Tuesday, June 28, 2011

PTSD - Post Teen Stress Disorder

This post is for the teens who read my blog. Adults are welcome to read it, too, but it isn't for you.

My husband, who somehow ends up having deeply interesting conversations with strangers on a regular basis, was talking with a psychologist and mentioned that he didn't understand Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

The psychologist said, "Have you ever had that dream where you are back in college but missing a final or some variation of that?"

"All the time."

"Then you understand PTSD. There is a physical reaction to stress and your brain and body remember it, and in those dreams you're in that physical and psychological memory and your brain cannot understand that it doesn't need to be stressed out about that anymore. PTSD is that sensation compounded."

So, interesting, right? But here's the thing. I've never once had the "I signed up for a college class but haven't been attending and now it's the final and I'm dead meat" dream. Nope. But I very regularly have a dream where for whatever reason I didn't finish high school and I have to go back.

Yup. Pretty much my ultimate nightmare right there: RETURN TO HIGH SCHOOL AND NEVER GET OUT. (It was even more awesome when I'd have the dream pregnant and get asked to prom and think, "First of all I'll never find a maternity formal, second of all, it's kind of inappropriate, right?") (Which might leave you wondering why, if high school was so awful I am still suffering mild psychological trauma ten years later, I choose to write from teen perspectives. But that's not what we're here to talk about today. [Perhaps that should be discussed on a couch. To a therapist.])

Today I am here to tell you that it's going to be okay. Maybe you've screwed up. Maybe you're just worried you're going to. Maybe you feel so much pressure to be building building building for your future you wonder if you even want that future, or you can't sleep because you're convinced the future you want will never happen, or you cry when you are in the shower and no one can hear because you're doing it WRONG and it's going to ruin everything forever.

It's not.

That's the best thing about being a teenager: you can screw up. I'm not advocating making huge mistakes because you will definitely have to work harder and stress more than you would have had you not messed up, but fact of the matter is, you're probably going to at some point.

And when you hit that point, you might worry that it's over. This nebulous, hazy "future" you have sitting like those horrible little cartoon devils on your shoulder, might whisper in your ear that you've blown it.

I'm going to tell you a story that very few people know. (HELLO INTERNET. HAVE SOME OF MY SECRETS.) When I was a junior in high school I struggled with depression. I'm not sure why; unlike in most books there was no huge trigger, no big THING that made me depressed. I just was. And because I was depressed everything felt huge and overwhelming and too much for me. So I did something really stupid. I maintained every single other aspect of my life (I was a big fat faker and very good at it, too) but I stopped doing anything in my honors pre-calculus class.

Anything. At all.

I went to class. I sat there. I didn't do any of the homework. I don't remember what I did on the tests, but when that second term report card came home with a big F in the middle of my straight A's, I laughed and said that the teacher hadn't put in all of the assignments yet and it wasn't really an F. My parents trusted me because when I wasn't depressed I was an honest kid. But that depression monster made me hide things, shove them away into corners of my brain and my life, pretend like they didn't exist. Like math. If my math class didn't exist, then I could handle everything else.

This continued until almost the end of the year, when I could no longer hide everything, when the dark secret corners had seeped out into the entire room of my life.

It was over.

Everything was over.

I was living every day in fear, fear of being discovered, but even worse the fear of knowing that I had ruined everything. All of my dreams. All of my plans. They were over, and I had blown it, and it was all my fault because I was stupid and couldn't handle a dumb class and couldn't tell the truth and couldn't ask for help and couldn't sleep and couldn't even feel like I was supposed to.

To tell you the truth, I remember almost nothing from those few months. I don't remember how my parents reacted when I came clean that yes, in the middle of all my honors and AP "A" grades, I had failed two terms on math and was well on my way to failing a third. I don't remember what they said. I should, but I don't. The second half of my junior year is a gray blur of fear and failure.

