Friday, July 31, 2015

When Life Gets in the Way of Writing Conferences

7/11/2015 I married this awesome guy


Classic novels lined the aisle.


Earlier this month I got married to a great man, but I have to admit that it put a bit of a wrench in my summer plans. Last year, I was attending SCBWI & then Breadloaf writing conferences back to back and churning out a lot of writing. This year I've been wedding planning/ honeymooning/ moving stuff/ etc. and the writing conferences I crave so desperately for classes in craft have had to be sidelined a bit. Triona wrote a great blog this week about why you need to go to conferences (you really should go if you can!), but I'm going to list a few of my recent finds on how to gain access to some of the best writing instruction around that you can listen to while unpacking boxes, running errands, etc., and best of all they're free. Granted, none of these are specifically geared to the YA market, but they do have some of the best living literary writers speaking so it's a great foundational education in craft.

1. Breadloaf: This writing conference is competitive and expensive (totally worth it). Thankfully, though, you can get a lot of the craft classes from each year online via podcast. You do have to download iTunes U if you don't have it first, and sometimes it's buggy. http://www.middlebury.edu/bread-loaf-conferences/bread_loaf_community/listen_to_lectures_and_readings

2. Tin House: Another of the competitive and expensive conference crowd (I haven't been, but hear great things), you can hear their classes/readings as well online and don't need iTunes U. I like the lectures more than the readings, personally, but all are nice to hear. http://www.tinhouse.com/blog/podcasts

So happy that blogmate JP could make it!
3. AWP: This conference is open to everyone, and has a great treasure trove of past recordings from sessions. I really like the ending of many of the panels when the writers discuss how they approach the topic of the session, and the first one on the list on structure is awesome. https://www.awpwriter.org/magazine_media/podcast_series

Please let me know if I'm missing any important ones, I'm always on the lookout for great writing instruction, especially when it's free!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Why You Should Go to Writers' Conferences, Even if (Especially if) You're Scared

I attended one of my favorite writers' conferences last week, the Midwest Writers Workshop. It was a blast, as usual—tons of great writing advice, valuable networking with industry professionals, and fun times with writer friends I don't get to see often enough.

I pitched to two agents, had a one-on-one query critique with the Query Shark herself (which was amazing!), and did more socializing than I normally do in a period of several months. On the way home, I was thinking about how comfortable and relaxed I felt the whole time—a complete 180 from the way I felt before attending my first conference back in 2012. I remember sitting in my car in the parking lot, literally shaking as I psyched myself up to go inside the hotel where the conference was being held.

That conference, by the way, was where I met friends and critique partners I still keep in touch with (hi Stacy, Jenn, and Lauren!). I learned that agents and editors weren't scary people—they were just looking for something they loved that they could sell. I also got the expert advice I needed to improve my writing to the point where I finally started getting lots of requests for partials and fulls from agents. If I hadn't been brave enough to sign up for that conference (and actually leave my car), I firmly believe I would have kept spinning my wheels for much, much longer.

We writerly types often (usually?) would rather sit at home with a good book than spend two or three days interacting with a ton of people. But it's so worth it. It's impossible to describe how good it feels to find people who think and feel and write just like you do. And I guarantee that your writing will improve.

If the very idea of a conference still makes you want to throw up, try starting small. Many SCBWI chapters have mini-conferences where they bring in one or two publishing professionals to do a day of workshops. You can also attend an online workshop (like the fabulous WriteOnCon) to get a taste of what an in-person conference might be like.

Or just take the leap and sign up for that big conference you've been eyeing. You definitely won't regret it.
Some happy Midwest Writer's Workshop attendees (I'm second from the right!)

Friday, July 24, 2015

Fall Book Preview and Giveaway: Serpentine, Nameless and Minotaur!

I'm excited to bring you another fantastic giveaway and preview of some exciting new titles releasing this fall!  Don't forget to scroll to the bottom of this post for a chance to win a digital copy of all three books!

