Chicago Reads: American Writers Museum

Earlier this year, the American Writers Museum opened in Chicago at 180 N Michigan Ave. It was designed for the reader, with interactive exhibits that explore the art of writing and the art of reading.

Upon entering, there’s a wall of bookmarks for you to pick from, with each bookmark featuring a famous author and an inspiring quote.

The exhibits include:

  • Writers Hall
  • American Voices
  • Surprise Bookshelf
  • Word Waterfall
  • Readers Hall
  • The Mind of a Writer
  • A Writer’s Room
  • Featured Works
  • Word Play
  • Chicago: A City of Writers
  • Children’s Gallery
  • Changing Exhibits Gallery

In this post, I’m going to highlight Children’s Gallery, American Voices, Surprise Bookshelf, Story of the Day, and Word Play.

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The Children’s Gallery had displays on classics like Dr. Seuss and Little Women, and the bright room housed an impressive collection of books that visitors could sit and peruse. Personally, I wish there had been more young adult coverage, but their children’s book selection was well curated. It was a lovely trip down memory lane.

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I spent a lot of time in the American Voices and Surprise Bookshelf exhibits, which are across from each other down a long hallway, with the former on the right and the latter on the left in the following picture:

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American Voices “takes visitors on a journey through the literary history of the United States” and the Surprise Bookshelf presents a series of illuminated boxes that showcase “samples of great American writing.”

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Story of the Day is an exhibit within the museum’s Mind of a Writer section and comprises an interactive space where visitors can write stories on paper and pencil, typewriters, or digital media. Once they are done, there is a wall where you can display your work.

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I had a lot of fun playing around with the typewriters there (and it made me love my laptop and Microsoft Word even more), and it took me an embarrassingly long time to type up the first paragraph of AMERICAN PANDA to put on the wall:

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Word Play is another exhibit within The Mind of a Writer and featured an interactive tabletop with word games which were fun and, frankly, quite difficult. My husband and I spent quite a bit of time here playing around.

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More photos and descriptions can be found on the museum’s website. All in all, this was a lovely way to spend an afternoon, and there’s plenty of information to absorb and fun activities to engage in.

If you sign up at their website for their newsletter, you can receive 20% off your first visit. For details on ticket prices and hours of operation, see below:

Tickets

Adults $12
Seniors (ages 65+) $8
Students (w/ valid ID) $8
Children (ages 12 & younger) Free

Final ticket sales are 30 mintes before closing

Hours of Operation

Monday closed*
Tuesday-Wednesday 10 am – 5 pm
Thursday 10 am – 8 pm
Friday-Sunday 10 am – 5 pm

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

 

From A to Z: The Next Time Around, Finding the silver lining in returning to the query trenches

From A to Z is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that examines the nuts and bolts of the writing (and publishing) process.

My partner and I were recently watching Hidden Figures. We got to the scene near the end when Katherine is getting ready for her wedding to Jim Johnson—her second marriage, after her first husband passed away several years before. “I don’t think I felt a thing the first time I did this,” Katherine says, adjusting her veil. “I was so nervous.”

“Huh,” said my partner. “I guess that’s the silver lining of getting married twice.”

Finding an agent is often compared to finding a spouse, and it’s an apt analogy: you must both be there for the right reasons, must have matching communication styles, must put in the same level of effort even if the chores you each take on are slightly different.

The thing people don’t really like to talk about—both in the dating circuit and in the query trenches—is that sometimes you’ll get married twice. Me personally? I’m brushing off my shoulders for my third literary “I do.”

My second agent and I parted ways about a month ago when she decided to pursue a career in education—even though she loved agenting and will always love books. I knew her personally before she represented me, and I’ve always known about her passion for education, so when she told me about her decision to leave the publishing industry, my first thought was, “Oh God, I’m so happy for her.”

My next thought, as you might expect, was, “Well, shoot.”

This post isn’t meant to send currently agented writers into an existential tailspin. Many, many authors and agents maintain a happy relationship for their entire careers.

It is meant, though, to assure those newly no-longer-agented writers that they are not pariahs and that this moment is not a reset.

Finding an agent is hard. You must write the book, revise and revise and revise it and then let others examine the thing, poking and prodding and making notes about its merits and faults so that you can revise it again. You must polish your query, make your agent list, send out your little beating heart and get rejections out of hand and “revise and resubmits” and, most crushing of all, the notes that start, “I loved X and Y, but…”

And then you get a request for a phone call and your stomach metamorphoses into butterflies and it all feels worth it: a victory that fades into a haze of good feelings as the months and years roll on.

The thing is, finding an agent is hard, but none of the truths from last time are invalidated by having to do it over again. You are really and truly not starting over.

This time around, you know that someone (other than your best friend or critique partner) has already fallen in love with your words and characters and stories. Someone has already said “yes.” You must remember that they were not an aberration, and when you dive back into the trenches you should do so with the knowledge that someone else will say “yes” again.

This time around, you’ll be able to take it a little slower: you’ll get to revisit the You who queried that original agent and compare it to the You who’s on the market now. You’ll get to see where careers have gone since you signed and get to see what new faces and wish lists exist. You’ll get to put all the skills you learned the first time—and all the practice you’ve had in your writing since then—into this new manuscript and fresh round of queries. You’ll know both yourself and your writing better, and that will come through in your outreach. You’ll get to write a new list of questions to ask during The Call, and you’ll underline the ones you forgot to bring up the first time around because your heart was doing backflips.

It’s true that you’ll have to do the hard parts all over again too. Write the book. Polish the query. Do the research. Make the list. It will suck. You might feel alone. You will likely collect new rejections and wonder whether your book and writing career are both garbage.

But here’s the silver lining: In the end, you’ll get asked to hop on the phone. You’ll get to hear all the nice things someone thinks about your work and you’ll get to feel all those butterflies again. In the end, it will be worth it. And this time, you won’t be so nervous you forget.

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

 

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

From A to Z is an occasional series on ChiYAwriters.com that examines the nuts and bolts of the writing (and publishing) process.

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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:

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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*.

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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.

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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!

 

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

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.

PlayingByHeart
PLAYING BY HEART
Carmela A. Martino
Saturday, October 28 at 2:00 PM
Anderson’s Bookshop (Naperville)

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.