How to Use Pinterest as a Writer

I love this infographic about creativity, which is why I’m sharing it with you, dear reader. I couldn’t agree more, especially with #14.

Though I do agree with #4, there are some things I really love about writing on my MacBook Air. One of them is Pinterest. Pinterest is one of those fun things that I, like most people, pin a bunch of cute animals, recipes, and things I’d like to stare at later.

Lately, I’ve been creating secret boards on Pinterest just for writing books. What do I use them for?

  • Creating characters. I’ll pull photos of celebs, or every day people who I think my character would look like.
  • A collage of a character’s favorite things, like bands or recipes they might make (one of my characters is a chef wannabe).
  • Links to interesting articles that are good research for the world I’m writing
  • Clothing inspiration to decide how my teen characters would dress.
  • Photos of locations of settings in my book

I find it super helpful to have my secret board open while I’m working on my book so I can keep those images in mind as I write. While my husband is the writer who likes to turn off the Internet while working, I really like having the ability to research something the moment I’m writing it. For instance, I like to use Google Maps to find what street in a particular town this chapter will take place. While the Internet can be distracting, I do like the instant access to information that I need to make my book authentic.

 

 

My Favorite East Bay Vegan Eats

Even though I live in the Mecca of vegan eatery, I still miss my favorite vegan eats in Berkeley and Oakland, CA. The thing I love about the East Bay is that there is so much pride in the food scene, like people genuinely are happy when you enjoy eating at their establishment.

If you ever find yourself in the Bay Area, you must try these places.

1. Donut Farm

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No, seriously, that’s their case of fresh doughnuts. I’m not lying. Also, if you’re there when still have apple fritters, do yourself a favor and get one. Or five. And the breakfast burrito is a MUST.

2. Victory Burger

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This is the Veggie Arepa, and it is delicious. What’s that shake? It’s just a chocolate peanut butter coconut ice cream milkshake. And those are fries are hand cut perfection. My friends also swear by the Veggie Burger, but I can never seem to veer away from my tofu veggie arepa.

3. Gather

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FINE, Bay Area you have better pizza. You have vegan deep dish at Patxi’s and Zachary’s, and then this delicious cashew cream, olive, spicy tomato pizza with a bubbly crust. For this former New Yorker, this is the best and closest to a NYC pie.

4. Republic of V

Photo: Republic of V’s Facebook page

This vegan emporium has all sorts of good eats, cookbooks, handbags, and more. I was literally overwhelmed with the amazing selection. When we spoke to the guy working that afternoon, he told me I had to buy the best vegan candy bar. He was right. It was vanilla caramel toasted cashews in dark chocolate goodness, topped with sea salt. Everything I like in one bite. I only wish that Republic of V was open when I lived in Berkeley!

5. Saturn Cafe

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Maybe you notice a pattern. I like milkshakes and French fries. Saturn Cafe is the perfect place to hang out late at night. The vegan cheese fries and milkshake combo is ideal. (Don’t worry I really do eat vegetables most of the time!). While Saturn isn’t 100 percent vegan, most of the menu items can be veganized.

6. Souley Vegan

Photo: Veggie101.com

I saved the best for last. Souley Vegan has the best BBQ tofu you will ever eat. And their crispy tofu. And the mac ‘n cheese. And the biscuits and gravy. Basically everything is great. This mouthwatering restaurant review from Veggie 101 pretty much says it all!

 

I should note that I wasn’t able to hit all of my favorites like Ike’s Place or Zachary’s. There’s even a new vegan joint in Berkeley called Sanctuary Bistro.

 

9 Simple Tips for Writing Clearer & Cleaner

As an editor and writer, I understand the importance of having someone else edit your work. As an editor, I often see the same mistakes—writers trying to sound writerly and the wild misuse of punctuation. After editing countless articles and copy editing manuscripts, here are some common things I see writers do all the time.

1. Don’t use italics, bold, or underline to say your point.

Instead of using the right words, some times people heavily use italics in dialogue or prose. Don’t go crazy with CTRL + I, CTRL + B, CTRL + U—just use your words.

2. Exclamation points and quotation marks should be used sparingly.

Why does every sentence need to end in an exclamation point? Quotation marks are for dialogue and indicating a song or poem. You don’t have to use them for every single word in your manuscript.

