Dec 26, 2011

fun fact

This time last year I was diving into revisions for Luminance Hour in hopes of wooing a particular agent who sent me an R&R.

One year later and what am I working on? Revisions for Luminance Hour.

A writer's work is never done!

Dec 20, 2011

two things on a tuesday

1. My editorial letter came! Like a ninja in the night (see Friday vlog a while back for the reference). This means that you will be seeing much less of me over the next few weeks, as my energies shall be sucked back into this monstrous manuscript of my own making. *runs off to stock up on tea, cookies and microwaveable dinners*

Here it is folks, 3 solid pages of creative boot camp.

2. Oh weird, I was just looking down at the pile of papers I keep for each of my separate projects and I just realized that my first set of critique notes for this MS were sent to me in October of 2010. Just over a year ago. How much can happen in the space of a year.

To all of my wonderful blog readers: have very happy holidays, a merry Christmas and an amazing new year! I'll see you on the other side!

Dec 19, 2011

monday musings: recycled page art

One of the few thing that I don't like about the holidays are White Elephant gift exchanges. You know, the game where you swap gifts back and forth. I don't like it because I usually see something I really want and I never leave with it. The game makes me rather anxious. Husband and I recently participated in one of these exchanges and I must say, it helps to have a second person on your team. One of the things I was able to walk away with was one of my good friend's pieces of art. I met Brittany McCrea a little under a year ago, but it took a few weeks after our first introduction for me to realize what a talented artist she is! She's very good at hiding the fact. One of her favorite things to do is take pages of old library books and recycle them into sketches like this one:

Amazing details.

Seahorse is happy in his new home on my shelf.
Husband and I played kind of cut-throat to get this. The universe had to balance itself out: therefore our second White Elephant Prize was a 2012 Justin Bieber calendar (which I received after getting both a Harney and Sons Holiday tea pack and a Starbucks giftcard stolen from me). But coffee and tea are replaceable. One of a kind art is not!
Now, my friend Brittany doesn't have a website for her art, but I'm sure if you're interested in one of these sketches she would love to take commissions. She can draw and paint pretty much anything. Comment below if you're interested!

Dec 16, 2011

the incredible pizza eating debaucle

Today's Friday vlog features my husband and our friend attempting the "Gilroy's $500 Pizza Challenge," where they have to eat a 28" pizza in the span of 30 minutes. Do they succeed? Watch to find out!

Dec 15, 2011

luminance hour - in photo form

Today I'm taking a page out of Genn's book (well, not her actual book) and posting a collection of pictures that I think really encompasses Luminance Hour. Enjoy!

[PS. I took these down, but you can see them all on the Pinterest board referenced below!]

If you want to see more pictures as I discover them I have a board on Pinterest dedicated solely to Luminance Hour. It's here.

Dec 13, 2011

two things on a tuesday

1. I think my WIP rough draft is trying to kill me. Why do I think this? Because it has already made me throw out the first 6000 words, and now it is demanding that I rewrite about twenty pages to accommodate the bad guy's cruel whim. And reinforce the MC's character traits. Now, I've done this and much much more with previous novels, but I usually save all of the editing for AFTER the rough draft stage. I'm only 100 pages into this piece (we shall call it CutthroatNovel, no?) and I've already rewritten the beginning twice.

Here's hoping all of the hard work will pay off in the end and it will be something readable. Even memorable!

2. Husband is still hard at work training for his binge on Friday (re: pizza eating contest). Remember the picture of the salad that I showed you guys last week? Well he's been eating one of those every day. The upside? I haven't had to cook dinner all week. The downside is that he's been a ferocious ball of vegetable-fueled energy. Unlike most people, when husband eats lots and lots of food he gets hyper instead of sleepy. And when he's hyper he likes to distract me from my writing.

I'll be looking forward to Friday. And don't worry. I'll be taping it for the blog. You'll all get to see.

Dec 8, 2011

bookshelf tour

You can tell a lot about a person (and a writer especially) from their bookshelves and their workspace. Both of mine are very messy, but they are rather organized (which totally fits the rest of my life upon further introspection...) Today I offer you a glimpse onto these shelves and my desk. Proceed at your own risk.

