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.

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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).

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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

Ch1Con 2016 Blog Tour: Guest Post by Susan Dennard!!

Welcome to the 2016 Chapter One Young Writers Conference blog tour!!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Ch1Con is a writer’s conference both for and by teens and young adults. Our 2016 event will take place Saturday, August 6th in St. Charles, IL, a western suburb of Chicago. 2016 registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level (approximately ages 11 to 23) and at an early bird discount price of $74.99.

Our speakers will include New York Times bestselling YA fantasy author Susan Dennard (Truthwitch, Tor Teen), acclaimed YA contemporary author Francesca Zappia (Made You Up, Greenwillow/HarperCollins), and up-and-coming YA authors Jennifer Yu (Four People, Five Days, Harlequin Teen and Seventeen Reads – coming spring 2017) and Jordan Villegas (represented by Emily Keyes of Fuse Literary)! The Ch1Con team will also be leading a query writing workshop, and we’ll have all kinds of fun giveaways and activities for attendees throughout the conference.

Today I’ve got a special treat for you: Susan Dennard has kindly written a guest post for the blog! (Also, stick around for a giveaway at the end of the post.)

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Susan is the New York Times bestselling author of both the YA steampunk series Something Strange & Deadly (HarperCollins) and the new YA fantasy series Witchlands (Tor)–the first installment of which, Truthwitch, premiered at #4 on the New York Times bestseller list!! (And got a starred review from Publishers Weekly, no less.)

Before settling down as a full-time novelist and writing instructor, Susan traveled the world as a marine biologist. When not writing these days, she can be found hiking with her dogs, exploring tidal pools, or earning bruises at the dojo. Her writing is represented by Joanna Volpe of New Leaf Literary & Media, Inc. 

Find Susan online: Website / Blog / Newsletter / Twitter / Pinterest

Susan’s Books: Something Strange and Deadly / A Dawn Most Wicked / A Darkness Strange and Lovely / Strange and Ever After / Truthwitch

Take it away, Susan!

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5 Things I’ve Learned Since Being Published:

1. Getting published isn’t the hard part. It’s the first hard part. Seriously: I was so not prepared for how much busier, emotionally-draining, and generally crazy-making my life would become post book-deal. I always thought, once I had a publisher, the rest would be…well, maybe not easy, but at least easier.

Yeah. No. Publishing and my career as an author only got way harder after that first sale.

2. But on the flip side of that: Getting published isn’t the awesome part. It’s the first awesome part. Like, I never really imagined past the first book. You know, past the legitimacy of having my name on a real, printed book. But there is SO MUCH amazing stuff that comes along with being an author. First and foremost, readers!! Meeting them, interacting with them, getting awesome letters and presents from them!

Truly, all the awesome far outweighs the hard in this gig.

3. Agents do so much more than sell the book. My agent and her incredible team at New Leaf Literary are indispensable. I cannot function as an author without them there to nudge my publisher on All The Things, to keep track of my incoming payments (or hunt them down when they don’t show up), to be my knights-in-shining-armor when I need protection, or to be a voice of reason when I’m being…well, unreasonable. Agents know this industry far better than most authors ever could, and that knowledge alone is priceless.

And of course, they do sell our books for us! They find homes for our little babies! Something we, the authors, simply cannot do—at least not in a traditional, big publisher world.

4. The industry is small. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone talks to everyone. So first off: be nice to everyone. Seriously. I realize how “duh” that might sound, and yet I see it happen all the time. Fame and success do go to people’s head, but don’t ever let it go to yours.

Second off: don’t engage in the gossip. Easier said than done, but you’ll be happier and safer for it. Who said what or who sold what or who missed which deadline is all pointless conversation—I mean, it doesn’t really affect you at all, does it? So stay out of it.

Actually, those rules can apply to ANY aspect of life, not just publishing. Be nice. Don’t gossip. End of story. 😉

5. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. I swear, my agent gives me this advice every other week. Because it’s SO important to remember in this biz. Being an author is a lifelong career. The first book is literally the first step in what will hopefully continue on for many, many more books. Putting too much pressure on yourself to write MORE and sell MORE—or to have a Huge Commercial Hit Right Away—is, quite frankly, silly.

