New parent, must write: Author toolbox post

This parenting thing is relentless and I am only 20 weeks in. Duh, right? Well, somehow I am finding time to write. It’s different now. My resolve is bound to the conviction that if I quit doing something I love … Continue reading

Q & A with Author Rain Sivertsen

In this Q and A Rain Sivertsen answers my questions. Let’s learn a little more about her.

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Rain Sivertsen is a 25-year-old fantasy writer currently working on her first novel, a YA fantasy she intends to self-publish by 2019/20. She is also working on a darker fantasy trilogy about vampires. Everything Rain writes takes place in a fantasy world called Hurst where she spends most of her time, while her corporeal self is located in the beautiful city of Prague –which might be the ideal home for anyone writing fantasy, with magic hiding around every corner.

 

  1. What do you write? (genre etc.)

Fantasy. Everything I write, pretty much everything I read, is fantasy. Doesn’t matter if it’s epic, urban, YA. Anything with even a sprinkle of fantasy and I am there for it.

  1. Favorite book that you think is underrated?

You couldn’t start with an easier question? J I stare at my bookshelf and there are so many wonderful books that I wish were the kind everyone knew about and talked about. Kristine Cashore’s books Graceling and Fire are beautiful stories about strong women making the best of impossible situations, with love stories I can respect and admire, which I wish I saw more of. Ash and Huntress by Melinda Lo are lovely fantasy stories with queer women. Ask was the first book I ever read with a non-straight main character. It blew my mind.

  1. Favorite book from childhood?

I don’t remember much I read from childhood – mostly Norwegian books designed specifically to get kids to read more – but there was a series of five books called “Sofie and Kathrine” by Grete Haagenrud that I would borrow from the library almost every month. It’s about two young sisters during the war when Norway was occupied by Germany. Their family is forced to flee their hometown and travel through Norway. The stories were so funny, heart-warming and heart-wrenching, and though my life was so different from Sofie, I could still relate to her and a lot of the things she went through. That might be the first series that made me properly fall in love with novels.

  1. Use three words to describe what keeps you writing and persevering?

Love, persistence and forced discipline (because discipline does not come to me naturally).

  1. Where do you draw your inspiration to keep writing?

I never really choose where I get inspiration from. Sometimes I’ll try and kick-start some inspiration by looking at beautiful digital art or reading passages in my favorite books, but really it tends to come out of nowhere. It’s really important to me that I write even when I don’t feel inspired, so I’ve trained myself to do that and then be pleasantly surprised when genuine inspiration does hit. It’s the best feeling. I guess you could say that the idea of inspiration is what inspires me. Too complicated? 🙂

  1. Do you have any tricks/tips for aspiring authors you’d like to share?

Write. Down. Your. Goals.
You can’t hit a target you can’t see. If you write down your goals – both long-term goals and the smaller milestone goals along the way – you will be more motivated to work towards them. Put them somewhere you can see them every day so you never forget that you wanted this badly enough to commit it to writing. Writing down your goals helps to turn a dream into a plan. It’s pretty much the tip that helped me start taking writing seriously.

  1. As a writer who/what is your inspiration (animal, vegetable or mineral ☺)? 

Beauty. Beauty in anything – nature, music, art, architecture. Surrounding myself with beauty in all forms is what inspires me to create, to take all that beauty and try and make something magical out of it. That’s why I listen to epic instrumental music when thinking about my writing. It’s why I enjoy long walks in the most beautiful parks in Prague. I inhale beauty and hope to absorb some of it for later use in my writing.

  1. What was one of the hardest scenes for you to write?

I’m best at writing violent things, like fight scenes and torture, or just people being miserable. For the story I’m working on now, the MC spends a lot of time figuring out clues and working on solving a mystery. I’m not very good at that, at figuring out exactly which clues to reveal at exactly the right time. It’s why I could never really write crime and detective novels like Beth Green writes so brilliantly. I love to read them, but those details and clues… I’m better with the big stuff, less so with the fine print.

