Why I write

Write what you loveI’ve been a reader since very young. At 3 years old, I memorized Peter Rabbit… literally knew which words went with which pages, even though I wasn’t associating words with meanings quite yet. I knew that story so well, backwards and forwards, what happened when… we have a recording of my 3-year-old voice “reading” the story to my aunt, and when I get to the end of it, I just start the whole story over again…

I think that being a reader, falling in love with books and stories, is part of how one becomes a writer. There’s something magic about the way that words unlock the world. They lift you out of your current experience and thrust you into another place and time, be that world fictional or utterly real. We are transported by the words on the page, made to think of something other than ourselves if only for a moment. And once you connect with that magic in such a personal way, who can resist the draw of being able to harness the power yourself?

I wrote my first book when I was in elementary school about dolphins, on construction paper and stapled together, complete with researched and organized chapters and oil pastels illustrations. (If I can find it, I’ll post pictures here.) After that I was hooked. I created stories in my head and in spiral notebooks, about horses and unicorns in elementary and middle school, and about angsty love and rejection when I was a little older. Nothing that was worth publishing, most of which I would never share with anyone, not even my most trusted companions. I stopped writing in college (got distracted), but I picked it up again a few short years later.

Now I write light YA fantasy, crafting strong female characters to speak directly to that angsty, rejected teenager I was all those years ago. I’m planning a self-publishing adventure this summer (follow my progress at http://www.elisabethkauffman.com) and the fulfillment of a promise I made to myself as a teenager to publish something that I wrote.

How we came to this land of writing matters for one very important reason. Your writer’s origin story is what you should fall back on when the going gets tough. If you’re serious about succeeding in this often frustrating and soul-crushing world of publishing, you’re going to have to remind yourself why you started in the first place.

For me, when I get scared of sharing my writing because I’m anticipating the painful process of internalizing feedback (growth HURTS, people, it’s why they call them “growing pains”) and getting better as a writer, I think of that teenage me, shiny-eyed, expressive, and innocent. She wanted these stories to be told because she wanted a story to relate to. When I suffer through the painful parts of this process, I do it for her.

Who do you do it for?

*Just FYI, the fab Gabriela Pereira of DIY MFA is releasing a BOOK in June. Learn more about it here.

Review: Book Architecture

I just finished reading Book Architecture yesterday, and I am excited to incorporate series grids into my personal and professional editing processes. I appreciated the format of the book, how each element was broken down and given a “real life” example. I immediately began noticing series everywhere.

I recommend this book for people who want to break out of the “traditional” plot formula, or who have already and are now wondering how to make sense of their manuscript. Series, and tracking series in a grid, can help you identify the important elements of your narrative, and can help you organize those elements for maximum emotional and/or intellectual impact.

I’ll be going back to read Blueprint Your Bestseller: Organize and Revise Any Manuscript with the Book Architecture Method

Review: Free to Fall

Free to FallFree to Fall by Lauren Miller
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Loved it! Absolutely loved this book. Lauren Miller kept me reading, wondering what was coming next. I figured out a few of the “mysteries” based on clues she’d seeded into the narrative, but that just made it more fun for me to read, honestly. I had a silly fan girl moment at one point, when Miller wove Field of Dreams–my favorite movie–into the story. Seriously squealed with delight.

The inspirational message behind the whole book really speaks to me, an adult who hasn’t quite decided to grow up yet… listen to that still small voice–to the Doubt as Miller describes it–the one that everyone tells you not to trust when really the Doubt would never steer you wrong. Ray in Field of Dreams listened and people thought he was crazy, but it was the right thing to do… Rory listens, and it’s the hardest thing she’s ever done, but again, it was the right thing to do! I need to be reminded of that more, to listen to the voice in my head, to not be afraid to follow my intuition, to chase after my passions.

I highly recommend this book.

View all my reviews

The last 10 YA books I read

Not counting the various manuscripts that have rolled across my desk in recent weeks, I read as much as I can in the YA category. My favorite genre is fantasy, but I have been known to read contemporary novels as well. I find reading what’s somewhat current in the category of YA important to keeping my developmental editing skills sharp.

I recently had to list the last 10 YA novels I read along with a couple of sentences about what I liked or didn’t like about those books… and I thought I’d share them with you! Have you read any of these books? Tell me what you thought of them!

The Bitter Kingdom, Rae Carson (third book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy) – This last book of the trilogy was a bit of a letdown for me. Overall I enjoyed the story, but I felt like Elisa’s character development took a back seat to the plot and, when THE THING that she thought made her special was taken away from her, instead of breaking down and being reborn, she had a couple of sullen days and then never really considered it again. I had hoped that Elisa would have a more explicit struggle with finding her self-worth separate from her godstone and so, while the plot resolved well, I still felt myself wanting something from the character arc.
The Tropic of Serpents, Marie Brennan (second in the Lady Trent Series)– Marie Brennan’s, or more specifically Lady Trent’s, narrative voice is what draws me to these books… I mean, aside from the dragons! The world building in this story is fascinating and learning through the eyes of a witty, strong female protagonist makes these books a pleasure.
The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, Sherman Alexie – I asked my friends to recommend books that dealt with the current racial climate in the US and someone recommended TATDoaPTI to me. This book was not at all what I expected. The protagonist was painful and broken and motivated and unique and fascinating. I genuinely cared about what would happen to him and enjoyed being able to see through eyes so completely different from my own.
The Iron Knight, Julie Kagawa (fourth book in the Iron Fey Series) – This fourth book in Kagawa’s series seemed inevitable. Ash’s story needed resolving and had to be resolved without Meghan. And yet… I wanted Meghan… I wanted more romantic tension (similar to the other three books). Ash’s voice just didn’t do it for me, although the interplay between him and Puck was entertaining.
The Iron Queen, Julie Kagawa (third book in the Iron Fey Series) – I loved watching Meghan grow into her own in this novel. Others complain about her whiny nature throughout the series, but I felt she was extremely relate-able. And I loved the romance! Also, Kagawa’s take on the land of Faery and the summer and winter courts was rich and vivid. 
Battle Magic, Tamora Pierce (Circle Reforged #3) – I read Will of the Empress by Pierce and was eager to re-enter the world she had created, so I grabbed this book from the library and devoured it. I love her characters, so full of nuance, and I love the magic systems in this series.
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Jesse Andrews – This was another recommendation from a friend that I enjoyed, if cringingly… most high school boys are… painfully awkward… and were definitely written that way in this book. After having read TFiOS, the “dying girl” in this story didn’t carry the same weight, but I thought that the character development of the protagonist was worth the time I put in to read it.
Crown of Embers, Rae Carson (second book in the Girl of Fire and Thorns Trilogy) – Carson did a great job of raising the stakes and pushing the romance in this book. I ate it up and was so excited to read the third book and find out how Elisa was going to save her kingdom and her lover.
Ruin and Rising, Leigh Bardugo (third book in the Girsha trilogy) – These books fascinated me from start to finish. The Darkling was the yummiest, most horrifying villain I’ve read in a while, equal parts seduction and terror… Alina was an interesting and flawed heroine… and the pseudo-Russian landscape was so enthralling and different! I loved it. Great series.
The Fault in Our Stars, John Green – I read this because it was such a big deal in the YA scene, not because it’s my normal fare. That said, I found Hazel very sympathetic and yes, I cried… more than once… while reading the story. Green wrote a compelling story about sick teenagers who were just trying to live normal lives, without holding back or being afraid to take risks. I can see why it was a hit with the target audience.