#PonyFest16

It’s time for Rebecca Enzor’s annual #PonyFest16! I’m happy to say that I’m getting in my entry a couple days before it’s due, unlike in years past. During PonyFest, authors turn their characters into My Little Ponies. It’s a blast and is surprisingly addicting. Usually, I end up giving in and turning a cast of characters into ponies, but this year, I’ve narrowed it down to choosing just one character! Go me :P

 

Yarrow

This is Yarrow, a monster made of rock and trees and ice and magic. He’s a pensive creature and prone to quaking so hard, dirt rains down out of his body. I adore this creature, and I especially adore how he transforms at the end of the book–both literally and figuratively :D

highly suggest checking out the other ponies! Rebecca will link to them and will start official voting for the contest on October 4th!

Pitch Wars Wish List 2016

Hello, Warriors, Dreamers, and Wordsmiths! I will keep this post as short and sweet as I can, but I want the very first thing you read on my blog to be this: For PitchWars, I am not looking for a manuscript that is perfect. I am looking for a book that is filled with potential, and for a writer who has already done the hard work and is prepared to roll up their sleeves and dig in for two months with me. I am looking for someone who is open to critique and who is ready to have an open dialogue about what darlings of theirs might need to change. I am looking for someone who’s excited to learn. I am passionate about this process, and I will work so, so hard for you, if you are ready to do the same.

You are all bright, brilliant things, and I cannot say enough about the courage it takes to submit your work. I wish very much that I could take on each and every one of you who submits to me, but alas, since I can only choose one, let’s move on!

MG Mentor

Why You Should Choose Me!

-If you’re curious about what it’s like to work with me from a mentee’s point of view, check out this blogpost to read an interview with my mentee and alt from 2014 and this blogpost with my mentee from 2015.
-Stacy Hackney, my mentee from 2014, received a whopping 12 agent requests during the agent round and is now represented by the lovely Katie Grimm! Julie Artz, my mentee from 2015, received a solidly stupendous 6 requests, and is now working as the talented editor she is! Both of these lovely ladies will likely help me read submissions and have said they would be excited to help my 2016 mentee :D
-I have extensive critiquing experience: my editing strengths are in plotting (I adore plotting!), character arcs, defining the rules of magic systems, world building, writing at the sentence level (show vs tell, inserting emotion into the text), and honing queries until they shine. I work hard to have precise, thoughtful feedback, be it for bigger overall issues or close in line issues. Two months is, of course, not enough time to teach someone how to write from scratch, but it is enough time for a crash course in some writing elements. We’ll work together to figure out what you need.
-For the past two years, I have done editing with my mentees in two waves. The first being larger issues (plotting!) and the second closer issues (line edits!).
-I have written 10 books, eight of which have been fantasy and the other two were contemporary (this is the main reason why I am not the best fit for a contemporary novel–see below in the “what I’m looking for” section–as I don’t have as much experience writing and critiquing it). I am passionate about the drafting and editing process, and have learned a lot through each of my books. I am so excited to share what I’ve learned with you <3
(Please do come find me on Twitter @julianalbrandt. I would love to chat and “meet” you! Or feel free to write any comments questions on this blogpost! I will be happy to respond:)

What I’m Looking For!

I’m looking for MG fantasy this year, both high and low. I am a massive fan of weird magic, unique magic systems, and worlds that haven’t been seen before. I love darkness tinged with humor, characters that form close relationships, mythology that’s woven into plot, quests (QUESTS, I LOVE QUESTS), villains that resonate, and clever main characters who use their wit to escape from tricky situations.

To give you an idea of my reading tastes, check out the list below:

-Otherworld fantasy: HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (or anything by Diana Wynne Jones, for that matter), THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu, TUESDAY’S AT THE CASTLE by Jessica Day George, THE HOLLOW KINGDOM by Clare B. Dunkle, THE WITCH’S BOY by Kelly Barnhill, THE THICKETY by J.A. White.
-Fantasy that is NOT magic-based: THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner, THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielson, PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale.
-Dark fantasy: THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann.
-Horror: THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathon Auxier, DOLL BONES by Holly Black.
-Historical Fantasy: SERAFINA AND THE BLACK CLOAK by Robert Beatty.
-Magical, adventure stories: THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis, LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver, PETER & THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
-Stories with beautiful mythology: WHERE THE MOUNTAIN MEETS THE MOON by Grace Lin. (I would fight tooth and nail for books involving local mythology!)
-Magical Realism: RULES FOR STEALING STARS by Corey Ann Haydou.
-I would shove aside other mentors for a diverse cast of characters set in a tight fantasy world. (Send me all the diverse MSs!)

