Ch1Con Banner

Hello readers! Today I’m participating in the Ch1Con 2015 Blog Tour, which spans a number of writing-related blogs and includes a ton of original content from the Chapter One Young Writers Conference team. I’m super excited to be a part of it! I’m also hosting a giveaway, so stay tuned for that!

Founded in 2012, the first Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) took place in Chicago with six teenagers in attendance in person and countless others attending via an online live stream. It was an experiment limited to members of the Scholastic’s Write It community and their friends: Could a group of teenagers from across North America really get together and run their own conference? The answer soon became apparent: Yes. And so the conference was born!

As anyone who’s attended one knows, there are few events as enjoyable and productive for people in our field as writing conferences. With so many options out there, many specifically designed towards certain genres or groups, writers can almost always find a conference geared towards their needs. Together in a professional setting, those writers get to learn about the industry, workshop their own pieces, and experience the inspirational effect of being around other people like them.

Because the teen writing community is a particularly vibrant one, Ch1Con is proud to say they are the only writing conference by young writers, for young writers. Their team comprises a number of high school and college age writers at different experience levels in the industry, eager to create a unique experience for others like them. The conference, which has a subset focus on the young adult novel, brings teens together to hear from accomplished speakers of their own age, participate in professional workshops, and celebrate the influence young writers have on the world. With an atmosphere combining professional conference aspects with the fun social feel of a teen hangout, Ch1Con is a true no-miss experience.

This year, the conference will take place on Saturday, August 8th in the suburbs of Chicago, IL, in Arlington Heights. 2015 registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level and at an early bird discount price of $39.99. Three speakers have been confirmed so far: headliner Kat Zhang, the bestselling author of the Hybrid Chronicles, Taryn Albright, better known as the Girl with the Green Pen, and Ava Jae, debut author of BEYOND THE RED (YA sci-fi coming out in 2016). As a special bonus, Ava Jae’s agent, Louise Fury of the Bent Agency, will open to queries only from conference attendees for up to thirty days after the event.

Between the awesome presentations and workshops, attendees will have the chance to participate in literary trivia games and giveaways, with prizes like professional critiques, signed books, and literary-themed jewelry! During downtime, all participants are free to explore the many sites of the Chicago area and to network with each other, establishing those vital writerly connections that help make careers and create lifelong friendships. There will also be a speaker panel open to any and all questions midway through the conference.

The 2015 conference will be held in the Courtyard Chicago Arlington Heights/South Marriot, with sessions from 8:30am to 4:30pm on Saturday the 8th of August. Tickets for transport and room reservations can be bought online with links on the conference’s Travel page. Early bird registration is currently open at this link with adult registration for those 18+ and youth registration (with parental/guardian consent) for those under 18.

So if you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate level and you’re interested in this opportunity, register ASAP! The early bird discount ends May 31st and there are only thirty slots open. For more information and to join in on the Ch1Con community, check out the website and social media platforms for the conference:

Website: Chapter One Young Writers Conference

Twitter: @Ch1Con

Tumblr: Chapter One Young Writers Conference

YouTube: Chapter One Young Writers Conference

Pinterest: Chapter One YW Conference

Facebook: Chapter One Young Writers Conference


The Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Every story needs a beginning. This is ours.

Click to Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway for Karen Bao’s Debut “Dove Arising”



Lessons Learned—Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain

Well, first off: Merry Christmas Eve! I hope the year is coming to a fabulous end for all my fellow readers and writers. Second off: I’m back to participate in this month’s prompt for the Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain. (Shout-out to Lily at Lily’s Notes In The Margins for coming up for the awesometastic prompt!) For those of you unfamiliar with TCWT, it’s a blog that provides information and advice to young writers, and it can be found here. Every month, TCWT has a blog chain featuring a specific prompt, and I think this month’s is really pretty cool:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

“Wonder” by R. J. Palacio

I swear I could talk all day about the lessons this book taught me. It was basically the first book I’d ever read that featured a disabled main character who wasn’t entirely defined by their disability. And as someone who writes books like that, it gave me the uplifting message of, yes, that’s perfectly okay to do in a manuscript. I’d always worried my manuscripts were somehow offensive, but “Wonder” made it pretty clear: just because a character has a disability doesn’t mean every sentence in the book has to revolve around it.

