Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Twitter Chat Tomorrow (and other cool things!)

I'm excited to announce that tomorrow night, (Thursday, December 13th) I will be participating in a twitter chat hosted by the Mundie Moms and featuring some awesome YA authors!

Here are the details:


If you haven't noticed, there's a theme going on here. Most of us are from Michigan.

When: Thursday, December 13th at 9 PM EST - (It will last about an hour.)

What: Twitter chat - We will discuss our work, answer writing questions, giveaway stuff, and generally have fun!

Where: Under the hashtag #MundieChat

Which brings me to that other cool thing I mentioned. It appears that DEFY THE DARK has a release date - JUNE 18, 2013 - and IS AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER!! *dies* And my name is even on the listing! I'm going to be in a real live book! With a hardcover and everything!

You can pre-order it right now, in both hardcover and paperback, from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and The Book Depository!

So, how are these two things connected? Well, I'll be giving away two hardcover copies of DEFY THE DARK during the chat - one which I will ship internationally. And I will even sign them, you know, if you want. So, be sure to come join in the fun tomorrow! (Learn more about DEFY THE DARK at

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


It's that time again. I've decided to give it another shot. I haven't tried NaNoWriMo in earnest since 2009. Who's with me? Add me if you want, I'm valeriekwrites over there. I'll be updating my progress here, probably on a weekly basis.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


Today I am SO excited to share that my Crit Partner Kristi Helvig SOLD HER BOOK!!!

Read all the details on her blog and congratulate her!

BURN OUT is AWESOME and unlike anything out there right now. It's been so fun seeing this book come together. I can't wait for you all to read it!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Friday Five Summer Reads

What is this? Two posts in one week?? How can this be? I've been on a bit of a reading kick lately so I thought I'd share since it's been SO long that I've read voraciously.

Right now I'm into summer books. Every winter I crave summer stories, you know those books that take place on summer vacation and are filled with summer romance and summer angst and um, summer. And then I end up buying some, and don't read them. So I decided that for once, I'm going to enjoy some summer books in the summer! This is what I've read so far.

Jenny Han's Summer Trilogy

Such A Rush by Jennifer Echols - My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick - Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

Up next are:

Moonglass by Jessi Kirby & Invincible Summer by Hannah Moskowitz

What are some of your favorite summer reads? I'm always on the lookout for more!

Monday, August 13, 2012

How To Win The DEFY THE DARK Short Story Contest

I've gotten quite a few hits lately from the search term "how to win the DEFY THE DARK contest" (which honestly I found quite surprising) so I figured I'd do my best to offer some tips. And they are TIPS only, I don't have the inside scoop on anything, and I'm not a judge.

First of all, let me direct you to some great posts that Saundra Mitchell has done on just this subject.

She's got some really great advice, including actual screenshots of some of the stories in the book (think Tessa Gratton, Beth Revis, Jon Skovron and Christine Johnson) with their edit notes and final revisions!

That said, I've spent some time looking through the entries thus far, and had a few thoughts. So here they are.

1. TAKE YOUR TIME. You've still got over two weeks to enter. There's no bonus for getting your story up early. The prize is MAJOR, so, write your story, let it rest for a few days and then look at it again. Revise it. Send it to a crit partner or friend. Get their notes. Revise it again, and THEN post it.

2. BE CREATIVE. This is not meant to bash any story that has already been posted, but in reading the entries I have found many to be remarkably similar - in tone, in subject, or in plot. Yes, the instructions say to write a story that takes place at night or in the dark but that doesn't mean the story itself has to be dark and/or bleak and/or depressing. (Three things that I love in a story, btw. And three things that, surprisingly, are not in my story.) Sure monster attacks and the end of the world might happen in the dark, but so might a stolen kiss, a bonfire party, or, I don't know, a case of mistaken identity!

