Remember, Remember to Give Thanks in November

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

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

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

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

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

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

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GODSON, I am your crazy fairy godmother

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

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

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Dat Thanksgiving spread

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter weekend! I’m still waddling around from the post-holiday high, my body probably made up of 80% Cadbury chocolate at this point and now suffering from it.

Chocolate comas aside, I just want to give another HUGE thank you to everyone for all the overwhelming support and congratulations to me on landing my agent! The responses to my ‘How I Got My Agent’ post were even more tear-inducing and overwhelming (my blog was actually shaking at one point from the tidal wave of new visitors—hello new peeps! *waves*). I was immensely happy to hear from so many people who could relate to it, and those who said it was just the sort of post they needed to read at that point in their writing journey. Overall, I’m just extremely grateful for the loveliness of the writing community, and everyone in it. ❀

Now that the celebrations and social media-isms have been said and done, we all know what the next step is.

GET. TO. WORK.

My family and a lot of people have been wondering how I’ve spent the past week celebrating, and nothing surprises them more than when I tell them how the inner-workings of my mind have come to resemble a hamster wheel in constant, furious motion. I like to call this hectic mental period my warm welcome back to the wonderful world of revisions.

Here’s a rundown on how it all started (accompanied by my constantly interfering and incoherent inner-thoughts):

-sign with Agent Wonderful

(*cue confetti canon*)

-to my utter shock and delight, receive edit letter faster than expected because she is super on top of things

-freak out because I actually have an edit letter

(*It was kind of like a myth to me up until that point)

-proceed to freak out even further because ohmygoodness I love my MS, but I haven’t looked at it in a while!

(*Let me clarify: to keep me from getting too down in the querying trenches, I started my new WIP, Phantom Fantasy, which I’m soooo excited about! No surprise, it took me a while to get out of Pirate Fantasy world in order to draft Phantom Fantasy. And because the universe likes to pick on me, it soon became the other way around)

-calmly leave the edit letter alone in my inbox until I can get my story worlds sorted and feel comfortably back in Pirate Fantasy Land

(*Battle Plan of Story Immersion: listen to the old epic playlists, watch Pirates of the Caribbean, attempt to catch up on Black Sails, go through old journals, upload MS to e-reader to reread without the temptation of editing every other sentence…)

-still semi-celebrating, still fully feeling the weight of the editorial elephant in my inbox

(*Stop looking at me like that, you unread email)

-because I just can’t celebrate any longer, start reading MS again with the fear that it’s awful

(*You know how sometimes you hate watching yourself on home videos because the sound of your own voice makes you cringe? It’s a little like that)

-sheepishly come to the realization that the experience is not as awful as I’d anticipated, and breathe a sigh of relief

(*Hooray! I’m not terrible!)

-FINALLY read edit letter right after not-so-bad read through so that I could let the ideas simmer and sleep on it

(*Literally. I finished it super late at night and actually had no choice but to go to sleep right after)

-print out letter the next morning for the purpose of reading through it again, this time with a highlighter and pen in hand to ruthlessly mark up the pages

(*highlighter and pen = revision weapons of choice)

-the notes start to sink in, which brings on a wave of panic over all of the things I’ll have to change and I’m not sure if I can do it

(*OH MY GOD EVERYTHING IS BROKEN)

-panic attack averted when I realize that I can definitely do this, and remain super floored by all the brilliant and spot-on comments that will make this MS strong as hell

(*Chill. You may have encountered a high mountain, but you can climb it)

-start going through MS document to see other minor comments in track changes, then proceed to blush at all of my embarrassing typos/awkward sentences

(*You had ONE job, writer of things that should at least be readable…)

-shake off mortification and go through the MS document comments once again, taking notes by hand on piles of loose leaf paper that have been separated into categories

(*Yes, this is me taking notes on notes. In order to get ideas to thoroughly sink in during revisions, I have to write them out an excessive amount of times)

-fan myself proudly with large stack of notes before reading through them all over again to process and start brainstorming solutions

(*IT’S GO TIME)

-slightly fail, only because I’m still halfway in Phantom Fantasy when I just want to situate myself in Pirate Fantasy

(*OK, IT’S NOT GO TIME)

-make character sheets as suggested and wonder if I should give Scrivener a try…

(*cue creepy horror music*)

-immediately regret everything because Scrivener is terrifying and pretty much a different language to me

(*OH GOD IT’S LIKE OPENING PANDORA’S BOX)

-by some miracle, I manage to get down the basics of Scrivener’s cork board feature

(*Huzzah! I’ve finally done something right!)

-continues the aggressive note-taking tango by writing up more notes on my notes on my agent’s notes in the not-so-scary Scrivener cork board

(*On virtual index cards this time!)

-FINALLY, finally, finally—out of the blue—I hear my characters talking back to me in my head and could just cry from happiness right now

(*Otherwise known as the period when nobody approaches me because I look like a crazy person)

-Characters talking back to me means I’m on the right track, so I dig back into my mountain of notes and add alllllll the new ideas

(*Thank the writing gods)

So it took a rocky start to get me back on the path, but I honestly wouldn’t have it any other way. Sometimes you need those moments of doubt to remember that they’ll never be as strong as your overarching enthusiasm and motivation to get back in that chair so you can write.

With that being said, HUGE changes are afoot within this round of revisions. Changes can be scary, but they are necessary. They can also be very exciting, which is where I’m at right now. Hopefully I can get a lot done before I head off to Las Vegas for this year’s RT with my lovely CPs Erin, Katy, Akshaya, and Maddy! But until then, cheers to all the changes that are happening—and may they always be for the better πŸ˜€

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 πŸ˜€ 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 πŸ˜€ Happy New Year, everybody!

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

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

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

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

COLORADO:

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

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Just the casual morning view . . . WTF

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

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

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Fancy grilled cheesing all day every day

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Friendsgiving *salivates*

And of course . . .

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THE BLESSED BAKED BRIE

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

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The happiest of hours!

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

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CHEESE, GLORIOUS CHEESE

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

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Daily goals board, complete with inspirational quote and decorative art

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

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

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

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

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Impromptu baby hike in the snowy trails

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AJAX WAS HERE

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That night I slayed Maddy with all the jokes

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LILY AND JAMES SIGHTING ❀ #patronuslove

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Crazy horse with crazy eyes

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

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

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

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

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I call this one “Random Assortment of Emojis”

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

NANOWRIMO:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THANKSGIVING:

Okay, last one. And probably the shortest.

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

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

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

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

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