Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Well, tomorrow's the day. I depart for Kenya at 9:20 in the morning. See you all in a few weeks!

On an entirely unrelated note, this made me laugh:

P.S. I just found out about the whole background/template thing.....so many to choose from! This discovery made my day :).

Monday, June 21, 2010

Being a kid in an adult's world...

....can be very confusing. When I attended WIFYR, I was by far the youngest in my critique group, and one of the youngest at the conference in general. I'm not saying there aren't other young aspiring authors out there, but the majority of serious writers are definitely adults. And once you get into the business of publishing....well, that's when you leave the world of kid-hood behind.

Now, I'm not a published author. I've taken some steps in the right direction, but I still have a long way to go before any one of my "books" hits the shelves. That being said, I've had some positive interactions with people in the publishing world, mainly editors and agents. It makes me wonder how other industry professionals view young writers. Do they look down on us? Do they ever take us seriously?

The whole idea of adult superiority has been a barrier that I've struggled to overcome. In my WIFYR critique group, it was hard for me to think of myself as an equal, even though we all attended the conference for the same reason. I assumed the others were looking down on me as they would a child. By the end of the week, however, I had made friends with all of these wonderful men and women, and my inferiority complex was drastically reduced. For the first time, I knew I was being taken seriously as a writer and person. I think winning the first page contest was especially gratifying for this exact reason. Although I've won contests before (Scholastic being the biggest), I had never entered one with adults. Winning has verified, in my mind at least, that my writing can stand up against adult work as well as teenage writing.

On a different note, my poor bunny has developed head tilt. He is eight and a half years old, and the sweetest little creature you ever did meet. I got him for my ninth birthday. He loves to snuggle, lick people, and fall asleep in your arms. He's gone downhill very quickly, and now he can hardly move because his balance is so skewed. He falls over and thrashes around and has to be fed through a syringe. It's heart-breaking to watch, and I'm afraid we may have to euthanize him by the end of the week.

Lastly, I leave for Kenya on Wednesday morning. I'm participating in a two week humanitarian project in the village of Kiamuri. Due to our isolated location, I won't be able to post/answer messages until after July 9th, the day we return.

That's it for today.


Saturday, June 19, 2010

Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers

This week I attended the Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers conference in Sandy, Utah. I went in not knowing what to expect, and ended up improving my manuscript, making connections, and meeting tons of awesome writers who will surely become rich and famous in the next couple years :).

The morning workshops lasted four hours, during which a relatively small group of writers met together to exchange advice and critiques. My group was headed by Brandon Mull, author of the Fablehaven series and Candy Shop War. The insight I gained into my own work through their thoughtful editing suggestions was invaluable. I will be forever grateful to these people, who are all talented, kind, open-minded, and well-educated. Here's to all of you: Ali, Michelle, Jeni, Gwen, Chersti, Joel, Sally, Brandon, Jason, Liesl, Gina, Gaylene, and Lana. Also, my heart goes out to Taylor, who had to return home after the first day of the workshop due to a family emergency.

Our Group

Liesl and I

The afternoon events varied with each day. After the plenary address I usually went to the mingle, where aspiring writers such as myself got to speak with published authors. I love authors. Seriously, being around people who are just as crazy as I am has been the highlight of my year so far. The encouragement I received made me excited to continue working on my project.

Thursday morning, I found out I won the WIFYR first page contest. This allowed me the opportunity to meet with an agent, Mary Kole of the Andrea Brown Literary Agency. Our session was wonderful! I really understood all of the advice she gave me, and I'm grateful that she took the time to go over the first section of my manuscript. I'm really hoping I'll get to work with her at some point in the future! She also told me she liked my shoes, which in my opinion makes her extra awesome :).

One of the best parts of the conference, as I already mentioned, was the authors. These are but a few of the people I met:

Carol Lynch Williams runs Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers. She's also the author of 5,623 different books*, including The Chosen One, which I read in a single day while I was in New York. It made me cry (almost).

When I arrived at the conference, I was convinced Carol was mean. Why, you might ask? Well, I'm not exactly sure. I think it's because she's not smiling in the picture on the back of her book (don't get me wrong, it's a great picture...she looks very dignified). Also, it might have something to do with her middle name being Lynch. It wasn't a conscious decision on my part, but I had gotten it into my head that Carol was the sort of person who's always very serious (and therefore somewhat scary).

