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Monday, August 29, 2011

The Night Circus Giveaway

I want to tell you how cool/crazy good/amazingwonderfulstupendous The Night Circus is. Sadly, I can’t. But only because I haven’t read it yet :) I can tell you that I’m dying to read it. And I can tell you that I’m dying to read it even more after getting a chance to meet the author, Erin Morgenstern, last week.

I got the chance to go to the pre-launch party for this book last week, which was really exciting. And by exciting, what I mean is ‘how cool...oh god, what am I going to wear... repeat after me, Becci, you will NOT do that thing where you ramble off random babble just because you get nervous in groups of people you don’t know... oh god, WHAT AM I GOING TO WEAR...’

And that is just a little window into the crazy, folks.

But I went, and it was incredibly cool. The party was held at Verrill Farm in Concord, MA (and I totally took a wrong turn and started driving to Walden Pond... how cool is that?), which is where the book is set. There were tents and strings of lights and circus-y folk. It was really sort of magical.

And there was one very grateful, gracious, lovely author in Erin Morgenstern.

So, I have an ARC of The Night Circus for me, which I will be digging into very shortly. AND, because I think you are all special snowflakes, I have an extra one for one of you!

The book hits stores on September 13th. I’m going to make this giveaway a quick one, so that you get it before then. Heck, you’ll probably even get it while I’m still reading, since I read like old people... well, let’s just say it’s not fast. And then, we can send each other delightful little messages about how much we love it, because I just have a feeling we’re going to.

What do you have to do? Hmmmm. In the comments below, tell me which book, one that hasn’t been released yet, you’re dying to read (before 11:59 PM EST on 9/4). This one? Another one? (This is a nice way to enter, and it’s also a shameless way for me to find out books that are coming up that I might not know of yet. I’m shellfish, what can I say?)

Open to U.S. and Canada only. Closes 9/4 at 11:59 PM.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Don't You Dare Call Me A Writer...Yet.

What the hell am I?

I must ask myself this question, at least, five times a day. I’m clearly having issues with calling myself a writer and telling the world what I’ve committed to do with my life. Maybe this would be better explained with a real life conversation that occurred between me and my husband.

Me: Honey, did you see the writing blog I’m doing with the girls?

Mr. Mel: Yeah, it looks great. I posted it on my Facebook so everyone can see.

Me: :::blank stare::::

Mr. Mel: Yeah, I was so excited for you that I wanted to share. It’s awesome.

Me: You did...wait...what?

Mr. Mel (starting to look scared): that a big deal?


Mr. Mel: Well, I think the world knows anyway, dear. You just put it on a blog...with your name...and your picture.


Mr. Mel: Wait. You’re writing and that’s awesome, but you don’t want people to know?


Mr. Mel: Honey...


Things grow fuzzy in my recollection after this. I think there was more screaming on my part and even more confusion on my husbands. Yes, the Facebook post was eventually deleted.

I consider myself lucky that I have a husband that believes in me so much that he wants to share with everyone he knows that his wife is a writer. However, I’m not
a writer. Technically.

I touched on this in my bio actually. Having a career as a writer is so far out of the realm of what I anticipate, I don’t entertain the idea much. Yes, I write. I love it. It’s who I am. It’s who I’ve always been. I’m trying to make something out of that love inside me, but I don’t know where it will go from there. Why put myself out there, label and all, when I don’t even know what I’m doing? On the other hand, according to my husband, why shouldn’t I share?

Oh wait. Don’t answer that. I know the answer. My favorite f- word. Well, second.


If I tell everyone I’m writing, that I’m a writer, I set myself up for all kinds of expectations. At this stage of the game, I think my very fragile ego wouldn’t be able to take disappointment. I’m a very sensitive, delicate flower (or so I’ve been told on a few occasions.)

Hypothetical: Let’s tell all my family and friends I’m dedicating my time to writing a novel and when I possibly have nothing to show for it some day, they can all conclude I’m a big, fat failure. They can look at me with a sad look and say, “So, are you still doing that writing thing?”

Can you see my hesitation?

Okay, so maybe I have a teeny problem with self-deprecation.

Then this other conversation happened yesterday.

