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An afternoon with four awesome YA authors at the Decatur Book Festival

Last weekend, I attended the Decatur Book Festival’s Teen Stage panel “Thicker Than Water.” It was a discussion on the family bonds that make up YA novels. The panelist were authors Una LaMarche (Don’t Fail Me Now), Elizabeth Lenhard (Our Song), Marie Marquardt (Dream Things True) and Katie M. Stout (Hello, I Love You).

Family loyalty was one of the first topics to be addressed, one of the main themes in Marquardt’s novel.

“Alma’s family is primarily an undocumented immigrant family from Mexico,” she said speaking about the protagonist in Dream Things True. “Evan’s family is a politically complicated family. They are so different but in fact they share a lot in common, they feel a pull to live up to what their families want them to be.”

Stout’s treatment of family bonds in Hello, I Love You prompts her protagonist Grace to hide from her family in a boarding school in Korea.

“You don’t get to choose them,” Stout said, speaking of one’s family. “And you might not always like them, but they are still people that you need to love as human beings. We might not be best friends and disagree but I choose to love and respect you.”
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Writing from your life and other things I learned in a one-day intensive with author Meg Medina

Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass won the 2013 Cybils Award and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award.
Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass won the 2013 Cybils Award and the 2014 Pura Belpré Award.

Last Friday, I attended a writer’s intensive workshop with the amazing Latina author Meg Medina. The workshop was part of the SCBWI Southern Breeze Springmingle 2015 Conference.

The best way to describe it: like group therapy for writers – we laughed, we cried, we wrote. It was by far the best writing workshop I have ever participated in.
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Second Annual Winter Writers Retreat

In January 2014, my critique partner Marie and I held our first winter writers retreat with the idea that it would become a yearly tradition. And it did!

Last weekend we held our second annual winter writers retreat with double the attendance! Yes, we went from two to four! Ha!

We were happy to welcomed Peggy and Lee into our little writing getaway. Peggy, a published author, is writing a literary biography, while Lee is working on her first manuscript, a contemporary romance. Marie and I are both working on contemporary YA manuscripts.
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Diversity in YA Novels, a Decatur Book Festival Panel

This weekend I attended the Decatur Book Festival for the first time. And I LOVED it!

Diversity Panel
Diversity Panel

Great selection of authors, interesting discussion panels and you can’t beat the location. Downtown Decatur is a fabulous mix of trendy shops and yummy restaurants. I will be going back to Cafe Alsace for the eggs Benedict and the ridiculously delicious honey-lavender ice cream.

Saturday morning I sat in the Diversity in YA panel with authors Cece Bell, Carmen Agra Deedy, Varian Johnson, Andrew Smith. Becky Albertalli and Soniah Kamal moderated.

Enjoy the notes!
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The Little Mermaid, Fanfiction and Why I Want a Happy Ending

***SPOILER ALERT***This post contains Divergent Trilogy spoilers*** 

Fans of Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” would be horrified to know the truth behind its happy ending. Hans Christian Andersen, the story’s original author, intended his little mermaid to watch her prince marry another woman, a day before her own tragic demise. In the end, the little mermaid sacrificed her own life for the happiness of the prince she loved.

I confess, if I had to pick between these two endings, Disney wins. After all, hadn’t she already been through enough having to lose her voice to the witch?

As every reader knows, characters are at the mercy of the writers that create them. But that was until the advent of fanfiction – stories that adapt characters, plot or settings from other original work. It is mostly written by fans of popular fiction and then shared online for free.
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A few highlights from our writers retreat

Last week’s writing retreat was amazing! My writing partner, Marie, and I spent a few days in the North Georgia mountains with the sole goal of writing. Such a luxury!

We both worked on the outlines of our new books while exchanging ideas on plot, character development and story arch. At the end of each writing session we traded the scenes we had written and gave each other feedback on the direction the story was taking.  It was fantastic to get instant feedback on each other’s scenes.

For me, starting a new book was a great way to get my mind off the misery that is the query process. It gave me a new creative outlet into which I can channel my energy while I wait, most impatiently, for agents and editors to respond to my query emails.

In between writing sessions Mary and I took time off to enjoy the hiking trails of Big Canoe (I have shared some photos below). We even attended an Aqua-Aerobics class set to 80s music and packed with fabulous grannies! That alone made the trip worthwhile!

 

My very happy beginning to a new year: a writers retreat!

On Tuesday I will be embarking on my first writers retreat and I am very excited!!! Yes, triple exclamation mark.

I have attended many meditation retreats in the past but never a retreat where I set out to write for a week in a place other than my house.

The idea came when my writing critique partner, Marie, and I talked about doing something to mark a great start to 2014. We decided to head for the mountains for a few days with the only goal to begin writing a new book.

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A writer’s life happens… my wedding day!

The last two months have been a whirlwind. I got married, went on my honeymoon, finished my manuscript and began querying. Yes, all in the span of eight weeks.

Expect a post soon about what it was like to finish my manuscript and begin my querying process. But for now, I’ll share a few photos and a video of our special day.

Special thanks to Isaac Zapata with Sarantala Photography for the beautiful photos and to Robert Halliday with Bob’s Eye View Weddings for the lovely film.

Enjoy!

 

Chris & Mayra – Teaser from Robert Halliday on Vimeo.

Meditation for Writers 

By Mayra Cuevas

Every few years I take a couple of weeks off and travel to England’s Lake District to participate in a Buddhist festival and meditation retreat. It is my way of recharging my spiritual batteries and refocusing on the things that matter most. This is were I am now, in a temple located in the outskirts of the tiny village of Ulveston, nestled amongst the hills and lakes of Cumbria.

I’ve been meditating since I was sixteen years old. A psychologist recommended it as part of my treatment for a period of teenage depression. I will be forever grateful to her because she introduced me to this wonderful practice that has helped me keep my sanity even in the most challenging of times of my life.

In my writing life, meditation has helped me to stay focused and deal with feeling overwhelmed and anxious about my work. It has given me peace of mind, and in that peace I have found a boundless stream of creative energy that otherwise would have remained untapped and obstructed by the cloudiness of daily concerns. It has also given me the peace of mind to accept constructive criticism and to keep emotional distance between my feelings and the work.
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England Calling

This weekend I will be traveling to Ulverston in the U.K. for a two week meditation retreat and festival. And since I was going to be in England anyway, I decided to add on a few days to travel to London and Oxford  and do research for my writing. Here are some pictures from my trip. Hope you enjoy them!