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Annie’s 2018 Pitch Wars Wishlist

A little bit about me

My name is Annie Sullivan, and this is my first year mentoring Pitch Wars—and I couldn’t be more excited. I’ve mentored writers in a variety of other contests though, and I love helping writers improve their work while staying true to their vision of the book. I think of mentees as so much more than that. They become friends, and I try to stay with them—encouraging them and offering advice—long after the contest is over.

I write Young Adult fantasy/fairytale retellings, and my debut novel A TOUCH OF GOLD (HareperCollins/Blink) comes out August 14th…which is today if you’re reading this the day the blogs go live! AHHHH!!!! It’s the story of the cursed daughter of King Midas who faces off against pirates, betrayers, and thieves on her quest to retrieve her father’s stolen gold. You can add it on Goodreads and purchase it on Amazon, at Barnes & Noble, or at your favorite independent bookstore. You don’t get bonus points for tweeting about it/sharing it on social media, but it’s a great way to show you’re a good literary citizen 😉

Touch of Gold Final Cover Image

My work is represented by Christa Heschke at McIntosh & Otis. I’ve been with Christa my whole career, although it’s not unusual for authors to switch agents. But I’ll say that she rejected me the first time I queried her but then offered to represent me when I submitted my next manuscript to her. That just goes to show that you never know what’s going to happen in this business!

Outside of being an author, I work in the marketing department of a technology publisher. I love fairytales, the Oxford comma, everything Jane Austen, and traveling. My wanderlust has taken me to every continent, where I’ve walked on the Great Wall of China, found four-leaf clovers in Ireland, waddled with penguins in Antarctica, and cage dived with great white sharks in South Africa.

My mentoring style

I want to be your cheerleader 100%, but I’m also going to make you work! Having gone through rounds of edits with both agents and editors, I’ve been exposed to a whole new level of editing. I want to help you get your manuscript in the best possible condition. I’ll start off with a major edit letter and some in-manuscript notes soon after my mentor has been selected. I work very quickly and want to give you as much time as possible to complete your edits. Then, we’ll do another smaller round before the agent round to tie up any lose ends and look for grammatical mistakes. But since I do proofreading in my day job, I’ve got you covered there!

I want this to be a collaborative process where we work together toward your vision of the book. I want you to feel free to ask me questions any time. There’s no stupid question. I want my mentor to feel free to bounce ideas off me. Maybe we need to hop on the phone (or just do it through email) to talk about a tricky scene or plot twist. That’s what I’m here for.

I love working with plot. I can plot in my sleep. But I also know the importance of having characters who stand out on the page. If you’re my mentor, we’re going to look at it all and make sure everything shines—I’m talking everything from a powerful first line to prose that draws the reader in!

I’ll also help you with your query letter and synopsis. I’ve written and helped so many writers write these, that I’m a pro at this! We’ll rework it several times to make sure it tells the story it needs to.

I’m also here to answer any questions my mentee has about the publishing industry. I’ve been in it for a while now, so I know a thing or two.

What I’m looking for

This year, I’m looking for Young Adult Fantasy, Fairytale Retellings, and some Sci-fi…and maybe even some Westerns. I love high-fantasy, low fantasy, fairytales I have and haven’t seen retold, and sci-fi that takes me on a fun adventure to new worlds. My debut is like a Disney movie on steroids, and I love books having to do with princesses and curses and enchanted forests!

If you’ve got a NEW take on a fairytale, I want to see it. If you’ve got an epic adventure where a strong female character (or a character who learns her strength through the course of the story) saves the day, I want to see it. If you’ve got a science fiction space opera where our heroes save their world, I want to see it. If you’ve got swashbuckling pirates going on an adventure, I want to see it!

I like PG-13 romance, cool plot twists, characters who have witty dialogue, strong villains who challenge the protagonists, fun side characters and sidekicks, and a couple I can root for (and who may or may not have been ripped apart by fate…or who are on opposite sides to begin with…or who are forced to team up with each other against their will…or who were once close and have now drifted apart.) I want to feel like I’m in your setting and that the rules of the world are consistent—especially when it comes to magic.

Overall, I’m a firm believer that character and plot can be fixed, but I need a spark of a great idea behind them to catch my attention—something that makes me stop and say, “That’s a cool idea/premise.”

