Thursday, October 18, 2012

Wise Words Courtesy of Tim Gunn

"The times when you most want to panic are the times you most need to take a deep breath and pull it together."

Tim Gunn on WhoSay

Tim Gunn, you are a wise and worldly man. Please take me under your wing and teach me all you know. Love, Katie

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Yummy Eats: Pumpkiny Pumpkin Treats!

It's been a while since I posted something on the deliciousness of my favorite fall ingredient. Don't worry though; I've been a busy little beaver whipping up a plethora of pumpkin treats. If you're looking for something full of fall spices to warm you as the weather cools off, check out my fall faves:

1. Pumpkin Bread: I already posted this recipe last year, but this is a fall staple out my house and my son can't get enough of it!
2. Paula Deen's Pumpkin Cheesecake: Y'all, this got RAVE reviews from many cheesecake connoisseurs. It's delicious and very rich. You've been warned.

3. Pumpkin Butter: Skinnytaste's pumpkin butter has been this week's obsession. I put it on bread and found tons of recipes that call for it.

Photo: Skinnytaste
4. Pumpkin French Toast Bake: This is the real deal and a great, easy weekend breakfast. You prep it at night, then just pop it in the oven in the morning. Prepping at night also gives the bread time to soak in all the pumpkin goodness. It does call for the pumpkin butter recipe posted above, but you can just use canned pumpkin (NOT pumpkin pie filling) and amp up the spices.

Photo: Minimalist Baker

Happy baking!


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Quote of the Day: Maya Angelou

"I believe the most important single thing, beyond discipline & creativity is daring to dare." -Maya Angelou

You said it, Maya. That quote so elegantly states the purpose of this blog. No one ever achieved greatness without taking risks and that, to me, is just as important any achievement. Try and fail. Try and succeed. The important thing is to try.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The Raven Boys Book Review and Maggie Stiefvater

I have a girl crush on Maggie Stiefvater, and, after attending her book signing on Saturday, I love her even more. I finished Maggie's latest release, The Raven Boys, last week. I've read all but one of her books and I think this one was my favorite.

The Raven Boys opens on St. Mark's Eve in the tiny town of Henrietta, Virginia. On this night, Blue Sargent goes to an old churchyard to see the spirits of everyone who is to die in the coming year. Well, Blue doesn't actually see them per se, she helps her psychic mother (or aunt or fill-in-the-blank relative) see them. Blue isn't a psychic; she's an amplifier. Her presence enhances her physic family's gifts. On this St. Mark's Eve, Blue sees her first spirit - a boy named Gansy. The only reason Blue, a non-psychic, would see a spirit is if he was her true love or she would be the one to kill him.

Gansy is a student at the prestigious Aglionby Academy. Students at Algionby, also known as Raven Boys, are wealthy and on their way to Ivy League schools and lives of luxury after. Gansy isn't like all the rest of the boys. He is fabulously rich and has never wanted for anything, but money can't buy what he seeks. He has spent years searching for a Welsh king named Glendower. His quest has landed him in Henrietta and he has enlisted his closest friends - Adam and Ronan - to help. Adam Parrish is a scholarship student at Aglionby who's trying to make his way through the world as his own man. Ronan Lynch recently lost his father and is content to lose just about everything else but his friends.

After the fateful St. Mark's Eve, Blue and Gansy's paths cross. Blue can plainly see that Gansy is someone she could never love or kill, but joins the gang in the hunt for Glendower. Their exploration of Virginia's ley lines lead them to unexpected discoveries and danger.

I loved The Raven Boys. I wasn't completely sold on the concept, but like all of Maggie's books, I wasn't disappointed. Maggie has the unique ability to bring the past into the present and  to construct characters that matter to me. I was intrigued and surprised and adored the book. Credit to Maggie for her pacing and delivery. The story's cadence was somehow very Virginia-y. It wasn't the language, though it was spot on, it was something else that gave the story an almost Southern Gothic feel.

On to Maggie! I went to a book signing with my friend Rheana at Denver's best independent bookstore (Tattered Cover shout out!). Maggie attended the signing with author friend Brenna Yovanoff. Maggie and Brenna, who are critique partners, interviewed each other, did dramatic readings, and took questions. They were utterly charming and had great chemistry which made the whole experience more lively than if it had been just Maggie or Brenna by themselves. I was happy that I got the book first from the library so that my shiny, autographed copy can remain in pristine condition.

