Friday, January 18, 2019

I'm Going to Write and Publish Three Books This Year (Alissa Grosso)

It's January, which is a time for making New Year's resolutions and setting goals. I've set a goal for myself that is at once terrifying and exciting.

I plan on writing and publishing three books this year. I actually did publish three books last year, but two of them were sort of already written. So, this year's goal is a big step up for me.

I've been cautioned by a few people who probably think they're being sensible and realistic, that this goal might not be an attainable one. I'll admit I've even had a few doubts myself.

But that sort of thinking is a sure way to limit oneself. January's not over yet and the first draft of the first book is more than halfway done. I've got eleven more months ahead of me and I plan on using my time wisely.

Don't limit yourself by what others think is realistic and attainable, and don't let limiting beliefs stop you from achieving all that you want to do. So, with that in mind what is your big, limit-crushing goal this year?

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Limiting the Limits (Jodi Moore)

We are Cirque-a-holics in our family. From our first experience years ago with Cirque du Soleil’s LOVE (a tribute to the Beatles), we were hooked. The artistry, athletic skill and inspiration filled our minds, hearts and souls to overflowing.

The T-shirts in the gift shop were more than mere souvenirs. The words splashed across them allowed us to take a little piece of it home, to embrace the spirit:

I am ready. The sky is not the limit.

That line spoke to us. Motivated us. It compelled each one of us to move out of our comfort zones, to burst forward, upward! To fulfill our dreams.

Nothing would hem us in. Nothing.

For a long time, I’ve believed that.

I still do.

However, there’s a difference between believing there are no limits and defining your own.

Too often, we make the mistake of boxing ourselves in. Sometimes (for multiple reasons), we accept the limits others have set for us. Other times, a lack of confidence on our part determines the weight of the restraints.

To this, I say…toss that box! Break it down. FLY. The sky is not the limit!

(I know, easier said than done.)

Of course, sometimes limits are important. For example, we need to follow speed limits or risk getting a ticket.

It’s also important to note that sometimes we need to place limits on ourselves for our own health and sanity. For example, I should limit myself to three cookies instead of eating the entire plate. I should limit my screen time to maximize my writing efforts. I should/must limit the amount of energy I spend on toxic people.

Finally, there are variables in this world outside of our control. What became achingly clear to me last month is that the biggest limit imposed upon us is Time.

I’m not talking about Age. As my husband says, “I can’t change age, but I can change attitudes.” Our younger son started studying magic at the age of 4, performing professionally at 12 and won “Best Newcomer/Magicians’ Alliance of the Eastern States” at 15 (incidentally, he’s the one who introduced us to Cirque.) I didn’t get my first picture book contract until I was 50. And the hubby who came up with that fantastic motto? He's entering his fifth decade of providing music by request as a disc-jockey. (And a totally awesome one at that!)

Age does not need to limit anyone.

I’m talking about time itself. The tick, tick, tick of the clock. The rapid turn of each page of our calendars. The amount of time – however its determined – that we, and those we love, spend on this earth.

Last month, I lost my dad. And suddenly, the limits that time imposes upon us hit me like a tsunami. This wasn’t a limit I’d set or could somehow overcome. I couldn’t stop it, swim through it or surf over it.

It just crashed over me.

Our family and friends huddled tight. At first, we cried with shared grief. But then, as we began to share memories, we smiled. We laughed at the funny anecdotes and held the pictures close to our hearts.

You see, it's these memories that keep our precious ones alive.

And so, I shall write the stories…because if there’s anything in this world that’s truly limitless, it’s love.

Friday, January 11, 2019

I Can't... (Maryanne Fantalis)

When the theme of limits was chosen for this month, I groaned. I know I'm supposed to be all happy and upbeat and rah-rah: there are no limits, you can do anything you put your mind to, you just have to believe. Reality TV has made an industry out of this idea. Just don't give up; eventually, someone will see your gift.

And hey, it worked for me. From the time I submitted my first novel to the time Finding Kate got published I spent more than 20 years writing, getting rejections, learning the craft, doing more writing and getting more rejections. I could have given up (and for a while I kind of did, flitting between projects for several years). Getting Kate published took over 5 years all by itself.

So, yes, believing in your dream is important, but let's also acknowledge that it's exhausting to keep believing all the time. "You can do it if you just believe!" has its limits as an effective strategy. Acknowledge that. Give yourself a break from time to time.

As a person with lots of things going well, I know that most of my limits are self-imposed. Take my latest accomplishment, for instance. In December, I sent my latest MS off to my editor. Hooray, right? I should be proud and happy.

