Young Adult Education

Writing, Self-Publishing and Using Kickstarter: An Interview with ‘The Prescribed Burn' author Laryssa Wirstiuk

When Laryssa emailed me about her debut collection of stories, The Prescribed Burn, one line stuck out to me: “stories for anyone who couldn’t relate to Holden Caulfield.” I loved and related (perhaps too much) to Holden Caulfield when I was in high school, and I reread my copy of The Catcher in the Rye so much that the spine broke and I had to tape it back together. But, to be honest, my boy Holden and I didn’t have all that much in common. He’s often held up as the prototypical depiction of adolescent angst, but there are a lot of people who never saw their experiences reflected in Holden’s rebellious ways.

So, naturally, I wanted to check out The Prescribed Burn right away. And I wasn’t disappointed! The Prescribed Burn is a collection of stories about Veda, a young artist who’s trying to figure out her life. We see her navigating her friendships as a child and sorting through relationships as a young adult. Veda’s always feeling confused, awkward, uncomfortable and out of place, which is something just about all of us an relate to.

As it turns out, the story of the book is just as interesting as the story in the book–Laryssa self-published The Prescribed Burn, getting funding through Kickstarter. She was nice enough to talk to me about her book, the world of Kickstarter, writing advice and the all-encompassing awesomeness of sweet potato fries.

1. Since a lot of HelloGiggles readers are still in high school, could you tell me what you were like back then? Did you already know you wanted to be a writer?

I attended a small all-girls private high school in suburban New Jersey, and I hated it. I resented my parents for taking me out of public school. They thought I’d be able to focus more on my studies and less on boys. I think I was about 16, a sophomore in high school, when I decided I liked writing. I didn’t start taking writing seriously until about age 18, after attending a summer camp for young writers. The first thing that inspired me to become interested in writing, after spending my life up to that point interested in art and design, was an English teacher who basically told me I was terrible at writing. I wanted so badly to prove her wrong. I told myself that I’d one day publish a book, just to spite her.

2. The promotional materials for your book use the line, “Stories for anyone who couldn’t relate to Holden Caulfield.” I’ll admit, I could totally relate to Holden Caulfield when I was in high school, but this line still caught my attention. Can you explain what you mean by this? And what did you want to accomplish with The Prescribed Burn that you didn’t find in other coming-of-age novels?

To be honest, I actually really like Holden Caulfield, and I can relate to him, to some extent. However, Holden Caulfield is the main character in one of the most iconic coming-of-age stories in modern literature, and many coming-of-age stories that students read in English literature classes are about young men: A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, This Side of Paradise, Great Expectations, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, etc. Sure, I’ve read some coming-of-age novels about young women, but the young men are always the ones who seem most unapologetic about the way they fumble into adulthood. I wanted to write an honest, heart-wrenching, uncensored account of what it’s like to be a young woman coming of age in our time.

3.When you picture your ideal reader, who do you see?

I guess I see someone who I’d want as my friend: an intelligent, ambitious, and creative young woman. My writing teachers always told me, “Write the book that you want to read but that doesn’t exist yet.” I grew up admiring bold, confident, strong women, but I know that many women aren’t born that way – they must endure the process of growing into themselves. I wanted to depict that awkward growth process, and my ideal reader won’t be turned off by the reality of it.

4.How much of yourself did you put into Veda?

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