Teen Writers Bloc

A Blog by the New School Writing for Children MFA Class of 2012

Archive for June, 2012

Alyson’s Ready—Almost

Posted by Alyson Gerber On June - 28 - 2012

if you were waiting for a sign Alysons Ready—Almost

Now that I am finishing up my (hmm) fourteenth round of edits, I am finally, almost ready to hand over my middle grade manuscript to my agent—almost.

Well, my manuscript is ready to go. The problem is that I am not. I’ve been fussing over every detail. I want my book to be as close to perfect as possible. What else is new? But even when I’ve nit-picked every single thing, I’m not sure I will be ready to let go. For one thing, it’s really scary. Once I send it off into the world, I am no longer in control. Anything could happen. This does not make me feel calm. This makes me want to pace around a lot, spend my days and nights watching the Gilmore Girls seasons one through seven, eat gallons of mint chocolate chip ice cream (with chocolate sprinkles), and pull out my hair.

Luckily, I have the best writing group ever to save me from myself. Not to brag, but I love them and sometimes I don’t have a clue what I would do without them. They are brilliant writers. They give the most incredible feedback. And they make me feel like I’m not alone or the only one who is afraid to fail. Sometimes I think the most important part about critique group is being around other people who get it. Thanks to their encouragement and advice, I started a new project, and I’m really excited about it. So, when I finally find the courage to send in my manuscript, instead of being crazy and taking out my anxiety on my normally very happy life, I will have something else to obsess over. Phew!

Riddhi’s Post-MFA Yo-Yoing

Posted by Riddhi Parekh On June - 27 - 2012

TWB YOYO JUNE 600x383 Riddhis Post MFA Yo YoingYo, yo what’s next?

Now that school’s out, I’m in the mood to play. This applies to my writing as well.

Between you and me, since thesis submission, I haven’t so much as opened a word document — at least not for any “creative writing” purposes (unless To Do lists count). There are many culprits at play: the wonderful weather (really hard to write when you’re out riding a bicycle), an exciting new job, moving into a new apartment, a reunion with the folks, dealing with post-graduate realizations and other life-altering decisions, one of which was to stay back in New York for work experience.

But fret not, I’m just resting my wrists. The writing yo-yo has been ‘sleeping’ but I’m going to ‘walk the dog’ pretty soon. The fine ladies at TWB and the voices in my head will make sure I do!

My summer goal is to wind up an old labor of love that I abandoned a few months ago. Fingers crossed!

Image courtesy stock.xchng

Post-MFA, Sona’s Busier Than Ever (And Writing!)

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On June - 26 - 2012

wordcount 285x300 Post MFA, Sonas Busier Than Ever (And Writing!)So many times before on this blog, as I posted, I sadly reported that I haven’t been writing at all. That work has just been too crazy (which it always has — and continues to be), that life with a toddler keeps me busy (yup, still happening), and that I’m actually a relatively social person (who has a hard time saying no to a fun invite).

But this time, as we do our post-MFA check-ins, I’m happy report that I have been writing. In fact, I wrote 4,000 words last week. Yes, of fiction. Which is not to say I’m writing 4,000 every week. But thanks to my awesome crit group — made up of my former classmates, although it sounds so weird to say that — I’ve still got deadlines to get me motivated.

And I’m really excited to continue working on my thesis project, which clocked in at about 80 pages when I turned it in. Granted, even with the regular bursts of additional pages, I’m only about a third of the way through. But the story is working for me, it’s something close to my heart, and I’m really interested in the characters, who keep taking new and fascinating turns when I least expect it. It’s actually fun to write.

I’ve also been reading a lot — about a book a week, which is huge, given my schedule. I’m trying to make more time for it, because a) I love to read and b) it’s so important to get out of your own head and learn about storytelling from the work of others. Besides books like The Fault In Our Stars and Allison Winn’s The Song Remains the Same (yes, I actually read adult fiction, too), I’ve been enjoying my said former classmates’ latest, as many of them are on to new projects as well. And I’ll get to enjoy a lot of their own works as actual, fully bound books in the near future as you see a rash of TeenWritersBloc.com contributors books on bookstore shelves near you in the coming year. I’m super-excited for that.

So here’s to bigger and better, but staying a close knit community with my fellow recent MFA grads. As much as that chapter may be over, a new one begins — and hopefully, the cast of characters will remain much the same.

Life After the MFA: Caela Hopes Nothing Changes

Posted by Caela Carter On June - 25 - 2012

 Life After the MFA: Caela Hopes Nothing ChangesWhen I was graduating from undergrad (Notre Dame–Go Irish!), I went kicking and screaming. I did not want those four years to end. My roommate and I used to joke about burying our bodies in the quad with our heads sticking out into the landscape so it would be impossible to make us go.