3. HAVE A BEGINNING, MIDDLE, AND END. This is not really a hard and fast rule for short stories in general, but in this case, DEFY THE DARK is a book of complete stories. I don't mean that every thread in your story has to be wrapped up tight with a bow at the end. It's more a caution against stories that are really one long descriptive scene, or a vignette that feels like it's the middle of something bigger. For me, a great short story resolves (or mostly resolves) the main issue in the plot and ends with the reader having a sense of what comes next. But that's me.

4. SPELL CHECK DOES NOT EQUAL EDITING. I cannot stress this enough. Running spell check does not fix grammatical errors, missing words, tense issues, homonym/homophone mistakes, or confusing sentences. This is where a crit partner, and a patient eye come in. While I doubt one or two issues will keep you from winning, this story is out there for the world to see. People will assume you are showing them your best work, so why not make sure that it actually is?

5. READ THE RULES. And then follow them, obviously. I've seen quite a few interesting stories that were only 1300 words long. The contest rules state that entries must be between 2000 and 4000 words. (Also, this contest is for YA - Young Adult - stories. I've seen a few featuring adult main characters, which I find bewildering.) Don't shut yourself out before the judging even gets started!

And... that's it. Really! Take your time, and try to think up something that's truly original, and truly you - NOT what you think should be in the book. Or what you think will win the contest. This is not the time to be calculating. Saundra has made it clear that any genre will do as long as it fits the guidelines. What will win the contest is the best, most original story, told by someone who truly loves telling it. And if you're working with a formula, chances are you're not having fun writing.

If you're curious about the tone of the book, which truly does span all genres, and all uses of "dark", check out the DEFY THE DARK website where you can read the opening paragraphs of every story in the book. (Click on each author's photo and it will take you to their bio page which also features the opening snippet of their story. Mine is here.)

I hope this post was helpful. I can't wait to see what you all come up with! Good luck!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

DEFY THE DARK Contest - Get Published!

So, remember a few months ago when I said there was a chance for YOU to be published in the upcoming HarperTeen anthology along with me and a bunch of amazing YA authors? Well, the contest has gone live!

Head over to to enter and for all the official details, but here are the basics.

  • You have until September 1st, 2012 to write and upload a 2000-4000 word short story to Figment.
  • The story should take place at night or in the dark. BE CREATIVE with this! It doesn't have to be dark and scary. A girl sneaking out at night to meet her secret crush fits just as well as those creepy things that go bump in the night.
  • The winner will get paid and have their story published in DEFY THE DARK!
  • Two second place winners will also win cash prizes from HarperCollins and have their stories published on the Defy The Dark website.

Here are the authors appearing in DEFY THE DARK:

  • Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Tessa Gratton
  • Rachel Hawkins
  • Christine Johnson
  • Malinda Lo
  • Myra McEntire
  • Saundra Mitchell
  • Sarah Ockler
  • Jackson Pearce
  • Aprilynne Pike
  • Dia Reeves
  • Beth Revis
  • Carrie Ryan
  • Jon Skovron
  • Courtney Summers
  • Me(!)
  • ... and YOU?

So what are you waiting for? START WRITING!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

DEFY THE DARK Cover Reveal!!!

Today I'm allowed to share the cover for the HarperTeen anthology I'm a part of. So without further ado, here is the cover for DEFY THE DARK coming next summer, 2013!

Isn't it GORGEOUS? And my story, STILLWATER, totally fits with it!

This whole being in a book thing is starting to feel more real. It's kind of blowing my mind.

Anyway, I know I've been pretty absent this summer, but it's only because I've been writing! I'm going to try to get back in the swing of things after the Olympics.

For those of you waiting to hear about the DEFY THE DARK contest where YOUR short story can appear in the book, keep checking Figment. The details are coming VERY soon! If you haven't signed up to be notified when the contest goes live, you can DO THAT HERE.

Learn more about DEFY THE DARK at the website: DEFYTHEDARK.COM.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Everybody's Got One

A secret that is. Everyone’s got a secret. What were you thinking?

One of my favorite filmmaking tips is as the director, to give each actor a secret about their character. One they can’t share with anyone, but will inform everything they do in every scene.

