Chicago Writes: Writing Conferences in 2017!

I made a list of 2017 Conferences over at ChiYA Writers. If you’re on the look out for a good writing or book conference to attend, check it out!

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I’m a huge proponent of writing conferences. They’re great for honing your craft, learning about the industry, networking and meeting other writers, and many have pitch appointments and pitch events!

For YA there are many conferences all over. Here are a few great ones you can consider if you’re looking into going to a writing conference in 2017!

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Conferences in Chicago

ALA Annual Conference

June 22-27, 2017: Chicago, IL. The annual conference of the American Library Association.

Cost:

  • (non-member) Early Bird $375
  • By 6/16 at noon $400
  • Onsite $440
  • Single day $205
  • Exhibits only $75

The Writing Workshop of Chicago

June 24, 2017: Chicago, IL. A one-day workshop on “How to Get Published.”

Cost:

  • Early Bird $169
  • Add $29 to secure a 10-minute one-on-one pitch appointment.

Boston Teen Author Festival (BTAF)

Boston Teen Author Festival is September 23, 2017 at the  Cambridge Public Library. The Boston Teen Author Festival is bringing YA…

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Launch Giveaway!

I’m a contributor of a new writer’s blog, Writer’s Block Party! We’re doing a giveaway of some books:

Signed hardcover of AND I DARKEN by Kiersten White
Signed hardcover of WINDWITCH by Susan Dennard
Hardcover of CROOKED KINGDOM by Leigh Bardugo
Pre-order of A CROWN OF WISHES by Roshani Chokshi

Check out the post for how to enter!

Writer's Block Party

Writer's Block Blog Banner.pngWriter’s Block Party is celebrating its one month anniversary!!

To celebrate our first month, we’re giving away a few books! You can enter the giveaway below, but please read all of this before entering. 

Writer’s Block Party is a project started by a group of friends and critique partners. Though we’re at various stages in our writing and publishing journeys, we are very grateful for the communities we’ve found online that have helped us along the way. We started this blog in the hopes that our experiences could help others in turn. We’re very excited about the content we have coming up, and we hope you’ll join us for the ride.

Here are a few things you might want to know before you enter:

  • Entry is free.
  • This giveaway is for US only.
  • Ends 2/17/17.
  • You can enter all the giveaways if you’d like to, or just some of them–it’s up to you!
  • To…

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The Diversity Conversation

I’ve watched the conversation around diversity change over the past few years when it comes to literature and YA/kidlit in particular. I took interest for obvious reasons, I am a writer of color who wants to write about my own experiences and heritage. However, even as a POC I was not prepared for some of the hard lessons I’ve learned over the past few years. And I came to realize that it’s because I didn’t have the foundation for it yet. I had to build that first before I could enter the harder conversations and really understand what they were about (let alone partake in them! Which, I still don’t do that often because I am still learning).

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I’m going to make an analogy for this post with the hopes that I can shed light on my own journey and perhaps help at least one person understand how much time it takes to even begin to understand this ongoing conversation we call “diversity.” So, I’m going to compare the conversation about diversity to school courses.

When I was a senior I took a class that beat the snot out of my brain, Biochemistry. I was so wrung dry after a semester of it that I dreamed about it (or, more accurately, I had nightmares about it). However, I still got a very respectable B+ in that course. I know that the only reason I got that grade was because I’d prepared myself for it. I took a year of intro biology, a year of intro chemistry, a year of organic chemistry, plus labs for all of these classes.

My coworker was talking about her classes the other day and said that she was required to take biochemistry but half of the class hadn’t taken intro biology yet. I was floored at how that’s even possible. How could you understand the very complex subjects of biochemistry without taking the intro class first? It just didn’t seem logical! (unsurprisingly most of those students dropped the class)

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The reason I’m telling these strange school anecdotes is to say that I think people should learn the basics before they can join the more advanced classes.

If you look at conversations about diversity in the same way, you should learn the basics in the 101 courses about inequality, systemic/institutional racism, systemic misogyny, internalized sexism, systemic ableism, and how cis/het/straight is presented as the “norm” in our society.

