Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Joelle Charbonneau: My Life Is A Highschool Musical: How the arts impacted my teen years:

I would just like to say I LOVE this topic.  Not just like it.  Love it.  You see…my life has kind of been a high school musical. 


Singing.  Check. 

Dancing.  Check.

Acting.  Check.

I fell in love with all things involving the arts when I was little.  At five, my friend across the street and I were making up our own shows.  Not that we didn’t love shows that already existed.  We did!  In our kitchen theater, we also starred in our own production of Annie…which, as a redheaded child was impossible for me to resist.  The best part was our parents loved that we were interested in the arts and supported that interest.  I was fortunate to sing in a fabulous children’s choir and participate in creative competitions that allowed us to write scripts, build sets and create costumes.  I also did shows.  Musicals.  Plays.  Skits.  (I might have gotten kicked out of my 8th grade play, but that’s a story for another time.)

The more I explored the arts, the more I learned about the world around me.  The more I learned, the more I wanted to know.  It’s sounds cliché, but that doesn’t make the link between my desire to learn and my love of the arts any less strong.  Oh—don’t get me wrong.  I wasn’t good at all the classes I took or all the things I decided to learn.  Me and calculus-HA!  Well, let’s just say that my heroine in The Testing did WAY better in calculus than I did.  But I wanted to learn it.  I wanted to try.  The arts made me want to try everything.

That’s not to say that I navigated the teenage waters without hitting choppy waters.  There was drama.  Roles that were lost.  Roles that were won and made people angry that I won.  Roles that were won that I thought I would look silly performing.  Rehearsals that didn’t go well.   Rehearsals I got kick out of.  (Yep…and that’s not even counting that show I mentioned earlier that I was completely kicked out of.)  Classes I didn’t quite make the grade on. (Hello Calculus!) Nerves.  Triumphs.  Freak outs. 

Sounds like fun, right?

It was.  Each disappointment taught me about working harder.  I learned where my strengths lie and I worked to make them stronger.  I also learned about my weaknesses and understood that I had to improve in those areas if I wanted to take it to the next level.  I learned that the arts aren’t just about creativity and talent.  They are about dedication and work, work, work.  Those lessons were hard won.  They made me cry—a lot.  But despite the tears and the drama, I have never regretted one moment of the time I spent on stage both as a high school performer, a college one and during my days as a professional musical theater and opera singer. 

It’s been several years since I’ve stepped under the bright lights to portray a character from a musical or opera.  It’s funny, but during all those years of learning to sing and dance in order to bring someone else’s words to life, I never considered writing my own words.  But the arts taught me that anything is possible if you work hard enough.  Getting good grades.  Getting into college.  Landing that first professional role.  Writing an entire book.  Or two.  Or more.  Having the arts as a major influence in my life taught me that anything was possible.  It might not be easy.  I might get rejected or not be good enough for something.  But that wasn’t always a bad thing and sometimes getting the part or the solo wasn’t the real point.  Because the arts also taught me that the journey was just as important as the destination and that the time spent working to be my best at something was never wasted.

It’s graduation day for sixteen-year-old Malencia Vale, and the entire Five Lakes Colony (the former Great Lakes) is celebrating. All Cia can think about—hope for—is whether she’ll be chosen for The Testing, a United Commonwealth program that selects the best and brightest new graduates to become possible leaders of the slowly revitalizing post-war civilization. When Cia is chosen, her father finally tells her about his own nightmarish half-memories of The Testing. Armed with his dire warnings (”Cia, trust no one”), she bravely heads off to Tosu City, far away from friends and family, perhaps forever. Danger, romance—and sheer terror—await.

Available now!
Barnes and Noble

Joelle Charbonneau has performed in opera and musical theatre productions across Chicagoland.  She now teaches private voice lessons and uses her stage experience to create compelling characters in her books.  She is the author of two mystery series:  The Rebecca Robbins mysteries (Minotaur Books) and the Glee Club mysteries (Berkley).  Joelle’s also the author of The Testing young adult trilogy that debuts with THE TESTING.  Learn more at

Be sure to stop back Friday when we launch our Summer Reading Antidote Sweepstakes with a signed copy of THE TESTING!!!


Melissa Landers said...

Great post! Thanks for visiting with us today, Joelle! I think this post is going to resonate strongly with our own Carey Corp. You two might be spirit sisters. :)

Natalie D Richards said...

Great post! I, too, was a bit of a theater girl, though more as a child than during high school, and I think you're so right! You can learn a lot about life through the birth, life, and death of a production. :)

Your book premise sounds terrific! Best of luck!!

Marni Bates said...

Love the post! Can't wait to read your book!

Ashley @ Book Labyrinth said...

Love it! I wish I had been less shy when I was younger, because there are some great kids theatre programs in my area that I would've loved to have been involved in.

Also loved 'The Testing'! I already can't wait to check out the second book. =)

Pintip said...

Joelle, Thanks so much for joining us today! This is such a great post -- those are wonderful lessons to have learned from the arts. THE TESTING sounds fabulous! I'm looking forward to reading it, and best of luck!

Bonnie Staring said...

Great post, Joelle! What an exciting life you've lived, and continue to live! I must admit that I've been squeeing with excitement since you first announced that you'd be writing YA. Must go pick up my copy of The Testing right now!