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.

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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!

Surprise—I went to BookCon!

I am seriously still just as surprised as the title of this post. Going to BookCon was such a impulsive last minute decision, but I am IMMENSELY glad that I hopped on a plane yet again to attend another bookish event with my CPs! However, to make peace with the impulsiveness of going on yet another trip, I told myself that it was time to Get. Down. To. Business. Mulan-style, of course. And soooo, before all the BookCon fun, here are some other things that have been happening!

WRITING UPDATES:

I FINISHED REWRITING MY NEW MIDDLE PORTION!! *confetti on confetti on confetti*

One of the biggest challenges I’m tackling in this first round of revisions is to basically give my Act 2 for Pirate Fantasy an extreme makeover. I knew it, my main character knew it, everyone knew it. Rather than try to work around the bits that weren’t flowing in attempts to salvage them, I decided to scrap my whole middle portion and start from the ground up. Yup. 30k of words I’d painfully hacked at for months until I had no clue what else to do with them—gone.

Instead of mourning the purge of all that progress, I felt so unbelievably good about it. For a time I thought I must’ve been in some crazy-writer-shock to have gleefully deleted chapter upon chapter, but I wasn’t. That’s how you know you’ve got dead weight in your hands—when you realize that you can live without it, that you don’t need it, and that you can do much better. I’m not going to say it was easy-peasy rebuilding those foundations all over again—but this time around, it definitely felt much more fun and just right-er, if that makes sense. After two weeks of brainstorming and rediscovering the beats of that act, and then a little over a month of drafting and revision tweaks in between, I finally have about 37k of brand new material that I’m deliriously excited to start fine-tuning. The words are nowhere near perfect, but they are written and ready to be molded into something great.

NEWS:

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Sooooo remember that panel I’ll be on at Leviosa Con this July? Turns out I’m now speaking at two, and the best surprise of all is that I’ll be accompanied on both by my all around awesome Pitch Wars co-mentor and friend Axie Oh! For anyone attending, we’ll both be on Diversity in YA Lit and Adults Reading YA trying not to be too weird  🙂

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In other news, the Boston Teen Author Festival announced their amazing line up earlier this month, and I’m literally bouncing with excitement at the thought of all the incredible authors attending! As it’s the five year anniversary of the festival, you know it’s going to be one heck of a party. We’re already gearing up for some fun social media happenings this summer that will include a #BTAFbookchallenge on Instagram and a fab five-answer questionnaire on Twitter under the #BTAFive hashtag. Our authors will be participating, so we hope everyone can follow along and join in, too!!

BOOKCON:

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So during my stay Chicago, I FINALLY hit my revision milestone (in the creative atmosphere of a brewery lol) just in time for BookCon! I stayed with my absolute favorites Maddy and Erin, and when we weren’t on work dates trying to squeeze some writing in, we indulged in allllll the bookish fun at BookCon with our other favorites Kat and Meg!

We had an early start, and quickly realized when we arrived at BookCon that “early” wasn’t early enough. Crowds of people were ALREADY lined up well across the whole building just to get into the show floor when we arrived. Luckily, we were able to snag spots in line for Naomi Novik’s signing line after so many author slots had already filled up from the overcrowded pandemonium. But even without those sacred wristbands to gain you a signing spot, there were SO many other opportunities to grab books and enjoy more author signings popping up at every publishing house booth all throughout the day.

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The line to get INSIDE (but at least there were pretty book banners along the way!)

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People! So many people!

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The sacred show floor

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Sacred show floor + Erin’s face

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Panel with Victoria Aveyard, Sarah J. Maas, and Laini Taylor—and one HILARIOUS moderator, Jeff Giles

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Got to meet yet another one of my fab agent sisters, Wendy Spinale!

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Grabbed some pretty sweet Everland swag as well. Seriously, how cool are these wings!??

