Monday, April 14, 2014

SCBWI WWA 2014 Recap

I had a great time at the SCBWI-WWA conference this past weekend. Once again, I met a number of incredibly kind and generous people. I feel lucky to be a part of this warm and intelligent community and I look forward to getting more involved in the coming years.

My conference highlights:

Master class: A Character Calls with Franny Billingsley
            Take-aways: Character is tied to plot. A character’s root desire fuels her obsession a.k.a. the method she believes she must use to achieve her desire.

State of the State of Publishing: Justin Chanda
            Take-aways: Don't worry; kidlit is thriving. The industry is cyclical and moving away from YA.

Keynote: This Speech Could Save Your Life by Kim Baker
            Take-aways: Kim Baker is freaking awesome and I want to be her friend.

Actions Speak as Loud as Words: Claudia Gabel
            Take-aways: Revise in waves. Outline your plot (perhaps in 3 acts).

Creating the Fictional Dream: Franny Billingsley
            Take-aways: Sensory language is the way to enhance the inner and outer world of your character. Let her bounce her feelings off the tangible, sensory details of her environment.

Keynote: From Mind Worms to Lizard Brains by Franny Billingsley
            Take-aways: Fear is located in the ancient parts of our brain. A character may be stuck with irrational fear and it is the plot’s job to shake her out of her comfort zone and move her from fear to love.

I would also like to thank the following individuals for kind words that made me feel welcome this year: Kelly Jones, Claudia Gabel, Franny Billingsley, Jan  O’Neil, Tina Hoggat, Linda Johns, Clare Hodgson Meeker, Q Lindsey Barrett, and Vanessa Torres.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Lady in Blue Update

All is well here. Happy to report that my WIP's first draft is almost finished after a lovely retreat to Port Townsend with the Lindle girls this past weekend. We stayed in a fabulous haunted Victorian inn, wined and dined ourselves silly, and even snuck in a viewing of Philomena at the Starlight Room. Besides getting loads of writing done, my favorite part of the trip was staying up late discussing all the great and terrible questions of our lives. So nice to have the company of smart women.

My writing self is deeply in love with Port Townsend, and I'm not alone. Apparently there is quite a large community of artists and writers who live or vacation there, and the area hosts one of the oldest literary conferences in America.

In other news, since the start of 2014, I've been volunteering at 826 Seattle. At first I wasn't sure if I'd feel comfortable in an environment so different from the school where I taught for 8 years. It turns out to be a wonderful place full of dedicated and creative people. I feel lucky that I happened to pick Wednesday mornings as the staff and volunteers that day are spectacular.

So that's me. I'm signed up to attend the SCBWI-WWA conference again next month. Gearing up for major rewrites of my WIP. Spring blooms on the horizon. So much to look forward to. I'll toast to that.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Avalin in the Cave

My brilliant brother, Christopher T. Bishop, made this stunning image for my middle grade novel, The One the Empress Hunts. 

Thank you, Christopher. I am speechless.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Sirens Conference 2013

This month I attended Sirens, a conference devoted entirely to women and fantasy literature. Sirens takes place about five hours outside of Seattle, so Darian, Lola, and I drove down together. We stopped for lunch and laughs on our way.

Darian, Burt, and Lola
When we first arrived to the gorgeous (ha!) setting of the Columbia River, I was certain we were in a magical place. 

And indeed we were! We were soon surrounded by smart, feisty, fascinating women, and among them many well-respected and celebrated authors. More than a few times, I found myself thinking "I want to be just like her when I grow up". 

The small size of the conference made it feel intimate and personal compared to the other, larger writing conferences I experienced this year. Many thanks to all the folks who worked so hard to make Sirens happen. Here are a few of my personal highlights:

Keynote ~ by Alaya Dawn Johnson, author of The Summer Prince
-Spoke about her process, her love of travel, and how her racial identity and life experiences have shaped the way she writes characters who are often in-between.

Anchoring your Fantasy with Reality ~ Panel by Delia Sherman, Caroline Stevermer, and Nancy Werlin
-Helpful discussion of the way that place, time period, and season must be well-researched in fantasy, even as worlds are invented. The more real the world, the more successful the fantasy.

Gender Masquerades 2.0 ~ Panel by Ellen Kushner, Kate Elliot, Mette Ivie Harrison, Malinda Lo, and s.e. smith
-Challenging and thought-provoking conversation about how simple gender swapping and conversion has, must, and will become more complex as the full spectrum of gender identities is explored in fantasy lit.

Keynote ~ by Robin LaFevers, author of Grave Mercy
-Bravely spoke about her own history, process, and why we must write stories for girls and women. 
      -“The quest for perfection can be a brutal stand-in for the messages we receive from others.”
      -“As women… we need room to fail gloriously.”
      -“Shame often comes disguised as help.”
      -“Our dragon is the expectations of society, that keep us from being the hero in our own story.”
      -“Even as we create stories, we make a new one for ourselves.”

