Stick Figures

RWA Conference in NYC Blew My Mind!

imageReally, there is nothing like writing romance.  To be in a hotel full of people who are happiest when writing about love (and whose sense of humor reflects that) was truly something.  During this year’s RWA Nationals, I felt like I had come home. 🙂

Every writer’s experience at Nationals was a little different since we’re all in a difference place on our career track.  My goals for the conference were to meet and socialize with a ton of new writers (check!), take as many workshops as I could on craft and career (check!), and pitch the book of my heart (check!).

I made it a goal that in every workshop I attended, every breakfast I went to, and every granola bar “lunch” I ate while camping on the carpet in the sci fi elevator atrium, I introduced myself to another writer.  It was exciting to hear so many different writers’ stories, what they wrote, why they wrote it, and what they were seeking to achieve by attending the conference.  Allie Burton and Vanessa Barneveld, were YA authors whose books I read right before the conference, and it was a blast to go complete fan girl on them!

Many of the workshops I attended answered burning questions I had about the industry and traditional publication.  A common theme I picked up from several workshops was that series sell.  Readers who trust you as an author are excited to read the next book, and they want that title fast.  Authors who spend a lot of time constructing a story world find it easier to put out several books in that same universe than to start over in their very next piece, constructing a new world.  This got me rethinking how I write.  I prefer writing stand alones, but I can see myself writing a series that takes place in the same universe given each book contains its own hero and heroine and that plot stands strongly on its own.  I’m actually getting really excited about the prospect of writing a series and have begun toying with ideas for sequels to the manuscripts I’m currently working on.

Something that crystallized for me during the conference as a writer of YA is the difference in marketing and audience between YA romance and adult romance.  Many presenters touched on what sells and how to connect with an audience using social media, but what was said was generally understood to apply to adult romance and did, at times, directly conflict with what works for YA.  For this reason, I was very excited to attend the young adult chapter’s Evening of YA event.

During the event, I was very lucky to sit with some new friends I’d met at the conference as well as an agent and an editor.  The night included an agent/editor panel that reflected on changes and trends in the industry–focusing specifically on YA romance.  Next came an author’s panel to discuss their own take on the industry and what made their books successful.  What stuck with me from the author’s panel was how dedicated those authors were to their audience, connecting through social media, speaking with readers at signings and school visits, and–some of them–changing the lives of their readers through the messages contained in their stories.

It’s been a few weeks since I jumped back on the train with an arm load of books and a head full of ideas, but I’m still thinking back to specific workshops or conversations and having hmmmmm moments.  In general, I feel like I’m standing on more solid ground–that the decisions I make from here on out will help me to writer smarter, and I hope to keep up with a lot of the writers I met chillin’ in that arctic AC.  My husband doesn’t know it yet, but I’m totally going to next year’s conference.  Here’s to San Diego 2016!

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

MADE YOU UP by Francesca Zappia — Insanely Good YA Romance

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I ❤ reality-benders.  As soon as I heard about MADE YOU UP, I couldn’t wait to read it!  As far as offbeat and bittersweet go–check and check.  If you’re stuck in the overflowing washing machine of YA tropes and are looking for something a little (or in this case, a lotta) different, pick this baby up.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  Let’s begin with the summary:

Reality, it turns out, is often not what you perceive it to be—sometimes, there really is someone out to get you. For fans of Silver Linings Playbook and Liar, this thought-provoking debut tells the story of Alex, a high school senior—and the ultimate unreliable narrator—unable to tell the difference between real life and delusion.

Alex fights a daily battle to figure out what is real and what is not. Armed with a take-no-prisoners attitude, her camera, a Magic 8 Ball, and her only ally (her little sister), Alex wages a war against her schizophrenia, determined to stay sane long enough to get into college. She’s pretty optimistic about her chances until she runs into Miles. Didn’t she imagine him? Before she knows it, Alex is making friends, going to parties, falling in love, and experiencing all the usual rites of passage for teenagers. But Alex is used to being crazy. She’s not prepared for normal. Can she trust herself? Can we trust her?

The first thing I want to talk about is something that I can’t discuss since it would mean spoilers, and IT’S KILLING ME!  I’d love to enter a goodreads discussion with other readers of this book just to talk about what is real and what is not.  Zappia does a beautiful job painting the world as Alex sees it, blending reality and delusion until it’s impossible to tell the difference.  As a reader, I felt I knew better than Alex as she takes pictures to try and straighten out what is real and what’s made up, but that false sense of security in judgement is turned on its head at the end of the second act.  Ultimately, the reader is left in an existential fix as Alex questions her entire reality…but that’s where the love story comes in.

Miles is the valedictorian terror of the school.  He’s just about the worst person Alex, or anyone else for that matter, could get mixed up with.  He’s a paid prank artist and does horrible things to the possessions of people who’ve done nothing more than make his acquaintance (including Alex).  Miles describes himself as being emotionally stunted and seems the last person to anchor Alex in reality.  That is until he discovers (rather dramatically) that Alex is schizophrenic.  This draws him to her, his complicated history unraveling as Alex digs deeper into what makes Miles…Miles.  His home life so dark, his intellect so impossibly high, and his pranks so unthinkable, that it is both easier and harder to see him as a made up character.  Of course, Miles is a made up character–Zappia’s character.  The English major inside me at this up!

But even if you aren’t compelled to gleefully over-analyze every piece of media you encounter that contains a narrative, plumbing its depths for hidden meanings, you will find reasons to enjoy this book.  The characters act, talk, and think like authentic high schoolers.  Zappia has a humorous, quirky writing style that zips along, and you can tell she had a lot of fun writing it.

Be sure to check out Francesca Zappia’s webpage and her DeviantArt page where she posts artwork that goes with her stories.  Happy reading!

Michelle Joyce Bond

YA Romance Reviews

SECOND VERSE by Jennifer Walkup — YA Jersey Author

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Next in my series of New Jersey author’s, I’m pleased to present Jennifer Walkup whose romantic YA thriller SECOND VERSE will draw you into the shadows.

When Lange moves with her mom to a 200-year-old farmhouse, she has no clue what chilling history awaits her.  A séance puts Lange in touch with Ginny, a girl who was murdered.  Vaughn, a cute musician from her high school, was holding her hand during the séance.  He, too heard the whispered warning of the ghost, words that will haunt Lange through the rest of the book.

As Lange and Vaughn work to solve the mystery behind who killed Ginny, they draw closer and closer together.  But someone is watching them, a killer bent on using their love against them.  Is possible that the same person who murdered Ginny all those years ago is now after Lange?  Will she be able to outsmart him…or will history repeat itself?

I absolutely loved Walkup’s authentic teen voice which is clear from the banter between Lange and her friends in the very first scene and holds until the end of the book.  Walkup creates a fine web of tension as Lange discovers clue after grizzly clue.  One of the most intriguing things about the book was the title which I believe is a reference to the saying: “Second verse, same as the first.”  This theme ties in not only with the spiritual connection between Lange and Ginny’s characters but also blends in with the presence of music in the book as Vaughn is a talented songwriter.  Don’t miss this eerie YA romance!

Visit Jennifer Walkup’s site for more about SECOND VERSE and news on her new, upcoming title, THIS ORDINARY LIFE!!

Michelle Joyce Bond