Behold the chaos that is my primary bookshelf. It's very colorful, which also fits my personality (I love bright, crazy colors). I can't fit all of the books in. Nor are they in any specific order (other than a series). Plus, who said bookshelves are just for books? They also hold all of the OTHER random trinkets I can't find a place for in the rest of the apartment.

Meet my neon llamas. They're real llamas. They were a wedding present from my sister-in-law in Bolivia. They don't have names, which I've just now realized should be rectified. The pink one shall be called Sherbet and the orange one will be known as Mango. I so decree it. Sherbet and Mango are the faithful guardians of my signed YALLfest books. Also, Mango thinks that Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell makes a comfy alternative history bed. Sherbet is a fan of Southern gothic fiction, as well as stories about zombies and space.

Next shelf! In which you can see exactly how much I love Maggie Stiefvater. And Harry Potter. And J.R.R. Tolkien. And Neil Gaiman. And T.S. Eliot. I actually DO own the last three volumes of Harry Potter. They are on loan to my mother who waited until the end of the final movie to read the books. She, like most others in my life, has finally conceded that, "Yes. The books are better than the movies."

Also, did I mention that I loved the Redwall series as a young child? Because I did! These books saw me through the tumultuous years of pre-teen-hood. Because I was in such denial about lip-gloss and spaghetti straps, I decided to instead run off into the forest and pretend to be a staff-wielding hare named Honeydew. Those were good times. Good times.
Hiding in the corner is a really amazing series by Susan Cooper called The Dark is Rising. Read them.

What are you looking at you ask? All of my writing ever. Okay. Maybe not ever, but it's a pretty good representation of my portfolio from kindergarten all of the way through high school. Every time I want to laugh or feel better about my current writing, I dive into this sucker. I even have a snazzy stack of rejection letters. In both cases, the electronic equivalents of these piles are much thicker than the actual thing.
A nice wad of enveloped NOs.

A taste of my non-fiction collection. I feel like this shelf is a pretty good representation of my other hobby. Travel (not the Civil War, though I have been to battle reenactments as a semi-horrified yet ultimately fascinated spectator). Lonely Planet guides have never steered me wrong. If you're looking for detailed guides when you're planning a trip abroad, I definitely recommend them.

But I digress. On to where I spend a good part of my day:

The desk is a recent addition to my life. Until a few months ago my writing location of choice was on the floor by my coffee table (I wrote three novels this way.) Some friends were getting rid of this desk and offered it to me. On it I keep my ever trusty warm beverage (I can't seem to write without hot tea or coffee at my side). I also nurse a not-quite-dead orchid (it has survived for 8 whole months!!) and a pegasus made of wire. Can you spy Nessie?

So there you have it. A glimpse into my chaotically ordered life. Writers, what does your workspace look like? How about your bookshelves? Anything fun?

Dec 7, 2011

and this is what happens AFTER you eat an XXXL salad:

i'm not the only one who loves food.

My husband is training for a pizza-eating contest next week at a local eatery. Apparently training for a food contest looks like this:

Yes, folks. That is a large mixing bowl filled with salad. He's eating it right now as he checks his emails. I'll let you know if he actually finishes it or not.

*update* 24 minutes in and he's about a third of the way through. He says (and I quote), "My jaw is getting tired."

*new update* 49 minutes in. He's got about 70% of the salad in his stomach. Quote of the moment? "I don't think I can finish it all."

*even newer update* 1 hour in.
Husband: "I can't finish."
Me: "C'mon. The Internet is counting on you."
Husband: "Really?"
Me: "Yes."
Husband: *adopts determined look* "I can do this. I love the Internet."

Just so you know, he's finishing for you, cyberspace.

*newest update* 1 hour and 13 minutes in. He has about three bites left. "I'm fighting. Fighting hard."

*final update* 1 hour and 15 minutes in. He's slammed his bowl on the floor as a sign of victory.

And done.
Now he's sitting in front of the computer watching an episode of Epic Mealtime. How can men do this again?

PS. Tune in next week for a recap of the actual pizza eating contest. It's sure to be equally gratuitous!