The Question of Girlhood – Roundtable by Ysabeau Wilce, author of The Flora Fyrdraaca Series
- We discussed theories about how and why girls go on adventures and what to make of girlhood as an obstacle itself. Take-aways from the conversation:
     -When girls take on “boy traits” we must examine what message that sends to readers.
     -The risk of rape is one of the primary reasons girls are kept sheltered and 'protected' from 
      adventure in most fantasy lit.
     -Magical band-aids for rape, pregnancy, and sexual power are not satisfying to some readers.
     -Boys are at risk of rape too, but this is often ignored.
     -We need to write and imagine worlds where girls are safe and empowered so that society can move      in that direction. We must "imagine it before we can become it." (Not sure who said that!)
     -We can’t worry about “getting it perfect” in our books because, ultimately, we are still situated and        cannot see all.

Keynote ~ Guadalupe Garcia McCall, author of Under the Mesquite
-Beautiful and vibrant talk about how this author came to be published and the personal inspirations behind her writing.

Keynote ~ by Ellen Kushner, author of Thomas the Rhymer 
-This was more performance than speech, and featured Ellen singing ancient ballads, playing guitar, and reading from the book that won her the World Fantasy Award. And by the way, Ellen and her partner, Delia, are two of the loveliest people I've ever met. They seemed to make everyone feel important and loved. Fairy folk, methinks.

I won’t record here all the other snippets of conversation and shared moments that were inspiring and important to me, but I assure you, my notebook is full. 

A woman we met named Erynn made a typewriter dress for the ball. Incredible.

On the way back to Seattle, we stopped to visit a life-size replica of Stonehenge that just happens to be in Southern Washington. Because we’re cool like that. And because clearly that is the only way you should round off a weekend of feminism and fantasy.

Like what you see? Come with us next year!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Illustrator Extraordinaire

My brother just moved to LA and recently set up his professional website. Chris is interested in job opportunities as a Story Artist, Concept Artist, and Character Animator.  He is a gifted artist, and yes, I realize I'm biased, so here is proof:

And here's a link to his website: Christopher T. Bishop

If you're very clever, and search his site carefully, you might find a sample of what he's working on for me these days. More on that soon.

In the meantime, I'm off to the Sirens Conference tomorrow. Woo hoo!

Friday, September 13, 2013

Summer Update

Hello there! Summer has flown by and I’m enjoying the slow change of seasons here in Seattle. September is likely my favorite month because of things like this:

and this:

and this:

It’s been divine to spend more time writing this time of year. I don’t miss fretting about the start of school, but of course I do miss my students, co-workers, and the bustle and energy of teaching life.

Still, I’m taking better care of myself than I have in a very long time, and finding that I really do have something to write about every day. I’m well into my new WIP and am still following leads on behalf of TOTEH. Here are some other exciting happenings over the past month:

Writing Retreat- Took a lovely mini-break with Darian and Lola to their parents’ house in Mill Creek. It was just the right amount of writing and relaxation. And I dyed my hair blue. (Because that’s what’s supposed to happen at slumber parties.)

Critique Group- Met with my ladies of the pen again and had some great conversations about our work. 

Online Writing Chats- Continuing to cherish this support. One of the ladies in this group, Kelly Jones, recently sold her first book to Knopf! More on that as she gets closer to publication.

World of Myth and Magic – Visited the EMP’s fantasy exhibit with Darian for her (belated) birthday. It was AWESOME. Highly recommended. 

Queen Anne Book Company – Visited this fantastic indy book store and chatted with one of the (incredibly sweet) booksellers there. Another enthusiastic recommendation.

And that about sums it up! 

Upcoming Events:
Hobbit Day – May I never be too cool for Hobbit Day.

Sirens Conference- Just a few weeks away! Yippee!!

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

PNWA Conference Recap

This past weekend I attended the PNWA Conference. I was extremely nervous about the conference going in because

A) I was going alone
B) I would be pitching to agents and editors
C) I was a finalist (!) in the middle grade literary contest

Each of these facts turned out to be delightful opportunities. Because I was alone, I met several lovely, brilliant people and had conversations about everything from writing, to publishing, to parenting and work. I shared some of my greatest hopes and fears with total strangers, and it was incredibly liberating. In particular, I spent a lot of time with a very kind mystery writer from Japan, Charles Kowalski. (Can’t wait til he hits it big and I get to say “I knew him when”! Go Charles!)

Because I pitched to agents and editors, I learned to think about my work in a different way and I practiced the fine art of “boiling it down”. In the end, I pitched to five industry professionals, (not including one very kind agent who I practiced with though I knew she would pass). Three of them requested a full MS and one requested a partial. Regardless of what comes of these requests, it was an affirming and uplifting experience to pitch. The agents and editors who attended were truly gracious, tireless, and friendly.

Last, but not least, being a finalist meant that I got to wear a snazzy badge all weekend. Many folks congratulated me and I was totally giddy when my name and photo were flashed at the awards ceremony. Alas, I didn’t win, but two other folks at my table did and it was fun to celebrate with them. And, there’s always next time…

All in all, the PNWA conference was a positive experience. Many of the workshops were helpful, pitching was rewarding, and networking was downright fun. Many thanks to the organizers and volunteers who made it possible and best of luck to all the great folks who attended.