No Kid Hungry

Great news! I have an essay in the May issue of Good Housekeeping, on stands now. It is so cool to see my words, and my face, in a national magazine! Even better is the cause and organization this issue of the magazine is supporting: No Kid Hungry and its mission to end childhood hunger.

This essay came out of a request for stories of growing up hungry, of kids and parents on the fringes, who aren’t necessarily starving, but who struggle on a daily basis to provide food and other necessities. “Food insecure” is what my agent called it, and my family, along with thousands of others, certainly was that.

Good Housekeeping is partnering with No Kid Hungry to help bring awareness to this type of situation that happens more often that we may want to admit. It could be happening next door and you probably wouldn’t know–shame is powerful silencer. I didn’t talk much about the hardships I faced at home when I was younger, but writing Hand Me Down and receiving the outpouring of thankful responses from readers has lifted those floodgates. I am opening up about more of my childhood in the hope that it can help others feel less alone, less embarrassed.

If you would like to get more involved with families who need help, Good Housekeeping has a resource page for more information, or you can go directly to No Kid Hungry and learn more or make a donation.

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Father’s Day

Growing up, I didn’t know a lot of good dads. My alcoholic father was either absent or impaired, many of my friend’s mothers were single or their husbands worked full time and weren’t around much. None of the women in my family had successful relationships so I had no good male role models, and men were mostly off stage, unseen except in the pain they left behind, and unnecessary in my world. Women seemed to operate without men, and most of them did just fine, or, in the case of my mother, better, without a man getting in the way. The good men were like happy bonuses, appearing in short bursts to take my friends somewhere cool or teach them to drive. Without a  proper father figure, I began to believe I didn’t need one. That maybe women really were better on our own.

But I have come to know some really great men over the years. Guys who are loyal and caring, who are open-minded and sensitive and fun and funny without being cruel and really good friends and husbands. Some of these guys have become fathers in the last few years, and already I know their little girls will not have a lack of positive male role models who encourage them to be strong females. My friends will be great fathers; they are great fathers. I’ve witnessed it myself, heard the pride and wonder in their voices as they talk about their kids as people, seen them encourage their independence and guide without smothering.

I know W will be a great father someday, too, and all of this gives me hope that women aren’t on our own the way it seemed to me as a child. Just because some of us had bad dads doesn’t mean we have to be attracted to the kind of man who is abusive or distant, too critical or controlling. There are good guys out there, and they are raising another generation of boys who will grow up to respect women and take responsibility for themselves. Those are the men who deserve to be fathers.

So, here’s  to you, dads. Your children, and wives, are lucky to have you.

Bright Lights and the Big City (I’m Moving to LA)

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I was conceived in Los Angeles. My parents grew up there, and when my mom was just a few months from delivering me into this world, she and my dad moved up to Sacramento where I was born and mostly raised. I grew up with their stories of beach bonfires and friends with houseboats, and maybe that’s part of why I’ve always been drawn to LA. But on my first real visit as a kid, I fell in love hard.

I was eleven. It was January but it was seventy-five degrees and sunny, blue skies and tropical breezes. For someone who hibernates when the temp drops below sixty, this alone was heaven. But the ocean. Oh, the ocean—shades of blue from cerulean to teal, and even in winter, not so cold you couldn’t dip your feet while sinking into the sugary white sand beaches stretching for miles. It was still California, but it was different from the raging seas up north that I grew up visiting, the icy winds and freezing water, beaches carved into the cliffs so they are shorter and flanked by huge rocks. And the light. It’s different in So Cal. Brighter. It’s like the air itself sparkles.

On that first visit, people seemed happier, lighter, artsy in a way that felt more free and less serious than I was used to. I was down there to perform in a huge conference with my choir, and my childhood dreams of acting and singing professionally were more than whispered hopes down there—they seemed like real possibilities, like warm winter winds, created by the right combination of timing and location. The whole city was wider, bigger, looser, shinier; all the things LA is supposed to be, but I didn’t know that. I just knew I wanted to come back.