“Redwall” by Brian Jacques

Oh, “Redwall.” How I love thee. I devoured this entire Middle Grade series in elementary school–it was the first real fantasy series I’d read, and it caused me to fall head-over-heels in love with the genre. Even though I didn’t really start writing until high school, reading “Redwall” taught me a lot of lessons about writing that stick with me to this day. I think the power of friendship is the one that I appreciate the most. Sometimes I feel like friendship is kind of a forgotten component in YA–authors get so focused on romantic relationships, that they forget that friendships can be just as emotionally powerful. Brian Jacques certainly never forgot that, and the friendships in his series are still some of my favorites.

“Twilight” by Stephenie Meyer

Here’s the thing: I’m not a big fan of “Twilight.” But I still consider it one of the books that has had the most influence on my writing. Why? Because it taught me about the power of characters. When I was in seventh grade and the Twilight craze was in full swing, I remember demanding my friends to tell me what they liked about it. Because, honestly, I just didn’t get it. I’d ask them, “What about the overly flowery prose? What about the weak main character? What about the improbable romance, and Edward’s stalker tendencies, and the dialogue that’s just kind of laughable at points?” And their response would almost always be something along the lines of, “Who the hell cares about all that? Jacob and Edward are soooo hot!” They were able to overlook tons of flaws because of their love for the characters. And that caused a huge breakthrough moment for me. Even if I somehow had the most brilliant prose, pacing, and plot in the universe, no one would give a crap about my writing unless it contained characters they could fall in love with, or at least sympathize with.

“The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins

Alright, confession time: I just read “The Hunger Games” for the first time this year. But I truly fell in love with the series, and one of the reasons is because it revolved around loyalties to family. I think “The Hunger Games” did a marvelous job of depicting the struggle of staying loyal to yourself while also staying loyal to your family. It’s something that I don’t see often enough in YA, which I find a little strange, because it’s such a prominent issue in the lives of many teens. But “The Hunger Games” was an awesome lesson in how to incorporate strong family ties without making your character entirely dependent or submissive to elders.

“Crank” by Ellen Hopkins


Whenever I read “Crank”, I’m reminded of that quote Ernest Hemingway said in a statement directed toward William Faulkner: “Does he really think big emotions come from big words?” I feel like Ellen Hopkins lives and breathes the message of this quote. There is nothing pretentious about her novels in verse, and a lot of the short chapters are really quite simple and almost stark. But they pack some of the biggest emotional punches I’ve ever encountered. Reading her books always reminds me of the important lesson that you don’t need fancy-pants prose to make a bold statement.

“Boy Meets Boy” by David Levithan

This book is just way too cute. And that’s kind of a shocking thing, because most LGBT books out there are extremely dramatic in a very serious way. Don’t get me wrong, some of those serious LGBT books are my favorites. But reading “Boy Meets Boy” taught me that even cutesy, romantic, silly stories can be chalk-full of important meaning and messages.

Thanks for stopping by to read this month’s TCWT post, and make sure to take a peek at the other blogs participating if you get a chance!





















25th – [off-day]





30th and

31st – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)

Being a Teenager—Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain

So after finishing NaNo early, I’m pausing my insanely busy life to participate in another fabulous Teens Can Write, Too! blog chain. For those of you unfamiliar with TCWT, it’s a blog that provides information and advice to young writers, and it can be found here. Every month, TCWT has a blog chain featuring a specific prompt, and I think this month’s is particularly awesome:

“Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager.”

(Click on the pictures to view the source. If there’s no source, the image belongs to me.)


















