Wordy Wednesday: Put the Ordinary in Extraordinary

Today was my first day at the office! I was only there for a few hours, so it was a pretty chill first day, but it was cool. And now I am exhausted.

And I don’t have much else to say, so let’s dive right into this week’s Wordy Wednesday, shall we?

This week we have a writing process post.

I’ve talked a lot about character development on the blog–primarily because it’s not something at which I’m naturally, well, at all decent. But I’m learning to make my characters more complex and realistic, and in the process I’ve learned a number of ways to go about doing that. Currently the one I’m looking at, in particular, is putting your character in “ordinary” situations.

This can range from thinking about what your character would purchase at the grocery store to what she would do in those last moments awake at night to how he would handle getting a cold. What would she do if she found twenty bucks on the street? What would he order at a fast food restaurant? (Which fast food restaurant would be his favorite? Would he even eat fast food?)

It’s these ordinary, everyday things that make up so many of the little pieces of our personalities. And they’re what make it so that we can relate to one another.

Like, thinking back on my interactions with friends in the past week or so, the main things we have discussed are:

a) Opinions on current events (gay marriage, the confederate flag, etc.)

b) Opinions on pop culture stuff (Jurassic World, Taylor Swift’s open letter to Apple, etc.)

c) Opinions on food (Chipotle, breakfast, etc.)

My friends lead diverse lives. Everyone’s off studying abroad or working somewhere unique or taking classes this summer. We have different backgrounds and live in different places and, ultimately, are insanely different people. But these ordinary things bring us together.

If your character has super powers, that’s awesome. That’s a good jumping off point for getting someone to pick up your book. But the reader can’t relate to that.

On the other hand, if your superhero protagonist has nasty allergies or acts like a five year old every time she sees a cute dog or is addicted to House Hunters? Those common, ordinary characteristics transform your character into someone I’d not only like to let save my city, but with whom I’d like to be friends.

Running with the superhero example, let’s think about superheroes: Superman is a really difficult hero to work with nowadays, because he’s too perfect. He doesn’t have those ordinary quirks and flaws that define humans. People have trouble relating to him, so he’s losing popularity.

Who is popular right now? The Avengers. What makes the Avengers so popular? Not their powers, but their banter and weaknesses and interactions with the every day. (Steve Rogers has trouble understanding twenty-first century technology. I understand that.)

The situations you put your characters through don’t necessarily need to go in your novel. You don’t even necessarily have to write them out. You just need to consider them. Let complexities develop organically. Think about how your extraordinary characters would go about doing the ordinary.

The point is that five thousand, million, billion little things go into making us who we are. Let your characters have those same kinds of complexities.

Maybe next time your hero is saving the world, he should crave shawarma.

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Welcome to New York

Hey! Sorry for the silent blog all week. Things got a little crazy my last few days in Michigan.

HOWEVER. I AM NOW IN NEW YORK CITY.

My mom and I flew here Sunday afternoon, I moved into my apartment yesterday, and I start work tomorrow. Everything is busy and big and just slightly different from what I’m used to (like the grocery store doesn’t have my favorite kind of cheese, but it has five thousand others I’ve never heard of? I don’t understand?).

Since we’ve had a couple free days before I start adulting, we’ve been touristing it to the max. Sunday night we hung out in Times Square, ate at John’s Pizza (because always), and saw Inside Out at the massive AMC over that way. (Btw: It made me cry. So bittersweet and funny and wonderful.)  Monday we mostly spent moving me in, but in the evening we took the bus to Manhattan, walked around a bit, and ate dinner in Rockefeller Plaza. (The statue was lit up rainbow! Whoohoooo.)   

Today we took the subway way out to Coney Island. We walked along the beach, splashed in the waves, rode lots of rides, and ate so much unhealthy food I don’t know if we’ll ever recover.   

  

 All in all it’s been a really great few days. Fingers crossed my first day at the office goes well!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: A New Story

Just turned in my final project for screenwriting! Which means spring term is dooone. (And now I have about five hours to get my room packed and cleaned so the amazing friend who’s subletting it while I’m in NYC can move in next week.)

I haven’t done much outside of that this past week, because I had a super nasty cold over the weekend that left me marathon napping for three days. But a friend and I did go stargazing out in the woods at midnight last night, which was fun, and (fingers crossed) I should have a last couple good adventures in Michigan this weekend.

THEN IT’S OFF TO NEW YORK FOR THE INTERNSHIP WHAAAT. (Hopefully I can get that last BookCon recap post up before I’m, you know, back there.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem I wrote this time last summer. Specifically: I wrote it the afternoon of June 23rd. Because June 24th, 2014 was the day I left for Europe. (So weird how I’m leaving a place again on this day in 2015.)

**********

This time tomorrow
I’ll be on a plane
with no certain future
to explain–
just an adventure,
no idea who I’ll become.

This time tomorrow
I’ll be in the sky,
a good friend beside me as
I kiss this life goodbye–
so far away from the people
who brought me to today.

And I’m scared of the turbulence,
terrified of the falls.
But I am going anyway
before the world shrinks too small.

Say hello to a new tomorrow,
a new continent beneath my feet.
Say goodbye to all this sorrow,
new houses on an old street.

I don’t know where I’ll be going–
but I’ll be writing a new story.

**********

Here’s to all the new stories we’ll get to tell this summer.

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

LINK Cover Reveal!

Hey there! I’m thrilled to participate in another cover reveal today.

