Don’t Quote Me On This… (AKA How Authors Get Cover Quotes)

Hey everyone,

Truly, one of the most awkward parts of publishing is getting a quote for your manuscript. It’s kind of like asking your high school teacher to write a college letter of recommendation except a billion times worse.

Because these are either….

A. Your friends.

B. Your writing heros.

C. Authors you stalk on Twitter and therefore are convinced that you could TOTALLY be besties if you ever actually met…

And you’re essentially asking them to craft a compliment exclusively for you.

There are a few different techniques that authors tend to employ.

The humorous approach.

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Feel free to put it in writing. For me. Thanks, homie!

The honest approach.

anigif_enhanced-buzz-22066-1399906332-49Compliment me, dammit!

The who-are-we-kidding-I’m-really-desperate-here approach.

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This doesn’t tend to work with writers. Most of us don’t feel like successful adults. What’s your point?

And the….well, whatever the hell this is approach.

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Hey guys! It’s Mustachio Marni! Don’t you want to say something nice now….?!?

Anyhow, I’m testing out the last approach. Feel free to let me know what you think of it.

I’ll let you guys know if it works!

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Marni Anecdote Monday: Pop-u-lar!

Hey guys!

So something pretty hilarious happened at Barnes & Noble recently. I wandered throughout the store, grinning like a fool every time I spotted a familiar book. After half an hour of frolicking, I forced myself to stand in line at the checkout counter. That’s when the cashier asked if I wanted to donate a book to a child in foster care.

Me: Absolutely! Can I pick the book?

B&N Guy: Sure.

Me: Okay! I’d like to donate ‘Awkward’ by Marni Bates.

B&N Guy:  Barney…Barney…

Me: *tries not to flinch at elementary school nickname* Uh, no. Marni. Marrr-knee Bates.

B&N Guy: I’m sorry, I’m not seeing his books.
Me: Um, her books, actually. Are you sure?
B&N Guy: Yeah, I can’t find her.
Me: Did you try searching for ‘Awkward’?
B&N Guy: Yeah, I just checked. A-K-W-A–
Me: No. Awkward. As in…awkward. A-W-K-W-A-R-D.
B&N Guy: Uh, okay. I see it. Now I just need your name to complete the purchase.
Me: Um…Marni Bates.
LOOOOONG PAUSE.
B&N Guy: Oh. Well. This is awkward.
(Picture it like this)
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I laughed my whole way home.
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Happy Monday!
Awkwardly yours,
Marni

The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give! (Mid-list Edition)

Hey everyone,

Wow! So people seem to really love the writing advice that I posted a few days ago. I want to give an extra big THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to me. There has been more than a little twirling here at Casa de Marni.

And then I realized something very important…

ALL of my advice was geared for aspiring authors. It’s the stuff that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. I wouldn’t have shared this post if I didn’t think it was still applicable, but…each level of publishing has its own unique challenges. And I want to take a crack at some of the pressing issues that my author friends are dealing with right now.

So here’s The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give… (The Mid-list Edition.)

1. Accept that most days your books will feel pretty irrelevant.

If someone (*cough* the nice neighborhood barista *cough*) says, “Uh…yeah! I think I’ve heard of your book!” there’s a small part of your brain that begins to shriek…

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But it’s okay! Let’s face it, flying under the radar might even be for the best. If they had read your book they might expect you to, y’know…speak in complete sentences.

And before I have coffee, this is my idea of witty banter…

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It’s not pretty, friends. It’s just not.

2. You will never master ALL the social media tools.

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr. YouTube. Goodreads. Pinterest. Amazon Author Central. Book trailers. Giveaways. Blogging.

Just listing them probably makes you feel guilty.

Especially since you’re supposed to keep up on popular culture, too. Jennifer Lawrence gets a haircut? You’ve seen it. Mindy Kaling gives an interview? You’ve read it.

You spend an eternity trying to prove yourself as a sparkling conversationist in 140 characters or less…only to make an enormous grammatical gaffe. Then you rush to delete the tweet, except someone has already “favorited” it.

So…you debate sending out a repeat tweet that fixes the mistake or pretending to be charmingly blasé about the whole thing.

Oh that? HAHAHAHA…I was distracted by pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Then you post the pics because obviously he will fix everything for you.

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The crazy part is that ALL of this is supposed to look effortless. You’re supposed to have .gifs for any occasion, but it shouldn’t take time. Obviously, this is the reason you’re a mid-lister. If only you spent this much energy on your writing you would be a New York Times Bestseller!

At least, that’s what the majority of your family members will tell you.

Except here’s the annoying truth: Social media expectations will never disappear, especially in an age when author outreach is generally considered the most powerful form of promotion. What’s worse, your image is one of the few things in this industry that you can pretend to control. Book deals, marketing strategies, movie options…you have no say in these things.

Heck, even the next book deal is out of your hands!

So you have to find a way to balance social media duties with writing deadlines and, hopefully, a personal life.

If you figure out how to do this, please let me know. I tend to update madly for a few days and then become so overwhelmed that I start binge-watching TV shows on Hulu.

