Monday, May 14, 2012

On TRAINWRECK and Optimism

So I'm starting back into TRAINWRECK edits this week. This is all for the good, but I have to steel myself a little. There will be no reading sad books, watching sad or horrifying movies (Girl with the Dragon Tattoo *shudder*), and self-care will be critical over the next few months.

I learned of the importance of self-care when I was a rape victim advocate. There is a protective mechanism that our bodies go through when experiencing trauma (our own or others), but afterwards, when that adrenaline mechanism falters, you are left with a big weight of hard stuff to process through. Self-care is what you do to process. My sister-in-law who works in sexual assault at Michigan State is a big proponent of yoga. For me, sometimes all I need is to sink into Julio and cry a little. Some people talk, some people watch movies that make them laugh, some people exercise, some people meditate or pray. It's different for everyone. The key is to do something healthy. And acknowledge the hard stuff.

Along with that, I am working on my Radical Kindness mission and am trying VERY hard to stay optimistic. There are many things to be depressed about in our own lives and in the world in general. But yesterday, I had a great conversation with my 5th grade Sunday School class about the things we can control and the things we can't. And how even when we are faced with adversity, we can control our reactions to that. That's not to say we can't be bummed out, but in the end, time spent wallowing in SUCK is just time away from promoting AWESOME.

Therefore in an effort towards self-care and promoting awesome, I am going to try my best (ahem) to be positive. Yes, I may still blog about things that drive me crazy ("slut" shaming, etc), but I will also try to come up with a viable solution/positive reaction to said things. I've committed to it. Wish me luck.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Kindness Project

Too often kindness is relegated to a random act performed only when we’re feeling good.  But an even greater kindness (to ourselves and others) occurs when we reach out even when we aren't feeling entirely whole . It’s not easy, and no one is perfect. But we’ve decided it’s not impossible to brighten the world one smile, one kind word, one blog post at a time. To that end, a few of us writers have established The Kindness Project, starting with a series of inspirational posts.

So these fabulous writers have started this project, a mission if you will, in an effort to spread kindness. And because they are so amazing, I have decided to join them in writing about kindness.

I have never been shy about talking how amazing I think all the writers I've met via blogging, Twitter, conferences, etc. are. They have always been gracious and helpful and have literally changed my life in many, many ways.

One of those people is my friend Jolene. She lives in Alaska. I may never meet her and yet she has done something extraordinary for me. Some of you know that when I was in college, my very dear friend from high school Joel died in a car accident. I wish I could tell you what an amazing guy he was. Great friend. Genuine and optimistic and smart and wonderful. It gutted me when I lost him.

When I first started writing YA books, I knew I wanted to one day write a story about Joel. And I thought I was ready for it. It's been fifteen years. But somehow, I couldn't do it. Until Jolene said she'd collaborate with me on it. Joel became Kyle. And within a day, Jolene sent me this:

"It was stupid to come here for this.
I don’t know how to say goodbye to Kyle. I don’t think I can. My soul has been shredded in so many ways that I can’t believe I’m still breathing. The room’s the same. Smells the same. He can’t be gone with all the sameness around me.
The paper’s soft in my hand. His words are everything and nothing I expected.
My heart breaks. Shatters. Splinters into so many millions of shards I know it won’t ever be the same again. How could it be?
He was everything, and I didn’t get it. Didn’t know it. Didn’t see it."

Jolene has no idea how much writing this book has saved my soul. Brutally honest and very hard to write and there she was every day saying, "This is amazing. This is working. Joel would love this." Even though she never met him. And the thing is, he WOULD love it. It's not his story anymore, but everything that needed to come out of me in regards to how I felt about losing him gotten woven into that book. My words and Jo's words all mixed together.

The other thing that I love about Jo is that when I'm having a rough day, she sometimes sends me a message saying, "You're a fucking brilliant writer" even though she's also wrangling Medicaid and a bunch of other shitty things that she sometimes has to deal with. This is kindness to me. Kindness in the form of a message in the midst of chaos saying, "You're amazing."

So many of the writers participating in this project have done the same thing for me. I adore them all. You should know them and love them too. And go visit their blogs.

Monday, May 7, 2012

The Choices We Make As Writers Addendum

I wrote this last week for my group blog: FOR THE LOVE OF CONTEMPORARY and liked it so much that I thought I would repost it here. Also, I am curious as to what you all think of this (if you haven't read it yet). AND, I added a paragraph at the end that discusses something remotely related that I have been thinking about quite a bit this month.

So I've been to a few conferences lately and one of the things that has come up is the issue of "writing for a wider audience." I went to this excellent panel at RT2012 on "Pushing Boundaries in YA" and Aprilynne Pike discussed her more "mainstream" books. To paraphrase: She is a fierce advocate for boundary-pushing in YA, but also, when she wrote her books, she understood that to reach the widest audience, she needed to pull back more on some things. She made that choice not only for a wider readership, but because writing was a primary income for her family. So the question becomes, are we sacrificing our artistic integrity so that the books that we sell might be carried in more places, used in more schools, etc?

I think the answer to this comes down to how much boundary-pushing things are central to your plot. I could NOT alter TRAINWRECK to make it workable for a Scholastic Book Fair. Yes, I could take out all the f-words (there are a lot), but the premise hinges on a horrible rape and the emotional fall-out of the victim and her boyfriend. My Ani loses a part of herself in that rape and becomes incredibly promiscuous afterwards because she can't find an identity beyond that. The plot hinges on a premise that could not be sold at Scholastic Book Fairs.

