Christa Desir's Blog

May 10, 2016

Hooray! Hooray! Hooray! The day for LOVE BLIND's release is finally here. The journey of this book has been a long one, and if you'd like to read more about it, you can do that here. Suffice it to say, we first wrote this book in a series of back and forth emails and a Word doc in 2011 before I'd ever met my collaboration partner Jolene Perry in real life. 
A few things you need to know about the book: 1. This is probably the "lightest" book I've ever written. (Though fair warning, everything is relative and I'm me so don't think it's all kittens and unicorns. SLJ said, "it hits hard, exploring issues such as depression, homosexuality, and loss of virginity." But truthfully, it's quite a bit lighter than my other books. Oh Christa. )2. I wrote Kyle's part, Jolene wrote Hailey's part. We wrote a lot on top of each other's parts. It was messy and fun and Jolene is the easiest collaboration partner a person could ask for.3. This is the closest to a "happily ever after" that I've ever gotten. It was not really meant to be a love story when we started off. If you ever meet me in real life, I'll tell you how much this book changed from start to finish. (Fair warning again: "love story" is a relative term for me and I doubt anyone will be doing any swooning. I'm not really the swoon kind of writer. Poor Jolene. She writes a lot of swoony guys, and this time I made it next to impossible for her. Heh.)
And now I will make a list of my absolute favorite things about Jolene and why I'm so lucky to have her in my life:
1. Every time I call her she's in the midst of doing some project for someone else. I have never known anyone who is so willing to step in and lend a hand to whatever endeavor.  I have no idea what Jo is doing here but this is not unusual behavior. 2. Jolene is one of probably 4 liberals in her town in Alaska. She's married to a dude who prosecutes sex crimes and they are a real-deal love story. Also, while I'm wandering around Chicago walking my dog and taking my kids to the library, Jo and her husband are doing things like snow machining. Or whatever. ALASKA!
This is Jo & her husband. They live in this place with woods!3. Jolene writes love stories, but more importantly Jolene writes about girls who make bad choices and who have a million reasons why they should probably give up and then they figure out a way to keep going. This is her central project as a writer and if you know anything about Jolene's relationship with her daughter, you know that lifting that girl up and making her believe that anything/everything is possible is Jo's central project in life.

I mean, for real, aren't they the cutest?4. Jolene is one of the most chatty and warm people I have ever met. We have made our way to SCBWI in LA for several years because it's the halfway point between Alaska and Chicago and Jo manages to draw in everyone. She is hilarious and infectious and incredibly creative and easy to talk to. And probably the most important of all, she is up for whatever nonsense I am dropping at her feet.
With Jolene at the Bean when she decided to drop her life and finally come meet me here. So here's the book description:

Shy high schooler Kyle Jamieson and Hailey Bosler, a musician with degenerative blindness, team up to tackle a bucket list of greatest fears in this compelling novel that explores what it means to take risks.

It starts with a list of fears. Stupid things really. Things that Hailey shouldn t worry about, wouldn t worry about if she didn t wake up every morning with the world a little more blurry. Unable to see her two moms clearly. Unable to read the music for her guitar. One step closer to losing the things she cares about the most. 

For a while, the only thing that keeps Hailey moving forward is the feeling she gets when she crosses something off the list. Then she meets Kyle. He mumbles when he talks at all and listens to music to drown out his thoughts. He's loaded down with fears, too. So Hailey talks him into making his own list. 

Together, they stumble into an odd friendship, helping each other tackle one after another of their biggest fears. But fate and timing can change everything. And sometimes facing your worst fear makes you realize you had nothing to lose after all.
And here's where you can buy it: IndieBound, Barnes and Noble, Amazon

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on May 10, 2016 02:12 • 11 views

May 9, 2016

In honor of tomorrow's release for LOVE BLIND and because I've been thinking a lot about the nature of fear lately and how it can hold us back, I thought today I would put out into the world my current writer fear list as it has been carved out by the last six months of my life:

