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

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Writing with Ease

November 22, 2009 at 1:16 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Wouldn’t it be so amazing to just write and write without any trouble at all? What if you were to write a brilliant manuscript the first time around? Only having to tweak this or that. But writing is harder work than it seems.

There are so many different elements that must be put all together to make a piece uniquely your own. To make a piece beautiful. Writing has many difficulties, that’s for sure. But here is a blog post dedicated to some tips and tricks.

What’s writing when you’re not sitting down to write? First tip: Keep your BIC. Butt in Chair. Sit down and write. For a specified amount of time each day at the same time. Heck, you don’t need to write creatively, just as long as you’re writing. I got this advice from Ridley Pearson, an author who spoke at my local Barnes and Noble a few years ago. Okay, maybe I don’t listen to it all the time. I am, after all, a college student with lots to do at different hours of the day. I don’t even write every day. But I am promising myself to work on it. If anything, set yourself a goal–3 days, 5 days, a week, or more–to keep your BIC for that amount of days. If it works out for you, then great job!

What if you can’t find the right word to explain an idea you see clearly in your mind but can’t translate into words? Second tip: Use a thesaurus if you have an idea of a word that is similar. Or get this, use a “reverse dictionary.” Google it. Click the first link. Should be OneLook. Seriously, just describe the concept and voila! You get a list of words that could possibly have the word you are looking for. Sometimes I use it as my thesaurus lol

What is this darn thing called writer’s block? Third tip: In The Writer’s Little Helper, the author, James V. Smith, Jr. says he believes it does not exist. That is is a “form of laziness” or “distraction.” He says that it’s a “lame excuse to not write.” I have to agree wholeheartedly. He has some great advice in this little helper book, and I am going to quote it.

I’ve learned two things about creative writing. First is that creativity doesn’t strike sparks in you like a bolt from the ionosphere. You can’t expect much from wandering around idyllic settings waiting for an inspiration.

The most effective aids to creativity continue to be a simple pen and a blank pad. You create sparks by striking one against the other. Write an idea down. develop that idea. Turn the idea inside out. That’s where creativity comes from.

The second thing I’ve learned is that writing does not occur by thinking about it. Writing only happens when you do it, so plant your butt in chair and get busy. Keep busy. After you create a million or so words, you will have established yourself as a serviceable writer simply from the experience. If you’ve worked hard at learning from your experiences along the way, you’ll probably be a creative writer. That’s how it works.

And by the time you’ve written those million words, you will have, like me, forgotten the condition of writer’s block even exists, except in the minds of dilettantes.

“My writing sucks…” Fourth tip: Um, that is so not true! If you are being doubtful of your writing, have someone read it, if they are in love with it, problem solved. “But I got negative comments on it…” That is OK! If you work on those problem areas more, this will help make your writing even better, right?

And if you really think it is sucktastic, I will forward you to Parametric’s post about this particular issue: Parametric’s University of Fantasy blog post!!! <— This is AH-MAZING.

“I am new at this… what do I do?” Fifth, sixth, and seventh tip. Know your market. Read books in your genre. And if it’s literary read that. Seriously, if you read and get to know your market, it helps you know what sorts of things are available to you to write about in your genre. I am a contemporary romance writer. So I read those sorts of books. It helps. A lot. Research the publishing process! I am not going to go into detail about the publishing process. Instead, I leave that up to you to explore. Check out books like Writer’s Market or sign up online here. There are also other books to check out at your local bookstore or research stuff online. There are so many resources out there for you!

Check out some self-help writing books. There are some great ones out there. The Writer’s Little Helper is my fave. Here is something I had posted on AW.

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier: How to Solve the Mysteries of Weak Writing by Bonnie Trenga. Haven’t sunk my teeth into this one yet but from the ToC we get passive voice, nominalizations, vague -ing words, weak verbs, misplaced modifiers, super long sentence, wordy writing and more!

The Writer’s Little Helper By James V. Smith Jr. PHENOMENAL book I love it so much. Talks about pretty much everything you want to know about writing. Characters, scenes, POV, flashbacks, dialogue, pacing, some publishing tidbits and lots more!!!

