In-Home Residency

The residency for my MFA is this July, and this time it’s remote. Which is kind of weird, but what isn’t weird right now? So, no nervously flying over mountains for me this summer.

This residency is for my fourth and final semester. I do have to go to one more residency to attend to officially graduate, but this is the last semester I have to do work. And I’m lucky because all I have to do this semester is finalize my thesis critical piece and creative piece, both of which are already in late-stage drafts. This will be nice because I’m considering applying for a PhD, so I will have time to work on preparing that application this coming semester and easily be ready for the spring deadline. (It’s quite involved to apply.)

This residency I am teaching a workshop where I’m covering all of kidlit. I had to create a video lecture (75 slides, 38 minutes of video, many hours of actual work), pick several readings, create discussion questions, and come up with an idea for a live discussion. It turned into way more work than a normal residency workshop would be. But I did everything and it should go well. Fingers crossed. I’m hoping nobody is overly bored by it. I know some people aren’t big fans of writing for kids. The readings I gave them were all super-short except I added the first chapter of the first Harry Potter book (as a middle grade example) and the first chapter of The Hunger Games (as the YA example). The discussion we’re going to have will cover a bit on all the readings (I’m going to see what people say in the discussion) and be mostly focused on what people remember reading as kids and/or what they remember of reading to their own kids.

Other than preparing for residency, I’ve been kind of taking it easy lately. I even started learning watercolor painting. I’ll probably post something about that next time, unless something suddenly changes and I have book news.

Wrapping Up the 3rd Semester

My third semester is wrapping up, with just a couple things remaining to be done. Then all I have left for the degree is the thesis—both the critical and creative parts. Both are in decent shape, though I have opened back up the first half of the creative portion because of  something I’m writing further along the timeline, which necessitates changes all through what’s already written. But I should have that done before the fourth semester starts.

Now I’ve decided to pursue something even more: a PhD in creative writing. There is only one (maybe two) in the world that I can apply to. The US does not have any that are specific to creative writing—you can do a significant creative portion of your thesis in some English PhD programs, but none of these are low-residency/distance. But Bath Spa University in England (near Bath) has one and importantly, they are open to young adult writing (there’s another in England that is low-residency but specifically not open to any writing for children). So I’m going to apply to that. Applications are not due until next May, so I’ve got plenty of time (though the application isn’t easy, either). The dissertation (actually called a thesis in the UK (weirdly, they call the Master’s-level equivalent a dissertation)) is part creative and part critical, like for the MFA. The creative part is book-length (about 80,000 words or 300-350 pages), and the critical is 20,000 words, so about 80 pages. One difference from the MFA is that the critical part has to contextualize the creative portion. I’m not 100% sure what that means, but I’ll have to figure it out in the next year.

There’s not much news in the Finding Frances world. I’m still not seeing many purchases and I’m still having trouble getting reviews. At this point, I’m especially in need of reviews, more than purchases, honestly. I do have a list of book blogs that I am going to send review requests to. I’m also planning to try to get it reviewed in some Oklahoma newspapers (this was my dad’s idea, actually).

Finally, if you want to see a little interview with me, check out last Thursday’s post on The Wild Rose Press blog.

Notes from Lockdown

Story Genius book coverThis won’t be a very exciting post. Not a lot to report. Like everyone else, I’m stuck in lockdown, going stir crazy. I usually do most of my writing at Starbucks, so it’s been a challenge to learn to work at home. Especially when I’m working from home for my day job, too. I just sit in the same chair from 7 am to 8 or 9 pm, swapping out computers at about 3:30. One nice thing that is helping me not go crazy is that some of my writing friends and I meet on Zoom every day and chat and do writing sprints. It helps to talk to other people.

What I’m most busy with is my thesis (specifically the 15-20 page paper about a craft element in novels). I had to totally rewrite (well, reorganize) it this weekend. It’s due a week from Friday so I’ve only got one weekend after this one to finish it. It isn’t the final final version, since I can still work on it during next semester, but I don’t want to have too much to do on it.

