Get Ready for WriteOnCon!

WriteOnCon is near and dear to our hearts at the Winged Pen because it’s where a lot of us first connected. I’ll be attending this year and I hope you will be too! If you haven’t before, here’s some tips on making the most of it.

What is WriteOnCon?

WriteOnCon is an online writing conference. No pricey registration fees. No hotel rooms required. No extended time away from the family. All you need is $5 and Internet access.

And if you’re asking yourself if it’s worth $5, let me tell you, it’s worth a whole lot more! Not sure? You can check out a the keynote presentations for free. If you want access to everything, pay a few dollars more. Check this post for all the details.

The presentation schedule opens this Friday, the 9th, but the forums are open now. Check them out!

How Do You Do WriteOnCon?

First, Register and Create Your Profile

Register here. You can add as much or as little info as you like in your profile, but remember, what you get out of WriteOnCon depends on what you put in. Yes, you can be anonymous and just view/read the presentations. But we’re writers so it’s all about the words. Don’t you want to meet some writers in your favorite genre and/or category?

A quick bio is all you need to introduce yourself to other attendees. Don’t have a bio? Start with a simple one. Just give us a glimpse of what you write and a bit about your personality. Need an example? There’s one at the bottom of this post and every other Winged Pen post.

Don’t forget to include your social media accounts. You can keep up with new writer-friends more easily after WriteOnCon if you’ve followed each other on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook.

Check Out the Schedule

There are three-days’ worth of presentations, some video and some written. The conference covers everything kidlit from picture books to young adult. And new this year — new adult! Craft topics include researching historical fiction, creating strong character voice, writing romance, outlining plot and character arc and more. Gain insight on the publishing industry by checking out talks by literary agents and the truth about being a New York Times best-seller from Beth Revis. You can even pitch agents your manuscripts! Whether you’re a newb or have been writing for years, there is something worthwhile!

The Forums: Get Feedback on Your Writing and Help Other Writers

Now that you’ve gotten your feet wet, it’s time to dig into the central part of WriteOnCon, the words. You can post your query, the first page of your story, and/or your first five pages for feedback by other conference attendees. You can also pay it forward by helping other writers hone their words. To do this, go to the forums. The forums are broken up by category, so head over to picture book, middle grade, young adult or new adult whichever is appropriate. Remember to be kind and use the critique sandwich – something you liked, something you think can be improved, and a last shot of encouragement.

If you get a great AH-HA! moment from comments you receive, revise real-time. Post revised queries or pages at the top of your entry so that new readers will see that, not point out the mistakes others have already noted. And remember, the best way to get help revising your own work is to reach out and help others.

Superheros

The WriteOnCon Superheroes are authors, agents and editors who will be visiting the forums and providing pro-level critiques. This is a great opportunity!  Because the early fund-raising campaign for WriteOnCon was so successful, the superheroes will be trying to provide feedback for everyone. I can’t image how they could make it through all the queries and pages. There were hundreds of posts last year. But that’s the plan. Look for superhero comments on your own posts and on others because you can a learn a lot from their critiques even if they aren’t on your writing.

Will I see you at WriteOnCon this week? I hope I do! Stop by and say hi! And remember amid the rush to hear all the presentations and to give and receive tons of feedback, to relax and enjoy the words and make sure you make a couple new writer-friends!

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult speculative fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS Book Award – YA Speculative Fiction category and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

 

Path To Publication: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Launch of a Debut Novel with Jennifer Park, author of THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART

Jennifer Parks, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, young adult bookThe Shadows We Know By Heart:
Leah Roberts’s life hasn’t been the same since her brother died ten years ago. Her mother won’t stop drinking, her father can’t let go of his bitter anger, and Leah herself has a secret she’s told no one: Sasquatches are real, and she’s been watching a trio of them in the woods behind her house for years.

Everything changes when Leah discovers that among the sasquatches lives a teenager. This alluring, enigmatic boy has no memory of his past and can barely speak, but Leah can’t shake his magnetic pull. Gradually, Leah’s life entwines with his, providing her the escape from reality she never knew she needed.

But when Leah’s two worlds suddenly collide in a deadly showdown, she uncovers a shocking truth as big and extraordinary as the legends themselves, one that could change her life forever.

The Shadows We Know By Heart was published last March. We were so excited for Jennifer as she journeyed the path to publication! Now that frenzy of manuscript edits and book signings has slowed, we wanted to talk to Jennifer about the high points and unexpected bumps on her journey. Thanks for joining us, Jennifer!

I clearly remember the post you wrote on The Winged Pen’s private Facebook page when Mandy Hubbard was reading your manuscript and Tweeting about how much she liked it! You were one of the first writers in our group to get an offer of representation.

Jennifer: Yes, that day was definitely the highlight of my publishing journey. Jennifer Park, THE SHADOWS WE KNOW BY HEART, young adult fictionI had only been querying Shadows for a few weeks, and Mandy was the first to request it. That was on a Monday. I reread the book again in a panic, just to make sure I was good with it, and sent it to her on Tuesday. By Thursday, she was tweeting about a book that shouldn’t work but totally did! Friday was a series of tweets about how she loved the book and was emailing the author right now. I was stalking Twitter at the time (because what else would I be doing?), and went straight to my email. I saw her name in the inbox and pretty much died. We talked that night, and by Monday, my book was on sub. 

That’s amazing! But other parts of your path to publication were bumpier. Can you tell us a little about that?

