Here is a fun little elf sketch from my high school sketchbook! I drew this in conjunction with a short story I wrote around the same time, “Celestial Balance.” The elf in the story has curly hair, but there was no way I was going to be able to draw that!
Hi guys! I’ve been working half-heartedly on National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, where participants write a 50,000 word novel in one month. I did this successfully once before, but that was before I had a toddler!
This month I’m working on a fanfiction piece, continuing one of my favorite stories from childhood, The Horse and His Boy, part of the Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. I am not making huge progress, but who knows, maybe I’ll be able to finish it. I really want to finish it, but it’s also taking up time that could be spent writing “real” novels.
I’ll probably put it on fanfiction.net when I am done, but for now, enjoy this except from the opening. Feel free to leave feedback in the comments (this is a first draft).
Last week, Slate published an essay by an 11-year-old reader that illustrates perfectly why I believe in the need for books with diverse characters. “This is Me” by Audrey Hall was a winner in the New York Public Library’s Summer Reading 2019 Essay Contest. In her essay, Audrey describes how the book Blended by Sharon Draper expanded her universe.
You can read the full essay here, which is well-written and even includes quotes from the book to support her thesis.
Audrey checked Blended out of the library and it quickly became a favorite. The book features a multiracial protagonist with divorced parents, which also describes Audrey. She describes how she related directly to the character’s experiences in the book, moving between households and debating how to describe herself. It was a revelation for her to know that there might be other kids who shared her own experiences. “This book made me feel like I belong,” she wrote.
I personally could not have written a better essay to describe why representation is important, especially in children’s and YA literature. Every child should have the same feeling that Audrey had when reading.
Of course, we will not relate to every character we read about, which also expands our minds. And of course, we can relate to characters who don’t look like us at all. For example, my pen name Mei-Mei was taken from a Chinese character in a Japanese anime. But I won’t pretend that I don’t automatically feel a sense of kinship with every redhead character that I meet. Being able to see ourselves so directly in characters is such a valuable thing that I want every child to be able to experience it as I have.
For this reason, I have been a fan of the We Need Diverse Books movement, which started as a Twitter hashtag and has become a phenomenon. I think we have seen a huge growth of diverse books in YA fantasy (my wheelhouse) over the past ten years, and I hope this trend will continue. I am personally making an effort to read more books featuring diverse characters and, just as importantly, by diverse authors to support the publishing industry following this trend.
Audrey’s prize for the essay was a trip to a NY Yankees game. I hope she has a great time! I also hope she grows up to be a writer of many more characters like herself.
This July I am participating in Camp Nano, with the goal of writing for 500 minutes. I’m doing okay so far with devoting time to writing, but I’ve only written two scenes! Ugh! I think this is because I didn’t have a strong outline like I usually do, so I’m kind of floundering. I’m a plotter, not a pantser!
I’ve started on a new project this month, and surprising to me, I’m back to writing fanfiction! I used to write a lot of Cardcaptor Sakura and Star Wars fanfics back in high school and college, but I haven’t done any in over 10 years now.
Consequently, I’m kind of out of the loop on where to post fanfiction online. I used to use fanfiction.net (my stuff is still there), but maybe that’s not as popular anymore? Of course, I do have this blog as well, but I don’t usually post my writing here, and I’m especially hesitant to post fanfics because of the dubious legalities.
Last month I participated, as I have many times before, in Camp NaNo, which is kind of a spin-off of NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, in November. I like doing Camp because you can set your own goals instead of conforming to the “50,000 word in a month” paradigm of NaNoWriMo.
This April, my goal was to write 10 min a day, or 300 minutes total. Good news: I managed 400 minutes over the month. So, yay for winning!
Even better news: I finished a complete draft of a novel!
This novel, which I have been calling Ash and Team, is one that I have been working on since NaNoWriMo of 2013. Six long years. I started this as a practice novel, and I know that actually publishing it would require more research than I have time for currently, so while you will likely never see this story in print (or even in revisions), I still feel really proud of this accomplishment. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end; it has character development; it has some humor and a magic system; it even has some prose that I really enjoy reading.
The draft is about 44,000 words, which is quite short for a novel, but it is after all a fairy tale retelling. Also, I tend to severely underwrite in my initial drafts, so if I ever finished it I’m sure it would be a bit longer.