I’m lucky enough to know children’s books author Vikki VanSickle and she was sweet enough to let me interview her for Mind the Gap! Click here for a glimpse into her writing process and make sure you also check out my review of her first picture book, If I Had a Gryphon here!
HEY, GUESS WHAT, MY BLOG TURNED TWO TODAY!!
I’m very proud of this little thing. And also a little ashamed because I forgot until I just logged in (I knew its birthday was coming up soon). So here’s a rare evening post celebrating 2 years, and – coincidentally enough – 200+ followers!
Thanks to each and every one of you who read anything I write, no matter how rambly it gets. <3
A couple of weeks ago, I was nominated for the Infinity Dreams Award by the lovely SJ (Delirious Antidotes) and I figured now was as good a time as any to finish writing this post.
Thanks so much, SJ – and to all you readers, please check out her blog (she does some great interviews with up-and-coming musicians).
How it works:
- Thank (and follow) the blog that nominated you for the award.
- Tell us 7 dreams of yours.
- Nominate bloggers.
1) To be an author. I was 12 when I decided that being an author was in my future. I’ve written one book and I’m always working on a manuscript, but I hope to one day publish those manuscripts.
2) To work in children’s publishing. I’ve always been passionate about kids’ books, I know that working in children’s publishing is where I’m meant to be.
3) To travel the world. This is pretty self-explanatory. I’ve been to many places, but there are many more that I want to visit.
4) To live in London (the English one). London is my very favourite city in the world and every time I visit, I always feel sad when it’s time to leave. Plus, I’ve seen a lot of job opportunities for children’s publishing in the London area, so I guess I could find work there?
5) To have a full sleeve of tattoos. I’m constantly working on tattoo ideas (I just need to make money). With four already done, I think I’m well on my way.
6) To make a difference. How? I don’t know. By publishing the next Harry Potter maybe (wouldn’t that be nice?). Either way, I want to leave some sort of mark on the world.
7) To be happy with my life. I like to think I’m a fairly happy person, but once I fulfill at least one of these dreams, I’ll be even more satisfied.
I’m going to cheat and say I nominate you (yes, you!), whoever is reading this.
This is one third laziness, one third “I’ve already nominated people for a previous award last week“, and one third “everyone has dreams, let’s all share them!”. As The Ready Set sings, “everything is second to your dreams”, so make sure you follow them, no matter how hard it might seem.
You guys! My ego is going to explode from all this blogger love: I’ve been (re)nominated for the Liebster Award by two people, SJ (Delirious Antidotes) and Cassie (Book Reviews & Haikus)! Thanks so much SJ and Cassie! Please go check out their blogs :)
I love answering random questions, so here we go!
Sidenote: when I was 17-18, I spent half my time on Facebook filling out those random questionnaires that you could post as notes, so this is pretty much my jam.
Questions from SJ:
1) Let’s kick this off with a little bit of self promotion, as it never did any harm: tell me about a project, website, post etc. that you want to draw attraction to. (URL’s are allowed)
My friend Jane and I are working on a pop culture website which we’re both very excited about! It officially launches on June 1st, but you can check out our snazzy home page here!
2) How did you/do you cope with exam season?
I made a lot of notes. Mostly on graph paper because, for some reason, it helped me focus (I was an English/French major, so I actually had to go out and buy graph paper, come exam time).
3) Who is your favourite band/musician?
How much time do you have?? I can narrow it down to my top five (in no particular order): You Me At Six, Panic! at the Disco, All Time Low, The Maine, and Fall Out Boy.
4) What is your favourite book?
One of my most favourite books of all time is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine.
5) When did you start blogging?
I started my blog in August 2013. I started talking about books in October 2013, and I’ve been reviewing ARCs/giving books actual ratings since April 2015 (before, I just talked about whether or not I liked the book).
6) What is the best advice you have ever been given?
“Everything happens for a reason”. It’s not really advice so much as a proverb (is it even a proverb?) and I know it’s somewhat cliched, but it’s something I hold on to.
7) Explain the title of your blog.
My oldest sister nicknamed me “Bella” when I was little; she still calls me that and so now my three nieces call me “Bella” as well. When she was about three (she just turned nine), my oldest niece figured out that “Bella” and “books” both start with “b”, and thus she christened me “Bellsiebooks”.
8) Tea or coffee?
Tea! I have a borderline absurd collection of tea, but I love it.
9) What is your least “politically correct” opinion?
That’s a tough one…I don’t know how to answer that!
10) What did you think about before you fell asleep last night?
