Are You Doing NaNoWriMo?

2013-Participant-Facebook-CoverI am. Well, I suppose not technically, but I am using this month (National Novel Writing Month) to step outside my comfort zone and plunge ahead in my next novel (yes, I am working on one—something totally new and different from my previous three). My thoughts on NaNoWriMo, from SparkLife:

Whelp, here we go again. NaNoWriMo time. The Internet has not yet figured out a way to imbue the written word with a tone of voice, so until Google gets on that, I will tell you how I am write-saying those statements: with a combination of trepidation, skepticism, excitement, and hope.

I’m a late-comer to National Novel Writing Month, and I’ll admit that I have a whole heap of mixed and sometimes contradictory feelings about the very idea. See, I write novels for a living, so every month is Novel Writing Month for me. My books take me years to write and edit, so when someone tells me she’s going to write a novel in 30 days, my face tends to freeze in this weird, strained grimace that says “Hmmm, cool!” but actually means, “I’ve already thought of 16 ways to hurt you.”

Writing a novel (or more specifically, according to the official NaNoWriMo rules, writing 50,000 words, which is not precisely the same thing) in a month is ambitious to say the least, and pretty much ensures some terrible writing by placing more emphasis on quantity than on quality. It’s the reason many agents and editors hole up for the month of December, when barely edited NaNoWriMo manuscripts come rolling into their inboxes like a tsunami of deranged monkeys demanding bananas.

But why do I want to punch all those Usain Bolts of novelists in the face? Here is the revelation that has lead to my evolution in feelings about NaNoWriMo—it’s because I’m scared. I’m scared to do what that NaNoWriMo novelist is doing: to write with abandon, to write without thinking, without reading it over, without concern, without that imaginary editor sitting on my shoulder. And that is exactly what NaNoWriMo is actually about. Not writing, but facing your fears about writing.

I’m currently working on my fourth YA novel, and I have to say, it doesn’t get easier. I’ve been thinking about, researching, outlining, and writing this novel for almost three years now. What I have written is still not “there.” Some days I dread opening the document on my computer. I’m no stranger to the empty page, and, in fact, I find all that blankness invigorating. But it’s the half-empty page that’s my problem. Before I can pick up where I left off, I find myself drawn like a moth to a flame back to the words I’ve already written, appraising them, revising them, finding them one day brilliant and another day clunky and tired. I get so preoccupied with what I’ve already written that sometimes I barely write. I take two steps backward to move one step forward.

That is okay. It’s my process. But this NaNoWriMo, I’m going to try something else. I’m going to step outside of my comfort zone. I’m going to face my fears by not facing what I’ve already written and instead forging ahead, unencumbered by the pages behind me and with the momentum of a ticking clock and almost 300,000 other writers at my back. I have 17,240 words of what will probably be a 70,000-word novel. I will not finish it by November 30. That’s ridiculous, but it’s also not the point. The point is that I will spend the next 24 days stringing new words together and ignoring old words. I will discover, not judge. I will write, not edit.

This was supposed to be a pep talk for you, and here I’ve talked all about myself. But this post isn’t for those Sparklers who have already written 10,000 words. This post is for those Sparklers who are feeling ambivalent, skeptical, nervous, and maybe a little bit scared of NaNoWriMo. Take a chance. Face your fear. Free yourself to move forward for 30 days. There will be time to look back later. I wish you luck, and I hope you’ll do the same for me.

xoxo Kathryn

WILDFLOWER advance copies are IN!

Dearest Franks n’ Beans,
Over at Kathryn Williams Headquarters (aka, my couch), we have some exciting news. Last year, you might remember, I co-launched a new YA book packager called Aerial.  We sold our first series concept, Wildflower, to Poppy at Little, Brown. Alecia Whitaker (author of The Queen of Kentucky) is the writer, and let me tell you, she busted her hump (where does that saying come from???) with this book. We were on a crazy tight schedule because we’re so eager to get it out. Well, it paid off, because ARCs are in and they are as beautiful on the outside as they are on the inside!

