National Poetry Month

Poetry is pretty rare for me, but it does happen. Usually I write poems to capture emotions or concepts I can’t wrap logical words around. So, as National Poetry Month draws to a close, I thought I would share two of said rare poems. Enjoy 🙂

 

Inkblood

Press the pen to paper

Deep breath and fall

Fall, fall

Into words like waves

With currents and tides

Pulling you under

Hooked

Hooked like the first taste

Of sweet bliss in your veins

Letters scattered, mangled

Comb through

Breathe Life

Life

Thud. Thud. Thud.

Pounding, a pulse.

A heart

Pumping ink through my veins.

 

Wake

Your lips tremble with words

Words too sharp and final

Too big and heavy

For this room

For my mind to grasp

Dead?

A word too dark for a person so bright

Bright and vibrant and dazzling as the sun

A word too cold for a smile so warm

Laughter so loud and smirk promising mischief

It seems so far away.

Distant. Unreal. A dream.

Wake up.

Wake up bright sun, warm smile, laughter loud.

Wake up wake up wake up

Dead.

A word too sharp and final

Too big and heavy

For this room my mind

My heart

Cold swells my heart it threatens to shatter

As I pick up your pieces

And can’t help but cut myself

On the shards of you

As I try to put you back together

“It will be okay” I say

As I try to keep my own pieces

From falling apart

When Did Dystopian Become a Dirty Word?

Dystopian.

It used to be a genre, a category, a trend. It still is a trend among readers and the media. But in the publishing and agent world, it has become a negative, an insult. A dirty word.

Labeling a manuscript dystopian is like slapping it with a big red rejected stamp. Signing its death warrant. Condemning it a pariah that no one would touch with a 10-foot-pole.

In order to have any chance of being considered by an agent or publisher, a dystopian cannot be called as such. Instead of calling a pig a pig, there needs to be a spin–it’s a blood-soaked thriller, a story of futuristic war, an epic love story of star-crossed lovers. Which, I am not necessarily blaming the agents and publishers. It is a business for them. And right now, dystopians seem like bad investments (which I blame trendchasers for, and talk more about in this post)

Why am I so riled up about this? Big deal, dystopians are over. Get over it.

I am frustrated that because of the connotations dystopian brings with it, manuscripts are killed before they have a chance. Who cares about the characters, or the world, or the storytelling? If there’s anything that even remotely stinks like dystopian, it’s done.

This is especially frustrating to me because (surprise) I have dystopian elements in my book. There a thousand other elements to it, but because there is a rebellion against power, it is often labeled a dystopian. But as I talked about in my Hipster Dystopia post, it didn’t come from wanting to be a part of the cool dystopian club, it came from having something to say about society and power. I saw these characters, and this world, and this conflict, this struggle. I saw the story in it, and I explored it.

We live in an era of conflict, unrest, and change. A recent post on Distractify brought this sharply into view (check it out here) and summed it up well by ending with: “When students in the future look back, they will see us as one unified generation who overcame incredible obstacles and made swift social progress, despite little certainty of what lies ahead.”

If you don’t feel like scrolling through 100 of the “100 Iconic Photos That Forever Define the 21st Century So Far” (but it’s really worth the time) here are some particularly powerful photos:

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Especially this last one (Kiev, Ukraine before and after the revolution). All of these were photos taken during events that happened in the last decade. This is real. And this is powerful. There are stories here. Thousands, millions of stories that have the power to change things, change people. This is what I was writing for. A world in conflict, on the cusp of change. With thousands and millions of people rising up and crying out for justice, for a better world. People putting their lives in danger, sacrificing themselves for the greater good.

We live in dystopia. Arguably, we always will be. It is part of human flaws, and human nature. There will always be  corruption, abuse of power, greed, violence, casualties, war.

This is the story I am writing. About a world on the brink. About the catalyst, the snap, the break. About that ember turning into a spark and spreading like wildfire.

I am tired of dystopian being a dirty word. I am writing the world I see, in a pill easier to swallow.