*As an interesting thing to note, the manuscripts I’ve chosen to mentor in recent years have been about children discovering that magic (or something strange and wonderful) exists in the every day world. (This is very clearly NOT chosen one stories or children coming into some secret power (please see below at the “what I’m not looking for” section).) While this is noted, I would be very interested  in a MS where magic already exists at the beginning of story (ie: “discovering magic exists” is not the inciting incident).

What I’m Not Looking For

*Sci-fi & contemporary novels are not my strong suit. There are other, incredible mentors who shine in those genres, who you should look at submitting to before thinking of submitting to me.
*I am not as good of a fit for “chosen one” stories, magic systems that have been seen before (such as elemental magic), retellings (or stories using fairytale characters), or portal stories. If your MS has any of these and you still want to submit to me, these elements will have to be very uniquely written for me to be interested.

As a note, I will not be able to respond to everyone who submits to me. I will do my best to respond to the people I request material from. The school year is just beginning though, and I know it would not be healthy for me to promise to respond to everyone’s submissions. I do apologize for this.

The Letter "O"

The Letter “O” for the bloghop!

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Interview with #PitchWars 2015 Mentee, Julie Artz

I can hardly believe that we’re starting to gear up for #PitchWars 2016, but here we are, and I could not be more excited!

In 2014, I had a breeze of a time choosing which manuscripts I was interested in working with. They called to me, and I snatched them right up! 2015 was a different story though. I had a handful of manuscripts that I felt strongly about, that I thought could do well in the agent round, and that I knew I could help make into stronger novels. I ended up choosing Julie Artz’s incredible QUEST FOR THE KALEVALA in the most super secret of ways (I’m still snickering over this, Julie!). I hadn’t requested Julie’s manuscript, but rather had gotten the full from another of the mentors she’d submitted to. I’d heard about how fantastic she was from those same mentors, too. I ended up reading her manuscript just a few days before we had to announce our picks. By then, I decided to keep it a secret that I was looking at her book at all! Julie was an absolute dream to work with. I could not have been happier. Below, you’ll find her answers to the same questions I asked Stacy and Dana back in 2014.

If you’d like to read the interview with my 2014 mentee and alternate, go here. Read on below for Julie Artz’s thoughts on Pitch Wars 2015, and what it was like to work closely with me in preparation for the incredibly exciting agent round.

***

Me: There are a few parts to PitchWars, the first of which was deciding which writers you wanted to submit to as potential mentors. How did you decide who to send to?

Julie: As soon as the mentor list was announced, I followed all of the MG mentors (and most of the YA/Adult ones too, to be honest) on Twitter and started keeping an eye on the #PitchWars thread for tips as I madly polished the manuscript I was entering. Then, when I was ready to start narrowing down, I did a first pass through the middle grade mentors to come up with a list of folks who were interested in MG fantasy. Of those, ones who had an agent I loved or who specifically said they liked something similar to my Pitch Wars manuscript got a highlight on my spreadsheet–Yes, I had a spreadsheet. I listened to the mentor Q&A sessions and further narrowed down the list. Juliana already had a star for Howl’s Moving Castle (one of my all-time favorite books), but she got another one when she tweeted about being great with character emotion and arcs, something I’d struggled with while revising my dual-POV story. When I had the list down to about seven, I pinged some of my trusted critique partners and they helped me narrow the list down to five. I’ll be honest, though, it was tough!

Me: For the 2016 PitchWars hopefuls, what was it like to have me as your mentor? (Feel free to be honest :P)

Julie: I was thrilled to have Juliana as my mentor. She understood how to fix my story right away and by the time we finished our first Skype conversation, I knew exactly what I needed to do. I learned so much about structure and how it supports character arc. How to write better emotion. How to keep propelling the story forward. All from her excellent notes and homework assignments. In addition to providing so much great feedback during September and October, she’s been a constant source of encouragement since the Agent Round. I feel so lucky to have her as part of my tribe!

Me: *all the hugs!* Seriously, the best part of PitchWars is the close writing relationships you end up forming!

Me: What was your overall experience with the editing/revising process? Was there a certain part that was particularly difficult or rewarding?

Julie: I completed a major structural revision of my story in a few short weeks, which was all-consuming and completely exhausting. But I also learned so much during that time period that I walked into my next story with a lot more confidence in my ability to tell a story than I’d had before Pitch Wars. And I went from hating revision to understanding what a powerful part of the writing process it can be (even as I vowed never to write another story without thinking about arc and structure up front).

