What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make posting quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. Join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, or a great way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

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Can you believe Ready. Set. Write! is over?! *sob* Not that I’m going to stop goal-setting and writing and participating in What’s Up Wednesday, but still… Our fantastic summer writing intensive is all said and done!

ready set write button

My fabulous co-hosts and I would like to thank you for participating and celebrate your success by offering critiques. Of course, we don’t presume to be experts, but we do know how helpful it can be to get a fresh perspective on our writing. So… Erin, Jaime, Elodie, Alison, and I are offering feedback on the first ten pages of five Ready. Set. Write! participants’ stories. That’s FIVE critique giveaways! All you have to do is enter via the Rafflecopter below…
(Giveaway is international. Open to those who participated in Ready. Set. Write!)

A Rafflecopter Giveaway

Best of luck! 

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And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer. While the writing was lovely and the characters were well-drawn and likeable, this was a tough story to get through. The inevitableness of a tragic event is made clear early on, and the entire book is a journey to a heartbreaking conclusion. Yet, there’s a sense of hopefulness that keeps it from from becoming unbearably sad. More next week for YA Book Club. Now, I’m reading The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater, which is predictably awesome and packed with beautiful prose. Big thanks to Krispy, who generously loaned me her ARC!

What I’m Writing: Guys, I’m busting through my WiP. I wrote 6,831 words this week, and I think most of them are good words — yay! Since Ready. Set. Write! began a few months ago, I’ve written just short of 50K words, a number I’m thrilled with. The other day I completed what I’m pretty sure is the strongest, most emotionally charged scene I’ve ever written. We’ll see what my CPs have to say down the line, but for now I’m feeling encouraged and successful and really excited about my writing. I’m rolling with it.

Daisy is excited too.

In addition to working on my WiP, I started revising another project I’ve been working on off-and-on for the last couple of years. There are a few issues with the conflict and, with the help of my super savvy agent, I’m going to solve them. In an effort to assess the story’s pacing and reacquaint myself with its structure, I put the Plot Dot Test to use. I love visual aides (and graph paper!).

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Other than reading and writing, I’ve mostly been spending time with my girl, which is sort of funny since she’s in school almost all day now. Quality over quantity, I suppose. We’ve been making the most of our afternoons and weekends, reading books, doing art projects, having special breakfasts, and going on girls-only shopping trips. It’s been fantastic!


Perfect morning beach walk with my favorite girlie. We love California!


The start of a new soccer season. Coordinating practice uniforms are important.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: I recently rediscovered Pink Floyd’s Comfortably Numb while watching my boy Leo in The Departed (love that movie!). Even though this song isn’t country, its tone and lyrics fit my WiP extraordinarily well. Plus, it’s really chill writing music. I’ve been listening to it on loop.

Also, from blogger/mama/Aussie/super creative person Chantelle (AKA FatMumSlim), a very cool compilation of “what to blog about” ideas. A great list to check out next time you’re in a bit of a blogging rut.

So, tell me… What’s up with you this week?

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What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you.

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First—can you believe Ready. Set. Write! is ending in ONE WEEK?! Not that I’m going to stop goal-setting and writing when summer is all said and done, but still… Our fantastic writing intensive is almost over!

On that note, my fabulous co-hosts and I would like to thank you for participating and celebrate your success by offering critiques. Of course, we don’t presume to be experts, but we do know how helpful it can be to get a fresh perspective on our writing. So… Erin, Jaime, Elodie, Alison, and I are offering feedback on the first ten pages of five Ready. Set. Write! participants’ stories. That’s FIVE critique giveaways! All you have to do is pop in next Wednesday (August 28th) and enter via Rafflecopter. (This giveaway is international and is open only to those who have participated in Ready. Set. Write!)

