Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Generation Why

I, like many people of my generation, have succeeded in scaring the crap out of the generations before us. 

How would the people of my generation fix social security? How would we preserve (or restore) the integrity of America in the eyes of the world? How would we stop Eddie Murphy from making movies?

They say Generation Y has no patience, having grown up with instant communication technology. They say that we're a bunch of Peter Pans, delaying adulthood as long as possible. We'll change careers several times while we live at home with mom and dad. If we have a job at all.

First of all, I grew up with Oregon Trail so don't tell me I don't have patience. 

Press Enter to Size up the Situation
Second, I realize that many of us apply our Peter Pan mentality to our future jobs. Our parents and our parent's parents craved stability and typically entered a career that would provide benefits and pension plans. Most of Gen Y throws such notions to the wind. 

A typical Gen Y-er realizes that they have wide spread talents that shouldn't be contained to one career path. This leads to indecision in college and a crisis upon graduation. It leads to living in your parent's basement.

Personally, with a blanket apology to all the put upon parents out there, I don't see the problem. The explosion of creativity and technology that has been nurtured in the last thirty years has expanded our world in ways that only the creators of the Jetsons knew were possible. 

So what if I get my news online and can't picture myself married with kids until my thirties? Who cares that I would rather send an email than call or keep in touch with friends through Facebook? 

Our generation is in the midst of a cultural revolution. Our progressive attitudes and sensibilities have helped the LGBT rights movement gain footing. Our generation voted in record numbers for the first black president. 

For most of our lives, the American military has been engaged in war in the Middle East. We witnessed the worst terrorist attack on American soil, most of us from TV screens or computers. The youth mobilized immediately. 

To those concerned about my generation's contributions to the greater good, I say this:

We may be impatient, but that impatience has led to the development of tools that help us work faster. Communicate faster. Innovate faster.

It may look as though we don't want to grow up, but what we are actually doing is redefining adulthood to fit our expectations. We demand more out of life than the linear path our grandparents walked. Having more than five careers in a lifetime simply means we are contributing in more ways and we're happier about it.

Am I making sweeping generalizations about Gen Y? Sure. Despite this, when all is said and done, I fully expect to be sitting on my porch in my old age watching hovercrafts and complaining that my kids never teleport to see me anymore. I'll dream of the glory days of my youth, when I really could do anything I set my mind to and be the person I wanted to be. 

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Mega Long Big Sur Recap

As I sit here, watching the Bears get walloped by the Patriots (sigh), I find that I have a moment to reflect on the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop. Before I start, let me clarify the purpose of the post. I wanted to relay my personal experience in order to inform anyone looking for a workshop like this. I had an incredible time and want to spread the word.

Big Sur
For those of you unfamiliar with it, the workshop is hosted at the beautiful Big Sur Lodge in Big Sur, Ca. Agents from Andrea Brown Literary Agency and a variety of editors and authors (who is there depends on when you go) are in attendance. By keeping the amount of attendees below 100, the format is able to function unlike most conferences. You work in small rotating critique groups that meet twice over the weekend. You also get to meet with a member of the faculty for fifteen minutes to work on query letters or your synopsis. There is time built into the weekend to revise based on the feedback you receive. In short, this workshop is worth every penny.

Let's start at the very beginning...
I attended SCBWI's L.A. Conference this past August for the second year in a row. At the Golden Kite Awards I had the fortune to sit next to a fellow writer named Anji. She started telling me about this workshop she had heard about in Big Sur that she was really excited about. We exchanged contact cards and parted ways. A month or so later Anji gave me a call.

I had actually forgotten all about the workshop since the start of a school year is always so hectic. If Anji hadn't taken the chance to call me and see if I was still interested I would have missed this amazing opportunity. I registered, sent in my materials and found out I was accepted a couple weeks later. Then I started searching the couch for pennies.