The First Five Pages By Noah Lukeman. This one is more for revising/editing, but it could still help you avoid the mistakes that most writers make. Adjectives and adverbs, showing vs. telling, viewpoint and narration, characterization, hooks, subtlety, tone, setting. Really great book too! (also written by an agent) There is also another book by him.. The Plot Thickens which I need to get my hands on… That one is more for the writing of a novel I think. Must google it later…

Keys to Great Writing by Stephen Wilbers. Haven’t sunk my teeth into this one yet either. But it talks about some things such as: economy, precision, action, music, personality, purpose, POV (but you’ve heard of that) organization, support, coherence, the writing process. If you want more info on some of those chapter titles, look into the book there’s a lot of nice info in those chapters.

Between the Lines by Jessica Page Morrell. Really goes in depth into some subtle elements of writing, backstory, cliffhangers, thrusters, epilogues, epiphanies, flashbacks, foreshadowing, imagery, pacing, prologues, sense of place, sensory surround, subplots, subtlety, suspense, tension, theme and premise, transitions.

All of these are really great. Then of course get your hands on a grammar and syntax book! I have a pocket book from Random House Webster’s that cost like 6 bucks.

Last WoW (no not World of Warcraft but Words of Wisdom): Think of writing as something fun, something you love to do, something you are passionate about instead of a means to make money off it. Without using your love to write to put forth your best attempt, no money for you I am afraid.

The writing process is a journey. Take the road less traveled.
Never give up! You can’t fail if you don’t give up!
No matter what, keep your dreams in sight.
And lastly . . . go forth and WRITE!

Okay, well these are all the tips and tricks up my sleeve! Hope you have enjoyed them!

~ Karla AKA KC

Fan fiction: Ultimate writing tool or Copyright violation?

July 12, 2009 at 10:33 AM | Posted in Uncategorized, Writing | 2 Comments

There is no doubt that most new writers these days are familiar with the world of fan fiction.  Fan fiction is writing stories using another Authors characters or worlds to create new stories or situations.  I myself began my writing career with a fan fiction and I know many other authors that maintain such a story when they want to experiment or practice writing or simply don’t want the pressure of creating and maintaining a characters personality or world.  Fan fiction is a world in which the writing does not have to be perfect and yet there are millions of people who will search tirelessly for stories creating couples or situations they wished actually happened.

So why is fan fiction such a tricky issue?  Well technically fan fiction is a violation of copyright.  I know the dreaded word that burns the eye and stares many a college student directly in the face from time to time.  I myself have been locked in the library at midnight cursing the laws that meant I had to reference this and that into wee hours of the night.  But as an author it protects out rights, so as restlessly as I say this, they have a point.

 Most authors turn a blind eye to these infringements providing no profit is made from the work.   As a precaution most fan fiction authors will provide a disclaimer showing that they acknowledge the fact that the characters (read setting, plot) are not their own.  This is generally the right way to go about fan fiction, but then there are others.

If there is one thing I must implore fan fiction writers to do, it is to not attempt to get their work published in any shape or form that would result in the work making money.  Just try searching Google and you will see the problems that can be encountered from trying such a thing.  Publishing it, especially if it’s going to make money is not only crossing the line but attacking it with a needle and saying screw you to the author.

But fan fiction is such a widely used phenomenon that there must be a saving grace to the whole exercise.  As an aspiring author I would be flattered that my characters could affect an audience in such a way that they would want to explore their world more.  Many authors turn the other cheek when it comes to fan fiction.  And many aspiring authors either start or have fan fiction that can be credited to their name.

To me fan fiction is the ultimate practice tool for getting into a character’s head.  If you are creating a newly found character it is often hard to figure out what they would do in any given situation.  Enter fan fiction stage right and you have Harry Potter or Bella Swan, characters completely fleshed out and ready for moulding.

But fan fiction is not just useful for practice.  It get’s authors out there without the confidence in their own stories and abilities and it opens up an instant fan base to these authors.  Everybody who wants to write should be able to share their passion with the world.  A fan fiction has the potential to garner thousands of followers if it is written well.  Unfortunately an original fiction published online has a much smaller chance at garnering so much attention if you compare similar mediums. 

I see Fan fiction as just another writing medium.  As long as you respect the fact that the characters or situations you write will never be yours, it is a useful and well used medium for which to practice and expand your writing talents.  But know that the purple prose and long billowing sentences that do not harm fan fiction will certainly hurt anything you plan on submitting.

