A Final Round Up

It’s been a great year and a half for Team Rogue YA. With the whole’s team’s books published and many more on the way, there’s been loads of good news all around. So let’s take a look at what the team’s been up to and what they’re looking forward to in the years to come.

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Ava Jae

 

 

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Sarah Glenn Marsh

 

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Kate Ormand

 

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Stephanie Kate Strohm

 

 

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Natasha Sinel

  • The Fix published September 1, 2015 and won the Independent Book Publisher Award gold medal.

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Olivia Rivers

 

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Ami Allen-Vath

 

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Jill MacKenzie

 

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Jessica Taylor

 

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Brianna Shrum

 

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Michele Bacon

 

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Tara Sim

  • Timekeeper published November 8, 2016.
  • Two untitled sequels will be published in 2017 and 2018.

 

 

As we come to a close, from Team Rogue YA to you, we’re wishing you a very happy holiday season and many wonderful bookish years to come!

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Outside the Comfort Zone by Stephanie Kate Strohm

inmiy-ccvrThe first time I sat down at my computer to start the draft of what would become Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink, I found my voice immediately. Past tense. First person. A female narrator who sounded, well, a lot like me. It wasn’t a conscious choice I made, like I’d debated the respective merits of different tenses and perspectives and voices, it just happened. And once I started, I barely stopped. It just flowed effortlessly, seemingly endlessly, like I was talking to a friend – and God knows I never run out of things to say. My fingers could barely keep up with my brain as I chronicled Libby’s adventures in Maine. And at the time, it never occurred to me that I’d write anything but female first-person in the past tense. After all, that was how all of the “chick lit” books I love were written – Bridget Jones, and Becky Bloomwood, and all of Jennifer Weiner’s heroines spoke to me just like I hoped my main characters would speak to my readers.

I’m a big believer in “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” It’s hard for me to let go of what’s comfortable. I wore a pair of pajama pants I’d purchased as a freshman at my college bookstore until they literally disintegrated around my ankles. (R.I.P., plaid PJ pants. Still miss you guys.) And I probably would never have stepped out of my comfort zone if it hadn’t been for a call from my agent.

An editor she had worked with at Scholastic was looking for someone to write a typical YA love story in the format of an oral history. I said yes, of course I would write sample chapters, of course I would write a proposal, because whenever I heard the words “YA love story,” I’m in. And then I began feverishly Googling what an oral history is.

According to Wikipedia, a source I shouldn’t use but almost always do, “oral history is the collection and study of historical information about individuals, families, important events, or everyday life using audiotapes, videotapes, or transcriptions of planned interviews.” From what I could best tell, reading different examples of the genre, oral histories read like the transcripts of interviews that have been spliced together to tell the complete story of an event or particular time in history. (And may I recommend this fantastic oral history, if you’re curious?) So I set out to write my very own fictional oral history.

“You love writing dialogue,” everyone assured me. “This’ll be easy!” And it was. Sometimes. And sometimes it was the most frustrating thing I’d done since I’d been forced to take the math section of the SATs. There were still lines I’d written that I loved, still moments where I felt my characters voices easily ringing true, where every word felt right, but there were also times where I had to delete everything because none of it made sense, where I had to lose lines I loved because they didn’t work with the format, where I’d just stop and stare at my computer, trying to figure out where to go next and how I’d gotten where I was. I had to think, and plan, and problem-solve in a much more intense way than I ever had before. And when all of that coalesced into the finished product of It’s Not Me, It’s You, I couldn’t have been prouder.

I’m so glad working with a different format nudged me out of my comfort zone. I’ve now written a second book in the oral history format (The Date to Save out next September!), which was also fantastically fun and frustrating. But maybe even more importantly, writing these books pushed me to take risks and try different things. I’m working on a new project now that’s written in the third person and told from two different perspectives – one of which is male – something I never would have attempted before. Honestly, my only wish is that I’d started trying new things sooner. So I encourage you to leap outside of your comfort zone. Or maybe even just step one big toe outside of it. You might find it’s a lot more comfortable than you’d think.

