Tag Archives: young adult

Young Female Writers Club

The Lyrical Side of Writing

Written by K.L. Kranes

The first time I read the name “Odessa Hott” I think it sounds like the name of a feisty, no nonsense protagonist in a YA detective novel. When I tell the real Odessa Hott this she laughs. You can tell a lot about a person by a laugh. Odessa’s is quick and soft, but sonorous. It’s my first clue Odessa’s much more than a 16-year-old girl from Mechanicsville, VA.

As Odessa and I continue to talk, I quickly realize I’m right. Odessa plays the Taiko (Japanese drums) and reels off opinions on Emily Dickinson with ease. When she discusses the writing process, effortlessly weaving metaphors and similes, I have to remind myself I’m not interviewing a seasoned English professor, but a young teenage girl. 

“Writing is a gateway into a multitude of new and used ideas. It’s similar to an enormous thrift shop!” Odessa explains, her enthusiasm palpable. Although Odessa and I speak over the phone or communicate via email, it feels as if there is a bright smile of excitement hiding behind her every word. “There are so many unexplored concepts. Even the ideas that have been used over and over can always be twisted into something never before seen. I don’t believe that any idea has been completely wrung dry. There is always a way to reinvent what has already been invented.”

Odessa has been inventing and reinventing stories since she was just 6-years-old when she began writing blogs on WordPress. Soon after, she discovered Storybird, a website where young authors can self-publish online using assorted work from global illustrators. In her teenage years, Odessa moved to new platforms, but continued writing, publishing over 30 works on the writing and fanfiction sites Quotev and Wattpad where she accumulated thousands of readers. 

“To this day, I get daily notifications of people leaving comments on my old stories, although I have since taken a break from online publishing,” Odessa says. 

As part of her creative growth, Odessa also participated in writing workshops with the Richmond Young Writers (RYW), based out of Chop Suey Books. Through the RYW, Odessa published her first picture book called Melting Tears, collaborating with local artist Sarah Hand. The story, along with stories from fellow RYW writers, is available on the RYW website. 

“Seeing not only my own book but everyone else’s in print was surreal,” Odessa says when discussing the project. 

Melting Tears is a fairytale about an imaginative rice paper girl and a morose king. Odessa explained her love for Japanese language and culture, which she has been studying for 4 years, inspired the story. 

The international influence of Melting Tears highlights the breadth of Odessa’s background. From K-Pop to Sherlock Holmes, it’s clear Odessa’s unique interests have continually influenced her life and creative process. If she were a song, Odessa would have a passionate drumbeat, a complex guitar riff and a dreamy harmony melding seamlessly with the melody of youthful optimism. I think Odessa would like this metaphor given writing isn’t her only passion. 

“For a long time, I thought writing was my calling,” Odessa says. However, as she got older, Odessa felt herself increasingly drawn to music. 

Although music had always been a large part of her life, Odessa’s father and mother are both musicians, it wasn’t until recently Odessa realized music is her true dream. And, if Odessa believes in anything, it’s the importance of following your dreams.

“I am a firm believer that you should chase your dreams for your own sense of fulfillment. Otherwise, it will leave you feeling exhausted trying to be what someone else wants you to be,” Odessa explains.

That doesn’t mean Odessa plans to abandon the writing side of her creative spirit. Even when speaking about her favorite artists, Odessa describes them with a literary undercurrent. 

“In 2017, my mother introduced me to Solange,” she says. “And ever since, I have been enthralled by her aesthetics, genre and voice. Her lyrics convey a powerful, poetic message.”

Odessa admits combining her two passions can be difficult. “My lyrics are mediocre,” she admits humbly when speaking about her attempts at songwriting. “I write poetry, but usually my lyrics sounds nothing like my poetry. I try to write a song but the lyrics don’t capture the real emotion I’m trying to find.” 

Even if Odessa hasn’t yet figured out how to merge her talent for writing with her talent for music, she certainly already understands how writing can influence music as much as music can influence writers.

“I think that having an understanding of different forms of writing can give you a powerful insight into lyrics you hear that you may have never considered before,” Odessa opines. 

It’s likely one day soon Odessa will turn that powerful insight into a beautiful music. I, for one, can’t wait to hear the combination of Odessa’s musical voice with her distinctive literary voice.

K.L. Kranes is a blogger and author of young adult novels. Her debut novel, The Travelers, was published in 2016 by Saguaro Books, LLC. See more from K.L. at www.klkranes.com/blog.

Meet Maryam Durrani

Young Female Writers Club: Fan Girl Dreaming

Written by K.L. Kranes

It sounds like the plot of a book. 13-year-old Maryam turns fanfiction success into successful book series and finds her true self in the journey.

This isn’t fiction. Maryam Durrani, fanfiction writer, novelist, self-published author of three books, has accomplished more in her 18 years than many writers twice her age. Maryam’s book dreams likely started far before fanfiction readers discovered her stories of the Last Airbender. In fact, it really started with a shampoo bottle.

