Award news!

I’m thrilled to announce that A Kiss Before Breakfast, a project I submitted to the SCBWI WIP translation grant, has won the award!

Translation is a relatively new obsession for me, but the source text (Un beso antes de desayunar, a picture book from Spain) has been one of my family’s favorite books for years. The text is so lovely that I couldn’t stop thinking about it and had to give it my best shot.

Find the full list of grants and winners here. Congrats to all!

A Dash of Weimar Republic

Last week, I shared a post of my path following the White Rose in Munich on my recent trip to Germany. One of the other stops on my trip was Berlin, which had nothing to do with the White Rose, but which gave me a dash of Weimar Republic I was looking for.

First off, traces of history are hard to find in modern-day Berlin, rebuilt after about 80% of the city was destroyed in WWII and then modernized again after the fall of the Berlin Wall. So sometimes a hint means “[XYZ] used to be here,” where [XYZ] was once a cabaret, the most popular cafe in town, or an old dance hall.

Sometimes hints can be found in actual items from back in the day. There are several vintage and antique shops in Schöneberg, and I also got to visit the Saturday flea market at the Rathaus.

Just walking around the neighborhood provided glimpses of what once was, even though most of these structures have at least been partially rebuilt.

(Literal) signs of some of the more famous residents still exist today as well. I’d made a point of booking in the Hotel Sachsenhof, where the poet Else Laske-Schüler used to live, but other famous residents in the neighborhood included writer and director Billy Wilder and writer Christoph Isherwood.

But there were a couple of places that went virtually untouched and still exist today with much of that century-old detail. One such place is the Einstein Cafe, an art nouveau villa that now serves excellent meals with loads of ambience.

Another is Clärchens Ballhaus, a still-active restaurant and dance hall that makes you feel like you’ve stepped back in time. There’s been talk of the place switching hands or closing down, but I certainly hope it remains for years to come.

Overall, it’s not easy digging for history in a city that’s been through so much, but it was definitely worthwhile to find those small traces that remain.

White Rose in Germany

Back when I was doing my initial research for White Rose, I visited Munich and Ulm a few times, both to speak to experts and spend time in the archives and to get a feel for some of the important sights themselves.

This summer, I was in Germany to do some research for a couple of different projects, so I got to spend some time in Munich once more, visiting a couple of newer museums/exhibits, and donating a copy of White Rose to the Weiße Rose Stiftung, a fantastic organization at the university that houses an (updated!) exhibit and organizes events to keep the group’s legacy alive.

It’s always chilling to visit sites of historical significance, especially those where something so important happened, and I made a point (as I did other times I’ve visited) to stop, think, remember. What were Sophie and Hans thinking that day? Do students passing through these halls today think of their legacy every so often?

I also got to visit a few other sites important to White Rose history, including the Justitzpalast (Palace of Justice) where the trials were held, the apartment building that once housed Sophie and Hans’s flat, the Ostbahnhof (East Train Station) where Sophie bade farewell to the boys when they left for the front, and the site of the former Wittelsbacher Palais (Wittelsbach Palace), where the Gestapo interrogations took place.

I’ve previously visited the Perlacher Forst cemetery beside the Stadelheim Prison where White Rose members were executed, and didn’t make it back there this time, but it’s of course every bit as somber a place as expected.

The ghosts from the war are never far from the surface in Germany, no matter how much is rebuilt. Some of those remnants have been left as a reminder, like at the Wunden der Erinnerung (Scars of Remembrance) wall around the corner from the university.

Plenty of other signs lie underfoot, like the Stolpersteine (stumbling stones) placed in memory of Jewish victims of the Nazis in front of buildings where they used to live.

Moreover, these signs infuse the air, capturing the voices and memories of those whose lives ended too soon, whispering to those passing by today and into the future, begging us not to forget, begging us, Never again.

Historical Novel Society Conference Highlights

I’ve been watching from the sidelines for years as other historical fiction authors I admire talked about the Historical Novel Society and its amazing conference, held every two years in the United States. I promised myself that if I ever got a book published, I would try to go, and lo and behold, it worked out for me this year!

My debut novel, White Rose, based on the true story of a German student-led resistance group during World War II, was published in April, 2019, with HMH’s new Versify imprint, so I was lucky enough not only to attend the conference this June, but also to present as part of a WWII panel (Beyond Rosie the Riveter) and a Kaffee Klatsch (The Crossover Revolution: Is It Adult or Is It YA?).

Obviously a huge highlight for me was talking my passion with these fantastic authors and attendees. But there was much more to the conference. I’ve been to SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conferences multiple times, and while I can sometimes manage to track down the historical writers in the bunch, it was amazing to be surrounded by other like-minded individuals. Instead of, “What do you write?” I could start out with a much more specific, “What’s your era?” to get a conversation going. And there were conversations aplenty, starting with Thursday evening’s costume party, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Next, attending other sessions was a huge highlight for me, including the
Tall Poppy Writers’ Marketing Collective panel and the State of the State of Historical Fiction panel with a group of agents and editors.

Finally, listening to Dolen Perkins-Valdez give her fabulous keynote about “making sh*t up” (while she also clearly does the work, putting on the gloves in the archives and the whole bit) and going back to our “nerd-holes” was an absolute inspiration. Looking forward to reading her books, and to reading more from everyone I met!

Upcoming Workshops

I’m thrilled to announce that I’ll be leading some upcoming workshops, focusing on my own areas of passion and expertise: verse and historical fiction. I’m already looking forward to working with writers on their projects. Feel free to share and to ask any questions in the comments below.

Where and when you can catch me in the coming months:

July 16, 2019: The Writers’ Loft, Sherborn, MA

September-December, 2019: at home!

This fall, I’ll be leading a virtual-based historical fiction workshop through Inked Voices. I’m especially excited about this one because I’ll get to read several historical fiction projects and get to know the writers behind them.

September-October 2019: Follow Your Art, Melrose, MA

This fall, I’ll be working with teens to craft and revise original poems, as well as introduce them to various forms and styles of poetry.

A Star for White Rose

The first of the trade reviews are in, and White Rose has earned a starred review from Kirkus!

I’m so very grateful and absolutely thrilled. The last line of the review particularly got exactly what I was aiming for. “Real events made deeply personal in an intense, bone-chilling reading experience.”

Feel free to check out the full review here (warning: it does contain spoilers).

Indies Introduce

Bookish news to share! A panel of ABA booksellers has selected White Rose as an Indies Introduce title for Winter/Spring 2019! I am so incredibly thrilled about this honor and so excited to share the space with the incredible titles on the full list.

Indies Introduce is a fantastic program wherein committees of independent booksellers first read mountains of manuscripts. They then select their favorite books by debut authors to promote for the upcoming season. One committee selects ten children’s books, and another committee selects ten for adults. The idea is that they select books they love and think they can hand-sell. In the end, this program helps introduce readers to unknown, untested authors. All this to say that this is an amazing honor!

Independent bookstores and their booksellers are glorious, beating hearts that get books into the hands of readers. That this group of knowledgeable, passionate people saw the promise in my book means the world to me. The bookseller who called me with the news absolutely made my day (after I recovered from the shock), and her blurb left me dizzy:

This enthusiasm for White Rose reminded me of my purpose in writing it–that this story might move readers as much as it moved me. I’m simply over the moon at this news!

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!

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!

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!