About John Hansen

I’m seventeen. I’m a YA writer, a nerdfighter, and a book geek, and I recently finished a year-and-a-half stint interning at the literary agency Foreword Literary (now Fuse Literary). I'm also a Game of Thrones and Lucille Bluth enthusiast, and my ultimate life question is, if you are what you eat, then does that mean I should eat a NYT bestselling author?

TCWT December 2014 Blog Chain

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Hey guys! This month’s blog chain topic was suggested by Lily at Lily’s Notes In The Margins, and I’m really excited about it. She asks:

“What works of fiction have taught you by example, and what did they teach you?”

Because I think this topic is relatively self-explanatory, I won’t elaborate on it too much–but basically, you have the freedom to do pretty much whatever you want with it. If you have an out-of-the-box idea as a response, don’t hesitate to try it. Can’t wait to see what you all come up with!

*If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll assign you a date.

*If you’re new to the site and are wondering what the blog chain is, you can find out more here. You are more than welcome to join in, of course. We’re always looking for more participants. :)

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A Fundraiser and a Book Giveaway

Hey guys! John here. As you probably know, TCWT has joined forces with the awesome young writers’ conference, Ch1Con (you can read a little bit about the conference here), and since they’ve kicked off fundraising for their 2015 conference, I thought it could be fun to support them with a book giveaway.

Here’s how it’s going to work: to enter the giveaway, you basically have to help us spread the word about the Ch1Con fundraiser. The entrance options include sharing a link to the fundraiser either through Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or some other social media site, or by following the Ch1Con blog (which is here!), or by donating or getting a parent to donate.

By the way, that fundraiser? It’s full of awesome prizes, including books, shirts, tote bags, and lots and lots of critiques. You can find it here. If you donate, I’d be eternally grateful. Or, if you can’t yourself donate, getting a parent to do so would also be amazing. (Any amount, however small, is very much appreciated.) The conference is awesome, and it provides a great opportunity for teen writers–hopefully even some of you–to attend, listen to the speakers, and meet other cool young writers, and anything you could do to help it continue would be greatly appreciated.

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Now, for the giveaway itself.

photoI’m giving away four paperbacks, which you can see above. Each is, like, VERY LIGHTLY used, I promise. I’m not really the destroy-the-book, dog-ear-every-page type.

I’m also linking to each book’s Goodreads page below (the “HERE” links). Clicking them will a) open a new tab and b) give you a full blurb of each book along with some reviews, so you can get an idea of what each is about. Entering the giveaway puts you into the raffle for all of the books, but I’ll ask each winner what book they prefer to receive. (If the book that is left is not one you are interested in, let me know and I’ll draw a new winner. So don’t worry about receiving a book you personally don’t want to read.)

WordPress does not like Rafflecopter, the service I’m using to do the giveaway, so I’m going to link directly to the giveaway below. The link is the one with all of the frenzied arrows around it. :-) 

P.S. There are no age restrictions on entering the giveaway–you can be an adult or a teen.

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  • Love Letters To The Dead: This a YA contemporary which, you know, was recommended by Emma Watson and has tons of rave reviews, so it must be pretty awesome. Find out more about it HERE.

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  • The Half Life of Molly Pierce: Really cool YA psychological thriller. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say: if you’re into untraditional mysteries (i.e. Memento), you want this book. Find out more about it HERE.

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  • The Kiss of Deception: YA fantasy. I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into this one, but once I got into it, I REALLY got into it. I highly recommend it, particularly if you like kickass–and flawed–heroines. Find out more about it HERE.

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  • Out of Play: This is a YA romance that’s definitely on the older side of YA. (It’s technically New Adult.) I’m a big fan of Nyrae Dawn and Jolene Perry, and I’ve heard amazing things about this one in particular. Find more about it HERE.

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THE GIVEAWAY–> a Rafflecopter giveaway <—THE GIVEAWAY

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Announcing TCWT 2.0

Hey guys! This is John speaking. I clarify that because some totally awesome things have happened, and it won’t just be me posting on the blog anymore.

I’m not too great at suspense, so I’ll just tell you why: TCWT is partnering with Ch1Con, an annual teen writer conference created by some really geeky and fantastic and hilarious people, and as a result we are pooling writers. In my mad power grab, I am also bringing two more victims into the fold to join us on the blog. This means that TCWT now has a team of nine writers (myself included) behind it, six of which are with Ch1Con, and that we’ll be working together with Ch1Con on a number of teen-writer-oriented events. (You can read all of their bios here.)