An incomplete list of some my favorite books right now:

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles) by Marissa Meyer

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen

A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle

Any book by Meg Cabot

Starflight by Melissa Landers

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman

Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

The Outlaws of Sherwood by Robin McKinley

Doon by Carey Corp and Lorie Langdon

Tiger’s Curse by Colleen Houck

Fairest by Gail Carson Levine

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Defy by Sara B. Larson

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

The Mortal Instruments by Cassandra Clare

Princess Academy by Shannon Hale

Austenland by Shannon Hale

Not the best fit for me:

Because you have a limited number of mentor slots and there are so many fantastic mentors to choose from, here’s a list of what I’m not looking for this year:

  • Nothing too dark or depressing. Sure you’re characters can get into trouble, but I really love a happy ending.
  • No King Midas retellings. I love fairytales, but my debut novel is a King Midas retelling, and it would just feel weird working on someone else’s. Also, keep in mind that I’m also working on several different fairytale retellings at the moment, so I’m really looking for new takes–and if yours is too similar to something I’m currently writing, I won’t request it out of respect for both of us!
  • Nothing over PG-13 romance wise.
  • I’m not a big fan of swear words/cussing. The occasional one is fine, but if the manuscript is full of it, then it’s probably not for me.
  • Anything contemporary—unless it’s a retelling set in a contemporary world or an instance where someone time travels away from the world to a fantasy world. I’ll look at those!
  • No bigotry

Good luck! I look forward to your submissions! And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter and Instagram to learn more about me and my work:

Twitter: @annsulliva

Instagram:@annsulliva

Check out the other mentors’ wishlists via the main site:

https://pitchwars.org/pitch-wars-2018-mentor-blog-hop/

Or by clicking here:
2018 Young Adult Mentors

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A Touch of Gold Available Now!

I can’t believe this day is finally here! A Touch of Gold, my young adult book about the cursed daughter of King Midas, is finally available in stores starting Tuesday, August 14th…although I’ve heard it’s already on shelves in most Barnes & Nobles!

It’s taken 8 years from when I started writing the book to reach this point. So many people helped me along the way, and I can’t thank them enough. This truly is a dream come true.

In hopes of continuing that dream, I have a few favors to ask.

First week sales are really important not just because they help me make bestseller lists but because they effect my rank on Amazon, and a lot of smaller booksellers look at Amazon rankings to decide if they want to carry the book. There are lots of ways you can help with my sales ranking. The first and best way is to buy the book!

  • You can order the book from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore.
  • You can also call your local bookstore and ask if they’ll be carrying A Touch of Gold.
  • You can also request your local library branch carry A Touch of Gold.

 

The next best thing you can do is to review the book on:

You may have to wait until Tuesday to review it on Amazon, but that is the platform where reviews are most needed because once an author reaches 50 reviews, certain algorithms kick in to help boost the book’s visibility on the site. You also don’t even have to have read the book or have bought it from Amazon to leave a review. Something simple like, “It’s a great book,” counts!

Additionally, just getting the word out there about the book will help tremendously too.

  • You can tell any teachers that you know. Ask them to buy a copy for their school library or ask them to tell their students about it.
  • You can continue to spread the news on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram!

 

Studies show it takes someone seeing something 8 times before they’ll stop and actually investigate what the product is.

Thank you again for following me on this journey. I couldn’t have done it without you, and with your continued support, I hope to share many more books with you in the future!

Happy reading!

 

 

Prizes for Preordering A TOUCH OF GOLD!

Prizes for preordering! Ways to get signed/personalized copies! Giveaways! And more!

A TOUCH OF GOLD, a young adult fantasy novel about the cursed daughter of King Midas who faces pirates, betrayers, and thieves on her quest to retrieve her father’s stolen gold, releases in just over a month! Have you preordered your copy yet?

Preorder at any of these sites or at your favorite independent bookstore!

 

Why should you preorder?

Preordering helps my publisher know that you’re excited about the book and helps convince them to buy more books from me. Also, preorders all get counted during the book’s first week on sale, meaning authors have a better chance of making things like The New York Times bestseller list if they get a lot of presales.

The two single most important things you can do to help an author are to preorder the book and to spread the word on Facebook and social media sites.

 

Want to preorder a SIGNED copy of A Touch of Gold?

Are you interested in getting a signed/personalized copy of A Touch of Gold but can’t make it to my launch party? I’ve partnered with Kids Ink bookstore so you can get signed copies of my book. All you have to do is call them at 317-255-2598 to place your order, and they’ll ship it to you!

