So, I am stealing an idea from my writer BFF, Claribel Ortega and posting some of my content a month after it appears in my newsletter. It won’t be everything, just stuff that I think might be interesting to people and probably anything that is a record of my journey in publishing! So here we go!
This post originally appeared in the July 2018 edition of my newsletter Readiculous Musings. You can subscribe for it HERE.
Things are pretty hard these days. And it’s a time where I’ve seen a lot of questions being asked in terms of being a writer, especially if our stories are more the fanciful, escapist kind (mine definitely are). Is it okay to talk about your books and to promote them when things in the world seem to be so dire for so many?
The answers that I see are varied. And I will admit that perhaps the conversations I’m privy to are cherry picked because of who I choose to follow on social media. But my take-away is that we should not only keep creating and talking about our stories, but that they are needed now more than ever. I am, of course, speaking from the point of view of a woman of color. So, I am a bit biased in the fact that I think stories by marginalized groups are really important in times when empathy is lacking in the leadership of my country.
After the depressing ruling by the SCOTUS about the travel ban, I tweeted something that isn’t new. In fact, I will readily admit that I’d seen this message tweeted multiple times in response to mutliple bigoted actions of the current administration: Studies prove that reading fiction fosters empathy in readers.
My interpretation of this is that people who read and read widely are more likely to understand their neighbor’s better. Less likely to be afraid because something is “unknown.” More likely to be open-minded to hearing the stories of others and to reach out a helping hand. And when we write for kids and teens, it’s important now more than ever to create stories that can create and foster empathy.
It’s okay if people have found it hard to keep writing in today’s climate. But if you can, and if you want to, then don’t let a sense of guilt keep you from creating your art. Throughout history art has been the best and brightest tool of battling oppression. So many have created new forms of art in order to preserve their culture and humanity when others would seek to strip it from them. And now is no different. We have a right to tell our stories. And, hopefully, these stories can help bring a bit of light into the world.
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So, I was inspired by my own revisions to write out a quick post based on my methods and path toward shiny happy manuscript town. To be honest, I still live in revision land which I describe as a a town sitting on a giant cliff (good for screaming into the void), a cave of despair, and a fountain of wine.
So, without further ado, my main revision steps:
‣ “mulling” period/Absorb the critique – I usually take 1-3 days to just mull over the notes. (This time frame changes with when my deadline is but I always take at least 24 hours)
• DO NOT automatically reject any critique/note. Allow them all to sit through the “mulling” period.
‣ Organize the feedback into themes or topics (e.g. Pacing, Character arc of MC, Character arc of antagonist, world-building, inciting incident, climax, etc)
• If I have feedback from more than one person I like to combine all of the notes and organize them according to section, theme, or topic.
‣ Brainstorm solutions and ideas
• If I have an idea before my “mulling” period is over I will still write them down, but I don’t pressure myself to start this process until I’ve absorbed everything.
• This is when you can decide which notes are the most effective for your story and which don’t go with the themes or tone you’re going for. Be open minded. The whole time as it’s easy to think that something doesn’t “go with the story” when really it’s just a hard problem to solve and we long to throw it out
‣ Plan out which points I want to tackle first, second, third, and so on. So, for the last revision I did I wanted to work on adjusting the inciting incident first because that would affect the entire rest of the story. Then I wanted to work on character arc because that was influenced by inciting incident and was important because it spoke to the main relationship. THEN I did line-edits and addressed pacing issues.
‣ Optional: Create a schedule if you have a set deadline. Make sure to build in a bit of a buffer at the end just in case you go slower than you anticipated.
• Do NOT feel bad for days that you do not work on the revision. That’s why we built in that buffer!
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You guys, I’m going to be published!
Okay, it’s been a MINUTE since I posted and I’m so sorry about that, but it’s for a GOOD reason. I was busy figuring out my new life in NYC and selling my debut novel, GUMIHO! It will be published with Putnam Books for Young Readers/Penguin Random House. You can add it on Goodreads HERE. I promise I’ll write more about my journey and other details soon, but I just wanted to share this exciting news with you!!!
