“I Was a Beginning Writer”

This past week, my fourteen-year-old daughter and I traveled to Orlando for LeakyCon, a fandom con birthed out of the Harry Potter book series, but has since branched out to include all things geek. We loved this con because they have a separate lit focus. I even got to moderate/present a Live Plot Twist panel with some of my fellow authors from Curiosity Quills (who has a newly launched website, so take a look)!  I also got to hear from YA bestselling authors like these . . .

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss

Stephanie Perkins, author of Anna and the French Kiss

 

 

 

Gayle Foreman, author of If I Stay

Gayle Foreman, author of If I Stay

 

 

 

John Green, author of TFIOS

John Green, author of TFIOS

 

 

Some of the authors participated in a panel titled, “I Was a Teenage Writer.” We got to see and hear these top YA writers reading from some of their early–very early–works. Here’s a clip of John Green reading aloud from  his sample. I couldn’t film much because as you’ll hear, I was the Bozo laughing too hard and couldn’t hold her phone very still.

 

The panel made me want to look at the first novel I wrote back in 2009, Sarah’s Crossroads, the one I thought was so perfect, I didn’t even need to edit it when finished! I submitted it to twenty agents and dreamed at night about receiving acceptance letters from all of them and wondering how I would choose to rep the million dollar deal I was sure to get!! Bahahaha! So, for your reading pleasure today, I present to you my prologue, with some bonus cliffnotes.  The bolded comments are my thoughts while reading it today. And hey, don’t judge. We’ve all got to start somewhere 🙂 Hopefully it’ll encourage you. If I once started out with this piece of crap and landed a publishing deal for my 18 Things trilogy three years later, you can too!

Sarah’s Crossroads Prologue:

In the summer after I graduated high school I accidentally wrote the novel you’re now holding in your hands. (Accidentally? What the hell?!) I blame it on my college application to the University of Florida.  Along with the application I had to write an essay. The assignment for the paper was this: Describe a setback that you faced.  How did you resolve it?  How did the outcome affect you?  If something similar happened in the future, how would you react?

It was hard to narrow it down and focus on one setback because I had already faced so many.  I could’ve talked about being abused by my uncle, my parents divorce and moving away from Michigan to the southern most state in the U.S., losing my house and everything I owned in a tornado, or mine and Ethan’s story. (Wow, can’t believe how obvious I was! Should’ve just titled this Jamie’s Crossroads)  Ethan and I are soul mates.  We were that way for as long as I can remember.  Our parents have been best friends since middle school.  By now our combined families have so many individuals that it’s like a Shakespeare drama where a variety of cast members are endlessly entering and exiting the stage.  Mom got married at seventeen years old and by the time she was twenty-six had six kids, including me.  It can be quite confusing to explain who everyone is and they only play a minimal role in this story, so I’ll wait to delve into that later. (If they play such a minimal role, why am I even mentioning this on the first page of my novel?)

I’m a mature full-fledged grownup telling you these things now; ok so a fairly new one at 18 years of age. (Yeah, full-fledged! I’m just going to tell you these things so I don’t have to show you through my actions. And why am I speaking to the reader? Nobody likes that! And why didn’t I spell out the age?!)  Like I said before, this all started with my essay.  I ended up writing about the move I took when I was 8, away from mom and my sisters and Ethan.  But I realized after that assignment I wanted to tell more.  I’ve been a writer all my life.  I was the annoying girl you come across in every Language Arts class, the one whose papers always got picked to be read aloud by the teacher as an example to everyone else.  My senior high school English teacher even went as far to say on my last day of school in front of the whole class that she was sure I’d be a famous writer some day. (Coughs *Jamie Ayres* Again, why am I telling you everything up front? So the reader won’t be surprised later?)

