What’s Up Wednesday & #YABbootcamp Check-In

wuwspringYAB-Spring-Writing-Challenge-2014

Good Afternoon 🙂 It’s Wednesday and today I’m combining my weekly ‘What’s Up Wednesday’ post with my weekly YABbootcamp Check-in (yay efficiency)!

What I’m Reading

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 Last week I finished reading my ARC of The Summer I Wasn’t Me (which is now out). It was amazing!!! My review and an interview with the author is to come, but I have to say that Jessica Verdi knows how to tell a story. It’s my first book of hers I’ve read, but it won’t be my last. She had me crying one moment and cheering on the characters the next. It was very bittersweet and very hard to read but completely worth it 🙂aa-stormfront

This week I’ve been reading (and watching) a lot of Urban Fantasy more specifically books that fall into the Speculative Noir genre since that’s what I’d define my WIP as (more on that later). 38619I’m currently reading Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher and Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) by Ilona Andrews (not really Speculative Noir but it’s a YA UF I’ve been meaning to read) and then I’m on to re-read an all time favorite of mine, Guilty Pleasures (Anita Blake #1) by Laurell K. Hamilton. book13It’s like part of my research in world & character building for my WIP and I’m loving them all so much!

What I’m Writing

I sent the first chapter of my WIP to one of my amazing CPs and just got it back yesterday! I have since then revised the chapter and I think I now have an opening I’m really proud of that sets up the story, protagonist, and world well.

The WIP is a YA Speculative Noir set in NOLA. I’d originally defined it as Urban Fantasy but for various reasons that didn’t capture what the book came off as, how I wanted it to be categorized, and the world and the MC’s viewpoint about the world well enough. Not to mention, though I can be a sucker for flowery language this book seemed to lean more towards a simplistic, simile laden writing style that reminded me so much of books I love like Guilty Pleasures and Storm Front. Interestingly enough it was an agent, Brooks Sherman, who defined my book for me. Read this and you’ll see what I mean. In it he talks about speculative noir and dark YA with noir elements like the TV show Veronica Mars. As soon as I read that I knew he was talking about books like my WIP which I consider to Veronica Mars meets The Dresden Files (book series) & Lost Girl (TV show). And, yes, (if I don’t get an agent from the MS I’m currently querying) I will be querying him once this WIP is nice and polished.

You can read an excerpt from the revised CHAPTER ONE, at my writer website, patricecaldwell.com!

What Else I’ve Been Doing

I’ve had a pretty busy weekend!!

easter brunchSunday was Easter and the society I’m in, Zeta Alpha, put on an Easter Brunch (it was potluck style and I made Texas-style breakfast burritos!).

<–my friends and I (aren’t we cute & so happy (thank you, sun!!))photo (7)

Oh, and then Sage the Gemini kicked off Spring Week (a week of concerts & other festivities) that evening!! He’s a rapper out of the Bay Area and though I only knew a couple of his songs it was really fun. Also, he was a great entertainer. He was hilarious and he took his shirt off 😉

Monday was the Boston Marathon!! My friends and I went out in full force to support the runners. Wellesley has a special tradition, the scream tunnel in which students line the road and try to get kisses from the runners. I got one once and it was really sweaty so although I no longer partake in that part of the tradition, it was still a very fun day!

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<–so cute & happy once again. It was a wonderful Marathon day that concluded with me doing my laundry (finally!) and watching TV with a friend 🙂

Oh, and my bookshelf got a new addition, #BostonStrong!! Screen shot 2014-04-23 at 3.51.16 PM

What Inspires Me Right Now

I’m inspired by a lot of things. The stories about the Marathon runner survivors from last year who were able to complete the race this year, my friends and classmates who are some of the smartest & busiest women I know and yet we still make time to hang out and support one another, my mother who is going back to school to complete her bachelors while working, my father who finally quite his day job to pursue his wellness company full time & become a full-blown Texas farmer (the baby chicks hatched during the Winter and they’re getting so big so fast), my fellow writers who find time to write amongst juggling day jobs, children, and an assortment of other things, and, of course, myself for, even if I forget sometimes/often, I have a lot to be proud of.