1. Becoming irrelevant. The thing about working in YA is that sometimes people seem to be constantly selling books or releasing books or what-have-you. And while everyone in my real life is all: "you have another book out already?", most people in my writing life are like: "what's next?" There is something about writing for teenagers/readers who devour books in a night that makes you feel constantly on the brink of being forgotten if you don't have the next thing scheduled, being planned, being promoted, etc. After LOVE BLIND, I don't have a real plan. I have some ideas, I have something written that may work out, but maybe it won't. Regardless, it is going to be a few years at least until that sorts itself out. My top notch brain recognizes that if you write memorable books, then you can have no upcoming release or real plan and still be relevant for years. My dumb insecure brain thinks: well, I guess you're one step closer to unremarkable mediocrity. Nice going, C.
2. Chickening out. The more you read reviews, the more you see people get upset about certain things, the more you let judgment and criticism get beneath your skin, the harder it is to take risks with your writing. Sometimes I feel like I'm trying to navigate a minefield. My kids are getting to the age where their friends are reading my books and there is a very large part of me that wonders how they'll be impacted, or if their parents read my books, is our house suddenly going to become the house of "that lady who writes about teenage sex"? You'd think because Carrie and I talk about this regularly on the podcast, we don't worry about it, but you'd be wrong. A lot of time we feel like we're the only two people in an oasis of well-meaning readers who think we're mostly sleazy and inappropriate. 
3. Writing to please. It is damn difficult not to look at the books winning all the awards, hitting the bestseller lists, getting a huge marketing campaign, and think, well, I should just write a book like that. For example, I should just write a book with a slightly sad but likable girl and a hot misunderstood arty guy and have them find each other and their love make everything better. WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME THAT I CAN'T DO THAT? The truth is: I don't want to write that book. Yes, I want all the money in the world dumped on me (because I have kids and like to get my haircut once a year), but every single time I try to write to please other people, I end up with a crappy book that I have to put away. I need to change the optics on this, write to please myself and readers will find me, but no lie, it is hard as hell to ignore the business side of publishing.
4. My real life destroying my writing life. The last six months have been a lot. A lot. My real life has bled all over my writing life and I haven't been able to open a document since January. It's not time, it's being incapable of creating a narrative world because the real world is just too damn hard right now. I should be able to do this. I should be able to compartmentalize, but I cannot. And there is nothing more paralyzing than the thought: what if it doesn't get any better?
I have no solutions to any of this. My friend Barb would tell me that I just have to sit with it all until the fear goes away. Maybe that's it. Or maybe something will change and I'll be able to move forward again, but as it stands, I'm mostly afraid. Which is a strange place to be the day before a release, but somehow I think Kyle (the character I wrote in LOVE BLIND) would be right there with me.
About the book:

Shy high schooler Kyle Jamieson and Hailey Bosler, a musician with degenerative blindness, team up to tackle a bucket list of greatest fears in this compelling novel that explores what it means to take risks. 

It starts with a list of fears. Stupid things really. Things that Hailey shouldn t worry about, wouldn t worry about if she didn t wake up every morning with the world a little more blurry. Unable to see her two moms clearly. Unable to read the music for her guitar. One step closer to losing the things she cares about the most. 

For a while, the only thing that keeps Hailey moving forward is the feeling she gets when she crosses something off the list. Then she meets Kyle. He mumbles when he talks at all and listens to music to drown out his thoughts. He's loaded down with fears, too. So Hailey talks him into making his own list. 

Together, they stumble into an odd friendship, helping each other tackle one after another of their biggest fears. But fate and timing can change everything. And sometimes facing your worst fear makes you realize you had nothing to lose after all.

P.S. I am doing a book event/launch party at Anderson's in LaGrange on May 20 at 7pm for this book, so if you want a signed copy, give them a call. 

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on May 09, 2016 11:57 • 14 views

January 11, 2016

Today marks the publication of my third YA novel, OTHER BROKEN THINGS. There's a lot of me in this book, a lot of honesty and hurt and acceptance and trying to figure out how to fix yourself. Release day is usually my reminder day, the day I remember that I'm doing the greatest job in the world because I get to be creative and make art. An auspicious and happy time for most authors.

But when I think about this book and all that went into it, I can't help but think about rock bottoms (which is maybe not the most happy thing for a release day, but stick with me, we'll get there).

In doing research on alcoholics, "rock bottoms" came up a bunch of times. The questions were different but all circled around the same thing: what made you decide you were done drinking? when did you realize the only way out was up? what happened that you were finally able to see how sick you were?

As I told Nat's story in OTHER BROKEN THINGS, I thought about how in a certain way, we all have rock bottoms. Sometimes they're extreme and sometimes they're a series of steps spiraling down until you realize that everything is dark and hard and you can't see anymore and you can't remember where you're going or what you're doing and why you were even doing it in the first place.

