Writing My Way Into Love With Taos



For the last week I have been a lucky writer holed up at the Kindling Words West writing retreat in Taos, New Mexico. There are 25 of us here. Every morning we get to listen to the wise and wonderful Nikki Grimes teach us about the power of poetry. The rest of the day is spent working. And eating. Because writing can make a body very, very hungry.



Our retreat is being held at the historic gathering place for creative people, the Mable Dodge Luhan House.


I slept in the Ansel Adams room, named because Ansel Adams slept there whenever he was in town. If you want me to tell you about my visit from Ansel’s ghost, buy me a glass of wine the next time you see me. A nice merlot will do the trick. (That is the final revision of my new YA spread out on the floor and bedspread, btw.)


This is my gorgeous window that looks out onto Taos Mountain, part of the Taos Pueblo.



The view out that window… this picture doesn’t come close to the beauty of the mountain.



Every morning I got up in the dark, meditated, then worked on trying the draw the way the first light looked coming over the mountain. After breakfast, I put in long hours on my last revision, loving every minute of it.

There is something magical that happens when a group of creative kindred spirits comes together to write and draw and play. Combine that magic with a location like Taos, with raven and magpie calls in the air, butterflies floating by, and a landscape that takes your breath away, and you will understand why this is the first time I have not been a total grumpy-pants during a final revision.

I have to leave the retreat early for a graduation this weekend, so this morning I played hooky and went hiking with two old writer buddies.


We went to Carson National Forest and hiked for a couple of hours up to Devisadero Peak.



Cactus are starting to bloom up there.



 The views were so beautiful I am only going to post this one because I don’t want all of you to sell everything you own and move to Taos tomorrow.


IMG_3411 (1)

 This is my favorite pic of the 7000 I’ve taken this week. What does it say to you?



Proof that we made it to the top. Elevation: 8,340 feet.




There is this kick-ass cairn on top of the mountain and stone chairs and some delightful trees. And maybe auras, but I was oxygen deprived, so don’t quote me on that. We hiked back down and had breakfast outside a cafe enjoying the tanagers and nuthatches and ravens. OMG I cannot get enough of ravens.



Please don’t think that this past week is what a writer’s life is like. I’ve been a writer for twenty years and this is my first week like this. But it is NOT going to be twenty years until I do this again. Good friends, good work, good food all in a part of the world I’d never seen before; that is an inspiring and invigorating combination.

Thank you, Taos! Thank you, New Mexico! Thank you, ravens!



There have long been, erm, ‘conversations’ about the original TWISTED cover. This is a book about a sweet, confused teenage boy whose father is an asshole and whose life is quickly going down the toilet. It’s a story about false accusations, lies, love and suicide.

Is that the spirit that this cover evokes?



No, I didn’t think so.

I never liked this cover. (Note: it doesn’t matter if an author likes a cover or not. Our job is to write a great book. End. Of. Story.)

But there is good news! Last year Penguin redesigned the covers of CATALYST and PROM. Now it’s TWISTED’s turn.

Drum roll, please…

twisted 2

The new cover should be available in stores in September.

What do you think?

PS – Are you following the discussions of gendered book covers started by Maureen Johnson? There are lots of great examples posted on Tumblr. I’d love to hear your thoughts on that, too.

Best Fans Ever


YA authors are incredibly lucky because we have amazing, generous, creative fans.

Don’t believe me?

Feast your eyes on my newest shoes; hand-painted with illustrations from the covers of Speak and Catalyst!




Even the box they came in was decorated!



These gifts were made by Isabel and Julia (don’t want to give last names in the interest of protecting their privacy) and the quality of the work is amazing. Every time I wear the shoes people stop and ask me where I got them! They are pieces of art!

I love seeing how my readers express themselves. Even nicer when they share!!

Sexual Assault in the US Military



The Air Force officer in charge of the Air Force’s sexual assault prevention program was arrested Sunday for sexual assault.

Over at Wired, reporter Spencer Ackerman wrote an article with many links that puts this arrest in context with other recent sexual assaults in the military. The Wired article is an excellent piece to share in classrooms.

If I tried to write that story line in a book, I bet the editors would come and tell me it stretched the imagination too far. But it doesn’t, because this kind of thing happens all the time.

Want more information? Watch The Invisible War, the 2012 award-winning documentary about sexual assault in the military.