Wednesday, January 30, 2013

I'm Grateful for This


Gratitude is a favorite subject of mine, something I always feel I can speak about. I may have mentioned before on this blog that every day I post something I’m grateful for on Twitter and Facebook with the #DailyGratitude hashtag.

My newest ebook (which would be great for young adults, by the way) is The Long, Steep Path: Everyday Inspiration from the Author of Pay It Forward, and it’s the first book-length creative nonfiction I’ve done. And it contains a whole section on gratitude, detailing how I got into posting about it daily, and what I’ve learned.

From the book: I set out to focus on a specific type of gratitude. Not because I already knew what was most important, but because I didn’t want to seem braggy. I might think, I’m glad I own my home instead of renting, or, I’m glad I’m published as an author, but I would never use those for my #DailyGratitude. Because I didn’t want people to react by thinking, Sure, I’d be grateful too if I had that. (Not that I have a lot. Just that I have a lot compared to some. Almost everybody has a lot compared to some.) Instead I looked for the kind of gratitude that almost anyone can find. The kind that just involves shifting my focus—looking and listening in a different way.

And then, after a lot of specifics and examples: Here’s what I learned from my Daily Gratitude: the blessings I decided to focus on just coincidentally happen to be the ones that really matter. In the great scheme of life, it’s not about whether I own or rent, whether I’m published or not published. What matters is the way the birds sing at dawn, and the amazing way the clouds are painted on the sky.

But for this post, I feel I want to pick one thing that really stands out to me. And yet I still want it to be in the category of the ones that matter.

So, here goes:

The week before Christmas, I searched three animal shelters with the idea of possibly adopting a kitty. It was a huge gamble, because I’ve had my little dog, Ella, for 6 ½ years, and she’d never lived with a cat. The following day I crossed my fingers and brought home Jordan, a 5 ½ month old jet black shorthair with beautiful green eyes and a sweet disposition.

For three days he hid under the dresser in the front bedroom, his “safe room,” with the door closed. I never saw him come out, but the food and water were lower in the morning, the litter box used. Then he spent the rest of his first two weeks here with the door to his room open but blocked by a baby gate to keep the dog out. They considered each other from opposite sides of the mesh.

On New Year’s Day, I took the dog into his room on leash. Nothing happened, so I put the leash down. Still nothing went wrong (and the cat was trying to catch the end of the leash with his claws) so I took the leash off.

They’ve been together since. An occasional half-hearted swat has been countered with an occasional half-hearted chase, but it’s so obvious that they mean each other no harm that I’m mostly letting them work it out between themselves. And they are indeed working it out.

Jordan lies on his side on the rug in the sun next to Ella. Then he rolls over and looks at her upside down, with a look of utter love in his eyes. He tries to rub up against the dog, but she has no idea how he means that, so she takes one step back. She sniffs the cat’s butt and he doesn’t care in the slightest. The newest thing is that I’ll hear Jordan meowing in his tiny, plaintive voice, obviously needing some attention, but when I go check, I find he’s not talking to me. He’s talking to Ella.

So that’s my big gratitude for the New Year. My dog and my cat get along. What could be more important than a harmonious household?

I struggled with the decision to adopt, because I knew it would disrupt Ella’s life, and that she might hate the change. But I ultimately decided that my goal is to have the most fulfilling life I can have, not the easiest. And I had to apply the same logic to what I want for my dog. Who, by the way, finds it a lot more interesting to have another animal in the house. And, watching her, I have to say I think she likes the cat and is enjoying the new member of the family.


And for that I am grateful.  

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Grateful for the people who tell me I'm doing it wrong (wrtiers' groups and editors)

Whenever I'm asked for advice about succeeding as a writer, I always tell people to find a good writers' group. And I mean a good one. a bunch of jerks who will really let you have it, who will look at your years of creativity and labor and say...meh.

I never would have been published had it not been for the five or six women who rip my manuscripts apart on a weekly basis. They find fault, they nitpick, and tell me I can do better. They've uncovered so many mistakes, typos, and chapters that just plain didn't work...I owe them so much.

Here's an example which I think sum this up.

A while ago I was working on a project with my editor. We both had a very clear direction that we wanted to take the book, and we weren't seeing eye to eye. Now rather than my editor saying 'I'm the editor, do it my way,' (which she could have), she offered a compromise:

"How about that writers' group you're always going on about? Show them your sample chapters and let them decide the best way to proceed."

