Debut Novels, Sisters, and Pants with Rachel Lynn Solomon

Hello Readers & Writers,

Joining me on the blog today is Rachel Lynn Solomon, author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone which comes out January 2nd, 2018 from Simon Pulse. This is Rachel’s debut novel and I couldn’t be more than excited for it as I’ve heard it is a heart-wrenching and addicting read.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone. 

YOU'LL MISS ME WHEN I'M GONE hi-res finalEighteen-year-old twins Adina and Tovah have little in common besides their ambitious nature. Viola prodigy Adina yearns to become a soloist—and to convince her music teacher he wants her the way she wants him. Overachiever Tovah awaits her acceptance to Johns Hopkins, the first step on her path toward med school and a career as a surgeon.

But one thing could wreck their carefully planned futures: a genetic test for Huntington’s, a rare degenerative disease that slowly steals control of the body and mind. It’s turned their Israeli mother into a near stranger and fractured the sisters’ own bond in ways they’ll never admit. While Tovah finds comfort in their Jewish religion, Adina rebels against its rules.

When the results come in, one twin tests negative for Huntington’s. The other tests positive.

These opposite outcomes push them farther apart as they wrestle with guilt, betrayal, and the unexpected thrill of first love. How can they repair their relationship, and is it even worth saving?

From debut author Rachel Lynn Solomon comes a luminous, heartbreaking tale of life, death, and the fragile bond between sisters.

1: Thanks so much for joining me, Rachel! It’s great to have you on the blog. To start things off, how did you discover you liked to write?

Thank you for having me! Like a lot of writers, I’m sure, I can’t quite pinpoint “discovering” that I loved to write. It’s something I’ve always done: as a kid, I scribbled stories on stapled-together scraps of construction paper, as a teen, I posted stories on Fiction Press (which are still up there because I can’t remember my password), and in college, I studied journalism. I took a break from fiction during that time because I was pursuing journalism pretty hardcore, but once I graduated, I started and finished my first full-length novel. I queried it and got one request and many, many rejections, but I keep writing. Four books and many more rejections later, I had You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone.

2:  Your debut novel comes out in January! That’s crazy exciting and probably terrifying, I’m sure. Where did the idea for You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone come from?

One day I tumbled down a Wikipedia rabbit hole and somehow wound up on a page about Huntington’s disease. The name was familiar—anyone who watched the show Everwood probably remembers a plotline involving a decision to get tested for HD—and I knew a little about the genetic testing some people with a family history of HD choose to undergo. As I continued researching, one particular statistic struck me: a child of a parent with Huntington’s disease has a 50/50 chance of inheriting it. I wondered, what if twin sisters received opposite results from a genetic test for Huntington’s? How would that affect their relationship and the trajectories of their lives?

3: Family, especially the bond between siblings, is a big influence in your book. Did you grow up with any siblings?

I have a sister who’s two years younger than I am. We were awful to each other until high school, when we started sharing some of our friends and extracurriculars. The sister relationship in my debut is not at all like the relationship between my sister and me. I don’t believe we’ve ever been competitive like they are, and I also don’t think there’s an undercurrent of jealousy between us…but maybe she’d have a completely different answer! J

4: What do you want readers to take away from your book?

When I decided to write about twin sisters, I wanted my characters to be equally ambitious, committed to goals they’d do anything to achieve. I would love especially for teens to see themselves in my bold, occasionally tempestuous girls who want things so desperately and refuse to bend to anyone’s whims but their own. I think the book is also sex-positive and hopefully empowering with regard to female sexuality and desire. Lastly, because there are so few books with Jewish characters that aren’t Holocaust narratives, I would also love for readers to learn a little more about Judaism.

5: Out of your characters, which one do you relate to the most and which do you differ from the most? 

I like to describe Tovah as the person I was in high school, and Adina as the person I was too afraid to be, the thoughts I had but never acted on. Strangely, I relate more to Adina because I was able to pour into her everything I never did but spent a lot of time thinking about 😉

6: Describe You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone in three words. 

Sisters at odds

7: What books influenced you or what books did you enjoy growing up?

Growing up, I inhaled Meg Cabot books. As a somewhat lonely teen who often struggled to make connections with other people, I found solace in her characters, many of whom were exactly like me. Her premises were so compelling, and all her characters were lovable and flawed in different ways. And her voice was just so fun! Even today, The Princess Diaries and All-American Girl are such comfort reads for me.

