Inspiration

I Get By With A Little Help

by sarahenni on March 31, 2014

It’s been a bit of a stressful time lately, with life and with writing. I’ve been trying to get some momentum behind drafting a new book (well… a new version of an old book, if you want to get particular), and the best way to do that is to spend some time with fellow writers. Thankfully a few confluent events brought a bunch of YA Highway ladies together in SoCal.

Our lovely San Diego host Kirsten Hubbard, and the delightfully pale Kate Hart

First thing? The Divergent movie, of course!

Debra Driza, Amy Lukavics, Stephanie Kuehn, Kate Hart, Yours Truly, Kirsten Hubbard, Sumayyah Daud at the movie theater’s bar avoiding actual teenagers until showtime.

I think it’s okay to admit now that I was super nervous for the movie. There was a lot of (well-deserved) hype! But I can honestly say the movie did right by my girl Veronica — and Insurgent already got the green light!

The settings were amazing, and Shailene rocked (the scene with her mom at the end? Tears). And, Theo James? Mmmm Hmmm. There was just a *teensy* bit of pressure on the guy (realizing a fandom’s perfect Four? Good luck!), but he completely nailed it. Also, his face.

Bye bye Pamuk, hellooooo Four.

Did you catch Veronica’s cameo in the movie? Neck tats! In a theater full of girls gasping and sighing over Theo (I managed to keep my fangirling [mostly] internal on that count), our row screamed in unison when she burst onto the screen. Such a badass!! So freaking proud of Veronica this weekend it hurts.

After loving the movie and toasting to Divergent’s success, we navigated north to L.A. to see the always gorgeous Tahereh Mafi, who was celebrating her recent marriage to fellow YA all-star Ransom Riggs!

20140329-211422.jpg

Me, Kate, beautiful bride Tahereh, and Sumayyah!

I don’t think anyone needs me to tell them that Tahereh sweats style and breathes grace, so of course an event planned by she and Ransom was completely gorgeous, with personal touches that made the night totally unforgettable. And okay, I totally embarrassed myself with how hard I was crying, but all I have to say is: Two NYT best-selling writers crafting their own wedding vows? If you didn’t cry, you were basically the Terminator. I stand by my creys of joy. By the end of the night, everyone in the place was ready to marry either or both of those crazy cute kids.

Wedding Gif 4

Also, there was cake.

We stuck around the city of angels for another night to see The National perform at the Shrine Auditorium — an incredible venue to see a band that is ever-present in my writing playlists. Added bonus: they were debuting a documentary about the band, “Mistaken for Strangers,”  which was totally fantastic. The band managed to make a 5,000+ capacity theater feel intimate, and also, lasers.

20140329-211506.jpg

Bloodbuzz Ohio

Live music is one of those things that never fails to energize me. Musicians get to connect to their audience in a one-on-one way that authors can only dream of, but being swept up in a 5,000-person singalong to “Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks” is the kind of transcendent moment that keeps me writing.

In fact, it’s a good thing I’m not a musician, because I’d just cry my way through that, too. Turns out I’m a big softie.

Anyway, the point is: There is just nothing that recharges the creative batteries like seeing fellow writers and kindred spirits, and remembering collectively what human experiences keep us plugging away at our laptops. It was a kind of alternative writing retreat; not a single word was written, but progress was made nonetheless.

What about you?? Have you been hanging with other writers lately? Seen or done something that reminds you why you keep writing? I wanna know!

{ 4 comments }

Finally, Change

by sarahenni on July 30, 2013

imageFinally, things are changing.

I’m really excited to be able to share that my day-job situation is being mixed up. I’m not going to talk about the day job, old or new, in any kind of detail (I’m not about crossing my journalism and creative writing lives, and it doesn’t really matter). But after a long time battling inertia, weighing professional aspirations, and of course money stuff, I have found a new gig that will allow me to work from home.

I’m so, so happy. And I feel like I’m being given a chance to reboot my creative life.

I really like the coworkers I’ve had for more than four years now. The office is nice, the job was just fine, for a while I was even challenged to do some great work. But that fell away a while ago—years, really. I thought I could handle some monotony as long as I had time to write my book (and I did – I wrote three of them while working here*).

image_5This blog fell away. Some of my efforts with YA Highway fell away. Slowly even Twitter fell away, my lifeline to friends who would best understand a creative malaise. It was all I could do to get myself out of bed and to the daily grind of my office job with just enough juice left over to query and revise my manuscript. “How did I do all of that, once?” I found myself asking. “I must be so much busier now than when I was posting three times a week, or organizing the NaNoWriMo e-mail campaign, or tweeting with any degree of engagement or humor.”