This one is for Link by Summer Wier. This novel sounds incredible and the cover has made me nothing but even more excited to read it.

About the Author

Summer Wier Author PhotoSummer Wier grew up spending Saturdays with a maxed out library card and her nose in a book. But as much as she loved reading, and even writing, both took the back seat when it came to career choices. With her sights set on law school, corporate greatness, and even a hankering to become the first female president, she set off to conquer the world. As life would have it, though, she didn’t attend law school, nor did she become president (although, one day, your vote may be appreciated), finding her strengths, instead, in accounting and business management. After finishing her MBA, she revived her love for reading and began writing with dreams of finishing a book of her own. When Summer isn’t working, reading, or writing, she’s trying to keep up with two energetic girls and her husband, and dreaming of the mountains of Montana.
LINK is her debut young adult sci-fi novel, the first in THE SHADOW OF LIGHT trilogy.
Find more of Author Summer Wier on her website, twitter, facebook, or goodreads.

About the Book

For seventeen-year-old Kira, there’s no better way to celebrate a birthday than being surrounded by friends and huddled beside a campfire deep in the woods. And with a birthday in the peak of summer, that includes late night swims under the stars.

Or at least, it used to.

Kira’s relaxing contemplation of the universe is interrupted when a piece of it falls, colliding with her and starting a chain of events that could unexpectedly lead to the one thing in her life that’s missing—her father.

Tossed into a pieced-together world of carnivals and gypsies, an old-fashioned farmhouse, and the alluring presence of a boy from another planet, Kira discovers she’s been transported to the center of a black hole, and there’s more to the story than science can explain. She’s now linked by starlight to the world inside the darkness. And her star is dying.

If she doesn’t return home before the star’s light disappears and her link breaks, she’ll be trapped forever. But she’s not the only one ensnared, and with time running out, she’ll have to find a way to save a part of her past and a part of her future, or risk losing everything she loves.

Dreamy, fluid, and beautiful, LINK pairs the mystery of science fiction with the minor-key melody of a dark fantasy, creating a tale that is as human as it is out of this world.

… And now, get ready for the prettiest book cover you’ll see today!

link-final-frontIsn’t that such an awesome cover? I love the Ferris wheel and the atmosphere and just, gah, everything. (Is it chilly in here because I HAVE GOT SHIVERS.)

Make sure to check out Link on its GoodReads page here!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: A Perfect Day

So, yesterday was the first sunny day in a couple of weeks and I ended up spending from around four PM until a little after midnight outside, between hanging out at Ann Arbor’s SummerFest and exploring in the Arb. It was a really, truly lovely day and I took a billion pictures and today I wrote this poem about it. (Completely coincidentally just in time for this week’s Wordy Wednesday! Completely coincidentally.)

**********

Yesterday I found myself
in a place different from anywhere
I’d ever been 

I mean I’d walked those streets
a thousand times, but I’d never
seen them in that light 

And I’m so grateful for the
little things that remind me
I’m alive 

And I’m so grateful for the
little things that bring me back
to life 

And it’s like:
I was walking down this path
in the forest and the sun was off
in the distance
beyond the treetops 

The only sounds were the birds
and the crickets, and somewhere
the wind was blowing,
but there it was safe and warm 

And I found home,
out away from home.
And it’s amazing how that happens 

I found home,
out away from home.
And it’s amazing how that happens.


**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Story Time: BEA/BookCon 2015! (Part 2/3)

Here we go! Part II of our crazy bookish weekend.

(A reminder that I’m splitting the recap of BEA/BookCon 2015 into three parts, corresponding with the days of the events we attended. You can read Part I–about Friday of BEA–here.) (Also a reminder that all of these posts are going to be long enough to make your brain bleed, so read at your own risk.)

BookCon 2015 expanded from last year’s event by spanning both Saturday and Sunday. They also expanded by selling more than twice as many tickets as last year, so EIGHTEEN. THOUSAND. PEOPLE. came to BookCon this year.

Take a minute to wrap your mind around that: Eighteen thousand people. Came to an event. About books. (Excuse me while I go into heart palpitations of joy.)

I was wary of attending BookCon this year, because I honestly had a, well, not great experience at it in 2014. (“Not great” might be sugarcoating it too much, actually. It was terrible.) However, there was a glimmer of potential in 2014’s Land of Poorly Organized Chaos, so I was willing to give it a second shot this year. (But with a VIP ticket this time.)

Before I go on, I want to preface this all by saying that I had an amazing time at BookCon this year. It so, so blew my expectations out of the water and I can’t wait to go again (no VIP ticket necessary).

However, the beginning of BookCon on Saturday was arguably worse than last year.

The BookCon website boasted that VIP attendees would have an exclusive, separate line to get into the show in the morning. So, with this in mind, we decided to sleep in a bit after the long day at BEA and didn’t leave our hotel until about an hour before the show floor was supposed to open.

Like Friday, we grabbed our empty suitcase and headed to the shuttle stop nearest our hotel. Then we waited.

And waited.

And waited.

And, you guessed it: The shuttle never showed up.

Last year, BEA was still going on during BookCon, so we’d been able to take the shuttle to and from BookCon. For some reason, we’d just assumed the shuttle would still be running for BookCon this year.

After about fifteen minutes of waiting at the stop, we realized no such luck.

Which meant we had to walk to the Javits Center.

Not a huge deal. Oh well. We grabbed some quick breakfast sandwiches at a Dunkin’ Donuts we passed and finished the mile+ long trek in not too much time. It shouldn’t have been a problem.

