook Air that is less than a year old died on me a week ago today.

It froze while I was reading an article on the New York Times website, and with that, in a blink, it was dead.

That morning—after a visit to the Apple Store, then to Tekserve (because the Apple Store won’t even attempt to try to recover your data), I learned that the hard drive and had turned on itself and melted to oblivion and was gone to the world. Gone.

The replacement would be covered by warranty, as the laptop is so new.  And the tech at the Apple Store, and the tech at Tekserve, they both said to me, “But you’ve been backing up, right?”

And oh.

And ugh.

Because I remembered that I hadn’t been backing up as regularly as I’d meant to.

Because I’d gotten comfortable.

I’d gotten too trusting.

I thought for sure a bad hard-drive crash like the one in the winter of 2008 would not happen to me a second time… surely.

I thought Apple wouldn’t make a laptop so defective that it would die so horribly less than a year after I bought it.

I was dead wrong. And the writing I lost will be gone to me forever.

And the people who said, “Don’t you have Dropbox?” made me want to hurt them. (Because, yes, I do have Dropbox, but, no, it wasn’t set up to automatically back up for me.)

And the people who said, “Blah blah I back up every day” made me want to scream. (Because I used to do that and lately I’d been forgetting.)

And the person who did not back up every single day (me) is the person I am most angry at.

(My laptop returned to me, repaired and with a factory-fresh, blank hard-drive.)
(My laptop returned to me, repaired and with a factory-fresh, blank hard-drive.)

Here is what I learned from losing yet another hard-drive:

  1. Never get comfortable. Assume your laptop could break tomorrow. Could break in the next five minutes. Back up every chance you get, like a paranoid backup fiend. Do not trust anyone—least of all a soulless machine.
  2. Do not expect sympathy if you lose your writing because you were not backing up every day. No one cares as much as you do. No one but you even knows what you lost.
  3. Tell yourself the writing you lost was needing to be lost in order to become what it was truly meant to be. And prove it, by writing up a storm. Prove it by being better than you ever thought you could be.
  4. Sometimes there is joy in writing from memory. It’s even better than it was before, I know it. (And don’t let your doubts tell you different.)
  5. Oh, and buy a Time Capsule or sign up for some kind of automatic backup service if you’re okay with your files being out in a cloud somewhere. Now I am backed up every hour on the hour, when I’m connected to home wifi, so I can do an easy Time Machine restore if (face it: when) this ever happens again. Plus yes, yes, I know: Dropbox Dropbox Dropbox.

None of this is news. It was only a hiccup. A setback. And now I’m off and running and I’ll get everything back that I lost, everything and more.

PSA: Have you backed up your writing today?

This Is the Week Your Book Comes Out: A Haunting Blog Series, a Giveaway, a Frenzied Whisper in Your (My) Head

It’s bright and early on a Monday morning and I can hear this low little whisper in the back cobwebbed corner of my brain. Psst, it goes, trying to get my undistracted attention. This is the week your book comes out.

The voice isn’t taunting me as some voices do: This is the week my book comes out!

17 & Gone comes out on Thursday.

THIS Thursday! March 21. I can see the date on my calendar!

Since this is the 17 & Gone release week, I wanted to do something to mark the moment. To celebrate. And what is one thing I like doing, as many of my blog readers will attest to? Running a little blog series and inviting guest authors to take part.

17 & Gone is the story of Lauren, a girl haunted by a host of missing girls. All she knows is the girls are all 17—like she is—and they’re all gone without a trace. It’s this haunting that consumes Lauren and propels the story, as she races to find out why these lost girls are contacting her, and if this means she could be next.

In keeping with the idea of hauntings, I’ve asked some YA authors I know to share posts answering this question:

What haunted YOU when you were 17?

Starting today, I’ll be featuring some of these posts here on my blog—and some of the authors will be responding to this question on their own blogs. I’ll be sure to share those links here, too! And of course I’ll reveal my own disturbed psyche when I was 17, because how could I ask other authors to if I won’t? (To make sure I was being true to my 17-year-old self, I even dug out my old typewritten poems and stories from that year… they are… gutting, embarrassing, and more revealing than I ever imagined.) A peek:

(An untitled poem I wrote about a boy who didn’t deserve a poem, circa 1992.)
(An untitled poem I wrote about a boy who didn’t deserve a poem, circa 1992.)

