#TRUESTsem Schedule, Assignments, and Passwords

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I hope you’re excited for #TRUESTsem, my first BookDeeply event, a virtual book club meets free writing seminar. Learn more about BookDeeply in general and TRUESTsem in particular here.

(Thanks, Aften, for the name inspiration!)

Schedule and Passwords

Here’s the schedule for this month’s BookDeeply, along with the passwords to unlock the posts. You’ll want to read the chapters before reading my post.

  1. Truest chapters 1–5: October 10
    1. No Password Needed
  2. Truest chapters 6–10: October 12
    1. Password: chapter 5, fifth word of the last sentence. rescue
  3. Truest chapters 11–15: October 15
    1. Password: “The song was like an _______” anthem
  4. Truest chapters 16–20: October 18
    1. Password: “How could brilliance love a _____?” blur
  5. Truest chapters 21–25: October 20
    1. Password: The name of Silas’ poem truest
  6. Truest chapters 26–30: October 24
    1. Last word of chapter 30. yes
  7. Truest chapters 31–35: October 25
    1. Last word of chapter 34. truth

Note: each password is a single word with no capital letters.

Remember that you can join the discussion after the fact, too! All you need is a copy of the book. On October 15th’s post, I’ll ask if anyone wants to do a live hangout or group chat at the end of the month.

Assignments

I’ll be dividing the assignments into two tracks. The first is for plot, and the second is for character and theme. You can participate in one, both, or neither.

BookDeeply Track A: Plot Marginalia

If you’ve got your own copy of the book and have no qualms about writing in it, I want you to have a pencil with you when you’re reading so you can annotate the reversals. In the margins, you’ll draw the following symbols:

+ Character comes up with new goal
– Character doesn’t get what they want
-> character gets what they want

Draw a PLUS SIGN when a character has a new goal. Underline that goal or state in the margins.
Draw an ARROW when they get what they want. Underline the achievement or state in the margins.
Draw a MINUS when they don’t get what they want. Underline the failure or state in the margins.

BookDeeply Track B: Character and Theme Notebook

Divide a notebook page into six boxes (2 columns of 3 rows) and label them:
1. Conflict/Motivations
2. Questions
3. Predictions
4. Answers
5. Motifs
6. Possible themes

Depending on how you write notes, you could have a page per section or a page per chapter. You could also have a page for each of these categories, for example listing questions as you find them on one page, including a page or chapter number. It depends on what you’d rather see at a glance: what goes into a single chapter or section, or how often a literary element appears or how it progresses.

1—Conflict/Motivations
For each chapter, I’d like you to list a new conflict that comes up while you’re reading. It can be as simple as “West vs Dad” or as complicated as “West feels humiliated when she first meets Silas—why is he acting weird?” Sometimes it’s difficult to figure out a character’s motivations. In these cases, look at conflict. There’s no conflict between characters who want the same things! Some characters might seem like they want the same thing, but their approaches clash. If character motivations are obvious, include them in this square.

2–4—Questions, Predictions, Answers
In one box, keep a list of questions that each chapter asks but doesn’t answer. In another, include predictions of what might happen next or what the answers to those questions might be. When you come across answers, note what chapter the question appeared in.

5–6—Motifs, Themes
Include another box for motifs. Motifs are like miniature themes that can be stated in one word. For example, “Truth” is a motif. “Truth is worth killing for” is a theme. Themes are stated in a sentence. In stories that have a central theme, characters will prove or disprove that theme.

The theme is the thesis, and the story is the argument. It’s difficult to really know what the theme is right at the beginning, but in some cases, the theme is stated outright (this is especially true in movies). In the theme box, write down lines that might be the novel’s thematic statement.


If you’re participating in the read along, read chapters 1–5 this week and come back on Saturday for the discussion. If you’ve never commented on my blog before, your comment might not appear until Sunday. I’ll be at NerdCon and might not have time to approve new comments.

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Help Me Name This Cool Thing.

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I’ve been playing around with the idea of starting a virtual book club with live chats and online hangouts, but I wasn’t really sure how I could pull it off.

Later, I thought it would be cool to deconstruct Jackie Lea Sommer’s debut novel TRUEST on my blog, but somehow still support Jackie.

Then I thought, why not combine the two?

