Things I’ve Learned About Writing Pt. 3

Heather Burch

I first heard of Heather Burch through Netgalley. I was a brand new blogger, going on Netgalley for the very first time. Halflings was up, I requested, and I got my first e-arc. I fell in love with the world Heather creates in these stories and I was so excited to hear that she was coming to Tennessee. So I drove a few hours to get to Nashville and eagerly awaited my chance to meet Heather. We had communicated by email a few times before this, and she took part in my birthday bash, so I was very excited to meet her.

I wasn’t disappointed. Heather taught me that no matter what I shouldn’t give up my dream. She spoke about going to conferences (this was before I went to SCBWI) and how much they helped her. It was a really great experience.

Someone mentioned something about querying agents. There were two other aspiring writers at the event so Heather (and the other authors) spent some time talking to us about our path so far. My path includes querying for the first time when I was 18. I had just finished a book that I loved and hadn’t yet learned what revisions were and probably shouldn’t have sent anything out. But I did. And I don’t regret it I sent out twenty queries, all rejections.

I love what Heather had to say about that.Until you’ve gotten 50 rejections on a single book you’re not trying. That really struck me and stays with me even today. It was a way of saying don’t ever give up, but to me it was also a way of saying it’s okay to fail. When she said that it told me that even though I got those rejections it wasn’t the ultimate failure, because the ultimate failure would be giving up because of those rejections.

Heather and I

Isn’t that great advice? Heather is one of the nicest authors I have met, and her faith and confidence in people is amazing. I may just be a really big fan of hers, but everyday I think of her great advice and her faith in me. That makes me feel good. I mentioned in the first post of this series about how I didn’t tell anyone for a long time that I was a writer because I didn’t want to be judged or feel inadequate. Heather is one of the people who really opened her arms to me and made me feel welcome in this world.

So through Heather I learned to never give up, even in the face of rejection, because by actually giving up my dream would be the ultimate horror.

Throwback Thursday: Go Ask Alice- Anonymous

Throwback Thursday is a weekly meme hosted by The Housework Can Wait and Never Too Fond of Books

It’s the nature of book blogging to focus mainly on new releases, but there are thousands of great books out there that haven’t seen the “New Releases” shelf in years. We hope to be able to bring attention to some older titles that may not be at the top of the current bestseller list, but still deserve a spot in your To-Be-Read pile.

You don’t have to be a book blogger to participate! You can put up a Throwback Thursday post on your non-bookish blog; or if you don’t have a blog at all, just use the comments to tell us about a book you remember fondly.

Author: Anonymous (aka Beatrice Sparks)
Publication Date: 1971

Go Ask Alice was a different choice for me. My comprehension of this book may be a little on the corny side, because all during high school I was that anti drug kid who steered clear of any and all things illegal, drinking, smoking, drugs, you name it. This is meant to read as a diary of a young girl who leads a seemingly normal life then spirals into an uncontrollable drug binge on and off.

During the first half of reading I was clinging to keep reading, really pushing myself to gain interest. In a way you can see how easily a teen can struggle with drug usage being first peer pressured and mostly tricked in to taking that first little dose of mind altering substance, then gaining interest in other forms of drugs. Not at all that this justifies drug use, but I suppose being on one side growing up it was sort of a window or a peek at the way some of my good friends probably got introduced to the substances. The journey begins with a party and being unknowingly drugged by drink, her curiosity from there grows, then the guilt of her actions cause her to go further and further into the world of a drug pusher, a run away, and eventually ends in bullying and unbearable torment by those around her still engaging with drugs whilst she was trying to keep clean.

As you read through it becomes a little more difficult to believe that someone would clutch to their diary and continue to coherently write regularly. I imagine a bit of it could be based on a real story but a good bit was more than likely was fabricated to fill in the gaps. On the one hand I enjoyed reading because you know the high school kid antidruggie at heart was intrigued, but there were times I really felt I had to drag myself to the next page. Though maybe the style in which this story was told may not be my favorite, I feel there is a moral to be told which is an important perspective for youngins to be aware of. Read it, love it or hate it either way it will stick with you, and definitely spark a conversation if nothing else based on points of view and validation, or lack there of, of how things play out.


Things I’ve Learned About Writing Pt. 2

Sharon Cameron
I first met Sharon a little over a year ago when I attended one of Ruta’s events. (There’s Ruta again! lol) I was so flustered by meeting Ruta, who I had been talking to through email for a few months, that I completely blanked on everything else. So when Ruta tried to introduce me to Sharon and tell me all about her book, I was too busy grabbing swag to giveaway on here to actually understand what was happening. So when Sharon politely told me the title of her book a million times because I kept writing it down wrong (The Dark Winding, The Dark and Unwinding, The Darkness Winding) I wasn’t thinking much of it besides, Oh what a good friend Ruta is, promoting her friends book at her own event.

Sharon and I at SCBWI

The event was in December 2011 and a few months later in (about) February 2012 I emailed Sharon saying something like, Hey, you probably don’t remember me, but I am that crazy blonde girl who was a total mess at Ruta’s signing. She emailed back saying she remembered me. (It was probably the crazy that did it because everyone else was so composed. lol) That was when my love affair with The Dark Unwinding began. It is also when I learned another very valuable lesson.

