As a writer, I have always agreed with J.K. Rowling on her words…
Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic.
That statement has proven true in my life time and time again. For every word that has hurt me, there have been more that have healed. For all the words that cause me to doubt, there have been just as many to inspire, and it was three words my roommate said to me about two weeks back that ignited something inside me.
Our conversation wasn’t unlike many of the others we’ve had before. One of the biggest topics was my fear that I can’t do “this.” By “this”, I mean be a published author.
Waiting to hear back from agents is painstaking. Watching other debut authors bask in the glow of their first books is incredible. Feeling like I could never be among them even if I tried has been disheartening. But on this particular night, there was one thing my roommate said that must have been exactly what I needed to hear. With three simple words, he sparked a fire…
“It’s your turn…”
This struck me, and it is because of that conversation that a project that I’ve been working on for months is about to come alive in a way I had not originally planned, but which am now thrilled to pursue. It is because of those three words that I was able to find the courage at last, make this announcement, which I’m happy crying over as I type.
Allow me to (tearfully) present to you, Unraveling Light, my debut collection of poetry.
As of the time of this writing, you can click the above link and be whisked away through the interwebs to a Kickstarter campaign, where I am raising the set-up funds to self-publish the book this summer. My starting goal is only $900, which means if 36 people decide to pre-order a signed paperback right now (really, did I mention the link’s right here?) then that’s it. I’ll have the funds needed to publish, and the rest is just whipped cream and cherries.
As I’ve shared this news with friends and family in the past few weeks, some have expressed surprise that I write poetry. Trust me, no one is as surprised as I am that my first published work is going to be poems. For while I’ve been actively writing poetry for the past few years, I never would have dreamed when I started that it would ever be something I would want to share with others, because of how deeply personal much of it is. But as I’ve been chipping away at progress on my YA series, writing poetry has become a truly joyous outlet for me and has served as a magnificent means of self-expression. Putting together this collection, and subsequently finding a passion for doodling and word art that accompanies the poems, has been an unbelievable experience of growth, and so I couldn’t be happier to finally be ready enough to release it.
The campaign runs from today until April 25th, concluding on that date because that would have been my mother’s birthday, and she is the one to whom this book is dedicated. I tear up thinking about her, and wondering how she would feel to know that not only am I finally chasing my life’s greatest dream, but that I am doing it on my own terms. My mom always supported me, and I wouldn’t be the writer, dreamer, or person I am without her encouragement, even when the rest of the world didn’t believe in me.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing some teasers of the book here on my blog, but you can get more frequent updates by donating to the Kickstarter today so that you get notified as soon as something new develops with the project! For donating, you can get all manner of fun things from handmade bookmarks, to audiobooks, to signed copies of the book, and even custom art prints. By donating, you’d be helping me to achieve something I’ve dreamed about since I was a kid. So basically a ton of great karma on top of all the swag. A pretty sweet deal if you ask me.
I know there’s not many people who read this blog. I know that as far as the publishing world is considered, I am still a nobody. Hell, even when this campaign succeeds and the book is out there, it still isn’t likely to be a bestseller or to change the world. But it is my heart put to paper. As my campaign page says…
The words in this volume serve as not just the written sum of one person’s experiences, but as a celebration of surviving them.
As I begin this journey, I find myself so happy to have survived. I am so happy to still be writing. I am so happy to be alive to share this with you. I hope that whoever you are, stranger or friend, you can find some shred of magic in my words, and that through that, you can feel the same hope I feel as I put Unraveling Light out into the world.
Kind of kicking myself for waiting till the 12th day of the month to update y’all on my NaNoWriMo progress, but the timing works I suppose since yesterday was the best writing day I’ve had in a long time, for a lot of different reasons.
For one, it was 11/11, which is my favorite day because my favorite number is 11. Good mojo from the jump on that front. Add that to the fact that we had an extended Write In with some of my friends from the PhillyWrimos group, and you have the recipie for a very good writing day.
