Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour: Interview with Ariel Kalati and Emma Rose Ryan!

2017 ch1con blog tour banner

Hey there, and welcome to the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour! (Stick around until the end of the post for a giveaway of a signed copy of Adam Silvera’s History Is All You Left Me!)

If you haven’t heard of it, the Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) is a writing conference entirely by and for young writers, open to writers ages eleven to twenty-three. The team that runs it is composed of a number of high school, college, and early-twenty-something writers, and we work to create a unique, inclusive experience for young attendees. (In case you don’t already know, hi, I’m the founder and director of Ch1Con.)

We’re really excited about the conference this year, which will take place Saturday, August 5th in downtown Chicago, IL. Our speakers will include all kinds of awesome people, including literary agent superstar Brent Taylor and New York Times bestselling author Kody Keplinger (her biggest hit, The DUFF, is now a movie!).

So, in honor of Ch1Con 2017, we’re holding this nifty blog tour! This is a special year for Ch1Con: 2017 marks our fifth year holding the conference! So, in honor of this momentous occasion, I’m pleased today to bring you an interview with two Ch1Con team members who have been part of the conference since the beginning, Ariel Kalati and Emma Rose Ryan.

Ariel

Ariel Kalati is currently a 20-year-old junior at Sarah Lawrence College, studying writing, literature, and sociology. She is Ch1Con’s Associate Online Administrator and hopes to go into community building surrounding writing and arts education. Though she has done some editorial work, she got tired of it because editing, as we all know, is hard. Now she spends most of her free time writing novels and poetry, reading YA books with magic in them, and talking about fandoms and social justice on the Internet. She can be easily bribed with pizza and other cheesy foods, but her skills primarily consist of sarcastic comments and Harry Potter trivia.

EmmaEmma Rose Ryan is a freshman in college studying Creative Writing. Her family and green tea notwithstanding, she loves stories more than anything in the world. Her primary obsessions are middle-grade fiction and fairy tales. In her free time, Emma works with the Chapter One Young Writers Conference and St. Genesius Productions.  Emma’s other interests include The West Wing, arguing, and petting cats.

The three of us are the last remaining original members of the Ch1Con team. What were your first thoughts when you heard the idea of doing a young writer’s conference?

Girls by Millennium Park Sign

The attendees of the original Chapter One Young Writers Conference hanging out in Chicago.

Ariel: It’s been so long and Ch1Con has been so successful that I honestly don’t remember, but I think I was mostly excited at the prospect of meeting my Internet friends! It was disappointing that none of us turned out to be forty-year-old men, though. I guess I thought something like, “oh, it’ll be cool if we turn this into a real big thing, but we’re probably not gonna, because we’re tiny babies.” Joke’s on you, past self, I guess.

Emma: I was thrilled, especially because the group decided to hold the event right in my back yard! If it hadn’t been in Chicago, I’m not sure I would have been able to come at all. I was only 13 at the time, and my mom was…skeptical. She knew how happy being on Write-It made me though, and I was so excited by the idea of meeting my hyper-talented online mentor/friend/heroes that she finally caved.

We all met on an online writing forum for teenagers hosted by Scholastic, called Write It. What was your favorite thing about Write It?

Ariel: My favorite thing about Write It was, I guess, kind of the point, which was that we were all writers. Like, we were all book people, and in real life middle/high school, there’s maybe one or two other serious writers at school. And people don’t take writing seriously. I think that’s changing, mainly because of online communities like Write It popping up more, but when I was ten, I got made fun of for liking books, so it was really great to find real live people my age who were aspiring authors.

waiting for a trainEmma: Oh, the community for sure. I was NOT a very skilled or prolific writer at the time, so I didn’t usually have a ton of work to share. What I DID have was a group of girls I could model myself after. You guys did NaNo, so I did NaNo. You guys outlined and plotted and worked diligently, so I attempted to do the same. I was VERY slow and further behind the rest of the community, but I felt so welcomed. I was learning and growing so much back then, and being a part of Write-It was a big part of my early formation as a writer.

What’s been your favorite part about being involved with Ch1Con so far?