Secrets can add depth and subtext to a scene that might otherwise be merely functional, or ordinary. For (a poor) example: A character who is hiding a fear of heights, might try to convince his crush not to hike up to a popular make out spot on a cliff despite wanting desperately to make out with her.

While it works really well in film where we can both see an actor’s face, and hear their change in tone when responding to an innocuous request, I think it can also work well in a novel.

You probably already know your main characters darkest secrets, and maybe even some of their love interest’s or antagonist’s, but what about everyone else? This ties in with my previous post “Why Are You Here?” about every character having a reason to be where they are in every scene.

In this case, having a secret can help give conversations between characters more depth and realism. If you know a character’s secret, it will color everything they do and say. It will make the world feel more real, because the people in it are real. It might even change your main character’s or the reader’s opinion of the character, and that can be used to your advantage when working on stories with mysteries. (And I believe every story should have a mystery, even if it’s not a mystery story, but that’s a whole ‘nother post!)

I would bet that if you’ve gotten pretty far into writing the book, that most of your characters already have a secret, you just haven’t picked up on it because you’ve been too busy forwarding the story. If you’re just starting your book, or you haven’t seen your characters dropping any hints, try giving them one and see if it perks up one of your lackluster scenes, or changes the way your characters view each other. You might just make a discovery or two!

What about you, do you give your characters secrets? What are some of the ways you add subtext and depth?

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

A Very Good Day!

Today I am SO THRILLED to say that my crit partner, Natalie C Parker SOLD HER BOOK!

Read all the details of her two-book deal on her blog and congratulate her.

I can't tell you how excited I am for people to read BEWARE THE WILD. It's not like anything out there right now -- a little Southern Gothic, a little Paranormal, a LOT of awesome.

As a crit partner, there's nothing more amazing than watching someone work their butt off to make a great story an amazing story and then have other people believe in it as much as you do. I'm so proud to be Natalie's CP. I can't wait for BEWARE THE WILD to be unleashed on the world!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Why Are You Here?

Wired has a great interview with Joss Whedon. It's very long, but a great read if you're a fan of his, or interested in his thoughts on writing, characters, and plot. Here's the part that I want to talk about though, it's about characters and their motivations:

"...everybody is here for a reason and they deserve, while they’re on film, or on the page, for people to know what it is, even if we don’t like it."

Reading this made me feel good because it's something I've always tried to do with both my characters and my plot. I think it's important that in any scene you write, you should be able to turn to each character there and ask "Why are you here?" and they should have an answer. Whether the reason is personal, "I'm here because I love him." or practical, "This is my English class, I have to be here." they should be there for some reason that has to do with THEM, and not your plot.

If I ask and my character answers, "I'm here because you need me to overhear this argument so that later I can use that info to solve the mystery." then, in my opinion, I've failed to make him three-dimensional. He's merely a plot device in the shape of a person.

Every character, whether they're the main character or one who pops in for one scene, should have a full life, regardless of how much we see of it. When people appear only to prove a point, or drop a clue, or to tell us something about the main character, the whole world of your story feels a little less real.

Achieving this can be tricky. You don't want a minor character to walk into a scene and say, "I'm here because this is my English class, where I'm supposed to be, and I just noticed that your hair looks different." Subtlety is key. This is one of those things where the reason doesn't always have to be spelled out on the page, but YOU need to know it. When you know why a character is there, it shows in your writing, and scenes feel more real.

When it comes to plot points, I always check that all the characters involved are there for a reason, and not because I NEED them to be there in order for the story to move forward. Without that reason -- personal or practical, things can feel "too convenient" or false. You want those moments to feel inevitable, where your readers can almost see it coming, as they weave all the pieces together, and they think, oh no!, at the same time that they think, of course they would all end up in this place just as the bomb goes off, it couldn't be any other way.

