Writing and College Apps

December 26, 2011 at 8:29 PM | Posted in Life, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice | 6 Comments
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As teenage writers, we have to deal with another obligation other writers don’t have to deal with as much: college. And our futures. How can one possibly find time to write when there are other issues like having a life, getting straight A’s, and completing activities that boost one’s impressiveness to admissions counselors?
Hey, don’t give up on writing just yet. The simple fact of it all is: colleges want to see your passion. If writing is your passion, stick with it! And besides, it can help your academic standing as well. I’ve listed some practical, real-life examples that could also further your acumen as a writer.

 

 

  1. Milk the CR/Writing portions of the SAT. These two sections were my biggest point-getters; math was my downfall. Still, you have that smug sense of superiority when you see the brainy math children struggle with the nuances of the English language. These reading and writing sections count for 2/3 of the test, after all!
  2. Self-study for the AP Lang/Lit tests. Your school doesn’t offer the class? Take matters into your own hands. Buy a few study guides, look them over during winter break, and talk to your counselor about ordering the tests in January, once you get back. The tests themselves are not hard if you’re naturally a good writer and voracious reader; AP English isn’t a class that needs to be taught as much as, say, AP Chemistry. It does cost money to take the test (some schools offer it for free—I know mine did), but getting a 5 and letting colleges see your intrinsic motivation is priceless.
  3. Become a leader and a writer. Does your school have a newspaper? A literary magazine? A yearbook? Get involved! If it’s too late in the year, ask about writing freelance. There’s always next year to apply for a staff position, and by then, the adviser will have built a good impression of you. You have a definite advantage over your peers when cranking it up for deadlines, soliciting businesses for ads (hey, you’ve been selling yourself in query letters, haven’t you?), and writing tight, informative articles. You’re already ahead of the learning curve, so it’s time to shine. Oh—and if your leadership helps your publication win competitions, all the more power to you.
  4. Look for writing-related internships or jobs. Some papers hire teens to do freelance reporting. Others print a mini-newspaper written by teens, for teens. A few even look for contributors to neighborhood-themed blogs. Thanks to the convenience of technology, you can often update a blog from the comfort of your own home. When you take the ten or fifteen hours a week that you once devoted to mindlessly scrolling on Facebook and put it towards something useful, you can see results that’ll help you get into college.
  5. Don’t give up! Colleges like to see you stick with a hobby—so even if agents didn’t like your first manuscript, don’t give up on writing entirely. Do what you can to build up your resume while staying involved, even if that means writing short stories or poems. Who knows? Winning a prestigious award would be a great way to demonstrate your skill. And if all else fails, self-publishing doesn’t hurt either; I know a girl who self-published a book and put that on her resume. Hey, though it might not count for anything in the literary world, it’s still something.

-linda

Interview with Author Kaleb Nation!

December 22, 2011 at 7:58 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

I recently got to interview Kaleb Nation, author of BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE. Synopsis: Bran Hambric was found locked in a bank vault at six years old, with no memory of his past. For years, he has lived with one of the bankers, wondering why he was left behind — until one night, when he is fourteen, he is suddenly confronted by a maddened creature, speaking of Bran’s true past and trying to kidnap him.

Bran finds that he is at the center of a plot which started years before he was even born: the plot of a deadly curse his mother created…and one that her former masters are hunting for him to complete.

Haunted by the spirit of his mother’s master and living in a city where magic is illegal, Bran must undo the crimes of his past…before it is too late.

TWFT: BRAN HAMBRIC started out as an idea you came up with on March 3rd, 2003 as a teen. Did you ever think that in 6 years the book would be on the shelves of actual bookstores?

I had absolutely no clue all of this would happen! I think back then I was writing in the hopes of being published, but it seemed so far-fetched that it was just my big dream at the time. I’m still in a bit of shock that my story will be a real book.

TWFT: When you told your family that your book was going to be published, how did they react? (Did you hug your mother for making you write a page a week as a child?)

I remember calling my family on the phone about one minute before my next class was going to start. I had to whisper because the professor was already walking up to the mic. My parents and siblings were really excited for sure, because they’d already read parts of the book many times!

TWFT: Your younger brother Jaden is also doing some writing—have you two ever thought of a Nation Brothers collaboration?

Jaden and I literally grew up in the same room, shared bunk beds, and would write nearly every day with our desks each facing opposite walls. Still, we never collaborated on any writing projects! We bounced plenty of ideas off of each other, and after I moved out for college, we did a bit of an email-chain story, but that was it. So it would be great to work with him somehow in the future (or, go on tour together?).

TWFT: How has your Twilight Guy website affected your publication process? Has it made it more difficult to juggle your book and the Twilight fandom, or have the Twilight fans really gotten behind Bran Hambric?

The Twilight fandom has been a HUGE help with Bran Hambric. The book wouldn’t be nearly as well-known if not for all the great people who run the Twilight fansites and help spread the word about what I do. It’s been difficult juggling two fandoms, to be sure, but Twilighters have been awesome friends throughout the whole process.

TWFT: On top of Twilight Guy, the Kaleb Nation site, and the Bran Hambric site, you also post regular YouTube videos and BlogTV shows and tweet daily. What do you do in your free time?

I think my free time IS YouTube and BlogTV! I have a lot of fun with those. I also love doing photography and making music, so that’s something I’ll for sure be doing more of in the coming months.

TWFT: Speaking of BlogTV, let’s just throw this out there: there’s a she-wolf in your closet; what do you do?

Let it out so it can BREATHE!

TWFT: What’s your best advice for teens who dream of publishing a book?