🎉🎉🎉📚SO RIDICULOUSLY EXCITED to share my news with y’all! My #ownvoices #YA #fantasy debut novel #GUMIHO is going to be published with Putnam (@PenguinTeen)! I cannot wait for you all to meet Miyoung & Jihoon and all the K-drama angst! 🦊🇰🇷❤️👺
Hi everyone! Just wanted to check in and let you know what’s going on in my life and why I haven’t been uploading as much lately. The biggest thing is that I got a book deal! If you’re interested I have a link to my Goodreads page below!
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Hello strangers, remember me? I’m the person that’s supposed to keep this blog updated, even though I haven’t posted in MONTHS. I apologize for my LONG absence, but to be fair you can still find me pretty regularly over at Writer’s Block Party! And I have been much better at keeping up my new(ish) Authortube/Booktube vlog over at YouTube.
STILL, this blog was my first love and I’ve been horrible at keeping it updated. Partly because I did want to try out those other formats of connecting with everyone (vlogging is fun but time consuming, y’all!)
Also, because my writing has…not been going well. So, I thought I might talk about fallow periods and the search for motivation and inspiration when you’re a writer or a creator.
According to Cambridge dictionary “fallow” means: Fallow land is not planted with crops, in order to improve the quality of the soil A fallow period of time is one in which very little happens.
But Mirriam-Webster has a girl’s back because this is the first thing that pops up in their definition:
Way to both support and subtweet me Mirriam-Webster!
ANYWAY! You get the gist. It’s a period of time where a writer is not writing. There should be a sub-definition that says “a period of time where a writer questions all their life choices and regrets everything.”
The idea of a fallow period for writers is not new. However, if you look at the origin of the word it’s a time when fields don’t produce crops, but it’s ALSO a time when the fields are regenerating nutrients to be able to grow crops again! This definitely changed my view on the time periods when I couldn’t write and how I would treat them. This idea was first presented to me when a CP sent me this post.
So, instead of just seeing periods of time where I’m not creating as a negative, I see it as a chance to rejuvinate my creative well and to refresh my mind. I try to read all the books I couldn’t concentrate on when I was actively writing or revising. I use it to watch all the shows I’d been missing out on. And I pursue other creative endeavors because I know that when I’m actively writing I can’t do many other creative things at the same time. So, right now that’s being more active on my Instagram
And on my youtube channel!
Still, the idea of most of the things I’m doing is to work toward being able to write again. So I try to find inspiration and motivation in everything I do. I keep journals and lists of ideas as they come to me. And I try to let myself write if I want to, but I don’t set any deadlines and let it just flow naturally. This way, I find that most of the things I end up writing during my fallow periods is very personal and it helps to bring my stories closer to my heart.
What do you guys do during your fallow periods? How do you refill your creative wells?
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| TAGS:hope, random thoughts, writing advice, writing journey
Hey guys, I am so excited to share the first ever podcast interview I’ve ever done! It was with 88 Cups of Tea one of my ABSOLUTE FAVES! And I am still pinching myself because I can’t believe I had this amazing experience. It was for their celebratory 88th episode (congratulations Yin and Moonlyn!) and I was one of the lucky listeners picked to interview. Previous episodes of 88 Cups of Tea included interviews with greats like Leigh Bardugo, Jenny Han, Alexandra Bracken, Renee Ahdieh, and V.E. Schwab! So I am so star-struck by this podcast and Yin (the amazing host!)
I’d say definitely check out all the episodes and listen to all 8 amazing listener interviews on this super fun episode (I’m around the 1:37:40 point)
Ya’ll. The 88th episode has arrived. Dun dun DUN! Today’s milestone episode is proudly sponsored by Sun Basket and BookCon. It features eight incredible listeners from our 88 Cups of Tea community. I remember when I first launched this podcast, the 88th episode seemed so far fetched.
And visit their website for the show notes and their archive of all the episodes: HERE
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| TAGS:podcast, writing advice, writing journey
Eight kids show Matt de la Pena the the real reason We Need Diverse Books. *mic drop* Visit our Indiegogo campaign to support our mission: http://igg.me/at/diversebooks TRANSCRIPT: Matt de la Peña: So, hey guys. I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about books. I’m an author, right.