Also, there’s some amazing conversations about Diversity in Literature (specifically Children’s Lit) going on right now/the past couple weeks. I have links to a few in my Writer Resources section, but if you’ve ever wanted to join in the conversation or learn more, now is the perfect time 🙂

Happy Wednesday and I hope it’s not so rainy where you are 🙂 Have a great week!!

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

A Visit from Literary Agent Erin Murphy

Last Thursday my Writing For Children class had the honor of being visited by Literary Agent Extraordinare–who’s also the agent of the course professor, Susan Meyer–Erin Murphy!!!

YES. It was phenomenal. (Also she was wearing yellow & blue, #classcolors)

To give a bit of background information, Erin Murphy is one of the top children’s literary agents, and she’s based out of Flagstaff, Arizona (how cool is that?!).

Erin Murphy is one of my dream agents which is something I rarely reveal but having her visit our class was like meeting a celebrity. Seriously, I’m not even sure anyone could’ve topped this. Well, maybe meeting Octavia Butler (when she was alive), she’s my idol.

Other than giving up this amazing handout, which is priceless, Ms. Murphy left us with some amazing nuggets about being an agent, getting published, and much more.  I think one of the best things that happened during this visit was that I realized what kind of agent I want to have. I’ve always had an idea of the type of agent I wanted, someone who would put the time into editing my MS if needed, someone who cared about me as a writer and not just one a one book basis but after her visit, I’m able to articulate that clearly and concisely.

And now, so that all of you can share in this wonderfulness, here are her words of wisdom*:

On Publishing

Ms. Murphy talked a lot about how all agencies are different, and I think that’s something that’s key to remember. Some, like hers, are only open to submission by referral or by hearing them speak at a conference (tears, I know). Because of that she really emphasized SCBWI conferences as a great way to get your MS read. In addition, they’re a great way to make connections in the industry and get a feel for the type of material various editors and agents like.

For her, she’s looking for a connection. Editors depend on agents to find projects they like because of that agents know very well what editors represent what types of books.  Sometimes she sends things out to many editors and sometimes to only a handful, it depends on the project. A lot of it is taste. This is a very subjective industry, and that’s something important to remember. I’ve turned down manuscripts she knew were going to sell but weren’t for her. It’s all about the connection. A book has to set her on fire or she’ not going to do a good job selling it.

Everything in publishing seems like attention is thrown where attention is (e.g. if an author gets another offer of rep, that author is going to go to the top of her reading list since she has limited time to respond). That’s just how things are.

MFAs are a mixed bag. She represents a handful of authors from Vermont’s MFA program however sometimes MFA seems teach gorgeous writing but not things that are publishable or they focus too much on writing a certain way and can, if writer isn’t careful, erase individual style. She doesn’t think they’re necessary but if you think it’ll help you, go for it.

–On Writing

Everyone thinks they can write a children’s book, it’s harder than it seems.

She agrees with this quote: “Start on the day things change.” – Judy Blume

This process is such a long journey. Yes, we’ve heard this all before but seriously, don’t compare yourself to other writers, everyone, more specifically every book, is different.

On Trends

Middle grade is really booming. Partially because of increase in children of that age and decrease of teenage children.

Historical [YA] seems to often cross with other genres, ex. Steampunk, as a way of reaching more readers. However it all comes down to good writing.

-For a long time PBs weren’t selling, now they are. If you’re a PB author, it’s important to have multiple PBs. She likes to see the breath of author’s work.

And my personal favorites: What are your thoughts about how dark YA has become? & What do you think about retellings?

Literature is a safe place to explore beyond your own experience. What safer place to feel sad/scared than in books. Books play out feelings teens experience in an external way.

I love retellings. They’re a set, ever renewing market. If someone likes Cinderella retellings, they’re most likely going to check out a new one that was just published.

*I wrote this while listening to her & absorbing everything so it’s highly possibly that these are not exactly how she stated things but rather the basic gist. Also, don’t take these as an end all be all, publishing is subjective aka what works for one, might turn off another. 🙂

College Writer Tag

Happy Thursday Readers, it’s almost the weekend!!!

