On Updates and the Great Northeastern Roadtrip

Hello, hello, hello! So I disappeared for a hot second there to focus on my writing, complete my finals, and wrap up some other random stuff. I’m working with my agent (I’ll still never get used to saying that, tbh) on revisions before we go on submission for the book. I hope that I’ll be able to share it with all of you eventually!

Oh, I also graduated from college. Casual. I have a lot to talk about regarding grad school, but I’m going to save that for the next post.

Since I’m a free agent for the next few months, I decided to go on a roadtrip from Pittsburgh to New York City to Boston and back home. I was alone for the driving bits, but I stayed with friends in the different cities. I was nervous because there was so much driving, but I had a great trip! So, here were my five favorite things:

1.) The audiobook of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races

I’m not an audiobook girl. Usually, they annoy me. But this audiobook (and The Raven Cycle ones – Maggie just has excellent audiobooks) gets me every time. I 10/10 recommend it. I listened to it twice with all of the driving I did.

2. Muji

I’d never heard of this stationery/random thing shop before, but my friend recommended I go when I was walking around Soho. I’m a bit of a stationery nerd, which shouldn’t be surprising, and I loved it. For less than $15, I bought two gel pens, a notebook, a pen case, and a canvas tote. Especially in NYC, that’s a lot for such a low cost, and it’s all great quality.

3. A Short History of the Girl Next Door by Jared Reck

Guys. GUYS. I’d been wanting to read this book because it’s rep’d by my agency, and I knew it was going to be a gut punch, but oh. My. God. I legitimately sobbed from page 160 to the end. I’m not going to spoil it, but it’s the most heartwrenching book I’ve read in a long, long time. Buy this book. I’m not even kidding. I had been looking for it for weeks and I finally found it at The Strand, but you can get it on Amazon here.

4. La Summa

So this is a hole-in-the-wall restaurant in the North End of Boston. I went to school at BU for a second there, and I’m not even sure how I discovered this restaurant, but I HAVE to go there every time I go to Boston. Everything on the menu is absolutely incredible, and it’s not super expensive. It’s a block away from both Mike’s and Modern Pastry, so you can get dinner before satisfying your cannoli fix.

5. Public Libraries

Of course these are on the list, but just listen for a sec. Free bathrooms. A place to charge your phone. And since I was pretty much on my own during the days while my friends were at work/class, it was a nice way to decompress without spending any money. I’m a huge budget traveler – especially since I have, like, no money – and this is one of my biggest travel hacks. Plus, I love seeing gorgeous libraries, so I always have time to stop for a look.

So, that’s my roadtrip roundup. I like being a transient human being – and we’re going to talk about this more in my grad school post 😉 – so this was a fun time all around.

And now I’m going to focus on watching Mulan with my roommate, so I’m signing off. Read A Short History and let me know what y’all think. Oh, and if you haven’t seen it, The Last Jedi has some of the best villainous development I’ve seen on-screen lately, so I 10/10 recommend that, too. I’ll save my Star Wars rambling for another post.

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On Simplification and Signing With My Agent

Last fall, I started running. It wasn’t like I wanted to change my life forever. I just wanted to de-stress in a healthy way, and I was always curious about running. I’d been a horrible runner for as long as I could remember but so many of my friends made it look easy. So I gave it a try. And to motivate myself, I registered to run a half marathon.

So I trained for months and completed the half marathon in my goal time.

But that’s a simplification, isn’t it? The process wasn’t, “I decided to run, I signed up for a half marathon, I ran it.” It was this: I trained for weeks and weeks on end. I gave up more than I succeeded. I was lonely and frustrated when I ran by myself, and I was too intimidated to run with other people. I ended up doing the half with my amazing mother, who had also never run a half marathon before, and it was a small miracle that we finished. And the only reason we finished in our goal time was because I was incredibly realistic when setting our goal time.

But what does that have to do with publishing?

Well, I am incredibly ecstatic to say that I got the call on Friday. I am now represented by Dr. Uwe Stender at TriadaUS, and I couldn’t be happier!

And I could tell it like this: I wrote a book, I edited the book, I queried, and I got an agent. But that barely covers half of the experience.

So here’s the real story: It took me a few months to write the book, and even then, I had something that just wasn’t working. Even though I had this shiny thing that had a beginning and an end and seemed to contain a solid plot, I was told that it had fatal flaws. Uwe is actually the one who pointed out most of these problems. He was a professor of mine and I knew he was an agent, so I went to him seeking his advice.

So I went back and spent three months revising it into something that I was proud to call my own. It was frustrating and exhausting and I wanted to cry half the time or burn it because there was no way that I could pull this manuscript off, but I finished it. And then I read it and found that it was actually decent.