Mostly I'm feeling relieved and guilty: relieved because it's finally done, and guilty because it wasn't done sooner. I missed several self-imposed deadlines along the way, and I feel terrible about that. Sure, I was busy with my teaching obligations and shifting into the demands of a new job, but there were plenty of times when I lacked the self-discipline to make sure that the work got done when it needed to.

When it came time to write this blog post, I asked one of my writing group buddies for help. He said, "What if there were no limits?" I wanted to laugh. And maybe cry a little. So much of my life has been bounded by my perception of my own limitations: the things I can't do, or shouldn't do, or won't be allowed to do.

So what I'd like to do this year, as I begin my next novel, is allow myself to think without limits. What if, for this novel, I took baby steps towards thinking that my writing is a valuable and important part of my life? What if I demanded time for writing and took it seriously, professionally?

I'll be honest with you, just writing those words feels like a joke. That right there, those are my limits.

Any advice? Thanks for listening.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Limitless...Mostly. by Joy Preble

LIMITLESS is the title of a picture book/gift-type book by Leah Tenari that we sold a bunch of at the bookstore this holiday season. It's a compilation of little bios and lovely drawings of 24 remarkable American women -- ranging from Sojourner Truth to Abby Wambach and a bunch of others in between. It's a fabulous, inspiring book. The basic message? We are, as women and humans, limitless in what we aspire to. We should aim high. Dream big. Don't accept constraints place on us by those who don't believe we can follow our aspirations to the stars.

I believe this. I talk a lot about how I believe this. How you are never too old or too young to follow your dreams. It's how I moved from woman who taught high school English every day and secretly wanted to be a writer to woman who has 7 plus books on shelves and hopefully more on the way. I'm the poster girl for limitless some days-- those moments I have to pinch myself to believe that I am now a person who speaks at conferences and teaches workshops to adults on writing and has actual reader fans who tell me lovely things about my work. My world has broadened exponentially since I decided not to place limits on my dreams. I am lucky and fortunate in so many ways.

But. Here's the thing.

Sometimes, limits are okay.

Sometimes you can only do so much in the hours in each day and sometimes life--jobs, health, family, just plain old exhaustion--gets in the way.

As it seems it was for lots of us, 2018 was a rough year. I was not as productive as I wanted to be, and yet when I go over what I did accomplish this year, the truth is that I was as productive as I could be given all the other things that had to take precedence. 

So. Here's what I think this morning as I realize that maybe the stretch of those limits is why this post is a day late and you, dear readers, were supposed to be pondering it yesterday:

Sometimes we need limits. Sometimes we need to say Hey. I'm pushing too hard. It will get done when it gets done or at least I will take on fewer things that need to get done. I will occasionally walk the dog without revising a chapter in my head and I will not feel like a slacker when I don't get up at 5 am to write but instead get up at 5 am because I like getting up early and this morning I am going to make 3 dozen muffins for a writing retreat and the pages will get done tomorrow. I will close my ears to the endless publishing noise of BIG ANNOUNCEMENTS and I will announce that today I have limited myself to the announcement that yes, I took out an hour to catch up with Outlander and have duly watched Roger Mac get into all sorts of trouble and woes and dear, handsome Jamie Fraser make some monumental errors in judgment. I have gone to the day job and written less than I want to and taken time to cook this really amazing turkey cutlet dish with lemons and capers. I have declared that enough.

Sometimes we need to limit our pace. Resist the impulse to post our word counts and the list of places we are going and the many, many things we will absolutely get done this year because in listing them we convince ourselves that setting no limits makes us somehow more worthy.

And okay, yes, this weekend, I am going to finish this book, finally, months after I thought I would.
But right now, I'm watching the dog curl up on the rug in just the right patch of winter sunlight.
And pressing publish on this post.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Stretching, Limits, Balance by Kimberly Sabatini

As a dancer, runner, a mom, and a writer, I know about the power of stretching. 
Reaching for more, even when you do it in small increments can net large gains over time.

I tend to believe that reaching for the stars--extending--almost always leads to unexpected, positive surprises. 

And pride. 

But I also believe in the power of limits. 

Boundaries are sometimes just as powerful and beneficial as the breaking of glass ceilings.

It's not just about trying to stay in my own lane. 

Sometimes it's about deadlines and expectations. 

And it's about making things fit--understanding your container and not overstuffing.

And sometimes...

“Done is better than good.” 
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear

But if stretching AND having limits are both really good things that have positives--how the heck is someone supposed to know when to push and when to sit back?

I think it comes down to balance.

We have to feel our way...
 and constantly reinvent ourselves in order to find our equilibrium between stretching and using limits to their best effect.

We have to be comfortable making mistakes, self-examining our choices and changing directions. 

I'm currently reading a fascinating book that is making me think deeply about these very topics and a ton more...

