Screenwriter I Novelist
About the Author
Sagittarius. Ambivert. Sister. Thinker. Teacher.
Kristen Washburn is a Midwest native and Big Ten grad who now happily dwells, writes, and teaches in Southern California alongside her fiance and two precious dogs. As a creative writing major at Michigan State University, she was drawn to the narrative freedom of prose and the drum-beat structure of screenwriting, and she refuses to believe she has to choose between them.
In prose, Kristen writes young adult and middle-grade novels. She believes that we're as close to our true selves as we will ever be at thirteen, when we open ourselves to all the possible shapes we may take, only to realize through one crushing experience after another that we have core values and we can't lie about what those are. As an 8th grade honors English teacher, Kristen has the advantage of living immersed in the energy, effort, flying and flopping of that age. She also has the advantage of a built-in readership who can tell her if she's using "the tea" properly.
In screenwriting, Kristen likes to write cross-generational dramedies and romantic comedy. She is fascinated by the careful ways parents and their adult children love each other, as well as how important same-generation friendships are in helping all of us navigate that cross-generational love. Of course, there is nothing better than the flirtatious cadence of budding romance, so she treats herself to writing a bit of that into all her projects.
From The Year I Stopped Being Shy: MG RF
“That’s what college is, is just drinking and partying,” Marcos said like he knew. Miss Park gave him a little knock-it-off look, and he smiled. “It is, isn’t it?” he challenged her.
“There is so much more to college than ‘drinking and partying,’” she said, mocking his voice and making me and Tessa laugh. “But partying is prevalent at colleges, so if you want to research college drug and alcohol abuse statistics, you may find it relevant.”
Miss Park looked a little on-edge, like she was worried about letting us choose this topic. But, with another little head shake at Marcos, she sat back at her desk with her grading, looking back and forth between it and us with a careful eye.
“Hey, look!” Tessa said. She was looking at this helpful infographic that showed teen drug and alcohol usage statistics. “There has been a significant drop in teen binge drinking in the last five years.”
Marcos and I looked at the graph she was studying. “It says the drop has been across all grades,” Marcos pointed out, looking at Miss Park when he spoke to bring her in.
“That’s wonderful news,” Miss Park said, looking happily surprised. “I didn’t realize that.”
“Me neither,” said Marcos. “I thought kids these days were getting worse and worse.”
She just laughed and repeated “kids these days” under her breath.
“I can’t believe they have eighth graders on this graph!” I said, still looking at it. “It says binge drinking has gone down from 13.3 percent to 3.7 percent of eighth graders.” I looked at the others, incredulous. “There was a recent time when 13 percent of eighth graders binge drank!?”
Tessa and Marcos just smiled at me like I was innocent again. Tessa patted my hand and said, “It’s okay, Esme,” and Marcos chortled.
I was just confused. “Do you guys know people who drink!?”
Miss Park looked uneasy again, like she was waiting to have to intervene. She let us have this discussion, though, which I respected.
“Don’t… you know people who drink?” Marcos asked me with a keen eye, and it clicked what he meant. I had just told him about seeing Abby chug alcohol from a fifth.
“Not, um, regularly…” I stammered, suddenly feeling a little like my head was swimming.
“That’s what binge drinking means,” Tessa pointed out calmly. “You drink a lot in irregular doses.”
I don’t know if Miss Park could see that I was getting upset, but she chose a good time to jump in.
“Why don’t you all write down any facts you think might benefit your research on these notecards like I showed you?” she asked, bringing our conversation away from the personal and back to the objective. “That way we can sort all the research later and decide how to build the report and presentation.”
“It seems like we don’t need to write a report on teen drinking if the numbers are going down,” Marcos said, mostly to Miss Park.
“Well,” she said knowingly, “Maybe the numbers are going down because of upstanders like you three putting the information out there for teens to see.”
From The Last Library: YA Sci-Fi
Chapter 11: The Riddle
This fall was a little softer. They landed in a bed of flowers on the gentle slope of a plush, grassy hill. The sky above was bluer even than any simulation Emmy had ever seen. The grass was a brighter green than any grass she’d known, and the deep red flowers looked like nature had grown them red and then dyed them red again. It was like nothing Emmy had ever dared to imagine the Real outside could look. As the yellow sun streamed down on her, on the splendor around her, she felt a surge of happiness she never knew she was able to feel.
She rolled onto her back and lay in the flowers, closing her eyes and letting the sun fall on her lids, warming her eyes beneath them. There was a creek nearby. She couldn’t see it, but she heard its soft bubbly music. It flowed into her ears while the sweet scent of the flowers covered her like a blanket. She still knew she was on a rescue mission, but Emmy couldn’t help herself. This was paradise, and she needed to let herself feel it for a moment.
“Where do you think we are now?” she asked, her eyes still closed.
“I think we’re where the wizard lives,” responded Finn. He had stood up and she could hear that he was taking a few steps, probably examining their surroundings.
“What’s a wizard?”
“You know, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. The title of the book we came into. I’ve heard of wizards before, only I can’t remember where. They’re like these wise people with special abilities. Magical abilities, I guess you’d call it. Anyway, I’m thinking if we find the wizard, which I assume is the big head I saw, I bet he can tell us how to find Trout.”
For a moment, Emmy wished they didn’t have to find the wizard. That they could just stay where they were, in this beautiful, peaceful, outdoor world forever. She sat up and opened her eyes.
“This is fiction, then,” she stated. If Trout was somewhere like this, then Emmy did not need to be so worried about him. “Back when people wrote stories, they wrote them about giant girls and well-dressed rabbits and beautiful landscapes and magical men who solved problems?”
“I guess so,” Finn said. “What do you think?”
Emmy laughed and lay back down in the bed of flowers. “I think I like it.”
“Guess what else they wrote about?” Finn asked, climbing the hill and looking over the edge.
“What?” Emmy smiled.
“A mini-town filled with mini-people.”
Emmy pushed herself up and met Finn at the top of the hill to see. Sure enough, down at the bottom of the other side of the hill, which it turned out was much larger than the first side and led to a beautiful valley, was a small village. Half-sized people were emerging from half-sized houses and were surrounding a full-sized girl in pig-tails.
“Do you think the wizard is one of them?” Emmy asked.
“He’s a giant head, Emmy.”
“Well, sorry!” she laughed. “I’m trying here. Let’s go ask them where he is, then.”
Finn shook his head and stared at her.
“Why do you get so bold when we get inside these books? ‘Let’s go talk to the giant!’ ‘Let’s go ask a town of strange, unfamiliar people if they’ll help us find a wizard.’ What’s wrong with a little observation and strategizing, blondie?”
Emmy smirked at the nickname. “You were the one who was so ready to jump back into the wizard book! I am being bold because time is of the essence, Finn. Efficiency, remember?”
She winked, and he laughed.
“Come on, coward,” Emmy said, taking off down the hill, “I need to find this wizard and get my brainless little brother back.”
Finn ran down to catch her.
“Okay, okay, don’t just leave me!” he called, laughing. “You know, a little more heart wouldn’t kill you!”
From Rebuilding the PACC:
Feature, Family Dramedy
30-min teleplay, Sitcom