children's writer

A Few Things: Inciting Incidents, Querying, and Awards

Feb 28, 2013
Usually A Few Things is just a roundup of things I fell in love with over the week, but today I'll be changing it up a bit. Truthfully, I wasn't really around the internet earlier this week. I started volunteering at my local library and stocking shelves is a lot more tiring than it seems.

This week, like most weeks, writerly things have been plaguing my brain. These are a few of them.

1. When Things Change - I've noticed this trend in my writing or rather the way I write. I'll start a new project, write the first few hundred words, but then when I get to the moment where things change I'll take a long break. I know it's because I'm a fly by the seat of my pants kind of writer. Once I get to that moment I like to stop to think about where the stories going. I wonder if other pantsers do this.

2. First Lines & Chapters - I'm not the only writer who agonizes over her first lines. Over the past year my last WIP must have had several. And I used to think my first chapters where the bomb and there was no way I'd ever change them. Now I know better. My first chapters usually start with my main characters doing something really mundane like washing dishes. I've learned first chapter that don't move = boring.

Exhibit A:

Like a cat doused in water, Momma’s voice snaps me out of my daydream. And I’m not at the audition of my dreams anymore. I’m here at home in the filthy kitchen with my hands wrist deep in soapy dish water.

Washing dishes isn't the most exciting.

3. Obsessive Email Checking - This is indeed a side-effect of querying, a very common one. I know the whole querying process takes time but I can't seem to break this habit. Yesterday, I had this idea to create a daily schedule for myself. I feel like I need to make more time for other things like reading. I need to check my email less and read more.

4. Contests - I haven't entered any with my newly revised manuscript, but I love keeping up-to-date on them. Usually I'll go through the blog and subscribe to the entries I'm rooting for. There are a few contests coming up in March, so maybe  I'll try my hand.

5. Awards - Tara Tyler gave me and a few other bloggers the Very Inspiring Blogger award. Thank you so much, Tara. This is my first award for the year.


The Rules of the Award:
  • Display the award logo on your blog post. 
  • Link back to the person who nominated you. 
  • State 7 things about yourself. 
  • Nominate 15 bloggers to the award. 
  • Notify those bloggers of the nomination by linking to one of their specific posts so that they get notified by ping back.


Seven Random Facts About Me:

  • I love anything baked: cookies, cake, and pie. As long as it's sweet I'll have it.
  • I've been afraid of the dark for years now, which is probably because I love watching horror movies.
  • I won perfect attendance when I graduated the fifth grade. 
  • I've always been bad at math, but I want to get better.
  • I'm not the biggest fan of romantic comedies unless they can make me laugh.
  • I've never seen a Broadway show, but I'd like to.
  • I'm a proud Pisces rising.

I'm supposed to nominate 15 other bloggers, but since I know how busy some of you are I'll just list a few writers who I've met through blogging and are awesome. If they somehow come across this post they're welcome to participate. 



Thanks for stopping by. Have a wonderful Thursday!

Waiting on Wednesday: Wild Awake

Feb 27, 2013
I haven't participated in Waiting on Wednesday in a while. If you don't know, Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by Breaking the Spine.

This week I'm waiting on Wild Awake by Hilary T. Smith. I've read some great things about this book so far. It sounds like one fantastic read.

Things you earnestly believe will happen while your parents are away:

1. You will remember to water the azaleas.
2. You will take detailed, accurate messages.
3. You will call your older brother, Denny, if even the slightest thing goes wrong.
4. You and your best friend/bandmate Lukas will win Battle of the Bands.
5. Amid the thrill of victory, Lukas will finally realize you are the girl of his dreams.

Things that actually happen:

1. A stranger calls who says he knew your sister.
2. He says he has her stuff.
3. What stuff? Her stuff.
4. You tell him your parents won’t be able to—
5. Sukey died five years ago; can’t he—
6. You pick up a pen.
7. You scribble down the address.
8. You get on your bike and go.
9. Things . . . get a little crazy after that.*
*also, you fall in love, but not with Lukas.


Thanks for stopping by!

