the bluff

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This picture is of the bluff where Laney lived with her grandmother. Of course, the one in the book is made up but this is the one I based it upon. This bluff exists in the lake where I grew, a place where I felt most free and also most trapped. As a child, I lived in the woods, the water, the mountains. As a young adult, I lived in my mind, in my books, in my anger.

The woods, the water, the mountains, the mind, and the books are still here but that anger has died. It has been replaced with determination and desire. And right now, that anger is also replaced with fear.

I’ve been having dreams this past week. Anxiety-fueled dreams that wake me up filled with belief that they are real.

No one shows up to my readings or just a few people show up or people show up but don’t care. All of this is wrapped up in my anxiety, of course, because this weekend I will be presenting THE BOOK OF LANEY for the first time. On Saturday night (3/28)  at 7PM, I’ll be at Jabberwocky Bookshop in Newburyport and then on Sunday at 2PM, I’ll be at Newtonville Books in Newton Center.

I’ve had my share of readings and reading in front of an audience is something I enjoy doing. So why the fear and worry?

Maybe it is because I feel a great deal of responsibility with this book. It’s not like I haven’t felt responsibility with my other books but with this one I am hoping to reach a specific audience of young people and maybe make a difference for them. I feel responsible that this book speaks authentically from the voice of a fifteen-year-old. I feel responsible that the material be treated with the seriousness and respect it is due. I feel responsible to victims and also to those who feel an urge to victimize. I want this book to help heal those who need healing and to reach those who are nearly out of reach.

Of course, I have no control over any of this but being given the opportunity and the honor to speak and read in front of an audience is one way in which I can reach out and with that comes the pressure to make it count.

I will make it count. I promise you I will. If you will meet me there, I will be there for you. Thank you to those who have already read this book and let it speak to them. Thank you to those who have let me know what it meant to them. You have given me such hope.

Thank you for coming to the bluff with me and remembering how we can come back to ourselves. Even in our darkest moments we have that possibility.

Thank you for listening. Thank you for hearing me.

 

 

pub day: today is my butter

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Last weekend, I made a double batch of zucchini bread because we have a busy week ahead. My son is in his second play and has seven performances between tomorrow and Sunday. I wanted him to be able to have something homemade in his snack and lunch so that even though he was busy, he would know he was loved and that I was thinking of him.

Unfortunately, I messed something up in the mixing and baking and the zucchini bread is, frankly, sort of gross. However, I have found that if you cover it with a lot of butter, it’s not half bad.

As I was choking down my butter-covered zucchini bread this morning, I realized that this is pretty much how I’ve made it through my life: examining my mistakes and failings and then trying to find a way to fix them, even if that means covering them with butter to make them more palatable.

Yesterday became a weird day and at some point I couldn’t figure out how to fix it. I went to bed feeling horrible. I had a fever and my whole body was sore. Before I fell asleep I kept saying to my husband, “I feel like I am doing everything wrong.”

Even though it is raining out today and our big, ugly brown snow banks are melting all over the place, today is a much brighter day. Some sleep and perspective taking have been just the butter I needed.

Also, I have so much to celebrate: my third book–THE BOOK OF LANEY–is officially published today. I am extremely grateful to Lacewing Books for bringing it into the world and I am grateful to anyone and everyone who reads this book. For all of the work and the disappointment and the rejection and the self-doubt that goes into the making of a book, this day, when it is officially placed into the hands of readers, is the day that makes it all worth it.

I am taking this day. I am claiming it even though maybe I screwed something up in the mix yesterday, making that day come out a bit crumbly. Today I am going to say that I am doing things right. I’m taking this day and I’m covering yesterday with as much butter as possible and I’m saying thank you to you for sharing today with me. Thank you.

TODAY IS MY BUTTER.*

 

 

 

 

 

* in case you are wondering… all of that butter in the photo came from my freezer. I am a butter hoarder. Not proud of it. I just don’t want to run out. I also hoard toilet paper and canned beans. Make of that what you will.

 

 

 

 

 

bloom

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I was going for some beautiful lilies. They were already open and their colors were intense–red and yellow and orange. A woman stopped me.

“Those are already spent,” she said. “Go for these unopened ones.”

She was right, of course. I said thanks and followed her suggestion.

I was disappointed, though. I wanted those colorful beauties and not the green buds. What if their colors were dull? What if they failed to bloom?

It was something about believing in possibility.

