Thursday, May 27, 2010

How to Cope

Let's be honest.

This game can suck your soul dry.

There have been times when I've tried to pull myself out of it, just for a little while, when everything gets to be too overwhelming. When you meet someone who just tapped out the first draft of their novel five days ago, and now they have four agents clamoring to represent them. When a book you think yours could run circles around sells at auction two days after it goes out, and you're still waiting in the dugout. When you're starting your second draft and realizing half the stuff you've written will need to be cut and you're really not sure about the love interest's motivations. When you don't have the time or the money to go to writer's conferences, and the agents you tweet don't tweet you back, and nobody likes your query in Query Letter Hell, and every agent who reads a full "couldn't connect."

Times like these, I try to get away from everything. I stop reading the blogs, I take a break from whatever I'm writing, I try to remind myself that there's a world outside my computer screen.

It never really works. Love it or not--and most of the time I do--I'm entrenched in this world. There's no going back. And that isn't because I'm published. It's because--like, I'm guessing, a lot of you--I care too fucking much.

I read Pub Lunch every day because I have to know what's going out. I read Jacket Whys because I need to know what the cover trends are. And this part of the process, actually, has nothing to do with jealousy. It's driven completely by this hunger to know everything that's going on in publishing, because, when you get right down to the point, I love publishing. I spent last weekend in NYC meeting with my fabulous agent and editor and as many other people as I could get my dirty D.C. hands on, and it was undeniably one of the best weekends of my life. It's amazing to talk about something you know about and care about with people who know about it and care about it too.


It can wear you down if you don't feel like you're as good as everyone else. And let me say it, loud and clear--everyone feels like they're not as good as everyone else.

It doesn't matter where you are in the process. You will always think that someone is writing faster or better or getting more attention from their agent or going out to better editors or selling faster or getting a better cover or selling more copies.

Here's what I've found keeps you from getting gnawed down to nothing with the jealousy, fear, and guilt that seems to go hand in hand with writing.

Tell someone who isn't a writer.

When I was querying in high school, I had a few people ask me why the fuck I kept running to the computers like an addict between every class. So I explained querying to them, with a flow-chart. All paths lead to rejection--query, partial, full--except this one skinny path over here that leads to acceptance.

One kid said, "So any step of the way, someone can just hit the YOU SUCK button on you?"


So after that, we called it the "YOU SUCK" button. Every once in a while he'd asked me if anyone had hit the "YOU SUCK" button on me lately.

Usually they had, and he'd grumble and say "Those bastards! They must be crazy to reject you! You're amazing!"

Keep in mind, this kid had never read a thing that I'd written. For all he knew, I could have been horrible. But just the fact that I was out there writing and sending letters made me fantastic to him.

So go tell someone about the industry. Teach them about the process. Sit down with your husband or your girlfriend or your best friend or your mom or anyone who gives a shit about you but doesn't know anything about this and tell them what you're going through and listening to and praying for every day.

You will be shocked at how much they don't know about how publishing works.

And they will be shocked at how incredible you are for getting through this day after day.

My boyfriend and my roommate know very little about the books I'm actually writing, but they know a shitload about the publishing industry, thanks to me.

And thanks to that, they know I'm a star.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

It's Tuesday

My brother told me months ago that relationships are animals. You have to feed them and pet them and let them outside and give them a warm place to curl up at night, or they will turn on you while you're sleeping and gnaw you to pieces. I said he was full of shit.

The irony that Anthony was the one telling me this didn't escape me; Anthony and I haven't coddled our relationship in years. We are twins who pass the peas nicely and sit across the cafeteria, who forget we have the same math class until one of us mentions something Miss Jarible tripped over on her way to the chalkboard, and we look at each other with wide eyes and a little laugh in our throats. Still, on vacations, when we're shoved into a room together, we whisper secrets as easily as we did when we were five.

And he is still the better listener.

My relationship with Michael didn't take any more work. We kissed for the first time when we were twelve and started dating when we were fifteen. After that, we were MichaelandEmme, one breath.

He's tall, but has the smallest hands I've ever seen, fingers thin as spiderwebs. I always touched them when we watched movies, straight ahead, not talking, and pressed his nail beds against my lips, sometimes, because it made me feel like he was fragile.

He ordered breakfast with fruit so he would have something not to eat.

I know all these stupid things about him.

We're seventeen now, him barely so, me for so long it feels like years. We're in my basement where we watched all the movies, where we had sex for the first time, tried to have me on top but I fell off, got a rug burn from the moldy carpet.

My mom's walking around upstairs, talking to her sister on the phone, and she is oblivious.

I wonder if there's even anything she could do. When I think of my mom as a hero, there's one story that always comes to mind. I was playing with Caroline, my favorite friend, in the backyard, and we found a dead—

half dead?