8: What are some hobbies you enjoy?

I tend to spend most of my free time tap dancing, playing with my sweet rescue dog Wally, and sitting in Seattle coffee shops and drinking anything except coffee! I also love experimenting with makeup, and I am addicted to Indian food. I wish I had more time to play piano and write songs, two things I loved as a teen.

9: Is there any advice you’d offer to other writers?

Write something that scares you a little, something that challenges you. The only way I feel I’m improving as a writer is if I take a risk with each new book.

10: Tell us a fun fact about yourself!

In high school, I sang and played keyboard in an all-girl band. We had a song called “Pants,” and at our very last show, people in the audience took off their pants and threw them onstage.

Author Bio: 

Rachel Lynn Solomon_photo credit Ian Grant

 

Rachel Lynn Solomon is the author of the upcoming
contemporary YA novel You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone (Simon Pulse, 1/2/18). A former journalist, she has worked for NPR, produced a radio show that aired in the middle of the night, and currently works in education. You can find her online at http://www.rachelsolomonbooks.com/ and on Twitter @rlynn_solomon.
Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/35297395-you-ll-miss-me-when-i-m-gone

Thanks so much again to Rachel for taking the time to speak with me and don’t hesitate to preorder her stunning debut.
Xx
Megan
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What to Know: Publishing

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So you want to work in publishing?

YAY – shoots confetti from a cannon- The publishing world is happy to have you, but there are a few things you should know. These tips are mostly from my experience with publishing as well as some friends of mine and in no way dictate the experience you will have. Also note that I work in the United States so not all of this information may apply to international publishing houses.

Before Applying for a Job in Publishing:

  1. A large percentage of jobs will require a college degree. The most commonly asked for degrees will be a B.A. (Bachelor of Arts) in English or Creative Writing. I’ve seen some jobs extend outward to Communications, Journalism, and even just an arts degree in general, but the main two are listed above. The reason for wanting these degrees is so employers know that you’ve had experience with critical reading and writing.
  2. Be familiar with Microsoft Office. Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, and Excel are three main programs used constantly in publishing. Get acquainted with them now. Learn how to do track changes in Word, which is critical for reviewing manuscripts, how to set up PowerPoints, and how to format a data sheet in Excel. Upon getting a job, you will likely be trained on software that is specific to your company. This software will hold all of their information regarding their books, authors, and the like.
  3. Know the market beforehand. This is a super impressive thing when you’re meeting with potential employers and companies. They want to know that you’re paying attention to their brand, but also to a genre’s audience, trends, and popular books. If you want to work in fiction, it wouldn’t hurt to browse through a list of best-selling books, top publishing houses, and social media.
  4. Get an internship. Not everyone may have the time or means to acquire an internship, but if you can, please do. These will help make your application stand out and show employers you’re working towards your goal. Also, your chances of getting a job increase for a particular publisher if you’ve interned there before.I will warn you that a lot of internships are unpaid. You will either be offered a small stipend or request that you do the internship in exchange for college credit. Another important fact is the majority of internships are not offered to graduates (those going for a master’s degree or above). Publishing internships are geared for seniors in high school and those attending college. If you want an internship, plan ahead. Some publishers offer internships all year round, while others strictly in the summer.
  5. Publishing is not an easy business to get into. It is very competitive and often constrained to major cities, New York being a central hub. It took me six months to land a job. For friends of mine, it took over a year. Prepare for this, both physically and mentally. It can wear you down.Some companies offer remote positions, where you can work from anywhere, or chances to work from home. Unfortunately, these are still the minority.
  6. Where to look. Here are the sites that I used to search for jobs.http://bookjobs.com
    http://jobzone.publishersweekly.com/
    https://www.publishersmarketplace.com/jobs/
    https://www.mediabistro.com/

    A publisher’s website. A lot of the times, a publishing company will have their own section on careers and how to apply.

    Twitter. Editors and sometimes publishing companies post when jobs are open and the contact person to go to. Keep an eye on these!

 

The Interview:

Congratulations, you’ve secured an interview, maybe even several. Here is where you should go from there!

  1. Have a writing sample or portfolio ready. A good handful of jobs I applied to wanted a writing sample or several pieces gathered into a portfolio. Plan ahead and organize which pieces you want for this. They should be pieces that showcase your talent, voice, and how you analyze a text. Sometimes, the company will tell you what to write about and in that case, it’s up to you to craft a piece.Bring these samples with you, (I suggest two to three copies), to your interview even if you send them ahead via email. There could be multiple people who want to see your work or have a physical copy to read later as they make their decision.
  2. Include your social media on your resume. Publishing is very much an industry about getting the word out and that is mainly through social media, bloggers, etc. If you have a blog related to publishing, writing, editing, or similar topics, mention it on your resume. Note: This should only apply if it’s mainly professional and updated regularly. Employers don’t want to read about your daily life, but rather things that relate to the field. This can help show them your engagement.
  3. Questions you’ll be asked. No interview is the same, but there are some questions you should have answers prepared for. Taking time to think is fine. However, you don’t want to be caught on the spot with a potential employer. Interviews are already nerve-wracking enough.A) What’s your favorite book or a book you read recently?
    B) How do you react under pressure/how do you stay organized?
    C) What do you know about (insert genre, publishing house, assigned task here)?
    D) Why did you choose our publishing house?
    E) What is your biggest strength?

 

The Work Itself:

You’ve got yourself a job! I hope you’re celebrating because this is a big deal especially if it’s your first one in publishing or your first one out of college. Here’s what you should know.

  1. Timelines change. There are so many things that can happen that affect a schedule you were originally given. Be prepared for sudden changes that can either push back a book, make it jump weeks in the schedule, or make you scramble for documents you thought you had ready ages ago. Like any job, publishing relies on a lot of hands and not everything runs smoothly. Keep a schedule, a planner, post-it notes, tons of computer folders-whatever you need to stay on top of things.
  2. People can suck. You’re going to have to talk to a lot of people on a daily basis, whether it be other editors, different departments, or authors. When you work with authors who put a lot of time and effort into their projects, they can get upset/angry if you have to tell them no, change schedules, or give edits on their manuscript. This is bound to happen, hopefully not daily, but there are occasions where you’ll get a nasty email or voicemail. There isn’t much you can do other than be as understanding as you can or realize in your mind their words are not valid and they’re venting because the process didn’t go as they wanted. Or you know, they wonder why you didn’t take them when they’ve written the next Harry Potter.Don’t take the harshness to heart. If something is really bothering you, talk to a coworker of your boss or even step away if you can.
  3. Book people everywhere. My favorite part about my job is being surrounded by book lovers. A few weeks ago, I went to lunch with my coworkers and had an hour long conversation about classic literature-what we love, hate, and want to reread. It makes time fly and also puts me in a comfortable place. You will hopefully get this feeling as you enter publishing, because you can’t do this job if you don’t have a love for reading and stories.

Those are my main tips, but if you have any questions, feel free to leave them in the comments below.

Xx

Megan

Books, Books, Books: Chatting with Amanda Foody

Hello Readers & Writers,

I had the pleasure of interviewing Amanda Foody, author of Daughter of the Burning City which just came out July 25th from Harlequin Teen. This is wonderfully dark young adult fantasy with characters you won’t forget and an ending that will make your heart race. If you’re interested in my review of it, click here.

Amanda also has a brand new book coming out April 24th, 2018 from Harlequin Teen called Ace of Shades, and she was super sweet to talk to me about both.

Before I kick off the interview, here is a synopsis of Daughter of the Burning City and Ace of Shades.


30237061.jpgSixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

No cover yet for Ace of Shades is available, but I’ll put it here once it is. 

Enne Salta was raised as a proper young lady, and no lady would willingly visit New Reynes, the so-called City of Sin. But when her mother goes missing, Enne must leave her finishing school—and her reputation—behind to follow her mother’s trail to the city where no one survives uncorrupted.

Frightened and alone, her only lead is a name: Levi Glaisyer. Unfortunately, Levi is not the gentleman she expected—he’s a street lord and a con man. Levi is also only one payment away from cleaning up a rapidly unraveling investment scam, so he doesn’t have time to investigate a woman leading a dangerous double life. Enne’s offer of compensation, however, could be the solution to all his problems.

Their search for clues leads them through glamorous casinos, illicit cabarets and into the clutches of a ruthless mafia donna. As Enne unearths an impossible secret about her past, Levi’s enemies catch up to them, ensnaring him in a vicious execution game where the players always lose. To save him, Enne will need to surrender herself to the city…

And she’ll need to play.

