2016: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times…”

Oh Charles Dickens.

Now that it’s February, I know I’m sooooo late on looking back on 2016, but better late than never. The nature of how 2016 ended keeps coming back to me, even as we’re already in 2017. I keep thinking back on how I was talking to my sister about this a few weeks ago, on of how people jokingly (let’s be real, seriously) talk about 2016 being the worst year EVER. And I think we all know why without me having to spell it out, since the darkness still follows us everywhere we go.

But what my sister said really resonated with me. She said, “You know what, 2016 was the year I peaked. I ran a marathon, got out of a bad relationship, became a Fulbright scholar, etc.” But then the world completely shifted toward the dark, which seemed to shadow every good thing that came before, every moment of light that filtered in between.

In many ways, I sort of agreed with my sister. For me, 2016 was the year I achieved more than I thought I ever could—I signed with my dream agent, I tackled THE hardest revisions I’ve ever had to complete and came out with a stronger story, I traveled around to conferences and met so many other wonderful writers, I mentored another writer who I’m so proud to see is now agented and progressing along her path to publication.

I don’t want to discount the very dark direction 2016 went down, and I also don’t want to overshadow it by raising my own personal silver-linings that came out of it. Ultimately, I do think what I’m most at peace with, coming out of 2016, was that I felt so much stronger by the end. Beaten, but not defeated. Down, but always rising back up. Wonderful things happened, yes, but nothing made them greater to me than being challenged by what those good things brought (and the bad as well), and feeling like I learned so much more about myself, about how to proceed from here on out as someone who’s more aware, active, and prepared for what’s to come.

And to start 2017, I also want to look back on my 2016 resolutions—to see how I did, and keep them strong in this new year as well:

  • Finish a book.

Sooooooo, I think I cheated a little bit because while most of 2016 was spent revising Pirate Fantasy, I felt like my process of revision and rewriting turned it into a completely new book. The story I wrote before is SO different from the story it is now, but I absolutely love the new monster it’s become, the way it’s evolved and grown even closer to my heart. The sheer amount I’ve rewritten (and rewritten and rewritten and ughhh) and the new additions I’ve made feel like I did finish a brand new book, and I honestly couldn’t be prouder of it. But for this year, I do hope to finish another book which I feel is totally doable. And necessary. My urge to explore new worlds and characters is itching at me!

  • Revise Pirate Fantasy, while working on something else.

I feel like I can say I actually fulfilled this!! *confetti* While I wasn’t always working in tandem with revising (my brain was already close to exploding enough times on just Pirate Fantasy), I did manage to beast out over 90k of Phantom Fantasy in 2016! However, the pantsing is still going strong and the story is far from over, which means this first draft is going to be one HUGE baby. Along with drafting this project, I also want to tend to my garden of other ideas and projects–which surprisingly grew a lot last year!–and see what other stories are leaping for my attention.

  • Read, read, read.

I’m just going to be flat-out honest and say 2016 was not a great reading year for me. AGAIN. I have a hard time reading when I’m revising, and since I was on the revision train so often, that meant pushing back reading as a priority. Yikes. The good thing about 2017, however, is that I’ve been back to reading like an absolute FIEND. I think because I’m desperate for even the briefest escape from the world, I’ve turned to books—and they’ve embraced me back with open arms and provided me comfort like nothing else. I’m actually 7 books ahead in my Goodreads challenge which is unheard of for me, so I’m hoping to keep up the reading momentum, as well as reading widely and more out of my usual comfort zones 🙂

  • Progress as much as you can on the writing journey and never lose sight of why you’re on the path in the first place.

2016 was a huge year for my writing and me, and sometimes I still can’t even believe what’s happened has actually happened. But for me, progress also comes in so many other forms that aren’t just those milestones on the journey to publication. My ultimate show of progress, I feel, was going from feeling like I was constantly ten steps backwards with my story, to fighting and revising my way through draft after draft until I overcame all of those missteps. 2016 was the year I learned the art of creative patience and honoring the story—of feeling like no matter what, the fact that I’ve produced something I love, that I know I’ve worked hard on, and that I’m proud of by the end of the day will be enough. With no guarantees in this industry, it’s especially important to feel fulfilled by the work that you put forth and pour from your heart, not what you get in return for it. This is one lesson of many I know I’ll always treasure.

To add to this ever-growing list of resolutions I seek to meet however I can every year, here’s a new one that I also want to uphold:

  • Prioritize being a support to others who need it, providing the encouragement and listening ear I wish I had when I first started writing.