Except, of course, that it turns out that the wording on the BookCon website was misleading and there actually wasn’t a separate line for VIP ticket holders to get into the show. Only to get into the show floor. Which meant when we arrived at Javits, after having several different harried security people tell us to go different places to get into the building, we finally found ourselves, once again, over a mile away–this time at the end of the general line to enter the Javits Center.

I’ll repeat that: Over. A mile. Away.

People had been lining up since 4:00 AM to get in. Again, eighteen thousand people attended BookCon and most of them were there on Saturday.

It was hot. It was humid. And after paying so much extra for the VIP tickets, my mom and I were pissed.

It’s not that I felt like we deserved special treatment or anything, believe me. It was that BookCon had told us something would be there, then it wasn’t.

At one point, when we finally got close to the doors, a few women tried cutting into line a little ways behind me and I turned around and full out yelled at them. (You should know: I’m not a confrontational person. I tried slapping a friend once for a rude remark–he’d asked me to as a means of getting him to stop making them–and I ended up just gently patting his cheek because I cannot physically hurt people.)

When we did finally get into the Javits Center, VIP attendees were supposed to get a special BookCon tote bag full of books, but none of the staff members near the entrance knew anything about them. Later we found out that they’d ended up giving a bunch of them away to random non-VIP attendees because the staff didn’t understand the VIP people had paid extra for those bags.

Yeah. It was fun.

The first thing I did upon finally getting into the Javits Center was find Hannah’s family in the line for the official BookCon bookstore (located in what had been BEA’s shipping cavern), because we’d picked up coffee for her grandmother while at Dunkin’.

I thought 2014 had been chaos? No. Chaos was that football field-sized room.

To the left of the doors were the lines to get wristbands for the Special Events Hall panels, flooded with people already lined up to see John Green and Co. at the end of the day. At the far end of the room and stretching almost all the way back to the doors were the autographing lines, at that point fairly empty but already buzzing with activity as people gathered around the white boards near them to figure out which authors were signing when. And finally, to the right of the doors, was the nightmare that was the line for the bookstore.

It was a mob. You couldn’t tell where one curve of the line ended and the next began. I waded through the exasperated, shouting masses and practically had to toss the coffee at Hannah’s outstretched hand.

I managed to squeeze my way back out alive and took a second to catch my breath. Then I got out of that room as quickly as possible.

However, that was the end of the bad part of BookCon.

And I heard that they got straight onto fixing the mess in the cavern, so the chaos died down within a couple hours. And, spoiler: When we arrived on Sunday, they’d figured out how to handle the line into the building well enough that it was, get this, nonexistent (more on that in the next post).

So, say goodbye to Complain-y Julia and hello to “OMG I HAD SUCH A GOOD TIME” Julia.

Part I of Saturday: Show Floor and Signings

The first thing I did once the mess was over was find the Wreck This Journal event Random Penguin was hosting. There I added Ch1Con to the life-size Wreck This Journal they were putting together, got my first tote bag of the day, and met up with blog reader Rachel for some freaking out and picture-taking.

IMG_8674

From there, Madre and I headed to the other end of the Random Penguin area to meet one of my favorite authors from when I was growing up: Norton Juster(!!!)

IMG_8683

He was funny and kind and I kind of want him to be my grandfather.

After that, we grabbed tickets for Macmillan’s One Book panel (detailing the publishing process from start to finish, following one book), then split up to wander. I grabbed some more free stuff, met a random debut author whose in-booth signing line I accidentally found myself in, and pet the Menswear Dog. We attended the One Book panel together, got ARCs of the book signed, then split up again.

This time Madre went to stash all the free stuff so far that day in the suitcase while I went to check on Hannah’s family, once again trapped in the bookstore line. I was planning on hitting some signings in the autographing area at that point, but pretty much every signing for the rest of the day had already maxed out. So, instead, I found my way back up to the show floor, where I grabbed a ticket for Carrie Ryan’s in-booth signing, then attended the Inside the Recording Studio panel on making audiobooks.

The Inside the Recording Studio panel was super cool, in large part due to the fact that a couple of the people on it worked on the Harry Potter audiobooks. They talked about how they originally weren’t going to make American audiobooks for the series, but then someone high up at Scholastic decided that the original British narrator was (get this) “too British,” so they got Jim Dale instead. And now he has a Grammy for it. So, like, that happened.

After that was the Carrie Ryan signing, which was very cool.

Part II: Movie Panels Galore

I love movies almost as much as I love books, so I spent my afternoon going to lots of film adaptation-themed panels.

First was the Me and Earl and the Dying Girl panel, featuring:

  • Alfonso Gomez-Rejon (director)
  • Jesse Andrews (author and screenwriter)
  • Thomas Mann (Greg, aka “Me”)
  • Olivia Cooke (Rachel, aka “Dying Girl”)

I haven’t read the book or seen the movie yet, but my screenwriting class did study the first act of the screenplay a few weeks ago, so it was amazing to get to learn about the process of adapting the story and all that. (Also, if you ever have the chance to read the screenplay for Me and Earl, do it. Do it now. It’s freaking hilarious.)

The way the Me and Earl adaptation came about is also a really cool story. Author Jesse Andrews imagined his own childhood home and high school while writing the novel and screenplay, and that came through so much in the writing that they realized they couldn’t shoot the movie anywhere else. So they got his parents (who still live in the house in which he grew up) to lend them his bedroom, and they got permission to fix up parts of the old high school (which had already been approved for demolition at that point) to film the school scenes.

