Saturday, January 14, 2017

Creativity and Resolutions

Hi everyone! My name is Jennifer Galasso. I'm a YA writer and fantasy artist/illustrator who pens mostly Gothic and horror fiction with a touch of magic and the supernatural. I live in Rhode Island with my husband, Richard, and fourteen-year-old daughter, Samantha, and am SO excited to be a new blog contributor in 2017. What a way to start the year!

Most of us will agree, 2016 was a difficult year for many reasons. Despite the horrors of the previous twelve months, most try to stay optimistic and set goals to make improvements personally and professionally. Some common resolutions: eat healthier, write two novels, get more sleep, start a workout routine, sell a million books and leave the crappy day job, etc.

One of my resolutions this year was to become more involved in a writing community. As most writers know, art in any formespecially writingcan be very isolating. I tend to shut myself away just to get work done. But it’s also important to interact, especially with other writers. Rejection is a big part of the craft and it helps to have support and people who understand your pain who are more than happy to applaud your victories, and who you can cheer on through career highs and lows, as well.

Within a couple days of making my resolution, I saw Sharon’s post about becoming a YAtopia blog contributor on my Twitter feed. Oddly enough, I had just been thinking about Sharon and how I hadn’t seen many Twitter posts from her lately. Seeing her post that day seemed like divine intervention, fate, destiny … in a nutshell, meant to be.

Ironically, a few years ago I made a similar promise to break out of my hermit tendencies and get more active on Twitter. The first step was entering pitch contests, and Sharon was the host of one of the first ones I entered! She taught me that putting myself, and my work, out into the world wasn’t so scary and that there are MANY supportive people in the writing community. She was right and I have never forgotten her for that.

Even more than fate, the key, I think, is opening up to possibility, and in doing so many amazing opportunities arise. The same goes for creativity. A lot of people ask artists and writers where they get their inspiration and we all know what a hard question that is to answer. I don’t think it matters where we get inspiration, just that we open our minds to the possibility of becoming inspired. It’s like shutting off your cell phone—people may try to reach you, but you won’t get any of the calls! The same goes for creativity. Sometimes you have to shout at your muse to wake the heck up and then take whatever small idea you get and cultivate it into something … anything! (Even if it sucks.)

So again, thanks to Sharon who, like my first pitch contest, gave me this amazing opportunity, and thank you to all who helped build YAtopia into a fantastic blog and awesome writer’s communityI’m so excited to be here! Here’s to 2017 being a year to inspire and grow and cheers to resolutions—hoping you achieve ALL your dreams and goals! 


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

What is a New Beginning?

There are many ways people can describe a New Beginning. Some think of it as shrugging off the past and starting completely afresh. Some think of it as totting up their information from the year before and finding a new point to build off it. Others look at new ways to tackle writing and life problems - they experiment and try new things. For me, New Beginnings are all of those things.

As writers, I believe we can sometimes fall into the trap of getting to a New Beginning with a promise of writing more, harder, querying until our fingers bleed, getting our blood pumping. And while those are all great things, I think that some things are sadly left behind. One of those is reading. We can forget to read for the pure pleasure of the written word, so focused on the achievements we want in our own writing. Forgetting to sit down and read something that's not for editing and not for studying can actually make our New Beginning not so new after all.

I also believe that many of use forget about our writer's life. I'm not just talking about our new goals or our shiny new desk space. These are certainly awesome parts of our writer's life, and I wouldn't give them up for the work (well, I could negotiate on the desk page if I really needed to). What I'm talking about is diving into the rest of our life. Have we put into our New Beginnings something to try outside of writing our book? What about a new class? Pottery? Dancing? Wine tasting? Something totally unrelated to your book. Ah, but Fiona, it's not that easy. I don't have the time for that. Agreed, time can be hard to find. But how about all that time you waste on the internet, chatting on social media. How about that time when your kids are doing their homework without you for once? How about that commute to work - audio book if you need to on a new hobby or interest. At the moment, mine is learning more Greek. For me, to those who can, putting life into your writer's life is just as important as putting in the writer.

So there you have it. Those are my thoughts on New Beginnings, and I have many more that are my passions. Books I want to read just for fun this month - The Peculiar & The What Not, Cress & Winter, How to Hang a Witch - all of which sit on my bookshelf waiting for me. And there are a whole lot of books waiting on Amazon for me to order. And then there's the life I want to include into my writer's life - learning more Greek (an eternal process!), improving my horse riding, swimming in the summer in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea, planning my wedding, travelling to Rome, trying another creative art...will I achieve all of these? Maybe, maybe not, but I'm going to try my damn best to!

What are you going to read? What are you going to live? What will be your New Beginning in your writer's life?

Friday, January 6, 2017

A New Year for Agentopia

I’m very excited to be taking up the role of Agentopia Coordinator and to bring your questions to some fantastic agents.

