Archive for the ‘Beautiful’ Category

Good News for 2011

So much is happening—it looks like 2011 is shaping up to be a really good year.

2010 ended on a great note with the paperback release of Beautiful, which has now already gone into its second printing.  It was also just recently selected as a YALSA Quick Pick for 2011. Yay!

The biggest thing I have to look forward to this year is the release of my second book Clean in August. I am so proud of this book, and I can’t wait to share it with you. Like Beautiful, it’s gritty and realistic, but I think that in the darkness there is still hope, and even some humor. It’s about five kids’ experience in rehab for drug and alcohol addiction. I’ll be posting an excerpt on here soon, so stay tuned! (You can also find an excerpt in the paperback edition of Beautiful.) It doesn’t come out for seven months, but it’s already been selected as a Junior Library Guild for high school book clubs! (Oh, and you can pre-order it on Amazon…)

Also coming up in the fall of 2011 is the release of Dear Bully: 70 Authors Tell Their Stories, edited by YA authors Carrie Jones and Megan Kelley Hall. This is an anthology of stories, poems, letters, and essays about authors’ personal experiences with bullying. I am honored to have a poem included in the anthology, along with such great writers as Ellen Hopkins, Lisa McMann, R.L. Stine, A.S. King, Lauren Oliver, and many more. You can see the full line-up on Diana Rodriguez Wallach’s blog.  Here’s a link to a nice article in Publishers Weekly about the book, and a link to the Young Adult Authors Against Bullying Facebook page. And look for an article in the February issue of Glamour Magazine!

What else? More reading, more writing, more playing with my dog Peanut. I’m finishing up a (hopefully somewhat final) draft of Book #3 to send my editor. I recently realized I have a strange pattern in my novel-writing process. For all three books, I got to a point where I was pretty sure I was “done.” I became complacent, thought it was finally time to relax, maybe just do a final quick read-through for typos and consistency. Then all of a sudden (because of friend/husband/reader’s last-minute feedback), I realized I had to REWRITE THE ENTIRE ENDING! Each time, I had a nervous breakdown for a couple days, then pulled myself together and got back to work. After I got over my initial insanity, I realized I already knew deep down something wasn’t right, but I was in denial about it. It’s so easy for me to get stuck in my head as a writer because the act of creation is such a solitary activity. But as soon as I let someone in and I try to brave and see my work through their eyes, it’s like I’m looking at an entirely different piece of writing. That’s when I realize this thing I do is way bigger than just me and my computer and some letters on paper. It’s about communication, it’s about creating a relationship with every single person who reads my words and enters the worlds I’ve created. And I just hope they get something out of it.


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I apologize for the lapse in blog postings.  I’ve been so busy finishing my second novel (now officially titled CLEAN. Yay!), starting my third novel, going back to work on the edits for CLEAN, being ridiculously busy at my day job, plus trying to have some fun in the gorgeous Oakland summer.  I feel like I have a lot to tell you, but I still can’t formulate my thoughts enough for a meaningful blog post.  In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you something from the past.

“Under the Wall” is a short story I published in Fiction Magazine in 2006.  I had already published a short non-fiction piece in the sadly retired Bay Area journal Kitchen Sink, but my good friend was one of the editors so it kind of felt like it didn’t count.  Getting my first story published in such a prestigious journal as Fiction (I share the issue with Joyce Carol Oates, for cripes sake) pretty much blew my mind. I finally made it! I could now tell people I was a writer without feeling like a liar (not true, by the way.  I still feel like I’m lying when I tell people I’m a writer, even with a novel published).

This story is also where BEAUTIFUL was born.  You may recognize some passages in the story that I repeated verbatim in the novel.  I realized quickly a short story was not enough to contain this story–it had to be a novel. This publication, in a roundabout way, is also what ended up landing me an agent.  That’s a long story–perhaps a good subject for my next blog post?

I hope you like it.




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It’s a little late (almost seven months since the release date) but my husband Brian and I FINALLY finished the book trailer for BEAUTIFUL! Slow and steady wins the race, or something like that. My excuse is we’re both extremely busy–I’m working and writing, he’s making movies and music–but luckily we were able to carve out enough time to create this, ahem, dare I say it?–masterpiece.  The truth is he did most of the work.  I am so grateful to have such a talented, generous dude in my life.

