Category Archives: AC Gaughen
September 20, 2012 at 08:00AM
Last night I had the privilege of hosting ten talented, thoughtful, and yes, strong female authors of young adult and middle grade fiction at the Boston GLOW “Fight Like a Girl” panel. It was awesome, and aside from repeating “strong” and “strength” enough times to make a fairly decent but wildly inappropriate drinking game, I felt like something was said. Something was accomplished.
The panelists–particularly in the YA panel, which featured Susan Carlton (LOVE AND HAIGHT), AJ Paquette (NOWHERE GIRL), Terry Farish, (THE GOOD BRAIDER), Diana Renn (TOKYO HEIST) and Gina Damico (CROAK and SCORCH, out next week!)–repeated this idea of the things that make us strong, as writers and women, as characters in their books. For example, their books all deal with outsider culture and this idea of foreign places, if you will. Main characters find themselves in San Francisco in the 1970s, a town of Grim Reapers, Tokyo, South Sudan, and Thailand. A rich backdrop where everything is foreign to the main character–a new world.
I think it’s such a prevalent theme and so relevant to YA because there is a sense of stepping into an entirely new arena as you enter the hallway that leads to adulthood. I get that.
But it also speaks to the nature of strength and young people in a way that I didn’t really connect until last night. One writer (I believe it was AJ) was talking about wanting to give your characters a lovely, easy path, because they’ve been through so much already. But you can’t. You kind of have to torture them.
IT’s the Kill Your Darlings approach. It’s an oft quoted thing amongst writers; be tough, be brave, cut the pretty scenes in favor of the grit, the truth, the core.
My answer to this oh-so-simple question was always because it’s good writing. It makes for more interesting situations, reading experience, and characters.
Suddenly last night it hit me. Character. We stick with characters–say, Scarlet, for example–because we have faith that by the end of the book, their struggles work out, their problems are at least manageably resolved, and they have gone through some sort of arc. They’re in a different, better place than they were at the beginning.
And that happens by way of all the difficult things they went through. Weakness transforms to strength; fear to tenacity; insecurities become the most indispensable thing about a person. A fine line, perhaps, between struggle and success, but when it ends, the girl at the end of the book is someone strong, someone we’re rooting for, someone we love.
And in a lot of ways, we are all seeking to emulate that girl at the end of the book. When I put out the call for this panel I expected a discussion on the anti-Bellas of the literary world. I expected the ass kickers, the name takers, the bitch slappers.
And instead I found ten different definitions of strength, struggle, and success. It was amazing. On the MG panel (comprised of Erin Dionne (NOTES FROM AN ACCIDENTAL BAND GEEK), Ellen Booraem (SMALL PERSONS WITH WINGS), Lynda Mullaly Hunt (ONE FOR THE MURPHYS), Padma Venkatraman (CLIMBING THE STAIRS), and Jennifer Carson (HAPENNY MAGICK)), they talked about standing up to bullying; the simple strength of knowing who to ask for help; this idea that a level of strength starts with self understanding, and how deeply that is undermined by having a gross majority of children not able to recognize themselves on book covers.
Through it all, I kept thinking what this means for the young women we talk to in Boston GLOW. More selfishly, what does this mean for me, as a writer? As a person? As a girl?
What it felt like was that the struggles, and hardships, and difficulties aren’t just what make us who we are. They are what make everything worth it, and we’ve been going about it all wrong. Not only is a book without conflict something no one wants to read, but a life without conflict is something where nothing is gained, nothing is earned, nothing is won.
That includes remarkable traits like resilience, courage, honor, tenacity, and strength.
It’s difficult because we don’t have the luxury of framing our lives in the context of a book. We aren’t always able to see the arc so clearly. But it’s there. And it leads to new arcs, bigger sequels, greater gains.
We always strive to be the girl at the end of the book. But we have to remember that strength is earned, and life’s hardships do not make you weak, or broken, or hurt. They test you, propel you, and push you to be stronger.
Strong enough, perhaps, to make your own kind of happy ending.
