SO SHELLY, On Suicide

In the wake of Robin William’s suicide, I’ve resisted to weigh in with my thoughts because, really, who cares what I think. I often feel that the need to express such thoughts are little more than creeping on the grief of others anyway. No offense. The tragedy did, however, call to my mind a passage near the end of my first novel, SO SHELLY, which I thought I might share here.

I ask you to remember that this is a work of fiction. The conversation that takes place fit the characters and the context. It does not necessarily reflect my personal thoughts on the subject, but it does present a more unorthodox and controversial perspective on the issue of suicide. At the time of the novel’s publication, I thought I’d receive some blow back for this scene, but I never really did.

The scene occurs near the end of the novel when Keats and Gordon are near to fulfilling their promise to their shared best friend, Shelly, to spread her ashes at a place beloved by her.

“You know, I didn’t think she had the balls to go through with it,” Gordon said as he commenced blazing the trail.
“Go through with what?” I asked, sincerely clueless.
“This!” He stopped and nodded toward the urn upraised in his hands, then spun slowly around, indicating the entire island.
“What do you mean?” I asked, as a really bad feeling began to gurgle up from the well of my ignored gut feelings.
“Killing herself.”
“You mean . . . I thought you said . . .?”
“Yeah, I knew about it. She told me her plan.”
“Wait . . . What? ‘Killing herself?’ You knew about it? And, you didn’t do anything to stop her!” I was incredulous. I was an accomplice. I was the one who passed on Shelly’s message of needing to speak with him. This was the result.
“What’d you want me to do, Keats? Sit with her 24/7?”
“Gee, I don’t know, talk her out of it, maybe?! Christ, at least tell somebody!”
“She made me promise not to. Her father would have put her in a nuthouse, which would have killed her anyway. Besides, I didn’t think she was serious. You know how she was.”
“Oh, that explains it. She made you promise not to. What? Did you pinkie swear?”
“Look. It’s what she wanted. Who was I to tell her what to do with her life anyway? If she was so unhappy that dying seemed a relief, then why should I deny her that? We have no choice in when or to what asshole parents we come into this world. At least, shouldn’t we be able to decide for ourselves when to leave it?”
“You were supposed to be her friend, you selfish prick!” I shouted as I gave him the most ineffectual shove in the history of chivalry.
“I’m selfish?” He’d grabbed my arm at the wrist and twisted until I was bent over again and, this time, in excruciating pain. “You think I should have convinced her to go on living miserably so that your feelings wouldn’t be hurt? Don’t give me that bullshit about the selfishness of suicide. What’s selfish is insisting that she continue in her misery so you won’t have to feel sad or guilty.”
“Guilty? Why should I feel guilty?”
“She told me about the poetry books, dude. What’d you think she was doing? Organizing for a garage sale?”
He released me from the submission hold and sent me reeling, as if on drunken legs, until I stumbled off the path and onto the razor sharp leaves of the now pissed-off plant growing in the sandy soil. The boom box catapulted from my hand.
“I . . . I didn’t think . . .” I said, still planted on from my ass.
“Yeah, that’s right. You didn’t think. Because, just maybe, deep down you knew what she was doing too, and you didn’t want to interfere either because in that deep down place you understood that it was what she wanted. So keep your self-righteous bullshit to yourself. I don’t need it.”

Island Gone Wild!


With the ever-notorious and often nefarious Put-in-Bay being featured so prominently in the local news of late, I thought it might be fun to post a section of my first novel SO SHELLY that features the village. In this chapter, the strikingly-innocent narrator (Keats) makes his first visit to P-I-B accompanied by the somewhat already world-weary Gordon Byron. Be forewarned, the language is a bit crass in an attempt to capture the often uncouth behavior of the people and bawdy atmosphere of the place.

“I had never visited the island, but the stories of the bacchanalian revelry that take place there during the boating season are legendary throughout the lower Great Lakes. (There are only two seasons on the islands: boating season and preparing for boating season.) South Bass is New Orleans at Mardi Gras, Spring Break on South Padre, Las Vegas, Sodom and Gomorrah, Caligula’s Rome, the sultry Greek Islands, and Dodge City in amalgam and in the form of two E-shaped docks and the three-block strip of bars in downtown Put-In-Bay. For Gordon, the happiest place on Earth . . . or so I supposed.

Me? I was scared shitless.