Jennifer: Yes, my pub date was pushed, like so many others are, because my original editor left the imprint, and they felt that if I released in fall of 2016, my book would have been lost in the crowd. That slowed things down quite a bit, but once I got my new editor, signed a contract, and got my edit letter (the week before Christmas!), things began moving quickly again.

What did you learn by working with comments from an editor rather than critique partners?

Jennifer: Well, with critique partners, I think you can sometimes choose what you want to change, based on their opinions and yours, versus an editor, where I changed every single thing she suggested. Granted, if there was something that I didn’t agree with, we would discuss it (and I’m not sure if there was even one thing), but the comments were spot on.

My editor asked tons of questions in her notes, especially about character. If a character did or said something, there needed to be a reason for it, like it needed to be something she could see them doing or saying as a part of their personality. And everything had to have a purpose… it had to forward the plot, or something within the MC.

What will be the follow-up to The Shadows We Know By Heart?

Jennifer: That is a really great question! I thought I knew the answer to that once upon a time. I’ve got a book on sub now and another with my agent waiting for feedback. I’ve got several in various stages of revision and completion to choose from next, but it’s hard to choose and focus when others are still up in the air. I run ideas by my agent as well, just to see what she thinks will be marketable.

Oh! I wanted a career in publishing to be all rainbows and unicorns after your first book makes its splash in the world! But the waiting never ends! If you could travel back in time and talk to your newbie-writer self, what advice would you give based on all you’ve learned?

The truth: this thing only gets harder. Have your dreams, but realize that reality is usually different from your expectations. Publishing is a business, plain and simple. But you’ll get stronger with each rejection, your writing will improve with each critique, and you’ll reach the point where it doesn’t tear you down anymore because you realize you have to write. Period. Because there is no other option. You are a writer. It’s not a job, it’s your life. Don’t write for trends, because they change. Keep trying to find that unique story that only you can tell, and make sure it’s the best version it can be.

Great advice! But now…prepare yourself for the lightning round!

Coffee or tea?

Coffee most of the time.

Hardcover, paperback or eReader?

eReader lately.

Pantser or plotter?

Pantser who is starting to see the wisdom in plotting.

Thanks, Jennifer, for being on blog today! And for readers who’d like to find out more about The Shadows We Know By Heart, you can find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Indiebound!

And now, the GIVEAWAY! Jennifer is giving away a signed copy of The Shadows We Know By Heart to one lucky reader! To enter this giveaway, just leave a comment below mentioning the book giveaway before Monday January 15th at 4 pm EST. We will draw a name from the Tri-Wizard Cup to select a winner!

Good luck!

Jennifer Park grew up on the bayous of southeast Texas, daydreaming of fantastical worlds amid magnolia trees and Spanish moss. A former middle school art teacher and current Ocean Artist Society member, she now lives tucked within the East Texas pines she loves. When she’s not writing, she spends her time overloading on soy mochas, hoarding chocolate, and managing her herd of one husband, two daughters, numerous dogs, a shamefully large number of garden snails, and one tortoise named Turquoise.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

Book Recommendation: THE HAZEL WOOD by Melissa Albert

The Hazel Wood, Melissa Albert, YA book reviewPublisher’s Description

Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away–by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother’s stories are set. Alice’s only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother’s tales began–and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.

Rebecca’s Thoughts

The Hazel Wood is as dark and creepy as the Grimm fairy tales its main character Alice has spent her childhood reading. The author’s vivid description pulls you first into Alice’s life in New York City and then into the stranger world of Hazel Wood and beyond. Alice’s thirst for the truth about herself and drive to find her mother propel the story forward, and obstacles at every turn and keep the pages turning quickly. I particularly liked the stories within this story–excerpts from her grandmother’s book provide glimpses of the twisted characters and deeds that lie ahead on Alice’s path. The Hazel Wood is a great pick for fans of Stranger Things and Holly Black’s novels.

I requested an advanced reader copy of The Hazel Wood  in exchange for an unbiased review.

The Hazel Woods will be release on January 30th. You can check it out on Goodreads or pre-order from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indiebound.

Need more book suggestions? If The Hazel Wood sounds good, you might also like some of the young adult fantasy and science fiction releases I read while judging nominees for the 2017 CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction award. I wrote short reviews of the best here:

5 Must-Reads from the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction Award nominees.
– 5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS YA Spec Fic Award nominees.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS Young Adult Speculative Fiction Nominees

Rebecca J Allen, CYBILS, YA speculative fictionMy last post shone a spotlight on Five Must-Read books from the CYBILS 2017 Young Adult Speculative Fiction nominees. But there was too much awesome to fit in just one post. If you love fantasy, science fiction and magical realism as much as I do, you’ll love these books too!

