Writing the teen years: From frenemies to crushes to self-esteem

BestFriendsForever453x680Writing is never easy but trying to capture the teen years on paper is especially challenging, so I’m excited to have author Krysten Lindsay Hager on my blog today with a guest-post about just that.


The Landry’s True Colors Series is all about self-esteem, friendships, crushes, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, values, and self-image. It’s not always easy for me to go back in time and revisit those memories, but it’s part of the process. I knew I wanted to be a writer at a very young age, but I got serious about it right when I graduated from high school. The hardest part for me was finishing a story, but I did that for the first time in college with a novella while doing a one-on-one study. It was then that I decided to write young adult fiction and I started re-reading my old journals and going through old memories. When I got married I thought that even though I had started getting published under my maiden name, it would be easier to write about those teen years if I wrote under my married name. Then, one day after the wedding, I got an invitation to join Facebook and I was all, “What’s this? This looks fun!” Two months later and people I shared crayons with in pre-school were friending me and all possibilities of me using my own actual real-life experiences in my stories were out the window. Sigh. Stupid Facebook. So now I must write Landry’s experiences as her own. That’s not to say my own memories don’t infiltrate and inspire certain plotlines though. My mom saw a lot of things I had been through in a new character in the series.

Krysten Lindsay Hager
Krysten Lindsay Hager

I may not use my actual experiences word for word, but I channel those feelings into the books. Writing about the teen years means going back and sharing the awkward and insecure feelings I had like wondering why someone who was supposed to be my friend was saying passive aggressive things to me—the whole, “Just kidding!” statement made after a mean spirited comment was thrown my way. Or how I felt while modeling and then feeling expectations to always look a certain way. And, of course, all the boy drama. Nothing like hearing rumors about another girl going after the guy you’re with, right? There’s a part in the first book in the series, True Colors, where Landry has been left out by her two best friends. Landry has to get up and walk across the room and ask another group of girls if she can join them. I remember an editor told me, “My heart was in my throat as I wondered, would these new girls accept her? Would they let her sit with them?” As this woman told me how she felt emotionally connected with Landry, it hit me—that moment I had written about was based on my own feelings. I had done that incredibly long walk back in middle school to another table to see if someone would let me in their group after my own had stopped talking to me for a day (who knows why, but at the time it seemed catastrophic). That awkward, uncomfortable memory that I wasn’t even sure I should write about had brought up something in this woman who was reading it for the first time. It was then that I realized that Landry’s (and my) vulnerabilities were the only way to bring truth and honesty to the story.

However, I never could have written this story back then because you need time to process all of those things and realize why they happened and what you can learn from them. While writing the story, it hit me that Landry’s parents could share with her what they had gone through themselves when dealing with self-doubt and insecurity when Landry talks about her fear of failure. As a teen, I never really picked up on what my own parents went through even though I witnessed my mom have “frenemy” moments of her own. It began to hit me how all these things never really stop, they just change a little as you get older. Recently, I’ve had friends share emails that hurt them from other adults and honestly, they could have been written by 14 year old mean girls. I realize now how important it is to learn how to handle these things early on and to know you’re not alone in having to go through these situations. I wrote the books I wished I could have had at that age to let me know I wasn’t alone in what I was feeling and going through and I hope now it helps someone else.

About the author

Krysten Lindsay Hager is the author of the Landry’s True Colors Series, a clean reads young adult series. Krysten writes about  friendship, self-esteem, fitting in, middle school and high school, frenemies, modeling, crushes, values, and self-image in both True Colors and Best Friends…Forever?

Krysten is an Amazon international bestselling author and book addict who has never met a bookstore she didn’t like. She’s worked as a journalist and writes middle grade, YA, humor essays, and adult fiction. She is originally from Michigan and has lived in Portugal, South Dakota, and currently resides in Southern Ohio where you can find her reading and writing when she’s not catching up on her favorite shows. She received her master’s degree from the University of Michigan-Flint.