 

Prizes for preordering A Touch of Gold

In the coming days, I’m going to be publicizing my preorder incentive—that means anyone who preorders will get some really cool prizes when they send in their proof of purchase. Make sure you’re following me on the below social media sites to find out how to claim these amazing prizes! These prizes will only be for people who preorder, so don’t wait!

 

Near Indianapolis?

If you want to come to book event of the year (in my opinion), then come to Barnes & Noble River Crossing on August 17th at 7pm for my book launch party. There will be prizes, fun activities, and a book themed cake that you won’t want to miss!

Details here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/touch-of-gold-release-party-tickets-46200875061?ref=enivtefor001&invite=MTQ0Mjk3NjkvYW5uaWVzdWxsaXZhbjE2NjFAZ21haWwuY29tLzA%3D&utm_source=eb_email&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=inviteformalv2&utm_term=attend

 

Touch of Gold Final Cover Image

 

My Favorite Fairytale Blog Hop Contest

Welcome to the 2018 Fairy-tale Blog Hop. Thirteen fabulous fairy-tale authors have gotten together to talk about their favorite fairy tales. Follow the links at the bottom of each blog post to hop to the next author’s website. Collect our favorite numbers to total up at the end and enter to win a print collection of our books! (There are several anthologies, debuts, and even an ARC for a BLINK YA book you can’t buy in stores yet!)

Hi! I’m Annie Sullivan, author of A TOUCH OF GOLD—a young adult retelling about the cursed daughter of King Midas—and as the author of fairytale retellings, it’s so hard to pick a favorite. But there’s one I come back to time and time again—and it’s just about the only one I’ve never thought of writing a retelling of because it’s practically untouchable in my mind. That fairytale is Beauty and the Beast.

While I know some people have some issues with Beauty and the Beast (hello, Stockholm Syndrome), I’ve always loved the character of Belle and the idea behind loving the person inside.

I related to Belle because she was a reader first and foremost. Growing up, I devoured books, and I just felt like Belle and I could’ve talked for hours about what we were reading—not to mention that I’ve always wanted to know what book she was reading where we meet Prince Charming but don’t discover that it’s him ‘til chapter three. (And, yes, I’m now singing that song in my head…but no, the number three is NOT my favorite.)

I also love that Belle is strong, independent, okay with being different, loves her family (even enough to basically sacrifice herself for them), and holds true to her inner convictions. Belle is able to see what others are not. She wanted adventure in the great wide somewhere, and she found it.

She brought us along on that adventure to an enchanted castle in the woods, a beautiful library (swoon!), and a host of characters who I’d be happy to be friends with.

Belle is the strong, adventurous, and loving princess that I would strive to be if, you know, I actually became a princess…which I’ve been dreaming of happening for like 16 years straight. (Yes, that’s my favorite number!)

 

Your next stop on the fairy-tale blog hop is: http://www.leadoue.com/blog

If you’ve already been to all 13 stops and collected everyone’s favorite number, then go enter to win the grand prize: http://shonnaslayton.com/fairy-tale-blog-hop/

The contest runs from Friday, June 22 to Friday, June 29.

But while you’re here, discover why you’ll want to follow the daughter of King Midas when her story, A TOUCH OF GOLD, hits shelves on August 14th!

Touch of Gold Final Cover Image

King Midas once had the ability to turn all he touched into gold. But after his gift—or curse—almost killed his daughter, Midas relinquished The Touch forever. Ten years later, Princess Kora still bears the consequences of her father’s wish: her skin shines golden, rumors follow her everywhere she goes, and she harbors secret powers that are getting harder to hide.

Kora spends her days locked in the palace, concealed behind gloves and veils, trying to ignore the stares and gossip of courtiers. It isn’t until a charming young duke arrives that Kora realizes there may be someone out there who doesn’t fear her or her curse. But their courtship is disrupted when a thief steals precious items from the kingdom, leaving the treasury depleted and King Midas vulnerable. Thanks to her unique ability to sense gold, Kora is the only one who can track the thief down. As she sails off on her quest, Kora learns that not everything is what it seems—not thieves, not pirates, and not even curses. She quickly discovers that gold—and the power it brings—is more dangerous than she’d ever believed.

Midas learned his lesson at a price. What will Kora’s journey cost?

From author Annie Sullivan comes A Touch of Gold, the untold story of the daughter King Midas turned to gold, perfect for fans of Cinder and The Wrath and the Dawn.

