Wednesday, January 29, 2014

2014 Challenge

***Before I get started on my post, I just want to take a quick moment to make sure you've checked out Kimberly's post, which has a fantastic list of writer conferences in 2014, as well as an ARC giveaway of the highly anticipated Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith!***

For the past two years, I've participated in the Goodreads Reading Challenge. I haven't hit my goal yet. But this year, on top of my Goodreads goal, I'm also participating in a 2014 Challenge with my younger brother, who shall hereby be referred to as Sunshine. For anyone who has a brother--or a sister, for that matter--you know how big a deal this is.

So here are the rules, in no particular order:

  1. Books must be added to and tracked on Goodreads to count, with a special 2014 Challenge shelf.
  2. Books must be published (so my critiquing doesn't count, nor do my read-throughs of my own drafts). 
  3. Only novels count toward the total read (no non-fiction, comics, graphic novels, etc.). 
  4. Every two audiobooks listened to equals one book read.
  5. Only one book started before January 1, 2014 counts toward the total for 2014 (for me, this was Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, started December 30th). 
  6. Revamped books will only count if added to the 2014 Challenge shelf. 
Simple enough, right? So far I think Sunshine is winning. But there are some books from 2013 or books being released in 2014 that I'm pretty excited about. I'm fairly confident my anticipation will help me pull this off. 

Books I still want to read from 2013: 
  • Champion by Marie Lu. 
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth. 
  • Deception by CJ Redwine. 
  • Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell.

  • City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. Enough said. 
  • Veronica Mars by Rob Thomas. In case you didn't already know about this, you're welcome.
  • Breakable by Tammara Webber. If you haven't met Lucas yet (Easy), YOU MUST! 
  • The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings. 
  • Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith. 
I'm sure I'm forgetting a few books and I'm sure many others will be picked up too. In any case, Sunshine is going down.

Are you participating in any reading challenges this year? What books are you most excited about in 2014? 

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Sunday, January 26, 2014

Bitchin' Writer Conferences of 2014 (& book giveaway)

Here's my dealio. I am 34 years old, the mother of two small boys, and I'm roughly six-months-pregnant (I also use the word, dealio, apparently), so I never get to attend writing conferences. But oh, at this point, I'd give my right arm to go to one. There's so much to be gained from attending a writing conference: connections, knowledge, inspiration, not to mention talking to fellow writers about craft!

All major writer associations have regional and national conferences. So, if you're not a member of RWA or SCBWI (for example), consider paying the annual membership fee as it will get you a discount. Conferences can cost anywhere from $100 and up depending on the workshops and faculty in attendance. Some conferences are one-day intensives, others can be a month-long. Every author should go to at least one writer conference (I'm still working on that, myself).

The following list is just a sampling of what's available. Hopefully, this list will give you the impetus to search for conferences that fit your schedule, budget and genre. And please, if you know of an awesome writer conference, mention it in the comments section, particularly if you are aware of small, cost-effective regional conferences. Share!

And as a reward for sharing your knowledge, I'm giving away an ARC of one of the most highly anticipated YA novels of 2014 -- Andrew Smith's Grasshopper Jungle! Oh yeah, baby. You must comment to win (leave some way for me to contact you in your comment)! We love hearing from our readers.

SCBWI (February 21-23 in New York) Registration is open. Cost: $435 for members; $535 for non-members
SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) Plenty of networking and learning opportunities for writers of children's literature (PB to YA) are available here. Faculty include: Jack Gantos, Elizabeth Wein, Tomie dePaola, and Sharon Draper, just to name a few. If you seriously write children's literature and can afford to attend, consider signing up. If not now, definitely next year.

Atlanta Writers Conference (May 9-10 in Atlanta, GA) Registration is open. Cost: a la carte pricing starting at $30; $500 for everything
The conference consists of several parts, everything from one-on-one critique sessions to pitch sessions to workshops and query letter critiques. The a la carte pricing means you need only pay for what you need.

Southampton Writers Conference (July 9-20; Children's Literature July 16-20 in Southampton, NY) Registration is open. Cost: $700+
This is an intensive, writers conference. Applicants are admitted based on the promise of a writing sample. However, applicants who are accepted get to take workshops with famed authors such as Libba Bray, Peter Lerangis, and Julia Glass.

Writers' Police Academy (September 4-7 in Jamestown, NC) Registration opens January 26th at noon. Cost: $290. Sisters in Crime members pay $135.
Regardless of whether you write YA or NA, if you write about crime, this conference is for you. Learn the same material taught to EMS, paramedics, detectives and law enforcement while gaining writing insight from best-sellers Michael Connelly and Lisa Gardner.