It isn’t to say that it is a bad thing.  Some of my favourite fan fictions have awful grammar and page long descriptions about a dress colour or fabric.  Fan fiction is the ultimate realm for story tellers.  Forget all the writing mumbo jumbo and just get the story out there.

Fan fiction is no better or worse than original fiction, they are separate from each other in every way.  Remember to respect the wishes of the author you borrow your characters from and I see little harm in exploring their universes.

Writers beware: fan fiction can become so addictive that you find yourself reading pages and pages instead of writing your own.  I have many times stopped and thought “Well I didn’t get any writing done but I did read six hours worth of fan fiction.” 

~Alyce

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 ~ Jay Asher

February 25, 2010 at 1:10 PM | Posted in Authors, Interviews, teen fiction, Writing Advice, YA | 8 Comments

TWFT recently got a chance to interview Jay Asher, author of Thirteen Reasons Why. What a treat!

TWFT Summarize Thirteen Reasons Why in ten words or less.

Hannah committed suicide.  Clay listens to her recorded reasons why.

TWFT Who is your favorite character from Thirteen Reasons Why?

Tony.  When I wrote the scene where Clay “borrows” Tony’s Walkman, I didn’t have any plans for bringing Tony back later in the book.  But there was something about the guy which I immediately liked, and people who read that scene early on also liked him.  He turned out to be a very important character later in the book and I loved writing every scene he appears in.  I could probably write a whole book about him!

TWFT When did you first start writing?

I’ve enjoyed writing ever since I learned how to spell.  Regarding writing as a career, I wanted to write and illustrate my own comic strip for years.  If I could draw better, that would still be my fantasy job.  It wasn’t until my first year in college that I began writing children’s book in the hopes of one day getting published.  For about the next nine years, I only wrote funny books for younger children.  Thirteen Reasons Why was the first serious novel I attempted, and also the first book I wrote for teens.

TWFT Thirteen Reasons Why is quite a sad (but totally amazing) novel. Are any of the events that take place based on real life situations that you have experienced?

The scene in the Peer Communications class with the paperbags happened in my high school Peer Communications class almost exactly as it appears in the book.  We never found out who wrote that note, but obviously the class reaction left a big impact on me.  And when Clay first meets Hannah at the party, when he tries to tie his shoelace but his fingers are too cold, that happened to me at a party when I was introduced to the first girl I ever went on a date with.

TWFT Tell us about your querying process and road to publication.

From the time I first began submitting manuscripts to publishers back in 1994 to when Thirteen Reasons Why sold, twelve years had passed.  So this can definitely be a game of perseverance, as well as being willing to try different styles until you find your natural voice.  When my agent sent out this manuscript, it got rejected many times before it sold.

TWFT Thirteen Reasons Why is a very serious novel. Is there a message in the novel that you want readers to grasp?

As Hannah says, you never know what’s going on in anyone’s life but your own.  Someone who looks like they have it all together may actually be going through quite a lot.  And everyone handles life’s pressures differently.  While Hannah herself is not without fault, it still all comes down to the Golden Rule.  So that’s the main thing I was trying to say.  Always treat people with respect because you never know what else they’re dealing with.  As well, I want people who are hurting to realize how important it is for them to honestly reach out for help.

TWFT What was your inspiration for Thirteen Reasons Why?

I had a close relative attempt suicide when she was the same age as Hannah.  Through talking with her over the years, I began to understand how someone could get to that place where they completely lose hope of things getting better.  Around that same time, I took an audiotour and immediately thought that dual-narrative structure could be very powerful if paired with the right story.  It wasn’t until nine years later that the issue of suicide matched up with the structure.

TWFT Can you describe yourself as a teen in high school?

I was normally shy.  But when I got comfortable around certain groups of people, then I could be very outgoing.  I worked on the newspaper staff, but I was horrible and got out as soon as I could.  I played in a bunch of garage bands, playing guitar and singing, and I thought I was much better than I actually was.  I only really dated one girl in high school, and that relationship lasted two years.  I didn’t hate my teen years in any way, but I still wouldn’t want to redo them.  Those years were rather…blah.

