Monday, February 27, 2017

Character Development and Food...YUM!

Dear Kim,

On a fact finding mission I went digging through our old posts. See, I'm writing about food in my new novel and it got me thinking about how much food connects us. You and I must seriously want to be connected at Ink Sisters Write because over 50% of our posts mention food in one way or another. That's a pretty high statistic considering our mission is to "talk about books, writing, the writing-craft, and spreading the writer-love, one letter at a time." Such a delicious mission!

CHEERS!

I wrote about character development over at The Highlights Foundation earlier today. The focus there was about how music influences character. Examples of music as a device abound in young adult literature but I couldn't find the same number of examples about food. Sure, there are about twenty YA novels about cupcakes, but what about stepping out of the bakery and into every day life? Not as many. Is it because food isn't as universal as music? I don't think so. Or because we need music more than we do food? Some may say so. Or is it deeper, are we fearful of what food might tell our readers about our own relationships with food? The healthy or unhealthy obsessions we have with it?

I was at a writers workshop a few years back where the speaker handed out a list of rules to remember when writing for children and teens. One of the items on the list was: "Don't tell us about showering, sleeping, or eating." I see his point, somewhat, but would argue what he actually meant was don't tell us about those things unless they make your character more interesting (or reveal more about who your character is at his/her heart).

It makes me think of the levels of questions you used during one of our Kid Lit Ink workshops last year at Author Fest. What did you call them? *Red Carpet level, *New York Times level, and *Fireside Chat?

I wonder where food would fall on your leveling system? Maybe:

- A "red carpet" level food question: What is your favorite food?
-"NYT" level food questions: Do you snack throughout the day? Ever skip a meal?
-"Fireside chat" level food questions: What are your food fears? What is your relationship like with sugar? Chocolate? Gin?



No seriously-- Tell me about your relationship with gin.
In my work-in-progress, Allie, my main character, is a major foodie. She doesn't talk much about tasting food (that might bring her too much joy) but she does go to great lengths to share recipes and cooking tips. She works closely in her food truck kitchen with Mrs. V, a wonderful character modeled after my Mrs. P who taught me so much about food and life.


Allie has a thing for eggs. I love her obsession with eggs because Allie needs to break out of her shell and start again. I also love that there is something so simplistic in cooking an egg, almost like in its simplicity we make it so DIFFICULT to prepare-- which is essentially the approach that Allie takes in life.

In the end of the book, she makes this perfect poached egg for her mom and her mom just lets it sit on the plate. I keep imagining that plate, with all of the potential stored inside that creamy yoke, and that her mom misses the chance to taste it. Her mom misses the chance to know Allie too.

What about you? Any food obsessions in your work-in-progress? And examples, tell me all the YA examples that I am missing that talk about food, especially in a non-body shaming way. Please share. After all, we have some statistics to keep up with here at Ink Sisters.

I'm off to poach an egg.
Let's just call it research.

Dig in,
Alison

*Clue number two about our A to Z Challenge theme. (Clue number one here.)

Friday, February 24, 2017

QUERY NEWS, BOOK DEALS, AND KILLER SHOES

Dear Alison,

Wow! Tuesday was an AMAZING day and the way you announced the big news to the world--BRILLIANT.  It's one of our most popular posts of all time and with good reason--Carrie and you are a match made in heaven...








And I am sooooooo happy for you. I haven't stopped happy dancing since the first phone call...




I can't wait for the world to read your stories, because you are a master storyteller, an absolute Master...


Alison and Carrie, I look forward to an amazing future filled with incredible books, delicious cheesesteaks, and killer shoes...

So it's Friday, and way back in 2016 we posted every Monday and Thursday, but life got away from us. Mainly for bookish reasons but don't worry. InkSisters will be participating in the April #AtoZChallenge again. In a few weeks, the A to Z Masters will reveal the badge and the contest theme. We already know our theme, don't we Alison? It'll take a considerable amount of character not to reveal the theme but our readers will just need to be patient...


If you're a blogger and interested in signing up for the #AtoZChallenge, here's the link: A to Z Challenge

We will also be participating in the New Adult Scavenger Hunt or #NEWash once again. If you would like to sign up to participate as an author, signups are open but they won't be for long. Click here: New Adult Scavenger Hunt

Beloved Readers, Alison and I won't leave you hanging for much longer. 


