Everything, All At Once

So much has been happening lately.

In the past two weeks, I’ve had family pictures, the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child midnight release party (and binge-read), kayaking, packing and moving out of my college apartment, packing for two months in the UK, doing the summer homework for the Columbia Publishing Course UK, finishing my internship, cutting and rewriting 6,000 words of my WiP, getting ready for Ch1Con, actually running Ch1Con (and the Ch1Con pizza party and team birthday party), trying to catch up with friends from home right before I leave again, prepping everything for the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, and and and–

Basically, I am currently exhausted. And I start the multi-day trip to reach Edinburgh either tomorrow or Monday.

I’m so happy about everything happening in my life right now. It’s so many good things. And so many people have worked so hard to make these things happen. But I’m also really, really tired, and I’m just going to continue to get even more tired (which I feel like is the mantra of my life).

Also there are so many things that haven’t even been making it onto the blog, because SO MUCH IS HAPPENING ALWAYS these days. Like, did I even mention on here that Writer’s Digest Magazine ran a feature on Ch1Con 2016 in their August/September issue? And my family went to Michigan’s Adventure and Lake Michigan? And Emma and I drove down to Brett’s family goat farm to surprise her? And I got to meet Kate DiCamillo?

So, this is just a general Here I Am and This Is What Is Happening Right Now post. And also a “I am sorry if I drop off the face of the planet for a while because I’m going to be swamped the next couple months with very shoddy internet.”

I’m going to try my best to keep the blog updated, but in case I do continue to fall behind: I am much better at keeping Twitter and Instagram updated. And I promise I will still post on here sometimes too.

Thanks for putting up with me. I know things are super busy for a lot of people right now, so thanks for taking the time to read this blog and care about what I’m up to and all that. I’m SO EXCITED for this next adventure and I can’t wait to share it with you. (Only a couple more days!)

I love you. Talk to you from the UK!

~Julia

Story Time: BEA and BookCon 2016

Hey there! I’m back with another super belated (and super long) recap post.

This past May, I attended BookExpo America and BookCon again. This year they decided to try something different and host the two conventions in Chicago.

This made BEA and BookCon really different, feel-wise, from what they’ve been the past couple years. For one thing, Chicago’s so close that my mom and I drove (which meant no luggage restrictions or having to ship heavy boxes of books home). For another, it meant that we didn’t have to stay in a stupidly expensive hotel, because we have family in the area. (However, downside: this meant we had an hour+ drive to get to McCormick Place every morning. Also, it felt like less of a vacation.)

BookExpo America (Friday)

Getting Lost and Finding Food

Like last year, we forewent attending the whole week of BEA and just hit the last day (Friday) instead. Having arrived the night ahead, we got up at 4:30 AM central time to get ready and head out. Our first event of the day was the Children’s Book & Author Breakfast at 8:00. We thought it should be pretty easy to get to McCormick Place by then, having gotten up three and a half hours before it began, but we underestimated Chicago traffic (and overestimated our–okay, my–navigation skills), so we ended up very lost and very late.

We were supposed to be meeting two different friends there, and they are both amazing, because both of their groups saved us seats. Literally one minute before the breakfast began, Mom and I managed to find one of them (Hannah) and we slumped into our chairs.

Speaking at this year’s Children’s Book & Author Breakfast were:

  • Jamie Lee Curtis (master of ceremonies)
  • Gene Luen Yang
  • Sabaa Tahir
  • Dav Pilkey

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I adore all of them and they were all incredible. At one point, Jamie Lee Curtis teared up over Dav Pilkey and his ability to get reluctant readers to love books and it was great.

Panels, Part I: Diversity and the Buzziest of Buzz Panels

After breakfast, we all split off in different directions. First, I hit a panel put on by the Children’s Book Council called “Strategies for Selling Diverse Books.” Speaking on it were:

  • Betsy Bird
  • Elizabeth Bluemle
  • Erica Luttrell
  • Shauntee Burns

I’ve never worked in a traditional bookstore (the one I spent senior year with was a used shop), but owning a children’s bookstore someday is one of my pipe dreams, so this was super interesting and helpful.

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I had to leave about halfway through, though, to head over to my next panel: “Meet BEA Young Adult Buzz Authors 2016.”

The YA buzz authors this year were:

  • Aaron Starmer
  • Billy Taylor
  • Kerri Maniscalco
  • Sonia Patel
  • Stephanie Garber
  • with Susannah Greenberg hosting

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I was already excited about Stephanie’s book (check it out here!), but I hadn’t heard of the others yet and they all sounded wonderful. Billy Taylor’s book in particular, Thieving Weasels, sounded like it was right up my alley; luckily, my mom managed to grab an ARC later on and that was one of the first books I read from BEA this year. (It’s really fun, if you like heist stuff!)

The wonderful(ly awful) Michael met me after the panel and we wandered the floor for a while, then hit the “BEA Middle Grade Editors’ Buzz” panel with Hannah and her friend. The books featured were:

  • Booki Vivant’s Frazzled
  • Kate Beasley’s Gertie’s Leap to Greatness
  • Wade Albert White’s The Adventurer’s Guide to Successful Escapes
  • James R. Hannibal’s The Lost Property Office
  • and Ross Welford’s Time Traveling with a Hamster

I love hearing editors talk about their books. They’re always so enthusiastic and smiley. (Of the MG buzz books, so far I’ve read Time Traveling with a Hamster. Adorable and oh-so-very British.)

