Have you ever lived somewhere that you didn’t belong? I mean, just really, truly felt like a fish out of water every single day? I spent a decade in a place like that, trying (and usually failing) to feel comfortable. A lot of the blame rests with me because it’s hard for me to “bloom where I’m planted” if I can’t find like-minded people to bloom with. But there are always silver linings and one of my best silver linings during that decade was Jennifer Watrous.
I’ve had the amazing honor of watching Jennifer as she found her calling and made it a vocation. A couple of years ago, she bought a camera. Now, you should know that Jennifer is an artist–mostly a painter, but she’s gifted at creating a ton of different kinds of art. And it’s a given that she sees the world differently from the rest of us. She decided her camera could be a way for her to show us how she sees the world. To her, it’s a beautiful, wondrous, God-filled place that changes every single day. This was fantastic. I knew she’d be a fabulous photographer.
Then, one day, Jennifer and I were scheming about a photo shoot on a friend’s property. The friend has horses . . . beautiful horses. We walked into a back field to scout a location and Jennifer spotted the horses. I pointed out the new foals and the mamas they belonged with and then turned to check on Jennifer because she’d gone quiet and still.
Man, I wish I’d had my own camera so I could show you what her face looked like. It held equal parts fear and awe, but mostly I remember the wonder. She dropped down, moved her equipment around and started shooting and giggling. She’d inch a little closer and squeal. At one point, I had to remind her that mama was watching and not to get between a baby and her mom. I just don’t think I’ve ever seen someone more in love with a moment in time.
See, I was witnessing a woman who had found one of the things she’d been made for. Seriously. Jennifer Watrous, as it turns out, was put on this earth to capture images of horses. She’s crazy talented, too. People all over the world look at and buy her prints and I’m so proud of her. Soon after that first look at horses, JD Waterhouse Photography was born!
Jennifer loved Glass Girl and was one of my earliest fans. She also loved Perfect Glass, and she wanted to find a way to encourage her horse photography fans to read my books. Today, her photography blog is a stop on the Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour and that’s awesome enough.
But to make it even sweeter, she’s raffling this print!
Believe me, you want this print hanging in your home. It will make you happy every time you look at it. So enter here—
Also, don’t forget that we’re getting close to the end of the Perfect Clouds Virtual Tour featuring Perfect Glass and Rajdeep Paulus’s Swimming Through Clouds. Rajdeep and I are giving away some really great book swag that I know you want to win. So throw your name into that raffle right here— a Rafflecopter giveaway
For those of you visiting because you found me through Jennifer’s horse photography – here’s a little background:
The Horse Obsession
In Glass Girl and Perfect Glass, there’s a good deal of talk about horses. I’m often asked if I own horses, or grew up with them, since I talk about them so much. The fact is . . . no, to both questions. Although I live next door to the Windham Quarter Horse ranch in College Station, Texas where some of the nation’s finest champion quarter horses spend their days, I’m really not an expert at all.
I’m honored today to be in the presence of such horse lovers—all of you who follow Jennifer’s blog and photography site amaze me. You possess knowledge that I envy.
My grandfather was a horse trader in Poteau, Oklahoma, and he raised his kids, including my mother, to be comfortable enough to ride whenever and wherever. My mother, as a small child, would ride to the city pool in the summers and depend on her horse to get her home after a long day in the sun, as she slept in the saddle. My riding experience, sadly, only includes trail rides in Colorado—although, these are rides to elevations of 11,000+ feet, and they take a fair amount of courage on my part.
In my novels, one of my main characters is a boy named Henry Whitmire. Henry is the son of a rancher in Wyoming, and one of his responsibilities is tending the large number of horses on the ranch. One way he gets to know Meg, the girl of his dreams, is by taking her on long horse rides in the foothills of the Wind River Mountains. Meg is a city girl from Pittsburgh, so this is all new to her. It was easy for me to describe the healthy fear she felt and the victory of actually making it into the saddle without flinging herself over the other side of the horse.
