Tag Archives: This Is Sarah

Stories Are A Lie And A Truth All Rolled Up Into One

22 Nov

When I was in college, a friend told me that she thought I had Borderline Personality Disorder.

I didn’t know what that meant so I looked it up.

Borderline personality disorder (BPD) is a serious mental illness marked by unstable moods, behavior, and relationships.

Here’s some of the signs:

  • Extreme reactions—including panic, depression, rage, or frantic actions—to abandonment, whether real or perceived
  • A pattern of intense and stormy relationships with family, friends, and loved ones, often veering from extreme closeness and love (idealization) to extreme dislike or anger (devaluation)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image or sense of self, which can result in sudden changes in feelings, opinions, values, or plans and goals for the future (such as school or career choices)
  • Intense and highly changeable moods, with each episode lasting from a few hours to a few day
  • Chronic feelings of emptiness and/or boredom

 

Needless to say, she was wrong. She didn’t mean borderline like that. She meant borderline like something on the edge. Open to interpretation.

She was trying to say that I have a malleable personality.

Flexible? Yes.

Ranging in extremes? Yes.

Subject to flights of fancy? Hell yes.

I saw my oldest sister the other day and during our conversation she told me a story about one of our Ya-Ya weekends together. Our Ya-Ya weekends were when my two sisters and I would get together for one weekend a year and hang out. We all live far away, my family had been through some hard shit at the time, so my sisters and I decided that we would make a point of seeing each other, just the three of us, once a year.  I have fond memories of these weekends.

But the story she told me  was one I didn’t remember, which isn’t a shock – I have a terrible memory. It’s the reason I have kept journals since I was a teenager.

So at one of these weekends I apparently burst into tears when my sister was faux-complaining about the “press 1 for English” thing on the phones. Again, I don’t remember this. I can only assume it happened because it SOUNDS like me.

I think it’s empathy to a fault.

Faulty empathy. Squishy-mushy personalities. I can quite easily put myself in someone else’s shoes. The problem is, I never seem to give them their shoes back. I just sort of keep them, carry them around with me emotionally.

I’m like an emotional junk lady.

labyrinth

Remember her?

I just keep collecting other people’s stories and twisting them together with my own.

When I was younger I had a problem with lying. I like to think it was an unhealthy expression of my innate desire to tell stories but the fact is I hurt people so I don’t deserve to get off the hook that easily.

But it’s like I would pick up pain or happiness or fear or anger and stick it on my back and it would become a part of me. Even if I didn’t own the cause of those feelings to begin with.

I was thinking about this because the number one question I have gotten from people who have read my book This Is Sarah is that they want to know if this is based on a true story.

And I tell them again and again, it’s not. I am not Sarah, or Colin, or Claire.

No one I knew had been kidnapped.

So, they wanted to know, how did I know so much about what it’s like to go through something like that?

Because everyone I knew had lost someone.

Had grieved. Including me. And grief, regardless of how it arrives, is universal.

I thought that was a pretty good answer. And yet more often than not they were disappointed.

As if my “making it up” was somehow untruthful.

A lie.

I had deceived them.

They wanted the story itself to be real. It didn’t matter that the emotions were. It didn’t matter that the pain and the anger and the fear were. It didn’t matter that some people, like Colin, shut down in the face of death. That other people, like Claire, refused to. None of that mattered as much as wanting it to be true.

Strange how people are, isn’t it?

John Green wrote a book called The Fault In Our Stars. You’ve probably heard of it. It’s pretty famous. He dedicated the book to Esther Earl. Esther was a young girl that died of cancer, and the author of “This Star Won’t Go Out.

Mr. Green met Ms. Earl at a Harry Potter convention. He was moved by her story and he credits her with being part of the inspiration for his character Hazel. The book was published in 2012, after her death.

In a goodreads interview John said the following:

I could never have written this if I hadn’t known Esther. She introduced me to a lot of the ideas in the book, especially hope in a world that is indifferent to individuals, and empathy. She redefined the process of dying young for me.

