2018 Wraps Up!

2019 is almost here. I unwrapped my new calendar for the coming year, thrilled and yet baffled by my choice this time. For the past few years, I’ve learned that buying fancy calendars makes me ridiculously happy. I’ve been getting Parisian calendars because the photographer featured was Irene Suchocki, and after, Georgianna Lane, and they made Paris way more charming than I remember it being. Which made my room that much more charming. Then I moved on to patisserie calendars, making me drool over the pretty desserts I uncovered as each month passed by. 

This time, there were no patisserie calendars to be found. So threw my aesthetics out the window and committed to a Mystery Science Theater 3k calendar: 

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So what does that say about how different the new year will go for me? All I know is that perhaps it will be a little less pretty, but infinitely more zany and fun. 

It’s been such a long time since I blogged here! I’ve been enjoying social media in all its forms, but especially Instagram which continues to serve as a photo diary of what I’ve been up to during the year. It’s hard to remember to blog since I feel like I’m doing it daily on there.

When I saw that my last post was in 2017, I realized I had to put together something before the year changed. So here we are. 

 

Writing

 

When I look back to the beginning of 2018, I can’t believe how much has happened. I have to begin with Jennie Dunham of Dunham Literary, Inc. In February, she became my literary agent. I can’t tell you how many years I’ve spent querying agents and how much I learned from the process. It still feels like a dream now that I’m working with Jennie, but I’m happy to have begun a new chapter in my career with her. 

Waiting is still very much a thing. Sometimes even more than it was before. And I found that with all the time I had, I could make 2018 a year to break a record. 

Up until this year, I’ve had to juggle writing new material and revising old material – all under deadlines. This time, I could write new material all year round. No hitting the brakes. No screeching halts to pick back up another project needing polishing. This was the year I wrote more than I ever thought possible. I finished the first drafts of THREE manuscripts. 

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Here are the stats:

1. MG #1 (60,573 words)

2. YA Book #2 of 3 (91,249 words)

3. MG #2 (59,170 words)

 

That’s… 210,992 words for 2018. Woah. WOAH. 

I don’t know if I can follow this up with 2019’s goals. But it’s kind of tempting. 

 

People and Places

 

My gosh, I met so many people this year. From left to right:

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1. E.R. Warren. That’s right. THE E.R. Warren of Figment. Or as I like to call her, Emily (we’re friends, you know. Privileges). We met on Figment.com, the teen writing site that changed our lives forever. I’m pretty sure we met sometime in 2011, around the time we all joined and the site was still new and growing. That’s a long time, right? Well, because of my trip to Disneyland, I finally got to meet Emily in person! Was she awesome? Heck yes. Was it awkward? Not at all. It’s like… we left off right where we were through our texts and phone calls. In fact, we talked so much that our waiter pretty much gave up on taking our orders for at least an hour haha. 

2. Joey Chou. Thanks to Epcot’s Festival of the Arts, I got to meet one of my favorite artists. He was signing his prints at the festival. I wished I had a million blank walls at my house so I could purchase the canvas sizes and hang them up at home (alas, I’m all out of wall space). We had a fun conversation about art and how I wasn’t an artist (not since high school at least, when I traded in my sketchbooks for novel-writing) and his experience illustrating books. 

3. Tim Tracker and Jenn Tracker. I can’t even remember when I started watching Tim and Jenn’s vlogs on YouTube, but it wasn’t soon enough. I love watching their adventures in Disney, Universal, and some of the other theme parks we have around Florida. As slim as the changes were, I’d always hoped I’d run into them at the parks. However, I finally got to meet them in person at MegaCon in May. Jenn was helping a friend with her booth and Tim showed up later. I loved talking to them about how much I loved their videos of Tokyo Disney that they had just posted.  I also got to ask Tim and Jenn about the Roger Rabbit ride at Disneyland, the ride was most looking forward to for my Disneyland trip (not a surprise – they said it was awesome… and it was). 

4. Black Panther. This counts, right? We had a lovely conversation in Disneyland about Florida weather and how great the Incredicoaster is – especially the tunnel where they pump the smell of freshly-baked cookies. 

Last but not least, I got to meet two actors from Gotham, one of my favorite shows. And by “meet,” I mean like all of five seconds to have my picture taken with them. You know how conventions work. But it’s amazing how much can be packed into such a small moment: I got to shake both their hands. They were both very kind. 

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Sean Pertwee (left) plays Alfred Pennyworth and David Mazouz (right) plays young Bruce Wayne on the show. I got to see them talk about the show on a panel beforehand, which was really fun because they both talked openly about their roles and what it was like to step into another version of the Batman mythology. 

I don’t know how I’m going to deal in 2019. The 5th and final season will be airing in January 2019. The story will be over. I’ve been watching the show since it first aired and it’s surreal to think it will end. But these things do happen. I can hardly wait to see how the show wraps up. 

  

2019 Goals

 

This year has been good in some ways, but kind of a disaster in others. I think everyone had challenges this year, but we made it! We’re almost on the other side. 

My workshop buddies and I were talking about the new year and how we thought making our goals real – like, by writing them out – would give them more power to come true. So I’m going to share a few of them here in the hopes that we may be on to something. 