Before I found my wonderful group of writing friends and critique partners, I was every bit that sad picture of a lonely, young writer who didn’t know how to put herself out there, how to be confident with her writing, or how to go about advancing her writing career. When I think about it, it really wasn’t that long ago (like 3 years ago haha), but SO much has changed since then. The writer I was back then would not have believed how much luck was coming her way in the form of friends, a sense of community, and opportunities she would soon be encountering. Last year, I mentored in Pitch Wars and had the BEST time helping a writer along her journey. I’m already mentoring again this year for Author Mentor Match (HI TANVI, IF YOU’RE READING!!! Guys, Tanvi is my mentee match from this program and has breathtaking prose for days ❤ ), and I want to keep lending a hand to other writers whenever I can, and however I can.

OKAY. Done with resolutions, and now it’s time to stick to them and see them through! Last but not least in this post, I’ve once again dipped into my collection of fortune cookie fortunes and am tacking up some brand new ones onto my cork board to reflect the new year!

“Treasure your good memories and you need not worry about ending a banquet.”

“Happiness is around the next corner, wealth down the street.”

“Welcome the good change coming soon into your life.”

Wishing everyone a positive new year with lots of good luck and happiness 😀

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10 Things About My Writing

Thank you to my lovely and hilarious CO-G Erin who tagged me to do this post, which was honestly wayyyy harder than I thought it would be because 10 THINGS ARE A LOT OF THINGS. Okay. Here goes.

1. I’m a pantser. I’ve honestly tried not to be—meaning, I’ve attempted plotting, character graphs, outlining, story bibles, and whatnot, but they all fizzle out. Which SUCKS because that sort of organization would be enormously helpful for the hot mess that is my brain. But for some reason, the minute any sort of formal organization enters the scene, my brain riots with cries of “THOU SHALT NOT ORGANIZETH” and sabotages my attempts. But to be fair, I’ve embraced pantsing. I just love that freedom and unpredictability with writing, since it can produce some of the best scenes, characters, and turning points of a story. I’m still trying to assume a more organized method (aka slightly less messy), but at heart, I am a panster.

2. I’m a loose mental plotter to a point. I think this is the only reason I can pants as successfully as I’ve been able to (is it successful? The jury’s still out on that one….). Being a mental plotter for me means without having to write it all down, I already somewhat have a loose string of events I know HAVE to happen to jumpstart the story. The overall plot isn’t completely figured out, but it’s enough to keep me excited to keep writing and discover what comes next. With all the characters and plot points jumping around in my head, it definitely makes my mind an even more crowded place, that’s for sure. And scary.

Mental plotting yayyy *sobs* source

3. Music is my guide. Music plays a HUGE part in my life—not only because of my musical background, but also because some of my first memories are of hearing my dad singing, as well as Lea Salonga cassette tapes on repeat (hello throwback). As such, I’ve always tied music to memories and emotions—and when I tie emotions and memories to writing, music naturally falls into the equation. I listen to ALL sorts of music and build my story playlists like no other. Not only is music helpful for tone/mood research or getting re-inspired when in a writing slump, but it’s a great way of giving your story some structure without having to outline a single thing  🙂 Except most times when I’m listening to my playlists as I’m writing, I look like I’m possessed as I’m typing. Lots of swaying, head bobbing, and more movement than is required for actual sitting.

And this is why I rarely write in public

4. Inspiration-wise, I am a mean fuser. I like to fuse ideas with each other and see what comes of it. Thus, the “This meets That” high-concept pitch has been my friend with lots of projects. I do this with movies, books, TV, and musicals, and sometimes it’s not even the literal “This Story meets That Story.” Sometimes it can be as simple as a flash moment of inspiration, colliding with another, that gives me a snapshot of what a story could be. There’s just something I really love about taking two extremes and letting them settle into each other, seeing the vibe/mood of what I love while carving out my own story from within. Obviously it’s not copy-cut-paste of the two ideas (because hello, plagiarism), but for the most part, I see my fusions as a tribute to two things I really love. And also my excuse to indulge in them as much as possible for “writing research.”

This Unicorn meets That Unicorn = all the yay (source)

5. I’m also an eager idea gatherer. Unfortunately, aforementioned fusion does not happen instantly (boo). Sometimes I get an idea I realllllly like, but it’s just not ready to be a story yet. I’ve gathered the “This” but not the “That,” and so patiently I wait until that last piece of the puzzle falls into place. Sometimes it’ll take years to find the “That,” but in between that time, I’m gathering ideas for the story and letting it take up residence in my head. But when the times comes when the “This” finally meets its “That” in my head, it is the BIGGEST aha! moment in the world. For Phantom Fantasy, it was reading a book and then finally listening to the right piece of music years later.

gimme all those ideas source

6. Lastly, I’m a steadfast incubator. This leads into why I can pants and mental-plot—I capture these ideas with this method I’ve laid out above, and do the tedious, tiresome task of . . . letting them sit. For a while. Like when a baker instinctively knows when the cake is ready without keeping time, I know it’s time to write. Especially if the story is quite literally DRIVING ME CRAZY. I incubate these ideas until they’re begging to come alive, haunting me every day to a point where it’s painful not to be writing it all down. Now that I say this, it all sounds super punishing and weird BUT it’s how I remain super excited about my stories and characters even during the really low writing times. I’ve waited this long to write the story, so you bet your bottom dollar I’m going to finish and love every moment.