3. Don’t buy into your own image.

You aren’t the person you portray on social media. There are certain things you should never make public because nerd rage is a very real thing.

The fastest way to activate it is to say that you don’t get what’s so special about Firefly.

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Sometimes your sense of public and private will become blurry. Case in point: I was once told that I didn’t sound as awkward in my blog posts as I claimed to be in real life.

That took me aback for a second. And then I realized…yeah, you’re right! Because I don’t always want to publicize my screw-ups and mistakes. In fact, sometimes I get downright uncomfortable posting about my life. There was one night during my semester abroad in Australia when I experienced something incredible, mystical, borderline spiritual, and I instantly thought, “This would make a great blog post!” I promised myself right then and there that I wouldn’t treat my life as blog post fodder.

I’ve broken that pledge more times than I would like to admit.

So I’m going to repeat this point–for myself, mostly–your life is NOT defined by your online presence.

4. Your friends will not always want to pimp your book stuff.

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You don’t want to retweet everything they do either, right? So don’t start blog posts with the expectation that every one of your witty, clever, effortlessly media-savvy friends will reblog, repost, or regurgitate the advice you thought sounded smart when you wrote it at 2am.

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This being the notable exception. Right guys?!

5. Accept that there WILL be times when you come across as desperate.

At some point, you will offer to mention your friend’s book in the comment section of a vlogbrothers YouTube video…if they’ll do the same for you. Or maybe you’ll create Wikipedia pages for each other!

All the while you’ll pretend that it doesn’t look like this…

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Same goes for Amazon/Goodreads/Audible reviews. We’ve all been there. It’s inevitable. Someday you will see strangers working on library computers and you’ll be tempted to ask them to give your work five stars.

You won’t bother them, of course. But mostly because the library is your second home and you don’t want the very nice librarians to physically escort you out.

6. You will get really, REALLY tired of hearing about John Green.

Actually, Laurie Halse Anderson did a brilliant job addressing this here! SPOILER ALERT: Her frustration isn’t with John Green. You should read it. Frankly, you should read everything she says because she’s a unicorn.

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I promised to stop calling her that though, so let’s keep it between us.

I’m sure John Green is totally fantastic. I just wish that it were possible to have a discussion on YA fiction without spending a solid five minutes on him. It’s not though. Partly because people like me feel the need to discuss his influence here.

*Shakes fist at self*

7. You’ll be tempted to become controversial.

I think one of the hardest parts about being a mid-lister is that you can catch glimpses at bestsellerdom and you think, “Man, if I networked to my highest potential, that could be me!” Then you realize that if you spent that much time voicing your opinions, inevitably something incredibly stupid will slip out. Being controversial suddenly sounds like a silver bullet.

If I mention Author X loudly enough, it will get me attention!

This is how good people become trolls.

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(And yes, I am fully aware that including #6 might make me a hypocrite. Just because I’m giving this advice doesn’t mean I always know how to take it. Should I have skipped #6 entirely? At what point does discussing a controversial issue become link-bait or trolling? I honestly don’t know. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!)

8. Bullying is very real. And it sucks.

The writing community is an incredible place that includes the warmest, smartest, most fiercely loyal people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. And I’d like to point out that I’m not just talking about authors here. Editors, agents, reviewers, bloggers, librarians, conference coordinators…the passion, dedication, and heart that I’ve seen from all of these people, it’s incredible.

But there is still plenty of behind-the-scenes bullying that takes place every day.

Genre-bashing is nothing new, but somehow when it comes from inside the community it feels a billion times worse. Sometimes professional jealousy gets the best of people. It’s hard not to see it as a competition. As I mentioned in my other post, we’ve pretty much been trained to believe that there are a limited number of spaces available and that for us to reach our full potential, we’ll have to beat out somebody else. Publishing doesn’t actually work that way though. Your friend’s glorious, oh-my-freaking-god, seven figure book deal doesn’t have anything to do with the manuscript you’ve got on submission. The best course of action (which is excruciatingly hard sometimes!) is to keep your eyes on your own page.

9. You will survive bad reviews.

That said, I’ll never forget seeing my debut novel described as, “The devil’s way of poisoning young minds.” What confused me most was receiving 3/5 stars from that same reviewer!

To this day, I’m baffled.

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Then again, I know someone who received a 3/10 from a reader who said that a perfect score was The Holy Bible. I’m not sure how that compares to, y’know…a romance novel. All that begetting could be a little steamy, I suppose.

The surest way to maintain your sanity is to laugh your way through it. Or maybe that’s just my technique. Here’s a solid pro tip though: NEVER confront the reviewer.

Even when it hurts. Even when you have to call up your friend to ask if they secretly think your book sucks too. Even when you think that there’s been a slight misunderstanding that could totally be cleared up with a tweet…

If someone shares a negative review to you, either say nothing or thank them for taking the time to read your work. Then step away from the laptop.

Here’s what you do next: Remind yourself that book bloggers are made of awesome. Reviewers are people who care so passionate about books that they can’t wait to tell the whole world about the one they just read! That’s amazing!