W and I have moved five times in the last seven years. Each time that wasn’t for a job or school we’ve talked about moving to LA. But we didn’t know anyone there and it was too expensive and wouldn’t it be weird to just pick up and move somewhere because it seemed like a great place during visits? Fast forward four cities and still, nowhere has felt like home to both of us, and we don’t have kids or jobs that can’t be done from anywhere, and we know people in LA now and it’s still expensive, but we are a little less poor, so, why the hell not at least give it a try?

So after driving by close to eighty apartments and touring about twenty five (!) we have signed a lease. It’s a third floor unit with great western views of palm trees—and maybe even on clear days, the ocean—about four miles from the beach. We can walk to pretty much anything we will possibly need in just a few blocks—banks, gyms, restaurants, groceries, coffee shops, drug stores—and are a longer walk from a farmer’s market, bookstore, and more shops and restaurants. In fifteen minutes I can be at the ocean, and unlike up here where I’ve driven all the way to the beach and had it be too cold and windy for me to spend more than ten minutes out of the car, most of the year it will actually be warm enough to enjoy it.

Am I nervous? Sure. It’s a big city, a fast-paced change from our sleepy town now, but that is part of the draw. More restaurants, things to do, places to go, people to meet…I’ve spent the last two years sort of quietly and I’m ready to jump start a new phase.

And, still, every time I’m down there I fall in love again with the light and the palm trees, the ocean so close, the bright tropical flowers and vines hanging from everything, the succulents with their thick green spikes, the smell of sand, the endless blue sky…I can’t believe I’m finally going to live there. The eleven year old girl in me has her hand on her hips and is saying, “It’s about time.” My dreams of professional performing are history, but branching out into different writing forms sounds like it could be an appealing part of this new phase. Who knows? The possibilities down there are sparkling on the horizon, shimmering on ocean-blue waves of light. It’s time to dive in.

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News & Reviews & 3 Days Left!

The paperback of Hand Me Down comes out in three days! Have you seen her new beautiful face? Despite being unsure of it at first, I have now grown to love this cover as much as—or possibly even more than—the hardcover.

I hope new readers out there will want to pick up the book and hold it, that they will choose it off a shelf at a bookstore and take it home with them. Books just want to be loved, and I hope that all of you who enjoyed Hand Me Down in her first incarnation will tell your friends that she has been reborn. And that she is now cheaper! Though her price is not a reflection on her character. Her insides are still the same despite the new and less expensive exterior.

Also, the paperback has bonus material! I don’t know of any other novel that has added material from the character rather than the author. In this case, a new epilogue that is an essay Liz writes for her creative writing class featuring Liz and Jaime and their family ten years later. So many readers have written to me and asked for a sequel. This epilogue is not exactly a sequel, but if you wanted to know more about what happens to the girls after the events in HMD, here’s your chance.

You can preorder the paperback now from your favorite book retailer. Or wait until next week when you can pick it up in person at a bookstore. Or, you can enter this Goodreads giveaway for a chance to win one of ten free copies.

If you’re still not sure if you want to read HMD, two great reviews came out this week that might help convince you. One of my favorite book bloggers, Devourer of Books, (who is also one of my favorite follows on Twitter—check her out she’s smart and funny) wrote this fantastic review of Hand Me Down, the audio version. She addresses why the book is not YA, though it does have crossover appeal, and talks about how the fact that she was so angry with the characters proved her engagement with the book. “The hate didn’t make me dislike the book, though. On the contrary, the hate just showed me how completely invested I was in Liz’s story, and I, well, devourered Thorne’s story.” Love that last line. Told you she was funny. On Twitter she also said she was “glued to her earbuds.”

Another fabulous book blogger, Book Magnet, posted this thoughtful and kind review. The blogger, Jaime Boler, even spells her name the same way my Jaime does, which is not that common. She says all kinds of wonderful things about my book, including, “Thorne’s story left me indignant and emotionally spent, which is proof of the author’s skilled writing and adept characterizations,” and, “Thorne leaves readers with white knuckles as they wait to see if Liz and Jaime survive and even thrive…If you enjoy books narrated by strong teen girls, wise beyond their years, then Hand Me Down is a must read.” Generous as she is, she has also invited me to do an interview with her on her blog which will be coming soon!

I’m so grateful for these reviews, for all the reviews on Goodreads and Amazon, for being featured on She Knows Red Hot March Reads list, for all the emails and Tweets and Facebook posts…it’s a great way to kick-off the paperback release week! Hopefully this is just the beginning of a long and healthy paperback life for my baby.

