Wordy Wednesday: “Jesse”

I’m writing this post a couple days early, because I know I’m going to be swamped/half-dead by the time Wednesday rolls around. Right now it’s Monday for me, and I’ve got a midterm tomorrow, plus two projects due Wednesday and a ton of other stuff going on.

If I looked in the Mirror of Erised right now, I would literally just see myself taking a nap.

The winning option for this week’s Wordy Wednesday is poetry/song lyrics, so I figured I’d share another poem from the beginning of college. My family had two cats all while I was growing up–Jesse (mine) and Willy (my brother’s)–and Jesse was basically my constant companion. Jesse and I were rarely apart when I was home from when we first got the cats when I was a year and a half old, until he died suddenly in November, 2011. I wrote this poem for him.

It’s the one glance back,
the realization: this is it,
this is the end, I am not
coming back. Not any time soon.

And I will miss you
I will miss you so much it
burns, and it will tear me
apart, and I will
miss you.

But do you even know
I am leaving? I am gone?
Did you feel the cold, my
tears when I said
goodbye? When I let go?
Or does the ground
silence you, muffle you,
hold you away from me
so deep, deep down that I could
never find you again?

Can you hear my
goodbye, or am I speaking
to a memory?


… And on that pleasant note, I need to get back to studying. Hurrayyy.

I hope your Wednesday’s going well!





PS. Has anyone else noticed how weird the new WordPress smileys look? Like they’re so cute, but weeeird. Like misshapen pancakes with the expressions drawn on them in chocolate sauce: 🙂 😦 :/ 😛 😉 😀

NaNo Day 29: Thank You

I have to work on my genetics term paper, then I’m doing a quick sprint to the mall for Back Friday Christmas gift shopping, followed by more family Thanksgiving stuff in the evening–so this is going to have to stay short and sweet. But I did want to talk a bit about what I’m thankful for this holiday season (even though, yes, it’s now the day AFTER Thanksgiving), because I am so, incredibly blessed.


First and foremost: My friends and family. My family has been so supportive of my decisions and is always there when I need them, and I have absolutely no clue what I would do without them. Likewise, thank you to my wonderful friends, for supporting and putting up with me through thick and thin (especially my writing friends, who get all the rants and disappointments and self-indulgent celebrating). You guys inspire me so much, every day. Thank you.

Everyone who has supported me in the publishing industry. Literary people are the very best people, no doubt about it. The amount of selfless support individuals have given me over these past few years never ceases to amaze me.

My education. As much as I complain about distribution requirements and homework (the syllabus for that term paper is staring at me right now), the opportunity to attend such a great university is something I will always be grateful for.

My dog Sammy. Because how can you not be thankful to see this face?

Sammy Is a Pretty PrincessThis is not a current picture of her. I tried taking one right now, but she was too busy licking her butt.

Last but not least: You. Oh, come on, you knew the cliche, thank-the-blog-reader thing was coming. Even if this is the first post you’re reading on here, thank you so much for taking the time to check it out. This little ol’ blog’s going on two years old now and I have met so many incredible people because of it. Thank you for reading this blog and making my life, in general, more magical because of it.


Now, off to tackle that genetics paper.



NaNo Day 7: The Sunshine Award (+Potential Word War?)

While yesterday wasn’t the most fun thing to ever force myself through, it was productive. I talked to mi profesora about the thesis for my Spanish essay, finished the essay, did some other homework, and, oh yeah, wrote like 2.5k on NaNoWriMo.

So while I’m still 5,000 words behind my personal goal for Wednesday, I did catch back up with NaNoWriMo’s goal for the day, and I’ve been working this week to get as much of my weekend homework out of the way as possible so that I’ll have more time to write, then.

Interested in joining me for some Word Sprints on Saturday? My goal is to write from 10:00 AM to 10:00 PM, and I’d love for you to join me for part of the day. (Plus, if five people let me know they’re interested in turning the Word Sprints into a Word War, whoever wins at the end of the day gets a fun literary-themed mug from me.) (I’m setting the bottom limit at five because I know that’s quite a few to get going in a day-long Word War, and therefore if we get that many, dude, you will deserve the prize.)

Sign up for the event on Facebook here or let me know in the comments, on Twitter, etc. If we do get enough people for the Word War, at 10:05 PM eastern time on Saturday I’ll check through all your awesome word count updates to see who’s written the most throughout the day. That should give you enough time to log those last minute words and post your final count on Facebook, Twitter, or on my NaNo blog post for Saturday (more details coming the day of the event).

In other news: Earlier this week one of the super cool writers who attended WriteOnCon with me this year, Craig Schmidt, nominated me for the Sunshine Award!

Sunshine Award

Rules for the award:

  1. Include the award’s logo in your blog post.
  2. Link to the person who nominated you.
  3. Answer the 10 questions about yourself.
  4. Nominate 10 bloggers.
  5. Link your nominees to the post and comment on their blogs, letting them know they have been nominated.

And here are my answers to the questions:

  1. Favorite color: Pink.
  2. Favorite Animal: I swear this question was invented for the sole purpose of forcing me into a mental breakdown. Some people were Disney Princess kids; I was a Disney Animal kid. But if I really must choose, I guess I’m obligated to say guinea pigs. And I will explain why in a future blog post (which means you’d better stick around, ya cool cat).
  3. Favorite Number: Seven. When I was about to turn eight, I kept getting confused and telling everyone that I was turning seven instead, and it’s been my favorite ever since because, you know, obviously my subconscious was trying to tell me something. (Also, my birthday is on a twenty first, which is a multiple of seven. And important things, both good and bad, in my life tend to happen on days that are multiples of seven. So I figure I might as well roll with it, right?)
  4. Favorite Non-Alcoholic Drink: I’m a big fan of smoothies, especially those of the strawberry banana sort.
  5. Favorite Alcoholic Drink: I don’t do that whole “alcohol” thing. Ever. No judgement against people who do, obviously, but I like feeling in control, and that’s one thing alcohol is not very good at.
  6. Facebook or Twitter: Facebook–it feels a lot more personal than Twitter, like I’m talking to friends instead of coworkers. (Also: I’m a novelist, so doing stuff in 140 characters is a bit of a challenge.)
  7. Passions: Writing and reading, obviously. I also adore theatre, and movies, and traveling, and critiquing things. (If I get to tear a good movie to shreds, it’s been a good day.)
  8. Prefer giving or getting presents? Giving, definitely. I always feel really awkward getting presents, but if I can give someone something that they really want or that they need, it’s an incredible feeling.
  9. Favorite City: New York, New York–my dream is to live there someday. 🙂 But I’m also really partial to Chicago, and most others. I’m a city person, through and through. I like the busyness.
  10. Favorite TV Shows: Glee‘s my number one (even though, let’s be honest, it’s gotten less and less good with every season). I also watch Once Upon a Time, How I Met Your Mother, Pretty Little Liars, Agents of Shield, Sherlock, Doctor Who, and occasionally a couple others. Oh, and lots of HGTV. I used to not be a TV person at all, but then my parents made the mistake of giving in to my pleas for a Netflix account, and it’s been downhill from there.

And now I’m going to be a loser and not nominate anyone specifically, because I don’t have the time to go searching for links and all that right now (la clase de Espanol is calling). So: I NOMINATE ALL OF YOU. GO FORTH AND BE SUNSHINEY.

day 7

Hope you’re having a great day!


Wordy Wednesday (“My Songwriting Process”)

This past week has been crazy. Since last Wednesday, I moved to college, started classes (I’m doing fifteen credit hours and I have ALL my classes on Tuesdays, ugh), probably finally finalized the dates for the Chapter One Young Writers Conference 2014, registered a custom domain for this blog (which I’ll talk about more in a future blog post–stay tuned, but just know for now that nothing’s changing for you, so there’s no need to worry), and… well…  Hannah and I also finally started vlogging. (I say “finally” because we’ve been talking about starting a vlog for the better part of a year now. So the fact that we actually did it is kind of unbelievable.)

Our first video talks about how failing doesn’t mean you’re a failure. Check it out?

Snapshot_20130904_10This is me begging. If the constipated look on my face doesn’t convince you, maybe a picture of Sammy begging you much more cutely will:

IMG_2177If you still aren’t planning on watching our video after this picture, you have no soul.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a Writing Process post about how I write my songs. Thanks go to the fabulous Rachel for this topic suggestion!


Before we begin, here are some examples of my songwriting, in no particular order (AKA I’m just posting these as I remember them):



Stupid and Young

Across the Sea

I’m not really a musician–I’ve known how to read music since elementary school and I have experience playing most percussion instruments, along with singing, but it’s difficult for me to hear harmonies or keep a rhythm, so music’s never been a career option. However, I do really enjoy songwriting–mainly for the lyrics–and I probably have a couple hundred songs written out in notebooks and Word documents.

The process for writing a song is always unique, but I’ve found that I do follow a very loose set of guidelines while doing it, at this point. Here we go.


The first step in writing a song is finding the inspiration for one. Every once in a while I’ll try to sit down with no ideas in mind and try to come up with something, but that hardly ever works–more commonly, I’ll be in the middle of eating dinner or watching a movie or taking notes in class and BOOM: a line or feeling or melody will pop into my head, and I won’t be able to get it to stop playing on repeat for the rest of the day.

Write It Down

The first chance I get, once I’ve gotten that first initial flash of inspiration, I grab paper or my laptop and write down what I’ve got. Then I pull out my guitar and get to work extending the line/melody/feeling into something longer. Sometimes this becomes the chorus, but it’s usually the first verse. I’ve found that when I get the idea for the chorus before anything else, it’s a lot harder for me to finish the song than when I get a verse first (I have a LOT of really catchy choruses sitting all alone in abandoned documents without any verses or bridges to support them).

I pick out what chords I’ll be using for the verses first, then the chorus, then the bridge; I try to have all the chords worked out before I go really heavy-duty into figuring out the words. Sometimes I’ll change the chords a few times while I’m working, but I like to have a template to go off of when I start.

Write with a Template

I write my songs using the basic pop/country song template, because I’ve found it works pretty well. It’s long enough to let you say everything you want to, without being so long that the song loses its focus. It goes as follows:

  • VERSE 1
  • VERSE 2
  • CHORUS (There’s a little wiggle room here for changing the words or melody of the chorus, etc)


I’m not a big fan of lyrical introductions in songs. They’re a bit like prologues in books–rarely actually necessary. Most of the time I’ll just strum the chords from the verse in the introduction. If I do feel like I need to have words in the introduction, I’ll use either one two-line or four-line stanza, then move into the first verse.


Generally, my verses are either two four-line stanzas or four two-line stanzas long. Or sometimes I’ll do two three-line stanzas. The verses are the meat of the song–where the real conflict and emotion come out.


Transitions between the verses and chorus are another optional thing. I generally only use them if there’s a big change in the chords/melody between the verses and chorus, in order to ease into it more. These will either be just a chord change or either one or two two-line stanzas. Transitions are meant to be short and do just that–transition.


The chorus is the exciting part of the song. It’s the part that needs to be really catchy, and it’s not as specific as the verses. Whereas they are there to tell the story, the chorus is the more general overall look at what the song’s about. My choruses generally fall into being two four-line stanzas with a repeated melody followed by a three-line stanza with a new one, but that isn’t always the case or how you need to do it. It’s just what I’m most comfortable doing.


The bridge is the point in the song when everything’s supposed to change. This is the surprise twist–the climax. I don’t write this until I’ve gotten everything else done, save for the ending. The length varies A TON per song, but I try to shoot for two four-line stanzas and go from there.

