Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Writer's Life

Geary and I are professional writers this week. On Monday, we went to the Orem Public Library and wrote for several hours before a bunch of errands we had to run.

I met Will Terry for lunch and we talked industry, philosophy, WIFYR, personal development, etc. All the stuff we normally talk about. I should have gotten a photo and I didn't.

Then I took Geary to Guru's. We love this place.

And we talked about things while she ate.

Then I went to see my grandparents that evening.

On Tuesday, I met Auntie and Uncle for breakfast. I told them the whole WIFYR story and they were so excited. After Uncle left, Auntie and I talked for another hour about anxiety and all sorts of things. As we do. 

I got back to Geary and we went to UVU campus so I could track down Don. He was in his office! So we made plans to meet for lunch, and then Geary and I  found a place to write in the new Student Life and Wellness building. It's gorgeous. There's a BOWLING ALLEY. I know.

I stopped by LA114 to pick up my award for 1st place in art from Warp & Weave this past semester. Then Don texted me and we met on Wolverine Way and we ate lunch and talked industry, teaching woes, professional development, etc. I love Don. Didn't get a picture then either.

Stopped by Perry's office:

We talked for a bit. 

We also got to catch up with Denise and Eric.

Denise is lovely. And her battle with cancer has only made her more lovely. The spirit of determination and empathy she carries is luminous.

Geary and I celebrated our birthdays (mine is a half-birthday):

We hung out in her room and watched Star Trek: Into Darkness, because we wanted to watch Sherlock, but the internet went out. So we watched Benedict Cumberbatch as Khan instead.

I got to the airport on Wednesday a little later than I would have wanted, and I was detained by security for a tactical pen I was carrying. My dad gave it to me. Yes, I know. I should know better than to carry anything my dad gives me onto a plane. But he assured me it would get past security, which it did in AZ. I was interviewed by three people. I had to explain why I had so many pens in my purse:

"Because I'm a writer."

What I use the tactical pen for:


Why I was in Utah:

"I was attending a writing conference. I was workshopping my novel."

O_O Oh, you really ARE a writer.

"Thank you."

They took pictures of me, wrote a report, confiscated my pen, and finally let me go. So I am on record with TSA now for trying to carry an illegal weapon onto an airplane.


I made my flight though, for which I was grateful.

When I got home, there were signs around the house:

Congratulations on winning the WIFYR fellowship award!
Welcome home, award-winning author!


When do we get to read your book?

Sorry, Mom and Dad. I'm waiting until publication for you to read it.

And through all of these days, I have been writing. I take myself seriously. I am getting my 3rd draft ready to send to John. This is going to happen.

Yes, actually. Yes, I am.

Friday, June 27, 2014

WIFYR 2014 - Friday

The last day. This is the last day.

Geary and I woke up to a quiet house. We got ready, made our smoothies, ate breakfast, gathered our belongings. We drove to campus without even thinking about where we were going. It felt totally natural and a little bit sad.

In class, we actually went over revisions with the group and asked questions regarding critique, etc. Then we met individually with Ann out in the hall. She asked me how my meeting with John went, what his notes were specifically, and how I felt about them. We talked about my novel and then she did a cold hard read of my next WIP. She actually didn't even read the first line out loud, she just started giggling. Then she read the page in the exact voice I intended, laughing the whole time, and said, "I'm not even sure if I'm the right person to read this, because I love everything you do right now."

Thanks, Ann. :)

Back in the classroom, we gave Ann her presents:

A framed photo of the class,

a case of Dr. Pepper,

and "Make Good Art" by Neil Gaiman.

She was happy.

Then we went around the group and presented our ideas and tangible objects. 

