Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Facing fear: Icebergs, bears, and young adult novels

This year, I'm going to continue my tradition of having guest posts on a certain topic throughout the year. In 2011, it was second books; in 2012, it was books from our childhood. In 2013, the topic is fear. I picked fear because I thought: we've all felt it; we all develop ways to cope with it. It's a powerful emotion, so there's probably a lot to say about it.

My first guest blogger is Lauren Bjorkman, who's not afraid to have a few chuckles in the face of fear.

When people learn that I sailed across the Atlantic Ocean on an old sailboat just after my 10th birthday, or that I kayaked among icebergs and brown bears in Glacier Bay, or wrote several young adult novels, or traveled to Syria and Yemen, they think that I have NO FEAR. Nothing could be further from the truth. My adventurous life has everything to do with my parents and my husband.

My recent released YA novel, Miss Fortune Cookie, addresses the issue of fear. It tells the story of Erin, a secret advice columnist with a Chinese heart. She speaks Mandarin and lives in San Francisco Chinatown. She and her crazy smart friends have applied to Ivy League colleges.


The story is NOT about me. I rarely give advice to my friends, never lived in Chinatown, and didn’t apply to a single Ivy League school. But Erin and I are alike in one important way. We both let our lack of self-confidence—aka fear of failure—hold us back. Over time I overcame many of my fears—public speaking, aggressive dogs, snorkeling, eating slimy things, mingling at parties. To a degree, anyway. When my self-confidence grew, I finally dared fulfill my dream of writing novels.

In Miss Fortune Cookie, Erin’s confidence takes a big leap after she survives an adventure of a lifetime. Actually, she enjoys some of it. Once she faces her worst fears, she discovers that they did not have the power she imagined they did. This realization frees her to take the next brave steps in her life.

I haven’t overcome every last fear, of course. I’m still terrified of large ocean waves, for instance. I use another strategy to deal with this. It’s called avoidance.

Lauren Bjorkman has sailed across the Atlantic twice, and has written two YA novels, My Invented Life and Miss Fortune Cookie ("Fate will come looking for you. Don’t bother hiding.")


  1. Interesting series, Jenn. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and your novel, Lauren. I'm going to go add these to my TBR list. Conquering fear is one of my lifelong quests. ^_^

    1. Wishing you smooth sailing on your quest, Angelina!

    2. I think it's a lifelong quest for most of us. We just fear different things!

      (And I recommend both of Lauren's novels.)