Because that's the moment that really connects with the reader. That's where the emotional connection to the story comes in. When they can look back at everything each character has done, and know that this is exactly the way it has to be, because they understand why each character has done what they've done so far, and why they're there at that moment. Without that it's just another thing moving the plot along.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Music Monday - Youth by Daughter

This is the song I can't stop listening to today. It's on the top of my current WIP's playlist. I just love the way it manages to be both melancholy and angry at the same time. Much like my MC.

Youth by Daughter

What are you listening to this Monday?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Writing Structure

Ha! You thought this post was going to be about plotting or outlining or something else story-structure related. But it is not. Today I'm talking about structuring your writing... life.

One of the most surprising discoveries I had about living my dream of working from home is that it is very difficult for me to actually... work.

Despite having a home office and plenty of time to dedicate to writing, I tend to find myself doing all sorts of other things when I should in fact be writing. It's strange really. I love to write. And it's not really that hard for me to hammer out 1k a day, and yet... frequently I find myself turning on the laptop and then... sorting clothes for a load of laundry, organizing my bookshelf, running to the store, reading the news, all with the thought in the back of my mind that I have ALL DAY to get my writing done, but these other things really should be done NOW.

Right. I am definitely one of those people who, the busier I am, the more I get done. If I can only squeeze in 30 minutes of writing in a day, I will write during that time. I work best with deadlines or when someone is waiting for something from me. I like having a list of things to do (okay, I like lists in general, if I'm being honest) but when the things I need to do are only for myself, I tend to falter. And then my dream life becomes, not quite a nightmare, but like one of those dreams where all you have to do is walk down the hall to the next room, but the hall keeps getting longer and you just keep walking and walking, but not reaching that room.

So. I'm going to try coming up with a strict schedule for myself. Something that has a lot on it, and a little time for writing. (I'm also going to finally start using Mac Freedom. I think.) I'm interested in knowing how those of you that have more "free" time available to write manage to actually write and not do something else. What are your tricks to staying focused?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Friday Favorite: Live In The Along

It's Friday and I thought I'd post something that's a favorite of mine. This is a poem I have loved ever since I saw it on a bus poster over ten years ago. It's stuck with me all this time. I hope you love it too.

Speech to the Young : Speech to the Progress-Toward
by Gwendolyn Brooks

Say to them,
say to the down-keepers,
the sun-slappers,
the self-soilers,
the harmony-hushers,
"Even if you are not ready for day it cannot always be night."
You will be right.
For that is the hard home-run.

Live not for battles won.
Live not for the-end-of-the-song.
Live in the along.

I find myself thinking of the line "Even if you are not ready for day, it cannot always be night" whenver I need a little courage.

Have a happy and SAFE St. Patrick's Day weekend!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

How Do YOU Count?

Recently I was talking to a fairly prolific writer friend and commented that while she had written two books and edited a third last year, I had only managed on 7k word short. She was horrified. She went on to say how many thousands of words she'd written and deleted in that time and estimated that just those alone would be another full-length novel. And that was when I realized that I count much differently than most writers.

I only count what I consider "finished" and "successful". And so while I revised my first book twice, throwing out the bulk of it and rewriting from scratch, and while I made several starts on my next book, and another 15k or so of figuring out my anthology short, filled a 100 page notebook with detailed plot and character info, not to mention all my Tangled Fiction stories, I only had one thing make it to its intended destination. My 7k anthology short, STILLWATER.

It honestly never occurred to me to consider all the things I wrote that have not yet become something as something I wrote, LOL. But now I'm starting to wonder if I'm not giving myself enough credit. I suppose if I were to put it all together, I actually did write over 100k in 2011. I just never thought of it that way. Maybe I should, since each word I write, makes me a better writer. And looking at it the way I have been makes me feel more like an underachiever.

So I ask you, how do you count? And does it matter to you how much writing you've done? No matter where it goes? (Or doesn't go?) I'm really curious!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

DEFY THE DARK News! Get Published!

Back in January I announced that I was going to be published(!) alongside some of my MOST FAVORITE authors in the HarperTeen anthology DEFY THE DARK, edited by Saundra Mitchell but I couldn't tell you who they all were. Well today I can spill the beans. And what's more, I can also share with you the exciting contest that could make YOU the eighteenth author!

