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

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Story Time: I MET JK ROWLING

Friday I pulled on the dress that had been hanging in the corner of my dorm room for the past several days and slid my feet into my favorite, battered pair of grey Converse. I applied my mascara with extra care while my hair hung damp against my shoulders, fresh from a hurried shower.

I wished I’d remembered to paint my nails. I chugged a cup of English breakfast tea. I stuffed Fellowship of the Ring (my current reading for class) in one pocket of my backpack and my bright pink umbrella (because English weather) in another.

Then, I carefully lifted my stiff, freshly-purchased copy of crime writer Robert Galbraith’s new novel The Silkworm from my shelf. I slipped a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone atop it and placed them in the nest I’d made in the main pocket of my backpack with my pajama shorts and a V-neck. I slipped a cardigan over them, careful to tuck it around the corners.

I locked my door behind me and, with it, left my own personal Hogwarts—Oxford—for Harrogate.

Harrogate is a spa town in northern England known for a café called Betty’s and the fact that they play host to approximately a thousand and one festivals per year. (This number has not been scientifically verified, but I’m sure it’s accurate).

The current festival is the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writing Festival. And Robert Galbraith—pseudonym for the already rather pseudonymous JK Rowling—was scheduled to appear “in conversation” with Val McDermid Friday evening.IMG_4601

Tickets for the event had gone on sale back in March, two days after Hannah and I were supposed to find out if we’d been accepted to study at Oxford for the summer or not. Only our programme had gotten behind with their decisions, so we had to take a leap of faith in choosing to try to get tickets.

I got up at four AM that Monday and bundled myself in a massive fleece blanket on my futon. Fingers trembling with nerves, I called the box office number via Skype the second the tickets went on sale—only to get a busy tone and have the call hang up. Same story the second time. And the third. And the fourth.

Heart doing its best to thump its way out of my body, palms sweating and the most creative swear words known to man racing through my mind, I called endlessly until finally (FINALLY) ringing echoed through my laptop speakers.

Then I punched the air. And I purchased two tickets to see JK Rowling from a very kind English woman who seemed confused as to why an American was trying to get to an event in England. Then I freaked out alone in my room, because at that point it was still only like five thirty in the morning and Hannah (like all sane human beings that side of the Atlantic) was still asleep.

But I had two tickets. For me and one of my best friends. TO SEE JK ROWLING.

If only Oxford would get around to telling us whether or not we’d be spending the summer there.

Over the course of the next couple weeks, I spazzed almost nonstop about the fact that I’d maybe/hopefully/probably/maybe not/but maybe yes/but maybe not/but maybe YES be seeing my idol live in July. And, thank God, Oxford did eventually accept the two of us.

So Hannah and I freaked out some more, and made plans and booked train tickets, and then finally there we were: Harrogate, England. Sitting on the steps of the Royal Hall, reading The Silkworm while the author did whatever Joanne Murray does when she’s not actively being either JK Rowling or Robert Galbraith.

IMG_4603We were first in line to pick up our tickets from Will Call when the doors to the building opened at six thirty, which left us a half hour to kill (Get it? Kill? Like crime fiction? I’m so punny) before the auditorium itself opened to audience members.

We drank massive glasses of ice water and Diet Coke while giving our bladders pep talks to hold out ’til the end of the night. Under our breaths we sang “Tomorrow” from Annie and “Goin’ Back to Hogwarts” from A Very Potter Musical. We snapped awkward selfies and commented on how diverse the people streaming around us were, in both age and dress.

IMG_4606Then the doors opened and we found we weren’t just going to see JK Rowling; we were going to see her from the ground floor—towards the FRONT of the Grand Circle (comprising the back half of the seats), even.

We settled in and snapped more pictures. Hannah and I alternated between me shrieking, “Hey, Hannah. JK ROWLING IS IN THE SAME BUILDING AS US RIGHT NOW,” and her moaning, “Julia. I CAN’T BREATHE.”

They closed the doors. “Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh, oh my gosh, oh my gosh, it’s happening.” I glanced between Hannah and the stage. Hannah. The stage. “IT’S ACTUALLY HAPPENING.”