Ch1Con Facebook and Twitter Banner 2014

I am really excited about this, guys. This means big things not only for the blog, but also–I hope–for the quest to give teen writers more and more forums to interact and swap stories and experiences, as well. Ch1Con is doing some amazing things, and being able to work closely with them is going to bring a lot of great opportunities for you all. For example, we plan to start running critique contests, book giveaways, online workshops, group chats, and so on. We also plan to organize mini events and manuscript/story swapping on the TCWT Facebook group, so be sure to join the group if you haven’t already (provided that you have a Facebook account that you feel comfortable using). Posts on the TCWT blog will also be more frequent, will cover much more diverse topics, and will, to everyone’s relief, be written by people who are infinitely more awesome than I am. At the very least, there will be one blog post a week, though most weeks will probably have at least two. These posts will span everything from publishing advice to personal writing experiences to book reviews to interviews to random GIF posts–there are no limits on what our writers will do. (Cue dramatic music.)

On the blog, we’re also giving each month a theme. Our writers aren’t by any means required to follow the theme, but, assuming that it might inspire at least a couple of posts per month, we hope it gives you all a basic idea of what to look for each month. If you’re a blogger and one of our monthly theme particularly inspires you, feel free to write a post to it on your site and send us a link–I’d love to read it. This month, in the spirit of the new venture, the theme is going to be more basic: “Beginnings.”

Another thing: we are trying to make it easier for you to get in touch with us, should you ever have writing questions. So if you want some advice or commiseration or a pep talk, please don’t hesitate to ask. We’ve created a new email, TCWTblog@gmail.com, which all of us will be checking in on. If you need support, we want to help. Seriously. That’s what this blog is here for. And if you’re ever feeling down about your writing and you want someone to talk to, you can talk to one of us.

(Side note: I have a bad history of clicking on a comment notification and then forgetting to respond to the comment, so emailing us is definitely best.)

If you have a writing or publishing question that you email to us and that strikes the interest of one of our writers, with your consent, we will likely turn it into a blog post. We plan to have an intermittent-but-ongoing Q&A series, so please, send us your questions! (Feel free to email us with any ideas/critiques/promotions you are doing that you feel is relevant to the site as well.)

To be clear, we’re not doing away with any current aspects of the blog. In particular, the blog chain will remain intact, and will continue to occur every month. The TCWT community will simply be growing, as I’m hoping these changes will help give anyone who wants it a way to connect with other awesome teens.

Also, in the spirit of expansion, pretty soon we are going to be asking you guys to get involved with the blog. Once everything gets going, we’re going to be looking for more guest posts, but also for your general ideas–about contests, about books to feature, and so on. We really want to let everyone have a say who wants to have a say, and to give other teen writers a chance to share on the blog some of their personal experiences. More on that soon!

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And… I think that’s all I have to say! Actually, wait, no it isn’t. Right now, I want to thank you all. I’ve had an amazing time running this blog for these last three years, and I am so excited for things to come. You all are so talented; I know you will go on to do great things in the writing world, and I hope this blog, in some small way, helps you get there. But regardless, thank you endlessly for having read and followed my inane and rambly blog posts. It means the world to me. <3

Now, for the fun stuff: TCWT is home to eight new writers. But instead of simply listing bios (though you can read their bios and follow our contributors here), I wanted to bring out the heavy artillery. So, we’re each going to introduce ourselves via quotes we pulled from our old, laughably-bad stories. Cringes, get ready to be felt.

(Just to be clear: the ages listed below are the ages when each person wrote the excerpt, not their current age.)

Ariel, Age 7: 

“Oh puh-leeze can we go camping?” I asked Mother. “Come on, it’s only 6 hours! A fourth of a day!” “Okay” said Mother. ”And don’t complain that you are bored. We’ll go right back if you do!”

I ran upstairs and started to pack. Oh, I’ve noticed that I’m telling you a camping story and you don’t even know my name. Well, I’m Sally and I’m a detective. So are my friends Lonna and Marcy. My blue notebook stores clues. I live in New Jersey. That’s all you’ll need to know now.

Aisha, Age 8:

Ounce upon a time, in London. On the 88nd street lived a family! A family of four, but not the kind you would think!!

Not with two parents and two kids, not even one parent and three kids. But all kids.

Well I guess the two oldest aren’t kids, Lucinda(twnenty-two) and Tom(eighteen) are the oldest.