My Yacht
The workshop started on a Friday, which meant I had take an early flight out of Chicago that connected in Phoenix. From there it was a short trip over to Monterey where I picked up a car in order to drive down the California 1.

They gave me a boat. I'm used to driving a car that doesn't have much width. This Impala forced me to drive like my grandma going to K-Mart. If you've ever driven along the California coast you know that it twists and turns a bit. So if any of you driving on that road that day remember getting stuck behind a Nervous Nellie in a yacht, I apologize.

I docked my boat to take a picture

The coast is gorgeous. I also saw that California Happy Cows do exist. They're hanging out along the 1 eating grass and napping.

The Lodge was easy to find and lived up to the pictures I had seen online. A nice big fire constantly runs in the Lodge's sitting room where you can sit and write in one of the comfy couches. There were so many trees I almost O.D.'d on oxygen, but in a good way. The rooms are set up like cabins and circle the conference center which made it really easy to commute between rooms and panel discussions. There was no wifi access (the horror!) and spotty cell phone reception. Being disconnected is the point. Without distractions, can you be more productive?

Conference Center
Things were kicked off in the conference center, where the faculty introduced themselves and told us a little bit about what they do. Agents talked about what they like and their recent client books. Editors spoke about their histories and what they were looking for. Authors let us know what they have published and what they were working on.

After that we got straight to work. My first critique group was with Jennifer Rofé from Andrea Brown and I read my first chapter of my YA WIP. I received AMAZING feedback that basically challenged me to rewrite the whole chapter. I was also so impressed by the writing of the members of my group! Jennifer was spot on with her comments and I knew that by heeding her suggestions I strengthened my first chapter. 

One of many trails
Friday night was capped off with a cocktail party and dinner where we were serenaded by Magnus Toren, who made sure we knew the difference between Henry Miller and Arthur Miller. It was a wonderful atmosphere to meet other writers and faculty and the food was fabulous. Jennifer Laughran sat with us and showed us her great sense of humor.

There was a panel after dinner that responded to random first pages that Andrea Brown pulled from the submissions. It was a great inside look for us to see how agents and editors view the first page and what catches their attention.

Saturday was busy. Right after breakfast was our second critique group. Again there were great writers and a wonderful faculty leader. Allyn Johnston of Beach Lane books led our group and gave us all insightful feedback. I was able to share one of my later chapters and get comments. I walked away feeling good about the direction of my story.

I then had the opportunity to sit down with author Elissa Haden Guest and work on my query letter for fifteen minutes. She was lovely and helped me figure out what essentials must be in the query. 

Oxygen makers!
We were given lunch and four hours (yes four whole hours) to revise before meeting for the second time with our first critique groups. I had rewritten my first chapter and based on the reactions, it was for the better. I'm very happy with the changes and so thankful for the feedback that led me to them. 

After dinner we heard a panel of editors tell us how they acquire manuscripts. Another valuable look inside the industry. 

On Sunday I had the luck of sitting at the same breakfast table as Andrea Brown and Jennifer Mattson, the latter being based in Chicago. After our bellies were full we met with our second critique groups again and I was able to share another chapter from later in my WIP. I picked a part that was crucial to the story and was able to get feedback on whether or not it was effective. The workshop closed out with an Agent panel where they took questions and handed out business cards. 

I had a flight out of Monterey around dinnertime so I relaxed at the lodge with other writers until I had to leave. By this time the coast was taken over by a storm. Now I was driving up the coast in my massive rental car while streams of rainwater cascaded down the highway. I went from Nervous Nellie to OMG-PANIC Nellie. I made it to Monterey with gray hairs. 

Sweet home Chicago
Flight from Monterey to San Fransisco delayed two hours. Flight from San Fransisco to Chicago delayed an hour and a half. I arrived in Chicago around 5:15 am and had work at 7:30 am. It was hard to be upset about getting no sleep when the trade off was such a valuable experience. 