“I. CAN’T. BREATHE,” Hannah wailed.

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Val McDermid came out. She made the audience laugh and applaud and hold our breaths. Then, almost as if she were trying to shock us all into cardiac arrest with the suddenness of it, she proclaimed, “Please welcome to the stage: JK Rowling, or Robert Galbraith!”

A stiletto appeared from behind the curtain, followed by a long leg clothed in the most fashionable of pantsuits ever worn (Rowling’s “Robert Galbraith” attire).

And, probably to no one’s surprise but my own, I burst into tears.

I’m not a crier. I’ve met some of my favorite authors before. I’ve talked with Veronica Roth and had my picture taken with Ally Carter; I’ve emailed with Lauren Oliver and watched Rick Riordan on a panel from the first row.

But as much as I adore those authors, none have shaped my life, and the lives of those around me, as much as JK Rowling. And it just seemed so incredible in that moment that she existed, she actually existed, and she was real and alive and a human being living in the same world and time as I was. This woman who has done so much for all of us.

It was like seeing Shakespeare or Jesus. (Okay, not Jesus, but you get the point.)

“Hannah,” I whimpered, leaning towards her and pinching the bridge of my nose. “Hannah, I am literally crying.”

“Julia,” she replied, “I AM TOO.”

A glance around the audience revealed we were not the only ones. JK Rowling probably would have gotten a standing ovation just for being in the same room as all of us if it weren’t for the fact we were all too overcome with emotion to successfully balance on two feet and clap at the same time. (Even clapping was difficult with the way I kept needing to wipe my eyes.)

The conversation between Rowling and McDermid began. Rowling poured water for both of them. They bounced snarky one liners and endearing praise off one another. McDermid told the story of how her publisher had sent her The Cuckoo’s Calling in hopes of getting a review off her to feature on the cover—since they needed a way to get people to read this random debut author’s work—and Rowling laughed about how she’d had to send a thank you letter as Galbraith, which was difficult since the two of them are good friends. (She sent a second thank you letter as herself after the news of her identity broke a couple months later.)

Rowling admitted she hasn’t read widely in fantasy, but has been reading crime pretty much her entire life and she’s a big fan of the classics. She referenced the TARDIS in comparison of something (I wish I could remember what) and Hannah and I looked at each other and FLIPPED. OUT. She spoke on length about her writing process; how she must research and plan everything in excruciating detail in order to be able to get words on the page. How she’d wanted to write crime fiction for ages, but needed the proper plots and characters to come to her.

When the Cormoran Strike series did come to her, it was with the plot of the second book—The Silkworm—which she called the most complexly-plotted novel she’s ever written. The first bit she thought of was the opening of Chapter Forty Eight (which I am now dying to read).

She told us how she wrote The Cuckoo’s Calling first because she wanted to introduce Strike’s world in simpler terms than would have been necessary with The Silkworm. She talked about how she’s already halfway done writing Book 3 and halfway through plotting Book Four, and while she does have a loose plan for the Cormoran Strike series, she does not know how many books she’ll write, except that she would like to keep writing them until she no longer physically can.

One of my favorite parts of the conversation was a story she told in which she was researching the café in the opening chapter of The Silkworm in London. She wanted Strike to order the Full English Breakfast but she wasn’t entirely positive what that would entail at the café, so she dragged her husband there and made him order it while she quietly took notes from across the table.

In the middle of this, a man barreled through the door and shouted, “I’ve just heard JK Rowling is writing in here!” He glanced around the café at the startled diners, grinning like a mad man. His eyes landed RIGHT. ON. HER. as he said, “But I wouldn’t recognize her if I saw her anyway.” Then he walked right out again and no one ever realized it was her (MUCH to her and her husband’s relief).

The conversation was wonderful. They told jokes about each other and talked about their inspirations and favorite books. At one point while Rowling and McDermid were talking, I became aware of the weight of the book in my lap. It was so incredibly heavy; a pleasant sort of pressure. I glanced down at The Silkworm and traced the title with my pointer finger.

