Saturday, August 25, 2012

Welcome to the World, Cora

My love - Born 19 August 2012
Taking a hiatus to care for my baby for a bit.  Good luck with your writing endeavors!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Free Writing Conference - Starts next week!

WriteOnCon is a free conference that officially begins Tuesday, August 14th (although they are accepting work for critiques on Monday) and runs through Wednesday, August 15th.

I have never participated in this conference in the past, but having checked out the website, it looks like a wonderful opportunity to learn more about the craft and the business and it's FREE!  (I love ALL things free.)  Even though I go back to school on Wednesday, I plan on checking it out.  There are scheduled events throughout both days and a transcript available of discussions that you might miss.  Great, right?

Here is their website for more information:

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Another Great Read

As I’ve mentioned before, my reading habits have been different these past nine months (only two more weeks or so until the baby’s arrival!).  But I have managed to do some reading this summer without falling asleep. 

The novel City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare, which I’ve been meaning to read all year, kept me up into the wee hours of the night (and that hasn’t happened in, well, nine months!).  This is the fourth book in the Mortal Instruments series.  I read the first three a couple of years ago and thought that it was a trilogy.  I was surprised this past year when a fourth book came out.  

Cassandra Clare is able to do something truly amazing.  She is able to keep me interested in vampires, witches, demons, etc.  I have to admit to have had my fill of these paranormal creatures.  I tried reading Deborah Harkness's Discovery of Witches a few months ago, but rolled my eyes or gagged every few pages (possibly even more often than that).  The characters are cheeeeeeeeeessssssyyyyyy.  I finally couldn't handle it anymore and had to stop reading.  I know this puts me in the minority since this book was a big hit, but to me, Clare's work is far more exciting!  And most importantly, her characters are interesting and complicated and likable.  (Okay, I can tell this is a blog entry for another day, so back to the topic.)

Simon is adjusting to life as a vampire, which isn't easy considering he doesn't want to drink human blood and he knows that he will live forever - far beyond that of his friends and family.  Add to that the fact that he is impossible to kill due to the curse that Clary put on him and it is obvious to see why he struggles with his identity and is intrigued when one of the oldest vampires attempts to persuade him into helping her reclaim her New York clan.  

Meanwhile, Clary and Jace are having problems of their own.  Even though they are able to be together now (none of those pesky incest fears anymore), life still isn't rosy.  Jace is pulling away from her for reasons that she doesn't understand and he won't talk to her about it (which, I'll admit, gets a bit frustrating at times).  Jace is having vivid dreams in which he kills Clary and is afraid there is evil lurking inside of him since he was raised by a vicious, ambitious killer himself.  

Action-packed from beginning to end, this was another book that I sped through despite my pregnancy exhaustion and while I love the three original books best, I did enjoy this.  The ending, in particular, was intense - a cliffhanger that is sure to send me to the bookstore for the City of Lost Souls.

And if you like the Mortal Instruments series, then check out the Infernal Devices series in which some familiar characters make an appearance.  Infernal Devices is set in the Victorian Period and has similar elements to the Mortal Instruments – shadowhunters, vampires, fae, etc. – but is definitely unique and interesting.  In these books, zombie-like, robotic machines do their evil master’s bidding.  Cool, huh?

Check both series out and enjoy!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Let's Start the Countdown!

This is entirely unrelated to writing or reading, but is totally exciting (and terrifying) to me.  After our doctor's visit today - we are about 37 weeks along - we learned that the baby could come any time now!

Just last night, I looked at my husband and said, "We're going to have a baby in three weeks."

He looked back at me and said, "Wow."

And I responded with, "Holy crap.  That's soon."

But now, it appears things are progressing along even more quickly and Baby Wilson may be making her debut even earlier.  The doctor predicts we will not make it until August 24th with how far along we are already.

We're just keeping our fingers crossed that she doesn't come while he's out of town next week!

I'm feeling a mixture of emotions.  Fear:  Yikes!  I'm scared!  I'm not ready!  There is still more to do! I'm going to be a crappy parent!  Life will never be the same!  I need more time!

And excitement:  Yeah!  After all of this time, I'm finally going to meet her!  I wonder who she'll look like?  I'm going to love her.  I can't wait!

I just wanted to share or really, unload.   Wish us luck!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Join the Challenge!

Laurie Halse Anderson - bestselling, award-winning author of Speak, Catalyst, Chains, Forge, and many others - has launched her 5th Annual Write 15 Minutes a Day Challenge for the month of August.

For each of us, life sometimes gets in the way of our writing, but this challenge is a great way to get back into it without feeling overwhelmed.  15 minutes is VERY doable!  And not only that, it will often lead to more time spent writing.  I know that I have trouble stopping once I start and this challenge gives me the jumpstart that I need.

For more details and to participate in the challenge, go to Anderson's blog at Mad Woman in the Forest Blog.

On a side note, Anderson is also a supporter of the NaNoWriMo project that occurs in November.  As an educator, I was thrilled to discover that the project also offers a Young Writers Program for classrooms.  I've already forwarded this information on to my principal in my excitement to get my future 7th graders writing a novel this year.  If you, too, are interested in learning more, go to NaNoWriMo and the Young Writers Program.