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Got to chat with the lovely Susan Dennard . . . until paparazzi descended on us from all sides

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Scholastic booth had a super rad coloring wall with all the Harry Potter things

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Books on books on books

The rest of BookCon in general was just chaos . . . in a good way! It was a day filled with walking by booths with familiar/highly-anticipated titles displayed like movie poster billboards, bumping into so many cool authors and trying not to freak out in their faces, and getting to attend some really awesome panels. I know I’m totally not alone in this, but my FAVORITE panel by far was the WNDB Presents: Love & Loss in Children’s Literature panel which featured Jenny Han, Gene Luen Yang, Francisco X. Stork, Anna-Marie McLemore, Sherman Alexie, and Leigh Bardugo, and was moderated by Dhonielle Clayton! I was seriously just nodding my head the whole time and was so speechless by what each speaker had to say. Their stories and experiences of love and loss were so powerful and different from each other, but all equally added such enormous meaning to the discussion. All of the anecdotes shared were funny, heartbreaking, and truly informed the reader where each author was coming from in terms of reflecting the topics in their own stories and characters. Seriously, it was SUCH a fantastic panel, and I hope to attend more just like it!

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The awesome panel that was just way too awesome

Aside from waiting to get into panels, there was a lot of waiting in lines to get books. I’m so glad I wore something comfortable because we were on our feet pretty much the entire day—whether it was rushing to get somewhere, or standing to wait for something. By the end of BookCon, I felt super victorious from all the things we accomplished and all the people we met—but that moment of victory faded when we had to rush out of Chicago to make it to ANOTHER book event!

Yup, right after BookCon, Maddy, Erin, and I went straight to Anderson’s Book Shop for Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Mist and Fury signing! And just when you thought we hadn’t waited nearly enough that whole day, we were DEAD LAST in line for the signing. But when fun CP shenanigans ensue, time always passes faster, so Maddy, Erin, and I were not complaining. We were just dead tired. Sarah had also just come back from a full day at BookCon, so we all seemed to just bask in the same exhausted glory by the time we reached the signing table.

As this was the first time I met Sarah, I’m so glad I held it in together enough to coherently tell her how her journey to publication had basically kept me writing and motivated throughout college, and how I’ve progressed in my own writing journey since then. She was SO excited, lovely, and offered me the greatest insights on the agent revision stage and submission process she herself went through so that I could feel prepared. In all honesty, College Freshman Janella would seriously not believe me if I went back in time and told her to anticipate this kind of conversation with one of the authors whose writing journey constantly reminded her that dreams of writing and publication are never impossible if you have the passion and the drive.

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Aforementioned fun CP shenanigans

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Sarah’s signing! Credit: Side Camera Erin

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Of course, HAD to get a pic with her (last in line privileges, woot woot)

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My overall haul 😀

So altogether, a PACKED day of bookish fun. Even though I’m back home and have forced myself not to travel anywhere far again in the near future aside from Leviosa Con, there are a few faces I’m going to miss . . .

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ALL HAIL LADY ELIZABETH

JUST KIDDING, though I do miss Maddy’s cat begging for head scratches and attention. No, this is definitely what I’m going to miss the most . . .

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Okayyyy, maybe I WILL actually miss these things. The wine, and the blessed taproom that strangely became one of the best places to write in. But no, I guess of all things, I’m going to (and already do) miss hanging with these crazies:

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So now after all the fun, it’s BACK. TO. WORK. FOR REALS, THIS TIME. Hold me accountable, Internet friends. I’m diving into the revisions cave (a.k.a. the Point of No Return) where I hope to make sense of what I’ve written, and continue to gloriously chip away at the story that’s more or less consumed my life. Good luck to everyone else who’s braving writing and revising land along with me!  ❤

Updates, News, and All the Bookish Things: Part 2

Greetings from New Hampshire! This weekend I’m stuck house-sitting and dog-sitting for my sister (I know. Poor me, right?) and have converted the period into a mini writing retreat with me, myself, and I. And of course, with this dapper gentleman by my side:

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Master Skywalker, my faithful writing companion

Hopefully his incessant need for cuddles and playtime won’t be too distracting. There’s still a lot of revision work to be done, and I’m ready to get my hands dirty—with words, that is.

