Wanderlusty Wednesday: Patagonia

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Have you been there? I’ll write a full post about it someday, because it was just an amazing experience, but for now I’ll leave you with this lovely photo that was taken just outside our hotel, on the edge of a lake in the middle of absolutely nowhere. What I wouldn’t give some days to live in the middle of nowhere…

Good Reads Lately

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Been a little while since I updated you all on my reading list. Here are some recent good reads (and incidentally, you can follow my other good reads on Goodreads).

Vanishing Girls Firstly, the prose is beautiful. Lauren Oliver’s prose is always beautiful. This is the story of two sisters, distinct enough from one another but both very realistic, compelling characters, who have issues with each other in the way only sisters can. The setting is perfectly drawn. The other characters are flawed and so real. I read through this in a few days, and loved spending time in this world so much I just didn’t want the book to end. My only issue? The same one I had with all her other books: the ending. It just wasn’t my fave. But that won’t keep me from reading everything Lauren Oliver writes, and it shouldn’t keep you either.

Attachments This book was insanely cute in the way that only a Rainbow Rowell book can be. It’s actually an adult novel, in that everyone in it is in their late 20s or older, but it reads very much like Eleanor & Park and Fangirl to me–maybe because some of us (myself included) never stop being teenagers at heart. It’s a story about finding yourself and figuring out who you’re supposed to be with and what you want to do with your life. It was really well done and you should just go read it, now.

Isla and the Happily Ever After It’s no secret I loved Stephanie Perkins’s other novels, Anna and the French Kiss and Lola and the Boy Next Door. They were adorable, well-written, with interesting, relatable heroines and swoon-worthy boys. But I loved this one THE MOST because it struck very close to home for me: it so perfectly captures the obsessive sensation of first-time love. I’m no longer a teenager, but this book transported me back to being 18 and in love for the very first time–the butterflies, the feeling that every moment apart is total agony, the text from him after being separated meaning everything to you. I’d kind of forgotten that feeling, actually, and it was so lovely a thing to be reminded exists, especially as we get older and get into more comfortable, less fireworks-inducing stages in our love lives. Can’t wait to see what Stephanie Perkins does next!

All the Light We Cannot See This was lovely and haunting and beautifully-written and deserves every ounce of praise it’s gotten. I keep wondering when people are going to get tired of World War II stories, and the answer is, I don’t think they are, as long as talented writers like Anthony Doerr continue to bring them to live so vividly. It’s sad, as expected, but also hopeful. Just read it. And then, when you’re done, come with me on my journey back to Saint-Malo.

You can also follow along with my reading adventures on my bookish Instagram!

Lovely image found here

On Writing YA Contemporary

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For my first novel, the only people I had reading and critiquing it were friends and family. Which was awesome for my ego–not so awesome for my work.

For my second novel, I actually did what the internets have been advising me to do–I searched for critique partners. And I actually found two!

More on that process later, though–what I really want to talk about is something one of these wonderful critique partners pointed out to me: that my YA contemporary novel was not, in fact, YA contemporary.

You see, I set my story in the early ’00s. In my mind that wasn’t all that long ago–after all, it’s when I was still a teenager. But apparently this is a no-no, and my critique partner called me out on it.

My argument: I needed it to take place in a time before social media. One of the plot points is the protagonist unexpectedly running into someone from her childhood, and with social media, I feel like no one runs into anyone unexpectedly anymore because everyone knows what everyone else is up to.

Also, I know what being a teenager in the early ’00s is like. I don’t know what being a teenager today is like.

Then my critique partner directed me to these tweets from a literary agent:

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Oh. Okay, then.

At first, I didn’t think there was any way to bring my story into the present. But the more I thought about it–and with help from my critique partner–the more I realized, it really wouldn’t be all that hard to change a few details and make my “contemporary” YA truly contemporary. My protagonist could have enough restraint not to look up people she’s trying to avoid. Her house could be in a dead zone, and her wifi down the night I need her to not be able to contact anyone. There are ways around this.

And in terms of making sure it sounds like today’s teenagers? I do hang around today’s teenagers (but not in a creepy way). I have teenage cousins I always talk to at family events. One of my critique partners is a teenager, which is immensely helpful. And most importantly, I read successful contemporary YA all the time.

