writing

Writing Tips

That Creepy Feeling — Writing Shivery Stories


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First, let me say that this is what my average family gathering looks like around the holidays. The poisonous mushrooms steaming up grandma’s crystal platter. The live goldfish flitting about wide-eyed in their bowl, wondering if they’ll be swallowed whole or if cousin Octavia will get a hold of them first. Cousin Octavia likes to play with her food. Then there’s the questionable Jell-o, the stuffed gecko and Aunt Muriel’s bottle of Chanel No 5. Always handy when the still-beating heart hidden under the floorboards starts to smell.Addams Family DinnerOkay, my real family gatherings aren’t quite so grim, but they would make a good setting for a tummy-turning tale. So what are the secret ingredients to a juicy, brain-curdling yarn? (more…)

Writing Tips

To Conference or Not to Conference


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So, you’re an aspiring writer, and you’re considering going to a writing conference. Is it worth it? What should you keep in mind?

1. Do you need to attend conferences to become a professional writer?
No, you don’t. Conferences cost money, and sometimes you just don’t have it. What you do need is grit, a willingness to learn, a broad knowledge of the literature you’re trying to write and an awareness of how the industry works. It also helps to have a supportive group of fellow writers, who share your dreams, will give you constructive feedback on your work and will cry and/or celebrate with you when required. Attending a writing conference or joining a professional group, like SCBWI, can help with many, but not all of those things. If you are looking to learn more about the industry and to join a supportive community of writers, then attending a conference can be a great first step.

2. Will I get an agent or sell a book at a conference?
Maybe, but probably not. You are there to learn and make connections. Be open, ask questions and don’t be afraid to talk to the industry professionals attending the conference. They are regular people just like you. Learn how to give and receive feedback. Many conferences provide an opportunity for attendees to receive manuscript critiques from agents or editors. Don’t stress out. This is a learning opportunity. Make sure to listen and give yourself time to process any critiques before responding or dismissing feedback. Defending your work at first is totally natural, but try not to do it out loud, especially in your one-on-one with an editor or agent 🙂 Be open to making changes. Feedback that sounds wrong at first may end up enhancing your story if applied in the right way. Of course, the opposite remains true as well. Not every piece of advice that you receive from a critique partner or professional will improve your work. By joining a regular critique group, you can learn how to parse out which pieces of feedback to apply and which to ignore.

3. Will it be worth my time and money?
In my experience, yes. I always come away inspired and energized to work. I have made excellent friends through my affiliation with SCBWI, and I can’t imagine going on my writing journey without them. Plus, you will get to meet amazing people like these (goose not included):

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To learn more about SCBWI, the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, visit https://www.scbwi.org/ or https://oklahoma.scbwi.org/ for the Oklahoma chapter. You’ll also find information about their upcoming conference 🙂

Book News

I’m Officially a Starving Artist


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Ever since I was little, I dreamed of becoming a starving artist, and now I’m finally pursuing that goal!!! 😛 This is my last day working at the Southwest Oklahoma City Library. From here on out, I will be trying my hand at being a full-time author. I don’t have any misconceptions about the future. I know it will be hard, and it may not work out forever, but I’m grateful to have this opportunity. Here are some pictures from my last day:

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Here’s a picture of my desk at the library
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Or is it? No! It’s a miniature!
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Thanks Anne Grenier!
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Thanks Mary for the awesome brownies!
Writing Tips

How I Became a Writer


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My first foray into writing greatness came when I won second place in a Think Ink creative writing contest in second grade. I don’t remember the specifics of my story, except that it was essentially a fan-fiction version of my favorite short story at the time, “The Landlady” by Roald Dahl. Yes, it’s true, second grade me did not enjoy Barbie or Disney princesses; she was much more interested in sadistic landladies who killed and stuffed their guests. As far as I can recall, my story was even named “The Landlady,” a fact I only remember because the announcer at the awards ceremony called it “Bag Lady,” which upset me greatly at the time.