--raccoon down by the creek. We pushed it with a stick and rolled it over—kicked?--and we shrieked our way up the path back to the house, breathless telling the story to my mom, fingers pressed against out mouths, we would never go back outside again, never again, it was so so big.

All mom did was call Animal Control, and everything was cleaned. We went back outside.

Everything my mom has done for me and Anthony, and this is the story that sticks in my mind.

I don't even know where Anthony is.

Michael sits in front of me, hands to himself, on his biceps, squeezing. He watches me like I've died in a car crash.

I want to reach out and touch his hand. Just


But I don't.

He says, “Are you...”

Am I what?




“I'm sorry,” I say.

So even if relationships aren't animals, dead relationships are dead animals. I always thought I could break up with Michael and I would feel as if my hands were washed, and I would get up and walk away. I would get a haircut and a chocolate bar and fix everything, just me. I would be just me.

But no, I am me and my dead relationship, or Michael and our dead relationship, cold frozen eyes staring up at me from the ground, glassy like Michael's, on its back, stinking and swelling with everything it was. And I just want some number to call to come take the carcass, because I don't know what to do with it. I don't know where it goes, or if one of us will have to drag it forever.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

If I Owe You Something


Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Deleted Scenes from BREAK

These come from different parts of the book, but I thought I'd post them together because they have a nice little link, which you'll discover if you read carefully.

Neither of these scenes made it to my editor; they were both removed by yours truly when I realized they weren't really important.

Elements of these scenes were snatched up and used elsewhere, and parts contradict with stuff that made it into the book. I figure you're smart enough to figure it out.


“Jesse?” I call.

I hear him stop. “Uh-huh?”

“Feel like a visitor?”

He doesn’t answer for a moment. “Sure. Come in.”

I leave the hammer and transfer over to Jesse’s room. He’s sweaty and gross, a heap on his slated wood floor.

He flops down and peers up at me, his hair covering his eyes. “What’s up?”

His room smells like teenage deodorant and feather dusters. I lean against his bed and close my eyes. “I’m going to ask you something.”


“Can you tell me what happened?”

He sighs and scratches his throat. “The reaction?”

“Yeah. Don’t scratch.”

He starts his sit-ups again, exercise-growling between his words. “I broke out in some intense hives like five minutes after you left. Went inside, took some Benadryl. Throat closed up. Epi-pen. Ambulance. Standard fare.”

“Who did the epi?”

“I did.”

I sit for a moment, watching his pristine stomach muscles tighten every time he sits up. “I should have been there.”

He rests his elbows on his knees. “Stop, Jonah.”

“I should have been there.”

“Don’t beat yourself up about this. Seriously. I don’t want to deal with you.”

“How bad was it?”

He pushes off and resumes the sit-ups. “They’re all the same.”

I thought talking to Jesse would make me feel better, and now I just want to kill him or myself or both.

“Did Mom and Dad stay with you until the ambulance came?”

“Of course. God, I hate ambulances. I wish they’d just drive me. It would have been faster.”

“Could you breathe?”

“It was okay. I only thought I was going to die for a minute.”

Even when I was in the car accident, I never thought I was going to die. Now, I’m jealous of him in this horrible way.

“What’s it like?”

He rubs the back of his neck. “You basically just want to breathe.”

“You’re fine now, right?”

“Of course.”

“Do you want something to eat? I can make you a shake. Or get you a rice cake or something.”

“I’m all right.” He flips onto his stomach and starts push-ups. “Thanks.”

Yeah, thanks, Jess.

I retreat back into my room and sit on the floor. Push-ups are quieter than sit-ups, and now all I hear is the whisper of his wheezing if I listen very, very closely.


The cold road is like an ice pack on my chest.

No, wait. There’s an ice pack on my chest.

I open my eyes and it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

The first thing I see is Jesse, both his hands tight on the steering wheel. I’m packed in ice from the top of my head to my shoes, like I’m some kind of corpse.

There’s ice in my shirt, over my hips, stuffed in my socks. I’m soaking wet, shaking. Too much ice, or too much fever?

“Jesse,” I say. Jesse is my angel.



“We’re going to the hospital,” he says. “You’re going to be fine. You stay with me now, all right?”

The psych ward will find me at the hospital, but...they can’t make go back. If Mom and Dad want me, if someone here needs me...

There’s no crying. I sit up as straight as I can. “Where’s Will?’

“Naomi’s got him.”

“Where is he?”

“I’m right here,” Naomi says from somewhere behind my head.

I spin around. There she is in the backseat, clutching Will on her lap.

He’s not crying.

“Did I kill him?”