As I stood on the dock waiting for Gordon to stow away the Corsair, he reached into the captain’s bin again; this time, he pulled out his notorious human skull drinking cup, which I’d heard about but had never seen, and a handful of purple, gold, and green strands of cheap, plastic beads, which he threw to me.

“What are these for?” I asked.

“They don’t flash ‘em for free, Junior,” was his cryptic answer.

I soon discovered the beads’ function as we walked the docks, pushing our way through the filled-to-capacity public marina. Powerboats ranging from fourteen to fifty-plus feet (many of which bore the Byron Boats logo) were jammed inside the steel docks. They rafted off one another three and four deep as we neared land. Each boat was a floating frat house/strip club. The men outnumbered the ladies by at least three-to-one, but the women that were there seemed to be enjoying the odds and encouraging the attention. During our trek from where we tied off furthermost to the dock master’s small, wooden booth/office on shore, I saw my first set of boobs on a real topless woman – that is, the woman was real, not the boobs. I’d learned to discern the difference by the time I reached shore and depleted my supply of beads.

Gordon never slowed down or turned his head to look, even when a “girl-gone-wild,” craving his attention, called out to him: “Hey, Cutie. I’ll show you for free,” or “Take a look, Sugar,” or invited him to “party.” He couldn’t have been more disinterested.

“What’s the matter?” I asked, confused.

“They disgust me. I hate this place.”

But, we were in his element. Weren’t we?

“These people have no class, Keats. No style. They’re barbarians. The women are sluts.They pay ten grand on a credit card for a boob job; then, to get their money’s worth, they flash them in the face of any pecker head who’ll trade them a set of fucking fifty cent beads. It’s pathetic.” Gordon looked over my shoulder at the flotilla behind me. “And, these guys, what assholes,” he paused to absorb the beer-bellied, baseball-capped, board-shorted scene. These losers’ idea of seduction is slipping one of these already half-drunk whores a rufie, waiting for her to start feeling woozy, then offering, all gentlemanlike, to walk her back to her boat or her hotel or wherever, where she passes out and the ball-less piece-of-shit generates enough self-confidence to pull out his pencil dick and fuck the corpse. It’s sick. There’s no talent here.”

I think that that was what really bothered Gordon – it wasn’t the lack of morality but the lack of artistry. But by the time Gordon had finished his diatribe, I wanted to rush back to the docks and collect all the beads I had given away and throw a towel around each one of the bikini-topped women.”

Re-reading and posting that was fun and sad at the same time. Does it sound familiar to anyone? If interested, SO SHELLY is available in paperback and ereader formats.

SO SHELLY in the Zeitgeist

Several of the more controversial and admittedly cringe-inducing elements from my novel SO SHELLY are those in which two of the main characters are sexually abused by adults: Gordon, as the historical Byron admitted to being, is abused by his live-in nanny. Another incident, ripped from the headlines of Byron’s life, is his sexual relationship with his half-sister, Augusta. As for  Shelly, in the novel, she suffers an incestuous rape by her father. Although, as far as I know, neither Percy nor Mary Shelley was victimized as such, the scene is meant to be an extreme metaphorical representation (ala the great Flannery O’Connor) of the manner in which children and teens are often taken advantage of and victimized by the adults in their lives, the very ones in whom they should be able to place their most sacred trust.

During the writing and editing of those scenes, I was wracked with uncertainty as to their inclusion in a text targeted for young adults. After much internal debate and several conversations with my editor, the decision was made to keep those unseemly events in the story. It was a calculated risk, for it has certainly scared away and inspired the vitriol of some readers/critics and caused some book stores and libraries to reject the shelving of SHELLY. However, without those incidents those characters’ motivations and behaviors made little sense, but I think, more importantly, those scenes shine a much-needed light on the reality of the sexual abuse of children at the hands of adults and on the nearly unspoken of topic of incest, the most universal of taboos. It was actually the recent reading of an article written for The Daily Beast by Jace Lacob, “Game of Thrones’ ‘Boardwalk Empire’ and Others Break the Incest Taboo on TV,” that inspired me to pen this blog. Read Lacob’s article here:  The reality is that these behaviors occur whether we write or talk about them or not; in fact, they happen more frequently as a result of the shame and embarrassment which induce our silence and tacitly allows for them to continue to take place, as the Penn State case and others recently brought to light revealed.