I’m also working on planning out the final-to-be-written Sarah story, which will be the second-to-last in the collection. I’m using a method outlined in the book Story Genius (pictured here), but I signed up for the Story Genius Workshop, which is a self-paced online class that walks you through everything step-by-step. There are videos explaining everything, and then long worksheets to fill out. They also have the option to pay extra for a coach, someone who will give you feedback on every step. I applied for that and am waiting to hear how much it costs. We’ll see if I do it. One interesting thing about this process is that it is going to require me to change some things in the earlier story, especially the long first one.

I’ve also got Ugly out with a bunch of agents, though nobody’s biting. I keep getting form letter rejections. The gatekeepers hate me.

Postponement!

This post was supposed to be about my book launch party, a month and a half after actual release, which was supposed to be yesterday. I sent an eVite and had about 30 people planning to come. However, because COVID-19 is really bad in Seattle, I felt obligated (and selfish enough worrying about attendance) to postpone it indefinitely (because who the heck knows when this mess is going to be resolved). In that vein, here is a hilarious (and sort of depressing) cartoon I found, which I was going to share in my report about the party, but will instead share in the face of cancellation.

Maria Scrivan cartoon "book signing: a portion of proceeds go to the author"

Sad but true, really.

In a way, this might be a blessing because I am so overwhelmed by my thesis right now that getting most of a day back is helpful. I have until April 24th to finish the second draft of my extended annotation, a 15-20 page paper. The first draft is due March 27th. And I am scrambling (already). Here is a stack of all the books I’m looking at for this paper (another book and numerous articles I’ve read electronically not shown).

Stack of books for MFA thesis

Please feel sorry for me.

That is all for now.

Not Quite Ready for March

Not a lot has happened since the release of Finding Frances, but the official release party is coming up in less than three weeks, so I’m planning for that. It should be interesting and I have no idea how many people are going to show up. I’ve picked a couple of very short readings to do and need to practice them, but it shouldn’t be difficult. I also need to write my little history of the book story and my thank yous out so I don’t forget anyone. I’m supposed to be sending out the invites today, and I haven’t even written them yet. Something for this evening…

This is going to be a busy month in general. There’s the release party, and I have to write the first draft of my 15-20 page thesis paper. My biggest concern is that I’m not actually sure that my premise is true; if it isn’t, it will be a problem if I can’t figure out something else to write about quickly. I also am going to be teaching a one-hour class on the role of relationships in character development at the end of the month. There is a lot of preparation to do on that one.

Yesterday I spent most of the day updating Ugly with some cleanup edits (instead of working on my March activities like I should have) and resent it to an agent that had requested a full and then left that agency before getting back to me on it. I’m hoping she will like it. It would be so nice to finally get through that stupid barrier. Still, I need to start sending it out in earnest again. I’ll send some queries out some evening this week.

Lastly, regarding Finding Frances, according to Amazon, only about 8 copies have been purchased. So it would be great if you’re reading this if you might consider buying it, if you haven’t already. 🙂 And if you have read it, it would be so helpful to me if you'd leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads.

First Post-Release Post

I feel like I should write a post for today since Finding Frances finally came out this week, on Monday. But in some ways it’s been a little anti-climactic. Nothing has really changed from my perspective. I know people have bought it, but I have no way of knowing how many, and I don’t have any reviews yet, so it’s all invisible. I think I can get a rough estimate of the number of books sold on Amazon with a week delay or so, so maybe I’ll get my first clue next week.

Still, it is kind of cool to no longer be a ”pre-published” author. All that work finally paid off. And man, was it a lot of work… Now I’m planning for the release party on March 21st.

Outside of regularly remembering I’m a published author now, I’m focused on the MFA and Ugly. One of the things I’m doing is a professional writing minor, and through that I’m getting some feedback on my Ugly query and the first two chapters. My instructor told me that the two chapters were maybe a little slow and that they didn’t hint at what the book is really about, instead making it seem like the main character just has normal teen problems. So I wrote a new short scene to start the book off, to be put at the beginning of Chapter 1. I’m waiting on feedback on that, but if she likes it, I will start querying again. Right now I have no queries out and only four few partials/fulls (sent in November). But I just figured out that one of the agents who had requested a full changed agencies after requesting it but before responding to it. So now I have to do some followup work on that one. I emailed the original agency, but I’ll probably have to requery the original agent at her new agency. I also followed up with another full I sent in November. So hopefully I’ll hear something soon on both of those.

