Blog Tour


My friend and agent-sister Maya Rock tagged me for a blog tour spotlighting the writing process, and I procrastinated. I procrastinated when responding to her invitation. I procrastinated when sending my bio for her post. And I especially procrastinated when answering these questions because there’s so much pressure to be witty and chatty and philosophical. I procrastinated until this morning, and now I have to post something! So much for wit, chat, and philosophy. Here we go:

Who came before?
Maya Rock is the author of SCRIPTED (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2015), a young adult book about a teen girl who starts to question her place on Bliss Island, where everyone’s lives are broadcasted to the mainland as a TV reality show. Here is her contribution to the tour.

What am I working on?
I’m drawn to revisit the liminal space between adolescence and adulthood, a space imbued with restlessness, anxiety, shame, and desire. I’m finishing up the first draft of a novel that I’m not quite ready to share. (It’s going well, and I don’t want to jinx it!) But I can tell you about the short stories I’ve been writing, which I plan to compile into a collection entitled MONSTERS. The stories are set in Stone, an imagined town in an off-kilter version of our reality that underscores the destabilizing experience of growing up. A girl awakens to the reverberation of a sound that might have been a scream. Losers at a special school for reticent athletes must learn to toughen up, or risk being labeled Lost Causes. A man who longs to recapture his adolescent desire becomes trapped in a memory with the girl he once loved. There is a Ferris wheel.


How does my work differ from others of its genre?
Who cares? I know it’s good to be a business-savvy writer, to be aware of trends, and to pinpoint exactly where in the bookstore your masterpiece should be shelved—but I’m trying not worry about all that and just focus on the work. I write what I want to write, which might be different, and it might not. As my father says in the only Hebrew he knows, En kol chadásh táchat hashámesh. It’s different because it’s mine.

Why do I write what I do?
I write stories based on events that haunt me, most of which occurred when I was thirteen or fourteen—an age when we feel everything so close to the skin. It took me 15 years to figure out how to write my first (as-yet unpublished) novel, THE HERO, which was inspired by a traumatic experience on a youth sports team. My intention was to show how easily children get caught up in the quest to win—without questioning what “winning” means to them. In my research, I came across a striking quote from sports psychologists Robert Hughes and Jay Coakley: “According to the sport ethic, an athlete does not give in to pressure, pain, or fear… The idea is that athletes never back down from challenges in the form of either physical risk or pressure, and that standing up to challenges involves moral courage” (emphasis added). With THE HERO, I wanted to challenge the way we measure our heroes—and the way our “heroes” measure themselves.

My novel-in-progress is also inspired by an event from my adolescence, which haunted until I finally figured out how to tell the story. It’s about some girls. And that’s all I’m going to say about it for now!


How does your writing process work?
I write before work, when the house is dark and the only sounds are the computer keys and my cat purring. I write during my lunch break, too—unless I’m watching Vampire Diaries. For a more earnest discussion about the Writing Process, here’s an old blog post. And another one. And one more for good measure.

Who’s next? (In alphabetical order)
I’m tagging three of my favorite authors to answer the questions and continue the tour next Monday, March 24:

Abigail Baker (who will join the tour a day later on Tuesday, March 25) shares her home with a Siamese cat endearingly named “The Other Cat” and two rescued mutts with mundane human names that people think are cute. In addition to writing about rebellious heroines, she enjoys hiking, discovering craft beers, baking the perfect vanilla bean cupcake, and rock climbing (going as far as scaling 800 vertical feet to the summit of Devil’s Tower National Monument in 2013.). Abigail won first place in the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writer’s 2010 Colorado Gold Writing Contest for Romance for THE BLOODSUCKER and first place in RWA’s Golden Network’s 2011 Golden Pen in Paranormal Romance for TATTOO OF YOUR NAME ACROSS MY SOUL (now THE REAPER’S KISS, Deathmark Book One). She regularly blogs about life observances, lives at the base of the Rocky Mountains, and can be easily found hiking any of Colorado’s best trails. Her urban fantasy series THE REAPER’S KISS, Deathmark Book One will be released by Entangled Publishing, LLC in 2014.

Brenna Ehrlich is the co-author of the book STUFF HIPSTERS HATE: A FIELD GUIDE TO THE PASSIONATE OPINIONS OF THE INDIFFERENT, published in 2010 by Ulysses Press, as well a blog by the same name. She’s the Senior Writer and Editor of MTV’s O Music Awards and a reporter for MTV News. In the past, she had a weekly Netiquette column on CNN, and served as associate editor at, as well as associate editor at Heeb magazine. She has a master’s in journalism from Medill University and enjoys listening to songs on repeat. Teenage Writeland is a blog featuring interviews with YA authors.

Austin H. Gilkeson spends his days working as a Japanese government bureaucrat and his nights writing middle-grade and YA fiction. He recently completed his first book, MAB IPSWICH, OR THE WICKEDEST WITCH. His writing has appeared in Underneath the Juniper Tree, Spellbound, and will soon be featured on Cast of Wonders. He currently lives in Chicago with his wife.

Bonus tag!

Maya also tagged our fellow agent-sister Jennifer Chen,  a freelance writer and editor, playwright, and author who has written for, BustEvery Day with Rachael RayNatural Health, and VegNews. In April 2013, she won a Maggie award for Best Feature Article for her piece on the survival of independent magazines. She writes middle-grade and YA fiction and is represented by the lovely Michelle Andelman of Regal Literary. She blogs at and can be found on TwitterInstagram, and Pinterest at @jchenwriter. features all types of crafts from writing advice, cookbook reviews, vegan hot spots, and knitting projects.