TWFT If you could have dinner with one author, alive or dead, who would it be?

Stephen King.  Without a doubt.  And since he’s alive, there’s always a chance!

TWFT Do you have any tips for aspiring young writers?

Join a critique group where everyone gives each other honest suggestions for improvements as well as points out everyone’s strengths.  If you can find a group of writers like that, your writing will improve tremendously.

TWFT Are you currently working on another novel?

Yep.  Several!

TWFT Lastly, a TWFT tradition, what is your favorite flavor of jellybean?

Buttered popcorn.  It’s not that I can eat a ton of them…but they’re so fun to share!

Thanks for your time Jay! The last one made me crack up…

Andrew

Interview with Literary Agent Natalie Fischer

January 18, 2010 at 1:31 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments

Today we are happy to have the fantastic Natalie Fischer of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency with us to answer a few questions! Enjoy the interview, guys.

TWFT: What factors played into your decision to be a literary agent? Had it always been an interest of yours?

NF: I’d originally set out to be a writer! I started writing middle grade novels when I was eleven, bought Jeff Herman’s Writer’s Guide to Book Editors, Publishers, and Literary Agents, and started sending off (horrible) queries. By the time I was fourteen, I had my first contract with a Literary Agency(which didn’t pan out, but was great experience!), and had decided that there was no other world for me than the publishing one. So, if I couldn’t write…I would sell!

Starting so young, and receiving so many rejections of my own, has given me such wonderful insight to the entire process writers go through. When I see a submission, I see it not just through my eyes, but through the writer’s as well. Because of this, I will always hold a soft spot for new authors, and will always want to be as helpful as possible no matter what my final decision may be!

TWFT:  How important is a perfect query in the publishing industry? How often do you personally read “perfect” queries?

NF: I don’t think this “perfect query” exists. There are certainly better ways to write one (our Facebook site gives a solid template), but no matter how well it is written, if the agent reading isn’t looking for something in that genre, it’ll be a pass. The reverse is also true; I’ve requested manuscripts from some horribly butchered queries if I saw promise in them.

I’d say I get a good query every 60 submissions. But I’ve requested up to fifteen from those 60. In short, the perfect query isn’t the most important part; doing your homework on agents (finding which are really a perfect fit), and having good writing and a solid story are. (Our agency requests the first 50 pages for this very reason. If we see even one line we like in a query, we’ll see if the writing hooks us.)

TWFT:  There is a debate about mentioning one’s age in a query. Do you prefer to see the age of prospective clients in a query letter, especially if they are teenagers?

NF: Absolutely. This is a personal preference, however; as I mentioned above, I started querying on my own at such a young age, that whenever I see a teenager writing me, it makes me WANT to love their work!

Interesting to know your opinion!

TWFT:   Do you look for anything specific in projects you may choose to represent?

NF: I look for what I’m interested in (I’m very specific in my bio on AW!). But past that, it’s really if the story “clicks” with me, which is impossible to predict. Romantic, historic, and more fantastical projects do have a tendency to “click” with me the most…

TWFT: Why would you choose a young adult project? What attraction do you have for teen fiction?

NF: I love to read it. I find it largely underestimated by many adults, which is a shame, because the young adult genre is just as dynamic and engaging as the adult. YA books have the potential to inspire, haunt, and influence more than any book I’ve read as an adult, and I love this aspect. I want to help bring the current generation the books they’ll remember so lovingly later in life.

Also, the people in the Children’s Lit side of publishing are just so friendly…

TWFT: What would you tell a teenager who asked you for advice on how to break into the industry?

NF: It would depend if the teenager wanted to write or go into publishing.

For writing, I would tell them to read as much as they can in their writing genre, read all the tips they can get their hands on on grammar, style, and how to format submissions, and get as much feedback from RELIABLE readers as possible — moms just don’t count – and NEVER GIVE UP. No matter how many rejections pour in, keep writing books, keep perfecting your style and talent, and you WILL succeed.

For publishing, the best way to break in is to intern. Start with editing a school (or college) newspaper or magazine, then see if there are any literary agencies or small presses in your area that would be willing to have an intern around. Most publishing internships are unpaid, but this is definitely not a get-rich-quick kind of business. It takes years to build the kind of connections and knowledge you’ll need, so start where you can!

