What are you trying to win?

I recently read the amazingly funny book You’ll Grow Out of It by Jessi Klein which led me down a rabbit hole of reading other funny things she produced and wrote. Klein is the head writer on the Amy Schumer show and the writer of this sketch about a group of pregnant women sitting around trying to one up each other about how natural their births are going to be. If you don’t watch it I’ll give you the gist here:

Woman 1: I’m giving birth into a tub of organic quinoa

Woman 2: Oh, yeah, I’m giving birth on top of a high peak in Nepal to get away from western medicine. My doula is a Sherpa.

Woman 3:My doula is a 3 month old baby so she really gets it.

You get the idea. Klein mentions this in light of a friend of hers who asked her once when she was complaining about something child or career related and comparing herself to others -what are you trying to win? I think it’s a good question to ask oneself any time you get overly worked up in comparing yourself to others.

I thought about it a lot this summer when I was on the beach observing teenage girls and young women taking photos of themselves. I work with middle school kids. I’m well aware of the influence of social media and selfie culture. But I was still grossed out by the number of young women I saw spending all their time on the beach getting the perfect shot.

Who am I to judge?

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I included this picture that I’m sure a friend took of me in my bedroom at age 16. The poster, the hair, the come hither expression. I have no doubt that if I were a teenager today I would have posted this. Ugh, it grosses me out to even think about it. But that’s what the kids do. They work hard at posting. The various groups of young women I observed spent almost their entire beach time  working on getting the perfect -casual, sexy, good time image. If I were a kid not included in this outing, I would look at that picture and think, “Everyone is having a good time without me. My life sucks.”

As adults we’re not immune to this either. How many times have you looked at the photos someone else posts on instaface and thought to yourself, “Their vacation is so much better than mine. My life sucks.” A friend of mine recently posted pictures of her camping trip with two young kids. As a caption she added that the pictures did not include her driving home because they forgot the sleeping bags or the time spent chasing their fire-obsessed one year old away from the campfire. I really appreciate these attempts at realism. It made me appreciate and more fully understand her experience.

But why shouldn’t we curate our best lives on social media? No one wants to go to a museum and see all of Picasso’s crappy failure paintings? Right? Maybe not. I was recently given the gift of The Moth -a paperback version of 50 stories from the storytelling podcast. In the introduction I came across this gem, “The number one quality of great storytellers is their willingness to be vulnerable, their ability to tell on themselves.” Maybe it is in fact our rainy days, our toddler meltdowns, our flabby bellies that make the better story and endear us to those we love.

When we curate and photoshop our lives the way advertisers photoshop women’s bodies do we make ourselves as unattainable and unrelatable? Are we losing the present moment because we’re so busy composing the perfect shot? And to what end?

What are we trying to win?

I don’t know. I do know that I spent last weekend away from my family with plenty of time to mull these things over. I went for a walk on Sunday morning down a long scenic country road. At one point a deer walked out right in front of me. So of course, I reached for my phone.

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No Excuses

It’s been an insane 6 weeks since the book launch party and I’m very sorry not to write this sooner. Between crocheting my kids Halloween costumes and cleaning the baseboards it’s been rough. Okay really just regular life stuff but it’s nowhere near as good as the image of me crocheting anything.

Here is my favorite picture from the book launch party at Mechanics Hall Library.

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I’m really hoping none of these children read my book before they’re in high school or at least that they have very permissive (preferably Unitarian or reform Jew) parents.

It was a blast. I’m so grateful to everyone who came out and made it fun and special. So thanks! I know I have more pictures somewhere but I can’t find them so here is a random pic from high school.

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By the way, I so knew this picture was being taken. This is just me being cute and pretending to be surprised. Also, these white v-neck t-shirts were a major wardrobe staple for longer than I’d care to admit.

If you’re in the Boston area and you have a lot of anxiety the night before the election please come join me and 3 other amazing YA author friends to talk books at Porter Square Books in Cambridge November 7th at 7pm. Love to see you there.

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Happy Birthday to Wired Man and Other Freaks of Nature!

