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: Ink and Sunlight

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

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

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

Wordy Wednesday: Tick, Tick, Tick

Tomorrow I leave for Chicago for Ch1Con. I’ll be both going to the airport and flying by myself for the first time ever, and I’ve never been to either the airport I’m flying from nor the one I’m flying to. (Basically, I’m feeling very adult-y right now. Also, based on how many times I managed to get lost today going to places I’ve been to a billion times, like there’s a good chance I’m going to find a way to mess this up.)

Before then though, we’ve got a Wordy Wednesday. This week’s post is a song I wrote a few years ago.

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[Capo 5 – G, C, Em, C]
VERSE1
I remember the way you’d look at me
The way you inspired silence,
that rang of eternity

I remember snowball fights
and the rain that fell, endlessly
and you always danced

You were wild and you were calm
You were safe, your hugs were warm
You were everything I wanted to be
I craved that smile that said, you were proud of me

CHORUS [Em, C, G, C]
Tick, tick, tick…
Tick, tick, tick…
Tick, tick, tick…

VERSE2
You were the feel of running
into the sunset
Believed happily ever after
was just the beginning

You were the sound of music
Birds chirping in the dawn
And they haven’t sung once
since you’ve been gone

[Repeat CHORUS]

BRIDGE [Em, C, G, C]
And I don’t know
what to do without you here
The days, the months, the years
just disappear

All at once,
I’m young, and old, and in between
Without you here,
My life’s just a memory

[Repeat CHORUS x2]
[Repeat BRIDGE]
[Repeat CHORUS]

ENDING
And I don’t know
what to do without you here
The days, the months, the years
just disappear

**********

Thanks for reading!

~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

Wordy Wednesday: Raising the Stakes

It’s been a busy week.

I had my first day of work at the bookshop Thursday, then promptly found out that my roommate Hannah needed someone to go to Chicago with her for an emergency trip to the Brazilian consulate (don’t ask). So I traded off Ch1Con Chat duties for the night with the incredible Kira and off we drove to Chicago.

We spent a good part of Friday running back and forth between the consulate and other places, then we got our reward for enduring all of that: a few free hours in downtown. We ate lunch in the cafe in Millennium Park with the Bean as our view, then took the river walk to Navy Pier, where we sat for a while and watched the boats and waves. Afterward, we took the water taxi back to the Magnificent Mile, and from there spur-of-the-moment decided to do a river boat architecture tour. We finished the afternoon with stops at a candy shop and Garrett Popcorn for provisions for the long drive home, then headed back to Michigan.

Despite the fact that in total we were only gone for around thirty hours (and we spent almost half of that in the car, another seven hours or so sleeping, and the entire morning doing the emergency consulate stuff), it was a fun trip. We listened to the Order of the Phoenix audiobook on the way there and back, and got to hang out for the first time since winter semester ended, and yeah.

Then on Sunday my family decided to go into downtown Detroit for the day to celebrate my brother’s recent birthday (HAPPY TWENTY-FOURTH, DUDE), so we hit the Detroit Institute of the Arts to see the special Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo exhibit, then wandered around Campus Martius and Greektown and got dinner. And it was a really wonderful day.

However, what both those trips meant was that come Monday, I was insanely behind on everything. So I’ve been playing catchup with all my various jobs and responsibilities ever since. Fingers crossed that in the next couple days, I finally get there (because then next week is BEA/BookCon, which means I’m going to get behind again).

Anyway. This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.

So this week in my screenwriting class, we’re sharing something called our “five minute pitch.” (The name is pretty self-explanatory.)

I’ve pitched projects a billion times before, between telling literary agents at conferences about my novels and sharing ideas at meetings. But doing the five minute pitch for class was honestly terrifying, because here’s the thing: We haven’t worked on our scripts at all yet.

AT. ALL.

We’d just finished sketching out some quick character profiles and our loglines, and all of a sudden our professor wanted us to have our entire plot ready to go–with all the twists, subplots, and character development fleshed out.