Great advice! Listen to her, guys!

TWFT: Are there any authors not represented by your agency that you wish you could work with?

NF: None come to mind. There are many, many authors I love (far too many to even try to list), but the first thing that really comes to mind for this question is: new, talented authors incredibly open to suggestion and willing to keep working with me, no matter how long it takes…

TWFT: On your AbsoluteWrite profile, you say that “most people don’t know” you are a writer yourself. Did you ever have thoughts of writing a novel of your own?

NF: I think I answered this one above…yes! But I’m so incredibly dedicated to my clients, I just don’t see how I would find the time…I suppose I satisfy my writing urges by being so involved with the projects I take on.

Can’t argue with that, but let us just say the industry is missing a fantastic addition.

And TWFT’s official interview question: What is your favorite jelly bean flavor?

NF: Oh man…can I have two? Tutti Fruti and Bubble Gum. And Rootbeer. And Cinnamon. And yes, Black Licorice.

Excellent choices!

Thanks a bunch for the interview, Natalie!

Race/Karla

A Message from Monica Gellar

January 15, 2010 at 7:05 PM | Posted in Life, Writing, Writing Advice | 5 Comments

Who is this lady that is not you? you all may ask. That is Monica Geller. And she has a message for all you college writers that are returning to school. She knows that you have your time cut out for you. You’re probably taking four (or five, if you’re really insane) classes. You might have a job that sucks ten hours out of your week. If you’re really cool, you probably have to go to the gym at least once a week. Then there’s friends (please, tell us who invented them?). And papers. And studying. And of course, your highest priority, the writing.

But how do you plan on balancing such a hectic lifestyle. How will you do all of that, sleep, eat and keep a tight grip (or loose, your choice, really) on your sanity.

Monica Geller is here to solve your problems with a simple suggestion. PLAN. Preferably with a color coded schedule that works in bathroom breaks, snack breaks and eating times (sleep is flexible). Because if you do not plan, at least a little, you will never have time to do anything of value or merit. Your life will be one huge mess after another  and you will never get anywhere.

So Monica Geller implores you to planSchedule. Have a vague idea of what your day is going to be like. Or all is lost. Really.

Posted by Sumayyah (Cross posted to The Raven Desk)

Interview with Kaleb Nation

September 9, 2009 at 9:59 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

I recently got to interview Kaleb Nation, author if the upcoming BRAN HAMBRIC: THE FARFIELD CURSE, which debuts on 9/9/09. Yes, very squeal-worthy. 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/animlagurl55

Interview with Dawn Metcalf

September 6, 2009 at 1:40 PM | Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

I’m so excited to post my interview with the hilarious and hardcore (seriously – did you SEE that picture?) Dawn Metcalf, a Tenner whose novel SKIN & BONES is coming out fall of next year. She’s here to talk about the publishing process, karate, and Jack Bauer (aka Batman).

karate-Dawn[1]

KB: Describe your upcoming novel in 20 words or less.

DM: Consuela Bones discovers that she can make skins of out anything to save people from dying before their time.

(TWFT note ~ Here’s the full synopsis for SKIN & BONES: When sixteen-year old Consuela Bones discovers that she can remove her skin, revealing a lustrous mother-of-pearl skeleton, she slips into a parallel world known as the Flow; a place inhabited by archetypical teens with extraordinary abilities. Crafting skins out of anything – air, water, feathers, fire – she is compelled to save ordinary people from dying before their time. Yet now someone is murdering her new friends, one by one, and Consuela finds herself the focus of an intricate plot to end the Flow forever when all she really wants is to get back home, alive.)

KB: Can I just say I really love that concept? So unique! Where did you get the idea for Skin & Bones?

DM: My brain. It’s like an attic with all sorts of bizarre trivia and bits of memory packed up in storage until one day, one thing accidentally bumps against another and the boxes topple over, spilling stuff all over the floor and new connections/combinations are made like the old Reese’s peanut butter cup commercial: Hey! You got your chocolate on my peanut butter! You got your peanut butter on my chocolate! Wait a second…Mmmm!

Or something like that.