You can preorder now:

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Touch-Gold-Annie-Sullivan/dp/0310766354/

Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/a-touch-of-gold-annie-sullivan/1127456128#/

IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780310766353

 

Or…stay in touch with me here:

Instagram: @annsulliva

Twitter: @annsulliva

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnieSullivan/

Goodreads: www.goodreads.com/book/show/36575823-a-touch-of-gold

3 Ways to Create Conflict with Magic

(Note from Annie: Today we have a guest post from Katie Nichols all about how you can use magic in your stories and a chance to win a SIGNED copy of The Cruel Prince. These are brought to you by the wonderful people behind the Chapter One Young Writers Conference (for writers ages 11-20) and the new Chapter Twenty-One Conference (for writers ages 21-29). Learn more about both here: www.chapteroneconference.org and www.chapter21conference.org.)

Hello, magical people!

Today, I want to talk about magic, specifically magical conflicts.

I love fantasy stories, especially ones with captivating magic systems. And I love it when magic causes problems for characters. While good stories are full of conflict and problems for the characters to overcome, there’s something extra awesome about magic being the source of problems.

So how do you create magical conflict? How do you make magic not only awesome, but also a source of problems?

Look at it from a bunch of different angles and ask questions. Here are a few suggestions of questions to ask yourself, with lots of examples.

1.Where does the magic come from?

In Tangled, Rapunzel’s magic comes from her hair (and before that, it came from a magic flower). Her magic heals and gives youth. An old witch wanted to be forever youthful, so she kidnapped baby Rapunzel. So really, all of the problems in Rapunzel’s life—being kidnapped then living in a tower—came because of her magic and its origins in that magic flower.

Let’s look at The Lord of the Rings. If you know anything about this story, you know that it’s basically a journey to destroy a magic ring that houses the Dark Lord’s soul before said Dark Lord can get it back. So what problems arise from this magic? Well, it’s evil magic, so there are a lot of problems just from that (more on this later in the post). But it is also very powerful and everyone either wants the Ring or wants to destroy it. One does not simply walk into Mordor to destroy it.

Aladdin doesn’t actually have magic, but his friend the Genie does. The origin of magic here causes problems because the Genie is limited by his magic. He can’t bring people back to life, he can’t kill anyone, and he can’t make anyone fall in love with anyone else. And like the other two examples, many people want this magic and not for the most pure of reasons.

2. How does the magic affect the character mentally/emotionally? 

Another example from The Lord of the Rings, when Frodo is taking the Ring to Mordor, we see him slowly being (for lack of a better word) possessed by the Ring. He doesn’t want to lose it, he is losing sleep over it, he is sorely tempted to wear it, and all this gets drastically worse as the story progresses. Gollum is the picture of what happens when someone is completely consumed by the Ring and insanity is also a common effect of magic in stories.

Elsa from Frozen is someone whose magic has affected her emotions. In the movie, Elsa’s magic conflicts are caused by how others see her magic as well as how she sees it. In the beginning of the movie, she loves her magic as she and her sister play with it. But when her sister gets hurt by Elsa’s magic, she’s scared of hurting people, and she begins to fear her magic, to the point that she is isolated from the rest of society. How society and the character themselves feel about their own magic is a good thing to consider.

3. How does the magic affect the character physically? 

It’s common in magic systems (especially in RPG stories) for the character to become weak or lose some of their ability to do magic as they do it, like they have a limited supply of magic. To do more than they are capable of could be dangerous. A good example of this is The Glamourist Histories series by Mary Robinette Kowal. The glamour magic takes their energy and doing too much can be fatal. (If you are a Jane Austen and fantasy fan, I suggest looking into these books.)

There are other ways to physically effect a character with their magic. In Tangled, Rapunzel can’t cut her hair, or it loses it’s power, turns brown, and doesn’t grow back. In one of the stories I’ve been working on, one of my characters can turn into a dragon. Some ways this could physically effect him is that maybe he smells like smoke or has dry skin or a tint of green even while he’s human.

These aren’t all the questions that you can ask yourself for making magic cause problems, but I hope they help. For more questions you can ask yourself, I recommend looking at Brandon Sanderson’s Laws of Magic. (https://brandonsanderson.com/sandersons-third-law-of-magic/) He writes fantasy (I love the Mistborn series, personally) with amazing magic systems.

Now go create some magical problems! I can’t wait to see what you come up with.

