Write. Play. Explore.

 

As a former high school English teacher and cross-country coach, I love the chance to connect with kids and young adults. It’s the best part of my current job as an author. Since my first book came out 10.5 years ago, I’ve had a lot of experiences with readers across the country and at my own desk, through travel and emails and shared experiences.

There was the juvenile girls’ detention center in Kalamazoo, Michigan, where girls asked me tough and beautiful questions about my own life and about my book Matched, which they had read and discussed as a group. Later that day, I learned from the librarian who had invited me to Kalamazoo that the librarians in the area take turns going over to the detention center at night. While the kids are going to sleep, the librarians read them books over the PA system. For some kids, it’s the first time they’ve been read to sleep. For all of them, it’s a time they can escape into the story. I wept in the front seat of his car and he smiled and handed me a tissue.

There was the day one of my former students wrote me to tell me he’d read my book. “Good job, Mrs. Condie,” he said, and he sent me a picture of his new wife and baby.

There was the assembly in Oxford, Mississippi, where kids called out questions so fast I could barely keep up. They slipped me notes afterwards telling me what they thought of my book, and they had some very good suggestions.

In all of these moments, and many others, I realized that what was happening was not about me at all. Ever. It was about words and what kids bring to them. It was about youth and reading and writing and having the chance to tell their own stories.

Write. Play. Explore.

I started thinking about what I could do in my own community, in Utah. About how I could attempt to bring authors to kids who don’t often see them and authors to places they don’t often visit. My first idea was a Writermobile to drive around and take authors to do school visits or writing workshops in rural areas, but the logistics and costs proved prohibitive. I thought about a writing camp I’d keynoted in Minneapolis, and how wonderful it had been, and thought perhaps we should try something like it in Southern Utah. We could draw in kids from rural areas through scholarship and by using contacts in the school districts. I contacted friends who were writers, teachers, leaders.

And that’s how the WriteOut Foundation was born. It’s a non-profit foundation aiming to create writing camps for rural kids. We’re starting in Cedar City, Utah, with a three day camp that will take kids to a national park, to a Shakespeare play, and which places them in a small classroom setting to workshop with nationally recognized authors. We’re using scholarships for 20% of attendees to make sure we reach those with the greatest financial need. There are also 80 spots open for paying attendees, and we can’t wait until we are at capacity. We are charging only enough to cover the costs of the camp.

I’ve been floored by the generosity of people at SUU (Alisa Peterson, Wendy Temple, and Tasha Seegmiller, among others) in stepping up when our original (and wonderful) liaison left the university. The WriteOut board (Ann Dee Ellis, Krista Bulloch, Brian Jackson, Denise Lund, and Scott Condie) has invested hours and hours without pay. Authors Brandon Mull, Brendan Reichs, Margaret Stohl, and Ann Dee Ellis came on board when it was just an idea and have been extremely generous with their time, with donating books, with staying in local homes to cut down on expenses, and much more.

And the best part of all—we’ve had the most amazing stories shared with us already through the scholarship applications. Students have told us about their battles. Their courage. Their creativity. How much attending this camp would mean to them.

WriteOut Camp is going to be a gathering where it’s safe for kids to talk about and write their stories. If you feel inclined to join us—whether you’re a young writer who wants to attend, a teacher who would like to volunteer, an author who’d like to donate books, or an adult who is willing to donate—we’d LOVE to have you.

www.writeoutcamp.org 

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SonyaSones1

Sonya Sones

Ally Condie is the author of the MATCHED Trilogy, a #1 New York Times and international bestseller. MATCHED was chosen as one of YALSA’s 2011 Teens’ Top Ten and named as one of Publisher’s Weekly’s Best Children’s Books of 2010. The sequels, CROSSED and REACHED, were also critically acclaimed and received starred reviews, and all three books are available in 30+ languages. Her middle grade debut, SUMMERLOST, is a finalist for the 2017 Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery.

