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My Writing Process Blog Tour

Thank you Day’s Lee for inviting me to participate. And congratulations Day’s for having your YA novel Guitar Hero named one of the Best Books for Kids and Teens for 2014 by The Canadian Children’s Book Centre!

Read Day’s Lee’s post on her writing process at Day’s Lee Exploring Writing, Self-publishing, the Chinese-Canadian Identity and Beyond

Now for My Writing Process:

What are you working on?
I’m finishing revisions on the follow-up to Shredded, tentatively titled Cut Off. The story follows Lauryn, one of the secondary characters from Shredded. Lauryn wants to compete in extreme adventure sports but her parents insist that she go to college so she pretends to be in school while she’s paddling in rapids, rappelling down rock faces, and zip-lining through a jungle to get to the finish before they discover the truth.

How does your work differ from others of its genre?
Young adult novels about female athletes tend to be about mainstream sports or are focused on romance. My novels are about fringe sports and include hints of romance.
WritingProcess
Why do you write what you do?
A character who has to constantly explain what her sport is, and then prepare for the inevitable “are you crazy” look is immediately interesting to me. There are so few girls in some of these sports that they instantly connect when they find other like-minded people, whether they like each other or not. That backdrop provides a fantastic landscape for story creation. Exploring the “why do you do it?” and “what drives you?” questions for these athletes keeps me digging deeper to discover more. “Book research” allows me to explore way outside my comfort zone.

How does your writing process work?
I usually start with the main character, then find the right sport, and then figure out what happens at the crisis or black moment. I puzzle the plot together into a loose outline and then write a high-level notes-style draft to see if the story holds together. When I’m happy with the big picture I create detailed character sheets for all characters and write a readable draft. Then I start revising and refining characters. It’s a slow process!

I enjoy learning about how other people write. I’m amazed by people who start at page one with no outline and just keep writing to the end. I’m curious to learn about the writing process of the next two authors taking part in this tour next week:

Shawna RomkeyShawna Romkey, teacher by day, writer by night (or day or whenever anyone leaves her alone long enough to get some work done). Bestselling YA / NA paranormal author of Speak of the Devil. The second in the series, The Devil Made Me Do It, will release in September. For more info, check out her website at www.shawnaromkey.com.

AGrahamAngela Graham was born and raised in southern Ontario, Canada. She has undergraduate and graduate degrees in business. Her passion for reading and writing led her to write stories for her own children. By day she is part of the leadership team at a local college. By night she is a parent and writes stories which aim to inspire children to read. She currently lives in Ottawa, Ontario, with her husband, their two children and their dog. Visit her here.

Shredded Won the SCBWI Spark Award!

Lin Oliver and Stephen Mooser of SCBWI called me yesterday to let me know that Shredded won the Spark Award and I acted like a crazed game show contestant, crying and babbling. Smooth. I scribbled down some illegible notes in green pen and then wondered if I’d hallucinated the whole thing. Since they issued the official press release on April Fool’s Day I’m still half-afraid it’s all a joke, but I celebrated anyway.
Thank you SCBWI, this is a huge deal for me. Karen is happy.
Celebrating Spark

My Story for Amanda

blogtourI’ve contributed a piece to the STORIES FOR AMANDA benefit anthology. 100% of the proceeds to go to amandatoddlegacy.org and their efforts to stop the horrific epidemic of bullying

Here’s an excerpt from my story, ”Out of It”