Years later, in fifth grade, bored with the usual, nauseating yearbook messages, I decided to get creative. So, when someone asked me to sign their yearbook, I wrote something like, “Hi, I really hope you DON’T go to an amusement park this summer and have all of your internal organs ripped out by a rogue carousel horse that magically comes to life…Have a great summer!” These messages were so popular that everyone in class lined up to discover the elaborate way in which I hoped they DIDN’T die. After I’d finished, I remember someone saying that I would grow up to be a mystery writer.

So, looking back, I think my journey to writing was appropriately weird and creepy. What about you? How did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

Writing Tips

Writing Memorable Characters


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From the misunderstood Lady Macbeth to the beloved Wilbur the pig, some literary characters stick with us long after the story ends. They are powerful, conniving, selfless, greedy and, most of all, far from ordinary. Like Paul Bunyan, these unforgettable characters tower over the rest and make even the most mundane moments seem larger-than-life.

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So how can you turn your run-of-the-mill lumberjack into a literary giant? (more…)

Writing Tips

Writer vs. Dr. Dread


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You know that moment halfway through a sentence when a sour taste creeps up the back of your throat? Is it the coffee and candy straws you ate for breakfast making an unwanted reappearance? Nope, it’s that crusty slimeball of awfulness I call Dr. Dread.49710_XXX_v1And no, he’s not a delicious combination of Jamaican seasonings, but he is a real jerk. I’m talking about fear. (more…)

Writing Tips

Adding Depth to Your Story


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I recently met with my book club for writerly types, where we’re reading Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King. Confession, I hadn’t actually done the reading, but as I was flipping through the chapter and seeing highlights I’d made my first time through the book, I was reminded of some of my aha! moments.

Leave Room for the Reader.

Readers are smart (even/especially young readers). One of the worst mistakes you can make is to underestimate their intelligence. Not only will they be annoyed, but they’ll also get bored. To engage readers, you need to give them an active role in the story. Make them work for it. What’s the point of reading a story if you’re not going to be inspired/changed/horrified/heartbroken by the end of it? (more…)

Writer Interviews, Writing Tips

Extended Interview with Nanci Turner Steveson, Author of SWING SIDEWAYS


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This is an extended version of an interview also appearing on The Swanky Seventeens Debut Club.

Kim Ventrella (that’s me) recently got the chance to speak with fellow debut middle grade author, Nanci Turner Steveson, about her new novel, SWING SIDEWAYS, recently published by HarperCollins.COVER_SwingSideways_final-1

ABOUT THE NOVEL

SWING SIDEWAYS is a heartfelt middle grade debut in the tradition of BRIDGE TO TERABITHIA. Annie spends a magical summer exploring in the countryside with her new friend, California, in search of two missing ponies. But, when Annie discovers the truth behind California’s secrets, everything she’s learned about bravery, forgiveness, loss and love will be put to the test.

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Writing Tips

Top Ten Writing Tips — Part 1


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This is the start of a series I’ll be doing on my blog featuring my top ten writing tips. So, let’s get down to business:
1. Write (a lot)
Writing is a passion, but it’s also hard work. Not every moment involves sipping triple espressos at a hip coffee shop, letting the grinding of the machines fire your muse. Sometimes (most of the time), you have to forget about the dark sunglasses and adorable misanthropy and sit down at the kitchen table and write. And we’re not talking about a few expertly crafted sentences scribbled feverishly whenever the muse happens to strike. Writers who hope to make a living with their writing can’t wait for the muse. They have to write through hangovers, holiday weekends and looming mushroom-clouds of self-doubt. Some days will feel like caffeine-fueled love fests, every word streaming perfectly formed onto the paper. Other times, writing will feel like giving birth to a demon baby, the kind with pointy horns and teeth. No matter what type of day it is, try your best to write, and write a lot.

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