After the bridge, I always return to the chorus–however, the chorus isn’t always the same, here, as the one I’ve been using up until this point. Most of the time I’ll play the first half of the chorus twice, or mess with the melody a bit, or change some of the words. Since the point of the bridge is the change the course of the song, it makes sense to change the chorus–which has already been repeated twice and therefore is engrained into your memory a bit at this point–too. It shows how the bridge has really made a difference in whatever the conflict is that the song covers.


After that, we’re just down to the ending. Sometimes I’ll just end with the chorus, other times I’ll repeat the beginning of the first verse (sometimes with some words changed), or other times I’ll write a whole new bit at the end. When I do that, I try to copy the flow of the verses.

Play With It

Once I’ve got an entire song done, I play it a few times to make sure everything’s doing what it’s supposed to (and also to make sure that I won’t forget the melodies). While I’m doing this, I fix up the lyrics to make sure everything flows and makes sense, and sometimes change around some of the chords.

Then I let the song sit for a while, usually a few days, after which I come back and play the song a few more times, perfecting it more. Once I’ve gotten to the point that I’m no longer making changes every time I play it, I call it done-enough, and voila: I’ve got a song.


So yeah, that’s my songwriting process. It works pretty well for me and it keeps songwriting fun. I try to set aside a couple hours every few days to work on songs, but usually I just work as close as possible to when that first bit of inspiration strikes.

If there’s anything else writing-related you’d like me to talk about in a future Wordy Wednesday blog post, leave your suggestion(s) in the comments (or email me or whatever) and vote for the Writing Process option in this week’s poll, below. Thanks! (Also, don’t forget to watch and subscribe Hannah and my new vlogging channel on Youtube, Hannah and Julia’s Vlog! We’d really, really appreciate it.)





England Trip Recap (Part 2)

If you missed the first post about my recent trip to the UK, detailing the first two and a half days there, you can read it HERE.

Otherwise, let’s continue with these travel-shenanigans.


Day 3 (continued)

As mentioned in the last post, Day 3 was our last true day in London, and we spent it touring the Globe Theatre (and seeing The Taming of the Shrew as groundlings), making fun of the art at the Tate Modern next door, and dodging rain storms at the Tower of London.

The view from the “Royal Box” of the Globe Theatre.

Walking the Millennium Bridge, also known as the “Wobbly Bridge,” also known as the bridge they blow up at the beginning of Harry Potter and the Half-blood Prince.

See that school right there? The City of London School for Boys? That’s the school both Daniel Radcliffe and Skandar Keynes attended before becoming Harry Potter and Edmund Pevensie, respectively.

This is one of my favorite pieces at the Tate Modern. It’s called “Untitled Painting.” It is literally just a mirror glued to a canvas hung on the wall.

This is my other favorite piece. It’s canvas painted white, cut out in a random octagonal shape, glued to the wall. Artist be trolling.

We walked London Bridge on our way to the Tower of London. Luckily, it did not fall down.

This is the Traitors’ Gate at the Tower of London. They used to stuff their baddies back behind these bars and then wait for the Thames to reach high-tide, at which point everyone drowned. (Cruel and unusual punishment, anyone?)

LOOK AT THE SIZE OF THIS BOOK. This was the ordinance book for the guards working in the Tower. Can you imagine how many rules they had to follow? IT’S EVEN WORSE THAN MAMA UMBRIDGE.

At the end of the day, we ended up back at the Globe for Taming of the Shrew. We stood in the very first row of the groundlings, which for most people involved leaning their elbows on the stage while watching. Only I’m actually too short to do that, so instead I was literally at eye level with the stage. Like a crocodile spying on its prey. (In other news: HOW BEAUTIFUL. IS THE “SKY.” ON THIS STAGE?)


Day 4

Day 4 saw our group leaving London to explore other parts of England. We made stops in Oxford (now one of my favorite places on Earth–I’m hoping to study there next summer), the Cotswolds, and then continued on to Statford-upon-Avon to see Shakespeare’s grave and the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of As You Like It.

Not sure if you can tell, because of my iPhone’s kind of crappy picture quality and all, but that sign reads “Alice’s Shop.” Oxford University is basically Heaven for literary types. Charles Lutwidge Dodgson, aka Lewis Caroll, was a professor at Oxford and this adorable shop is located in town.


You might recognize this as a Harry Potter shooting location. Harry Potter was a biiig part of our trip.

… Speaking of Harry Potter, this dining hall inspired the Great Hall. (Sorry the photo’s so blurry. We weren’t allowed to stop walking as they hurried us through with the bazillion and one other tourists, and as I already mentioned in Part 1: I’m so bad at walking without taking pictures at the same time that you’re lucky it’s even this clear.)

After touring campus, we stopped in at the Eagle and Child, which is the pub where C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien, among other writers, used to meet weekly. This was one of the highlights of the trip for me. If I could meet any historical figure, it would be C.S. Lewis. (And if I ever got to, I would probably then melt into a weeping mess in front of him, because I love his writing and philosophy on life and everything SO MUCH.) So yeah. It was sort of a big deal for me to go to the Eagle and Child.

Here’s me trying not to look like I was totally about to break down sobbing with joy beside the map of Narnia they’d hung on their supply closet door. (Oh, those punny pub owners!)

Driving through the Cotswolds in our tour bus. The Cotswolds are this area of England composed of gorgeous, gimmicky little tourist towns.

While stopped in Bourton-on-the-Water for a tourist break (we literally went there to “buy souvenirs and enjoy the tourist atmosphere”), I got some cream tea. My friend: You have not lived until you have had cream tea.

I give you: the grave of William Shakespeare. It was crazy seeing his grave, because while I’ve never been a huge Shakespeare fan, I have grown up reading, and performing, and analyzing his work. Shakespeare’s been a big part of my life for years now. But the thing is–he’s always seemed like this really distant figure. Kind of Biblical, in a way. So to see Shakespeare’s grave IN PERSON made him, and all that he did for the literary and theatre worlds, suddenly seem so much more real and present and important to me as an individual. It sounds cheesy, but it truly was a life-changing experience for me. This whole trip was.