I’ve been telling myself stories to fall asleep ever since I was a child. For years, it’s been how I’ve worked out plot points for the books I’m trying to write.
Questions from Cassie:
1) What are three things you want to do/accomplish in life?
a) Publish a book (multiple books, ideally)
b) Become a kids’ book editor (or work in marketing for kids’ books…I’d take anything at this point)
c) Travel the world
2) Do you have a favorite musical genre and/or musician/band?
Pop-punk and similar genres (pop rock, metal, “emo”, etc). Please see above for my top five bands!
3) What was your first concert?
I saw Bon Jovi on the “One Wild Night” tour in 2001 with my sisters (I was 11).
4) Who is your favorite author? [If you don’t have one, what’s your favorite book genre?]
I love many authors, including Neil Gaiman, Libba Bray, Melissa Marr, and J.K. Rowling. I read a lot of YA (which is a category, not a genre), and I tend to enjoy contemporary or paranormal/supernatural/urban fantasy.
5) What’s the best book you’ve ever read?
I cannot possibly pick just one!! Ella Enchanted has been one of my favourite books for 17 years (I read it when I was 8), but I’m always swooning over some book or another.
6) When do you read most?
When I was working, I’d read on the morning commute and then continued for a bit when I got to work. Since my internship ended a couple of weeks ago, I’ve been reading a lot more at night.
7) What’s your preference: “real” physical books, e-books, audiobooks, or a mix of all of them?
Real books!!! I have a Kindle (which I stole from my dad) for my NetGalley ARCs and I sometimes use my phone if I don’t want to carry the e-reader around, but I much prefer the feel of physical books.
8) If you could have one superpower, what would it be and why?
9) What fictional character would you like to be friends with most? Why?
Oh, so many! Anyone from the Harry Potter universe, of course, but sometimes I wish I had a tiger friend like Hobbes (he’s furry and good for conversation!). And if we’re going outside of books, then I’d want to be BFF’s with Marceline from Adventure Time because she is my hero.
10) Do you have hobbies besides reading?
I write and I’m a huge music fan, so I’m constantly a) updating my collection or b) attending a concert.
11) What’s your favorite food or drink to have while reading?
I don’t really eat/drink when I’m reading, but I guess tea. And I’ll eat chocolate at any time of the day, so I wouldn’t say no if someone were to hand me a piece of Dairy Milk while I was reading :)
Thanks for reading! And thanks again for the nomination(s)!
You may recall that I was nominated for this award in April, so I’m not going to officially nominate blogs. However, here is a list of the last 10 blogs I followed – you should check them out too!
I realize this is like my 1354068th post of the day, but you guys! The very kind Laura (Tea Time Reads) nominated me for the Versatile Blogger Award! This was most unexpected, but I feel absurdly honoured. Thanks, Laura! Please go check out her blog! :)
How it works:
- Thank the blogger who nominated you
- Share 10 random facts about yourself
- Nominate 10 other bloggers who are relatively new to blogging (& you like!)
So here are 10 Random Facts About Me:
- “bellsiebooks” was coined by my oldest niece. My eldest sister (I have two sisters and a brother) nicknamed me Bella when I was little; when my niece was about 3, she realized that “Bella” and “book” both start with a “b”, so she combined it and pronounced it to be my new name.
- I’m currently interning at a children’s book publisher, and I can honestly say it’s my dream job. I live for YA and children’s books.
- I also dream of being an author; I’ve written one YA novel so far (though it’s in it’s fourth major revision), and I have about 10 other ideas floating around in various states (some have about 50 rough pages, while others are no more than a named document).
- I love love LOVE music and going to concerts. If I come home sweaty and/or without a voice, then I know it’s been a good show.
- My favourite movie of all time is The Nightmare Before Christmas. I love Tim Burton and I’m trying to watch all of his movies (I own most of them).
- I often work Adventure Time quotes or Scrubs references into every day conversation. And I somehow manage to turn almost any music-based conversation into a discussion about You Me At Six.
- I currently have three tattoos, have a consultation booked for a fourth, and have plans for at least five more. In my spare time, I fantasize about having enough money to spend on a full-coloured sleeve.
- I have a ridiculous collection of tea, most of it from England. Twinings Earl Grey was the first flavour I liked and it’s still one of my favourites.
- I also have a ridiculous collection of Converse sneakers, and one day I hope to have one pair of shoes for every colour of the rainbow.
- Sometimes I write for idobi radio (an alternative/pop-punk online radio station), and recently I’ve been collaborating with my friend Jane on music reviews (so far we’ve done a review of a Bleachers concert, and a track-by-track discussion of Fall Out Boy’s American Beauty/American Psycho).
