2012 in Review…

Last year I posted a 2011 Year in Review. Not only was it fun to share the highs and lows of my year with you all, it was also fun to look back on all that had happened over the previous twelve months.

So, of course I had to take some time to reflect on 2012. While I wasn’t successful in ALL of my goals, I did meet many. I had tons of fun with my family, I grew as a writer and reader, and I made some fantastic new friends along the way.  It’s been a busy year, full of changes, hard work, and lots of fun…

January

I blogged about goals, and decided on RESOLVE as my all-encompassing word for 2012. I also mused about the struggles of rewriting.

 I survived a winter storm that threatened my sanity.

A Million Suns (Across the Universe, #2) The Fault in Our Stars
I started the year off reading and reviewing a couple of awesome books: A Million Suns by Beth Revis and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green.

At the end of the month, my girlie and I welcomed my husband home from  Afghanistan (yay!).

The DisenchantmentsI raved about another favorite of 2012, The Disenchantments by Nina LaCour.

February

I blogged about my preference for character-driven YA, and shared my Two-Minute Tension Test.

            
I celebrated Valentine’s Day with BOTH of my loves!

I turned thirty-one. No comment.

021I attended my husband’s Welcome Home Ball and had a *little* too much fun. 🙂

March

Pandemonium (Delirium, #2)I read and reviewed another 2012 favorite: Lauren Oliver’s Pandemonium.

I worked on a substantial revision of Where Poppies Bloom and resubmitted it to the agent I was working with at the time. (In case you’re wondering, I eventually came to the very difficult realization that Poppies isn’t going to sell the way it’s currently written. As of now, the story is “retired” and waiting for a rewrite that will hopefully come in 2013… Tough stuff.)

          
I had the pleasure of spending a long weekend in Vancouver BC with my husband. Such a fun, beautiful city!

Saw The Hunger Games. Awesome!

I blogged about my on-again-off-again struggles with procrastination (and why it’s not always a bad thing).

April

successfully completed the A-Z  Blogging Challenge, which was so fun! Thank you again to all of the hosts and organizers!

I Rocked the Drop!


I met a few of my favorite authors (Gayle Forman, Nina LaCour, and Stephanie Perkins) during the Seattle stop of the YA or Bust Tour.


I was invited to become an Operative over at YA Confidential. Love my fantastic new blogging buddies!

May


I participated in Blog Me MAYbe, brainchild of writer/blogger/all-around-awesome-person Sara McClung.

blogged about The Page Sixty-Nine Test, a writer’s trick I learned from clever author Gayle Forman.

         
We moved from Washington to central California, and made a big ol’ road trip out of the ordeal.

After we settled in to our new house, I shared a little bit about how I plot stories and write first drafts.

My husband and I celebrated our ninth wedding anniversary!

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky, #1)I read and recommended Veronica Rossi’s stunning debut, Under the Never Sky.


shared my miracle cures for writer’s block, and started tackling a major rewrite of my YA contemporary manuscript, Cross My Heart.

June

Amelia Anne is Dead and GoneOh, look! Another outstanding 2012 book: Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfeld.

Around this time, I scored a few amazing new critique partners. I can’t even put into words how grateful I am for Temre, Taryn, and Alison!

          
My cutie pie got her very first library card, and had quite the Marilyn moment.

July

I posted about “gap books” and committed to reading a few of mine (including The Book Thief), and brought the “One Space or Two” debate to my blog.

I read and gushed about Kristin Cashore’s Bitterblue, my VERY FAVORITE book of 2012!

I completed my Cross My Heart rewrite! 

            
My girlie and I made the loooong trip to Phoenix to visit my parents, my brother, and my cutie pie nephew.

My husband and I saw Brad Paisley and The Band Perry… Incredible!

August

        
I helped my sweet girl celebrate her fifth birthday

and watched as she headed off to kindergarten. Very bittersweet!

September

I tackled a frustrating revision of Cross My Heart, one that came with some bad-but-unrelated writing news. I threw myself a pity party, but that pain in the ass revision eventually made Cross My Heart what it is today.

This Is Not a TestI posted about yet another phenomenal 2012 release: This is Not a Test by the infinitely brilliant Courtney Summers.

