Fierce Female Characters to Get to Know in 2019: Part 2

It’s round two of the #Novel19s Fierce Female characters that you absolutely must meet. These characters are noble and selfless, passionate and smart. Some of them brave the unforgiving cold of their icy planets to save their families while others stand tall in a sea of faces to shout their truth. Wanna learn a little more about a few of them? Take a read about each in their brilliant author’s own words!

Enchantee

Camille

Enchantée
By Gita Trelease

Pub date: February 5

Determined, passionate, and just a tiny bit reckless, magician Camille Durbonne risks her own safety to save her sister, all the while gambling that she may be able to transform their lives. As an impoverished girl living in Paris at the end of the eighteenth century, she must also fight to defy the limits society—and class—have placed on what she can do.

Spectacle.jpg

Nathalie

Spectacle
By Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Pub date: February 12

Clever. Curious. Adventurous. And if we're being honest, an appetite for the morbid. Nathalie Baudin, newspaper reporter for the public morgue in 1887 Paris, discovers a magical ability that could help track down the serial killer terrorizing the city. Bold and confident, she takes her ability, her job, and her relationships seriously--while still making time for pain au chocolat, cafés with friends, and her beloved white cat.

opposite.jpg

Kate

Opposite of Always
By Justin A. Reynolds

Pub date: March 5

Kate is ultra-comfortable in her skin. She’s most happy when she’s building others up, when she’s working to improve her community. She’s fiercely loyal but also cautious about whom she trusts. She’s funny (please don’t come for her), hella charming (just ask Jack!), and she has zero clue what she wants to be when she “grows up”; mostly because she knows she contains multitudes. She can be anything she wants.

Waking_Forest.jpg

Rhea

The Waking Forest
By Alyssa Wees

Pub date: March 12

Rhea Ravenna, eldest of four sisters, has terrifying nightmares that no one can see but her. She's always loved games and riddles, but the mystery of her visions is one puzzle she doesn't seem able to solve. As the darkness of the forest and its secrets bleed into her waking life, Rhea's determination and love for her family push her to discover a light within herself and to turn the worst nightmare into the sweetest of dreams.

TheBestLies.jpeg

Elise

Pub date: July 2

Elise Ferro is just as tough as her idol, The Bride from Kill Bill: if you cross her or hers, you'll regret it. Dangerously creative and smart, she devises perfect pranks as payback, but she only uses her powers for good, like standing up for bullied students. To her best friend, Remy, she is the patron saint of the wronged and her guardian angel--that is, until the moment Elise goes too far...

The Best Lies
By Sarah Lyu
house-of-salt-and-sorrows-by-erin-a-craig.jpg

Annaleigh

House of Salt and Sorrows
By Erin A. Craig

Pub date: August 6

Annaleigh Thaumas, born the sixth of twelve daughters to the Duke of Salann, now stands as second in line for the title. Four of her older sisters have died under increasingly mysterious circumstances. Though many in their island community believe the family to be cursed, Annaleigh suspects there is a far too real explanation for her sister's deaths and won't let anything-- even a series of beautiful balls, dazzling dresses, and handsome dance partners-- stop her from saving the rest of her sisters.

bone_garden_1.PNG

Irréelle

Pub date: August 6

Made of dust and bone and imagination, Irréelle fears she’s not quite real. But no matter how she came to be (dark magic) and no matter how strange she appears (white-haired and crooked-boned), on the inside, her hope burns sharp and bright. Full of love for her friends, her fiercely beating heart always leads the way, even along the darkest of paths.

The Bone Garden
By Heather Kassner
ROTDM.jpg

Toli

Rise of the Dragon Moon
By Gabrielle K. Byrne

Pub date: August 6

Toli Strongarm is as tough as it's possible to be. She hunts the deep ice of Ire with her mentor, Spar, training for the dragon attack she's sure will come. She has a fierce need to protect her Queendom--and her little sister. She longs to teach the dragons that they crossed the wrong Princess, and defies them more than once, facing outrageous odds in her journey across the wasteland to confront them. When she becomes responsible for the care of a dragon youngling, she must learn that trust is a force too, and one that is as strong and fierce as the elements around her. 

Color_Me_In.jpg

Nevaeh

Color Me In
By Natasha Diaz

Pub date: August 20

Nevaeh is a bit out of touch, but she's open to changing, even if it takes her a little while to accept the truth. She's fallen into a bit of a well of self-pity when we first meet her, but once she's set straight and has her spirit back, Nevaeh realizes she has something to say and even more, that her voice can make a difference.

Dear_Haiti_Love_Alaine.jpg

Alaine

Dear Haiti, Love Alaine
By Maika Moulite, Maritza Moulite

Pub date: September 3

When a school presentation goes very wrong, Alaine Beauparlant finds herself suspended and shipped off to Haiti where her mom is recovering from a fiasco of her own. She spends the next two months completing what her school calls a “spring volunteer immersion project.” As she works to save her academic standing, she learns the truth about her mother’s meltdown—and how she might be able to help—setting Alaine on a path that she never could have imagined.

Introducing The Skeleton Crew

Writers are not islands.

Or, they shouldn’t be.

In my case, I wrote in solitude for a long time before I discovered the absolute lifeblood of a writer’s life, which is….drumroll…other people!