 

She is the founder of the non-profit WriteOut Foundation, which runs writeoutcamp.org–a writing camp for teens that allows students to work with published authors, experience the outdoors, and enjoy other activities (plays, costume balls, rock climbing, and more).

Ally lives with her husband and four children outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, writing, running, and listening to her husband play guitar. Follow Ally on Twitter and Facebook.

Why You Should Practice & Strengthen Creativity

I am not a writer. I write a lot, but none of it is fiction. What I do is teach university students who want to be elementary teachers. I teach them how to teach art and how to teach with art (these are actually two different things). As you can imagine, we talk about creativity a lot. Creativity has been a hot topic for quite a while. Sir Ken Robinson’s TED talk, Do Schools Kill Creativity jump started the topic in 2006. The IBM 2010 Global CEO Study did the same thing. Also the Newsweek article, The Creativity Crisis from 2010, the Kelley brothers’ book (and industry), Creative Confidence, and on and on and on.  

Despite all of this,  I’m often surprised at how many of my students do not understand what it is or why it’s important. These are students who want to work with children, very young children, and they don’t know that according the the National Association for the Education of Young Children, creativity is an “essential mindset for young children.”

So my students and I read textbooks and articles and watch videos and we discuss and discuss and discuss creativity and how nurturing it can change the life of a child. We talk about how to recognize creative behavior when we see it, and of course about how to promote it. We also talk about how a teacher must also nurture his or her own creativity in order to be ready to help their students. It’s like putting on your own oxygen mask first.

When we get to this idea, my students get uncomfortable. They get shifty eyed and fidgety. They look at the floor. It turns out that many of my students are afraid to engage in creative endeavors or activities. They really don’t even want to try. So they avoid them.

Over time I have found that my students all have basically the same four reasons for fearing creative endeavor; they are afraid of looking dumb, afraid of wasting time, afraid of not being able to come up with a new idea – all the good ones are taken, and afraid that their creativity will hurt or inconvenience others.

Why You Should Practice & Strengthen Creativity

To me, all of these reasons for being afraid are also the exact reasons WHY someone should practice and strengthen their creativity. This is what I mean:

Afraid of looking dumb: If you try and fail, you will become more and more okay with admitting your shortcomings. You will recognize that “messing up” is part of learning. All the great ones mess up too. Over time you will feel less dumb and more confident. Being brave is part of being creative.

Afraid of wasting time: When you practice your creativity you will learn how to find successes in your failures. You’ll see the parts that work and find ways that you have grown and improved and changed, even if the entire endeavor didn’t work out. You will recognize that you can learn from all of your creative work, even if it’s a big ol’ flop.

Afraid of not being able to come up with a new idea – all the good ones are taken: You will realize that you are totally right. New ideas really are few and far between. That’s okay though. Our ideas are built on everything we have ever experienced. Being creative is making new combinations based on YOUR experiences – that’s what’s really new and different. No one else has your unique collection of acquaintances, books read, thoughts thought, conversations shared, music listened to, hikes hiked, road trips taken, mistakes made. When you put these all together, even if you’re telling a version the same story you’ve heard before, unless you try to deliberately sabotage yourself, this new telling of that story will be your own.

Afraid that your creativity may hurt or inconvenience others This one counts. This is the one you do need to watch for. In your creative endeavors, be kind. Be aware. Recognize your actions and how they impact others. Find ways to include others when you can, and be sure give them an out as well. Creativity should be thoughtful and compassionate.

Although I teach these ideas semester after semester, I still I have to remind myself that they apply to me as much as they do to my students.  These ideas should matter to all of us. Aren’t we all a little afraid now and then to start a new creative task? Afraid to put yourself out there, in front of others – with people reading or seeing your thoughts, your creative acts? I think it helps to remember that looking dumb is sometimes okay, wasted time can actually be time well spent, old ideas can be awesome when seen through your personal lens, and it’s important to be creatively compassionate and kind.

