My Crazy Summer: The 2015 Edition

I’m spreading myself thin this summer (ha! I wish). Maybe I’m a little insane, but there are just too many awesome things to be done.

First off, I leave for LA in just a few weeks. The 2015 Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices is 964125_10151485539816105_1442015370_ohappening at the end of June, and I will be part of the Genre Fiction Workshop, with author Sara Ryan as my faculty. (Check out who’s a fellow in 2015, and read my bio.) Deep down inside, I’m pretty pumped about going back this year (I went in 2013), but right now, I’m sort of consumed with thoughts about how I’m going to get body to squish into those regular-people-sized airplane seats. I apologize in advance for whoever’s side I end up flattened against.

(To the left, we have a photo of me at a Starbucks in LA during the 2013 retreat, and that studious person in the middle of the shot became my friend, and she’s also coming back for the 2015 retreat, so we’re gonna hang, and it’s gonna be grand.)

A week after getting back from California, I’ll be headed to Huntsville, Ontario for the annual Muskoka Novel Marathon. (Check out who’s writing in 2015, and

read my bio.) This will be my third time going, and I am so so excited to be participating this year. It’s a fundraiser for literacy, and so far, I’ve reached $230—yay! I’m trying to get to $500, so if you are feeling generous (or receptive to my begging), please help support me with donations! (Check out my online donation page and get a charitable receipt instantly.)

(To the right, we have a group shot of the 2013 MNM gang. I’m at the top right, rocking the shades.)

Throughout all this trip-preparation goodness, I’m revising like mad. My first novel—whose title might not be set in 22792_10152777837751105_4551462735320304753_nstone at all at this point—is due out in 2016 (Katherine Tegen Books | Harper Collins) and I’m in the cave, working at turning the story into the best version of itself it can be. It’s an interesting place to be, let me tell you.

(To the left, we have a photo of the cave as of this week, which is beautiful and not very cave-like at all. Coffee Culture is wonderful.)

And I also decided to move through it all. So there’s all the packing, and all the coordinating. I own so many books. That has become apparent since I’ve started packing them all. Books and toys will probably end up being 89% of the boxes. Which is why I am moving into a bigger place, so I can have more room for my stuff.

It’s madness! Until September, it will be complete insanity (the positive kind of complete insanity).

What do you guys have going on this summer? Anyone else went and booked too many good things at once?

MNM 2015: Another Writing Marathon for Me!

I got a spot!

A couple days ago, registration opened for the 2015 Muskoka Novel Marathon. Less than an hour and a half later, it was closed. That’s how fast the 40 spots filled up. The thing about the MNM is that it’s one of the coolest writing experiences ever. On one hand it’s a stellar fundraising initiative in support of literacy, and on the other, it’s 72 hours of total madness that, evidently, writers cannot get enough of.

MNM 2013

MNM 2013

I participated in 2012 and 2013 (you can read about it here and here). I didn’t go last year because I was planning another trip during that time (which fell through), and believe me, I regretted it. I did visit, though, and got to see the new venue for the event, the Active Living Centre in Huntsville, Ontario. I vowed to do everything I could to get in for 2015…and I did!

So on July 10th, I will be spending 72 hours writing like a maniac.

What does this mean?

Well, first off, writing an actual novel in 3 days isn’t really possible (well, I’m sure it’s possible, but not for most writers). A novella (tiny novel), maybe. But I write novels that range between 80,000 – 95,000 words. In 2012, I got about 25,000 words down during the MNM. It was an amazing experience because having the ability to spend 3 uninterrupted days with your head in a story leads to some pretty great story writing. That young adult manuscript had such a strong foundation that I went home and took it all the way to 81,000 words by the following month (it did receive an honorable mention for that year, and I am in the process of revising it).

Writing at the MNM

Writing at the MNM

In 2013, I thought I’d take my then current work-in-progress—which I was stuck on rewriting—and use the time to plow through it. It didn’t work. I ended up feeling so pressured to “unblock” that I wrote a bunch of crap. (Fear not. All is well. I rewrote it—probably three more times after that—settled on the title GIRL, and it will be published in 2016. Woo!) So this year, I will do what worked the first time: I will take a YA novel idea and a basic outline, and I will start fresh and hope for a strong foundation.

Now I must ask for money.

Because it’s a fundraiser after all. We’re aiming to raise $20,000. Obviously, every little bit helps. I will take small change. I’ve also made a donation page, which is probably going to be the easiest way to do it because paying online is just so convenient. My goal is to raise $500 (minimum), and I would be grateful to anyone who could help me get there.

Please note: Anyone who contributes to my fundraiser will get to name one of my characters.

I did this in 2012—and for those of you who donated then, I absolutely inserted your names in that manuscript. This time around, I’m going to let you give me the name you want in there. If you want your own name, that’s cool. If you want your kid’s name, awesome. If you want to force me to use something ridiculous like Cornelius Von Crapenschapel, go for it. 😉

So consider supporting me!

If you’d like more information about the event, check out the MNM website.You can see me in the photos of the 2013 MNM here, and the 2012 MNM here.

If you feel like taking a little trip to Huntsville on the weekend of July 10-13 2015, do it! The doors of the venue are open to visitors, and we love when people drop by. Also we’re not confined to the room or anything, so we can go for a stroll and a drink.

Thank you!

Girl: My YA Manuscript is Going to be a Novel!

Update (July 9, 2015): My novel title has been changed from GIRL to GIRL MANS UP!

On January 8th, the news hit: My debut YA novel is set to hit shelves in 2016!

confettiI’ve known for a few months now, and it’s been really hard to keep it all inside. Girl, a young adult novel, will be published by Katherine Tegen Books/HarperCollins.

