To both of those questions, I usually respond with: "Well, I have a lot of friends in Utah."
Which is partially true.
Now, I do have a lot of friends in Utah. I've met a bunch of people and hang out with lots of awesome writer-folk on a monthly basis. But when I moved here in March, I had one writer friend in Utah. And that friend, ladies and gentlemen, was Natalie Whipple.
Natalie has been one of my online writer buds for, oh, a few years now. Last fall, when I was nearing the end of my degree and had no freakin' idea what I was going to do with my life, she said, "Move to Utah." To which I replied, "Oh, yeah. Utah. Sure." Never thinking I would take the leap to move across the country, I visited her in September via a gift from The Parents to "check it out" should I decide to actually move there.
And now here I am, chilling in my apartment in Salt Lake City. This move has turned into one of the best decisions of my life. I'm happy. And it's all because one dear writer-friend dared to host me in her condo for a week last year and gently encouraged me every time I got anxious/scared/upset/angry-with-life to move to Utah. Natalie has been a constant source of encouragement for me, which is why I am THRILLED THRILLED AND EXCITED to get to share this exciting news with all ya'll:
Natalie Whipple’s debut novel TRANSPARENT, pitched as X-Men meets The Godfather, in which an invisible girl has to stop her dad—an infamous crime lord—from ruining her life, to Erica Sussman at HarperTeen, in a two-book deal, by Anna Webman at Curtis Brown.
In the summer of 2013, the world will be able to bask in the sheer awesomeness of a Natalie Whipple Original. I have been a huge fangirl of her books since she let me read her since-resting Ninja Novel, and not only does she know how to crank them out (with 13+ novels already FINISHED), she knows how to crank them out WELL. TRANSPARENT is no different. I mean, come on -- XMEN meets THE GODFATHER. Are you drooling yet?
So go over and give Natalie a cyber squeal of excitement and a celebratory cheer. She is now among the realm of the published authors. I can't think of anyone more deserving!