____________________

Screen Shot 2017-03-21 at 2.55.50 PMAlisa Petersen is the Beverley Taylor Sorenson Endowed Chair of Elementary Art Education at Southern Utah University. Alisa grew up in Oklahoma in a home where exploration, making, play, and creativity happened every single day.  She studied art and art education at Ricks College, BYU, and Southern Utah University. She has worked as an elementary visual art specialist, a district art coordinator, an outreach artist, and now as a university professor. She teaches courses in early childhood creativity and arts integration.

How Volunteering Improved My Writing

 

We are thrilled to welcome today’s guest and current president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association Christine Adler.

When I first started publishing articles and essays, I emulated what I’d read. National newspapers and magazines were my guides for pacing and tone. My editors loved the articles and my readers responded well to the editorials and essays. So I figured I could do the same thing when I decided to try my hand at fiction—emulate what I’d read.

Well.

If you don’t already know, let me tell you how much harder it is to write fiction than non-fiction. How can that be? You ask. It’s easy to make stuff up.

Yes, it’s easy to make stuff up. I’ve known that since I hid my brother’s favorite blanket when he was two and said I hadn’t seen it because he was being a pain. But articles are also easy. You talk to people, you learn about a place, an event, an organization and put it all down in black and white. Who, what, where, when. No emotions involved, just the facts, ma’am. But fiction? Whoa. It’s not just making stuff up. It’s making stuff up that people will care about, want more of, cry over, laugh over, love. Nothing easy about that, it turns out.

So I set about learning the art of fiction, turning to those tried and true tools upon which fiction writers depend: workshops, daily journaling and craft books. Then three years ago, I heard about a new, online writers’ group called the Women’s Fiction Writers Association, and I signed up. I figured meeting other writers—even virtually—would be another way to help improve my craft.

Not long after becoming a member, I was tapped to volunteer. To do what? I thought. I’m not a published author. What could I possibly bring to the table? But I was game and had nothing to lose, so I said yes.

Well.

Jumping into the deep end of the pool taught me to swim with the big fish in a hurry. I learned a ton about non-profits, Boards of Directors, bylaws, planning and moderating writers’ workshops and more. But volunteering also taught me some skills that I never anticipated. The best part is that they translated to my writing. Here’s how:

authenticity

Authenticity

I wasn’t much of a volunteer before WFWA. Nothing that required interacting with people, anyway. When you volunteer to do a job, no matter how big or small, you’ve promised to show up and work for no pay. That means you’d better love the organization you’re supporting and the work that they do. How to know? Do a little soul-searching. What matters to you? What gets your blood going? If you knew your time could make a positive difference in people’s lives, whose lives would you change? The answer will bring authenticity to the work you do. It will matter because it matters to you.

Once you’ve done that, you can’t help to bring that authenticity to your writing. You want to dig in, find the root of problems and get your hands dirty. This is where you need to tell the truth. Yes, you’re making stuff up, but at your story’s heart is an emotional truth. That truth comes through in my stories where it didn’t before. It’s made my stories and my characters real. Authentic people can’t help but write the emotional truth.

Courage

Asking for help is hard. Painful, even. Be it emotional, financial or otherwise, I hate to be vulnerable, to need others, to put myself out there. But life sometimes demands it, demands that we swallow our pride and say, “I can’t do this alone.” I’m a firm believer in karma, so when I’m in a position to help someone, I just do it. I’ll smile, encourage and give whatever knowledge or skills I have that can make someone’s life easier, if only a little bit, if only for a little while. Because it makes me feel good. Useful. Brave. I feel strong not because someone came crawling to me and made themselves vulnerable, but because I was able to lift someone up without making them leave their pride at the door. We’ll all need help at some point in our lives. Helping others when they need it creates a beautiful balance in the universe. The more positive energy we expend, the more of it there is in the world. That can never be a bad thing.

The great thing about helping? It’s empowering. I’m changing the world for the better!

*strikes Wonder Woman pose*

And that translates into courage in my writing. I’m not afraid to take risks with plot ideas. I don’t shy away from the tough conversations between my characters. I ask others for their feedback and use their input to improve my work. When I feel good about myself as a person, I feel brave with my writing.

