We Will Not Be Silent

After a polarizing election that’s left this country divided and now fills many of our citizens with sadness and fear, one line from Secretary Clinton’s concession speech still manages to bring tears to my eyes: “This loss hurts, but please never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

The election loss did hurt. It hurt me and millions of others who voted for Clinton, believing that she is the best person to lead our country forward, especially when compared with the alternative. But Clinton fan or no, I hope fighting for what’s right is something all Americans can agree on. Even if you didn’t vote for Clinton, you can still fight for what’s right. And there’s plenty of fighting to be done.

In the few days since the election, hate crimes are already on the rise. Several friends have posted photos of swastikas and other hateful messages in their towns or even in front of their houses.

While this appalls and saddens me, I have to recognize my own position of privilege. I’m not a member of a marginalized group, so I can’t personally speak on how it must feel to be the victim of such attacks. However, I’m not about to sit by and let it become commonplace. This is not commonplace! This is reprehensible!

We must condemn this kind of behavior. Silence leads to indifference, and we cannot allow ourselves to become indifferent. As a non-marginalized person, I want to use my privilege for good. We must report such crimes. Speak out against these acts. Stand by the innocent victims, who deserve our full protection. In the words of the White Rose:

We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!

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PitchWars Wishlist

PitchWars-LogoHello, Pitchwars hopefuls! I’m posting my PitchWars wishlist in the hopes that I’ll get lucky enough to be able to work with someone on something so lyrical and unique that it transports me to another time and place before breaking my heart and (possibly) putting it back together. But before going on about my wishlist, a little bit about me:

kip_avatarBio: Kip Wilson Rechea is a young adult writer represented by Roseanne Wells of Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. She has a Ph.D. in German Literature and is the Poetry Editor at Young Adult Review Network, publishing new teen poets along with superstars like Jacqueline Woodson. She lives in Boston, spends a lot of time in Spain, and has lived in both Germany and Austria.

As far as PitchWars goes, I absolutely love this contest. I was a mentee myself in 2014, and I can’t recommend it enough (evidence: my letter to the 2015 mentees). I’m still in awe of my amazing mentor, Sarah Guillory, who helped me tear apart my manuscript that landed me my agent (read my journey about connecting with Roseanne here), and I’m still in contact almost daily with my fellow mentees, many of whom are mentors this year.

I’ve been with my critique group for about ten years and with some of my other favorite critique partners and beta readers for several years, too. I’ve been so proud to see many of their books come out and land on my shelves, so here’s a quick sampling of some of the books I had the privilege of reading as manuscripts:

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As far as mentoring goes, I couldn’t be happier to be on board. I’m a YA mentor, and I’ll start off by listing the three top things I’m looking for in a YA project. If your manuscript falls under even one of these, I would absolutely love to see it. If you story falls under two, even better, and if it falls under all three, what are you waiting for?

  1. Historical fiction. I write YA historical fiction myself and read oodles of it. Recent favorites include OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez, SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys, and BELLE EPOQUE by Elizabeth Ross. My favorite era is twentieth century, but I am most definitely interested in others. For instance, I absolutely loved UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee and COPPER SUN by Sharon Draper.
  2. Novels set in another country or with main characters from other countries. Bonus points for characters who speak other languages. Some of my favorites include THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore and THE GIRL WITH BORROWED WINGS by Rinsai Rosetti. Both of these are magical, delicious books that absolutely stole my heart. Light-hearted contemporary is not for me, but I can’t stop gushing about more serious books like SMALL DAMAGES by Beth Kephart (a contemporary set in Spain) and BLUE VOYAGE by Diana Renn (a mystery set in Turkey), which both transported me deep into their worlds.
  3. Verse novels. As the poetry editor at Young Adult Review Network, I love all kinds of poetry, including verse novels. Some of my favorite YA verse novels include A TIME TO DANCE by Padma Venkatraman, AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder, and BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson. I also fell hard for THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander even though a basketball novel didn’t sound at all like my thing.

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As you can see from these examples, I’m drawn to tragic rather than light reads, literary over commercial, and I prefer to cry rather than laugh over a good book. I like a little magic/fantasy, but I prefer those with very different settings, like Norway in Ingrid Paulson’s VALKYRIE RISING or China in Cindy Pon’s SERPENTINE. Between character, beautiful writing, and plot, beautiful writing always wins me over. I love multiple points of view, diverse characters, weird timelines, unlikable heroines, and unlikely friendships or romances. My personality is likewise pretty serious. You can expect few (if any) GIFS, jokes, and pop culture references from me, but you can also expect my undying devotion and passion in helping you make your project all it can be.