It was something about knowing that I would hear what these flowers had to say to me.

It was something about trust.

The buds the woman directed me to did eventually bloom and when they did, they were spectacular. They lasted a long time in my vase, longer than the ones I had initially gone for would have. She was right.

I’ve spent most of my life as that closed up bud. I’ve been waiting for someone to see me not for how I appear now, but for the promise  that I–my words–hold.

I’m telling this to myself and to you.

Your waiting, your anticipation, at some point these will fall away. Believe that someone will choose the bud instead of the flower. Believe that someone will understand that you represent possibility and not what has already bloomed.

Bloom. And when you are done blooming, regenerate your potential and become another bud.

No one is waiting for you. So don’t you wait. Don’t hold back.

Do not waste time. Bloom. Bloom now.

 

 

 

 

 

arrival, gratitude

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I started writing this book five years ago, in the winter. I started writing it after a long, dry spell of not writing much. I started writing it during the times when my then-toddler napped.

I remember I would get him down to sleep and then bring my laptop into my room and sit on the lumpy chair and force myself to write 500, 1000, 1500 words at time. Then I would write beyond that. I would write and write until he woke up.

As always, I wrote in a fury. I wrote when that not-so-carefully patched up thing within me busted open again.

I started writing this book out of a sense of desperation and loss. I felt I had something to say about how hard it is to grow and survive and to learn how to thrive and be self-reliant. But it took me quite a few drafts to get to exactly the place where it is now. The place where it says just what I want it to.

Not everyone is going to love this book. Not everyone is even going to like it. Some people may even hate it. Some people will be put off by hard truths. Others may feel I don’t go deep enough into the truth. But the reactions of these readers are now beyond my control.

And thanks to my editor, Andrew Scott, and my publisher, Victoria Barrett, and thanks to Penn Whaling and Ann Rittenberg and the Ann Rittenberg Literary Agency, and thanks to my husband for his faith in me and my child for his unwavering certainty that his mommy is the best (and thanks to him for taking those naps back then as well) and thanks to all those many people who have believed in me and supported me all these years, this book lives today.

As soon as this book hits your hands, it is no longer mine but ours. Thank you for sharing it with me.

 

Available for preorder from Lacewing Books, Barnes & Noble, IndieBound, Powell’s, and Amazon.

 

I Wrote This Book Because…

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I wrote this book because we live in a sometimes horrible and often beautiful world.

I wrote this book because I did not want you to feel so alone.

I wrote this book because four boys in the town where I used to live used their collective rage, boredom, and feelings of worthlessness to turn the lives of another family into the thing of nightmares.

I wrote this book because I am raising a son.

I wrote this book because when I was a young person I used to feel very alone.

I wrote this book because of all of the strong women who raised me up.

I wrote this book because I felt like I was the only one who was not normal when I was a kid.

I wrote this book because when I was younger there were times when I wished I would die.

I wrote this book because once I learned how to live inside someone else’s skin, I saw the world more clearly.

I wrote this book because I felt powerless.

I wrote this book because I felt powerful.

I wrote this book because I wanted you to read it and know that it’s not just you who feels the way you do.

I wrote this book because I love my family.

I wrote this book because I want a better future.

I wrote this book because that is what I do.

I wrote this book because we are all in this together.

I wrote this book because people let me know they believed in me.

I wrote this book because I believe in you.

Reader, though it is still a few months away from being published THE BOOK OF LANEY  is now available for pre-order just about everywhere in the english-speaking world. I know you have many choices for your time and money but I want you to know that when a book is pre-ordered it helps ease its entry into the world by relieving some of the stress on the publisher.

If you cannot pre-order it at this time, I fully understand. But maybe you would consider adding it to your wishlist for later or bookmarking it on Goodreads. Also, if you would be so kind as to bring it to the attention of your local library or bookstore, I would greatly appreciate it.

Reader, I also want you to know that while this book was written for a young adult audience that it would not be appropriate for readers under, say, the age of 14 or 15 (the protagonist is a 15-year-old girl) as some of the themes might be difficult for younger readers, no matter how advanced their reading skills.

Here’s what two of my favorite writers have to say about this book:

“Myfanwy Collins writes with big-time empathy and fierce courage.” Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook and Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock

“In The Book of Laney, an unsettling and redemptive novel, Myfanwy Collins fuses heartbreak and empathy to explore uncomfortable truths about teenagers, violence, and survival. An unforgettable book.” —Roxane Gay, author of An Untamed State and Bad Feminist

 

Thank you.

