Houston, We’ve Got a Problem (RWA, Please Fix This!)

Hey everyone,

So yesterday I received the following email from the Romance Writers of America:

Dear Marni Bates,

Due to the failure to obtain the minimum number of entries (5 percent of total contest entries) required by the contest entry deadline, the Young Adult Romance category of the 2014 RITA® Contest has been canceled.

I’m not going to lie, I’m really disappointed.

Awards are important. And I’ve spent the past hour staring at my screen trying to figure out how to discuss them without coming across as narcissistic. Here’s a sad truth: It requires bravery for a female author to say that she believes her work to be worthy of consideration. It’s a whole new level of scary. It’s the kind of statement that you instantly want to take back before somebody says, “You aren’t a real writer! Your stories are light fluffy things of absolutely no consequence!” because that would make you want to crawl up into a very tight ball in the back of your closet.

Which is why I still feel obligated to preface this post with something self-depreciating.

Not that I expected to be nominated…

Not that I had a shot at reaching the finals…

I’m mostly disappointed that so many of my peers won’t get the recognition they deserve…

And yes, I absolutely believe that gender plays a large role in this. If you want to read an amazing article on what it’s like to be a female YA author, I highly recommend this piece by Sarah Rees Brennan. It’s spot on.

Here’s a small excerpt from her article:

Common Responses To Female Authors Promoting Themselves I Have Seen, Over and Over Again.

“Why do you think you are so great? You are not so great.” (By promoting yourself/talking about yourself or your work, you indicate that you do think you, and/or your work, has some value, and there is so much pushback, conscious and unconscious, to that.)

“Don’t reblog fan graphics/talk about your characters/talk about your MALE characters (what do you think you are, some sort of harlot?)/be so smug about your books as if you think they might be any good. It makes it seem like you think you’re so great!”

“Do you expect PRAISE?” (I don’t! I never do. Most ladies I know don’t, being accustomed to expecting constant negativity. But it would be nice if people didn’t talk about praise as if it is some incredible, celestial prize that a women should never even dare to dream of getting, and the very idea of them getting it is to be scorned.)

“She’s writing romance and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing YA and that’s girly and it sucks./She’s writing literature and men write it better and she sucks./She’s writing about a girl and girls are annoying/shallow/not literature.”

So I repeat: Awards are important. Why? It’s a source of validation. And for a whole bunch of us, it means that we will feel valued instead of dismissed. Especially if you write books that end with a happily ever after.
Now I will always love the Romance Writers of America. I’ve met so many unbelievably talented people through that organization. My life is a hundred thousand times more awesome because of the friendships that have formed, too!
But they have made a huge mistake.
The Young Adult community within the RWA first began to feel alienated last year when the organization decided that all books in that category must “focus primarily on the romantic relationship between two adolescents.”
Here’s the problem: YA is all about coming of age. It’s about figuring out your own identity at a time in life where everyone has an opinion about your future. And yes, YA protagonists often navigate complicated romantic relationships, but the happily ever after is usually built on the character’s ability to know what they believe in. Young Adult fiction can also mean just about anything. Historical. Suspense. Horror. Sci-fi. Contemporary. Humor. Drama. There are YA books that include all of those elements…and have a romance too!
So here is the position that most YA writers found themselves in. Do I really want to spend fifty bucks when I’m pretty sure my book is going to be instantly disqualified? Do I want to feel guilty about focusing more on the growth of a primary character instead of an overarching romance?
And for a bunch of people the answer to that was a resounding, “Oh, hell no!” Some of my friends are going to leave the organization because they feel so frustrated/alienated by these policy changes.
Now that whole category has been eliminated.
I know you might be sick of hearing this, but…AWARDS ARE IMPORTANT!
This community is important! This is our refuge when the rest of the world tells us that we are girly and that we suck. So I hope the RWA will remove the problematic language and consider opening the category to late submissions.
I’d love to hear your opinions!
~Marni
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Almost Too Much Awesomeness for One Blog Post!!

Hey everyone!

Okay, it’s been awhile since my last post. I have some very exciting news that I’m not allowed to share right now though. So I thought if I put myself on blogging lockdown that would make my secret keeping easier.

It totally didn’t.

And now I have all of these things to tell you!

Where to start? Perhaps with the Romance Writers of America who recognized the absolute brilliance of my friend Erica O’Rourke’s book, Bound?

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Erica is one of those authors that makes you curl up into a little ball and say, “I cannot handle the awesome. I. Cannot. Handle. The. Awesome.