Well, I graduated two weeks ago and have a lot of time to kill (you’ll find out why soon enough if you’re patient). (Oh yes, you’ll be rewarded soon enough, lol) So I decided to write this novel that I’ve come to think of as a simple narrative.   I implore you to set this down right now if you’re looking for a tell-all scandalous story.  Though it may seem like just that to my parents if they ever read it.  But really it’s like a scrapbook of my life, mostly the lovely parts with Ethan, but also the secrets that you’d never mention at our family reunion. (But I’ll record it all in a book I hope gets published and sits on book store shelves across America!) In fact, at times it paints a kind of picture you’d want to burn in a bonfire at a church healing ceremony (that may sound strange to you, but they do that kind of thing at my charismatic house of praise).

I guess it’s like a diary, a written chronicle as a keepsake to pass onto my future children. (This does sound like an assignment I’d give my middle school students . . . perhaps I was still in teacher mode when I wrote this?)  I want to write it down now, before I’m too old to remember the stories I’d like them to learn from.  I’ll openly admit at the start of this thing that I’m not an indifferent commentator and as I am just 18, haven’t yet had the luxury to be healed by time, but I’d also argue that what I’ve suffered through can’t be healed by the ticking of a clock.  It’s difficult to forgive, let alone forget.  And really, I don’t want to forget, not anymore.  It’s what made me who I am today and if it hadn’t, I would’ve wasted my pain.  Like they say, whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. (I want to go back in time and kill this story before I waste two months writing it!) But to explain what I mean by all of this requires me to back up a little bit and tell you how it all began.  It begins where many good stories begin (but not this one, because this story isn’t even close to being good). . . in a small town where girl meets boy.

This has been a post for Alex J. Cavanaugh’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group, where we provide a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! Join us the first Wednesday of every month!

And one more picture before I leave . . . daughter and I got to visit the Harry Potter expansion at Universal Studios on our LeakyCon trip. I wish I had a pensieve so I could relive that memory of walking into Diagon Alley and taking the Hogwarts Express over to Hogsmeade for the first time. So A*M*A*Z*I*N*G!!!

HP Park

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TFIOS Feels, ReadOn, Audible, and UtopYA Con

Let me first start off by saying that The Fault In Our Stars movie, based on the bestselling Coming of Age love story about two teens who just happen to have cancer by John Green, was AMAZING!!!

I took my 13yo daughter and her bestie to a special “Night Before Our Stars” event that was held at 600 theatres around the country the night before the official release. We each got a commemorative bracelet and autographed poster and afterward, you could tweet questions to the author, director, producer, and the three main characters of the cast. They did the live simulcast from a movie theatre in Atlanta (more on that later). There were sooo many feels while watching this film. I LOVED the book, but I don’t remember laughing and crying so hard (and simultaneously) when reading the novel. Something about seeing it brought to life on the big screen made it much more emotional for me. It’s not a movie I could watch over and over again because it’s so heartbreaking, but I do think it’s trying to send the same message I try to send with my 18 Things trilogy. Love is stronger than death in the end. It’s hard to tell someone that when they’ve just lost the most important person in their life (and I wouldn’t recommend it), but after time, I do think most come around to that realization. Anyway, I think the movie and the two main actors, Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, deserve Oscar nominations. Doubt that will happen, but I’m sure they get the reward in the hearts of young adults (and wannabe YA like me) everywhere!

TFIOS Swag

TFIOS Swag

 

Other things I’ve been up to this week . . . I did my first live web appearance ON CAMERA for Jessica Porter, a book reviewer I’d met at a B&N event back in March. Check out the ReadOn with me (I’m up first), Leila Howland, Lindsay Cummings, and Amy Christine Parker (LOVE HER!).

readon

Then yesterday, Audible set me up with a local studio to record special features for my audio books of 18 Things and 18 Truths. I walked in and was met by a familiar face . . . I’d actually graduated high school with the owner! So thankful I knew him a little because I was really nervous and he immediately put me at ease. It took about 2 hours to record the Author’s Note, dedication, beginning chapter quotes, acknowledgements, and Literature Circle Questions for both books. He said I was a natural . . . I think I probably sounded like a dork. We’ll let you decide when it’s all finished! If you’re in the Southwest Florida area and need a studio, check out Paul L. Marshall Productions.

