“Is It Summer Yet?” Blog Hop

Though I’ve always loved to read, as a middle schooler I became obsessed with a young adult fantasy novel that I read over and over again until I practically had the whole thing memorized: Dealing with Dragons by Patricia Wrede. Though I moved on to the other books, I still reread my favorite parts of  Dealing with Dragons whenever I wanted to dip into the magical world of princesses, knights, and dragons (which was more often than was probably healthy).

This summer, for the first time in my entire life, I will be focusing on my writing full time. I will dedicate each morning to producing new material and every afternoon to promoting it, including finding venues to do readings, writing blog posts and interviews, and traveling to book fairs and writing conferences. But most importantly, I will focus on a big part of the writing process that I’ve neglected during my years of working full time and pursuing my master’s degree at Johns Hopkins University: reading. At the pool, at the library, on the train, I’ll be venturing into the worlds of my fellow writers like Lucy through the wardrobe, not only being entertained by their unique characters and plot lines but learning from them at the same time. Like the summers between elementary school years, when I’d hole up in my bedroom and read five books a day, I want to be as absorbed by these stories as I was by The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare, the Harry Potter series by J. K. Rowling, The BFG by Roald Dahl, Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle, Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (my idea of romance was ruined early), and so many more.

Below is a list of YA novels I plan on reading this summer. Leave me a comment including your email address (in the format jane.doe at gmail dot com so no one spams you) and your favorite YA novel recommendation, and you’ll automatically enter my contest to win one of three print copies of the first novel in my trilogy, Dreamweaver Road (Book One in The Zaniyah Trilogy). Look for the sequel, Two Dragons (Book Two in The Zaniyah Trilogy), later this year.

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs
The Book Thief by Marcus Zusak
Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

Happy reading!

*****

To find the other sites participating in the summer blog hop, click here or visit http://juliesbookreview.blogspot.com/.

What I’m Wearing

I am a shopaholic. There, I said it. Despite my impending foray into full time writing, I spend way too many hours browsing ModCloth’s seemingly endless supply of 60’s inspired fit and flares. I spend my precious weekend mornings at the mall, lamenting (or even worse, buying) items I can’t afford. I impulse buy, sliding a stack of items right from the racks onto the checkout counter without even trying them on. I mean, that’s why they invented returns, right?

In case you’re not sure whether you’re a shopaholic too, tell me if any of these sound familiar:

  1. You watch Confessions of a Shopaholic and your only response is “God, now I just really want to go shopping.”
  2. Your closet is full of unworn items with the tags still on.
  3. You regularly ask yourself “Why did I buy this?” or “What was I thinking?”
  4. You get depressed about how much you’ve spent and vow to sell all of your extra clothes on ebay, then either realize it’s way too much effort and you probably won’t make money selling them and go back to internet shopping.
  5. Your closet (only the visible half seen through the too-small door), looks like this:

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Shopping is everywhere. It’s in every magazine, it’s on every billboard, and it’s even in my inbox, taunting me with promises of new adventures in a certain summer frock that’s 50% off with free shipping. It’s impossible to ignore, yet equally impossible to sustain.

I thought my shopping habits were bad before; then I published my first few books.

In our modern day internet age, all of our friends see everything we do, all of the time. They see every family reunion, college graduation, first steps in a new house, and even picnic in the park. Back in the old days (think xanga), we shopaholics could cycle our cute clothes, being sure to only wear certain dresses around friends who hadn’t seen them before; now EVERYONE HAS SEEN EVERYTHING WE OWN on facebook/twitter/instagram/whatever else kids these days use to share their thoughts. And since I care so much about clothes, I can look at a profile picture of one of my friends and immediately remember every other time they wore that exact same outfit, even if I wasn’t there.

So what do you do as an author, when you need photos of you smiling at every book event to post on your site, your social media page, or your private facebook account? Even normal shopaholics worry that someone will recognize their dresses and think to themselves, “Didn’t she wear that at Jason’s party six months ago, right before that guy dumped her?” So then how can someone miss that I’m wearing my pale pink Zara hound’s-tooth sleeveless dress twice in a row in two of my author’s photos?

If my boyfriend read this post, he would say that I’m rationalizing what’s about to come next. Because I am. But really, how can I post photos from events in which I’m wearing the same three black dresses and not expect people to think they’re all photos of the same event? How can I indicate to a potential agent that I’m out in the literary world if they see ten identical photos of me in J. Crew sleeveless with green ivy down the front? (I just returned this, unfortunately…if only I didn’t have boy hips.) And if I do branch out and force myself to wear my nondescript pencil skirts and white satin tops from Banana, what will the repercussions be?

Because in the end, what we wear matters. What we look like matters. Sure, it’s important to know that if a kid reads the back of your YA novel about dragons at a book fair he or she will want to read it, but you need to look interesting or attractive or mysterious enough from afar that the parents of said child will let he or she get within ten feet of you and browse the back of Dreamweaver Road. Sure, you’ll be the one getting up on stage at your book launch, but you want people to look around the room and be able to identify you well before that. In an internet age, writers can no longer pull a Salinger; we are visible, and therefore what we wear is important.

So what am I wearing?

Currently, my favorite cream top with a lace front and a very low back from H&M and a pair of $11 Forever 21 jeans (did you know Forever 21 actually sells really great stretchy skinny jeans that ACTUALLY LAST? I have several pair and I’ve basically been wearing them for five years straight) with a pair of Converse. I mean, I’m still a writer after all, and when not in public I like to be comfortable.

Oh. You meant what am I wearing to author events?

