#LiterarySpoons: A New Twitter Hashtag Event for Spoonie Writers

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Welcome to the Q & A for #LiterarySpoons, a brand new Twitter hashtag event hosted by me and @SpoonieCult. The purpose of #LiterarySpoons is for writers who identify as spoonies – which includes those who are chronically ill, disabled, mentally ill, and/or neurodiverse – to share their writing with the community. Our first #LiterarySpoons event will take place Thursday, October 13th from 5-7PM PST / 8-10PM EST / 12AM-2AM GMT.

Question 1: How do I share my original writings?

Answer: Compose a new tweet and include a title, description, and link to each piece. They can be in the form of blog posts, articles, essays, poems, stories, screenshots, etc. They could be published on blog sites like WordPress or Tumblr, in literary magazines or journals, or in online magazines or news outlets. Make sure you include the hashtag #LiterarySpoons and specify any mature content or trigger warnings. The posts will be moderated and any offensive or copyright-infringing content will be reported.

If you need a free, fast, and safe place to post your work, I recommend creating an account on Medium and using that as a platform to host your content. With Medium, there’s no need for layout or website setup.

Question 2: Does the writing I share have to relate to being a spoonie?

Answer: Nope! Subject matter and genre is entirely open. The point of the event is for us to showcase our best work. If that involves being a spoonie, great! If it’s a story about a unicorn, that’s fine too! The material doesn’t need to be new or written specifically for this event. The only requirement is that it’s original.

Question 3: Is there a limit to how many pieces I can post?

Answer: There’s no official limit, but be mindful and considerate of the event. Don’t flood the stream with your work. I’d say five posts total would be around the maximum. That will allow others to share their work without getting lost in the feed.

Question 4: What exactly is a spoonie, anyway?

Answer: The term came from a blog post written by Christine Miserandino called “The Spoon Theory.” Those of us battling chronic illness, mental illness, and disability often have trouble keeping up with day-to-day life. Our energy has to be measured out, and Christine chose the metaphor of measuring that energy in spoons. How we feel can be unpredictable and vary from one moment to the next. That’s why many of us call ourselves “spoonies.”

The term has morphed into a wonderful and supportive online community and a shorthand way of identifying ourselves.

Question 5: What if I can’t attend the event during the date and time it’s scheduled? Can I still participate?

Answer: Absolutely! I recommend scheduling your posts in advance using a free service like HootSuite. You can hop on the thread whenever you’re able to and read other people’s posts.

Question 6: Is this just a one-time event?

Answer: We’re hoping to make #LiterarySpoons an ongoing monthly event. You can follow me, @alanasaltz, and @SpoonieCult to stay updated on future events.

If you have any questions that weren’t answered here, please leave a comment or send me a tweet. I hope to see you and your writing on the hashtag!

Query 101: How to Land an Agent Begins on February 6th

Writing ToolsI’m very excited to announce that my new online course, Query 101: How to Land an Agent, begins in just a few short weeks. The class is being offered through Antioch University Los Angeles’ innovative online writing school, Inspiration to Publication.

In this two-week course, you will:

  • Craft an unforgettable query letter
  • Receive in-depth feedback on your query
  • Learn how and where to find the right agent for you
  • Review query etiquette and strategy

I personally designed this course with knowledge gained from my six-month internship with Folio Literary Management, a top literary agency in New York City representing bestselling authors like Eowyn Ivey, Garth Stein, Jenny Han, and Misty Copeland. I’ve also worked with dozens of freelance clients on writing and perfecting their query letters. Just a few months back, one of my clients signed with a top tier literary agent after I helped her with her manuscript and query.

The course is only $99, which is a great deal considering that the typical cost for a basic query critique ranges from $65-$90. In addition to receiving query writing guidelines and detailed feedback on your query, you’ll get comprehensive resources on how to find legitimate agents, learn valuable submission techniques and strategies, and avoid common query pitfalls that will land you in the rejection pile.

Click here to reserve your spot now. The class runs from February 6th-20th, and everything is done online at your own pace.

See you in class!

(photo credit: Writing Tools via photopin (license))

You Don’t Have to Write Every Day to Be a Real Writer

9257327086_9a1279d73cIt’s been a few months since my last post. To be completely honest, I’ve been taking a break. Not just from blogging, but from writing too. From early October until the end of November, all of my time and focus went into rewriting my YA novel. Once I finished the book, I shut down. Aside from a short essay here and there, I haven’t done any significant work since.

