School Visit: Cherry Valley-Springfield


This past Friday I had the pleasure of presenting to and running writing workshops at Cherry Valley-Springfield. It was a fantastic day, in spite of the brutal cold outside, and that was due to the phenomenal students, who were a fabulous audience as well as engaged writers. I loved the energy and enthusiasm and truly hope the everyone who is reading my work or is working on their own is enjoying.

For any educators reading this post, who are wondering what a typical presentation/workshop day is like, let me provide some details, and if you feel as if you’d like me to visit, please reach out.

The American Hotel

While not required, I was quite appreciative of the fact that CV-S was able to put me up the night before my visit, because driving a distance in the morning in winter in Upstate, NY can be daunting. And I was THRILLED to stay at The American Hotel. From their website: The American Hotel was built ca. 1842 by Nicholas LaRue. After being vacant for more than 30 years, current owners Doug Plummer and Garth Roberts purchased the decaying structure in 1996. After an extensive five year renovation, the American re-opened its doors May 23, 2001. 

Not only was it a beautiful building, but the food was outrageously good. Just check out this Rachel Ray approved Maple cake dessert.

Now, for the actual day. I typically provide an auditorium presentation, where I can speak about multiple topics regarding writing and publishing. At CV-S, I spoke to grades 7-12 about what I write and why I write it. I managed to complete this multi-media presentation within 35 minutes, but I can hold a crowd’s attention for an hour if needed.

*I would love to include pics of the CV-S crowd, here, but for privacy reasons that’s not happening. Therefore, imagine an auditorium filled with teens, not on their phones (props to CV-S for that enforcement), and thoroughly paying attention, while wearing these fantastic pins, made by the awesome school librarian Audrey Maldonado.

After lunch, I met with two separate groups for writing workshops, the high school students first, and the middle school students second. I typically ask that these sessions are filled with students who are genuinely interested in writing, and CV-S certainly respected that. Between the two sessions, I taught 40 students about how to plot and structure a story, and then how to make each section of that story come alive with particular writing strategies. For 90 minutes, on a Friday, before a long weekend, each session was fully engaged. I credit that to the selection of students and their genuine interest.

In each session I help guide the students through their own writing with a whole-class example. The HS students created a bank-robbery-out-of-necessity story, which ended on a poignant note. The MS students created a story about going over the top to demonstrate one’s love, with all things, a jar of pickles. They created a sweet and sensitive story in which a incredible flashback sequence was strung through to add depth to the story’s ending.

Look, it’s me teaching.

Fun was had by all, and I have no doubt that the students who are now reading my books because they saw me are more engaged with that reading. The students who are writing with my strategies now have new paths of entry into their stories. Having authors visit (not just me) is a powerful way to bolster students’ reading and writing skills. It was a phenomenal day with phenomenal teens. I had a blast and was so happy to be invited. So, thanks again, CV-S! For the educators out there, if any of the day described interests you, then reach out, because I hope to see you soon.

Calling all Educators

If you teach grades 8-12, English or Health, or if you are a librarian or book club advisor, then I have an opportunity for you: Advanced Reader Copies of One in Ten.

I have already reached out to multiple educators regarding whether they would like Advanced Reader Copies of One in Ten. I’ve had English teachers who have teens in need of Independent reading books say yes. I’ve had librarians with after school book clubs say yes. I’ve even had a district realize that One in Ten addresses their Health curriculum for addiction education. They gave a resounding yes.

Therefore, if you are an educator, and you think your students would enjoy a contemporary story about a teen who gets a addicted to heroin in a near-future setting where the government has taken over heroin addiction recovery, and who then uses its patients like guinea pigs in one crazy ride of a Black Mirror-esque treatment protocol, then you should absolutely use the Contact form

I am asking for some completely optional assistance in return: reviews. I will provide the details if you reach out. In the meantime, read the back copy of the novel, below. Maybe share it with your students to check their reaction. I will be posting the first chapter soon, but if you think that might help you win over your students, let me know, and I can share sooner rather than later. Let me hook you up!

Copy

At seventeen, Kenny Jenkins is fresh out of his third heroin rehab. He is among the last to be released before the U.S. government seizes control of all rehabilitation centers. It intends to end the heroin epidemic by any means necessary. Kenny fights to stay sober, afraid of what he faces if he can not, but his addict is stronger than his resolve and he ends up in the government program: One in Ten.

One in Ten forces reliance upon groups of ten patients, and uses constant surveillance inside the ward to bolster success. Kenny settles in with his crew, but grows concerned when he learns that patient-tracking continues after successful rehabilitation. He tries to follow the program and be successful for his group, but when Kenny realizes that the government’s technology is more than superficial monitoring, he has one choice: break free or be broken by the system. 