Today, I’m introducing you to a few of the people who have made my writing life a little more full. They’re part of “Kell’s Skeleton Crew” a street team designed to support me and lift me up and help me brainstorm nefarious deeds and precarious situations into which I can fling my characters. The following represents just a few members of the crew. Others prefer to work behind the scenes in full Slytherin mode, and for them, I am eternally grateful, as well. But for those members of the Crew who deign to look up from their hidey-holes of awesomeness to show their faces to the world, I bid you a formal, official, public welcome. Now, everyone else can see how lovely you are, too.

SC_Vicky.png

Vicky

the president

Vicky is a teenage book blogger, aspiring author, and artist! She is passionate about everything she does and has absolutely no chill when talking about her favorite books. You can usually find her reading under the covers or buried under a pile of homework. Find Vicky on her blogTwitter, or Instagram.

SC_KellyAnne.png

KellyAnne

the superstar

Kelly Anne Blount is a USA TODAY Bestselling Author and Wattpad Star. Her works have racked up over 20 million reads on Wattpad and her contributions to Tap, Wattpad’s app for chat-style stories, have been “tapped” over 50 million times. Her YA dark thriller, CAPTURED, is being produced by Komixx Entertainment (The Kissing Booth) and Sony Pictures Television. Be sure to keep an eye out for Kelly’s upcoming releases! Her YA sports romance, GOAL TENDING, will be available in 2020 (Entangled) and the CAPTURED audiobook (Audible) will be coming out soon. For more information, visit @KellyAnneBlount on Instagram, Twitter, or Facebook or check her out on Amazon or her website.

Tessa

the dreamer

Her name is Meredeth but everyone calls her Tessa. Dreamer, avid reader, and bibliophile. She loves hardbound books, plushies, and animals. She has her mind constantly up in the clouds, so reading is her passion and escape! You can follow Tessa on Twitter and Instagram.

SC_Jordyn.png

Jordyn

the editor

Jordyn is a student at a high school in Florida. She writes for her school’s literary magazine and is an editor on her school’s newspaper. Reading is (surprisingly!) her favorite pastime, and she loves to write. She’s a sucker for a character-driven story and couldn’t possibly list her favorite books. She’s been blogging since 2016, and often procrastinates by scrolling through Twitter. She blogs at Jordz the Bibliophile. She can also be found on Instagram and Twitter.

SC_Loie.png

Loie

the world traveler

Loie Dunn is a full-time writer of fiction, blogs, and articles. She lives on the East Coast of Canada and is currently querying her sea-faring YA fantasy. She has traveled to Ireland, Haiti, Israel, Mexico, Rome, Wales, Scotland, and England. Please visit her at loiedunn.wordpress.com. She loves to meet fellow writers and connect with them. In her free time, she likes to collect sea glass on the beach with her sparky 17-year-old Jack Russell Terrier. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter.

Meaghan

the wordsmith

Meaghan is a YA book blogger over at The Words Gremlin, and she holds a deep love of baked goods and good words (only one of which she's actually decent at making). When she isn't blogging, she's probably spending time with her three rabbits or buried under the covers with a good book. She also has a notebook hoarding problem, but just because shiny new notebooks haven't solved all her problems yet doesn't mean they never will. Obviously the solution is just to get more! You can follow her on her blog, Twitter, and Instagram!

SC_Taylor.png

Taylor

the talent

Taylor Fenner is a YA multi-genre author and owner of Taylor Fenner’s Bookish World Blog. When not staring at a blank word document she can be found reading and drinking her weight in coffee at her local coffee shop. Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and via her blog!

Meredith

the PR goddess

Meredith is a full-time children's bookseller and part-time publicist. She blogs at Pandora’s Books, a YA book blog she founded in an attempt to meet people who are just as book-crazy as she is. She loves to read (obviously), write, and yell “PUPPY!” at every dog that wanders into her line of sight. She’s a proud Hufflepuff residing in the Grishaverse, and is obsessed with the television show Reign. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

JJ

the scientist

JJ is a twenty-something book lover living in Texas. Following through with her lifelong love of sharks, she trained as an oceanographer and currently works in the earth and marine science fields. In her spare time she’s either reading or finding new books to enjoy. Since she attended LSU for her undergraduate degree, she also spends most of the year rooting for her Bayou Bengals in football and baseball— Geaux Tigers! While she reads nearly any genre of book, she particularly adores fantasy and science fiction with a darker edge, which is why she’s so excited for Kelly's debut this fall! Follow her blog, or connect with her on Twitter and Instagram!

SC_Toya.png

Toya

the PhD

Toya is 33 years old and finishing up her PhD in organic chemistry. She has an amazing husband, whom she met in grad school, and they have a rambunctious but lovable black cat named Luna. She is an avid reader, who especially loves YA fantasy and sci-fi. Follow her blog, or connect with her on Goodreads, Instagram or Twitter!

Amber

the bestie

Caramel ice coffees, fantasy novels and blogging is basically my brand. When I am not blogging and reading you can find me with a makeup brush or probably taking a nap. I co-own The Book Bratz with my two childhood besties where we share our love for all things books.  Follow along with her blog or catch her on Twitter or Instagram!

SC_Kelsey.png

Kelsey

the enthusiast

Kelsey is a single mama from Kansas who loves being a nerd! Her biggest hobby besides hanging out with her daughter, is reading and finding new books to love. She adores her bookstagram account and loves all the friends she’s made! She love being a part of street teams and helping authors and artists get their stories out into the world!! She’s addicted to book boxes and enamel pins! She also has two cats that are more fur than anything!

