February 2nd, 2007

Ten years ago today, two very important things happened.

One: my dog was born.

Two: I joined a teen writing website hosted by Scholastic called Write It.

You could say that one of these things alone was the best thing to ever happen to me, because they’ve both shaped me and saved me in so many ways. But the combination of the two, by far, makes February 2nd, 2007 a particularly notable day for me. And now here we are, in 2017, ten years later, and so much of what has dominated my life over the past decade can be traced back to that day.

Of course I didn’t know anything particularly important was happening on February 2nd, 2007. I just happened to join a new website; a few months later I’d meet my best friend at my thirteenth birthday party and she’d just so happen to have been born February 2nd as well.

I think everyone knows how much I love my dog. (And how much it sucks to have to be away from her—which is ironic, since the having-to-be-away thing was caused by joining Write It. More on that later.) But fewer people probably know about the thousands of hours I logged on Write It throughout my middle and high school years. And how much the friendships we forged and the stories we crafted and the dreams we ignited on there made me who I am today.

I’d always wanted to be a writer, but it was Write It that got me to sit down and actually write my first novel. It was Write It that taught me about NaNoWriMo (which I’ll be celebrating a different ten year anniversary with, this November). It was on Write It that I learned there was such a thing as being a Creative Writing major, and it was on Write It that I learned about revising and publishing, and it was on Write It that I got my first taste of critiquing novels and organizing events. It was on Write It that I first found people who felt like me.

It’s no wonder, taking this all into consideration, that it was wanting to meet my friends on Write It that gave me the idea for the Chapter One Young Writers Conference—and now look at us. (We were in Writer’s Digest last year! Our keynote speaker was a New York Times bestseller!) And because Write It gave me the confidence to pursue a Creative Writing major, I ended up at a dream university, studied abroad at Oxford, interned in New York, received highest honors on my creative writing honors thesis, completed the Columbia Publishing Course UK—and most importantly: I met some of the best friends I will ever be lucky enough to have.

My senior year of college, I was a regional judge for the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. We used to call them the “SAWAs” on Write It. (Fun fact: the Write It writing forums were founded with the purpose of preparing kids to enter the SAWAs.) I thought at the time that I had finally come full circle. From kid-entering-the-SAWAs to judge. I thought, This is what February 2nd was leading to.

One year later, though, and I see now what full circle really looks like. Because I now work at Scholastic. (I mean, I’m an editorial intern. But still.) And I found out about this job because a friend had a job at Scholastic, and she recommended me. And I know this friend because she’s a member of the Ch1Con team. And Ch1Con was founded, originally, by members of the Scholastic’s Write It community. And on and on and on—it all leads back to that day.

Looking back on the past ten years, I don’t know how they could have turned out any other way. Because clearly this was the right course of events. Clearly the dominoes lined up just right to lead me here. (When I was twelve, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I’m really, really happy that, thanks to joining Write It, I did not become a veterinarian.)

So, here we are: ten years ago today, I was a pretentious twelve-year-old idiot who had no idea who she was or who she wanted to be. But she knew she liked to write. She was dreaming of New York City and meeting authors—and, yes, the chance she might someday get a puppy.

Today, February 2nd, 2017, I am a sentimental twenty-two-year-old idiot who’s still figuring out who I am, but who knows exactly who I want to be. I still like to write. I’m living in New York City, now. I work with authors every day. And today is my puppy’s tenth birthday.

I might not have ended up where I meant to go, but I’m exactly where I’m meant to be. So here’s to February 2nd, 2007. Here’s to Twelve-Year-Old Julia. Here’s to the days that shape us (and save us).

And here’s to February 2nd, 2017. I can’t wait to see where we go from here.

~Julia

Nostalgia = Motivator

I’ve been having trouble working lately.

A lot of people I know have been getting good news, which of course makes me SUPER EXCITED for them. But also kind of depressed for myself.

And that’s stupid, I know. But hearing about book deals, and internships, and contests while I’m just sitting here, trying to get through my homework, is, you know, depressing. (Or, less depressing as much as an anti-motivator. Like, “Why even bother when everyone else is clearly So Much More Talented and Hardworking Than Me?”)

