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.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Goals (Maryanne Fantalis)

I don't like goals.

I generally don't make them because, once made, they sit there taunting me. They know I will fail. I know I will fail. Let's just all agree that we're just not even going to bother, okay?

I've written about this before. In 2015, I had high hopes. I mean, not really that high. I was going to read some of the books in my house before bringing in new ones. I was going to read Middlemarch. I was going to buy new makeup and revise my NaNoWriMo novel.

Well, at least I threw out the old makeup. Come to think of it, it's probably time to do that again.

My point is, setting goals simply means more guilt. More despair. More self-loathing.

Who needs that, in December or at any other time of the year?

But it's the end of the year, so I'll share good news. Not goals met, but a fervent wish about to come true.

On December 13th, I'm heading back to England for a week to spend time with my oldest. They are finishing their study abroad semester in London and we are going to have a blast seeing historic sites and museums and wandering the city's streets. We will take in a Shakespeare play at the Globe and hopefully we'll take a side trip to Stratford-upon-Avon.

Since I was a little kid, all I wanted was to go to England, the place where all the cool stuff I read about happened: land of King Arthur and his knights, birthplace of Shakespeare, realm of medieval kings and queens, countryside of the rabbits of Watership Down, doorway to Narnia...

And now I'll be going there a second time.

No matter how many goals I failed to meet this year, I cannot be unhappy.

Hope your holidays are joyful, whatever you celebrate, wherever you are.

Monday, December 10, 2018

A Year of Unpredictability by Sydney Salter

I successfully predicted that 2018 would be unpredictable.

As a writer who is also a mother, a wife, a daughter, a sister, an aunt, and until recently a daughter-in-law, I find that writing tropes are mostly useless to me.

I don't write every day.

Yet 2018 was the year that I finally finished the manuscript I started two--maybe three?--years ago. No one can see the places where I wrote a blast of 2,000 words on a great day, or the agonizing spots that took me much longer. No one can see the week I dropped my youngest daughter off at college. The summer mornings I chatted with my 10-year-old niece. Or the words I wrote while watching over my mother-in-law so someone could advocate for her when she could no longer speak during those final days.

I knew that I'd have to be flexible with my writing time, but I didn't realize how taking the pressure off maintaining a writing routine would make me so much happier. I no longer felt that constant tension: I should be... I should be...

I did what I could when I could.

I don't dare predict what 2019 will bring me, but I plan to bring patience and persistence to my work again this next year.

My tortoise collection reminds me that slow and steady wins the race! 

Friday, December 7, 2018

Here's To What's Coming by Joy Preble

At the bookstore where I work, we are always looking ahead, even as we are in the 'now' and even as we are thinking about the previous months and years, balancing, comparing, planning, plotting. How are sales now in comparison to this time last year? How do we hope to be doing next month? At holiday time we do a day by day sales comparison. With event planning and pitching to the publishers (one of my jobs), I am always looking to do more, do better, do the same but tweaked, do different. In business, you do not stand still.

There's a kind of vertigo that results from this sort of continual analysis and planning--you're in the now, marking your progression from the past, but you're also months ahead. I'd barely started ordering books for the holiday 2018 season yet when Valentine's Day titles began to slip into each publisher's catalogues and I had to create a collection on Edelweiss labeled Valentine's 2019.  Tomorrow, three of us will sit down to plan store events for spring break. We'll chat about summer themes, too. We've got events on the calendar well on through May and beyond.

Always we are asking those questions: How are we doing? Where are headed? What didn't work? What can we do better? What do we want? How do we get there?

And so it is with my own year. About a decade ago, I started taking a written accounting, writing a letter to myself in late December or sometimes on New Year's Day. What's going on? How much of it was what I wanted? Where do I want to head? How am I going to get there?

2018 has been a mix for me, as I think it has for many of us. The endless, brutal news cycle doesn't help. I know I'm not the only one who has to get up very, very early while it's still quiet and dark to do my writing before tapping into what the world is doing.

I've struggled with a book that is finally, finally, getting done. Like seriously. I am almost ready to press send!! I love this book so much. Some day you will all read it!