At least that was my reaction while I read her books.

So I could not be more thrilled for her (or more excited to meet her in real life at the RWA conference in Atlanta! We will be speaking on a panel with the spectacular Jennifer Estep, the incomparable Nina Berry, and our editor-of-awesome Alicia Condon!) and all the other nominees!

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I look forward to meeting you all in Atlanta!

AND THEN…

I received this COMPLETELY AWESOME package from KTeen!

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Advanced Reader Copies of INVISIBLE (Jane’s book)!!!

I’m going to set up giveaways and post some sneak peeks soon! So keep checking in!

AND THEN…

I got another package from KTeen with the coverflats of NOTABLE (Chelsea’s book)!!!

But if I posted those right now that might be too much awesome. I don’t want to send you into awesome overload all at once.

*Grins*

Except now I feel guilty for leading you on so….

HERE IS THE HUNGARIAN BOOK TRAILER FOR AWKWARD!!!

That’s right. The Hungarians made a book trailer! Which means that if you don’t actually speak Hungarian, you’re not going to be able to understand, y’know, what she’s saying…

But I happen to think the CPR scene speaks for itself! I am beyond thrilled with it!

LAST BUT NOT LEAST…

I am starting a vlog!

This is a brand new venture for me so you should definitely expect there to be a learning curve. But I decided that this would be an exciting way for me to interact with all of you in a way that goes beyond words. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’ll still be speaking in my YouTube videos. I won’t just like, stare creepily at the screen or anything.

Not often, at any rate.

So I hope you enjoy my vlog! I also really hope you leave me a question or a comment. Remember: I’m doing this for YOU! Questions about writing, editing, college, high school, life…all of it is totally fair game!

Marni’s Vlog!

Or for the direct link to YouTube: 

And on that note…it’s time for me to get back to writing!

Love,

Marni

The Waiting Game

Hey everyone!

So right now it sort of feels like my life is in limbo.

See, while my fabulous editor is reading Notable I have been doing . . . approximately nothing. Okay, that’s not quite true. I have read a whole bunch of romance novels recently. I sort of went on a Susan Elizabeth Phillips binge. For those of you unfamiliar with her books, she specializes in contemporary romances that have you laughing one moment and crying the next.

And yes, I cried over each and every one of her books I read. Again.

She even got me all teary-eyed over a football-playing hero named Bobby Tom Denton. Seriously. Good ol’ Bobby Tom had me bawling.

And before you suggest that maybe I have a hormone imbalance or something, you should know that my friend Lisa Lin from over at Teatime Romance had the exact same reaction!

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Bobby Tom’s book. Although my favorite one is still This Heart of Mine.

Now if you’re thinking, “Okay, Marni, so you read a bunch of books. What else have you accomplished?” the answer is . . . not a whole lot.

Mostly I’ve been obsessing about the Romance Writer’s of America award (knowns as the RITAs) which will be announced on March 26th.

13 days from now.

Roughly 312 hours from now.

Not that I’m anxiously awaiting the announcement or anything. I have hardly given it a thought! I mean, it’s only the award I’ve been dreaming about since I was fifteen. So…whatever! No big deal.

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Okay, the scary lady is right. I’m totally lying.

It’s a really big deal. And even though I honestly don’t think I’m going to be nominated (I know some of the authors who submitted their work. This isn’t false modesty here. Some fricking amazing books have been entered!) the wait is still totally getting to me.

I know it’s not cool to admit. I probably should be playing off the whole thing or keeping my big mouth shut. But I can’t seem to manage it this time.

Maybe that’s because I also have some book news that I’m not allowed to announce yet. And the combined stress of the waiting and the silence is driving me up the freaking wall.

Although in my case that just means my sleep cycle is all out of whack and I have been hitting the girl scout cookies harder than I should be right now. I also had a dream that I was Jennifer Lawrence and I went ice skating. Not sure if that has anything to do with it, but I thought it was worth mentioning.

So if any of you are also stressing out over the RITAs or anything else you’ve got going on, I would love to hear about it! If any of you have any waiting-related advice, I’m totally game for that too!

And now I should really—zzzzzzz

~Marni

My AWKWARD Pubversary is Here!!!!! Oh, and Happy New Year!

Hey everyone,

So here’s a fun author fact: a book’s official release date is often referred to as “pub day.”

