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You Don't Need To Be A Loner

The letter below is part of an ongoing series featuring letters from authors to their teen selves. If you're a published author who'd like to participate in this series, we'd love to have you. Just click here and let us know you're interested. Today's guest is Sara Bennett Wealer, author of Grave Things Like Love, which comes out Tuesday.


Dear Teenage Sara –

Figure out friendship. Otherwise you’ll be figuring it out in novels when you’re an adult.

I know you’re an introvert. I know you feel weird trying to make new friends. I also know you’ve made mistakes with the friends you do have—embarrassing mistakes that have turned some of them into “frenemies.” (Quotes because you don’t have this word in your vocab yet. Language evolves – just like people and relationships!)

And I know it’s tempting to think, “Well I’m going to college soon, and I’ll probably never see these people again, so it’s fine to coast along as a loner.”

But here’s the thing… In the future it will be easier than ever to connect with your past. You’ll look at those who are still close with their high school friends and think, “Dang, that looks nice. Those kids have turned into cool grown-ups.” Like I said, people evolve.

Which is not to say you won’t have ANYONE you can connect with from high school. You will. You’ll just have regrets on top of it, which will feel not-so-cool.

Sara as a teen

And college won’t be the fix you’re dreaming of. You have this thing about assuming people are getting tired of you, or they’re just being nice letting you hang around. This is something you need to explore in therapy. People like you just fine. Your social anxiety is part of a bigger thing you’ll learn about as you find success in the world. It’s called imposter syndrome, and it’s nobody else’s problem but yours.

Now’s the time to start working through those insecurities and figuring out your friendships. Or, like I said, you’ll end up an author.

Wait a minute…

Actually, writing about friendship is fun and fulfilling. And I’m pretty sure you’ll think it’s cool to know you’ll have some books published someday. To be honest, it IS cool. And friendship is a topic you really can’t get tired of. There’s always something to dig into—something people want to read.

Speaking of that… people who know you will read your books and think they know who you’re writing about. That’s fine. You’ll soon learn that even if a book started out inspired by a specific relationship, it will turn into its own living, breathing story. Fiction is so much more interesting than real life, and none of your books will be autobiographical because your imagination will take them places you’ve never dreamed. It’s mysterious, and pretty amazing, how that works.

So… wait. Am I saying it’s cool if you leave your teen years a relative loner? Maybe, but I think you can still become an author and have healthier friendships. Friends will bring wonderful things to your life. So will learning to be a better friend. You’ll make a lot of progress there as you grow up. It will be nice.

And even if you don’t get it all figured out, you’ll be writing YA, which could help someone else figure things out sooner. Teen readers will see your characters struggling, making mistakes, assuming dumb things that aren’t true. They’ll see them making an effort, learning, maybe even fixing a friendship or two, and it could make a difference.

So go to that party. Open up to that new group. Apologize to that former best friend, and treat that rival less like a threat, more like someone with whom you’d probably have a lot in common if you could both get over whatever it is that’s come between you. Your stories—and your life—will be a lot richer if you do.



About The Author: Sara grew up in Manhattan, Kansas (the "Little Apple"), where she sang in all the choirs and wrote for the high school newspaper. These days, she writes marketing copy by day and young adult books by night. Sara currently lives in Cincinnati with her husband and two daughters. Her newest book, Grave Things Like Love, comes out on Tuesday.


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