Gabrielle handed out flowers that didn't smell, because scent grounds the reader in sense of place.
Jessica handed out 100% creative juices (Capri-Sun).
Scott reminded us of a quote from John: "No one will care if you quit." And Andes mints with the message, "You were mint to do this."
Jennifer handed out crazy glasses to remind us that real characters are unique and memorable.
Geary handed out the Mike & Ikes with the reminder the character relationships make a novel sweeter.
My saying with the Charleston Chews was that sentences should be chewy, but chewy in a good way. I started writing a poem, but I only got two lines into it:

Instead of saying, "He ran quickly," say, "He sprinted."
Instead of saying, "It shined brightly," say, "It glinted."

Ann gave us some more reminders and we all said goodbye to each other.

From left to right:
Back row: Bruce, Gabrielle, Taya, Karin, Tanya, Bethany, Amy, Geary, me
Front row: Valerie, Scott, Ann, Jennifer, Jessica

Then we went to lunch. I made sure to pass Thank You cards to Carol and John in the faculty room. I think it's important to let people know when they've made an impression on you, and to express gratitude. 

We met a new friend, Matt Broadhead. He's writing a sci-fi YA and we talked about our novels. I think we'll keep him in the circle.

After lunch we had a plenary by Michelle Witte. It focused on making writing lean.

Then we all went to Ann's breakout session, Creating Your Life as a Working Writer. We all sat in the front row. She was happy. Here are some of her tips:

Connect with other writers
Find an audience
Indulge in some of the things that make you feel like a writer
Subscribe to publications about craft
Create a space where you can write
Take yourself seriously

Here are some quotes from her presentation:

"When I got old and realized that I was slowly inching toward death. . .."
"I have a mildly lawless streak."
"This was back in the 70's when we had to use paper and stamps and you know, type crap."
"I just wanted to go in a cave and grow fur and eat donuts."

Then we went to the auditorium for the closing ceremonies.

They did giveaways, prizes, and announced the winner of the Instagram contest. When they said my name, I was shocked again. I mean, I take good photos, but I thought there would be hundreds of photos in the #heartofwifyr stream. I just opened my Instagram account for Pete's sake! They told me I won a ten-page critique from John Cusick and asked me to stand up.

So I stood up again in the back and everyone turned around to look at me and I said, "I have gotten so much out of this conference. I have had so many opportunities here and I'm so grateful for that, so I want to give this prize to someone else." They looked confused and said they would figure it out. The announcer said, "Wow, that's the #heartofwifyr right there." Then they handed out a bunch of free books and other prizes (I won a luxury bath package) and then announced the new winner of the Instagram contest. She was so excited, she was clapping her hands and jumping up and down, so that was good. Then they showed a slideshow of the conference and we all clapped and cheered.

Then it was over.

I went up to Carol and apologized for throwing off the program. She said I was wonderful and not to worry about it. Then I told John, "It's not like I don't want to have a ten-page critique with you, I just wanted to give someone else a chance." He thanked me for my thank you card, told me I was sweet and generous and then said he would be LOOKING for my manuscript in his inbox. 


We took a few more photos. I love Carol so much. She is one of the kindest people I know.

Caught Ann Dee on the way out. OMG, I love this lady.

And said farewell to our hallway bard.

The rest of the day is a blur. 

Thank you Carol, and John, and Ann, and everyone. It was unforgettable.

On to the 3rd draft!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

WIFYR 2014 - Thursday

Here's what Ann looks like on Thursday.

We started with Karin Brown's manuscript. She's working on a magical retelling with a magical slant. I mean, more magical than fairy tales usually are. Here is Karin:

Her book has a fun concept and I look forward to seeing how it turns out. My biggest note for Karin was a scene with an explicitly romantic description of a prince's physique. I actually have the line memorized, but I won't share it because I don't think Karin should be immortalized that way. I was just like, "Karin. No. Just. No." We ended up laughing about it and she admitted that it really wasn't her style. It was a very entertaining interlude during our workshopping schedule and we all had a good laugh.

Next, we worked on Jennifer Beck's manuscript. Jennifer is working on a contemporary realistic YA novel. I don't have a photo of Jennifer because I can't find her on any social networks. Her manuscript was very fun, and nicely polished. The biggest note she got was to inject more sense of place.

