What do Aimée Carter, Beth Revis, Tahereh Mafi and I have in common? We all write YA, and we all own webcams. We also each get our fair share of questions about our lives, our writing, and our lives as writers. And we’re rumored to be spies, but that’s another story.
Now’s your opportunity to ask us anything you’d like, and if your question is chosen, we’ll answer it in a vlog!
Leave your question or questions in a comment below. You can ask a general question for all three of us, a specific question for each of us, or a question for just one or two of us. Anything goes! The deadline for your questions is 12:01 the morning of Friday, March 23rd.
Ask as many questions as you’d like. You may want to check our FAQ pages to see if your question has already been answered:
Lauren’s FAQ page: http://laurendestefano.com/faq.php
Tahereh’s FAQ page: http://taherehmafi.com/ (This site makes really cool noises when you click on stuff)
Aimée’s FAQ page: http://www.aimeecarter.com/FAQ.html
Beth’s FAQ page: http://www.bethrevis.com/frequently-asked-questions/
We’ll each select our top three questions and answer them on camera. And when we answer them, maybe we’ll be wearing fancy hats, or holding a basket of kittens, or preparing a delicious apple pie. Really, who knows. We like to keep readers on their toes.
Aimée Carter is the author of THE GODDESS TEST
Beth Revis is the author of ACROSS THE UNIVERSE
Tahereh Mafi is the author of SHATTER ME
Lauren DeStefano is the author of WITHER
So, as most of you probably already know, Facebook is changing to a new layout that looks something like this:
(Thanks to my friend Andrew for letting me use his page as a sample. PS, he’s also in Fever’s acknowledgements for other cool reasons).
And my fanpage currently looks like this: https://www.facebook.com/LaurenDeStefanoFan
Here is where the free stuff comes in:
To the person who designs a banner for my fanpage, I will award this basket of super cool stuff:
The basket contains:
* A hardcover of FEVER and a paperback of WITHER.
* THE HUNGER GAMES edition of People, which features a super spiff ad for Wither and Fever. I forget what page it’s on, but there’s a ton of Peeta all around it, so it probably smells like bread and epic winning.
* The latest UK version of WITHER, which features a soft cover and a short story from Rose’s perspective, which was previously only available as an eBook.
* A WITHER bookmark, which can only be found in the Indonesian version. If you want the Indonesian version too for whatever reason, just let me know and I’ll throw one in.
I will of course sign these things and personalize them however you’d like.
I feel like there’s something I’m forgetting…
Oh yeah. I’ll also be hiding a sentence from BOOK 3 somewhere along with my signature. Just to put this in perspective, Book 3 has no title, and it is not printed yet. It is in a word document on my editor’s computer, so you’ll be getting the sneakiest of sneak peeks.
And maybe I’ll get crazy and throw some other stuff in there, too, like this page from my Powerpuff Girls coloring book or a piece of toast that looks like a patron saint, or some kind of field rabbit (if the box has airholes and is jumping around, you might want to invest in a cage and some carrots).
Do you want this stuff? Do you want this stuff? Here are the rules:
1.) The banner must contain Chemical Garden content (example: the covers, photos of the pages, text, etc) and/OR original artwork that belongs to you. That means no photos of celebrities and no ripping artwork from the internet. If you have a friend with heterochromia, don’t just photograph her while she’s at the mall sipping her diet coke and then put it on the internet without her knowledge. Make sure any artwork is your own.
2.) Understand that by sending your banner to me, you are allowing me to use it on my fanpage for however long I’d like. That may mean a hundred years. But things happen. People change. One night I may be sitting down to a romantic dinner with my banner, and it might have had a rough day at work, so it insults my delicious meal or doesn’t notice my new dress, and I might decide that it’s time to end our relationship. Don’t take this personally. These things happen to the best of them.
3.) Have a cupcake while designing your banner. This is optional, I just thought it might make you happy.
