Favorite Books from 2017

My favorite books from 2017 contain a bit more of an eclectic mix than my usual YA historical fare, although I’ll start off by giving a shout-out to one of my favorite books released this year, THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE. I’m not including it on this list since I was lucky enough to read an ARC in 2016 instead, but I’m still oohing and aahing over it a year later, so definitely get on that if you haven’t read it yet.

Out of the sixty-four books I read this year, my top picks include some historicals, some verse novels, and a few other surprises, so without further ado, here they are!

  1. THE BOOK OF DUST by Philip Pullman (MG fantasy). I was lucky enough to pick up a signed copy in Oxford (after stopping by Lyra and Will’s bench at the botanical garden). Fans of Lyra and her world will love this first book in the new trilogy just as much. 
  2. SOLO by Kwame Alexander (YA novel in verse). I’m a huge fan of Kwame’s books, and I especially loved the way this one brings music into the story.
  3. LONG WAY DOWN by Jason Reynolds (YA novel in verse). The sparse, powerful writing, striking images, and punch to the gut at the end left me reeling.
  4. THE HATE U GIVE by Angie Thomas (YA contemporary). Once I cracked open this book, I couldn’t put it down until I finished it. So, so powerful and a must-read for everyone.
  5. THE PEARL THIEF by Elizabeth Wein (YA historical). As a fan of CODE NAME VERITY, I absolutely adored this dive into the backstory.
  6. ECHO by Pam Muñoz Ryan (MG fairy tale). This is one of those books that seems to have been written expressly for me. Reading each of the finely-crafted tales and watching them come together was absolutely magical.
  7. REFUGEE by Alan Gratz (MG historical/contemporary). Like ECHO, this book seamlessly weaves together three heartbreaking stories about refugee children escaping terrible situations with their families.
  8. AMONG THE RED STARS by Gwen Katz (YA historical). This book about the Night Witches was everything I’d hoped it would be–from its gripping action scenes to its epistolary format.
  9. YORK: THE SHADOW CIPHER by Laura Ruby (MG steampunk). This book was so unique and lovely and made me laugh out loud. Can’t wait for the next installment.
  10. SEE WHAT I HAVE DONE by Sarah Schmidt (Adult historical). I’ve read some Lizzie Borden novels before, but the lyrical voice in this one really blew me away. So fresh and fantastic.

Any other fantastic books I might have missed that seem particularly kippish? Please share any favorites below!

Five Journals Accepting Short YA Fiction

There are plenty of places to submit short fiction, as you can see from a quick scroll through Submittable, but it hasn’t always been so easy to find the perfect home for your shorts that truly fall under the YA umbrella, so here are five journals accepting short YA fiction.

  • YARN (Young Adult Review Network) As the Poetry Editor at this journal, I’m a little biased, but I absolutely love the stories we publish, which have included several award-winners over the years.
  • Lunch Ticket is the Antioch University literary journal, and accepts YA submissions. I might also be biased in being a fan of Lunch Ticket, since they recently published my YA short story in verse, “Car 393.”
  • Hunger Mountain This is the VCFA literary journal, and accepts YA regular and contest submissions.
  • Cicada Magazine Like YARN, Cicada publishes exclusively for the YA audience.
  • Foreshadow: A Serial YA Anthology This new endeavor is headed up by Nova Ren Suma and Emily X. R. Pan. Along with work from established authors, they plan to publish new voices as well.

Any other favorite journals out there that accept YA submissions? Please feel free to share in the comments!

2017 PitchWars Wishlist

Hello, Pitchwars hopefuls! After a fantastic experience as a PitchWars YA mentor last year, I came up with my 2017 PitchWars wishlist dreaming of another YA manuscript that will sweep me away as much as my mentees’ projects did last year. A bit more about them below because they are both worthy predecessors!

But before going on about my wishlist, a little bit about me:

kip_avatarBio: I’m a young adult writer represented by Roseanne Wells of Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. I have a Ph.D. in German Literature and am the Poetry Editor and acting EiC at Young Adult Review Network, publishing new teen writers along with superstars like Jacqueline Woodson. I’m also the Editorial Assistant at Laboratory Phonology, where I manage the submissions process and copyedit all papers. My own work has been published in the TIMELESS and SPAIN FROM A BACKPACK anthologies as well as BLACK FOX LITERARY, COBBLESTONE, and FACES magazines. My writing has won several awards, including the 2017 PEN New England Discovery Award.

Other fun tidbits about me: I normally call Boston home, but I’ll be spending this fall semester in Madrid (¡Ole!), and have lived in both Austria and Germany. My background includes service in the U.S. Army, a Fulbright teaching award, and a year with Rosetta Stone, where I worked on the Indonesian language product with a great team of linguists. I can always be found up and about by 5am, when I’m either off swimming laps or at my desk taking part in #5amWritersClub. I am a pretty serious person. You can expect few (if any) GIFS, jokes, or 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.