I’m an unknown, unpublished writer. I don’t want to hurt my chances while querying, and I definitely don’t want to hurt my chances while publishing. And the people I’m writing for (teens) are teenagers now, not fifteen years ago.

So my advice if you’re writing YA: set your story to today. There will always be exceptions to this rule (like this lovely novel, set in the ’80s) but before you get big, it will generally help you to follow the rules.

Lovely image found here

Wanderlusty Wednesday

15040029616_694153fd78_oNo time for a proper post today, just a note to say that if you’re ever on a road trip through California, be sure to stop at Hearst Castle. It’s wonderful and amazing and weird and they let you chill by the pool in the waning evening sun. Fun fact: employees of Hearst Castle actually get to swim in the pool with their families on days the mansion is closed. So attempt to befriend one of those people. Can you imagine?

Happy Wednesday!

Friday Things

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After an amazing wedding weekend (my boyfriend’s sister’s) it was hard to return to real life this week. My boyfriend’s parents rented a big beautiful house in Avalon, in south Jersey, and it was a flurry of days filled with family and friends stopping by to help with last-minute projects, eat, drink, or just hang out. It further cemented my idea that happiness is just a steady stream of seeing people you like (and a nice home, with good food).

Here are three things that caught my attention this week:

1. This is my new favorite Instagram.

2. I really loved this piece about struggling to find a heroine in literature you can identify with. I went through something similar as a teenager; while I was never that overweight, I was quite unattractive for a number of years (acne, bushy hair–oh fifteen, you are so unkind). I remember being frustrated that every girl I read about was always beautiful (to be fair, I was primarily reading Sweet Valley High at the time). This has sparked some ideas for a new novel; more on that later.

3. I can’t decide where to go for vacation this year. There’s just so much attempted life-changing going on the prospect of planning a vacation is overwhelming me. But I’m finding this list intriguing, especially Cuba…

Reading: On the subway this morning, I finished Red Queen. And I gotta say … I don’t understand the hype. It started off interesting enough, but the rest of the book was filled with flat characters, uninspired dialogue, obvious plot “twists”, and my biggest book pet peeve: showing and telling. Sentences like “I grin, pleased with myself”, and “he douses the flame, putting it out with water” make me want to scream.

Watching: ORANGE IS THE NEW BLACK comes out today! Must be careful not to let the binge-watching intrude on my writing time.

Listening to: More nineties emo stuff, and I love it :)

Image found here

Wanderlusty Wednesday

9060083077_9425567915_bFacebook was kind enough to remind me that two years ago, at this time, I was sailing around the Greek islands in a catamaran. That was an amazing trip made possible by my boyfriend’s cousin and her husband. They were living in Belgium for the year and before they moved back to the US, they wanted to do something amazing. And they needed company. The only reason any of us could afford this trip was because we packed 8 people into 1 boat (it was 4 bedrooms, 4 bath, but by bedrooms I mean bed with a foot of space at the foot, and by bathrooms I mean a toilet with a shower head directly over it). Even though my boyfriend and I had just been to Europe to visit them 6 months earlier, we went.

People often ask me how it is I’m able to travel so much. To which I reply:

1. I don’t actually travel that much; now that I work full time, I take 2 big trips per year, and that’s it. But I do travel a lot for an American (from what I’ve observed). I took a year between college and career to live in France and travel, and I got a lot of people questioning that decision–won’t it affect your career? Maybe, but not traveling would affect my life. And now, people I work with are constantly talking about their “staycations”. To each their own, but as long as I’m healthy, childless, and financially able, when I have time off from work, I’m going somewhere.

2. I save. I have always lived below my means. I’ve never lived alone in an apartment, no matter how many interesting roommates I’ve had to suffer through, because rent in NYC when you live alone was never worth it to me. Now that I live with my boyfriend, we live in the smallest apartment imaginable, but I don’t want to move somewhere bigger because I don’t want to spend an extra grand every month. I also don’t shop a ton (well, except for books). I do this so I can have enough money to travel when I want.

3. Most importantly: I say “why not?” When someone asks, do you want to sail around Greece on a catamaran? Why not? Do you want to come stay with us in Belgium? Why not? Do you want to come to Australia even though you only have a week left of vacation? Why the hell not???

When it comes to traveling, never ask why. Ask why not.