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Mikey H20 is too tall for his own good

Signings and Panels, Part II: Three Authors and a MG Buzz Panel

After that, we all split up again and I headed back to the floor to hit some signings. I managed to get one of the last spots in Stephanie Garber’s line (she’s such a sweetheart!), then I joined Mom in the Veronica Roth line (where I proceeded to have my daily existential crisis about where to move to now that I’m done with college). VRoth was as adorkable as always.

Mom and I then went over to the baggage check to stuff our books in our already crammed suitcase (we have so much stuff to give away at Ch1Con this year!), then went and checked if the Sabaa Tahir signing later that day was going to ticket (they told us no), and while doing that ran into Adam Silvera and got to talk with him for a minute.

After that, Mom and I hit the “BEA Middle Grade Buzz Authors Panel 2016” (see the list under the “MG Editors’ Buzz”). Following the panel, we hiked back over to the booth Sabaa’s book signing was going to take place, twenty minutes before it was set to begin–only to find that the employee with whom we’d talked an hour earlier had been wrong about the not ticketing thing and they’d already handed all of the signing tickets out.

Luckily, however, I already had an ARC of Sabaa’s new book, A Torch Against the Night, from the breakfast that morning and the people running the signing were gracious enough to let me get that signed. (Btw: this is another BEA book I’ve read this summer and SO GOOD!) Sabaa was super friendly and kind and I’m so glad I got to meet her. (That line ended up being really cool. Ahead of me were a bunch of BookTubers, so I got to hear them nerd out about BEA, and my friend Cassie stopped by to say hi.)

Galley Drop and Panels, Part III: Gemina and Books for Not-Adults

While I waited to meet Sabaa, Mom went to the Gene Luen Yang signing, then headed to the Gemina galley drop and held a spot for me in that line. I’ve never participated in a book drop at BEA before and it was INSANITY. (Like, Madre got in that line at least an hour before the drop was supposed to happen and we ended up towards the back of the people who got copies. I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE ARE EXCITED ABOUT BOOKS IT’S SO COOL.)

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After getting our copies of Gemina, we headed to our last couple events of the day, both at the Uptown Stage: “Surviving Fictional Worlds with Tor Teen!” and “Middle Grade Marvels: Award-winning Authors Discuss Writing Lasting Stories for Young Readers.”

Speaking on the Tor Teen panel were:

  • Kate Bartow
  • Kristen Simmons
  • Sarah Porter
  • Susan Dennard (yes, that Susan Dennard!)

And speaking at the “Middle Grade Marvels” discussion were:

  • Becky Anderson (owner of Anderson’s Bookshop!)
  • Jennifer L. Holm
  • Richard Peck

Both of these events were great, and between them I got to gush with Susan for a hot sec about how excited we are for Ch1Con this August.

By the end of the “Middle Grade Marvels” discussion, BEA was winding down: the exhibitors not sticking around for BookCon were packing up their booths and pretty much all of the attendees had vacated McCormick Place. We stopped by the Scholastic booth to take a picture (because always).

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Aaaaand while there we managed to run into Maggie Stiefvater, to whom I squealed, “YOUR BOOK MADE ME CRY CAN I HAVE A PICTURE?” (Luckily, she decided that would be easier than calling security on the deranged twenty-two-year-old.)

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After that, my mom and I grabbed our bulging suitcase full of books and headed back to the suburbs, where we ate dinner at a local Italian place with my aunt and uncle. (It was delicious, by the way–bread sticks, chunky vegetable soup, fresh rolls, steamed spinach, and spaghetti, for me.) Then I stayed up way too late reading (also because always).

And so ended BEA.

BookCon (Saturday)

Line of Death

Upside of staying up late: the next day was BookCon, which starts much later than BEA, so we didn’t have to get up as early. (I mean, we still had to get up at 6:30. But that’s better than 4:30 by, you know, a lot.)

On our way out of the house, my aunt and uncle forced a little container of fresh fruit on me, because it’s apparently a well-known fact that I forget to eat on busy days. (Throwback to last BookCon.) We picked up Ch1Con team member Emma on our way into the city and arrived around 9:00 AM.

Unfortunately, the getting-into-the-event issues of BookCons past continued to haunt this one. (I don’t know why I keep assuming it’ll get better some year.) On the upside, though, McCormick Place had us waiting in a different part of the building instead of outside the way Javits Center does, so it was at least a nicer setup.

Still: getting into BookCon was CHAOS. No one seemed to know which line led to what and people were constantly cutting in line and jostling. At one point, we gave up on the line for getting into the exhibition hall and tried the autographing wristband lines–only for someone to literally come up and steal my autographing bracelet before they could put it around my wrist. (And it was the LAST ONE for that author, too.) Mom, Emma, and I all did manage to get a wristband apiece, though.

Then we rejoined the exhibition hall line and stood in that while all of the morning sessions we’d meant to hit slipped away.

The Day Begins For Real

Finally giving up, we headed straight to the Special Events Hall for the 11:00 AM panel in there: “What is Light Without Darkness? Balancing Good and Evil in YA Literature.”

Speaking on the panel were:

  • Veronica Roth
  • Lauren Oliver
  • Sabaa Tahir
  • Melissa de la Cruz
  • Margot Wood (moderator)

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This panel was wonderful–really funny and nerdy–which was exactly what we needed to make up for the wasted morning.

After that, we split up. Emma and I wandered the show floor for a little, she got food, and we accidentally got caught for a minute in Ransom Riggs’s signing line and, in the process, got to say hi to Margot Wood. Then I dropped Emma at a panel and wandered a little more on my own. In doing this, I ran into one of my highlights of BookCon: Scholastic’s Muggle Wall.