Staying Sane

With the end of the semester, pitch contests, and getting ready for my first writing conference, life has been pretty crazy lately. Not to mention birthdays to celebrate, my health to take care of, work to keep up with, and I just found out I’m going to be an aunt! In all of this, it’s hard not to lose focus. Writing and keeping up with my online presence can seem a lot more like a chore than a hobby. Like I talked about in my last post, it’s hard not to lose the passion when writing becomes a business. Right now, it’s just hard to stay sane.

Anyone else know the feeling? 

I overanalyze and worry about everything, even if it’s really not a big deal. This week I have been reminding myself to follow my own advice, and fall in love with writing again. But lately, I’ve been learning through this process that even though I am taking writing/publishing seriously now, not everything is as big of a deal as it seems. I entered Pitch Slam this week, and received mixed feedback. They might pick me, they might not. Either way, I learned and improved. I probably won’t meet my writing goal this month. But I set it especially high this time, and I came pretty close. I’ve been writing a lot, developing new ideas, working on other books/concepts, and been creative in other ways (painting, crafts, etc.) So this month still feels very productive. 

DFW Con is this weekend, and I’ve been fighting nerves. I keep feeling like if I’m not 100% prepared, or if I don’t nail my pitch, or pick the right agent, I’m going to waste the opportunity. But even if things don’t go as planned, I will still have two days of workshops, speakers, and networking. I will have a rare opportunity to sit down with an agent, which is a huge opportunity whether it leads to anything or not. 

If you’re an anxious overanalyzing pessimist realist like me, you probably know exactly what I’m feeling. But I’ve been trying to be positive. It’s all a matter of perspective; I won’t get anything out of any of these experiences if I don’t expect to.

So, even if life is chaotic and you’re feeling overwhelmed, take a breath. Slow down. It’s okay if some things don’t get done, or if things don’t go quite like you planned. It’s a learning experience, and there’s always tomorrow. And a glass of wine to take the edge off…

Cheers 😉

We Need Diverse Books

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weneeddiversebooks-share-sm Recently, there’s been a groundswell of discontent over the lack of diversity in children’s literature. The issue is being picked up by news outlets like these two pieces in the NYT , CNN , EW , and many more. But while we individually care about diversity, there is still a disconnect. BEA’s Bookcon recently announced an all-white-male panel of “luminaries of children’s literature,” and when we pointed out the lack of diversity, nothing changed.

Now is the time to raise our voices into a roar that can’t be ignored. Here’s how:

On May 1st at 1pm (EST), there will be a public call for action that will spread over 3 days. We’re starting with a visual social media campaign using the hashtag #WeNeedDiverseBooks. We want people to tweet, Tumblr, Instagram, Facebook, blog, and post anywhere they can to help make the hashtag go viral.

For the visual part of the campaign:

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How to Fall in Love (Again)

Every writer started because they fell in love with a book, or a story, and they couldn’t rid themselves of it. We have spent hours and days and even years carefully sculpting these characters and worlds and stories. We have breathed life into them and watched as bit by bit they start to breathe and walk and talk on their own. We have laughed and cried with them. By the time we are finished, they are so entwined in ourselves they are truly a part of us.

And then we send them out to the world for the first time. Terrified, like parents sending their kids off to the first day of school. We love them more than anything, but will the world be as kind?

Then there is critique, and we have to reevaluate them. Change them, rearrange them, delete them altogether. We scrub and scrub at our story until it is gleaming and our hearts swell with pride again.

Then comes the dreaded query. Letter after letter pleading with agents to fall in love with these characters and stories the same way we have. If they could only give us the chance, we know they’d love them just as much. But they don’t see what we do. Rejection letter after rejection letter, and even weeks waiting with no response. And when you talk about your story, you talk about it in terms of pitch and word count and plot arcs. Is it marketable? Can they sell it?

And this is just the beginning. Let alone if you become published and have to do revisions and line edits and have it picked apart and editors and publishers telling you how it should be. You watch them suck all the life out of it and it becomes nothing more than numbers and marketing and profit margins.