When I examine my own life, I think about the blanket of regrets that I could wrap around myself. At one point or another, I have been a crap parent, a crap daughter, a crap wife, a crap employee, a crap sister, a crap student, a crap friend. I am what someone wittier than I would call "the okayest human alive."

At times I have wanted the people who love me the most to go away because they were also the people who saw me at my worst. I've often thought that it isn't the people who won't forgive you that are so hard to deal with, it is the ones who will, because they are the ones who have witnessed you at your absolute suckiest and isn't that a reminder we could all do without. (Though I know Carrie, Asher, and Jolene would tell me that those people also have seen you at your absolute best.)

Regret can become its own rock bottom, in the same way that resentment can—they are both diseases that are incurable if you hold on to them, and undoubtedly only toxic to the person feeling them, not the objects of their regret/resentment. And yet these emotions are hard to shake.

And so I think about this past year and how in a way it has felt like a rock bottom: I have failed professionally more than I have succeeded, I have dropped balls in my personal relationships, I have stumbled a lot as a parent, more than I thought I could. But here is the thing. All these failures, they weren't really a rock bottom (even though they felt like it at the time). Because they didn't compromise the things I value the most: compassion, integrity, forgiveness, honesty, grace.

My Natalie in OBT has given up the things she cares about the most: a true rock bottom for her. But even then, she finds a way out. Something I realized is possible for us all. Even if we do lose our way, even if we are truly at the bottom and have had our values compromised, everything keeps moving. Possible still exists. Above all, I have learned that tomorrow will be different than today, even if it's just the tiniest bit. There is a way out. It is hard and it is up, but as Glennon says, "We can do difficult things." Particularly if we know that we aren't doing those things alone.

Why yes, my stepsister did put my face on a Wonder Woman magnet.

So here's the cover and the blurb and buy links and all the sell-y stuff that I must do because it's my release day.

Natalie’s not an alcoholic. She doesn’t have a problem. Everybody parties, everybody does stupid things, like getting in their car when they can barely see. Still, with six months of court-ordered AA meetings required, her days of vodka-filled water bottles are over.
Unfortunately, her old friends want the party girl or nothing. Even her up-for-anything ex seems more interested in rehashing the past than actually helping Nat.
But then a recovering alcoholic named Joe inserts himself into Nat’s life, and things start looking up. Joe is funny, he’s smart, and he calls her out in a way no one ever has.
He’s also older. A lot older.
Nat’s connection to Joe is overwhelming, but so are her attempts to fit back into her old world, all while battling the constant urge to crack a bottle and blur that one thing she’s been desperate to forget.

Now, in order to make a different kind of life, Nat must pull together her broken parts and learn to fight for herself.
AmazonBarnes & NobleIndie Bound
(And because I work at Anderson's Bookshop, you can call over there and get a signed copy shipped to you!)
Thank you always for all your love and support!
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on January 11, 2016 19:41 • 1 view

November 30, 2015

So a few weeks ago, I went into Cook County Juvenile Detention Center to talk to some of the girls who would be participating in our forthcoming survivor testimonial writing workshop. I happened to bring a few copies of my books because I wanted them to see what came out of the workshop when I participated in it.

They signed up for the workshop, but more than anything, they were excited about the books. "We get to keep these? For real?" Their advisor told me they don't really get new books often, and sometimes they have to re-read the same ones. So I said, "Do you want me to put a call out to my author friends on Twitter and see if any of them might have a few paperbacks to donate?" Immediately she said, "Yes. That would be amazing."

Well, I put that tweet out and it got retweeted (the last I checked it was maybe 242 times?) and holy cow did the awesome YA community respond! Agents and editors and publishers and authors and bloggers and bookstores and readers and publicists. It was extraordinary.

And here is how it all played out...

I had to have a convo w/ my mail carrier (Thanks, Reggie, for giving me my own bin!) This was delivered to my house on the 3rd day after my tweet
My kids were really into this project The dog was less excited
And today I dropped off the first batch which they were thrilled about!
Batch #2 will be delivered in 2 weeks.
So I just wanted to say a HUGE thank you to everyone who sent me books. I will do this book drive again next year. It means so much to me and to all the staff and teens at Cook County. You are all EXTRAORDINARY and make me believe in the goodness of the world.

