Category Archives: Personal

Keep the spring

This post is another in my Love Letters to Strangers series, which I didn’t realize was a series until I knew I had to write this one. You can read the first here, although they stand alone.


Dear you,

I’m you, only I’ve been around the sun one more time than you have. I know you feel cheated that you’re getting a letter from yourself from only one year in the future, but frankly, take it up with the Bureau of Time Travel, bud. Oh, you can’t? It hasn’t been invented yet? Looks like you’re gonna have to deal. How unfortunate for you.

Well, not actually unfortunate. It’s true—I’m basically you with more facial hair and a dwindling supply of fucks. But I’m writing this for a reason, and the jokey nature of the above paragraph was because I know you wouldn’t take me seriously otherwise. You don’t take anyone seriously who takes themselves too seriously.

I know things like that, you know. I know you so well—the shape of your heartbeat and the sound of your tears, your first word and your last lie, who you’re angry with and why. And something I’m keenly aware of is that thing you’re burying and hiding and obfuscating beneath a Rube Goldberg machine of segues and smoke and jokes and mirrors.

Here is the deepest secret nobody knows: you don’t think you’ll ever be loved like you love.

Are you angry? That I’d acknowledge that, put it into words when you don’t even let yourself think about it too much? That I’d say it without sufficient warning? That I’d put it in public where someone else might see it and roll their eyes and look at you differently? That’s what you’re afraid of, after all—judgment. Beneath all else, this.

People are always going to judge you, buddy. But rarely like you think. Your mind goes from zero to catastrophe before your synapses can even transfer electricity. They think I’m the weirdest fucking person. They’re mad at me for talking or staying quiet or finding a nice in-between. They’re probably right to be upset, too—and god, what am I doing with my hands? Why does my voice sound all grating like that? Why did I leave the house when my hair’s a mess?

There’s a Mary Lambert song that goes, “I could make you happy / I could make you love me / I could disappear completely.” Listen to that for a second, okay? Hear that.

Even now, I don’t want to talk about this, not really—you can probably tell by my wandering subject matter. But sometimes we need to talk about what we don’t want to.

You conflate love with romance, whisk them together until the definitions are inseparable. You diminish the friendships you have—yes, those people are great, but they don’t count as love because of this (stupid, meaningless) reason. You think you’ve reached the quota of amazing people in your life, and none of them have loved you to the extent you’ve loved them, so what’s the point?

You’re scared because you’re eighteen and you’ve never had a boyfriend. You’re scared this is the way it’s always going to be. You’re scared.

I have news.

Later this year, you’ll get an idea for your next book. It’ll be about a boy who loves himself like he loves oxygen and a boy who thinks he doesn’t deserve love because his mental illness told him so. They’ll fall in love (of course—I mean this is a You Book let’s be real here). It’ll be from the point of view of the first boy, the one who loves every breath he can get, the one whose reality is so much more full of sunshine than yours you won’t think him realistic. And these boys are going to teach you something: you deserve love, and you deserve more than that, too.

Life is not something you sit back and wait for; life is something you happen to. The planet is your canvas, and you paint it with what lives in your mind. The stars are there for you to swallow whole.

You could limit yourself to love, sure. That’s not meant as a knock against people who want love above all else, either—for some people, that’s the most important thing. I’m not trying to pull an “I’m not most girls,” Cis Dude edition. I’m just going to explain to you why you want more.

You want more because you want happiness. You want health. You want friends you can prop yourself up against when you need them and when they need you. You want a career breaking and remaking worlds for young people. You want memories. You want family. You want learning. You want the way the cherry blossom tree in your front yard always blooms just in time for your birthday. You want to build as much as you can as well as you can with the little tiny slice of time you’re gifted. When your gift runs out, you want to have done enough. There is no enough—not for you—but you chase it every day.

Pablo Neruda wrote, “You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming.”

In this, my friend, you are not the flowers.

Love,

Me

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2015

Highlights of my year (in chronological order):