This is not because authors tend to go straight to the nearest bar and order way too many cocktails while they brace themselves for reviews. Although I admit that idea has some merit. But most of us wake up on pub day and sprint to the nearest Barnes & Noble so we can find our books on the shelf.

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“Hellooo!!!!!”

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(My pub day for DECKED WITH HOLLY. No drinking was involved in the making of these photos.) 

But to the best of my knowledge there isn’t an industry term for the one year anniversary of  a book.

Until now!

Because tomorrow marks my AWKWARD pubversary!!!

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That’s right: exactly one year ago I was a college student freaking out over her debut novel.   One year ago maybe five people (excluding my relatives) had read AWKWARD. 

One year ago I feared my debut would look a lot like this:

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Or this…

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Honestly, I think if you’re not afraid of getting this response there might be something wrong with you.

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(Nervous author in the Serengeti. My resolution was to avoid being eaten by a lion.)

And now that I look back over everything that has happened this year…I’m kind of speechless.

Here are just some of the highlights:

AWKWARD was published!

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I laughed really hard when I saw this in my own hometown.

I met Ellen DeGeneres!

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My mom opened a fabulous quilt store in Ashland, Oregon called Sew Creative. And she drafted asked me to be a bobbin in the 4th of July parade for her.

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I created some pretty awesome art projects at Southern Oregon University.

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“Now who could have done that, I wonder?”

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I was going for a Statue of Liberty meets Starbucks meets heavily-caffeinated Marni look. I think it worked…

I failed to get my driver’s license…

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“I swear, I wasn’t driving over the speed limit!”

I graduated from Lewis & Clark college!

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Certified college graduate and everything!

I went to the Romance Writers of America conference!

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Jackpot!

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I also got to hang out with all of these incredibly talented authors!

My short story EPIC REVENGE was published in the Magical Mayhem anthology!

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I found out that Disney wants to option AWKWARD as a made-for-TV movie!

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DECKED WITH HOLLY was published and I seriously improved at making book trailers!

AWKWARD is going to be translated into Portuguese, Spanish and Hungarian!

(I don’t have a picture for this, but I am super excited)

And I finished writing my first draft of Chelsea’s book, NOTABLE! I’m almost finished with my first round of editing too. So that feels pretty darn great.

Honestly, this has been the most amazing year for me. And the best part has definitely been you! The love and support I have received is just…incredible.

So thank you for the best pubversary a writer could ever wish to receive!

As a sort of pubversary present you can win a copy of DECKED WITH HOLLY from the lovely Kathy at her blog I Am A Reader, Not A Writer.

Giveaway here!

She also asks me some fabulous interview questions that I hope you will all enjoy!

And don’t forget to check out all the other stops in my DECKED WITH HOLLY blog tour for even more chances to win!

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Tour Schedule
Week One:
Dec. 31, 2012 – Kathy @ I Am A Reader Not A Writer – Author Interview
Jan. 1, 2013 – Karielle @ Books a la Mode – Guest Post – Author Top Ten
Jan. 2, 2013 – Krystal @ Live to Read – Review
Jan. 3, 2013 – Aeicha @ Word Spelunking – Guest Post
Jan. 4, 2013 – JennRenee @ JennRenee Read – Review
Week Two:
Jan. 7, 2013 – Tara @ Hobbitsies – Guest Post
Jan. 8, 2013 – Kailia @ Reading the Best of the Best – Review
Jan. 9, 2013 – Hannah @ The Girl in a Cafe – Author Interview
Jan. 10, 2013 – Emilie @ Emilie’s Book World – Review
Jan. 11, 2013 – Rachel @ Parajunkee – Guest Post
And on that note, I hope everyone has an extraordinarily awesome New Years!
Much love,
Marni

 

 

 

Secret Travel Plans and Upcoming Events Revealed!

Hey everyone,

I’m back in Oregon for Thanksgiving!

*Happy dances*

Normally, I like to keep everyone apprised of my travel plans before I hop on airplanes, but not this time.

Why you ask?

Because I’m here as a Thanksgiving/birthday surprise for my mom.

Although, apparently what she really wants for her birthday is a new trash can. I’m not kidding. And when I pointed out that the last time I checked never is the right year for a birthday trash can, she insisted that she doesn’t want just any old garbage bearing receptacle.

Oh no, she wants an enormous green one that’s up to Ashland code with a lid that actually closes properly.

“Sounds like rubbish to me!”

Still, when I jumped out from behind a white pillar to surprise her at the airport, her expression was priceless. I was pretty amazed myself…that my family managed to keep it a secret.