Took a trip to Washington to visit family and see Tim McGraw(!).

I posted about taking a break and why it’s important, jumped on the “Currently…” bandwagon, blogged about how running parallels revising, and shared my take on Banned Books Week.

October

I visited an apple orchard with my girlie, and blogged about method writing (which, for me, involves A LOT of baking and running).

I talked about Cross My Heart, my “Next Big Thing,” and scored some awesomely encouraging comments in the process!

I wrote six words of advice for Teen Katy, which Erin L. Schneider combined with the advice of many other YA bloggers/writers into this amazing video.

The Raven Boys (Raven Cycle, #1)The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. Perfectly creepy-weird. I couldn’t help but sing its praises!

I indulged my girlie and “dressed up” for Halloween. Little Miss Merida just LOVES this holiday!

November

I took a risk and signed up for National Novel Writing Month for the first time. The WiP I worked on is an upper YA contemporary romance. What else? 😉

        
I ran (and finished!) the Big Sur Half Marathon, meeting a goal I’d set for myself ages ago. I was exhausted at the end, yet so proud!

I blogged about all the things I’m thankful for

Saving June…and raved about another amazing book, Hannah Harrington’s Saving June (not released in 2012, but one of the best books I read this year).

In slightly less positive news, I parted ways with my former agent and began querying new agents. I didn’t blog about the ordeal until later, but this experience put a bit of a damper on an otherwise extraordinary month.

I WON National Novel Writing Month! (No matter that I haven’t touched the manuscript since November — I still love it! And, I plan on finishing the first draft and making in CP-worthy during the month of January.)

December

I accepted super-agent Victoria Marini’s offer of representation. I’m grateful for the opportunity to work with Victoria, and I look forward to seeing what the New Year brings in the way of manuscript submissions!

I got to go to Disneyland! Seriously. The happiest place on Earth.

I read and recommended yet another amazing 2012 book: Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNarama. Love, love, love!

I celebrated my husband’s birthday WITH him for once. It was a fantastic day full of The Hobbit, Buffalo Wild Wings, and homemade birthday cake.


I co-hosted the Class of 2012: YA Superlatives Blogfest with  Jessica LoveTracey Neithercott, and Alison Miller. Such a great turn-out this year. My To-Read list grew about a mile!

And last but not least, I celebrated the holidays with my husband and this sweet girl, and took some time to reflect on the passing year.

Phew!

Tell Me: How was your 2012? What are your hopes for 2013?

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To NaNo, or Not to NaNo…

I *think* I might participate in NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month.

For the uninitiated, NaNo-ers spend the month of November writing an original novel. You “win” by writing at least 50,000 words by November 30th, which averages out to be less than 2,000 words a day — totally doable. I’ve gone back and forth about participating, but I figure, what’s the worst that can happen? Even if I don’t win, at least I’ll end up with some new words. And if I do win, I’ve got a pretty sizable chunk of a crappy first draft to complete and revise and polish into something not so crappy. Why not, right?

So, I’ve been reading up on NaNo, and I’ve found some pretty fantastic tips about how to “win” without losing your mind. I thought I might share them here because even if you’re not NaNo-ing, there’s still plenty of quality information on writing in general in the links below.

Happy perusing!

Nine Reasons to Consider Joining the NaNo Silliness  – Anne R. Allen

Tips for NaNo First-Timers – YA Yeah Yeah

Getting Ready for NaNoWriMo – Storyist

NaNoWriMo Tips from Veterans – FictionWriting.About.com

The Carpool Lane: Inspiration for NaNoWriMo – YA Highway

How to get Quantity *and* Quality Out of NaNo – Taryn Albright

25 Things You Should Know About NaNoWriMo – Terrible Minds

**ETA: My official NaNo name is katyupperman. You should totally add me as a writing buddy!

Tell me: Have you even participated in National Novel Writing Month? Will you this year? Do you have any tips to share with me, the newbie? 😉

Method Writing

You’ve probably heard of “method acting.”

From WikipediaMethod acting is any of a family of techniques used by actors to create in themselves the thoughts and emotions of their characters, so as to develop lifelike performances.

