Making time to write … and other (near) impossible things

chuck supernatural writing hard

We feel you, Chuck.

Juggling a demanding day job, two manuscript edits, and a new novel means some things fall by the wayside, and unfortunately this blog is one of those things. I have only two and a half hours of free time between dinnertime and bedtime to do everything I want to do, so something’s gotta give.

Actual image of me rn.

But I promise I haven’t forgotten about this blog, or the short story blog, where we’re dialling down things a little because LIFE. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ You might have noticed we haven’t been posting as regularly at Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand – and it’s not what we wish to do.

Believe us, there are so many things we had planned and still want to do for the blog, but time is just not on our side. We have full-time jobs that sap so much brain juice and head space and take up a huge part of our week. The remaining time we have is spent working on our manuscripts – working to make our author dreams come true – or spending time with our loved ones, reading and imbibing new narratives.

Same, Jo. Except in the present tense.

And writing short stories requires more time and brain cells than people realise. It takes work to make a story coherent and impactful, no matter the length.

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Okay, Lisa might be a little dramatic here but she’s not wrong.

But the good news is – we’re relinquishing some of the space to guest writers in the coming months! We’re inviting other writers to try their hand at our prompts and have their work published on our blog, because we KNOW there are a lot of writers out there who are quietly plugging, honing their craft but afraid to share their work. And some of you are actually better than you think you are. You just need to take that first step, put your work out there, and it will get easier with every story you publish. Soon, you will dare to writing longer stories, you will dare to pitch your stories to agents, and one day you might just see your book on the shelves.

Imagine that glorious day.

So yes, this is an open call for submissions. If you want to give our prompts a shot, OR if you think you have something about writing you would like to talk about or some tips or insights you would like to share, drop us an email at museinpocket@gmail.com and we’d be happy to host you and your stories/posts!

Meredith, Nicole and I will still be posting from time to time, so you won’t have to miss us too much! But I think now is a great time to start featuring more writers – be it aspiring, new or experienced – on our blog and giving them a voice and platform.

We accept stories in any genre – as long as there’s no gore or explicit content. If you’d like to read some of our stories, check out these links below:

My stories

Meredith’s stories

Nicole’s stories

Becky’s stories

Guest writers’ stories

Okay, this was a quick one. Rushing off to work on LAND OF SAND AND SONG (only round 2 of edits, kill me) and maybe work on the next short story (March prompt) too! ❤

 

Do you find that there are not enough hours in the day for you to accomplish everything on your to-do list? How do you prioritise and manage your time? Share your tips with me in the comments, please!

The 5 Stages of Finishing a Novel

EEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!

I’m finally done with not just the shitty Draft 0 of LAND OF SAND AND SONG, but the first round of edits too (i.e. Draft 1), before I send it out to critique partners and beta readers WHO MIGHT POTENTIALLY JUDGE ME FOR THE WORD VOMIT THAT COMES OUT OF MY HEAD.

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This whole journey been far too long (from planning in late Oct 2016 to completing the first draft on 28 Feb 2019) with far too many starts and stops along the way, topped with a lethal mix of self-doubt and despair at ever finishing, and more rewrites than I bothered to count….

But hey, IT’S FINALLY DONE. I can finally dust my hands off this manuscript (at least for a while) and go work on something else.

bye sucker

And by something else I mean the 3428945076 other stories, including old manuscripts and half-baked new ideas, I’ve got brewing in the pot.

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But then I kinda miss this world. Part of me wants to linger on. IS THIS WHY PEOPLE WRITE SERIES? Because they can’t leave that world they created behind? I’m convinced that has to be part of the reason. There is comfort in that mad little world we’ve created.

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Then again, it’s time for me to resurface to the world and be a normal human being again instead of a writer burrito in my hermit cave.

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*squints into sunlight*

But when I’m out in public, I can’t stop thinking about writing and what I’m going to write next. I’m scrolling through Tumblr for writing tips and prompts, I’m taking notes and creating story and character arcs in my notebook, I’m daydreaming about different lives.