Then you need to take the 201 courses to understand how those concepts affect big picture defacto treatment of marginalized AND microaggressions that happen daily.

After all of those foundational courses, it’s possible to join the advanced courses which are the ongoing conversations about why X book is problematic or Y movie is appropriative or Z author’s Twitter feed is insensitive to the very audience they write for.

I see people jumping into conversations on social media or at a house party to explain why they don’t understand why such-and-such is a big deal. And I can completely understand why they don’t get it. It’s because they don’t have a foundation built up yet. They don’t know the long and hard history of how we got here as a diverse country/society. It’s because they haven’t learned the basics of why this all matters. The issue is that when you take biochemistry without taking biology 101, the only one that suffers is you. When you try to push your way into conversations about diversity without understanding, you’re hurting other people. This is where my analogy ends and the real talk begins.

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We need to stop being so naive to think we already have all the tools to talk about the problems with society just because we live in it. The world is not perfect, we know that much. However, why the world isn’t perfect is up for debate. The thing that isn’t up for debate: other people’s pain. If someone says they’re hurt, that’s it. You believe them.

For me personally, I joined the YA community when I was still learning about my own identity and coming to terms with the idea of writing myself onto the page. I still defaulted to what society told me was the “norm.” I made my MC’s white because I didn’t know if YA audiences would relate to POC MC’s. I also did not know enough about other marginalized communities to speak about their issues. I still have a lot to learn when it comes to communities I’m not a member of, so I still sit back and listen to those kind enough to speak out about it (for free! Seriously, emotional labor is labor and many people do it for free).

On top of that, POC/marginalized can be biased too. Being a racial minority does not stop a person from being ableist or heteronormative, etc. I had to unlearn many off-hand statements I used in every day conversation because I didn’t realize that it was perpetuating an ableist norm. I also had to unlearn some phrases that were cruel to other POC and Native groups. I grew up in the United States, which means I was raised watching TV shows that told me white was normal; and men married women; and boys played with cars and girls played with dolls. My parents NEVER told me that was normal, but society did. And I had to decide for myself if that’s what I would believe or not.

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video source: Unboxing Ableism

We all have to unpack our biases. And we all need to understand the basic foundation of why these conversations are important. Until then, it’s fine to be quiet and listen. There is no need to be active in the conversation all the time. Sometimes it’s enough to just learn. That’s actually why so many marginalized voices speak out, to help people understand.

I don’t mean to scare anyone away from joining an earnest conversation. But it is on you as the “learner” to understand that your need to learn does not supersede another person’s pain. So asking a marginalized person on Twitter to teach you about their life’s history of marginalization in a 15 minute conversation over 140 characters is probably not the place to start your learning. We are in the age of the amazing internet and google is an awesome thing. And once you’ve created your foundation then you can dip your toe into smaller conversations (perhaps start off in a closed community among friends who are willing to explain the harder things. That’s what I did)

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I’d be happy to answer questions if anyone has them and if I don’t have the answers I’ll say that too. After all, I’m still learning as well.

Here are resources to learn from before entering the diversity conversation:

We Need Diverse Books

Writing in the Margins

American Indians in Children’s Literature

Disability in kidlit

Gay YA

Reading While White

Writing With Color

Minorities in Publishing

Diversity in YA

I also have a Twitter list of Diverse writers (it is in NO way comprehensive, but feel free to follow any and all of them!)

Diverse Writers

My Highly Anticipated 2017 Debuts

I have a special place in my heart for debuts and 2017’s batch has me even more excited because of how many diverse and ownvoices there are!

I posted about non-debuts I’m excited about in 2017 HERE.

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These are the DEBUTS of 2017 that I am very excited to read!

(in order of expected publication)

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Caraval (Untitled #1)

by Stephanie Garber

Expected publication: January 31st 2017 by Flatiron Books

Welcome, welcome to Caraval―Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful, and cruel, father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the far-away, once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year, Scarlett’s long-dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only, as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever.

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Wintersong

by S. Jae-Jones

Expected publication: February 7th 2017 by Thomas Dunne

Beware the goblin men and the wares they sell.

All her life, nineteen-year-old Liesl has heard tales of the beautiful, mysterious Goblin King. He is the Lord of Mischief, the Ruler Underground, and the muse around which her music is composed. Yet, as Liesl helps shoulder the burden of running her family’s inn, her dreams of composition and childish fancies about the Goblin King must be set aside in favor of more practical concerns.

But when her sister Käthe is taken by the goblins, Liesl journeys to their realm to rescue her sister and return her to the world above. The Goblin King agrees to let Käthe go—for a price. The life of a maiden must be given to the land, in accordance with the old laws. A life for a life, he says. Without sacrifice, nothing good can grow. Without death, there can be no rebirth. In exchange for her sister’s freedom, Liesl offers her hand in marriage to the Goblin King. He accepts.

Down in the Underground, Liesl discovers that the Goblin King still inspires her—musically, physically, emotionally. Yet even as her talent blossoms, Liesl’s life is slowly fading away, the price she paid for becoming the Goblin King’s bride. As the two of them grow closer, they must learn just what it is they are each willing to sacrifice: her life, her music, or the end of the world.

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The Education of Margot Sanchez

by Lilliam Rivera

Expected publication: February 21st 2017 by Simon & Schuster

Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx in this bold and romantic coming-of-age novel about dysfunctional families, good and bad choices, and finding the courage to question everything you ever thought you wanted—from debut author Lilliam Rivera.

THINGS/PEOPLE MARGOT HATES:

Mami, for destroying my social life
Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal
Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal
This supermarket
Everyone else

After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot
Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts.

With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal…

Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.

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The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas

Expected publication: February 28th 2017 by Balzer + Bray

Sixteen-year-old Starr lives in two worlds: the poor neighbourhood where she was born and raised and her posh high school in the suburbs. The uneasy balance between them is shattered when Starr is the only witness to the fatal shooting of her unarmed best friend, Khalil, by a police officer. Now what Starr says could destroy her community. It could also get her killed. Inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, this is a powerful and gripping YA novel about one girl’s struggle for justice.
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Daughter of the Pirate King

by Tricia Levenseller

Expected publication: February 28th 2017 by Feiwel & Friends

A 17-year-old pirate captain intentionally allows herself to get captured by enemy pirates in this thrilling YA adventure.

If you want something done right . . .

When the ruthless pirate king learns of a legendary treasure map hidden on an enemy ship, his daughter, Alosa, knows there’s only one pirate for the job—herself. Leaving behind her beloved ship and crew, Alosa deliberately facilitates her own kidnapping to ensure her passage on the ship, confident in her ability to overcome any obstacle. After all, who’s going to suspect a seventeen-year-old girl locked in a cell? Then she meets the (surprisingly perceptive and unfairly attractive) first mate, Riden, who is charged with finding out all her secrets. Now it’s down to a battle of wits and will . . . . Can Alosa find the map and escape before Riden figures out her plan?

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The Gauntlet

by Karuna Riazi

Expected publication: March 28th 2017 by Salaam Reads

A trio of friends from New York City find themselves trapped inside a mechanical board game that they must dismantle in order to save themselves and generations of other children in this action-packed debut that’s a steampunk Jumanji with a Middle Eastern flair.

When twelve-year-old Farah and her two best friends get sucked into a mechanical board game called The Gauntlet of Blood and Sand—a puzzle game akin to a large Rubik’s cube—they know it’s up to them to defeat the game’s diabolical architect in order to save themselves and those who are trapped inside, including her baby brother Ahmed. But first they have to figure out how.

Under the tutelage of a lizard guide named Henrietta Peel and an aeronaut Vijay, the Farah and her friends battle camel spiders, red scorpions, grease monkeys, and sand cats as they prepare to face off with the maniacal Lord Amari, the man behind the machine. Can they defeat Amari at his own game…or will they, like the children who came before them, become cogs in the machine?