Thank you so much to the remarkable panelists who donated their time and wisdom. It’s deeply, deeply appreciated.
September 07, 2012 at 12:00PM
What do we work for?
Within the past few days, Michelle Obama spoke about her roots in a hardworking family, and I went to a really amazing panel with Boston GLOW called How to Burn Bright without Burning Out, and I have thoughts.
Thoughts, I tell you, thoughts.
And this is the question I come to: what do we work for? What do I work for?
I doubt many of you would be shocked to know that writers tend to do much more than write. I have a day job–which is technically a night job–which does helpful things like pay bills. I work with the aforementioned non-profit, which does similarly helpful things like nourish me and make me feel like I have some kind of control to make my own decisions and enact change that can begin and end with me. I also have a part time job working with another non-profit, and I can’t really tell if that’s because I’m an overachiever or because I like that organization.
Oh, and I’m a writer. How about that.
So I’m busy. There’s certainly a self-satisfied importance to saying I’m busy–it makes me look cool, doesn’t it? “How am I? Great! So busy.” There’s an anti-lazy satisfaction to actually being busy–at the end of the day, when I’m exhausted, I mostly feel like I’ve earned it instead of, like, not having taken my vitamins.
But what does it REALLY mean? What am I doing it for?
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about priorities and rest–the anti-busy, if you will. Because a book launch is hectic enough, but no writer’s life and book launch exist in a vacuum. And adding all the rest of it onto it makes you feel like Diet Coke is the only thing keeping you upright. Plus I’m not the most reliable sleeper, which, you know, never helps.
So for, say, six months, my life was just a wild game of catch up. Always behind, always stopping the gap, like the duck in the aflac commercial sticking his bill in boat holes. Water was filling, and I needed rest.
In short, I was close to burning out. Or maybe I was burned out, just short of totally catatonic. I’m not sure of the exact definition of burned out.
Hence bloggy silence.
So I tried to rest–take some time off, actually discover the meaning of sleep, watch tv for about 16hrs straight. See what this whole sunlight thing people keep talking about is.
I did. That’s not technically hard to do.
But it didn’t really have the immediate effect I was looking for, and it’s only recently that I’ve really understood the difference between sleep and rest.
Michelle Obama talked about how talking to all these people across the nation inspired her, and the dynamic women at the panel (check this for a run-down, btw) talked about passion, and love for your work. This is nothing new on this blog, and kind of a traditional topic for a writer, I imagine.
But what I’ve learned is that rest comes from inspiration. From friendships and really good talks and laughing and enjoying the weather, from something new and special. Instead of sleep, that feeling of not wanting to ever fall asleep for fear of losing the thought, losing the moment, losing this thing, this emotion that you can’t ever capsulate or lock into something finite, like a picture. And yet they’re the same moments that are worth taking pictures of.
So to the friends of mine, the amazing women of GLOW, the readers that send me beautiful notes (and artwork! Check out this supercool fanart by Alicia —> I especially love the fall foliage because fall is my FAVORITE EVER time of year and it’s almost heeerrrrreeee!!) who give me rest by giving me love, you are so awesome. And so very much appreciated.
Current random music obsessions:
August 27, 2012 at 02:04AM
So, a while ago I found out I was nominated for a Teen’s Top Ten slot by YALSA and the teens that participate in their program; now the time for voting has come!
If you’re a teen and so inclined, you can vote for SCARLET (or any of the other insanely amazing books on this list!) right here.
For more information, read here!
Thank you so much to the teens and readers who have already gotten SCARLET this far; while I don’t think I have a prayer of stepping into the ranks of John Green, Meg Cabot, Beth Revis and all the other unrealistically talented authors on that list, I am totally honored and floored to have been nominated and it’s ALL thanks to the people that have loved SCARLET. Thank you!
August 09, 2012 at 01:04AM
Starting now, you can ask me questions via a Google Form, and I will answer them on my website as soon as I’m able!