SC_Mia.png

Mia

the Grisha

A huge lover of all-things fantasy, Mia can most frequently be found on the Internet chatting about the Grishaverse and sharing an abundance of cute animal videos. She can also be found blogging over at Pen and Parchment, and has been a part of the book community for over three years. She is a current university student majoring in English with dreams of becoming both an author and an editor. Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, or Goodreads!

SC_Chloe.png

Chloe

the elven warrior

Chloe is an 18-year-old reviewer at The Elven Warrior! She’s a big fan of cats, chocolate, and pink! She also loves everything to do with books! She loves to talk about books, write about books on her blog, and take pictures of books! Follow Chloe on Instagram and Twitter.

SC_Amanda.png

Amanda

the animal lover

Amanda is very excited to be on the Skeleton Crew! She is a YA book blogger, library employee and loves all things YA and fantasy. She enjoys reading, video games, petting all the animals and spending time with her family.  Follow her blog, or check her out on Instagram and Twitter!

Morrisa

the stargazer

Morrisa is an avid reader of young adult and new adult books. She’s been reviewing books on her blog MorrBooks for about three years now and just recently started a booktube channel under the same name. In addition to reading she enjoys skiing, traveling, and stargazing. One day she hopes to write novels of her own.  Follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

SC_Nathalie.png

Nathalie

the Wonder Woman

Nathalie DeFelice is a library minion and blogger with a love of the YA fantasy genre. You can generally find her fangirling over the newest YA fantasy title, binging anime like it's going out of style, and scouring the web for Wonder Woman comics. You can also find her snuggling her Bloodhound Topaz, or German Shepherd Onyx if she's not off travelling to her next bookish destination. Her preferred pronouns are she, her, and hers. Follow her on TwitterInstagram Tumblr (blog), or read all her posts on The Nerd Daily.

SC_Hallie.png

Hallie

the librarian

Hallie is a Teen Services Librarian in the Bay Area with a passion for YA books and washi tape. Hallie is a professional book hyper and loves helping readers at her library find their next favorite book. When Hallie's not reading, you'll find her searching through thrift stores or organizing her sticker collection.  Follow her blog and check her out on Instagram and Twitter!

SC_Lili.png

Lili

the rebel

Lili’s love affair with reading started long before starting her book blog, Utopia State of Mind, over three years ago. She focuses on books that transport her to new planets, fighting quests with dragons, and leading rebellions. You can find me on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and Goodreads

Ari

the Slayer

Ari is a Teen Services Librarian, book blogger, and cat lady based in the SF Bay Area. She's a supporter of diverse stories and is always boosting YA books to the teens at her library, and bugging her coworkers to find out what they're reading. Ari loves devouring YA & middle grade fiction and graphic novels, cuddling cats, and bringing up Buffy the Vampire Slayer trivia when no one has asked for it. Check out Ari’s blog, and follow her on Instagram and Twitter!

SC_Kester.png

Kester

the musician

Kester may be small, but he has a big heart and personality. A proud Catholic and Hufflepuff, he is an #MGlit and #kidlit advocate at LILbooKlovers, a book blog devoted mainly to MG and YA literature. Kester is a senior in high school planning to major in Computer Engineer and minor in Music in college. He is an avid musician who can sing and play the violin, piano, and ukulele, though not all at the same time. Through his blog, Kester aims to "Unite Book Lovers, Both Big and Li'l" with his love of books of all ages. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook!

SC_Julia.png

Julia

the artist

Julia is a lover of books and a Disney fanatic. She’s currently completing her Master's in North American media but already has a degree in English Literature/Linguistics. She’s a graphic designer and an artist on the side. If she’s not reading she’s most likely watching Kdrama's or playing the piano. Julia blogs about books on www.juliatfleur.com, and makes bookish edits on www.carswells.tumblr.com. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram!

12 Fierce Female Characters to Get to Know in 2019: Part 1

It’s 2019! The #Novel19s, (we young adult and middle grade authors debuting this year), have written some FIERCE, AMAZING female characters into our stories. They’re compassionate and brave. They’re loyal and true. They’re cunning and smart. They’re strong and defiant. Some will do ANYTHING to protect their families or will stop at nothing to get their goals. Wanna learn a little more about a few of them? Check ‘em out here in each author’s own words!

49535939_799411360396279_8532548035014557696_o.jpg

Mia

Match Me If You Can
By Tiana Smith

Pub date: January 8

In MATCH ME IF YOU CAN, Mia has big goals and is always striving for something better. Sometimes she makes mistakes, but her heart is in a good place. She wants to be a journalist and she works hard to make that happen.

When the Truth Unravels FINAL cover - RuthAnne F.jpg

Jenna

When the Truth Unravels
By RuthAnne Snow

Pub date: January 8

Jenna Sinclair never met a challenge she couldn't handle. She's class vice president, an athlete, and a straight-A student. She's unapologetically ambitious and used to being the most competent person in the room. So why is she tripping-over-her-own-feet drunk on prom night?

Immoral Code.jpg

Nari

Immoral Code
By Lillian Clark

Pub date: February 19

Nari is a white hat hacker, social justice warrior extraordinaire, plotting world domination and kicking ass while looking cute. For Nari, aka Narioka Diane, aka hacker digital alter ego “d0l0s," it’s college and then a career at “one of the big ones," like Google or Apple.  She’s smart, fiercely loyal, and isn’t about to let her friend Bellamy’s dreams of college be squashed by a deadbeat billionaire dad, so she hatches a plan to steal just enough from him to allow Bellamy to achieve her goals. 