Carol is actually hilarious. Plus, she's super nice, despite what I might have thought before attending the conference. I had so much fun listening to her speak and I absolutely love her writing. As the person who organizes Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, I have to say, thank you thank you thank you! It was an amazing experience. Barring death or serious physical incapacitation (knowing me, it's highly possible), I'll be back next year for sure!

And isn't our picture just adorable? :)

Carol's Blog (with Ann Dee Ellis)

Alane Ferguson has written 5.3 million books*, even more than Carol, if you can believe it. She is known for her flash critiques and brutal honesty. She's also an incredibly talented dancer, even if she won't let us (me) post the video on YouTube.

Alane is my new favorite person. Everybody buy her books. Seriously. The reason she is my favorite person is because she encourages all aspiring authors, no matter how good or bad their writing is, and because she doesn't hold back in her editing suggestions. Her advice helped me revise my first page and win the WIFYR contest. In essence, I owe her for my consultation with Mary, and I'm so grateful that she took the time to speak with me and critique my work. She's also hilarious, and I loved all of her presentations. Funny people are great. I like funny people.

Anyways, you should all visit her blog. Yes. I mean you. Click here:

Alane's Blog

This is me and Gentry with Sara Zarr, author of Story of a Girl, Sweethearts, and Once was Lost. First off, Gentry is awesome. She's 12 and she's already an amazing writer. I had a great time getting to know her and her aunt, Paige Kimball, during the afternoon sessions of WIFYR.

Anyways, Sara's books are very, very good. I've read the first two, and Once was Lost is next on my list. If you like contemporary YA, go buy her work right this moment. You won't regret it. I loved the presentation she did with her editor, and I feel like I really learned a lot from the things Sara said. She's always been so kind and encouraging (we first met back in November) and she's really inspired me to keep writing. You should also visit her blog:

Sara's Blog

Brandon is so cool. If you haven't read Fablehaven, you're missing out. He really knows how to cater to a young audience, and I loved hearing about his journey to publication and how he markets his books. As the head of my critique group, he did a wonderful job reviewing and editing our manuscripts. His advice was so helpful and I loved his sense of humor! He's secretly a nerd, like me, so we had fun talking about Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter :).


Also, I'd like to give a shout-out to The King's English, the most amazing bookstore in the entire world. I could spend forever in the children's room there. If any of you are ever in Salt Lake City, go here:

King's English

Anyways, that's about all I can think of to write, apart from reiterating how amazing this conference has been for me. I've never had an experience remotely like it. Thanks to all of you out there who made WIFYR possible, and I hope to see you next year!

*All figures are approximate

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Article+Teen Conference

Finally, it's here! This is the link to the article, published June 13 in the Mix section of the Salt Lake Tribune.


Also, I attended a teen writing conference last weekend which I haven't yet had the chance to blog about. The conference was a day-long event at Weber University. I met tons of awesome young writers, as well as several published professionals including Julie Wright, Lisa Mangum, and Dan Wells. The classes were great and I loved getting the chance to socialize with other people who write fiction (we're definitely an interesting bunch). As a plus, the first page of my next novel won $50 in the first page contest!

On a different note, you should all check out Anna Waggener's blog (since I finally learned how to make a link). She's the 2008 winner of the Scholastic Art and Writing Awards (there was no 2009 winner, so she's the most recent apart from me) and her blog is hilarious! Click the link. You know you want to.

That's it for today. Hope you are all doing well!


Saturday, June 12, 2010

Scholastic Art and Writing Awards Recap

Tuesday, June 8:

First of all, let's start off this post with a story:

Once upon a time, a girl named Kate really, really wanted to see all of her senior friends graduate. Because the graduation was scheduled for Tuesday, Kate made her parents buy tickets on the midnight flight to New York so she would get a chance to attend. Then, West High School, most likely in an effort to annoy Kate, decided to change the date of graduation to Wednesday. Thus Kate was unable to see her best buddy Coco get her diploma. It was also too late to change the plane tickets. In conclusion, Kate and her parents were scheduled to fly to New York at 11:59 pm on Tuesday, June 8.