4.) Be creative and have fun! I don’t know exactly what I’m looking for, and that’s why I’m turning to YOU. Make a banner that you feel really captures what this series means to you. Maybe it means lots of text, or pretty pictures, or a hand-chiseled ice sculpture of me, in which my chin is prominent and my hair looks fabulous. Just putting that out there.
You may use photos of me if you really want to. I only ask that you don’t use any licensed photos, which means any of the photos on facebook that are copyrighted to Ali Smith, my photographer. You can use any of the goofy pics I clearly took with my own webcam. I have to warn you, though, that using my photo runs the risk that you’ll have to see my face every time you visit my fanpage.
5.) Tweet/facebook/tumblr about this contest. Tell your friends. Tell your pets. And include a link when you submit your entry or it won’t be counted.
6.) Enter as many times as you like! Felt compelled to specify after receiving questions.
You should submit your banner as a high-resolution image to lauren (at) laurendestefano (dot) com. The deadline is Friday, March 30th at 12:01 AM EST. This is open internationally! Why are you still here? Grab a bottle of glue and a bag of popsicle sticks and a local politician and get to work!
Dear My Home:
Thank you for being my home. You keep my cats and me nice and cozy. Without your roof, all of my stuff would get wet when it rained. Without your walls, vagrants would steal all of my shiny things. You may not have 24-hour room service, and your bathrooms may not replenish with cute little shampoo bottles or soaps each morning, but I like your picture at the top of the staircase that is somehow always crooked even though I constantly straighten it. I love your blankets covered in cat hair and your bedroom door that only closes properly in the summertime. I love your skylights that make the moon and stars look like they are in high-def on a clear night. And even though I am not nuts about the popcorn ceilings, I am happy to look at them each night before I go to sleep. Thank you for letting me paint and paper your walls to suit my whims, and for not complaining when I don’t mop or vacuum your floors as often as I should. Thank you for being my home.
Most of us moan and groan about our parents at some point in our lives. But for all intents and purposes, I was pretty lucky. I had parents who sat back and let me become whatever it was a dreamed of becoming. I’m sure they secretly worried that I’d die penniless and alone, but still, they catered to my wishes for spiral notebooks and Lisa Frank pencil toppers.
They probably took a lot of crap for it, too.
In my early years, I was routinely made to rewrite formal essays for embellishing. Okay, Ms. Floral Dress, you caught me, my golden retriever DOESN’T have mind-reading powers, and no, I didn’t have a dream that there was the ghost of a little girl telling me where she’d been buried under my pool, and no I didn’t find her locket gleaming at the bottom of the water the next morning.
I was friends with another little girl who liked to write stories, and in response her father taped a list of the New York Times Bestsellers over her bed and he told her that if she couldn’t be the real deal, she’d better find something more worthwhile to aspire towards. He also said this to me. I promptly disregarded it. Actually, I tended to disregard any tidbits of reality I didn’t like. I still do this often.
I was the kid that never fit in. I was ridiculed for my crazy hair and my habit of staring off into space. It was strange that I was reading Sidney Sheldon in the sixth grade. In the fifth grade, my parents were called in for a meeting because the quiz stated “In your own words, explain (whatever it was)” and I responded in the form of a poem. I would walk around for days and days in mourning when I’d killed off a character that only I knew existed, because I had written her. I hoarded notebooks and showed them to no one. I glued comic strips to my walls.
And most of the time, my parents, both traditional and reserved, were as confused by my behavior as anyone else. I was their only child, their only shot at molding a human being that would one day go out into the world and leave some sort of mark. They could have begged me to be a doctor or a candlestick maker. They could have demanded that I declare a business major if they were to help me with college. Instead, they never told me I had to be something else. They never said that if I couldn’t be the “real deal,” I’d better find a more worthwhile aspiration. Only as an adult can I look back and truly appreciate what a bang-up job they did of accepting me. But even with that support, I worried for myself. I worried that I wouldn’t be the “real deal,” and I worried that my dream wasn’t to BE the “real deal.” I didn’t care about being a bestseller. I just wanted to tell stories. I didn’t understand why I had such trouble fitting in. I thought I was some kind of mistake.