Out of Character Questions:
1. Through talking with authors, I’ve found that some have always written in one way or another while others start later in life. When did you begin writing? 
Amanda: I started writing around the time I started reading. I genuinely don’t even remember a beginning. I took myself very seriously as a child, and I was always pretty ambitious. At eleven years old, I was checking out those Writers Digest Guides to Literary Agents at my local library, writing and finishing children’s novels, and fantasizing about being published as a teenager. It didn’t quite happen that way, but that drive to work hard no matter what fueled me then and still fuels me now. I take my dreams seriously. 

2. DOTBC or Daughter of The Burning City for those who have yet to read your lovely debut novel, is a pretty dark fantasy. What inspired the characters and the circus setting? 
Amanda: I started the project as an assignment in a creative writing class during a free-writing session. I didn’t have a ton of inspiration, honestly, for that initial project. I just wrote a genre-bending story of fantasy and mystery that I thought was weird and fun, as I usually used my creative writing courses as an opportunity to experiment. A year later, once I actually sat down to write the novel, I read THE NIGHT CIRCUS and fell in love with Erin Morgenstern’s carnival atmosphere. I tried to capture a lot of that in DOTBC as well. 

3. What was your biggest challenge writing DOTBC? 
Amanda: Combining fantasy and mystery. It really does blend the genres, mixing the plot of a classic whodunit with an over-arching world in conflict. It also means combining the mystery elements with the magic of the world itself. I felt like I was building its plot out Jenga towers and praying my readers could envelop themselves in the fantasy world enough that, when magic becomes part of the answer to the mystery, it still feels satisfying. I like to think I pulled it off (hopefully!).

4. If you could bring any of your characters from DOTBC to life, would you? And if so, which one? I want to vote Luca because he’s definitely a favorite of mine. 
Amanda: Luca would definitely be fascinating. I think I’d pick Nicoleta, though, who is Sorina’s very responsible older sister. She started as a true side character before quietly demanding more of the story, and I’ve grown very fond of her. I’d love to give her a hug.

5. Switching gears to your second novel, Ace of Shades, did you have a different writing process for this than DOTBC? Based on the description, it sounds like it falls into the crime genre. 
Amanda: Well, I started ACE in high school. I don’t even remember my writing process–margins of my physics notebook, revisions revisions revisions until the story is unrecognizable from its original form. I’ve rewritten it five times since then (so you know I have to love it to suffer through that!). It is YA fantasy. I’m not positive what genre of fantasy to call it. High fantasy is probably best, as the world and its magic and everything is entirely fiction and fantastical, but it is honestly nothing like any fantasy setting I’ve read recently. The era is circa 1915, the very end of the Belle Epoque, so there are motorcars and public transport and telephones and department stores, with magic blended into all of this. Crime is such an important part of the novel, as the city where it takes place is full of mafias and street gangs, and every character is or becomes a delinquent in one way or the other. I call it SIX OF CROWS meets SPIRITED AWAY.

6. What do you want readers to take away from Ace of Shades? 
Amanda: I’m working on the sequel now, so I’m hoping readers love the world and the characters enough to stick around to read book 2 (because it’s already feeling pretty epic to me!). ACE does have a little bit of everything in it: heartless, shiver-inducing villains; romance that has already made a lot of people yell at me in my DMs; a magic system and world that are absurdly complex but also incredibly unique; group cast moments to warm your heart; and an exciting culmination that sets the stage for the sequel, when essentially the whole world is on fire (No one is safe. I aim to build worlds and break hearts).
 
Also, there are boys kissing at cabarets and girl gangsters. There’s a lot to love right there.

7. Can you share a fun fact about Ace of Shades? This may be a bit of a self-serving question as I’m so ready for this book, LOL.
Amanda: Three of its main characters are based, in part, on three characters in Spirited Away: Chihiro, Haku, and Yubaba. There might even be a No Face (and he’s so awful you would literally rather serve No Face a thousand meals than stand in a room with this guy).

In-Character Questions:
For these last three questions, Amanda picked any character of her choosing to answer. 🙂
8. You’re stranded on an island. What three things would you want to have?
Luca, from DOTBC: his favorite watch, a good book, and a bottle of gin

9.  If you can have anything, without consequences, what would it be?

Levi, from ACE OF SHADES: glory


10. Tell us your favorite joke or any joke that tickles your fancy. 
Villaim, from DOTBC: I cook with wine. Sometimes, I even add it to food (from W.C. Fields that Villiam would def appreciate)

Author Bio: 

amanda_foody_author_photo_2016.jpgAmanda Foody has always considered imagination to be our best attempt at magic. After spending her childhood longing to attend Hogwarts, she now loves to write about immersive settings and characters grappling with insurmountable destinies. She holds a Masters in Accountancy from Villanova University, and a Bachelors of Arts in English Literature from the College of William and Mary. Currently, she works as a tax accountant in Philadelphia, PA, surrounded by her many siblings and many books.