Since there was more interest in my Diversity Conversation post than I expected (and because I do not consider myself an expert on this topic), I thought it might be helpful to provide a more comprehensive list of outside resources. I’ve compiled links to resources for anyone who would like to further their personal education on diversity and the diversity conversation!
I will be updating this with more links as they come to my attention.
***My request to you if you’ve come here to learn more about the diversity conversation in kidlit (especially if you are not part of one, many, or any of these marginalized communities). Please keep an open mind and be ready to be wrong. It’s important to overcome any internal biases that might have been picked up along your life (whether consciously or subconsciously). One of the reasons systemic racism and harmful stereotypes have permeated our world is because we can’t overcome these internal biases because we don’t see how insidious they can really be.***
Also, if you’re here, it’s probably because you want to learn. The BEST way to do that is to follow all the people who wrote these resources in the first place. And to support the authors who are creating diverse content. Buy their books! (Link to my diverse Goodreads books list: HERE)
how cis/het/straight is presented as the “norm” in our society.
Here are resources to learn from about diversity in kidlit:
Twitter list of Diverse writers
(it is in NO way comprehensive, but feel free to follow any and all of them!)
Okay let’s go more in-depth shall we?
Writing With Color provides Blogs – Recs – Resources
They also provide Writing With Color – Featured Research Guides
Some Marginalized Authors are nice enough to storify conversations and threads:
How about some videos too?
TRANSCRIPT: “We hate each other because we fear each other. And we fear each other because we do not know each other.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. What Authors Are Saying… John Green: Hi. My name’s John Green and we need diverse books.
Uploaded by We Need Diverse Books on 2015-12-03.
Join Susan Dennard, Roshani Chokshi, Thao Le, Mark Oshiro, Axie Oh, Janella Angeles, and me (Lily Meade) for an awesome discussion in the Diversity in Young Adult Literature panel. Diversity in YA Fiction is so important to me. I had such a wonderful time. – â†” open for more!
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In honor of Author Mentor Match, I made ANOTHER vlog. I know, I know. You’re thinking, “Kat, can you calm down on these vlogs?” And my answer is “NEVER!” Haha, Just kidding.
Anyway, I wanted to make a video about Mentorship Programs before AMM opens to applications in April. And I tapped into my friends and CPs to give you all some insight!
I discuss what mentorship programs are in the writing world and if they might be right for you. Also, I’ m sorry I talk so fast here, there were so many things I wanted to say!
~Full Quotes Below!~
“I think for me mentorship is also a way of growing and tending to the community. The idea that now that I’m part of the community and I want to be involved in reaching out to others who maybe feel more outside of it and pulling them in with me is a huge part of it. it’s not really just about the writing.” – Katy Rose Pool
“The world of publishing can be overwhelming, and so much information can only be gleaned from being in the community for years and pushing through many of the steps it takes to get published. We’re all helped along the way by someone, receiving key advice or support from fellow authors/publishing professionals. Through mentorship, more experienced authors can pay it forward, helping someone newer to our world navigate it with more ease. Mentees are a part of our community, and I want them to feel more welcome, and initiate them into the fold.” – Alexa Donne
“It feels a bit strange for me to offer to mentor another writer, when I still feel like a clueless newbie myself. Five years into my “writing career,” I have just a smidgen of experience in publishing, and I’m happy to share what advice I can, because this can be a confusing and heart wrenching industry. But I think the writing community, especially the YA online community, is so great about creating opportunities to help each other learn and grow. And it’s important to me to try to give back to the community that helped me get to where I am now.” – Heather Kaczynski