1. SERPENTINE by Cindy Pon, out Sept. 8, 2015


SerpentineEbook
SERPENTINE is a sweeping fantasy set in the ancient Kingdom of Xia and inspired by the rich history of Chinese mythology. 
Lush with details from Chinese folklore, SERPENTINE tells the coming of age story of Skybright, a young girl who worries about her growing otherness. As she turns sixteen, Skybright notices troubling changes. By day, she is a companion and handmaid to the youngest daughter of a very wealthy family. But nighttime brings with it a darkness that not even daybreak can quell. 
When her plight can no longer be denied, Skybright learns that despite a dark destiny, she must struggle to retain her sense of self – even as she falls in love for the first time. 
“Serpentine is unique and surprising, with a beautifully-drawn fantasy world that sucked me right in! I love Skybright’s transformative power, and how she learns to take charge of it.” ~Kristin Cashore, NYT Bestseller of the Graceling Realm Series 
“Serpentine’s world oozes with lush details and rich lore, and the characters crackle with life. This is one story that you’ll want to lose yourself in.” ~ Marie Lu, New York Times bestselling author of Legend and The Young Elites
add to goodreads

cindypon_highres-200x300
Cindy Pon is the author of Silver Phoenix (Greenwillow, 2009), which was named one of the Top Ten Fantasy and Science Fiction Books for Youth by the American Library Association’s Booklist, and one of 2009′s best Fantasy, Science Fiction and Horror by VOYA. The sequel to Silver Phoenix, titled Fury of the Phoenix, was released in April 2011. Serpentine, the first title in her next Xia duology, will be published by Month9Books in September 2015. She is the co-founder of Diversity in YA with Malinda Lo and on the advisory board of We Need Diverse Books. Cindy is also a Chinese brush painting student of over a decade. Visit her website at www.cindypon.com.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Tumblr | Goodreads

2. NAMELESS by Jennifer Jenkins, out Oct. 6, 2015

Nameless_450x675Four clans have been at war for centuries: the Kodiak, the Raven, the Wolf and the Ram. Through brutal war tactics, the Ram have dominated the region, inflicting death and destruction on their neighbors.

Seventeen-year-old Zo is a Wolf and a Healer who volunteers to infiltrate the Ram as a spy on behalf of the allied clans. She offers herself as a Ram slave, joining the people who are called the “nameless.” Hers is a suicide mission – Zo’s despair after losing her parents in a Ram raid has left her seeking both revenge and an end to her own misery. But after her younger sister follows her into Rams Gate, Zo must find a way to survive her dangerous mission and keep her sister safe.

What she doesn’t expect to find is the friendship of a young Ram whose life she saves, the confusing feelings she develops for a Ram soldier, and an underground nameless insurrection. Zo learns that revenge, loyalty and love are more complicated than she ever imagined in the first installment of this two-book series.
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Jennifer JenkinsWith her degree in History and Secondary Education, Jennifer had every intention of teaching teens to love George Washington and appreciate the finer points of ancient battle stratagem. (Seriously, she’s obsessed with ancient warfare.) However, life had different plans in store when the writing began. As a proud member of Writers Cubed, and a co-founder of the Teen Author Boot Camp, she feels blessed to be able to fulfill both her ambition to work with teens as well as write Young Adult fiction. Jennifer has three children who are experts at naming her characters, one loving, supportive husband, a dog with little-man syndrome, and three chickens (of whom she is secretly afraid).
Visit her online at jajenkins.com

Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads | Pinterest |Instagram

3. MINOTAUR, by Phillip W. Simpson, out Sept. 29, 2015


Minotaur.v3
“Where shall I start?” asked Minotaur.

Ovid made an expansive gesture with both hands. “Where else but the beginning of course.”

Minotaur nodded his huge head. “Yes,” he said. “Yes,” his eyes already glazing over with the weight of thousand year old memories. And then he began.

So begins the story of Asterion, later known as Minotaur, the supposed half bull creature of Greek legend. Recorded by the famous Roman poet, Ovid, Asterion tells of his boyhood in Crete under the cruel hand of his stepfather Minos, his adventures with his friend, Theseus, and his growing love for the beautiful Phaedra.And of course what really happened in the labyrinth.