So, first things first, here are the authors appearing in DEFY THE DARK:

  • Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Tessa Gratton
  • Rachel Hawkins
  • Christine Johnson
  • Valerie Kemp (eee!)
  • Malinda Lo
  • Myra McEntire
  • Saundra Mitchell
  • Sarah Ockler
  • Jackson Pearce
  • Aprilynne Pike
  • Dia Reeves
  • Beth Revis
  • Carrie Ryan
  • Jon Skovron
  • Courtney Summers

So you see why my head basically exploded when I found out.

BUT that's not even the best part, because HarperTeen and Figment have teamed up to hold a contest to find one more story for the anthology. That's right. YOU could have YOUR STORY published alongside those AWESOME WRITERS! The details aren't all out yet on just how the contest will work, but you can sign up here at Figment to be notified the moment they're released.

You can also learn more about the DEFY THE DARK, the writers, and see sneak peeks of their stories at the newly launched DEFY THE DARK website. The sneak peek at my story, STILLWATER is here, you know, if you're interested.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sh*t Writers Say - The Retreat Version

Always wondered what happens when eleven YA writers hole up on a mountain with no internet? They make videos. About writers. And the things they say (and sometimes the things they wish they could say!)

I said there'd be video of our escapades in Asheville, and here it is. Shot and edited by the fabulous Jackson Pearce. (You should check out all her videos. Just sayin'.)

Featuring - in order of first (spoken) appearance:
Brenna Yovanoff
Victoria Schwab
Saundra Mitchell
Natalie C Parker
Jackson Pearce
Beth Revis
Sonia Gensler
Tessa Gratton
Myra McEntire
Carrie Ryan
Megan Shepherd

Monday, March 5, 2012

Revitalized! (A Retreat in Photos)

So I'm back from a glorious, internet-free writer's retreat. I spent last week in the mountains of North Carolina with some of my very favorite people. I know I've said it before, but it bears repeating: There is nothing better for a writer than spending time with other writers. Seriously.

Aside from the sheer relaxation of being away from home and normal responsibilities, I left this year's retreat inspired and motivated. I would say there was as much writing talk (both business and mechanics) as there was silliness, and that makes for an awesome time.

I got to (finally!) work out the starting place and emotional core of my novel, and have dance-offs with my Dance-Partner-for-Life, Myra McEntire. I got to learn how other writers push through the doubt and keep writing, and hike up a gorgeous mountain (and um, nearly die because apparently, I'm that out of shape.) I got to totally make a fool of myself by getting tongue-tied when the even-more-awesome-in-person Stephanie Perkins stopped by with 2013 debut author Megan Shepherd.

I highly recommend finding yourself a crit partner like my very own Natalie C Parker who finds planning epic retreats relaxing. (No, you can't have her.)

I'm sure it won't be long before you see some video evidence of our escapades, but until then, here's a little photo story of the week that was.

The food.

The turret.

The turret view.

Hanging out. (Photo totally stolen from Sonia Gensler.)

The strange brew.

The signing at Malaprops. (From left: Beth Revis, Carrie Ryan, Jackson Pearce, Myra McEntire, Saundra Mitchell, Sonia Gensler, Brenna Yovanoff, Tessa Gratton, Victoria Schwab)

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Commas Can Ruin Your Love Life (and other facts)

So thanks to Jackson Pearce I am now officially on the "Call Me Maybe" bandwagon. (See the video below.) Which means one of my dirtiest secrets has officially been outed -- I have a deep, deep love for perky, upbeat, cheesy, disneyfied, pop music. I may have had this song on repeat for the last day or so... I refuse to be ashamed. It's better than being a serial killer... right? Anyway, onto the grammar lesson, and the importance of the comma.