A million thank you's to my donating friends!!! 
2 likes ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on November 30, 2015 14:22 • 26 views

November 11, 2015

Tomorrow will mark the two-month mark until the release of OTHER BROKEN THINGS. When I was writing that book a few years ago, I whispered to my friend Asher, "This is the one that holds a lot of my heart. This is the one. What if I can't create anything like this again?" He laughed and said, "So what if you can't?" Which is very Asher. This book was my special one, I thought. It was special because it was both easy and very hard to write. It was personal and difficult stuff of mine on page, but it was true to me, which made it feel important. 

I have now received four trade reviews for this book. For those who are not writers, these are the "professionals" weighing in on your books. My trade reviews have been good...and terrible. 

Here's the good (start with the positive, as my dad always tells me):

"Other Broken Things.
Advanced Review – Uncorrected Proof Desir, C. (Author)
Jan 2016. 256 p. Simon & Schuster/Simon Pulse, hardcover, $17.99. (9781481437394).
In Desir’s latest, Natalie’s a fresh-out-of-rehab high-school senior beginning the 12-step program. Brash, unrepentant, and far from kind to herself, Nat strikes up an unlikely friendship—and possibly something more—with 38-year-old Joe, from her local AA group. Her journey toward recovery brims with bumps and potholes: old friends who haven’t dropped their drinking habits, parents who fail to offer the support system she needs, and the truth about what happened that fateful night that she doesn’t want to face. Though Nat’s relationship with her father could have used a bit more development, there is much to recommend here. The frank, sometimes profanity-laced prose suits the subject matter and will engage reluctant readers. Nat’s penchant for self-destructive behaviors, including her pursuit of Joe, only augments a reader’s sympathy and curiosity for what motivates her. In Nat—a female counterpart to Sutter Keeley of Tim Tharp’s The Spectacular Now (2008)—Desir crafts a portrait of a teenage alcoholic that is honest and unsparing."—BOOKLIST

"Gr 9 Up—Seventeen-year-old Natalie's story starts with "I'd cut a bitch for a cigarette," hooking readers immediately. In this gritty and honest tale, Nat's struggle with sobriety starts with court-ordered AA meetings and community service after a DUI incident. She is a fighter, literally. Her parents' demand that she quit boxing leads to her drinking. Nat fills the holes in her life with booze and sex. Without an addiction, she feels lost. Enter Joe, the sexy, 30-something would-be sponsor Nat bums cigarettes off of during meetings. Though Joe tries to shut down Nat's outrageous flirting, the sexual tension is palpable, foretelling the inevitable train wreck. Desir writes the relationship as an ill-fated May/December romance between two addicts. If Nat and Joe do not have alcohol, they will find something else to quench their needs. In this case, they find each other, until that implodes. While this situation lends itself to controversy, it also invites conversation. Other plot threads—losing friends and reuniting with others, relapses, and Natalie's parents' rocky marriage—round out the recovering addict's experience. Facing her demons, Nat evolves from a rightfully angry teen to a wiser, emotionally stronger young woman able to stand on her own without a man or alcohol, and readers will cheer for her success. Not for the faint of heart (Joe's rock bottom story involves a dead hooker), Natalie's story is told without judgement and with an uncanny understanding of the 12-step program. This is sure to appeal to fans of Nic Sheff's Tweak (S. & S., 2008), Koren Zailckas's Smashed (Viking, 2005), and the-like. VERDICT This title deserves a place on high school shelves."—School Library Journal

Here's the terrible (and there is really no sugar-coating "terrible" here):