The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell – In the present day, magic is all but extinct and magicians are trapped in a Manhattan by the Brink, a dark energy barrier that strips them of their powers and often their lives, if they try to leave the city. Magicians are hunted by the Order, the group that created the Brink and is trying to rid the world of magicians. To find out how to defeat the Order and free her kind, Esta must use her unique ability to manipulate time to travel back to 1902 and steal an ancient book containing the secrets of the Order before it is destroyed, dooming modern-day magicians to a hopeless future. But when the Order closes in, Esta risks losing not only her magic but also her way back to her own time.
I loved the world – early 1900’s plus magic!, the action, and the fight for magic played out through time.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo – One of our favorite superheroes gets a new origin story. A ship is bombed just past the border hiding her home, the secret island of the Amazons, from the human world. Diana rescues a survivor, breaking the prohibition against bringing mortals to the island and risking her own exile. The survivor Aila is the Warbringer, a descendant of the infamous Helen of Troy, fated to bring about a world war. Diana and Aila are determined to keep that from happening. They battle enemies – both mortal and divine – as they try to stem the tide of war. I loved Diana as a female, kickass superhero, intense action scenes, surprising bad guys and the twisty plot.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle. Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.
– Amazon
The Sorias are the saints of Bicho Raro, a family who can bring darkness out of the pilgrims that come to them for help. But it takes more than just one miracle for pilgrims to overcome their darkness, and therein lies the challenge. The Sorias are a fascinating cast: a girl without feelings, a pirate radio D.J., and the saint who can perform miracles for everyone but himself. The pilgrims are equally fascinating, each struggling to overcome the surprising symptoms of the thing that haunts them. When a saint is forced to confront his own darkness, his life as well as the lives of his family are all suddenly on the line. I loved the strange and interesting cast of characters, the glimpses of pilgrims wrestling inner demons – struggles anyone can all relate to, and the author’s understated and dry humor .
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Shadowhouse Falls by Daniel Jose Older – *This is Book 2 Shadowshaper series and contains spoilers for Book 1.* Graffiti comes to life,  animated by magic and the spirits of the dead in Shadowshaper, book 1 of the series. Shadowhouse Falls, takes the art-turned-magic up a notch by expanding the magical weapons to chalk drawings – if the bad guys are on your trail and there’s no time to paint – and rap music – if the bad guys arrive while there’s a mic in your hand and a good base guitar backing you up. Will someone please make this series into a movie? Sierra found her powers in Shadowshaper. But with ancient enemies trying to recruit Sierra or take her down if they can’t, and the police keeping a close eye on her and her friends, not the bad guys, the conflict is goes up a notch. Sierra needs to build the strength of her own magic as well as that of her team to meet the forces aligning against them.  I loved the art brought to life to do battle, the vivid portrayal of Sierra’s Brooklyn community and the fiercely loyal group of friends that teams up with the Sierra.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

What Goes Up by Katie Kennedy – Strange gravity fluctuations in space near Earth have NASA searching for new teen members of their Interworlds Agency (IA) program. Candidates are tested not only on advanced math and astrophysics, but also on their reactions to behavioral problems where the “right” solutions are anything but clear. The competition for spots in the program is intense and some candidates are willing to play dirty.

The story follows Rosa, an astrophysics prodigy, and Eddie, a brilliant boy with a troubled past, as they undergo the rigors of the selection process and finally find out why the IA needs new recruits. I loved how these two very different teens approached NASA’s strange tests, the bond that developed between them, and the speculation about types of threats Earth could face in the future.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

I’m still reading CYBILS speculative fiction nominees as speedily as I can and may hope to have one more post of recommendations. But until then, I wish you an magical, inter-galactic, revolutionary, adventure-filled holiday season! May the biggest challenges you face be those on the printed page, and may the tugs on your heart be the most genuine of the real world.

If you missed it, check out my first post on must-read CYBILS YA spec fic nominees.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

5 Must Reads from the 2017 CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction Nominees

One hundred and thirty books were nominated for the 2017 YA Speculative Fiction Award. 130! That’s a lot of books for seven judges to read in three months! As one of those judges, I’m overwhelmed by the volume but even more overwhelmed by the talent!

I still have many books to read and can only mention some I love, not give away clues about which will make the short list. But I believe books make wonderful holiday gifts. For just $50 I can come home with 6-7 presents that will provide hours of enjoyment for family members! Therefore I wanted to shine an early spotlight on a handful of stellar books. So get out your holiday shopping list…you might find some titles here that match up nicely with your loved ones!

They both Dies at the End, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewThey Both Die At the End  by Adam Silvera – Imagine you receive a call telling you you’ll die within the next 24 hours. A call that encourages you to live your last day to the fullest. How would you spend that day?

Two teen boys get this call. They’re strangers but both looking for someone to spend their last day with and meet through the Last Friend app. Their last day is epic, moving, and reminds us of what a gift life is. I loved the premise, the teens’ determination to have one last great adventure, and the boys’ touching relationship.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Strange the Dreamer, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewStrange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor – If you’ve read Laini’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone series (and if you haven’t, you should), this is more of her special brand of awesome. It’s an epic story with mortals and monsters, and sometimes it’s hard to tell which is which. The settings range from a re-imagined Library of Alexandria to a barren desert to a palace floating in the sky. Laslo Strange is has one chance to travel to the lost city of Weep and find out why it was cut off from the rest of civilization 200 years ago. And to learn about the mysterious secret its people now need help solving. I loved the sweeping world-building, the three-dimensional characters, the gorgeous writing and the charged action scenes.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Scythe, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fiction, book reviewScythe by Neal Shusterman – Death has been conquered. If someone jumps from a balcony 10 stories high, they can be revived. But to manage the population, men and woman are reaped, and someone needs to do that job. Two teens are chosen as apprentices to master this revered yet heart-wrenching task. Scythe is the story of their experience as they train for their new role, and the evil they discover in the heart of the Scythedom. My 15-year-old son pulled the book I was reading from my hands and told me to read this instead, and he was right. I’d recommend it for all lovers of science fiction action, including reluctant readers. I loved the concept, the fast-paced action and the portrayal of teens facing this impossible job. In January I wrote a full review of Scythe.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