 

1. Find a new home for my stories. 

2. Write another MG book.

3. Finish the 3rd book in the YA trilogy I alluded to.

4. Spend less money lol. 

5. Make significant progress with my TBR pile to free up more room on my bookshelves (the pile is a monster. It keeps growing). 

6. See more of Central Florida.

7. Fill the house with more white and teal/seafoam/turquoise/mint colors. I’ve committed. 

8. Ride every ride at Universal and see every show and eat all the food (Making the most of my UOAP pass before it runs out in like… a year and a half). 

9. Try new things at Disney (tours, restaurants, rides I haven’t gotten fast passes for yet, etc.). 

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What are you proud of from 2018? What are some of your fondest memories? And what do you hope 2019 will bring you? 

 

 

 

Goodbye, Figment

At the end of college, my friends were either getting ready to belly flop into the world of Reality with jobs (or not) or tying the knot with their sweethearts for future wedded bliss. But me? I had been trying all year long to secure myself a job before graduation in case Plan A failed, and no bites. It could have been depressing if I didn’t get The Call one Spring evening while I was running across campus with my friend Lauren, on our way to the Communications building on some errand I can’t recall now. 

What I do remember is this: feeling my cellphone buzzing in my pocket, stopping on the sidewalk and answering the phone , the way sweat made my hands clammy as my mother spoke on the other end of the line, telling me that the professor’s wife had called the house to say I’d been accepted into graduate school

I was beyond excited that I got to delay Reality for three more years in the pursuit of studying creative writing.  

My first semester in 2010 was a whirlwind of firsts. I met my best buddies for the next three years: my fellow grad cohorts who would see every piece of writing I’d bring to the table and make me a better writer for it. I had to teach to keep up my end of the tuition bargain, which was one of the scariest things I ever had to do in my life. Being a shy introvert who barely raised her hand in class, and now had to teach two college classes a semester. It would be a long time before I’d walk into my classroom without a dry mouth and rolling stomach.  

As much fun as I was having (like riding a roller coaster in the dark), I realized that I was missing something. I wanted to write teen fiction, but none of the professors were experienced in the genre. The majority of my cohorts were more interested in literary fiction than genre, so my classes and workshops were centered on that style and philosophy of writing. As great as these lessons were, I knew I wasn’t writing the stories for class that I secretly (or not-so-secretly) wanted to write. I needed an outlet. 

I found out about Figment.com from a New York Times article about a brand-new site that was inspired by teens writing and reading and, of course, Japanese cellphone novels. I had heard about cellphone novels before. I had a pretty terrible phone with a slide-out keypad at a time when everyone else had smartphones, so I couldn’t imagine literally writing on a phone. BUT! I loved the idea of writing serially – just one chapter at a time – and that Figment.com was encouraging that type of writing on their site. 

The article summed up the spirit of Figment.com quite well:

“Figment.com will be unveiled on Monday as an experiment in online literature, a free platform for young people to read and write fiction, both on their computers and on their cellphones. Users are invited to write novels, short stories and poems, collaborate with other writers and give and receive feedback on the work posted on the site.”

So I signed up as soon as possible, right around the time that Figment opened to the public. Stories had already been posted from the beta testing, and one of the first stories I read came from user Linna Lee, who ended up being one of the first of many close-but-never-met-in-person writer friends in the coming years. 

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I can’t believe it’s been seven years since I joined. My gosh. It feels like no time has passed, but in some ways, I have passed through the rise of a fantastic site, major changes, and the slow but inevitable death that began when the site changed hands for the final time. 

Figment.com will now become Underlined. And while I’m curious and interested in participating in whatever small way I can now with my writing workload, I know that Figment.com will soon be erased. All traces of its existence gone forever in a way that is both heartbreaking and scary. If I was a superhero, I’d tell you that my origin story was Figment.com. My Chemical X. But once it’s gone, I’ll only have my screenshots to know that it was real, and my friends as we reminisce about the days when we were free to experiment and  develop some of the most amazing stories that still leave me shaken today. 

One of the big questions I was asked over the years was what my profile photo was and where did it come from. I decided early on that I would use my real name, but not a photo of me. And years later, when I really could have changed it, I just couldn’t do it. This little slice of art became nostalgic. It was part of Figment-me. The photo is an illustration made for the book The Ship That Sailed to Mars by William M. Timlin. After all these years, I still haven’t gotten my hands on a copy to read it, but this illustration enchanted me, and I saw something of myself in the woman  reading on her little asteroid-house:

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The stories I posted were similarly whimsical: girls discovering cursed carousels at night,  boys with shapeshifting mothers for hearts, skeleton friends, mermaids in glitter baths who wrote letters to the sea, boys and bees, silent film stars doomed to never speak, and a girl trapped a birdcage and the handsome butler with the creaky knees. 

I made it on the front page a few times. I even had a fan club. 

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Look at the beautiful website badges Figgie Hannah Rachel made that fans of my writing actually put on their websites ommggg:

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My most popular story on Figment was Birdcage Girl, a serial novel that is a twist on the Rapunzel fairy tale. 

