Wordy Wednesday (“Writer’s Digest Conference 2013, Notes Part 3”)

Sorry this post is coming so late to you today! I was distracted by freedom and a package of Twizzlers. And Batman. (It’s finals week. Class let out yesterday and I don’t have anything again until Friday morning. It’s sort of a problem.)

First up today: I want to dye my hair this summer–it’s something that I’ve wanted to do for years but never actually had the guts too–so now I’m taking a poll to see what color I should go for.

I’m planning on using a dye from this line of temporary dyes (so it’ll last for like a month): http://www.clairol.com/en-US/box-convertor-page.aspx?collectionid=72

I’m deciding between:

Blond: 6 linen (medium cool blond)

Brown: 26 hot cocoa (medium bronze brown)

Auburn: 16 spiced tea (light auburn)

Second up: One last reminder from me to fill out the character form for This Is a Book to help Mel and me create some new, wacky characters to use in our genre-bending novelish masterpiece!

Third up: this week’s Wordy Wednesday is a continuation of my notes from the Writer’s Digest Conference East a few weeks ago. If you haven’t read my notes from the past two weeks, you can check them out by following the following links:

Part 1: Going from Aspiring Writer to Published Author

Part 2: Publishing Short Stories

This week’s topic is Perfecting Your Craft.

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The First Draft is the Easy Part – Revision Demystified [4-6-13]

Speaker: Stuart Horwitz

          Three most important words: scene, series, and theme.

          Like NaNoWriMo, the first draft is quantity over quality

          How to Generate Material:

o   Count your words—you can’t simultaneously create and know the worth of what you’re creating—so count your words, rather than the quality of them

o   Find a neutral audience, like a writing group, beta reader, independent editor, etc.

o   Don’t try to organize everything.

o   Don’t count your hours, because you can get distracted during them (hello, Facebook). Count your words. But make sure you have enough hours scheduled to get that number of words.

          “You count the words, you make the time.”

          Listen for the sound of your own voice.

          Have fun—“the most important way to generate material”

THE STEPS TO REVISING

          SCENE

o   Find all your scenes, put them in the right order

o   Define (1) where something happens, (2) where, because something happens, something else changes; (3) make sure it’s capable of series, (4) is in service of the overall scene, (5) is necessary to the novel.

o   Brainstorm all of your scenes by giving them each a name—the only catch is that you can’t look at the book. Go through the list of scenes, highlight the good ones in green (good enough)—highlight bad scenes in fuchsia. “A bad scene is sort of like a bad relationship; you have to fix it before you can move on.” Highlight in blue the scenes that you forget—examine why they weren’t important enough for you to remember. Highlight in brown the scenes you still need to write.

o   You should always be writing.

o   Print out a list of your scenes, cut them up, try to put them in order—this helps you get new ideas and understand your story better, etc. Examine how the scenes react and interact to create emotional pay off. This is called “series.”

          SERIES: The repetition and variation of elements that work so that their repetition and variation make the book better.

o   A scene MUST be capable of series.

o   Every time a series occurs, it’s an iteration of the series.

o   A character, relationship, saying, etc can be a series.

o   “Series is how a person becomes a character, an object becomes a symbol, and a theme becomes the philosophy of the book.

o   Series can be abstract or specific.

o   The series reveal your narrative arc. “SERIES is the new PLOT.”

o   Iterations of series create tension—variations of series release this tension.

o   Series—interact, inform each other in complex ways.

o   Write out all the series—cut them down until you just have the most important one, in one sentence—that one sentence is your book’s theme.

          THEME

o   Put your theme in the center of a target. Take our subthemes (your other series) and place them around it on the target, the distance depending on how connected they are. Ultimately, you’re going to want to place everything on the target, from characters to series to scenes.

OTHER STUFF

          Kill your darlings.

          The tyranny of the first draft—you think anything you’ve already created is better than what you will create in the future. This isn’t true.

          Short narrative parts are “links.” Connective tissues between the actual scenes. An example of a link is the “voiceover link,” in which your narrator talks directly to the reader.

o   Old-school did “scene and summary”—that was classic literature. It’s different now.

          You should have at least 60 to 70 pages written before using this method of revising.

          “Spend time thinking about what you’ve done before trying again and again to do it.”

*****

Twenty-One Revision Techniques [4-6-13]

Speaker: Cheryl Klein

          Revision = Re-visioning

          VISION: go back to the big picture of the story and figure out EXACTLY what it is, what you want it to be.

1.      Know how you work best

2.      Take time off from the project and work on something else in the meantime

3.      Before you look at the MS again, write a letter to a sympathetic friend saying:

a.       What is the book about? What is sacred about it? What’s at the core? What would you refuse to change no matter what?

b.      What do you want to do with the book—to be funny, dramatic, etc?

c.       What is the book about from a thematic/philosophical sense?

d.      All the things you love about it.

e.       What you suspect/know needs work.