So what can I do for you? I am a plotter, and can share what I’ve learned from plotting and outlining workshops to help identify plot holes and areas that could benefit from higher stakes and bigger twists. I specialize in multiple points of view and making individual voices in casts of characters unique. I also know firsthand how hard it is to achieve a balance between setting details and too much backstory, and I have had plenty of experience both revising and rewriting my own manuscripts from scratch, as well as helping critique partners identify problem areas in their stories.

If we end up working together, you can expect a full edit letter on your manuscript, as well as whatever level of support you need to get through revisions over email, twitter, gchat, whatsapp, and/or DMs. I like talking on the phone about as much as I like GIFs.

If you’re not sure if your project is right for me, feel free to ask in the comments. Best of luck to all!

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Favorite Craft Books

CraftBooksIn this pre-PitchWars season, I thought it might be helpful to share some of my favorite craft books in case anyone is struggling with preparations. Critique partners and beta readers are excellent (essential!) in pointing out any issues in a manuscript, but because in the end, the fixing of any issues come down to you, the writer, the right guide can sometimes help you see solutions that you’re unable to pinpoint on your own. A quick summary of some of my favorites:

  • READING LIKE A WRITER by Francine Prose. I picked this one up because I love Prose’s fiction, but this book is a great guide at any stage in the process. The premise is that creative writing can be taught through close readings of masterpieces, outlining how to do so looking at everything from words to characters to dialogue. It also serves to remind that there’s no substitute to reading recently published books in your genre.
  • SAVE THE CAT by Blake Snyder. Originally a guide for screenwriters, this book walks writers through a “beat sheet” with details on how to nail down a manuscript’s structure. Though most helpful in the initial outlining stage, this is also a great tool in working through any plot issues in revisions.
  • SECOND SIGHT by Cheryl Klein. This is my go-to craft book for revisions. I’ve taken her amazing revision class as well (ask me about my bookmap), and can’t recommend it enough. Her advice and exercises can really get you to the heart of your story.
  • LETTERS TO A YOUNG POET by Rainer Maria Rilke. This collection of letters, sent to a young cadet in military school, contains inspirational advice that is applicable to most of us. I like to read it and pretend the letters were written to me.
  • BIG MAGIC by Elizabeth Gilbert. This is a truly magical guide to stepping away from fear and writing books of your heart.
  • THE FIRST FIVE PAGES by Noah Lukeman. While only beginnings are stressed in this book, a clean, hooky beginning is essential in querying, contests, or even once published. This guide covers some typical issues and offers solutions.
  • SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS by Renni Browne and Dave King. For the most part, this guide gets into the nitty gritty of typical issues found in manuscripts with some great exercises and checklists.
  • A POETRY HANDBOOK by Mary Oliver. I love poetry, and this is a great guide for poets, but I’m including it in my list because the musicality of language is important for writers of prose, too.

This is by no means a complete list of craft books! But hopefully at least one of these will be just what someone needs, and in the meantime, if you have any others to share, please do!

NESCBWI 2016 Recap

As always, I return from a writing conference energized with all the new things I learned, interesting people I met, and fun moments with good friends. Probably not surprisingly, my NESCBWI 2016 recap includes all of those things.

CPsOne of the best parts of the conference this year for me was meeting my longtime critique partner, Michelle Mason. Michelle lives in far-off Missouri, so even though we’ve worked together for years, this was our first time meeting in person, so you can imagine how cool it was to have real conversations for the first time!

It was also lovely catching dinner with one of my favorite writing friends, Katharine Manning, meeting some of her good friends, and talking a mile a minute about all the bookish things. But of course, the conference is about more than just socializing, and while the workshops at NESCBWI are always good, this year, they were simply fantastic. A few of my absolute favorites:

Scrivener with MarcyKate Connolly: I consider myself an intermediate Scrivener user, but I learned quite a few neat tricks as well as got all of my burning questions answered.

Antagonists with Annie Gaughen: I have a thing for antagonists, and I was glad to learn that antagonists aren’t necessarily the villain. As an added bonus, Hamilton and Burr came up more than once. Which one is the antagonist?

Verse Novels with Padma Venkatraman and Holly Thompson: I have been studying verse novels recently, so this class couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Both authors gave a great overview of some of the important elements in verse novels, along with so many wonderful examples to illustrate their points. My reading list has certainly grown!

Counterfactual Fiction with Trisha Leaver: This workshop walked us through Trisha’s recent YA historical release, Sweet Madness, with an eye focused on weaving facts and theories together (all without altering the timeline). Such a unique way to attack historical fiction!

