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.

me during PW, source

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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Pitch Wars Wish List: Team Rocket Edition

WARNING: Ridiculously awesome gifs and pictures ahead! Beware all ye who enter here!

Janella is Jessie because she has great hair. And Axie is James because she has a sexy voice.

Check out Axie/James on her blog HERE!

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Whenever we meet up, snapchatting madness ensues!

Once upon a time, two newly agented writers met in an agented author hook-up and decided TO BE FRIENDS FOREVER! No, but seriously, after meeting in person for the first time in Las Vegas at the 2016 RT Convention, we realized we had a lot more in common than we thought. We both read and write YA SFF. We both love the writing community. And most importantly, we both support and write diverse stories!

Enter Pitch Wars.

Same as us, Brenda Drake attended RT—and after meeting her, we had a light bulb moment. Despite neither of us having made it into Pitch Wars (though not without trying!), we’ve both always admired the contest for its supportive presence in the writing community, and how it’s helped so many writers and manuscripts throughout the years. Having recently gone through the querying process ourselves and signed with our agents, we thought it would be a great opportunity to give back to the writing community as mentors in Pitch Wars!

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If you join our team, you’ll receive lots of snaps!

We’re excited to embark on our first Pitch Wars adventure together, and we hope that YOU will join us! Since we call ourselves Team Rocket, we won’t be complete until we have our very own Meowth mentee.

CATEGORY:

YA

GENRES:

Fantasy (including all sub-genres: urban, contemporary, historical, etc.)

Science Fiction

FOCUSES:

Diverse stories and perspectives

Unique settings

Retellings/Mythology/Folktales

Is this not the best gif ever? (Orig posted: argynw)

WHAT WE’RE LOOKING FOR/ELEMENTS WE LIKE:

Beautiful and unique storytelling; we have a weakness for lyrical and atmospheric writing

Strong relationships across the whole spectrum (romantic, family, friendship, enemies)

Enemies to lovers or friends to lovers; basically, ANYTHING to lovers ❤

Slow burn romances or complicated romances as seen in the tension-filled WINNER’S CURSE trilogy and CAPTIVE PRINCE trilogy (esp PRINCE’S GAMBIT)

Unlikely allies, friendships, and unbeatable group dynamics

Anything to do with music or the arts

Villains and antiheroes a la the Darkling, Klaus Mikaelson (everyone on The Originals), Phantom of the Opera, etc.

Complex characters (they can even be unlikable!)

Masked crusaders or vigilantes LIKE TUXEDO MASK!!!!! (We’re not kidding)

Lush worlds that have an edge of darkness to them like the Grisha trilogy

Non-western settings a la THE STAR-TOUCHED QUEEN

Characters in unique roles (thieves, pirates, gangsters, femme fatales)

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Our rendition of “characters in unique roles”

SOME OF JANELLA’S FAVORITE BOOKS:

Harry Potter (J.K. Rowling), The Grisha trilogy and Six of Crows (Leigh Bardugo), The Star-Touched Queen (Roshani Chokshi), Fire (Kristin Cashore), Vampire Academy (Richelle Mead), Vengeance Road (Erin Bowman), The Night Circus (Erin Morgenstern), Tiny Pretty Things (Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton), Enter Title Here (Rahul Kanakia), Captive Prince trilogy (C.S. Pacat), The Wrath and the Dawn (Renee Ahdieh), The Lumatere Chronicles (Melina Marchetta), Daughter of Smoke and Bone (Laini Taylor), Truthwitch (Susan Dennard)

SOME OF AXIE’S FAVORITE BOOKS:

Howl’s Moving Castle (Diana Wynne Jones), His Dark Materials trilogy (Philip Pullman), The Winner’s Curse series (Marie Rutkoski), Chime (Franny Billingsley), For Darkness Shows the Stars (Diana Peterfreund), The Queen’s Thief series (Megan Whalen Turner), Dragon Sword and Wind Child (Noriko Ogiwara), Wildwood Dancing (Juliet Mariller), Under a Painted Sky (Stacey Lee), The Changeling Sea (Patricia McKillip), Sabriel and Shade’s Children (Garth Nix), Serpentine (Cindy Pon), The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (N.K. Jemisin)