(Simon Pulse; ISBN 978-1-4814-3739-4; 1/12/16; Spring 2016 catalog)
Seventeen-year-old Natalie is a rich kid in the throes of addiction, fresh off a DUI conviction and court-ordered rehab. She flings herself headfirst into an obsession with Joe, a man more than twice her age whom she meets in AA, and dabbles in her former life, trading sex to her ex for vodka. What she really wants is to return to the boxing ring, a hobby forbidden by her father, who's more concerned with his own reputation than with reality. Unfortunately, Natalie's attention is so narrowly focused on her attraction to Joe and getting high when she gets stressed out that little ink is spent exploring her passion for the "sweet science"or its role as an outlet for her turmoil. Desir (Bleed Like Me) compresses Natalie's story into a book-long AA meeting, pushing forward rapidly while glossing over scenes that might have provided more depth to her characters. Even the revelation of a secret that Natalie has been holding doesn't land with the intended impact."—Publisher's Weekly
"OTHER BROKEN THINGS Author: C. DesirDespite a drunken driving charge, a stint in rehab, and an unshakeable thirst for vodka-induced oblivion, 17-year-old Natalie is not an alcoholic. The label doesn't fit, not for Natalie and certainly not for her father, who is hellbent on keeping up appearances in their wealthy Chicago suburb. Yet when Natalie returns from a court-ordered trip to rehab, her old life doesn't quite seem to fit right either. While ticking off Alcoholics Anonymous meetings on her court card, Natalie develops a relationship with a much older recovering alcoholic, a white guy. (Natalie specifies the racial makeup of the AA group but never directly reveals her own.) Joe breaks through Natalie's tough-girl facade and forces her to face the truth. Natalie's growing feelings for Joe muddy the waters. Distancing herself from destructive, party-girl friendships and resisting the temptation to drink when the going gets rough are difficult. Owning up to her mistakes and assuming responsibility for creating a healthy, new life is even harder. Readers will likely find Natalie's snarky, profanity-laced narration appealing and will easily relate to her struggle to navigate treacherous teen waters rife with unhealthy relationships, temptations, and self-doubt. Unfortunately, the May-December romance between Natalie and Joe is both predictable and clichéd, and it distracts from topics that would have been far more interesting to explore, such as Natalie's passion for boxing. A teen-issue book with loads of potential that only achieves mediocrity. (Fiction. 14-18)"—KirkusAnd here's a picture of Lenny Kravitz making some eggs so we can all have a palette cleanser.
So we're not supposed to point out our terrible reviews or talk about them because...well, because I guess maybe people think that they'll go away? As if I could shake off a professional saying this book I put all my heart into "only achieves mediocrity." As if other people aren't seeing that in trade reviews and wincing a little, feeling sorry for me, and secretly grateful it didn't happen to them. Most people who know me by now know that I tend to live out loud. The reason I do this is not only to demystify the absurd notion that writers (or frankly human beings) are perfect and always only make good life choices and have great things happen to them, but also because not saying out loud the things that hurt, or the things that I'm carrying around, is a death sentence for me. If I don't bleed hurt or process things out loud or talk about the things that aren't easy (whether with my people or in public spaces), then they become locked inside of me in little drawers of toxicity and the results are incredibly unhealthy. So yeah, I got some super shitty reviews. Good ones too, but honestly, I'm me and I'm not thinking about the good ones, I'm thinking about the horrible ones. Which brings me to the way that the universe works (or maybe God, for those who are believers), because I have long held the belief that the world lines up in the way it needs to for us to keep moving forward.And thus these terrible reviews of mine happen to be coming on the heels of me reading Elizabeth Gilbert's BIG MAGIC which is a book I can't recommend enough for every human being doing anything creative in their life. Here's Gilbert talking about 'being on top':"I mean, if you cannot repeat a once-in-a-lifetime miracle—if you can never again reach the top—then why bother creating at all? (...) But such thinking assumes there is a "top"—and that reaching that top (and staying there) is the only motive one has to create. Such thinking assumes that the mysteries of inspiration operate on the same scale that we do—on a limited human scale of success and failure, of winning and losing, of comparison and competition... Such thinking assumes that you must be constantly victorious—not only against your peers, but also against an earlier version of your own poor self. Most dangerously of all, such thinking assumes that if you cannot win, then you must not continue to play."These words, which are really about Gilbert's Eat Pray Love success, ended up being the perfect ones for my own failures. Because they reminded me of why I play in the first place, of what I'm trying to do with my writing, of who I'm trying to reach, of what living a creative life means. And the truth is, that it doesn't mean reading reviews. Good ones or bad ones. These get in the way of my creative life. Even the good ones because they do not steer me in a direction toward growing as a writer.I have learned more about writing in the past 11 months from my agent than I have in the past 11 years. And this is a little bit of a love note to Barry Goldblatt who has figured out that if I'm not passionate about what I'm writing, I'm not living a good creative life. So he gets on the phone with me and says, "Are you passionate about this? Do you care about this?" and when I say, "I don't know," he says, "Then why should anyone else care?" And those are the words that are hard to hear but make me grow. Because that is really how I find my way into living my best creative life. How do we continue to play when a professional implies we're on the B-squad or worse, we don't belong on the field at all? We take it outside of the human realm of failure and success and bring it into a universal realm. Reviews cannot and should not make or break us. Giving them power to do so compromises who we are as creative people. As Gilbert says, "What does any of that have to do with the quiet glory of merely making things, and then sharing those things with an open heart and no expectations?"