I cried over this manuscript. I dreamt about this manuscript. I drove four hours to see my best friend because all I could think about was this manuscript and I needed someone else’s advice, in person. And then, when it was finished and polished, I started querying.

And to my surprise, people requested it. Some agents rejected it, of course, but some actually wanted to read it, and I couldn’t believe it. All of my hard work was paying off. So I went back to the agent who suggested all of the revisions in the first place and asked if he would like to see it again. And he did. And now he’s my agent!

And here we are. There are about a million things to do before this book is anything more than a Word document. Still, I am thrilled to be represented by someone who doesn’t just believe in this story, but in me as a writer. I’m not sure exactly what will happen with this manuscript moving forward, but I truly believe that it couldn’t be in better hands.

So I’ll leave you with one last simplification: Writing a book is not a sprint, it’s a marathon. As someone who has rushed both the writing process and the running process, I can say from experience that the best thing to do is to take your time. As my dad says, never put time limits on your dreams.

 

On NaNoWriMo

It’s my favorite time of year: National Novel Writing Month! For those of you who don’t know, NaNoWriMo is an annual writing even that happens during the month of November. The goal is to write 50,000 words in a month. It is a great time to focus less on editing and more on writing.

NaNo and I go wayyyyy back. I did my first NaNo in 2009, which, looking back, is kind of crazy. In November 2009, I was thirteen. I was in eighth grade.

This is going to turn more into a nostalgic post than anything else. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. Did anyone else have to do those questionnaire things in preschool and kindergarten, where you wrote down what you wanted to be when you grew up? I always wrote that I wanted to be an author (or a Jedi). I’ve loved writing as long as I can remember.

But back to NaNo. Before NaNo, I was just a kid with a computer and a dream. I didn’t have any direction. After I joined NaNo, I had access to all of the forums, which was the first time I was able to interact with other writers. I loved to browse through and see how supportive everyone was. Back then, I didn’t know anything about agents or the industry. It was just creating. I didn’t know how to edit anything and my ideas were kind of terrible, but I was doing something.

I miss that a lot, now that I have to write things for school, and not usually for my own enjoyment. November is the month that I can take off those shackles and just produce. I don’t have to think. I don’t have to make magic or worry about agents or think about whether or not something will sell. I just have to put words down. All of the magic happens in editing, really, but I can’t do any of that until I have a draft.

It’s not too late to start now. Check out the NaNo website and poke around the forums. You don’t have to write anything spectacular. The goal is to just sit down and write, which honestly is the hardest part sometimes.

 

On Fountain Pens

Wow wow wow, it looks like I’m back again. In the time I’ve been away, I’ve written 3 short stories, read 4 books, started 2 new manuscripts (I can’t ever just work on one project at a time), finished my first month of my last semester (!!!), started a new internship, and become obsessed with fountain pens. We’re only going to talk about that last point in this post.

If you weren’t already aware, I write a lot. Like a lot, a lot. I type most of my work but I always start out by handwriting scenes/character details/random junky things in the multiple journals that I always carry with me. During my handwriting binges, it isn’t uncommon for my wrist to cramp up. I was looking into solutions for this and I read somewhere that fountain pens put less stress on your hand. So I did some more research, and I bought my first pen.

WOW. It was like I transcended to a new level of writing nirvana.

I started with the Noodler’s Nib Creaper Flex, which is a very fussy, fiddly pen. I like it a lot because I can customize the ink flow and the line is fine enough that it doesn’t bother me. My handwriting is small and cramped, so this suits my style perfectly. My only problem with it is that if I don’t have it adjusted jussssttttt right, the ink sometimes drips, which ruins whatever I’m writing on. It’s been a lot better since I figured out how to adjust it to my liking.

I wasn’t going to buy any more pens just yet, but then Goulet Pens (phenomenal company, 10/10 recommend) was running a BOGO sale on Jinhao 159 pens. Yes, I ended up buying 2. Everything is fine. I have no restraint.

My Jinhaos are a lot heavier and thicker than the Noodler’s. Both are good, cheap starter pens. The Jinhao nib is medium, though, so the line isn’t nearly as fine. I ended up getting an extra fine Goulet nib for one of the Jinhao’s, since I liked the weight of the pen itself but not the thickness of the line. The combination is perfect for my writing style. I also bought a bunch of sample inks, so all 3 of my pens have different colors in them.

And that’s the story of how I joined the dark side. Has anyone else switched to fountain pens? What kind of pens do you recommend? I’m still very new to them, so I’d love to hear your recommendations!

On 5 Things I’m Obsessed With This Summer

I don’t know about you guys, but summer absolutely flew by for me. I start school again in a couple of weeks, which is even scarier since it’s my last semester of college (eek!). It’s been a good summer of writing, working, and developing for a few reasons. It’s the first extended period of time that I’ve lived by myself and worked the entire time, so that’s fun. Over the last few months, I’ve discovered quite a few random things that I can’t live without.

