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.

two

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.

five

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….

six

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!

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

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.

Inspiration Station: Writing While Traveling

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

IMG_20170429_174707I don’t often talk about my manuscripts and works in progress on ChiYA, but this post does need a bit of that background before I delve into my recent trip and how it’s inspired my writing. I am Korean American and I love to use my personal heritage in my writing. Just the history of Korea itself lends such a rich source of inspiration for me that I could write all day about the rise and fall of kings in the Joseon era. Speaking of, my most recent WiP is based on Joseon traditions. So when I was traveling to Korea last month I figured I’d do some (more) research.

I have to say that I’m lucky enough to go to Korea pretty regularly. I started writing my last MS there and it really did influence how I described the world in my book (since it was set in a contemporary Korea).

I try to use my own lived experiences in my writing, but I try not to fall too deeply in the trap of describing a place in detail merely because I’ve been there. I like to think that worlds created in books, even if they are real places, have a level of discovery for the reader. I love getting a sense of the scene from my favorite books, but then layering my own imagination on top of it as a reader.

That’s what I try to do when I’m writing about places I’ve been, because I do believe everyone experiences places differently. I like to think I open the door and step aside to let the reader have their own time with the places I’ve created.

Something that helped me with this a lot this trip was the fact that my younger cousin was experiencing Korea for the first time. To see how she perceived these places that I’ve been to many times, and how she experienced everything in a way I’d never imagined, helped me understand a different perspective on things that might have grown “common” to me. It gave me back a sense of wonder of the new and it inspired me in my writing.

IMG_20170427_134638My tips for using your travel and experiences in your writing are:

  1. Include the things that drew you there in the first place, but don’t be too leading. Don’t try to force your experience on others, just let it be a guide to open the door to a new place and then let the reader experience the world as they will.
  2. Use your own emotional attachments to a place as a way to explain why something ordinary could become extraordinary. I love the smell of rice cakes, it’s kind of sweet and savory at the same time. When the sauce is too spicy it stings my nostrils, but it reminds me of so many memories of my semester abroad in Seoul. Those small moments make a place richer for me and I’ve used them to enrich my stories.
  3. Let a place speak for itself. This is something I think about a lot because I’m writing in a non-western world. I don’t want to frame everything from the lens of an American POV (even though I am a Korean American). I want the world to stand on its own without preconceived notions or biases.
  4. In that same vein, don’t force it. Make sure that you’re not layering expectations on top of your world (especially if it isn’t necessary for the story). I’ve read pages and pages of exposition explaining a place and then it turns out it never had any relevance to the plot and I was…baffled.
  5. Try to imagine the same place from multiple angles. I would suggest this for new and old places you’ve been. Sometimes, the old becomes new when seen from a different POV (like how my cousin helped me see Seoul in a new light).

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This post is brought to you by Kat Cho at ChiYAwriters.com.

Finding the Write Place: Kitchen Sink

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.

KITCHEN SINK

1107 W. Berwyn Ave.
Chicago, IL 60640
Monday-Friday: 6:30am – 5pm
Weekends: 7:30am – 5pm

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

Noise level: quiet (most people working/studying alone or with one other person)

Availability of space: moderately crowded (it’s a small space, but I’ve always found a seat)

Bathrooms: yes

Food: yes (breakfast and lunch menus with vegetarian options, plus pastries)

Wifi: free with password

Outlets: some (along the walls)

Kitchen Sink is a cozy neighborhood cafe in Edgewater, just steps from the Berwyn Red Line stop. It’s a great place to grab coffee or a light, healthy lunch and get some work done. They also serve breakfast and pastries all day. The food is fresh and creative, with plenty of options for everyone. In summer, you can soak up the sunshine at outdoor tables, and in winter, a skylight keeps the back of the shop nice and bright. The music, which tends toward acoustic folk, is set low enough that it’s not intrusive.

Kitchen Sink has a fairly small seating area and most people seem to go there to work, so I wouldn’t recommend it for large groups. However, with its quiet, cozy atmosphere, it’s the perfect place to sit and write for a few hours alone or with a friend.

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