Thanks for stopping by! Click here to enter to win a SIGNED copy of The Cruel Princehttp://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/50b1bee432/

YA Book A TOUCH OF GOLD is available for preorder!!!

I can’t believe this day is here, but my YA debut novel about the daughter of King Midas is available for preorder.

You can find it at:

Amazon link:
Barnes & Noble link:

Why should you preorder A Touch of Gold

1.) Publishers often make decisions about an author getting a second book deal based on preorder numbers.

2.) The more preorders, the more copies of the book they’ll typically print, which means they’ll then usually increase marketing budgets to sell all those books.

3.) All preorder sales hit on the same day, meaning an author could potentially make lists like the New York Times bestseller list because all those sales count for the same week.

4.) You’ll usually get a cheaper price. Preorders are usually discounted the earlier you order.

5.) You’ll make an author’s day! I can’t tell you how happy I was when a friend told me she’d preordered 10 copies of my book!

 

Also, feel free to add the book on Goodreads!

I will keep you all updated on book signings and appearances. Thank you all for your support. I couldn’t have done all this without you!

I Have a Book Deal!!!

I’m so thrilled to announce that I have a book deal with Blink (HarperCollins). My book, A TOUCH OF GOLD, is set to publish in Summer 2018.

Book Deal Announcement
Annie Sullivan’s Publishers Marketplace Deal Announcement for A TOUCH OF GOLD

So what do you do when all your dreams come true? Well, if you were me and got asked that question by your sister, you’d answer with, “Go take a nap.” So maybe that’s not the most exciting reply, but it might be the most honest one because it turns out making your dreams come true takes a whole lot of work.

Most people out there seem to think that you simply write a book and then **poof** you get a book deal. But there’s so much more too it than that. It takes an army of people.

Not only do you need teachers and instructors and mentors and peers to teach you how to write and help you become better, but you need an understanding family who lets you have time to write. You need critique partners and Twitter followers. You need agents and editors. The list goes on and on.

Not to mention this process can take years. I started writing A TOUCH OF GOLD way back in 2012. That’s right. 5 years. Did it take me 5 years to write? No. But it took that long for me to write it, revise it multiple times, let it sit a while, revise it again, have friends and critique partners read it, revise it again, get an agent, revise it after my agent read it, go out on submission, and finally get a deal. Not to mention I wrote several other books in the midst of all that going on.

But it was all worth it to write this blog post because this is the blog post I’ve been dreaming of writing for years, the one that proves all that hard work was worth it. The one that proves that not only do dreams come true, but so do fairytales. And mine is just starting!

Look for A TOUCH OF GOLD coming Summer 2018.

 

***To stay up-to-date on what’s happening with my book, be sure to subscribe to my blog and follow my author Facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorAnnieSullivan/

 

 

 

How to Get the Most Out of Your Sidekick Characters

Sidekick characters can breath life into a story and set your protagonist up for success. But in order to do that, you have to make sure you’re using your sidekick characters to their fullest potential.

However, if you include a sidekick, make sure your sidekick has a clear stake in the outcome of whatever problem your protagonist faces. Next, make sure they have a clear reason to trust and follow your protagonist. Also make sure they have their own backstory, even if not all of it is mentioned. Finally, make sure your sidekick has some effect on the outcome of the story. Whether they’re the ones who figure out one of the mysterious riddles or the ones who save the protagonist at a difficult moment, they need to have a role in the outcome in order to justify their presence.

So, once you know your sidekick is necessary, here are a few ways to make sure you’re using them to the fullest.

1.) Friend/Confidant

Use sidekicks as ways to get information across that the protagonist knows but the reader doesn’t. Maybe there’s a tricky piece of backstory you want to include or some piece of information that the reader will need to know later on. Sidekicks make the perfect sounding block.

2.) Comic Relief

While I’m sure we all wish our main characters were witty all the time, sometimes that role needs to fall to the sidekick. Give them opinions and help them lighten things up.

3.) Hope for the Hopeless

Sidekicks are there in the tough times. They can be the ones to give the protagonist the information or encouragement they need to go on when everything seems ruined.

4.) Access to Information Protagonists Don’t Have

Maybe your protagonist works somewhere where they’ll overhear a key piece of information the protagonist will need. Or maybe they’re off researching someone’s criminal history while the protagonist is off getting into trouble. Whatever it is, sidekicks can be a means of gaining access to information that the protagonist wouldn’t have been able to obtain on their own.

