A Year of Yes: NYC’s Secrets and Lies is tonight

Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 7.52.48 AMI’m so insanely excited about the storytelling show NYC’s Secrets and Lies tonight at Caveat. I’ll be hosting a slate of incredible storytellers who have dug up some incredible NYC secrets all hidden in plain sight that we walk by every single day. The show is capped off with trivia by Madame Morbid and a fantastic prize from our pals at Untapped Cities. Doors open at 6:30pm, show starts at 7:00pm. Tickets available at See you there!



In the pause: Shitty first drafts – NaNoWriMo pep talk for writers

I want to talk to you about shitty first drafts, in particular my shitty first drafts. Emerson Page and Where the Light Enters, my book that launched this week and that I first drafted during NaNoWriMo 2014, is not the draft I started to write three years ago. It’s not even close. The book that was published has been polished and spit-shined to the hilt. My first draft wasn’t even a diamond in the rough. It was just rough. Period. End of sentence.

I’m writing Emerson’s second book during NaNoWriMo this month. In two days, I’ve got about 4,000 words. And they’re awful. Messy plot lines and self-indulgent dialogue abound despite my intense outlining. And you know what? It doesn’t matter at all. I’m just writing like no one’s watching because no one is. No one is ever going to see this draft. Actually, I take that back. If I ever win a prestigious writing award for my novels, I’ll release this shitty first draft and auction it off for charity. You have my word on that.

If you have a book inside you, a story begging to be told, I want you sit down and get it all out there on the screen or paper. Don’t pay any mind to what it looks like. Just write it down. It’s not doing anyone any good inside your mind. And if you don’t write that story, no one ever will. It dies with you. That’s just about the saddest thing I can think of. You don’t know what your words and ideas are going to do for someone else someday. They could be what literally saves someone. And wouldn’t it be nice to save someone?

I’ll make you a deal—you write your story, I’ll write mine, and then we’ll toast each other’s efforts. Okay? 50,000 words by November 30th. Go!


In the pause: How the eclipse influenced my writing

Yesterday, Phin and I experienced the solar eclipse at the American Museum of Natural History and in Central Park. The atmosphere was festive. It felt like the entire city had turned out to look up at the sky in wonder at exactly the same time. There was something beautiful and magical about this time, and that beauty and magic activated my writer brain.

Emerson Page, the heroine of my novel, has a special relationship with the stars and they play a large, active part in her story. The series will be 9 books in total, and I realized yesterday that the last day of her written story will be April 8, 2024, the day that the next solar eclipse will happen. Its line of totality will include Emerson’s hometown of New York City, the city where this series of books begins and ends. Emerson will be 20 years old by then. I know where she’s going, and I’m excited to discover and share with you the path she’ll take to get there.



In the pause: What would be the title of your autobiography?

It’s daunting to think about what you’d title your autobiography, right? How do you sum up a life in one line? Let’s try.

I love tough challenges and I’m happiest on a vertical learning curve. If I had to pick one phrase to describe myself it would be “endlessly curious.” As such, the title of my autobiography would be I’ll Figure It Out: The Christa Avampato Story.

What would be the title of your autobiography?


In the pause: A lesson in writing from Terry Prachett—just tell yourself a story

“The first draft is just you telling yourself the story.” ~Terry Prachett

I’ve been having trouble writing Emerson’s second book. I have a pile of index cards I shuffle around, but the truth is I’m nervous. I’m stalling. The first book was such a heavy life, but ignorance was bliss. I had no expectations of it except to write it down as truthfully as I could. I had been thinking about it for so long (5 years) before I started writing it that its scenes and words were well-etched in my mind.

This time is different. I feel more responsibility to get it right, to stay honest to what I created in the first book. I don’t want to let down Emerson. In my procrastination and stagnation, I found this quote from Terry Prachett. It made me feel a little bit bolder and braver, less cautious and concerned. There will come a time for refinement and revision, but that day’s not today. Today, I’m just letting Emerson tell me her story.


In the pause: The narratives we tell ourselves

“You have gorgeous skin.”