They laughed about how Jesse’s mom would make all the crew breakfast down in the kitchen while they filmed scenes upstairs in Jesse’s bedroom, and like–how awesome is that?

IMG_8696

After the panel, everyone rushed the stage to get books signed. I managed to get close enough for awkward stalker shots of the actors.

After the Me and Earl panel, my mom and I went and checked out the VIP lounge, spent some time trying to locate our VIP tote bags (still to no avail), then stopped by the Rotten Tomatoes panel. (It was as hilarious and insightful as should be assumed.)

Then came the main event: the Paper Towns panel.

Speaking on the panel were:

  • Kathleen Heaney (moderator)
  • John Green (author)
  • Justice Smith (Radar)
  • Nat Wolff (Q)
  • Michael H. Weber (screenwriter)
  • Ryan Lott (composer)

People had been lining up for it all day, because despite the fact they all already had wristbands guaranteeing they’d get in, everyone still wanted to get as good of a seat as possible. Since we had VIP passes, we just had to show up a half hour early and were guaranteed admission (thank God).

The moment the doors opened to the VIP line, we all sprinted for the front of the Special Events Hall. Hannah and I ended up grabbing seats for our group in the second row, stage right. Which meant our view was this:

IMG_8715

Teeny tiny complaint about the lack of women on the panel. I’d assumed when they announced who’d be on it that they’d asked the female stars of the film to be on the panel, and they’d just turned it down for whatever reason. From the sounds of it, that wasn’t the case. Disappointing, BookCon. (But also: OMG JOHN GREEN AND NAT WOLFF.)

Our seats also meant that when it came time for the audience Q&A, we were right next to the microphone, so Nat Wolff and John Green and all of them looked right at us as they listened to people’s questions. Which was, you know, all right.

They showed us the new trailer that was going to premiere during Pretty Little Liars later that week, spent a ton of time having to explain inside jokes and on-set antidotes to us (like the time Nat and Justice got themselves kicked out of their apartment complex from shooting down a light that was annoying John with BB guns), and confirmed that John’s cameo made the final cut of the film.

This was news not only to us, but John himself, and he positively FREAKED. OUT. when he realized he was going to be in the movie. It was hilarious. Such a good panel.

It ended up running over (although the staff didn’t let it go as long as they did the Fault in Our Stars panel last year), and they jokingly had all of the people waiting in line at the microphones shout their questions at once, then gave out random answers (“Yes! No! Only on Sundays!”). But even then the audience got really upset (in a scary way) when they realized it was over. Hundreds of people rushed the stage and security ended up having to escort the panelists off while BookCon tried to sedate the mob by playing the new trailer again.

Now compare that reaction to what’s been going on with John Green the past couple weeks. Fame is scary.

Part III: Something Rotten (Is Ridiculously Good)

After the Paper Towns panel, my mom and I temporarily said goodbye to Hannah’s family while they grabbed a taxi and we grabbed our now full suitcase from the luggage check. Then we half-walked, half-ran with it all the way back to the hotel. Because we all had tickets to see Something Rotten. And it was starting in a half hour.

Luckily, Madre and I managed to dropped off our stuff at the hotel and get into the theater just before the lights went down, but it was a stressful thirty minutes (especially because I was starving by then).

Something Rotten was AMAZING. I haven’t laughed that hard at a show since Book of Mormon and I highly recommend it if you’re in NYC. (“A Musical” is my favorite number to come out of a Broadway show possibly ever. SO GOOD.)

IMG_8717

After the show, we parted ways with Hannah’s family again. My mom and I wandered into the Theatre Circle gift shop because she’d never been and ogled all the Broadway paraphernalia, then finally, FINALLY went to John’s Pizza for dinner.

After an entire day of standing and carrying around a billion books, on minimal sleep, with only a 240 calorie “healthy” breakfast sandwich from Dunkin’ Donuts in my stomach, you had better believe I was ready to eat that entire restaurant Hansel and Gretel-style when we walked in at eleven PM.

Madre is much healthier than I am, so she ordered grilled vegetables. I ordered mozzarella sticks and pizza and gorged on both of them until I dozed off at the table.

From there, it was back to the hotel, where we packed to go home and finally dropped off to sleep.

And that was the end of Day 2!

Congratulations, if you survived this entire post. Part 3 (Sunday of BookCon) will be coming soon!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Tips from a Used Bookshop

We’re down to the last couple weeks of spring term! I honestly hadn’t realized how much of the semester had passed already until our professor started talking about turning in final assignments in class tonight and all of us were like, “Wait what.”

So. It’s my last couple weeks of screenwriting and working at the bookshop and interning remotely. THEN IT’S OFF TO NEW YORK FOR TWO MONTHS YAYYY! (Somebody hold me.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post–with a bit of a twist.

After working at a used bookshop for about a month now, mainly shelving books, I’ve noticed a few things that I thought might be helpful for writers out there.

Aim for the emptier parts of the alphabet.

Obviously if you’re going by your legal name, you can’t control with which letter your surname begins. But if you’re planning on publishing under a penname, may I suggest heading out to your local bookshop (preferably a used one, since we generally have a wider selection than regular stores) to check out which letters are more crowded on the shelves than others?

I absolutely hate shelving books whose authors have names that begin with common letters, like A or S. There’s never enough space for everyone. This means that these books are more likely to end up in the stacks heading to our storeroom or forgotten in a pile somewhere.