Walking out of the hospital in 2000, I knew I wanted to write a story about sick kids, but I was so angry, so furious with the world that these terrible things could happen, and they weren’t even rare or uncommon, and I think in the end for the first ten years or so I never could write it because I was just too angry, and I wasn’t able to capture the complexity of the world. I wanted the book to be funny. I wanted the book to be unsentimental. After meeting Esther, I felt very differently about whether a short life could be a rich life.

But a lot of people have interpreted that to mean that John’s main character IS Esther.

As if a story about death – the most universal thing of all – the only thing that equalizes every living creature – wasn’t as powerful if there wasn’t one specific life behind it.

Again, people are strange.

Gayle Forman, also pretty famous, wrote a book called If I Stay. It is the story of Mia, a girl who narrates her story from a hospital bed after losing her entire family in a car crash. Except Mia is in a coma.

Gayle wrote a piece for the New York Times about how that car full of people were her friends. Except for Gayle, no one lived.

Mia, the cellist, was fiction, but the accident, and Mia’s family — her punk-rocker turned 1950s throwback of a father, her strong-willed mother and her adorable little brother — were resurrected from the ashes of my loss. A loss that no longer had the power to sucker punch but instead had become part of me, like a scar, or maybe a smile line.

I fell off a waterfall one year in high school. I also fell in love with a boy who fell in love with another boy. That’s a story I’m working on telling but in the end, it will just be that: A story.

The power in stories lie in the fact that they are universal. That the people that populate them are us.

You. Me. Them. Us.

That they are talking about something that we all know.

Love. Sadness. Hearbreak. Fear. Joy. Misery. Loneliness.

Stories are woven. They’re partially the writer, partially the people they know, part strangers, part imagination, part reader.

They’re a lie and a truth all rolled up into one.

And if they’re good, then they make us remember what it means to be us.

 

 

THIS IS ALLY-WEEN

31 Oct

 

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Happy Halloween kids!

Easily my favorite holiday of the year. You can keep your overcooked dried turkeys and your relentless jingle bells. All true mischief makers know that Halloween is the best holiday of the year!

I heard from a pretty reliable source there was promise of Dum-Dums in my future.

ROOTBEER DUM DUMS!!!

download

Before we close out this month, I have a couple quick thank yous to share:

Revising/editing/publishing This Is Sarah and revising Palimpsest has really taken up a huge chunk of my writing time in these last 10 months. Poetry has certainly (until recently) taken the backseat so I’m always especially grateful when awesome mags pick up something. So many thanks to Underground Books for taking these poems from the How To Be An American Series and to Commonline Journal for accepting Marriage.

The Blue Hour – one of my favorite magazines – has a new anthology out. This is their third one and if it’s anything like the other two (and I know it will be) it will certainly be a fascinating collection. The best thing about Anthologies is that you get to discover new poets in them! Check it out if you have a chance. Blue Hour doesn’t sell on Amazon so be a gem and get it directly from the site. Then you’re supporting small presses, poetry, and non-behemoths. A win for us all!

In book news, I’ve got a few copies of This Is Sarah involved in a massive giveaway hosted by Krista and Kristen.

I wrote about it here.

So if you want to win some books, there are approximately 9 bajillion available. Enter here!

And in other Sarah news, thanks to Rosie at Eat Read Glam for the review and to Missy at MidSummer for the same.

Blog reviews are gold to a small press publisher. And FINALLY I had a blast bs-ing with Tasha Cotter, my press buddy.  Her new book, Red Carpet Day Job is forthcoming from BookFish Books.

And that’s about it for my month.

Anyway kids, have a blast tonight.

Start Some Trouble.

Fall in Love.

Do the Time Warp Again.

Play piano with a pretty little dead girl.

 

A few thoughts (and a few too many words) on publishing

28 Oct

WARNING! WARNING! WARNING!

THE POST IS NOT MEANT TO DISRESPECT ANY FORM OF PUBLISHING WHATSOEVER.

Just so there isn’t any confusion about what I’m about to say.

