Author Interview: Taylor Bennett

Pen Friends ~ We are delighted to have Taylor Bennett, debut author of Porch Swing Girl, here with us today!

Taylor Bennett Author Photo

Spinning Pen: Hi Taylor! Thanks for joining us. First, will you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

Taylor: Thank you so much for having me. I’m absolutely thrilled to be here! For those who don’t know me, I’m a seventeen-year-old homeschool senior, and I’ve been telling stories literally since I knew how to read. I’ve always loved beautiful words, and stringing those words together to create a story has always been one of my favorite things.

I never knew I could actually succeed in it, though, until I got offered a three-book contract! I write contemporary Christian young adult novels that tackle tough subjects and show light can shine even in the darkest night. When I’m not writing, you can usually find me taking pictures for my Instagram, eating really good food, or walking in the beauty of the PNW.

SP: We love the idea behind your debut novel, Porch Swing Girl (which is out now!)! How did this idea develop? How long did it take for you to write it?

I first got the idea for Porch Swing Girl by literally waking up. One morning, I honestly woke up, and the title was just there…I couldn’t get it out of my head, and I started playing with the idea of a girl on a porch swing. I didn’t know who she was or what she was doing, but I knew something had to be wrong. And…it all started from that! It took me nine months of off-and-on writing to finish the first draft, and about the same amount of time to edit it, which was waaay too long!! Now that I’m under contract for books two and three, I’m learning to write much faster 😉

SP: Will you tell us the story of your journey to getting your first contract?

Of course!

So…when Porch Swing Girl was still in its earliest stages of development (AKA I think I had maybe fifteen chapters written???) I decided to test the waters. I was already registered for the Oregon Christian Writers’ summer conference, and, because of that, I was able to send advance submissions to three editors of my choice.

I ran down the list of publishers and found three I liked–including Mountain Brook Ink–that were willing to look at a contemporary YA novel, sent off the queries, and went on my way.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I received an email from Miralee, the force behind Mountain Brook Ink, requesting to see more of my manuscript before the conference. I did a little happy dance, sent off the required chapters, and started counting the days until we would meet at the conference.

Porch Swing Girl coverWhen we connected a few weeks later, Miralee expressed a lot of interest in my book, and she was interested in seeing more–not just the rest of the still-unfinished manuscript–but a full proposal for a trilogy. I worked for an entire year to polish and perfect Porch Swing Girl, as well as start work on a second book. By the time the Oregon Christian Writers’ conference rolled around the next year, I was ready. And so was Miralee.

She found me in the hallway and invited me and my mom to meet with her later that afternoon. We did, and that was when she informally offered me a three-book contract. A total dream come true!!

SP: What are some books that have inspired you along the way? 

Every book that I read inspires me in one way or another! I’m particularly drawn to intense, raw stories like those written by Ruta Sepetys (Between Shades of Gray is one of my all-time favorites) and Joanne Bischof (her book, This Quiet Sky, rips my heart out every time I read it). But I also draw inspiration from the whimsy of classic children’s stories. The original Winnie-the-Pooh tales spark a desire in me to tell timeless, heartwarming tales. The way Jeanne Birdsall (author of the Penderwicks series) showcases the small bits of magic in everyday life constantly encourages me to do the same.

SP: What kind of a writer are you? Do you start with a scene? A big picture? Are you plotter? Gut feelings?

I’m what I’d call a “mood writer”. What I mean by that is I usually get my ideas from a feeling. Maybe I want to write a story that feels dark and a little bit edgy, but that also has the glimmering magic of a city skyline. Perhaps I get the urge to pen a tale full of light and life and hope. Every idea of mine revolves around a certain kind of aesthetic. I have billions (approximately) of Pinterest boards with different aesthetics, and each one represents a story I’d like tell someday.

For me, plotting is the most difficult part of writing. It’s easy to create characters, settings, and emotions, but plots often elude me! I know how I want the book to feel, and I usually have a vague idea of the type of emotional roller coaster (upside-down, dead drop, loop-de-loop, etc.) I want to take my readers on, but it’s a struggle for me to find the best way to create those big twists and turns.

SP: You’re still in high school (wow!)–how do you balance being an author with everything else you have going on as a teen?

Honestly, I’m not very good at this. I’ve never been good at balancing things. When I do something, I usually put in about 200%, which means I have a hard time stepping back and focusing on everything else in my life! One way that I’m working to get better at this is by making a to-do list at the start of each day. I’m homeschooled, so my schedule is pretty flexible. 🙂

I list all of the things that need to be done by the end of the day, but I don’t put them in order, and I don’t give myself a time limit for each individual activity. If I get everything done, great! If I let a few things slide…I have to add them to the next day’s to-do list. BUT, like I said, I’m still learning how to balance all of this myself, so my advice is far from expert!

