Shifting Gears: A Spec Fic Writer’s Journey to Contemporary

Posted by Rachel on June 1, 2015 in current event, discovery, reading, writing |

If you follow my blog, or twitter account, or know me even a little bit, you’ll know that I’m a speculative fiction writer. I mostly write alternate history but I have been known to dabble in scifi and fantasy. As I’ve surely said before, I enjoy these genres because they allow for easy escapism. The worlds do not exist but while writing or reading them, they feel real and for a short time I can lose myself in wondrous places and it doesn’t cost me a dime ;) After all, I’m a dreamer. Being able to explore different historical, technological, or magical elements in a given story excites me. Sometimes I do all of the above! What I’m saying is, I’m pretty much wired to write spec fic.

I also looove to read spec fic and enjoy experiencing the imagination of others. There’s so many incredible stories out there! I’ve read quite a few spec fics over time, but within the last year I’ve started to read a lot more contemporary. GASP, I KNOW. It was never an interest of mine before, to be honest. I live in a contemporary setting and I didn’t find the stories I picked up stretched my brain much, if any.

But then I started finding more and more contemporaries that really spoke to me. So I explored the genre further and further and further — and now I’m hooked. So hooked in fact that I’m WRITING A CONTEMPORARY. Okay, I’ll give you a moment to catch your breath. I realize that was quite a revelation, but it’s a good thing!

Reflecting on my reading habits from days gone by, I think I didn’t connect with contemps was because I hadn’t really found the right STUFF. I didn’t see me on the page and so I didn’t bother looking for others, but now after reading the likes of Jandy Nelson, Tess Sharpe, Jenny Han, Andrew Smith, AS King, Rainbow Rowell, etc., I finally GET IT.

Writing contemporary is a whole different animal from writing spec fic. First of all…THERE’S TEXTING. I cannot express how much this excites me! After writing stories with no cell phones, or no phones period, it’s nice to have this communication of convenience available to me. I also find the voice can blossom more from personality and less from the time period. There’s also the ability to reference pop culture (of course, not so much to date the story– or me!) and current events which is wicked awesome. The whole thing is like exploring the real world from behind the scenes!

Although right now this story is primarily an exercise in craft and fun, it’s a challenge that’s helping me grow as a writer and maybe some day (*fingers crossed*) it’s a story I can share with others :)


THE Post

Posted by Rachel on May 18, 2015 in agent, current event, inspiration, query, writing |

Yes, this is THE POST. The post about THE THING that you all know it’s about. BUT before I get into specifics, let’s rewind a bit.

I’ve been telling stories and writing for as long as I can remember. I seriously began writing with the intention of being published in 2008. It was a MG Fantasy series–of course it was, right? In 2011 I joined the twitters. And in 2012 I started querying. It was a total and utter mess but a great learning experience. Since then I’ve written 5 and 1/4 novels and queried 3 of them. My latest query novel being a YA Alt History set in a prolonged prohibition era 1940′s. And hey, it worked! Third time’s the charm, I guess!

You can read about why I wrote this novel here, but I’ll give you a little background on the timeline. I wrote this story a year ago and spent the next few months preparing it for PitchWars. While betas liked the original draft it needed a TON of work and although I put in the time, PW really helped bring this book to life (see below). It did very well in the showcase and equally well in queries thereafter. Honestly, there was never a point I didn’t have requests out, but despite the kind feedback, it didn’t seem to be anyone’s precise cup of tea. Eventually I felt like the book’s day in the sun was coming to an end so I sent a couple more rounds of queries out and called it a day.

Then, out of the blue I got THE EMAIL. About THE CALL.

And it felt so surreal, guys. Like whoa. Someone was actually in love with my MS like I was in love with it! We wanted to have book babies together! Too weird? Ok. But YAY. Needless to say, I was speechless.

So after we talked about the book and gushed and talked and gushed more, everything started falling into place. Then came the hard part. The nudging. And the waiting. The last two weeks have been torturous but the announcement is finally here.

I’m SUPER excited to announce that I’ve accepted representation with Eric Smith at PS Literary!!!

I mean…guys…he tweeted about me:


^About me O.O

Ok, enough flailage. Here’s what you’ve all been waiting for– the stats:

Total Queries: 62

CNR: 15

Partials: 19

Fulls: 12

With that all said, I wouldn’t have got here without a lot of awesome book people. Friends, beta readers, CPs and everyone in between. So here’s a list of thank yous that would easily get me music’d off the Oscar stage.

Summer. Dude. You were my first real writing friend. Thanks for being there for me through all the ups and downs (/meltdowns) and becoming one of my best friends ever. Move right meow, please&thankyou. I miss you like the sun misses the flower in the depths of winter.

Ashley. Seriously, I could not have asked for a better CP or friend. My novels would be a mess without you–typo’d and oxford comma-less, you’ve helped me grow my skills in every way and I only hope I’ve helped you half as much. Plus, we make a great literary team and I am so glad to have shared this journey with you *clings* Now come play with me ;)

Louise. Your edits have always pushed my stories into places I was either afraid to go or didn’t know I could venture into. Thanks for making time to read them all whether they were in shambles or polished up nice. And thanks for being there for all my other drama, too! One day we shall frolic together!

Betas: Jen, Kim, Dee, Derek, Emmy, Laurie, Sarah, Andrew, Jessy, Clare, John, etc.