The Edge of Everything, CYBILS, YA books, speculative fictionThe Edge of Everything by Jeff Giles – The book’s gripping start has Zoe searching for her ADHD younger brother who has run off in the middle of a blizzard. The action and tension only rise from there. No sooner does Zoe find her brother and shelter from the frigid temperatures when they’re attacked by the man who murdered their aged neighbors. They’re saved by a stranger with mysterious powers, the bounty hunter sent to capture the murderer. At Zoe’s request, bounty hunter shows the attacker mercy and lets him go. This sets off a chain of events that drive the rest of the story. The bounty hunter, who Zoe calls X, and Zoe are drawn to each other, but his masters in The Lowlands, a version of Hell, want the soul X was sent to reap. They also want X back in his desolate cell. I loved Edge of Everything for its non-stop action and compelling set of characters. In January I wrote a full review of Edge of Everything.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

Nyxia, CYBILS, YA speculative fiction, YA booksNyxia by Scott Reintgen – Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Emmett’s been recruited for a spot on a star ship heading to the far side of the galaxy to mine Nyxia, a rare and priceless substance, for the Babel corporation. Emmett finds out once aboard that there aren’t spots on the team for all recruits. A competition will determine who will be the lucrative contracts. Babel Corporation is also keeping secrets. Emmett is forced to ask himself what he’s willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune. In July I wrote a full review of Nyxia.
Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Indiebound

But wait there’s more! There are so many awesome YA spec fic CYBILS nominees that I couldn’t fit them all in one post. See 5 More Great Reads from the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction nominees for some more awesome books! For a broader range of book recommendations across genres and middle grade as well as young adult, see Halli Gomez’s post Holiday Gift Ideas – The Winged Pen’s Favorite Books!

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

The Call with Gita Trelease, Author of Enchantée

Gita Trelease, YA author, EnchanteeWe all love “the call” posts. When revisions needed in our work-in-progress seem endless or a rejected query has us ready to give up, they’re the reminder that the next step will happen. We’ll get an agent and sell a book…eventually!

Today’s post is very close to my heart. Gita Trelease’s Enchantée (Flatiron/Macmillan, 2019) is a gorgeously-written YA historical fantasy set in pre-revolutionary Paris. It’s full of magic and romance, struggles to get by, and the excesses of Versailles. Gita is too modest to tell you this herself, but when she queried Enchantée, she rocked it! She had an 80% request rate, got her first offer after 16 days, received one request from an agent who’d heard about her novel through the rumor mill, and ended up with offers from six agents. Gita’s querying was over in a month. A MONTH! Here’s the scoop.

First of all, how does it feel to be interviewed for The Winged Pen instead of writing a post?

Gita: Exciting! But unfamiliar, like moving from behind the camera to standing in front of it.

Tell us about your experience writing Enchantée.

Gita: It took me about 2 ½ years from inception to querying. At the outset, it seemed like a straight-forward story, but of course it turned into something with multiple threads, what felt at times like hundreds of characters, and tons of research. There were many dark days when I thought I wasn’t smart enough to write this book. My writing friends kept me going through those times with their love and encouragement. I think every writer faces doubts like that, but the important thing is not to let them set up shop in your head and derail you. It’s easier said than done, though. Sometimes you have to give yourself permission to step away, take a break, fill the well. Sometimes you need to find a new way to approach your writing; in my last big revision, Donald Maass’ The Emotional Craft of Fiction helped me do that. And if perfectionism demons (this is an ongoing battle for me) get in the way of your writing, I can recommend Hillary Rettig’s The 7 Secrets of the Prolific.

What kind of agent were you looking for?

Gita: Going into this, I had very high expectations! I hoped for an agent who was editorial, experienced, knew the publishing industry inside and out, had a strong track-record of excellent sales, and whose clients’ books were ones I loved. I hoped for an agent who was smart and well read, a good communicator, someone who truly “got” my book—and me.

Everyone dreams over having agents fight for their manuscript. What was it like to receive offers from several rock-star agents?

Gita: I hadn’t expected that to happen! It was both exhilarating and disorienting, because how do you choose? I loved chatting with the offering agents, hearing each one’s vision for my novel, emailing/talking with their clients (very important)—but after ten days of that, my head was spinning. In the end, I needed to let go of my tendency to overthink things, and trust my gut. I am so happy I did.

You chose to go with Molly Ker Hawn of The Bent Agency. What made Molly the one?

Gita Trelease, YA author, EnchanteeGita: Molly was the first agent to offer and I loved her from the start! She has everything I was looking for in an agent (see above), plus certain qualities I didn’t even know I was looking for: a great sense of humor, curiosity, enthusiasm, and a fierce commitment to her clients. I feel incredibly lucky that she offered to represent me.


You queried in July, had an agent in August, and Molly wanted to take Enchantée to the Frankfort Book Festival in October. What was editing with an agent like?

Gita: Molly had gone through the manuscript with a fine-toothed comb, giving me both line edits and bigger editorial notes. To get it done, I worked ten-hour days over the course of two weeks, but thanks to Molly’s comments, the process was exhilarating. Over and over, she saw how my story could be more nuanced, layered, sharper, bigger—and she pointed to ways I could get there. She also reminded me that all of her comments were suggestions—even if they didn’t sound that way—and encouraged me to argue back in the comments. I didn’t engage in too much back-talk, but knowing I could helped me get in the right frame of mind to do my best work. Two days after I turned it in to Molly, we went on sub!

Any advice for those querying?

Of course! Do your query research (see Alexa Donne’s great Wattpad piece), read a lot of books in your genre, and, on top of all the other advice you’ve already heard, make sure your query highlights what’s fresh about your story.

Congratulations, Gita! Everyone on The Winged Pen is so excited that Enchantée is headed for book store shelves!

