communityLast month at the ASJA conference, I moderated a fabulous — if I do say so myself! — panel on writing fiction for children and young adults, featuring author Melissa Walker, editor Zareen Jaffery, and agent Molly Jaffa, who were all super-candid in offering up their insights into the field.

All of them agreed — and I’ve learned this through my own experiences as well — that the YA and KidLit communities are very welcoming and very close-knit.

But figuring out where to start can be confusing.  In prepping for the panel, I pulled together a hand-out that compiled some of the amazing online resources available for those broaching fiction in this area for the first time. The learning curve in making the transition from non-fiction to fiction can be steep — but with just a little help from some well-versed online friends, you’ll be on your way. Here are some of the best places to start if you’re looking for a KidLit community online.

SCBWI: The Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators
Perhaps the best known resource for writers (and illustrators) focused on KidLit and YA is the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators, which boasts two mega-conferences (summer in L.A. and winter in New York, although maybe they should have swapped those!) every year featuring the biggest names in the business, like Judy Blume. But joining SCBWI also has plenty of perks even if you don’t go to the conference. There’s local chapters throughout the country (and the world) who do their own extensive line of programming, a hefty monthly newsletter, an online community and lots of contests and grants. Membership isn’t going to break your budget, and the benefits are worth it.

Verla Kay Blue Boards
A super-supportive online community of pros and newbies alike, Verla Kay’s Blue Boards are a treasure trove of information about the craft and business of writing for children and young adults. Got an angsty agent question? Through it up for insights from those who have been there and done that. Looking for beta readers or critique partners? You’ll find those here, too. But perhaps most importantly, Verla Kay’s Blue Boards are a real community — like-minded writers who will cheer you up or commiserate or celebrate with you, no matter what stage of the publishing process you’re at.

Figment: is an online community for teens writing – and reading – fiction, chock full of author interviews, reviews, and manuscripts to ponder, a sort of Zoetrope for the YA set. There are plenty of contests and fun opportunities to connect with fellow writers, whether you’re a teen or just young at heart.

Up next, the must-read book blogs if you’re writing YA or KidLit. Stay tuned!

What are your favorite online writers’ communities? 


2013_blogathon_bannerLast year, I started the WordCount Blogathon off with a bang – I posted every day for about ten days, my visitors automatically increased, and it seemed like people were actually eager to read and interact.

Then, of course, life intervened. It was May, and I was in the thick of wrapping up my thesis, graduating from the New School’s creative writing program and moving on to life post-MFA. Oh yeah, and I was working. And then there was that pesky kid, always eager for fun and adventures.

I know what you’re thinking. Excuses, excuses. There’s always something. But it’s true! There always is. And I could make a million more right this very second.

But instead, I’m going to go ahead and try again. And this time, I’ll have company on my foray into the crazy world of daily blogging. I’ll be joined by my husband, Navdeep Singh Dhillon, AKA the Gentleman Writer, and also by my father-in-law, the blogging poet Pashaura Singh Dhillon. Plus, of course, the more than 100 other writers who’ve already signed up for Michelle Rafter’s ever-uplifting blog experiment.

I’ll be tackling posts for my own blog, on which I’ll be addressing the freelance life and the fiction life, along with some takes on parenting and pop culture for good measure. But I’ll also be one-half of the daily blogging team at the effervescent travel blog, which Navdeep and I have been growing since our six-month travel adventure in India more than five years ago. That blog is undergoing a revitalization – so we’ll be writing about our travels to Hawaii, New Orleans, Puebla and other amazing places.

Here are some of my goals for the 2013 Blogathon:

-To get in the habit of posting daily

-To hone and refine my essay-drafting skills

-To build an interested audience of fellow writers and readers

-To use the blog as a space to explore fiction craft and practice — and institute an accountability system for myself by checking in here

-To share the knowledge I’ve learned about freelance writing — as a craft and as a business — over the course of the  past five years

And last, but not least, I’ll be working on a secret project that I’m not quite ready to reveal yet. Let’s just say that, when it’s announced, it’s going to be fun and fabulous! Stay tuned here for more!

And if you’re an aspiring writer reading, feel free to ask questions, whether they be about freelancing or fiction!

Are you up for the challenge? What will you be blogging about for Blogathon 2013?

Blogathon 2013, Blogging, Freelance Writing, Sona Charaipotra, Writing, Writing Life

cos-kelly-clarkson-cosmo-2013-mdnCheck out this month’s Cosmopolitan magazine for my latest Q&A — a piece on the always lovely, always independent Kelly Clarkson.

I caught up with the Grammy-winning singer during her cross-country arena tour last July, when she made a stop at the PNC Bank Arts Center in New Jersey. Hanging out on her 45-foot-long tour bus, we talked about finding love (Kelly’s recently engaged — congrats!), those rumors that she’s gay, all the body drama the magazines keep rehashing, and perhaps most interestingly, how she finally decided to take charge of her career — and her life.

Missed the issue? No worries. You can check out the complete Q&A at right now!

CELEBRITY, Cosmopolitan, Entertainment, Kelly Clarkson, Sona Charaipotra

january_1_2013So here I sit again on January 1.

Another year, another resolution, right? You knew it was coming. It’s always inevitable — and then I inevitably break it. So this year, my resolution is not to resolve at all, but rather to evolve. It’s time to give up the gung ho race to the finish line and reassess what might actually work for me. After all, I’m in this writing thing for the long haul, right? Not just for the quick sale and the even quicker burn out.

I’ve often lamented here about my dilettante ways, how I’m always juggling three projects at once, rushing to get things done — and therefore not really moving forward at all.

So this year, I’ve decided to really focus. Focus on what my big picture goals are, focus on getting things done — but really, to focus on slowing down the pace, enjoying the process, and therefore actually managing to finish my projects, one at a time.

I’ve also decided to not jump into the querying process after I finish the first project, which is already quite near completion. Many of my fellow writers don’t understand the why behind this, but I just have to keep reminding myself of my long-term goals, rather than the short-term impatience — and believe me, I’m amongst the most impatient people I know. As a writer who works in two different genres, I’d like to be well-prepared, when seeking representation, to have a completed project in both areas, so that I can find an agent who really knows what she’s getting into, who really understands what my work is all about, who really sees the same big picture I’m seeing.

In the meantime, now that I have my lovely (if petite) desk and my awesome peacock blue velvet tufted chair to return to in a few short days, I do want to make one real, tangible plan-of-action and stick with it — and that is to put my butt in said gorgeous peacock blue velvet chair and spend some quality time with my WIPs at least five days a week. I won’t set unattainable word counts or ignorable deadlines. Instead, I’ll take my time, keep those eyes on the prize, and remember, for once, that the only person I’m racing is myself.january_1_2013

Blogging, Creative Writing, Freelance Writing, MAGAZINE JOURNALISM, New Year, Resolutions, Sona Charaipotra