YA Valentine’s Day Reads

Love can happen in unexpected places and ways. So in honor of St. Valentine’s Day, here are some young adult fantasy reads that have unexpected romances or romances that happen in unique ways!

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  • Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson

This book is told from 3 points of view—the princess who ran away from her wedding, the prince who goes after her, and the assassin sent to kill her. However, the story is told so masterfully that when the princess is interacting with the prince and assassin, you don’t know which is which! You’ll be on the edge of your seat!

young adult fairytale retelling book
A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan
  • A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan

In this retelling about the cursed daughter of King Midas, don’t trust anyone. You never know who’s hiding secrets and who might think the girl with the ability to turn things to gold might be worth her own weight in gold.

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  • Caraval/Legendary by Stephanie Garber

These two books will also keep you guessing as to who our heroines might end up with. Who can you trust? Whose relationship is real? Who’s telling the truth? Garber will lead you into the world of Caraval and delight your senses as you try to figure out the answers to all those questions.

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  • Doon by Lorie Lagdon and Carey Corp

This YA retelling of Brigadoon has some swoon worthy princes from Scotland, but things get complicated when you’re leaping through time. Pick up this series to see who ends up with their prince!

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  • Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

This is an oldy but a goodie. This Cinderella retelling talks about what happens after the ball. Everyone expects Cinderella to stay in love with the prince she just met…but what if love takes an unexpected turn?

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In this Mulan-inspired retelling, Mariko is supposed to be married off for political gain, but things turn awry on the way there. Will love find a way to survive?

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  • The Selection

What if love were a competition similar to The Bachelor? What if you only entered because you wanted the money that came with winning? What if you found love once you arrived?

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  • Matched by Allie Condie

What if the government picked who you loved? What if your match was revealed during a big ceremony? What if you saw someone else’s face for a split-second when your match was revealed?

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  • Sky in the Deep

Sometimes love doesn’t come from those you expect. In this Viking-inspired tale, you might turn to your enemies to survive. And you might find that they aren’t truly your enemies at all.

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  • Sea Witch

You’ll feel as if you’ve been put under a spell reading this twisted reimaging of The Little Mermaid myth. Hold on to your fins as you see who falls in love with whom.

 

Who is your favorite young adult couple? Share in the comments!

 

 

 

Preorder Tiger Queen and see the cover!

We’ve just revealed the cover for Tiger Queen, my new young adult novel about a desert princess who fights in an arena against suitors in order to win her right to rule!

But now you can also preorder it! Preorders really help authors by showing the publisher there is interest in the book!

PREORDER right now!

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0310768772
Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/tiger-queen-ann…/1129853416
IndieBound: https://www.indiebound.org/book/9780310768777

Save those preorder receipts! I’ll be announcing my preorder giveaway prizes soon!

Now, without further ado, here’s the cover!

tiger queen cover

About the book:

From Annie Sullivan, author of A Touch of Gold, comes Tiger Queen, a sweeping YA adventure that tells the story of a fierce desert princess as she fights to save her kingdom. Fans of Rebel of the Sands and Meagan Spooner will devour this retelling of Frank Stockton’s famous short story “The Lady, or the Tiger?”.

In the mythical desert kingdom of Achra, an old law forces sixteen-year-old Princess Kateri to fight in the arena against twelve suitors to prove her right to rule. For Kateri, losing is not an option because in order to fulfil her promise to her late mother, she must win to keep her crown and lead her people. The situation outside the palace is uneasy. The harsh desert is unforgiving, water is scarce, and Kateri’s people are thirsty. To make matters worse, the gang of thieving Desert Boys, the same group that killed Kateri’s mother and her new baby, frequently raids the city wells and steals water, forcing the king to ration what little water is left. The punishment for stealing water is the choice between two doors. Behind one door lies freedom and behind the other is a tiger.

The people of Achra are growing restless and distrustful of the monarchy, and when Kateri’s final opponent is announced, she knows she cannot win. In her desperation, Kateri turns to the desert and the one person she never thought she’d side with. Her future now, too, is behind two doors—only she’s not sure which holds the key to keeping her kingdom and which will release the tiger.

Vote for A TOUCH OF GOLD in Epic Read’s Book Shimmy Awards

I’m so honored that A Touch of Gold has been nominated in not one…but TWO categories for Epic Read’s Book Shimmy awards. A Touch of Gold is nominated in Best Cover and Best Retelling. And you can help it win by voting today!

