A year ago today, my life changed

On any given day, it's pretty much a crapshoot whether I know the date, or even the day of the week. Do I have to put on pants? No? Then it really doesn't matter. Even when I do, it's pretty rare that I could tell you what I was doing a year ago on this date. Writing? Eating chocolate? Listening to music? All pretty good bets, but they don't really narrow things down beyond "breathing."
Today is different. 365 days ago, I was waiting for a band I love to get onstage at an amazing venue. It was one of the greatest concert experiences of my life, and there's a lot of those to choose from.

But something made it better.

I got an email while I was waiting, an email from the lovely Meredith Barnes, who had requested my full manuscript the day before. It was an email offering representation to me and CODA.

A lot has happened since I accepted the offer a few days later: we edited, and edited again. CODA went on submission and, after what I can tell you felt like forever but really wasn't that long in the grand scheme of things, was bought by my wonderful editor Lisa at Running Press Kids.

After that, those clever people at Soho Press lured Meredith away, and I found a new agent, in what's a funny told-over-cocktails kind of story.

I know sometimes the road we take can seem endless, even directionless. It's a hard path, but today I'm just thinking that in a year, I've gone from someone with a manuscript to someone with an agent--two, now!--who is looking forward seeing cover designs, holding ARCs, and--most importantly--to her publishing date next spring. You can bet I'll remember what that day is.

Thank you, Mer. And Lisa, and Brooks. You've changed my life.

Genius writing advice, or why my friend B is brilliant

Text conversation:

Me: This page is very white and blank. *glares at it*

B: Quick! Type your favorite word on it.

Me: *does*

B: See?  You can't glare at your favorite word.

And she's right.  And the page isn't blank anymore.  And I can probably just do a "Find/Delete" on all instances of "defenestration" before I call this manuscript done.

The no-longer-blank page now has 200 words it didn't have 20 minutes ago.  Only one of them refers to throwing someone out of a window.

I want to be a writer when I grow up.

I said this to myself when I was about eight.  I remember it really clearly because we learned to write haiku in third grade and I had so much fun playing around with the syllables, even though I'm sure my attempts were pretty terrible.

My eight-year-old self has her wish, but there are a few things I wish I could tell her at the moment of that revelation, just to prepare her:

Dear Small Self,

Writers spend a lot of time not writing, or at least not writing books.  Some of it is related to writing books, though.  There are edits and outlines and synopses, where you write the whole book in five pages before you write it in four hundred.  Yeah, I know.  You still have to do it.  There's something called social media for making friends and getting people to learn your name, and you'll find out all about that when the Internet becomes a Thing You Can Play With.  Right now it's just something computer people have.

You'll also spend a lot of time not writing books because, again, someone invented this Internet thing.  There will be strange, amazing, as-yet-unheard-of entities called Twitter and Wikipedia.  Please, don't let these take up too many hours.  That also goes for a thing called an iPad and its very reason for existing, Angry Birds.  It's coming.  Prepare yourself.  (But if you're curious, you're actually pretty good at it.)

Small Self, I have to tell you you're not quite done with the magic of bath crayons.  Oh, you'll find more fun things to play with in the next few years, like skip-its and Dungeons & Dragons and boys, but, in the end...bath crayons.  You'll need them because your best, most creative ideas will come in the shower, and you'll work your way out of that seemingly impenetrable plot tangle while you have suds in your eyes.  Your friends will come over, have a glass of wine, and emerge from the bathroom asking, "Why do your tiles say, 'Speakers = Eggs'?" 

You'll have to answer them.  That, though, is good practice for talking about your work, which you will do with friends, critique partners, agents, editors, the cute tattooed guy who works at your local bookstore.  And I want you to remember that, in big and small ways, these people have your back.  They want to read, sell, and promote your book.  They want you to succeed.  Give them the satisfaction of doing just that.

And, on that note, treasure every hour you get to write.  There'll be times when you can't (see above) and times when it's hard and times when it's easy.  Value them all.  Small Self, you get what you want, and nothing will make you happier.  Trust me on this one. 

Just because it's wicked cool

Spotted via @mashable:

Tattoos that vibrate when your phone rings may be on the horizon

In which I talk dystopian fiction, my bucket list, and my protagonist's best friend

Not here!  The lovely Lenore Appelhans invited me to do an interview for her #dystopianfeb theme month, and it can be found here.

Important writing lessons

I want to print these out and put them on the wall:

How to Write a Novel

and, for advanced writers:

How to Write a Great Novel

Music Monday is full of luuuurve this week

I was going to celebrate the 80's this week, which probably tells you how much attention I pay to Valentine's Day, but I remembered this morning that it's tomorrow, so here we are.  The following is one of my "Swoons" playlists, which take turns going on repeat when I need characters to look all starry-eyed at each other  Some of these may be a little on the morbid side, but this is, you know, me.

  • The Decemberists - The Hazards of Love 4 (The Drowned):  Random fact: there are 572 songs in my iTunes library with "love" in the title, and this one may be the swooniest.  If "With this long last rush of air/let's speak our vows in starry whisper/and when the waves came crashing down/he closed his eyes and softly kissed her" isn't the prettiest love-lyric ever written, it's close.  
  • Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds - Brompton Oratory
  • Nick Drake - Northern Sky
  • Ryan Adams - Desire
  • Feist - Secret Heart
  • The Civil Wars - Dance Me to the End of Love (Leonard Cohen cover)
  • The Swell Season - In These Arms
  • Army of Me - Love Song
  • Bright Eyes - First Day of My Life
  • Okkervil River - Mermaid:  Another contender for swooniest lyric.  "My hands meet, and they press to a point in the air/but my mouth fills with more panic than prayer/and my skull fills with more color than care/and my heart fills with love, with too much love to bear."
  • The National - Slow Show
  • Death Cab for Cutie - Transatlanticism
  • The Smiths - There is a Light That Never Goes Out
  • The Cure - Lovesong
  • Suede - By the Sea
What song makes you swoon?