From A to Z: Out of the Trenches, Now What?

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It’s been just over six months since I signed with the magnificent Caitie Flum. So I wanted to talk a little bit about my journey so far with her, hopefully to demystify what happens after the contract is signed. I’d like to disclaim this by saying this experience may not be yours, your mileage may vary, and all that good stuff.

After we had The Call on February 17, 2017, I noted a few things:

  1. Caitie was prompt. We’d set up the call for 10:30am Central time and my phone rang at exactly 10:30am Central time. That showed me that she valued my time and hers, and respected our schedules.
  2. She was upfront. She wasn’t ready to offer, and she started off the call by saying so. I really liked her professionalism and frankness.
  3. She told me what she loved, and then she told me what held her back. I appreciated her honesty and her gentle delivery. Her concerns were fixes I was completely on board with and excited to incorporate.

By the time the call ended, Caitie had offered to represent my book, making me happier and more hopeful than I’d felt in a long time.

One thing I wanted in an agent was more than a business partnership. I wanted a friendship as well. I wanted someone I felt comfortable going with about things that made me anxious as far as writing, publicity, this whole journey. I wanted someone reliable, trustworthy, and a fighter. After talking with Caitie, I felt like I could have that with her.

I signed the contract on February 28, 2017, and we made it “twitter official” on March 1, 2017. The day was a lot of fun! A whirlwind of notifications and good wishes and congratulations, I went out to eat at my favorite restaurant to celebrate, and I basked in the glow of taking this step in my writing career.

So, to get to the point, what happens after the contract is signed (besides all the partying)? Well, I can’t speak for everyone, but this is what happened with me:

one

I gained a whole new set of writer friends—#TeamCaitie—my agency siblings. We have a Google Hangout and a Facebook group where we can chat any time we feel. Sometimes we chat about random things, sometimes we lament about publishing, and sometimes we write together and share our work.

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I’d begun working on the revisions Caitie suggested almost right away. I also incorporated some of the feedback I’d gotten on some recent agent passes, along with my own tweaks and fixes. I did this, the whole time hoping I didn’t ruin what Caitie fell in love with. And hoping it was *enough*.

three

I started feeling ALL the feels. I began flip-flopping from anxious to excited. know the realities of publishing. But right now, there are so many possibilities. I have room to dream big. So I do.

No one warned me about the anxiety. I began worrying about letting Caitie down. About letting myself down. Because now I wasn’t writing completely for fun anymore. This is real. And I put a lot of pressure on myself to be great.

I’ve been through this agent/submission thing before. And I never got over feeling like I let the other agent down when my book didn’t sell. I don’t want to do that to another agent.

four

Manuscript anxiety. I read it over and over so much more critically now. I worry that it’s not special enough, that it won’t even make it past pitching stage. And then sometimes I get nervous about the possibility of it actually taking off. So, even having the validation from an agent (who reminds me that she loves my book and my writing) doesn’t quell the imposter syndrome feeling.

Career anxiety. Can I be that person on panels, doing book tours, signing books and posing for pictures with readers? And then I imagine myself there. It feels right. So yes, I can be that person, I want to be that person, and I’m so excited to someday be that person.

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I turned in my revisions to Caitie on July 30, then proceeded to head to Disney World for a week of family, fun, and magic. During all of August, I kept busy with work, planning things, and spending time with friends, while also brainstorming and writing new books. Healthy right?

I also worried and worried and worried, hoping I finally fixed the pacing in the first act. (Pacing is so tricky to nail.) Hoping I did what she asked and then some, and didn’t mess up anything extra. And when I got the note from her on August 30 saying I did a good job, I breathed a big sigh of relief.

After this, she will go through one more time for copy edits. Then we’ll work on the pitch letter and submission lists.

It’s getting closer, which means….

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More feels. A tremendous, almost overwhelming amount of feels. I really want it to be special enough not only for an editor to fall in love with it, but be willing to fight for its acquisition. I really want it to warrant excellent support and marketing. But mostly importantly? I want the people who may need this book to get it, read it, and love it. I want people to be able to see themselves in my work.

I want my work to make readers feel like how Moana and Jane the Virgin makes me feel when I watch them.

