Friday, March 30, 2018

Whose Voice Is It Anyway? (By Marlo Berliner)

So, this month's theme is about YA voice and how we come up with it. Well, pull up a chair, make yourself comfortable, and I'm gonna tell you the secret. 
Comfy now? Ready to hear these great words of wisdom?
Well, here it is.
We use magic.
Okay you caught me, it's not really magic but if you do it right, it's the closest we'll ever get to magic. In my mind, the perfect YA voice captures what it feels like to be young - to be experiencing everything important in life for the first time, not knowing what the hell is going to happen next, and not knowing if you're getting anything right or everything wrong.
So, how does one distill the magic of youth down into the perfect elixir for a reader?
Personally, I get in my wayback machine and put myself back in my shoes as a teen. No, really. I do.
I ask myself things like - What would I have said in this situation? How would I have felt? What's the first thing I would've done? What's the last thing I would've done? Not me now, but me then.

I think it helps that I have two boys of my own - one who is 17 and one who is 20, only recently having left his teen years behind. I listen to the things my two boys say - not the buzzwords, the slang, or the jargon they use, because that will become dated very quickly - but instead, I listen to the undercurrent of what they're feeling, the subtext in their words. And that, is what I try to recreate on the page. I guess I do a decent job at it since my book, THE GHOST CHRONICLES, was just an Amazon #1 bestseller this week in the US, UK, Canada, and Australia.
The key is to never try to sound like a teenager. The minute you try too hard to sound like teenager, you've probably blown it completely. It will come off as inauthentic and clunky, at best. And that goes for trying too hard in both the narrative and the dialogue. One of the biggest mistakes I see in the YA manuscripts I read, in terms of voice, is this adult self-awareness that spews out of characters’ actions, mouths, thoughts and explained motivations. No, no, no. Very few teens are that self-aware of their inner-motivations, implications of their actions, or self-realization. They’re at a place in life where they’re just learning that part, and getting comfortable with that part. And that’s the magic.
One of the things I do very often to make sure I have an authentic voice in my manuscript is to read it out loud – all of it. Not just the dialogue. When I was growing up my hobbies were dance and theater, so I draw upon that experience. 
(I won't point out which one is me, or say what year it's from, but I'm in this yearbook picture of the Hun School Janus Players.)
So what I do is actually read the manuscript in each of the character’s voices. Many times I act it out, too. In other words, I get in character the same way an actor would. If anyone saw me while I was writing or heard the voice recordings on my phone, they would probably have me committed. I tend to dictate scenes into my phone that are well…complete scenes. With all the emotion, pauses, tears, whispers, screams, emphasis and inflections that there would be if you were seeing it on the silver screen. It may be a little weird, but that’s the best way I know for getting the actions, thoughts, and dialogue just right. If anything sounds contrived, or unnatural, or too much like adult-me, it gets cut when I transfer it to the page.
So there you have take on the YA voice.
I'll leave you with one last picture. This is my yearbook picture from the Hun School newspaper, The Mall. I'm the brooding writer in white all the way on the right. 
Marlo Berliner is the award-winning author of THE GHOST CHRONICLES, her debut book which was released in November 2015 to critical acclaim. The book won the 2016 NJRW Golden Leaf Award for Best First Book, was named FINALIST in the National Indie Excellence Awards for Young Adult Fiction, received the Literary Classics Seal of Approval, was awarded a B.R.A.G. Medallion, and was named one of the “best indie YA books we have seen in the past year, from both self-publishers and small presses” by IPPY Magazine. Marlo is represented by Eric Ruben of the Ruben Agency and she writes young adult, women’s fiction, and short stories. She is also an editorial intern for a NY literary agent. Her second book, THE GHOST CHRONICLES 2, was released in October 2017. 

When she's not writing or editing, Marlo loves reading, relaxing at the beach, watching movies, and rooting for the Penn State Nittany Lions. After having spent some wonderful time in Pittsburgh and Houston, she’s now back in her home state of New Jersey where she resides with her husband, two sons, and a rambunctious puppy named Max. 

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Some Things Never Change (Brian Katcher)

I always tell people there are three things you never put in a YA novel: Slang, celebrities and technology. These things change so quickly that they can quickly date your book. I once had to stop myself from having a character listening to a Sony Walkman.