Best Friend: So, what else have you been spending your time doing?

Me: Ohhhhhhhh. Nothing much.

Best Friend: Do I have to drag it out of you? Your husband told my husband you’re writing a book.

Me: Oh! Well...I...I...dunno.

Best Friend: Why didn’t you tell me?! This is fabulous! You’ve always had a gift for writing and I’m so glad you’re doing something with it.

Me: I...just...was nervous telling anyone.

Best Friend: Why?

Me: Because what if I fail?

Best Friend. What if you don’t?

Me: The chances of...

Best Friend: (interrupting) Mel...But what if you don’t?

Everyone needs a best friend like this.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Writing... LIKE A BOSS.

"If you write every time you feel like it, you will have pages. If you write everyday, you will have a book."

Reading that quote the other day was a major brick-to-forehead moment for me. Because, I mean... duh. Obviously it's true, but I've just never thought about it like that. I think about writing as this organic ~artistic~ process, and approach it the same way; I write when the inspiration is there, when I feel motivated, when the characters are the loudest in my head. 

And maybe for some people, inspiration and motivation are there all the time--or even just at the right times--but for me? Inspiration and/or motivation hit in the middle of meetings, or at three in the morning, or out on the football field during my son's practices. It's never at the right moment, never when it's practical or easy for me to drop everything and escape into my little room of quiet focus. (By the way, do those rooms exist? I need one.)

What I've begun to do is approach writing like I would a second job. I've scheduled as much time as I have on a daily basis (which, admittedly, during August football season--with its three hour practices every evening, oh joy--isn't much). I've set aside a place for myself to write--a place where I am not allowed to do anything but write. I've set a deadline and some attainable progress points to meet along the way.

Pimp My Novel has a really excellent post up about this very thing, and I intend to print it out and stick it to my wall.

It feels good. It feels focused. I need to realize that no one else is going to make me write. Whether I finish this project or not does not matter to anyone but me. No one else will regret it if I don't. No one else will live with that lost potential. Just me. So I need to be my own boss about this.

So I'm gonna write like a boss. Awww yeeeaaah.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Lists and Bad Days and Tim Riggins

“The human animal differs from the lesser primates in his passion for lists.” - H. Allen Smith


It is a running joke between me and my closest friend that there is nothing I love more than a good list. Shopping lists, lists of books, to do lists, lists of songs, more lists of books, lists of my lists. Okay, not really the last one, but now that I think about it, it’s not a bad idea.

In my day job, lists are essential. Lots of things to do, lots of details to remember, and only one me. So my desk is a veritable wonderland of lists. On paper, online, on one of three dry erase boards.

The thing is, lists work, at least for me. When I have one, things feel more organized and less chaotic. And let’s face it, between the full time job, the husband and two kids, and attempting to write a novel, organization is key.

My point? Getting there. I do have one, I promise.

So, after reading about my adoration of lists and all things organized, one would imagine that when I’m writing, my outline is my bestest best friend that I snuggled with and loved up on and relied on to keep me sane.

One would be incorrect.

In fact, outlines scare the bananas out of me. And the the strange thing is, I’m not really sure why. And outline has a lot in common with a list, right? It helps with organization, gives some course of action, yada yada yada. I should be all over an outline like a donkey on a waffle.

But I’m not. Maybe it’s because outlining is really hard?

Why, oh why, must I suffer for my art? (Said a la Scarlett O’Hara, complete with my head thrown back dramatically and the back of my hand resting on my forehead).

Outlining is hard for me. The process is basically the antithesis of how I write. It’s all overview and high level and light on details. Details are my world.

Or maybe it’s because I feel like it takes some of the magic out of the writing process. I have this illusion (i.e. delusion) that authors go into a room with nothing but a coffee pot and a toilet, draw the shades, write like the keyboard is on fire and emerge three weeks letter with a perfect, fully edited work of literary genius.

In reality, I know that’s not true. But the writer in me is also a dreamer. And the dreamer in me doesn’t seem to want to accept that this is work. Hard work.
I know some authors outline, and some don’t. So why not be one of the ones that doesn’t? Why not just be a fly by the seat of your pants type of gal? (Moment to moment, that’s me. Yes, I’m quoting Pretty Woman at you).