I’m excited to be where I am, but very much looking forward to where I’m going. Learning to respect the process, learning to enjoy this moment, this time. This is the hardest part about publishing. It is slow. It requires patience. It’s so easy to get hung up on wanting to be with the “cool kids” who have books coming out to much acclaim and buzz. It’s so easy to get swept up in what could be, rather than “what is.” So that is a constant struggle. I always want what’s next. This is teaching me to slow down and enjoy what’s now. Because to be honest, what’s now isn’t a bad place to be. However, it’s important that I’m ready for what comes next.

Folks, I am so ready.

Let’s do this!

Chicago Reads: Upcoming YA Book Events (Sept/Oct 2017)

Chicago is lucky to be home to many independent bookstores, which host authors for a wide variety of readings, signings, and panels. Check out these upcoming Chicago-area YA events, and let us know about any author events we missed in the comments!

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THE DATE TO SAVE

Stephanie Kate Strohm (in conversation with ChiYA’s own Gloria Chao!)
Friday, September 15 at 7:3o PM
The Book Cellar (Lincoln Square)

Release
RELEASE
Patrick Ness
Friday, September 22 at 7:00 PM
Center Stage Theater (Naperville)

SCBWIpanel
SCBWI Presents: How Children’s Books Will Save Us
James Klise
Patricia Hruby Powell
Michelle Falkoff
Natasha Tarpley
Suzanne Slade
Thursday, September 28 at 6:30 PM
57th Street Books (Hyde Park)

OliverSilvera
RINGER and THEY BOTH DIE AT THE END
Lauren Oliver
Adam Silvera
Thursday, October 5 at 7:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

Fierce Reads Panel Authors and Books
Fierce Reads Tour
Caleb Roehrig
Jennifer Mathieu
Mitali Perkins
Anna-Marie McLemore
Sunday, October 8 at 2:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

Turtles
TURTLES ALL THE WAY DOWN
John Green
Saturday, October 21 at 7:00 PM
Community Christian Church (Naperville)
Note: As of September 12, this event was sold out.

Anderson’s Bookshop in Downers Grove hosts a monthly GenYA Book Group, which will be discussing John Corey Whaley’s HIGHLY ILLOGICAL BEHAVIOR in September and Erin Jade Lange’s REBEL, BULLY, GEEK, PARIAH in October.

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This post is brought to you by Lizzie Cooke at ChiYAwriters.com.

ChiYA: Closed for the Summer

Hi Everyone,

Just a quick post to let you know that ChiYA is taking a break for the summer. We’ll be back in the fall with more of our favorite places to write, craft advice, sources of inspiration, and YA happenings!

In the meantime, don’t hesitate to reach out with any questions or comments. We plan to make a few changes to the blog when we start up again in the fall, so we’d love to hear your ideas!

Thanks as always for reading,

The ChiYA Team

Chicago YA Writers

Chicago Reads: Party Like a Librarian at ALA 2017

“When you absolutely positively have to know, ask a librarian.”                                                               – American Library Association

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We couldn’t agree more. And that’s why all of us at ChiYA are thrilled that the American Library Association’s Annual Conference will be coming to our fair city this week, June 22-27.

This year’s conference theme,  “Transforming our libraries, ourselves,” will highlight the tools librarians and libraries need to adapt and flourish in our changing times and with shrinking budgets. The annual conference allows attendees to network, problem solve, meet authors, and get an early look at books that might soon be on library shelves.

Highlighted speakers include Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, focusing on his Reading Without Walls program, which encourages kids and adults to read a “book about a character who doesn’t look like them or live like them… a book about a topic they don’t know much about…or a book in a format they don’t usually choose.” Reading is a vital part of our lives and reading diversely and widely enriches us. Mr. Yang will speak on Saturday, June 24th at 8:30a.m.

Another speaker getting a lot of buzz, and understandably so, is Hillary Rodham Clinton, who will close out the conference on June 27th at 10a.m. Secretary Clinton has spoken often about her lifelong love of reading and is the author of multiple bestselling books. An all-new, full-color picture book of her bestseller It Takes a Village, illustrated by two-time Caldecott Honor recipient Marla Frazee, will be published in September.

And in a shameless self-plug, I will be signing Advance Reader Copies of my debut, LOVE, HATE & OTHER FILTERS, on Sunday at 11:00 a.m. in the SoHo Press Booth #3729.

