Author Archives: katieslivensky

Create.

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A lot of bad stuff has been happening in the world. There’s no getting around that. And when the world is tearing people down, it can be hard to find the strength to build back up.

But as authors, that’s what we do. We build. We create.

We create places and people and relationships and ideas and adventures for others to enjoy. We broaden people’s horizons, and take them to places they’ve never been. We make them fall in love, experience fear, feel rage, and sometimes even cry, just from our words. And when the world isn’t safe, we provide a space for people–for children–to go and express themselves. A place to escape. A place to process emotions. A place where hearts and minds can be filled with something different.

That’s so powerful.

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Dwelling on all the bad 24/7 is no good to anyone.

I decided to write this post because I realized that the best way I’ve personally found to cope with all the horrific news we’ve had lately is to burrow into fiction. The books and shows I’m reading and watching act as my friends–friends who aren’t going to talk about the latest mass shooting, bombing, murder, or election cycle. We all need an escape at times, to keep ourselves balanced and healthy.

And as I was thinking about this coping method the other day, a thought struck me. I create fiction. People may be using my words to escape and bring some light into their lives. Whoa!

So during these times of darkness, destruction, and loss, as debut authors, I urge us all to continue to create. Create! Write, dream, build someplace for readers to go, and invent characters for readers to love. It’s our superpower. Now is a really good time to use it.


Katie Headshot.jpgKatie Slivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. She lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her website, www.katieslivensky.com.

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Stepping Back

Sometimes, you’re just too close to your project.

Sometimes, you are your own worst stumbling block.

Sometimes, you just gotta step back.

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…And sometimes, stepping back just happens TO you, whether you’d like it to or not.

I’ve spent the last two weeks not writing. Not revising. Not even scribbling out notes. Now, this hasn’t been by choice–life has been busy! I haven’t had any time to sit and work on my Book 2. And while this had been stressing me out beyond belief, it turns out it’s actually been a blessing in disguise.

Without the pressures of a blank page in front of me, I have had time to think. Both consciously and subconsciously. I’ve taken all the tidbits I had rattling around in my head, and merged them into nuggets of pure creative gold. Thanks to this forced break, I now know not just what my main character’s biggest passion is (something I’ve two dimensionally known for ages), but how she acts on it and applies it in the real world. I also know the backstory on my antagonists–where they align with one another and where they definitively do not. And there’s so much more. I know which characters need to show up when. I know at what point I can throw in the twists I have planned. I know when I need to bring in tension, and when to bring in conflict.

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I had time to sit down and work on writing today for the first time in two weeks. I chose to spend that time with blank scrap paper, rewriting my outline chapter by chapter. When I was done, I read it over, and sat back, amazed.

I have what (at least on scrap paper) sounds like…a book.

This means tossing out the draft I’d been working on up until now, but it also means the next draft is likely going to kick serious butt. I will take it. Yes!

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Feeling stuck or overwhelmed? Take some time off. Step away. Breathe. And watch what happens. You might surprise yourself.


Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program.  She lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin, and is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or at her website, www.katieslivensky.com.

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Nervouscited!

I’m about to turn in my final manuscript to my editor so we can go off to copy-edits. Which means this is it. This is the last time I can make significant changes. After this point, my book is pretty much done.

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…WHAT?!?!

Okay, so I thought I’d already come to terms with the fact that I’m going to be published, and therefore people (real people–people I don’t know and who aren’t in the industry) are going to read my words.

I was wrong.

PEOPLE ARE GOING TO READ MY BOOK, YOU GUYS! This is happening!

There is only one way to describe how I feel, and it’s best summed up by Pinkie Pie. (Yes, I use a lot of My Little Pony references in my blog posts. This is how my brain works, if you haven’t yet noticed.)

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I’m nervouscited.

As Pinkie Pie explains, “It’s like you want to jump up and down and yell YAY ME! But you also want to curl up in a teeny tiny ball and hide at the same time.”

I’ve tried to think up other things in my life–more normal things–to compare this moment to, in order to help my friends and family understand what exactly is going through my mind right now. But I can’t. There’s just nothing like it.

In a matter of days, a book I’ve worked on for four years is going to go off to be finalized, and I won’t be able to play with its pieces any longer. All I’ll be able to do is maybe make a few last tweaks to wording. All the major stuff is in its final form.

And people are going to read it.

Yes, nervouscited is the right word for me right now. It probably will remain the right word up until when my book launches next year. Probably past that, too. Maybe forever? Maybe this is what it feels like to be an author?

Excuse me, I think I need to find some chocolate.


Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.

Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or at her website, www.katieslivensky.com.

 

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Work/Work/Life Balance

While on the phone with my sister the other day, I listed off all the writing-related things I need to get done this month and next.

“So you basically have two full time jobs right now, huh?” was her response.

I laughed. But in reality…yes. Yes I do.