DAUGHTER OF THE BURNING CITY, her first novel, will be published by Harlequin TEEN on July 25, 2017. Her second, ACE OF SHADES, will follow on April 24, 2018.

If you’d like to follow Amanda and her work, here are some links:

Website: amandafoody.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/AmandaFoody
Tumblr: https://amandafoody.tumblr.com/

Once again, a huge thank you to Amanda for taking the time to answer my questions! Be sure to pick up a copy of DOTBC and preorder Ace of Shades.

Xx
Megan

Starfish: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

Today I will be reviewing Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman. I received this book from Simon and Schuster in exchange for an honest review. This will be mostly spoiler free so there is no need to click away.

There are many things I loved about Starfish; it was not afraid to tackle issues such as social anxiety, biracial identity, and unstable family life. I will point out the trigger of sexual abuse as it is a prevalent theme throughout the novel.

The story follows the main protagonist Kiko who is of half-Japanese heritage and is on the verge of finishing high school. She has a plan for herself: get into a New York City art school called Prism and follow her dreams of becoming a painter. Not only that but she will be able to escape her small town life in Nebraska where being Japanese makes her “exotic” and different than those around her.

She lives with her mother and two brothers, her relationships with each of them rather complex. Kiko’s mother constantly criticizes her and puts her desires and dreams at the bottom of her priority list. Kiko and her brothers cohabitate the same space without getting to know each other beyond the surface. Her father divorced her mother and lives with his new wife and recently born twin girls.

When Kiko’s plans for art school fall through, she at the same time reconnects with her old best friend, Jamie, who moved away during childhood. He offers her an escape from her overwhelming, emotionally manipulative mother and the grief of not getting into her dream school.

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This contemporary novel is heavily focused on self-discovery and what it means to grow up, cope with plans that do not always work out, and toys with the idea that blood does not always mean family. What drew me in originally to Starfish was Kiko having social anxiety, something I struggled with for most of my life and still do. I found Kiko’s descriptions were insanely accurate, to the point I had to stop and show them to my friends. Kiko lends a voice to readers who deal with this and not in a way that undermines it. No, this book is very much about accepting social anxiety and realizing it does not make you a bad friend or a bad person. It is just a part of you that you will learn to handle and if you have good friends, they too will put in the effort. You have to do what makes you feel comfortable.

The next topic that drew me in was biracial identity, but more specifically how it impacts Kiko’s self-worth and identity. Kiko’s mother is white and has physical features associated with said identity: blonde hair, light skin, and light eyes. When Kiko looks at her mother, she doesn’t see any of those traits in herself, having taken after her dad who is Japanese. She grapples with the concept of beauty and if it is an agreed upon concept by society, or one that is subjective and ever changing. For teens who struggle with finding themselves and beauty in their features, Kiko offers the perfect narrative for it isn’t a journey that automatically happens. It takes time, tears, and breaking away from negative influences. The journey reads naturally and I found myself rooting for Kiko all throughout the story. I wanted her to radiate self-confidence and I wanted her to understand how beautiful she was. Tying into this idea was cultural identity and how Kiko didn’t have much of a Japanese culture due to her parent’s divorce and her mother’s view on not favoring an Asian lifestyle. In case you didn’t know, you’re going to hate Kiko’s mother, but unfortunately, her ignorant and narcissistic outlook on life is not unique. Other people have it too. However, it is through Kiko’s interactions with her mother that a reader is able to realize certain behaviors are not okay and should never be okay.

Starfish is beautifully written. The prose flows naturally and I love how each chapter ends with a work of art Kiko creates to reflect the events that have happened. Every character feels like a fleshed out, real person and you can’t help getting sucked into this world. I’m not going to forget about Starfish and the impact it had on me. I hugged the book to my chest after finishing it because the ending was such a heartwarming consolation that Kiko deserved. Aside from my perspective, I think this book can be an outlet for teens and offer the message that no one should tear you down or stop you from being who you need to be. If they’re doing that, chances are, you don’t need them in your life. You need to live for yourself and your dreams.