Buried with Shakespeare were his wife, daughter, and her two husbands (one died young).

The RSC’s production of As You Like It, right before it started!


Day 5

Day 5 was more Shakespeare, as we toured Anne Hathaway’s Cottage and Shakespeare’s Birthplace, and then we visited Warwick Castle and walked around downtown Statford-upon-Avon during our free time.

The Brits really need to stop complaining about us changing the name of the first Harry Potter book. At least we didn’t mess with the branding GOLD that is “Frosted Flakes.”

This is Mary Baker, descendent of Anne Hathaway and my personal hero. She exploited her connection to Shakespeare to make a profit, by giving the first tours of Anne Hathaway’s childhood cottage and selling items that (secretly) didn’t actually have anything to do with either Shakespeare OR Anne for big bucks. (If I ever happen to have a famous relative, I’m planning on being just like her. Warning to all my relatives.)

Waiting in line to get in to see the Disneyfied version of Shakespeare’s birthplace!

These windows are absolutely COATED in signatures. They’re supposedly from the room Shakespeare was born in, but now they’re cased in glass because so many tourists throughout the centuries had carved their names into them that it was getting ridiculous.

Warwick Castle! This now quite-Disneyfied castle was once a star location of the War of the Roses. Now, it’s owned by Madame Tussaud and is populated by lots of creepy historical wax figures.

For all those random times your castle is under siege, it’s a good idea to keep a catapult lying around.

Table cannon. In case the parchment attacks.

Sword show in the castle courtyard! They debunked the myths of medieval swordplay, including the fact that real sword fights (unlike the media’s interpretation of them) usually lasted less than ten seconds before one man would manage to kill off his opponent.

It wasn’t until after I’d tried on the gift shop battle gear (twice) that I noticed there was a princess option as well. Apparently I haven’t been reading enough girly contemporary books this summer.

When we went to begin the tour of the castle towers, a woman at the entrance told us the towers were closed for the next half hour.

“What do you mean?” we asked. “Why are they closed?”

“There’s a bird show going on,” she explained. “We wouldn’t want any of the birds of prey to mistake you for food.”

A few minutes later, this lovely monster landed on the highest tower, checked in with the handler hanging out there, and then flew off again. We thanked the woman for not letting it eat our faces.

Back in Stratford-upon-Avon for the evening, we wandered the town. The River Avon (in this location, known as either the Warwickshire Avon or Shakespeare’s Avon) is beautiful!

Fact: this pub has been around for longer than the United States has.

Day 6

I’m only going to partway cover Day 6 in this post, since most of it was spent freaking out during the Leavesden Studios tour (if you don’t know what the “Leavesden Studios tour” entails, look it up), but I will leave you with a few pictures from our stop at Oxford’s rival, the University of Cambridge.

Outside King’s College.

Inside King’s College Chapel.

I love how many languages they translated “please keep off the grass” into. Like: they REALLY don’t want people walking on the grass.

Cambridge has this really cool tradition of having students take their visitors out on the river for a tour. It’s called “punting,” and the punts (boats) are basically gondolas–the difference is that punts are propelled by poles rather than oars. (PS. There are cows in the background of this picture. To the right. To the left, just across the river, is a smart-looking cafe. How cool is that? You can eat dairy products right next to the cows who produced them!)


Make sure to stay tuned for the last England Trip Recap post, coming soon, which’ll be jam-packed with pictures from the Leavesden Studios tour! Whoohoo!


Inner Peace Award / Sunshine Award

Ze blogge was recently nominated for the Inner Peace and Sunshine Awards by the marvelous, talented, sweet-beyond-belief Autore of awriterssong. She posts all sorts of awesome poetry and Camp NaNo excerpts and such on her blog, so make sure to go read some of her stuff! Thanks for the nominations, Autore!

Seven Things About Me:

1. I am 5’2″ and proud of it.

2. My hair is naturally this weird blondish-brownish color (it’s like dishwater blond sans-the-blond), but I recently dyed it auburn, and I’m hoping to try out some other colors in the future.

3. I’m going to be beginning my sophomore year of college at the University of Michigan this fall.

4. I am terrified, TERRIFIED of dolls. (There was this movie when I was in elementary school, in which this kid got involved with some Bad Magical Creatures and this doll came to life and was slowly taking over the body of his annoying teacher or something AND OH MY GOSH IT TERRIFIED ME TO NO END, and I’ve been scared of dolls ever since. Like you could not pay me enough to be alone in a room with one.)

5. I wanted to be a veterinarian, just doing writing on the side, up until the eighth grade. At which point I had to job shadow a vet for class, and I decided writing full-time instead looked like fun. (That job shadow is also why I became a vegetarian. I’ll let you ruminate on that one.)

6. I love the smell of coffee, but making me drink it could be a torture method.

7. I once played Eddie in a production of The Yellow Boat. Eddie is a little boy. This involved me cutting all my hair off.

I currently look like this:


At the time I looked like this:

AKA: Short hair (at least that short) does not work on me.


Okay, time to nominate some awesome people. (You’re technically supposed to do fourteen, but I’m only doing seven because ain’t nobody got time fo’ dat.)

1. Hero of Heroic Endeavors

2. Mel of The Ultimately Useless Stories of the Average Teenager

3. Patrice of Whimsically Yours

4. Shelby of Smoore’s Adventures

5. Joan of The Spastic Writer

6. Tatiana of Words Into Darkness

7. Kira of Kira Budge: Author


If You Were Nominated:

1. Display the logo on a post.

2. Thank the person who nominated you and link to his/her site.

3. State seven (7) things about you.

4. Nominate fourteen (14) bloggers and inform them via comment in their blog. (Shhh. Nobody needs to know I only did seven.)

Also, just putting this out there–even if I didn’t nominate you, feel free to accept this as a nomination for these awards. Because I was having a really hard time figuring out who to nominate, and anyone who takes the time to read my blog is wonderful OBVIOUSLY. So there. YOU’RE ALL NOMINATED!