JK Rowling was right there, in front of me. Maybe one hundred feet away. And I was holding her words, and so much had changed since I’d first heard of the Boy Who Lived, and it was absolute insanity.

I closed my eyes and tried to memorize every detail of that moment. The weight of the words and the way JK Rowling was laughing at something Val McDermid had said and how my cotton dress brushed soft against my legs. The heat of all the bodies around me and Hannah watching the stage so intently and the glow from the half-closed laptop of the woman sitting two to my right. The ornate decorations that made up every surface of the theatre and my heartbeat at my throat.

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Hannah confessed afterward that she had actually, literally forgotten to breathe at several points while Rowling was on stage.

The conversation ended with another round of crazy applause as Rowling strode off stage right, waving to the audience. Then they told us that if we stayed in our seats, we’d have the opportunity to meet her in a bit and get our books signed.

“Julia,” Hannah said, right on cue. “I CAN’T BREATHE.”

While we waited for our row to get called to join the queue for the signing, a Theakstons employee came around with little holographic stickers, placing them in each of the books opposite the page Rowling would be signing.

“What’s that for?” a woman sitting to my left asked.

“It proves this is a genuine JK Rowling signature,” the employee replied.

I ran a finger over the sticker in my own copy of The Silkworm. My heart pounded in my ears. I resisted the urge to cry AGAIN.

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Soon enough, it was Hannah and my turn to join the queue. I hopped from foot to foot as we waited, and attempted to get a picture with Rowling in it at the other end. (I failed at this endeavor, because I’m pretty sure there are house elves who are taller than me and we were never allowed to take pictures while we were within Sane Picture-Taking Distances of her, including during the conversation.)

(But still. Rowling is SOMEWHERE at the other end of the photo below.)

IMG_4622Just like it had seemed sudden when Val McDermid had brought Rowling on stage for the conversation, it was almost too soon when I found myself handing my book to the Theakstons employee standing at the head of the queue—then stepped in front of Queen Rowling herself.

Because I am an absolutely brilliant human being, I hadn’t been able to settle on what to say beforehand, despite the months I had to prepare. It’d just never seemed quite like it was actually, really, truly going to happen. (Plus, I figured I only had a few seconds and there was nothing I could say she hadn’t heard before.)

At the least, I figured I should be able to manage a grateful, “Harry Potter changed my life,” or, “You’re my idol.” Something cliché but meaningful.

Nope.

Out of nowhere I was standing before her and she was signing my book and my time was almost up and I couldn’t get over the fact that JK ROWLING WAS HOLDING, AND TOUCHING, AND SIGNING MY BOOK, and my mouth fell open and I had to say something—and I gasped out without thinking, “Thank you so much for writing… so many… great… books…!?”

Like it was a question. Like she was just any old writer. Like her books were just “great,” the way I also regularly describe naps and pizza.

Bless her heart: JK Rowling met my eye and smiled and said, “Thank you!” as if this was totally original (you know, in a good way) and actually a worthy way of putting what she’s done for my generation.

I grinned and nodded dumbly. I was numb to my fingertips.

Then I shuffled out of the way as Hannah moved into place before her and I let the Theakstons employees guide me from the table. But I kept glancing back, glancing back, as the woman who had shaped so much of so many people’s lives fell further away.

A moment later Hannah joined me at a small table set off to the side towards the other end of the queue, and we stared at my copy of The Silkworm. A lump hardened in my throat at the thought of touching it.

IMG_4625We cried a little, and hyperventilated a lot, then hurried out of the Royal Hall before we could make even bigger fools of ourselves.

Except, of course, that’s impossible after meeting JK Freaking Rowling, so out on the street my shock seemed to finally start to wear off—at which point I began laughing hysterically and couldn’t stop for like thirty minutes, until we were all the way on the other side of Harrogate’s town center, searching out a restaurant because we were STARVED, and the two of us had convinced everyone else in town we were lunatics.