Overall, this book gets 5/5 stars from me and I would highly recommend it. I may wind up throwing it at everyone so it can be read asap!

Xx

Megan

Finishing My First Draft

Hi Readers & Writers,

As of three weeks ago, I completed the first draft of my YA dystopian novel or rather, a first draft that has been edited and changed as I searched through it for every error possible. Of course, this is an impossible task to accomplish alone.

It’s a surreal feeling now that it’s done and is slowly being handed off to my readers–whilst I try not to throw up every meal I’ve eaten. I didn’t expect to finish it or rather, there were days where finishing it seemed unlikely. I went through a three month period of not writing anything due to being stuck on a plot. This was extremely disappointing after writing two or three chapters a week for months straight.

Stepping away helped as well as discussing the entire plot with those I could trust. It took some wiggling, but eventually I unlocked the plot and was able to progress. I got stuck around the last three chapters which once again warranted a talk. Before I knew it, I was writing the final sentence. I stared at it for a good ten minutes, in shock, in awe, in question of what I was going to do after. P.S. It involves creating a new story.  

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Writing a book is no easy task, despite what some people will say. It requires plotting, putting your emotions out there, killing your darlings, and pushing past what may seem like an insurmountable amount of doubt. But what I’ve forced myself to think about, and what many others have told me, is I’ve completed something huge. I focused over a year of my time onto this story, allowing it to grow from its bare bones into a completed piece. I will still need to edit it and change parts, but the fact is I already showed I would put in the work. It’s a pretty awesome thing to see your work in progress become a tangible whole.

Since I finished my first draft, I figured I would offer tips to anyone who may be struggling or anyone who needs a boost of confidence.

  1. Every writer writes at a different pace. If you have friends who are managing to finish books in a few months, while you’re taking a year or longer, don’t panic. Books are a big deal and not everyone will work at the same speed or the same way. The bottom line is you have to be happy with your progress.
  2. Your first draft will be edited. You do not have to catch all the missing pieces of the puzzle in the first, second, or even third go. That’s what other sets of eyes are for.
  3. Find a group of people you can trust to read or discuss your work. Do not let this group grow too large. You want opinions, but opinions you can rely on by people who are not trying to harm you or your project. Also, make sure these people encourage you and are equally as excited about your story as you are. Enthusiasm can motivate.
  4. Plot if you need to. There are pantsers and plotters and people who fall in between these categories. Do what you need to do in order to get your story complete. If writing without a plan feels more natural to you, do it. If you need a thirty page outline to get your ideas down, then make it.
  5. Sometimes, you’ll need a break. Whether you’ve written a really gut-wrenching scene or your mind and body are creatively spent, taking a few hours or days away from your story will not hurt. You need to recharge and feel good again.
  6. You will second guess yourself and everything you write. Writers, unfortunately, are equipped with an endless amount of self-doubt, questioning, and skepticism. Read one of your favorite scenes. Step away for a while. Remind yourself why you started writing to begin with. Watch your favorite movie or television show. Read your favorite book. Find ways to remind yourself that your story matters.
  7. Be open to critique. Every book requires help to get to a final draft and one that is not only plot hole free, character strong and grammatically correct, but one that is mindful of the issues it tackles.

The bottom line is to keep writing. You’ll be surprised how quickly your words add up over time.

If you would like to know more about my WIP, you follow this thread I made about it on twitter.

Xx

Megan

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns: A Review

Hello Readers & Writers,

I got the amazing chance to not only obtain an ARC of Forest of Thousand Lanterns at Book Expo, but meet the author Julie C. Dao. I didn’t know I would read her book first out of my TBR pile, but I’m so glad I did because it’s one of the best I’ve read this year, if not in the recent years.

There will be no major spoilers in this review, so feel free to keep reading.

The plot follows Xifeng, a girl who is stuck under her aunt’s harsh rules and cruelty. She believes, as well as her aunt, that she is destined for a greater life than being a common girl. She has beauty which others are envious of and a dark calling within her chest. When an opportunity arises to run away, Xifeng is swept up with one goal: to become the empress.

