WHY YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE HARD STUFF

I wrote this post a while back as a guest spot on the Antithesis blog tour. Now, more than ever, I think it’s important to remind myself why I write. Plus, it’s a good post. It’s over a year later and it’s still relevant. I spent the afternoon Googling myself, and this is what I came up with. Won’t go into detail, the post speaks for itself. Enjoy!

WHY DO YOU HAVE TO WRITE THE HARD STUFF?

Originally appeared at: YA Midnight Reads

It’s an ongoing fear of mine. I’m standing in front of a crowd holding a novel—I’ve just done a reading and now hands shoot into the air. They have questions—questions about my story that I don’t want to answer.

They want to know which character I am.

They want to know which horrible thing happened to me.

I want you to close your eyes and think back on your favorite books. I can list mine off the top of my head. The Fault in our Stars by John Green. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky. The list goes on and on—now you’re trying to figure out what these books have in common. All of them deal with hard issues—and the best fiction does.

When I finished The Fault in our Stars, I thought I’d never be the same. My heart was torn out and stomped into nothing. It made me think. It made me appreciate. I cried for days. There were moments of sheer brilliance in that book, some of them quiet and beautiful, others loud and energetic. All of them heartbreaking. All of them.

Clockwork Princess. You’re wondering why this is on my list. Didn’t it have a happy ending? Yes. It had a very happy ending, but it explored things that are so important to me. Cassie has a way of portraying friendships between males that you don’t see in fiction. Beautiful love for one another that would be scorned in the real world. It makes me hopeful. It makes me cry. It makes me want to be a better writer.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower. Where to begin with how epic this novel is? It explores drugs. Suicide. Self-harm. Homophobia. Discrimination. Molestation. Sex. First love. The bittersweet taste of hope and second chances.

Writing is not a dissociative process. I find myself steeped in my stories. I cry when I write. I laugh. I let go. (And sometimes I just write for fun—I mean, we can’t be angst filled all the time.)

So often authors are afraid to step outside their comfort zone. There’s a scene coming up in my current work in progress where a girl finds her father after he’s killed himself. I initially wrote this story a long time ago—back before life turned me upside down. To tell you the truth, I’ve delayed rewriting this story because of that one scene. I picture it in my head and I’m terrified. I know exactly how it looks—how it smells. I know the sound her hands make in the blood. I know that she will never be the same. I know that she will always ask what if?

And then I cry.

For so long I told myself that I couldn’t do it. I had to let the story go because I couldn’t bring myself to write this scene that had become so close to me.

Now I’m looking forward to it. That sounds macabre, I know, but it’s not for the reason you think. The suicide, the horror, it’s something that I need to let go of, and when I put it on paper, I’m releasing it into the world. And if I share it with thousands of people, maybe each of them will take a tiny piece of the burden.

I know I have to write it—and I know it will hurt.

There are authors who refuse to write about rape or drugs or teenage sex or death. They skirt reality as if it doesn’t exist. But if we lie in our writing—if we pretend that real issues aren’t there—what are we really accomplishing? Lying in writing is lying to yourself. If you aren’t emotionally involved, you’re doing it wrong.

Sometimes writing a scene is so hard that I have to walk away.

You have to write the hard stuff. You have to face the fear of the unknown—that’s where the good is, that’s where the things you say will affect people. If your writing starts to scare you—if you find yourself questioning your sanity and wondering how you found these awful things inside of you—you’ve found where you need to be. Write. Let it out. Feel lucky that you have an outlet.

My words are like scars. I see them and I remember. Sometimes they still hurt. Sometimes I see them and I smile, because at least I had the courage to show them to you.

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HOW HOPE AND PANTSING GO TOGETHER

The past week or so has been an exhausting emotional rollercoaster for me. As I hope you know by now, Reflection Pond released April 1st. Be sure to GET YOUR COPY! Since the release, I’ve dug into Poison Tree, which is the sequel to Reflection Pond. I’m about 20,000 words in, good progress so far.

A lot of writers find the task of authoring a novel an organic experience. There’s a lot of pantsers out there, as in, we write by the seat of our pants. Similarly, there’s also a plethora of authors who approach writing methodically, outlining and plotting every word.

I fall into the first camp, the pantsers, the ones who sit down at the computer and cut and bleed at the same time, as opposed to the authors who outline, cutting first, and then letting the blood flow later. Because I’ve been submersed in a writing environment for so long now, I no longer know what this looks like from the outside, but lucky you, I’m going to try to explain what this is like from an author’s perspective (the organic, pantser perspective).

The Reflection Pond series covers some issues that I have trouble speaking about in normal conversation. Not only are they very personal and close to me, it’s difficult for me to see my characters suffer through them. And while I try to handle the situations with care and respect, it takes a huge toll on me emotionally. So if you see me at Barnes and Noble with a latte and a vacant, teary-eyed stare, I hope you understand that this is not easy for me.