I have long asserted the legitimate role of “adult” themes and scenes in YA literature and teenagers’ ability to handle such themes with intelligence and maturity. These themes and scenes provide them a safe place to experience vicariously the adult situations which await them in their very near future, and they expose them to and help prepare them for some of life’s darker realities, including sexual abuse and perversions. Writers and adults in general, do young people a grave disservice by failing to address these issues in families, schools, churches, etc. Ironically and sadly, it’s in these institutions that much of the abuse occurs. And, no matter how much we, as adults, don’t want to admit it, many teens have already been thrust or thrust themselves into any number of very “adult” experiences.

In light of recent news stories, I’m convinced that my instinct as a writer and social commentator was not only right on but even prescient. Against heavy odds and I’m sure for a short time only, these issues have nudged their way to the forefront of the American zeitgeist (the mood of a particular place and time; what were thinking/talking about as a society), and I’ll flatter myself by suggesting that SO SHELLY has played a minor role in sparking some reflection on and discussion of these issues.

Now, it’s vital that – while we have this rare opportunity to peel back the curtain, examine our sexual natures and deviancies, and dialogue about them in public – we do so. If not, we will once again look the other way, forget what we have seen and heard, and enable young people to continue to be victimized. It’s also vital that these same young people be exposed to works like SO SHELLY at a time when – whether we like it or not and for their own well being – they need to lose some of the naiveté that renders them gullible and ripe for exploitation.

Banned but Unbowed

I should have posted this article last week during Banned Books Week; however, life continued to get in the way and forced me to delay my report my own mild brush with book banning. Many of my favorite books to read or to teach have been banned at one time or another for a diverse set of reasons, and I’ve always believed that great art is always offensive on some level to someone. Therefore, the subject is dear to my heart.

Recently, I was approached by an independent bookstore in northern Ohio regarding the possibility of  making an in-store appearance. I was thrilled! One of the most surprisingly gratifying experiences for me as an author has been the opportunity to meet readers and to discuss books – mine and others’ – with them. I was equally disappointed, then, when my contact at the bookstore decided to rescind the offer, after reading SO SHELLY and having found her too “raw.” In doing so, she couldn’t have been any nicer or more professional. I thanked her for the time and consideration she’d already spent, and she said that she would continue to “hand sell” SO SHELLY to targeted customers.

Bookstores are not libraries. They are in business to attract paying customers; therefore, it is imperative that they know and please their clientele. I have no doubt that this was an important factor in rescinding the offer. Bookstore owners have every right to shelve whatever books and to host whatever authors they choose. With a limited amount of shelf space to begin with, bookstores make these decisions daily, and in typically much smaller independent bookstores, shelf space is at a premium. Libraries, on the other hand, are not driven by profit, nor are they the arbiters of society’s literary tastes. Their responsibility is to make available books on a wide range of topics and that detail the infinite variety of experiences available to the human. For as Longfellow wrote, “Life is short and time is fleeting,” and the vicarious experiences found in books may be the only way the vast majority of us will ever be able to have them during our transient
lifetimes.  Many of these library-shelved books may be offensive to others; however, it is not the place of the library or the public to decide. That choice must remain the individual’s.

To the quite civil and reasonable snubbing, I’ve had two divergent responses. My initial reaction was hurt. It stung to think that anyone would find the content of my novel so egregious that it must be kept out of the view and hands of young adults. My second, more rational response was that, at least to some extent, I got what I deserved and even asked for. In the penning of SO SHELLY, there were many moments of authorial and editorial decision-making concerned with the inclusion of adult language and scenes that I knew some readers may find objectionable. Knowing that the novel would be marketed for young adults, I still chose to retain them. I consciously pushed the ever-shifting boundaries of appropriateness, not for salacious reasons but to accurately tell the story of the three very real and fairly outlandish poets who are at the center of the story. I don’t regret those choices, but it would be disingenuous of me to whine whenever SO SHELLY is passed over by bookstores, schools, and the occasional library.

I continue to believe that books are a safe place for young adults to confront “adult” themes and situations, so that when they are faced with them in the real world, they have had at least the vicarious book
experience on which to reference their decision-making. The young adult readers of my experience find any glossing over or “dumbing-down” of material to be more offensive than the frank treatment of mature subject matter. So, I will
continue to push all envelopes and remain true to my commitment to never underestimate the intelligence or maturing of young adult readers – even if i cost me an occasional bookstore appearance.

So Shelly Honored by “Booklist”

The September 15, 2011, issue of Booklist, a prestigious 100-year old magazine published by the American LIbrary Association, includes SO SHELLY in its list of “Top Ten Romance Fiction for Youth: 2011”:  In the words of Shakespeare’s Juliet, it is “an honor I dreamt not of” but one by which I am humbled and for which I am grateful.

