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What a Difference a Year Makes

by Len Vlahos

*This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of RA News.*

I’m one of those annoying, overly reflective people who need to mark every anniversary and milestone. (Proof of that is here.) So naturally, as The Scar Boys celebrates its first birthday (January 21, 2015), I find myself thinking about the past year and how much it has changed my life.

The journey started with the amazing high of being a featured author at the American Bookseller Association’s Winter Institute, the largest annual gathering of indie booksellers. I had worked for ABA for nearly twenty years, so going to Winter Institute was something like old home week. My first book event—replete with live music, old punk videos, and a slide show—was performed for a SRO audience of more than one hundred bookselling friends, and was immediately followed by an author reception where I had a never ending line of people wanting my signature. (My signature!) Damn, I thought, this being a published writer thing is going to make for one helluva year.

I was brought back down to Earth the very next night when I did my first bookstore event for actual readers. There were four people in the audience: my wife, my publisher, a friend, and one stranger who seemed truly confused to be in the room. I did my presentation with the same energy and verve I had done for the packed house the night before, but would be a liar if I said I wasn’t disappointed.

This rollercoaster combination of wild highs and sobering moments defined the year. But even those nights where I could hear crickets chirping, or those days when I read the very occasional bad review on GoodReads (and yes, I read them all—I learn a lot from positive and negative reviews alike), I was literally living out a dream. My book had been published; people—readers and critics a like—seemed to think it had merit; and I had the great good fortune to meet an endless array of awesome teens, brilliant school librarians, wonderful booksellers, and an incredibly welcoming community of YA authors. Here are just a few highlights:

  • Reading the NY Times review that called TSB “a wry and stylish tale.”
  • The six hundred (600!!!) kids in the auditorium at Ronald Reagan High School in Milwaukee that turned my book event into a freaking rock concert.
  • The dozens of teens who were brave enough to sing or play guitar for their peers at my book events. (Like this one.)
  • The Hicklebee’s (San Jose, CA) Teen Advisory Board. Those dudes rock.
  • School librarian extraordinaire Anna Medina-Fernandez and her insanely talented students at Ronald Reagan High School in Miami. (Why the heck are so many schools named for Ronald Reagan?)
  • The many, many guest blog appearances (like this one!).
  • Everything about the Houston Teen BookCon in April and the Texas Teen Book Festival in October. (Texas does festivals right.)
  • Being approached by the drama teacher at Mt. Tabor High in Winston-Salem to adapt TSB to be this winter’s school play.
  • Finding out I was a finalist for ALA’s William C. Morris Award for best debut teen fiction. (Um…what?)
  • Seeing the joy and pride on the face of my six-year old son Charlie and my four-year old son Luke when they saw me at events or found The Scar Boys on shelves in bookstores.

Every high -- and yes, every low -- has made this one of the best years of my life. It’s going to be hard to top in 2015, but I will try.  


Do you enjoy Len Vlahos' writing? Look inside NoveList for similar authors and read-alike suggestions.


Find out more about Len Vlahos on his website.

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