Meet Me (and Tess, and Maggie) in NYC!

Yes, today was originally supposed to be a high-school post day, but then things went and got hectic and disorganized and I had to drive to the airport, which is far away, and also I really really want to use this one specific picture, because I think the post will be stupid without it, but I can’t find the picture, but I think I know where it is, so just give me some time and I will track it down!

In lieu of that post, I have a fun thing: an announcement for all you bloggers headed to BEA in June!

(Also, my announcement presupposes that the bloggers I’m addressing are interested in what I write, or what Maggie Stiefvater writes or what Tessa Gratton writes, or a combination. But then, you’re here, so it’s probably safe to assume that you are, at the very least, aware that I write books.)

Now, the announcement—Carolrhoda Lab, who’s the publisher of our upcoming anthology The Curiosities, is going to be hosting a blogger breakfast, and right now, they’re holding a contest over on Facebook where you can enter to win an invitation!

If your name is picked, you’ll come eat breakfast with me and Tess and Maggie and a few other Carolrhoda authors, and ask us questions and participate in general merriment, and I will try so, so hard not to spill anything on myself.

(Which is something I do sometimes.)

(It’s problematic.)

Anyway, if you’re a blogger who’s going to BEA and hanging out with us sounds like a fun time, go and get entered, and hopefully I’ll see you at breakfast!

Better Late (Five Fictional Characters)

Okay, get ready to laugh at me.

Ready . . .

Ready . . .

Are you ready for it?

Here we go:

I’ve been working on this particular meme for roughly two years.

Yes. I know. In my defense, though, it was a really hard meme.

The instructions are simple. (Deceptively so.) List five fictional characters you closely identify with, and then explain why. Not five characters you admire, or find attractive, or think are funny, but five characters that you personally—like, as a person—identify with.

Now, let’s be very clear. It’s not that I consider myself to be such a mystery that I’m unquantifiable, and it’s not that no one ever appreciates or writes about people like me. It’s just that my type hardly ever shows up as more than a peripheral role—the literary equivalent to a walk-on. (In fact, some of my personal five are walk-ons.)

The following list can be roughly categorized by tropes (okay, sometimes the tropes are stupid-specific ones that I kind of made up, but still, I am organized. Look how organized I am!)

Also, some of the character descriptions may seem to sit in direct conflict with each other, but that’s not really true. Because inside, I think that a person can really be a lot of people, depending on the situation.

My list of Brennaesque characters reads as follows:

The Comic Relief

Luna Lovegood—Harry Potter. So, when I was in high school, I had this very bizarre sense of fashion. It was heavily influenced by my nonexistent budget, but also, it was kind of made worse by my affinity for … trinkets. I mean, I decorated everything. I sewed plastic Christmas ornaments on my sweaters and glued tiny dollhouse clocks to my shoes. I went out in public wearing rubber monster finger puppets. Plural. More than one.

I didn’t usually volunteer opinions, but if you asked, I’d certainly tell you what I thought. Regardless of how blunt or inconsiderate or strange it was. And sometimes I knew that I shouldn’t, but most of the time, diplomacy didn’t even occur to me. Because honesty is a virtue and precision matters. Because when you are Luna Lovegood, things mostly seem to sort themselves out. Sometimes you’re mildly perturbed when people call you crazy, but there’s really no point in being tragic about it.

Also, in order to make people start taking you seriously, you’d have to stop doing all the things you like. And well, that’s no fun.

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In Which I Answer All Your Questions

Actually, these are mostly not your questions, since for the vast majority of people reading this right now, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that you probably came here on purpose. (And also, if you wanted to know something I hadn’t said already, you’d probably just ask me.)

So, a cool thing about WordPress is that the site-stats feature lets you see a list of all the search terms and combinations that brought visitors to your site. (Don’t worry, I have absolutely no idea who visited the blog or searched for which various weird things, or even what geographical region the queries came from, so this is purely an exploration of the vagaries of the internet.)

