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Birthdays, Visits, and Horse Races!

I’m socially exhausted these days, and for that I apologize. Here’s what I’ve been up to the past few months:

Kat Zhang came to visit!

As you may know, Kat and I have been friends since 2010 when we were both contributors to the blog project Let The Words Flow. Kat came down to spend the night with me on her way home from some traveling. Here’s what we did:

sav makeupKat put some intense makeup on me using techniques she learned from assisting a professional photographer with shoots. This eye makeup was crazy, yo. We also put red eyeshadow and gold sparkles on my other friend. It looked great!

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The next day we went to brunch, and then rode horses at my family’s stables. That’s me leading a horse out to ride. My sister guided us on a mini trail ride and it was super fun. Kat was riding my sister’s champion horse, who loves to splash around in puddles. We got muddy!

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Then we took an ATV out and Kat took some great photos of me and my sister down by the river, which was swollen from tornado-inducing storms the days before. This is my new social media profile picture! We also took some pictures of Kat, but my sister and I are enthusiasts, not professionals, and I guess they came out kind of blurry, lol.

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Lastly we took some fun photos, and I love the way this one turned out!

Birthday!

I turned 25!

I bought some crazy lipstick and nail polish, wore a tiara like I just didn’t care, and went out for hibachi with my family and friends!

Sav birthday tiara

 

Thank you to everyone who sent me sweet birthday wishes through social media <3 You are so kind!

Hats and Horse Racing

My family has started up a horse stables, and this past weekend they invited a bunch of horse folks out for a big party to watch the Belmont Horse race. All the ladies were asked to wear fancy hats, so I present to you myself in 50’s themed fancy horse racing attire:

Horse race hats

I bet on Wicked Smart, who did not win, I am sorry to say. However, I did win the ‘best hat’ contest (by a majority), so there’s that.

Writing

I’m still plugging away at Cobworld edits, but I hope to be finished very shortly. Then I get to dive back into a previous project, and I’m just so excited I could burst.

Hopefully I’ll talk to you soon! ;-)

<3, Savannah

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A Summary of NaNoWarmUp, and news about Nameless

As announced in late September, this month I’ve been co-running NaNoWarmUp with Kat Zhang. The experience has been invigorating, and I’m pleased to say I’ve added more than 25k to Nameless!

Because I still get emails, comments, and sometimes FB messages from folks asking about Nameless, I added a comprehensive timeline to the Nameless page, so you can check that out if you’re curious.

Below are my personal charts for NaNoWarmUp!

I learned something really valuable through the experience, which is causing me to skip NaNoWriMo this year: writing to a time limit, such as a sprint, makes me write crap instead of valuable stuff. The past few years I’ve used NaNoWriMo to work on Nameless, and it was always crap. This October the pressure was lighter, and now I have 25k more words, every one of which I can keep.

Kat asked me to join her in aiming for 35k in November instead of the full 50k of NaNoWriMo, but I want to take part of this month to edit through what I have, do some brainstorming, and continue to move forward. My goal is to be done with the first draft by the end of December.

In other news, I went as Joan Holloway for Halloween. My hairdresser wouldn’t let me dye my hair red, so there’s that, and my hair is so thick and glossy it just wouldn’t stay put in a french twist, but other than that I have this outfit down. You guys may not know this about me, but… I’m kind of Christina Hendricks shaped.

Earlier in the month I went to the Southern Festival of Books and got to see Kat Zhang again, albeit briefly. We attended a session about MG Fantasy, and I recognized one of the writers as the person who was the handler for Sharon Creech last year. You remember last year, when I accidentally waited for Sharon Creech to emerge from the bathroom, then awkwardly hovered for a good long while without actually getting the chance to introduce myself?

Yeahhh… So I wanted to go up and explain to this woman what had happened, except… I just sort of… ended up awkwardly hanging around YET AGAIN because she was setting up for her session and I didn’t want to go on the stage to talk to her, and so eventually I just sat back down, clouded in a shame of my own social failure.