I’m also a geek so it’s not uncommon for me to talk with friends about online games, folklore, politics, comic books, and body image…who knew that they’d all fit together? This particular inspiration came from a discussion about how Jack Bauer is the “Batman” of our generation crossed with rants about superheroines in skimpy costumes and a little leftover recollection of José Guadalupe Posada’s La Catrina from some anthropology textbook. I joked that I’d like to see anyone sex-up a girl skeleton! The idea stuck. Somewhere between Joss Whedon, Octavio Paz, and Quantum Leap, Consuela Bones was born.

KB: Wow, anthropology? Stories just seem to be waiting everywhere. :) Do you listen to music when you write?

DM: Nope. Oddly enough, I need compete silence when I write…which is pretty rare in my house! I do most of my writing from 9pm-midnight.

KB: Haha, me too, actually… So much for eight hours of sleep. So what made you first want to publish a novel? 

DM: I’ve wanted to be a published author my entire life. I wrote my first full-length novel at age 11 (365 pages, just like the year it took to write it!) and wrote roughly a book a year after that until college. But it wasn’t until many years later when my husband sat me down at the computer and asked what it would take to have me join SCBWI* that I started taking the idea seriously. From that day until I got my offer was roughly 15 months. All I could think was, “I should’ve done this sooner!”

* Society for Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators

KB: What has been your favorite part of the writing/publishing process so far?

DM: Getting the offer! I met my editor at a SCBWI Writer’s Intensive where participants get to share 500 words from a manuscript with eight peers and one professional, either an agent or an editor. What we are all hoping for is to get great feedback. Of course, what we’re really hoping for is to get great feedback from that professional. And what we are really, really hoping for is to have that professional ask us to send them our manuscript! Well, that’s what happened…sort of. She passed on that manuscript seven months later. In fact, over the course of the next year, she passed on all three of my complete manuscripts before she got me on the phone and asked me what I wanted to be known for? I told her that I was working on a novel about a modern superheroine based on Mexican folklore. She asked to see what I had. Two weeks later, I got my offer off of those four rough chapters and a bunch of notes.

Moral of the story: Make yourself available & stay in the game!

KB: Wow, what a great story! What made you choose your agent?

DM: I got my offer without an agent, but I still wanted someone to be my business partner, helping me manage my writing career. My first agent was a lovely person, but after a year it was clear that we had different communication styles and visions. My editor recommended Michael Bourret, since she was familiar with my work and future goals, she thought it would be a good match; I have to thank her for changing my life twice! Michael is fun and funny with a great head for business and an eye for the Big Picture. Talking to him, I was nodding and saying “Exactly!” a lot.

 KB: That’s always a good sign! So what kind of revisions have you had to make on Skin & Bones? Were they hard to deal with, or did you enjoy it?

 DM: The first six major revisions with my critique groups and partners were great: I love having things ripped and torn and hacked to bits – call it my inner vampire slayer – but having gotten critiques from the person willing to PAY for it was a new thing entirely. I’d liken the process to depilitating your own armpits with an Epilady on ‘High’ – the very idea is cringe-worthy and it’s hard to believe that I’m doing this to myself, but I can already tell that my editor is a genius and that this will be a better book. I will get through it and I know the results will be worth the pain. …Of course, I have a black belt in karate so I’m used to pain.

KB: Ooookay… *makes mental note* “Do not make Dawn angry…” Ahem. Anyway – did you write as a teenager?

DM: Yes! Remember: geek + ambition. I wrote all the time: poetry, short stories, novels, plays. I loved the theater but was very bad at delivering lines, which is why I loved improvisational theater, Comedy Sports, Renaissance Faires, interactive gaming and Live Action Role Playing – give me a character and a motivation and I can make up my own lines!

I wrote seven full-length novels before I went off to college. Nothing published. Then, after graduate school, I wrote two more adult novels, two middle-grade novels, two more young adult novels, and an embarrassing number of picture books. (Later in life I learned that the odds of getting published increased significantly if you actually send something in! Who knew?) I’ve been previously published in magazines, gaming manuals, and educational curricula, but this will be my first ever novel that is Mine All Mine!

 KB: SEVEN full-length novels? Wow! What advice would you give to aspiring authors?

 DM: Read, Read, Read & Write, Write, Write. Good writers are voracious readers – I have 3-4 books on my bedside table each week – and always make time for writing. Don’t stop! Lots of people think about/plan to/want to write; the difference is that writers write.

