Quarantine Reads

Long time no visit to this blog. This blog is super dusty and full of cobwebs, but that just adds character.

Soooooo what have I been up to this quarantine? Working luckily. There was a time where furlough was winking at me, but I’ve been safe and healthy and working from home, which as a teacher has been very eye opening for my inaugural full time teaching year.

While I’ve been home I’ve been ordering and reading a lot books! Being at home has really left a lot of time for me to read more than I had, had the time.

Here’s what I’ve read so far:

  • The New David Espinoza by Fred Aceves. A YA book of toxic masculinity and body dysmorphia from a writing buddy. I got a shout out in the author’s note! It was a quick important own voices book that I think is not covered in YA a lot from the male perspective.
  • Such A Fun Age by Kiley Reid. I don’t read Adult fiction much, but wow when I do I am typically blown away. This book is special because unlike a lot of Adult novels I read I actually saw myself in the main character. She was mid twenties and just wanting to live her life and make her money babysitting when she gets profiled by a security guard thinking she kidnapped the child she’s paid to watch. It was honest and real and relatable and I loved the voice so much. I will always recommend it.
  • When the Stars Lead To You by Ronni Davis. A YA novel of a summer love that blossomed staring a Biracial protagonist who dreams of working with stars. This book touched on mental health a lot which is always great in YA, as well as social class and how it gets tricky when you’re dating someone with money. It’s a perfect beach read.
  • The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert. Brandy is my favorite YA author, and her debut middle grade about a Black girl who gets a neighbor who looks like her in her small beach town is monumental. I love that there was a hint of mystery in the story, and the easy, age appropriate but not watered down talk about race is so needed in middle grade and there was no need to add huge trauma and black pain. Brandy has a way of seamlessly adding in diversity with gay parents and surrogacy and friendships. It’s a must read MG novel.

I’ve enjoyed all the books I’ve read so far. Hope to pick up some more books soon(in the middle of With the Fire On High), but I’ve been focusing on my writing when I’m not reading picture books. I think I’ll post a blog of my favorite picture books.

What books have you all been reading during quarantine?

Stay safe,

Joy 🙂

I Shot For The Stars

Hellooooo,

I feel like there should be an echo for this blog. It’s safe to say that blogging is not my strongest feature, even about something that is a big part of my life like writing and reading and theater. I was looking over my goals for the new year and so ashamed that most of what’s on it has not been accomplished. That’s okay though, I have 6 more months until the new year.

So instead of completely scrapping said ideas, I do want to amend them a bit. For one I hope to have a draft of at least one if my WIPs done by the end of August. I have yet to start my MG WIP, but that’s because I have so many YAs that take over my brain space. And as far as my adult novel goes it pretty much follows the reason I don’t have a MG.

I wish I was better at this blogging thing though. If I’m not working on my writing, I’m watching TV or a movie and working so that’s my time mostly. When I did book reviews I was more consistent. Should I do that again? I have read a lot of books since my last review. I’m sure I could back log a lot of bookish thoughts.

Books in my queue:

  • With the Fire On High
  • An Epic Love Story
  • On the Come Up

I’m sure there are others I’m missing.

I doubt any followers of mine were missing me. So if you’re out there. Hey, again, I’ll try to be more active on this blog.

Later,

Joy 🙂

Goals

I was never one to set goals for the new year. This year I will try. There are so many goals I have for myself both writerly and personally. So here goes. First up is the writerly ones in no particular order:

  • Sell a book. It looks so simple but it’s not, and it’s a goal I know I can make this year.
  • Finish WIP. I have 2 in the queue that are close to being done. I love both of them dearly. They need a lot of work, but with focus I can get them to a good place.
  • Work on my craft. I can do better. I can write better.
  • Start MG project. I’ve been wanting to branch into writing for younger readers and never found the voice. This is the year I’m going to make a stronger effort.
  • Start Adult project. As much as I love writing YA I would like to start an adult novel as well. Test the waters.
  • Read more adult fiction. I love reading YA but I would like to expand my collection.

I feel good about this year and what I can accomplish. So if you care to find me…

Look to the western sky,

Joy 🙂

The Long Haul

When I started taking writing seriously in High School I didn’t know if it was something I saw myself doing forever. Sure, I wanted to be published and even thought I could be before I graduated HS. Now that I look back on it I can laugh at myself. Just who did I think I was? While I considered myself a good writer I was nowhere near publishable.

Although I was surrounded by talented writers and professionals through the Girls Write Now program I was so blind to what being a traditional or even self published is. So much goes into it. So much that even I now as an agented writer I don’t get fully.

I changed my major from undeclared to Creative writing the semester before winter break in college. I felt good about it. Couldn’t wait to continue my love of writing and learn. But I didn’t return back to it. Or school. Life got in the way.

When I did go back to school I majored generally picking courses that interested me. I wasn’t creatively writing, but I missed it. It wasn’t until my junior year of college when I was majoring in communication disorders and super stressed out that I fell back into writing. Oh man I was so happy. I began to look into traditional publishing and the steps to being an author.