So you know a little about the person behind the interviews, let me introduce myself. I’m in my final year of university and currently run and edit the pro-feminist magazine ARTEMIS. Despite my passion for running the magazine, YA books have always been my first love and I can’t imagine that’s going to change no matter what age I am. I was convinced I would be an author growing up but recently realised my passion lies in the other side of publishing and am now pursuing a career as a literary agent.

For me, stories have always been about the characters and their relationships with those around them. Whether fantasy or contemporary, books with strong heroines and believable romances never fail to make me squeal and I’ve been known have to take a five minute break from books that were just too good. Some of my all-time favourite books are Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black and anything by Cassandra Clare.

To get us started I’d love to know what questions you’d most like answered by literary agents, so please do answer the poll and feel free to add your own questions in the comments section.

I hope you enjoy the first interview of the year which will be posted in February!

What questions would you like answered by agents?

What is currently on your wish list?
What's a personal turn-off in a query which is guaranteed to get the author rejected?
What's the most important element of a story which makes you want to represent it?
Do you have a ‘maybe’ pile, or is it a quick decision between requesting or passing on a manuscript
If a writer can see they have been skipped on Querytracker, does this mean they are on your 'maybe pile'?
Are there any trends which you feel will soon be very popular in YA fiction?
Are there any current popular trends in YA fiction which you feel are becoming less popular?
Do you google authors and if yes, what are you looking for?
How long does it take to respond to queries?
Please Specify:

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Finding Focus

Happy New Year everyone!
I can still say that, right?
I mean, we’re just four days in.

2017 has me joining YAtopia and I couldn’t be more excited about it! But first? An introduction! Hailing from the great state of Texas (Go Cowboys), my name is Destiny Cole and I truly love chips and queso more than I love most humans.

I’m a YA writer who focuses on thrillers and mysteries, but everything I write tends to have a dark slant. I am without a doubt one of those writers who writes the questions I’m trying to understand. And sometimes those questions make people (myself included) a little uncomfortable. But I think that’s important. We need to come face to face with our own bias/ideologies sometimes to know what they truly are.

My writing is represented by my incredible literary agent, Kirsten Carleton of Prospect Agency. She is a tireless advocate and one of the best editors I’ve ever had the privilege of working with. I hope to be able to share some good news with you soon about books being published, but for now, I’m still on the journey!

When I’m not on my laptop writing fiction, I’m still on my laptop writing. I work in digital marketing and social media so there are very few days that I don’t spend staring at a computer screen, coming up with catchy phrases, writing the same copy 9 different ways, or creating marketing plans… and yes I have carpal tunnel and it SUCKS. 

So, that’s me! Hi everyone! *waves*

But since this is indeed the new year, I thought it might be good to share something that I’ve been learning over the last few months. It can be summed up in one word: focus.

Or rather, what I’ve realized is my LACK of focus.

I spent the last 6 months of the year getting pulled in a hundred different directions and I said yes to all of them. It’s true that some of them were helpful to my day job, some were helpful to my writing career, some were great for my family… but many of them just took up my time and spread me too thin.

So, this year, as we stare at a fresh new calendar, I hope you’ll join me in listing out your priorities and then being brave enough to say no if you’re given an opportunity that doesn’t line up.

We can’t get to where we’re going if we’re constantly stopping.

Here’s to a focused 2017.