And boy howdy was it.
Wrote just over 5,300 words yesterday, definitely my best writing day since the summer, and by a long shot my best one of the month so far. Not only was the quantity of words exciting to reach, but the content of those words was so wonderfully unexpected and important to the core of the story I’m trying to tell. Obviously the writing of it itself is probably swiftly written garbage that will need lots of revising, but the ideas are there. The framework has been laid down, and I feel as if yesterday’s writing is something truly thrilling that I will get to build upon later.
The month as a whole has gone pretty well, even though I did have a several day dry spell where I couldn’t get anything down. (Though to be fair, that was less about not being inspired to write and more about being too busy/tired to actually sit down and try any writing.) The month goes on though, and to be honest, it goes a little too quickly for my liking. I can’t believe we’re almost half way through it.
But even as time flies by, I have to say this experience so far this November has been like 90% blessed and 10% stressed, because there is a indescribable thrill that comes with first drafting for me. Its like the one Terry Pratchett quote, “The first draft is you telling yourself the story.” That has largely been how I’ve felt. Its like I’m an archaeologist of my own subconscious, digging around in there and uncovering characters and plot points and moments of meaning. My love for the exploratory nature of first drafts knows no bounds in this or any universe.
I know that the writing process is made of many hills and valleys, and so I don’t expect things with this draft to stay lovely forever. I know I’m going to go through times of writers block, plenty of low points, and if I haven’t tried to defenestrate the manuscript at least a half dozen times before its done, I’m doing something wrong. But every part of the process, both the good and the bad, is what makes me love it. For every murky moment of self doubt, there’s a time for clarity and confidence. When I one day hold the finished thing in my hands, it’ll be worth every second of it, because I didn’t give up on it, and I made a thing that didn’t exist in the universe before. Even in the darkest of times, the little spark of hope inside me holds onto that thought, and it is what keeps me writing. No matter how many times I think I’m going to quit, I just ask myself the one question that’s been my guiding light this year… WWWWD? (What Would Wonder Woman Do?)
Felt compelled to pop in with an update because I’m almost there. It’s almost done.
Only six chapters left on the rewrite of They Are the Last, and then at long last, the second full draft will be done.
It has been a long time coming to this moment, so I won’t waste too much time in this post talking about the journey or what it took to get here, but I will say this… I’m literally on fire with excitement right now.
There’s a creative flame that always seems to come for me towards the end of a project–when I know that the completed thing is near, lying just around a few corners ahead of me. I spent so much of the last year and a half wandering and feeling lost in this process, but to have gained my sense of direction, to know exactly where to go and what is left ahead, knowing it will only be a few more days before I cross this new finish line… its like there’s fireworks exploding in my chest, and not in that weird Katy Perry way.
This magnificent burst of creative energy is a wave I look forward to riding out all the way to the end of the month, especially because of all that lies ahead for me in August. For not only will I be concluding the second draft of my book, but I’ll also be moving out from the building I’ve lived in for the past three and a half years, the place that in so many weird and unexpected ways, brought me back to this story.
I’m looking forward to going out with a bang, and can’t wait to share more about it here when its finished. If there’s one thing you can be sure of with me, it’s that there will be feels.
But for tonight, it’s back to the write space and back to the words. Excited to see how far I can get into Chapter 17 before sleep decides to kidnap me. See y’all at the finish line…
I won’t go into the details of that particular 2004 morning in which Piper and her story arrived in my head, since you can read all about that here. The short version is that it was just a regular day, but one which in retrospect turned out to be one of the most important ones in my life. In a way, when Piper’s story began, so too began my life’s quest to become what I really believe I’m supposed to be—a writer.
When I wrote last February 9th, I was filled with such a profound hope because I had just that week launched a campaign to publish the book through Inkshares. (Which in case you missed it, didn’t end so well…) As sad as I felt though when I had to close that chapter on Alteria’s story, the experiences had while trying to get the story out there shaped my year, and helped me grow tremendously as both an author and a person.
