#PimpMyBio is an optional blog hop hosted by Lana Pattinson. It’s a way for mentees to give a little preview into the work they’ll be submitting to #PitchWars. And for those of you that don’t know, PitchWars is an annual contest where generous mentors donate their time helping mentees spend two months getting their manuscripts polished. Then the writer’s pitch is showcased to literary agents in the hopes of getting representation and ultimately a book deal. Not everyone can get a mentor, but it’s a great opportunity, and you can learn more here. If you’re going to be participating in #PitchWars and want to do your own #PimpMyBio you can read about it here.
#PimpMyBio Pitch Wars 2016 – Meet Me!
My name is Liselle and this is my first year participating in Pitch Wars with my second novel. When I wrote my first book I admit that I had zero idea what I was doing and made all the big writing and querying mistakes you’re told NOT to make.
I set that project aside and now have one I’m proud of and excited about. I’ve also been book blogging now for almost a year. Blogging has absolutely been the fire under my butt prompting me to work more on my writing. Without this blog, I wouldn’t have read all the books that inspired me and wouldn’t have participated in and completed NaNoWriMo.
Things about me:
- I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and yes, I do adore poutine
- I went to school for linguistics and then assistant speech therapy. I ended up getting a fantastic placement at a rehab hospital doing therapy with post-stroke patients which remains the best part of my schooling to date
- I know basic sign language! I took classes and they were so fun.
- I cannot swim. I can float, but no swimming
- My all-time favourite book is The Magicians. That world building and how terrible yet amazing of a character Quentin is just floored me.
- I design bookish clothes as a side business
About My Book – THE LIGHT WITCH
When seventeen-year-old Nicholas Espinosa meets Simran, a witch on the run, he becomes intertwined in a magic drug ring. His only means of escape is to rescue her—but at the cost of the magic that let him walk for the first time in years.
Things about Nick:
- he’s something of a bookworm and sneaks out to skate parks in his wheelchair at night (he’s not great at it, but he likes it and he’s learning)
- was diagnosed with Becker’s muscular dystrophy when he was 11 (more on that later)
- both his parents speak fluent Spanish, and his comprehension is great, but he’s working on speaking. His mom was born in Canada and his dad in the Dominican Republic
- he and his step-dad Anthony have an awkward but amicable relationship
- he’s been homeschooled since he was 14 and he hates it
- he eventually tries his hand at wheelchair basketball but doesn’t like it as much as being at the skate park, or doing magic
- he loves his sense of humour, even if other people aren’t as appreciative of his comedic genius
- he’s self-conscious and often avoids going outdoors at high traffic times because he’s worried about being stared at
- he’s pretty stoked about having and using magic. Because magic.
Other things in the book:
- sassy twin sisters that are different from each other (they also have purple hair)
- a witch hunter named Ash that isn’t any good at witch hunting. He thinks he is, but that’s another matter… also has a nature spirit called Wind
- escaping from all sorts of witch prisons and compounds
- the magic drug trade – a system that murders witches and sells their magic to people addicted to it
- the Witchmaker aka the villain aka Simran’s drug lord
- of course, diversity!
- magic of all kinds. Offensive magic, magic for hiding, magic rituals, and more
- STRONG focus on friendship and family, small implied romance
When I first pictured this story in my head, all I knew was that it was going to be about a boy who makes eye contact with a witch, and suddenly discovers a world of magic. When I thought about my main character I wanted a protagonist that was home schooled but didn’t want to be and had trouble making friends because he was self-conscious. And that at the end, I wanted him to realize that just being himself would always be good enough.
The decision to write Nick as a character that uses a wheelchair came later. Everyone always says to write what you want to read. And I wanted to read a YA fantasy where the protagonist (not the protagonist’s bestie) uses a wheelchair.
In eight grade, we read Rebound by Eric Walters. It’s a contemporary about a boy that loves basketball, who has an accident and has to use a wheelchair, but ends up playing wheelchair basketball instead. We went to the YMCA in our local area and tried out wheelchair basketball ourselves. I was terrible at it, as I was in all sports. But it always stuck with me. I learned all these things about what using a wheelchair can be like for someone. At that age, I hadn’t ever met anyone in a wheelchair. And that book, out of all the books we read in grade school, is the only one I still think about.
Research and Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy
Research for this has been a combination of looking at medical websites so I could be accurate about Nick’s disease, and also a lot of Youtube videos and reading blogs and articles written by people with Becker’s and other types of muscular dystrophy. I wanted to look into things that were personal rather than medical journals.
Becker’s Muscular Dystrophy is known as a milder form of MD, but it has widespread effects. Muscular dystrophy at its core is the weakening of muscles, and Becker’s most often affects the muscles in the legs and hips, but can, in some cases, also affect the upper body muscles including the heart. It’s a genetic disease, mostly affects boys, and has no cure. For some people, they walk well into adulthood (but may tire quickly, or have trouble running) and others may require a wheelchair.
And I learned the differences between dystrophy and atrophy. Dystrophy is the progressive weakening of muscle that can spread to other muscular groups, like how Becker’s MD can begin in the legs and hips and migrate to the upper body. Dystrophy is also for genetic conditions. Atrophy is the progressive degeneration of muscle and is often acquired, e.g. through nerve damage and may also be reversed once the cause is found. Atrophy is often concentrated in the area suffering the nerve or other damage.
Blogs that helped me:
- My Becker’s Story – detailed life story
- My Life with Muscular Dystrophy – has a TON of posts
- Disability in Kidlit – great for book recs and discussions
- Kayla Whaley – read her articles!
- Not a blog, but checking out the hashtag #BadassDisabledWomen
What I’m Hoping My Mentor Will Help With
- able-gaze-free representation of a character with a disability – I’ve done my very best to create this with Nick, and anything that doesn’t adhere to this standard, I don’t want in my novel.
- The reality is that Simran, the witch, cures Nick’s muscular dystrophy in the beginning of the novel. Nick walks for a lot of the story , and I want it to be clear that his life doesn’t change because he can walk, but because he develops an identity that includes his disability vs. an identity that revolves around it. Such that giving back Simran’s magic isn’t a sad moment because he’ll have to go back to using his wheelchair. But that it’s a triumphant moment of Nick saving someone he cares about and that he goes back to using his chair understanding that it never made him less worthy or valuable as a person. Chair or no chair, just Nick has always been good enough.
- avoiding plot holes and inconsistencies
- whether the worldbuilding feels complete and rich
- helping to make sure characters are consistent and realistic
- length, whether things need to be cut or added
- any other suggestions or tips they have. I am more than willing to soak in whatever advice my mentor has and do my best to improve based on their suggestions
If any mentors (or readers!) have questions for me, feel free to ask in the comments!