July 19, 2012 at 03:42AM
So, there’s this organization in Boston that I’ve had the pleasure of working with several times called Teen Voices. They’re amazing, and they do really powerful work. In their own words:
Because of a recent decrease in funding, we’re at a crisis. We must raise $300,000 by August 1. Yes, it’s that bad.
For nearly 25 years, girls and young women in Boston and beyond have counted on Teen Voices to provide a positive, girl-friendly space to grow as writers and leaders. We are not going down without a fight.
You know us, and you know our work—our girl-generated magazine is the only publication of its kind. Thousands of girls around the globe count on Teen Voices to publish their work and offer honest, positive stories that address real issues in their lives.
The good news is our magazine and our afterschool program are stronger than ever. We’ve produced two excellent issues in the past year and over 225 online articles—including interviews with inspiring girls in action and powerful leading ladies like Donna Brazile, Jennifer Buffett, and Maria Hinojosa. We consistently have a waiting list for our afterschool and summer journalism program, and our Boston-based teens consistently show growth in perseverance, social efficacy, and acceptance of others.
With a strong and dedicated staff and an army of passionate teens and volunteers, we are poised to take Teen Voices to the next level in 2013, reaching many more girls worldwide. We have a vision to increase our web traffic tenfold and become the go-to place for smart girl media. We have plans—and even a grant!—to make teenvoices.com an interactive, smartphone-friendly forum for girls to amplify their voices.
It’s all within reach.
But right now, we need funds to get around this challenging corner and move our organization to a stronger future. With your help, Teen Voices can partner and transform to amplify the voices of girls. Whether you can afford $5, $50 or $5,000, every donation brings us closer.
So I came up with an idea predicated on the following:
1. I went to BEA and got pretty loaded up–in fact, I got a little OVER loaded. I have lots of extra books.
2. I have yet to give away a copy of the UK version of SCARLET–and obviously that needs to happen
3. You can help me determine how much money to give to Teen Voices.
4. You can inspire others with your own inspiration
So here’s the deal.
1. Take a picture showing SCARLET with a woman who inspires you. It can be a photo of the woman or the real deal.
2. Tweet it @acgaughen, and don’t forget to tell me who she is.
3. Link to the tweet IN THE COMMENTS OF THIS POST to be counted toward both the ARC raffle and the tally.
4. For every person who does 1, 2, and 3, I’ll donate $5 to Teen Voices. And you’ll be entered into a raffle for ARCs and Scarlet(s).
You can win:
- SCARLET, in both UK paperback and US hardcover
- These books that I got from BEA (EVE AND ADAM, ORIGIN, BETA, BLESSED, THE INNOCENTS):
Please, please spread the word.
Teen Voices needs the help right now, and they need it THIS MONTH.
This contest will end and the donation will be made on August 1st.
Thank you so much in advance for entering and sharing this contest; let’s help out a good organization!
July 04, 2012 at 12:04AM
I LOVE the Fourth of July. Not as a party day–let’s face it, I’m a little lame in the party department. But as a holiday. As a celebration–as more than that, as an ACTION.
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
I admit, that sentence doesn’t exactly scream “badassery”. I understand that. To most people, the Fourth is a kind of brainy holiday–these stuffy old men, without guns or the kind of fire that lays in the hearts of revolutionaries, signed a giant piece of paper and told a dude back in Ye Olde Country to shove it. I get that–there’s no passion, no connection.
Let’s set aside the fact that I think Thomas Jefferson veers on the side of sexy and I teared up a bit (coughweptcough) when I saw his books–HIS ACTUAL BOOKS–in the Library of Congress. Let’s set aside the fact that I think these men showed wisdom and philosophy that we continue to learn from today.
They were not the revolution, and the Declaration, while AWESOME, is not what we celebrate today.
Yes, I get a little chill when I think of how, in Boston, they read the Declaration of Independence at 10AM from the balcony of the old State House every Fourth–just as it was read when it was first trotted around to the colonies.
