Teen Writers Bloc

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

What’s Riddhi Been Up To? Well, It Depends On Which Way You Spin It…

Posted by Riddhi Parekh On October - 24 - 2012

 Whats Riddhi Been Up To? Well, It Depends On Which Way You Spin It...So, there’s two ways I could spin this:

I could rant endlessly about how busy and burdened I’ve been.

Malarkey but entirely factual stuff about moving house (which can be ridiculously time-consuming and delay many other things in your life, like turning in this blog post) and boatloads of book-reading for work that filled my entire summer. And how it was a great thing because I have a lovely new apartment and that this insatiable reading actually made me a better writer. I mean, if a phenomenally bestselling author like Stephen King says this, clearly, by finding a place where I enjoy reading and reading a lot, I’m just gathering my tools, right?

Or… I could admit that I may not have made as much to write as I should have?

But while I haven’t written anything fresh that I’m ready to workshop (yet), I can admit that a new project is spinning itself inside my head. And—more importantly—in a word document that is punctiliously updated and backed up, I have been carefully plotting and planning. Details. Research. A beginning. The main conflict. A possible end? Genre. Theme. Protagonists. Character sketches. I think I know the format I want it to be in. And I’m REALLY excited to dive into it… but only, I haven’t found the time to properly write it.

But I will. Soon. Like right about NOW.

Is this weird? Is this progress? Procrastination? A result of the creative writing MFA? Anything to do with reading for work? Probably yes to all. And still, I love that this process of knowing what could happen is completely new and EXCITING for me. In the past, I went into my stories blindfolded, tumbling down the rabbithole of a blank word document with no idea where I was going, knowing only that I’d have to turn something in at deadline—whatever I had spewed and spun into ten or fifteen pages.

For the first time ever, I feel like I’m in control of the castrophany that’s about to come. And I guess the only way to go is to set that deadline so I can twirl, whirl and yarn this darn thing together. And NO, it doesn’t have anything to do with these cool images I found from stock.xchng but they match my though processes and I tried to match my post around them and hope you enjoy!

Why Perla is Proud to Be a Quitter

Posted by Teen Writers Bloc On October - 22 - 2012

 Why Perla is Proud to Be a QuitterSo what’s new in my life?  I would say a whole lot!

Earlier this school year I decided to resign from all my jobs.  I resigned as an adjunct professor and I resigned from the position I had with the Board of Ed.  I must say however the decision was a scary one and I was in a state of shock for some time. I expected some distress and even some insomnia while I pondered my life and the fact that I was giving this writing thing my all.   Today, however, I feel overwhelmingly excited.  I made the best choice — I knew my writing and my last year in grad school would have been almost nonexistent if I would have gone back to teaching full time (while also being a mom of two).

And it has proven so worth it.  This semester has definitely been great thus far.  Now that our second year has started I think most of the inhibitions/insecurities one feels when first starting something new have greatly diminished.  Workshops go by a lot quicker and are pretty straightforward.  Everyone knows each other pretty well and for the most part know what everyone is working on and what they need to work on.

I also attended an awesomely awesome writing conference a few weeks ago– The Comadres and Compadres Writing Conference.  It was the first Latino writing conference organized by Las Comadres Para Las Americas.  In this one-day event amazing Latino writers such as Nicholosa Mohr, Sonia Manzano and Dahlma Llanos Figueroa shared their wisdom and teamed up with editors and agents all looking for Latino writers to represent.  The day was packed with inspiration and positivity.  It definitely made me feel better about recently quitting (especially after pitching my unfinished manuscript and getting great reviews). All the negativity surrounding Latinos getting into the publishing world that I had heard the previous year was dispelled after this wonderful event.

Lastly the one thing that has probably caused us second years some stress is the inevitable search for advisors for our anxiety-producing thesis semester.   But I recently received the incredible news that I will working with David Levithan next semester. I can’t even describe how freaking exciting I am.  David Levithan!! That is all.

