YA

Immerse Yourself – Do Writerly Things and You Will Be a Writer!

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This past weekend was a major ‘Writerly Weekend‘ for me. Well, technically the weekend actually began Thursday night. That was the night I was locked into Trafalgar Castle in Whitby, Ontario. As one of six playwrights taking part in Driftwood Theatre’s Trafalgar24 Play Creation Festival, I was given headshots of two actors, a theme and a room in the castle in which to set my play. Oh, and eight hours to write it! (-:

This is the first of my 5 Trafalgar24 playwright gigs where I knew of the actors prior to writing my play. Let me tell you how much more intimidating that is! I had the amazingly talented Christopher Kelk and the equally stunning Adriano Sobretodo JR. I think I spent the first thirty minutes or so just looking at their headshots and thinking, ‘I have to write words that will come out of these two mouths!!!???‘ I have seen Adriano in various TV roles and I have had the good fortune of witnessing Christopher lob one after the other of his Trafalgar24 roles out of the park…not to mention some of his other works. They are both veterans in their field.

After my initial shock, I sat down to write a play. I really was incredibly fortunate to get two such talented actors. To be honest, I have yet to see a Trafalgar24 actor I wasn’t totally impressed with. The event attracts the best of the best to the ever-shifting ‘stages’ of Trafalgar Castle.

This was the first year I tackled a drama for Trafalgar. I just couldn’t put Christopher in a comedy. Talk about taking chances! But I believe the risk paid off. After seeing the play performed on Friday night, I knew I had made the right choice. Both actors performed beautifully, and the director, Carly Chamberlain, made some excellent choices in choosing the business of the play. I loved the direction. It’s the same every year. On Friday morning, I feel as though I am leaving the castle having left behind this meager offering of a few words on paper. And then the elves show up and make my Walmart flip-flops into Jimmy Choos. Every year, the director and actors transform my play into something far more spectacular than it was when I was finished with it. Theatre is such an extremely interactive and collaborative thing, and I am always amazed by the contribution that goes into a play once the words are on paper. It’s sheer magic.

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I did say it was a writerly weekend, right? Well, the WCDR Roundtable Meeting took place on Saturday. This was a special edition Roundtable. I was part of the planning committee for the WCDR U25 Panel Discussion, and it was an absolute pleasure to see it come to fruition. The panel was made up of Middle Grade (MG), Young Adult (YA) and New Adult (NA) authors. And my own agent, Stacey Donaghy, moderated the event (quite beautifully, I might add).

When we set out to create this particular Roundtable Meeting, we had the concept of a mini half-day conference in mind. And that is exactly how it panned out. We had 3 agents on hand, taking pitch sessions from hopeful authors. We had the panel discussion, and workshops for both adults and young adults. There is a writing contest for the young adults who attended, we had a tremendous load of giveaways which were collected by various sponsors. The whole thing just had the feel of a conference, tightly compacted into a few hours on a Saturday morning.

To get the whole story of what you missed, click here. (-:

We were thrilled to have the following authors on the panel: Deborah Kerbel, Joanne Levy, K.A. Tucker, Norah McClintock, and Lesley Livingston. And sponsorship! We had sponsorship. (-: Penguin Random House, Writescape, and Ink Slingers were all generous in their sponsorship of the event.

The Panel - A Phono
The Panel – A Phono

I can’t really take all that much credit for U25. The brains behind the event was my writing friend, M-E Girard, someone who, herself, will be sitting on panels in the very near future. Remember her name. She’s a kickass writer who is about to explode onto the horizon. (-: As I recently stepped down from the WCDR Board of Directors, M-E did the lion’s share of the work on U25. And she did it up beautifully. I was happy to be slightly involved.

M-E and I, being silly at the podium. If Ellen can do it at the Oscars, we can do it at the WCDR Roundtable Meeting. (-:
M-E and I, being silly at the podium. If Ellen can do it at the Oscars, we can do it at the WCDR Roundtable Meeting. (-:

For those in the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) who missed the WCDR U25 Panel Discussion, don’t forget that the WCDR Roundtable Meetings happen every month but one…throughout the year. Every one is a nugget for writers. You should seriously check them out. They take place in Ajax, Ontario…which, believe it or not, is only about half an hour from downtown Toronto. If you’re in Toronto, don’t be shy…because the Writers’ Community of Durham Region welcomes EVERYONE. And, honestly, there is life EAST OF THE CITY. The WCDR is only a short ride away. And it is a VAST and welcoming community. So over the top worth the drive. CHECK OUT THE MONTHLY MEETINGS HERE.