Three more days!

In Which I Interview Myself for The Nervous Breakdown

The Nervous BreakdownThe Nervous Breakdown is an online community full of great reviews of books and movies, author interviews and original essays, and all kinds of cool content. As a writer, my favorite feature is their self-interview, in which authors interview themselves. Often authors do fun things like taking on different personas for interviewer and interviewee or asking inappropriate, off-the-wall questions, and/or use it as a chance to talk about topics that haven’t come up in other interviews or other things they find interesting.

I’ve been a fan of these for a while so it’s such a pleasure to get to do one myself to celebrate Hand Me Down‘s rebirth in paperback. I’m pretty proud of this interview, actually, and it was tons of fun to work on. So I hope you’ll check it out. I start by calling myself a chicken and a liar, and it gets better from there. I also talk about forgiveness and Christopher Pike and seeing my flasher ex-stepdad on the local news.

You’re such a chicken.

Excuse me?

And a liar.

Well, I am a writer. But this is a strange way to begin an interview. Can’t you be nicer to yourself?

Why didn’t you just call your book a memoir, chicken? Were you too scared to put yourself out there and be honest?

Hand Me Down isn’t a memoir. It’s a novel.

But isn’t it true?

Continue Reading Self-Interview

The Nervous Breakdown has also posted an excerpt from Hand Me Downchapter one in its entirety. Enjoy!

Spring Is in the Air

For such a short month, February sure packs a wallop. There are so many application deadlines and events and holidays and birthdays (I guess lots of people have sex in May, huh?), and it feels like a generally busy time for all of us. February means business. Now that the Christmas trees are out of the house (though, I saw one on the curb just last week!) and we’ve stopped living on cheese and wine and chocolate and are ready to come out from under our blankets and away from cozy fireplaces, step out of our slippers into non-elastic-waist pants and leave the holidays behind, it’s time to get back to work. 

And I did. I did publicity outreach emails, wrote guest blog posts and answered interview questions, applied to two MFA programs and wrote a statement of purpose, entered seven novel contests, applied for two conference fellowships and wrote the corresponding personal essays, and applied for the NEA fellowship for the first time. (Man, that application is a hassle—but it’s free, so why not?). I accepted an invitation to be on a writers workshop panel in June and to teach a workshop in September. All this on top of my regular trying-to-write schedule and, you know, life.

I have also sort of met my goals of getting outside more and spending less time on social media. I am still not writing enough, but that feels like it’s getting closer. I’m getting to the point where I notice things I want to describe, scenes I witness seem to slow down so I can capture them in my memory and I write them down when I get home. I’ve been making lots of notes, and I’m pretty sure the writing will just pour out of me when the time is right. The fact that I am now feeling hopeful rather than terrified is a shift in itself that tells me I’m making progress, even if it’s not all on a conscious level. Writing is tricky that way.

I think the change in weather also makes me more positive. It’s staying light after 6 pm and the air smells like flowers and the cherry blossoms are blooming pink confetti all over my neighborhood and the sun is out more and the wind isn’t icy on my cheeks. I can open the car windows when I drive and when I’m working so I can hear the birds twittering their songs. I love spring.

This spring means a paperback release for Hand Me Down (I’d be so grateful if you preordered a copy!) and decisions about what to do for next year. I think February was just the primer and March is going to be all kinds of busy, but I also think I’m ready after my winter hibernation.

Change is in the air. I can feel it building. Shifts—in our location, our focus, our behaviors, our perceptions—can be hard, but the other side of the transformation seems promising right now. I’m looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Hand Me Down’s New Paperback Face!

So this arrived today:

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Eye-catching, isn’t it? Striking, right? I think it really pops in a way that will get people to pick it up, and the thumbnail stands out online, too. My favorite part is the moon in her eye. Plus, the paperback has bonus material—a new epilogue that I’ll talk more about later, but is pretty exciting, since this isn’t something you get in a lot of books: a little extra from the characters at the end.

I’ll be updating the site with the new cover image, more info about the new epilogue, and new upcoming events, so stay tuned!

But for now, bask in her beautiful glow:

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