I thought this was a great idea. After all, these people were my friends. Of course they'd side with me.

They sided with my editor. All of them. On nearly every issue. Turns out, once again, the editor knew best.

But that's why I keep asking for my group's advice. They can see where I'm going wrong and offer a corrective kick in the pants. If it weren't for them, I'd still be working on that first query letter.

I'm grateful for Heidi, Kate, Barri, Elaine, Ida, Amy, and Margo. And I'm mega grateful to my editor, Claudia, who has always believed in me, even when I was difficult to work with (which is all the time, more or less).

Monday, January 28, 2013

SOMETIMES WE HAVE TO WAIT


I hate waiting. I don’t like the hour lost here while I wait at the doctor’s office. I don’t like the long car line after school to pick my kids up. I hate the hour I have to wait for my son to finish his speech therapy session.  I hate waiting for my sister who is always late and is perpetually “five minutes” from being ready which always means thirty minutes. I don’t know. It’s kind of funny because I’m not like this frantic person who tries to fill every minute of every day. But there’s something about waiting that I just can’t stand.

In a way, though, I’ve come to appreciate these times I hate so much. These dreadful moments are moments that end up being important somehow . . . to my creativity, to my continued struggle to understand and make sense of the world, of life, in some way.  It’s time I spend reading, hoping I’ll find answers to the human struggle and experience. It’s time spent getting to know a character who suddenly shows up and trying to figure out why he showed up and what he has to tell me and how I’m going to tell his story and why. It’s time my mind wanders and starts the, “What if . . . “ that snowballs into a scene, or a story. It’s the time I use to observe and take things in, the way a cloud morphs, the way people walk, or talk, or stand, or interact, or what to make of an overheard conversation.  In those moments, those dreaded, torturous moments of waiting, is when I do a lot of  thinking and “writing” and figuring out.  And as writers, I think we’re always trying to figure something out, right?  Even with the knowledge that it may be impossible, even with full knowledge that we will never really figure it all out, but we try to make sense of bits of life here and there, reach some conclusion.

My observations while I waited for the flu shot this month:

An elderly woman reading a Nora Roberts novel. Her hands trembled a lot and she read while holding a bookmark for each line and mouthed all the words she read.  Whenever she wasn’t looking at her book, she looked terrified.

A woman with veins on her feet that looked like bulging blue spiderwebs  pressing outward from underneath her skin.  I know I saw her two hours earlier when I first came into the store to check how long the wait, not because of her clothes or her face. But because of her feet.

An average man with reddish hair and reddish mustache who walked with the slightest of limps.
A young girl with a puffy pompom of a ponytail on top of her hair who entertained the mostly elderly people around her by dancing around and using the pharmacy area as a stage.

A woman who was 37 (I overheard her birthday while she talked to the pharmacist) but looked 27, but who walked very nervously and a bit self-consciously.  As she stood talking to the pharmacist, she kept slipping one black flat off and finding it again with curled toes to slip it back on.

If I hadn’t had to wait for a while, I would have missed these people, these things they do.  And I know, somehow, someway, these people help me. I would have missed how places that aren’t hospitals can still kind of have the same smell of a hospital and what does that mean . . . can any place be what we make of it? And  I would miss a lot of moments like this, that make me think about life. That make their way into my stories. That help me find answers in some way, even as they fill my brain with more questions.

So, yeah, I’m grateful for these moments. And in general, for the little inconveniences in life that usually serve a greater purpose.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Grateful for this community (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

Several years ago, I was talking to a friend about where I was in life, and where I wanted to go. I was happy with my day job, my marriage, and my friendships. And even though I felt that I hadn’t yet fulfilled my potential as a writer, I was working on it. I did feel one significant gap, however.

“I wish I knew some other writers,” I told my friend.

At the time, I had a couple of friends who liked to write, but they weren’t actively submitting for publication, as I was. They weren’t spending their vacation time at writers’ conferences, or taking night classes in poetry. I’d grown up feeling isolated in my extreme book-love, and my venturing into the sciences for my day job hadn’t helped. Now, it’s not the case that scientists eschew the arts as a matter of course. I’d befriended a chemist who played the guitar, and a geologist who danced, and a toxicologist with a serious interest in photography. And I had discovered a few more people who liked to write. But I wanted to find people who were making, or trying to make, a career out of writing.