Want to connect?
or follow me on Twitter or Instagram: @destinywrites

Monday, January 2, 2017

Changing Things Up

Welcome to 2017! 
I love beginnings. New days, new weeks, new months. Yes, I am someone who actually loves Mondays. On Monday, the week always holds possibility and the chance for something better than last week. I also love mornings for the same reason, and because of coffee. Mornings = Coffee, so how can they be bad?
And today is not only a Monday, it’s the first Monday of 2017. A new year, fresh and open to possibilities. A chance to change things up to meet goals.
Okay, I confess, I didn’t wait until the first of the year to change things. I started last Monday. I’m impatient like that. But since I made changes a week ago, I’m now an authority, so I can give advice.
The last couple of months, writing has been a struggle. Really, for the last year. I did complete a manuscript in 2016, but that happened because I took a week off from life and wrote like a fiend. Truthfully, I’ve found it increasingly difficult to work writing into my everyday life. My other responsibilities feel more important: homeschooling five children, feeding those same five children (even though they do a lot of the cooking, I still have to do the grocery shopping, some assisting, and fix a few meals), driving those children to activities, spending time with my husband, exercising. Yes, those responsibilities are all important, and I honestly enjoy them all too. (Except the tenth grocery store visit in a week. That I do not enjoy.) But I was giving these activities priority, which left me too tired to do the writing thing. I had the time to write, but not the mental energy. Sandwiching writing after homeschooling and exercising and before driving and feeding left me too drained. Those two to three hours became my downtime, NOT my writing time. So I decided something had to change.
A few years ago, I started making sure homeschooling happened first because it was the top priority, and for several years, that worked. Then that schedule stopped working. But because I had drilled into myself that I wasn’t motivated enough to succeed at homeschooling when it came second in my day, I took a really long time to address this problem and recognize that I needed to—and could—make a change. Not only that, but life had changed. My kids are older. Our school day isn’t filled with phonics and addition and crafts. I don’t need to be my freshest, most patient self because the subjects no longer try my patience (most days anyway). Writing can take the first of my day when I’m freshest and school the second half, when all I really need to do is check assignments, read, and ask questions.
So if you’re finding writing (or any other important task) not fitting into your life, here are a few tips to try changing things up.
  1. Reevaluate Those Things In the Past That Didn’t Work: So you tried once a month cooking five years ago to give you a couple more hours in the evenings to write, but you ended up eating out too often because you consistently forgot to thaw the meals. Or you attempted to write during your child’s music lessons but you were constantly distracted by the teacher’s teaching and couldn’t focus. Just because these things didn’t work before doesn’t mean they can’t work now. Maybe you can tweak the idea to fit your life better, such as once a week cooking, so you can prep ingredients but keep them thawed in the fridge, or write in the car during music lessons since your child is older now. Don’t continue rejecting an idea simply because you tried it once and failed. You’ve changed. Your life has changed. So try again.
  2. Think Outside the Box: For a while, I took a long nap in the afternoons. I got up in time to help with dinner, spend time with the family, and after the kids went to bed around 8ish, I wrote until midnight. Then I’d sleep until five-thirty, go to the gym, homeschool, and after lunch, nap again. It was like living two days every twenty-four hours. Day one was gym and homeschooling, Day two was family time and writing. And it worked. So try arranging your schedule unconventionally.
  3. Don’t Give Up Too Soon . . . : When implementing a change in your life, don’t quit before giving it a realistic chance. If you’re getting up an hour earlier to write first thing in the morning, and by day three the newness has worn off and there isn’t enough coffee in the world to wake you up, don’t give up on the experiment. Keep setting your alarm. Keep programming your coffee pot. Keep making the change.
  4. . . . But Don’t Be Stubborn About What Isn’t Working: If after a month of waking up early you’ve actually written LESS than before you tried writing in the mornings, reevaluate. Obviously, writing early in the day isn’t working. But maybe it’s only the writing muse that sleeps in while you actually find yourself awake and not hating the solitude of the quiet pre-life hours. If so, what could you do during that time that doesn’t require creative brain cells but would free up time later in the day when the words start flowing? 

Most of us are fitting writing into our lives around family and job and other obligations, and sometimes, the pieces stop fitting together. When that happens, don’t give up on a piece that isn’t fitting. Make a change instead. Try fitting those pieces together in a different way, build a new picture, and make a new beginning.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

2016 positives & 2017 wishlist (with a prize)!

I don't believe anyone has been immune from the craziness that was 2016. For me personally, there was a lot of good in the craziness, and I thought it would be nice to have a positive discussion when there was so much that sucked this year.

I went to Romantic Times, where I met Brenda Drake and fellow Pitch Wars mentors for the first time (which was also my first trip outside of Australia) and participated in the Pitch Wars Roadshow.

I had SHATTERED published with City Owl Press, which felt like an even bigger milestone for me than having book 1, DIVIDED, published. I became a bonafide published author in my eyes with the sequel entering the world. And it was my first ever in-person book launch for me for a novel.

I edited and published my first ever anthology, WORDS WITH HEART, which is a charity anthology.

I launched Literary Loveliest, a charity auction site with a literary focus. The first auction we did raised money for the victims of the Louisiana floods.

I also ran my first solo Pitch Wars Roadshow at Conflux.

Despite the bad in 2016, positives can be found. And I'm hoping 2017 will be even better. My 2017 wish list includes:

  • Finishing my new WIP
  • Finishing and publishing book 3 in the Open Heart series
  • Getting an agent
  • My Pitch Wars mentee, the amazing Roseanne Rivers, getting an agent
  • Having a fantabulous Pitch Madness Team in 2017 
  • Finding an amazing mentee for Pitch Wars 2017.
What's your 2017 goals? 

All comments go into the draw for eCopies of my books DIVIDED and SHATTERED, as well as a $10 Amazon gift voucher. Entries are open until 1 January. 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Guestopia: Rebecca Carpenter

Today, on Guestopia (yes, we've changed the date this month!), we are delighted to welcome author Rebecca Carpenter to YAtopia! Here's a little bit about Rebecca...