One of my first projects in film school was to create a couple movie trailers, using music and footage from the film to edit a minute teaser together.  I remember I did trailers for the movies Heathers and Gattaca, and I loved it.  Editing is a lot like writing–you cut and paste and fit things together to tell and story and create dramatic and emotional arcs.  I learned much of what I know about narrative structure and the craft of storytelling through video editing.  It was art school, so I didn’t learn much else, but at least it wasn’t a total waste of time.  Brian and I met in film school, by the way.  We got to know each other working on creative projects like this, and later, music too.  It’s a pretty amazing thing to be able to share art-making with one’s partner.  I am really, really, really lucky.

I’d also like to thank my friend Hugh Howie for doing the titles, and Paul Bradley for the drums.  Did I mention my brilliant husband did the music for the trailer? Can you even believe so much talent is contained in one couple? Hahaha

Anyway, I hope you like it. We had a lot of fun making it.

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There’s been a lot of talk on the web in the last few days about the tragic story of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old girl who committed suicide after being ruthlessly bullied. At first, I tried to avoid reading the angry and heartbroken posts about her. I was afraid. A coward. I did not want to be reminded of my own past, the wounds from nearly seventeen years ago that still feel fresh whenever I think about them.

A lot of people have asked me how autobiographical Beautiful is.  I usually say something cryptic like “some,” or “a little,” or sometimes even “a lot.” I remember workshopping it in my MFA program, how someone commented that a few of the scenes were unbelievable.  The scenes she was talking about just happened to be some of the most autobiographical in the book.  It is often said that truth is stranger than fiction. Truth is also scarier than fiction. It is also more tragic.

The truth is, there was an Alex.  She had green hair. She made me burn pictures of my old friends.  She convinced me to do things I knew were wrong, and I called her my best friend.  And then she turned on me.  To this day, I don’t really know why. Perhaps part of writing Beautiful was an attempt to find out.  Maybe I was trying to understand her, trying to understand how someone could be so cruel.  However many pages later, I still don’t know the answer.

That scene toward the end of the book with the gangster girls next to the mom’s car? Yes, that really happened.

The phone calls to Cassie’s home, the death threats? Yes, that happened too.

Despite “Alex”‘s discipline history, despite a call to the police, despite my mom’s repeated entreaties, the school administration refused to do anything about the bullying.  I had to change schools, but that did not solve everything. I was traumatized. Relationships and trust remained difficult for a very long time. I thought I saw her everywhere I went. I’d panic when I had to go somewhere she might be.  There’s a knot in my stomach now just thinking about it.  I’m thirty years old, but my body holds a memory of that fear.  The pain of that time of my life is still raw, can still make me feel like I’m thirteen and huddled in my bedroom wondering if it will ever stop.

That’s when I started writing.  That’s why I had to start writing.  That’s why I write now.

YA Authors Megan Kelly Hall and Carrie Jones are starting to get a group of young adult authors together to make a stand against the type of bullying that killed Phoebe Prince, that almost killed me, that tortures so many kids across the country.  Isolation is deadly, and we must do everything we can to let kids know they never have to feel this alone.  There is always a better way out.  There is always hope.

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Beautiful Cover Story

Ever wonder how the cover for Beautiful came to be?  Melissa Walker asked me, so I told her for Unabashedly Bookish, The Barnes & Noble Community Blog.  I’m reposting here because I thought you might find it interesting:


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Hello blog.  It’s been awhile.  My excuse is I’ve been writing, which is a pretty good excuse if you ask me.  Since, like, I’m supposed to be a writer, and, like, my next book’s due to my editor May 1, and, like, I have approximately ten pages left to write.  This is when things start getting weird.  I’m excited that she’s almost done, but I’m also feeling a little protective, like I want to grab her and hold her tight and not let her go.  (Yes, apparently my book has a gender.  I told you it’s getting weird.)  She’s been my baby for about a year, and we’ve grown extra close these last few months, getting cozy in the big cushy chairs of my favorite coffee shop, scribbling madly on the train, stealing moments to jot down dialogue when I’m supposed to be working at my day job.  Now she’s almost grown up, ready to send off to my editor in big, scary New York. And then what? Empty nest syndrome? Mourning her loss?  Moving onto the next story and cast of characters like nothing happened?

