Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Bonnie Staring

Today we’re welcoming another amazing Lucky 13, Bonnie Staring, whose manuscript CAMP AWAKENING is a finalist in the 2013 Golden Heart Young Adult category.

If you’re a frequent reader of this blog, you’ve already heard the opening lines, which the Rubies voted into the top ten of our 2012 MAKE IT GOLDEN CONTEST:

The girl next to me had ignited several small fires with her bare hands, acting like she was special. Our destination was Camp Awakening. Our purpose: to master our powers in two weeks. Get it right, you could end up a hero. Get it wrong, you could end up dead.

I remember reading those lines and squealing.

Now here’s a blurb for the whole book:

A revenge-seeking sixteen-year-old attends boot camp to master her telekinesis and protect herself against Psyfons—the power-draining psychics responsible for killing her father. Once there, she catches the attention of Jonas, the gorgeous junior trainer whose very presence makes her dizzy and distracted. Could the boy she’s falling for be one of the monsters who killed her father?

Okay, sign me up now. (For the book, I mean, not the camp. No super powers here, unless I get credit for being awesome at Plants Versus Zombies.)

Bonnie says she considers laughter her favorite form of exercise, and has proven time and time again that it’s impossible to die from embarrassment. She lives in Toronto with her husband, the kitten of mass destruction and five houseplants. When she’s ready to take a break from her publishing career, Bonnie would love to be a game show host.

Take it away, Bonnie!


 bonnie author photoThanks for having me here! I love all the decorations and the drinks with paper umbrellas.

 Now, before I get too tipsy, I need to tell you something about my GH finalist manuscript: I almost didn’t write it.

The initial idea:

My first idea was to write a book about kids going to a camp for diabetics. Why? Because when I went to diabetic camp, I was no longer taunted for being weird or treated with kid gloves by adults who didn’t know any better.

For the first time in my life, I wasn’t special or different or a freak (well, I was, but by choice). Diabetes was no longer an excuse: we swam, played, learned archery and developed crushes on the counsellors and counsellors-in-training. Le sigh.


Turns out that idea kind of sucked. As much as I thought it would be fun to write, I thought about how much the average teen would want to read about kids at diabetic camp.

Do you hear those crickets chirping?

Even as a diabetic, the last thing my inner 16-year-old wanted to read was that book. Unless Edward Cullen attended. Without Bella.

So I gave up on it.

At least I tried to, but that element of being so different outside of camp yet being just like everyone else within it kept nagging at me like an ‘80s power ballad. All I had to do was make those campers special, but in a fantabulous, not-a-my-pancreas-isn’t-working kind of way.

Then I changed it.

Enter the supernatural powers. My diabetic camp was now a camp for kids with special powers. No, it became a power-training boot camp—the best one in the state. That’s why the Psyfons, the baddies who can siphon powers out of the unsuspecting kids, have infiltrated the camp.

My campers were still freaks, but in a way that made them awesome. Plus, the super-evil villains helped me raise the stakes.

I kind of feel sorry for those kids. At diabetic camp, all we had to worry about were blood sugar levels and the mosquitoes.

And now I’m a GH finalist!

For the manuscript I almost didn’t write. This is the part that freaks me out the most. (I’d love another paper umbrella, thank you.)  What if I did give up on that idea?

What about you? Is there anything you almost didn’t do that turned out to be something fantabulous?



Bonnie Staring is a writer, coupon user and virtual cabana-boy wrangler. Find her online at, on Facebook at, and on Twitter @BonnieStaring



79 responses to “Meet Lucky 13 Golden Heart Finalist Bonnie Staring”

  1. Leslie Lynch says:

    Bonnie, this is a FANTASTIC post! You make diabetic camp sound funny and cool – but wait! That’s because YOU are funny and cool!

    Great way to twist the idea until it’s marketable. I can learn from that. 🙂

    Wishing you the best in your publishing career – and I can’t wait for this book to come out!

    Fellow Lucky 13s sister,

  2. Congratulations, Bonnie! You’re story sounds like a winner! Different, but not too different. Jayne Ann Krentz gave a fabulous keynote a few years ago about core story and moving it to different settings or subgenres, which is exactly what you did.

    As for something I almost didn’t do–I published a book that a few people made me doubt would succeed, and the readers love it as much as the rest of my books.

  3. Hi, Bonnie! (*waving madly*) I loved your entry in the Make It Golden Contest — it grabbed me instantly, and I’m so thrilled Camp Awakening went on to final in GH. Congrats! Now can I read the rest of the book? It sounds ah-mazing!

    I almost didn’t take the day job I have now. At the time, I was fortunate enough to get two good job offers at once. I took the one that allows me to watch TV day. (It was a no-brainer, really.)

