Happy Birthday.

Nothing Left to Burn releases tomorrow and I’m the calmest I’ve ever been — that’s what it feels like, at least.

This book has been a part of my life since I was thirteen. I’m now twenty-six. This book has been a weight, a passion, a desperation for over half of my life. Nothing Left to Burn is my first book but that’s also not at all true. Nothing Left to Burn is technically my fourth. But Audrey, this is her third story, and Audrey’s story has always been one entangled with my own. We grew together. And it’s hard to recall a time where I wasn’t revising or rewriting or drafting. I sent my first query letter when I was fifteen and did rounds every year. There was always agent interest. Full and partial requests. An agent who told me she was going to “take me there” and implied an offer of rep only to disappear. Close calls. A reason to grip and move forward. Not that it was necessary — this story haunted me, Audrey, a weight, a gnat in my head. An obsession. A love. And now I’m done. Set free. Her story is no longer mine but for readers to love, to hate, to consider, to do with however they please.

I thought the negative reviews would burn–that the very idea of negative reviews would cause panic. They don’t. I’m proud of this novel. My freshman novel that is infused with my teenage dramatics, my preference for some cheesiness, my rambling lines. I’m so absurdly proud and relieved.

My debut release tomorrow. Tuesday, March 13th. And on Wednesday, I’ll be at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena, CA. The first time I visited Vroman’s I’d just turned fifteen. September 2006. It was my first book event at a bookstore, my second book event ever.  Stephenie Meyer. Outrageously special. Vroman’s has always been special to me and somehow, luck, magic, the right timing, Vroman’s is where I’m having my first signing (thank you, Farrah!). On Thursday, I visit the school I dropped out from at sixteen for an interview on their Titian TV channel. On Friday, I’ll be signing books in a boutique store during their fashion show–Willow Manor, a store I always loved to visit with my mom as a child, and then as a teen. They had coffee and apple cider on tap. Lovely trinkets and blinged out clothing. Willow Manor is nostalgia, childhood, my hometown at its core. And on Saturday, Saturday is the official launch party for Nothing Left to Burn in the most beautiful bookstore on Balboa Island (which isn’t actually an island), a location that plays such a great role in Audrey’s story.

This is real.

I thought I’d be a mess. Stressed. Shaking. Especially considering this week follows Daylight Saving and since I can remember I’ve been struck with week-long insomnia this week every year of my life. But I’m sleeping. When my editor told me my release date was March 13th, I was terrified. The one week of the year I’m conscious of. The worst week of the year. Mania and no sleep and shaking. Perhaps it’s because I’m finally, finally, on the right medications for bipolar. Perhaps it’s that and because, well, this week is being transformed: the week my lifelong, childhood dream came true.

Little first-grader Heather, rushing into the principle’s office to share the “book” I’d written over the weekend. A stapled bundle of hot pink construction paper with doodles and a few words. Frayed edges. Fifth grade, punching the tetherball at recess, imagining the first cover of my book. Why do I remember that moment so acutely? Eighth grade, out of school, sick, writing fanfiction, and then, without realizing it, starting my own story. Teen me, rejection after rejection, revision after revision. I did it. I did it. With the help of so many people–my acknowledgments are perhaps double the normal length–I did it.

This is a beautiful thing. And, after this week, I move on. I continue to work on my next projects. I harness my teenage grit. I remember I did it. I write, just like I’ve always planned to do since my first memory. I rush into the fold with the thickest skin.

I did it. How am I so calm?

The happiest book birthday to me, truly.


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