Last day of classes before Thanksgiving! I’m so excited to go home and see my friends and family. And I’m going to Chicago in a couple days to celebrate with some relatives out there, so I’m obviously excited for that too. Now it’s just a matter of getting through these last few hours and assignments so I’ll have enough time to relax over break before I need to kick it into high gear on final projects.
Like last year, 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.) In addition, all of this year’s interviewees are Ch1Con team members!
Today’s interview is with Aisha Al-Amin, one of Ch1Con’s new Creative Consultants. She’s hilarious and brilliant and she seems to be the only team member Google+ actually likes during our monthly Ch1Con Chats (so obviously Google agrees that she’s awesome). Take it away, Aisha.
Q: In one sentence, what is your novel about?
A: In the year 2050 for the first time in history humans discover another world with intelligent life.
Q: What is your favorite part of Nanowrimo?
A: I would have to say the sense of accomplishment you feel at the end of the month, even if you haven’t won, it’s still amazing.
Q: Do you have any specific writing rituals you follow?
A: Yes, yes I do! I have to have a cup of my Grandma’s hot chocolate with creamer, and a sweater that goes to my fingers.
Q: What’s your secret to juggling life and Nano at the same time?
A: I always make sure to write extra when I have the time, because I know some days I just won’t have the energy -so the days that I do have the energy I make sure to put in extra work.
Q: Any advice for the troops?
A: I would say don’t be discouraged because someone else has written more than you! It’s all about you this month and challenging yourself.
Thanks for letting me interview you, Aisha!
Want to learn more about Aisha? You can find her at the following links.
I’ve got a mound of homework to do. (I ended up falling asleep before I could get started on it last night.)
I’ve got classes to attend. (Yay weekdays.)
And 2K in NaNo to write. (Plus 500 words left over from yesterday’s 1K, because Once Upon a Time was more distracting than expected. By which I mean the special effects were even more terrible than expected. By which I mean: Yay. Once Upon a Time.)
So yeah. That’s what I’ve got on my plate today.
Goal for today: 2,000 + yesterday’s 500 = 2,500.
Overall goal: 19,000.
Current word count: 19,046.
How’s NaNo going for you? Real life getting in the way yet?
I was up until around two last night finishing the billion things I had to do yesterday, which primarily involved spending several hours on announcement stuff, finishing my YA lit paper, and and getting my scheduled 2K in for NaNoWriMo. Then I woke up early today to work on more announcement stuff. So I’m exhausted, but also caught up. Yay?
It’s weird how easy this novel’s been to write so far. I mean, I’m not doing GOOD writing by any means, but I wrote my 2K in about an hour and a half last night, and that’s been a pretty average time for it. It’ll be interesting to see how this turns out.
Yesterday one of my roommates asked why I do extra blogging during NaNoWriMo when I’m already, you know, writing fifty thousand words throughout the month. And I said I like to blog every day because rambling on here’s a nice de-stressor. Which is true.
But it’s also that, to be honest, I was scared going into NaNoWriMo last year. Not because it would be difficult in the way NaNo traditionally is, but because I’d already done it, and won, five years in a row. Already once during college. And I was bored.
Getting bored is my Achilles Heel. If I’m bored, I stop trying.
NaNoWriMo means too much to me to let it become something I sign up for, then drop halfway through the month. So I needed to make it new again, somehow.
So: blogging every day. And I’m doing other extra stuff this month too that YOU WILL LEARN ABOUT SOON. (Well, some of it anyway.)
It’s important to always be excited about what you’re doing, I think. Especially if it’s a technically voluntary activity like NaNo (although, come on, it’s my seventh year competing; I have to do it). If you aren’t excited, why are you doing it?
No writing planned for today, because classes and Ch1Con stuff. But maybe I’ll slip in a little just to challenge myself.
Goal for today: 0.
Overall goal: 8,000.
Current word count: 9,143.
Don’t miss the big announcement post at three on the Ch1Con site, and reminder that the November Ch1Con Chat is tonight at eight PM EST! We’ll be discussing NaNoWriMo. Watch the chat here and tweet us questions to answer live with #Ch1Con!
