April 30, 2012

Q+A: My Artwork and How I Draw

Sorry for taking ages to answer this, Kim. Be warned, this is a picture heavy post!

» Ask Me Anything!

Kimberlee Turley asked: I want to ask about the artwork on your blog. You draw most of it, right? Where/when/how did you learn to draw? What mediums do you use? Do you work on a computer? Can you post a tutorial on the process?

Let's take this one question at a time.

April 24, 2012

UNRAVELING Celebration and Giveaway

Today, we're celebrating the release of UNRAVELING by debut author Elizabeth Norris. I can't wait to read this book!

Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life.

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process.

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.

You can read the first 90 pages of Unraveling HERE

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Elizabeth Norris briefly taught high school English and history before trading the southern California beaches and sunshine for Manhattan's recent snowpocalyptic winter.

She harbors dangerous addictions to guacamole, red velvet cupcakes, sushi, and Argo Tea, fortunately not all together.

Her first novel, UNRAVELING (Balzer+Bray, April 2012), is the story of one girl’s fight to save her family, her world, and the one boy she never saw coming.

In one scene of the novel, Janelle and Ben get in a heated debate about a marriage proposal in the Dickens novel they're reading in English class, a debate which echoes in the development of their relationship later in the novel. Do you have a favorite (or least favorite!) fictional declaration of love or proposal?

I have far, far too many, but a recent favorite would be this moment in the upcoming Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo (I don't think it's spoilery but feel free to skip if you'd prefer):

"I missed you every hour. And you know what the worst part was? It caught me completely by surprise. I'd catch myself just walking around to find you, not for any reason, just out of habit, because I'd seen something that I wanted to tell you about or because I wanted to hear your voice. And then I'd realize that you weren't there anymore, and every time, every single time, it was like having the wind knocked out of me. I've risked my life for you. I've walked half the length of Ravka for you, and I'd do it again and again and again just to be with you, just to starve with you and freeze with you and hear you complain about hard cheese every day. So don't tell me we don't belong together," he said fiercely.

*swoon*

*cough*



Fill in the giveaway form for a chance to win one of two copies of UNRAVELING. Open anywhere the Book Depository will ship. Ends Tuesday, May 1st.

Ended!

Good luck!

April 18, 2012

Upcoming Contests for Querying Writers

I've been neglecting the blog. Sorry the lack of posts this past week!

"The Writer's Voice" Contest
"The Writer's Voice" is a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Cupid of Cupid's Literary Connection, Brenda Drake of Brenda Drake Writes, Monica B.W. of Love YA, and Krista Van Dolzer of Mother. Write. (Repeat.). [They're] basing it on NBC's singing reality show The Voice, so the four of [them] will serve as coaches and select projects for [their] teams based on their queries and first pages.

Click here for full details.

The MYSTERIES FOR DANIELLE SVETCOV Contest
Danielle Svetcov of Levine Greenberg has decided to add MYSTERY to her current list. In order to give her a jumpstart, [Authoress has] agreed to host a contest that showcases completed, query-ready manuscripts in this genre. Ms. Svetcov is eager to see what you've got for her!

Click here for full details.

Ruth Lauren Steven's Agent-Judged Contest
The idea is that [Ruth will] read the slushpile of entrants and choose ten or so that will skip the main slushpile of the agents and get a pass to the front of the queue. The agent will then select a winner(s) (maybe they like more than one!)

Click here for full details.

And this isn't a contest, but might still be of interest to some of you:

Submission for Fantasy Writers
Strange Chemistry is looking for all flavors of fantasy, science fiction, or horror, as long as it is YA. Find out more about the specific guidelines here.

Angry Robot is looking for adult Classic/Epic fantasy, only. Their guidelines are here.

The open door period only lasts until April 30th.

Happy Wednesday, everyone! ♥

April 9, 2012

Fanfiction was my best teacher

First, some back story (feel free to skip):

I entered college majoring in education. Less than a semester in, I remembered I hated talking in front of people and what the heck was I thinking?! So I did what I should have in the first place and majored in creative writing (and to hell with it not being practical).

To be honest, my writing courses were... okay. I had one professor who was phenomenal. I was fortunate to have her both in my sophomore year and for my senior capstone. She told me all the hard things I needed to hear about my writing. The other classes, however... well. I wasn't terribly impressed, and my writing felt stagnant. At the time, I was also reintroducing myself to anime, and it wasn't long before I discovered fandom and fanfiction.

A year later, I was still feeling discontent about my writing. After reading a particularly well-written fanfic, I decided I wanted to try it myself. I quickly fell in love, and over the span of the next several years, I wrote over 70 pieces of fanfiction, varying in length from 100-word drabbles to full-length 100k+ word novels.

/end back story

The point is that fanfiction renewed my writing muse. There were numerous reasons why, but the biggest reason was this: quality writers.