Keep writing, and write a story that you enjoy reading! I can’t even count how many dreary days I went through while writing this book. When you’re 14 or 15 you have very little hope of being published one day, because there are thousands of other hopeful writers out there competing with you, most of whom are professional adults who know far more than you do about the business of publishing. This is why you really need to write a story that you love so much, you don’t even think about all the odds against you. Loving what you write is very important!

TWFT: Now, in closing of this interview, the traditional TWFT question! This may feel like choosing between your favorite gnomes, but what is your favorite flavor of jellybeans?

Grape!

You can read the first four chapters of BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE here at Kaleb’s site, and check for updates via Kaleb’s Twitter, Youtube channel, or BranHambric.com

–Shade

Interview: Susan Beth Pfeffer

December 22, 2011 at 7:56 PM | Posted in Authors, Interviews, teen fiction, Writing, Writing Advice, YA | 2 Comments
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YA science fiction – especially speculative &/or dystopian stuff, seems to be a rising market at the moment. And today, we have an interview with a pretty cool YA author who’s been writing some sci fi lately. You may have heard of her – she’s the author of Life As We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, and coming soon, This World We Live In. So without further ado, presenting: Susan Beth Pfeffer!


Let’s start off with something fun. Your latest book, This World We Live In, is coming out soon. Summarize the book in twenty words – while tossing in as many alliterations as possible.
Lonely life. Laughter lingers. Longing looks. Loathing loses. Lust. Lying. Love lasts.
 

Very impressive – every single word! The Moon books seem to contain an element of speculative science fiction. Why this particular hypothetical future? How did these concepts come about?
I’ve always been intrigued by the fact that the moon controls the tides. And I wanted a worldwide disaster that wasn’t the fault of human beings (as so many things are) or something humans could change (since my main character was a teenage girl, and unlikely to save humanity). I also favored what I called a rolling disaster, one bad thing leading to another and another.

So I nudged the moon a bit closer to earth and tried to figure out just how bad that could make things. I have a basic sense of gravity, and I figured the moon’s gravitational pull could cause all kinds of miseries.

Which, thanks to me, it did.

Definitely original! Life as We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, This World We Live In – all rather eloquently phrased titles. How did they come about?
My editor, or someone at the publishing house, named Life As We Knew It. My working title had been In The Sunroom.

Once I came up with the concept for The Dead and The Gone, I knew that would be its title. I zipped on over to Amazon to see if there were any other books with that title, and while there were a number of Dead And Gone(s), there weren’t any The Dead And The Gone, so I figured I was safe.

When I was trying to come up with the title for the third book, someone commented on my blog that the first two were five single syllable word titles. So I played around with various combinations until I came up with This World We Live In. Amazon didn’t show any serious conflicts, so that became my choice.

That’s smart, checking titles on Amazon first. Now, you’ve accumulated quite an impressive list of publications over the years. Is there one particular book you enjoyed writing more than the others?
I had a wonderful time writing all three moon books. I love the set up and the characters. When I wrote LAWKI it didn’t have chapters, and I think when I wrote d&g, I was reminded to put chapters in. Even with TW, the chapters were an organizing ex post facto addition.

I love writing books without chapters. There’s something liberating about not having to deal with that structure.

I wrote a book a long time ago called Courage, Dana, for younger readers. I remember really enjoying writing it. A tiny section of it is used on standardized reading tests, so I still make a little bit of money from it.

That’s really cool that it’s used for testing! If you could meet any character from any of your books, who would you chill with for a day? What would you guys do?
I introduce a new character named Charlie in This World We Live In. He’s your basic all purpose nice guy, and I think I’d enjoy spending time with him.

Since I mostly write for kids, I mostly write about kids. In real life, I tend to hang out with grownups. So I think Charlie would be the one I’d have the best time with.

I have no idea what we’d do though, since I only know him after the world has come to an end. That cuts down considerably on possible activities.

Haha, that probably would. If the apocalypse were coming tomorrow and you could only choose three books (in the entire world) to keep safe and bring into the “New World”, which ones would you pick?
Agee On Film by James Agee.
Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations
Church, State, and Freedom by Leo Pfeffer (my father)

Words of wisdom – what do you do when the muse has gone on vacation?
I go on vacation also.

I do a lot of pre-writing, so I always have some comfort level about what I’m going to be writing from one day to the next.

If I wake up in the morning with a big I Don’t Wanna, I simply give myself the day off.

It doesn’t happen often, but I respect it when it does.

Wise words. When writing, do you have any specific rituals?

I try to clean my home before I begin a book, have things all nice and tidy at least at the getgo.

And generally, I don’t read fiction when I’m writing.

Beyond that, I pretty much keep to my regular routines.

Outline first or writing on the fly?

Outline, outline, outline.

For the most part, I don’t outline on paper. But before I begin writing a book, I do an enormous amount of thinking about it. And when I’m writing, I focus on what’s going to happen.

I’m a very fast worker. I always have been. But the pre-writing lets me cut down on the rewriting, since I’ve worked out most of the problems before I start putting words on paper (or on screen).

There’s no right way or wrong way, and in the end it probably takes the same amount of time as it would if I sat down and improvised.

But my favorite part of writing is working the story out, and I always wait until I’m comfortable with the beginning, have a very strong sense of where the story is going to end, and am reasonably confident I know the middle, before beginning the actual writing.

More great advice! Really on a roll here. (And from peachiemkey of TWFT): What’s one hard truth you’ve had to learn about writing?
That just because I think something is wonderful doesn’t mean anyone else will.

I am my own biggest fan. I write the stories I would most enjoy reading. My primary goal in writing is to entertain myself.

Alas, not everyone else on earth has my exact taste.

 
Anything else to add?

Just that I’m very glad the world isn’t anything like the one I created in my moon books and that I don’t have to hang out with imaginary characters!
 
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