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!  ❤

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!!!!

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 😉