YA Scavenger Hunt

Hi there! I’m McKelle, author of Speak Easy, Speak, which came out this Fall.
yascavenger

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 120 hours!

pink team

 

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SEVEN contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the PINK TEAM–but there is also a red team, a blue team, a gold team, an orange team, a green team, and a purple team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

 

pink fall 2017
SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the pink team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by OCTOBER 9th, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
Now on to the main event! Today, I am hosting ROMINA RUSSEL on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!
romina
Romina Garber (pen name Romina Russell) is a NYT Bestselling YA author based in Los Angeles who originally hails from Buenos Aires, Argentina. As a teen, Romina landed her first writing gig—College She Wrote, a weekly Sunday column for the Miami Herald that was later picked up for national syndication—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. When she’s not working on a YA novel, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core. Her epic sci-fi fantasy series ZODIAC reaches its breathtaking conclusion with THIRTEEN RISING, the highly anticipated fourth and final novel.

ZODIAC, the first book in the series, stars Rhoma Grace, a 16year-old student from House Cancer.

 
Find out more information by checking out the author website or find more about the author’s book here!
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
zodiac
 

The following is a deleted scene from WANDERING STAR, book two in the ZODIAC series:

 

Drowning Diamonds performs at the Aleph

 

“Welcome to the Aleph,” says a metallic-bodied android standing in the center of the empty space, holding a silver tray. “Would you like any Abyssthe before entering?”

“No thanks,” says Nishi. Then she turns to me in excitement. “Pick a door, Rho.”

“Which one?”

She shrugs mysteriously, and I roll my eyes and walk forward to the one directly across from me. When I open it, the room is dark with pulsing holographic lights, and it’s packed with people dancing. But I can’t hear anything.

Curious, I cross the threshold, and as soon as I step through, the sound blasts on.

A percussion-heavy song beats through the room and once everyone else is inside, we thread through the crowd toward the stage, where a tattooed band is performing a high-energy number. I don’t know where I’m going, or why I’m still moving, until I reach the edge of the stage and realize I’m gravitating toward the drums.

It feels like ages since I last played.

When the song finishes, Nishi leaps onto the stage. She whispers something to the singer, who looks shocked by whatever she’s said, and then his face breaks into a broad smile.

He tips his pierced face down to mine and extends his arm. I take the hand he’s offering without hesitation and join him and Nishi on the stage.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” he says in a raspy voice. “We could use a break—why don’t you guys do your thing?” He winks at Nishi before turning to his band to fill them in.

“Nish—what—”

“You never got to play Trust in Guardian Rho with us before,” she says, grinning.

“But Kai—”

“The singer said his bassist will perform with us.”

“But he doesn’t know—”

“Rho, wake up! Everyone knows this song!” Nishi rolls her eyes but she’s still smiling.

The drummer comes over and gives me his sticks. My heart picks up as I roll them through my fingers, and for a terrifying moment I think I might cry.

“You’re really good,” he whispers in a velvety smooth voice. “Looking forward to hearing you live.”

“Thanks,” I say, still staring at the drumsticks in my hand.

“Drowning Diamonds, baby!”

Deke’s arm slides around my waist, and suddenly I’m pulled into a bone-cracking, three-person hug with him and Nishi. Our heads huddled together, he says, “For old times.”

“For the Academy,” says Nishi.

“For Cancer.”

We pull apart, and I slide my feet into the metal boots of the drum mat and brush my fingers along the cymbals and drum heads. Then I look up and spy Hysan in the semi-lit crowd, his green eyes glowing like the holograms that dance along the walls.

He looks as eager as everyone else to hear us perform, and I become suddenly aware of my nerves. The drumsticks shake in my hands.

Nishi turns and winks at me—my cue to start us off—and I stare down at the instrument, unsure I remember how to play.

As though on autopilot, my hands come together for four counts, and then I slam down on the snare and cymbal, and as the bass drum’s droning boom kicks in, I disappear into the music.

The pulsing of the drums is like a second heartbeat in my chest. Deke’s guitar explodes into the melody, and by the time Nishi comes in with the lyrics, I’m floating through the rhythm, my eyes closing as I become part of the song.

