I mentioned a few days ago that we were mixing things up over at The Great Noveling Adventure (TGNA) – the other blog that I contribute to – and that I would have some details for you soon.
Time to spill!
We’re making our blog more about you, our fellow writers. We want to make our writing adventure more interactive with yours. So, we’ve invited a couple of new, well-seasoned writers to join the team and we’ve created a new structure to the blog. Each day will have a set theme and we, the contributors, will rotate instead.
Here’s the new schedule:
Media Mondays: This is a brand-new content feature–we’ll share downloads, printables, playlists, and more!
Travel Tuesdays: Our ever-popular “Your Adventure” posts, link roundups, and guest posts.
Writing Wednesdays: Craft posts.
Things I’ve Read Thursdays: Book reviews!
Top Five Fridays: Lists of our five favorite things.
Each quarter we will have a flash fiction writing prompt contest. (I had so much fun with our Christmas-themed flash fiction that I really can’t wait to do this, again.)
There will also be group writing sprints on Twitter, starting this Monday. I will be leading some sprints, myself, usually in the mornings. If you’re taking the day off for Labor Day and want some writing companionship, look for me under the Twitter handle @Novel_Adventure and @litbeing using the hashtags #tgna, #sprint, and #amwriting. I’ll be doing at least few rounds of twenty minute sprints before I take the kids to the ballgame downtown.
So, you mentioned something about a ginormous contest?
Oh, right! So much to talk about, I nearly forgot. From now until Sunday evening at 7pm EST (that means 5pm locally) you can enter to win some of the following prizes:
Two mystery book packages – Two lucky winners will each get a set of 3 books chosen by Serena, Kit, Isabelle, and Megan.
Character Sketch — one lucky winner will receive a character sketch from the super-talented Laura Hollingsworth, thanks to Alyssa.
Ultimate Submission Package — one lucky winner will receive a Query Critique from Danielle Ellison, the author of SALT and FOLLOW ME THROUGH DARKNESS, and Senior Editor at Spencer Hill Press; a Pitch + Synopsis Critique (with up to three revisions!) from Sarah; and a 30-Page Critique from Valerie (that’s me!).
That submission package alone is totally worth entering, right?
Many of the people I follow are participating in the A to Z challenge this month, so I expect they are plenty busy with this insanity right about now. (I say this with the utmost respect of one who could never in a million years be organized enough to post daily for an entire month, let alone have a theme involved tying all said fictional posts together – I am not that person.) I think they are all rock stars or mentally imbalanced, like people who purposely run marathons. Seriously, how do you do it?
Goals for this month:
1. Work on suggested revisions for Museum Crashers. I am deep into this goal at the moment and really enjoying it. The suggestions made during my conference critique have me on the right track. YAY!! I also meet with my critique group this week and they will add to the helpfulness, as they always do.
I may have neglected to mention this before, but two other members of my critique group, Barbara Lowell (who has her first book coming out this June!) and Sharon Martin (writer of the most kick-ass novel in verse I’ve read since Ellen Hopkins), both were chosen as top picks by the speakers. Man, do I have a fantastic critique group or what!
2. Work on suggested revisions for Institutionalized. This will be next after I’m done with Museum Crashers.
3. Read 6 books. I’ve just finished one book of poetry that I’m going to write a review on later this week and I’m in the middle of another, a sequel I’ve been really looking forward to reading – THE DREAM THIEVES by Maggie Stiefvater. I’m going a little slow on this one right now. It’s not clipping along with the same fantastic pace as the first one. Part of it may be that it’s been so long since I read the first book that I have trouble remembering everything that happened in the last book and I get a little lost.
4. If complete both 1 and 2, work on first draft of Pretty Vacant. Not ready for this, yet.
5. Yes, you still have to exercise. 4 times a week. Goal accomplished and my body hates it. Every day I wake up wondering why there is pain already. “Oh yeah. The exercise.” We’re not even up to pre-deathly ill month of February levels of exercise yet and my body is already whining. Too bad, chica, cause we’re not stopping. Slap on the icy hot and walk (limp) on.