College Writer Tag

One month ago, I was nominated for the College Writer Tag by Julia of Julia the Writer Girl (she’s pretty awesome, stop by her blog!…thank you, Julia!!!). Since this has been quite a busy Fall, I’m just now getting around to it. Here we go, folks!

The Questions

(all nominees must answer these)

1. What year are you? Junior! aka, the coolest, hardest year (-__- LOL)

2. What’s your major(s)/minor(s)? Political Science with a spattering of Creative Writing courses (basically a minor)

3. What type(s) of writing do you do? YA & MG Speculative Fiction but I’m waging a kind of bet with myself & characters on whether or not a Snow White retelling I’m working on will become NA (it’s currently YA Sci-Fi)

4. What are your plans for after college, both career-wise and writing-wise? I’ve actually been thinking a lot about this lately. I’m considering pursuing an MFA in Writing for Children at Vermont Fine Arts (it’s a low-residency program) while working within publishing or a child literary nonprofit. Basically books, books and writing 24/7. My love for reading and writing go hand and hand so anything that deals with getting children to read and write and/or getting more great books out there, I’m interested in it!

5. What is one thing you’ve learned about writing while in college? Taking a page from what Julia said, college has taught me that when you want to do something you’d better do it because you might not have time later. It’s taught me that I can write a full-fledged YA or MG novel (my first drafts are usually on the small side so 40-60,000 words) in 1-3 months (aka usually the length of a semester or Winter/Summer Break, and that I can’t live without writing. Because in college everything seems to be working against my ability to write, it has become even more precious to me. I horde time like Gollum horded the One Ring (and yes, I’m going to the midnight premiere of The Hobbit Part 2 & watching LOTR + The Hobbit Part 1 beforehand (it’s a tradition my friend and I complete every finals reading period)).

***

I nominate:*

Laura of Laura + the voices (which also sounds like a cool band name)

*Technically you’re supposed to nominate 4 but I don’t know that many college writers. Actually, I’m sure I do I just can’t think of them write now/don’t know they’re in college/they don’t have a blog.

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

DON’T (…A word of advice from Ang Lee)

Muhammad-Ali-I-am-the-Greatest.-I-said-that-even-before-I-knew-I-was.

Good Morning Readers! (sung to the tune of “Good Morning Baltimore”)

Oh, oh, oh woke up today feeling the way I always do…Okay, we’re done with that. I doubt anyone actually wants to hear me sing (although I did do theater and choir for 6-7 years). I digress…as I sit here, beside my beautiful Autumn view, it comes to my attention that I haven’t posted in a while. Sure, I’ve posted things but I haven’t written a post in a while. So here it goes, a word of advice from Ang Lee.

Precisely one week ago today, Ang Lee prepared to take the stage along with James Schamus for a conversation, at my college & open to the public, with the two film elites. As the conversation came to the end, Mr. Lee was asked the question that I’m sure not just myself had been waiting for: Do you have any advice for young artists?

Mr. Lee laughs (I might be flourishing this a bit), shuffling in his seat before grounding himself. He crosses his hands, leaning forward a bit then, hands flailing in the air yelled “DON’T”.

Don’t? – I’m sure this was the question on the mind of most in the audience. I came at 9am on a Saturday to hear Ang freaking Lee speak only for him to say Don’t? Um, no. Not okay.

The commentator grins, gritting his teeth before letting out a shaky laugh. “Come one, Ang,” he says, trying to butter Mr. Lee up.

Mr. Lee clears his throat before crossing his hands once more. “No, seriously. if you really need motivation, this [industry/creative lifestyle] isn’t for you. I could try tell you more but what’s helpful to one person might not help someone else. Some of the best people I’ve ever mentored where the ones who listened to me then did almost nothing I told them to. Those who are most determined don’t need advice. They’ll do it anyway.”

The crowd laughs, shuffles in their sit, grins shakily before Mr. Schamus “comes to the rescue” to impart so vaguely funny, “actual” advice. Mr. Lee twists his lips as he listens to his friend and co-worker. Those of us looking for more, tune in to Mr. Schamus however others, we realize that Mr. Lee is in fact correct.