Of course that isn’t true. Over the last year I lost the intellectual spark of my day-to-day work, and with it motivation and happiness. New challenges, novelty of experience, is necessary for many to feel happy, and I know that is true of myself.

It happened slowly, but at some point this spring I found myself bleary-eyed at work, upset at the total cliche I was for crying at work about the blah of it all. That was the day I started hunting for a new opportunity. With vigor.

The next step is scary! A new job covering a field in which I’m not totally comfortable. The challenge of working from home without driving myself, my cat, or my husband insane. But oh I miss blogging. And tweeting. And getting hair-brained ideas on morning jogs that I then have the energy to get home and pursue.

I thank everyone who has stuck with me as I slowly disappeared over the last year, and look forward to meeting new people with renewed energy!

What about you? Have you changed a job to spice things up before? Do you have any tips for working at home??

*For the record, I never, ever wrote creative fiction at my day job! I drew that line early and stuck to it.

{ 23 comments }

#DANCEBREAK

by sarahenni on January 18, 2013

The main character in my WiP (and pretty much everyone else in the book, too) is in love with a fictional band I made up, formerly known as Idioteque 1 I’ve written so much about the band (describing their sound, nailing down their influences, creating a wildly charismatic frontman, even writing a fake interview with them) that this week I decided to do a Very Nerdy thing and create a playlist that represents the band’s debut album, which I named Behold! The Melon 2.

It started as kind of a lark, but actually I found making the playlist to be 1) fun (perhaps most importantly), but also 2) an interesting new way to engage with my book before I dive into yet another round of revisions and edits.

Anyway, making this playlist has had me dancing at my desk all week. If you enjoy noisy head-nodding rock, I think you might enjoy it, too. Take a listen:

What about you? Have you made up bands, books, or movies in your work? Have you made a poster, flyer, zine or anything IRL to go along with it? If so PLEASE link! I’d love to see it 3!

  1. They are pending another name, after astute beta reader and Much Better At Googling Necessary Stuff For Books Guru Lindsey Roth Culli pointed out that Idioteque is such a genius band name that it is, in fact, a real life band’s name. Grr.
  2. How 90s is that? I love it.
  3. And if not, I really encourage you to try!

{ 5 comments }

RTW: My WiP Love List

by sarahenni on August 22, 2012

It’s Road Trip Wednesday day, a ‘Blog Carnival,’ where YA Highway posts a weekly writing- or reading-related question and anyone can answer it on their own blogs. Check out their post for links to other Road Trippers’ answers!

This week’s topic is: Inspired byStephanie Perkins’ post on Natalie Whipple’s blog, what is your novel’s “Love List”?

(Why I Really, Really, Really Like You pad for sale by KnockKnock here!)

I’m so excited about this topic, because now is the perfect time for me to remember what it is about this book I love enough to get started on (dun dun dunnnn) revisions! Here are a few things about my WiP that keep me coming back:

Ken Burns and his effect

A girl wearing big glasses

Segway Polo

Untied Doc Martens that look like they’re eating someone’s legs

This picture of Eddie Vedder stagediving

Blue-green light filtered through an atrium

Modern shipwrecks

This image of a female drummer

Creepy yard gnomes

Keep Santa Cruz Weird

The way streetlights look at night after rain

Those are just a few of the things on my list… I’ll have to add this as a Scrivener file to check back on when motivation runs low!

What about you? What’s on your love list?

{ 26 comments }

Horror Writing Playlist

by sarahenni on August 17, 2012

There’s something about fall. The leaves turning, the weather cooling, and one of my favorite holidays ever, Halloween. I’ve definitely been getting excited for fall during this sweltering August, and I’ve  noticed that a fever for Halloween and other spooky things has been popping up in publishing, too.

Agents: I want to acquire YA horror! Send me YA horror! Authors: write YA horror so agents can send it to me!! #HORROR #SayHorrorOneMoreTime
@TeeEss
T.S. Ferguson
LOVE all these horror fans today - I smell a resurgence of it. Not too late to make 2012 the year of horror:)
@lindsayncurrie
Lindsay N. Currie
If you missed it yesterday, I announced the sale of two new books, including (dun dun dun!) a TEEN SLASHER: http://t.co/sBZ6hZKh
@naturallysteph
Stephanie Perkins

The hunt for something scary is on! And to everyone considering writing a novel that errs on the creepy side (or anyone just feeling a little Halloween-y), I’ve started a playlist to get you in the right frame of mind.