“Fear can be created quickly; trust can’t.” 
― Ed Catmull, Creativity, Inc.: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Take all the time you need to keep discovering how stretching, limits, and balance work the best for you. And when you think you have it all figured out--be sure to remember that you've only begun to scratch the surface. You've got a lot more work ahead of you. <3

Sunday, January 6, 2019

The Sky’s the Limit (Mary Strand)

Happy New Year!

This month, our blog topic is “limits”: setting them, recognizing them, dealing with them, getting around them, ignoring them, etc.  Basically, how we react to limits imposed on us by ourselves or others.

My first reaction is that I don’t believe in limits.  I definitely reject outright all limits that others try to impose on me, and I generally laugh in their face while doing so.


As I leave in the dust a really tough year, when not one but both knees utterly let me down, it occurs to me that I wound up putting limits on myself.  Sure, I didn’t tend to think of it that way.  I mostly just shook my fist at the universe or declared that I was royally screwed.  (If you spell “screwed” beginning with an “f.”)

Feeling as wrecked and hopeless as I did all year, I simply accepted that I couldn’t write.  At least, I couldn’t write funny stuff, and that’s what I write.  For a few weeks last summer, I did try.  It wasn’t funny and didn’t sound like me, so I finally gave up.  Instead, I worked on revisions to old manuscripts.  I got through two of them.  I also spent more time than usual on guitar and vocals, and I started writing songs.  I discovered that I love songwriting, and it feeds me creatively.  In a big way.

So, basically, I made some decent use of my time in 2018, but I still lost hundreds of hours to the limits imposed on me by my knees.  Which means I let myself be limited by me.

To quote the brave teenage Parkland survivors: I call bullshit on that.

Does Chris Hemsworth have anything to do with limits?
Not that I can think of.  You're welcome.

I don’t believe in limits, whether I set them myself or some jerk tries to impose them on me.  Yeah, yeah, I did let limits attach themselves to me like a psychopathic fungus in 2018, but that was soooo 2018.

In 2019, I get a do-over.  I get to reach for the stars and new book ideas and finished manuscripts and book contracts and playing sports and getting the songs I write into the right person’s hands.  I get to look for success, and find it, in every imaginable way.  I get to set goals that other people say are unrealistic or utterly outside of my control.  I get to dream.  As in, go big or go home.

In 2019, I get to be me again.  And I refuse to let any limits stop me.

Including my own.

Mary Strand is the author of Pride, Prejudice, and Push-Up Bras and three other novels in the Bennet Sisters YA series. You can find out more about her at

Saturday, January 5, 2019

Definite Limits, Approximate Limits, Infinite Limits, and No Limits

by Fae Rowen

I have to admit that I giggled when I saw this month's topic. I mean, how can a calculus teacher not be excited about getting to blog about limits?

No worries, you won't be getting a math lesson from me today. But I have to admit that I cannot think about limits without mathematical ideas. So here we go with limits-as they apply to writing.

Definite Limit: A definite limit is an exact number, a constant.

In life, we might call it a hard limit or hard line, something you cannot cross.

Like a deadline for taxes or a job application. Or delivering a book to an editor.

In writing, it's the requirements of genre writing, like the HEA in a romance or red herrings in a mystery. Your publisher expects a clean copy of your manuscript, with zero typos and zero grammatical errors. I have a friend who writes for a New York publisher who requires her to have exactly twenty-two chapters in every book. Not twenty-three, not twenty-one.

As writers, we all have our definite limits about certain words we will not put on the page or types of scenes we will not write. These are all non-negotiable.

Approximate Limit: An approximate limit is the limiting factor in a situation. Let's say you are at the fifty-yard line on a football field, pointed toward your goal. For your first play, you run half the distance to the goal line. Your second play you run half the remaining distance to the goal line. You continue running half the distance to the goal line for as long as you're willing to run. Soon, you're within an eyelash of the goal line, but when you take your next move, you will be half the most recent distance to the goal. You will never reach the goal line, although you will be painfully close to it. Your limit is the goal line.

An example of an approximate limit in writing is the page or word count a publishing house requires. Eighty-five thousand words is a target. A little above or a little below is fine. No one expects you to turn in a book with exactly eighty-five thousand words. If you're writing a thriller, your main character encounters danger and suspense close to the first page. Some set-up may be allowed, but your readers must be on the edge of their seats by the end of the first chapter, which becomes your approximate limit.

Infinite limit: A strict mathematical definition of infinite limit is something (a function) increasing, or decreasing, without bound. In other words, something gets bigger and bigger and never levels off or gets smaller. Wouldn't it be nice if your bank account had an infinite upper bound, and just kept getting bigger and bigger, even if by just a small amount? (Note: Technically, an infinite limit means the limits does not exist, however, that is the mathematical purist view.)