This is pretty typical for me. My words and inspirations tend to come in big, dramatic bursts. I’ll write every day for a few months, sometimes completing an entire novel or a series of essays, then there will be nothing at all for a month or two.

Every time I find myself on one of these breaks, I don’t wonder if I’ll ever write again. I know that I still want to write. I know that I still have the motivation. I know that I’m simply burnt out at the moment, and when I reach inside to create something new, I come out empty handed.

There is a common philosophy about writing perpetuated by craft books and famous authors on the importance of strict routines and writing every day. I used to hold myself to those standards, chiding myself whenever I fell short, beating myself up and questioning my commitment as a writer. It took me a few years to realize that I was producing about as much or more as any of these every day writers because when I do write, it comes in floods and intense, unrelenting focus.

It’s just the way I am. It’s the way my creative mind functions.

Forcing myself to write something each day never felt natural. If anything, it only made me feel stifled. Allowing the flood gates to open when they will and occasionally nudging myself back in when the break is dragging on too long seems to work for me.

Just like every human being is unique, so is every writer. Our work thrives in different ways. I do best when I completely immerse myself in a project for a couple of months and then allow my brain to rest and restart for a while. Maybe some people would never go back to writing if they allowed themselves to stop for as long as I do. But I have the comfort and confidence of knowing that writing has always been a part of me. No matter what happens, I know I’ll come back to it when I’m ready.

Pushing myself has only hurt my work in the past. Giving myself the time and space to focus on other aspects of my life is what I need right now. I truly believe that the only writing philosophy you need when it comes to producing work is to do what feels right and natural for you. Don’t get hung up on rules or expectations. Don’t beat yourself up for not following someone else’s schedule and routine. Create your own and feel free to deviate.

There’s no such thing as a “real writer” anyway. We’re all just creative people trying to create when, where, and however we can.

 

photo credit: [Void Of Time] via photopin (license)

The Surprisingly Difficult Art of Revision

8496928034_388aaba692I’m writing to you from deep within the revision trenches. My contemporary YA novel is getting a major rewrite, to the point where only about 5-10% of the original material is making the cut in the new version.

I’ve switched tenses, combined characters, changed plot lines, and increased overall conflict and tension. I’m working hard to make my main character more flawed and relatable with believable and sympathetic challenges.

This revision has been so consuming that I haven’t allotted time for much else, including blogging. Now that I’m at the halfway point of the manuscript, I have to say that real, overhauling revision is an art. And it’s surprisingly hard.

So much emphasis is put on simply getting down the first draft that few writers are prepared for the realities of what it takes to finish a manuscript that will hook an agent or do well in the indie publishing realm. I certainly wasn’t. I’ve revised projects before, but never quite like this. I’ve never started over from scratch, keeping only the skeleton of an idea I’d already written a complete draft of and majorly revised several times.

At first, I was very resistant to the idea of rewriting the entire book. I’d grown so attached to the novel as it was, to its idiosyncrasies, charms, and even its shortcomings, that it was hard to imagine throwing it all away – the good and the bad – for the sake of telling a better overall story.

There was a certain excitement and optimism at first, especially with the brand new opening chapter. But once I got to the material I’d already written, it was so difficult not to want to take short cuts and simply copy and paste it the original over. Every time I tried, I could sense that it was almost always the weakest material in comparison to the new writing, and I ended up having to throw it away once again.

I hit a major slump a few chapters in, unsure if I even liked or cared about this novel anymore. It seemed like so much work on top of an already amazingly huge amount of work. I forced myself to keep trudging on, trying to believe that I was ultimately working toward a much stronger and more powerful novel.

While it’s easy to believe that great works of writing simply fall out of an author’s mind, the truth is rarely that simple. Most writers spend years on their work, writing and rewriting, receiving critique and revising. As much as I’d hoped I’d nail it on my first try, I’m no exception. It’s difficult, time-consuming work with no immediate rewards or encouragement. But I can already see how much stronger this new draft is compared to the original, and I hope to come out on the other side with a novel that is ready for an agent.

A big shout-out to the PitchWars competition for lighting a fire under me and offering me the encouragement and guidance I desperately needed to make this novel a worthwhile project. My unofficial mentors, Rachel Lynn Solomon and Wendy Spinale, have been so helpful and gracious. I wouldn’t be doing this without their help, or the support and feedback of my number one beta reader and boyfriend, Pj.

