2014: Make It Through This Year If It Kills Me

by sarahenni on December 31, 2014


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After kicking off the New Year in New York with some of my favorite people, the east coast descended into a vast hellscape of endless cold. There wasn’t much reason to go outside, so I read about the Australian desert in Lucy Christopher’s StolenI piled into a car with Lindsey Culli and Sumayyah Daud to meet up with Stephanie Kuehn while she was in town for ALA’s Midwinter conference in Philadelphia. I was in a public place in D.C. when I found out that Stephanie had won the William C. Morris Award for debut YA fiction. I’ve never been happier to cry in front of strangers.

Reads: Lucy Christopher, Stolen // Jenny Torres Sanchez, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia // Robyn Schneider, The Beginning of Everything // Kathleen Hale, No One Else Can Have You // Kara Taylor Wicked Little Secrets // Michelle Schusterman, I Heart Band // John Corey Whaley, Noggin


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This month started off with a bang, when my Seahawks won the Super Bowl! I was surrounded by Seattle ex-pats who matched my enthusiasm. The very next day I went for a trip to Montreal. It was wonderful, but snow, snow, snow. This winter was long and dark. Bright spots were getting to see the lovely Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs when they came to D.C. for tour, and falling into the incredible world of N.K. Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms series.

Reads: N.K. Jemisin, The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms // Katie Coyle, Vivian Versus the Apocalypse // N.K. Jemisin, The Broken Kingdoms // Tahereh Mafi, Ignite Me // Sara Zarr & Tara Altebrando Roomies // Liz Czukas Ask Again Later


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Californiaaaaaa! In March I got to take off for Southern California to see some of my favorite women on the planet. Having YA Highway’s Kirsten Hubbard, Kate Hart, Stephanie Kuehn, Sumayyah Daud, Amy Lukavics and Deb Driza all in one room was just what I needed. We also got the chance to see our girl Veronica Roth‘s movie, “Divergent,” debut in theaters. Much drooling over Theo James, and outright screaming when Veronica had her on-screen cameo! As if that wasn’t amazing enough, I then got to drive north and attend Tahereh & Ransom’s wedding (more public crying of happiness!), and saw The National with Kate and Kirsten in L.A. How lucky can one girl get?

Reads: Melina Marchetta, Finnikin of the Rock // Rebecca Behrens, When Audrey Met Alice // E. Lockhart, We Were Liars // Kate Hart, After the Fall // Miranda Kinneally, Breathe, Annie, Breathe

Listening:  The National, “Trouble Will Find Me


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I was so ready for winter be over. The cold persisted, but at least I got a break in visiting besties Danielle and Megan in New York — bonus hangouts with Michelle Schusterman and Vicki Lame! NYC opened up for me in new ways this visit as I walked miles and miles and miles, finally figuring out the grid. I spent much of the month starting to rewrite an old story, and reading Laini Taylor’s gorgeous (but long!) Dreams of Gods and Monsters. This was the month things began to unwind.

Reads: Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Listening: Here began my months-long marathon of listening to Beck’s brilliant “Morning Phase” over and over and over.


Iceland. Another cold vacation. Even colder in company. When I returned home, it was to a half empty apartment. Thankfully during the long, long drive around the frozen country, I’d started to form a plan. I traveled to New York with Lindsey and Kara Taylor (now Thomas!) and we tackled the BookExpo America conference like the pros we’ve become. (We saw Jason Segel!) Kara got violently ill after eating tacos; Veronica encouraged me to be brave. My agent Sarah Burnes was (as ever) so kind and understanding. Nina LaCour’s Everything Leads to You helped me imagine warmer places.

Reads: Rae Carson, Girl of Fire and Thorns // Aaron Hartzler, Rapture Practice // Nina LaCour, Everything Leads to You

Listening: I listened to almost every single “How Did This Get Made.”



A long month, a lonely birthday. Re-watching “The League,” “Flight of the Conchords,” and “Gilmore Girls.” Watching the World Cup and cheering with Sumayyah. E-mailing, planning, preparing for the journey to come. I packed only warm clothes, with no thought of returning to ice and snow. I talked to amazing D.C. writers and figured out my microphone, my questions, my approach. The podcast plan was shaking itself into being.

