less than three <3

Did you feel a powerful energy in the air last Saturday? Yeah, that was us. A bunch of authors, teens, librarians, teachers, and activists gathered in St. Louis for the Less Than Three Conference. Less Than Three was organized by the phenomenal Heather Brewer as a way to bring everyone together to rally against bullying. We all knew it would be an important event. But I was not prepared for how monumentally life-changing it was.

First off, I have to point out how profoundly words can hurt. The effects of verbal and emotional abuse can last a lifetime. If more kids understood this when they were very young, bullying wouldn’t be so prevalent. It just wouldn’t. One of the ideas to end bullying I discussed at Less Than Three was the need for every single elementary school to integrate an anti-bullying curriculum in first grade. Or even sooner. The earlier a person understands the power their words and actions have on others (in both a positive and negative context), the less likely they will feel the need to make others feel bad. Instead of stomping all over other people to make themselves feel better, potential bullies would know that the answer is this: reaching out for help in ways that will actually help them make their lives better.

This was one of the Bullying in School Panel’s hot topics. Fellow panel members Alethea Kontis, Jennifer Brown, and Dale Basye were freaking amazing. We talked about our own experiences with bullying back in the dark days. I told my story about the mean girl who wouldn’t let me sit across from her in the caf. She lied and said the seat was taken when it totally wasn’t. I had to sit alone at the next table while that chair stayed empty the entire lunch period. Letting me sit across from her was such a heinous concept that she would rather watch me sit alone. Which was more fun for her because then she could laugh at me the whole time. That’s the example I gave when we were sharing ways in which we were bullied. And yep, I used her real name. Just like I use her real name every time I tell that story at an event. If you are a dumbass, there will be consequences. We all used their real names. And I think we were all surprised by how raw their torment still was.

Heather Brewer and Susane Colasanti at the Less Than Three Conference, 2013

Heather Brewer is someone I’ve admired from afar. I love that she is badass. I love that she paves the way for her tons of loyal fans to let their freak flags fly. She understands what it’s like to be an outsider. She understands the relentless, unbearable pain loneliness brings. For these reasons and many others, we are kindred spirits. I cannot tell you how impressed I was by Heather for creating such a warm, safe space where everyone felt welcomed. Everyone felt like they were part of a group that would change the world.

Heather’s keynote address was amazing. She shared some of her own experiences with being bullied. Even though it was not easy, Heather felt compelled to reach out to everyone in that room and let them know they are important, the same way she reaches out to the whole world with love and support and virtual hugs. Heather ended her keynote with a slide show that blew everyone away. She compiled inspirational messages like you are not alone and keep holding on. The end had several slides with different images, but all with the same message, repeated over and over:

You are loved.
You are loved.
You are loved.

That’s when I lost it. I was all determined not to need a tissue from any of the tissue boxes Heather had put out. Next thing I knew, Alethea was handing me a tissue like the princess she is. Why did this repetition resonate so strongly with me? I’d just found out why that message was so important for Heather to hear. It made me sad that I couldn’t be there for her in high school when she needed a friend. I remember being 17 and feeling like I had to cling to my first boyfriend because no one else would ever love me again. For the rest of my life.

That’s how I felt at 17.

I know I’m not alone. So many teens (especially teens from broken, abusive homes) have told me they feel like no one will ever love them. That they will never, ever find love. As someone who felt the exact same way, I’m here to tell you that I was wrong. You will find love. You are loved.

Jordan Brooks and Susane Colasanti at the Less Than Three Conference, 2013

There was a special guest speaker during the keynote. Jordan Brooks was in the house. Jordan and I met in person at the Rochester Teen Book Festival, but we’d been communicating online for a while before that. Jordan had also been communicating with Heather and they’d already met and general awesomeness ensued. One of the things that makes Jordan so magnificent is that she takes a stand against bullying by intervening when she sees other people being mistreated. She helps her friends when they tell her they can’t hold on anymore. Jordan is the kind of person I wish I had been back in high school. I was so focused on surviving my own bullying that I was afraid to reach out to anyone else. That is unacceptable. I regret that I didn’t speak up every single day. Which is why Jordan is a role model. She is Not Afraid. She stood there in front of a huge crowd and shared her experiences with being bullied. I wish every teen had the same courage to speak up. Snaps for Jordan for being an inspirational ripple of positive change!