 I've struggled with balance-- of writing, home life, family life, friend life, personal stuff, the book store job (technically part time, but...) and my various teaching gigs and just life. I've felt less than and sometimes right on target and then less than again because the creative life does that to you, or at least it does it to me. I've tried not to compare myself to this one or that one and how their trajectories are going in the same one or two or three year period because there lie sea monsters, you know? Still. I do it anyway. Most of you reading this do it, too, even as we admonish ourselves not to.

And so it's December. As I type this it's starting to rain again outside. It has rained a lot here this year. The House of Pies that was supposed to open in May is now scheduled for some time next year because it's hard to build things when it's always raining. Even things that contain pie!

What do I want for 2019? To be working on a different project or two. To sell a book or two. To keep on with all the things I love-- my goofy, brave friends and my wacky family, and our crazy dog and life.

Did I mention we finally remodeled our bathroom this year? I love my new bathroom.

And okay, I'd like to go to Scotland.  I really want to go to Scotland.

I'll let you know how it works out.

And when I finally get that House of Pies pie.

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Ho Ho Ho! (Mary Strand)

Holiday greetings!  Happy “Is 2018 Over YET?” to you!

This month, we’re supposed to reflect back on this year’s intentions for ourselves that we laid out back in January.  With great trepidation, I just reread my January blog, which talked about my word for the year - DAUNTLESS - and my grand aspirations for 2018.


Or, as any number of my teen heroines might say, “Holy crap!”

It was a horrid year.  I could end this blog right on that note.

I won’t dwell on what went wrong, aside from pretty much everything.  Bottom line, my left knee has been wrecked all year and wasn’t fixed with my June knee surgery.  Every Single Step I Take Hurts.  (Significantly.)  I currently live a life without sports.  As a result, if you know me, it’s no exaggeration to say that I lead a grim life.

I write funny stuff, so I simply had to quit writing for many months.  (I’ve finally been back at it since late September, but I’m still ramping back up to normal at a Very Slow Pace.)  To try to salvage some fragment of my life, I did pour myself into music this year and, to a lesser but sometimes epic degree, songwriting.  I traveled to Greece and Norway (same trip) and songwriting camp in California.  I saw Harry Potter on Broadway.  (Fantastic.)  I heard a LOT of concerts and gigs.  I played four gigs.

If you think you know me, a little or a lot, you’re probably thinking “But she has a crazy-hectic life and seems to do EVERYTHING.  It must be FANTASTIC.”  Yeah, I hear that all the time.

Nope!  Pretty horrific!  Thanks for asking!  Ha ha.

The thing is, I retreat inside of myself when things go wrong.  Publicly, I tend to be annoyingly cheerful even when being hammered hard with every single step I take.  It’s how I roll.  What people don’t see is the extent to which I retreat into myself during the times that are repugnantly hard.  Like most of this year.

My word for 2018, DAUNTLESS, is written on a Post-It note on the door to my office.  I’ve spent most of this year alternately laughing or cringing whenever I see it.  I’ve been, in fact, daunted by this year.  It was hard.  I survived it, but I didn’t need another painful, “character-building” year in my life.  I’ve frankly had more than my share.

It’s ridiculously hard to write funny stuff when life isn’t funny.  I had to say “Suck it up, cupcake” a LOT this year.  But several friends told me I was still pretty funny for someone who’s so obviously in constant pain.  So maybe I have been a little bit dauntless in 2018.  Either that, or those friends should really cut back on their liquor.

But my word for 2019?  PARIS sounds pretty freaking amazing.

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

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


by Fae Rowen

     I have to admit that 2018 was not the year I'd hoped it would be.

     My word for this year was balance. It should have been pendulum, because my life swung back and forth like my childhood piano teacher's metronome. True, the sum of all those clicks lies in the middle, but there were precious few days that I felt "in balance." I spent a major portion of the year, well, goofing off.

     Not that it was a terrible year. It wasn't. I just didn't get a lot done toward moving myself forward in the areas that I had planned to focus on—in particular, publishing my next book. I did spend time revisiting writing craft books and taking classes. I read books. I indulged in making the cards that I love to give to people, perfecting new techniques and materials. I spent time with friends.