As someone who has always considered horses to be her favorite animal on the entire planet, I enjoyed writing about the world that you love so much. The creaking of the saddle’s leather, the rocking of a gentle trail horse, the stubborn nature of horses who know better than to stop on the trail and eat.
This is one reason I enjoy JD Waterhouse photography—Jennifer is someone who truly loves the beauty of a horse. And she’s unconditional about that—horses that have thrown her or bitten her get just as much camera time as the ones who stay out of her way. As you all know—that’s true love.
I hope, if you’re looking for a good story about a boy who loves horses as much as you do, that you’ll pick up Glass Girl and Perfect Glass!
For everyone else—-
I think you would all enjoy following Jennifer on Facebook and keeping tabs on her JD Waterhouse Photography blog. In fact, she’s hosting today’s stop on the Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour so don’t miss it!
So June has been a little busy. I’m on a book tour for Perfect Glass that lasts until June 27 (virtual, of course, but still a lot of work) and my own blog has been a little neglected. I miss you guys!
I really hope you’re following the Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour that I’m on with debut author and friend, Rajdeep Paulus (Swimming Through Clouds). We’re having a lot of fun revealing behind the scenes aspects of our books and our lives.
In case you want to catch up with me, here are a few places I’ve been–
In Search of Waterfalls with Rajdeep Paulus–
Laura L. Smith’s blog
Teen author Tessa Emily Hall’s Blog
StarShadow Book Blog
Written to Our Hearts Blog with April Hamrick
Go Teen Writers
Brilliantly Novel Book Blog with Diana Garner
In the coming days, I’ll be talking about–
Here’s the best part, though–I’m giving away t-shirts and iPhone covers and posters and greeting cards AND hardcover copies of To Kill a Mockingbird and Catcher in the Rye (Favorites of Meg and Henry). Just get busy with the rafflecopter below to be entered! Rajdeep Paulus is giving away awesome stuff, too, and your name will be included in the raffle for her items.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Today is a great day for Playlist Young Adult Fiction as we release two new titles–Perfect Glass and Rajdeep Paulus’s debut Swimming Through Clouds. Thank you to all the fantastic BOOK BLOGGERS who have agreed to be part of this virtual tour! (For a full list of bloggers, site addresses, and dates, scroll to the bottom of this post.)
I’ve got lots of details to give you so you can follow our PERFECT CLOUDS VIRTUAL BOOK TOUR and be in the running for some InCReDiBLe giveaways. But, first, I want to introduce the two books (and authors) on tour.
Introducing Rajdeep Paulus and her debut Swimming Through Clouds
Rajdeep decided to be a writer during her junior year in high school after her English teacher gave her an “F,” but told her she had potential. She studied English Literature at Northwestern University, and she writes masala-marinated, Young Adult Fiction, blogging weekly at InSearchofWaterfalls dot com.
Swimming Through Clouds synopsis:
When a high school cell phone disruption forces a classroom ban, the words on a Post-it note spark a sticky romance between two unlikely friends. Transfer student Talia Vanderbilt has one goal at her new school: to blend in with the walls. Lagan Desai, basketball captain and mathlete, would do just about anything to befriend the new girl. One Post-it note at a time, Lagan persuades Talia to peel back her heart, revealing her treasure chest of pain—an absent mother, a bedridden brother, and an abusive father. In a world where hurt is inevitable, the two teens search for a safe place to weather the storms of life. Together.
Rajdeep’s book is powerful. It’s one of those that leaves you heartbroken and wondering if it’s possible that people live in such extreme abuse situations. In graduate school, I volunteered for a program that helped women and children leave their abusers and I know, from that experience, that there are unspeakable things happening in some homes in this nation. And the answers are never clear–escape is not a given.
My in-depth review of Swimming Through Clouds can be found on Goodreads.
I’m a little beside myself because the next book is mine – Perfect Glass, the sequel to Glass Girl. I have to say there were times I thought I’d never see this day, so pardon me if I seem a little emotional.
Introducing Laura Anderson Kurk and Perfect Glass
Laura Anderson Kurk writes unconventional and bittersweet contemporary YA. Her debut novel, Glass Girl, and its sequel, Perfect Glass, are available now from Playlist Young Adult Fiction. Laura lives in Texas with her husband and two children.