4.      Write the spine of the story in one sentence.

5.      Write the flat copy—a 250 word summary that gives away the ending.

6.      Creative stuff—look at word frequency using www.wordle.net

a.       Make a collage or playlist

b.      Choose touchstones (words, pics, or mascots) that represent a character or feeling or idea

          EXAMINATION

7.      Change the font, then print out and read the entire MS on. the. page. Take notes as you go.

8.      List the first ten things each significant character says or does; include internal thoughts for your POV character.

a.       “The man reason for rewriting [is] … to discover the inner truth of your characters.”

b.      What is the character’s joy? Pain? What do they want? What will he or she do to get it?

9.      Is your inciting incident actual action? How close can you get it to page one?

a.       Where are the turning points in the story?

b.      Work backward from the climax: do at least three plot developments support it?

10.  Chart plotting/book mapping: Map out your book.

a.       Plot-oriented mapping: make a spreadsheet with: chapter number, title, POV character, setting, word count. – At the bottom, justify the existence of each plot relative to the other plots and themes.

11.  Chart plotting/book mapping: Map out your book.

a.       Character-oriented mapping (for each significant character): Desire (conscious, unconscious), strengths, obstacles to reach desire, three actions s/he takes to achieve desire, and overall contribution to plot or protagonist this character makes.

12.  Book map (outline) the action of the book scene-by-scene.

a.       For every scene, ask: What do the characters in the scene each want? What is the conflict in this scene?

b.      For every scene, ask: What is the new info we learn in this scene?

c.       Each scene should have:

                                                              i.      Initial action

                                                            ii.      But (or) therefore (or) meanwhile

                                                          iii.      And then

13.  Mini-map

a.       Provide a 1-to-2 sentence summary of the action in each chapter. Do you have a lot of talking/thinking/action scenes in a row?

14.  Compare the vision you articulated in #3-5 with the results of #7-13 and compile a “To Do” list of things you want to accomplish in a revision.

a.       Don’t be afraid to think BIG, but take time to listen small.

          ACTION

15.  Set a deadline for completing each state of revision and a reward for each one.

16.  Work large to small

a.       Wording’s the last thing; major plot/character changes are first.

17.  Once you’re reasonably satisfied you have the big stuff done, highlight the following in different colors to find your balance, what each scene is conveying to the reader, etc:

a.       Action

b.      Description

c.       Internal narration

d.      Dialogue

Highlight each character’s dialogue in a different color—read through for:

a.       Consistency

b.      Voice

Cut adverbs, other than said, feel, etc—“I felt sad” should be replaced with “I was sad” (stronger language)—Remove passive voice. Use active voice. What’s dangerous is not one particular practice, but an excess of that practice. “Unhelpful babies”—kill your babies when they’re getting in the way of the larger plot you need to achieve. Watch your emotional tone.

18.  Check your first line for resonance—needs to promise drama.

a.       Last line—fermatas—last line of every chapter or scene should be a note you want to sustain in the reader’s mind.

19.  Read the book aloud, or—better yet—have someone read it aloud to you.

20.  Keep a copy of EVERYTHING. Never permanently delete anything.

21.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. KEEP CALM AND REVISE ON.

*****

The First Ten Pages [4-7-13]

Speaker: Paula Munier

          You have 140 characters to capture your reader’s attention. You have 140 characters or 25 words to get an agent or editor’s attention. That’s a single line, paragraph, page, or scene.

          “The first page sells the book. The last page sells the next book.” – Old saying in publishing

          Take your favorite ten books off the shelf, read just the first page, and see if you can do the same thing they did.

          First and last page should reflect one another.

          The two most important pages are the first and last.

          The first two weeks as an agent, Paula got 1,000 queries—and they keep on coming. That’s a lot of queries to try to stand out from. But good material will stand out.

          1 in 200 queries is worth asking for material from

          Most writers can’t write a good synopsis—most agents will not hold that against you

          If an agent requests something and the synopsis—they will read the “something” before the “synopsis” generally.

          Reasons Agents Stop Reading:

o   Nothing happens

o   I’ve seen it before

o   There’s no strong voice telling the story

o   I’m bored

o   I’m not connecting with any of the characters

o   I can’t tell what kind of story I’m reading

o   Don’t care what happens next

o   The plot is unbelievable and/or full of clichés

o   The dialogue doesn’t sound like “real people”

o   There are typos, spelling, and/or grammatical errors

          Agents, editors, readers—they’re a sucker for voice—a strong voice can save you

          Make sure your title fits your genre

          You want the reader to be asking questions

          Don’t go for the cheap joke if it’s not authentic

          Invest in your project—get a line editor

          Top Ten Reasons Agents Keep Reading:

o   Something happens (aka: inciting incident)

o   Strong voice

o   Level of craft is high

o   Characters make you FEEL something

o   Writer has gained the agent’s confidence

o   Don’t know what happens next

o   Something unique about story/storyteller

o   It’s clear what kind of story is being told

o   There’s a market for this type of story

o   The prose is clean, clear, and concise—the 3 Cs of Prose

          Never open a book with weather. But if you have to start with weather, make it;

o   Bad weather

o   Propel your plot

o   Affect your hero in a bad way

o   Set the tone

o   Speak to theme

          Avoid prologues

o   If you need a prologue, don’t call it a prologue—use a time reference instead (“Five years earlier,” etc)

o   Try to use a device like a newspaper clipping, diary entry, etc instead

o   Apply a different format to set it apart from the rest of the book (italics, breaks, etc)

          Do not start with a dream

o   So many stories have done this, pulling it off in an original way *now* is tough

          Don’t start with a character alone, thinking.

o   If you do this, he’d better be doing something compelling at the same time, like:

§  Committing a crime

§  Finding a corpse

§  Planting a bomb

§  Etc.

