Storytelling runs in Justina Chen’s blood. After all, her middle name means illuminate, which is what story does: it throws light on a message.

Justina is an award-winning author of six books for young adults. Her forthcoming novel, Lovely, Dark, and Deep, will be available in Spring, 2018. Her most recent book, A BLIND SPOT FOR BOYS, is on a Booklist Top 10 list. NORTH OF BEAUTIFUL was named one of the Best Books of the Year by Kirkus Reviews and was a finalist of 9 state book awards. And her debut novel, NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (AND A FEW WHITE LIES), won the Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature.

In addition to being a writer, Justina is a story strategist to leaders and co-founder of Upstart Agency, a boutique communications agency that transforms good executives into extraordinary leaders. Seen as a thought leader in communications, the Rockefeller Foundation invited Justina to be part of their twelve-person convening on storytelling for social good, along with CNN, BBC, NPR, and Google. Translation: she got to spend some quality time with amazing storytellers on the shores of Lake Bellagio.

A passionate advocate of literacy, Justina also co-founded readergirlz, a cutting-edge social media project for teens, which was awarded the National Book Foundation’s Prize for Innovations in Reading. She graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Stanford University where she won the Dean’s Award for Service.

Justina has lived in Sydney and Shanghai, but calls Seattle her home.

 

That was my official bio. Here’s a little more about me:

I’ve always wanted to write. When I was eight, I penned my first 50-page novella (a young adult novella. Seriously. Even then.).

During my freshmen year at Stanford, a professor dismissed my writing, telling me that I’d never be published. So I stashed away my dream of being an author.

After I had my two kids, I realized I couldn’t allow one person’s opinion to derail my dream. What was I teaching my children? So I hauled myself to a writing course at the University of Washington. On my last day of class, I sold my first book, THE PATCH. My first two novels—NOTHING BUT THE TRUTH (AND A FEW WHITE LIES) and GIRL OVERBOARD—were sold a couple of months later at an auction.

Since then, I’ve written a half-dozen novels for young adults, a picture book, a book for leaders, a survival guide for women…and counting.

The lesson: live your best story, no matter what anyone else tells you.

That’s the flag I carry whenever I speak, whether at classrooms, conferences, or companies.