I can’t act my way out of a paper bag, but I am a fan of method writing. I find it incredibly helpful and inspiring to immerse myself in my characters’ lives. Their hobbies and their passions and their cultures. Let me give you an example…

I recently shared a bit about my WiP, Cross My Heart, in a post called The Next Big Thing. I mentioned that the story’s main character, Jillian, aspires to be a pastry chef. It probably goes without saying, but this aspect of the story was a lot of fun to research. I found two food blogs in particular that were incredibly helpful: Brown Eyed Baker and Eat, Live, Run. I learned a lot about basic food preparation, the science of baking, and the art of presentation.

Of course, all of this food-themed reading and research lit a fire of inspiration under me, and I found myself wanting to bake. Often.

So I did.

And every time I stepped into my kitchen and the world of yeast and coconut flakes and dark chocolate chips, I found myself connecting on a deeper level with Jillian. I felt the same contentment I imagine she feels when she’s among her rolling pins and pie pans and spatulas. I fell in love with the process of measuring and mixing and tasting, just like Jillian. I felt a sense of pride when presenting my treats to family and friends, just as Jillian does in the story.

I attribute the five pounds I gained while rewriting Cross My Heart to Jillian and her love of pastries, and you know what? They were totally worth it. Diving into my main character’s passion not only made my manuscript more authentic, but I also discovered a new hobby, one I’ll continue to foster long after my revision is complete.

     #Homemade wine-and-cheese #bread. #Near #Baking #Food #Yum #FMSPhotoADay   #Chocolate Chip #Scones ... #Yum! #Baking #Treats #Food

Tell Me: Do you METHOD WRITE?

Run/Revise

I like to run almost as much as I like to write. I run six days a week, anywhere from six to nine miles a day, and log at least forty miles a week. Running is my quiet time, my peaceful time, my thinking time. I don’t listen to music, and I prefer to go early, before sunrise, so I’m alone on the trail and free to let my mind wander. When I’m running, I muse on whatever I happen to be plotting/writing/revising. I’ve worked out dozens of story issues and have had countless breakthroughs while pounding the pavement. In fact, my morning runs are what got me through my latest revision with my sanity (barely) in tact. (Anecdote: Recently I emailed Agent Vickie to tell her about an ah ha! moment I had while running. She responded with Imagine what you’d accomplish if you ran a marathon! Right?!)

Gearing up for five miles... #challengephotomay #fit #photoadaymay #you

(Oh, look… My legs. Because these days I’m terrified to use anyone’s images but my own.)

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how the psychological stages of running parallel the psychological stages of revising. Anyone who’s ever taken a jog knows that there are peaks and valleys that come with the workout, and for me, revisions are the same. I took some time to jot down a few notes about the ups and downs I endure while running, and I was excited about how perfectly they align with the mental ups and downs I experience while revising…

Initial DreadRunning: When my alarm blares at 5:00 a.m. Revising: When CP/agent notes arrive in my inbox. Emotions Experienced: Fear, trepidation, curiosity. Duration: Until the running/revising actually begins.

False HighRunning: The first mile or so (my first mile is downhill, so I’m usually feeling extra good). Revising: The beginnings of brainstorming–oh, this is so doable! Emotions Experienced: Bogus confidence, excitement, naivety. Duration: Until the first challenge (uphill climb, plot hole) surfaces.

Slogging (A Technical Term)Running: Mile two, when my feet are dragging and my breath is stilted. Revising: Picking through my manuscript, muddling through the easy stuff, avoiding the big (read: HARD) changes because my objectives still aren’t quite solidified. Emotions Experienced: Uncertainty, avoidance, inability to focus. Duration: Varies, but hopefully not too long. Can often be cured by chocolate/coffee/and, um… running.

Setting A PaceRunning: Miles three and four, when I stop thinking about how hard running is and start thinking about how lucky I am to be able to do it. Revising: When the changes start to make sense and a picture of what the manuscript could be begins to take shape. Emotions Experienced: Belief that maybe it can be done, renewed motivation. Duration: Until that BIG hurdle arises–you know the one. The hurdle that seems impossible to clear and makes you want to collapse on the sidewalk (running), or throw your computer through a window (revising).