Can’t wait to try again next year!

<3, Savannah

PS: I’m putting together a list of gifts for writers so you can flesh out your Christmas lists, so check back soon!

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Southern Festival of Books recap: Zombies, Writers, Sushi Nazi, and Shakespeare

On Saturday Chris and I drove up to attend the Southern Festival of Books. My primary goal was to meet Sharon Creech and hang out with Kat Zhang, but lots of other awesome stuff happened, too. Like this:

Zombie Walk!

Then someone offered Chris fake blood, so this happened:

And thereafter when we took ‘nice’ pictures, Chris had blood on his face:

That was us in this weird modern park, btw. On astroturf. Personally I think it was a critique on how by overprotecting our children we offer them a sterile, false reality, but I digress.

Kat Zhang and I were also on a windy bridge together, which resulted in pictures like this:

So to everyone who says I should be a model just because I’m tall… no. Here’s your reason why. Kat’s ‘Supermodel’ pics turned out great, btw.

I did see Sharon Creech talk, but never ‘met’ her or got my picture with her. I did hover awkwardly with her handlers outside a public bathroom waiting for her to come out, until I realized where I was and where they were, and thankfully she ignored me when she emerged. How do you explain that one? Umm, yeah I didn’t notice you were in the bathroom… Can I have a picture?

So yeah. Sharon Creech. Amazing woman and writer.

Then we had dinner at Sam’s Sushi, which is this little hole-in-the-wall place probably about as large as my living room. There are 2 tables and 3 additional chairs, and if Sam doesn’t like you he moves you out of his restaurant. He is the Sushi Nazi, like the Soup Nazi from Seinfeld. He also makes the most delicious, huge sushi rolls for $4, so we go and meekly wait to be served our deliciousness. I don’t have any pictures from this because I didn’t dare.

After, Kat took me as her +1 to an author’s reception for the writers attending the Festival. It took place in the inside parking lot of a snobby art gallery, a fact we did not realize until they started disassembling the area. Then it was like, ‘OMG there are cars behind that curtain! And cement underneath that rug you just rolled up! And where are you going with those lights?!’

Kat and I met some awesome people, among them A. J. Hartley, who was super nice and cool and funny, even if he did name-drop like a publicist’s roladex thrown out the window on a windy day ;-) I’m just teasing. The poor man can’t help it if his career as a writer and Shakespearean professor has led him to have such personal contacts as R. L. Stine, Patrick Stewart, and J. K. Rowling. Also Carrie Ryan and a number of other people I admire very much. But don’t worry; we razzed him about it all night so I’m sure he feels good and admonished for being so awesome.

Other points of interest: I ate deep-fried Oreos for the first time. They didn’t taste so much like Oreos as donuts, but I have no complaints.

~

Tomorrow I am off work and planning to write all day in an effort to finish the sleeping beauty rewrite. I’ll post if I finish, so wish me luck!

I am planning an article on being an introvert yet attending events like these, and the mental toll it takes.

Talk to you all soon!

<3, Savannah

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Post-Debut: A Reflection on the Nature of Writing After the First Book Comes Out

Recently I got the opportunity to live vicariously through my friend Kat at her first book signing!

I had a teensy part in the development of WHAT’S LEFT OF ME, and my friendship with Kat gave me a front-row view to the publishing and debut process. Watching her go through this journey and being present for a few significant moments in her writing career definitely revealed to me the reality behind book deals and debuts.

You see articles every now and then talking about it, but until I ‘experienced’ it for myself I never believed them: The debut is not life-changing. It is not a permanent fulfillment of your dreams. It is not a miraculous, ecstasy-filled moment where you attain nirvana and then magically graduate into an exclusive club of authors who always feel confident and talented.

The book deal, the debut, the signing… none of it makes your life or writing any easier.

I knew this stuff logically, but feeling and believing it was a different story. I counted down the days to WLOM’s debut (last Tuesday). I made a blog post, I saw the brief explosion of congratulations and announcements. Some pictures started showing up of Kat’s book in stores. But then it was over.

