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.

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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.