2014 Conference

Interview with Ariel Kalati

In preparation for Ch1Con this coming weekend, we’re posting interviews with all our wonderful speakers this week! Today’s interview is with Ariel Kalati, who will be speaking on writing despite all the excuses not to on Saturday.

ariel picture (2)

1. Tell us about yourself.
I’m a high school senior (about to graduate) and I’ve essentially been writing stories forever. I finished my first book in seventh grade and have now written five books. Despite my love of writing, I spend most of my time constructing elaborate excuses not to write. I also enjoy studying, especially history. And I am a huge Harry Potter fan and love YA literature in general.
2. You’re going to be a freshman at Sarah Lawrence College this fall. Can you talk a bit about what went into your decision when picking a school?
Sarah Lawrence was pretty much my only choice for a college. I first heard about it in The Princess Diaries, where I read that it was a good school for writers. When I researched it, I found out that it’s actually one of the best schools for writers. What really attracted me to the college, though, was its unique educational program. The curriculum is made up of small seminar classes and individual conferences with professors, and best of all, instead of tests, we get to do individual research projects. Also, there’s a teahouse called “Hagrid’s Hut” on campus, so that’s a plus.
3. Why are semi-colons your favorite form of punctuation?
It all started in seventh grade when I argued with a teacher that she should have used a semicolon instead of a comma, and she said, “No, you can use either.” But I was right, so I started a movement to promote the usage of semicolons. They’re so useful and fun; you can stick independent clauses together without the commitment of a period. I now have a holiday called Semicolon Day on December 28th; the third annual Semicolon Day will be this coming December.
4. You write both novels and poetry. How is writing in these two forms different?
They’re completely different. With poetry, I pour my thoughts and feelings out, unprocessed, and I focus a lot on making it sound nice. Poetry is where I try to express what I can’t express with prose. It’s somewhere in between writing and music. Novels, on the other hand, are a lot more structured and geared towards an audience. I get to develop characters, plot lines, settings, worlds, and adorable comic relief scenes. Obviously, novels are a lot more work, at least for me, but they’re a lot of fun, too. Whereas with my poetry I just try to get my ideas onto the paper, with my novels I try to make something that another person could relate to and fall in love with.
5. What are some of your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love art history. I took AP Art History in freshman year and I’ve been obsessed with the subject ever since. I also want to work towards educational reform, because I think our public school system needs some serious work. And of course I like wasting my time watching channels on YouTube, particularly Vlogbrothers and Superwoman.
6. What are some of your plans now that you’ve graduated from high school?
In addition to going to college, I want to travel as much as I can, and have some crazy adventures. I want to finish editing my book already. And I plan to actually update my blog with stuff that impresses editors and agents.
7. Quick: List five books (either coming out or already released) that you’re excited to read.
The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan; Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater; The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater; Four by Veronica Roth; and whatever Neil Gaiman does next.

Can’t wait to see everyone this weekend!

2014 Conference

Interview with Amy Zhang

In preparation for Ch1Con this coming weekend, we’re posting interviews with all our wonderful speakers this week! Today’s interview is with Amy Zhang, who will be our keynote speaker on Saturday and participating in our panel.

Amy Zhang

1. Tell us about yourself.
Hi! I’m Amy. Parentheses are my favorite punctuation marks. I broke my typewriter and don’t know where to get it fixed. I still don’t have my driver’s license. I have really weird thumbs. I want to study abroad in Prague someday. I drink too much coffee and I eat too much chocolate.

2. You’re debut Falling into Place comes out with Greenwillow/HarperCollins in September. When you started writing, was it with the goal of someday publishing a novel, or just for fun?
Hmm. I guess I wanted to publish, but I was more focused on small things—literary magazines and the like. I wrote a book because I was bored and lonely and afraid that I wouldn’t get into college, and I figured that having a poem or story published would be something to write on my applications, at least. So I bought a notebook and I think maybe I was going to write a short story, but it ended up being a book. It was a really bad book. I don’t think I ever even titled it. But when I came up with the idea of my second book, I also started thinking about publishing. I wish I remembered better how I came to that decision—I’m totally blanking right now—but it felt right at the time. It still does. I think it always will.