So this song is called Call Me Maybe. Notice the lack of punctuation there. One could reasonably assume that the singer, Carly Rae Jepsen, would like the object of her affection to call her by the nickname, Maybe. However, a quick listen to the chorus gives us this:

Hey I just met you

And this is crazy

But here’s my number

So call me maybe

(lyrics copied from Carly Rae Jepson's website)

So as you can see, it seems that Carly would in fact, like this boy to call her. Maybe. Now if she had slipped this boy a lyric sheet rather than serenading him, she might have started her relationship off on the wrong foot, or possibly missed connecting with him at all, what with him calling her number and asking for some crazy girl named Maybe. And that would be a shame.

So there you have it. Commas can ruin your love life if you're not careful! And I now present you with a video of the song, featuring of all people, Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and many other Disney folks singing along, because once you hear this song, you can't help it.

Also, check out my CP Kristi's blog where today she's giving away the first of her weekly free query crits!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Words I Love

I've noticed that I have a few keywords that get me every time I see them on a book. I can't help but pick them up if any of these words, or images of these words appear on the cover. They are: water, river, lake, magic, and anything that implies winter, such as snow, frost, and of course, winter. Also, summer, lol.

I'm also attracted to covers that hint at these kind of stories. (I suppose it should be no surprise then, that my first book takes place in a town on a lake just as winter meets spring, so there's both snow, and rain.)

Here are some examples of books that had me drooling just from their titles and/or covers.

(^ I have so much love for this title, I can't even...)

What about you? What kind of titles or covers pique your interest?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Exercise Your Voice

Sometimes, when I'm writing or revising, I get so sick of my voice. You know the part where my characters sound like me rather than themselves. Or when they've described something the same way, like, three times in a row. It drives me nuts when I notice that the character is having the experience/thoughts that I would have in any given moment, rather than their own. But sometimes I feel stuck in my own word patterns and can't find the right words.

Recently, I wrote a character who has nothing in common with me or how I talk, and it was a challenge, but a really fun challenge, to come up with things that only he would say. And when I finished, I had a bit of an epiphany.

What if I turned that into an exercise?

And so here is a way to freshen up your voice:

Take a scene you're feeling is particularly lackluster. Where the voice is blah, or sounds like you, or is just not true to your character, and rewrite it with the voice of someone who's so distinct they're almost a cliche. Like, a southern belle, or a non-native English speaker, or Cookie Monster, or a Victorian era detective, or even a favorite character from someone else's book ... you get my point. Something where you're forced to stop and think of character voice specific ways this person would describe their thoughts and feelings and the events happening around them. Be over the top. Be cliche. Have fun with it.

For example:

Your character says: "I'm hungry."

Cookie Monster says: "Me want cookie!"

A very cliche southern belle might say: "Good Lord in heaven if I don't eat something soon, I'll be standing right up there with him at those pearly gates myself."

A Victorian lady might say: "I feel as though I might faint, I'm so weak with hunger." (and um, honestly I have no idea if this is even close, but that's okay because it's just an exercise!)

These are ridiculous examples, but you see how each one made me think past the bare facts of the statement, and into what that experience is like for each particular character. And they were fun. I wasn't agonizing over the exact right word, I was just getting out of my own head and seeing what happened.

At the end of the exercise you will have cleared your own voice from your head, and you'll be better able to see where the character-specific bits need to be. They will stand out in the scene as those over the top bits. Then use what you've discovered to re-write that scene the way your character would see it, in their voice.

So the next time you're feeling stuck, give this a try, and let me know how it works for you! Do you have any fun exercises or tips you use for freshening things up? Please share!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

ENTHRALLED Giveaway Winner!

The Research Randomizer has spoken! The winner of the signed copy of ENTHRALLED is:


Congrats! Be on the lookout for an email from me soon!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Celebration Giveaway! Win a signed copy ENTHRALLED!

As you know, last week I announced that I will have a short story in the HarperTeen anthology DEFY THE DARK edited by Saundra Mitchell coming out in summer 2013. (squee!) Now that that's done, it's time to celebrate! And so, I thought, what better way to do that than to give away a signed copy of THIS year's HarperTeen anthology, ENTHRALLED edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong?