  4. Kimberly MacCarron says:

    I’ve been a fan of yours for years, so I know the opening leads to an even more amazing story! 🙂
    That’s so cool about the diabetic camp. But you know? I think there are many readers that would also love that camp. That also could be a fabulous story, and one I encourage you to write. Not just for diabetic kids, but for every kid. They all feel like freaks at some point in their impressionable lives. It’s good to show them that health problems or any other kind of problem makes them…normal. 🙂 And with your talented writing ability, I’m sure you could make those kids as amazing as your ones with supernatural powers.
    That really should be your next book. After CAMP AWAKENING sells. 🙂
    Off to get my drink umbrella for my coffee. LOL.
    Good luck with your book! Can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta! Yay, Lucky 13s!!!

  5. Glad you wrote CAMP AWAKENING, Bonnie, because it sounds fantastic! I can’t wait to read it…and then watch it in the theatres. It sounds like the perfect story for a movie. Looking forward to seeing you in Atlanta. Hope you are enjoying Victoria Day, my fellow Canadian 🙂

    • Oh, Jacqui!

      Could you imagine if they made it into a movie? That’s a motivating thought to keep me going this Victoria Day, for sure! 🙂 Thanks so much!

  6. Jenn! says:

    It’s so wonderful to see a familiar face, Bonnie. I’ve been snooping in the shadows watching you rise since we first met several years ago in Texas.

    Congratulations on your GH final. It is well-deserved!

  7. Thanks so much, Jenn!

    I had such a fantabulous time at the Lone Star Conference because of great people like you! I really have to make it out to another one soon. 🙂

  8. Elisa Beatty says:

    Welcome, Bonnie!

    It’s a hoot having you here with us today…and that really is a fabulous story about taking a book that WASN’T working, and finding the twist that makes it awesome.

    I really can’t wait until this one comes out!

  9. June Love says:

    Bonnie, welcome! I love the premise of your story. Thank goodness, you decided to write it. I wish you the best with your manuscript and am confident we’ll be seeing it on the shelves in the near future.

    As for dying of embarrassment…yeah, I’ve learned that the hole never opens up and swallows you.

  10. Sonali Dev says:

    Hi Bonnie,

    This is one of those stories that makes you go. Shoot, why didn’t I think of that?? That’s flippin brilliant!

    That entire ‘I’m different, but wow, looks there’s more like me’ thing is so universal and so heartwarming whether it’s having hands that can start fires or pancreas that choose to do their own thing. Love it. Can’t wait to read it.

    Many hugs,


  11. Piper says:

    Hey Bonnie,

    I love the story behind the story posts. Yours is a lesson to us all in perserverance and that sometimes an idea needs time to percolate a bit before you give up on it. Thanks for telling it!


  12. Bonnie, what a great twist to make your story spectacular and awesome. Teens, diabetic and not, are going to love it! (And I can’t wait to read it, too).

  13. Love the story premise, Bonnie. Sounds like an awesome read. I’m so glad you decided to write it! Good luck with finding a home for ‘Camp Awakening’.

  14. Amy DeLuca says:

    Hi Bonnie! Loved it — can’t wait to read more. I’m sure Camp Awakening is as fun and fantabulous as you are. As for something I almost didn’t do,that pretty much describes the entire last year of putting my writing out there in contests and to agents. And you forgot to mention your super power– the ability to create cabana boys and chocolate fountains at will! We mere mortals envy you.

    • Hi, Amy!

      Thank goodness you decided to put your writing out there or you would have never ended up being a Lucky 13! And thanks for calling me out on my superpower — when I first started generating celebratory items, all I came up with were dancing hamsters and Jell-O. 🙂

  15. Nan Dixon says:

    What a great story! The book sounds fantastic and I’ll echo the other commenters – can’t wait to read it.
    There have been many forks in the road of my life — I guess the most important was the last job I had. I actually turned it down until the President called. (The deal-breaker was I wanted a severance package.)
    Thanks goodness they agreed and though I worked long, helacious hours, when the company was purchase — I got to decided not to go back into the work force.
    Now I write full-time.
    Thank goodness I took that job!!
    (Also — love the dress you posted in the LUCKY 13s photo album!)

  16. Terri Osburn says:

    I’m so enjoying following you around the net. I got the idea for my debut at least four years before I wrote it. And just before I started it, I almost didn’t and wrote something else. Instead I followed my gut and wrote MEANT TO BE.

    So we’re in the same boat. The thought of NOT writing the book that changed your life will make you stick with that gut feeling every time.

  17. Welcome, Bonnie!!! I remember your opening for the Make It Golden contest. You had me hooked from those first lines and it sounds like the rest of the book lives up to the promise. 🙂 Congrats on being a GH finalist!

    Now, see, because I’m a huge realistic, contemporary YA fan, I actually really WANT to read that diabetic camp book. LOL.

    Best of luck with CAMP AWAKENING!