Oh one more little thing, actually one more GIANT thing, Valentine Kisses: A Kiss to Last a Lifetime Ebook is only $.99!!! The deal only lasts for the month of February so hurry and pick up your copy. 

Avalanche, Kim Briggs

Avalanche, my sweet romance with a side of steamy novella, is part of the collection. Here's the tagline and blurb: 


Lexi finds herself in the middle of a longtime feud, and her heart might not be the only thing at stake.

Lexi returns to her first love, Wolf Creek Ski Resort, with ambitions of becoming a ski instructor. She soon finds herself in the middle of a longtime feud between Gabe, a snow groomer who gives off the broken vibe Lexi finds irresistible, and Harrison the fourth, playboy son of Wolf Creek’s owner who always wants what Gabe has. Tensions boil at Wolf Creek, and Lexi’s heart might not be the only thing at stake.


So, treat yourself to Valentine Kisses: A Kiss to Last a Lifetime this weekend. Curl up by the fire this and read!!



Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,
Kim
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Querying Writer: Part II

Dear Kim,


Remember that letter I sent you way back in October? (You remember October-- back when all things seemed possible.) 





The letter, COMP TITLES and THE QUERYING WRITER, shared details from our Novel Nuts & Bolts class with Empire Literary Agent Carrie Howland. (I may have referred to her as "agent-extraordinaire" in another post.)

Though today's post will be my third about Carrie, it is titled "Part II" because my querying journey seems sequel worthy.








I started looking for an agent soon after you and I met at the NYC SCBWI conference in 2012. I had nice feedback from an agent at a conference and sent him my work. His response was kind (which I've found most responses from agents to be.) But my writing wasn’t ready. The novel he saw was the first I’d ever finished. I wasn't ready.

I swallowed that little voice that said, SEND! SEND! SEND! for two more years until I entered #PitchWars-- Brenda Drake’s crash course in pitching. In the years between the first SEND! SEND! SEND! and #PitchWars I wrote more. I read and read and read. I volunteered for SCBWI. I learned as much as I could from anyone willing to share with me. 


In January 2014, my YA novel did well in the contest scoring many full requests. 

Thanks, Nat!

Just two months after the full request from #PitchWars, I had a great call with one of the agents who wanted a revise and resubmit on the project. The project got a lot of interest, but something about the story wasn’t quite right. The only solution was to keep writing. I had to keep learning. I wrote a lot more. I read a lot more. Took work-for-hire jobs. Started writing book blurbs. Started writing a blog (Hello, Ink Sister!)

When I finally started writing Killer in the fall of 2015 something felt different. Writing Addison, my main character, was the first time I let myself be a part of a story. I gave myself the freedom to write about a character like me. She’s overweight. She's in her head way too much. She wishes she could/would speak up for herself. She wonders what it would take to get someone to love and respect her?

In August 2016 I brought Addison (and Killer) with me to the EPA SCBWI Novel Nuts & Bolts class and Addison's voice spoke to others. At the end of the three part class Carrie Howland asked me to send her the manuscript. I made revisions and sent it to her. 

And then, guess what? I kept writing.



I started my next novel with a main character named Allie. (Yes, I will need to change her name because HELLO...Allie? Could I be more obvious?) Allie is seeking family and love. She is searching for her own identity, apart from the one that has been pushed upon her. Readers drop into Allie’s life the final summer she will travel with her girlfriends on a small carnival. If you really know me, you know exactly how much of me is in the pages of this story.

In all four novels I wrote before Killer, what was missing was me. Not that I am all that interesting, but I think there is a certain level of authenticity that comes from bringing part of yourself to the page. I hadn't let myself go there before and it showed in my stories. No matter how many pretty words I put on the page, none of them landed until I opened myself up a bit more to my readers.

I see you shaking your head and saying, “Well, duh!” All I can say is that it took me a bit longer to pick up that pearl of wisdom, but now that I have it, I won’t let it go.

And now that I’ve accepted an offer of representation from Carrie Howland, I guess she can help remind me if I ever forget. 

Much love,

Alison

Monday, February 13, 2017

NY17SCBWI: Healing Hearts

Dear Alison,

The paradigm shift that began the beginning of November and culminated January 20th knocked our country on our ass. We leaned on each other to stand up and prepare for battle. Over the weeks that followed, we wrote letters. We sent tweets. We made phone calls. We marched. We fought for our friends, our families, our children. We fought for our land, our arts, our very souls. 

