Monday, February 28, 2011

An Open Letter on Discovering Self


With permission, I'm posting a correspondence between a teen reader and myself. I think the things she asks about are very, very common questions, regardless of whether you are sixteen, nineteen, twenty-seven, or sixty. Or somewhere in-between, because oddly enough those aren't the only ages where self-identity is a question. Also, this is one of the only emails I've answered in over a month. So if you've written and haven't gotten a response, you will. Soon. Soonish. As soon as I either finish Para3 or it finally succeeds in killing me, in which case I will come back from the grave just to respond to your emails--see how devoted I am?

Hi, Mrs. White! 

I love your book.  I don't normally write fan letters/emails; actually, this is my first one ever, but I just wanted to tell you that I think that Paranormalcy is fantastic and that I am definitely going to buy Supernaturally.

I have three older brothers, and the eldest asked me not that long ago why I still read YA books since I'm 19 now and in college.  I don't really have that much responsibility yet, and I'm still maturing just like those characters, unlike what I think of for adult novels...But even more so than that, it's that books like yours are amazing and funny in a light-hearted way that's more suited to me.  You are also really funny, and I love reading your blog.

Which brings me to a different issue.  I admire the way you seem to really know yourself, and I remember a post you made on a Taylor Swift song - the one you thought that she was saying that she loves herself?  I remember it because you advocated for girls to have more self-confidence... and I guess my question, though it's super generic and maybe not even answerable, is how do you go about doing that?  Because you sound so sure of yourself, and having three older brothers has destroyed my sense of self in so many different ways.  Sorry, this is really heavy for a fan letter, I guess, but you just seemed like somebody I could ask.  And I hope that even if this question is unanswerable and something I need to figure out for myself, you know that you're a wonderful role model.  Thanks for all your words and for the enjoyment I've taken from your novel, blog, and writing.  And thank you if you've read this too.  Have a wonderful day,
 
--A Reader

Dear Reader,

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond! Besides being hard at work on the third Paranormalcy book, I've also really been thinking a lot about your letter and how to answer. Because, like you said, it's a tough issue. Mostly because it's like how I feel when people ask me for advice about writing--everyone has to find what works for them, and what worked for me might not be what works for someone else, nor should it be.

(Also, I seriously wanted to just hug you after that email.)

I think most people make it out of their teens wondering who they are and who they want to be. But that's the great thing about where you are now, right now, is that you get to decide! You're in college, which means you're not in that same pool of high school where everyone knows everyone. I found when I got to college it felt like my whole world opened up since no one knew me anymore or had any ideas about who I "should" be. Follow your passions. Explore things that aren't your passions but that maybe you've always wondered about. Don't be afraid to do things you're "bad" at--art, writing, dance, whatever--because maybe you'll find a new way of expressing yourself that you'd never had access to before. Surround yourself with people who like you and let you know, and people who have a positive outlook on life. Surround yourself with people who remind you of who you'd like to be.

Aside from finding new ways to discover yourself and look inward, don't forget to look outward. I find that when I can get out there and help and serve other people who truly need it, even though I'm not technically doing anything for myself I come away happier and lighter and feeling like I'm closer to who I want to be. I worry less about what I see as my flaws--because I have plenty of them--and just enjoy what I have.

This is kind of a random note, but I'd also say try to spend as little time as you can online with things like facebook. (Except my blog. Keep reading that.) (Just kidding.) It's too easy to get sucked into this black hole where you feel like you're connecting with people but really it's just words on a screen, words that can make you feel so alone and so much less than everyone around you. It's not true; it's just the dang internet. Get outside. Hang out with people who make you laugh. Remember that just because someone can write something on a screen does not make it true.

Example: I am 5'7"! I am 5'7"! I have long, willowy legs and dance with the grace of a thousand baby unicorns.

Nope, still not true.

In the end, like anything else, it's a work in progress. Some days I know exactly who I am now and who I want to be and how to get there. Some days I don't quite like myself, but I try to take those days and turn them into something positive--look at why I am feeling that way and how I can improve the next day. Sometimes it's as simple as taking those negative thoughts and feelings and saying, "I know that I feel that way, but I don't care. I'm not going to let myself think that way anymore because I deserve to be happy. I'm going to do the following things to help myself get onto a better path of thinking..." It helps to have a specific plan, but that's going to different for everyone.

You do deserve to be happy, and I hope you know that. And it's okay if you don't know exactly who you are right now, because that's changing every day--and it should be. Now is the time to accept and love who you are and plan for and work toward who you want to be. And if you aren't exactly sure who you want to be yet, that's okay, too, as long as you decide what you want to be. The answer to that should be: Happy and fulfilled and loved. Start by loving yourself and the others fall into place very quickly.

I hope this was helpful. Not quite as good as a hug, but as close as I can get without being creepy since we don't actually know each other. I am sending you my best wishes!

Best,
Kiersten

Monday, February 21, 2011

What Comes Next

After something as exciting as the post on Friday, with the jaw-dropping awesomeness of the Supernaturally cover, it's always hard to decide what to post next.  Inevitably it will be a disappointment, because nothing can compete with pretty red dresses and lightning and flowing blond hair and, oh yeah, my name on a book.

I was going to post the finalists from the blurb competition for y'all to vote on, but since it's a holiday I figured not many people would be desperate to kill time at work, so I'm saving them tomorrow, meaning you have an extra day to kick in your entries! (And oh. my. gosh. you guys are funny.)