Then this afternoon a writing friend linked to an old post from these writing forums we used to use, and we ended up spending the next three hours just going through the posts and laughing at how stupid we were (are) and being nostalgic.

And for the first time in a while, I not only want to work on all the projects I’m in the middle of because I know I need to, but because I actually, truly want to.

Looking at those old stories, and life updates, and post after post of inside jokes reminded me why I’ve kept at the writing thing for so long anyway. It’s fun, it’s an escape from real life, and I’ve gotten to know some really awesome friends because of it.

I’d forgotten what this feels like: wanting to work. Too much energy in my hands and stomach, and not being able to hold back a smile, and wanting nothing more than to curl up with my laptop and write.

It feels nice.

 

~Julia

PS. I’ve drawn and contacted the winner of the Falling into Place giveaway! Thanks for entering. I wish I could give copies to all of you!

Dear Twelve Year Old Me

Dear Twelve Year Old Me,

You don’t know it yet, but that writing website you discovered the other day is going to change everything.

You’ll learn so much about the publishing industry, there. Become a better writer. Fall into being a much better person.

And most importantly, you’ll meet some of your best friends.

I know. Crazy. Becoming friends with people on the internet. Didn’t Mom and Dad warn you not to do that? (But it’ll be okay, because that writing website has a wonderful moderator named Bronwen who will keep you from sharing the personal details that could get you kidnapped by a drug cartel/human traffickers.) (You know. Until Fourteen Year Old You and said online friends join NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program, at which you all realize you can now talk without anyone else watching, and you subsequently become completely invested in each other’s lives.)

You don’t know it yet, but a lot of your dreams aren’t going to come true. You won’t be like that girl in that Andrew Clements novel you read over and over again. You won’t be the one juggling schoolwork with book tours and TV appearances.

But that’s okay, that’s more than okay, because you are going to be the one with an AP English essay open in one window and endless novel revisions open in another. You’ll be the one “writing” in notebooks during breaks at theatre rehearsals (because come on, now: we all know that chicken scratch can’t be called writing). You’ll be the one who talks about being scared you’re in the Saggy Middle of your journey to publication as a senior in high school while pacing in a hotel room in New York City, a writing conference in full swing a few floors below.

You’ll be the one who cries a little when you step in the Javits Center for the first time as (Two Weeks Ago) Twenty Year Old You. Because while everybody else in the industry despises it, for someone still so on the outside, that building looks like dreams for the future and rings with those dreams coming true.

Don’t be scared. You’ll still wants it as badly as you do now, Twelve Year Old Me. But you’ll want it differently in seven and a half years. And it’s a long, hard, and beautiful journey to get here.

The other kids on that website you stumbled across are going to be your lifelines through all this. Don’t be mad when they’re better than you; be grateful when they compliment your writing; and always remember how lucky you are to have them in your life.

You don’t deserve them. You still don’t now. But you do have them, and they have you, and that’s what you’re doing here right now.

Because “here” is Arlington Heights, Illinois. And “right now” is 7:21 AM, June 14th, 2014. The morning of the 2014 Chapter One Young Writers Conference. A conference you put together (with a LOT of help from Mom, mind you) so you and your friends and other young writers like you can transcend the boundaries of the internet and distance, at least for a weekend. Because after seven and a half years, you guys deserve that kind of thing.

And now you–or I, I guess, am sitting here on a bath mat across from a hotel toilet, because I don’t want to wake Mom out in the room. And my left shoulder blade is pressed to the wall, legs bent with left flip flop pressed to right thigh, and it’s funny, because in seven and a half years years everything else has changed, but I still sit like I don’t know how to be a functioning human being. (Let’s be honest: I don’t.)

You’re just a snatch of memory held up with velvet rope and spotlights at the back of my mind, now, Twelve Year Old Me: a period in my life I remember probably far too often, because I am scared to forget.

And I love you. Because you won’t know you’re changing everything when you choose to use that website for all the wrong reasons and choose to obsess over it for all the right ones.

Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. And don’t watch too much TV; it rots your brain. (But no worries. The doctors fix that in the future by coming up with a drug called “Netflix.” Don’t tell the other kids, but it’s going to be awesome.)

One last word of advice: Thirteen Year Old You will encounter the urge to write a novel titled Pennamed. Much bad will come of this. DON’T GIVE IN. (But actually do, because finishing that first terrible novel is one of the things that sets you down the path to Now. And I love Now.)

I’m off to talk with some of those girls you met the other day. Thanks for introducing me to them. They’re pretty cool.

 

Love,

Twenty Year Old Me

NaNo Day 25: The Meaning of “cavyheart”

At the beginning of the month I said I’d eventually explain what my NaNoWriMo username, “cavyheart,” means. I use this username or variations of it for pretty much everything, and it’s kind of really random and weird, so I figured I should give some back story on it.

At this point in time, “cavyheart” is basically just an inside joke with some of my writing friends, harkening back to the days when I thought that was actually an acceptable username to choose on a website–aka, the ancient and far too embarrassing year of 2007: February of seventh grade. Twelve years old. The year I joined the Scholastic’s Write It forums for teen writers (basically Figment before Figment was Figment, only more close-friends-and-community-like).

New Figment WI Group LogoPart of the Write It community involved lots of terrifying inside jokes, like threatening one another with banana poisoning if we didn’t update stories quickly enough and Larry the Man-Eating Hamster if a plot twist didn’t turn out the way a reader wanted it to. I’m not sure how the moderator of the forums put up with us, but thank God she did.

The most popular types of usernames on Write It, in 2007, combined an animal in the first half and then either “writer” or “heart” in the second half, with “writer” being the most popular. Being the analytical, pretentious little middle schooler I was, I decided to go with “heart” so that I’d be “in” but not TOO mainstream, and then it came time to choose an animal.

Other users had things like “pug,” or “cat,” or “horse.” Totally normal favorite animals to put. Me? I loved guinea pigs. I’d been obsessed with guinea pigs since the fourth grade, ever since I got over my gerbil obsession. So I wanted to do something with “guinea pig” for my username, except that that’s really long, and hey–I was a weird, pretentious little self-absorbed jerk, right? (I’d like to say “who wasn’t in middle school,” but I don’t want to implicate anyone else in the level of jerk I was, because I’m going to assume until proven otherwise that you’re a better person than me.)

If you know guinea pigs well, you know that their more formal name is “cavy.” I figured most people wouldn’t know what “cavy” meant, which meant that if I used it I would have the privilege of explaining it often to my far less sophisticated peers and thus looking uber intelligent and AWESOME (I am shuddering with revulsion as I write this).

So, I chose “cavyheart” as my username on the Scholastic’s Write It forums for teen writers. And the rest–as cliche as it sounds–is history.

The first Chapter One Young Writers Conference solely involved Write It users, so that it wouldn’t be as much pressure as we tried to figure out the whole “running a writing conference” thing. We all got t-shirts with our Write It usernames on them. This is me greeting conference attendees at the train.

Now I continue to use it because it means I get to laugh at how stupid I am and it makes it easier for my Write It friends to find me at different places on the internet. But seriously, it is REALLY weird. I’m not sure if I would go back and change it if I could, since it does do a good job of defining the little weirdo I was in middle school (not that I’m not a weirdo now, but I like to believe I’m a slightly more socially acceptable version of one), but it is a little embarrassing whenever I have to explain it to someone new. (Although hey, now I can just refer them to this blog post and avoid the whole blushing, mumbling, staring at my feet in agony bit, right?)

Have you ever had a really weird username somewhere that the majority of people didn’t understand? Any awkward, strange nicknames from when you were younger? (The people from Write It took to shortening “cavyheart” to just “Cavy,” so a fairly large group of people now know me essentially as “guinea pig.” It’s fantastic.)

Because I was up so late writing Saturday night, I was exhausted yesterday, so I only ended up writing a little under 1.5k, about half of my goal for the day. Which means that I’m behind again. But hopefully I can finish up the rest of the stuff I need to do today quickly enough that I’ll have a chance to catch up. Again.

day 25

Hope you’re having a great day!

 

~Julia