We will continue to fight every injustice, every threat to the rights of both present and future generations. We will do this. We are compelled to do this, but it is not without cost.

We pretend our skin is thick. For many of us, especially those in the Arts—it is a fiction, a layer of ink and paint to protect our hearts from bleeding out onto the floor. As Tahereh Mafi said during her Saturday afternoon keynote at the New York SCBWI conference, “My thin skin helps me to be emotional.”

SCBWI gave us a gift this past weekend, a gift of spirit, of hope, of possibility, a gift of healing. Saturday morning, Bryan Collier embraced us with a warm, gentle hug. He cradled us while he murmured his keynote: “Let’s Just Feel.”

As SCBWI gave us the gifts of Bryan Collier, Tahereh Mafi, Tomie dePaola, and Sara Pennypacker, I wanted to give their keynotes as quotes that can be printed and posted on the wall, cut and pasted on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, Facebook, Pinterest, Snapchat, anywhere and everywhere words of hope and inspiration and collective good are needed. The list is my gift to you as SCBWI and Bryan, Tahereh, Tomie, and Sara gifted us.  


His grandmother’s handmade quilts were silent gifts, seeds that were planted and took root in his art.—Bryan Collier

“Everything you’re awkward about is what makes you so special. Those are your gifts.”—Bryan Collier

“All the awkward stuff—get it out. We want you to make us feel something.”—Bryan Collier

“Your mind and spirit must be open to the fact you might need more time. Be open.” –Bryan Collier

“No matter how much you wipe it off—you’re still an artist. It is who you are.”—Bryan Collier

“That one word changes everything. Those kids—they’re waiting for you. That’s what’s at stake.” –Bryan Collier

“Your dream should be so big it should scare you.”—Bryan Collier

Talking about Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty Illustrated by Bryan Collier but applies to life:

“The invisible hole in boy’s soul that nobody sees—loss.”  --Bryan Collier

“To an eight year old, gone is gone.”—Bryan Collier

“It doesn’t matter if it’s death, divorce, incarceration, military commitments. It’s all just GONE.”—Bryan Collier

“Knock down the doors to your dreams.”—Bryan Collier

After Bryan’s keynote, two breakout sessions, and lunch, we returned to the ballroom—our hearts lighter, fuller, but still in need of healing. Tahereh Mafi addressed the moments between the dreaming: the heartache, the rejection, the battle.





“Lean into your rejections.” –Tahereh Mafi

“100s of rejections, 5 manuscripts until one took.” –Tahereh Mafi

“You battle only 2 opponents. 1st yourself, 2nd is time.” –Tahereh Mafi

“Be gentle to yourself.” –Tahereh Mafi

“If you are here, you are brave.” –Tahereh Mafi

Her gentle, soft words nurtured our souls. By Saturday evening, amongst cupcakes, laughter and conversation with kindred spirits our hearts mended.

But SCBWI wasn’t finished with us. They wanted to give us more. Sunday morning, Tomie dePaola presented the Tomie dePaola Illustrator award for the last time, but he wanted to impart a heart of emotion to us as well.

He reminded us that we are not alone in our daily struggles.

In regards to art and writing:
“When you decide it’s your path, be brave and stick to it.” –Tomie dePaola

“Read, read, read.”—Tomie dePaola

“Don’t be afraid to be a spiritual mindful person.” –Tomie dePaola

“Ask yourself honestly why do you want to write for young children.” –Tomie dePaola

“I wish you the courage to do it in the first place, and the courage to do it again and again and again.” –Tomie dePaola

He made us laugh too… “Publishers, why the hell haven’t you given Lisa Cinelli a book?” –Tomie dePaola

By Sara Pennypacker’s closing keynote we were ready to slip back into our fictional thick skins and prepare for the outside world. She was the only speaker who directly addressed the current political state of affairs, but we were ready for it.

Image result for sara  pennypackers

“If we write books for children, we need to know the state of our children’s world.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Do not allow anyone to block the river of your creativity.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Anyone who is passionate about what they do is compelled to do it.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Good stories are about things that matter.”—Sara Pennypacker

“Information, friendship, community, inspiration, and contacts—that’s what SCBWI does for us.” –Sara Pennypacker

“Sharpen your pens and brushes and go subtract a measurable drop of evil from the world.”—Sara Pennypacker

So my friends, it is time to say Goodbye. My pencil is sharpened and poised to subtract a measurable drop of evil from the world.

Sharing the writing love one letter at a time,

Kim