This past week I was able to crash the party at Hall High School in West Hartford Connecticut for two days straight. If you are a parent reading this, and your child is suddenly writing until their fingers bleed and daydreaming on a whole new level, that’s probably my fault. Not only were THEY turned into 60-second storylines by ME, they also learned to see their world through their own mind’s eye with the simple use of twine. They also turned fiction into poetry and crafted outrageous characters from a single story idea. Below is that last class – Character Craft (plus photos from the other classes – huge thanks to Terri O’Donnell who took all the photos).
My goal, as always, is to make teenagers realize that they ALL have the raw talent to become twisted storytellers – they just need to fearlessly unleash their imaginations. And the kids at Hall High? Totally fearless, which was why they were so much fun to work with. Plus, they had a wicked good time writing their teachers into what were basically horror stories.
As per my promise to the kids at Hall, I am displaying their story playlist and stories. The songs they chose are also on SPOTIFY by clicking this link: CRAZY PLAYLIST BY TWISTED TEEN WRITERS. How the writing workshop worked was that I had written the beginning of a story, but it was open ended enough for the kids to be able to twist the story concept, plot lines, bad guys, good guys, motivations, character psychology, etc. into something totally different. And I dumped in many sneaky Easter Egg type “things” that could be used by the kids (I highlighted them in red in the story below). Once the kids had chosen their OWN twists, they picked an “anthem” for their story and character. These anthem songs became the playlist on Spotify.
Here is the story the Hall students had to work with – they changed Jake’s name as they wished and THEY chose Mr. Devine for #2 . . . the poor history teacher.
My name is Jake and there are three things you should know about Hall High School:
#1 My English teacher, Mrs. Fransen, can’t drive. Like, at all. I mean, if parking between the lines was a life or death task, she would’ve been dead long ago. Unfortunately, she always parks next to me, which is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing part comes in a form of a tall iced Caramel Swirl from Dunkin Donuts, which she buys for me every morning (along with her own macho-atto, almond milk, iced whatever), because I volunteer to hike her 1-ton bags up to her classroom each morning. The curse part is the fact that I’ve already replaced my side view mirror TWICE this week, thanks to her grand parking skills, and this morning she nailed it again. I had to use my little sister’s duct tape – that pink crap with the golden crowns and I’m a Pretty Princess scrawled over every inch of it – to affix the mirror back into place on my Jeep. Basically, I had to sacrificed whatever scrap of dude dignity I had so a cop won’t pull me over for a busted mirror AGAIN. So, yeah, don’t park anywhere near Mrs. Fransen . . .
#2 Our history teacher, Mr. Devine, is cousins with Satan himself, I swear. I mean, he actually chuckles to himself while handing out homework that is more complicated than Ikea instructions IF they didn’t include the little cartoon drawings. And heaven help you if you ask a question, ‘cause Mr. Devine will sprout horns and a tail and scream that you weren’t listening in the first place. Sometimes, I think I should record his class on my iPhone and then play the audio backwards. Ten bucks says I’d find a creepy message hidden in his words – probably a recipe for meatloaf that is more Sweeney Todd’s daily special than the school cafeteria (which, I admit, has some really questionable meat).
#3 Gossip is evil, especially the gossip swirling around me right now, which is why I’ve been hiding out under the stage in the auditorium. And I don’t care what everybody says – I didn’t kill anyone. I don’t know how a finger ended up in Mrs. Piccioli’s purse, or how a toe was found in the girl’s bathroom. And the fact that the cops have been crawling all over the school since noon really doesn’t help the gossip, especially because they apparently found a bloody knife in my locker. So yeah, I’m staying here, under the stage with my iced Caramel Swirl, where it’s quiet and dark and no one will bother me . . . especially the dead guy, who I found stashed down here after last night’s show. I’m telling ya – stuff like this is EXACTLY why I hate theater class.