However, this does not mean that all rape books or issue books won't work in schools. We KNOW that they do. 13 REASONS WHY is in many school curriculums. SPEAK is in school curriculums (although LHAnderson has had to defend it from censorship many times). When I was in school, we read THE BEST LITTLE GIRL IN THE WORLD for health class. My teen betas now read WASTED in health.

Which begs the question, is it smart for authors to self-censor to reach a wider audience? My gut instinct is to say yes, if you can, than you should. It will just make it EASIER for you and that's a good thing. You ultimately want people to read your books. So if you can make that work, why wouldn't you?

That being said, there are some of us (ahem, me) who CANNOT write books that don't end up horrible in one way or the other. We write for the fringes. Stephanie Kuehnert said on that same RT panel, "I love the letters I get from my readers talking about how my books helped them with addiction. It means more to me than anything. But they'll never use my books in high schools and my primary income comes from being a bartender. So there's that."

Sometimes we HAVE to make choices about our writing because of our lives and our histories. Sometimes we WANT to make choices because we have important things to say and damn the man if they try to ban us. But, if you can get your IMPORTANT THING out to a wider audience by toning down language or making the hot tub scene slightly less racy, why wouldn't you?

New added thought: I have been relatively quiet on my blog lately. Have you noticed? Partly it is because I'm busy, but also, honestly, it is because I am a bit paralyzed by blogging. I worry A LOT that I am going to say the wrong thing, piss my agent off, piss my editor off, piss my publisher off, etc. I worry that maybe one day after TRAINWRECK comes out, someone will read some of these old blog posts and make judgments about me and my life. I have always tried to be honest about the person that I am. What you see is really what you get. But I fear that maybe that person isn't what should be all out there in the world. If I talk about my life or tell you about how I embarrass myself, is this somehow later going to be used against me? I know that I am not for everyone and I never will be. But I don't want my blog to keep people from buying my books.

I think that this is a problem that a lot of published writers have. I'd like to think that there are some out there who really just say what they think and deal with it. But even those who are relatively vocal probably have an off button now that they are published/getting published that they didn't have before. I am blessed to have my agent and my editor. They have NEVER been anything but supportive of all my crazy. But what happens when my book is out in the world and not everyone who reads it is 100% in Camp Christa? 

I don't know the answer to this. It's just something I've been thinking of. Maybe you all think and worry about it too. That's all. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Inside the Author's Studio with K.M. Walton

So as promised, I am back to doing author interviews and today's special guest is the amazing K.M. Walton whose book CRACKED is currently available. I will be giving away a copy of this book to one of the commenters. Even if you've already read it, you can certainly comment and I'll send you a gift certificate to buy a different book instead.

What is your favorite word? 

Kindness. I love all that it implies. I’ve been teaching young people about the power of human kindness since 1991—the first time I stepped foot into a classroom. It has been a passion that has infiltrated every crevice of my life.

What is your least favorite word? 

Spider. Saying it, reading it, hearing it – they all give me the willies. Don’t even get me started on seeing the real thing.

What turns your current MC on? 

I’ve been working on a ghost story and my main character, named Genevieve, is definitely turned on by her adorably sexy boyfriend, named Aidan.

What turns your current MC off? 

Genevieve finds her little brother Charlie to be supremely annoying. She doesn’t believe that he is seeing “the bad man” and she wishes he would stop talking about it.

What sound do you love? 

Raindrops hitting the outside of my car. When it’s raining, I will sit in the car with my younger son and wait for his bus. The car is off, and all we hear is the magnificent patter of rain hitting the car. We both agreed that it was “the best sound ever!”

What sound do you hate? 

Mean or defaming comments – comments that hurt and scar. I simply don’t understand how some people can be so mean, so calculating, so slanderous. Cruelty doesn’t make sense to me. And don’t get me started on liars.

What is your favorite YA quirk? (i.e. The Colonel’s desire to give everyone nicknames) 

Professor Snape’s inner dichotomy—the way he presents himself to the world, all the while, his tender heart beats. He is probably my favorite character of all time.

What profession other than yours would you like to attempt? 

I’d love to try my hand at writing a screenplay. After writing my very first novel (a currently unpublished MG sci-fi) I researched how to turn it into a screenplay. I soon discovered what a true art form screenplay writing was, and I let it go. But now that I’m doing this writing gig full time, I think I’d like to dive back in and see if I could take a class or workshop, and give screenplay writing a hearty try.

What profession would you never be interested in attempting? 

A surgeon. I just couldn’t do it. I’d be passed out on the floor, and the person in need of surgery wouldn’t get their needs met – or worse, die. Let’s just say I cover my eyes when bloody stuff comes on in a movie or TV show. However, I am extremely grateful for the people who can handle looking at the inside of the body!

If John Green exists and sits at your table at a SCBWI conference, what would you like him to say to you? 

“Oh wow. You a baaa-baaa-gaaah!” See, I have a literary crush on Mr. Green. His writing is brilliant and his wit shines brightly through in his novels. After my initial fangirl moment, I’d try to gather myself and formulate something intelligent to say. Try.

Thanks very much for hosting me here today, Christa. Your questions were fun to answer!

Thank you!! She's so awesome, isn't she? Don't forget to leave a comment to win a copy of CRACKED. And for those of you interested in what Kate is up to next, you should follow her here:

Twitter: @kmwalton1
Facebook: Cracked fan page