Photo credit: robbieabed.com

Jean-Paul Reflects on Taking Classes With the First and Second Years

Posted by JeanPaul Bass On October - 11 - 2012

73000961 eeb19145e2 n Jean Paul Reflects on Taking Classes With the First and Second YearsAhhh, second-year-itis has set in for me. I have a class with all of the Writing for Children first years and I can’t help looking at them with knowing fondness. To be a year younger, starting an MFA program, with so many possibilities ahead of me. Oh, to be young again!

It wasn’t until my second semester of the MFA program that I realized I didn’t belong in Fiction. Over the summer, I switched to Writing for Children and now in my third semester, I can’t help but think of the time wasted working towards something that didn’t really fit me. Now I am in one class with the second years and in another class with the first years. I didn’t get the chance to form a bond with anyone that first semester because in Fiction, every class is with new people, so it takes a while before you can get to know someone. But in Writing for Children, those first two semesters are with the same people for every class, so it’s as if the program created a group of writing companions just for you.

Already, the first years know what everyone is working on, who is really good at line edits, and who gets their writing and what they’re trying to do. The second years also have a background with each other. They know who is working on what, the history of certain characters and why one is acting a certain way that baffles me when I read a later chapter in a story, and probably have a general idea of who they want to work with in their peer groups next semester.

Of course, in Fiction it’s rare to start any semester with more than two people from a previous class and each workshop is filled with stories and characters you’ve never met before and will probably never meet again, but Writing for Children is not the same. The people you meet in the first semester are what you get, unless someone drops out of the program or switches to a different genre. Or switches into the genre, as I did.

I came to the school not only to improve my writing and my chances of publication, but also to develop relationships that will last beyond graduation. I envy the first years who already knew each other by name in the second week, while I still barely know them by face. And while I have become friends with the second years inside and outside of class, I do wish I had been there with them from the beginning. I feel like I am in-between since I have classes with both groups, but as I look towards next semester and what comes after, I sometimes think I may have the best of both years. I already have friendships within the second years and now I have to the potential to get to know and make friends with the first years. My community of writers is growing, and that can only make me a better writer in the long run.

Am I glad I switched? You betcha. Even if I sometimes feel like I’m in a class all by myself.

Image courtesy flickr/Wysz

Debut Author Interview: Kristen-Paige Madonia on ‘Fingerprints of You’

Posted by Sona Charaipotra On August - 20 - 2012

img07 Debut Author Interview: Kristen Paige Madonia on Fingerprints of You

This week, we’re super-excited to feature debut author Kristen-Paige Madonia, whose literary YA novel, Fingerprints of You, hit shelves last week. The book centers on 17-year-old Lemon, who finds herself continuing the cycle of teenage pregnancy as she heads off on a cross-country journey to find the father she’s never known. The writing is sharp and vivid, and the Lemon’s coming-of-age is startlingly specific while being surprisingly universal. It’s definitely a book worth adding to your TBR pile!

We caught up with Kristen-Paige to chat about YA versus adult, whether an MFA is worth it, and the importance of having mentors through the publishing process.

Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a writer?

Fingerprints of You is my debut novel, though my short fiction has appeared in such publications as Upstreet, New Orleans Review, American Fiction: Best Previously Unpublished Short Stories by Emerging Writers, Sycamore Review, and Inkwell. I was recently named the 2012 D. H. Lawrence Fellow and the 2011 Sewanee Writers’ Conference Tennessee Williams Scholar, and I have received fellowships from the Hambidge Center, the Vermont Studio Center, Juniper Summer Writing Institute, Virginia Center for Creative Arts, Hedgebrook Writers’ Retreat, the Millay Colony for the Arts, and the Studios of Key West. I’ve been writing and telling stories for as long as I can remember, but it wasn’t until I began applying to grad schools that I became truly focused on the craft. I received my MFA from California State University, Long Beach, and I currently live in Charlottesville, Virginia where I teach creative writing at the University of Virginia and the non-profit organization WriterHouse. In addition to teaching and writing, I’ve worked all kinds of jobs including positions as an assistant jeweler, a Barnes & Noble bookseller, a nanny, an assistant Kindergarden teacher, a receptionist, a wine pourer at a local vineyard, and an intern with a film and literary agency in Beverly Hills. Now that the book is launched, I’ve set aside a few months to travel so I can connect with readers in person at literary festivals and bookstores, but I’m looking forward to teaching again next spring.