The Good Luck of Right Now, by Matthew Quick

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As I read The Good Luck of Right Now by Matthew Quick I couldn’t help but think about how part of the message behind the book relates to how I met a dear friend of mine.We met because I stumbled across a wonderful essay he had written. I loved the essay and chose to write about it on my blog. The writer then found my post and chose to reach out to me. From those two choices, we became friends and remain friends to this day. I certainly feel richer for this friendship and I’m grateful we–misfit writers–made these choices. This experience is much like the experience of the characters in The Good Luck of Right now, who learn about being open to experiences and possibilities, making choices, and understanding the importance of human connection.

At the core of this wonderfully wacky book are a group of misfits desperate to find something to believe in. It is only when the world around them seems bleakest that they create their own miracle and that miracle is about opening ourselves and our hearts up to those around us. That miracle is about being open to family and friendship when we are feeling most vulnerable and alone. Bartholomew Neil could have likely spent the rest of his days alone after his mother died, but instead he allowed himself to be vulnerable. He finally heard and understood what his mother had been telling him all those years:

“We don’t know anything. But we can choose how we respond to whatever comes our way. We have a choice always. Remember that!”

Life is not all roses but it is not all thorns either. Especially if you choose to believe Bartholomew’s mother’s overarching message:

“Whenever something bad happens to us… something good happens–often to someone else. And that’s The Good Luck of Right Now.”

Of course, like most of us, it takes Bartholomew a while to fully buy into his mother’s message and to open himself up to life’s possibilities, but when he does, he becomes his own savior.

I loved this book. I think you will, too.

My Writing Process — Blog Tour

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The Book of Laney -- available for pre-order now!

The Book of Laney — available for pre-order now!

Thank you to one of the Engine Books family, the lovely and talented, Courtney Elizabeth Mauk, for inviting me to take part in the Writing Process Blog Tour.

Here’s how it works. I was given some questions to answer (see below) and I was asked to nominate a few other writers so that they might answer the same questions a week after I post. Here we go…

1) What are you working on?

I am finishing up the edits on my forthcoming YA novel, THE BOOK OF LANEY.  I am excited about this book and also quite nervous about how it will be received. This book is extremely close to my heart as is the main character, Laney. I hope that readers will feel for her the way I do and understand the message I am trying to send through this book. I honestly can’t wait for it to be published so that I can get out there and talk about it some more.

2) How does your work differ from others of its genre?

 I don’t know whether it differs or not. Does it have to differ? Is that what we’re striving for? It’s not something I think about when I’m writing. I just write.

3) Why do you write what you do?

Recently, someone asked me about THE BOOK OF LANEY and what it was about. When I told her, she said, “Don’t you get depressed writing about stuff like that?” It wasn’t until much later when I’d gotten over the shock of the question that I thought of what my response should have been and that is: I would be depressed not to write about the dark and the sick in the world. I would be depressed to see something horrible and not use my work to formulate a response to it.

4) How does your writing process work?

I don’t know if I have a process so much as I have a bunch of quirks:

  • I set goals for myself–500 words a day, 1,000 words a day, etc.
  • I deny myself things I love until I make goals. For example, earlier this spring, I would not allow myself to watch the new season of Game of Thrones until I finished a rewrite. I pushed myself to get that rewrite done because I could not even consider waiting to watch GoT.
  • I tend to under promise and over deliver.
  • If my house isn’t clean, I can’t write.
  • I don’t write every day, unless I have set a goal for myself.
  • I tend not to write anything new in the summer but I do rewrite in the summer. I need the autumn and winter light to get my juices flowing.

Up next on the Writing Process Blog tour (look for their posts on July 17th or thereabouts): 

Kathy Fish‘s stories have been published in Indiana Review, Denver Quarterly, Guernica, Slice, and elsewhere. Her work is forthcoming in “The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers” (Black Lawrence Press, 2014). She is the author of three short fiction collections, “Together We Can Bury It” (The Lit Pub, 2012), “Wild Life” (Matter Press, 2011), and a chapbook in “A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness” (Rose Metal Press, 2008).

Paul Myette is the author of several short stories and has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is curently working on his first novel. He is a graduate of the Breadloaf School of English and lives in Byfield, MA with his wife and kids.