When Nishi gets to the chorus, I’m belting it out with her, and I start to laugh when I realize how strange it is for me to be singing these words:

Trust in Guardian Rho

She’s our galaxy’s best chance

She’ll make Ochus go

He’ll forget his plans

By the time it’s over, I long to play more. I never want to leave the stage or the drums or the music.

The crowd has been chanting along with us, and now they’re cheering and applauding, and the Sagittarian storm of encouragement feels so warm in this icy city that I want to bathe in its heat forever.

Nishi and Deke pull me to my feet, and the three of us take a bow from center stage. I reluctantly hand the sticks back to the drummer—“Stellar!” he shouts at me over the noise—and then I rejoin Hysan, Aryll, and the Sagittarians on the ground.

“Brilliant!” shouts Aryll, clasping my shoulder. “You killed it!”

The other Sagittarians all reach out to touch me, too, even the ones who didn’t come here with us, and soon I’m trading hand touches all around. When the band starts playing again, people gradually return to dancing, and I fall farther back into the crowd, losing sight of Nishi, Aryll, and everyone else.

“You were amazing, Rho,” says Hysan, finding me even when I don’t know where I’m standing. He pulls me aside to a back corner of the room, near the bar, where it’s quieter. Beaming, he says, “It was like you became part of the song.”

“Do you read minds?” I blurt, the excitement of tonight making me feel less reserved—or maybe it’s Starry City’s lowered inhibitions infecting me.

Hysan grins. “Not minds…faces. And not all faces.” His voice grows husky, his body leaning into mine. “Just the ones worth exploring.”

His gaze drops to my lips, and tonight I’m willing to give into his mouth here, even in front of everyone. It’s like Nishi said—if tomorrow is the end, let’s live today.

Tonight, let’s be free.

 

Wow!

And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 16. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!

CONTINUE THE HUNT
 
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author!
 
 

 

 

Advertisements

Speak Easy, Speak Love Pre-Order Campaign

As a big THANK YOU for supporting me and my book early on, I want to give a little something to everyone who pre-orders a copy.

If you preorder Speak Easy, Speak Love by September 16th, I’ll send you a swag pack including:

» 1 Speak Easy, Speak Love bookmark
» 1 signed Speak Easy, Speak Love bookplate
» 1 signed Speak Easy, Speak Love postcard
» The full set of Speak Easy, Speak Love character cards, including a quote from the play Much Ado About Nothing on the back (each quote correlates to the character who says the line). They measure 3×5″ and have rounded corners.

Here’s a peek at the front and back of the bookmark, the character cards, and the bookplate:

Speak Easy Speak Love_Postcard

This item is for everyone. If you pre-order the book, it doesn’t matter if you’re the first or the one thousandth, you’ll get this pack sent to you in the mail.

After September 16th, I’ll randomly draw runner-up and grand-prize winners!

In addition to the swag pack, FIVE runner-up winners will receive:

Everything included in the original swag pack, plus:

» 1 pair of Speakeasy Upcycled bottle-cap earrings
» 1 temporary tattoo of a Beatrice quote (from ThatGirlCrystal Etsy shop)

 

And in addition to the swag pack, ONE grand-prize winner will receive the following :

Everything included in the original swag pack, plus:

» 1 pair of Speakeasy Upcycled bottle-cap earrings
» 1 temporary tattoo of a Beatrice quote
» 1 Shakespeare Insult art print (18×24″)

insults

 

To enter, send proof of your SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE print or ebook preorder to mckellegeorge@gmail.com with ‘Speak Easy Speak Love Preorder’ in the subject header. Please be sure to include your name and full mailing address in the body of your email. (Please block out confidential details when you submit your proof of pre-order.) Offer ends September 16th, 2017 at 11:59 p.m. While supplies last and limited to one swag set per person. This offer is open internationally.

If you would like a signed, personalized copy of SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, please preorder from my local indie, The King’s English Bookshop. (Please specify you would like a signed, personalized copy and include the name of who you would like the book signed to.)

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with McKelle George

chasingthecrazies

WOWlogo

Every writer has their own path to publication. Some paths are long and winding. Others are a straight shot. No matter the tale, the journey always involves ups and downs, caution signs, and for some, serious roundabouts, but what always remains is the writer’s commitment to their craft and their enduring dream to see their work on bookshelves one day.