Less Than Three Conference, 2013

Jordan wasn’t the only friendly neighbor I’d been communicating with online who I got to see in person. Sisters Sara, Catherine, and Rachel traveled many miles to be there. Here we are with David Levithan…who might still be there (corny inside joke!). I cannot adequately express what a thrill it was to meet the Less Than Three Sisters in person. They had been so immensely kind and supportive online for years. Fortunately this event was in the middle of the States and they are also in the middle. It made me so happy to finally see their smiling faces in person after all the photos they’d shared. As if that weren’t the ultimate gift, the Sisters arrived with warm fuzzies and more sweet gifts for me: a painting, framed artwork, collages, cupcake floss (you read that right), and enough scrapbooking paraphernalia for a year. How did they know what I loved?! It’s like they were inside my head. But of course the greatest gift was having us all gathered at one time in one place to enjoy the Now.

Everyone who was there is already counting down to next time. So will Less Than Three be happening again next year? The official word from Heather is YES. I wish we could have Less Than Three gatherings every day. You could, actually. Check out the Born This Way Foundation for resources to help you start a support group in your school or town. There is strength in numbers. You could feel the strength at Less Than Three, the energy of our group taking a stand against bullying, the power of us. You hold the same power. How will you use it to change the world?

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national bullying prevention month

October is National Bullying Prevention Month. Those of you who know that I was bullied in junior high and high school understand why I want to do everything I can to reach out to others who are surviving daily torment and ostracism. That’s why I wrote Keep Holding On. Keep Holding On is about a girl who is relentlessly bullied at school and horribly neglected at home. Most of her experiences in the book were inspired by my actual experiences back then. I want my readers to know that they are not alone. No matter what you’re dealing with, there are other people out there surviving the same painful times.

Keep Holding On by Susane Colasanti

In conjunction with National Bullying Prevention Month, I’m giving away a signed copy of Keep Holding On. Let’s spread the word on Twitter! Here’s how to enter:

1. Follow me on Twitter.

2. Tweet this:

Win a signed copy of #KeepHoldingOn for National Bullying Prevention Month. Follow @susanecolasanti and RT to enter. https://susanecolasanti.wordpress.com

Tweet before Sunday, October 27 at 11:11 pm to enter. The winner will be contacted and announced on Twitter. US addresses only.

Less Than Three Conference

Are you in the St. Louis area? I’ll be there this weekend participating in Less Than Three, an anti-bullying conference to raise awareness and focus on positive approaches to end bullying. Here’s the event info:

October 19, 2013 – 9:00 am-5:00 pm
Less Than Three Conference
St. Charles Library
427 Spencer Road
St. Peters, MO 63376

I am so psyched to gather with teens, librarians, teachers, and a stone-cold pack of amazing authors. Hope to see those of you around St. Louis there!

A couple other items: Thanks to Justine Magazine for sharing some of my high school survival tips. And tomorrow, October 17, is Spirit Day. Wear your purple to take a stand against bullying of LGBT teens!

Feeling like you have no one you can talk to is the worst. But there are lots of friendly neighbors who want to help you. You can find a list of hotline resources on the Keep Holding On page of my website. And you can always call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.8255. The lifeline is available 24/7 and is a free, confidential service.

Stay strong, reach out, and never, ever give up ❤

now and forever cover reveal

As an author, there are certain days every year I look forward to the most. Pub day. Book tours. Any opportunity to meet readers. And the day when I get to share the cover of my new book.

Today is that day.

A team of fabulous designers has been working on the cover of my new book, Now and Forever, for a while now. I’m beyond ecstatic to finally be able to share it with you!

Now and Forever by Susane Colasanti

Here’s the synopsis:

***

What if your boyfriend was the world’s biggest rock star?

Sterling is crazy in love with Ethan. Not only is he the sweetest boy she’s ever met, but he’s an incredibly talented guitarist, singer, and songwriter. And since forever, he’s believed he has what it takes to be a star.

When Ethan becomes an overnight sensation, he’s thrown head-first into the glam world of celebrity—and so is Sterling. Before she knows it, she’s attending red-carpet premieres, getting free designer clothes, and flying around the country to attend Ethan’s monumental sold-out concerts.

It’s a dream come true…but whose dream is Sterling living? And what do you do when “forever” comes to an end?

***

Now and Forever will be released on May 20, 2014.

One of my biggest teen fantasies was that my boyfriend was the world’s biggest rock star. So I decided to bring that fantasy to life with Now and Forever. I hope you’ll enjoy the excitement, intense chemistry, and crazy drama this book brings. Rock on, friendly neighbors!

help wanted 2

TGIM, friendly neighbors! To celebrate this shiny new week, I’ve posted the second video of my relationship advice series, Help Wanted. This one focuses on soul mates, what to do when your BFF dumps you for her BF, and when to go for it.


Why am I doing these advice videos? Because I want you to never settle for anything less than what your heart desires. You deserve ultimate happiness. You have the power to turn your dreams into reality. I want every single one of you to create your ideal life. Dream big and never give up.

