|Randy and me on my wedding day|
The first was Randy Albers, the chair of the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia College Chicago. I started there in September of 2000 when I was 21 years old. This was my second go at college. The first time around, I'd attempted to major in sociology and push my desire to write to the side, but that didn't work and my creative writing teacher at that school was awful, his feedback basically amounting to "You write about drugs. You're like a female William Burroughs. Have you read William Burroughs?" I thought I would be better off teaching myself how to write, so I dropped out and um... drank a lot. (Maybe I was the female Burroughs or Cheever or something...) I went to Columbia College to get serious about fiction. I took my first class with Randy in 2002. At that point in time, I wrote a lot, but had a very shaky grasp on revising and polishing. Randy and I had a one hour conference wherein we completely dissected about five pages of my work. We talked structure, line-editing, all of it. My story suddenly clicked in a way I'd only dreamed about and I fell in love with revisions that day. I also enjoyed working with Randy so much that I decided to stay at Columbia for grad school and I begged him to be my thesis advisor. He and another one of my favorite Columbia professors, Patty McNair, got the first chapter of that thesis into the hands of a visiting agent, and when she said she'd love to see the manuscript when it was finished, Randy was there to help me whip it into shape. He worked with me over the summer AND while he was on sabbatical and provided me with detailed, handwritten notes (I should have received and honorary degree in the deciphering of handwriting). He is my greatest mentor and one of the main reasons a book called I WANNA BE YOUR JOEY RAMONE exists.
IWBYJR and BALLADS OF SUBURBIA would not exist at all if it weren't for Jennifer Heddle. She was the editor who bought those books and whose notes made them great. Randy taught me very well, but there was still a lot of "purple" and "awk" that Jen had to break me of as well as my habit of using all caps instead of describing emotion. And speaking of emotion, my books are often described as "raw" and "unflinching" but the thing is, I definitely flinched, especially when I had to get into Louisa and Kara's heads. Jen was the one who made me go there. She's also the one who helped me fill in the gaps at the end of BALLADS and write an ending that I'm truly proud of. I'm forever indebted to that woman and thrilled to have had the opportunity to work with her.
|Our latest Rookie Yearbook! Out Oct 21!|
Oh wait, there is a word. She is a gift. And so are Randy, Jen, Phoebe, Danielle, Lena, and Amy Rose. I am so lucky to have them in my life.