I don’t know that many blogs, so I’ve picked five random ones that I follow :)
Steam Punk, On the Edge of Food-vention
A Baked Creation
Books For MKS
BONUS (because she was also nominated by Laura!)
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop Books
In my six months working in publishing, I’ve only been to one other conference; all I did was sit quietly behind a table for a few hours while people milled around, glancing at our table but rarely stopping to chat. So I didn’t know what to expect when I stepped into the Metro Toronto Convention Centre last Thursday.
It was a lot more fun than sitting behind a table, let me tell you.
For one thing, there were so many people! Librarians and library assistants and library sciences students and other people who, I guess, work at libraries in some way.
Hundreds of companies were represented in the hall…
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Another year has come and gone and I’ve decided to throw together a year-in-review post. Some of it might be a bit of a humble brag, but I also took the opportunity to reflect on the many changes/big decisions I made over the past twelve months.
2014 was the year I met…
…Zach Braff (August) in New York, after seeing him in a delightful production of Bullets Over Broadway.
…Jamie Oliver (September) while he was promoting his latest book, Comfort Food.
…my 20+ publishing peeps! Especially the lovely Jane, who I am slowly turning into another concert buddy (please check out her super pretty website here).
…a few bands including You Me At Six, The Maine, Paradise Fears, Nick Santino, Cameron Leahy (lead singer of The Downtown Fiction), and Eric Halvorsen (former bassist of the now defunct A Rocket to the Moon).
2014 will also be remembered as the year I become obsessed with Neil Gaiman. I haven’t met him (yet! *crosses fingers*), but this was the year I finally started reading his books and realized that I had been missing out on something magical.
2014 was the year I went…
…to New York City for the Writer’s Digest Conference in August. It was a whirlwind weekend full of stories and advice, seminars and agents. I came out of it certain in the knowledge that a) I am, indeed, a writer and b) agents are people too (even if they are intimidating).
…to England and France in the winter on a family vacation. We saw Christmas markets in Lille and Amiens (France), took a short trip to Brussels (Belgium), and then spent some glorious days in one of my favourite cities, London (England, obvs).
…to 30 concerts (I’m just really proud of achieving this goal, guys).
…to my first ever circus!
2014 was the year I…
I’m Reckless, she’s Brave.
…finally got the Panic! at the Disco tattoo I’ve wanted for years.
…quit my well-paying but boring customer service job in April so that I could go back to school.
…started working towards my publishing certificate because it’s the best career out there for me.
…interned at HarperCollins in the sales department (which is how I ended up spending a day with Jamie Oliver) and put my newly gained knowledge of the publishing industry into actual practice.
…started an internship at Tundra which made me realize that publishing children’s books in particular is what I’m meant to do with the rest of my life.
…started writing for idobi radio, which allows me to combine two of my greatest passions (writing and mostly-pop-punk music) at least once a week.
…re-wrote my novel (again).
2014 in a nutshell
It was a crazy busy year! I didn’t achieve all the resolutions I made in January, but I started making progress towards most of them. I hope all you readers out there had just as good a year (if not better!). Bring it on, 2015!
This is my new favourite quote (like I’ve said numerous times on this blog, I’m currently obsessed with Neil Gaiman – seriously, why did I wait so long to read his stuff?!). I think it’s perfect and one day, in the future, I would like a tattoo of it. Maybe it will be my gift to myself when I finally publish a book.
On Friday, I received my first rejection from an agent. You’d think that my reaction would be to sit down and cry for a few hours, but I didn’t. I’m not saying I didn’t eventually tear up a little, but my initial response was an odd sort of pride. Now I have something in common with other authors: everyone gets rejected at some point. I’ve never felt more like an author than I did at that moment.
This literary agent was quite nice: she offered me a couple of suggestions and wished me luck – infinitely more helpful than a curt “no”, which is what I had been fearing. Of course, now the problem is all I can think about is ways to improve my book. Last night, I scribbled an alternate story line on a Post-It that made perfect sense at the time…until I explained it to Ro who pointed out that the rest of the plot stops making sense if I change that particular aspect. She was right, but in my efforts to make my story more explosive (which is my new way of saying “better”), I lost track of my original idea. In a way, I stopped trusting my story and, consequently, I stopped trusting myself.
So this quote comes at a good time. Not only do I think it’s beautiful (it’s from Gaiman’s poem “Instructions”, and it’s laden with deliciously metaphorical meanings), but it’s something I need to remember. My book might not be ready yet – because these things take time, you know – but my story – my dream of being an author – is just getting started. I only have to learn how to trust myself.