Amazon rankings don’t jump immediately (though they do increase steadily). When you think about it, everyone who was going to pre-order has already pre-ordered. Sales go up, of course, but it might be weeks, months, years before you truly know if your book ‘succeeded’ or not.

Meanwhile, during the countdown to release, I’ve interacted with Kat every day as she works on Book 2, returns to college, and studies. WLOM was going to debut in a week, OHMYGOOOOOOD, but Kat was also deep in the trenches of edits for Book 2.

Life. Went. On.

Deadlines had to be met. Class had to be attended. Groceries had to be bought. The debut didn’t lift one worry from Kat’s mind, or give her even a minute’s extra rest.

As for the signing, we arrived at the Barnes & Noble early. They had a table set up for her in the cafeteria, surrounded by people on their laptops with headphones in.

Kat had a beautiful cake made with a print-out of her book’s cover, but the B&N didn’t have plates for us, so I went to the Rite Aid across the streets and bought some. An Assistant Manager brought over a bag of plastic forks. We tested the pens to make sure they worked. Then we waited.

Biljana ‘Billy’ Likic (member of Pub Crawl who flew down from Canada to be at the signing) and I sat at a table adjacent to Kat’s; the ‘VIP’ table, as we called it, but let’s face it… we were all college-aged kids in jeans and jean-shorts and T-shirts, cutting our own cake and taking our own pictures.

2:00 hit and Kat’s readers started pouring in. Kat was alive with smiles and energy, and she looked so beautiful. For a magical hour and a half she greeted people, some of whom she knew, and some she didn’t. She wrote notes to them, they signed her guest book, then Billy and I ushered them into taking a piece of cake, gradually cutting up Kat’s beautiful cover.

  

At 3:30 the tide had ebbed, so we packed up, washed the frosting from our hands, thanked the Assistant Manager for the forks, and gave her the spare cake to give to the B&N employees in the break room. We went back to Kat’s dorm, exhausted from the event. It was just an hour and a half, but so tense! We were actually watching Kat at her first signing. She was actually making out books to people who were so excited to read what she’d written. My friend had made it.

Then she rested, Billy worked on homework, and I tinkered with the ACORAS revision. And that’s when it hit me.

What all those published writers said was true: The publicity, the events, even the touring when it happens – none of it changes your working life. You still have to sit down at the computer and get out the words.

Driving the 2 hours back this is all I thought of: Writing itself must truly be your passion, because you won’t get your fulfillment from the promotional events. They’re too fleeting. They’re too mired in the normalcy of our own lives. When we were at the signing, we weren’t glamorous or fabulous. We were just ourselves. Nervous no one would come. Thrilled they did. Stomachaches from too much sugar.

The experience has really changed my outlook on my career. Before I’ve wanted to be published so bad it hits me like a physical pain. It’s a combination of envy and desire, a need to prove myself, a need to join everyone who seems to be moving on without me. But once it comes – and it will come – it really won’t change anything, will it?

I will be in this house, in this room, at this desk, with this laptop. I will be scribbling in these same notebooks and dreaming these same dreams at night. All the lines of readers in the world won’t affect the characters in my head and my relationship with them. J. K. Rowling herself has to shut out the adoring fans and get some actual work done.

Writing is solitary work. It’s private. It’s a personal art.

I’m so grateful Kat’s graciousness allowed me to experience and understand this before it was my turn. I hope it gives me the zen to navigate my publishing journey while keeping my sanity and composure. I’ll try to keep in mind that The Big Day is just another day. A day with cake in it, to be sure, but still just another day that you have to get the words down.

Because that’s all there really is.

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So Proud and Excited – The Release of What’s Left of Me by Kat Zhang

Today is a very special day.

On March 21st, 2010, Let The Words Flow received an application from a girl named Kat Zhang. It was pretty clear from the beginning that she was ‘one of us’, and she joined the group not long after.