Reads: Robin LaFevers, Mortal Heart // Caroline Tung Richmond, The Only Thing Left to Fear // Rainbow Rowell, Landline

Moment: When I was weighed down on the carpet in grief, and Hammer flopped down next to me, whiskers-to-cheeks, to help me through it.


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At 4 a.m. on July 1, I set off for New Jersey to officially begin the First Draft podcast adventure. I had grown so used to home-brewed coffee that I had two cups of Starbucks drip and was practically vibrating out of my skin when I met with Claire Legrand. She was so overwhelmingly lovely, it filled me with hope for the work to come. I went all the way from D.C. to Texas in a matter of weeks. I found comfort in familiar faces and new friends. I cried a lot. I explained a lot. I made a choice to open up. The questions came easily. In Odessa I united with Kirsten for the Southwest stretch of the journey and I was so, so happy to see her.

Reads: Leigh Bardugo, Ruin and Rising // Cheryl Strayed, Tiny Beloved Things: Advice on Love and Life From Dear Sugar

Listening: Flight of the Conchords; So many episodes of “You Made It Weird.”

Moment: Driving through Arkansas in the most intense rain storm I’ve ever experienced, wondering if I was overreacting because the guy still cruising on his riding lawnmower seemed unperturbed.


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Kirsten and I explored. We played car games that were so silly and distracting, we once went 40 miles in the wrong direction. The Grand Canyon is more than could ever be summarized. Arizona is so much more than the OK Corral. I finally got to the correct ocean, and I hugged it all the way up the coast. San Diego charmed me, L.A. wooed me, San Francisco teased. Northern California is so damned weird. In this stretch I let go of the past, accepted that I simply cry more easily now, and I got some swagger back. It reminded me of when I studied in France for a month during college — it was a difficult thing, but at Charles De Gaulle I was gutted, upset at the thought of returning to where everything was English and easy. It was hard to believe that my road trip was coming to a close.

Reads: Jandy Nelson, I’ll Give You The Sun // Sarah McCarry, Dirty Wings // Stephanie Perkins, Isla and the Happily Ever After

Listening: Finally got Comedy Bang Bang and listened to about a hundred episodes.


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Suddenly homesick, I cut my trip to Portland short and got to Tacoma, WA and my mother on September 4, officially bringing my road trip to a close. Football season started, and for my family that means tailgates and time together during the months when it’s actually sunny in Seattle. I threw myself into work: finishing the rewrite of that old story, and editing hours and hours of podcast interviews. I started running again and worked back to feeling strong. A steady diet of Mom’s hugs, “Parks and Recreation,” wine, and Hershey’s kisses fattened me up.

Reads: Amy Spalding, Kissing Ted Callahan (and Other Guys) // Bec McCaster, Kiss of Steel // Rae Carson, Crown of Embers and Bitter Kingdom // Katie Coyle, Vivian Versus America

Moment: Waking up several days in a row at 3:30 a.m. and reading Rae Carson’s series as the sun came up.


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Work, work, work. I got into a routine but stress was mounting. Logistics are a bitch; I started having panic attacks. It was hard to be in one place after such a wild summer. Very near the end of the month, I boarded a plane to get back to my beloved Kate Hart.

Reads: Lev Grossman The Magician’s Land // Claire Legrand, Winterspell // Marie Lu, The Young Elites // Meg Wolitzer, Belthezar // Maggie Stiefvater, Blue Lily, Lily Blue // Amy Poehler, Yes, Please


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I dove into the woods of Arkansas to spend more time with my YA Highway lovelies. The trip was cathartic, and we watched “Divergent” again, and all was well. Then Veronica and I hopped a flight to Charleston, S.C., and I got to experience YALLFest for the first time. It was the most thrilling whirlwind of genuine love and book nerdery I’ve ever experienced. I boarded a train for New York and for the first time, when the high-rises of Manhattan parted before me, I felt something like home in that insane city. I crashed couches, hard (Danielle’s in particular; she is a saint walking among men), marked myself permanently for the first time, and battled cold once again. My agent gave me permission to let the old story go, sparking the cleansing fire that made room for new ideas. A piece I wrote about my summer was published by The Toast (!).

Reads: Nova Ren Suma, The Walls Around Us

Listening: Taylor Swift’s 1989 on constant repeat. Constant.

Moment: Throwing a marshmallow-and-twig effigy into midnight flames with my girls all around me.