How I Got My Writing Groove Back

Feb 26, 2013
For a few days after finishing up my revisions I had no idea what I wanted to work on next. There were a few manuscripts I had in mind, but really none of them gave me that fuzzy feeling, that honeymoon stage feeling of being crazy in love. I wanted that. I was desperate for it.

And I remembered this quote I saved a while ago. I can't remember who wrote it but it's perfect.


I do know what I love. In the past few days I'd attempted to start three novels and failed. For a while now I've wanted to try my hand at magical realism, and I thought I'd found it in my NaNo novel IVY OF OUR HEARTS. I didn't. Though I'm still enamored with the idea maybe the timing's off. My other unfinished WIPs seemed to be good choices, but they didn't feel fresh in my brain. I wanted something new, something that would light my heart and mind on fire.

I guess, for the most part, inspiration comes to me in many ways, through music, art and photography. I spend a little too much time on Pinterest, or maybe way too much time there, but this time something more than wonderful came out of it. Four little words from a quote I'd pinned. I haven't read much Shakespeare, but I know how inspiring his words can be.

This quote sparked a fire within me.


I wrote seven hundred words yesterday of my new WIP, YOU SHALL SEE WONDERS. It's not much but it's a start. Late last night I turned on Pandora and created a new station. Halcyon by The Paper Kites began to play. Id finally felt that feeling, pure, utter passion.

Halcyon by The Paper Kites on Grooveshark

How do you become inspired when you're feeling uninspired?

Recharge: Winter Writing Retreat Day 1

Feb 25, 2013
ICEBREAKER:

What is your name: Traceyann Joseph, but you can call me Tracey.

What do you write: I write YA contemporary fiction, but I do love writing flash fiction when I need inspiration.

How long have you been writing: I've been writing for three years.

What location have you chosen for your retreat: Last summer my aunt and cousins and I stayed at a resort called Camp Shenandoah in Virginia. Though it was crowded in that little cabin it was nice getting away from the city for a few days.

How did you come up with the idea or find inspiration for your WIP: I have so many WIPs I don't know which I want to work on next. I think my strongest contenders are SOUTH OF LONESOME which was inspired by the Delta Blues singer Richard Johnson, IVY OF OUR HEARTS which was inspired by my desire to write something with a bit of magic and lots of romance, and INFECTIONS OF THE HEART which was inspired by another novel I wrote, as well as Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates and When it Happens to You by Molly Ringwald.

All of them have one theme in common: infidelity.

Thanks for stopping by. To find out more about the Winter Writing Retreat and maybe even join, visit Sara over at Crow River Writer.

On A Bookish Date: Amity and Sorrow

On A Bookish Date is a meme in which I share my love for books and cure my style cravings.

With Amity and Sorrow, I think what caught my eye was the cover. I love the hints of blue and red. It's the kind of cover I'd want to display. Though what really hooked me was the synopsis: A mother flees a cult with her teen daughters. It makes for a heartfelt read.


In the wake of a suspicious fire, Amaranth gathers her children and flees from the fundamentalist cult in which her children were born and raised. Now she is on the run with only her barely aged teenage daughters, Amity and Sorrow, neither of whom have seen the outside world, to help her. After four days of driving Amaranth crashes the car, leaving the family stranded at a gas station, hungry and terrified. 

Rescue comes in the unlikely form of a downtrodden farmer, a man who offers sanctuary when the women need it most. However while Amity blossoms in this new world, free from her father's tyranny, Sorrow will do anything to get back home. Although Amaranth herself is beginning to understand the nature of the man she has left, she needs the answer to one question; what happened to the other wives and children.



For our date I'd keep things rather folksy.

Amity

A Few Things: 2.21.13

Feb 21, 2013
It seems time flies when you're lounging around your house watching reruns of The Office. I really miss the old seasons. These are a few things I loved this week.

  • Words (pin-board) - My favorite pin-board this week was definitely Words--a board filled with quotes that inspire me. My favorite quote: "Someone should write a book where the main character slowly falls in love with the reader." I'm not sure who wrote it but it's perfect.  
  • Elephantine - This week Elephantine was the non-writing blog I visited most often.
  • Starry Nights by Daisy Whitney - I haven't read it because it hasn't been released yet, but the premise--wow--the premise is just stunning. Tell me you wouldn't fall in love with a book about a boy who falls in love with a girl trapped inside a painting. I'm having one of those I should have thought of that moments. When I think of this book, I'm reminded of this photo.
  • Jenny's Blog/Writing - I've been following her blog for quite some time. I've recently been stalking her projects tab because she writes so beautifully. It's the kind of writing you'd want to highlight. GAH! If you aren't already following, hop over.
  • So-So by Brooke Waggoner - I discovered this song on an author's blog a while ago and it still makes me so happy. It's a feel good song that's easy to relate to.


