What is the title of your class?
What’s one thing you hope your students will take away from the class?
A complete young-adult novel manuscript! Depending on where they are when they start and how it flows for them, maybe even a draft that is close to publication.
What sorts of writers will you be reading/assigning in class? Why?
We’ll be reading writers like Laurie Halse Anderson, Sara Zarr, Nova Ren Suma, Melissa Marr, Carrie Ryan, Malinda Lo, Francesca Lia Block, Scott Westerfeld, Beth Revis, and Libba Bray—basically the best of the best across genres in young-adult fiction. We’ll all read a little bit of everything, but I love to offer individual recommendations to my students specific to what I think will help them with their own work.
Can your students connect with you on social media? If so, how?
Are any of your works online and available to the public?
I’ve published two Young Adult novels, I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia. I’m also a staff writer for Rookie, a magazine for teenage girls, and you can find my body of work for them here.
What’s your teaching philosophy?
When it comes to writing, it’s all about having the drive, putting your butt in the chair, sharing your work and getting (and using!) feedback as well as having a big toolbox of tricks to try. I’m particularly excited about this yearlong class because we will focus on ALL of those things. We’ll set writings goals. I’ll offer up all the YA novel tricks I have in my toolbox during the craft section of the class in the first quarter, and then we’ll start workshopping and working with critique partners.
What advice do you have about getting into the habit of writing regularly?
I write in ninety-minute increments. Being completely in the zone and focused on the writing for that time period is more important than a specific word count. I created a Twitter hashtag for it (#90minWrite) so that I can ask other writers to join me but also publicly commit myself to being offline and working—the power of shame! But #30minWrite could be even better for those of us with busy schedules. Let’s do it!
What are you working on right now? Where did the idea come from?
I’m working on a zine-style young-adult memoir, which I just sold to Dutton this summer! It’s basically like an illustrated essay collection about all of the things I went through as a teenager—depression, an abusive relationship, but also a lot of music and fashion phases. It was inspired by the writing I’ve been doing (and the illustrated format) at Rookie, as well as the zines I created as a teenager.
What’s your favorite word in the English vocabulary?
I don’t even know if it is in the dictionary or if it is more of colloquialism, but “kerfuffle.” I just love using it whenever I can in conversation because it makes me think of like … a commotion caused by muppets or something. It automatically makes me smile.
Let’s talk writing inspiration—what’s the No. 1 thing that drives you to write?
The story. Once I get a character or an idea in my head, I am compelled to tell it. I need to see it through and get it out there. But it also helps that I am writing for one of the best, most passionate audiences out there. Teenager readers are such an inspiration. I write for them.