In bringing you the W.O.W. series, I hope as a writer you will learn that no dream is unfounded. That with time, patience, perseverance, and commitment to your craft, it is possible to cross that finish line and share your story with the world.

Today, I’m pleased to share McKelle George’s writing journey…

Amy: When did you first begin seriously writing with the intent of wanting to be published?

McKelle: 2011. I remember, because I’d been living in Hungary for almost two years. Before then, I’d been studying illustration. I…

View original post 875 more words

#PitchWars 2017 Co-Mentors Bio

Mentors:

Heather Cashman and McKelle George

McKelle: So, I was never a Pitch Wars mentee, but I did enter my book (now about to debut with HarperCollins) in one of the Pitch Madness contests, and it was the rush of attention from agents during that time that ultimately got me my agent now. I love the community of Pitch Wars, the hustle of so many hopefuls working hard on their craft. I love the way it really does feel a little like putting on armor and chest-bumping each other before going into the fray.

Heather: I was never a Pitch Wars mentee either. I did enter one year, was rejected and didn’t hear a peep from any of the mentors. I didn’t immerse myself in the community at all, because back then, I didn’t have Twitter. Determined to find out why I wasn’t chosen or why my queries weren’t getting full requests, I applied for a few jobs in the publishing community. Over the years, I became Managing Director of Pitch Wars, ended up becoming an agent intern, and finally an editor with Cornerstones Literary Consultancy. I fell in love with editing and Pitch Wars. I’ve seen and helped mentees get agented, get book deals, find amazing CPs, and felt the support and encouragement of literally thousands of Pitch Wars contestants. I love you guys!

[Scavenger Hunt hint: Today]

We are truly honored to be able to participate as co-mentors this year, and so, without further ado—

The real reason you’re here (ie, not to hear us blather):

CATEGORY

YA

yay

(Ha ha, get it? Because yaay is like a YA sandwich?)

GENRES (basic)

  • contemporary
  • magical realism (think A.S. King and Andrew Smith more than Leslye Walton)
  • historical
  • high concept/speculative*

[*Speculative, IF high concept (examples: The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater, Caraval by Stephanie Garber, Every Day by David Levithan, The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich, The Chaos Walking trilogy by Patrick Ness) –> in other words, portal or magic fantasy will be harder sell, but we do like books that seem to defy genre because they’re based on one “what if?”-type idea.]

GENRES (more specific)

  • LGBT
  • Alternate history/history with a modern spin (example: My Lady Jane; And I Darken)
  • Unconventional love stories
  • Diversity (I’m particularly interested in characters who struggle with dualities of nature and/or culture; characters who straddle two different worlds)
  • Villain origin stories
  • Faith/religion
  • Gothic in the vein of Penny Dreadful or Crimson Peak

 THINGS WE LIKE

Semi-recent contemporary books we’ve loved:

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Conviction by Kelly Loy Gilbert
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
  • You’re Welcome, Universe by Whitney Garber
  • Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
  • Rainbow Rowell books

Warning: We do love contemporary books, but I (McKelle) been subbed a lot of them recently, so we’re really looking for something gritty, real, fearless, and unapologetic about its story.

If you’re an artist WE WOULD LOVE to see ways we can integrate your art with your manuscript.

Magical realism books we love:

  • Anything by A.S. King
  • The Accident Season by Moira Fowley-Doyle
  • Whimsical and family-centered books, like Sarah Addison Allen and Alice Hoffman
  • Magical realism/mental illness blends: like Andrew Smith, or Fell of Dark by Patrick Downes, or Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Again, if you’re an artist WE WOULD LOVE to see ways we can integrate your art with your manuscript.

Historical books we love (including alternate history!):

  • Razorhurst by Justine Larbalestier
  • Code Name Verity and Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
  • Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry
  • Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
  • Under a Painted Sky and Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee
  • The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • And I Darken/Now I Rise by Kiersten White
  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Sidebar: (McKelle) I’m feeling the history right now, guys. My own debut is set in the 1920s. If you have a historical novel, I AM A REALLY GOOD BET. Bonus if it has: gangsters, LGBT characters, girls who misbehave and make history.

anyway.jpg

SPECULATIVE/HIGH CONCEPT

We don’t want to mislead those with high fantasy books, but there are a lot of unique, rich, political, awesome books we wouldn’t want to miss out on by banning the genre. So!