Find Krysten online: Website ~Instagram Facebook ~ Twitter

Buy her books: Amazon ~   Barnes & Noble ~ Kobo ~ itunes

March into Markets: Audio Magazine, Down-Under Literary, and more

Cast of Wonders: The YA Sci-fi & Fantasy Audio Magazine — “Cast of Wonders is a YA Sci-Fi & Fantasy fiction podcast, but we don’t rigidly define the genre. We’re looking for stories that evoke a sense of wonder, that have something unreal about them. We aim for a 12-17 age range: that means sophisticated, non-condescending stories with wide appeal, and without explicit sex, violence or strong language. Think Harry Potter or The Hunger Games.”

The School Magazine — “What is The School Magazine? It is Australia’s most loved and longest-running literary magazine for children. For generations, it has been introducing young readers to a world of words.”

Kindle Singles program sells over 2 million short stories — “Last year, Amazon began offering its affordable, bite-sized Kindle Singles for sale. Kindle Singles have a length that’s smaller than books, but longer than most magazine articles — essentially, short stories. But until now, no data existed on exactly how well these Singles are selling. ”

Five hundred new fairytales discovered in Germany — “Collection of fairytales gathered by historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth had been locked away in an archive in Regensburg for over 150 years.”

New Moon Publishes Young Writers

New Moon Girls is an online community and magazine where girls create and share poetry, artwork, videos, and more; chat together; and learn. All in a fully moderated, educational environment designed to build self-esteem and positive body image.

Love to write? Share all your fabulous fiction here! Publish your newest creations, or get advice on works-in-progress. And read great stories by other New Moon Girls!”

Ezine weaves tapestry of excellent writing: Interview with YARN editor

 “‘I want to be abducted by aliens,’ Attison said as he shoveled a spoonful of tuna into his mouth.” From:  Swamp Monster Bonanza By Michele Tallarita

“The 7-11 is empty, so I count the hairs on the third finger of my left hand.” From: Stubb  By Arthur Slade

“Any minute Ms. Morris will call the girls up on stage.  The cattle call.” From: In the Spotlight by Emily S. Deibel

Whew! Does it get any better than that? First lines that pull you in, making the computer screen disappear until all you see is a story unfolding word by word. Yet, this is exactly what I’ve come to expect from YARN–an online magazine packed with essays, poems, and fiction for teens. And YARN never fails to deliver.

In the following intervew, YA Consultant and Reader Lourdes Keochgerien discusses how YARN got its start, types of stories she is looking for, and what to expect in the future:

What inspired YARN? How did it get its start?  

Back in the winter of 2008, Kerri Majors, co-editor, started writing a short story for young adults. After a little online research, she discovered how few venues exist for such writing. That story became a novel, so she didn’t wind up needing a YA literary journal, but ever since then, she’s wanted to start a journal that featured YA writing. After talking about it on-and-off with writer friends like Shannon, co-founder/co-editor of YARN, Kerri decided it was time to make the dream a reality in the summer of 2009.

What do you look for in a story? Are there any specific types of stories or plots that you wish writers would send you?

The story should be for a teen audience and honestly portray situations this audience can relate to, without losing their respect along the way. It’s also important that the story ring true, reel us in from the first words, and keep our interest from sentence to sentence. There is no one way to do this, of course, and we want stories that are as quirky and unique as possible. And people say writing YA is easy!

Believe it or not, despite the popularity of sci-fi, fantasy, and steampunk in YA novels, we don’t see many short stories in those genres.

Why would you pass on a story?

We’ve passed on stories for many reasons: sometimes it was because they were more for a children’s or adult audience, and sometimes it was because the story wasn’t well enough thought out, and still other times it was because, well, it just didn’t float our boat. This is a very subjective process, and because we’re all writers ourselves, we know how frustrating it can be. The important thing for writers to remember is to keep working on their craft, and keep sending out their work.

What do you enjoy the most about editing YARN?

All the editors can agree that one of the most wonderful things about editing YARN is discovering new talent, adult and teen, and helping those writers shape their stories into publishable work. We are very hands-on editors, willing to work with a writer who has promise. With teen writers especially, it’s exciting to see exuberance in their prose. The love they have for reading and writing will live on for a very long time.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why?