While we scarfed our pizza, Hannah and I alternated between recounting the evening again and again, laughing and crying and generally freaking out, and sitting quietly in the fading glow of all that had occurred. We couldn’t get over how beautiful and smart and kind Rowling was. You get that a little from a distance, through interviews and on the page, but you don’t realize quite how incredible a person she is until you meet her. She is truly, fully deserving of all her success. And I am so glad she is the one who shaped so much about our generation.

When we got back to the amazing airbnb place we were staying at (seriously, check it out if you’re ever in Harrogate), we continued to freak out to anyone who would listen (primarily my mom, who had the misfortune of picking up my Facetime call), then decided to reread some Harry Potter before sleeping.

Lying there with a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone open before me, rereading Harry’s beginnings and remembering the first time my gaze had traced over those words, my eyes burned and filled with tears yet again.

To put it simply: JK Rowling broke me.

But I smiled as I drifted off to sleep, dreaming of Butterbeer and Quidditch. And that was the day I met JK Rowling.

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~Julia

PS. Crime author Sarah Hilary happened to be staying at the same airbnb place as us and we got to talk with her over breakfast, Saturday morning. She’s super nice and I can’t wait to read her debut novel! It’s called Someone Else’s Skin and sounds amazing. Check it out.

Dear Twelve Year Old Me

Dear Twelve Year Old Me,

You don’t know it yet, but that writing website you discovered the other day is going to change everything.

You’ll learn so much about the publishing industry, there. Become a better writer. Fall into being a much better person.

And most importantly, you’ll meet some of your best friends.

I know. Crazy. Becoming friends with people on the internet. Didn’t Mom and Dad warn you not to do that? (But it’ll be okay, because that writing website has a wonderful moderator named Bronwen who will keep you from sharing the personal details that could get you kidnapped by a drug cartel/human traffickers.) (You know. Until Fourteen Year Old You and said online friends join NaNoWriMo’s Young Writers Program, at which you all realize you can now talk without anyone else watching, and you subsequently become completely invested in each other’s lives.)

You don’t know it yet, but a lot of your dreams aren’t going to come true. You won’t be like that girl in that Andrew Clements novel you read over and over again. You won’t be the one juggling schoolwork with book tours and TV appearances.

But that’s okay, that’s more than okay, because you are going to be the one with an AP English essay open in one window and endless novel revisions open in another. You’ll be the one “writing” in notebooks during breaks at theatre rehearsals (because come on, now: we all know that chicken scratch can’t be called writing). You’ll be the one who talks about being scared you’re in the Saggy Middle of your journey to publication as a senior in high school while pacing in a hotel room in New York City, a writing conference in full swing a few floors below.

You’ll be the one who cries a little when you step in the Javits Center for the first time as (Two Weeks Ago) Twenty Year Old You. Because while everybody else in the industry despises it, for someone still so on the outside, that building looks like dreams for the future and rings with those dreams coming true.

Don’t be scared. You’ll still wants it as badly as you do now, Twelve Year Old Me. But you’ll want it differently in seven and a half years. And it’s a long, hard, and beautiful journey to get here.

The other kids on that website you stumbled across are going to be your lifelines through all this. Don’t be mad when they’re better than you; be grateful when they compliment your writing; and always remember how lucky you are to have them in your life.

You don’t deserve them. You still don’t now. But you do have them, and they have you, and that’s what you’re doing here right now.

Because “here” is Arlington Heights, Illinois. And “right now” is 7:21 AM, June 14th, 2014. The morning of the 2014 Chapter One Young Writers Conference. A conference you put together (with a LOT of help from Mom, mind you) so you and your friends and other young writers like you can transcend the boundaries of the internet and distance, at least for a weekend. Because after seven and a half years, you guys deserve that kind of thing.

And now you–or I, I guess, am sitting here on a bath mat across from a hotel toilet, because I don’t want to wake Mom out in the room. And my left shoulder blade is pressed to the wall, legs bent with left flip flop pressed to right thigh, and it’s funny, because in seven and a half years years everything else has changed, but I still sit like I don’t know how to be a functioning human being. (Let’s be honest: I don’t.)