 

 

Stephanie Kate Strohm is the author of YA novels Pilgrims Don’t Wear Pink and Confederates Don’t Wear Couture, and The Taming of the Drew.  When she’s not writing, she can usually be found baking delicious pies, knitting hideous scarves, and sneaking her dog, Lorelei, into shops all over Chicago. For more info, like Stephanie on facebook, follow her on twitter and check out her blog.

To MFA or Not to MFA by Jill MacKenzie

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Photo credit: dabravo on Flickr

I had never planned on going back to school to obtain my MFA in Creative Writing. To be clear, I used to be one of those grass-roots writers who thought that while writing could be helped through conferences and critique groups, it couldn’t be taught; you either “had it” or you didn’t. But after an author I greatly respected painted a gleaming picture of what an MFA would do for my career, the idea hooked inside of me and wouldn’t let go. If I wanted to be a good writer—instead of just a decent writer—an MFA was imperative.

And here I am, smack dab in my second year inside of a respected MFA program.

And here I am, still not knowing if it’s worth it.

Don’t get me wrong. For the simple reason that I am, on a daily basis, surrounded by accomplished, talented writers, I know that doing my MFA isn’t hurting me, per se. But what I don’t know is if it’s helping my craft any. On one hand, reading others’ work far superior to my own should, in turn, help the quality of my work increase. The problem is, I’m spending so many hours reading my classmates’ work each week that I barely have time to work on my own stories anymore. I miss my muse. And until now, I’ve never written at this snail’s pace, one chapter a week if I’m lucky. Usually, by the time I do sit down to work on my own novel-in-progress, my mind blanks and I’m so burnt out on stories in general that I can’t remember why I began writing stories at all.

Sometimes I feel as if I’m paying huge amounts of money to read and read and never write again.

Sometimes I feel as if I’d never be as good as I am right now if I didn’t enroll in my program.

My school is a special one. Unlike other MFA programs, mine requires each writer to study three areas of Creative Writing. Though my specialty has always been YA Literature, through my courses, I’ve also studied adult fiction and poetry and, this summer, I’ll be studying playwriting as well. Branching out like this—something I wouldn’t have done if my MFA hadn’t mandated it—can only be good for my craft, right?

But what about my novel? I haven’t worked on it in weeks and that fact alone is making me fidgety. But I’m trying to adopt a long-term view of this process. In the immediate now, I’m frustrated at the reduced time I have to work on my own stories. But—I try to remember—it is only the immediate now. Isn’t it?

I can’t honestly say whether I recommend doing an MFA—and that fact scares me. But what I do know with utmost certainty is that if you’re considering taking your MFA, consider these points and questions thoroughly before you do:

  1. What is your goal in obtaining your MFA? Is it to improve your craft or is it to, perhaps, one day teach Creative Writing at an academic level?
  1. It’s no secret to anyone that grad school is expensive. But how will the loss of funds you will experience in paying for grad school affect you? How will it change the amount of time you need to work in order to pay for it?
  1. If you have settled on applying for a MFA program, do your research. Find a grad school that fits your needs. Are you looking for minimal or optional residency? Are you looking to focus on one area of study or are you hoping to branch out your interests?
  1. And above all else, put some thought into it! Don’t jump in and make decisions about going to grad school without taking the time to visualize how it will affect your writing and your time.

 

Jill MacKenzie is the author of YA read SPIN THE SKY, which will be released by Sky Pony in Fall 2016. Because Jill is currently completing her MFA at the University of British Columbia (which is kicking her a** so far she can’t even see straight), Jill spends every single second of her time writing and, of course, reading banned books.

My Top 5 Halloween Reading Recommendations and the 5 Books I Hope to Read This Halloween by Kate Ormand

Halloween is my favourite time of year to plan for reading-wise. I love a good spooky book – a ghost story, a crime thriller, a gothic horror novel – so as today is Halloween, I’m sharing my top 5 Halloween recommendations as well as the 5 books I’m planning to read this October.

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Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke

In fact, any book by April Genevieve Tucholke is perfect for this time of year, but Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is my favourite. This book had me under its spell from page one—the moody atmosphere, the small town setting, the gothic scenery, the constant sense of unease.

 

The Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters

With great imagination, an interesting twist, historical photographs, and a fresh voice, Cat Winters is a true talent to be celebrated. I loved all of her books (adult and YA) but this one in particular is a Halloween fave.

