February 27, 2013

Best Book of February

Road Trip Wednesday is a 'Blog Carnival' where YA Highway's contributors post a weekly writing- or reading-related question that begs to be answered. In the comments, you can hop from destination to destination and get everybody's unique take on the topic.

This week's topic:
What's the best book you've read in February?

I read some pretty great books in February so it was really hard to choose just one. That being said, one book in particular stood out among the rest: Through the Ever Night by Veronica Rossi



Things I Loved About Perry Roar Through the Ever Night:

  • This is Book 2 in a trilogy, but it did NOT suffer from middle book syndrome. It was even better than Book 1!
  • Perry was just as swoonworthy as ever (though, I could have used more Perry + Aria scenes).
  • Moar Roar. I love that guy.
  • We get to see more of this series' world, which is just really fascinating.
  • There's a lot of edge-of-your-seat moments that make this book truly unputdownable.
  • Perry and Aria really come into their own, particularly Perry as chief of the Tides.
  • It set up Book 3 (Into the Still Blue) in some really can't-wait-to-get-my-hands-on-it ways.
The only thing I wanted more of was a greater amount of smooch between Perry + Aria, but that's about it.

Honourable Mention: Unravel Me by Taherah Mafi


I suppose you could even say that this is a tie, because I really enjoyed Unravel Me. In fact, I read Destory Me then promptly cracked open Unravel Me and proceeded to read it cover to cover in one sitting. It was that good. I'll keep this brief, but the top five things I loved the most about this book were:
  1. Kenji—So darn funny and such a good friend to Juliette.
  2. Adam—Of course. What isn't to love about this guy?
  3. Warner—There is SO much more to this character than we got in Shatter Me. Jaime = torn.
  4. Omega Point—The whole X-Men sort of feel was totally fascinating to me. I love that stuff!
  5. Mafi's Signature Style—Less crossed out sentences and tortured ravings, but still so, so good.

What was your favourite February read?

February 25, 2013

Recharge: Winter Writing Retreat Day 1

Icebreaker:
What is your name?
Jaime Allison Morrow

What do you write?
I write all kinds of stuff, but the common thread in everything that I write is that it's YA fiction and there is always romance woven into it. (Read: kissing and lots of it.) The story that I'm currently querying is a YA light sci-fi. The story that I'm actually writing right now is a YA contemporary retelling. And then there are the ones in various stages of planning: YA Historical/Time Travel, a Steampunk idea that I'm still a bit chicken to write, among others. I'm in love with the planning.

How long have you been writing?
I've been writing my whole life, but never really for fun. I could write a pretty mean essay and cover letter, but never got around to writing something that I wanted to write or read. Then, almost two years ago, I felt inspired after reading a string of awesome dystopian to sit down and give writing fiction a go. Of course, there was also a story idea that came to me via a newspaper headline that just begged to be turned into a story. Because I read all kinds of YA, I kind of want to try writing different types of stories. Who knows? Maybe I'll love one particular genre and stick with it. Only time will tell.

What (virtual) location have you chosen for your retreat?
For me, I think that writing somewhere that my story is set would be the most inspirational and productive. My current WIP is set primarily in the Hamptons, so I wouldn't cry too hard if I was able to hole up in some seaside cottage with a great view. Another WIP (still mostly in the planning stages) is set in Scotland up around Inverness and the Isle of Skye. I would love to find a place there to sit and write and soak up the culture and history. Talk about inspiration!

How did you come up with the idea or find inspiration for your current WIP?
Like I mentioned, my current WIP is a YA contemporary retelling of a classic novel. The original is such a great story and translates really well to a modern setting, in my opinion. The challenge with any retelling is to strike the perfect balance between doing justice to the original and finding new creative twists that make it worth the reader's time. (Otherwise, why wouldn't you just stick with the original, right?) This is definitely challenging but so much fun too!

Writing Exercise #3:
Open a random book to a random page. What are the first words that jump out at you? Write a scene using some or all of the words.

Okay, I picked a (not so) random book and a (not so) random page:
"She meant to avoid any such alteration of manners as might provoke a remonstrance on his side. It was a great object to her to escape all enquiry or ├ęclat; but it was her intention to be as decidedly cool to him as might be compatible with their relationship; and to retrace, as quietly as she could, the few steps of unnecessary intimacy she had been gradually led along."
(from Jane Austen's Persuasion

So now I'm going to take this inspiration and run and write a scene inspired by this particular snippet. Can't wait! To take part in Sara Biren's Recharge Winter Writing Retreat, you can find the details here and here. (← the second link is to today's prompts and exercises)

February 22, 2013

What to Write?

