Love and Perfection

“We love the things we love for what they are.”

That’s from Robert Frost’s “Hyla Brook.”

Variations on the line had been bouncing around in my head for a while before my husband and fellow writer, Larry Hammer, reminded me where it came from.

I’d been thinking about Frost (without knowing it was Frost I was thinking about) because I’d been thinking about how once we reach a certain basic level of craft, writing is no longer about avoiding mistakes or carefully not doing anything wrong.

It’s about the things we do right.

No one ever loved a book, after all, simply for not making any mistakes, for all that there are (varied, individual) things that can throw each of us out of a story. But we don’t love a story just because we aren’t thrown out of it, either.

We love books for what they do, not for what they manage not to do. We love them for the thing or things that hit each of our particular story buttons, that reach out to bridge the gap between story and reader, that pull on us and make us want to or need to read on. A flawed book that does the things it does very right is far more powerful than an unflawed book that doesn’t.

None of my favorite books—the books I imprinted on as a child and teen, the books that have remained touchstones for me throughout my life—is perfect. I can see that clearly enough when I look at those books as a writer focused on craft—and that has never once stopped me from returning to those books, from treasuring them. 

We don’t love books for the things they aren’t, but for the things they are.

My bookshelves—filled with imperfect books that I adore.

But there’s more to it than that. A while back, in a stray moment when I thought I was thinking about a manuscript-in-progress, I found myself thinking instead: And the same thing is true for people.

On one level, I’d always known this. On another I hadn’t, or had forgotten, or needed to relearn it on that particular day in that particular way. People no more need to be perfect than stories do.

As writers who spend much of our time looking inward that we can become as critical of ourselves as of our stories, this is worth remembering, too. I doubt many people hold their friends and loved ones dear simply because they never make mistakes. Lack of mistakes is not the place love comes from.

We love one another for the same reason we love stories: not for what we aren’t, but for what we are.

As I dig deep to put words on the page, I find that a comforting thought.


Love and Perfection first appeared as a guest post on Cynthia Leitich Smith’s Cynsations. I find I return to it every year or two as a reminder to myself.

“You, whose people sent fire raining from the skies, would lecture me about right and wrong?”

Sanah Dillon interviews me at YA Books of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Head on over to learn what Liza, Matthew, and Allie’s original names were in the very first draft of Bones of Faerie, or just to enter to win a copy of Faerie After. The interview is part of July’s Summer Author blitz–check out all the blitz posts here.

Mettie Ivie Harrison recommends Faerie After:

I love the mix of post-apocalyptic dystopia and fantasy in this series. Love, love, love! … This is what speculative fiction does that realistic fiction doesn’t do as well. It makes us think we are getting a fun story, and then there’s a twist and we realize we are suddenly looking at ourselves in a new, and not always so happy way.

More thoughts on Faerie After from Breathless Book Reviews and Novel Grazing Redux (aka Mrissa).

And: Bones of Faerie trilogy fanart! Lady Skylar’s take on Liza at the arch, and Moozy6’s take on Liza and Ben. 🙂


Header text from Faerie After.

“You take care of the magic. I’ll stand watch over the rest.”

My Shelf Confessions reviews Faerie After:

“Simner has a way of connecting you to her characters on an intimate level. Their struggles with each other could very well mirror your own struggles with loved ones … Simner has a deft skill at writing characters I can directly relate to.”

I also have a guest post up at My Shelf Confessions this week on talking to my characters and how Matthew became a wolf.

“I am weary of being lost–that is not your concern. We have made a bargain, and I will keep it.”

Don’t miss Kathi Appelt’s lovely Writing for the Long Haul post on the power of story.


At Cynsations I talk about research for fantasy writers:

Besides, I’d read enough descriptions of coppery-tasting blood through the years. That many writers couldn’t all be wrong … There was only one way to resolve the question. I dug through my pocket, found a particularly clean penny, and tasted it.


At Tor.com I look at the question of “what’s a faerie?”

“Flitting nature spirits or inhuman bearers of dangerous magic. These two threads run through much of contemporary faerie fiction. The smaller, flightier faeries might seem the more benign, but even Tinkerbell, one of the most famous representatives of the type, tried to kill Wendy before putting her life on the line to save Peter Pan …”

Tor.com is also giving away copies of Faerie After this week.