That’s what a woman at a networking event said to me last night. I would have dismissed the comment except for the fact that she followed up that statement with her business card. She’s the Secretary General for the International Federation of Societies of Cosmetic Chemists. She knows skin.

I’ve always been very self-conscious about my skin. When I was in my early 20s, I developed horrible acne due to extreme chronic stress and it left some scarring on one side of my face. I still think of myself that way even though that time is nearly 20 years in my review mirror. I am constantly examining my face for flaws out of habit.

This woman’s comment reminded me that we often tell ourselves outdated narratives about who we are based upon our past experiences and circumstances that no longer apply. I carry around a number of these stigmas, none of which are true anymore but they’ve created such a deep groove in my brain that it’s hard to let go of them. Like a car that’s stuck in the mud, I keep spinning those same wheels to no avail when what I really to do is get out of the damn car and leave the mud behind once and for all.

Recently, I’ve been telling myself new narratives about strength, resilience, and courage to replace the ones about weakness, inadequacy, and fear. It’s going to take some time to erase the old patterns but with a little TLC and a hefty dose of patience I think I can turn it around. If you’re battling these same types of demons now, let’s build each other up. Face it—this world needs all of us at our best and the only way we’re going to get there is by raising up one another. With me?


Wonder: Narrative’s soul

“Specificity is the soul of narrative.” ~Judge John Hodgman

I’m using part of this long weekend to get back to writing. Emerson has been waiting for me for a few months while I traveled, moved, and got my life set up again in a new place. So today I dust off those cobwebs and look at her life and trials with new fresh eyes to begin the next and final round of edits.

As I take up the task of these edits, I’m reminded of what it means to literally create the soul of a character. Not a hollow shell with a name who faces challenges in a setting, but a living, breathing soul whom you root for, who conveys her emotions in a way that is visceral. You hurt when she hurts. You cry when she cries. You smile when she smiles. You win when she wins.

The only way to do that is to get specific, to place the reader right into her mind and her heart. That’s not an easy thing to do, but it’s always fun to do the impossible.


This just in: Welcome to Night Vale

Welcome to Night Vale
Welcome to Night Vale

I went to Sixth & I last night to see Linda Holmes interview Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor, the creators of the podcast and new novel, Welcome to Night Vale. Night Vale is a small southwestern town where every conspiracy theory is true. There’s much you can read about the podcast – how it was started by two theater artists in a Brooklyn apartment, that there were only 52 downloads in the first month, and that the creators are flat-out shocked by the success of this off-beat, quirky, and confounding story that’s filled with equal amounts of tenderness and weirdness.

What you haven’t heard, because it has to be experienced, is the overwhelming joy that the loyal fans feel toward this story, these characters, this town, and its creators. The cheers and applause never stopped at the event last night. The laughter literally rang through the rafters of Sixth & I, the warmth between the audience and the authors was palpable, and I’ll never forget it. This is what story told with authenticity and love can do. This is what happens when we build from the heart and not for the wallet. (Night Vale refuses to take money from advertising and instead relies on donations, merchandise sales, and revenue from live shows.) It’s an example of how art done right has a powerful impact on the soul. All of it makes me happy.


This just in: In a world of information overload, This.


I just signed up for This., a new social media platform that only lets you post one link per day. Our attention and focus is pulled in so many directions, and This. in some ways forces us to say, “Today, this is the one story that really had an impact on me and I’d like to share it with all of you.”

Too often an overabundance of everything is the goal. This. is working toward something different. It’s opening the conversation of quality over quantity, and the way you “like” a link someone posts is to click “thanks”. It’s trying to bring humanity to our screens, and I’m all for it.

Find me on This. at Let’s have a conversation about one awesome thing.


This just in: I need your audio stories

I need your audio stories
I need your audio stories

As part of my audio storytelling class, I need to capture a wide variety of stories. Nothing too complicated – just 3-5 minutes about an interesting aspect of your life. A place you’ve visited, a dream you have, or an experience that altered how you see yourself and your place in the world. Got one? Let me know. I’d love to talk to you, and record it!