New Jersey Romance Writers Put Your Heart in a Book Conference (October 17-18 in Iselin, NJ)
Registration will open soon. Cost: $200 for members, $220 for non-members.
Attendants will have an opportunity to network with agents, authors and editors in all romance genres. There will be writer workshops and a book fair.

WriteOnCon (2014 TBD online) Registration: TBD Cost: FREE
WriteOnCon is a free, online conference for children's literature writers (everything from PB to NA). Check out the archives page to see previous conference events. Follow them on Facebook for updates on the 2014 conference dates and events.

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Friday, January 24, 2014

Books I can't wait to read in 2014

One of the problems of being a reader is that for ever book I read, I add ten more to the to-be-read list. It never ends! But I'm here to talk about some of the books I'm most looking forward to reading in 2014 - some of which I've been waiting a long time for!

Unhinged (Splintered, #2)
Unhinged by A.G. Howard

Just look at that stunning cover! I was lucky enough to win a copy of this book in a giveaway, and am now impatiently waiting for it to arrive so I can dive back into A.G. Howard's sinister and warped version of Wonderland.

Cress by Marissa Meyer
Cress (Lunar Chronicles, #3)
Another gorgeous cover here! I loved Cinder and Scarlet, and I'm intrigued to see how Meyer ties the Rapunzel fairy tale into the overarching story line. This series is without a doubt one of the most original fairy tale re-imaginings I've ever read!

Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky, #3)

Into the Still Blue by Veronica Rossi

Another sequel here - I'm highly anticipating the conclusion to the Under the Never Sky trilogy!

Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, #3)

Dreams of Gods and Monsters by Laini Taylor

I suffer from an extreme case of writer's envy with Laini Taylor's work and am in awe of how beautiful her writing is. I have no doubt that the finale of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy will be as fantastic as the previous two books!

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Friday, January 10, 2014

The Inarticulate List of the Best Books I Read in 2013

In honor of a new year, here are the best books I found in 2013. These are mostly inarticulate reviews where I gush over how much I adore each of them and refrain from asking each author if we can please, maybe, you know, hang out or something.

How did I make my selections? I read so darn much that it's not easy...except that it is. My best-of-2013 books are the ones I remember best. They're the ones that stayed with me long after I read. The ones I pressed into other readers' hands.

Here they are:

1. Code Name Verity

This book killed me, in all the best ways possible. The writing was gorgeous, the story was incredible. I'm itching to go back through and figure out what all the capital letters mean. Seriously. My favorite find of 2013, and one of the best books I've read in a long, long time.

2. The Raven Boys

I'll be honest-- I didn't love SHIVER enough to read the whole series. I wanted so badly to like SCORPIO RACES, but somehow I put the book down and never picked it back up (maybe it was just a bad time for me?), but this book blew me away. It was one of those up till 3AM reads. I just started on DREAM THIEVES this week, and the series...just wow. The world building is amazing. My favorite character is the vintage Camaro. *swoon*

3. No Good Duke Goes Unpunished

Yeah, I know it's not YA. I don't just read YA. Romance is what made me want to write, so I read a lot of it. I have dreams of being able to write a historical (I've tried, I can't--just not my voice), but this book. I LOVE this book. Love the whole series, but this one especially. Tortured Duke and a scene in a boxing ring... um...yes, please.

4. Beautiful Ruins

This book. I mean, it makes me want to write straight literary. It's just beautifully, beautifully done, and set in Italy. Which, let's face it, is my weakness. Again, not sue me.

5. Dirty Little Secret

You guys, this book blew me away. I don't like country music, and I was hooked right from the very beginning. Hooked, I tell you. This book is wonderful, full stop. Go. Buy. Read.

6. The Blood Keeper

Last, but definitely not least, is Tessa Gratton's follow up to BLOOD MAGIC. This bad boy has been sitting on my shelf for WAY too long. I got it when it first came out and then set it aside, because I knew once I started, I was going to have to finish it. Gratton is a master, an absolute master of language. Her writing is just gorgeous--lush and tumbling over itself in a graceful way that makes me insanely jealous. One day we will meet and I will stand there for a moment, dumbstruck before I do the stupid fangirl thing and make an ass of myself. And that will ruin any chance of us ever being bffs. But I won't care. Seriously. She's that good.

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Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Salt by Danielle Ellison Giveaway!

****And the randomly selected winner is: Amy Mays. Please check your email as your book should have arrive! I hope you enjoy it.
Not a winner this time? You can buy the book here:
One of our very own Tangled Girls has a book birthday today!!!
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Danielle's book, Salt, is out today through Entangled Teen, and to celebrate, I'm giving away a copy (kindle version)!
Here's the beautiful cover:
Isn't it gorgeous and sparkly?!
And here's the description:
"Penelope is a witch, part of a secret society protecting humans from demon attacks. But when she was a child, a demon killed her parents—and stole her magic. Since then, she’s been pretending to be something she’s not, using her sister’s magic to hide her own loss, to prevent being sent away.