Me: Were there any parts of your PitchWars experience that you were surprised at? Submissions? Edits? The agent round?

Julie: The Agent Round was both thrilling and terrifying. My fellow 2015 mentees are so amazing that the agent-offer frenzy started the second the Agent Round ended and hasn’t really left us in the months since. As a middle-of-the-pack entry with a respectable number of requests, I knew my querying road was going to be a bit longer. That was harder emotionally than I thought it would be, but I am really thankful for all the support I’ve gotten from Juliana and from my amazing 2015 mentee pals.

Me: If you could choose to do PitchWars all over again, would you?

Julie: Absolutely! Anyone who is serious about their work, but struggling to find an agent, should enter this contest. The community created around Pitch Wars is fantastic and the time, energy, and love each mentor puts in is such an amazing gift to the writers who enter!

***

Be sure to check out Brenda Drake’s website for more information on Pitch Wars and follow her on Twitter for updates!

2015 in Books

2015 was a good, albeit busy, year for me. To sum it up, 2015 is…

–The year I became an aunt. This is honestly the best thing that has ever happened to me.
–The year of editing. Usually I draft 1-2 books a year, but this year, I edited. I rewrote. I redrafted. I redid worldbuilding and magic systems. I’m very excited to get back to drafting in 2016!
–The year I became a teacher! Teaching Kindergarten fills me up in a similar was that writing does. It’s soul-satisfying, while being one of the more difficult things I’ve ever done.
–The year I finally met @rebeccaenzor in person! <3
–The year I moved to the mountains of North Carolina. Living here is a wonderful thing, where you step onto the porch and have mountains veering up straight across from you. I miss Tennessee though! Good thing it’s such a short drive away.
–The year I discovered the type of book I need to be writing. Basically: upper middle grade with crazy magic, complex characters, and seemingly unrelated plot threads that combine in unexpected ways at the climax. It only took me 9 books to figure this out.
–The year I started learning how to read white water.
–The year of live concerts. The Yonder Mountain Stringband. Greensky Bluegrass. The Infamous Stringdusters. Larry Keel. Keller Williams. The Stray Birds. Horseshoes and Handgrenades. Jeff Austin. Big Daddy Love. JJ Grey and the Mofro. Soja. We really got into seeing live bluegrass, jamband concerts, and it was awesome.

I also read something around 60 books! I usually set my goal to 50 and have to play catch up in the last two weeks of the year, but after cruising through 15 books the month of July, I was good to go. I started recording my books on 50 Book Pledge, which has a handy (and attractive) shelf for book covers. It’s fun to scroll through and see the books I’ve read. I like this site much better than Goodreads…or, I’m just a lot better at keeping up with it here :) I’ve posted my entire list of 2015 reads at the bottom, but I decided to write a quick review of my very favorite books from this year!

The Real Boy by Anne Ursu

The Real Boy is the first book I’ve read by Anne Ursu, and I’ve got to say that she’s now in my “favorite authors” list. The writing style is so lovely, with clever turns of phrase and descriptions that had me reading certain passages multiple times.  It’s not directly stated on the page, but the main character, Oscar’s, autism is clearly and beautifully written. This is definitely the sort of middle grade I’d like to write.

The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner

The Queen’s Thief is one of my very favorite series with Gen being my very favorite book character. Turner’s first book in this series, The Thief, was a Newberry Honor book in 1997 and for good reason. The intricate plot she wove in The Thief continues into The Queen of Attolia, except it gives a closer look at some of the characters, including one of the antagonists. I read the three most recent books in this series in a span of five days this summer.

The Orphan Queen by Jodi Meadows

I will admit that The Orphan Queen was not one that I wanted to read based on the back cover. It was suggested to me by @EpicEmmy (who I trust with my reader’s-heart and suggested at least half my reads this year!), so I took a chance on it. It was a bit of a slow start for me, but once past the 1/3 point, I couldn’t put it down. Part of why I enjoyed this book so much is that magic has a specific, negative effect, though the characters don’t know why or how that negative effect comes about. I’ll be interested to read and find out the answer to this when the second book comes out the beginning of 2016.

Quintana of Charyn by Melina Marchetta

Quintana of Charyn is the third book in a trilogy, starting with Finnikin of the Rock. I enjoyed Finnikin, but I fell in love with the trilogy at the second book, Froi of the Exiles. I have Quintana of Charyn listed here though because this is one of the books that I had to sit in silence after finishing. It was such, such a marvelous read, with intricate story-plotting that tied together threads from the first book all the way to the end. This is a darker read, with a frank style, and honest telling of the brutality of war and exile.