I still miss Beautiful.  Of course I have some copies at home and I get to talk about the book all the time, but it’s not the same as being inside it, living and breathing that world and those beautiful, broken characters.  I miss Cassie and Sarah.  Oh, how I miss Sarah. I still get a lump in my chest whenever I think about her.  Sometimes I wonder what Cassie’s doing now, if she’s enjoying her new school, if she found the loving friendships and peace she so desperately needed.  I wonder if she was able to stay off drugs, if she was able to learn to stop running from herself and her pain.  Maybe her parents started paying a little more attention.  Maybe they all started spending time together as a family. Maybe Cassie learned to love herself just a little bit, enough to give her the strength to say No when she needs to, enough to make her hope for something better.

But they’re not real, are they?  Their lives are contained in thin 6×9″ pages.  There is a beginning and an end to their story, a front a back cover.  But why doesn’t it feel that way?  Why do I feel like they’re somewhere close, just around the corner?  Why do I miss them like family?

I don’t feel ready to say goodbye to these new characters.  But I guess I have to.  I will reluctantly let them go.  Because if I don’t, you will never get to meet them.

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Here’s Jason reading from his new book The Mission:

In other news, here’s my friend Amy P. and her adorable son Evan with Beautiful (and what looks like the wrappings of a toothbrush):

Send me your pictures!

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It’s going to be a busy month! Hope you can join me for one of these events.

An Evening of Edgy YA

with Amy Reed and Jason Myers

Tuesday, February 9, 7:30 p.m. @Pegasus Books in Berkeley

2349 Shattuck Avenue, Berkeley (2 blocks from the downtown Berkeley BART station)

I am honored to be joined by bestselling author Jason Myers, author of Exit Here and new release The Mission.  Please join us as we read from our newest works, answer a few of your questions, and sign a few books.

Saturday Night at CIIS

Saturday, February 13, 6:00-8:30 p.m. @ California Institute of Integral Studies in San Francisco

Namaste Hall, CIIS Main Building, 1453 Mission Street, San Francisco

Celebrating the graduates of the MFA in Creative Inquiry, Interdisciplinary Arts and the MFA in Writing and Consciousness. Performances by storyteller/actor Jovelyn Richards and musician MamaCoAtl. Readings by Judy Jordan, Kelly Lydick, and Amy Reed.

Amy Reed and Daphne Gottlieb

Thursday, February 25, 7:00 p.m. @ Modern Times Books in San Francisco

888 Valencia Street, San Francisco

I am honored to be joined by San Francisco-based Performance Poet Daphne Gottlieb, winner of the Firecracker and Audre Lorde Awards. She is the editor of Fucking Daphne: Mostly True Stories and Fictions and Homewrecker: An Adultery Reader, as well as the author of the poetry books Kissing Dead Girls, Final Girl, Why Things Burn and Pelt, as well as the graphic novel Jokes and the Unconscious with artist Diane DiMassa.

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Dear Anica,

Thank you for believing in me and Beautiful, and for giving me the rock star treatment when I came to big bad New York City for the first time.  Thank you for insisting on buying me a cupcake.  And thank you for making me a sign.  A sign!  No one’s ever made me a sign before.  Thanks for all the books you send me, especially the one about Burning Man and the Magnolia Bakery Cookbook.  I’m trying the  Oatmeal Peanut Butter Chip Cookie recipe this weekend, by the way.  You and everyone at Simon Pulse have been so supportive of my little book, and it means so much to have you on my side.



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In case you didn’t know (which you probably didn’t since this is the first time ever), today is Agent Appreciation Day.  You won’t find it on any calendars, but a hodgepodge of YA authors decided that our beloved agents needed their very own holiday, so here it is.

Amy Tipton of Signature Literary Agency is rad for several reasons.  For one, this is her agent photo:

Who else but an awesome person would have this as her agent photo?

Secondly, she called me that winter morning two years ago and told me she loved the book I put my heart and soul and dreams and tears into writing.

Thirdly, it took her less than a month to get me a great deal with a great publisher and a great editor, Anica Rissi at Simon Pulse.

Fourthly, she has an amazing sense of style.

Fifthly, she encourages me to challenge myself and to write the best possible book I can, one that I will be proud of (not just one that’ll sell).

Sixthly, she is strong and brave and tenacious and ferocious.

Thank you, Amy, for all you do.  You’re an inspiration, and I am a lucky girl to have a warrior like you on my side.



PS:  Here’s a list of all the writers (and their agents) taking part in today’s festivities: http://lisa-laura.blogspot.com/

What a list!  We YA authors are quite a loving bunch.

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