Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tips from the freelance trenches

So I've been stuck in the freelance trenches these past few months, pouring over my clients' wonderful manuscripts. Some are amazing. Some still have a ways to go before they're ready for publication. At any rate, here are some common problems I see in the manuscripts I read (most of which are YA fantasy):

*Also, congrats to Danielle Jensen and Katie Williams, two clients who signed with agents recently!*

-Uneven distribution of writing. Let me explain: I receive a manuscript that weights in at 130,000 words. However, the most important parts of the manuscript (world, characters, etc) remain underdeveloped. Instead, all those extra thousands of words are allocated to unnecessary description, exposition, and repetition.

-Length. If you're writing YA, you should aim for under 100,000 words. Your chances of selling increase exponentially if you can get the story under 90k, and at any rate, most stories don't actually need all those extra words anyway. You can sell a long book, it's just much harder.

-Basic grammar/punctuation. Doesn't matter how awesome your story is - no agent will take on a writer who can't use proper grammar. Master the basics before you start pursuing publication.

-Contrived love triangles. Guys, love triangles are very, very hard to do well. A lot of the manuscripts I see employ a love triangle not because it benefits the story, but because the author wants to fit the mold of current YA literature.

-Disappointing climaxes/climaxes with no emotion. Basically, even if you have an awesome physical climax, that climax falls short if it doesn't resonate emotionally with the reader or challenge your character mentally.

-Heavy-handed messages. Self-explanatory.

-Flat characters. Also self-explanatory.

-Distancing words (words that distance the reader from the main character). In the sentence "She saw him walking down the sidewalk," the words "she saw" are distancing. "He walked down the sidewalk" eliminates this extra layer.

I'll have more of these later, but for now, I should probably pay attention to my Anthropology teacher :). Hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Contest winner, one month late

So to all of you who entered my last ARC contest, I must apologize profusely for being so late in posting results. Some personal issues have come up in my life, and I found myself unable to blog for the past couple months.

At any rate, I am back now, hopefully for good (although that's what I said last time :)). And the winner of the ARC is...






David Powers King!

Yay David! He was my first ever blog follower, you know :). I will send you an email to get your address!!!

Thanks to everyone who entered, and sorry for being such a bad blogger.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

ARC Giveaway! Venom by Fiona Paul

So I know I've been MIA for a while, but things have just been too crazy! I'm hoping to get back into blogging as the year goes on. For now, I've decided to host an ARC giveaway to help launch the new Facebook page for Teen Eyes.

The prize: An ARC of Venom, by Fiona Paul.

Love, lust, murder, mayhem and high society converge in one thrilling debut
Cassandra Caravello has everything a girl could desire: elegant gowns, sparkling jewels, invitations to the best parties, and a handsome, wealthy fiancĂ©—yet she longs for something more. Ever since her parents’ death, Cassandra has felt trapped, alone in a city of water, where the dark and labyrinthine canals whisper of escape.

When Cass stumbles upon the body of a murdered woman—with a bloody X carved across her heart—she’s drawn into a dangerous world of secret societies, courtesans, and killers. Soon, she finds herself falling for Falco, a poor artist with a mischievous grin . . . and a habit of getting into trouble. Will Cassandra find the murderer before he finds her? And will she stay true to her fiancĂ© or succumb to her uncontrollable feelings for Falco?

Beauty, romance, and mystery weave together in a novel that’s as seductive and stunning as the city of Venice itself.

The rules: 
You MUST like the Teen Eyes Facebook page. This gives you +1.
You MUST comment on this post with your points added up, for another +1. 

+1 for Tweeting.
+1 for Facebooking.
+1 for blogging.

This contest closes on October 13th, 2012.

Hope some of you decide to enter! 

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Win a critique by moi

Yes, it's finally here! The moment you've all been waiting for!!!

Haha not really, but I still think it's pretty cool that the wonderful Krista Van Dolzer is hosting me over at her blog, Mother Write Repeat. I am offering a 20,000 word In-Depth Critique from Teen Eyes to my favorite entry. All you have to do is post the first 250 words of your story, along with a one sentence pitch.

Should be fun. If you're interested, pop on over and check out the contest. Authoress and Brenda are hosting the other Teen Eyes editors.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Winners!!! Plus a CP retreat

The winner of THE DIVINERS is:

Kathryn Purdie!

And the winner of THRONE OF GLASS is:

Sophia Chang!

Yaaayyyyy *throws confetti*

Thanks to everyone who entered! I'll be emailing the winners shortly to get their addresses. Imma have another giveaway later this week, so stay tuned!

This past weekend, my critique partners and I rented a room at the Alta Lodge so that we could have some undisturbed writing time. Although I didn't get much done on my own story, we spent a bunch of hours working through Melanie's plot and helping her brainstorm ideas for her characters and world building. By the end of the retreat, Melanie had an entire outline written up for her new story. She came so far this weekend and I'm super excited to see the finished product!

Our room

View from our room

Not only was it nice to get away for a while, especially in mountains where it's mercifully cool, but I feel like our retreat helped me to understand the power of brainstorming. Sometimes, you just need to talk things through with other people who understand your writing. Critique groups are invaluable. They can help you at every stage of the writing process - drafting, revising, or even outlining, in Melanie's case. 

Plus we got to eat Cafe Rio, and who doesn't love Cafe Rio?

Anyways, I'm off to go work my little butt off, because I have a 20-page paper due tomorrow that I haven't started. Hope everyone had a wonderful weekend!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Guys! Guys! I am so excited to share this with you! As some of you are probably aware, my friend and critique partner Liesl sold her debut MG novel RUMP to Random House last year. It comes out April 2013, and today is the big cover reveal! I love this cover so much. Liesl is also holding an ARC giveaway, so hop on over to her blog and enter!











Isn't it pretty? I love love love love love it! Congrats, Liesl! I read this book long before it sold, and it's perfect for MG readers, boys and girls alike. So everyone go enter!!!

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Unreliable memories

The other day, I was flipping through a book about writing by Gail Carson Levine. In it, she talks about the importance of writing things down during childhood. One particular quote from this book really struck me. I haven't been able to find it online, and I don't own the book, but in essence she talks about the mindset of childhood and how we lose that mindset during our passage into adulthood. Adolescence is a bridge that every human must cross, and the bridge burns behind us. Once we reach the other side there is no going back. 