On the other hand, books by authors whose surnames begin with less common letters (like P or Z) always have more than enough space on our shelves. This means that not only do they all find good homes there, but they’re also more likely to get to face out or have multiple copies shelved at once.

If you’re a newbie, you’re probably better off writing something short.

If you’re someone like Stephen King or JK Rowling–someone who has already established your popularity–of course I’ll make room for your eight-hundred-page monster on the shelf. It’s sure to be a quick sell. But if you’re an unknown, and it’s either stock one of your book or four of other people’s books, I’m more likely to favor them.

It’s quantity of books over quantity of pages in used bookshops. We get paid the same amount for a sale whether your book is two hundred pages or a thousand–and as far as I can tell it works the same way in traditional bookshops, as well. A store’s more likely to stock your debut if they don’t think it’s going to eat all their space.

Have a distinct genre.

By this I mean: Make sure it’s clear in which section your book should go in a store.

I can’t tell you how often we get people looking for something that could be stocked in horror, but could also be a mystery. Or could be stocked in scifi/fantasy, but could also be in philosophy.

I’m not saying that genre crossover is bad. Crossover is awesome. But if it’s possible to aim your book enough in a certain direction for it to be obvious where to put it to someone just glancing at your book–amongst the fifty other new arrivals she has to stock in the next four hours–that is really, really nice. And it makes it easier for us to know where to take customers to find your book when they ask for it, without having to waste time looking it up.

Shorter Titles = Bae.

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a customer come up to me looking for, you know, that one book–with that one word in the title? But the title was kind of long? And they couldn’t remember all of it?

People forget shorter titles far less than they forget longer titles. My shop stocks more books than anyone could ever keep track of, so 99% of the time when someone can’t remember the name of what they’re looking for, I can’t help them. Therefore, a shorter title correlates to more sales (and less exasperated readers/bookshop employees).

Three words or fewer generally seems to be a good range to aim for. But this current trend of the, like, five to seven-ish word titles is killing me.

Get to know your local booksellers.

This is less of a thing from working at a used bookshop as much as a general thing I’ve noticed from interacting with employees at my local indies.

People love helping people they know. Go to your local bookshops often. Go to events at them (especially book signings). Talk with the booksellers. Get to know them and let them get to know you. Support those stores in every way possible. (Not that you shouldn’t already be doing this, because if you’re a decent person who likes books you really should, but I figured I would mention it anyway.)

This way when your book comes out someday, your local shops will be ready and waiting to do everything they can to help you make it a success.

Thanks for reading! And make sure to keep an eye out for the rest of my BEA/BookCon recap posts. They should be coming sometime later this week, or early next week!

~Julia

P.S. For anyone who’s curious, no, dyeing your hair with honey does not actually work. I soaked my hair in that goo for SEVEN. HOURS. yesterday and it’s, like, maaaybe one shade lighter now. (However, my hair is super moisturized now, so like, that’s cool?)

Story Time: BEA/BookCon 2015! (Part 1/3)

Here we go. I’M FINALLY RECAPPING BEA/BOOKCON!

(Warning that I’m splitting this recap into three posts, corresponding with our three days of book events. But even with that, this post is going to be a billion words long, so read at your own risk.)

A couple weeks ago was the biggest publishing industry event in the US: Book Expo America (better known as BEA). This year’s event was hosted in the Javits Center in NYC–and my mom, roommate Hannah, her mom and grandma, and I attended the last day of it (Friday). Afterward was BEA’s sister event for consumers, BookCon, which ran Saturday and Sunday. Aaand we attended both days of that.

My mom and I got to New York Thursday evening, after lots and lots of super fun plane trouble (because it wouldn’t be a trip to NYC without it). We dropped our stuff at our hotel, then spent a couple hours checking out the area where I’ll be living later this summer and all that. We grabbed a late dinner at this place across the street from the hotel, and apparently a famous dude was sitting right behind us, but who really knows. (I didn’t recognize him, but the waitresses got supes excited and made him take a picture with them.)

Part 1 of BEA: Children’s Author Breakfast

First thing Friday morning, we headed to the BEA shuttle. Unfortunately, I forgot our empty suitcase (for putting freebies in), so Madre graciously ran back to the hotel to grab it, so I ended up riding the shuttle alone. Got to Javits Center, got Madre and my badges, then headed for the line to get into the Children’s Author Breakfast.

IMG_8594.jpg EDITED

Eek! Look how pretty my badge was!

Fortunately: Hannah and her family got to Javits way earlier than I did and saved my mom and I spots at the front of the line.

Unfortunately: My mom was still back at the hotel waiting for the next shuttle when they let us into the Special Events Hall to do the mad dash for decent seats.

Because we were practically the first people in line, we managed to find a table where we could all sit together and I could even save a seat for Madre. But then it was five minutes to the start of the breakfast and she was still waiting in line at the luggage check to drop off the suitcase (you aren’t allowed to have wheeled bags anywhere in Javits outside of the luggage check areas). And, like, that was a problem because I had her badge and her ticket to get into the breakfast. And I wasn’t exactly close enough to the door for it to be polite to just get up and leave partway through the authors speaking in order to get her stuff to her.

I felt so bad, because a really nice lady sat down next to me, and she was asking all about Ch1Con and talking about how she has a client who lives near where I’m from in Michigan (turns out she’s a literary agent) (BEA is the kind of place where you just randomly get talking with literary agents)–and through it all I was FREAKING. OUT.