But as my teenage years rapidly dwindle into the past, how do I keep my voice fresh? How do I make a character young enough to be my son sound like an actual contemporary teen?

Fortunately, I've found there are some universal themes that never lose their freshness. Og and Zogga were probably dealing with these during the stone age.

* The realization that your parents are not right about everything, and that you disagree with many of their beliefs. But what do you believe?

* The questioning of the once inviolate institutions of your government, your church, or your idols.

* Your old friends becoming increasingly distant and hard to relate to. What's changed?

* That first time your crush smiled at you and said 'Yeah, I like you too.'

* That first time your crush looked at you and said 'Not in a million years.'

* Your first taste of mortality. The realization that death comes for the young as well as the old.

* The realization that you're going to be on your own in a few years, without the support network you've come to rely on.

* The discovery that you cannot, in fact, do anything you want if you just believe in yourself.

* The discovery that you have a real talent, something that makes you unique and special.

* The realization (which will come far too late) that these times, while they may not be the best in your life, are great, and you'll never experience anything like them again.

Well, there you go. The secret to writing the perfect YA novel. Hey, you know what would really sell? A dystopia! And a cover with giant teen faces on it. Gold.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Character Voice in Fiction (and Voice Save America, for Real) by Dean Gloster

          Voice is the mysterious ingredient that hooks readers (and sells our stories to publishers) in part because it’s a compressed way to convey personality, humanity, and world view. As Stephen King said of good openings, voice says, “Listen. Come in here. You want to know about this.”
            My debut YA novel, Dessert First, opens in the voice of its first-person protagonist, hurting, funny sophomore Kat Monroe:
“I’ve thought a lot about what happens when we die, and I’m pretty sure it’s not reincarnation. No loving and merciful God would put us through high school twice.”
            In those twenty-nine opening words, Kat reveals herself. She thinks about serious subjects, grappling with them through humor. And she has a difficult relationship with her classmates.
That’s the first thing voice does: It reveals a character’s world view, sensibility, emotion, attitude, and what she most cares about. It conveys personality and uniqueness.

            Voice, in fiction, is difficult to describe and even harder to teach, in part because it’s a product of so many other things—narrative distance, point of view, word choice, style, emotion, and—especially—attitude. Voice is, at its essence, the splash of personality on the page, to create the complex colors of conflicting emotions. How do you describe or teach that?

            Fortunately, at least for establishing the voice of our protagonists, there are two approaches that make it easier. First, especially for young people, attitude comes out in voice and helps to create it. That’s one reason young adult fiction is often written in first person and is characterized by distinctive character voice—often, teens have plenty of attitude. Second, voice comes from earned (often painful) experience coupled with the willingness to express that experience authentically, instead of hiding it through conformity.
            My favorite YA book for striking voice is Adrienne Kisner’s forthcoming Dear Rachel Maddow, out on June 5 this year, but already a Junior Library Guild selection and winner of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. In it, Brynn Harper is reeling from her older brother’s overdose death, from abandonment by her father, from getting dumped by her first girlfriend, from getting shoveled into the remedial track in the high school basement, and from her mother’s remarriage to the abusive stepfather Brynn calls Fart Weasel.

            Brynn tells us the story in a series of hilarious, searing, profane, self-deprecatory emails to her hero Rachel Maddow. The unusual format is perfect, not only because it highlights Brynn’s terrific way with words, but also because political injustice at Brynn’s school is what gets Brynn energized to rejoin life. It’s a screamingly funny book that made me cry almost as many times as it made me laugh out loud. (Dozens.)
            But strong, arresting voice doesn’t have to dazzle with humor or crackle with creative word choice. One of my favorite examples of great voice is Ally Condie’s wonderful Summerlost, an Edgar award nominee last year. Twelve-year-old Cedar Lee is struggling after the car crash that killed her father and her autistic younger brother. She strikes an unlikely friendship with a boy in her new town, works at the summer Shakespeare festival, and investigates an old mystery of an actress’s death and a new one too—who or what is leaving her dead brother’s fidget objects on her window sill? But the real mysteries are of the human heart. What makes someone become your best friend, and how can you come to terms with your complicated grief after your father’s and brother’s death?

