Learn the Rules (So You Know When to Break Them): Eleanor Roosevelt Gets It

Learn the Rules (So You Know When to Break Them): Eleanor Roosevelt Gets It

"I have no patience with older people who attempt to laugh off their youngsters' love affairs with such terms as "puppy love," "infatuation" and the like. Love is love, and it is a matter of simple fact that boys and girls in their teens may fall in love as deeply, as seriously, and as devastatingly-- perhaps even as lastingly-- as when they are older"

-Eleanor Roosevelt

GIVEAWAY! BEAST by Brie Spangler

I got so excited about Brie Spangler's gorgeous YA debut, BEAST, that I accidentally ordered two copies! Rather than hording them both for myself (believe me, I was tempted!), I'm going to give one away! Check out the description below and enter to win a copy of BEAST!

Tall, meaty, muscle-bound, and hairier than most throw rugs, Dylan doesn’t look like your average fifteen-year-old, so, naturally, high school has not been kind to him. To make matters worse, on the day his school bans hats (his preferred camouflage), Dylan goes up on his roof only to fall and wake up in the hospital with a broken leg—and a mandate to attend group therapy for self-harmers.

Dylan vows to say nothing and zones out at therapy—until he meets Jamie. She’s funny, smart, and so stunning, even his womanizing best friend, JP, would be jealous. She’s also the first person to ever call Dylan out on his self-pitying and superficiality. As Jamie’s humanity and wisdom begin to rub off on Dylan, they become more than just friends. But there is something Dylan doesn’t know about Jamie, something she shared with the group the day he wasn’t listening. Something that shouldn’t change a thing. She is who she’s always been—an amazing photographer and devoted friend, who also happens to be transgender. But will Dylan see it that way?

Anxiety and Depression and Grief, OH MY!

The thing I remember about the vigil I sat through my Iya’s final days is her fluttering hands. Her knob-knuckled, thin-skinned, white hands gathered pleats in the fabric of her sheet. Pleating and un-pleating in ceaseless, shaking industry.

Sometimes, that’s how my anxiety feels. Like my brain won’t stop folding and unfolding problems, working through the dark hours of my sleepless nights to find just the right angle of some imagined thing that I’ve done wrong that will needle at me until I collapse in a heap of tears and self-loathing.

My maternal grandfather died while I was in Korea, and the anxious, black grief I felt in the months after his death felt like a hole I’d never be able to climb out of.

I’d experienced depression before. In college, depression had been a blank hole of wandering aimlessly through my days. It was a disconnection from my feelings rather than an overwhelming sadness.

After Pop died, I fell into sadness and panic like it was a bottomless pit. I imagined that it would have been easier if I’d been able to say goodbye. In the throes of blind panic after spending a day in the press of bodies in Seoul, I thought that if I’d just been able to get back to the States for his funeral, I wouldn’t be such a mess. I searched desperately for any strand of reason that I could grasp.

I did, eventually, climb out of that hole. Writing helped. Finding the joy that comes from following a thread of a story from kernel to novel and then untangling the mess of a first draft helped my brain slowly find its way back to itself.

I wasn’t prepared for the blackness to settle itself around my neck again after Iya passed. In retrospect, I should have geared up for it. I should have had a plan. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.

My life was GOOD. My incredible boyfriend loved and supported me, and he didn’t mind that I spent most weekends holed up in my office working on my novel. And the novel! I’d revised it into something that was garnering some serious interest from agents, a dream come true. I had a brand new job that I loved. I kept repeating it like a mantra. Life is good. You are lucky. Like the fact that life was good should have somehow protected me from grief and depression and anxiety.

That ain’t how it works. Every night when I went to bed, I was plagued by an endless list of my faults. You’re mean. You’re petty. You’re self-involved and a terrible writer. You don’t work out enough. You should eat less. You’d be better if you were skinnier. You don’t spend enough time with your friends. You don’t do enough for your family. Your boyfriend could do better than you, you pathetic, spineless, piece of shit. Piece of shit. Piece of shit. Over and over and over until the only thing I could do was weep into my boyfriend’s arms while he played Steven Universe for me and petted my hair.

I don’t know why I was so afraid to get help, but making a phone call to a therapist seemed like the most impossible thing in the world. Even with mental health professionals for parents, even knowing that I desperately needed help, I couldn’t force myself to make that call.

It wasn’t until my parents came for a visit last fall and I broke down in pointless, heartbroken sobs in my living room that I knew I had to get help. It took nearly another month for me to manage to force myself to call and make an appointment, and longer still to claw my way through my own fear and go to my appointments. To meet with a psychiatrist and talk about medication. To find a routine and learn a bevy of coping mechanisms to help me through my most anxious days.

And despite everything I now know, despite all of the tools I’ve added to my arsenal, that ugly little voice still finds its way into my skull from time to time. Because this is an illness. A disease.