“Mentoring has been one of the most rewarding things that I’m so proud, and feel so lucky, to do as a writer. Many times, authors say they write the books that the younger versions of themselves would loved to have read. On that same note with mentoring, I’ve always hoped for the chance to provide the support and motivation to other aspiring writers that I know would’ve helped the younger writer I once was, still lost and hardcore struggling on my journey to publication. It’s an amazing experience to give back that way, to be able to help someone find their way on the journey, and to editorially guide the mentee and their manuscript you already love into the best shape it can be. Best of all, in mentoring, you gain a great friend in the process—one who you’ll always be there for in whatever highs and lows comes their way, and one who will support you just as much on your own path.” – Janella Angeles
“Nobody makes it in the publishing world without A LOT of support. I’ve always been fortunate to have people willing to share expertise and willing to read projects that were, shall we say…less than great. I love doing anything I can do to pass on my knowledge. Mentoring is particularly great because you get to be like the fun aunt but also the stern parent! You get to pick a project you love and cheerlead it and fangirl when it succeeds. But you also get to lay down some of your hard-earned wisdom and beat up the manuscript you love for its own good. It’s also given me A WHOLE TON of renewed appreciation for how hard it is to write and revise a book!” – Mara Fitzgerald
“We’re Janice Ian and Damien from Mean Girls. Come sit with us and we will explain how all this chaos works.” – Mara Fitzgerald
“it like…sort of feels like being in a writer sorority…except your big does things like highlight entire paragraphs and go “this is technically good but i know you can make it better” – Christine Herman
“Having a mentor prepared me really well for having an agent — it taught me how to implement intense, detailed feedback, how to work under deadline, and how to truly get my book to the next level. but because I didn’t have to impose professional boundaries on my mentor, I also got a great friend out of it — & a CP I can shove my books at until the end of time.” – Christine Herman
“Mentoring is an excellent way to remind yourself that you have no idea how to write a novel.” – Amanda Foody
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| TAGS:pitching, querying, Vlog, writing advice
I want to write an honest post about something that has always worried me and probably will always worry me as I keep writing about my heritage. It’s a special kind of imposter syndrome, the fear that I am appropriating my own culture for my art.
There are so many conversations about #ownvoices and #ownyourown. There are so many people saying meaningful and important things. Sometimes I try to chime in, but I always feel like others say it better, so signal boosting has been my main activity.
The way I see the world is a bit of a hybrid. I’ve spoken to many POC Americans who admit to feeling like they live in-between. Between the world of their parents/ancestors and the world they were born into. We are American but we have a qualifier in front. We are Something(-)American.
But, I chose to write a book about my culture as a Korean girl. And I also chose to write a book ONLY about being Korean (aka, not about being Korean American). So, I had to accept a few things about myself and my book.
1) I am Korean but I was not raised there, so I still see my heritage through a version of an American POV.
2) My parents picked what Korean ideals to raise us with so I lived their version of Korean culture.
3) I learned new things about my roots as an adult, but those aren’t as deeply ingrained in me as what I was raised with.
How I try to keep learning in my writing and in my identity
I am Korean 100% by genetics and blood, but I am a Korean American by upbringing. That means that I need to own what I know and fill in what I don’t with diligent research (just like any other writer).
The book I wrote is my heritage and my culture. But I knew being a Korean girl and being a person of color does not give me carte blanche to write whatever I want. I went to a semester abroad in Korea and visited many times as a child, but that doesn’t mean I instinctively know what I’m talking about when I write a contemporary Korean story. So, I went to Korea (multiple times) and I asked Korean people to clarify things as I wrote it. I asked Korean beta readers to read it. I asked my grandmother questions, my aunts, my cousin, my Korean language teacher. I wanted to ensure that I wasn’t just coasting on my bloodline to assume that I was getting it right.
I believe that we need to own our heritage in our writing. I also think we need to know our limitations and be sure that when we present our stories we are always doing due diligence.
I am proud and excited about this book I’ve created. But I am always learning and that excites me. I never want to stop learning. When we stop learning life can get pretty boring. And I refuse to live a boring life.
That’s why I’m a writer.