I’m a pantser and a procrastinator, so of course I went into class (assigned to pitch first) with next to nothing prepared and just winged it. And it went pretty well for me making up the story as I went.

However, in the critique afterward my class pointed out a pretty big flaw in my idea. This is a flaw I regularly run into, and probably the fact that my class got the very roughest draft of the plot for my screenplay made it even more apparent than usual.

I’m bad at stakes.

Not always, of course. Within stories themselves, my here-and-now stakes are generally pretty solid. (In the case of my screenplay, a girl’s best friend has been kidnapped and if she doesn’t find her fast, the kidnapper will kill the BFF.) But my why-is-this-story-happening stakes often need help.

Generally, we call this type of stakes “motivation.” Why is someone doing something? Why would they approach the issue in this specific way? What do they hope to obtain from it or fear will happen if they don’t succeed?

It’s that last question that transforms a character’s motivation into a form of stakes, but it’s the combination of the three that I have trouble with. In order for a motivation to feel realistic and justifiable to a reader/viewer, it has to be a single thing that realistically and justifiably answers all three questions.

When pitching my screenplay idea, I talked about how the kidnapper wanted vengeance on the BFF for something she’d done in the past. So, technically I’d answered the first question–but my pitch didn’t really cover the other two, and I hadn’t really thought about those yet.

And, unfortunately, my answer to Question #1 wasn’t the greatest, either.

“The stakes aren’t high enough,” my professor cautioned. My classmates offered ideas for ways I could make the kidnapper’s motivation stronger by making the BFF’s past mistakes worse.

And sitting there in front of the class, furiously taking down editorial notes, I realized something: The mistakes I’d already assigned the BFF were deplorable, so it wasn’t that they weren’t realistic or justifiable motivation for the kidnapping. It was that they weren’t for a kidnapping in fiction.

If this story was happening in real life, the best friend wouldn’t need to do as bad of things to justify someone kidnapping her. The kidnapper wouldn’t need as much riding on her decisions. Real life allows for chance and illogical actions and spur-of-the-moment choices (like Hannah and my one day road trip). But while real life certainly thrives on order, fiction needs it to survive.

You don’t need justification in real life, because it’s really happening. That’s justification enough. But because fiction is, you know, fictional, the reader/viewer no longer is required to believe what you’re telling him/her. So it becomes your job to make it just oh so painstakingly without a doubt believable that s/he has no choice but feel that what you’re telling him/her is the truth.

And this is the part that I’ve had issues with in the past. I know how to justify things IRL; it’s a whole other story to do it in fiction.

The easiest way is to quite simply raise the stakes. Make what’s going on bigger, worse, harder to come back from.

In one of my novels, I was dealing with an organization of dastardly vigilantes that the government wants to shut down. I originally had them at only a couple hundred members, which my critique partners immediately said they couldn’t believe. (“Why would the US government care about an organization that small?” they asked.) (Because, yeah, the real life United States totally wouldn’t care about a couple hundred unknown people running around with guns, killing whoever they felt like.) So I upped the number by a couple hundred. Then, when that still wasn’t believable, had to up it again.

Your in-story motivations have to be larger than life. They have to be impossible to disprove or disagree with. You have to move beyond realistic and justifiable–to indisputable.

So: raise the stakes.

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.

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

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Sears Tower on the horizon.

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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.

Wordy Wednesday: Cliche, Cliche

I’m writing/scheduling this post ahead of time, because Wednesday I’ll be in Chicago on a spring break work trip (Ch1Con 2015 flyer campaign and researching for a novel).

So far this week I’ve been buried under preparations for going out to Chicago, plus doctor’s appointments, plus internship applications–so it’s nice to have midterms behind me and this week off from classes, even if I am using it to work. (Although also, let’s be honest, talking to librarians/bookshop owners/teachers about the conference and being a tourist downtown are probably the best job descriptions ever.)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a writing process post.

The one other thing I’ve been doing a lot of since spring break began is ingesting stories*. I’ve been watching a ton of movies, catching up on TV shows, and, of course, reading.