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Started with the most stressful whirlwind trip to D.C. ever recorded by someone not testifying before Congress. Will forever be indebted to Jessica BS for her kindness, patience, and tolerance for rewatching “Scandal.” Picked up Hammer and traveled cross-country on a plane with him, an experience I am not eager to ever repeat. Hammer and my mom became fast friends, and I was so glad to be someplace that felt like home. Kate, she of infinite amazing, featured me in her Badass Ladies You Should Know series. Plans for moving to L.A. in the New Year took permanent shape. Working out resumed, and I threw myself into a new project. The panic attacks stopped. The promise of a new phase lit me up from within. I was, am, and will be completely floored by the love, kindness, and generosity lavished on me this year when I was in such desperate need. 2015 will be a year for returning favors and paying it forward. I couldn’t be more excited.

Reads: Alison Cherry, For Real // April Tucholke, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea // David Richo, How to Be an Adult

Listening: Taylor Swift (still); Lorde, “Pure Heroine“; Frank Ocean “Channel Orange


First Draft Swag!

by sarahenni on December 11, 2014

Hey friends! As of today, there’s fun First Draft swag for sale, with 110% of the proceeds going to keep the podcast running. Hand-screened book totes and art prints with two quotes from my insane summer travels that have stuck with me.

I decided to make book totes for the podcast because, obviously. And the ones I found are sturdy and perfectly book-shaped, capable of holding up to six hardbacks (I tested ’em!). The bags also continue to reflect the DIY nature of the entire First Draft endeavor — I learned how to screen print (at The Vera Project in Seattle Center, those folks are amazing) and asked the incredibly talented Tahereh Mafi to do the lettering (more of which can be seen at her new project, We Still Write In Cursive!)

Here’s how it went!

First I got to Vera with the designs I wanted printed out on transparency paper. Oh, transparencies! Remember those, fellow olds?



Then through some fun dark room quasi-magic, I transferred the design to the printing screen. The design is clear to let the ink through. This is the stage where, without help, I would have made the design upside-down and backwards.


Then you hook the screen up to this awesome doohickey (technical term) and get your ink ready. Using a special paddle, you set the screen on top of what you’re printing on and press ink across the whole screen. Only the clear bits (the design) will let ink through.






Et voilà! The finished product — a canvas tote dying to hold your books and various other less important life items. I used the same process to create the art prints, but used shimmering gold ink on heavy card stock.

Screen printing was so much fun, guys, and it’s totally something you can do at home (but be sure to read a few blogs about it/watch some YouTube videos on it). I officially have the bug, and hopefully I’ll get the chance to create tons more screen printed stuff in the future!


Where In The World

by sarahenni on December 9, 2014

cat n treeHey, friends! It’s been a while, and I want to update you on what I’ve been doing of late.

For most of October and November I was traveling the East Coast, with stops in Charleston, S.C. for YALLfest and crashing with my best friends in New York City, fitting in new interviews for the podcast here and there. (For anyone keeping score, that makes more than 50 interviews for First Draft, which means at our current schedule of one episode every Tuesday, we are out to June!)

The last week of my travels was crazy stressful (you may have heard me freaking out on Twitter…), and ended with a plane flight with my cat for the very first time, but I’m so excited to be back in Seattle for the holidays. As of February, I’ll be relocating to Los Angeles! I can’t wait for that new journey.

While I was gone, I published a piece at The Toast about my road trip this summer called “The Men You Meet on a Cross-Country Road Trip.” I’m really proud of it, and I sincerely hope my grandmother doesn’t read it. (Hi Grandma!)


avatar_1be9ec0a9909_128I was also interviewed by one of my favorite people on Planet Earth, Kate Hart, for her incredible new project, Badass Ladies You Should Know. My interview is here, and you can listen to my First Draft interview with Kate here, and you should follow BLYSK on twitter!


The last six months have been a real whirlwind. I’m so incredibly, out-of-my-mind thankful to everyone who helped me–let me sleep on the couch, met me for drinks, sent supportive emails, texts and tweets. I didn’t understand the true meaning of community until now. I couldn’t be happier for the one I’ve discovered.

For now I’m writing, revising, editing and working on a dozen new projects that I hope will be exciting and fruitful in the near future. Stay tuned for that, and let me know what you’re up to!