And now to conclude the epic two-part bookish post . . .

WRITING UPDATES (and REVELATIONS)

Over the past few weeks/days, writing has been a liiiiiittle bit of a struggle. Due to the craziness that has been April (Aprilpocalypse, as I’ve been starting to call it), my writing has suffered from how scattered my brain has just been feeling. Words were coming out more like a trickle than the usual fountain spray, and it was FRUSTRATING me to no end. But you know what, it’s important to remember that this is all part of the process. We have our highs, we have our lows, and we have our in-betweens. Everyone struggles, but those struggles are what make you stronger. I was grappling with understanding this a lot last week, thinking that maybe because the words weren’t flowing as well as they usually were, that something was broken either in my manuscript plans or my writing. Maybe I needed to take a break. But after forcing myself to sit at my desk and trying at it again and again (and AGAIN) each day, no matter how pitiful the word counts were, I finally broke through that stubborn wall. Words are flowing, ideas are going, and now I have over 20k of new material to work with, and counting! Huzzah!

Also, I don’t know how this completely went over my head, but my blog officially turned one two weeks ago!! Time has passed so quickly, and SO much has changed since then. But being able to look back on where I was in terms of my writing, life, and head space just reminds me why keeping a blog is so precious. It’s like a time-capsule of progress, a flight of stairs being built with each written post. I’m not sure where I’ll be months from now, but I’m excited to see where the journey takes me next! Here’s to another year of more milestones and progress to come!

NEWS:

Just in case you missed it, a query critique from me is up for grabs as a part of YA Runs A 5K (hosted by the fabulous Melody Simpson) this year! I was SO happy and honored to offer this, not only because the proceeds go to We Need Diverse Books (so every penny counts!), but also because YA Runs A 5K is just a fantastic event. The critiques I’ve gained for my donations in the past have been SUCH a help to me, so it truly feels unreal to be able to give back in this way as well!

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In other exciting news, I will be co-mentoring in this year’s Pitch Wars with my good pal, Axie Oh! Pitch Wars (run by the amazing Brenda Drake) is such a huge deal in the writing community, so words cannot express how honored we are to be a part of it this year! There’s not much we can specifically say just yet, aside from the fact that we’ll be on the hunt for amazing YA, and we’re SUPER excited to get the ball rolling  😀 And to further evidence our rabid excitement, we already have an epic team name. We shall now and forever be known as Team Rocket, eagerly awaiting our Meowth mentee to make our power duo into a magical trio.

BOOKISH EVENTS:

So almost immediately after the events I’d described in the last post, I hopped on a plane going to Las Vegas to attend the RT Bookslovers Convention with some of my favorite people in the world: Erin, Akshaya, Maddy, and Katy! After having a blast at RT last year with Maddy and Akshaya (yet another crazy rediscovery from my “ohmygod my blog is a freaking year old!” revelation), coming back with the two of them, and more friends, was seriously the best. We can’t always get together as often as we’d like (is “everyday” too clingy?), but when we do, it’s always a good time…filled with many Disney sing-alongs, Hogwarts House discussions, outrageous food-devouring, and more  🙂

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Of course the only group pic I could find of us is from the last night *huffs*

Even though we goofed off a lot (I’m positive Erin and I were trapped in a state of mindless laughter 90% of the time), we kept to the RT schedule and were at panels and events practically the whole time. Just like last year, the panels were very informative, yet always hilarious. I’m sure I’m not the only one who thinks Tamora Pierce is the best person to see on a panel because her comments are just HYSTERICAL. I also loved sitting in on the panels focusing on diversity, not just for the insightful discussion on the authors’ own experiences and what people hope to see in the future, but also for the book recommendations and advice on how we as writers and the industry can do better in making strides for more representation, and how to do so with authenticity and respect. Dhonielle Clayton, Sona Charaipotra, Cindy Pon, and Zoraida Cordova were definitely some of my favorite panelists throughout all of RT, and I honestly can’t wait to read all of their books!