Thanks again to Autore!



Armchair BEA: Introductions!

Sorry I’m posting this late (and also currently flooding this poor blog with posts)–I just now found out about Armchair BEA, and it looked like too awesome an opportunity to pass up.

Don’t know what Armchair BEA is? Check out a description of it heeeere.

If you’re also attending Armchair BEA, hey there! It’s great to meet you. Make sure to leave a comment, so I know to check out your blog. 🙂

I’ve gotta answer five of the questions provided on the site, so here we go.

  1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself: Who are you? How long have you been blogging? Why did you get into blogging? Hi, my name is Julia. I’ve been blogging for about a year and a half now, and I got into blogging because a) I was bored and b) it looked like fun. Perfect combo, right? Plus, it was a great way to let my friends and family finally get a taste of some of my writing, since as an unpublished novelist I don’t get to share my work much.
  2. Have you previously participated in Armchair BEA? What brought you back for another year? If you have not previously participated, what drew you to the event? Nope, this is my first year! I’ve been dying to go to BEA ever since I first found out about it a few years back, but I’ve never had the money or time to go. I figured this was the next best thing.
  3. Tell us one non-book-related thing that everyone reading your blog may not know about you. I was completely obsessed with dogs growing up. I had this massive dog encyclopedia that was probably a thousand pages long, and I must have read it all the way through five times, not to mention scouring the pages upon pages towards the back that described all the different dog breeds. I used to be able to glance at a dog on the street and be able to tell you what breed(s) it was, its temperament based on that, and what it would take to care for it. The insanity settled down, though, when my parents finally caved and got me a puppy for my thirteenth birthday. Check out how beautiful my Sammy-girl is:
  4. If you could eat dinner with any author or character, who would it be and why? That’s hard, but I think I’d have to go with Veronica Roth, as long as I’m continuing with my now very public Divergent obsession. (I would say Katniss Everdeen from The Hunger Games, but she’d probably try feeding me squirrel stew or something, and that ain’t happening, sister.)
  5. What literary location would you most like to visit? Why? Narnia. I can’t even put into words my love for Narnia. Other kids wanted their Hogwarts letters–I was that weirdo who regularly walked into closets in search of snowy forests and Aslan. (Not that I would have said no if a Hogwarts letter arrived on my doorstep, but you know. I would have preferred magicking myself into Narnia.)

Yay for Armchair BEA, letting those of us on unemployed college student budgets to still attend Book Expo America! 🙂 Talk to you soon!


Wordy Wednesday (“Writer’s Digest Conference 2013, Notes Part 2”)

As to be expected, the end of the semester (and school year, for me) is absolutely CRAZY. Lots of homework and studying and trying not to get distracted by the great outdoors. Plus, I’m currently sick with allergies, so that’s always fun. I’m really excited to (finally) be done with my eight credit hour Spanish classes next week, though, so I’ve just gotta push through this last little bit, then it’s summer vacation! Yay!

On a more somber note, prayers for all those affected by the tragedies in Boston this week (I can’t even imagine), and prayers, also, for my angry-old-man-cat, Willy, who hasn’t been eating much the past few days and has started having trouble breathing. He’s seventeen and a half, but a fighter. If you’ve been around since the beginning of this blog (or share my stalker tendencies), then you’ll remember that it was Willy having a massive seizure a year and a half ago that actually got me started on the blogging train (I needed something to do while keeping him company 24/7, and there wasn’t a TV in his room 😉 ).

Anyway, back to what we’re here for. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a continuation of my notes from the Writer’s Digest Conference East 2013 earlier this month, today on the topic of Publishing Short Stories.

If you haven’t read last Wednesday’s notes on Going from Aspiring Writer to Published Author, click here.


Panel: How to Write for Big Name Publications [4-5-13]

Moderator: Jessica Strawser

Panelists: Susan Shapiro, Paula Derrow, Christian Hoard? (the panelist works at Rolling Stone; I missed his last name when they were doing the introductions), and A.J. Jacobs.


          A.J.: Start small, work up to the big publications. You need experience to pitch the larger magazines.

          Susan: However, sometimes you can break in with big pubs as a newbie, too. Don’t pitch a profile or a complicated news piece—pitch a deep personal essay, where you can send the editor the entire piece—it’s MUCH easier. Susan suggests using the method she calls the “Humiliation Essay,” in which you write about your most humiliating secret.

          Paula: It’s all in the execution—how is your story different? Look into writing for the front sections of mags—those are done by the junior editors, who are easier to pitch to.

          Susan: Magazine websites are easier to get into than the print ones—they’re a good stepping stone to getting into the print mags.

          A.J.: Creatively, right now is the greatest time to be a writer. Financially, not so much.

          A.J: Study what a publication has done, compliment them, and THEN pitch your own writing.

          A.J.: You write for two reasons. #1 is the prestige; #2 is the money. (Get that? Money es numero DOS!)

          Paula: It’s getting harder to break into the print magazine market—there are fewer long, narrative pieces. Think 700 words now, rather than 3 to 4,000. It used to be $3.00/word, now it’s more like $250.00/story. This is a downward trend.

          Paula: there’s less back and forth with the editor now.

          Susan: Best secret to writing: hire a good shrink.

          Susan: Go slow. Don’t send off your writing the moment you finish a piece.

          Susan: “Addicts depend on substance, not people.” – Don’t be an addict about writing.

          Susan: Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Hire a ghost editor.

          Christian: Rolling Stone website publishes 30 to 40 e-articles every day, but only for about $0.75/word.

          Jessica: Magazines—unlike novels, is better to ignore the submission guidelines—find the RIGHT editor, rather than just subbing to the magazine in general.

          Susan: THE OPINIONATOR pays $150.00/story—that’s a good deal.

          Susan: It’s about the online articles now, not the in print ones.

          Jessica: Shoot for the lower-level editors, rather than the high-up ones.