I first read her novel, at the time titled HYBRID, on April 25th, 2010. As I was reading the very first finished draft, I knew the manuscript was something special. Kat was something special. It was no surprise when Kat received offers from multiple agents, or when she sold her book to HarperCollins.

Now, just two and a half short years later, Kat’s novel WHAT’S LEFT OF ME is debuting into the world :-)

You’ve got to watch her book trailer; it’s one of the best I’ve ever seen.

And are you SEEING this book cover? I was in the car with Kat on a roadtrip when she was emailed the first draft of the book cover. After having read multiple versions of her story it was… breathtaking to see her receive such a beautiful and unique cover. It demonstrates her book’s concept perfectly; two girls, two souls, living in one body.

If you haven’t heard, that’s the concept for this fast-paced alternate-universe fantasy. From Goodreads:

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else—two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced healthy and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t . . .

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable-hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet . . . for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

You guys, like I said above, I’ve read multiple versions of this story. I’m honored that Kat used me as a CP during her editing process, and each time I read the manuscript it gave me goosebumps multiple times throughout. Kat’s writing is minimalist but so powerful. Eva is a prisoner inside her own body. The glory of being able to break from that prison, the horror of having her self stripped away, and the warm chords of friendship throughout this story are masterfully represented.

I’m very lucky that Kat lives only 2 hours away from me during the school year. I’m a total wimp about driving long distances though, so I only go see her a few times a year, but I’ll be in Nashville this Saturday at her first book signing!

If you’re looking for something a little dystopian, a little horror-y, with a lot of tension and a very unique concept, I guarantee you’ll like WHAT’S LEFT OF ME. Especially if you like institution stories! It’s been compared to The Uglies and The Golden Compass, but I’d like to add Girl, Interrupted, and One Flew Over the Cuckoos Next.

Congratulations, Kat! Always knew you could do it <3

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Congratulations to Kat Zhang for selling her first book HYBRID!!

Kat Zhang is one of my good friends, frequent CP, and a contributor with me at Let The Words Flow. I met her online last year and have hung out with her in-person several times. I’ve read her book multiple times in various versions, and am SO excited/thrilled/proud/pleased that she can finally announce that all her hard work has paid off! Here’s what went live in Publisher’s Marketplace this morning:

20-year-old pre-med student Kat Zhang’s HYBRID trilogy, about a 15-year-old girl who must hide the existence of her second soul or face imprisonment by the government, pitched as The Golden Compass meets Girl, Interrupted, to Kari Sutherland at Harper Children’s, in a pre-empt, in a major deal, by Emmanuelle Morgen at Judith Ehrlich Literary Management (NA).

However, this announcement is slightly untrue. Kat’s not 20 yet! She’s still 19! She actually accomplished the dream of securing a deal while still a teenager!

Kat is seriously sooo deserving of this. She’s in school as a pre-med student, she studies her butt off, and for the past 6 months she’s stayed up late, sometimes barely sleeping, in order to complete edits on her book so she could go out on subs. After a whirlwind flurry of interest from publishers (which I knew was going to happen, duh!), we were all thrilled (though not completely surprised) that HarperCollins came through with such a wonderful deal and snapped her up. They’re not going to regret it!

Here’s a summary of Hybrid:

HYBRID tells the story of a 15-year-old girl fighting for her right to survive in a world where two souls are born to each body and one is doomed to disappear

It’s seriously so good. The last time I read it, even after reading previous versions 4 times, the most recent version STILL gave me goosebumps, FOUR TIMES!

Just so you guys know, Kat has been my primary CP during these recent Nameless edits. And -personal news- since I got back my notes from my agent and have been working on changing the voice of the Poetess to make her feel more YA, Kat has been an absolute genius in pin-pointing the phrasing that needs to change, and how to do it so that I can find the young-person voice inside the Poetess.

She’s definitely one to watch out for in the future, and I am just so freaking PROUD of her!!!! Congratulations Kat!!!!