So I’m currently listening to 1989 (thank you very much to my amazing roommate Emily for picking it up at Target this weekend), and while it’s not my favorite Taylor Swift album (that will forever and always be Speak Now) and I had a lot of reservations about buying it (Wonderland‘s what sold me), I’m enjoying it now. And it’s making me want to dance. So that’s good. (Realizing as this plays that I actually like basically all the songs but the singles, and those will probably grow on me anyway, so whoooooooo T-Swift does it again.)
Today I scheduled as a non-writing day because I knew my procrastinating butt well enough to realize I wouldn’t have finished my term paper first draft due Tuesday yet. What I didn’t realize was that I also wouldn’t have started it. (Which is to say: I can’t even remember what my topic proposal from a month ago is about. Um.) So, I’m off to rock out to “Bad Blood” and, you know, figure out what I’m writing this paper on.
While I’m off drowning in peer-reviewed film journals and eighty-year-old movies: ANNOUNCEMENTS ARE COMING VERY SOON. Like a couple things possibly probably tomorrow and other things later this week and I am dying from the anticipation, dude. Keep your eyes on the Chapter One Young Writers Conference site and social media.
And a reminder that the November Ch1Con Chat is this Thursday at 8 PM EST and we’ll be discussing NaNoWriMo! Find more info here.
Talk to you tomorrow as everything starts coming together! AHHHH!
So I’ve been promising to do a giveaway for approximately forever, but as I’m sure we’ve already established a thousand times, I am the laziest human being alive. Sorry about how long it’s taken to get this up. (I ran out of ways to procrastinate today. It’s a sad life.)
Anyway: Amy Zhang was the keynote speaker at the 2014 Chapter One Young Writers Conference, and we absolutely loved having her! Amy is hilarious and smart and seriously so talented oh my gosh. (I want to be her when I grow up.) Her debut novel, a YA contemporary called Falling into Place, came out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins in September and is just as incredible as you’d expect.
On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.
Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.
Sounds great, right? Well, now it’s your chance to win a copy of Falling into Place!
You have two weeks to enter using one or more of the options in the Rafflecopter giveaway linked below. The giveaway will end at midnight Friday, October 17.
First off, the Chapter One Young Writers Conference‘s 2014 keynote speaker Amy Zhang’s YA contemporary debut FALLING INTO PLACE came out yesterday!! (That was such a mouthful, wow.) It’s SO GOOD, and I’m not just saying that because I know Amy. You need to read this book. I couldn’t put it down all day and was basically walking around in a fog whenever classes forced me to.
Also, make sure to stop by Amy’s website, because she’s giving away some cool FALLING INTO PLACE swag on her blog right now!
Second off, Ch1Con‘s about to kick it into high gear with about a thousand announcements in the next few weeks, so BE PREPARED for the onslaught.
Third off, this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post. [Trigger warning: I’m talking about triggers today.]
I woke up this morning to an email from the police that there was a man with a gun in the chemistry building and the campus was going into lockdown. This didn’t affect me much since I was, you know, still in bed and live off campus. And almost instantaneous to me seeing the original Emergency Alert email, they sent out the All Clear, anyway. So everything was fine. Just a fun little disruption to our day. (That’s sarcasm on the “fun” front, my friend.)
It turns out the “gunman” was just a Navy ROTC member with non-weaponized equipment (aka: a gun filled with concrete so it isn’t dangerous), returning said equipment to the ROTC office. In the comment section of an article about the incident, someone groused about everyone needlessly freaking out because someone carried a gun through a class building without their knowing whether it was a working gun or the man had an intention of shooting anyone with it.
I’m not going to go into my stance on whether or not people should be allowed to own guns right now, but this comment really bothered me, because after everything that’s been happening on campuses across the United States, I think the general assumption (and the one that helps keep students safer) is that if someone has a gun with them in a place guns are not meant to be fired, there’s a good chance it’s not good.
After all, the purpose of a gun is not to humbly sit there, bullets within it, not touching the world around it. The purpose of a gun is to shoot things.
And if it’s not shooting something, it’s not fulfilling its purpose.
Thus, by this definition: an unconcealed weapon in the chem building is something we should react to first and ask the carrier questions about second. (Seriously. Who’s going to walk up to a guy with a gun outside a college classroom and be like, “Yo. What’cha got there? You planning on shooting anyone with that today?” NOT ME.)
This inherent (and what I believe to be intelligent) response to seeing someone with a gun (you know–reacting by assuming s/he’s going to shoot it) is also really important in stories.
