YA Author Series Launch: CL Walters

Over the next seven weeks, this blog will feature seven different authors who write Young Adult Stories.

Each Monday in April (and into May), a new author (published and unpublished) will be featured along with a 500-1000 words selection of her work (sorry, guys - no men submitted! What the heck!?!? Your assignment is to go read any or all of these authors: Marcus Zusak, Jeff Zentner and John Green).

Today, I will launch the format using my own work so you’ll get a sense of what to look for in the coming weeks. I hope this series is beneficial for you as readers (maybe you’ll find your next favorite author in the coming weeks), as well as for the author as a growth opportunity to share their voices.

FEEDBACK WANTED!

Be sure to provide the guest authors some CONSTRUCTIVE FEEDBACK! Either in the comments section or in some capacity on their social media platforms. As writers - constructive feedback fuels us.

Drum roll please . . .

CL Walters

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Tell us three things about who you are and why you write . . . I write because I can’t not write (please forgive the double negative). When I don’t, I turn into a bitch and that isn’t healthy for my family or my marriage. Writing is like breathing, so without it, I’m not living. Second, I adore stories - reading them, studying them, writing them - it all blends together. Finally, I write stories which I categorize as “young adult” but I hope they are just human stories that anyone at any age can enjoy.

Tell us about the story we’re going to read (your elevator pitch). . . Gabe is faced with a choice between life and death; the question is, what will he discover about himself to help him make the decision.

What are three things you want us to know as we read? This story is the third act of a trilogy. The first two books explore Abby’s and Seth’s stories in Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth. Gabe’s story The Bones of Who We Are has been challenging to write but not only because of the writing, but because of the content which swirls around bullying, victimization and depression.

Where can we find this story? Where can we find you (IG, Twitter, FB, website). The Bones of Who We Are is slated to be published this coming October (2019). In the meantime, you can catch up with Swimming Sideways and The Ugly Truth which are on Amazon (Kindle and Print). I can be found on IG (@cl.walters) and Twitter (@peeledandcored), my website (www.clwalters.net) and FB (CLWalters).

From… The Bones of Who We Are:

(YA Contemporary - Language Warning…)

I hate walking through the Quad. It’s a necessity twice a day unless I want to take the long way around the outside of the school. The deciding factor is always which one has the potential for more problems. Outside, I run the risk of an actual fight. In the Quad, I run the risk of mocking, maybe shit thrown at me, or something else to make me feel less than human. The first one means physical harm. The second one emotional and mental, but I can usually block it out with my headphones.

When I turn the corner from the stairwell into the opening of the Quad, it’s full. This time of the school day - lunch - it usually is. People are either in the cafeteria or there, especially as the weather turns rainy and cold. They sit on or around a myriad of red and black tables, congregate by the vending machines in red and black metal cages, and flirt with someone they crush on moving like honey bees from table to table. Some industrious students use the space to study, but not very often at lunch. It’s a space with very little adult supervision. This is for several reasons. First, the school office is across the way which adults must assume is a deterrent for teen bullshit (it isn’t) and, second, it’s lunch time. Teachers are either in the cafeteria, eating lunch with their work friends, or in their classrooms making space for those industrious students needing a place to escape the teen bullshit in the Quad.

I hesitate for a moment, consider walking around the outside or cutting through the offices, but then am annoyed for even thinking about it. I have every right to walk through the Quad. I shouldn’t have to feel worried to do it. But then that’s the problem of positivity, of allowing in layers of hope. It crumbles without a proper foundation, and just like I’d told Doc it would happen, the mouth of the escape route collapses burying me inside. It was, after all, only a matter of time.

I’m halfway across the space when I’m yanked backward. I keep my feet, but my hoodie cuts into my throat choking me. I rock backward and then forward.

Laughter.

“What the fuck!” I turn.

Tommy Pilner, his hands raised in mock surrender and smiling like he’s just caught a mouse, says, “Yo. Daniels. You don’t have to go all HAM, dude.”

I’ve known Tommy since coming to Cantos and he’s always been the same; he loves the Freak Challenge. He’s taken full advantage of the fact I don’t throw hands. Seth used to say his dad described Tommy as a younger version of his old man. I think: aren’t we all, which doesn’t bode well for any of us. “Fuck off,” I tell him, and turn away.