          Don’t start with a phone call (especially in the middle of the night)—also, tweets, voicemails, etc.

          DO Start with:

o   Voice

o   Setting

o   Action

o   Character

o   Conflict

o   Scene

o   Theme

o   Tone

          You have to:

o   Move the plot forward

o   Establish genre

o   Highlight voice

o   Describe setting

o   Reveal character

o   Set the tone

o   Speak to theme

          Most of all START WITH A SCENE.

          You HAVE to have a killer first line.

          Scene 1 Checklist:

o   What actually happens?

o   Why will the reader care about/relate to the characters?

o   How do you want the reader to feel? What have you done to evoke that emotion?

o   Have you used all the elements of fiction at your disposal—setting, plot, character, theme, etc?

o   Have you chosen the right POV/voice?

o   Does the dialogue ring true?

o   Are the story questions strong enough to keep the reader reading?

o   Is it clear what kind of story you’re telling?

o   What makes this story different from the others of its ilk?

o   Is the scene well-written and well-edited?

          If you can’t think of what makes your story special, you’ve got a problem—you want your story to be “just like [insert successful novel name here], but different because [insert kickbutt reason here].”

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~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Writer’s Digest Conference 2013, Notes Part 1”)

Okay, here we go! I’m grouping these based on topic. Today’s post: Going from Aspiring Writer to Published Author.

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Pitch Perfect [4-5-13]

Speaker: Chuck Sambuchino

**Please note: A lot of this session was specific to pitching your work at the Writer’s Digest Conference Pitch Slam, so I’m only sharing information that’s pertinent to writers outside of the conference. Thanks for understanding!

There are seven key components to crafting a winning query letter. These are:

1. Your main character—introduce him/her/it as soon as possible

2. You need A or B or both:

A) Introduce something interesting or unique about your MC

B) What does your MC want?

3. Inciting incident

4. Conflict—“What is your book about?”

5. Complications—interesting characters, situations, etc.

6. Unclear wrap-up—end in an ambiguous ending. You never want to give away how your book ends in the query letter (that’s what the plot synopsis is for).

7. STAKES. What will happen if your MC doesn’t accomplish his/her/its goal?

Avoid using generalities in your letter. This will sink you. Be specific.

Beware of subplots and details—stick to the central plot. You can have a little fun with the complications, but don’t spend too much time on them.

Only give the name of the central characters, OR keep to characterization rather than proper names (Ex: “The princess must save the kingdom from the evil sorcerer,” rather than, “Princess Dadkroasdufnsdrlksjd must save Hadlkrjsaodnksjdnsl from IadkrsndEadkfnrkdfHgalkdrnmsdl.”)

Make sure to use flair and voice. You don’t want your letter to read like a grocery list of what happens in your book.

Avoid “my novel is” expressions. (Example: “My novel is full of twists and turns.”)

Make sure to show, don’t tell—BE. SPECIFIC.

Make the agent have an emotion. If your book is funny, make them laugh. If it’s sad, make them tear up a little.

*****

Panel: Ask the Agent [4-6-13]

Moderator: Chuck Sambuchino

Panelists: Joanna Volpe, Gina Panetierri, Jessica Regel, and Jennifer De Chiara

          Gina/Joanna: Self-publishing is good in certain cases, and sometimes your lit agent will suggest that you self-publish instead of going traditional, depending on the book. However, it’s STILL GOOD to have an agent—they can sell your sub-rights in other countries, get you a good deal on your movie rights, etc.

          Jennifer: Red-flags for pitching to an agent in person—don’t read off a paper (have your pitch memorized)

          Joanna: Also, don’t spend your entire pitch time talking—give the agent a chance to ask questions and react

          Chapter One Red Flags: bad voice (or at least not a rich one) (JENNIFER), querying a genre they don’t represent (JESSICA), nothing happens—it’s all backstory (GINA), if you haven’t edited your work (GINA), introducing 52 million characters in ten pages (GINA), making your opening entirely narrative (GINA), queries need to be proofread and ALWAYS have to talk about the story, NOT yourself(!!!) (JOANNA).

          JOANNA: In your query, only bring up agency comp titles if they’re actually similar to your story

          JESSICA: A query is NOT the same as a synopsis.

          JESSICA: If your genres are crazy overlapping, just pitch as the base genre (ex: YA, commercial fic, lit fic, etc—vs. “YA paranormal romance with comedy elements and a robotic dragon”)

          JOANNA: Use comp titles to clarify your genre.

          JESSICA: Depends on the agent, but usually your specific subgenre doesn’t really matter.

          GINA: Every time you start to write in a different genre than you have in the past, you have to start from zero all over again.

          JENNIFER: Try to write at least a few books in each of the genres you write in.

          JENNIFER: You have to publish about 20,000 copies in a short period of time in order for a self-pubbed book to be big enough to mention to an agent.

