Monday, February 1, 2016

5 Reasons Why Teens Should Attend a Writing Conference

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It's hard to believe that last fall, at twenty-one-years-old, I attended my tenth writing conference.
I was sixteen when I attended my first {you can read about that experience here}. It was at this conference that I met the future publisher for Purple Moon, as well as lifelong writer friends (including Author Katy Kauffman, whose first book was published within a month of mine).

With my publisher, Eddie Jones -- 19-years-old
With author and writing friend, Katy Kauffman -- 16-years-old

Throughout the years, I've continued to make new writer friends at conferences, grown in my craft immensely, met my literary agents, and landed an internship with Hartline Literary Agency -- all thanks to these writing conferences. 
Is it absolutely vital that an aspiring author attend a conference? Of course not. It is possible to land an agent/publisher without attending one. 

However, conferences do increase your chances of signing with a literary agent. Not only that, but you have the chance to make face-to-face connections. It's impossible to express just how valuable these conferences are if you have not been to one before.

And now that the conference season is approaching, I've decided to reflect on the reasons why I'm grateful I attended conferences as a teen. 

Here are the top 5 reasons why you should, too:

1. Conferences provide the opportunity to learn about the industry and craft.

Agents are searching for writers who are not only familiar with the industry, but those who are willing to invest in their writing craft as well. They are not searching for the writer who has the "I'm already a perfect writer" attitude. Truth is: Every writer--no matter how experienced or well-read--has room to grow. 

2. Relationships are key in this industry.

Conferences provide the opportunity to network with other writers and professionals. Sure, you can network on social media. But on-screen networking does not offer the same personalization that face-to-face connections provide. You never know--the friend you make that first year at a conference could become your literary agent or publisher a few years down the road!   

3. You'll leave inspired.

Often, writing can drain us of inspiration. The well runs out at times--especially when we feel as though we're in this career on our own. We need to surround ourselves with writers every now and then. People who can help brainstorm with us, those who might understand what we're going through. And we need to attend classes that remind us of the reasons why we love the power of words. Trust me: Your fingers will be itching to create through the keyboard by the end of a conference!

4. Conferences give you an "insider" look on the writing career. 

As an aspiring author, it's easy to hold assumptions that being an author is a glamorous career. But by attending a conference, you'll view the industry as it is: The good, the bad, and the ugly. This is especially helpful for teens, because it will give you the chance to gain better insight as to whether or not you should pursue this vocation. 

5. Conferences provide the opportunity to enter into contests. 

Most writing conferences hold writing contests that the attendees can enter. These contests provide the perfect opportunity for aspiring authors to gain credentials, seek input on their novel by industry professionals, and potentially have their work viewed by an agent and/or publisher. Even if you do not have a completed book, you can still enter contests for a short story, novella, devotion, article, essay, etc. If you receive awards as a teen, think about how good that will look on your writing resume!

20-years-old -- When Purple Moon received a 2014 Selah Award in YA Fiction & First Novel

At every conference I've attended -- even the small ones -- I've left with an immense amount of information, inspiration, creativity, business cards, and notes. (And empty coffee cups, of course. ;)

Writing, of course, is a solitude career. These conferences give writers the chance to be surrounded by like-minded individuals who are headed along the same path. I'm reminded of the scripture Proverbs 27:17 {NIV}, which states: 

"As iron sharpens iron, so people can improve each other."

Be aware, though, that as a teen, you will probably stand out because of your age. (Unless there is a teen track, of course.) But don't allow that to keep you from taking your writing journey seriously. Besides, most adults are very supportive and encouraging of teen writers. =) 

Tweet: 5 Reasons Why Teens Should Attend a Writing Conference @tessaemilyhall #teenwriters #amwriting

Have you attended a writing conference? If not, are you interested in attending one?

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Prompts to Ask Your Teen Self: Discover Ideas for Your YA Novel

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The best advantage to being a teen writer is this: You can relate with the teens of today since--well, you are one. Adult authors may remember what it was like being a teenager, however they can only recall their experience being raised in their own generation. Not the generation today.

This, I believe, is one huge benefit that teen writers have. In fact, when I wrote PURPLE MOON, one comment I received from professionals in the industry was that my voice was that of an authentic teenager. It didn't sound like a teen trying to become an adult.

Even if you don't want to necessarily pursue publication at this age, use your teen years to your advantage while you can! (Trust me, they slip by far faster than you think. Which is strange. Because while you're in them, it seriously feels like it's going to last for-ev-er.)