First Draft: Behind The Podcast

by sarahenni on September 23, 2014

Sarah_logo_r2From July 1 to Sept. 5, I drove more than 6,000 miles and recorded more than 40 interviews with authors for what has become the First Draft podcast series. It was a lemonade-from-lemons desperation project, and one of the most insane things I’ve ever done. It made my mother quite nervous.

Many forces converged to make a great escape palatable: My marriage took a southward turn; after a couple close calls, my book did not sell; my day job is still a typical, dull day job; and I realized that being 3,000 miles away from my family and the Pacific Ocean for six years had taken a hearty toll on my happiness.

So I decided to do something that would shake up every corner of my life. Professionally, I love podcasts and wanted to know how to create one. Personally, I wanted to get out of the now-half-empty apartment I could no longer afford, and back to the best coast. Creatively, I wanted to let a big adventure open up my mind. A plan formed: Take a road trip (ending at my mom’s house in Seattle), and along the way meet and interview as many YA and MG authors as will tolerate me, to create a podcast series that is to authors what WTF With Marc Maron is to comedians. (No hubris involved in that comparison, nossir.)

The idea was scary as hell. At BEA I told Veronica Roth about my fledgling plan. Saying it out loud felt awful; the whole project sounded flail-y and weird and like flat-out lunacy. I started to feel the floor give way under my doubts. But then, with a shrug, Veronica said the thing that saved the entire venture: “Just say yes.”

BvcCgyBCQAE2JIKSo I bought a microphone, packed up my Prius, and started emailing every author I’d ever had a kind interaction with. (Bless you, Twitter.) So many of them responded ‘yes!’ that I was stunned. It was officially too late to back out.

June was spent watching the World Cup, packing up and storing all my belongings, prepping my Prius, and drowning in email. Then, at about 5 a.m. on July 1, I said goodbye to Hammer and hit the road.


The first leg of the journey took me to New Jersey, Long Island, then New York, where I stayed with my best friends (who provided lots of hugs, support, and wine). I bought a thick copper band to fit over my now-bare ring finger like a Band-Aid, where it stayed put all summer. I walked from Central Park to Soho and started to understand that monster of a city for the first time, and made a little piece of it my own. I struggled to find the right words to describe what I was going through, my heart and mind in a humidity-addled haze.

The last interview before I grabbed the LIRR to retrieve my Pirus (stored with the endlessly accommodating Kara Taylor) was with Libba Bray. The interview was a game-changer, and not just because Libba Bray is a force of nature. She was describing artists who create work with a truly singular sensibility (Wes Anderson or David Sedaris, for example), whose work manages to capture their worldview so well,”It’s like looking at the world with your head on its side,” Libba said. She mentioned her friend and bandmate Natalie Standiford – her work is infused so entirely with such a distinct point of view, Libba said, “I think Natalie kind of sees the world with her head slightly to the left.” And when I explained my endeavor to her, Libba smiled. What better thing than a road trip, she said, to set your head at a tilt?

The task at hand was crystallized: the road trip was not the creative thing itself. It was a catalyst, the experience that would challenge me to figure out what I wanted to explore in my writing. You can only tell so many stories in this one life. What will mine be?

IMG_5870From there, I went through New England, back to New York, and finally set my compass west. Through Pennsylvania, stopping at Fallingwater, to Asheville, N.C., to Nashville. I saw so much beauty, met so many amazing creative people and their families. Slept on so many couches, visited so many bookstores – including one that doubled as a champagne bar.

I felt myself growing anxious for the moment another writer sat across from me and I hit record. I didn’t quite understand why it felt so freeing until Myra McEntire summed it up: small-talk had been eliminated from my life. Traveling meant alternating between hours of alone time in coffee shops or driving, and intense hour-and-a-half-long conversations with authors I admire about things we care the most about. Myra had been looking to streamline communication in her life, too, as part of a search for authenticity. “I just don’t see any sense in wasting time,” she said. “I think it freaks people out – I know it does – just to get deep immediately. Just to say, ‘Here’s my stuff!’ But … to me, you can start at point pre-ABC, or you can start right with A.” In conversation with Myra I stumbled on the phrase that would become a kind of slogan for the trip:  My people; not my people. Hitting record gave me the chance to dive right in and see what camp someone fell into.

