Created for Necessity, Employed for Passion

"What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet"

Let's build a world. Explore what we believe by writing. In many ways my characters’ experiences with fate, destiny and free-will mirror my own. What is up to us and what isn’t? It’s one of the great questions of the human experience, I think. But no matter what is for us to control, we must own the identity. You’re a writer if you write. Period. Writing is a lovely way to spend one’s time. Enjoy it. And I hope you enjoy my writing here.

Monday, April 30, 2012

From Author, To Book-- A Few Words


Hey there. Can you believe we are here? It feels like just yesterday we were starting out together-- unsure and unsteady. There were a lot of challenges along the way, and we both had a lot of growing to do. There were so many things I didn't know, but I'm not sorry for the mistakes I made, and I hope you're not, either--- they led us here.

I wanted to tell you something on your eve of publication: I am so proud of you. I know I may not have always said it, and there were times I wasn't always as kind to you as I should have been, but please trust me when I tell you now. I am so proud of what you have done, and what you will do. Do you remember what I told you when we went on submission? I told you that you had one job: to do good. I want you to know that is still your job. It is the only thing that matters, Rosaline. Do good. Be kind. Listen. Help. Make people laugh. Let them cry. Be their friend.

You're ready, now. I'll be watching from the sidelines supporting and cheering you on. I can't wait to see who you meet, and how far you travel. Thank you for making this magnificent dream come true for me.

All my love,


Wednesday, April 25, 2012

You Weren't Supposed to be Mine

My first novel, When You Were Mine, comes out next week. Just writing that requires a moment.
I should probably tell you that my book is a modern re-telling of Romeo and Juliet from the perspective of Rosaline -- the girl Romeo was supposed to love. That's part shameless plug, and part key info. You see, When You Were Mine asks the question "What if the greatest love story ever told was the wrong one?" And in my own life, three years ago, I was asking myself the same thing.
I had just been dumped, or left, or forgotten -- all three work the same. I was heartbroken, and miserable. I had been walking a fine line between broke and hopeful for awhile, but this really tipped the scales in the former direction. I was broke on money, on love, on purpose. For the first time in my life it felt like not everything I thought was going to happen (wanted to happen) would. For the first time I believed that something I needed to be happy -- that my happiness was dependent on -- was totally and completely outside my grasp. I was lucky to have made it to 23 before my world fell apart, but when it did, I had no idea how to survive.
It was a rough year. I cried, a lot. I complained, a lot. I also wrote -- a lot. To say this book is the realization of a life-long dream is true in the sense that I've always been a writer -- and publishing novels was the first, and most important, professional goal I ever had. But it doesn't begin to touch on what this book meant, and will always mean, in the context of my life.
When You Were Mine is about heartbreak. Rosaline is the girl who got left behind, the one banished to the shadows while Romeo and Juliet shine. She isn't remembered as having a great love affair. She isn't really remembered in the context of the play at all. She's left out of her own love story.
We've all been there, haven't we? The relationship, job, apartment we thought we were meant to have, we don't end up getting. It feels like the universe is conspiring against us. Our destiny has been betrayed... what went wrong?
The thing I didn't realize when I began this book, though, is that Romeo and Juliet isn't her story. It wasn't mine, either. It was only through writing, through walking this path hand in hand with Rosaline, that I started to look at my fate differently. To see where it wanted to take me, and to slowly begin to follow. Word by word, page by page, chapter by chapter. We journeyed on.
Now, of course, far on the other side, I see the whole thing clearly. Why it didn't work out. Why it couldn't have. Why I wouldn't have wanted it to. Some days I think about going back to that girl and telling my younger self that this will be hard, true, but it's also going to be the best thing that has ever happened to you.
It wouldn't matter, though. She wouldn't believe me.
That's the funny thing about time. It is only in looking back that it's easy to connect the dots. To see exactly why everything needed to happen the way that it did. How point A led to point B and all the way down to W: When. You. Were. Mine.
I keep coming back to that tagline: What if the greatest love story ever told was the wrong one? Three years later I feel I can safely answer that question: it wasn't. No love story ever is. No love story ends or begins out of accordance with how it needs to go. Without this heartbreak I'd never have this book, this life. It might take years but sooner or later you look up from the page, the subway, the dinner table, and you understand why every single thing that happened did. It was all to get me here -- this place where I can share with you. Where I can say, unequivocally: This is exactly how it was supposed to go.