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And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: For starters, I’m about halfway through a captivating beta read. It’s been awhile since I’ve read any manuscripts but my own, and I’m having a blast spending time with this romantic contemporary YA. I feel so fortunate to be able to read work by such talented writers! On the published book front, I read Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway last week and fell head over heels for Audrey and Victoria and James and all their crazy misadventures. This was a truly funny book with exceptional voice (I’ll talk more about it in tomorrow’s Bookanista post). I also read Rainbow Rowell’s Attachments, an enviably clever and amusing adult novel. I adored Lincoln, and I thought the dynamic between Jennifer and Beth was fantastic. Recommend! Now, I’m reading Morgan Matson’s Second Chance Summer, this month’s YA Book Club selection. It’s lovely so far, though it’s making my heart sad.

What I’m Writing: I have to say, I kind of rocked my WiP this week. My goal was a conservative 3,000 words, though I mentioned I was really hoping for 4K or 5K. I ended up with 6,512 words for the week, which I’m excited about, and I also cleared 50K words. Seeing as how I started Ready. Set. Write! with about 9K words, I’m feeling pretty great about my first draft progress. My goal for this week is to write 3,000 words on my WiP, and to begin working on a light revision of another project, which I hope to complete in the next three weeks.
#GluttonForPunishment

Me and Daisy, my writing buddy.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Oh, you know… melting down about things I can’t control — what I do best. I had a heart-to-heart with my husband the other day and told him all about how I feel like a failure in several aspects of my life, and he (sweetly) told me that there’s something to be said for personal growth. To which I replied, “But I’m growing into a crazy person!”
So, yeah. Living with me can be really fun.


In more cheerful news, on Saturday morning I supervised while my girlie made breakfast. She wanted Blueberry Muffins, so we chose this healthy recipe and they turned out really tasty. I love when blueberry muffins are packed with blueberries, and these definitely were. Yum!


Mostly, I’ve just been spending time with these three, my favorites, and lamenting the end of summer.

What’s Inspiring Me Now: Attachments inspired me, and made me think about writing dialogue in a new way — I posted about it on Monday.

Also, I Hate Strong Female Characters, a must-read article from Sophia McDougall, who shares brilliance like this: I want a wealth of complex female protagonists who can be either strong or weak or both or neither, because they are more than strength or weakness. Badass gunslingers and martial artists sure, but also interesting women who are shy and quiet and do, sometimes, put up with others’ shit because in real life there’s often no practical alternative.

And then there’s this fantastic post, In Which I Go Into Cheerleader Mode by Shannon Messenger, which is honest and true and timely, something I totally needed to read this week. It’s almost like Shannon was in my head when she wrote: Like there’s some ticking clock determining how long they’re allowed to be “aspiring” before they must cross over to “published”, and any second someone is going to realize they still don’t have a book deal and show them to the door. If your journey to publication has ever made you feel like a fraud, please drop by Shannon’s blog and read the full post — you’ll feel better!

And finally, I’m finding serious writing inspiration in this quote:

Tell me… What’s up with you today?
{Don’t forget to link your WUW posts to the list on Jaime’s blog this week!}

Currently…

(I originally got the idea for “Currently…” from Kate Hart, who snagged the idea from Amy Lukavics, who picked it up here.)

Loving

Hot apple cider. Random, but it’s been tasting extra yummy lately…
My new L’Oreal Hair Serum. Finally a product to counteract our hard water…
Trader Joe’s — I always feel so happy in that store…
Babies! On Sunday, one of my favorite friends had an adorable little boy. Yesterday I got to visit him and hold him… So fun!

Reading

I’m a few chapters from the end of Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects. Just like last year’s Gone Girl, Flynn’s debut is FREAKING ME OUT. So many deplorable, pitiable characters. So many visceral, disturbing images. Such astute, evocative language. I cannot put it down.

Watching

HBO’s Girls. Lena Dunham is brilliantly funny. Never before has a show made me enjoy cringing. Also, MTV’s Catfish. I have a mini-crush on Nev, and every single episode is absolutely captivating. (On the subject of TV, I’m ready for Breaking Bad and The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones to return!)