As I sit here looking out at the swirling snow, I find myself missing the beauty of Big Sur. The bottom line of this massive post is that this is a workshop worth your money if you are ready for in depth critiques of your work. They hold it in twice a year, the next one being in March. Check it out here. If you have any questions I didn't cover about the experience feel free to ask!


Sunday, November 21, 2010

Thanksgiving and Other Wonderful Things

If I waste a single moment of my free time the next two weeks I will be P.O.'d.

The actual day of Thanksgiving is the only day this week when I will not be writing. Even then, I'll have my computer with me during the festivities. I'm two weeks away from flying out to California for the Big Sur Workshop.

In addition, in case you were wondering, it's really not a good idea to read four books at once. I've been juggling Ellen Hopkin's Crank, Maggie Stiefvater's Linger, Brenna Yovanoff's The Replacement and Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird (4th time). The last one is because I'm currently teaching it. I'm getting to the point where I think a drug addicted Scout is in love with a werewolf that was replaced at birth. Might be time to scale it back a bit.

I went and saw Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part one yesterday. It really does feel like the end of an era. I thought the film was great and it really requires the viewer to have read the book. There is a lot you miss if you've only been watching the movies.

Speaking of movies: If you've read Suzanne Collins' The Hunger Games you should take a look at this audition tape. Warning: It has violence and death in the clip.

I hope you all have a wonderful holiday (those of you who celebrate it) and good luck on the last week of NaNoWriMo.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Obligatory NaNoWriMo Post

With the dawn of NaNoWriMo almost upon us writers everywhere are battening down the hatches. They're stocking up on fuel and saying goodbye to spouses, kids, friends and pets. They've done trials to see how long they can write without coming up for air. There are corkboards full of ideas and marked up character sheets all over the world. Creativity and inspiration are set to explode in households everywhere, as long as they can keep that pesky Writer's Block from crashing the party.

Many attempt it and like a squad or recruits sent to basic training, only the strong survive. Some can't find the balance between family and writing. Some intimidate themselves by pausing too long to think about the enormity of the project. Some don't have a story idea.

I have not yet had the opportunity to partake in the NaNoWriMo festivities. This year I'm polishing my current MS so it looks showroom new in time for the Big Sur Workshop in early December. I would love to be in a position to try it someday.

"There's a plaaaace for us (NaNoWriMo),
a time and plaaaace for us..."

Anybody giving it a go this year?

Sunday, October 17, 2010


I am, quite simply, exhausted. We took our 8th grade students to Washington D.C. last weekend and it has been a game of "catch up on sleep" ever since. Problem is, work doesn't stop. Schoolwork doesn't stop. Social life doesn't stop. Housework doesn't do itself. This book doesn't write itself. So when it's all said and done, I'm not getting any more sleep than usual, which is not enough. Oh well. C'est la vie.

I have about 50 days before the Big Sur Workshop in December. The more I read about the workshop the more excited I become! I can't wait, but I definitely need those 50 days to get ready.

In my freetime (HA!) I'm daydreaming about what car I would get if I were able to swing it. My Honda Civic EX is making death rattles but I'm going to push it as far as it will go. I'm not into flashy cars. I just want reliability. What cars do you all drive? Are you happy with them? Are you happy with the service of the manufacturer? 

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


You know that feeling:
When you're sick as a dog and you've worked all day, you come home and take some extra strength super-dee-dooper medicine, slip under your covers, close your eyes, listen to the thunderstorm rolling in and smell the moisture filled air (through that one nostril that works).

It's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Blogger Awards

About a week ago, Catherine over at The Writing Room gifted myself (and wonderful others) with two blog awards! I'm here to pay it forward!

The Rules for The Versatile Blogger Award:

Thank and link back to the person that gave you the award. 

Share seven things about yourself. 

Pass the award to fifteen bloggers that you think deserve it. 

Lastly, contact all of the bloggers that you’ve picked for the award. 

