Friday, April 29, 2016

A Chat with Rose Cooper, Author & Illustrator, and a GIVEAWAY!

Happy Friday, everyone! Shannon here. 

I have such a treat for you today. It is my great privilege to introduce you all to my friend, Rose Cooper. An amazing author and illustrator, Rose's career inspires me to reach far and wide as I meander down my own road. She kindly agreed to let me throw a few questions her way. Would you like to eavesdrop?

Of course you would! It's fun to be a fly on the wall!

Shannon: Lovely, Rose! You know I adore your books and your illustrations. Which came first for you, the writing or the drawing?

Rose: Thank you! The writing came first. I loved to draw as a kid, but it never occurred to me to try illustrating my stories until I came up with a middle grade book idea that demanded images with the text. Even then, I only considered the drawings as a way to show an agent and then an editor, the full concept of my idea. I never expected to illustrate my books but I am so grateful I was given that opportunity. Now, I can’t imagine not illustrating my books.

S: I can honestly say no one has ever asked me to draw them a thing. And I am so glad! But you! I love that you haven’t pigeonholed yourself into one genre. You write these fun middle grade books but also produce hilarious comics for women. How do you decide where to focus your energies and what does your writing schedule look like?

R: My focus is first with the priority.  If I have a deadline for a book or for greeting cards (comics), then I focus my attention on that. If I’m between deadlines, then I work on whichever creatively moves me. Sometimes I will have a great idea for a story that I must start writing, but the next day I will be inspired by something funny for one of the comics and I’ll work on that. 

Last year I quit my day job and went full time with my creative career. I still keep a “work schedule” of sorts and set goals so that I can get work accomplished, especially on days where I’m not motivated. I work 8am-3:30pm each day (when the kids are in school) and then I usually draw in the evening, since that relaxes me. 

S: I love hearing how other authors structure their days. It reminds me that there is no ONE WAY. Lots of ways work. 

Now, I know authors hate this question, but where did you get the idea for your middle grade novel I Text Dead People? What inspired you?

R: I actually love this question! There are so many places to get inspiration. The Idea for I Text Dead People was actually inspired by my teen years. My mom married a mortician and we moved to a very small town. It was difficult starting over at a new school where everyone grew up together and I was basically an “outsider.” It also didn’t help my social status that I lived on the cemetery grounds and my mom became a cosmetician for dead people. At the time, I thought I had the worst life ever. As I grew up, I found the humor in it. I’m a fan of paranormal, so I added ghosts to the story and I Text Dead People was born.

S: Oh my gosh! How did I not know this about you? I think we need to talk more when we hang out. Talk more, write less! 

Tell me this, what’s your favorite part of the writing / illustrating process? Any part of it you absolutely dread?

R: I love having ideas and then turning those ideas into something of substance—whether it’s a story or an illustration. I love that feeling of excitement while creating. It’s a great motivator. I enjoy the whole process—from beginning to end and all the many revisions in between—but if there is one thing I dread, its deadlines.  When I know I have to do something by a certain date, my creativity suddenly shuts off. It’s probably just the pressure of the looming deadline, but I stress more about everything and that sucks the fun out of creating. But, I always push through it and remind myself that without deadlines, there wouldn’t be any books. 

S: Isn't that the truth? Deadlines are a necessary evil. Any advice for our teen writers?

R: Never give up. I know that sounds pretty clichĂ©, but it’s so completely true. Giving up is so easy, especially when things aren’t going great. There will always be rejection, bad reviews, and many negatives at any stage of your career. It doesn’t stop once you publish one book or several. You just need to remember it’s all worth it, once you accomplish what you’ve set out to achieve. You can’t become successful if you quit.  And you don’t want to have any regrets about “what could’ve happened” if you don’t try.

S: See, you guys!? She's brilliant. Listen to her.

Alright, Rose. I'll let you go, but before I do, you must know I’m dying to get a peek at what you’re working on now. Can you share?

R: I’m finished with the deadlines for my next book, The Ungrateful Dead (the 2nd book to I Text Dead People), which comes out September 13, 2016. I’m taking this time to now work on several works in progress, including a picture book and a chapter book. I would also love to complete a graphic novel for young readers.  So while nothing is definite yet, I hope to have something new to bring readers soon!

S: I sincerely hope so too! THANK YOU so much for visiting with us Rose!!! Coffee soon, alright?