As a writer, I think of the emotion in my story as an infinite limit. It doesn't matter what the emotion is—fear, love, or something else—but everything my characters think, do, say or experience should ratchet up that emotion until the end of the book. Readers read fiction to feel emotion, to make a connection. It is my job to take them deeper and farther along that journey to a satisfying ending, so they can continue feeling and thinking about the story after the last word. They may not remember the plot in two years, but if they remember the way they felt during reading the novel and afterward, I've done my job.

When a reader encounters this infinite limit, they tell others about your books, they put your next book on pre-order.

No Limit or A Limit Does Not Exist: This one sounds scary, particularly if you've ever lived with a teen. It simply means that when you approach a problem from two opposite directions, you do not end up at the same place. Yes, it's like your best argument for your teen to do something turned around to come at the issue from the opposite direction and get an entirely different result.

This is frustrating, even dangerous in real life. It's dangerous as a writer, too, because this is the place that readers talk about throwing the book at the wall. Our logic, our genre promise, our characters, must follow rules—either society's, someone they love (or hate or work for) or their own.

Be very careful in no limit territory in your writing.

But in your writing life, remember that there are no limits. None at all. Whether you're just starting out, ready to begin the submitting process, starting publishing, or continuing an established writing career, you are the sculptor of that career. If you need to learn more about the craft, take classes, read articles and books. If you haven't finished a book yet, finish it this year. If you don't know how to market, attend a conference, talk to other authors and learn how to market your work and yourself. If you can't bear to write one more romance and want to ditch your successful career, decide how you can change things up by putting a twist on your romance idea and write that story in a different genre.

The only way you fail as a writer is to quit writing. That's a definite limit.

How can you remove some of the limits you've put on yourself? 
Do you have someone you can ask for support when necessary?


Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules. P.R.I.S.M., Fae's debut book, a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, and love is now available at Amazon and Barnes and Noble.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

New Year, New You, No Limits - Janet Raye Stevens

Hello, YA Outside the Liners, and happy 2019! Like a gazillion other people, I celebrated New Year’s Eve by gathering with family and friends. And also like a gazillion other people, I ordered Chinese takeout. The evening ended in the usual way, with cheers, toasts, and drinking a cup of kindness for auld lang syne. The takeout meal ended in the usual way too, with a fortune cookie.

“A goal is a dream with a deadline,” my fortune read. 

Appropriate for a writer, huh? Especially with the new year upon us and many new goals being set. I’m pretty sure I can achieve that ‘dream with a deadline’ if I just get my butt in the chair, put my hands on my keyboard, and get to work. Oh, and not get waylaid by one of the words I dread most… limits.

Haha, bet you thought I was going to say “slacks” or “albeit,” two words that make me gnash my teeth in annoyance (seriously, no one under the age of 85 wears slacks and unless you’re penning your doctoral thesis in microbiology or something, never, ever use the word albeit). 

No, the word that makes me cringe is limit, as in things we writers face that limits us reaching our goals. The word that stops us from taking that risk, or turning that small step of an idea into a giant leap. 

The list of limits stopping us is long—here are only a few:
  • time limits (what do you mean one must stop to eat and/or sleep?)
  • family & domestic needs (those dishes aren’t going to wash themselves)
  • physical limits (banging on the keyboard for 8 hours straight may induce oh-my-aching-back syndrome)
  • hitting a creative wall (when you find yourself writing yet another love triangle for your heroine because you’ve run out of other ideas, just stop)
  • and my old friend, procrastination (hmm, when was the last time I dusted the top of the refrigerator? Oh well, can’t hurt to do it again now).

But I find there is no limit more insidious, more efficient at stopping a writer than the Borg queen of all limiting limits: Self-Doubt. That nattering nabob of negativism inside me that says you can’t write that. You’ll fail. You don’t know anything about XYZ. 

That’s the limit I’m constantly battling, and, I suspect, what a lot of writers are battling. 

For instance, I’d always told myself I couldn’t write short, and thus would never be able to write short stories. Truth is, I’d never tried to do it. My internal editor was setting a limit before I could even undertake the task. It was a long battle to overcome that self-doubting inner voice before I could sit down and write my first short story. The result? Nine mystery and romance stories published over eight years. 

Yet I still had trouble calling myself “published.” They’re only short stories, not novels, that limiting voice inside me said. I’ve had to train myself—and dope slap that inner critic more than once—to see the shorts for what they are: a successful forward movement in my publishing journey.