Readers can follow Gita on Twitter and Instagram, and find her at www.gitatrelease.com. Enchantée is scheduled for publication in January, 2019. But you can check out some of Gita’s beautiful words sooner, right here on The Winged Pen:

Writing Historical Fiction, or, Notes from a Time Traveler
Creative Cross-Pollination
Master Your Craft: Research – Make Your Story Believable
Master Your Craft: Using Metaphor

GITA TRELEASE writes YA fantasy. In her former life as a college professor, she taught classes on fairy tales, monsters, and Victorian criminals. Her current project takes place during the French Revolution: hot-air balloons and gambling, decadence and dark magic. And wigs. She is represented by Molly Ker Hawn at The Bent Agency and her debut novel, ENCHANTÉE, comes out from Flatiron/Macmillan in January 2019. Connect with her on Twitter and Instagram.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She reviews young adult books, is a judge for the CYBILS YA Speculative Fiction book award and fangirls all things bookish. Find her on Twitter and Instagram, or on her website, writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

Twitter 101 for Writers: Etiquette

Abby Matthews asked: I’d like to see a post on Twitter etiquette for beginners. When is it OK to butt into a conversation with a total stranger and when is it just creepy? Because I feel like 99.95% of the time it’s just creepy. I’ll heart when illustrators post recent works (I LOVE that). But I rarely catch when someone posts something I think I can comment on. So how do you strike up a friendship?? I feel like that awkward middle school kid, holding her lunch tray and staring at the cool kids’ table. If we were in person I would have ZERO problem approaching people and making friends. But I feel so inhibited from behind my computer screen!!

Abby asked me this question a couple months ago when she started on Twitter. Now, with 16 episodes of her Mom Writes podcast out, she’s at the head of the cool kids’ table! But I thought her question was probably something on the minds of other writers.

I’m not an expert on all aspects on Twitter etiquette, but I’ve been on Twitter for a while, both on my own account and tweeting for @WingedPen. Marty Mayberry and Jessica Vitalis were kind enough to chime in with tips gained from their experience at Pitch Wars mentors.

First, as Abby mentions, there’s liking. Also retweeting. I don’t think you can ever go wrong with these. People feel good when they know someone has seen a tweet and feels similarly.

But conversations are trickier, because of course, we all know there are cool kid tables in the Twitter Writing community: agents, editors, published authors. Do they really want to hear from the ranks of the “writing forever and still not rep’d” like me?

Even here, there are some straightforward rules. Don’t @ agents with Twitter pitches, normally or in contests. Look up their submission requirements and send them a professional query. Don’t @ authors with bad reviews of their books. DO @ authors with good reviews! I’ve had authors and their agents retweet book recommendations I’ve written for Winged Pen. They appreciate that I enjoyed their book and am spreading the word, and I appreciate that the post I took time to write gets seen by more people. All good.

There are times when it’s cool to ask agents questions. Some announce #AskAgent times when they’re open for questions on the hashtag. Questions about the category or genre you’re writing in are fair game. Even whether your 150,000 word debut manuscript has any shot at getting representation. Beyond that, it’s fine to comment that their gif or the picture of their cat is awesome. It’s not going to get you a full request on your next query, but there’s no harm. But it’s best not to start up a conversation like you’re pals unless they’ve indicated they’re looking to chat about a topic.

Use the same courtesy with authors. Pitch Wars has #AskAMentor and other contests have times you can ask advice from mentors on the hashtag. But these folks need to get to their own writing/family/lives too. So keep an eye on the hashtag and focus the questions when they’ve said they’re available. Jessica and Marty say, “DO NOT DM your query and first five pages to mentors.” “DO NOT dig up their private email addresses and submit there.” Yes! These things have happened! You want to be noticed for your writing, not for failing to follow guidelines. And remember, the mentors on Twitter writing contests are VOLUNTEERS. They’ve been in the query trenches and are trying to pay it forward. Be nice to them and to other writers. Mentors notice.

DO @ mentors to engage. Mentors don’t want writers to be scared of them. Marty says, “We’re really no different than them, we’re just a little further down that publishing road.”

But those are the easy situations because the rules are pretty clear. What if an author is chatting about something you feel passionately about. Can you tweet back?

If an author is giving writing advice, it’s best not to chime in as if you’re an expert yourself unless you are. If they’re talking wombats, on the other hand, it’s pretty clear this is water-cooler talk. Tweet back if you’re into wombats. If someone tweeted helpful advice or a link to a great blog post, it’s fine to say, “Thanks, I liked that because…” and see if that starts a conversation.

What’s the worst that can happen? They don’t respond to you? Don’t get offended. Consider the fact that they might have gotten a lot of tweets. Or they might have popped onto Twitter for a quick break from work, but need to get back to it. Maybe you’ll have a long, profound conversation and maybe not. Because really, Abby’s right. Twitter is not the same as a “real” conversation. For most of us, it’s easy to pop into Twitter and reach out. But it’s also easier to let a conversation drop. And if it drops, just move on.

Remember, there are places other than Twitter to build relationships with people in the writing community that may be more conducive to starting friendships because they don’t have the awkward limit of 140 characters. Commenting on blog posts, meeting up at a conference, friending on Facebook. As I mentioned in Twitter 101 for Writers part 2: Building Your Community, I keep in touch with a lot of people on Twitter, but I’ve met many of them elsewhere. If you don’t feel comfortable “meeting” people in 140 characters, there’s no need to. Meet them where you’re most comfortable and “touch base” on Twitter to keep up the relationship.