I’m trying to do my characters justice. I want their stories to not only be satisfying to me as an author, but also to my readers. What do I mean by this? Hell, sometimes even I don’t know. I hope this resonates with someone and doesn’t come off as another crazy author rant. I write young adult. I think that society sees young adults in a very specific way. Not just young adults in books, but young adults in life. There are expectations, fair or unfair, it’s the truth. As an adult, I always try to acknowledge that everything I felt as a teenager is real and valid. Just because I experienced it in some heightened way due to my age is regardless to the issue at hand. I understand what it’s like to read a book and become a character. And when a reader becomes my characters, I want them to feel something, and specifically, those readers who have experienced the situations that happen in my books, I want them to find hope. I want them to understand that there is no wrong or right way to feel, just as there is no wrong or right way to be. We’re all still learning here.

Knowing this, as I’m writing, sometimes freaks me out. Then I call up my writer friends for encouragement. I keep getting the same advice. If it’s making you uncomfortable, then you are writing something worth writing. If it’s scaring you, if you’re afraid you’re crossing lines, then you need to keep going.

Somehow, I’m trying to circle around to my point (if I have one…I think I do!). It has to do with writing organically. So the other day, after spending the afternoon working on a particularly difficult scene, I sat back and thought, what the hell, why is my character so angry? I hadn’t planned for her to be angry, but the more I wrote, the angrier she got, and the more confused I became. She had to be angry. She just had to be. That’s when I got in contact with a friend who told me she thought I was on the right path. But if I’d been a plotter, a methodical writer, would my character still have been angry? I don’t know.

Recently, I read the Q&A on John Green’s blog about The Fault in our Stars (Be wary, there are spoilers, so don’t read unless you’ve finished TFioS.). John Green is a very smart author who I respect IMMENSELY. But ever since I read it, I couldn’t get over how many times he said that he planned things all along. Every bit of symbolism, every reference, every tiny nuance, planned and plotted to the last detail. And the final product is unbelievable. And while I’d never consider myself in competition with another writer, I do find myself comparing my methods to theirs. Methodical works well for John Green, not so well for me.

I believe in immersive writing. I can’t stand outside the story and be fully committed to my characters at the same time. I cry. I laugh. I celebrate their triumphs and I cringe when they fall. I am their biggest fan, after all.

Does this mean I think my characters are real people? No, of course not. Do I think that people read and relate to them, that people identify some of those qualities in themselves, that readers find hope when a character has the strength to get up and go on even after everything they know is broken? I sure hope so.

So when I say I want to do them justice, I really mean that I want them to be worth reading. I want the reader to take something away from the time they invested in my story. Some people read purely for entertainment, and that’s totally fine, but for those who are looking for justification of life, for those who are looking for hope, I want you to find it hidden in my stories, because I certainly feel it when I write. It’s pure heart in there. It’s pure experience. Because in the end, I’m a lot like my reader. I need these characters to help me figure out how to go on.

Maybe that’s why I’m a pantser, because even I haven’t figured it all out yet. So while all you planners and plotters are scribbling over your notebooks and painting the curtains red with anger, I’ll just be here, sobbing into my laptop, hoping that I’m making a difference for even one person, because that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I need to break convention, I need to get outside of this YA box that the industry is putting us in. You know what? My characters aren’t always strong. They’re flawed, but they’re learning, and so am I.

Yesterday, I had a set up at a local craft show, and a woman picked up Reflection Pond, read the blurb, and skimmed the pages. Then she asked me, “So, does he ever help her figure out how not to be broken?” I smiled and said, “Read the acknowledgements.”

She bought my book.

So when you pick up your copy of Reflection Pond, know that I’ve left hope between the pages for you. Perhaps I pants my way through the novel, but the hope? I put that there on purpose. It came from a very deep and personal place inside of me. It hurt when it came out, and it still hurts today, but if it means something to you, then it was worth it to me.

All the best,

Kacey

IS HAPPILY EVER AFTER NECESSARY?

I’m up to my neck in my latest rewrite and it’s got me thinking. What do readers REALLY think about happily ever after (HEA)? What are the rules of the classic HEA? What about a happy for now (HFN)? How do readers feel about an unhappy ending?

 

I did a quick poll of my Facebook and Twitter followers, and the answers may surprise you. (Or not, that was my blatantly obvious attempt at suspense.) The HEA may not be as necessary as we think, and readers want, what’s this? An ending that makes them think? Who knew?!

 

Warning! There are spoilers from Allegiant in the next paragraphs.

 

Sara says, “I don’t like when it feels unnecessary to the story. Romeo and Juliet needed that ending… I just finished the divergent series… And I was not a fan of the ending…”

 

Me neither, Sara. What is it about killing off a main character that makes us so angry? Especially when we spent three books growing to love the absolutely kick ass Tris. While Veronica Roth promises she wrote the ending she saw for the story, I have to wonder, how could she put her characters through all that turmoil just to let her die? It hardly seems fair or necessary. Sorry, Ms. Roth. I think you’re fantastic, but we’ll never see eye to eye on this.