The other minor I’m doing on the MFA is pedagogy. So I’m going to be observing a class in March and then teaching a one-hour workshop on the use of relationships in character-building. Both are with a former instructor who’s really nice, so I hope it goes well. I’m still developing the workshop, though I have the exercises ready. Now I just have to score books to find good examples…

Busy, busy.

Heading Home

Time for a somewhat rambly post.

Yesterday my third MFA residency wrapped up. It was a good ten days, but now I’m sitting at the Oklahoma City airport waiting on my already-delayed flight. And there’s three more hours for it to be delayed even more. It’s likely snowing in Seattle so I’m really hoping that I get in and home okay. I can’t wait to see my kitties.

On the writing front, it seems like everything is focused on promotion for Finding Frances right now. One of the classes I’m taking this semester is “Professional Writing,” which is going to basically be the instructor helping me figure out how to promote Finding Frances and how to sell Ugly. I’m supposed to be figuring out possible venues for my release party. I was hoping to have it at Barnes and Noble in Issaquah, but I’m not sure they’ll work with my publisher. So I’ve got to find some backup locations. And I’m also trying to find ways to get reviews. In other promotion efforts, I signed up for a blog tour starting release day and running for four weeks (a “book blast” where they’ll put info on my book on several blogs). I also signed up for a review tour, also four weeks, where I’m supposed to get reviews. I have no idea if these will really give me a return on the money I put in, but I have to try something.

The other extra class I’m taking this semester is in pedagogy of creative writing. I am supposed to observe a class and also teach one before the end of the semester. So I have to figure out what to teach on. I’m a little nervous about this—it should be on some element of craft, but the field is wide open. I did ponder doing one on outlining at various stages of the writing process. I’m not sure if that would count.

Besides that, my faculty mentor is looking at the writing I’m planning to use for my thesis (I don’t have to produce any new creative writing this semester since I’ve done it all already) and I have to write five short papers and one big one, 15-20 pages.

That’s what I’m looking forward to this semester. I’ll be busy, but it should be good.

Release Date

Finding Frances Book CoverSo, I finally got my release date for Finding Frances (!). It is:

Monday, February 3, 2020

I’d hoped it would come out before the end of this year so I could enter it in a contest through PNWA, but this is fine (I’ll have to wait until 2021 to enter it).

Other than that, there’s not much news. I’ve got my MFA residency coming up in January, and I’m looking forward to it. It’ll be my third semester.

I’m working on finishing up the Now Would Be Good collection about my character Sarah, which I’ve now decided is going to be a novel in parts rather than a short story collection. Each part will just have its own arc, in addition to the whole book having one.

My critique partner is almost through Sadie Speaks, so I may pick that one back up and revise it.

I’m still shopping Ugly around, without much luck. I’m a little irritated about that one—I’m not getting as many bites as I think I should. They all say they want something different (which this story is) but it seems like they really just want the same thing as always. Frustrating.

Ugly Updates

I don’t have much of an update right now, except I found out that Ugly is a semifinalist in the BookLife Prize. This is a contest for self-published and unpublished manuscripts. You can see the public entries (you don't have to display your book/review) at the contest listing page. The funny thing is that all the others have book covers and mine’s just a gray box. I keep wondering if I should put something up there, but I don’t know what that would be. I’m not going to pay someone to make a cover.

I’ve also got a friend doing another read of Ugly to see if I need some “light moments” (as an agent suggested I might), and to help me find good spots for them if so. Once it’s ready, I’ll send it to the agents who asked for it at PNWA.

I’m looking forward to starting the third semester of the MFA in January, but other than that, my writing world is quiet because all my time is going to the statistics class I’m taking (or more specifically, suffering greatly from).

And Waiting Some More

Right now the biggest thing going on is I’m waiting to hear about Finding Frances. It’s been with the senior editor for two weeks, and the editor I’ve been talking to said it should take no more than three. So hopefully I’ll find out this week if they’re interested in publishing it. I’m pretty sure I’m going to do it it they want to publish it. 

I’m on my break from the MFA now, not going to be back until January. I’m going to finishing the collection of stories about Sarah, as there’s just one left to write (and four to revise…). 

