The Practice of Creativity

Posts Tagged ‘young adult fiction

Got a speculative fiction lover on your holiday list? Consider this new anthology by Book Smugglers with my story in it!

Look at this awesome cover!!!

I was so exited to receive my complimentary copy of the NEW Awakenings Anthology from Book Smugglers. The six stories span the gamut of fantasy and science fiction and many have a young adult theme.

Last year, Book Smugglers solicited short stories about ‘awakenings’ of all types in the speculative fiction genre. I submitted my manuscript “Nussia…I Said Her Name Like Mine” to them on Dec 31, 2017 and found out in January that my story was chosen for publication.

Nussia debuted in July.

Here’s a description of the collected stories: An unlikely volunteer in a magical war. A young African American girl who “wins” a competition to host an extraterrestrial. A girl with ice in her heart, and another with an ancestor on her back. A cybernetic detective, and an Empress facing the first Choice of her life. Awakenings collects six short stories of different revelations, including:

  • “When the Letter Comes” by Sara Fox
  • “Nussia” by Michele Tracy Berger
  • “The Girl With The Frozen Heart” by Y.M. Pang
  • “Running” by Itoro Udofia
  • “Phantom Limb” by Reiko Scott
  • “Timshala” by Leah Cypess

I’m so honored to be with this group of writers and I’m loving everything I’m reading. Additional perks of the anthology include a brief ‘Inspirations and Influences’ essay and an author Q&A that follow each story.

(*click on small cover image above to purchase paperback)

*E-book: Awakenings

*links are to Amazon. I am an Amazon Associate. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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Tomorrow, I leave for A Room of Her Own Foundation’s week long writing residency which is being held in Abiquiú, New Mexico at the amazing venue known as Ghost Ranch.

Ghost_Ranch_redrock_cliffs,_clouds

A Room of Her Own’s nonprofit mission is: To inspire, fund, and champion works of art and literature by women. They host one of only about five or so writing residencies, in the country, exclusively for women.

It is a competitive residency and I am thrilled that I was accepted. There will be over 100 women writers attending (emerging writers to well established authors like Janet Fitch and Tayari Jones!), and I will get to take master classes and workshops with a range of amazing writers including Elizabeth L. Silver, Mary Johnson and Cynthia Leitich Smith. We will also spend our evenings discussing the retreat theme ‘Writing Against the Current’ which is a focus on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Orlando and Maxine Hong Kingston’s novel, Woman Warrior–and Kingston will be there in residence!

Another honor is that I will also be a ‘studio leader’ presenting a one hour version of my popular workshop: ‘Tone Your Creative Core: 5 Secrets for Artists’. This workshop offers strategies in areas where most creative people struggle: time, abundance and prosperity, feeling worthy to create and goal-setting. I’m delighted to explore these issues with women writers.

Writing residencies are structured in various ways. Some provide room, board and solitude, offering uninterrupted time to write with no other requirements. Others, like AROHO are much more interactive, including: providing intensive workshops (sharing and critiquing other participants’ work), hosting nightly receptions and readings, offering craft lectures, and encouraging networking and collaboration. I’ve known writers who have attended each type of residency. We often think the hardest part is getting accepted to one, but this isn’t the whole picture.

I’ve spent the last few months preparing for this incredible opportunity and have noticed that although there are a number of wonderful posts about why one should apply to a writing residency (see Jennifer Chen’s musings), and where to apply for one (here’s a great list from ‘The Write Life’), there is almost no discussion about preparing for the residency and making the most of it while there. Besides of course, to write.

Making the most of one’s residency means giving some thought to hidden challenges.

I’ve seen writers come back from a residency deflated because they had set unrealistic writing goals. Most folks are exhausted by the time they get to attend a writing residency. They’ve been juggling work, family responsibilities, community commitments, etc., often at a frenzied place. It can take a few days, during the residency, to decompress and reconnect to deep creative work. I’ve also known writers whose inner critics got the best of them and consequently didn’t get as much writing done. Or they got so intimidated by the other writers and instructors that they weren’t able to make enduring connections or contacts.

Here’s my five tips for making the most of a residency:

Make Your Goals Inspiring, Not Exhausting

Setting unclear or overly ambitious goals during a residency can lead to a big letdown. Writing residencies are also about allowing inspiration and spontaneity, so being flexible with goals can allow for more enjoyment as the writing process unfolds.

For most of the week, I’ll be taking a master class on ‘Emerging Heroes: Diversity in Young Adult Fiction’ with Cynthia Leitich Smith. I know little about writing young adult fiction and am super excited about stretching myself as a writer. Consequently, given the intensity of learning a new field, getting and giving feedback on others’ writing and the possibility having to work on prompts that Cynthia may assign outside of the workshop, I’m keeping my writing goals modest. From the schedule, it looks like I’ll have a daily 2-3 hours of individual writing time. I’m shooting for 10-20 pages a day of writing. That feels doable. I’ll also allow myself  to create fresh material as well as work on current projects.

Give Yourself Permission to Embody Being the Writer of Your Dreams

Writing residencies present an opportunity to practice being a writer in public. Often aspiring writers write behind closed doors and without many opportunities to get publicly affirmed about their writing efforts. This is the time to revel in one’s writing identity. I’m going to take every opportunity to walk, dress and act like I am the writer of my dreams. I’m wrapping myself in an inner shawl of ‘deservingness’. I am holding the intention to attend every nightly reception and meet a few new people. I also hope to meet newly published authors that I’ll want to invite for an author interview for the blog.

