Terrible Titles!

The  fabulous  Alyssa Brugman has tagged me for a “terrible titles” blog hop! The challenge is to pick eight random lines from a work-in-progress by scrolling through the manuscript and letting the cursor land where it will.  Here are eight random lines from one of my projects that might serve as terrible titles.

anime doll head


A doll’s head bobbling atop an assortment of bones.

Make sure somebody feeds Elvis.

I sent a fake Christmas card to myself.

Coiling through the streets on a wisp of smoke.

Rolling and thrashing like a screaming octopus.

I am a psychological oddity worth discussing over champagne.

Oh, you should see the mural of LeBron downtown!

Jailhouse parenting is the bomb.


The real (but working) title of the story is called simply “Sam and Mathilde” and it is a dual perspective young adult novel that deals with   prison parenting and reactive attachment disorder.


Have a great day!

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Visit to Conneaut Senior High School

Hi, everyone. Here are some pics of my recent visit to Conneaut Senior High. It was a really awesome visit. I spent about three hours with the students who had all read WHAT HAPPENS NEXT prior. I was able to talk with them about a variety subjects…date rape, eating disorders, bullying, and writing process. The most lively part of our visit, however, was during our creative writing workshop. I lead them through an exercise I created called “Story Starting: A No-Fail Creative Exercise for Reluctant Writers.” They had an absolute blast. I’ve used this exercise many time in the past and it’s always a big hit. If you would like to inquire about school visits, please contact me via the “contact” tab on my home page where I also have a short bio of my speaking credentials, testimonials, and pricing.   :)


Conneaut group photo

Students all read WHAT HAPPENS NEXT prior to my visit and asked a ton of great questions about date rape, eating disorders, bullying, recovery, and writing process. A very thought-provoking discussion.

Students in deep concentration during the Story Starting

Students in deep concentration during the Story Starting

Me being my usual graceful self. LOL.

Me being my usual graceful self. LOL.

Me being my usual graceful self while holding a Tardis.

Me being my usual graceful self while holding a Tardis.

One-on-One with a lovely student.

One-on-One with a lovely student.

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In which I discuss Cinderella, Bluebeard, & Stephen King

I was asked to make this author video for the OELMA Conference that is coming up in October. The Ohio Education Library Media Association also goes by OHIO SCHOOL LIBRARIANS!

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Western Reserve Book Festival

Some terrific pictures from a book festival that I attended recently with some other Ohio-based authors.


Hiram Book Fest Group PicLeft to Right: Colleen Clayton, Leah Clifford, Scott Tracey, Julie Anne Lindsey, Mindy McGinnis.


HIram Book Fest AfterpartyJulie Anne, Leah, Scott, Cinda Williams Chima, and moi.



Hiram Book Festival Author Table

A well-prepared author. Beverage assortment? Check! Bookmarks? Check! Candy bowl to lure in passersby? Check, check, check!


It was a very fun day and I thank Hiram College for inviting me. :)



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I am pleased and honored to announce that WHAT HAPPENS NEXT has been selected for the Choose to Read Ohio (CTRO) Booklist for 2015-2016. CTRO is a group initiative by Ohioana Library Association, The State Library of Ohio, and Ohio Center for the Book and exists to promote literature written by or about Ohioans. The official list for Young Adult fiction is as follows:


The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson.

The Hallowed Ones by Laura Bickle.

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis.

What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton.

Women of the Frontier by Brandon Marie Miller


Congratulations to all of my fellow authors who were chosen for this prestigious list.



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Bullying and Burgers!

This past Monday, I had the pleasure of participating in a bullying awareness event held at the Rocky River Public Library in conjunction with a fabulous group of young adults and mentors from Know Your Purpose Foundation. We gathered for a special screening of the award-winning documentary BULLY and then I spoke about my personal experiences with bullying and how the theme is handled in my book WHAT HAPPENS NEXT. I also spoke about date rape and date rape drugs and ways to keep safe, and then on writing process and how my childhood experiences helped shaped my creativity.  The folks from Know Your Purpose asked lots of brilliant questions and shared their thoughts and frustrations about bullying and date rape.  It was a very powerful evening and more than a few tears were shed but lots of smiles were exchanged, too! Special thank you to Megan and Dori, the RRPL librarians who hosted the event. They took me to dinner beforehand at Bearden’s…a local, beloved burger joint that is featured in my book. (A VERY special thank you for that! Peanut Burgers, yummmmm!)