 Once you complete something (Congratulations! Woo-hoo!), the next important things to do are find critique groups (one of my rules of thumb is that no manuscript goes out until at least 5 people who are not related to me by blood or friendship have hacked it to bits), join a writing organization or community (like SCBWI, RWA or Verla Kay’s Blueboards), and research a lot. My bookmark bar is a long list of info sites, community boards, agent and editor blogs, book bloggers, publishing advice and market news. I click from left to right each morning like I’m reading the morning paper. Then I check my email, website, Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads, etc. and update my blog. Then – now here’s the important part – I log-off and concentrate on writing (or marketing, depending on the day’s plan). Unfortunately, research, updating and web-surfing do not count as actual “writing” and deadlines are based on words written down. So, as Jane Yolen says: Butt In Chair! And, as Hank & John Green say: Don’t Forget To Be Awesome!

 KB: Fabulous advice! (Nerdfighters FTW! :D) And now, the million-dollar question…What is your favorite flavor of jelly bean?

 DM: Very Cherry. It’s a classic.

~

Dawn Metcalf has no good excuse for the way she writes. She lived in a normal, loving, suburban home, studied hard, went to college, went to graduate school, got married, had babies, and settled down in northern Connecticut. Despite this wholesome lifestyle, she has been clearly corrupted by fairy tales, puppet visionaries, British humour and graphic novels. As a result, she writes dark, quirky, and sometimes humorous speculative fiction.

~Kristin

If You Can’t Type Anything Nice, Don’t Type Anything At All

August 30, 2009 at 12:40 AM | Posted in Agents, Publishing, Uncategorized, Writing, Writing Advice | 9 Comments

Aw, yes.  You thought you outgrew the Golden Rule when you hit puberty, but alas, it shall continue to haunt you.  I promise.

But let us not focus on what you “say” so much as what you “type.”  Not  in your manuscript.  This is a little more professional.  A little more “if you want to get published” driven.  A little more frightening, if you want the truth.

Answer honestly.

Have you every REALLY thought about what you write on the internet?

No, no.  I’m not here to give you the parental “child molester” speech, though that is certainly something to consider, I promise.  Instead, I want you to think in a business-like way.  Have you posted anything stupid, mean, compromising, or embarrassing online?  Don’t lie.  You have.  We all have.   It happens.  But I’m here to tell you why it is best to watch carefully what you say.

Let’s look at this from the “you want to get published” perspective, shall we?

We’re teens.  We’re vibrant and lively.  Most every author on this blog writes in a thread on AW.  Its casual.  Its fun.  But if you aren’t careful, it can get potentially dangerous.  People can often forget they are in a public forum rather than a chatroom.  People say things and talk about things that, in truth, aren’t a good idea to advertise to the rest of the world.

Let me just tel you, from experience, that agents and editors DO google you.

My agent found me on AW.  My agent follows my blog.  My agent is probably reading this post RIGHT NOW!  And I’m fine with that.  Lucky for me, I haven’t said anything TOO ridiculous online, but I’ll admit that even I’ve forgotten that my posts were insanely public.

Here’s a few things NOT to do on a public forum:

1. Complain about query rejections from specific agents.   Other agents might see this and look down on your insulting of a fellow agent.  And it just isn’t tactful.

2. Post negative book reviews on your blog.  If you hate the book, don’t talk about it.  You might wind up with the same agent/editor/publishing house as that author, and wouldn’t that be upsetting?  Or worse, you might MEET the author you trashed.  Karma is a bitch, remember?

3. Just don’t be unprofessional.  Post casual things, sure, but don’t talk about getting drunk or doing crazy things that potential colleges/agents/employers might frown on.  This applies for things other than writing, obviously.

I’m not saying write intensely perfect and/or grammatically correct posts on forums like AW.  I’m all for freedom of speech!  But be mindful.  Anytime you post, think of an agent you are querying or may query soon.  Would they frown on you if they read that post?  Is it mean?  Would it hurt the feelings of someone you may become connected with?

All just a bit of advice.  Like I said, agents are googling their authors.  A lot of them.  What will they find out about you?

Scary, right?

~Kody

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