Welcome to the world, dino-story, YOU ARE READY TO BE WRITTEN source

7. I hear voices in my head. Yes, I hear the voices of my characters, lines that spark scenes and interactions, and swells of music in my head—which can get overwhelming, but hey, it’s a sign that I’m feeling extremely inspired by my story (enough to hear it pretty much wherever I go). This stems a lot from tons of day dreaming when I step away from the computer (because really, do writers EVER stop thinking about their stories?) and can drive me crazy most times, but I like that feeling of a story following me around. I’m not done with it, and it’s not done with me, so it will keep stalking me until I go back to writing.

8. I paint my nails the color I feel best captures the story! People who know me know that I like to keep my nails fresh….mostly because before, my nails looked like crap from so much nail-biting. To break that high anxiety-driven habit, I decided to do my own nails as a brand of therapy (taking control of even the smallest things really helps!), and tie it in with my writing by assigning colors to my stories! Nothing is better than looking down at my keyboard and seeing an awesome pop of color on not-too-shabby nails beasting those words out. For Pirate Fantasy, dark purple/night-esque shades are my go-to colors, and my CO-G Erin sent me the BEST nail polish ever (Essie Gel Couture Nail Polish—quite possibly the fanciest nail polish to grace my fingers) which I’m now currently wearing and loving!

ALL the Sailor Scouts know the power of having strong nail game

ALL the Sailor Scouts know the power of having a strong nail game   source

9. I’m an emotional writer. Another reason I don’t like writing in public is that I cry when I write (no surprise since I cry over almost anything). I get really into the emotions of my story and my characters, and there’s something about crying while writing that adds a rawness to the character’s voice. It’s feeling words rather than trying to phrase them the right way. It’s in those powerful moments when I feel like I’m truly connecting with the heartbeat of the story, and makes me fall in love with the book all over again (even when I’m knee-deep in Revision Draft #29384782).

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It me, all day every day   source

10. There are random things I love which I always must include in my stories. This ranges from loads of fire metaphors (I love fire), nods to the color red (my fave color), foxes (fave animal!), birds (so beautiful! And they remind me of my parents!), music (see #3), masks (PHANTOM! TUXEDO MASK! ZORRO! ETC!), and dancing (dancing shows are hands down the best). There are definitely so many other random things to add to this list, but for now, these are the ones I’m not entirely embarrassed to admit  🙂

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Wow, that was a lot of things. For anyone else who wants to join in on this, do it and have fun reflecting on all the quirks that make you the writer you are!!!

Remember, Remember to Give Thanks in November

First off, how many here feel personally victimized by November?

Yup. It was a hard month. Not just for me, but for the many, many people who were affected post-election. Like so many others, I had a difficult time processing and writing because to me it felt like, in Hamilton terms, the world turned upside down. And not in a good way, but in the way that feels like all of what’s surrounding you has become so topsy-turvy that you hardly recognize the home you’ve been living in for your entire life.

At heart, I’m a happy, positive, and optimistic person—and November really challenged that side of me, the one that strives to always find the silver-linings that help me accept and process the hardest of times. But even though it was challenging, I’m happy to report that as we welcome in December, November never beat us. Though we were struck hard, we got back up with a fury. We continue to fight, even as we still heal.

I just wanted to write that all out first because it’s been weighing heavily on my mind for a while, and it would be a flat-out lie in my heart to gloss over November and say it was amazing. Some parts were (like family! Food! Thanksgiving! Becoming a godmother! Writing!), but there was a dark cloud hanging over it that could not be ignored. To push it aside would be to push aside your pain and the pain of so many others, when in reality, I confront pain because it pushes me to act. Grief over a hard loss pushed me to bring a story to life, just like an intense bout of hopelessness has now pushed me to keep working on the story that I wish can bring hope to others.

From all the artists and writers I follow, it’s been uplifting to see such amazing responses of encouragement, solidarity, and above all, creating important and powerful stories in this time of need. I’ve definitely been taking to heart the inspiration that’s risen from these times, and I’m hearing loud and clear the call for more diverse books and voices. It’s prompted me to tackle my revisions with a vengeance, and the work I’ve put down feels stronger than ever with an emotional heartbeat that just keeps pounding louder and louder.