Paris' Tuileries Garden Facepalming Statue (Source)
Some of you may have noticed a useless link to a post I wrote the other day. It was all about a shiny new idea that I was oh so excited about. Yeah...so. Turns out that shiny new idea was neither shiny nor new. Well, it was shiny for a time, but then it hit me like a ton of bricks that this idea had already been done and done well (to my knowledge). I haven't read the books that beat me to it, but they are actually sitting on my bookshelf. My idea wasn't identical, but it was far too similar at its very core to even bothering tweaking it.

Have you ever had this happen to you?

Bright side? At least I only went as far as the planning stages. Can you imagine if I'd actually sat down and poured my heart and soul into a story that was an unwitting copy of another? Yikes.

So what now? I'm querying one story, about 2/3 done another, and have started a weird tango of planning/pantsing a third WIP. But none of these are grabbing my attention these days. Is it writer's block or just that I haven't found the right project?

Here are my current options:

Option 1: 2/3 Done WIP
I love this story a lot, but it has somehow managed to get tangled up into a nasty mess that I'm struggling to sort out. I realized the other day that it's super heavy on narrative and light on dialogue. Whoops! How the heck did that happen? It also feels like it's meandering and seriously needs to be reined in. At this point I really have no idea what to do with it. If I choose this option, I'll have to sit down and take a closer look at my notes and come up with a game plan for getting it back on track.

Option 2: Planning + Pantsing Hybrid WIP
This story requires research, which I've started but have plenty more to do. At some point I decided that I felt like starting to write it and that I'd continue researching as I went. I like the idea and I know it will be fun to write, but the research aspect feels a bit daunting at the moment. Also, it's a historical with a twist, so there is definitely the nagging concern that it will be a hard sell. I know I should write it because I want to tell the story, but that niggling "Is it worth it?" is there nonetheless.

Option 3: Some Entirely New WIP
I've had to scratch a couple of new ideas in recent weeks because they've already been done. The one that really kind of burns is my idea for a YA sci-fi based off of Baroness Orczy's The Scarlet Pimpernel. Thank you, Diana Peterfreund, for beating me to that one (Across a Star-Swept Sea). C'est la vie, I guess. The upside to all of this is that I never seem to have a shortage of ideas, so this just helps me trim down the list a bit. On to the next idea, right?

I'm not sure which option I'll choose, but I'm hoping that by the end of today or at the very latest the end of the weekend, I'll have narrowed down my options to one. It's been too long since I've sat down and seriously written, so I think it's high time I get on that. My biggest fear right now is that I'm making excuses and avoiding doing the work. Perhaps I need to revisit the reasons I fell in love with 2/3 Done WIP, or immerse myself in research for Planning + Pantsing Hybrid WIP once and for all. Whatever the case, the time for procrastination and distraction is over. I can't call myself a writer if I don't write, right?

Right.

February 18, 2013

More Interesting

In my last post (a week ago O__O), I mentioned that one of my favourite parts of the SCBWI conference was sitting in on a breakout session led by Molly O'Neill of Katherine Tegen Books. While she said a number of noteworthy things, one thought in particular really resonated with me:

"Interesting writers make interesting books."

Now, this is just a variation on something Brenda Bowen once said to her about editors, but I think there is a lot of truth in it.

Yep. Pretty much. (Image source)
Since our trip to New York I've been stuck in this rut of "everything is bleh" and am having a really difficult time digging myself out. It could be that it's February, which in Alberta means dirty snow that wore out its welcome four months ago. It could be typical post-vacation doldrums which I seem to experience whenever we travel. Or maybe it's something that has been brewing for far longer than I can pinpoint. I'm inclined to believe that it's a sloppy stew of all three. I blame this stew for my recent blog absence.

But all of this has got me thinking non-stop about what exactly I find so darn boring about my life. (Trust me, you don't want to spend too much time pondering this.) If I just pause for a moment and take stock of all that I have—a roof over my head, food on the table, a husband and family who love me—I really have no reason to be anything less than grateful. And yet, it still feels like something is off-kilter. So much so that it's affecting my motivation, inspiration, and ability to work on writing or anything else.

I can't be the only person feeling this way.

Molly O'Neill's words keep floating back to me, and I'm fairly certain there's a good reason for that. At some point my everyday life became less interesting. I became less interesting. (At least in my own eyes.) But where I see a problem, I see the need for resolution. So how do I fix this? I don't have any set-in-stone answers, but I do have some ideas worth trying:

1.  Get out more.
I'm a total homebody, and I prefer to be holed up at home reading/writing/whatever than out doing stuff most of the time. This is becoming a problem. I need to find things I'm passionate about that take me out of the house, or take what I'm currently passionate about and find others who share similar interests. This will be challenging, but it's worth trying.