I’ve been lucky I would say. Good productivity. A great agent. Lots of story ideas. I’m reading more. All I want to do now is write. It would be great if I could make a living out of my stories, and it is a goal of mine, but the clearer goal for me is longevity. I want so much to someone’s favorite.

Right now my writing goal is to keep pushing out stories. Stories people want to read, can relate to or find enjoyable. If I can stay on the scene that would be awesome. I suppose that’s what a lot of authors want.

So I ramble to say I’m in it for the long haul. Nothing makes me happier than to write and tell stories.

Joy 🙂

BOOK REVIEW: LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE

The summer’s been really busy with work. I did manage to finish a book though. Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere is the equivalent to those movies you know will be an Oscar contender. It’s literary lush. I think that’s a saying.

There’s so much to say about this book. I am a fan of anyone who can keep track of so many characters, and still manage to help the reader get and understand all of them. Amazing. Inspiring. Ng makes me want to write in 3rd person one day. One day I will be brave.

What else can I say? The prose. Beautiful but if you’ve read Ng’s work before you’d already know that she is a wordsmith. Her way with metaphors, characterization, location and feelings just build and build until you’re like this is brilliant.

The best part is I had no clue how it was going to end. I thought one thing from the opening pages, but by the end I didn’t expect what happened.

Another thing was the court case involving transracial adoption. So much to think on. Ng laid it on thick and I’m glad that the topic wasn’t skated over. It made me uncomfortable and I appreciate that.

So if you’re looking for a book where the words are silky smooth goodness. The characters live and dance way after the story ends, and for little fires , this book is for you.

I didn’t mean to make this whole thread into a book review, but it had to be said. As for me I’m coming out of a little writing slump. I’m so close to finishing this draft and then revising it to make it the best that it can be. This story means a lot to me and I want to do right by it.

Finishing a second full novel is a lot harder than I expected it to be. I found my first manuscript to be easier. My life was a lot different then. I was in school, my responsibilities were lower. I didn’t have an agent then. There wasn’t this sense of ruining a chance to be published. Or not impressing my agent again.

I tend to be hard on myself and hate disappointing people, but I realize there is no formula for how one writes their stories. It’s like having kids. Just because they come from the same mother, doesn’t mean the experience is going to be the same or even easier. That’s okay. I’m working through it.

This book life is not for the faint of heart. A little challenge never hurt nobody though.

Ta ta,

Joy 🙂

Reading Lately

I’m happy to say I’ve been reading a lot lately. In big book news I got an ARC of FINDING YVONNE by Brandy Colbert herself. My first ARC ever and from one of my favorite authors. And I got to go to Langston Hughes House and get all of my Brandy books signed. That was a great day.

Safe to say I had a great time and experience there.

I devoured Finding Yvonne over a few days on my train ride to work. The writing is simple and efficient. Yvonne has a clear voice, and she was relatable in a lot of ways. I played viola for a year in fifth grade so I feel like I “get” how Yvonne feels.

Plus I got a lot of Waitress the musical vibes when it came to the baking scenes. All I kept singing was “Mama it’s amazing what baking can dooooooooooo ooooo…” Y’all know what part I’m talking about.

It had a twist I wasn’t expecting at all. Loved Part Two to the story. Had me in stitches. I cannot wait for my hardcover to get here to match her sister books.

What else have I been reading? I read The Way You Make Me Feel by Maurene Goo.

I will be picking up her other books. The voice in this one was amazing. The diversity was so good too. It’s nice to read about other people of color sometimes. There was a single dad plot like Finding Yvonne. Clara was such a big personality to read. I found it nice to read about such a prankster girl.

Then there was Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now.

Where do I start with this book. I loved it so much. This book just vibes with me so well. I want the movie. I need the movie. There was so much drama, but it went together so well. The blackness, the sisterhood and all the craziness of being unapologetically you. Reading about Marcus and how he is who he is. The book is a recipe of feels and so real to life.

Up next I have Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng. I absolutely cannot wait to start it. Celeste’s book Everything I Never Told You was the first adult novel I ever read. I’m sticking with what I know until I branch out more and find other authors I’ll like just as much.

Basically I’ve been reading my butt off and I like it. For the longest time I didn’t read for fun after High School. It feels great to jump back into it.

Byeeee,

Joy 🙂

That Theater Life

When I’m not writing or watching TV I’m thinking about what my next theater experience will be. If I’m being completely unrealistic I would love to see a show twice a month. One play, one musical, but that doesn’t happen.

Last year was my personal best seeing A Bronx Tale, Jitney, Wicked(2nd time), Chicago, War Paint, The Prince of Broadway, Chicago(again), Hello Dolly, Waitress, The Play that Goes Wrong and Norm Lewis at 54 Below.

This year I’ve seen Miss Saigon, Beautiful and Mean Girls. I have tickets to see Hello Dolly again and I’m plotting to go see Children of A Lesser God and My Fair Lady.

My theater addiction is expensive. Some people might think it’s not smart to spend so much money for one night. And if you do it like me I have to have a nice dinner or lunch, t-shirt, magnet, window card and a cup. It adds up.

For me it is worth it. Live theater is amazing. I love the talent it takes to put on a show both on and off stage. It literally gives me life.

