Getting started and finding your writing style

I’m pretty into making my #Authortube videos and I’ve made another one with some advice if you’re getting your feet wet with writing and don’t know where to begin. I think you should definitely just dive in and keep in mind WHY you’re writing. We tell stories because we love stories. So I’d just suggest that you hold on to that love and have a lot of fun in the beginning. Don’t worry about industry things or next steps or craft and style right now. Just write a story you’d love to read as a reader!

Vlogging!

Prepare yourselves! I’ve infiltrated ANOTHER social media platform. This time it’s youtube/vlogging/authortube. It came about as most of my social media obsessions do, a random conversation with my cousin and my sister. As I said in my last post, I’m going to go to a few conferences and to Seoul, so I decided a great way to share those trips would be via vlog.

Here’s my first (kind of shaky, kind of rambling) video!

Here’s my second vlog (which is my actual formal introduction vlog). I discuss some of my favorite writer/reader/fan things.

Hope you guys enjoyed it. And subscribe to my Youtube for more of my adventures. I am also going to try to make some videos where I talk about my writing and give some tips from what I’ve learned so far!

January and February Wrap-Up (Plus future writerly plans)

I haven’t really been doing wrap-up posts, but I realized how much I’ve randomly gotten done/decided this year already. So I figured I’d talk about the books I’ve read, the shows I’ve watched, and plans for 2017!

Here we go!

Things I’ve done and future Plans for 2017

My critique group and I started a writing blog called Writer’s Block Party.

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It was born because we realized that most of our group chat conversations were us dissecting craft issues and books we loved. And we wanted to share our weirdness with the world. We’re also lucky to have a few industry insiders (agent assistants and publishing assistants) in the group. And of course our amazing CP’s who are debuting this year! (Shout out to Foody and Axie!)

I finished a giant round of revisions for GUMIHO and started drafting a new WiP (that I am currently calling Dragon of Joseon). Here’s an inspiration collage/novel aesthetic for DoJ:

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I have decided the main conferences I am going to as well. I am a HUGE lover of conferences because they allow my writer side and fan side to collide in a giant Super Saiyan fusion form!

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BookExpo and BookCon which will be in New York from May 31 – June 4. It’s going to be a return to my old stomping grounds of New York and I am so excited to see old friends and new. I’ll be Claribel Ortega‘s shadow for as long as she’ll have me.

American Library Association Annual Conference (ALA) which will be June 22-27 in Chicago. It’s an easy one for me to go to since I live in Chicago. I am also very excited since my Critique Group is coming (we’re going to celebrate our love for each other by going to Hamilton as well!)

Finally, I am going to Seoul! I always knew I was going (It’s my grandmother-할머니-88th birthday, which is a big deal in Korea as 8 is an auspicious number). But, my cousins, Axie and Christine, said they’d come with me! So we are going to have a million adventures! AND I am going to try to vlog it! So subscribe to my YouTube for those updates coming to you in late April/early May! (Here are preview pics from my trip to Seoul last year)

Books Read

Don’t want to be too proud of myself but I’ve read 18 books in the last two months. This is by far the fastest and most consistently I’ve read books in a long time. I think that once I started writing I spent a lot of my “story” time on my own MS’s. So, I’m really stoked that I got back into my reading rhythm this year! And I’m also lucky that I loved every book I’ve read so far!

Fantasy and Sci-Fi

I read Handmaid’s Tale because I was told it was eerily prophetic for current times and I have to be honest and say I’m a tad worried. It really did feel like some of the ideals that the dystopian society were based on are things that I’ve heard some more extreme parties saying these days. But that might just mean Margaret Atwood was a great observer of humanity. Either way, the book is worth a read, just steel yourself!

Monstress was my present to myself when I finished revisions and it was amazing! It has such creativity and a creepiness that I can never achieve myself so I always appreciate it in other stories. Also, the art is gorgeous.

I finally finished the Winner’s Trilogy with The Winner’s Kiss. Gotta be honest, I wanted more kissing! But I was very satisfied with this trilogy end.