There are so many wonderful YA writers today, it is difficult to narrow the list down to a few. All the authors that we have had the opportunity to interview and publish can be found on our favorites list including: Barry Lyga, Malinda Lo, Pete Hautman, Allen Zadoff, Arthur Slade, Mitali Perkins, and Tina Ferraro just to name a few. Each author offers such an unique prespective on adolescence with heart, humor, and honestly.

Anything new coming to YARN this year?

Well, we don’t want to give away all our secrets, but we can tell you that we will have new short stories by Kody Keplinger and John M. Cusick, an interview with Gail Giles, new editors’ blogs, and of course, new publications from the brightest new fiction, non-fiction, and poetry writers in YA.

New(ish) Market Alert: Ezine seeks best YA fantasy, scifi, and horror

Scape: “Simply put, Scape is a fantasy, science fiction and horror e-zine with a young adult (YA) focus.  We seek the best new short YA speculative stories, poetry and art.  We also publish news and reviews on books, movies and trends in the speculative YA world.”

And while you’re at it, check out this excellent post on submitting YA short fiction: The YA Highway Quickstart Guide to Submitting Short Fiction

New Christian YA Market Looking For Submissions

Untapped–a new imprint and magazine for Christian teens and tweens from Written World Communications–is on the hunt for outstanding fiction and non-fiction writers.

In the following interview, Executive Editor Christina Harris (Untapped.mag@gmail.com) discusses what she’s looking for, her favorite writers, and plans for the publication of the imprint’s first novel and magazine.

What do you look for in a story? Are there any specific types of stories or plots that you wish writers would send you? 

Strong author voice, logical and original plots fit for the YA audience, and real characters. I’m a huge fan of YA speculative and I wish there were more out there in that genre that are better than the average or just non-occult. Saying that, I also would love to receive pretty much anything, be it set as wild west or contemporary, that fits my criteria that I mentioned before. It is definitely hard to find.

Why would you pass on a story? 

Weak voice, bad writing style, “bunny trails” in the plot, lack of conflict in the story, stories that are “written down” for YA teens (I cannot tell you how many times I’ve seen submissions that are geared toward too young of an audience), and the immoral depicted as good. (Please don’t send me something about a Christian Vampire or Witch! Although there can be evil vampires and witches if it’s part of the plot.)

What do you enjoy the most about editing? 

Exploring another soul’s unique God given gift. I get to be the first to review something that someone poured their heart into and I can help them live their dream of getting the manuscript published. It also makes that the hardest part of my job here because if I find I can’t publish it, I (because I also love to write fiction) know how it is to devote so much time and then find out your story won’t take off or that the entire novel needs a rewrite.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Favorite short stories? Is there a story (or two) that was completely unforgettable… changed your life or outlook in some way? 

Even though I’ve said I love speculative fiction, there is one book that always sticks in my mind that is not speculative at all: The Blue Castle by L.M. Montegomery. Most people haven’t heard of this novel, but I picked that little book up and couldn’t put it down until the end. Set in the early twentieth century, the story is about Delancy Stirling who is 29 and an old maid. She never really lived life. One day when she finds out she only has a year to live, she throws caution to the wind and even asks a man to marry her! I laughed, got angry with the characters who treated her unfairly, and cried for Delancy during her adventures. The ending is absolutely beautiful!

Anything new coming to Untapped this year? 

We’re hoping to release for the first time a magazine and also publish our first novel.

Stories for Children: On the Hunt for Strong Characters and Contemporary Multicultural Voices

Stories For Children Magazine, an ezine for 3 to 12 year-olds, knows  how to make every word count. Each issue brims with a wide selection of fiction and nonfiction stories, ranging from beaches and goldfish to watermelons and zoos (check out the June/July issue to see the stories connected to these topics).