He grabs my hood again, but this time pulls with so much force I’m yanked off my feet. I slam against the floor on my back.

Laughter.

“Jesus, Daniels. What the fuck? You really should be more careful. You could get hurt.” Tommy laughs looking at his friends. “You all see him slip?”

They are laughing.

I’m on my feet.

Here’s another thing about hope - besides the risk of losing it - it begins to warm the cold and melt away the perceptions of what you’ve come to think you deserve into something more golden. You look outside the clear window, feel that sunshine, and think: Yeah. I could go out there and play. When the storm comes in, you remember what that sun felt like, and you want the fucking sun.

So, maybe I wouldn’t have a few weeks ago, but I take a step toward Tommy.

His smile falters.

The Bones of Who We Are… Coming October 2019

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#momlife, #writerslife

Humor me with a flashback: When I was thirteen I was positive I was going to be the next Emily Dickinson with the romantic idealism of wasting away in our farmhouse attic and writing poetry that would one day be famous.  The purpose of this flashback is to offer an anecdote to show I’ve been writing and have wanted to be a writer for a long time. I wrote my first story when I was eight, so writing is a formative experience on my timeline from then to the present. But this reflection isn’t so much about the past as it is about how it informs the present.

I was twenty-seven when I had my first child. A girl. Looking back, I’d only just slipped on my adult shoes: I’d been out of college for three years and just started my professional life as an educator. When she was born, remembering life before her was difficult because it felt like life had just begun.

My Baby Girl: she had attitude from the moment she was born.

My Baby Girl: she had attitude from the moment she was born.

I took a year off to be a stay-at-home mom. During that year, I got to know my daughter, and in between being exhausted and enamored, I wrote my first novel. It was a historical romance novel with an amnesia twist. (I know. I know. We all have to begin somewhere. It is in a drawer where it belongs). This milestone provided me the experience that I COULD be a mom, and I COULD write a book.

At twenty-seven, I was pretty sure I had it all together. I don’t remember thinking: I’m changed, but looking back, I see now I began to redefine myself. Maybe some mothers would say the redefinition begins during pregnancy, but in my experience, my shift toward motherhood was relegated to healthy choices and weight gain. I still felt like myself - only, slightly better. It was after Baby Girl was born motherhood began to reshape my identity. It shaved down my edges into a smoother more pliable version of myself. It challenged my perceptions and pushed me to learn and seek new understandings about previously held opinions. I began to understand what it means to be selfless.

As a writer, I am a self-centered person. Let me clarify: I don’t mean SELFISH. That’s different. I mean my focus is centered around whatever is happening in my head. I think most creatives and artists can relate. Becoming a parent insisted I reorient. My time was no longer my time alone.

My daughter took this of me - I was sitting at the computer attempting to write. This was about the fifth time she’d interrupted me.

My daughter took this of me - I was sitting at the computer attempting to write. This was about the fifth time she’d interrupted me.

I continued to write, but it was between things like breastfeeding, working, commuting to and from work, feeding the family, playtime, bath time, book time, and bedtime. And Baby Girl was a strong willed child, so nothing ever went as planned. Thank goodness there were two of us. There wasn’t much time left.

Baby number two arrived four years later. I had my Baby Boy. And I returned to being a Stay-at-Home mom with him. I got to know my little guy, who is so different than his big sister, the epitome of happy and content. I began to write again. This time I completed two romantic suspense novels set in Hawaii. Queried and was rejected.

He was only a week old when I took this picture. He hasn’t stopped smiling.

He was only a week old when I took this picture. He hasn’t stopped smiling.

Then I went back to work, but this time, I worked at the school where my now school-aged children began. My identity hovered around my children, my family, and my work. Writing took a back seat - as usual - but not because I couldn’t. It was because that was my choice. I still wrote, but sustaining any writing was difficult. So, in between new ideas that I’d list in a notebook, I spent ten years writing and rewriting a YA novel, a paranormal romance. Queried and rejected multiple times over and over. I put it away, sure I was never meant to be a writer.