If I show even the slightest hesitancy to be floored by this honor, it is due to the designation of SO SHELLY as a “romance.” The word is a tricky one that inspires a number of understandings and responses. Sadly, in its modern interpretation, the use of the term is often limited to the “Harlequin”-type romance. These novels, though widely-popular and perfectly legitimate, tend to be formulaic and dismissed by many as “plot-boilers.” I do not believe SO SHELLY conforms to either of these descriptions.

The Romance, however, as a story form, has a long, vaunted, and perpetual place in literary history. Modern day manifestations of this form are all derivatives of the Medieval Romance and the Romantic Movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The medieval form featured larger-than-life heroes and villains, dangerous quests, ingenues, supernatural beings and events, and a lightheartedness of tone and purpose. The more recent Romantic Movement borrows from its medieval predecessor and adds such elements as its nearly-pantheistic love of nature, an emphasis on freedom and nonconformity, high emotion, the spirit of rebellion and revolution, a tendency towards excess and spontaneity, and an appreciation of the exotic. It is this second spell of Romantic literature that inspired the trinity of characters at the center of SO SHELLY: Lord Byron, Percy Byshhe Shelley, and John Keats. Our modern day fascination with horror, supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, shape-shifters, witches, etc.), and the paranormal can be traced to the gothic novels of this second manifestation of Romanticism. Therefore, as a literary descendant of these two forms of Romance, I am thrilled to see SHELLY included among Booklist’s honored works of Romance fiction.

Perhaps the greatest outcome of earning Booklist’s distinction would be to expand the readership of SO SHELLY across genres. In my experience as a student, teacher, and lover of art and literature, the greatest pieces have always been those that defy easy categorization. I can only hope that SO SHELLY is one such definition-resistant novel.

What NOT to Expect as a Debut Author

Now that my novel, SO SHELLY, has been on shelves for over six months, it’s time to look back at the past half year and share what I’ve learned about being a debut novelist with a major publisher. I doubt that my actual experiences will match the high expectations that most have. For example, I’m constantly referred to by others as the “famous author” (I wish, then maybe I wouldn’t still be doing my own laundry, cleaning my own bathrooms, mowing my own lawn, etc.), and people often ask how my life has changed? (Answer: Not much.) The reality is that very little of the past six months has matched my idealistic hopes, dreams, and expectations of life after publication. I do believe, however, that my experience is the norm; although, I’m sure there are those lucky few whose first novels skyrocket them to fortune and fame. All I know for sure is that from the high of being chosen by the American Booksellers Association as one of 2011’s top “New Voices” to the low of having not a single person show up for a library reading, I wouldn’t trade a step of the journey.

Below, in bold, are ten experiences regarding which many debut novelists often have mistaken notions. After each is the reality as I have experienced it and my advice for future novices in the world of publishing.

Reviews in national magazines or USA Today: Be thrilled if you are reviewed in trade magazines such as Publishers Weekly, Booklist, and Scrivener and to be featured in any blog, hometown newspaper, alumni magazine etc. that is willing to give you the space. If they don’t come to you, seek them out. Sell your publishing success story to them. Those types of publications are proud to report the “local boy does good” story.

A large windfall of income: Don’t quit your day job, especially if your health benefits and retirement savings are tied to that job. After expenditures, I will have spent more money on my writing career this year than I will have earned.

A free editorial pass on your second book or for the writing of it to come easier: It is much more difficult with your second effort to earn an editor’s approval. She knows that for the good of your career, your sophomore effort must be much better than your first, for an underselling second book can be the kiss-of-death for an author’s career. Remember: very few writers are ever given a single opportunity at the publishing plate, and ach swing-and-miss greatly reduces the probability of getting an additional turn at-bat.

To be recognized everywhere you go. If you’re writing for the correct reasons, relative anonymity is what you should hope for. Remember: it’s about the book, not the author. The title of “author-celebrity” should be an oxymoron. I know of very few authors who are comfortable in the celebrity role, and those who are typically pump out trite, formulaic work of transitory value.

Copies of your book in the majority of bookstores nationwide. Bookstores can be very fickle and independent regarding the books they choose to stock. It’s actually very hit-and-miss as to whether or not a bookstore will stock your book, and oftentimes, a single copy is all they have. Be grateful for any and all of the valuable shelf real estate your book may occupy.