     It would have been a great year if I were in my teens. But I'm not.

   So 2019 will be the year of GOALS.

     Being self-motivated from childhood, I haven't been one to set goals. When I decide to do something, it becomes a priority and all my attention and effort is focused on accomplishing that task. My friends, writing and non-writing, say the same thing about me: Either I'm all in, or I'm all out. If I commit, I commit fully. If I don't, I'm not going to get involved. That was one reason I chose BALANCE for my word for 2018.

     But after a year of bouncing from project to fun activities to shiny new things and back, I am ready to  make two or three goals, print them up on cards, and post them where I'll be reminded throughout the day—every day—to put in my time toward making those goals a reality. It's time to rejoin the adult world. I have things I want to do. Things that must be done before I can move on the the next things on my list of "to do's." And if I continue like I have all the time in the world, nothing will get done.

     The word MINDFUL could be a modifier for my goals. To practice, I have already started asking myself, when I move toward spending an afternoon in a non-goal-oriented activity, "Is this going to accomplish one of my goals?" When the answer is no, I choose to do something that is more goal-oriented. I "just" have to be mindful enough to ask the question.

     I know I need to make my goals reasonable, something I can accomplish, so I'm looking at a combination of short-term and long-term goals. When I finish one short-term goal, I'll be able to replace it with a fresh goal, which I anticipate will be a rewarding feeling.

     Since I'm a newbie to working with goals, if you've got suggestions or advice for me, I'd love some help. Yes, I need all the help I can get with this. This time next year I want to rock this blog! (Oh, is that a goal?)
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.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong.  She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told.  Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard, putting the finishing touches on P.R.I.S.M. Book Two.
P.R.I.S.M., a young adult science fiction romance story of survival, betrayal, resolve, deceit, lies, and love.
You can also visit Fae at  or or at on the first Wednesday of every month.

Monday, December 3, 2018

Embracing My Goals - by Janet Raye Stevens

Embrace. That’s my word, my guide, my goal for 2018. To ditch doubt, look fear in the face, upend uncertainty and embrace the “new” in new year, maybe not with a vengeance, but with as much energy as I can.

That was me, way back in January, laying out my goals for the year through one key word—Embrace. Now it’s December and our YA Outside the Lines assignment for this month is to take a look at the goals we laid out at the beginning of the year and see if we met them.

So how did I do in embracing the new this year? Not bad, if I do say so myself.

First, I set a goal of completing three new manuscripts in a year and didn’t quite hit the mark. But I was able to finish one manuscript and two short stories. I took a chance and submitted all three to contests or calls for submissions. 

The manuscript, a short contemporary romance called COLE FOR CHRISTMAS became a finalist in, and eventually won, Romance Writers of America’s Golden Heart award for excellence in unpublished fiction at RWA’s July conference.

Me, trying to remember to breathe
during my acceptance speech.
It was quite a thrill to accept my award from best-selling YA author Pintip Dunn. Plus, I managed to deliver an acceptance speech in front of a crowd of 1500 other writers without keeling over.

The two short stories I wrote, both mysteries, were accepted for publication in separate anthologies. The Vanishing Volume, which appears in the library-themed anthology SHHH… MURDER!, is a WWII-set short about an inquisitive librarian and a book that refuses to stay where it’s shelved. Echoes, published in LANDFALL, released by Level Best Books, is a contemporary mystery with a ghostly twist.

Next, I started the year with a big embrace of my new pen name. That’s not only worked out, but has also been a total blast. Being Janet Raye Stevens has allowed me to create a writing persona separate from who I am in “real life.”

An unexpected “new” I embraced early this year turned out to be a big move in my writing career. After two years of not much happening on the publishing front, I made the difficult decision to part ways with my agent. Scary, and a huge step, but the right thing to do. I’ve since embraced another new path and signed with a new literary agent. We’re making plans to put my new manuscript on submission in the new year and see what new direction that takes us in. 

