My junior year of college at UNC, I took a course in children’s and young adult fiction writing. For one assignment, my classmates and I had to write the first chapter of a hypothetical young adult novel. We had the whole semester, but a week before the due date, I still didn’t have a shred of an idea in my head. Finally, I sat down at my desk nine hours before I’d have to slide my completed pages under the teacher’s office door.
While my roommates slept in our four-bedroom apartment, I invented a 17-year-old heroine, a Southerner struggling to adjust to her new home in snowy Vermont. I gave her a little brother who loved hot dogs and macaroni and a dad with kind eyes and a mother with an inoperable brain tumor. continue reading →