Some books will come out quickly, some will not. Some will be commercial successes, some will not. Some will earn royalties, some never will. Some will be critically praised, some will not. The point is that there will be highs…and there will be lows. Don’t worry too much if you’re riding a low—another rise will come along one day.

And don’t get too cocky when you’re riding a high, either, because a low could be just around the bend.

Instead, keep your eyes on your own page and keep on writing.

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Thank you so much for writing a guest post for the blog tour, Susan! I’m SO EXCITED to hear you speak at the conference this August.

I also have a *signed* copy of Susan’s bestselling book Truthwitch to give away today! Check it out at the link below!

Click here for the giveway!!

If you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate age (again, approximately 11 to 23) and are interested in attending and/or learning more about the conference, you can check us out at the links below. Early bird registration ends May 31st!

Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Twitter: @Ch1Con
Tumblr: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
Pinterest: Chapter One YW Conference
Instagram: Ch1Con
Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference

The Chapter One Young Writers Conference.
Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.

~Julia

 

Countdown to Ch1Con 2015

If you’ve ever seen that episode of Gilmore Girls where Lorelai leaves a billion messages for herself at the inn, because they’re getting ready to open and she’s super stressed out, and she drives everyone crazy–Yeah. That’s me right now, with the conference this weekend.

I’ve found that no matter how much legwork you put into an event, things will ALWAYS come up in the last few days leading to it. So I’m currently juggling a thousand last minute questions and mini emergencies, between speakers and volunteers and, oh yeah, attendees. And while so far my team and I have been able to handle everything (THANK GOD for the Ch1Con team), I keep panicking that something’s going to slip and the entire conference will come crashing down because of it. And I so, so don’t want that to happen, because all of these awesome people are coming and I want them to have the best experience possible. And yeah.

At the same time though, we’re doing the best we can. I am SO EXCITED to finally see this thing we’ve been planning for over a year now come to fruition. And more than anything, I’m blown away by how much support we’ve received this year, how many attendees have decided to give us a chance, and how many great new memories people will hopefully make this weekend.

I trust my team. I trust the work we’ve put into this and the love we have for it. So here goes.

Chapter One Young Writers Conference, 2015: We’re coming for you.

Five days.

~Julia

Ch1Con Blog Tour: Interview with Ava Jae!

It’s finally my turn to host a tour stop for the 2015 Chapter One Young writers Conference blog tour!

For anyone who doesn’t know, Ch1Con is a writing conference both for and by teens and young adults. Our 2015 event will take place Saturday, August 8th in Arlington Heights, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago. 2015 registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level and at an early bird discount price of $39.99. Our speakers will include YA author Kat Zhang (The Hybrid Chronicles, HarperCollins), renowned freelance editor Taryn Albright of The Girl with the Green Pen, and YA/NA author Ava Jae (Beyond the Red, Sky Pony Press).

Instead of me spending my tour stop rambling endlessly about the conference (because let’s face it, I do that enough anyway), I figured you might appreciate learning about one of our speakers instead. So, say hello to the one and only Ava Jae!