          Paula: Your writing needs a twist—the secret to a good personal essay is to have a twist in a traditional topic.

          Jessica/Paula: Read the mag before you submit

          Susan: On your byline, it’s good to be like “… and so-and-so is working on a novel/memoir/etc. on the same subject” – gets you attention from editors, producers, lit agents, etc.

          Susan: Check which articles are freelance—call and ask to speak with the editors of those articles

          Christian: Just because it’s obvious to you doesn’t mean it’s obvious to the editors (could be something they forgot to cover; there are lots of little holes)—put a new twist on an old topic, and you’re gold.

          A.J.: For your cover letter—a couple of punchy paragraphs about your idea and a short bio at the end.

          A.J.: “There’s a fine line between persistence and stalking” – don’t stalk an editor to try to get them to publish you

          A.J.: The profiles, the big topics—those are generally given to the staff writers.

          Susan: 95% of editors also write. Find their work. Read it. Tell them why you’re contacting them: “I’m a fan of your work, I just read your piece ___ in ____!”

          Jessica: Look at “front of the book” – shorter assignments are good for getting your feet wet.

          A.J.: Best way to get a book deal is through a magazine article, newspaper article, etc. “You can’t just write books.” BRANDING (per usual)—keep your brand out there or people will forget about you.

          Susan: write the piece at the same time as you write the book.

          Paula: having the pressure of real life—a “real job,” etc—can be great to let you have the pressure you need to write your book. Quitting your job can actually make you write less, because there’s less time pressure.

          Christian: If you’re unsure about something, try to start a dialogue with your editor.

          Christian: If you can, it’s always best to be an editor before you’re a writer; it makes you a better writer.

          Jessica: Don’t be afraid to ask your questions up front.

          A.J.: Up front, be like, “Here’s what I’m thinking, what are you thinking?”

          Jessica: Ask UP FRONT to clarify the assignment; get all the details right away.

          Paula: Phone calls allow for more creating—bouncing, developing ideas—than emails do.

          Susan: Ghost editors are good—share your work for critique before you show it to the editor.

          Susan: Write your essays around your book, not using the same, direct words from your book.

          Susan: It’s easier to be foreign in the current publishing market. If you have anything unique about you, UTILIZE IT in your writing.


Panel: How to Become a Regular Contributor to Any Publication [4-6-13]

Moderator: Jessica Strawser

Panelists: Zachary Petit, Susan Shapiro, Debbie Harmsen

          Jessica: Pitching a regular column to a magazine is like asking an editor to go out with you every Saturday for the next year without even meeting first.

          Jessica: Pitch one article. If they like it, then you pitch more.

          Susan: The biggest mistake people make is to launch into their own story in their pitch, rather than focusing on the story they’re actually pitching.

          Susan: 90% of editors also write—as do a lot of agents. Find what they’ve written, read, use that knowledge to your advantage.

          Susan: The biggest insult is to email pros with form letters rather than giving personal attention—better to be a kiss-up than a self-absorbed jerk.

          Susan: Start by focusing on the person you want something from, not yourself.

          Debbie: Try not to be irritating—use email, not phone calls.

          Zachary: Follow. Submission. Guidelines.

          Susan: Always have the name of the agent or editor in your letter—find their personal email.

          Zachary: If you google “[insert name of person you’re submitting to here]@” their email should pop up.

          Jessica: The first impression goes beyond your first email to them—it goes to your entire online persona. Don’t have inappropriate pictures on Facebook, etc. “Dress for the job you want, not the job you have.”

          Susan: If it’s on your blog, website, Twitter, etc—it’s already published. If you’re already giving it away for free, it’ll be very hard to sell.

          Zachary: Always make your inappropriate photos (if you feel the need to have some online) PRIVATE.

          Zachary: Always be polite and courteous—“don’t be the writer that lands herself in the blacklist folder.”

          Jessica: Editors want to have a big staple of writers to call upon; they want to have more regular contributors to work with; they WANT you to be on that list; they want your first assignment to go great—so NAIL that first assignment.

          Debbie: If you’re writing a book, it’s your brand. If you’re writing for a publication, it’s THEIR brand.

          Debbie: It’s easier for the editor to work with someone they already know.

          Debbie: The first impression isn’t just getting that first assignment, it’s how the assignment goes.

          Debbie: You don’t have to be Michael Jordan, but you need to be a solid player (rather than Dennis Rodman)

          Susan: Use ghost editors if you’re worried about grammar or spelling—if you’re not 100% sure your writing is perfect, GET. HELP.

          Susan: Always turn your work in early and clean.

          Susan: Be open to the editor changing anything they want.

          Susan: Write thank you letters, put the editors’ names in your acknowledgements, send little thank you gifts—treat them to lunch, etc. Ask them to be on panels, in events, etc; anywhere the editors can be honored.

          Susan: It isn’t about being the best; it’s about having a good attitude.

          Zachary/Susan: Fact-check before you turn in your assignment—show your fact checking; put fact-checking in your reference tab, track changes comments, at the end, put page numbers just to the right—whatever the publication prefers. Just make sure to fact-check.

          Susan: Make sure to thank the little people in your acknowledgements.

          Jessica: Try to strike a good balance with an editor FROM THE START.

          Jessica: Casual formality—no emoticons, “lol,” etc. in your language. Don’t be overly familiar. But also don’t be overly stiff.

          Debbie: Don’t stalk the editor. Let them invite you to follow them on Twitter, to friend you on Facebook, etc.

          Debbie: Try to group questions together rather than sending a new email with a new question in it every hour.

          Debbie: Most editors prefer email to phone—if you do call, make sure to ask if they have time to talk to you right then.

          Susan: Never finish something and then send it straight out—get a mentor to critique your work, not just be like, “I like it.”

          Susan: Writing groups are great. So are ghost editors. Use these resources.

          Susan: The people who are open for criticism, turning in work early, asking questions, taking notes, etc.—they are the ones who get deals.