When we are faced with this, it is hard not to fall into the pit. As I am entering the publishing process seriously for the first time, I find myself distancing from my story. It becomes a business, a product. Which it has to be, if you are going to turn writing into a career. But sometimes I get too caught up in all of this. I get too critical of myself, feedback, my own writing. I forget why I fell in love with the world and the characters I created, and can only see all the flaws that people have picked out. I found myself doubting my story entirely. Would anyone really want to read this?

I think writers are self-conscious creatures, more than most professions. How could we not be? We are having parts of ourselves judged and critiqued, for our job. That’s scary. And it can hurt sometimes too.

But I think the most important part, for those of you like me who are turning their passion into their career, is to fall in love with your story and writing all over again, every day. It’s like a relationship. When you stop dating your significant other, stop being romantic and silly and forget why you fell in love with them in the first place, it falls apart. Date your book. Tell it it’s beautiful, buy it flowers. Read it all over again and remember why you fell in love.

When I was doubting my book, I went back and started reading bits and pieces of it. Pieces I had almost forgotten about. And it was like reading it, and falling in love for the first time. I rediscovered my world and my characters and they just came back to life and all I could think was, Wow. How did ever get tired of this?

Writing is a business. But it is also an art, a passion, a part of you.

Even as it becomes a business, don’t ever forget that little kid who first picked up a book and fell in love. Write for that little kid, not for the hundred other voices trying to tell you what to do.

Maybe You’re Too Stressed Out

Crohn~ically Awesome

Ranking up there with “you don’t look sick” is “maybe it’s stress.” I really wish it were that simple. I have a physiological problem that causes debilitating symptoms, has required multiple surgeries, and cause multiple complications that nearly killed me. Stress does not do THAT. I’m not mental. Stress doesn’t help, but it’s not the cause of my flare.

Again, this comment makes me feel as though I’m not taking every measure possible to take cafe of my health. No, with all I go through, my health is my top priority. It is, after all, my disease. I should know.

“I know exactly what you’re going through.”

Ok, maybe that’s my least favorite. Seriously? Seriously?!? A person, who shall remain nameless, had a large intestine issue that was resolved with a resection. Said person spent 3 days in hospital, recovered smoothly, and has gone on their merry way with life


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What’s Your Process?

I found this writing process survey through Sierra on Permashift, (originally from Katy Upperman’s blog) and I loved it, so I just had to steal it! Thanks Sierra!

 

DEMOGRAPHICS:

What genre do you write? My current manuscript is YA science fiction, though I’ve written contemporary and fantasy. I also have a fantasy and a magical realism in the works. I don’t like to limit myself! Basically, I just write whatever idea develops or whatever inspires me most.

How many books have you written? I’ve written four complete manuscripts, but only one is currently worth seeing the light of day. A couple others might have potential, but would need so much rewriting that for now, they’ll just live in my computer.

Are you published? I wish! I only started seeking publication seriously about a month or two ago, but I am trying very hard to make that dream happen!

PLANNING:

How long do you let an idea “simmer” before you start writing? Before I start? I write as soon as the ideas come to mind, just whatever flows without thinking about where it’s going. A lot of times this ends up leading to more ideas. But it takes a while before a whole story and book start to take shape. For a couple months it’s more of a scattered assortment of ideas and tidbits without much direction. Then I’ll usually get a main idea that kind of pieces everything together, and from then on the story really tells itself.

How much pre-story planning do you do in the form of outlines, character sketches, maps, etc.? I constantly have an overload of ideas running around, all in varying stages of half-formed story ideas, characters, etc. I have dozens of notebooks in OneNote going, but I never pre-write or any of that. The few times I have tried, it felt forced and didn’t give my characters any life, just gave them mundane details. I much prefer to let them write themselves.