  1. What do you think helps you to become a better writer?

Setting clear goals and working my ass off to reach them. Not just big goals like “finish this novel and self-publish it”, but goals that aren’t so far away. Milestones. When I’m drafting, my goal is to write 30.000 words a month, approximately 1000 words per day, and when I’m plotting and outlining I also have a plan and try to spend at least 1-2 hours daily working on that plan. If I didn’t set these goals and have a clear, achievable plan, I would never write anything at all. I’m one of those people who think structure is a good thing, and I thrive on it.

  1. How do you think being someone else’s beta reader helps inform your own writing process? Or helps you become a better writer?

Being a beta-reader helped me better understand the research I’ve done into beta-reading, it helped me see which parts of that research I want to keep and which aren’t going to work for me. It’s also super motivating when you’re drafting, to read someone else’s nearly-finished work. It’s a reminder that not too long ago they were suffering the same way, but look! They got this amazing thing at the end!


Where to find Rain:

Website

Twitter

Another revision and another day

My current project, Lana Bong’s Shanghai Market, just underwent another revision. I cut something like 10,000 words from it and then added another 2,000. I’m more confident that the pacing is quicker and more urgent and that my character development has improved, but I still question myself. Most writers will tell you that they never really feel like they are finished with a project. I can’t dispute that. I still feel like I need to go back and double check that everything flows just right and that I didn’t take out any characterization important to the story.

This time around, I mostly took out flashbacks, long rambling scenes of one character’s genesis or defining childhood moments. I’m good at creating that backstory, but not all of it needs to be added into the project I’m working on. That’s why it’s so important to have beta readers and why I feel sorry for my early readers. There is so much more muck to wade through in my early drafts.

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Lots of muck to wade through . . .

I’ve already started sending query letters to agents, gotten a few requests for more pages, and sent those out. I felt confident in the pages I sent and hope to feel confident moving forward in the agents I’m sending queries to. Recently, that has become more challenging. I won’t name names, but there are a number of literary agents being called out for their predatory practices. It shakes my belief in humans and the publishing industry. I don’t get it, but it just goes to show that as a writer you have to go with your instinct. Really, with anything that’s all you have to go on. If something feels off, listen to that feeling.

In the next few months, I’ll be bleary-eyed and taking care of a newborn. I’m hoping to continue posting on the blog every so often and I already have a couple of posts scheduled for September. Look for the Q and A with the author, Rain Siversten.

Feel free to drop me a line anytime as well! I love hearing from people!

Book Event: Oregon Book Awards

IMG_8760Last week, the Oregon Book Awards sponsored by Oregon Literary Arts doled out checks and drink tickets to the winners. This year I knew one of the nominees and had read three of the books nominated, two of which, won their awards. The three books I read were The Last to Die – a young adult novel by Kelly Garrett, The Fish Market – nonfiction book by Lee Van Der Voo (she subbed on my co-ed soccer team a few years ago!) and Strange the

IMG_8757Dreamer – a young adult novel by Laini Taylor. The latter two won in their category. I highly recommend all three books depending on your mood. Each one was well-written and immersive. After sitting through the list of nominees and reading their book descriptions, I have a few more books to add to my “to read” list.

This year, I truly felt part of the writing community. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten more involved in readings, workshops, and writerly events. What that means is, I recognize or have had interactions with many of the writers in the Oregon community. I’ve also put myself out there to meet new people. It’s fun to see some of them out in the world and getting nominated for awards, receiving fellowships (Yay, Jacob Aiello!), or enjoying an event.

The night started out with vegan gluten-free pizza with two friends (Erin and Erica) who I met through a writing workshop at The Attic Institue. We’ve been friends now for a few years. We met up with Kelly and her husband to celebrate her accomplishment as a nominee for the Oregon Book awards. I was a little off that night due to getting hit by a car as a pedestrian in a crosswalk two days before, but I wanted to be there. The whole getting hit by a car story is one for another day, or maybe I’ll turn it into a short story or a scene in my next novel! I’m doing okay after a few days of limping, a bandaged hand, and some emotional trauma that is ongoing. I don’t recommend this experience. My advice: wear a fluorescent jumpsuit at all times and be aware of your surroundings at all times!