    • Oh my goodness, Cynthia!

      I never dreamed that this blog post would lead to me wanting to revive my original diabetic camp story. 😉

      All the Rubies must have superpowers!

  18. So nice to meet you, Bonnie! What a great premise for a story. I can’t wait to read it and will also pass it on to my 14 yo.
    Well – I almost didn’t go find this boy in college on the first Saturday night my sophomore year. I was drinking and heard this other cute guy was looking for me, but for some reason I wanted to find this really nice guy I had classes with. So I danced my way (yes, I was a bit crazy in college ; ) to find nice guy in his friend’s room. He kissed me that night and we’ve been together ever since. 3 kids and 23 years together – he’s my Highland hero and I have to believe that God pushed me in the right direction, well God and Captain Morgan Rum ; )

    • Thanks for sharing your “almost didn’t” stroy, Heather!

      Oh my, what if you’d given up on finding him? What if you ended up with… Captain Morgan? LOL

      Congrats on finding THE ONE!

  19. Sandra Owens says:

    I love the way your story evolved into CAMP AWAKENING, Bonnie. What a wonderful imagination you have. You know, with your talent, it’s just as likely that if you’d written the story as you originally thought, that you’d still be here as a Golden Heart finalist talking about the book. I think even in a more serious story, you’re humor would have still shone through!

    Congratulations and keep some of that chocolate and one or two cabana boys for yourself! 🙂

    • Aw, thanks, Sandra!

      And yes, I always hold back on handing out all the cabana boys. They help me with yard work, laundry and party decorations. 😉

      Atlanta, here we come!

  20. Something I almost didn’t do? Join a karate class. Now I’m a black belt instructor and write kick-ass fight scenes. 🙂

    So happy for you, Bonnie! I can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta.

    • Hi, Ella!

      Your cool factor keeps on going up every time I learn something new about you. I mean, as if being a twin isn’t awesome enough, you can do all those karate moves and write about them! So jealous!

  21. Kay Hudson says:

    What a clever way to take a good idea and make it even better. I can’t think of any life changing “almost didn’ts” at the moment, but I almost didn’t bother to give Jinn & Tonic one more chance at the Golden Heart. So glad I did–my excuse to go to Atlanta and meet you and all the Lucky 13s.

  22. Jacqueline Floyd says:

    Hey Bonnie!

    It’s been great seeing the Lucky 13s visit here. Your story blurb sounds fabulous! Best of luck with your writing and I look forward to meeting you in Atlanta!

    Jackie Floyd

  23. Rita Henuber says:

    Almost didn’t do? Don’t think so but, I have had events I thought ended my life as I knew it that opened up a new life to me.
    Congrats on your final. Best of luck in Atlanta.

  24. I’m with everyone who said “diabetic camp? I’m there!” In fact, it has me thinking about what it might be like to write about a cancer kids camp…

    It’s fascinating to see how you turned it sideways and wrote about the same thing but in an utterly different way. Reminiscent of Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson setup, but in a good way, and very much your own. Sounds awesome!

    I have a doozy of an almost-didn’t: In December 2011, I almost didn’t enter NO PEEKING in the Golden Heart. I did. It won. Ha! You’d think I’d have learned from that? Yes and no. In December 2012, I very nearly didn’t enter WHAT’S YOURS IS MINE. It’s my Lucky 13s finalist manuscript! Lesson finally learned?

  25. I almost didn’t enter my manuscript I WISH in the 2009 GH. I had just received feedback from a contest and the editor-judge was exceptionally cruel. My daughter convinced me to enter anyway.

    Thank God, I did because:
    I finaled.
    I became part of the Ruby Sisterhood (one of the defining groups of my life).
    The manuscript caught the eye of my awesome agent, who went on to sell a different manuscript.

    Don’t give up!

    (And count me as another person who had the fun and joy of judging CAMP AWAKENING.)

    • Thank goodness you listened to your daughter, Elizabeth!

      It’s hard when something positive like being a contest finalist turned into something negative because one judge. Le sigh.

      How can I possibly give up now? I have this entire page of awesomeness to refer to when the writing life gets stinky. 😉

  26. Darcy Woods says:

    BONNIEEEEEEEE!!! *as shouted from mountaintop* What an incredible story of The Little MS That Could!!! CAMP AWAKENING sounds gloriously amazing! *squees* And while *I* possess the awesome ability to organize my refrigerator contents and linen closet, I’m guessing that won’t qualify me for camp. Fudge.

    I LOVE stories that take something society sees as a “liability” and celebrates it as something fantastic! The world needs more stories like these 🙂

    Taking great leaps of faith has become something of a mantra for me. It began when I was 17 and joined the Army, and pretty much continues every single time I sit down and put finger to key 😉

    Wishing you ridiculous amounts of success w/ your story and all the almosts crying out to be told!