Finally, even though I was busy stuffing my brain (and my mouth, since the conference food was pretty tasty), it was also great to take a break with the members of my #PitchWars family gathered for the weekend. So fun seeing you all. Until next time!

PW

Verse Novel-a-thon

To celebrate National Poetry Month this year, I decided to turn my reading list into a verse novel-a-thon, and I can happily report that it was an even more amazing experience than I had hoped. What stories! What voices! What magnificent, gorgeous writing!

My signed copy!

As a Rilke scholar and Poetry Editor at YARN, I of course love poetry. I’ve read and loved some fantastic verse novels in the past, among them BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson, THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander, and AND WE STAY by Jenny Hubbard, to name a few.

At YARN this month, we chatted with two verse novelists, Leza Lowitz and Dana Walrath, who also shared some of their beautiful work. Reading their novels definitely inspired me to read more novels in verse, so you can find more about them in my recommended reading list below. This is by no means a complete list! But if you’ve never read a verse novel before, one of these might be a good start.

UP FROM THE SEA by Leza Lowitz is a haunting tale about the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan told from a teen boy’s perspective.

LIKE WATER ON STONE by Dana Walrath uses multiple points of view to share a family’s heartbreaking journey during the Armenian genocide.

AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder pulls the reader deep in the head of a striking factory worker at the turn of the 20th century with amazingly visceral details.

SKYSCRAPING by Cordelia Jensen is a gorgeous near-historical set in NYC about AIDS, guilt, love, and family.

WITNESS by Karen Hesse is another multi-POV story for middle-grade readers that takes a serious look at the KKK in a small Vermont town in 1924.

MAY B by Caroline Starr Rose is a beautifully-written middle-grade historical that appeals to Little House fans (with a bit of Home Alone mixed in).

CAMINAR by Skila Brown tells the heart-wrenching story of a boy who survives an attack on his village in war-torn Guatemala.

ORCHARDS by Holly Thompson sends the reader on a journey with a teenage girl to her family’s orchard in Japan after a bullied girl in her class kills herself.

A TIME TO DANCE by Padma Venkatraman is a beautiful story about a bharatanatyam dancer’s healing process when she loses her leg in a tragic accident.

VerseNovelsHaving read all these fantastic novels has not dampened my enthusiasm in the slightest for verse, as is probably evident by my current TBR stack. Can’t wait to make my way through these ones next!

Please feel free to add any other must-reads in the comments!

 

Gearing up for NESCBWI 2016

Conference season is most certainly upon us, and I’m thrilled to be gearing up for NESCBWI 2016 this year. Last year, I chose the amazing Novel Writing Retreat at VCFA over the conference (so many events, so little time/cash/what have you), and while I hope to head back to that one again next year, there’s nothing quite like NESCBWI, as evident in my recap post from the last time I attended (in 2014).

I have to say before even going how excited I am about the workshop offerings this year. I registered the first minute they opened and managed to get all my top choices, which focus on everything from Scrivener to verse novels to revision. So exciting! I consider myself a lifelong learner and always walk away from this conference with new tools tucked into my bag, so I’m already looking forward to all the new knowledge around the corner.

business_cardsAlso, business cards! I haven’t gotten new cards in a while, so I figured it was time for some new ones.

Of course, another thing I’m really looking forward to is seeing all my writing friends. In general, I prefer to hide out at home, but I do make exceptions for bookish events, and this one brings together so many of my favorite authors as well as fellow travelers on the path that it’s even possible for an introvert to enjoy. Perhaps best of all, I’m finally going to meet one of my longtime critique partners, Michelle Mason, in person!

So who else is going? Let me know because I’d love to meet up!

A History Lesson from Erika Mann

Erika Mann, the flamboyant, fascinating daughter of Nobel prize winner, Thomas Mann, piqued my interest a few months ago when I saw the 1932 film, Mädchen in Uniform. Erika plays a supporting role as one of the teachers in the film, and seeing her onscreen sent me in a spiral of research, reading works by and about both of the eldest Mann children, Erika and her close brother, Klaus.

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Library of Congress: Erika Mann

From Berlin’s cabarets in the 1920s to a life of exile in the 1930s that made her stateless until her lavender marriage to English poet, W.H. Auden, got her a passport, Erika zoomed about trying to find joy while taking issue with the political climate.

I have no desire to be political myself, but as it becomes more likely that someone many of us once thought was a joke is now a viable candidate for president, with comparisons to even contemporary leaders that make one shudder, we must look to history for proof of what can happen when radical leaders take power. Because it’s all there.