Some of you read my old stuff, some of you have / will read my new stuff and some of you have read ALL my stuff. Each of you have helped me grow as a writer in one way or another and your friendship in this crazy writing community has been invaluable to me *group snugs*

TwitWit Group & PItchWars 2014 Group

Ladies and Gentlemen, good things happen to those who write, write and write some more. Now, if you proceed to the clubhouse, commence flailing!

PitchWars Mentors

Fiona. Thank you so much for picking my little runt of a scifi MS in 2013 PitchWars and thank you so much for your keen eye on my other projects. Your continued support of my writing and your sage advice has saved me from doing something stupid more than once ;) CHEERS!

Steph and Stacey. I’m so glad you each thought my alt history MS was the bee’s knees for your 2014 PitchWars team. And even though I kicked and screamed, I’m glad you cracked the whip to get me into gear. This is what we worked for, ladies! We put blood, sweat, and tears into Evey’s story and there is absolutely no way I’d have gotten here without you two.

I also want to thank all my non-book friends and family for all their love and support over the years– it’s meant the world to me!

*cue extremely loud orchestra*



Posted by Rachel on April 28, 2015 in current event, new england, writing tips |

This past weekend I attended the NESCBWI conference and let me just say…IT WAS AWESOME.

If you haven’t had a chance to get to a writing conference yet, DO IT. I know us writers are the home-body type, the want-to-be-left-alone type, the stay-in-pjs-and-mess-around-on-twitter-instead-of-writing type,

but going to conferences is a great way to break out of your comfort zone, meet like-minded people and learn more about your craft and the industry.

I’ll give a brief wrap-up, but I tweeted a ton on the #NESCBWI15 hashtag (as did many others) so you can check that out if you have time.

For those of you who don’t know, NESCBWI stands for New England Society of Book Writers and Illustrators. If you’re not from New England, or the North East, there are different chapters of the society all across the country. I urge you to find your local one and check it out!

So here we go, weekend of awesome.

I roomed with a PitchWars buddy *waves* and met up with a lot of old and new friends from the community *waves again*. Merriment ensued and it was glorious.

At the event, they had a bookstore (because, DUH, BOOKS) and times for people to sign their books. There were a lot of great workshops to attend and some of the ones I took were about race & culture, YA romance, diversity, publishing tips, and so on…On top of all the epic classes, there were some great keynotes from the likes of Jo Knowles (I cried) and Kwame Alexander (I died from laughing) that were very inspirational and empowering. And while the point of a conference is to soak up as much knowledge and information from the sessions and speakers as you can, there’s also a lot you can learn from other writers, too. Their experiences and journey can help to guide your own path or provide good company for the road ahead.

I would suggest you try and get to at least one conference a year. I know they can be expensive, so do your research and find out which one would be most beneficial to you. And hey, if you can get to more than one, by all means, attend more than one!

If you have any questions about NESCBWI or conferences in general, feel free to leave a comment :)



YA Disney Princesses

Posted by Rachel on April 15, 2015 in characters, musings |

Credit for this blog idea goes to Ashley, the best critique partner and friend a writer could ask for! I begged for ideas and she delivered!

She suggested it might be cool to compare YA heroines to Disney heroines and I thought this was utterly brilliant. So, here are my assessments:

Cinderella – America (The Selection) This one was an easy comparison, but I think it fits with their personalities as well. America fights for a better life for herself even if she’s a bit reluctant at first and eventually finds her happily ever after.

Belle – Hermione (Harry Potter) Duh! Hermione is a smart, clever girl who finds herself in a variety of precarious situations but always stays cool. More importantly she sees the best in people even when they can’t see it themselves.

Tiana – Cath (Fangirl) Being so focused on her dreams often distracts Cath from what’s standing right in front of her. She’s a kind girl with tunnel vision, but by opening her eyes a bit, she’s able to make all her dreams come true.

Jasmine – Tris (Divergent) She’s a feisty, go-against-the-grain girl who won’t settle for what’s expected of her. Tris is a go getter with strong morals, but her desire to show what she’s made of is even stronger.

Rapunzel – Astrid (Ask the Passengers) The outside world is scary and Astrid feels the pressure of that all the time. Despite this fear, she takes the leap of faith to venture into life head first and finds that there’s no reward without risk.

Merida – Katniss (Hunger Games) Even though she’s aware of what people want her to be, Katniss is constantly true to herself whether makes others happy or not. She also has a great sense of duty and finds the best way to accomplish her goals without compromising her identity.

Elsa – Clarke (The 100) Clarke has a troubled past but finds a way to break free of those old demons by taking charge of her situation. No one is going to mess with her and at the end of the day, no matter the adversity, friends and family come first.

Mulan – Deryn (Leviathan) Guys, I had to include an alternate history in here! Deryn conceals herself as a boy in order to join the war front and in doing so, shows the guys how its done. She’s tough, courageous, cunning and all around awesome in her efforts to serve King and country.

Pocahontas – Lisel (The Book Thief) Given her compassion for people unlike herself and a great thirst of knowledge of the unknown, Lisel makes a perfect match for this Disney princess. They also share a deep understanding of the world that most others ignore or simply don’t see.

Of course these are just my thoughts. I’d love to hear what you think! Do you think I got some right? Who else could you compare to a Disney princess?

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