Here’s an idea of what we do like:

Fantasy and sci-fi books/trilogies we’ve recently enjoyed (things they have in common: a bit darker, complex and mature in plot, not overly romance-heavy, unique brand of “magic”):

  • The Grisha Trilogy and Six of Crows duology by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Raven Cycle and Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
  • The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin (Seriously, write me the YA version of this book, and I’m sold.)
  • Uprooted by Naomi Novik
  • The Tiger’s Daughter by K. Arsenault Rivera
  • Any books by Victoria Scwab
  • The Red Rising Trilogy by Pierce Brown

Fantasy and sci-fi books/trilogies that we can completely understand why people love, and are totally great books, but we tried and just really not to our taste so if your book is more along this vein, we might not be the best bet:

  • The Red Queen,  by Victoria Aveyard
  • The Throne of Glass,  by Sarah J. Maas
  • Snow Like Ashes,  by Sara Raasch
  • City of Bones,  by Cassandra Clare
  • Cinder,  by Marissa Meyer
  • The Selection, by Kiera Cass

EXCEPTIONS

Do you have a sci-fi/fantasy/horror book that you think I would just love [for example: (Heather really loves Maas’s books, so we STILL might be a good choice after all, never say never], even though we’re not strictly looking for that genre? Can you submit them to me anyway?

Yes!

Like we said, what we’d really love to find is something that no one has ever done before, so please send to us!

 

CURRENT NON-BOOK OBSESSIONS THAT SPEAK TO MCKELLE’S TASTE:

Hamilton (the musical)

Peaky Blinders

Poldark

Saga (the comic series)

Monstress (graphic novel)

THINGS THAT HEATHER LIKES TO REVISIT:

Dragon Song, Dragon Singer, Dragon Drums by Anne McCaffery
The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexander Dumas
Jane Austen’s Complete Works
Yes, I’m a classics junkie.
The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand
Harry Potter Series, books 1-6. I’ve never re-read 7.
The New Testament 

 

 

Whew. And now, if you still think you have a book that would mesh well with our tastes and specialties, a little about us:

PROFESSIONALLY

McKelle: I was formally an acquisitions editor with Jolly Fish Press, a small press publishing house, and now work as a contract editor with Flux Publishing. Some of my recent titles and projects include: JERKBAIT by Mia Siegert, SEEKING MANSFIELD by Kate Watson, WELCOME HOME, an anthology curated by Eric Smith, and NOTHING BUT SKY by Amy Trueblood. I also have experience working as an assistant at A+B Literary Agency, and an editorial intern at the Friend, a children’s magazine.

I’m a young adult author, and my debut, SPEAK EASY, SPEAK LOVE, comes out from Greenwillow/HarperCollins, Sept. 19, 2017—it’s a retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, set in Prohibition-era New York. I’m represented by Katie Grimm, of Don Congdon Associates.

10658601_10152447544131048_8739454300765989034_o

Heather: I’m Managing Director of Pitch Madness, Pitch Wars, and #PitMad (and occasionally #PitMatch). I was an editor with Cornerstones Literary Consultancy as well as a Pitch Wars Mentor for two years. I’ve helped agented authors prepare manuscripts for submission, as well as helped unagented authors land agents.

heather

PERSONALLY

McKelle: I live in downtown Salt Lake City with a huge white German Shepherd. If I’m not editing or writing, I’m working at the Salt Lake City Public Library, which I humbly consider one of the best libraries in the world.

I love the theater (even though I have no talent for it myself), and traveling. I have two other talents besides books, and those are: eating, and doodling. I got my associates in Illustration, and if I hadn’t become a writer, I would have been an illustrator, with a focus on character design and graphic novel work. I’m definitely out of practice, but I still love it. (Do mentees get a drawing of their mc? Why yes, even if they don’t want it.)

Heather: In my spare time I love marathon TV, kayaking, bicycling, and cooking. And eating. I love to eat good and interesting and new types of food. Especially if it’s a recipe by Paul Hollywood.