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Can I just say: I LOVE the fact that Harry Potter’s getting really big again. Also, I maybe snuck some Ch1Con in there:

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Magic, Movies, & More

Worried about getting into the next event I wanted, I headed over early–only to find that the panel ahead of that one was still loading into the room and had some standing space left. This was also a panel I’d wanted to see (but had figured I wouldn’t get into), so five points to serendipity.

This first panel was “Friendship Is Magic,” featuring:

  • Alexandra Bracken
  • Susan Dennard (hello again!)
  • Sarah J. Maas
  • and surprise guest Victoria Aveyard

I want to be best friends with all of them, really.

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Following that, I grabbed a seat towards the front of the room for the “YA Blockbusters: From Books to Film And Beyond” panel. It featured:

  • Cassandra Clare
  • James Dashner
  • Richelle Mead (go blue!)
  • Anthony Breznican (moderator)

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This was interesting, because of the three authors, James Dashner is the only one to get a sequel off his initial film adaptation (and at the moment the Maze Runner film franchise is in limbo since Dylan O’Brien got injured on set). Normally authors don’t openly talk about their frustrations with film adaptations (well, besides Rick Riordan obvi), but they were willing to discuss the bad nearly as much as the good, and I think that’s a good thing for readers to hear.

Next, I headed for the Downtown Stage, where I was supposed to meet Mom, Emma, and Hannah and her friend. On the way, I got caught in a knot of people and ended up having to jump out of the way of Sherman Alexie and his team as they hurried him through the crowd, which was surreal to say the least. (BEA and BookCon, really = RUNNING INTO AUTHORS EVERYWHERE.)

However, I did eventually make it to the Downtown Stage, where I caught the end of Leigh Bardugo and Marissa Meyer’s “Truth or Dare.” Then the event our group had headed there for began: “The Power of Storytelling,” with:

  • Sherman Alexie (yup)
  • Meg Cabot
  • Kate DiCamillo

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(Side note: I got to MEET Kate DiCamillo in Ann Arbor a couple weeks back! ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS OF MY LIFE.)

The panel was lovely and funny and just a little bit sad (in that relatable-and-bittersweet way that makes them all such great authors) and I adore them.

ARC Signings

Then Mom headed to the David Levithan signing (which is the one for which that girl stole my wristband) and Emma and I headed to the Nicola Yoon one.

Now, my mom felt awful that I hadn’t been able to get the David Levithan wristband (especially since I’d wanted to meet him last year and she met him instead and here it was happening again). So, she devised a plan to be the last person in his signing line, to try to convince them to let me go up and meet him with her. (We didn’t need anything extra signed. I just wanted to meet him, because David is incredible and a huge inspiration, with the way he manages to do a billion things at once.)

Of course, the David Levithan line moved about three times as fast as the Nicola Yoon one (because she is a sweetheart and wanted to stop and talk with each person to come through it)–so by the time Emma and I got up there and met her, David’s line had emptied out and, even though his signing technically wasn’t supposed to be over for a while longer and several people hadn’t even gotten in line yet because of that (not even including my mom), someone made the decision that he should leave.

Which then led to a tween girl, her mother, and my mother all chasing him through the exhibition hall to try to at least get a book signed for the girl. (Have I mentioned that BookCon is not the best organized event in the world?)

The girl did eventually get her book signed, though, and I’m sure my mom and I will have another chance to meet David Levithan, so it all worked out well enough in the end.

BookSPLOSION

Mom agreed to meet Emma and me, next, at our last BookCon event of the day: the “Booksplosion BookTube” panel.

(So, I honestly don’t watch that many BookTube videos, but the BookTube community has SO MUCH ENERGY and are so enthusiastic and unabashedly in love with reading. So I try to hit the BookTube panel at BookCon every year.)

Anyway, on the way to the BookTube panel, all of the exhibitors were breaking down their booths and, as we passed HarperCollins, they discovered that they had an entire box of Gemina galleys that they’d forgotten about, so we ended up getting a couple extra copies shoved in our hands (which kinda hilarious considering how long people waited for copies the day before).

By the time we reached the BookTube panel, they’d already cut off admission, so Emma and I went and waited in an auxiliary line, which they said they’d let in for the post-panel meet and greet. We had nothing planned for after BookTube, so we figured we might as well hang around for it. Which is how we ended up meeting Christine of PolandBananasBOOKS, Jesse of JesseTheReader, and Kat of Katytastic.

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(Side note: isn’t Emma’s sweater adorable??)

After the meet and greet, we bid adieu to McCormick Place and headed back to the suburbs, where we had a late dinner (during which the waitress seemed confused by the idea that vegetables are actual food, but that is a story for another time). Then we dropped off Emma and headed back to my relatives’ house–where I proceeded (you guessed it) to read until wayyy too late.

And that was BEA and BookCon 2016.

In total, this year we collected 151 books (all free, most ARCS and/or signed), 22 tote bags, and countless posters, pins, chapter samplers, bookmarks, and more. Not bad, eh?

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Thanks for reading!

~Julia

 

 

Story Time: I GRADUATED

Well, this post is now three months overdue. (Sorry! I will eventually catch up. Hopefully.)

Anyway, THIS APRIL I GRADUATED FROM COLLEGE. And it involved four ceremonies and a lot of picture taking and I maybe burst into tears in the middle of Pizza House at the end of it all. (Warning that this post is about to be a billion words long. And involves me being at my melodramatic height. I’m mostly putting this up for posterity’s sake, so totally don’t feel obligated to read it.)