Community

At a time when everything feels so divided, volunteering with other like-minded, passionate people to do good for a community is one of the best ways to come together. Writing is such a lonely endeavor. Mutual support can remind us that we really are all in this together, and the more we help each other, the better our world will be. Remember those other WFWA writers I volunteered to help? They make up one of the most caring communities I’ve ever encountered.

I used to think writing fiction was just a way to tell my stories to individual readers. Now, I write books that I hope will change lives. Maybe they’ll help someone tackle a personal challenge or feel less alone. Maybe they’ll bring readers together to discuss ideas, fears and hopes. With my writing, I can build community through books, uniting people I may never meet. Like volunteering, writing isn’t just a one-way shout out to random strangers; it’s a way to change the world.

WFWA is a supportive, inclusive and professional organization of writers run entirely by volunteers. I’m honored to have been elected President this year. Come check us out! womensfictionwriters.org

______________________

adler-small-headshotChristine Adler is a recovering IT Help Desk Design Specialist from corporate America. After her first child was born, she started a blog and never looked back. Since then, her articles, essays, poems and book reviews have appeared in various print publications and anthologies throughout the United States and Canada, as well as online. She’s a former Editor-in-Chief of the literary magazine Inkwell, and the regional NY Westchester Parent and Rockland Parent magazines. The current President of WFWA, she lives in New York with her husband and sons, where she dives into history and research for fun, something her children cannot comprehend. She’s diligently at work on her second historical novel. She enjoys Hershey’s Kisses, red wine and floppy-eared puppies, and has a very close relationship with coffee. She blogs at www.feedalltheanimals.blogspot.com and https://christineadler.wordpress.com.

 

How Fanfiction is Changing the Face of Publishing

We are excited to welcome Jennie Bennet as today’s guest!

* * *

 

Thank you for having me on Thinking Through Our Fingers, I’m really excited to be here!

It seems like every time I go to the movies there’s a new superhero flick. I don’t get to the movies much, seeing as I have four kids and limited time with my husband, but I am on the internet enough to know that there are at least four superhero movies a year, and all of them make good money.

civil-war

Why bring this up? Well, superhero movies are the fanfiction of Hollywood.

When I tell people I write Fanfic, most people don’t know what it is. Fanfiction is anything based on a character that doesn’t belong to you. Be it Harry Potter, Twilight, or in my case K-Pop (Korean pop music.)

lets-get

Since these characters (or real people who are celebrities) do not belong to the writer, most of the time the stories can’t be sold. But there is a loophole. If the characters are changed enough—mostly their name—they can be published.

The next question I usually get is about 50 Shades of Grey. Yes, that started as a fanfic, and yes, it was hugely popular.

But most of all, people ask me why I write it. The answer is simple, I love the fandom. A fandom is a group of people who are all crazy about the same thing—Harry Potter, Twilight, or K-Pop— and the K-Pop fandom is amazingly strong.

kpop

Asianfanfics is now the number one fanfiction site. This can include K-Pop, K-Drama, or Anime inspired stories or anything that came from Asia. I will say this, though, whenever I login to said site, all the most popular stories are usually about K-Pop.

I never intended to fall down the fanfiction hole, it happened because I made fandom friends who heard I was writer and asked for a fanfic. I did it for fun, and it became my happy writing place. As I made more fanfics, however, I started to pressure myself to get more views, spread the word to more people, find more comments, and generally sell something that was free.

This got me thinking. If I wasn’t afraid to publish my fanfiction on Wattpad (a popular site for free books) then why would I be afraid to put that same fanfiction up for sale? So I did.

I had to change the names of the original people and groups I wrote about, and there was some heavy editing involved, but on Dec 1st I published Snowflake Kisses on Amazon and got to #1 in YA Holiday.