Happy reading and writing!

Back Into The Query Trenches

Feb 19, 2013

Here we are! After almost three months of revising, I'm nearly ready to begin querying again. Only nearly because I'm still fidgeting with the query and giving my MS one last read-through. I'm sure that last read-through will turn into a dozen more.

Earlier this year I said my word for 2013 is patience. I seem to be taking it very seriously.

Much to my surprise, I've managed to ignore almost every contest and opportunity to send off my query. Last night I wondered if it was just my way of stalling. I'm no stranger to querying too soon, but I definitely did learn my lesson the second time around. So much so that the thought of making the same mistake again makes me want to weep. Fool me twice, shame on me. Is that how it goes? I'm just having a difficult time believing, though I still do love this MS. I guess more than I loved the first because we've been together since August 2011 and still going strong.

We're having some trust issues, but I'm sure once I'm in the thick of it again all will be well. I hope all is well for you and your MS, too.

On A Bookish Date: When The World Was Flat (And We Were in Love)

Feb 18, 2013
On A Bookish Date is a meme in which I share my love for books and cure my style cravings.

The title for Ingrid Jonach's YA debut When The World Was Flat (And We Were in Love) is incredibly clever and lovely. The premise is equally stunning. Ever since seeing The Time Traveler's Wife I've been obsessed with time travel and alternate dimensions. This book doesn't have a cover yet, but it will be here later this year. I found the heart shaped map on the author's pin-board.


There is no such thing as imagination.

Your dreams are memories from an alternate dimension.
And that cold shiver down your spine as you sleep means you are already dead.

These are the facts sixteen-year-old Lillie Hart must come to accept when the gorgeous and mysterious Tom Windsor-Smith arrives in her small Nebraskan town. These, and the fact that the two of them, Tom and Lillie, have been in love before – in a different dimension.

In fact, Tom has been sliding between parallel worlds for hundreds of years, falling in love with versions of Lillie over and over again in every world. But when the present Lillie learns the secret of their connection, she learns as well that their love must overcome more than their multiple past heartaches. There is also a powerful enemy who aims to ensure the two will never be together again, in this dimension or the next.



For our date I'd add a dash of dots and purple.
When We Were In Love

A Few Things: 2.14.13

Feb 14, 2013
Why, hello Thursday.This week flew by at lightening speed, wouldn't you agree? I attempted to blog every day this week, but then Thursday morning came along. And even though I had a post planned, I wasn't quite in the blogging mood. So here we are hours later with another A Few Things post. A Few Things is just a list of things I fell in love with during the week.

1. Magical Realism in YA by Nova Ren Suma - Earlier this week, while revising, I had this bright idea to add a magical realism element to my MS. I don't know. I just thought doing it would add some spice to an otherwise entirely realistic story. I've been brainstorming and I have a few ideas. I'm still not sure about any of it because I wouldn't want it to be jarring. We'll see.

2. Manifesto - I came across a cute pink sweatshirt on Pinterest yesterday from a t-shirt brand called Manifesto, which is owned by a lovely woman named Meg. Her t-shirts are limited edition, and I'm sure they'll sell out before I can get my hands on one.

3. Here (pin-board) - Have you ever seen an image that completely inspired you? That's how I feel about my pin-board, Here--my favorite board this week.

4. Paper House by Lisa Hannigan - It's no secret that I love Lisa Hannigan. Her recent album, Passenger, is probably one of the best I've ever heard. My latest favorite is Paper House. I really love her lyrics. 

"Oh we walked in a hallowed place back then,
the edge of Dublin, the edge of May and June.
Oh to live in a paper house again,
where we grew by the light of the moon."

