Sunday, October 21, 2012

YAtopia Re-Launch: Jaquira and Sarah

Today we're introducing you to new YAtopian Jaquira Diaz and reintroducing you to YAtopia old-timer Sarah Nicolas. 

Jaquira Díaz

Jaquira Díaz is the Carl Djerassi Fiction Fellow at the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing. Her work has been awarded a Pushcart Prize, has been selected as Notable in Best American Essays 2012, and will be anthologized in Girls on Fire, and Sins and Needles: Writers and their Tattoos. She teaches fiction at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where she also works as Senior Editor of Devil’s Lake. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Sun, The Southern Review, Slice Magazine, and Pushcart Prize XXXVII: Best of the Small Presses, among other publications.

During her spare (?!) time, she watches reruns of Doctor Who, The Walking Dead, or Battlestar Galactica with a boxer-mutt she calls Homie Dog, and daydreams of landing a sweet gig writing for AMC or SyFy or HBO or pretty much any cable network really. Her obsessions include sushi, coffee, road trips, Charms Blow Pops, roller derby, and pretending she’s in the WNBA. Sometimes, while walking Homie Dog around Madison, she breaks into song, reenacting scenes right out of “Once More, with Feeling,” the Buffy musical. She also knows all the words to Slick Rick’s “La Di Da Di.” To find out more, or if you’d like to send free cupcakes or puppies, you can find her at or follow her on twitter: @jaquiradiaz.

Sarah Nicolas

Sarah is a twenty-something who currently lives in Central Florida with the sweetest mutt on the face of the planet. Fantasy and Sci-Fi are her favorite genres, but she loves all YA and New Adult. Sarah believes that some boys are worth trusting, all girls have power, and dragons are people too.

Sarah’s a proud member of the Gator Nation and has a BS in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Sales. She's a Technical Writer, an Associate Publicist with Entangled Publishing, and an author's assistant.

She also blogs at and is obsessed with Twitter, so she'd love for you to follow her @sarah_nicolas. Tumblr is her newest favorite distraction. Sarah and her sister, Kayelee, can be seen vlogging every Thursday at the YA Rebels

Jaquira, interviewed by Sarah:

Sarah: Which one of your characters has the most of you in him/her?

Jaquira: I’m working on the third draft of a novel set in 1990’s Miami right now. The main character, Nena, is a lot like I was as a teenager. Her character is full of contradictions. She lives in a disenfranchised neighborhood. She’s a juvenile delinquent. She’s angry, curious, self-aware. She likes to test boundaries. She’s both strong and vulnerable. She’s loyal to her friends, but also betrays them. She sees that the world is unfair to those that don’t deserve it, but she doesn’t accept that. She wants to change that. She is struggling with who she is right now, but she’s also hopeful. She can see beauty even in the miserable world in which she lives.

Sarah: Name three books you think everyone should read.

Jaquira: Just three? There are so many!

Nova Ren Suma’s Imaginary Girls, because it will shatter your world and your understanding of what fiction is supposed to be, what a novel is supposed to do. This book is smart. It takes risks. I spent many hours loving and hating Nova Ren Suma because she wrote this book.

Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian. This book takes you into the world of a teenager living in the Spokane Indian reservation, who decides to leave it in order to attend a predominantly white, middle class high school, and who struggles to fit in in both of these worlds. It’s about coming of age, about friendship and betrayal, about the shame that comes with growing up poor, the injustices that you suffer when you live in poverty. It’s about a boy who decides that because no one else can save him, he will save himself. It will make you cry, laugh, recoil, cringe. You will throw it across the room, and then run back to pick it up again.

emily m. danforth’s The Miseducation of Cameron Post. This is a beautiful book on many levels, about coming of age and coming out. It’s about love and betrayal, about how you survive even when your own family doesn’t understand or accept you. To quote Malinda Lo (author of Ash and Huntress): “The Miseducation of Cameron Post is indeed an important book — especially for teens growing up today in communities that don't accept them for who they are. But it is also a skillfully and beautifully written story that does what the best books do: It shows us ourselves in the lives of others.”

Sarah: What is the one tip you would give to aspiring authors?

Jaquira: Never stop learning. Whether you pursue an MFA in creative writing, or you attend conferences where your novel is workshopped, or you work independently. Even after you publish your first novel, your second, your sixteenth. Even if your novel gets glowing reviews, even if all your books are on the New York Times Best Sellers list. You can always learn more. This means reading widely and diversely. Read fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and lyric essays. Read the newspaper. Read plays and screenplays. Read books by writers of color, by LGBTQ authors, even if the characters are not like you, especially if the characters are not like you. Read outside your comfort zone. Read novels and collections of short stories. Read in multiple genres. The most important thing an aspiring writer can and should do is READ! Also, take more risks, write harder, and always aspire for more.

Sarah: What got you interested in reading/writing?

Jaquira: I’ve always been a reader and a writer. I had a chaotic childhood and adolescence, but one thing remained constant: I was a kid who loved to read. I read everything I could get my hands on: Bram Stoker’s Dracula, S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye, Manuel Puig’s Kiss of the Spider Woman, Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude, Julio Cortázar’s Rayuela, Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, Norton Juster’s The Phantom Tollbooth, William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies, and almost everything by Edgar Allan Poe and Stephen King. I grew up in Miami, in a city that spoke multiple languages, in a bilingual family. But I didn’t see myself in books. So I started writing for myself, and the books I wrote had characters that were like me. You could say I wrote out of necessity, because I needed to. I never really had a choice.

Sarah, interviewd by Jaquira

Jaquira: Can you list five songs in the soundtrack to your work-in-progress?

Sarah: It's funny, because most of the songs I listen to while writing Dragons, I would probably never listen to otherwise. With this one, I'm struggling with keeping the tone light, so some of my favorites are: You Could Be Happy (cover) by Cameron Mitchell, Stereo Heart, Love You Like a Lovesong, and Hero from the movie Starstruck.

Jaquira: Which YA/MG protagonist is most like you?  

Sarah: Except for the whole butt-kicking thing, I think I'm a lot like Katsa from Graceling, especially in the way she looks at and reacts to romantic relationships. Also, her sense of justice.

Jaquira: If you could have any author (alive or dead) as a mentor, who would you choose?

Sarah: This is a tough one, but I think I'd go with Tamora Pearce. Everything she does blows me away and I'd love to learn everything she could teach me.

Jaquira: You have just volunteered as tribute for the Hunger Games. Which characters (from any book by any author) do you take out first, and what weapon do you use?

Sarah: I think I've blogged about this before, but if I was in the Hunger Games I'm pretty sure I'd accidentally take myself out before anyone else got a chance to. I'd trip off the platform and trigger the charges or something.

For more info on the re-launch, including how you can win some incredible prizes, click here!


  1. Welcome, Sarah and Jaquira! Can't wait to read more of your posts!

  2. Loved the questions in the interview! Looking forward to future posts!