Kirkus Reviews wrote of Allie Condie’s earlier bestselling Matched series, that her “prose is immediate and unadorned with sudden pings of lush lyricism,” but it’s even better than that. Appropriate for her 12-year-old protagonist’s first-person voice, the sentences are simple, but also unselfconscious and achingly honest, as Cedar grapples with loss. “My brother was a boy and now he’s not anything.”
Somehow, Condie manages to capture and create, in words on a page, the feeling I get listening to some piano music, of how sound goes to silence, at the end of a note. That’s voice.
These three books have two things in common, in creating their distinct protagonist voices. First, the characters have strong attitudes. Second, each of the characters has gone through—and are going through—profound hurt and loss. And they’re willing to let that pain shape how they speak to the world and about the world, revealing their authentic selves. They are not silent, even as their voices break, at the edge of tears.

I’ve thought a lot about voice and young people in the last month, an extraordinary time in the U.S.
Teenage survivors of gun violence are speaking out, saying things about common-sense gun reform that their U.S. Senators are afraid to consider, let alone propose. Others, from the Black Lives Matter and Me Too movements, continue to speak out. Despite a concerted attempt to silence them all.
Young adult fiction insists that young people do have an authentic, valid experience worth listening to and a voice of their own to describe it.
That view, though, is now under assault. Two weeks ago Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson announced that teenagers are “children” and therefore “not citizens” entitled to have their views heard on the issue of gun regulation.

The Fourteenth Amendment, however, confers citizenship at birth in the U.S. And, as Trevor Noah put it, “If they're old enough to get shot, they're old enough to have an opinion about getting shot.”
In a thinly-veiled threat of violence that our “time is running out,” NRA ads also just targeted those of us using our voices to oppose their parroted talking points—including every “lying member of the media,” “Hollywood phony,” and “athletes who use their free speech to alter and undermine what our flag represents.” Threatening music, fade to black.
Note to the NRA: The U.S. flag actually represents freedom of speech and equal protection of the laws, not violent intimidation, political bribery, limitless profits for companies selling military-grade weapons to civilians, and institutionalized white supremacy.
At least at our best. And, as a country, we should strive to be our best.
But if we are going to be our best—or at least not our worst—people have to speak their authentic experience out loud. They have to use their voice. To speak out, to vote, to register other people to vote, and to have the backs of those who speak out in the face of efforts to silence them—including young people, people of color, and women.
We’re at a critical juncture, in the U.S., about whether we will be led by representatives who listen to us, or instead by rulers who tell us what to think and who to scapegoat.
So, while it’s still possible, use your voice.
To do that, bring your attitude and speak from your place of loss. And say it out loud.
Even—or especially—if your voice shakes with emotion.

Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out now from Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Dean is on Twitter: @deangloster. He recently gave up hopelessness for Lent and for the foreseeable future.

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

Characters' voices (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

Maryanne Fantalis wrote a great post about separating the author’s voice from the character’s. Another challenge is to make the characters sound different from one another.

As I’m writing, I listen to each character in turn. They all have their own agendas—the main character’s goal isn’t necessarily their goal. (It always drives me bonkers to read a book or see a movie in which secondary characters blithely and illogically disregard their own self-interest just to help out the protagonist.) They all have their own speech patterns and vocabularies. I’m constantly reminding myself “This one’s shy .... that one reads a lot ... this other one can’t bear to show any weakness ... that one keeps seeking approval ...” Sometimes I have a funny or powerful line that could be delivered by either of two characters, and I ask myself: Who would be more likely to say it? Which way would make the scene more effective?

I had one character (in a book as yet unpublished) who liked to see the world in mathematical, quantitative terms. He was always rating his experiences a scale of one to ten, or giving percentages. He would say, “That’s 40% likely to happen,” rather than, “It could happen, but I doubt it.” None of my other characters ever spoke that way.

Consider this passage from John Updike’s The Centaur:

Beyond, the Running Horse River reflected in its strip of black varnish the cobalt blue silently domed above. Elephant-colored gas tanks, mounted to rise and fall in cylindrical frames, guarded the city’s brick skyline: rose madder Alton, the secret city, lining the lap of its purple-green hills. The evergreen crest of Mt. Alton was a slash of black. My hand twitched, as if a brush were in it.