It doesn’t work.

Historically speaking, without an outline I get halfway through (that’s me being generous with myself) and I can’t remember what I envisioned happening anymore, I can’t make decisions about where I want it to go. I get stuck.

Of course, historically speaking, with an outline I feel stifled and locked in and I can’t remember why I wrote down that I wanted those things to happen in my story. I get stuck.

And I really don’t want to get stuck on this. I love my characters (obsessively so) and I want what’s best for them. I don’t want them sitting in the middle of a half finished manuscript saying ‘Wait! Where are you going? What happens to us??” I can’t bear the thought of them suffering. Unless, of course, said suffering is part of the story.

So I bit the bullet. I outlined.

Of course, I then immediately changed my mind on so many things that I had determined were completely static. I was so certain of something one minute, but when I looked at the outline as a whole, I found things that wouldn’t work.

Just a guess, but I think a few of you are going to relate to what came next.

My head kersploded. I feel apart. I became this utterly useless piece of whiny writer.

Because if the things I thought I knew turned out to be false, then how do I know what is true? If I found that many flaws while writing the outline, how would my story survive writing the book??

And the answer is simple. (By simple, I mean that it took me three weeks, several emoils (emails full of whine and flail - many thanks and apologies to my WBP girls and Jess and ALL the other recipients), and some serious denial partying with Riggins*.

It won’t. The story as I imagined it when I first came up with the idea won’t make it through this process.

So I’m quitting writing to watch Friday Night Lights full time? No. Although, brutal truth, I contemplated it a lot in the last few weeks, and almost decided to hang up my hat. And in those truly dark moments, I emailed just one person and said ‘I want to give up.’

Thankfully, the people in my life know me well, and love me regardless. Because the response was exactly what I needed to hear (thank goodness for Meri).

Recharge your batteries. Do what makes you happy. Read. Watch a show. Snuggle. You'll find your way.

You’ll find your way.

And that way? It’s not in the outline. There is no map from where I am now to where I’ll be when I finish. There are no step-by-step directions to guide me. I need to learn that anything can change. I need to decide what are the pieces my book can’t live without, and which ones can be sacrificed. I’m not scrapping the outline, but I am looking at it for what it is.

I’m going to learn to work without a net. I’m going in the direction that feels right at the moment. Sometimes that will be the right path. Other times, I will wind up at a dead end and have to turn back. I’ll make choices without any idea if they are the right ones. I’ll fall. I’ll fail.

And I’ll find my way.

*FNL footnote: What is it about a beautiful, broken boy? Tim Riggins is perfect. That is all.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Hey Man, Do You Know Where I Can Score Some Time?

I'm saving up my pennies, and as soon as I find a time dealer, I'm buying as much as I can afford. I don't care if it's black market because the truth is I need more than I've got.

The number one reason I don't write when I want to is a lack of time. It's my typical excuse for not opening that document, not turning my computer on, not taking notes longhand... I'm starting to suspect that this excuse is a slippery slope. Because, while there are times when I genuinely, positively do not have an extra moment to spare, there are definitely times when I might be fibbing to myself just a bit.

