Quick update: DFWcon and class notes

DFWConOver the weekend, I sent my PowerPoint presentation, notes and handouts from the DFW Writers’ Conference‘s “Art of the Interview” class to those who’d requested them. If I forgot to include you on that email (sorry!) or if you missed my class and would like notes, let me know.

Also, I’m now contributing to the DFWcon website, so you can find my posts there throughout the year. I’ll be writing about…well, writing…as well as the conference, querying, publishing and maybe even cats. (OK, I lied. I probably won’t be writing about cats.)

My first post will be about an exciting DFWcon success story from the 2013 conference. I’m talking to the agent and newly signed writer and will share their story soon. It’s a unique one — the agent actually offered representation during the writer’s pitch session — so be sure to check it out!

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend, everyone!

Photo: courtesy of DFWcon

Twitterbloc’s first writers’ retreat

485918_10101349782382207_992160150_nAt this time last week, I was at the beach with a group of incredibly talented writers, cranking out words, brainstorming story ideas and eating an impressive amount of pad thai and curry. (I was also fighting off a serious cold aka “the death rattle,” but I’ll save that story for another time.)

The very first Twitterbloc Writers’ Retreat, which we named ILM13 because we held it in Wilmington, N.C., was four days of writing bliss. I got to spend time with some of my favorite people in the world, and I wrote thousands of words in two different manuscripts.

Yes, two. You see, I had a bit of an affair with New WIP. I hated to cheat on WL, but New WIP was looking mighty fine at the beach and I just gave in to temptation. Luckily, WL forgave me and I’m back on track with revisions now.

ILM13 was exactly what I needed to remind me why I love writing and re-inspire me about the project I’ve been slugging through. At one point, I declared WL on hold while I started New WIP, and one of my crit partners sat down next to me and said “Well, if you’re not going to finish WL yet, can you tell me how it ends?” I agreed and ended up laying out my entire plot before her, and I saw her excitement about the story and it reminded me why I wanted to write WL in the first place. Thirty minutes later, New WIP was on hold and I was back to writing WL.

733855_10101349782621727_1320906909_nThis is what crit partners are for. I’m SO lucky to have such amazing people in my life.

In addition to morning walks on the beach, daily critique sessions and thousands and thousands of words written among us, we also had dinner (not Thai food this time) with author Rebecca Petruck. I met Rebecca at Yallfest last year and was thrilled when she agreed to meet with us and answer the millions of questions we hurled at her about writing and publishing.

71942_10101349782477017_2135792573_nRebecca’s debut novel, “A Weird Kind of Normal” will be released by Abrams/Amulet next spring, so she took us through her journey to publication — from writing and querying to submissions and signing her contract. Hearing about the details of her contract and her editing process was absolutely fascinating to those of us on the outside, and she gave us each such great advice. Talking to her about agents and querying was especially helpful to me, and I feel a whole lot more confident about the process now.

735220_10101349782566837_1322178608_nClearly, I’m still glowing from my experience at ILM13. I’m re-commited to my story and I’m excited about it again. Plus, I have a whole new book under way (Oh, New WIP. You temptress, you!). In short, a writers’ retreat was exactly what I needed.

Thinking of planning your own writers’ retreat? Here are some tips:

1. Get someone organized and awesome like Deb to handle all the difficult stuff like booking the perfect beach condo, negotiating security deposits, etc. (If you have a Deb in your group, count yourself lucky!)

2. Set up committees to spread the work around and get everyone involved. We had people in charge of food and menus, scheduling, and transportation, and we set up several Google Hangouts so we could talk through the finer details like dietary restrictions, airport rides and who was bringing the blender. (We love to blend!)

3. Make a schedule. When we all get together, it’s easy to wile away hours catching up and talking about books and cute fictional boys, so we had a schedule to keep us (mostly) on track. If you’d like to see the rough schedule I made for ILM13, I’ve pasted it below.

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Dark Days Tour: New books, fried Oreos and chapter 62

bookI woke up this morning with one thought running through my mind: I must read chapter 62 of “Unravel Me.”