“I always loved reading,” Maryam explains. “When I was little, in the bathtub I’d read the back of shampoo bottles.”

As a child growing up in Ashburn, VA, Maryam would read anything. If it had letters strung together to make sentences, she devoured it. She spent hours daydreaming, building worlds and characters in her mind.

Soon she picked up a pencil and strung together sentences of her own. Family, friends, and teachers encouraged her to write. Maryam completed her first book in the back of an English classroom, filling 350 pages of a spiral-bound notebook. It still sits on her bookshelf in her room, a token of her passion and talent.

Winning first place in an international writing competition gave Maryam the courage to aim for something bigger. At 13-years-old Maryam stood in front of her parents and told them she wanted to publish a book.

Many parents would pat their young daughter on the head, smile, and forget about the idea five minutes later. Most 13-year-olds would forget five minutes later too and move on to another whim. Not Maryam. Writing was not a whim. She was ready to write and publish her novel even if no one supported her. She expected a lecture on the difficulties of publishing a book. Instead, her parents gave her the kind of advice Dumbledore might give Harry Potter. “You have to do it because you never know where it’s going to go until you reach the end,” they told her.

And so she did. Maryam was only 14 years old when she self-published her first novel, Assassin.

By its name alone one might expect Assassin to be a story of an innocent boy trained to be a deadly assassin. It might conjure an image of him with swords crisscrossed behind his back and a scar from his temple to his neck. But Maryam had read enough books about boys battling for the fate of their souls. She wanted to write something different.

A determined, intelligent girl, Maryam didn’t always connect with the characters in young adult books. She gravitated toward strong female characters and they were hard to find. Even Hermione Granger, one of Maryam’s literary idols, didn’t star in her own story. She was a sidekick.

Maryam longed to read books about smart, independent female characters who took control of their own destinies. Since she couldn’t find any, she decided to create one. Adalia, the main character of Assassin, became the character Maryam had always wanted to read. Instead of a boy with swords crisscrossed on his back, it was a girl battling for the fate of her soul.

“Adalia doesn’t let anyone slow her down. Her confidence, perseverance, and determination always shine through even in the darkest of times,” Maryam explains of her main character.

Like her main character, Maryam oozes confidence and determination.

“If I had a catchphrase would be, “Prove ‘em wrong!” Maryam explains.

Although there’s little reason to doubt Maryam’s ability to accomplish her goals. By the time she turned 18, Maryam’s young adult, science fiction novel had grown into a trilogy, Assassin, Ascendant, and Apprentice and Maryam had grown as a person and a writer.

She’d fought to write and publish her work. She’d fought against self-doubt, spending many nights wondering if editing, revising, and the painful process of story creation were all worth it. Now, at 18, Maryam speaks of herself and her writing with the kind of maturity usually found over three or four decades, not less than two.

“Don’t be afraid of what people think, because, at the end of the day, your writing is yours,” she says.

Maryam also looks to the future with a practical determination. Although filled with dreams, she understands the difficulty of becoming a professional novelist. It’s time for her to leave behind writing in the back of high school English classes. She is considering a career in the sciences. That doesn’t mean she won’t continue to write. Maryam has already figured out the writer’s secret. If you’re a real writer, then you’ll write. It doesn’t matter whether or not it’s your job.

“Wherever I am with whatever I have and how much I’ve achieved,” she says. “I see myself content, curled up in a warm blanket with a hot cup of coffee and an exciting new book to read.”

Books are a part of Maryam’s soul and she could never leave them behind. It is only a matter of time before the story of another strong female character stirs Maryam’s pen to start writing again. Until then, there are plenty of chances to enjoy her writing.

Maryam’s work is available on Amazon and on Wattpad (www.watpad.com/user/draninator).

 

 

Introducing Emily!

Our new intern, Emily McCaul, will be with us for the duration of the upcoming summer. We are very excited to have her! Learn all about Emily, in her own words, from her sophomore year reflections below.

This past year at Virginia Tech was one filled with unthinkable opportunities, spontaneous travels, belly-hollowing fits of laughter, and tragically normal nights of Netflix-watching – because yes, Michael Scott truly is the man. Every day was different, sometimes stressful, yet always there were opportunities provided to smile with friends, drink good coffee, and contribute to a conversation with substance. It was a year of many firsts, some enjoyable, others less-than-bearable, but overall, it was a year of self-discovery.

In addition to my busy schedule as a sophomore at Virginia Tech with a double major in multimedia journalism and creative writing, I had a variety of experiences this year that contributed to my personal growth including:

I moved into my first apartment.

IMG_1303I received my first DSLR camera (it was a Canon, for some saucy specification and standard imagery), then my first tripod, and then my own Tascam recorder. And wow – had I ever truly felt like a journalist before that moment? It was questionable.