Can’t you just tell that the narrator is a painter? He sees the world in paint-tube colors (cobalt blue, rose madder), refers to varnish and to the “slash of black” that the mountain would be if he painted it. His urge to paint is so strong it’s essentially a reflex, making his hand twitch.

The narrator of Laurie Halse Anderson’s Speak is holding back a great secret. Her sentences are short and tight. (“My lip bleeds a little. It tastes like metal. I need to sit down.”) Her paragraphs and chapters are short and tight, reflecting how she has pulled inward. We know she is hurting, but for a long time we don’t know why. The truth will not come out easily; she has been nearly silenced.

Characters' voices are the filter through which their experiences come to us. Voice hints at who they are, how they see the world. It colors what they tell us, and how, and what they hold back.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Listen (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)

As others have pointed out this month, voice is that indefinable quality, that je ne sais quoi, that thing that must be learned but can't be taught. Having spent most of my life reading other people's writing for fun and profit (well, a little profit, anyway) I believe voice is the thing that makes the difference between a person who understands the mechanics of good writing and a person who can produce compelling writing that demands to be read.

That's so helpful, right? Good to know?

Here's what I can tell you about how I learned voice and how I found and am still finding my own.

Voice starts with listening.

Ever since I've been able to read, I've noticed that the voice of a text gets in my head and I start thinking in the voice of whatever I'm reading. For me, reading is the first act of listening.

I don't know that this is anything to brag about, but I am a mockingbird when it comes to voice. I can imitate just about anything. This has gotten me many a freelance job in an industry where matching your own tune seamlessly to the rest of the songbirds is one of the best skills you can have.

As with every other element of good writing, you learn voice by reading.

In my formal historical training, I learned to listen to documents, to catch the beat of a given time. It takes a while, at first, to read your way in, to realize that everything distilled for you before was filtered through lenses that drowned out the original voices, to understand that you are in a new place where you don't know the language and you have to listen hard to learn it. Research is the second act of listening.

My fiction has always begun with a voice in my head. The first step of writing is listening to the voice, sometimes for years, and hearing what it wants to say and how it wants to say it. A few years ago, people in the world of literature were having a delightful tempest in a teapot over point-of-view and tense and why an author would choose one and not the other. For me, it's never been an active choice. I've always gone with however the narrative voice came to me, for better or worse. Sometimes it's first person, sometimes third. Sometimes past tense, sometimes present. Good books are written in all of them—I thought the whole argument very silly.

I've never once worried--or perhaps, known how to worry--about whether I'm writing in a Middle Grade voice, or a YA voice, or an adult voice. People are not the same just because they are the same age. The best I can do is to listen to the characters. But it's possible I have an advantage here because I don't write contemporary fiction (I am nowhere near cool enough), so I don't have to keep up with exactly what the kids are saying these days.

So I guess listening is the third act of listening.

Voice is hard to explain, but if you're struggling with it, the best advice I have is to listen.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