(Note the considerable lack of pictures in this portion of the post.)









Well, that’s about all I’ve got. Or at least all I’ve got time for. I could go on and on with this prompt, but I’ll stop here. If you want to see some of the other responses from this month’s chain, make sure to check out the other blogs participating!

November 2014 blog chain prompt/schedule:

Prompt: Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager.” 

5th –

6th –

7th –

8th –

9th –

10th –

11th –

12th –

13th –

14th –

15th –

16th –

17th –

18th –

19th –

20th –

21st –

22nd –

23rd –

24th – (We’ll announce the topic for next month’s chain.)






Favorite Book Beginnings and Endings—Teens Can Write, Too! Blog Chain

Well, after once again neglecting my poor blog, I’m back to participate in another “Teens Can Write, Too!” blog chain. For those readers unaware of TCWT, it’s essentially a giant entity of awesomeness in the form of a blog for … Continue reading

The Comparison Blues

Writers are well-known for their low self-esteem, and I’ll admit that I’m no exception. In general, I dislike my own writing. There are occasionally days when I’ll look at my writing and go, “Hmm, not too shabby.” But, while I love the process of writing, I generally despise all things I write.

In some ways, this is helpful. It makes me look at my novels with an extremely critical eye, and it also helps me embrace critique much more easily. But, in many ways, this mindset just isn’t healthy for me. It took me years to realize this, and when I finally did, I knew I had to change my outlook on writing. In particular, I knew I had to stop comparing myself to successful writers, or I would drive myself insane.

I think all writers, including me, have examined the work of famous authors to see what works and what doesn’t. While this process is almost always helpful, what comes next just isn’t healthy. After I examined their writing, I found myself comparing myself to the actual author: John Green has such amazing voice, and I don’t. Patrick Rothfuss can build such amazing worlds, and I can’t. Stephenie Meyer can attract millions of readers, and I never will.

Thinking like this comes naturally to me, but it isn’t as easy to stop doing. It’s human nature to compare ourselves to others, and it’s not like I could just flip a switch and stop. But, after some thinking, I realized some things that made me reconsider the way I compared myself to other writers.

1. People don’t pick up my novels to read John Green.

In other words, if people want to read a John Green book, they’ll pick up a book written by him. When people choose to read one of my novels, they expect to find a unique voice. My unique voice.

No, my writing isn’t nearly as good or deep or emotional as John Green’s. But, in some ways, I think being different is a good thing. After all, if I didn’t have a different voice and outlook, then everything I wrote would feel old and over-done.

2. I’m not nearly as good as Patrick Rothfuss, but maybe someday I’ll come close.

I don’t think writers ever stop learning. I’ve talked to experienced writers and beginners like me, and everyone seems to agree on this point: There’s always more to learn. Whether it’s about writing itself, or the publishing industry, or marketing–the learning just never stops. Since I’m still a teenager, and since I plan on writing until the day I die, I figure I have about 60 years left to study my craft. And that’s plenty of time to develop some skills, right? So I don’t feel like I need to panic about all my inadequacies quite yet.


3. Maybe I’ll never have millions of readers like Stephenie Meyer, but that doesn’t matter much.

This is perhaps the most important thing I realized: It’s my love for writing that counts. Yeah, having a million readers would be nice. But what’s even nicer is that I get true joy out of my craft. Even if I had no chance of being published, I would still write. Even if I couldn’t show my work to a single soul, I would keep writing. And, personally, I think that sort of love is what gets writers places. I could read every writing manual on the planet, but if I didn’t have passion for the craft, my work would still fall flat.

So, after realizing all these things, I feel like I can read “The Fault in our Stars” without banging my head against a wall about my own, er… faults. What about you? What are some things that help you stop the comparison-blues?