5. "Always be yourself. Unless you can be a unicorn" - I fell in love with a very lovely quote by artist, WeareyYawn, the moment I saw it. I have a pin-board dedicated to quotes I love and Always be yourself is one of my favorites. It's really charming.

Happy reading and writing. Have a wonderful weekend!

Revising, Kindle, MOBI

Feb 13, 2013
A few days ago I did a post on how I revise and mentioned my Kindle as one of my revision tools. I didn't consider that not everyone would know how to get their MS onto their Kindle, until my friend asked about it. I ended up sending her a very lengthy email on what I do. A lot of you will already know how to do this, but if you don't below is the email I sent.

Now this method isn't for getting your novel ready for publication. It's just for revising or seeing your MS in a "book" format.

This is what I do. Keep in mind, you’ll need a USB cord for your Kindle.
1. You’ll need to either convert your novel's document into an RTF file or copy and paste it into Notepad (TXT.) I think Notepad is the simplest option. 
2. After saving your file as an RTF or TXT, head over to calibre-ebook.com and download the right version for your computer. The download option is at the very top of the webpage.This program will allow you to then convert your file into MOBI. 
3. Once you download Calibre and install, at the very left hand corner in Calibre there’ll be an option to add books. Click on that icon. Your novel's file should be in you documents folder. Once you double click it, Calibre will add that file to your “library.” 
4. Making sure your file is selected (blue), hit Convert Books. A new window should pop up. 
5. At the very top of the screen, in the right hand corner, there’ll be a drop down menu titled Output format: EPUB. Click on it. MOBI will be the second option. Select MOBI.

6. This will be a good time to make sure your novel's title and author name is correct and maybe add a cover if you've created one for fun. All of that will be on that same page: Metadata. 
7. Right underneath Metadata there’ll be a page titled Look and Feel. This page is specifically for adjusting the spacing of your paragraphs, indents, punctuation and so on. If you saved your MS as a TXT file, in the drop down menu titled Input character encoding select cp1252. This will ensure that the text won't look wonky.
Removing the spacing between the paragraphs helps make my MS feel like an actual book. I like to keep things simple so most times I’ll only click Remove spacing between paragraphs.

8. Calibre usually generates a table of contents for you, but it sometimes ends up at the end of the book. If you saved your MS as a TXT file, scroll down to MOBI Output. It’s right before Debug. If you’d like your table of contents at the start of your book, click the second option: Put generated Table of Contents at the start of book instead of end.

This only seems to work if you're converting from a TXT file to MOBI. I tried doing it with an RTF file but then the table of contents didn’t show up at all. 
9. When you’ve made sure everything is how you want it, hit OK. That screen will close. Calibre will then convert your file to MOBI. 
10. Make sure your Kindle is turned on and you can see all of the books already on your device. Go ahead and attach your USB cord to your computer and then to your Kindle.

Once everything is connected, in Calibre there’ll be a new option on the top menu bar called Send to device. Click that and Calibre will begin to transfer that file to your Kindle. It’ll be best to wait until the transfer is finished to disconnect the USB cord. If you look at the right hand bottom of the screen at Jobs there might be a little pinwheel spinning. Wait for that wheel to stop then disconnect everything. Your Kindle will then refresh automatically and your book should be in there, either at the very front or very back.

I hope this tutorial works for you. Don't forget to have fun and get lost in your world. The highlight feature on your Kindle is also a great way to take notes.

Cupid Strikes: Teaser and Playlist

Feb 12, 2013

*snip*

Thanks for reading!


1. Basia Bulat - Before I knew

2. Jaymay - Grey or Blue

3. A Fine Frenzy - What I Wouldn't Do

4. Allie Moss - Corner

5. The Lumineers - Ho Hey

6. José González - Heartbeats

7. Ingrid Michealson - Far Away

8. Lisa Hannigan - I Don't Know

9. Billie Holiday  - The Man I Love



Happy early Valentine's Day. Thanks for stopping by.

A Handwritten Love Letter to Rosie

Feb 11, 2013
I discovered a new blog over the weekend called Something Charming. Today Joelle is hosting a link-up for handwritten love letters. I honestly knew who I wanted to write to from the start. I've been working on Rosie's story for so long now.

