On Mean Girls & Writing Some Girls Are

courtneyFeatured, personal, some girls are (your mom)

I’m giving away the first of four ARCs of SGA very soon. This particular giveaway will be on Facebook only. International entries are welcome. Future giveaways will be US & CAN only, so if you’re anywhere else in the world and want the book, you might want to get in on this! What you need to do: add the Facebook fan page and await further instruction. Further instruction will come via a message in your Facebook inboxes next week (please note, I’ve no intention of spamming you with messages every time one of my novels sneezes–only when I am doing exclusive Facebook giveaways). Also, the Some Girls Are GoodReads giveaway (20 copies available!) ends in nine days.


The rockin’ Colleen Mondor of Chasing Ray has a great blog post about mean girls in YA lit. That is a topic that is relevant to my interests! She asked: Does teen literature exaggerate the mean girl phenomena too much? If aliens landed on earth and read teen lit (oh my) would they expect to find mini Cordelias wreaking havoc on every high school across America? Are they so prevalent because it just easier to write about mean girls then nice ones? Is teen lit reflecting what is real in this instance or propagating an unfair femail stereotype?

Beth Kephart, Neesha Meminger, Margo Rabb and many other awesome authors weighed in and the ensuing discussion in the comments is good stuff. After I took it all in, I thought, God, I wanna talk about writing Some Girls Are and why I chose mean girls for my next novel, but I don’t know where to begin.

I’m still not sure where to begin, but when has this stopped me from doing anything? Never!

I think mean girl lit is booming not because it’s easier to write about mean girls (it’s so not easier to write about mean girls, in my experience!), but because girl aggression and bullying has and, unfortunately, may always be pretty prevalent in our society (while I was writing Some Girls Are, my friends would often forward me horrifying news stories about girl-bullying). I think mean girls are so very much a part of popular culture now because we’re very eager to see our reality reflected in fiction, to find some understanding in our experiences and to feel less alone.

Some Girls Are is a story about one particular group of really, really horrible girls who abuse their status in high school and treat each other like complete and utter shit while they do it. I had no intention to proselytize about the horrors of girl-bullying nor to glamorize it. Though redemption plays a role in Regina’s story, I wouldn’t consider it a mean-girl-gone-good type novel. I feel Some Girls Are is about desperate attempts at self-preservation in an increasingly hostile environment.

At the same time, I also prefer people to draw their own conclusions about what I put out there, so maybe someone will argue everything I just said and insist that it proselytizes, glamorizes girl-bullying and is a redemption story. So maybe the most I can say about my own book is that it is definitely about mean girls.

EITHER WAY. Why mean girls? I guess they’re trending, but I don’t write to trends, I write what interests me. Mean girls have always fascinated me and I’ve spent a lot of time analyzing the girl-bullying I perpetrated and experienced in my school days. One thing that constantly amazes me is how fresh that pain and humiliation feels after all these years in a way a lot of other, crappier experiences I’ve gone through just… don’t. That I haven’t gone through that kind of emotional warfare and manipulation in my relationships with girls since I left school gives me further pause.

When I was in school, I was very codependent and afraid to be alone. The only way for me to offset that anxiety was to attach myself to people, other girls. I never quite made the connections I wanted to because I wasn’t coming from a very sincere place, but I didn’t care because anything was better than being left alone. I also happened to be one of those girls there was nothing to be gained by knowing and I knew this made me expendable. It’s strange to, at a very young age, know you’re expendable without fully understanding why. My expendability made me feel threatened and so I would strategize a lot to ensure my positioning within my clique without even considering what I was doing as strategizing. I worked hard at working my way up with the kind of mathematical precision that amazes me in hindsight because the LAST thing I am is mathematically precise.

I eventually managed to become very close to a power player. I enjoyed that position a little too much. And after it all blew up in my face (inevitable), I found myself living my nightmare: I was isolated, alone. A fate worse than death. I was teased and degraded in those subtle, underhanded ways girls often bully each other. Despite the role I played in my own downfall, I was hurt, betrayed and ANGRY. And I had little to no understanding of why this stuff was happening.

Well, I knew why but not, y’know, WHY.

And can I just say, my anger was magnificant! And yet, for as angry and betrayed and demeaned as I was, I was also convinced I COULD NOT LIVE without these very same girls. So I was in this place of HATING THEM while shuffling up to them with my head down and begging for their forgiveness at regular intervals. Not pretty.

They did eventually forgive me. Somehow, being around this group of people who knew how to use my deepest, darkest fears and secrets against me was better than spending recess alone (yeah, again–WHY?!). I spent the rest of my school days terrified of my BFFs. I worried horribly about making one misstep and was constantly bracing myself for a fall. I became a constant apologizer, just in case. I frustrated my friends by asking them repeatedly if they were mad at me, because I never wanted to be surprised like that again.

It wouldn’t be until much later that I realized my perspective on my girl-bullying experiences evolved and became distorted during and after the time they occurred. I felt so victimized that I could not remember a time I was terrible. I honestly couldn’t. The contempt I had for my old friends was fierce and the self-aggrandizing self-pity I had for myself was truly a thing to behold. This bitterness it left with me motivated me in weird ways (“I will show them all!”) and gave me a weird sense of entitlement I can’t totally describe.

Anyway, then one night, years later, I found an old tin of passed notes from my school days, between me and those girls. And, wow. There it was in my own handwriting, something that I couldn’t deny–

I was awful.

I can still remember that cringing, red-faced, stomach-sinking feeling of seeing JUST HOW AWFUL I WAS to my friends. It was a… humbling moment to say the least.

It was also a turning point.

From that point on, I was obsessed with my own experiences, my awfulness, the really bizarre dynamic I had with my friends, and desperate to shed some light on what I had gone through. I realized that as I was going through it at the time, I was desperate for someone else to do the same. I basically felt (and still feel) this all-encompassing need to acknowledge it and talk about it and find out if I wasn’t alone. I would begin exploring my experiences through storytelling. First I took photographs:

in, out

reform school for girls

And then, eventually I wrote a book.

Again, to touch on one of the questions in Colleen’s post, I think we’re very eager to see our reality reflected back at us in fiction. At least, I know I was (and am) and that’s what motivates me to write today. As a girl who bullied and was bullied, I was very hungry to see the truth of what I went through in art, in entertainment. And to be honest, I never quite found what I was looking for. There are lots of books out there about overcoming, to be sure, books about making sense of that kind of trauma, but I was more interested in books that drew back the curtains and showed how truly awful it was and could be in school. For me, it was not so much about finding answers, it was about finding out if people had the same questions. I wanted books that stepped back and said, “Hey! This is kinda really fucked up, isn’t it?”

Because–as a teen–I honestly did NOT want to be assured that I could overcome, weird as that might sound. I just wanted to be assured the uglyness was there because knowing other people knew it was there made me feel better. So anyway, that was my reality. I wanted and needed to put it out there some way,aAnd that is ultimately why I wrote Some Girls Are, why I chose to write about mean girls.