Sure, we all have memories. We all remember being seven, and ten, and thirteen, and sixteen. But never again will we be able to insert ourselves into that childhood/teenage mindset. Now, I am still a teenager, and thus I still have access to the mindset of my YA characters. But that soon will change. With time, I will no longer be able to think and feel like a teenager thinks and feels. Having a memory of childhood just isn't the same.

As writers, we strive to recreate these mindsets as best we can, although it will never be possible to recapture childhood. During my last few years as a teenager I've done my absolute best to write everything down. I record my feelings and my petty desires and all the ups and downs of high school/early college. Hopefully, in a few years, I will be able to look back on these writings and use them in my professional work. 

But what about those people who are already adults, who have crossed that bridge? What if you possess no written recordings of your thoughts as a child? Many of us don't think to save these childhood scribblings, and thus we lose this temporary window to our younger selves. This is why it is so, so important to integrate yourself with your target audience. If you are writing for teens, you cannot expect to rely solely upon your memories, because memories do not really allow you to think like a teenager. When a frustrated thirteen-year-old yells "You don't understand!", in many ways, they're right. Yes, we were all thirteen at one point in our lives, but that bridge is gone. We cannot fully understand what it's like to be thirteen because we do not have the power to shift into the mindset of a child. 

So you must take every opportunity possible to spend time with your target audience. Really listen to them, and take the time to ask about their thoughts and feelings. If you compile your own memories with these careful, thoughtful observations, you can craft a character who is as close to a real teenager as possible. 

Friday, July 13, 2012

Creative Collaboration

For THRONE OF GLASS and THE DIVINERS giveaway, click here.

With the advent of digital self publishing, many writers have chosen to release their manuscripts as e-books on sites like Amazon. People choose this path for a variety of reasons. Perhaps they write for a niche audience, or maybe they know a lot about marketing and think they can earn more money with e-books, or they could just be fed up with receiving rejections from traditional publishers. Along the way, some (certainly not all, but some) self published authors have developed a condescending and pitying attitude towards those of us who've chosen traditional methods. I read many comments along the lines of, "Those poor traditional authors, enslaved to the evvvuullll publishing gatekeepers, who obviously don't care about quality and just publish the same dry drivel year after year. If you're traditionally published, your book's obviously a Twilight-ripoff or unoriginal in some other way. Editors sap the life out of good books."

Make no mistake, traditionally published authors are condescending right back. But this got me thinking about so-called "creative control" when it comes to writing fiction. Many self published authors say they want to retain control of their material, so they don't have to make changes they don't want to make.

Quite honestly, this baffles me, and I think this is the main reason I would never dream of self publishing: I love working with my editor and agent. I love the collaborative creative process. Even the best of writers need input from a good editor, and I would argue that you can't buy an editorial relationship just by paying a freelance editor. My editor has a stake in my book, same as my agent. It's in her best interests to make my book the absolute best it can be, and if I haven't yet reached that potential, she'll tell me. She'll be brutally honest. And if you have an editor who is a good fit for your book, I guarantee you won't feel creativity stifled; rather, working with a good editor is a freeing experience, one that helps you grow as a writer.

(Btw, I'm not bashing freelancers. Hell, I am a freelancer! But I don't consider myself a replacement for the thorough, full-text content and line edits performed by traditional publishers, often over the course of five or six rounds of revision.)

It takes a village to raise a book. Having industry professionals who believe in me - enough to invest their time and potential income into perfecting my book - is a validation I wouldn't trade for anything. My editor points out problems and suggests solutions, but I don't necessarily have to accept her solutions. More often than not I come up with my own ways to fix plot and character issues. To me, this is the epitome of good creative collaboration: rather than wresting control of my book and stamping out the originality, my editor pushes me to be better, guiding the process instead of forcing it. When perfectly matched, the relationship between author, editor, and agent is truly a beautiful thing, and it leads to a type of creativity that transcends what the author is capable of on their own.

Now, my way won't be right for everyone, and I understand that. Some authors don't have such a great experience with their editors. But contrary to what those fed up with traditional publishing might say, I find that most editors at traditional houses are in the business of liberating new creative voices rather than silencing them.

Friday, July 6, 2012

ARC giveaway - Throne of Glass and The Diviners!

Time for an ARC giveaway! Since I returned from BEA, I've had the chance to peruse the ARCs I hoarded from various publishing booths. These are two of my favorites so far. Contest rules are at the bottom of the page.

Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."

When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

Okay, seriously? Who doesn't love Libba Bray? This book was right up my alley. It's long, but I read it in just a couple days, and I thought it was fantastic. Libba is the author of A Great and Terrible Beauty, among other novels for young adults. This is one you won't want to miss.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin. Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king's council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she'll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom. Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she's bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her... but it's the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.Then one of the other contestants turns up dead... quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.

Where to even start? This is one of my favorite books of 2012. I had my reservations going in, simply because the plot didn't sound like something that would really hook me, but Sarah's writing grabbed me from the first sentence. Calaena was such a well-developed protagonist, with flaws and nuances that slowly revealed themselves throughout the book. She was tough and dangerous, but also girly, which I found rather refreshing; sometimes it seems like the two are mutually exclusive in YA fiction. 

I also found Sarah's fantasy world to be absolutely fascinating. Here's the thing: often, when I read a fantasy book, I feel like the author only knows the bare minimum about their world - in other words, they explore it to the extent that it serves a basic purpose, but they don't have any deeper understanding of the geography, politics, magic systems, etc. With THRONE OF GLASS, I could tell that Sarah had worked out the complexities of her world down to the smallest of details. This understanding lends itself to a richer and more fulfilling story. I try to avoid in-depth reviews on this blog, because I hate spoilers, but suffice to say I'd recommend this book to anyone who loves a well-written, intricate, engaging fantasy novel. 

How to enter:
+1 for following
+3 for tweeting/facebooking
+4 for blogging
+1 for commenting on this post with your name and email address
+1 for adding up your points and posting that number in the comments section

This contest is open to U.S. residents only (sorry, international peeps!). Open until July 20th. 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Discovering voice

When I received my first editorial letter from my editor at Scholastic, the biggest change she suggested was a switch from third person limited to first person POV. At first I objected, in part because I had never written a book in first person before. As time went on I came to realize the wisdom in my editor's words (to utilize a good cliche). First person would allow the reader to connect with my protagonist, Satya, in a more intimate manner, which felt paramount for this particular character (perhaps even more so than with your average protagonist...it's difficult to explain).

