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.

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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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Twitter and Conference Pitching: A Quick Guide

 

I’m not an expert on pitching, but I am one of the few people who kind of loves it.

 So, I was hoping this post could be informational but also share my love of pitching.

First, the reasons I love pitching (in conferences):

– It’s face-to-face, so you can get a feel of the agent/editor and their reaction to your story.

– It’s an organic conversation, it gives agents/editors a chance to ask questions that they wouldn’t otherwise. It means you get a chance to really sell your story in a more natural setting.

– It’s a chance for YOU to ask questions of the agent/editor you’re talking to. It’s great because even if they don’t request your MS you can ask them about future projects or about the industry in general. Almost every agent and editor I’ve pitched has been willing to take extra time to talk to me about small questions at the end. It has been a great chance to educate myself.

The reasons I love pitching (on Twitter):

– It’s low commitment. You can just post your pitch and step away (if you want).

– It costs you nothing (except maybe a bit of your sanity that day).

– You’re usually allowed to pitch more than once so you get multiple chances to make an impression on dozens of agents and editors that are taking part.

Some things to keep in mind:

– Pitching doesn’t give a full picture of your story, that’s what your query letter is for, so make sure it’s ready to go.

– Don’t pitch (on Twitter) unless you’ve got a completed MS. There is an expectation that you will send requested materials soon (often within a few weeks).

(NOTE: This is different for conferences. You have more time, but I’d also tell the agent/editor what stage the MS is on when you have the pitch appointment)

Basic elements of a pitch:

– Concept/World

– Character – their motivations, their flaw.

– Conflict – the inciting incident. The reason they can’t stay in their comfort zone anymore.

Do NOT try to include everything about your story in your pitch. There’s no way you can tell all elements of your story in a pitch whether it’s a 5 minute convo at a conference or a 140 character Twitter Pitch.

For a conference (in person) pitch, you can just include one great detail for each of the three bullet points above. Then if you have more time expand on the thing that makes your story interesting.

For a Twitter pitch, you can make one 140 character pitch for each individual bullet point.

Also, SPECIFICITY! My main advice when I critique pitches is to ask for specifics. “She’s a monster” is a bit vague. However, specifying the type of monster makes it more unique: “She’s a gumiho, a 9-tailed fox.” If you can give concrete reasons or examples for why your story is unique, then use them. Making your story stand out among the crowd is the key to a successful pitch.

Additional things you can add (if you have them):

– Great comps that give IMMEDIATE idea of your story (These Broken Stars was often pitched as Titanic in Space. That gives an immediate concept of the story. Don’t just use 2 comps and think it’ll give an idea of the story immediately, that’s not always the case so be aware of your story’s strengths)

– High concept hook (this is similar to including good comps). For example, “Cinder is Futuristic retelling of Cinderella with cyborgs and spaceships.” That kind of tweet would make me want to read IMMEDIATELY.

– Something that the story is based on that is cool and unexpected. I said that my story was based on Korean Myth which is (unfortunately) not common in YA right now. So it caught the eye of a few agents and it helped my pitch get interest.

Some things to try for Twitter Pitches (with examples):

Try making a pitch based on Plot Line.

– Say you’re pitching Hunger Games. You’d pitch the plot by saying, “A teen girl is forced into a televised game that makes 24 kids fight to the death for sport. Only 1 can survive.”

Try making a pitch based on Character Arc.

– Again, for Hunger Games. “Katniss will do anything to save her little sister, including taking her place in the deadly Hunger Games, a televised fight to the death.”

Try making a pitch based on World Inspiration.

– Hunger Games pitch with World inspiration. “Panem is all that’s left of North America. The capital keeps the 12 districts in line by demanding 2 teen tributes each year to fight to the death for sport.”

(I also made a video for tips on writing a Twitter Pitch)

And Finally, be positive. Even if the first, second, and tenth agent don’t show much interest then keep trying! You worked hard on your book and you should be proud of that. And if all else fails, you can still slush query.

The Book Con 2016!

So, my reader/fan life and my writer life have collided (once again). I went with some writing friends to this year’s BEA/Book Con in Chicago.
It was such a fun time even though we only went to the Book Con part of it on Saturday.
One of the things I love about going to Book conventions is that the authors are so nice! They are always willing to talk, take pictures, sign books, let you cry on them (No! YOU cried after meeting Laini Taylor)
I couldn’t look Daniel Jose Older (@djolder )in the eye for the first five minutes I was talking to him. I mean Shadowshaper is on the New York Times Bestseller’s list! Woah! But he’s actually one of the nicest, coolest, funniest, and smartest people you can talk to about books and life in general.
There are not enough words in the English language for me to explain how awesome Anna Marie McLemore is (@LaAnnaMarie). She was not only epic on her panel but she’s just a great down-to-earth person and so sweet.
Everyone should put The Weight of Feathers on their TBR.
I cannot tell you how ridiculously surreal it was to actually hang out with authors like Sona Charaipotra (@sona_c), Dhonielle Clayton (@brownbookworm), and Anna Marie McLemore (Also, Zoraida Cordova who is not pictured because I’m the worst at asking for photos @zlikeinzorro so instead I’ll show the cover of the BEAUTIFUL Labyrinth Lost below).
I will say that having writers around when you’re writing your MS is SO cool! They are so supportive and will fan over your work whether they are your CP or an award winning author. So cool! (Also, I’m in love with Tiny Pretty Things by Sona and Dhonielle)
Read this book, it’s awesome!

Susan Dennard (@stdennard) is the nicest. She spent so long talking to us as fans and people and was so excited we’d be at future cons and events. Just a wonderful all around person (and of course, she writes great books. Truthwitch for the win!)

You get ARCs! and Samplers! And I Love Laini Taylor’s new book already. Squeal!
(Also, go see Janella Angeles @janella_angeles on the diversity panel at Leviosa Con in July! She’s the classy one scratching her nose)
So, I was really nervous to ask for this photo with Laini Taylor (@lainitaylor) because it wasn’t at a signing or panel. I just saw her walking through the convention and she stopped and I just seized the moment (with some prodding from my awesome friends). I couldn’t get a full sentence out. I asked for the photo. I think I bowed when I thanked her (I’ll blame that on my Korean upbringing).
And then I cried.
I did wait until I was away from her before I cried, but yes, I cried. Laini Taylor is my literary idol. If I had 1/100th of the talent she did then I’d feel accomplished as a writer.
Speaking of awesome writers that I look up to. Look! It’s Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater)! She was surrounded by fans trying to get copies of The Raven King signed. This was at the very end of the day. So I was so tired I blame being a hot mess on that, but I think she’s probably used to fans being tongue tied in front of her. So I’m in good company. Hahaha.