Processed with VSCOcam with t1 presetAva Jae is a YA and NA writer, an Assistant Editor at Entangled Publishing, and is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. Her YA Sci-Fi debut, BEYOND THE RED, is releasing March 2016 from Sky Pony Press. When she’s not writing about kissing, superpowers, explosions, and aliens, you can find her with her nose buried in a book, nerding out over the latest X-Men news, or hanging out on her blog, Twitter, Facebook, tumblr, Goodreads, Instagram, or YouTube channel.
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    Your debut novel, BEYOND THE RED, comes out with Sky Pony Press in spring, 2016. What was the process like for getting your publishing deal?
    Oh boy. I’ll give you the super abbreviated version: I wrote nine books, queried four of them (one of them twice, several years apart), put them away, wrote a tenth book which ended up being BEYOND THE RED, swapped with critique partners, revised, revised, revised, started querying again, entered a randomly-chosen blog contest, won runner-up in said blog contest which led to a request from my awesome agent, signed with her, revised tons more (and more, and more), went on submission…and finally announced the publishing deal October 2014. 🙂
      When did you start writing? Was it with the goal of someday publishing a novel, or just for fun?
      I kind of started twice? The first time I was eleven and wrote I think maybe fifty pages before I lost interest and forgot about it. Second time I was thirteen, and it evolved from “I’m going to write this story that popped in my head” to “I’m going to write this book” to “I’m going to get this published.” By the time I’d finished that book, I knew without a doubt I wanted to be an author. And so began many years of writing and querying…
        Besides being an up-and-coming author, you’re also currently a college student, assistant editor for Entangled Publishing, and prolific blogger and vlogger. How do you balance all of that? What does your average day look like?
        I mean, my day kind of varies depending on my school schedule. Some consistent things: I get up between 5:00-5:30 AM every day, get as much writing/blogging/homework/editing things done as I can before class, go to class, and try to relax after class if I can (because usually I’m too tired to do anything else).
          The only way to do it, really, is to have a set schedule. On days I have not as much class, I focus on getting as much homework and writing/blogging stuff as I can. I write posts every Monday, Wednesday and Saturday, edit and schedule posts every Tuesday, Thursday and Sunday, film vlogs every Saturday or Sunday, edit vlogs every Friday-Monday, and catch up on whatever I need to over the weekend on Wednesdays. When I get an editing deadline for work, I make sure to be honest with my boss about when I can realistically get things done (so important!). I schedule things out way ahead of time, divide work up throughout the week, and keep a to-do list that I check off every day.
            Over the summer it’s much easier without classes to worry about. *sigh*
              What are some of your interests outside of the publishing world?
              Movies! I love movies. Fun fact: I actually have an Associates in Film/Digital Media and went to a fancy art school for a year to pursue a degree in Visual Effects (like, all that CGI stuff). I also really love drawing and digital art—I used to do a ton of digital paintings on Photoshop, and while I haven’t had time lately, I’m hoping to pick that up again over the summer. I’m pretty artsy I guess. 🙂
                If you could change or improve one thing about the publishing industry, what would it be?
                I mean, I guess I wish it was easier to make a living with your writing? Because it’s super super super difficult. But it’s pretty well known that you don’t go into the publishing industry to make tons of money—it’s a labor of love. And ramen.
                  Your writing is represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency. What’s your favorite part of working with your literary agent?
                  Revisions! (I’m probably going to regret saying this—hi, Louise!) But seriously, I really do love revising even when I’m banging my head against the keyboard trying to figure out how to fix a plot hole. And Team Fury is ridiculously awesome when it comes to getting great revision suggestions. Also, Louise’s enthusiasm for every book is pretty awesome. It’s kind of impossible for me to have a conversation with her that doesn’t make me really excited and happy, which is pretty much the best thing. 🙂
                    If you could give one piece of advice to young writers, what would it be?
                    Don’t set a deadline for yourself. For years I was determined to get published before Christopher Paolini (I’m competitive, okay?), and that didn’t happen, and it was pretty hard to come to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to be a published (or agented) teenager.
                      Don’t do that to yourself. Take time to hone your craft, to write the most amazing books possible, to learn how to become a better writer, and develop a thick skin, and get to really know the publishing industry. You already have the advantage of starting early in life—now use the extra time you have to become the best possible and don’t worry about getting published before you turn twenty. I promise you’ll be just as happy at twenty-five or thirty or whenever it happens for you.
                        And lastly: Where can people find you online?
                        Everywhere! I’m on Twitter, tumblr, Facebook, Instagram, YouTubePinterest and Goodreads. I am the social media.
                          **********
                          Thanks for letting me interview you, Ava! I’m so excited to hear you speak at the conference.
                            Ava has very kindly offered to give away a query and first five page critique as part of the tour stop. Check it out at the link below!

                              AWESOME CRITIQUE GIVEAWAY RIGHT OVER HERE!

                              If you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate age (approximately twelve to twenty-two) and are interested in attending and/or learning more about the conference, you can check us out at the links below. Early bird registration ends May 31st!

                              Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
                              Twitter: @Ch1Con
                              Tumblr: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
                              YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference
                              Pinterest: Chapter One YW Conference
                              Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference

                              The Chapter One Young Writers Conference.
                              Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.