Next are Lisa(16) and the youngest Lucy(eleven) and they all lived together in a cozy three bedroom house…

Julia, Age 13:

In real life, I have short auburn hair and dark hazel eyes. When I’m Shauna, I have long chocolaty-brown hair and deep green eyes (Made possible by the fact that I wear contacts.) My makeup-person even piles on an extra coating of blush where my very prominent freckle is on my cheek. No one has ever figured out that I live a double life, and I plan to keep it that way.

“Whatever, Kate; I can see that you don’t want to talk about your obsession with hating Shauna Guarder.” Claire laughed. All of my friends were used to me throwing out nasty comments about the author, but sometimes seemed to forget about this fact and expected me to talk with them about how great she was.

“Hey, it’s not my fault she stinks on ice.” I said with added seriousness, throwing the group into a fit of giggles. My secret was safe for now…

Mark, Age 14:

[In the main character’s intro to the book]

Don’t worry, I’m not about to kill myself at the end of this novel. You’ll have to wait a few more books for that. This is the story of the past seven hundred and thirty-one days of my life. (One of them was a leap year, outraged math people.)

Emma, Age 12:

“You look like a raccoon who applied too much eyeliner this morning,” though Samantha, she never announced her rebuttals, no matter how witty, in fear of being further mocked and embarrassed.

Olivia, Age 13: 

Along with the unusual stillness, something else was bothering me. Something not quite tangible, but undeniably present. It was almost as if I could feel what was causing the forest unease, a sense of hatred and corruption.

Patrice, Age 19: 

At her last words the chapel erupted with claps and cheers; it was David. With all the applause he was getting I would’ve thought he was a politician who’d just announced he was running for President.

Not that I blamed them, I mean David was hot, and hot wasn’t a word I used to describe people. His smile almost made me melt. He had the richest, dark brown eyes, perfectly, plump lips, and warm caramel skin. It was a scene straight out of a teen romance novel. That is if I believed in insta-love and all that. However, it wasn’t only the female population he captivated for everyone seemed to be in love with him.

Realizing he had charmed me earlier just like he was charming everyone now, I let me eyes wander around the room, trying to escape the rhythm of his voice. He was probably the same as every other spoiled, popular, student body president who was most likely also the captain of some sports teams. Since I liked to avoid those, hopelessly in love with themselves, douchebaggy types, swooning over him, again, would be a complete waste of my time.

Kira, Age 10:

[Kira posted her first ever story on her blog, complete with shiny photos and formatting, so I’m just going to link to that. Read it here.]

John, Age 13:

My name is Taylor Williams and it was I who murdered Barbara Jensen. Now don’t be too appalled by me, I didn’t have much choice but to kill her. Barbara Jensen was a fine woman. I can’t say she was my favorite person but I had nothing against her and she had nothing against me. Why kill her, you ask? Well, I had my reasons. However, in the event that you are a cop, these reasons will not be shared with you. All I will say is that she knew too much. She had stumbled upon something inadvertently; a secret, something that could bring me down and I could not let word get out. Once I discovered that she knew, I made her swear that she would not tell anyone, especially the police. I informed her that if she were to reveal me (quote) “Your future will be very bleak.” Nevertheless, I couldn’t risk it. Word would almost certainly spread. So I silenced her voluble mouth.

[^*CRINGES VERY VERY HARD* Can you tell I had a thesaurus with me that day?] 

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And with that, I think it’s finally official: TCWT 2.0 has arrived.

(DUN DUN DUN.)

TCWT November 2014 Blog Chain

Hey guys!

It’s time to announce the topic for the next blog chain, which begins on November 5th. I’m really excited about this one, and even though the topic is a little different from the norm, I think it could have some truly awesome results.

Use pictures and individual words to show what, to you, is the essence of being a teenager. 

By that, I mean for you to talk about what feelings and emotions and ideas you feel represent your teen experience. Basically, I want to know what growing up means to you.

Although this topic is not directly about writing, I think–considering that a lot of us write YA, which focuses on the lives of teenagers–that it’s relevant. Hopefully it’ll get us to take a hard look at ourselves and our teen experiences, and figure out what, to us, are that experience’s most important characteristics. (If you write YA, this might even translate into your own writing, as it could help you figure out what themes connect your characters.) We all have different stories, and seeing how people define theirs during this wacky section of life called being a teenager could be hugely insightful, even inspiring. Books, after all, are about people and their stories.

Also, for the first time, I plan to publish a roundup blog post on TCWT when the chain ends, and I’ll feature my favorite word and/or picture from each blog (and will link back to all of your posts), so onlookers can get a glimpse into the different responses.