Book Cupcakes

Thanks to everyone for their patience (Lauren MacLeod, I’m looking at you) and support (friends, family, twitter and Valerie Cole you’re all over it)!

I hope all of you local folk can make it out to celebrate next Friday night! More details here.

In the mean time here is a list of things you can do to show your love and support for AUTHORS IN GENERAL (not just me-really)

*Buy books – I know, duh, right? But seriously I don’t have an endless budget for books or a house big enough to store them all. But when I love an author, I buy their book. Also books make great gifts!

*Ask your local library to get books by authors you love.

*Write reviews of books you love on sites like goodreads and amazon -seriously, this can make a HUGE difference. Even a short review. Books with more reviews get promoted more on those sites.

*When you go into a bookstore -ask the employee where the book is. Even if they don’t have it this helps spread the word about their title.

*Social media is great for learning about new books. If you love something, let people know!

 

There are problems, and they are not resolved

Wired coverThis, in my mind, is the difference between writing for and about teenagers.

There are problems and they are not resolved.

I have a book coming out this week and one of the things on my mind, besides the fact that I’m a teacher and I’m going back to school and my kid is starting first grade and I selectively forgot to do all the major cleaning projects I thought I might tackle over the summer, and the damn Subaru dealer won’t call me back about replacing my faulty airbags, yeah besides all that. I’ve been thinking about the fact that not everyone will like my book.

Art and literature is subjective. I accept that because if I didn’t I’d be an idiot/insane. In WIRED MAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE there is a lot of (teenage) drinking and some drug use. I didn’t think that much about it when I wrote it because it was consistent with my high school experience.  I did most of the things my characters did without any major related tragedies. This is not to say I condone those behaviors -whether I do or not is not the point -the point is they happen.

SOME PEOPLE think that if you write YA fiction, you should write books in which teens who have sex regret it, or get pregnant or a disease. If teens drink or do drugs they should regret it or get in car accidents or develop addictions. That way no actual teens will read the book and think these things are a good idea. As though teens (or any of us) might be more influenced by fiction than the trusted people around us. SOME PEOPLE like things tidy and morally unambiguous. That’s not the kind of fiction that interests me whether it’s written about teenagers or adults. It’s not what I’d choose to read so it’s not what I choose to write.

There are problems in WIRED MAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE. Big problems about friendship and identity, about moving past life in high school and reconciling the future with the past. There will be some resolution because a story needs that. But life is messy and often times morally ambiguous and I think it’s okay for teenagers (and all of us) to know that too.

 

Book Launch Party and Contests

There are two great ways you can win a copy of WIRED MAN AND OTHER FREAKS OF NATURE before its official pub date of September 1!

First -my publisher, Carolrhoda Lab is giving away a copy on their blog.

Second -I’ve got a giveaway up on goodreads through September 2nd. So please spread the word!

Book Party

I wrote this book about two years ago -my first book took about four years to go from draft to publication. The point is it’s fun to celebrate with all the people who have supported me and this book along the way.

When: SEPTEMBER 9TH AT 7PM

Where: MECHANICS HALL LIBRARY 519 CONGRESS ST. PORTLAND, ME

What: Cupcakes, Reading, Wine/Beer in a really cool old school library!

Poster Book Launch

They’re here!

Wired books 2

And they are gorgeous! Thanks to the amazingly talented Laura Otto Rinne at Lerner Books. Carolrhoda Lab and Lerner have set the bar pretty dang high for any future books I may be lucky enough to get published. Check out the amazing inside cover.

Wired Books

Both Wired Man and The Other Way Around were so beautifully designed inside and out! With less than two months until this baby launches into the world I’m super psyched to share my favorite quote from the Publisher’s Weekly review (which you read in full here if you so desire.)

“It’s a keenly observed, emotionally deep examination of wounded, insecure teens trying to find their way.”

If you want to pre-order this bad boy feel free to use any of the links below.

From Lerner 

From Indiebound

From Amazon

Thanks always for your love and support -look out for details coming on a book release party!!