Julie Halpern has a knack of taking you back to high school by pulling out our best and worst memories of that time through her writing. Her spot on comedic tone and skilful weaving of a story, perfectly channels the essence of the high school experience. She has been recognized on YALSA’s Best Fiction for Young Adults lists twice: in 2010 for Into the Wild Nerd Yonder and 2013 for Have a Nice Day.
The F-It List is Halpern’s fifth novel for teens, and it has laugh out loud humor while at the same time delivering an emotional punch to the gut. The F-It List hit bookshelves this past Tuesday, November 12, and centers on the friendship of Alex and Becca. When Alex’s father passed away, her best friend Becca made a poor choice and slept with Alex’s then boyfriend. Needing a break from the drama, Alex spends a summer keeping away from Becca. When she is ready to forgive at the start of the next school year, Alex discovers that Becca has cancer. Together they rebuild their friendship while trying to complete Becca’s bucket list, or as they call it the F-It list. Through this process Alex discovers a lot about grieving, love, friendship, and even herself. Visit Julie Halpern’s website, juliehalpern.com, to learn more about her work.
This is your fifth novel for teen readers. Has your writing style or writing process changed since your first novel was published? What has stayed the same?
I don’t know how much my style has changed, except that (hopefully) it has improved! Practice makes perfect, and all. I have had a similar writing process for all five books, where I tend to write the first few chapters and then let them sit for a bit before I continue writing the book. I don’t outline, but I do make a list of important events (sometimes the list looks neat, sometimes it’s randomly-placed post-its) that I need to include. I tend to write my books on a schedule, meaning that the events in the book take place over a certain amount of time and I need to figure out how to make the schedule work in order to keep the book organized. Otherwise, I write my books through the eyes of the main character, and the characters dictate the words. Also, in terms of process, I hand-write all of my books into notebooks with a pen, and when I finish the first draft I have to type it all in (which becomes my second draft). By now I know that I usually require two or three revisions after the second draft before I’m comfortable sending it to my editor. No one sees it before then.