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:

IMG_5201

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!

Screen Shot 2016-04-29 at 10.27.41 AM

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  🙂

IMG_5353

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.

IMG_5354 2

Room with our insaaaane view

IMG_5366

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

IMG_5283

Take me back to this first breakfast with mimosas, please

IMG_5313

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

IMG_5286

Goodie bag room filled with ARCs

IMG_5336

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

IMG_5331

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

IMG_5307

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

IMG_5362

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 . . .

IMG_5323

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

IMG_5320

Excited Leigh ( + Excited Assistant)

FullSizeRender 42

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

IMG_5372

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!

Advertisements

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.

Screen Shot 2016-04-19 at 12.13.20 AM

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!

IMG_5242

IMG_5245

Much swag, very signing

FullSizeRender 40

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.

IMG_5274

FullSizeRender 41

AHHHHHH

IMG_5276

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!

IMG_4693

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?

IMG_4696

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.

IMG_4697

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.).

FullSizeRender 37

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 ❤

IMG_4701

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.

IMG_4707

*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. 😀

FullSizeRender 38

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.

IMG_4710

Spoils of War: Day 2

IMG_4723

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:

FullSizeRender 39

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.

IMG_4288

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.

IMG_4362

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

IMG_4293

Fancy grilled cheesing all day every day

IMG_4307

Friendsgiving *salivates*

And of course . . .

IMG_4375

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:

IMG_4299

The happiest of hours!

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

IMG_4305

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.

IMG_4365

Daily goals board, complete with inspirational quote and decorative art

IMG_4367

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

IMG_4366

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.

IMG_4306

Impromptu baby hike in the snowy trails

IMG_4369

AJAX WAS HERE

IMG_4363

That night I slayed Maddy with all the jokes

IMG_4357

LILY AND JAMES SIGHTING ❤ #patronuslove

IMG_4312

Crazy horse with crazy eyes

FullSizeRender 25

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

FullSizeRender 26

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.

IMG_4405

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

IMG_4390

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

IMG_4400

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:

IMG_4408

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.

A Long Travel Montage of CP Shenanigans, Books, and the Boston Teen Author Festival

After over a week of fun, bookish, authorly, writerly, and CP-ly fun, it’s finally back to reality. BUT, for the sake of this recap, I’m still in the fun zone remembering all the good times that went down when my fabulous CPs Maddy and Akshaya came to visit me! Obviously, chaos ensued—in the best way possible.

Our hijinks included a lot of eating (naturally), wining & cheesing, working side by side, being distracted whilst working side by side, bookstores, and a much appreciated PotC rewatchathon.

FullSizeRender 16

The most gorgeous breakfast that ever was eaten

IMG_4161

BROOMSTICKS IN BOOKSTORES, I REPEAT. BROOMSTICKS IN BOOKSTORES.

IMG_3831

our usual spread

IMG_4162

Gold star to whoever can guess this Oscar-worthy scene from PotC

And of course, many more misadventures happened in my humble little Shoveltown (yes, apparently this is what my town is known as;  yes, this was actually news to me; and yes, this is kind of creepy), but we also ventured into Boston for author-y events like the Boston Teen Author Festival which was SUCH a blast! Getting to partake in some volunteering tasks, meeting the authors, hearing them talk on panels, and getting all the books signed was ridiculously fun amidst the chaos. But with all the reader and writer enthusiasm just swirling all around, you seriously can’t help but enjoy the crazy atmosphere celebrating YA . . . as well as pretty much going bankrupt after buying all of the books. My bank account is still weeping from all of the abuse. Tip for everyone to remember: festivals and conferences WILL suck all of your money from you. It’s unavoidable.

Nevertheless, I am still super pumped for next year’s BTAF because with the fabulous list of authors who came, it can only get bigger and better from here. Here’s a look at this year’s event:

DSC_0115

All of the wonderful authors this year! Photo credit: Boston Teen Author Festival

IMG_4165

Meet the Author panel, in which rapid fire questions and hilarity ensued

DSC_0082

A closer pic! Credit: Boston Teen Author Festival

DSC_0085

The fearless Director/Ringleader of BTAF, Renee! aka fellow Emerson alum 😀

IMG_4166

“The Craft” panel, which touched upon topics like magic and the process of crafting other worlds

It was such a joy to sit in on the first panel which introduced the authors in attendance! All of them had a great dynamic with each other, wonderful personalities, and spot on comedic timing with the questions fired at them. When the authors were asked “Who would you ship your MC with?”  it was so interesting to see how many of them referred to other book characters from the authors present on the stage. Talk about potential crossover/fanfic kernels?

