2017 Year on Fire

Ten years ago, I took a major risk by leaving my teaching career to become a full-time author. I only had one book out at the time. I had no idea if my next book would sell, or how many more books I would have published, or exactly how I was going to pay my rent without a steady paycheck. I just knew that I had to overcome my fear of failure and take a major risk to create the life I wanted to live.

Some of you know that 2017 was my Year on Fire. I decided 2017 would be my Year on Fire near the end of 2016. You may recall that things were not all sparkly hearts and unicorns around that time. I was sad every day. I cried every day. I felt beaten down, defeated, even on the verge of nihilism. I couldn’t believe this was real life, that the world we were living in had become one I didn’t recognize anymore. But the sadness and crying didn’t help anyone. So I made an executive decision. 2017 would be an entire year of converting negative energy into positive energy every. single. day.

And it totally was.

Failure was not an option. 2017 would be a year in which I took the heartbreak and meanness and violence and transformed all of that negative energy into something positive that would help other people. I hit the ground running on January 1 and never looked back. Whenever I heard bad news (where bad = the most disgusting, horrible, insane information that my mind could not possibly wrap itself around), I turned off NPR or shut down Twitter and wrote 20 pages of whichever new book I was working on. I did not wallow in the badness like I did at the end of 2016. I did not have an apoplexy every time I heard the next depressing thing that would leave me curled up in a ball on the floor, bawling over war and injustice and racism and so much freaking hate like I did at the end of 2016.

I made a choice to respond in a way that was productive.

Controlling my news intake was key. Not having a TV helped tremendously with this. I did think it was important to stay informed, but there is a difference between learning about current events and wallowing in the depths of despair. I made a choice that 2017 Year on Fire would be a no wallowing zone. My technique was simple: I set my alarm every morning for the top of the NPR news hour to hear the worst, turned off the radio, and wrote 20 pages. If bad news infiltrated during the day, I learned the basic information about what happened, then shut it down and wrote 20 pages. That was my way of converting negative energy into positive energy.

All of those 20 pages added up.

2017 Year on Fire pages by Susane Colasanti

This is the stack of pages I wrote in 2017 Year on Fire. It’s about, oh, three thousand more pages than I would typically write in a year.

By May I had three books written, plus a 65-page proposal for a fourth book. How did I do it? How did I write four books and start a fifth by November when for the past ten years I had written only one book a year and was overwhelmed enough just doing that?

It’s amazing how much power is generated by converting negative energy into positive energy. As Carrie Fisher advised, “Take your broken heart. Make it into art.”

This was some extreme physics at work. EPA being dismantled? Go write 20 pages. Reduced funding for climate change scientists? Go write 20 pages. Planned Parenthood locations closing? Go write 20 pages, then 20 more. Increased emphasis on oil/coal and less on solar/wind? Go write 20 pages. Federal protections for transgender students withdrawn? Go write 20 pages. Syrian refugees banned? Go write 20 pages. White supremacist Nazi idiots stomping around with tiki torches? Yeah, I just went ahead and started that fifth book.

Around this time, I read an interview with Shonda Rhimes. When she was asked about her success, she said, “I was willing to stay longer and work harder than most people. You can have one show or you can have six — I thought, ‘Why not have six?’”

Year on Fire was like that for me. I didn’t come to play. I came to SLAY.

One of the four books I’ve written this year has been the most challenging book of my life. I’m collaborating with Alloy Entertainment at Warner Bros. This is a book I never ever ever thought I would write. Like EVER. But here we are. Year on Fire began with a development meeting at Warner Bros. in January, and rounded out the fall with another one in October.

Susane Colasanti at Warner Bros.

How did I finally get to their door after years of envisioning this big dream? Why am I writing a book that is painful and difficult and was like the last thing I ever thought I’d write?

My Year on Fire wasn’t only about showing up and doing the work. It was about being uncomfortable. Not just a little uncomfortable, like when it’s freezing out and you’re walking home in the icy wind slashing across your face and you can’t wait to get out of your cold, bulky winter gear and snuggle under a warm throw in your PJs and fuzzy socks with a good book, sipping hazelnut coffee topped with melty Marshmallow Fluff. I’m talking about being more uncomfortable than you have ever been in your whole entire life. I’m talking about the kind of uncomfortable that rips you wide open and spills your guts out.