I know, not what you were expecting, right? And also not the first thing to come to mind when seeing the word 'fanfiction.' In fact, after spending years in fandom, I know that most fanfics aren't that great.


It's true--fandom is filled with drivel. Lots and lots of it. And lots of it. AND LOTS OF IT. But if you keep looking, you will find those writers who leave you squinting through the sheer dazzle of their talent. Who can string words like a dream, whose stories will leave you a blubbering mess or in euphoria (and also questioning why on earth they're not published).

I was fortunate enough to call many of those writers my friends, and they inspired me and taught me more about storytelling than any college class ever did. Every time I felt down about my own writing, I went back into one of their stories and reread a few favorite passages. Almost instantly, I felt renewed all over again.

Through them, I learned what powerful storytelling was. I learned that dramatic moments were strongest delivered with subtlety, that the best stories were layered, and that characterization was everything. I learned that pantsing really didn't work for me, that my favorite relationships were those forged in adversity, rivalry and camaraderie, and that the most important thing about writing any story is to make the reader care.

But even the fanfics that weren't good helped me, because they taught me what not to do--although it took me a while to get there because, just like in any profession, you have to develop an eye for what's good and what's not through time and exposure.

The desire to continue improving within this setting meant I wrote a LOT of fanfiction, and through sheer practice and an evolving understanding of my writing, I got better.

Fanfiction was a VITAL part of my growth as a writer, and my fellow fanficcers were my best teachers.

---

I was going to write a post about why fanfiction is so beneficial to budding writers, and then I saw this in my blog feed and went "MY THOUGHTS EXACTLY!" :)

Gwen on The Benefits of Writing Fanfiction

There's also this amusing and accurate post on fanfiction by Yan at Books By Their Cover:

Rant: FanFiction

Happy Monday, everyone!




April 6, 2012

Upcoming Agent-judged Contest Alert

My friend Ruth Lauren Steven is having a fantastic contest in a couple weeks that you should totally enter if you're a querying writer.

The contest will be judged by two agents: Gemma Cooper of The Bright Literary Agency and Julia Churchill of The Greenhouse Literary Agency.

Both agents have offered up a partial request with honest feedback to the winner(s). Awesome, right?

RULES:

1) This is open to all fiction genres of YA and MG.

2) The contest itself will run on the 18th April. The submission window is 9am - 5pm EST.

3) In that window, you'll need to send your query letter and the first five pages of the ms in the body of the email. The address to send to is lottiehumphries14@yahoo.co.uk

4) This competition is for Ruth's followers, so you must be following her blog to enter.

For more information on the contest and judges, please visit Ruth's contest post.

Have a great weekend, all!




April 3, 2012

Newly Agented Writers Series

A Tuesday post! :D

There's an interview of me up at Kristin Lynn Thetford's blog as a part of her Newly Agented Writers Series. I talk about writing, querying, and a little more about how I got my agent.

There is a lot of stuff I haven't talked about in regards to my querying process and the manuscript in general, which I hope to someday share with you guys. But for now, if you're curious, please check out the interview here.

Happy Tuesday, all!

April 2, 2012

Questioning Trends in YA Fiction

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. So today's topic is about sexual assault in YA fiction. I'd really love to hear your thoughts on this.

I noticed in a number of popular YA books released last year a trend that I find sort of disturbing--sexual assault as a plot device. (I'm not talking about issue books, by the way.)

I can think of a number of 2011 YA debuts, two of them NYT bestsellers, that included sexual assault for no discernible reason other than to bring down an otherwise strong female MC and... maybe to show how evil the antagonist could be. I won't presume to know the author's intentions. In both cases, if the assault was removed from the books, essentially nothing would change. In another YA book, there was a similar assault, but it served a distinct, plot-related purpose. It put the entire book into motion.

Should potentially triggering events be written only if it's for a clear, plot- or character-related purpose? I honestly don't know. I just know it bothers me when it doesn't. And sometimes, even when it does.

But the thing is: sexual assault happens all the time, and it's vile and unfair and, oftentimes, for infuriatingly senseless reasons. Some of those YA books could arguably be a reflection of this. So I guess I'm torn.

Saying it shouldn't be written in those situations is like silencing it, denying it doesn't just happen for senseless reasons (and possibly even giving the illusion that those random attacks are somehow less traumatizing than, say, premeditated rape), and that would be wrong.

Two of the MCs in the books mentioned above were strong females who refused to be a victim, continuing on without letting it affect their goals. I admire that. I really, truly do. But on the other hand, I also don't want to read triggering material that sort of felt thrown in just as a way to either challenge and bring down the female MC or as a go-to for showing evil. Because then I feel like the impact of such an experience is lessened, that the emotional pain of readers who've experienced it has been reduced to a plot device or a random point of angst that's quickly tossed aside.

I'm not sure where I stand on this, because I was still able to enjoy--and love--those books in spite of this particular issue.


What do you guys think? I'd love to hear your thoughts.

 

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