Ariel: I cannot decide… I think my favorite part is whenever I see our attendees start talking with one another, whether in-person at the con or online, and just get excited like, “Wait, you read that book too? Wait, you also do horror stories? Oh my gosh you like this weird YouTube series of book reviews too?” or whatever.

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At the first Ch1Con in 2012, we all got t-shirts with our Write It usernames on the backs. (If you’re trying to figure out how the first conference was in 2012 but 2017 is only the fifth one, we skipped 2013.)

Of all the things that Ch1Con can do for young writers, like educate about publishing and stuff, I think providing a community is the most important.

Emma: I love love love the conference and getting to put faces to the names and the twitter handles I’ve been getting to know all year. I think the online community we foster has mimicked  Write-It, and so that thrill of getting to meet your online friends and heroes in person is still there for me.

2017 is the fifth Chapter One Young Writers Conference, and since we started Ch1Con during the 2011-2012 school year, a lot has changed. Do you want to give a brief overview of where you started versus where you are now?

conference room 2012

We held the first conference in a hotel room, huddled around a coffee table.

Ariel: Well, when I came to the first Ch1Con, there were six of us hanging out in a hotel room, and I came down by train, and I spent the whole way there thinking of funny jokes to tell in case everyone hated me. My backup joke was to just yell “Semicolons!” because well, that was my thing, semicolons. Also, I was working on the first draft of the book that I’m editing now, and I was really pretentious and wanted to become a museum curator. Now, I’m still pretty pretentious, but I have different career aspirations. I also have better joke material. I still love semicolons; they’re useful. I’m more sure of myself in a good way and less in an insufferable way. So I guess it’s been an improvement!

Emma: Ohhhh my goodness. I’m going to argue that I have hands down changed the most? I was thirteen at Con 1, and at that time I was SUCH a middle schooler. I had all the angst and insecurity and narcissism that comes along with being that age, but I also had these amazing nearly-adults in my life who loved the same things that I did. I think you guys have allowed me to grow into a somewhat well-adjusted person. I still struggle with a lot of the issues I had when I was that age regarding my writing (sadly), but I cannot say that I haven’t gotten better.

Also, I just realized I am the Last Hope of the Write-It squad in terms of achieving our shared (extreme) dream of being published as a teenager. Two years left!!! I gotta get writing…

If you could say one thing to the writer you were when we started Ch1Con, what would it be?

hi bronwenAriel: I would say, you’re allowed to write what you want to write, not what you think you have to write, because there’s plenty of time and plenty of room for lots of different stories.

Emma: Take off the beanie, dude. It does not make your hair look better; it just makes a whole year of your photographs look weird. Don’t think about that boy so much; there will be others. Sit down every day and write about how you feel. Your feelings matter. It doesn’t have to exaggerate or be exciting for it to matter. Use fewer adverbs. Make fewer excuses. Get to work.

A huge thanks to Emma and Ariel for letting me interview them (and for putting up with me all these years). And thanks for visiting the first stop on the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour!

You can check out the next stop on the blog tour on Tuesday, April 18 on author (and 2017 workshop leader) Annie Sullivan’s blog! She’ll be interviewing me and giving away a copy of Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give. And make sure to visit the Ch1Con blog for the rest of the 2017 tour schedule (including info on all of the awesome giveaways we’re running).

Speaking of giveaways: for this stop on the tour, we’re giving away a SIGNED copy of Adam Silvera’s brilliant History Is All You Left Me! The giveaway will run until the end of the blog tour on May 31. It’s open to anyone in the mainland United States.

Click here to enter the giveaway!

Thanks again for checking out the first stop on the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour and don’t forget to follow the rest of the stops!

~Julia

P.S. Here’s a picture of the attendees, volunteers, and speakers at the fourth Ch1Con, in 2016. Look how much we’ve grown!

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Twisted Blog Tour: Excerpt from Emma’s Story!

Hey there! I’m back today with another stop on the Twisted Blog Tour.