There shouldn’t be conflict between authors and reviewers. We should be holding hands while cartoon birds flit above us and daffodils burst into full bloom. We should be so sickeningly cute that everyone outside the writing community is disgusted by our unwavering adoration of each other.

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I’m going to hazard a guess as to why that’s not actually the case.

Just because I love reviewers doesn’t mean I can read their work.

In fact, I can’t.

I’ve learned that I don’t trust myself with reviews, even glowingly awesome ones. They make me feel great for a few seconds, and then suddenly the project in front of me looks extra crappy. And yeah, I’ve been known to obsess over a particularly bad review for a few days. The way I see it, no matter how many stars I’m given, it interferes with my productivity.

I really wish I could read reviews without messing up my head. I don’t blame that on the bloggers. I also don’t blame my inability to listen to the audiobook version of my novels on the narrators. They are awesome. I am the one who panics over hearing my words said aloud.

And you know what? THAT’S OKAY.

I am a firm believer in doing what you have to do to protect your mental health. If a visit to Goodreads could activate some kind of emotional time-bomb inside you, don’t go there.

If you can read a review and think, “Oh wow! That’s such an interesting point. I’m going to make sure that I avoid that mistake in my next book!”…well, that’s awesome. Then it’s a real opportunity for growth and improvement.

My recommendation is to get a review/rejection buddy who will shower you with .gifs to get you through the hard times. And to know that avoiding reviews doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you need to toughen up. It means that you are taking your mental health seriously.

In this profession that’s an incredibly wise thing to do.

10. Please remember that you’re awesome.

It’s shockingly easy to forget that once upon a time, this was the dream. Maybe because now it feels like we spend most of our energy simply trying to stay relevant instead of writing. 

But the truth is that you did something awesome. You wrote a book. And against all the odds, you even got it published. That is an accomplishment that nobody can take away from you!

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Even Ron Swanson wants to celebrate with you.

So hang in there, fellow mid-listers!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. If this was useful to you, please let me know! I’m willing to post writing advice here every Monday if that’s something people seem interested in reading. So feel free to leave a comment here…or on my FB author page…or you could send a tweet…basically, unless you want to use Morse Code, I should be able to get your message!

AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER is here!

Hey everyone!

I debated playing an April Fool’s prank, but…the truth is so much more exciting! I just received the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER!

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Okay, I admit it. I probably reacted more like this…

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It just looks so beautiful! The wonderful people at KTeen really knocked it out of the park with the cover and…why don’t I just show you what I mean?

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*FLAILS ARMS* *HAPPY DANCES* *BLASTS CONFETTI*

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I love it so much I’m actually tearing up right now. I think it just hit me that this is goodbye to all my Smith High School friends. I feel so blessed that KTeen gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my faithful companions. I’m going to miss each and every one of them.

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I’m never going to let you go. Never. NEVER!!!!!

This book is a love letter. Not just for my characters, but for all my fans. Thank you!

Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for handing them to your friends. Thank you for geeking out with me. Thank you for your letters/emails/tweets of encouragement. Thank you for believing in me.

I am so ridiculously lucky to have your support. It’s not something I will ever take for granted.

Let me put it this way…

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Also…

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And…

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AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER will be released on June 24th! You can preorder it here or you can try to win an Advanced Reader Copy in one of the giveaways that I’ll soon be running. OR you could do both!

Either way…

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. I will be sharing more photos and fun times on my Facebook author page! You should totally check it out!

How I Sorta Skipped a Decade (And How You Can Too)!

Hey everyone,

So one of the questions I get asked most frequently is, how did you get published? A fun variation on that, which usually cuts to the heart of that matter is, how can I get published?!

Interestingly enough, when I go to writers conferences the question changes. Oh, don’t get me wrong; everyone (myself included) loves to hear about that first book deal! But people tend to be less interested in how I came to have a 4 book deal with KTeen and far more fascinated by my age.

Excuse me, but just how old are you?!

And upon hearing my answer (23), somebody within earshot tends to proclaim, “Holy crap! I could be your mother!”

Um, I think my parents would have broken that news to me by now.

Anyhow, after years of being on the receiving end of stares, praise, open-mouthed gawking, heartfelt congratulations, and lovingly-delivered insults, I’ve come up with some theories for my early success that might just answer everyone’s questions.

So this is how I skipped a decade in my career.

I would like to preface my theory by saying that it is heavily based on the stories I have heard from other authors about how they got their big breaks.

We all wanted to write in high school. Or at the very least, we thought we wanted to write. Maybe we just wanted to see our name on the cover of a book. Regardless, we were fascinated by the idea and we bought journals and imagined all the cool things that we might someday put in them.

And then the worst thing ever happened. The kiss of death for all aspiring writers. We were asked what we wanted to do professionally.

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It was kindly asked, maybe by a teacher or a parent or family friend, but suddenly we were put on the spot and our answer wasn’t good enough. We couldn’t tell these people that we wanted to write books for a living! We definitely couldn’t tell them about the stacks of romance novels in our bedroom and how someday we’d love to try writing one of our own!