So, below are some prompts I've compiled for you. Use your journal, Penzu, blog, Microsoft Word, or whatever you'd like to answer the questions below.

Then, if you want to write YA in the future, you can look back at your responses and discover new ideas for your books. (Or you can generate ideas for the YA book you're working on now. Or maybe you're an adult who needs to recall exactly what life was like as a teen. Or you could answer the questions from the perspective of your main character. Use these prompts however you'd wish!)


Prompts to Ask Your Teen Self ...

  • What taps into my emotions? What makes me laugh and cry?
  • What is the most embarrassing thing that’s happened to me as a teenager?
  • What are my doubts, fears, desires, and general questions about life?
  • What do I struggle with the most as a teen?
  • Who are my friends? Describe them as if they were a character in a book. What is their personality, appearance, strengths, weaknesses? How have they shaped me into the person I am today?
  • What has been my best memory as a teenager so far?
  • What has been the hardest memory as a teenager so far?
  • What do I want most in life?
  • What kind of person do I hope to become?
  • What is my family situation like, and how do I feel about that? (This is starting to sound like a psychiatrist office ... )
  • What are my insecurities? Fears?
  • What annoys me the most?
  • What makes me on-top-of-the-world excited?
  • What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  • How would I describe my personality? My appearance?
  • What is the average day of school like for me? Or the average day as a homeschooler? What do I think about my teachers, classmates, classes, clubs, etc.?
  • How do I spend my free time?
  • Do I have a boyfriend? If so, describe him. What is your relationship like, and why am I attracted to him? If not, would I like to have a boyfriend? Why or why not? What kind of guys am I attracted to?

I also recommend that you keep a journal, even if you only write in it once a day. Not only is this therapeutic and a great writing discipline, but it can serve as possible material for your future books as well. {When you write a journal entry, try to do so in a way that shows rather than tells.}

What other prompts could I add to this list? If you keep a journal, has it helped you generate new ideas for your stories?

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Monday, January 25, 2016

Monday's Minute Challenge: Writing prompt contest for teens & up!

A quick writing prompt challenge (and contest) for teens to get their creative juices flowing for the new week. A new prompt is posted, and winners are announced, every other Monday.

  1. The entry must be between 150 - 300 words. (In order to see how many words your entry is, write it in Microsoft Word, or you can copy and paste it here.)
  2. The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
  3. The winners will receive a badge for their blog.
  4. The winner will be chosen based on the judges's preferences, as well as the following questions: Does this entry capture my attention immediately? Does it make me want to continue reading? Is the writing clear? They will also take into consideration the writer's voice and style--not necessarily technical issues, such as grammar, punctuation, etc. 
  5. This is only for fun and to stretch your writing muscles--not necessarily to be taken too seriously. =)


The judge panel chooses these winners based on a point system. Keep in mind that the judges are not aware of which entry belongs to which participant until after the judging is complete.

This month's giveaway winner is ... Maddie! Congratulations! Be sure to respond to my email and let me know which prize you'd prefer.

My heart nearly stopped. I had thought I was alone. But the strange sound of crackling flames I hadn't lit told me I had company. I pulled my rough blanket closer to my chin, and groped for my pocket knife. One I found it, I flicked it open, and peered anxiously around in the darkness for the intruder. A crash and scuffling in the dead foliage told me that whatever it was had fled.
Or so I thought.
I grabbed a book from my satchel beside me, and put it in the nearest patch of moonlight. Leaning as close to the words as I could, I tried to figure out what is was that I just heard. Goblins, fairie, elves, giants, phoenixes-wait. I flipped back to the phoenix page, and my heart raced as I tried to read the words in what little light was left.
“Grab your book and follow me.”
I nearly passed out. I glanced around furtively for the owner of the voice...and then I looked down. What looked like a little ball of flames peered back at me. It should have been cute, but its bright green eyes stared into mine with an intimidating gaze. Snapping its beak impatiently, it repeated,” Grab your book and follow me.”
I was speechless. I had never seen a phoenix before; from what I had heard, they were rarely seen anymore, and those who had claimed to have seen one never had proof of their sighting.
“You have three seconds to make your final decision.”
Congratulations, Ariel! Click here for your badgeand don't forget to claim your points here. =) 