I’ve had two jobs for a while now. I’d say since around 2010, when I joined my critique group and began putting in 15-20 hours a week towards publishing-related efforts. Now that I’m on my way to being published, the responsibilities, deadlines, and time commitments have greatly increased. Additionally, after many years of putting in the time, I’m starting to get paid for my writing work. Writing at this point is most definitely, by anyone’s definition, a job.

Which is pretty cool.

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But like many writers, I have another job. The “Day Job”. The one that takes up the vast majority of my time Monday-Friday. I enjoy this job and have no plans to abandon it, even if it was financially feasible to do so (which, for the record, it would not be). However, this does leave me in an odd position. How can a person achieve a work/life balance when their “life” side is taken up by more work?

I wish this blog post could provide an easy answer for anyone reading it, but in reality, there is no simple solution.

The best I can say is what I’ve managed to figure out thus far:

  1. You need to make time to relax. If you don’t, you end up hurting yourself. (See my first EMU post, where I talk about my 2015 bought of pneumonia.) Identify something that makes you smile and relieves tension, and make sure to include it in your day, every day, as much as you can. Is it a good book? A TV show? Games with friends or family? Long walks with your dog? Whatever it is, don’t let that part of your life go when you get busy. It’s necessary!
  2. Learn to compartmentalize tasks. You can’t get a revision done when worrying about a grant you’re writing at your day job, and vice versa. This is particularly challenging for me. Shifting my focus takes a lot of effort, and a lot of coffee.
  3. Forgive yourself for not being able to do it all. You can’t! You’re leading essentially two lives, two careers. Learn to say no and not feel guilty for it. You aren’t turning down work and tasks because you’re lazy. You’re doing so because you’re already booked up. There is a HUGE difference. Donna Janell Bowman had a great post related to this a few weeks ago.
  4. Be honest with friends and family. There are people you love who, frankly, aren’t going to see you as much as you or they would like. This is the cost of juggling two careers. But if you’re honest, feelings won’t be hurt so much, and those who are close to you should understand how important this all is to you.

I would give further advice, but honestly, I’m still figuring it out myself! Perfecting the work/work/life balance is going to require more experimentation and practice, that’s for sure. Perhaps I’ll report back in a year with an update on this topic. Oh–one final thing that definitely helps is to identify people to lean on for emotional support. For me, that’s my parents, sister, friends, and my amazing critique group. I couldn’t do what I do without them.

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Here’s to everyone who is balancing two careers, writing and otherwise. Here’s to everyone who’s balancing writing with raising kids. Here’s to everyone who’s balancing multiple careers AND kids. Let’s face it. We’re all exhausted. It’s okay to talk about that. The more we do, the more solutions we can come up with to better factor in the “life” side of our personal, incredibly busy equations.


 

Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.

Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her personal blog, Discoverific.

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What’s in a Title?

In the spirit of this blog unveiling the mysteries between getting a deal and hitting the shelves, I’ve decided to talk about my journey of landing on a title for my debut MG novel.

Like many authors, I was asked to change my original title. Which, luckily enough for me, was a request that didn’t actually crush my soul. My original title for this story was always just a placeholder in my mind. I wasn’t that attached.

My novel was written with the title DESTINED FOR MARS, which is the name of the training program my main character, Miranda, is in. Miranda’s been chosen for the first ever mission to Mars, along with five other international cadets. However, as my editor pointethe-martian-600_mkt_0950_sharp-1047CC_rgbd out, the book isn’t really about exploring Mars. It’s about the unfolding sinister plot that threatens the lives of the cadets during their first few months of astronaut training. Therefore, DESTINED FOR MARS might be misleading–it could imply the book takes place on Mars!

I’d hate to disappoint a reader. I immediately agreed a title change was in order.

My editor asked me for alternative ideas. Ideally something that would convey the excitement of the story.

“Sure!” I said. “Can do!”

Hah.

…Right.

batman thinksAs it turned out, thinking of something that sounded exciting but not cheesy was almost impossible. A bunch of ideas were thrown around, each more cringe-worthy than the next. I lost count of how many emails my editor and I exchanged. My book is upper middle grade, which meant overly gimmicky titles were out the window, but overly poetic titles wouldn’t work, either. We also had to avoid a title that would include spoilers for the book itself. Once you read it, (as I’m sure all of you lovely people will someday, right?) you’ll see how easy it would be to give it a super cool title that would simultaneously completely spoil the plot.

Months passed. MONTHS. When people would find out I was being published, they’d always ask what the book title was, and I had to keep coming back with, “Uh…it doesn’t have one yet.” Yep. Awkward.

It was destroying me that I had no name for my book. Especially when I was in the revision process and had nothing to put on the top of the manuscript!

…Then, one day, I changed how I thought about my title. My title needed to be catchy, sure, but most importantly, it had to be honest as to what the book was about. DESTINED FOR MARS was thrown out because it was misleading…so…

What was my book really about?suddenrealizationbert

Easy. It was about a sinister plot. But I couldn’t call my book, THE STORY ABOUT A PLOT. So off to thesaurus.com I went, and immediately hit upon the word “conspiracy”.

