I'm so excited to be the first author in a line up ahhh-mazing writers to kick off the Dear Teen Me Blog Tour!
If you're not familiar with DTM, here's the official scoop:
Dear Teen Me: Authors Write Letters to Their Teen Selves. (Zest Books, October 30, 2012, $14.99; ISBN 978-1-9369762-1-8) edited by Miranda Kenneally and E. Kristin Anderson. Zest Books, a leading publisher of nonfiction for young adult readers, is distributed by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Over 70 YA and MG authors write letters to their teenage selves.
The co-editors, Miranda Kenneally (below) and E. Kristin Anderson (right) are pretty awesome!
We're very grateful that DTM found a home with Zest Books. I cannot wait until it hits shelves on October 30! Woot!
Anyone in the mood for a . . . prize? :) Leave a comment in this post about anything you like and make sure to leave your address. A WEEK from today (Monday, October 22 at midnight EST) the contest ends and I'll use a random generator to choose a winner. I'll contact you for your name and mailing address (US residents only, sorry!) and you'll get your prize from the folks at Zest!
You'll receive: an autographed copy of DTM (singed by 4-5 authors), post cards, and bookmarks. See the winner's swag below. :)
So, now that you know what DTM is, I thought I'd share the reason WHY I wrote my letter. It started as a blog post on DTM's Website and then I was contacted by the editors to be asked if I'd like to participate in the anthology. Excited? Big time! Nervous? Um, yeah!
I had to write a new story from the one
that was posted on DearTeenMe.com. It would have been so easy for me
if copy and paste were an option. Then I wouldn't have to think about that Dark Scary Place again. But I was glad, at the same time, that I did have to write a new story. This time, I pushed myself to go darker, access deeper hidden away feelings, and get myself to a place where it felt as though I'd overdosed on caffeine.
I bared my feelings to a Word document and was left breathless and feeling as though I wasn't the Brooklyn girl with the tattoo(the date I moved to Brooklyn), who was addicted to Starbucks Pumpkin Spice lattes, who had seven piercings, who lived a block and a half from her BFFL, who loved walking the streets and avenue blocks in the summer, and who had discovered a new passion for photography.
Writing my essay had sucked me back into the black hole. The Bermuda triangle. The place where even now makes my (Pause. Sorry. Have to grab a Xanax.) palms sweat, my voice low, and my thoughts try to change the subject. HEY! Do you guys wanna hear about what I'm doing for Lady Gaga's Body Revolution project? Ack! See! <----- Told you I'd try to change topics!
Okay. Writing that piece made me feel everything from sure that I'd vomit to holy-shit-I-did-it to a heartbeat so hard and loud that I was sure everyone in the apartment could hear it. I felt guilt. Shame. Terrific sadness. Loss. Pride. Love. Trapped. Friendship. Freedom. I remembered what it felt like to be there and feeling suicidal. I felt ugly. Hungry. Scared.
I could see my entire future laid out in front of Old Me. There was no change unless I made it happen--I wouldn't, I was too scared on my own. I envisioned my paychecks for Canterwood arriving and never seeing the check except to sign it. The money, and not
to brag but rather to show the craziness (that's so the wrong word. Where's my editor BFF when I need her?!) of my then situation, was an amount that was enough to keep a family of four in Florida able to pay the bills and have a little extra.
That would have been fine with Old Me. But the money I earned never went to the family. I fought and argued over every check that was taken by an insane person (using insane
here as "one who does the same thing over and over and expects a different outcome each time") and deposited into the latest Get Rich Quick Scheme. Old Me would have fought until she ran out of air for the money to be used for the right things. Old Me, even at a legal age, would not have left the emotionally and verbally abusive environment. She would have thought that the only thing she could do was write books, make money to keep the Insane Person happy, and do nothing else. She was
That was until Old Me met Kate (far left at right) and I became New Me. New Me hated Old Me. She hated her behavior and ways of bowing down to a man. New Me despised Old Me for not being stronger. For not leaving the day she turned eighteen. For being so afraid.
Kate taught New Me not to hate old me. K taught New Me to forgive Old Me and keep learning and growing as a person. With her love, help, friendship, and teaching I very
slowly became New Me and Old Me disappeared. It doesn't mean Old Me still doesn't make appearances from time to time--she does--but as time passes Old Me stays away longer and longer.
(And when I saw Kate "taught" me in the paragraph above, I really do mean taught. Remember that scene in Mean Girls
where Cady, Regina, Gretchen, and Karen are in Regina's bedroom for the first time? Regina turns on the radio. They have a convo that goes like this:
Regina: Cady, do you even know who sings this?
Cady: Um . . . the Spice Girls?
Regina: I love her. She's just like a Martian!
Martian Jess was the Old Me at nineteen! I'd never used (or really knew what it was) a debit card, never filled a gas tank, hadn't had cable for over 11 years, had only seen two R-rated movies, let my parents drive me to college, hadn't been to public/private school since 7th grade, and a million other things that made me Old Jess. Kate was patient enough to take someone with the knowledge of the world kind of like Cady's and teach me how things in Brooklyn worked. How things in life worked.
Now you get why she's my bestie, right?
Flash forward to now:
I was on my way out the door when my DTM galley came. Even though I was already late for a doctor appointment, I stopped, ripped open the envelope, and flipped though many familiar author faces. I caught words such as "suicide," "anorexic," "bullied," "love," and finally found my own story.
My first reaction?OH MY GOD. WHY DID I DO THIS? NOW IT'S IN PRINT AND I CAN'T TAKE IT BACK.
That lasted 1.5 seconds. Immediately, a "Whoa. I really did it and look at this beautiful collection of stories." feeling replaced it. I feel immense pride and gratefulness that my name is one that appears alongside authors whose work I've been in love with for years. Authors whom have helped me on the road to becoming New Jess.
There's no such thing as a crystal ball or a way to change how my teen years turned out. If if I could, I honestly wouldn't change a thing.
Writing a letter to my nineteen-year-old self from a now twenty-five year old's perspective was pretty damn satisfying.
Jessica Burkhart (a pseudonym for Jess Ashley
) is the author of the 20-book Canterwood Crest
series for Aladdin MIX. She has many WIPs, one of which includes KEPT, a fictionalized version of her life told in verse. Jess co-owns Violet & Ruby
with Kate and they plan to release dominate
, their first e-novella soon. Visit www.jessicaburkhart.com
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