                              ~Julia

                              Wordy Wednesday: The Fault in Our Popcorn

                              It’s the second to last week of the semester and I’m exhausted.

                              It’s a good kind of exhausted, though. I was up until two last night because I had a screening for a film class that ran kind of late, followed by pitching a huge project I’m really excited for to a student org on campus (and they’ve agreed to move forward on it, so I will probably be gushing about that come next school year) (!!!), followed by writing a guest post for the 2015 Ch1Con Blog Tour, followed by just trying to figure out what exactly my blogging schedule is for the foreseeable future (over twenty posts on seven different websites over the course of six weeks; I’ll share a schedule once stuff starts going up), followed by editing a blog post for another TCWT author, followed by lying in bed unable to sleep. Endlessly.

                              I’m not (too) worried about getting everything done on time though, and it’s been really gorgeous out lately, so that’s helping keep all of us here sane during this last stretch of the semester. (Plus Hannah and I spur-of-the-moment went swimming Monday night and next week a group of us are going kayaking, so thank God for people who like to do random physical activity with me.)

                              One last thing before we get to this week’s Wordy Wednesday: my friend Hannah (not Roommate Hannah, one of the other many amazing Hannahs in my life) is signed up to do a two-week liberal arts study abroad program in London this August and it sounds amaaazing. Like I would be all over this opportunity, if Ch1Con weren’t during it. But they don’t have quite enough students right now, and if they don’t get six more kids registered by May 1st, the program’s off. IF YOU’RE A COLLEGE STUDENT AND LOOKING FOR SOMETHING TO DO THIS AUGUST, YOU SHOULD GO ON THIS PROGRAM. And make me jealous. Because liberal arts and London. You can find more information on it here and here.

                              This week’s Wordy Wednesday is another of my creative writing class’s short story rejects. (Sorry I only ever post the worst ones, these days; the less terrible stories go in submissions to contests and lit mags. Still, I think these guys are fun and deserve a little love.)

                              **********

                              Shovel the popcorn. Squirt the butter. Shove it at the customer.

                              Shovel the popcorn. Squirt the butter. Shove it at the customer.

                              Shovel the popcorn. Squirt the butter. Shove it at the—

                              “You don’t have to be so robotic about it.” Tommy leans against the back counter, broad shoulders propped between the hotdog warmer and grumbling slushy maker. He crosses his arms and curly, golden brown hair falls across his eyes in that way that gets him at least three girls’ numbers a shift. Occasionally a guy’s.

                              I wrinkle my nose. “It’s not like they care, as long as they get their food before the previews are over.”

                              “You’d be surprised how many more Thank Yous you’d get if you tried smiling once in a while.”

                              “Tommy.” I laugh. “You’re not getting Thank Yous because you smiled. You’re getting Thank Yous because you look more like a movie star than half the guys they’re going to ogle on screen for the next two hours.”

                              I’ve learned a lot from working at the local AMC the past year and a half. For one: You can totally eat all the popcorn on the job you want and the manager never notices. Also: Nobody cares if you make an effort to be nice while preparing their food. I’ve actually gotten scowls in return for my smiles, and one particularly pleasant woman told me, “Yeah, right,” when I said to enjoy the Pixar flick her six year old triplets were dragging her to.

                              When people are nice to Tommy, it’s not because he’s being nice to them. It’s because he’s made everyone from my best friend to my grandmother swoon. While squirting three-day-old artificial cheese on their nachos.

                              Still, he dramatically brushes the ringlet of hair from his eyes and turns his dark gaze to the ceiling. “Well, if you insist it’s because I’m just that attractive.”

                              I roll my eyes, but can’t help a grin. “Did you just start this whole thing for the pure sake of getting me to compliment you?”

                              “No.” He smiles with half his mouth, which is his way of saying yes. “Never.”

                              “Well, let’s test your theory, then.” I nod towards a group of pre-teen girls, exhausted mother in tow, who are currently prancing squealing across the lobby. I’d wager a week’s earnings that they’re on their way to see the latest John Green movie. “I smile, you just be yourself, and we see who gets the business.”