At this point in the trip, I started meeting with people I didn’t know, authors recommended by those I’d already interviewed. (“Are you going to talk to [author]? You have to, they’re the best!”) Truth is, these conversations – the ones that came out of nowhere, with authors generous enough to respond to my random tweets – were some of the most profound interactions of the entire trip. I started tearing up at practically every interview. These were my people, they spoke directly to my heart, and it was so beautiful to be welcomed into their homes, their coffee shops, their libraries.

resizeThen Kirsten Hubbard flew to Midland, Texas to meet me halfway through my journey. I got a speeding ticket in a one stoplight town, such was my desperation to get to her. That was when the music stopped and the Prius was filled with conversation. The interviews slowed down as Kirsten and I took time to explore the southwestMarfa, Texas; the Petrified Forest; Route 66; the Grand Canyon; Sedona, Ariz.; the Salton Sea; Salvation Mountain.

This part of the trip, more than any other, led my head to gently tilt. It’s easy to imagine extraordinary things in the desert.

In San Diego I finally had my reunion with the Pacific Ocean, and I left Kirsten at her house to head north. Los Angeles is a veritable warren of YA writers. I booked an AirBnB with an ivy-covered deck, record player, and no kitchen for 10 nights in L.A. to give myself time to meet with as many of them as possible.

The first stop was meeting with Tahereh Mafi and Ransom Riggs. They are perhaps the most in-love couple I’ve ever met, but they’ve both been married before. They literally and figuratively opened their arms and gave me such needed encouragement, I’m not sure I can express it. And Tahereh said something that I think I may tattoo on my eyelids: “You have to remember not to be selfish.” It’s a tall order.

The last haul of my journey – the Bay Area, Sonoma, Fort Bragg, Eureka, Portland – passed by in a blur. The more miles I ate up, the more momentum built up to finally get to Seattle. In fact, I cut my time in Portland short because, simply, I needed to be at home. (I was also disturbed by the number of men sporting mustaches and shorts prowling that city. What gives?)

When I parked my disgustingly dirty Prius in my mother’s driveway Sept. 5 (never did manage to make time for a car wash), I had driven more than 6,600 miles, interviewed 48 authors, and recorded more than 60 hours (a full two and a half days) worth of audio. I’m not the same person who left Washington, D.C. in July – I’m more inspired, more ambitious, more ruthless, more kind. And I can’t wait to share all the thoughts and wisdom of the people I met along the way with all of you.

Stay up to date on First Draft podcasts at the official website, or subscribe via iTunes or StitcherLearn how you can support the podcast here.


New Project: Podcast!

by sarahenni on July 1, 2014

Hello friends! It’s been quiet around these parts, but not behind the scenes. I have a new project in the works that I am so excited about!

Over the last year, I’ve fallen down a rabbit hole of listening to podcasts. Nothing makes a long walk to the coffee shop fly by more quickly than listening to interviews by Marc Maron or Pete Holmes, and while trekking around Iceland on a recent vacation I almost ran the campervan off the road laughing at How Did This Get Made. And, of course, the amazing Sara Zarr’s This Creative Life !

Somewhere in the alien Icelandic landscape I got a major, North Pole-frequency brainwave: I could start a podcast! I’ve listened to at least 10,000 hours of NPR, and the very, very little I’ve learned about osmosis leads me to believe I am therefore qualified to jump right into the deep end of audio reporting.

photoThe podcast idea percolated as I drove in and around Iceland, and it got me thinking about the role place plays in our imagination, and how where writers live impacts their worldview and creative life. So the idea of taking a road trip bloomed in my mind. A podcast structure began to form: I’d set out on the road to interview authors I admire, mixing in audio reporting from where they live and work with a more long-form interview on writing, life, and any old thing that comes up.

So I got to invest in a fun new toy (the Zoom H2N recorder, for any of you tech-heads), watched about a hundred YouTube videos on how to work GarageBand, and convinced the saintly Sumayyah to be my guinea pig interview.

And it was a blast!

I reached out to some of my closest YA author friends, and a bunch of amazing writers I admire, to see if this effort was destined to pan out. And the response was so incredible — but then, I shouldn’t have been surprised. The YA community is bursting at the seams with generous, earnest, and fascinating people.

And lo, the First Draft podcast was born!1

Sarah_logo_r2Well, it will be born! I’m planning on launching the first episode (or two!) on Monday, July 7.

But the road trip starts today! If you’re interested, you can start following my journey, and get updates about First Draft once it gets rolling, here:

The First Draft Podcast website, www.firstdraftpod.com

Follow FirstDraftPod on Twitter!

And of course, Instagram.

  1. Logo by the incredibly talented SF designer, Collin Keith!


How I Met Your Sad, Incongruous Ending

by sarahenni on April 2, 2014

Spoilers be here, for both How I Met Your Mother and the SHATTER ME series by Tahereh Mafi (there’s a connection there, I swear).

So, like a lot of the internet, I spent yesterday, and today, being a bit wound up about the finale of How I Met Your Mother, a show I never could quit, even though it became a sad parody of itself for the last two to three seasons. What’s upsetting is that the very reason I stayed – the characters – is exactly what was undermined in the series finale. Ultimately, the show betrayed the characters it worked seasons to build into dynamic, real-feeling people, forcing together in the end two people that had simply grown apart.

What HIMYM got exactly wrong in its final hour is exactly what Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME series got right in its final iteration, IGNITE ME.

In SHATTER ME, Juliette struggles to come to terms with her own destructive power, and is presented with two men she has romantic chemistry with – ‘good guy’ Adam and the villainous Warner. Through the first two books, the interplay between Juliette and Warner made him a dark-horse candidate to actually end up with her – certainly he was a favorite of tons of fangirls. In those books, Tahereh explored other facets of Warner’s character, showing us a depth and complexity that wasn’t immediately apparent, and showing how Warner fundamentally changed as a character. Adam grew a lot, too – we saw that there was a lot of bad to go with the good. Tahereh adapted to her characters’ organic changes as they endured gun fights, explosions, breakups – things that change a person.

photoAnd in the end, Tahereh pairs Juliette and Warner — something that a few friends of mine were shocked to hear when I related it to them recently. But by the end of IGNITE ME, it was the only choice that made sense for those two characters. At that point, shoving Adam and Juliette together would have been nonsensical, and whatever narrative hoops Tahereh would’ve had to jump through to make that palatable for the reader would have completely broken our suspension of disblief.

That is where HIMYM went wrong. Its writers were so wed to the idea of Robin and Ted as end-game, they ignored the last 4-5 years in which the show made a convincing case for Ted and Robin as two people who were compatible as close friends but horrible for one another romantically. It also totally submarined Barney and Robin, a relationship so stilted and ungainly that the showrunners spent literally the entire last season focusing JUST on their wedding to make us finally, eventually, begrudgingly accept that they were a couple that could work. 23 episodes of that, and then they announce their divorce halfway through the finale and we’re still expected to be cheering for Ted and Robin when they get together?

HIMYM was a great show for a lot of things, especially early on: tracking the Chosen Family relationships many make in the post-college, pre-full-on adulthood time frame; treating real and difficult subjects with poignancy and unblinking realism (losing a father, finding a father, infertility). In the end, though, the show’s creators ignored the characters’ organic growth over 9 seasons, instead expecting the audience to be pleased that they got the finale we all wanted at the end of Season 1.

It’s silly, short-sighted, and frustrating as all hell. It can be difficult to step back and see your characters with clear eyes, but creators ignore the shifting nature of their work at their own peril.

In the process of writing a book – and most especially, a series – there can be unpleasant realizations. Some characters end up being different than you thought, the plot has to shift away from what you originally planned to accommodate revisions. Maybe two characters you wanted to get together (characters whose romance kept you writing through the hard times! The ones you were desperate to see live Happily Ever After) simply can’t wind up together – because at the end of the book/series, they aren’t the same characters anymore. Be true to the people actually on the page. Do right by them, and your audience will respect and appreciate it, even if it isn’t the story they would choose.

As for HIMYM, I have already accepted this altered ending, by YouTuber Ricardo Dylan, as headcanon.


I Get By With A Little Help

by sarahenni on March 31, 2014

It’s been a bit of a stressful time lately, with life and with writing. I’ve been trying to get some momentum behind drafting a new book (well… a new version of an old book, if you want to get particular), and the best way to do that is to spend some time with fellow writers. Thankfully a few confluent events brought a bunch of YA Highway ladies together in SoCal.

Our lovely San Diego host Kirsten Hubbard, and the delightfully pale Kate Hart

First thing? The Divergent movie, of course!