Thinking About

The end of my revision. I’ve incorporated all the feedback my agent and I discussed and I am loving the results. Just a few chapters left in my final read-through, a quick beta test, and then my manuscript will be on its way back to the inbox of Agent Victoria… Yay!

Anticipating

That quick beta test I mentioned above? I’m swapping manuscripts with one of my favorite blog friends. We both love to read and write upper contemporary YA (with lots of romance!), but oddly enough, we’ve never read each other’s work. That’s serving us well, though, because we’re both needing fresh eyes on our manuscripts. I can’t wait to read hers!

Listening To


Ho Hey by The Lumineers… Not exactly country, but this song rocks.

Wishing

For warmer weather! I acclimated to the pleasant temperatures of my new California home pretty quickly. Lately, though, it’s been freezing! Okay, that’s probably dramatic. Today it got up to 55, but in the mornings when I get up to run… Brrr! Hurry up, spring!

Making Me Happy

My loves… always.

What’s currently making YOU happy?

The Girl with the Green Pen

I’m so excited to welcome my friend Taryn Albright to the blog today! In addition to recently taking a job as Editorial Assistant at Spencer Hill Contemp, she’s just launched an independent editing venture called The Girl with the Green Pen, and she’s graciously dropped by to answer a few questions about it…

Hello, my lovely friend! To start, can you tell us a little about yourself — your writing background, your critiquing/editing experience, etc…

Hi, I’m Taryn 😀 I’ve spent a year and a half interning with 3 superstar agencies including Andrea Brown Literary. I’ve also spent sixteen months as a freelance editor, and during that time, I’ve worked with over 60 authors. Nine of my clients have signed with agents and five have signed book deals, four with major houses. I’ve been writing since I was young, but I really got serious about publishing my freshman year of college. My sophomore year, I signed with an agent, so I have plenty of experience in both the querying trenches and the submission process.

I’ll pause here to vouch for your utter brilliance, Taryn. –> (I’ve been lucky enough to have both my query AND manuscript critiqued by Taryn, and she’s so incredibly savvy. Here suggestions and feedback are fantastic, and her enthusiasm for publishing and young adult literature is unmatched!) Now, can you tell us what your mission statement for The Girl with the Green Pen is?  

My mission is to guide writers through the daunting task of revision. From idea development to editorial feedback to general publishing advice, I love working with stories and those who create them. As a nationally ranked swimmer, I know the value of time, so I believe in quick responses from the first email to the last.

I am not just another freelance editor. Beyond providing an experienced and thorough critique, my secondary goal is to establish a relationship with my clients. I want to support you throughout the stressful submission process and celebrate with you upon any and all good news. Writers may put pen to paper alone, but it is through a community that the book gets finished, polished, and submitted.

I can’t agree with the community bit more. 🙂 Will you describe the services The Girl with Green Pen will provide?

One of my main goals with starting The Girl with the Green Pen was to expand my editing services. I’ll still offer Evaluation services (a critique for big picture things, a critique for the details, and a critique for both big and small), but I also now offer Development services. Development means that I’ll be with you a little longer, for more than one pass of the manuscript. I also have a fun set of Other services, like Submission Packages, that can help prepare your query and opening pages for submission.

And why the GREEN pen?

Most edits are made with a red pen. If someone critiques your manuscript, they’re most likely going to cover it with red ink, right? Not so much here. I make all my notes in green because I like to reflect the idea of moving forward. Green means go, it means spring, it means new life. These are all ways to think of your revisions, and they’re how I like to think of the editing process.

I love that! When will you begin taking on clients? And what is your turn-around time for different services The Girl with the Green Pen will provide?

Now! I never stopped taking on clients for Teen Eyes, and I’m working with a handful of authors right now. My editing hasn’t change–only the banner above it. Like Teen Eyes, turn around times for The Girl with the Green Pen will be fast, usually within 7 days depending on the critique.

Where can interested writers find you? 