Read the original article at the Huffington Post!
Preorder: When You Were Mine  |  Follow Author on Twitter 

Monday, April 23, 2012

A Look Back

I'm working on a post about what publishing a novel feels like, to me, and it brought me back here. A year and a half ago, to when I sold When You Were Mine. Still true.

Top 4 Myths About Selling A Novel

Disclosure: this may get a little bit sappy.

I sold my first novel last week. I think that's honestly the first time I've written that sentence in lower-case letters since it happened, but I've been told the caps lock on my emails is getting to be a bit wearing. It's wonderful and incredible and more than a little difficult to believe. The truth is, though, that it hasn't been all kittens and fairy dust. There have been some curveballs along the way, too. Things I didn't expect. Which is why I thought it might not be a bad idea to share what selling a book is really like, in non movie-montage fashion. I'm myth de-bunking. My top four myths, to be precise. This isn't a particularly technical breakdown, but more an overall emotional assessment. For many writers, selling a book is the ultimate dream. What happens when it comes true? See below.

1) Rainbows will appear in the sky.

It's winter in New York so, yea, no rainbows. It was actually pouring rain the day we accepted the offer, which was fine, because the majority of what being on submission involves is staying in your bedroom in pajamas staring at your blackberry screensaver. It's not glamorous. Writing is probably the least glamorous profession there is. This doesn't change when you become an author.

2) You'll be absolutely over- the- moon happy.

This one isn't false, but happy isn't the one word I'd use to describe how I feel.  People keep asking me if I am thrilled but the thing I feel more than anything, is relief. I get to do this now. I get to start here. It's real. I think that's the thing writers forget to talk about. It's exciting to have a dream come true, sure, but it's absolutely, incomparably relieving to actually get to live it. Those nights I stayed in and didn't get drinks? Worth it. The times I felt ridiculous saying I had to "do work?" Totally validated.

3) You'll get that magic phone call.

My agent joked with me last week that she never has to worry about being able to reach me. "You answer on the first ring!" she said. Literally, I could be on a plane to Indonesia and I'd figure out some way to answer her call.

But there were a lot of them. Phone calls and emails and even a few text messages. You need some stamina (and patience) to get through selling a book. It takes a while.

4) Everything changes.

A friend of mine who sold her first novel last year told me that selling a book changes a lot, but not everything. "You'll still have bad hair days," she said, "and the people who don't love you still won't."

I didn't really understand what she meant until I found myself, directly after the sale, suddenly drawn backwards. There's this sense of completion when you sell a book. Something a long the lines of: I've done it, I got there, I should be able to go back and claim that thing I couldn't have.

It's curious what lurks behind personal success. I thought this was just about the book, it's not. The hard, cold truth is that old loves won't suddenly confess their undying devotion to you and friendships that have fallen apart won't be magically put back together. Because the reason things didn't work out had nothing to do with the fact that I wasn't a published author. Not even at all.

But the way you see yourself changes. I don't have to mumble something under my breath when someone asks me what I do anymore. I can just say, definitively, "I'm an author." And the best part? That's not a myth. That's just the truth.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

For You

You Guys---

Having a book come out is the most awesome experience. I am already starting to hear from some of you and your voices, your words, your emails, are the most precious things I have ever come in contact with. Truly. The whole point of this book was to touch people, to have someone (anyone!) say hey, I'm going through that, too! So the fact that it's already happening is just remarkable. And I thank you so much for making that dream come true for me.

And, of course, there are the haters. I know I'm not supposed to talk about this, but today I just wanted to say a few words about negative reviews. It's a part of publishing. It's what happens when you put yourself out there. I would never deny someone the right to their opinion--- no one is required to love or even like my work. That's part of what makes it so cool--- it will speak to some, and not to others. But it upsets me when people say things about this book that just aren't true. It makes me want to fight back--- to point out what they are clearly missing. Hey! Wait a minute! Stop calling me bad names--- you're being mean! I sound like someone's little sister, huh?

