Friday, January 13, 2012

The Best Writing Advice I've Ever Been Given...

The scene: Buckinghamshire, England. My high school poetry competition. We read our pieces aloud, flushed with embarrassment that these personal thoughts that were so easy to submit are now on display to a small crowd of our peers. Our guest judge for the year (maybe Kevin Crossley-Holland, but I'm always bummed that I can't attribute this to anyone with certainty) stands up and selects the winners. I place, and receive a bound copy of the entries which I'll read once and then relegate to the back of a closet with my binders from previous years.

He closes with some words of wisdom, and this is the part of that day I remember most vividly. He tells us about when he was our age, a keen writer sending out his pieces to various newspapers and editors. He was rejected every single time, and felt his hopes dwindling until one editor included a short note with his rejection.

The note said that while his writing was good, he didn't really have anything to say, probably because he was a young teen with virtually no life experience. And here's the advice he offered: 'Keep writing so that when you have something to say, you'll know how to say it.'

Now, I'm not for a minute suggesting that young writers don't have enough life experience to say anything meaningful in their work. That's simply not true. Some teens have had a lot more 'life experience' than your average adult has. Much of our writing has a lot of meaning and resonates with readers far and wide. Kody Keplinger, for example, wrote the DUFF when she was in her senior year of high school, and it's one of my all time favorites.

However, I think that a lot of times when we hit a wall, when we're stuck and our novels fizzle out and we're not sure how to go on, it's because we either don't have anything clear we want to say or because we're not ready to say the things we want to put out there.

In those cases, I think that the editor's advice rings true: keep writing so that when you've found that story that grabs a hold of you and won't let go, when you have something to say and you're ready to say it, you'll know how.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Applications for Alpha 2012 are open!

Those of you who've been following for a while may have read the post I wrote this summer about my experiences at the absolutely awesome Alpha Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror residential writers' workshop for teens. If you haven't, go check it out before you keep reading!

A few weeks ago Sarah Brand, a fellow Alpha alumna who was on staff last year, asked if I'd put together a short video detailing what Alpha's all about. The product of that conversation is posted below, and I encourage anyone who is/knows a teen writer who loves speculative fiction to check it out. Alpha was one of the most incredibly experiences of my life, and has forever changed my perspective towards the craft, as well as given me some wonderful friends.

To apply, you submit a 2000-6000 SF/F/H short story plus an online application by March 1st, 2012. Fellow writers, get cracking, and feel free to email me with questions about Alpha or with updates about how your submission stories are going. Ask me how mine's going! (Yes, I'm re-applying this year. It was that good.)

Happy writing!


Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #20: Legend by Mary Lu

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine
Legend by Marie Lu
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic's wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic's highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country's most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths - until the day June's brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family's survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias's death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #19: The Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Breaking the Spine

The Dragon's Tooth by N.D. Wilson

For two years, Cyrus and Antigone Smith have run a sagging roadside motel with their older brother, Daniel. Nothing ever seems to happen. Then a strange old man with bone tattoos arrives, demanding a specific room.

Less than 24 hours later, the old man is dead. The motel has burned, and Daniel is missing. And Cyrus and Antigone are kneeling in a crowded hall, swearing an oath to an order of explorers who have long served as caretakers of the world's secrets, keepers of powerful relics from lost civilizations, and jailers to unkillable criminals who have terrorized the world for millennia. 

I first heard about this a few days ago through a friend, and I can't wait to pick it up once work dies down a little. The summary is very intriguing, and I'm anticipating an action-packed middle grade adventure set in an intricately constructed world-- something along the lines of The Alchemyst or to a lesser extent The Children of the Lamp.

If your interest isn't already piqued, check out the awesome book trailer, which is definitely a cut above most that you'll find floating around the blogosphere. My aforementioned friend (the incredibly talented David Kong) actually worked on the trailer as assistant director, one of the camera operators, gaffer and VFX artist. (Yup, apparently college = meeting really cool people.)


Saturday, November 5, 2011

Fun in Chios, Greece

This weekend, I was lucky to be able to spend about two days in Chios, a small Greek island off the coast of Turkey. I've been to Chios many, many times over the years- it's less than an hour by ferry from Cesme, a port city near my home in Izmir. This time, I sailed with family and my friend Luke from college who's on a gap year in Athens. We got up to some interesting things, and I was happy to get the chance to do some proper photography for the first time in a long while.

This is one of the gorgeous buildings in Pirgi, a small village that's famous for having beautifully decorated houses.

This is a beautiful old church that's at the end of an alleyway in Pirgi. I didn't get to go in (most of the time the churches are locked, which is unfortunate) but I admired it from afar!

 A group of older women sewing and sorting pieces of mastic (a tree sap used to make chewing gum)  from stones and other debris. They seemed very happy to see us and chatted away to Luke (who speaks some greek) while I snapped photographs. 

This woman might have the most beautiful smile I've ever seen. Just being around her made me happy. 