See, I was super comfortable before. My writing schedule was pretty much the same every year. A new book published every summer, usually in May. Lots of vacay time in the summer. Starting a first draft in August, due by February 1. Repeat. I was extremely fortunate that this was my life for a decade, and every single one of you who have read my books made this life possible. I want to thank you with my whole heart. You are why I write. So yes, I knew comfort. As a Taurus, I crave comfort.

But then it was 2017 Year on Fire. And I yanked the soft, fluffy throw off my cozy comfort corner.

Not an easy thing to do for someone who loves routine and formerly hated change.

I busted down the walls of my comfort zone. We’re talking wrecking ball, Jaws of Life level destruction. I did scary things I’ve never done before in anticipation of transforming my life into something it had never been before. I not only learned to accept change, but I – wait for it – embraced change. What I learned is this: If you want big changes to happen, you have to make big changes. Maybe that sounds simple, but making big changes with the Unknown looming all big and scary down the line was the hardest thing for me. Big changes are scary. Big changes are hard. They take an exhausting amount of physical and emotional work that is anything but easy. Plus the whole time fear is trying to bring you down. Fear gets in your face all like, “Give up already. Give up and go back to your cozy comfort corner where everything is familiar and way easier.”

Tempting. But there was too much negative energy I wanted to convert into positive energy. There was no time to be comfortable.

2018 will be my Year of Happy. Simple in concept, challenging to implement, entirely new and a bit intimidating. The idea is this: I am only going to do things that make me happy. If it will not result in happiness, I will not do that thing. Let’s break it down. Cleaning counts as happy because a clean home equals happiness for me. Same with laundry. I am not happy doing laundry, but I am ecstatic when everything is clean and folded and put away. So yeah, the cleaning/errands/standing in line at Whole Foods parts will remain. But spending time with negative people that drain my positive energy? Going places and doing things that feel like work instead of fun? Allowing others to dictate what my life looks like, or bending and twisting my choices to squiggle out from under the tremendous weight of their judgments? Nope. No more. Time to bring some comfort back.

2018 Year of Happy

My Year of Happy will be a year in which I will choose to focus on happiness for myself and others. When I am happier, I can inspire more happiness in others, and that cycle will come into play stronger than ever in 2018. I’m looking forward to focusing on the things that bring me joy, immersing myself in positive energy, and eliminating negative, toxic forces from my life. Continuing to make my big dreams reality is of course a major part of what makes me happy, and there is much more hard work ahead. But that’s the thing about my work. I love what I do, so my career doesn’t feel like work. Do what you are. Do what you love.

And YOU? What did you learn about yourself in 2017? About your strengths? About the things you can tolerate, and the things you no longer want to? What will you focus on in 2018? Whatever you went through this year, whatever next year brings, know that I am right there with you in the face of change, fighting for what I believe in. This is all new for both of us, and we are in this together. So here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to show up every day. We’re going to do the work. On days when we don’t show up or we don’t do the work, we’re going to take a deep breath and try again. We are going to keep doing this, the showing up and the work, until we have reached our goal. And then we’ll move on to the next goal. And then, when our goals have been achieved and our life looks a lot happier than it used to, we will celebrate making our big dreams reality.

Here’s to a whole lot of happy in 2018!

xoxo-
Susane

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big talk

Small talk has never been my thing. Before I forced myself to get better at it so I wouldn’t die of boredom at cocktail parties where I didn’t know anyone, I totally dreaded any situation that would require the meaningless fluff and filler of small talk.

I swore that if one more person asked me the top two small talk questions:

“What do you do?”
“Where are you from?”

I would retaliate with questions that were meaningful and actually interesting to explore, thus encouraging some kind of genuine connection between us, like one of these:

“What’s your biggest dream?”
“On a scale of 1 to 10, how has your week been and why?”

These deeper questions aren’t serious enough to make people run screaming from me at parties, but are authentic enough to actually inspire a real conversation that isn’t a complete waste of time.

I didn’t want to make small talk anymore. I wanted to make big talk. But I didn’t know what to call it until Kalina Silverman gave a super impressive TED Talk. Kalina wanted to go out of her way to meet new people and skip the small talk, to have deeper conversations, and make more meaningful connections with them. So she created Big Talk, an initiative that inspires people to focus on what matters in this world. For her Big Talk video, Kalina asked strangers these big talk questions:

“What do you want to do before you die?”
“What would you do today if you knew you were going to die tomorrow?”

The results were magnificent.

Spread the big talk love, friendly neighbors ❤

20th new yorkiversary

I’m just going to say it.