Go see your nearest touring production, regional, College or if you can come to NYC and see all that’s available. There is something for everyone with theater. That’s why I love it so much.

This is my rambling rant,

Joy 🙂

Preordering Books

Before I started getting serious about publishing my writing, it never occurred to me to preorder books. In my mind it was always oh I’ll get it when it comes out/convient for me.

Now that I’m in this writerly world I’m kicking myself for not preordering more books. Especially books written by women of color. It’s so important to do so. We need more of these books out in the world and showing the publishers that there’s a want for these books, and the people that write them goes a long way.

So I’ve preordered:

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

Finding Yvonne by Brandy Colbert

Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany Jackson

Love Like Sky by Leslie C Youngblood

A Blade So Black by L.L Mckinney

All of these books have absolutely amazing covers. Any book that puts a brown girl on the cover is just swoon worthy.

And there’s more I need to go and order like From Twinkle, With Love by Sandhya Menon and Tiffany Sly Lives Here Now by Dana Davis.

My bookshelf looks a little like where are all these new books going? I’ll make a way. So excited for all these books and what they represent.

Growing up I’ve always had books that celebrated blackness and were made by people of color, but they were bought for me. It’s special to be in a position now where I control what goes on my bookshelf. And super proud that I can order them in advance.

Until next time,

Joy 🙂

Putting It Together

Hey, everyone. I realize I am not a reliable blogger. I am however a reliable person in real life so that makes me feel better. For a while now I wanted to put my thoughts into words about revising your story and revisions in general.

Cue Sunday in the Park With George. Bit by bit putting it together.

I am in no way shape or form a writer who feels qualified to give advice on craft and similar. That is just not my style. So this post is me mostly rambling on how I did the biggest revision ever and it worked out for me.

So we all know that I am now an agented writer. I still can’t believe I get to say that. But before I got my contract I had to do a whole revise and resubmit first. For those not sure: an R+R is when the agent sees potential in your story and you, but they need some significant changes. That was the position I was in.

Honestly I was happy to get one. Editing has never been a strong point for me, but I felt like I should trust myself and my ability to story tell. When I got that edit letter it became so real.

What did I do first? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. For me I had to step away from my manuscript. This was the time for me to clear it all so when I did finally get to it, everything was fresh. I wasn’t so attached.

Then the pain sets in. You realize some things you love will have to be tossed. And I light a candle and say some kind words and then I hit that delete button. Highlights and highlights of paragraphs disappear. And I thought well how will I fill this space?

I can truthfully say that the space will be filled with something better. Something that fits the new direction of the story.

The best part of revisions is writing new stuff. New jokes, dialogue, subplots. My characters were filling out better. When you start to see how things are better you gain more confidence. You take more risks. Calculated but risk is good.

The kicker is those who read your early work can tell the differences and likes them. I look back at old drafts and go what was I thinking? How did I think that was fetch? Here’s a plug for Mean Girls the musical on Broadway. That’s okay early drafts are good for you writer. I love seeing where my headspace was. I use that as determination.

So yes there were times that I am not afraid to admit that I felt like I was letting myself or Saba down. A million tabs reflected on my glasses. I was writing anywhere I could. My memo filled with ideas and dialogue. And because I can’t not quote Hamilton. I was writing like I was running out of time. And I wasn’t even on a deadline.

The hardest part in revising a story. Especially a novel is staying true to the character and feel. Often I had doubts that I was changing things too much, while at times feeling as if I didn’t change enough.

So I’d remedy that feeling by not doing anything at all. And if you get to the end by this feeling. This is a good stop to get off and send your story out to beta readers.

Just when you think you had your story all figured out, betas will tell you, you didn’t. And you facepalm yourself because how could you miss? In the words of Mushu. I actually enjoyed my betas’ feedback. I airbended it into a better version.

So I’ve been rambling and I haven’t even said what were my main revising points. Settle in kids:

  1. Plot. And boy did my story need a huge plot revision. Characters had to go, subplots followed. Chapters had to be moved forward. Some back. I lost my edges trying to make the order work.
  2. Characters. Some of my characters needed more page time. This was probably the easiest part for me. I do characters. Figuring things out about them is fun. Plotting their lives however is not as natural. But I loved beefing up my peeps.
  3. Dialogue. I’m pretty darn good at it. Don’t know how because I am so limited in real life, but sprucing up old dialogue really helped me center who my characters are and determining their voices.
  4. The little things. Cause it’s the little things. The little, little, little… Okay so that means the small details that when pushed all together makes your character them. Tidbits about their past, or location things.

I am in love with my current standing manuscript. For those of you revising and/or considering a R+R I say don’t be afraid. It can be unnerving and sad to make such huge changes, but know it’s all for the better. Your story and you will be in much better shape.

It challenged me as a writer. I know now that I am capable of doing the work. It was hard. There was a time I thought I was doing this work and it wouldn’t be good enough. It could’ve been the case. In the end I realised that the skills I acquired was much more useful than landing an agent.

Though I am over the moon I have an agent!

Yep, so that’s my ramblings on revisions. I put a novel together. Took it apart and put it back together again.

Later taters,

Joy 🙂