But like a rolling stone, I kept doing what I felt compelled to do.
My true moment of validation came when I was 25. Shortly after my publisher acquired my trilogy, we all went out to lunch. Here were these professional people with fancy city jobs and snazzy hair, talking about my characters and asking me questions. I’d like you to take a moment to appreciate how weird that was. All the silly imaginings I’d had since I was a child were now the topic of a business lunch. It was kind of the best day ever.
It shouldn’t have taken me that long to feel validated. I shouldn’t have felt like a mistake. And it shouldn’t take a book deal or snazzy hair to make you feel validated, either. At the end of your life, do you want to look back and say that you never worried your teachers, that you always behaved, that you fit in and everything was like a 50s sitcom?
Maybe you’re weird, and maybe you’re not. Whatever you are, just embrace it. Be you. Be unapologetically you. If people look at you funny, you stand on a chair and proclaim that you’re lord of the mud people. If someone tells you that you aren’t good enough, tell them you have as many hours in the day that Shakespeare and Einstein and Dr. Condom had. And know that your life is yours to make. Someday, maybe years from now and maybe tomorrow, people will be in AWE of you. They’ll see an octagon in a room of squares. So unzip that silly square costume. You don’t need to aspire to be the “real deal.” You already are.
About four years ago, before the days of Rhine and Wither World, before I had a social media platform and when I was just a bright-eyed dreamer with a hard drive full of unmarketable manuscripts, I received a phone call. That phone call was an offer of representation from an agent. And at the end of that phone call, my shiny new agent asked if I had a website. I didn’t. She asked me to start one. And so, this blog was born.
And from that very first day, before I had a book deal or any readers, I knew there were certain topics that I’d never blog about. Politics was one of them. Body image was another. The reason I stay away from those types of posts is because I don’t have much faith in my own finesse. There are other bloggers who introduce these topics in a way that is fabulous and thorough. Whereas I ramble a lot, give books away, and show you pictures of how ugly my bathroom was before I exorcised the pink from it.
Today I’m breaking my own restraint to blog about this topic. Maybe it’s fitting, in light of the whole SOPA censorship debacle. Maybe now is the perfect time to say the sorts of things I wouldn’t normally say.
The topic is body image. It’s snowing today, and I thought I’d curl up on the couch and indulge in a little TV before diving into my line edits for Book 3. I flipped through the DVR lineup and decided to watch the latest episode of The Biggest Loser. I was only half paying attention, clicking around on the internet as I usually do, when I heard one of the contestants say that she had dreams of being a writer. She went on to say, “How are you gonna go into these publishing houses and be like ‘Hey, you wanna publish my book’ when you’re the fat girl?”
This ripped my attention from the computer screen. I hit rewind, sure I misheard her. I played it back three times, not just astounded but horrified by what was happening on my television. Was this aspiring writer really citing her weight as the reason she felt a publishing house wouldn’t take her seriously?
We can’t have this. This is not okay.
The most devastating part of this sentiment is that, in addition to this young woman believing her weight is congruent with her success as an author, millions of viewers nationwide have just heard it. How many of those millions are writers? How many are going to feel that they cannot take a step towards their dreams until they’ve lost a few pounds?
Actually, scratch that. How many of those millions have dreams they now fear can’t be attained because of their weight?
If I’m going to go into full disclosure here, my weight is something I have been conscious of for most of my life. It’s something I struggled with in my teens and something I struggle with now. I gained a bunch of weight after selling Wither, between the pre-publication stress and having a job that required movement only from the wrists to the fingertips. I’ve since lost all of that weight, and I know that it is as emotionally taxing as it is physical. And I’m not alone; I can’t count on both hands the conversations I’ve had with friends over the years about calories in vs. calories out, and abdominal crunches and weight watchers points and diet soda. It’s a significant part of my life. And it has nothing to do with my ability to dream or my determination or my worth as a person. It took me years and years to understand this. I used to think of myself as a work in progress. I used to think that I would have a good life when I lost weight. I’m so thankful that I learned the difference between having a goal and having self worth. My wish is for everyone to learn that difference, because it’s a liberating day when you do.