Another example... I’m a dedicated genre-hopper, writing YA, sci-fi, mystery and paranormal. There’s usually a romantic sub-plot in each of my stories, but I always told myself I couldn’t write a real romance, where the love story is the story. 

Until two years ago. 

I had an idea for a contemporary romance, specifically a Christmas romance. Totally not your schtick, my inner voice said. So what if contemporary romance is the most popular sub-genre of the best-selling fiction genre (romance--nearly $1.5 billion in sales for both traditional & indie romances in 2017)? So what if Christmas romances are the hottest selling sub-sub-genre of the contemporary sub-genre of the romance genre? 

I couldn’t write it. 

Or so I thought. I drafted up a two-page synopsis just to get the idea on paper and went back to my revisions on another story. The idea wouldn’t go away, so I sat down and wrote a solid first three chapters, followed by a loose draft that ended up being around 26,000 words. I then returned to tweaking my YA Sci-Fi so I could enter it into the Romance Writers of America Golden Heart contest for unpubbed romance. 

As I prepped my YA, I waffled about tossing my silly little Christmas story in there too. The pro side of the waffle: the story was perfect for the short contemporary category—romance-y, Christmas-y, sweet, and set in current day and on this planet. The con side of the waffle? At 26,000 words, the story was too short. Not to mention incomplete and as messy as a first draft has every right to be. 

Here’s where the self-doubt and limits came in again. I had one month until the deadline. Though contest entrants are only judged on the first 50 pages, the manuscript has to be complete, and for the short contemporary category, at least 50,000 words. I told myself I’d never make the deadline. It’d be impossible to polish up the entry pages while banging out another 25,000 words, and write a synopsis to boot. 

Then I told that inner voice to quit it. To stop limiting myself and just do it. So I did. The final product was messy but a complete story and I literally typed THE END and submitted the whole shebang five minutes before the deadline. The rest? Well, the manuscript made the finals then won its category, which helped me land an agent who is very excited to get the story out on submission. 

COLE FOR CHRISTMAS goes out to editors in a few weeks. 

Moral of the story—if I’d given into the doubts and fears trying to limit me, I would never have been able to move forward. So whatever idea you have in mind, whatever it is you want to do, my advice is don’t say I can’t. Tell your inner limiter to button its self-doubting lip and say yes

Here’s to a new year of hopes and resolutions fulfilled, challenges accepted and won, new goals, new dreams—and no limits (er, except maybe lay off using the word 'slacks').

So very groovy!

Monday, December 31, 2018


What happened this year?

I grew.

So did you.

Maybe everyone around you had a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT kind of year. Some years are--your book gets published, or you move to a new state, or you graduate, or you get married, or your kid goes to kindergarten, etc., etc., etc. Some years are Big Changes kind of years.

Well. They're External Changes kind of years, anyway. 

The others? They're made up of internal changes. And often, these can be the most profound changes of all. They're usually not made up of things you can brag about. They're usually not made up of things that the outside world would smile upon. They're not made up of things that bring money or admiration. 

But they are usually the years when you find some sort of new happiness. You learned to cook. You discovered gardening. You found yoga was good for your soul. You reconnected with an old friend. You finally decluttered your house to make way for the new. You finally established common ground with a co-worker (or maybe even an in-law). You saw some situation from your kid's eyes and it changed your entire perspective. You figured out how to get past page 10 in your WIP. You got twenty rejections for your book--which you'd never even had the guts to submit before. You read and you felt and you experienced. You bumped along, but you paid attention, and now, you have new ideas about which direction you'll be headed in 2019.

You grew.

Yes, you.

Even if you didn't have a BIG ANNOUNCEMENT kind of year. You are a different you than you were this time last year. 

You grew.

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Goals for the Year (Brian Katcher)

Image result for passed out drunk

So last month, I hit about the two thirds point in my work in progress. I realized that I had gotten to the point where I realized there were many problems with this draft, both in characterization, plotting, and overall structure. These issues could only be solved with a complete rewrite.

So the question remains: Should I gut through the last hundred pages, even though I know they'll be mostly unusable, or do I just barge ahead to the second draft?

Advantages of finishing the first draft:

* All writing helps strengthen your plot. Finishing could help me further flesh out the story, even if it's not, ultimately, useable.
* Most people I polled recommended this method.
* My writers' group wouldn't have to wait another year to read the ending.
* I promised myself a video game binge when I finished the first draft. If I cut this short, I'll have to wait months before I get a chance again.

Advantages of starting a new draft:

* What's the point of working on something flawed? Problems on page 10 affect page 300, and I'm wasting time working on issues that I'm going to abandon.
* I'm kind of chomping at the bit to get started on the rewrite. I've lost enthusiasm for the first draft.