I may be the only blogger in the family but none of us are particularly good at keeping secrets.

Which is why I will reveal all my plans right now:

I’m going to be in Ashland until November 26th and then my aunt and I will be driving up to Portland. This is the point where an accurate Magic 8 Ball would insist that I should try again later because it cannot predict now.

One of the best parts of my job is the travel flexibility. I can pretty much work wherever I can get a steady supply of coffee and Internet access. So I’m not sure when exactly I will be returning to LA.

To be honest, part of the reason my travel plans are so open right now is because I’ve got a serious case of tunnel vision going on.

I have a week to turn in the (hopefully) last round of edits for Invisible.

“Damn you, evil paragraph! Why must you ruin everything? WHY?!” 

And the only other thing my mom requested for her birthday–besides the trashcan–was a copy of Notable. I thought that I might be able to appease her by printing out the 2/3rds of it which I’ve edited but…she’s finished it already.

And now she keeps not-so subtly dropping hints that she wants to read more.

Today as we walked together to her fabulous quilt store, Sew Creative, she sighed and said, “This weather is great for quilting. Or reading.”

When I merely nodded, her smile widened devilishly.

“Hint hint.”

Yeah…so no pressure there.

I also have a short story for an anthology that needs to be edited (More on that later! I’m so excited for it!) and I’m organizing two panel proposals for the Romance Writers of America conference this year.

And I have a super exciting Decked with Holly project that I’m hoping to reveal on Thanksgiving!

So stay tuned for that explosion of awesomeness.

It’s times like this when I laugh really hard when my siblings suggest that I get a real job.

Okay, so maybe I respond more like this:

But if everything goes according to plan, most of the pressure should be off in a week or two.

And in the meantime, I get to enjoy a family Thanksgiving in my hometown. I get to go for walks and see trees with actual leaves that are actually changing color. I’ve also found time to snuggle with our dog Rascal and to read romance novels in the hot tub.

So despite the time crunch, I’m enjoying the holiday season to the fullest!

Now I better get back to work.

Happy reading, everyone!

~Marni

Living in the City of Angels!

Hey everyone!

I moved to Los Angeles!

And even though I’m approaching my two week anniversary in my new place, it still doesn’t feel real. Everything came together so perfectly for me.

Here’s what happened:

It all started with my signing event in Pasadena with YA superstars Brigid Kemmerer and Nina Berry!

Brigid is on the left, Nina is on the right, and I’m in the middle of an awesome YA sandwich.

We had a wonderful time at Vroman’s bookstore! But I have to admit, I definitely geeked out when my best friend since preschool and her older brother showed up!

Gwyn has seen it all, including a rather embarrassing rattail/mullet hair disaster. I still can’t believe my mom wanted me to have that haircut.

Even as a clown, Gwyn is cooler than me. It’s just not fair, I tell you!

So having her at my book signing really meant a lot. And after the books were signed and cupcakes were consumed (Mmm…cupcakes!) I had an absolutely brilliant idea!

I was taking Gwyn to the RITAs.

For those of you who don’t obsess over the Romance Writers of America conference, let me explain.

The RITAs is like the Emmys. The Golden Globes. The Oscars.

EXCEPT EVEN BETTER!

Everyone dresses up in sparkly gowns and…it’s magical.

Just…trust me on this.

I teared up at the event. Not even kidding. It’s a very good thing that Gwyn was there to hold my hand through the whole thing, because I was so nervous during the award part.

I’m not sure I could handle the excitement if I was ever nominated. Honestly, I would rather have a RITA than a Pulitzer.

Anyhow, Gwyn took me to her apartment so that she could get dressed up for the event. And as I was admiring her super pretty bedroom and her view, she mentioned that she was moving into her boyfriend’s place. Which meant that if I wanted to rent the apartment, that could be easily arranged.

!!!!!!!!!!!

A week later she picked me up from my dad’s place and I moved in.

She pulled up in a limo! Okay, I’m lying. This is from our high school graduation party. 

Gwyn also laughed pretty hard when she discovered that my romance novels outnumbered my clothes.

By a lot.

So now I have a new home in the Hollywood Hills.

There have been a few changes. I had to buy prescription sunglasses, which I never thought I would need back with I lived in Portland. And yesterday my route home from the coffee shop was blocked off by the police. Apparently a suspicious package needed to be checked out by the bomb squad.

I’m loving it though.