The other thing I’ve been focused on is getting Ugly out to quite a few agents, hoping that one of them will be interested. I also entered it into the BookLife Prize, a contest from Publishers Weekly that considers unpublished and self-published books. It received 9 out of 10 points and I got a really nice report back from them (they read the whole thing and give you some feedback). I’m including it here:

Plot: This story has many subplots that weave together seamlessly, with the most poignant being Nic’s struggle to identify her gender and sexuality. Things come to a swift, yet satisfying, conclusion.

Prose/Style: Vincent’s prose is straightforward and clear. Her talent shines as she develops Nic’s voice throughout the novel; Nic is unafraid and unforgettable

Originality: Nic is not your average teenage narrator. Her cynicism and honesty make even the most basic observations feel refreshing.

Character Development: Vincent’s characters are well-developed and in tune with their emotions. The story’s protagonist, Nicole “Nic” Summers, is surrounded by a cast of complex family members, friends, and frenemies.

Blurb: Readers will rally behind fifteen-year-old Nic Summers as she navigates the pitfalls of adolescence in this moving and timely YA novel.

The BookLife Prize

Progress for Now

I finished up my second semester of the MFA. Now that’s on hold until January, when I can start the third semester (stupid work vacation policy…). It was a good semester, where I got a lot of work done (I’ve done 36 of the 45 total short papers I have to do in my first three semesters) and some good creative work, as well. I’m still working on the short story collection about Sarah. I got one story completed and about two-thirds of the next one done. I’m working on finishing the second one. Then there is one more to write, and I’ll have drafts of all six stories. I expect to get this done during my semester off. 

This week, I finished up judging for the two contests I judged for this year. Judging is mentally exhausting. I sort of want to just lie down and sleep for a week now. 

Something I’m excited to get back to is the Ugly manuscript. I had one rejection from an agent, but the other agent and the two editors haven’t responded (since November), so I’m assuming those are no’s, as well. So I’m free to make the rest of the edits my last reader recommended. Then I’ll start sending it out en masse. 

In other news, I heard back from the editor who has Finding Frances. She’s waiting on a report from a reader (she has to send an official reader’s report to the senior editor and I guess this person has been slow in getting to it). So it’s still in the running. I also made a little progress in getting the permission for the lyrics I need in the book—I have spent hours researching how to get this permission with no success—then someone pointed out I should just contact the band’s fan club. I did this and they told me they forwarded the email to the appropriate person. Of course, I haven’t heard back in the several days since then, but it’s progress. And I still have a solution even if I don’t get the rights—I wrote “song lyrics” for a made-up song and use that in the appropriate places in an alternative manuscript. It’s just that the real band has much better lyrics. 

More waiting. The publishing industry is slow.

Holding Pattern

I’m still waiting to hear back on Finding Frances. I’m debating whether to follow up or not. I think part of me doesn’t want the possibility to be over, since I’m not submitting it anywhere else if this doesn’t pan out. Maybe I’ll follow up at the end of April if I haven’t heard by then. I probably shouldn’t seem uninterested. I don’t really know…

I mentioned earlier that I was taking a playwriting class this semester. I finished it up early and got good feedback from my instructor on the 10-minute play I finished and the shorter scene from a different play I haven’t written yet. She even said she hoped I’d write more drama over my little break (since I’m having to skip the fall semester). This has me sort of excited about possibilities and I checked with my playwright friend for how to submit plays for consideration for contests and production. I found one that my 10-minute would be perfect for (it deals with mental illness, which is the theme for the theater), so I’m planning make some revisions to it and submit it. 

Other than that, I’m wrapping up the semester. I have four more papers to write and I feel very swamped at the moment (technically one of the papers is a revision of a rough draft, but still). I also have to finish up revisions to my creative work, though I really only have one scene left to revise so that’s not too bad. And I’ve only got about three weeks left before it’s all over. Then I’ll be halfway through the MFA, which is cool. 

Oh, and there’s one more time-consuming thing coming up: I’m judging for two writing contests, one YA and one adult mainstream. Entries for both are due around the middle of May. Sigh. It’s rewarding but not easy.

Working and Waiting

Well, I missed posting something last week. I didn’t have the book I was reading finished yet and I was too worn out to write a post. I still don’t have much energy, so this one won’t be long, either. 