Erika Mann’s essay, “Don’t Make the Same Mistakes,” appears in the 1940 collection Zero Hour: A Summons to the Free. This appeal, to a young American she meets on a train on the way to Los Angeles, is meant as advice to a country on the sidelines of a Europe under siege, but her words are just as applicable today:

But what constitutes the disease? Fascism, Nazism, dictatorship, defeat? No! Because they already are death. The “disease”—that is the inability of the body to resist Death. The decay of the organism, the breakdown of resistance, that is the disease.

She goes on to write a full essay-within-the-essay for her young companion, outlining the symptoms of decay, her own experience as a non-political actress silenced by a horde of Brownshirts in 1931, a political meeting with a group of friends in Berlin, and ultimately the failure of resistance. Perhaps most haunting of all are her words closer to the beginning of the essay, when she passionately tries to explain why this history matters:

“You will not believe,” I added, and noticed that my tone was a little too intense, “you can’t imagine how painful it is gradually to discover that no country, no nation, no youth has wanted to draw a lesson from our dreadful example.”

Please, draw a lesson. History like this—a dreadful example like this—should not be allowed to repeat itself.

THIEF OF LIES Release Day

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I’m thrilled to be taking part in Brenda Drake’s Release Day Launch (hosted by Jen Halligan PR) for THIEF OF LIES (Library Jumpers #1)! Check out the book and excerpt below, and be sure to enter the amazing giveaways!

Thief of Lies (Library Jumpers #1)Thief_of_Lies_cover
by Brenda Drake
Publisher: Entangled Teen
Publication Date: January 5, 2016

Gia Kearns would rather fight with boys than kiss them. That is, until Arik, a leather-
clad hottie in the Boston Athenaeum suddenly disappears. While examining the
book of world libraries he abandoned, Gia unwittingly speaks the key that sucks her
and her friends into a photograph and transports them into a Paris library, where
Arik and his Sentinels—magical knights charged with protecting humans from the
creatures traveling across the gateway books—rescue them from a demonic hound.
Jumping into some of the world’s most beautiful libraries would be a dream come
true for Gia, if she weren’t busy resisting her heart or dodging an exiled wizard
seeking revenge on both the Mystik and human worlds. Add a French flirt obsessed
with Arik and a fling with a young wizard, and Gia must choose between her heart
and her head, between Arik’s world and her own, before both are destroyed.
Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Excerpt from THIEF OF LIES

We stepped into the Children’s Library and stopped in the center of the room. A massive light fixture designed to resemble the solar system dominated the ceiling. The hushed rumble of two male voices came from one of the reading nooks. I crossed the room, paused at the built-in aquarium, and inspected the fish.

Afton halted beside me.

“This is great,” I whispered, not wanting to disturb whoever was in there with us.

“Fish and books. What’s not to love?” Spotting a sign referencing classic books, I
searched the shelves for my all-time favorite novel.

The male voices stopped and there was movement on the other side of the bookcase.

I paused to listen, and when the voices started up again, I continued my hunt.

Warmth rushed over me when I found The Secret Garden. With its aged green cover, it was the same edition I remembered reading as a young girl. The illustrations inside were beautiful, and I just had to show them to Afton. Coming around the corner of the case, a little too fast for being in a library, I bumped into a guy dressed in leather biker gear. My book and notebook fell and slapped against the floor.

“Oh, I’m so sorry—” I lost all train of thought at the sight of him. He was gorgeous with tousled brown hair and dark eyes. Tall. He flashed me a crooked smile, a hint of dimples forming in his cheeks, before bending over and picking up my forgotten book.

He held the book out to me. “Mistress Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” He’d quoted a verse from The Secret Garden with a sexy accent that tickled my ears.

I stood there like an idiot, my heart pounding hard against my chest, unable to think of a response. The fact that he had read the book and could recite a line from it stunned me. And impressed me.

Say something. Anything.

“Good read there,” he said when it was obvious I wasn’t going to speak. He winked and nodded to a guy behind him before ambling off. When he reached the end of the row, he paused and glanced back at me, flashing me another killer smile, and then he disappeared around the bookcase.

Tingles rose in my stomach. He looked back at me. The guy following his Royal Hotness gave me a final appraisal before departing. His stringy blond hair hung over his large forehead. It looked like he hadn’t washed it in weeks, and there was probably an acne breeding ground under it. He grinned, and I broke eye contact with him, making for the nearest window.