If someone carries a weapon of some sort into a scene–be it a gun, or a knife, or some really juicy gossip–it can’t just Be There. It has to be there for a purpose. A gun in a scene is a promise that someone is going to shoot it. And if someone doesn’t, that becomes a broken promise to the reader. And when you break promises to the reader, bad things happen. (I’m not going to go into the bad things. The first rule of Reader Club is you do not talk about Reader Club.)
This rule about weapons applies to more in fiction than only things characters can use to hurt each other. It applies to everything. Did your protagonist just comment on a pretty picture? That’s great for the moment, but for it to be great for the story, you need the fact that you’ve drawn attention to the picture to mean something in the long run. Maybe there’s a clue to the mystery hidden in the picture. Or the picture has some sort of symbolic resonance that you come back to during the climax.
What matters is that it matters.
I was thinking about this today, not just because of our non-weaponized “gunman” (poor, poor Navy ROTC member), but because yesterday I had this opposite-of-an-epiphany moment in which, for no apparent reason in the middle of one of my film classes, I realized I have this paragraph in the middle of the climax of the novel I’m revising that makes no sense within the scene.
It’s information I need to share, and it comes out in a realistic way, but it isn’t important to the scene it’s in.
So while that scene is important to that information, that information is not important to that scene. And it can’t work,that way.
It’s a reciprocal relationship. Everything needs to make context in a scene (your reason for bringing a gun) and everything in a scene must be important to the scene (shooting the gun). And all of this, ultimately, needs to be important to the overall story (the results of shooting the gun).
Every word you write is a promise to the reader. Like a real gun, the purpose of your fictional (or metaphorical) gun is to shoot it.
It’s storming like crazy outside right now. A little bit ago, a mama deer and her two babies went prancing through our backyard and the babies jumped about two feet every time thunder clapped overhead.
Now we’ve progressed to the Thunder Rolling Sinisterly In the Distance segment of the storm, so I feel like it’s safe enough to have my laptop out. (Fingers crossed. I just ate some really greasy cheese and I’m not in the mood for getting deep fat fried the week before I’m supposed to leave for Europe.)
This past weekend (as I’m sure you’re aware, since I haven’t shut up about it in like two months) was the Chapter One Young Writers Conference. The conference was so much fun and I learned a ton from our speakers. So, I figured for this week’s Wordy Wednesday I’d share a few of their lessons.
1. “There will probably come a time when no shortcuts or tricks will work. You just have to power through it.” –Ariel Kalati
Ariel gave a presentation on how to avoid common procrastination pitfalls. However, the conclusion she came to was this: Sometimes, nothing you do will make things easier. You just have to trust yourself and your love of writing, instead, and “power through.”
Patrice gave a presentation on world-building in which she revealed that making a believable world relies on rules. Think about the “rules” of your world. How does the magic system work (if they have magic), what’s their religion like, and how’s their society set up? What foods do the characters eat and what activities do they do in their free time? Know the details and establish rules in order to make a world as real to the reader as this one.
3. “Mr. Rogers thinks everyone has a voice.” –Molly Brennan
Molly gave a presentation that compared journalism and fiction techniques. Somehow out of this we started our own sorta-meme: “Mr. Rogers thinks _____.” The odd yet important lesson that Molly inadvertently taught with this is that someone is always paying attention and someone always believes in you. (She also taught many journalism/fiction lessons, but come on. Why give up the opportunity to use a quote that includes a Mr. Rogers reference.)
We did an Ask Us Anything panel Saturday afternoon. It began with questions like, “When did you start writing seriously?” and “What are your favorite types of stories?” But then we moved to questions about OTPs and favorite fictional places, and I realized: you learn a lot more about people (and characters) from the random, seemingly pointless questions than the serious, traditional ones.
5. People want lives that resemble fiction and fiction that resembles lives. [Amy Zhang]
Amy gave our keynote address, which was on developing unforgettable characters. The biggest lesson I took from her session was that the key to writing good characters is writing ones who seem like real people, not characters at all. It’s the ones we can imagine walking past us in the halls at school, sitting beside us on the city bus, who stay with us long after we’ve turned the last page.
Kira gave a workshop on writing opening pages. An important lesson she shared was that it’s cliche, these days, to start at “the beginning.” The first day of school, first day of summer, first day of a new job–overall, beginnings have become overdone. It’s better to start before or after this part. (And you’re also more likely to learn unique, important details about the characters by starting at another point.)