          JOANNA/JESSICA: Agents prefer that you DON’T self-publish before you’re agented.

          JESSICA: When you get a full manuscript request, it’s okay to do a 30 day follow-up; just be like, “How are you doing with the book?”

          JENNIFER: When pitching an agent in person, have your pitch memorized, but also try to not make it SOUND memorized. Sound like you’re just talking passionately about your book on the spot.

          JESSICA: Word count doesn’t matter as much as voice.

          JESSICA: However, “If you think it’s too long, it’s probably too long.”

*****

Panel: Future of the Writer [4-7-13]

Panelists: Chuck Wendig, Amanda Barbara, Jon Fine, Kristen McLean, Kristin Nelson

          Kristin: There are no gatekeepers in the publishing industry now, because of self-publishing.

          Chuck: Crowd-funding can be very successful for funding books. Danger: If there’s no audience, there’s no money. So: put free material out there in order to gain an audience for your paying projects.

          Amanda: Use free social media sites to build an audience—when doing this, don’t pitch your book, pitch yourself. Pitch your interests—people are more likely to buy your book if they already have a personal connection with you.

          Amanda: Be passionate. People will react to your energy.

          Jon: In the past, one of the major pillars that traditional publishing provided was marketing—they don’t do this as much anymore. Now it’s up to the author.

          Jon: You have the ability and obligation to control the path of your book now.

          Kristen: Self-publishing has caused the Democratization of Publishing.

          Kristen: The author is now a publisher’s customer just as much as the reader is—the publishers are late to the game to realize this.

          Kristen: Publishers need to get tools to help their authors market (heat maps, contacts lists, etc.)

          Kristin: Don’t go into it like, “How do I build my platform?” Go into it doing what you’re passionate about, and the platform will follow.

          Kristen: Traditional publishing used to be all there was out there. Now it’s just the top of a pyramid, with small/indie presses below it, and self-publishing at the bottom. All are routes to publication.

          Kristen: Midlist titles aren’t going to get to the top of the pyramid anymore; they’re going to be in the middle layer, with the small presses.

          Jon: Publishers go, “They’re already making 70% of Amazon. Can we actually make them more money?” It’s the job of both the publisher and author to consider that question.

          Amanda: Everyone (even the authors with the big publishers) NEEDS to connect with their audience these days.

          Kristin: Not a single book has become an international bestseller without a traditional publisher—it’s going to happen in the future, but it hasn’t happened so far.

          Kristin: Publishers REALLY get behind maybe 10 books a year.

          Kristin: Audiences never go anywhere—the publishers just stop paying attention to them sometimes (which is how what once was marketed as “chick lit” is now being marketed as “new adult”)

          Kristen: Self-publishing—decreasing risk to increase opportunity.

          Kristen: For every 100 or 1,000 titles a publishing house acquires, VERY few will be successful.

          Kristin: 240 to 500 5-star-reviews on Amazon shows that something is really happening with your book; that you’re being successful.

          Kristin: It’s all about content—you need to consistently be putting out content (at least every 3 to 4 months).

          Chuck: If you aren’t comfortable doing something (blog, Twitter, Facebook, etc), don’t do it—people will be able to tell and it’ll be bad for everyone involved.

          Kristen: As far as platform-building goes—do less, so you can do it WELL.

          Amanda: Social media is the future of the writer—do research to learn how to use it effectively.

          Kristen: You don’t have to be doing everything—you just have to do the right things for you.

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If you’re curious, the full Writer’s Digest Conference East 2013 schedule is available here: link link link.

Make sure to check out all the speakers from the sessions–they’re brilliant! 🙂

I highly, HIGHLY suggest attending a writing conference if you get the chance. They’re super fun and informative. This was my third year attending the Writer’s Digest Conference in New York City, and it still hasn’t gotten boring.

Links to other blogs talking about the conference:

The Ultimately Useless Stories of the Average Teenager

The Spastic Writer

Just Justice

And, while I’m in the middle of giving you a bazillion links, some other awesome people you should check out:

A Fuzzy Mango With Wings

Take It or Leave It

Rebecca Cao

Heroic Endeavors

Kira Budge: Author

HannahDotRose

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Yes. Yes, those are Starkid sunglasses.

~Julia

WDC Weekend: We’re at the Conference!

It’s 12:11 AM, I am absolutely exhausted, and the first day of the conference is done. Basic overview of the day:

After posting this morning, I scampered off to Spanish class to sit through an hour of la gramática, and then skipped and jumped and danced on my way back to the dorm, because I was Free! Free! For the whole weekend! To go to New York City, my favorite place on earth, and interact with other writers!

Did some last minute packing, managed to jam/possibly dislocate my right pinky finger on my hall’s bathroom door (no worries, like all cool people I’m left-handed), and then Madre picked me up and we drove to the airport. Where we had a very tasty and deep-fat-fried lunch:

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Afterward, we headed off to get on the plane. Only, apparently, there was some mix up about which gate our plane was boarding at, so we had to rush off and find the new gate. And then, at the new gate, they informed us that the intercom system was broken on the plane, so they were finding us a new plane instead. So then they herded us all back to the original gate, where the new plane was going to load. Except, then, apparently they managed to fix the plane with the broken intercom, and we all had to go back to THAT gate. At which point we all started getting that nervous crawling feeling because the gate claimed that the plane loading there was going to Baltimore, not New York City. At which point the very kind and patient airport workers informed us that they had indeed fixed the plane, that was indeed the right gate, and it was indeed going to NYC.