For this Biggest Loser contestant, her weight is something about herself that she would like to change. I can understand that, because my weight is something I am perpetually working to change. And for someone else, it’s another issue entirely. Maybe you think you’re too timid, or too rude, or too tall, or you think you have two mismatched ears—whatever it is. There is nothing wrong with wanting to change the things we don’t like about ourselves; in fact it can boost our self-esteem to know we’re doing something healthy for ourselves. But it becomes a serious problem when we think we are substandard until that change is made. If you’re a writer, write. Write because it’s your dream and because it’s what you love. Write because you deserve to have dreams and it is your right to work for them.
There’s no scale when you step through the door of a publishing house. I can tell you firsthand that there’s just a security guard and an elevator.
You have to believe that you are good enough right now, today, because losing weight or getting an earlobe tuck or dyeing your hair isn’t going to do that. When you look in the mirror, it’s dangerous to dream of The Flawless You. What you should see is your face, your shoulders. You should acknowledge the freckles you may not like or the hair that flips the wrong way. You should know that your tools and your weapons and your mind are all staring back at you. You should be in awe of the power you possess over your own destiny. You aren’t substandard. You are amazing. The person staring back at you in the mirror is the person who is going to go out there and grab those dreams by the freaking balls.
It’s no secret that I’m peculiar. I live with myself every day, so sometimes I forget that the things I do aren’t always normal, and it takes a quirked eyebrow from a total stranger to remind me.
Today I went to Subway, and I asked for my usual veggie sub, which includes jalapeno peppers, ground pepper, onions, and hot sauce. The person making my sandwich started to confirm my decisions. “Hot sauce?” he said, his hand hovering over the mayo, like perhaps I didn’t mean to consume a heartburn cocktail on whole wheat. But no, I got the hot sauce, and it was delicious.
It made me think of my dad. My dad used to pop hot peppers and spicy pepperoni slices into his mouth like they were Chicklets. In fact, my grandmother kept these things in her house specifically for when he’d visit. When I was little, my parents and I were having dinner at a restaurant, and when the salads were brought out, I noticed a different little vegetable resting on an altar of cucumber wheels. My father assured me it was just a happy baby pepper. He had a way of personifying food. In retrospect, I should have noticed my mother’s efforts not to grin.
This was my first encounter with a hot pepper. And while I crinkled my face and whimpered, my dad narrated my misery with, “Oh wow. Maybe I was wrong. Your nose is turning red. Now it’s turning blue. Now your forehead is starting to smoke. Barb, run to the kitchen and ask for a bucket of ice before she bursts into flames.”
I was understandably mad.
When I got over my anger, though, I vowed to conquer that shriveled happy baby pepper. When they appeared on salads over the years, I ate them whole. I began to love them. Not only hot peppers, but hot garnishes and dressings of any sort. I can only conclude that this personality detail began with my dad and that fateful day. He also used to tease me when I shook bottles of grated parmesan. He said I was “murdering the happy clumps.”
One of my favorite things, though, was a game we played with time. When he was driving me home from a swim meet or from school or something, he’d look at the clock and ask me what time I thought we’d get home. To the minute, his predictions were most always right, and mine always missed the mark. Sometimes when I’m driving home, I still play this game with myself. And I still lose most of the time.
My dad was hilarious and peculiar. When I was younger I thought he must have been the silliest person to ever live. My dad would burst into (off-key) song in the canned soup aisle. In public, he would rustle my hair (while I was in my teens and early twenties) and call me a nut. He met my cynical stares with shimmy dances. He was absolutely unapologetic and unafraid of who he was, and that scared the hell out of me. I’d walk a pace or two ahead. I’d roll my eyes. I’d hiss, “Dad, cut it out!” Sometimes I’d skip all that and just wait in the car.
One night, my dad and I went out to dinner, and I went on a tirade about something or other. Shy thing that I was, I apologized for having said so much and making him sit there and listen to all of it. He told me not to apologize for who I was. He said he liked who I was. I had no idea at the time what this conversation would mean to me later.