Dec 6, 2011

two things on a tuesday

1. On her blog yesterday, Mindy McGinnis wrote a lovely post about self-editing and why it isn't always the best idea. As a part of her post she introduced the concept of putting your manuscript into Wordle and figuring out what your crutch words are based on which ones appear. I decided to put in the first three chapters of Luminance Hour and test what came up. Here it is:

Wordle: 3 Chapters of Luminance Hour

Seems that back, face, eyes and away are my biggest crutch words for the first three chapters. (I've always known the eyes thing. I tend to focus on facial expressions when I describe character's emotions.) Curious about your crutch words? You should give Wordle a try.

2. Tis the season to eat lots of sweet treats and spend money! What are your favorite traditions for the holiday season? As I've grown older I find that my taste in Christmas music has changed a bit drastically. As a young child I used to adore Manheim Steamroller (we would always put the CDs in when we decorated the tree). Now that I'm in my 20s I find that I really appreciate all of the traditional Christmas hymns I used to get so tired of when I was singing in the church choir. I don't sing in the choir anymore (something I actually miss from time to time), but I still love high church choral songs. My favorites of the season are probably O Come, O Come, Emmanuel  and God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen. Loreena McKennit does an amazing cover of the latter:

 More Christmas songs and yummies to come later! For now I must write!

Dec 5, 2011

monday musings: three kings

This is, beyond question, my favorite poem ever. I think it's only fitting that I share it on the first week of Advent. I want to write about it and tell you why it's my favorite, but I feel like anything I can say is already conveyed in the final stanza. 

The Journey of the Magi

"A cold coming we had of it,

Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp,
The very dead of winter."
And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,
Lying down in the melting snow.
There were times we regretted
The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,
And the silken girls bringing sherbet.
Then the camel men cursing and grumbling
And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,
And the night-fires gong out, and the lack of shelters,
And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly
And the villages dirty, and charging high prices.:
A hard time we had of it.
At the end we preferred to travel all night,
Sleeping in snatches,
With the voices singing in our ears, saying
That this was all folly.

Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,

Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;
With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,
And three trees on the low sky,
And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.
Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,
Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,
And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.
But there was no information, and so we continued
And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon
Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

All this was a long time ago, I remember,

And I would do it again, but set down
This set down
This: were we lead all that way for
Birth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly,
We had evidence and no doubt. I have seen birth and death,
But had thought they were different; this Birth was
Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.
We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,
But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,
With an alien people clutching their gods.
I should be glad of another death.

T.S. Eliot (1927)

Nov 29, 2011


I did have a good writing day. At 1600 or so words.
I even paused to draw out a scene. Complete with stick figures:

I'm sure now you know exactly what's happening in WIP.

two things on a tuesday

1. November is almost over, as many of you Nano writers know. I always feel incredibly underachieving when I look at the stats of writers who are actually participating in the 50,000 words in a month blitz. With tweets like, "I just wrote 4000 words today" and "I'm 30,000 words in just ten days after I started," what non-Nano-er wouldn't feel lazy? Truth be told, I have no idea how these wordcounts come into being. For me, a really good writing afternoon will produce about 1500 words. And that's a good day. Some days when I'm distracted or wrestling with writer's block I can't even pass 500. Often time I'll make myself feel guilty about this, but then I realize that it's just the nature of things. If my brain doesn't want to write more than two pages. Then it won't.

So, Nano-ers, please explain to me the great mysteries of your several thousand word sprints! What is your pace when you aren't in Nano mode? (Or deadline mode, since I'm sure that's similar to the Nanowrimo adrenaline rush).

As this little blurb just showed, I'm still a word-count ho at heart. (And I think I always will be.)

2. I.... I don't have a second thing. Not today. This makes me a little sad, but I should go write my 1500 words now. Today's a good writing day. I declare it so! *knocks on wood*

Nov 27, 2011

food. and why it is important (besides keeping you alive).

I have a secret. Well, it's not really a secret as much as a previously undisclosed fact. Which I will now share with you.

I am a foodie.