But more than that, walking the Freedom Trail in Boston (a red line painted on the sidewalk that leads you to many revolutionary-related sites in Boston), you see the church where the Sons of Liberty met. You see Paul Revere’s house. You see where his children played, and every time I look at it, it reminds me–the revolution was not about incomparable thinkers. Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin could have up and went to France if things went south. They were never in peril.
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
The American Revolution is about men like Sam Adams and Paul Revere, men who gathered covertly, risked their modest livelihoods and put their families in unthinkable danger to fight for something greater. To fight for fairness and equality and their children’s futures.
Men who had to wait to see the whites of their eyes before they fired, because they had to make every shot count.
They were brave and honorable and incredibly passionate. They knew there was no looking back.
And the well-educated wigged dudes at the top stood behind them.
And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.
Acts like the Declaration of Independence change the course of human events. But it never would have existed without a man in Boston who was angry–angry that his home was being occupied, that his money was being stolen, that his freedoms were being taken away. Angry that the land he had been promised had failed to appear.
If that’s all you take away from the Fourth, so be it. Everyone has the power to change the fate of nations based on what matters to them. Don’t let anyone steal that from you, because that is the true meaning of freedom.
June 22, 2012 at 12:12AM
June 02, 2012 at 01:01AM
THERE ARE NOT ANY BLOWFISH IN THIS BLOG POST.
I just like alliteration.
TOMORROW (or tonight, now, I guess)(6/2, if that’s confusing) I will be at Brookline Booksmith in (you guessed it) Brookline, MA.
But wait! There’s more! As in…more authors. Like Jessica Spotswood (BORN WiCKED), EC Myers (FAIR COIN), Gina Damico (CROAK), Elisa Ludwig (PRETTY CROOKED), EM Danforth (THE MISEDUCATION OF CAMERON POST) and…well, me.
More info here: http://www.brooklinebooksmith-shop.com/YAauthorpanel
But wait! There’s more!
Next week, I’ll be a New York baby and rocking the following events with the Class of 2k12:
BUT WAIT!!! THERES STILL MORE!!! But this is the last of it:
Hopefully I’ll see you guys at…you know…any of these things!
May 12, 2012 at 07:00AM
Maybe it’s the whole public vs private thing–this idea of a easily digestible PDF of my life that I can deliver to people–the brand of “me”, perhaps. This idea of me as an author, which is somehow separate from me as a person. It’s less multifaceted; it’s simpler.
Perhaps it’s the nature of being a 20-something, and firmly in the middle of the road. I’ve achieved some amazing things; I’ve put the work in and I’ve the brilliant good fortune of being rewarded for that work, but then, like Minesweeper, it opens up a whole new field. More opportunities; new dreams. Like the idea of being a high school senior, on top of the world and confident in your success, to a college freshman, as vulnerable as a snail without its shell. Stepping into a new stage just feels…new again. Inexperienced. Overwhelmed.
Maybe it’s just stress, and feeling like I have too many eggs in too many baskets and where are my damn chickens already (did that work out as a metaphor?). There’s the non-profit work, my night/day job, my side job, and my writing. And then there’s the inequal balance of all that versus sleep, of course.
But whatever it is, this phrase has been in my head lately. Months. Chanted, like a prayer. Protect my heart.
Work I can do; work I can always do. I’m not so good at looking out for my sense of emotional fulfillment; my sense of joy. I’m not good at defending that, at making space for it.
And I wish maybe I were a poet; maybe then I could express it better, without sounding pathetic or needy. Part of it certainly is that aspect of love, and human caring, like the claddagh with two hands delicately holding a heart. That seems like the harder part some times, finding those moments of genuine human connection when you just get lost in talking to someone, when you feel that magical sense that someone else understands you. These kind of nights and talks seemed so commonplace in college, and so rare since. I love them. I treasure them. I had a great conversation with a friend recently and it just left me humming. And like a video game when you unlock an achievement, I felt that chant again–protect my heart. Because it had.
