A new year and new guest posts by awesome authors sharing with us what they know, what they like, and what they write.

Today the author Sashi Kaufman is visiting, she’s the author of this awesome YA Contemporary that will release on March, 1st.

click the image to see the book on goodreads.

Andrew West goes to an all-girls school and he still can’t get a date. If that’s not bad enough, his Mom is the headmaster. Everyone seems to have the wrong idea about Andrew. His teachers think he’s a good student who doesn’t apply himself -he really is trying. The kids at his old school thought he was a goth. His cousin Barry thinks he’s gay.

When his Thanksgiving break goes tragically awry he decides to run away. He catches a ride with a strange group of older teenagers. The Freegans are street performers and dumpster divers. As Andrew travels the country with his new friends he leaves behind the expectations of others and discovers what he expects of himself.

So now I leave all of you with Sashi and this amazing post.

Here’s What I Know
Here's what I know about the phrase, "Write what you know."
I think it's deadly if you interpret it too literally.
If everyone only wrote exactly what they knew, then literature would be composed of little more than a series of highly dramatic self indulgent journal entries. You know, like facebook.
My current work in progress has a main character who is a partially deaf seventeen year old guy. He plays soccer too. I played soccer until 8th grade but that's about all we have in common, at least on the surface. As I hammer out this first draft I periodically get the giggles when I know I've mixed up corner kicks and goal kicks. Or when I realize I have no idea if hearing aids have a test button.
Here's why I feel qualified to write about someone so different from "what I know". I think we have spheres of knowing and if something is within one of those spheres then I feel qualified to write about it. For example, I am a daughter and a sister. Therefore I feel pretty qualified to write about families. I'm also now a mother. I wrote characters who were parents before I was one, but my writing about parents definitely changed once I became one. In my debut The Other Way Around the main character Andrew West runs away from home with a group of older teenagers who are street performers and dumpster divers. When I first wrote the draft his mother was kind of a dragon lady. Whenever they spoke on the phone she was harsh and uncaring and he was selfish and unsympathetic to her fears about his well being.  My editor (also a parent) pointed out that I might try a a little harder to imagine the experience from her perspective and that might soften and deepen my portrayal of her. He was right. In the time between first draft and this particular set of revisions I had become a mother myself. And that changed everything that I knew about how to write that part of the book. I hope it made it better.
Does that mean that everyone who is a parent should write about parenting? Or that if you're a sister, you know what it's like to be or have a brother? No, not necessarily. Everyone has different spheres. I like to think that the home I grew up in, where few gender stereotypes were modeled or visible, made me particularly open to what makes us human more than what makes us male or female. You can read my book and see if you agree :)
It's possible to research the rules for penalty kicks or the buttons on a hearing aid. More challenging to research feelings. I remember high school and middle school vividly and the feelings I attach to those experiences. I remember the fear of being different or being excluded -which are some of the things my main character wrestles with. I remember the desire to have someone I was attracted to notice me and I remember the desperation and despair when they did not. I remember the incredible breath in your mouth tension before a first kiss. I remember the ones that made my knees wiggle, and the ones that mopped my face with spit.
The more you are open to experience and the feelings that come with it, then the more you know. The better you observe yourself, your reactions as well as the people around you and their reactions and feelings, the more you extend your spheres of understanding.
I believe that readers will hold you accountable for a character who rings false more than a detail about soccer rules. So write what you know. Write everything you know. It's probably a lot more than you think.

Sashi Kaufman is a middle school English and science teacher who lives in Portland, Maine with her husband and daughter. She is also an amateur trash picker. The Other Way Around is her debut novel and it will charge into the world on March 1st 2014.

on twitter @sashikaufman

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