Saturday, November 19, 2011

2012 Debut Author Challenge

So, I'm excited to participate in The Story Siren's 2012 Debut Author Challenge. I'm challenging myself to read at least 12 debut MG or YA books in 2012.

I'm most excited about two books debuting in February.

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood

and Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Sunday, November 13, 2011

SCBWI Brazos Valley Writers' Conference

As previously mentioned, I can be very awkward, and no where are my minimal social skills more tested than at a writers' conference.  But I'm happy to report that I did not make a TOTAL fool of myself at yesterday's SCBWI Brazos Valley Craft and Connections Conference, well at least not compared to the last conference I attended.

Well, I did walk in late to the pre-conference dinner just as Kathi Appelt, our gracious hostess, started a mini-speech, so everyone stopped, turned around, and stared at me as I stood there grinning and clutching a bottle of wine. And I did manage to stutter and mispronounce words almost every time I spoke to Senior Editor at Katherine Tegen Books, Claudia Gabel.  My brain was like, "Ah! She's an editor.  Quick, forget how to use English!" Thanks brain.

I also made one mistake. The night before the conference, I knew I needed to figure out how to summarize my book in a sentence.  I started to come up with a one-line pitch and memorize it, but then thought, "Nah, I know this book so well, it's SO easy to talk about it!" Big Mistake.  When Claudia asked me what my book was about, I think I said, "This girl has powers and stuff." Great.

But overall the conference was pretty fantastic and I learned a lot. I was pretty impressed with the quality of presenters for our little SCBWI chapter and a small venue.

Claudia Gabel started off with a keynote craft lesson on plot structure, characterization, and the importance of outlining.  She explained the difference between crisis and conflict in a way I wish I would have heard back when I taught English. She also flashed a bit of the proposal for Elusion, a book she's co-writing with Cheryl Klam and sounds Ah.Ma.Zing.

Next, Brian Floca, author/illustrator of some amazing picture books, did an awesome visual presentation about how he got where he is.  He included a hilarious Spiderman picture book he wrote and illustrated when he was a kid.

Local author Doris Fisher talked about breaking into the magazine market and another local writer, Molly Blaisdell gave a workshop on how to write a paragraph synopsis of your story.

Newbery Medal winning author and local legend Kathi Appelt did a gerat audio/visual presentation about the blues and how we can learn to write a character's emotional arc and sorrow by studying blues songs.  She discussed and showed examples of spirituals and the call and response structure.  She posed the question, When your main character calls, who responds? She also pointed out the role of the devil in a lot of blues music and asked, What does your main character want so badly she'd sell her soul to the devil for it?  Both questions gave me a lot to think about in terms of my main character in my WIP.

Finally, up-and-coming super star agent Elena Mechlin at Pippin Properties talked queries and answered the attendees' burning questions.  We finished off with an entertaining panel with all the speakers.

We went to dinner at Cafe Eccell after the conference and I think was the cause of only 2 awkward pauses and I'm pretty sure only said 3 stupid things, which is a total record for me.  Very proud. :)

I think it helped I already knew some the Brazos Valley writers and this wasn't a high stakes conference for me. I wasn't there to pitch anyone and I didn't get my work critiqued. I'm not an author with a book to sell, but I'm also not asking questions about queries. I felt like a writer in a murky middle area which allowed me to relax and do what I could to help out at the conference.

I can't say it enough, if you have a chance to go to a writers' conference, do it!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday...and Thursday, and Friday, and...well you get it

So Waiting on Wednesday is a meme hosted by Breaking the Spine where bloggers discuss books they're anticipating.  And I'll get to that. But first I wanted to talk about waiting.

It's no coincidence there's only a one letter difference between writing and waiting.  Any writer seeking publication knows waiting is just part of the process.  I've experienced a bit of waiting myself recently and had a chance to reflect on the waiting process.

I did a lot of waiting and obsessively checking emails while querying agents and I heard published writers say the waiting doesn't get any better once you have an agent.  I didn't believe them.  I thought I did. I tried to believe them, but lately I've still found myself thinking, "OMG! This waiting is torturous, it's worse than querying! Why did no one warn me?" They warned me.

I've come up with some tips to help you with waiting, but this is more of a "do what I say, not what I do situation." While waiting, my day looked like this: Check email.  Check facebook.  Check twitter.  Read blogs on google reader.  Check email.  Email friend to make sure email is working.  Check facebook.  Check twitter.  Check facebook.  Check for new blog posts on google reader.  Check email.  Reply to friend. And so on.

Waiting Made Easy! Less Excruciating

1. Stay busy.  Waiting is easy if you don't have time to check your email.  The days fly by and you can't spare a second to think about it.  So take on new tasks at your day job, write like crazy, and spend time with friends and family.

2. Change locations.  I don't know why, but it helps. Sleep in a bed not your own, get away from your computer, and the days fly by. I spent last weekend at my parents and although
it wasn't a particularly exciting or eventful trip, I didn't obsessively check my email.

3. Connect with other waiters writers.  You feel like things are taking forever? Try talking about it with someone who doesn't understand the publishing industry.  My husband is constantly outraged it could take someone a month to reply to an email.  He'll say, "Just call him."  Because in his job, that makes sense.  You want an answer from someone?  You just call and ask. So talking with someone who does understand is great.  Reach out to other writers and no matter where they are in the publishing process, chances are, they're waiting too. Whine about it together.  Trust me, it helps.

4. You're not the only one waiting. I like to think of the process of making a book as a whole.  When you think about it, agents/editors have probably waited over a year for you to write the book.  So it's only fair you wait one or two months to hear back from them.  And they wait for you too!  My waiting ended yesterday and now the ball is back in my court and someone is waiting on me. Also, I try not to think of people in the publishing industry as the super-smart-speed-readers they are.  I'll ask my co-workers how long it takes them to read a book and adjust my expectations.

5. Write something new. Seriously.  There's nothing better to distract you from the last book than to get excited about the next one.

6. Magic makes everything better.  If all else fails, I like to think of NYC as this magical place, like the land of Faerie, where a single day there is the same as three months here.  We're writers.  Without our imaginations to comfort us, what do we have?

Speaking of Waiting...
Here are the two books I'm most excited about in 2012.  I can't wait!

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Not only am I fascinated by John's signing psychosis, but this book sounds amazing!  I read the first chapter here and I can't wait to get my copy!

Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood.  Isn't the cover gorgeous?  I've heard so many great things about this book.  I can't wait to read this beautiful story.

Give Away!

What book are you waiting on?  Tell me in the comments before midnight CST Wednesday 11/9/11 for a chance to win.  I'll choose one random commenter to win either a pre-order of a book not yet released or a copy of a book released in the last 2 months.  (U.S. only, sorry)