On the letter, you can actually see where I messed up and had to use whiteout. I don't think she'd mind.


This is the first love letter I've ever written and it was a lot of fun. Have a wonderful day. Make sure to stop by Joelle's blog and join the link-up.

On A Bookish Date: Someday, Someday, Maybe

If I closed my eyes and imagined I was on a date with any book, that book would be Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham. I read the synopsis, realized it took place in New York, the main character is an aspiring actress, and I knew I had to have it.


It’s January 1995, and Franny Banks has just six months left of the three-year deadline she set for herself when she came to New York, dreaming of Broadway and doing “important” work. But all she has to show for her efforts so far is a part in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters, and a gig waiting tables at a comedy club. Her roommates―her best friend Jane, and Dan, an aspiring sci-fi writer―are supportive, yet Franny knows a two-person fan club doesn’t exactly count as success. Everyone tells her she needs a backup plan, and though she can almost picture moving back home and settling down with her perfectly nice ex-boyfriend, she’s not ready to give up on her goal of having a career like her idols Diane Keaton and Meryl Streep. Not just yet. But while she dreams of filling their shoes, in the meantime, she’d happily settle for a speaking part in almost anything—and finding a hair product combination that works.
 
Everything is riding on the upcoming showcase for her acting class, where she’ll finally have a chance to perform for people who could actually hire her. And she can’t let herself be distracted by James Franklin, a notorious flirt and the most successful actor in her class, even though he’s suddenly started paying attention. Meanwhile, her bank account is rapidly dwindling, her father wants her to come home, and her agent doesn’t return her calls. But for some reason, she keeps believing that she just might get what she came for.



For our date I'd keep things pretty simple.

Cupid's Day

How A Pantser Has Fun While Editing

Feb 8, 2013
I've wanted to write a post on revision for a while now, but hesitated because there are so many awesome posts on revision out there already. I didn't think mine would be adding anything new to the stew. In fact, I still don't but a girl's got to revise.

Back in the day I was working on a middle grade novel called Summer Spell. I finished it in about three to six months and edited it in less than two months. My editing method went as followed:

1. Receive notes from critique partners/beta readers
2. Comb through novel changing things they suggested
3. Send off to agents

I don't think I need to say why this method didn't work for me, but I will anyway. I completely ignored the big picture. Needless to say, that manuscript is now on the shelf. 


THIS IS WHAT I DO NOW:

1. I'm one of those people who can't afford to print a 200+ page book, so that's where my Kindle and Pinterest comes in. As much as I love words, I'm also a visual person. Uploading my novel to my Kindle with a customized cover makes me feel as if I'm reading a real book.

Pinterest also allows you to create three secret boards. I create boards for the characters & town specific to my current novel.

2. I do like to edit chronologically, so I'll read starting from the first chapter. I like to edit in small groups of five or six chapters at a time. Before I start reading I'll write the chapter's number or title on the blank side of the index card. As I read I'll write the date and time of day the chapter takes place right underneath the chapter title. I'll also write a one to three sentence summary of every scene in that chapter on the lined side.

While revising, I kept my characters is mind. Creating a character bio for my MC helped with fleshing her out.  Character bios and index cards go very well together. I use the white index cards in the pack to jot down my novel's theme. Keeping it in mind while I revise helps me see the big picture.


3. In addition to using index cards to outline, I found writing down any grammar, spelling errors, or sentences I'd like to change is better for me than using the highlight feature on my Kindle. I find it less tedious. I also used my trusty notebook to write a quick summary on the setting, which is something my beta readers said I needed to work on. I like to create my own towns, so this really helps me flesh them out.


4. If there's ever a moment I get stuck, I'll consult whatever book on writing I have or I'm reading at the moment. With my current novel, it really helped to know exactly what my first chapter was supposed to entail and honestly showing vs. telling always stumps me.


5. Finally, I must admit I do like to write and revise with music in the background once in a while. I have three specific stations I listen to on Pandora. I love stations that have mellow music so that it isn't too distracting. Sometimes I like to shuffle. 

I also love to pick out a theme song for that specific novel. I chose Little Bird by Lisa Hannigan for my current novel's theme song because it's a beautiful song that speaks of heartbreak, and my MC suffers a lot of it.