By the end, not only did we get scary amounts of books (thank goodness our packing strategy was on point after learning from last year), but we also met all the lovely authors and new friends! That’s honestly the best part about conferences like these. A lot of times, interactions are made via social media, so to finally put faces and voices to names—and to tell authors, in person, just how genuinely excited you are about their upcoming books, and how their books impacted you/your writing—is pretty priceless. And to update authors we’d met the year before on our progress since then showed us even more how far we’ve come from being those newbies just wandering around RT like starry-eyed babies. But even with one RT already under our belts, the same old hijinks ensued. And laughing. And of course, emotions and crying.

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Room with our insaaaane view

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Me, Kat, and Axie! (aka Jessie, Ekans, and James) *Erin is a photobombing ninja

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Take me back to this first breakfast with mimosas, please

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The elevators had mirror ceilings and I got way too excited about it

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Goodie bag room filled with ARCs

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Met my super kind agent sister, Katherine Harbour, author of the Night and Nothing novels!

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The lovely duo, Dhonielle and Sona, signing their AMAZING book, Tiny Pretty Things. It’s soooo good.

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Still can’t get over the incredibly sweet writing duo, Christina Lauren, and how awesome their books are

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Emotions time: telling Renée Ahdieh that reading her book inspired me to keep writing my Pirate Fantasy, and we hugged it out

Even BIGGER emotions time . . .

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Seeing Leigh Bardugo AGAIN and telling her that the story I’d been working on (and had told her about at BTAF 2015) finally landed me an agent. Since Shadow and Bone was my comp and huge influence, I thanked her a thousand times over

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Excited Leigh ( + Excited Assistant)

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By some miracle Leigh actually remembered me, and I promptly started crying my eyes out at the personalization

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Brought home alllllll the books and more

As evidenced, it was yet another successful RT! I’m hoping to maybe attend again next year, as it’ll be in Hotlanta and so much closer to me. While I loved Las Vegas, I do not love the hours it takes to get there. Remind me again why I’m going back  in July . . .

Just kidding. I’m seriously PUMPED for Leviosa Con—because it means more CP time, more books, and more crazy hijinks—and long bookish posts—to come!

Updates, News, and All the Bookish Things: Part 1

Hello blog, I’ve missed you. In fact, I’ve missed having some solid time to sit down and settle with my computer after running around like a chicken with its head chopped off. And I do mean that both mentally and physically. The last couple of weeks have been filled with bookish event after event which have taken a severe toll on my solitary writing cave status—but alas, it’s all for the best. I mean, I guess I do need interactions with friends and contact with the outside world some times, right?

Just kidding. It’s felt like absolute chaos, but only the very, very best kind. Without further ado, here comes some old news, new news, and as always, bookish news!

WRITING UPDATES:

Revisions have been . . . going! While I wish I could say that I’m speeding through my revision to-do list like some literary Tasmanian Devil, I’m not. And that’s seriously okay. With what I’m currently working on in this first round, I know that trying to rush through everything would only make more messes, and I already have more than enough on my plate with this manuscript as it is! And with the amount of changes I’m making, I sure as hell want to do them right. So far, I have already drafted over 10k of new scenes—most of which will need heavy editing, but hey, it’s a grand start. And what’s even better, this new direction finally feels right  😀 What really held me up in the beginning was not knowing where to go with the fresh material I needed to add in. But after taking the time to let all the notes absorb and to let myself feel inspired again, I have found the way! We’re not quite near the end yet, but it’s definitely in sight from where I’m standing!

NEWS:

Also, THIS IS HAPPENING.