3. Simple is better than fancy.

I’ve seen some sentences where every adjective is stuffed into one awkward phrase. Simpler is often better and cleaner.

4. Read your work out loud.

If your sentence doesn’t make sense when you say it out loud, it doesn’t make sense on paper.

5. Don’t use the same word over and over (and over and over) again.

I’m guilty of this! Just keep an eye out for it and vary your words. Make friends with a thesaurus.

6. Ellipses are meant for missing phrases.

Ellipsis indicate that portions of the dialogue or sentence are missing. That’s all. I once had a writer turn in articles with ellipses at the end of every sentence. I asked her not to include ellipses. She wrote back, “What is an ellipses?” I stopped assigning her articles.

7. Learn how to use a comma.

I’m a devotee of the serial Oxford comma because I think it clarifies sentences so much, but not everyone uses them. At least learn the basics of using this often misused punctuation mark.

See this example.

8. Don’t capitalize or use all caps for everything.

This isn’t AOL instant messenger. Don’t capitalize everything. It’s distracting and annoying. If you’re using it as a literary device, fine, but don’t go crazy capitalizing or using all caps.

9. Your, you’re, there, their, they’re, peek, peak, and pique are all different words.

Please just learn what the difference is between all of these words. I don’t want a sneak peak peek! This doesn’t peak pique my interest!

 

Please don’t commit word crimes. Thank you. For the best answers on all of your grammar questions, check out Grammar Girl.

 

7 Things My Pug Has Taught Me

My adopted blind pug Bessie is hilarious. Over the almost two years we’ve had her, I’ve taken a million pictures of her. What can I say? She’s too cute!

But most importantly, she’s taught me some great life lessons. Like—

1. You Can Sleep Anywhere

backpack sleeping sleeping on crate

I have no idea how sleeping on a backpack or a carrier is comfortable. But Bessie thinks everything is a bed until proven otherwise.

2. Always help others.

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Assist your dad with his super hard Scrabble game.

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Help your mom with her writing. Clearly, that paragraph was not working for Bessie. She’s a tough editor.

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Pitch ideas for dad’s script rewrite.

3. Find Time to Hang Out with Friends

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Bessie’s boyfriend, Sampson Dworkin, and Bessie chilling while their moms work.

4. Take Time for Vacations

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Bessie on vacation in Mendocino, CA.

5. Safeguard Your Belongings

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Bessie safeguarding her antler chew so her Labrador Retriever brother doesn’t steal it. (He didn’t.)

6. When It’s Not Sunny, Make Your Own Sun

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Bessie loves to sleep in the sun. On the rare days when it’s not sunny in LA, she likes to sit in front of a space heater to stay warm.

7. Show Off Your Silly Side

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Our pet sitter captured Bessie begging for a belly rub. Who could resist?

Aren’t pugs the best? Pugs and their silly personalities make me want to jump into a ball pit and go crazy.

OH, this guy beat me to it.

Click on the GIF for the original video.

A Welcome Guide for Anyone Moving to Los Angeles

P.S. You can purchase the print by clicking the image.

I first moved to Los Angeles in 2007. Brendan and I moved to the Bay Area for a few years for work then moved back to LA in 2013. But when I first moved here from NYC, I was totally thrown off by the laidback vibe and driving everywhere. I compiled this list of things I wish I knew when I first got to Lalaland. I will admit that I’ve grown to love LA for all of its quirks and charms.

For anyone who’s thinking about or going to move to LA, here’s some things you should know.

1. You will get a parking ticket.

It’s a rite of passage. My first ticket involved accidentally parking on Wilshire Boulevard at 4pm when the parking lane is cleared for traffic. I had to take two buses to get my towed car and pay about $500 for the towing and ticket. I told Brendan I was flying back to NYC that night. I didn’t. Just know that this happens to everyone at least once.

2. Being two hours late to a party is normal.

The first time I hosted a party, I thought I had no friends. Everyone goes to parties late. Like really late.

3. Unless you live in Santa Monica, Venice, or any place that has Beach in its name (Long Beach), you will not be living near the beach.

People who don’t live in LA assume that I live by the beach. I live an hour away from the beach. People don’t realize that Los Angeles is a huge, sprawling city.