So what do you think? When you've recognized the errors in Draft 1, do you keep writing, or abandon it for Draft 2? Let me know in the comments.

Friday, December 28, 2018

Writing (and Living) More Bravely by Dean Gloster

It’s dangerous to ask me to weigh in on goals.
I spent an entire summer of my late teenage years, when not at work, haunting the self-improvement non-fiction section of the Washoe County Public Library, like a obsessed revenant with self-image problems.
That vast pile of books taught that goals should be specific, measurable, and susceptible to being achieved in a binary yes/no fashion.
Which is, of course, a colossal lie.
As the Little Prince explained, “It is only with the heart that one can see truly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.”

Not everything important can be measured with numbers, and sometimes progress is a small shift, but still monumental.

Feelings are important, even you can’t see them from a distance.
Last January, I blogged that in 2018 I wanted to write with more courage.
Courage is the most contagious of human virtues. When we see someone acting with courage, it expands our menu of the possible—inspires us to join them in being brave.

In these dark times, our country needs courage—a willingness to stand up to misused power, to protect the vulnerable, to take principled stands to preserve our surprisingly fragile institution of the rule of law.

But when I look at my creative work this year, I didn’t write with courage.  I didn’t take enough risk.
I wrote careful, crabbed, slow drafts, instead of surfing the wild wave of something bigger moving underneath.
I’m going to try to do better, write braver, this coming year.

Of course, it’s not as easy as just deciding that. (At one level, it’s like saying, “I plan to be more spontaneous.”) But I plan to write more, to write early in the morning before my harsh inner critic is fully awake, and to play with drafting alternate “just for fun” ways to tell the story, including out-takes from other characters’ point of view that may never appear in the novel.
I hope to live a little braver too. To live more courageously, though, I’ll need to face what I’m afraid of:
Which, dear reader, would be you.
I have more than a touch of PTSD from childhood, and what I’m most afraid of is people. You are unpredictable and potentially dangerous, especially the closer you get.
But I’m going to try to live a little more connected this year, a little less surrounded by a moat. We’ll see how that goes.
Wish me luck.

Dean Gloster received an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts in July 2017. He is a former stand-up comedian and a former law clerk at the U.S. Supreme Court. His debut YA novel DESSERT FIRST is out now from Merit Press/Simon Pulse. School Library Journal called it “a sweet, sorrowful, and simply divine debut novel that teens will be sinking their teeth into. This wonderful story…will be a hit with fans of John Green's The Fault in Our Stars and Jesse Andrews's Me and Earl and the Dying Girl.” Dean is on Twitter: @deangloster

Thursday, December 27, 2018

Mindfulness online and offline (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

This month we’re revisiting the approaches to 2018 that we outlined in January. Back then I wrote about being online mindfully, discussing some of the ways in which I try to keep social media and the internet from impinging too much on the rest of my life.

I still do all the things I listed there: keep my phone turned off most of the time, get online only from my desktop, take daily walks without gadgets, retweet a beautiful picture at the end of every Twitter session. And it’s still working for me. New gadgets and new social media sites don’t tempt me. I’ve never had a Facebook account and don’t plan to start now.

The internet is full of wonders, information, connection. I love the ease of finding directions to a hotel or restaurant, emailing a distant friend, ordering items I can’t find in nearby stores, seeing pictures from the other side of the world, finding recipes that will use up my CSA vegetables. And then ... I like to step away.

I like the offline world. I have just spent three minutes staring at the pine branches outside my window.

My challenge in 2019 will be mindfulness in my offline life: more hikes, more talks with friends and family. More mindful attention to what projects I choose to write. Letting go of what I no longer need.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Defrost(ed) (Courtney McKinney-Whitaker)

I haven't been around YA Outside the Lines very much this year, a fact that is directly related to the word I chose for 2018 back in January: Defrost.

(As I consider the state of the polar ice caps and our freefall into irreversible climate change, I'm thinking this might have been a great word for me, but not such a great one for the planet. I'm writing this two days before Christmas in Pennsylvania. It's a balmy 47 degrees outside and my grass is very green. We had a thunderstorm two days ago. This is weird.)

This time last year, I felt frozen, unable to make a move for fear it would be the wrong one, writing or otherwise. I had just moved across the country for the third time in my adult life, I was between jobs, and I am the mother of a young child. All of that can add up to a lot of isolation.

Oh, and I couldn't think of any good writing ideas.

However, I'm happy to report that in January, I got a job that is perfect for this phase of my life (read: flexible). In February, I got to spend two weeks in Northern Ireland, and in March, I finally came upon the snippet of research that led to the new Civil War-era adult historical I'm now deeply involved in writing.