I was, in that sense, lonely. I had a real craving to find others who understood this world—and not only understood it, but lived it. Who knew what it felt like to get rejection after rejection. Who got why a handwritten note scrawled on the bottom of a rejection slip was cause for excitement. Who had fictional characters babbling in their minds, and hated killing them off, but knew it was sometimes necessary. Who shared the thrill of finding the perfect simile.

It happened slowly. I went to more conferences and forced my introverted self to talk to people—none of whom bit my head off, and a couple of whom became close friends. I joined SCBWI and then a critique group. And then social media boomed, providing a 24-hour virtual water cooler where I could always chat (or commiserate, or celebrate) with like-minded people. I’ve developed such a congenial group that sometimes it’s hard for me to remember exactly which people I’ve met in real life, and which ones I only know online.

I’m extremely grateful for this network, for people who love books and reading and writing so much that they will engage in passionate arguments about werewolves vs. vampires, or why boys don’t read more, or how we can diversify our literature, or what censorship is. I’m grateful for people who spend their spare time reading books and writing up their observations on blogs. For experts who provide online tips. For writers who talk so honestly about the more frustrating parts of this crazy occupation. For people who provide supportive comments and send fan mail and recommend books to me.

My wish came true: I have met some other writers! And, equally wonderfully: dedicated readers, teachers, booksellers, editors, agents, and librarians.

And so it seems fitting this month that we’re running some giveaways, to celebrate this spirit of community and to thank those of you who share our journey by reading this blog. If you haven’t entered already, click here.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Gratitude




Today is all about showing gratitude and there are a lot of people I am thankful for being a part of my writing life—readers, bloggers, authors, agents, editors, publishers, publicists, crit partners, and the chupacabra.

Hey, the chupacabra needs love, too. As does the were llama.

There’s one person that I wanted to shine the spotlight on, because if it weren’t for her, I probably wouldn’t be where I’m at today. Sure, I might’ve eventually gotten a book deal, but who really knows? I don’t. So this woman was key in jump-starting my publishing career. She took a chance on me when no one else would.

I started writing Half-Blood in 2007 and didn’t get the gonads until 2009/2010 to go out on submission with it. Hey, you can’t fail if you don’t try, right? I queried about fifty to seventy agents, received a lot of requests for partials and fulls, collected an iceberg size amount of rejections, and got very close to representation offers. Some wanted me to take Half-Blood and make it into an adult book, but I really wasn’t feeling that idea and by the time I decided to shelve the book (i.e. put it away for a while) I’d already written Unchained and was working on Cursed. One day, I entered a query contest on Kate Kaynak’s Disgruntled Bear blog. (Aspiring authors, entering query contests are an EXCELLENT way of getting feedback, btw) I entered the Cursed query, and while I didn’t win, I got awesome feedback. And I also saw that her publishing company, Spencer Hill Press, was open for submissions.

I thought about Half-Blood, sitting all lonely in my computer and decided what the hell. I submitted the query and the first ten pages, expecting a rejection or nothing. There’s a lot of silence in the publishing world.  BUT that same night I received a request for the full. I sent it, still not expecting much. BUT about twenty four hours later, I had an offer of publication. That was over three years ago, and I’m still in shock.

Kate took a huge chance on me. I was a debut author, un-rep’d at that time and really had no idea what I was doing, but she did take a chance and because of that, she has my eternal gratitude.

Thank you, Kate!    

Friday, January 25, 2013

art is here to help you - Alisa M. Libby

I have been especially grateful lately for the work of artists - musicians, painters, sculptors, writers - in whose art I find comfort or terror or inspiration. Art is immortal. Time doesn't dull these things - centuries can add mystery to a piece. Marble sculptures inspired me while writing The Blood Confession. Writing The King's Rose I walked around humming "Pastime with Good Company" (it brought the house down at those Tudor shindigs, I'm sure). And often what we read and see can lead us to a place we never expected. We just have to keep our eyes open.


Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Ice cream and Jell-O

My grandmother passed away a couple weeks ago. I still can't believe she's gone. When I was little, I loved to sit with her on rainy afternoons and watch old movies. There was Gene Kelly, splashing through puddles and singing in the rain. I wanted to sleep in a hay loft, just like Shirley Temple as Heidi. And we never got tired of watching Groucho wiggle his eyebrows.