Thanks for reading this long post. I remain your "well-meaning but deeply flawed" friend.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on November 11, 2015 10:07 • 1 view

September 28, 2015

Hi friends! Do you remember that time I told you about writing an almost love story with Jolene Perry? Well, hey, it's coming out in May of 2016 and we have a cover and we've done copy edits and things are plugging along! So here's the cover and the blurb and basically you all need to be a little excited because I wrote an ALMOST love story and that's a really big deal for me since I want to ruin everything regularly with my writing.

So here goes:

Super cute, right? I thought so too!

And here's the blurb:

It starts with a list of fears. Stupid things really. Things that Hailey shouldn’t worry about, wouldn’t worry about if she didn’t wake up every morning with the world a little more blurry. Unable to see her two moms clearly. Unable to read the music for her guitar. One step closer to losing the things she cares about the most.For a while, the only thing that keeps Hailey moving forward is the feeling she gets when she crosses something off the list. Then she meets Kyle. He mumbles—when he talks at all—and listens to music to drown out his thoughts. He’s loaded down with fears, too. So Hailey talks him into making his own list. Together, they stumble into an odd friendship, helping each other tackle one after another of their biggest fears. But fate and timing can change everything. And sometimes facing your worst fear makes you realize you had nothing to lose after all. 
2 likes ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 28, 2015 17:13 • 26 views

September 18, 2015

I've had several conversations with authors of late that have gone along these lines:

Me: How are things going?
Author: Eh, not so great.
Me: I'm sorry to hear that. Can I do something?
Author: Probably not. Publishing, man, what are you gonna do?

And now I'll tell you a secret, because I work on both sides of the desk in this industry, this conversation is happening with a lot of people in publishing: editors, agents, publishers, publicists, etc. It's not super hard to figure out one of the primary reasons people feel a bit of uncertainty in the state of publishing has to do with the exponential growth in number of books being published and our inability to mirror that exponential growth in terms of readers.

The tottering TBR pile is no lie. I know readers/bloggers who read 5-7 books a week and still can't keep up. On the one hand, I'm all, "yay! books for every kind of reader!" and on the other hand, I'm all, "wow, how can you possibly find YOUR readers when there are so many other books out there for them to pick up instead of yours?"

When I first started editing romance, my prolific authors released 3-4 books a year. Now, for them to make the equivalent income, they have to release 9-12. And it's a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy that their sales are decreasing because lots of other romance authors are releasing 9-12 books a year and so it's harder to break through and sell as much. And I have no judgment on this one way or another because people have to eat and pay their bills and the reality is that we're a little stuck with this system until something collapses or a bunch of people decide they're not doing that anymore. Systems of dysfunction continue to work until someone or several someones buck the system. It's the way it goes.

But here's what I do want to dissect and call shenanigans on—I've heard multiple authors say to me, "If I don't release X number of books a year, then I'm worried I'll disappear." STAHP with this. If you write remarkable books, people will not forget you. People don't forget remarkable books or authors they love. If you churn out multiple books that you and your readers all feel meh about, yeah, I can see how you might disappear. But if you bring your best self to the table, you will be invited back no matter how long it's been since the last time you sat down.

But Christa, you say, what about my grocery bill and rent? Yes. Good point. You're trying to make a living doing this. So are a lot of people. I think being a starving artist blows. But I also think that we need to acknowledge the reality of the state of publishing. There are several people who work in publishing who have 2-3 jobs. It sucks. No doubt about it. It's totally unfair. But saying it's unfair doesn't really change anything. My roller derby rink closed down and so now I don't get to dress up and be badass and I've gained 10 pounds. It's unfair, but it's life. Stomping your feet and being pissy about it doesn't change the facts.

Well, you say, then what the hell am I supposed to do? GOOD QUESTION. And here's what I ask everyone who is in this industry and feels a little adrift with their failures or with things overpromised and underdelivered or with their lack of critical praise: what is your goal post? How do you define success? How do you want to make your mark?

Then step back and see if that's achievable for you. I mean making the NYT list is a lot different than making a living as a writer which is a lot different than being critically acclaimed which is a lot different than creating work that seeks to change/challenge the injustices of the world. So what is it you really want? And what can YOU do to get there? Don't list a bunch of stuff that is out of your control, consider what is in your control and start there. Also, you may want ALL the things I've stated above, but you need to prioritize for yourself because very, very few people get to eat all the desserts at once and even if they do, a lot of them end up a little miserable because every dessert after that makes them think of that one time they got to eat all the desserts.

