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01. What do you do? I write novels for young adults.
02. Why do you do it? Because I can’t not do it. I can’t not write. More importantly, I can’t not write young adult stories. I’ve always been drawn to them and I fully appreciate what an honor it is to write for teenagers. They’re smart. They’re engaged. They’re passionate. And they are the best fans.
03. What have you done? I’ve written and published three contemporary young adult novels that all deal with themes of survival, resilience, and hope. In Underwater, 17-year-old Morgan Grant navigates PTSD, survivor’s guilt, and agoraphobia after a mass shooting at her high school. In Aftershocks, 17-year-old Ruby Babcock gets trapped in the rubble of a laundromat with a boy she just met after a magnitude 7.8 earthquake hits California and they struggle to escape. A Shot at Normal is about 16-year-old Juniper Jade, who, after contracting the measles, fights her anti-vaxxer parents for the right to be vaccinated.
04. What did you learn here? I learned how to critique and be critiqued. I learned about voice. I learned you should know the rules before you break them. I learned about writing memoir and poetry and experimental fiction and short-short stories and screenplays because I was able to take classes in a little bit of everything, and being able to take classes in a little bit of everything made me a better writer. I learned the importance of reading extensively and that reading is part of writing. I learned that you don’t have anything if you don’t have a first draft. I learned that you have to put in the work. I learned there are so many things to learn from other people and sometimes the best thing you can do is shut up and listen. Lastly, I learned it’s really hard to concentrate on a hot day when your UCSD classroom has a view of the Pacific Ocean.
05. What have you learned since? Rejection doesn’t mean it’s over. You need to pick yourself up, brush yourself off, and try again. In order to keep art interesting, you need to never stop learning and pushing yourself and challenging yourself. I’ve learned critique partners are essential, but it might take a while to find the right critique partners for you. I’ve realized that when I’m stuck, I don’t always have to force myself to stay in the chair, staring at the blank screen; sometimes getting up and getting out and shifting focus is the best way to solve my writer’s block. I’ve made amends with the contradiction of the headspace of being an author, a space where the writing part of the job expects us to be emotional and vulnerable while the published part of the job expects us to have Teflon skin, allowing criticism to roll off us without stinging. Finally, I’ve truly recognized and appreciate how instrumental UCSD was in preparing me for a career in publishing. The Literature/Writing program was a place where we were encouraged to take chances, question the rules of writing, and share our work unabashedly. I feel extraordinarily lucky to have had the guidance of so many passionate faculty members, especially Fanny Howe and Quincy Troupe. I’m proud to be a Triton.