RRPL pic 1

RRPL pic 3

Beardens pic


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On Place: Writing YA Set in The Rust Belt

Know Thy Self Rust Belt


                The term Rust Belt was coined in the early 1980’s and refers to the geographic region of the  U.S. where industry once thrived but is now in a state of economic decay. (Basically, it’s the whole state of Ohio and the adjacent areas in neighboring states like Michigan and PA….) For a lot of people the term “Rust Belt” conjures negative images…that of defunct smoke stacks and residual pollution, unemployment lines and homeless shelters, boarded up houses and vacant strip malls. Having grown up the daughter of an autoworker in the Cleveland area and now living and working in the Youngstown area, I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It’s true, the Rust Belt has all of the above mentioned things and more. But what many people don’t realize is that we have a lot of fabulous things as well. Symphonies, fine dining, beautiful park systems, a ton of professional sports teams, and even opera! We have a very low cost of living for the most part and you can actually own a decent home in the Rust Belt and not have to be a millionaire. (You may have to work two part-time jobs in the process but still, at least it’s possible, right?) Oh, hey…did I mention that we have OPERAAAA? (Click here, I swear!)


However, the best thing about the Rust Belt is not these big city attractions but the people who live here. Most Rust Belters are no frills, hard-working, call-you-out-for-bullshitting types who know how to take a hard punch as well as a good joke. The Rust Belt is home to people who brown-bag it to work everyday, who use the term “garage-sale” as a verb, and who don’t apologize for loving corn dogs and drinking too much pop. I have lived in Ohio all of my life and have come to believe that it takes a certain type of person to grow up and thrive here. It takes a person who is tough, resilient; who doesn’t just get up after they’ve fallen down but jumps up when they’ve been knocked  down. Cleveland has been called “The Mistake By The Lake” for years. It is home to a  struggling football team that’s been lovingly referred to as The Factory of Sadness. Don’t get me started on the jobs situation here or Orange Barrel Pothole Season which lasts nine months out of twelve. And, trust me, however bad Cleveland has it on these fronts, it’s nothing compared to what the people in my adopted hometown of Youngstown face. We were named poorest city in the nation, ya’ll! Ugh! But despite the adversity, we keep getting up. Because that’s what we do in the Rust Belt. WE KEEP GETTING UP.


Most Rust Belt kids learn this mantra early on. They learn quickly that they’re probably not going to be prom queen but  that they can still have a fun time dancing with their friends. They realize that they’re probably never going to own a Lexus but that their mom’s used  Ford Focus drives just fine. Like they’re parents, they can stretch a buck like nobody’s biz and are sensible dreamers who (when  they aren’t working after-school jobs to help make ends meet) still find time to make art , music and literature. And guess what? I get to write about all of this! Man, do I love writing YA fiction set in my home state of Ohio. I get to write about everyday fighters. My characters get to go great places…to the gritty downtowns of Cleveland and Youngstown or aboard fishing boats off the shores of Lake Erie. They take field trips to the Rock-n-Roll Hall of Fame or ride roller coasters with their friends at Cedar Point. Or they simply head home to their extraordinarily ordinary young lives in the neighborhoods, apartment complexes, and trailer parks of the Rust Belt.  I am so proud to set my first contemporary YA novel WHAT HAPPENS NEXT here and I hope that you will pick up the paperback which releases on September 24th. I hope you get to know this part of our country through my character Sid and her family and friends. Maybe you’ll even come to Cleveland, Youngstown, and other parts of the Rust Belt for a visit someday. That would be nice…and totally affordable…don’t you think?


XO/YA Colleen ***Some Young adult, middle grade, and YA-Adult crossover books set in the Ohio are: One For Sorrow by Christopher Barzak (Coming-of-Age/YA-adult crossover…a poignant ghost story that I highly recommend), Zane’s Trace by Allan Wolf (YA), All of the Above by Shelley Pearsall (MG), The Warrior Heir by Cinda Williams Chima (YA Fantasy), Heaven by Angela Johnson (YA), Before, After, and Somebody In Between by Jeannine Garsee (YA), What Happened on Fox Street by Tricia Springstubb (Middle Grade), The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison (Adult-YA crossover).   If you know of any other YA, YA-Adult Crossover or MG books set in Ohio or the Rust Belt, please list in the comments section, we’d love to hear about them!  i-love-ohio-150x150

*this post was originally written and posted by me on the debut author page The Apocalypsies.

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Blog Hoppity Hop!

Hey, everyone! It’s been a while since my last post so I apologize for that…crazy summer. But I’m taking part in the Children’s Author Blog Hop. My friend and fellow Ohioan Jody Casella invited me to be part of this interview hop in which each author answers four questions and then links to other children’s authors. It’s a great way to learn about books and authors you might not have heard of.