This is the true story of the Minotaur.


add to goodreads

Phillip W SimpsonPhillip W. Simpson is the author of many novels, chapter books and other stories for children. His publishers include Macmillan, Penguin, Pearson, Cengage, Raintree and Oxford University Press. He received both his undergraduate degree in Ancient History and Archaeology and his Masters (Hons) degree in Archaeology from the University of Auckland.
Before embarking on his writing career, he joined the army as an officer cadet, owned a comic shop and worked in recruitment in both the UK and Australia. His first young adult novel, Rapture (Rapture Trilogy #1), was shortlisted for the Sir Julius Vogel Awards for best Youth novel in 2012. He is represented by Vicki Marsdon at Wordlink literary agency.

When not writing, he works as a school teacher. Phillip lives and writes in Auckland, New Zealand with his wife Rose, their son, Jack and their two border terriers, Whiskey and Raffles. He loves fishing, reading, movies, football (soccer) and single malt Whiskeys.
Connect with the Author: Website | Twitter | Facebook | Goodreads
Giveaway


Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All About The Lists

Top Ten List with Pencil


All of us dream of one day making it on a "list".  Whether it's the New York Times, Amazon Best Sellers, the Oscars, the Emmys, the best hair day...

It's just fun to make lists. I'm sure every couple has the "you get a pass to do (*&?#<*^$, if you meet this actor/actress" list.  Or my SFSO (safe for significant others) version "Actors I just want to be really really good friends with and hang out at their house ALL THE TIME" list.  Not surprisingly, for the most part, they seem to be all funny guys over 35. 

Here are a few lists that have popped up over the past few weeks that may help you fill in your summer read list, watch list or give you ideas to start other cool lists.  

What's on your list?

1) 10 Best Young Adult Books Turned Into Movies 

Reason: cause this is a YA blog and what better list is there?

2) Tilda Swinton's Summer Reading List 

Reason: cause it's Tilda Swinton, one of the coolest actresses out there.  She slept in a glass box in the MOMO for gosh sake!

3) Emmy Actress Nominees List

Reason: cause this year over 75% of the female nominees are over 35! 

Most of us are just starting our writing careers at this age so it looks like the golden years really are golden!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Connecting with readers through bookclubs

A friend of mine recently asked me if I'd be willing to attend her book club meeting in person. They'd selected WHERE THE STAIRCASE ENDS as their monthly read, and since I was local they thought it would be fun to have the author attend in person and answer some of their questions.

Connecting with my first book club!
I was nervous, but agreed. And I'm so glad I said yes. Not only were they gracious hostesses, but I had a blast hearing their take on the story, answering their questions and meeting some new folks who live in the Bay Area.

Book clubs, it turns out, are a great way to reach new readers. Whether you're a member of one or not, there are thousands in your area, and many would welcome the chance to have an in-person discussion with a local author. It costs you very little beyond a few hours of time, and you'll have a blast.


Here are a few ways you can connect with local book clubs:


Fun with Q&A
1. Start with friends and family.

The easiest place to start is to reach out to friends and family and ask if they know of any book clubs in the area who might be open to hosting an in-person author Q&A.

2. Leverage your personal social media pages.

We tend to do a lot of marketing on our author profile pages, but your biggest support base is likely right in your own back yard. Post to your personal Facebook and Instagram pages to see who might be interested. You may be surprised by the response.

3. Consider Skype and Google Hangouts.

Saturday Night Book Chat
If you can't be there in person, why not have a virtual chat? Skype and Google Hangouts are great (and free!) ways to have a personalized chat with readers without having to fly across the country to meet them.

3. Reach out to alumni networks.

Consider reaching out to your alma mater's alumni network to see if you can post in an upcoming newsletter. They're often looking for alumni willing to provide content, write articles and share updates for upcoming publications. Who knows, you might reconnect with some old friends!

4. Post on local library boards.

Many local libraries allow for ads to be posted to bulletin boards or other shared contact sites.  In fact many include information about local book clubs looking for new members. Post some information about your book and see what happens. What do you have to lose?

Tell us - how do you connect with new readers?