I read the Star-Touched Queen to prepare for A Crown of Wishes coming out this year. And I’m so happy I did. The story was gorgeously written and immersed me in a new world. I really enjoyed the characters (my favorite was Kamala)

Furthermore was a very fun read! I told my CP I wanted to read more MG this year so she suggested Furthermore as our first unofficial MG book club book and I am so grateful she did. The voice in that book was the best! It was so imaginative and fun and I really enjoyed Alice as a main character. I hope that Tahereh Mafi writes a sequel because the worlds were so enjoyable!

Huntress is a prequel type book in the same world as Malinda Lo’s Ash. I haven’t read Ash yet, but after reading Huntress I really want to. It was such a wonderful world built around Chinese mythology and the strong lead characters made me inspired and excited to read more of Lo’s writing.

Historical Fiction

Outrun the Moon was so well done! I loved the characters and really despaired with them as they struggled in their daily lives even before the earthquake happened. I wanted so much for them to find a connection with each other because I do feel like some of the girls were a bit lost. After the disaster hit there was a lot of chaos and coming together and it’s where the main character, Mercy Wong, really shone. She was an amazing girl to follow through a whole story.

When My Name Was Keoko has a bit of personal meaning to me. My grandmother lived through the Japanese occupation of Korea and she does not like to speak of it much. It was strange to imagine her in Keoko’s shoes. It was a story of two siblings fighting to retain their identity while a ruling government sought to strip them of it. But I loved the theme of resilience and honor that was woven throughout.

Contemporary YA

I really should have read Shiny Broken Pieces earlier because I adored Tiny Pretty Things. That being said, it might be good that I took a bit of time so my heart could heal from the first book. It’s so well written from different persepctives of girls who are competing to be the best in a ballet academy. And my heart just broke for each of them. Honestly, the breakout character for me was Bette, I did not expect to care for her as much as I did.

Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist was exactly what I expected, a fun story about two teens feeling a bit lost and finding themselves during one night of adventure.

I am convinced that Adam Silvera gains his power from reader tears. More Happy Than Not is exactly what you might expect from the title (so good job naming this book!). It was a very powerful exploration of mental health and identity and I would definitely recommend it (but have tissues ready).

You guys. You Guys! Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe will forever mark my heart. It is such a great book. It stays with you looong after you finish it. I cannot recommend this wonderful book enough. It has so much heart and such wonderful relationships. Everyone deserves a friend like Dante.

Romance

My cousin got me really into Lisa Kleypas. She writes really fun regency romances and I devoured them in one sitting. I finished her Wallflowers series really quickly. (I read the first book Secrets of a Summer Night in 2016)

Non-Fiction

Each non-fiction book I read gave me completely different feels. I liked Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? because it gave me a laugh during a time I was feeling pretty down. (Though there were many scenes with the Obamas and that made me very depressingly nostalgic)

But the big stand outs were for sure Trevor Noah’s Born a Crime and Malala Yousafzai’s I Am Malala. Noah’s book about growing up in South Africa as the son of a black woman and a white man was very eye-opening. And there were a lot of parallels for some political issues we’re currently facing today in America. It really resonated with me as a reader and it was told with such charm and humor that I was sped through it. (Also, not going to lie, I have a pretty big crush on Trevor Noah). I Am Malala is an important book about learning, bravery, family, love. I didn’t realize I’d gotten the young readers version, so I’m definitely going to get the other version of the book and read that as well. Even if you don’t read I Am Malala (though everyone should), definitely listen to her UN speech. It was powerful and so well spoken.

Shows I’ve watched (Let’s be honest, these are all K-Dramas)

My fave drama so far is Goblin/Dokkaebi (도깨비). It was just amazing. But it also kind of wrecked me in the end. I had a few hang-ups on some weird creative choices (like the age of the main girl). But I thoroughly enjoyed it. I was actually team Dokkaebi-Reaper. BROMANCE! Just look!