As I mentioned on Monday, the Ch1Con team has spent this fall teaching two fantastic young writers about the publishing process in our inaugural mentorship program. The final step of this program is the release of an anthology featuring these up-and-coming young authors’ short stories (as well as some of our own). The anthology is called Twisted, because these stories all have some pretty killer plot twists (pun possibly intended).

The paperback and e-book editions of Twisted are available now for order on Blurb.com, and the e-book will be available soon on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.

I’m absolutely in love with the short stories in this anthology, and am so proud of all of the talented young authors.

In honor of Twisted’s release, we’re holding a mini blog tour on the mentors’ blogs. The tour includes interviews, excerpts from the anthology stories, and more. The blog tour schedule is below:

Today I am thrilled to host an excerpt from Emma Rose Ryan’s short story, “More than One Way to Make a Pencil”! This story is so unique and fun (with plenty of snark to boot). I adore it.

Besides being one of my best friends (and a founding member of Ch1Con), Emma is a freshman in college, studying Creative Writing somewhere in the Midwest. Her family and green tea notwithstanding, she loves stories more than anything in the world. Her primary obsessions are middle grade fiction and fairy tales. She also enjoys reading classic lit, YA romances, and modernizations/adaptations of any sort. She writes short stories, Tumblr posts, tweets, and MG fantasy novels. In her free time, Emma can be found on-or-near a stage, watching The West Wing, or petting a cat.

You can find Emma online on Twitter. Or she also runs the Ch1Con Tumblr.

And now, without further ado: an excerpt from “More than One Way to Make a Pencil”! Until now, the protagonist has been sitting in class, bored out of her mind listening to her new teacher rant about plagiarism.

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I start to get tired of nodding along to first-day scare tactics. I’m at a new school now. I have too much to catch up with to waste time listening to things I already know. I decide to adopt Maze Boy’s disposition of polite disinterest and check on The Book. Up until this morning, I was on the fence about bringing It with me. It’s a dangerous thing to tote around on a good day, and I woke up with a premonition that today would not be a good day… which is why I slipped It in with my shiny-covered textbooks and unsharpened pencils. I need to work on my impulse control…

So, I decide to grab The Book and save myself from death by monotony. I fish around in my bag. I don’t find It. My fingers hover over where The Book should be. There’s nothing there. Teacher Lady suddenly seems to become ten times louder. My chest tightens.

It’s gone, I think. It’s finally left for good this time.

But then my thumb brushes against It and I can breathe again. I grab hold of Its spine… but there’s something wrong. The green leather is smooth, cold and… wet?

I pull the Book onto my desk, trying to maintain a vacant stare in my teacher’s direction.

I glance down to find something out of a nightmare. Water is leaking out of my magic book. Brine-scented, opaque seawater is squirting out from between the yellowed pages. Within a moment, the desk is saturated and water is pouring onto the tiled floor. Miniature Niagara Falls.

Crap.

My nameless teacher stops fabricating plagiarism horror stories. The girls behind me stop chatting. The kid in the back row stops popping his gum. I hear the boy beside me snap his pencil in half. Every eye is on my leaking book. On me. They ogle me in what seems to be shocked suspension. No one is moving. I see their minds trying to catch up with what they’re seeing.

**********

Aaand yeah. Want to read the rest of this magical story? You can check it out in Twisted, available now!

Thanks for joining me for this stop of the Twisted blog tour, and make sure to check out the rest of the tour over the next couple weeks too!

~Julia

Twisted Blog Tour: Excerpt from Brett’s Story!

I’M BAA-AACK. I’ll probably do a proper recap of my time away from the blog eventually (because it’s been a crazy few months), but for now I’m here for a kinda very exciting reason.

As you may know, the Ch1Con team has spent this fall teaching two fantastic young writers about the publishing process in our inaugural mentorship program. The final step of this program is the release of an anthology featuring these up-and-coming young authors’ short stories (as well as some of our own). The anthology is called Twisted, because these stories all have some pretty killer plot twists (pun possibly intended).

The paperback and e-book editions of Twisted are available now for order on Blurb.com, and the e-book will be available soon on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.

I’m absolutely in love with the short stories in this anthology, and am so proud of all of the talented young authors.

In honor of Twisted’s release, we’re holding a mini blog tour on the mentors’ blogs. The tour includes interviews, excerpts from the anthology stories, and more. The blog tour schedule is below:

Today I am thrilled to host an excerpt from Brett Jonas’s short story, “Maybe”! I love this story, because it’s so full of fun coincidences and sooo much banter (one of my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE THINGS EVER in fiction).

Besides being one of my favorite people to ever live, Brett Jonas is a professional fangirl who has been writing YA novels since she was fifteen. After being homeschooled her whole life, she’s now taking classes at the local community college and working in her family’s business, Goat Milk Stuff, with her seven younger siblings. When she’s not writing, reading, working, or doing homework, you can find her wasting time on Twitter, where she loves making friends and using too many exclamation points.

You can find Brett online at: Twitter / Instagram / Website

And now, without further ado: an excerpt from “Maybe”! Leading up to this, the main character has been on the phone with her mom, who’s trying to set her up with her friend Maggie’s son, Josh. Only there are a lot of Joshes in the world (and our main character, here, already has a date).

**********

My doorbell rang and I sighed. “That’s probably the maintenance man coming to fix the leaky drain he’s already ‘fixed’ three times. I’ll talk to you later.”

“Love you, sweetie.”

“Love you too.”

My socks slid along the linoleum as I hung up and tucked my phone into my back pocket. I undid the latch and opened the front door, only to stop short when the man who appeared was definitely not Bill, our building’s janitor and handyman.

“Um, hi,” he said, brown eyes meeting mine. “I just wanted to come over and introduce myself. I’m Josh, your new neighbor.”

Of course he was a Josh. Make that six Joshes I knew who weren’t Maggie’s son.

Oh, wait, this must be the source of all the banging next door. It wasn’t actually a herd of elephants?

“I’m Kassidy,” I said, opening the door the rest of the way. “Want to come in?”

He was definitely a lot hotter than an elephant.

“Sorry for all the noise.” He walked in and I closed the door behind him. “My brother’s helping me put together some stuff from Ikea. My mom wanted me to have an apartment that looked decent, probably in the hopes of me getting a girlfriend.” He stood awkwardly in the middle of my living room, glancing around.

“I see.” What was I supposed to say to that? I turned to see what he was looking at, my eyes landing on my new fancy shmancy Keurig. “Do you want some coffee?”

“I would actually love a cup,” he said. “I can’t find my coffee maker and I’ve been dying for some caffeine.”

I gestured to my machine, walking over to the cabinet with the mugs in it. “Well, my mom just got me this, so I’ve been having lots of fun with it. The pods are in the drawer underneath it—help yourself.”

There was a light in his eyes as he sorted through the pods from the sampler pack and selected a dark roast before taking the mug that I held out to him. “You’re my hero,” he said, inserting the pod and pressing the start button. He leaned against the counter, resting his elbows against it as he waited.

“What are neighbors for?” I asked as I opened the drawer of pods, the edge of the drawer barely grazing his side. I was close enough to smell his cologne, which somehow managed to be both spicy and freshly clean at the same time.

“Coffee, sugar, and killing spiders,” he said instantly, grinning at me.

“Yes, well, I can generally manage to kill my own spiders, but coffee and sugar are always appreciated.”

His coffee finished brewing and he picked up the mug, holding it close to his chest like it was something magical. Which, of course, it was.

“Sugar or milk?” I asked as I started my decaf.

“Nah, this is good.” He brought the coffee towards his nose and took a deep whiff.

“So why did you come to Jeffersonville?” I looked up at him. He was tall enough that I had to do that, which was unusual. I usually towered above everyone.

“I got a job at Amazon,” he said.

“Oh, fun.” And there went any chance that he was Maggie’s son.

He laughed. “Not really.”

“I’ve heard,” I said. “I work at the Kohl’s on Charlestown Road.”

“That sounds like a way better job.”

“Have you ever worked retail?”

He shook his head, and I snorted. “That’s why you think it’s a better job.”

The song “What Is This Feeling” from Wicked started playing, and he blushed all the way to his military-cut brown hair. “Excuse me,” he said hurriedly, switching the mug to his other hand and pulling his phone out of his pocket. “What?” he demanded.

“Quit flirting and get back over here,” I could barely hear. “I’m not doing all this shit for you.”

“Calm down,” Josh said. “We both know you’re only here because Mom said you needed to come.”

“We both know that you would have been homeless for the past two months if I hadn’t let your ass sleep on my couch, so you owe me one. Get back here or I’m leaving you alone with a bed that’s half put together.”

Josh sighed as he hung up and slid his phone back into his pocket. He stared down regretfully at the coffee. “Sorry about that. My brother… well, I’ll be glad to have my own place. I’m sure I’ll see you around, Kassidy.”

“You can take the mug,” I said, smiling at the way his grip tightened on it.

“You sure?”

“Yeah, as long as I get it back before too long.”

He smiled. “Thanks. I’ll see you around. Can I return it later tonight?”

“Well, I have a date tonight, but you can always knock on my door and see if I’m here.”

**********

Aaand yeah. Want to read the rest of this adorable story? You can check it out in Twisted, available now!

 

Thanks for joining me for the first stop of the Twisted blog tour, and make sure to check out the rest of the tour over the next couple weeks too!

~Julia

 

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

 

 

Wordy Wednesday: Writing

Happy Wednesday! The past week has been weirdly hectic without very much actually going on (mostly just family stuff, grad party, and endless trips to the dentist) (my mouth loves me).

Tomorrow, though, my mom and I leave for BEA and BookCon in Chicago, which is going to be SO ACTUALLY HECTIC and SO MUCH FUN and I CAN’T WAIT TO SEE PEOPLE. Let me know if you’ll also be there so we can meet up!

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

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Sheets of paper, crisp with
ink and lines and scribbled words,
stacked thick and high enough to build
a tower (or a world)–
I disappeared through the pages,
my own portal to Narnia or Neverland or Wonderland,
and I have come out on the other side
in a place that had been waiting
for someone to find it

I was looking for a story,
a girl and a wristwatch and ivy-coated walls,
but instead I found the universe
waiting

**********

Thanks for reading, and keep a lookout next week for a BEA/BookCon recap! (Also hopefully my graduation recap at some point?) (I am really falling behind on this whole blogging thing, whoops.) (Love youuu.)

~Julia

P.S. You only have two weeks left to enter my giveaway of a signed copy of Susan Dennard’s New York Times bestseller Truthwitch, as part of the Ch1Con blog tour! Read Susan’s exclusive guest post and find the giveaway here.

P.P.S. Two weeks is also how much time you have left to register to attend the 2016 Chapter One Young Writers Conference at our special, discounted early bird rate! Register here by May 31st to only pay $74.99.

P.P.P.S. I am currently totally addicted to “Spirits” by The Strumbellas. It feels a lot like writing, if that makes sense. I dare you not to like it.

NaNo Day 19: Interview with Brett Jonas

Sorry for writing two days’ posts within twelve hours of one another, but I have a busy day ahead of me (class, work, dress rehearsal, choir concert–then MOCKINGJAY PART 2 OHMYGOSH IT IS FINALLY HERE I CANNOT HANDLE IT).

With that in mind, I don’t have any NaNoing planned for the day. (The current goal is just to stay awake and on my feet until the end of it, to be honest.)

So: seems like a good time to share an interview!

Like the past couple years, throughout November I’m sharing interviews with other writers competing in NaNoWriMo in order to give a broader perspective of the event. (Also to just let you meet these fantastic humans, because I adore them.)

Today’s interview is with Brett Jonas, my favorite goat milk enthusiast and one of this year’s creative consultants for Ch1Con. Here we go!

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1. Tell us a bit about yourself.

I’m a writer, reader, Christian, and chocolate lover. After being homeschooled my whole life, I’m currently taking classes at my local community college and working in my family’s business, Goat Milk Stuff, with my seven younger siblings. I also spend way too much time procrastinating on Twitter.