This is the back wall of Maria's, a very cute little restaurant on Emborio beach. We've been going here regularly for the past few years and the food is always fantastic! What I love most about it that Maria has all sorts of colorful and gorgeous knick knacks, herbs, dried tomatoes and such hanging all around that add a vibrant burst of color to the restaurant. Gorgeous!

The next two pictures are from Mesta, another village that's more medieval and has an absolutely gorgeous, ancient church that we unfortunately weren't able to visit this time around. (We couldn't find anyone to unlock it!)

Church door in Mesta

Blue door in Mesta

Finally, no photographic journey in Greece would be complete without at least one shot of a cat!

Hello, kitty!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

In Defense of Poetry

Hi, everyone! I’m sorry I’ve been out of the picture recently; unfortunately, it’s due to college, and the situation is unlikely to get better soon. It’s not really that I don’t have time to post—it’s that I don’t have time to read, and that’s probably not going to change much unless I seriously overhaul my life. Which, y’know, could happen. But for now: Onward!

We talk a lot in the book blogosphere about books; fiction, non-fiction, how-to guides, even cookbooks and the sorts of books you’d keep on a coffee table. I’ve very rarely heard anything being said about poetry, and I think that’s a great shame. When we think ‘poem’, the word seems to conjure up images of either incomprehensible strings of words we had to dissect in English class and never fully understood, or the sort of terrible angst people tend to choke out during a bad breakup.

That doesn’t have to be the case. For four years of high school, I took a class in ‘The Speaking of Verse and Prose’, a set of drama classes and exams (Gold medal, woohoo!) that focused on performing poems and short extracts of fiction. I came across many of my favourite poems that way, and I’d like to share snippets of them with you now. Click on the titles to see the full poems!

 You open the door and you enter the studio,
And you feel less cheerio than nudio.
The hard light shines like seventy suns,
And you know your features are foolish ones.
The photographer says, Natural, please,
So you cross your knees and uncross your knees.
Like a duke in a high society chronicle
The camera glares at you through its monocle
And you feel ashamed of your best attire,
Your nose itches, your palms perspire,
Your muscles stiffen, and all the while
You smile and smile and smile and smile.

My Rival- Rudyard Kipling

The young men come, the young men go
Each pink and white and neat,
She's older than their mothers, but
They grovel at Her feet.

They walk beside Her 'rickshaw wheels--
None ever walk by mine;
And that's because I'm seventeen
And She is forty-nine.

I can't imagine how the pea
got under your mattress. I apologize
humbly. The chambermaid has, of course,
been sacked. As has the frog footman.
I understand that, during my recent fact-finding tour of the
      Golden River,
despite your nightly unavailing efforts,
he remained obstinately

Pity Me Not- Edna St. Vincent Millay

Pity me not because the light of day
At close of day no longer walks the sky;
Pity me not for beauties passed away
From field and thicket as the year goes by;
Pity me not the waning of the moon,
Nor that the ebbing tide goes out to sea,
Nor that a man’s desire is hushed so soon,
And you no longer look with love on me.

TimeDoes Not Bring ReliefEdna St. Vincent Millay

Time does not bring relief; you all have lied   
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!   
I miss him in the weeping of the rain;   
I want him at the shrinking of the tide;
The old snows melt from every mountain-side,   
And last year’s leaves are smoke in every lane;   
But last year’s bitter loving must remain
Heaped on my heart, and my old thoughts abide.   

What's your feeling towards poetry? Do you read it? Love it? Hate it? Let me know in the comments!


Friday, October 7, 2011

Review: The Family that Couldn't Sleep -D.T. Max

The stories read like Outer Limits plots: A Stone Age tribe in Papua New Guinea is decimated by a mysterious illness that afflicts its victims with laughter and then death. A noble Venetian family dynasty is cursed by a disease that turns them into insomniacs. Thousands of wild deer perish of starvation in high fields of grass. Unfortunately, these Ripley's Believe or Not-worthy episodes possess more than passing interest; they signal the advance guard of diseases that may lurk as time bombs around the globe. D. T. Max's The Family That Couldn't Sleep can be read as a fascinating study of brain proteins and neurological diseases or as a full-blast medical wake-up call.
The Family that Couldn’t Sleep is a simultaneously fascinating and horrifying mix of history and science that’s colloquial and well-written enough to be accessible to non-scientists.

D.T. Max outlines the history of several prion disorders including FFI, Kuru and Scrapie, and also delves into the Mad Cow Disease controversy and its links to variant Creutzfeld-Jakob both in Europe and the United States. His coverage of Mad Cow in particular offers a great insight into the politics, rather than good sense, that often drives health policy. Max also ventures into early human history and the possible links between prions and our ingrained disgust for cannibalism.

In short, an interesting and gripping read for anyone who’s interested in the history, politics or mechanisms of modern science that will have you second-guessing your choice to order a cheeseburger.
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