So I was invited to participate in the Indie Fall Fest by Krista and Kristen. My very cool press BookFish Books hooked me up with them and I was excited to have a chance to share my latest novel, This Is Sarah, with the world. Both Krista and Kristen have been unbelievable  – juggling a million different writers and blog posts, handling interviews and giveaways. Honestly there are 141 books being given away. This thing is huge.

So part of the procedure involved me filling out a questionaire and the first question on there said:

Which was the first Indie book that you can recall reading?

And I stopped right there because I wasn’t sure how to answer that question. And the reason was because the word “Indie” means different things to different people.

To some indie means what it has meant since bands started their own record labels in their garage in 1983. It means “Independent.”

But these days, in publishing indie can mean small press OR it can mean self-published.

Now, at this point I emailed for clarification. Because I wanted to double check and see. Did they think that I self-published This Is Sarah? Was that why I was invited? NOT THAT THERE IS ANYTHING WRONG WITH SELF PUBLISHING but my press and my editors at BookFish worked really hard on this and the last thing I wanted was for people to think it was all ME. Cause honestly, this cover?

cover

Not me. So very much not me. I couldn’t even begin to figure out how to make something like that nor would I even know how to go about finding someone like the talented Anita who made the cover.

Mine would have a stick figure. And not even a good one.

And the scene in the book where Colin gets into that fist fight with Michael. This one:

 

I hang up just as Michael grabs me and pulls me out of the closet. The phone falls out of my hand, clattering to the floor. I don’t have time to balance myself, let alone get him off me, before he throws me against the wall of lockers.

Just for the record, you see this sort of shit in movies all the time―people getting thrown into walls and doors, and they just bounce right back like the whole place is padded or something. Well, the lockers sure as shit aren’t padded, and as one of the locks grinds into my lower spine, I can promise you, it hurts way more than you imagine. White hot pain shoots up to my shoulders.

“What the fuck did you say to her?” Michael growls.

For a moment, everything goes blank, and I curl my hand into a fist. Michael lets me go, and I turn to walk away. But he’s not done, and now, he grabs me again by the shirt and throws me back against the locker.

More pain and then something just snaps in my head. I picture them together. I see Michael kissing Sarah, taking off her clothes. I see him whispering in her ear. In my head, everything goes white, and I swing.

My fist connects with his jaw, and his head snaps back. I swing again, even though my hand is on fire with pain, and I worry that I broke at least a few bones.

 

I might have written those words, but the scene itself was suggested by Mary and both Jen and Erin cleaned it up so it didn’t sound like crap.

This is what I’m getting at with Small Presses. They take care of you. The pick you up, dust you off, make sure you don’t sound dumb and push you out the door like a kid on her way to 2nd grade. They walk you to the bus stop, wave as you go and when you get home they’re right there waiting with cookies to hear all about your day.

And they bust their butt promoting your stuff online.

Back in 2013, I wrote a post for Pen and Muse about how my first novel was rejected by every major press in America. It was both utterly liberating and utterly humiliating to talk about. No one wants to talk about failure right?

Except maybe it isn’t failure.

I understand that my first book – a story about a girl who discovered she was the last living descendant of Shakespeare and gets swept away to a magical version of New York –  might not be a marketing department’s cup of tea. They all let me down real easy – “thanks kid, you can write but this just isn’t for us.” kind of thing. So instead it went to a small press.

And when I wrote This Is Sarah – it was just a novella – not the sort of thing a major press would be interested in especially from a nobody like me. But there again was another small press ready to talk.

Marketing a book these days is not easy. It’s an incredible amount of work – work done by both the press and by the artist. There are blog posts and facebook posts and tumblr and tweets that need to be going all day. And they can’t ALL be about your writing because then you’re one of those really annoying people on twitter that only talk about their work or their book, this unending noise of “BUY ME BUY ME BUY ME!”

Instead it has to be this suave version of “hey i’m really funny and interesting and that’s just me being me and oh, what’s that? Oh yeah, I wrote a book. No biggie. Here it is. Shrug.”

Not so easy, especially  for us (*ahem*) less than outgoing types. I was so thankful for all the extra promotion that Bookfish got me – setting up the cover release tour and book reviews and tweeting and facebooking their little hearts out when this book came out. I couldn’t have done all of that by myself. Which means those self-published people who have no press support got it even harder.