 

Jacci says, “I don’t like them because they ARE like real life. Some people read to escape to a “happier place” than what their life is about.”

 

I’m down with this, but it kind of limits the genre of books you can read. And…what about that dreaded, unexpected unhappy ending? Sometimes they take you by surprise (see previous rant about Allegiant). Sometimes you go into a book expecting a character to die, why hello, every John Green book ever written. Sometimes the author gives you the heads up, thanks Cassandra Clare. And sometimes, you know EVERYONE’S gonna die.

 

Lana says, “If it’s an unhappy ending in the first book, then it’s really not necessarily an unhappy ending. So long as you don’t continue these unhappy endings in all of the books! Because then you would be Game of Thrones.”

 

I’m about a quarter of the way through A Clash of Kings by good old George RR Martin and I already know not to get attached to anyone. Spoiler alert: Everyone dies. Don’t believe me? Behold the series, with every death tabbed.

 

It seems closure is important:

 

Angela says, “I would prefer happy endings, but if they are not necessarily happy but at the end I feel like I had closure, then I’m okay with it. If it’s for the best, you must do what is needed!”

 

Leah says, “First book, ok, overall, not a fan. There’s Harry Potter where everything was resolved, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it happy. We lost a lot of good characters in the fight for peace. I was good with the closure.”

 

Of course, we had to bring up Harry Potter. I’ll admit, while it was a semi-happy ending, half of the characters died. Damn, there’s another spoiler. Sorry. I’m fifty-fifty on the end of Harry Potter, only because I didn’t even care about any of the characters until the end of the fourth book. I wasn’t ready for them to die yet. And, she didn’t kill any of the main three characters, so, can we really count it as unhappy? Harry got Ginny. Ron got Hermione. Good won. Sounds pretty darn happy to me.

 

Jeff says, “If the ending is unhappy because that’s just the way the story was going to go, that’s fine. If the ending is unhappy because the author just decided to be mean spirited, then no. I’ve seen stories end where everything went to crap at the last minute for no discernible reason, and I hate it.”

 

A mean spirited author? Well…I’ve never! I have to agree with Jeff on this point. Some writers employ the “I’m God, therefore, this can happen,” approach. Need your character to fly? Suddenly they have powers. Need them to turn invisible? They amazingly discover this ability. Same thing goes for endings. If you can’t give me a legitimate reason…I’m probably not going to buy it. (Want an example of this? Read anything by Alyson Noel.)

 

Kristin says, “First of the series = good story telling. You’ve sucked the reader into an unhappy ending and now you HAVE to read the next book, because naturally we secretly want resolution.
And in the case of a single novel with an unhappy or uncomfortable ending…… Sometimes the moral of the story is the hard lesson we take away from the book. Maybe the death or catastrophe needs to happen so that the character learns something, or the reader learns something. I like a variety. Some happy, some not.”

 

Yes. Yes to this so much. Want a perfect example of this? Read The Fault in our Stars by John Green. The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare. If something makes you uncomfortable, then we’re probably headed in the right direction.

 

Pat says, “I’m thinking of Grapes of Wrath . . . a happy ending would negate the whole premise of the novel. Some people read for entertainment only – they read the same romance novel a hundred times (only the names and a few details are changed) – they know how it will end, and like it that way. I want the ‘end’ of a novel to work – it’s great when it’s happy, but not always necessary or ‘good’ for the reader.”

 

You mean it’s not okay to be oblivious to things like pain and suffering? This is a novel idea (pun intended).

 

Lastly, we go to Twitter for my favorite response.

 

Kevin Moore says, “I feel happy endings are the end for characters. Endings with a bit of disarray let characters live on in the mind”

 

Right on, Kevin, right on. I mean, who watched Inception? Who is still wondering if that damn top is still spinning?

 

So, what’s the verdict?

 

It seems to me that it comes down to planning, plotting, and weaving the perfect story. The ending may be awful, but if it’s necessary, go for it. Now, hold on a minute, don’t be killing off characters for sport (also don’t randomly give them magical powers), you must have reasons. And these reasons the reader must understand.

 

What say you, readership? Do you like HEA, HFN, or the necessary unhappy ending? Sound off below!

 

All the best,

Kacey

THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014

I tried to write a witty introduction to this post. Maybe my brain is fried from the manuscript I just finished (literally five minutes ago) or maybe I used up all my wit in 2013. Perhaps it’s best if we just get to the point!

2014!

What is happening?

Drum roll please. Here is the Officially Unofficial List of THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014. (In no particular order.) It’s a YA list. I know this doesn’t shock any of you.

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

May 2014

Everyone who knows ANYTHING about me knows that I’m obsessed with Cassandra Clare. Coming up in 2014, we will finally find out WHICH MAIN CHARACTER WILL DIE. Thanks for that hint, Cassie. It’s given me an ulcer for a year and half now.