This anniversary comes on the heels of a tumultuous week, as sadly last Friday, one of my Uncles passed away. While we hadn’t been close in a number of years, it still shook me. It reminded me of something Lin Manuel Miranda said during his speech at the Tonys…
“Not one moment here is promised, not one day.”
It was a wake up call that life is precious, important, and very, very fleeting. It forced me to pay mind to my own mortality, and whether it was that, or just the sheer amount of sadness and emotion all hitting me at once, I started writing again. Writing like I haven’t been able to in months. 1000 words Monday. 1750 words Tuesday. 600 words yesterday. Words to come tonight. I’m unloading the pain in my heart like rounds of artillery, and emotion is pouring out from my heart like a river overrun from a storm. It reminds me of another quote I heard recently, this time by Carrie Fisher via Meryl Streep…
Take your broken heart and turn it into art.
Those words embody what this story has always been for me. Writing is the therapy I can afford. It is how I react to and reason with the world. When I was 13, I was bullied enough that I hated myself. Whether it was the thickness of my body or of the books I carried with me, they always had something to make fun of me for. Discovering Piper, creating a fictional world for her to save—it was the only way my imagination could figure out how to deal with it. If I could tell a story even a tenth as good as the ones I read and loved, then perhaps someone else might be emboldened. Someone else might be reminded not to give up, just like Harry Potter or Pendragon reminded me. All I can hope for is that Piper can be a light for others one day, like she has always been for me.
As I sit here, with the knowledge that more than half of my life has been spent on this story, my heart feels full. More wordless days of doubt and frustration are sure to come down the road. There will be hardships that will cripple my creativity, and there will be hardships that will remind me to keep fighting. I look forward to them both as much as I look forward to the joyful days that nourish my soul and give me hope. I look forward to all of it, because all of it is part of my story, and thus Piper’s story too.
So whether it takes just a few more months or a few more years, whether it is via a traditional publisher or I decide to publish it myself, this story will be shared with the world one day. Even as life remains full of uncertainties, in this the one notion upon which I stand sure.
SUPER SECRET SURPRISE!
Over the last few months, I’ve been working on a new full draft of They Are the Last, and as a surprise to celebrate 13 years since the story’s beginning, I’ve decided to do something special! You can now read the latest draft of the first chapter of They Are the Last! Simply visit theyarethelast.com/read & enter the secret code below to read it!
(Highlight between the arrows to view, then copy & paste)
–> PipersStory <–
This isn’t a final draft, but its as close as I’ve been able to get to one yet, so I hope you enjoy it. Share this blog post with your friends so they too can use the secret code to read Chapter One! Thanks as ever for supporting this story.
For most of the country (and let’s be real, the world) 2016 was just awful. Not only did we lose people who were regarded as cultural icons, but the world was ripped apart by wars, mass shootings, and other instances of violence that took so many others from us. It was a year in which I got to see both Bernie Sanders, and Hillary Clinton speak at rallies, each time inspiring within me a hope that this nation can do better, only to have hate win out in a devastating conclusion to an election, which felt more like the beginning of a dystopian novel. 2016 was hard.
But when I think about what this year meant to me personally, it was really a year full of words. This day last year in a frenzied marathon, I wrote 11,900 words to conclude my first draft of They Are the Last, which still is one of the most accomplished moments of my life thus far. So it was only natural that 2016 should be a continuation of that. And while I’ve yet to complete my full second draft, I managed to write 80,000+ words during NaNo and Camp months, and countless other words of rewrites for the new draft in-between. I even wrote my first short story (add another 5,000 words for that) which is hopefully set to be published next year. You could say that words themselves defined my year.
And so rather than try to convey exactly what it feels like to be writing like I’m running out of time, I thought I would instead share this collection of photos I’ve snapped over the year featuring the spaces in which I have written. Some were posted to my Instagram, some were taken with my professional camera, but all of them were captured by me.