We spent a lot of time talking in the kitchen. My grandmother would scoop Rocky Road ice cream into bowls of Jell-O--the "fancy" kind studded with bits of fruit. She listened to my stories and told a few of her own. Sometimes she brought out a shoebox filled with photographs. I didn't recognize the people in those pictures. But she talked about everybody as if they were in the room with us. The little girl on the horse, she told me, was Mom. I stared at that faded picture and tried to imagine the farm where she grew up in Massachusetts.

Grenna, I miss you so much. I'm thankful for the stories that you shared. They were always my favorite gifts from you.

--crissa

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Thanks, Colleen! (Patty Blount)


Starting off a new year by sharing gratitude is a great idea for a tradition or resolution.

Since my debut novel SEND was released last August, I’ve thanked a lot of people. My mom, who inspired me to read. My sons, who dared me to write my first book. Friends like Kelly Breakey, who made me promise not to delete SEND until she’d read it and thank God I listened to her. People I’ve met online who helped me like Bill Cameron, Brooks Sherman, Jeff Somers, and Janet Reid. The legion of book bloggers who read my novel and left reviews. There are people who touch us, shape us, in big ways and in little ones throughout our careers. Many of them don’t even know it.

This is a blog post about one of those people.

Only those closest to me know this secret – the published version of SEND is not the original story I wrote. In the first draft, main character Dan was a twenty-three-year-old motivational speaker who devoted his time to addressing middle school kids about the dangers of bullying. At his latest gig, he meets guidance counselor Julie Murphy and can’t figure out why she’s so hostile toward him. I queried this version in 2010 and while most agencies sent back the form rejection, one did not. One sent me this email:

Hi Patricia -

I'm confused by the characters in the novel; YA characters have to be 18 or younger and preferably still in high school. Your characters appear to be in their 20s.

Can you clarify for me?

With a crimson face for failing to have researched “YA” well enough to know the age limits, I emailed my justification. The agent responded again, pointing out that my bullying premise is essentially a teen issue but my characters are no longer teens. I have to pick a market and stick to it.

God! The sting of those words! In my heart, I knew what I had to do. I just didn’t want to do it. I’d finished the book; typed The End, wrote the queries. I was done – done, I tell you. After my tantrum, I looked at my story with a different eye – a practical one. The character in my head was consumed by guilt after bullying someone to death. I couldn’t change that. That was the heart of my story. But I could certainly shave a few years off Dan’s life.

It would take me almost another year, but I rewrote the entire story, this time with Dan as an eighteen-year-old high school senior. And SEND is a much better story now than it was when I finished it the first time. In the time it took me to finish the new draft, the agent who so kindly set me on the right path, a path that ultimately did lead to finding an agent and landing the book deal, left her position.

Those two sentences changed my story -- no, changed my life, helping me achieve a lifelong dream. I sure hope she doesn't mind that I used this blog to thank former agent Colleen Lindsay for sending me that email. *smiles*

Is there someone in your life who has no idea how much they've helped you? Comment! 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Best Bits and Worst Bits (Lauren Bjorkman)


A few years back, my husband, and I, and our two sons went on holiday with an Anglican minister, Michael Duff, and his family. Michael’s father-in-law happened to be the Bishop of Durham, so we got to stay in Durham Castle and play croquet in the “back yard.” It was all very grand, but only incidental to the story.



Rewind ten years. We met Michael and Rachel under very different circumstances—trekking in Nepal. We were all walking toward the same mountain temple at the head of Langtang Valley. Each day we would run into each other at teahouses and villages where we spent the night. At the time, Michael worked in computer programming. Rachel did social work. We enjoyed each other’s company and stayed in touch. They didn’t have kids yet, nor did we.



Later Michael became a minister. Rachel worked as a nurse. They visited us in Hawaii with their two young children, and invited us to England. We finally accepted when our boys were 2 and 5. When we stayed in the castle, the thing that impressed me most was not the size of our bathtub or the beauty of the old building. Instead, I latched onto this little ritual Michael and Rachel had with their children.

At dinner, everyone was asked to share their “best bit” and “worst bit” of the day. As a new parent trying to figure out how to raise children, this got my attention. Best bits and worst bits made for lively conversation. It promoted gratitude because it required everyone to think about all the good things that had happened that day. But it didn’t minimize the painful parts. Those got equal attention.