Friday Angst: the sacrifice

Sunday, December 10, 1995 6:30 am (Age 14)

I can’t sleep for worry and pain. Today I have decided to talk to Melissa about Kevin. She always says that she hates him, which makes me angry and jealous. Kevin likes the girl who is mean and doesn’t like him, while I really like him and would never throw ice at his face.

Yesterday at lunch, Kevin kept looking at me and screaming that I was scaring him. I replied that I would throw my hot chocolate at him if he continued to be so rude, but he answered that his cup was fuller. Later, Melissa told me that she would have thrown it at him.

Kevin’s teasing isn’t violent, but throwing hot liquid at him to ruin his clothes and make him walk around wet and cold all day is violent.

Anyway, I’m going to talk to Melissa next time she brings up how cruel Kevin is, and I will tell her that Kevin wonders why she hates him enough to throw ice at his head. I’ll tell her that Kevin is a good person and all good people deserve to be treated with kindness, even if they tease you a lot. Kevin’s personality is Kevin’s personality, and there’s nothing wrong with it unless he hurts you in some way.

Kevin will probably never learn how I am going to stand up for him. Maybe Melissa will realize what I am trying to tell her and be kinder to Kevin. Maybe they will find that they really like each other and start going out. That would hurt so much.

Because I like him so much that I’m willing to stand up for him, he may go out with Melissa, who hates him. I feel like the Little Mermaid who loved a man so much that she gave up her life to try to gain his love. She walked in pain each and every day, her tongue tied. Then, even though she went through so much for the prince, he fell in love with another woman who had never done anything for him. And to save him, the mermaid plunged a knife deep into her own heart and was only rewarded for her pain and love by becoming sea foam that kids pee in.

That’s what I have to look forward to.


A special Friday Angst just for my little sister.

Summer 1995 during a family trip to Wyoming (Age 14):

Today we had a picnic. We were walking to our table with our hamburgers when it suddenly started hailing! The wind was so strong that Brenna’s lettuce flew away and hail got in my hamburger. As soon as we got back inside, the hail stopped.

Over lunch, we had a conversation about the village Brenna is building in the woods for the Little People. She has built a teepee, house, fire pit and spit, table, bed, dock, boat, bow and arrow, drum, and outhouse out of twigs and the natural stream running through the woods.

She leaves pieces of her breakfast, lunch, and dinner out there for the Little People and says that the food is gone when she returns. Yesterday, she stole the wine left in Dad’s glass and put it in a tic-tac case, along with jam from this morning and a piece of meat from last night.

Every time a door opens she cries, “THE LITTLE PEOPLE!”

I think she’s getting a little carried away.

“You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf”

…the girl who reads knows the importance of plot. She can trace out the demarcations of a prologue and the sharp ridges of a climax. She feels them in her skin. The girl who reads will be patient with an intermission and expedite a denouement. But of all things, the girl who reads knows most the ineluctable significance of an end. She is comfortable with them. She has bid farewell to a thousand heroes with only a twinge of sadness.

…girls who read are the storytellers. You with the Joyce, you with the Nabokov, you with the Woolf. You there in the library, on the platform of the metro, you in the corner of the café, you in the window of your room. You, who make my life so god damned difficult. The girl who reads has spun out the account of her life and it is bursting with meaning. She insists that her narratives are rich, her supporting cast colorful, and her typeface bold… You will accept nothing less than passion, and perfection, and a life worthy of being storied. So out with you, girl who reads. Take the next southbound train and take your Hemingway with you.

Read the whole essay “You Should Date An Illiterate Girl,” by Charles Warnke. It’s stunning.

YA Highway: doe, a deer

Road Trip Wednesday is a “Blog Carnival,” where YA Highway’s contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question and answer it on our own blogs. You can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic.

To participate, just answer the prompt on your own blog and leave a link in the comments at YA Highway.

This week’s prompt:
Who are your favorite literary villains/antagonists, and why?

I just saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, so the villain who immediately comes to mind is Severus Snape, possibly the most complex character of the series. At first, Snape is relentlessly horrible—a villain you love to hate. Then, when he reluctantly allows Harry access to his memories in Prisoner of Azkaban, we begin to gain some insight into his character, and understand his hatred for Harry’s father. Right then, he becomes far more than a stock villain.

My favorite moment in the entire series is the scene in the final book when Snape gives Harry his last memory right before he dies, revealing his love for Harry’s mother, Lily.

We might have expected Snape’s patronus to be a rat or a crow, but the fact that it’s a gentle doe is unexpected, and the fact that it’s a doe because Lily’s patronus was a doe is heartbreaking.

Snape is wonderful because we hate him, we root for him, and we cry for him. Though it turns out he’s not evil after all, he’s definitely not good. He is just human.

Friday Angst: SEXISM

September 13, 1994 (Age 13)

For many years I have been teased, torn, and filled with anger about something I have tried to change. It exists everywhere, no one’s anger alone can quench it. Sexism.

One of the most unfair problems in our world. I have felt it many times, in skiing, school, karate, and in most of the world’s minds.

When I try to talk to my classmates about gym, they roll their eyes and tell me how stupid I am. But there is a problem, and there always will be a problem unless something is done about it.

Everything about gym is unfair. Girls are required to do 1 pull-up and boys are to do 2.

Girls have to run the mile in 20 minutes, boys run it in 15.

When it comes to sports such as soccer, basketball, and field hockey, girls play inside, boys outside.

More than once after class I asked the reason for this. The ingenious reply was: “If a boy kicked a soccer ball at you, you would be knocked over.”

I’m not knocked over so easily.

I have tried talking to people, but it seems that no one but my parents believes that there is a problem, and will talk about it. I will not give up trying to change the way it is.