You’re just a snatch of memory held up with velvet rope and spotlights at the back of my mind, now, Twelve Year Old Me: a period in my life I remember probably far too often, because I am scared to forget.

And I love you. Because you won’t know you’re changing everything when you choose to use that website for all the wrong reasons and choose to obsess over it for all the right ones.

Eat your vegetables. Brush your teeth. And don’t watch too much TV; it rots your brain. (But no worries. The doctors fix that in the future by coming up with a drug called “Netflix.” Don’t tell the other kids, but it’s going to be awesome.)

One last word of advice: Thirteen Year Old You will encounter the urge to write a novel titled Pennamed. Much bad will come of this. DON’T GIVE IN. (But actually do, because finishing that first terrible novel is one of the things that sets you down the path to Now. And I love Now.)

I’m off to talk with some of those girls you met the other day. Thanks for introducing me to them. They’re pretty cool.

 

Love,

Twenty Year Old Me

Central Park and Airplanes

Sorry I didn’t get the chance to post yesterday! We didn’t get home until midnight and I had been fighting nodding off the entire way (for some reason a weekend of being touristy in NYC can do that to you), so I just collapsed on my bed the instant I was through the door.

BookCon ended Saturday evening, so Sunday was purely a day for sightseeing. We started with brunch at a French restaurant (peppermint tea and a multi-grain waffle with fresh strawberries and syrup and whipped cream!). Then we were off to Central Park. (Side note: I just yawned and my right ear finally popped after getting off the plane at TEN. THIRTY. last night. Gee thanks, ear.)

We spent the majority of the afternoon walking around Central Park. It was about seventy five out and sunny, which meant the park was packed. The lawns were practically standing room only with so many people spread out to nap or eat or play catch or just take it all in. We trekked to the Obelisk (which was unfortunately under construction, but still pretty cool), the Alice in Wonderland statue (adorable children climbed all over it, paying no mind to the heat), and the Strawberry Fields mosaic (where a guy with a guitar sang “Imagine” and laughing tourists crowded the mosaic for pictures).

After Central Park, it was a whirlwind of making it to our plane on time. We stopped at a street vendor for fresh fruit on our way back to the hotel, then grabbed our luggage and hit the road–at which point all efforts to reach the airport were thwarted by multiple car accidents that completely stopped traffic on our way through Queens to LaGuardia.

Fact: Getting in a car accident in New York City seems to be about one of the worst places to get in a car accident. The firetrucks and ambulances were slow on their way to and from the accidents because so many cars blocked their way to them and these blocking vehicles had nowhere to go. Add in the impatient taxi drivers and angry tourists, and it’s like something out of a disaster movie.

Despite all that, though, we did make it to the airport with plenty of time. We got dinner at one of the LaGuardia food courts, caught a ride with a very bored-looking airport transport vehicle driver dude (thank God, because suitcases full of books are HEAVY), then it was onto the airplane.

Which immediately began to loudly beep. Like it was going to explode.

“It’s just the smoke detector in one of the bathrooms,” a flight attendant assured the guy across the aisle from me. “Although, we can’t seem to find any smoke, so that’s strange.”

I obviously spend far too much time thinking up crazy, violent acts for stories, because my first thought was that someone had rewired the thing to turn it into a bomb and the plane was going to blow up the moment they turned the engines on.

With the help of some maintenance people, they managed to turn the alarm off (which then required closing the bathroom, which then led to massive lines to get into the working one for the duration of the flight–fun times).

Anyway, I spent the flight reading The Lord of the Rings in preparation for Oxford, and mi madre did Sudoku, and Hannah read a Percy Jackson book, and I’m not really sure what Hannah’s mom did because I couldn’t spy on her from my seat. But rest assured, we didn’t blow up and safely made it home and I miss New York already.

But I’m also really glad to finally get some sleep.