Erchomai, Sebastian had said. 

I am coming.
Darkness returns to the Shadowhunter world. As their society falls apart around them, Clary, Jace, Simon and their friends must band together to fight the greatest evil the Nephilim have ever faced: Clary’s own brother. Nothing in the world can defeat him — must they journey to another world to find the chance? Lives will be lost, love sacrificed, and the whole world changed in the sixth and last installment of the Mortal Instruments series!

Want my guesses? Magnus, no, Alec, no…Simon? For the love of glitter, let’s just kill Jocelyn. Luke can do better, anyway.

Divergent

The Movie, March 21, 2014

Holy muscles, Batman. Have you seen Theo James as Four? HOLY MUSCLES. (Wow. I think I just had a fangirl moment.) This book rocked my world when it came out. I might have been quoted saying, “This may be the best book I’ve ever read.”

Since then, I’ve had a bipolor relationship with Veronica Roth, the author. While I still love her for creating this beautifully tragic world, I still have sleepless night over Allegiant. This is one of those times that I hope the movie industry takes artistic license and changes the story line. I’ll keep it spoiler free, folks. Just for you.

Divergent is an emotional roller coaster that I can’t wait to experience in theaters!

Beatrice Prior, a teenager with a special mind, finds her life threatened when an authoritarian leader seeks to exterminate her kind in her effort to seize control of their divided society.

 

The Fault in Our Stars

The Movie, June 6, 2014

Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort must’ve won the lottery to not only get to be in Divergent (as brother and sister) but also appear in The Fault in Our Stars as the tragically doomed Hazel and Augustus.

This book. Where do I even begin?

I reviewed it. (There are spoilers in that review, by the way.) Oh thank goodness I don’t have to go over it again. This book TORE me to SHREDS like I’LL NEVER EVER EVER EVER BE THE SAME.

Thanks, John Green. (I seriously love you. Call me.)

Hazel and Gus are two teenagers who share an acerbic wit, a disdain for the conventional, and a love that sweeps them on a journey. Their relationship is all the more miraculous given that Hazel’s other constant companion is an oxygen tank, Gus jokes about his prosthetic leg, and they met and fell in love at a cancer support group.

The Maze Runner

The Movie, September 19, 2014

This is going to be awesome. This series is unique, from beginning to end. I can’t wait to see how they pull it off.

Set in a post-apocalyptic world, young Thomas is deposited in a community of boys after his memory is erased, soon learning they’re all trapped in a maze that will require him to join forces with fellow “runners” for a shot at escape.

 

Extraction by Stephanie Diaz

July 22, 2014

WAAHHHHH! The cover for this book hasn’t released yet. Suffice it to say that I’ve read some of Steph’s work and she is FANTASTIC. Look out YA, you don’t know what’s coming!

Clementine has spent her whole life preparing for her sixteenth birthday, when she’ll be tested for Extraction in the hopes of being sent from the planet Kiel’s toxic Surface to the much safer Core, where people live without fear or starvation. When she proves Promising enough to be “Extracted,” she must leave without Logan, the boy she loves. Torn apart from her only sense of family, Clem promises to come back and save him from brutal Surface life.

What she finds initially in the Core is a utopia compared to the Surface—it’s free of hard labor, gun-wielding officials, and the moon’s lethal acid. But life is anything but safe, and Clementine learns that the planet’s leaders are planning to exterminate Surface dwellers—and that means Logan, too.

Trapped by the steel walls of the underground and the lies that keep her safe, Clementine must find a way to escape and rescue Logan and the rest of the planet. But the planet leaders don’t want her running—they want her subdued.

With urgent writing, fluid dialogue, and a cast of unforgettable characters, Extraction is a page-turning, gripping read, sure to entertain lovers of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game and leave them breathless for more.

Well, that’s it guys. The Completely Incomplete List of THINGS TO LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2014.

REVIEW – HEARTBEAT BY ELIZABETH SCOTT

Available January 28, 2014 from Harlequin Teen

Goodreads

Life. Death. And…Love?

Emma would give anything to talk to her mother one last time. Tell her about her slipping grades, her anger with her stepfather, and the boy with the bad reputation who might be the only one Emma can be herself with.

But Emma can’t tell her mother anything. Because her mother is brain-dead and being kept alive by machines for the baby growing inside her.

Meeting bad-boy Caleb Harrison wouldn’t have interested Old Emma. But New Emma-the one who exists in a fog of grief, who no longer cares about school, whose only social outlet is her best friend Olivia-New Emma is startled by the connection she and Caleb forge.

Feeling her own heart beat again wakes Emma from the grief that has grayed her existence. Is there hope for life after death-and maybe, for love?