The Edge of Seventeen: My YA Voice -- Jen Doktorski

About ten years ago I attended the Rutgers University Council on Children’s Literature. It’s a wonderful writers’ conference for those looking to break into the industry. I highly recommend applying.
At that time, after years of writing non-fiction, I’d finally found the courage to attempt writing fiction and had accumulated a handful of amateurish picture books, one middle grade novel with POV problems, and my first young adult novel, a sample of which I’d used as my conference application.
At the conference, one of the guest speakers mentioned something that resonated with me – with most of the room, in fact. He told us that all of us have an emotional age, the age we feel on the inside. He told us to think of that age without stopping to give it too much thought. A gut reaction. “I’m five years old,” said a picture book writer sitting near me. “I’m not quite seventeen,” I thought. With an August birthday, I turned 17 during the summer between my junior and senior years in high school. I don’t suppose it’s any coincidence that my first three novels take place during that same time period.
With me, I don’t think it was ever a matter of finding my YA voice, it was more like I never lost it.
Still, that doesn’t exactly explain how I developed that edge-of-seventeen voice to begin with. Or discovered that “voice” was something I was good at when it came to writing. But maybe this does.
During my senior year in high school, I took a humanities course—my school’s version of honors English. One of our first assignments was to write an autobiography. I remember taking a light-hearted approach to mine, focusing on the idiosyncrasies of my Italian-American family, like the way we called any red pasta sauce “gravy,” and our tradition of meeting at my grandmother’s house for an early dinner after the noon mass every Sunday. (Attendance at either wasn’t optional.) I had grown up worshipping at the altar of Erma Bombeck, Judy Blume, S.E, Hinton, and Joan Rivers (Can we talk?) and my early writing style very much reflected my need/want to be any and all of those great women. Add a heavy dose of Jersey, more specifically north Jersey, and voila, Jen’s early writing voice is born.
When it came time to hand back our papers, the teacher walked up and down the aisle explaining her disappointment with our autobiographies. (How can you screw up an autobiography? one might ask). When she got to my desk she stopped and said. “I read yours late at night after I’d already given up hope.” On the front was an “A” with the words. “Finally, a real person speaks out!”
Her comment stuck with me and eventually it figured into the way I created characters as I transitioned from non-fiction to fiction writing. It doesn’t matter if characters are made up, they still need to speak out as real people, and not just through dialogue but in their narrative voice as well. Not surprisingly, my novels come to me by way of my characters speaking out. Rosie, from How My Summer Went up in Flames said to me, “I wasn’t always the kind of girl who wakes up to find myself on the receiving end of a restraining order,” and Quinn, from my upcoming novel, August and Everything After, said “I started wearing my grandmother’s cat-eye glasses after my last crush nearly crushed.”
After some tweaking, those became the first lines in their respective novels. So yeah, seventeen-year-old characters chat with the 17-teen-year old in my head. We start the conversation and keep it going until it’s a finished novel. I enter their worlds and live their lives and when it’s time to say good-bye, I’m heartbroken.
For the first time I’m working on an adult novel and I have to say, the conversations in my head have been different. It’s more like I’m eavesdropping. I’m not sure if I’ve created an emotional distance by writing in third person—my YA novels are all in first—or if my grown-up characters don’t bring that raw, teenage emotion to their interactions. Are my adult characters holding back? I welcome insights from those of you who write both adult and YA novels. Is your process different?

Saturday, March 24, 2018

My Roundabout Path to a Teen Voice (Brenda Hiatt)

I probably came at my YA author voice a bit differently than most because I’d been writing Regency-set historical romance for years before attempting my first young adult novel. After 15 books set in the past, I had my historical voice down solid, to the point I sometimes threw occasional Regency-isms into conversation, then had to explain what I meant. 

What do you mean, you were "at sixes and sevens"??

Unfortunately, writing 15 historical romance novels in a row, some on tight publisher deadlines, left me fairly burned out on the genre—and, for a while, writing itself. Needing a complete escape, I began reading outside the genre and found myself gravitating to recent middle-grade and teen fiction, beginning with the Harry Potter series and moving on to the Twilight series, the Hunger Games series and more. 

A few of the books that lured me into YA
There was something about all of these books that appealed strongly to me. The world-building in some was exceptional, of course, but I think what spoke to me most was the emotion. These not-quite-adults felt such raw yearning about, oh, everything! As teens do, because when you’re a teen, even small things feel desperately important. The more I read, the more juiced I was to try my hand at writing teen romance, where I could fling so much more emotion on the page than I could believably do with adult fiction, historical or contemporary. As it happened, I’d had a vague “what if?” idea playing in the back of my mind for a year or two that lent itself perfectly to a YA novel, maybe even a series. So…what the heck? Maybe this was just what I needed to get my writing juices flowing again.

And it was. But it was also much harder than I expected—and the main reason for that was Voice. Needless to say, my Regency historical voice did not work when narrating a book from the perspective of a modern 15-year-old girl. 

For example, my Regency heroine’s best friend might say: 

“Goodness, but Lord Foxhaven is handsome! I vow, if we ladies are not careful, he could quite turn our heads.” 

Meanwhile, my teen heroine’s friend is more like: 

“OMG, have you seen the new guy, Rigel? Is he to die for, or what?”