In the following interview, Fiction Assistant Editor Roxanne Werner, reviews what she’s looking for, reasons she would pass on a story, and SFC’s plans for the future. Roxanne also offers writing advice and insight through her blog and critique services.

And from personal experience, I can say that Roxanne is a pleasure to work with. My story,  Better Than A Zillion Zoos, appears in the June/July issue, and her thoughtful suggestions made the final version a tighter, better story.

What do you look for in a story? Are there any specific types of stories or plots that you wish writers would send you?

Strong believable characters always draw me into a story. As a reader, I want someone I can root for. Then the writer has to give the characters trouble. Too often, I see stories without conflict or tension. They are flat because the characters have nothing to challenge them and nothing at stake.

I would love to see more contemporary multicultural stories. We live in a global world, but I do not see many stories reflecting the great variety of cultures. We also receive many more stories for our youngest readers–3-6 year olds. My wish list would include more submissions for our 10-12 year old category. I prefer to see ‘human’ characters. I see too many ‘talking animals’ representing children, especially for our youngest readers.

Why would you pass on a story?

A lesson thinly disguised as a story will be an automatic no for me. A good story may contain a take away message, but it must be a story first. Preachy, heavy-handed stories turn off editors and readers alike. I will also pass on stories with adult main characters, stories lacking a plot and conflict, episodic stories and descriptive vignettes.

What do you enjoy the most about editing?

I love when I find an original story with potential. It is exciting to work with the author to bring out the best in their work. At Stories For Children Magazine, we encourage new writers and it’s so much fun to watch a story evolve as we work on it together. My job is not to rewrite the author’s work, but to ask questions and make suggestions to help the author develop his or her own story. Even when I reject a story, I always try to give the writer a reason, so they can work on their story, grow as a writer and perhaps submit it elsewhere successfully.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Favorite short stories? Is there a story (or two) that was completely unforgettable… changed your life or outlook in some way?

My all time favorite author is Tolkien. I read The Lord of the Rings in middle school and have not found a fantasy to match it since. I’m still in awe of what a complex world he created including languages, alphabets, calendars etc. For personal reading, I enjoy epic fantasy writers like Tolkien and David Eddings.

I read many non-adult stories to keep in touch with the market. One of my favorite middle grade writers is Andrew Clements. I love the humor and voice of his book Frindle. I also enjoyed Notes from the Midnight Driver by Jordan Sonnenblick. Jordan can make you laugh and cry in the same scene. Laurie Halse Anderson is a terrific writer in the young adult genre. I met her at a writer’s conference where her presentation inspired everyone.

When I read a good story, the characters stay with me. It’s as though I’ve made a new friend. I often will go back and reread stories I love to enjoy the character’s company again. I can’t point to a particular story that changed my life. I think reading has changed my life. Books have opened me up to new ideas and made me think. And as a writer, reading is like breathing. You have to read before you can write.

Anything new coming to SFC this year?

SFC has continued to evolve every year, developing new ways to entertain our readers and provide services to our writers. This year we reached one of our goals by becoming a paying market for our contributors. SFC could not have accomplished all that we have without our wonderful writers and their stories. We also launched the World of Ink blog talk radio network in April and are working on a show that will be called Kids Speak Out World with Virginia and her son Seth as co-hosts. SFC remains dedicated to providing a family friendly environment where children can be entertained, informed and develop an appreciation for the magical world of ink.

Besides offering quality stories for our audience, SFC strives to nurture new writers and illustrators. We continue to expand the services we make available to them. Many of our editors offer critiquing, proofreading and editorial services. We will be offering online writing workshops for writers. We also have World of Ink Tours and book trailer services to help writers reach a larger audience with their published books.

U.K. Publisher Seeks Unique YA Stories

Wyvern Publications began in 2008 with the goal of championing “teen fiction that may have been rejected from popular publishing houses for being ‘too unique’.” With titles like The Faerie Conspiracies, Dragontales: Short Stories of Flame, Tooth, and Scale, The Voices of Ire, Mertales, and The Howling Moon, Wyvern has accomplished that goal. Their books promise stories infused with fantasy, mystery, horror, and romance. 