One thing I do remember is this. After everything came out and we met with the teacher who agreed to let me make up all of the course work I had missed (a miracle and a very generous decision--turns out those adults we are terrified of as teenagers actually love us and want us to succeed) I was walking home from taking a makeup test, sure I had failed. Again. Even when I was trying to make everything better I was still just screwing it all up. As I went to cross the road and cars sped by I had a thought.

A brief thought.

A thought that maybe if I stepped out in the street and got hit by a car, this whole math thing wouldn't matter anymore.

Now, to be clear: I did not want to die. I was not suicidal. But I had let things get so bad and so blown out of proportion in my mind that the idea of being hit by a car seemed like a good solution. Looking back, it was such an irrational thought so as to be almost insane. Probably actually insane. But that's the thing when you are living in fear and depression and pressure: you aren't thinking rationally. You can't.

Gosh, this is getting heavy. Sorry about that. Here's where it gets better.

In the end I walked home. I did not let myself get hit by a car. Life wasn't easy, but I kept fixing what I had messed up. I worked on being honest with myself and my parents again. I worked with the very kind teacher who understood that sometimes sixteen-year-olds screw up. She let me redo the coursework from where I stopped, let me redo the tests, let me come into her class every day during her free period and essentially take the class again to make up my failed grades. I swallowed my pride at being "smart" and hired a fellow student to tutor me. I didn't get A's. I think I got three C's. But those C's buried in my other good grades were enough that my dream college didn't even notice them.

So even though I'd messed up, seriously screwed up, and temporarily derailed myself and my future, it was fixable. It wasn't easy. It was long, and it was hard, and it wasn't fun. But I had parents who loved me and wanted to help me succeed. I had teachers who cared and wanted to see me secure a good future. And I wasn't an adult yet.

You're a teenager. That's AWESOME. Maybe you're like I was and feeling like you are drowning in all of the potential futures you could have. Maybe you've already done something hugely wrong, made pretty much the biggest mistake you could. Maybe you think it's over. I am here to tell you it's not. You'll have to keep walking, keep moving forward. Yes, your life would be much easier if you hadn't done that thing you did, but the amazing thing about being you is that those futures spreading out in front of you? They're all still there. You might not have the same path to them that you thought you would, but they're still there and you can still have them.

Take a deep breath. You'll get out of this. And when you get out, things will be so much bigger and so much better than you can understand right now. All you have to do is make it through in the best way you can. Just remember how many people you have that care. It's okay to ask for help. It's okay to need help. Be brave. Make the hard choices. Do your best.

Also, for the love of Pete, have some fun while you're at it. And if you see me in your dreams dazedly wandering the halls of your high school while wearing a formal and seven-months-pregnant, just smile and pat me on the back and remind me that I made it through. Just like you're going to.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Supernaturally Hangs Out

So, I have some bad news for blog fans.

 Last year, after I did this same pose with my first copy of Paranormalcy, I was at dinner with my lovely friend Daisy Whitney, and we were talking about strange author pictures. She said, "I just saw one where the author covered her whole face with her book, just looking over the top." I said, "That was me." Then we laughed.

I'm kind of busy. And by kind of I mean I am in the market for another me. Or two. Or three.

 The backs of my books are freaking gorgeous. I've always loved the back cover copy they use. And the lightning! Still haven't gotten over my love of the lightning.

I've got a bunch of interviews and guest posts to do to get ready for my July blog tour. And we all know how interviews eat my brain. And then I have something very exciting but also brain-eating and time-taking in July as well leading up to Supernaturally's release. Something that I will have to actually, you know, do my hair and stuff for. (THE HORRORS.)

 "Is it always like this here, Paranormalcy?"
"Yes, Supernaturally. It is. Welcome to paradise."
"We've made a lot of Kiersten's dreams come true, haven't we?"
"Oh yeah. She owes us. Big time."
"I want a higher allowance. And no bedtimes."
"That's just the beginning..."

And it's summertime, which means my kids are home. All day. Every day. And they, like, need stuff and stuff.

 "And this, dear Supernaturally, is the Corner of Awesomeness. Welcome."
"It's all so pink! It's so beautiful...I think I'm going to cry."