I hit a couple rough patches during undergrad (who doesn’t), but overall I adored my time at U of M. And I am so desperately sad about leaving. (Although the Ann Arbor Art Fair began yesterday, and that’s basically hell on Earth, so my opinion could be different in a few days.)

Graduation Weekend began for me, really, Thursday night. This was because after months of deliberating about what to put on my graduation cap, I managed to procrastinate actually putting the thing together until like 10:00 PM. (I am a genius.) So, while my friends all went out to celebrate our last night of undergrad, I settled in for one last assignment.

I had the TV on in the background–there was a How I Met Your Mother marathon–and I confiscated a roommate’s box of Kraft mac and cheese (because if there’s ever a time for comfort food, the night before you graduate from college is it). Luckily, I’d already done a lot of the legwork for my cap earlier in the week (dyeing paper with tea to artificially age it, buying fake flowers, picking out quotes, etc.). So mostly I was just hot gluing everything on, one piece at a time. Still, it took me until midnight to finish. And, of course, in like the last five minutes I managed to drip hot wax on my wrist.

(I graduated with half of my right hand wrapped in bandages, between the burn and my squirrel bite and a couple who-even-knows-where-these-came-from injuries. Remember: if I can make it through college, anyone can.) (Also, general PSA: don’t feed squirrels, kids; it’s a bad idea.*)

In the end, my cap looked like this:

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I ended up not being able to choose between two quotes, so I used them both. The quote layered in the background is from Winnie the Pooh and reads: “‘Is that the end of the story?’ ‘That’s the end of that one. There are others.'” And the quote on top is of course “mischief managed” from Harry Potter. (I know it’s cliche, but it’s just so perfect with the block M.) Also, the white flowers on the cap are decorated with cursive writing (to symbolize writing), typescript (to symbolize reading), and music notes (to symbolize, you know, music stuff).

So, totally unnecessary backstory on the Winnie the Pooh quote: for anyone who doesn’t know, I was the publicist for a local used bookshop throughout senior year, which mostly involved me posting pictures of books to our Facebook page to try to drum up business. I liked to keep these at least somewhat timely, so during finals I gathered a big pile of children’s books for a post about graduation.

I was flipping through the shop’s copy of Winnie the Pooh in search of this other quote I adore when I randomly came across the one above. I’d been searching for the perfect quote to put on my graduation cap since like October and had never even seen this one before, so YOU HAD BETTER BET I started crying in the middle of the sci-fi/fantasy section because HOW PERFECT IS THIS QUOTE.

(I’m not a big crier, but pretty much every time I cried this school year, it happened while I was working. That poor bookshop.)

ANYWAY BACK TO THE ACTUAL STORY: Even though I was exhausted when I finished the cap and I had to be up at like 6:00 to get ready for the first ceremony, I couldn’t sleep, so I stayed up for another hour or two reading the end of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows and, you know, crying. Again. (I am a cautionary tale in what not to do during graduation weekend, if that was not already clear.)

I eventually did get to sleep, though, and the next morning Hannah and I rushed through getting ready and were only like twenty minutes late for the time my parents were supposed to pick us up to drive us over to the Crisler Center.

Our first ceremony of the day was for the Honors Program. We posed for lots of pictures before the ceremony, and met up with lots of other nervous friends, and then Graduation Weekend For Real began.

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Mortarboards are great for hiding the bags under your eyes.

People gave speeches. We walked across the stage. We posed for even more pictures.

From there, my family drove across campus to grab lunch at Noodles & Co., then we headed to the Honors Program reception, where they proceeded to stuff us with even more food. (This was unexpected, but turned out to be the rule of the weekend. I’ve been going to receptions for four years at this university and normally they serve us some fruit and maize & blue corn chips and cookies. But all of the graduation receptions throughout the weekend were catered with huge piles of real and delicious food. It was a-maize-ing, if you’ll ignore my completely awful but necessary pun.)

Anyway, continuing: then I showed my family around campus a little, we took–you guessed it–more pictures, and I–you guessed it–cried some more.

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My mom took this photo in Angell Hall, our English building. When I was a senior in high school, Michigan was my top choice school but I hadn’t actually been on campus since I was like ten, so Mom and I played hooky one day to come explore. It was seeing this building, dedicated to words and stories, that convinced me this truly was the school for me.

From there, we walked to the Union, where we had the Screen Arts & Cultures (aka: film school) ceremony and reception. My family loaded up on even more food. I talked with friends. Then we sat through our second ceremony, and I walked across a stage a second time, and people took more pictures.

The director of our screenwriting program, Jim Bernstein, gave a really wonderful speech about giving kids in arts fields the time to succeed. I’m paraphrasing here, because, again, it’s been a few months, but he basically pointed out how we give the kids who become lawyers and doctors all of their extra years of schooling past undergrad before we expect them to be successful. So, why don’t we do the same for kids going into film-making, or writing, or photography? Just because we’re not in a formal school environment doesn’t mean we’re not also using those years to learn and grow.

If you want people to succeed, you need to get them the chance to.

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I only minored in SAC, because I was way more interested in learning how the industry works and how to analyze and critique films than actually learning how to make them. So, I decided to forgo taking production classes in favor of taking only the classes I really wanted to (which means I was only a few classes short of a major, credit-wise, but requirement-wise I was nowhere close) (sorry not sorry; I had an amazing time in film school).