{I've already dipped my toe in the waters by joining the Royal Canadian Legion Pipe & Drum band in my city. I'm learning the side drum (aka snare) with the intention of becoming part of the band once I'm up to snuff. It's been tough but fun!}

2.  Learn something new.
I've been toying with the idea of taking up photography. I'm fascinated by the photographs I see others taking and I want to know how to take great photos myself. The local college has photography courses, so I'm seriously looking into it.

3.  Do things I love.
Strip away all the other crap and focus on what I love doing: baking, reading, writing, playing instruments, playing games... There are plenty of things I love, so why not spend more time with them? Life is too short to waste on the other stuff. And I need to work out a schedule so I'm making good use of my time instead of sitting around thinking about how boring I am.

4.  Stop comparing.
In Anne Lamott's Bird By Bird, she said something about not comparing your insides to someone else's outsides. There is so much truth to this simple statement. I regularly compare myself to others and what they have, what they're doing, how they're better than me, which is just...ugh. But I'm only seeing the external parts of these people's lives, what they're allowing others to see. I have no idea what their own internal struggles are. I need to start being happier with me.

5. Less "Me, Me, Me".
There are always going to be people worse off than me. I don't say that to make myself feel better, I say it because it's a fact. For some time now, I've been thinking about volunteering my time. I don't know where or doing what, but I think if I lent a hand instead of being all grabby hands (me, me, me, more, more, more) I might gain some much-needed perspective.

I love writing, but how can I write interesting stories if my life isn't interesting? If I'm bored, I need to set about becoming less so in whatever way I can. I don't need to become the female equivalent of The Most Interesting Man in the World, but I'd prefer to avoid becoming The Most Boring Chick in the Galaxy. Most importantly, I just need to stop whining and start doing. Do you find yourself grappling with boredom like I have been?

***PLEASE NOTE: This is not a fishing expedition. I didn't write this post hoping for "You're not boring, Jaime" comments. {Though, I appreciate those of you who said as much.} My point was simply to explain how I'M bored with the person I've allowed myself to become and what I plan to do about it. Also, to connect with others who are feeling the same way and to maybe hear how they cope with this kind of boredom.***

February 12, 2013

SCBWI ♥ NYC

There is far too much to say about our little jaunt to New York, so this post will just focus on the SCBWI conference portion of that trip. (I'll be back with all the fun touristy stuff we did another day.) This was my first ever writing conference and I was surprised by what I loved and by what I was only meh about. Fortunately the stuff I loved outweighed the other stuff.

The Fantastic
My name is Mo and I am funny as heck.
(Image source)
Keynote Speakers
There were some phenomenal speakers at the conference. My favourites had to be Shaun Tan and Mo Willems. The former was fascinating and insightful, while the latter was So. Darn. Funny. (And also insightful.) The one story Mo Willems told involving a car and poop was so hilarious that I think the entire room had cramps from laughing so hard. I won't elaborate. I'll just let you wonder because I'm cruel like that. Meg Rosoff was also extraordinarily funny.

Breakout Session #2
My breakout session with Molly O'Neill of Katherine Tegan Books was really, really good. Not only is she a great speaker, she just seems like the kind of person you'd love to hang out with and talk books and all manner of other fun stuff. As a perk of attending the conference and this session in particular, I have until September to submit my work directly to her which is AWESOME.

Signing Party
I got to meet Julie Andrews. {I'll just let that sink in for a bit.} I'm fairly certain I said nothing intelligent to her, but it's still kind of one of those really cool moments in life exchanging pleasantries with Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp. Also, getting to speak briefly with Margaret Peterson Haddix, Jane Yolen (!!!), Shaun Tan, and Mo Willems was pretty darn great. I'm still a bit starstruck.

Writer Friends
As I mentioned in my post the other day, one of the best parts about this whole experience was getting to meet up with other writer friends. And even better? They're exactly like how I expected they would be→ awesome and really, really nice.

The Parts I Wish Were a Smidge Better
Sessions
More breakout sessions would have been cool. It's nice to know what editors are looking for and to hear them talk about their work. The sessions I did attend felt a bit rushed, which was a bummer. There wasn't even really time for questions.

Potty & Food Breaks
Slightly longer breaks in between sessions/keynote addresses would have been greatly appreciated, especially on the last day of the conference. There really wasn't any time for bathroom breaks or to grab something to eat. I ended up waiting until 3pm on Sunday to have lunch. Then again, I probably should have been better prepared, right? Live and learn.