For more on leveraging Twitter as a writer, see my prior posts:
Twitter 101 for Writers: The Basics
Twitter 101 for Writers: Building Your Community

DO YOU HAVE OTHER QUESTIONS OR SUGGESTIONS ON TWITTER ETIQUETTE? OR QUESTIONS ON HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF TWITTER AS A WRITER? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen and her website is writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

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Twitter 101 for Writers: Building Your Twitter Writing Community

Twitter 101 for writers, Building your writing communityBack in February, I wrote my first post in the Twitter 101 for Writers series. That post covered the Twitter Writing Community hashtags writers can use to find resources for every stage of the writing journey, from getting words on the page to finding a literary agent. At that point, I had the idea that Twitter 101 could be a series, but wasn’t sure what to cover next. Then I met Abby Matthews, who was new to Twitter but trying to get up to speed fast so she could publicize her new podcast Mom Writes, featured on this blog last week. Abby asked me questions about Twitter and as I answered them, I came up with material for several more posts. This first one will be about Building Your Twitter Writing Community.

Abby’s question:

“To me Twitter is a lot of it is SNIPPETS of stuff. That’s where it loses me. I always feel like I’m eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation and it makes me totally uncomfortable. Plus, the vast majority of people I follow on Twitter are total strangers. So I’m like, WHY? Why would I want to listen anyway? I’m great at Facebook, but I think because Facebook was initially geared towards people you actually know in real life, I always felt more comfortable there.  

How you turn the Twitter Writing Community from a bunch of strangers writing snippets to a group of friends who will help you along your writing journey is a complicated question. Some of my friends on Twitter I’ve met in real life and that certainly helps. Others, I’ve met through in-person or online writing conferences and we had that connection, but they would probably be gone from my life without Twitter. Then there are people who I really met through Twitter. And there’s the Winged Pen which is a whole other thing. I think the best way to show how I created my Twitter Writing Community is to give examples of how Twitter helped me build relationships of different types.

Twitter 101, Building Your Twitter Writing Community
Karin, Gita Trelease and I got books signed by Kwame Alexander at the NESCBWI conference!

Karin Lefranc is a writing partner I met through SCBWI critique groups when I was moving to the U.S. from the U.K. She lives in the next town over from me. I already had an online critique group, but I planned to attend the New England SCBWI conference for the first time and didn’t want to walk in without knowing a soul, so I joined her local critique group. We went to the conference and learned about the Twitter writing community, and both joined. Karin and I meet for lunch and email all the time but on Twitter, we do things like “like” and retweet each other’s tweets, forward each other links to posts on writing topics that will help with our writing, and cheer for each other when there are things to celebrate, like the launch of her picture book: I WANT TO EAT YOUR BOOKS.

Karin is busy and not on Twitter a ton. We would still be pals without a much different relationship without Twitter, but for getting the word about her book out there, it definitely helped that we were Twitter friends because you can only Tweet about your own book so much. It helps to have friends to boost you.

Marty Mayberry, on the other hand, I met via Twitter. We were both following Pitch Wars four years ago. I was querying my first book without success and really needed help trying to figure out what was wrong. We met chatting about sci fi on the Pitch Wars hashtag and exchanged queries and first chapters so we’d be ready to sub to the contest. Then we exchanged entire manuscripts because we liked each other’s work and critiques. Then we exchanged subsequent manuscripts, so really, this is a Twitter friend who turned into a critique partner.

Marty has since gotten an agent and become a pitch wars mentor. She’s writing more adult and romance and less sci fi so we don’t exchange manuscripts now, but she’s killer with synopses, so I asked her to help me with one recently. I support her on Twitter by letting Pitch Wars hopefuls know that she’s awesome, and boosting Tweets on other contests she mentors (Nightmare on Query Street is coming up soon!)

I’ve never met Marty in person and because our writing has drifted apart, we would probably not have kept up our relationship without occasionally seeing each other and waving or high-fiving with likes and retweets or conversations on Twitter. For us, it’s like the water cooler for people who work in different departments, a place to bump into each other occasionally and see how each other is doing so the relationship doesn’t die.

Then there are the people who I met at WriteonCon. Marty dragged me to WriteonCon, an online writing conference that is a whole lot of things, but that year it was mostly forums where you could post your query and/or first page and/or first five pages and let people critique them and go and critique theirs. It was both crazy and a whole lot of fun! You could tell the people who were “your people” b/c they overlapped in genre or category and b/c their words and critiques spoke to you. After WriteOnCon, Julie Artz, suggested we form a Facebook group, The Fellowship of the Winged Pen. Members of that group later started this blog.

Even though we all email each other manuscripts for critique and have a private Facebook group to chat behind the scenes, we all chat on Twitter too. We celebrate getting agents and book deals, we boost Tweets to get them noticed, we send out links to posts that are relevant to our writing, and we just chat about topics that are trending. Some of the folks are agented and mentors for Pitch Wars, so they need to be “out there” growing a following, and it’s easier to do that if you are not just pushing your own content, but by sharing stuff you think is interesting and have friends who boost your reach.

Then, there are people like Jennie Nash, the founder of Author Accelerator, a Book Coaching company, whose posts I’ve retweeted because I think they are well written and relevant to other writers on the journey to publication. I read Jennie’s newsletter, and one day she asked for people interested in helping to get the word out about a new podcast she was involved in, Mom Writes (bringing me full circle to how I met Abby!) I never expected my relationship with Jennie Nash to extend beyond Twitter, but it’s cool that it has.

The key thing is that if you are just Tweeting out into the universe, it will feel like a black hole where no one is listening. But if you tweet things you think are interesting or that will help your Twitter Writing Community (even when it is still small and “community” might feel like an exaggeration!), it helps all of you and helps you grow your community.