“Oh, really?” They might say. “And what’s your backup plan when that doesn’t work out?”

“That’s a tough industry. Are you sure you really want to do that?

“Hahaha! So maybe you’ll teach writing someday? Have you ever considered being a teacher?”

“You might want to take a few business courses in college. Major in something useful.”

“Don’t you need to be in a real relationship before you can write a romance? Those trashy books aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on.”

Maybe we heard something else entirely. That we weren’t considered good writers when compared against, oh, I dunno…Hemingway! Maybe someone pointed out that our grammar could use work and that until we had comma splices down to an art form we shouldn’t even consider taking on such a large project. Maybe we were told that to be a real artist we had to come from a tortured past–and that our lack of suicidal ideation disqualified us. Or that to make our writing better, we should make it sadder. 

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There were rules. Arbitrary ones about adverbs and adjectives and which ones belong in prose and which merely clutter up the works. We were told that we should write “said” instead of “clucked” or “whimpered” because it’s so much cleaner. We were instructed to “show” not “tell” so many times that we wanted to show somebody the door–and maybe give ‘em a small shove to hurry up the process.

And at some point, it seemed as if a consensus was reached: we were not worthy of being writers.

We need to be practical. Realistic. Prepared for the harsh realities of life.

So we didn’t write, or if we did, it was a secretive act of defiance and shame. It’s worthless, we told ourselves. Something that shouldn’t be read because we don’t know what we’re doing and anyway it’s just for fun.

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That’s what we told the people who bothered to ask.

This is the part where things became really murky for us. Maybe we travelled, or started bouncing between crummy jobs just to pay the bills, or went to college and stopped reading for fun because…

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Maybe we got married and had kids and thought, Okay, so adulthood should kick in any second now! Maybe our only goal was to pay off all those student loans before we turned 90 years old.

All those warnings that we should major in something, “practical” might not have helped us find a job, but the pressure still cranked up. If we didn’t figure out something, the plan was to survive on Top Ramen forever. Sometimes we comforted ourselves by saying this:

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Some of us tried to be logical–and postpone paying back student loans–by rushing into grad school.

And then something awful happened. Maybe we fell sick. Cancer. Breast cancer. Lung cancer. It’s a tumor, but it might be benign. It wasn’t us, but our mom. Our best friend’s dad got hit by a car and we didn’t know what to say that could possibly make anything better. Maybe our grandpa was barely conscious and we had to say goodbye. Maybe we couldn’t say goodbye.

Maybe we knew this was going to happen. Maybe we tried to stop that person from doing that thing, but it didn’t work and here we are buried neck-deep in the rubble between what could have been and what used to be.

Maybe it wasn’t any one thing, but the weight of our lives started conspiring with gravity to maintain a constant pressure. We found ourselves crying after work. Wiping away the tear tracks and reapplying makeup in bathroom stalls, because if the stress showed on our faces we could kiss that promotion goodbye.

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That’s when we started reading again.

Books that made us feel better in high school. Books that made us weep because they ripped out our hearts, but it’s the good kind of pain that reminds us that we’re human. Books that made us smile because we can relate to the main characters and suddenly our daily lives become an inside joke. Books that made us laugh out loud and forget about our problems entirely.

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That’s when we thought, I miss this. I want to do this. Why didn’t I do this? What was I so afraid of?

We became time thieves, stealing minutes from work to jot down dialogue in that same bathroom stall. We plotted a particularly difficult sequence in the middle of a meeting. Someone passed us on the street and we found ourselves thinking that our heroine would never wear those clothes.

We drank way too much caffeine.

We searched for people who shared this passion with us, because they might see something that we’d missed. They might suggest something which would make all the difference! And even if they didn’t, at least they wouldn’t dismiss all of our hard work with a shrug and an eye-roll.

We wrote, The End, at the bottom of the manuscript, and it was magic. But we couldn’t decide if it should be in italics or if it should be bold, so we tried every combination.

The End.

The End.

The End!

Our friends read it and some of them had excellent advice and some of them had no idea how to give a critique but were trying their best to be helpful. We pitched agents. We attended conferences. We sent out query letters.

We sank time and energy and money into this endeavor of ours, even though we knew that some of the most important people in our lives probably thought it was a waste.

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Okay, so maybe sometimes our friends were right to be concerned.

We gritted our teeth and smiled as people asked if we’re going to be the next J.K Rowling. We crawled into bed and debated giving up entirely when we received form rejection letters.

Dear (blank),

I am sorry to inform you that…

Yeah, so were we. In fact, we were heartbroken. But we kept sending out query letters or maybe we put it aside and began writing a new book…or both!

And eventually we got the call that changed everything. An agent loved our work! The world was suddenly overflowing with flowers and happiness and sparkly bits of confetti! We danced for a solid week. We imagined giving up our day jobs. We decided to “follow” all of our agent’s clients on Twitter! Heck, we followed everyone connected with the agency!

Then came another wave of rejection. It hurt more than we probably expected, because somehow we thought our agent’s mind control powers would work on the Big Six and the acquiring editors would be all over us within a week.