During my first major rewrite I addressed larger plot and structural issues along with the POV shift, so I basically just changed all the "she's" and "Satya's" to "I's." Of course, there's so, so much more involved with a POV shift than such technicalities, but I just didn't have the mental energy to focus on so many things at once in a single big revision. Since that initial rewrite I've revised the book five more times, and I've come to realize that honing your character's voice is an ongoing process.

I started out with very generic prose. With each revision, I discovered a little bit more about my main character. Her voice evolved. As a writer, I don't think I'll ever be able to fully nail my main character's voice in the first draft. It's something I have to uncover, piece by piece, as I'm writing, and I think it's the process of discovery that makes it so exciting. Sometime during draft #5, I remember reading a paragraph I'd just written and thinking, that's it. That's Satya. When I went back through for the next round, I modeled Satya's entire first person narrative off that one paragraph. Sometimes it's as simple as changing a single word. Sometimes I have to rewrite entire scenes. Most of these changes (at least in my writing) tend to focus on interiority, or paragraphs that directly convey Satya's thoughts. It's not just what she thinks, it's how she thinks it.

I believe it's important to remember, especially when writing a first draft, that it's okay if you don't feel like you "know" your characters as well as you should. Sometimes, it takes a few rewrites to figure out exactly who they are, how their minds works, and the best way to write them. It's also important to remain open to such discoveries. In other words, don't get too attached to keeping your main character exactly the way you first envisioned them.

Writing is a process of evolution, and a character's voice is no exception.

Monday, June 25, 2012

BEA/WIFYR rundown, plus an announcement!

So I'm officially the worst blogger ever. I guess I sorta kinda maybe took the month of June off...necessary, but no fun! I miss hanging around the blogosphere! Hopefully, with BEA and WIFYR over, I'll get back to my regular postings.

I'm a little late on the BEA front, but better late than never, right? I spent the week of June 4th in NYC with my friend Taryn. We hung out with some awesome people *waves to Naughty Brent* and got lots and lots of books:

Basically, BEA is like writer porn. There are books everywhere and ZOMG THERE ARE SO MANY WHERE DO WE GO NEXT?!?!?!?!?!?!

I went out for lunch with my agent, which was a lot of fun, and I got to meet authors and editors and all those wonderful people. It really was a fabulous networking opportunity, and I'm so glad I was able to attend.

Taryn flew back to Utah with me and stayed for WIFYR, or Writing and Illustrating for Young Readers, Utah's annual writing conference. It was so much fun! I had a hotel sleepover with my critique partners (Celesta and Melanie), and I bummed around with some pretty cool writerly people, including Taryn's critique group (Katie, Robin, Emily, and Ilima). I also won a first chapter contest for my WIP, which was kinda exciting.

All sort of shenanigans transpired, but I'm a little short on time this morning so I won't go into the details. But finally, our announcement! Today, the fabulous Brent Taylor has joined Teen Eyes! Brent is a fantastic editor with tons of experience. So if you're looking for a manuscript critique, hop on over to the Teen Eyes website and hit up Brent! (Or me, or Taryn. But mostly Brent.)

More to come....:)

Saturday, June 2, 2012

A BEA party y'all should come to.....


You know you want to come. Please RSVP to me or Taryn, as soon as possible....we need to make a reservation!

Friday, May 25, 2012

What I've learned about submissions

So here's the thing: I'm currently getting ready for BEA, which means I'm scouring the list of author events, signings, panels, etc for anything and everything I want to attend. In the process, I've come across quite a few BEA buzz books. For those of you who don't know, a BEA buzz book is a book chosen by its publisher (I believe the publisher chooses....correct me if I'm wrong) to be "featured" at the expo. Many of this year's buzz books are from first-time authors. After much Googling and stalking, I came to the conclusion that the majority of buzz book debuts got huge advances from Big 6 publishers. They sold in good, significant, and even major deals, usually for two or three books rather than just one. For instance, one of the buzz books has a first print run of 250,000 copies. These books also sold very quickly (as in, they had publishers interested within a week).

And as I'm reading through all these success stories, I can't help but feel jealous and resentful. I know I shouldn't; I know I should be celebrating other people's success. But I was young and naive when I entered this business and I think writers tend to view publishing as a very romantic process. The day I signed with an agent, I thought that was it. I thought being agented would automatically make my dreams come true. I heard all the stories about authors selling in days, for huge amounts of money, and I secretly hoped that it would be me.

Well, it probably won't be. Publishing is completely unpredictable, of course, but what I've come to realize is that both of my books, while hopefully good enough to attract the attention of a big publisher, aren't the type of books to earn huge advances and lead-title status. Neither book has series potential. One skews heavily toward the upper end of YA, making it less marketable content-wise, while the other is multicultural historical fantasy (definitely not the most commercial genre). I love these books, I really do. I love their characters and I loved writing them. But if/when they do sell, they're not going to sell huge.

But that's okay. It's okay to start out small, then build on what you have. It's okay to have a book that gets a 5k-20k advance rather than 200k. Having a mid-list debut doesn't mean you're doomed to wallow in mid-list obscurity forever. Hell, look at James Dashner. He published two series before writing The Maze Runner, and each series was more successful than the last....in other words, he built up to bestseller status. It didn't happen overnight. And having a smaller advance can be good in many ways. There's less pressure to earn out (because let's face it, earning out $10,000 is MUCH easier than earning out $200,000) and you're more likely to make royalty profits on your book. And earning out is super important if you want your publisher to buy your next novel.

My books aren't big, and this is something I've come to accept. I'm not going to debut with a million dollar contract (all Ally Condie-style). I probably won't be a lead title. But I write what I love, and I love these two books. With the end of revisions looming, I've started on two separate projects, each of which is the first of a planned trilogy. I love my new projects just as I loved the old ones, and both are more "commercial" than LIKE CLOCKWORK or AILLEA'S CARDS. So who knows? Maybe one of these projects will go "big".

I may start small, but I believe that hard work and persistence really do pay off. Someday, I'm going to get there. I'm going to have a book that generates buzz and sells for a hefty advance and goes on to do really well in the market. Perhaps this will happen soon, perhaps in ten years, perhaps in thirty. But the important thing is to love what you write, even if it doesn't incite every single NYC publisher into a cash-throwing frenzy.

My books are not "big", but I love them anyways.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why we don't abort our editors: words of wisdom from your resident freelancers

So today, this text-message conversation transpired between Taryn and I:

Taryn: Yay! Also I started writing again. It's so wonderful! Hahahaha.