Besides this, I’ve also been busy preparing for a talk I’m doing next month for our local SCBWI schmooze entitled “Intro to Twitter”. As part of this prep, I’ve been creating some lists on my Twitter account to share. Wow, was that time-consuming! I’m glad I’ve finally finished! One is called “Writers of fabulous blogs” and includes all the people I follow who also write really good blogs. Feel free hop on over and subscribe to it.
And how are you all doing with your goals?
I hope to get around to reading at least a sampling of the thousands of A to Z challenge posts out there; they are daunting in their numbers. I am interested in reading through all of Rebekah’s world-building series for sure. Talk about detail. Get on with your bad self! Are there any A to Z challenges you’ve found fascinating?
Last month while I was having a chat with fellow writer, Doug Soulter, I was reminded of a childhood memory.
When I was a kid I used to hang off the end of my bed so I could look at the world upside-down. I would do this for ages. After awhile, something kind of magical would happen; the world would shift and all of a sudden I was living like some kind of upside-down creature, pinned to the ceiling by reversed gravity. My perception of reality changed. I could see a whole different world around me. High hurdles to jump over every doorway, dangerous ceiling fans to dodge, light fixtures to swing on. Outside my window, trees seemed to be dangling into a vast nothingness. I wondered what would happen to me if I ventured out my front door.
I was a weird kid.
With maybe too much time on my hands.
The reason the aforementioned conversation had sparked this particular memory was directly related to the topic of changes in perception. While we were waiting to hear an author speak at a local library, I asked Doug about his current writing project. I’d heard he was reworking one of his novels as a screenplay and this decision fascinated me.
Why would he choose to do this?
He explained that his writing roots were firmly entrenched in screenplay writing and for several years, he’d departed from that format to pursue writing full-length novels. That in itself had been quite an adventure. He was interested to see how much he’d learned from writing novels when he returned to screenwriting. I asked him about some of the differences.
For one thing, he said, screenplay writing really helps you tighten your focus; if you can’t see it, you can’t write it. Meaning, if you can’t visualize something happening, then it can’t be in the script. It can’t happen. The entire story takes place through the eye of the camera – your POV character, as it were. He said that’s why screenplay writing is so great for helping you see things visually.
Talk about a change in perception.
That really got me thinking about how changes in perception can effect our stories, our ability to stretch as writers.
This year, I finished working on a YA project and then switched to revising an old MG project I’d had in a drawer for a few years. The change in perception from YA voice to MG voice was startling. I could see some of my mistakes right away. In some areas, the voice was too old, too adult in tone, in others, too young. I needed to stabilize it, make it consistent. One thing working on the YA novel had helped me find was a strong voice. I could now see where the voice in the MG was going wrong in this story and I was better able to fix it. Once that issue was addressed, the rest of the revision started to move along quite nicely.
Spending time studying and working in a different style, working with a change of perception, helped me see my writing in a clearer light – the good and the bad.
Some of my favorite authors write in different styles and I love when they stretch in unexpected directions. Usually it makes their writing stronger, better. One of my writing mentors, after having 19 young adult novels published, decided she wanted to write a picture book. Even though she was a master craftsman at the young adult historical fiction genre, she started at the beginning with picture books. She read a ton of picture books, went to conference talks about picture books, and studied how to write picture books before delving into this new style of writing. Her first picture book comes out next year and it’s really amazing.
And she’s not done learning.
I never want to be done learning either. How about you? Do you write in more than one style? What have you learned from cross-training your writer’s brain?
(FYI, the awesome picture above is from a 2012 French- Canadian romantic science fiction film called Upside Down starring Kirsten Dunst and Jim Sturgess that I stumbled across while mindlessly searching through Google. My daughter and I have vowed we must now see this movie.)
This past week has been quite exciting here. This is just a quick post to update you on a few of the highlights.
One of the most exciting things that made my week spectacular was when I received this tweet after I posted my review of See You at Harry’s by Jo Knowles:
I never thought in a million years an author I read would read my review of her book, love it, AND then pass it on for others to read! Such a fabulous thing to do. Could I love her even more? I think not.
