Author Archives: Meredith Jeffers

LeakyCon Lit: An Introduction

This past weekend, I had the fantastic opportunity to attend LeakyCon Lit in Chicago, thanks largely in part to me whining to my mom for, like, ever about how badly I wanted to go, and wouldn’t it be the greatest birthday gift?

Fast-forward six months to August, and we’re flying into Chicago about three hours late. It’s midnight, and it’s raining. In about nine hours, I’ll be in the presence of a slew of amazing YA authors, like Maureen Johnson, Stephanie Perkins, Laini Taylor, and John Green. I’m stoked.

For those of you who’ve never heard of it, LeakyCon is an annual Harry Potter convention that involves a ton of very loud, hyper teenagers dressed in Hogwarts uniforms. With wands. There’s probably more to it than that, but I was specifically part of the LeakyCon Lit track, so my interactions with those in the regular program were limited to the vendors area and elevators.

Since I’m in the minority of Harry Potter readers who have little attachment to the stories, the Lit track was a great alternative for me. LeakyCon Lit is a two day event that involves panels and signings with some of the best authors in YA, and I loved it even more than I thought I would.

Over my next few days of posting, I’m going to be talking in detail about my experiences at LeakyCon Lit, advice I heard, and which authors were totally nice and awesome and cool. (Although, honestly, they all were!)

The panels were not only fun, but they hit on a lot of really important topics, like sexism in the publishing industry, the challenges of writing, and unhappiness with the final result.

Even more than that, though, I learned something else at LeakyCon Lit: Never ever EVER give up hope. On your writing, or yourself.

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

So. The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. Where do I begin?

First let me say that I had a lot of hope for this book. The premise is intriguing (how did Mara survive a building collapse that killed her three friends, and why can’t she remember it?), Mara is snarky (girl after my own heart), the cover is stunning (albeit completely irrelevant to the story), and there’s a hot British bad-boy love interest (obligatory swooooon). That has some serious makings for a great story, right?

Well, with just these factors, it is a great story. I absolutely loved the first two-thirds of this book, and was tearing through it. But then, of course, like every trendy YA book, Mara Dyer throws in a paranormal twist. And that’s where the book loses it.

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Old Writing and the Mortification it Brings

If there’s anything I remember, it’s my first. Everything is still clear to me in vivid detail, like I could relive it again and again–the time of day, my position, the pencil scraping against the paper.

Oh, did I forget to mention that I’m referring to the first story I ever wrote? Because I am. What else could i possibly mean?

When I was in third grade, I wrote a short story (emphasis on the shortit was about a page front and back, but my handwriting was massive) about a girl who’s dared to enter a haunted toy shop on Halloween and is never seen again. The piece ends with a quasi-existential monologue about whether or not she should haunt the friends who dared her in the first place.

Of course, it was still a pretty horrible story, plus I wrote my S’s backwards throughout the whole thing, but it was my first. It was The One. That thing I kind of just wrote, only to realize afterward that I loved writing it. Like, a lot.

That was in no way my epiphany moment about wanting to be a writer since at that point I was still set on being Britney Spears when I grew up, but it was a start. It was the inciting incident. It was what made me continue writing.

We all have that piece. The one that lights the spark. The one that sucks so hard, we seriously debate building a bonfire at the beach to burn all traces that we were ever anything less than stellar writers.

But to that, I say don’t. Don’t ever ever ever burn your writing, no matter how mortifying it is.

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Reading and Writing and Hating Both

I think it’s basically common knowledge at this point that the number one piece of advice for wannabe writers is to read, read, read and write, write write. Nearly every author I’ve seen live, watched videos of on YouTube, or read interviews of has said some version of that answer. So you want to be a writer? WELL, READ! WRITE!

What’s so hard about that?

Really, the advice makes sense. I should probably have at least some concept of what a book is before trying to write one of my own. I should understand how the beginning, middle, and end all fit into place. I should research and read books by the authors I love, by the authors I want to emulate. It isn’t just reading–it’s learning.

But there reaches a point when reading maybe isn’t the solution to that awful writer’s block, to that complete inability to transfer a story from the mind to the paper–maybe it’s the problem.