Plus I kind of now have three books to edit, all at various stages of editing. In, uh, the next three weeks. In addition to everything else.

 Release day friends! Love us! Love us all! Or don't. But if you don't, Calla turns into a wolf, Ashline has volcano powers, and I still have Tasey.
Not that we're threatening you or anything.
But we totally are.

So taking all that into account, it's a pretty safe bet that my blogging is going to suffer some. Usually I like to have two creative things going on at once, and the blog is number two. I currently have five creative things going on. Which is a bit much, even for me. This doesn't mean no blogging. But probably not four or five posts a week.

SLUMBER PARTY. They are all going to stay up late arguing over what movie to watch. And then end up just reading each other, instead.

I used to be puzzled when people would announce things like this and think, just blog when you blog and don't worry about it. But I do get concerned comments from people when I don't blog as often, so I wanted to let you know that I have not died, nor do I plan on it any time soon. I'm just busy vomiting out my brain into other projects. And I'll still be around.

And the best part about all of the bonus stuff I'm doing is that you'll get to see it all and enjoy even more of that brain vomit. Which is the most appealing description of content you've ever heard, now, isn't it?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Author Crushes

Sometimes I read books.

Wait. Scratch that. All the time I read books. But sometimes I read books and they are so delightful or breathtaking or pure, simple genius (or pure, really incredibly complex genius) that I sit back and think, "Oh my gosh. I want that brain. I will keep it for my own and love it and take care of it and decorate it for all major holidays."

Fortunately for everyone I allow my author crushes to keep their brains. And sometimes I even remember to tell you about which author's brains I want so you can discover them, too. (Though I still maintain that M.T. Anderson's brain would look stunning on my mantel, all decorated with Christmas twinkle lights. Just sayin'.)

First up: A Picture Perfect Book Pair

I first discovered Mac Barnett at SCBWI's annual summer conference. Then I found out he frequently works with Adam Rex (and together they made the single greatest series of book trailers ever, EVER, bar none, for Rex's YA debut FAT VAMPIRE). I've read Barnett's hilarious and charming Brixton Brother's series, but today the kids and I discovered what else Rex and Barnett can do together. Do you know what it was?


 Guess again! No, wait. I mean, GUESS AGAIN! You probably guessed right the first time, since the title is right there. Unless you aren't very bright. But you're reading my blog, so clearly you are exceptional.

I don't want to say too much about this book and give away the surprise. But let's just say it was hilarious to read with my kids after giving them a rhyming-guessing-game book education for years with IS YOUR MAMA A LLAMA? and EACH PEACH PEAR PLUMB. When we turned the first page they were confused. Annoyed, even. But they quickly caught on and it's their new favorite book.

In fact, today I said, "Oh, that's funny," about something, to which my seven-year-old replied, "Yeah! Like GUESS AGAIN is funny!" (Adam Rex is very pleased that Guess Again! is now a unit of measurement for degrees of funny.)

And, in a joke you'll get once you've read it, "It's GRANDPA NED!" is my kids' new favorite catchphrase. (Replacing past favorite catchphrases of "That's kooky!" and "MUSTACHE!" which, incidentally, I think Mac Barnett would approve of as well.)

Seriously, this book is so simple in its hilarious genius I can't believe no one came up with it before. But I'm glad they didn't, because it wouldn't have that special Rex/Barnett flair.

(Their brains would get finger puppets and tinsel. And fake mustaches on special occasions. On April Fool's Day they would also show up in unexpected places, like lunch bags and under pillows.)

Second Up: Writers Everywhere, Beware

I will tell you right now: Do not, do not, DO NOT read Laini Taylor if you are drafting or editing your own writing. Unless you enjoy being plunged into the depths of despair and self-loathing, and look forward to viewing your own writing as artless, soulless, trite drivel. Which, I dunno, maybe that's your thing.

I have no funny words to put here. I am too busy remembering Karou and Akiva and wanting to read the book again.

