NaNo Day 28: Interview with Patrice Caldwell

Happy Day After Thanksgiving! I’m about to leave on a road trip to my fourth and final Thanksgiving dinner of the year, out in Chicago. And I need to work on my twelve page film history term paper in the car, so today should be fun. (Benefits of finishing NaNo early: Writing my term paper earlier. Downsides of finishing NaNo early: Writing my term paper earlier.)

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 Patrice Caldwell, Ch1Con’s Master of Marketing and all around brilliant human being. Patrice and I met online what feels like ages ago–I think through a group for college writers on WriteOnCon? (You know it’s been a while if I don’t even remember.) Long story short: I’ve been following her blog forever and she is intelligent, and passionate, and hilarious, and you have no idea how grateful I am to have her as part of the Ch1Con team. Take it away, Patrice.

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patrice-caldwell_(1)Q: In one sentence, what is your novel about?

A: One sentence, yikes! *cracks knuckles* Okay.

Set in a land where magic is strictly forbidden HEIRS OF FIRE AND ICE is the story of two young women, Zahra, a trader of items of questionable means (call her a pirate and she’ll have your tongue), and Aaliyah, a princess without a country, who are forced together by unforeseen circumstances and must journey to uncover their mysteriously linked pasts and save their empire.

Vague. I know, but I’m working on it. I will say this it’s set in a land based on medieval African civilizations, and my Pinterest board is to die for… now if only my novel could reach that level :/

Q: What is your favorite part of NaNoWriMo?

A: The accessibility of it. I love how it breaks down the myth that you have to have studied writing for years, yada, yada, yada. NaNoWriMo is all about jumping in and doing a crazy/scary/usually thought of as unrealistic thing. To me it never matters if you’re actually able to reach 50,000 words. Let me be honest, I never have. It’s the fact that you tried, that you started, and for me, NaNo is the burst of energy and support I need to finish the MS by the end of the year since most of my manuscripts/most MSs are longer than 50,000 words anyway.

Q: Do you have any specific writing rituals you follow?

A: Ha! Can Write Anywhere, Anytime type of person…do they actually exist? TEACH ME. No, but seriously. I wish I could do that. Being a college student, I would write so much more if I could write anywhere (of course I have been known to plot stories and figure out entire scenes during class when I should be taking notes). I, however, have some rituals. The main one being that I like to brew me a nice (hot) cup of green tea (I’m a bit of a green tea snob) before I start writing (usually in the morning). I sit at my desk (or stand at my standing desk) near my window with a great view of campus and I write. I also make sure I have one of my yellow legal pads with several multi-color ink pens beside my laptop so I can take notes, etc. if need be. My writing process also involves a lot of pacing and talking aloud (mostly to my stuffed animals, LOL) so I like my room to be clean so I have a clear path.

…See what I mean. I must seem like a (writing) diva.

Q: What’s your secret to juggling life and NaNo at the same time?

No secret. I firmly believe if something’s important enough to you, you MUST make time for it. It’s something I struggle with every day. But, writing is my life. It’s the way I relax, and so when I don’t write I get stressed. It’s crucial to my well being that I make time for writing whether it’s 30 minutes before class, during class (haha), or before I go to bed I always try to make time to “put pen to paper.” It’s hard though but discipline really is the key to success (and happiness).

Q: Any advice for the troops? 

I love the quote do what you love, the rest will follow. And so I like to say write what you love the rest (the story) will follow. Laini Taylor has this great quote where she talks about the importance of “just writing.” Don’t stare at a blank screen. Writing about writing is better than not writing. Eventually you’ll figure out where you got lost or stuck. It’s currently my desktop background so I thought I’d leave it here for you along with a quote by Isabelle Allende:

It’s what helps me. Taking it word by word, and not thinking or stressing about the rest.

Also, I have a collection of resources for writers on my blog. They’re posts, videos, etc. that have helped me get through certain points of the writing process. Hope that helps. Good luck! You’ve got this 😀 Carry on.

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Thanks for letting me interview you, Patrice!

Want to learn more about Patrice? You can find her at the following links.

Goal for today: 3,000.

Overall goal: 50,000.

Current word count: 50,127.

How was your Thanksgiving?

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday: Lessons from Ch1Con

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.

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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.”

2. World-building is about the rules. [Patrice Caldwell]

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.)

4. Random questions can get you the best answers. [Panel with Amy Zhang, Patrice Caldwell, and Kira Budge]

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.

6. Don’t start at the beginning. [Kira Budge]

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.)

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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!

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~Julia