The My Year Zero cover explained

I get more input on my covers than most traditionally published authors. This is because I have a marketing background and access to an amazing graphic designer, and because my publisher is awesome. So I can actually tell you some of what went into that cover. I worked with Kristin Smith, who designed the covers for my two previous YA novels, and brought in illustrator Alexis Cooke. Alexis was particularly ideal for this project because her illustrations frequently have mental health themes in them. Go check out more of her art here, I’ll wait. READ MORE

Upcoming reading events

If you live in or near the Twin Cities, there are four chances for you to hear me read from My Year Zero in the near future. (If you live far away, I will be posting a video reading!)

Important note: there are two official launch events for My Year Zero – an open house and an after party. You are welcome at both! See below for details.READ MORE

Book research part two

Welcome to the second of my research posts, covering books that went into the making of My Year Zero (MYZ). Below you’ll find two more books about bipolar disorder, one about emotional neglect, and one about girl sex.

Should I really be talking about mental illnesses and sex in the same post? Absolutely! People with mental illnesses like sex as much as neurotypical people – and some of us are at greater risk for engaging in unsafe behavior, so leaning how to work your brain goes hand in hand with learning how to talk about safer sex.READ MORE

Bipolar disorder research highlights

In my novel, My Year Zero, one of the most important characters has bipolar disorder. Since that’s not my disorder, I set about researching it before I started drafting and throughout the editing. I read a half-dozen books, plus tons of blogs and studies. I also worked with a consultant who both has bipolar disorder and writes about it. I wanted to make sure that the character of Blake came across as realistically as possible.

Of course doing all this research, I discovered great insights and tips that I want to share. I started using some of these with my friends and myself. They work not just for bipolar disorder, but for a variety of disorders and plain old challenging day-to-day mental states.READ MORE

How to forget people’s names

I know, Dale Carnegie says, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” I’ve read that a number of times over the years and every time my reaction is, “If that’s true, I’m screwed.”

I’ve got a lot of valuable tips for you about how to forget names — a skill I’m extremely good at. But first let me set up some context about anxiety and ADHD and the overwhelming amount of information that comes with meeting people.READ MORE

Mental health and brain news – January 2016

As a brain geek, I like to keep up with what’s new and noteworthy. Below you’ll find headlines and highlights from last month. Click on any of the headlines below to read the whole article.

From vicious cycles to virtual cycles:

Bear with me through the two bad news items below to see two positive articles about ways to combat racism and how that helps everyone!READ MORE

http://geek-lantern.com/new-x-men-dans-la-collection-marvel-now/

Disorder or superhero?

How do you talk to yourself about yourself?

Out in the world, you might be someone with a disorder. But what do you tell yourself about your brain and who you are? How do we navigate a world in which it’s sometimes useful and necessary to think our ourselves as having a disorder — and then drop that label when it’s not empowering?

I was lucky in some ways because I got labeled “gifted” when I was a kid. Some of my ADHD behaviors were (accurately) attributed to the fact that I was bored in school. But being a gifted kid didn’t explain why I was being bullied or why I struggled with simple tasks. It was a good label for making me feel powerful but it was a poor map for navigating the reality of my life.READ MORE

Why is this novel about mental health?

If you read the interview over at GayYA, you’ll know I wrote My Year Zero in honor of my first girlfriend. (If you haven’t read the interview, feel free, I’ll wait.) When I met her we were both 16, both Scorpios (born nine days apart), both dark-haired and bright-eyed. And both struggling with our mental health.

She was the first person I’d met who was forthright about having a diagnosis. From my perspective, she was totally cool about it. (From her perspective, I’m sure it felt a lot less cool.) She had bipolar disorder and was on meds for it and would talk about it openly. She was also great at listening to me without judgment and without a lot of advice.

To understand how important this was to me, let me tell you a bit of my story. Bipolar’s not my disorder — ADHD is (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). Despite the name, ADHD isn’t just about paying attention. It’s a change in how the brain’s executive functions work that pervades areas of focus, engagement, social cues, emotional regulation, impulsivity and hyperactivity.READ MORE