But part of it is also getting to that sense of peace. I think, though it’s totally convoluted, that I have to get to that sense of peace, of quiet confidence, before I can act, before I can go out and do the things I need to do. I feel like this, maybe, more than anything else, is that heart space. A calm pool of water that defends your innermost emotions.
God, it’s so easy for me to let that pool drain, to leave my heart feeling vulnerable and abraded and squidgy. To the point that I’m exhausted and overwhelmed and my sense of calm is out the window, and I feel like I’m getting through my work only by clawing on with my fingernails. I still go on. I still do my work, I still make things happen. But I’ve failed to protect my heart.
I’m not sure what the point of this post is. This had been a crazy week for me, one in a series of very crazy weeks, and I felt empty, in the gas tank sense. I had nothing left to work with. My heart was undefended; hell, it felt like it was out of my chest altogether. And then I had a great conversation, which helped, and then, this morning (or yesterday morning, now), the sun came out (which usually I don’t actually like) and I got the unexpected chance to be alone on a beach.
And the waves were crashing and the wind was whipping and the tide was so far out on a flat, flat beach that a hundred foot stretch looked like glass, the sand just wet enough to flash light back at me, solid enough to step on.
It was me and a couple of seagulls, and at first just the sound of the beach was wonderful. Easy. Peaceful.
But there’s power there too. The ocean is one of my favorite things in the world because it’s unrelenting. It’s powerful. It’s mercurial as hell and it changes its mind in a heart beat. It is one of the most calming and destructive forces of nature.
Not unlike the human heart.
The moral of the story is that it filled that pool around my heart in the smallest way. I have a ton of work ahead of me in the next few days (and I mean a TON) and I just needed this.
So here are a few more photos; maybe you can relate, maybe you think I’m insane. Maybe–and far more likely–I’m just talking to myself on here.
Lots of love.
May 10, 2012 at 03:21AM
With this article as my guide, I think I have deduced how to tell the second printing from the first.
Here is the information page from the first printing:
And here is the second printing (not to be confused with a second edition–even though, um, I find it confusing):
And…there we have it! This also means, by the way, that it’s shipping from Amazon again (even though amazon still says 1-3 months). So…yay!
May 01, 2012 at 04:17AM
Welcome to my stop on the YAmazing Race with MGnificent prizes, a crazy whirlwind blog hop featuring over 50 debut authors and prize packs featuring ARCs, gift certificates, swag, and more!
If you haven’t yet been to the Apocalypsies website, please click here to start from the beginning and read the complete rules. Now on to the race!
Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.
Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in. It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
That’s all you’ll need to know for the quiz later on!
And….TA DAAAA! Just for stopping by, if you leave your name and email address in the comments section below, you’ll be entered to win a SCARLET tshirt!
On to your next stop….Shannon Messenger!
Good luck on the race!
Pay no attention to the killer penguin.
April 30, 2012 at 08:00AM
As promised, here is part two of the ApocaStats Infographics!
Please refer to PART ONE to see what it’s all about…
and as before, please don’t reproduce these without my consent!
Book Related Swag Ordered
Maybe we are corrupting the youth of the nation…
FYI–The only program entered under “other” was iWork’s Pages
What else are you dying to know?
April 26, 2012 at 10:00AM
Hello! Today is the first of two posts on the Apocalypsies Infographics; basically, I compiled a whole lot of data from helpful members of the debut authors group the Apocalypsies. There are two groups of statistics; the first are from about 85 members of the group, and the second are from about 65.
Please do not reproduce these without my consent.
Multi Book Contracts
(the one that’s cut off says “Yes; more than three books”
Hiring a Publicist
Length of Query Time for Agent (if applicable)
Submission Time to Publisher
(the one that’s cut off says “I wasn’t ever on submission”
Social Media Accounts Subscribed To…
…As opposed to Social Media Accounts Used Daily
Come Back Monday for a Look at the FUN Side of Publishing!
Did anything surprise you?