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We worried. We stressed. We sent neurotic emails to our agent and friends. We became on first-name speaking terms with our nearby baristas.

And then we got that other call. The Call.

So-and-so loved it! It’s a small advance, but the royalty rates are great! It’s an eBook only deal, but it will get your foot in the door! It’s going to auction–bidding war, here we coooome!

Maybe our call sounded a little different.

I think you should self-publish this, get a grassroots movement going, and then we’ll show (name redacted) what you have planned to write next!

The stories divulge even more wildly from here. Some debut novels become New York Times Bestsellers. Some go out of print. Some get rave reviews from Kirkus…only to be ripped apart on Goodreads.

Somebody once reviewed my debut YA novel by saying, Awkward is the devil’s way of poisoning young minds.

That same reviewer gave me 3-stars. Go figure!

So if you are wondering why I’ve avoided mentioning myself until now, it’s because my story fits into the one I laid out. The fear that I would never be good enough, that I would never be smart enough; the soul-crushing, gut-wrenching pain of rejection after rejection…those experiences have been present and accounted for in my road to publication.

But there were a few things I had going for me.

I had access to blogs.

More specifically, author blogs. And I read every scrap of advice Meg Cabot ever wrote for young writers. I memorized the most crucial parts and I followed her instructions. I’m paraphrasing, but these are essentially her rules:

1. Don’t tell anyone you want to be a writer–they will only try to talk you out of it.

2. Don’t take writing classes–they will probably kill your soul.

3. Write.

I paid attention to her books. More specifically, I noticed how quickly she wrote them. And I realized that I would have to be able to keep up a steady pace if I was ever going to support myself that way. So I began writing a novel as my high school senior project. (There is more to that story, but I’ll save it for another blog post.)

I was also incredibly lucky to have a supportive mother and a teacher that went above and beyond for me. Jane Claussen agreed to be the advisor on my independent novel writing project. She didn’t really do much advising. She read what I turned in, said that she couldn’t wait to read the next scene, and asked me to write her in as the villain.

I never did.

Actually, she did inspire me to write a character in Jane’s book, Invisible. And I was thrilled to see that the reviewers seemed to enjoy her fictitious doppelgänger as much as I liked spending time with the woman behind it.

Mrs. Claussen and my mom believed in me when it felt like nobody else did.

Another turning point happened during my interview with an alumna from Lewis & Clark College. I was really nervous. I had visited the campus and I thought it might be the perfect fit for me, which meant that I wanted her to pass on a glowing recommendation.

But she asked me what I thought I would regret the most about my time in high school…and I just blurted out the truth.

“I hate my math class.”

She nodded, but didn’t seem particularly impressed.

“No, I mean I really hate it. I’m completely behind and at this point I’m not entirely sure it’s humanly possible to catch up. The only reason I’m in that stupid class is because I know four years of math looks good on my college application.”

That’s when it dawned on me.

“Lewis & Clark doesn’t care about math, right?”

She stared at me in confusion. “Um…”

“I did really well on my AP tests, so three years of math probably won’t stop me from gaining admission, right?”

The alumna looked increasingly uncomfortable. “Well…”

I threw my hands up in the air. “It’s a waste of my time! I could be writing and instead I’m sitting in that classroom trying not to lose my freaking mind! I think I should stop going entirely. Yeah. I am definitely going to drop that class. Wow. That’s so cool. Thanks. So…to answer your question: no regrets!”

My interviewer looked panic-stricken.

I’m guessing none of her other high school interviewees decided to lighten their academic course load in the middle of their session with her.

I was also right: Lewis & Clark accepted me without four years of math.

I spent that extra time writing and grieving the loss of my grandpa. Part of the reason I had fallen so far behind was that in the wake of his death I couldn’t bring myself to care about calculus. I forced myself to keep up with my other school obligations, so I guess my mom was willing to be flexible when I said, “Please don’t make me go to that class today. Please don’t.”

Maybe she could tell that I was seconds away from falling apart completely.

I do have regrets from high school and one of the biggest is that I didn’t start writing sooner. That my grandpa never got to share this journey with me. I remember sobbing uncontrollably when I left a copy of my autobiography Marni on his grave only a few years later.

I don’t know if I attended the Willamette Writers Conference because of my mom, or Jane Claussen, or because I no longer believed in God and figured I should be making my own destiny.

For those of you wondering about the God thing; it’s pretty simple. My grandpa lived a long, full, happy life…and then he died. Which meant that if God existed, he was a total jerk.

A sterling example of Marni Logic.

I paid for that conference with my babysitting money. And because I was way too cheap thrifty to fly, I shared a ride (and a hotel room) with a woman who was certifiably insane. I honestly called my mom from a Burger King parking lot on the road to Portland and said, “I think I’m going to die.”

She thought I was joking.

I wasn’t.

She wished me good luck and I spent the rest of the ride making sure that Mrs. Insane-o had access to chocolate at all times so that she wouldn’t randomly decide to stop driving–on the highway!