The other day, a friend said, "The NYT list is pretty achievable if you do a 99-cent sale and a BookBub and some FB ads and a bunch of blogger promo." And there was a part of me that thought, "Well, yes, maybe, but what if you wrote a rape book with a half-black male protagonist that starts with a graphic blowjob scene and you're giving 50% of your proceeds to a writing workshop for rape survivors and you don't really want to drop your price or spend money on a BookBub ad because how will that help rape survivors?" Do you see what I mean about figuring out where your goal post is?

I also think we spend a hella lot of time beating ourselves up about things that other people seem to be achieving/getting that we're not. And I really get it—we all want to be adored and we all want to be perfect. But the social worker in me would say that this is all bass-ackwards. You need to go at this from a strengths-based perspective. What is the best thing that you're bringing to the table? Do more of that. Inevitably it'll get you to a place you belong or can find contentment with. I mean, really, who knew that Carrie Mesrobian and I could actually find a sponsor to support our podcast where we talk about sex and books? Believe me, I was a little blindsided by it too. But our podcast is something I love and I think maybe that's why it worked out. (Although, it could just be our midwestern accents).

Finally, the other day, I read this excellent post in NY Magazine that was a "Should I give up on writing?" Q&A. It tackles everything I've said above in a much more eloquent and succinct way. Mostly because blogging really isn't my strength and I don't do much of it anymore so I feel rambly and uneven.

So...go forth, duckies, and be gentler on yourself. There are lovely and amazing things about every single one of you.


 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on September 18, 2015 04:58 • 2 views

July 27, 2015

This weekend I was among the faculty at the Midwest Writer's Workshop. It is a very good workshop. Smart and dedicated people. Writers who love writing and want to get better. And the faculty was truly amazing. One of whom was Ashley Ford. I have been a fan of Ashley for quite some time. I appreciate her authenticity and honesty and her willingness to speak about difficult things. And I was very much looking forward to meeting her for the first time.

I think I've mentioned that I'm an awkward hugger who doesn't let go.But I had a question. One she really only got to half-answer, so don't hold her to this. :) One that I've been thinking about over and over again when it comes to writing personal essays, to telling your truths online and in public forums. How do you tell your truth, be authentic and courageous, and protect yourself at the same time? Protect yourself from people's toxicity or blame or hatred or disbelief.

And Ashley answered beautifully. She explained that telling her truths have opened doors and windows so we're not locked into a house of shame. That readers write her and say, "yes, me too, thank you, I'm so glad I'm not alone." And for Ashley, enough of that happens that it makes everything worth it.

This, I understand. This, I feel so much. Every letter I get feels like a gift. I am humbled by people telling me their stories. I feel deeply grateful to have garnered that level of trust. If the New York Magazine Cosby piece this morning did nothing else, I hope that it opened people's eyes to the solidarity of survivors. To the power of multiple voices coming together and saying, NO MORE. And even as I say this, even as I'm so proud of this chorus, I'm equally devastated that it's taken so many voices for people to finally pause.

Which brings me to my second question. The harder question, in some ways. The question about vicarious trauma and carrying the stories of survivors in our own skin. Because I think to a certain extent we all do that. We all read something that breaks our hearts and we all take a little piece of that on. We slip it into our selves and it hurts for a while, and then it becomes something we know now. And I believe it's important that we know these things. I think the choice to bury our heads in the sand is a poor choice, one that stops change from happening, one that perpetuates pain and suffering. Knowledge has always been my base of power. It is for most of us. But sometimes, reading the stories of 35 women who have been assaulted by one man hurts so incredibly much. And I don't know what to do with that hurt. Where to put it.

So I asked Ashley that too. And she answered beautifully again. She said, "When people tell you their stories, they aren't asking for anything from you therapeutically. They're asking you to bear witness. So you take a moment and you honor their story. And you bear witness to their truth. And that is all they need from you."

Which is all to say, survivors who have shared their stories, privately, publicly, in whatever way you have been able to: thank you. I hear you. I sit in solidarity with you. I am your witness.
 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on July 27, 2015 11:13 • 25 views

June 24, 2015

I haven't blogged in forever. And you know the farther you get away from something, the easier it is to keep ignoring it. It isn't like there hasn't been stuff to say. There is so much stuff I want to say about the world. So much stuff I want to say about publishing. So much stuff I want to say about my life. And yet, I stay silent and I listen to the voices of others and I keep my head down and I work.