Interested in attending Ch1Con next year? Help us decide dates!
And now, in case I don’t have a chance to say goodbye before I leave for Europe next week (I’ll be gone before Wednesday), I hope you have a good couple weeks and treat our guest posters well. 🙂 I can’t wait to post from Oxford! Love you!
You don’t know it yet, but that writing website you discovered the other day is going to change everything.
You’ll learn so much about the publishing industry, there. Become a better writer. Fall into being a much better person.
And most importantly, you’ll meet some of your best friends.
I know. Crazy. Becoming friends with people on the internet. Didn’t Mom and Dad warn you not to do that? (But it’ll be okay, because that writing website has a wonderful moderator named Bronwen who will keep you from sharing the personal details that could get you kidnapped by a drug cartel/human traffickers.) (You know. Until Fourteen Year Old You and said online friends join NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program, at which you all realize you can now talk without anyone else watching, and you subsequently become completely invested in each other’s lives.)
You don’t know it yet, but a lot of your dreams aren’t going to come true. You won’t be like that girl in that Andrew Clements novel you read over and over again. You won’t be the one juggling schoolwork with book tours and TV appearances.
But that’s okay, that’s more than okay, because you are going to be the one with an AP English essay open in one window and endless novel revisions open in another. You’ll be the one “writing” in notebooks during breaks at theatre rehearsals (because come on, now: we all know that chicken scratch can’t be called writing). You’ll be the one who talks about being scared you’re in the Saggy Middle of your journey to publication as a senior in high school while pacing in a hotel room in New York City, a writing conference in full swing a few floors below.
You’ll be the one who cries a little when you step in the Javits Center for the first time as (Two Weeks Ago) Twenty Year Old You. Because while everybody else in the industry despises it, for someone still so on the outside, that building looks like dreams for the future and rings with those dreams coming true.
Don’t be scared. You’ll still wants it as badly as you do now, Twelve Year Old Me. But you’ll want it differently in seven and a half years. And it’s a long, hard, and beautiful journey to get here.
The other kids on that website you stumbled across are going to be your lifelines through all this. Don’t be mad when they’re better than you; be grateful when they compliment your writing; and always remember how lucky you are to have them in your life.
You don’t deserve them. You still don’t now. But you do have them, and they have you, and that’s what you’re doing here right now.
Because “here” is Arlington Heights, Illinois. And “right now” is 7:21 AM, June 14th, 2014. The morning of the 2014 Chapter One Young Writers Conference. A conference you put together (with a LOT of help from Mom, mind you) so you and your friends and other young writers like you can transcend the boundaries of the internet and distance, at least for a weekend. Because after seven and a half years, you guys deserve that kind of thing.
And now you–or I, I guess, am sitting here on a bath mat across from a hotel toilet, because I don’t want to wake Mom out in the room. And my left shoulder blade is pressed to the wall, legs bent with left flip flop pressed to right thigh, and it’s funny, because in seven and a half years years everything else has changed, but I still sit like I don’t know how to be a functioning human being. (Let’s be honest: I don’t.)
You’re just a snatch of memory held up with velvet rope and spotlights at the back of my mind, now, Twelve Year Old Me: a period in my life I remember probably far too often, because I am scared to forget.
And I love you. Because you won’t know you’re changing everything when you choose to use that website for all the wrong reasons and choose to obsess over it for all the right ones.
Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. And don’t watch too much TV; it rots your brain. (But no worries. The doctors fix that in the future by coming up with a drug called “Netflix.” Don’t tell the other kids, but it’s going to be awesome.)
One last word of advice: Thirteen Year Old You will encounter the urge to write a novel titled Pennamed. Much bad will come of this. DON’T GIVE IN. (But actually do, because finishing that first terrible novel is one of the things that sets you down the path to Now. And I love Now.)
I’m off to talk with some of those girls you met the other day. Thanks for introducing me to them. They’re pretty cool.
Sorry I didn’t get the chance to post yesterday! We didn’t get home until midnight and I had been fighting nodding off the entire way (for some reason a weekend of being touristy in NYC can do that to you), so I just collapsed on my bed the instant I was through the door.