Anyway, because I think the feature is just pretty awesome and because some of the searches are frankly hilarious, I’m going to do my best to address the concerns of the people.

In an attempt to prove that I am sometimes mildly responsible, the first questions I’m going to answer are the actual Brenna-themed ones that aren’t addressed in my FAQ.

Starting with a very popular one:

how old is brenna yovanoff
brenna yovanoff born
how old is brenna yovanoff ?
brenna yovanoff birthdate
when was brenna yovanoff born
brenna yovanoff date of birth

Okay, so yes. I know why this is even an issue. It’s because I’m very short, and when I talk, I sound basically like I am five. But I’m not five.

I am actually thirty-two, and I’m telling you this now for the sake of posterity, because I don’t think it does anyone any good to go around assuming that I’m some stray child who has catapulted into the professional sphere, when really, I’m just marginally childlike.

And in related searches:

where is brenna yovanoff from
where was brenna yovanoff born
is brenna yovanoff russian

So the most basic answer to this is that I’m from the United States of America. I was born in California and then my family moved to Arkansas, and after that, Colorado. However, if you’re wondering about my last name or my cultural heritage, my dad is half-Macedonian, which is why I have a pretty prominent bump on my nose. (Well, also because I’ve been hit in the face a lot by various pieces of sporting equipment. But it was always there—it’s just gotten more noticeable. By which I mean broken.)

is brenna yovanoff writing anymore books
is brenna yovanoff working on book 3?
brenna yovanoff new book
new book for brenna yovanoff

A good rule of thumb for this one is to just assume that the answer is always YES. However, the more specific answer to this question is, I’m currently working on Paper Valentine, which is scheduled to come out next February and you can read more about it here.

who is brenna yovanoff married to

Aw, you guys are a bunch of romantics! I’m married to this guy. Also, I’m not telling you his name.

brenna yovannof secret crush

While I suspect that most people were just trying to go to this post, there’s a small possibility that some of you are in fact trying to determine if real, live, grown-up me has a secret crush. In which case, I can’t tell you, because then it wouldn’t be a secret. However, I can tell you that in a dignified, mature, and purely rational capacity … I am an avid fan of both Ryan Gosling and Joseph Gordon Levitt. And that is all I’m saying on the subject.

brenna yovanoff bug phobia

Ooh, ooh—you’re talking about the centipede story! And yes, I totally have a bug phobia. But only centipedes. Because they are the devil. Continue reading

Before I Fall: A Book Reportish

For the next Book I Wish Had Existed When I Was in High School, I absolutely have to tap Before I Fall, by Lauren Oliver.

before I fall

Full disclosure: I put off reading this one for a really long time because I didn’t think I was going to like it. The premise—which could sort of be described as Groundhog Day meets Mean Girls (popular girl dies, only to relive the same day over and over again while learning to be a better person)—struck me as being at high risk for rampant sentimentality, complete with Lessons Learned, and even as a little kid, I was pretty resistant to cautionary tales and anything that smacked of after-school-special.

And then when I finally picked it up, I was duly chastened, because instead of being not my thing at all, it turned out to be exactly my thing.

For those who haven’t read it, Before I Fall is kind of a strange beast. Oliver combines a bunch of elements I really like, but don’t often see happily coexisting together. Even though the central device is thoroughly fantastical, this is a book that reads 100% like contemporary realism, (which is one of my favorite genres). The depictions of daily life are fully articulated and lovingly mundane, and the complex social interactions of the characters are the most important part of the story. The fact that our narrator is reliving the same day over and over again is not The Point, but rather, a way to get a really good look at the precarious dynamics of high school social schemas.

Before I Fall is widely acknowledged to be a book about mean girls. However, I’d make the case that Sam, the main character, is not a prototypical mean girl. At the outset of the story, she’s definitely a weak girl, but there’s nothing sadistic about her, which I think is in keeping with the realities of bullying—meaning that most people who act in antisocial ways are not sadistic. Rather, they’re bad at propelling themselves through society in a way that doesn’t damage or exploit others, and also prone to hitching themselves to those vicious few who have no reservations about using power like a weapon.