I adopted this ritual at home for years, usually at bedtime. Eventually my boys rebelled by giving me silly answers every time I asked. Nowadays, I use it more sparingly, as a chance to reflect on an experience. For example, what was the best bit and worst bit of your cross-country meet? It gives me a window into my boys’ lives.

I will always grateful to the Duffs for introducing me to this very simple, yet magical idea.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

THANK YOU!

This year has been AMAZING for me, by next month I will have 3 books out: PRETTY AMY, THE NEXT FOREVER and DEAR CASSIE.

Having just 1 book out has been a dream of mine, for as close to forever as I can count. So, 3 BOOKS- is like Oh My God!

I want to thank everyone, that is EVERYONE who is making this possible.

My agent
My editor
My Publisher
Readers
Bloggers
Other Authors
Friends
Reviewers
Booksellers
My Family
My Laptop
My Dog
My Cats
Coffee
Wine
Chocolate

The list could probably go on, but the important thing is I recognize I could not be doing this alone and I am grateful.

There is no better way to show my gratitude than with this video from Alanis Morissette.
THANK YOU!


Thursday, January 17, 2013

Gratitude by Wendy Delsol


Our topic this month is gratitude. There are many things I’m grateful for. Profoundly grateful. Many bounties spring to mind: family, health, a warm bed, a stocked pantry, and a rich community of friends. Many of whom would take my three-a.m. phone call. The prompt, however, has me casting for less obvious considerations. To that end, I’m grateful to have come to writing somewhat later in life.

I’ve share before that I was—gasp—forty when a terrifying and extended cycle of migraines prompted me to evaluate goals. Writing had long been a secret fantasy, but I’d never found the time, or confidence, to act on it. While I can’t deny that it would be nice to have a few more ISBNs associated with my name, it’s worth noting that those forty non-writing years were excellent research.

One area with which I can boast first-hand experience is financial struggle. My father, an auto worker during the turbulent 1970s, was laid off twice. New clothes were a luxury. Spam and scrambled eggs were frequent main courses. And my father’s death when I was a junior in high school plunged us further into crisis. Without government support (in the way of social-security checks) and student loans, I would never have made it through college. Thirty years later and I appreciate the trials.

Another field of life experience for which I’m grateful is travel. I’ve always been a bit of a wanderer. And French was always my favorite subject at school. At college, I did a semester in Paris and returned post-graduation to Nice for an additional year of language immersion. It was, therefore, only natural that I’d end up in the travel industry. I worked for ten years as a tour coordinator in Los Angeles for an inbound tour operator. The job took me all over Europe and the U.S. Living and studying abroad in addition to business travel afforded me a wider perspective on so much that comes up in my writing: family, culture, religion, history, and more.

I can also be called a carpet bagger. I was born in Canada to English parents. I grew up in the Detroit area. I’ve lived in France (see above). I spent twenty years in Los Angeles. And currently reside in Des Moines. Plenty of locales in which to set a story.

Writing is a solitary endeavor. It requires hours of alone time and perseverance. I’m immensely grateful to have the time to devote to the craft. That said, I’m glad I didn’t plant my butt in the writing chair too soon. A full stock of varied adventures—struggles included—are mine to draw from.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

So Many Rejections. So Many Ways to Be Grateful for Them. By Jody Casella



Jan Blazanin's post on being thankful for rejections got me thinking about my own writing rejections. Like Jan, I had many along the way, some more crushing and nauseating than others. I was not one of those writers who papered my walls with them. (Geez. How depressing would THAT be?) but I do have a nice bulging file in a drawer, and later, when rejections zoomed my way via email, I started keeping a virtual file.

Over time I could group them into categories, each with their own fun attributes:

The Never Get a Response/Disappear into a Black Hole category. Did the editor ever receive the manuscript? Did she tack it up above her desk and throw darts at it? Or is it still sitting there in a slushy stack waiting to be read? You will never know, and therefore you will always have a splinter of torturous hope...

The Curt Form Letter. Someone took the time to respond! It does not fit their needs at this time! Oh, joy!

The Curt Form Letter with a Scribbled Note on the Bottom. Now we are getting somewhere... The first one I got in that category said simply: "Nice story." I am embarrassed to say how many times I unfolded this letter and read those two words.