Can you give us a quick synopsis of Fingerprints of You? How did you come up with the concept for the book? 

Fingerprints of You follows the journey of Lemon Williams, a 17-year-old girl, as she searches for her father, a man she has never met. Lemon becomes pregnant in the opening of the book, and I wanted to use the novel as a way to explore that bizarre but beautiful phase in life when you realize the world is much larger than you thought, and that you have the ability to decide what kind of person you want to become. It’s set on the road and amidst the inspiring music and art scene in San Francisco, and the book explores the challenges of growing up in a single-parent home and the various ways we can confront our pasts, our skeletons in the closet. But at the heart of it, Fingerprints of You is about the comfort we find in one another and the security of family; not blood-born family necessarily, but the families we create for ourselves from the people we love and the people that love us back. My work is often inspired by what I call “stolen moments” – I people-watch and eavesdrop constantly, so if I’m lucky I’ll catch something in my surroundings that can be used to fuel a new project, and that’s how Fingerprints of You began. I first imagined Lemon and Stella when I was living in San Francisco, just after finishing my MFA. I liked to work in coffee shops in the city, and one afternoon I spotted a woman and a teenager crossing Fillmore Street in front of the cafe where I was writing. They immediately became Lemon and Stella: a feisty mother-daughter duo in the mist of that strange period of time when the child is becoming an adult and the parent is becoming, in the eyes of the child, an individual or person outside of their parent role.

I love the name Lemon — where did that inspiration come from? 

Lemon’s mother, Stella, is a painter, and when the book opens it’s explained that each month she picks one color to base all of her work on; the September that Lemon was born was the month of “Lemon” — a pale yellow paint color she used for her art work during that time period. But for me it was always her name, from the first page of the first draft, though I can’t be sure why. Sometimes the writer doesn’t get to pick all the details, but instead is presented with them organically and then explores their origins as we write forward.

This is pretty gritty for YA — and called a literary YA on your site. Can you talk about the rap YA gets and why you wanted to write in this genre? 

I love that word, “gritty” — it’s being used frequently to describe literary novels that are straddling the line between fiction for teens and fiction for adults. When you first write a book you don’t think about anybody reading it, at least I didn’t. I was writing for other reasons, so the idea of teens versus adults just didn’t cross my mind during the writing process. But once I realized there was a chance that Fingerprints of You may be marketed in that way, I started reading contemporary YA novels and was blown away by how smart and powerful some of the books are. John Green, Deb Caletti, Jay Asher, Laurie Halse Anderson… I was amazed by the exceptional level of writing and by the community of readers and authors involved in the genre. I think YA demands a specific kind of energy, a sense of urgency and immediacy. Teen readers won’t wait out a slow beginning – they must be engaged from the first page. They won’t hang around to see if the novel gets good in the fifth chapter — they’ll simply shut the book and tell their friends not to bother. And I love that. They demand a great deal from the author, as they should, and for that reason I find the books to be full of life.

It’s a lively conversation, this blurred line between adult and young adult readerships, and I’m finding that there really isn’t a clear definition of the genre, which is one of the things I like best about be called a YA writer. I’m honored to be categorized that way — the community of writers and readers congregating under that label is an inspiring crowd to run with, and there’s an increased recognition that the age of the protagonist doesn’t deflate the literary merit of a book. I’m guessing the blurred lines will become even more indistinguishable, and that’s a good thing – it means readers will be exposed to a wider range of work, and authors won’t feel confined to write inside a specific set of rules dictated by a label.

Of course in some venues there’s still a slight stigma attached to the YA label; there are certain magazines that won’t publish YA reviews, certain book awards that won’t accept YA submissions. Margo Rabb published an incredible article in The New York Times a few years ago entitled, “I’m YA, and I’m O.K.” — which I recommend to anyone writing fiction that straddles the line between YA and adult. Like myself, she wrote a book she imagined being labeled as adult literary fiction but was sold to a YA division. There are inevitably challenges that come with that process, and many adults still don’t realize the high caliber literature that can now be found on YA shelves. It’s an odd thing–these labels based on audience–and I find it fascinating that literature is the only art form that’s adopted the YA category; we don’t classify visual art, paintings or sculptures, for teens versus adults just as we don’t claim music to be one or the other. But at the end of the day I couldn’t be happier with the home that Fingerprints of You found at Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers.

