In case you missed this weekend’s edition of Craft Quest, behold the archived video. This time around, we discussed the whys and hows of finding an editor with special guest star Jeni Chappelle.
Check it out here.
In case you missed this weekend’s edition of Craft Quest, behold the archived video. This time around, we discussed the whys and hows of finding an editor with special guest star Jeni Chappelle.
Check it out here.
It’s amazing how easy it is to live within a bubble. I live in Bronx, NY, and I have my entire life. I work in Manhattan, known to New Yorkers as “the city”. But while I’ve been a part of the online writing and bookish communities for years now, and I’ve made appearances at events in the city on and off over that time, I somehow never managed to stumble upon some of the events going on in The Bronx for artists within my very own borough. What an oversight! And the truth of it is, there aren’t enough of them. The Bronx has been continually disenfranchised, the media doing its level best to portray us as a neighborhood without thinking minds, a place where only the strong survive. It’s a myth perpetuated by those who proliferate it, a story created to make the old white men who so often make the big decisions feel better about continually pulling funding on education and literacy programs for the area.
But strides are being taken in the right direction, often by stubborn members of the community itself, who have had enough of this wrong-minded take on our rich community. Created in 2013, the Bronx Book Fair takes place yearly at Bronx Library Center and, I’m ashamed to say, this was my first year in attendance. With the Bronx being a focal point of diversity, the organizing members look to reflect the community, with a diverse group of speakers and vendors. And this year just happened to be the first year in which the Executive Director was a woman–Lorraine Currelly, who was just a delight, her kindness and care for the community shining through every word she spoke as she made her presence known. It also happened to be the first year with a female keynote speaker, the lovely badass book lover and owner of the only bookstore in the borough, Noelle Santos.
Owner of The Lit. Bar, Noelle is really the person who pulled me into the Bronx literary community. I stumbled upon news of The Lit. Bar by accident, while looking into Bronx venues in which to do future book signings. I discovered The Lit. Bar’s website and emailed her for details. Noelle explained to be that she was still in the process of creating the bookstore, and that she’d definitely be happy to have me once they were up and running. After talking Bronx literacy with her, I have watched as Noelle gained media attention with her winning smile, her intelligence, and her real talk. “I’m not polished,” she said, but the truth is, she’s just not doing business-as-usual, and it’s about time for that. She doesn’t need to be polished. She needs to be authentic. In following her, and helping when I could (some of you have probably seen my social media blasts attempting to raise crowdfunding bucks, for instance), I tripped my way into the Bronx literary world.
As the Keynote Speaker of this event, Noelle shined as she related her story of discovering that the only Barnes & Noble, the only BOOKSTORE, in the Bronx was set to close, and how this inspired her to make a change. “I’m not signing any more petitions,” she said. She decided she was going to change the way the gatekeepers viewed readers through her own actions. She was going to show people that a real reader comes in many varieties, and she was going to do it by proving the need for a Bronx bookstore. And she has! Not only has she garnered a ton of press for herself and her cause, but she will be opening her bookstore this summer. And in many ways, she sounded the trumpets for others, looking to find a way to prove our borough is worth more than the gatekeepers of the education and literary industries believe. Hell, I heard the call! By the time I left her speech, I was itching to do something productive for the community. If her closing poem doesn’t rile you up, I don’t know what will.
If I dive into everything I did at the fair (I bought books! For me! For Logan!), this will become a very long blog post, so I’ll give you the condensed version, to the best of my ability. I unfortunately didn’t get to attend everything, due to a combination of the split between programs held in the auditorium, programs held in the conference room, and the vendor floor. Also, I ended up having to leave an hour earlier than originally intended thanks to a migraine (chronic illness and large crowds don’t mix all that well for prolonged periods). But here’s some of the compelling finds I made.