2. Have you done NaNoWriMo before, or is this your first time? What are your thoughts so far?

I have done NaNoWriMo several times, but I’ve never gone for the full 50k during the month of November. I’ll do 50k during the camps in the summer months, but with November being the busiest time of year at work, I generally go for 25k. Right now, I’m just hoping I can make the 25k this year – I’m farther behind than I’ve ever been.

3. Can you tell us about your novel?

This is my first time ever writing contemporary, so I’m really nervous about it, but also pretty excited. It’s these two nerds who fall in love with each other and I’m having so much fun slipping in ALL THE FANDOM references. LOL (You can find a summary on my Nano page, because I can’t for the life of me come up with a short pitch yet. http://nanowrimo.org/participants/booksquirt/novels/hanover)

4. In addition to doing NaNoWriMo this year, you’re also a college student, working at your family’s super cool business (www.goatmilkstuff.com), volunteering as one of Ch1Con’s creative consultants, and more. How do you balance so much at once?

Balance? Hah. What’s that? But seriously, I’m not quite sure how I manage to do it all. I had two manuscripts land in my inbox this week that needed to be beta read and returned within a week, in addition to my homework and regular work. Nano got dropped in the process. But, since I’m only going for 25k, I’m only 5k behind schedule and I’m hoping I can catch back up – after I catch up on the homework that I abandoned to get these novels back to their authors. Oops? (Erica Cameron and Breeana Puttroff are brilliant, by the way, and I will drop everything to read their books any time. LOL)
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6539315
https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5170812.Breeana_Puttroff

5. Any tips for fast drafting a novel?

My biggest tip for fast drafting is to run word sprints. Find a buddy – whether online or in real life – and set a timer. Race the clock, and at the end, report your word counts to each other. Whether you sprint for 15 minutes or an hour, if you sit down and focus on writing as fast as you can for a pre-determined amount of time, you’re bound to get a fair amount of words. And, it’s fun!

6. Quick: what is your #1, go-to snack food for when the writing (or revisions) get tough?

Chocolate. My family makes some pretty amazing chocolate covered goat milk caramels and they are the best. Popcorn is a good writing snack too, if I’m in a salty mood instead of sweet.

7. And last but not least, where can we find you online?

You can find me at brettjonas.com, on Twitter, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Instagram. I’m most active on Twitter, but I have some pretty awesome writing inspiration boards on Pinterest, and in the next few months there will be baby goats galore on my Instagram. You know, if cute baby animals are your thing. 😉

https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/6548838-brett-jonas
twitter.com/booksquirt
pinterest.com/booksquirt
instagram.com/booksquirt

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Thanks so much for letting me interview you, Brett!

Goal for Today: 0
Overall Goal: 30,000
Current Word Count: 34,514

~Julia

NaNo Day 10: Interview with Ariel Kalati

Yesterday I ended up doing homework (and extra-curricular work) (and work-work) until around 9:00 PM, at which point I ACTUALLY GOT TO WRITE BEFORE ELEVEN O’CLOCK AT NIGHT.

It was a beautiful occasion.

I’m still so tired from staying up late writing all last week that I ended up conking out a little before midnight, so I didn’t end up spending a ton of time NaNoing last night. But despite that, I still got a little over 2,000 words written, putting me at 15,500 overall (and only 1.5k behind my goal!).

It’s funny how I’m now excited about a word count that is still behind where I should be at this point. Like, “I could be 5,000 words behind, but instead I’m only 1,500! PARTAYYY.” Oh well. It happens.

Anyway: Like the past couple years, throughout November I’m sharing interviews with other writers competing in NaNoWriMo in order to give a broader perspective of the event. (Also to just let you meet these fantastic humans, because I adore them.)

Today’s interview is with Ariel Kalati, my favorite pizza enthusiast and this year’s associate online administrator for Ch1Con. Here we go!

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ariel kalati reading

1. Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name’s Ariel Kalati. I’m a nineteen-year-old sophomore at Sarah Lawrence College, studying creative writing and French. I’ve wanted to be a writer ever since I learned to read and so far I’ve written four or five novels, depending on whether you count that terrible one from seventh grade. My main interests are Harry Potter, Parks and Recreation, eating food, and sleeping.