Though lots of emotional head space in November was occupied by everything above, there were also so many positive highlights. I’m now an official fairy godmother to my BEAUTIFUL nephew, saw lots of my family, had tons of puppy therapy with Master Skywalker, aaaaaaand ate all the food during Thanksgiving.

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GODSON, I am your crazy fairy godmother

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THE TURKEYS HAVE THEIR REVENGE: In which a flock of turkeys aggressively invaded the front lawn on Thanksgiving morning

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Master Skywalker’s “please let me cuddle on the couch” pouty face

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Dat Thanksgiving spread

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Thank you snapchat for giving me the ability to make a fried turkey terrified

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Our other turkey baby ❤ (who we definitely did not eat)

Along with cool family and food shenanigans, more updates and good news were what kept my spirits up during November. First off, MY PITCH WARS MENTEE HAS AN AGENT!!!!!!!!!!!!

screen-shot-2016-12-02-at-2-03-50-pmI am so, so, SOOOOO proud of Judy. It was an honor to co-mentor her in Pitch Wars with Axie, and nothing has made me happier than to see her rise like a star from our slush pile four months ago to becoming an agented writer this week. She rocked the agent round, and it’s been nothing but constant cheerleading and hip-hip-hooraying for all the awesomeness that Pitch Wars has brought. Oh Judy. If you’re reading this, sorry for gushing so hard BUT I CAN’T HELP MYSELF. You’re an amazing storyteller with such a great heart, and I can’t WAIT to see you take the publishing world by storm….and also to get my copy of HUNGRY GHOSTS in hardcover soon in the future ❤

Mentoring a writer has been one of the biggest highlights for me this year. To help other writers on their journey is so rewarding, but finding life-long friends makes the mentee-mentor experience even greater. With that said, because I just can’t get enough, I’m part of ANOTHER mentoring program called Author Mentor Match, spearheaded by the lovely Alexa Donne and Heather Kaczynski!

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It’s a new program that’s just launched this year, and the submission period opened recently enough that you can STILL submit if you have a polished MS ready and are interested in a mentor to help you brave the next steps of the publishing journey! Deadline to submit by is December 6th, and there are SO many fantastic authors and agented writers who are offering to mentor (whaddup Axie, Kat, Katy, and Mara) so you really can’t go wrong  😉 For insights on my mentoring style, check out my profile where I basically am just begging for friendship and fun!!

All in all, November was tough, but toward the end when Thanksgiving hit, you can’t help but also reflect on the things that bring you light and that you’re grateful for. I’m so thankful for all the opportunities this year has presented, for the friends who always keep me sane and inspired, for the new people who’ve come into my life and have helped me grow, for the family that’s always supported and believed in me, and last but not least, for writing—for the stamina to keep at it, the endurance to push through the frustrating times, and the passion to love every single second of it.

Guess Who’s Back/Remembered To Blog

Hello world, I’M STILL ALIVE. For some reason, it escaped me that I hadn’t updated my blog in 3 MONTHS which is seriously a problem. Like . . . where was I? WHERE WAS I?????

Favorite overreaction gif

Accurate portrayal of me overreacting, source

Oh yeah, I was off doing things—LIKE BECOMING AN AUNT!!!!! I won’t go into all the details of how I officially earned that title (because that entire hectic night/day in August is now more like a sleep-deprived blur in my head), but rest assured, I have the most beautiful, wide-eyed nephew who will be victim to ALL of my storytelling and funny face-making. And humming. I remember holding him one morning, trying to ease him away from one of his crying spells, and started humming the Pirates of the Caribbean theme song which actually calmed him down enormously. Needless to say, this kid and I are already getting along just GREAT.

Also, I was off being a Pitch Wars mentor with my very favorite co-boo Axie Oh! For the longest time, we labored over our wish list (especially choosing those snaps and gifs. Man, that was a trial), just hoping we would cover enough ground to spark interest in some hopeful mentees—and we ended up with a gloriously full slush inbox that simply floored us during the submission period. Words cannot express how grateful we were to read and receive all those entries, and I’m not even joking when I say the talent out there is RIDICULOUS.

me during PW, source

It killed us that we could pick only one, but Team Rocket ended up with our dream Meowth mentee Judy Lin, whose YA horror blew us away. I think the best thing about the choosing process was that Axie and I certainly didn’t expect it would fall into our inboxes just based on our wishlist . . . but we were SO glad it did. Now, I completely understand when agents says “I want something I didn’t know I was looking for” because that was Judy’s MS for us. It’s a FABULOUS horror story told in a voice as funny and spunky as Veronica Mars, takes place on Taiwan during the month of the Hungry Ghost Festival, incorporates the most chilling Chinese ghost stories, features the cutest romance EVER, and has the most drool-inducing descriptions of food I’ve ever read. Seriously. Once this novel is unleashed upon the world, I dare you not to be aggressively hangry by the end of every chapter.