This takes time. Time reading posts and figuring out who knows what they are talking about. But taking this approach of building my Twitter Writing Community helped me meet the people who wanted to create this blog, which I could never have done on my own. And it gave me the base of 3000 Twitter followers (of Winged Pen, not me), so I could offer Jennie and Abby help getting the word out about their podcast and add some more cool folks to my Twitter Writing Community. So serendipitous? Or a natural outcome of finding your community on Twitter and being willing to help (and get a good story for your blog!)?

To sum up, here are my tips for Building Your Twitter Writing Community. Look for people who:

  • Write in the same category and/or genre who you might want to exchange manuscripts with,
  • Share advice that can help you get to the next level in your writing journey, and
  • You’ve met in person and might not otherwise be able to stay in touch with.

Keeping in touch with these people on Twitter and off will all add up to a writing community to help you get where you want to go, boost you when you get rejections, and celebrate when you get wins.

For more on leveraging Twitter as a writer, see other posts in this series:
Twitter 101 for Writers: The Basics
Twitter 101 for Writers: Etiquette

DO YOU HAVE OTHER SUGGESTIONS ON HOW TO BUILD A TWITTER WRITING COMMUNITY? OR QUESTIONS ON HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF TWITTER AS A WRITER? If so, leave them in the comments below!

Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen and her website is writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

 

A New Writing Podcast! MOM WRITES: THE DIRTY LAUNDRY ABOUT WRITING WITH KIDS

Mom Writes Podcast, Jennie Nash I subscribe to Jennie Nash’s newsletter and read her blog posts. She’s an instructor at the UCLA Extension Writing Program; the founder of Author Accelerator, a book coaching company; and generally a smart lady. So when I read that she was involved in a new writing podcast I wanted it to know what it was about.

Mom Writes: The Dirty Laundry about Writing with Kids is the brainchild of Abby Mathews, an unpublished writer mom. Abby was struggling through the process of writing a book with young kids underfoot. She guessed that she was not the only one who’d started stories and run into difficulties along the way and had the idea for a series of podcasts showing Author Accelerator’s step-by-step process for helping writers. In the podcasts, Jennie discusses the challenges of just getting a book written at a quality level that would pique the interest of traditional publishers, let alone accomplishing this with several kids and their friends dashing through the house or dribbling a basketball in the room overhead. Jennie will lead Abby and her friend, Melanie Parish, through the Author Accelerator’s Blueprint for a Book program, critiquing their manuscripts and helping them to do everything from identify their ideal reader to strengthen their story concepts to improve their writing skills. The podcast will also include tips from other Author Accelerator writing coaches and tips and encouragement from writers who’ve used the program.

Does it sound like an infomercial? I was a bit nervous about that. But as Jennie talks about why writers have trouble finishing their stories and face rejection when they query literary agents, you can hear how much she cares about helping writers improve. And what better way is there to work through common writing problems than by listening in as Jennie helps Abby and Melanie fix their stories?

I invited Jennie, Abby and Melanie here to talk a little more about their podcast.

Rebecca: Jennie, thanks for this podcast! As someone who has been writing for seven years and still does not have an agent, I would have loved to have had this podcast earlier in my journey! You talk in the first episodes about why writing a book seems a lot easier than it is. Can you give Winged Pen readers a sense of this?

Jennie: Yes! So the tricky thing with book writing is that book reading is a thing most of us do Jennie Nash, Author Accelerator, Mom Writes Podcastalmost every day, and have been doing almost every day for many years. In that way, it’s more akin to eating breakfast then it is to, say, flying an airplane. Most of us have never flown an airplane and never will. We also don’t presume that we have the slightest idea how to do it. Anyone who gets into the cockpit of a plane with the intention of flying it has embarked on a rigorous training program, passed tests and shown competence. But because reading is so familiar to us — an activity that we love and cherish, and probably consider ourselves quite good at  — we often presume that we know how to write a book that will captivate a reader. We imagine that we could just sit down at the keyboard and craft a compelling narrative.

But very often, we can’t.  At least not our first time out, or even our second or third or fourth.

Writing a book may not be as complex an undertaking as flying a 747, but it is still a very complex undertaking. Whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, you are making a myriad interrelated choices and designing a logical framework and organizing a ton of material and determining a structure and deciding on a point or argument and considering your audience, and deploying various skills (skills related to scene structure, dialogue, body language, language use, narrative drive, pacing, flow and, resolution) and underneath it all is a great deal of emotion — your emotion, your reader’s emotion, and in fiction, your character’s emotion.

It’s a lot! And many writers simply underestimate how hard it is — or how hard it is to do well.

Rebecca: Abby, you are sharing your manuscript, mistakes and all, with the Internet! That’s very brave! Why did you decide to take time out from your writing to create the Mom Writes podcast?

Abby Mathews, Mom Writes PodcastAbby: You know, deep down it’s probably just the teacher in me! In my former life (BC, before children) I was a high school art teacher. I can’t tell you all the crazy things I learned how to do in the name of teaching. Once the kids had the idea to make a really, really big block print but we didn’t have a large enough printing press. To solve the problem I learned how to turn a car into a printing press! So, see, this isn’t the craziest thing I’ve ever done. But it does feel pretty close.