5.) The Company You Keep

Remember that who your protagonist chooses to spend time with says a lot about them as a person. Consider that when you’re creating your sidekick. They also need to balance each other well and have different strengths and weaknesses.

 

If you’re looking for inspiration on how to write a good protagonist, look at the influences in your own lives. Who has picked you up when you were down? Who’s joked with you when things were tough? What characteristics do those people have in common? Take them and meld them into one solid character who nicely compliments the characteristics your protagonist holds dear. You can also watch movies/read books with some of your favorite protagonists. Model your character after them.

Do you have a favorite protagonist? Let me know in the comments!

Why you should attend Ch1Con!

Are you a young writer? Know a young writer? Tell them about the amazing Ch1Con (https://chapteroneconference.com/) happening August 5th in Chicago. It’s a conference put on by young writers for young writers ages roughly 11-23. The conference brings in top writers, agents, and speakers to get attendees started early on the pathway to success, all while also providing opportunities to find critique partners and learn the ropes of the publishing industry.

To learn more, check out an interview below with Julia Byers, Founder and Director of the Ch1Con, and afterwards, enter to win a copy of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas!

Julia Byers photo
Julia Byers, Founder and Director of Ch1Con.

How did you come with the idea for Ch1Con?

We started Ch1Con my senior year of high school. The inspiration for it was twofold: when I was sixteen, I started attending the big, New York City writer’s conferences. While they were awesome and I learned A TON, I also felt rather alone at them because most of the attendees were adults (and the conferences were definitely geared towards adults). At the same time, some of my best friends in the world were teen writers I knew only online, and we were desperate to meet one another in person. So, I figured, why not kill two birds with one stone: by starting our own conference for young writers, teens like us would be able to learn about writing in an environment that was less daunting—and, you know, I’d get to spend a weekend hanging out with my amazing writer friends.

Why do you think it’s so important for young writers to have their own conference to attend?

As a young writer, it’s really easy to feel alone. Writing is awesome, of course, but it’s also naturally an isolating activity. And, as I mentioned in my previous answer, the huge writer’s conferences catered to adults are great opportunities—except they’re not really designed for kids (especially if you’re shy and awkward, like me), which makes them isolating as well.

And community is so important. Writing is a hard business, so it helps an incredible amount to have a support network in place, to have critique partners to help you fix your plot holes and friends to threaten to TP literary agents’ houses when they reject your magnum opus. [ Editor’s note: Please don’t TP agent’s houses 😉 ]

With Ch1Con, we strive to foster that type of community. Watching teen writers find critique partners and geek out about books together has been the absolute highlight of directing the conference.

What’s your favorite thing about the Ch1Con?

Sorry to use the word “community” a billion times, but I love how much of a community Ch1Con has become. I love how we’re small enough to feel intimate but big enough that we can bring in speakers like our keynote this year, Kody Keplinger (and, of course, the lovely Annie!). So much of what we’re doing now with the conference has developed from the attendees, speakers, and volunteers all just wanting to hang out together more, like our Friday night pizza party or everyone eating lunch together on Saturday during the conference.

Ch1Con might be a lot of work to put on, but it doesn’t feel like work; it feels like I’m spending the weekend hanging out with friends, gushing about OTPs and WIPs. I look forward to it all year.

How long have you been writing? Have you always found it easy?

I’ve been writing for longer than I can remember. My mom likes to talk about how, back before I knew how to read or write, I’d follow her around with a pencil and paper and make her write down my stories for me. (You might say I was a BIT of a handful growing up.) Honestly, though, writing has never really been “easy,” per say. I’ve always struggled with it. It’s just too much of a part of me to ever give up.

What advice would you give to young writers?

Keep going. I know it’s a cliché, but it’s also so important. This is a tough industry, but the really wonderful thing about it is that if you keep working hard and putting yourself out there, you will eventually reach your writing goals. It might not happen on the timeline you want it to, but it will someday. Don’t give up.

What’s your best writing tip?

Every story is a mystery. Whether you’re writing a contemporary romance, or high fantasy, or space opera (or, you know, a literal whodunit mystery), don’t forget to include plenty of clues and twists for the reader. It’s the reader trying to figure out what happens next that keeps them invested in the story. (And, you know, that’s something you want.)

What YA books are you most looking forward to in the near future?