As a final note, someone recently shared THIS ARTICLE called “The Year in Hyphenates.” It’s a very honest and insightful article about what it’s like to be raised Asian American/Canadian and the in-between identity that is often created. I gotta be honest, I actually teared up reading it because it resonated so deeply with my own struggles as an Asian American. Often times I felt not Korean enough and not American enough at the same time. And I know that these struggles have bled over into my creative identity. I want to say this to any POC/Native/marginalized creators of #ownvoices reading this post. You are NOT responsible for representing your whole community. You can only tell YOUR story fully and honestly. As long as you love your story and feel like you’re representing YOUR experience well in your #ownvoices, then I’m sure you’re doing a wonderful job.
Keep dreaming! Keep creating!
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| TAGS:ownvoices, OwnYourOwn, random thoughts, writing journey
Oct18, 2016 |
Hey guys, I know I haven’t written in a bit, and that’s partly because I didn’t have too much to write about. My day job has been really busy and I am finished with my bigger round of revisions (finally!). However, I came back to talk about something that has been a theme of many conversations I have lately:
Here’s the thing. We talk a lot about the struggle to get accepted, to find someone to champion us (whether that’s an agent or editor). But there’s not always talk about the moments right after. The moments where your happiness is peppered with sudden drops in your stomach that someone is going to come in and say, “You’re a fraud and you don’t belong here. Get out!”
I don’t know if this is because of the fact that we’re creatives or because of the amount of time we spend receiving rejection after rejection. I think it’s probably a decent mix of both because I know people who found agents at many different points in their journey and they all admit to feeling the dreaded imposter syndrome.
Personally, I feel it every time someone new follows me on Twitter and they’re somehow tied to the industry.
I think to myself, “Do they know that I’m a total newb and I have nothing interesting to say?”
I’ve actually told my friend that I worry they’ll be annoyed with how many GIFs I post. Which, let’s be honest, I do way too much.
But, I will say, that when someone else comes to me with their fears of being labeled a fraud, it’s way easier for me to say, “No, you’re not!”
Maybe because it’s easier for us to defend our friends and see their genius than it is for us to see it in ourselves. Or maybe because I am just too close to my own fears to see past them. But I do know (logically) that the publishing industry is not a charity. It is not a place where people give you a contract or a book deal because of pity or because they had an “off” day. It’s because they see talent in you. And, sometimes we need a kick in the teeth to remember that.
So, this post is trying to be that kick for anyone who needs it (including myself!).
We work hard to get here. If you did all the right things (got CPs, beta readers, wrote a kick-butt query letter, entered the right pitch events, and kept a professional hat on the whole time) then when you get that offer and you feel that happy high, know that you DESERVE THIS! You are amazing and you worked hard!
Seriously you guys, agents reject 96% of author submissions. So, if you got an offer then you deserve this!
No two authors have the same journey! There are different “magic numbers” for everyone.
In an industry with so many opinions and paths, it’s sometimes hard to navigate and know what direction to go in. However, it’s also a community that is full of surprises and wonderful things around the corner. If you have a vision for your work and a good head on your shoulders, then you’re doing well. And, it doesn’t hurt to get a good group of Critique Partners and fellow writers behind you to support you during your down times.
If writing is your dream and your passion, then don’t let doubts bring you down. (I’m not saying you will be able to rid yourself of doubts, but just acknowledge them for what they are, insecurities that probably don’t have too much basis in actual fact).
I also think that admitting you have these fears is healthy, too. If you have a trusted group of friends or critique partners, then I’m sure they’d understand the feeling and be able to talk you through it.
But, at the end of the day, we have to all remember that we are amazing for trying and for fighting and for never giving up on our dreams. We ARE writers and we DO deserve to be here!
And now, bask in a montage of Leslie Knope compliments!
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| TAGS:random thoughts, writing journey
Jul05, 2016 |
I already wrote a step-by-step querying guide HERE. But I left out the biggest piece of the puzzle: Writing the query letter.
So here you go, my attempt at a query letter guide.
First and most important piece of advice I can give is to read successful queries!
Also, reading sites that give query advice is very helpful. A great one is Janet Reid’s Query Shark.
Okay, so let’s get to the meat of a query. I’ll again start out with a link to someone else, because I do not think I’m an expert at this. I loved Susan Dennard’s explanation on “The Parts of a Good Query.”