                              Tommy’s smile extends to the other half of his mouth. “You’re on, Sammy.”

                              “Ugh. For the last time. It’s Samantha. Only my friends can call me Sammy.” I twirl a lock of straight black hair around a finger in a perfect impression of our coworker Debby (sorry, “Deborah”) and he bursts out laughing, flashing teeth that are even as white and straight as a movie star’s. It would be easy to hate Tommy if he weren’t such a goof.

                              He pushes off the counter and joins me at the cash registers.

                              “Hey there!” I call with all the cheer of Barbie in the second Toy Story movie. “Interested in some refreshments for the film? Let me guess: you’re about to go cry your eyes out at a John Green adaptation.”

                              The girls barely even glance at me and my toothy grin before making a beeline for Tommy’s register.

                              I throw my hands up in the universal gesture for Raise the Roof. “Boom. I win.” He doesn’t seem to hear me over the squeals of the tweens attempting to flirt while ordering soft pretzels and blue raspberry slushies, though.

                              While Tommy is distracted—and distracting ever customer in a twenty foot radius—I slip into the back room and let myself fall back into one of the old theater chairs that have been stored back here, “waiting for repairs,” since I interviewed for this position. And likely before.

                              I yank my laptop from the crush of text books and notebooks in my backpack and pull open the document I’ve been working on every spare moment since I started here.

                              I told my doctor mom and lawyer dad senior year of high school that I wanted to go to film school and write screenplays for a living. They told me I could—if I paid for college myself.

                              So that night I borrowed my best friend’s car and drove the two hours to what would become my university, picked up applications from every movie theater close enough to walk to from campus, and now here I am: a sophomore, paying my way through college with the smell of hotdog grease permanently clinging to my hair and customers spoiling every decent movie before I have a chance to see it, but I’m doing it. I’m majoring in film.

                              And I’m writing my first screenplay.

                              I don’t care about what the customers think of me. I don’t care if I smile at them and they scowl in return, or they fall all over themselves trying to get Tommy to fall for them (by the way: he’s in a committed relationship—he and his boyfriend have been going strong for a year now), or I only get time to write in stolen moments between classes and popcorn rushes.

                              The point is I’m doing it. I’m actually doing it.

                              I get almost a whole page written before Tommy shouts from the counter, “The people coming in for the eight o’clock showings are going to start arriving any minute now. Want to put some more hotdogs in the warmer?”

                              “Only if you admit I was right and you were wrong.”

                              Tommy pokes his head into the back room, rolling his eyes. “Fine. You may have won the smiling-at-customers battle,” he raises an eyebrow, “but I, dear friend, will win the war.”

                              I shove my laptop back in my backpack and hop up from the creaky old chair. I pat his cheek as I pass, heading back to the counter. “Just keep telling yourself that.”

                              “Oh.” His tone darkens. “I most definitely will.”

                              “Keep pretending to be a super villain and I might add you to my screenplay.”

                              “It would be an honor to be written by you.”

                              “You say that now. Wait ’til I kill you off.”

                              “Not what it sounds like,” Tommy tells the horrified-looking older couple lumbering up to the counter. “Sammy here is writing a movie. Just wait. It’s going to be a huge blockbuster and someday we’ll sell out of popcorn from all the people coming to see it.”

                              “Shut up.” I bat his arm, but this time I can’t help but smile. The couple chooses to have me scoop their popcorn.
                              **********

                              Thanks for reading!

                              ~Julia

                              Wordy Wednesday: How to Come Up with Ideas

                              Before anything else: the Chapter One Young Writers Conference announced our 2015 blog tour today! It’s going to be so awesome, with lots of interviews, giveaways, and insider conference information. Check out the schedule on the Ch1Con site here.

                              Anyway: I’ve been sitting here (“here” being a lounge in my sophomore year dorm) for over an hour now, trying to figure out what to write about this week. (Also avoiding walking home from class, because my right shoe kind of attacked my foot on the way over here, which means I’m now semi-stranded a mile from my apartment.)

                              This is one of the worst parts of writing, for me. Finding something to say.