Anyway, we ate and headed to the event where we sat up in the balcony. A few minutes after I sat down, I looked to my left and noticed I was sitting next to another writer, Mo Daviau, who I had recently met at a happy hour I hosted! She also wrote a fantastic book called Every Anxious Wave about a wormhole that allows people to go back in time to see their favorite band play. There’s more to it than that, but check it out. It’s a small community once you start putting yourself out there and meeting others around town. On our way out, I saw my friend Hillary an awesome librarian (and someone who is always smiling) who said she and her staff chose the adult novel, American War by Omar El Akkad, and highly recommends it. I’ve already added that to my reading list.

What’s on your reading list?

Revisions: Homestretch

Today’s post will be super short. I need to save all of my energy for revisions and a short road trip we are taking this weekend.

I’m in the home stretch of my latest round of edits for my current work in progress. I only have about 50 pages left to edit, but they are the ones that need the MOST work! I know this and still, I procrastinate!

I feel a little like this turtle . . .

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I wonder if I will ever truly get there. I don’t want to rush it, but I’m also starting to feel like it’ll never feel quite done, but maybe that’s common for most writers? Somehow I doubt I’m alone.

“If you get to the point where you can’t make a book any better, but no one wants to publish it, set it aside and start something else. In two years or five or ten, you might be a better writer, and you might find you are willing and able to make it better. You can take only what you want or need from the original drafts, and leave the rest.” – From: How Do You Know When Your Book Is Finished? The Blunt Instrument on How to Begin and When to End

I still love my first officially “finished” novel and the quote really puts that into perspective. I learned so much from writing it, but I lost steam and had to set it aside after a long time and many rejections.

Supporting art

Last week the sun popped its head out here and there. I blame it on the energy those sun breaks gave me, but I felt like getting out in the world and supporting my friends and husband in their artistic endeavors. Granted, I’d try to do that no matter what the weather was like, but this week and into the weekend was a busier one than normal.

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The first event I went to was called Object Stories and was held at the Portland Art Museum. My friend Justin had an exhibit there and all of the object stories were about hidden disabilities. It was a powerful message, especially when the artists got up to talk about their pieces. It made me think about how I approach people and the judgments I oftentimes automatically make about them without understanding the full picture. I think it’s natural to have a gut reaction to something someone says or how they act. However, taking a step back and being aware of those reactions, pausing, and opening myself up to a truly open conversation and experience with people of all types is something this exhibit reminded me to do on a regular basis.

In addition, there is an awesome YouTube channel where the artists talk about their pieces as well. I highly recommend it.

IMG_8644The second event I went to was my husband’s show. He plays in a band called Body Mask and they played the art closing for Joey Maas’ pop art show at Ace Hotel. I’ll admit that I’d had a bad day and didn’t feel like going, but I dragged myself out and it was SO MUCH FUN. As you can see from the photos, the art was super smart and all the connections it made (someone had to make a few of those for me…) regarding cultural and social commentary felt like a valuable contribution to the world as we know it today. In addition, the band brought a lot of energy and fun to the event. Also, BALLOONS! Overall, it was a good night that lifted my spirits exponentially. Great art all around!

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The last thing I’ll say about all of this is, go out and support your people! Art is important for so many reasons and whatever your reason is, go support your friends, strangers, and loved ones. It makes me feel so good when someone comes to one of my readings, it makes me feel like what I’m doing is worth it and valued. It’s just an extra good feeling that your people know how important your art is and why you do what you do. I understand that sometimes it’s hard to get out and go, but make a point to show your appreciation for the artists in your life.  HUG them, but also go to their shows.

 

777 Challenge Accepted

777 Challenge Accepted

J Stryker, a writer I met through a twitter pitch party, tagged me for the 777 challenge. He’s got some great book ideas so you should check his stuff out. Thanks for tagging me! Anyway, the objective of the 777 challenge … Continue reading

Interview with Rebecca Kelley, author of Broken Homes & Gardens

I first met Rebecca in an advanced fiction workshop at Portland State University in the Spring of 2002. I’ll never forget one of the scenes in a short story she had written. A woman is cutting up a cucumber for a salad that she is going to share with her boyfriend. She alternates between thick and thin slices, so she cuts up the cucumber in “thick, thin, thick, thin” slices. The details you put into that scene created an authentic story for me and I feel like that is translated through your current work. – Christi R. Suzanne

I interview Rebecca Kelley about her new book, Broken Homes & Gardens. Read the interview