Me, Maggie, and Brenna

Maggie and Brenna interviewing each other
If you haven't read any of Maggie's work, check it out and be sure to follow her awesome blog.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Querying: I Walk the Line

I follow a number of literary agents on Twitter. I enjoy the funny (and sometimes biting) #querytip and #pubtip tweets that say charming things like "Don't come to my office and demand to see me!" or "Do NOT mail your query and first chapter to my home address!". It's insane how many writers a) query before they're ready; b) have no sense of standard timelines; c) refuse to read query guidelines; or d) resort to measures that are stalkerish in nature.

Querying is a tough gig, and when I first began I fell into category A - querying before I was ready. I learned very quickly that my MS and my query letter were not fit for public consumption. I took a step back, went through more revisions, and sent my query to anyone I knew who would read it. But I can proudly say I never stalked an agent (at least I didn't think so).

My process for selecting the agents I wanted to query looked like this:
  1. Go to querytracker and screen agents who rep my genre.
  2. View agent profiles.
  3. Visit agent websites, blogs, and twitter accounts to get a feel for how they operate as an agent and to verify they are accepting queries and looking for the kind of story I wrote.
  4. If I liked what I saw, I then ran a google search for interviews they'd done to learn more about them.
This is where I stopped. I found that this was all it took for me to make a decision one way or the other. And though I felt that my thorough research process was necessary, it still seemed a little creepy. Is there a distinct line in researching potential agents that moves past comprehensive into invasive?

I think there is such a line, but where it lies on the spectrum is different for each person. Generally, I feel that people have a right to privacy. If someone writes a guest blog post or gives an interview, that's the kind of thing they want found and want read. I don't think they want some random stranger searching through images to try and glean some personal fact that can be woven into a query.

Maybe it is a tough line to walk. I want to come across as someone thoughtful who isn't just query bombing, but I don't want to seem like I've spent a little too much time on my research. Hopefully, my future agent will find my attention to detail endearing instead of weird.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Book Review: The Selection by Kiera Cass

I read too much YA. I've recently discovered that I can download audiobooks from the library to satisfy my need for instant gratification and the result has been a marathon of YA. In the last two weeks, I've listened to If I Stay, Where She Went, Cinder, and The Selection. I've got Matched by Ally Condie up right now and I think it's time for a break. But that's my problem, not yours.

The Selection by Kiera Cass is a YA mash up of a number of popular genres with themes that feel very "of the season". If I were to describe the book in a single sentence it would be: The Hunger Games (minus the Capitol) meets The Bachelor (if the bachelor was a prince). Yup, that's pretty much it.

In the ruins of what was once the United States, now stands the country of Illéa. Its society is defined by its caste system - each family operates within the same caste and their children are born into a number which determines their place in society and their future occupation. The story follows the tragically-named America Singer as she enter into the selection - a process that young women participate in for a chance to marry her country's prince. She uses the selection as a way to escape a broken heart, courtesy of her ex-boyfriend's pride, and as a means to better her poor family's circumstances. Our America is a five, the caste of artists, which is pretty low on the Illéa totem pole. But, if she married Prince Maxon, her whole family will be elevated to ones and have a life they couldn't ever have dreamed of.

Confused and brokenhearted, America strikes a deal with the prince to befriend him in exchange for removing herself from the running while remaining in the palace (and securing the stipend sent to her family in her absence). As America glides through the "dates" and endure the pettiness of the other contestants, she discovers her feelings for the sweet, sheltered boy. If dealing with her own teenage torment wasn't enough, the entire process is filmed and televised for the whole country.

Set against the backdrop of an interestingly structured world and the rumblings of war, The Selection was a good, though somewhat formulaic, read.  I enjoyed the premise and the story, but wasn't as engaged as I hoped to be with the characters and the dialogue. Also, I'm not sure who started this weird naming convention in YA dystopian books, but it needs to stop. Characters should not be named America or Aspen. Just no. Stop it.

The Selection is the first of a series. Book #2, The Elite, is due out in 2013.

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