Guess Who’s Back/Remembered To Blog

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

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Accurate portrayal of me overreacting, source

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

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

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

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No joke. SO hangry. (source)

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

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Trying to look legit

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Whoa this book buying line

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WHOA the book signing lines

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

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All the agent sis/Team Thao love!

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The LOVELIEST group of writers to ever take over Daedalus

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Post-fest recharge/writing retreat in the Cape

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Blood orange mimosas are heaven’s tears

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

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

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

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

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

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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!  ❤

Holiday Fun, Resolutions, and Fortune Cookie Fortunes

Happy holidays, happy New Year to all, and welcome 2016! There are so many celebrations at the latter end of the year, and I’m definitely still stuck in a holiday-coma from it all. For example, I can still feel Christmas in my stomach because there was just SO. MUCH. FOOD. As well as so little exercise . . .

However, aside from the food bliss, Christmas this year was spent in Chicago—where I, once again, got to visit my cheese-obsessed CP Maddy before spending the rest of my time at my cousins’ gorgeous house (which I affectionately call “Baby Hogwarts”).

My CP reunion was, as always, all kinds of wonderful. Maddy and I spent a lot of our time writing together (no surprise) whilst looking over some adorable pets, threw a hardcore book photo shoot (for the lovely BTAF bookstagram), cruised around town like fiends, and of course excelled in the renowned art of eating.

Afterward, when CP time was sadly over, I was thrown into full-on Christmas mode complete with frantic family happenings and preparations. What was probably my most emotional Christmas moment was when we were all watching Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (because Harry Potter weekend is code for “drop everything and watch for hours upon hours”). I was already sniffling like a fool because Fawkes the Phoenix had just healed Harry—when, all of a sudden, out comes my aunt with a gift she just happened to forget giving me earlier. It was the new illustrated edition of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.

Needless to say, I was downright SOBBING. I’m getting a little teary-eyed just typing this out, so I’ll cut this short before my tears splash all over my poor keyboard. But all in all, Christmas in Chicago looked a tad bit like this:

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Running on coffee to get those words out and running

 

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This deep dish pizza was INSANE

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Died and went to Nutella Latte heaven

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This festive house in my cousins’ neighborhood had zero chill

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On the other hand, I had zero chill around this delicious ube cake during Noche Buena

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Creepy/beautiful masquerade tree

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Wandered into the Disney store and found a disappointing amount of Rey. Seriously, WHERE IS REY?!?

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This puppy refused to let me work

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The guilty culprit

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I got to visit THE Anderson’s Bookshop!!!

After all of this madness, it was so surreal to come back home and jump right into the New Year. This time of the year always forces me to pause and reflect, which was more than welcome after the ugly chaos that was post-Christmas traveling. *shudders*

Whenever the year comes to an end, I love looking back and seeing how much I’ve changed over these many, many months. But for the first time, I think in forever, there is something so bittersweet to me about saying goodbye to 2015. I’ve pretty much stamped every post with how grateful I’ve been all throughout this year, mostly because I honestly feel I can’t say it enough. 2015 was the year I met a fantastic group of writing friends who have made this journey a hell of a lot less lonely. 2015 was the year I took the time for my writing, and most importantly, for me—to allow myself to emotionally recharge after a big loss, and to fill loss that with the sort of light I’ve only been able to find with books and writing. And lastly, 2015 was the year I went wayyyyy out of my comfort zone and discovered the huge rewards in doing so. I did a lot more traveling than my usual homebody-self was used to, attended writing conferences and bookish events that my introverted-self would normally shy away from, and really threw myself into my writing in a way I never thought I’d be able to.

And you know what? Every up and down of this year paid off in so many ways, which has only made me more excited for what 2016 has to offer. I feel like this was the year when I accomplished so many personal wins, and there’s nothing more satisfying than ending a year and welcoming a new one on that fantastic note.

So, without further ado, my resolutions from last year that are always relevant to my current ones:

  • Finish a book. Well, 2015, I did! I started this year with a mess of a first draft that was Pirate Fantasy—but after much trial and error, as well as truckloads of revising and read-throughs, I feel like I’ve given this story that I love so dearly the most thorough treatment I can. All I can do now is hope for the best from here on out and keep chugging along 😀 As for 2016, I’m hoping to pop out another novel to keep the momentum going!
  • Revise Pirate Fantasy, while working on something else. Okay, so this one was a tad bit ambitious. The naive writer in me thought that I could handle drafting multiple projects at once—which, for some writers, is very possible/impressive—but I realized earlier on this year that Pirate Fantasy was going to need 1000% of my focus for the most part. However, that didn’t stop my mind from popping out ideas like hotcakes because ohmygoodness, 2015 was the year I realized I had a wealth of story ideas inside me. Even though I didn’t pop out two novels this year (oh, if only!), I have been working on another project on the side—Phantom Fantasy—which I’ve been SOOO excited about! I can’t wait to work on it more during 2016, and to discover other story ideas swimming around in my head.
  • Read, read, read. Unfortunately, I did officially complete my Goodreads challenge. Out of 90 books, I only read about 69. Womp womp. However, when I thought about it again, I’ve read 50+ other manuscripts for my internship which means that not only did I complete my reading goal, I actually went over! Still, I’m setting my 2016 Goodreads challenge at 90 books again and I’m determined to get there!

And then lastly, but most importantly:

  • Progress as much as you can on the writing journey and never lose sight of why you’re on the path on the first place. This, of course, is the huge one—and at times, the most difficult one to keep remembering. When you’re knee-deep in revisions or fatigued in the writing cave, there will be times when it’s hard to persevere since it feels like all the odds are stacked against you. But every part of the writing process (and life, in general!) is packed with odds of all kinds to overcome. Although I can’t predict what will happen to me or my writing in the future, I’ll take control of what I can now and keep going regardless because my writing is first and foremost for me before anything else. As long as I can see my own progress, in whatever form or size it comes in, there is always reason to celebrate. And after 2015, I know to my core that I am satisfied with all the progress I’ve made as a writer and a person this year thanks to this philosophy that I’ll carry with me into 2016.

Okay. Done. No take-backs. Resolutions have officially been made, and I feel more than ready to tackle them in 2016! And to end on an even more hopeful note, I have a cheesy tradition of posting the top fortune cookie fortunes that I have randomly tacked on my cork board in reflection of the new year. Here we go:

“The current year will bring you much happiness.”

“You will conquer obstacles to achieve success.”

“Good news will come to you from far, far away.”

Hope this brings some luck and smiles to you all 😀 Happy New Year, everybody!

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.

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The most gorgeous breakfast that ever was eaten

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BROOMSTICKS IN BOOKSTORES, I REPEAT. BROOMSTICKS IN BOOKSTORES.

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our usual spread

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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:

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

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

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A closer pic! Credit: Boston Teen Author Festival

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

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“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.

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*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.

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

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

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Classic Shivy League fam pic with awesome punmaster, Sara Raasch

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All the lines, so little time

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

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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?

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werk it, great green pastures

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heavenly morning work station

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HOW IS THIS REAL LIFE?

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And then there were ALL THE COWS

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

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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

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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! 😀

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“Write long, write hard.” ~ Eva Darrows

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

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“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.