I was talking to a blogger named Rosie who read a copy of Sarah and we got talking about presses and different kinds of publishing choices and she said the following which I thought was incredibly insightful:

It’s authors like you that make me want to urge people to look past the books being pushed by big publishers occasionally and not be afraid to books published by smaller publishing companies or self-published authors…..

Before I had a Kindle I’d never even thought that their might be small pressers or authors funding their own books, which was very naive of me but on the other hand I’d only had access to what bookshops are pushing which is always big publishers.
When I heard that people self-published on Amazon, it was like discovering a whole new world and I started looking for smaller authors and I’ve discovered some amazing books. There does seem to be a bit of stigma around self-published books or small publishers, like they aren’t good enough because Harper or Penguin didn’t want them but I’ve read some bad books published by big publishers and some amazing books that are self-published or small press. The size of a publisher isn’t a reflection on quality.
I think what I like best is that authors like you are writing because you love writing, not because your publisher wants to make more money out of you. I’m fed up of reading trilogies that don’t need to be trilogies. “
This was very encouraging. This idea – that online book sellers give you access to more than what is in the store – is especially telling. I know that Amazon is a behemoth and there is the Hachette dispute but the fact is, that is where many many people get their books from. My press told me that 90% of their sales come from Amazon. So that begs the question how many readers am I missing by not being in brick and mortar bookstores?
I’m not really sure. I just know that ebooks have opened up a lot of doors for writers to get their work in the hands of readers – with or without a press. Plus the work that Katie and Kristen are doing to get people familiar with small press books makes me think we have a stronger voice after all.
Maybe we just need to all shout at once.
 
Anyway…many thanks to everyone who read, reviewed, promoted, supported or gave me a shout out when I was writing or promoting This Is Sarah.
I do write because I love it. It’s the best thing that I do. I just want to keep doing it.
Peace Love and Starbursts,
Ally

 

 

Hiddles, Links, Books and Rowling (oh my!)

31 Jul

 

That’s Hiddles making a little heart for no other reason than the fact that in the universe there is Hiddles making a little heart. And there it is. Don’t you feel better now?

So…here we are – now nearly a month since This Is Sarah was released into the world. Some reviews are coming in and that’s always nice and always appreciated because it helps spread the word. Speaking of, I was talking to my friend Rita about this. She had a podcast coming up for Book Riot (you can listen to the whole thing here) and she was curious about my opinion on how Goodreads is used – mainly do authors want “bad” reviews or is it just better to say nothing?

My answer? Bring on the bad reviews.

First off, everyone gets bad reviews. It happens, and you’ll be sad for a while and then you’ll get over it. Then it will happen again and eventually you won’t care.

But the important part of this is that a review is an OPINION which means that all the reviewer is saying is “I don’t like XYZ” and another reader might see that and say, “Well, gee, I LOVE XYZ” and buy your book. See how that works?

That said, the one thing you never ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever ever do is respond to a review – good or bad, really, but especially bad. We’ve all heard about explosions when authors behave badly.

But the flip side of that coin is that sometimes, readers behave badly. I’ve experienced this too – one reader rated my book one star before it was out…and I know who had ARCS via my publisher and she wasn’t one of them. Instead of responding, I ignored it and it went away. Am I lucky? Maybe. Would it be the end of the world if it had stayed? No.

The message here is this:

Readers – review the book, not the author.

Authors – hush up. Goodreads is a place for readers. Let them be.

Moving along – I have some linky things.

First off, is a recording that John Grochalski did of his poetry reading at Hemingways this past June for the release of Starting With the Last Name Grochalski. It was a great reading – a fun night of poetry and laughs and friends that ended with a mad dash through a Pittsburgh downpour. It was such a good night someone should write a poem about it.

Secondly, I got a little surprise in the mail yesterday – an ARC of Hagridden by Samuel Snoek-Brown.

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I forgot to take a picture of MY copy so you’ll have to settle for the cover from Sam’s site.

