On PAPER GIRL and Anxiety: a guest post by author Cindy R. Wilson
I have to be honest. I didn’t expect Paper Girl to be my first published novel. In fact, I wasn’t even trying to query it or find an editor to publish it. I wanted to write big, explosive stories with strong heroes and heroines who were nothing like me. Those kinds of stories you get excited to see on the big screen when they become movies. I guess that’s mostly because my own life was kind of boring in comparison—after all, living with constant anxiety makes living in the real world with real people doing real things terrifying.
Which was partly why I wrote Paper Girl. I was diagnosed with anxiety disorder and PTSD when I was in my 20s. I’d been anxious before that, but this brought it to a whole new level. A kind of I-don’t-want-to-leave-my-house level, sort of like the heroine in Paper Girl. Zoe hasn’t left her house in over a year because of her anxiety, and I could relate to that entirely. I spent a lot of years being afraid to go places, meet new people, and push myself outside of my comfort zone because it was just too scary. But I didn’t want that for my life. As a way of working through my own anxiety, I wrote Paper Girl. For once, I wanted to write a heroine like me, socially awkward, shy, maybe even a little dorky. I wanted to see a girl like that become the hero of her own story. So I made it happen.
Zoe has to work every single day to recover from anxiety and it was wonderful for me to write a character that many of us can relate to. We all have our own struggles and hardships on big and small scales, but it’s great to see victories in tiny steps and paths we all have to take in various ways. I feel as though the characters of Paper Girl are some of my most relatable because we can all understand being afraid of something but wanting so badly to be on the other end of it and living our lives.
I still write big, explosive stories, but somehow (through a twist of events, which is a whole other story), Paper Girl is my debut YA. And once I adjusted to that fact, it actually made me really happy. This story is real and raw, and it’s something people can relate to. I get a chance to reach readers I might never have reached by simply sharing my story. So now, even though I love those big explosive stories and even write them here and there, I can’t say how much I believe in writers sharing their real struggles. There are so many readers out there who share the same issues and challenges and it’s nice to know we’re not alone. It’s also nice to know that even with those socially awkward, dorky traits, we can still be the hero of our own story, and I think that’s exactly what Paper Girl shows.
Cindy R. Wilson is a YA speculative and contemporary author whose own struggles with anxiety disorder inspired her to write a story with a real-life topic readers can relate to. She lives in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains and loves using Colorado towns and cities as settings for her stories. She’s the mother of three girls who provide plenty of fodder for her YA novels.
When she’s not writing, you can find her hiking some of Colorado’s tallest peaks, reading, or listening to playlists she’s created for her next story idea.
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About Robin Willis
After working in middle school libraries for over 20 years, Robin Willis now works in a public library system in Maryland.
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