We broke for a few minutes. Then we worked on Bruce Luck's manuscript. He is working on a time-travel/historical fiction/issues book. Here is Bruce:

Our biggest note for Bruce was to make sure the attitudes and ideas are relevant to millenials. He was very open to our feedback, and humble about the process, which is the ideal attitude for workshopping. Bruce was also Ann's assistant and he was a GREAT assistant. I was really pleased to get to know him.

Our last manuscript was by Valerie Harker. I don't have a photo of Valerie, because she's internet shy and as far as I know, she's not on Facebook. She is working on a contemporary realistic novel for adults. The manuscript was wonderful, and Valerie was such a valuable member of the group, with fantastic feedback for everyone. I loved Valerie's enthusiasm.

You can see Valerie third from the left. This was the other side of the critique circle, across from me. You can see: Karin, Tanya, Valerie, Scott, Bethany, and Jennifer.

Here are a thousand things to remember about revising your novel:

Read through your novel once it's finished. It's best to give it some space before you do this, some time. One good way to kick start the revision process after that first read through is to go back through and write an editorial letter to yourself. Phrase most of the problems as questions. It can be very helpful to work on a physical manuscript, so print the editorial letter as well as the manuscript and go through it point by point. You can use different colored Post-Its to mark each type of problem: plot, one color, character, another color, setting, another color. Here are some questions to ask about each element of your manuscript:


Does the reader want to find out what happens next?
Does one chapter lead to the next?
Does each chapter have a hook? Or end on: a high note, something big, a sudden revelation, an unanswered question, a hint of action to come, between stimulus and response?


Who is the MC? 
Can we SEE the MC? (Name, sex, age, appearance)
What does the MC want? (desire line)
What is stopping the character from getting what they want?
Are characters distinctly drawn?
Are names distinct enough so they're not confusing? (too many characters too quickly)
Are characters motivations consistent and real, or are they just moving the plot forward?
Are you using POV consistently?


Is there a good sense of place? (Physical details described by the character's interaction with it)
Does it help create mood?
Does it engage the reader's senses? (all five senses)
What kind of light?


Are sentences lean?
Do you use active voice? (Avoid overuse of passive voice. It's a tool.)
A pacing device: action described with short sentences and lots of white space.
Do you have chunks of text that don't add to the story?

Then we went to lunch. We sat in the awesome foyer, as usual, and ate the things we brought from home. As we were sitting there, Karin and Tanya were laughing about something. She said that she found some more romantic descriptions in her novel. And then she actually READ THEM TO US.

O.M.G. It was epic.

We all laughed so hard, even the people who were sitting in the foyer who had no idea who we were. Unforgettable. Thank you, Karin.

After lunch, we all went into the the auditorium (I sat with Geary and Scott) for the Cold Hard Read. This is an exercise to which people were invited to submit online prior to the conference. We could send in the first pages of our manuscript for a LIVE critique in front of the entire conference. Of course, I did not submit. I am very good at accepting critical review, but in front of the ENTIRE conference? I would probably cry, even though the suggestions would be good, that's just my body's natural reaction, and then it would be like a nightmare.

So Cherie, the editor (Kristin), and the two agents (John and Michelle), would read the first pages aloud and then grab the microphone whenever they had anything they wanted to note. It was brutal. But we all knew it was going to be brutal going into it. Coming from the art school background (where your artwork is put up on the wall and everyone tears it apart), I really liked the exercise. I thought it was a quick and dirty lesson in what not to do. Some people didn't like it, but I thought it was great. 

John's quote of the moment: "I feel like I'm getting applauded for beating someone up."

Halfway through the cold hard read, Geary was falling asleep, so I told her to go out to the couches in the foyer and take a nap. I knew everyone was in the auditorium, so she wouldn't be bothered. She was feeling very blah, so she left the auditorium for some much-needed sleep.

After the cold hard read, Carol got up to microphone to announce the winners of the WIFYR Fellowship Award. She said, "Here is the runner-up." And then she read the first line of the novel and asked the author to stand up. We all clapped for her. Then she said, "And here is the winner of the Fellowship Award." And she read, "Mom always said that Creep was just pretend. When I was little I tried to believe her." 

