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.

On Best Friends

I’m still rolling with my 100 book summer, and this week, I read a series that I’ve been wanting to get my hands on forever. Seriously. It’s the Summer series by Jenny Han (The Summer I Turned Pretty, It’s Not Summer Without You, We’ll Always Have Summer) and I think I’ve wanted to read them since I was like fifteen, but I never had the time. I wasn’t disappointed.

One thing that really stuck out to me about this series was the main character’s mother’s relationship with her best friend. If you haven’t read the book, the MC, Belly, spends every summer at a beach house with her mom (Laurel), brother, her mom’s best friend (Susannah), and her two boys. Obviously, Laurel and Susannah are middle-aged women, and that isn’t really the focal of YA lit. Their relationship was just so incredible. I love the depth the two of them have.

Reading about Laurel and Susannah made me think of my own best friend. She just got home from a semester in London, and it’s legitimately the longest I’ve gone without seeing her since kindergarten. It’s not like we live in the same town anymore, either. We go to different schools. We’re friends with different people. All my life, I wanted a relationship like this, to have someone who I could tell anything to, someone who I knew would be there forever. I don’t know when we became this way, but it happened right under my nose. I just remember when we graduated high school and we marathoned Harry Potter. After the last movie, B and I laid on the floor crying, because Harry Potter was something we grew up with and it was over, and high school was over. Becoming an adult was hard.

But I did it with B by my side.

I think when you find your person, you don’t realize it at first. How could you? It wasn’t like I sat down in kindergarten and looked at B and thought, Yes. This is my friendship soulmate. This is the person that’s going to be my other half for the rest of my life. That didn’t happen in middle or high school, either. Eventually, she just eroded the places in my heart and carved herself a little permanent spot.

Sorry for the sappiness, but that book got to me. Now all I need is for our kids to get married, amiright?

On Stubbornness

Side note before I begin – doesn’t “stubbornness” look like it just has too many letters? I use Grammarly so I know it’s spelled correctly right there, but it looks strange to me. Oh well.

Anyways. I swear I don’t have voices in my head or anything like that, but when I’m writing, I tend to listen to what the characters have to say. There’s usually a better story if I work that way. Sometimes I ignore them, because I am The Writer and I think I know better, and then it turns out that I don’t.

This happened to me fairly recently. My latest project ended in a fairly melancholic but understandable way. I have this thing where I absolutely refuse to break the rules I’ve set up in a novel, so I thought that this was the only way to end the story. It went through about five or six beta readers and all of them liked the ending. I also sent it to one of my good friends, who happens to be my best/favorite critic, but she was busy and didn’t get around to reading it until recently.

She texted me as soon as she finished and said that she was “immensely frustrated” with the ending. Beta readers are great, but I know that this particular friend would not sugarcoat her opinion if she didn’t think something was working.

Meanwhile, throughout all of this, my characters had been moving around shiftily in the back of my head, poking my brain. They didn’t really like the ending either, but what could I do? I was The Writer. That was The Ending.

My friend’s critique kept gnawing at me. I knew she was right. Like I said, I don’t break my own rules to get characters out of situations, but there’s also that quote that as a writer, you make a contract with the reader. I read through the draft again and tried to figure out what that contract was, and so many things jumped out at me. I had somehow foreshadowed an ending that didn’t happen. I knew it. The characters knew it. My friend knew it. But I was too stubborn to admit that I had messed up, that things shouldn’t have ended the way I wanted them to.

So this week, I went back and did a rewrite after not touching the book for a while. I changed the ending. And it looks like I’m writing a sequel.

I guess the moral of this is all is fair in love and words. And listen to your characters. They might have something important to say.

On Thoughts, Conferences, and Clothing

This is going to be one of those posts where I just ramble, so I’m sorry if you came here hoping to find something enlightening.

I’m attending my first ever writing conference this weekend and I’m excited/terrified/anxious/pumped for it. I’m pitching to an agent and an editor while I’m there, which honestly sounds kind of terrifying. It’s my first time pitching in person to someone that I don’t know so that’ll be fun. I’m reading so many articles and watching videos about how to do it right and I’m just a bundle of nerves.

I also ordered my first round of business cards because I’m apparently a real adult now and that’s something that I should have. Fingers crossed that those get here on time…

It’s too bad that there’s not a guidebook that tells you how to dress for these things, either. My closet is separated into two classifications: hippy-manic-artist and very-super-duper-businessy. There’s no in-between, which is what I need for the conference. I had to go shopping for new stuff and every time I bought something, I just had to keep whispering to myself, “It’s fine. It’s okay. You’re investing in your future.” Here’s hoping that it all pays off.

Well, those are my ranty thoughts for the day. Thank you for joining.

On My 100 Book Summer: Week 1

I haven’t been able to read very much during the school year, but I’ve still managed to collect a ton of books. Right now, there are 55 books in my room at school that I haven’t read, which is an insane number. I’m trying to tackle those and 45 more. Reading is an important part of writing, so I’m getting back down to the basics. I’m trying to do a blend of poetry, fiction, and some non-fiction. I’m also reading a lot of YA that came out over the last few years, just to see what the market has been up to. This is what I read during Week 1 (and a few days before)!

