Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Oh children, dear children

I'm coming to mentor you!

Through Barrel of Monkeys, I taught a residency at Morton Elementary, an Academy for Urban School Leadership (AUSL) school, last year. In fact, I taught the class whose picture shows up first on their website right now.

At the AUSL Festival of the Arts at Solorio High School last May, I saw even more of the impressive creative work coming out of these schools across the city. 

Well, AUSL just selected winners from their first-ever Young Authors competition, and part of the prize is visiting with a working writer. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be that writer for five of these schools. We'll talk shop. I'll be sharing my work and helping the winners create author bios and choose excerpts to represent their own work. 

I saw some amazing creative writing at Morton (um, "The Sound of Karma" anyone? Greatest title of all time?), so I have no doubt the winners of this contest will also startle and amaze.
Bang-ba-bang-ba-bang boomerang fangs bangs!
If that is not The Sound of Karma, it's close.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Chicago Writers Conference

In a fit of community spirit, I became a backer and secured admission to the Chicago Writers Conference. I'm aware of many small writing communities in Chicago. I'm excited to see them brought together under one giant, sparkly conference roof!

The project needs a little more cash to kickstart . . . Get on it!

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Big Prom

Tonight is Barrel of Monkeys' BIG PROM!

That's right, we're going to relive one of the most awkward nights of young adult life in an attempt to raise money (and do things better this time around).

As I explained in one of the Big Prom promo videos, my school did not have a prom. Instead, we had a Roast Pig Feast at which we, yes, roasted a giant pig, along with our school's faculty.

The closest thing we had to an actual prom was a dance put on by this nice young man's mom.

I was his date, and I hope he won't mind me posting this picture. I don't know him now, and I barely knew him then.

My best friend, and go-to fake date, had an actual girlfriend at the time. And SHE had bought the exact same dress as me, a lavender-sorbet-colored cocktail-length dream with a chiffon wrap that was meant to hang around the front of your neck and trail behind. Very 90's chic.

I wanted to wear that dress, but I did NOT want to wear the same dress as my BFF's date, so I borrowed the above navy number from my second cousin once removed and friend (yes, the Deep South) Annie. It clung exactly right, and it made me feel oh-so-sophisticated. I still have not worn the lavender dream. Le sigh. But it hangs in my closet at the parents' house.

Tonight, I'll be wearing a dress I've worn, I think, four times. It's red, sparkly, frilly, and it's what I would wear to every dress-up occasion if I though I could get away with it. I first wore it in 9th grade to a Coming Out dance. Not normal "coming out" either -- weird Southern debutant/sorority coming out.

The second time (the memory's not sure about this one) was for the Snowflake Ball. I was invited by a friend a year older than me and was one of just two or three kids in my class who got to go. I was so nervous the day of that Ball that I threw up on myself while driving to buy last minute tights and had to turn around. I think I ended up borrowing tights from my mom.

The third time was for an awards presentation at college, when I was supposed be a cheesy host.

The fourth, and last, time was for the first ever Barrel of Monkeys Fancy-Schmancy fundraiser -- I believe nine years ago.

This dress still fits me perfectly. Yes, I might be part vampire. MWA-HA-HA, aging, I defy you!

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nerd Nite Interview

I recently gave an interview about YA fiction, its history, its current appeal, and some of my favorite weird YA books on the Nerd Nite Podcast.

Appearing with me is me longtime friend and future librarian, Tom Malinowski.

Tom makes nerdiness an art -- we have nerded out on many topics: World of Warcraft, the Black Canary and other lady superheroes, horror movies, German board games . . . mostly superheroes, movies, and games. So it was really fun to nerd out with Tom about YA.

I was a little bit terrified of being recorded trying to sound experty, but the conversation went to some interesting places, and I only made a few mistakes. You can listen here.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Powers Activate!

Most days, I write alone. Often, I write in bed.

In the dark.

In a cave made of comforters and warmed by the breath of my sleeping dog.

 By the dim light of orange words on a black screen (full screen mode in Scrivener).

This is me writing at the Quirk and Quill retreat:

Writer friend, Mary Winn Heider says it looks like Halloween, and "doesn't that hurt your back?"

Sometimes, but I love Halloween, and I prop up with lots of pillows. I like that it lets me tap into my subconscious, that it makes writing feel like dreaming, that the only barrier between me and the words on the screen is my fingers' ability to keep up with my thoughts.

And then some days, I fall asleep writing in bed. Where is my Wonder Twin Zan saying, "We've got to stay awake, Jayna!"

Where is the ice unicycle that will aid my giant octopus in defeating those aliens? Or, you know, writing 1,000 words before it's time to go to work?

 My first experience with writing in public was in 2006. A classmate in a Young Adult Novel class taught by Cecil Castellucci told me about what he called "Power Writing." It sounded "powerful." And maybe fun. So we met at a cafe, plugged our laptops in, set a timer, and wrote. Power!

Later in class, Cecil would give us exercises and invite people to read aloud. I am not the read-aloud-after-writing type, but the force of a room full of people scribbling away is strong. It made me write.

"Power Writing" works for me, but I rarely make group writing sessions happen for myself. Checking in with an online support system, like the #amwriting hashtag on Twitter, helps, but it isn't the same as the present energy of other writers at work.

Recently, I met up with two other VCFA'ers in Chicago, Mary Winn Heider and Amy Rose Capetta, and we plugged in around Mary Winn's dining table. We started late, 9pm on a weeknight. I never write at night. I never write with friends. I never write when I've worked all day and have reason to be tired. But sitting with those two ladies and listening to our keys (all MacBooks) snap-tapping, I wrote more than twice my usual word count for one session.

And I loved what I wrote.

And we're going to do it again. Power up!

Cross-posted at Quirk and Quill

Friday, April 6, 2012

I'm Ba-a-a-a-ack!

I went away for more than a year. More than a year?

I know. I know.

So, some stuff happened.

I got an agent, the divine Sara Crowe. Right?

We made a deal with Harper Children's. Right!?! I know.

From Publisher's Weekly 3/1/12:  VCFA grad Rachel Wilson's debut DON'T TOUCH, about a girl who is afraid to touch another person's skin, until the boy playing Hamlet opposite her Ophelia gives her a reason to overcome her fears, to Rosemary Brosnan and Andrea Martin at Harper Children's, at auction, by Sara Crowe at Harvey Klinger (world English).

I showed up as an "Exciting Debut Author" at  RT Book Reviews' Forewards: The Books Before the Buzz. I mean, all they've read is the announcement, but still, that's real nice.

I served as a Graduate Assistant at the last VCFA Residency, where I got to hobnob with the new faculty and meet the current cohorts! And I attended the program's 15-Year-Reunion at AWP in Chicago last month, where I won a very special commemorative bear.

I've been loving on Twitter more: @storybookgirl

AND, my VCFA grad class, The Super Secret Society of Quirk and Quill has started a group blog called Quirk and Quill. Setting up that blog inspired me to come back here. I'll be blogging, there and here, more often.

I've given this blog a mini-facelift. It may change or move in the future, but for the time being, this is my blog. Thanks for visiting, or welcome back!