I decided to invest in my craft this year, which meant developing the book idea during an online retreat over the course of a long weekend in June and working with a book coach to develop my first draft. If you haven't tried working with a book coach, I highly recommend it. Google it!

In September I got to go on my second trip to Scotland in two years. I got to see some new things and some things I'd seen before. It was awesome. (We pretty much spend our money on travel and books in this house. My husband is an expert at cheap travel: go in the off season and travel with family to split the cost of lodging, rental cars, and food. We're trying to get in as much as we can before the school schedule kicks in and dooms us to summer trips.)

I've made friends in my new home; I no longer feel so alone.

My drafting process is coming along well, even if it's slower than I'd like, even with trimming down my commitments. (That's why I haven't been around here very much.) I have words to work with, and eventually, I'll have another book. At least I know I'm headed in the right direction now.

And of course, just as I got myself defrosted, my daughter became obsessed with Frozen, so another thing I accomplished in 2018 is learning all the words to "Let It Go."

Monday, December 24, 2018

Looking back, looking forward (Brenda Hiatt)

This month a lot of authors are looking back at the posts they made here last December or January and reflecting on the year just past in relation to those posts. Since I wasn’t brought on board here at YA Outside the Lines until March, I don’t have a December or January post I can refer back to. However, I see a lot of folks talking about their Word of the Year for 2018 and that’s something I can definitely do. 

I’ve been choosing a Word every year for nearly a decade now and that really does help me to focus (and re-focus and re-focus) my energies as I set my goals along the way. Past Words have included PROGRESS, APPRECIATE, SHARE and BALANCE (more than once…still not there). DIVERSIFY was my 2017 Word and I did pretty well with it professionally, if not personally. I had most of my books translated into Italian and German, had a few recorded for audiobooks and finally put most of them into print as well as ebooks. Really, other than the ubiquitous BALANCE, I haven’t done terribly with any of my past words. 

For 2018, my Word was OPTIMIZE. The idea there was to look at all the areas of my life—career, finances, time management, social activities, etc.—and pare back those things that weren’t working to make room for better stuff. Looking back, I wonder if my Word should have been EVALUATE, since the first step was to figure out where I was already expending those finite resources, a process all by itself. Where was I wasting time, money or attention? And where could I more profitably or enjoyably be spending that time/money/attention? I was well into the year before I was ready to start cutting out the things that clearly needed to go so I could add other, more necessary ones. I did eventually make progress in most (not all) areas, but not nearly as much as I’d hoped. I canceled a few subscriptions I wasn’t really using, delegated a few tasks that were taking more of my time than necessary and stopped doing some things that were no longer fun or profitable. Now, as the year winds down, I realize Optimizing will be an ongoing, multi-year process. Still, every step forward is a step forward…
Along the way, I did achieve a few big goals, if not necessarily the ones I set out to accomplish. For example, I intended to release another historical romance in 2018 since my career plan is to alternate YA and historical releases and my last book had been YA. My muse is a fickle creature, though, and a third of the way into that book she mugged me with an idea for my next YA novel that refused to be denied. After some initial resistance, I finally set aside the historical romance with a promise to come back to it and surrendered to the muse. So instead of the next historical, my 2018 release was book 6 in my Starstruck series, The Handmaid’s Secret. 

Released October 2018!

Now I’m back at work on the historical romance (working title: A Taste For Scandal) and I’m happy to report it’s about 2/3 written and coming along nicely. I’m aiming for an April release, after which I plan to turn my attention to the next Starstruck book (muse willing!) 

I haven’t yet settled on my Word for 2019. I’m considering giving OPTIMIZE another year. Other current contenders are CONNECT, GROW and LEAP. I have another week before I need to decide and something even better may bubble to the top. We’ll see. Meanwhile, I’ll take this opportunity to wish everyone reading this a warm and wonderful holiday season and a happy, healthy and productive New Year! 

Saturday, December 22, 2018

A year in review by Patty Blount

The calendar's just one page, as that Waitresses song goes, and I find myself struggling to remain cheerful.

There's something about the end of another year that always makes me sad. How fast it goes by, all the things I wanted to do but didn't, and that sense of time being wasted.

When 2018 still had twelves pages of calendar, I wrote a blog post about choosing a single word for the year. That word was SPARK.

I've been choosing a single word rather than making a resolution in the traditional sense because the word is easier to remember, to live up to. I'd hoped to repeat 2017's success and complete two writing projects.

I completed none.

But I'm choosing not to look at this as a failure.

I completed none because I didn't find or develop any ideas in 2018 that had SPARK. No joy in the author, no joy in the reader.

I did, however, do other things that filled me with joy. I agreed to mentor other authors. That's a SPARK for me. One completed an entry for next year's Golden Heart contest which is awesome because the first writer I ever mentored won that award this year.