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No joke. SO hangry. (source)

And then along with Pitch Wars, there was the Boston Teen Author Festival in September! I was SUPER stoked for this because not only was it wonderful being a part of all the year-long, behind-the-scenes organizing as an official BTAF team member for the first year (!), but it was also amazing seeing my true loves, Maddy and Akshaya, as well as seeing the loveliest of friends both old and new. Of course, it was a crazy hectic day that resulted in many a blister, but was ultimately SO rewarding just to be a part of an exciting celebration of YA, readers, and writers. Reunions seriously can’t get any better than that.

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Trying to look legit

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Whoa this book buying line

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WHOA the book signing lines

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I can’t even remember WHAT this drink was, only that it was so necessary post-fest

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All the agent sis/Team Thao love!

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The LOVELIEST group of writers to ever take over Daedalus

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Post-fest recharge/writing retreat in the Cape

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Blood orange mimosas are heaven’s tears

And soooooo, along with other short family trips in between that would probably bore everyone on here to tears, this has been where my head is at. And then of course, there’s revisions—which in itself has been a wild adventure all on its own! But rather than ending on the nitty-gritty of that note, I’m offering up an inspirational image instead. Because I’m sappy.

While at the Cape, I took the best walk ever just around the neighborhood to explore the beachy areas surrounding us. Nothing clears your head more than smelling the sea, feeling the wind whisper through your hair with the sun still warming your skin. I remember sitting on a rock, observing the tiniest crabs crawling stealthily beneath the sand. And then as the breeze picked up, I looked up at the sea streaming along the shore to see a lone, small seagull swimming against the water’s current.

All the birds had flapped away once the wind blew, but not this one. This one kept paddling in the opposite direction of where the water flowed, making it harder on itself. I kept wondering, why don’t you just leave like the rest? Or even, why don’t you just relax and let the water take you? Why resist and throw so much energy against a current working against you?

But the more I stared at this bird still going against wherever the wind blew as if to spite it, the more my questioning reflection became an epiphany. I felt like this bird. And I knew I’d seen so many people I admire be this bird as well, pushing against something that seems unconquerable and resisting the urge to let it define your course. You set your own course, despite what others do or what the wind says. And if you can maintain that sense of self-direction no matter how hard the breeze tries to throw you the other way, then that is wonderful.

Of course, the seagull probably had NO idea I was pretty much stalking its progress with all of these crazy, spiritual, bird-lady thoughts. If it noticed me, it didn’t scatter like most birds usually do. Instead, it eventually gained dominion over the majority of the stream because it didn’t fly away. It stayed, it kept going. It became quite a sight to behold, because the boldest birds don’t always have to fly to be seen. Sometimes all it takes to be acknowledged is just maintaining your own course, tireless and fearless.

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Pitch Wars Wish List: Team Rocket Edition

WARNING: Ridiculously awesome gifs and pictures ahead! Beware all ye who enter here!

Janella is Jessie because she has great hair. And Axie is James because she has a sexy voice.

Check out Axie/James on her blog HERE!

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Whenever we meet up, snapchatting madness ensues!

Once upon a time, two newly agented writers met in an agented author hook-up and decided TO BE FRIENDS FOREVER! No, but seriously, after meeting in person for the first time in Las Vegas at the 2016 RT Convention, we realized we had a lot more in common than we thought. We both read and write YA SFF. We both love the writing community. And most importantly, we both support and write diverse stories!

Enter Pitch Wars.

Same as us, Brenda Drake attended RT—and after meeting her, we had a light bulb moment. Despite neither of us having made it into Pitch Wars (though not without trying!), we’ve both always admired the contest for its supportive presence in the writing community, and how it’s helped so many writers and manuscripts throughout the years. Having recently gone through the querying process ourselves and signed with our agents, we thought it would be a great opportunity to give back to the writing community as mentors in Pitch Wars!

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If you join our team, you’ll receive lots of snaps!

We’re excited to embark on our first Pitch Wars adventure together, and we hope that YOU will join us! Since we call ourselves Team Rocket, we won’t be complete until we have our very own Meowth mentee.

CATEGORY:

YA

GENRES:

Fantasy (including all sub-genres: urban, contemporary, historical, etc.)