Ooooooh.

That sounded pretty cool! But I need to get more specific. I had to have something that could imply that this conspiracy had to do with space and astronaut training.

Then I remember my dad’s title suggestion: THE COUNTDOWN TO CHAOS. (My incredibly supportive parents had many, many suggestions, as I’m sure some of you in similar positions can imagine.)

Countdown.

Conspiracy.

That…that’s my book. That’s it!

So I sent the idea to my editor, along with a few others I liked, and she took it to her sales and marketing team while I waited and tried not to melt from nerves. A meeting later (and six months after getting the deal), it was settled!

DESTINED FOR MARS became THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY.

Totally. Awesome.

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And that, blog readers, is at least one way a book can change titles and have all parties involved be happy about it! It can be done!

 


Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut novel (THE COUNTDOWN CONSPIRACY) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.

Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her personal blog, Discoverific.

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Of Cracked Ribs and Dreams Come True

It was a Saturday in July when I got “the call”.

Actually, missed “the call”.

Actually…*coughs* ignored “the call”.

I was recovering from pneumonia (brought on by severely overworking myself at my day job) and at my biweekly kidlit critique group meeting. One of my crit partners had driven me, because I was in no shape to drive myself. I faded in and oheyarnoldsickut over the three hour meeting, clutching my pirate pillow that I was using to brace my ribs. I’d coughed so hard over the two weeks prior that I’d fractured them. At one point, my phone buzzed and I saw a call from a number I didn’t recognize. I ignored it.

See, I’d been on sub for a while with the manuscript that got me my wonderful agent, Ammi-Joan Paquette. She’d mentioned that someone was expressing interest and might take it to an acquisitions meeting that week, but my head was too full of fog to ever think that this could mean I’d get an offer. We’d been close before. We’d been on sub for what felt like forever. I had a new manuscript turned in that we were prepping to take out next, with the unspoken understanding that it meant shelving the old one for the time being. And there was the whole…103 degree fever for a week straight thing. The ol’ synapses were not exactly firing properly.

I fell asleep for a good chunk of my critique group meeting. I was in a haze as I was driven back to my apartment. So when I looked at my email, squashed in the front seat with my pillow wrapped securely around me, at first I couldn’t understand what I was seeing.

It was an email from Joan. Asking if I was around to talk. She said she’d tried to get in touch with me, but was overseas and using a number I wouldn’t recognize.

My friend Tara was driving, with my other friend Annie in the backseat. Both published authors themselves, I immediately asked them what they thought of the cryptic message. I don’t think either of them thought it was cryptic–neither would come out and say that it probably meant I had an offer, but the implication was there.

…That’s when it hit me. The reality of what might be happening.

bugsbunnycrazyIt was the oddest sensation. I had zero energy, but I still flooded head to toe with adrenaline. Imagine being buried in sand with a caffeine IV drip buried next to you, pouring into your veins.

I wrote Joan back and told her (probably fairly incoherently, given my mental state) that she could call at anytime. Seriously. Any. Time. However, she’d made it clear in her first email that she was likely going to be busy the rest of the day. I was shaking, and not from a fever anymore.

My friends dropped me off, and I had no idea what to do with myself. I was too sick to go out and distract myself with anything, so I put in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince and watched that.

Until my phone rang at 5pm.

I. Had. An. Offer! It was official! Joan (seriously, bless her) called me from Europe to tell me I had a two book offer from HarperCollins Children’s. Erica Sussman wanted to be my editor.

All I could say was, “Ohrdomigosh my gosh oh my gosh oh my gosh!”–followed by intense periods of ugly coughing/hacking. I wanted to run. Jump. Scream. Dance. But all my body could manage was this odd sort of speed-shuffle around my apartment with my pirate pillow in tow. Both my cats flew around like maniacs, clearly knowing something was up. I called my parents. I cried.

A book deal! My lifelong dream come true, with cracked ribs.

Joan and I got back in touch when she returned to the States that following week, and we formally accepted. It’s been a whirlwind ever since.

I’ve recovered from the pneumonia and the fractures, thankfully.

…Still working on recovering from the shock.


 

Katie Slkatiemarsivensky’s debut Middle Grade novel (title TBD) tells the story of a 13 year-old robotics whiz who is thrilled to be chosen to train for an international mission to Mars, but soon finds herself and her fellow cadets in a situation far more dire and deadly than any of them could have imagined. Publication is set for Summer 2017 with HarperCollins Children’s.

Katie is a science educator at the Museum of Science in Boston, where she coordinates school visits, does live presentations, and runs the rooftop observatory program. With an academic background in paleontology and zoology, she only began dabbling in astronomy when she joined the Museum in 2009. It soon became a major passion, and spilled straight over into her writing life.

Katie lives in a suburb of Boston with her two completely absurd cats, Galileo and Darwin. She is represented by Ammi-Joan Paquette.

Visit Katie on Twitter (@paleopaws) or on her personal blog, Discoverific.

 

 

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