Now, get writing!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Hourglass - A fast summer read

One of the things I love about YA fiction is that it can be powerful, gripping, and meaningful all at the same time, without taking itself too seriously.  Does anyone else feel that some adult fiction tries too hard to be "literary" and just comes across as boring or pretentious?  Not young adult fiction.  The characters' voices are real, even when the genre is science fiction.  It has heart and soul.  But don't get me wrong, it can be equally - if not more - vivid, descriptive, prosaic than many of the adult fiction novels are.  It just feels more seamless and less showy.  And no offense to adult fiction authors.  I definitely don't feel that way about all of them.  I have many favorite adult authors as well.

One of the YA books that I've read this summer was fantastical, but set in the modern time which gives it the right amount of believability.  I love to imagine the possibility that these supernatural or magical elements could actually exist in our mundane world.

This book, which I couldn't put down (Hurray!  Since getting pregnant, anything that keeps me awake past ten pages is WONDERFUL!) - was Hourglass by Myra McEntire.  I thought it would be a ghost story since the main character, Emerson Cole, seems to have visions of the past.  It turns out, she's a time traveller.  Cool concept, right?  Her dark past and emotional baggage kept me interested in her and the characters she meets in her journey to understand herself and her abilities are mysterious and interesting as well.

These other characters, who also happen to have "powers," find Emerson and ask for her help in saving the life of their beloved scholar and friend.  He was murdered in a fire months before.  Emerson agrees to help them return to the past to pull him out before it's too late.  There is a bit of a love triangle to spice up her personal life - although it is pretty obvious from the start who her top choice is.  Also, there is the obligatory villain (fire-starter) to complicate her life.  However, things are not exactly as they seem, which adds a nice twist to the plot.

I did have trouble at times wrapping my mind around the time travel technicalities - I always have gotten a bit confused with this topic, so it's probably just me.  But this novel was worth reading for simple enjoyment - nothing too taxing or deep or emotional, which is exactly what I needed at the time.

If you get the chance, read this book.  It goes by quickly and is a nice break from real life.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

The BEST advice I've received on the Query Letter YET!

This advice wasn't given to me personally.  It is actually on an agent's blog that I follow, Pub Rants, by Kristin Nelson.  I came across it during my research on agents and agencies and I have to pass it along because it has helped me SO MUCH!

I have been working on my query letter obsessively for the past few days.  I am not exaggerating when I say "obsessively."

In fact, I was in such a mind fog yesterday afternoon that when my husband called me on his way home for work, I think drool might have been oozing from my mouth as I stared at the computer screen.  By then words were running together and all sentences had lost their meaning.  I hadn't even realized until he called that I had spent the ENTIRE DAY working on ONE letter.

Garrett came to my rescue, though.  (My night in shining armor!)  Instead of heading straight to the gym, he came home to drag me away from the computer (I resisted, even in my zombie-like state) and force me to go to the gym with him.  After an apple, a solid workout, and a visit to Babies R Us (4 1/2 weeks until she makes her debut!), I was finally able to carry on a coherent conversation.

This query stuff is tough.

I knew last night that my letter was still a long way from where it should be, but I didn't know how to fix it until I read Kristin's pitch workshop blog entries today.  She is a lifesaver!  (Garrett will be so grateful!)

Without further ado, here are the links to the posts specifically about YA query letters (which can also be found on her agency's website, Nelson Literary Agency):

1.  Pitching and all that jazz:  Introduction
2.  Blog Pitch Workshop (Part 1)
3.  Blog Pitch Workshop (Part 2)
4.  Blog Pitch Workshop (Part 3)

I hope her advice helps you as much as it has helped me.  Hopefully, I will have a decent letter by the end of the day!  (Fingers crossed!)

Good luck!

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Time to Query

I've reached the point where I'm ready to write my query letter.  It is a daunting task and one that I've heard many established authors even dread.  How is it that we can write an entire novel, but the thought of one letter makes us quiver?

In my search for guidance on this topic, I've located some helpful resources, which I thought that I'd share.

1.  Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and the editors of Writer's Digest Books
2.  QueryShark - blog which critiques fiction query letters, detailing what needs to be revised in order to have a successful query; very informative!
3.  "Marcus Sakey on Successful Query Letters" - a post from the Murderati: A Writer's Life blog; advice from the published author on how to get a 75% success rate on your query letter.
4.  AgentQuery - website dedicated researching agents and agencies.  It even offers advice on how to write a query letter.
5.  "How to Write a Query Letter" - blog post by Nathan Bradford
6.  Predators & Editors - informative website on the credibility of specific agents and agencies.  Check out your researched agents here before sending your queries to them.  Make sure they are legitimate!

I hope these links help you (and me) to write effective queries!  Good luck!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Check out this FANTASTIC Giveaway

The blog YA Highway is celebrating three years of blogging success with an extremely generous giveaway of books/arcs and/or critiques.