  • Don’t Cry by Mary Gaitskill
  • The Divine Salt by Peter Blair
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian
  • The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater
  • Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater
  • The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater

My favorite from this round was definitely The Raven Cycle. The writing is beautiful and the characters are excellent. I have some more extensive thoughts on the structure of the series but I’m not going to bore you will all of the details. I’m always more drawn to characters than plot, and this series had both. Plus, it’s being made into a TV show, which will be interesting. I can’t wait to see what happens with that. I also really enjoyed Not That Kind of Girl. I think the voice was different than a lot of other YA contemp stories. The Divine Salt is a poetry collection, and it was poignant and well-written. This week, I’m taking on an Irish novel, more YA, and poetry!

On Introspection

Writing a book takes a lot out of you. I like to think of it like I have a mental reservoir of words somewhere, and writing a book uses that reservoir. It’s exhausting and mentally draining and that’s amplified by the fact that I was also finishing up my semester while writing. Querying is an emotionally stressful process. In the midst of all of this, I think it is so important to take some time for myself and do a few projects before starting on a new book.

I already have the idea for the book and part of me is itching to write it but I know that it’s the most ambitious project I’ve taken on, and I need to give my mind some time to rest. So I’ve been working on my 100 Book Summer project (I read 7, I’ll post about them in the next few days) and working in general, and doing a few things around my apartment. But I’m also taking some time to re-evaluate my goals. This is something I do every six months or so, and I think it’s a nice system to have.

So I have a planner and in January, I wrote down my goals for the year, and a few long-term goals that I’m working to achieve. So far, I’ve crossed out half of my yearly goals (publish a poem, publish a story, write a book, make Dean’s List, etc.) and I’m making decent progress towards my life goals. I don’t want to keep working on a goal that I no longer want, though, so I take this time to do some soul-searching and see how my wants have changed since the last time I thought about them. Then I write these down, and I usually write myself a letter saying who I am, what I like, what I love, and what I want. I keep these letters in my email.

It’s so great to have a physical record of everything I’m trying to achieve and what kind of person I am when I’m working towards them. It’s also good reinforcement that it’s okay to fail or abandon certain dreams. Sometimes they’re not your dreams anymore and there is nothing wrong with that. And it’s amazing to look back at my goals from, say, freshman year and see how much I have changed over the years – and how much I’ve accomplished. It really lightens the feelings of failure that come with being a college student in the twenty-first century.

I hope this inspires all of you to go write down your goals! You’re more likely to achieve them if you have them on paper, I’ve heard, and putting things on paper is apparently one of my favorite things.

On Submitting Short Fiction

I think I’ve talked about this before (maybe not?) but I’m an assistant editor for a literary journal. Over the last few months, I’ve read roughly 200 stories. This is my first gig editing/selecting short fiction, so I’m happy to share some things I’ve learned with you!

  1. Don’t get discouraged if you get rejected.

I cannot stress this enough. Our submissions opened on March 1 and I am on a staff with nine other fiction editors, where we each get assigned anywhere from 12 to 25 stories a week. Sometimes we’re doubled up, sometimes we’re not. Basically, because of the volume of submissions, if I don’t like a piece by the end of the first two pages, I’m probably going to pass on it. A lot of stories are passed on. To be honest, I’m really only supposed to approve five to ten stories out of each hundred to move forward, so we have to be incredibly selective. Sometimes, it’s nothing against the writing itself, but the piece might not fit our mission statement. For instance, if I read something told from the perspective of a younger kid or something that’s obviously religious, I’m going to pass. It just doesn’t fit with what we publish. I can’t say this enough, but go back and see what the journal has published before to see if your work fits. This is actually important.

2. Please, for the love of God, follow the submissions guidelines.

We specify that the submissions should be blind. I cannot tell you how many submissions have names on them. My editor is chill and doesn’t check or tell us to downvote those who have identifying information, but it always makes me roll my eyes a bit. If a journal specifies that submissions should be laid out a certain way, there’s probably a reason. Please please please read the guidelines before submitting. And please do not submit something in Courier font with 2-inch margins (why does anything need 2-inch margins??).

3. Grammar is so important.

There have been stories that I connected with but I ultimately passed on because they just weren’t well-edited. Take the time to make sure you’re presenting the best possible story that you can. You’re making yourself vulnerable by giving me this little piece of your soul – don’t you want it to be as close to flawless as possible? I’m actually insane, so seeing a lot of typos in a piece instantly makes me dislike it. Sometimes if it’s well-reviewed by other editors, I’ll read all the way through, but I generally don’t advance those pieces myself. Take the time to have a friend look over your work for you before submitting.

4. Submit to multiple places.

This probably sounds like it goes against my mission statement point, but editing has taught me how ridiculously difficult it is to publish a short story. Not going to lie, it’s a confidence boost after getting so many rejections myself. You don’t suck – there are just a lot of writers out there. Submit often. Have a working portfolio on rotation so that as soon as you get a rejection, you can edit if needed and fire another one out. I strongly recommend subscribing to the CRWROPPS-B list (Google it) to find out about submissions opportunities year-round.

5. Have confidence.

If you don’t believe in your writing, readers won’t, either. Honestly, this is the most important lesson I’ve learned both through writing and editing. Believe. In. Yourself. Make it happen. Set some goals and go out and crush them. Publish all the things. You can do it.