 

What do you think? Any songs I missed?

{ 3 comments }

Life at 75 MPH

by sarahenni on July 6, 2012

Recently Dr H and I hosted his grandparents here in D.C. In the car, en route to Dr H’s graduation ceremony, we were telling his grandmother (who, delightfully, goes by Ma) how much we’ve been doing lately, how busy we’ve been. We were tired and we’d be excited when the biggest events were over, we said.

She nodded, very understanding. But she imparted some casual wisdom in a Tennessee twang (as southern grandmothers are wont to do): “Don’t slow down.”

Other versions of this advice (Live for today! YOLO!) have never resonated with me that much. This came almost as a warning: Don’t slow down, don’t wish the big things were over. Don’t retreat from experiences in your own life. Live life now, and fully, and happily.

It’s been a crazy summer so far, but I’m glad for every big amazing thing, like Bestie Danielle getting married in a gorgeous vineyard ceremony (upper left picture). And even the small things like sneaking onto a little league field to have softball practice on the Fourth of July and barely dodging a storm front while floating a river. Piling laundry on the cat, trying a new recipe for mango glazed salmon. It’s all been fun. Busy, fast, relentless sometimes. But fun.

It’s tempting, but resist. Don’t slow down. (But eventually, be sure to write it all down.)

{ 4 comments }

Ceremonies and Motivations

by sarahenni on June 4, 2012

Phew. I really did not mean to take that long of a break. It’s been a while, but some really exciting things have been happening ’round these parts. Like, “major life event” type things. First of all, Dr H graduated from medical school*.

This is Dr H playing the game: “Graduating med school? Or going to the Yule Ball?”

We had seven of our closest friends and family visiting so we could go to his graduation ceremony, which was incredible. The day after the last of our family flew out of town, we hopped in a car and road tripped to Kentucky, where Bestie Megan got married.

Pic taken by Jessi Arrington, designer extraordinaire (luckysoandso.com)

I could not possibly be more thrilled about this marriage, and the wedding itself was an event of total, complete joy. My heart felt like this:

And her heart grew three sizes that day! (from How The Grinch Stole Christmas)

And both events—watching my ridiculously smart life partner get the honor he deserves, and seeing my best friend glow with love and pride as she walked down the aisle—are the kinds of ceremonies that serve as milestones of social human life. We crave moments like these, pit stops in the unceasing stream of life, to recognize that things have changed. The ceremony symbolizes something: these people set a goal, worked hard, and achieved it. (Marriage: Achieved! ha)

That had me thinking about rituals and rewards. (I mean, you know, I was also thinking about how much I love the people in my life. But besides that.) My writing journey so far has been a wild one. I’ve written three books, gotten this blog off the ground, joined YA Highway, gone to conferences. But some of the major celebratory events (signing with an agent, announcing a book deal) are still to be realized. Writing as a second job requires a lot, LOT, of hard work before there’s a payoff that, say, my great aunt Lenore** would be able to grasp.

So I’m going to set smaller goals, with smaller celebrations. Maybe I’ll make Dr H take me to Chevy’s when I finish this rewrite. (There isn’t much I wouldn’t do for a jumbo mango margarita.) Maybe I’ll try Jessica Spotswood’s practice of giving myself a sticker for every thousand words I achieve (I seem to remember this working really well in grade school). Whatever it takes, continue to set goals and achieve them. If you only look ahead to one ultimate goal that could take years to achieve, all motivation may soon be lost.

But when it’s time to celebrate one of those big things? Go after it. With bells on.

What about you?? What’s been happening lately? How do you celebrate writing achievements, big or small?
*Does that mean I was lying when I called him Dr H for the past three years? I would like to think I was being optimistically brief. I mean, Med Student Husband is just unwieldy.

** I totally do have a great aunt Lenore. Isn't that awesome? HI LENORE! (she's hard of hearing)

{ 12 comments }

Writey Friends and Exciting News!

by sarahenni on April 5, 2012

I am way, way beyond excited to be writing this post right now. My amazing friend, critique partner, and the person who taught me The Ways of Tumblr Sumayyah Daud appeared in Publisher’s Marketplace today:

Sumayyah Daud’s debut BEGIN AGAIN, about a seventeen-year-old girl trapped inside a pseudo-reality of her own making, trying to discover what secrets she has locked inside her own mind, before it’s too late, to Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton, byAmmi-Joan Paquette at Erin Murphy Literary Agency (World).