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Birdcage Girl became one of the most popular stories on the site as well. I wrote the entire novel while I was in graduate school, enjoying posting droplets of chapters every week for eager readers. The chapters are deliciously short – I never had so much fun writing that way. I even got to talk to co-founder Jacob Lewis on the phone about it, which was a hugely special moment for me. 

I still hope to get this beloved story into the perfect shape one day so that it may one day sit on a bookshelf. But I believe I can do it, and that’s thanks to the wonderful readers who went on the journey with me. And stayed… even when I was mean to some characters. 

One of my favorite short stories I wrote was “Afternoon at Noodledom Palace,” as an entry for a time traveling contest that was judged by THE Tamara Ireland Stone! Yes, Figment was totally cool enough to have a ton of contests, some of which were judged by amazing authors. 

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This was one of the greatest Figment moments of my life! And I’m happy to say that Tamara and I are interest author friends. It’s kind of the coolest. 

Okay, so before I start sniffling and reaching for a tint of strawberry ice cream, I have to end this post by talking about how much Figment.com helped me to believe in myself as a writer. For a long time, Figment was a wonderfully immersive and supportive community of readers and writers. The feedback and encouragement I received helped me to grow alongside what I was learning in graduate school, but it also allowed me to stretch my genre wings, if you will, in ways I might never had if I hadn’t joined the site. 

Figment gave me the courage to submit my novel manuscripts. It gave me the strength to keep going despite the rejections. Publishing isn’t easy. Whenever times got hard, I had only to look back on the Figgies that were there for me, and I was able to push through and keep going. 

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Even now, in 2017 guys, I still believe because of Figment. 

So let me end here by giving you links to the very best friends I made on Figment.com who have written their own goodbye posts. You should read all of them. They’re quite wonderful. And if we knew each other in Figment and you want to reconnect, well, you know where to find me.

Samantha Chaffin | E.R. Warren | Lydia Albano

Manuscript Deadlines in 5 GIFS

Behold! I have emerged from a month of not blogging with big news: I just submitted my third manuscript to Swoon Reads this past week! I also noticed that there's a major blue theme going on with the photos I took of the process...

This is not intentional. But it totally makes sense. Yes. Secrets. 

After going through the whole submitting-my-manuscript-to-my-editor-for-the-first-time process a few times, I've noticed some patterns. Have you finished a writing project and felt/experienced the same things? 

1. The end is nigh!

You can almost smell it. This is such an exciting time. I feel like a world-weary traveler carrying a machete that I dulled cutting through the wilds of the middle of my manuscript. I've come such a long way since the first chapter, where everything was shiny and new and hopeful. Not that there isn't hope at the end. It's just a different kind of feeling. It's a little surreal. In just a few chapters, I'm going to be done. The story will close. WOAH. Soak it in. Then get cracking. 

2. When my characters decide to do whatever they want...

... instead of following the carefully constructed outline I have in my head. This happens ALL THE TIME. Usually it's a good thing, especially when you're still exploring your characters. But the timing is awful when this happens just a week or two before you're supposed to submit your manuscript. 

When this happens to me, I have to stop for a second and ask myself why my character is veering off course. Will following the character be more beneficial than dragging it back into the pre-planned plot? If so, it means I've got a lot of rewriting to d0 (aka no sleep for days).

Other times, a character wandering off has more to do with the above sleep-deprivation than anything. That's when I take a nap and then find my characters behaving nicely again. 

3. Sensing my deadline, my friends instinctively feed me.

I can't tell exactly what gives it away. My pallid skin? The bruise-like shadows under my eyes? Or maybe my gentle, if not worrisome muttering as I scratch out plot points and re-research the steps of the Charleston to practice under my desk?

Friend: How's the writing going?

Me: Oh, you know, pretty okay, just gotta rename a minor character and figure out what color train ticket my MC is using for...

Friend: I made extra Pastelón. Here. 

Me: *shoves fork in mouth*

Either way, I appreciate the extra brain fuel. I'm sure my friends are to thank for being able to keep up with my deadlines... and motivation to squeeze in exercising. 

4. My head is full of music.

I need to listen to music when I write. I don't do ambient sounds. I can't stand silence. So I have my earbuds in as I work on those precious few scenes left in the manuscript. 

I make playlists for every writing project, but I'm probably not using them at this point. It's all about high-energy electronic music or soulful movie soundtracks now. Sometimes I'm lucky and it meshes with my manuscript (wahoo electro swing). 

Unless I know I'm not going to be disturbed, I only wear one earbud. Because most of the time reality demands to be heard and no music in the world can keep it quiet. 

5. Having some kind of vague pride in the finished product. 

At this point, I finished writing the last chapter. I've probably spent months with this manuscript. I know it's strengths, the parts I love and the characters I'm a little sad to part with. But I also know that it's not perfect - and that's okay.

Did I work hard on it? Is it ready for my editor to see? Am I even a teeny bit excited about showing my editor this SECRET THING and that PLOT TWIST and the DID NOT SEE THAT COMING moment in the middle? 

Heck yes, I am. 

Now it's time to return to the land of the living. My bedroom needs dusting and I should probably make my lunch for work tomorrow.