Saturday, October 30, 2021

What is fear anyway? (PJ Sharon)

In honor of Halloween, this month’s theme is fear…as in, what are you afraid of? The answer to that question is more complicated than it appears on the surface.

Recognizing and then admitting our fears can leave us feeling vulnerable. It’s in our DNA to hide our deepest insecurities from others, lest they be used against us. Our subconscious is so wired this way, we even hide our fears from ourselves, often choosing to live in denial rather than face the awful truth that we are vulnerable in any way. Someone who suffers from anxiety is most likely dealing with unexplored and unresolved fear that so threatens their sense of themselves and their existence, they will suppress the awareness of it and allow it to manifest in destructive ways (panic attacks, high blood pressure, sleeplessness, etc.). It can be so deeply hidden from our conscious minds that we don’t even know what it is we are afraid of. 

 Excavating those fears can be a daunting, scary, and painful process, and one that far too few are willing to explore. I'd even venture to say, it's at the crux of many of our current mental health crises. Out of necessity, I've done much work on exploring this in myself over the years, so I’m happy to share my evolutionary journey with you in hope that I can help others get past stumbling blocks that keep you feeling stuck, isolated, and afraid. Here goes…

 My fears have evolved over time. Like most children, my earliest fears were of monsters under the bed. Mummies, vampires, werewolves, and witches were the things that occupied my nightmares. Little did I know, they were simply a manifestation of fear of the invisible threats that life might possibly throw our way. My household was fraught with disfunction and uncertainty that I had no capacity to process or understand, so "unseen monsters" were a natural substitute for everything that was beyond my control. This is why we are innately terrified of the dark, of small spaces, and for some—even open spaces. They represent all the things we can’t control. Loss of control is a common denominator in the fears that follow us throughout our lives. 

Spiders and snakes may pose a threat in terms of being poisonous, but their real creepiness is in their unpredictability. A tarantula could sit perfectly still across a room, and yet, we might run screaming from said room because in our minds, that spider might jump across the room and land on our face. Not going to happen, but we are convinced it’s possible and we aren’t taking the chance. Irrational fears have their basis in some small truth that gets twisted and exaggerated in our subconscious. The Alfred Hitchcock movie, "The Birds", had me terrified of seagulls at the beach through most of my young adult life, when logically, I knew that they might swoop down and steal my sandwich but weren't likely to peck out my eyes unprovoked. 

 As a teenager, I was plagued with terrible nightmares about being attacked, being chased, or being murdered. It took me years to uncover the truth behind those terrible dreams, despite a seemingly obvious connection to my mother having been diagnosed with cancer when I was twelve and watching her slowly succumb to the disease four years later. This unseen “monster” was attacking and killing my always strong and very tough mom right before my eyes and I was as powerless to stop it as she was. The world felt horribly unfair and unsafe to me. It doesn’t take a psychology degree to figure that one out, but it took me years in therapy before I recognized the underlying issue—fear of death, loss of control, helplessness, and even abandonment. And because I was wholly unaware of these underlying fears, they followed me into my adulthood.

 Through college and single parenthood in my early twenties, I suffered anxiety attacks and insomnia. I feared someone breaking into my apartment and not being able to protect myself or my child. I feared not having enough money to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table. I feared being alone in my struggles because I had so little dependable support in my life at the time and didn’t feel I could ask for help because the rejection when someone said no was even worse. These weren't irrational fears, but they loomed so large I couldn't see beyond them. Over time, it became increasingly clear to me that all those fears were brought to life BECAUSE I was afraid. You know the old scripture from the book of Job; “The thing you fear the most will come upon you.” Because I couldn’t trust life or people, or even my own judgment, I felt I had no one to turn to. Because I feared I couldn’t provide for my child, I constantly struggled financially. My unwillingness to face my fears kept me mired in them, and blaming others for my plight kept me from taking the necessary responsibility for changing my circumstances.