Kate: Ah, writing...we had a brief tryst back in January, until revisions, the jealous husband, came storming in and took over my life once again.

Taryn: Exactly. I am a fan of divorce in such cases, but what do you do with the kids/interested editors? Luckily, I had none ;).

Kate: Too bad we're both pregnant with editors, and will thus soon have to deal with such things....wow this metaphor is getting disturbing.

Taryn: Yeah we're too young for it.

Kate: Maybe. But I wouldn't object to having an editor....

Taryn: Well let's make a pact -- no abortions.

Kate: Yes, I feel like aborting our editors would put a damper on our potential careers.

Taryn: Okay this has been sufficiently awesome.

Words of wisdom, to be sure. Someday all of you will thank Taryn and I for providing such insightful advice: when attempting to publish a novel, it's always best to avoid aborting your editor.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Author Photos!! Help!

So I'm copying my BWB Taryn today by posting my potential author photos. Now, these aren't the real thing....my mom snapped these in our backyard fifteen minutes ago, and I pressed "auto-enhance" to make the colors better. In short, they're certainly not professional, and I am completely incapable of all the touch-ups and color manipulating and such that real photographers do. But I need photos for my BEA business cards, so I thought I'd take some until I get the chance to set up "real" author photos.

Anyways, I've narrowed it down to four photos that I like, and I'd so, so appreciate it if you guys would be willing to take a quick look and let me know which one jumps out at you! They all sort of blur together in my mind....I guess I'm too accustomed to looking at my own face ;).

The photos are as follows:

Photo #1

Photo #2

Photo #3

Photo #4

Note: All these photos are cropped from larger photos (again, a process that lasted about ten seconds....I didn't take the time to perfectly frame my face or anything) so I can adjust the dimensions if need be.

Thanks so much in advance!

Rejection Survival Essentials

As writers, we all have to deal with rejection. It's kind of a given. First you get rejected by agents, then editors, then reviewers, and, ultimately, readers. So how do we deal with rejections? I've compiled a list of rejection survival essentials.

1. Comfort food. For me this usually includes Cafe Rio and frozen yogurt, but chocolate, frosting, and tagalogs also work. Find the comfort food that works best for you.

2. To offset the comfort food, exercise. Go for a run. Getting some aerobic exercise, even if it's just for fifteen or twenty minutes, will make you feel much better after receiving a rejection. It ups your energy and balances your emotions.

3. Watch crappy TV for a while, so you don't have to think.

4. Find your person. Every writer needs someone to vent to when they get a rejection. I sometimes talk to my critique partners, but I also vent to my mom.

5. Space. Don't think about the rejection for a few days, especially if the rejection contained a critique.

6. Once you've given yourself some space, brainstorm. The critique may hold merit. Try to think about things from an outside perspective, and come up with ideas to make your story better.

7. Print out an extra copy of the rejection and burn it. Take vindictive pleasure in doing so.

8. Be grateful. These rejections will make your ultimate acceptance so much more satisfying.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Oh, those high school dances!!!

Well fellow bloggers, today's the day! Today, we celebrate the oh-so-wonderful memories and scandals of our high school dances. I loved high school, and dances were no exception. I don't have pictures from all the dances I attended, but I included a few from each school year, culminating in a rather amusing anecdote that occurred at my senior prom. I can't wait to hop around and read all about everyone else's experiences!

Freshman Year

'80's dance! I'm second from the right in the silk boxer shorts :).

Sophomore Year

Masquerade Ball! Red and gold themed, if you couldn't tell....this one was a blast!

MORP 2009....neon colors this time around.

Junior Year

Vegas, baby! I wore a black sequined mini dress that I absolutely loved, but Francesca stole it back :(. 

Senior Year

Homecoming with matching black dresses.

And finally, senior prom. Prom was absolutely fantastic. I went with my good friend John in a big group of friends, and we had loads of fun. The day started out with a game of soccer/football/gymnastics (yes, we managed to combine all three). Guys tend to get really invested in sports, which resulted in some rather amusing pictures, such as the one below (enlarged so you can admire their expressions):

And then came the dance part! Yay! The girls got ready at Chloe's house, then drove up to Kassandra's for pictures. I'm in the top row, third from the left, wearing a purple dress with a necklace.

And of course, no dance is complete without funny photos. This one stems from the reality TV show John and Kate Plus 8, in which a married couple (John and Kate) talk about raising their eight children. John and I played our respective roles as the mother and father of the family, while Chloe, Christian, Chris, Ridley, Kelsey, Ali, Eric, and Kalika posed as our eight children (don't ask me how we managed to produce two Asians...John and I are just talented like that). 

And the group photo (note Kelsey's date is a cardboard cutout of Justin Bieber):

And now comes the story. For some unknown (yet ultimately advantageous) reason, my friend Katie decided to wear a dress that zips all the way down the front. I personally would never have the courage to wear such a dress, because even I (as a totally straight female) could barely resist the urge to unzip it, just for kicks. But more power to her. Anyways, the only picture I could find of said dress is a picture of me starting to unzip it. Hey, we were hyped up on sugar. Don't judge. 

So we get to the restaurant, which is this fancy Japanese place where the waiters fry the food on the table right in front of you. Various shenanigans ensued, while Justin Bieber hung out like a creeper in the background:

So Katie's being Katie, which is a rather dangerous endeavor when your table doubles as a red-hot grill. Chopsticks up her nose isn't the worst of what transpired during the long wait for our food. Finally, the soup arrived. It was salty and delicious and oniony and very, very hot. Two minutes into the first course, Katie managed to dump an entire bowl of soup into her lap. 

I'm pretty sure someone shouted "OH SHIT" at that moment, because everybody in the vicinity turned to stare at us. Ella and I rushed Katie into the ladies room, while she managed to simultaneously laugh and cry as the soup burned her thighs. I grabbed the zipper and un-zipped the dress all the way down. (Not going to lie, it was really satisfying.) There were these huge red marks all over her legs. Ella ran to get water, while I crouched down, using the two sides of the dress to basically fan Katie's crotch in an attempt to cool the burns. 

At that moment a pair of old ladies walked in. It was possibly the most awkward encounter I've ever experienced...Katie's standing there in her underwear, dress hanging open, while I fervently use the pieces of her dismantled garment to waft cool air across the burns. They stared at us for a second, before the first lady spoke.

Her: "I...well, are we interrupting something?"

Me: .........

Ella: .........