You’ve published a lot of short stories and done a lot of fellowships. How did you approach this, and what did you discover in this path? Advice for other writers?  

I’ve been incredibly fortunate and have landed a number of successes that have changed the shape of my career, but I’ve also applied for almost every award and residency out there, so I’ve had my fare share of rejection as well! I tend to spend a great deal of time submitting my stories, so there is a lot of work involved, there’s a lot of waiting and dead-ends behind that list of successes you’re referring to. So in terms of advice, while there all kinds of tricks or tips I could share, I tend to keep it pretty simple. First off, there are no rules. None. There are writing  techniques that may work and tricks that may help when you’re first starting out, but really there is no one way to do this magical thing we call writing. So no rules.

Other than that, I suggest you don’t bother doing it unless your heart is one-hundred percent invested, unless nothing makes you happier than finding that perfect sentence or writing that wonderful cast of characters you want to spend hundreds of pages with. A lot of people will tell you “no.” Rejection is inevitably a large part of the process, so you have to be doing it for you, not for “them.” You must have thick skin and a great deal of faith, but really it all comes down to doing it for the right reasons – because you love creating stories, you love throwing words on a page. And finally, if you can afford it, I always recommend attending conferences or joining a writer’s group or  organization. It can be a lonely endeavor at times, and creating a community can make all the difference when it’s time to wade your way through rejection letters or celebrate the good news when it comes!

Having done it, MFA — yay or nay?

For me my MFA allowed me to focus on nothing but writing for two years, and that’s such a gift, it’s a circumstance that I’ll never be able to recreate, though I try by attending as many writing residences as possible. So yes, if you can afford the financial commitment and if you are in a phase of your life that allows you to attend an MFA program, I think it’s an invaluable experience. Absolutely. And of course there’s the benefit of working with other authors — while I’m not of the mindset that creative writing can be 100 % taught, I do think there are tools you can learn in a classroom that you cannot learn on your own.

img06 Debut Author Interview: Kristen Paige Madonia on Fingerprints of YouWhat’s your process? What does a typical writing day look like? 

In general, I don’t work well with outlines and tend to find them restricting… for me the process is messy and unpredictable and without rules, which one of the things I enjoy most about writing first drafts. I don’t usually know where a book is heading when I first start. It’s a process of discovery, and I like to allow the work to surprise me and to go places I hadn’t predicted or planned for. The days that I reserve for writing always start with coffee, and I try to work for at least a few hours before turning on the Internet, checking email, or logging onto Facebook or Twitter. My brain is clearer then, and it’s easier to connect with my characters before I invite any real-world chatter into my headspace. I write first drafts on my computer, but I always keep a journal with me wherever I go, and I use it for story and character notes, keeping book lists, eavesdropping in public places, and research. That journal gives me courage when it’s time to write, because I always know it’s filled with literary nuggets I can mine when I’m beginning new work. I break up my writing hours at home by reading or hiking. I live in a beautiful area, and I find that the best thing I can do for my fiction when I’m feeling stuck is to head to the mountains for fresh air and exercise. My iinspiration often comes from sensory details – the way a room sounds when it’s crowded, the smells of certain kinds of food, the way a person holds their body and what it might imply… those kinds of small images. I’m also greatly inspired by music, which certainly came into play with Fingerprints of You in terms of the rich live-music culture in San Francisco. And those stolen moments I was talking about — I often borrow clips of stranger’s conversations or something I’ve seen, an interaction or a specific setting, for inspiration for my work.

What has your path to publication been like? What’s been the most surprising part of the writing/publishing process for you? 