As a writer, it feels like sharing these images is one of the most personal things I can do, because it invites you in to my space in which I create. These photos capture an extension of my very head space, and a glimpse into how, when, and where I make happen the closest thing I can to magic.
I hope you enjoy them, and even more so, I hope each and every person who happens upon this post has a beautiful and blessed 2017. We could use it after all we’ve been through together. Keep your heads up, hearts full, and as we leave 2016 behind and soldier into this brave new world, may the odds be ever in our favor.
In the winter of 1999, one of my mom’s friends got me a small Winnie the Pooh diary for Christmas. There was no way that woman could know what a seed she was planting when she gave me that thing, but it is a journal I still have to this day, and once a year I still write in it, just to keep the story going.
Since then, a great many journals have made their way into my hands, as evident from the one photo I took earlier in this year with all the ones I could find in my apartment stacked on top of one another. Oh look, here it is… (The Winnie the Pooh one I spoke of in the paragraph above is the third journal from the top in this photo. The purple spined one.)
Even since that photo, I know I’ve acquired at least two or three more journals for various purposes. Sometimes they are for particular stories I am working on, sometimes they are catch all repositories of thoughts. But some in this stack exist with the purpose of being just what the name proclaims: a journal. I’ve written in them about countless moments in my life, both the major and the trivial. The bulk of my teenage years and fears are recorded in these tomes, and honestly if I were stuck in the “your house is burning down and you only have time for one thing” scenario, my one thing I’d grab would be a bag that I’d hastily proceed to shove all of these into.
Which brings me to today. December 26th. A day where the creative stars align for me. For you see, one of the journals in that stack, this one to be precise…
… is a journal I got on December 26th, 2006. Ten years ago today.
It’s one of my favorite journals I’ve ever owned honestly, and contains much of my 16 and 17 year old angst, the bulk of which I’d be far too embarrassed for anyone reading my big-girl-grown-up blog to see. Within its pages are recounted magical summers with friends, emotional school years, and longings of a me who just wanted to see the world and write.
This journal set the bar for other journals in my life, but along with all of its counterparts, it shared one thing in common: I never filled all of its pages.
Part of this beautiful book with it’s linen-like pages and books on the cover, remains empty. I’ve never before in my life been able to fill up an entire volume with my thoughts, dreams, or musings.
Until today. December 26th, 2016.
The thing is, two years ago, when I decided I wanted to change my name to Elayna Mae Darcy (a story you can acquaint yourselves with here) the very first thing I thought was, I need a journal. I’m gonna need a comprehensive chronicle of this new life of mine. So, remembering that I got that favorite journal from way back when on December 26th (because I write the dates/times/places of every journal I’ve ever bought somewhere in the back of them) I went out, and bought this beautiful volume…
And so I bought my second journal on December 26th.
With my new name in tow, this journal and I set out on a grand adventure to capture my life. This little green book has been with me in my moments of deepest despair and greatest joy in the last two years. It contains poems written on the days I saw Bernie Sanders, and Hilary Clinton speak. It holds the autographs from a number of people who starred in the Harry Potter films. A butterfly landed on one of its pages once in a park. It’s been to London, Scotland, San Diego, Orlando, New York, and New Hampshire. It’s been written in on the shaky cabins of Greyhound buses, all the way up to the smooth sailing of a plane cruising at 35,000 feet above the Atlantic. No other journal I’ve owned can claim such adventure, which makes it only fitting that it is the first one I’ve filled from cover to cover.
And so when I penned the end of its last entry today, I knew exactly what I needed to do, and I got myself to a bookstore downtown to purchase its successor.
Who knows what journal December 26th the Third will get to contain? Will she too visit other nations, be in the hands of famous persons, or witness history as it’s happening? Maybe. Or perhaps she will contain the quieter moments, the musings of a sometimes somber yet striving to be jubilant Hufflepuff. If I’m blessed, she’ll do both.