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So I guess it’s back to the writing cave for me. Have fun out there!

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Meanwhile, if you’re looking for a short story or two to devour, we’ve got some for you over at Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand! 🙂

Best of Blog: Round Up!

Too valuable a resource not to share. How’s the writing going, everyone? 🙂

Carly Watters, Literary Agent

IMG_5222.JPGI spent 5+ years on this blog and I haven’t posted in awhile, but I wanted to share a great round up of some of my top posts throughout the years.

I think I’ve made this place a good launch pad for authors’ careers answering questions about all aspects of the writing and publishing arenas.

Let me know which articles were most helpful to you!

THE CRAFT

Top Tips for Writing / Editing:

On characters 30 questions to ask your main character.

On comparison to other writers 6 Tips on why writers shouldn’t (but might) compare themselves to others, and why they shouldn’t (what they should do).

On category and genre. Infographic: Do You Know The Difference Between Literary, Upmarket and Commercial Fiction? Helping writers understand the difference between these three categories so that they can market and sell (or query) their book better.

On writing page one: Tips To…

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Why Newt Scamander is my new fictional crush

Today, I just want to draw your attention to this video:

I haven’t felt this strongly about a character since … well, since reading Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (shoutout to sweet, poetry-loving, song-writing wolf-boy Sam) – so much so that I am compelled to write this post.

Newt Scamander is the protagonist I never realised I needed. But I am absolutely in love with him. I daresay I love him even more than any of the characters in the Harry Potter series (Luna Lovegood and Cedric Diggory come pretty close though).

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I really believe that Newt Scamander is, in his charmingly innocent and pure-hearted way, the antithesis of toxic masculinity. His key traits are compassion, empathy, and gentleness. And those are such under-appreciated traits in this day and age.

Newt is a Hufflepuff through and through – kind, honest, and fair (he adamantly refuses to take a side). I mean, okay so he also dresses really well and is pretty easy on the eyes, but those aside, his personality is what makes him so attractive and easily a character you want to root for.

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In the media, men are lauded for being stoic and rational and brave. There’s a lot of bravado and chest-thumping involved, and the hero of the story typically carry those traits.

But Newt’s not quite the hero. He’s quite an antihero, actually. All he wants is to protect his beloved magical creatures and educate his fellow wizards about them. He’s not the most law-abiding person, nor does he care to be part of any establishment. He’s super awkward around people (ha, relatable) and is quite content to be wrapped up in his own little world (again, relatable).

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Plus, his budding romance with the auror Tina Goldstein is JUST ADORABLE. Put two socially awkward people around each other who gradually realise how similar they are in many ways and you’ve got a sizzling slow-burn romance to look forward to over the next few movies.

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Even his friendship with no-maj (aka Muggle) Jacob Kowalski feels so pure. Newt is so accepting and inviting towards Jacob, even showing him his creatures and teaching him how to care for them, despite the “backwards” law in 1920s New York that states magical folk are not allowed to befriend non-magical ones.

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Eddie Redmayne is the PERFECT Newt. I can’t think of anyone who would play him as exquisitely as him. From the slope of his shoulder to the gentle way he talks, the softness of his gaze, his characteristic walk, the way he avoids eye contact with people, and all the other minute mannerisms, Eddie nailed the character.

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J.K. Rowling said that she had been taken by the character of Newt for a while, and he’s a character that she is fiercely protective of – which is why, thank goodness, she has declared that he will remain the protagonist of the Fantastic Beasts series despite lacklustre reception towards him from some critics.