The great injustice of my life is that I lost my dad before I found my own bravery. In fact, the day my dad died, I stood before the mirror, thinking that I’d get older and my face and style would change, and I’d be something my dad wouldn’t recognize. There was an overwhelming and unwilling feeling of having to let go, of knowing that I would have to go on.
And now, sometimes I sing in the grocery store, and eat hot peppers like they’re Chicklets, and I meet embarrassed glares of my friends with shimmy dances, and in public sometimes people will hiss, “Lauren!”
And sometimes it takes a lot of effort to look in the mirror and be okay with what’s staring back at me, or to look at the copy of Wither on my shelf and be confident in all those sentences I labored over; sometimes it’s almost an act of defiance, just being okay.
Now that I’m an author, and reasonably grown up (at least, as grown up as I’m ever going to get), I’m met with plenty of fans, and plenty of not-fans, and plenty of odd stares in the grocery store when I sing 90s dance mixes while perusing the potato chips. And my number one fan will never get to read my book, or embarrass me in bookstores. A thousand and ten people saying “Your dad would be so proud of you” could never hold candle to my dad saying “I’m proud of you” just one time. Just once. That’s very hard to do without, and some days, if I’m being honest, it makes facing the world difficult.
But those are the days when it’s extra important to get up. To do something silly. To play games with clocks even if I’m going to lose. To write the best damn story I possibly can. Those are the days to be unapologetically weird.
I can’t imagine there’s anything I can say that hasn’t already been said. So I am only going to say this:
Whether you are a reader, a reviewer, a writer, a person passing through the internet who happened upon this page while googling cobbler recipes, I think you’re pretty great. Whether you’ve yet to read my book, or you have no intention, or you’re a fan, or you kind of hate everything about me, I think you’re great. It’s great that you have opinions and it’s great that the internet exists so that you can share them.
There’s no point to this blog other than to say that. It just seemed to me like something we could all stand to hear, this month in particular. However, if you need to hear it at some other time in the future, you can always come back and read it again. It’ll still be true then.
And the winners are….
Comment #142: Leanne https://twitter.com/#!/LilNewfieangel and
Comment #89: Breanna https://www.facebook.com/#!/blouthan1
Winners were chosen using a random number generator from random.org
Did you win? Please email me at Lauren (at) LaurenDeStefano (dot) com and include:
1.) Your name and mailing address
2.) How you would like your book to be personalized.
Giveaway closed. Winners to be announced soon! Check back to see if you’ve won.
I promised a giveaway when my facebook page hit 3,000 likes. This actually happened a few days ago, but to be fair, I’m a writer, and I’ve been really busy what with the napping and the staring at the screen and the forgetting to brush my hair thing, so I’m a bit late, and for that I apologize. But now I’d like to give you stuff. For free!
I am giving away two US paperbacks of WITHER. What makes these different from the hardback of Wither, you ask?
Well, for starters, I’ve worn these paperbacks on my head like a hat, and I’ve pretended to be a cowgirl.
I’ve also whispered my secrets to them. But in addition to that, they contain a sneak peek of Fever’s first chapter. Also, you can bend the covers back and forth and they make a really cool swishy-farty noise. And also, I will sign and personalize them however you’d like. I’ve been told that my handwriting is whimsical and quixotic. Here are some examples of the notes I could write in your paperback:
Not bad, right? By now you’re probably thinking:
Here’s what you need to know:
This giveaway is INTERNATIONAL. That means you are eligible to win whether you live in the US, Canada, Istanbul, or in the belly of a whale. A paperback CAN be yours; believe it, my friend.
In order to enter, tweet/facebook/blog/tumblr about this giveaway with a link to this blog entry (if you are on goodreads, please link to and comment on my blog post here: http://www.laurendestefano.com/blog/ as comments on my goodreads blog will not be counted). Then enter a comment below with the link to your tweet/facebook/blog/tumblr post. On Thursday, January 12th, at 11:59 PM, EST, this giveaway will end and I’ll select the winner using a random number generator. Your entry number will be based on the order in which you commented. One book per winner.