Anguish, effort, determination. It was all in the shot I’d taken last night at the pickup soccer game in the park. Out of the 157 images I’d snapped, I only needed one to turn out, and this was it. I hit the upload button extra hard to send the selected picture to my online album. I was a god of memories.
Never mind that he didn’t score. Never mind that it got cold. According to the image I’d framed, it was perfect. Going through the pictures and choosing which shots to show and which to delete was one of my favorite parts of photography. Without a picture, it was as if it never happened.
“Liam, we’re there.” My mom pulled the car up next to the school and turned to look at me. “Remember, today is the day you get involved.”
Getting involved was her new crusade. Apparently she’d read some statistic that said kids who weren’t in extracurricular activities were more likely to use drugs. I preferred to stay behind the scenes, but joining something would be easier than facing constant is he on drugs? scrutiny.
“I know. I will.” I opened the door to get out. “Thanks for the ride.”
My mom blew me a kiss before I closed the car door and she pulled away.
“Great picture, Liam!” My friend Andres waved his phone from where he was sitting next to the front steps of the school.
I refreshed the picture again as I walked over. Twenty-five likes already.
“I look like I should be on the cover of Sports magazine,” Andres said.
“Good thing it doesn’t show that you actually missed the goal. One of my other shots had turned out well, but it was of Jagger making a goal. He was such a jerk I didn’t want him in my image collection.”
“Every time he scores I’m happy for the team, but I wish someone else had made the goal. Oh, and for the record, I didn’t miss. My shot got blocked.”
I put my phone away. “Hopefully that picture of you is good enough to get me a sports assignment on yearbook.”
“Yearbook?” Andres laughed. “I thought you hated our junior high yearbook.”
I did. It was crap. “My mom is forcing me to join something. How hard can it be? I’m at school anyway. I’ll pull out my camera once in a while and be done with it.”
“You’re not going out for football?” Andres asked.
“Yeah, right. With my build they’d put me starting defensive lineman for sure.” We sniggered as we made our way into the school to our lockers.
I wasn’t built like a starting defensive lineman. I was more like a cross between a distance runner and a malnourished basketball player. I ate constantly but grew up, not out. My mom had dragged me to the doctor a bunch of times probably after reading too many ridiculous stories in her Things Parents Should Worry About magazines. Eating disorders aren’t just for females—your son may be starving. Each time a new issue arrived I braced myself for more odd questions. I was pretty sure the whole get involved and stay off drugs thing had come from a magazine article.
Our friend Dillon was sitting on the floor in front of his locker, furiously writing something in a notebook.
“Why are you so busy already?” I nudged him with my foot so I could open my locker. “School just started a week ago.”
“I’ve got some orders lined up. Lots of customers with summer job money.”
Dillon was one of those guys who could somehow get his hands on anything digital and stuck to his own code of honor about what should be accessible or not as opposed to what might be legal or not. I didn’t ask too many questions about how he managed to acquire games and movies for us. It was better to not know.

To read the rest of “Out of It” in the Stories for Amanda anthology, please join the release party here.

Watch for more excerpts every day from now through October 31 from the 16 authors in romance and new/young adult who have teamed up with Telemachus Press and joined the fight against bullying.

From Bucket List to Been There Done That #2: Backpacking

A non-athletic, for sale non-competitive, order not-rich person’s guide to replacing excuses with plans.

Backpacking in Buenos Aires

Backpacking in Buenos Aires

Imagine that someone says to you, “I just got back from a 5-week backpacking trip in South America.”
Is your reply the following?
“I could never do that.”

Before you say never, look at what you’re saying never to:
I never want to travel with a flexible schedule that lets me pack up and be ready to go in minutes.
I never want to take a month-long or longer vacation by using the funds that would have only lasted for a few weeks in wheeled-luggage-friendly tourist places and saving a ton by moving off the beaten path to stretch my budget for a much longer trip.

What other excuses are popping into your head?

I don’t like to carry a backpack.
You’re thinking of the cheap backpack you filled with textbooks in university, and then wore on one shoulder to look cool. I know – my shoulders are still sore from looking so cool. Get a good pack, adjust it to fit you and don’t over-pack (I’m still learning how to do this.) Practice carrying it. The weight should be on your hips, not pulling on your shoulders. It’s actually more comfortable than trying to manhandle a suitcase. Plus you get to keep all the tips. If you carry it without complaining, you can tip yourself double.

I can’t fit everything.
I hear you. Packing is the hardest part. Think layers and double-duty pieces when planning your wardrobe. If you’ll be anywhere near a decent-sized city you’ll be able to replenish instead of lugging 5 weeks of contact lens solution from the start. If I didn’t have a Kindle it would be much harder – I NEED to have books with me. Many places have a book swap. Leave the paperback you finished and take something new.

I can’t walk far with a backpack.
The only time you need to carry the full pack is when you’re moving from one “base of operations” to the next. For day trips and overnighters you can carry a smaller bag. So really, you’re only carrying the full pack from a hostel or hotel to a bus station. Of course, this only works if you don’t start buying food, souvenirs and clothes for unexpected weather so that you have to use your big and small packs to fit everything, and then wear one on your front and one on your back like I did. Oops.

Backpacking is for 20-somethings.
Using your age as an excuse not to do things is a slippery slope. Don’t go there. Backpacking really is doable. Cram your stuff in, try to carry it, offload some stuff, re-adjust it and you’re good.
Have fun!