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Girl Out of Water

byLaura Silverman

Expected publication: May 1st 2017 by Sourcebooks Fire

Anise Sawyer plans to spend every minute of summer with her friends: surfing, chowing down on fish tacos drizzled with wasabi balsamic vinegar, and throwing bonfires that blaze until dawn. But when a serious car wreck leaves her aunt, a single mother of three, with two broken legs, it forces Anise to say goodbye for the first time to Santa Cruz, the waves, her friends, and even a kindling romance, and fly with her dad to Nebraska for the entire summer. Living in Nebraska isn’t easy. Anise spends her days caring for her three younger cousins in the childhood home of her runaway mom, a wild figure who’s been flickering in and out of her life since birth, appearing for weeks at a time and then disappearing again for months, or even years, without a word.

Complicating matters is Lincoln, a one-armed, charismatic skater who pushes Anise to trade her surfboard for a skateboard. As Anise draws closer to Lincoln and takes on the full burden and joy of her cousins, she loses touch with her friends back home – leading her to one terrifying question: will she turn out just like her mom and spend her life leaving behind the ones she loves

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When Dimple Met Rishi

bySandhya Menon

Expected publication: May 30th 2017 by Simon Pulse

A laugh-out-loud, heartfelt YA romantic comedy, told in alternating perspectives, about two Indian-American teens whose parents have arranged for them to be married.

Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?

Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.

The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?

Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.

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Daughter of the Burning City

by Amanda Foody

Expected publication: July 25th 2017 by Harlequin Teen

A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.

Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.

But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered.

Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

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Forest of a Thousand Lanterns (Forest #1)

by Julie C. Dao

Expected publication: October, 10th 2017 by Philomel Books (Penguin)

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns is a reimagining of the evil queen from Snow White based on Asian folklore and mythology. In order to become Empress of Feng Lu, Xifeng must unleash a jealous god on the world and set free the viciousness of her own soul. Publication is set for fall 2017; Tamar Rydzinski at the Laura Dail Literary Agency negotiated the deal for world rights.

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Rebel Seoul

by Axie Oh

Expected publication: 2017 by Lee & Low Books/Tu Books

YA science fiction/action novel set in a futuristic Korea about a former gangster who is recruited into the military over a secret prototype weapons project—which turns out to be a genetically modified girl.

Twitter Basics and How I Use Them

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Hello friends, I’ve been thinking about writing a Twitter 101 post for awhile. Not only because I think Twitter is ah-maz-ing, but because I know Twitter can be confusing as all heck! It’s like when you see your grandma posting random questions on your Facebook feed and you realize she thinks Facebook is Google. And you laugh and think “Oh, Grandma.” Well, that’s us when we don’t know how to use Twitter.

So, here we go!

(Please note that a lot of these points are my own opinions and based on how I personally use Twitter, but I offer this as a general guide to be adjusted for your personal use)

Okay, now for real, here we go!

1. Hashtags

Hashtags are a fun way to reach a broader audience. Many people will search a known hashtag to see what people’s opinions are on it. So be aware of which ones you’re using and why. Big ones for writing/reading are:

#amwriting, #amreading, #amrevising — just what they sound like, any random thought or advice for people who are writing, reading, or revising. Also, just to update on your personal writing/reading/revising status.

#amquerying — I made this one separate because I believe it’s to be used a bit differently. You can definitely share advice and random thoughts about querying with it. But I wouldn’t recommend posting too many tweets about your querying status as it is a very subjective and personal journey in many ways. I do think it’s a great hashtag to give words of encouragement and advice to others who are querying or about to query.

#TBR — To Be Read. I think that says enough.

#WeNeedDiverseBooks and #WNDB — This was started in reply to a need for more diverse books and is a great movement. Go to WeNeedDiverseBooks.org for more about WNDB.

#ownvoices — this is for use about books written about marginalized characters written by authors with those same marginalizations. It’s important to note that it’s not just writing about a character that shares experiences with you (e.g. if your character is at space camp and you went to space camp, that is not ownvoices). It’s specifically to address sensitive experiences with marginalization and how that affects a person and telling those personal stories (e.g. if the character is a black teenager dealing with #BLM and the author is a black woman dealing with #BLM)

#MSWL — Manuscript Wishlist was created by an agent to help writers see what kinds of stories agents and editors would love to see in their submission piles. (Note: It is not for pitching, that should only be done during designated Twitter pitch dates on the proper pitch hashtags, see below)

#MuseMon, #2bittues, #1linewed — Amazing tags where you can share quick blurbs of your writing

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Claribel (@claribel_ortega) is the creator of #MuseMon. And you should all follow Erin and Janella, too. They’re all awesome writers and people.