3. Your literary agent is Emily Keyes of Foreword Literary. Can you tell us a bit about what working with an agent is like?
Absolutely! I love love LOVE working with my agent. Agents are different, but when I was querying, I knew that I needed someone who wanted to do some editorial work and was willing to hold my hand a bit more. Usually, we do a round or five of revisions before she sends a project out to editors. I send her frantic emails on a regular basis and she tells me to chill. Emily is basically my fairy godmother.

4. You recently spoke on a panel at BEA (Book Expo America). How was that?
Terrifying! Being on a panel at all with Becca Fitzpatrick, Amanda Maciel, and Kresley Cole had already left me starstruck and tongue-tied. When Jason Segel wandered past and watched for a bit, I wasn’t tongue-tied anymore—I had just forgotten the entire English language. So my answer to the first question, “How would you describe your teenage self?” basically came out, “Um, I’m Amy, and um. Um. Yeah.” But it was also TONS of fun. I learned a lot from the other authors I was on the panel with, and it was just a great overall experience.

5. What are some of your interests outside of writing and reading?
I’ve played piano for fourteen years now, so I have kind of a married-couple relationship with music. I also play tennis, and I love ceramics. Oh, who am I kidding. Outside of writing and reading, my activities are basically sleeping, eating, binge-watching TV shows, and having existential crises.

6. What are some of your plans now that you’ve graduated from high school?
I’m spending the summer writing, wasting as much time as possible at my favorite coffee house with my friends, and finishing the tree of quotes on my wall. In the fall, I’ll be heading off to New York for college!

7. Quick: List five books (either coming out or already released) that you’re excited to read.
LIES WE TELL OURSELVES by Robin Talley, THE ZOO AT THE EDGE OF THE WORLD by Eric Kahn Gale, THE GLASS SENTENCE by S.E. Grove (I’ve just started this one and OMG SO GOOD. ADD IT TO YOUR TBR PILES RIGHT NOW), DANGEROUS GIRLS by Abigail Haas (I just got this one!), and LET’S GET LOST by Adi Alsaid.

2014 Conference

Interview with Kira Budge

In preparation for Ch1Con this coming weekend, we’re posting interviews with all our wonderful speakers this week! Today’s interview is with Kira Budge, who will be speaking Saturday on our panel and leading a workshop on how to open novels on Sunday.

Kira Budge
1. Tell us about yourself.

I feel like I’m answering this question a lot lately, haha! Well, I’m a sophomore at BYU-Idaho studying English: Creative Writing, and a novelist, primarily of YA fantasy, though I like some room to spread out genre-wise. Additionally, I’m the Associate Online Administrator of this lovely writing conference, which I am also speaking at this year. I play cello, foster kittens, and obsess over British TV in my spare time. (Because Doctor Who and Sherlock.) In the past, I’ve worked primarily (for the monies) as a freelance writer and editor.

2. You’re currently studying creative writing at BYU-Idaho. How is writing for classes different from writing for yourself?

Well, I’ve only taken one creative writing class so far at the college level (darn gen eds). Nonetheless, the main difference really is that I wouldn’t write short stories on my own, and short fiction is a big part of creative writing classes, as well as poetry (which I do write on my own at times). Short fiction of all kinds is a stretch for me, and not always an enjoyable one, but I do learn a lot from it. In the end, it’s better than taking something like *gasp* MATH.

3. You’re twenty years old and have already completed eighteen novels. How do you manage to write so much?

See, I used to think nothing of this, and then people started asking me this question! I don’t know, exactly. I guess in general I’m really good at focusing REALLY HARD on one thing at a time, and with NaNoWriMo available to encourage me, it comes naturally that I could write so quickly and prolifically. I mean, it does help that I really love it. =) When I’m writing a novel, I don’t ever want to stop until I’m done. You know, unless it’s not working out. That does happen at times.

4. You previously worked as a freelance editor. What’s your advice for critiquing someone else’s work?

You have to be really aware of the needs of the writer, what they’re looking for from you. For me, sometimes, it’s frustrating when you know you could fix a whole lot more if you went in-depth, but they only want the surface edits. They’re the customer, though, and you have to remember that. Patience is an incredible skill to have! You also want to be kind, especially having been on the receiving end of that yourself, as I have. Encouragement is important for people in artistic fields like this.