Since using this method, I feel like I'm actually making strides in my quest for a better novel. As always, thanks for taking the time to read even if the information was "nothing new."

Your Novel's Theme

Feb 6, 2013
As you may or may not have heard, I'm currently reading Writing Irresistible Kidlit By Mary Kole. And it's definitely a book I'd recommend to any and every kidlit writer. Currently I'm on Chapter Five (Character), which seems to be the longest chapter in the book. However, for today's post I'm going to backtrack to Chapter Three - What's The Big Idea?

So like weeks ago I'm reading Mary's book, practically inhaling the first few pages, until I'm finally at the very last section of Chapter Two -Themes and Big Ideas In Young Adult. Now I don't know about you guys, but I'd never given much thought to themes until this book. Yes, I feel guilty even admitting it. So I read through the last two pages of Chapter Two, but it was what was said in the very first paragraph that led me to believe that somehow I'd managed to leave out a key element in my novel: the theme.

In this paragraph, Mary Writes:
"When you know the teen experience and can place yourself in your target readers' experience, you're that much more likely to write a book that resonates with them on a deeper, thematic level." 
The thing is I had no idea what I was trying to say with my novel. All I could say was it's about a girl and her family. That's it. It made me really nervous. And as I entered Chapter Three of Writing Irresistible Kidlit, I realized that it would be best I figured it out. Fast!

In Chapter Three Mary encourages you to ask yourself  why you'd written the story in the first place, the questions you'd like to ask and explore about life, and the insights about human nature that inspired you to write your book in the first place.

She adds:
"Every book has something important to say. Every lasting novel has an important theme, explores a relevant human truth, and says something about being alive."
After reading that I took to the writing forums and read posts where other writers discussed the themes in their novels because it is okay to have more that one. I scanned my own novel for any hint of theme and tried to recall what sparked the idea. I was obsessed. It's silly now that I think about it, me not knowing the point of my own novel. 

And after a while of thinking my novel would go nowhere if I, the author, didn't even know what I was trying to say, I then read two lines spoken by my main character that finally made me go AHA! I'd found my themes. I'd somehow written them in there without even realizing. 
This isn't to say that you should ever preach or try to teach a lesson, but it is a good idea to keep your theme(s) in mind because they are larger than life! For more tips on writing, make sure to visit Mary Kole's blog if you haven't already. 

Do you know your novel's theme? I'd love to hear more about it.

A Few Things: 2.5.13

Feb 5, 2013
For the past few days I've been trying to come up with an interesting post, which led me to believe brainstorming up a list of post ideas would be a wonderful idea and very helpful in the future. Today I'll keep things simpler with a spin off of my Currently posts which you can find here and here.

1. Clothe (pin-board) -In middle school and high school I had this fantasy of being crowned best dressed, but it never happened because I always chose comfort over style. I must admit, I still usually choose comfort over style but Clothe is definitely my favorite pin-board thus far.


2. Game of Thrones - I've recently just discovered this show, and it has quickly become one of my favorites. Surely I can't be the only person watching. Are you?


3. Home by Phillip Phillips - A few weeks ago I created a favorite songs playlist on YouTube. Since then I've been adding videos to that playlist like a mad woman. This song is one of them.

"Settle Down, It'll All Be Clear
Don't Pay No Mind To The Demons
They Fill You With Fear..."


4. Index Cards - I've become obsessed with using index cards to outline my chapters while I revise. I don't know why I never considered them before when so many other writers swear by them. While using this method I've discovered a few things about my writing style: Most of my chapters have no more than three scenes and my story's timeline is wonky.

My Outline Method

Blank Side 
Chapter Number/Title
Month/Date/Time of Day of chapter

Lined Side
Scenes in Chapter

I also use index cards to create character bios.

5. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green & Writing Irresistible Kidlit by Mary Kole - I've been reading these books at a really slow pace, but I can say that they're definitely worth the hype. I think a lot of you have already read The Fault in Our Stars. My favorite scene so far might be a huge spoiler if you haven't already read it so I'll stay quiet about it. And as for Writing Irresistible Kidlit, what really draws me in is the tone. It's definitely a lot more fun than a textbook.


Have a wonderful day you guys!