The publisher continues its mission to find unique voices with Wyvern Magazine, an ezine for teen fiction. In this interview, editor Holly Stacey talks about what she’s looking for, her favorite authors, and what’s new at Wyvern.

What do you look for in a story? Are there any specific types of stories or plots that you wish writers would send you?
I personally look for character led stories that fit the basic genre of what we have advertised for – teen!. For the magazine we get so many stories, it’s sometimes impossible to choose and of course, we don’t just have fiction. I always look for strong, well-rounded characters with an original storyline (or a new twist on an older tale) and well paced action. I want to feel what the main character is feeling and be taken through his or her story absolutely gripped and convinced that they are real. First person limited and third person limited are our preferred narrations, and all the editors on the Wyvern team will tell authors to not jump from one character’s point of view to another. The magazine usually has slots for two to three short stories, some flash fiction and maybe a poem or two.

As for particular stories or plots, we are generally open and like to be surprised! As long as it fits well within our readership, has a strong narration and original voice, we’re interested.

Why would you pass on a story?
If a story was good but had so many grammatical errors that I wanted to give up reading, I’d pass on the story. I’d also pass if it was boring, switched viewpoint mid paragraph, was unoriginal, or just poorly written. Excessive foul language, graphic sex, or violence are also a no for us. For the anthologies, the editors will sometimes find stories that they like but need improving on. When this happens, we contact the author and tell them what we’d like changed if the author is willing. For main submissions, however, there are just too many to give personal feedback on, which is a shame because there are some amazing stories that come our way (and some very poor ones, but there is a learning curve for all writers).

What do you enjoy the most about editing Wyvern Magazine?
That’s a tough one to answer. I think when it all comes together at the end is when I’m most enjoying it, but I love the point of sending out acceptance e-mails (the worst is having to reject, but it comes with the territory). Of course, there are times when things seem to go terribly wrong. These are usually technical hitches such as images not uploading on the website properly, or my PDF deciding to reformat.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Favorite short stories? Is there a story (or two) that was completely unforgettable… changed your life or outlook in some way?
I absolutely love Neil Gaiman! Bram Stoker, Wilkie Collins (I do love turn of the century fiction), Holly Black, Tolkien, Poe, Crissida Cowell, Diana Wynne Jones, ah, I could go on forever. Derek Landy also is one of my favourites. Aubrie Dionne, who we are lucky enough to have as one of our authors also keeps me gripped when I read her tales. I think it’s the magic in the stories that keeps me wanting more; there is something almost bewitching about the way they write and I end up getting so emotionally involved with the plot and characters that they will creep into my dreams.

One of my favourite short stories is by Poe – where the lunatics in an asylum break out and pretend to be the doctors. It always makes me laugh, but also reminds me that life’s ‘rules’ are always dictated by those in power, no matter how insane they are. For teen fiction, my favourite short story is by Alice Godwin called Clearskin. It was the winner of the short story competition for Wyvern Publications last year and it left me in gooseflesh for days afterwards it was so beautiful.

Anything new coming to Wyvern Magazine this year?
We’ve got the ‘Assistant Editor’s Corner’ which is good fun as it allows our assistant editor to use some of his own fiction to highlight some do and don’t for writing. Other than that, it’s the usual articles, fiction and interviews.

New YA Short Story Market: Interview with Verbal Pyrotechnics Editors

I stumbled upon Verbal Pyrotechnics–its name says it all–more than a year ago during one of my numerous internet searches for new YA markets. The humor on its blog made me chuckle, encouraging me to return for more, and I kept an eye on this promising online magazine as it worked its way to its first issue.

That day has finally come with its debut issue hiting the internet in March. So I’m especially pleased to have the following interview with the gang from Verbal Pyrotechnics–Poetry Editor Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz, Nonfiction and Comics Editor Benjamin Andrew Moore, and Fiction Editor Kathryn Holmes:

What do you look for in a submission? Are there any specific types of stories, poems or comics that you wish writers would send you?