Katie: *giggles/hiccups/cries*

Her: "Oookkkaaayyyy.....I guess we'll come back later."

So they left, and pretty quickly, I might add. We got Katie cleaned up and rinsed the dress out as best we could, before returning to our dinner table in time for the main course. All in all, a successful prom experience. 

So the moral of this story is (there always has to be a moral), zip-down dresses might be dangerous, but they can also come in quite handy if you happen to dump soup in your lap. 

Monday, May 7, 2012

Seriously, guys....WIFYR 2012

Everyone needs to go to this conference, whether you live in Utah or not. It really is the best writing-related experience I've ever had (apart from my Scholastic internship). I found my agent indirectly through WIFYR and I met every one of my fabulous critique partners there. Sign up, and spread the word! You won't be sorry.

Go here.


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Why we don't make babies at writer's retreats

Aggg!!! I haven't blogged in forever! I'm usually much better than this, but with finals looming I've fallen behind on pretty much everything. (Just take a look at the floor of my room....you'll probably faint.) But I feel like a fun post this evening, or morning, I guess, 'cause it's past midnight, so I thought I'd share a spectacularly weird, semi-writing-related dream I had a couple nights ago. 

Once upon a time, Kate decided to go on a writer's retreat with her critique partners and other writerly friends (all female, mind you). They wrote and ate food and had a party on the last night, a party that involved party activities. Being writers, they decided that pin the tail on the donkey and charades were much too mainstream, so they picked more unique activities. One such activity involved making babies in jars. Like, someone had figured out a way to extract each person's eggs, fertilize them, and put them in a jar, where a baby would grow. Most of Kate's writer friends have lots of children already, so they were like, "No big deal, it's just another baby!" And Kate wanted to be included in the fun, so Kate decided to have twins. 

(Are you concerned about Kate's decision-making skills yet? I know I am.)

Anyways, they let the babies grow, and Kate was about eight months into her jar-pregnancy when the realization that OMG THESE ARE GOING TO BE ACTUAL BABIES hit. I guess my dream-self is kind of stupid, because Kate seriously didn't even register the fact that her jar-baby was a real baby and that, therefore, she'd be a real mom. So Kate freaked out, but at that point it was too late and she had twins. One day the jars broke and there they were: a little boy, and a blonde-haired little girl. They looked to be about two years old at birth, so obviously the gestational period for humans growing in jars is slightly different from boring, womb-contained fetuses. 

Anyways, Zac Effron was the father, which is completely random since I've never even seen a Zac Effron movie, and then there was some stuff about Harry Potter and zombies, and then Kate was Spencer from Pretty Little Liars for a while, and then she was Taylor Swift, and then she was Hermione, and at the very end there was a liopleurodon, which is a giant aquatic dinosaur, and Kate's babies got sick because apparently they didn't develop normally inside of their jars. At any rate, I'm not sure how the dream ended. I told this all to my roommate last week and she gave me the weirdest look. I wonder why.

Since taking Psych 1010 obviously makes me an expert, I've decided that this dream displays my deep underlying fear of becoming a teenaged mother and the social stigma that goes with it. It also displays my amazing ability to transform into different celebrities at will. 

So the moral of this story is, don't make babies at writer's retreats, especially babies in jars. In particular, don't make babies in jars if Kate happens to be there (because she will inevitably want to participate, and it will inevitably take her a good 8-9 month to figure out that a baby is, like, a baby). 

This has been your public service announcement for May 2, 2012. Thanks for tuning in. 

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Because we writers need all the good news we can get....

My friend Jenn Johansson, whose book sold last year in Italy and Germany, finally sold in the U.S.! Her YA debut INSOMNIA will be out Summer 2013 from Flux. I've known about the deal for more than a month now, and after hearing about Jenn's road to publication I don't think anyone deserves it more than she does.

Go check out Jenn's post, and be sure to congratulate her!

Wednesday, April 18, 2012


**Want to know what a day in my life is like? Probably not, but go check out Sophia's blog anyway!

As a competitive athlete from a young age, I learned a lot about delayed gratification. Exercising is hard work. The summer before my sophomore year, I dragged myself out of bed at 6 a.m. for a four-hour early morning conditioning session, went home, napped, went back to the field for two hours of evening practice, then forced myself to take a 3-mile cool down jog once dusk set in. At times, I would come home so exhausted I didn't think I would be able to continue.

But I grew up a gymnast, and I knew that when soccer season finally rolled around, I would be glad that I put in the work I did. In a way, writing is similar. Sometimes I don't want to write (particularly when revisions are involved). There's this little voice inside my head, the voice that wants immediate gratification. This voice tells me to watch Grey's Anatomy or Pretty Little Liars instead of sitting my ass down to revise. This voice tells me to eat pizza and ice cream and french fries for dinner every single night, because I'm in college now and I DO WHAT I WANT. This voice tells me to stay home instead of dragging myself to the gym, because I'm tired, and I didn't sleep much last night, and I have homework to do.

My parents taught me to delay gratification. They taught me that I can do anything, but in order to do it, I have to be willing to work hard and let go of instant gratification in favor of long-term success. I credit them for my successes in life so far, because they nurtured my internal motivation rather than bribing me with external motivations. I don't get money for receiving good grades. My parents never bribed me to write, or practice my violin, or exercise. And when it comes to being a writer, internal motivation is key to success.

I think that's what we, as writers, need to learn. We need to be able to delay gratification. Writing won't always be fun, but even when it's not we need to force ourselves to write anyways. Instead of bemoaning the agony of revising, think about how good it will feel in three week's time when you have a brand new shiny manuscript.

So today, I'm going to the gym. I'm going to write. I'm going to eat healthy but still allow myself dessert :). I'm going to forget that little voice in my head and look at things from a long-term perspective.

What are you going to do?

Saturday, April 14, 2012

When it happens

The first time I got a rejection, I cried. Even though three agents had already requested fulls of my manuscript, the rejection came from my dream agent. During the long weeks of querying that followed I became convinced I would never get published. When I got an agent, the high didn't wear off until two or three months later. I made it! I had one of the best agents in the country! There was no way my book wouldn't sell.

Maybe AILLEA'S CARDS will sell, maybe it won't. There are a million reasons an agented book doesn't sell....the market's wrong, the publisher already has a similar book on its list, economic downturns, the content isn't quite right for the imprint, an editor who might've loved the book is on maternity leave, it needs to be more commercial, or the book just plain isn't good enough. And if your book doesn't sell, you'll never know. You'll never know the exact reason. It could be one, or a combination of many, or you could be just plain unlucky.