BookCon ended Saturday evening, so Sunday was purely a day for sightseeing. We started with brunch at a French restaurant (peppermint tea and a multi-grain waffle with fresh strawberries and syrup and whipped cream!). Then we were off to Central Park. (Side note: I just yawned and my right ear finally popped after getting off the plane at TEN. THIRTY. last night. Gee thanks, ear.)
We spent the majority of the afternoon walking around Central Park. It was about seventy five out and sunny, which meant the park was packed. The lawns were practically standing room only with so many people spread out to nap or eat or play catch or just take it all in. We trekked to the Obelisk (which was unfortunately under construction, but still pretty cool), the Alice in Wonderland statue (adorable children climbed all over it, paying no mind to the heat), and the Strawberry Fields mosaic (where a guy with a guitar sang “Imagine” and laughing tourists crowded the mosaic for pictures).
After Central Park, it was a whirlwind of making it to our plane on time. We stopped at a street vendor for fresh fruit on our way back to the hotel, then grabbed our luggage and hit the road–at which point all efforts to reach the airport were thwarted by multiple car accidents that completely stopped traffic on our way through Queens to LaGuardia.
Fact: Getting in a car accident in New York City seems to be about one of the worst places to get in a car accident. The firetrucks and ambulances were slow on their way to and from the accidents because so many cars blocked their way to them and these blocking vehicles had nowhere to go. Add in the impatient taxi drivers and angry tourists, and it’s like something out of a disaster movie.
Despite all that, though, we did make it to the airport with plenty of time. We got dinner at one of the LaGuardia food courts, caught a ride with a very bored-looking airport transport vehicle driver dude (thank God, because suitcases full of books are HEAVY), then it was onto the airplane.
Which immediately began to loudly beep. Like it was going to explode.
“It’s just the smoke detector in one of the bathrooms,” a flight attendant assured the guy across the aisle from me. “Although, we can’t seem to find any smoke, so that’s strange.”
I obviously spend far too much time thinking up crazy, violent acts for stories, because my first thought was that someone had rewired the thing to turn it into a bomb and the plane was going to blow up the moment they turned the engines on.
With the help of some maintenance people, they managed to turn the alarm off (which then required closing the bathroom, which then led to massive lines to get into the working one for the duration of the flight–fun times).
Anyway, I spent the flight reading The Lord of the Rings in preparation for Oxford, and mi madre did Sudoku, and Hannah read a Percy Jackson book, and I’m not really sure what Hannah’s mom did because I couldn’t spy on her from my seat. But rest assured, we didn’t blow up and safely made it home and I miss New York already.
But I’m also really glad to finally get some sleep.
Next up in the Summer of Bookish Traveling: Chicago for the Chapter One Young Writers Conference! If I haven’t already driven you crazy with how much I go on about it, you can check out our website at www.chapteroneconference.com. The conference will take place Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15 outside Chicago and it’s for anyone interested in writing, ages 12-22. Registration closes next Wednesday (the 11th), so you should get on that if you might want to come! We’d love to have you. 🙂
Watch out for an in depth, rambling post about BookCon on Saturday (and possibly a review of BookCon as an event, itself) sometime this week!
Back in February, I created an LLC to run Ch1Con through. So many people own small businesses in the United States, I figured it couldn’t be too complicated to get everything started and running properly.
Register the business with the state? Check.
Open a business banking account? Check.
What else could I possibly need to do? (As you’ve probably guessed by now: a freaking ton.)
The past few months have been a whirlwind of forms I didn’t know I needed to fill out until it was almost too late and awkward back-and-forths with Very Official Business People, all much older than me and used to not spewing words like “freaking” in the middle of a sentence.
I have a CPA, a banker, and a lawyer. I have to keep track of a thousand and one numbers and licenses and forms.
Yesterday, my aunt dropped by and mentioned that I have to charge the conference attendees sales tax.
“Really? I asked. “I figured I could just pull it from the amount they’re already paying us.”
She shook her head and laughed. “That’s illegal. You have to get a license from the state to charge sales tax and you have to collect it directly from the customers. With their knowledge.”
Sure enough, a Google search after she’d left proved her right. Which then meant researching how sales tax even works, what to do about use tax, applying for the license, figuring out how to add it to our conference order forms, and not dying from a heart attack. All as quickly as possible.
Three and a half hours I’d meant to spend revising a novel? Gone.
Basically, while I’ve always respected small business owners, I am now in awe of how they handle everything. They are superheroes. And I am never taking my local bookshops and restaurants for granted again.