I absolutely love PitchWars. I was a mentee myself in 2014, and I can’t recommend it enough (evidence: my letter to the 2015 mentees). My amazing mentor, Sarah Guillory, 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 have been or are mentors.

My 2016 mentees were total rock stars who’ve already gone on to great things. I absolutely loved Kosoko Jackson’s fast-paced, dual timeline historical. His combination of talent and hard work made his manuscript even better, and he’s since signed with a great agent. Sam Taylor likewise captured me with her Babylonian-inspired fantasy. Her gorgeous writing in this project recently won her the Tassy Award in the YA category. I am so proud of both of them and will be a lifelong fan of their work.

This year, I’m a YA mentor just like last year, and I’ll start off by listing the top four things I’m looking for in a YA project. Probably not surprisingly, these are the things I like best and read most, which means they’re also the things I feel I can most help with. If your manuscript falls under even one of these, I would absolutely love to see it.

  1. Historical fiction. I write YA historical fiction myself and read oodles of it. Recent favorites include THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by Mackenzie Lee, SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys, and OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez. I’m also really, really looking forward to AMONG THE RED STARS by fellow 2014 PitchWars mentee, Gwen Katz, coming out this fall. My favorite era is twentieth century, but I am most definitely interested in all others. For instance, I absolutely loved UNDER A PAINTED SKY by Stacey Lee and COPPER SUN by Sharon Draper.
  2. 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 love novels that combine poetry and prose, like AND WE STAY by Jenny Hubbard.
  3. Novels set in another country or with main characters from other countries. Bonus points for characters who speak other languages. Some recent favorites include SOLO by Kwame Alexander (novel in verse set in LA and Ghana), THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS by Anna-Marie McLemore (magical realism with Spanish- and French-speaking characters), SMALL DAMAGES by Beth Kephart (contemporary set in Spain), and BLUE VOYAGE by Diana Renn (mystery set in Turkey).
  4. Retellings or fairy tales. Though I’ll leave straight-up fantasy for the experts (see below for more details on what I’m not looking for), I find stories based on the familiar particularly compelling. Recent favorites include RONIT AND JAMIL by Pam Laskin  (a Romeo and Juliet retelling) and FAR FAR AWAY by Tom McNeal (a contemporary fairy tale narrated by Jakob Grimm).

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More bonus points: Other things I especially love are pretty writing, multiple points of view, diverse characters, weird timelines, unique formats (epistolary, anyone?), unlikable heroines, and unlikely friendships or romances.

What I don’t want: I like a little magic (especially if it’s combined with one of the other elements on my list), but I’m best able to help those whose settings are based in reality, so high fantasy and heavy science fiction aren’t really for me. I’m likewise not much of a fan of paranormal and I’m way too chicken for anything that falls under horror. Finally, I prefer tragic reads that really make me think, cry, and feel, so fully lighthearted and upbeat stories are probably not the best fit for me.

So assuming my wishlist sounds like a good fit for your manuscript, what can I do for you?

Plotting! 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. Pacing is another problem I see in many manuscripts I read, as are endings (of a scene, chapter, or entire manuscript) that need more of a punch. 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. Finally, I am a copyeditor (and grammar nerd) by day, so I can definitely help you clean up any of the peskier little issues before the agent round. 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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Secrets in Storytelling

I am a huge fan of secrets in storytelling. Recently, while struggling with the best way to conceal (and subsequently reveal) one in a project of my own, I decided to escape to the cinema.

Best. Decision. Ever.

What I saw was the gorgeous 2017 (US release) François Ozon film, FRANTZ.

During the film itself, I simply sat captivated. Like most books I read, this was a historical, set in Germany and France after the Great War, and it had a bit of everything I love–mystery, tragedy, even a hint of romance. And then came the film’s secret: that glorious midpoint where everything you thought you knew about French veteran, Adrien, is flipped on its head. Aaaaaah. Though some viewers might guess the secret, the distraction of what you’re led to believe it is offers an impressive surprise when it’s revealed.  Its placement at the midpoint turns a very good film into a fantastic one.

And this is what a well-placed secret in storytelling can do for you.

How do I know this? Because during the credits, I learned that FRANZ is based on a 1932 film, BROKEN LULLABY, directed by Ernst Lubitsch.