This thought used to terrify me. I used to get totally worked up over rejections. I would think about what might happen if AILLEA'S CARDS got rejected everywhere, falling short of both my expectations and my agent's.

But here's the thing: it will happen. If you want to get published, if you're willing to put in the work, it will happen. I'm confident I'll get published. Whether it's this book or the next book or even the one after that, some publisher is going to take a chance on me. So whenever I start getting worried about AILLEA'S CARDS, I think of my WIP. I know my next book is better; every time you write something new, you get better. And someday I'll write a book that's so good someone will have to take it.

Fifty years from now, it won't matter which book got published first. As a writer, I need to think about my career, not a single book. There are writers I know who worked on a single book for years, revising over and over, and when it didn't sell, they turned to self-publishing because they were so desperate to finally see their work in print. (This, of course, doesn't apply to all self-puslished authors....I think self-publishing can be a legitimate venture if done for the right reasons.) But me, I'm holding out. I'm holding out for traditional publication. Sometimes it's best to let go; if I have to give up on a few projects along the way, so be it. Those books obviously weren't good enough, or lucky enough, to land an editor, but that's okay because I've got nowhere to go but up. My writing will keep improving so long as I apply myself.

And when I finally obtain that goal of being traditionally published, it will feel all the more sweet because I struggled for it. I endured rejection after rejection and I even gave up on projects that took years to write. And I am confident that my debut, whatever it turns out to be, will be the right book for me. It will happen, and fifty years from now I'll probably be glad I didn't publish those manuscripts that got rejected.

So when writing gets me down, I take comfort in the fact that my WIP is the best thing I've written so far. I think it's good enough, and hopefully someone else will as well.

As writers, I think we (myself included) need to fixate less on individual projects and more on our careers as a whole. Sure, we love each of our books as we'd love a child. They're all unique and special and they contain pieces of ourselves. But if you want a career, it's important to look at the bigger picture. One book is just a small segment in your long path to success.

So this is my advice for dealing with rejections: keep looking to the future. Try to retain some perspective. Don't accept a sub-par deal, or sign with an agent you're not completely comfortable with, or self-publish just because nobody else will buy your book. The truth is, maybe you're not ready. Maybe I'm not ready. Don't sell yourself short for a single project, when it's the career you should be thinking about.

Because if you want it enough, you will get there. You will become a traditionally published author. And if I have to wait longer in order to find the perfect editor, one who really gets my projects, then I'm willing to do that. We should always strive for our best, and our best takes time.

And when you see your name on the spine of a book, with Random House or Harper Collins or any other press underneath, it'll be totally worth the wait.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Contest Winner - The Dark Divine

And the winner of a signed copy of The Dark Divine is....


Gaylene! Congratulations. I will be emailing you shortly.

Friday, April 6, 2012

What are your guilty pleasures?

Lately I've been hearing a lot about this novel called 50 Shades of Gray, which apparently started out as Twilight fanfiction. I haven't checked it out personally, but I've read people's comments, particularly on the PubRants post by Kristin Nelson. Seems like many people consider it a guilty pleasure...not high literature, but an escapist novel to be read on a lazy day, away from friends who might tease you.

This got me thinking about my own guilty pleasures. When it comes to TV, I have several, including Grey's Anatomy, Private Practice, and Dance Moms. The last one is particularly awful....I'm embarrassed to admit I watch it, but the little girls are incredibly talented and it's fun to watch them dance.

But what about books? Have you ever read a book that's considered pure escapism? My reading guilty pleasure would have to be Pretty Little Liars. These books are completely addictive....I powered through the entire series in a matter of days, and occasionally I tune into the TV show, which deviates enough from the novels to still surprise me. Now, I doubt you'll find anyone who argues that Pretty Little Liars is great literature (nor does it aim to be). And as a writer, I do love great literature. But their appeal and enjoyability can't be denied. And sometimes, escapism is exactly what the doctor ordered.
So what about you guys? Do you have any guilty pleasures, reading or otherwise?

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Sex in YA

The other day I was perusing Amazon reviews (yeah, procrastination leads to useless wanderings) and I found a rather interesting discussion about sex in YA. In short, the reviewer didn't object to the presence of sex in young adult books; rather, she objected to the lack of consequences for sexual behavior. The book in question involves a female protagonist losing her virginity. The reviewer seemed to feel that as a teen, this girl should suffer from an unplanned pregnancy, an STD (despite condom use), or emotional distress, so as to impart the "sex is bad" message to readers.

I found this an interesting and somewhat strange perspective, and I decided to have a look around to see what other YA authors had to say. This is a quote from Sarah Ockler, author of TWENTY BOY SUMMER:

"Not every teen who has sex or experiments with drinking feels remorseful about it. Not every teen who has sex gets pregnant, gets someone pregnant, or contracts an STD. Not every teen who has sex does so while in a serious relationship. Not every teen who has sex outside of a relationship feels guilty, shameful, or regretful later on."

I'm still a teenager, and I'd say this quote applies to 95% of my teenaged friends. Most of them have had sex. Some became sexually active as early as freshman year, although late sophomore/early junior year seems to be the norm. None of my friends have ever been pregnant or contracted an STD. And, having spent a great deal of time talking with said friends about sex and relationships (hey, we're girls, it's what we do), I can confidently say that none of them regret their decision to become sexually active. Of course, I'm not claiming this is true for all teenagers. There are plenty of teens out there who probably regret having sex early in life, or who end up pregnant/infected. But in my experience, there are also teens who have satisfying, safe, and healthy sex lives. (Side note: my friends are all very self-confident people, which makes a huge difference when it comes to sex, because self-confident girls are less likely to have sex solely because of peer pressure.)

And as Sarah said, those teens don't necessarily feel shame. I think this is a hard thing for adults to accept, because we want children to remain innocent for as long as possible. But it's reality. Teens have sex, and sex, even at a young age, can have positive consequences as well as negative. I have friends who are in long-term relationships (5+ years). Sex is not detrimental to their emotional or physical well-being; on the contrary, sex enhances their relationships, and it's an important part of romantic intimacy.