 When I finally sought counseling, parenting support groups, and began taking martial arts classes, I was slowly able to see how and why I had sabotaged my life. It took a few years, but eventually I stopped worrying about what someone would do to me and my child if they broke into my home and started thinking about what I would do to them, lol. Eventually, I was able to sleep, and the anxiety subsided. It took work, self-awareness, a willingness to look at the hard stuff, and a healthy dose of much-needed faith. Faith in God, the Universe, other people, and myself. It took risk and courage that felt somehow beyond my own strength, but every step I took in faith led me to a better life.

 I’ve revisited my fears many times since those dark days. Asking myself what holds me back, what am I afraid of, and how do I confront it head on, so it doesn’t keep me stuck in a self-defeating pattern. The answer is often different depending on the circumstances. Sometimes it’s a fear of failure (or more likely for me, a fear of success), sometimes it gets back to those old insecurities of rejection or abandonment, but at its roots, any fears that come along these days to trip me up are usually grounded in loss of something or someone I love. I’ve lived the deep grief of losing people close to me too many times, and like a hand to a hot burner, I avoid facing that kind of devastation at all costs, even knowing that death and loss are an inevitable part of life. 

To be clear, it’s not death itself I fear, since I’m a believer in the hereafter, but the fear of the unseen monster of unpredictability, and the knowledge that no matter what I do there will inevitably be pain—whether it comes from a slow, ugly demise, or losing those dearest to me and living a life of heartache without them. If I didn’t love so deeply, this wouldn’t be a problem. It turns out, loving deeply has a cost, and sometimes I catch myself holding back in relationships—unwilling to invest wholeheartedly or setting hardened boundaries around what I’m willing to give of myself. Living in “protection” mode, aka “survival” mode, may help me keep a wall in place that buffers me from the worst pain, but it also overshadows the fullness of joy that comes with living and loving with an open heart. A work in progress, to be sure!

 Figuring out where my fear comes from is essential in helping me overcome it. It also helps me recognize when those fears are baseless. Spiders, snakes, bees, and such external threats are no longer terrifying to me and darkness doesn’t hold the same power it once did now that I know that the light resides within me. Don’t get me wrong; I hate small spaces, and these days, the spread of fascism and the death of democracy keep me up some nights, but taking action rather than giving in to paralysis or despair is what keeps me on track.

 One last thing I will share is something I learned many years ago that has helped me deal with fear when it rears its ugly head again and again.

 The definition of fear is believing what you cannot see will come to pass.

The definition of faith is believing what you cannot see will come to pass.

Choosing faith over fear will always bring you one step closer to peace and serenity.

Happy All Hallows Eve!



Friday, October 29, 2021

Fear (Brian Katcher)


'The oldest and strongest emotion of mankind is fear, and the oldest and strongest kind of fear is fear of the unknown' --H.P. Lovecraft

In the book 1984, The Party watched Winston Smith until they knew what his greatest fear of all was, that one thing he could absolutely not stand, that living hell that would make him just absolutely crack. In Smith's case, it was having his face eaten by rats, which would be no picnic for anyone, really.

So what is your secret terror? What wakes you in the night in a cold sweat? What scares you?

The answer for me is easy. I fear never being published again. Never having a book come out again. Becoming forgotten. 

In college, I used to worry that something amazing would happen to me and my friends, and they'd make it into a movie, but then leave me--and only me--out. 

I worry that my friends are all getting together and having a good time, but I'm not there because everyone assumed someone else called me, but no one cared enough to double check.

I don't fear mockery or people talking about me behind my back. I fear that no one is talking behind my back. I don't fear bad reviews. I fear no reviews.

I fear oblivion.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Turning toward Fear--and Vulnerability by Dean Gloster

     I used to think I was brave.

     I took up scuba diving, performed standup comedy, started downhill ski racing in my 40s, went back to school at 57 to get an MFA, took up Aikido at 58, quit my job as a lawyer to write novels full time, and several times have even turned down offers for extended car warranties.

    Yes. That brave.