The Personal, Detailed Rejection. So close, and yet, so far away. And so excruciating in the details. We writers say we like to know what's wrong with a manuscript. This is a lie. What we really want is for the editor to LOVE it. As is. Do we honestly want to hear that "the story is depressing" that "it has no teen appeal" that "it ended just as it was getting started"?

It's weird to look back now and see all of my rejections as a necessary and beneficial part of my writing journey. But they were. They kept me writing. They helped me grow a thicker skin. They forced me to tuck my early (weak) manuscripts away, and write other things. Better things.

I wish I could time travel back to my old despairing self and tell her not to despair.

Probably my worst rejection came from an agent. She'd read a story of mine in Cicada magazine and wrote me a fan letter. She asked if I had a book in me and told me to call her so we could discuss my career. The letter shook in my hands. Ha ha. A book in me! At that point I had written FIVE! The agent and I had a lovely chat. I told her about my books. She requested all of them. This was it, I knew. My dream was about to come true.

Then, nothing for a while. Then, a short email. She didn't like any of the books. The end.



That rejection was probably the closest I ever came to quitting. I sobbed. I ranted and raved to everyone I knew. That woman had come to ME, lifted up my hopes, and dashed them to bits.

The twist is that several years later, I wrote to tell that agent about a new manuscript I'd written. She requested it and after a few nail biting weeks, she called me. We had another lovely chat and...she rejected it. She was really nice about it. She loved the book. Loved the characters. It had a similar topic to another book she was representing though. Mine was better, she said. She apologized. It was a weird conversation, to put it mildly. She referred me to another agent. That woman requested it and asked me to make some changes. I did.

And...

She rejected it.

Crushing news, and yet now I feel nothing but gratitude for both of those agents. The first, for rejecting stuff that truly should've been rejected. Which led me to write a sixth book. The second, for urging me to revise it. My revision (for her) snagged the attention of another agent and eventually led to my first publishing deal.

You can win a copy of that book THIN SPACE (along with many other books and awesome prizes) by clicking here to enter our January Giveaway.


Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Creating Gratitude (Cheryl Renée Herbsman)

Gratitude. When I think of gratitude, I think of community, of people banding together, holding each other up. I'm incredibly grateful for the community of writers who keep me inspired, keep me believing, keep me on track. When I think of gratitude, I think of Lisa (LK) Madigan -- author of Flash Burnout and The Mermaid's Mirror, who started the Thankful Thursdays blog meme, which caught on and showed me the contagious power of gratitude. Lisa was generous and kind and showed me how much kindness can make a difference. Even as she was dying of pancreatic cancer, she managed to find her way to gratitude. I think of the wide open spaces where I walk my dog and the wide open space that gratitude creates inside me. I think of my family and love and how love opens a similar space. Gratitude opens us, while fear shuts us down.

Sometimes, when life feels like more of a struggle, it can be harder to tap into gratitude. Yet that's exactly the time when we need it most. Gratitude can help us shift perspective, shake off fear and doubt, consume darker thoughts. It can be a lifeline. Even in the darkest times, gratitude can bring us back to the light. But just thinking it isn't enough, you have to really sink down into it and feel the gratitude, let it fill you up. Then act from there.

Do something kind. Be generous. Give something away. It'll make you feel good. It'll restore your faith in people. It'll inspire someone.

The other day my husband brought me home a little gift. It was a wooden sign to hang in my workspace that says: If your dreams don't scare you, they're not big enough.

It's the little things, the little thoughtful gifts that can change someone's day or mood or perspective. If you can't find your own gratitude, create someone else's and watch it become contagious.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Gratitude: a List (Stephanie Kuehnert)

At some point during the holiday season, I was sitting around with a couple friends and being rather cynical--the commercialism, the consumerism, the overeating and stress. It can get you down. Then my friend Dan reminded us that gratitude was the most important part of the season, and he posited of life in general. He said if we all recognized and expressed gratitude more often, not only would we be happier, but the world would be a better place. I think he's totally right.