The End.

Anyways, Tuesday morning I got out of bed determined to finish self-editing The Hamsa's Song. I sat down at the computer, rolled up my sleeves, and promptly engaged in a riveting hour of surfing the internet. My inner motivator had seemingly dropped dead of some unknown cause. Having no alternative, I turned to my muse, who has been somewhat testy and irritable these past few weeks.

Me: Muse, Muse, wherefore art thou Muse?

Muse: *blinks*

Me: Aw, come on. It's just a bit of editing. Once I'm done with this we both get to relax for a few weeks.

Muse: I'm on vacation in the tropics. Leave me alone.

Me: What if I bribe you? How about mocha Frappuccinos and chocolate cheesecake?

Muse: *perks up*

And that, my friends, is how I found myself in Starbucks on a Tuesday morning, downing a 20 oz frappuccino and several slices of chocolate cheesecake. It was an impressive feat, if I do say so myself. Unfortunately, however, my muse was obstinate, and refused to bring me the inspiration needed to finish my editing. Apparently vacationing in Hawaii is much more fun than sitting in SLC helping me pound my wayward thoughts into the semblance of a story. Thus the afternoon was spent watching mindless television, eating cheesy popcorn, and waiting for 10:00 when my family and I would head out to the airport. Awards tomorrow!

Wednesday, June 9:

My mom always says you should try to learn something new every day.

Today, I learned that I am physically incapable of sleeping on an airplane. We departed SLC at midnight, arriving in New York at 6:00 am. All in all I slept for about fifteen minutes. One train ride, a subway trip, and two bad cafes later, my parents and I arrived at the "bed and breakfast" where we were set to stay. I say "bed and breakfast" because it was actually the home of an old woman, who rents out her extra rooms to tourists who do not have the money (aka my family) to stay in a real hotel.

At noon we headed out to Scholastic, which was fortunately only five blocks away. I wasted no time taking pictures with Harry Potter and the Magic School Bus, as shown, before proceeding to the registration booth in the auditorium.



The lines were long, but eventually I got all the necessary information, as well as my medal. It's awesome. I think I'm going to sleep with it from now on, like a teddy bear :)

Okay, not really, but I still think it's pretty cool. Anyways, after Scholastic we went back to the hotel to get dressed, then took a cab to Carnegie Hall for the dress rehearsal. I've never been in a cab before. Life Goal #137: Complete.

Upon arriving, I was greeted by a horde of other young artists and writers, dressed in their finest with medals swinging around their necks. It was all quite overwhelming, I assure you. Following a rather embarrassing incident (during which I almost skewered some poor girl on the end of my umbrella, due to my woeful inability to properly operate such a device), the award winners were ushered backstage to await the arrival of parents/media/other attendees. Below is a picture of backstage (are you bored by all the photos yet?).

The ceremony itself was absolutely wonderful. They had several speakers address the assembly, including past award winners, and some of the work was shown/read to the audience. Okay, I admit, I dozed off once or twice, but you can't really blame me after the horrific experience that was our plane flight. At eight o'clock Carnegie Hall erupted in applause, and the award winners were released to enjoy the remnants of the evening with our families.

I, of course, was starving, and thus our celebration consisted of eating the finest cheesecake New York had to offer. Below is (yet another) picture.

Sort of disgusting, right? Yeah, I know. What can I say, I like to eat. At the end of the night we returned to our rooms, where I promptly fell into bed without so much as showering or removing my contacts. Exhaustion does not even begin to describe it. All in all, however, it was a wonderful day, one I'm sure will forever change the course of my life and writing future.

Thursday, June 10:

This morning I woke up at 8:00. Determined not to look like a hobo, I showered, put on mascara, dressed, and departed the bed and breakfast for the Parson's School of Design. For those of you who don't know, Scholastic holds workshops for the award winners, which gives us a chance to socialize and learn more about our craft. My first workshop was a panel of editors and writers. The topic was the future of publication, and we had a discussion about blogs, facebook, ebook publishing, and kindle. On the whole informative, but not the most interesting workshop I've ever been to.