This past weekend, I attended the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC.
I registered for the conference on a whim in April. I had been hoping to go to Montreal’s Osheaga Festival (the same weekend), but it was actually cheaper for me to fly to New York and attend this conference than it was to go to Quebec. Also the fact that this conference would actually help further my career, as opposed to going to an (admittedly awesome) outdoor festival for three days.
Because this was the first conference I’ve ever attended, I had no idea what to expect. My first session was Friday afternoon (2:40pm, to be exact) and from there, I basically went non-stop until Sunday at 1pm.
The sessions were varied: there were 3-4 different talks every hour and it was sometimes hard to decide which one I wanted to go to. Luckily, most of the talks were recorded and the links should be sent out soon.
I went to talks about writing bestsellers and what not to do; discussions of the publishing industry and the role of literary agents; and lectures on important storytelling elements and building your author platform. I also made sure to attend all three keynote speeches (one at the end of each day). Some of the sessions were enlightening and/or helpful; others, not so much. But it was interesting to hear from other authors’ about their own experiences, though it’s important to remember that, sometimes, what works for one person won’t work for another.
For example, there was a talk about how Goodreads can help you promote your work and it honestly sounded like this author was just saying “This is why I’m popular and you’re not, but good luck anyway” (fine, he didn’t actually say that, but that was the vibe he was giving off, to which I mentally replied, “if you’re so cool, why have I never heard of you?”).
But then there were the really helpful sessions, like the one about setting and description (which is something I constantly struggle with). There was a talk that helped me personally, and judging from the nodding and murmuring going around, it had a similar effect on most of the audience.
The keynote speeches were all fantastic: it’s hard to remember sometimes that even established authors go through the same self-doubt and despair of a beginner, so it was nice to hear it from the experts. Harlan Coben, who was probably my favourite speaker, made it a point to say that if an author stops doubting themselves, then they must not be a very good writer (especially if they think they are).
Being an introvert, I wasn’t sure how I would survive a room full of strangers for three days. I didn’t really “network” (that could come back to bite me on the butt), but I briefly chatted with some people. It’s a solitary profession, writing, and it’s hard to force yourself to interact with other people when all you want to do is sit in a corner by yourself and daydream. Of course, you have to break out of your shell for the biggest moment of the conference: the Pitch Slam.
Picture this: fifty literary agents sitting in a room for three hours (broken up into hour-long sessions) while 150-200 hopeful writers mill around to talk to them. You had exactly three minutes to pitch your book to an agent and wait for their response (the three minutes were perfectly timed: they gave you a 30-second warning, and rang a bell when the three minutes were up so that you weren’t wasting everyone’s time). This basically meant that you had 60-90 seconds to give a complete summary of your book, and then the remaining time was up to the agent: they could either reject your project (as not being a good fit for them) or, if they liked your idea, they could hand you a business card with submission guidelines. It’s not a guarantee that they’ll represent you, but it’s a start.
Was the PitchSlam nerve-wracking? Yes. Was I quaking in my flats the entire time? Heck yeah. But of the eight agents I approached in my allotted hour, I got eight business cards. Some of them were intrigued, others not as sold on the idea, but all eight of them requested to read the first three chapters of my book.
I don’t think I can explain the feeling of relief that washed over me when I dashed out of the room when the hour was up. Relief at being able to sit down and take a deep breath without feeling like I was going to throw up, but also relief that my book is not so bad that people reject it without giving it a chance.
Not that there’s any guarantee that they’ll love the book and everyone will fight to sign me to their agency…but it’s one more step towards my ultimate publishing goal.
I recommend this conference to all aspiring authors. It’s an excellent experience and you learn a lot. And, if you happen to like talking to strangers, you can meet some great people. But, more importantly, it will encourage your belief that you’re on the right (or should I say, the WRITE) path.
Trying to figure out if you should attend the next conference? Ask yourself this: what do you want the next chapter in your writing career to be?
This summer, starting in May, I was enrolled in the Publishing Intensive at Ryerson.
The program ended on Friday and I’ve spent the past few days relishing in my ability to go to sleep without worrying about an assignment that’s due the next afternoon.
In short, I liked the program. I almost wish it was longer, but, at the same time, we were all so burned out by early-July, we probably would have lost it if we had stayed another month.
There were six courses in total:
1) Trade Overview
A great introductory course with a very laid-back (but still knowledgeable) instructor. Some of what we learned in Trade came back in Sales & Marketing so it might have been easier to have them closer together…although there’s no guarantee we’d have remembered anything even if the classes were back to back!