          Zachary: When and how to pitch again—it’s not bad form to pitch again right away (if they liked your last article), but MAKE SURE IT’S READY.

          Jessica: Wait until your first assignment is edited—you’ve signed off on your pre-publication galleys—before pitching the next assignment.

          Jessica: Don’t send an open-ended message like, “Hey, let me know if you ever need anything!” If it doesn’t work for making plans with your friends, it isn’t going to work with an editor, either. Make sure to make definite plans.

          Jessica: Pitch the next project once the assignment is complete, but it’s still fresh in the editor’s mind.

          Susan: The best thing is to let the article publication completely play out before you submit again.

          Susan: Break the rules WHEN necessary, but ONLY when necessary. (She told a story here about how she pressured a publishing house into giving her a deal for her next book by publishing lots of short pieces on the book’s topic and thus creating immense interest in it—something you’re not generally supposed to do, pressuring the publishing house, but she knew it was the only way she’d get that deal.)

          Zachary: Be honest if you’ve already written a really similar piece, when pitching.

          Susan: There are two people you should never lie to about your writing: your editor and your shrink.

          Zachary: Be willing and open for everything you write to be critiqued and torn to pieces.

          Susan: Go to as many conferences, panels, and seminars as you can—try to stay as up to date as possible.

          Susan: Start high—try the best places you can—and if none of those places want your piece, then head lower.


Marketing Short Fiction: The Science of Publishing [4-7-13]

Speaker: Jacob Appel

          There are only about 3,000 slots for short story publications a year. A lot of those go to people like Jacob Appel (who sold 30 stories last year).

          There’s a systematic way of doing the short-story-publishing-thing. The quality of your story MATTERS.

          There are more great stories being written than there are spaces to publish them.

          There are 2 ways you can approach short story publishing:

o   Process-based approach: work on only one story at a time. If it sells, then you work on the next one.

o   Career-approach (which in the long run is better for you): Work on multiple projects at once, not putting a particular focus on any of them.

          Check out Best American Short Stories. There’s a list of about 150-200 good magazines.

          Hit journals at their “weak points”:

o   Contests—you have a chance of about 750 to 1 of winning, whereas when just trying to publish, the magazine gets about 5,000 submissions a month and only buys 3 or 4. YOUR ODDS ARE MUCH BETTER WITH CONTESTS.

§  Why contests rock:

·         Someone has to win (make sure the rules say someone has to win, or it’s pointless).

·         They’re being judged blind (it doesn’t matter what the author has done before this story)

·         Prominent authors like Joyce Carol Oates don’t do contests.

o   Theme issues are also good—submit to these. WRITE FOR THE OPPORTUNITY.

o   Find out details of the mag—act like you know someone who works there—it’s easy to intimidate an intern into sending your story on to the editor.

§  Gateway approach—tiers—get past the intern who doesn’t know any better, and you’ll have a much higher chance of the editor taking your work seriously.

§  Goal: Convince the first gatekeeper (the intern) that you are a famous author presenting your work fraudulently (under a “fake name,” you know). Don’t think like you’re a pro, but act like one. Trick the intern into thinking you’re important.

·         Basically: Act like a subsidy publisher.

          Be a repeat-set player—don’t be a one-time player.

          As a writer, you aren’t a hospital patient—you’re a doctor. You aren’t focused on getting that one person home, you’re focused on getting ALL that patients in your wing home (the “patients” being “stories” and yeah).

          Always make the editors think you want their feedback—submit a beautiful letter telling them how you appreciate their opinion, and then send a thank you note afterward.

          “If a journal rejects you three times, you should never submit again.” —Stephen Dixon; BAD ADVICE. Don’t take rejection personally; don’t let it discourage you. Be relentless.

          Writers are writers, and editors are editors—LISTEN TO THEM. They know what they’re doing.

          Just because something enters the world one way doesn’t mean it has to stay that way. Revising is not a bad thing. Rewriting is not a bad thing.

          You should submit a story EVERY DAY. If you get a rejection, you submit two stories the next day. If you get a rejection that hurts, send out 10 to 20 the next day, just to get it out of your system. You need to get used to rejection.

          Being kind, courteous, level-headed—that is what gets you your network more than anything else. BE LOYAL. Be a good person.

          You have to think of the publishing industry as a process, not a project.

          Internet journals are more likely to accept previously-published work than print journals are.

          Cover-letter—make it very standard and plain—don’t attract with format and style, but with content.

o   First paragraph: Short and simple. Make it personal (“I am an avid reader of your journal”; “I am subscribed to your magazine”; etc.).

o   Second paragraph: Credentials—say someone suggested you submit there, even if it was your crazy, unpublished uncle. (The intern won’t know any better.)

o   With short stories, agents are helpful, but not necessary the way they are with novels.

          Short story collections are not profitable—the reason agents will represent a short story writer is because they think there will be a novel eventually down the line.

          Find an agent who reps VERY similar projects to yours.

          Agents only have about 20 publishers it makes sense to submit to, with short story collections; for writers, there are more like 80.

o   Submit to the lower-level publishers, publish with them, and then the larger players will be interested in your next collection.

          Go to the back of Best American Short Stories to find the list of journals.


       As always, while these notes might be helpful (despite how extremely scattered and incomplete they are; sorry ’bout that), actually attending a conference is a LOT better. I highly suggest getting to a Writer’s Digest Conference if you ever have the chance, and if you don’t have the money or time to go to a conference in person, the annual online (and FREE!) Write On Con event is great also.



Story Time: Dead Things in My Food

Okay, so I should really be doing my Spanish homework right now, but it’s Thursday, and I had a test today, and my auto-immune allergies are going nuts (I am literally allergic to my own body, if you didn’t know), so you know what? Spanish can wait another fifteen minutes while I talk about this. Because I feel like this is a very important topic to discuss and it’s been bothering me lately.