Sam was awesome and interviewed me for my release of This Is Sarah and I can’t wait to return the favor during this blog tour. I read the first chapter when it arrived and guys, this is the real deal. I’m so excited.

Next up I’ve got some linky stuff to share:

 

 

  • Also, This Is Sarah was entered into a Book Cover contest. Anita, at Race-Point really did a stellar job so if you have a moment to vote here, you can help her win! It would be much deserved!
  • Many thanks to Clockwise Cat for giving these poems a home.
  • And to Stephen at Dead Snakes for these.
  • I’m going to have a piece out about this on Saturday’s Forked Road – but August 9th is the This Is Poetry party in Illinois so if you’re in the neighborhood, you should check it out. This is Poetry was started by Michele McDannold as a tumblr and has now morphed into their very first book:

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Cool, right? I’m all:

 

And that’s about it from me.

EXCEPT today is JK Rowling’s birthday so to celebrate here’s the amazing new covers that everyone outside North America gets to enjoy!

My favorite new cover is Prisoners of Azkaban:

Azkaban cover

It’s my favorite mainly because it depicts what I think is the best scene in the ENTIRE series – the moment Harry realizes that it was the time-traveled version of himself that saves him from the dementors. It’s very “You are the One You were Waiting For” and it’s fantastic.

Okay that’s it. As of Monday it’s back to novel-writing. I’m looking at you Palimpsest.

Bye kids. Play nice while I’m gone.

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

And we’re finished….

14 Jul

cover

After two weeks of madness, the blog tour for This Is Sarah is officially over! Phew. I had a really great time, answered some fantastic questions and even told a lie or two.

So without further ado, here’s a quick recap and thank you to all the blogger who took a little time out to help me spread the word about This Is Sarah. I posted earlier, covering the first half so picking up where we left off….

Thanks to Cynthia, Lee at Rally the Readers, Jen McConnel, Tracy at Fresh Coffee, Jay Scott, Meradeth Houston at Write Stuff,and Danielle at Consuming Worlds who were all kind enough to include an excerpt from the book from either Colin or Claire’s point of view.

Next up were deleted scenes: Thanks to Judith at the Cozy Corner  and Erin Alberts for including one from Claire’s point of view. The excerpt was a section from Claire’s journal about quitting the band after Sarah’s disappearance. Jesse at Pretty in Fiction and Mary Waibel both shared a medication journal from Colin highlighting his nervous breakdown and finally, Denee at Novel Reveries shared a post from Sarah’s journal, where we get to see her reaction to Colin’s confession that he’s in love with her.

Then I headed over to Enna’s blog to talk about writing, inspiration and why I wrote about loss. Next up was Crystal’s blog where we played a little truth or lie game. I was asked to give three statements, two truths and one lie and the readers had to guess the lie in order to win a copy of This Is Sarah. It was a lot of fun. Since the winner was already picked here were my three:

1. Ally fell off a waterfall in high school and cracked her skull open.

2. She was kicked out of the country of Monaco when she was 16 for “trespassing.”

3. She’s stepped foot on nearly every continent in the world.

Those of you know know me in real life know that regrettably, the lie is #3 but I’m working on changing that.

Next up was an interview at Hiver et Cafe where we talked about research, free time and my desert island book choice (Salinger, baby. Salinger). Speaking of Salinger I also blabbed on about him at the Daily Mayo.

Then I headed over to Bibliophia, Please. When Kayla agreed to be part of the book tour she asked me to write about the research that I did. So I wrote a post about missing kids. It wasn’t easy research and it wasn’t an easy post but there are links at the bottom of the post where you can help out in the search for missing children. 2,300 Americans are reported missing every day. 100 of those are kids who have been abducted. 2,300 families left wondering. If you have the means to help out please do.

And finally, I was thrilled to be interviewed by Sam Snoek-Brown, author of Box Cutters and the soon to be released Hagridden. Sam and I talked about my feelings about the YA label which has gotten a bit of backlash lately, why my writing style is so sparse (i.e., I suck at florish) and what the hell is up with my obsession with Antarctica, already? Answer: This Man

Scott

 

And I think that just about wraps it up. It’s been a fantastic tour and I can’t thank the bloggers enough for taking the time to share This Is Sarah. It’s still on sale on amazon for $0.99 if you’re an ebook reader. You gotta pony up more for the paperback. That’s just the way the world works.