In this follow-up to his series of standalone novels that unflinchingly look at the dark side of being a teen in American society, Eric Devine crafts a novel about addiction and alliance, alongside a fight to find the truth within a government system selling one story while acting out another. It will leave readers questioning whether this is a near-future dystopian, or a prescient, contemporary tale.

Eric Devine is also the author of Look Past, Press, Play, Dare Me, and Tap Out. His work has been listed by YALSA for reluctant readers, a Junior Library Guild selection, and twice a “Best in Sports” for Booklist. He is an English teacher and lives with his family in Waterford, NY. You can find him at ericdevine.org, @eric_devine on Twitter, @ericjohndevine on Instagram, and Eric Devine: Author on Facebook.

Goin’ Hybrid

For those of you not familiar with the terminology of the book world, a hybrid author is someone who is both traditionally and self-published. There are multiple reasons someone would do this: the flexibility to write for different age groups (adult vs. YA); the ability to work in different genres; the desire to control the process and all aspects of the book. This is not an exhaustive list, and one that doesn’t even contain why I’m going this route.

Long story, short, during the publication of Look Past, I lost my editor and then subsequent foothold with my publisher, who was purchased by another publisher. I kept writing, but what I was writing were not projects my agent could get behind, and so we parted ways. This left me with multiple novels and no in with the traditional publishing world. In other words, I was lost.

The decision to self-publish came when I was at the Albany Book Fest and had multiple librarians, teachers, and fans ask what was up with my writing career.  Not the most fun question to answer when you’re feeling down and out, but I explained, and to them, it all seemed like a no-brainer: Just get your work out there. You already have a fan base.

I am so very happy that they all spoke up, because I was close to quitting. Not because I didn’t have the talent or stories, but because I couldn’t see any other viable way to move forward, so tethered was I to the idea of traditional publishing.

And so here we are. I am finalizing the manuscript for both e-book and paperback sales of One in Ten, which will be available through Amazon and Ingram. Therefore, you will be able to get an e-book or paperback through Amazon, or you will be able to get a paperback through B&N or your favorite Independent bookstore, via the Ingram catalog. Tentatively, pre-sales should be available by the end of this month, and the novel should be listed on Amazon and Goodreads by then as well.

Of course I will keep you posted when those are realities, and in the meantime (like next week), I’ll have information for educators who want advanced copies for their students (*wink, wink* One in Ten can be tied into the Health curriculum). Of course, between now and publication (slated for 4/21/20), I’ll have posts with excerpts, posts about influences, the cover reveal (it’s awesome), and other behind-the-scenes looks.

So, Happy 2020. I’m looking forward to being here in a new way, thanks to you.

 

Choosing Your Own Path: A Guest Post from me

Mindy New Blog Header no cat copy.jpg

Hey! I know I stated that I wouldn’t bother you until after the Holidays, but I had an opportunity to be interviewed on Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis’s blog. The focus is on how I see publishing today versus when I started. Please click the image of the excerpt from McGinnis’s site below to read the entire interview. I’m as honest as ever, but hopeful, too. Enjoy, and please check out Mindi’s work. If you like mine, you’ll absolutely enjoy hers.

Happy Thanksgiving and New Novel Teaser

As the title suggests, I’ve got some thanks to give and a teaser to share, but with this post, you’ve got options. Below is a synopsis video, and beneath it is the full post. Watch, read, or do both. Whichever, enjoy!

 
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I hope you have the opportunity to be around family and friends for this holiday about gratitude, and I hope that you have the opportunity to express your thanks for them. 

Thanks to my readers! 
Sincerely, in the digital and social media age in which we live, if you are spending time reading my work instead of spending time on your phone (unless you’re reading on your phone 😉 I can’t thank you enough. There is so much demand for your time, that I believe I offer the sentiment of every author when I say thank you for choosing to spend time with the written word-especially ours.  
 
And a special thanks to teachers and librarians who manage to get my books into the hands of teens. My work isn’t wholesome and what a lot of adults want teens reading, but I read whatever I wanted to as a teen and turned out just fine (mostly). Teens want to see themselves in stories, and not just picture-perfect selves, or aspirational selves. They want the real deal. The fact that as teachers and librarians, you understand this, separates you from the pack. I thank you, and I know the teens in your life do as well. 
 
Teaser 
And on that note, are you ready for more of my work? How about a story about heroin addiction with a dab of dystopian government control? And some teens who are hellbent on not becoming pawns? 
 
Does that sound like something teens you know would read? Of course it does! I’m confident there are adults reading this post right now who would also love this story, titled One in Ten.  
 