How to be a Teen Writer Without Making Me Want to Punch You in the Face

The Little Engine that Couldn't

[Disclaimer: I don’t actually want to punch anyone in the face. At the most I’ll give them a disappointed look and maybe make fun of their shoes.]

I strongly support teenage writers. Most of them are pretty cool, and with some you could just tell they’re going to become famous authors one day. Hell, some of them already are.

Still, when it comes to writing and literature, teenagers are constantly looked down upon. There are some people who immediately stop listening to what you’re saying once they find out your age. This actually happened to me once with another blogger. We were getting along just fine, having a nice conversation about Neil Gaiman, and then she found out I was fifteen and never answered back.

While I’ve never actually heard an adult say, “Oh, you’re just a teen. You can’t write,” or anything as obnoxiously condescending as that, I do…

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NetGalley for Indie Authors

For years, NetGalley has been an invaluable tool for traditional publishers. All they have to do is upload one of their books into the NetGalley catalog, and the company distributes it to potential book reviewers. It’s an easy, fast way to reach book reviewers.

Just a few months ago, I thought NetGalley was off limits to indie authors. Luckily, I was completely wrong. NetGalley recently opened its doors to indie authors with two available plans:

— $400 for one author and one book. The listing stays on NetGalley for a full year.
— $300 per author for a co-op of 20 authors. The books and authors can be switched out as many times as necessary, and the listings stay on NetGalley for a full year.

There’s also the option to join a co-op for a limited time. This isn’t a service provided directly by NetGalley– organizations like Patchwork Press offer this. Because books can be switched out, more than 20 authors can take part in the co-op throughout the year-long period.

What this means for indie authors if that you have the option to test the NetGalley waters and post your book on their website for less than $300. I just teamed up with Patchwork Press to post my novel “Counting Shadows” on NetGalley for a two month session. In total it cost $80, and I was able to easily pay through PayPal.

So far, the experience has been wonderful. Patchwork Press is extremely organized and efficient, and now all I have to do is wait for the reviews to come in. I’ve been told to expect about 50+ reviews, which is an astonishingly high number, given the price I paid. To compare, my favorite book blog tour company, Xpresso Book Tours, offers a 40-review tour for $150.

There are, of course, differences between a book blog tour and a session with NetGalley. For one, a blog tour gives you the ability to connect directly to the readers, and communicate with them during the tour. Also, NetGalley listings don’t include buy-links, and there is no promise that the readers will include these links when they post their reviews. One more thing I should mention–blog tour reviews are usually posted on multiple sites. Reviewers for NetGalley only have to post their review on the NetGalley site–all other sites are completely optional.

So is it worth the $80? I don’t know yet. My book has only been up for a few hours, so it’s way too soon to tell. But I’ll write up another post in a month or so, and give an update on how the NetGalley experience has worked for me.

In the meantime, here are some very helpful posts about other authors’ experiences with NetGalley:

Susan Kaye Quinn’s experience:

Keary Taylor;s experience:


Coming Out of the Writers’ Closet

Some people are totally comfortable having their friends and relatives read their writing. I envy those people big-time. Personally, it scares me every time I hand over a piece of my writing to someone I know well. To the point where I wrote two entire novels before I told my family I was even interested in writing.

Now, I can give my writing to my CPs, and they’ll tear it to pieces. I’m fine with this. I actually enjoy this process most of the time. But when it comes to friends and family? Nope. I always feel like I’m going to throw up when I hand over a piece of my writing.

I know I’m not alone when it comes to this particular fear, so I thought I’d write a post about how I personally deal with it.

1. I always explain that the opinions in my writing don’t always reflect my personal opinions.

My family is Catholic. I am Atheist. This is the main reason I waited so long to tell any of them about my writing. I have characters in my writing who not only use magic, but who believe magic is a powerful healing tool. I’m sure most people know how Catholics usually respond to books with magic–when I was young, I was forbidden to read Twilight, The Mortal Instruments, Harry Potter, and many other novels. I have relatives who actually believe J.K. Rowling is a possessed worker of the devil. Basically, in the Catholic Church’s opinion, magic is a terrible and evil thing. In my books, it’s a good thing to have. You can see the conflict right there.