If you remember this post, I was fortunate to be able to attend the Smart Chicks Kick It Tour this past October.

Me and the Smart Chicks!

And I got paperback copies of ENTHRALLED signed by all the participating authors! Like Carrie Ryan, Jennifer Lynn Barnes, Kelley Armstrong, and Melissa Marr!

And here's the best part, this giveaway is international. I will send this book anywhere in the world! All you have to do to enter is:
1) Follow my blog.

2) Leave a comment below with your email address (spelled out like this: yourname(at)gmail(dot)com to avoid spam.) and tell me which book you're most looking forward to in 2012!

Contest ends Tuesday, 1/17, at 11:59pm ET. I will announce the winner in my post next week on the 18th. For another chance to win, check out my crit group's blog, where I'm giving away a second signed copy!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

What I Learned in 2011 and My Goals for 2012

2011 was a pretty amazing year for me. I had some pretty low key goals set, the kind that would lead me closer to my big goals, and instead I ended up having some completely unexpected, life changing events.

Things I did in 2011:

EVENT: Got stranded in Branson, Missouri with a group of some of the most awesome, accomplished, and inspiring women I've been fortunate to meet.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: I've said this before, but it really is an amazing experience to spend time with people who have persevered to make their dreams come true, and who truly understand what that process is like. Writing is a solitary thing. And when you're just starting out, it can feel like you're on some crazy wild goose chase all by yourself. Meeting people who have been there, and pushed through to the other side is sort of life-altering. Even though rationally, I know that obviously, people write and sell books; sitting around talking about how hard it is some days, or that yes, they hear their characters talking in their heads too, or just you know, dancing to 90s hip hop, makes a world of difference once you go back home and it's just you and that blinking cursor trying to make your dream come true. I think if there is one piece of non-writing, writing advice I could give, it would be to get together with other writers (somewhere private, where you can be your weird writer selves) it will help carry you through the dark times when the words don't come and you're wondering why you ever thought you could write a book.

EVENT: I wrote a letter to my teenage self.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This one was surprisingly cathartic. Really. It brought back a lot of painful memories and then forced me to look at them from the outside, and really think about what I've learned from them. It was an emotional experience I wasn't expecting, but talking to my thirteen year old self really helped me to heal some old wounds I didn't know I still had.

EVENT: I was offered the chance to be published in an anthology.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This one still blows my mind, and probably won't seem real until I have a hardcover (!) copy in my hands and can see that yes, they really did put me in it. This is by far the "biggest" thing that happened to me in 2011. And the experience was exciting, and challenging, and scary, and awesome. It's not often that an opportunity you hadn't even dared to dream of yet appears out of the blue. I will touch more on this in a separate post, but suffice it to say that, "Write a short story on anything you want!" is both a blessing and a curse. It took me a couple of months just to decide what I was going to write, and then a couple more to figure out how to do it. I think this event more than any other made my writing improve by leaps and bounds. I didn't want to let anybody down, and so I focused and thought about every single word I used. This story was like pulling teeth, but I love it. It taught me that even when writing feels impossible, it's not. Not at all.

Amsterdam canals
EVENT:I spent six weeks in Europe. Four of them, by myself.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This affected me in so many ways. The first of which was reminding myself that I'm brave, something that can sometimes been forgotten when you spend most of your time on your butt in front of a computer. It also gave me some new perspectives on what it's like to be a stranger in a strange land. (Grocery shopping when EVERYTHING is in a foreign language is an adventure all on its own.) I also had a lot of time to just think, about my writing, my writing career, what I want out of life. I know that running off to Europe for a month isn't an option for most people, but I highly recommend taking just a weekend of alone time, somewhere other than your usual haunts. Even if it's just a hotel room in a different part of town, (hey, it worked for JK Rowling!) spending time with yourself in a new place where you can't easily fall into your usual routines is a great way to recharge your creative process and your life.