Then, thank God, one minute before the breakfast was supposed to begin, Madre texted me to say she was at the door and I scampered over to hand her her stuff. We sat back down at our seats right as the lights dimmed.

The authors speaking at the Children’s Author Breakfast this year were:

  • Master of Ceremonies: Nathan Lane (Naughty Mabel)
  • Oliver Jeffers (The Day the Crayons Quit)
  • James Patterson (too many books to keep track of) (not that he’s written most of them, ugh) (but whatever)
  • And Rainbow Rowell (Fangirl)

IMG_8596

I want to be everyone who spoke at the Children’s Author Breakfast when I grow up.

All of the authors were super, super awesome and funny and adorable (even, I hate to admit it, a little tiny bit James Patterson). We stuffed ourselves with bagels and orange juice, ogled our first free books and tote bag of the weekend, then trooped out of the Special Events Hall to figure out our game plan for the rest of the day.

Part II: Wandering and Buzz Panels

Of course, five seconds out of the Children’s Author Breakfast, I made a fool of myself for the first of what would become many, MANY times over the course of the weekend when Hannah spotted Rainbow Rowell heading for the escalator and we not-so-sneakily fast-walked over to her to tell her we love her books and her and can-we-be-best-friends-please-OMG. We didn’t fast-walk quite fast enough though, because we reached her right as she was stepping onto the escalator, so it turned into us kind of shouting our adoration up to her as the escalator carried her away from us, and she very politely shouted an awkward thanks back, and the fact that Hannah and I didn’t die of humiliation is a testament to our strength.

However, THE STORY GETS BETTER: Only a couple minutes later, we were discussing the Encounter That Must Not Be Named while riding up another escalator when, GUESS WHO WALKS BY TO GET ON THE ESCALATOR BESIDE OURS, GOING DOWN. THAT’S RIGHT. RAINBOW. FREAKING. ROWELL. And of course, not thinking, my automatic reaction was to say, “Oh, hey!” And, of course, her automatic reaction was then to turn towards the person who seemed to be speaking to her. Except at that point we had already long passed one another on the escalators–because, you know, they were moving in opposite directions. And, like, I honestly don’t know how I’m still alive right now. I should be dead. Oh my gosh.

Luckily, things got slightly less awkward for a while after that. (BUT DON’T YOU WORRY; MORE IS DEFINITELY TO COME.) We wandered the exhibit hall for a bit, picking up free ARCs and bookmarks and stuff, then headed to the Meet BEA Young Adult Buzz Authors panel. The authors speaking on the panel were:

  • Moderator: Susannah Greenberg
  • Nicola Yoon (Everything, Everything)
  • Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski (Nightfall)
  • Daniel Kraus (The Death And Life Of Zebulon Finch, Volume 1: At The Edge Of Empire)
  • And Estelle Laure (This Raging Light)

The authors were absolutely lovely, and so smart and nice. Afterwards, though, came Part III in the Adventures of Julia Not Knowing How to Human: On our way back into the exhibition hall, we passed Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce preparing for the panel they were about to be on, and I… maybe… accidentally… stared them down while trying to figure out if Tui Sutherland (who was also going to be on that panel) was with them.

(Quick back story on that: A billion years ago, Tui Sutherland had a message board on Scholastic’s online forums for kids, called the STACKS, where if you shared a wacky story about a pet, she’d respond. I have a lot of wacky pet stories. We ended up talking on there a pretty decent amount and she even mentioned one of my stories–I think it was about our suicidal water frog?–in a blog post. I haven’t talked with her in like eight years though, so it would have been really cool to see her.)

I didn’t spot Tui though, and the others dragged me off (thank goodness) before I could make an even bigger fool of myself. From there we wandered the show floor some more, picked up more free stuff*, then headed downstairs for the Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz panel.

The editors and books on the panel were:

  • Moderator: Sarah Hines
  • David Levithan, talking about Alex Gino’s George
  • Nany Paulsen, talking about Lisa Lewis Tyre’s Last in a Long Line of Rebels
  • Martha Mihalick, talking about Nicholas Gannon’s The Doldrums
  • Elise Howard, talking about Adam Shaughnessy’s The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable Fib
  • And Andrea Spooner, talking about Ali Benjamin’s The Thing About Jellyfish

It was a FANTASTIC panel, and afterward they gave out ARCs of all the books. (I’m so excited to read these things.)

As we were picking up our ARCs, we ran into Hannah’s cousin who works in the industry. Esther is amazing, so it’s always a pleasure to talk to her, even if only for a couple minutes. We all split up after that and I headed back to the exhibition hall for my first book signing of the day.

However, on the way there, I got a little lost and ended up running into this beautiful human:

IMG_8604

Part III: Book Signings and More Panels

The first signing line I braved for the weekend was Shannon Hale’s, signing The Princess in Black. I adore Princess Academy–it’s one of those books I grab when I wake up from a nightmare and need something to calm me down; it’s just so sweet and beautiful and ugh–so it was really nice to get to meet her.

Of course, because being awkward around authors had become a reflex at that point, I stumbled all over my words while meeting her and it took me like thirty seconds to remember the name of Princess Academy and I had half a second of panic when I wondered if she truly was the one who’d written it or if it had been someone else. (Yeah. I don’t even know.)

Then, as she was handing my book back to me, Scott Westerfeld appeared out of nowhere to talk to her.

And she went, “Oh hey. This is Scott Westerfeld.”

And I went, “Hi.”

And he went, “Oh hi there.”