Visit: https://www.epicreads.com/blog/2018-book-shimmy-awards-semi-finals/

Vote for A Touch of Gold in Best Cover and Best Retelling (although do note that you have to vote in a minimum of 5 categories, so pick a few others to vote in!) And that’s it!

I truly appreciate all your votes! And stay tuned for more info about Tiger Queen, which is coming out next year!

YA Scavenger Hunt: Win Tons of YA Books

YA Scavenger Hunt
Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!

Go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to find out all about the hunt. There are SIX contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the GOLD TEAM, which is very fitting–but there is also a red team, a blue team, an orange team, a red team, and an indie team for a chance to win a whole different set of books!

If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.

And don’t forget to scroll down and enter to win a SIGNED copy of A Touch of Gold right here on this page! A Touch of Gold follows the seventeen-year-old cursed daughter of King Midas who faces pirates and betrayers on her quest to retrieve her father’s stolen gold!

young adult fairytale retelling book
A Touch of Gold by Annie Sullivan
SCAVENGER HUNT PUZZLE
 
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the gold team, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator!).
 
Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by October 7th at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
SCAVENGER HUNT POST
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Today, I am hosting Sara Fujimura on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt!

Sara Fujimura is a young adult author, creative writing teacher, and literacy advocate. Sara has been fascinated by the Spanish Flu since her college epidemiology class days. After writing magazine articles about the 1918 pandemic, she incubated a germ of a story idea for Breathe for over a decade. Sara is also the award-winning author of TANABATA WISH, a contemporary YA set in Japan.
Find out more information by checking out Sara here:
Buy the book here: http://bit.ly/2018YASHBreathe
Visit Sara’s website here: www.sarafujimura.com
EXCLUSIVE CONTENT
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Sara’s Playlist for BREATHE

I wish I could imbed songs in chapters for you, but for now, here are the Top 5 Songs (plus a bonus, because I’m extra) from BREATHE. Though there are also a few period-appropriate songs listed in the book, these five contemporary songs were an integral part of my creative process.

Rewrite the Stars              Zac Efron & Zendaya [The Greatest Showman]

Mercy                                  Shawn Mendes

The Motions                      Matthew West

Say                                       John Mayer

Brave                                   Sara Bareilles

Bonus: Philadelphia Freedom by Elton John. Though it’s more about tennis player (and Elton John’s good friend) Billie Jean King and less about the actual city of Philadelphia, I love it anyway. It makes me chair dance every time it comes on. Which is awkward when I’m writing at Starbucks.

On Spotify? You can use this link to go directly to the playlist: http://bit.ly/YASHF18Breathe

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More from Sara:

In today’s post, we’re going behind the scenes of BREATHE: Kit’s 21st Birthday Party. Like many sisters, Virginia (17) and Kit (21) have a push-and-pull relationship. There are days when they fight like cats and dogs and other days when they are each other’s closest confidants and allies. In Chapter 20, the dominoes on some soon-to-be life-altering events start falling for both of the sisters. No spoilers, but here is the birthday cake scene from BREATHE, starting with Kit’s beau, Grayson.

September 28, 1918

“I would like to propose a toast,” Grayson’s smooth voice carries around the room. “To a courageous young woman who brings life and purpose to everything she does. You inspire me and motivate me and occasionally exasperate me.” Grayson pauses as the room chuckles. “I look forward to witnessing your adventures in this new chapter of your life. To Katherine.”

“To Katherine.” Everyone lifts his or her punch cup, though some much higher than others.

Kit looks at me, and both of our eyes fill with tears. I have to look away. After a round of “For She’s a Jolly Good Fellow,” everyone receives a slice of spice cake—which is dry and has only a tiny smear of icing on top. Marco raises a questioning eyebrow at the sad example of birthday cake. Two bites in, I contemplate dumping mine into the potted plant in the corner.

“Angelina would have made a much better cake.” I abandon my plate—and Marco does the same—on a side table and slink away.

Marco leans into me and whispers, “Come to Little Italy. I will take you to Falcone’s for the best cannoli in—“

“All of Philadelphia?” I tease.

“Of course.”

The small ensemble Mama hired resumes their performance of “Smiles” by the Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra. Grayson whisks Kit to the center of the room for an elegant but spirited—and completely scandalous by Mrs. Vaughn’s standards—foxtrot. I sigh. I have never seen my sister look so beautiful.

Let’s break down this scene a little bit.