Some side notes: by “pictures,” I mean pretty anything. You can use a normal stock image, or you can use a drawing (by you or someone else), a painting, a comic, a meme–anything. You can either take your own photos (maybe of stuff around your room, outside your home, or something else altogether), or you can use photos on the internet. However, if you choose the latter option, please make sure to link back to the source. I really want to be sure credit is given to the photographer or artist.

As for “individual words,” I mean a list of words that you feel is integral to your teen experience. (BTW – please only share what you feel comfortable sharing. There is no pressure to reveal more or less about yourself than you want to.) You can show these words by actually typing out a list of in your blog post, or by writing them on notecards and taking pictures, or even by finding a fancy image that displays the word on it, i.e.:

(Found: http://fbopinmate.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/hope.jpg)

In your post, you’re welcome to elaborate on any word or picture you include, but, if you can, please keep the explanations at a minimum. I encourage you to keep your posts relatively description-free, and let the words and the pictures speak for themselves.

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If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll assign you a date. And if you’re unsure whether or not you should join, for this chain in particular I say YES! :) The more voices we get, the more meaningful the blog chain will be.

Let me know if you have any questions!

 

Writing In Your Own Style

Here’s the thing: I don’t write lyrically.

I’ve tried to, of course. Countless times I’ve attempted–and failed–to be poetic in my writing, because I hoped that if I just worked hard enough, my writing style would magically fall into that category of “lyrical” that so many of my favorite books are a part of.

But, here’s the other thing: it hasn’t worked.

My style, simply put, refuses to change. No matter how much I try, I can’t get the whole lyricism thing down. At best, my final product comes out as an overworked, purple-prose-filled mess. At worst, it’s completely indecipherable. (Who knew a person could fit so many rain-as-a-metaphor-for-tears lines into one paragraph?)

This is a reality I’ve struggled a lot with over the past year or so. As someone with critique partners who write incredibly beautifully, I have sometimes felt inadequate as a writer. I’ve even, on multiple occasions, desperately tried to “adjust my style” midway through a first draft so I could write “better.” In fact, whenever I come across a particularly amazing snippet of a friend’s manuscript, I seemingly have to go back and rewrite my whole book in a style like theirs, thinking that will improve my writing. Basically: I read other people’s lyrical prose in awe, and then I look back at my own WIP (Work in Progress) and I feel utterly lacking. I wonder why I can’t be so evocative, why I can’t just freaking write the way my favorite authors do.

But then, when I am not obsessing over my style and comparing it to that of others, I’m happy. I really am. When I don’t try to write lyrically, my writing is natural. And fun. And is, most importantly, better. Sure, the awkwardly-teenager style I currently use may not fit the traditional conception of “good.” Hell, to a strict critic, it probably wouldn’t even be considered “good,” period. But I learned something the other day, when I reread my first few chapters and realized they weren’t half bad, and that is this: it doesn’t matter. You don’t write to win awards for how deep your metaphors are. You don’t write to master a technique just because it’s traditionally considered the best. You write to be creative. You write to be different. You write to be you, and to master your style–whatever that may be.

The great thing about writing is that everyone’s work is unique. Every writer, no matter who they are or where they are from or what their aim is, is different, and as a result so is their writing. I know it’s a cliche; I know, at this point, it’s probably meaningless. But I mean it. And no matter how much better you think Dan from across the hall is at writing than you, trying to mimic his style–even mimicking it vaguely, like I used to do–just isn’t worth it. It doesn’t help you, because Dan’s style has already been done before. Yours hasn’t. And I promise you that yours, too, with enough hard work, will be absolutely amazing.

That’s not to say it’s impossible to change writing styles, or that there is anything wrong with writing lyrically. I am forever in awe of people who write like that. But great writing comes in many forms, and “deep and poetic” does not hold a monopoly on it. So, I say, work on improving your own style first, before you try to switch to another. Then maybe you’ll see how talented you truly are.

It boils down to this: awesome is a spectrum. Just because most people like blue and you paint in fulvous* doesn’t mean your work is any worse; it just means it’s more you. It’s equally awesome, in a different way.

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*THIS IS A REAL COLOR, BTW.

Also, note for anyone interested: the November blog chain announcement post will be posted on October 24th. I’m endlessly sorry about not getting up a chain for this month. And, on that note, there’s also some exciting blog-related news coming toward the end of the month. :D

September 2014 TCWT Blog Chain

Hi guys! Since I’m posting this a little late (I meant to have it up a day early–sorry!) and to give people ample time to sign up, I’ve decided to start the blog chain two days later this time, on September 7th. So the schedule will go up on the 6th; you have until then to sign up.

