Tuesday, June 6, 2017

In Which I Present My #PitchWars #PimpMyBio

Welcome! I'm Leanne Schwartz (@LifeBreakingIn), a YA fantasy writer and #PitchWars hopeful. Much gratitude to Lana for putting on this blog hop. Thanks for reading mine, and have fun checking out the others! I love reading as many bios as possible each year, because finding others in the writing community is the best part of PitchWars.

Especially when we get exhausted and loopy.

Seriously, I've yet to get in, but participating in the PW community has changed me as a writer. I've found my amazing CPs (Sierra and Sarah) and soaked up tons of writing advice. This past year I've improved my writing, working on plotting, pacing, tension, and character arcs. I read recommended writing books and tons of YA fantasy, studied the chapters shared with me for feedback during PW (especially from those writers who were selected as mentees), and applied what I learned in my latest WIP.

My book, DAUGHTER OF NO TEMPLE, is WONDER WOMAN meets GRACELING. I've drawn on my partial Italian Catholic heritage and smashed it against my fierce feminism. We've got city-states patronized by different gods, female friendships, and hate-to-love. Also, an "unlikable" protagonist (though I hope people love her like I do), magical baptism, and young people figuring out who they really are versus the communities where they've been raised. Oh, and non-skinny heroines, insulting/endearing nicknames, and bickering. So much bickering. All in a word count that hits the sweet spot for YA fantasy.

Yup, I cried.

What kind of mentee would I be? Well, this year I taught an entirely new course load full-time, homeschooled two kids part-time, outlined, wrote, and revised a book, blogged for an educational tech group, CPed, directed a Shakespeare performance with 6th and 7th graders, and called my reps on the reg. I know how to get it done.

And I'll only be substitute teaching this upcoming school year, so I'll have, like, OODLES of time now. I am an English teacher, so while of course I have typos and occasional mistakes (I'm a terrible speller!), my writing doesn't suffer from an overload of grammatical issues, I hope. But I know how much work a stellar book takes. I'd love a mentor's critique to guide me in making my book as powerful as possible. I am ready to take feedback, ready to work hard, ready to rewrite as much as needed.

I really wanted to use this GIF, because AMY! But the "alot" bugs me. A lot.

As a teacher I talk to my students a lot about having a growth mindset, and the importance of revision. The day the draft for our first major writing assignment is due, I ask the kids, "Did anyone write theirs in blood? No? Carve it in stone? Ok, good. Time to REVISE." And the first thing we do is peer-read, to develop our critical eye but also to get a fresh perspective and input on our writing.

Instead of resorting to this.

So, want to get to know me a little better? Here are some faves and facts:

Selections from my writing playlist for this book: Florence and the Machine (Kiss With a Fist, Howl, Rabbit Heart, pretty much everything really), Sarah Bareilles (In Your Eyes cover, Brave, Hercules), Thea Gilmore (Even Gods Do), Natalie Merchant (the Ophelia album, Wonder), Kelly Clarkson (whom I hadn't really listened to, but I needed some power songs: Stronger, Beautiful Disaster)

Some books I've enjoyed recently: As I Darken, The Hate U Give, The Star-Touched Queen, Stalking Jack the Ripper, The Only Thing Worse Than Me Is You, The Ship Beyond Time, Caraval

Fun fact: I met Tom Stoppard when I was nineteen and baby-me FANGIRLED SO HARD. I was writing my thesis on his Arcadia and I have a few Regency YA fantasy plots brewing thanks to all that Neoclassical/Romantic research.

Fact #2: Students and other teachers tell me how organized I am. It's allll a coping mechanism. It does not come naturally. Same with handling scary situations: I once drove to an teaching demo interview belting along with "I Have Confidence" to make my voice stop shaking. (I got the job.)

Fact #3: I can never remember exactly the difference between apricots, peaches, and nectarines.

Some parts I've played (because theatre was My Thing growing up): Rosalind, Lady Macbeth, Lady Capulet, Clytemnestra, the Blue Fairy, the Evil Fairy, a Spoon, Mrs. Beaver, and Kili (yes, from The Hobbit. The Musical.)

And finally, if you've made it this far, I want to share something special a few of my students made for me as school ended. It's a book cover, with room to write in the title of my book when it gets published someday.

We're still working on spelling.
YOU GUYS. My scholars are the sweetest (well, they've mostly nagged me to finish; it's only fair considering how I hound them for their homework). A few are writing novels of their own, and we commiserate over our progress and plot holes. Several have asked to read my book this summer, which makes me happy, because writing YA is all about the kids. I hope you get a chance to read it, too.