I love food. Salty food, sweet food, fatty food, healthy food. I love it all. I don't discriminate. The holidays are some of my favorite times of the year because of this. Oh, I love family and presents and Christmas trees and fires. But I also, very much, love the food.
Husband and I are fortunate to have friends and family who love food as much as we do. Which is why I had not one, not two, but FOUR Thanksgiving meals this past week. They were all so, so delicious. Cranberry sauce, turkey, mashed potatoes, Thai butternut squash soup...

I was talking with someone recently about The Hunger Games. Person in question looked at me and said, "The book is really just all about food." I was very puzzled at this, since the book is actually about children slaughtering each other in a huge death-trap arena. This person went on to explain, "In the beginning of the books, Katniss has a very hard time finding food. And her trip to the Capitol was defined by lots of lavish descriptions of food. I mean, the author spends pages describing the different kinds of food. And the title of the book is The Hunger Games."

This statement got me thinking about the role of food in books, especially YA fantasy novels. If you look at most books that have a good, convincing fantastical world, you will probably find excessively detailed descriptions of food. The kind of descriptions that make your mouth water and send you running to the pantry to find a snack that is at least somewhat close to the recipe in question. It's my opinion that food, and the convincingly real, drool-worthy descriptions of it, is an essential world-building tool. Here's why.

1. Your characters have to eat (unless they are undead vampires or immortal fae). When you describe the foods they eat you are helping your reader see them as real people.

2. World's that are not like our own are also made more convincingly real by the foods that they eat. Especially if the foods are slightly different from what exists in the real world. Maggie Stiefvater just did a lovely post on imaginary foods and how she tried to create them in her own novel.

Think about it. The Harry Potter books have at least three feasts featured in each one, all of them describing delicious sweets and dishes we've never tasted. And who hasn't wanted to try butterbeer? (I have yet to go down to Orlando and try some for myself, but I'm of the firm conviction that it tastes like melted down butter rum Lifesavers (which I happened to be eating when I first read about butterbeer)).

Another books series I read a lot of when I was younger was the Redwall series. There are at least five pages out of every book dedicated solely to the description of food and drink. Wild mushroom flans.  Strawberry cordial. Dandelion fizz. Characters even instruct you on how to make these delicious treats: "See this apple? Stuff the corehole with candied chestnuts and a driblle of honey, bake it in the oven, then serve it piping hot with meadowcream." (Outcast of Redwall, 173). Um, yum?

Looking back on my own projects I haven't focused on food quite as much as I should. Upon such reflection this will change. Of course, it helps to have main characters who eat. Maybe I should focus on that first.

Nov 21, 2011

monday musings: written? kitten!

One of the things I'm thankful for is.... Cats! The world would be a much different place without them. Overrun with rats. Overgrown with catnip. Although I do love dogs very much, cats will always hold a special place in my life (unfortunately husband does not share the same overlyfondness of cats). Ever since I was two years old I had at least one feline in my life.

Imagine how thrilled I was to have a friend show me this jewel: Written? Kitten!
Basically, all you have to do is type 100 words into the box and the website will provide you with a new picture of a kitten! How awesome is that? The only downside is that it doesn't save your work for you, so you have to make sure you're backing it up as you go along.

So cat-lovers and writers, you're welcome! Now get back to work!

Nov 18, 2011

3 years later...

Yesterday I got the really cool chance to go back to my college (College of Charleston) and talk to one of the classes I took when I was a student there. I was a creative writing major and during my senior year I took a class that was entitled: "Writing the Novel." The class lasted only a semester, and I only produced 60 or so pages of actual story, but the class was pretty instrumental in getting me started on writing projects outside of school. The professor, Bret Lott, has been very supportive of my writing endeavors and I've kept up with him for the past three years that I've been out of his class. When he heard about my news, he immediately invited me to come and talk to the class I'd once been a student in (which is, ironically, the class my brother happens to be taking at the moment. You can see him in the pink shirt and bow tie two seats down from me!)