But Mrs. Insane-o certainly motivated me to meet other people and try to find another ride home (I did! Which is probably why I’m still alive today!) and one of those people heard about a company looking for teen girls to write their autobiographies and passed on the info to me.

When I came back from the conference, I sat outside for a couple of hours by my neighbors koi pond and asked my grandpa what I should do. He seemed to be of the opinion that I should go for it.

So I did.

I was hired to write my autobiography my freshman year of college and by that point there was no turning back. Ready or not–and the answer was not–I was going to be published. My whole life story was going to exposed for anyone and everyone to read. That’s when I ran to the school library and checked out their copy of Ella Enchanted.

Fast forward a year and I was a sophomore in college. I was trying to do publicity for my autobiography and learning pretty quickly that it is hard to make anyone care about your book. I also wasn’t writing for myself anymore. I had decided to take a whole bunch of English courses and since I was in a creative non-fiction class, I didn’t have the drive to work on a novel. Or maybe I was just being lazy.

When I think about that year what I remember most fondly was the English course which didn’t exist. That’s right; I created a 400 level course just for myself. I awarded myself an A and received zero college credit, but it was totally worth it.

I called it, Major Figures in Literature: Nora Roberts.

I read almost everything she has ever written. I immersed myself in her worlds and I ignored a whole bunch of my college assignments in the process. I didn’t care. That’s not entirely true; I did care, but I didn’t want to stop.

Reading romance novels in college made me want to keep writing.

They made me realize that I didn’t feel like myself unless I was working on a project. Sure my characters drive me nuts, but they also make me exquisitely happy. And that’s the life I want for myself–and for all of you! 

This job does not come easily. Not for me, not for anyone. You have to decide whether you can finish a novel, tear it apart in edits, send it out into the world for criticism, and then start the process all over again.

But if this is something you want more than anything else in the world, then I vote you skip the decade of denial. I vote you try to make that dream happen now. 

If you want to hear about a few other pivotal moments in my writing career, check out my YouTube video on that subject 

And if you are reading this thinking, crap, I wish I had pursued writing from the very beginning instead of trying to be rational! I’d like to remind you that those years weren’t lost. You spent them gaining life experiences and testing yourself in a million different ways. And you also inspire me to be bold in other areas of my life, to face other types of rejection and failure.

So thank you!

And because I know this incredibly long blog post should end on a really upbeat note, I just want to say that I have now met some of my favorite authors whose books got me through hard times.

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Nora Roberts!
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Susan Elizabeth Phillips!
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Ally Carter!
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Jay Asher, Laurie Halse Anderson and Stephen Chbosky!

And you know what happened right after this photo was taken?

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I met a fan of my own!

This is without a doubt the coolest job ever.

So best of luck and happy reading everyone!

~Marni

Marni’s Best Advice for Best Friends

Hey everyone,

So when I began writing Invisible I knew that this was my chance to give a voice to the “quirky best friend.” See, I’ve always taken issue with that role–even when watching my favorite romantic comedies. Most of the time the heroine is so focused on her own journey that she forgets her friend in the process. And I hate the way the audience often forgets right along with her.

Don’t get me wrong; we all love the quirky best friend. She gives inappropriate pep talks and tells our heroine some hard truths. She’s lovable and off-beat and often provides the comic relief.

Need examples? Be warned: almost all of them include slight profanity or adult language. It kind of goes with the territory.

Carrie Fischer in When Harry Met Sally.

Judy Greer. The Wedding Planner, 27 Dresses, and 13 Going on 30 all come to mind.

Zooey Deschanel in Failure to Launch.

Aly Michalka in Easy A.

There are others. So many others. But I can’t provide Youtube videos because apparently my QBF’s don’t usually get even that much attention.

I would love to hear your picks for QBF though. So feel free to leave them as a comment!

But back to the book! Insta-fame and a super sexy Notable boyfriend (*Waves happily to Logan!*) have added some strain into Mackenzie’s relationship with Jane. And it was important to me that the girls were equally responsible for that growing rift.

That’s how it works in real life. Nobody thinks to themselves, Wow, I’m doing a stellar job destroying all of my friendships. And I am 100% to blame for all of it. Woohooo!!!

Instead it is usually a mix of, I can’t believe they said/did that! How could they do that to me?! It’s like they don’t know me at all!–and my own personal nightmare–Am I blowing this whole thing out of proportion? Maybe I shouldn’t say anything? Maybe I should pretend that my feeling weren’t hurt? Maybe…she doesn’t want to be my friend?

So I created Marni’s Best 10 Bits of Advice for Best Friends!

Hopefully it will help both of us avoid the pitfalls that I use to ruthlessly torture my characters in my books.

1. Don’t expect your friend to read your mind.

You have to be willing to speak up when something upsets you. And this is really freaking hard. I remember being floored when I first read Harry Potter and Dumbledore awarded 10 points to Gryffindor because of Neville Longbottom. But he’s right: It is harder to stand up to your friends. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it though.