    P.S. I think you’re cooler than unicorns.

    • Elisa Beatty says:

      I definitely consider household organizational skills to be super-powers!!!

      Either someone has planted kryptonite in my house, or I was completely born without them.

      If I scream HELP, HELP!! loud enough, will you come help me?

      • Darcy Woods says:

        Oh, Elisa…I think my double helix alphabetized themselves at the moment of conception. OBVIOUSLY, I’d be delighted to come lend my OCD superpower. No screaming necessary 😉

  27. Oh, Darcy!

    Linen-closet organization skills are what holds the world together, my friend. We need more people with your unique ability and awesomeness.

    Thank you for making my GH experience so much fun. Who knows how much trouble the Lucky 13s will get into in Atlanta? 😉

  28. Sarah Andre says:

    TERRIFIC concept and blurb, Bonnie. Sign ME up for the book too. It’s such fun getting to know all of you Lucky 13’s before ATL.

    Congratulations on your GH nom and I wish you the very best of luck! Enjoy the months of being a princess either way. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sarah!

      Being a princess certainly feels awesome! Too bad about the pumpkin and mice in the driveway once we get back from Atlanta, though. LOL

  29. AE Jones says:

    Bonnie –

    I’m so glad you didn’t give up on this! How great. And you’re right, when an idea is in your head (a good idea that screams to be written) there is no choice but to listen or else it will drive you insane like those 80’s ballads!

    Looking forward to meeting you in Atlanta!


  30. Maggie Kelley says:


    A bit late to the party, but I’m here! I remember your story fom the Ruby contest – I love the idea, love your voice. So excited to know you’re a GH finalist.

    Congratulations! Hope to read the whole story sometime soon.

  31. Sheri Adkins says:

    Bonnie… that is an AWESOME opening line and even AWESOMER premise! Isn’t it funny how we come around to our stories. I think your instincts were right because I can see CAMP AWAKENING being a wonderful story for all kids who suffer from something in “real life” that makes them feel like a freak–at least awkward and abnormal–but if you had written about the diabetic camp (which could absolutely be a phenom book too, as Kim said) but might narrow the readership to people who are interested in (or have) that disease. By making it something fictional, it can be relatable to all kids who have a disorder, a disease, a handicap, etc. My daughter has Neurofibromatosis (NF1) and there are camps for kids with NF… she would totally embrace and enjoy this book. Can’t wait until I can have you sign a copy for her!

    I’m sure there are things in my life that I almost didn’t do, but turned out great. I’ll probably think of several after I hit “POST,” but nothing’s coming to me right now. I can, however, think of a million things that I didn’t do that I could kick myself for now, things I believe might have been amazing if I’d have the courage and conviction to follow my gut. Kudos to you for having that courage!

    BTW, I absoutely love this line: Living proof that no one can die from embarrassment! You are a hoot and a half, Bonnie! Can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta!!!

    Sheri Adkins

    • Oh, Sheri!

      Just the thought of having an actual copy of Camp Awakening to sign for your daughter made me get all weepy, in a good way. 😉

      Ah, the stuff we didn’t do… we’d need a whole other post (and new stock of paper umbrellas) for that topic!

      Thanks for making my GH experience awesome! So glad to share this with you and the rest of the Lucky 13s!

  32. Oberon Wonch says:

    I love this post, Bonnie! It’s always intriguing seeing another writer’s thought process, especially one that leads to a book. The leap from a camp for diabetic kids to a camp for kids with special powers is so natural it’s scary. Thanks for telling us about your book and your process.

  33. So, you’ve just gone on my “Hey, she’s hilarious. Her books are probably awesome, too” auto-buy list. So get this sucker published, will ‘ya? 🙂

    Bonnie – it’s great to ‘meet’ you, and I’m squealing along with Elisa. This book sounds great.

  34. Chris Taylor says:

    Great post, Bonnie. So lovely to read about your inspiration and how your story came about. It’s obvious what a fantastic sense of humor you have. I can’t wait to meet you in Atlanta.

  35. Vivi Andrews says:

    Hi Bonnie! Sorry I’m late, but I wanted to wish you HUGE congrats on your final (your book sounds fabulous!) and good luck in Atlanta!! Am I wrong that one of the Percy Jackson books has a camp element? My nephew LIVES for those books. I bet yours would be right up his alley.

    I almost didn’t enter the GH in 2009 because I’d gotten a rough critique from an RWA chum a couple days earlier and was convinced the judges would see my book the way she did (as worthless). I’m glad I didn’t listen to my doubts though, because now I have a pretty necklace and a great group of cohorts in the Rubies. 🙂

    • Thanks, Vivi!

      Oh my goodness, what if you hadn’t entered? You wouldn’t have your GH bling! 😉

      And why is it that we always find the negative critique comments easier to believe than the positive comments? Le sigh.


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