If you’ve seen Tahereh Mafi’s spoiler video, which I’ve embedded below, then you already have an idea of what happens in this chapter. And if you haven’t heard the final sentence she utters at the end of the video, then you might have at least seen all the tweets and book reviews about how *hot* this chapter is.

Here’s how Erin Callahan of Kirkus put it:

Swoonworthy Scale: The Chart Has Exploded
Bonus Factors: 50 Shades

Wait, wait, I should clarify. This book is NOT like “50 Shades of Grey.” Because this book is actually hot. If “50 Shades of Grey” is the book for ladies who think that sex is a little frightening, then this book is for ladies who think sex is awesome, and who are going to call up their boyfriend, girlfriend, significant other or total stranger immediately after reading a couple of the more steamy scenes.

If this doesn’t make you want to read “Unravel Me,” then at least check it out for the beautiful prose. (Also, what is wrong with you?)

mainDark Days Tour
Last night I attended the Dark Days tour at Little Shop of Stories and heard Tahereh Mafi, Veronica Rossi, Brodi Ashton and Cynthia Hand talk about their new books. The authors also discussed why they love YA literature and why they enjoy writing it. Here are two things they said that stuck in my mind:

“I was a reader my whole life, but I’d forgotten what it was like to read for fun and get excited about a book and share that with friends. But I found that YA books are a place to do that. Readers of YA are open to much more. They’re creative and not set in their ways.” -Tahereh

“When you’re a teenager you feel everything so strongly and it’s all-consuming, and that’s what I love about YA.” -Brodi

oreoAfter the book signing, we grabbed dinner with the authors, Alison Lisnow — a book publicist from Harper Collins who has one of the coolest jobs ever — and some amazing YA readers and writers from Atlanta. The dinner conversation centered on haunted houses, body part-strewn prison farms, derelict asylums and Beetlejuice shaking me inside a Porta-Potty, so I was tempted to sleep with the light on last night. (Alli has a terrifying photo of a ghost face on her phone and it totally haunted my dreams.)

We also celebrated Tahereh’s book birthday with fried Oreos, which weren’t nearly as bad as I expected — they were actually pretty decent. (I need to do some serious cardio today.)

On a side note, we hear again and again that parts of a first draft hardly ever make it to publication, but last night Tahereh said that the first few pages of “Shatter Me” are exactly the way she wrote them in her first draft. They’re completely unchanged. Pretty awesome.

Anyway, if you need me, I’ll be devouring the rest of Veronica Rossi’s “Through The Ever Night,” and then I’ll be moving on to the infamous chapter 62!

Check out Tahereh’s chapter 62 spoiler video below.

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DFWcon: I’m coming back! And this year I’m speaking.

DFWConI’m super excited to tell you that I’ll be teaching a few classes at the Dallas/Fort Worth Writer’s Conference in May!

I went to DFWcon last year and had an amazing time, met incredible people and learned so much, and I’m grateful for this opportunity to give back to other attendees.

This year I’ll be teaching sessions on networking effectively and how to interview experts for research, as well as serving on a panel about writing collaboratively. I really hope to see some familiar faces in my classes, so please let me know if you’re going to be there!

DFWcon is a great way for writers to hone their craft, network with fellow writers and meet literary agents, authors and other industry professionals, so I highly recommend checking it out. You won’t regret it!

Register for DFWcon here.

Photo: courtesy of DFWcon

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Yallfest: Why you should be there next year

stageI spent the previous weekend in Charleston, S.C. for Yallfest and it was amazing.

If you’re not familiar with it, Yallfest is the annual Charleston Young Adult Book Festival, and it’s the largest festival in the South devoted to young-adult literature. This year was the second time the festival was held, and it brought together 47 authors (25 of them New York bestsellers) and more than 3,000 YA readers.

Margaret Stohl (co-author of the “Beautiful Creatures” series), Melissa de la Cruz (the “Blue Bloods” series) and Pseudonymous Bosch (the “Secret” series) helped organize this year’s event, which included 18 panel discussions and book signings by all the authors in attendance.