 

The Accident Season by Moïra Fowley-Doyle

With a secrets booth, tarot cards, a haunted house, a whispering river, dream catchers in the trees, and dolls on the forest floor, The Accident Season is bursting with personality and atmosphere. It’s a strange and beautiful book and I loved it!

 

The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

Utterly gripping and spectacularly scary. I loved the way this one was written. Prepare for a scare that slowly creeps up on you… Brilliantly done. Great for fans of Stephen King’s Carrie.

 

Hotel Ruby by Suzanne Young (aka Hotel For the Lost)

This was absolutely brilliant! I got an American Horror Story vibe, which I loved, but found this more quietly creepy. The Ruby is enticing and puts readers at ease even though there’s a constant sense of wrongness hanging over it. Very cleverly done – I enjoyed it immensely.

 

The 5 Books I Hope to Read This Year

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The Creeper Man by Dawn Kurtagich (aka And the Trees Crept In) 

The Shadow House: Gathering by Dan Poblocki

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova

Shutter by Courtney Alameda 

Welcome to the Dark House by Laurie Faria Stolarz

I will have likely/hopefully read most of these by the time this post goes live, so check out my Twitter and Instagram (both @kateormand) for thoughts!

Happy Halloween!

Kate Ormand is YA author of DARK DAYS and THE WANDERERS. She lives in the UK with her family, her partner, and a cocker spaniel called Freddie. She graduated from university with a first class degree in Fine Art Painting. It was during this course that Kate discovered her love of reading YA books, prompting her to try a new creative angle and experiment with writing. Kate is also member and co-creator of an online group of published writers and illustrators called Author Allsorts. And she writes children’s picture books under the name Kate Louise. Kate is represented by Isabel Atherton at Creative Authors Ltd. You can see more about Kate and her writing by visiting her website (www.kateormand.wordpress.com) or on Twitter (@kateormand).

Social Media Breaks for Writers by Jessica Taylor

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Photo credit: Jason Howie on Flickr

Building an online presence isn’t only for the social aspect. There’s an expectation on writers to have a following—and not only once they have a book deal. No, building a Twitter following is a process writers are expected to start long before they have a book deal and sometimes before they even have an agent. Writers are typically an introverted bunch—after all, writing and revising a novel takes a lot of alone time at the computer—but what happens when social media is no longer simply an imposition but actually anxiety inducing?

Blame it on the comparison game or a looming deadline (or blame it on the triggering effects of the presidential election) but a lot of my writer friends are finding themselves in need of some time away. Taking a break from Twitter can feel counterproductive to a writer’s goals, especially when they’ve worked hard to build a following they worry they’ll lose.

In early 2015, I sacrificed my emotional well being for that very reason. If I had it to do over, I would have taken the time off—I wish I’d committed to self care sooner. Even though I’ve moved past that year and my anxiety has mostly vanished, there are still days where I feel the need to take a step back. When it’s only a short break I need, I take a mini break. Giving myself permission to stay off Twitter for a day or two is usually enough time for me to recharge. If there’s something big coming up (like a friend celebrating some big book news I want to tweet about), I try to take a few minutes to log in. Sometimes I commit to only checking social media for ten or twenty minutes per day. That self-imposed time limit makes a world of difference, in my commitment to self care and even…my word count.

What are some ways you cope with social media? Have you ever taken a prolonged break? Wishing everyone an anxiety-free October!

 

Jessica Taylor adores atmospheric settings, dangerous girls, and characters who sneak out late at night. Her debut novel, WANDERING WILD, received a starred review from VOYA and is available now. Her next two novels, starting with A MAP FOR LOST GIRLS, will be published in fall of 2017 and 2018 by Dial Books for Young Readers/Penguin. She lives in Northern California with a few degrees she’s not using, one dog, and many teetering towers of books. Follow her on Twitter at @JessicaTaylorYA and check out her website at http://www.jessicataylorwrites.com

Boston Teen Author Festival by Natasha Sinel

BTAF graphic.jpegSeptember was the one-year anniversary of THE FIX’s release. I celebrated by participating in the Boston Teen Author Festival—an amazing way to round out a productive year of events.