Below is what the students came up with after being given the story above. Author names have been removed from the pages, with the exception of the quote at the top of the page. And just remember – this is FICTION – a chance for kids to let their minds roam without rules or restrictions, which is the ultimate freedom in writing (and why I removed their names).
Honestly, they all did a brilliant, BRILLIANT job, especially under the tight time crush of just ten minutes and being forced to work in teams.
Let’s face it . . . it’s been a year, almost exactly, since True North came out and you’re getting anxious. “Where’s Last Light?” you demand. “What has Conway been doing for a WHOLE year if she’s not strapped to her desk, inhaling caffeine?”
Well, truth be told, 2016 was a bit of a writing bust for me.
I did get about half of the book written (70,000 words), but between two surgeries (mine and my daughter’s), selling a home, buying another house, moving 20 years worth of stuff (my husband had FIVE broken leaf blowers and seven cords of wood . . . um, WHAT THE HECK?), a jam-packed list of author events, PLUS driving a school bus full time and working on the book projects of other people, I fell behind.
Turns out you cannot squeeze more than 24 hours in a day, no matter how much you want to. Who knew?
As it stands, right now, my goal is to have Last Light come out in August (hopefully) and yes, it is the FINAL book in the series (in fact, the epilogue is already written). It is proving to be, hands down, the toughest novel I have ever written thanks to the THREE points of view, a ton of twists and new creatures, plus tying in all the breadcrumbs that I’ve sprinkled along the way (someone needs to take away my breadcrumb privileges next time, PLEASE).
My guess is that Last Light will push the 130 – 140k mark easily in terms of word count (that’s basically Tolkien territory, because I’m a maniac). The book will also, FINALLY, contain a glossary of creatures, characters, terminology, and geography, which will eventually be loaded here, on my website. In total, I have close to 30 characters and they all have intersecting plot lines and backstories that go back generations. Yes, I’m an idiot. No, I don’t regret it.
I’ll be honest: this book wants to kill me. Thankfully, whenever I call one of my pals, bawling because a character isn’t doing what I need him / her/ IT to do and I’ve backed myself into a corner, I’m reminded of why friends are so important: they beat the snot outta ya when you lose focus, and get you back on track.
Madly thankful for them all.
And MASSIVELY thankful for all my fans and their patience.
#IGAuthorLifeJan Day 27
The new Beauty & the Beast series from Sarah Maas . . . OMG. It’s the size of a Nynex, but I read it cover to cover in a DAY. Stayed up to 3am. SOOOOOO good. The second book (A Court of Mist and Fury) was even better than the first.
#IGAuthorLifeJan – Day 25
Who picks these topics?? Dude, I have no desire to clean my office for an Instagram pic! Heck with it – here is my office, disaster style with a side of teenager bedroom in the background.
#IGAuthorLifeJan – Day 24 Todays Today List
I write a series of Urban Fantasy books that have been compared to City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (and I admit, I haven’t read them). The final book, Last Light, is due out this year and quite honestly, the series is loaded with new supernatural characters, a million twists and reveals, and a TON of pages.
I’ve been writing this series since 2012, and this final book, Last Light, will be a doozy, pulling together every small breadcrumb I’ve scattered along the way. Because of this, I had to print part of the manuscript (the first 60k) and read through it from page 1 to page 300. So that was my To Do List for today: read my own craziness.
And now my brain hurts . . . how do my fans DO this???
#IGAuthorLifeJan – Day 21 Author Crush
THIS IS IMPOSSIBLE. I have a crush on so many, MANY authors, so I call today’s challenge “BS!” but, whatever. These are some of my all-time favorite authors thanks to the brilliant books they write. Eva Darrow’s for The Awesome, Sarah Maas for Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses series, AC Gaughen for Scarlet series, Jennifer Armentrout for the Lux series, Renee Ahdieh for The Wrath and the Dawn, Leigh Bardugo for the Shadow and Bone series, and Veronica Rossi for the Never Sky series