It was a little more... I don't want to say intimidating because I really wasn't that nervous... but we'll use the word anyway... to talk to college age kids as opposed to high schoolers. This could also be because they were slightly closer to my age. But I did enjoy being able to share my journey with them. Three years seems like an eternity when you're in it, angsting on whether or not your book will be published. But sitting in that circle and staring into all of their faces, remembering when I too was going to this class every week to talk about writing... I realized that three years really isn't that long. I have been so, so blessed. And I can't forget it.

Nov 17, 2011

officially official!

So on Tuesday I was able to do something I've dreamed of for quite a long time.... sign my publishing contract!! It was strange, because as I was doing it, I didn't really appreciate the importance until the very end when dear husband and I looked at each other and said, "We need to celebrate!" I guess the news and crazy reality of it all is finally starting to sink in--even though it's only been 3.5 months since I found out. In any case, I am now officially bound to HarperCollins to give them two well-crafted books involved Fae, British royalty, assassins, paparazzi and kissing. Not such a bad thing to sign your life to!

Nov 16, 2011

yallfest recap

So, as promised, here is my YALLfest experience. In both picture and word form.
Where do I begin? It's strange to spend so many months preparing for something and then having it happen in one fell swoop. It's kind of like a wedding (in a very different way). The actual day of YALLfest was a flurry of activity and awesome moments... 

Jonathan Sanchez, writer and bookseller extraordinaire, welcomes all to YALLfest.

The American Theatre, where all the panels were held.

Most of the panels had a full house!
My morning was swallowed up with door duty. I got to guard the door to the green room (the place where all of the authors hang out when they aren't on stage or signing books). Don't I make an incredibly intimidating bouncer?

The day was full of really great panels. I got to attend one on Southern writers (Putting the Y'all in YALLfest) which featured Katie Crouch, Carrie Ryan, Michelle Hodkin and Saundra Mitchell. They talked all about their Southern roots and how they play into their novels. I found this panel interesting for very obvious reasons... even though LUMINANCE HOUR isn't set in the South (far from it!), my next project takes place in a very Southern landscape.

Southern panel talks grits and debutantes.

The other two panels I attended were HollyAwood (all about turning books into movies) and the Zombie Attack Panel. Best piece of advice I gleaned from these? Carrie Ryan told us that the best method of survival in a zombie apocalypse is to find someone who runs slower than you!

The Hollywood Panel.

I got to introduce them.

Of course, the best part of the whole festival for me was being able to meet and actually hang out with these amazingly creative minds! It's strange when you spend so long following someone online--when you meet them in real life you can't help but feel awkwardly stalkerish because you know so much about them. Every single one of the authors was so nice and welcoming!

Can you see the nervous eagerness in my eyes as I talk to Andrea Cremer (Nightshade), Beth Revis (Across the Universe) and Saundra Mitchell (The Vespertine)?

Me and Kami Garcia (Beautiful Creatures)
Me and the lovely Katie Crouch (The Magnolia League)

I also got to meet my lovely critique partner Kate Armstrong. She flew down for the weekend and slept on our futon. I had such a wonderful time showing her around the city (we spent a lot of time at Kudu, my favorite coffee shop). I also got to meet Kiera Cass, a fellow HarperTeen author who I connected with on Twitter. Her book, THE SELECTION, comes out in 2012 and sounds pretty amazing (the ARC is gorgeous, I got a sneak peek before Kaleb Nation snatched it away for his own!).
Me and Kate (phenomenal critique partner!)

The whole weekend was capped off with a YA smackdown, where all 29 (or so) authors gathered onstage to compete with each other in storytelling games on the spot. Most of it ended in hilarity.

All the authors gathered together.

Carrie Ryan (Forest of Hands and Teeth) killing people.

Margaret Stohl (Beautiful Creatures) and Eliot Schrefer (The School for Dangerous Girls): Victors of the YALLfest smackdown!

You know something is really good if, when it finishes, you're already looking forward to next year. (Just like Christmas!) I hope to see all of you at YALLfest 2012!

Nov 15, 2011

two things on a tuesday

1. As of yesterday I am now a member of The Lucky 13s, a group of authors scheduled to debut in 2013. Go over and check out their blog. There's a lot of cool books coming up. Also, my friend Mindy who interviewed me a few weeks ago on her blog  just got some awesome news of her own. She's going to be a fellow HarperCollins-onian (Yes, I just made that up.)