I’m launching #TRUESTsem in two weekends. Here’s the idea, which you may have already seen if you follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook:

I’m going to do a TRUEST read-along and writing seminar in October! TRUEST is a contemporary YA novel, and I’ll be blogging a deconstruction of it, but you’ll have to own or borrow a copy to read the later posts. If you write or want to write contemporary or literary YA, you won’t want to miss this!

We’ll start on October 10, and you can join in or stop by at any time, because you’ll unlock sessions with passwords found in the book. Tweet or post using #TRUESTsem if you’re going to join!

If enough people join the writing seminar, I’ll host some online hangouts so we can discuss the book, just like a book club. Then participants can vote on a genre or a debut novel being published in the spring for our next session in 2017.

Here’s how to join:

  • Subscribe to my blog if you haven’t already.
  • Buy or borrow a copy of TRUEST. That’s it—the cost of this seminar is to support a debut author.
  • Tell your friends to do the above! You can use the image at the bottom of this post on your social media pages. Also check out Jackie’s blog and social media for some great TRUEST memes with pretty images and quotes from the book.
  • If you know English teachers, have them encourage their students to join! (Some books may include adult material—I’ll give a parent rating for each book during the first session.)
  • Start reading at any time and chat about it (no spoilers!) using #TRUESTsem on social media.
  • Take notes!
  • Come to my blog on October 10 for the first post.
  • Comment on the blog posts if you’ve got questions or would like to join a hangout. If enough people respond, I’ll send out a survey with possible dates & times. The group hangout(s) will be private so we can discuss the books without spoiling it for anybody.

Here’s what I need help with:

  • I need a catchy umbrella term for these writing seminars / souped-up book clubs. If you comment below, you’re giving me permission to possibly use the term in future posts.

I’m really excited for this, and I’m hoping we can do it again in March if you miss this one! However, if you grab TRUEST later, the blog posts will still be on my blog. Just unlock with words from the book!

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Author Chats: Interview with Jackie Lea Sommers

Jackie Lea Sommers‘ debut novel, Truest, is available for preorder! Find it at your local independent bookstore, Barnes and Noble, or Amazon.

About TRUEST:

A breathtaking debut brings us the unforgettable story of a small-town love, big dreams, and family drama.

Silas Hart has seriously shaken up Westlin Beck’s small-town life. Brand-new to town, Silas is different from the guys in Green Lake. He’s curious, poetic, philosophical, maddening—and really, really cute. But Silas has a sister—and she has a secret. And West has a boyfriend. And life in Green Lake is about to change forever.

Truest is a stunning, addictive debut. Romantic, fun, tender, and satisfying, it asks as many questions as it answers. Perfect for fans of The Fault in Our Stars and Ten Things We Did (and Probably Shouldn’t Have).

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Hi Jackie, thanks for agreeing to do this interview! 

Your debut novel, Truest, is coming out in just a few DAYS(!!) Do you care to talk about your publishing journey?

2013 was a whirlwind! I queried literary agents and signed with one, won the Katherine Paterson Prize for Young Adult Writing, and was offered my book deal with HarperCollins all within a period of a few months. It was exciting and rewarding and terrifying. I celebrated by having my first panic attack and getting a prescription for Ativan. (But really.)

Querying was an emotional rollercoaster. I spent months perfecting my query letter and researching literary agents who seemed like a good fit with Truest. All told, I had about a dozen agents request full or partials, and in the end, I signed with Steven Chudney, who really resonated with my characters and my writing style.

Truest is your debut novel, but it isn’t the first novel you’ve written. How did you know when to shelve your first book, and how did you know Truest was “the one”?

Back in 2012, I queried about forty literary agents and only heard back from one. It was pretty clear to me that it was time to shelve the novel I was working on and tackle something else. That first novel was written for adults; this time, I wanted to try my hand at writing for teens. The entire process felt so different. I had learned so much in the previous four years of writing that first novel, and all of it was put to use in writing Truest. I spent about six months writing a first draft, then handed the manuscript out to a couple beta readers. They and I both knew that this novel was different, that this one was going to be my debut novel.
How long did it take you to write Truest? Any idea how many revisions you went through? Any darlings you had to murder?

All told, there were over twenty drafts. I spent six months on a first draft, another year on revisions, one round of revisions with my agent, and another year on revisions with my editor at Harper. I murdered darlings like it was my job—even right up to the very last draft!

Are you a plotter or a “pantser”?

