YALLWEST 2017

On April 29 I attended my first ever YALLWEST Book Festival and the experience was so much more than I had expected. Before going, I’d read about it and how there were around 20000 people in attendance last year. I expected it to be crazy, but surprisingly it wasn’t. So here are some of my highlights of the event:

It was in sunny Santa Monica.

After leaving Raincouver, the sunny but breezy Santa Monica weather was an absolute delight. My hubs and I decided to make a weekend of it, so it was all the more special to have him by my side as we walked along Third Street Promenade enjoying the Salsa dancers and musicians.

A whole day with writerly people.

I spent an entire day surrounded by fabulously talented bookish people. I mean, what’s not to love about that? My fave authors were there, plus I met four of the amazing Pitch Wars peeps whom I’ve come to know on Twitter but not in person. It was definitely extra special to meet them in real life.

The panels were amazing.

One of the things that got me all emotional was sitting in the audience and realizing that many of the panels were composed of very diverse authors, but the topic was not Diversity. This might not sound like a big deal to some, but sadly, the only time I have attended a panel with diverse authors has been when the topic was actually Diversity and the discussion centered around how important it was to read and write diversely. So it was a refreshing surprise for me to listen to a discussion of Love and the Modern Millennial by such inspiring authors as Nicola Yoon, Lilliam Rivera, Sandhya Menon, Adi Alsaid and Kami Garcia.

Long Line-Ups

I know, this doesn’t sound like it should be a highlight. But while I stood baking in the sun for over an hour to get my hands on an ARC of Saints and Misfits by S.K. Ali (so totally worth it btw) I looked around. The line extended far behind me, people of all ages and backgrounds, waiting for a book about a hijabi girl. It made my heart sing, because there was a time not long ago when people told me no one would want to read about an Indian or a Pakistani MC and that I should try to get published ‘back home’. So it brought on all the feels when I stood there and listened to the chatter around me about this book and the anticipation was infectious.

The Perfect Ending

The last panel attended that day was Writing the Resistance. The panelists were Sona Charaipotra, Victoria Aveyard, Marie Marquardt and Benjamin Alire Saenz, moderated by Daniel Jose Older. They were all inspirational, but when Benjamin Alire Saenz began to speak I had tears in my eyes. And I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. He spoke about love and hurt and how we are all connected. I cannot adequately convey the emotion in that gym, but I can definitely say it was the perfect ending to an amazing day.

So for those of you who’ve been thinking about going next year, check it out. It’s a great event, full of avid readers and great authors, networking opportunities, giveaways and lots of fun events. A perfect weekend for writerly people.

What I Learned From My First Author Signing

This past Saturday I was invited to do an author signing at the Strawberry Hills Chapters in Surrey, BC. Of course I was thrilled because as a very recently self-published author this sort of thing is just awesome. So here are some things I learned:

1. Have realistic expectations. Unless you are an established author with an existing fan base, it is not likely that you will be greeted by a crowd of people waiting with bated breath for your appearance. It will be more like a small trickle, mostly consisting of a few people who unsuspectingly wandered into the store and happened to stop at your table to check out what you’re selling. That’s when you pounce. Well metaphorically at least. You wow them with your pitch and overwhelming enthusiasm and before they know it they are buying a copy of your book, because it is the genre they read or they think it will make a great gift for someone else. Either way it’s a win for you. Then there will be those people who avoid making eye contact with you because they really just want to browse. After you’ve scared away the first couple of them with your fervent smile you’ll figure it out.

2. It is important to smile. Smile as though your life depends on it, even if your face begins to hurt after the first half hour. Pace yourself by exercising your facial muscles every now and then. Just don’t forget that people behind you at the Starbucks can see you. I didn’t realize it at first until I noticed a couple of kids staring at me in horror as I grimaced in an attempt to get some sensation back in my face. I hope they’re not scarred for life.

3. Be very,very appreciative of the people who work at the bookstore. I was blown away by how supportive they were. They came and checked on me constantly, made sure I was comfortable and that I stayed positive when things were slow. I cannot emphasize enough how much that meant to me as a first time author. Needless to say, having the support of your local bookstore is priceless.

4. Know where the washrooms are…and the music section…and the greetings cards. A fellow local author I met recently warned me of this and sure enough, at least five people asked me about this at various times.

5. Celebrate the small victories. I may not have sold more than a few copies of my book, but I got a lot of exposure which is what my main goal really was. After all, I am a newly self published author that nobody has heard of yet. If I want to change that I have to spread the word. This takes time and hard work. It does not happen overnight, so it’s important to stay positive and good things will happen. I am fortunate enough to have very supportive people in my life and I am extremely grateful to Chapters for giving me this opportunity.

Occupational Hazards for Writers

Since I started writing a couple of years ago I realized that there are some occupational hazards of being a writer. These include :

-Your sleep being hijacked by your characters as they live out the  scenes from your book.

-Your friends no longer sharing intimate details of their lives with you as said details inevitably find their way into your book.

-Being unable to go to any social functions without mentally categorizing people and their quirks for future use in your book.

-Listening with disturbing intensity when coming across anyone with an accent, in case you can use it in your book.

-Shushing people at the movies because they dared to fidget as you are trying to mentally record a scene that might help you with your book.

-Having difficulty concentrating on what your friend is saying at lunch because you are fascinated by the way she chews her food and you might be able to use it for a character in your book.

-Developing an unhealthy habit of imitating grimaces and other facial expressions as you try to write them, but forgetting that you are in public.

-Mentally practicing combat moves for your fight scenes, not realizing that you are acting them out while sitting at a Starbucks and people are beginning to stare.

If anyone wants to add weird habits they’ve picked up as writers, I would love to hear about it.

Prologues: To Have or Not to Have

I have been having this on and off relationship with the Prologue for my novel. I feel that it needs one, but then everything I read tells me that agents and editors hate them. Well at least the majority of them. Because the lives of the characters in my novel are intertwined with the gods and goddesses from Hindu mythology, I feel that it is important to set the scene, so to speak. I personally love prologues and I find that for certain stories they can provide valuable background details. I decided to delve deeper into what people are saying about prologues and here is what I learned:

1. Never use your prologue as an information dump about your characters or the setting. It is better to cleverly work that into scenes and dialogue.

2. Don’t use your prologue as a hook. That’s what the first chapter is for. Also readers will feel cheated if the prologue reels them in, but the chapters don’t deliver on that promise.

3. Your prologue should not be overly complex. This will just confuse readers and possibly turn them off the book entirely.

4. Never, never write a prologue that doesn’t connect with the main story. It will leave the reader wondering  and not in a good way.

5. Ask yourself whether your prologue can just be the first chapter. If yes, then that’s what it should be. Apparently many people don’t even bother reading prologues. In that case, if the prologue contains information vital to understanding the story, you’re royally screwed.

Clearly there is no single answer to the question of whether or not to write a prologue. But at least there’s a lot of good information out there on how to do it right. Since I am the boss of me and I love prologues, I will keep mine. I have a strong gut feeling that my readers will appreciate it.

Here are a couple of links I found helpful:

The Prologue – When to Use One, How to Write One by Marg McAlister: An excellent dissection of the prologue, its advantages and disadvantages by Marg McAlister. She lists several questions to ask when deciding to use or not to use a prologue.

http://www.writing-world.com/fiction/prologue.shtml: An interesting take on the multiple roles a prologue can play in your novel. If your prologue is not doing any of the jobs it’s supposed to, then it doesn’t belong in your novel.