2. Keep in mind that not everything is about you.

If a friend doesn’t have as much time for you…maybe they just have a lot on their plate? Maybe they are stressing over family issues, or school stuff, or a new relationship, or something else entirely! It’s never fun to feel left out, but it can be a great opportunity to focus on your own interests. Speaking of which…

3. Don’t trade in your identity.

Let’s face it, it’s never fun to disappoint a friend. So when they want to listen to a band that you don’t particularly like or they invite you on an two week river rafting adventure…it can be hard to say no. And there are times when you shouldn’t say no! Trying new things with a friend can be fan-freaking-tastic! But I don’t recommend losing yourself in other people’s interests.

Marni Example: My friends convinced me to check out Battlestar Galactica and I’m totally hooked. But I don’t have time for it right now and I knew that if I didn’t read spoilers, I wouldn’t be able to concentrate on my work. So, yeah, I read the wikipedia page. And my friends did not take that news well. They shouted at me in all caps. For days. But I have no regrets. I did what I needed to do and even though my friends don’t like it…they will get over my geeky betrayal. Eventually.

4. Have good intentions.

This rule is the primary one I use to navigate my life. I mess up plenty. I’m human. I learn from mistakes and try to do better next time. But at the end of the day, I’m okay with myself, because even when I royally botch things up…my intentions are good. That’s what matters most to me.

5. Fight fair.

You are going to disagree with your friends. It’s inevitable. And when that does eventually happen–fight fair. No name-calling. No insults. Resist the temptation to use your insider knowledge against them.

Marni Example: If you know your friend is self-conscious about their weight, do not say, “I don’t know why you pretend like you are skinny, when you’re obviously not!” That’s not okay. Instead, you might want to consider using something like, “It has started to really frustrate me when you borrow my clothes. I love you, but it makes me all twitchy when I can’t find what I want to wear in my closet.”

6. Keep the communication lines open…as long as you feel safe.

If your friend doesn’t fight fair…I suggest you shut it down. At the end of the day, you need to protect your own emotional well-being. A real friend should want that for you, too. My rule of thumb: If you would never treat someone the way that you are being treated…you probably aren’t friends.

7. Learn how to apologize and to accept heart-felt apologies.

This goes along with the whole good intentions thing. You don’t have to regret taking a stand, but if someone’s feelings are hurt…that is usually worthy of an apology.

It might sound lame, but even a simple, “My intent was never to hurt you. I’m really sorry if this offended you in any way,” goes a long way with a good friend.

IMPORTANT CAVEAT: NEVER begin a sentence with, “I don’t want to be rude, but–” or “Not to be mean, but–”

You are probably being both rude and mean.

If you honestly don’t want to be those things? Don’t say it. Telling people that you are about to tear them to shreds does not give you permission to go ahead and do it.

So you might want to keep that in mind.

8. Be supportive.

So you don’t get Battlestar Galactica? That’s fine. Maybe you loathe everything about Stephanie Meyers. Plenty of people feel that way, too. But if someone says, “Oh, I can’t wait to go to Forks! I’m going to do a Twilight movie marathon as preparation for my trip and it will be awesome!” you do not get to call them sad or pathetic. You also don’t get to patronize them. If you honestly can’t think of anything supportive to say, I vote you go with this: It’s great that you are so excited about (blank)!

Because it is great! Even though the subject matter doesn’t interest you, that shouldn’t prevent you from being happy for your friend. The fact that they feel so passionately about something is awesome in itself!

By raining on their parade, you’re probably being a bully instead of being a friend.

9. Try not to judge.

Your friend might want different things out of life. Very different things. That’s not always going to be easy to understand–and it can be excruciating to watch–but keep in mind that what would be a colossal mistake for you, might be great for them. 

I’m a huge Pride & Prejudice fan and I try to keep Charlotte Lucas in mind whenever I’m tempted to say something like, “Are you for real right now? Are you out of your freaking mind?!” That’s pretty much how Lizzie responded to Charlotte’s engagement news and (spoiler alert!) it did not go over well.

The video quality here isn’t the best, but I love this scene!

This doesn’t mean I don’t speak up when I think my friends need me. I just try not to be a Judgy McJudgerson. In my experience, “Hey, are you okay? I’m worried about you,” means the most during a crisis.

10. Befriend yourself.

I happen to think you are pretty darn awesome and all of your friends agree with me. But at the end of the day, it’s what you think of yourself that matters the most. Treat yourself well. The people who do the same are the ones you’re going to want to stick with for the rest of your life.

There is some great advice in this scene from The Holiday. It really resonated with me!

I hope this helps!

Sincerely,

Marni

HOW I ONCE THOUGHT EVERYONE WOULD HEAR ABOUT MY NEW BOOK.

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The Internet is a great place–my favorite place, actually–but I still need you to help me spread the good news that Awkward is currently discounted to $2.99 and that Invisible will be released in under a week! Need a fun way to broach the subject? I created 6 Decent-ish Reasons to Buy Awkward for that very reason!