2. Look what just came today! Can you guess what it is?

Music: Sufjan Stevens
Fueled by: A delicious peanut-butter-brownie-cookie my critique partner brought me all the way from Maryland!
Working on: This stubbornly ridiculous WIP. Funny how writing never gets easier...

Nov 14, 2011

yallfest weekend in five words.





Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. (yes, really)

Rest assured, an actual full length post about Yallfest is coming. With pictures. Once my energy meter is back up from the negatives.

Nov 9, 2011

the book that started it all.

Over on her blog Beth Revis is holding a contest where people talk about the books they are most thankful for. I've been planning to write this post for a while. I don't know if this is how it works with every writer, but for me, there is a single book I can point back to a "blame" for setting off my desire to write and tell stories of my own. This book, which I am very thankful for, is Ella Enchanted.

I don't remember when I first put my hands on Ella Enchanted. I was young, as in, grade school young. If it's like most of the books I read as a child, then my mother probably picked it up at the library and placed it in my eager hands.
From the very first page I was enamored. Gail Carson Levine creates a very real, very fascinating fantasy world. The main character is cursed by her fairy godmother with the gift of obendience. Anything she is told she must do. The love story and adventure that springs from this is lovely. One that I can read over and over again without getting tired.
After I finally closed the cover, I realized that I wanted more. Unfortunately, Ms. Levine had no sequels in the works for this story. My desire for more pushed me into the idea that I could write my own fairy-tale love story. So I did. The result was a 60 page, thinly-veiled Cinderella-esque love story. It was the beginning of my love affair with writing. I loved Ella's world so much that I decided to create world's of my own. And so I am so, so thankful for this book. It set me on the path that I am today. (Funny that my own novel involves Faery Godmothers and a dashing prince!)

Since that first fateful reading, I've read through Ella Enchanted more times than I can remember. It's binding is bent and it's gone everywhere with me. To college. To South Korea. And back. I know that one day I'll be reading it to my kids. I will keep it until it falls apart, and probably after.

So what books are you all thankful for? I'd love to know! Plus you can enter this awesome contest for so many really good YA books.

Nov 7, 2011

monday musings: other worlds

Today I've decided to share a poem that really stood out to me in my college studies. When I first read it I had to do a double-take on Ezra Pound's name. The poem has a distinct Asian flavor-as well as a feeling on immense age- like it was written several hundreds of years ago. I love it because it is so different from its contemporaries. It reminds me of the fantasy novels I used to read when I was younger, which spoke so eloquently and convincingly of places that didn't exist. This is what I really aim for in my own writing, to paint pictures of worlds that feel both fantastical and completely comfortable to my readers.

Lament of the Frontier Guard
Ezra Pound

By the North Gate, the wind blows full of sand,
Lonely from the beginning of time until now!
Trees fall, the grass goes yellow with autumn.
I climb the towers and towers
to watch out the barbarous land:
Desolate castle, the sky, the wide desert.
There is no wall left to this village.
Bones white with a thousand frosts,
High heaps, covered with trees and grass;
Who brought this to pass?
Who has brought the flaming imperial anger?
Who has brought the army with drums and with kettle-drums?
Barbarous kings.
A gracious spring, turned to blood-ravenous autumn,
A turmoil of wars-men, spread over the middle kingdom,
Three hundred and sixty thousand,
And sorrow, sorrow like rain.
Sorrow to go, and sorrow, sorrow returning,
Desolate, desolate fields,
And no children of warfare upon them,
No longer the men for offence and defence.
Ah, how shall you know the dreary sorrow at the North Gate,
With Rihoku’s name forgotten,
And we guardsmen fed to the tigers.

Nov 4, 2011

friday vlog: taking it back to high school

So on Wednesday I got to go back to my old high school and talk to the juniors and seniors of the Creative Writing major about my recent successes. This is how I felt afterward. (Note: The audio is out of sync. I have tried to fix it, but it spites me, even after four separate uploads. Just pretend my face isn't there.)

