Author Dreams

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

Two months ago, I woke up and checked my email to discover that a publishing company wanted to publish my book. After the squealing and happy tears had subsided, I signed the contract and got to work. I had to keep the news quiet for a few weeks, but I’m beyond delighted to share that my Young Adult fantasy novel, Unraveled, will release later this year from Gurt Dog Press. It’s a retelling of Sleeping Beauty where two girls fall in love while trying to break the curse on a crochet shawl, and it’s about faeries, OCD, and figuring out who you are.

Although it feels like everything is happening so quickly, the journey of writing a book started about seven years ago. I’ve been writing stories since I was in elementary school and dreaming of becoming an author since I realized that was a career, but I started seriously working toward that when I was 15. I wrote my first novel during NaNoWriMo, a worldwide program where people all over the world write 50,000 words (the length of a short novel) during the month of November, and I haven’t stopped writing since. I started writing Unraveled in 2016, which is also when I started college…and that’s when everything got more complicated.

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The thing is, I’m an English and French major…which means I’m writing stuff all the time for college. When I finished my homework, the last thing I wanted to do was write more. I grew discouraged because I wasn’t making progress on my book. I had to learn to be kind to myself and realize that college is essentially a full-time job. It was OK that most of my book-writing took place during breaks. There’s a balance between not working toward your goal at all, and working so hard that you burn yourself out. I’m still trying to find that balance.

The picture in this post is from my 2016 writing journal, where I recorded my daily word count. I participated in NaNoWriMo that year, too, and you can see that I hit a block pretty early on and didn’t think I would make the 50,000-word goal. But one day I plunked myself down in the armchair and decided not to get up until I was done. I wrote 20,000 words that day, a feat that I have never done before or since. It took me over six hours, but I finished Unraveled. It remains one of my proudest moments because I fought through my self-doubt and a myriad of health issues for the sake of this novel, which was important to me.    

Over the next several years I submitted Unraveled to about five different agents and publishers, but nobody was interested, so I started losing hope. It wasn’t until the COVID pandemic that I got the courage to try again, because I realized there’s no time like the present. I found Gurt Dog, a small press in Sweden that focuses on LGBTQ+ speculative fiction, and they were enthusiastic about my book…which will release just a few months after I graduate college.

I’ve met a lot of people who say, “I’ve always dreamed of writing a book.” Or, “I have a draft of a novel, but it’s not any good.” Well, I’m here as proof that any nerd can get a book published if you just put the work in and believe in yourself. Whatever your dream is, I encourage you to chase it down, because it will be worth it in the end.

A “Swan” Summer

IMG_7345 By Claire Golden

This is my last term of college, and my classes are different than usual. This term, I’m taking my senior capstone and my last four University Studies credits…which is how I ended up in a Japanese Manga class. 

First of all, it’s a four-week class, which I’ve never done before. And it’s no joke! We have the same amount of content, but it’s squished into four weeks instead of the usual eight or ten for non-summer terms. Every day, we have a discussion assignment due, and every week we have an essay and quiz. It’s vital to write down my assignments and cross them off when I’m done so I don’t get confused.

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While it certainly isn’t stress-free, I’ve really enjoyed the texts we’ve read so far this term. One of the manga we read is Swan by Kyoko Ariyoshi. I fell in love with it from the first page. It’s the story of a teenage ballerina and her struggle to get into a prestigious ballet school. Since I did classical ballet as a teenager, I took to the story right away and liked it so much that I ordered the next book in the series immediately after finishing. 

I never would have discovered this book if it weren’t for my manga class. And I wouldn’t have signed up for this class if it weren’t for University Studies. It turns out that this manga class is the perfect way to finish my English major, expanding my knowledge beyond Western literature. It just goes to show that you should keep an open mind, because you never know where you’ll find your new favorite book.

Move Over Netflix, I’m Reading Again

IMG_0830 By: Anna Sobczyk

After a long day of work, class, and homework, there’s nothing like coming home and pulling up Netflix. Without a doubt, mindlessly watching TV has been the number one way I decompress from an exhausting day. Lately, I’ve started to realize that TV isn’t necessarily the best way for me to quickly destress. 

I was the biggest book worm back in high school. I would devour dozens upon dozens of books each year. Since coming to PSU, I’ll read during breaks, but I stopped reading for enjoyment when a term is in session. Quite frankly, I just don’t want to use any brain function to relax. And yet, there’s something about reading that I inherently missed. 

This term, I’ve decided to quit Netflix (for the most part) and opt for a book instead. It’s been a challenging transition and hard to break up with Netflix. I’ll get annoyed and frustrated that I can only manage to read ten pages before starting to nod off before bed and think, “I’m never going to finish this book!” However, even just t ten pages of reading sends me to bed an hour earlier than watching Netflix. 

Since I started reading for fun again, I’ve noticed it fueling my creative outlets. I’m more rested because I go to bed earlier and at more consistent times. Picking back up this old habit has made me feel connected to a part of myself I’d lost for years. I still haven’t finished my first fun book of the term yet, but—ten pages at a time—I’ll get there.

Surviving Shakespeare

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As an English major, I knew I wouldn’t make it out of college without studying Shakespeare. I managed to make it to my junior year before having to register for the dreaded class. I bought the four required plays and showed up to the first day of class, resigned to my fate. 

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But as we started reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I discovered, to my shock and amazement, that it was a pretty entertaining read. It helped that my professor was enthusiastic about the material and had some fun ways of teaching. For the midterm and final papers, we had the option to write a creative retelling of the plays, and my imagination took off. I had a hard time sticking to the 10-page limit. 