Just for Clicks.jpg

Claire

Just for Clicks
By Kara McDowell

Pub date: February 19

Claire is a viral beauty blogger, coder, and all-around awkward human. She loves her family but is struggling to know how much of herself she should give up to make them happy.

ames-fanart.jpg

Ames

The Fever King (Feverwake)
By Victoria Lee

Pub date: March 1

Carter Ames, or just “Ames” to those who know her best, is a snarky, smart witching with lots of tattoos and a penchant for keeping other people’s terrible secrets. Favorite tattoo: The dead flowers on her thigh Favorite band: Bikini Kill Favorite pastime: Mocking Dara Shirazi Favorite color: Anything but orange, orange is actually the worst. Favorite food: The fries you can get from that one chicken and waffles place on Main Street. Also Baikal caviar but god that’s embarrassing. Favorite human: Bethany Glennis, but like, in a “must protect” kinda way.

THE QUIET YOU CARRY.jpg

Victoria

The Quiet You Carry
By Nikki Barthelmess

Pub date: March 5

Victoria is smart, driven, and introspective. She doesn’t want to let the adversity of foster care kill her dreams of going to college. She’ll also do whatever she can to take care of her loved ones.

If You're Out There.jpg

Zan

If You're Out There
By Katy Loutzenhiser

Pub date: March 5

Zan is fiercely loyal, with a stubbornness that is somehow both her best and worst quality. She's sharp with her words, and she'll deck a guy if he's a threat to someone she cares about. And, at the end of the day, she's strongest in the sense that she loves people to the fullest, bravely, no matter the risk.

49435356_10217611798756036_5645460526038253568_n.jpg

Lyndie

Pub date: March 26

Lyndie B. Hawkins is a history obsessed, truth obsessed 11-year-old spitfire who never takes received wisdom for granted. Call her skeptical. She *always* has to do her own digging to figure out what's what.

We Rule the Night.jpg

Revna

We Rule the Night
By Claire Eliza Bartlett

Pub date: April 2

Revna's not always sure of herself, but she's certain of one thing: her family deserves better than the lot they were given. She's willing to do anything for them, even fight a war for the country that ruined them and left them behind. With two prosthetic legs, she's used to being underestimated and she tries not to let that get under her skin. 

YouDBeMine.jpeg

Annie

You'd Be Mine: A Novel
By Erin Hahn

Pub date: April 2

Annie Mathers is the almost 18yo daughter of country music’s greatest tragedy. She probably should avoid the spotlight, history being what it is, but everything in her screams for that feeling of being alive on stage, singing her soul for thousands. She’s sweet, fiery and fiercely loyal to her best friends and band mates. She’s also damaged and growing. Her faith is the solid foundation she draws from, and her charm is what draws the masses.

hotdoggirl_online.jpg

Elouise

Hot Dog Girl
By Jennifer Dugan

Pub date: April 30

Say what you want about Elouise Parker, but she doesn’t give up. Sure she’s sometimes a bit of a mess, but she’s also strong willed and not afraid to do whatever it takes to make things happen— whether that means concocting an elaborate plan to save a theme park, rocking a hot dog suit or going above and beyond to find her perfect match. 

All Our Broken Pieces.jpg

Lennon

All Our Broken Pieces
By L.D. Crichton

Pub date: May 7

Insightful, smart and sassy, Lennon is the type of Queen who has to stop to tie her Converse or to straighten her crooked crown (five times of course). She wants to be a costume designer, and a confident young woman who believes in herself so long as she’s not ordinary. Because normal is boring.

The Island of Bazuli by Jordyn Dees

On November 3, I taught a world-building workshop at the University of South Florida at the Tampa Bay Youth Writer’s Conference. My room was packed with kids and young adults sprawled over the floor and standing in the back, so when I introduced my short story contest, I expected one or two entries.

I didn’t realize I would get so many!

The task I’d outlined for them certainly wasn’t easy. They had two weeks in which to write a 2-page short story based on the fantasy world they’d created in my workshop. Double-spaced. 12-point font. If you’re a writer, you know that is not a lot of space to build and develop a world, never mind throw in a main character with a desire to boot. But I wanted to limit their word count to make them focus on the very heart of the story. To develop an emotional connection that could grab the reader in just a few quick bites.

And wow, did they deliver.

I promised to publish the best of the best here on my website, so that’s what I’m doing today. The winner of my short story contest is Jordyn Dees. She’s a student at a Tampa area high school and runs her own book blogger site, Jordz the Bibliophile, too! She’s not only a wonderful storyteller as you’re about to see, she’s a lovely spirit with a genuineness about her that takes my breath away.

So, without further ado, here is “The Island of Bazuli” the winning short story by Jordyn Dees.

Jordyn_Dees

THE ISLAND OF BAZULI

Mama said praying to one of the gods for anything other than food, water, or health was disrespectful. And while a kiss from my long-time crush wasn’t on that list, I was asking for it anyway. The god of my choosing, Themba, who took the form of an elephant, stood before me. His trait may have been hope, but of all the gods, he was the closest one to love I could find.