It was the fifth year of BTAF, a festival that has grown exponentially since its start in 2011—so much so, that they expanded to inhabit both the Cambridge Public Library and the high school next door.

I was on a panel called The Journey Toward Mental Health with three authors I truly admire—Kathryn Holmes (HOW IT FEELS TO FLY), Emery Lord (WHEN WE COLLIDED), and Francisco X. Stork (THE MEMORY OF LIGHT).

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In the weeks prior, the four of us came up with a bunch of questions that we’d ask each other so that our panel would feel more like “authors in conversation” than a formal panel. And it worked so well. The main reason, I think, was that we were honest—honest about our own mental health, therapy, and medication. I’ve always strongly believed that connecting with characters in books can help us feel less alone in our struggles, no matter our age or issue. But, during our panel, Emery pointed out something that hadn’t occurred to me before—for some teens in the room, it may have been the first time they’d heard adults talking so openly and conversationally about bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, therapy. And that really moved me.

I left Boston with a warm feeling—for the festival organizers, the other authors at the festival, and especially for the young adults who spent a gorgeous sunny Saturday inside talking with us. I left with a renewed sense of the power and beauty that is writing and reading.

For more on Mental Health in YA Lit, check out the #MHYALit Hub at teenlibrariantoolbox.com

 

Natasha Sinel is the author of THE FIX, which received the Gold Medal for YA Fiction in the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Awards (IPPYs), and was a Finalist for YA Fiction in the 2015 USA Best Book Awards. She graduated from Yale University and University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business. Born and raised in Washington, D.C., she now lives in Westchester, NY with her husband and three sons. You can find her at www.natashasinel.com.

Outlining for the Common Pantser by Tara Sim

 

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Photo credit: /Stef_ on Flickr

For those who aren’t familiar with the term, “pantser” refers to a writer who tends to write without much structure, aka “by the seat of their pants.” The writers who identify as pansters typically feel restricted by outlines and prefer not to write them. As with most things, there are pros and cons to this method.

Pro: You get to be surprised by the work/characters!

Con: Uh…what happens now?

From speaking with other writers/authors, it’s generally around the 30k mark that things start to go squiggly and fuzzy. I recently just experienced this in my own WIP (work in progress). My own method is a hybrid between an outliner and pantser, where I make a general, bullet pointed outline and then fill in things as I go. That way I know the main plot points, but I also have freedom to discover new and exciting things along the way.

“But outlines are so RESTRICTING,” cries the pantser, shaking their fist in the air.

Sometimes! And a lot of the time you’ll end up taking a detour from it, or go down a completely different route altogether. Which is why the more general the outline, the better. What do I mean by that? Here’s an example of the kind of general outline I use for my work when I’m just beginning:

  • Opening scene
    • Maybe this leads to this other scene?
    • Detail to add (so you don’t forget while you’re writing!
  • First obstacle
    • They get to this new location somehow
      • Ship?
  • Battle!
  • Meet new character

You get the idea. So from there, once I have the main issues locked down—how the book opens, the biggest plot points, the climax—I start drafting.

“But how can you start drafting when you have so many unanswered questions??” screams the outliner, pulling on their hair.

That’s the fun of being a panster. Once you have an idea of which direction you want to go, you start running and crafting and creating. A lot of the time, the answers will (sometimes slowly) come to you while you’re drafting, when you don’t even expect it. I can’t count the number of times I’ve solved something just by sitting down and writing, even without a clear idea formed yet.

But in order to make sure you don’t get stuck in the “what now” wasteland, having a generic outline is usually a good idea. You don’t need to make it fancy—do it in whatever way makes sense to you. And when you draft, fill in the details as you go. Maybe craft a more detailed outline before each chapter. Maybe fill in the outline after drafting so you have a better idea of what happened/you can refresh your memory.

Whatever method you choose, good luck—and keep drafting!

 

Tara Sim is a YA author found in the wilds of the Bay Area, California. When she’s not writing about magic, clocks, and boys, she drinks tea, wrangles cats, and sings opera.  To find out more about her and her books, check out her website: tarasim.com. Follow her on Twitter: @EachStarAWorld.