Perfect Glass synopsis
Things get messy when Meg Kavanagh gets involved—first with Jo Russell, the eccentric old artist, and then with Quinn O’Neill, the intriguing loner who can’t hide how he feels about Meg. Her senior year isn’t turning out like she planned it, but sometimes the best parts of life happen in the in-between moments. And Henry will be home soon, right?
He commits to one year in an orphanage that needs him more than he ever dreamed. Thousands of miles from Meg and the new punk who has fallen for her, and absent from the ranch that’s in his blood, Henry Whitmire finds out what it means to trust. When you’re so far from home, it’s terrifying to realize you’re not who you thought. But the perfect glass of calamity makes the best mirror.
Here’s an advanced review of Perfect Glass on Goodreads.
The Tour Details
Every weekday until Thursday, June 27, there will be a blog stop on the Perfect Clouds Virtual Book Tour. You should follow the schedule below and hit every stop to increase your chances to win some amazing prizes — including t-shirts with book covers and quotes, iPhone cases with book covers, mugs, stickers, posters, hardcover copies of some classic books (Henry’s, Meg’s, Talia’s, and Lagan’s favorites), and lots of other stuff!
Here’s the cool part–Rajdeep and I have worked hard to create puzzle reveals for both books. At each stop on the tour, you will be given another clue to help you figure out something Lagan wants to say to Talia, and something Henry wants to say to Meg. For Perfect Glass you’ll see “Today’s Secret Letter” clues, and for Swimming Through Clouds, you’ll see pieces of a Post-It note that will come together on the last day of the tour.
Here’s your first clue for Swimming Through Clouds—
Your first Perfect Glass clue will be revealed at tomorrow’s tour stop — In Search of Waterfalls.
If you miss a day, click through the schedule that will be posted at the bottom of each blog and catch up!
And now — here’s the Rafflecopter. Get busy and enter your name as often as possible!
Saturday, June 1 – Laura Anderson Kurk ⬅YOU ARE HERE!
Sunday, June 2 – Rajdeep Paulus
Monday, June 3 – Melanie Brasher
Tuesday, June 4 – Tessa Emily Hall
Wednesday, June 5 – Melissa Tagg
Thursday, June 6 – ReganStar McBeigh
Friday, June 7 – April Hamrick
Monday, June 10 – Diana Garner
Tuesday, June11 – Stephanie Karfelt
Wednesday, June 12 – Bethany Baldwin
Thursday, June 13 – Kim Vandel
Friday, June 14 – Sarah Tipton
Monday, June 17 – Jennifer Watrous
Tuesday, June 18 – Marni Jarman
Wednesday, June 19 – Peggy Warren
Thursday, June 20 – Bethany Jett
Friday, June 21 – Amy Leigh Simpson
Monday, June 24 – Summer Andrews
Tuesday, June 25 – Arlette Geuverink
Wednesday, June 26 – Jennifer Murgia
Thursday, June 27 – JoJo SutisRead More
Congratulations to Anna Schaeffer who won last week’s free download of Glass Girl! Are you ready to try again? I have a feeling your odds will be better this time so don’t forget to register for the drawing! Only twelve days left until the release of Perfect Glass!
Best of luck to you on finals!
Love, meRead More
Once in a blue moon, a book comes along that makes me wonder if the author knew me in high school. It touches a little close to home. Dredges up a few too many pages of my awkward journal. The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet is just such a book. And, bonus, one of her male characters, Chase, reminds me of Pony Boy in The Outsiders, so I got to relive the weird book crush I had in high school.
YA author Stephanie Morrill (author of the Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and the power behind Go Teen Writers) captured the true voice of the American teenage girl again in The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet. From the first line, I knew Ellie was a girl I wanted to know yesterday. She’s made of stubborn, sprinkled with wryness, and wrapped with heart.