Here's the why:
  • I am not someone who can sit down at my laptop and have brilliance flowing from my fingers in less than five minutes. I'm a ruminator, a stew-er if you will. I need to skim my outline and the last few paragraphs (at least) of what I've written and then think, and then maybe read my character sketches and then think... I'm pretty sure you can see where this is going. I'm slow, obsessive, and tedious.
  • I waste plenty of minutes on nothing. I watch movies and tv shows I don't even like. I fall into the rabbit hole that is google and learn all I could ever want to know about why David Bowie appears to have heterochromia (two different colored irises) but actually doesn't. I play on twitter (OH HAY! *waves*). I read lots of books. I. Stare. Into. Space.
  • I'm afraid to finish. I don't admit this often (and I know it sounds ridiculous) but... I'm afraid of completing things that have so much of my soul—and, let's be honest, my delicate little petal ego—in their design. Once something is DONE I feel like I'm saying, "YES! Yes, that is the absolute very best I've got; now, judge away!" and what if people hate it? What if they shred it and use it in the bottom of their pet mouse's cage? You are completely allowed to hate that new purple color I just painted my living room, but when I've mixed my blood into the paint, I can't promise to take it well. This leads me into my next point...
  • I am a procrastinator. There's nothing amateur about this girl, no. I'm totally playing in the pros in this event. I joke about being lazy and bored and fill-in-the-blank, but the truth is I'm just scared. Inspiration is new and exciting and pretty. Writing is hard and messy and personal and emotional. I'm passive-aggressive with my own ideas. (If you're not convinced I need a shrink at this point, I'm judging you.)
  • My imagination totally gets in my way. Before I wrote prose, I was a photographer and a sculptor, and before that I was a poet and a painter. I have a lifelong history with my neuroses regarding Art. One thing I've encountered, no matter the medium, is that I just can't make it as perfect as it is in my head. Because I over-think everything (please see the first bullet point) I have every element visualized down to the tiniest detail before I caress a single type key. A vivid imagination is a bitch to live up to. So sometimes I avoid trying.
I guess what I'm saying is: I'm stealing my time. I'm convincing myself I couldn't possibly do anything worthwhile with those 20-minute windows, I'm telling myself I'm burned out and too scatter-brained to attempt to write right now, so why try?

Writers often talk about finding those extra minutes, and writing something—anything—every day, and I've always thought, I wish I could do something with 20 minutes or write whenever the moment was available! I wish I was that kind of writer!

And now I'm seriously starting to wonder when I decided I'm not. This whole time I've been wondering why I didn't win the race when I sabotaged my own release gate.

So now I'm determined.

I'm going to listen to people (like Tahereh Mafi) when they say inspirational things like this: Grab a Pen

I'm going to write write write in my spare minutes.

And attempt to address all neuroses later. (I know they'll still be there. I'm inspired not delusional.)

So how about it? I dare you to find those minutes you keep saying you don't have.


Sorry about the announcement delay, guys. I've had a very distracted week.

Thank you all so much for all your comments. I had so much fun reading about your favorite books, and reading that so many of you had similar experiences with books as children.  And we have very similar (read: amazing) tastes, which I'm pretty sure means we're supposed to be best friends. So here, I made you all friendship bracelets. We match!

Since we're besties now, I wish I could give every single one of you a copy of DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE because it is uhhh-mazing. Alas, I have just the one copy. And thanks to the superpowers of, it is going to..... *drum roll*


::confetti:: Wheeeee! Please email me your address and I will send it out posthaste. I'm so excited for you to read! 

For the rest of you, fear not. I have several other ARCs to give away in the next few weeks. Stay tuned!

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Workshop

So, I’m here today to discuss a feared, scary place in the writers world. The workshop. What exactly is a workshop? Well, quite simply, it’s a place, usually in a classroom setting, in which pieces of your manuscript, or writings, is read by strangers and critiqued. Sound frightening? It is. A lot.

I haven’t been a stranger to having my words looked over by friends and trusted acquaintances. Usually there has been simple grammatical revisions (Okay, not so simple. Thank you, Anna for your endless time spent changing my tenses and putting comma’s where they belong) and gentle, thoughtful advice. A lot of times things can be talked out if the words aren’t conveying exact what I wanted and in the end, I’m left with what I think is a good draft. A workshop is very different. These are strangers and they don’t have to be polite.

My first journey into the world of work-shopping happened a year ago during a creative writing class I was taking. I went into this class slightly cocky that I could take whatever was handed to me as far as criticism, but the fact of the matter was, I wasn’t. Not at all. I was in a class with people ten to fifteen years my junior and when I presented them with two chapters of a project I was working on, (and felt like was pretty damn good) I was shocked to hear them tell me things they just didn’t get. This YA piece, in particular, I was working on had a strong male voice and my group thought he was, I think the word was, a ‘dickhead.’

No, he wasn’t! How dare they think that?

“Why would anyone want to be with him, let alone this amazing girl he’s with?” They asked.

Because he’s AWESOME! They just didn’t get it.

“No eighteen year old guy (or girl) would talk like this (in this scene.)” They commented.

::GASP:: Yes they would! I WAS EIGHTEEN ONCE AND I REMEMBER TALKING I remember? Do those things change?