After that, my family said their goodbyes and headed home, and I headed back to my apartment. That night I went out with some friends to celebrate. (Yay!) Aaand my roommates and I made one of the biggest mistakes of our life by watching the series finale of Gilmore Girls. (NOT YAY. VERY NOT YAY.)

The next morning was Day 2 of Graduation Weekend. I got up at 5:30 to shower and Hannah and I were ready (actually mostly) on time, this time. We headed off to our friend Melissa’s apartment for breakfast. The group of us there ate, freaked out about the weather (WHY WAS IT LIKE FORTY DEGREES AT THE END OF APRIL?), then piled into an Uber and headed to the Big House.

For anyone who doesn’t know: the Big House is the nickname for Michigan Stadium, aka our football stadium, aka the largest stadium in the United States and second largest stadium in the world. (#GoBlue)

Every spring, the university hosts the big, everyone-is-invited graduation ceremony in the Big House. This means organizing something like six thousand graduates. It was madness. Our group managed to stay together, though, and we had a wonderful (albeit surreal) time.

The Big House ceremony is weird, because it’s the one everyone talks about, so it’s the one you most look forward to–but it’s also really impersonal and huge (and the speaker honestly left a lot of us feeling like we were getting lectured by our doesn’t-realize-he’s-racist uncle). But still, I love being in the Big House, and it was a last hurrah for a couple of the people in our group, and it was nice.

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A selfie of me and 6,000 of my closest friends.

After the ceremony, I adventured across the bleachers, stopping to talk with friends who’d sat elsewhere along the way, and finally found my family. We took pictures (I hope you’re noticing a trend by now), then we headed to a special graduation brunch in the Union.

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I am a walking stereotype.

The food was delicious (that was also a trend), but unfortunately, after battling traffic across campus, we arrived at the brunch about twenty minutes before I needed to be at my fourth and final graduation ceremony. So I had just enough time to stuff a bagel in my mouth, wave goodbye to my family, and sprint across campus (in heels that had already rubbed half the skin off my ankles at that point) to the Lydia Mendelssohn Theatre in the League to check in.

Although all of the graduation ceremonies were great throughout the weekend, my last one was by far my favorite. It was for the Residential College. The RC is known for being quirky and informal and the exact opposite of what the Big House is: personal.

I lived in the RC for the first two years of college and the girls with whom I’ve shared my apartment the latter two years are all RC. The hell that was Intensive Spanish my freshman year was an RC requirement. I had the same creative writing instructor from my intro class freshman year to my honors thesis senior year.

In the past four years, I’ve hated the RC and I have loved the RC. I’ve gone through periods when I never would have recommended even stepping within ten feet of the RC’s home, East Quad. But looking back on it, the RC defined so much of my undergraduate career. And I’m really grateful for the opportunities and friendships and weird stories being in the RC afforded me.

And, of course, RC graduation was the most RC thing in the world. Instead of just having us walk across the stage like at a normal ceremony, each graduate got a couple minutes to do whatever they wanted to on stage. There was a lot of thanking of parents and friends and favorite professors. There was singing and plant-stealing and two girls boxing. A friend even roller skated across the stage.

It was one of the weirdest things I’ve ever experienced. It was incredible. I cried a lot. (Who’s surprised.)

From there, a parade of bagpipers led students across campus to East Quad, where the university stuffed us with even more food. (At that point in Graduation Weekend, I was pretty sure I would never be hungry ever again in my entire life.)

Unfortunately, because my family and I hadn’t realized quite how much U of M would be feeding us throughout the weekend, we had a dinner reservation for after the last reception at Pizza House (a local place known for their feta bread, which, by the way, is life in food form).

So we dutifully trooped over there, where we attempted to get through the mound of food they served us. And then I gave my parents a photo album I’d put together with pictures of our family over the last four years. And, yeah–this is the part I mentioned before about bursting into tears in the middle of Pizza House.

It was a really lovely time with my family, though. I’m so grateful so many people were able to come celebrate with me that weekend. I never would have been able to make it through college without them, so it meant a ton that they all came to graduation.

After dinner, my family dropped me back off at my apartment, where I spent some time staring at all of the Michigan stuff on my bedroom walls and being numb (I FINALLY CRIED MYSELF OUT IT WAS A MIRACLE). Then Hannah and another of our really good friends sat on our couch for a few hours drinking cheap wine and binge eating apple pie and talking and being sad-but-happy in that weird way things like graduation can make you and it was also lovely.

Overall the entire weekend was that way. A weird mixture of sad and happy. Lots of crying and lots of eating. (What’s not to love.)

And I’m really proud of myself. Like, college truly is what you make it, and I’m so happy I spent this time learning everything that I could and traveling and having lots of chill nights at home writing or watching movies with friends or playing guitar. And I love the University of Michigan and Ann Arbor and so many of the people I’ve gotten to know while here.

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I’m going to miss them, this place, and being an undergrad. But I’m also so excited to see what comes next.

For now: Ch1Con 2016. Then the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Then the Columbia Publishing Course UK at Oxford.

After that, who knows. I’m kind of terrified. I’m really excited.

Here we go.

 

~Julia

*This is a lie. (But be careful because they do occasionally mistake human flesh for a snack.) (But LOOK AT HOW CUTE.)

Story Time: Pennsylvania Firefly Festival

Here we go: the first of the many recap posts I’ve promised.

Let’s do this thing.

So, this past weekend my friend Melissa and I went on a road trip to the Allegheny National Forest in Pennsylvania to attend this event called the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival.