 

photo credit: “Today is the day to try out a typewriter” via photopin (license)

My #PitchWars Mentee Bio

Welcome #PitchWars mentors and fellow participants!

If you’re reading this, you’re either looking to know more about me, or you’re a regular reader of this blog and are currently experiencing some confusion.

For those in the latter category, here’s the deal: I’m participating in a Twitter contest called #PitchWars where I’ll be submitting my YA novel to a small list of potential mentors in the hopes that they’ll work with me on editing and presenting it to a group of literary agents. This is my bio for the competition, a chance for potential mentors to get to know me.

First, A Little About Me

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My name is Alana. I’ve lived in Los Angeles since I was 13, but I originally grew up in a small town in Maryland. I primarily work from home as a freelance writer and editor. I’m also an intern at Folio Literary Management and a part-time after school instructor for Minecraft classes.

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I have an awesome boyfriend named Pj. He’s an artist (and fellow Doctor Who fan).

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Pj has a dog named Zoe (left), and I have a dog named Zephyr (right). I adopted Zephyr from a rescue five years ago. We also puppy sit a neighbor’s dog on a regular basis, so there are a lot of dogs in my life. I love all animals, but I have a soft spot for pups.

When I’m not working or writing, I’m usually reading or watching TV shows and movies on Netflix.

These days, most of my reading consists of YA contemporary fiction and memoirs. I also read a good amount of literary fiction. My favorite authors include Truman Capote, Francesca Lia Block, Rainbow Rowell, John Green, Cheryl Strayed, A.S. King, Lidia Yuknavitch, Leila Sales, J.D. Salinger, and Jandy Nelson. You can check out my Goodreads for more on the books I’ve read.

Some of my favorite shows include Gilmore Girls, Freaks and GeeksDoctor Who, Sherlock, PsychDariaFriendsGame of Thrones, and Parks & Rec.

My all-time favorite movie is Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro. I love it so much that it inspired a solo trip to Japan in 2009 and a tattoo on my ankle. I also love Amelie, The Princess BrideGhost World, and anything with Cary Grant or Humphrey Bogart.

If I’m not reading, writing, or watching something, I’m probably rocking out on my ukulele. I’ve been playing for three years, and I write and compose my own songs.

In addition to making music, I also listen to a lot of it. My favorite musicians are Ani DiFranco, Tori Amos, Andrew McMahon, The Shins, The Rocket Summer, Joanna Newsom, K’s Choice, and Ben Gibbard.

Oh, and for a hot second, I was a meme called “Pelican Girl.” It was a thing on Reddit for a few days after my boyfriend posted a photo of me that looked like I was riding a pelican.

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About My Writing Journey

I’ve been an aspiring author since the age of six, when my mom bought me my first journal. On the gold-lined pages, I recorded random thoughts about my friends and snippets of poems and songs that I created.

A couple years later, I began writing stories and making books. I showcase a couple of my lovely cardboard-covered childhood creations in this video:

I studied creative writing in college and wrote a couple of novels. I then received my MFA in Writing from Antioch University Los Angeles in December 2014. My final manuscript for the MFA program was a memoir about my experiences growing up with anxiety disorder and depression.

Mental illness is a subject I have much personal experience with and write a great deal about. I hope to fight stigma and spread awareness about mental health issues, especially depression and anxiety disorder, through my writing. I’m a contributor for The Huffington PostHelloGiggles, and RoleReboot, and I recently had an essay in the Los Angeles Times. Some highlighted publications are listed on my Writing page.

About My #PitchWars Manuscript

The manuscript I’m submitting is a YA contemporary novel about a girl who runs away from home and ends up homeless on the Venice Beach Boardwalk. She’s struggled with bouts of depression as well as substance abuse issues. Check out the novel’s Pinterest board for some of my visual inspirations.

I wrote the first draft of the novel back in college. I revisited it a couple years later, then revisited it again earlier this year. The story has stuck with me all these years, and with some major editing and rewriting, I’ve transformed the initial idea and rough draft into something larger and more coherent.

The character and her journey are both close to my heart, and with the right mentorship, I think I’ll be able to really make the manuscript shine. I’m very dedicated to my craft as well as the editing process.

No matter what happens, I’ve really enjoyed being part of the #PitchWars community and getting to know so many amazing writers and mentors. Thanks for reading my bio!

Check out more mentee bios on the blog hop.