And sometimes online pitch conferences use a specific hashtag (NOTE: These are to be used on the scheduled day of the event and not before or after if you are pitching)

#DVPit, #pitmad, #SFFpit, #Adpit, #kidpit, #PBpitch

I even use a hashtag for my sister’s puppy and I’m not sorry! #luckythedog

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2. @-ing people and replying to people

If you reply to someone’s tweet, it’ll automatically start your tweet with @personstwittername

If you reply to a tweet that has other people tagged in it, your reply will automatically tag ALL of them. So be aware if you only want to reply to the original poster, you have to delete those extra twitter handles.

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If you start your Tweet with an @ handle in order to tag another person, it won’t show up in your main feed. It’ll only be in the tab that says “Tweets & Replies” in your profile. I hear this might change soon, but for now, if you want to @ someone and want it to show up in your main feed, then add a convenient period “.” before the tag. That way Twitter will think it’s a normal Tweet.

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3. Threads

Sometimes you’ll see a tweet that sounds like half an idea and that’s because it is! It’s part of what we call a “thread,” tweets that are linked as “replies” to each other that form a fuller thought than can be expressed in 140 characters. People will often number them to show they’re part of a bigger thread:

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A lot of people just number 1. 2. 3. 4. and so on, because it’s simpler

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This is my favorite way because the / after the number implies the thought continues. And once you get to the end you just add that closing number (in this thread it’s 7) to show that’s the end of your thought.

Sometimes people don’t number them, which does make it harder to follow the full thought, but if you click on any tweet it shows all the replies made to that tweet:

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4. Quote Tweeting

It can be used to boost a previous tweet:

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It can be used to show support for a thought or post (it makes it easier to provide the link to a thread of tweets so the reader can click on the original tweet and read the whole thread):

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Some people quote tweet as a more public way of replying to a thought, or to add their own thoughts on top of the original Tweet.

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IMPORTANT TO NOTE: When you quote tweet someone to add your personal opinion, think of it like you’re highlighting your reply to them. It shows up more prominently in feeds. It includes your reply and the original tweet to show why you’re reacting the way you are. This is important to be aware of if you’re replying with your opinion on someone else’s opinion, especially if it’s to disagree with them. This is exponentially important to be aware of if you’re commenting on a marginalized person’s comment on something they find personally harmful. If you do this, it is the Twitter equivalent of going “Well, actually…”

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Be aware that if you replying as if you’re trying to “correct” someone’s opinion when you are NOT part of the community affected, it comes off as condescending. It is hard to convey tone in text or Twitter. So, if this is a sensitive subject then take a beat and think through whether this opinion needs to be blasted to all of Twitter.

5. Some often used abbreviations and hashtags:

ICYMI: In Case You Missed It

FF: Follow Friday

IMHO: In My Honest Opinion

IMO: In My Opinion

TBH: To Be Honest

RT: retweet

LRT: Last Retweet (this is to refer to the last thing the person retweeted)

IRL: In Real Life

(some are just abbreviations to save character space, they’re pretty self-explanatory if you just think it through. e.g. b4 = before, bc = because, some1 = someone, ppl = people)

6. Parting Thoughts on Twitter “etiquette”

Twitter is a great equalizer. We can tweet at celebs we love and people we’ve never met before in real life. However, it’s also public. This means your conversations are blasted for all to see and it makes your “opinions” more magnified since it is in front of an audience. Before you tweet something, think to yourself, “Would I say this in front of a panel of people at a book conference?” Or “Would I announce this at a crowded party where I don’t know everyone?”

If the answer is no, then think about why that is. Is it because you’re not sure of your stance on the subject? Is it because you don’t really know a lot about that particular topic you’re just saying your opinion based on your limited experience? Is it because your comment is reactionary instead of thoughtful?

If so, don’t tweet it.

So often, people reply to tweets and threads as if they’re having a personal debate in their friend’s living room, but they’re not. They’re having an internet fight for all to see. And since Twitter gives limited space for more complex thoughts, it can be misconstrued VERY quickly.