I coordinated a writing contest and judged several others. These are also SPARK activities for me. I love to encourage new writers and help other writers feel like their work matters. I've been on the receiving end of so many bad reviews and poor scores, I feel like I can provide the kind of judging and feedback that's useful.

I am writing in a new genre (mystery) and hope to have a new series to share with readers soon. I've spent the last month on research -- yet another SPARK activity for me.

So, while I won't have a new YA title dropping in 2019, there are still lots of things I'm proud of in what was 2018. In fact, I'm planning to keep SPARK as my 2019 inspirational word.

Happy holidays to all!

P.S.  Seeing Holly Schindler's book cover for SPARK just under this post is some kind of serendipity, right?

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

The Author Thing (Alissa Grosso)

In January, when the year was still shiny and new, my goal was to focus more on doing the author thing in 2018, and now it's time to look back on the year that was to see how well I did at sticking to my goals.

I'm happy to report that I feel like I did a better job this year at making more time for writing. It's always a struggle for me to balance my creative work with the work that actually earns me a living. I made an effort this year to be better about finding this balance, and I'm happy with the results.

Back in January, I said that I wanted to self-publish two books this year, and I'm very happy to report that I achieved this.

In April my first self-published novel, Unnamed Roads came out. Publishing this YA novel, proved that I still had a LOT to learn about the business of independently publishing books, but I also think it was a good opportunity for me to learn some of the ropes of self publishing.

I said at the beginning of the year that I also wanted to publish an adult novel.

In October I released my debut adult novel, Girl Most Likely to Succeed. Shifting genres and audience, was a big change for me, but I'm very happy with how things turned out, and I was able to take some of the things I learned from self publishing Unnamed Roads and apply it to the publication of Girl Most Likely to Succeed, though I should point out I am still learning all sorts of things.

In one small way I actually exceeded my goals for the year because I published a third book this year as well.

Okay, technically In the Bag is a novella as opposed to a full length novel, but I'm still proud of myself for squeezing one extra book into my production schedule. Like Girl Most Likely to Succeed this is in the adult thriller genre.

So, with all these books out this year, I must be raking in the money, right? Well, not exactly. I still have a lot to learn about being profitable at this self-publishing thing.

In my defense, when I set out my goals for the year, I didn't anticipate turning a profit this year with my writing, but 2019? Well, we'll just have to see what the future holds.

Alissa Grosso shares more details about her author life and business on her Awkward Author vlog and podcast. Find out more about her and her books at

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Turning the Page (Jodi Moore)

Last year, instead of sharing my goals on the blog, I selected a word to inspire me. The word was “connect”. There were so many amazing words to choose from, but as an author, this one spoke to me. I have to connect with my readers…to help them connect with their world.

Admittedly, this is a hard blog to write because at the moment, I feel more than a bit disconnected. Last week, I received a call that no one ever wants to receive. My dad suddenly and unexpectedly left this world. 

I’m devastated. Our entire family is. He was a loving father and grandfather. I remember, as a child, standing at the top of our steps and jumping off with abandon, secure in knowing my dad would catch me at the bottom. He always provided that safe place to land. I guess you could say it was a living metaphor of what was to come in my teenage years, where my mom – and thus, the entire family – battled with the challenges of mental illness and the alcohol with which she tried to wash it down.

My dad never let me fall. Ever.

I started to write we never got a chance to say our last goodbye. Or “I love you”. But that’s not true. Because my dad and I were connected. I spoke to him every week (if not more) and though he lived one thousand miles away, we visited him as much as we could. I called him the day before he died to wish him Happy Hanukkah. We laughed. We talked about normal, everyday things. The price of getting a car fixed. Computer issues. Potato latkes. And the great pride we shared in our family.

And at the end, before we said goodbye, we said, “I love you.” We always did.

Of course, since life can be an unruly tangle of extreme joy and pain, the following day I was given permission by my Flashlight Press editor to share that there will be a new Dragon book next May, a board book for the littlest readers called I Love My Dragon.

It’s bittersweet for me. My dad knew it was coming, of course. But what he didn’t know was that it had been dedicated in part to him. It was supposed to be a surprise:

For Mom, who placed that first book in my hand, and for Dad, who helped turn the page.

I truly wish I could place this book in his hand.
Much love and thanks to my editor, Shari Dash Greenspan, our brilliant illustrator, Howard McWilliam, and the entire Flashlight family for making this book, this dedication, possible.

Please hug your precious ones a little harder today. Tell them you love them. Provide them that safe place to land. Connect. It’s the greatest gift you can both give and receive. Wishing you all a happy, healthy and safe holiday season, surrounded by family, friends and love.