Jamie Recording

Other than that, I’ve been planning for my trip next week! I’m off to Nashville for the UtopYA Con (the Con for Women Writers of YA & the fans who love them). Super excited to meet up with my publishers sisters, Sharron Riddle Houdek and Krystal Wade, there (as well as blogger buddy Pk Hrezo). If you’re going, stop by Area 51, table 24! My daughter is coming with (who will turn 14 that weekend, sniff sniff) and she’s an aspiring author, so I’m psyched to have her come along and be inspired. On the way, we’re stopping in Atlanta because for some reason, we’ve never been! Lots of fun planned there too, including hunting down Theo James so I can touch his bicep (it’s on my bucket list). He’s filming Insurgent there along with Shailene and Ansel. How cool would it be to actually stumble upon them?! Keep your fingers crossed and if you’re in the Atlanta area, let me know if you spot any “Mineral” signs (code name).

"Now, now Jamie, you could get arrested for this." *lunges at Theo*

“Now, now Jamie, you could get arrested for this.” *lunges at Theo*

What have you been up to this week?!

IWSG-Beta Readers

IWSGHEADER

I’m sitting here tonight, anxious. April 15th wasn’t just tax day for me, it was the day I sent the last installment of my YA trilogy, 18 Thoughts, to my Beta Readers and critique partners. Three weeks later, I still haven’t heard anything. They all have busy lives and since I didn’t ask to have it back for another three weeks, I’m trying to keep those old insecurities from popping up again. But I’ve also read sooo many trilogies where I LOVED the first and second book, and then hated the third one, so sending this novel to other people who also love my characters was difficult this time around. But I know the only way to move beyond fear is to go through it, so I eventually turned it over . . . even though the ending I planned for the series two years ago when I started totally changed in the last three chapters!!! My 13yo daughter said since I pulled major plot twists at the end of 18 Things and 18 Truths, karma said my characters had to pull one on me in the last book! What can I say? Never underestimate the power of the “holy crap” moment. So I’m trusting what happened with the story was meant to happen all along and holding onto faith that I believe in what my characters told me, even while doubting myself. In the meantime, let’s hope I still have some nails left by the time my readers get back to me!

In other news, I was super excited to see Hot Topic carrying The Fault In Our Stars tees when I took my daughters to the mall this past weekend! I picked up these two to share with the 13yo . . . she’s much smaller than me but she hates tight clothing (praise the Lord!)

TFIOS shirts

 

I’m rereading the book now in preparation for the movie release on June 6th! Speaking of movies, I surprisingly made it to the theater twice this past week. First time was to see The Other Woman with my small group Bible study ladies. All I can say is HILARIOUS! I was afraid it’d be one of those chick flicks where the funniest parts were in the commercials, but not true at all. Definitely worth seeing. LOL funny. The other movie was a prescreening of The Neighbors. I went with hubs when he got tickets through his work. Bonus points for keeping Zac Efron shirtless for most of the movie but Seth Rogen and the Australian lady who played his wife (don’t know her name & I’m too lazy to Google it, even though the time it’d take to do so is probably equal to typing this . . . what can I say? I’m complicated) really carried the movie. Still, the film was too raunchy for my tastes, but it was free so I guess no money lost. And hubs took me to Tijuana Flats for dinner first . . . yes, it was Cinco de Mayo a day late, but who can beat their Taco Tuesday deal?!

What we did celebrate on May 5th was Revenge of the Fifth, the sequel to May the Fourth Be With You. All you fellow Star Wars nerds know what I’m talking about! Here’s a little pic of our celebration:

May 4th

So that’s what’s going in my world! What’s new with you? Don’t forget to thank a teacher this week–it’s National Teacher Appreciation Week! And don’t forget to visit other peeps in the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.