Kneeling for Themba in one of the many temples in Sindwa, I strongly encouraged him to nudge Bheka in my direction at the festival tonight. In return, I promised to be the most hopeful seventeen-year-old on the island and to bring Themba an offering every week.

Finished, I reached into my worn wool sack and placed a chunk of bread on the platform before the great clay statue of an elephant, which towered above me with painted tusks and bright eyes. My bread sat next to a cob of corn, a beaded necklace, even a wedding band.

Then I stood and allowed the next person in the line of worshipers to step up and pray. I walked past lines leading to the other godly statues, sliding between blue crane Nomusa, god of mercy, and the rhinoceros Mandla, god of power.

When I made it outside, the hot Sindwa sun embraced me, the humid air welcoming. I was almost knocked down by a boy on a news cart, announcing today’s happenings. “The Festival of the Spirits is tonight!” he yelled, as he sped past. “Dance, food, and worship awaits!”

The boy, whose house was just two doors down from mine, realized he’d almost run into me a beat later and threw an apologetic look over his shoulder. “Sorry, Jabu!”

Despite the near-hit, I squealed, earning a look from a woman in a brightly patterned head wrap selling pottery and colored glass next to me. I couldn’t bring myself to care. The Festival of the Spirits was the best day of the year on Bazuli. Every summer on the solstice, the entire island came to the city. Avenues and streets were lined with merchants and entertainers, games and music, beaded banners and crackling torchlight. Though the festival started as a way to honor Bazuli’s many gods, as the years went by, it had turned into a day of general revelry and celebration.

I skipped down the steps of the temple, feeling much younger than seventeen, and cut through the bustling marketplace. Traders shouted after me as I passed, offering grapes, carrots, vases, bronze bracelets, and floral perfumes. I paused at a stand selling fresh fruit from Arenta to buy a ripe mango from an olive-skinned merchant, at odds with the dark faces of Bazuli.

Being right by Bazuli’s busiest harbor, Sindwa was a restless place, filled with merchants and visitors from neighboring nations, on a regular day. But on Festival Day the entire city pulsed. The warriors of the Mandla mountains, hunters from the Swamplands, and even the people of Setho Beach travelled here for drinks, dance and trade.

Which meant Bheka would be here, in all his dark-skinned, muscled glory. I could only see my best friend when I could make the day-long journey east to sandy Setho Beach and his warming presence, or if his family made a trip to Sindwa to buy supplies for their sea-side resort. Or, of course, when they visited for the Festival.

My stomach flipped as I imagined his eyes, silver as sea foam, tipped by a crooked smile and deep dimples. The last time I’d seen him was at the start of this summer, when I visited Setho Beach with my father for a week. Bheka and I had spent days together, him teaching me how to surf, me eating more seafood than I could ever stomach. And on the night before I left, we’d walked along the beach, talking, laughing, until the sun set and the moon rose and I was sure that he would kiss me. But he hadn’t. Tonight, I would make sure that changed.

I swallowed my mouthful of mango and headed home to get ready, imagining a million stars, drumbeats to jive to, and a cute beach boy’s lips in flickering torchlight. I sent one last prayer up to Themba. For hope, luck, and just a little bit of bravery.


Follow Jordyn on Twitter @jthebibliophile and on Instagram @jordz_the_bibliophile

What Mentoring Young Writers Can Do

When I was a kid, I rewrote stories from the Old Testament, giving them fierce female leads and setting them in modern times. I wrote free verse poetry in my room (usually centered heavily on graves and birds for some mystifying reason) along with short stories that rhymed and songs that often didn’t.

Needless to say, I wrote and I wrote and I wrote some more.

I would’ve given one of my pigtails for a writing workshop kinda like the one at which I spoke on Saturday, November 3. It was the Tampa Bay Area Youth Writer’s Conference, and the participants were all kiddos between 3rd grade and college.

IMG_5237.jpeg

Young Writers!

It was a little bit of magic mixed with lots of wiggling and flashes of brilliance.

I taught a workshop on creating a fantasy world, and gave students the opportunity to submit short stories from their worlds to me for the chance to be published right here on my website. In exchange for me talking about publishing, settings, and my life as a writer, I received something pretty spectacular in return: inspiration.

The young writers were thoughtful in their responses to my questions. They pushed boundaries, and asked the perfect question for any writing pursuit: “What if?”

What if, indeed.

What if these students crafted magical worlds with their imaginations when they left the conference? What if they sparked conversations that reflect the diverse world we all live in? What if these brave writers affected the landscape of what’s acceptable for publication?

What if their words changed the world?

What if?

That question makes me do what I do: pour into the lives of the youth so that one day, they can pour themselves into others.

Wanna help?

Parents, if you have a young writer in your house, send them to workshops like these and let their imaginations take flight. This was one of many writing conferences across the country they could pursue. Another big one besides the Tampa Bay Writers Conference is the Teen Author Bootcamp which happens each spring in Provo Utah. Nearly 1,000 teen writers gather together to boost their writing skills. Marie Lu, Brandon Sanderson, Jessica Day George, James Dashner, Ally Condie, Shannon Hale have all been speakers in the past!

Authors, if you’d like to participate in mentoring young writers, but can’t travel or show up in person, consider adding a craft post to the Teen Author Bootcamp forum here or contact Jo Schaffer (jo @ teenauthorbc dot com) to connect.

Students, if you’re interested in a writer’s workshop, but can’t make it to Tampa next fall or to Provo Utah in the spring, check out this list of writing workshops specifically for you. Maybe one will be near you and nothing says holiday presents like a class registration!

