LAUREN KARCZ is the debut YA author of The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, releasing July 25. 2017 from HarperCollins / HarperTeen. She's a professional language nerd, having worked as an ESL teacher, a linguist, and now as an author. Lauren lives with her family in Atlanta, Georgia.
(Psst. How is "Karcz" pronounced, you ask? Like "cars.")
Hey! How about a longer and more first-person-y bio? I always read these, don't you?
I was born in Atlanta and grew up mainly in the suburbs, where I was a quiet, dreamy kid with a big imagination and a long memory. I was the kid that teachers avoided calling on because they thought I was shy, but I was always the first to volunteer to read my creative writing assignments in front of the class. Throughout elementary and middle school, my younger sister and I dreamed up a whole world of our own, a slightly surrealistic town and school, populated with characters upon characters. We created maps and a board game for our setting, and even tried to make a poster about each character's life. These wound up wallpapering our bedrooms and the family basement before we could ever finish. Of course, as in any fictional world, some of our characters were more intriguing than others, and these were the ones I began writing about.
I wrote a lot.
Like, I envy how much I wrote when I was younger. Starting in the fifth grade, I would try to write a novel during each school year, finishing by the night before the last day of school. And then I'd write even more in the summer. I still have this one July day enshrined in my head as my Best Writing Day Ever. I was 14, and I was writing a diary-style novel with six different points of view in a big, blue, cardboard binder, on the backs of recycled class notes from the eighth grade. I woke up that morning wanting to work on that story, and so I did -- all day long, and into the night. I remember my family watched a movie during dinner (it was Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, if you must know), and I sat on a corner of the couch, with the blue binder and a mechanical pencil, still writing. I blasted through over fifty pages that day. I might not ever do that again. That's okay.
Please note I did not say I actually revised any of my writing during that time. Because I didn't.
I'd come to the end of the story, close the proverbial binder, stash it away in my closet or desk drawer, and move on to the next story. Sometimes I shared the stories with friends; sometimes I didn't. Mostly I was just playing around with words and characters, getting them into trouble and out again, occasionally throwing magic at them to see what happened, and always describing their clothes, bedrooms, food, and pets in great detail.
I was also a huge reader. I shifted between the middle grade and the small YA section of my library, reading as much as I could. I loved Judy Blume and Norma Klein, Betsy Byars and Christopher Pike. My favorite babysitter was Stacey McGill, although I was more a Mallory Pike in real life. I loved books set in New York City, and time travel books, and books about weird kids who weren't always able to save the day.
Eventually, I started sharing my work, although it was hard for me (and still is!).
I wrote a short story for my high school's literary magazine that won first place in the annual contest -- the main characters of that story just so happened to be Mercedes and Angela Moreno. A few years later, I started a blog about my life. It gained a following and I kept it up throughout college and beyond, though probably any blogger or former blogger will tell you that trying to fit your life into a narrative structure gets exhausting after a while. I switched back to fiction, did NaNoWriMo for many years, and wrote draft after draft of a YA novel that I really thought was going to work.
If you've read as many author bios as I have, maybe you know this part of the story.
That part where the author has to struggle through that first "this will get published!" novel for a while -- and then give up on it.
That part where they get rejected over and over -- whether it's by the publishing industry or the author themself.
That part where they have no choice but to move on to something new. And better.
Yeah. So I was the one rejecting me, for years. I would write a draft of my YA novel, get to the end, realize it didn't work on enough levels to be reviseable, and I'd toss the whole thing and start again. On the same story. I did this until I hit a breaking point: so many years with the same (dark) story and the same very flawed characters, and I couldn't do it anymore. I knew I wouldn't quit writing, but I needed to get as far away from that first novel as I could.
What, I asked myself, did I love?
I loved art and music and dance. I loved stories about girls, and the complicated friendships and relationships between them. I loved sister stories, surrealist settings, and characters who get what they need instead of what they want.
So I set out on a journey of art and love with Mercedes, one of my favorite characters I'd created with my sister so many years ago. Writing The Gallery of Unfinished Girls (first titled No More Blues) wasn't always easy (because Writing Is Hard), but there was so much joy in the process. After six months of drafting and a few months of revision, I signed with my agent, Victoria Marini, who sold the book in the summer of 2015 to my fabulous editor, Emilia Rhodes at HarperCollins / HarperTeen.
After more revision and rewriting and second-guessing myself and staying in love with the book despite having read it approximately 6000 times, it's so very close to being on shelves. (July 25, if you don't want to scroll up.)
I now live in midtown Atlanta with my family. I have a day job in the linguistics industry, and continue to write stories about delightfully weird teens.
New York City
seriously, all dogs
1970s soft rock
BOOKS THAT BLEW ME AWAY:
Ask the Passengers
How To Say Goodbye in Robot
Someday This Pain Will Be Useful to You
Everything Leads To You
Life By Committee
The Big Crunch
The Weight of Feathers
How To Make a Wish
When You Reach Me