2016 sucked every which way a year could possibly suck. Seriously with that ish? What even was that? You know it’s not a good year when you set your alarm clock to NPR every morning at the start of a major news hour so that the second you wake up you can find out where a shooting was and/or who died. I mean…I cannot EVEN.

Focusing on good things helps. One good thing about 2016 (that automatically included lots of other good things) is that January 6 was my 20th New Yorkiversary. I moved to New York City for grad school on January 6, 1996 in a blizzard with no money, no friends, and no job, just big dreams I was determined to make reality. So all this year I have been celebrating 20 years in my dream city, the city that makes me feel alive every day. Even when I woke up day after day to horrifying news, I was grateful to live in the city where I belong. And right now I am relieved that, as of December 22, daylight time is increasing a little every day. That is a very good thing.

Winter solstice

Some good things that happened in 2016? I got engaged. A scene from City Love manifested with Claire Danes on the street. The second book of my City Love trilogy, Lost in Love, came out and Epic Reads did an author fun facts video to celebrate. I got to be Maddy from Nicola Yoon’s spectacular Everything, Everything. I went to YALLWEST and chilled with author rock stars and fangirled all over the place. I made some dorktastic YouTube videos. I shared one of my favorite hidden West Village areas with you. And every day, no matter what sad things were happening in the world, I was feeling the city love. The past 20 years have been filled with magical New York City moments that have shaped the person I am today. I am forever in love with my home and the infinite possibilities it brings.

Something tells me you are looking forward to 2017 as much as I am, if not more. I am here to tell you this: You can turn your big dreams into reality in 2017. How do I know? Because dude. I went from having 73 cents in my bank account in college to becoming a homeowner in downtown Manhattan. With enough kitchen counter space to bake my annual 200+ Christmas cookies.

Christmas cookies by Susane Colasanti

That journey was not an easy one. Anything worth achieving requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and the passion to keep going when it feels like everything is falling apart. And I have to say, time is a wild thing. You are just living your life one day at a time. The next thing you know, 20 years have suddenly gone by. 20 years.

Where do you want to be in 20 years? 10 years? 5 years? 2017?

One technique I have used since I moved here is creative visualization. I picture my goals with clarity, then take steps every day towards achieving them. Try writing down your biggest goals for whatever timeframe you choose. Then write down one thing you can realistically do every day to take steps closer to achieving each of them. This process, the passionate dedication of working hard to achieve your goals, is how big dreams become reality. It worked for me. And if I could do it, you definitely can.

Happy New Year, friendly neighbors! Much love to you from New York City. xoxo

Empire State Building at Christmas

typo annihilator

You know how some things just annoy you so much you can’t even with them? But other people might not be bothered at all, or even notice?

Typos are like that for me.

Now and Forever typo sign 1

I mean, I cannot with this. “Your being video taped.” Seriously? And on printed signage?

Every time I see a glaring typo on a sign, I document the offense for my personal photo collection. Why? Because I’m a weirdo like that. But also because these are too good not to share. And rage/laugh/shake our heads over. Thus this overdue blog post!

Let’s revisit the time my favorite vegetarian restaurant had a new awning made, shall we?

Vegetarians Vegetarian's Paradise

So like…not only does this brand spanking new awning have a huge typo, but given its two different connotations of “vegetarians” you could say it has two. How can Vegetarians Paradise not know it is a paradise for more than one vegetarian? Hello, no wonder the singular possessive side got graffitied.

Creating a character who rages against typos was inevitable. That’s why in Now and Forever, Sterling is a typo annihilator. She whips out her black Sharpie and corrects typos on signs like an intellectual ninja. Fun fact: Sterling is Marisa’s best friend in Waiting for You. And Marisa has a cameo in Now and Forever. I’ve been bringing back previous characters from my backlist in my recent books, and will continue to have fun with this moving forward. My ultimate goal is to have all of my characters linked to one another by one degree as a statement on how we are all connected. Let’s see how it goes…

But yeah. I just can’t with this random capitalization.

Now and Forever typo sign 2

Or this.

Now and Forever typo sign 3

Because if you are on line at CVS browsing the magazines on the rack at checkout, you are only required to put one of the magazines back? You’re allowed to keep the others? I am also fascinated by the new vocabulary word “Thankyou.” I can understand its origin. The space between those words was such a hassle.

Down the block at another drug store chain, I spotted this beauty.

Now and Forever typo sign 4

So. Many. Things.

I will leave you with this gem…and best wishes for happy typo hunting!

keys

help wanted 5 – fear

TGIM! Here’s some Monday Motivation from me to you.