Also – thanks to everyone who participated in the August blog chain! It was tons of fun to read all of the posts, and I’m still going through them.

For September’s chain, I thought an interesting topic could be:

“What are your favorite book beginnings and/or endings?” 

I am really excited about this because the very beginning and very ending of a book are often the most difficult parts for writers to get right, yet they are usually where the reader is most impressionable. Examining how authors have done them well in the past will hopefully be a help to anyone who is stuck with their own manuscript. Plus, being a fan of great endings in particular, I have a feeling it can lead to some great new book discoveries.

Some notes: I realize the “favorite endings” part of this question makes it tricky, but please, refrain from spoilers in your post. If you could talk in vague terms about why you liked a particular ending, that’d be great. Also, the length that actually defines “beginning” or “ending” is really up to you. A page, a chapter, an opening or closing monologue–anything works. It might even be fun to just include a bunch of your favorite opening and closing lines. (I was actually going to make that be the topic, but I realize people tend not to keep track of that kind of thing and it might be more difficult.) And finally, when I say “book,” I mean that really loosely. Movies, plays, musicals, TV shows, etc are all valid to include as well.

And I think that’s all! If you’re interested in participating in the blog chain, just comment below with a link to your blog and any days you can’t post on, and I’ll assign you a date. (First-time visitors: you are completely welcome to join as well!) Thanks! :)

 

Humans of New York and Writing Inspiration

Recently, I discovered the page that I now consider to be the best on the internet: Humans of New York. For those who don’t know, HONY (I’m going to use this acronym throughout the post) was started by photographer Brandon Stanton a few years back, and basically what he does is travel throughout the streets of New York and take pictures of anyone he finds interesting (with their consent). He posts these photos online, accompanied by a short quote they give about their lives or their favorite memories or something along those lines. But what makes this blog so special is Brandon’s insane ability to get complete strangers to open up to him, and the beautiful and thought-provoking stories that they share as a result.

Some of my favorite photos include this, this, thisthis, this, and this post, and honestly a million others that I promise I won’t bombard you with. But all of them, whether it’s the quote or the picture or just the look on the face of the person being photographed, are so real and relatable and amazing. And since Brandon finds such a broad range of people for his blog (yay diversity!), you really are seeing all kinds of experiences, many of which you may never have considered before.

What makes the page even better, perhaps, is the comments section, which seemingly counteracts all of the Forces of Evil on the internet by remaining mostly civil and interesting. Each photo and quote is accompanied by pages and pages of discussion and shared experiences and stories. And it’s those stories that remind me: at its heart, HONY is a page about people.

Books, too, are about people, and in that way each HONY post feels like a miniature novel. It has a story and a character attached, and it makes you think. Not only that, but like books, every post seems to enhance the way you look at the people around you, and it truly does give you a new appreciation for them and their internal battles. Even on another level, HONY does what novels should be doing more of: it gives a voice to those we rarely hear from in the media.

And for that reason, HONY is the kind of blog that reminds me why I read and write. I do it to tell stories, yes, but I also read–and write–to discover. Because I want to know and understand different kinds of people, because I want to feel close to them, and because I want to use stories to help me make sense of the world around me. And sometimes, for me, those reasons get lost in the stress of writing and wanting to craft a great book, and it’s why blogs like HONY have become so dear to me–because it makes everything clear again.

I think that maybe we all need our personal equivalent of a HONY. We all need that reminder of why it is we write. Because, let’s face it: writing is hard sometimes. And when you fall into the black hole that is revising, or when you hit a wall and just want to quit, it is so helpful to remember that you shouldn’t. To remember why you should keep going. To remember that, published or not, your words and your stories really do matter.

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(Okay, I admit it. This post was 60% a way for me to gush about HONY. BUT SERIOUSLY. It is amazing, and I think writer/reader people will especially appreciate it since some of the stories really are worthy of being turned into books or movies or plays.)

(If you want to follow HONY, you can on Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram, and probably elsewhere,* and you can buy the spin-off book here. Brandon also did a series on the people of Iran during his visit there, which I found totally fascinating. Also, if you’re interested, there are a bunch of off-shoots of HONY in a number of countries and cities, so if you want to find one more local to you and you live in a big city, search “Humans of [insert place here].” I bet there is one near you.)

*Most people seem to comment on the HONY Facebook, so I’d say that’s the best place to follow it if you’re interested in reading discussion after the fact. Also, you don’t need a Facebook account to read the posts. All of it is public. And if you do decide to check out the page, let me know! I’d be interested to hear what you guys think.

Stay awesome!