5. What are some of your interests outside of writing and reading?

Welllllll, as listed in my little bio above, I do play cello, though I’ve taken kind of a break from that since my one very difficult year of being a music major (freshman year). I also like to watch TV, especially le BBC, and I’ve done fostering/volunteer work with the animal shelter for a while. I also love learning about psychology, which I guess qualifies as reading, but its a bit more of a niche interest. I really do spend the majority of my time reading and doing school, haha!

6. What is your dream career path after college?


For realsies, though, I’m hoping I get married to a guy who can do most the work in terms of, you know, money, so that I can continue to do what I’m doing right now – writing and editing and sending out to agents with the intention of eventually getting published and bestselling and famous and movies deals and yay! Plus I intend to raise a family, so that’ll be happening too, in this ideal scenario.

7. Quick: List five books (either coming out or already released) that you’re excited to read.

SO MUCH PRESSURE! Sorry, I need to consult my Goodreads TBR list real quick here because there’s no way I can do this off the top of my head without spontaneously combusting.

Okay. So five recent/upcoming YA books I haven’t yet read that I’m excited about are:

1) INDEPENDENT STUDY by Joelle Charbonneau (out now) — THE TESTING (book one) was really exciting and well-written! The third book, GRADUATION DAY, also just came out.
2) DEAR KILLER by Katherine Ewell (out now) — I love serial killer novels, guys. Sign me up!
3) WE WERE LIARS by E. Lockhart (out now) — I am very unclear what this is about but everyone seems to love it and there’s a twist ending, so yay!
4) WINTERSPELL by Claire Legrand (September 2014) — I have been dying to get a great novelization of The Nutcracker, so I’m all over this!
5) UNDIVIDED by Neal Shusterman (October 2014) — The Unwind Dystology is current one of my top top faves.

And that, my friends, is a teeny tiny sample only. There’s a lot of good stuff coming. I could go on for pages. (My TBR list does, in fact, go on for many pages.)

Thanks for reading, guys! Super excited to see everyone at Ch1Con this year. =)

Kira Budge

2014 Conference

Interview with Patrice Caldwell

In preparation for Ch1Con this coming weekend, we’re posting interviews with all our wonderful speakers this week! Our first interview is with Patrice Caldwell, who will be speaking Saturday on world building and on our panel.

Patrice Caldwell

1. Tell us about yourself.

Hi! I’m a 21-year-old student at Wellesley College in MA (this upcoming year is my last year!!). I love to read and write and bake and spend time with family & friends. As a fun fact, well, I don’t know how fun this is, LOL, but I’m slightly pigeon toed.

2. You’re an Associate Publicist at Spencer Hill Contemporary. How has working on the “other side” affected you as a writer?

So much. Both good and bad. The good is that whenever I get to the point of having my books published, I’m going to be all over the marketing and publicity side of things. I have developed a strong eye for what works and doesn’t work in relation to the publishing industry, and I’m hyper aware of the importance, especially for debut authors, of getting in house backing in terms of marketing and publicity. It’s much better to go with a smaller house who is committed to marketing a book and publicizing an author than a larger house who is going to give you the basics. Sales matter a lot, especially pre-release day pre-orders and sales around the first month of a book’s publication, and an author’s sale record determines future books, advances, etc…

However the bad is that because I see things through a heavy marketing and publicity lens. It’s often hard for me to follow through on a story idea that I know is crowded in the market now. In other words I’m really big on not chasing trends, which, though mostly good, can sometimes be bad if what I’m working on happens to be trendy.

3. You won the 2014 SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Winter Student Writer Scholarship. (Congrats!) The scholarship provides an opportunity for student writers to attend the SCBWI winter conference in New York City and meet with publishing professionals while there. Did winning this scholarship affect how you view the publishing industry and/or interact with others in it?

Thanks you! You know I really haven’t told many people about that award, but I should because it’s such a great opportunity. I encourage those eligible to apply. The conference was both amazing and overwhelming. I was exhausted by the end of every day. It was worth it though. I met amazing editors such as John Green’s editor, who was a part of my critique circle (spot-on feedback), and one of my dream editors. I also met agents I’d seen on twitter (made me realize they’re people, too) as well as writers I knew from Twitter (that was so cool!). At first I was so nervous, but the experience proved that the children’s writing community is made of some of the nicest, most energetic people you’ll ever meet. I was one of the youngest people there, but that didn’t scare me away, it only made me more determined to get my stories out into the world!