SP: If you could pick the brain of any author, who would you want to hang out with, and why?

Hmm…maybe Sara Ella. She’s such a sweet, kind, and TALENTED author, and I am amazed by the success she’s had in both her writing and marketing. Her Instagram account is on point, and I love the way she connects with her readers in a real and honest way. I’d also love to go back in time and chat with A.A. Milne. His stories are so simple and childlike, yet they explore huge themes and have such a depth to them that makes my writer’s heart swoon.

SP: What’s your advice for other young writers who dream of being published?

Don’t be afraid to reach out! For a long time, I was nervous to connect with other authors, because I practically thought they were celebrities. And, yes, some of them kind of are. BUT there are a ton of super friendly, down-to-earth writers who are MORE THAN HAPPY to chat with you. Send them an email, track them down at a writer’s conference–trust me. They’ll be thrilled to hear from you!

When I first approached a published author, I was sure they would send me off with nothing more than a pat on the head. Instead, they were extremely kind and inspiring. They chatted with me, gave me advice and encouragement, and even read a bit of my work! So, no matter where you are in your writing journey, don’t be afraid to connect with other, bigger-than-you authors. Building relationships with them can be so motivating, and a real blessing for both you and them 🙂

SP: Favorite drink while writing? Snack? Distractions? 

Considering that I actually hate coffee and anything carbonated, I mostly drink water, though I have a certain weakness for unique blends of tea and flavored lemonade. My favorite distraction is Instagram. Hands down. Bookstagrammers are so creative!! And my favorite snack would have to be chips and hummus. I’m obsessed XD

SP: Where can we learn more about you and your book?

You can visit me on my website, or find me on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, Goodreads, and YouTube. I’d absolutely love to connect with you, so feel free to shoot me a message any time!

Thanks again, Taylor! 

Dana Black_Headshot 2017

Dana, signing off.

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How to Have a Fantastically Bookish Holiday

How to Have a Bookish ChristmasPhoto: Joanna Kosinska

It seems like more and more, the holiday season is just jam-packed with wall-to-wall everything, and that can be both exciting and utterly exhausting. It starts in October and doesn’t really let up until the beginning of January.

And with everything that’s going on during the holidays, how on earth are we supposed to tackle our amazing TBR piles of glorious books, much less spend time with those novels we’ve been writing?

I’ll tell you what, Pen Friends, I’m staring at an absolutely insane schedule this week, between the day job, a very tight freelance deadline, rehearsals for a play, and getting ready for Christmas (say what?! Christmas is in less than a week? How did that happen?), and I’m sad to say there will be little to no time for books this week. So many tears.

But fear not!

If any of you are in a similar space with too much to do and not enough time for holiday cheer, I have a suggestion! Make time for it. I know, I know, I’m crying just thinking about how I can cram another thing into my schedule, but hear me out. I’m going to try to listen to myself, as well.

True bookworms find clever ways to do bookish things (and this can apply to anything you care about, even if you’re *gasp!* not much of a reader). Sneak the important stuff into the gaps of your day.

Even if you’re just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of activity swirling around you, you can–and should–take a few minutes to just sit and be quiet. Make a list of the good things that have happened this year while brushing your teeth. Plot out your antagonist’s troubled backstory while cleaning your house for the ugly sweater soirée you’re hosting. Sneak in another chapter during your lunch break.

Want to make a holiday gathering fantastically bookish?

Here’s my idea for making the season bright and nerdy. Let’s take a page out of my favorite Icelandic Christmas tradition: every year, most Icelanders get at least one new book as a Christmas gift. Since they traditionally open gifts on Christmas Eve, once everyone receives said new book, they then all spend time quietly reading together.

How wonderful is that? It might not be the most spirited way to start a holiday party, but it sure sounds like a great way to wrap one up. If you’re having a gathering, invite your friends/family to bring a book they love, wrapped up all pretty. Then, let everyone open one, and voila! New books for all! You can even trade around until everyone has one they’re excited about. Finish the night with some reading time. (Have a bunch of extroverts in your group? Stage dramatic readings of your new books for added excitement!)

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season,

I hope you have a chance to slow down for a bit and experience some of the joy that this season can bring. And of course, may you be filled to the brim with great stories of all kinds.

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Dana, signing off to go find some hot cocoa.

Author Interview: Tracey Neithercott

Pen Friends ~ We are delighted to have Tracey Neithercott, debut author of Gray Wolf Island and an Author Mentor Match mentor, here with us today!

Tracey Neithercott FullSP: Hi Tracey! Thanks for joining us. First, will you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

Hi! Thank you so much for having me.

I’m a magazine journalist and the author of the YA novel Gray Wolf Island. I’ve always written in some way or another: There was my sixth grade The Princess and the Mean Genie, which really made me aware of my inability to draw but had me feeling pretty proud of my talent for coloring within the lines.

In high school, I started (but never finished) a bunch of books in the voice of whatever I’d last read. I somehow ended up sounding like both Pip from Great Expectations and Holden Caulfield from Catcher in the Rye. This was not a good thing.

As I began thinking about college, I shifted my focus. It’s weird looking back at how my brain worked back then, but I was convinced authors were these super-special people who were, I don’t know, given their super-special talents from the heavens or something. I figured journalism was a more realistic career. And in a way, I was right: I did become a journalist.

Only after I began reading YA writer blogs—watching them go from unagented writers to agented writers to published authors—did I start to believe writing a novel was something I could actually do. And in 2010, I finished a novel for the first time. Continue reading

Summer Reading Challenge Wrap-up and Giveaway!

SPRC Wrap-up

Can you feel it?

Summer is drifting away before our eyes here in the Northern Hemisphere. And it’s been quite the season! Here at the Spinning Pen, we’ve been traveling the globe, indulging in iced coffee, soaking up the sun, writing stories, and of course, READING ALL THE BOOKS!

If you’ve been hanging out with us for long, you’ll remember that we launched the first SP Summer Reading Challenge, and now that it’s September, it’s time to wrap it up.

So many books, so little time…

We’re dying to know: what books did you read this summer? Did you find a new favorite? If you checked out any of our recommendations, we’d love to hear from you. And if you discovered a gem somewhere along the line, we want to know that, too! We are all about sharing stories with friends.

(Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about the prize!)

And a GIVEAWAY!

If you read at least two books this summer (between June 1 and today, September 11), you are eligible to enter our giveaway for MORE BOOKS! That’s right, the winner will receive a $15 USD gift card for Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or my personal indie favorite Powell’s Books (can be used online if you’re not in the Portland, Oregon area). Never fear, international friends! You can enter, too! And if you win, I’ll send you a book of your choice (valued up to $15 USD) through Book Depository, provided that they ship to your country of residence.

Just use the Rafflecopter link below to enter. You’ll get 2 bonus entries if you read a book from our list of recommendations. (Open until 9/17/17.)

 

EDIT: We have our winner! Congratulations, Dawn S.! Thanks to everyone for participating. We’ll be back soon with more opportunities to read awesome books and win prizes.

Enter the Giveaway HERE!

 

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Dana, signing off to enjoy one last iced coffee and a good book!

 

 

Original Photo Credit: Jessica Ruscello

Author Interview: Carrie Anne Noble

Pen Friends ~ Today we have awesome YA Author, Carrie Anne Noble, to chat about the writing life and her newly-released novel, The Gold-Son!

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SP: Welcome Carrie Anne! Can you start out by telling us a bit of who you are and when you started writing?

C: Hi! I’m a stay-at-home mom/writer who lives in the beautiful mountains of Pennsylvania with my family and assorted pets (currently two cats, a dog, a lizard, a foster hedgehog, and some chickens). I’ve been making up stories for as long as I can remember, but I really got hooked on it when I was about eleven years old.

SP: Essential info next: Tea or Coffee? And one fact about yourself that we wouldn’t know by looking at you?  Continue reading

Laws of Attraction: A Guest Post by Irish Author Evie Gaughan

Pen Friends, we are so honored to have Irish Author Evie Gaughan, as our guest today to share some writing insight with us! 

c6f27b3e0cc8c692c21a892fcd6bda06--irishLaws Of Attraction

When writers are asked, ‘Where do you get your inspiration from?’, the perception is that there is one big idea from which the book just flows. While this is partially true, I have found as a writer that my books are more likely to be made up of several ideas, all drawn together in a seemingly random yet perfectly designed patchwork to form the storyline. What begins as a small, fragile idea, lodged in my subconscious, begins to attract other ideas that just magically seem to connect. It is during this ‘germinating’ phase that serendipity peeps out from behind corners, magazine articles, overheard conversations; drawing all manner of flotsam to the shores of your mind, creating a map of the story.

This makes it all sound terribly easy, which of course, it isn’t! Sometimes, patience and observation are the most difficult skills to master. Take my novel, The Mysterious Bakery On Rue De Paris. I had the initial idea and rushed at it, like an over-excited puppy. I was watching a TV show about an Irish chef living in France and she visited a renowned bakery in Paris that was shrouded in secrecy, as no-one knew who the baker was. No-one was ever seen entering or leaving and the patrons were very discreet. It’s all so long ago that I’m not sure where the TV show ended and my imagination began. Excited to get the story down, I rushed at my first draft, in which I hit the mother of all dead ends. My original plan for the story just didn’t work. I hadn’t given the idea enough time simmer, to see what other ingredients it might need. And one day, my main character Edith appeared in my head and took over the story, breathing new life into my draft.

Plotting a new book can be a very fraught time for a writer. Continue reading

What I Learned from Writing Prompts & A Prompt: Brothers

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Prompt: Brothers

When we were young, after Dad left and Mom checked out, my brother was my superhero. He wasn’t scared of anything. With his arm on my shoulder, night never felt dark; wind never howled; lightening never cracked–it sang to us. Just like adventure did. But now, seeing the look on my brother’s face, I know something’s wrong…
Complete this prompt in 250 words or less and send it to thespinningpen@gmail.com to be posted!

What I learned from Writing Prompts:

Pen Friends ~ Our understanding and experience is that many novels have come out of prompts. That is why we encourage writers to try it out! We asked a few other writers to share how writing prompts have helped them grow as writers and here are their responses.
“With each prompt I write, I gain more experience and explore new genres, age groups and topics. I love how it stretches me as a writer and opens up new possibilities. But my favorite part is the creative aspect: I get to explore a new world in each story I never considered before!”
Ruby Ma

“Initially, I was fearful that the motion of life would water-down my passion for writing, but I was, gladly, wrong! Away from the oppressive regime called an institution, I realized that I had the freedom to create in ways that I have never experienced, and Spinning Pen became a platform for my bursts of creativity.

I would read the prompts that are posted and be so excited at the countless possibilities of how stories could continue and end. These prompts took me on terrains and adventures that I only dreamed of. I was reminded that smaller writing projects did not have to compromise on well-constructed dialogues, tension between character relationships; establishing mood and tone; staging movements and setting. I love the process of creating a short story with a powerful punch.”

Krystal Keith

I haven’t always been a fan of writing prompts. They remind me of school when the teacher gave us “Writing Topics,” thus thwarting my creativity once again. But as I’ve developed my writing technique and matured as a writer, I see their value.

A prompt is a great way to push yourself into doing something that’s not necessarily “your thing.” It’s challenging. And it is in those moments I find inspiration or motivation. When I’ve attempted a prompt that isn’t my genre or has word limits (the flash fictions kill me!) I always come away with some sort of small victory. Whether I’ve completed and submitted something I’m proud of, or only got half way through before realizing this isn’t for me, I’ve still put words to page, I’ve still worked my creative muscles. Almost always I come away with an idea for a WIP or a new project later on. It is these things that I value.

So maybe a prompt isn’t your cup of tea but I encourage you to try. You never know what you might find at the bottom.

Hilary Bowen

Once I was challenged to write a dual POV prompt. What I didn’t know is that it helped me discover how to round out the worlds that I create. I was forced to see everything twice. I noticed—and thus, my characters noticed—more details, creating a more believable space for the reader to inhabit.

The dual P.O.V. prompt could have been my worst nightmare as a writer, or it could be the most fun I’ve ever had with a prompt: Think about exploring your world from two angles: a complete stranger, only just arrived; or as someone who has lived there, breathing the air their entire life. How would you see things?

Perhaps, as a visitor, you would see everything in great detail. Or maybe you would be so overwhelmed that everything was a blur. As a longtime resident, perhaps there are familiar details that you always notice, while other things, like the street you live on, or the color of the sky have faded to the background.

This prompt led to my very first completed manuscript, which I’m about to query. Sometimes, writers just need a bit of a kick start to get going!

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Nova, signing off.

 

How to Make a Splash in the Waters of Indie Publishing

How to Make a Splash in the Waters of Indie Publishing | The Spinning Pen

Once upon a time…

…there was a group of young and promising writers. They had great ideas, finished manuscripts, and starry eyes filled with hope of Bestseller’s Lists. The only question was, what should they do next?

Does this story sound familiar? The last time we were with our intrepid writers, the group had come to a fork in the road, and we followed the friends who took the path toward traditional publishing. Now, as promised, we return to our friends who decided to explore the indie (also known as self-publishing) route. Let’s follow them down to the docks. Continue reading

How to Write a Book (And Finish It) by Teen guest, Elizabeth Pau

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Most aspiring authors have been at the point where they have twenty different, brilliant ideas for book plots and try to write every single story all at once.

Or maybe some of you have an idea for one book and start writing without a plot or any sort of idea of where the book is going to end up  you just have a few ideas of what you want to include in your book.

The problem with these tactics, is that:

  1. If you start too many stories at once, you will end up mixing the characters’ personalities and possibly even confusing the plots (not to mention no one has time to finish 17 different novels)

and

  1. If you write a book with tons of events with no real goal in mind, your readers are going to be very confused.

Or maybe those tactics work for you just fine. In that case you can stop reading this right now.

But for those who want to write a book but just aren’t sure how…  

Continue reading