Science Fiction

FOCUSES:

Diverse stories and perspectives

Unique settings

Retellings/Mythology/Folktales

Is this not the best gif ever? (Orig posted: argynw)

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR/ELEMENTS WE LIKE:

Beautiful and unique storytelling; we have a weakness for lyrical and atmospheric writing

Strong relationships across the whole spectrum (romantic, family, friendship, enemies)

Enemies to lovers or friends to lovers; basically, ANYTHING to lovers ❤

Slow burn romances or complicated romances as seen in the tension-filled WINNER’S CURSE trilogy and CAPTIVE PRINCE trilogy (esp PRINCE’S GAMBIT)

Unlikely allies, friendships, and unbeatable group dynamics

Anything to do with music or the arts

Villains and antiheroes a la the Darkling, Klaus Mikaelson (everyone on The Originals), Phantom of the Opera, etc.

Complex characters (they can even be unlikable!)

Masked crusaders or vigilantes LIKE TUXEDO MASK!!!!! (We’re not kidding)

Lush worlds that have an edge of darkness to them like the Grisha trilogy

Non-western settings a la THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN

Characters in unique roles (thieves, pirates, gangsters, femme fatales)

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Our rendition of “characters in unique roles”

SOME OF JANELLA’S FAVORITE BOOKS:

Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling), The Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo), The Star-Touched Queen (Roshani Chokshi), Fire (Kristin Cashore), Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead), Vengeance Road (Erin Bowman), The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern), Tiny Pretty Things (Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton), Enter Title Here (Rahul Kanakia), Captive Prince trilogy (C.S. Pacat), The Wrath and the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh), The Lumatere Chronicles (Melina Marchetta), Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor), Truthwitch (Susan Dennard)

SOME OF AXIE’S FAVORITE BOOKS:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones), His Dark Materials trilogy (Philip Pullman), The Winner’s Curse series (Marie Rutkoski), Chime (Franny Billingsley), For Darkness Shows the Stars (Diana Peterfreund), The Queen’s Thief series (Megan Whalen Turner), Dragon Sword and Wind Child (Noriko Ogiwara), Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Mariller), Under a Painted Sky (Stacey Lee), The Changeling Sea (Patricia McKillip), Sabriel and Shade’s Children (Garth Nix), Serpentine (Cindy Pon), The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N.K. Jemisin)

MORE THINGS WE LIKE IN OTHER MEDIA:

Sci-fi movies with great worldbuilding & characterizations like PACIFIC RIM, The Edge of Tomorrow, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park

Hayao Miyazaki films (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke)

Korean dramas (love the tone & atmosphere of School 2013 and Shut Up Flower Boy Band; also BROMANCE)

Girl power and friendship a la SAILOR MOON

Epic, adventure-filled stories such as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, Mad Max: Fury Road, the Dark Knight Trilogy, X-Men

Classics such as Jane Austen (EMMA), Anne of Green Gables, The Scarlet Pimpernel, etc

DISNEY (Mulan, Pocahontas, VERY excited for the upcoming Moana)

Strong worldbuilding, group dynamic, and character development as seen on Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra

MUSICALS!! Les Miserables! The Phantom of the Opera! Hamilton! Wicked! Rent! The Lion King! Grease! Moulin Rouge! Razia’s Shadow! Anastasia the Musical! All in all, music/musicals are our JAM! (pun FULLY intended)

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We are slightly random

HOW WE OPERATE:

Our style is very collaborative, communicative, and slightly crazy, but ultimately and most importantly, constructive! We are always on board to fangirl and cheerlead our mentee on, but we are also there to first and foremost offer critique and whip that manuscript into the best shape it can be. Our game plan is to ensure our mentee has as much editorial support and back-and-forth communication as needed from both of us throughout the revising stage. Aside from collaborative edit letters, we would also love to schedule Skype calls to discuss editorial notes, brainstorm, and answer any questions the mentee may have so we can all be on the same page. From big picture edits to smaller details to everything in between, we want to make sure our mentee comes out of Pitch Wars with an awesome experience, as well as a polished manuscript to take into the agent round.

WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE US! (Pokemon style)

Axie is the author of the YA Sci-Fi novel, THE AMATERASU PROJECT (title subject to change), scheduled to be released in Fall 2017 from Lee & Low Books/Tu Books. She is represented by the fabulous Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She is currently pursuing an MFA (in Writing for Young People) at Lesley University. Her knowledge of the publishing world has come through internships at Writer’s House and Folio Literary Management.

Janella is a YA writer represented by the amazing Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She recently graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. Along with her coursework, she’s completed various publishing and editorial internships, and was most recently a YA/MG intern for the Bent Agency. She’s also currently a team member of the Boston Teen Author Festival.

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Axie’s website: https://about.me/axieoh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/axieoh

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15243084.Axie_Oh

Tumblr: http://axieoh.tumblr.com

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gdkgents/

 

Janella’s website: https://janellaangeles.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/janella_angeles

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janella_angeles/

Tumblr: http://janellaangeles.tumblr.com/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/janella_angeles/

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For more info about Pitch Wars, check out Brenda Drake’s site!