Wildflower advance reader copies

Wildflower advance reader copies

I have to say Alecia, Aerial, and Poppy make a fantastic team.

Dan (Aerial), Alecia (author), Pam (editor), me (me)

Dan (Aerial), Alecia (author), Pam (editor), me (me)

Justine Magazine just did a cover reveal. The pub date (July 1, 2014) still feels very far away, but we have lots of fun promotions planned (…) so stay tuned.
xoxo Kathryn


Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff – Now Cheaper and Bendier!

Dearest Lobster Rolls,
It has been quite the summer! First, I spent six weeks continuing to pursue my MFA degree (Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing) at one of my favorite places on earth, Hogwarts Sewanee, basically summer camp for book nerds. Jealous? Yeah, you should be. It’s an awesome program.

Now it’s good to be back in Maine, reminding myself why I live here and eating lobster until I get sick to my stomach or my cholesterol kills me — whichever comes first. I’ve been camping, sailing, canoeing, paddle boarding, blueberry picking, cooking, hiking, reading, and writing. What more could a girl ask for? How about the PAPERBACK RELEASE OF HER NOVEL?

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So Many Things

Dearest Licorice Sticks (the red kind, obv),

First of all, welcome back to my NOT hacked website! Sorry if you tried to stop by and it was unavailable or worse. Sheesh. Go crack a code or something and leave my poor, little YA book blog alone.

It has been an INSANELY busy winter. All good, mind you, but my head is still a little spinny. A couple of announcements:


1. Aerial, the YA and MG book packager I started with my former boss, Dan Tucker at Sideshow Media, has officially launched with our first project, WILDFLOWER, a three-book series coming from the Poppy imprint of Little, Brown in 2014! The books will be written by the amazingly talented (and very punctual) Alecia Whitaker, author of The Queen of Kentucky. WILDFLOWER follows 16-year-old country singer Bird Barrett, the fiddle in her family’s bluegrass band. As her solo career explodes, Bird must learn to juggle the competing interests of family, career, friends, boys… and, hardest of all, her own developing sense of who she is. We are so, so, so excited about this series and the team working on it. I can’t wait to share more.

2. I just got back from the 2013 AWP Conference (Association of Writers and Writing Programs) in Boston. Two of my favorite panels were YA panels (go figure). The first featured famous editor and author extraordinaire Arthur A. Levine and publisher Justin Chanda, of Scholastic. These guys are funny. Like, I want to put them in my pocket and take them to parties funny. My favorite quotes/observations.
“You can never have too many duck books.”
“The e-reader is the brown paper bag for books.”
[regarding the age-old question, why are boys not reading? (to which Arthur responded, "I'm a boy and I read")]: We need a t-shirt that says “I read like a girl.”

The second panel was on love, sex, and censorship in YA lit around the world. It featured one of my favorite authors (also an editor), David Levithan. He read from his new novel, Two Boys Kissing, which comes out this summer, and let me just say: Tears. Beautiful tears. I can’t wait for it.

3. And my THIRD announcement, well, you’re going to have to wait for it, because I want to do a separate post. Stay tuned.


YALLFest, or the Freshman at the Senior Prom

Dear Crawfish Cakes,

My friend has a saying when she’s about to embark on something new and fun and kind of scary: “I’m nervous but excited.” (Okay, it’s not really a “saying” as much as something she says a lot, but when did you get so picky?) That pretty much sums up what I’m feeling today. Because this weekend I will be attending my first ever and the second ever YALLFest – Charleston, SC’s  young adult book festival.

Charleston YA book festival

Why am I excited? Because this is not just any regular book festival. This festival is organized as a labor of YA (and Southern) love by the writers (and bookseller) themselves. Because who else would make the centerpieces of their festival a storytelling smackdown and pie (yes, pie)?

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