All I can say is, if you think a loving crafted character like Newt is weak and undeserving of protagonist status just because he’s “too nice” and “boring”, then you’re missing out on a character with so much more depth and heart than you realise.

tl;dr NEWT SCAMANDER IS AWESOME AND WILL LEAD THE HUFFLEPUFF REVOLUTION KTHXBYE

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Writer Spotlight: Carrie Callaghan

“Write because you love it, and nourish that love with reading. If you don’t love the process of writing, then the grinding rejections and the demoralizing bad reviews and the empty years of non-recognition will eat you up. But if you love the writing, and you’re putting words onto paper because you can’t imagine another way to live, then what happens afterwards won’t be as important. Not everyone needs to write. Everyone does need to find a way to live that’s satisfying and healthy. I can’t promise that everyone who wants to get published will. But I can promise that if you’re enjoying the experience of writing, you’ll be happier doing the work — and that certainly increases the chances of getting published. More importantly, it increases your chances of living a good life!”

I love this piece of writing advice from Carrie. Her debut historical novel, A Light of Her Own, has been published! And we got the honour of interviewing her for our blog! (https://museinpocketpeninhand.wordpress.com/2018/11/13/writer-spotlight-carrie-callaghan/)

Thanks again and congrats, Carrie!

Muse in Pocket, Pen in Hand

Hello readers and welcome to another edition of our series, Writer Spotlight. This month we’re featuring historical fiction author and Pitch Wars mentor Carrie Callaghan. Her first novel, A Light of Her Own, which is set in 17th-century Holland, comes out today (yes, today!). We’re thrilled to feature her in our spotlight, and we hope you enjoy our interview with her.

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1. Please tell us a bit about yourself, and how long you’ve been writing

Hi! I’m a writer living outside of Washington, DC, and I focus on literary-ish historical fiction. I’ve been cobbling together the time to research and write for the past fifteen years. I have a day job, two young children, a spouse, and all the normal adult responsibilities that I mostly try to brush off in favor of reading and writing.

2. Tell us about your publishing journey and about your debut

My debut, A Light of Her Own…

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There and Back Again: South Korea

Well, that was a trip that ended way too soon. Second time back in Korea and I expected to be a little less enchanted. Nope – there is still so much more to discover and fall in love with. From bustling Seoul to rustic Jeju, the quaint streets of Busan to Jeonju with its old-world charm, every part of South Korea had something unique to offer. It’s a country so rich in culture and history – albeit tumultuous – it’s not hard to see why the locals are so fiercely proud of their home.

I’ve only been back in Singapore for two days and already I’m missing Korea’s crisp, cool autumn air, the sight of maple and gingko leaves brightening up every street, immaculately dressed men and women, the distinct character of small towns and the crackling energy of bigger cities, and readily available clean, healthy Korean food (why is it so hard to find some kimbap or kelp around Singapore??).

Suffice to say, I’m missing Korea big time. For now, while I continue my hunt for kimbap (recommendations welcome!) or seriously consider making it myself, here’s a recap of the trip:

(Click on the arrows for more pictures!)

Can you tell that fall is my favourite season? What’s yours?

Ahhh, Jeju Island. I fell head over heels in love with it the first time round and the feeling hasn’t waned since. Situated at the southern tip of Korea, this island relies mostly on its tourism and agriculture industries. It is the polar opposite of metropolitan Seoul. The roads are long, narrow and winding, and shops close by 6pm in fall. Streetlights are sparse, and winds are strong. Waves crash against pitch-black basaltic rocks that make up the island after Hallasan, the island’s volcano became extinct after its last eruption in 1007 A.D. Eulalia grass grow tall along the roads and bend in the chilly sea breeze. Apple, pear, and tangerine trees are heavy with their autumn bounty. Mornings are frosty and tranquil, which makes a bowl of piping hot abalone porridge perfect for starting off the day.

Sunset in Jeju is a sight to behold. The light there is soft with the promise of tomorrow, and it makes you look forward to another day while being thankful for this one.

People who know how much I love the sea have told me I’d love Busan. And I did. I love this quaint little town by the coast, with its cultural village filled with street art and cute cafés, and even an ancient temple by the sea.