If you’re a writer/author/creative and you are using Twitter as a platform to gain readers and network with industry people, then be willing to back up anything you say on Twitter.

There are authors that say political and sensitive things on Twitter and they’re amazing. Why? Because they truly believe in what they’re saying and will defend it even if it’s an in-person conversation, a panel at a conference, or on Twitter. That conviction is important when you’re taking a stand on Twitter. These aren’t opinions they made in a day or a week. They’re opinions that have been carefully thought out (taking into account others who might be affected by them) and are meant to better the conversation and community. I assume most people reading this are in kidlit/YA/MG, so I think it’s important to point out that our intended audiences are kids and teens. That adds a layer of responsibility about what we stand for both in our books and in our public personas.

If you stand for nothing, what’ll you fall for?

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Usually at this time of the year, I’d do a year-end blog post about my favorite things that I’ve read and watched and listened to. I might still do one of those, but I can’t ignore that this year wasn’t business as usual for me.

As 2016 draws to a close, it feels like you can’t go anywhere or read anything without politics coming up these days. At first, I was worried that this would be off-putting for many, then I realized that ignoring the problems in our world might be what brought us here. So, I’m facing it. I’m not going to talk about politics with every blog post, but I won’t shy away from it either.

It’s like the line from Hamilton, “If you stand for nothing, Burr, what’ll you fall for?”*

After looking into the quote, I think it is meant to ask what you’ll die for, but I always thought it had a bit of another meaning (probably because of the quote it’s based on*). If you don’t stand for anything or have any convictions, will you just be a follower listening to the loudest voice at the time? Will you fall for anything? I don’t want to just follow the crowd to the “safest” place I can find. I want to create safe spaces. I want the whole world to be safe for everyone.

Many people are happy 2016 is coming to a close, but I see 2017 as an even bigger battle. I think it’s a worthwhile battle and perhaps 2016 prepared us and pointed us in the right direction. However, now we need to follow through and fight for what we stand for.

And that brings me to another Hamilton quote, “Let’s take a stand with the stamina God has granted us.”

While I’m healthy and able, I want to take a stand for what I believe in.

I believe that my identity is not something to be hidden but something to be proud of now more than ever. I believe that there are more good people in this world than bad. I believe that fear has won for now, but it won’t win forever. I believe that hope is stronger than the fear that has driven us here. I believe in #WeNeedDiverseBooks and #ownvoices. I believe that my story matters even if only to a few. I believe in equality and I believe that in order to build a foundation for equality  we must first look for equity.

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* This line was inspired by the quote, “Those who stand for nothing fall for anything.” It’s often been attributed to Alexander Hamilton, though I’ve found no concrete proof of its origin.

Adventures in Revising(5): Dialogue

(NOTE: These posts are meant as friendly advice from my *personal* 
experience but might not always be applicable to your work. 
If you have any fun advice to give, please add it in the comments! 
I’m always excited to learn new tricks of the trade from my fellow writers!)

Dialogue is a funny thing. It is the voice of your characters, but it is not necessarily always the voice of your narrative (especially when you’re writing in third person). This means that not only do you have to figure out how to give your story a voice, but also each individual character (wow, writing is hard y’all).

Anyway, here are a few tips that I’ve picked up as I’ve been writing and revising.

Common Problems When Writing Dialogue:

Problem

Overly formal dialogue.

For example, “I do not understand what you are referring to. I was simply minding my own business with my friends.”

Solution: 

Rough it up! Add some slang (but not too much) and just say the sentence out loud and see if it sounds natural. “I don’t know what you’re talking about. I was just hanging out with my friends.”

Problem:

Alternatively, too much slang is bad.

This kind of language can date your story (i.e. if you’re making your character say a popular slang word that was big in 2010 but no one uses it anymore, totes awkward amiright?<–see what I did there?)

Also, if you use too much slang it makes it hard to follow the dialogue anyway. Even though everyone speaks with different dialect it can distract from your story. And, sometimes authors who are writing children’s fiction use random words that kids/teens would never actually say themselves. So why trap yourself with trying to use “young speech” patterns.