Another panel my CPs and I got to sit in on was “The Craft” panel, which included Sara Raasch, Melissa Grey, Kim Liggett, Kendal Kulper, A.C. Gaughen, Leigh Bardugo, and Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. Some of the really interesting discussion focused on the magical elements and systems within the stories, as well as the differences between “hard” and “soft” magic (the former being more rule-based, and the latter gearing toward the elemental side). It was definitely a fascinating panel to listen to for anyone writing or interested in fantasy or just stories with some complex, magical worldbuilding.

While shenanigans happened in between (ranging from a historical tour of Sharvard to observing some maybe/maybe not ritualistic behavior on the library lawn), the huge signing at the end had to be the most chaotic part because lines went on for DAYS. Leigh Bardugo’s, for example, lasted forever, but I refused to leave the premises without telling her how much I love her Grisha trilogy, how it’s influenced my writing, and then having her sign all of my copies while trying not to freak out.

And I did—and pretty much lost ALL of my chill when I went up to her and we started chatting about writing, how fantastic her books are, and my pirate fantasy. After hearing all of her words of encouragement, then realizing what she’d actually written in my copy, that’s definitely the moment when I lost all ability to function.

FullSizeRender 23

*forever inserting cat head with heart-eyes emoji*

For me, one of the most rewarding parts of a signing is having the opportunity to tell the author either how excited I am to read their book, or (if I’ve already read it) how much their book has touched me/gotten me out or a writing or reading slump/influenced me/made me feel all the feels. Even though I wasn’t able to read all of the books on the BTAF roster this year (there were a TON), I’m glad I got to read many beforehand and had the chance to tell the authors how amazing they are in person.

FullSizeRender 24

Probably the nicest pic of all three of us—oh yeah, and there’s Adam Silvera too, I guess . . .

FullSizeRender 18

Just kidding! Adam is kind of cool, when he’s not forgetful/trying to bully me or steal my Six of Crows ARC

IMG_3913

Classic Shivy League fam pic with awesome punmaster, Sara Raasch

IMG_4088

All the lines, so little time

And so, after the chaotic battlefield of book signings and purchasing, here are my spoils of war:

FullSizeRender 22

Left = ALREADY MINE pile: The Duff by Kody Keplinger, The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo, and and ARC of The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh; Right = NEWLY MINE pile: This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee, The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey, Lying Out Loud by Kody Keplinger, The Wrath and the Dawn Hardcover by Renee Ahdieh, Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli, and an ARC of Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

This is a mighty fine haul, and I’m so excited to dive into all of them! I was practically heaving when I received a Six of Crows ARC, even though it was only two days before its actual release—BUT STILL. Huge deal. Now that I’ve got that ARC and an actual hardcover (still drooling over those black-stained pages), it’s safe to say that I’m sufficiently Six of Crowed for the year. Also, missing from this pile is the eagerly-anticipated sequel Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch, which should be coming in the mail sometime soon, hopefully complete with illustrations, puns galore, and a pirate if she can manage to fit one into the package for me.

And so, after the day-long, fantastic circus that was BTAF, it was onto the next adventure for my CPs and me: WRITING RETREAT!

Akshaya, Maddy, and I ventured to Vermont for a few days where we frolicked in nature and lived out our dream of a cabin-in-the-woods style writing retreat. It was the first time I’ve ever been to Vermont (I know, the life-long New Englander in me is thoroughly shamed), but now I want to go back ASAP and FOREVER. Not only was the scenery breathtakingly gorgeous (with COWS!), but the atmosphere was just so perfect for getting into the writing zone mentality. After coming off the inspirational high from BTAF, it’s no surprise that we all were super set to just write, write, write, write, and carving out this time to work was so necessary. Surprisingly, when you put us in a house together, we actually do have the ability to be quite productive for long periods of time—and of course, add in those shorter periods in between filled with our usual distracting randomness. Let’s do it again, guys? Getaway forever, this time?

FullSizeRender 15

werk it, great green pastures

FullSizeRender 11

heavenly morning work station

FullSizeRender 17

HOW IS THIS REAL LIFE?