2. You’re a NaNo rebel this November, meaning that you’ve taken on a writing challenge, but it isn’t the traditional “write 50,000 words of a novel in one month” one. What are you doing instead? Why did you choose to do this?
This month I’m doing “NaNoEdMo,” which is a thing I made up. I’m trying to edit 50 scenes of my book in 30 days. Since the NaNoWriMo website doesn’t work with this, I’m using the website MyWriteClub to track my progress. The reason I decided to do NaNoEdMo instead of NaNoWriMo this year is because I’ve been working on this book for almost four years and it’s about time I finish editing it instead of starting an exciting new project. Basically, I’m being responsible, and it’s weird.

3. Can you tell us about your novel?
I cannot, actually, because I suck at summaries. But I’ll try. It’s about magic aliens, some of whom want to kill all humans and some of whom do not want to do that. Two human teenagers get involved in this issue because of a prophecy and wishes and stuff. It’s slightly less cliche than it sounds.

4. In addition to doing your rebellious NaNoWriMo this year, you’re also a full-time student, involved in extra-curriculars, interning remotely, volunteering as Ch1Con’s associate online administrator, and more. How do you balance so much at once?
I’m not really sure. It involves a lot of last-minute panicking, multitasking, and naps. Too many naps.

5. Any tips for revising a novel?
Well, if it’s your first time revising a novel, I have some semi-bad news for you, which is that you’re probably going to have to rewrite the entire thing. But the good news is that writing is fun and this time you already have the basic skeleton so it’ll be way easier than the first draft was. I recommend creating a separate file where you have a detailed outline of your whole book so that you can look at the structure of the plot and find where to remove stuff, where there are plot holes, etc. I’ve never made it past the Giant Rewriting Do-Over-the-Entire-Book edits so I don’t have any tips for regular, line-edit-y revisions.

6. Quick: what is your #1, go-to snack food for when the writing (or revisions) get tough?
Depends on if I’m at home or if I’m at school. At home, I tend to go for a spoonful of Nutella. At school, I do not have Nutella, so I usually go for one of my school’s croissants. They’re basically like a stick of butter in bread form.

7. And last but not least, where can we find you online?

I’m on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Pinterest. I also have a blog at arielkalati.blogspot.com that updates weekly.

*****
Thanks for letting me interview you again this year, Ariel! I always love seeing your answers.

Goal for Today: 0 + 1,500 (from Friday)

Overall Goal: 17,000

Current Word Count: 15,504

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Bell Tower Stairs

Hey there! How’s your week going?

Midterms are starting up at U of M, which means campus has basically turned into the set of a zombie B-movie. On the upside, I got to escape the madness for a few days by spending the weekend scouting venues for Ch1Con in Chicago with some awesome people.

  
Other than that, I’ve spent the past week just doing my best not to drown under homework. Oh, and my family saw The Martian Sunday night! I liked the book better, but it’s a solid movie. Definitely go see it, if you haven’t already.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a poem.

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Climbing the stairs
to the eighth floor of the
university bell tower for
choir rehearsal
seemed like a good idea
on the first floor

But one floor up and
the air was gone and
three floors up and
the blood was rushing too fast
and five floors up and
our legs burned with acid and
seven floors up and our legs were numb

And the stairs spiraled on and on,
an endless loop of labored breathing,
gripping the banister too tight,
afraid of both looking up and
looking down

But eight floors up and
there was a door
and chairs,
and laughter from the group:
“We made it!”
And more than anything else
there was a window,
just a little thing high on the wall,
overlooking the sweeping, endless
green and orange quilt of trees that
gave this city its name

And look what we did,
look what we did;
together we climbed a mountain

**********

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

I Owe You

Hey there! So, I am exhausted after Ch1Con this weekend, and my internet’s out (once again) so I can’t write from my laptop, and overall I am realizing there is just no way I’m going to be able to get a real post up today. Sorry! 

Here’s a picture of my uncle’s dog passed out after breakfast on Friday to help make up for it.

  
Talk to you tomorrow!

~Julia