**************************

At the end of my workshop and publishing panel I was tired, but I was invigorated. And that’s the power of young people. They are so full of hope, it’s contagious. They inject optimism into their pursuits and every one of us adults could stand to get a little dosage of that, too.

IMG_5246.JPG

We met Jerry Spinelli at the conference! Ahh!



What Sammy Yuen and Rachael Ray have in Common

Earlier this month, I got some GRAVEMAIDENS news that made my hair stand on end. 

Sammy Yuen, the incredibly talented graphic artist, is going to be designing the cover of my book. I mean, check out these ridiculous covers he's done. He has designed NYT bestsellers, crazy popular YA fiction, crazy popular YA fiction that just happened to be NYT bestsellers, and so many more that my head is reeling even thinking about it. 

IMG_4436.JPG

So, of course on the same day I received this amazing news that had me shouting from the rooftops, I needed a swift kick in the pants to be reminded that life does not stop when things go well (nor does it stop when things go poorly, unless, of course, the thing that goes poorly is your own death). 

My nine-year-old son wanted to make dinner to help me celebrate the incredible news that Sammy was my designer. After internally rolling my eyes because although it was a nice gesture, making a somewhat complicated recipe with a kid not well-known for fastidiousness wasn't *exactly* my idea of a celebration, I swallowed my tendency to be peevish, went to the store, and procured the ingredients. He'd chosen Florentine Mac n Cheese with Chicken Sausage Meatballs, a Rachael Ray dish. Seemed easy enough. Mac n cheese. Meatballs. Piece of cake. I mean, not a literal piece of cake. But you catch my drift.  

After getting out all the ingredients, we chopped and measured, then got to the good part: the mixing. And here was my fatal mistake.

I gave my child a glass mixing bowl. He was stirring the ground chicken with fennel, ricotta, parmesan, and breadcrumbs, when he turned toward me with a big old grin and a story about something or another and pulled the glass bowl off the counter. 

It fell in slow-motion, my mouth forming the word "Noooooooo" as my Pyrex crashed to my wooden floor and....shattered. 

Glass. Bits of ground chicken. Parmesan. Eggs. The entire mess was splattered across the floor, and in my surprise, I shifted my foot and set it down on a piece of glass. I yelped, and he immediately began to cry. I told him to get away from the mess so he didn't cut himself too, gesturing wildly to the living room where his brothers stood stock still in horror that 1). Their mother was bleeding 2). Our dinner was now a glop of chicken smooshed with glass, and nobody was interested in that. My irritation flared at our predicament, but I told the demonlady inside my head to calm the heck down. We had a SITUATION HERE, and panicking was going to do nobody any good. 

I stepped tenderly around the glass, then removed the shard from my foot and bandaged it since it was dripping blood all over the kitchen floor. (Two days later, I pulled the rest of the glass out after wondering why my foot still felt twingey and weird.) Then I cleaned up the mess. An hour later, the kitchen was clean, the chicken goop was tossed in the trash, the floor was sanitized, and....we were starving.

So, despite my aching foot and general sense of "Hey, maybe we should just go get tacos," we made the meatballs again, because if there was anything I wanted to teach him, it was that when things go wrong, you don't just give up. So, with a plastic bowl (I was an idiot once and was not going to be twice), we made another batch, spilled the fennel, roasted the meatballs, and dirtied more pots and pans than I even own.  

That night, while we ate our meal (It was really good!), we celebrated not only the amazing news that Sammy freaking Yuen was going to make GRAVEMAIDENS the most astounding cover ever, but also the sweet heart of a nine-year-old boy who just wanted to give his momma a night she would always remember. 

I'm pretty sure I will. 

Write like the WIND

ICE.jpg

When the guy in the baseball cap and shorts waved me down in the University of South Florida parking garage on Tuesday night, I thought it was a college kid with a cougar thing. 

Until it wasn't. 

The "kid," who admittedly looked about 15 years younger than he actually was (not jealous of that at all) was Eric Vona, the director of I.C.E., the Imaginative Creative Explorers, the name chosen by the first group of youth writers in the Tampa Bay Area Writing Project 17 years ago. 

Eric laughed when I told him how young he looked, and said he gets it a lot.

He fits right in with his students who range between 14 and 22 years of age, all of them hungry to learn more about writing, four of them who have already written complete novels. He'd invited me to speak to his group about character development, a subject I knew very well considering I was raked over the coals for not having any of it in my first book, the novel that shall heretofore be known as JUST BURN IT because it was so horrible.

Naturally, I was happy to contribute to the conversation about character. 

IMG_2195.JPG

With huge smiles and a palpable eagerness, the students welcomed me into WIND, the new name for the group, although "Writers in Need of Direction" is a bit of a misnomer in my opinion. Once we started talking, I was incredibly impressed with the level of knowledge they already had. They were light years ahead of where I was when I first started drafting! We talked about giving their main characters desires to propel their stories' plots and making sure their mcs have misconceptions about themselves or the world (or both) that get resolved so they have strong arcs. 

Since I stopped teaching years ago (has it really already been ten years??) I SO MISS interacting with teenagers on a daily basis, so this little snippet of conversation was such a boost to my spirits. 

I'm hopeful I gave them something in return, too. Maybe it was just some inspiration that someone like me, someone who has repeatedly failed, can chase after her dreams and grab them. Or maybe it was simply a little more information than what they already had. 