This journaling journey has been such an important part of my life, and sometimes it is strange for me when I realize that I’ve been doing it now for over seventeen years. When I put it that way, my act of journaling is of legal age in the wizarding world! I’ve done this long enough for children to have been born, gone through adolescence, and start looking at colleges. To be as young as I am and know I’ve done something consistently for that long feels strange, but also right.
Here is to any and every adventure that this newest journal may hold.
A little over four months ago, in my post So It Begins, I wrote about launching into the brave new world that would be editing the first draft of They Are the Last. I can say now with much certainty from the experiences thus far: editing is weird.
I thought then it would largely consist of combing through what I’d already done and just tweaking things and chopping bits out. What I’ve actually found is that I’ve had to rip the poor thing to shreds, tossing the bulk of it to the wind only to salvage the few gems that lay hidden in a good line of dialogue or a piece of important structure. At that time, I also had no idea I’d be discovering Inkshares. While I’ll admit that at times that has diverted my attention from the draft so I can focus on campaigning, Inkshares has also been a great service to the draft by way of providing me with the support of other writers who’ve given me some of the most insightful and helpful feedback I’ve thus far received.
Really, there’s been less editing than I expected and more just all out rewriting. Some days I get little glimpses of that special NaNo creativity where I just type like a maniac until the story’s been freed from me, but much of the process now is careful writing. It’s taking the ideas I’ve spewed out before and making them more coherent and beautiful. It really is like the refining of a diamond. I know that the story I’m trying to tell is this lovely thing buried somewhere in there, but I’ve got to cut and polish and cut and polish all of the roughness away to get there. It’s not anywhere near as easy or freeing as the initial draft, but I’ll tell you what, it’s making me a much stronger writer, and for that I’m grateful.
All of this is really coming out right now I guess because just this week, I made a pretty big decision regarding my editing process. The second draft I’d been working on since January 3rd? Baby is getting put in the corner and I’m starting it over.
During April’s Camp NaNoWriMo, I managed to make it to 35,000 words on that draft, but much of it didn’t get to incorporate the many aspects of feedback I’ve been receiving as of late. I’ve also in an exciting turn of events, begun reading again. I finished the AMAZING novel Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, and am about half way through reading Gary Whitta’s book Abomination (an Inkshares book itself!) and just seeing other people’s finished novels has me realizing that my story has a long way to go, but it needs a new start.
So I’m scrapping what I’ve done and starting anew. This will be the second time in the last year that I’ve done that, but if we’re looking at my track record, this bodes well. I spent July to October of last year getting done a 44,000 word draft of They Are the Lastwhich on October 31st, I decided to scrap in favor of starting the first draft over for NaNoWriMo proper. The draft I started the next day went on to be the first completed draft of the book. I’m taking this new beginning as a good sign for this rewrite draft that I’m about to hurl myself into.
There’s no possible way I could have known when I started revisions on January 3rd that before the year was half way through, I’d be in the throes of trying to get the book published. I mean seriously: the book currently has 133 pre-orders. Remarkable. Given that, God only knows where I’ll be come five months from now when the campaign for the book concludes. While I dream that by that day, I’ll have reached the pre-order goal to be published, I’ve no way of knowing which way the wind will blow. One can only hope that if nothing else, my draft will be further along and I’ll be ever the little bit wiser for it.
Speaking of the book, if you happen to see this post prior to the evening of Monday May 23rd, I’m running my first promotional contest! You can visit the official They Are the Last website for more details, but the prize is NAMING A CHARACTER IN THE BOOK! Plus every person who enters will receive a handmade bookmark. Click the image below to visit the official website, or click here to directly visit the CONTEST page!
This month is my second whack at Camp NaNoWriMo, which could easily be described as the lite version of National Novel Writing Month. Last April, I ended up in London and Edinburgh on a journey that very much became about not just finding myself, but also finding my story. As it would have it, the story I found was the one that had lay in waiting inside of me the longest. Piper’s story. Alteria’s story.