Elizabeth Dunn-Ruiz, Poetry Editor: In general I am looking for a poem that is impossible to ignore—a poem that even those who claim “not to like or understand poetry” will be drawn into. Sometimes it is the idea or emotion that engages me, other times it is a bit of sophisticated or witty word play. While I am open to all types of poetry, I find that narrative poetry resonates with teen readers more often than not.

Benjamin Andrew Moore, Nonfiction and Comics Editor: Frankly, I really couldn’t care less about the kind of story (or comic) I’m reading as long as it’s good. Obviously, ‘good’ can mean a wide range of things, but it usually involves originality and the general ability to write sentences that are pleasing to the eye and ear. In the case of comics, visual quality is a plus, to be sure, but I tend to give bad art a pass if the writing’s there.

Kathryn Holmes, Fiction Editor: I look for a compelling idea or a voice I haven’t heard before. Those qualifications can be found in any genre, of course, and the story can be structured in any way. I also want fiction that will speak to teen readers directly, or capture some essential element of the experience of being a teenager. I ask myself as I read submissions, “Why does this story NEED to be told?”

Why would you pass on a submission?

EDR: I would pass on a poem if there were no way for a reader to enter it.

BAM: Because the writing is bland, because the story is boring or unoriginal, because the author thinks he or she is hilarious but, in point of fact, he or she is not at all hilarious. That’s a big deal for me. Don’t try to be funny if you’re not. Suddenly, I’m feeling sorry for you instead of laughing at your jokes, which might actually be the complete opposite of laughing. Maybe.

KH:  I’d pass if I feel like I’ve read it before and the author hasn’t brought anything new. Also, though it may sound nitpicky, I have a very low tolerance for grammar and spelling errors; I might pass on a poorly-written piece even if the idea was great (though I’d give the author feedback to that end). It’s okay not to be naturally gifted in the grammar department, but please have someone read over your submission before sending it in, so that you’re showing us your best, most polished work.

What do you enjoy the most about editing Verbal Pyrotechnics?

EDR: Editing Verbal Pyrotechnics keeps me committed to my artistry. I can count on the emails, submissions, and conversations to connect me to myself as an artist and the community of which I am a part.

BAM: I love reading teen literature by up-and-coming authors, even when it’s not all that good. Plain and simple.

KH: I feel like we’re operating in a niche that needs to be filled—the literary magazine circuit isn’t so friendly toward writing aimed at a younger audience, no matter how well-written. Also, I wish that a magazine like this had been around when I was a teen.

Who are some of your favorite authors and why? Favorite short stories? Is there a story (or two) that was completely unforgettable… changed your life or outlook in some way?

EDR: Lately I have been reading a lot of Yusef Komanyaka, Emily Dickinson, Bob Hicock, and genre-bending authors like Kimiko Hahn, Michael Ondaatjee, and Laurie Sheck. Oh, and I also love a poem that makes me laugh. I think a poem that continues to resonate in my life is the classic Dickinson poem, “Hope is a thing with feathers”—or that limerick about the bucket.

BAM: I have a lot of favorite authors—Mark Twain, J.D. Salinger, Philip Pullman, Alan Moore, Grant Morrison, Neil Gaiman, Vladimir Nabokov, and so forth. Salinger’s “Pretty Mouth and Green My Eyes” is possibly my favorite short story, but that’s a really, really difficult question for me to answer with full confidence on the matter.

KH: Margaret Atwood, Neil Gaiman, Audrey Niffenegger, Douglas Adams, Jasper Fforde… just to name a varied few. In terms of work that’s unforgettable: though they aren’t short stories, per se, the segments of the book-with-a-book in Nicole Krauss’s “The History of Love” blew me away. Each is a little magical parable about the pain, anxiety, joy and beauty of relationships, and some of the imagery is just breathtaking.

Anything new coming to Verbal Pyrotechnics this year?

EDR: Your submissions! That’s what will be new to Verbal Pyrotechnics this year! Send us your stuff. We want to read it. And we hope to have Issue Two out in Summer 2011.