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You have NO idea how flabbergasted I was when the super wonderful Alexa Donne so kindly offered this fantastic opportunity to speak with an amazing line up of people, including my awesome agent! SERIOUSLY. My hands were literally shaking when I accepted. In fact, they’re still shaking at the thought of speaking on a panel period. But nerves aside, I’m so freaking excited to be doing this, and also to be attending Leviosa Con with my CPs Maddy, Erin, Akshaya, and Amanda! If there’s anyone else who will be attending Leviosa, let me know because I love making friends at cons! And if you’re interested in sitting in on the panel, they just released the official schedule a couple of days ago and all the info for it is here  🙂

BOOKISH EVENTS:

Oh boy, I am SO not allowed to buy anything for the next five years from the sheer amount of books I’ve bought this entire month. Not even food . . . okay, no, that’s crazy talk. But for those who understand the pitfalls of compulsive book-buying, you get the point. This April has just been one huge bookish spree for me—so huge, that I’m dividing this post into two parts! And so huge, that my bank account is currently weeping. Womp, womp.

But let’s focus on the positives! At least my personal library is a bit richer with more books on the shelves, right?  😉

First off, in early April, I went to an event at Brookline Booksmith for Jodi Meadows’s The Mirror King, which also included Erin Bowman on the panel. Both ladies were hilarious together, and offered some amazing insight into their books and writing processes (all of which can be seen in full detail in this blog post by my writing buddy Ellie!). I seriously love hearing authors talk about their books and all the things behind what’s actually written on the page. It makes me even more intrigued and excited to read, and you know there was no way I left that event without purchasing Jodi Meadows’s The Orphan Queen to start off with!

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Much swag, very signing

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Look how RIDICULOUSLY AWESOME her calligraphy skills are! #penmanshipgoals

The next day, there was a Richelle Mead event somewhere near my town, but unfortunately I couldn’t make it because 1) I was semi-burnt out from the book event the night before, and 2) it was POURING cats and dogs that night. How anyone could’ve been traveling that night and lived to tell the tale astounds me! Thankfully I was able to see Richelle the week after at RT (Part 2 bits!), where we commiserated over how weird New England weather is.

Then, the day after rainpocalypse, the sun came out and I set out to go to Marie Rutkoski’s event in the Harvard Book Store for The Winner’s Kiss, which also featured her in conversation with Kristin Cashore!!! Even though Introverted Janella really just wanted to stay at home and write in the cave, I knew I just HAD to go to this event. Not only to get The Winner’s Kiss and see the fabulous author behind it, but also to get my beloved copy of Fire signed by THE Kristin Cashore. Even though I’ve read all of the books within the Graceling realm, Fire has ALWAYS stayed with me for the longest time. It’s one of my favorite fantasies ever, and I honestly can’t flail enough over it (cc: Erin, my fellow Fire fangirl). Because Kristin rarely does events, it was seriously so insane being able to meet her, gush over Fire (which she really appreciated since so many people have told her that they prefer the other Graceling books way more, believe it or not! Blasphemy, right?!), and get my books signed. The night was made even better after hearing these ladies speak as authors and friends with their ridiculously adorable rapport.

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AHHHHHH

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AHHHHHHHHHH TIMES A MILLION

So this was just Part 1 of my bookish adventures in April! Next up, even MORE sinful book-buying in Las Vegas where I reunited with my CPs for RT!!!!

ALA Midwinter Mayhem

Happy Friday, y’all! Before I’m heading off to Long Island to celebrate the long weekend with family, I thought it would be a great time to write up a post on my whereabouts last weekend: the Midwinter ALA Conference in Boston!

And let me tell you, the whole event was TOTALLY crazy-sauce, as well as crazy-amazing. Huge thanks to Erin for giving me that extra push to go because the bookish chaos that ensued (all three days of it) was completely worth it!

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I don’t even know where to start, other than saying how gloriously huge ALA is. I call it the Comic Con of the publishing industry, and that is seriously no exaggeration. In the huge playground that is the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center, there were booths set up all over the floor by exhibitors ranging from software companies to publishing houses. The publishers were definitely hard to miss since they were the ones just flooding with eager readers armed with totes and had books practically spilling out of their booths. Heaven, right?

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This was just one section of the floor. ONE SECTION.