 

Witch Week by Diana Wynne Jones

It’s no secret that Diana Wynne Jones is my favorite author. I will preach her work until my end (HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE, FTW!), but this year I scoured around for some more of her works that I haven’t read (I also read and enjoyed The Darklord of Dirkholm and was fascinated by the juxtaposition of tone and plot). The hook in Witch Week is so wonderful that when I came to it, I thought, Why on earth haven’t I ever thought of this concept?? Witch Week was absolutely hilarious. I found myself laughing out loud throughout almost the entire read!

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

The Name of the Wind is the first in a series of books where Kvothe, the main character, tells his life’s story . This was an unexpected narrative style for me that took a few chapters to get used to, but once into the story, I couldn’t put it down. I cruised through this one as well as the second, The Wise Man’s Fear (fair warning, only two books are out right now) and am excited to pick up 2.5, The Slow Regard of Silent Things, in the New Year. This is definitely the biggest epic fantasy that I read this year.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil is the third book in Rowli–I mean Galbraith’s series. The detective, Cormoran Strike, has a very Holmsian sort of air about him, as well as the way that the story unfolds. Career of Evil was by far the most closely personal of the three books that are out, which worked for me. I highly (highly highly) suggest checking out this series even if you don’t usually read mysteries.

Wyrd Sisters by Terry Prachett

Before this year, I hadn’t read any of Terry Prachett’s books (I know, I know. Terrible!), and after he passed, I went to check out his Discworld books. I am so glad that I did. I started with Wyrd Sisters because it was recommended as a good book to start with in the series. It was clever and unique and hilarious in very fun, unexpected ways.

The Map to Everywhere by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis

This is exactly the sort of middle grade book that I love! A funny, romping adventure story with two main characters that the reader roots whole-heartedly for. I haven’t picked up the sequel yet, but I’ll be excited to check it out in 2016.

Vicious by VE Schwab

Vicious is a superhero book that doesn’t feel like a superhero book. It’s told through a non-linear timeline with multiple points of view which allows for the events to unfold in unexpected ways. None of the characters in Vicious felt like heroes to me, all with dark backgrounds and motivations that made the characters feel very real. Schwab is one of my very favorite authors and she definitely didn’t disappointed with this one (as well as A Darker Shade of Magic which I read this year too).

 

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin

This book. This book. THIS BOOK. This book has all the things: intricate, fully-developed world building; a magic-system that is both limitless and science-based (I can’t describe how envious I am of this system!); and characters with fleshed out histories, hidden motivations, and emotions that run deep. Jemisin plays with points of view and and narrative style in this book. I will likely go back in 2016 to try and figure out how exactly she did what she did. I’m very excited for the second book in this trilogy to come out.

What were your favorite reads from this year? 2015 was severely lacking in non-fiction reads. I have a few keyed up for 2016 (including The History of the World in 12 Maps which I’ve started and is AMAZING), but I’d love recommendations if you have any!

Full 2015 Book List

The Real Boy- Anne Ursu
Magyk- Angie Sage
The witch’s boy- Kelly barnhill
The queen of attolia-Megan Whalen turner
The king of attolia- Megan Whalen turner
A conspiracy of kings- Megan Whalen turner
The Runaway King-Jennifer A. Neilson
Princess Academy- Shannon Hale
Illusions of Fate-Kiersten White
I’ll Give You the Sun- Jandy Nelson
My Heart and Other Black Holes- Jasmine Wanga
Soulless-Gail Carriger
Blameless- Gail Carriger
Changeless- Gail Carriger
Razorhurst- Justine Larbalester
The Hollow Kingdom- Clare B. Dunkle
Close Kin- Clare B. Dunkle
Tuesdays at the Castle- Jessica Day George
End of Days- Susan Ee
Warprize- Elizabeth Vaughan
The Wrath & the Dawn-
Stolen Songbird
The Orphan Queen- Jodi Meadows
Red Queen- Victoria Aveyard
Uprooted- Naiomi
The Young Elites-Marie Lu
A Court of Thorns and Roses- Sarah J. Maas
Froi of the Exiles- Melina Marchetta
Quintana of Charyn- Melina Marchetta
The Dark Lord of Derkholm- Diana Wynne Jones
Monstrous- MarcyKate Connoly
Howl’s Moving Castle- Diana Wynne Jones
Witch Week- Diana Wynne Jones
The Queen of the Tearling- Erika Johansen
The Rook- Shanon Cameron
Carry On- Rainbow Rowell
Preludes and Nocturnes- Neil Gaiman
Cold Magic- Kate Elliott
Cross Stitch (Outlander)- Diana Gabaldon
The Arrow- Monica McCarty
The Devil in Winter- Lisa Kleypas
Career of Evil- Robert Galbraith
Nimona- Noelle Stevenson
Dragon Slippers- Jessica Day George
The Name of the Wind- Patrick Rothfuss
The Infinite- Rick Yancey
Trickster’s Queen- Tamora Pierce
Trickster’s Choice- Tamora Pierce
The Magicians of Caprona- Diana Wynne Jones
The Wise Man’s Fear- Patrick Rothfuss
Dark Triumph- Robin LaFevers
Queen of Shadows- Sarah J. Maas
Skin Hunger- Kathleen Duey
Wyrd Sister’s- Terry Pratchett
The Silkworm- Robert Galbrath
Cold Hearted Rogue- Lisa Kleypas
The Fifth Season- NK Jemisin
Vicious- VE Schwab
A Darker Shade of Magic- VE Schwab