I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember, and I have my MFA; I’ve attended writing conferences and workshops, I’ve read countless books about the publishing industry, and a lot of my friends are published authors, but no matter how much you think you know, there’s just no way to understand the process until you go through it yourself. I’ve been working with my agent for some time now, and when the Fingerprints of You manuscript was ready for submission, we emailed and talked on the phone quite a bit. Eventually we chose six editors to send it to, and S&S BFYR were part of that original six. I know that makes the sale sound easy, but it wasn’t. Editors have to pitch a submission to a number of different departments (sales, marketing, etc.) and they have convince rooms full of people that your book is worth the purchase before they can make an offer, so there was a lot of waiting involved. And of course selling the book is only the first step! We sold the manuscript in September 2010, and here it being released in August 2012, almost 2 years later. But it really can’t be rushed because each step is unbelievably important – editing, copy editing, proofing, finalizing the book cover, receiving blurbs… I learned so much with each step, and the book is so much stronger because of all the work we all put into it. I was amazed by how many people were involved and so very grateful for their help and support. From my agent to my editor to my publicity team at Simon & Schuster, everyone that has been involved in the release of Fingerprints of You has been one hundred percent professional and determined to support the book as much as they possibly can. Publishers are in the business because they love books, and it’s easy to forget that sometimes when you’re collecting rejection letters and reading heartbreaking stories about authors who get orphaned or novels that get lost in big houses. But my experience has been nothing but positive.

What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten? What advice would you yourself give aspiring authors?

When my agent began sending out my first manuscript to publishing houses for submission, a novel that has yet to be sold, I became discouraged and contacted Judy Blume, one of my mentors and advocates, to ask for advice and feedback. At the time I was fearful we wouldn’t be able to sell the book and, consequently, my agent would lose interest, and my career would come to a screeching halt. And she said the most amazing thing: “It’s not your job to sell the book, that’s your agent’s job. Your job is to write the next one.” It was so obvious and simple, but I think of that whenever I’m feeling bogged down or intimidated by the business side of writing. At the end of the day, I’m a writer first. Nothing makes me happier than the process of creating the work, and that will always be the most important thing. So I like to remind aspiring authors that they must be prepared for rejection; they must be ready to hear “no” a lot. But as long as they’re writing for the love of the process, they’ll be able to carve their way through the phases of self-doubt and the fears of failure.

What was your favorite book when you were a kid/teenager? What are you reading now?

As a teenager, like many teenagers do, I fell in the love with the Beats, and part of my literary heart will always belong to Jack Kerouac’s On the Road. There’s something timeless about the spontaneous cross-country road trip, the jazz and the booze, the poetry, and the indulgent sex and drug binges. It’s a journey book, a genre I obviously favor, and the characters are on a quest for faith and love and friendship, as they hunt for a sense of an authentic and meaningful life.

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley is a new favorite, and I was thrilled to hear the news when he won the William C. Morris Debut Award and the Michael L. Printz Award. It’s a super smart YA book, and I’ve been recommending it to everyone I know.  I also recently read Model Home by Eric Puchner, which I loved, and Eleanor Henderson’s Ten Thousand Saints, a brilliant book and fascinating study of point of view. But right now Richard Ford’s Canada and Alice Elliott Dark’s short story collection In the Gloaming are on my nightstand.

What’s next for you writing-wise (and otherwise!)?

I just finished a first draft of another book, which means it’s kind of awful and really messy. It’s very different than Fingerprints of You. It required a lot of research, and I’m experimenting with point of view and the idea of memory and the filters of time. It has been a completely different process than writing Fingerprints of You, and that’s been challenging, but I think it’s been good for me and good for the work. So I’m letting that sit for a couple months now, and I’m starting to take notes for the book after that, a novel with a teenaged narrator that I imagine will be a YA book. But for now I’m just trying to enjoy the debut experience. I’ve been working on Fingerprints of You since 2008, and sending it out into the world is such an amazing thing, so I want to make sure I enjoy every moment of it.

Do you believe in being part of a “bloc” of writers? Are critique groups and writing communities helpful to you?

Absolutely. As a writer you spend a lot of time alone, so establishing a kind of community is crucial. I have a writers’ group that I meet with once a month, and it makes a world of difference to have that kind of support system, to remember you’re not the only one wading through this strange and unpredictable world of writing. I also teach at the literary nonprofit called WriterHouse, and I always feel invigorated and inspired after attending events and working with my students there.

Thanks so much for taking the time to chat with us!