On the plane, Madre and I took lots of fabulous selfies. A sampling of my personal favorites:

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At the airport, we reunited with my writing-parner-in-crime, Mel, and then took a cab to the hotel, at which point we realized that Writer’s Digest Conference in January is far different from Writer’s Digest Conference in April. As in: There are. So many. People here. The hotel is basically flooded, because not only are there three different conferences going on at it right now, but there are also a ton of people here for WrestleMania, and spring break, and there are all sorts of fancy rich school groups, and whoa. Lots’a people.

The first few sessions were as fantastic as always (there’s a reason I love WDC so much and keep going back year after year), and then afterward we checked into the hotel, at which point they told us they had run out of the type of room we had reserved, and instead let us have free wi-fi for the day (score!), and–get this–a corner room. That you can actually see part of Times Square from. OH MY GOSH.

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Sorry for the blurriness. I suck at taking pictures when it’s dark out.

We settled in, had fun playing with the bed (it folds into the wall):

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Disclaimer: Nobody was harmed in the taking of this photo.

… And then we ventured into the city! (At which point my camera died, because my battery has the lifespan of a jar of Nutella in a room of hungry college students, and therefore I have no pictures from our adventures beyond the walls of the hotel.)

We explored Times Square, ate some very delicious New York style pizza at Ray’s, and then got dessert at Ellen’s Stardust Diner. And then came back, and now we’re sitting in our fancy schmanzy hotel room, Mel and I blogging while my mom looks at us like we’re crazy people. Which is probably true, but oh well.

Because seriously: We are currently at the Writer’s Digest Conference, the most wondrous conference ever. In New York City, the most magical place on earth.

‘Night!

~Julia

PS. Check out Mel’s blog for some detailed evaluations on the mental states of the magical creatures (*cough* not-quite-normal but all very average humans) we’ve encountered so far!

PPS. Check out Joan’s blog for more conference fun!

PPPS. Reminder that I’m going to be posting my notes from all the various sessions after the conference is over, and throughout the conference I’ll be continuing to blog about what’s going on, so stay tuned for more!

WDC Weekend: Friday Morning

… And so we find ourselves at the inaugural post of the Writer’s Digest Conference Weekend 2013. It is currently 7:42 AM. I’ve got my clothes for today hanging off the ladder for my loft bed behind me, my camera resting just beside my right hand as I type this, and a whole heck of a lot of luggage hanging out somewhere back in the recesses of my room.

Inside I am freaking. out. Outside I look like this:

Snapshot_20130405Please excuse the random lamp in my hand. Webcam is being finicky.

I wasn’t planning on getting up until 8:00, because that’s my usual time for Fridays, I was up past midnight not being able to sleep, and I wanted to get a good night’s rest in before leaving for the conference–but alas: I’m awake already. And although I am TIRED, I am not sleepy. Oops? I guess this gives me more time for all my last minute packing, though. Which is always good since I am the Eternal Forgetter of Everything. (Last WDC I forgot to pack my shoes. THAT was a fun realization when we got to New York.)

So, while I’m here, yawning and angsting at myself for being awake this early, here’s a quick overview of how the weekend’s going to work:

  • Sessions for the conference begin this evening. I’ll probably do a post about what’s up sometime tonight.
  • We have sessions all day tomorrow, culminating in the Pitch Slam (in which Mel and I get to have the funnest of funs by pitching our novels to Real Live Literary Agents for two hours straight while trying not to have simultaneous heart attacks). Then tomorrow night we get some free time to go explore the city (and by “explore the city” I mean “eat good food” and “watch a good musical” and “maybe shop a little because I am an obsessive shopper who shall be in New York City”), and yeah. I will definitely be blogging at least once throughout the day, probably more.
  • Sunday we have sessions in the morning, and then a little more time to go be tourists, and then it’s back to good ol’ U of M for me and good ol’ Other Cool Places for Mom and Mel. I’ll probably update you a couple times throughout the day, and be read for a WDC recap for the end of Sunday.

… And now, I’m off to attempt to stop my bangs from standing straight up like I’m in a cheesy cartoon. Talk to you soon!

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~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Lesson of the Day: How to Torture Julia”)

We’re leaving for the Writer’s Digest Conference the day after tomorrow.

Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, somebody please slap me across the face, because I am FREAKING. OUT.

I basically just constantly look like this right now:

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Two parts excited. One part scared out of my mind.