Mostly I've just been working (or not working but trying to work) on the last book of the Paranormalcy trilogy, which is due to my editor April 1st.  The goal is to finish by the 28th of this month so I have all of March to edit.

This leads to some...strangeness.  For example, Saturday I was walking through the grocery store when I saw the world's biggest marshmallows.  "My kids will love these!" I thought, and bought them, because really, what else can you do when confronted with abominably large marshmallows?  But the more I was around them, the more I realized how much we had in common.  Their brains are made of sugar and fluff; my brain is made of sugar and fluff.  So, rather than eat them, I found other uses for their sweet, squishy selves.


 Headrest, when the writing is just too much

Wrist support for tendonitis

Imaginary friends, because I haven't seen my real ones in months

Soothing cure for under-eye bags

Convenient pen holder for signings

Cheering squad
"You're the best, Kiersten!" "YOU STINK!"
(One of them is better at it than the other)

Scaring small children (and my husband) (and poor Melissa Marr)

Trash talking other marshmallows
"You call yourselves marshmallows? You're tiny and chalky and couldn't squish if your lives depended on it!"

"Ooh, look at the Peep, thinks he's all that because he has sugar crystals on top. WE DON'T NEED SUGAR CRYSTALS TO BE NAUSEATINGLY SWEET!"

This was about when I had to stop taking pictures and separate my imaginary friends because they were getting so worked up they started using inappropriate language.  And then one of them ended up in the microwave in an accident so horrific and violent that it would make this post immediately rated R.  Alas, poor Marshy, I knew him well.

So, the point of this post is, if you are ever wondering how on earth to follow up pictures of the most beautiful cover ever, just buy a bag of marshmallow monstrosities.

Alternate point: Please for the love will this draft never end...

Friday, February 18, 2011

SUPERNATURALLY COVERED

Preamble pre-ramble: Here is a story none of you are going to read because you are going to scroll straight down to see the cover, and really I don't blame you because I would, too, and this cover? So totally worth skipping the introduction and jumping straight to the jaw-dropping, ZOMB holy CRAP how did they do it again beauty. So I'll just type my story for me, because that's kind of what I do.

I never liked my prom dresses. I always had this daydream of finding the perfect dress--the one that would make me feel thin and fashionable and sophisticated but in a fairytale princess sort of way. The one that would make me feel beautiful and confident. The one that would be uniquely ME, so that everyone would see me and say, "Yes, now we see who Kiersten is. How had we not noticed before?" The one that, for one night, would make me feel utterly and completely special.

Junior year I wore a tragically pale blue number I bought on sale that felt more like I was playing dress up than actually dressing up. Senior year I rented an ill-fitting maroon disaster that didn't do my pale complexion any favors whatsoever and cost less than my heels, which had to be five inches tall so the dress wouldn't drag on the ground.

So I never had my prom dress moment. (I did have my wedding dress moment the year after graduation, though, which more than made up for it, but pretend like I didn't tell you that part so my story has more of an impact, even though none of you are reading it.) My prom dress moment when I could look in the mirror and see myself revealed as another person, or maybe still just me, but a better, prettier me. That moment I knew I was dressed to show off the very best parts of who I was, to get only the best kind of attention, to shine.

Opening up Supernaturally's cover? That, my friends, was the best prom dress moment imaginable.

 ZOMB!  THE PRETTY!  THE PRETTY!

So much pretty. The red! And the flowers! AND THE DRESS! And that line above Evie's head that I am very, very fond of! And can I just say again how much I love the model they picked for Evie? I especially love that you can see her eyes better in this one. They are exactly how I always pictured Evie's eyes "like streams of melting snow."

But just when you thought you couldn't love this amazing red cover any more, I have EVEN MORE TO LOVE!  One of my favorite design aspects of my covers (aside from, well, everything) is that they wrap around so the image continues onto the back. THIS TIME WITH LIGHTNING.

ZOMB! The ELECTRIC pretty!

To sum up: SO. MUCH. LOVE. I feel like I won the cover lottery, and then I won it AGAIN. The design team at HarperTeen? Geniuses. I heart them. I'm kind of obsessed with them. (Alison, yes, I draw your name with hearts around it in the margins of my notebooks.) 

Covers are so terrifying because authors can spend hundreds of hours on the inside of books making them as pretty as possible, but the outside is utterly out of our control. We all want our books to sit on that shelf in their best dresses, screaming "PICK ME UP!" (which, to clarify, is not the sentiment I was hoping to express in my prom dresses, because a book screaming "PICK ME UP!" and a girl screaming "PICK ME UP!" are very different things), but we don't know whether or not that will happen. This time around I knew I'd be happy. I just didn't know how freak-out-oh-my-gosh happy I'd be.

Thank you, HarperTeen, for taking my book and giving it a prom dress moment of magic--covering it in the most jaw-droppingly beautiful way imaginable. Better than imaginable, even, because yet again you've exceeded my expectations. And Supernaturally doesn't even have to dance awkwardly with a boy in the middle of the gym.

My books have all the luck, apparently.

(You can have some luck, too. To be entered for the random drawing portion of the blurb contest, just post Supernaturally's cover image somewhere--twitter, facebook, your blog, framed in your office at work, tattooed across your back, whatever, I'm not picky, then tell me that you did. No links necessary. I believe you. Why wouldn't you want to share this cover?)