I swear fate is out to get me or something, because I never used to have this sort of problem, back before I stopped eating meat. But in the past three years or so since I became a lacto-ovo vegetarian, I feel like I’ve been nearly constantly finding dead bugs and small animals in my food. Or sometimes even living bugs. Like one time there were moth larvae in my apple sauce, squirming around in there. I nearly threw up. In the middle of my high school cafeteria. But that would just add more gross to the already disgusting situation, so I managed to hold the puke down.

So that’s example number one.

Example number two: Dead moths and moth eggs in my cereal.

My house has this unfortunate habit of getting infested with insects every few years. One time it was house flies. Another it was moths. The house flies mainly took over the spare bedroom, so it wasn’t too big of a deal (or I’ve probably, actually just blocked out the memories because they were so horrifying, but whatever–what I can’t remember can’t hurt me, right?). The moths, on the other hand, were a massive deal, because they took over the pantry. Where all of our food was. And despite my best efforts to make sure I never picked up anything that looked like it had been tampered with by the moth invasion (well, quite a few times I actually did open a box of crackers or mac and cheese, only to find a bunch of eggs in it, but I never actually ate any; those went straight to the trash)–but anyway, at one point I did get my hands on a box of Special K that apparently had a few more vitamins in it than it had been manufactured with, and boom: halfway through eating a bowl of cereal, suddenly a dead moth comes floating to the surface of the milk. And I screamed so badly my mom thought I’d managed to pour scalding water all down the front of myself (again).

I didn’t eat any food out of the pantry for like the next two years, until my parents could prove without a doubt that all of the moths were gone, along with all of the food that had been around while they were. I kept all of my food in sealed containers in my bedroom. I’m not joking. No me gusta dead moths in my cereal.

Example number three: House fly in my jell-o.

I don’t know what dining halls are like at other colleges, but at the University of Michigan, the food selection mainly consists of two things: Meat. And dessert. Since I don’t eat the meat, I generally stock up on a lot of the dessert (I’m a really healthy person, you know).

Well, this one time I wasn’t feeling all that hungry (probably I’d had a few too many cookies the night before or something), so at the dessert counter I made sure to pick up the smallest bowl of jell-o available. This fact is important because that means I picked THAT bowl of jell-o to eat specifically. I could have had any of the bowls of jell-o, but no: I stood there and debated over the options and chose the smallest one possible.

Finished eating the rest of the meal, went to take a bite out of the jell-o, and what do I see sitting there, very dead and very jiggly in the middle of my very wiggly bowl of jell-o? A DEAD HOUSE FLY. A big fat one, too.

What made it even worse was the fact that I was at Spanish Lunch, where you’re not allowed to speak at all in English. And it was only like the third week of classes. So I honest-to-goodness had no way of communicating to anyone why I suddenly was looking rather green, outside of pointing to my jell-o and making grossed-out-faces. Like this:


This is a reenactment. No flies were harmed in the taking of this photo.

That’s the Michigan Difference for ya.

And now, for the most recent example and the one that’s been bothering me the most: Finding (what was quite likely) a dead mouse in my nachos.

I say “quite likely” because I didn’t want to look at it hard enough or long enough to figure out what it actually was.

The story basically goes like this:

One of my favoritest things to do when I want a snack is to make a couple plates of “nachos,” which are basically just tortilla chips with Kroger Mexican Cheese melted over them in the microwave, because I am too lazy and too picky to make anything more elaborate.

A couple of weeks ago, I was hungry, so I made some nachos, was eating them, and lo and behold, what did I find? A BURNT CHIP. IN MY NACHOS. This had never happened before, so it kind of startled me, but I figured it wasn’t a big deal, threw it out, and then kept on eating.

Finished that plate of nachos and I was still hungry, so I decided to make a second plate.

(Note that my bag of tortilla chips was nearly empty at this point, so I wasn’t really shaking some chips out onto my plate any more, as much as just turning the bag upside down and dumping what was left of its contents.)

Lo and behold, again–there was a SECOND BURNT CHIP.

Oh well, I thought. It’s just one chip. So I reached down to grab it off the plate before I sprinkled the cheese on, all prepared to throw it out like it wasn’t a big deal, but no–there was something stuck to it, hidden under the other chips. I pulled on the burnt chip until it and whatever was stuck to it came out from under the pile, and guess what. That “something” was this large, burnt grey mass that had fur sticking out of it.

Just like the bowl of cereal the moth was in, I had already eaten the majority of the food that had been touching this thing, because it had been at the bottom of the bag. The rest of the bag’s contents were in my stomach. Which meant that I had MORE THAN LIKELY INGESTED DEAD MOUSE PARTICLES.

I am a vegetarian. I go out of my way to avoid interacting with dead things, especially dead things on my plate, where they might end up in my stomach. And fate is just out to get me it seems, throwing one dead thing at me after another.

I’m like paranoid to eat anything now, because one of these times it’s going to be a full out dead cat hiding out in my pudding or something.

Anyway. I just thought this matter needed to be addressed–maybe fate needs written proof that I see what it’s doing (not so sneaky over there, are ya?). Sorry for the gross topic!


Why I Love My Dog (and My Cat)

After going to the Maggie Stiefvater book signing on Friday, I was greeted with this when I got home:

Can we all please just take a moment to appreciate how sweet and wonderful and adorable Sammy is? It’s going to be really hard leaving her behind when I go back to school today… On the other hand, it will be slightly easier to leave Willy here, seeing as this is the face he gave me when I tried saying hello:

He’s lovely when he looks like he wants to chew my head off, no?

I’m really tired right now and have to go get ready for this funeral thing I’ve got today for a teacher from my high school (hence why I’m back home this weekend at all), so this post is basically impossibly short, but I haven’t forgotten about you, and hopefully things will be back to normal a bit more this week, since I’m healthy again. Although you never know what’s going to happen with college, unfortunately.

Talk to you on Wednesday!




PS. Just realized that this is my hundredth post!! WHOOHOOO!!!!!!