                              It’s stupid, because when I don’t have time to write, or am already writing something, I suddenly have a thousand ideas. But as soon as I need to write? Nada.

                              I always do end up coming up with something, though. And that’s something to talk about. So, this week’s Wordy Wednesday writing process post is on how to come up with ideas to write about.

                              Write Down Your Ideas

                              This should be the most obvious one on the list: When you have ideas, write them down. Save them for when you don’t have ideas. Even if you don’t end up using exactly what you’ve put down, if an old idea can help inspire a new one, you’re gold.

                              Write Down Fragments

                              I have random lines and phrases written ALL OVER THE PLACE. Mostly in my planner and on the notepad app on my phone. Whenever I’m struggling to come up with something, I glance through those. I try to build a story around one or combine a couple to create a character of scenario. More than writing down ideas, I write down fragments, and build from these.

                              Pay Attention

                              Another great place to go to for story ideas: your classes/work. I take a lot of literature classes, which obviously help with writing, but I’ve actually found it’s my other classes that inspire me the most. Especially my science courses. There are just so many good story ideas lurking in preexisting facts and ideas. (Bonus: I’ve found that thinking of class as research towards writing something later helps me pay attention.)

                              Live

                              Easiest way to come up with ideas: live your life. Don’t sit at home all day, staring at a blank Word document, hoping for something to hit you. Go out and do things. Go to the coffee shop. Go on an adventure.

                              Chances are, an idea will hit you at precisely the moment you stop thinking about needing to come up with an idea.

                              **********

                              What are some of your tips for coming up with ideas?

                              Thanks for reading!

                              ~Julia

                              Spring Break 2015

                              So, as mentioned in last week’s Wordy Wednesday, I spent my spring break in the Chicago area putting up flyers for Ch1Con 2015 and doing research for a novel.

                              It wasn’t exactly the most relaxing spring break ever, but it was awesome getting to meet so many librarians and bookshop owners, and Chicago’s always gorgeous.

                              We put up flyers for the conference in over fifty locations over the course of three days. Which was basically insane.

                              IMG_8031One of the days, I spotted Oscar Mayer’s Wiener Mobile in a mall parking lot and made my mom drive over so I could get pictures. It was completely surrounded by people taking selfies.

                              IMG_8048Thursday we took a break from flyering for a few hours to visit the John Hancock Observatory, which is currently under renovations to become 360 Chicago. The John Hancock Center’s my favorite building in Chicago and I know a weird amount of stuff about it, so it was cool to get to go in and see the updates they’re making to the observation deck.

                              IMG_8066

                              Here’s the shadow of the John Hancock Center over North Avenue Beach and Lake Michigan.

                              IMG_8086

                              Sears Tower on the horizon.

                              IMG_8092

                              The updated observatory includes mirrors coating the ceiling, which leads to fun optical illusions.

                              The biggest update to the observation deck is the new attraction “Tilt,” in which participants lean against the windows in the picture below and they slowly tilt outward until the participants are facing the street below, ninety-four stories up.

                              IMG_8096And of course I had to take an awkward observation deck selfie as documentation of my visit.

                              IMG_8113Friday we had the special treat of Ch1Con team member Emma going around with us to put up flyers. I don’t get to see the rest of the team in person very often and I absolutely freaking adore Emma, so getting to spend the afternoon with her wasn’t just a highlight of the trip, but the year.

                              Also: while my mom was awesome and drove us around to all of our various drop points, Emma and I wrote a joint post for the March Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain and posted it on the Chapter One Young Writers Conference Tumblr, which you can check out here. The prompt for the month asks about your thoughts on reading and writing in non-novel formats, so since we’re both huge theatre nerds we wrote about how theatre has affected our writing.

                              IMG_8144 And finally, after a few long, long days away, there’s nothing like coming home to the worst best selfie partner in the world.

                              IMG_8153Have you had your spring break? Did you do anything fun? Let me know in the comments!

                              (Especially if you went somewhere warm, because dude, please let me live vicariously through your not-freezing adventures.)

                              (On the upside: It hit forty degrees today, which means at least for now* we’re past coat weather! Yay!)

                              ~Julia

                              *It’s totally going to snow again tomorrow, just because I said that.