Bronx Library Center is a beautiful and rather large library, and its librarians are kind, caring people who truly believe in spreading a joy of reading. One of the panels I attended included a discussion of book recommendations from librarians that work in all age groups, and suggestions on how to break a book slump and to encourage reluctant readers. One thing I learned? Don’t discourage children from reading outside of their age ranges. Reading over their age range can help challenge them. Reading below their age range can remind them of all they’ve accomplished, thus boosting their self-esteem.
I watched a presentation about a wonderful children’s story about dealing with grief, My Yellow Balloon by Tiffany Papageorge. Following that, there was a reading of the book in Spanish, as that book had just been released, translated into Mi Globo Amarillo by Fernando Aquino and Melissa Coss Aquino. Melissa also taught a writer’s workshop that focused on narrowing yourself to one writing project and how to remain focused on it until its completion. Specificity was stressed, and the need to cut out a time to work on several small goals to contribute to your larger goals was a very helpful discussion for a writer like myself, who always has a billion balls in the air.
Another highlight was a panel titled “How to Get Your Work Published.” While I’ve been around that block a time or two, this was a great panel for people who are just starting out and are looking at the different methods of getting your work out into the world. The panel featured Carolyn Butts, Editor/Publisher of African Voices Magazine, Steve Bloom, writer, and Jennifer Baker, creator/host of the Minorities in Publishing podcast, and contributing editor of Electric Literature. The moderator was Marc W. Polite, Founder and Editor in Chief of Polite on Society. The sentiments here varied, with some discussing the advantages of self-publishing, while others discussed methods of snagging agent representation. Editing your work was stressed, as well as a need to get out into the world and make human connections. There was a general agreement that opinions are arbitrary and taste-based, and the reminder that rejection doesn’t mean the work is bad, it’s just not right for the person reading it. Writing Workshops were also discussed, reminding young writers that a writing workshop should feel helpful, not soul-sucking. Jennifer in particular discussed the helpfulness of borough-based grants in NYC.
Women in Leadership: Arts, Activism & Social Responsibility featured Yolanda Rodriguez, Co-founder and Executive Director of BxArts Factory, and Poet and Author Mercy Tullis-Bukhari as they discussed the various demands and misconceptions that circle women in the arts. A particularly interesting point was when a question was posed: Is it an artist’s responsibility to also be an activist? Both women stressed that activism should find its way into art when it comes from a genuine place. Tullis-Bukhari specifically discussed how her identity and the identity of her family are among the groups that are under attack in this country, so she often has no choice but to lean towards activism–it’s a part of her life. However, Rodriguez pointed out that if a person chooses to create work that does not serve as activism, or if a person cannot march among activist, it does not mean that they are not assisting in any way. There is more than one way to protest.
From the vendor floor, I got to meet so many amazing people, and wish I’d been able to make a stop at all of them. I discovered the National Writers Union (and joined them), an organization that offers tremendous resources to writers such as contract advice and seminars about important writing issues. To learn more, check them out here. Riverdale Avenue Books had a table, and I had a great time chatting with Publisher Lori Perkins. I picked up an intriguing book about the #MeToo movement that I intend to gobble up.
Another great vendor represented at the fair was Boogie Down Books. Specialized in readers from 0-18, Boogie Down is a bookstore without walls, with pop-up shops and special book-related events hosted in local stores around the borough. Another great place for children who love reading to try, Writeopia Lab offers writing classes for kids in grades K-12, both individually, and through their school, or camp. It truly sounds like a great way to turn reluctant writers into pros.
All in all, while chronic illness left me super tired and kinda hurting through this, the people I met and the discussions I viewed were both inspiring and invigorating. It’s been a few days and I’m still riding high off the feeling of community and the sense that I want to do more. The Inkwell Council was my first attempt to try to do more for the writing community, and it has been a success. But my brain is starting to work towards what I can do for the literacy community in The Bronx itself. Stay tuned, folks–I’m spinning around a few ideas…I’ll keep you posted.
Today, I’m guest posting at All the Way YA about the emotional and professional lead up to my decision to shelve my first novel. Here’s a snippet of the post.
The Order of the Key was my dream novel, the book of my heart. I invented the idea for it when I was fifteen years old and I never expected to be shelving it, unpublished, twenty years later.