Wednesday, July 15, 2015

YA Book Pick: Where The Staircase Ends

Once a month we choose an outstanding YA book to review.  We want to spotlight books of interest to aspiring writers, as well as highlight  some of our favorite books and authors.

This month's book is Where the Staircase Ends by our very own Stacy Stokes.  I feel in love with the book from the very first sentence and wanted to know more about the mysteries locked within the pages of the book.  Because I had such a strong reaction to the book, I wanted the chance to spotlight it.









Synopsis (from Goodreads):  After her best friend orchestrates the lie that destroys her reputation, Taylor wants more than anything to disappear from her life.  But when an accident turns this unspoken wish into reality, instead of an angel-filled afterlife, Taylor must climb a seemingly endless staircase into the sky.  Instead of giving up, the journey plunges into the past.  As she unravels the mystery behind her friend's betrayal, she must face the truth about life and find the strength to forgive the unforgivable - unless the staircase breaks her first.

First line:  I never noticed my pointy elbows until they became yet another reason for people to avoid me.

Highlights:  For me, it was the characters.  Taylor jumped off the page from the very start.  As soon as I learned about Taylor's pointy elbows and how everyone avoided them, I was hooked.  I wanted to know more about this character and why people avoided her.  And the more I learned about this girl, the more I grew to like her.  Stacy has a gift when it comes to characterization.  She skillfully develops relatable characters that exhibit both positive and negative attributes.  It is this balance between both good and bad that make her characters so enduring and life-like. And while Stacy is good at creating characters, she is even better at creating relationships for it is the bond between Sunny and Taylor that was the true highlight of the story.  It is this bond, this friendship, this . . . sisterly love that makes the story so universal and one that I think is important for teenagers to hear.

Stacy's characters really come to life because Stacy is also such a strong world builder and has a knack for teasing out the story as she switches from past to present.  This playful ability to elude is what kept me reading, but it is her characters that made this book so memorable.

Notes for writers:  This is a great book to learn about characterization and world building. Stacy expertly creates likeable characters but it is her unique description and vivid imagery that pulls the reader into the scene.  I loved the freshness of her wording in phrases such as the hiss, hiss, hiss of heated whispers. 

A good read for:  Fans of Gayle Forman's If I Stay and Lauren Oliver's Before I fall.  It should be noted that sex, curse words, underage drinking, and underage smoking are mentioned.  That being said the story was so well executed and the message so important that I would even recommend the story to my teenage son. 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Kicking Writer Butt


Typewriter


First off, congratulations to blog-mate Lauren Monahan and her gorgeous weekend wedding.  I'm hoping that she will blog about it soon but if ever there was a wedding full of beautiful literature and for the lovers of books, this was the one! Wishing her and her wonderful husband Dale an amazing start to a new life together!

Now back to the touch stuff.  I've been back at this writing thing for a few months now and yeah, it's just like I remembered it...hard as #$%#!.  But now that I've started, I'm determined to see this through to the finish line.  Being a part of San Diego Writers Ink has been invaluable and taking Tammy Greenwood's course has been a great re-jump starter.  But the last session was at the beginning of June and the next one doesn't start until the end of July.  So what's a girl to do in the meantime?

Luckily, I'm part of an online group who've attended the Donald Maas Breakout Novel workshop run by Free Expressions' Lorin Oberweger.  We're embarking on a July NanoWriMo or what I like to call July-o-ramo-wrimo, and the peer pressure and goal setting has been just what I need to keep pushing the writing along during this hump time.  Keeping it simple is the only way I'll make it through, so here's a few tips that I've found incredibly helpful to keep the ball (or pen, or keyboard) going.

1) Set Goals and Consequences

Lorin, who is leading our July-o-rama-wrimo had us all input our goals for July and also our consequences for not attaining those goals into a group excel spreadsheet.  I've tried to keep the word count realistic at 20,000 words and also will be reaching out to at least tow subject matter experts as part of my research.  When two weeks sans Facebook and wine are on the line, you bet I'm working my ass off to make that happen. 