Now to hunker down and put together a new to-do list for the coming year – wishing all YA Outside the Liners a great holiday season and many new challenges and goals to embrace in the new year.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Thanks (Brian Katcher)


Image result for jack handey thanksgiving 

 Ah, the holidays. It can be a stressful time of the year, what with gift buying (mental note: do NOT by the wife fancy hair combs this year), visitors (I get it Jacob, but if you're going to be bringing three friends, you could have called and warned me), and contemplating one's place in the universe (she was a librarian in the alternate world. A LIBRARIAN!). Still, it's a time to sit back and count one's blessing. I, for instance, am blessed that I didn't have to go to work today due to the Midwest snow storm. There is nothing like that phone call. It's like crack.

So, let's get back to the good things that have happened to me this year (a new book contract is absent from this list).

*My three pregnant friends all gave birth to healthy babies. None of them in mangers.
*My grandparents celebrated their 74th wedding anniversary. They still live on their own.
*Thanks to, I learned quite a bit about my father's side of the family. My 3x grandmother was named Oodle.

Oh, and these guys:

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Gratitude and Loss by Dean Gloster

            You can be deeply sad and grateful at the same time.
            They’re the two sides of one spinning coin—almost everything amazing is temporary, and the people you love will someday die.

Sylvia Jean “Bunky” Gloster 1933—2018
The dark shadow of mortality is the backdrop for the bright lights in our lives, so sadness is sometimes mixed with gratitude, and gratitude tinged with loss.

The world is burning, friends
And wind makes smoke a wall
Hug those you love and speak your truth,
For one day that is all.

           I’ve had a rough month.
            The principal novel I’ve been working on for two years slipped into a coma—the main plot, as it turns out, isn’t working, and there aren’t subplots that anchor it in the teen world (generally necessary in YA.) In some ways, that’s good news—I knew something was wrong, and now I have a diagnosis. Plot is also the easiest thing to fix in a novel. But I don’t yet know how I’m going to fix it, so after two years of work, that novel is shelved for a while.
            Then my computer died, and while I thought I’d saved everything important elsewhere (I did save my novels in progress--whew) some things weren’t backed up. (Moral: Save your files, several different ways.)
            Then my stepmom died.
Sylvia Jean Gloster (aka “Bunky” aka “Honey”) died in her sleep two weeks ago, after giving us one Last Good Day when we could all say goodbye. She was ready to go, at 85, after a full life and after battling a fifth kind of cancer.
            I got to know Bunky when I was a teenager. She married my dad after my birth mother died, and in the process my brothers and I won the jackpot in the blended-family lottery: She brought out a playful side in my dad, and we also got terrific stepsisters Cheri and Stormy and stepbrother Skip in the deal.
            And Bunky was a treasure. She always treated me like a real son, and she was full of positivity and delight. She survived decades of every health issue known to medical diagnosis, all with an infectious smile full of mischief.
I’m sad with her gone. But I’m grateful and lucky that she was in my life.
I tend to withdraw from the world when I’m sad or depressed, but this month, as I’ve grappled with her loss, I’ve felt held. 
My wife, Nancy Ricci, is a nurse who works in a children’s hospice, and she was wonderful at Bunky’s bedside. My family is terrific. And the communities in my life—writing, classmates, Aikido, friends—have been wonderful.
I’m grateful for that, and I don’t feel alone with this.

Bunky was joyous and fierce and short, and the world is smaller without her.

She was a real mom, and she’s still teaching me about gratitude.
So three kisses goodbye, Bunky, and a million thanks for everything.

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

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Giving thanks for the little things (Brenda Hiatt)

I’m writing this on Thanksgiving day even though it won’t post here for two more days. That's because writing on Thanksgiving is perfect for helping me to focus on all the things I’m grateful for and it's putting me in an ideal frame of mind for the rest of this special day! 

One of my goals this year has been to remember to be grateful for all the little things that surround me each day--those things that are way too easy to take for granted. Things like waking up healthy every morning, with full use of my arms and legs. Having working electricity and safe, drinkable water with the flip of a switch or the turn of a tap. Having enough food to eat, a solid roof over my head, a functioning car to drive. I now keep a “blessings journal” on my nightstand and each night before bed I write down at least three things I’m thankful for. It’s a great reminder, especially on those days when I’ve paid more attention to the negatives than the positives in my life. 