Jeez. Twenty years later. I don’t think I ever thought of it in those terms.
To be fair, I haven’t been working on it this entire time, and the book I’m stuffing in the musty shelf of my mind is definitely not the book I started with. The version I’d created at fifteen contained a completely unlikeable, hormonal, emotional (possibly based on myself) super-cool highly powerful sorceress teen, and she hunted vampires as she romanced her way through a team of stalwart heroes. Hey, cut me some slack. It was the age of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and it showed. The current, much cooler, much more mature version involves a fun and likeable geek who blunders her way through a semi-corrupt organization that fights interdimensional monsters and manages to find herself leading the rebellion to overthrow the corrupt portion of it.
When I say it has grown by leaps and bounds, I’m not just talking about its intriguing premise. The writing of the original novel was horrid. But it was the first thing I’d ever finished. I was proud of it.
To read the rest of the post, check it out on All the Way YA.
This weekend has been and will continue to be a super exciting weekend. On top of a birthday gathering with my two beautiful two year old nieces (honestly, the highlight of my weekend), this has been a great writing weekend.
Yesterday, I appeared on a live panel discussion on Youtube, which I managed to advertise on most of my social media platforms, but didn’t manage to post about here! That’s because my computer had decided to die the night before. Thankfully, I knew this was coming, and was ready with a new laptop and my backup files on my hard drive. Unfortunately, this left me scrambling to get the new guy updated in time to film the livestream, with a slight disregard to promoting it.
The good news is, even if you didn’t spot my social media posts, you can still view the archived version of the livestream here. Just like the previous one, this will be run by Craft Quest, and will feature myself, and fellow authors Megan Manzano, Maria Turead, Ari Augustine, and Vivien Reis. This time we’re talking all about cliches, tropes, and stereotypes.
In addition to that, today, Sunday at 2PM EST, I’ll be chiming in on a twitter group chat to help authors prepare for Camp NaNoWriMo, which is quickly approaching. Join us today at #WhereWritingHappens, to participate, and you could win a Printable Packet for writers, created by Ann at There is Magic!
If you’re interested in joining Camp Nano, I am hosting a cabin where we can all talk over our writing, and hopefully provide helpful encouragement! Comment below with your username if you want to join!
Lastly, stay tuned. Later this week, I will give you a heads up on a special guest post I will be making on All the Way YA, a great source for the real deal behind being a YA writer in this industry.
Hope to see you today!
When I started 2017, I was feeling seriously optimistic. I teamed up with my husband, Ismael, and his sister, Megan, to create a free editing service called The Inkwell Council. Our trio had also united with Ismael and my son, Logan, to create a YouTube channel, The Geektastic Manzanos. I had written a new short story. I had finished a massive positive revision of The Order of the Key, my YA Fantasy novel. Everything felt like it was looking up. Megan and I had numerous conversations stating that this was our year. 2017 was gonna be awesome.
As it turned out, the year ran about fifty/fifty.
The Inkwell Council has been a tremendous success. We’re helping the literary community and we love every minute of it. What was initially supposed to be one 3-chapter edit of a fantasy novel a month, spread into two a month, novels or short stories of any genre. We’ve got a bit of a following and we’re having a great time doing it. Follow us on twitter here. To see more about what people are saying about us, visit here.
The Geektastic Mazanos, however, flopped. From the start, we saw the issues, but we figured we’d try it for a year and see where it went. This had been Logan’s idea from the beginning and Logan really wanted to make it happen. But Logan also has ADHD and that didn’t really make for cohesive video shoots. Also, we would have needed much more expensive equipment to shoot in the evening with any kind of visibility, and we had maybe two days where we had daylight time. Add to that increasing homework loads, and just how painstaking video editing actually is, and you’ve got a fun project that eats entire weekends. Logan’s spontaneity was being tamped down for when there was better lighting, and our enthusiasm just died a slow death. It didn’t help that, even with a giveaway, our subscribers didn’t make it over the 30 mark. That’s just sad. In the end, what remained was our love for taking loads of doofy geektastic pictures for our Instagram…so we’re keeping that.