I don't want to say too much about her upcoming book THE DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE because it's still a ways away and I will talk about it again, but if it isn't on your to-be-read-immediately-without-delay-the-day-it-comes-out-because-seriously-you-do-not-need-to-eat-or-take-care-of-your-family-or-do-anything-but-get-it-trust-me list, it needs to be. You know how a lot of blurbs about books will throw around terms like lush, sweeping, epic, romantic, masterpiece, thrilling, awe-inspiring, incredible, and you read it and think, eh, sure. Sure it's all those things. Mmm hmm.

ALL OF THOSE WORDS AND MORE APPLY. Laini Taylor is an artist, and she has an artist's attention to creation. I read her writing and I want to soak in it, to fill a bath with her words and sink down to my eyeballs and just let them envelope me. (Fully clothed, of course, because we use PG imagery on this blog, folks.) (I always bathe fully clothed.) (Don't you?)

People might describe this as an "angels and demons" book. Do not let them. Read it for yourself and understand why I say you cannot describe this book. Unless you are Laini Taylor, who can describe anything. Better than you can ever even dream of doing. And she's the sweetest person alive, to make it even worse.

(Her brain would get pink twinkle lights year round, and fresh flowers, and masquerade masks. And the occasional false mustache, too, because everyone deserves that.) (MUSTACHE! GRANDPA NED!) (Ahem.)


That's all the brain envy I have time for at the moment, since I still have a contest to judge (oh my gosh I suck I know I'm sorry). But I am pleased to report that my Amazon page now recommends fake self-adhesive mustaches. Now all I need are some mantel display brains to put them on!

Monday, June 20, 2011

So, Yeah

Remember that time I wrote a book in nine days?

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

Ahem. Sorry. But seriously.

HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA HA.

It's about sisters, and impossible choices, and guilt, and kisses like lies, and eyes and hands, and manipulation, and love.

It's a different framework than I've ever used before, alternating first person POVs between two sisters, and alternating between the present and the past that got them there. It's darker and bleaker than any of my other writing, and it's shorter, too. It doesn't have magic or creatures but it does have a girl who can see nothing but the future and a girl who has to always make the right wrong choices to protect them both.

I love it so, so much.

And I am so freaking tired.

Monday, June 13, 2011

There's Only So Much

*Don't forget about the contest to win one of three Supernaturally ARCs!*

I'm not saying yes to any guest posts. I haven't answered email in months. And I'm not doing any interviews at all other than the ones set up for me by third parties.

Honestly? I'm tired. I'm editing two books and planning/doing promo for a third, I'm trying to figure out how to work and still give my kids an awesome summer vacation, I'm trying to be a wife and a friend and a person. Sometimes it's hard to be a person, you know?

You might say, "Look at all the time you spend on your blog! Or on twitter! Surely in the time it takes you to write a series of silly tweets you could have answered ten emails, or responded to an interview!"

Well, maybe. But here's my reasoning:
1. I enjoy twitter and blogging. When I post things on twitter or on my blog, anyone can see them. When I answer an email, one person can see it. Twitter and blogging are easy ways to interact with thousands of fans/readers. Email is a time-consuming way to connect with a single reader. Do I hate email? Absolutely not! I love it. I read every single email I get and I appreciate the people who take the time to write. But I will admit that it gets a little bit overwhelming, and I haven't had the energy to answer them in a while. Sometimes it's too much, knowing how many people out there feel like they're connected to me through my writing and want to extend that connection on a more personal level. I understand and appreciate it! But there are just. so. many. That's all there is to it. I will eventually answer, but...emphasis on eventually.
2. Interviews. Oh, interviews. When I was getting ready for Paranormalcy's release, I had a policy of saying yes to every interview request. Didn't matter if the blog had two or two hundred or two thousand readers. I said yes. And by the end I wanted to bash my brains out with my MacBook.

Me:

"Wow, these interviews use up a lot more creative energy than I thought they would. And they take a lot more time than I thought they would, too, even when they are limited on question number."