Whatever you do, and wherever you do it…make sure you’re getting enough WRITERLY things into your life. They validate the journey. Trust me! The more you live the writing life, the easier it gets. And TAKE CHANCES. Stretch your limits. Try things you never thought in a million years you could pull off. When I first petitioned Driftwood Theatre to take part in my first Trafalgar24 event, I had exactly ZERO plays under my belt. I didn’t let that stop me. We grow when we push ourselves. We discover that we’re stronger than we thought we were. Next time you see a writerly opportunity that sounds amazing, whether or not you feel confident enough to tackle it, take it on! You may have to put on your superhero suit…but that’s okay. Whatever works, right. Now go forth, and conquer your writing life. It’s waiting for you…

Announcement: Another YA Novel SOLD! Burn Baby, Burn Baby to be Published

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I am beyond thrilled to announce the sale of my 5th novel, Burn Baby, Burn Baby, to Andrew Buckley at Curiosity Quills! Huge thanks and appreciation, once more, to my agent, Stacey Donaghy of DONAGHY LITERARY GROUP! Burn Baby, Burn Baby is a young adult novel. Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement on the sale:

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And, once again…a huge thank you to the organizers, volunteers and my fellow writers at the MUSKOKA NOVEL MARATHON! Burn Baby, Burn Baby will be my 4th Muskoka Novel Marathon novel to be published (Sebastian’s Poet, The Reasons, and, Half Dead & Fully Broken were also MNM novels). Burn Baby was written during the 2012 MNM. It’s gotten to the point where I’m not quite sure I can even write a novel without doing it in a marathon setting.

The Muskoka Novel Marathon, for those who do not know, is a novel writing marathon that takes place in Huntsville, Ontario, every July. It’s a 72-hr marathon and there are usually about 30 writers on hand at each one. The writers each write a novel during the course of the weekend marathon. The most important part…it’s a fundraiser for literacy. Every writer in attendance gets sponsorship pledges, just as one would do for any fundraising marathon. All funds go to the YMCA of Simcoe/Muskoka Literary Services. The tagline for the marathon is, WRITERS SUPPORTING READERS. Over the course of the marathon history, there has been close to $100,000.00 raised to help fight illiteracy. That, in itself, is worth it. But the benefit to the writers in attendance is IMMEASURABLE! It’s truly a magical weekend. I would recommend the novel marathon experience to writers everywhere.

This announcement comes on the heels of my announcement for the sale of HALF DEAD AND FULLY BROKEN!

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Burn Baby, Burn Baby will be published in the Fall of 2014.

Writers Get the Last Word – Bullies Beware

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One of the things I enjoy the most about writing YA are the issues involved. It’s true that one must be careful about coming off too preachy or soap-boxy when tackling the issues today’s teen faces. Nobody wants to read a story in which issues are crammed down their throats.

One of the issues I enjoy tackling the most? THE BULLY. Why? Because I was bullied relentlessly in high school. What I like to get across to my teen readers is that IT REALLY DOES GET BETTER. Sure, there are bullies out here in the adult world. But often we learn along the way that we (THE BULLIED) actually hold all the power. In high school, my bullies held the power only because I allowed them to do so. I didn’t know I could put up shields to block their negativity. That I could survive all the physical attacks. That one day I would be free of them. When I was in the thick of high school, just trying to survive the hallways, I was sure I wasn’t going to make it out alive. Because I allowed them to control me with the fear they instilled in me. I allowed them to tear me apart. I allowed them to get inside my head.

Before I go any further, I have to point out the one saying I hate the most: STICKS AND STONES MAY BREAK MY BONES BUT NAMES WILL NEVER HURT ME. That is the biggest crock of shit going. Don’t sell it here, because it’s not true.

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Names hurt. They leave a lasting scar. When it comes right down to it, the names are carried with the bullied victim far longer than the sticks and stones. In high school I was thrown in front of a moving car, punched and kicked almost daily, pushed down the stairs, tripped, had chairs and food thrown at me. Some of those things stung. The moving car incident hurt the driver more than it hurt me. The woman behind the wheel was in her 70s, and I’m not sure she ever recovered from the trauma caused to her that day. The thing about the physical abuse is…I knew how to process it. It hurt.

The names…another story completely. The names get in your head and drill themselves down into your psyche. Twenty years later, when you’re having a bad day and feeling somewhat worthless, those names pop back into your head in the form of TOLD-YOU-SOs. Just a little self-doubt is all it takes for the wellspring of negativity to turn back on. And you get to hear those old recordings in the voices of those loathed bullies themselves. It’s miraculous how that happens.