Next up in the Summer of Bookish Traveling: Chicago for the Chapter One Young Writers Conference! If I haven’t already driven you crazy with how much I go on about it, you can check out our website at www.chapteroneconference.com. The conference will take place Saturday, June 14 and Sunday, June 15 outside Chicago and it’s for anyone interested in writing, ages 12-22. Registration closes next Wednesday (the 11th), so you should get on that if you might want to come! We’d love to have you. 🙂

Watch out for an in depth, rambling post about BookCon on Saturday (and possibly a review of BookCon as an event, itself) sometime this week!

 

~Julia

Register for Ch1Con 2014!

It’s here! It’s finally here!

FB Banner Chicago 2014

After a billion hours of behind-the-scenes work over the past year or so, registration for the 2014 Chapter One Young Writers Conference is finally open.

I founded Ch1Con a couple years ago with the help of some of my writing friends and my seriously wonderful madre. This is our first year opening the conference to the public, and I am SO EXCITED to share it with you. We’ve got some great sessions and workshops lined up, with more announcements to come leading to the conference.

The conference will take place Saturday, June 14th and Sunday, June 15th at the Courtyard Chicago Arlington Heights/South hotel by Marriott, just outside downtown Chicago.

Admission is $75.00 for Saturday (speakers and a panel) and $35.00 for Sunday (writing workshops). You can also order a Ch1Con t-shirt for $20.00.

It would mean the absolute world to me if you considered attending. This conference is my baby and I can’t wait for you to get to know it.

Learn more about Ch1Con through our…

Website: www.chapteroneconference.com
Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/ChapterOneConference
Twitter: @Ch1Con

And don’t forget to register here!

Thanks!

 

~Julia

Wordy Wednesday (“History of Me”)

This week feels SO relaxing after having WriteOnCon last week. The good thing about the entire writing conference being online, though, is that all the blog posts, videos, and Q&As are still available for free. You can check them out on the WriteOnCon website here, or read Super Critique Partner Kira’s recap of the whole thing on her blog, here.

This was my third year attending WriteOnCon, and it just gets better every time. I highly recommend it.

Also, a super generous and talented attendee, L.L. Tisdel, drew a picture of Olivia (the protag of CADENCE) for me. HOW AWESOME IS THIS?

Olivia by Laurie TisdelYou should go check out her work:

Website

Blog

deviantART

Twitter

This week’s Wordy Wednesday is a song called “History of Me.”

**********

VERSE1 [C, G, Em, G] [capo 2]

I don’t know what to say, what to do

All I know is I’m staring in the mirror at you

And I’m falling apart

Some of these tears are from happiness rising

Others are from my hopes dying

And my eyeliner’s smearing now

That one song’s playing from the radio

Telling me it’s time to go, go, go

But go where? To be who?

TRANSITION1 [G, Em, C, D]

And I want to be the girl who’s got it all figured out

But instead I can’t even tell if things are going right

CHORUS [G, Em, C, D]

’Cause everything’s falling in place but I’m falling to pieces

Tell me your name and if I can keep this

Just need to know if I should carry on

Life is crazy but I will make it

At least that’s what I say when I’m breaking

Wish I saw the future but maybe not

[C, Em, Am, D… G]

Don’t tell me where I’m going

’Cause I’m better off not knowing

And I’d rather let my dreams rock me to sleep

Dreaming this will someday be

A memory in the history of me

VERSE2 [C, G, Em, G]

I am walking down a street

the sickness is catching up with me

And that sickness is called apathy

For everything in my life

It’s so easy to lose sight of the sun

When you’re so sure someday you’ll have won

The war against the moon

TRANSITION2 [G, Em, C, D]

And I want to be the girl who knows what the future holds

But I don’t know a thing and this night is getting cold

[Repeat CHORUS]

[BRIDGE: C, Em, Am, D]

[Repeat CHORUS]

**********

 53You should know that I just spent the better part of an hour trying to get this picture. It was this week last year that I started doing the “Thanks for reading!” webcam shots and I decided to try to copy the original… Forty five minutes later, I ended up with this. Not quite the same, but you’re welcome anyway. 😉

~Julia

WDC Weekend: Home Again

I. Am. So. Tired.

If I wake up again before the end of the semester, it will be a miracle.