One Lovely Blog Award Rules:

Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link. 

Pass the award to 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered. 

Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Here's the thing. I'm so new to Blogger that I'm not sure I'm in a position to hand out 15 awards right away. So what I'll do is this:

As I find a blog I want to gift I'll post until I have 15, and if any of you have suggestions please feel free to let me know and I'll check them out. I do have one to start us off.

1. My friend Mary is a very talented musician who has channeled that ability into writing PB's accompanied by music and lyrics. I realize she hasn't posted in awhile but maybe a couple awards will jump start her! Either way, check out her blog and her books!

Second order of business: "Share seven things about yourself."

1. I am an "Expert" singer on Rock Band, a "Medium" drummer and a "Laughingstock" guitarist.

2. I severely dislike the guy on the new All State commercials that keeps cutting people off while they are talking. Makes me want to switch insurance companies.

3. I'm an avid fan of NFL football. AVID.

4. I go to school at night to study Graphic Design at the amazing Columbia College of Chicago.

5. In April I won first place in the "YA" category of a conference contest. It judged you based on your first page only. It was the Writers' Institute in Madison, WI.

6. I've been lucky enough to have traveled quite a bit in my young lifetime. In America and abroad.

7. I use Scrivener to organize my research but I still write my MS in Microsoft Word. Old habits are hard to break.

I suppose that's it. I hope you all have a great week!

Saturday, September 11, 2010


I was a senior in high school in September of 2001. I had my first two classes of the day free, so I usually strolled into the building just before ten. My mom would leave for work around eight and I would have the house to myself until I left. In those days I listened to Eric and Kathy on the MIX (101.9) as I got ready. Eric was always cracking jokes and the music was my taste. 

On September 11th I woke up, told my mom to have a good day as she ran out the door and made myself breakfast. Eric and Kathy were chattering as they always did and I was about to turn them off so I could shower when Eric stopped everything. There was silence for a moment, then with a voice so serious I stopped in my tracks he said that a plane had flown into one of the Twin Towers. I immediately turned them off and flipped on the TV, scrolling madly for a news station. 

Then there it was, rough footage of one of the Towers billowing smoke and debris. My first reaction was complete and total confusion, which seemed to be everyone's reaction. The newscasters were awkwardly speculating about what had happened. Terrorism was not on their lips. Yet. 

Their live camera was trained on the South Tower with the North behind it, it's top on fire. It was an image no one could have pulled their eyes from and I found myself inches from the screen when a grey object moved into the field of view and collided with the South Tower. The newscasters were flabbergasted and suddenly it dawned on all of us that this was deliberate. America was under attack on its own soil. 

I scrambled for the phone and called my dad, who was at work in the EPA building in downtown Chicago. He picked up quickly and I asked him if he had seen the news. He hadn't. When I told him he became very quiet. I heard him open his office door and raised voices from the hallway wafted in. He told me he would have to call me back and hung up. Shortly after that his building, along with all other major buildings in the city were evacuated for precautionary measures.

I drove to school listening to the news the whole way and when I got there, people were crowded around TVs all over the school. Some classes still continued, either they didn't know or they didn't know what else to do. By the time I got to a TV, Flight 77 had just hit the Pentagon. No one could say anything. There was nothing to say. I don't know how the newscasters kept talking.

By the time Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania, everyone was so shell shocked that classes ceased to function. We rotated with our schedules but most teachers  had a TV on in place of a lesson. We were all aware that this was a day we would never forget. We were all present for a moment in history that saw tragedy and heroes.

When I look at the 8th graders I work with now I'm shocked to realize that most of them were around four when 911 occurred. They are fuzzy on the facts of what happened that day. Some think only NY was hit. Most don't quite grasp the gravity of the event. Such it was for my generation missing the JFK assassination. 

