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Sourcebooks Fire Week: Some Advice for my Teen Self While Social Distancing by Alyssa Sheinmel

Today for Sourcebooks Fire week we are honored to have author Alyssa Sheinmel with us talking about her newest release, What Kind of Girl. She also discusses why sheltering in place is different than working from home and gives teens advice about social distancing. What Kind of Girl is an important book that addresses the topic of teen dating violence in meaningful and thoughtful ways.

I should be an expert on working from home—I’ve been doing it for years.  I have know plenty of writers who prefer to work at coffee shops and writing-rooms; or who write with friends, motivated by the sound of their colleagues’ fingers on the keyboard.  Not me—I get up each morning and sit at my desk in my apartment, happy to have my dog as my only co-worker.  Even when my writing group meets twice a month, we usually meet at my apartment. 

I was the same way as a teen.  While most of my friends and classmates preferred to work at the library, in our dorm’s common areas, or to get together for study groups at coffee shops—I always studied in my room, heading to the library only when absolutely necessary. 

As I write this, my family and I—along with most of the country, and much of the world—have been practicing social distancing for over a month.  Like so many Americans, I’ve been overwhelmed with gratitude that my loved ones and I are able to stay home, and I’m awed by the heroism of our health care workers and those that are working to keep our grocery stores and pharmacies stocked and their doors open.  I’m filled with worry for those who have lost their income due to this pandemic, and fear and grief for those who have fallen sick. 

So of course, working from home right now feels different.  Everything feels different.  There’s this feeling in the air like—you’re home every day, you should be writing, Shakespeare wrote King Lear in quarantine!—but my usual writing routines aren’t quite working.  Normally, I read for twenty minutes before I start writing for the day; now, I find myself checking the news instead.  Usually, when I sit down to write, I put my computer into airplane mode and (try to) leave my phone in the other room; now, I feel compelled to keep my phone close by, in case anyone calls or texts.  This is a small problem, I know, in light of all the troubles we’re facing right now.  But it feels strange—I feel strange—to have trouble concentrating on my work each day.

I can only imagine that studying from home as a teen would feel as different as everything else right now.  I’d be worrying about the world and missing my friends terribly.  I’d be missing school—like many of my characters, I was one of those kids who loved school, who worried endlessly about grades and college applications.  I know I’d be anxious to keep up with my schoolwork—and yet, I think I’d struggle to stay still long enough to finish my assignments.  Which would only make me more anxious.  And then I’d feel terrible for worrying about grades at a time like this.  And then I’d feel anxious all over again.

While I’ve been at home over the past few weeks, I’ve been on deadline—working on the final round of edits for my upcoming novel.  There are mornings when I wake up, thinking it will be impossible to concentrate that day.  But then, I sit in front of my computer.  I put my computer into airplane mode, just like I usually do.  I start with one sentence.  I feel myself getting distracted, stopping to check the news, wanting to clean my kitchen (again!), text my friends and family, or just be with my dog.  But then I read another sentence.  The distractions fade, just a bit.  One more sentence, then another.  I start to get sucked in, interested in my characters and their world, instead of thinking about my own, and I feel so grateful to have the job I do.

And I don’t know about you, but the same thing happens when I pick up a book to read.  A few weeks ago, I thought I’d at least make a dent in my TBR list this month, but these days, I’m reading more slowly than I ever have.  Every time I pick up my current read, I feel distracted, restless.  I put the book down and check my phone, turn on the news.  But then I read another sentence, another paragraph.  Sometimes I put the book down, but sometimes, I stay still and keep reading.  Writing and reading are always a way of taking a break—even if it’s just a short one—from the world around us, and I appreciate that magic now more than ever. 

So, if I could, I’d encourage my teen self to write a story—even a terrible story that ends up not making any sense at all, one that she’d be too embarrassed to share with her teachers—just to get sucked into another world for a little while.  I’d encourage her to pick up a book she’s read so many times she can practically recite it, and eat it up like comfort food.

None of us has ever lived through a time like this, so none of us actually knows how to do it.  Maybe someday, I won’t remember the plots to any books I read during this period, and maybe I’ll want to rewrite every word I wrote.  (Including this blog post!)  I’m so very thankful for reading and writing—but there are days when it’s hard to do either, and I’m trying to accept that.  I hope someone would tell my teen self that it’s okay if she’s having trouble finishing her homework, or writing a story, or reading a novel.  But I think she would keep trying, over and over again. 