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Must-Have Tools for Writers

My biggest fault when it comes to writing is that I’m easily distracted. Why should I focus on how this one paragraph seems kind of out of place when Facebook exists? Twitter? Tumblr?

But when I really get in my writing groove, these are the three tools I can absolutely not live without!

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That Terrible Thing Called “Word Count”

After some careful perusing of Nova Ren Suma’s blog (which might be one of my favorite author blogs, like, ever), I came across this post, about her struggle with word count and a new experiment: write 10,000 words a day.

Ten thousand. 10k. No matter how you swing it, that is a HEFTY sum for one day. A sum I can’t even think about without breaking into a cold sweat and hyperventilating into a paper bag.

The inspiration comes from this article on the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America website, aptly titled “How I Went From Writing 2,000 Words a Day to 10,000 Words a Day.” In it, author Rachel Aaron describes the methods she used to achieve this goal. She even uses a neat chart!

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This Is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

This is Not A Test by Courtney Summers

Give me a second, okay? I need to catch my breath. You see, I finished this book last night after tearing through about two hundred pages and I’ve yet to recover. I’m not sure if I ever will.

This book was that good.

So good, in fact, that I’m trying to figure out if it’s socially acceptable for me to begin rereading it a mere sixteen hours after finishing the first time.

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Website Review: Wattpad

I suppose I should preface this writing site review: I am an inkie through and through. This July would’ve been my two year anniversary on Inkpop (a now defunct writing website aimed at teens that was run by HarperCollins), and in February, when it was announced that Inkpop was merging with Figment (a writing site similar to Inkpop) I was absolutely devastated. I had a project in that month’s Top 5—the highest ranked projects in fiction, short stories, and poetry from each month that would receive reviews from editors at HarperCollins—and I’d finally found my niche in the community. I was an active member, I was critiquing and receiving unimaginably helpful critiques, and most of all, I was writing.

And then, suddenly, I wasn’t.

Ever since Inkpop’s disappearance on the first of March, I’ve been searching for a replacement. I found Wattpad on an Inkpop forum shortly after the merge had been revealed but before it actually took place. Since it seemed like most members of Inkpop were headed there, I made an account, too. Here’s what I’ve found after almost five months on Wattpad.

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Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

In the remarkable, bizarre, and heart-wrenching summer before Cullen Witter’s senior year of high school, he is forced to examine everything he thinks he understands about his small and painfully dull Arkansas town. His cousin overdoses; his town becomes absurdly obsessed with the alleged reappearance of an extinct woodpecker; and most troubling of all, his sensitive, gifted fifteen-year-old brother, Gabriel, suddenly and inexplicably disappears.     

Meanwhile, the crisis of faith spawned by a young missionary’s disillusion in Africa prompts a frantic search for meaning that has far-reaching consequences. As distant as the two stories initially seem, they are woven together through masterful plotting and merge in a surprising and harrowing climax.

I’d never heard of this book until the books for the Printz Award were announced this year, and what do ya know? This book claimed the top spot. So, I did a little snooping, thought the premise seemed kind of weird, and bought a copy for my Kindle. I mean, a book whose synopsis promises a mysterious disappearance, a crisis of faith, and woodpeckers is bound to be interesting, if nothing else, right?

Little did I know the impact that this book would have on me.

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The Young Adult Author’s Guide to Young Adults

Considering that a bulk (read: like 98%)* of YA lit that I read is not written by, well, young adults, I’ve started to notice trends. Not like trendy trends that I’d want to keep up with, either, but more like misconceptions. Misconceptions about teenagers. Misconceptions about teenagers as written by young adult authors who are not young adults but want to relate to their audience because, duh, you have to hook your reader somehow, right?

 But, as a teenager with approximately eight months until she’s not a teenager anymore, I’m particularly critical about how teens are portrayed in novels. Maybe it’s because I want to be a young adult writer as well, and writing a main character who’s about my own age is a little more natural, but come on. What’s with the generalizing? The dopey text speak? The horrible fashions that literally no teenagers wear?

Here I’ve compiled what I believe to be the most irritating, annoying, and (sometimes) offensive misconceptions about teenagers that young adult authors tend to have.

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