Do an Inner Critic Check

Visual artist, Beverly McIver once said at a professional development workshop for artists, “Feeling worthy is a learned behavior.” Inner critics can make themselves known during a residency and derail us. In various posts, I’ve discussed some of the more common inner critics including the comparer, the pusher, the judger, the imposter, the procrastinator and the perfectionist. Inner critics inspire fear, judgement, dread and envy toward our writing selves and writing lives. Spending some time addressing inner critics (and assigning them new jobs where possible), before and during the residency can help quiet draining mental chatter and quell anxiety.

Polish Your Social Media Profile

Social media is often where people will find you first. I’m hoping to make strong connections while I’m at AROHO. I’ve already started to look up some of the people in my master class and have enjoyed learning about them through their social media sites. In the past month, I’ve spent some time updating my bio across my social media sites and beefing up my author Facebook page. You never know when someone is going to look up after making a connection, so it’s important that they can find you. A that what they find out about you inspires and draws them in.

Practice Communicating about Your Work

What is your work like? What are you working on? These are the essential questions to consider when talking about one’s work. Do you have an elevator pitch? Many writers (and artists in general) tend to avoid communicating about their work or freeze up when they do talk about their work. Given the time and emotional investment we have made for our creative pursuits, communicating about it is necessary and part of the creative process. I’ve been practicing my brief elevator pitch and look forward to using it.

Here’s great advice on elevator pitches from the Artist’s Tools Handbook from Creative Capital:

In theater, a rule of thumb is that, for every minute of stage time in a play, you need an hour of rehearsal time–and that’s when the script is already written. So think about spending at least an hour on this. Don’t just repeat your pitch 60 times; it’s more a measure of how long you should concentrate to get something good.

 

If you have tips to share about your experience at a residency and how you made the most of it, I’d love to hear them.

Photo credit: “Ghost Ranch redrock cliffs, clouds” by Larry Lamsa

I have met many inspiring writers through the online community She Writes and Kelly Hashway is one of them. Over the past two years, I’ve come to enjoy Kelly’s frequent blog posts (especially her weekly ‘Monday Mishmash’) and the  knowledge she shares about the publishing industry. Kelly makes being a writer look easy and fun though I know she works very hard at the craft.

kellyhashwayHashway is a former language arts teacher who now works as a full-time writer, freelance editor, and mother to an adorable little girl. In addition to writing YA novels, Kelly writes middle grade books, picture books, and short stories. Her genres of choice are paranormal, fantasy, and horror. (She prefers creepy horror to gory horror.)

When she’s not writing or digging her way out from under her enormous To Be Read pile, she’s running and playing with her daughter. She resides in Pennsylvania with her husband, daughter, and two pets.

She is represented by Lauren Hammond of ADA Management.

Touch of Death, her first YA novel, has just been released and I thought this would be a great time to interview Kelly.

touchofdeathcover

Tell us about your debut YA novel, Touch of Death. Why did you want to write this book?

I came across two lesser-known myths about Medusa and the 13th sign of the zodiac while researching for another book, and I immediately fell in love with the stories. Everyone knows Medusa as this evil monster, but according to this myth, she was beautiful and wrongfully cursed by Athena. In another myth, Athena gave two vials of the Gorgon Medusa’s blood to Ophiuchus, who used the blood from the right side of Medusa’s body to become a healer. When I learned that one vial of blood (from the left side of Medusa’s body) had the power to kill, I wondered what would have happened if Ophiuchus had used it. My cast of necromancers was born from there.

How did you get bitten by the ‘writing bug’? Did you always wish to become a published author?
I can’t ever remember a time when I didn’t want to be a writer. I’ve been writing since elementary school, but I got serious about it after my daughter was born. I went back to school to learn about the industry, and then I found my agent, who thankfully sold my books.

What’s your process like when you’re working on a novel?

I spend some time planning the story first. Sometimes I have over 20 pages of notes (like with Touch of Death) before I draft. I draft quickly at that point. Touch of Death took 14 days to write. Then it’s revise, revise, and revise some more.

You manage to pack a lot into your day! You are a consistent blogger, freelance editor and have numerous writing projects underway. How do these activities feed into each other and you?

They all involve reading and writing, which I love. I think I have the best jobs in the world. I work seven days a week and couldn’t be happier about it.

If you could invite three living writers to a dinner party that you’re hosting, who would you invite and why?

Rick Riordan, Becca Fitzpatrick, and JK Rowling. Riordan is my idol. I love the Percy Jackson series. My copies have post it notes all over them, marking passages of brilliance. Fitzpatrick is the author of my favorite YA series, Hush Hush. I could talk to her about Patch all day long. And Rowling is a legend. I’d just let her talk and stare in awe.

What’s your best writing tip that you’d like to share?

Read as much as you can. Reading great authors is the best form of research in my mind, and it’s fun too!

To learn more about Kelly and participate in her promotional giveaway (includes a copy of Touch of Death and great paranormal themed swag) visit her blog.


Michele Tracy Berger

Michele Tracy Berger

Author, Academic, Creativity Expert I'm an award winning writer.

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