And, of course, taking in all these stories in such rapid succession means that the similarities they (and a ton of other stories) share are extra obvious.

Welcome to the sweet torture of reading/watching a really good story only for a love triangle/Chosen One/green-eyed romantic interest to pop out. (One of the books I read this weekend actually had all three of those cliches. Amongst others.)

Cliches drive me insane. They’re lazy writing, they make the story boring because they take away from its originality, and they take me out of the story because I’m noticing these things caused by them.

Different cliches annoy me at different levels, though. Like: A love triangle can ruin the book for me. A green-eyed romantic interest, on the other hand? I honestly couldn’t care less, beyond the fact that I do notice it. (2% of the world’s population has green eyes vs. 185% of YA boyfriends.) (But also, green eyes are really freaking awesome for symbolism. And pretty. And there are lots of fun ways of describing them. So I’m good with them.) (Okay, you caught me. I’ve totally done the green-eyed romantic interest thing, too. Shhh.)

Considering the book with all the cliches from this weekend, I realized that the reason some cliches are more annoying than others is because they affect the plot more. There’s a good chance it doesn’t matter in the long run that Mr. McSwoony Pants has green eyes, but love triangles are rarely things that get brushed aside in favor of a larger plot. Instead, they get woven into every fiber of the story, so that you end up with things like Katniss fretting over whether to choose Peeta or Gale in the middle of a FREAKING REVOLUTION. (Or, you know, the entirety of Twilight.)

So here I am. Rattling on about how terrible cliches are. Which, in itself, is kind of cliche at this point.

–But I don’t believe in a black and white nature to cliches.

I think even the worst of the worst cliches can be awesome if done right. I’ve seen so many good boy vs. bad boy or childhood BFF vs. new kid love triangles that it’s really hard for one to seem original now. But I still have hope for wonderful, new, unique love triangles. Because the thing that annoys me about love triangles isn’t love triangles themselves, but the way they’re handled, and this is true for all cliches.

Everything has been done before. EVERYTHING. I can’t tell you how many times a friend or I have wallowed in self-pity over the fact that we just had a shiny new idea, or have been working on a project for several years, only to see something that looks exactly like it come on in a TV spot for a new movie.

Heck, a professor is saying every story ever written can be summarized in one of six plot types. Even Romeo & Juliet wasn’t an original story. (Hello, rip off of Pyramus and Thisbe.)

There’s no such thing as a completely original story.

So it isn’t about what you write, but how you write it.

That book I read this weekend with all the cliches annoyed me (a lot). But there were also a lot of good points to it and I’ll definitely keep reading the series.

So don’t worry about writing cliches. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Write what you want to, do your best at it, and everything else will fall into place.

It’s nearly impossible to write a 100% not-cliche story. Embrace where you do fall into the cliches and make them your own.

You never know. Maybe you’ll be the one to come up with a new twist on the classic love triangle. (#TeamEdward? #TeamJacob? No. #TeamAuthor.)

Thanks for reading!

~Julia

*I apologize for this. I’m starving right now so the only form my brain can function in is food-related verbs.

NaNo Day 29: Family Time

I’m writing today’s post on my phone because I’m at some relatives’ house and I’m too cozy in bed to go ask them for the wifi password, so apologies in advance for any extra typos or anything.

I spent most of yesterday in the car on the way here, but I got very little work of any kind done, so I’m starting to get nervous for this term paper. (I’m 1.5 of 12 pages in and it’s due Tuesday. Um.)

Fingers crossed I manage to get the majority of that written somehow on the drive home tomorrow?

Meanwhile: Thanksgiving dinners are finally done for the year and I officially need to get back into exercising regularly, I’m spending the day hanging with relatives, and we’re supposedly going to check out a cool bookstore today.

If you’re still battling through the end of NaNoWriMo, YOU CAN DO IT! Get off my blog and write.

If you’re done, CONGRATS! Eat some pie. (Not that you shouldn’t eat pie if you haven’t won already, because you should always eat pie. But yeah.)

I’m off to venture out of bed.

~Julia