Here’s why you should put Yallfest on your calendar for 2013:

  • SO MANY AUTHORS. If you enjoy fan-girling and signed books as much as I do, you need to be here.
  • Charleston. Never been? You’re missing out. Beautiful place, gorgeous weather, great eats. (Don’t miss the desserts at Kaminsky’s.)
  • The fans. You may have been to your share of book festivals, but have you ever been to one where the streets were crawling with children, teens and adults all clutching YA books and debating whether they’re Gryffindors or Ravenclaws, Dauntless or Amity, Team Peeta or Team Gale? These are my people. And they were everywhere.
  • YA Smackdown. All your favorite authors on stage with props — and pies. Insanity ensues and many pies are thrown.
  • Oh, the things you’ll hear. My two favorite quotes from Yallfest 2012:
  1. book“Whenever I’m out to dinner with author friends we’re always the loudest, drunkest, most obscene people.” -Cassandra Clare, bestselling author of “The Mortal Instruments”
  2. When asked for advice on how to get an agent’s or editor’s attention, David Levithan, young-adult fiction editor and award-winning author replied, “Have a fucking kick-ass opening page.”

For more on Yallfest, check out this write-up in Publisher’s Weekly.

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Have you seen this writer?

I’m alive! It’s been a while, I know. But I’m still here, breathing and writing.

<——– Here’s some photographic evidence. Yes, that’s me dressed as Tonks posing with a man in a Sirius Black costume at DragonCon.

I wish I could say that while I’ve been absent I’ve done something amazing like started my first term at Hogwarts or finished revising my novel, but those would be lies. However, I do finally have a solid first few chapters, which means I’ll be sending agents requested materials soon! *cue nausea*

The revision process is going well; however, I’m rewriting a lot more than I’d planned. But this experience has taught me the importance of doing a little plotting before starting the frenzied first draft. (More on that in another post)

Speaking of first drafts, I’m ridiculously excited for NaNoWriMo this year. I have a wonderfully shiny new idea rattling around in my brain. It’s all mental sunshine and brain glitter in my head right now, but while I’d like to bask in new WIP awesomeness, the cloud of revisions is still hovering over me… Must. Finish. Water Lily. First.

At least this new idea gives me something to be excited about — and something to distract me from constantly checking my email for rejections. But it’s not just the new idea that’s keeping me motivated — it’s also my amazing crit partners and beta readers. If it weren’t for them, I’d just be wandering the streets of Atlanta and feeding stray cats or watching k-dramas all day.

I’m blessed to have such talented writers to share my work with, but I consider myself even more lucky because I get to read their writing. I’m completely obsessed with their stories, and I get ridiculously excited whenever the next installment arrives in my inbox. There’s so much romance and mystery and intrigue. There’s an invisible girl, a cyborg, a time traveler, a demon with a conscience, an adorable boy with suspenders who I’m totally fiction-crushing on. My fellow writers keep me motivated, and their talent makes me strive to work harder.

So, Corey, China, Kayla, Liza, Nicole, Lina, Sara, Geoff, Melissa, Deb and Cally: Thank you, thank you for all your help with Water Lily, and thanks for sharing your writing with me as well!

Photo: codywellons.com

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I’d be further into revisions, but I was kicked off the island

You know you’re dedicated to your writing when you print out your manuscript and carry it around in your backpack all weekend instead of a sleeping bag.

Yeah, Cumberland Island is pretty hot this time of year, so it’s OK to camp without the sleeping bag. However, toting around the unedited version of your book is much heavier than carrying your lightweight North Face bag while hiking 10 miles.

Of course, if I really wanted to cut down on pack weight, I probably should’ve left the wine at home, right? Or I should’ve at least taken advantage of the fact that J.J. bought a freaking cart to the island and pulled it the miles and miles to our campsite.

Anyway, I had plans to spend Sunday afternoon revising the MS with a red pen while lounging on the beach with some wild horses, but Tropical Storm Beryl had other ideas. On Sunday morning, a park ranger showed up at our campsite and informed us that the National Park Service was shutting down the island and we were being evacuated.