Solution:

Just stick with dialogue that you use. Chances are that if you’re not an overly-proper English marm then you speak like any teen, adult, monster, alien character that will be in your book.

Problem: 

Wall of dialogue aka monologues.

It’s what supervillians do in the movies that always get them beat at the end. So we know that it is the tool of evil and destruction. This is how you should view monologues in your writing.

Solution: 

Don’t turn your MC into a guy who won’t shut up. If your MC is telling a long story and it fits into the flow of the story, you should still break up that big block of text with action.

Problem

What I call “Telling Dialogue.”

Just because we put background information in dialogue does not magically make it showing instead of telling (which I will talk more about in a later post). Dialogue can definitely feel like telling (I mean, it is literally a character telling another character something)

This is easy to identify if you realize you’re having characters say information that every character in the scene already knows simply because it explains the world or background story to the reader. In real life, if everyone in a room knows something already, I’m not going to tell that story again, it would make me a boring friend and no one would ever talk to me.

Also, if your character is talking out loud to themselves in order to impart information, this is a big no-no (you know, those scenes in Days of Our Lives where the character is like “why did I kiss Steve when I know he’s my sister’s husband? We just got close again after she regained her memory.” Everyone ridicules these tactics in Soap Operas, so don’t use them in your book either!)

Solution:

If there is a new character who doesn’t know this information then you can impart information in an appropriate conversation. Storytelling is not bad, it just needs to be imparted in a way that creates movement in the story, pushing plot forward. Also, the ability to trust your readers to hang in there to figure out what makes your world tick is a big lesson I learned in writing.

Problem

Fancy dialogue tags (i.e. yelled, snapped, growled, hissed)

Solution

Just use s/he said and s/he asked. Use action and the actual dialogue to show how it should sound. The context of the words should be enough to get emphasis across.

(This was a hard lesson to learn, although I am still guilty of using the occasional “whispered” and “shouted”)

Problem: 

(Over) Repetition of a character name.

Sometimes you want to distinguish who is speaking in a dynamic way. You don’t want to muck up your dialogue with random “he said” and “she said” tags. So you just plop the names of characters into the dialogue itself. The problem is that this can get very repetative.

Say character names once in a conversation (max).

Just think about it, in regular conversation someone would not say, “As you know, Fred, I am new to this town. So, Fred, when I am out doing errands I often get lost. That is why I need your help, Fred.”

Solution

Differentiate who is speaking with a well-placed dialogue tag rather than saying names in the dialogue.

Other Lessons Learned:

Subtext and Context are your friends.

If you have an upset character saying “I’m fine,” then the reader is probably smart enough to know that this is said in an angry tone and that the character is (in fact) not fine.

Also, if someone says “Well, aren’t you just a genius?” then most readers will automatically read that line as sarcastic, because seriously, we live in a world where someone is more likely to be sarcastically calling you a genius than truly thinking you’re a genius (sad, but true).

Try to stay away from the kitchy written out speech ticks
stuttering “s-s-s-o c-c-c-old.”

lisping “Thisth isth ridicluousth.”

and anything else that you’re using to give your characters quirky voices. You can just said “It’s so cold,” he said, stuttering. Or “This is ridiculous,” she said, her lisp making her words hard to understand.

Make Every Line Count.
I would give this advice for any kind of writing. Don’t have throw-away scenes just to get to the juicy part. So don’t have throw-away dialogue either. Don’t have characters talk about the weather for two pages unless it is because there are gods controlling the weather and it is a sign that the apocalypse is coming and your characters must stop the dark lord from shrouding the world in hurricane evil!

Read your dialogue out loud.
Dialogue is your characters’ spoken words, so you should speak them out loud yourself to see if the cadence and word choice fits what you’re trying to accomplish. If it sounds stilted and awkward then rewrite.

Make sure your dialogue is distinctively from your story and part of your characters. 

Something I say to my CPs all the time–if I can take your dialogue and plop it in the middle of any other YA Fantasy or Sci-Fi or whatever-your-genre-is book, then you need to make it more distinctively yours. Give it more voice, make it a part of your characters. Don’t just use dialogue as a vehicle to move plot forward, use it to show us who your characters really are.