“Eh. It’s okay. I guess.” One guy said, shrugging his shoulders.

Alright. That one stung.

Did I mention that you have to remain absolutely silent during a workshop? Yup. You sit there and can’t explain a thing. You can’t say, “Well, that isn’t what I meant...” or “No, you just didn’t read it right.” They are true readers eyes and as a writer, you aren’t going to be there sitting next to them to correct them in their assumptions. This proves to be very hard. I mean, who’s fault is it if they don’t get ‘it?’ Certainly not---wait---oh yeah. It’s my fault. Ouch. That hurts :::slaps a band-aid on my ego::::

As painful as it might have been, I went at it again a few months ago. I took a class at private writing studio and this time the workshop was serious business. These six other people in my class were legit writers; two of whom already had agents, a couple who had finished manuscripts, others who were amazingly talented and yeah, well, me. This time, I knew what to expect from the actual process, but I was more nervous than I ever remember being in my life.

Twenty pages of my current project were workshopped and you know what? It wasn’t as painful as I remembered. In fact, it was pretty damn cool. Oodles of comments and thoughtful questions were presented to me to ponder over and while some of my favorite parts weren’t received as positively as I would have liked by the group, I learned something very important.

No one is going to love your words more than you do. No one.

The friend will give you some sound, helpful advice, but the stranger will give you the down-and dirty -truth. No room for hurt feelings or fragile egos. The safety of the ‘friend bubble’ gives way to potential disappointment when the ‘real’ readers get their eyes on your story. For me, I’d rather have a little practice at rejection before getting further into the process. Plus, hasn’t the statement, ‘learn from your mistakes’ been a valuable notion in our lives so far? I think so.

So, I’ll continue to workshop and have others view my work. My writers skin is getting thicker every time I do and that can only make me a stronger writer. That’s what it is all about, right?

Thursday, August 4, 2011

On Writing, or In Which Ang Showcases Her Inner Emo Beast

I exist in a conundrum of sorts. Or, actually, maybe I don’t. Maybe what I experience is painfully (and pathetically, perhaps) normal. Maybe I am just like every other human being out there who adores to express their thoughts through the written word.

I have no issue advising you that I am awesome with regard to … well … a lot of stuff. I work in Finance and kick ass at it. I am a damn good mom and wife. I rarely study and still manage to pull some pretty stellar grades in my university coursework. I am a good friend and listener. And I can sing - in fact, I miss being in a band terribly, but I know I don’t have time for it at this juncture in life.

Please note that I’m not saying that I’m the best at any of those things. I just know that I have no reason to be negative.

Only, see, there’s this one really important, crazy huge area of my life that I have an exceptionally difficult time being positive about.

One guess, readers?


Yep. Writing.

I am constantly comparing my words to others’. It’s bad enough that sometimes, I don’t even realize I’m doing it. One very consistent thing about me, as a writer, are semi-regular fits of, “Good Lord, why am I even bothering with this, because I am a hot mess and not even good at it.” Also, I regularly insult my skills as an imagery creator. And when I say regularly I mean it - it probably happens once every few days. On top of all of this, I am my own worst critic in every possible way.

I’ve really given this some thought, and I’ve realized that never once has anyone told me, “Wow, you know... you kind of suck.” But for a long time now, a lot of what I write comes hand-in-hand with a preposterous amount of self-flagellation and emotastic musings about how I wish I was better at *fill in the blank*. How what I need to do is hang up this little “writer” costume and move on with my life, no matter that nothing is as soothing to me as putting words ‘to paper.’ Nothing is more enthralling. Also, let’s just forget that I’m 25000 words deep into a manuscript that includes a protagonist & supporting characters as well as storyline that I adore with my whole heart.

Self-doubt is a terrible thing and I haz it. And for a while, I wondered how to get rid of it.

And then I looked in the mirror.

OK, not really. I’m not that cool, or that self-reliant with regard to things such as this.

What happened was this: I had a gchat conversation with one of my fellow WBP gals in which she ripped into me in the best way possible, telling my psyche it needs to shut up, telling me that I have to believe in myself and stop letting my fear of lack of talent (did you follow that?) impede me from doing the actual work. She told me she loves me, but really, I needed to get over this because every single, microscopic speck of this ridiculous emo is unfounded and irrational.