4. Add 20 minutes to whatever Google Maps tells you.

I was late to one of my first interviews in LA because I looked up the address on Google Maps and thought it wasn’t that long. Double the time. If you’re new, you’ll get lost and you need to find parking, which depending on the neighborhood can take just as long as driving there.

5. People are flaky and will cancel lunch/meeting/dog date with you.

To a former New Yorker, I was baffled by how many people just flake on lunches, brunches, meetings, and more. Just accept that it has nothing to do with you. I’ve been guilty of it too.

6. Traffic defies any explanations.

It can be Saturday at 2pm and the 101 is backed up. I don’t know why. There’s no accident. It’s the middle of a weekend afternoon. Nothing makes sense.

7. Enjoy reading all the funny vanity plates.

In one month alone, I’ve seen the license plates—YOLOXXX, MTVSTAR, and SWAGGER. There are some things you can’t unsee.

8. Here an editor is someone who edits movies.

In New York City, an editor either works at a magazine or book publishing company. Looking for job listings for editors will only lead you to movie production companies.

9. You will forget other seasons exist other than sun.

I still giggle when people in LA talk about winter here. It’s basically just cooler temps than the summer. The sun is still out. Maybe you need a light jacket. Maybe.

10. Avocados are so damn cheap here.

My friends, welcome to land of the avocados. Those babies used to be like gold bars in NYC. Now you can scoop them in your arms and eat them all the time on everything.

If you have any actual real questions about moving/living in LA, please ask in the comments. I’m happy to help. And I do like living here.

5 Tips for Editing Your Own Writing

As a former magazine editor, I often spent my time editing other people’s work, which became a great learning tool when I edited my own work. Before becoming a magazine editor, I was very precious about my words like I CAN’T POSSIBLY CHANGE THAT SENTENCE.

But as a freelance writer, my editor’s notes are king. I’ve done page-one rewrites on article drafts. Hell, the personal essay I recently sold went through about seven drafts before I sold it.

I understand that editing your own work is tough so I compiled some tips I use when I’m editing/rewriting.

1. Give your writing a few days off.

When you finish a piece, some times you’re in love with it. Or you hate it. Either way, put the file down, walk away, do anything else, and then come back to it when you can read your work with new eyes. I always find that when I come back to a piece of writing after some time off, I can read my work more clearly. OH, this sentence doesn’t make sense—that sort of thing.

2. Summarize your premise. If any sentences or paragraphs don’t serve your idea, toss them.

When I was writing my personal essay, a writing teacher I had—Paula Derrow—said something important. You can’t put everything that happened to you ever into your essay. You have to pick and choose the events that go with your central idea. Not everything you’ve ever wanted to write about—which can be tough when you’re writing about your own life.

3. Read your writing out loud.

When I think I’m done, I read the piece out loud. That’s when I can hear sentences that are off or when I’m being too wordy. It’s a good way to catch yourself in your common mistakes like when I use the same word over and over again.

4. Print out your piece and get out the red pen.

When you pick up your piece in paper form, look at it as if you’re the editor and you’re reading this for the first time. Don’t give yourself a gold star (not yet anyway). Look at your writing with a critical eye and find those grammatical errors.

5. Make a list of things you want to change.

One of the best tools I got from reading Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See is creating a revision map. It’s basically two columns—what you have and what you need. You mark down the page number or paragraph and write down what you want to fix. This is especially helpful with longer works like an entire play or novel so you don’t start editing/rewriting like a mad woman and get lost in a rabbit hole of revision.

Interview with Author & Rookie Staff Writer Stephanie Kuehnert

 

I’m excited to share my interview with author and Rookie staff writer Stephanie Kuehnert who recently sold a memoir that sounds super fascinating. If you don’t know Rookie, the amazing online magazine, then you should because it’s the best. Stephanie had a lot of great things to say about her writing process, her career, and selling her memoir, so ENJOY!

1. You recently sold your memoir five years after you sold your second YA book, Ballads of Surburbia. What was the writing and submission process for your memoir like?