April 23, 2012 at 11:39AM
I was at New England Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators annual conference this year, and a lot of it was totally surreal. This is *my* conference, my region–I got my start here four years ago at Mitali Perkin’s workshop on strengthening your online presence/platform. And I had the amazing experience of signing books, delivering a workshop, and sitting on a panel.
During the signings in particular, I had people come up to me and share their writing stories, and I saw a mixture of emotions on their faces–hope, excitement, shyness, nervousness. I remembered being back in their shoes and having this surface confidence that everything would happen for me, and a deep seated terror that it wouldn’t happen. That I wouldn’t be the one it works out for.
I thought when writers that I would fangirl gave me advice, they were being falsely positive, “just nice” or something of the sort. But looking at these writers, I was floored, because it was like a got a glimpse into their future. I could see it all unfolding for them in a grand way, in a way that they couldn’t see for themselves. I knew that all they had to do was keep at it, because they were so, so, so close to absolutely everything they wanted, everything they strive for.
It’s the same feeling I get at the Boston GLOW Awards Banquet, when we honor our finalists and award our biggest prizes. That the world is theirs–some of them have an inkling, some of them have no idea–but it’s like everyone else around them can see it with perfect clarity. I can see it.
My point is, at what point do we forget about this infinite power within us? At what point do we give it up?
Because it’s there.
I think we’re born with this innate sense of power–we don’t fly around the backyard with a cape yelling, “With a little more education, the right connections, and a lot of luck, I might be a firefighter!”
Of course we don’t. We pick up the kitten that we just saved from the tree and we say, “I’m a firefighter!”
As children we believe in ourselves in a way that we fail to as adults.
And I am the first to say that I am way guilty of this. WAY guilty. I pass my power out like potato chips or the tshirts that you blitz out of a cannon. I am tough and I am resilient and I am determined, but I all too often fail to believe in myself. I fail to recognize my own accomplishments. I fail to look within myself and know, without a shadow of a doubt, that I can do anything.
I think part of it is the Pretty Woman mentality–that the bad stuff is easier to believe.
I think part of it is the power of fear, of jealousy, of admiration of those around us. At a conference like NE SCBWI, it’s easy to look around at the amazing people in the room (Sarah Aronson, Nancy Werlin, and Kate Messner were just a few of the people that completely floored me this weekend) and think that you’re not good enough to be in their ranks. To be in the same room, much less the same sentence. Maybe we have a cultural, historical imperative to rank things in that invisible hierarchy–it helps us make sense of it all.
But really, this conference–and life in general–is full of people who give, who share, who offer aid, support, and emotional sustenance to those around them. Nancy Werlin gave this talk that was just so generous. It gave of herself in a way that really touched me and inspired me.
They aren’t there to show off. They’re there to inspire you. They are there to release that influx of water that creates a rising tide to float all boats. More importantly, they are there to remind you that all that stands between them and you is time and perseverance.
It’s okay if you’ve done it. I have to find ways to forgive myself when I give others my power instead of remembering how infinitely powerful I am. Maybe you’ll believe me when I say this, but maybe you won’t.
I’ll keep saying it.
You are infinitely powerful.
You want to do something? Do it. Dream it into reality and make it happen. Maybe it won’t be the way you first imagined, but you have the power to make it happen.
Look at your life; be honest about what you’ve accomplished. Look at yourself and remember that you probably have never given yourself the permission to believe everything that you are capable of.
Don’t ever give up on yourself. You are precious, you are powerful, you are a breath away from everything you ever dreamed.
And on those dark days when the I Suck Playlist won’t get out of your head, when every mirror echoes the ways in which you’ve failed yourself and others, when all you can see inside of yourself is this horrible cocktail of suck and bad and ugly and awful and lame, just please, please remember this:
You are infinitely powerful.
April 18, 2012 at 04:42AM
So, this weekend I will be offering a workshop, sitting on a panel, and signing SCARLET on both Saturday and Sunday at the New England Society of Children’s Writers and Illustrators
I’ll be signing books next week in Newton at the New England Mobile Book Fair, April 25th, from 2-4pm!
I hope to see some of you there!