2) Setting Daily Word Count Targets

I never thought that this would be such an effective motivator.  But when you see those little words add up while you're typing, it really helps to push things forward.  I use Scrivener and love keeping the tracker on the side.  It allows me to see how much of my daily goal I've attained as well as how close I am to my monthly goal of 20,000 words.

3) Hanging Out With Like Minds

I'm thankful to have July-o-rama-wrimo compatriots who share their daily wins and struggles honestly and without ego online.  It's helped me to say "I can do it to!"

4) Write, Write, Write!

It doesn't have to be perfect.  You don't need to be in front of your laptop with a coffee in hand and scrivener all set up.  It can be a few lines in your notebook ap while out and about or on your iPad at night, with your baby sleeping beside you.  Once the ball's rolling, the most important is just to make sure it doesn't stop. 

Are you in the process of working on a draft?  How do you continue to motivate yourself? 

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Writer's Resource: Janet Reid's Blog

Regular readers of this blog might have noticed that I'm a huge fan of research, both the kind you do when you're planning a novel and the kind you do before you try to find an agent or publisher (or before you self-publish). I have a huge bookmarked list of helpful links, but one of the best ways I stay on top of what's happening in the publishing industry is by reading certain helpful blogs on a regular basis.

One of the best around is super-agent Janet Reid's. She posts daily with questions and answers from readers, trends she's seeing in the slush, query advice, and even writing contests. Her advice is always blunt—one of the things I like about her is that she feels no need to sugarcoat—but she's honest and encouraging at the same time. She also maintains the QueryShark blog, a must-read for everyone who wants to write an effective query.

If you find it hard to keep up with a post a day, Ms. Reid helpfully puts up a Week in Review post every Sunday with a summary of the past week's posts and the pertinent/funny comments on each. (Side note: the comments on her blog tend to be informative, interesting, and often hilarious. It's the only blog on my feed reader where I regularly click to the full site to read the comments!)

I usually read blogs on my phone, because I'm more likely to get a moment to check them out while waiting in line or riding in the back of a car. There are several good apps you can use to keep track of the blogs you read. The one I use, Feedly, is intuitive and straightforward.

And now, hopefully you'll excuse me for a moment while I gloat about the fact that I get to meet Ms. Reid in person in just a few weeks, at the Midwest Writer's Workshop. I'm pretty excited to hear her publishing wisdom in person!

Monday, July 6, 2015

ALA San Francisco: What to Read Next

This book was the most-hyped YA 

ALA San Francisco ended a week ago, and I'm finally getting everything sorted. Here are some pictures from the event and preview pics of the books people seemed most excited to read.

Gloria Steinam!
The lines were fierce!









Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Wanted: Independence

Independence Day, the movie


Happy Canada Day to my fellow Canucks and Happy pre-Fourth of July to my American friends.  To celebrate these grand days of freedom, I thought it would be great to use "independence" as the theme for today's blog. So here are a few hot topics for YA writers bent on showing their Ms. (or Mr.) Independent side. 

1. Self Publishing

Everyone loves a good self publishing success story and what's better than a teen self pub phenom? Budding author Aija Mayrock's The Survival Guide to Bullying, a book Mayrock released online to coincide with 2014's National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month was released yesterday by Scholastic.  It's a creative and insightful read for both kids and parents alike. 

2. Classic Heroines 

Even in today's fast paced world of electronic Apples, over sexualized pop stars and high speed inter web, it's nice to know that some heroines on their own quests for independence have stood the test of time. Here's a list that includes Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, The Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank and The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison.  Lovely, timeless and brave.

3. Sci-Fi Breakouts

We daydream about escaping the real world so we can fantasize about breaking out of imaginary ones. Whether it's The Hunger Games or Ready Player One, they all revolve around the theme of finding oneself and defeating those whose goal it is to bring us down.  Check out these and other action packed independent minded sci-fi novels here

4. Independence Day 2

What's a fourth of July without revisiting the classic Will Smith blockbuster Independence Day?  Well, next year, there'll be more alien invasions to follow.  The sequel to the summer hit featuring Jeff Goldblum and Liam  Hemsworth is sure to get the patriotic pride flowing in 2016.  


July 4th BBQ

Happy fireworks and barbecues!