I can’t stop thinking about these two places. They are so surreal in their beauty, so timeless and serene, I could just stay there all autumn and drink in every sight and sound – the rustle of dry leaves, elderly couples on leisurely hikes, the way the sun filters through pine and maple leaves, turning them golden and amber, and this jolly monk singing English oldies along the hiking trail:

I loved Everland the first time I was there, and the second time did not disappoint. The gardens, the rides, the zoo, excited kids running everywhere, parents with their adorable babies, the souvenir shops… Everything I love about amusement parks, Everland has it. Plus, going in fall means there are some pretty spectacular views since Everland is situated on a mountain.

Myeongdong was a lively labyrinth of food carts and street stalls selling idol merchandise, apparel, souvenirs, and more – all juxtaposed against higher-end department stores, boutiques, and fancy cafés. We ate as we walked and tried to take street photos as surreptitiously as we could.

The highlight of our last day in Korea and a splendid finish to our trip: Changdeok Palace. Palaces have always enchanted me, and Changdeokgung’s beauty speaks for itself. I literally dreamed about this place the night after I returned, because it felt like there were so many stories to unearth there. It made me want to rewatch Scarlet Heart: Ryeo (which I raved about around this time two years ago) and write a story filled with palace politics, treason, betrayals, assassination, and romance … oh wait, I’M ALREADY WRITING ONE*.

*Speaking of which, I’m just four scenes away from the THE END. This trip has re-inspired me to work harder and faster on this manuscript, but while I’m excited to finish draft one at last, I also don’t want it to end because painful as it is to get the words out, the process of exploring a new world, premise, time and place is so much fun! 

Anyway, if you’ve read this far, thank you and I hope this post has whetted your appetite for South Korea if you haven’t been there already. GO. Then come back and fangirl with me over its beauty and culture.

Now, before I head over to rewatch Scarlet Heart (any recommendations for other historical Korean dramas, preferably set in the Goryeo dynasty?), here are some souvenirs from the trip:

 

Till next time,

Joyce x

 

 

Refilling the creative well

So in the vein of Self-Care Week, I’ve gone back to watching dramas, something I’ve denied myself for a long while because I was too busy writing and plotting and basically being stuck in WiP head-space. (If you recall, the last drama I watched was Revolutionary Love.)

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And just after watching four episodes of BRIDE OF THE WATER GOD, I’ve thought up a whole opening scene and developed a rough outline for another WiP (it’s contemporary romance, that’s all I can say for now). Plus, watching something vastly different from what I’ve been working on has pulled me out of LAND OF SAND AND SONG world and into another. It’s such a refreshing and much-needed change of scenery, and I feel myself getting hydrated and nourished again.

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I’m such a sucker for pretty, romantic scenes like this. Can’t quit, won’t quit K-dramas.

Also, I’ve gotten started on this week’s short story!! I have the opening line ready and I’m so excited to get started.

It’s amazing what pulling your head out of your ass can open your eyes to. I’d been doggedly planting myself in story world, thinking that I have to read books and watch shows and listen to music that are in the same mood as the manuscript so that I wouldn’t get influenced in any other direction. But all it did was make me weary of that world I had created.

Don’t get me wrong – I don’t hate LAND (at least, not yet). I’m still enamoured with that story and that world.  I just hate chasing word count.

So I guess this self-care thing is working out so far, and it’s actually feeding my brain instead of robbing it of the space and energy to write. If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed lately, I recommend giving this a go. You don’t have to stop creating completely – just tone down the intensity and leave some time to do other things that make you a happy and nourished writer. Fill up your well if it’s running dry!

Thanks to everyone who responded to my last post – be it here, on Instagram, or through private message/email. You have no idea how uplifting it was to hear from you, to know that you’re in the same place but that you feel less alone after reading that post, to exchange words of encouragement because sometimes, that’s really all we need – to know that someone out there is listening and looking forward to the stories we want to tell. ♥

I Need a Break

This is something I don’t talk about normally. At least, not to people other than those in my inner circle. But I think it’s necessary to talk about the bad stuff as it is to celebrate the good stuff.

