Pitch Wars 2017 #PimpMyBio

This is my first year participating in Pitch Wars or even knowing much of anything about it. This time last year I was completely out of the writing loop, as I had given myself the summer off of my MA in English and Creative Writing program and decided to skip out on Camp NaNoWriMo because my work life in the summer is wild. So I was ignoring all things writing while I focused on Summer Reading Club and keeping my library afloat while we were short a manager and two other staff.

This year things are (somewhat) more balanced so I am taking a whack at Pitch Wars!

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Now, on with it.

C’est Moi

Hi! I’m Haley Kral!

I’m a children’s librarian at a public library, which means I spend my day reading picture books, doing storytime, helping people use the computers, and any number of random things that come up. People think being a librarian means sitting somewhere very quiet and maybe reading but that is not the case! My job is often noisy and stressful but I love what I do. In a given week I help people apply for jobs, teach STEAM programs to children, give reading suggestions, and clean up messes.

For fun I read, watch TV, go to live shows when I can, eat with friends, do pub trivia, spin yarn, and my boyfriend and I are building a witchy dollhouse.

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Some random facts in no particular order:

  1. I love Alice in Wonderland (in the above photo I have on an Alice dress, bow, and necklace and was going to see a ballet version of the story).
  2. I collect tea pots.
  3. I now own 6 spinning wheels.
  4. My house is also occupied by two black cats, a large dog, and two hamsters that look like mice.
  5. I grew up on a small farm and I’ve lived in Texas my entire life.
  6. I’m an occasional book reviewer at AllAboutRomance.com.
  7. I met my boyfriend on the internet.
  8. I speak French well but not fluently.
  9. If you’re around me in real life, I swear. A lot.
  10. I love all things witchy.

The Book

Or Rumpelstiltskin meets fae meets romance meets trouble.

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This is a YA Fantasy retelling of Rumpelstiltskin set in the fictional country of Wilhelm. I wrote the manuscript as the thesis for my MA Creative Writing program, and it tells the story of Alary Mueller who, while trying to save her father from the king’s dungeon, gets embroiled in a fae plot to bring down the king.

In a mentor, I am looking for someone who can help me tighten my writing and fix issues like overall pacing and plotting. I have taken this story through peer and professor workshops so I am used to taking and using critiques. I’m not afraid to hear what needs to be fixed and work on it.

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WORD Fest

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This year was the first ever WORD Fest, hosted by Tarrant County College’s English Department. I have to say, this was a brilliant effort on the organizers part. They put together a free event for writer’s to come together a meet other writer’s, while learning a bit of craft and business.

It was clear from having registered early that the scope of the event swelled far beyond what the planners ever expected. They offered free critiques to anyone who registered early, and at that point I heard that around 250 people had signed up. By the time the event happened, after one tragic rescheduling due to an electrical issue, around 450 people had registered.

Wow!

That is no small feat for the first time hosting something.

I took the day off to go check out what WORD had to offer and see if I could find a local writing group I might be interested in joining.

There were some logistical issues as far as space, traffic flow, and noise inside the venue, which I think was due in part to the higher-than-expected attendance. However, all that aside, if WORD’s goal was to help writer’s find one another, I think it was a massive success. I definitely encountered writing groups I never would have heard of otherwise. One of them even meets just down the street from my library. I’m not totally sold on which one I will start attending, if any, but that isn’t WORD’s fault at all. I’m a bit…I don’t want to say anti-social when it comes to other writer’s, but perhaps. I think I can just handle only so much “writer-ese” before I get annoyed. I’m a big fan of practical writers who want to talk seriously about craft, plotting, etc. The people who say things like “My character’s just run off in directions I can’t control and I have no way to get them back on track!” always make me a tad leery. That’s a discussion for another day, though.

I’ll do a quick rundown of my feelings about the sessions I attended, however I want to preface by saying that, as I just said, I may be a tad anti-social. I don’t mean introverted. I’m happy to chat with people. However, my patience for weird writer quirks is low. Also, I think I didn’t necessarily select the best sessions for my experience level. I think everything I chose was considered intermediate, and I do think of myself as an intermediate level writer as I have yet to finish a manuscript or attack publishing, but I’m pretty darn close. However, in this crowd I think I fell way more into the advanced level. I do have a degree in writing, I suppose, and a good knowledge of the publishing industry.

So, anyway, here goes.

Breakout sessions:

I went to one on revision that was totally lost on me. I’m revising a first draft now and I think I was looking for something more in depth. This was all very surface level and I have to assume my session-mates weren’t experienced at revision. However, I was a bit tickled because I think the session leader was someone I’ve written with at a NaNoWriMo event.

I went to another session I won’t even name because honestly I got bored and walked out. We seemed to be getting nowhere and I was struggling to hear anyone speak. The speaker did not seem prepared at all with what to say and it showed.

Last session was on outlining. The presenter was enthusiastic. He had a film making background and it showed in how extroverted he was. Yay! Writer’s, ya gotta love em, but they don’t always make the best presenters. However, I was hoping this session would have had a bit more on outlining methods or systems, such as beat sheets, that I could research. I didn’t walk away with that but a few participants tossed out some ideas that might prove useful.