Alas, I graduated. Then I left. Then I started teaching and I got a real big-person life, and it turns out I was completely right about everything. Life was fine, but it just wasn’t as magical as being in school, studying what I wanted, living with all of my friends.

But I have to say, my time at The New School took on some of that magic. For two years, I dedicated myself to writing and met a whole new set of writerly-friends.

And this time, now that we’ve graduated, I’m determined to stay buried in the quad. I really want nothing to change. And, for the past month, so far so good. I’m still meeting with my thesis group. Still checking in with everyone about their writing. Still sharing my WIP and getting priceless critiques. And, this is very important: no one has left.

People tell me that in the year to come, some things are bound to change. For one, along with several of my fellow TWBers, I’m going from private writer in a magic-MFA-land to published author on bookshelves everywhere. So that might change some things.  Plus, I’m quitting my day-job, getting married, and possibly getting a dog.

All of that might be true, but I won’t let it ruin the magic. I’m not going to be a normal big-person. It just didn’t agree with me.  My mind will remain galloping in teenage-dom, my heart bathing in words, my brain learning everything there is to know about kids lit and writing. I might have graduated, but I don’t ever plan on being out-of-school.

Jean-Paul Bass on Perseverance

Posted by Teen Writers Bloc On June - 22 - 2012

Perseverance Jean Paul Bass on PerseveranceI struggle with writing on a consistent schedule.  I only write when I am in the mood or if there is a deadline approaching, but being in the mood comes very infrequently.  There’s always something else I want to do and I keep pushing writing aside.  I had such high hopes for the summer.  I just knew I was going to be so prolific and wow everyone but after a few weeks of late nights at the computer, my enthusiasm waned when I hit a rough patch in the story and I haven’t revisited it since.

Just recently, I attended three different events.  Each event featured some of the hottest authors in YA today.  And at two of the events, the authors were alumni of The New School’s MFA program, more specifically, of the Writing for Children Program — Lisa Greenwald and Siobhan Vivian.

Once I got over feeling cool from being connected to these authors through the program, I got a little bummed.  Here were people who were in the same program as me and now look at them!  On stage, some with multiple book deals, talking about writing and being writers, and the audience can’t wait to hear what they have to say next.  I immediately tried imagining myself getting asked questions, promoting my book at events, and wondering what writing tips I could give my audience.  But I couldn’t sustain the fantasy for long because all of those authors have something I don’t have: perseverance.  Tenacity.  Determination.  Dogged pursuit of a goal.  Call it what you want but I ain’t got it.

At one of the events, an editor told us that she would be accepting unsolicited submissions from the audience for two weeks after the event and instead of getting excited, I felt like kicking myself.  Here was an awesome opportunity, a direct line to an editor, and I couldn’t use it because I didn’t have anything ready to send out.  I’ve been spending my summer goofing off when I should have been writing.

Imagining myself on stage with those other authors doesn’t get me very far, but thinking about writing, about sticking to a schedule and finishing a story just like those authors gets me inspired.  It’s all about perseverance, about seeing something through to the very end and not getting sidetracked.  That’s how they got on the stage and why they have book deals.

The summer’s not over yet.  I’ve got a few more months left to cultivate that stick-to-it-ive-ness skill that is so crucial to being successful.  I probably won’t be on stage giving advice anytime soon, but the next time an editor asks for a submission, I will be ready.

Guest blogger Jean-Paul Bass recently decided to quit her job to focus on writing full-time and she swears she doesn’t miss having a regular paycheck at all. She is currently working on her MFA in fiction and writing for children at The New School.  If she could finish her memoir about growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, before graduation, then she would be quite satisfied with herself.

Post-Grad: Amber’s Oh-So-Simple Plan

Posted by Amber On June - 20 - 2012

P13203621 Post Grad: Ambers Oh So Simple PlanAt last, I’ve come to learn that one’s work life doesn’t necessarily have to contradict with one’s writing life.

Case in point: Now that I don’t have to worry about school stuff, I’ve actually started a new book. I’m at thirty pages currently and am hoping to get a lot more done over the summer. I work during the day and crank out pages at night and I only need to worry about my main character, her journey and the story I’m trying to tell. It’s fun. It’s a refreshing change. And I’m trying my best to put to use what I’ve learned over the past two years during workshop without letting any voices of critique hold me back from what really matters at this very early stage — the story itself.

My post-grad plan is that simple. To write without inhibition.

Photo Credit: Overstock.com

Why You Should Never Ask Steven, “What’s Next?”

Posted by Steven Salvatore Shaw On June - 19 - 2012

covering ears Why You Should Never Ask Steven, Whats Next?I hate the question: “What’s next?” It’s almost as bad as: “So you have a degree in writing? What are you going to do with that?” or “Oh, writing? You mean like ‘journalism?’” My favorite would have to be: “What do you want to do with the rest of your life?”