4. You write both middle grade and young adult fiction. What are some of the differences in writing the two?

YA comes easy to me. It’s so fresh in my memory, and I know people say this isn’t so, but there are topics you can touch on in more depth (or more direct, e.g. heavy romantic plotlines) than you can in MG. But, MG is where my heart is. It’s the age I learned to love reading, and the books I read when I was in that age range left a vivid mark on my life. The feeling of loving a book that I had then is one I rarely have now. I love creating stories that have the ability to give a child that.

With MG voice is key. People are always saying agents, editors want MG, but the thing is that it’s a hard voice to nail. My writing for children class I took last Fall had an in depth discussion on how the books that many consider classics, like Narnia, wouldn’t, or would be hard to, sell today.

With YA, though romance doesn’t have to be a strong element, readers like it as some part of the book because this is the age when you’re experiencing those firsts.

I don’t think everyone can or should write both YA & MG. There’s been a lot of adult authors trying to write MG lately and so many of those books are horrible. I work extremely hard to capture the MG & YA voice. Luckily for me, I have four siblings. One is smack in the middle of the MG age range so I just listen to her and her friends talk.

5. What are some of your interests outside of writing and reading?

I have so many. Unfortunately, college makes them hard to pursue. I really like baking. I also like traveling, being outdoors (my college’s campus is beautiful and I’m from TX so I love the sun) and seeing plays and musicals. I did theater (costumes, makeup, and acting) for 7-8 years and almost went to acting school so I love nothing more than to see a live performance and dissect it in my head (e.g. how did they build the set, what kind of makeup did they use, etc…). Theater also helps my writing because I see my stories as live performances or movies. Speaking of which, I love watching TV & movies. Some favorites are Leverage, Game of Thrones, OITNB, Ocean’s trilogy, anything with Natalie Portman, Matrix trilogy, Star Wars (yes, all 6), LOTR, X-Men, and anything by Joss Whedon. I also have a growing addiction to Pinterest (I blame my writing for this). I love fashion (wanted to go to fashion design school when I was younger), and it’s a dream of mine to go to all “big 4” fashion weeks (NYC, London, Paris, & Milan).

6. What is your dream career path for after college?

I feel like I’m already living it. I want to be a writer and I want to do publicity or marketing for a publishing house. So, yeah, it would be a dream if I could keep doing what I’m doing and have time to travel as well. I’d also be super happy working at a lifestyle magazine as a Creative Director (eventually)…getting to write about movies, plays, fashion, that would be awesome (I write for the Arts section of my school’s newspaper).

7. Quick: List five books (either coming out or already released) that you’re excited to read.

I’m going to cheat a bit (the first two I’ve read).

ILLUSIVE by Emily Lloyd-Jones – X-MEN meets Ocean’s Eleven. Got it? Okay. You want this book. Out July 15; it’s her YA Sci-Fi Thriller debut. Emily sent me an ARC, and I’m reading it now. Has one of the best openings I’ve ever read.

POINTE by Brandy Colbert – OMG, so good. It’s a YA Contemporary novel that came out in April. It is beautifully written and has a bit of a mystery/suspense twist. Brandy sent me an ARC, and it changed my life.

TRUST ME, I’M LYING by Mary Elizabeth Summer – This one is a contemporary con book. Says fans of Ally Carter’s Heist Society will love it, and I LOVE that series. It’s her YA Thriller/Mystery debut. (Yes, I’m a bit obsessed with con books and movies. Might be because I’m working on two…)

MONSTOROUS by Marcy-Kate Connolly – I. CANNOT. WAIT. THIS. BOOK. OMG. It sounds so good. Here’s the snippet of the blurb: Reminiscent of Frankenstein and tales by the Brothers Grimm, this debut novel stands out as a compelling, original story that has the feel of a classic. It’s Upper MG/lower YA with girl MC! Comes out in 2015. (Why is that so far away??)

WICKED LITTLE SECRETS by Kara Taylor – It is the second one in a YA Mystery series. The first one was her YA debut and it was titled, PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, and it was so good. Anne Dowling, the protagonist is a girl you want on your side. She’s so funny and witty. I have this book now, but I have a few books before it in the queue. My review of the first one is on my blog and it shows how much I adore it.

Thanks so much!! This was fun.