There are people out there who believe (usually for religious reasons) that sex should only occur between a husband and wife. I completely understand this sentiment. I can respect such a belief, even if I don't necessarily hold it myself. So the real question is, what gives us the right (as authors) to shame teenagers who've made such decisions? Is it really our job to preach about whether or not teenaged sex is bad? Teens are smart, and we can tell when we're being preached to. Oftentimes, authors who try to insert morals into their stories come across as unprofessional, unsubtle, and just plain annoying.

For me, the key is separating your character's thoughts and feelings from your own. In other words, don't make your characters feel shame because you think they SHOULD feel shame. You have to get inside your protagonist's head. Would this distinctly unique, flawed character feel bad about having sex? Put your own ideas aside and try to see it from their point of view. If I'm writing about a character who grew up in a small conservative town, where her parents impressed upon her the importance of chastity, she would probably feel guilty about having sex as a teen. Shame isn't the message I personally want to send, but as the author I feel it's my job to forget about "messages" and write a story that's organic for the characters. And if one of my teenaged characters decides to have sex, I'm not going to "punish" them with pregnancy or an STD or emotional damage just to please parents. That being said, all actions should have consequences. If your story includes sex, there should be a reason. But those consequences (positive or negative) need to be natural for the established character.

And it's certainly true that not all teens have sex. Some choose to wait simply because they don't feel ready. My point is, whether or not your teenaged character has sex (and how he/she feels afterwards) should be determined not by your own personal beliefs but by the beliefs of your character.

When I read books, I want stories that are realistic. I don't care about the author's personal views; I care about believable characters, a strong plot, and authenticity, qualities I attempt to emulate in my own writing.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

When Internet posts come back to bite you in the ass

First off, I did a guest post over at Paper Mountain, where blogger Brooke asked me to write about being a young author. Hop on over if you're interested.

Today, I'm going to talk about the Internet and what's appropriate to post in a public forum. This is a very subjective topic; what's appropriate to one agent or editor might offend another, and as a teenager with lots of teenaged friends I'm not necessarily used to censoring myself. A few months ago, my agent told me to go through all my blog posts, tweets, etc, just to make sure I hadn't posted anything that could possibly alienate an editor. Bad book reviews fall into this category....I know many of us love reviewing, but if an editor navigates to your page and the first thing they see is a one-star review for a book they acquired, you're not going to make a good first impression. With me, this isn't an issue. I only ever post reviews for books that I love. But what about swearing? Information that might be too personal? And how does Facebook fit into the mix? My Facebook started out as a place where I connected with school friends, but it has grown to include other YA writers, agents, and book sellers. It's still set to private (so only friends can view my profile), but my business and social lives have begun to mix.

But first, an anecdote. Last year I won Utah's Sterling Scholar award for accomplishments in English, earning a full-ride scholarship to the University of Utah as well as $2,000 cash. Three other kids from my high school won in their respective categories (Math, Science, and Trade and Technical Education). We went out for ice cream afterwards, and ended up joking about taking a road trip to Vegas and blowing all our winnings. I tweeted about it (I was new to Twitter at the time, with only a few followers who were close friends). The next morning, when I woke up, a woman had tweeted multiple times about "English Sterling Scholar wasting winnings on Vegas trip, implicating four other winners in the process, English Sterling Scholar possibly condoning alcohol consumption for underage minors..."

Needless to say, I was mortified. Anyone who knows me (or Raiyan or Delian or Chris, for that matter) knows that I'm not about to go spend $2,000 on alcohol in Vegas. To win a Sterling Scholar award, you have to have pretty impeccable grades (Raiyan and Delian were actually our two valedictorians), and good grades indicate we have at least some measure of self control. To me, the joke seemed obvious. But to this woman, who I'd never met in my life, such a joke was quite offensive.

I pulled the tweet and apologized for offending her. At the time I thought it was rather silly, but Internet fights are never productive, so I let it go. Looking back, this illustrates one of the core issues with posting on the Internet: it's very easy to misinterpret what someone means. Sarcasm and humor often don't translate well into the written word. Without important body language/vocal cues, you don't get the whole picture.

I try to keep things professional on this blog. I talk about writing, for the most part, and when I do share a personal story it's a story I don't mind other people reading. Facebook is where things get tricky, because it's where I "hang out" with my friends, and there's a different set of social rules that govern my behavior around college kids than rules for a professional setting. For instance, my photos. Obviously I don't have anything risque or illegal on there, but what about summer pictures where my friends and I are wearing bikinis? Perfectly appropriate for a normal person's Facebook, but if I decide to use it as a platform to connect with readers, I'll probably have to go through and delete a few.

I suppose it's a moot point right now, since I'm not actually a real author. But if/when I do get published, there are decisions I'll have to make, such as whether or not to make my social networking profiles open to the public. My Facebook is currently semi-private. I only add people I recognize, but those people include writing industry professionals, so I try to censor what I say and the opinions I express. Even with the private setting, I've become more and more aware of what I post. A swearword here or there is fine. But am I going to rant about something like I might've in high school? Probably not.

My point is, when it comes to the Internet, always err on the side of caution. It's easy to misinterpret someone's intentions online, and one misread post can have lasting repercussions on your career.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Experiencing cultures for your writing

One of my recent novels is set in a world reminiscent of historical India. India is one of my favorite countries, and when it comes to writing I find it's important to experience the culture firsthand as much as possible. Obviously, I don't have the money to fly to India whenever I want. So this past weekend, when the Hindu temple in Spanish Fork held its annual Festival of Colors, I decided to attend.
The Festival of Colors, or Holi, is a Hindu holiday that celebrates the triumph of light over darkness and the arrival of spring. It focuses specifically on the god Krishna. In Hindu mythology, a young boy named Prahlada escaped the witch Holika by reciting a prayer, and thus Holika burned to death. During the Festival of Colors, people throw colored, scented powder at one another, listen to traditional music, and dance around bonfires at night. In Spanish Fork, they hold hourly throwings during which the 50,000+ attendees all toss powder into the air. It's an amazing sight - you can watch a video here.

The Spanish Fork Festival of Colors is the largest Holi celebration in the Western Hemisphere. It's also the largest Holi celebration outside predominantly-Hindu countries. It really was an awesome experience, and I got plenty dirty, as you can see in the picture below:

Me and Chris

For those of you who are writing about a culture that's not your own, my suggestion is to find events like this. Look for ways to immerse yourself in that culture. You may not be able to travel outside of the US, but many minority religious/cultural groups hold ceremonies, events, or festivals that are open to the public. Such firsthand experiences will bring authenticity to your writing.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Critique partners and a contest

Blogger spell check is telling me that I spelled "partners" wrong. Am I going crazy? That's how you spell it, right?