 

Pitch Wars Wish List 2015

MG Mentor

Pitch Warriors! I’m glad you’ve stopped by my blog! Comment on this post and come find me on twitter (@julianalbrandt), I would love to get to know you. I know how much research you’re doing to prepare and decide who to submit to, so I’m going to try and keep this short and sweet.

Why You Should Choose Me!

-If you’re curious about what it’s like to work with me from a mentee’s point of view, check out this blogpost to read and interview with my mentee and alt from last year.
-My writing is represented by the fiercely wonderful agent Emmanuelle Morgen of the Stonesong Literary Agency. I’ve written 10 books (whew–MG as well as YA) and am amazed at how much I’ve learned with each one. I can’t wait to share some of that with you!
-My mentee from last year received a whopping 12 agent requests during the agent round!
-While I love the drafting process, I particularly enjoy revising and editing. I have a large group of CPs that I critique for. I’m prepared to help with both developmental edits as well as line-by-line edits.
-I’ve had a lot of practice honing queries. In fact, I often do giveaways on twitter for them. It’s something I genuinely enjoy. Also, I know the query game. I know what it’s like to be in the trenches. We’ll make yours sparkle.
-I’m passionate about writing in all forms and will work so, so hard for you, if you’re willing to do the same.
-On a not-writing note, I’ve just received my Masters of Education and recently moved to the heart of the Appalachia in NC. I spend the majority of my free-time in the mountains–rock climbing, hiking, running…pretty much anything that gets me outdoors.

Update! I posted on twitter some of my editing strengths. (read tweets bottom to top)

PitchWars

What I’m Looking For!

This year, I’m particularly looking for MG fantasy! I would love to see submissions with unique magic systems and unique worlds. To give you an idea of my reading tastes, check out the list below:
-All of my very favorite MG fantasy has clever twists, whimsical turns of phrase, solid world building, creative/original magic, and well developed relationships between characters. Think HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE (or anything by Diana Wynne Jones, for that matter), THE REAL BOY by Anne Ursu, TUESDAY’S AT THE CASTLE by Jessica Day George, or THE HOLLOW KINGDOM by Clare B. Dunkle.
-I have a soft spot for MG that isn’t as magic-based, such as THE THIEF by Megan Whalen Turner (this is one of my very favorite series, though they really do cross over into YA), THE FALSE PRINCE by Jennifer Nielson, or PRINCESS ACADEMY by Shannon Hale.
-I adore dark fantasy such as THE PECULIAR by Stefan Bachmann. I’m not as experienced with MG horror, but if you have something especially creepy like THE NIGHT GARDENER by Jonathon Auxier, we could be a good fit (though with horror, ghost stories are not the right fit for me).
-I would fight hard for a magical, adventure story like THE MAP TO EVERYWHERE by Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis, LIESL & PO by Lauren Oliver, or PETER & THE STARCATCHERS by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
-A sci-fi story would also be very welcome.

What I’m Not Looking For

*I am not as good of a fit for “chosen one” stories, magic systems that have been seen before (such as elemental magic), or retellings (or stories using fairytale characters). If your MS has any of these and you still want to submit to me, these elements will have to be very uniquely written for me to be interested.
*I am also not a good fit for contemporary. There are some lovely other MG mentors who will do your contemporary story justice, I am just not one of them.
As a note, this year I will not be responding to everyone who submits to me. I will do my best to respond to the people I request material from (and more, if I can!) (Also, as a friendly hint, if I request material, I will likely request a partial along with an in depth synopsis.)

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