Twitter: https://twitter.com/tarynalbright

Blog: http://www.tarynalbright.com/

Website: http://www.thegirlwiththegreenpen.com/

You’ve been successful at Teen Eyes. Why have you decided to branch out now? 

Well, it’s 3 months until I turn 20, and then the “teen” part won’t work. When I started brainstorming what I wanted to do without the teen label, I got the idea for The Girl with the Green Pen and got really impatient. I wanted to expand my services and do something bigger, and I didn’t want to wait!

B&B

Thanks so much for giving us the lowdown on The Girl with the Green Pen, Taryn. I wish you great success! 

(Guys, if you have any editing needs whatsoever, please do consider contacting Taryn. She’s a superstar!)

Five on Friday

1. WriteOnCon begins August 14th! Never heard of WriteOnCon? Well, you’re missing out! From the website…designed to give attendees many of the features of a live writer’s conference, but in an online environment. Thanks to technologies like blogging, vlogging, livestreaming, and chats, WriteOnCon connects writers with both industry professionals and fellow peers from the convenience of their own homes. Critique forums allow writers to receive feedback and exposure for their work, and the entire program is designed to be both informative and entertaining. 

Guys. There are tons of authors, writers, and agents involved with WriteOnCon. It’s a fantastic opportunity to meet like-minded people, get your work critiqued, and learn from some of the best. Oh, and WriteOnCon is FREE! Click on the image below for more information…

2. I have the world’s best CPs. Not only have they provided me with amazing feedback on my WiP this summer (thank you, TarynTemreChrista, and Alison!), but their writing… Holy hell these girls are amazingly talented! Over the last few weeks, I’ve had the privilege of reading work by Alison (upper-YA contemporary with a wicked twist of magic and a male narrator who has all kinds of issues and still manages to rock) and Temre (middle grade contemporary with the most charming magical thread and an absolutely adorable protagonist who I can’t wait to share with my daughter in the future). While the stories of these two writers couldn’t be more different (seriously–they’re worlds apart), they’re both utterly engaging, unputdownable, with voices that are unique and enviable. And, if reading Alison’s and Temre’s incredible manuscripts isn’t enough, I get to read Christa‘s next week. Lucky me!

3. YA Book Club, brain child of brilliant Tracey Neithercott, has an official August selectionThis is Not a Test by Courtney Summers. I’ve read this book, therefor I can say with supreme certainty that it’s amazing. We’ll be discussing This is Not a Test via our blogs and blog comments on Monday, August 27th, so you’ve plenty of time to hunt it down (like you’d hunt down a zombie), read it, ponder it, and write about it. I can’t wait to blog hop and check out everyone’s thoughts on this astonishing book. For more info, click on the image below…

4. I have agent-suggested revision notes! You might recall that, with great trepidation, I sent my WiP off to Agent Vickie a few weeks ago. Then I waited nervously and ate a lot of chocolate and tried not to bug her while she read the manuscript I’ve been working on for more than two years. Well, Agent Vickie has now read it and she’s on board with it (yay!), and she recently sent me an email full of shrewd feedback and invaluable suggestions for improving the story. Mostly, this revision will consist of digging deeper, strengthening character motivations, and fleshing out backgrounds. This is the phase of writing I enjoy most (drafting = yikes!), and I’m currently letting all that feedback simmer in the depths of my mind so I can start brainstorming and dive headfirst into the work next week. Can’t wait!

5. Kindergarten. My girlie started school on Wednesday. First of all, how am I old enough to have a school-aged child? And second, how am I going to fill my days now? I’ve been a stay-at-home mama since the day my daughter was born. Now I’m just a stay-at-home… person? I mean really. One can only do so much grocery shopping and cleaning. Luckily, I have plenty of CP reading and regular reading and revising (see above) to keep me busy. And thankfully, my girlie is doing fantastically at school. So, I guess I should just be grateful for all the extra writing time and stop watching the clock, counting the minutes till pick-up. Right? RIGHT?!

Pretty girl all ready to go!