Debra Driza, Amy Lukavics, Stephanie Kuehn, Kate Hart, Yours Truly, Kirsten Hubbard, Sumayyah Daud at the movie theater’s bar avoiding actual teenagers until showtime.

I think it’s okay to admit now that I was super nervous for the movie. There was a lot of (well-deserved) hype! But I can honestly say the movie did right by my girl Veronica — and Insurgent already got the green light!

The settings were amazing, and Shailene rocked (the scene with her mom at the end? Tears). And, Theo James? Mmmm Hmmm. There was just a *teensy* bit of pressure on the guy (realizing a fandom’s perfect Four? Good luck!), but he completely nailed it. Also, his face.

Bye bye Pamuk, hellooooo Four.

Did you catch Veronica’s cameo in the movie? Neck tats! In a theater full of girls gasping and sighing over Theo (I managed to keep my fangirling [mostly] internal on that count), our row screamed in unison when she burst onto the screen. Such a badass!! So freaking proud of Veronica this weekend it hurts.

After loving the movie and toasting to Divergent’s success, we navigated north to L.A. to see the always gorgeous Tahereh Mafi, who was celebrating her recent marriage to fellow YA all-star Ransom Riggs!


Me, Kate, beautiful bride Tahereh, and Sumayyah!

I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them that Tahereh sweats style and breathes grace, so of course an event planned by she and Ransom was completely gorgeous, with personal touches that made the night totally unforgettable. And okay, I totally embarrassed myself with how hard I was crying, but all I have to say is: Two NYT best-selling writers crafting their own wedding vows? If you didn’t cry, you were basically the Terminator. I stand by my creys of joy. By the end of the night, everyone in the place was ready to marry either or both of those crazy cute kids.

Wedding Gif 4

Also, there was cake.

We stuck around the city of angels for another night to see The National perform at the Shrine Auditorium — an incredible venue to see a band that is ever-present in my writing playlists. Added bonus: they were debuting a documentary about the band, “Mistaken for Strangers,”  which was totally fantastic. The band managed to make a 5,000+ capacity theater feel intimate, and also, lasers.


Bloodbuzz Ohio

Live music is one of those things that never fails to energize me. Musicians get to connect to their audience in a one-on-one way that authors can only dream of, but being swept up in a 5,000-person singalong to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” is the kind of transcendent moment that keeps me writing.

In fact, it’s a good thing I’m not a musician, because I’d just cry my way through that, too. Turns out I’m a big softie.

Anyway, the point is: There is just nothing that recharges the creative batteries like seeing fellow writers and kindred spirits, and remembering collectively what human experiences keep us plugging away at our laptops. It was a kind of alternative writing retreat; not a single word was written, but progress was made nonetheless.

What about you?? Have you been hanging with other writers lately? Seen or done something that reminds you why you keep writing? I wanna know!


Give Up A Little, Gain A Lot

by sarahenni on March 5, 2014

Today is the first day of Lent, a Christian remembrance of sacrifice, where they give something up for a 40-day period. It happens to come along just as I was hoping to recommit myself to my New Year’s resolution 1: words, words, words! So I’ve decided that for Lent I’m giving up excuses.

Take that, lethargy!

It’s been a weird time over the last few weeks, and I’ve had a crazy hard time committing myself to put in just a little bit of time every day. Of course the worst thing about that is how it makes you look back regretfully, instead of forward, with hope. And that’s pretty dumb, since I can’t change my past lazy self. In fact it’s quite possible I just needed that time – a fallow period.

Either way, the brief glimpses of sun we’ve had lately – fleeting promises of a spring that is basically never going to happen, making daylight savings this weekend nothing but a cruel joke – have got me feeling more optimistic. Sun! Rebirth! Growth! Words!

And it just so happens this recommitment decision comes with a perk: a trip to the Paper Source! Total coincidence. Swears. Anyway, I bought a 2014 calendar for 50% off (as I’d intended to do before January but got too lazy … oh well! Discount!) and some heart stickers, and I’m going to try the method Jessica Spotswood has been raving about for a long time.
photo 1

On each day I get a sticker for every 1,000 words I write. (And, per my resolution, words for this here blog post count. Woohoo!)
photo 2
How about you? How are you doing on your resolutions? Have you tried the sticker method? Do you know anywhere I can get amazing stickers??