I also want to open the question up to you, if you feel inspired to reveal what haunted (obsessed, bothered, consumed) you when you were 17. 

And by “you,” I mean everyone and anyone—my writer friends and my other creative friends. I mean readers and book bloggers and people who’ve lived through that year of being 17, which is probably most of you, and who see this post and think you may want to respond to the question. What haunted YOU at 17? If you write a response to this prompt, share the link with me by commenting here or by tweeting at me and I’ll include it in my round-up of all the posts later this week. And in thanks, I’ll also send you some 17 & Gone swag if you’d like some!

The first post in the series will be up today, and it’s by an author who sure knows how to unsettle her readers: Libba Bray. She’s away in Italy this week (my breath caught as I typed those words! Away in Italy!), but she kindly gave me this post before she left so I could share it with you for 17 & Gone’s release. Thank you so much, Libba!

And thank you in advance to all the other generous YA authors who will be taking part in revealing pieces of their haunted pasts.


THE VOICE IN MY HEAD SAYS I SHOULDN’T LEAVE YOU WITHOUT A GIVEAWAY:

Okay, I won’t. Do you want to win a signed hardcover of 17 & Gone, some swag, and a hardcover of Imaginary Girls to keep it company? Every commenter on the “Haunted at 17” guest posts here on this site this week will be entered to win.

…And you can also enter by filling out this entry form.

The giveaway is international. The giveaway opens right now, this second, and closes 11:59 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 28. I’ll pick two winners from among the commenters and the form entries.


 17&Gone_thumbMORE 17 & GONE NEWS:

  • If 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 on 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 YA blog WORD for Teens has interviewed me about 17 & Gone. Here’s what I think about blogging as an author, why boy characters are so tricky for me to name, and moving to Mars (random, but I really do think about it).
  • I shared the places where I wrote 17 & Gone—with photos!—including a cluttered corner of my apartment, two artist colonies, my favorite café, and my beautiful writing space overlooking lower Broadway. Check out my In Search of the Write Space post on Meagan Spooner’s site, and be sure to enter the giveaway… I think you have just one day left to enter!
  • I’m touched and honored to say that Courtney Summers is holding a giveaway for 17 & Gone right now—she’s been so kind and supportive, which means extra-much to me because I admire her like whoa! She’s giving away 17 & Gone (along with an ARC of the anthology Defy the Dark). Enter her Facebook giveaway.
  • 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 Libba Bray when she was 17?

A New Blurb to Share for 17 & GONE

It’s a thrilling, humbling, exciting moment when an author you admire speaks out and vouches for you with a beautiful blurb. I am so excited to share this blurb for 17 & Gone from Kiersten White, who read the book and liked it so much that she actually reached out and offered (and I shrieked and squealed and thanked her effusively, and will probably tackle her with a hug if I ever get the chance to meet her at a book event), because when an author you admire says kind words about your book, there is nothing like it. Because she said this:

“17 & Gone is a sharply compelling story of what happens when we stop seeing what’s in front of us and start looking for what’s already gone. Intricately plotted and surreally imagined… Suma breaks reality and twists it back together in a devastating and beautiful new form.”

—Kiersten White, bestselling author of Paranormalcy and Mind Games

Thank you so much, Kiersten!! I am THRILLED!

On a more personal note, I also wish I could share with you a few of the crazed, awesome, and hilarious text messages I got from a friend and author I adore yesterday as she was finishing reading 17 & Gone. (Can a stream of text messages be “blurbed” on the back cover of a book, too? Heh. I’d share them here, but I haven’t asked permission.)

Speaking of 17 & Gone, I have seen irrefutable evidence that the ARCs I signed at the Penguin offices are trickling out into the world. (My expression in that last photo is hilarious.) Not only are the ARCs signed, they all include a letter from me. Thank you for the people who’ve gotten ARCs and tweeted me a picture. I love it!

(Featured image connected with this post thanks to @NereydaG1003!)