When I talked about The Big Crunch last week , I was mostly interested in what that book could have told teenage-me about myself. With Before I Fall, the more pertinent thing is what it might have been able to tell me about my world, because it completely debunks the politics of bullying as depicted by movies like Heathers* without taking the position of apologist. I’m not going to go so far as to say it necessarily functions as a guide book to the underlying messiness and paranoia of teenage popularity, but it has to at least qualify as a brochure.

(The kind with a map on the back.)

*Heathers was my favorite movie as a tween—taught me everything I thought I knew about adolescence. Then I got to school and had to unlearn half of it.

The Big Crunch: A Book Report. Sort of.

To reiterate very briefly, I am currently revising Paper Valentine. It’s new and exciting and lots of fun, BUT. It definitely cuts into the amount of time I can devote to other things. For instance, blogging.*

I don’t want to neglect the blog entirely though, because I like it, and I like you guys. So, here is what I’m going to do. I’ve been thinking for awhile that I’d really like to put together a short series on Books High-School Brenna Would Have Loved (except they didn’t exist yet), and this seems like a good an opportunity.

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Sh*t Writers Say (also, I am a bad blogger)

First things first, I am a bad blogger.

Things that have contributed to blog-silence, in order of occurrence, 75% work-related:

  1. Final stages of Merry Fates anthology madness
  2. Knee surgery
  3. Edit letter
  4. Writing retreat

With that in mind, I’d like to take this moment to assure anyone who might be wondering that—you know the drill—I’m not dead, and things will be returning to normal very shortly. At least, shortly when considered in the grand scheme of things (continents drifting, stars colliding).

Continue reading

Waffles

Today I acquired a waffle iron.

I swear I was not going to write about this. I was going to think up something useful to tell you. Something educational and craft-oriented, maybe about plot or structure, maybe even illuminating or totally insightful. But I have to be honest. I am really excited about this waffle iron.

The thing is, I like routine. Even though a lot of times the things I do look chaotic and kind of arbitrary, I do actually have a particular writing routine—I write anywhere, but I’m absolutely 100% happiest with my fingerless gloves and my headphones and a hot drink.

So, a long time ago at my parents house, we had this waffle iron. It was huge and heavy and not pretty, and probably manufactured before I was born. My mom got it from a yardsale or somewhere, and it had that thick, glossy 1970s enamel finish and I’m pretty sure I’m the only person in the house who ever used it.

Now, where I am going with this.

Whenever I have to buckle down and behave responsibly and get to work, I like to have a little bit of basic structure to start me off. Back in the day, teenage-Brenna was vague and unpredictable and buzzed around like a hummingbird, making overly-ambitious cut-paper snowflakes, and leaving stray socks around like a trail of breadcrumbs, but for two hours on Saturdays, I can pretty much tell you exactly where I’d be.

Every Saturday morning during soccer season, here is how it went:

I would get up, make a big, fluffy batch of waffles for me and Little Sister Yovanoff. Then, we’d fix our plates, take them into the living room, sit down on the floor, and watch Pulp Fiction.

There. My every-soccer-weekend routine: vintage kitchen appliance, syrup-drenched breakfast food, Tarantino.

And now, I literally have not had homemade waffles since I was in high school. Sometimes I think fondly of them. Sometimes I catch myself daydreaming about them, about violent, convoluted movies and snappy, stylized dialogue. (Wishing for it. Feeling nostalgic and wistful.)

But all that it about to change. Because now I have a waffle iron.

Why I Love Survival Horror (or, Wasting Time Is Sometimes Okay)

There are days when people look at me and see a vague, flighty girl with too much hair and not enough common sense. And yes, I’ll admit it—I don’t always do a lot to dispel that notion. And honestly, why should I? After all, that girl exists. She’s a real, true (-ish) version of me. Part, but not all.

Here’s the thing: when I’m on, I’m ON. I mean, it’s like being a person-sized nuclear reactor or some sort of freaky futuristic human battery that’s the opposite of those lazy, comatose ones in The Matrix.