ALSOALSO: Please check back to see if you’ve won. I will announce the winners here on my blog; last time I was unable to get in touch with a couple of winners and they missed out. I will post instructions for the winners to contact me!
So, that’s it. Get to it! Tell your friends.
There is a song that has been a sort of theme song for me in recent years. The song is called Flowers Bloom by Mandalay, and in it is the lyric, “Sometimes I look around the place I live, and wonder how I came to choose the things I did.” Later on, another lyric is, “Flowers bloom in desolate places.”
My life has changed quite a bit in recent years, but those lines have always held true for me. If you’re reading this, it may be because you were googling something like pickled artichokes and the search engine was having an off day, but more likely it’s because you know I wrote a book.
On May 30th, 2008, nobody would have been searching for me online, nor would they have any reason to care that I exist. But I was as much a writer back then as I am today. I just hadn’t gotten my foot in the door just yet. I spent hours studiously combing through the submission guidelines of literary agencies searching for the right match. I was buying stamps, perfecting my queries, and downing a lot of junk food to quell my anxiety and despair. During this time, I was also failing quite horribly at my array of day jobs, lamenting that I’d never move out of my mother’s house, crying “no no no NO” when my car let me know it was dying with its coughs and stutters, and finally, its last overheated sigh in the middle of a busy intersection on my way in to work.
When you’re a published author, believe me, you don’t forget where you came from. You also spend a great deal of time worrying that this is a Vanilla Sky type dream world and that you’ll wake up. Or maybe that last part is just me.
Last night, I was lounging about in my office, raving to a friend on the phone about this manuscript I’d had the privilege of reading before it’s to go into ARC form. As I spoke, I stared at a shelf full of foreign editions of my book, and I waved a laser pointer at my cat, who happens to be named for a character in those books, and at some point in the conversation, I said, “I feel so fortunate that I was able to read this manuscript, and I can’t wait to see it on shelves.” And he said, “Look at you, being an author and such.”
It really never gets old. I still feel like Cinderella in the pumpkin carriage, worrying over the twelfth chime. I will always be grateful to be a part of this world. I will always remember that, before I was gifted with early readings and author friends and the most phenomenal agent ever, I was puttering to work in a half-dead car, dreading the return of self-addressed stamped envelopes waiting in the mailbox when I came home.
It probably seems as though published authors just waft by on a conveyor belt, ready to be plucked off of the shelves, but we’re all just people. We’re nobody to anyone until we break through, and there’s never any promise that we’ll break through at all until we’ve somehow done it.
Today, I was rummaging through the organized chaos of my basement and the trunk of my car (which runs as it’s supposed to, thank you). I was looking for a bubble mailer. I promised a relative in Florida that I’d send along a copy of my paperback. While I was rummaging, I came across this:
My first reaction was sort of a giddy “I could blog about this!” feeling, and I skipped and giggled off to my computer. I don’t recall my exact reaction when I first opened this letter back in 2008, but I’m sure it eradicated any smile I might have had on my face.
Here’s the thing, though: this rejection letter was important to my journey as a writer. It was one of dozens, dozens to follow and precede. It is in response to a manuscript that ultimately never found representation. These rejections pushed me to write something new, and when that failed, to write again, and again. Wither didn’t exist until late 2009. In October 2009, I got an evening call from my agent, which was odd because I don’t think I’d ever heard from her after 6 PM. When I answered the phone, she was suppressing a laugh, and someone elsewhere in the room with her was doing the same, and she told me about the offer we’d just gotten from Simon & Schuster. I blurted something obscene and hysterical, and the rest you know…
The moment you break through, you feel it. It overtakes your entire body. It’s as though you’re standing on a mountain having used a rope of your own failures and epiphanies to reach the top. I love this rejection letter. I’m happy I kept it. It was a foothold along the way. It’s a piece of who I was, and, being honest, it makes me feel pretty much great.
I think I have the perfect place for it…