Discussion Panel:

This was a collection of writers, some who are also writing instructors, talking about What I Wish I’d Known… before getting published, before making mistakes, etc about the craft of writing. I really enjoyed this a lot because one of the things mentioned what that age old showing vs. telling issue and how a writer can overdue it. I wrote down the exact quote in my notebook but it was something like…

If you use all your descriptive language on the weather or cup of tea, then you’ve blown it for when you need to really wrench their gut. 

Such a good point and one I came to late in the writing game after many critiques by classmates.

Genre Meetup:

This was, far and above, what made WORD worth taking the day off work. Getting to sit at a table with other fantasy writer’s, including multi-published author Rosemary Clement-Moore, to talk about the genre and share tips and tricks was awesome. I have a lot of things to look up from our talk, and seeing Rosemary is always a treat. I wish I could do things like this more often, because I don’t know anyone else who writes fantasy really.

All in all, I think it was a good day for DFW writers. I hope they’ll bring it back next year because I know they’ll probably have learned from the few snags this year had.

So Much Catching Up…

From the looks of the blog, I’ve been away for a year without updates. A lot has happened in my writerly life in that time, I just haven’t taken the time to come back and update here. So I’ll run down a brief list of what I’ve done…

Last May I attended the DFW Writer’s Convention. It was fantastic and I am going back this year. It was my first chance pitching a story to a literary agent (although I did a consultation rather than a true pitch since my manuscript was unfinished). I took wonderful classes and met some other great writer’s. I highly recommend this conference.

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I took the summer off of all things writing related to drown in work. Then came fall where I completed my MA in English and Creative Writing at Southern New Hampshire University. This meant writing a Fiction thesis which was hard, and rewarding, and awesome. I graduated in January with a 4.0.

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I’m currently in the process of polishing my thesis into something publishable so I can begin the process of querying agents. At DFW Con this year I’ll be pitching it to an agent for real (I guess). I should probably get on that.

In November, on top of writing my Rumpelstiltskin retelling for my thesis, I took on a retelling of Hades and Persephone set in pseudo historical England where Hades is a Necromancer and Persephone can raise the dead with a touch. It was my most challenging NaNoWriMo yet because I had work and school to contend with. I was so burned out by December that I haven’t even opened the Scivener file again. However, I don’t regret doing it at all. I’m glad to know I could take on the challenge and I love the story I created (even if it needs heaps of work).

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Post graduation, I decided to take time off to relax without school bearing down on me. I’ve had two months with no writing deadlines and have frankly let myself get rusty. Now it is the first day of Camp NaNoWriMo and…uh…I am admittedly unprepared. I had a story idea percolating and when I sat to outline it I realized there was just no middle. I also had no buzz in me to create one. I decide to set that plot bunny aside until I can feed it and care for it property. That leaves me midway through the first day of Camp changing projects and starting a new outline…

And away we go…

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Camp NaNoWriMo April 2016

Since apparently NaNoWriMo is the only time I can convince myself to set aside writing time, I will be participating in Camp NaNo this April. I am excited to use this opportunity to hopefully finish out the manuscript I started in November. I passed the 50k word mark for NaNoWriMo and I think another 30k would complete the story.

That said, I’ll be balancing writing time with one graduate school class, so that should be fun.

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Award Nomination

I found out yesterday that my short story “Pyg the Tinker” was nominated for a Write Well Award. I have no idea when I’ll find out whether I won but I am super excited. If I win, my story will be included in a print anthology that is actually available from retailers.

“Pyg the Tinker” can still be read here. This is my steampunk take on the myth of Pygmalion and Galatea. (Not Pygmalion by George Bernard Shaw).

Holy Schnikes! Pushcart Nomination

Holy schnikes doesn’t really sound like a verbose title that would be written by a Pushcart Prize nominee, but it is.

That’s right, I was notified tonight that my story, “She Knit”, which was published in the Wild Horses: Women on Fire 2015 edition was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.

I know that thousands of stories, most of which probably far outshine mine, were nominated and I honestly think I have a 0% chance of winning, but I am incredibly excited to be nominated.

I’m still reeling that anyone found my writing publishable, so learning that an editor thought I was one of their six best pieces of the year totally makes my day.

It’ll be months yet until I learn that I for sure didn’t win, in the meantime, I’ll just be telling everyone I know.

Oh yeah, and I should probably do my NaNoWriMo words for the day.

New Publication – Pyg the Tinker

My short story “Pyg the Tinker” was published by the online literary journal Quantum Fairy Tales. This is my steampunk take on the Greek myth of Pygmalion (not the George Bernard Shaw Pygmalion).

Pyg the Tinker passed his days in his workshop, and his nights in the Spartan bedroom behind it. He chose a life of solitude with only scattered gears and gadgets as companions. He only saw other folks if they came to him when their pocket watch lost a spring or if some other fiddly mechanism needed repair, and he liked it that way.

Late one night, Pyg received a surprise visit from a gentleman sporting a leather top hat and an overcoat with tails. The man did not knock on the gnarled wood of Pyg’s door, but swept in with a loud tap of his walking stick upon the hearth. He commissioned Pyg to build an automaton in the form of a woman.

Read the rest here…