If you join our team, you will have TWO mentors, two cheerleaders, two sets of eyes, two motivators, two snapchat fiends who will champion your work in this year’s Pitch Wars and beyond!

IMG_6078Best of luck to you all, and be sure to check out all of the other amazing Pitch Wars mentors!!

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It’s Levi-OH-sa

I just got back from Vegas/SLC a couple days ago, and I’m FINALLY starting to feel like a human again.

Slightly.

Barely.

But hey, I think the amount of post-con exhaustion is very telling about the amount of fun one had at said con, and I for sure had TONS of it at Leviosa Con! Once more, I got to hang out with my glorious CPs (you’d think at this point we’d be sick of each other, but huge nahhh), meet extremely wonderful people, and actually speak (and moderate!) at panels for the first time. Also, food. There was a lot of incredible food, too.

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Brunch for days

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Taking advantage of the poor HP cut-outs. Sorry Snape.

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Pantsing vs. Plotting panel! The brilliant term “plotypus” may have been coined here

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Draco Mouse-foy #snapchatfiltersgivemelife

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The hugest pancakes + bottomless mimosas = HEAVEN

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My buddy Erin and me, CO-Gs for life

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All the lovely agents on the How to Pitch panel!

What was perhaps the most rewarding part of this con had to be finally meeting my agent for the first time in person! Weirdly enough, having that meeting was probably akin to online daters meeting for the first time and having that flood of first date jitters. Oh no, I’m not online where charisma can be edited and inserted! What if I say something awkward? What if I look nothing like my picture and that freaks them out? What if we actually do not mesh well in person? What if, what if, what if . . .

Suffice to say, those worries were SO ridiculous. Thao really is as wonderful in person as she is online, and after spending time with her and seeing her rock it out on panels, I can’t even properly say how lucky I feel to have her as my agent warrior. Also, I may or may not have squealed too hard when she said that she totally pictured Roan from The 100 as one of my characters!!!

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Heart eyes heart eyes heart eyes (source)

Not only was meeting Thao wonderful, but also being on panel with her—along with a whole crew of equally amazing, super accomplished people. I have to say, for my first time on panels, I had MAJOR imposter syndrome beforehand. Definitely from the uncertainty that my words wouldn’t carry much weight since I still see myself as a more or less a newb in this industry. But you know what, what eased me soon enough was the fact that EVERYONE has something to say, and every stage—wherever you’re in—carries truths and values that people are always eager to listen to.

After that epiphany, I felt like I could finally breathe on panel. I spoke about what it meant to read YA and how diversity impacts my writing. There may have been a tangent about my previous fanfiction days (THANKS ERIN). I also moderated a panel on rejection, and the stories which came from that were so inspiring. Needless to say, my fear of public speaking is definitely diminishing, and I have nothing but thanks for ALL the people I spoke with for being the best and most encouraging panelists ever, and gratitude for this amazing opportunity!

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Adults Reading YA!

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Babies First Panel: An Axie and Janella saga

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Moderating the Dealing with Rejection panel meeeeep

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Diversity in YA Lit Panel was AMAZING

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My bud Katelyn to the right also moderated like SUCH a boss

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Axie being a scifi queen on her panel!

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Panel Survivors

Nothing was better than having my Pitch Wars co-mentor Axie by my side (attached at the hip, more precisely), and to be able to hang with all my CPs Erin, Amanda, Maddy, and Akshaya. In fact, being able to hang with ALL the lovely people at this con in general was the biggest highlight of all. Since we all stayed at the same resort, each day was pretty much like living in a small world where you saw everyone all the time and had the perfect opportunities to just mingle, catch up on life stuff, and gush about all the bookish things.

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Dat sunset tho

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I think we all can agree that Susan Dennard is SUCH an amazing person. Seriously.

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Cult Love

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Me and my agent sister Roshani Chokshi, aka quite possibly the KINDEST human being ever

Leviosa passed by in such a whirlwind, it still doesn’t feel real that we crammed in so much in so little time. But soon enough, we had to say goodbye to the lovely resort, and were back on the road to SLC aka a glorious 6-hour road trip with Erin and Maddy. Aka 6 hours of randomness, Disney sing-alongs, and gorgeous, epic scenery.

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Who else is getting Thunder Mountain feels?!

Post-Leviosa was a blur of more amazing food (priorities, because clearly I’m a very hungry person), hiking adventures, bookstore shenanigans, puppy cuddling, puzzle piecing, and just more fun times with CPs before it was time to return to the East Coast for what I suspect will be a very long time. Because it’s been a year full of traveling and con-going for me (aka a year filled with the sobs of my hollowing bank account), Leviosa was the best last hurrah a writer could ask for. I’m not sure where I’ll go next, or even when, but I am so grateful for all the experiences and memories and friends I’ve made throughout my travels so far.