While we’re on the topic of WDC, just some quick housekeeping type stuff:

  • Just like last year, I’m going to be blogging from the conference throughout the weekend, so be prepared for a slew of extra posted over the course of the next few days.
  • Also just like last year, I’m going to be posting my notes from the sessions (although let’s try to abbreviate that this year so it doesn’t take two months again to post everything, shall we?).
  • Because I’m going to be posting conference notes for the next few weeks, our usual Wordy Wednesday voting process is going to be suspended until I finish with the notes, because those will be coming to you every weekend and Wednesday instead of my usual posting.
  • The next chapter of This Is a Book will be going up on Thursday, April 11th on this blog. Mel and I are super apologetic about all the breaks we’ve had to take from posting that lately, but it’s just been crazy trying to keep up with everything, between school and the conference coming up and, you know, all that other unimportant stuff like sleeping and eating and occasionally even socializing with other humans. (Craziness!)
  • While I obviously can’t say much about it (no details allowed en ze internet), I did want to let you know that I have officially begun querying Cadence, and so far it’s not going completely awful or anything. Which could change at any given point in time, but whatever. (And that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.)

Okay, now on to this week’s Wordy Wednesday! This piece is a memoir I wrote back my sophomore year of high school for the unit on the memoir genre in honors English. We wrote a lot of memoirs. All of mine are fairly horrible. And this is one of them.

I give you: “Lesson of the Day: How to Torture  Julia”

**********

Probably the worst thing that can happen within a group of peers is for one person to turn on another, and for no one to listen to the innocent one. There’s no way out of that situation, and it hurts really bad to be the one who is turned upon. When it happened to me, it made me feel helpless, and worthless, and eventually, I began believing all of the lies, too. I mean, my friends were saying them about me, so how couldn’t they be true? And that belief just made the pain even worse.

            It was back in sixth grade… not the best year for me. Both of my parents went away on business trips; Mom to Sweden, Dad to Germany. This meant that I was left with only one or the other home for a week or so at a time. I wasn’t really used to that. On top of that, my beloved guinea pig, Diana, was really sick, and my last gerbil, Chewy, was starting to get old. My great grandmother was unwell and moved up to Michigan from her house in Florida, and more. There was a lot going on for me.

            So, in turn, I was pretty stressed out. It didn’t help that all of my best friends were in other classes, leaving me with no one to hang out with the entire day, including at Lunch and recess. But, lucky for me, pretty quickly a girl new to the district, Erin (fake name, of course) befriended me, and began hanging around with me more and more. We partnered up in all of our classes, sat together at Lunch, played together at recess, and talked in the hallways. We spent every moment of school together. She was new, and so didn’t have many friends. All of my friends were in other classes. We were the perfect match.

            That is, until about January. At that point, one of the other friends we’d made was discovered to have attempted leaving a hateful note in my desk… only that it wasn’t her handwriting, and Erin was the first to know it was there. Of course, I didn’t jump to the conclusion that Erin had done it to try to break the rest of our group apart or anything, because she had never been anything but nice around us, but as time wore on and we began holding our own “court” during recess everyday to try to figure out who the culprit was, it became more and more evident that she had done it.

            For weeks, I suffered on the inside, torn apart at the idea of my best friend doing something that cruel and devious. When I finally brought it up, with pain in my voice, I asked Erin, “You know, I’ve always wondered… why did the handwriting on that one letter look so much like yours?”

            As I soon learned, that was the wrong question to ask. She immediately threw a sort of temper tantrum, and turned on me, shouting for the entire playground to hear, “Huh! I don’t know, Julia! Maybe it’s because you’re trying to frame it like I did it, so you can have all of our friends to yourself!”

            “What? Of course not!” I objected, but it was too late. Erin had that sort of persuasive power… she could make anyone believe anything she wanted to. Starting that very moment, she spent all of her time avoiding me and spreading awful rumors, telling the entire grade secrets I had sworn her never to share with anyone.

By the end of the week, she had built up her forces enough that she was willing to approach me again, and decided that it was quite entertaining to come at me every day at recess. She would have her new friends form a ring around me, shouting out snide remarks about how I was dressed, about my family, about the words I said, and my dreams. She would threaten me, and ridicule me, and get everyone to laugh at me. No matter what I did, I couldn’t get away, and none of the adults ever believed me, because she was super nice whenever one of the teachers came within earshot.

I cried myself to sleep every night, and wondered why, when I was already having enough trouble coping with life, fate just had to throw another awful thing on my plate.

But, even that wasn’t the worst of it. When the rest of the friends I had managed to make that year saw what was happening, and they heard the words Erin was saying about me, they began joining her side. At first, one or two joined the mob, and then I suddenly looked up and there wasn’t a friendly face left in the crowd. I was all alone in the cruelest world I had ever known: being below the bottom of the totem pole of the sixth grade class.

At one point, I tried getting my mom to talk to Erin, to try to get her to leave me alone, but she pulled the same act as she had with the teachers. Mom still believed what I was saying, but the fact that Erin was never mean around her meant that she couldn’t exactly reprimand her for her behavior.

Then, the next year, Erin tried being BFFs with me again. Over the summer, her fire had died out, leaving her with no one standing beside her, either. Everyone else was bored with torturing Julia, and had left to continue on with their regular lives. But I had lost all trust in her, and refused her offer of renewed friendship. Eighth grade, Erin moved districts again. Her mom explained to mine that she had trouble keeping friends, and so every couple years they moved to give her a new beginning. I was apparently one of the longest lasting friends she had ever had.

It’s hard to look at someone like Erin and think that she’s anything but innocent, when in truth she was far from it. Sometimes I wonder what could have happened to make her the way she was. Others, I just let it go.