Um... that's the first line to MY BOOK.

I looked up from my copies of manuscripts and the notes I was taking and Scott leaned over and he was like, O_O "Is that YOUR book?" And I was like, "yeah...."

And then Carol said, "Who wrote that?" And I dropped all my papers and stood up and started shaking and she said, "Come up here." So I walked all the way down the row where we were siting (in the middle of the back), and all the way up to the front and all the way over to the podium. I shoved my hands in my pockets so I wouldn't shake and I was just praying I wouldn't trip on the carpet and fall on my face and I got up to the podium and Carol gave me an awesome hug and I cried into her hair and then she said, "Do you want to say anything?" Into the mic like an Oscar acceptance speech and I was like, "NO."

"But we need to take a selfie." And Carol's like, "I don't take selfies." And I said, "But we're going to do it anyway." And she said okay and I almost dropped my phone and here it is:

$1,000 and a chance to publish with a small press in UT. 

I went back to my seat and I pulled the check out of the envelope and Scott was like, "What did you win? I don't even know." And I whispered it to him and he was like, "OMG that's amazing!"

And it really was. But it was also like an out-of-body experience.

And then they announced an award for Rick Walton and I was still in shock. And I saw Geary come in the back. I thought she was coming back in because she heard what happened. She came and sat down next to me and she didn't say anything. So I looked at her and I was like, "Did you hear that?" and she goes, "Hear what?" and I said, "I got the fellowship." And she's like, "WHAT."

And then someone said that Rick Walton reminded her of this scene in The Muppets when Kermit is sitting on a log in the middle of the swamp playing his banjo and singing and a reporter rows up in a boat and says, "Wow, you're really talented. You could make it big in Hollywood," and how Rick Walton is like that reporter. He rows up to all the artists/writers he finds playing their banjos in a swamp and helps them get to "Hollywood." I was still crying and I looked over at Geary and she started crying. And I whispered, "Are you thinking about Kermit?" Because we have cried together about Kermit before. Specifically to this song

We just about died when Kermit sings, "Would anybody watch or even care?" Geary and I were like, "WE WOULD!"

So I asked Geary if she was thinking about Kermit and she was like, "I'm thinking about YOU!" So we held hands and it was strangely spiritual. I know we were both thinking about the journey I've been on.

And then James Dashner showed up and gave us a keynote speech. They usually invite a commercially successful writer to WIFYR to inspire us, and James Dashner definitely qualifies.

A nugget of his snarky advice:

Pick the idea that seems the most unique
Steal ideas from newbie writers
Come up with a high concept plot
Check Twitter for #mswl and #tenqueries

He was funny and we were glad he came and the fact that he's a Utah writer with a book that has been optioned for film and turned into a movie is great.

Then we had a book signing. All the faculty, presenters, and some local writers will come and do signings that day. So I spent the rest of the time crying. Because I met with Ann Dee and cried when I told her how meaningful her book The End Or Something Like That is to me.

And I cried when I met with Carol and told her thank you. And I ALMOST cried when I met with John Cusick and told him how much I appreciated his time and how much I admire that he can both write great books (Girl Parts and Cherry Money Baby) and agent. And I was feeling pretty overwhelmed when I talked to James Dashner, but I knew Cyndal would want a photo, so I pulled it together. He was very gracious.

Geary had about a thousand books to get signed. And I think she cried when she talked to people too. 

We finally made our way out to the car and we were just like 


this day has been crazy.

So we went home, but stopped by the store on the way. We bought things for our class. Ann asked us to bring something to hand out that would remind the rest of the class something important about writing. So here's what we got:

I'll explain it in the next post.

Then we went home. Sean and Cate were gone with their kids to the Hess family reunion, so the house was quiet. We hung out in the kitchen talking while she cooked.

I ate pizza. It was delicious.