When I think of 911 I remember everything I did that morning. I remember the emotions I felt and the reactions I had. In the days following I listened to stories of American heroism that made me cry and made me appreciative. What always came to mind in the weeks, months, years that separated us from the event, was that the people who attacked us underestimated the spirit of the this country. 

For all their intricate plans and execution, they couldn't have realized how their attack would bring Americans together. Even those of us, a thousand miles away, felt connected to the lost. The pain reached everyone. Patriotism soared and people started doing everything they could to help. Give blood. Help the rescue and recovery teams. Join the army. 

I read Meg Cabot's harrowing personal account of that day and I recommend you read it if you haven't. The individual stories of heroism are important to remember. My heart still goes out to all those who died on that day and all those who died in the wars that followed. 

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Put Title Here

Happy Sunday everyone!

First off, Catherine over at The Writing Room kindly gifted me a blogger award which I'll post about soon!

Numero dos, I'm gearing up for Columbia's semester starting next week. Now I'll have night classes to tack on after working all day. And the hopefully going to the gym. And maybe seeing my friends sometimes. And reading a book or two. Oh yeah, and writing.

The Mockingjay Pin
Speaking of reading books, I managed to finish Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins, within six hours of buying it on its August 24th release date. This was mostly due to not wanting to have to avoid spoilers everywhere (I work with 8th graders). I promise the below review has NO SPOILERS if you haven't yet read it.

My first recommendation is to reread The Hunger Games and Catching Fire before embarking on Mockingjay. There were some little things I had to remind myself of once I had already started reading.

The end of a series is always such a bittersweet experience. I'm usually anxious to see what ends up happening to the characters I love and yet I'm sometimes not ready to see them go. When I read The Hunger Games I enjoyed every heart thumping word that came across the page. I cared instantly about Katniss and her family. Catching Fire succeeded in making me care even more deeply about the world Collins created.

I had meetings the day Mockingjay came out and as soon as they ended I zipped to my nearest bookstore and gleefully picked it up. I found the pacing to be similar to Catching Fire, by starting slower and picking up speed as it went. The story was both satisfying and not, which I thought I was appropriate for this series. If we were meant to be happy with everything that happened it would have been penned by Disney, not Collins. The book was bloody, upsetting at times and, I felt, completely necessary. It was a roller coaster ride of emotions.

In a YA world seemingly obsessed with "Team Boy A" and "Team Boy B" I was happy to find that the love triangle in the story was a background thread woven into a larger tapestry. When discussing this series, most people wouldn't start with the Peeta vs Gale debate. They want to talk about the horror of kids killing each other or about the parallels of the Capitol and our society. I think that's how it should be in this type of series. Don't get me wrong, I adore a good love story. I just never want it to come at the expense of a fantastic story.

And as far as I'm concerned, Mockingjay is a fantastic story to cap off a thought provoking series. I rarely reread books but I know I'll reread this series at some point in the future.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010


Wow. Work has certainly begun.

Our meetings began last Monday and then the kids started on Thursday, hence my falling off the map. My days have consisted of getting up at 4, arriving at my gym by 5:30, getting to work around 7 and hanging out with eighth graders all day. After, I road rage my way through construction traffic to get home. Once home I make a valiant attempt to write while battling heavy eyelids in my air condition-less apartment.

I've fallen asleep sitting up, on my couch, fully clothed, facing the wrong way on my bed and I even caught a mini nap while leaning against my pantry. It's always like this at the start of the year. The theory is that teaching is a job that simulates hitting a brick wall. At the end of the year it's "GO GO GO" and then suddenly everything stops entirely. At the start of the year you go from months of self-structured time to "being on stage" several hours a day. It can be a shock to the system. By Monday of next week I will have settled in.

Meanwhile, I found time to read Suzanne Collins' Mockingjay and Jay Asher's Thirteen Reasons Why. I'm working on reviews of each that I'll post this weekend. I also mapped my WIP's plot line on a cork board just to make sure my changes don't derail the arc. They don't! Yay!