I think I need a break – from work, from writing – at least for a while. Like, step away completely for a week or so.

I feel like I haven’t caught a breath since April, when my dad was hospitalised for a bleeding tumour in his brain. Since then, I’ve just been taking care of him while trying to hit word count on the manuscript every single day. On top of the day job. On top of exercising twice a day. On top of recovering from my own partial thyroidectomy.

I don’t know why I do this to myself. It sounds almost like I’m punishing myself sometimes – that I need to exercise to “work off” my lunch (the only proper meal I have in a day), to write at least 500 words every day after getting home from the day job before going to bed and at least 1,000 words on weekends (free time? what free time?), that I need to get the manuscript done by a certain date and become a published author by a certain age. That I get so fixated on the finish line (although really, that thing is a moving target that will always shift just a little out of reach every time we come close to it) and I forget to enjoy the journey.

I might take a week off from work – but I get the feeling that I’ll just end up writing anyway. I can’t seem to take a break from writing or thinking about writing. Every minute I’m not writing, I feel like I’m wasting my life. There’s this voice in my head that goes, “Almost 28 years old and you still haven’t published your next book. How much more time are you planning to take to realise your dream?”

Which, I know, is completely unhealthy. We talk a lot about self-care, especially writers, who load a lot of unnecessary pressure on ourselves because damn we’re hard on ourselves sometimes. But often we don’t realise just how relentlessly we’ve been working or how hard we’ve been pushing ourselves until we get burned out. For the past few nights since hitting 60k on the novel, I’ve been crashing into bed early and taking naps on the weekend (something I NEVER do) because I’ve been so. tired. And this morning, I just experienced heart palpitations (which has occurred before).

I’m not writing this to offer solutions or preach about how we need to take care of our mental well-being, because heck, I’m just as clueless about this. I’m just here to share everything that’s been going on internally and hopefully – if you’re going through the same shit – make you feel less alone in this.

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So if you have any advice or suggestions on how to just relax and kick back without worrying about wasting time or not hitting your goals, please share! In the meantime, I’m off to hit up a bookstore and maybe have a guilt-free lunch to kickstart Self-Care Week.

Take care of yourselves too, loves!

updates from the writing bubble

I’ll be honest here. The reason I haven’t been blogging for so long is because I’ve been completely consumed by two things:

  1. THE NOVEL

    I’ve been making steady progress (average of 3K words per week) on LAND OF SAND AND SONG (moodboard below!) since the start of May and am at 54K words now, neck deep in Act 2. *happy writer dance*

    It may not seem like that much, 3K a week. But factor in the day job, commuting, exercise and sleep (both of which crucial to the creative process), and a semblance of social life, that leaves only a few hours of writing time each day. All things considered, this slow but steady progress is something I’m rather proud of.

    While I used to beat myself up for not hitting word count every day (“Seriously, Joyce. Is it that hard to write 500 words?”), now I just set myself a vague goal of 3K to 4K a week. If I hit it, great. If I exceed it, even better. But if I don’t, NBD. I’ll just write more the next week to make up for it.

    Besides, word count is not the only proof that a writer is hard at work. There are a lot of things that a writer does when not writing. We could be brainstorming, fixing plot holes, digging deeper into our characters’ psyches, developing character or plot arcs. A lot of the writing process does not take place on the page per se, but in our heads. So even if the word count doesn’t reflect my efforts, as long as I’ve developed the story further (which inevitably makes for faster and smoother writing), I can sleep in peace.

    Be kind to yourselves, writers!!

  2. CUTIES ON HIHO

    I’ve been HOOKED on this YouTube channel, HiHo Kids. Ernie, Austin, Crystal, Clara, and GG are so flipping adorable and sweet I could watch them all day (and hope they don’t grow up too quickly)!

    I first watched the “Kids Describe…” series with this talented Japanese-American illustrator Koji Minami and was smitten at the way he interacted with the kids.

Isn’t Ernie an absolute bundle of joy?