Geary said, "What do you want to watch?" And being the silly person that I am, I said, "We should watch the 50th anniversary episode of Doctor Who."

So we did.

And we cried pretty much the whole last forty minutes of the episode. Here are some images, because Doctor Who is awesome and we love it.

And that was the very emotional fourth day.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

WIFYR 2014 - Wednesday

On Wednesday, we started the workshop with my manuscript. Here's a picture of me:

Yes, I realize this isn't an author photo of me, but it's my blog, so ha! Since the YA lit industry is dominated by women, I thought I would post a photo of me with peers from the other industry in which I am trained: the male-dominated industry of illustration.

So I don't really know what to say about my manuscript. I received some very good feedback from the class, not the least of which was feedback on the climactic scene. I am going to be rewriting things accordingly, and I was very appreciative of all I learned from my workshop peers. Thanks guys!

Here's Ann today:

And her feet:

The next manuscript we critiqued was Scott Clayton's. Scott is working on a sicence fiction/fantasy YA book. Here he is:

Scott also has a lot of characters to maintain. He actually sent a submission from the interior of his book, instead of the first twenty pages, and upon request, he sent me more pages to clarify the submission we got from him. I am very interested to see how it all turns out.

Workshopping is a great experience!

When we took a break, Scott brought out his knife collection.

We had a lot of fun with those.

Then we jumped into Bethany Hank's manuscript. She is working on a very original dystopian idea. Here she is: 

I can't tell you the concept, because it's too awesome. But if she can pull it off (and I think she can), it will be GREAT.

Then we worked on Taya's manuscript. She is working on a contemporary realistic YA novel, featuring characters from Hurricane, UT. Here she is:

Taya's book is actually under contract. You can read all about it here. Lovely book with wonderful characters. I'll be reviewing an ARC in a few months. Taya had very good feedback to give on every manuscript, so we were blessed to have her in class.

During the morning workshop time, I watched the clock for my appointment with John. Here he is: 

I've met with John before, and I feel like he would be able to pull amazing things out of my book, so I hope I get to work with him. He gave me some very specific feedback about my manuscript. Everything he mentioned I think would serve to improve the whole book. Then he asked to read the entire manuscript once the third draft is done. Ann told me that this is good news. So I will work on those revisions and then send out the book to John. Hopefully in just a couple of weeks.

We all went out together to lunch at Zupa's:

It was fun. I sat by Amy and Jennifer. 

Here is Ann's jewelry:

When we returned, we were favored with a plenary by John Cusick. At the last minute, he changed his subject from "Pacing: What to Cut, What to Keep, and What Order to Put It In" to "How to Stay Sane and Be A Writer". John is a great speaker. Here are a couple of tips from him.

On being a writer: "No one will care if you quit." This is very important to remember. You are the only one who can advocate for yourself, because to almost everyone else, your efforts as a writer are seen as a hobby. Take yourself seriously.

On writing: Think of your MC as a hero, not as an everyman. No one wants to read about a normal person. Your MC gets up again when the rest of us wouldn't be able to.

Also, EVERY MOMENT in your book should advance plot or reveal character.

Cut what's typical in the your character's life or make it part of the plot/character. We don't need a bunch of exposition to show how things normally are.

1st person dual POV (point of view) - if you can pick out a paragraph at random and tell which character is talking, then your dual POV is working.

The breakout session I attended was Natalie Whipple's Five Things Every Beginning Needs. 

Here's the short list:

Establish character
World set up
Establish the norm
Sow the seeds of conflict
Inciting incident

Then we had a DANCE. First one ever at WIFYR. It took some people a bit of time to start dancing, I mean really, it's a room full of writers. 

But Carol was in good form, as always.

The best part about it was that everyone brought a book to donate to the Navajo Indian Reservation in AZ.

We had to leave early so Geary could get off her feet. She played some ukulele:

And then we watched An Adventure in Space and Time, which is a feature-length film chronicling the beginnings of Doctor Who. We cried.

And that was the end of the third day.