****

I received a copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

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Heartbeat is an emotional look inside a family as they deal with loss and tragedy. When Emma’s pregnant mother suffers a stroke, Emma’s stepfather, Dan, decides to keep her alive to save the unborn baby, even though Emma’s mother is brain dead. Emma hates Dan for his decision, not only because he never consulted Emma, but because she thinks he only cares for his unborn son, and not her mother. Emma doesn’t know how to survive without her mother. She’s lost everything- her mom, her stepfather, her grades, and the one thing that remains – her unborn baby brother, is the catalyst for all the hurt and confusion.

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The characters:

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Emma is a smart teenager. Before her mother’s stroke, Emma was on the fast track to a prestigious college. She was a serious, hardworking student who thought planning her perfect future was the most important thing she could do. After her mother dies, Emma’s grades fall, she stops doing her homework, stops caring, because nothing that was important is that way anymore. I like how this story takes a hard journey through loss and grief. Several times, I found myself connecting with Emma’s internal dialogue. Her anguish and confusion, the what if’s, the author really hit the grief spot on.

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Dan is the doting father figure. Even while Emma hates him, and is constantly spitting hate in his direction, you can see how much he loves her and their family. He’s torn between saving his son and using his wife’s body as an incubator. He knows that his wife would want him to save their son, but his struggle with Emma’s hatred is spectacular. He’s an incredibly strong character, even though he’s not perfect. I loved that the reader gets glimpses into the past, of how happy he was to have Emma and her mother. It lets the reader know that he’s not some heartless bastard trying to farm his son into existence at any cost.

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Caleb is Emma’s love interest. He’s a broken boy, which is how Emma connects with him. He considers himself responsible for his little sister, Millie’s, death. Emma and Caleb bond over their guilt and pain, and their love story is sometimes quiet and beautiful and other times bright and explosive. Caleb is the perfect reflection for Emma and I love the two of them together. It shows how you truly cannot know someone from the outside. Caleb appears to be the typical bad boy loser, into drugs and stealing cars, but he’s really just a sad, scared, young man, who has taken on far more guilt than he should have to bear alone.

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Things I liked:

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*Heartbeat doesn’t sugarcoat pain or loss and allows Emma to make bad choices. It also allows for forgiveness.

*It has a clear understanding of grief and the anger and hatred that come along with it.

*There is visible character growth for Emma, Dan, and Caleb.

*There is a clear line between Emma’s “old” life and her “new” life, and proof that neither is perfect.

*Caleb- especially how he doesn’t “exist” to Emma until she finally “sees” him.

*First person present tense. I usually don’t like this POV, but the immediacy worked perfectly for Heartbeat, packing an emotional punch.

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Things I didn’t like:

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*Caleb’s parents. I can see where a family would get to the point of hating their child if they believed him responsible for the death of their other child, however, I thought the entire scene between him, Emma, and his parents was over the top. I know that the author wanted to show how “evil” they are, but pure evil is hard to swallow, and she left little redeeming qualities for Caleb’s parents. I would’ve believed it more if they’d just ignored him instead of trying to convince Emma that Caleb is a terrible person.

*Millie’s back story. I kept waiting for the “diets” Millie was on to pan out into a plot point. I wanted to see that perfection reflected in Caleb’s mother. It felt like an afterthought, another “staged” point just to make his parents look worse. Their callousness never felt authentic.

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This story is unique, like nothing I have ever read before. Heartbeat takes the reader on a turbulent ride. I found myself laughing and crying at equal intervals. Heartbeat answers the following questions:

How do you say goodbye to someone who is still breathing? Someone who will produce a life but has none left for herself? What makes a life? What makes a family? What is the right decision if you cannot choose for yourself? Who will love me when I have so much hate?

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This story will move teens and adults alike. Great for fans of emotional books along the lines of The Fault in our Stars by John Green and Imperfect Spiral by Debbie Levy. 

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Rating: Four Stars

SUCKER BLOG TOUR – DAY 1 – INTERVIEW WITH HANNAH GOODMAN

If you haven’t heard by now, I’m working for the fabulous Sucker Literary. My very first project? THIS BLOG TOUR!

logomark_color_web_medWelcome to the very first Sucker Blog Tour – I’m so excited to bring you an interview with Founder/Editor Hannah Goodman. Let me tell you from working with this woman – she is a force to be reckoned with! She is taking the Young Adult Genre by storm and letting fledgling authors have their say in a very tight, and often unforgiving, market.

You started Sucker after searching the market and finding it lacking in YA. How is Sucker different from what’s out there?

Sucker Literary is the only literary anthology that focuses on YA short fiction ONLY. It is also the only literary anthology out there that includes images with stories. Sucker Literary is the only literary enterprise comprised of an all volunteer staff, including marketing and website design and development and has a staff who functions in multiple capacities including writing. From the quality of the writing and the publication to the way we function as a staff, there really isn’t anything out there like us

Ideally, where is Sucker five years from now?

An entity in the publishing world that is larger than just a publication.

Sucker has a mentor process for submissions. How does this work?