Secretly, what I want to say is: “Get off my d***!” However, usually I bite my tongue (Literally. I like the taste of my own blood. What do you expect, I’m an unpredictable, starving artist writer man.) and go into the same spiel: “My ultimate goal is to get my writing published. I have one completed manuscript and I’m hard at work on another. My realistic goal is to teach writing at the college level, which is what I’m doing.”

Then I get this: “You teach college writing? Aren’t you too young?”

To which I want to say: “GET OFF MY D***!” No, I’m not young. I’m old. Every day is another day closer to death, which makes me prime to teach young, impressionable minds how to write. Those who can’t do teach, right? Not that I can’t write, but I just don’t have the time.

Writing is a tortuous, arduous task. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, and no, authors don’t just ooze perfect, poetic prose out of their pores. If it were that easy, we’d all be JK Rowling. Inspiration hardly ever strikes when you want it to, and when it does, it’s at the most inopportune times. Like when I’m showering and I’m soaking wet and I can’t just “hop out” and “jot it down” because if I try that by the time I get to a piece of paper and find a damn pen (because when you want one, pens are like f***ing leprechauns), the brilliant idea I had while soaping up is now a fizzled idea that may or may not be the worst thing I’ve ever thought.

And who has the time to write? Honestly. I’m sorry, I work three jobs in order to not suffocate under all of my student loan debt. I don’t have the luxury of having full days to just WRITE. I wish I did. So I write when I can, and I take what I can, and whatever comes next, comes next.

I envy my writer friends who have all of this time to churn out words as easily as they breathe. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like spare time is in the cards for me right now. And I’m ok with that. If it takes a couple years to finish my next project, I’ll be ok.

I don’t need to know what’s next, honestly. I’ve lived my life year-to-year, month-to-month, day-to-day, figuring it all out as I go. I’ll figure this next step out, too. Just get off my d***.

Image credit: Marie Claire

Now What? For Dhonielle, School’s Out for — Well, Forever!

Posted by Dhonielle Clayton On June - 18 - 2012

closedforsummer color Now What? For Dhonielle, Schools Out for    Well, Forever!So school is out, and I’ve decided that I will not go back (except to culinary school when I’m 35). Now what?

Well, lots of things…

I’m moving to another New York City apartment — yay!

I’m going to Hawaii.

I’m teaching summer school in Harlem again.

I’m going to South Africa to visit Amy Ewing with Jess Verdi.

I’m going to catch up on reading!

But first off, it’s business as usual. Writing! Writing! Writing!

And critiquing… I’m looking forward to continuing to read my classmates’ work, as well as that of my other writer friends. I like deadlines and I like the feedback I receive from my classmates. We’ve been off for a couple weeks since graduation, so I’ve been able to recharge my battery, and getting ready to get back in the saddle again.

It’s time to work now. Usually, I HATE the summer. The heat makes me a slug. But I’ve decided to use these three months to do a lot of work, so when September 1st rolls around I feel good about what I’ve accomplished.

My plan is to turn in another revised manuscript to my agent in August and to start something brand new. I work well with self-imposed deadlines and stress. Somehow in my head I make up this story that my lovely (and patient) agent Emily has called me frantic and upset, wanting the manuscript on a certain date. Then I work like a dog to meet this made up deadline. It has worked well so far, and I’ll be keeping with that tradition.

I hope to head into the fall with an arsenal of fun things to share and celebrate.

Photo Credit: Momland.wordpress.com

Corey’s Cover Reveal for OCD LOVE STORY!

Posted by Corey Haydu On June - 15 - 2012


OCDlove1 Coreys Cover Reveal for OCD LOVE STORY!

Guys. My book has a cover.

And I couldn’t love it more.

I was worried my cover might be too somber, or too boring, or not unique enough. I got everything I could have hoped for. The cover is downright VIBRANT, it’s quirky, it’s intense, it’s surprising, it’s whimsical, it’s edgy, it’s everything my book is, and it feels decidedly MINE. The designer (and, as always, my editor) seemed to really get my voice, my book, and how something can be both painful and hilarious, quiet and massive, unusual and relatable, obsessive and beautiful.

And, as icing on the cake, here’s a short description of the book:

When Bea meets Beck, she knows instantly that he’s her kind of crazy. Sweet, strong, kinda-messed-up Beck understands her like no one else can. He makes her feel almost normal. He makes her feel like she could fall in love again.

But despite her feelings for Beck, Bea can’t stop thinking about someone else: a guy who is gorgeous and magnetic…and has no idea Bea even exists. But Bea knows a lot about him. She spends a lot of time watching him. She has a journal full of notes. Some might even say she’s obsessed.

Bea tells herself she’s got it all under control, but this isn’t a choice, it’s a compulsion. The truth is, she’s breaking down…and she might end up breaking her own heart.