  1. Absolute Write forums

Guys. GUYS. If you’re a writer, I 100/10 recommend checking out this forum. I love the NaNoWriMo community, but that’s only super active during the fall. This forum is a community for writers. Everyone that I’ve talked to on it is kind and respectful. I’ve found a handful of beta readers through the forum as well, and I’ve beta read for over a dozen users there. It’s just an incredible community of talented writers and there is so much good advice available.

2. The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater

Yeah, this one isn’t surprising at all. I’ve talked about it multiple times on here. If you haven’t read these books, you have to. The series follows a group of wealthy, troubled Southern boys and a feisty teenage girl on their quest to discover a Welsh king. That’s a horrible summary, tbh. I took a few folktale classes throughout my college career and I’ve heard more than enough “sleeping giant” tales, as they’re called, so this was an incredibly fresh take on old legends.

3. Glossier Boy Brow

I’m busy and I don’t have time/energy to put on makeup in the morning. This is a great, low-cost product that makes me feel instantly put-together. I don’t know about you, but I like having nice eyebrows that don’t look overdone. This is usually the only product I use and I always feel so much better.

4. Penny Dreadful

If you love Victorian gothic literature, you’re going to love this series. It ties together Frankenstein, The Picture of Dorian Gray, Strange Case of  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and Dracula. It’s gritty and dark and beautifully done. The show is only three seasons, so it shouldn’t take longer than a few weeks to finish if you’re binge watching. It’s on Netflix, and I think it’s also available on Showtime.

5. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

We need to talk about Jenny Han. Actually, I’ve already talked a lot about Jenny Han, but we still have to. They’re making TATBILB into a movie, and it looks INCREDIBLE. I’ve shamelessly followed the stars on insta, and the pictures from the movie make my little heart flutter. Seriously, read this book before it hits theaters and everyone is trying to get their hands on it. The second book in the series is also beautiful. The third fell a tiny bit flat for me, but overall, it’s a cute way to wrap up the series.

So anyway, those were some of my best summer discoveries. Did you stumble upon anything you can’t live without this summer? Tell me about it! Especially if it’s a book. I’m always looking for book recommendations.

 

 

On Anniversaries and Going Abroad

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Well, I’ve taken quite the little hiatus, haven’t I? I was watching a makeup tutorial earlier today and the person was talking about bloggers/YouTubers apologizing for taking so long in between posts. The gist of it was that nobody is hugging their computer screens, waiting for an update, and I’m about 99% certain that that’s the case with all of you. I hope that this post comes as a nice little surprise in your afternoon.

I also got the notification that yesterday was this blog’s second birthday. Yay! Two years of subpar blogging under my belt! I guess that’s something to be proud of, amiright?

So when I last talked to y’all, I was about to leave for Europe. The trip was amazing. We went to Kotor, Montenegro; Corfu, Mykonos, and Santorini, Greece; Dubrovnik, Croatia; and Venice, Italy. It was unreal. I can’t believe places this pretty even exist in real life.

There was a lot more hiking in this trip than anticipated. For Kotor, we took a trail up to the city fortress, which was a crazy-long hike in the heat. The view was worth it. You could see the entire city and the coast and it was just incredible. The old city itself wasn’t big at all, but not in a bad way. And the people there were just so nice. If I could go anywhere else again, I’d probably pick Kotor (or Dubrovnik, but we’ll get there).

We mostly did Corfu as a shopping day, so I won’t bore you with the details. Interestingly, Santorini was a letdown. I was most excited to go there out of all of the destinations since that’s the one you hear about the most. At least, that’s the one I’d heard the most about. The island itself was… depressing, probably due to the recent economic struggles with Greece. Still a beautiful place, of course, but it was sad to see all of the abandoned houses over the island. Mykonos was my favorite destination in Greece, even though it involved more hiking. My family just has this tendency to search for the highest ground possible in every location we visit. We also went beachin’ in Mykonos, which I loved.

Dubrovnik was seriously everything I dreamed of and more. Also, there was a wine tour, so that was cool. The Old City is where they film the King’s Landing scenes in Game of Thrones, and I’m such a GoT geek. I was nerding out the entire time we were there. Croatia also still has its own money, so I just happen to have 50 kuna hanging out in my wallet (it’s like 8 bucks).

We rounded out the trip by spending a few days in Venice. Our apartment there was GORGEOUS. We used booking.com and it was like $300 for the three nights we stayed, which we split between the four of us. Seriously, it was so much better than a hotel. Venice is an interesting city. I liked the lack of cars, but it was nearly impossible to get anywhere since we didn’t know where we were going and there’s no way to go in straight lines with the canals. I’d probably visit there again, but only with someone who knew the city better than I did.