EVENT: All three of my crit partners signed with amazing agents.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: I'm a firm believer in, "if you want to know if you're on the right path, look around you." The theory behind this is that if you're headed in the right direction, the people around you will be successful and meeting the goals that you're also striving to reach. I'm SO PROUD of my cps and the hard work they've put in 2011. I know this is going to be a year of big announcements for them, and I trust that with their guidance and support, a little of that success will rub off on me as well.

EVENT: I did NOT write a new book.

HOW IT CHANGED MY LIFE: This year I managed to do a LOT of overthinking, and a LOT of second-guessing of myself. It was a total waste of time. TOTAL. WASTE. I can't stress that enough. I had the best of intentions. It was all about making the right choice and finding the right idea, and basically, that's a load of crap. I am happiest when I'm working on a story. Revising, surrounded by my characters and my world, totally focused on shaping it into the best story it can be. I am least happy when deciding what that story should be. I learned that what I need to do is just write it. So many of the best bits don't even show up until I've gotten a few thousand words in. They're never on the outline or the plan. They're the surprises that keep me going. Not the idea that this is exactly the story I should be writing for (insert reason here).

So that was my 2011. Here are my goals for 2012:

- Be a better blogger. As in blog more frequently, and more personally.

- Write a book that I love.

- Read more.

And that's it. I'm keeping it simple this year and going for the joy rather than the stress. What about you? What are your goals this year? What did you learn about yourself in 2011?

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

New Year, New News!

So this is something I've been sitting on for months. Partly because I kept waiting to wake up and find out it's not true. Partly because I wanted to make sure I dotted all my i's and crossed all my t's. And honestly because I was painfully nervous about putting it out in the world and seeing what the reaction would be. So what is this news, you ask?

You might remember this announcement from author Saundra Mitchell about the new anthology she's editing, DEFY THE DARK, a few months ago. Here's a little more info:

DEFY THE DARK is an all-new anthology coming Summer 2013 from Saundra Mitchell and HarperTeen. It features 17 stories by critically-acclaimed and bestselling YA authors as they explore things that can only happen in the dark.

So here's the thing. One of those 17 authors is me. I know. I can't believe it either! My short story, STILLWATER, about a town that's just... not quite right (and kissing), is going to be published. In a book. By HarperTeen. Right next to some of my ALL-TIME favorite YA authors. It still feels like it's not really happening.

Me with my publishing contract!

I can't give you the full list of authors yet (trust me, it will blow your mind), but here's a little taste of the authors who have also announced or posted that they're contributing:

  • Sarah Rees Brennan
  • Tessa Gratton
  • Malinda Lo
  • Saundra Mitchell
  • Dia Reeves
  • Beth Revis
  • Jon Skovron
  • Courtney Summers

And that is just the tip of the amazing author iceberg. Basically, if I could have hand-picked a group of authors to all be in one anthology, this would be that group. When I look at the full list, I sort of feel like I stumbled into someone else's surprise party.

And so as 2012 gets started, I just want to say to everyone out there who might be reading this and feeling frustrated with their own progress, IT CAN HAPPEN TO YOU TOO. I'm living proof that if you keep working hard on your writing, put your heart in it, and put yourself out there, someone will recognize it. They really will.

Being invited to contribute to this anthology was the last thing I expected. It was one of those dream goals I hadn't even put on my list yet because I felt I had so many other things I needed to accomplish first, before I could even dare to imagine it. And now here I am, hoping to survive the apocalypse and make it til Summer 2013!

There will be much more exciting news about DEFY THE DARK coming in the future - including one really awesome surprise. And I'm still trying to figure out what to do to celebrate and share the love. But for now I just want to say thank you to everyone in the YA writing community who has ever taken the time to share their journey, because without all of your blogs and forums and tweets I would still be trying to figure out how to get started writing a book. I hope that my little bit of good news can help spur you on your path to your own.

I'll do a post later on about how I managed to finally get over my fear and actually write the story. (It was not pretty.)

Also, if you haven't yet, go congratulate my CP Kristi V. Helvig on signing with an agent!
Related Posts with Thumbnails