Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

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You may have noticed that I’m not blogging as much as before – that’s because I’m really digging sending late-night missives that are raw and real and leave it all on the page. I send them to those who’ve subscribed to my special Midnight Missive list. Honestly, I haven’t been really public about it because I’ve been a bit scared to open myself up to so many people, but I think they’re doing me, and many of my readers, some good.

 

So I’m going to be brave and share more widely.

 

There is absolutely no marketing in these missives–no announcements or hyperlinks or hype of any kind. It’s just me and the page late at night, getting into it.

 

I don’t send them out too often, but when I do, it’s some of the writing I’m proudest of. I’m always terrified to hit send because I always say something I’m scared to. I’m always worried about hurting someone. It’s honestly fucking terrifying. But it’s good for the art, man, it really is. And the soul. Mine, anyway.

 

I wanted to have a way to connect authentically with my fellow writers, to bring them into the process of artmaking. The highs and lows. The fear and regrets. The anger and joy and confusion and helplessness. All of it.

 

Because it is so bare, leaves me so exposed, I only want to know that the people receiving it on the other end have opted in. That they’re with me, not just randomly scrolling on the Internet.

 

When I send a missive, it’s at exactly midnight in whatever time zone I’m in, usually Eastern Standard. There’s a little crescent moon in the subject and the number of the missive.

 

This last one I wrote a while back, was incredibly powerful for me – it helped me understand why I can’t leave YA lit.

 

Here’s a short excerpt, but if you would like to read these, you’ll need to subscribe (again, no marketing – this is not my regular newsletter email list). Once you subscribe, you’ll have access to the newsletter archive to read this and other missives in full. I just want to know that the people reading these on the other end are in the trenches with me. These are not for your entertainment. They’re my guts, exposed.

 

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Midnight Missive #9:

Won’t You Be My Neighbor?

July 22, 2019

12:00 am (EST) :: Dandywood :: Durham, NC

I have a confession to make: before last night, I was pretty sure I was leaving the young adult genre. For good. Forever.

I was hoping the exit would be a killer one, without a backward glance, but I’m not that cool. I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist looking back. The Lot’s Wife of YA. I hadn’t told anyone this, not my agent or editors or friends. There were a couple close friends I hinted at it to, but I didn’t want to be one of those people that thought they were making a dramatic announcement the world should care about: I’m retiring. I’m leaving the industry. Etc. And then no one even bothers to look up from the sandwich they’re eating. Further confirming the choice, of course.

I didn’t have an exact end date, since I have YA books still under contract, but LITTLE UNIVERSES was meant as my swan song, particularly with contemporary. After that, it would be adult all the way—historical fiction, likely. Maybe something with magic in it.

I wasn’t sure I totally believed myself about hanging up my teen author jersey—I was still making noise to my husband about a few projects, but I wanted to believe myself. In fact, nearly all of those projects I thought of doing were under pseudonyms and highly commercial. Food-on-the-table books. Write what you know. Write what’s easy. (Still planning those, by the way. I’m a big believer in the Graham Greene approach to not being a starving artist, though I doubt I’ll be lucky enough to be in Her Majesty’s service on the side).

I was in Morocco this past spring, dealing with a spotty WhatsApp connection and already thinking I needed to leave YA, a mental tick I’ve been indulging in for years, when my agent told me maybe I should leave YA. Not because I wasn’t good. Not because she didn’t love my books or believe in them. But because people didn’t GET me. And those people, they weren’t my readers. I have the emails and tweets and bookstagrams to prove it. The late-night confessional missives from girls who read Bad Romance and left their boyfriends. Some of them in other languages. The notes from male veterans or their family members who thanked me for portraying their PTSD so accurately in Josh from I’ll Meet You There. And so on. The people who didn’t get me were the adult powers-that-be, the publishers who, my agent suspected, wanted me to dumb down my books. (Not necessarily my editors, mind you. It’s the money people who control things in Book Town.).

“Your books are so complex,” she said. “So many layers to the characters. They just want something simple, I think. I don’t get it. I love your books. But I don’t know how to position you.”

My response was to give my editor, the one who has always “gotten” me from Day One, a novel that attempts to articulate what it means to be human in the universe. Including astrophysics used as metaphor. I just couldn’t help myself. It’s so long she said we have to charge more because of the paper. But, she said, she couldn’t bear to cut any of it.

There are so many ways to say fuck it.

 

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To read the rest, you can subscribe by clicking below. I’ll try to post on here when I have a new missive, as well, just so you all know I’m still alive and kicking:
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