Today I have a guest post up at one of my favorite blogs, TwoWritingTeachers. Stacey and Ruth are some of my favorite bloggers and I am honored that they asked me to be a part of their guest post series this summer.
Two authors, two days! Today we welcome Lauren Kate, the author of Fallen. I’m about halfway through reading the book right now and I can’t put it down. I have all of these pesky essays to grade and I find myself wishing I could just sit back and finish Fallen! Not to mention, I have a pack of girls haunting me to finish the book and pass it on to them. A few girls picked it up from my desk, read the flap copy, and demanded I finish it immediately so they could read it. You can look forward to a review in the near future.
But for today, please welcome Lauren Kate!
****The Unroyal We****
I was in the midst of some long overdue holiday shopping when I got one of the most exciting text messages of my life: Fallen was debuting at number five on the New York Times Bestseller List. I dropped the overpriced tin of mint chocolate-covered marshmallows I was considering buying for my brother and bolted out of Williams Sonoma. I had to tell everyone I knew. Immediately!
I called my husband, my parents, my mother-in-law, my best friend—and every time I relayed the good news, I found myself saying the same thing. We made the list. We’re number five. Not “I,” not even “Fallen,” always “we.” I didn’t feel right saying anything else.
It has always baffled and half-charmed me the way Queen Victoria referred to herself as a plural entity: “We are not amused.” “We thought it best to arrest him.” Mark Twain once said “only kings, presidents, editors, and people with tapeworms have the right to use the editorial ‘we.’”
I’m no king and I don’t have a tapeworm, but I feel the need to add myself—or at least my writer self—to this list. Because the day I got that message from my agent, it became clear to me that any celebratory feelings related to the book must include every single person who had a hand in getting Fallen onto the shelves.
People have asked me recently how it feels to publish a book, and what the most surprising thing about the experience has been. And I can navigate away from saying how humbling the experience has been. I never imagined that half the things that have happened surrounding Fallen would have happened—and sometimes I feel like I had very little to do with it. I mean that in the best sense possible. I mean, all I did was write the thing.
But I have a brilliant editor-agent team who helps me rein some things in and tease other things out. And a design department at Random House and the artist who created the breathtakingly gorgeous jacket—which made all the difference in the world. I have a family that supports me, a husband who eggs me on and makes me laugh. I have endlessly resourceful publicists who put me places where I get to interact with readers. That’s the best part. Real-live readers at the end of the tunnel. Every one of these people make up my Unroyal We.
Writing is such a solitary act—and to me that’s the hardest part about it. Working steadily for months and months on a draft of a book leaves me brain-numb and socially inept. I have a hard time forming sentences with my mouth after a day of writing them with my computer. My favorite, favorite part of writing is finishing a manuscript, coming out of the cocoon, and re-entering the world.
There are three more books in the Fallen series left to write (and hopefully many more books after that), and before “we” go back into the tunnel to write the next book, Torment, it’s great to have glimpsed what’s waiting—for us all—on the other side.
Be sure to follow Lauren Kate on the rest of her blog tour. Tomorrow she will be making a stop at The Children’s Book Review.
Please welcome Alexandra Bullen, author of Wish, to the blog! Alexandra is in the midst of a blog tour to promote her debut novel, which I loved. (Check out my review). Alexandra has held a lot of jobs and I immediately noticed the list in her author bio on the back flap. I asked her to share with us how those many (and varied!) jobs have influenced her writing. I know that my students tend to think that authors sit down, write a book, get it published, become famous, and never work a regular job. They think you have to “do something big” to get inspiration for writing. Bullen proves that wrong in today’s post!
(Be sure to stay tuned at the end of the post for a chance to win a signed copy of Wish, courtesy of Scholastic!)
**********Alexandra Bullen, author of Wish**********
Part time jobs are a writer’s best friend. At least, this writer thinks so. Over the years I’ve done all kinds of different things, none more or less exciting than the jobs that everybody works in college, or over the summer, or when they’re trying to figure out what to do with their lives. I’ve worked in restaurants and bakeries, I’ve sold furniture,clothes and antiques, I’ve taught yoga, I’ve reviewed film scripts and answered phones.
Some days, I was good at it. Most days, I was a nightmare. But every day, I was a writer. Even during the months when I was working two or three jobs at a time—gardening during the day, waitressing at night, teaching yoga on the weekends—and not ever writing a word. I was learning things that I could never learn in front of my computer, or in a writing workshop.
