New job, new apartment, new manuscript. I’ve hardly had a minute to catch up and reflect. Over the years, my blog has been my mini-museum of life-changing writing retreats and milestones. I finally have enough of a breather to reflect on an incredible writing retreat I attended in March 2018. Holy cow, has it really been three months?
At the Madcap Writing Cross-Culturally Retreat in Nashville, Tennessee, I had the unbelievable opportunity to delve deep into writing with authors Laurie Halse Anderson, Marie Lu, Dhonielle Clayton, Zoraida Córdova, Tessa Gratton, S. Jae-Jones, Sarah Nicole Lemon, and Natalie C. Parker. Stop. Go back, read that lineup again. I couldn’t ask for a more talented, fierce, and diverse set of YA authors to learn from. And the fact was, they were all very open about how they’re still learning how to write respectfully and authentically across cultures. It made for the kind of retreat that broke down walls and opened up windows into new perspectives.
Not only were the faculty stellar, but the cohort of writers came from all over the US from all different backgrounds. It was inspiring to see such a range of perspectives in the mini-mansion tucked away in the Tennessee woods. And we slept in bunk beds. And I ate more grilled cheese than I have in way too long. I don’t want to make this sound like a fairy tale (okay, it was seriously a fairy tale); however, at the same time, we all dug deep into our own uncomfortable truths surrounding race, privilege, sexism, respect, and authenticity. These are generally topics people try to avoid around the dinner table. It was heartening to come together to talk about these issues in our own writing (and in the overall publishing industry) without heated arguments or defensiveness. It was an open conversation. And I learn so so much. I’m still in processing-mode, so I know there will be follow-up posts. But for now:
Over the past few months, I’ve been drafting a new YA novel titled “Wildfire Girls” about–you guessed it–WILDFIRES and a gang of powerless/powerful girls that start them. And so, when the Santa Barbara mountains burst into apocalyptic flames again this summer, I felt my inspiration following suit. I’ve been furiously drafting, and now I’m closing in on the last few chapters.
My writing has always been grounded in place. My last two manuscripts were set in San Francisco–no big surprise, since the kid version of myself meandered the Mission long before the hipsters grew out their man buns. I love novels that are filled with sharp sensory details, and I find that my strongest writing is so much about place and the crazy cast of characters that find themselves there.
I’m sorry to see acres of dry drought land burning in the Whittier Fire, and firefighters risking their lives to protect our precarious city by the sea. I’m sorry to find the ash of oak trees on the hood of my car, and the evacuation notices that ring out on the radio. BUT, the best I can do is write and keep writing and let the inspiration of this place carry my story forward.
Stay tuned for more posts on my inspiration for WILDFIRE GIRLS…
When I showed up at the SCBWI LA Writer’s Day 2016 conference, my biggest worry was beating Los Angeles traffic in time to catch a seat and a sip of coffee before the editors, authors, and agents began their talk. I had no idea I’d win an award for my YA work-in-progress titled Blanca and the Ruins! Fortunately, I was decked out in my orange stripy dress (now forever my lucky dress) and cowboy boots when they called me on stage. Of course, they didn’t announce my name first. Instead they led with my story, and all I could think while I was sitting in the audience was–oh my god–I hope that’s mine! Very surreal moment. Thank you SCBWI for this amazing opportunity!
“Sparkling with humor and a strong sense of place, Blanca and the Ruins is the first-place winner about a fiery and passionate young woman living in San Francisco. Blanca is determined not to inherit the family curse of becoming a nurse. She wants to pursue her artistic passion, but when she sneaks out to draw one night in Dolores Park, she crosses paths with a bleeding boy who needs her help. Once he gets hold of her hand neither of them is able to let go, and Blanca’s life takes the turn she has been resisting. Writer Andrea Ellickson leaves us wondering what will end in ruins – Blanca’s future or her dreams?”
Also, I won a copy of The Rattling Wall, an LA based literary journal with gorgeous gruesome cover art by Kristina Collantes. (Did I mention lucky orange dress?) Can’t wait to crack open the pages!