Rebecca Carpenter is a native of western Colorado. She is married with two grown children and four awesome grandchildren. She owns and runs a large childcare center where she shares her love for books. In her spare time, she enjoys reading, writing, and exploring the beautiful mountains of Colorado.

And let's commence with the interview!

Is this your first published book?

It’s the first one traditionally published. I self-published a memoir about my teen pregnancy in 2012 called, The Total Deconstruction of Chloe Wilson.

What’s it called?

Butterfly Bones

Which genre?

Contemporary soft science fiction. I use soft because it’s character driven with bits of sci-fi.

Which age group?

Young adult

Is it a series or standalone?

It’s the first in the Metamorphosis Series.

Are you an agented author?

No. I submitted to Lakewater Press, and they don’t require an agent.

Which publisher snapped up your book?

The amazing Lakewater Press.

How involved have you been in the whole publishing process of your book?

I have been involved in every choice made for Butterfly Bones. The team at Lakewater want it to be a positive experience and they do a great job of making the author feel important.

Do you have another job?

I own a run a large childcare center/preschool in Grand Junction, Colorado. A typical work week is at least 60 hours. And I work part time as a copy editor.

Did you receive many, if any, rejections prior?

I had made the mistake of entering contests early on, before the book was ready. So yes, I’ve had a few rejections. But they were right in doing so.

What created/what were you doing or watching when the first idea for this book sneaked up on you?

I was listening to a song called, ‘Caterpillar’ by The Cure. It sparked the initial story ideas, although in my mind it played out as a horror story about a girl becoming a powerful creature and taking revenge on the bullies from school.

How long did you plot/plan until you started writing it?

This project started so long ago, that I don’t’ remember how much time I spent. Generally I take about a couple of days to plot.

Once you started, did the story flow naturally or did you have to step in and wrestle it into submission?

I had to do a lot of wrestling, but it was the other way around. Bethany didn’t want to star in a horror novel. She had other things in mind. Once I listened to her wants and goals, the story flowed beautifully.

How many drafts did you write before you let someone read it? Who was that someone?

My critique group was reading it while I was writing it. I would finish a chapter and bring it to the next meeting.

Did you employ an editor/proofreader or did you have a critique partner/beta readers before you started querying?

I had critique and BETA readers. This was over a couple of years in the making.

Roughly how many drafts did it take before you sent the manuscript off into the real world?

I’m thinking it was four. Mainly the beginning kept changing.

How many drafts until it was published?

Two. Very. Painful. Drafts. But all worth it in the end.

Has the book changed dramatically since the first draft?

It’s the same storyline, but I needed to add more description as well as keep the theme of the story woven throughout each chapter.

Are there any parts you’d like to change even now?

Nothing I’d change. I love it the way it is.

What part of writing do you find the easiest?

Dialogue. It flows naturally for me. And humor.

What part do you find hardest?

Narrative. Keeping the right balance between what needs to be told, in the character’s voice, as well weaving in bits of backstory can be challenging.

Do you push through writing barriers or walk away?

I barrel through them. Don’t have time to let them stop me.

How many projects do you have on the go at the same time?

Too many. Usually three or four books at once, and sometimes a screenplay in there as well.

Do you think you’re born with the talent to write or do you think it can be learned?

Both. Some people have a gift. But anyone can learn the craft if they’re willing.

How many future novels do you have planned?

Two more at the time for the Metamorphosis Series. But many more to come.

Do you write other things, such as short stories, articles, blogs, etc?

I write picture books, middle grade, and screenplays.

What’s the highlight of being published so far?

Just seeing your sweat and blood out there in the world. And the great reviews. Those are awesome.

Give me one writing tip that works for you.

Just sit down and write. Let it flow. Edit later.

And one that doesn't.

I don’t know of anything that doesn’t work except for not writing.

Can you give us a clue or secret about the next book?

It’s told in multi POV.

What question have you always wanted to be asked but never have? What would the answer be?  
Maybe why I chose to write a young adult book. Especially since I work with children and spend my days immersed in picture books. I love all books. For all ages. But young adult has a special place in my heart. Figuring out who we are. First love. First kiss. First heartbreak. Relationships with peers. The whole self-esteem roller coaster that teens go through. Puberty. This time period intrigues me where there is so much inner and outer growth, so many irrational choices, experimentation, and a taste of adulthood. It’s a difficult transitionary time—one in which we all have the privilege of experiencing—good or bad. Or maybe it’s good and bad. And that’s what I want to write about—the crazy, scary, funny, sad, wonderful, horrible experiences of a teenager.

Fabulous! Thank you so much for joining us today, Rebecca. Lakewater Press are currently offering a pretty awesome contest if you purchase a copy of Butterfly Bones in December. Send them proof of purchase and they'll enter you in the draw to win a Kindle! Wow! Here are a few links that might help!
Barnes & Noble

And if you want to follow Rebecca, these links might help too!