I'm currently reading Lone Survivor by Marcus Luttrell with plans to finally read Maggie Stiefvater's Shiver next week.

Alright, I feel a "pass out in my chair" moment coming on so I'll catch you all on the flip side.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

WIDK Wednesday and More...

"Word I Didn't Know" Wednesday:

Som*nil"o*quence\, n. The act of talking in one's sleep;somniloquism.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.
To my knowledge I've only done this once, and I ended up waking myself up. I have been present to hear others chat it up in their dreams and it can be pretty entertaining. Even more fun is to have a whole conversation with someone when they are clearly more in the sleep realm than the awake one. When you ask them about it the next day they have no idea what you're talking about. Good times.

Monday, August 9, 2010


Have you seen this?

What a fabulous idea and a wonderful opportunity! I'm registered (it's free!) and looking forward to the information generously given by all the awesome people involved. I can't even imagine all the work the organizers of this conference have put in but I, for one, am most thankful.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Lollapalooza and Other Long Words

For anyone unfamiliar with Lollapalooza, it's a popular music festival held in Chicago's Grant Park. It used to be a traveling festival but Chicago has hosted it for several years now. I couldn't afford to go to all three days (my money went to the fantastic SCBWI conference) but my friends were wonderful enough to purchase a one day ticket for my birthday. Tomorrow I will join the sweaty masses downtown to listen to great music all day, capped off with a long set by Green Day.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

SCBWI 2010 Summer Conference: LA

Here's my attempt at a mini recap of one of the best conferences I have ever been to.

This is my second SCBWI Summer Conference and I can't get over how professional and inspiring the event is every time I go. It's incredible to be in the same room as so many amazing people. I don't just mean the authors/publishers/editors/agents that go, but the people who come from all over the world because they love to write for children. They may not be published yet, have an agent or even have a completed manuscript but they feel compelled to be part of this. Everyone is friendly and supportive.

Instead of a blow by blow, I'll give some of my favorite highlights.

Here are some of the nuggets of information I walked away with:
How to approach agents without scaring them off. (Hint: Don't leave your query letter on their hotel pillow, how creepy is that?).
An inside look at what certain houses are looking for and what catches their eye.
What's hot, what's not.
There are some incredible artists illustrating for children.
Dressing like Where's Waldo means you'll get your picture taken a lot. (I was Waldo for the Heart and Soul Ball).
Non-fiction is really hot right now.
So are funny middle grade books.
Peer group critiques are helpful and you meet some awesome people.
Writing to trends means that the vampires win (Justin Chanda).
There is a massive amount of people and money involved between acquisition and publication.
I would listen to Ashley Bryan recite poetry any day of the week.

I also had the privilege to meet Jennifer Rees as she did my manuscript critique. She was funny and insightful. I came away from the meeting overflowing with ideas and the drive to revise!

The Heart and Soul Ball

The whole conference was overwhelmingly helpful and I can't wait until next year. If you've never been, I recommend saving up for it. It's worth every penny.

Dawn of a New Blog

I've made the move from Livejournal to Blogspot based on testimonials and research. No hard feelings LJ, I hope we can still be friends. Don't call me, I'll call you.

I'll reintroduce myself here and get off to a fresh start. I'm Kelly, a twenty something writer living in the beautiful city of Chicago. During the day I work with eighth graders and at night I work toward my degree in Graphic Design at Columbia College Chicago. Somewhere in-between I write. I've been working on a YA novel for a couple years.

Other fun facts:
I consider laughter to be a necessity. I place it right behind food, water and shelter.
I would work for Rye Triscuits or Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop-Tarts.
I can call up a quote from Golden Girls for any situation.

I was fortunate enough to attend the SCBWI Summer Conference in Los Angeles this past weekend. I'm still processing all the information! I'll make my next post a recap of it.

Thanks for stopping by! Check back again and I may have cookies.