When she’s finally given the chance to join the elite demon-hunting force, Penelope thinks that will finally change. With her sister’s help, she can squeeze through the tests and get access to the information she needs to find "her" demon. To take back what was stolen.

Then she meets Carter. He’s cute, smart, and she can borrow his magic, too. He knows her secret—but he also has one of his own.

Suddenly, Penelope’s impossible quest becomes far more complicated. Because Carter’s not telling her everything, and it’s starting to seem like the demons have their own agenda…and they’re far too interested in her."
So here are the details. Enter by leaving a comment with your name and your email (use the one connected to your kindle account, please). You don't have to follow the blog (though feel free to!) and please share on Twitter or Facebook. I will randomly pick a winner TONIGHT and will update the blog with the winner's name tomorrow. Good luck and Congratulations to Danielle!
And now (because I'm incapable of posting without a gif) here's a random gif of a happy dance to help celebrate! CONGRATS Danielle!
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Saturday, January 4, 2014

The 13 I've Learned from 2013

Happy New Year Everyone! This month we thought that we’d do our own countdown of things 2013-past. I decided that I would list the 13 things that I learned from 2013 (and hope to carry into 2014). Maybe some of them will resonate with you! So here it goes:

1. Say “yes”

This seems obvious, but there are so many times in 2013 that I wanted to say “yes” but I didn’t, because of obligations, people’s reactions, the guilt (oh the guilt!). There’s always a reason not to say “yes” to something that you really want. It takes courage to look a situation in the eye, recognize that you actually do want it, and say “yes” to it.

Back in the beginning of 2013, my like family friend (and fellow writer!) Erica Cameron was trying to convince me to go to BEA towards the end of May. She told me that she thought she could swing getting me a ticket with her publisher. This was a HUGE deal that I didn’t realize until much later. I lamented missing work and the money that came with the missing of work. I tried to justify taking off three days. I almost said “no” and actually did a few times until almost the very last minute. 

But I didn’t and so many great things have happened out of that one “yes”. Erica’s publisher was Spencer Hill Press and BEA gave me the opportunity to meet like-minded people doing the kind of things that I didn’t think I could break into. From that one “yes” I got to see Erica’s debut novel cover reveal; I befriended a whole slew of new and wonderful people (which ended up landing me a place with Spencer Hill’s Contemporary imprint AND a place here with the Tangled lovelies); I got to listen to and receive 2 signed books from my favorite author, Neil Gaiman; I picked up an outrageous amount of free swag (books, bags, glitter tattoos..) All of this I would’ve missed had I said “no”.  My life was changed by going to BEA. Thank the gods I said “yes”!

2. Say “no” 

I know, this seems contrary to what I wrote above, but we cannot follow Jim Carrey into the world of Yes Man, blindly saying “yes” to anything and everything. 

There are moments when we just have to say “no”. And as a perpetual people-pleaser I found saying “no” almost as hard as saying “yes”.  See my July post about saying “no” by clicking here

Saying “no” for me became a survival thing in 2013. I just kept taking on way more than I could handle including: insisting that I would gain my MFA in two years, burning through semesters like wildfire; working several part-time jobs at once making my week work upwards of 50 hours while at school and then adding more work when I had breaks. I was doing too much. Saying “no” saved my sanity. And there’s a pleasure to saying “no” when you really mean it.

3. Practice positivity

Behaviors are learned and then practiced. It’s very easy to dwell on all the daily horrible that happens, but focusing on the positive, insisting that the glass is actually completely full (equal parts air and water) takes practice.

The end of 2012 and beginning of 2013 was very difficult for me. I’d made some poor choices in friends and they were affecting my general outlook on life. I was practicing negativity by gossiping, complaining about what was happening around me, and generally just adding to the bad feel all around me. It took many things to get me to see that positivity isn’t just for the mythical “happy people”. It could be for me and it could be for you too. You just have to practice it and know that it’s a journey. It will take time. I’m still working on it into 2014.

4. Say what you mean

It’s so fun to get caught up in being ambiguous when you're a poet (or really anyone for that matter), but you’ll soon find that the more you mask what you’re really saying in pretty words or veiled actions, the less likely you are to get what you really want in life.

I’m a classic case of keeping my mouth shut until I explode. Not a good thing to practice! I’m not advocating saying mean things (because our brains do go to those places sometimes) but I am saying that we need to be more clear  in our intentions.