Even the domestic stuff. I have a kitchen that I actually use.

Turns out, I’m not a culinary failure. I totally made a couscous-bean-snap pea-barley stew thingie. And it was delicious!

This is what independence tastes like to me! 

Anyhow, I should probably get back to work. I have some editing left to do on Invisible before I can return to work on Chelsea’s story!

Before I go, I’ve got one more thing to share…

My short story for the Magical Mayhem anthology is now complete…and the book can be purchased on October 1!!!!

The last time I wrote anything magical, I looked like this:

Uh oh, Elementary School Marni thinks my blogging time it up!

I can’t wait to hear what everyone thinks of it!

Sincerely,

Marni

Thank You, RWA! I Will Never be the Same.

Hey everyone!

I don’t think I can put into words how much my time at the RWA meant to me. I’m half-laughing and full on crying as I write this.

And we’re not talking pretty crying here, guys.

See, I’ve spent a long time feeling really insecure about my place in the writing world. I didn’t tell anyone in high school that I dreamed of being an author because I was worried that they would discourage me from pursuing it.

In hindsight, I’m glad I kept my mouth shut too. Because plenty of people discouraged me later on and that was tough enough to handle when I knew I was capable of even finishing a story.

I never saw myself as fitting in with the writer-y kids in high school, most of whom were double-dipping in drama club and had no trouble dropping philosophical quotes into every day conversation.

I felt intimidated.

Partly because wanted to be reading Meg Cabot instead of Mark Twain and Julia Quinn instead of Hemingway.

Only I knew it wasn’t cool to admit it.

And when I reached college, my inadequacy only became more glaringly obvious. I thought it would be a good idea to move into the artsy dorm my freshman year. Not so much.

People hated me.

I mean, not everyone in my hall hated me. But most of them weren’t exactly part of the Marni Bates fan club, if you catch my drift. And when I let it slip that I had just been hired to write my autobiography…it only became worse.

Some people thought I was a pathological liar. Not even kidding.

Even the kids who did believe me, perceived me as a dork. And every time I went to an Open Mic Night it was obvious that the kids writing the classy short stories about street gangs were the ones who deserved the book deal.

Now some of this may have just been in my head.

But a lot of it wasn’t.

Leaving that dorm helped, but by that time I had declared myself an English major and once again I was the only person who read romance. Or at least the only one who admitted to reading it.

In my three and a half years at Lewis & Clark I never met anyone who wanted to write novels that ended in happily ever after.

And trust me, I couldn’t ignore it.

Every time someone saw me reading a “trashy” romance novel, I had to bite my tongue. I had to restrain myself from point out that FABIO IS NOT ON THE FREAKING COVERS ANYMORE! If you are going to judge a genre at least have the decency to KNOW SOMETHING ABOUT IT!

Yeah. That was hard to keep bottled inside.

So I felt like the unsophisticated rube of the English department. And landing a four book deal with KensingtonTeen didn’t change that. Not really.

I honestly think the hardest time for me may have been in Australia. I was writing/editing/obsessing over Invisible because I was trying desperately to meet my deadlines.

I remember quite vividly when one of the trip leaders turned to me and snapped, “Is there anything to you besides your writing?”

Um…yes.

But what’s wrong with being passionate about my job? What’s wrong with loving something that empowers me to try to make a difference in the world?

Which reminds me, if you are hoping to be mocked, just tell people that you try to create social change by writing (insert genre here). Works like a charm.

If I recounted every time someone told me to start looking for a day job or to get a back-up plan or insinuated that I, personally, was unqualified to be a writer, this blog entry would be excruciatingly long.

But I did my best to ignore the nay-sayers. I squinched my eyes shut and dreamed of going to the Romance Writers of America conference. I imagined not being perceived as weird for geeking out over my favorite authors. I pictured shaking Nora Roberts’ hand, getting Julia Quinn’s signature, and chatting enthusiastically with thousands of other writers and readers alike.

That dream kept my going.

And it came true.

I was finally surrounded by other people who shared my love of a happy ending. Who understood that sweet doesn’t mean sappy. That romance doesn’t mean trashy. That a good book can change or save a life.

And they liked me.

They supported me. They made me feel like what I did was of value.

Which is why I’m still bawling my eyes out right now.

So this is my heartfelt thank you to everyone at the RWA conference. To everyone who greeted me, who tweeted me, and who treated me as a friend and an equal.

I will never be the same.

Love,

Marni