Some of the things I’ve learned have helped me to be a better writer. Now, when I’m writing a story that takes place in the spring and I’m trying to set the scene, I know which flowers are blooming, which plants are seasonal and how they smell. I know what the earth feels like in April, how the leaves are buried under layers of frozen dirt and sometimes pieces of recycled trash, hidden in the compost.
Some of the things I’ve learned have helped me to be a better and more functional human being. As a waitress, I learned math. I’m not kidding. It was the first time in my life that I ever really needed it. I learned to multi-task, and prioritize—things that come in handy now when I’m trying to do things like pay my bills or organize my day. I also learned how not to be a jerk to your waitress; probably the most important life lesson of them all.
But the most valuable lesson I’ve learned working countless part-time jobs is the fact that not once did I ever wish any of them turned into something more. I never wanted to “move up.” I was always perfectly content knowing that even if I was burning my hand on the espresso machine six hours every day, I was a writer, too. And as long as I had something to go home to, some project to work on, some imagined deadline to meet, it didn’t matter how anybody else defined me.
Writer, human, mediocre waitress.
(I guess something’s always gotta give…)
Interested in reading Wish? Scholastic has generously donated a SIGNED copy of the book for one lucky winner! Leave a comment by Friday at midnight to be entered in the giveaway. The winner will be chosen at random and you will need to submit your address to me, to pass on to Scholastic. (All entrants must be older than 13!)
Today, Beth Fehlbaum, author of Courage in Patience: A Story of Hope for Those Who Have Endured Abuse (Kunati) has agreed to do a guest post on TheReadingZone. As a fellow teacher, I love hearing from writers who are also teachers! I always hope that their hard work will inspire me to put a pen to paper more often. Beth is currently teaching and doing a blog tour for her debut novel, Courage in Patience.
Have you ever seen the t-shirt that says, “I will not have a temper tantrum. I will not chew gum in class. I will always be on my best behavior. I am the teacher. I am the teacher. I am the teacher..” ?
I am a teacher in my “day job”– and school started for this year just three weeks ago, which means my students and I are all still in the ‘honeymoon phase’, so I haven’t ordered that shirt for myself just yet. Now, when spring fever kicks in around the middle of March, I’ll probably have that t-shirt slogan tattooed on the palm of my hand so I can see it up close when I smack myself in the face several times a day and ask myself what on earth possessed me to think I could teach these insane children anything!
Around Christmastime last year, I signed a contract with Kunati Books and Fed-Exed it back to them. At that point, I added a new profession to my resume’: professional writer. Since that time, in just about the same amount of time it takes for an infant to develop from conception to birth, my debut novel, Courage in Patience, a story of hope for those who have endured abuse, has become a reality. I’m juggling my day job of teacher with my night job as author.
I wrote Courage in Patience partly because of a therapeutic assignment. I went into recovery for childhood sexual abuse, almost four years ago. I have always written stories and poetry as a way of processing what was going on in my life, so it was natural for me to use writing as a way of working through my grief, anger, and shame. I shared them with my therapist, and he suggested that I try writing a novel. It took me about four months, trying to pull myself out of my own head enough to write about someone other than myself. Then, I gave myself permission to imagine how it would be for a fourteen or fifteen-year-old girl to be removed from her mother and stepfather’s home after being sexually abused by her stepfather for six years, and placed in the care of her biological father, who she had never known. With that premise, Courage in Patience was conceived.
I wrote it mostly in the middle of the night; I wasn’t sleeping well at the time any way, and, as the story grew in my mind, I would wake at two in the morning, and realize that my “Muse” was already hard at work. All that was needed to get the story down in black-and-white was for me to get out of bed, brush my teeth, and get a Diet Coke before I settled in at my kitchen table with my laptop. I’d write from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m. or so– and have to drag myself away from my keyboard to go get my face on and do my hair for work. I look back on that time now and I have no idea how I functioned. I think I was hyper-caffeinated and just plain driven to tell my protagonist, Ashley’s, story.
Of course, Courage in Patience went through many metamorphoses, sort of the way an embryo looks like a funky little shrimp before it grows with time and nurturing into what we recognize as a baby.
Like any new parent, I’m tired right now, but it’s a good kind of fatigue– the kind I wouldn’t trade for anything because I worked so hard to get this baby into the world, and I love it as only a proud new parent can. It is my hope that readers will love Courage in Patience– and Ashley– as much as I do.