5. Pressure is a privilege 

This is a favorite of mine. I wrote about it during NaNo here and still think that it’s a wonderful thing. Underneath all of my stress (mostly self-induced) there’s a love for the deadline. It signifies an end to something. And if it’s stressful, it’s nice to see the light at the end of the road!

6. Perfection is ugly, what we really like are the imperfections

This might seem clich├ęd, but that doesn’t make it any less true. There is a preoccupation with perfection, especially in this age of photoshop. But when you look at the world that we live in, it’s the imperfections, the inconsistencies that are beautiful.

7. Creating bad art is better than creating no art

This one’s also a little weird at first, but it’ll make sense, I promise. When I graduated from my MFA program, I didn’t write anything. I had this thesis with poems that I really cared about, but I didn’t write anything else. I didn’t know where to begin. I went to BEA and met these amazing writers and still I didn’t write. I was scared of making bad art, scared of writing something that meant nothing. But this kept me from practicing my craft.

Creating is important. It doesn’t matter whether it’s “good” or not. “Good” is subjective anyway. If you let the fear of “good” and “bad” eat at you, you will cease to create. So make art. Write a horrible poem about candles and napkins. Doodle in your calendar. Sing in the shower. Create!

8. Boundaries are important

This is another continuous thing that I’m learning. Setting and maintaining certain boundaries are necessary. We all have people in our life (for whatever reason) that are takers: of energy, of positivity, of creativity. Boundaries help so that we aren’t jerks by saying “I’m cutting you out of my life completely”.

Living in New York City, it’s easy to just cut people out for the smallest of reasons. It’s a small yet large city that has brilliant hiding places. While I have had to cut some people completely out of my life there are others who that’s impossible to do that too. So I created boundaries. This could be useful for family members, your boss, co-workers—anyone that you will remain in contact with but maybe need some boundaries with.  Don’t be afraid to draw the line—just don’t go crazy with it.

9. Second chances are great—fifth, sixth, and seventh chances are not

I try my best not to hold grudges. I give people millions of chances when they do things that really hurt me and 2013 showed me that I don’t always have to do this. I don’t have to remain friends with every ex-whatever in my life.

Sometimes I can be a doormat and give out chances like free candy, but I came to the realization that this isn’t necessary. What’s the point in keeping someone around who generally makes you feel like crap? If you have to deal with them, create boundaries (see above), but otherwise move on! This is difficult and much easier said than done. But someone who requires fifth, sixth, and seventh chances isn’t looking out for your best interests. They are feeding off you and you don’t deserve that. I know I don’t.

10. Actual conversations are way better than text messages
I know. Text messaging is easier when you’re in a rush. I’m a busy person, I get this. But an actual conversation—you know, that verbal thing that enables us to relate to one another—are super important.

I can’t tell you how many romantic relationships I had that never were because the guy just wouldn’t pick up the phone. This goes all the way back to when I was 18. Text messages cannot convey tone. I know this. I’m a very sarcastic person and you won’t realize that unless you talk to me—over the phone, through Skype or in person.

This is important for friendships too!

11. Making time for you is vital

This seems obvious, but for me it’s difficult. It’s much easier for me to focus on another person, to listen to their problems than it is to deal with my own issues. It’s also easier for me to keep busy. But the value of making sure that each day I do something that’s purely for me, is immeasurable.

Here are some examples of my own just me things: grabbing my favorite hot chocolate, taking a ballet class, going to the gym, picking up a bottle of wine to enjoy at home in front of a movie, cooking dinner.

12. If it feels wrong, it probably is

Some call it a gut feeling, others label it intuition—whatever it is for you, LISTEN TO IT! There’s a difference between being uncomfortable in a situation and feeling like it’s completely wrong. You’ll know it when you feel it. If it feels wrong, get out of there.

13. Don’t settle

This is a big one for me. It’s really easy to settle. For me it would simply be going back to my family in Florida, getting an apartment, leasing a car, having a random job. It would be so easy. I’d have my parents to fallback on and an environment that I’ve grown up in. But my dreams would vanish. By pushing on and challenging myself to leave my comfort zone, I’ve made some amazing relationships, done some really fulfilling things, created some truly expressive art and I know there’s still more to come.

If you want more, don’t settle. You’ll regret it every day.

Here’s one additional thing that I’m doing to honor 2014: I’ve saved a jar from 2013 and every time that I do something that makes me happy, an accomplishment that I’m proud of, I write it down on a scrap of paper, date it, and put it into the jar. The idea is to have a reflection of the positive of 2014 come January 1st 2015.

And that’s my 13. I was really happy to say goodbye to 2013, but I learned a lot and hope to take these lessons into 2014 with me.

Anything on this list resonate with you? Want to share what you gained from your 2013? Please comment! I’d love to hear your stories.

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