Life twists and turns. I changed jobs and focused on my career as a teacher. It hosted my identity and made me feel validated because it is something at which I excel while my writing faced rejection after rejection. Writing - my writing - was given only the time I provided to my journaling students but somewhere in the mix, I rewrote that YA again, removing all of the paranormal elements. I don’t know why. An exercise perhaps.


Where does the time go? We blink and the distance between events expands.


Suddenly, I have a daughter moving away to college and a son starting high school. Time devoted to them and our family stretches out before me. I’ve heard many mother’s lament the loss of their babies. I feel it. I see pictures of my babies, my children as toddlers, each stage a beautiful dance all the way through. I feel joy and poignant loss. And then I see pictures of myself and think: I don’t recognize you. But I don’t feel lost. In a way, I feel reborn.

I took a leave of absence from teaching this year. As my I transition from a mom of independent children, I’ve had the opportunity to look more closely at myself. The mom duties have changed now, have reoriented from all my time to some of it. I’ve had the opportunity to help my son transition to high school, be available for college freshman woes, but the need for mom has waned significantly other than to be a nag about homework, a taxi and a hug.


And there it was - time. Stretched out like a ribbon wrapped around a gift. I could write again.


So I have. I’ve dug in. I rewrote that YA. It’s independently published. I wrote the second book in the series. It’s Independently published too. I’m revising the third book in the series, and it will be independently published later this year. I completed Nanowrimo this year with 70,000 on a new book and a host of ideas in that notebook. I still have time for my family, they just don’t need as much of it.


What I would tell myself as a young mother now that I’ve lived her reality: Don’t worry about your time. You will get it back. Enjoy every moment of these children - even the difficult parts. It goes so very quickly.

Now, I look in the mirror and think: I know you. I knew you when you were thirteen and thought you’d be Emily Dickinson. I laugh at my reflection and think: There’s time. There’s time.

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Book Mash-Up Fun

You know how on Glee, they would mash-up songs to create a new song. Well, I was thinking about my books and wondered if they were a mash-up of books, what would their mash-up be?

Here are my book mash ups . . .

Swimming Sideways would be:

Have you read any of these books?

The first is Sarah Dessen’s Along for the Ride (2009). It’s about a girl who’s struggling with perfectionism and the divorce of her parents. A good read for anyone interested . . .And Dessen is coming out with a new book this year, I think.

The second is Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. This book is about Melinda who starts her freshman year an outcast because of calling the cops at the end of summer party. There’s more than meets the eye, however. THIS is one of my FAVORITE YA novels of all time. And Laurie Halse Andrerson just published a book TODAY called SHOUT.

Whalerider by Witi Ihimaera is a beautiful story that explores a Maori girl facing the struggle between the patriarchal stance of the old world tradition her grandfather holds and the ushering in of a new era of cultural strength with the beauty of the youth. It is so beautifully written and grapples with themes of culture, gender and identity.

John Green’s Looking for Alaska (which is being adapted into a Hulu show) is a book that explores not only personal identity but what it truly means to live which I also explored recently on my IG for my review on Five Feet Apart.


The Ugly Truth would be

Gayle Foreman’s If I Stay forces a young woman caught in between life and death to examine her reasons for living as she determines if she should live or not after a fatal car accident carrying her and her family through the Oregon countryside.

The Lovely Bones of Alice Sebold is the unflinching revelation of a teen girl’s murder, and its aftermath on the family left behind told through the lenses of the murdered girl.

It might be a bit obvious that I am an admirer of Laurie Halse Anderson’s work. Twisted is her novel about a young man struggling not only with his own identity as a young man, but with his father ideas (and struggles) related to manhood.

Touching Spirit Bear by Ben Mikaelson is the story of a young man named Cole who’s dealing with a lot of anger. After perpetrating a horrific crime against another young man - nearly killing him - Cole is offered the opportunity to face his punishment through Native American Circle Justice. What he doesn’t realize, however when he accepts this challenge instead of prison, is just how much it will change him.

What do you think? What would your mash-up for Swimming Sideways and/or The Ugly Truth be? Comment below.

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