I know this is like a five second post, but I am exhausted (if I didn’t already mention that) and I wanted to let y’all know I made it home safely.

And came home to this:

fandalizedTHANK YOU SO MUCH, HANNAH!

And yeah. Time to go tackle that Spanish homework I’ve been putting off all weekend, and I’ll see if I can start typing up conference notes for this Wordy Wednesday. Sound good?

¡Buenas noches!

~Julia

WDC Weekend: Sunday Morning Sleepiness

Sunday morning is always the hardest part of WDC. You’ve already been sitting in sessions for the past two days, you generally are completely sleep deprived, and you know you’re going to have to leave in a few hours for the airport to go back to your fabulous, ordinary life away from the magic of New York City and all the gazillion writers you just got to share air with for the past two days.

Plus, if you’re a freshman in college like me, going back to real life also means going back to the last two weeks of classes and then FINALS! WHOO! (On the upside, UMich is going to the championship game tomorrow, so the campus is basically going to be crazy with energy all day. Which will be great for keeping me awake through Spanish class.)

We’ve got just the closing keynote address left, then we’re going to go do a little more sightseeing around Rockefeller and such, and then it’s off to the airport. And even though I should really work on the plane, I’m thinking there’s a nice long nap in my future.

After I posted yesterday, we had a couple more sessions, then we went out to dinner at this super schmancy Italian restaurant (which had absolutely DELICIOUS sauce on their pasta pomodoro), and then we saw Newsies on Broadway, which was as fantastic as is to be expected. (The dancing, the set, the very attractive actors–Julia was one happy theatre-goer.) It was Broadway Cares night, which I swear I have an uncanny affinity for attending (this was my third time attending a Broadway Cares night in, I think, the past four shows I’ve gone to), and they were selling some really AWESOME merchandise to raise money for it, including copies of the playbill signed by the entire cast.

If you didn’t know, I have the absolute best mother in the whole wide world. I didn’t even have to beg her all that much before she forked over the cash for the playbill. (Which reminds me–Hero, I got cast autographs for you. Including from some of the principles. You’re welcome.)

I’m going to be posting more pictures from throughout the weekend on my Facebook page, so make sure to go like it if you haven’t already. (And if you don’t have FB, you can still view the page, so that works too! Yay!)

The closing keynote is about to start–talk to you later!

 

~Julia

WDC Weekend: Pitch Slam Recap

After rushing to get ready this morning and receiving some unwelcome surprises (hello, allergies, I missed you this winter too!), we all finally made it to the first session this morning. And it’s basically just been a whirlwind since then, going between sessions, practicing our pitches, and then finally: THE PITCH SLAM. (You have to read that in a really deep, dramatic movie-announcer voice.)

The Slam is basically the most nerve-wracking thing on the planet. This was my third year doing it, and I still had a mini panic attack before speaking to each of the eleven agents I got to. It was also totally fun though, because I pitched in a completely different way this year than I have in the past, and it made it a lot more free flow and fun (instead of having a really set query letter-style pitch that I just read to the agents, I gave them my elevator pitch from memory and then just winged it from there). Plus: I had the opportunity during the Pitch Slam to meet one of my writing friends in person, the super cool Joan (who has great boots, by the way). Read her blog here.

We ran into each other on accident, as I was leaving one agent’s table and cutting between another agent’s line and her table, and Joan happened to be in that line. She recognized me, we freaked out, and it was awesome. 🙂

(Sorry if this post at all seems like it’s kind of all over the place. I’m only half-aware of what I’m doing right now, because I’m still coming off my adrenaline high from the Pitch Slam, and I’ve gotta leave for the next session in a minute.)

So anyway: the Pitch Slam. I got to talk to eleven agents (which is a really high number for WDC–most people only get to talk to three or five–but my mom’s awesome and acts as a placeholder for me in the lines so I get to talk to more). Of those eleven agents, I got requests from ALL ELEVEN. And I am now about to go pass out from happiness and nerves and excitement and AHHHHH. 😀

… Off to the next session, now. Talk to you soon!

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~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!