All in all, it was a successful trip. Now we’re back to the grind and I’ll hopefully have more useful things to say.

 

On Quotes and What I’ve Been Reading

The 100 book summer is progressing nicely, which means I’ve read so many books that have ABSOLUTELY SHATTERED ME. I’m seriously obsessed with Maggie Stiefvater and Jenny Han at this point. I read The Raven Boys earlier this summer and it was incredible, and I’ve had The Scorpio Races living on my shelf for about a year now. It took me a while to get through the first 150 pages, but after that, ooh boy. I read the rest in a day. I was a bit put off by the slow start but then again, I think that’s something that Stiefvater does incredibly well. She builds the world in such a way that you don’t realize how much information she’s given you, but when the plot kicks into high gear, you know everything you need to know about the setting and characters in such amazing depth that there’s no need to slow down for world building. Once I finished The Scorpio Races, I went back to The Raven Boys and realized that the beginning of that one is on the slow side, too, but it doesn’t feel that way because of the sheer amount of material afterwards. If you haven’t picked up TRB or TSR or you’ve stopped because they felt slow, I’m begging you, for the sake of the salivating reader within me, to give them a try.

I wasn’t planning on going on literary rants today, but since I’m on a roll, we have to take a moment to talk about Jenny Han. I already talked about The Summer I Turned Pretty, but I just read To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before and P.S. I Still Love You (still waiting for the library to have Always and Forever, Lara Jean) and oh my God, I felt all the things. The voice is literally perfect. Lara Jean is so much like I was in high school (minus the attractive boys) that it feels like deja vu. I’m the quiet, meek, baking girl that’s also a ridiculous hopeless romantic. It was a bit like reading my own thoughts, which was creepy but cool. Jenny Han just gets it, you know?

Okay. Now that we’ve covered that, let’s move on to what I was actually going to talk about. I brought up my lists of goals and dreams in “On Introspection,” but I don’t think I talked about the notebook they’re housed in. I tried to get into bullet journeling but it didn’t work, so I ended up with this Gansey-like journal/planner/mood-board hybrid that’s vaguely ridiculous.

When I’m reading, there are certain sentences that just make me stop, go back, and reread. You know the sentences I’m talking about. I try to recreate that feeling when I’m writing. I feel like most of my writing time is spent looking for The Sentence. That’s the way I like to think of writing: you’re trying to build up to these statements that are like, yes. This is it. This is everything that I’ve been thinking, that this character feels, and they just punch you in the gut.

I’d like to share some of my favorite sentences with you. Mind you, these are from January-now, and it’s not an all-inclusive list, but I liked them enough to write them down in my journal thing.

“I shall die by the light of the stars.” – Victor Hugo, Les Miserables

“…and their eyes met with that peculiar meeting which is never arrived at by effort, but seems like a sudden divine clearance of haze.” – George Eliot, Middlemarch

“When you travel alone, you are free to be unpredictable.” – Siobhan Vivian, Not That Kind of Girl

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.” – Neil Gaiman (not from a book, but I just need to include this quote)

“The world doesn’t care who wins. It’ll go on spinning no matter how many people are slaughtered tomorrow. No matter if you and I are slaughtered. I almost wish it wouldn’t if we aren’t allowed to go on spinning with it.” – Kristin Cashore, Fire (Side note – I’m going to do a separate post about this book alone, because it’s my favorite)

Oh, thought Blue, so this is what I can’t have.
Not being able to kiss whoever she fell in love with didn’t feel so different from not having a cell phone when everyone else at school did. It didn’t feel very different from knowing she wasn’t going to be studying ecology abroad for college, or going abroad period. It didn’t feel very different from knowing that Cabeswater was going to be the only extraordinary thing about her life.
Which was to say that it was unbearable, but she had to bear it anyway.” – Maggie Stiefvater, The Dream Thieves

I have one from P.S. I Still Love You, but it’s a spoiler, so I’m not going to include it. This is just a minuscule selection from, like, pages of words, but yeah. Do you all have any quotes that just… ugh. Shatter your heart? Let me know!

Also, in case you’re keeping up, this is what else I’ve read this summer:
Fire by Kristin Cashore
The Last Boy And Girl in the World by Siobhan Vivian
The Summer I Turned Pretty by Jenny Han
It’s Not Summer Without You by Jenny Han
We’ll Always Have Summer by Jenny Han
You Know Me Well by David Levithan and Nancy LaCour
To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
P.S. I Still Love You by Jenny Han
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Congratulations if you made it to the end of this post! I’ll try to write again this week, but I’m leaving for Greece on Saturday so I’ll be taking a small break. Expect a full write-up when I return.