  • Getting a higher SAT score than pretty much everyone at school, according to my guidance counselor, even though I was barely in the top 20% of my class
  • Wrangling SWEETEST DOWNFALL into a queryable state
  • Querying
  • Querying going well
  • Getting accepted to the state university of New Jersey
  • Getting accepted to the state university of New Jersey’s selective honors college
  • Graduating high school, getting a scholarship (it was small, but still), going to my high school’s annual after-graduation party, where friends and acquaintances did a ’90s rap lip-sync battle thing which made my life complete
  • Gay marriage being legalized nationwide
  • Going to NYC, staying with my critique partner Amy Zhang, meeting John Hansen and Cam Garrett and Becky Albertalli and Dahlia Adler and Adam Silvera and there were probably other people there because it was a public event but honestly who cares because I met these ones
  • Seeing my sister, who lives a couple thousand miles away, for a week
  • Landing an editorial internship with Entangled Publishing
  • Being selected for Pitch Wars
  • First day of college (this was on the same day)
  • Doing all the things while anxious because no mental illness IN ALL OF OZ, no chemical imbalance that there is or was, is ever gonna bring me down
  • Getting a vague email from a publishing person asking to speak on the phone
  • Stumbling over every word that came out of my face when my agent, Heather Flaherty, told me “I’m offering you representation”
  • Signing The Bent Agency’s author agreement
  • Working on my seventh manuscript (the one after SWEETEST DOWNFALL)

Just like, some random cool stuff that happened this year that I liked, I guess:

  • Improving ALL THE CRAFT, thanks to experience, critique, and instruction
  • Getting way better at editing so now I can feel like a competent critique partner
  • Driving around town with my BFF and singing and almost dying because a car was approaching us quickly at an intersection and I was scared shitless so naturally I just kind of murmured “There’s a car coming at us” and she was like SHIIIIIIIT and anyway we didn’t die but it was funny I guess you had to be there man
  • Habitually giving my high school the finger every time my friends and I drove past it
  • Putting my SMALL DOG in a HOODIE

Favorite book read in 2015:

I am so mad I read Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli last year. Not really, but that book meant so much to me personally. At the same time, I’m super glad because if I’d read Simon and Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not in the same year I would have become a smooth, fist-sized river rock because they are both SO GOOD and I spent twenty minutes choosing between them for my vote in the Goodreads Best Books of the Year thing. You think I’m exaggerating about the twenty minutes. You are incorrect!

Favorite songs listened to in 2015:

  • “Colors” by Halsey
  • “The Writer” by Ellie Goulding
  • “Headlights” by Tor Miller
  • “St Jude” by Florence + The Machine
  • “Sober” by Kelly Clarkson

Favorite albums released in 2015:

  • Hamilton (Original Broadway Cast Recording) by Lin-Manuel Miranda and other machine-people who are literally cyborgs because no humans from Earth sing and act that well
  • American Candy by The Maine
  • Coming Up for Air by Kodaline
  • Badlands by Halsey
  • How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful by Florence + The Machine
  • Wilder Mind by Mumford & Sons

Publishing fun:

  • A bunch of internship stuff I can’t talk about, but what I can say is I fell in love with a manuscript or two this year
  • I GOT TO READ SLUSH. I don’t deal directly with authors—my job is to write reader reports on the manuscripts, since Entangled uses Submittable and requires the full manuscript with the query—and I don’t go through all the slush, just the mss assigned to me, but oh my god, dream come true
  • I learned MOST (PROBABLY ALL) OF THE THINGS about the acquisitions process from my boss, Kate Brauning, and I feel all educated
  • Jenny Bent, a rockstar agent and the head of Heather’s agency, also signed my agency agreement and I was like “This is fine. This is normal! I am fine. ABSOLUTELY NO ONE IS FREAKING OUT RIGHT NOW.
  • A while back I beta-read Fox Benwell’s gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous debut The Last Leaves Falling, which was published this year and also happens to have my name in the acknowledgments, and my preorder went to my Kindle and the acknowledgments were in the beginning so it basically started with my name SO THAT’S A NORMAL THING. (Second book I’ve been in the acknowledgments for in my life! First was Amy Zhang’s Falling into Place. I cried both times. I am a crier.)

Pictures ‘n’ stuff:

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My dog is the prettiest and she takes A+ selfies

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I wrote an autobiographical mystery called THE PURLOINED FUCK

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Super do not think this needs an explanation

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I found this picture of myself from my baby-modeling years and oh my god the caption

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My favorite conversation of the year for so many reasons was three text messages (date: June 26)

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My senior yearbook quote was kidlit (Roald Dahl) because…have you met me?

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This meant a lot to me

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OH MY GOD, LOOK AT THAT FACE

People I am especially grateful for this year:

Ari Susu-Mago, Serial Killer. Heather Flaherty, the coolest, most capable agent ever (and she sent me the cutest holiday card OH MY GOD STILL NOT OVER IT). Kate Brauning and Bethany Robison, who are like your bosses except better in absolutely every way. Helene Dunbar, who’s so amazing and helpful and generous and—— Not John Hansen because no one cares. Katherine Locke, whose books you have bought or bye. Paula Garner, for CHECKING. All my Twitter friends, since I know I left many of you out, but whether we’ve interacted or not: I appreciate you. Thank you. All the love.

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