Here’s the link to Amazon for good measure: http://www.amazon.com/Awkward-Marni-Bates/dp/0758269374/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1366937058&sr=8-1&keywords=awkward+marni

Oh, and there is a giveaway going on over at Teatime Romance where you can win a free signed copy of Invisible! Check it out here!

Love you all!

~Marni

How Did I Get Here?

Hey everyone,

I still can’t believe this is my life.

That’s not a joke or an exaggeration. It stuns me nearly every single day that I get to live out my wildest fantasy–one I was too afraid to even name for most of high school. And every day brings something ridiculously wonderful into my life. A message on my Facebook author page from someone who enjoyed reading Awkward and can’t wait to buy Invisible. A tweet from an author whose work I admire. An email from my fantastic Hungarian publisher. Maybe it will be as simple as reading a line in my new work in progress which cracks me up.

I still find myself trying to understand how I could have gotten here.

My older brother recently reminded me that when I was in elementary school he predicted that I’d be a trash collector. He told me that waste disposal was the logical occupation for someone with dog-poop brown eyes and a lack of common sense. “Hey someone has to do it,” he reasoned. “And that someone is definitely going to be you.”

I remember being terrified that he’d be right.

And now here I am proudly holding this!

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My Hungarian publisher renamed Awkward: Help, I’ve become a YouTube Star!

I love it so much!

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My best imitation of the Mackenzie yell.

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Signed and everything! It doesn’t get any more official!

If you’re curious about my experience with my Hungarian publisher, you should definitely check out the video I made about it!

It doesn’t feel real to me.

My third novel (Invisible) will be released in just under two weeks.

There aren’t enough exclamation points in the world to capture how I feel about that.

And I know that there is someone very important I need to thank for all of this: you! 

Yep.

You.

You are the reason I’m not hauling trash off to landfills right now. You are the reason I will be leading a panel at the Romance Writers of America conference in Atlanta. You are the reason I will be celebrating my 24th birthday in Las Vegas with a whole bunch of sensational YA authors!

Maybe that’s the hardest part for me to believe. Somehow I found a group of people–intelligent, passionate, unashamedly geeky people–who have supported me throughout this process. Who believe in me even when I don’t.

Remember that scene in The Sound of Music where Maria turns to Captain von Trapp and sings, “For here you are, standing there, loving me–whether or not you should. So somewhere in my youth or childhood, I must have done something good”?

You guys make me feel like Julie Freaking Andrews.

I think vlog Marni might say it best, so I’ll let her take it from here!

All my love,

Marni

 

 

By Popular Request…

Hey everyone!

So a bunch of you awesome people have wanted me to sign your books. Just for the record: I totally want to do it for you! I even got a PO Box to make it possible!

The logistics involved are definitely daunting though. You have to send a copy to my PO address and then I have to ship it back…

And the last time I sent a package through the US postal service it reached the intended destination…three months after her birthday.

Good thing there weren’t cookies in there. That’s all I’m saying.

So yesterday in order to fix this problem, I knowingly journeyed somewhere that makes me lose my mind. Seriously. The last time I went there four of my friends had to forcibly remove me from the premises.

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I know it’s ridiculous, but I instantly morph into a preschooler when I’m at Sticker Planet. And the one thought running through my mind becomes: MINE! ALL THESE STICKERS MUST BE MIIIINE!!!!

That’s when my friends usually try to remind me that I need to save my money for the Romance Writers of America Conference in Atlanta (SQUEE!!!! I can’t wait!) and that I don’t actually need fifteen packages of stickers.

And then I remember that since these stickers are obviously an essential part of my writing process, they are technically tax deductible.

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Fake moustache stickers: $5

These expressions: priceless.

The cashiers were like, “Um…do you want to join our valued customer program or something?”

And I said, “HAHAHA…NO! Are you kidding me? Do you have any idea how dangerous that would be?!”

That’s when they traded looks and edged further away from the crazy girl who thinks the words “stickers” and “dangerous” belong in the same sentence.

But c’mon…how great is this:

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It’s Jane! And no, sadly, my video trailer will not include all these awesome stickers. But a future one totally will!

And who will look ridiculous then, I ask you?!

Okay, probably still me.

But I did it all so that I could buy these fun labels for you guys!

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This way you can have an autographed copy of my books without a logistical nightmare. If you want me to send you one (or more!) I just need you to follow a very simple procedure:

1. Email me at MarniRBates@gmail.com or send me a letter addressed like this:

Marni Bates

PO Box 415

Los Angeles, CA 90078

I know it can be scary sending an email to a stranger with your address in it, so I totally understand if you’d prefer to go by mail. The important thing is that I get an address to send it to!

2. Write your name clearly so that I can personalize it for you.

3. If you don’t want me to address it to you, let me know! I can just sign my name if you’d rather have me do that.

4. Wait for me to send it to you!

That’s it! That simple. And this offer totally applies to my friends outside the US too! *Waves  enthusiastically to all my awesome fans in Hungary and Brazil*

And now I better start packing! I’m going home tomorrow so that I can give my mom a big ol’ hug on Mother’s Day.

But there will still be a vlog post on Sunday and Monday (probably), so stay tuned!

~Marni