I had the privilege of blurbing Jody’s upcoming debut THIN SPACE which received a starred review from Kirkus! It’s a story about a teen named Marshall who, after losing his twin in an accident, goes on a desperate search for the mythical “Thin Space,” a point between this world and the next that is thin enough to pass through. It’s available September 10th!  I had the pleasure of having dinner with Jody when I was in Columbus for a YA panel at Cover-to-Cover Bookstore last March. She is just a lovely person and I’m so excited for her book to come out. It’s a terrific, unique and stunning debut.


Onto the interview questions:


1. What are you working on right now?


Right now I’m working on a contemporary young adult story that I’m currently calling SIX WAYS TO SUNDAY. It features a fifteen-year-old girl named Sunday (“Sunny”) and deals with child abuse, teen pregnancy, and adoption. I’m trying out differing modes of storytelling with this one, trying to get out of my comfort zone of present tense linear narrative.


2. How does it differ from other works in the genre?


I’m mixing it up with chapters that include epistolary writing, past tense flashbacks, prose poems, meta-fiction, and some other interesting “way out there” angles. It’s challenging, I’m not gonna lie, but it’s a new path in my writing journey that I’m excited about.


3. Why do you write what you do?


I think I’m drawn to young adult stories because my own young adulthood was so traumatic. I was bullied pretty badly so it all left me kind of raw inside. I’ve never 100%  gotten over it. Plus, I’ve worked with teens my entire life…as a social worker at a residential treatment center for teens and now as an adjunct writing instructor at a university. I’ve never really left the realm of young adulthood. Also, the period of young adulthood is unlike any other phase of life. It’s a period of “firsts” that can never be repeated. First love, first heartbreaks, first driver’s license, first job, physical changes to the body, and then the seeking of independence from parents. It’s a special-horrible-wonderful time in a person’s life that creates a deep creative well for me to draw from.


4. What is the hardest part about writing?


B.I.C Syndrome. Butt in chair. Then Facebook, TV, and internet distractions. I’m currently on Facebook hiatus because it eats up so much of my time. :/


And now here’s a little bit about my writer friend:


Zoraida Cordova


I met Z through the Apocalypsies, my debut author group. She writes exciting under-the-sea adventure tales! Her books The Vicious Deep and The Savage Blue feature a 16-year-old mer-hottie named Tristan who is in an epic battle to claim his rightful place as king. One of the things that makes her YA series unique is that the stories are told through a male perspective. (Not all merfolk are female, ya’ll!)


A little story about how amazing Zoraida is…I had the chance to hang out with Zoraida when I visited New York City last fall for a reading. We walked around the city, bookstore to bookstore, signing stock together. The thing I’ll always remember is how she walked me to my hotel and made sure that I arrived there safely and without getting lost. She’s an amazing person all around and a terrific writer so check out her books, okay?



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Ohioana News

I went to the Ohioana Book Festival this past weekend and it was amazing! So many wonderful readers, educators, and fellow authors were there. I participated in a lively panel discussion about teen literature and enjoyed signing books alongside my buddies Leah Clifford, Rae Carson, and Kristina McBride. I also was able to see my fellow NEOMFA alumni pal Karen Kotrba. Her  book of poetry SHE WHO IS LIKE A MARE was recently published by Bottom Dog Press. I think the highlight of the festival was getting to know the lovely Julia DeVillers, middle grade author of the just released TRIPLE TROUBLE (and a ton of other great MG books…) We were each others “date” for an author reception at the Governor’s mansion after the festival. It was a last-minute “blind date” of sorts as we didn’t know each other before this weekend but I had a really good time talking and laughing and eating fancy hors d’oeuvres with her. I would definitely date her again. :)


Wish me luck for the Ohioana Award…WHAT HAPPENS NEXT is a finalist! Fingers crossed!


Teen Lit Panel at Ohioana

Me, making my point (whatever it was…) Ohioana 2013

Photo: Panel Discussion: Books for Teens and Tweens II


NEOMFA Represents!

Fellow alumni Karen Kotrba and myself


YA Girl Powah!

(The YA Girl Power was so purely concentrated in this moment that it formed a blinding Halo of Awesome. Poor Mindee had to shut her eyes momentarily to take it all in…)

Top left to right: Leah Clifford, Laura Bickle, Rae Carson, Mindee Arnett, Liz Coley

Bottom left to right: Colleen Clayton, Julia DeVillers, Kristina McBride

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Ohioana Book Festival


When: Saturday, May 11th! Doors open at 10:00 am.

I’ll be signing all day and then participating in a “Books for Teens” panel

at 2:00pm with Kristina McBride, Julia DeVillers, and other great authors!

Where: Fort Hayes Metropolitan Center in Columbus, Ohio

More info at www.ohioanabookfestival.org

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