I field the submissions to our readers. Then our staff of 25 plus readers must fill out feedback sheets, which include whether or not a piece should be accepted, rejected, or mentored. Then they send those back to me, and I read EVERY SINGLE one. How long does that take? Depends on the 900 other things I have to do. But I always make time for Sucker!

I have a day job, my own writing, and a family with two kids under ten. SUCKER LITERARY is my labor of love, but in order for it to happen and to happen in the best way possible, each part of the process takes a lot of time : )

Decisions about accepting and mentoring come from initial recommendations (on the feedback sheets) from readers, but ultimately the piece must resonate with me. This part of the process also takes some time and cannot be rushed because I want to publish the VERY best work from emerging writers of short form YA fiction.

Once final decisions are made regarding pieces, notes and feedback sheets are given to the folks we have agreed to mentor or accept. And they, like all of us on staff, have lives filled with many other responsibilities. I do not like to rush their process of revising. So that part of the process can take more weeks or months. Revising can also take a round or two and so add a few more weeks or months onto that. Once revisions are completed, well, that’s a whole other timeline and blog entry!

The folks we agree to mentor are given 1-2 rounds of notes and revisions. Sometimes a piece doesn’t come together in these 1-2 rounds. Those folks sometimes are invited to resubmit with further revisions for the next reading period. But other times, it’s time to part ways. Rejecting those folks is very hard. Sometimes they do submit again, and they still haven’t gotten the piece where it needs to be. My least favorite thing to do is tell them no. . . again. But I provide reasons why and also encouragement to keep going because sometimes it’s just not a perfect fit and they can go elsewhere and find a home for the piece.

I’m a teacher by trade. Our writers, even those whose pieces we accept, go through revisions. The difference between a piece that’s accepted for publication and a piece that makes it to the mentoring round but not to publication has to do with foundation of the story. If a story has plot holes or under developed characters after 2 rounds of revisions, then it’s not ready to be published. 

Sucker seems like a “brand name,” what kinds of stories fit the Sucker brand?

Edgy, sassy, humorous, intelligent, bold, colorful, thought provoking, engaging.

Perks of Being a Wallflower is a good example of contemporary fiction that we like. Feed by M.T. Anderson for the dystopian genre. Carolyn Mackler’s novels are the kinds of romances we like. But don’t think that’s all. I am pretty open to anything. Just take a look at our first two volumes. 

As the editor, what is the most challenging part of publishing Sucker?

My day job! Translated: TIME

Publishing is a lot of “who you know,” who’s on Sucker’s Most Wanted list?  (Who do you want to notice Sucker?)

Carolyn Mackler

John Green

Stephen Chbosky

Erica Lorraine Scheidt

Just to name a few.

What advice can you give rejected writers?

It’s cliché but true: don’t give up. Also, each rejection brings you a step closer to the right fit in terms of agent or publisher.

How does the upcoming Sucker Volume Three differ from Volume Two?

I’ll tell you when I finish making decisions about submissions. So far, it’s pushing the edge a little bit more than volume 2.

Open Door Day is coming up, what’s that all about?

24 hours of opening the “doors” to submissions for volume 3. No mentoring and no feedback. Send your very very best.

Running a literary magazine is hard work, what keeps you coming back for more?

Insanity. An electric impulse to create and make things grow.

Include anything else you want-

I love you, Kacey!!!!! And my entire staff and all supporters!!!!! (She really said that! I swear!)

Hannah Big LolliHannah Goodman is a YA author represented by Erzsi Deàk of Hen&ink Literary Studio. Her YA novels have won awards and garnered praise but her proudest endeavor is Sucker Literary. She owns The Write Touch, offering a variety of services for clients of all ages. Hannah is a member of SCBWI as well as a graduate of the Solstice MFA program at Pine Manor College. She resides in Bristol, RI with her husband, two daughters, and three cats: Lester, Maisey, and Judy. More about Hannah can be found on her website: hannahrgoodman.com

Now for Sucker Literary, Volume 2!

Sucker Literary Vol 2 Cover

When Alex’s bandmates invite a girl to sing lead, a battle of the sexes becomes a battle over something unexpected. . . A girl tells her friend about hooking up with longtime crush Fred, but his kisses are not what makes that night in his car memorable. . . A therapy session with Doug might just make Jason go insane again. . . Wallflower Aubrey hooks up with Gordon after the cast party, which would be fine if he weren’t the most forbidden fruit of them all…Savannah certainly doesn’t sound like a convict’s name, so maybe hanging out with her isn’t all that dangerous. Miki is committed to getting over Dex, yet she can’t get him off her answering machine—or her doorstep. In between puffs of cigarettes and attempts to smear lipstick on her face, Allie’s grandmother dishes out advice that maybe Allie should take. . . And finally, what’s a girl to do with Satan as both her boss and father? Nine short stories pose the questions we obsess over whether we’re growing up or all grown up: Who should I love? Am I doing the right thing? Is there ever an end to heartbreak? In its second volume, SUCKER continues to showcase the very best emerging talent in young adult literature and give (some of) the answers to Life’s Big Questions along the way.