The short story sold. Blue Ice was included in the Spring 2017 issue of the Corvus Review. It’s a big time favorite of mine, and I was so happy to see it land a home. Even better, I actually re-sold another short story, Choosing to Stand Still, to Fiction on the Web in August. All good news!
The Order of the Key, however, did not fare well. After years of revising and contracts with questionable publishing companies, and queries to loads of agents and publishing companies, I haven’t gotten much of anywhere. I love Order, and I still stand by it. It’s a great story and I love its characters, but I don’t believe the market is right for it at the moment. Though I still await contact from a few outstanding queries (whom I’d be very happy to work with, should I hear back with a positive result), I’ve mostly dealt with the idea that it’s time to put The Order of the Key on a shelf. Just for now.
This is mostly because I’ve completed my new YA Romatic Comedy with fantasy undertones, Never Say Never. It’s fun and so very different from Order. I’ve fallen deeply in love with these new characters, and I hope you will, too. I’m currently in final revisions of Never Say Never, before I start putting this new baby out into the world, searching for acceptance. It’s a very exciting time in my life, and I hope you grow to love Brynn, Adam, Nina, Gabe, and Val. They are hopefully going to be meeting you someday soon.
So, that’s where I’m heading in the new year. 2018 will continue to be a year of determination, it will continue to be a year of meeting my goals. However, much like the outlines I make of my books, there’s always room for a little tweaking.
What are your plans for this year? Let me know in the comments.
Today, over at The Inkwell Council Rountable, I’m talking about theme: how to find it, and how to make sure you’re story properly carries it out. Check it out here.
Please enjoy the continuation of my editing journal for #p2p16. To learn more about it and see how wave 1 did, check out my previous post here.
Sunday, November 20, 2016:
Today, I received my second wave of edits from Kaitlyn! I am very excited to dive into them. The main bulk of them are line edits, because apparently, she thinks I did a great job listening to notes in her previous edits and making the corresponding scenes and changes to scenes to make it work. However, there were a couple of things that needed to be discussed and punched up in certain places. A main issue was diversity, and the reason is embarrassing.
In my mind, I envisioned a very diverse group of people for my Keys and Guardians. This was a group that should look like a cross section of this great planet we live on. There are Anglo, Irish, Hispanic, Black and Asian characters (there is a big cast), a gay character, and in book 2, which I have already started writing, there is also a bisexual character and a disabled character. So, I am not actually short on diversity. It’s been there in my sketch of the characters the entire time.
The problem is, I chickened out. I became frightened of writing descriptions, because I worried they would offend someone. I wasn’t sure I knew how to do justice to characters of color coming from the position of a woman who is pretty much every kind of white there is. So, obviously, I had done something very wrong, because now, my reader had no idea there was any diversity. She thought I had written a stark white cast.
A big issue, upon researching this, was that my characters can’t have a culture of their own. They are born and raised together as Keys and Guardians, so they are pretty much all homogeneous when it comes to culture, although there were enough of them before The Great War that they aren’t exactly homogeneous when it comes to appearance. So, I struggled to give descriptions that weren’t heavy handed or worded in a way that would offend people, because descriptive words can be unwieldy things and people do not like to be described as food flavors for very good reasons. I wasn’t sure if there were other rules that needed to be followed just like that.
Diversity is important to me. Having representative characters means something. I mean, my skin color was thoroughly represented as a child, but I still went and bought the Barbie with the brown hair and any doll with glasses, because that was the closest look to my own. I still loved Belle because she loved to read and looked the most like me. Why shouldn’t other people have that representation, and why shouldn’t a teenager discover someone who looks like them when they read my book?
Still, as a Social Justice Warrior (I love when people say that as an insult, when it really makes you sound like a badass superhero), I wanted to make sure I did that correctly. In my research, I found the most amazing and helpful page, Writing With Color to help me avoid any pitfalls and allow my readers to feel represented without inadvertently insulting them with something I probably should have known already, but I will be the first to admit that I have some ignorance and privilege and welcome whenever I have the opportunity to learn more.