EDITING STYLE

We’re thorough—in addition to two eyes and opinions on your ms, you will get an edit letter, a phone call (if you want one), in-document comments, and then probably line edits—and occasionally we will suggest things that might fix the problem areas we see, but we like hearing your solutions even more. We like a good brainstorming session. If we choose your manuscript, we guarantee there was something about it we couldn’t pass up. We will celebrate and make sure you know the ways your book is beautiful and unique—however, if your book is pretty fresh off the friends-and-family feedback glow, we’d still love to see it, just, you know, brace yourself for slightly tougher treatment.

 

Mister Linky's Magical Widgets — Thumb-Linky widget will appear right here!
This preview will disappear when the widget is displayed on your site.
If this widget does not appear, click here to display it.

//www.blenza.com/linkies/thumblink.php?owner=brenleedrake&postid=29May2017a

Just Write the Book

Oh, blogging. Back when I didn’t have an agent or even a complete manuscript to my name, back when I was but a lowly intern in a just-started small press, I had no compunction writing up wordy posts about writer’s block, revision, and the emotional travails of the creative process. Now I’m like: Ha-ha! I don’t know crap. I’m not going to write about how much crap I don’t know.

So: #reallife, #whinypublicjournal, #whatisthiseven

I recently finished a 61K draft of my novel in about eighteen days. The speed is not that impressive, because this was like, I don’t know, the ninth, start-over version of this book. The characters, the research, the Shakespeare play upon which it is based, are practically part of my brain’s basic blueprints at this point.

But mentally, there were things like: this is probably the last shot, with this particular book, and this might be hours of essentially wasted work, and you only have a sort-of game plan about where this will go, and your agent is going to hate this and tear up your contract and kick you to the unpublished curb, and even if she does like it, probably every editor is going to hate it too, so who cares, and why didn’t you decide to write a more marketable book, and hahayeahright, it’s not the market, it’s you; you suck.

And so on . . .

But something sort of marvelous happened to me, when I was sitting at my computer, feeling despondent, and I thought, very clearly: Just write the damn book.

I think my subconscious was digging up a little piece of one of my favorite books, Code Name Verity. The phrase, “Fly the plane, Maddie,” runs through the book several times, and it’s basically an assurance: do what you have to do. Don’t let fear stop you. (Apparently the added expletive is my own subconscious’s contribution.) And so, several times as I was starting, breathing out and blocking everything else out, it helped to tell myself, “Just write the book, McKelle.”

Because that’s really your only job at that stage, right? Sure you might have to promote and panic and brave the trenches of editing and marketing, but those will still be there for you to worry about later. In fact, you won’t have to worry about them at all unless you write something first.

The most important part, and incidentally the most enjoyable, is just telling the story. Write the book. That’s all you have to do. And, you know, writing a book is hard – but is it any harder than flying a plane? Or anything else that people do?

Anyway, I bet you can guess what happened. I wrote the damn book. Frankly, it was sort of nice. I love writing, and actually I love this story too, and still will, even if all the aforementioned horrors come to pass.

Year End Reflections

I like New Year’s Eve/Day, for the same reason I like Valentine’s Day. Yes, I suppose we should make goals and reflect on our lives and reach again for the things we want every day, not just at the beginning of the year. But we don’t. Sometimes it’s nice to have a marked occasion for it. (Just like, on Valentine’s, it’s nice to have a marked occasion to express the love we should express every day anyway but sometimes don’t.)

I might do a post tomorrow on goals for 2015, but for now, here’s 2014 in review: it was a heckuva year.

10 11 Highlights

Signed with my agent (and I got to meet said agent in NYC)

– And I couldn’t have picked a better one. Not only did this career step make me feel validated as a writer, but it felt like a good life choice, something I’d be grateful for not just this year, but all the years to come.

Graduated with my bachelors degree

Had something published with an international audience

Swam in the Atlantic ocean (and then dolphins swim just where I’d been swimming)

Whale-watching in Tadoussac

Fall 2014 Trip 021

My brother came home after serving two years in Washington D.C.

I got a pretty cool new sister-in-law (because that same brother got married)

deven

Finally went to New York City and saw four Broadway shows, on Broadway

– Four different mornings I got on the subway to Times Square, where I’d wait in line for an hour with my book and get the student rush ticket, then I’d romp about the city and come back to see the show that night (or afternoon, if I got the matinee); it was lovely.