This morning was one of those moments, for me, and I sat in front of my computer screen and thought of all the things I would say if I could. All of the lines I would point out, all the decisions I would clarify. All the questions I would ask if I had the chance.

But then I realized: I already did. I already said everything I need to. I wrote this book. I wrote it for truth. I wrote it for you. I wrote it for any girl who has, will, or is going through heart break. I wrote it to tell you that even when love hurts, it's not the end. I wrote it to say that we all have a choice in how our lives unfold-- how our love story unfolds. I wrote it to tell each and every one of you that you get to be the star of your own story.

This one is mine. The good, the bad, the ugly, the beautiful--- it's all here.

Thank you for sharing it with me.



Monday, April 16, 2012

Calling All Shakespeare Fans!

I had the extreme honor of talking with Professor Douglas Lanier--- Shakespeare scholar and author of Shakespeare And Modern Popular Culture. It was an awesome chat and gave me so much to think about that I wanted to share it here with you all, too! Read a bit of our exchange below…pretty interesting stuff, huh?  I feel so lucky to be a part of such a dynamic that allowing me the opportunity to come in contact with such brilliant folks. 

You wrote a book called Shakespeare And Modern Popular Culture. Can you tell us what draws you to the topic? And why you think Shakespeare is still so relevant all these years later?

The genesis for the project was my experience as a college teacher of Shakespeare.  From the start, it was clear that I was encountering far more information and assumptions about Shakespeare than I typically encountered in my other literature classes.  What's more, students tended to be highly invested in those assumptions, far more than with the assumptions they have for other authors, even when I could relatively easily demonstrate that they might be problematic or incomplete or just plain wrong.  I began to wonder where those assumptions came from, why they had such power, whether they formed some kind of ideological belief system, whether those assumptions had a history, and other related questions.  From there I began to look to popular culture as one particularly powerful source (though certainly not the only one) of ideas about and images of Shakespeare, his life, his works and his cultural significance.  Popular culture is one place where bardophilia is forged, where Shakespeare is aligned with all kinds of ideas and values (the range of specific alignments is staggering!), but also where bardolatry, the impulse to resist worshiping Shakespeare, is equally at work. 

Myself, I don't believe that in and of himself, Shakespeare has relevance to us.  His works spring from a world and a worldview that is quite different from our own, and so I think it's marvelous in a way we often don't appreciate that his works survive at all (and some, we know, didn't).  Shakespeare is relevant to us because we are willing to do the interpretive and adaptational work to make him relevant.  Of course, this only pushes back the question a notch: Is there something in the works themselves--a vision of humankind, a timelessness or universality, a capacity to capture human nature in his characters, a level of artistic excellence, a particular kind of metaphorical suggestiveness or adaptational malleability--that makes Shakespeare reward our updating in a way that we aren't so rewarded by others playwrights?

However one thinks about the problem, it's also important to acknowledge that our attachment to Shakespeare comes with a history of prior cultural attachments to Shakespeare - we love him because prior generations loved him.

You raised a very interesting question: When does a work stop being Shakespeare? I find this particularly interesting on the subject of re-tellings. Can you speak a little bit about what your answer would be?

Almost every adaptation of Shakespeare implicitly poses the question, "is this Shakespeare?" and I think most adaptations offer an implicit answer.  Some adaptations stress that what is essentially Shakespearean is the language, and so they pay homage--through imitation or parody (and parody is a form of imitation)--to the Shakespearean texts we've inherited from the past.  That Shakespeare's language is the essence of Shakespeare is an article of faith among most modern scholars and many theater practitioners, but in reality there are other ways of thinking about where we might locate the essentially Shakespearean in Shakespeare. 

One might locate Shakespeare in particular character types, who need not speak using the word Shakespeare assigned them; Shakespeare himself was adapting character types he inherited from the theatrical and classical past. 

One might locate the essential Shakespeare in the particular narratives he tells, though this is tricky because Shakespeare himself inherited many of those plots from earlier writers. 

One might locate the essential Shakespeare in his characteristic themes and concerns--the possibility for cross-gender experience through cross-dressing, for example, or the personal interior lives of kings or playacting as a metaphor for life. 

Each adaptation, because of what it chooses to value from its Shakespearean source texts, poses an implicit answer to the question of when a work stops being Shakespeare.  And it has to be said that different ages have answered that question in different ways. 