MORE THINGS WE LIKE IN OTHER MEDIA:

Sci-fi movies with great worldbuilding & characterizations like PACIFIC RIM, The Edge of Tomorrow, Star Wars, and Jurassic Park

Hayao Miyazaki films (Spirited Away, Howl’s Moving Castle, and Princess Mononoke)

Korean dramas (love the tone & atmosphere of School 2013 and Shut Up Flower Boy Band; also BROMANCE)

Girl power and friendship a la SAILOR MOON

Epic, adventure-filled stories such as Pirates of the Caribbean, The Mummy, Mad Max: Fury Road, the Dark Knight Trilogy, X-Men

Classics such as Jane Austen (EMMA), Anne of Green Gables, The Scarlet Pimpernel, etc

DISNEY (Mulan, Pocahontas, VERY excited for the upcoming Moana)

Strong worldbuilding, group dynamic, and character development as seen on Avatar the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra

MUSICALS!! Les Miserables! The Phantom of the Opera! Hamilton! Wicked! Rent! The Lion King! Grease! Moulin Rouge! Razia’s Shadow! Anastasia the Musical! All in all, music/musicals are our JAM! (pun FULLY intended)

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We are slightly random

HOW WE OPERATE:

Our style is very collaborative, communicative, and slightly crazy, but ultimately and most importantly, constructive! We are always on board to fangirl and cheerlead our mentee on, but we are also there to first and foremost offer critique and whip that manuscript into the best shape it can be. Our game plan is to ensure our mentee has as much editorial support and back-and-forth communication as needed from both of us throughout the revising stage. Aside from collaborative edit letters, we would also love to schedule Skype calls to discuss editorial notes, brainstorm, and answer any questions the mentee may have so we can all be on the same page. From big picture edits to smaller details to everything in between, we want to make sure our mentee comes out of Pitch Wars with an awesome experience, as well as a polished manuscript to take into the agent round.

WHY YOU SHOULD CHOOSE US! (Pokemon style)

Axie is the author of the YA Sci-Fi novel, THE AMATERASU PROJECT (title subject to change), scheduled to be released in Fall 2017 from Lee & Low Books/Tu Books. She is represented by the fabulous Patricia Nelson of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. She is currently pursuing an MFA (in Writing for Young People) at Lesley University. Her knowledge of the publishing world has come through internships at Writer’s House and Folio Literary Management.

Janella is a YA writer represented by the amazing Thao Le of the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She recently graduated from Emerson College with a degree in Writing, Literature, and Publishing. Along with her coursework, she’s completed various publishing and editorial internships, and was most recently a YA/MG intern for the Bent Agency. She’s also currently a team member of the Boston Teen Author Festival.

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SOCIAL MEDIA

Axie’s website: https://about.me/axieoh

Twitter: https://twitter.com/axieoh

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/15243084.Axie_Oh

Tumblr: http://axieoh.tumblr.com

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/gdkgents/

 

Janella’s website: https://janellaangeles.wordpress.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/janella_angeles

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/janella_angeles/

Tumblr: http://janellaangeles.tumblr.com/

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/janella_angeles/

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For more info about Pitch Wars, check out Brenda Drake’s site!

If you join our team, you will have TWO mentors, two cheerleaders, two sets of eyes, two motivators, two snapchat fiends who will champion your work in this year’s Pitch Wars and beyond!

IMG_6078Best of luck to you all, and be sure to check out all of the other amazing Pitch Wars mentors!!

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23 Things I Did Last Month

Confession time: I DID not blog at all last month.

When I said I was holing up in the revising cave, I realllllllly followed through. To a point where I was actually starting to suffer from bad hip pain because I was freakishly dedicated to nonstop BICHOK-ing (a.k.a Butt In Chair, Hands On Keyboard). Even though I was pretty knee-deep in revising land, June was all around awesome…especially because it was my birthday month! So to make up for the lack of posting, and in honor of turning 23, here’s a list of 23 things I did in June aside from being a writing cave monster.