Having purchased an Exhibits Only pass, I was able to roam around the floor for three days of just nonstop book-grabbing and swag-taking. And because a lot of other people in attendance purchased passes for the exact same privilege, it’s no surprise that grabbing the latest ARCs off publishers’ tables soon became akin to savagely grabbing supplies from the cornucopia in The Hunger Games. Most times, it felt like do or die, and soooo many people who were likely ALA veterans came in more far more prepared than I was. One day, I thought one tote bag would be enough. Ha.

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pretty wall of ARCs at the HarperCollins station

Even though I usually arrived at the center in the early afternoon-ish times of the days, I was still able to snag a TON of stuff and see so many things from signings to panels to authors running around the exhibit floor just as crazy-exited as the rest of the attendees were. I was super thrilled to be able to fall into the book signing lines of Adam Silvera, Emily Skrutskie, and Marieke Nijkamp. When I was chilling by the Macmillan booth on Day 1, I was also fortunate enough to bump into Roshani Chokshi, debut author of 2016 buzz book The Star-Touched Queen who is coincidentally also CPs with my favorite Aussie Ella. She’s also overall just a super wonderful human being, and immediately knew right off the bat that I was Filipino (though let’s be real, Filipinos can spot other Filipinos a mile away. It’s a gift.).

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Day 2, I was also able to sit in on her panel that showcased some other pretty awesome 2016 Debut Authors in YA—all of which was wicked hilarious, but also very insightful and inspiring to all of the aspiring writers in the audience. Aside from interesting fun facts about the authors, it was so cool to hear about the stories behind the stories they had written. Attending panels like these really enforces how wonderfully different the storytelling process is for every writer. Some writers will write the stories they feel compelled to write because of questions or curiosities they seek to answer. Some have stories that have been lingering inside them for so long that they are now the backbones of the novels they want to write. Overall, though, writers will champion the stories that need the voice only they feel that they can provide. No trend-chasing or jumping on genre-bandwagons, just good ol’ story-making with the story of your heart ❤

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The super awesome panel, moderated by MarcyKate Connolly. Panelists included Dana Elmendorf, Emily Martin, Elizabeth Briggs, and Roshani Chokshi!

And then after the panel, like a Christmas miracle, they were giving away swag and ARCs of The Star-Touched Queen followed by a signing with Roshani! Given how disappointed I was in not being able to snag a copy the day before, it’s a bit of an understatement to say how excited I was to finally get my hands on this beauty.

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*cue angelic chorus and heavenly rays of light*

In the end, I think one of the most rewarding things about acquiring this ARC was turning to the acknowledgements. When I pick up books, I ALWAYS turn to the dedications and acknowledgements because for me, I just love knowing who the authors have to thank in the creation of their book. Writing can be viewed as such a solitary activity, but these pages really shine light on the huge cavalry of friends, family, agents, publishers, CPs, influences, and other helpful human beings behind the writer. And to find Ella’s name printed here for all the world to see was so freaking EXCITING. Is it weird to say that whenever I see this, I just get overcome with giddiness and hyper-eager “I know her! I know her!” thoughts? I can’t help it. If you’ve made it into the acknowledgements, you are pretty much already a star in my eyes. 😀

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still freaking out!!

So after days of going into the center, I was able to accumulate QUITE a hefty amount of books (and I still have the sore shoulders to prove it). Not only was I lucky enough to grab some amazing ARCs, but I was also able to grab books already in print either for free or for ridiculously cheap prices. On the last day especially, when all of the booths were packing up and trying to clean out all of their display cases, let’s just say I went a little purchase-crazy with all the wild discounts going on.

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Spoils of War: Day 2

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Spoils of War: Day 3

My tote bags were ALWAYS filled to the brim by the end of the day, which was the best/most gloriously exhausting feeling in the world. And even though I received some of the most judgmental looks from people on the street as I was walking back to my car, I owned my supremely frazzled appearance and all the bulging totes hanging off me. Nothing was more satisfying than being able to add more and more to the growing tower of books in my room:

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The tower of bookish wonder that I’m pretty sure goes above my waist.