Here’s the Publisher’s Marketplace announcement: Lambda Literary Retreat fellow M-E Girard’s debut, GIRL, about a queer girl who looks and dresses like a boy, whose guy friend bullies her, whose parents attempt to change her, and who falls in love for the first time, challenging our ideas about the words we use to describe people, and who has the right to judge or define us based on what they see, to Jill Davis at Katherine Tegen Books, for publication in 2016, by Linda Epstein at the Jennifer DeChiara Literary Agency (World English).

the-story-1440526-mI thought I might write a little about how the story was born, how it turned into a novel.

In 2010, I was taking a fiction-writing class through the continuing ed program at a Toronto college. I was working on a draft of something (that probably sucked since I don’t even remember what it is). A fellow classmate sent me this link for the 2010 Young Adult Novel Discovery contest, thinking I might be interested. Contest requirements were to enter a novel title and the first 250 words of it. I definitely wanted to enter, but I had maybe 3 days left until contest closing, and I didn’t have a novel manuscript written. But I had this little idea that had recently turned into a Chapter 1, so I decided to send that. The title was Bois Can’t Have Babies, and the 250-word paragraph was about a boyish-looking teen girl peeing on a pregnancy stick and it coming back positive.

Totally unexpected, but I ended up being a finalist, which won me a 15-minute telephone pitch with an agent, and from that phone call, I got a request for the full manuscript…which wasn’t written. Between entering the contest and finding out I was a finalist, I’d added maybe…3 chapters. It took a while, but I did get the entire thing written and polished, however things just sort of fizzled with that agent. It was fine, though, because I had a story I felt good about, and I was ready to start querying.

I sent out 6 query letters to my Top Tier agents (I wanted to start small to see what kind of response I’d get). Two never responded, and 3 sent form rejections. The 6th one to respond was my agent, Linda Epstein. (She responded the day after I’d decided my query letter sucked and needed revamping, which I’d done, along with preparing all the emails to my 2nd Tier agent batch. Ha!)

Until last spring, the story was very much following the path of my main character Pen’s queer pregnancy. Then I attended the 2013 Lambda Literary Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBT Voices, and it was there that I started to figure out what I was really trying to say with this novel, what themes I wanted to explore. The pregnancy thing was so big, and it didn’t allow me time and freedom to explore within the story. I remember author Malinda Lo (my workshop facilitator) saying “Does she really need to be pregnant?” After ruminating on that one, I realized, no, she doesn’t need to be pregnant. Yeah, it made for a flashy one-line pitch, but ultimately, it wasn’t letting me tell the story I wanted to tell. I wanted to explore gender norms and gender identity. I wanted to explore the complicated dynamics of friendships and other close relationships as experienced by a girl who presents more like a boy to those around her, and who sometimes feels like she’s way more of a boy than she is a girl—even though, to be clear, my character is cisgender and doesn’t experience any kind of inner conflict about her birth-assigned gender; her conflict is in relation to the way society dictates what being a girl has to look like, has to feel like.

After that realization came the major rewrite from scratch (not my first, but by far my most extensive with this story), with a heads up to my agent that I was changing everything, including the entire premise for the plot. Maybe my agent was panicking inside, but if she was, she didn’t tell me that. She said she trusted me to do whatever I needed to.

Last spring, the current version of Girl was written.

Obviously, in this case, starting over with a completely different story was the right move. Once the constraints of the original plot were removed, I found I could actually preserve what was good about the initial version and make it shine. I don’t remember hitting a point of worry while writing the new version (like “Oh man, I am making a huge mistake?!”), but I have to say, it’s really really difficult to rewrite a story that you’ve already written before. All the versions were melding in my mind, and keeping track of what I’d actually done versus what I remember doing in an old draft was dizzying. The experience changed my writing process a bit, teaching me to consider my themes and think about what I’d like to say with a particular story before I set off on this path of blindly following the plot as it unfolds. Having a clear vision of the point of the story allows me to make sure every scene works for it.

If I were to describe the story in one sentence, it would go like this: Girl is a YA novel about a 16-year-old named Pen who struggles to own her identity as a girl when she looks and acts like a boy and everyone around her expects her to be one or the other.

There you have the journey of the novel, thus far. (The title had to change, for obvious reasons.)

I am so very grateful for my agent being so kickass in letting me do my thing, but also for providing me some great insights into revising the story, and then, of course, for finding me a great publisher and editor to work with.

Now that it’s official, I guess I’m entering an exciting new phase in my career as a writer. To celebrate that, I decided to revamp my formerly tacky website (check it out!).

Plenitude Magazine: I Wrote a Thing

Just a quick note because I can’t let this thing that I’m so proud of go by without mention—through every single of my social media channels.

I subscribed to Plenitude Magazine as soon as I found out about it. It was only digital at the time, but now they also offer print subscriptions. Woohoo, paper! I was super excited to find out a few months ago that a short story of mine was accepted for publication in the magazine.

Plenitude-cover-issue-5-210x300Issue 5 just came out and my story, The Kind of Truth I Don’t Own Up To, is inside!

The story is about a 20-something girl experiencing conflicting feelings about her need for male attention, and how that plays into her romantic interest in women. These are concepts I’m pretty fascinated with, and I’m actually exploring them in my current novel manuscript, which will be intended for a YA audience.

If this is the kind of thing that interests you, as a reader, and you end up giving it a read, well I sincerely hope you enjoy the story! Also, for anyone interested in finding new queer voices, especially Canadian ones, I recommend checking out Plenitude Magazine regardless. It’s a great read.

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