When I asked Jennifer Tress, the incredible and inspiring author of You’re Not Pretty Enough (Jennifer generously led the event for me that night) what to wear to my first book launch for my literary novel Cairo in White, she told me, “a dress.” She told me a lot of other stuff too about necklaces and shoes and other accessories, but pretty much all I remember is her perfect, simple answer. A dress. Because really, when it comes down to it, all an author needs is a few absolutely amazing, colorful, or otherwise unique dresses—black for New York, and bright colors for pretty much everywhere else that’s not New York. On top of those dresses, you can pair blazers, chunky necklaces, artistic scarves, wraps, furs, or a billion other awesome accessories you really bought because it was cheaper than buying yet another item of clothing. But if you don’t have your base line of dresses, you’ll end up naked in front of your closet door, lamenting how you have nothing to wear five minutes before you’re supposed to leave to kiss the cheek of a new novelist or signing a cover that, every time you see it, makes you forget for a minute how much you’re dying to buy a new pair of pointy toed ankle boots.

Here are some photos of me at my recent readings. Spoiler alert: I may have worn one or two of them before these events, but I haven’t worn any of them since. At least if I’m going to buy a new dress for every event, I buy them on sale!

<3 K

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All of my lovely dresses, now relinquished to my dress cemetery :(. And my sneakers, to prove that really is what I’m wearing right this minute.

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Black dress rom H&M, on sale for $5!

 

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Blue dress from Urban Outfitter, on sale for some price that I forget but was very reasonable.

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Yet another black dress from H&M, also on sale. You can’t see it, but it’s half cloth, half leather.

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Love this one, though of course, I probably can’t ever bring myself to put it on a second time. Bar III black lace dress with tan underneath from Macy’s (on sale, of course).

 

 

 

 

 

 

Writing Process Blog Hop

The wonderful Leslie Pietrzyk, who blogs on her site Work-in-Progress (www.workinprogressinprogress.com), tagged me in the writing process hop going around on a lot of authors’ sites. Here is an excerpt from her answer about how her writing process works:

“Slowly, obsessively, painfully, stoically. Grind out a draft (computer). Set it aside and fret: genius or fraud? (this is when I get to drink). Rewrite (on computer). Repeat (on paper). Repeat (read out loud). Multiply by as many times as needed. Give up and declare it finished. (I also get to drink here).”

And here are my answers to the four questions:

1. What am I working on?

I am in the process of editing (and trying to figure out what I’m going to do with) a book that was supposed to be a long novel but came out as a short novel/novella. Over the past month, I have committed every horrendous writing error found in most of my work:
• Not knowing the plot until the end
• Having way too many point of view characters
• Trying to write a long novel, but actually writing a novella, novelette, short story, or some other equally not-sellable piece of fiction (keep in mind the piece still has way too many POV characters)
• Switching not only between POV’s, but also between times and places for every single chapter
The book (or whatever it is) takes place in the Maldives, which, by the way, I have never been to, and my characters speak Dhivehi, which I do not speak. As you can tell, I seem to like to torture myself with as difficult a structure as possible—I get bored otherwise!

2. How does my work differ from others of its genre?

Well, my work is hard to classify in the first place, let alone compare. I mainly write literary fiction, but that fiction could take the form of a young adult trilogy with witches and dragons (Dreamweaver Road), a multicultural novel (Cairo in White), a book of short stories (Three on the Bank and Other Stories, which is a finalist for the Serena McDonald Kennedy Award), or pretty much any other genre my brain spits out. I also write a lot of poetry, mostly about travel, but also sometimes about failed relationships, flying in dreams, or robots. I just hope that if readers like my writing style, they’ll follow me down whatever paths my writing leads us to.

3. Why do I write what I do?

Like most writers, I have a very active imagination and spend a lot of time just spacing out as my mind races from thought to thought to thought. I also have a lot of energy, as you can tell from my answer to question #2—there’s a reason my friend Ryan Nolan at Hopkins nicknamed me “Sunny” during our first semester. I write because I have to, because if I held all of my ideas and characters and voices and images and poetic lines inside my brain, I would probably explode. If I go even a day without writing, I feel anxious and overloaded. Some people run their energy off, other people paint or dance—I write. And in particular I write literary fiction because it is the closest I can come to writing both prose and poetry, and writing about topics I’m interested in, like gender or race or class and their intersectionality (I was a Women’s Studies major during undergrad, after all).

4. How does your writing process work?

Like Kerouac as he cranked out his first draft of On the Road (but much less famously), I write the entire drafts of most of my novels in just a few weeks. I get in a very creative phase where I have a wonderful image or character or idea and just run with it, accumulating page after page every morning and night until the entire draft is done, and I eat/breathe/sleep my novel. Dreamweaver Road took me ten days; my current short novel took just over a month. Cairo in White was pretty much the only exception to this rule, with edits and rewrites lasting about six years, but I hope I never have to go through that again! I am pretty terrible at editing, and usually end up starting from scratch if I don’t like my original draft instead of revising it.

***

Since all of my writer friends are apparently flakier than everyone else’s writer friends, only one of them agreed to do this blog hop out of two rounds of requests. I guess that means her blog post will be six times as good! Look for this interesting writer’s blog post during the week of May 12:

Carrie Russell is the author of the novel Drowning Cactus. Carrie studied literature and writing at Columbia and Oxford. She also has a J.D. from Harvard Law School. She has worked at a number of nonprofit environmental organizations and still practices law when she can’t resist a cause. Her blog address is http://carrierussellbooks.wordpress.com/.