A little nervous and a little sad once reality set in. Luckily, she pulled it together and let me leave with minimal fuss. (Thanks to my dear friend Meghan for acting as paparazzi and snapping this photo through the classroom window… I love it! ♥)

A successful first day! (Again, my sweet friend Meghan… She brought my girlie flowers at pick-up time!)

Tell me: What do you have going on this weekend? Reading? Writing? Fun in the sun? (We’re cooking out with neighbors and going to a professional soccer game… Fun!)

BE HERE NOW ~ An Auction

YA writer and lovely blogging friend, Kathy Bradey, is heading up an auction starting this coming Wednesday where you can win query and manuscript critiques. More details will be on her blog, so be sure to visit (and follow!) her for up-to-date info. Here’s a rundown of what the auction is all about:

What is “BE HERE NOW”?

“Be Here Now” is an inspiring documentary about the actor Andy Whitfield, who put the same determination and dedication that he brought to his lead role in the hit television show, “Spartacus: Blood and Sand,” into fighting life-threatening cancer.

It was Andy’s hope that by opening his story up to a documentary, he might help or inspire others facing similar challenges, while pushing to accelerate the pace of cancer research around the world.

“When Andy was told his lymphoma had returned and that without treatment he had 3 – 6 months to live, he was compelled to share his exploration into the unknown. He selflessly invited a film crew into our lives, who followed us through out the last year of Andy’s magnificent and courageous journey. We now need your support to finish the documentary and fulfill Andy’s legacy.”
~ Vashti Whitfield (http://www.maybemcqueen.com/)

What are “BE HERE NOW” Critiques?

“Be Here Now” needs funding for additional filming and editing, or else the documentary will not be completed. The following writers have come together to offer various manuscript, chapter and query critiques in exchange for your pledge/donation to the “Be Here Now” Kickstarter campaign. Writers participating so far:

E.K. Henry
Debra Driza
Michelle Painchaud
Laura Tims
Kathy Bradey
Mindee Arnett
Melanie Santiago
Angie Spartz
Rachael Allen
Beth Light
Susanne Winnacker
Kaitlin Ward
Jenn Walkup
Kara Taylor
Dawn Rae Miller
Stephanie Kuehn
Rebecca Rogers

How does it work?

• Each critique item is an auction and will have its own post.

• You bid on the critiques by posting in the comment section on Kathy’s blog. (Don’t forget to include your email address in your comment!)

• You may bid as many times as you like.

• The length of the auction will be included in the auction post.

• When the auction is over, the highest bidder is the winner and will be notified by email.

Additional Details

• The minimum bid is $1.00.

• Winners must pledge their winning amount to http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/426354716/be-here-now-the-andy-whitfield-story within one week of winning their auction item. Please note: A pledge is not a payment. It is a promise of payment.

• THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT!
As per the rules of Kickstarter, you will NOT have to pay any money (even after you have pledged) unless the “Be Here Now” funding goal is met within the specified timeframe. Let me say that again. IF THE FUNDING GOAL IS NOT MET WITHIN THE TIMEFRAME, YOU WILL NOT BE CHARGED YOUR PLEDGED AMOUNT. Unfortunately this also means that you will only receive your auction item if the funding goal is met. However, with a funding goal of $200,000 and $37,000 already pledged in 2 days (with 43 days to go), you can make up your own mind whether or not to participate.

• If the funding goal is met, your credit card will be charged on Monday Jul 23, 4:04pm EDT. You must send me the confirmation e-mail sent by Amazon Payments as a record of donation to receive your critique.

• If you would like to pledge without partaking in the auction, do so here: http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/426354716/be-here-now-the-andy-whitfield-story

The first auction items will be posted on Kathy’s blog on Wednesday, June 13th, 2012. (Sydney, Australia time). You can post any further questions you may have in the comments of Kathy’s blog as well.
Any help in spreading the word (Twitter/Facebook/blogging) about this awesome cause would be greatly appreciated!
🙂

Surviving Revising…

Ah, another round of revisions is coming to a close. Good news: I just have this feeling that I’ve made some super successful changes… yay! Sort of bad news: The whole thing has been quite a challenge. As I’m sure most of you can attest to, the revision process is full of musing, second-guessing, doubt, and tons of hard work. I feel like I’ve been staring at my computer for ten days straight, and thinking about this story nonstop.