Is there a big dream you want to make reality, but fear is stopping you from following your heart? Do you want to break out of a bad situation you’re stuck in, a negative group of friends, a job you don’t like, or habits that make you feel worse about yourself? My Help Wanted 5 video is all about overcoming fear to create your dream life.

Fear is like an indicator pointing you toward a better life. Breaking out of your comfort zone will allow you to make the big changes necessary to improve your life immensely. Here’s how you can start turning your dreams into reality right now!


Stay gold, friendly neighbors ❤

rock the vote

I want to tell you about my first time.

My first time had issues with mechanics. I didn’t really know how anything worked. But there were instructions in explicit detail. So those helped.

There was too much background noise. It was hard to concentrate. Climate control was a problem. It was too hot…or maybe I was just nervous.

As part of the YA community’s #firstvote16 initiative, I made a video telling you all about my first time…VOTING.


Thanks to E. Lockhart and team
for organizing this fantastic Rock the Vote campaign! You can register to vote here and join the convo about your first time on Twitter with #firstvote16.

Do it. Share how you feel about someone special…with the whole world!

legally blonde non-coincidence

TGIM! To keep this Monday Motivation train zipping along on a gray day, I thought I would share a non-coincidence with you that, at least to me, speaks to the power of positive energy.

You might be wondering what a non-coincidence is. Excellent question. A non-coincidence is an example of awesomeness in the universe I wrote about in Something Like Fate. I was writing about the concept of fate and to what degree we are the architects of our own destiny. And about other fascinating things we can’t explain. Like this one time when I had a dream about two people I had not spoken to in years, and the next day they both called me. Or how I was taking a subway line I never take at a time of day I never ride the subway and looked up from my book at this one stop for some reason…and a friend I hadn’t seen in forever got on who didn’t even live here. These are non-coincidences. Why do I call them that? One of the quotes I included in Something Like Fate is by David Life: If you believe in coincidence, you aren’t paying attention.

Do I think everything happens for a reason? I do. Do I think that if you live your life in positive energy and work toward your goals with determination and dedication, everything will unfold as it should? No doubt. And do I think that non-coincidences can enrich our lives if we are paying attention? Absolutely.

Here’s a recent example of a fun non-coincidence. I have this DVD of Legally Blonde. When I first got it over ten years ago, it played like a DVD should. No problems at all. Then one day, it stopped playing. Just gave up and called it quits. Given how much I enjoy that movie, I was understandably a bit devastated. I thought about mailing it to the manufacturer to request an exchange. Or just going out and buying a new one. But something kept stopping me. Every time I was like, “I am going to send Legally Blonde back today!” I never did. Which is really unlike me. When I say I am going to do something, I freaking do it. I can’t explain why I held onto this busted DVD.

Legally Blonde

So my Legally Blonde DVD would not play for years. Years, people. At least five, probably more like seven. I tried to get it to play so many times, hoping each time would be different and it would magically play despite the ever increasing evidence to the contrary.

Of course it never played.

Then it was May 11, 2016. I had recently turned Fabulous at 43. And I woke up that morning determined to make some changes. Things I had been working on for years suddenly were DONE. I was done entertaining negative energy in my life. All negative energy had to go, as I was a positive energy only zone. I decided in that moment that my word for Fab at 43 would be STRONG. I called my crazy busy doctor who I could never get on the phone and insisted on speaking to her directly after several attempted distractions by her intimidating staff, who usually wore me down so much I gave up trying. I spoke to her, then found a new doctor because no patient should be treated like that. I threw down a schedule that would protect my workout time. I shimmered in my Knowing that the new book I was working on chose me to write it. Positive energy was abundant…and powerful.

It was the perfect time to try playing Legally Blonde again.

But this time, I made an executive decision. If it didn’t play (as it hadn’t for the past 32 times I tried over 5+ years), I would toss it and order a new one. That was it. I was DONE.

Guess what happened?

The DVD played.

To me, this non-coincidence reinforced the power of positive energy. I believe that our energy not only affects other people, but also affects every living thing. And even, in mysterious ways, inanimate objects. I know how wild that sounds. But I’ve seen enough evidence in my lifetime to know that the energy we radiate can change the entire world. Including everything in it.

Whatever you want to achieve, whomever you want to become, whichever path you choose to follow, remember this: Positive energy is the key to creating your dream life. This was just a fun non-coincidence I shared, but positive energy is a catalyst for epic non-coincidences on a much larger scale that can change your entire life.

Embrace the power of positive energy. Then go out there and get your DVD to play.