For this post, though, I want to talk about all the things I’m specifically grateful for as a writer.
First and foremost, I’m grateful for my ability to spin stories—a gift I sometimes forget isn’t universal. I'm thankful for the help I’ve received over the years in making my stories better, help from writer friends and the numerous editors I had during my traditional publishing days. My writer friends have also been a wonderful support network over the years, offering advice, sharing wisdom borne of experience and just being there for me during the inevitable ups and downs of this crazy career. I’m exceedingly thankful that I live in a time and place where I have access to a lot of truly remarkable technology, without which I doubt I ever would have attempted to become a published author. Not just my computers, each one better, faster (and often cheaper!) than the previous one, but also the amazing Internet that links me to all those writer friends I mentioned above. All of my best friends and even my family live at a distance these days, but all I have to do is open my laptop or pick up my cellphone to interact with them. How cool is that?? I even get to have regular video chats with my 16-month-old grandson in Germany! (Okay, not writing-related, but something I’m hugely thankful for.) 

Finally and most importantly, I need to express my immense gratitude for all the readers out there (yes, this means YOU!) for allowing me to make an actual living from my writing. I especially appreciate those of you who take the time to write reviews and send me notes—often when I’m most in need of a little lift. (Seriously, it’s like you KNOW!) Though I’ve had several books make bestseller lists and win awards, it’s the positive feedback I get from readers like you that I appreciate the most. 

That’s why this Thanksgiving I’m taking this opportunity to say

Friday, November 23, 2018

My Bi-Partisan Thanksgiving By Christine Gunderson

It sounds like the opening to a bad joke. 
A Bernie Sanders voter, two Trump supporters, three Hillary Clinton Democrats and two Never Trump Republicans walk into a bar…or, in this case, Thanksgiving Dinner.

What happens next? Something wonderful.

Every year my friend Sonia and her husband Clay invite the same eclectic group of people into their home for Thanksgiving dinner. Some of us are friends. Others are family. We agree on almost nothing, except decency, good humor and tolerance.

I could define tolerance as the acceptance of those who are different from me. But that’s just the low hanging fruit of tolerance.

True tolerance is the ability to accept those who THINK differently than I do and as a result, VOTE differently than I do.

Over turkey and gravy, we ask those on “the other side” which columnists we should be reading, and which podcasts we should be listening to. We ask because we are curious to know how “the other side” thinks and sees the world and forms their opinions. We discuss books, tv shows, movies, history ancient and modern and of course, politics.

No one shouts. No once calls anyone names. No one assumes anything about a person’s character, intelligence or integrity based on the way they vote. 

I know. Radical isn’t it?

Maybe this is because we start the meal knowing everyone at the table is smart, decent and thoughtful.

Most years we have an epidemiologist, a computer science professor, a retired CIA station chief, a hedge fund guy, a senior Democratic Senate aid, a trade expert, a Justice Department lawyer, two Czech economists from the International Monetary Fund and my friend Sonia’s father, who risked his life to escape Communist Czechoslovakia as a young man. Oh, yeah. And a writer. I’m always the least interesting, least educated person at the table.

We discuss the merits of the Universal Basic Income, taxes, China trade policy, The Walking Dead, North Korea, homework, the next presidential election, education reform, food allergies, NAFTA and the epic Nerf gun war our children are waging in the basement.

I walk away from Thanksgiving dinner each year grateful for the feast of food and the feast of ideas. I walk away grateful to live in a part of the country where such an eclectic group of people can gather for a meal. 

I’m grateful to have an open mind. And I’m grateful to have funny, kind, generous, thoughtful friends who invite us over for dinner each year and in return ask only that I bring my green bean casserole.

We live in interesting times. We can use this as an excuse to hate or as an opportunity to learn. I’d rather try to understand those I disagree with than dismiss them as one-dimensional cardboard villains in the ongoing saga of American history. 

Breaking bread with people who have completely different ideologies doesn’t just made me a better person. It also makes me a better writer. 


Christine Gunderson is a former television anchor and former House and Senate aide who lives outside of Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star, the Wonder Dog.  When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasionor unloading the dishwasher.