A headache pounded in a steady rhythm behind Emerson's temples. She pressed her forehead onto the pages of the book on her lap, ignoring the flashing lights which shone through the thin window curtain.
They were here to make another arrest, but as long as she stayed inside where she belonged, it was almost certain that they would not bother her.
Shouts worked their way through the window. Emerson straightened, her hand automatically moving toward the pocket knife on the floor beside her. The book tumbled onto the floor, and she snatched it, holding it against her chest. Her heart pounded against the hard cover, and she did not move for several seconds.
After a moment, she relaxed a bit and carefully set the book onto the thin cot beside her, and then stood, brushing dirt off the knees of her jeans.
An abrupt scream made her start. She stepped over to the window and pushed aside the edge of the curtain, pressing her hand against the cool glass.
It was dark outside, making the red lights too bright to look at.
Emerson used her foot to switch off the flashlight at her feet, making the room dark enough to see outside.
One of the uniformed men was guiding a less-than-compliant young woman toward the car parked beside her house.
It was difficult to tell the color of his uniform in the odd light, but if Emerson were to guess, he was low-ranking. A common soldier.
Her gaze slid across the ranks of men, and she slowly let her breath out. They were all soldiers. No high ranking officials or Hunters.
Emerson let the curtain fall closed, then tucked it around the odd contours of the window.

Congratulations, FaithClick here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)

The man looked at him, his face an impentrable mask. "You have three seconds to make your final decision."
John laughed, crossing his hands behind his head. "Oh, look at you! Joining the noble cause, eh? Assisting the last of the infamous Wire clan, and negotiating with me to aid your cause? Are you mad?" He leaned forward suddenly, placing his hands on top of the desk and looking intently at the man. "Not only am I not going to help you, I am going to be the one to stop you."
The man's expression did not change, and his eyes did not leave John's face.
John raised his eyebrows amusedly. "Are you trying to intimidate me?"
The man's accents were slow and deliberate. "Has anyone ever told you, Mr. Smith, that the key to a successful refusal is ensuring there are no playing cards at the disposal of the other side?"
The barest hint of foreboding crept into John's chest. "Meaning?"
The man lifted the corner of his mouth. "Exhibit A." 
No. Iciness gripped his heart. It couldn't be. They couldn't have known where she was. He'd made sure she was safe. But it was her jacket lying on the desk between them. He'd seen her in it this morning. He could even detect a trace of her scent mingling with the air in the room.
Rage boiled in his throat. His lips quivered. "Where is she?"
The man stood from his chair.
John slammed his hand down. "I said, WHERE IS SHE?"
The man walked over to the television. Turned it on. 
John's heart stopped.
There, inside the screen, was Rose. His Rose, her hand slapping desperately against the glass. Trapped. Trapped. But he would get her out. She knew he would. 
But- could he?
The man cleared his throat. " The question, Mr. Smith, is not simply, will you assist us. It is, will you save her?"
Congratulations, S. Brightly! Click here for your badge, and don't forget to claim your points here. =)

Honorable Recognitions

These winners will receive a badge, as well as 2 extra points:
  1. Maddie
  2. Olivia
  3. Savannah P.

    Thanks so much to everyone who participated!

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    • Submit your response in the comments below, or post it on your blog via InLink (below).
    • Your response should range between 150 - 300 words. 
    • The deadline for the contest will be the Thursday after next. 
    • If you'd rather not submit your post in the comments or on your blog, you may email it to me instead.

    Choose at least one:

    Note: You can always combine the prompts into one entry.

    (Optional) Write a passage continuing your entry from last week week (or whichever week you'd prefer). If you can, try to continue it using one of the following prompts.
    • Write a passage using these items: ring, old cabin, bunk bed (submitted by Olivia)
    • Write a passage based on this picture (submitted by S. Brightly)
    • Write a passage either incorporating this phrase OR based on this phrase:  

      "Now do you think it was a good idea?" (submitted by Faith)
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    Post your entry on your blog!:

    If you're posting your entry on your blog, please add your link below:

    Submit your prompt idea!:

    The prompts that are used for Monday's Minute Challenge are submitted by the participants. 

    Here's how this works:
    • You will be able to submit 3 prompts each week in the same format as above: three objects, one picture, and a piece of dialogue or phrase.
    • On Mondays, I will choose 3 prompts that have been submitted by 3 different people.
    • If your prompt is selected, you will receive 2 points!
    • You may submit in the comments below.
    • You must only submit prompt ideas if you have participated in this week's contest. Otherwise, your prompts will not be considered.  
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