“Jonah, of course not,” Jesse says. “Just close your eyes. Everything’s going to be fine. You’re okay.”

I didn’t know my heart could beat this hard. My blood feels like it’s made of maple syrup.

Naomi says, “Jess, take the beltway.”

He shakes his head. “This is faster.”

I start coughing, and Naomi says, “Shit, you are sick.”

I shake my head.

“Yeah, you are.”

“What’s wrong with Will?”

“He’s fine, Jonah.”

The more I think about not shaking, the more I spasm like I’m having a seizure. Jesse steps harder on the gas.

I say, “Why didn’t you call an ambulance?”

His voice is steady and clear. “Because I can get you there faster. You hold on, now. That’s an order.”

After a minute, he takes his right hand off the wheel and finds my broken and swollen left one underneath all the ice packs. I close my eyes and think about Jesse’s hand and Charlotte’s eyes, and how I’d rather not die right now.

He says, “Please be okay.”

Will coos, “Jo.”

Thursday, May 13, 2010


Sorry the blog has been quiet for the past week. I'm finishing up my freshman year (!!!) right now, so I've been on the fritz while I'm just trying to get everything done. I hope you all have been checking in on the Do The Write Thing for Nashville auction to entertain you.

A few updates from my life: I'm gearing up for the boyfriend's gallant return and our subsequent trip to NYC (just before and sadly, not during BEA). I cut off my hair today. here is a scene kid-style picture.

And I'm very excited to tell you that, through the aforementioned auction, I'm getting a book trailer for INVINCIBLE SUMMER and a website redesign that will involve merging this blog with my existing website. I'm not exactly sure how that will work (If I understood how this shit worked, I'd do it myself!) but I assure you it's going to be fabulous.

I have this feeling I'll have an INVINCIBLE SUMMER cover to show you guys really soon. Keep your fingers crossed. I'm also having an excited week, publishing-wise, so cross some other fingers that I'll have good news to share shortly!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

No But Seriously Guys

You want this.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Do the Write Thing



This is a pretty big deal.

I'm sure you've heard about the insane floods this week in Tennessee. The fabulous (MUSER) Amanda K. Morgan has teamed up with a few other writers to create DO THE THE WRITE THING FOR NASHVILLE. Basically, it's a HUGE auction and every round has like 12-15 things you can bid on all donated by supahsweet authors, editors, and agents. And every bit of the money goes towards Nashville Flood Relief.

And, guys. You will not BELIEVE how many things that have to do with ME are in this auction. I basically donated my soul to Nashville relief. And now I want you to bid on little pieces of it.

I know there are some really famous writers in here and all, but I am going to be so sad if my things don't bring in some money. I'll probably be so sad that I'll stop blogging or something.

So do the write thing and bid on my stuff, obvs.

Auction starts at 10 AM EST tomorrow. (The website says 9 AM Central. I converted that time to EST because that's real people time.)

And here is your link! BUY STUFF.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Emptying My Pockets All Over My Blog

Here's some stuff that's going on in my life right now!

I'm in publishing limbo again.

Did you think it ended once you sold a book? HAHAHAHAHA.

That is the sound of me laughing at your foolishness and LAUGHING AT MY PAIN.

I'll take any crossed fingers you can throw at me. Or you can mail them, if that's easier. I'd give you my address, but I just rethought and pictured my roommate's face if fingers, crossed or otherwise, started arriving in our mail, and it wasn't pretty.

So let's talk about nicer things. Chances are, a year from today, you will have a copy of Invincible Summer in your pretty little hands. I'm assuming here that if you read my blog, you like me enough to buy my book. Also, that your hands are little and pretty. There's something pretty exciting about that. A lot of times I feel like Invincible Summer isn't coming out for ages and ages, but right now a year doesn't feel like too long. In a few days, I'm sure I'll be crying about how it's never going to come out and omigod what if I turn TWENTY before the release date and waaaah.

Copyedits on Invincible Summer are all done and getting mailed back to my editor in the next few days. After this, typeset pages and galleys and all the reaaaally exciting stuff. LIKE ARCs. I mean, I should shut up, because ARCs won't be for ages, but um ARCs. ARCs. That is all.

For those of you who care about my life as a human (vs. my life as a word processor) I'm finishing up my freshman year of college in the next two weeks and preparing for the return of my boyfriend, who's in been in Ohio for school the past year. I am astronomically excited for both these things.

This summer is going to be pretty fantastic. I'm doing a lot of low-key traveling (including a weekend in NYC over May 21st-23rd) and, of course, attending my very first WRITING CONFERENCE. I've met very few writers in real life, and no publishing professionals, so SCBWI LA is going to be insane and fantastic. Who's going to be there? You all better come find me. I'll be the nervous girl with the pink hair.