Oh, how to deal? Well, there are a few things I  do to survive the madness of revisions. I’ve compiled my best tips and tricks to share with you today…

Sleep on it. Feedback, I mean. If you’re anything like me, the first reading of a revision letter is met with a certain degree of mental resistance. We want to believe our work is perfect as-is, but deep down we know it’s not. That’s we why ask for feedback in the first place, right? I find if I take a night or two (or a week–whatever works) to absorb and ponder revision notes, they feel a lot less personal and a lot more helpful. My mind starts to mentally work out the problems that need addressing, and suddenly I’m excited to dig in.

Set a completion goal date. If I don’t give myself a deadline to work toward, I’ll procrastinate for hours (or days!) before I ever get down to being truly productive. When I’m really struggling with motivation, I take goal-setting a step further and break my workload into days, like: Revise 30 pages on Monday, or Address supporting character (Chelsea) on Tuesday.

Draft a scene-by-scene To-Do List. I’m intrinsically organized and an enthusiastic list-maker, so seeing all the work I need to do in bullet points makes the revision process a lot less daunting. If I can trick myself into thinking it’ll be easy, that it’s totally manageable, then I’m able to dive in with a whole lot more confidence. Also, I make a point to highlight each scene on my list as I compete it. It’s so encouraging to watch each item on my list transition to bright yellow, one by one!

Tackle the big stuff first, but keep a running list of “little things” to go back to later. This works for me because it keeps me on task. I find as I’m revising overall story elements (theme, pacing, character arc, whatever), little things consistently pop up that also need altering. But it’s a serious waste of minutes and momentum to stop, back up, and take care of a tiny detail. Still, I don’t want to forget about these important bits, so I keep a separate list  at the bottom of my scene-by-scene To-Do List. It’s something of a reward to run through and change each one as the revision comes to a close.

Sign off. Like, from everything BUT your manuscript. I know, I know… it’s so hard NOT to check Twitter and email and Facebook. It’s no fun to cancel social engagements because you have to work. It’s annoying to see all your favorite TV shows backed up on your DVR. It sucks to watch a fine layer of dust accumulate on your coffee table (okay, that might just be me). But I have to let go of all those outside distractions in order to get into my revision mindset. The only real “breaks” I give myself are quality time with my daughter (obviously), exercise, reading (but just a little!), and the occasional blog post.

Enjoy that final read-through. When I’m “done” and it’s time to begin my last overall read-through, I try to ditch Revising Writer Katy and settle into Casual Reader Katy. This way, I’m able to catch problems I might not have noticed otherwise. Little things, like a slight voice inconsistency or an overuse of a character’s name. Also, it’s an incredibly pleasant and gratifying experience to read through all my hard work as an eventual book-buyer might.

When all else fails, have a treat. This healthy little faux brownie got me through this latest revision. I ate one nightly, and I didn’t gain even a pound!

1. Spray a microwave safe bowl with Pam.
2. Combine 2 egg whites, half of one mashed banana, and 1/4 pumpkin puree.
3. Add 2 T almond meal, 1 T Stevia, 2 T unsweetened cocoa powder (I love Hershey’s Special Dark!), and 1/4 t baking powder.
4. Mix all ingredients thoroughly.
5. (Optional) Add a sprinkling of bittersweet or dark chocolate chips. (I love the Ghirardelli brand). Combine.
6. Microwave for 2 to 3 minutes, depending on your machine and altitude.

This recipe yields one enormous faux brownie that can be enjoyed on its own, or topped with peanut butter, almond butter, whipped cream, or ice cream (depending on what kind of day you’re having :)).

So, how do you endure the challenges of revising? Any tips to share?