So here's the past few months in a nutshell:

1. I've been writing. Somehow I've pushed myself into a place where I don't revise, I rewrite. So I've rewritten a book a couple of times. It probably needs to be rewritten again. Writing is happening, but it is a far slower process for me now. I think this is a good thing. I think I'm getting better. I'm considering going back to school to get my MFA in a few years. I like the idea of constantly getting better. I have a new agent, Barry Goldblatt. He has made me a much better writer in the past 5 months, more than I could have ever imagined. He is a very, very good agent.

2. I am editing. I am editing for my day job and I'm editing my collaboration project and I'm doing some freelance editing. I've been immersed in words on a lot of fronts. I would like to be less immersed in words, but that may not happen until September. That's okay, I think. There appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel which means fall will be a good time for rest.

3. I'm trying to be a good parent, a good wife, a good citizen of the world. Mostly my heart hurts over what has happened this year. Ferguson, Charleston, France, Syria. I want to pour love all over everything, but I can't seem to find a way in beyond talking, talking, talking, listening, trying to inch toward getting better, understanding, trying to fight harder. My kids and I have had good and very, very hard discussions this year. I want something different for them, but I am also happy to know they want something different for our world.

4. I am gearing up to be part of the Voices and Faces Project testimonial writing workshop for incarcerated teen rape survivors. We are hopeful to take the model from Cook County's Dept of Corrections and bring it to other states/communities. I'm not sure how all of this will go, but I'm looking forward to this process.

5. I've been podcasting with Carrie Mesrobian. It's actually been my favorite new thing. We talk about sex stuff and books and basically have fun girl chats (which we have almost every day anyway) and the two of us with our Midwestern accents sound like the dirty version of A Prairie Home Companion and it's pretty spectacular, if you're into that sort of thing.

I hope all of you are well and having a great summer so far.

1 like ·   •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on June 24, 2015 04:57 • 36 views

May 10, 2015

This week, my oldest child turned 13 and my husband turned 45 and my sister turned 43 and I got the chance to see my dear friend Carrie and I got the chance to see my 3 moms on Mother's Day. And I spent time with writers I love for an excellent conference.

This week I edited a book for my day job and finished revising my YA book and filled out 7 cover art forms for my authors and read 3 books. This week I went to 2 baseball games and my kids' opera. And cooked dinners and soaked in a lot of love.

There was a LOT going on this week. At the onset, I felt like crying because I was so overwhelmed. But then I realized that the only real thing I had to do was show up for my own life. That I didn't need for it to be perfect. That I didn't need to write it all down or get it just right. I needed to show up and take in all the great things that I have.

It has been a hard winter. Most winters are hard and I forget that every year. As if I'm suddenly not going to have bad seasonal depression and go to bed every night at 8:30. As if I'm suddenly going to feel like moving or clearing the fog from my eyes to see anything beyond my own bubble.

Spring has been a welcome break. I get a lot done in spring. My body moves a lot in spring. Everyone in my house is happier because I'm happier.

The other day when I told my friend Jules that I had forgotten to bring snack for the soccer team again and that I didn't realize we were supposed to buy school opera tickets and that I was late turning in taco lunch money and that my inbox was full of notes from different people telling me I was behind, Jules said, "Christa, I love you. Keep being okay."

Which is our joke. Me being the okayest parent, friend, writer, editor, book club participant, spouse, sister, daughter, soccer/baseball mom, etc. For some reason, I can't seem to tip myself past okay. There are days when I look around and think, "Why am I the only person in the world who doesn't seem to have their shit together?" and then I look at all the things I managed to be okay at in a single week and I realize that having one's shit together is probably relative. That if I just peel back a few layers of Facebook, I could probably see that a lot of people had a hard winter and maybe forget soccer team snack and haven't turned in their taco lunch money yet.

A few days ago, Jojo crawled into my bed and said, "I know you feel like you drop balls all the time, but you're really a great mom for us." My kids. They amaze me every single day. They make my heart so full. They make me feel like I did something right along the way.

Happy Mother's Day to all of those who are caretakers in the world. And to all of those who laugh with us through our most okay times.

 •  0 comments  •  flag
Twitter icon
Published on May 10, 2015 08:30 • 41 views