AND YOU ALL! My lovely teen writers. To celebrate our Friday with Rose, we're giving away her spooky and delightful middle grade novel, I Text Dead People.  

You guys, she did these illustrations HERSELF. How amazing is that? You want this book. So, use the Rafflecopter below and enter. The giveaway will run until next Thursday when I'll draw a name to be announced on Friday.

And please check out Rose's work. You can find her all over the web. 

Twitter: @RoseCooper

 Happy reading, everyone! Write on!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

#WeWriteBooks, Post 13: How to Write a Scene

Jill Williamson is a chocolate loving, daydreaming, creator of kingdoms. She writes weird books in lots of weird genres like fantasy (Blood of Kings and Kinsman Chronicles), science fiction (Replication), and dystopian (The Safe Lands trilogy). She's currently writing a post-apocalyptic book with all of you called THIRST in conjunction with the #WeWriteBooks series. 

Find Jill on FacebookTwitterPinterest, or on her author website, where you can read THIRST. You can also try two of her fantasy novels for free here and here.

Welcome to week eight of #WeWriteBooks Wednesdays, where we are writing books together. I am writing a book called THIRST and have been posting it one chapter a week over on my author blog. I posted Chapter 6 of THIRST yesterday. Click here to read it.



Week one was genre (THIRST is post-apocalyptic YA). Week two was premise. Here's mine:
A waterborne disease has sprung up in every corner of the globe, decimating the human race. Young survivors Eli McShane and his friends journey toward Colorado and the rumored location of a safe water source.

Week three was storyworld.
Week four: maps and floorplans.
Week five: protagonists and main characters.
Week six: side characters.
Week seven: prewriting.
Week eight: plot structures. 
Week nine: theme.
Week ten: creating a plot outline or list of key scenes.
Week eleven: point of view.
Week twelve: narrative modes.

Today's Topic: How to Write a Scene

A book is comprised of a sequence of scenes. A scene is a unit of action. Every scene in a book should have a reason for being there. It should either characterize or advance the plot. The best scenes do both. There have been many times in my career as I work with editors, that I've had to cut out scenes that I loved because the scenes had no point to them. These were often scenes that characterized but didn't move the story forward. And what little they did to characterize could be worked into another stronger scene. Always try to make each scene do several things.

A good example of this is my first chapter of King's Folly. We are in Wilek's point of view in a disturbing location: the scene of a human sacrifice to the god Barthos. We learn that Wilek is a prince, that he is hoping to be declared Heir, and that he hates these sacrifices. We also learn about the worst memory of his life. And we get to see his practical side as he talks about this with his men afterwards. That scene shows the reader a glimpse of the world Wilek lives in. It sets up the conflict between Wilek and his father--the very conflict that will drive the series forward (good kings vs. evil kings). It foreshadows events that will happen toward the end of the book. And it also gives the reader a glimpse as to the kind of man Wilek is. (You can read that scene free in Darkness Reigns.)

So how do you write a scene?

As I mentioned, you need to have a reason for the scene: something you want to happen that will move the story forward. I try to look at each scene like a mini story. It needs its own beginning, middle, and end. The author should have a goal for that scene. The scene also needs a point of view character, who has his own goal with a logical motivation. It needs an emotional tone. (Is this a romantic scene, a scary one? Intense? Relaxed? Mysterious?) The scene also needs conflict. And it sometimes helps to have a major reveal or a disaster before the end of the scene. And don't forget the logistics:

The players: Who is in this scene?
The location: Where is this scene taking place
The time: When is this scene taking place, both in time of day and time of week/month/year. Even if this isn't mentioned, it's a good idea for you, the author, to know (and maybe even keep a calendar).

Here is a little scene breakdown list I like to use when dissecting a scene:

Author's scene goal:
The players:
POV character:
POV character's goal:
POV character's motivation:
Scene Beginning:
Scene Middle:
Scene End:
Emotional tone:
Major reveal, disaster, etc:

Another powerful way to write or rewrite scenes is to write scenes and sequels. This is something I learned from Dwight Swain in his book, Techniques of the Selling Writer. According to Mr. Swain, a scene is made up of three things that should happen in this, logical order:

1. Goal: This is what your character wants at the start of the scene...
2. Conflict: ...but something starts to thwart that goal...
3. Disaster: ...until something kills the goal altogether.