**********

34

Talk to you this weekend! (AHHHHHHHHHH!)

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Forever”)

So. I temporarily finished revising Cadence last night. And by “temporarily finished revising” I mean “it’s in the state it’s going to be in as I start talking to literary agents now.” And that’s sort of terrifying.

I am all at once this:

Snapshot_20130327_1

And this:

Snapshot_20130327

And this:

Snapshot_20130327_2

… But you know what? The novel is in as good of shape as I can get it, the CPs I sent it to seem to like it quite a bit (thank you again, you awesome people you!), and I think it’s time I let go of the red pen. At least until the craziness of the next few weeks subsides (Writer’s Digest Conference! In less than two weeks! AHHHHH!).

So, while I’m off throwing myself a dessert party for one as a reward, here’s your Wordy Wednesday. It’s a poem I wrote a little under a year and a half ago, after my cat Jesse died. I did a lot of writing after his death, and I’ve shared a lot of it on this blog already, but here’s another poem about him anyway. It’s called “Forever.”

**********

Leaving.

Leaving entails going off

on some grand adventure, somewhere

new, and maybe coming back

eventually. Leaving;

that’s one thing I can handle.

 

Going Away.

Going away is like going fishing,

going to Grandma’s house, going to college –

it’s a promise: I’ll be back. Going

Away; that’s another thing

I can handle.

 

But Not Being There…

It means not coming

back, not holding me

as I search for you.

Hold my hand. I need

you to hold me, but you can’t.

 

Yes, Not Being There…

That’s the thing that breaks me

the most.

**********

33

 

T-minus 9 days to the Writer’s Digest Conference 2013!

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“The Meadow”)

Gosh, things are absolutely insane right now, trying to pull everything together for Cadence–I think I finally finalized my query letter yesterday afternoon, so now it’s on to transforming that into a pitch for the Writer’s Digest Conference. Which is in less than three weeks. (My heart starts pounding just at the thought of it.) Then I also finished the rough rough draft of my plot synopsis last night, and I probably only need to do another couple rounds of revisions before the novel itself will be ready, and goodness. In previous years I’ve waited until the very last second to get all my preparations done for WDC, but I’m trying to front-load everything this year because of college. Throw Spanish homework and trying to keep up with personal hygiene on top of all that, and you get a very stressed out Julia. An excited one. But also very, veryyy stressed.

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a short story I wrote a few years back called “The Meadow.” Warning: it’s not exactly a happy tale. (Although honestly, what are you expecting from me at this point? 😉 )

**********

[Taken down to submit to contests/for publication/etc. Sorry!]

**********

32

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Forever”)

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a memoir/personal essay/whatever I first wrote back in my junior year of high school for creative writing class, and then shortened and revised my senior year to use for college essays. While a lot has happened in my life–writing and otherwise–since I was sending this off to colleges this time last year, the moment I talk about here is still really special to me. (Heads up: The name used below for the literary agent is not said-agent’s actual name, for the sake of confidentiality. The woman, in reality, is super, super nice, so I don’t want to portray her in a bad light.)
**********

My entire life, I’ve been searching for forever. Other kids want to be lawyers and doctors, but I just want to be remembered. I want to change the world.

There are many ways to go about achieving this. I could be president, a philanthropist, or an animal rights activist. But while all of these are worthy pursuits, none of them appeal to me individually. Instead, I look at the way books can change people and bring strangers closer together, and I see the effect writing has had on my own life, and I know that this – being a writer – is what I want to do.

In January, 2011, I had the opportunity to fly to New York City to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference and its subsequent pitch slam. They lined the conference room’s walls with tables where writers could sit and discuss their novels with various literary agents and perhaps get a business card, which signified that the agent may be interested in representing their project to publishing houses.

I was so nervous, I felt like I was going to hurl.

My first pitch was with a woman named Wanda Wrath, who was severe looking with a last name to match. Upon laying eyes on me, the only minor there, she raised her thin, dark eyebrows and said skeptically, “Hello, what do you have for me today?”

I hesitated a second before sitting down at her table, and forced a smile as I introduced myself. She leaned back in her chair and I noticed her nails were blood red. Perfect.

“Continue,” she murmured.

With a deep breath, I read my pitch and tried to keep my hands from shaking. When I finished, her fingers inched toward her stack of business cards, but then moved away. I felt something die within me.

She didn’t speak for a moment, and my pulse spiked in fear, but then she finally cracked a smile and said, “Well, I think your plot is really intriguing and I’d like to definitely read some of it.”

I didn’t take my eyes off her as she picked a business card up and examined it before sliding it across the table to me. My stomach flipped over.

Genuinely smiling, she said, “I can’t wait to hear from you!”

“Thank you!” I stood up, practically dancing.

Although I received seven more business cards by the end of the pitch slam, none of them mattered as much as the first. I proved myself with it; I not only wanted to be a writer, but I was – and am – one.

Now, as I wait to hear back from a literary agent reading my full manuscript, I dream about how I’ll change the world… While I know my destination, I don’t know what hurdles I’ll have to overcome to reach it and I have a feeling that college will best prepare me to take them on.

My entire life, I’ve been searching for forever. I think college will help me find it.