Agents???
I don't think there were any agents in attendance at this conference (with the exception of one or two breakout session speakers). I wasn't planning on cornering agents and pitching the heck out of them or anything, but it still would have been nice to rub shoulders with some of them and even just meet one or two. Are SCBWI conferences usually agentless? Not sure.

Relevance to My Writing Journey
The booksellers panel was interesting, but I would have liked to hear from publishers—what they're looking for versus what bookstores are selling. And finally, while I love the heck out of picture books, the conference had a decided picture book slant to it. I write YA, so this wasn't overly relevant to me. Not to say that it wasn't interesting, though. The best keynote speakers were authors/illustrators of picture books and the artwork they shared was phenomenal. I just would have liked a bit more about YA and even some MG. Most of the people I spoke with write YA, so I feel like this category was underrepresented.

Shaun Tan—one of the most fascinating people I've ever had the
privilege to listen to. Also, his artwork is just incredibly beautiful.
(Image source)


Overall Impressions
Attending writing conferences is just so valuable on so many levels. I took away a lot from my own experience, and it was well worth the time and money spent. If you have the opportunity to go to a writing conference, I'd definitely recommend it.

February 8, 2013

Happy to Meet You

Well, I'm back. I debated over whether to call this post "Home Meh Home" or not, but since the subject of this post isn't about how my city should be renamed Dullsville, I decided "better not". (But seriously, you guys. After visiting New York, this place just feels flat and spread out and bleh. The upside? We're not hunkering down waiting for the snowpocalypse to hit.)

I'll be back on the blog next week to tell you all about New York and the SCBWI conference, but today I just wanted to gush a little bit about how I got to meet some wonderful writer friends in person:

I look a bit crazy in this photo. I blame it on dry eye and staring directly into a lamp.
(From  left: Jess, Me, Rebecca, and Ghenet)

Jess Silverstein: Jess and I have been following each other's blogs for some time now. At some point, I worked up the courage to ask her to beta read my YA sci-fi Watch of Night, and was that ever a great decision. Between hers, my CP Elodie's, and my sister Erin's thoughtful comments and suggestions, I feel like my story is a million times better than it would be without their help. Needless to say it was wonderful to finally meet Jess in person. If you're not following Jess, you totally should!

Jess' blog→ Reading on the F Train

Carli (Isabel) Bandeira: Carli's not in this photo, but I was fortunate enough to bump into her quite a few times at the conference. I actually spotted her sitting several rows ahead of me in one of our breakout sessions. All weekend we didn't seem to have much time to talk until the signing party on the very last day. It was worth the wait! Carli is every bit as awesome in person as she is on the blogs and Twitter. (And she's also the person I speak to the most on Twitter. ☺)

Carli's blog→ Isabel Bandeira

Ghenet Myrthil: I met Ghenet on the blogs some months back, and I find her posts to be thoughtful and positive. And she's easily one of the sweetest people I've met since becoming active in social media. When Jess and I met up with Ghenet in the hotel lobby it was just so easy to fall into conversation like we do this kind of thing all the time. Ghenet is just as sweet and friendly in real life as I expected.

Ghenet's blog→ Ghenet Myrthil

Rebecca Behrens: Rebecca is one of the very first people I started communicating with through the blogs more than a year and a half ago. I think she had me at Milli Vanilli, to be perfectly honest. (This post was just awesome and timely: You are not like Milli Vanilli) I spent a good deal of time talking to Rebecca at a spontaneous hotel room party full of loud, crazy, awesome writer ladies, and she's exactly how I knew she would be: kind and personable and all-around great! (And she had fun stories to tell about New York's less-than-desirable critters. :P)

Rebecca's blog→ Rebecca Behrens

Though our time hanging out together was brief, it just confirmed for me why I love communicating with these ladies through the blogs and other forms of social media. It makes me feel like I've got friends scattered all over the place (in this case, mostly New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut which aren't all that far apart, but still). Along with these ladies, I got to meet Elizabeth Briggs, Dahlia Adler, Maggie Hall, Valerie Cole, and some other very friendly writers whose names I'm kind of blanking on right now. (Sorry! :/ ) If you ever have the chance to meet up with other writer friends, you should seize that opportunity with both hands. I promise you you won't regret it. 

Now to just meet Elodie! ☺


Oh, and guess what? I was chosen (along with my sister!) by Bouncer Cake to move on to the Agent Round in Cupid's Literary Connection's Blind Speed Dating! We're both pretty excited about this, as you can probably imagine. We're entries #121 (Me) and #124 (Erin) if you want to check them out.