A Sneak Peek at 17 & GONE (If You Want One!)

I mentioned this yesterday, but here is a post to say this and only this:

I’m notoriously private about my novels and rarely show people until my book is edited and done. This is because so much changes in the editing, and I like having only a very few people know the early stages of what the novel was in the beginning. My editor makes me look better than I am, and I’d like to keep it that way. But even beyond that, I’m kind of superstitious about talking about novels in specifics before they’re complete (not including with E, my agent, or my editor—they get to know… other people, I’d rather they not know, no offense). Talking about a novel too soon can deflate it and sap its magic. Talking about a novel too soon with the wrong person—even if that person means no harm—can ruin the whole novel, for me. Some people’s ideas flourish by talking. Mine like to be kept secret and private until the time comes to let them out into the light.

Told you I’m superstitious!

But I can talk about 17 & Gone now—not only because it’s done, but because, as of yesterday, some of its pages have been released into the world and people I don’t know—anyone who wants to!—can read them. I’m kind of freaked out. Excited, yes, and freaked—can’t I be both?

So here, excite me and freak me out further and go read the opening chapters of 17 & Gone in the Penguin Teen Spring 2013 Preview:

Penguin Teen Spring 2013 Preview!

The Inadvertent Creative Break

(The view from my new writing desk.)

I haven’t announced this or made a big deal of this, but it appears that I’ve been on some kind of quiet walk through the woods of my brain lately. It’s dark in here and there’s lots going on and I kind of don’t want to come out just yet.

This isn’t a formal break or a true sabbatical like one of my favorite authors, Sara Zarr, is taking (for inspiration, I highly recommend you read her blogs about her sabbatical if you aren’t reading already). No, this is nothing so well-thought-out and maturely faced.

It’s just that after finishing the last round of revisions for 17 & Gone in July, and my computer breaking and not getting replaced until late August, I discovered that I am not sure what book I want to write next. I have so many ideas for YA novels—and other kinds of novels, too—so it’s not for lack of ideas. It’s more: What should be next? Where does my heart want to live for the next year, two years? What would my editor and agent want of me? What would my readers want of me? But most of all—more than anything, I admit: What do I want of me?

I thought I knew, and I did have something almost ready, but my heart doesn’t want that to be the book anymore, so a proposal that was almost ready to get submitted has been set aside for the time being while I try my hand at something else to show my agent. I’d expected this would take me a week, maybe two, and look where we are now: the end of September.

Every time I think about this I go through a bout of panic, beating myself up for what I’ve done, and yet I can’t seem to speed it up, either. The new idea I’m working through needs time. It changes and shifts and emerges with new heads each day I work on it.

So I guess I’ve slowed to a crawl.

I think part of this is fear, of course. Fear of not having a new book under contract and worrying what will happen when I try. Fear of 17 & Gone coming out this spring. Fear.

But at the same time, it’s wanting to have my third YA novel be the right one. And—no matter how scared I am, no matter how nervous and knotted up and annoyed at my snail-like pace I become—the truth is, I’m not writing on command here. I want to write something I truly love and that’s important to me and speaks to me and speaks through me. And sometimes this just takes time.

So, privately, that’s what I’m dealing with. Publicly, you can find me in two places, if you’re so inclined.

This weekend I’ll be at KidLitCon in New York City. Maybe I’ll see some of you there.

And online, I wrote a guest blog in WORD for Teen’s “Characterize” series. Who did I write about? Ruby from Imaginary Girls. Hope you’ll go read my contribution.

One last thing to tell you: While I was writing this blog—admitting to my fear, and thinking of my brand-new idea in progress and wondering when I’ll be able to let it go—something pretty awesome happened.

Penguin Teen released its Spring 2013 sampler, and 17 & Gone is in it! Maybe this is telling me something… To not be afraid. To not make excuses. To not worry about spending the time finding the right idea and the right way to approach that idea.

To be brave.

So, bravely, I will share the link with you…

Do you want a free peek at 17 & Gone—among such amazing company with other Penguin Teen authors like Lindsay Ribar, Gayle Forman, Maureen Johnson, and Ruta Sepetys? Go read the opening chapters of my new novel, and I hope you like them!