I’m thrilled, and would love to hear your thoughts!

Photo courtesy Simon Pulse

Jean Paul Notebooks 600x506 Guest Blogger Jean Paul Bass Reflections on Her First Year in an MFA

Reading everyone else’s thoughts on getting an MFA, I thought about why I am in the program at all. Because, you see, I made a giant mistake when I applied to The New School.

The mistake began years before I even thought about getting an MFA, before I even thought about being a writer. It began in the summer before I entered the tenth grade, when I wrote a story in a green notebook and then promptly threw it away. That green notebook contained the first story I had ever written and without even finishing it, I was convinced the story was no good. So I got rid of it.

Fast forward a few years to when I dropped in and out of three colleges, sometimes simultaneously attending one while in the midst of failing classes at another, as I tried to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I thought about being a linguist, a teacher, a paralegal, a museum curator, a librarian, studying medieval history, owning a bookstore, basically anything except writing. But I never forgot about the story in that green notebook and when a friend suggested I write something instead of picking apart the bad writing in a book I had just read, I did it. And when I shared the story with my friend, I was amazed that she liked it, and everyone she showed it to liked it. That’s when I revisited that old story, and even though I had forgotten most of the details, I decided to finally finish it.

Over the course of six months, I stayed up until four and five in the morning, writing because I couldn’t sleep at night. My brain raced with new ideas and I would lie awake in bed, begging my mind to shut down so I could sleep but also excited about all of the scenes I couldn’t wait to write. So I would crawl out of bed and write until the sun came up.

Eventually I finished the book and after sharing it with a few friends, I put it away because I felt it just wasn’t good enough to be published. And I continued on with my life, but by then I had decided to finish college with a degree in English and Creative Writing. In my writing classes, I focused on literary fiction, or adult writing as I call it, because no one in my classes read or wrote YA novels and I didn’t feel comfortable submitting anything that wasn’t adult-orientated. So my YA novels and ideas were put on the back burner as I concentrated on my adult stories even though I didn’t much care about them. I just wanted to write and be around writers.

When it came time to apply for an MFA program, I picked The New School because of the writing for children concentration. I thought it would be great to work on fiction and writing for children but I only applied to the fiction program. I looked at the YA novel I had written and the other YA ideas I had started but never finished, felt none of them were ready, and prepared my fiction submission.

My first semester in the fiction MFA program left me feeling lost. I didn’t care about what I submitted, and dreaded my second year and all of the expectations that came with it. What would I write about during my thesis semester? What would I read at the final student readings? None of the my adult stories were special enough for me to want to keep revising or showcase them and I had no new ideas.

But I had tons of YA stuff I could write and polish. In my second semester, I took a writing for children seminar and I finally felt like I belonged. Here were people who took children’s books seriously, who didn’t treat genre like the plague, and I finally had the chance to share some of my YA ideas and characters with people who could understand where I was coming from and why these characters and their stories mattered to me.

As the semester ended and it came time to choose classes for the next year, a sinking feeling settled into my stomach and I realized what I had done to myself. By not applying to the writing for children program, I had once again thrown away my green notebook. I knew I had made a giant mistake that would haunt me for years, just like the story I had been too scared to finish writing, and I knew I needed to make a change. I finally realized why I didn’t apply to the writing for children program: because writing for children is what matters to me. Fiction was easy; I almost didn’t care if one of my adult stories was rejected. But to put my YA novel out there frightened me. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone saying my YA novel wasn’t good enough and so I didn’t give anyone that chance.

Once I admitted the real reason why I didn’t apply to the writing for children program, I did everything I could to get myself in there. I talked with the program director and began meeting up with my writing for children classmates so that we could start our own workshops and attend writing for children events together. And I sent out the first few chapters of the novel I wrote based on the first story I had ever written in that green notebook for my classmates’ critiques.

I had almost given up on the MFA program because I was getting my degree for all of the wrong reasons. I still struggle with having confidence in myself and my writing, but I know I am getting better, better at writing and better at staying true to myself. And I owe it to the green notebook. Even though I threw it away all those years ago, the memories of writing my first story in there have never left my mind. I used to be embarrassed at my teenage attempt at writing, but now I look back with fondness and inspiration. It is because of those memories that I feel at home in the writing for children MFA program and am glad that I fixed my giant mistake.

Guest blogger Jean-Paul Bass recently decided to quit her job to focus on writing full-time and she swears she doesn’t miss having a regular paycheck at all. She is currently working on her MFA in fiction and writing for children at The New School.  If she could finish her memoir about growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, before graduation, then she would be quite satisfied with herself. 

Photo Credit: Jean-Paul

pixel Guest Blogger Jean Paul Bass Reflections on Her First Year in an MFA

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