IMG_2196.JPG

Either way, I'm so appreciative of the evening and hope to do it again very soon. Eric, thanks for having me!! And to all the students I hope you realize just how much you made my day. More than anything, keep learning and keep AT IT, even when you lack the motivation to do so. 

XOXO
Kell

A Cup That's Half Full (For the Dreamers Among Us)

Photo Credit: Rob Walsh via UnSplash

Photo Credit: Rob Walsh via UnSplash

This post is for the wannabes. The dreamers. The ones who have cast their sights on a star somewhere off in the cosmos and are wondering how they can lasso it with the measly lariats in their hands.

I'm here today to specifically tell you—YES YOU!—that you can do it.

But you have to believe and set yourself up for success. First, let's chat about positivity.

"Be a positive thinker!"

It sounds like some televangelist's message on Sunday morning at 6:00 AM, doesn't it? Well, being positive and earning big rewards is not all hocus pocus and feel-good feelygoods. It's science. And I'm a firm believer in science. Hocus pocus has its place, but science is cool because someone worked really hard to prove that stuff.

Did you know that positive thinkers have more energy? It's true. Negativity wears you down, but scientists have found that since positive thinkers generate more adrenaline and endorphins, they have more energy and enthusiasm than those stuck in negativity.

And positive thinkers are more resilient, too. Bad things happen to everyone, but positive thinkers have more of a tendency to shake off those bad vibes than their negative counterparts do. Barbara Fredrickson, professor of psychology at UNC states "...positive emotions help speed recovery from negative circumstances," even if the positive thinking is self-generated.

Positive thinkers are contagious, too.

We've all experienced it: that person with the sunny disposition who somehow manages to lighten the mood, bringing the group out of a collective funk. That's because positivity is biologically contagious. Having a positive outlook toward other people can release the chemical oxytocin in the recipients' bloodstreams, while "mirror neurons," which cause us to replicate the actions of those around us, can spread positivity, too.

Basically, if you're a glass-is-half-full kind of a person, then guess what? The people around you will be, too. 

*********

How to Manage the Circus of Life and Write a Book, Too

How to Manage the Circus of Life and Write a Book, Too

It's a three-ring circus at all times in my house. Ask my mom. She'll tell ya. 

Between shuttling three boys off to sports practices and games, running everyone to and from school activities, working, working out, and doing all the necessary stuff of life like grocery shopping, laundry, bill-paying, yard-tending, on and on and on, things can get a little...

...hectic.

So how did I manage to write a book, and how in the heck will I write the sequel?

Read More

What Editing a Novel for Publication is REALLY Like

What Editing a Novel for Publication is REALLY Like

Take it easy, lady. 

It's what I wanted to say the first time Kari Sutherland, my agent at Bradford Lit, did the first pass edit on my book. Since she used to be an editor at Harper Children's, a division of HarperCollins, (which was one of the reasons I queried her to begin with), she knew how to whip my book into the best shape it could possibly be so when we submitted it to editors, I'd have a fighting chance. 

I had no idea I was about to get SCHOOLED. 

Read More

It's Been a Year Since I Almost Gave Up On My Dream

If you'd told me a year ago today that I'd be sitting at my dining room table signing my contract for an unbelievable two-book deal from Penguin Random House, the world's leading trade book publisher, I would've asked you what you'd been drinking, and if you had any more to share. 

You see, right around this time last year, I'd decided I was delusional. I'd tried for ten years to get the publishing contract I'd so desperately wanted. I'd written four separate young adult novels, queried illustrious agents from all over the United States, and had been essentially told the same thing:

Buzz off. 

The day I decided to give up was bleak. I sat on the couch next to Matt after receiving another "it's not you, it's me" rejection email from a literary agent I had just known was going to be right for me. My heart felt as though someone had sent it through a paper shredder. While tears streamed from my eyes, I contemplated my own sanity.

Aloud. 

"I'm delusional. That's it. I've lost my mind. Yes, I am a good writer, but I am not a good enough writer for this. FOR THIS." I waved my phone in the air, that horrible, miserable messenger of doom, and leaned back against the cushions. 

"You're not delusional, babe."

"CLEARLY I AM." I blew my nose into a tissue and felt like melting into the couch, seeping in between the cushions, and disappearing into the cracks with all the Cheez-it dust and pennies and half-chewed dog bones, never to be seen again.

What was the point? 

I literally couldn't do it. I couldn't. I'd written four novels. I'd queried over a hundred agents in the past ten years. I'd been to writing conferences, participated in Twitter Pitch parties, taken a novel-writing workshop, read books on craft, researched and planned and studied and crafted and edited and tried and tried and tried.

I even had my undergraduate degree in CREATIVE WRITING for heaven's sake. 

Novel writing, apparently, was beyond me. 

It was better that I stick to what I knew, move on, and forget about fiction. I'd work at my editorial job, (which I loved), blog, and pick up creative freelance gigs when I could. I was kidding myself. I HAD been kidding myself. I thought I knew what I was doing, but I was so incredibly wrong. 

Matt looked at me, his brows knotted in concern, set his computer aside, and pulled me to him, tucking me neatly underneath his arm. He kissed the top of my head and murmured as I cried and said he was sorry and that the agent who'd rejected me was stupid. 