Check out their site:
YA Highway

I am definitely registering!  How about you?

Sunday, July 8, 2012

The Home Stretch (Kind of)

To Do List

One of my personal goals is to have my novel ready and out for submission before my little girl makes her debut on or around August 24th.  I know that my life is about to get a whole lot more complicated which will leave me little time for myself.  But the task has seemed daunting, especially since I had barely looked at my manuscript in six months.  So, how do I handle this monumental undertaking?

Luckily, I have a wonderful friend and fellow writer that I spent time with on Friday.  It had been way too long since I'd seen her due to both of our hectic jobs and hopefully, we'll not let so much time pass between visits in the future.

Besides being a fantastic person to hang out with, she always provides sound, rational writing advice that clears my head and sends me in the right direction.  It also gives me confidence and calms my fears.  For that, I am so grateful!  Thank you, Carly!

Her advice:  create a schedule of deadlines for myself.  I have just over 7 weeks until my due date and have broken each week down into what needs to be accomplished to attain my overall goal of submission.  I have actually made my plan based on six weeks to give me (and Baby Wilson) a little leeway.

Suddenly a task that seemed overwhelming seems achievable - but not without the help of Carly, who has also kindly offered to help with final revisions along with my attendance at two more writing group meetings through my SCBWI chapter.

Can I do this?  Absolutely!

Will I get an agent and eventually sell my novel?  Who knows!  But I will not give up this dream of mine.  I have to try.  And if not this book, then maybe my next one (which I will finally be able to start once this novel gets sent off!)

*On a side note, I have revised most of the novel and have only the ending to finish revising at this point.*

Here's my schedule:

Week 1 – ending 7/13:
Finish revisions and send to Carly

Week 2 – ending 7/21:
1st Draft of query letter
Send to Carly for feedback
Synopsis revisions for feedback

Week 3 – ending 7/28:
Revisions based on Carly’s feedback
2nd Draft query letter
Bring synopsis and query to critique group for feedback

Week 4 – ending 8/3
Novel Revisions
Query Revision
Synopsis Revision
Research agents
Compile list of agents (already started, but continue to build)

Week 5 – ending 8/10
Novel Revisions
Finish revisions and put in submission form
List of 5 to 10 agents and criteria for 1st round of submissions
Attend critique group for final feedback

Week 6 – ending 8/17
Send out submissions

Let me know, am I missing a step?  

*Oh, and another "thank you" to Carly for lending me Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript by Chuck Sambuchino and the editors of Writer's Digest.  It's invaluable!*

Saturday, June 30, 2012

What a year!

Do not open until August. ;)
I was only about four months along here.  I'm much bigger now!
I have to guiltily admit that I let life get in the way of my writing and reading this year.  If you notice, my last post was in December (I know, December!) shortly after I destroyed my laptop with a glass of milk and in the time it took to replace it and save my old work, I had gotten in the habit of not writing.

Partly, it was laziness.  Partly, it was for my sanity.  You see, this past year was my first year teaching at a new school and I found that I had a hard time giving my heart to both things - teaching and writing.  I seemed to end up resenting one more.

I would get advice:  Just write for an hour or so a night.  Unfortunately, once I get my brain into the zone, I tend to stay there awhile to the detriment of my personal and professional life (and sleep schedule).

So, I made a choice.  It was my students and family.  I don't regret the choice.  The first year at a new school is incredibly hard - even with previous teaching experience.  But I want to make some changes to accommodate both next year.

My goal is to both write and teach in the upcoming year, but I have to change the expectations I put on myself.

1.  Get in the habit of writing with my students every week.  This will benefit all of us.  I cannot promise every day.  In a perfect world, I would, but obviously this is not a perfect world and I am far from perfect!  Which leads me to number two....

2.  Forgive myself more.  I allow myself to be consumed by guilt.  It is a serious personality flaw.  I suspect guilt helped me avoid my computer.  The worse I felt about not writing, the less likely I was to do it and the more negative my feelings about it and myself became.  I have to stop and let myself just be and enjoy the process.

3.  Stop making goals.  Just write.  I can only do so much, especially considering how my life is going to change shortly.  Which leads me to another confession....

I must also admit that I haven't been reading much this year either (besides students' papers, that is).  Yes, I know.  What kind of English teacher am I?  The reason for this is a good one though.  I found out, shortly after my last blog post, that I'm pregnant.  My husband and I are expecting our first baby in August!  A little girl!  :)

And ever since I got pregnant, whenever I pick up a book (or sit down for any extended time period), I fall asleep.  I can't help myself.

The good news is that I am no longer an insomniac (although soon I'll be getting very little sleep again).

The bad news is obviously that I miss reading and am so frustrated with myself.  I will say that I still read EVERY day of the week.  EVERY day.  However, while I used to devour pages upon pages, I now get through ten pages - tops.  So, it's a process.

All in all, forgive me for neglecting this blog and my passions - reading and writing.  I'm just trying to do the best I can.  Aren't we all?  And I know that with the birth of my daughter, I will have new priorities, but I hope to never completely give up my passions and dreams.

None of us should.