Want to learn why Sarah Jessica Parker never leaves home without a book or hobnob with Carnegie and Pulitzer Prize winners? You can still attend, even if you’re not a librarian. While the conference is geared toward ALA members, the general public can purchase floor passes onsite for the Exhibit Hall, where you can meet authors, take in cooking demonstrations, and hear poetry readings, live podcasts, and musical acts.

ChiYA will be out in force on the floor and at the parties, and we’ll be tweeting via the official conference tag #alaac17. Hope to see some of you at the conference or on Twitter!

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This post is brought to you by Samira Ahmed at ChiYAwriters.com.

Inspiration Station: My Favorite Authors, and How They’ve Inspired Me to Write

Inspiration Station is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com highlighting the people, places, and works of art that inspire us as writers.

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I wrote my first story when I was eleven years old. It was in a Michael Jackson notebook. I sat at one of the end tables in the living room and scribbled out a story about me and some of my classmates getting trapped in a haunted house.

I kept writing on and off all through middle school, high school, and college. My inspirations came mostly from boys I had crushes on, “real” or celebrities; actresses I wanted to be like or wanted to be; song lyrics; TV shows; and words tossed out carelessly by a friend or family member. But as far as being inspired to write for publication? Well, that started with a gothic horror author named V.C. Andrews.

Say what you will about V.C. Andrews, but I absolutely love her original early stuff. Flowers in the Attic? Dark Angel? I got laughed at in a writing workshop course because I admitted I liked those books. But there’s a reason the books have sold a staggering number of copies. They resonate with so many readers, but for me it was how real the characters seemed to me. Heaven’s passion. Cathy’s over-the-top way of always living. I felt like I would look up from the pages and see them in the room.

I wanted to write books that moved others like that.

But my style is not gothic horror. My style is contemporary romance with lots of kissing and a good deal of angst. Still, reading an old V.C. Andrews book seems to help kick-start me back into writing.

I draw inspiration from many authors, but the ones that seem to really feed my fires are the following:

  • J.K. Rowling. I re-read the Harry Potter series quite often, and it never fails. As soon as I’m two pages in, my mind starts churning with all sorts of ideas. And because I don’t write fantasy, it’s not that I’m ripping her off. There is something in the way her words feed me that help me do my own work.
  • Sarah Dessen. I read a book of hers called The Truth About Forever, and in it was a side character named Monica. Monica moves very slowly and talks in a monotone, and I could not stop thinking about her, wondering how she looked, and if she flopped across the couch like the weight of the world was on her chest. I decided I needed to write characters that people thought about after they put the book down.
  • Jennifer Niven. Her book All The Bright Places actually inspired me to write the book I’m currently revising for my agent. Her writing is pretty but easy to digest, and her characters inspire so many fans. If I got fan art of my characters like she does, I’d feel as if I’ve really arrived. I want to inspire people like that.
  • Nicola Yoon. Her skill amazes me. The way she weaves stories in and out, the way she adds in quirky things to get the point across in simple and fun ways. The way you are immediately drawn to and falling in love with her characters. It always seems to come down to characters for me.
  • Laurie Halse Anderson. I met her years ago, and she inscribed in my copy of Speak: “Remember, pre-publication is a temporary condition. Keep writing.”  Learning about her drafting process (it’s intense), her research process (even more intense) showed me someone who cares deeply, so very deeply, about her work. And it shows through her words. I want that kind of discipline, dedication, and skill. And it was her who jump-started me back into seriously writing six years ago, with an exercise called Writing Fifteen Minutes a Day (WFMAD). She had two prompts every day on her blog—a fiction and a non-fiction prompt. Those prompts got my writing wheels going after having laid dormant for years, and I haven’t looked back (much) since.

Those are just a few of the authors who inspire me. It’s not always about lush writing, intricate worlds, or a breakneck pace. I simply need to care about the characters (including side characters), to want to go on these journeys with them, to live in their worlds and in their heads for a while.  And I want readers to care that much about the characters I create and write. I’m working on it! 🙂


This post is brought to you by Ronni Davis at ChiYAwriters.com.

Inspiration Station: 88 Cups of Tea Podcast

Inspiration Station is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com highlighting the people, places, and works of art that inspire us as writers.