At the moment, though, it’s so nice to be back home—to get back to work, and gear up for whatever is looming on the horizon next.

23 Things I Did Last Month

Confession time: I DID not blog at all last month.

When I said I was holing up in the revising cave, I realllllllly followed through. To a point where I was actually starting to suffer from bad hip pain because I was freakishly dedicated to nonstop BICHOK-ing (a.k.a Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). Even though I was pretty knee-deep in revising land, June was all around awesome…especially because it was my birthday month! So to make up for the lack of posting, and in honor of turning 23, here’s a list of 23 things I did in June aside from being a writing cave monster.

  1. OBVIOUSLY I had my birthday, and it was full of editing, chicken nuggets, and yummy sangria.

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2. RECEIVED TICKETS TO A JOHN WILLIAMS’ FILM NIGHT FROM MY CP LOVELIES MADDY AND AKSHAYA!!!! Ughh, I can’t wait to be drowning in all the spectacular movie music. I’ll most likely be the sobbing fool in the audience.

3. I had the ultimate Pocahontas moment by going kayaking with my family. My sister and I were singing as we rowed the entire time, and by the time we were done, our arms were practically noodles.

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~JUST AROUND THE RIVERBEND~

4. Puppy sat Master Skywalker, who is the best writing companion when he’s not begging for attention and belly rubs.

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5. Discovered a maybe-new-story idea during my daily walks with Master Skywalker. Still super new, but definitely letting it stew in my brain for a bit!

6. Also taught Master Skywalker how to play the piano. He shall now be known as Maestro Skywalker. (ok no not really he just bangs on the keys when I tell him to . . . for treats, of course)

7. Received ample payment for my puppy-sitting services from my sister and her husband after their trip to Disney.

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Pocahontas Power Pins!

8. Went to my brother’s HS graduation, which was filled with lots of emotions, tears, and screaming. Casual.

9. Met Maggie Stiefvater on her Raven King tour! That woman is seriously a standup comedian, she’s HYSTERICAL. Plus, I absolutely knew which car was hers in the parking lot and love how badass USURPER looks on a license plate.

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10. Started reading a book of Rumi’s poetry and loving it.

11. Was a slush reader for the Writing from Color and Native Voices contest which was FANTASTIC. The entries were so amazing and a true honor to read, and I can’t wait to see all the successes to come with this contest!

12. One day, went on a super random impromptu road trip to Connecticut to see . . . wait for it . . .

13. ANASTASIA THE MUSICAL. It was SUCH a dream come true to see this because Anastasia is hands down one of my favorite movies. The musical is definitely way different than the movie, but I actually enjoyed the differences way more than I thought I would. The sets were gorgeous, the dancers were incredible, and the music was absolutely amazing. I’m aching for the soundtrack to come out!

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14. Finally went to a yoga session after more than a year away . . . and boy, did I feel the after-effects hard the next morning. In a good way. I’d love to pick it up again to improve my flexibility and not constantly hunch over like an old lady.

15. Went on a family nature hike during Father’s Day on an absolutely gorgeous day.

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16. Tweeted constantly (it’s my ultimate procrastination escape) and met even more lovely writing friends!!

17. Rewatched the Cheetah Girls, and forgot how funny the lines are in this precious movie.

18. Downloaded a text-to-speech converter which allowed me to listen to my manuscript like an audio book! My preferred robot narrator is Moira, and her Irish accent is very soothing.

19. Commiserated with my writing buddies over revision woes many a time because even if it feels like we’re all sinking, we’re sinking together which makes all the difference.

20. Realized a list of 23 things is way too much for my boring homebody self.

21. Journeyed into the city to meet up with my wonderful pal and Pitch Wars co-mentor Axie. And of course, we wouldn’t be able to properly call ourselves obsessive writers without squeezing in a work date.

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22. My pregnant sister is due fairly soon, and I finally felt my nephew kick in her stomach for the first time! Cue all the tears and baby excitement!

23. I may or may not have FINALLY conquered my first round of revisions . . . *slinks away mischievously*

Right now, I am in lovely Las Vegas again with my even lovelier writer friends Maddy, Akshaya, Erin, Amanda, and Axie for Leviosa Con! The hotel is AMAZING, and we are currently work-dating at a Starbucks because we’re clearly the kind of writers who can’t stop, won’t stop.

Tomorrow the con will officially be in full swing, which means HP fangirling, panels, meeting other writers, and meeting my agent! I’m SO excited to write up a longer post on all of these Leviosa shenanigans after this trip 😀 For now, back to critiquing work and hanging with my glorious CPs!