This semester is going to be intense. It started out that way because the first “month” was only 3 weeks and I was supposed to read five books and write four short papers in that time. I only made it through three of the books and half each of the other two, but I did manage to get the papers done. I’m playing catch-up this week. Then, I’m volunteering for five hours every Sunday at the writing lab of an area college, which takes a large chunk out of my weekend work time. 

Other than that, thing are quiet on the writing front. I’m waiting to hear from the editor on Finding Frances and on the editors and agents for Ugly. It’s been about 1.5 months on the first and almost 3 on the second, so I’m hoping to hear soon. 

MFA Residency Spring 2019

I got back Friday from the residency for the current semester, which has already gotten going. I’m scrambling to get my first annotation done today for the book I just finished this morning, which I’ll be reviewing next week. And of course I have loads of other things to work on, too… But it’s all good. 

I haven’t heard anything on any of the manuscripts I have out in the world, Finding Frances or Ugly, which is disappointing. 

But one of the things I’m doing for the MFA is a strand called professional writing, which involves learning how to query magazines and journals for shorter pieces. Now, I really could figure it out on my own because it’s not that different from querying on longer projects. But the main point is to really try to get something published. So I’m taking one of the stories I wrote last semester—the shorter one—and prepping it for submission. I’ve contacted my line editor so I should have it ready soon. It sure would be nice to get a publication credit.

The other strand I’m working on is the pedagogy one and for that I will be volunteering at the writing center at Bellevue College. That starts tomorrow after work. Supposedly, they get a lot of students in there with personal essays for transfer applications. Still, I’m hoping it helps me learn how to judge/grade papers faster, as that was something I always struggled with when teaching before. 

I’ve also expanded my platform a bit. You can find me on Twitter and Instagram, kvbooks on both. There’s nothing exciting there yet, but maybe that will change. One never knows…

Writing in 2018

2018 was a tough writing year in some ways, but also good. I had a bunch of rejections on Finding Frances, but I finally heard back from the editor I sent it to in September and she requested a full. This is the last shot for that book, but she sounded really interested in the sample she read, so I am hopeful. I should hear in the next few weeks. I’m sincerely hoping that even if it’s a no, she’ll give me some feedback on it. I’ll be setting it aside, but it would be good to have some pointers on what to try next, when I do decide to crack it open again.

I also spent a good portion of the year frantically working on Ugly, my 2017 NaNoWriMo book, trying to get it ready for the PNWA conference in September. I had several requests on it, which is pretty exciting since those were my first pitches on it (six pitches and six requests, including four fulls). The five I sent are all still out there (I skipped one of the agents because she doesn’t like something that appears in one of my other books, so she probably wouldn’t be a good fit for me). I didn’t send them until early November so I’m not expecting to hear anything for a bit. 

Also, of course, I spent half of the year on the MFA, which was great. I got two short stories done, both of which I’m happy with. One of them is going to be expanded a bit, but I like the short version and plan to enter it in some contests. I’m looking forward to the residency coming up and starting the next semester, especially the playwriting course (should be fun). I already made up my reading list and just need to get my faculty advisor to approve it or make her changes to it. This semester my mentor is Allison Amend. She’s written a few novels for adults. Still, I’m hoping to learn a lot from her, even if she isn’t focused on YA. 

I also judged for the mainstream category of the PNWA contest, which was a challenge and time-consuming, but also beneficial. It still took up most of May. I was bummed not to final in any of the categories I entered, but such is life. 

I was bummed not to do NaNoWriMo this year after a five-year successful run, but I had to prioritize the MFA. I may be able to do it 2019 because I won’t be doing the MFA that semester (I don’t have enough vacation so I have to wait until 2020 to start back).

Not directly writing-related but still significant to me, I also lost my favorite cat, Marvin, who would have been my muse if I’d had one. But I got a new little guy (Maddox) who’s actually a lot like Marvin. Not that he’s a replacement, but still. He’s affectionate but not overly so. 

Marvin made creepy by a Happy Light
My favorite picture of Marvin
Maddox posing for the camera by the window
The new guy, in a rare moment of calm

I suppose that’s it for 2018. I’m hoping 2019 has more actual good news in it than 2018 did, instead of just prospects.