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Last week, Kat Cho and I were lucky to be among 8 listeners to be interviewed for the 88th Milestone episode (embedded below) of my favorite podcast, 88 Cups of Tea! I like to turn to 88 Cups of Tea when I need writing inspiration. They also have fabulous information about publishing, and it gives you a rare behind-the-scenes look!

Some past guests include Leigh Bardugo, Morgan Matson, Kami GarciaRenee Ahdieh, Kody KeplingerJeff Zentner, Sabaa TahirJenny Han, Jerry SpinelliAlexandra BrackenV.E. Schwab (just to name a few), as well as agents, editors, and TV/film writers.

Yin and Moonlynn are such wonderful, big-hearted people, and they put so much love into this world through this podcast. If you’re looking for a supportive community, you can join the 88 Cups of Tea Storyteller Tribe on Facebook here. There are weekly check-ins, the opportunity to ask questions to future podcast guests, and lots of love from other writers.

Kat’s section begins around 1:37:40. I loved hearing about how she got into writing, her two WIPs, and her close relationship with her sister and her cousin, Axie Oh (whose book, Rebel Seoul, comes out September 15th!). I loved that Kat’s sister wrote her stories when they were kids! And I love Yin’s one-line pitch for Kat’s book: “Oh my God, she falls in love with her dinner!” Thanks, Kat, for the inside look into Korean culture and the inspiration for GUMIHO!

My interview begins at 00:19:35, and I absolutely loved chatting with Yin about my writing journey, my family, and my debut novel, American Panda!

The other ladies featured in the episode are lovely, fascinating, and inspiring, so please check out their sections too!

Happy listening! I hope you all love this podcast as much as I do and can find nuggets of wisdom and inspiration in each episode! Yin recommends starting with rockstar literary agent Joanna Volpe‘s episode. I also highly recommend Kami Garcia‘s episode, which discusses craft in depth and lists great resources (also listed on the show notes at the bottom of the page).

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This post is brought to you by Gloria Chao at ChiYAwriters.com.

Finding the Write Place: Beermiscuous

Finding the Write Place is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that highlights some of our favorite places to write here in the Windy City.

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BEERMISCUOUS

2812 N. Lincoln Avenue
Chicago, IL 60657
Monday – Thursday: 1:00pm – 11pm
Friday: 1:00pm – 12am
Saturday: 12:00pm – 12am
Sunday: 12:00pm – 8pm

(Hours subject to change. Please check the Beermiscuous website for up-to-date hours.)

Noise level: Before 2pm on weekends (and, I am told, before 6 or 7 on weekdays), it’s nearly deserted. After this time, there’s an influx of people who come to hang out, which brings with it a loud chatter. Throughout, the music is unobtrusive and tends toward funk and upbeat rock.

Availability of space: On a Saturday afternoon, busy but not overcrowded; I had no trouble finding a table that comfortably fit two laptops; there are also seats at the bar and upholstered chairs if you’re looking for a different work environment.

Bathrooms: Yes

Food: Yes (You can order directly through the bar for a Gino’s East pizza, or can bring in your own food. There’s a torta place just down the street, and if you’re willing to walk about six blocks you’ll find tacos, a brunch spot with wraps/sandwiches/waffles, and a funky Korean restaurant.)

Wifi: Free with social media sign-in, or you’ll have good connectivity to xfinity wifi if you get your internet from Comcast.

Outlets: Some (several booths have them, as does the fireplace/armchair feature).

Located on the southern edge of Lakeview, Beermiscuous is a fun place to work on weekends if you focus better with significant ambient noise—especially if you want to work past 5 p.m., when many coffee shops close. It’ll be quieter earlier in the day/on weekdays if you prefer a more traditional coffee shop feel. Inspired by classic european coffee houses, this is a place where groups of friends like to gather to catch up or play board games, but you’ll also find some individuals and pairs working at laptops or reading.

The bar has a rotating selection of 16 taps, plus more than 350 beers available in bottles/cans. If you’re indecisive, you can build your own flight from the tapped beers, and there are also non-alcoholic beverage options if you’re under 21 or prefer not to imbibe.

The bar staff is super friendly and knowledgeable, and thanks to the coffee shop vibe you won’t feel guilty for lingering. This is a great place if you’re more of a night owl, like ambient noise (or have good headphones), and want a laid-back spot with excellent craft beer options.

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This post is brought to you by Anna Waggener at ChiYAwriters.com.