That’s a good question—and the answer differs depending on what stage I’m in. In general—and especially at the beginning of a project—I’m a pantser. I don’t know the ending when I start writing the novel. In fact, I might not even know the ending until several drafts in. But once I’m in the middle of the project, there is a lot of planning and organizing that has to be done.

See: after pantsing all the freewriting, I had to get them all in the right order. This project looks more like a plotter’s work, doesn’t it?

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But, if I had to choose only one, I’d say I’m a pantser. If I plot prior to the first draft, the project dies a sad death and I can’t find any energy in the project anymore.

I’d plotted out an entire other novel (for my next book), and once I did, I didn’t want to write it. I returned to my pantsing ways and wrote a different story.

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And then I wrote yet another one. That story will be my second novel.
How long have you been writing? 

I’ve been a storyteller my entire life. I’ve wanted to write books since second grade.

I love the sixty-nine test—where you gauge whether you’ll really like a book by flipping to its 69th page and reading it. (It is an easy number to remember.) Would you care to share yours?

“Yup,” he said. “Afraid so. You know my secret … well, one of them.”

“One of them?” I raised an eyebrow. “You don’t have any other siblings, do you?”

“I’m for real, West.” He shoved my shoulder with his own. “Let’s be good to each other.”

“Friendship doesn’t work like that, Silas. You don’t just decide to be friends.”

“I just did.”

“Well, I didn’t.”

He looked me in the eye. “My girlfriend is in Alaska, and my sister is messed up. Your boyfriend lives on a tractor, and your best friend ditched you for summer camp.”

“Hey!” His choice of words stung. “She—”

“Let’s be good to each other,” he repeated, and his eyes were so sad and serious and intense.

“Starting when?” I said, trying to mask the panic in my voice.

“Starting now.”

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What’s the best / worst writing advice you’ve ever gotten? 

Best: Write “shitty first drafts” and give yourself short assignments. Thank you, Anne Lamott.

Worst: Wait to write till you’re inspired. As Stephen King wrote, “Amateurs sit and wait for inspiration, the rest of us just get up and go to work.”
I’m sure all of your characters are your brain children, but if you had to pick a favorite, who might it be?

I adore Silas Hart, one of the characters in Truest. But I’m also enchanted by Asa Bertrand, the main character of my next novel. Rowen Lucas, Asa’s best friend and the girl he’s in love with, is a strong, artistic badass. I want to be her.

Your gorgeous blog has posts about faith and OCD. How do either of these affect your writing? Will we see these themes in Truest? In your next book?

My faith affects everything in my life, and especially my writing. God and I wrote Truest together, and God had all the best ideas.

My OCD doesn’t affect my writing in the same way, but having a nearly life-long battle with clinical anxiety has affected my writing life.

The main character in Truest—Westlin Beck—is a pastor’s daughter, and faith is a big theme throughout the novel. I think (and hope) it’s addressed in such a way that anyone can enter into the conversation though.

OCD/anxiety is something I’m tackling in my next novel, Mill City Heroes.

When my blog readers finish Truest and are anxiously awaiting your second book (working title: “Mill City Heroes”), what should they read?

Everything by Melina Marchetta.

If you could have any superhero power, what would it be?

Flying!!! Or running so fast that it’s nearly flying. I can do these things in my dreams.
Which Hogwarts house would you be sorted into?

I’m a proud Ravenclaw.

Last question. Favorite Billy Joel song. Go.

“She’s Got a Way”

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Are you an author that has been (or will soon be) traditionally published? I’d love to interview you and turn you into your own adorable 8-bit sprite! Contact me on Twitter or e-mail me: query lara at gmail dot com.

10 Weeks Till Truest: The Evolution of a Book Cover

Tuesday is Truestday! Follow Jackie to get some insight on the publishing process. Her debut novel hits shelves in September!

JACKIE LEA SOMMERS

t10Join me in counting down the final weeks till Truest’s publication! Every Tuesday, I’ll be posting something Truest-related. Please feel free to re-blog, pin, tweet, share on Facebook, etc.– I’d love to get the word out! And, of course, you can pre-order your own copy here!

Today I’m excited to share with you how Truest‘s book cover came to be. (And please excuse the weird formatting toward the end– once I started inserting pictures, it all went haywire!)

At the end of April 2014, Laurel, an editor at Katherine Tegen Books, sent me this email:

While Jill is still working on gathering notes for you on the latest revision, I have another exciting step in the publication process. We get to start thinking about your cover! Jill and I will fill out a form to share with our designers—who work serious magic and make the best…

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