All of my wildest dreams have come true. My boyfriend is now my husband. My book and its sequel are going to be real, published books I can hold in my hands. I have a gorgeous house, and more books than I have hours to read and food in my kitchen. Life is good.

And I still have anxiety. And that’s okay. Because now when I start beating myself up, I think of Iya, teaching me to pleat tulle to make a tutu when I was a little girl, and of the way that our bodies remember those gestures. And I remind myself to practice the gestures I want to remember. I remind myself to be kind. And sometimes it helps. And when it doesn’t, there’s always Steven Universe.

BIG NEWS! ALL THE NEWS!

THANK YOU, BEYONCÉ!

beyonce queen

It will come as no great surprise that I am grateful to Beyoncé for the role she played in my journey toward becoming a published author.

But, if I'm going to be totally honest, I owe E.L. James a pretty big high five too.

This is the only acceptable gif from that movie... 

This is the only acceptable gif from that movie... 

It was about this time last year that I stumbled across a Fifty Shades of Grey live tweet and -- I am not even exaggerating because seriously -- my life changed forever. AND NOT BECAUSE OF THE REALLY EXCELLENT MOVIE I WATCHED THAT NIGHT OR THE WITTY COMMENTARY THAT BURST FORTH FROM MY BRAIN.

I got to know a bunch of wonderful people during that goofy, snarky live tweet, including my inimitable agent, Brent Taylor.

See, at that point, I’d just barely dipped my novel into the shark-filled query waters, and I'd been following Brent on Twitter for quite some time. In fact, Brent was the first agent to request THE DIMINISHED, and he was also the first person to reject it. Eep. But we had a blast and really connected during the live tweet of Fifty Shades of Grey.

We have fun.

We have fun.

Fast forward to June, a wonderful agent requested an exclusive R&R (revise and resubmit) of THE DIMINISHED. The word “exclusive” made me feel just a little squirrely, so I reached out to Brent for some advice. He encouraged me to do the revision, giving me the push I needed to dive back into my manuscript and do the hard work the book required. Brent was agenting me before he was my agent. We were meant to be.

Said agent didn’t fall as in love with my revision as we’d both hoped. I was pretty crushed, but I managed to pull myself together and started sending out my revision. I was still super proud of the work I'd done on the book, and I felt confident that THE DIMINISHED would find its home. 

On the advice of a good friend, I re-queried Brent. There was just something about him that made me think we’d work really well together. I spent an embarrassingly long time picking out the perfect gif to include in my email to Brent.

In what seemed like no time at all, Brent had made an offer, I’d let the other agents who had my manuscript know, and I gave them a deadline of a week to make their decisions. That was also the week that my boyfriend and I bought our first home. Big stuff going on, guys. Big, exciting life stuff.

One of the best things to come out of that really hard week of waiting for all the agents to respond were the friendships I forged with some of the other writers at Triada and a number of other agencies. It was so incredible to see the generosity of time, advice, and friendship that is so present in our community. I strive to be as wonderful as the writers who've supported me through this process. 

I made this sweatshirt with spraypaint. I am a CLASS ACT.

I made this sweatshirt with spraypaint. I am a CLASS ACT.

A week after Brent made his offer I signed the agency contract in our new kitchen. Two weeks after that, Cody and I got engaged. Holy bananas, that was a whirlwind of a month.

When the dust settled, Brent and I got to work on THE DIMINISHED. It took a couple of months of contemplation and furious revision to get the manuscript to a place where we felt confident going out on submission.

Being on submission was a super fun time*, and I will be eternally grateful to Cody, my friends, and Brent for keeping me sane while we were out.

When we were on submission, my heart rate jumped about 20 beats per minute every time the phone rang, so I changed Brent’s ringtone to FORMATION. I figured it might help to KNOW it was Brent calling. Beyoncé was the obvious choice. 

I was in a very serious work meeting when my phone blared “I got hot sauce in my bag, SWAG.” 

I make excellent choices, y'all.

We’d gotten word that the wonderful Lauren Smulski at Harlequin Teen had made an offer on THE DIMINISHED. I definitely didn't sob into Brent's ear over the phone or anything. I was over the damn moon. (And by "over the damn moon" I mean actually weeping for joy for literal days.)

I signed the contract with Harlequin two days before I married Cody at my parents’ house.

SO. Long story short, This is how you get a book deal. You find the perfect Beyoncé gif. The End.

In all seriousness, I’m pleased as punch to be represented by the extraordinary Brent Taylor of Triada US Literary Agency.

And I cannot wait for you to read my novel, THE DIMINISHED, which will be published by Harlequin Teen in Spring 2018, followed by its as yet unnamed sequel in Spring 2019.

MEGA SQUEE. What a year!

*Read: EXCEEDINGLY STRESSFUL AND A GREAT TIME TO PLAN A WEDDING…