If you let it.

I can’t even imagine what today’s teens go through…with cyber bullying. They must never get a break. Social Media bullying sounds like a nightmare onto itself. Makes me cringe just thinking about it.

But you can turn the cycle around. You can take the power back. I know. It’s hard work. But it can be done. The moment we stop letting it get to us is the moment the power shifts. Where does the bully come from? Chances are your bully is a swirling mess of non-confidence on the inside. Chances are they are suffering. Chances are they are unhappy, unfulfilled, unsatisfied. They might even be experiencing bullying themselves. Maybe at home, where it is hardest to imagine it happening. We should all have a safe-place to lay our heads at night.

When I tried to be empathetic towards my bullies, I found things a little easier. I found I could forgive some of their anger…that it might not all be about me. Who could hate the way a person looks THAT much? Who could want to kill you because you have a mohawk and dress like a crazy person? There was more to it than met the eye. My bullies were simply suffering in a different way than I myself was suffering.

It’s hard to grow a thick skin, but not impossible. Bullies can’t hold you down forever. There is light at the end of the narrow high school tunnel. Believe it or not.

As a YA writer, I now have the ability to create bullies and show how very fallible they are. Often they appear to be the cream of the high school crop…but this is not always the case. What I get to do is save my bullied characters from their bully. It’s liberating. It shows readers that maybe the bully doesn’t always win. Believe me, when you’re in high school fighting the battle day in and day out…you’re CERTAIN the bully wins. When you’re on the ground, with one side of your face scraping asphalt and the other side being stepped on by the guy who just can’t wait to ruin your day, you tend to forget the possibility of a bully-free future. With the tunnel vision that comes with being in high school, one really can’t imagine a day when they will be bully free.

Some thirty years ago, I always allowed the bully to get the last word. I was afraid not to. They controlled me. Sure, I had my days where I got lippy. I would just get fed up and say my piece…because I needed to. But I knew that for every deposit I made into the bank of TALKING-BACK, I’d have to make a withdrawal out of the bank of TAKE-A-BEATING. I paid for every word I uttered in my own defense. It was the way it went.

Today, I get the last word. I get to write these bully characters into corners. I get to dissect them. I get to confront them. I get to say, NO MORE. WE’RE NOT GOING TO TAKE IT ANY MORE. Writing is an extremely powerful form of self-therapy. And the finished product has the potential of helping others. If my writing on bullies (or any of the other YA issues I happen to tackle) helps one reader–only one–I feel it’s worth it. Because I know how easy it is to forget that your high school bullies won’t be making your life a living hell for the rest of your life. But I know that NOW…because I’ve been through it. When I was in the heart of it, I considered these people my lifelong shadows. I was filled with despair whenever I thought of going to school. I knew they would find me. I knew I would have to fend off their slings and arrows time and time again…forever.

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I have to remind people that they will be free. There will come a day…

 

Announcement: Half Dead & Fully Broken Sold!

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It is with GREAT PLEASURE that I announce the sale of my young adult novel, HALF DEAD & FULLY BROKEN!

Here’s the announcement from Publisher’s Marketplace:

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My sincere thanks and gratitude to my wonderful agent, STACEY DONAGHY of DONAGHY LITERARY GROUP!

Half Dead & Fully Broken was written at the July 2010 Muskoka Novel Marathon in Huntsville, Ontario. It went on to win the 2010 BEST YOUNG ADULT NOVEL AWARD.

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Once again, I find myself thanking the good (angelic) folks at the Muskoka Novel Marathon. And not only the organizers, who work tirelessly year in and year out to give us writers a magical space in which to create our fictional worlds. No, when I say the folks at the Muskoka Novel Marathon, I mean EVERYONE. My fellow writers, the volunteers who feed and fuel us, the venue people…everyone. Without the Muskoka Novel Marathon, I wouldn’t have so many novels under my belt. Together, they’ve created the perfect environment for me to write in. It takes a village to get me to write a novel. Truly. Whatever the magic elixir is, it works. When I get to the MNM in Huntsville every July, I suddenly have the kind of focus needed to put together a novel. And I am truly grateful to be a part of the magic. So thank you all!

Half Dead is my third Muskoka Novel Marathon novel to be published. (-:

Finally, I’d like to thank Andrew Buckley and Curiosity Quills. I’m thrilled that Half Dead has found a home, and I’m doubly thrilled that it was Andrew who opened the door and let us in. (-: