Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Writer's Guide to Job Interviews

Welcome back to my 2-part miniseries! Last month, I wrote about A Writer’s Guide to Job Applications, and today I’m here to post about the interview portion. Points one and two are all about preparation while the third is about the interview itself.

While actual interviews may come more often than manuscript requests, they’re still going to be fewer than the number of applications you send out. So when you finally make it to the interview stage, it can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. Here are a few tips I’ve employed for interview preparation.


1) Do Your Research


Come on, writers. You know you like this step. Or even if you don’t, it has to be done. But unlike writing a story, you can’t stop the middle of an interview to look up information on the company you’re applying to. You have to do that beforehand. And it helps a lot!

When I had my first ever job interview, I had no idea what I was doing. Even though I researched the company I was applying for, I failed to research confidence. So when the questions came up, I froze.
Some key information to know:

  • The company’s name and mission
  • The job position and salary estimate
  • Your mission


2) Have a Motivational Theme Song


You know how some writers like to pick certain songs for scenes or for their books? I know I do. I wrote Last of the Memory Keepers to the first How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack. Origami Swan shared the Doctor Strange soundtrack and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. You get the picture.

When it comes to interview prep, you too can have a theme song (sung in your head during the interview, not aloud). I personally like “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman and this Marvel-themed adaptation of “We Will Rock You”:

Credit: Trailer Blend

3) Don’t Fall Your Face


Most how-to’s in of this type will teach you to have a firm handshake (important!) or proper posture (also important!), but I’m here to tell you that you can go into an interview without faceplanting. In all honesty, this is an actual concern I’ve had when trying something new. Fencing? Didn’t fall on my face. Job interviews? I’ve got this. Walking the dog on snow? Okay, that time I did faceplant, but that one’s on the dog.

Some tips to achieve proper upright position:

  •  Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
  • Exercise and stretch beforehand. Or if you don’t want to or don’t have time to shower, just stretch. It’s easier to have a clearer mind when you have a body that feels good.
  • Take a deep breath. Or two. Or three. Whatever it takes.
  • Stand tall. You made it this far. You deserve this interview. Remember, you are a writer! You are a (insert job position you’re interviewing for)!


It’s okay to make mistakes. If you do end up tripping, get back up again. If you forget which way you came from when you walk out of the office and walk down the wrong hallway, let your interviewer take the lead. (Yes, this happened to me. Yes, I still got the job.) If you stutter, don’t apologize. Just keep going.

***

Let’s chat! What are some of your tips for job interviews? Any fellow writers out there with a separate day job? Anybody have any tips for balancing work and writing? Tell me all!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Book Hangovers

Terms in the book industry are weird. We’ve got cinnamon rolls that we ship—neither of which have anything to do with breakfast or the high seas. Writers experience writer’s block—though we still haven’t received a block of wood, thank you very much. And readers get book hangovers—who comes up with these terms? I don’t drink, so I don’t care for this last one, though I’ve certainly experienced it before.

Book Hangover: noun, 1) Being so engrossed with the last book you finished that you can’t get into a new book. 2) Having nothing to read, not necessarily the absence of reading material; synonymous without having nothing to wear or having nothing to do.

I wish I could say I’ve never had a book hangover, but it simply wouldn’t be true. Right before we moved, I set aside all the books I wanted bring while I didn’t have access to a library, and I slowly returned all my library books and forced myself not to check out any more.

Unfortunately, there happened to be several days in-between my setting aside the books and not having any library books, so I had no idea what to read. I tried asking my sister, and she kept pointing to books to which I said, “No… No… Just read that one… No… No… I HAVE NOTHING TO READ!”

Eventually, she just gave up on me. After a day of reading boredom, I finally settled on Esperanza Rising. Sure, I’m still learning, but overall, I’ve come up with some methods that have helped keep me from getting a book hangover.


Genre Hopping


I’m not saying you should read two different genres at once, though if that works for you, go right ahead (see next point). What I mean by this point is switching genres each time you finish a book, unless you only like one genre (how?). For example, if you just finished a fantasy novel, try a contemporary or nonfiction.

Not only does this form of genre hopping help me get into a new story better, it also helps me enjoy it more. I’ve found myself leaving higher star ratings. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of books I haven’t enjoyed, but it’s been easier to get into the ones that I do.

Bribe Reward Yourself


Sometimes, I have a hard time getting through nonfiction and classics than I do historical fiction or YA. I’ve found that listening to audio versions of nonfiction helps me because I can be productive at the same time. While listening to a book, I’ll often clean or commute. I’ve also found that sometimes, I’ll read a YA book after a chapter or two of another book, especially for classics as dense as Moby-Dick or Les Miserables.

Of course, if you just can’t get into the book or you don’t want to read it, there’s no 
saying you must finish it. Unless it’s for class. Then, you poor unfortunate soul, bribe yourself. In my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, I would study for 45 minutes, then read a chapter or two in a fiction novel. That’s actually how I finished all 1,000 pages of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in a week. Everybody needs a study break. Why not enjoy it by reading?*


*Granted, you should take other study breaks too, like going outside, eating food, and hanging out with friends. As a former hermit, I can confirm that these are helpful methods too.

Know Your Reading Habits


On an average day, I focus best on writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon. If I try to read in the morning, my eyes start watering, even with reading glasses. If I try writing in the afternoon, I usually can’t focus. Of course, there are exceptions such as when I’m traveling or visiting with friends, but this schedule is generally the one I follow.

As such, when I start a book in the afternoon, I either try to finish it that evening or the next day. If I finish a book too earlyat say, two o’clock—I may not know what to do with myself the rest of the day. For some reason, I just can’t read two books in one day, unless it’s a series.

Likewise, I’ve found that if I’m in the mood for a certain genre, I should pick that one up, even if I’m in the middle of another book. While this can cause some plot confusion, it can also keep the forward momentum going. If I try to force myself to read a book I’m not interested in at the moment, I’m just going to find ways to avoid the book more and more. Lately, I’ve been struggling with getting into some graphic novels—which is weird because they’re generally quick, easy reads—so I picked up Sadie and quickly breezed through the novel.

It all depends on what you like. And of course, most of these tips have to do with the first definition of a book hangover: being so engrossed with the last book you finished that you can’t get into a new book. I still have yet to figure out what to do when I have nothing to read.

Let’s chat! When’s the last time you had a book hangover? What are some methods you use to avoid them?

***


Literary references: Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and Courtney Summers’ Sadie.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Poem: Origins

I’ve been having a hard time writing poetry lately, but I’ve managed to dig up one I wrote in England that fits my experiences lately. New places. New people. New questions. As I’m making the transition from a military community back to civilian culture, it can be hard to find people who understand what it means to move all the time.

At least I am finally out of a tiny hotel room and into a rental cabin while my family is house hunting. With a little bit of breathing room, I’m back to making audio poems! Let me know if you’d like audio for the previous two poems as well.


Origins

Is there anything particularly Canadian about a goose
who lives in Maine or the Carolinas, Mexico or England?
Honk a little, girls. Don’t be afraid to let them
hear your voice or see your black-striped faces.
You’re only as brave as your feathers.
Canadian Goose, Canada Goose, where are you from?
Not this dumb question again.
Currently: Mexico.


***

Let’s chat! How long have you lived where you’re currently living? What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled?

Interested in an audio version of Fireflies and Concrete Forest, Paper Meadows? Let me know!

Sunday, August 25, 2019

A Writer's Guide to Job Applications


For those who may not know, I recently moved back to the United States after living in Europe for the past four years. *gasp* Let me tell you, it’s been quite the culture shock. (Why is everything air conditioned? Though considering the recent record-high temperatures in Europe, I’m not complaining.)

I started applying to jobs at the beginning of April before I quit my last job, then didn’t have my first in-person interview until July. I had my choice between three separate jobs and am now working as a substitute teacher.

Job hunting is hard work!

To my fellow writers who are looking into the job application process, here are a few things I learned along the way.


Writing the Resume


I’ve heard a lot of mixed advice about resumes, so I’m just going to tell you what I know from my experience. A lot of people are going to see your resume. But a lot of people are not. Sometimes the jobs you apply to online will run your resume through a digital analyzer that will drop you out of the application process before your resume even sees a human being.

So while it’s important for your resume to look nice, you can’t just have a standard one size fits all resume. That’s what a CV is for. Except when you’re applying to different jobs which require a different goal.

Often times, you have to personalize each resume to fit your application. I’m still the same person with the same experiences, but I have at least 20 different variations of the same resumes when I’m applying to jobs. You wouldn’t pitch an adult sci-fi novel to a kid looking for middle grade nonfiction. It all comes down to knowing your audience.

Writing the Cover Letter


I’m probably not the best person to be giving advice on this bit considering the cover letter is my least favorite part. But if you’ve ever queried literary agents before, think of it in a similar way. Make sure you have your general intro to your qualifications, a thank you at the end, and a personalization to the specific job.

Again, consider your audience.

The Never-ending Questions


Job applications are ridiculous. From “What’s your driver’s license number?” and “Provide reference contact information using only US phone numbers.” to “When’s the last time you donated blood?” and “Provide proof of the last trip you took to the moon.” Like, I’m sorry. Do you accept a stamp in my passport from my last trip to Narnia? No? Okay, let me go find my driver’s license.

How many applications?


Overall, I put out 50 job applications with an average application rate of three applications a work day. Just like you don’t have to send out every query letter at once, you also don’t have to apply to all the jobs at once. Some applications take one click while others take an hour and a half to two hours, depending on the job.

The Waiting Games


Keep in mind that you’re going to send in applications that go ignored. You’re going to get rejection letters. Wait, haven’t I heard this before? Sounds a lot like querying. And it is. In my experience, querying can take longer. I’ve been trying to find a literary agent for two separate books for over two years, but I’ve worked several jobs along the way. Time-wise, finding a job has been easier than finding a literary agent. At least that’s been my experience.

Job Application Sites


Ah, my old foe. Actually, job application websites can be quite helpful. Here’s a short list of ones I used to find and apply to various jobs:


Finally, I want to thank a couple of my friends for knowingly or unknowingly helping me out with my job application process. Katrina, you reminded me that yes, I can apply for positions even when my brain wants to find, in her words, an “adultier-adult.” Faith, you were such great emotional support even when your main piece of advice was just to cry. We’re all human and need a reminder that sometimes it’s okay to recognize we’re not okay. Only then can we truly move on. Sarah, for sharing in the woes of certain past and present jobs, for talking about the Avengers and X-men, and for that Skype call where I had the privilege of watching your roommate drink coffee straight from the pot. So much yes. Last but not least—brace yourself for some sentiment—Mom and Dad, you taught me to be the best me I could be.

Thank you all!

Enjoyed this post? Keep an eye out for Part 2: A Writer’s Guide to Interviews coming next month.

Let’s chat! What’s your ideal career? If applicable, how did you find your day job? Have any tips of your own for the job application process?

***

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Phoenix Fiction Writers Giveaway

Today I am celebrating my 200th blog post! *throws confetti* *inhales confetti* *coughs up confetti* Maybe I should imagine throwing something else…

Anyway, I’d like to thank my readers once again for your support, and because my blogiversary giveaway got way more attention than I’d expected, I’m here to share another giveaway with you! International entries welcome.*

This time, however, I’d like to feature some indie authors, specifically the Phoenix Fiction Writers. They’re a group of speculative fiction authors who write short stories to novels that cover fairy tale retellings to original works. Though I haven’t read all of their stories yet (slow down, guys!), I have enjoyed the ones I’ve read so far.

The following books are organized by authors’ last names.

*Print entries only available in the US. International entries are welcome for e-books only. Some books may have restrictions for certain countries. If the book of your choice is not available in your country, you may have to select a substitute.


Beast in the Machine by E. B. Dawson

A sci-fi retelling of Beauty and the Beast.

There are only two reasons people move to Ilford: to study at the renowned scientific research center, or to escape society. Dr. Richter intends to further his research. But his daughter Isabelle finds there is a strange enmity between the scientists and the villagers, and it has something to do with the reclusive man who hired her, Dr. Sebastian Prince. 

I haven’t actually read this one yet, but what a stunning cover! I’m a huge fan of sci-fi, so that’s a plus.


“Sounds of Deceit” by Hannah Heath

One sorcerer. Four assassins. Uncover the stories of the warriors who will one day band together to kill the most powerful being in their world.

Death and destruction. Those are the consequences of being a magician under Elgar's rule. Ailith once thought that she could be the exception, but now she sees that her skillset only brings about pain, even upon those she intends to protect. Convinced that there is only one solution, Ailith buries herself in obscurity and turns her back on the warrior life.

It is a simple decision at first, but one that grows more and more complicated as Elgar, a tyrannical sorcerer, continues his reign of death and injustice. When Ailith is offered an opportunity to fight against Elgar once again, she must decide: Will she continue to live in fear of her powers? Or will she embrace them, no matter the consequences?

Heath’s latest short story in her Terebinth Tree Chronicles. For those new to the series and to her work, her other stories are also available as potential prizes: “Skies of Dripping Gold” (stand alone, see short story review), “Colors of Fear” (Terebinth Tree, #1), and “Flames of Courage” (Terebinth Tree, #2).


Two Lives Three Choices by K. L. + Pierce

When two new students arrive at Krysta’s school, she quickly discovers she must: choose her friends. Seeing one of the new students sitting alone, Krysta must decide whether she’s willing to risk a friendship she already has for someone she hardly knows. That choice causes Krysta to have visions, revealing that the new arrivals are more than they seem. Choose her side. The new students, Alec and Dion, are more than rivals. They are bitter enemies involved in the war that Krysta is suddenly thrust in the middle of. Unable to run, she must now choose where her loyalties lie. Choose whether she’s willing to die for those she loves. Because when a friend is in danger, Krysta knows she can save them. But saving her friend’s life could cost Krysta her own. Those three choices will define the life Krysta leads… and the one that she leaves behind.

More sci-fi! Aside from her short story, I haven’t read much of Pierce’s work yet, but I’m curious to see how her full-length novel plays out.


The Beast of Talesend by Kyle Robert Shultz (Signed copy!)

Fairy tales aren’t real. Private detective Nick Beasley knows that. This is 1922 E.A. (Ever After), an age of big cities, automobiles, and airships. Nobody in the Afterlands believes in magic and monsters anymore. Especially not Nick, who’s made a name for himself in the city of Talesend by debunking fraudulent “magical” phenomena.

But when a misadventure with alleged enchantress Lady Cordelia Beaumont goes awry, leaving Nick with claws, a tail, and quite a lot of fur, he begins to rethink his stance on magic.

There’s only one way for Nick to regain his humanity. He and Cordelia will have to retrieve a powerful magical artifact from a ruthless crime lord—who happens to be Cordelia’s father. Otherwise, Nick won’t be the only monster roaming through Talesend.

The fate of the Afterlands lies in the hands of a renegade enchantress and an extremely hairy detective. What could possibly go wrong?

Typically, I’m not a huge fan of fairy tale retellings because I find them uber predictable, but there are a few stellar ones for which I’m willing to make exceptions. The Beast of Talesend is one of them (see book review). I started the series last year, and I’m eagerly awaiting book 4.


Child of the Kaites by Beth Wangler

Desert fantasy retelling of the story of Moses, with magic swords, homicidal storms, and griffins.

The kaites are spiritual beings who can dwell in rocks, plants, and water.

They saved baby Rai from the watery death faced by her people. They raised her in the blessed region. They told her she would be the Leader of a Revolt.

She was going to free her people from slavery.

At least, that's what Rai used to believe. Then she grew up.

Living as an exile under an assumed identity, Rai can't lead a conversation, let alone a slave revolt. Her role in life is to be an historian. She will lead her people by reminding them of who they are, nothing more.

Yet the Izyphorn empire's evils continue. Her people are still enslaved. Babies are dying every day.

Someone needs to do something.

Reunions with childhood friends and encounters with an enigmatic stranger force Rai to reexamine what her purpose is. Is she called to be a humble historian or a mighty warrior...

Or are those the same thing?

Did somebody say griffins? I have yet to read this one, but it sounds incredible. I have read a couple of Wangler’s short stories, and I enjoy her writing style!


Antiheroes: A Phoenix Fiction Writer’s Anthology

Seven science fiction and fantasy stories about antiheroes:


  • A man determined to get justice for his family, no matter the cost
  • A gynoid with two conflicting programming directives
  • A teenage boy determined to protect the people who have become his friends
  • A monster slayer who is not everything she appears to be
  • A young cyborg who makes an unthinkable choice in hopes of a better future
  • A mischievous shopkeeper trying to stay one step ahead of trouble
  • A blood hunter who discovers a lie that will change the course of her life


This collection turned out to be a delightful read. A collection of sci-fi and fantasy short stories by each of the Phoenix Fiction Writers.



Let’s chat! Which Phoenix Fiction book are you most interested in reading? Have you read any of them before? What’s your take on fairy tale retellings? Do you prefer sci-fi or fantasy? How about both?

***

Sunday, August 11, 2019

7 Reasons I Enjoy Young Adult Novels


I can’t believe I haven’t written about this yet. I mean, come on, what am I thinking!?

So I know Young Adult (YA) fiction isn’t technically a genre. If we’re going to be technical and all, it’s more of a target audience. (For those unfamiliar with bookish terms, bookworms refer to young adults as those ages 13-18, not 18-24.) I guess you could say I find myself drawn to books for teenagers.

Here are just a few reasons why.


1) YA novels aren’t as dense as some of the other books on my TBR list.


For example, I really, thoroughly enjoy Les Miserables and Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell but my goodness! Why are they so LONG?

Often times, YA novels range between 250-350 pages. Every now and then, one might border on 400, and rarely 800. (I’m looking at you, Inheritance and Order of the Phoenix.) With this length, it’s so much easier to pick shorter books up, carry them around, and read them in one sitting.

Just a few perfectly short novels include but are not limited to:

The Giver by Lois Lowry at 208 pages (arguably middle grade, but I’m lumping it with young adult here)
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart at 242 pages (see book review)
A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews at 282 pages (see book review)

2) They’re engaging, easy reads.


Sometimes, I don’t like to work to understand a book. Some days, I just want a story to sweep me away so that I forget I’m reading at all.

For example, when I was walking the Camino, I was torn between reading a sci-fi novel or a YA contemporary. I figured I’d read the first page of each and see which one I preferred. I read then put down the sci-fi novel. Then I picked up the contemporary, and before I knew it, I was on chapter two. For anybody wondering, that book was Kids Like Us, and you can check out my book review here.

3) The themes are more complex in young adult novels than in middle grade ones.


I sense another post coming on…

Until then, I like how in-depth young adult novels can be. From stories about found families to those that confront toxic stereotypes, YA is one of the most dynamic target audiences. While there are still areas that need improving (ease up on the romance, please, I’m begging you!), you don’t have to go far to find great themes.

Just a few YA novels with excellent themes include the following:

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner (see book review)
Fawkes by Nadine Brandes (see book review)
The Art of Feeling by Laura Tims


4) Reading YA makes me feel young.


I mean, I’m still young, but technically I “aged out” of being the target audience six years ago. Do you think that’s going to stop me from reading books about high schoolers? Haha, nope. I’ve never fit in with my age group. What makes you think I’m going to start now?

It’s also fun to read YA novels and then force them on recommend them to my sister. Once she reads them, we can geek out together. It’s a lot of fun! And by fun, I mean she just about killed me when she accidentally spoiled Our Dark Duet (Monsters of Verity, book 2) for herself.

5) YA introduced me to so many amazing genres.


If I hadn’t read as much YA as I do, I probably wouldn’t have discovered some amazing books. I started off enjoying fantasy and animal stories. Now, I don’t read as many animal stories, and I still enjoy fantasy, but thanks to YA, I’ve also discovered novels in verse (So. Much. YES!), historical fiction, realistic contemporary, and even some classics.

I could use more YA sci-fi, though. I am now accepting recommendations. Please, and thank you.


6) YA novels can be empowering.


Another thing I like about this category is how it’s so hopeful. That’s not to say that every book is about hope—sometimes it’s downright depressing. But overall, YA is full of characters taking action rather than bemoaning their lives.

You want to change the world? Go do it!

A few YA novels that have empowered me:

A List of Cages by Robin Roe
Audacity by Melanie Crowder (see book review)
Starfish by Akemi Dawn Bowman

7) Reading YA can be addicting.


You know how I mentioned I read two chapters without realizing it? Well, sometimes that happens with books and series too. YA can be really easy to get hooked on.

When I finished my M.A. in English Lit, for months on end, I almost read nothing but YA. Since I’ve finished with my degrees for the moment, I’ve gone back to reading more classics and nonfiction, but YA is still my go-to, especially when I step into a bookstore or library.

8) Bonus: I like to write YA.


Apparently, I can’t count.

The best type of research is experience. If you want to know what it’s like to go skydiving, do it. If you want to know what it’s like to be a teenager, use the quantum void to become a teenager again. I mean… um… you know, reading YA fiction helps. So does spending time with young adults.

There you have it! Just a few reasons why I read what I read and why I post so many reviews about YA novels.

Let’s chat! Where are my fellow YA readers? How about YA writers? What are some of your favorite elements of YA? Any that I missed? Have any sci-fi recommendations?

***


Literary references: Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance, J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars, C. G. Drews’ A Thousand Perfect Notes, Hilary Reyl’s Kids Like Us, Jeff Zentner’s Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner, Nadine Brandes’ Fawkes, Laura Tim’s The Art of Feeling, Victoria Schwab’s Our Dark Duet, Robin Roe’s A List of Cages, Melanie Crowder’s Audacity, and Akemi Dawn Bowman’s Starfish

Sunday, August 4, 2019

Poem: Fireflies

I find aspects I enjoy in every place I live. In England, I enjoyed biking along the canals and the river. From my last house, I enjoyed hiking up to nearby German castles, and in Spain, I liked listening to the always-distant mockingbirds. 

In the American Midwest, I have enjoyed re-discovering fireflies. As a kid, I used to catch them while visiting my grandparents’ house and when we lived in Kansas. While people here may just consider them another bug, I see them as a novelty, a beauty, a passing moment that I wish I could hold on to, but may one day have to let go. 




Fireflies 

Sometimes I wish I could disappear— 
one moment bright and glowing, 
like a buoy bobbing in the night, 
then—

                    vanished. 

I still exist
                    in the dark 
but here, I don’t have to shine 
—just be. 



*** 

Let’s chat! What did you think of the poem? What are some aspects you enjoy about where you live?