Around this time every summer, a bunch of types of fireflies living in Allegheny go searching for ~love~, and it means that you get to see literally thousands of fireflies all sparkling and dancing out in the middle of the woods. It’s really nerdy (and really wonderful), so when Melissa asked me if I’d like to go with her, I jumped on the opportunity.

We left for the festival Saturday morning, drove all day (only making a quick stop at Dunkin’ Donuts for sustenance), and arrived at a campground in the afternoon. Unfortunately, it was not at all obvious what to do once arriving there, so we spent the next hour or so driving in circles and getting increasingly worried that we’d never find the actual campsites.

However, at least our view, during this portion of the day, was pretty pretty:


Eventually we did find a campsite, though, with the help of some very kind park rangers, and we spent another hour or so setting up our tent.

It was a three room, ten person tent. We are two very small people. I had never set up a tent before. I’m really proud of us.

Photo taken from the drawbridge over the moat surrounding our castle.

After wrangling that thing into standing, we headed for the festival itself. When we arrived, it appeared to be a pretty low key affair, which was disappointing at first. There were only a few food booths (and pretty much all the food was a variation on hotdogs) and there wasn’t much to see outside of that. (The music was all bluegrass–which neither of us were interested in–or stuff like Owl City’s “Firefly,” which is great and all, but is so on-the-nose I can only handle it for so long.) Bored with the sun still up (so no fireflies yet), Melissa and I decided to go for a walk along one of the trails branching off the property.

This was really nice and our first real taste of how gorgeous the Allegheny National Forest is.

Just, like, look at this:


Then the sun went down and a guide (who knew ALL about fireflies) took a big group of us out on a trail to watch synchronous fireflies come out to play and our earlier disappointment evaporated.

If you don’t know what the synchronous firefly is, it’s a type of firefly with a big, white glow that–if left in the quiet and dark for long enough–will synchronize its flashes with the rest of the synchronous fireflies in the area. So you get hundreds of fireflies all flashing in unison, out in the darkness.

I wish I had a picture or video to show you of this, because it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. We sat out there for three hours, long after pretty much everyone else (including the guides) had headed home/back to their campsites. iPhone cameras just can’t capture that kind of magic though.

When we did walk back to the clearing where we’d parked, we were quiet and tired and ready to go flop down in our sleeping bags. But the moment we broke away from the treeline, we stopped and stared, eyes wide, tired lips quirked up in tired smiles–because there were more stars swirling away from us in the sky than I’ve possibly ever seen.

That entire night, it felt like we were living in a hyper-vivid dream–in that space between asleep and awake. It was all quiet, darkness punctured by pinpricks of light, fireflies that looked like shooting stars and stars that looked like resting fireflies.

I spent the drive back to the campsite with my forehead pressed to the car window, staring at the sky.

The next day, we packed up camp (again: SO PROUD OF US FOR WRANGLING THAT TENT) and headed out to a hiking area the lady at the visitor’s center suggested.

Of course, because we’re us, we got very lost and ended up trekking through a swamp for a while.


But then we eventually found the trail and it was GORGEOUS.

LOOK AT THIS COOL TREE GROWING OFF THE SIDE OF A HOUSE-SIZED BOULDER

We didn’t quite realize it while we were following the trail, but it led us to what appeared to be the top of a LITERAL MOUNTAIN (as in WE CLIMBED A MOUNTAIN) and it was SO BEAUTIFUL I CANNOT.


While we were trying to get a decent picture of the two of us at the overlook point, a group of guys hiking a different trail arrived, and while one took our picture we noticed that another was wearing a Michigan t-shirt. Our conversation basically went as follows:

Melissa: Oh, hey!

Me: Go blue!

Michigan Guy: What?

Melissa: We just graduated from there.

Michigan Guy: Really? Almost all of us are alums!

[We all proceed to swap war stories and talk classes]

Please note: we were out in the middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania. We came across maybe ten people on our entire hike. And four of them were fellow Michigan graduates.

THIS ALWAYS HAPPENS. LIKE I KNOW IT’S AN UNDERSTATEMENT TO SAY WE HAVE A LOT OF ALUMNI. BUT STILL.

After talking with the guys for a bit, we headed back down the mountain.

And proceeded to get lost again.

I partially (mostly) blame this on the fact that there were no maps available ANYWHERE in the park (even the visitor’s center was out) and our phones didn’t have any signal, so we couldn’t even figure out where we were using Google Maps or anything.

The nice thing about doing stuff with Melissa, though, is that neither of us really mind getting lost, so it’s more fun than anything else. We ended up climbing through a bunch of cave-like rock formations and shimmying between trees and stuff, and it was great.

Luckily, however, we did eventually become un-lost and found the car again, where we proceeded to collapse and gulp water and generally be thankful for air conditioning. (Please note: it was over 90 degrees and sunny throughout this entire adventure.)

From there, we bid adieu to Pennsylvania and headed home. We made a stop at an Ohio Arby’s for food and much needed milkshakes (we hiked 6.5 miles, in the heat, up a mountain; we deserved it), and got sidelined by a downpour at one point, but soon enough we were back in Michigan–grateful for showers and beds, sure, but also missing the fireflies.

And that is the time we went to the Pennsylvania Firefly Festival.

img_2638-1
~Julia

 

Let’s Talk

Hey there! So, as you may have noticed, there was no Wordy Wednesday yesterday. This is partially because I kept putting off and putting off putting one up (then honestly forgot about it until I woke up this morning, oops). Partially because, for a while now, I’ve been debating shutting down the weekly Wordy Wednesday feature. And I’d kind of maybe settled on doing that. Aaand yesterday’s Wordy Wednesday, if I had written it, was going to explain what this post is, now, explaining instead.