Anyways, a couple days ago I did a post about appreciating non-rejections, and how much I love getting emails that don't contain rejections. And so my wonderful CP Celesta sent me this:

Dear Ms. Coursey,
Thank you for sending us your manuscript, SAFFY COURSEY: THE SECRET LIFE OF SAFFRON THE CAT, for our consideration. We found the narrative brilliant and engaging. The untold story of the feline crusader against superstitions linking cats to witchcraft in India is perfect for our list. We have contacted your agent with our offer which includes an unlimited advertising budget and a six month book tour with all expenses paid to accomodate Saffy. Should you accept, we at Big Boy New York Publishing House plan to make SAFFY our lead title for summer 2013.
Best Wishes,
Editor Who Wants To Make All Your Dreams Come True

(Saffy, short for Saffron, is the name of my cat.)

Needless to say, I'm ecstatic that Big Boy New York Publishing has decided to accept my manuscript. Don't y'all wish you had critique partners like this? (I'm not bragging. Okay, maybe a little.)

Last week I attended Bree Despain's launch party for THE SAVAGE GRACE, the third book in The Dark Divine trilogy. In honor of Bree's launch, I've decided to give away a signed copy of THE DARK DIVINE. It really is a great read (and I'm not even a big fan of paranormal romance). Plus, I kinda suck at hosting contests, so there probably won't be very many entries, giving you a high chance of winning! (Haha. That last sentence is just pathetic.)

Rules for the contest:

+2 for following
+1 for commenting on this post (with email, please)
+2 for tweeting/blogging/facebooking
+1 for adding up all your points and posting that number along with your comment

Yay! Hope everyone's having a fantabulous Wednesday.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Appreciating the non-rejection

Rule #1 to being an author: rejection is a given (unless of course you're Alane Ferguson). We writers love to quote the rejection statistics for famous writers, because it makes us feel slightly better about our own rejections. Hey, if JK Rowling can get turned down by almost every publisher in England and then go on to produce the highest-selling series of all time, why can't we?

And for me personally, most of those rejections arrive by way of email. So I have come to appreciate emails that don't contain rejections. It's rather interesting; while spam used to annoy the hell out of me, during the querying process I would open my inbox, see the junk mail, and breathe an enormous sigh of relief. It can be a sales pitch, or an advertisement, or one of those fake ZOMG YOU'VE BEEN SELECTED TO WIN A GAJILLION DOLLARS emails. Hell, it can be a freaking virus as long as it's not a rejection.

I write this post in a rather lame attempt to find something positive about being rejected over and over. I'm more confidant and outgoing than many writers, but still, constant rejection is a blow to the self-esteem, especially because writers tend to overanalyze the responses of agents/editors:


Dear Ms. Coursey,

You are a very talented writer and I thank you for the opportunity to consider MY BOYFRIEND IS A CRAZY STALKER NOOOOOOOOO. While the manuscript shows promise, it isn't right for my list at this time. I have no doubt you will find an agent to represent this.

Dream Agent

What I read:

Dear Ms. Coursey,

I'm supposed to say all these nice things because I don't want to piss you off and provoke a call/email response/visit to our office, but I cannot lie anymore: you suck. Your writing sucks, your characters suck, your plot sucks, and that dress you're wearing is ugly as hell. Go back to being a normal high school student and stop invading our perfect literary bubble with your pulpy prose.

Dream Agent

It's not that writers can't read (haha, that would be unfortunate). But our minds twist a rejection into something it's not. We twist it into a commentary on ourselves, our abilities, and our potential futures as authors.

So what's the one good part about getting a rejection? You learn to appreciate the non-rejections. I swear, nobody but a writer could ever get excited about an email selling toilet cleanser, or high-powered vacuum cleaners, or penis enlargement pills (seriously, am I the only person who gets about a million of these?). Today, I invite you all to celebrate the non-rejections. Let's be grateful for those glorious emails that do not even mention the word "pass".

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I am in love....

....with lit agent blogger Miss Snark. Seriously, she is fan-freakin'-tastic! I know I'm about five years too late, since she retired in 2007, but to be quite fair I was an elementary/middle schooler during Miss Snark's heyday and thus didn't spend much time on writing blogs.

But her posts are still there, all 4,107 of them (impressive, I know). Snarkiness and nitwittery and clueguns abound. So if you're having a bad day, go read through some of the archived posts (there are labels on the righthand side of the screen.....my favorites so far are NO NO NO, Nitwittery abounds, and all crapometer related posts). You're sure to get a laugh or two, and who knows? You might even learn something.


Saturday, March 3, 2012

Research can be fun!

As all y'all probably know, I write a fair amount of historical fantasy. This means research. Lots and lots of research. It can be a hassle at times (for instance, writing a banquet scene set in 1631 Ireland takes forever, because you have to look up utensils, table arrangements, attire, common foods, dining traditions, etc), but in the end it's necessary in order to give your book the proper atmosphere. My current WIP is set in modern-day Cairo. The main character is American (which makes it a lot easier) and research takes less time, since there's considerably more information out there about modern Cairo than 17th century Ireland.

To make a long story short, I really wanted to have a sense of the Arabic alphabet, since the story takes place in Cairo's Islamic district. My main characters speak English for most of the book, but I had them wearing Arabic name tags and I found myself wondering what their names looked like. So I started researching. When I wrote LIKE CLOCKWORK, which is set in a fantasy world reminiscent of India, I resolved to take Hindi lessons in college partly so I would be able to write in the sanskrit alphabet. Turns out, learning alphabets is a lot of fun. It makes me feel all cultured and sophisticated (hahahahahaha) and it's a great way to get a better sense of a culture. There's something about the aesthetics, the way writing appears on a page, that really helps me immerse myself (as much as possible) in the culture I'm exploring.

Research can be fun. Sure, my study of Arabic letters probably won't make a huge impact on my WIP, but now I can make references to Arabic diacritics and sanskrit matras and such. Little details can make a big difference, and if you can find a way to have fun with your research then that funness (totally not a word, but whatever) will show. Readers will be fascinated because you are fascinated.

So just for fun, I wrote out all my critique partners' names in both sanskrit and Arabic. I think Celesta's is prettiest (in Arabic, at least), but they all look cool, and I had a blast figuring out the letters!

Yayyyyy for semi-useless posts. Do you guys enjoy research? Have any tips for making it fun?