Afterwards my family and I took the Subway to Bryant Park, where the writing award winners were allowed to read their material before a large audience. I didn't read. No, it's not because I'm shy, it's simply because I don't like public speaking. There is a difference (looking at you, Ms. Thompson). I was very impressed with all of the reading and I consider myself lucky to be counted among such talented individuals. Seriously, everyone was awesome! From the park I took the subway down to 53rd Street. Now, I've been known to lack a certain amount of common sense, a fact which manifested itself in my complete and total inability to get through the gates to the subway. Eventually a merciful woman stopped to help. Turns out I was swiping the card upside down. Sigh. There's no hope for me.

My second (and final) workshop of the day was probably the highlight of my awards experience. Myself, several teachers, and about twelve other students had the opportunity to tour Harper Collins Publishing. The building is a huge skyscraper, very official-looking, with tons of security measures in place. Our guides took us up to a conference room on the 20th floor and served refreshments. Then we had a presentation from a group of Harper Collins employees, including an editor, a cover designer, and members of the marketing, publicity, and design teams. It was fascinating to hear how a book comes together with work from all different departments. Below is a picture of our conference room:

After the presentation, our guides took us on a tour of the building. It's very big. And amazing. And somewhat scary. The walls were lined with rows of books, all of which were (obviously) published by Harper Collins. I took pictures. Many pictures :).

Also, here is Aprilynne Pike's book Spells in the main case in the lobby of Harper Collins. I had the pleasure of meeting this author when she visited The King's English, so I was really excited to see her work in such a prominent area of display.

At the end of the tour our guides presented us with a bag of goodies :D. We received five Harper Collins books, two of which were ARCs (for those of you who might not know, ARCs are Advanced Readers Copies, meaning the book hasn't actually been released to the public). All of the books look really good and I can't wait to read them! In addition the bag contained several examples of promotional materials, including a brain-shaped stress ball and a bracelet that doubles as a USB thumb drive. On the way out we passed through a pair of swinging gates. The gates only move when an employee swipes his/her card. Now, being me, I freaked out when the gates slammed shut in front of me. Seriously, those things move fast! I don't like them. Not one little bit. In the end I ran through, praying fervently that they weren't about to skewer me through the middle.

Harper Collins Inside

Harper Collins Outside

After Harper Collins we headed straight to the World Financial Center, where the reception for the art exhibit was being held. The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards exhibit tours the country for two years after the June ceremony. The Financial Center is also right next to the World Trade Center site, so we got a chance to look around at the memorial.

The exhibit itself was amazing. Some of the pieces blew my mind, and I wish I was half as talented an artist as these kids. There was also food :). My family and I stuck around for a while, chatting with the other award winners, before heading out to get dinner. On Ms. Thompson's suggestion we went for New York pizza. The food was amazing, and I pretty much stuffed myself, but the highlight was probably seeing Justin Long buying a pizza at the same place we were eating (the guy from the Mac commercials, He's Just Not That Into You, Jeepers Creepers, Dodgeball, etc). Here is a picture of Justin Long:

Pretty cool, right? After pizza we returned to the bed and breakfast, where I immediately crashed and slept the night away.

Friday, June 11th:

With awards activities complete, my family and I spent the day wandering New York City. I bought clothes. And some more clothes. And...more clothes. I pretty much blew my college fund on clothes. I have a certain lack of self-restraint when it comes to shopping, and the absence of my best friend Coco to rein me in had a serious effect on my spending spree. Other than that the day consisted of walking. We checked out China Town, ate lots of high-calorie food, and returned to the bed and breakfast at four o'clock to prepare for the airport.

The Scholastic Awards are amazing. The organization has spent years and years honoring the nation's best artists and writers, rewarding creativity, and encouraging an appreciation of the arts. I am honored to be among the winners. I met a ton of awesome people who are both talented and humble, including Lisa, Emily, Mckenzie, Darcy, and many others. You guys rock! These awards have forever altered my future, and I am eternally grateful to the editors at Scholastic who have given me this opportunity to start my career.

There's my recap. Hope you enjoyed it :).


P.S. Despite being severely technologically challenged, I've learned how to upload photos to my blog!!! Aren't you proud of me?

P.P.S. I'm pretty sure I used the words "amazing" and "awesome" about ten times each in this post. I apologize for the redundancy.