Using the classic literary device of a story within a story, Morrill keeps readers turning pages. We get to live in the contemporary lives of Morrill’s high school characters while also traveling back in time to medieval Italy where Ellie’s friends have become players in a courtly scene. The story within the story reveals so much about how Ellie’s mind works and how she has absorbed and interpreted the drama in her life. Plus there’s the “can’t look away from the train wreck” aspect because we know that if Ellie’s friends get hold of her manuscript, they’ll be furious at how she has depicted them.
I loved so much about this book—the solid advice it gives for writers of any age who dream of publication, the presentation of a teenage girl who isn’t afraid to be an intellectual, and the characters (male and female) who sound real enough to be in any high school hall.
But what tugged at me most was the lesson Ellie learns (one I learned over and over) about how to balance speaking truth with protecting the feelings of others, and why it’s not always the best decision to keep secrets from everyone.
Morrill understands the delicate social lives of teen girls better than most writers these days. I highly recommend this book for girls looking for honesty about the awkward situations we find ourselves in so often in high school. Morrill doesn’t pull punches about things like deceiving parents and friends or keeping secrets, but she’s also gentle with Ellie and allows her to come to an awareness that’s uncommonly mature by the book’s end.
I can’t wait for the sequel to find out how Ellie’s writing life takes off and what happens to the characters she plucked from real life!
And, we’re lucky today because Stephanie joins us to answer some pressing questions.
Tell me why working with teen writers is so important to you.
It’s mostly selfish. They’re just FUN to be around. I love their energy and creativity. I love the unique way they view the world. So that’s the main reason.
It’s also partly because I was a teen writer, and I knew nobody in the industry. I didn’t even know anyone who worked in a bookstore. Yet I desperately wanted to write novels, so I learned everything by doing it wrong first. I learned about story structure by writing approximately a hundred stories that aimlessly wandered for about 50 pages before I threw in the towel. I learned about query letters after printing out my manuscript and mailing it to random publishers. I didn’t know a thing, and I didn’t know a soul that I could ask. So part of what motivates me is remembering how lost I was at that age, and the hope that I can help make a writer’s path smoother than mine was.
How old were you when you finished your first manuscript? What did you do with it? Did your high school teachers know this side of you? Did they encourage you?
I was 16 when I finished my first “novel.” It was only, like, 90 pages, so it wasn’t full length, and it was TERRIBLE. But I didn’t know that when I printed it out and mailed it to publishers. It’s now hidden on my hard drive. It wasn’t a waste at all though. I learned so much.
My high school English teacher was so supportive of me. When I was receiving my first round of rejection letters, she told our class that she believed I would be a published author someday. Those words meant so much to me because she was the first non-family member to express belief in me.
Is there a teen you mentor on whom Ellie is based?
Ellie’s personality is very similar to mine in middle and high school. I was so desperate to belong to a group, and I never did. I had great friends, of course, and I dated my now-husband all the way through high school, so I experienced a lot of acceptance. But there was so much rejection too. Like Ellie, I learned to use that real life rejection in my stories.
Writer Ellie is a conglomerate of the teens who hang out at GoTeenWriters.com. So many of them are destined for greatness, just like Ellie.
In the book, you surprise us all with a mentoring relationship. Without revealing the surprise, was this twist based on experience? Do you find that even mentors can be competitive to a fault?
Yes, that twist was a surprise to me the author as well. But upon reflection, it’s a truth about this business that I didn’t want to romanticize away. This writing business, this pursuit of publication, can do nasty stuff to a person’s insides. Writers who seem like your friends, who seem to want the best for you, can quickly turn on you if you become “more successful” than they are. And even though I try to be happy for people, the announcement of another’s success can bring out envy and anger within me as well.
The only thing I’ve ever found that compares to the emotion of it all is having a baby. When things were going well for me, like when I was holding my newborn baby or when I had one sprouting to life within me, I was THRILLED for others who announced their pregnancy. But when I was longing for another or wondering if it was ever going to be my turn to have one, an announced pregnancy could bring me to tears.
Why was Ellie hiding her manuscript and her intentions from her father, a published author?
While Ellie is enjoying the silent revenge on her friends, I think she also feels a bit ashamed of it as well. She knows it’s not the best way to handle her anger with these girls. Also, Ellie wants to prove her worth as a writer, apart from her father’s reputation, and she’s pretty keen on the idea of unveiling her true self in a blaze of glory.