And I went, “IT WAS NICE TO MEET YOU LOVE YOUR BOOKS ‘KAY BYE.”

And then I ran.

After that, Madre and I found each other, stopped by a booth to talk with a friend, then dropped off the books we’d collected so far in our suitcase (seriously, such a nice thing to have there). From there, we headed to the WNDB Presents: Diversity, Be the Change You Want to See panel. (However, Madre kindly left it early to go grab a signed copy of Rules for Stealing Stars for me from Corey Ann Haydu.)

The speakers were:

  • Moderator: Ellen Oh (Co-Founder and President of WNDB)
  • Matt de la Pena (super cool author person)
  • Linda Sue Park (other super cool author person)
  • Tim Federle (yet another super cool author person)
  • And Lamar Giles (VP of WNDB)

It was an amazing panel. A part that especially resonated with me was when Matt de la Pena called for more literature focused on characters who are incidentally diverse (as in: while diversity is important to these stories, the plots revolve around something else). This is the kind of diversity I’ve really, really been wanting to see more of, so it was SO COOL to hear someone like Matt say he wants the same thing.

After the panel, Hannah and I went up to talk to Matt, because our YA literature professor from this past year knows him. He was super nice and, like, please go read his books. (Here. Here is a link to his GoodReads page.) Then, on our way out, I spotted Kaye (one of this year’s Ch1Con speakers!) and I stopped to say hi to her. The moment she found out who I was, she threw her arms around me like we’d known each other forever, and OHMYGOSH KAYE IS SO INCREDIBLY NICE TOO. EVERYONE IS SO NICE. YAY PUBLISHING.

From there, I scurried off to my next round of book signings.

First up was Maggie Stiefvater and Jackson Pierce (signing Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures), who luckily didn’t remember the Stare Down From Hell. After that I hopped into the Marissa Meyer line and got a signed copy of Fairest.

I wasn’t sure what to do after that, because I had a bit of a blank patch in my schedule, so I decided to try the Patrick Ness line. After only a couple minutes in it, though, I spotted Christine Riccio of PolandBananaBooks on Youtube. Her videos give me life, so I hopped out of line to grab a picture with her.

IMG_8613

Because of that, I missed the cut off for the Patrick Ness signing line (but so worth it to get to meet Christine, along with Kat of katytastic and Jesse of jessethereader). Luckily, right as I was trying to figure out what to do instead, Hannah texted me to say she was going to the Middle Grade Characters & Adventures panel, so we rounded the group up and all hit that together.

The panelists were:

  • Moderator: Peter Lerangis (Seven Wonders series)
  • Corey Ann Haydu (Rules for Stealing Stars)
  • Lauren Oliver (Curiosity House)
  • Kevin Sands (Blackthorn Key)
  • And Ken Oppel (Nest)

It was yet another really, really great panel. Afterward, I grabbed ARCs of Blackthorn Key and Nest (I was too slow to get the others), got a couple Curiosity House pins from Lauren, talked with the authors for five seconds, got my Blackthorn Key signed, and managed to get out of the panel without being too much of an idiot. (Improvement!)

IMG_8618

Part IV: Last Few Signings

Madre and I had Avid Reader Passes (basically, they let you into special signings) for Meg Cabot and Jennifer Armentrout, so we headed back to the Autographing area for the last few signings of the day.

Neither of us had used our Front of the Line passes (pretty self-explanatory) yet, so we used those to jump the massive line to meet Meg Cabot. She is beautiful, and just as funny and sweet in person as you’d expect from her books.

She was one of the few authors during the day I remembered to ask for a picture with. It was the Return of the Awkward though, because in order to get behind her signing table to take the picture, I had to dodge around the line divider and a trash can, which obviously meant that I consequently tripped all over the trash can. But Meg Cabot–bless her beautiful, funny, sweet heart–helped me untangle myself from it, all the while cracking jokes and making sure I was okay.  

After that, Madre and I met Jennifer Armentrout, got wrangled into getting some other books signed from an author we’d never heard of (the poor guy had gotten stuck at the signing table in the far corner where no one could see him, so his line was nonexistent), then headed out to the lobby area to grab our suitcase and figure out what to do with our books.

On our way, we spotted a mob of Youtubers sitting on the floor, just kind of hanging out, so we stopped so I could get a picture with Katrina and Kayley from FiveAwesomeGirls(!).

IMG_8625

Still can’t get over the fact that I got to meet some of these people.

We also stopped at the Scholastic booth, because I had to snag a picture with their sign in honor of my days on Write It. (LOOK HOW FAR WE’VE COME.)

IMG_8631

At the luggage check, we quickly realized we had way too many books to fit in our suitcase, so we ended up lugging all of them down to the shipping cavern to send home in a box.

Afterward, we met back up with Hannah’s family at the tables by the Penguin truck. Hannah, her cousin Esther, and I talked for a while, while our moms and Hannah’s grandma talked, then we all grabbed our stuff and walked to a cute little hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant a few blocks away.

Post-dinner, Madre and I said goodnight to the others, dropped our stuff at our hotel, then went exploring a bit. We ended up spending like an hour just sitting at a table in Times Square, taking it all in. We joked about how I won’t be allowed to enjoy the touristy parts of New York anymore once I move there in a few weeks, and it was really weird to think of how This Is Truly Happening. I’m actually moving to New York for two months. I’ve been dreaming of living in New York City since I was like ten. It’s kind of terrifying and kind of amazing.

IMG_8665From there, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night.