And so, I strike out on my 2nd wave of edits, looking to describe all of my characters in stronger ways as well as clean up some other smaller issues along the way.
Kaitlyn has also informed me that she will be touching base with me about my query and my synopsis by the end of this week, and all of the edits will be due back to her by December 2, 2016. Thusly, here begins another two week whirlwind of edits.
Monday, November 21, 2016:
Today I worked through Chapter 1 and 2 line edits on breaks at work. I also started the process of reintegrating my descriptions back into the piece as well as solving a couple of other issues through clarification.
For Chapter 3, I worked to clarify the timing of events that happened before the start of the story. It was difficult to fit in without it being an info dump, but I tried, and found a place without being too ham fisted.
I’ve worked all the way through to part of Chapter 6, but I’m not feeling too well. I’m going to turn in for the night and wake up early.
Tuesday, November 22, 2016:
I woke up at 4AM this morning (after going to sleep at 8:30 last night) and got to work. I made it through the rest of Chapter 6 and the beginning of 7 before it was time to take my little nugget to school. Not bad.
Was very proud today to find a note saying something bothered Kaitlyn about my character that I put there on purpose. It may not be noticeable on the first read, but it was on the second, and that’s good, because it’s a lead in to where Book 2 is going.
I changed a chalkboard to a whiteboard in an attempt to make the classroom setting in the story a little more modern, and I only changed it in one place. Every other instance still said chalkboard. ARGH!
That moment you realize you’ve been formatting ellipses wrong for all time…whoops.
I’m turning in early again tonight, but on Chapter 13. This round is moving along much quicker!
Wednesday, November 23, 2016:
I woke up early today to get some editing in, yay! Today is an odd day, with a shortened work schedule, and the opportunity to go see my boy in his Judo class, plus I need to bake something for Thanksgiving tonight, so I’m not sure how much I’ll get done, but I’m going to do my best to make a dent!
Today, reading Kaitlyn’s notes, I realized I had telegraphed something for Book 2, but in the wrong direction, so I’m working through my edits to make sure I redirect that in the right way, so people aren’t confused and don’t expect something different. That’s not to say that something unexpected can’t happen, but for this, I need the progression to make sense, and if the reader expects what Kaitlyn did, they may be disappointed. So, a few line corrections to make, for clarification.
Thursday, November 24, 2016:
A lovely day at my father-in-law’s house, with lots of Turkey and sides and desserts and no editing. Ah, well.
Friday, November 25, 2016:
Nasty migraine all day, but still managed to shuffle my way through two chapters. I’m almost done though.
Saturday, November 26, 2016:
Though my morning was spent at the mall, I made a huge dent in the manuscript. I also received an edited synopsis and query letter from Kaitlyn.
I have learned I ellipsis too much. I must ellipsis less, even if my characters are speaking in a halting manner. It doesn’t seem to read well.
Reviewed Kaitlyn’s edit to my query letter. Wow, her blurb describing the book was so much better and more compelling than mine. I just hadn’t thought some of the stuff she mentioned was important, but now that I’m looking at it, I guess it would help along the lines of marketing. She’s sort of a genius. Okay, she’s not SORT OF a genius, she IS a genius.
Sunday, November 27, 2016:
I’ve completed my edits! I can’t believe we finished with more than enough time. I don’t describe people much past the first introduction to them, focusing instead on facial expressions and mannerisms than physical appearance, so the corrections I hoped to make to make the diversity of my cast more apparent weren’t huge, but they are there. I’ve never been big on describing characters so much, as that’s one of the major things I enjoy leaving up to reader’s imaginations. However, I remain open to criticism if it is at all necessary, and hopefully that makes me a good enough ally.
Tuesday, November 29, 2016:
I have officially handed in my finalized materials for the agent round! Keep your fingers crossed for me! I’ll post about how it goes.