  1. OBVIOUSLY I had my birthday, and it was full of editing, chicken nuggets, and yummy sangria.

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2. RECEIVED TICKETS TO A JOHN WILLIAMS’ FILM NIGHT FROM MY CP LOVELIES MADDY AND AKSHAYA!!!! Ughh, I can’t wait to be drowning in all the spectacular movie music. I’ll most likely be the sobbing fool in the audience.

3. I had the ultimate Pocahontas moment by going kayaking with my family. My sister and I were singing as we rowed the entire time, and by the time we were done, our arms were practically noodles.

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~JUST AROUND THE RIVERBEND~

4. Puppy sat Master Skywalker, who is the best writing companion when he’s not begging for attention and belly rubs.

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5. Discovered a maybe-new-story idea during my daily walks with Master Skywalker. Still super new, but definitely letting it stew in my brain for a bit!

6. Also taught Master Skywalker how to play the piano. He shall now be known as Maestro Skywalker. (ok no not really he just bangs on the keys when I tell him to . . . for treats, of course)

7. Received ample payment for my puppy-sitting services from my sister and her husband after their trip to Disney.

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Pocahontas Power Pins!

8. Went to my brother’s HS graduation, which was filled with lots of emotions, tears, and screaming. Casual.

9. Met Maggie Stiefvater on her Raven King tour! That woman is seriously a standup comedian, she’s HYSTERICAL. Plus, I absolutely knew which car was hers in the parking lot and love how badass USURPER looks on a license plate.

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10. Started reading a book of Rumi’s poetry and loving it.

11. Was a slush reader for the Writing from Color and Native Voices contest which was FANTASTIC. The entries were so amazing and a true honor to read, and I can’t wait to see all the successes to come with this contest!

12. One day, went on a super random impromptu road trip to Connecticut to see . . . wait for it . . .

13. ANASTASIA THE MUSICAL. It was SUCH a dream come true to see this because Anastasia is hands down one of my favorite movies. The musical is definitely way different than the movie, but I actually enjoyed the differences way more than I thought I would. The sets were gorgeous, the dancers were incredible, and the music was absolutely amazing. I’m aching for the soundtrack to come out!

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14. Finally went to a yoga session after more than a year away . . . and boy, did I feel the after-effects hard the next morning. In a good way. I’d love to pick it up again to improve my flexibility and not constantly hunch over like an old lady.

15. Went on a family nature hike during Father’s Day on an absolutely gorgeous day.

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16. Tweeted constantly (it’s my ultimate procrastination escape) and met even more lovely writing friends!!

17. Rewatched the Cheetah Girls, and forgot how funny the lines are in this precious movie.

18. Downloaded a text-to-speech converter which allowed me to listen to my manuscript like an audio book! My preferred robot narrator is Moira, and her Irish accent is very soothing.

19. Commiserated with my writing buddies over revision woes many a time because even if it feels like we’re all sinking, we’re sinking together which makes all the difference.

20. Realized a list of 23 things is way too much for my boring homebody self.

21. Journeyed into the city to meet up with my wonderful pal and Pitch Wars co-mentor Axie. And of course, we wouldn’t be able to properly call ourselves obsessive writers without squeezing in a work date.

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22. My pregnant sister is due fairly soon, and I finally felt my nephew kick in her stomach for the first time! Cue all the tears and baby excitement!

23. I may or may not have FINALLY conquered my first round of revisions . . . *slinks away mischievously*

Right now, I am in lovely Las Vegas again with my even lovelier writer friends Maddy, Akshaya, Erin, Amanda, and Axie for Leviosa Con! The hotel is AMAZING, and we are currently work-dating at a Starbucks because we’re clearly the kind of writers who can’t stop, won’t stop.

Tomorrow the con will officially be in full swing, which means HP fangirling, panels, meeting other writers, and meeting my agent! I’m SO excited to write up a longer post on all of these Leviosa shenanigans after this trip 😀 For now, back to critiquing work and hanging with my glorious CPs!

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!