If you use an outline, what type do you use (snowflake, index card, etc)? I outlined my current WIP since it is a sequel and I knew where I was going with it, but it is still very basic. Key points and ideas I want to reach, so I can stay on track. Otherwise I lose focus about halfway through and never finish!

REVISING:

How many drafts do you usually go through before you’re “done”? Is it ever “done”? But seriously, I could probably rewrite and tweak endlessly. It took about two or three rewrites to get my manuscript ready for reading, with various changes since then. So probably four.

How long does it take you to write a first draft? Depends on so many things. My very first book took about a year, but I was writing very sporadically. For my current WIP, I’m about halfway finished and it’s been about a month. But this is also the first book I’ve had a clear outline and direction ahead of time, and set monthly goals for myself.

How long do revisions usually take you? Forever.

Are your revised drafts substantially different plot-wise from your first draft? Oh, absolutely. My manuscript is entirely different from what it started as. But I think that’s part of no planning and writing wherever it leads me, is I don’t have a set path so a lot of times it takes on directions of its own. Even with my current WIP, I see that happening. I’ve already strayed several points pretty significantly from the outline, but I think that’s the fun part! The unplanned parts, when the story really takes on a life of its own.

If you decide to use this survey to share your writing process, link your post here! 

 

And the Award Goes To…

Hey there! So this week I was honored to be nominated for the Liebster Award by both John Guillen, and Mahrukh on Only the Lonely. Thank y’all so much! I’m flattered, really 🙂

Some of you are probably familiar with the  Liebster Award. But if  you’re not (like me before I was nominated, haha) here are the rules:

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11 Facts about myself:

  1. I grew up in Seattle, Washington. Probably a huge part of my addiction to coffee.
  2. I love videogames. I grew up playing them with my dad and my siblings, it was how we bonded. My favorites are Skyrim and the Elder Scrolls series, Mass Effect/Dragon Age series, and Guild Wars.
  3. I have a maltese/yorkie doggie who is actually a person. She is also 13 pounds, when she’s supposed to be 7 (whoops)
  4. Even though I am extremely pale, my dad is from El Salvador. No one ever believes me.
  5. I am a psychology major with plans to become a pediatric occupational therapist (if the writing gig doesn’t work out 😉
  6. Did I mention I love coffee?
  7. I started college when I was 16 (was homeschooled senior year so I could take college classes full time)
  8. I hardly ever cry about myself, but I break down when I see other people cry. This means I tear up at inspirational movies, Oprah, and Budweiser horse commercials. Even though I know it’s meant to manipulate my emotions, it still works (darn you)
  9. All of my friends are at least a couple years older than I am. I joke a lot that I’m actually 30, but I really am an old soul.
  10. I hate swimming/hot tubs/baths for longer than 30 minutes. The second I start to get pruny, I’m out. Also, people touching me underwater or even the thought of it makes my skin crawl.
  11. I am always taking in animals. Probably going to end up on Animal Hoarders one day.

 

11 Questions to answer:

1. What kind of music do you like to listen to while writing, if any at all?

I almost always listen to music when I’m writing. It varies a lot, depending on my mood and what I’m writing. Usually I listen to EDM or downtempo on Pandora. My favorite stations right now are Crywolf (for writing) and Raindrops by Fytch, Captain Crunch & Carmen Forbes (for writing and then getting distracted by the urge to dance). I also love Blackmill and Glitch Mob. My more boring normal stations include Agnes Obel, Of Monsters and Men, and Imagine Dragons. Basically, anything.

2. What is it about writing that keeps you going, even when you’re not sure you want to continue?

Writing, like books, are an escape for me. They’ve helped me deal with a lot of difficult emotions and things in my life, in an abstract way, and are an outlet for me.

3. Who is your favourite author?

Everyone knows this is a reader’s least favorite question haha. My childhood favorite was Tamora Pierce. She was and is a huge inspiration to me. As of right now, my favorites are Juliet Marillier, Kristin Cashore, and CJ Redwine.

4. What genre do you read, but swear you’ll never write?

Probably fantasy. I love fantasy, but don’t think I could ever do it justice. I applaud the authors who do.