Nov 2, 2011

YALLfest interview #2: Katie Crouch

For my second YALLfest interview, I have the honor of welcoming Katie Crouch to the blog. Like me, Katie is a Charleston native (aka Charlestonian). She's also the author of the New York Times Bestselling Girls in Trucks, Men and Dogs and the young adult novel The Magnolia League. Come and meet her, along with a lot of other super cool authors, at YALLfest!

What were you like as a teen?

I was really hyper and boy crazy. I also read all of the time and kept a really embarrassing diary. I wasn't cool at all, but I knew it and embraced my complete dorkiness, which actually made me cooler than I ever would have been otherwise.

What were your favorite books as a kid?

 Jacob Have I Loved and Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson, Are You There God It's Me Margaret by Judy Blume, Edisto by Padgett Powell (not really YA but about my beach), Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. 

At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a writer?

Fifth grade, when my teacher Dottie Rhett at Charleston Day School told me I should think about such prospects. (Much to the annoyance of my parents.) 

The South has played a large role in all of your books, especially The Magnolia League. Do you think you’ll ever write a book that leaves the South altogether?

Actually my next book is set in Italy. So yes! But the book after that is set in Beaufort. So... guess I'll always come back. 

What musicians have influenced your writing?

Awesome question. Patty Griffin, Tim Buckley, Gillian Welch, Jeff Tweedy, and -- though she's 20 years younger than me --Taylor Swift, who also embraces her inner dork. Love her!

What are you looking forward to about YALLfest?

Meeting the other amazing authors, talking to readers, eating pie, and seeing my family. Charleston is my hometown!

From your valuable native insight, what is one spot in Charleston that cannot be missed?

Personally, I never leave Charleston without a walk on the beach. I like Sullivan's Island, at the end by the lighthouse. If you don't have a car, a bike ride around the Battery is also pretty amazing. Make sure to rent one of those really comfy, ugly Earth Cruisers with fat tires. I think they have them at the Bicycle Shoppe on King.

If you could choose only one Southern dish to eat for the rest of your life (along with other, non-Southern foods), what would it be?

I love collards. It know it's weird, but it's true. Also, it's a superfood, so I'd probably live to be 126 years old.

Along the same vein, what is your favorite kind of pie?

Tomato pie from King's Market on Edisto Island.

Nov 1, 2011

two for tuesday: all about YALLfest

1. It's not just authors at YALLfest! This press release went out today spilling all of the juicy details. Kaleb Nation-- a prominent Youtuber as well as a YA author--is filming the first episode of his new reality TV show at the festival! And you didn't think it could get any better...

2. Check back here tomorrow for an exclusive interview with another YALLfest author!

Music: "The Wolf" by Fever Ray
Fueled by: Nothing...
Working on: Short story I was working on last week has indeed morphed into a novel-esque creature...

Oct 31, 2011

monday musings: a creepy song

Happy Halloween! It feels strange now that it's the actual day... I've been to parties and celebrations since last Monday! I find it funny that, during this time of year, people exalt things that are creepy and macabre. Things that wouldn't be so acceptable any other time of year. Kids talk about mummies, Frankensteins and ghosts like they're a common part of every day life.
I'm not a huge creepy fan myself (after I saw The Ring in middleschool, I swore off all horror movies. Ever), but here's a song I really enjoy that fall on the lighter side of the creepy-scale (it's from the Donnie Darko soundtrack, so I think it counts as creepy!).