Here is what I kept in mind while I was starting my query writing:
1. Keep it brief
(think back jacket summary but less tropey. AKA don’t say “in a world where…”).
Word count should probably land comfortably between 200-300 words.
If it’s longer then consider why (did you include too many characters or subplots?).
If it’s shorter then consider why (did you not explain the world enough? The conflict? The character?)
2. Include the three biggies: World, Character, Conflict
The world can be a quickie explanation (especially if it’s a world we know already. e.g. contemporary). But if it’s a made-up or fantasy world, ensure the only facts you include are the ones relevant to the MC’s character and conflict.
I’ll use Hunger Games as an example since most people have probably read/watched it:
This shows what has happened to the world and why each district must give up two children to the games each year. Nothing more and nothing less.
The Characters named in a query should probably be restricted to 2 (3 if there’s an MC, a main love and an antagonist). I’d only put names if the person is a POV character or they are actively influencing the story in a way that you need to reference them by name in order to explain the main conflict.
This explains how Katniss feels about the games and a bit of her personal history to reveal her character.
The key word with the conflict is main. Don’t include sub-plots or sub-conflicts.
In the Hunger Games the main conflict is that Katniss volunteers for a game that makes her fight to the death and only one can survive. The subplot is that she is trying to protect her little sister and that she can’t figure out if Peeta is on her side or against her.
NOTE: This is actually the back-jacket summary of HG which is why it is shorter than an average query. Hopefully you get the idea of what I mean by the main points to hit to summarize the story.
3. Ensure that it is specific to your story and world.
This is where I’ll repeat not to use tropes or vague wording. If you say something like “MC must decide between love and family before time runs out” then I can find that in the summary of dozens of books. Be specific about why it’s a decision and how it’s bad if they choose one over the other and vice versa.
Note that in the above back-jacket summary everything is SPECIFIC to the story of Hunger Games. They say exactly what the world is and what Katniss’s conflict is.
Individual parts of a query:
So, I don’t think every query can use the exact same formula. But if you’d like a general outline to follow here’s one that can potentially work for about 85% of queries.
I like to personalize my queries because it explains why I chose that agent to query. I like to include it at the top but some people like to put it at the bottom along with their personal bio and other information. I also chose to include my word count, Age category (PB/MG/YA/NA/A), and genre (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc)
Not every query needs a hook, but if you want to include one it should be one sentence long and be specific about your story.
Introduce world and character. Show specific motivations for the character when the story opens and how they fit (or don’t fit) into the greater world you’ve created. Introduce the inciting incident.
BONUS: If you have more than one POV then you can introduce each character that has one. I had a dual POV book, so I gave each of them their own intro (complete with their personal conflicts and motivations)
Paragraph 2 (&3):
Explain how the MC(s) react to the inciting incident and how it starts to change them/their world. Explain how the MC(s) plan to overcome or adjust to the conflict. Be specific to your world and your character. Do not use vague language like “or her world will be torn apart” or “A greater threat looms.”
If you want to include comps, you can put them here. Put a quick bio and any writing credits. If you didn’t already include it in the first paragraph, be sure to put Age category (PB/MG/YA/NA/A), word count, and genre (fantasy, sci-fi, contemporary, etc). And any final salutations.
BONUS: Suggestions for overcoming
Query Letter Writer’s Block
1. Try to write the query summarizing ONLY the first 50 pages of the book. This is a suggestion given to me by many and it helps to focus the query (in the first 50, you should have already introduced world, character, main conflict/inciting incident).
2. Have someone who’s NEVER READ your MS read the query letter, then ask them what they think your story is about. If they can’t give you the main gist then consider re-writing.
3. Ask someone who HAS READ your MS how they’d summarize your book. (Obviously, they can’t write your whole query for you, but they can tell you what they think the main point of your story was from an outside perspective. We are often too close to our stories to see them clearly)
4. Take some time, write the 1-2 page summary instead. Maybe this’ll help you see what is important in your story.
5. Read your whole MS as a READER and see how the story flows.