5. What do you do when you tell yourself something along the lines of ‘I’ll only procrastinate a little bit longer’?

Netflix. The “next episode starts in 14…13…” will be the death of me. Or I have to be very careful about getting caught up in a book when I have things that need to be done, because I know once I reach the point of no return, I won’t be able to put it down, whether I have a final in the morning or not.

6. What brings you right into a writing mood, and how do you keep it that way?

It’s random, really. I used to be much more dependent on inspiration and being in a “writing mood” and wouldn’t write unless I was inspired or “felt like it” but I don’t know how much I believe in that anymore. Sometimes you just have to sit down and plug away, especially if you have plans of turning this into a profession. But I still absolutely have moments where I’m completely struck by inspiration and it’s all I can think about and I’m just counting the minutes until I can write it all out. It hits so unexpectedly, during class, while driving, whenever. It’s like the story or characters open my eyes to their world and are just screaming write me. I love that.

7. Favourite series, and favourite stand alone?

Again, this is pretty much an impossible question. There’s the classics like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, which I will always love. I loved Tamora Pierce’s series, especially Song of the Lioness, The Immortals, and the Tricksters’ duet. Right now I’m in love with Juliet Marillier’s Shadowfell trilogy, and am looking forward to the next in CJ Redwine’s Defiance trilogy. Standalone would probably be Peeps by Scott Westerfeld.

8. Have you ever seriously screwed up your sleeping schedule because of a book? Was it worth it, and what were you reading?

What sleeping schedule? No, seriously. I swear I was built to be nocturnal, so it’s always a battle between what my body naturally does and being functional in society, haha. I probably couldn’t count the times I’ve stayed up all night reading a book. Like I said, when I reach the point of no return, I can’t put it down, no matter how exhausted I am.

9. What do you do to remember those ideas you come up with when you’re not able to write?

I keep notebooks everywhere. In my car, by my bed, sometimes even in my  purse. And if I’m somewhere without one, I type it all as a note in my phone until I can get somewhere to write it out. I try to stay as absorbed in that idea as possible to keep it fresh and alive until I can write it.

10. Are there any books or series that you thought were great, and then the ending just ruined everything for you?

Honestly, no. There’s been books without happy endings, or endings I wouldn’t have expected, but I was able to recognize the purpose and the message and why the author chose to end it like that.

11. Why do you write?

Writing is as much a part of me as my heart is. It is something constant, no matter how crazy or overwhelming life gets. I have stories and characters in me that need to be told. There’s no reason why I write–I could just never not write.

 

Nominations:

  1. The Road Jess Traveled By
  2. My Personal Fairytale
  3. Ginz&Tonic
  4. Books Are Delicious
  5. Brownedeyedgirldotcom
  6. Musings From a Ragged Soul
  7. Rebekah Faubion (one of my fabulous CPs!)
  8. Katy Upperman
  9. LoritheBrave
  10. Lethargic Smiles
  11. Looking for Lukah (10 & 11 are POTS-related blogs)

So there you have it! These are some of my favorites that I follow. They are all definitely worth the click 🙂

But now, I must get back to my beta reading and put down some words for today. Happy Easter weekend everyone!

 

 

What’s Up Wednesday

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What’s Up Wednesday is a weekly meme geared toward readers and writers, allowing us to touch base with blog friends and let them know what’s up. Should you wish to join us, you will find the link widget at the bottom of Jaime or Erin’s blog.

What I’m Reading

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Battle Magic by Tamora Pierce. She was my favorite author as a child (and by favorite, I mean I was obsessed) and was a huge inspiration for me, especially to start writing books. I think her book Alanna, first in the Song of the Lioness series, was the first book I truly fell in love with, and sparked a hunger for reading I’d never quite had before. I read all 23 of her other books, and I would often hole myself up in my room for 16 hours at a time because I just couldn’t put them down. I fell in love with (and looked up to) her strong heroines, as well as her rich worlds and fantastic storytelling. She has been such an inspiration to me both as a reader and writer. I’m only a couple chapters in, but of course am already loving it (and feeling self-conscious about my own writing) and it’s great to kind of reconnect to my 10 year old self, when she first fell in love with a red-headed girl who wanted to be a knight.