And that, I guess, is where this first obnoxiously long and detailed recap post ends.

Thank you for slogging through this entire thing, if you made it this far. (And if you just skimmed the post, I totally understand.)

Check back later this week for Parts 2 and 3, covering BookCon!

~Julia

PS. I want you to know that I’m currently dyeing my hair with honey (because why not) and it keep dripping on my hands as I type. #Professional

*I freaking. adore. free. stuff.

Wordy Wednesday: The End

I AM SO TIRED RIGHT NOW. I’m almost finally caught up with everything, though. (And, luckily, most of the stuff left has to be done in the daytime–which means my night looks like just hosting Ch1Con Chat, eating cold pizza, and watching Netflix until I fall asleep.)

Meanwhile, on top of everything else, my right knee has been hurting for a few days now (started during BookCon). I’ve got a brace on it, so hopefully it gets better soon–but can we just address the fact that I managed to injure myself while literally STANDING IN LINES all day at a CONVENTION GLORIFYING READING? (Even my injuries are nerdy.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is some song lyrics I wrote a while back.

**********

[Capo 3 – Em, C, G, D]
VERSE1
Look out my window / and what do I see
A blank strip of sky, stretching away from me
And I am alone here / lost in a crowd
Can’t even miss the silence / when it gets so loud

And I can’t see your features / washed out by the lights
I can’t hear your voice / or care enough to fight

TRANSITION
And I don’t know how to move / when we’re locked here in one place
And I’m looking for a sign / upon your face

CHORUS
We can’t see the stars at night
They’re washed out by the city lights
We stare at the satellites
They’re the only things to penetrate the night

But we know / the stars glow
Burning somewhere up there / so far away from here
And we know / this is breaking past bend
Wishing on this satellite / will be our end
Will be our end

VERSE2
Walking down the street / music in my ears
Disconnected from real life / and all my fears
I am only one / of a lost generation
No one can save / an entire broken nation

And I can’t hear your voice / or care enough to fight
I’m always too tired / but no, everything’s all right

TRANSITION
And I don’t know how to move / when to move is to leave
And I’m looking for a way / to believe

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE
Tell me, where is this going / because I don’t know anymore
Tell me, where is this leading / because I don’t see a door

Tell me, where is this going / because I don’t know anymore
Tell me, where is this leading / because I’m looking for a door

We can’t see the stars at night
They’re washed out by the city lights
We stare at the satellites
They’re the only things to penetrate the night

We can’t see the stars at night
And that’s not all right, all right

[Repeat CHORUS]

ENDING
This is the end
This is the end

**********

I should finally get the BEA/BookCon recap posts up sometime this weekend, so keep a lookout for those! Thank you for your patience. And, as always, thanks for reading!

~Julia

TWNP Blog Chain: Favorite Characters

Quick apology for not posting over the weekend! BEA/BookCon ended up being way more hectic than expected, and it was either blog or sleep. (We all know how that situation turns out.) I promise I WILL gush all about the weekend soon, though!

In the meantime, today I’m participating in the new Today’s Word Nerd Ponderings blog chain. (Learn more about it here.) The prompt for this month’s chain is:

There are all sorts of characters that we create and read about, but like people in real life, we are only drawn to some. What makes you love or hate a character? What do you love about your favorite character(s)? And that’s it. You can talk about one of your own characters you really relate to, or I don’t care, a TV show you watched as a kid. Tell us about why you are going to name your kid after Blues Clues when you grow up.

So, the characters I like are pretty across the board in terms of what they look like, and what they’re into, and all the rest of that stuff. But I’ve found that I’m definitely drawn to a certain type of personality. Specifically: snarky, vaguely selfish characters.

A character doesn’t necessarily have to be all witty-one-liners and talking-back-to-authority to fulfill my definition of snarky. I’m more into the sort of pokes-fun-at-everything or slightly-annoyed-by-everything internal monologue. Think Katniss Everdeen (The Hunger Games), or Anna Oliphant (Anna and the French Kiss), or Simon Spier (Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda).

I’m into this obviously because it’s super entertaining, but also because I too am a snarkmonger in my internal monologue (but generally not so much out loud). So I connect a lot with that type of voice in first person narratives, because it’s similar to what runs through my own head. (Although, let’s be honest, I’m not nearly as witty as YA protags.)

Likewise, I really like selfish characters because I’m selfish myself. As much as I love Katniss, I’m not the person who would volunteer as tribute. (I’d be like, “Tough break, kid,” then feel guilt and shame for how terrible a person I am for the rest of my life.) (But I still wouldn’t change.) (Because hello, the Hunger Games are scary.) But even Katniss isn’t always selfless, and it is these parts of me that make me connect with her (although it’s her selfless parts that make me admire her).

One of my favorite protagonists of all time is Sam from Lauren Oliver’s Before I Fall. I’ve heard a lot of dislike for her, because she spends the majority of the novel as kind of this self-centered brat. But I love her because of her brattiness. She doesn’t conform to the usual “likeable” character status quo. She doesn’t always try to do the right thing and she spends a good deal of her story mired in her flaws. But she still does grow as a person and finds redemption in the end.

It’s lovely to see someone like that–someone who feels just as messed up and terrible as I am, who still manages to turn things around and find the strength to be a good person by the time her book closes.

So yeah. That’s a basic overview of the traits that define some of my favorite characters. (To recap: I like not-good people who are funny.) (Which explains why I was totally Team Ultron during Avengers 2.)

~Julia