A sequel is really just the second half of a scene or a subsequent scene. A sequel encompasses the:

1. Reaction: Your character responds (shock, fear, tears, disbelief) then realizes he can’t stay like that forever.
2. Dilemma: So your character looks at the options before him...
3. Decision: ...and makes a choice about what to do next.

And then you’re ready to go back to the top with a new scene, starting with a new 1. Goal and move through the process again.

Below is part of a scene from THIRST. To set this up for you, Eli and his friends have survived a disease that killed over 90% of people on earth. Hannah just joined their group. They are trying to gather supplies and head north, where they are hoping to find a clean water source. The story is written in first person from Eli's point of view. Here is my scene breakdown:

Author's scene goal: I want Eli and Hannah to talk so the reader can learn more about Hannah. I also want to start setting up the obvious: that Logan and Hannah would never be a good romantic match. And I want to continue to characterize Eli. I want Hannah to see how smart he is and how well he knows his friends.
The players: Eli and Hannah are in the front seat. Logan, Shyla, and Davis are in the back seat.
Location: Riding in an army green 2010 Suzuki Equator extended cab truck on Highway 89 north out of Flagstaff, Arizona.
Time: Early morning in mid-July.
POV character: Eli
Character's goal: Get out of town ASAP. To try and keep up a conversation with new girl Hannah.
Character's motivation: Eli is trying to be a leader--to act more mature than he feels. He wants to get to the mountains where he believes it will be safer.
Scene Beginning: Eli gets everyone into the two vehicles and they drive north out of Flagstaff.
Scene Middle: With Logan immersed in a video game, Hannah and Eli start to have a nice conversation.
Scene End: Hannah screams that there is a child standing in the road.
Emotional tone: Tense. Eli feels nervous about being the leader, and he's just had a shock that his sister is dating his best friend.
Conflict: Eli has never been confident talking to girls---especially girls he doesn't know. Plus, Logan interjects several comments that add tension to their conversation.
Major reveal, disaster, etc: Nothing major in this scene besides a child standing in the road.

And here is the start of the scene:

I told everyone to take one last bathroom break and went out and syphoned gas with my new shake syphon and gas cans. Once both vehicles were full and the gas cans re-filled and loaded into the back of the truck, I locked it up and climbed into the cab. 
I was surprised to see Hannah sitting shotgun. 
“Hey,” I said.  
She had her feet up on the dashboard and her hands resting on her knees. She had a fancy manicure job with the glossy with white tips and that ring with the massive diamond gleamed at me. I wanted to ask about her husband or fiancĂ© or whatever, but I didn’t want to risk making her cry.
“They’re fighting over who gets to sit where,” she said. “Lizzie is riding with Zaq, and Jaylee wants to ride with Lizzie but doesn’t want to ride with Logan. But Logan wants to talk to Zaq and said he was there first. Krista says she’s sick of the kids and wants to ride in the van and have the kids ride over here…” She sighed. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been around teenage drama.”
“Sorry,” I said, wincing. “I’d rather not be around it myself. But I’ll tell you right now, Jaylee will win and Logan will be riding with us.”
“Jaylee always wins?”
She raised her eyebrows. “Not with the shaving cream, though.” [FYI, while they were in the store, Eli told Jaylee she could not waste a whole tub packing shaving cream for shaving her legs. Essentials only.] 
Oh. Right. “I guess.”
She smiled and her eyes shifted as they studied my face. “How old are you, Eli?”
Her question made me nervous, though I had no idea why. “Seventeen.” 
“When is your birthday?” 
“March 22.” 
“So you’re closer to sixteen than to eighteen.” 
“Yep. You joined up with a band of teenage crazies. Sorry ’bout that.”
“You act older than most seventeen-year-old boys.”
“I try.” 
The back door on my side opened and Davis climbed up. “Krista said you wanted us to ride with you.” 
“I sure did,” I said, wondering who would parent these two kids since Krista didn’t seem to want the job. 
“I like the new truck,” Davis said from behind me. “It feels bigger in here than in the van.”
“Not much room in there with all the egos,” I mumbled. 
“Waffles?” Davis asked. 
Hannah chuckled. 
Shyla climbed in beside her brother, and Logan got in behind Hannah.  
“I’ve decided to ride in the truck,” Logan said. 
“Sweet. We’re glad to have you.” I grinned at Hannah. “Let’s roll!”