Thanks so much for having me on Teen Writers Bloc, Sona!

Fingerprints of You Cover Courtesy Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

 Too Much Reading is Making Jesss Eyes Cross (But Shes Not Complaining!)This has been a crazy summer for me, reading-wise. I’ve both read more than I’ve ever read before in my life, and at the same time didn’t get to read nearly as much as I would have liked. See, I work as an editor for a romance novel publisher. So forty-plus hours per week, I’m reading. I read full manuscript submissions and decide whether to pass, offer a contract, or write up a revision letter. I read contracted authors’ manuscripts and work my editorial muscles, helping the authors take their work to the next level. I also proofread, copyedit, write back cover copy, format and style for eBook publication, and wade through countless queries and plot synopses. It’s a LOT of reading. And I love every second of it.

However, because I’m reading all day every day, the last thing I want to do when I get off work at six o’clock is open a book. My poor eyes need a break! Still, I have managed to squeeze in a bit of extracurricular reading this summer. I’ve gotten the chance to read amazing first drafts and equally as amazing revisions from my fellow TWB peeps. I also read The List, by New School alum Siobhan Vivian, which was wonderful (although the third person-present completely threw me off and I felt like the whole book was being narrated by Rod Serling from The Twilight Zone). But by far my guiltiest pleasure so far this summer was Freefall – Season 9, Volume 1 of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, by Joss Whedon, Andrew Chambliss, Georges Jeanty, and Karl Moline. Yep, it’s a graphic novel, and yep, it’s a continuation of the almighty genius that was the Buffy television series. And yep, the whole graphic novel series is abso-freaking-lutely fantastic.

In a couple of days, I will be taking a bit of time off from my lovely editorial job and getting on a plane with Dhonielle to go visit our dear friend Amy in South Africa. It’s a 15-hour nonstop flight, people, and you can bet I’m prepared. My in-flight reading queue consists of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams, The Vicious Deep by (my fellow Sourcebooks Fire author) Zoraida Cordova, and I’ve Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella. Who knows, maybe one of those will knock Buffy off her pedestal as the best thing I’ve read this summer… time will tell!

Book cover image courtesy of Dark Horse

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

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

The Pig is Still Watching Mary

Posted by Mary G. Thompson On June - 9 - 2012

Pig World 224x300 The Pig is Still Watching MarySo here we are, done with the Writing for Children program. We are “Masters.” Time to go on vacation, let loose on the party circuit, hang out on the beach? That might sound really nice to some people, but I have a little problem. You can see him in the picture. He’s THE PINK PIG.

You know the pig I’m talking about. He’s been forcing me to write for years. Whenever I think it might be nice to take off on a trip, hang out with some friends, or start a relationship, there he is, glaring at me. Yelling at me. Throwing tiny little ball bearings, which actually hurt more than you might think! The Pink Pig wants me to write more books. He wants me to write middle grade books, teen books, picture books, and everything you can think of in-between. He’s even insisting that I write an adult book, and for some reason, every single book has to include a prom scene.

So this is my life: John and Becky go to the prom. Tim and Sally are aliens and go to the prom. Little Rachel and the Purple Dragon Have a Prom Party. Alfie pursues his dream of becoming the youngest ever head clown at the devil’s circus and holds a prom for talking elephants and lions. I told the Pig that the whole prom thing didn’t fit with Alfie’s character, but the Pig just didn’t care. Sigh.

All this writing about proms is so exhausting that I barely have time to sneak away and work on what really interests me … okay, for realz, y’all, I am working on a few exciting projects for various age groups. I am really excited about them, but they’re too new to share! All I can promise right now is that if you like monsters, fairy-like creatures, supernatural drama, or humor, I will try not to disappoint you.

I probably can’t blame it all on the Pink Pig. Maybe it’s me who dislikes vacations, and he’s just a convenient scapegoat. The truth is, I can’t stand to be in a situation where I can’t work on my books. I don’t find that kind of “vacation” relaxing at all! I’m lucky to still have all of my classmates to share my work with, and I’m excited to keep reading what everyone else is writing. I just hope you guys love all things prom!

pixel The Pig is Still Watching Mary
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