With Shakespeare, it's important to remember that he was not a particularly original writer in the modern sense of "originality."  Shakespeare rarely wrote a story or created characters from scratch;  rather, he was a brilliant adaptor of other writers' works, pulling them together into new wholes, reshaping them for theatrical presentation, using them as a catalyst for linguistic, metaphorical and thematic invention. 

Themes like fate and destiny were not invented by Shakespeare, but there does seem to be something inherently Shakespearean in them…why do you think that is?

Shakespeare didn't invent the concept of destiny or fate, it's true.  This was a venerable theme from the classical period, and it was supplemented and complicated by Christian understandings of God's plan for the world ("providence") which medieval thinkers wrestled with.  In Shakespeare's own day, that issue was complicated even further by Protestant reconceptualizatioons of providence.  I think the theme was particularly potent for Shakespeare because in his day the notion that one's destiny was pre-established and inescapable (whether by God or some impersonal force) ran up against the very palpable new social mobility that he experienced in London, and also up against new ideas about man's capacity for self-determination. 

For a boy from a small village where everyone knew each other and where the possibilities for one's life must have seemed quite fixed, London must have seemed an incredible experience, a place where one might encounter peoples from all kinds of lands, classes, and creeds, and therefore a place where one encountered all kinds of possibilities for human lives. 

The tensions between ideas about fatedness and the human capacity for self-determination are, it seems to me, central to Shakespeare's outlook.  Romeo and Juliet is all about that tension - on the one hand, Romeo and Juliet's "star-cross'd" romance is doomed from the start by their social situation, and on the other, Romeo and Juliet refuse to allow their love to be determined or destroyed by their situation, even at the point of death. 

Finally, tell us: What’s your favorite play? 

This is clearly a trick question.  :)  My favorites change over time as I encounter new productions of them and see unforetold riches in them, but I have returned to three most often - A Midsummer Night's Dream , the first play I ever acted in;  Hamlet, the Richard Burton recording of which was the first to enthrall me;  and King Lear, a play one grows into understanding as one gets older.

Thank you so much, Douglas! 



Monday, April 9, 2012

I went to Harvard!

Okay so just the town...but I always wanted to say that!

I spent the holiday weekend in Boston with Leila Sales and we had an awesome time...Boston is so cool, you guys! The only thing I kept on about all weekend was going to Harvard, so we went. Don't I look smarter? Just breathing that academic, Ivy League air improved my IQ, I swear.

Hope you all had a great weekend...and enjoy the pics! I basically made Leila take a photo of me in front of every building.



Monday, April 2, 2012

What if Shakespeare got it Wrong?

The Contest

I’ve been toying with this idea for a while – the idea that we have the power to create the reality we want for ourselves. Facebook fan pages, Amazon ratings, Twitter retweets. Each of these gives us a voice and a chance to make change. We get to choose which products sell out and which of our favorite bands jump up in the rankings.

But then I watch Pretty Little Liars and The Office, and sometimes I can’t relate. I just want my ending to be included! Why are the characters making those choices??

In high school, when we read the classics, I always wondered what if things turned out differently. What if Hamlet’s kingdom didn't destroy itself before Fortinbras' army arrived? What if Voldemort stopped gaining power? The teacher would ask me to find meaning in the author’s choices, though. "What is the symbolism here", they’d ask.

And maybe that’s why I became a writer. I want to create my own realities. I want to write the endings to the stories I encounter. And if I feel that way, well, maybe you do, too?

So, here’s your chance. My upcoming novel takes on a new perspective of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, that of Rosaline, Romeo’s first love. Do you have unique takes on what you've read, too? 

Submit your alternate endings to the Shakespeare play of your choice in the comment section below! 

What if Shakespeare Got it Wrong? | The Contest 
We’ll be collecting submissions until Tuesday April 17th, 2012. Your ending can be any length (though it must fit below). Creativity, ingenuity and polished writing will improve your chances. 

Bonus Points when you like, share, tweet and post

Winners will be published both on my blog AND on Simon and Schuster’s website. Additionally, you will receive a free copy of my upcoming novel, When You were Mine!

Photo Credits: 
(b) Jessica Sochol