Me:

"Wow. Most of these interviews ask the same questions (because it's natural and people are curious about the same types of things). But if I answer them all exactly the same way, that will be boring and no one will want to read them. So I have to come up with new ways to answer everything each time."

Me:

"IF I HAVE TO ANSWER HOW I CAME UP WITH THE IDEA FOR PARANORMALCY ONE MORE TIME I SWEAR I WILL TASE MYSELF."

Me:

"OH MY GOSH THIS INTERVIEW MIGHT BE THE ONLY CHANCE I HAVE TO CONVINCE THAT ONE READER WHO WON'T KNOW ABOUT MY BOOK OTHERWISE THAT I AM FUNNY AND CHARMING AND A GOOD WRITER AND THEY SHOULD READ MY BOOK BUT OH MY GOSH I AM SO TIRED AND THE FUNNY IT IS BROKEN AND I AM GOING TO BLOW IT AND THIS INTERVIEW WILL JUST CONVINCE THEM THEY ARE RIGHT TO PASS UP MY BOOK AND READ NEIL GAIMAN AGAIN INSTEAD AND REALLY HOW CAN I ARGUE WITH THAT??"

Me:

"HA HA HA I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT I JUST WROTE IN THAT INTERVIEW BECAUSE IT WAS THE FIFTEENTH ONE IN A ROW I ANSWERED TRA LA LA I WILL NEVER DO ANYTHING BUT ANSWER INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE REST OF MY LIFE."

Me:

*cries quietly in the corner*

So yeah, it wasn't my brightest idea. Trying to be clever in interviews sucked up an enormous amount of time and left me creatively drained. I didn't write a single new book in 2010. I edited a couple, but I drained myself dry doing everything else.

I won't do that again.

So this time around I am doing a blog tour with only a handful of interviews, organized for me by an incredibly lovely and gracious blogger. I didn't pick who gets the interviews. I'm not playing favorites. I just can't figure out any other way to do this whole author thing and still get to be a person. My priorities are on my family, and enjoying the writing again, and being happy, and trying to add author to all of the other things in the best way I can. So that means using my established platforms that I enjoy to be silly and connect with you all in a small way, and it also means saying no.

A lot.

I don't like saying no, but it's become a very important part of my vocabulary. (Even more important than "fustigate." Maybe even more than "chocolate." Definitely not more than "sleep," though.) Because I've realized that I give you my books and my stories, but I get to choose how much of myself to give, and in what ways, and that's okay. It's different for every author. And what works for me this year or even this month might change during the next.

I'm not apologizing. I need to take care of myself. But I am also not brushing off my readers. I am so incredibly grateful every single day that people care, and that they care as much as they do. It's amazing. I appreciate all of you more than you understand. I'll continue writing books and blogging and tweeting. But for now I've discovered that a gracious, humble, I'm-so-grateful-for-awesome-fans-but-I-just-can't-do-more-right-now "no" is my writing's best friend.

Probably my sanity's best friend, too.

Also the corner is grateful that I'm not curled up in it crying, because seriously. It was getting old.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

In Which My Hands Are Out of Control

In case you never get a chance to see me speak in person, I thought I'd give you a little glimpse into what it looks like. Basically, my hands are OUT OF CONTROL. People always comment on how I talk really fast, or say things like, "Sorry guys, sparkle tangent..." But what they don't tell you (because it is so scary they have blocked it from their memories) is that my hands turn into creatures with minds of their own and creep and shimmy and flail while I talk.

Sometimes the gestures make sense. For example, in the following picture I am probably saying, "I know, you guys thought I would be this big, didn't you? Not quite!"

 Actually I was talking about my first literary crush, Martin the Warrior. Who happened to be a mouse. Don't judge, he was totally hot.

In this next picture I am pretty sure my hands had completely taken over and I was actually asleep while my hands made threatening, scary gestures at the audience. These I can only interpret as, "YES, WE WILL LEAD THE ZOMBIE REVOLUTION. JOIN US OR DIE. ACTUALLY JOIN US AND DIE."