I’m ecstatic. I’m thrilled. Above all things I’m so PROUD of Sumayyah for writing this incredible book!

That’s Sumayyah, with other super-ladies Kaitlin Ward and Kirsten Hubbard

I met Sumayyah when Suzanne Collins came to town, and for the last two years I have lured her to Shake Shack to get her crazy-smart opinions on Sherlock, Game of Thrones, and all things YA. I jumped at the chance to beta read for her, and guys, Begin Again knocked me out. I stayed up all night reading it.  I can tell you that:

  1. There is a boy. His name is James because he is perfect. And sorry but he’s totally mine, though Dawn and I may need to have a knock-down drag-out over this.
  2. There is a world and a story that is so beautifully created it will completely suck you in.
  3. Kiran. KIRAN. She is a strong, complicated, intelligent, awesome character that I can’t wait for you all to meet.

Congrats, girl. I couldn’t be happier for you. Next shake is on me!

{ 4 comments }

Third Month’s a Charm

by sarahenni on March 2, 2012

I don’t know about you, but that February lasted just a little too long for me. It feels like March is really when 2012 is going to kick off, not to mention daylight savings and The First Day of Spring and spring break…etc etc! There’s also a pretty funny trend about March that I’ve noticed: people tend to use that month to challenge themselves to do things.

I mean, beyond March Madness (SO EXCITED), I’ve seen people participating in Mustache March, 30 Days of Lists*,Cory Jackson’s Change Write Now gears up for a second go-round, and my friend Jessica is doing her own 30 Days of Books personal challenge.

The challenge I am accepting, Barney Stinson style, was introduced to me by Katy Upperman and organized by this lovely Kiwi:

If you don’t want to follow the link, here’s the challenge breakdown. Take an image inspired by the prompt for each day and post it on Twitter, using the #MarchPhotoADay hashtag.

Fun, right? And pretty darned easy. I’m looking at it as a great way to do something creative every day BESIDES writing. Sometimes changing my thinking, ever so slightly, is the best way for me to get re-inspired.

So! Here was my Day 1 photo, “Up.”

(This isn’t one of those tortured artist pictures or anything. This is literally the view of my hotel room’s ceiling as I lay in bed yesterday. With the awesome filters on instagram, the shadow looked quite ominous and cool, I thought.)

What about you?? Are you challenging yourself to anything this March? Do you know of any other fun challenges? Do share! And if you’re doing the pic-a-day challenge, let me know!

{ 11 comments }

2012 Motto

by sarahenni on January 2, 2012

This post was first published on January 1 last year, but  it worked so well that I’ve decided to use the same motto for this year, so it applies now more than ever.

I am often late to things. And by things, I don’t mean birthday parties or brunch. I mean like, late to the airport. So late that I miss flights. Sometimes. Okay, often. (This is really fun for my friends and family, let me tell you.)

I used to be late and then freak out. On the metro, in the taxi, in the check-in line, in the security line. Like, cursing myself and stomping my feet and shaking. This was a stressful and not terribly productive use of my time. I gained wrinkles and lost some hair doing this.

Then one day, as I was in the shuttle on the way to the airport trying not to check my watch every three seconds or bite my nails to bloody stumps, I thought of something. A little phrase that stood out, rooted itself in my mind, and allowed me to breathe easier:

I am when I am.

Now when I’m in line, or on hold, or in traffic, I repeat this to myself and it helps keep me calm. It’s a calming dose of reality, like the strangely humbling comfort John Lennon always gave me in “All You Need is Love” when he said there was nothing you can sing that can’t be sung, nothing you can make that can’t be made, and nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time. You can only be where you are, in that moment.

2012 is going to be a year of change. Lots of important, exciting things are or could happen. But I can’t rush them, or will them to happen sooner. I can’t pass by them, overeager for the next exciting thing. I need to be calm and present for every moment.

So, I am adopting I am when I am as my official motto for 2011. I’ll think it to myself when friends start to query, but I’m just not ready. When friends get agents before me, and start the publication journey I am so anxious for. I’ll be happy for every one of them, and I’ll be happy with exactly where I am. I am when I am, and when things change I’ll be ready.

What about you? What are you doing to prepare yourself for the new year?

{ 12 comments }