My main character is a female girl of 15 (She turns 16 in the story) and I wanted nothing more than to make her a strong character. Not just physically, but in all aspects of her life. I had a plan for her and that did not involve showing any weaknesses. I wanted a girl that I could be proud to have my younger cousins look up to.

While I was reading The Dark Unwinding I fell in love with the character of Katherine. While I was reading I knew this would be a book to recommend to my teenage (and younger) cousins as a really good example. Katherine has a very strong personality, but what I love about how Sharon Cameron portrayed her is that she has tremendous growth throughout the book. I said this online a while ago, but since Twitter has a character max I am not sure if it came out right. I said that I loved Katherine because she shows weakness. Yes. If that means that at times Katherine is weak then that is what I am trying to say.

It’s not to say that Sharon wrote a weak character. To the contrary the character of Katherine is all the more stronger because she was weak at times. That is real. That is life. Even the strongest person is going to have moment’s where they question everything and it was so great to get to read that in the book.

That was something that I was missing. If my protagonist is always strong at everything she does and never shows any weakness then eventually it’s not strength anymore. It’s arrogance. Something like that would have her making stupid decisions, not thinking things threw, and becoming the type of person that I wouldn’t want my little cousins to become.

Someone like Katherine is perfect because she shows girls that it’s okay to make mistakes as long as you grow from them. That is what I have learned from Sharon Cameron. Give your character weaknesses, because that leaves room for growth and character who grow are the strongest kinds.

Things I’ve Learned About Writing

As I mentioned a few posts ago I like to write. It’s not something that I only started recently, I started my first book when I was ten. I wrote it for years and looking back on it now I get a good laugh. Blogging has really helped me connect with other writers though, and to connect with the Young Adult community, which is the age group I write in. Through blogging I have had so many wonderful opportunities with my writing. I am going to talk about them today in case there are any writers out there who don’t have a blog and aren’t involve. Here are some things that I learned because of this blog.

I am going to do a few posts on this because I have learned so much, but my first post is all about what Ruta Sepetys has taught me and how I have learned from her.

Ruta Sepetys
It is no surprise that Ruta Sepetys is one of my favorite authors. Between Shades of Gray is such a wonderful book and like Out of the Easy is written with such realism. When I am writing I think to myself “What would Ruta do?” and what she would do is write the truth. So when I am writing and trying to figure something out or exactly how I should write something I always remind myself to write the truth. When mentioning the difference between writing truth and facts, all I can really say is how I feel on it. To me writing the facts is cold. There isn’t a lot of emotion in that. Facts happened, there is no debating them. They are just there. When you write the truth it’s not something that has been predestined. For example, in Between Shades of Gray the people around Lina die during their term at the labor camps. Ruta Sepetys could have made these people non-essential people in Lina’s life, she could have made Lina aware of their deaths and they effect her because it means other Lithuanians are dying. The truth of the matter is, in a story like Between Shades of Gray, it is important to show the truth of situation that Lina is in and kill off the people that she is close too. So, I have learned from Ruta, write the truth no matter what. It won’t be the glamorous happy ending that your readers want, but it is the real one. Write the truth.

Ruta and I

Another thing that I learned through Ruta Sepetys are the things I learned at the SCBWI (Society of Children Book Writers and Illustrators) Conference in September. Ruta Sepetys has been a champion for this organization, mentioned it in countless interviews, and talked about it to me numerous times. So when the opportunity came to attend the Mid-South conference in September I would have pushed people out of the way to get there. That leads me to the first thing I learned, go to a writing conference. I write Young Adult so the SCBWI is perfect for me because it is a conference tailored for my age group.
I have always been a really solitary writer. I didn’t talk about it to anyone, I always felt like it wasn’t something not to talk about. It wasn’t something to be proud of. It took me a while to get over that. When I went to this conference it was the most amazing feeling in the entire world. I was in a hotel filled with writers going to classes with people who have the same interests. My biggest fear going in was that everyone was going to be scary and competitive over their works. What I actually discovered was a bunch of people who wanted to support me and my dreams. Every person there was so wonderfully supportive and all the writers wanted to help each other out. What I also loved was that the authors, agents, and editors that attended wanted us to succeed. Wow. That was such an incredible feeling. I highly suggest attending a writers conference like that and if your age group fits into a SCBWI age group then I would suggest attending that conference. It was life changing.

Another really important thing I learned at this conference was through my very first session of the day. It was taught by Tracy Barrett. She taught us to show, don’t tell. When I sat there listening to this session I thought I understood it. I sat there and nodded right along with the other attendees. It wasn’t until this month, months after attending the conference, that I finally realized what that meant. Because it took me so long to actually figure it out, and it was only through writing, I think that it is something that each individual writer really needs to figure out for themselves. But remember to always keep it in the back of your mind and when you realize what it means to your writing it will be on a continuous chant in your head while you’re writing. Show don’t tell.