Eve’s Fan Garden reviews Faerie After:

“Janni’s writing always leaves me sighing and wanting more, yet at the same time feeling complete and satisfied. It’s just the perfect mixture of dark and melancholy and loveliness and hope.”

At Eve’s Fan Garden you can also read a Faerie After excerpt and join me for a game of This or That.

On writing a trilogy

Sarah Johnson interviews me at Through the Tollbooth today about writing a trilogy, including discussion of writing exploratory drafts, crafting a character arc over multiple books, and researching the Bones of Faerie trilogy (including some of the pictures I took of Liza’s forest, pre-faerie-apocalypse).

And speaking of trilogies, look! It’s a complete set!

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Faerie After comes out just one week from today!

Did leg warmers ever actually make our legs any warmer?

I’ll be one of a bunch of YA authors hanging out with the folks at Eve’s Fan Garden for this year’s Camp Eve. Come join us for guest posts throughout the week and a group chat on Thursday.

Other participating authors include Holly Cupala, Elizabeth Eulberg, Jennifer R. Hubbard, Nina Malkin, Elana Johnson, Eileen Cook, Joelle Anthony, Lisa Magnum, Torrey Maldonado, Darby Karchut, Tom Leveen, Carol Tanzman, Kendare Blake, and Jeyn Roberts.

There’s a summer camp and an 80s theme, both of which give me flashbacks in very different ways. The camping has stayed very much a part of my life. The 80s stuff not so much. Unless, umm, you count that Best of Air Supply mix that just might be on my iPod. And my owning a handful of dying mix cassette tapes I haven’t yet brought myself to part with. And the fact that the phrase “when the omni’s red, it means history’s wrong” still gives me a warm fuzzy fanficcy feeling. And the fact that hearing the Star Wars theme song still fills me with happy.

But aside from that. 🙂

“We love the things we love for what they are”

I’m a guest blogger over at Cynsations today, talking about Love, Perfection, and Books: “… once we reach a certain basic level of craft, writing is no longer about avoiding mistakes or carefully not doing anything wrong. It’s about the things we do right. No one ever loved a book, after all, simply for not making any mistakes … We love books for what they do, not for what they manage not to do.”

And this is true, as so many writing things are, for other things, too.

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Also:

Reviews of Bones of Faerie from Read for Your Future, Bookish, and Christiana’s Amazing Blog.

Static Multimedia interview with me and several other Phoenix Comicon attendees, including fellow YA writer Aprilynne Pike.

And an article from the Phoenix Examiner about the social media panel I was on.

“You were holding up the sky / leaning on your leather / and I saw her with you”

Still Internet-vacationing until the end of May, but popping in long enough to let you know I have a guest post up today as part of Megan Crewe’s The Ways We Struggle series, on the challenges of letting things go, the benefits of holding on, and how both these can affect one’s (okay, my) professional life. (There’s also an lj version of the post here.)

Also (as long as I’m here) I’ll be at Phoenix Comicon Memorial Day weekend. Here’s my schedule.

ETA: Also also, the folks at Adventures in YA and Children’s Literature are giving away a copy of Faerie Winter this week.

I’m still checking email, so if you need to reach me, janni(at)simner(dot)com is the place. Otherwise, see you in June!

“There”s a warm wind tonight / and the moon turns the tide …”

At the Tucson Festival of Books last month, I was interviewed by the Pima County Library’s Himmel Park Teen Book Club and IT Nation Teens. Hear the entire interview online.

I have a post up today at Tor.com on running away to Minneapolis … I mean Bordertown.

There’s still time to win copies of the paperbacks of both Faerie Winter and Welcome to Bordertown here.

School Library Journal reviews Faerie Winter (meant to blog this one earlier): “Faerie Winter is a beautifully crafted tale, peopled with believable characters and overflowing with dramatic plot twists. But perhaps the most exceptional quality is the vivid imagery that plunges readers into the story and keeps them enchanted throughout. Fans of both fantasy and dystopian fiction will devour this one.”

Rachel Ann Hanley reviews Thief Eyes.

I’m now linkblogging at jannileesimner.tumblr.com (Opinions welcome about whether I should continue to share those random links here as well.)