This isn't the end of the scene. (You can read the rest of that scene free here.) It goes on with Eli and Hannah making small talk while the others play video games in the back seat. Before the scene transitions into the next, we learn a little about Hannah---that she was a med student and traveled to Guatemala with Doctors Without Borders. The scene ends when Hannah screams , "Stop!" because there is a child standing in the road. That brings me to the start of a new scene.

We've talked about scenes on Go Teen Writers a lot. Check out some of these posts if you're looking to dig deeper into this topic:

Archived posts on writing and editing scenes:
Writing in Scenes
Arriving Fashionably Late
Arrive Late, Then Leave Early
Scene Breaks v. Section Breaks
Weeding Out Weak Scenes
Writing Scenes and Sequels
Questions to Ask When Editing Scenes
The Internal and the External of Scenes
Editing in Layers: The Big Picture of Your Scene

And for fun:
Writing the Action/Fight Scene
Editing the Action Scene

Assignment Time

Choose one scene in your book and break it down using either my scene breakdown or Dwight Swain's scene and sequel order. Share your breakdown in the comments.

Jill's Scene Breakdown
Author's scene goal:
The players:
POV character:
Character's goal:
Character's motivation:
Scene Beginning:
Scene Middle:
Scene End:
Emotional tone:
Major reveal, disaster, etc:

Dwight Swain's Scene and Sequel

1. Goal:
2. Conflict:
3. Disaster:

1. Reaction:
2. Dilemma:
3. Decision:


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Information about the Chapter One Young Writers Conference

Hey, writers! Below is information about the Chapter One Young Writer's Conference, which is held in the Chicago area on August 6th. I haven't been, but it looks pretty sweet! Here are the details:

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If you haven’t yet heard of it, the first Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) took place in Chicago in 2012 with six teenagers in attendance in person and countless others attending via an online live stream. It was an experiment limited to members of the Scholastic’s Write It community and their friends: could they, a group of teenagers from across North America, really get together and run their own conference? The answer soon became apparent: yes. So, wanting others to be able to enjoy the experience too, the team took the conference public.
Because the teen writing community is a particularly vibrant one, Ch1Con is proud to say they are the only writing conference by young writers, for young writers. The team comprises a number of high school and college-age writers with different experience levels who work to create a unique, inclusive experience for writers their age. The conference, with its subset focus on the young adult novel, has and continues to bring teens together to hear from accomplished speakers of their own age, participate in professional workshops, and celebrate the influence young writers have on the world. With an atmosphere combining professional conference aspects with the awesomeness of a teen hangout, Ch1Con is a true can’t-miss experience!
This year, Ch1Con is bigger and brighter than ever, with more team members, more year-round online events, and a new roundup of fantastic speakers for the in-person conference, which will take place on Saturday, August 6th in St. Charles, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago. Registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers from a middle school to undergraduate level (approximately ages eleven to twenty-three) and at an early bird discount price of $74.99. The full speaker lineup is up on the website, featuring Susan Dennard, author of a number of YA hits including her new fantasy novel, New York Times bestseller TRUTHWITCH, Francesca Zappia, author of the acclaimed YA contemporary MADE YOU UP, and more.
Between the awesome presentations and workshops, attendees will have the chance to participate in literary trivia games and giveaways, with prizes including professional critiques, signed books, and ARCs. There will also be a speaker panel open to any and all questions at the end of the conference followed by a book and swag signing by the speakers. During downtime, all participants are free to enjoy the writing retreat-style atmosphere of the area, relax in the beautiful hotel, and network with each other, establishing vital connections that can make careers and create lifelong friendships.
The 2016 conference will be held at a brand new venue, the St. Charles Hilton Garden Inn, with sessions running from 8:30am to 5:00pm on Saturday the 6th of August. Tickets for transport and room reservations can be purchased online with links on the conference’s Travel page. Early bird registration is currently open at this link with adult registration for those 18+ and youth registration (with parental/guardian consent) for those under 18.
So if you’re a writer from middle school to undergraduate age and you’re interested in this opportunity, register ASAP! With a growing number of young writers discovering the magic of this event, seats are sure to sell out fast, and the early bird price ends June 1st. For more information and to join in on the Ch1Con community online, check out these links:
Twitter: @Ch1Con

The Chapter One Young Writers Conference. Every story needs a beginning. This is ours