Capture

This lovely image, which I think captures the book so well, belongs to Christine Herman. You can find her on twitter: @christineexists

For those of you who don’t know, FOTL follows The Evil Queen from Snow White. But what we get as readers is an East Asian retelling with a wonderful cast of characters, poetry, and culture. I was taken with the world Julie created, not only for its beauty, but for every story she wove into the tale. There were lines in the text that were both haunting and well written. They created an eerie, alluring mood that made me unable to put the book down. If I could highlight each one that stuck with me, most of the book would be in bright yellow highlighter.

Then we have the characters. Xifeng is an anti-hero. I think that is the best way to put it. Julie C. Dao breaks the mold of using a likeable main character. Xifeng is vain, narcissist, and has the potential to bring people to her feet. All of these traits harbor themselves in a young girl who has to choose between light and dark, forces that both rage inside of her. You understand her motivations. You want to know what she is going to do next and which side will ultimately win. Xifeng is a character, that despite her not being the traditional notion of good, you want her to win. I don’t often sympathize with characters as such, but I did here.

The other main characters are equally as alluring. You have Wei who wants Xifeng to choose the goodness in her and is ultimately a huge contrast to her character. You have her aunt, Guma, who has a history she has not yet told Xifeng, but plays on the hungry, ambitious traits of her niece. You have her friends Hideki and Shiro who openly show Xifeng what the right examples of love and affection are, but examples she cannot find within herself. You have the royal cast like Lady Sun and Empress Lihua who bring out different sides of Xifeng that show how well she is playing a game to reach her goal. There is just so much going on with the plot and the characters. It is very much like a game of chess, with constant moves being made. Who will win? The royal family? Xifeng? Or someone else? You’re not quite sure from the beginning nor are you sure until the pieces start to unravel.

When I finished the last chapter, my first thought was when is the second book coming out? My second thought was damn, because that was the only word I could find that encapsulated how much this book brought to the world and how strong this story was.

If anyone is undecided on preordering this book, or picking it up once it hits stores in October 2017, toss your doubts away. This book will capture your attention and stay with you as you read its final words.

It receives 5/5 hearts from me. You’ll understand this reference once you read.

Xx

Megan

Publishing 101 for Teens

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Publishing is a complicated business that takes time and experience to fully grasp. However, even with these tools, one has to be able to adapt. The market changes often as do the writers and literature that emerge.

Because of this, and the recent discussions on twitter about the lack of listening to teen voices, I decided to open up the door to teens to freely ask any questions they have about publishing. The response has been fantastic and thus I have my first blog post on the issue.

Q1: What should you major/study in college if you want to have a career in publishing?

A: For publishing, I would highly advise a B.A. in English or Creative Writing. When you apply for jobs, these degrees are often the baseline education requirement alongside experience (internships, summer programs you may have taken, previous jobs etc). There is some leeway here. You can major in other arts/humanities courses, but what publishers look for in a potential employee is the ability to write well, analyze and critique a piece of writing, pay attention to detail, and know your way around a computer. What is greatly important, and if anything the number one thing to bring to a job interview, is your passion for the industry. Do you like to read a lot? Have you taken interest in books and research in school? Have you kept up with the market? Even the blog you run can make you stand out. Competition is high for publishing jobs and unfortunately, they’re often centered in major cities. Freelance and remote opportunities do pop up, but the same rules as above apply.

I advise to keep in mind that this answer does not stay the same for what major do you need if you want to be a writer. That question is a little trickier for the answer is anything you want. What you need to be a writer is passion, patience, the desire to work hard, understanding rejection and critique, as well as wanting to learn. These skills do not link up side by side with any major. They are about you and what you want out of your writing. If you want to be published, great! If you don’t, that’s fine too. Success is not merely measured in publication.

Q2: How do you break through and be successful in such a competitive industry like publishing?

A: Following from my answer above, it comes down to what makes you stand out. With the growth of social media, I strongly recommend getting an account on Twitter. This is the number one marketing site for writers. It’s quick, fairly easy to learn, and the writing community is only growing larger. Make connections with others. Hear about their journeys and what they have done. Share what you’re working on. Everyone’s publishing road will be different, but it is important to stay connected and have a presence. You never know what will happen from there.

Q3: How do you find a critique partner around your age and a mentor?

A: I would definitely utilize the twitter community here. There are lots of wonderful people offering to be critique partners or mentors.

For teens, I recommend the following hashtags to find critique partners:

#YATeenSpace
#Teenpit *This happens certain times out of the year, but it is definitely a good way to connect and find other writers, agents, and editors who are willing to help teens.*
#Ontheporch

Note: For the latter, it is not catered for teens, but it is a spot where people post about their WIPs and connect in all things writing related. If I find others, I will definitely add them here!

