Journal, Writing Discussion

April 2019

I was at the Creative Ink Festival this past weekend and OH wow I’m exhausted. My voice is a little raw, but I had a great time.

I attended more panels on the business and research side of things this year, and I did speak on two panels: Writing Killer Openings, and Selling Short Stories.

This is my third time attending and speaking at the festival, but I still took a ton of notes amassed a bunch of conference going tips that of course I’ll share…

Something I tried:

Being prepared really helps calm the public speaking nerves. This is the first time I think I actually enjoyed the public speaking. It’s absolutely okay to have a cheat sheet even if you never look at it. The moderator for my first panel emailed us the questions she would ask before hand, which was super helpful because it made us look GOOD (and if you ever moderate a panel in the future, I would recommend doing this). For my second panel, I didn’t receive any questions, but I wrote down everything I could think of based on the panel description, and jotted notes as the other authors on the panel were speaking so I could speak to those points when it was my turn.

A tip I’m definitely going to steal from a co-panelist:

Write down everyone’s names as you sit down, so that you can address the other panelists by name if you have something to add (name cards usually face the audience).

Something to avoid:

This is not a hard and fast rule, but it’s a pet peeve of mine when speakers don’t actually offer any concrete advice when they’re talking about a subject. For example, they might explain a thing, but not how to do a thing. Maybe it’s my teacher training, but I always look for actionable information out of my panels. It’s one thing to say: the opening of a story needs to hook a reader. It’s another thing to say: Here are three things you can do to create an opening that hooks a reader.

Faking extroversion (totally doable): 

Introduce yourself to your fellow panelists before you speak. If you’re sitting in the audience, simply smiling and waving hi to anyone that sits nearby you is usually enough to start a conversation. If you don’t know what to say, it’s perfectly okay to ask “How’s the conference going for you?” or “Have you attended before or is this your first time?” Having some prepared conversation starters is a good tip. I dislike speaking about myself, and so I tend to ask a lot of questions instead of speaking about myself. “What genre do you write?” I choose low pressure things, because we’re almost all introverts.

Books and resources that were recommended over the weekend:

  • Rock Your Plot / Rock Your Revisions by Cathy Yardley
  • Newsletter Ninja by Tammi Labrecque
  • 5 Critical Things For Successful Book Signings by Adam Dreece
  • Cornell University Copyright Chart – Helpful if you want to check whether a work belongs to the public domain
  • The Lock Picking Lawyer & Bosnian Bill on Youtube for practical lock picking information (in case your characters ever need it)
  • Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight Swain (or search for “Scene and Sequel” for info on this plotting technique)

And now, I’m going to hide in my cave and not speak to anyone for a few days. 🙂


Book Recs

Spring 2019 Reading Recs

Happy spring! Hooray for more sunlight and fewer dark dreary days. Here are a few of the books I’ve enjoyed over the last few months.

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough (YA Historical Fiction / Verse)

It’s a book in verse! I knew this story would destroy me by the time I was two pages in. Through poetry we learn the story of a teenaged Artemisia Gentileschi and her public rape trial. The book deals with the aftermath of sexual assault, the struggle to find your own power, and finding your voice. It’s a book full of cathartic rage. Beautiful and dark.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (YA Fantasy)

It’s a gilded age heist! This story is stuffed with Chokshi’s sumptuous prose and gorgeous visuals, but it’s also a lot more humorous than her previous YA novels. The characters on the ragtag team of thieves each have their own motivations for working together, and sometimes against one another. Each one was a delight in their own way.

I particularly loved this for the Filipino representation, which I’ve almost never seen before. There’s even Tagalog in this book! It’s got a multicultural cast, Jewish, bisexual, and autistic rep. Here’s a finger to anyone who says that POC cannot exist in fiction set in western historical settings.

The One You Fight For by Roni Loren (Contemporary Romance)

I was bawling through the last half of this novel. This series deals with the fallout of a high school shooting, and what happens to those that survive. This particular book wrestles with who deserves forgiveness. The main characters are Taryn, a survivor of the shooting, and Shaw who was the shooter’s brother.

As usual, Loren’s writing left me feeling like my heart was a little less heavy. There is so much compassion and woven in to this story line. There was also the smoking hot chemistry. Loren took a story line that could be problematic in a less able writer’s hands, and dealt with it with graceful sensitivity. I’m forever a fan.

The Storm Runner by J.C. Cervantes (MG)

This story had me laughing and grinning (also Cervantes took a puke joke and managed to run with it through the whole book). If you want a lesson on voice, pick it up. It’s stuffed full of terrifying Maya mythology, but it’s still modern and fun. This book is part of the “Rick Riordon Presents” line, and judging by my first taste, I can say you should read them all.

Wildcard (Warcross #2) by Marie Lu (YA Science Fiction)

I highly recommend this duology. I’d describe it as: A virtual worldwide Nintendo-like tournament goes awry, because something terrible is at work behind the scenes, and only a brilliant hacker/bounty hunter can save the day.

This sequel picks up about a minute after Warcross ends. Lu is a master at twists and surprises. She left me unable to predict what would happen from one chapter to the next, and the pacing never lets up. This book concluded the duology with just the right touch: not too sweet, but still hopeful. The writing is SO good.