Oct 26, 2011

setting as a character

Today, in my writerly writing post, I’m going to address something that I’ve come to realize over the course of my past two manuscripts. Place is important. Where your story is set is an incredibly significant detail.
You see, place is more than just a place. Place is a character. Where you set your novel can affect the mood, the language and the tone. It can make your novel distinct and set it apart. My agent says in her “what I’m looking for” list that she loves “settings tilled with strong regional flavors.” I would say that I have to agree with her. I’m much more drawn to a story that has a unique and well-described setting. So many novels take place in high schools and small towns—it’s the ones set in unique places that I’m most likely to remember. Katie Crouch and the dynamic duo Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl do a wonderful job of bringing the South to life in their novels. Though their characters go to school like every other American teenager, their experiences and stories are tinged with the flavor of the South (“Hey, y’all!”).
I think one of the reasons that place has become such an important aspect of my writing is because of my love for traveling. I know that not everyone gets the opportunity to fly around the world and experience different cultures and landscapes. I’ve been very blessed with the opportunities and resources to see a lot of foreign countries, eat all kinds of crazy foods (nevermind that I’ve had food poisoning thrice. We don’t speak of that…) and meet tons of amazing people. When I was twenty-two I was determined to drag my husband along with me on a three-week Eurotrip (Believe it or not he didn’t want to go. He thought Europe was just art galleries.). My father-in-law said something to this effect: “You’re going for writing research aren’t you.” This comment took my by surprise. I wasn’t going for writing research. I was going to eat. But the more I thought about it, the more I decided to shove away the experiences in my mind. I didn’t intend to write a book based on my experiences in Europe. But it was only because I’d been to Europe that I was brave enough to write a book based in London. When I moved to South Korea people asked me if I was going to write a book about my experiences there. I told them the truth: probably not. Will my experiences in South Korea show up in my writing? Undoubtedly. I don’t know when, or how, but I can almost guarantee that it will.
What are some places that you absolutely love? What are places that inspire you? For me, it’s impossible to count all such places on a single hand. I’ve already centered projects around two of them: London and Charleston. There are so many more countries and cities that I want to feature in my writing. I don’t know if I’ll have the time or the space to fit them all! This being said, I think it would be cool to do a mini blog series on different places I’ve been and how they inspire me. I’ll get on that.
So my challenge to those of you who are writers is this—treat your setting like a character. Give it depth and detail. Let it become an inseparable part of your story. Don’t be afraid to commit to a place, even if you’ve never lived there or spent a huge amount of time in it.
Readers—what are some books that you love because of where they’re set? Do you have any?

Oct 25, 2011

two things on a tuesday.

1. Here's my strange life-anecdote for the week:  Living in the city I usually don't get to see much of the inner workings of the animal kingdom. Sure, you see dogs on leashes, cats curled up on porches and silver-furred squirrels feverishly collecting acorns off the ground. Sometimes the dogs on the leashes even try to chase the squirrels. Last night my husband and I got to see a unique animal encounter all our own.
We were driving up the street when the cat darted out. It was dark, but fortunately the cat had white fur, causing us to slow so we wouldn't hit it. Instead of dashing out of our way, the cat crept along on all fours, its belly low to the ground, its attention aimed raptly in front of it.
My husband stopped the car and we stared, wondering at the cat's odd behavior. When it came into the glare of our headlights, all was clear. Just inches in front of it, plodding in the middle of the road, was a rat. It was a beast of an animal, nearly half the size of the cat creeping up behind it. It seemed very unconcerned with the fact that a predator was on its tail. The cat looked a bit bewildered. It would lean forward to sniff the rat's tail, jerk back and then reluctantly chase the rodent a few more inches before it stopped to sniff it once more.
We watched the strange exchange until they disappeared into the bushes on the other side of the road.
I can't completely blame the cat for not pouncing. The rat looked large and nasty enough to hold his own.

2. Things have been a little weird on the daily writing front. I'm tinkering with other projects that I know I'll have to set aside at a moment's notice once revision letters float back my way. Still, it's good to have stuff to work on, and I know that once I'm ready to dedicate a huge block of time to a completely new project, I'll already have a lot of stuff to work with. Also, I've realized that the writing focused posts have been lacking as of late. I'll fix that very soon (ie. this week!)

Music: The Shanghai Restoration Project
Fueled by: The goodness of H2O
Working on: An experimental "short story" (although in reality I think it may be a future novel.)

Oct 24, 2011

monday musings: time

There is one song on my playlists that I can literally put on repeat and listen to forever. I have yet to grow tired of it. There's just something about it that's so moving and epic. Hans Zimmer is a really great composer, he's written a whole host of amazing movie scores: The Lion King, Gladiator, The Dark Knight, Sherlock Holmes... Inception's entire soundtrack is really great, but this song, its final track, is really worth a listen (on full volume, the beginning is super quiet).