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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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!

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!  ❤

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

Sisterhood of the World Bloggers awardFirst off, how cool is this award?! Thank you so much Amanda for the nomination! Her book blog To Live a Thousand Lives is made of some seriously awesome stuff, so everyone should totally visit her there. Prepare to be amazed by alllllll of the books and recommendations 🙂

The rules are:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you and link back to their site.

  2. Put the award logo on your blog.

  3. Answer the ten questions you were given.

  4. Make up ten new questions for your nominees to answer.

  5. Nominate ten other blogs.

Now here are my answers:

What is the best book you’ve read this year?

Ooof, start off with the hardest one, why don’t you. The most recent one that’s screaming in my head right now is The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh! The prose is so beautiful, the romance drew me in, and I’m a sucker for anything having to do with Arabian Nights. But believe it or not, a lot of the best stories I’ve read this year have actually come through my internship where I go through a lot of manuscripts and find many gems that I adore. Querying writers, NEVER forget how fiercely talented you all are!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go first and why?

Definitely Egypt or Greece. Ever since I was little, I’ve been obsessed with Greek and Egyptian mythology, and have always dreamed of visiting the sacred sites traced back to the myths. I’m also not embarrassed to admit that my childhood/adulthood love of The Mummy has majorly factored in to my dreams of traveling to Egypt to explore tombs and go on some badass adventures.

When you write, do you outline first or just pants it?

PANTS. I’ve always been a pantser for as long as I remember because structure and organization are just not my friends. However, I’ve started getting into the habit of loosely outlining my new WIP just because the plot has aggressively been haunting me for so long. Nevertheless, I still consider myself a pantser for the most part because I live for the magic of writing spontaneously.

When you aren’t reading/writing what do you like to do?

It’s no big secret that I watch TV in my down time (it seriously rejuvenates my creative juices). I also workout/hike/frolic in nature (for the sake of my ever-failing back), play piano and sing (mostly Disney tunes, of course), hang out with my family and friends (to prove I’m not the living definition of a hermit), and of course wine nights and Skype dates with my CPs 🙂

What TV show do you binge-watch?

Umm, all of them? Haha. My ULTIMATE binge-worthy show this year was definitely Sense8. I still get shivers from how good it is.

You can’t leave the house without ________?

Phone (because of the music), pen, and something to write on. Inspiration can strike at ANY TIME, so one must be prepared. I always bring a water bottle as well because one must also be prepared for the possibility of dehydration.

Books or e-reader?

Books. I’m one of those weirdos who likes to smell the book pages and feel the paper between her fingertips. It sounds weirdly intimate, now that I think about it.

What is a cause/social issue you care deeply about?

I’m a proud feminist who cares about mental health awareness, autism awareness, diversity in pop culture and the media (WeNeedDiverseBooks, anyone?), and SO many other things. I know, I cheated. I JUST CARE TOO MUCH.

What magical/superpower would you pick?

Because I’m lazy, I’d love the ability to teleport myself to wherever I desire in the blink of an eye. Kind of like in the movie Jumper, but without scary Samuel L. Jackson hunting me down.

What fun blogs have you found lately? (Maybe tag them in your post!) 🙂

Okay, so awkward moment: pretty much everyone I know and their grandmother have been nominated for this award, so I’m just going to leave some questions down below for anyone who wants to join in on this blog-a-palooza or simply answer in the comments below!

Questions:
1. Who’s your favorite Disney princess and why?
2. What’s a fun fact that nobody knows about you?
3. Which Hogwarts House do you belong in? (Blended House names are also acceptable)
4. What is the most surprising thing you’ve learned in your own writing process/journey to publication?
5. Which track is currently the most-listened-to song on your iTunes?
6. Given the choice, would you rather sell one huge-deal book in your entire career, or a bunch of books considered mediocre in the eyes of the public?
7. If you were given the choice of immortality, would you take it?
8. What’s the most essential part of your writing routine?
9. If you could live in any fantasy world, what would it be?
10. What’s the most valuable piece of advice from you or another author that you can give to an aspiring writer?