Just looking at this picture makes me feel a bit overwhelmed. My TBR list just got a whole lot bigger, and my bookshelves have become a whole lot more cramped, but those are not terrible problems to have. If you want these sort of problems in your life, then go to ALA. It was AMAZING and I highly urge everyone to attend if it happens to be located in your neck of the woods! Meanwhile, I’ll just be here, waiting in agony until it comes back (if it ever does) to Boston again . . .

 

Colorado Loving, NaNoWriMo, and What I’m Thankful For

Belated Happy Thanksgiving to you all! Unfortunately, November became the month that I didn’t write a blog post. *sulks*

And somehow, it’s now already December. HOW. WHAT. WHYYY.

I guess since it’s a new month/THE END OF THE FREAKING YEAR, why not kick it off with the truckload of good energy courtesy of the magical, hectic month that was November? There were many things and many travels, so for organization’s sake, let’s break it down into three parts:

COLORADO:

Because my CPs and I clearly can’t stand to be away from each other for more than five minutes (it’s a problem), we all decided to meet up in gorgeous Colorado for a cabin-in-the-woods style writing retreat in honor of NaNoWriMo! And let me tell you, it may have been the best and worst decision of my life. Best, because I got to actually meet more of my lovely writing buds in person (Amanda, Erin, and Katy), see Maddy and Akshaya after a hardcore month of separation (again, we seriously have a problem), and enjoy the wonderful environment of Colorado with them all! And of course it was also the worst decision, because I NEVER WANTED TO LEAVE.

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Just the casual morning view . . . WTF

Not only was the scenery amazingly gorgeous, but the FOOD. Oh god, I think I more bemoan the fact that I will probably never eat as good as I did there, given that my friends are total food maestros.

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Maddy working some culinary magic, and a great big pitcher of caramel apple sangria

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Fancy grilled cheesing all day every day

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Friendsgiving *salivates*

And of course . . .

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THE BLESSED BAKED BRIE

For the most part, we had very well-balanced and expertly-crafted meals. After living off of mostly coffee and toast since that’s all I can ever seem to make, my body most definitely appreciated how I briefly lived in a cabin filled with fancy-pants chefs. But in the end, I always had the most love for this kind of end-of-the-day spread:

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The happiest of hours!

And we most definitely would not have made it through the day without copious amounts of this:

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CHEESE, GLORIOUS CHEESE

Okay, I’ll stop before this post turns into an impromptu ode to food. But I can’t help but feel so grateful for every meal since they were all such wonderful incentives to get through the day (is that sad?) and fantastic brain fuel for us writers. Although we were left to our own devices for most of the time, we stuck to certain daily rites to help get the productivity going.

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Daily goals board, complete with inspirational quote and decorative art

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Accomplishments board, which may or may not have slid into pure artistic chaos (i.e. Maddy’s celebratory drawing)

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Aw man, how I miss waking up to this usual morning view

And from then on, we would go off into our own writing nooks to get work done, with many a cheese break in between. Many.

But we weren’t just mindless writing machines for this entire trip (though we should’ve tried to be). We saw many animals and shooting stars, sang way too much Disney together, had multiple round-table discussions regarding Avatar and Hogwarts Houses, survived a lil storm called AJAX, went to a super awesome book signing, and a lot more. The evidence is all below.

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Impromptu baby hike in the snowy trails

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AJAX WAS HERE

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That night I slayed Maddy with all the jokes

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LILY AND JAMES SIGHTING ❤ #patronuslove

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Crazy horse with crazy eyes

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The absolute coolest way to plot a novel! Courtesy of the foxy Amanda and Maggie Stiefvater’s tarot cards

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I got to meet MARISSA MEYER. And promptly told her how her blog/journey to publication inspired me SO much in my own journey. I fangirled pretty hard.

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Of course, I couldn’t leave the bookstore without purchasing these beauties

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And then of course, we couldn’t leave the store without taking some pics aka proof that we actually hung out with each other

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I call this one “Random Assortment of Emojis”

Clearly, mayhem in the purest form ensued. It was the greatest way to start the first half of November, and I really wish I had the smarts to build a time machine to go back and do it all over again! Or, maybe just build a teleportation device to see my lovely writer buddies since we’re pretty much scattered all across the country. All in all, this trip taught me two very important things: 1) I have amazing friends. 2) I just have to keep writing.