I don’t need food or sleep or social interaction. I can literally live off the warm, quick-burning fuel of ideas. I dismantle things and put them back together and get stupidly ambitious. Sometimes, if I spend enough nights not sleeping, I make bloody anatomically-representational hearts out of cake. I go off on wild, incoherent tangents. I can’t tell the difference between a good idea and a bad idea, and what would be an unequivocally awesome idea if that last elusive piece would just drop into place. Basically, if I concentrated hard enough, I might accidentally catch on fire.

This is all starting to sound like a superpower, and it’s not. Or at least, it’s not a very good one. Similar to a number of chemical elements, when I’m in my most productive state, I’m also massively unstable, and I don’t mean in a mental-health way.* It’s more like I’m walking a fine line between sustained fission and full-scale meltdown. One false move and the whole structure will go up in a tower of flames.

It’s exhilarating, but unnerving. Let me just say, when I feel the productivity-switch flip, I tread very carefully.**

This is me taking an unnecessary number of paragraphs to say that I turned in my first draft of Paper Valentine, and then spent the last two days doing nothing.

And it was weird.

Oh, I did stuff—I slept ten hours a night and watched three different football games and made banana bread, and played video games. I read some books and did some Christmas shopping. I have yet to tackle my laundry.

But I didn’t do anything that really qualified as work. Later, I’ll probably make some floral-themed hair ornaments out of paper. I’ll snuggle up on the couch with a sandwich and a blanket and kill some more zombies. I’ll sleep really well.

Whenever I finish a project, it’s hard to adjust. There’s a big, important part of me that needs this—this complete powering down—but the quick, puzzle-solving mastermind part hates being put back in the box. That part panics and thrashes and tells me things like I’m falling behind, wasting time. Malingering.

No matter how stark and eerie sleep-deprivation starts to feel, it’s always kind of a rush to be in the heightened state. I can’t help it—I have a soft spot for the version of me where I write fourteen hours a day and bake ten pies and watch Arrested Development at three in the morning because it’s just going to be light in four hours anyway.

But she is not okay.

It wasn’t until grad school that I truly started to understand I was stuck with this part, maybe for the rest of my life. She wasn’t something I’d eventually grow out of (in fact, she was getting stronger), and so I was going to have to learn to deal with myself one way or another. I developed a strategy.

This is where the video games come in.

See, the mastermind part hates dithering or wasting time, but she loves survival horror. Whenever it’s time to ease her back into a normal schedule, I placate her with creaky ghost-towns and decrepit zombie-filled mansions, because if she feels useful and like she has a task, she shuts up. She lets vague, dreamy Brenna clean the kitchen and make barrettes and do Christmas shopping.

So, for the next few weeks, this is what’s going to happen: the hyperfocused, task-oriented part of me will sit quietly, shoot her zombies, hone her strategies and solve her puzzles. She will do this without complaint. Cheerfully, even. She will stop fidgeting and get a grip.

The rest of me will be doing good if I make it to the post office.

*I should check with D on this one, having lost absolutely all objectivity.

**Figuratively speaking. In real life, I bump into the furniture a lot.

Happy-Happy

Just really quick, I’m stopping in a day early to say hello. Also, that I like you guys! (And even though I’m still on crutches, I’m not even cranky anymore—it’s a miracle!)

Since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I won’t be around to do a high school post. Instead, I’m going to bake a lot of pies and then go see my parents and my sister and my cousins and all my aunts and uncles (subtext: my family is really, really tremendous, both in terms of wonderfulness and sheer numbers).

High school posts will return next Thursday, and I’m thinking that for this coming Monday, I’ll even put together an actual writing-related post (What? Brenna, doing something organized and educational and possibly even prescriptive? I know!), where I talk about revision and how to gut a story and keep the good parts.

(We’ll see how it goes.)

Until then, I hope you all have a great week, and even if you’ve got nothing fun planned, just … do something fun anyway—do something that you love!