 I have no idea what on earth I was really talking about that could have justified this hand gesture. And my dad said of the forty pictures he took, my eyes were closed in thirty-eight of them. It's a talent of mine, really.

Fortunately I'm short enough that many of my hand spasms are hidden behind the podium, but those wily little rascals always try to find new ways to pop up. In fact, while I wasn't looking (because I was too busy answering a question about whether or not Lend would be in the sequel [answer: no, because I didn't want any flirting or kissing and Supernaturally focuses entirely on Evie doing homework and studying for the SATs]) my hands actually snapped my favorite pen in half. "THAT'S WHAT YOU GET WHEN YOU TRY TO CONTAIN US, KIERSTEN," they said. Well, I mean, more or less, since they don't actually have mouths.

"Yet. You mean we don't have mouths...yet."

Still, you work with what you've got, right? Which is why if you ever do get to see me in person, I'll have my nails painted a funky color. If my hands are going to take over, they might as well take over in style.

(And for the record, many wonderful people showed up both for my speech and my signing. It was awesome, and I was super happy to meet them. Not as happy as my hands, but then again, those things are caffeinated even when I'm not.)

(Speaking of hands, thanks for letting me put a ring on yours nine years ago, Hot Stuff. So glad yours are the hands my weirdo hands get to hold for the rest of our lives.)

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Metaphorically Speaking

Or, if you want to get really picky, it's probably more along the lines of simile-ly speaking. But that just doesn't sound as cool.

I've been reading a lot of books lately with really rich, layered language and descriptions, that make full use of descriptive metaphor and simile and really startling imagery. Inspired, I've decided to try my hand at a few. Let me know what you think.

The air between us was charged, alive, like those silver balls you find at children's science museums that you trace your fingers along and the lines of tiny lightning follow, and all of your hair stands on edge from the current. Except my hair was still as smooth and gently curled as a pure-bred Afghan hound, being trotted out for inspection at Westminster, and his hair was still as dark and unruly as the Black Forest, hair my fingers wanted to wrap around and get lost in, like a hedge maze but with better grooming and no spider-webs. As he drew closer to me, achingly close, my heart raced like a frightened rabbit in my chest. But not one of those dopey, flop-eared, domestic rabbits that drinks water out of a bottle wired to the side of the cage and sits around in its own feces because no one wants to clean out the cage. One of those stringy, half-starved, always on alert rabbits who has known nothing but fear and hiding, who darts out of the night right in front of your car and you brace yourself, waiting to see if the pert-eared creature made it or if there will be a stomach-sickening pop as you accidentally and tragically end a short, brutal life. I wasn't sure which fate my heart was about to meet, but looking at his lips, full and soft like a rose, and not a dingy, sad rose from the grocery store bouquets that feel of velvety desperation and reek of last-minute-thoughtfulness, but a full, wild rose growing on a hillside that hasn't known human hands in centuries, wild and free and full of thorns but all the sweeter for those thorns, I knew I didn't care if my rabbit heart was about to be smashed into oblivion like the particles of a tiny meteor coming into contact with an atmosphere too brilliant and infinitely hot for it to ever survive, because like that tiny meteor I knew I might be snuffed out of existence, but I would dazzle and flame out in glorious sparks, a shooting star death of my rabbit heart against his wild, thorny rose lips.

I don't know, guys. I think I'm on to something. Clearly my similes are simiMORES, not simiLESSES. Time to go edit everything I've ever written, because my style is about to get a serious upgrade. And not one of those upgrades where you have to restart your computer and wait around while it installs and inevitably leaves your clock all wonky, but one of those upgrades where you chuck your whole computer out the window and buy a new one, but not just any new one, that new Mac that you really don't need and will never use three-fourths of the features on but dangitall if it isn't just plain cooler and will instantly increase your super hip status when you take it and write in coffee shops, even if you aren't actually writing, you're just surfing the web and reading gossip columns and hating yourself for it. THAT kind of upgrade.