Life, especially life as an artist or writer, can be hard, and for me personally, the past few years have been one big rough patch. I believe in being honest and open about your struggles, but I also think the biggest key to surviving them is to remind yourself what you are grateful for. So my New Year's resolution (which fits perfectly with our YAOTL theme this month) was to remind myself of what I'm grateful for every day. I love that Jenny O'Connell keeps a gratitude journal. I started keeping a five-year journal  last year and am making an attempt to note what I'm grateful for in there. I also (per my therapist's lovely writing advice, which I shared here last month) have a gratitude column on the spreadsheet where I track my writing progress, so even if I have a grumpy writing day, I am forced to write ONE GOOD THING about what I wrote that day. But every once in awhile I think it is good to just think of as many things as possible that you are grateful for and make a list, so here's mine. I'll do 13 things for 2013, so it won't be exhaustive or complete by any means. Also I'm going to just go with whatever comes to me, right off the top of my head because there are so many things to be grateful for, so these will be fun and random and not in any particular order, except for these first two things.


  • My family. I have an amazing husband who is sweet, adorable, supportive, loving, and all-around my perfect partner. I have a mom who is my biggest cheerleader and advocate, who has always been there for me, and is my biggest role model. I have a brother, who is a great listener and friend and fellow nerd. I have a sister and a niece, who are not actually my blood relatives, but are two of my biggest inspirations and can make me laugh and smile like no other. My niece is 15 now and her sheer awesomeness is basically the highlight of my life. I also have two very sweet and cuddly kitties.
  • Kaspar and Lars
  • My friends. I have a best friend who has been my best friend for almost 19 years now. We don't talk every day, we don't hang out nearly as often as we would like, but we would drop anything for each other, we know each other like no one else does, and we have so many crazy shared experiences. Then there are my five other BFFs, spread literally across the globe, in San Francisco, in China, in St. Louis, in Denver, and then one who lives two blocks away from me. I've known all of them at least ten years and they all have different roles in my life and match perfectly with different parts of my personality. They all make me laugh and keep me sane. Also I have my writing BFFs, the one I brainstorm with every week, the one I text daily to do sprints with, and the three that I email to vent and celebrate and work things through with. On top of that there are the people I've met more recently who are becoming BFFs or the people I may not know as well or hang out/communicate with as regularly, but we have an amazing time whenever we are together.
  • Me (left) and my St. Louis and Denver BFFs celebrating STL BFF's wedding.

  • ROOKIE. I am grateful every day that I get to be involved with such a COOL publication. It challenges me to do my best writing, enlightens, amuses, comforts and entertains me daily, and has introduced me to a bunch of new and awesome friends.
  • Tea, delicious, delicious tea.
  • Brunch, where one can enjoy tea and friendship. Just had the most delightful brunch with my friend/ROOKIE boss on Saturday. Nothing like a good conversation with food and warm drinks.
  • Buffy. Really the existence of Buffy makes life better in ways I cannot even describe. Actually, Joss Whedon in general because Firefly and Angel are insanely awesome as well.
  • Vegan cheese. When I went vegan sixteen years ago, the cheese substitutes basically tasted like crayons and didn't even melt as well as crayons melt. Now there are so many delicious vegan cheeses. And vegan marshmallows. And vegan ranch dressing. And.... oh the glory of vegan substitutes.
  • Sparkly red eyeshadow from Sugarpill. I spent like 15 years seeking red eyeshadow. I would wear lipstick and lipliner on my eyes even though it looked weird. And then, thanks to ROOKIE, I discovered this vegan cosmetic line which has red loose powder eyeshadow, which is my favorite thing on earth right.
  • Rain. It smells so good. It makes things green. It is the perfect weather for curling up with a book or writing.
  • Lindi Ortega, a brilliant country musician. I'm not usually a country fan, but she's got a punk attitude and pipes like Dolly Parton or Patsy Cline, so yeah, her existence pleases me a lot right now.
  • HOCKEY!!! And I'm especially grateful that NHL games are coming back at the end of this week!
  • Road trips. The best form of travel, truly.
  • Books, all kinds, but especially real and honest YA fiction and fun fantasy and magical realism that you can escape into. I'm also extremely grateful for the people who have helped me publish my books, who are helping me work toward the dream of publishing more books (like my lovely agent), and most of all to the readers that have given me the chance to tell them a story. Since we at YAOTL are so very very grateful to our readers, we are running a massive contest (and I'm including a copy of the anthology Dear Teen Me, which I have an essay in that I am very grateful to have had the opportunity to write), so enter here!
What are a few (or 13!) things, you are grateful for?