I’ll-Never-Finish RutRunning: Mile five, when my knees start to hurt and the sun starts to rise and I’m hot and sweaty and feeling sorry for myself. Revising: When my manuscript is so torn up it’s unrecognizable. It seems impossible to piece into something even loosely resembling a story. (This, too, is usually the point at which one of my friends gets an agent or a book deal or an amazing review and, while I’m thrilled for them, I’m also indulging in a secret pity party.) Emotions Experienced: Terror, misgiving, mild insanity. Duration: Capable of breaking off the weak, but ushing through is imperative, otherwise I might never…

Find My StrideRunning: Miles six and seven, when I fall into the workout. This, for me, is the best part–when I feel like a real runner. Revising: When I find my groove and get into my zone, this is when I’m at my happiest and most productive. I somehow find a way to make my manuscript and my characters fit back together and it’s magical–I feel like a real writer!  Emotions Experienced: Acceptance, contentment, gratification. Duration: Until the final push.

Home StretchRunning: My home stretch is a long series of stairs that lead up  to my neighborhood, so yeah… It’s tough. But the end is in sight, so I always know I’ll make it. Revising: Plugging those final holes, checking for continuity, reassessing character arcs and word choices and sentence structure. Tedious, but totally doable. Emotions Experienced: Exhilaration, anticipation… There’s a light at the end of the tunnel! Duration: Right through to the end.

Victory! – Running: The cool down, the cold glass of water, the hot shower. Revising: The final read-through, and that spine-tingling excitement that comes with emailing a finished draft to CPs/betas/my agent. Emotions Experienced: Pride, delight, and nerves at getting to do it all over again sometime down the road. Duration: Until that next run, or that next revision.

Tell me: Do you experience similar highs and lows when revising? How do you deal? 

RTW: I’m so old school…

Road Trip Wednesday is a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway‘s contributors post a weekly writing – or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody’s unique take on the topic. To participate, just answer the prompt on your blog and leave a link over at YA Highway.This week’s question: What word processing program do you use to write you manuscript, and can you share one handy trick you’ve learned in that program that has helped you while you write?

typewriter

Guys, I’m so old school. I use Microsoft Office Word 2007. I’m envious of all you Scrivner people, but alas, I use a PC and I’m technologically stunted and resistant to change. So, Word it is. Are you judging me?

As far as simplicity and ease, Microsoft Word is where it’s at. I type my stories in an open document and jump around as needed. Not so great for organization and pre-planning, but it’s the way I’ve always done things, and it’ll be my way until it stops working. My favorite writing-related functions are the highlighter (I’m an obsessive color-coder) and FIND, which is great for editing, searching out specific words, and making document-wide corrections.

While I appreciate the straightforwardness of Word, perhaps someday I’ll own a Mac and give Scrivner a go. 🙂

What word processing program do you use? (And don’t forget to visit YA Highway to see how others answered today’s question!)

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!)

MAY I tell you something about writing?

Because it’s Memorial Day and my parents are visiting and my creative energy is pretty consumed with a rewrite, I’d love to share a previous post (originally HERE), an oldie but a goodie, about how I overcome the dreaded writer’s block.

Writers Block

My Miracle Cures…

1. I eat. Sometimes healthfully. Sometimes not. Often Bottle Caps, my drug candy of choice. 

2. I read. Books on craft. Young adult fiction. Entertainment Weekly. Whatever.

3. I exercise. Run, walk, bike, yoga–anything weather appropriate.

4. I hang with my daughter. We color. We play Princesses. We make beaded necklaces. Anything creative and fun.

5. I brainstorm with my husband. His ideas are sometimes random and unusable, but he thinks outside the box and he’s an amazing sounding board. Also very supportive.

6. I write drivel. I type out sweeping descriptions of the setting. I fill in backstory. I let my characters have meaningless conversations. Sometimes they just make-out. This stuff almost always gets the cut, but it often helps to get good words flowing.

7. And, perhaps most helpfully, I plot. Or replot. Because when I’m blocked, it’s usually because I’ve taken a wrong turn. I’ve written something wrong earlier on, and that something needs to be identified and corrected.

Tell me: What are your cures for writer’s block?

{Oh! Don’t forget to enter my Reading is Sexy Giveaway if you haven’t already! It ends tomorrow at midnight!}