  • First of all, notice that there isn’t any champagne mentioned though the upper crust Jackson family could have easily afforded it. The Prohibition Amendment wouldn’t go into effect in the United States until January 1920, but the wheels were firmly in motion. Mrs. Jackson, like many concerned society matrons of the day, was already a member of the National Woman’s Christian Temperance Union and all forms of alcohol were banned from her home. Not all Americans were on board with this though. Italian-American Marco says in an earlier chapter, “We [Italians] have been drinking vino for centuries. We aren’t about to stop now.” And he’s right. The Italian-American Mafia would go on to make huge profits bootlegging alcohol during Prohibition.
  • Notice that they don’t sing the traditional “Happy Birthday to You” song. The tune existed in 1918, but the lyrics didn’t appear in any songbooks until 1922. Instead, they would have sung another popular congratulatory song that had its roots in 1700s France, but spread around the world, “For He’s a Jolly Good Fellow.” A firm supporter of the suffrage movement and Kit’s part in it, Grayson DOESN’T change “fellow” to “person” or “lassie” like some do to neutralize or feminize the song. Instead, he uses fellow’s alternate meaning of being a colleague and an equal in some endeavor.
  • “Smiles” by the Joseph C. Smith’s Orchestra is a real song. You can listen to it here: https://youtu.be/bjlISfhD-eU.
  • There has always been a generation gap when it comes to dancing. Your grandma may have rolled her eyes as you did “The Whip” and “Nae Nae.” My great-grandmother was appalled when she found my mom and her BFF practicing “The Twist” in her kitchen in the early 1960s. So it is probably that super conservative ladies like Mrs. Vaughn would have looked down their noses at Kit and Grayson doing a foxtrot. Want to see what a foxtrot looks like? You can see this archival footage from the early 1920s: https://youtu.be/tyOWM6S1ITA Hey, it’s not like Kit and Grayson were doing “The Grizzly Bear” or a “Bunny Hug” or a…gasp…tango.

There you go. Like most historical fiction authors, I did a ton of research to help me weave all the authenticating details into BREATHE. Do you like a lot of facts mixed in with your fiction? If so, I hope you’ll check out my blog at https://saraffujimura.wixsite.com/blog for more behind-the-scenes looks at my 1918 YA historical romance novel.

Sources:

http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/prohibition/roots-of-prohibition/

https://www.wctu.org/home.html

https://www.songfacts.com/facts/traditional/for-hes-a-jolly-good-fellow

https://www.songfacts.com/facts/traditional/happy-birthday

https://www.npr.org/sections/npr-history-dept/2015/06/11/413522281/dirty-dancing-in-the-early-1900s



And don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of books by me, Annie Sullivan…and enter below for a separate contest for a SIGNED copy of A Touch of Gold! To enter YASH contest, you need to know that my favorite number is 16. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the gold team and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
CONTINUE THE HUNT
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! Click here!
Annie’s Personal Giveaway
Win a signed copy of A Touch of Gold and some other book swag!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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/

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:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The 1 Thing Authors Should Be Doing to Improve Their Writing

So many authors read blog post after blog post or book after book about writing, but too few authors put the time and money necessary into conferences.

I attended my first conference back in 2013, and even then, I had to be prodded into it by some writing friends. I didn’t see the point in spending money to learn about writing when I’d already paid to get a Masters degree in Creative Writing.

Boy, was I wrong! The conference I went to was called the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Indiana. To be honest, I went because I wanted a literary agent, and the conference offered me multiple opportunities to interact with and pitch agents. (Spoiler alert: what I learned at the conference and the feedback I got eventually helped me land my agent.) But the conference did so much more for me than just help me connect with agents.

The conference:

  • Offered great advice on perfecting my query letter.
  • Helped me learn new skills for revising, plotting, world building, character building, and other craft lessons.
  • Inspired me to get on Twitter where I connected with countless writers and publishing professionals.
  • Connected me with multiple critique partners.
  • Allowed me to talk with editors about what they were looking for.
  • Helped me establish relationships with big name authors.
  • Offered free help setting up my blog.

When you look at all the things you can gain by going to a conference, it’s worth the cost because you can’t get some of those things just from reading books about writing.

In that vein, I recognize conferences can be expensive once you add in travel and lodging. So if you can’t swing attending one in person, look for online ones. For example, WriteOnCon is a good one that’s very inexpensive. Another one you should check out that’s coming up soon is offered by the same Midwest Writers Workshop that I went to. It’s called Build a Better Plot with Shirley Jump.