I’ve written several times about what I’m writing (which sounds a little odd to say) because I for one have always felt that reflection on the past helps get you caught up with the present so you can better make way for the future.
But what this month do I have to reflect on? Not much to be honest in terms of story, as most of my time has been spent revamping the campaign to get said story published on Inkshares. So much of that time in fact, that I’ve somehow managed to get so far behind that I now find myself faced with the task of writing 39,440 words in 5 days.
That’s an average of 7,888 words per day.
Someone who tweeted at me put it best:
Creativity is a funny thing, and begets a process that is full of uncertainty. You can get into a habit of creating – daily writing in the morning just after a cup of coffee with exactly one spoonful of sugar – or, you can be a complete and utter crazy person and try to write 30K+ words when running on no sleep and three red bulls. Each person does it differently. But there is one thing I’ve noticed in my own creative processes, whether they are jammed into a short amount of time, or whether I have six months.
There’s an extent of madness that needs to happen. You have to let go. You have to let Jesus take the wheel sometimes, and be the backseat driver to the story itself. Your characters, if you’ve let them truly come to life, sometimes make rash decisions and go the opposite of where you’ve instructed them, and trying to steer them back to what you think is best can be to the story’s detriment.
So for next few days, I’m handing the reigns over to the deeper, crazier parts of myself to see where the rest of this second draft goes. I didn’t foresee originally that so much rewriting would be necessary to a second go of this novel, but all of the rewrites I’ve done so far have done a great service to the narrative, so at this point, I’m running with it.
To all of you who may be pondering a similar endeavor to get the creative juices flowing, my advice would be to go with it. Run full steam ahead, flailing your fingers across the keyboard or fluttering that pen across your page. You never know what kind of magic can happen when you stop trying to be a writer for a second and just write something.
If all else fails in the universe, there are at least two things of which I am always certain.
The first, is that Book Ron and Book Ginny will always be better than their film counterparts. (Even though I love Rupert & Bonnie. They couldn’t help bad character development in the scripts, poor dears.)
The second, and what this post is actually about, is that nothing in this universe gets me more excited or filled with hope than NaNoWriMo.
Growing up, NaNoWriMo was always a frantic rush to 50K during November. It came when the air was cooling, the leaves were crisping, and the hot chocolate cravings were calling. But as with most things that we do for many, many years, NaNoWriMo has changed, and last year was the first time I decided to increase my yearly amount of noveling shenaniganry by participating in my first two Camp NaNos.
The idea behind Camp NaNoWriMo is simple. You get the same creative rush, but you use it towards a word goal you choose for yourself, or you can use the month to edit. It’s more loose in its creative restraints, but no less thrilling than November, when you get to share in the energy of lots of people all creating at once.
My very first Camp NaNo attempt was supposed to be last April, but due to uncertainties about the story I was trying to do at the time, and a certain trip that changed my life, I didn’t get past a few thousand words. It didn’t feel like a real crack at it to me. It did, however, end up being the month that set me on the path back to Alteria. That call made in a small cafe in Edinburgh ended up informing the rest of my year, as I would come to spend July’s Camp NaNo, and November’s official NaNoWriMo 2015, working on versions of They Are The Last.
Funny how you can start off thinking you know precisely where you’re going, and life can be like NOPE, RIGHT THIS WAY PLEASE. IN THE EXACT OPPOSITE DIRECTION OF WHERE YOU PLANNED. Kind of like a story, if you ask me.
All that being said, the plan I’m attempting to carry out will involve me writing 50K this April, something I’ve never achieved outside of November. While time is running short, I’ve actually yet to decide if the 50K I write will be towards my second draft, or if it will be 50,000 words worth of backstory short stories. We’ll see what happens. Regardless of which path I choose, I’m sure I’ll end up right in the place I’m supposed to be.
In the meantime, I’ll be over here, being alarming levels of excited by the fact that I have no idea where that place will be.