Luckily for me, my dad is a classic film buff, and he happened to have the original Lubitsch film on hand. Lubitsch is a fantastic director, and BROKEN LULLABY is a very good film. But the biggest difference between it and FRANTZ is that here, the secret is laid out in the very first scene.  It’s still tense; it’s still traumatic for the characters. But the viewers here are *in* on the secret rather than surprised by it as they are in FRANTZ. This reminded me of feedback my critique partner, Michelle, once gave me on one of my projects that:

[…] you can choose to write it as surprising the reader or surprising the characters, and either can be done in a way that would make the reader go, “Wow, that was so well-done!”

This couldn’t be truer. It’s all up to you as the writer in the end, and sometimes getting the secret out on the first page is the right thing to do. But just remember that it might also be helpful to hold on to that secret for a little longer. Either way, best of luck with all your secrets!

National Poetry Month Kickoff

Happy National Poetry Month! (Or almost, since it’s just a few days away now.) I’ve always found it so fitting that NPM falls in April, when much of the northern hemisphere is transitioning into spring, our heads filling with poetic thoughts. Everything is new, reborn, fresh! Therefore, my plans to celebrate this month include:

  • much frolicking out of doors
  • enjoying some sunlight at my desk and experimenting with some new-to-me forms of poetry (a series of my blank verse poems have been published here, but there is still much to explore)
  • reading a poetry craft book (on deck: THE CRAFTY POET by Diane Lockward)
  • reading more poetry and verse novels (recent reads include THE PRINCESS SAVES HERSELF IN THIS ONE by Amanda Lovelace, MILK AND HONEY by Rupi Kaur, RONIT & JAMIL by Pam Laskin, and STONE MIRRORS by Jeannine Atkins)
  • peeking at the entries to our YA #FindingHome poetry contest at YARN
  • continue working on my own verse novel projects (yes, they have multiplied and are now plural!)

While I hope many poets out there are writing, reading, and entering our contest at YARN this month, I’m curious how else everyone is celebrating. Any big poetic plans? Please do share!

Favorite Books from 2016

Time for a rundown of my favorite books from 2016! This was a crappy year for lots of reasons (*cough* election *cough*), meaning it was an especially lovely year to hide in a book. Out of the eighty books I read this year, it’s probably not surprising that eight of my top ten picks are historical, since that’s my favorite genre, and nine out of ten are young adult, since that’s what I mostly read, but I’ve also got a couple of additional picks that really blew me away.

  1. SALT TO THE SEA by Ruta Sepetys (YA historical). This one comes  a photo of me with the author right after she signed my copy of her book. This WWII historical with multiple points of view is most definitely a must-read! kipandruta
  2. OUT OF DARKNESS by Ashley Hope Pérez (YA historical). This book absolutely wrecked me (and I mean that in the most positive way). Anyone who knows me knows I love tragic reads, and this story about a 1937 school explosion in Texas couldn’t be more compelling.
  3. BURN BABY BURN by Meg Medina (YA historical). I wasn’t convinced this story would be for me, since it’s closer to present day (1977), but the details absolutely captured me in the time and place. I absolutely loved Nora and couldn’t turn pages fast enough as the summer of Sam heated up.
  4. OUTRUN THE MOON by Stacey Lee (YA historical). This story takes place in San Francisco in 1906, so the danger to Mercy Wong and everyone she holds dear is evident from the very beginning. Such lovely details and gorgeous writing!
  5. THE PASSION OF DOLSSA by Julie Berry (YA historical). This is one of the voice-iest historicals I’ve ever read, with multiple points of view sharing an amazingly well-researched story.
  6. AUDACITY by Melanie Crowder (YA historical in verse). Clara’s story as an immigrant at the turn of the last century grabbed me right from the start in this stunning verse novel. Such compelling images throughout!
  7. TO STAY ALIVE by Skila Brown (YA historical in verse). If you think you know the story of the Donner party, think again. Though I knew what was sure to happen in the end, I simply couldn’t put this book down.
  8. WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS by Anna-Marie McLemore (YA magical realism). This book is about a boy born as a girl and the girl reborn from the water who loves him, and it is absolutely magical. Each line of the story of Sam and Miel’s romance sings.
  9. GEORGIA PEACHES AND OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT by Jaye Robin Brown (YA contemporary). Even if you don’t read a lot of contemporary, do yourself a favor and pick up this lovely story about a queer teen who has to hide who she is as she navigates faith, friendship, and romance.
  10. THE GUSTAV SONATA by Rose Tremain (Adult historical). One of the reasons I loved this book is because of its similarities to Thomas Mann’s THE MAGIC MOUNTAIN, but I also adored the glimpse into post-WWII Switzerland, along with the very fine line between deep friendship and true love.

As a bonus, I was lucky enough to read an ARC of THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE (YA historical by Mackenzie Lee), and I simply cannot recommend this book enough! It releases in June, 2017, so get it on your radar now!

So … what were your favorites? Any great historicals I missed?

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:

CPBooks2

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