2) Education Overview
This one wasn’t my favourite. It had nothing to do with the instructors, but more to do with the content. Basically, it left me wondering why teachers like going on strike so much when the publishing industry (including textbook authors and contributors) do pretty much all the work (K-12 textbooks follow provincial curriculum and almost always include easy-to-follow supplementary materials…so what’s the problem, teachers?). We were, however, briefly introduced to scholarly/academic publishing which I found very interesting – it’s like working in academia except without the extra degree(s).
3) Copy Editing
It was interesting but rough. There are so many minute grammar rules that no one bothered to teach us in school so we had to start with the basics and move our way up. It was the most tiring of the courses, I think, despite the instructors’ best efforts to keep us engaged. The program coordinators had also decided that the month of June would alternate between copy editing and another course:
4) Visual Skills
On the one hand, it gave us a break from copy editing approximately every other day. On the other hand, it forced us to use the creative half of our brain, so it was a struggle to move from “copy editing mode” to “cover design” mode in less than 24 hours (which isn’t even a helpful skill to have in real life because chances are, if you’re working as a copy editor, you’re absolutely not going to be designing the cover at the same time). I think of myself as a creative person, but, while I can put colours/words/images together, they come out mediocre – good, but not great. I think a lot of us had the same problem, where we’re all a bunch of “word people” (as our instructor called us), which made it hard for us to work on a visual level.
It felt like the shortest class (even though it was only about a day shorter than Sales & Marketing) so it felt like we had an absurd amount of information thrown at us in a very small time frame. But we learned how to code an eBook! Which is fascinating and I really like knowing how to use XHTML codes. Plus our instructor was entertaining and incredibly helpful: he spent a lot of time working with us on an individual basis to make sure our eBooks fulfilled all of his basic requirements.
6) Sales & Marketing
Our instructor brought in a lot of guest lecturers from different companies so it was cool to get all those different perspectives (we had people from Kobo, KidsCanPress, and DK Books, just to name a few). This course was very group-work oriented which made sense but I’m glad it was at the end of the program when we all knew each other, otherwise it would have been terribly awkward to have to depend on other people for your final grade when you’ve just met them.
Overall, it was an interesting experience. And I guess it paid off, since I’ll be starting an internship in a couple of weeks (which means I must have learned something over the past three months, right?). It’s definitely intensive and I wouldn’t recommend it if time management is not your strong suit. Despite being an introvert, I made a lot of friends and, since the publishing industry relies heavily on networking and making connections, I’m almost positive I’ll see them all again.
I think I mentioned last week that I started a publishing course? Maybe? I don’t remember. Either way: I’ve started a publishing course at Ryerson. The summer intensive, where they pack 6 classes into 3 months (they weren’t kidding when they called it “intensive” – in two weeks, we’ve done the equivalent of 12 weeks of material).
It’s fascinating. We’ve spent the past two weeks doing an overview of the industry and every time we talk about a different job, my immediate reaction is “hey, I’d like to do that for the rest of my life”. And then I sit and mull it over and sometimes I decide it’s not right for me (I don’t think I have the personality to be a literary agent, as cool as their job is), while other times I can’t decide which job sounds better (right now I’m leaning toward copyediting, but we’ll see how I feel once I take the actual copyediting class in a few weeks).
For some reason, when I applied to the program, I assumed there would be a lot more writers. I’m not sure why, since it’s a publishing certificate, not a creative writing certificate, but I figured there would be more people “like me” – more people who want to take over all aspects of the book industry. Yet there are only 2-3 other people in my class (24 students in total), who have expressed an interest in writing. So I don’t know about everyone else, but when I learn about the business side of books, I look at it with two minds: as a hopeful editor, and as an aspiring author. Which is why I (somewhat vainly and perhaps over optimistically) think I’ll do well in the publishing industry: I understand both sides of the story.
Yesterday we talked about how authors are consulted during the cover design process, but they don’t get final say: that’s the publisher/editor’s responsibility. That’s not surprising because, ideally, the publisher will know what’s best for the book (due to past experience with trends and sales and whatnot)…except the author-voice in my head pouted “But that’s my book and I want it to look a certain way”. And then I had to smother that voice because I know that’s not how the business works and if authors want the public to discover their work, they (including me) have to suck up their pride and deal with other people handling their manuscripts. An author provides the text (material), while the publisher produces the actual book. And if authors can’t handle that, then how are they going to get their story out?
Although I suppose that’s when self-publishing becomes an option…