I covered a concert for Brad Paisley, Jenny & Tyler, and (my third concert for) Juxtaposition, one of the all-male, award-winning a cappella groups of Virginia Tech – the group is incredibly gifted, and I did shamelessly cry during their rendition of Coldplay’s “Fix You.”

I also cried from stress, from heartache and from finals this year; I’m a college girl with a lot on her plate, like many of my other classmates, so I tell myself it’s justified.

I survived finals, aided by my lovely friends from Starbucks, Keurig, Mill Mountain, EspressOasis, Bollo’s and Dunkin’ Donuts. Also, before you ask, yes, I do take coffee with my coffee.

I snapplaused to poetry in a safe place, and yes, I did love it.

IMG_3548I experienced New York City at Christmas, standing on top of Rockefeller Center in the middle of the night, with my sister and best friend.

I screamed over the madness that was a near upset in Met Life Stadium, four days before Christmas, as the undefeated Panthers nabbed three (unbelievable) points in overtime over the New York Giants – still cringing.

I applied for an internship with The New York Times during the first round of finals weeks, and two days later received an interview, then an offer to join the team as Virginia Tech’s Collegiate Representative.

I discovered a budding love for videography, which I fed through the creation of multiple, amateur videos of friends and promotional footage for the Times.

IMG_5334I learned to make time for the friendships that meant something to me, and without anticipating it, met a few new friends in the process.

I wrote an article that went viral over the time span of one weekend. It was about Disney Channel. I was not ashamed.

I got a bad hair cut, on a whim, and cried before reaching the car. I’ve since grown out the bad haircut, and it’s okay now.

I rode on a bus for 14 hours to Panama City where I got to play with steel wool on the beach at night, feet sinking into the sand, laughing into the warmth of the sparks, and tucking away the memory for future story telling.

I interviewed Paula Deen in Roanoke when she visited to promote her new furniture line at Grand Home Furnishings. She was incredibly sweet, and I was given the opportunity to share the story of how she overcame her struggle with agoraphobia.

I interviewed the New York Times’ best selling author, critically-acclaimed poet, Grammy nominee, and Virginia Tech professor, Nikki Giovanni, whose humble words of encouragement will forever imprint a perspective upon me I hope to share with others.

IMG_2483I met a boy in line at a coffee shop one night, impromptu and unexpected, who ended up sitting down and talking with me until the shop closed at midnight. That boy is now my boyfriend, and he is incredible.

I witnessed Elton John live in concert, belting out the high-pitched lyrics to Benny and the Jets with hundreds of other women.

I went kayaking for a few hours during the second round of finals week with my best friends, and it was one of the best few hours of my sophomore year.

I consumed far too many caramel cheesecake milkshakes from Cookout.

I watched my best friend graduate from Virginia Tech this spring, pick up her diploma, and hug me through tears and the daunting, ringing thought of ‘….wow, this is real, isn’t it?’

I received a phone call from a starstruck little sister who was named the valedictorian of her high school, of whom I am incredibly proud and look forward to attending school with next year at Virginia Tech, as a freshman in engineering.

IMG_3443And finally, this year I decided I was going to fulfill my dream of becoming a writer in New York City, who is proud of her work, changing lives for the better, and bringing a voice to the profound and voiceless people of today.

That’s what I did this year. It was a year of many firsts, some enjoyable, others less-than-bearable, but overall, it was a year of adventurous and unexpected self-discovery!

Stay tuned for more articles and memorable adventures from Emily this summer!

A Little Fall Reading

Poppyseed readers: This book is great for older teenagers (and young adults) about to go to college or enter the workforce. It contains minor profanity throughout, but addresses important issues of which we should all be aware. Use your discretion to determine whether it is appropriate for your child.

518wtxsqFAL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Trashed, a graphic novel by Derf Backderf, is loosely based off of the author’s own experiences working as a garbageman. The main character, Derf, is a college dropout who has moved back in with his mother. She convinces him to inquire about an ad for a job she sees in the local paper. You can almost hear the disillusionment in his voice when he says, “I would have preferred something with AC.”

Early on, Derf tells his friend and coworker that if he receives some sort of “sign” he will quit the garbageman job and go back to school. Immediately, he tumbles out of the truck on to some trash bags. Yet he doesn’t quit his job. Even after verbal abuse from his boss and rejection from a girl he knew in high school, he forges on and continues to learn the ropes of garbage collecting.

This provides an interesting commentary on the financial and overall instability that young adults face as they enter the work force. In the aftermath of failure, surrounded by frustration, it can be a lot easier to make plans for change rather than follow through with them.

Backderf does sprinkle in a little humor throughout the book, along with really important facts and insight into how much trash we produce annually as individuals. He gives readers a visual representation of the depth of landfills and encourages us to curb our garbage addiction before it is too late. Additionally, he discusses how our disposal methods have changed over the years.

If you can tolerate a little profanity here and there, this is a book that will entertain you and make you think about your place and the impact you have on the world around you. At the very least, perhaps it will inspire you to thank your garbage collector.