NANOWRIMO:

As it’s already December (meep), NaNo has come to its end . . . but that doesn’t mean it’s over in the slightest! People who know me and my pantsing ways can conclude that I LOVE NaNo. It’s helped me finish my novels over the past few years, and this time of the season in general remained a wildly creative period for me. As mentioned before, I was crazy lucky to be able to start off NaNo with a bunch of fantastically creative people. With all those writerly energies just swirling about the cabin, it was impossible not to feel motivated to get work done each and every day.

But this year was a bit different for me. Because I wanted to take the time to get through more revision stuff for pirate fantasy, I was unable to start my shiny new NaNo WIP (which I’m now just affectionately calling phantom fantasy) until mid-November.

And guess what—I did not make it to 50k by the end. Even though I was pounding out alllllll the words everyday, Thanksgiving ultimately brought a sledgehammer to my steady NaNo flow. On the night of November 30th, I ended up with around 37k words. And for a brief moment, I was SUPER down on myself.

How could I have broken my successful NaNo streak? How could I have let the siren call of pies and turkey keep me from losing my wordcount momentum!?

And you know what, I just took a deep breath and a step back. I put a lid on that kind of thinking just as instantly as it started trickling through. I can’t let myself think about this in terms of winning and losing. NaNo is all about progress and pushing yourself. Sure there’s a deadline, but it’s more for motivation’s sake than anything. It’s not like just because November is over that I’m going to stop writing this new novel. Hell no! Nothing could stop me from writing this since I’m still very much in love and excited with the story! And in fact, when I think about it, I didn’t even start writing at the beginning of November—which technically means I haven’t fully completed a NaNo period, but also sheds light on how much I’ve accomplished in just half of a month.

So instead of bullying myself on the morning of December 1st, I gave myself a pat on the back. When it comes down to it, progress is always progress, and I’m so satisfied with how much I’ve made in the month of November regardless of the fact that I’ll probably have to rewrite A LOT of it. All that I’ve written so far has been rewarding enough, all the glorious 37k of it.

Even though I’ve won NaNo in the past, I know hands down that The Year I “Lost” ranks as my favorite—because instead of remembering those past times of achieving all the wordcount goals by toiling away at my computer alone in my room like a hermit cave dweller, I think more about my progress and spending a great chunk of November surrounded by my writing herd.

THANKSGIVING:

Okay, last one. And probably the shortest.

After the Colorado madness in the first half of November, we jumped straight into Thanksgiving afterward. This year, I went to Long Island to visit family, and I came out with many a food coma. It was absolutely wonderful.

But I felt even luckier this year since I technically celebrated Thanksgiving twice—one with family, and one with friends aka my first Friendsgiving! Both gave me the chance to reflect on the wonderful moments of this year, but I don’t think a day goes by where I’m not constantly thankful for all of it. 2015 has been one of the best, most memorable years of my life, by far. I let writing take the front seat, met my amazing group of writing friends who totally get me, and have been able to add a lot more exciting stops on my journey to publication than I ever thought possible. And this year, I feel a lot less alone in it.

It all sounds ridiculously sappy now that I’m typing it out, but it’s true. This is the year I found my herd, and I’m so thankful to be in this with them every step of the way now.

To end this on an even sappier note (because who doesn’t love more sap), I cracked open a fortune cookie shortly after my trip to Colorado. I’m one of those people who LOVES opening fortune cookies, but lately I’ve been getting ridiculous fortunes that have absolutely no relevance to life whatsoever. But when I opened this one, this little gem popped out:

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I know, I’m about the biggest sap master right now, but it just brought the hugest smile on my face to get this fortune in light of all the duds I’d gotten lately! So to my writing cabbages, if you’re reading this, I’m enormously thankful for you all. The proof is most definitely in the fortune cookie.