K-Pop is still a fairly new thing in western culture, but it’s gaining popularity at an incredible speed. Like the superhero movies that are put out, the appetite for more books related to favorite fandoms is voracious. It’s an emerging genre that might be the next big thing, or it might only stay fun. Either way, I’m going to continue to write Fanfic because I enjoy it, and if I sell a few books along the way, it won’t hurt.

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jennie-bennetJennie Bennett is a mother to four beautiful and crazy children, and a wife to an incredibly hot and kind husband. She found a passion in Korean pop culture in January of 2013 and she’s never looked back since. She currently resides in Houston, Texas with her husband, kids, and a cute puppy named Charlie. You can find her website here.

Guest Post: 19 Things My Friends and Family Said About My Book

We are thrilled to have Bethany Chase, author of THE ONE THAT GOT AWAY available in MARCH 31, with 19 things her friends and family said about her book.

1. My editor friend, circa 2010, after reading my very first draft: “You need to understand it is a compliment when I tell you I did not expect this to be this good. Usually when my friends give me things to read it’s very much a ‘don’t quit your day job’ conversation.”

2. My husband, circa 2011: “Why won’t you let me read a draft of your book?”
Me: “Because I’m self-conscious. You don’t get to read it until it’s on a shelf at a bookstore and I can’t stop you from buying it.”

3. Everyone, at any given point in time: “Hey, do you want to come to this fun event?”
Me: “I can’t, I have to write.”

4. Everyone, March 2013: “Your book is done? When do I get to read it?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

5. My newly-acquired agent, April 2013: “So is the love interest based on your husband? He must be an amazing guy.”

6. My editor, July 2013: “So is the love interest based on your husband? He must be an amazing guy.”

7. My husband’s friends, July 2013: “So is the love interest based on Allen?”

8. My husband’s friends, July 2013: “So is the main character based on you?”
Me: “No, not really.”
Me: “I mean, it’s pure coincidence that she’s also an only child from the Virginia Blue Ridge who lost her mother to breast cancer at a young age, and went into an architecture-related field.”

9. Writing craft cliché: “Write what you know.”

10. Everyone, August 2013: “You got a book deal? When do I get to read it?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

11. My in-laws, November 2013, over Thanksgiving dinner, escalating their arms race with their friends who have been bragging about their filmmaker son: “Bethany’s book is going to be published by Random House!”
My in-laws’ friends: “That’s wonderful! Is it coming out next year?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

12. My copy editor, May 2014: “You say the word ‘just’ a lot.”

13. My husband’s friend’s father, July 2014, over dinner: “You sure do have a big appetite. Are you sure you’re not pregnant? Where does it all go?”
My husband: “It goes to her brain.”

14. Everyone, September 2014: “Holy crap your cover is gorgeous.”
Me: “I KNOW. Thank you, Belina Huey.”

15. My boss, December 2014: “Could you please take a look at editing some of the copy in this product guide we’re releasing? I’ve noticed you’re really good with words.”

16. My boss, January 2015: “That’s awesome that you wrote a book. What kind of book is it?”
Me: “It’s a love story.”
My (young, male) boss: “Is it like 50 Shades of Grey?”

17. My friends, February 2015: “So when do you hit the NY Times bestseller list?”
Me: “AAAAAAAAhahahahahahahahaha”

18. My husband, March 4 2015, pointing at the finished copies of the book that just showed up in the mail: “You know I can just read this now. You can’t stop me.”

19. My friends: “So when is the next one coming out?”

http://atrandom.com/embeddabook/embeddabook.jsThanks so much Bethany!

http://atrandom.com/embeddabook/embeddabook.js
Enter below for the chance to win TEN copies of Bethany’s book!

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After growing up in the foothills of the Northern Virginia Blue Ridge, Bethany headed to Williams College for a degree in English. Only in the spring of her senior year did she begin to consider how exactly she might earn money with a degree in English. And this gave rise to the logical answer: interior design!

Bethany has been working in the architecture & design industry for over eight years now, but when she’s not hanging out with mess-makers and paint-slingers, she’s writing. And when she’s not writing, Bethany enjoys photography, karaoke, and complaining about being flat-chested.

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