Then, he told me what I needed to hear: I wasn't delusional. I was a great writer, and someone, someday would recognize it. He told me not to quit. Not to even think about it, because that's not the Kell he knew and loved. His Kell wasn't a quitter. 

My mom told me the same thing when I called her, crying my eyes out, asking if I had any talent at all. If I ever had. She repeated Matt's refrain. She said I'd come this far and couldn't quit now, because I was made of tougher stuff than that. I'd find a way. She said that one day, I'd be sitting there with a book deal in my hand, and a novel about to be on every shelf, and I'd look back at this moment and laugh. 

And...you know what? They were right. Because, here I am, contract in hand, signing my name in triplicate, and tucking the dozens of sheets into an envelope addressed to Penguin Random House, where some guy in the legal department has a file with my name on it.

But, despite what my mom said, I don't look back on the moment of despair and laugh. I look back on it with tears rolling down my cheeks. In fact, I'm wiping them away now as I type this. But this time, the tears are ones of absolute joy. And maybe a little bit of nerves. But mostly, heart-bursting levels of joy. Because I know the amount of work it took to get me here, and the number of people I needed to push me along. Sometimes (scratch that--ALL THE TIME), you need people in your corner, rooting for you. You need family members and friends to pull you out of the dirt of self-loathing and help you untangle the chains of misery from around your throat. 

On that day,  I was ready to give up. But you know what? That Tuesday was just TWO DAYS before Kari Sutherland, my DREAM agent, someone I'd queried without any real hope of getting a response, let alone an offer, sent me the email I've copied below. Just before I struck gold--was a mere millimeter away from it--I was ready to put down the shovel. 

And it's okay to have those moments of gloom, as long as when you're at your weakest, when you're ready to tap out, you have some else's strong arms pulling you back into the ring. 

Thank GOD, my mom and Matt were there for me that day. 

Every day. 


"Dear Kelly,

My apologies for the delay in getting back to you, as I'm sure you're eager to send this manuscript out. As such, I wanted to send you an update although I'm not quite finished yet. I'm two-thirds of the way in and really enjoying it, although I do have some editorial suggestions. I was wondering if you have any time either on Monday or Tuesday of next week for a phone call to discuss the project, my feedback, and for us to get to know one another better.

Best wishes,
Kari"


Sign up for my newsletter to keep up with my publishing journey, and add my book on Goodreads! It lets my publisher know there's an interest, which helps ensure I get to keep doing this job. Plus--you'll be prepared to sign up for a free copy when I do a Goodreads giveaway! ;-)

 

 

When Motherhood and Dreams Collide

When Motherhood and Dreams Collide

I'm seated at my desk, breathless with anticipation while Brennan whacks me with a tiny packet of Whoppers filched from the Halloween stash. "Mommy! I can't open it!"

"Shhh! I'm talking to my agent!" And this is the phone call I've been waiting for my whole life!

Today, I'd find out if Penguin Random House would publish my two young adult novels, the first of which I'd been working on for years. Years. Brennan, of course, does not care. He wants the chocolate, and I'm the one who can assist.

I'm Mommy, opener of candy, kisser of boo-boos, massager of backs, fixer of lunches, scolder of naughtiness, and driver of children. Laundress extraordinaire…maybe on a good day.

But definitely not some random author whose hopes and dreams rest in the next words this woman on the other line is going to say. He doesn't care that my heart is jack-hammering in the agony of the seconds before she replies.

Read More

Gaining the Confidence to be a Fool Who Dreams

A Mom's Life

Last Wednesday, November 1, I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to a Tampa women's group dedicated to helping moms connect, called A Mom's Life.  

My topic? How to use confidence to follow your dreams. 

This topic was culled directly from my heart, as I've been a dreamer pursuing a publishing contract for my YA book series for a long time: through three failed novels and more than 100 agent rejections. It's why I sobbed my head off during Emma Stone's Audition (The Fools Who Dream) in La La Land. I've been there. I've felt the incredible ache of chasing an elusive dream. 

After all of these years, I would never have been able to find my agent Kari Sutherland and been on hot pursuit of editors if I hadn't believed I could do it.  

Why?

Confidence equals competence. The more you have of one, the more you have of the other. If you are confident, and believe that you can achieve your dreams, (even after getting knocked down again and again), you will believe you can develop. That you can learn. So, you will go after the skills you need to move one step closer to achievement. And you'll keep doing that until you get what you want. 

If you lack confidence, however, you will assume you'll never be able to grab your dreams, so you won't allow yourself to develop and learn. The result? You get what you think you can, which is nothing. 

Personally, I've been cultivating my confidence for years, because the only other option while pursuing a dream of this magnitude is to sink into misery and disappear.

And I have absolutely no intention of doing that.

I lift my chin, strike a power pose that I taught the moms at the group to simulate to boost their own confidence, and keep moving forward. 

One of these days, I'll go from a fool chasing her dreams to an author with a contract, and the confidence I've used over the years to help get me there, will propel me through the ins and outs of the industry.

* * *

Interested in keeping up with my publishing journey? Sign up for my newsletter!

How I Got My Literary Agent

How I Got My Literary Agent

If you're thinking of throwing in the towel, I want you NOT to picture me with my agent contract in hand dancing around my office because that was just one moment from the thousands I put into securing a literary agent as amazing as Kari Sutherland.

Instead, I want you to picture me sitting at my desk, wiping tears off my blotchy face after yet another rejection, pulling those tentacles of woe from around my neck, and trying again.

Read More