If that wasn’t enough to make a girl’s week, I escaped to the Oklahoma countryside for the weekend and stayed at a beautiful bed & breakfast with my favorite writing people for the Agent Day conference. I had the pleasure of meeting KT Hanna for the first time, face to face – what a wonderful hugger! (I also got to see more pics of her new baby, the little cutie with those adorably squishy cheeks.) I also met Heather Cashman and Sarah Crespo who’d traveled with KT all the way from Wichita, Kansas, to attend out Agent Day event. It was so great to meet these online friends in person.
I will be happy to share the plethora of information I learned about agents and the world of agenting with you all very soon. The lovely Hannah Harrison, who gave the keynote speech, will also be stopping by for an interview in the near future to expand on her fantastic and inspiring presentation.
The only drawback to the rural location of the conference was poor WiFi service, but frankly, it was nice to be out of touch for a few days. Upon my return home, I discovered some exciting news waiting for me in my inbox. As some of you may know, I gave an interview myself recently for Jenny Perinovic at The Great Noveling Adventure. Well, I had so much fun doing the interview that I applied for one of the openings they had on their blog. And guess what? They invited me to become part of their team! Of course I said yes. So exciting! I’ll be posting once or twice a month on whatever topic I’d like. Artistic freedom? Yes, please.
I’m still recovering from an amazing weekend and all of this great news, but I wanted to make sure I shared it with you. Big things are coming, I can just feel it. Stay tuned to enjoy the ride.
Exciting news here on the blog. One of my recent posts was accepted by a regional paper! Yes, my first publishing credit, woohoo! It’s all thanks to my folks passing along my story, How a Few Days in the Country Almost Killed Me to a local editor at the Ozark County Times. She liked it so much, she asked me to edit it down by a third so it could fit into their e-news format. I did what she asked and it appeared in this past Wednesday’s edition, along with a link back to my blog. Not bad, eh?
A brief update on our upcoming spectacular SCBWI OK Fall event, AGENT DAY: There are just a handful of spaces left! So if you’re thinking about attending this outstanding event, sign up now or you’ll wish you had. I’m so excited that some of my online friends have already signed up and I’ll get to meet them in person. To learn more details and about the participating agents and guest speakers, see my previous post here.
On that exciting note, I take a short leave of absence to the land of mild weather and eternal sunshine to attend the SCBWI LA Summer Conference. After a brief hiatus, in which I absorb all the literary goodness, I will be ready to return and share my newly acquired knowledge. In the mean time, I thought I’d share with you the series of posts inspired by last year’s conference. This may give you a hint as to what kind of delights I will be sharing with you in the month ahead.
First, I just wanted say, WOW! I’ve gained 50 new followers since the beginning of the year and that’s pretty damn good for me.
“HELLO, NEW FOLLOWERS! YOU ARE AWESOME!”
For those of you who’ve been following for awhile, you’re just flat out amazing, but you already know that.
Enough with the flagrant flattery, I have some pretty great news to share…
As some of you may recall, I mentioned back in May that our local SCBWI chapter has a fantastic event coming up this fall. We are hosting an Agents’ Day on October 5th that will knock your socks off. Registration is now open to non-members as of July 1st – that means now!
Not only will you hear from three wonderful agents who are actively acquiring at this event and have one of the three critique the first 250 words of your manuscript, but you’ll also hear from some of the finest literary ladies with amazing talents who work right here in Oklahoma.
Emily is interested in representing picture books through YA.
If that weren’t enough, the agents will also critique submitted query letters by attendees in a panel discussion. This is another spectacular presentation put on by our SCBWI Oklahoma chapter and you don’t want t miss it. Registration is limited to 90 people and over 50 spots have already been filled, so act soon! Visit the SCBWI OK website for details and online registration.
Tara Hudson, author of the spooky Hereafter trilogy, was the honored guest and speaker at our Tulsa schmooze anniversary dinner earlier this month. She discussed her writing journey and spoke frankly about the realities of publishing and what happens after you get a book deal. She began by telling us all about her childhood reading habits – mostly magical and paranormal books by Christopher Pike and R.L. Stein – and how these books later influenced her writing. She said a good tip for any aspiring author when picking their genre is to pay attention to the books you devoured as a kid.