Another way is to simply post if anyone wants to exchange stories. Most of these posts get a handful of responses as everyone is looking/needs another pair of eyes on their story.

As with any exchange, especially writing, make sure you check out the person beforehand and make sure you’re comfortable with sharing your work. If anything seems off or questionable, don’t follow through or check in with trusted friends/peers.

Q4: Do you know about getting published as a teenager – if it dramatically lowers your chances of getting an agent, if you should disclose that you’re underage in your query? Also, what are the legal requirements for getting published underage?

A: I haven’t had too much experience with agents, but I did do some research on the matter. Putting your age in your query is up to your discretion. If you do get a publishing contract, I would prepare yourself for the work it brings and the steps you’ll need in order to get from your draft to a completed book. I would also research one’s background before you sign with an agent. Unfortunately, there are some who are inexperienced or looking to take advantage of those who are not familiar with the industry.

I can’t entirely say if placing your age into a query will lower your chances. I feel like that would vary by agent and publisher – some not minding/encouraging a younger author while others would shy away from it.

You will have to disclose your age if an agent expresses interest and ultimately decides to represent you. This is important because if you’re under 18, you will likely need a parent or guardian to cosign a contract.

If I find out any more information, I will definitely update this!

Q5: How long does each phase of writing and publishing take? 

A: Writing will always vary based on the individual. Some are able to writer faster than others. Some may need to rethink their plot. Some may have to rework their entire story. There will never be a specific amount of time for any of these stages.

In terms of when you’re signed, you will likely be given a due date for your edits and your final manuscript. Your editor will read them over, give their comments, and you will once again be given edits to complete until the final draft. These will likely take a few weeks to a few months.

I can’t give a specific date for how long the whole process takes, but writing a book is very much a long term gratification experience. You won’t see your book by the end of the week after you submit your manuscript, but in a year, maybe even two, it will be there. If you’re willing to wait and put in the work, it will be worth it.

Q6: What if your manuscript is always rejected?

A: Rejections are probably the hardest part of the writing process, especially when you put so much work into your story only to see the same email over and over again. There are several things that can be done in this situation.

  1. Keep trying. Sometimes, you need to find the right agent or the right publisher to represent you. Even famous authors received hundreds of rejections before success found them. I know that sounds daunting, but trust me, keep trying.
  2. Find beta readers and critique partners. Maybe something in your story isn’t working. Have another set or sets of eyes read over your manuscript. Do the same for your query letter and synopsis. A simple rewording could make all the difference.
  3. Make sure you’re following guidelines when submitting. A handful of publishers and agents will not read your work if it is not properly formatted nor fits the mold of what books they’re searching for.
  4. Step away from the story. If you constantly work on the same piece, you may be overthinking it and have to take a breather. Come back to the story in a while with a clearer head. You may notice something you hadn’t before and be able to strengthen your story.
  5.  Your story may be rejected by publishers and agents due to their schedule or inability to give your story the attention and detail it needs. Don’t take it personally. Not all rejections are about your writing or about you. I can’t stress this enough. Sometimes, it just can’t work out.
  6. Don’t stop writing. This story may not be the one picked up by publishers, but it doesn’t mean your next one will follow the same direction. Write the story you need. Write what feels right. Just keep doing it.

Q6: How much should we write each day?

A: There is no correct amount of words to write per day nor is there a correct way to write. Me personally, I don’t write everyday. I used to as a teen, but life and stubborn muse got in the way so now I write when I can and often in large chunks. This is my method, but you most certainly have to find your own as a writer.

I definitely enforce getting into the habit of writing often, even if it’s not everyday. It’ll keep your thoughts and motivation fresh, but I also understand why this can’t always happen. As long as you’re moving towards your goal, I think that is important.

I would also mention taking into account achievements that may not be writing. For example, reading a good book or watching a movie that inspired you. Taking a long walk through a park or simply having a passionate conversation with a friend or family member. Each of these things can build up to writing and push it forward. Take rewards in both the big and small and finish whatever story you have in your head.

This is the first in what I hope to be more blog posts on this issue. If this has helped you, or you think it would be beneficial to someone else, please share this. It is greatly appreciated. If you’re a teen and have questions, feel free to message or tweet me and I’ll get to your questions in the next post!

Xx

Megan