Three years ago I was invited to revisit my own personal teenage angst (and the joyful moments and obsessions with things like soap operas and Star Trek: The Next Generation) as a staff writer for Rookie, an online magazine for teenage girls. Though both of my books draw from my real life a little bit (Ballads is set in the town where I grew up) and I have blogged about my personal experiences, I didn’t have much experience writing non-fiction or personal essays. But then, there I was writing one or two essays a month, and it was incredible. The editors at Rookie, especially Anaheed Alani, are insightful genius goddesses. We’ve gone through sometimes six drafts of 2,500 word essay just to get it perfect. It was like part two of MFA program, that’s how much I learned from them. That’s honestly what kept me going while I was struggling to write and sell my fiction and questioning my entire existence as a writer.

So I was building this experience and this portfolio of essays, which because Rookie’s awesome, I maintained all the rights to, and I thought, I could do something with this. As a teenager, I’d put out quite a few zines and working on Rookie really reignited that passion, so I started talking to a couple of illustrators from the site, asking if they’d be game to collaborate with me so I could basically make one big zine about my adolescence. I’d probably been kicking the idea around for about a year, but last summer I moved across the country from Chicago to Seattle and started working full-time. I still wanted to write, but I just wasn’t in the place to plot out a new novel. I was busy and exhausted (in a good way, the move was one of the best decisions of my life) and honestly feeling pretty burnt out about my fiction. I mentioned the zine-style essay collection/memoir idea to my agent and she told me to go for it because she thought it could be really cool and different. I didn’t honestly sit down to work on it until the end of 2013. I thought it would be easier to put together than a novel because a) it already had a plot/structure—my life, and b) non-fiction books like this are sold on proposal, so I was like, I don’t even have to write the whole thing! Of course I was not at all prepared for how involved a non-fiction proposal is. It’s got a whole standard structure with market research and comp titles—you’re basically outlining and marketing your book at the same time. Fortunately my friend Alexa Young, a YA writer who has also written non-fiction for adults showed me some of her proposals and my friend Jessica Hopper from Rookie, who is just an incredible mentor to all of us, recommended this book, which totally maps out the non-fiction proposal. I used those things to work on the proposal part and then put together the sample chapters. Those included one of my Rookie essays, two brand new essays, and an example of the zine-style aspect, which was basically a series of lists that demonstrates how I changed from middle school to high school illustrated by Suzy X from Rookie so it really looks like pages out of a zine.

Altogether, it probably took a really intense two-and-a-half months to write the proposal. Then my agent took some time to seriously craft her list of editors and her pitch. When it went out, we had an offer in a week-and-a-half. That was total insanity to me. My first book took over a year to sell. I’ve had other projects on submission for even longer than that. I don’t even have words for how stunned and amazed I was when the proposal sold that quickly and to my top choice editor, Julie Strauss-Gabel at Dutton. I’m definitely in that magical unicorn field right now.

2. Your editor described your memoir as “pull-no-punches raw” in the Publishers Weekly write up. How were you able to write so honestly about your past?

I’m a hyper-emotional Cancer. I’ve never been very good at keeping my emotions under wraps. The zines I wrote in high school when I was at my angriest and most messed-up were blistering, maybe too honest. I lost friends and scared people away. That experience was kind of scarring and it’s why I channeled my emotions into fiction for so long. I’ve been circling around a lot of issues in my past through my fiction writing and then I started writing for Rookie and tackling the real stories. Because I had some distance and those amazing Rookie editors I was able to really get to the heart of what I was thinking and feeling in a way that felt cathartic instead of out of control and scary. But it’s definitely not easy to do. One of the new essays that I wrote for the proposal is this 13-part epic—like the essay version of a novella, I guess—and it’s about the emotionally and sexually abusive relationship I was in as a sophomore in high school. I’ve been circling that story for years. It was the subject of those angry teenage zines. Pieces of it show up in both my published YAs and I drew from it heavily in my unpublished YA. Writing that essay was the last part of the process. Honestly, I really didn’t want to write it. I almost shelved the entire project to avoid it because I knew I couldn’t write around it—for better or worse, that relationship defined my adolescence and it’s central to this memoir. I am not looking forward to revising it, but I know that working with an editor like Julie, I will be able to make it more powerful than I ever imagined.

3. I read on your blog the amazing way your agent broke the news to you that you sold your memoir. How did you find your agent and how has your working relationship developed over the years?

