My "research" for OC Me - a young adult novel

I knew I would eventually be asked questions about my book, OC Me. I knew someone would ask why I wrote it or what inspired it. Despite knowing the questions were coming, I was unprepared to answer them. Then a couple of nights ago (on twitter) I got into a conversation with a fellow writer and told her about my books. She asked if I had to do a lot of research to write OC Me. There wasn't a simple answer to the question, so I took the easy way out and told her yes. And that was an honest answer... I did do a lot of research on OCD, but the research wasn't done to write the book; it was done when I was diagnosed.

Like many other people that have OCD, I wasn't born with specific fears or compulsions. I lived more than two decades of my life thinking there was nothing different about me or the way my brain worked. Most people with OCD aren't diagnosed until they are in their teens or early twenties; I was a 23 year old first-year teacher when I found out I had OCD. And it was a hard diagnosis for me to come to terms with. This blog post - is the first time I've "spoken" publicly about having OCD.

I need to take a second to point out that OC Me is not my story - it is in no way a memoir. It is the fictional coming of age story of Amy, a high school girl who struggles with the onset and diagnosis of OCD. I wrote it because I struggled with my own onset and diagnosis of OCD and this was a book I needed to read; I needed a protagonist that I could root on and relate to. When I was first diagnosed, I looked for a novel with OCD as a main theme and at the time, all I found were self-help books. 

In OC Me, Amy really is a regular girl; she could sit next to you in calculus or babysit your neighbor's children. She doesn't check her locker door 14 times before she leaves for class, she doesn't wear gloves to touch door knobs, and she's not upset by a messy room. In other words, you would not see that she has OCD because her anxiety is not visible in the stereotypical ways that movies and tv shows like to illustrate. Perhaps her case of OCD is on the milder side, but it is a scenario that should be understood. With one in every 40 people in the US estimated to have OCD, it is likely that you know multiple people like Amy - like me. 

I wrote the book slowly over the course of several years and went through the process of querying agents and publishing companies. I did have one company that was interested enough to communicate with me about the project, but they closed down during the time period that they were considering my manuscript. The shut-down meant that all potential acquisitions were halted so I never got their final feedback.

Fast forward to the present. With the accessibility of ebooks and the technological advances that have made self-publishing a viable option, I decided that was the route I wanted to pursue.  I have just started going over things with my editor one last time, and am currently researching cover designers. I hope OC Me will be available by the end of the summer (2014). An updated blurb should be available on the book page soon.

So back to the original question... research? Yes, I researched this book as authentically as anyone could. Then, going beyond my own experience, I gave a draft to a friend who is a licensed therapist that works with youth with OCD. Amy's story is not my story, but I drew from my own experience to write hers. I hope it can help readers understand that OCD is a unique experience for each person affected.

So there it is...I guess this post is a good example of what happens when a question can't be answered in 140 characters :) 

Valentine's Day Eve / 10 Reasons I Love to Read Y.A. Fiction!

My daughter informed me this evening that it was the night before Valentine's Day. She was wondering if we got to do anything special to celebrate. That struck me as funny at first, but after a bit of reflection it seemed appropriate to write about love on Valentine's Eve.  So here you go: 10 reasons why I love to read Y.A. Fiction.  Please feel free to add your own reasons in the comments below!

1) Optimism! Y.A. protagonists are full of hope. They have so much life ahead of them that they are (usually) looking forward instead of backward.

2) Time-Travel! Reading a good Y.A. book is like stepping into a time machine. It's so much fun to "go back" to high school without actually having to do homework, eat cafeteria food, and stress about your peers.

3) Hobbies! I love when a book immerses you in some one else's expertise! Reading is a great way to gain insight to different hobbies and sports (Raku pottery, film making, wizardry, martial arts, mountain biking,  poetry, etc.)

4) First person!  The bulk of Y.A. fiction is written in first person and something about that makes me feel more connected to the main character than second or third.

5) Love! I enjoy reading about people falling in love for the first time. For those of us who have journals (embarrassing should-be-burned journals) this is a much less painful way to remember those early feelings and the humorous ways we tried (and failed) to navigate love.

6) Movies! There are so many Y.A. books being made into block-buster movies right now! ( have to say for the upcoming season I'm looking forward to Divergent (written by Veronica Roth) and The Fault in our Stars (written by John Green).

7) Perspective. Perhaps this is something that only a 30-something (or older) would say as a positive of Y.A. fiction, but I like reading these books with the perspective that I now have. It is interesting to think how much our teen years affect who we are and what we do with our lives. I like reading other people's "coming of age" stories. Everybody has a story, and the more we get to know, the more open minded I believe we become.

8) Cheap Travel. How else can I spend six months in India or a semester in Korea? My travel accounts are non-existent these days so I love reading stories set in new-to-me locations.

9) BFFs! While I love my husband and kiddos something fierce, there is something to be said for remembering all the awesome friends that you used to be inseparable with. Reading these books reminds me of a handful of great girls and guys that I hung out with in my adolescence. I wish I could still have lunch with them every day!

10) Inspiration. Reading makes you a better writer, period. I try to read as much as I write and I'm so full of gratitude for all the writers in the world who put the stories in their heads onto paper. 

** Personal Bonus - I love that I can easily identify people I might have something in common with if I see on their Facebook or Goodreads Page that they are also a Y.A. fan :)

Happy Valentines Day to all you book lovers!