Sounds great, right? Because it IS!

Get Sucker in all these places:

Amazon

Sucker Literary

Facebook

Goodreads

Sucker Free Day is July 20th and 21st. Get a FREE digital copy of Sucker Literary Volume 2 on Amazon.

Sucker is looking for more short stories for Volume 3. Get the details for Open Door Day (August 1, 2013): HERE.

Don’t be a Sucker, follow our tour:

July 1stKacey Vanderkarr

Featuring Sucker founder:

Hannah Goodman

July 3rdStephanie Keyes

Featuring Sucker author:

Ann Karasinski

July 5thLisa Voisin

Featuring Sucker author: Paul Heinz

and an excerpt from Sucker

Literary Volume 2

July 7thVincent Morrone

July 8thBook Reviews by Dee

Featuring an interview with Sucker author: Claudia Classon

July 9thWrite All the Words

Featuring Sucker author:

Josh Prokopy

July 10thLiving Fictitiously

Featuring an interview with Sucker author: Suzanne Kamata

and an excerpt and giveaway of Sucker Literary Volume 2

July 12thTanya’s Book Nook

Featuring an excerpt, giveaway, and review of Sucker Literary Volume 2

July 14Catrina Beeny

Featuring Sucker author:

Kelly Samuels and an excerpt from Sucker Literary Volume 2

July 15thThree Book Reviewers

Featuring an excerpt from

Sucker Literary Volume 2

July 18thLiving a Fictional Reality

Featuring a review of Sucker

Literary Volume 2

July 20thBrooke Blogs

Featuring a review of Sucker

Literary Volume 2

July 21stPage Flipperz YA

July 24thCellar Door Books

Featuring Sucker author:

Aida Zilelian and a review of Sucker Literary Volume 2

July 26thMartha Allard

Featuring Sucker author: Candi Fite

July 29thWe Do Write

Featuring an excerpt from

 Sucker Literary Volume 2

July 30thJustine Manzano

Featuring Sucker founder: Hannah Goodman and Sucker Social Media Director: Kacey Vanderkarr

July 31stKacey Vanderkarr

Featuring Sucker author:

Mima Tipper

Thank you Hannah and Sucker. It feels great to be a part of something so wonderful.

All the best,

Kacey


THE FAULT IN OUR STARS – JOHN GREEN

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. (THERE ARE SPOILERS!! LOOK AWAY!)

If I could fill this page with stars—big, giant, hand drawn stars—I would.

This is the kind of book that crawls under your skin and becomes part of you. It’s beautiful—not in an ostentatious I’m Ruler of the Writing World way, (though you are, John Green, you ARE,) but in a gentle, raw, I Will Shove Your Face in this Shit and RIP YOUR HEART OUT until YOU FEEL EVERYTHING. You read correctly, I started that description with gentle.

Following, you will find my musings on The Fault in Our Stars. I can’t promise a review, I suspect it’ll vary between review/idolization/ranting/blubbering/blabbering. I love John Green. I knew this when I read Paper Towns. I knew it when I read Looking for Alaska, but John Green beat the ever-living life out of me with The Fault in Our Stars. (Pun intended.) This is the kind of book you have to walk away from just to get your head on straight again.

Okay?

Okay.

The first mistake I made after finishing was to hop on Goodreads to see the other reviews. People are idiots (see, here’s the ranting!). John Green’s characters are multi-faceted. They have depth and range and history and emotions that make them SO REAL. (Who cares if the characters in all his books are similar?) They’re quirky and precocious, and (IDIOT GOODREADS PEOPLE) they’re often wrong. That’s what makes it like crawling inside their bodies and viewing their trials and triumphs from their eyes. They’re not pretentious, they’re human. They’re teenagers, and the exploration of concepts they don’t fully understand is REALISTIC. People complained that they spoke as world-weary adults, but I disagree. You see, the people who bitched about them using concepts out of their (apparently too young, hormone addled, inferior) range, didn’t understand the concepts. Hazel and Augustus got so many things wrong. But you see, dear idiot readers, you didn’t understand the concepts to begin with, so you couldn’t see how Hazel and Augustus used them for comfort and to suit their own needs. Life isn’t about always being right, or always using “concepts” socially acceptable for a (apparently too young, hormone addled, inferior) teenager. It’s like reading a poem. Maybe you see a flower, maybe I see a grave. Neither one of us is wrong, but you’re definitely still an idiot.

Whoa. That was a confusing tangent that I hope at least one person followed.

The point of all that rage is to say that, just because they haven’t experienced (or taken the TIME to experience) intelligent, witty, and the downright authentic youth of today, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. And they (the idiot readers who don’t get it) probably shouldn’t be reading John Green. Because teenagers really ARE like his characters. Maybe not all of them, but a lot.