After all, that’s what my grown-up self is doing.


“Both timely and timeless, a powerful exploration of abuse in its many forms, as well as the strength it takes to rise up and speak your truth.”—AMBER SMITHNew York Times bestselling author of The Way I Used to Be

What kind of girl stays after her boyfriend hits her?

The girls at North Bay Academy are taking sides. It all started when Mike Parker’s girlfriend showed up with a bruise on her face. Or, more specifically, when she walked into the principal’s office and said Mike hit her. But her classmates have questions. Why did she go to the principal and not the police? Why did she stay so long if Mike was hurting her? Obviously, if it’s true, Mike should be expelled. But is it true?

Some girls want to rally for his expulsion—and some want to rally around Mike. The only thing that the entire student body can agree on? Someone is lying. And the truth has to come out.

From New York Times bestselling author Alyssa Sheinmel comes an unflinching and resonant tale that examines how society treats women and girls and inspires the power to claim your worth.

Praise for What Kind of Girl:
“A poignant, thought-provoking novel that will resonate deeply.”—Kirkus
“A rallying cry.”—Booklist
“I immediately saw myself in this book, which so thoroughly explains the thought process when coming to terms with victimhood and survivorship. I felt understood.”—Chessy Prout, author of I Have the Right To
“Important, raw, timely, and ultimately hopeful…demands readers discuss the trauma of teen dating violence and how girls are so often taught—even expected—to internalize their victimization.”—Shannon M. Parker, author of The Girl Who Fell and The Rattled Bones

Meet the Author

Alyssa Sheinmel is the New York Times bestselling author of several novels for young adults, including A Danger to Herself and Others and Faceless. She is the co-author of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl and its sequel, The Awakening of Sunshine Girl. Alyssa grew up in Northern California and New York, and currently lives and writes in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @alyssasheinmel and Twitter @AlyssaSheinmel or visit her online at www.alyssasheinmel.com.

From the Screen to the Page: How the YouTube Sensation Became a YA Book, a guest post by Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel (#YouTubeWeek)

The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is a gasp out loud ghost story that began as a YouTube series. I was not familiar with the web series until I read the book, but I really liked the book so I went and checked the YouTube channel. The book kept me on the edge of my seat and is another new addition to ongoing list of great reads for Buffy fans. It’s not a typical ghost story and I’m looking forward to reading more. Today for #YouTube week we have co-authors Paige McKenzie and Alyssa Sheinmel discussing how they turned this hit YouTube series into a haunting read for YA lit lovers. I enjoyed this book and recommend it, I think teen readers will enjoy it as well.

Paige: The Haunting of Sunshine Girl started as a YouTube web series in 2010, when I was sixteen-years-old, and it took off in ways I never could have imagined!  When we first started working out the concept, we didn’t have a name or anything much beyond the idea that it would be “Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity.”  But right from the start, it just felt special.  I loved creating this character.  And not just because I got to play her!  I just knew that the world could really use a bit more Sunshine.  Her bravery, positivity, and quirkiness were things I wanted to share with the world.

But after of few years of telling Sunshine’s story on YouTube, we started thinking about ways to tell a bigger, more behind-the-scenes sort of story than we had so far.  In the web series, you don’t know a whole lot about Sunshine’s life before she moves into a haunted house, and you don’t know why her house in haunted, or why her mom doesn’t believe her.  So when we had the opportunity to put her story into a book, I was thrilled!

Alyssa: I am so excited to be a part of telling Sunshine’s story.  To me, one of the coolest things about The Haunting of Sunshine Girl is that it was a collaboration from the very start.  To begin with, the web series was a collaboration between Paige, her mother Mercedes Rose, and producer Nick Hagen and all the amazing actors they worked with; they created this rich world with compelling characters and I joined Team Sunshine to help figure out how to bring all of that good stuff to the page.  It’s the most collaborative project I’ve ever worked on, and it is so exciting to be part of something that has a life both outside and inside of the pages of a book.

Paige: It’s so much fun because existing Sunshiners will get to learn so much more about Sunshine’s world and at the same time, readers who never watched the web series before will be able to go online and see how it all started!