Book tours. My in-house publicist all-but-discouraged a book tour – even one of my own arranging and at my own expense. In fact, you must be your own publicist regarding the vast majority of personal promotion. I’ve arranged all of my own book signings, readings, lectures, and book fair appearances, and I’ve purchased the bookmarks and post cards to advertise my novel.

To grace bestseller lists. Anymore, I’m thrilled when my book climbs into Amazon’s top 100,000, even for an hour or two.

Your agent to be at your beckoning call: The fact is that you are, most likely, one among her diverse array of clients, many of whom are at more critical junctures in the publishing process than you, now that your book is out and on shelves. Expect to be in communication with her on an “as needed” basis.

Constant kudos from your editor/publisher: Similar to your agent, your editor has a stable of authors she represents. They are the most overworked and underappreciated cogs in the publishing machine. Don’t expect frequent updates on sales of your book or a steady stream of congratulatory notes. My advice is always to let your editor make first contact. Like your agent again, she will share any news to which you need to be privy. Trust me, she is not keeping secrets.

That’s one writer’s experience. I suggest you file it under “For What It’s Worth.”


Promoting Your Book

A major misconception held by many aspiring writers involves the amount of promotion a first-time author can expect from the publisher. Many dream of book tours and media appearances, or they expect their agent to act as their publicist. Although I’m sure that does happen for a very small number of debut writers, I can assure you that the vast majority of us must do the bulk of our own public relations work.

Consider my experience. I signed a two book deal with Delacorte/Random House and received an advance well above the average for a debut novelist. I was assigned an in-house publicist, who in addition to my novel, SO SHELLY, was responsible for promoting the work of a stable of authors. Her efforts were primarily and properly directed towards gaining prominent space for my novel in industry catalogs and at promoting it at domestic and international book festivals with her target being those who purchase in large numbers, not the individual readers who purchase books in stores and online. Like it or not, except for the writer who has a large and built-in audience or who has a pre-established media platform, it will always be the author’s responsibility to market himself and his work to individual book buyers. The question is how to do so.

In the six months since the release of SO SHELLY, I have tried and continue to experiment with a number of marketing strategies. The easiest, least expensive, and most utilized is social networking. For me, Facebook, much more than Twitter, has translated into sales. Facebook friends are much more often actual friends or people with whom I have a shared present or past. These friends sincerely want to see me succeed and to be part of that success. Though much appreciated, my Twitter contacts tend to be those with their own interests in mind and products and services to sell.

Book store signings have also proven successful for me, but on each occasion, I’ve had to work the floor, offering book browsers insight on various authors and books and often making recommendations other than my own. I’ve even steered potential buyers away from my novel if I felt it didn’t match what they’d shared with me as their preferred style of reading. Don’t expect to sit at a table with a line of book buyers waiting for your signature.

I’ve done a number of library readings with varied success. In the days immediately following my novel’s release, a local bookstore sent a salesperson directly to the libraries to make sales. These early readings were well-attended and quite a few sales were made. However, after a few months, the attendance at my library readings has dwindled. I actually had an appearance to which no one came. I didn’t regret it at all. An occasional humbling is beneficial, and I just think of all of the superstar musicians who tell stories of playing in empty bars for years before ever playing an arena show. I still will never turn down a library reading. I have found, however, that it has helped to change from doing a reading from my novel to doing a presentation on the publishing/writing process in general. This draws from a much larger pool than the genre in which I write.

A practice I’m committed to that many will find uncomfortable for themselves is personal signings. I’ve met a number of my readers at coffee shops, bookstores, even in my home for a conversation and to sign their book. In the process, I have reestablished relationships and made new friends. These personal signings have not resulted in a single negative experience. Just think how powerful of a champion those readers have become for me and my book out among the reading public. The positive word-of-mouth these champions generate is priceless.

In recent months, I’ve been featured in the alumni magazines of both my high school and my university. One sought me out; the other, I contacted. I actually appeared on the cover of my high school’s magazine, which may sound trivial; however, it was a direct mailing into literally thousands of homes across the country, as was the college publication. I couldn’t afford to buy that kind of publicity, but I got it for free. I have also done two local radio appearances for which a surprising number of people stop to tell me they heard me on the radio then went and bought my book.

