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?

Continue reading

NYC Teen Author Festival: THIS Weekend!

Dearest Tapioca Pearls,
My third big announcement for 2013: I am elated to be a part of the NYC Teen Author Festival this year! It’s organized by one of my favorite YA authors, David Levithan, and the list of authors participating is enough to send me into a sweaty, delirious tizzy. More info at this Publishers Weekly article.

Catch me at these events:

Saturday, March 23 @ 42nd Street NY Public Library:
2:40-3:30 – Under Many Influences: Shaping Identity When You’re a Teen Girl
Being a teen girl is to be under many influences – friends, parents, siblings, teachers, favorite bands, favorite boys, favorite web sites. These authors will talk about the influences that each of their main characters tap into – and then talk about what influences them as writers when they shape these characters.

Jen Calonita
Deborah Heiligman
Hilary Weisman Graham
Kody Keplinger
Amy Spalding
Katie Sise
Kathryn Williams
moderator: Terra Elan McVoy

Sunday, March 24
The No-Foolin’ Mega-Signing at Books of Wonder
This is going to be crazeballs. There are like 60 authors participating. My session is 3:15-4:00. Come keep me company!

If you are in the tri-state area, I expect to see you there. No excuses.

Thin Mint Dreams,

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)?

Continue reading

Come “Behind-the-Scenes” of the Pizzapalooza Tour with my NEW video!

Dearest Baby Goudas,

I am so, so, so, sooooooooo (got it?) excited to share this new video with you. I was going to hang onto it for the Southern Festival of Books or Teen Read Week, but I just can’t wait.

My friend CK is a fantastically talented videographer in Nashville and, in general, far cooler than I will ever be, and he put aside shooting music videos for, I don’t know, THE APACHE RELAY for a day to come film my cooking class and book signing at Salud! (I know! Whaaaaat? I need a bib for all this Awesome Sauce.)

CK has worked on a reality show before, so he did this very cool thing where he shot the video LIKE A REALITY SHOW. Brilliant, I tell you. Enough of me. Here is the video. I hope you enjoy it!

Many thanks to Merijoy Lantz-Rucker and the team at Salud! at Whole Foods in Green Hills and to CK Cates.


Southern Festival of Books

Dearest turtle bars,

I found out my panel for the Southern Festival of Books, and I am super excited because it is with….

… the fabulous Melissa Walker! Come hear us talk about “Matters of the Heart: Writing Romance Novels for Teens” (please note these are not romances of the bodice-ripping variety, though I hear those are doing well these days).


Saturday Oct 13, 4:30pm – 5:30pm

Room 29, Legislative Plaza

Hope to see you there!


Pizzapalooza Continues…

Dearest pretzel bites,

Between grad school, a writers’ conference, the book release, and a trek up to Maine, the last month (summer, really) has been kind of a whirlwind. Over two weeks in August and September, I spoke to students in five schools in three cities, taught two cooking classes, and had a reading at the best little bookstore in Nashville (well, they might have to share that title with this one now).

I had every intention of posting pics and a recap after each event, but until there are more hours in the day (seriously, who do I talk to about that?), that was all they remained: intentions. Better late than never, I hope. Here’s what I’ve been up to, sending that Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff out into the world:

First, I had two stops in Memphis: St. Mary’s School and St. Agnes Academy. St. Mary’s was a blast from the past, a lot like the school I attended growing up. My 7th-grade English teacher is now the middle school principal there, so in some ways, it was a homecoming. I was a little nervous speaking to the ENTIRE 5th through 12th grades at morning chapel (I think accidentally said the word “butt” in church — oops), but I really enjoyed talking to the girls afterward.

The St. Agnes visit was a little more intimate. We basically sat around and talked books for an hour in their fabu library. Perhaps my favorite part (other than the girls’ really good questions), was their Easter egg-colored jumpers. I’m sure not one of these girls gets up in the morning psyched to put this thing on, but seriously, how cute are they?!

Next up, a cooking class and book signing at Super Suppers in Franklin. I used to work in the kitchen at Super Suppers, and you would be hard-pressed to find a kinder, classier set of ladies than these. The event was a blast, and I could not have done it without them (especially Phemie and Karen). I demo’d Sophie’s mother’s tomato sauce and then Karen taught them how to make Braided Pizza Bread (a Super Suppers favorite) while I signed books and chatted. We also tasted a few recipes from the book. I was thrilled to see some other authors there, including Courtney Stevens (whose debut YA novel, Faking Normal, I can’t wait for) and Rae Ann Parker.

Next, it was on to Hillsboro High School in Nashville, where librarian Hope Hall had me speak to several English classes. We had two surprises: pizza for everyone, thanks to Hope, and a signed copy of the book that I raffled away. I’m quite sure those students busily texting during my talk were just so overcome with excitement at meeting me that they had to take it to the Twittersphere immediately.

That night, a surprising number of brave souls dared the weather to come hear me read at Parnassus Books. Old friends and new were there. The highlight was surely when I stumbled over the words “giant luna moths.” That’s all I can say in this forum…

Finally, I rounded out my Tennessee tour with a visit to Litton Middle School. Courtesy of Humanities Tennessee, every student in their 7th and 8th grades (about 160) got a book! When I got there, the librarian, Ms. Bailey, had propped them all around the room like dominoes. It was a sea of Pizza, Love, and Other Stuff that Made Me Famous. And I signed every last one!

So, that’s what I’ve been up to. I’m hoping to set up some more events in the South and Northeast. Stay tuned!

And now, back to writing…

Pizzapalooza Tour Kicks Off

Dearest Pistachio Nuts

I’m off to Memphis to speak to St. Mary’s and St. Agnes (yep, it’s a double header), but I just wanted to share some pics and updates from my last two events.

On Monday, I talked to a group of English and Creative Writing students at East Hamilton School outside of Chattanooga. We did a fun writing exercise (I’ll post on that later), and I talked about how I became a writer and the process of bringing a book from rough draft to finished copy. (I still feel weird talking about myself so much.) The EH group was awesome. I got some great questions. Go, Hurricanes.

Secondly, I’ve been volunteering as a chef’s assistant at Salud! Cooking School at Whole Foods in Nashville for a couple years now, but last Saturday, I taught my first class ALL BY MYSELF (okay, not really all by myself — I had a lot of help from the head chef and amazing volunteers, but just give me this moment, alright?)

It went pretty well, if I do say so myself. No one lost a digit (that they really needed) and we turned out some super tasty food, thanks to the six students. We made two recipes from the book: Sophie’s mom’s tomato sauce and the dessert she makes for [redacted for spoiler]. On the menu:

“Real” Greek Salad
Whole Wheat Pasta with Homemade Tomato Sauce
Deconstructed Baklava

What is deconstructed baklava, you ask? It’s the dessert of the gods. Baklava is a traditional Greek (and Turkish) dessert pastry made with honey and chopped nuts. To “deconstruct” it, we used the same flavors and put them together in a new way. We made pastry cups from sheets of phyllo dough sprinkled with sugar, then put a scoop of homemade honey ice cream in them and sprinkled with pistachios and honey. We also made pistachio brittle, but it didn’t have time to get hard enough to break into pieces. You win some, you lose some in the kitchen, as Julia Child said (ok, she didn’t say that but she would have in this case).

Here are some photos from the event. A really cool video also coming soon.

Gotta hit the road. More from the Pizzapalooza Tour later.