Much love. xoxo

freaks and geeks fans only

If you’re like me, it hurts like crazy when one of your fave shows ends. Like someone ripped out your heart, stomped on it a zillion times, and stuffed it back inside your chest with twigs and dirt all over it. That’s how it felt when the final ep of Freaks and Geeks was over. How could such a brilliant show only be on for one season? But I’ve ranted about that injustice more than once.

Time to move on.

What would have happened to Lindsay Weir in Season Two? And beyond? This question will burn forever in the mind of any true Freaks and Geeks fan. Here’s the good news: Now you can decide Lindsay’s fate. Some freaking awesome geeks developed an interactive game to show you the way. The big question will still be burning, but this game brings the inferno down to more of a smoldering ember. Have fun on the smoking patio!

the station agent

You know that thing where a book or show or movie will speak to you so strongly that it takes on importance of monumental proportions deep in your soul? That’s what The Station Agent was like for me. I saw this phenomenal film when it came out in 2003. Not sure how that was 10 years ago. It seems like I was just lining up an hour early at the Angelika. Now here I am a decade later after watching The Station Agent a hundred times and obsessing over the town where it was filmed. That town is Newfoundland, New Jersey.

Regular readers of this blog know that I’m from Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey. I’m from the country. We’re talking rural, cows and dirt roads, woods for miles nowhere. So I immediately connected to the setting of The Station Agent. Newfoundland is a small town that’s remote in a very similar way to my hometown. Even the trees looked the same. Newfoundland was portrayed with such sweet nostalgia and old-school charm that I set Something Like Fate and part of All I Need there. Those of you who’ve read both books might have recognized the same setting…and even a few of the same characters.

But guess what? I’d never been to Newfoundland. Until one Saturday a few weekends ago when my BF/soul mate was like, “Want to go to Newfoundland?” And I was like, “When? Today?” And he said, “Yeah. It’s about forty-five minutes away,” all super casual like we were going on a Home Depot run. When in fact he was talking about visiting a place I had tried to get to for years. The train doesn’t stop in Newfoundland anymore. I don’t have a car. One thing about Middle of Nowhere, New Jersey and its surroundings is you need a car to get around. So after doing lots of research, I concluded that it just wasn’t my time to visit.

Until it was.

Susane Colasanti at The Station Agent train depot, Newfoundland, New Jersey

The Newfoundland train depot was at the top of my list. That’s where Peter Dinklage’s character, Finn, moves to after his only friend dies and he inherits the depot. Finn loves trains. He loves walking the right of way along the tracks. He loves the sound of a train in the distance. Like Finn, I’ve always been obsessed with train tracks. The train tracks in my hometown were a symbol of hope for me. They led to the better life I would be living one day. I would stand on the tracks when I was 13, 14, 15, visualizing the happy life I would have one day when the worst part of my life was over. The train theme was another reason The Station Agent spoke to me.

Peter Dinklage and Bobby Cannavale in The Station Agent

Here’s Finn and Bobby Cannavale’s character, Joe, chilling in front of the depot. Which I was determined to chill in front of myself. We didn’t know exactly where the depot was. But I knew we would find it serendipitously. And we did! Bigelow Road, baby!

Susane Colasanti at The Station Agent train depot, Newfoundland, New Jersey

I look calm in this photo, but trust me, I was freaking out. I was running all around like a spaz, pointing out where Joe’s food truck (Gorgeous Frank’s Hotdog Emporium) was and where Finn hung his mailbox and of course the train tracks. And yes, I totally walked the right of way on those same exact tracks.

Susane Colasanti at The Station Agent train depot, Newfoundland, New Jersey

Any film featuring Bobby Cannavale is a winner. You automatically know it will be indie gold. Same with Patricia Clarkson. Who doesn’t love her? Seeing them together in The Station Agent was a thing of beauty. There’s a scene where Patricia’s character, Olivia, climbs into a red train car by the depot. Finn has a meltdown in the same red train car later. How stoked was I to see that the red train car was still there?

Susane Colasanti at The Station Agent train depot, Newfoundland, New Jersey

Leaving the depot wasn’t easy. But we had other fun landmarks to check out from the movie like Olivia’s house and Green Pond Road and the Good to Go Deli (which we didn’t find). We also visited Echo Lake and Green Pond since they were featured in Something Like Fate. The area is just as beautiful as I pictured it while I was writing the book. There was even a house on Old Lake End Road that looked exactly the way I was picturing Lani’s house. It was as if I could see the house in my mind even though I’d never been there in person. We snuck a sand sample from Green Pond for my sand collection. The whole trip was awesome. And it was all possible because my BF/soul mate knows me so well.

Train tracks will always symbolize hope and endless possibility to me. Whatever symbol you carry in your heart, may it help you stay strong and always dream big.

Peter Dinklage, Bobby Cannavale, and Patricia Clarkson in The Station Agent