On the heels of being named one of 2011’s top “New Voices in YA Literature” by the American Booksellers Association, I’m currently trying to jump start sales in a number of ways. I ordered postcards with the cover image of SO SHELLY and the ABA’s recognition, which I’m mailing to independent bookstore owners to encourage them to stock SO SHELLY and promote it to their customers. I have also begun to seek inclusion in various book/literary festivals across the country. So far, I’ve been invited to present at one, and I am being considered for several others. A final strategy I’ve begun to employ is the offering of myself as a guest lecturer in creative writing classrooms at local universities. One has offered me the opportunity to do an evening reading and presentation for which they have offered an honorarium.

The reality is that the author must assume the responsibility forreaching readers and selling books. The number of ways to do so are unlimited, and no way is too small or unworthy of the effort. We are all trying to light those small purchase fires that we hope will combine and spread into a conflagration of sales. Borrow promotional ideas from others and try a few of your own. Whatever you do, don’t sit back and expect your book to magically find an audience or for your publisher to do the hard sales for you. If a writer does his side of promotion well and the book is truly deserving of finding an audience, I sincerely believe it will.

Book Readings

In a recent interview, I was asked how I decide which portion of my novel to perform during a public reading. I used the word “perform” because for a reading to be successful, it must be a performance. This can be a major block for authors lacking a theatrical flair. It’s exceedingly difficult enough to pry people from off their couches and from their computers to take the trouble of getting themselves to a local library, university, or bookstore for a reading. If all the author provides is a vocalization of what the reader could have done for himself at home, there is very little likelihood that reader will be entertained or ever attend another reading. The best readings I’ve attended have been like one-man plays in which the author adapts his voice, facial expressions, and body language to match the characters for whom he speaks. Therefore, my first criteria for choosing an excerpt for reading is to choose a section heavy in dialogue and play the roles I’ve created. Said another way,  I avoid reading long blocks of explanatory text, especially that which does little more than establish setting or directly characterize.

A second criterion pertains to how long the book has been available to the public. If the reading is to take place in the weeks to first few months after the novel’s release, I prefer to read from the beginning. There is no better place to start, and the reading will often serve to whet the appetite of the audience and to inspire their purchase of the novel. However, if the novel has been on shelves for months, and there is a good likelihood that a large portion of the audience will already have read the book, I like to choose a section that works as a self-contained mini-narrative even when excised from the story as a whole. I often find these excerpts buried in the sub-plot of the novel. I have found this sort of audience to find greater satisfaction by such a reading.

A third consideration is the make-up of the audience. I often change my choice of material at the very last minute based upon those actually in attendance rather than those “ideal readers,” to borrow Stephen King’s title,” I had imagined would fill the seats. For example, in my debut novel, So Shelly, the teenage characters use a fair amount of what many would consider vulgar language, including the “F”-word. If I notice a number of young children or elderly patrons, who are typically the ones most offended, I will read from a sectionthat makes minimal use of that sort of language. Although I relish the opportunity to offend my readers beliefs and values as a means of forcing them to examine them more closely, offending the reader or audience through the use of vulgarities is a cheap trick of little substantive value.

Finally, the most important criterion in choosing an excerpt for performance in a public setting is to select a portion which can be read in no more than fifteen minutes. If I go beyond that, I find some grow restless and lose interest. Remember, these are readers. Let them read.

Great News!

I’ve been notified by my editor that the American Booksellers Associaion, by virtue of its committee’s reading of SO SHELLY, has chosen me as one of its “New Voices in YA.” I’ve always believed that Shelly has something unique to offer the YA community, but I also knew that its uniqueness might also be a hindrance as it searched for an audience. However, I kept the faith that, more-often-than-not, if a work of art is truly deserving, it will find its audience and be recognized. I absolutely trust the marketplace of ideas and artistic taste. Hopefully, the “New Voices” recognition will inspire additional bookstores to fully stock Shelly, international publishers to show greater interest, and, most importantly, more readers to give her a whirl and those, who have already read Shelly, to read it again.

The news couldn’t have come at a better time. These past few months have been a struggle as I’ve worked on finishing a second novel. I’ve actually completed and set aside one novel in order to write another which, I think, shows greater promise for successful publication. There have been many, many moments in which I haven’t felt much like a writer at all. This recognition, if nothing else, reaffirms that at least on one occasion, I was a writer.

I would be more than remiss if I didn’t thank my agent, Katherine Boyle of Veritas Literary Agency, and my editor at Random House/Delacorte, Michelle Poploff. Without their vision and talents, this award would never have been earned. When the complete list is announce on August 25th, I’ll provide a link to the ABA website.