Let’s start with Hazel. She’s terminal, you know this when you pick up the book. Stage IV thyroid cancer with mets to her lungs. She’s plodding along, not happy, not sad, just kind of there. She doesn’t have a lot of relationships because she knows she’s going to die. Which is both selfless and selfish, depending on who you ask. She’s 16, a part time college student with a GED, because normal school was just too much for her, especially since she carts around an exceptionally annoying third wheel, aka the oxygen tank. She attends a support group, physically, not mentally, and watches a lot of television with her two best friends—her parents.

Then we meet Augustus. He’s 17, a survivor of osteosarcoma, with an amputated leg and a prosthetic replacement. He’s cancer free, but attending support group with his friend, Isaac, who only has one eye and is about to lose the other.

At first, Hazel is very careful with Augustus, keeping their relationship strictly in the friendzone. She compares herself to a grenade, literally a ticking ball of shrapnel, just waiting to explode and maim everyone she cares about.

Hilarity ensues. Isaac goes blind, Hazel goes into ICU. Many cancer jokes are made—and not in the haha cancer is hilarious way (because it’s not hilarious), but Our Lives Suck And The Only Thing To Do Is Laugh. A lot of people were offended by this, I think. But I must refer back to my teenager sentiment. They’re TEENAGERS. And human. We often joke about things are not funny. Sometimes, you have only two choices, laughter or tears. Which would you rather have?

They spend a good portion of the book tracking down the author of the Not a Cancer Book cancer book, An Imperial Affliction, which, according to the character’s descriptions, plays out pretty closely to Hazel’s life. My first clue that something is wrong with Augustus is when he tells Hazel about his Wish and she’s surprised that he still has it after all this time of being cancer free. Whoa. Red light. Not Augustus, please NOT AUGUSTUS.

You pick up a book about a terminal cancer patient, you EXPECT someone to die. (And you’re gonna cry, because you cry when awesome characters die. Also when they have sex…just me? We always knew I was fucked up.)

FOR THE LOVE OF GOD NOT AUGUSTUS.

Anyways. They go to Amsterdam and meet the author. He’s an asshole, alcoholic loon. There’s a few small hints of Augustus saying his hip/leg hurts. NO. WHY? WHY AUGUSTUS? It’s in Amsterdam that Hazel realizes that she loves him, or at least admits it. Here is this beautiful boy, who allowed her to hijack his Wish, and complete her dream of meeting Van Houten and demanding the ending to An Imperial Infliction (which she doesn’t technically ever get, unless you count the hamster.).

After Van Houten berates them, insults them, and is generally an asshole, alcoholic loon, they kiss for the first time where Anne Frank hid from the Nazis. I really, REALLY enjoyed this scene. Especially after they both struggle up the stairs (Hazel, with her under-functioning lungs and Augustus with his prostetic leg). The other tourists clap for them. It’s sweet, heartbreaking, and for the characters, a little embarrassing. From here, they go back to Augustus’s hotel room and have sex. I’m not going to sugar coat this. It’s romantic and sweet, but also awkward and nerdy and filled with setbacks from the cancer. There’s the prosthetic, the oxygen tank, etc.

It’s perfect.

Also, Hazel’s love letter to him is priceless…am I right?

Then Augustus tells her that his cancer is back. With mets. Everywhere.

AUGUSTUS…WHY????

The boy who has been her rock, who was supposed to outlive her, has suddenly inverted fate. The real beauty of the story is from their role reversal. Augustus, who starts out strong and healthy, slowly declines, until Hazel realizes for the first time that she’s the healthier one. It’s a heartbreaking downward spiral. While John Green doesn’t smoosh your face in all the awful, he doesn’t shy from it, either. There’s piss and vomit and tubes and hopelessness.

There are so many things I want to talk about—why I loved this book as a reader and why I LOVED this book as a writer. How the author’s note at the beginning is SO TRUE, especially when you’re an author. How the story is SO REAL, brutally honest, while remaining respectful. It approaches the great questions we all have, Will I Be Remembered? Will I Leave A Mark? It’s humble. Humiliating.

When I say you have to read this book, I mean, YOUR LIFE DEPENDS ON READING THIS BOOK. YOU MUST YOU MUST YOU MUST. I’ve learned so much from John Green, both for writing and life. The Fault in Our Stars kind of turns you sideways, forcing you to look at life from new angles. I kept a notebook next to me while I read so I could take notes.

It’s really that good.

Now, I will share some of my favorite quotes, though truthfully, I wish I could just quote the entire book RIGHT THIS SECOND VERBATIM. I plan on dog earring the pages.

“I was left on the shore with the waves washing over me, unable to drown.”

“I thought being an adult meant knowing what you believe, but that has not been my experience.”

“Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”

“My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

If there is one book you read this year, let it be this one.

John Green is a genius. Some kind of wizard, to be sure.

I love him.

THIS IS THAT BOOK.

All the best,

Kacey