In other news, I unexpectedly wound up spending the weekend with my entire immediate family, including both sisters and my nephew who all live far away and while the reason we were all together was, let’s just say not ideal, seeing them was amazing.

malinenkos

Like they say, the secret to having it all… is knowing you already do.

And I do, thanks to those guys up there.

Peace Love and Starbursts,

Ally

Oh man, it’s time, isn’t it? The book is here!

7 Jul

cover

So today’s the day.

THIS IS SARAH, my first YA book (and second novel) is unleashed on the world.

This is craziness.

Many many many many (million more) thanks to the wonderful folks at BookFish who loved this story (even back when it wasn’t even a novel) and were willing to take a chance on Colin and Claire. It meant the world to me that they gave me the room and the time to turn this story into what it is now.

Especially thanks to Mary and Jenn and Erin who busted their asses editing this thing and putting up with my indecision and my constant emails and all my other horrible writer insecurity.

And to Tammy who listened to my insanity right up to and including today! You really know how to keep a girl sane.

And thanks also to Anita, who made a cover that made me swoon, with a picture that tells it’s own story.

Most of all, thanks to all of YOU. You know who you are.

Finally……

……

…..

……

…..

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…..

…..

…..

…….i hope you like the book. I really really do.

You can buy the ebook or the print on Amazon.

I love you guys.

 

Peace, love and starbursts,

Ally

This is Me (with This is Sarah) Trying to Be Less Annoying

30 Jun

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Okay so in an effort not to have a million individual posts here and facebook and tumblr and  twitter and thus irritate everyone that I know, I just wanted to set a little bit of space aside to thank all the bloggers who, in just the last few days, have rallied around This Is Sarah and helped me get the word out.

So first off, thanks to Katie for hosting me on her blog where I had a chance to talk about my favorite parts of writing (the beginning) vs my least favorite parts (the end with all the never ending editing!) and she was also kind enough to include a excerpt. Thanks Katie!

Next up was Sami on tumblr with an interview. Sami asked about the writing process and how long it takes to edit a book and I stopped to do the math and realized I re-wrote This Is Sarah about 23 times from when it started as a short story to now. That sort of gave me a headache.

Much thanks to Mary at BookHounds for including this excerpt from Claire’s POV and to Becky at BarmyBookBlog for giving us one from Colin’s POV. Heather also included a excerpt and so did Lee at Rally the Readers.

And finally thanks to Melissa for not only including an excerpt but for also posting my thoughts on what getting up at 5 am to write can really mean (short answer: exhaustion AND productivity). And finally Annie at Just One More Chapter has a bit I wrote from the perspective of Claire that is not in the novel.

It probably doesn’t seem like a big deal but these bloggers not only have tons of requests for reviews and posts but they also have lives so it really means a lot to someone like me that I get a little help in spreading the word.

Thank you bloggers. You rock.

On the otherside of the writing spectrum, I wanted to thank Blue Hour Press, who have always been wonderful for taking these How To Be An American poems and to The CommonLine for taking this poem Take Off.

 

So the tour is going on till July 11th and if anyone else wants to join me, please drop me an email or contact BookFish. Also if you’re interested in reviewing we’re happy to hear your thoughts.

 

Phew, that’s everything. How about we clean the palate with a little Bukowski?

War and Peace by Charles Bukowski

to experience

real agony

is

something

hard

to write about,

impossible

to understand

while it

grips you;

you’re

frightened

out of

your

wits,

can’t sit

still,

move

or even

go

decently

insane.

 

and then

when your

composure

finally

returns

and you are

able to

evaluate

the

experience

it’s almost as

if it

had happened

to

somebody

else

 

because

look at

you

now:

 

calm

detached

 

say

 

cleaning your

fingernails

 

looking through

a

drawer

for

stamps

 

applying

polish

to your

shoes

or

paying the

electric

bill.

 

life is

and is not

a

gentle

bore.

 

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