Because this was my very first effort in a new-to-me genre, I knew I had to get it exactly right…but it was hard. What helped most was time-traveling (inside my head) back to high school and my own teen years, when I was a lot like my geeky, insecure heroine who never quite fit in. Once I was able to slip into that mindset, the words really began to flow. Now, this isn’t to say that I had a “magic moment” and the writing suddenly became easy. Even after five books and a novella in that series, it’s still not easy. But it started to feel more and more natural and, more importantly, writing became fun again!
By the time that first book, STARSTRUCK, was finished, I had put more of myself into Marsha/M than any other character I’d ever written. Is it any wonder I love these books—and this character—so much? 

As part of getting my teen voice just right, I employed a small army of beta readers for that first book, beginning with my own daughters. Teens can be pretty brutal (especially when they’re your own!) but that was exactly what I wanted and needed. Needless to say, their feedback helped enormously—even if it stung occasionally. And judging by the reviews and emails I’ve been receiving about this series, a lot of readers agree! 

As a side note, after writing the first four books in this series (a complete story arc, after which I was ready to shift gears), I decided to attempt another historical romance…and getting back into that voice also took a bit of effort! Now I make a point of reading a few favorite books in whichever genre I’m about to write to get back into the proper groove. So far, so good!

Brenda Hiatt is the NY Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-three novels (so far), including sweet and spicy historical romance, time travel romance, humorous mystery and young adult science fiction romance. When not writing, Brenda is passionate about embracing life to the fullest and enjoys scuba diving, Taekwondo, hiking, and traveling. Learn more at

Friday, March 23, 2018

Voices from the Past
By Christine Gunderson

I didn’t have a best friend when I was fourteen years old. I had many lovely friends, but not one soul-mate, Before Anyone Else kind of best friend.

Like all fourteen-year old girls, I had a lot going on inside my head and inside my heart. I had unrequited love and parental idiocy and the horrors of algebra to discuss. I needed an outlet.

So, I invented a best friend. Yes, I was one of those kids. Her name was Emily. I borrowed the name from the Emily of New Moon character created by L.M. Montgomery. I loved Emily. I could tell her anything and she was always there, available to listen, because she lived inside my bedroom in the empty pages of a diary.

I called it a journal, however. I couldn’t refer to it as a diary, because that sounded like a silly teenaged girl locked in her pink bedroom with a poster of the Soloflex Man on the wall writing trivial stories of crushes and heartache and dreams and ambitions and love. I was way too cool for that. So even though this is exactly what I was writing about in my diary, I called it a journal.

I started writing in this journal at fourteen and I continued to write it in, almost daily, certainly weekly, for the next twenty-two years. I stopped writing in my journal when I got married. I’m not sure why. Maybe my husband took the place of the best friend and confidant I’d found on paper all those years ago. Or maybe it’s because I had children shortly after, and just didn’t have time.

How does this relate to voice? Well, anytime I need to be reminded how a teenaged girl thinks and feels, I dig into an old trunk filled with my journals and travel back in time to eavesdrop on a conversation with myself.

I can visit myself at fourteen. Or sixteen or seventeen. I see the deep blue scratches and heavy pen marks and exclamation points of strong emotion everywhere in those journals. It reminds me that I felt everything deeply when I was a young adult.

I read the words I used to describe my mother, the best mother a girl could possibly have, and who I love deeply as an adult, but who I described at fourteen as “beyond irritating.”

I see evidence of insta-love everywhere. “Insta-love” for the non-writers among us, is a term used to describe a book where the heroine and hero fall in love too fast, with no real basis for their affection. But insta-love was a major feature of my journals. I was always falling into insta-love, with Matthew Broderick and Harrison Ford and the boy I saw at the mall but never spoke to. It wasn’t love of course. But it felt like love, and that’s the point.

Everything felt like deep love or all-consuming hate or lethal boredom or explosive excitement. Like all young adults, then and now, I felt everything. Everything.

I’m now many years removed from the fourteen-year-old girl who started those journals. I’m middle aged. The thing I feel most often these days is tired. Or mildly irritated. And so, when I write, I go back to those journals and visit myself again when I was seventeen. That girl was smart, sarcastic, curious, passionate, romantic and above all, she was in love with words and with books. When I write Young Adult books, I write them for her.