Oh God, you’re so lame, Gia. You could have finished the quote or anything less tragic than not speaking at all. The response I would have said played in my head. With silver bells, and cockleshells, and marigolds all in a row. Why? Why hadn’t I said that?


brenda-drakeAbout the Author

Website | Facebook | Twitter |

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Brenda Drake grew up the youngest of three children, an Air Force brat, and the
continual new kid at school. Her fondest memories growing up are of her eccentric,
Irish grandmother’s animated tales, which gave her a strong love for storytelling.
So it was only fitting that she would choose to write stories with a bend toward the
fantastical. When she’s not writing or hanging out with her family, she haunts
libraries, bookstores, and coffee shops, or reads someplace quiet and not at all exotic
(much to her disappointment).

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Giveaways!

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Most-Anticipated Books for 2016

There are so many fantastic-sounding books coming out in 2016! My TBR pile will be growing quickly as friends read and recommend others, but I had to share my top ten most-anticipated books for 2016. I’ve read a couple of these when they were mere baby manuscripts, and heard or read snippets of others. Five of these are debuts and the other five are by authors whose work I already love. Several are historicals, since that’s my favorite genre, but there are also some fantasy and contemporary picks here. I simply can’t wait for …

Get these books on your own lists pronto! You won’t be sorry, and I’m sure I won’t be either!

Favorite Books of 2015

My favorite books of 2015 are definitely a strange mix of wonderful and weird. This year, I read a lot of the books everyone is raving about, and while I also enjoyed most of those big-hit titles as well, I have to be honest that the books I love are usually a bit off the beaten track. In past years, I included some adult and middle grade books I loved on my year-end list, but this year, I’m sticking with my favorite young adult titles (although as an added bonus, I’ll list my girls’ favorite books at the end!). Hope you find something new to love in my list of ten favorites here!

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz

I was looking for YA book recommendations with nonlinear plots, and this book, filled with fairies discovering love while warring with gnomes and tightropers in present and past narratives, definitely fit the bill. Beautifully-written story.

Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld

So this one actually came out in 2014, but I was looking for YA frame stories, and this story does so in such an amazing way, alternating between a present-day teen writing a novel and her main character living that novel. Truly innovative!

Under a Painted Sky by Stacey Lee

I absolutely love YA historicals, and this Western with a Chinese-American girl passing for a boy on a high-stakes adventure was a real page-turner with characters I loved. Can’t wait for Stacey Lee’s next books!

The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

I almost forgot about this one because I was lucky enough to read an ARC before the book was officially released, but this story absolutely captivates, with unreliable narration between multiple POVs, a creepy, otherworldly element, and ballerinas in prison. Oh, yes.

When You Leave by Monica Ropal

This book is for the outsider in all of us. While it’s a fast-paced murder mystery involving skater kids, it’s also a story about finding acceptance and love among scrappy yet endearing characters.

Last Leaves Falling by Sarah Benwell

This heartbreaking story gives the reader a glimpse of what it’s like to live with ALS by going extremely deep in the head of a present-day Japanese teen (so deep that it hurts).

None of the Above by I. W. Gregorio

I love two things about the #WeNeedDiverseBooks movement: that people can now find themselves represented in books (when many couldn’t before), and that those of us who have no idea can experience those emotions through books like this one about a teen girl born as intersex. I simply couldn’t put it down.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

As mentioned, I generally like books that are weird instead of highly popular, but I guess some of you others like weird books too, yeah? The whispered magic in this book is there from the beginning, and the dual POVs and twisty turns kept me turning pages like mad.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

Another dual POV novel, this book has all the gorgeous and wonderful things I love. I’m fascinated by the 1930s, and if you throw jazz musicians, airplanes, and a magical twist into it, I’m pretty much smitten (as I was by this book if you can’t tell).

The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore

This book! Gorgeous writing, fascinating atmosphere, a swoony romance, and just the right amount of magic kept me turning pages and savoring each line. All the high stakes that come with Romeo-and-Juliet-esque warring families along with the unique and beautiful weirdnesses of a detail-rich, special story. My absolute favorite read of 2015.

WeightOfFeathers

Bonus Material

Since my eight-year-old daughters (twins!) are reading more and more these days but have very different tastes, I thought I’d share their favorites from this year.

One of my girls reads voraciously and loves everything from fantasy to biography. Her absolute favorite was Ophelia and the Marvelous Boy by Karen Foxlee, and the series she’s currently devouring is The Series of Unfortunate Events.

The other loves to write so much that she prefers it to reading, but she can’t stop raving over El Deafo by Cece Bell (released in 2014), and she also adores the Zapato Power series by Jacqueline Jules.

ElDeafoOphelia

They’re not completely on their own though; we still read books together out loud every day. We’re currently making our way through the Harry Potter series, and the other book we all fell for hard this year was Rooftoppers by Katherine Rundell. Next up on our read-together list is Princess Juniper by Ammi-Joan Paquette!

Please share your own favorites here!