Guest Post by Liz Coley, author of Pretty Girl 13!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

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I am so excited to have Liz Coley here to promote her new novel Pretty Girl 13! Before we get into the guest post itself, here is a little bit about the author:

The first story I remember writing followed a group of intrepid explorers who crossed the spongy plains, climbed treacherous, steep White Mountains, swam the hot sea, and reached their destination.  They were a group of strep bacteria conquering a human throat. I was eleven, and I loved twist endings.
I read a lot during middle school and high school, a random mix of science fiction, fantasy, mystery, and Regency romance. In college, I signed up for British Lit classes for an excuse to read for pleasure outside my biochemistry major. My reading lifelist, kept since since 1989, is seventeen pages long. I guess I’m a born reader.
Some people are born writers. I didn’t actually know I wanted to be an author until I hit thirty, and then I got serious. I practiced the craft for years with the help of several wonderful and generous organizations–the Society for Children’s Writers and Illustrators, the Online Writing Workshop for Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Context writing workshops. A lot of individual writing buddies supported me along the way, some ahead of me on the ladder, some a short step behind. I wrote a dozen short
stories and seven novels.
And then, the dream came true. Six short stories found publishers in 2010 and 2011. My indy-novel Out of Xibalba came out in 2011. Katherine Tegen at HarperCollins bought my seventh novel Pretty Girl-13 for release in early 2013.
I have lived in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and Ohio and visited England, Mexico, Belize, Canada, Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Greece, Croatia, Slovenia, Bali, and Hungary. I feel incredibly lucky to have glimpsed so much of the world.
Still, many of my story ideas are born in the car while I daydream and listen to the reports and interviews on NPR. I’ve been known to miss my exit and keep going for miles.
I vividly remember my teenage years, and while I know things have changed, the emotions of those years are universal. I think that’s why my stories speak to teens and to people who ever were teens.
I try to tell stories that will make you laugh a little, cry a little, and think about what it means to be alive.

Guest Post

Scenes From a Life – Dumping Maura Barnes
By Liz Coley

I’ve sworn that having survived seventh and eighth grades, possibly the cruelest ages for girls, nothing could compel me to hop in a time machine or taking a reverse aging drug and relive those years. In spite of that resolution, the events of those 700 odd days still play through my mind; the girls who seemed larger than life back then live on, unaging in memory.

Even in a class with only a dozen girls, there was the queen bee, her sidekick best friend, and a court of popular girls. Like many queen bees, she wasn’t especially beautiful or smart or talented, but she ruled through force of personality. Everyone on the inside matched her shoe choice, her nail polish color, her mannerisms, her slang. I was on the edge, acceptable but not embraced because I didn’t emulate any of these things. My shoes were knock off brands, my clothes standard and boring, and I didn’t wear nail polish on my short, bitten nails. But I wasn’t obviously offensive in any way—safely too small to be noticed much. In seventh grade, I’d become close friends with a new girl, let’s call her Maura Barnes, and we hung out mostly with each other on the fringes of this girl pack. What we had most in common was this indistinct social status.

The traditional highlight of eighth grade was a class ski trip to Squaw Valley. For cover, there was an outdoor education component thrown in—identifying pine trees, building thermal snow caves, and reading the history of the stranded Donner Party, some of whom survived only by eating each other. Cannibalism may be seen as an apt, foreshadowing metaphor for eighth grade girl social politics.

Rooming arrangements were all the buzz. I assumed I’d be rooming with Maura and others TBD until she told me, less than apologetically, that she was going to room with two of the popular girls instead of me because they were expert skiers and I was a novice. It’s true she was an excellent skier, but she was awkward and unfashionable and definitely not in the right company. I was left scrambling for roommates and ended up with two pleasant (but at that point undistinguished) new girls I didn’t know very well. Maura’s betrayal ached like a knife to the ribs; she didn’t make up for it by seeking me out at meals, instead sticking like glue to her roommates until she’d outworn her welcome.

I’m not proud of what happened next. Maura had broken the best friend bond by abandoning me in my moment of need, and I figured she had no further claim on my loyalty. When we got back to school, she continued misreading signals, following the populars around, refusing to notice their pointed looks and whispers until they weren’t whispers any more. Over their shoulders, they called her PTTA to her face—pony-tailed tag-along. While I didn’t chime in, neither did I defend as her ostracism intensified and the set of everyone’s shoulders hardened against her. I wasn’t going down in her sinking ship.

Fourteen-year-old girls can enact a shunning like nobody else. Come the end of the school year, no one saw Maura again. She’d been officially dumped, and she changed schools without a word.

I often wonder what went on behind the scenes, what she told herself, what she told her mom, whether she was happy again after she moved on, whether the experience of being collectively spurned by us had scarred her for life. You couldn’t pay me enough to negotiate the social minefield of eighth grade again. I imagine she feels the same way.

Thanks so much Liz!
And if you are interested in purchasing Pretty Girl 13:

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  1. Great post! Thanks for sharing with us, Liz. I'm so eager to read Pretty Girl 13!