Adrienne is my second agent and she is Literally The Best Agent Ever. Of course I will always be grateful to my first agent too—we just reached a point where we had different visions and were going in different directions; she isn’t even agenting anymore. When I was looking for a new agent, I asked my writer friends for recommendations. Barb Ferrer, who writes YA as Caridad Ferrer and was a fellow MTV Books author, told me that her agent loved my first two books, so I queried her with my new manuscript. It was an adult book that hovers in between upmarket women’s fiction and New Adult (which wasn’t even really being taken seriously then) so other agents were hesitant to take it on because they weren’t sure how to shop it. Adrienne was one of the agents who loved that book enough to try, her feedback on the manuscript totally clicked for me, and since she was very enthusiastic about my published novels as well, I got the sense that she would really be in it for the long haul. So I signed with her and I’ve repeatedly told people that it was the best decision I’ve ever made aside from marrying my husband. We’ve been working together since 2010, so she’s really been through it with me as editor, career planner, and cheerleader. She was there during the darkest periods of writerly self-doubt and even sent a copy of The Little Engine That Could to encourage me at one point. After having a few projects out on sub together, she knew how eagerly I was awaiting The Call and I’d told her that previously I’d only gotten The Email so I made her promise to actually call, so I’d have a story to tell. She took it to a whole new level by sending a singing and dancing gorilla telegram! Basically, this woman knows how to make me grin like crazy and I trust her advice implicitly, so Best Agent Ever and I can’t wait to see what is to come next for us.

4. You’re a staff writer at Rookie. How did you get your start there, and what do you love about writing for the online magazine?

I got the Rookie gig through blind submission. Tavi’s from my hometown (ie. the town Ballads is set in), but um, she was born the year before I graduated high school and got the hell out of there (at least for a little while), so we never met. A few friends of mine had told me about her blog, the Style Rookie, and they sent me her call for writers, illustrators, and people interested in helping her create a Sassy magazine for the next generation of teens. I started making zines right around the time Sassy disappeared partly because I’d always wanted to do something like Sassy (but maybe more DIY and underground), so I wrote a letter to Tavi and crossed my fingers. A few months later, she wrote back and was like I can probably only pay in candy and mixtapes, but I’d like to have you write for me. I said OMG gadghaghajdga YES! We got together for coffee, she told me about her vision for the site and I was blown away. She’s one of the smartest people I’ve ever met. And they don’t pay me in candy, but I would totally do it for candy because I’ve never been a part of something so positive, so energetic, so powerful. The Rookie generation has given me renewed hope. These girls that I’m working with and the audience that we’re writing for are going to change the world. That’s the best thing about writing for Rookie. It’s the best community on the internet and it has made me work my ass off to be a better writer. As I mentioned before, the editors have been real mentors and teachers, but also have you read Jenny Zhang? Hazel Cills? Pixie Casey? Danielle Henderson? Every writer on that site is made of pure gold. They are so freakin’ talented and set the bar so high, it keeps me inspired and motivated. Finally, Rookie is such a GORGEOUS site. I’ve always been word girl, not image girl, but working with the illustrators and just taking in the eye candy our artists create every day has really given me a new perspective. The photos and images on Rookie are one of my biggest muses. I never would have thought about doing the memoir zine-style without being surrounded by these art and design geniuses. So, um, in short, I love EVERYTHING. I’m grateful every day to be a part of Rookie.

5. You’ve published two YA books—I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone and Ballads of Suburbia. What would you tell aspiring YA authors about your experience as a YA author and what advice would you give them?

Well, I guess to continue my metaphor, that the road is endless and you will likely have to climb some seriously steep mountains, but there are also delightful valleys filled with magical creatures and singing, dancing gorillas. In other words, write because you have to, because you love it so much you can’t stop, and if you don’t stop, Good Things will happen. Also, nothing will go as planned. I wrote a letter to aspiring writer me about that on my group blog, YA Outside the Lines, just four days before I learned that I’d sold my memoir. Part of me hates it when nothing goes as planned, but the detours that I took are what led me to where I am and I’m very happy with that.

You can follow Stephanie on Twitter at @writerstephanie, Instagram at @stephaniekuehnert, and read more about her on her website.

Author Stephanie Kuehnert

Author Stephanie Kuehnert