So I’m not nearly as far along as I’d like to be in my revisions, but it’s really not my fault. It’s Beryl’s.

Check out some of the photos from our (brief) backpacking trip!

Photos: codywellons.com

Short blog hiatus

Hello, readers! I’ll be taking a short break from blogging until after DFWcon. I’m deep into revisions and I’m crafting version 978 of my query letter (plus I get to pitch to my two top agent choices!), so I just need to focus on that for the next 10 days.

While I’m sure it pains you to know that you don’t have any exciting YA-themed grammar lessons coming your way this week, I hope to see you back here post-DFWcon so we can talk about gerunds, appositives and cats again. Until then, happy writing!

And cross your fingers for me, please. I’m a little nervous!

Photo: Artotem/flickr

I am a book nerd and deserve my own (dorky) faction

Tragedy struck on Tuesday, May 1 — otherwise known as “Insurgent” Day. My pre-ordered copy of the “Divergent” sequel never arrived even though USPS confirmed that it had been successfully delivered to me on the day before the book’s release. (“Insurgent” a day early?! If this had actually happened, I would’ve been overjoyed.)

I made some calls, talked to some very friendly people and was told an “investigation” would be opened into the matter. Perhaps my frantic tone led them to believe that my package contained expensive jewels, priceless art or the secret to how Creed sold so many albums. An investigation — really??

Obviously, I couldn’t wait around for this situation to work itself out, so I drove to Barnes & Noble, searched through the teen books section — which has finally been moved away from the children’s play area so that I can feel more like an adult and less like a creeper — and then inquired about the book at the help desk. Sold out. Naturally.

So I called three more bookstores: sold out, sold out, one copy. One copy?! I had them reserve it for me and then drove to a little indie bookstore in Decatur and raced inside, where I saw the lone copy sitting on the counter with a post-it note with my name on it. Success!

As the cashier began ringing me up, I told her about my misfortune and how excited I was to finally get my hands on the book. She laughed and as she reached for it said, “If you really want ‘Insurgent,’ you’re going to have to prove that you deserve it. Who are you?”

Clearly, she wanted to know what faction I’m in, right? I mean, we’d only been talking about this on Twitter all day. So, with no hesitation, I say “Dauntless … with a little bit of Amity.”

“What?”

“Dauntless…with…um … a bit of Amity? And um … probably some Erudite?”

*uncomfortably long pause*

“What is your name?”

“Ohhhh. Laura Moss. I thought you were asking…never mind.”

Seriously, you guys, Cody was embarrassed for me. Afterward, I asked him to get really into some combination of D&D, Star Trek and LARPing so that he would always be a little bit nerdier than me, but he declined. I’m going to have to carry the nerdiness in this relationship.

My name is Laura, and I’m a book nerd.

Introducing Sirius (black cat)

Yes, I know Sirius turns into a dog, but we “sirisously” couldn’t resist naming this little dude after one of my favorite Harry Potter characters. Several people are disappointed we didn’t go the vampire-naming route since he was rescued from the set of “The Vampire Diaries,” but although he was born in the Salvatore’s front yard, he just doesn’t look all that vamp-y to me.

He more closely resembles an unregistered animagus who broke out of wizard prison, am I right?

Sirius’ big brother, Fiver, isn’t all that pleased with the tiny kitten (he weighs in at under 2 pounds!) at the moment, but he says he’s glad that at least his brother is almost as famous as he is. My friend Kristen, the ever-devoted TVD fan, is convinced that this is little Sirius in Paul Wesley’s hands, but there’s no way to know for sure since Sirius has two siblings I haven’t met — and he’s not talking. Well, he’s talking squeaking, but these sounds are mostly requests to be cuddled and to have his belly rubbed.

Anyway, welcome to your new home, little Sirius! Prepare to be spoiled!

And in honor of “Insurgent,” Sirius chooses Dauntless, just as a true Gryffindor would!

Photo: codywellons.com