“There’s a reason you picked those books. You’ll spend a lot of time with your stories, so you have to love the world you’re writing about.”
Tara went through many ups and downs with writing during her college years, bouncing from being a science
major to a writing major, then finally settling on the law. “I fall in love with something, then panic and move on to something else.” She almost did this with her first novel, instead she pursued in further.
While working as a lawyer at an unsatisfying job, Tara began tinkering with an old short story she’d written in college about a girl walking through an old Texas town who doesn’t realize that she’s dead. Tara was inspired to write this story when she drove through a small, creepy town and she really wanted to capture the memory down on the page. This was the first time an experience, an idea, had compelled her to write, to record it on paper before it vanished into the ether.
So she started writing her first book, one chapter at a time. She shared each one with some co-workers, friends who begged her for the next chapter. She thought at the time, “I can write a second chapter – not a fifth, maybe, but I can write a second”. She wrote this way, with a growing list of readers – her first beta readers, she later realized – until the book was finished. She left her job shortly afterwards and began the long, arduous editing process. The result was Hereafter.
Tara then began researching agents. As a lawyer, she said it is great to have an agent: “Those contracts are slippery little minnows.” She said she was so excited about getting published that they could’ve asked for the blood of her first born and she would’ve said, “That sounds reasonable”.
After 38 rejections, she changed her approach and soon caught the interest of Catherine Drayton from Inkwell Management. When she finally got the call, Catherine told her that after chapter nine, it was crap. She wouldn’t represent her. She said it “needs more ominous and sense of community”. Revise and resubmit. Tara went through a few days of just being angry. That direction was too vague to of any real help, but then she realized Catherine was right; she started revising.
Luck finally fell on Tara’s side. A few days after her initial rejection, Catherine called her back. Harper Teen was putting together a book tour and they needed one story set in a rural location. Tara’s book fit the bill. Catherine asked if she could pitch it, although it still needed work and there was no promise of representation. Tara agreed and Harper Teen bought her book eight days later.
“You’ll be put through a rigorous writing schedule after a book deal.” Once you’re signed up, you’re expected to have ideas for what to write next. You’ll have to write up synopses and submit them right away.
During her querying process, Tara had returned to work full time and had learned that she was pregnant. To keep her health coverage, she had to continue working full time. On top of that, she now had three months to revise book one and then write a draft of book two.
She wrote book two during her maternity leave. “That’s why it’s the best and so dark”.
The Hereafter trilogy begins when Amelia Ashley, a ghost just awakening to her spiritual consciousness, saves a living boy when he almost drowns in her river – the same river she drowned in twenty years earlier. The trilogy continuing with Arise follows the tale of their haunted love to an intense conclusion in Elegy, the final book of the series.
The final book, Elegy was just released this month. I raced through the first book and cannot wait to read the rest of the series. Here’s the plot summary for Hereafter, the first book, from the author’s website:
Drifting in the dark waters of a mysterious river, the only thing Amelia knows for sure is that she’s dead. With no recollection of her past life—or her actual death—she’s trapped alone in a nightmarish existence. All of this changes when she tries to rescue a boy, Joshua, from drowning in her river. As a ghost, she can do nothing but will him to live. Yet in an unforgettable moment of connection, she helps him survive.
Amelia and Joshua grow ever closer as they begin to uncover the strange circumstances of her death and the secrets of the dark river that held her captive for so long. But even while they struggle to keep their bond hidden from the living world, a frightening spirit named Eli is doing everything in his power to destroy their newfound happiness and drag Amelia back into the ghost world . . . forever.
Tara’s website has lots of extra goodies for fans of her Hereafter series. There are pictures from different settings, including the town of Wilburton, Oklahoma, the setting for the first book, and playlists of songs that inspired Tara while she wrote the books. There are also spine-tingling book trailers that make you want to pick up each book right away.
To learn more about Tara Hudson and the Hereafter trilogy, visit her website here.