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Also you know I love a drama if I make GIFs for it:

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I just finished watching Hwarang (화랑), which was a very fun historical drama set in the Silla Kingdom. It has political intrigue in a way that didn’t bore me to bits (that is such an accomplishment because many historical dramas are only interesting to me during the relationship parts). I also loved the romance in this one. I wish there was more time spent on the friendships (bromance!). But I was very satisfied with this show, partly because of all the eye candy!

It actually gave me my newest love, Park Hyung Sik:

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Which is why I also watched the 2014 weekend drama What Happens to My Family (가족끼리 왜 이래)

This drama actually gave me a lot of feelings and I’m not quite over them yet. But I loved the family dynamics and the love lines and the comedy and the drama of it all. I’m just really emotional so I can’t express myself well about this drama yet.

Finding Hope & Inspiration through Community

Sometimes, when you’re writing you lose sight of things. And sometimes, it’s easy to forget what you’re writing for. I know that I write for myself, for my story, for my heart. But, I’d be lying if I didn’t say I write so others can read my stories and find something to love too.

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This is when community helps me find my perspective. I love seeing people get excited about stories and books. It’s great to see people that I’ve always respected and cheered for getting book deals and debuting. This year alone, I have multiple friends and CP’s debuting and I am so excited I can barely contain it at times. I think it’s alright to find your happiness where you can. And taking some time away from your own work to be happy for others is not only nice, but I think it’s key to keeping your perspective on the publishing world. If we can’t find like-minded people and form these connections, writing and publishing will feel like a very lonely place. Especially since the writing itself is a solitary activity.

I live for the moments that my CPs share pieces of their work, or an aesthetic collage, or an initial outline of a new idea. These are the times when I can sit back and be in awe of the people I’m lucky  enough to call friends. And I can be inspired by the talent around me. I’ve heard a lot of advice that says when you form a critique group you should find people who are more talented than you, and I’m pretty smug about the fact that I’ve accomplished that.

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My Critique Group is as cool as f(x). Well, I think so at least…

It helps to give us moments of hope when we feel like all we’ve been doing is drafting and revising, drafting and revising. It’s wonderful to see a story that we used to read as CPs go from draft to final MS to sold to book. The thrill of that journey is enough to inspire us to keep going with our own work so one day we can see a book cover made from scratch for the stories we’ve created.

I also think it’s important to still be a fan. Everyone I talk to about their writing journey usually says something along the lines of “I’ve always loved stories and reading.” And I think that’s so key! Being a fan means that we can appreciate the craft and creativity that goes into the field we’ve chosen. We can still be in awe of the beauty and talent that goes into crafting a story. We can have hero authors that (if we’re lucky) we might meet one day (and maybe cry on. NO YOU CRIED ON LAINI TAYLOR).

And, I also believe that writing is not ONLY about the writing. It’s about living a life worth inspiring a story. It’s about reading other stories to get motivation and inspiration. And it’s about knowing what books are out there right now being devoured and loved by the very audiences we’re writing for.

I have this analogy I make about my creativity where I call it a bank. I have a certain amount of words saved up that I’ve collected as I read or watch other stories. And when I write too long without reading I spend all of my words. There are legit moments where I feel so burned out that I cannot form coherent sentences anymore and it feels like I’ve used up all the words in my word bank and I need to fill it again. I hate when these moments happen, but at least I know that I can just go to my TBR and I can be inspired from the very first sentence I read.

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I find joy in almost every part of publishing (reading, writing, revising, meeting other writers). Seeing a CP or friend find success helps because it shows us that good stories can find a home and that talent is appreciated. Taking a moment to bask in the glory of your talented friends can warm some of the cold nights spent revising your MS for the umpteenth time. And it also helps to live vicariously through them as their stories find their audiences. I believe these communities are key to creating a sustainability in this industry so we don’t burn out or lose sight of why we’re doing this all in the first place.

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 (pt 1)

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

For even more links and resources go here: The Diversity Conversation pt2: Resources and Links