  1. Oh god how ridiculous to link to two posts ago. Oy. Post more, Sarah!


February Reads

by sarahenni on March 3, 2014

It’s March! And, though it’s hard for me to believe it as I watch the snow drifts build outside my window, that means spring is on the horizon. But I want to look back in this post to the great reads I had in February!

  • N.K. JemisinThe Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and Broken Kingdoms

Highly recommended by my friend Sumayyah, this is the most engaging adult epic fantasy I’ve read since Game of Thrones, and it’s got much more subtle beauty and relevant social commentary weaved throughout. The writing is gorgeous, the characters are real – and as many of my YA friends have been calling for lately, complicated – and the world is rich, problematic, challenging. I tore through the first book (one of those, awake-at-3-a.m.-and-read-till-the-sun-comes-up situations) and downloaded the second to my Kindle the minute I was done.

This series also proved to me that my vow to read better this year can only have great results. N.K. Jemisin is a female POC writer with diverse characters who are black, white, gods, humans, and everything in between.

A huge benefit of going to Canada was checking out different covers for my favorite books, and finding this copy of my agent-mate’s book, which won’t be released in the U.S. until January 2015, as Vivian Apple at the End of the World.

It’s a cult book, it’s an apocalypse book, it’s a road trip book, it’s a romance, it’s a friendship and coming-of-age story… This book was everything, and at its center a timid main character I found myself relating to implicitly. Her struggle for a sense of safety and structure as the world around her goes horribly, oh-so-believably insane is something many a young adult (and me… like, now) can relate to. What Vivian discovers on her trip for the truth, and the ending!!, have me on edge for 2015 and the sequel beyond!


A kind of YA Sliding Doors, this cute, funny contemp follows Heart on two different versions of her prom night. The dialogue is witty, Heart is  silly and thoughtful in equal measure, and the romance at the core of the story is really sweet. I love this kind of contemp – it was every bit as good as my warm blanket and a hot chocolate on our recent snow days.

I read an ARC that I got at ALA Midwinter, so be sure to check out Liz’s book when it comes out March 15!


Goals For 2014

by sarahenni on January 6, 2014

photoMan, I love the New Year. I like being able to put the events of my life in context, even if it’s the somewhat arbitrary cycle of the Gregorian calendar. This year I was excited to reflect on my reading from 2013, which I tracked better than any year of reading before. The results weren’t great, but I have some fantastic goals to work toward in 2014: reading more diversely, with more purpose.

I’ve got a couple other forward-thinking goals or contexts for the year ahead. Firstly, I continue to keep my motto for 2012 in mind, always, because it has the perennially fashionable effect of keeping me calm.

And, following the lead of the lovely Erin Bowman, I’m boiling down my hope for 2014 into one word:


I’ve set a goal (inspired by Karen Kavett’s “Don’t Break The Chain” calendar) to write 1,000 words every day this year.

Yes, that’s crazy ambitious. That’s 365,000 words. That’s just 116,103 short of The Lord Of The Rings!

But the impetus for this goal is that for most of the last two years I’ve been revising one project. As a result that project is the best thing I’ve ever written, but dear god. After all that revising, when NaNoWriMo came around this year, it felt like an oasis in the desert of the same 60,000 words I’d been tweaking for 24 months. I wrote something brand new, and it was scary, daring, wonderful, fun. I realized that I didn’t ever want to feel so distant from the raw, make-it-from-scratch feeling of drafting ever again.

So, a thousand words a day. And those 1,000 words can come from anywhere, and go into any project. A hair-brained shiny new book idea, a short story I’m intrigued by, a blog post, writing in my personal journal. Anywhere.

Words. Words, words, words.

It’s already been difficult. On Jan. 1 the pressure of this new goal drove me to write a new scene in my WiP (the one I’ve been laboring over for two years), and it was glorious. Then, Jan. 2, I freaked out and watched Silver Linings Playbook instead. I’m 50/50 on my goal and January has barely started.

But that’s okay! I have a very good idea of what motivation works for me, I know that more often than not having that goal hang over my head will work. I’ll get it done.

And by the end of 2014, I’ll have so many words. All words I was capable of writing, but at a volume I’d never challenged myself to before.

I can’t wait.

Gratuitous picture of self credit: Megan