I’ve been writing a Wordy Wednesday every week since I started blogging in December, 2011. That makes for 235 Wordy Wednesdays over the past four and a half years, if my very crappy math came out right. That’s a lot of blog posts focused primarily on sharing pieces of writing and lessons I’m learning about writing/revising/publishing.

And while Wordy Wednesdays used to feel like an easy way to get content up on the blog, I ran out of the backlog of pieces I wanted to share a looong time ago (hence the weekly I-will-write-a-poem-in-five-minutes thing most of the WWs this past school year became). And I’ve kind of plateaued with the writing lesson thing, because I’m knee deep in just-trying-to-figure-out-how-to-make-things-work, myself, at the moment–I have been for a while and I will be for a while–so I don’t really have anything left, right now, on that topic to say.

I’ve noticed a steep decline in interest in reading the weekly Wordy Wednesdays over the past year or two. This is reasonable, because I’ve had a steep decline in interest in writing them. With WWs, blogging every week slowly morphed into a chore, rather than something I enjoyed. And it finally hit me: if the majority of you aren’t interested in reading WWs, and I’m not interested in writing them, WHY ARE WE STILL GOING THROUGH THIS WEEKLY RITUAL?

So: this week marks the end of the weekly Wordy Wednesday blog post on here.

In its place, I want to experiment on this blog. I want to have fun blogging again. I want to tell you about my adventures, and the new recipe I’m obsessed with, and the movies I can’t wait for. I want to finally find the time to recap graduation and BEA/BookCon and my road trip. I want to get back into How To posts and Fashion Fridays and everything else that used to make posting on here fun.

I’m still going to be posting every week. It just might not always be on Wednesdays and it’ll be back to being on the broader range of topics this blog used to cover, back when I had the time/energy to post more than once weekly. (Maybe with this change, I’ll actually get back to posting more than once a week again, sometimes? Fingers crossed.)

I’ve never written this blog with the hope of appealing to a wide audience. It’s always been a Little Bit of Everything–anything that crosses my mind to talk about–so I’m incredibly grateful to anyone who does read posts on here. And I feel like I’ve been letting you down with what this blog has become the past couple years.

I want to do better for you. I hope this is the first step towards that.

This doesn’t mean you’ll never see a Wordy Wednesday on here ever again. It just means they won’t be going up every week anymore.

Thank you to those who have been keeping up with the weekly WWs this entire time. You are my heroes. But I think this is a good change. I hope you do too.

I love you. Thank you for always sticking with me. Here’s to a better blog, moving forward.

I’ll talk to you soon.❤

~Julia

 

Wordy Wednesday: Not Writing

Hey there! Short post tonight because I owe you like five different recap posts (and the less time I spend on this Wordy Wednesday, the more time I’ll have to finally catch up on those). Sorry!

However, quick recap of what’s happened in the past couple weeks:

  • Road trip! Hannah and I celebrated our graduation with a road trip to Nantucket. (And I’ll recap it very soon, fingers crossed!)
  • Physical therapy! I went in to get my knee and shoulder looked at and the therapists have all concluded at this point that, structurally, my body is very screwed up, so it looks like I’m going to be in physical therapy a few times a week for the next couple months while they try to fix me. (Upside: maybe no more pain soon?!)
  • And that is it. In large part because the events of the past few days, mostly in Orlando but also elsewhere, have honestly been too much for me and I kind of just shut down for a bit there. I can’t put into words what I’ve been feeling, and I’m not even connected to what happened, and I can’t (and don’t want to) imagine what those who are involved are feeling. It’s just… no. This isn’t okay. This is so very much not okay.

Anyway, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post–about, well, not writing.

While I’m not actively working on a draft of a novel right now, I am working on doing my reverse outline (as part of Zero Drafting) for The Novel That Refuses To Be Named. I’ve been working on this for a little over a month and a half now, and I’m up to something like sixty pages of handwritten notes (and I am very far from being done). The amount of time I’ve been dedicating per day so far has ranged from 12+ hours, when I really get sucked into it, to only a few hours, when I’m pushing through a rough patch.

So: that’s been my life for over a month now. Constantly in the heads of my characters, in their world, not doing a ton in my own world.

Then it came time for my graduation road trip with Hannah and, with it, the horrifying realization that I wouldn’t be able to outline for hours on end during the week of the trip because (gasp) I’d be too busy having fun.

This honestly was a concern for me at this point two weeks ago. Like, I was excited for the trip of course–we’d been talking about going on a road trip for over a year–but also WHAT IF I TOOK A WEEK OFF FROM WORKING AND ALL MY IDEAS DRIED UP AND I NEVER FINISHED MY NOVEL?

Then we actually left on the trip, though, and I began enjoying myself, and I realized my fears were entirely unfounded–because instead of having fewer ideas, it was like each mile of highway our car ate up gave me another. And while I didn’t spend the week actively outlining, by the end of it I’d figured out sooo many things about The Novel that I wouldn’t have been able to at home.

All this to say: sometimes it’s good to put down your pen and paper and go be part of the world.

Who knows, the solution to your next plot dilemma might be buried (like mine) on a street on a bike ride to a lighthouse in Nantucket.