Went airboating in the Everglades

IMG_2077Fall 2014 Trip 038

Making new friends/connecting with old ones

– I guess this is not technically specific to 2014, but they were still some of the best parts of this year.

Seeing my name printed in a book’s acknowledgements as an editor

– P.S. You should go buy that book (“Little Dead Riding Hood”); the illustrations are pretty snazzy too.

5 Disappointments

Submission is a nasty thing, and I hate it

– I had this goal to be published before I graduated. That way, I wouldn’t have to get a real grown-up job. (Ha ha ha.) I signed with my agent in March, and technically graduated in August, so I thought – well, I may not be published, but there’s a good chance I could get a book deal pretty close to graduation, so that counts. But getting a book ready for submission takes a long time, and even getting there does not mean your book will be published. This year, it wasn’t so much the “not knowing” that was hard, as it was me putting off finding an actual job on the hope that my writing could possibly support me. The disappointment wasn’t failing (that’s still pending), it was, I would say, accepting I might have an average climb to success instead of a Cinderella story. (Which I know sounds obvious. It’s my flaw and strength to dream big first and then be disappointed.)

That awful apartment that was only $100

– This was the year of making almost no money and chasing dreams. And there was one apartment I stayed in over the summer that was . . . well. It will make a great detail to my still-pending “success” story to know that I once lived in such squalor. The place was awful. But it was only $100 a month. Chasing dreams is nice, but being an educated adult with no money is a bummer.

Thinking ponderously about running for half a year, but not really doing it

– Ha ha ha. Nothing quite like unrealized good intentions to make you feel good about yourself.

My first C in an English class

– I have gotten a C before, just so you know. Not like this cracked my glittering 4.0, but I’ve never gotten a bad grade in an ENGLISH class. This happened just after I signed with my agent. Besides being a full-time student with a job, I put all my energy to furiously working on my novel revisions. (Screw Jane Austen! I’m going to BE Jane Austen!) My professor was a smart dude who typically wrote on my papers, “Nice voice, nice concept, but very undeveloped–needs a few more drafts.” I know why it happened, but still. That C was a slap.

Missing out on signing a book

I had another goal this year, namely, to find a book I could champion and publish. And wouldn’t you know, I did find it. I pitched it to our editorial team. Everyone liked it. My boss told me, “Since you discovered this one, you can take the helm, negotiating with her agent and signing the deal.” I loved the author, loved the story, was so excited to mark it as the very first title on my own list, and then . . . the deal didn’t go through. Such is publishing. Sometimes things don’t work out for reasons that have nothing to do with enthusiasm or talent. But it was still a little crushing and still made me wonder, “Was I the doomed factor?”

3 Good Pieces of Advice (or Things I Learned)

“You don’t need to know the future to enjoy today.”

– Picture an office, where I’m handed a warm plastic cup of Dr. Pepper. An old guy with a bow tie telling me sometimes we can feel out of whack when we’re going through something hard. And me saying, “But there’s nothing!” and him saying, “Well you’re graduating soon. Do you know what you want to do? The next step can be scary.” And then, after acknowledging said in inner-terror with a sense of wonderment, he said, “Put seven pennies in your left pocket. Move them all by the end of the day, and for each penny, tell yourself, ‘I don’t have to know the future to enjoy today.'”

“I think you need a plane ticket.”

– My dad is the sort of parent who has instincts about his children. If you’re in trouble, he’ll feel it in his gut, like an intuiting wizard. And one night, driving through the winding roads of a canyon as it snowed in early spring, he said, “I’ve been thinking about you, and I think you need a plane ticket.” “A plane ticket to where?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he said. “Wherever you’re going.”

“Get out of that.”

– One of my creative writing professors was also the Utah poet laureate, and he graciously let me work on my own novels instead of specific class assignments. I was still ghost-writing then, and told him the specifics of that job. “I’ve never heard of anything like that,” he said. “You should get out of it.” To which I replied, “Yeah, but, I still need a job. Better this than scrubbing toilets.”