Well, not in the near future, but I would be negligent not to mention The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (which we’re giving away as part of this post!). I’m currently reading it and there are no words to encompass quite how fantastic this book is.

Another book that just came out (but I’m so excited to read) is The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli.

Stuff that isn’t out yet that I’m looking forward to: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera and No Good Deed by Goldy Moldavsky. (I’m kind of cheating with that last one, because I’ve already read it. But it’s hilarious and I highly recommend it when it releases!)

Thanks, Julia, for stopping by to tell us all about Ch1Con! I’ll be there this year, and I hope you will, too! Don’t forget to enter to win a copy of the The Hate U Give:

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7 Tips to Get the Most Out of Any Writing Conference

I attended my first writing conference (the Midwest Writers Workshop) back in 2013, and I went in with one goal: to get a literary agent. Every decision I made was calculated on how best to accomplish that goal. Did I leave that conference with a literary agent? No. But I did leave with the knowledge and connections that helped me land one within the next four months. So here are my secrets to how you can get the most out of a writing conference.

1.) Treat it like a job

If you want to actually make money writing, then you have to treat it like a business. Invest in business cards. Start author pages on Facebook and/or create a blog or Twitter account. Make sure people can find/contact you after they leave the conference.

2.) Define your brand

Since you need to treat writing like a job, you need to figure out what your brand is and make sure you’re consistent. This means, if you’re writing picture books and an agent goes to your Twitter and sees nothing but tweets full of profanity, they may be turned off (unless that’s what your picture book is about, of course.) You need to encompass what you’re trying to sell. This means dressing the part, too. If you’re pitching an agent face-to-face, look presentable. However, if your brand is all about goth vampires, don’t be afraid to let that show in your clothing and makeup choices. You have to be the best representative of what you’re pitching them. This also stands true with alcohol consumption. While some people may need some liquid courage before facing agents during a conference’s cocktail hour, you can leave a bad impression if you consume too much. Keep in mind your brand encompasses all that you do and say.

3.) Strategically plan your agent interactions

Many conferences offer a chance to pitch agents. Take advantage of this. Of course, do through research ahead of time to see which agent is the best fit. At some conferences, they also offer everything from query critiques to first 10 pages critiques, often by editors and agents. If that’s the case, it could be worth the money to do both, especially if there were two or three agents who might be a good fit for your story. By doing a pitch with one agent, a query critique with another, and a 10 page critique with a third, you can successfully get feedback from all three and see if they’re interested. If nothing else, when you do query them, you can include that you met them at that specific conference, which always helps.

**Bonus Tip** Sign up for the conference early for the best chance of getting to pitch/have a query critique with the agent or editor you want. Slots often fill up fast!

4.) Find your people

Conferences are one of the best places to meet critique partners. Talk with as many people as you can to find other writers who write in your genre or age group. Take advantage of activities like “Find Your Tribe” to meet people who write what you do. Even if you leave without making any headway with agents, you might just leave with a new critique partner who can help you polish your next work in progress so it catches an agent’s eye. Or, a new writer friend might have an agent already and be willing to put in a good word for you.

5.) Don’t be a wallflower

If you’re shy or introverted, it can be hard to put yourself out there. But if there are opportunities to read your work aloud or have your first sentence critiqued during a session, speak up. You never know what agent has snuck into a session and is listening. The more you put yourself out there, the more you’ll get in return.

6.) Make the most of every opportunity

Having lunch and there’s an empty seat next to that literary agent you know would love your book? Take it! Did an author give a great session on world building? Stop them in the hallway and let them know. You never know what interaction could open a door for you. Be kind and sincere, and don’t be afraid to take chances. (Note: DO NOT approach literary professionals in the bathroom, and do not blind pitch them when you’re standing in the lunch line. Only tell them about your story if they ask, and generally, they will ask because they’re just as eager to find good stories as you are to get published.)

7.) Don’t be afraid to attend different sessions

Are you a fantasy writer? Don’t be afraid to attend a session on writing mysteries. You never know what tips you might pick up about adding suspense and writing about villains. The biggest thing is to go in with an open mind so that you can absorb all the information being thrown at you, and then, when you get back in front of your manuscript, you can sort out how to implement it.

 

Above all, have fun and make friends. Being a writer can be tough and isolating, but going to conferences is one of the best ways to break out of those ruts. Take chances, and maybe in a year or two, you could be that author giving a session on voice or point of view. Good luck, and I hope to see you at Midwest Writers Workshop this year!