Find out more about it here:

http://www.midwestwriters.org/2017/03/build-better-plot-shirley-jump-mww-ongoing-starts-march-27/

There could also be conferences offered in your state or through your local writing center.

The other conferences I’ll be attending this year as either a participant or panelist/speaker are:

Seven Sentences (presented by Maggie Stiefvater)

Nashville, Tennessee

April 2nd, 2017

https://www.eventbrite.com/e/seven-sentences-nashville-tickets-32341738009

(Note: Other dates and locations available)

 

Midwest Writers Workshop

Muncie, Indiana

July 20-22, 2017

http://www.midwestwriters.org/

 

Ch1Con

Chicago, Illinois

August 5th, 2017

https://chapteroneconference.com/

 

Will you be at any of these conferences or have a conference you want others to know about? Let me know in the comments.

 

The 5 Critique Partners Every Writer Needs

Have you ever finished a draft and thought, “Wow! That’s perfect!” If you have, congratulations. Please share your secret with the rest of us.

While I’ve certainly been excited about what I’ve written, I always recognize that it’s going to need to go through revisions. And the first revision always comes from my critique partners, also called beta readers by some. These are people I trust to look at my work with a critical eye and tell me where the story isn’t flowing or where something doesn’t make sense.

I highly encourage you to have more than one reader. I have a handful of readers, and I bring them in at different points in the process. My first reader is always my sister. (I know, I know, there’s a whole group out there who screams that you shouldn’t have family members read your work.) But my sister is one of my best readers and sharing it with her is an easy transition to sharing it with the world. Plus, she catches all my stupid spelling mistakes. But you’ll need a variety of readers with different skill sets in order to make your novel truly shine:

1.) Find the critique partner(s) you trust explicitly

Sure, you’re not going to agree with 100% of their comments, but this is the person you trust to be honest about your work. Use them first as that buffer between those tricky emotions of wanting to share your work and not wanting to share your work. This person should be encouraging but able to tell it to you straight.

2.) Find the critique partner who **gets your work**

After I edit based on my sister’s feedback, I have a writer friend I send to. Since she’s a writer, I can trust her to know how plots should flow and how characters should be developed. This is usually when I have to do a major revision because things need to be clarified or expanded upon. (Side note: all critique partners should **get your work,** and you may want to alternate who you send to first based on their workload, the type of story you’ve written, etc.)

3.) Find your “reserve” critique partners

Usually after my revisions from my second reader, I send my book off to my agent. But, why, you ask would I do that when I have so many other **AMAZING** critique partners available who also get my work? Here’s why, I like to use them strategically. Once my agent sends me her edits and I revise, I like to send the book to a new critique partner each time. Are they still pointing out the same lingering issues I’d thought I’d fixed for my agent? Have I inadvertently deleted a really important scene or bit of backstory while I was revising? These new readers will catch things like that.

4.) If you’re querying agents, save a critique partner for that step, too

I know you want everyone in the world to read your work before you send it off to agents, but save one or two critique partner’s for this step. Having someone who hasn’t read your book read your query letter can really help. They can point out what doesn’t make sense or where you’ve mentioned a character but not how they’re integral to the plot. They will come to your query letter with the same knowledge an agent would, so listen to them if something isn’t making sense. This can also apply to writing your synopsis, too.

5.) The “Good Grammar” critique partner

Sometimes it can help to have one critique partner who’s really good at grammar read through before you send off to agents/editors/etc. My mom is really good at this, and while most of my critique partners will point out errors, it doesn’t hurt to have someone you know you can count on to do a final read through. Alternatively, you could also hire an editor, but as long as you’re manuscript isn’t riddled with errors, one or two misplaced commas shouldn’t be a deal breaker for agents (just make sure those errors aren’t on your sample/opening pages because that could be a deal breaker!)

 

Some of these critique partners may be one and the same. The critique partner who gets your work may also be your Good Grammar critique partner. Or maybe you don’t need that buffer of a critique partner who can ease your book’s transition out to the world. It just comes down to knowing what you need and that you’ve got all your bases covered.

If you’re looking for critique partners, feel free to comment on this post with what you write (include if it’s Adult, YA, MG, etc) to see if you can find someone else who might be interested in partnering with you and trading work! Or, check out my blog next week when I list ways to find critique partners!