It turns out that Shakespeare is amazingly fun to adapt. I never would have guessed that my Shakespeare class would provide so much inspiration for the Creative Writing part of my English major. But by the end of the term, I had an outline and three chapters written of a novel inspired by Twelfth Night, which I’m still working on six months later. 

What I learned from my Shakespeare class is that keeping an open mind is the best way to enjoy a class. You never know what new interests you’ll discover. Not only did I finish this required class, but I had a lot of fun doing it.

What classes did you unexpectedly enjoy?

Read What Makes You Happy

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

As someone studying French and English, books are pretty much my life. I’ve loved reading since I was a little kid. I remember toting around the seventh Harry Potter book when it seemed almost as big as I was. Although I have less time these days, I still read for fun, and Powell’s City of Books is my favorite place in Portland. But for a long time, I felt self-conscious about my reading choices.

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I always thought that English students were supposed to read Literature with a capital “L” in their spare time…the kind of books that are assigned in class. I felt insecure because most of the books I read are young adult (YA) fiction. I read to escape from the real world, and books like The Hunger Games and Throne of Glass are exactly what I need after a long day of analyzing literary fiction.

Our society has a tendency to dismiss things that teenagers like – especially teenage girls. (Take boy bands, for instance.) Because teenage girls are the main connoisseurs of YA fiction, it gets a bad rap. But there are amazing YA books that people are missing out on because of this mindset. And, honestly, so what if a book is “shallow”? If reading mass-market romance gets you through the day, then it’s time well spent.

I’m proud to say that I’m a literature student…and I read YA. Nobody should be ashamed about reading what makes them happy. Can you relate to this? What do you enjoy reading?

The Pixelated Page

Untitled design-3 by Claire Golden

Sometimes I have a hard time concentrating on physical books. My eyes wander off the page or I find myself reading the same sentence over and over again. For whatever reason, I don’t have this problem with ebooks. 

Nothing will replace the smell of a new book, but ebooks have perks of their own. You can search by keyword, easily highlight, and bookmark without dog-earing the page. It’s easy to enlarge the text. Plus, ebooks don’t take up valuable dorm room space or terrify you by falling off the shelf in the middle of the night (the dangers of being an English major).

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Not all professors allow digital texts in class, but many of them are amenable if you talk to them about it. As long as you’re not slacking off on Reddit during class, electronic devices are an excellent tool. The great news is that most public domain texts (that is, books that were published before 1920) are available for free online on gutenberg.org. Most libraries allow you to check out ebooks. You can also email PDFs to your ereader rather than printing them out.

So while nothing will replace my love for paper books, I’ve come to appreciate my Kindle. These days you can buy an ereader for as low as $30, like I did, which is less expensive than some textbooks! It’s easy to bring with me and have hundreds of books wherever I go… And I’ve gotten a lot less papercuts.

Why I Went to LA Last Weekend

Kellie Doherty By Kellie Doherty

Last February I wrote about Write to Publish 2016 and how it was an awesome networking opportunity. Let me tell you a secret: Write to Publish is a tiny conference. Adorably small, actually. How do I know this? Because last weekend I went to the conference connected to the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, widely known as AWP.

AWP is the largest literary conference in North America. Last year, they had over 800 vendors, 12,000 attendees, and 2,000 presenters. This year, they had the same, if not more. Write to Publish (while amazing) was a mere whisper to all this literary noise.

Plus, AWP was in Los Angeles this year, and I’d never been before. A new city, thousands of writers and publishers, and tons of books? Yes, please! Additionally, I was given a Marie Brown Graduate Student Travel Award to help pay for it. And while I was going as an attendee, I was also there to represent my graduate program in book publishing and Ooligan Press.

I went to panels, readings, and chatted with fellow writers; I tabled, gushing about Ooligan and Portland State University; I visited vendors, doing much of the same; and I even tried Korean waffle pizza. It was three long days, but it was also an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. It was an opportunity PSU helped to pay for, and I wouldn’t have had the same experience without such lovely support.

What kinds of conferences have you been to?

Like Books? Visit Write to Publish!

There’s something about rain that makes me want to curl up with a piping hot mug of coffee and a good book. Granted, I’m rather bookish and it doesn’t take much, but Portland is a literary heaven of sorts. Not only does our city have THE perfect atmosphere, Portland is home to a phenomenal array of bookstores, publishers, and literary events where I can learn more about the industry I love and mingle with other bibliophiles.

I plan on doing just that at the end of this month at Write to Publish, a one-day conference for writers, artists, and other industry professionals that aims to demystify the publishing process. It’s happening right here on campus, and presents the perfect opportunity for me (and you!) to geek out over books with the amazing people who create them. Hosted by Ooligan Press, the conference’s six panels range in subject matter from funding your creative project to graphic novels. There’s an impressive lineup of panelists, and Shelf Awareness Editor-in-Chief John Mutter will be delivering the keynote speech.

The best part? Students can enjoy the benefit of highly discounted admission. College student tickets are only $35, while general admission is $100. Don’t have time to attend the full conference? You can purchase a ticket for a single panel, or just stop by and peruse the free book fair. So dust off that manuscript, purchase your ticket, and mark your calendar. I hope to see you there at #w2p15!


Write to Publish logoWhat: Write to Publish 2015

When: January 31, 2015, 9:00AM–5:30PM

Where: Smith Memorial Student Union