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Awww, I just heart these two!

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Koji + Ernie = pure love

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Look at the love in Ernie’s eyes! The kids love and look up to Koji so much, it makes my heart so full.

This one brought tears to my eyes, especially when Crystal asked sombre questions like “What is the hardest part about growing old?” and “Are you afraid of dying?”

Aren’t they all just pwecious?

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Austin!!! Did you know that he wanted to grow his hair long because Koji used to have long hair too?

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THOSE CHEEKS!!! And that little bow-tie!

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And just as I was already squealing over how adorable Austin is, his baby brother Adrian came along and I just lkdfajsdklfjsdkla

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Have a great week, everyone! ♥

manuscript roundup + aesthetics

Ask any writer and she’ll probably tell you that she’s working on several projects at the moment, whether they’re still slow-brewing in the recesses of her mind or already splayed out in their messy 56782th-draft glory.

(Note: We’re not talking about the weirdos who devote themselves to one project at a time.)

The question, then, is which one we should work on. The one that keeps us up all night and creeps into our mind when we drift away, of course. But what if ALL those plot bunnies are simultaneously doing the can-can in your head?

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It’s the classic case of too many stories, too little time. I CAN’T WRITE FAST ENOUGH for all you ideas, so if you could just form an orderly queue that would be really helpful thanks.

Will you, dear readers, help me decide? Drop a comment, send a private note or text if you have strong opinions on which WiP I should focus on now, because they’re all calling out to me in my dreams.

 

NO ROOM IN NEVERLAND

Pitch: With the help of her long-lost childhood friend, Gemma has to piece together her fragmented memories of imaginary adventures in Neverland to find out what happened to her missing parents.

Genre: YA contemporary

Status: Complete (Draft 9), but final edits required (damn typos will one day be the death of me, I swear).

 

BEFORE I REMEMBER YOU

Pitch: In a world where memories can be deleted, stored, and exchanged, Isabel and Lucas visit the memory killer to erase their painful memories, only to find themselves starting to forget everything, including each other.

Genre: YA magical realism

Status: Draft 1, page 217 (abandoned in early 2017 and I’m revisiting it now, but Act 3 does not want to reveal itself to me).

 

LAND OF SAND AND SONG

Pitch: After her chieftain father is ousted by rebel clans over a magical spring, 17-year-old Desert Rose seeks revenge by assassinating the person instigating the rebellion: the corrupt Emperor Zhao, who will stop at nothing to possess the elixir of life from the spring.

Genre: YA fantasy

Status: Draft 1, page 117 (WHAT FUN. MUCH EXCITES).

 

BLOOD PROMISE

Pitch: After her brother is captured for stealing fruits from the mercenary Traders who serve the fairies, April allies with a long-lost fairy prince and sets out on a rescue mission … only to find herself caught in a brewing fairy civil war where humans and changelings alike serve as pawns in the game.

Genre: YA fantasy

Status: Draft 6 (abandoned for two and a half years – it’s a hot mess, subplots all over the place, characters popping up in the middle of the story, convoluted story line, etc.).

 

 

LOVE POTIONS AND OTHER MYTHS (WORKING TITLE)

Pitch: The town of Blissville has the highest proportion of happy couples in the country. Dragging along her two best friends, “realist, not a cynic” Ravenclaw-girl Ruby Lou goes to investigate … and traces the source of all that romantic bliss down to a bakery owned by Henry Lee, a diehard romantic Hufflepuff-boy, who might just be Cupid in disguise.

Genre: YA contemporary romance

Status: Brewing, bubbling, simmering

 

A WORLD APART

Pitch: Sylvia is born with a condition that turns her insides to glass. To obtain the cure, she needs to find one of her doppelgangers in a parallel universe. Enter Wes, a runaway prince from another dimension, who is trying to save his war-torn kingdom HAHAHA I CLEARLY HAVEN’T THOUGHT THIS ONE THROUGH.

Genre: YA fantasy

Status: Fetus

 

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