And then she told me that she understands wholly, because she’d been there. That writing is intensely personal, and that really, your words are YOU in letter form, and I have to get past this because my words - myself, really - are worth the attention they will garner if only I will let them.

Talk about a double-sided assault. Love through aggression, maybe? Heh.

But really?

I’m pretty sure it’s worked.

Am I saying that anything she advised was new? No. I knew it all, deep down. But the fact remains that it needed to be brought to my attention, and this conversation placed it right in front of me, at my feet, wrapped in bright, neon stringed lights and screaming like the Howler Ron gets from his mom in Chamber of Secrets.

Translation: I paid attention to it this time. And I let the seed of trusting in my abilities plant itself in my mind.

And now, I’m making an active effort to be more positive about my writing. About me, as an author. I’m making an effort to remember that superb writers and human beings like Neil Gaiman still deal with self-doubt; the difference is simply that they push through and trust their instinct. I’m making a real effort to remember this blog, by Keirsten White, because it’s the truth.

And I’m posting about it here so that all of you, as well as my fellow WBP Ladies can hold me accountable to all of the above.

Can any of you relate?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

My Friends Live in There + GIVEAWAY

I love books.

I know, thank you Captain Obvious. But honestly, for the entirety of my life reading has been my favorite thing to do. I didn’t have a great home life growing up, and I didn’t have many friends until about middle school—and even then, I wasn’t able to hang out with them much outside of school.
Definitely had to brown bag this guy.

So I’d spend every single minute I could reading. In the summers I’d hole myself up in my AC-less bedroom, sweating my ass off and nearly suffocating, and just read. I didn’t have many new books, so I would just read the ever loving hell out of the ones I had. The Babysitter’s Club. The Witch of Blackbird Pond. The Anne of Green Gables books (which I read until the covers fell off. Damn, Gilbert Blythe, you are a smooth mother. And Kenneth? Oh, the swoons.) And eventually—thanks to my best friend and her older sister—a ridiculous amount of historical romance (for which I fashioned book covers out of brown paper bags so my stepmother wouldn’t freak out and give me The Talk).

Books have bettered my life in nearly every way. They’ve made me smarter, more self-aware, and given me a much broader understanding of life and the human condition and how to look at things from different perspectives than I ever would have gained from just living my boring life. I mean, I’ve time traveled. I’ve gone into space. Into the sea. I’ve fought wars. I fell in love a hundred times before I ever even knew how to talk to a boy. I’ve been to China and England and India and Alaska. I went to Hogwarts, guys. And Gondor. I babysat a crapload of kids and I definitely kissed Gilbert Blythe in the garden at Green Gables. A lot. I won’t speak of what I did on the pirate ship with that one shirtless Fabio-esque guy. Because that’s private.

Reading is what made me want to write. The stories I’ve read have inspired the stories I want to tell, and I am forever in debt to the hundreds of authors I’ve read for teaching me so much, for opening up worlds inside of me that would never have existed otherwise. For giving me friends when I had none, people who understood me when no one else in my real life did.

For giving me my own stories.

The thing is? I read too much. I read when I should be writing, because frankly it’s an addiction. And right now, I have way too many sitting there waiting for me to read. Or reread. They’re calling to me. Whispering my name. Putting on cookie-flavored perfume and dancing seductively.

It’s getting awkward.

So. I’m just going to give one of them away.

And guys, it kills me to do this. But I’m offering up my signed copy of Laini Taylor’s DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE. I’m so excited to give someone else the chance to read this BEAUTIFULLY WRITTEN, UNIQUE, HEART STOPPING story. But I’m also sad because it means I won’t be able to read it again until September. SEPTEMBER.

*clings to Akiva*

All you need to do is comment before 11:59pm PST on AUGUST 10th and tell me what your all-time favorite book is and why. That’s all. I’ll choose the winner randomly and send my boyfriend, Akiva my best friend, Karou DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE to you.

Easy peasy.

Just… promise to take good care of my friends, okay? And come talk to me about them when you’re done.