“Maybe,” he said. “But scrubbing toilets doesn’t drain you creatively. Sometimes we have to find a balance of what we love and what we need, and what we can do to give ourselves the ideal space and time to do what we love.” And shortly after, I quit.

5 Best Books I Read

(Not necessarily my favorite books, and not necessarily published in 2014, just the ones that impacted me the most this year)

Traveling Mercies – Anne Lamott

Essays on spirituality. Lamott is so funny and raw and real. I picked this up because BIRD BY BIRD is one of my favorite writing books, and it was worth it. Maybe it helped that I read it almost entirely on the bow of a sailboat.

A Monster Calls – Patrick Ness

– Beautiful illustrations. Haunting story. I may or may not have cried at a particular paragraph, which wasn’t even a sad part, but sometimes in a book, you read a line and think, “Yes, yes, that’s just how it is.”

Winner’s Trilogy and Grisha Trilogy

– I read so much YA this year, but these are two fantasy series I feel pretty confident recommending (they were fun and adventurous and not cursed with a love-triangle). 

Big Little Lies – Liane Moriarty

– Technically a murder mystery, but it was so funny too. Charming and intriguing. The perfect “enjoyment” book

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear

– This is a children’s picture book, and I read it on the couch of a dear friend who showed it to me, and I was trying not to react too obviously, except to say, “Oh it’s lovely!” But it was more than lovely. It felt deeply personal and moving and pricked my dry, shriveled tear ducts.

A.S. King and Subjectivity

Growing up, my reading tastes were somewhat pedestrian. In other words, if I really, really loved a book, chances were, it was already pretty popular. I liked some books, especially genre books, that weren’t to everyone’s taste, but if I adored a book, I felt confident recommending it and having it well received.

Obviously, by now, I’ve read several books that land on my favorites list—because for whatever personal reason to me, that book is extra special—but I already know not everyone will love it. (Winter’s Tale is one of those; I think it’s completely great, but know basically no else who has read it, let alone likes it, and the vast majority of my YA reading community wouldn’t care for it.)

One of the first times I was surprised by this revelation was reading A.S. King, specifically, Everybody Sees the Ants. Sometimes I would stop reading because sentences would startle me. They were so smartly placed, so plain and raw and lovely. I quickly read Please Ignore Vera Dietz, Ask the Passengers, and waited patiently to read Reality Boy. Today I finished her latest, Glory O’Brien’s History of the Future. 

glory

The thing is, nobody, nobody weaves magic into reality as well as she does (magical realism, get it?). I just—every time, I think she’s brilliant. And in a world of John Green and Rainbow Rowell, I could not understand why her books weren’t totally flying off the shelves. Don’t get me wrong, she’s still a successful and respected author (Please Ignore Vera Dietz was a Printz Honor), but she’s not as wildly and commercially popular as some of her contemporaries, and at first I genuinely did not get people who didn’t get A.S. King.

Anyway, it also took King a lot of years and a lot of books to get published, and I had the sudden thought of, “That must have been really hard, but hallelujah, she didn’t try to write something more mainstream or trendy.”

We all know publishing is subjective (which, by the way, does not mean arbitrary; hard work and talent still applies here), but I wonder if we remember that when we’re dreaming of our seven-figure book deals. You may have to let go of your dream of being the next Harry Potter, because it might be that your Ideal Reader, the one that will say, “My god, this book was written for me,” is in the minority. Even if the book in your heart is destined to make mad, sappy brain-love with a group of people too small to bump you onto the NYT bestseller list, don’t throw it in the trash for a hook. Readers respond to sincerity, to emotional truth, not to hooks. How many “quiet” books have taken off because readers (not big marketing budgets) love it?

True, publishing can be a little mercenary in that it prefers novels that appeal to a wide group of readers rather than novels that appeal to only a few. But before you ditch the quirky “quiet” book for a young adult love-triangle-story with probably-some-magic-of-some-sort, be persistent, wait for that agent or that editor who will catch a whiff of that emotional resonance, be excited about it, and get it published. (If the story of your heart is the YA love story with magic, then hurray!, you already have mass appeal.) Maybe someday someone will run around waving your book saying, “Read this! Why doesn’t everyone love it already?!”

By the way, go read A.S. King. I don’t know why everyone doesn’t love her already.