When I first gave my mom one of my novels, I was utterly terrified that my parents were going to make me stop writing, and haul me off to an exorcist. I repeated about twenty-bazillion times that it was a fantasy novel. Yes, a FANTASY novel. As in, I don’t believe anything in it is actually real.

Luckily, no exorcisms followed. My mom actually enjoyed the novel, and she was perfectly okay with my explanation of the magical elements. But had I not taken the time to explain that vital fact–that my characters’ beliefs don’t represent mine–then things probably wouldn’t have gone so smoothly.



2. I tell them there’s no need to finish it or tell me what they think.
Whenever I hand my writing over to someone I know, I always say this. If they enjoy my work, then that’s wonderful, and I’d love to hear their thoughts. But if they find it offensive or terrible or boring, then I don’t expect them to fake a smile and tell me it’s great. This seems to take a lot of pressure off people, and makes the whole experience go smoother.



3. I just say no. 

Sometimes, I just have to tell people that they can’t read my writing. Period. No exceptions. If I believe that my writing might harm the relationship I have with them, then I just say no. It’s not worth losing a friend of relative over something as trivial as a piece of writing. And it’s also not worth the nerve-wracking feeling of worrying how that person will judge me. In cases like this, I just tell people no. They might think it’s rude, but I’d rather be considered rude than a worker of the devil, or worse.

Scrivener for Writers

Along with being a writer nerd, I’m also a tech geek. I love technology in all its forms, and I always get excited about new writing technology.

But nothing gets me as excited as the novel writing program “Scrivener”, created by Literature and Latte. I simply adore this program. Upon first inspection, it’s pretty similar to Microsoft Word. But if you take a closer look, you’ll see there are dozens of exciting and helpful features Word doesn’t offer.


Some of my favorites are:

–The Corkboard:
Scrivener allows you to organize your story on a virtual corkboard. Add the title of each scene, your target word count, a synopsis of the scene, the draft number, and other important writing facts. Then simply click on the index card you want to write about, and a blank page will pop up for you to type in.

–The Folders and Subfolders
Instead of organizing your work in one, giant document, Scrivener allows you to separate your document into interlinked pieces. These pieces are folders and subfolders. All your work remains on the same document, but you don’t have to scroll through 25 pages to reach Chapter Three. Just click on the Chapter Three sub-document, and it’s right in front of you!

–Distraction Free Mode
This mode practically saved my life. It blocks out everything on your screen but your writing. That’s right–you can’t see your outline, your word count, or any other distracting things on your desktop. It makes you sit your butt down and just write, which is something that I love.


–Split Screen
This feature is why I use Scrivener for revisions. It allows you to split the screen and have one document on the right, and one on the left. So, for example, you can keep your first draft popped up on the right while you write the second draft in the left portion of the screen. This allows you to view two parts of your writing at once, without switching screens or programs.

And this is just a small taste of Scrivener’s capabilities. Using it, you can set specific word-count goals, track the words you use most often, use any font and style you want, and more. The best part? Scrivener only costs about $40 bucks. And, if you complete NaNoWriMo, it’s even cheaper. Oh, and you can also get the 30-day trial, without paying a cent.

Okay, I’m done raving about this program. Now go download it! Trust me, you won’t regret it.

Nine Writing Lessons You Can Learn From Cats

1. Every realistic character needs a dark side.

2. It’s often the tiny things that make great stories.

3. Characters have to fail, or else it isn’t interesting.

4. Sometimes, it’s best to summarize.

5. Every author, even the best of them, will get told “no” at some point in their career.

6. Small things in the story can have big impacts.

7. Even the worst villains have a personality beneath all that evil.

8. Proper research makes a story feel more realistic.

9. Mustaches make every novel better.