I left that auditorium hearing the one word I needed to hear. DON’T 

Maybe that’s why so many authors, when giving advice always say but this is what worked for me, take it with a grain of salt. Maybe that’s why all creative beings can point to a time/times when they felt drawn to their field, like they couldn’t stop, like Ang Lee said, they knew it was they were meant to do.

So as I stood outside on that brisk, sunless day, I knew right then and there that I would be a writer for life. Because at that moment when Ang Lee said don’t, while on the outside, I laughed a bit, on the inside I said, “I’ll show you.” That, my dears, is the mark of a true artist.

It’s funny how you can never be truly certain until you are challenged. I’ve always liked writing but in my short twenty years I’ve already gone through stages of loving, hating, not…writing. I’m good at so many other things. I’m going to Wellesley College. I’ve thought so many times that isn’t this a waste of an amazing education? Shouldn’t someone else, who, instead of writing, does the (million pages of) reading for her classes? (Nope. It isn’t. In fact, my life, my academics, it all inspires my writing. I just got an amazing story idea/expansion of an old idea, the other day in one of my Political Theory courses. Booyah!) However, it wasn’t until I was challenged by Ang Lee himself, that I realized not only my potential but my commitment to being a writer. And yes, like any other job/career/lifestyle, it is a commitment. If you’re not going to commit–not necessarily every day–then how can you ever reach a point where you’re able to produce something you’re proud to share with the world.

This is going to be a long journey. I don’t think I realized just how long until recently. It took Ang Lee six years. Even if my book(s) was published tomorrow, it would be a long journey. Publishing is a process not a single isolated event.

So to all those “struggling” out there, I raise my mug of cooled down green tea to you. Don’t do it. It’s not worth you time.

…now go out there and show the world what you’re made of 🙂

Whimsically Yours,

PnC

Oh and as to what Ang Lee said about diversity in hollywood…”people need to not wait for the system, we need to take charge.”

…Look for their (Lee & Schamus) new movie on Joe Frazier and Muhammad Ali (yeah, that’s what I just said…it’s going to be life changing)  coming soon (as in they didn’t tell us when).

And don’t forget to stop by DiversifYA for their DiversiTheme Roundtable on Diversity & Sexuality (featuring moi & a handful of amazing writers)! Part One & Part Two are now up!

-Patrice

Recap: Maud Casey & Karen Russell’s visit to Wellesley College!

Yesterday at 4:30pm, authors Maud Casey & Karen Russell (from left to right) visited Wellesley College as a part of The Newhouse Center’s Distinguished Writer Series.  I’d heard about Karen Russell before the event.  I mean she’s a recent MacArthur fellow (my dream!), was on The New Yorker’s 20 under 40, and Swamplandia!, her first book, was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.  However I’d never heard of Maud Casey.  I don’t know why not (possibly because I live in the land of genre fiction), but she was amazing!!!

They had a lot of great things to say about writing, taking the time to figure everything out, and also spoke a lot about the importance of getting someone else to look at your work.

Some of my favorite quotes from the event were:

“In some ways, nothing ever feels complete…” – Maud Casey on knowing when a story is finished

“Once you figure out what’s best for the story, take out the rest.” – Karen Russell on her writing process

“It took me a long time to find my voice.” – Maud Casey on her writer’s journey

I was able to snag the last of 50 free copies of Russell’s newest book of short stories, Vampires in the Lemon Grove, and I bought a copy of, Drastic, one of Casey’s short story collections.

Here are my books…and look, they’re signed!

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(she asked me if I was a writer, hence the write on…also, she kept getting the date wrong on everyone’s book…I thought it was cute.  Authors are people too, lol.)

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(She complimented me on my owl necklace — I have quite the obsession with owls, maybe one day I’ll share my owl items!)

It was such a beautiful event.  Casey speaks beautifully and her stories sound so lyrical and just gorgeous (listening to her is like being in a serene trance-like state).  I’ve already read the first of her short stories and am in love!  As for Russell, well, I was already a fan but now, I just think she’s the coolest (she’s great at capturing realistic young voices in her writing).  Plus Stephan Kings says she’s creepy so nuff said!

Thank you to the authors and to The Newhouse Center!  Ang Lee and Robert Pinksky are on the schedule of upcoming speakers, and I can’t wait to see them 🙂

Whimsically Yours,

PnC