**********

Talk to you next week! (If I haven’t already been eaten alive by research papers!)

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Horoscope”)

Random Facts About Today:

  1. The weather’s supposed to be in the 80s today, which will break the last record by like 10 degrees (which is what happened yesterday, too — the last record had been set in the early 1900s; this weather is CRAZY).
  2. Exactly one month from today, I’ll be eighteen. 😀
  3. TWO DAYS TO THE HUNGER GAMES!!!!!

I’ve been obsessively watching this clip (and all the others, too, but mostly this one):

 

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is going to be a short one, but I don’t think a piece has to be long to be significant. This is a poem called “Horoscope” that I wrote the night before I left for the Writer’s Digest Conference this year — I hope it conveys some of the emotions I was feeling that night, thinking about the past year and what the future might bring.

The style is inspired by e.e. cummings.

**********

i am so scared
terrified
so scared that i cant breathe
that everythings changing
for better or for worse
counting down the seconds
til midnight ten nine eight
i cant breathe
i cant breathe
i cant breathe
tell me my future
but leave out the part
where i find out
what kind of person i am

**********

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“Forever”)

So I was trying to think of something new to share with you guys for this Wordy Wednesday — because I think you’re probably getting a bit sick of short stories and poetry/songs — and then it hit me. DUH. MY COLLEGE ESSAY!!

For those not in the know, most colleges require you to write a kickbutt essay in order to get accepted, and a lot of the time there’s a prompt that you have to follow when writing that essay, and all the different colleges that you apply to will, more than likely, have different prompts for their application essays… which basically means that you end up writing a tonnn of essays. (I’m not kidding. A metric ton. Don’t challenge me on this.)

I did this essay for the common application, which I used to apply to the University of Michigan (WHICH IS WHERE I’M GOING NEXT YEAR AHHHH!!!!!). Lucky for me, it was basically a free write in 250-500 words, so I could talk about whatever I wanted to in it. (Also, if you’re curious, mine’s 500 words exactly. BOO to the YA.) It’s titled “Forever.”

(Please Note that the name of the literary agent has been changed for obvious reasons — the actual agent is super sweet and a fantastic woman anyone would be lucky to work with, but I was totally freaking out and panicking when I met her, so hence why I make her sound a bit, well, evil towards the beginning of this.)

(Oh, and also Please Note that the literary agent who was, at the time I applied to colleges, reading my full manuscript rejected me a couple of weeks after this, but with the nicest and most complimentary rejection I’ve ever received, with some great suggestions for how to improve my manuscript that I’ve since implemented.)

**********

My entire life, I’ve been searching for forever. Other kids want to be lawyers and doctors, but I just want to be remembered. I want to change the world.

There are many ways to go about achieving this. I could be president, a philanthropist, or an animal rights activist. But while all of these are worthy pursuits, none of them appeal to me individually. Instead, I look at the way books can change people and bring strangers closer together, and I see the effect writing has had on my own life, and I know that this – being a writer – is what I want to do.

In January, 2011, I had the opportunity to fly to New York City to attend the Writer’s Digest Conference and the subsequent pitch slam. They lined the conference room’s walls with tables where writers could sit and discuss their novels with various literary agents and perhaps get a business card, which signified that the agent may be interested in representing the project to publishing houses.

I was so nervous, I felt like I was going to hurl.

My first pitch was with a woman named Martha Wrath, who was severe looking with a last name to match. Upon laying eyes on me, the only minor there, she raised her thin, dark eyebrows and said skeptically, “Hello, what do you have for me today?”

I hesitated a second before sitting down at her table, and forced a smile as I introduced myself. She leaned back in her chair and I noticed her nails were painted blood red. Perfect.

“Continue,” she murmured.

With a deep breath, I read my pitch and tried to keep my hands from shaking. When I finished, her fingers inched toward her stack of business cards, but then moved back away. I felt something die within me.

She didn’t speak for a moment, and my pulse spiked in fear, but then she finally cracked a smile and said, “Well, I think your plot is really intriguing and I’d like to definitely read some of it.”

I didn’t take my eyes off her as she picked a business card up and examined it before sliding it across the table to me. My stomach flipped over.

Genuinely smiling, she said, “I can’t wait to hear from you!”

“Thank you!” I stood up, practically dancing.

Although I received seven more business cards by the end of the pitch slam, none of them mattered as much as the first. I proved myself with it; I not only wanted to be a writer, but I am one.

Now, as I wait to hear back from a literary agent reading my full manuscript, I dream about how I’ll change the world… While I know my destination, I don’t know what hurdles I’ll have to overcome to reach it and I have a feeling that college will best prepare me to take them on.

My entire life, I’ve been searching for forever. I think college will help me find it.

**********

And yup! That’s my college essay! 🙂 Thanks for reading!!!

 

Also, SOMEBODY LEAKED A NEW JONAS BROTHERS SONG ONTO YOUTUBE!! (I feel like the excessive use of caps lock in this post has definitely been necessary, especially here.) (Don’t laugh at me for liking the Jonas Brothers, or I’ll have to play the Nyan Cat song on repeat, and then you’ll be sorry… you’ve been warned…)

 

~Julia