I often say writing is made of fear. How did fear motivate and hinder Ellie? How do you see fear playing out in your own life as a writer?
Ellie fears being ordinary and amounting to nothing, of not living a full life. So fear is what motivates Ellie to start DOING something with writing, to start submitting it to contests and literary agents. But at the same time, fear also hinders her from finding good friends and from demanding respect from the boy she really likes.
As for me, with each stage of my career, I’ve found new fears crop up. What if my book fails? What if my sales numbers stink? What if people leave nasty reviews for me on Amazon? Sometimes the fears overwhelm me, and other times I’m able to keep them in check by remembering I can’t control that, I can only control doing my best work on a book.
What do you say to the teen writer who has been disappointed by the vagaries of the industry? The contest losses, the poor reviews or critiques, the rejections?
Now that I’ve looked up vagaries and know what it means, I think it’s really easy for all writers to get discouraged by the unpredictability of this industry. Books that are written horribly sometimes stay on the bestseller lists for months. I had an agent who rejected me rather harshly…but then when we met in person a few months later, completely fell in love with the story, and started pitching it like crazy to editors. My debut novel bombed a contest…and within the year was contracted with a publisher.
To survive this industry, you often have to put your blinders on and run YOUR race. You can’t control the whims or opinions of others. You have to just do your best with the stories on your heart.
Even in your writing career, you’ve seen huge changes in the industry. Are you hopeful about the future of publishing? How do you see the changes as beneficial to teen writers?
My agent describes publishing right now as “the wild west.” I have no idea where things are headed or what kind of device people will be reading books on next. What I know is I love to write, and I’ll be writing stories until the day I die.
I think in many ways the changes benefit teen and new writers. There are more ways than ever to break into the industry. There are so many good small presses, and ebooks make self-publishing affordable. I also think there are more “short cuts” to publication than ever before, which scares me a bit on their behalf.
What is the larger message of Ellie’s story? Is it something about identity or being true to one’s calling or the complications that arise when one keeps secrets or what? What should we learn from her experience?
The phrase in that book that started popping out to me was “real life.” Ellie constantly refers to people being in her real life or not her real life. And what I wanted her to understand is that it’s ALL real life. It all counts – friends on-line, the stories she’s making up, that cute boy who sits next to her in Algebra. They’re ALL her real life. The choices you make in middle school, high school, and college are woven into your adulthood, so you can’t just say to yourself, “Oh, it’s high school, it doesn’t matter.”
Until the very end, Ellie has a hard time figuring out which boy would be better for her. Even at the end, I don’t think she’s quite sure. Can’t wait until the sequel . . . What do you say to teen girls who struggle with distracting crushes and figuring out how to make good decisions about boys?
I was interested in boys from, like, day one of kindergarten. I wish I wasn’t. I wish I was one of those girls who didn’t care, but I am who I am. I don’t know if that makes me a good or bad person to take advice from! Since I’ve been happily married for 9 years, and since I continue to fall deeper in love with my husband everyday, I suppose I’m not the worst person to take boy advice from.
As it relates to Ellie, I guess I would say you should feel comfortable being YOU around a guy you’re dating. Ellie really struggles with that (partly because she’s not totally sure about who she is yet) and it’s something I really struggled with too. But one of the nicest things my husband has ever said to me is, “I love you just how you are. I love every bit of you.” And I feel the same way about him. I don’t feel like I need to fix him, and he doesn’t try to fix me. There’s great freedom in that.
Stephanie Morrill is a twenty-something living in Overland Park, Kansas with her husband and two kids. Her only talents are reading, writing, and drinking coffee, so career options were somewhat limited. Fortunately she discovered a passion for young adult novels and has been writing them ever since.
Stephanie is the author of The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series and is currently working on other young adult projects. She enjoys encouraging and teaching teen writers on her blog, www.GoTeenWriters.com. To connect with Stephanie and read samples of her books, check out www.StephanieMorrill.com