What I’m Writing

Honestly, this week has been pretty slow. As I said in my last post, I’ve had a couple relapses as far as my health, so I haven’t had much energy to do anything. I did conquer a couple scenes I was struggling with, but am pretty behind on my monthly as a whole. Not giving up though! Last Saturday’s writing group was pretty inspiring, since one of my CPs finished my MS, so it was great to get positive feedback and be able to talk with someone about it. Yay CPs!

What Inspires Me Right Now

This week I have been inspired more with art. I painted a couple more things for my first apartment this summer (can’t wait!). As far as writing, I’ve actually been more inspired by talking with my writing group and seeing how their stories are coming along. It’s so beautiful to watch the process from raw stone to diamond, or as I explained to a friend of mine that it is like being a sculptor, taking the raw form of stone and chipping away bit by bit to reveal the masterpiece inside. It’s so exciting to be a part of that process!

What Else I’m Up To

What am I not up to? These past two weeks have been a roller coaster. Right now, I am mostly trying to focus on my health and schoolwork. Only a few more weeks in the semester, but sometimes it seems impossible. I am also navigating the process of transferring colleges and preparing to move out for the first time, so that’s both exciting and overwhelming. Overwhelming because it will be an entirely new life and I don’t know how I’ll manage everything, especially with my health, exciting because I can’t wait to be independent and truly experience college life. In a few months, I’ll finally start the next chapter of my life, and I can’t wait!

Episode

Today I had my first severe “episode” in a while–about a couple months or so. For me, an “episode” is when my dizziness and weakness are so severe I cannot walk or use my limbs (my hands often freeze up and my body goes limp) as well as mild seizure-like convulsions. This one happened while I was in the shower, with little warning. My legs gave out from under me, and I had to shout for my mom. After she helped me into my bed, she positioned me ( propped up and legs bent, to help with blood flow) half my body frozen and the other half twitching, while I waited for it to pass. This one lasted over an hour. The longest I have ever had lasted almost four.

This is not the first time this has happened, but the first in a long time, and I have been feeling better for a while. I guess I got lulled into a sense of security. Outside of my episodes, I still experience the more general symptoms–nausea, weakness, fatigue, etc–nearly everyday, but I have learned to mostly manage them (I still have my good and bad days).

I haven’t been taking as good of care of myself as I should be. I have been lax on my meds and supplements, not doing my exercises, not drinking as much as I should, and been way more stressed lately than is healthy. But with everything in my personal life, plus work, and the end of the semester coming up, I haven’t had time.

Today was a little bit of a wake up call.

While I may go a month or two feeling “healthy” I have a chronic illness that I will have for the rest of my life. Sometimes when I am feeling better, it is easy to forget that I am sick. I want to forget that I am sick, and be normal for as long as I can. I am so stubborn and independent, I think that if I act normal and healthy enough, I will be. But apparently it doesn’t work that way.

I am recovered (for the most part) now, and am hunkered up in bed, making the most of my vegetable status..

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With Netflix (Parenthood, Season 3…if you haven’t found this show yet, go watch it now) Gatorade (salt, to help blood pressure), chips (salt), and my adorable, fat, furry nurse (who is here for the chips as much as for moral support).

 

________

My illness is a very rare and unknown condition, even among the medical community. The average time it takes for a diagnosis is 5 years (mine took over 7). It is called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (or POTS) and for those of you (most of you) who haven’t heard of it, it is essentially a heart condition that means my heart is weak and has to work twice as hard to pump blood, especially when upright. This leads to tachycardia (rapid heart rate) which equals dizziness, fainting, seizures, and all sorts of other fun things.

For more information, check out: http://www.dinet.org/index.php/information-resources/pots-place/pots-overview