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Rainstorm

Hey there! As I mentioned in last week’s Wordy Wednesday, this is a pre-written post because, at the time of its posting, I will be (am?) out of town. However, I hope you’re having a great week and I’ll tell you all about what I was up to when I get back.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

**********
The sleepy drip of
sunlit rain against
windows and held-out palms,
the paradox of feeling as if
everything is happening at once
when really nothing is happening
at all,
and I love this, the way a rainstorm
can feel like silence
and sunlight
can be a blanket
and summer can be a
feeling, rooted deep in your restless heels
and your dancing fingertips
and the tug of your lips, reaching for
a smile–
I am so tired but
I am so awake
**********

Thanks for reading, and see you when I get back!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Never Be Replaced

I have my laptop back!

It’s stupidly nice getting to type this post using the keyboard I’m used to.

Not much else has happened in the last week. I did some internship work. I did some novel work (I’m finally almost done outlining!) (and by “almost done” I mean “I have fifty-six pages of notes and if I have to do many more I will have a breakdown”). I did lots of family stuff. (We saw the new penguin exhibit at the Detroit Zoo! LOOK AT THIS CUTIE.) Aaand that’s just about it.

That’s kind of the nice part of summer, though, you know? My exhaustion from the school year has really caught up with me, so I’ve been sleeping a lot and watching lots of movies and generally ignoring the real world. And I’m so grateful for the time to detox this summer.

In honor of summer and detoxing, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a(n ancient) song I wrote the summer after my junior year of high school. (Featuring: a recording of seventeen-year-old Julia very awkwardly singing it, because what’s a blog post without some public embarrassment.)

**********

VERSE1
Too tired to go to sleep
So I think I’ll write a song
Sometimes I wanna miss you
But the day is just too long

And you know, this restless feeling?
It is your fault
I should’ve known not to trust you
With my glass heart

CHORUS
But you said come here
And you took my hand
And you led the way
Past the grocery stand

And you said come here
And you touched my face
Funny how a stranger,
Can never be replaced

Funny how a stranger,
Can never be replaced

VERSE2
These city streets are empty
Without you by my side
I miss the feel of your warm skin
You’d breathe, and we’d be alive

And you know, this reminiscent feeling?
It is your fault
I should’ve known not to trust you
With my glass heart

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE
And I want to say
That I don’t miss you
Every day
But that’s a lie

And I want to say
That you don’t mean anything
In how each day
I cry

But I miss you
Your sweet breath on my cheek
And I miss you
Without you, my pulse is weak

And I miss you
All those times, you laughed at me
And I miss you
Always thought, we’d be eternity

Eternity

[Repeat CHORUS x2]

ENDING
Funny how a stranger,
Can be the most familiar face
Funny how a stranger,
Can never be replaced

Too tired to go to sleep…

**********

(Wow, that is way more melodramatic than I remembered. Good work, seventeen-year-old Julia.)

^You’ll notice the poll this week isn’t for next Wednesday, but the Wednesday after. I’m going out of town next week, so you’ll have a pre-written Wordy Wednesday coming your way on June 8. (However, vote for what you’d like to see on the 15th!)

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Afternoons

Hey there! My laptop is still down for the count, so things have been kind of weird this week. Like, I know not being able to use my own computer is a text book first world problem, but still: it’s hard to work without the keyboard and screen and internet browser I’m used to. Everything just looks so ~different~.

Because of that, I’ve gotten next to nothing done since my last post. HOWEVER, I did finally get to a doctor yesterday (for the first time in like two years) and for anyone who has at all been keeping up with the saga of my messed up knee and shoulder: the shoulder is tendinosis in my bicep and the knee is probably a structural problem that could be helped with exercises and stuff. So, guess who’s off to physical therapy! #Yayyy

(But actually, I am happy to finally have answers about this stuff and to have a tentative path towards being able to, like, do things again.)

And now that we’ve gotten all of that out of the way: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

**********

Afternoons at home are
warm, damp with humidity, and
quiet except for the breeze against
the windows and birds chirping and the dog
snoring in the hallway, just past the
cracked open white-painted door–
they are so sleepy
and still
and peaceful

They buzz with the whisper
of “this is summer,
this is summer–
hold onto it,
this last summer”

They are hours built for books
and daydreams
and listening to the quiet
**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Ink and Sunlight

I preface this post by saying: I swear the graduation and BEA/BookCon recaps are coming soon(ish). I’ve run into a bit of a hiccup this week (my laptop charger broke), but as soon as everything’s back to working properly (and thus I have access to pictures and everything), I will totally get those posts up. Totally.

In the meantime: BEA/BookCon happened this past weekend! And it was so much fun/so tiring that I sat down to read Monday afternoon and accidentally fell asleep for four hours! (I am eighty years old.) Other than that and the broken laptop charger, not much else has been going on. (Anything new with you? Do something cool? Go somewhere fun? Pet a cat? Really, I will be excited to hear about pretty much anything. I’ve basically just been marathon-napping for three days now.)

Aaanyway: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

**********

Fingers brushing against crisp white pages
laced with ink and sunlight, and
don’t you see the stars rising from the
black and white streaks,
the way the falling apart pieces
are planting growing things,
and maybe maybe maybe–
this will be the time
the words are worth more than
another promise of another tomorrow

Maybe this time
the daydreams will cross from
scribbled out hopes
to shelves and smiles and something other than
the silence at the end of
another day spent trying but going
nowhere

Maybe I should give up, but
ink and sunlight;
it’s all ink
and sunlight

and for now that is enough
**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

P.S. Less than two weeks left to register for the 2016 Chapter One Young Writers Conference at our special early bird rate! The rest of the Ch1Con team and I would absolutely love to see you there. Check it out at www.chapteroneconference.com.