At one point in an early episode, Jennie told me that an agent wouldn’t have made it past page one of my manuscript. Page one! That’s when I paused and thought, “Oh my god. It’s really bad! I am insane for doing this in front of a live studio audience…” (Well, not live, but you get what I mean!) After the initial sting wore off, it occurred to me this is exactly why I have to do it. I’m putting all my dirty laundry out there because I know I’m not alone. I know there are others out there just like me- like us- toiling away at their kitchen tables trying to teach themselves how to do this massive thing. And we need help. Because this problem is not going to go away. Writing is a curse, and one bad manuscript isn’t going to lift it. I’m on my third bad manuscript and I keep coming back for more!

My solution was to find professional help. (And book coaches seem to double as therapists, so trust me, it’s a lot of bang for your buck!) I feel confident that coaching is going to help me write the book that’s in my head- the one where readers don’t just make it off the first page, but to the end of the novel and want to come back for more. I’m so confident, in fact, that I am willing to lay it all out there to teach others how to do it as well. Even if it is super embarrassing!

Plus, I won’t lie, having to publicly answer for my work keeps me on track!

Rebecca: Jennie, what are some of the common writing problems that you’ll be talking about in the podcast?

Jennie:  Abby and Mel are perfect “subjects” to show how the chaos of creativity can be tamed because they exhibited all the most common problems! Neither of them had really thought before they started to write. Like so many writers, they just liked to write and felt called to write and started to write. (This pull is often very strong for moms of little kids because it’s one time in your day when you can just rest in the musings of your own mind. You don’t have to make sure no one is going to stick a fork in the electrical outlet or figure out how to make a dinner for one kid who won’t eat anything but white food and another who won’t eat anything but green. )Then Abby and Mel did what writers tend to do next — they went to conferences and workshops and writing groups, and kept writing, and really just kept digging their holes deeper — the holes caused by lack of thinking first.

So by thinking first I don’t mean plotting. I don’t mean giant grids of scenes. I mean understanding your story’s deep-level WHY and bringing that to the visible surface, and working to let the reader IN. That’s the work most writers skip — and skipping it leads to all the writerly problems, from openings that wander to middles that sag to ends that fall flat — and Abby and Mel were no different.

What’s fun is that Abby is writing a middle grade fantasy starting from scratch and Mel is revising an adult sci fi dystopian thriller so, in addition to the common problems I mentioned above, we get to dig into a lot of different problems from a topical standpoint — so everything from the logic of an imaginary world, to the motivation of a villain, to a character’s true desire.

Rebecca: Melanie, you guys got a lot of feedback on your opening pages from Jennie. What was it like to go back to those pages and revise after the feedback.

Melanie:  I’m not gonna lie, it felt a bit brutal at first.  Neither Abby or I had a lot of Mel, Mom Writes Podcastexperience being edited.  It was eye-opening, though, and I personally felt so much clarity on my story afterwards.  I had been unable to articulate what was wrong with my draft and Jennie was able to pinpoint exactly where I had gone wrong and how to fix it.  She doesn’t do the work for us, and I don’t feel that as a book coach she is taking me in any one direction vs another.  It’s more like she’s asking the right questions in order to help me find my own answers – questions that I initially didn’t ask myself when I first started writing my novel!  We are learning so much about the process that one can (and maybe should!) do before you write a single word of your story.

I’d like to thank Jennie, Abby and Melanie for joining us on the Winged Pen today! Mom Writes launched September 15th and is available here. Check it out! And tune in for our Twitter chat on October 2nd, 8 pm EDT, 5 pm PT to Tweet live with Jennie, Abby and Melanie, find out more about Mom Writes, and get tips on writing with kids constantly pulling on your elbow! To tune in, put #momwrites in the Twitter search box and press enter.

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen and her website is writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.

Book Recommendation: NYXIA by Scott Reintgen

Nyxia, Scott Reintgen, young adult booksEvery life has a price in this sci-fi thriller that has the nonstop action of The Maze Runner and the high-stakes space setting of Illuminae. This is the first in a new three-book series that will take a group of broken teens to the far reaches of the universe and force them to decide what they’re willing to risk for a lifetime of fortune.

Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family.

Forever.

Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe.

But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human.
Excerpt taken from Netgalley.com

Could you turn down an offer of immense wealth and free healthcare for your mother with cancer? What if that offer would send you to the far end of the universe? Emmett and nine other teens are given the opportunity to join a team to mine Nyxia from a far planet. The reader accompanies Emmett as he fights for a spot on the team, faces the bait-and-switch tactics of the company running the mining operation, and strives to find friendship amidst the cut-throat competition he’s been thrown into.

Nyxia is action-packed and fast paced. I enjoyed the creative competitions the teens had to fight their way through for spots on the team and well as the fabulous properties of Nyxia, the valuable substance they’ll be mining. I found myself rooting for Emmett and even sympathizing with some of his less ethical competitors as the grueling contest drew to a close and the stakes got higher. Each character had something to lose if they didn’t make the team. I also found myself wondering exactly what the young miners would find when they reach their Eden, the destination planet. Nyxia is a fun read, great for lovers of sci fi and action-adventure.

I requested an advanced reader copy of Nyxia  in exchange for an unbiased review.

Nyxia will be release on September 12th.
Check out Nyxia on Goodreads.
Pre-order Nyxia from Amazon, Barnes & Noble or Indiebound.

Need more book suggestions? If Nyxia sounds good to you, you might also like these recent young adult science fiction releases:
The Takedown by Corrie Wang
Scythe by Neal Shusterman
Genius: The Game by Leopoldo Gout

Rebecca J Allen, Young adult author
Photo by Pam Vaughan

REBECCA J. ALLEN writes young adult science fiction with heroines much braver than she is and middle grade stories that blend mystery and adventure. She on Twitter at @RebeccaJ_Allen and her website is writerebeccawrite.wordpress.com.