FullSizeRender 21

And then there were ALL THE COWS

FullSizeRender 20

HOW IS THIS REAL LIFE? Part 2: A Magical Moment with a Unicorn Named Shamrock

FullSizeRender 19

the sky that can’t stop, won’t stop

All in all, everything about our CP reunion was super magical, as always. Words were written/edited, books were bought, events were attended, (too much) food was eaten, and random fun was to be had.  While we drove home blasting all the Disney, failing at psychic iTunes, and making up travel montages, it was so surreal just thinking how fast the time went (and now how much I already miss my CPs). And even though the trip was over way too soon, I’m already gearing up for the next time we’re going to reunite because it shall be EPIC.

Now, back to being productive . . .

 

BTAF Event: Ladies Living Dangerously

Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of attending an event hosted by the Boston Teen Author Festival—a day of YA in Boston organized each year by some fantastic, fellow Emerson College alumnae! I am crazy excited to be attending this year’s BTAF on September 26 with my fabulous critique partners, but I was even luckier to get the chance to duck into the pre-BTAF event in the Cambridge Public Library called “Ladies Living Dangerously” as well!

Image credit: Boston Teen Author Festival

THE BOOKS

FullSizeRender 5When I first heard about the event, I was massively psyched to attend because it was also Erin Bowman‘s launch event for Vengeance Road.  This book has received such amazing buzz and word-of-mouth for a while, and has also added some freshness to the ever-growing YA table as a killer YA Historical Western. I’m of the camp really hoping this genre takes off. After binge-watching all of Strange Empire on Netflix over the course of a few days, my craving for female-led Westerns is something FIERCE. Also, can we talk about how seriously gorgeous that cover is?

Long story short: the novel follows a girl setting out to avenge her father’s murder in a gritty Wild West adventure filled with strangers, dangers, and a bloody quest for gold. Yeehaw.

FullSizeRender 2Laurie Faria Stolarz was also a featured author promoting her latest book in her Dark House series. I remember reading her Blue is For Nightmares series a while ago, which was among the first YA books that initially introduced me to the genre—so it’s an understatement to say that meeting her and hearing her read an excerpt from her new book was all sorts of exciting. Her new series is YA Horror, and I knew I just had to pick up the first book Welcome to the Dark House after hearing her read from it. My heart was, no joke, POUNDING because of how eerie it all sounded. Obviously, I was sold.

Long story short: the novel follows a girl with a tragic past who conquers her fears by entering a filmmaker’s horror contest based on the entrants’ worst nightmares. Unfortunately, winning means having to relive them. Yikes.

FullSizeRender 3The last author featured at this event was Eva Darrows who promoted her crazy-cool looking book The Awesome. Of the authors, she was the only one I hadn’t heard of before—but oh my goodness, she was seriously one of my favorite people to listen to at the event. It really is dangerous attending author panels because once you hear them talk and adore their personality, then it just makes you want to buy their books even more. This author is so hysterical in person and just a very fierce speaker overall. When she started talking about her book and the ideas behind it, I couldn’t help but pick it up as well.

Long story short: if you like Supernatural, the novel follows a mother-daughter duo of supernatural hunters who face a slight problem—the avid hunting daughter can’t actually get her hunting license without losing her virginity first. Awk.

THE PANEL

FullSizeRender

The panel was a great discussion which, to no one’s surprise and everyone’s delight, surrounded the theme of the event: Ladies Living Dangerously. As such, all of the authors talked loads about how their protagonists lived dangerously, the inspirations behind the stories, and which female characters they truly admire and view as well-constructed heroines with agency and strength. Naturally, there was a lot of Harry Potter and Firefly fangirling as well, which is always appreciated.

However, some of the more intriguing points of the discussion was the conversation surrounding YA being dominated by female authors, the origins of the “strong female protagonist,” as well as the question to the authors concerning if they ever felt pressured to include romance in their stories. All pretty much said yes (those who didn’t usually already included it), what with YA tending to be associated with romance and readers gravitating toward it. Romance sells in a big way, but that’s not to say it’s a bad thing to have in stories by any means! Although there is a lot of push for romance, the undeniable pros of including it allows for more conflict in the story, ups the stakes in many ways, and can most times texture the story really well if done with purpose. Also, just think of all the ships. Who doesn’t love a good ship?