I’ll have more details as the New Year begins, because the Holiday season is busy for everyone. I’ll pop back in after all the merriment. Therefore, get ready for some insider options I’ve never before been able to offer, and be ready for April when the novel releases. And, so as to not leave you high and dry, here’s the opening paragraph of what will be One in Ten
 
Here’s the secret no one tells you: drugs are fun. I know a lot of addicts and I can’t think of one who started using because they wanted to feel bad. It’s the opposite. We all know what could go wrong, both long and short term. But that’s a gamble, that’s life. Therefore, it’s worth rolling the dice, because snake eyes are a potential, but so are those double six boxcars. The risk is worth the reward of escaping from this world. Every. Single. Time.  
 
 
 

 

Mixed Emotions at the Albany Book Fest


This past Saturday I was fortunate to be at the second annual Albany Book Festival, sponsored by the New York State Writers Institute. Like last year, attendance was phenomenal, as was the lineup of featured authors–Jamaica Kincaid and Joyce Carol Oates were there.

The layout for tables this year was better than last. I was in a prime spot near the featured signings and directly next to the Book House’s point of sale.  Therefore, I had significant traffic and found new readers among them. I saw many faces from the past, spoke with numerous teachers and librarians about potential visits, and even had some of my students show up to the festival. I was able to test run a short story (check it out here) and simply enjoy the atmosphere of being with “my people.”

However, one question kept coming up: When’s your next book coming out?

I was happy people asked, thrilled that they still care, because if you haven’t been keeping track, I haven’t had a book out in three years. 

And so I was equally sad not to have an answer. Well, not one I am proud of, because I simply don’t know when I’ll have something new published. I have three manuscripts that could very easily become novels, but publishing a book is a process that’s not entirely under my control. 

Therefore, I don’t know what’s next, what the answer will be, but if you are out there waiting, please know that I am trying my absolute best, and if something clicks into place, you will hear it loud and clear. I love writing, telling stories, and being with my people. I simply need to find someone who loves what I do and is willing to usher my projects into reality.

Wish me luck.

In the meantime, thank you to the Writers Institute for putting together such a great day, and I wish you all happy reading.

Writing Advice 101

Recently I received an email from a college student and aspiring writer. It’s a humbling experience to have someone reach out under the assumption that I’m going to know what I’m talking about and have the ability to provide accurate advice for where that person is in their writing process. Because it is a process. If there’s anything I’ve learned in the past few years, it’s that the learning curve for writing extends into perpetuity. That’s simply something that every author has to get comfortable with if he or she intends to keep publishing. 

Therefore, it is with an enormous grain of salt that I publish my response to the aforementioned email. If you are a new writer, someone who is hoping to crack into publishing, this might be perfect for you. If you’ve been writing for a while, you’ll recognize some of the advice, because you’ve heard it and you know it works. Even for the veterans out there, this may serve as a concise but good reminder of what we must do, which first and foremost, is approach every project with a “beginner’s mind” as Goldberg famously said.

If any one piece helps, great, run with it. Possibly some will be more than you need. That’s fine, too. Same for the things you’ve surpassed. Regardless, it all comes back around, so you may want to bookmark 😉 Share widely if it resonates, and happy writing.

Response:
I can give you thousands of suggestions, but some of those depend on where you are in the process and what you need to consider. Right now, I would say that in addition to writing your novel, you should be journaling (it helps to clear your thoughts); you should be reading as many novels that match yours as you can; you should also be watching any TV series or movies that also fall into that genre and analyzing their structure (yes, you have permission to binge watch). All of this will clarify your thoughts about what you want in your novel and what you don’t, as well as help you structure your plot turns and foreshadowing and the climax. Certainly read any book on craft that appeals to you as well. On Writing, Bird by Birdand anything by Donald Maass are worthwhile.
For your novel, the best thing you can do is finish the first draft. Just write it. Do not care if it’s garbage. It will be. All first drafts are terrible, especially mine. There isn’t an author I know whose work is great in first draft form. Once it’s done, walk away from it for a couple of months. Do not look at it. Then, when you’ve kind of forgotten about it, go back and read it like you are a reader, not the author. Mark it up. What works? What doesn’t? Be brutal. Have others read. But ones you trust will provide authentic feedback, and not, “This is the greatest!” Beware of those people. They’re not being honest, they’re being kind. You want the former, not the latter when it comes to your writing.
After that, cut, revise, redo, completely unravel the novel and write a second draft. Repeat the above process for this draft.
Do it again.
Then, and only then, might you want to go anywhere with it. At that point, I could give you many suggestions for that process. However, right now, finish, and then put your writing through the process. It works.
I am currently completely rewriting a 300-page manuscript from scratch. This will be the third draft. It’s better than the other two could have ever dreamed of being. This is the work if you want it. 
Now, that’s a lot to take in, but please don’t hesitate to ask me any follow-up questions or seek clarifications. I wish you the best of luck. Writing is one of the best things in the world for me. Publishing is a business, however. You’ll know where you stand once you’ve gone through all of the above. Have fun!