Alyssa: I think the most important part of bringing the story from YouTube to the page was staying really true to the characters and the world of the web series.  Paige and everyone who worked on the web series had already done so much of the heavy lifting involved in creating these voices and personalities – I just had to try to remain true to everything they created!  The book takes place in the same setting and is based on a lot of the same ideas as the web series, but we also worked on a plot that would take Sunshine on some new adventures.  In fact, we decided that the book is a bit more “Buffy The Vampire Slayer meets Veronica Mars” than “Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity,” so that’s one way that it’s a little bit different from the web series!  But I hope that viewers of the show will feel like the characters in the books behave just like the characters from the show would in these situations.

Paige:  It was super cool to see the character that I created take on a life outside of the videos!  We wanted the Sunshine on the page to look and sound like the Sunshine in the videos – she even has all of my mannerisms, like raising one eyebrow when she’s feeling particularly skeptical, and saying blah when she just can’t think of anything else to say.

Alyssa:  And, it’s amazing because the story doesn’t have to end when you finish the book – you can stay in Sunshine’s world by watching the videos and vice versa.

Paige: And just like the videos keep going – season after season after season! – Sunshine’s adventures will continue on the page, with two more books coming in the next couple years.

Alyssa: Plotting what’s next for Sunshine was exciting.  We’re taking her out of the setting that viewers of the videos – and now, readers of the first book – are familiar with.  Sunshine will be leaving Washington behind to continue her work as a luiseach, and we’re also introducing some new characters.  (But don’t worry, there’s still plenty of action with Nolan and Kat!)  Yet even as we bring Sunshine to new places and have her interacting with new people, we’re always working to stay true to the voice and character that Paige created.  Of course, Sunshine is growing and changing with all of these adventures, but she’s always going to be quirky and funny and full of light (if occasionally a little bit sarcastic…).  And even as the setting changes, the creepy atmosphere of the videos and the first book will be following Sunshine wherever she goes.

Paige: I’m so excited about what’s coming for Sunshine.  The world of the books just keeps getting bigger, and the stakes get higher and higher with each of her adventures.  She’s gone from a girl living in a haunted house with a skeptical mom to a sort of ghost-hunting superhero, and I am loving every second of it!

Author Bios:

Paige McKenzie, the irresistible face of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl, is thrilled to bring her unique voice to life in a book series.  At the age of sixteen, McKenzie teamed up with producer Nick Hagen and her mother, actress Mercedes Rose, to create The Haunting of Sunshine Girl on YouTube.  Soon the spine-chilling series – and its unforgettable title character – boasted a viewership in the tens of millions.  McKenzie was recently named one of Seventeen magazine’s “Pretty Amazing” finalists.  She lives in Portland, Oregon.  Follow her on Twitter @hauntedsunshine or visit her online at thehauntingofsunshinegirl.com.

Alyssa Sheinmel is the author of the young adult novels Second Star, The Beautiful Between, The Lucky Kind, and The Stone Girl, as well as the forthcoming novel, Faceless.  The New York Post described The Beautiful Between as “endearing, realistic, and heart-wrenching”; and New York Times bestselling author Anna Godbersen called Second Star “gorgeous: at once sun-soaked and haunted, elegant and strange…perfect.”  Alyssa grew up in Northern California and New York, and attended Barnard College.  She now lives and writes in New York City.  Follow her on Twitter @AlyssaSheinmel and visit her online at AlyssaSheinmel.com.

Publisher’s Book Description:

Based on the wildly popular YouTube channel, The Haunting of Sunshine Girl has been described as “ Gilmore Girls meets Paranormal Activity for the new media age.” YA fans new and old will learn the secrets behind Sunshine—the adorkable girl living in a haunted house—a story that is much bigger, and runs much deeper, than even the most devoted viewer can imagine…

Win a Copy of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl

U.S. residents can enter to win a hardback copy of The Haunting of Sunshine Girl by doing the Rafflecopter thingy below. All entries must be submitted by April 18th at Midnight.

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Visit The Haunting of Sunshine Girl online:

Website: http://thehauntingofsunshinegirl.com/

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/user/hauntedsunshinegirl

Twitter: https://twitter.com/hauntedsunshine

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheHauntingOfSunshineGirl

Instagram: http://instagram.com/hauntedsunshine/