I will go down with this ship

RANDOM TIDBITS

Erin Bowman didn’t go into writing Vengeance Road with certain themes in mind. She emphasized the importance of moral ambiguity in her characters—especially her MC, who says and does really bad things on her path of revenge. It doesn’t make her a bad person, it just makes her a person. Anti-heroism at its best, am I right?

Laurie Faria Stolarz revealed that the story kernel for her Dark House series came from a dream she had about how horror film bigwig Wes Craven (may he rest in peace) created a contest for his fans to reveal their fears.

Eva Darrows talked about how the inspiration for her story didn’t come from Supernatural, but one of the maybe-precursors to Supernatural—which is a game I believe that holds a lot of the rules and urban legends as featured in the show.

THE SIGNING

All of the authors were so wonderful during their panel that it was no shock at all how lovely they were in person. Usually when I have authors sign my book, I ask if they could include a quick writerly nugget of wisdom (because writers need ALL the wisdom they can get their hands on), and they did not disappoint.

Unfortunately I did not get a pic of Eva Darrows signing my book like the other authors (I must’ve forgotten in between all the laughing), but she did say that she liked my name! 😀

FullSizeRender 7

“Write long, write hard.” ~ Eva Darrows

IMG_4101

“Good luck with your writing! Perseverance is key!” ~ Laurie Faria Stolarz

IMG_4102

“Dissect your favorite books, movies, TV shows—what do you like? What do you hate? Apply that to your work. And don’t give up!” ~ Erin Bowman

This was such a great event to attend, which makes me even more pumped for the actual Boston Teen Author Festival happening in just over two weeks! Clearly, I have a lot of reading ahead of me—which is not a bad problem to have at all 😉

 

Recent Reads

Even though previous post makes me out to be an outrageous TV monster, I have been reading! A lot! Sadly, I’m still about *mumblesmumbles* books behind on my Goodreads challenge, but I remain steadfast and determined. I’ll channel my inner-Pocahontas to get me through the rest of my TBR.

Going steady as the beating drum

Of my recent reads, I’ve been really enjoying the graphic novels and comic books I’ve picked up! I’ve been ordering them from the library like a madwoman, and all have been such fantastic gems to read. So funny and clever, wonderfully illustrated, and just infused with so much heart that my feels go out of control. Here are some of my favorites of my recent reads:

 

Fables has been on my radar for a long time, and it has not disappointed. I’ve already burned through the first three volumes and I’m dying to get my hands on the next ones! It has so many elements that I just love—it’s dark, gritty, mysterious, and revolves around fairy tales and folklore. It sort of reminds me of Once Upon a Time, but a way more mature version which really utilizes a lot of the different stories and characters out there in such inventive ways. Definitely pick it up if you’d like to see your fairy tale favorites a bit more jaded and slightly inappropriate.

 

Ohmygoodness, Rat Queens. This is probably one of the funniest things I’ve read in so long, filled with some of the most foul-mouthed characters I’ve ever met. I definitely felt a Guardians of the Galaxy/Sailor Moon meets fantasy-on-crack vibe while reading this because it showcases a rowdy, diverse band of misfits fighting in this crazy magical world that views them more as troublemakers than heroes. The girl power energy is off the charts with this one, and the ladies themselves are simply hysterical and awesome. I NEED the next one like now.

 

I seriously just finished Nimona this morning and am already sad that it’s over. This one has so much heart and humor to it. With every other page, I just felt like I was constantly laughing along because Nimona is such a spunky character, and her dynamic with Ballister Blackheart is both hilarious and endearing. Not only are the characters awesome, but the concept is as well in that it cleverly deals with our perception of heroes and villains versus who truly stands for good and evil. I absolutely loved it and hope the creator makes a sequel because I want moarrr.

 

Along with those, I’ve also been burning through a ton of other books (The Winner’s Crime almost destroyed me; and shout out to the Black Dagger Brotherhood due to Maddy and Ella‘s recommendations). And because I’m attending the Boston Teen Author Festival next month with my two writing partners-in-crime Maddy and Akshaya, there is even more to read from the impressive authors they have lined up! And on top of all I have to read for work, there is just so much reading to get through. Nevertheless, I’m still coming for you, Goodreads challenge, like Kocoum in attack-mode.