    But late in life I discovered that I just have a counter-phobic mechanism: From a complicated childhood I wrote about here, I have some PTSD, and one of the ways I deal with it, because I don't like feeling vulnerable or frightened, is that I seek out experiences where I can master fear. It’s like doing mental sit-ups to get in shape for some future mental stomach punch.


Some experiences are especially helpful, if you have a high enthusiasm-to-skill ratio

    But, of course, those are little fears I try to master. I definitely don’t move toward the big thing I fear the most.

     The truth is, what I'm most afraid of in life is: You.


    People scare me, especially if they get close--emotionally close. Again, from my youth, it's one of the things I carry: People you care about can hurt you in profound ways that strangers cannot.

     My father was a good man. He was honest, he kept his promises, he meant what he said, and he never cheated at golf. He was a fierce, scrappy Irish American who enlisted in WWII to fight Nazis, then went to college on the G.I bill and a boxing scholarship, where—in four years—he only lost one match, to the guy who won in his weight division in the Olympics.

    But he was not good with vulnerability. That was exactly not his deal. He parked himself behind a series of moats and walls that none of his sons ever managed to cross, no matter how many summers we tried.


    When he was dying, I thanked my dad for hanging in there long enough so that we could all say goodbye.

     “My pleasure,” was all he said, and those two words were as much as we were going to get from him on death and dying and seeing us at his bedside.

    I want to be different than my father, despite my hardwiring to be exactly like him. That’s one of the reasons I gave up the secure career of the law for the economically skinny and uncertain one of being a writer: Writing, done right, moves us toward vulnerability and authenticity.

    But there’s also the actual people thing. It's difficult to connect with people, especially as a writer who sits at a computer all day, during a pandemic where we mostly don't get together face to face with people anymore, but I'm working on it.


    I have writer friends now, and we have a lot in common, all (as my friend Jay Cherrie once said in an Imitation Hemmingway contest) wrestling with the white bull that is the blank paper with no words on it. 

    And I have new Aikido friends. We joke, we attack each other, we get thrown around, and we get ibuprofen afterward. As, you know, one does.

    None of us are whom we hoped to be. And for those of us with a lot of stuff or baggage that gets in the way of living how we'd prefer, life is sometimes a race to make some (difficult) progress toward that goal before the inevitable curtain.

     I have a ways to go, probably on both those fronts, but I'm making some progress. We'll shall see.

Dean Gloster 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 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.” His current novel, JUST DEAL, is about two funny brothers who have to team up with their friend Claire to save the world. It has the usual Dean Gloster novel ingredients: Death, humor, the question of whether it’s possible to save someone, a love interest to root for, dysfunctional parenting, and an off-kilter sensibility, including a mergers and acquisitions lawyer dad who is missing 54 percent of his soul.


Monday, October 25, 2021


The topic for this month is fear. I’ve actually done quite a bit of research on the subject: what causes fear, (what a specific fear stems from), and how fear tends to show up in other ways: anger, resentment, guilt, frustration… 

All of these emotions, some believe, are fear dressed up in costume (somewhat appropriate for Halloween). 

I think about this theory when I experience some of these emotions – how my frustration, for example, could really be based on a fear I have; this helps me see my frustration in a keener way, helps me understand where that frustration comes from on a deeper level.

Along these lines, some researchers say there are only two emotions: love and fear, and that the choices we make stem from either emotion. If you’ve never heard this theory before, sit with it for a moment. 

The emotion of joy? This would be love, according to the theory. 

Gratitude? Also, love.

Admiration, pride, serenity, acceptance…? Love, love, love, love.

Heartache, on the other hand? You guessed it: fear.

Sadness, remorse, humiliation, disappointment…? All of them: fear.

When you’re feeling introspective – and when you need to make a tough decision – you can reflect on this theory and ask yourself: am I choosing out of love or fear right now? 

Helpful? Maybe. 

Sometimes? Not always… 

But interesting, for sure, especially when considering the expression “go with your gut.” It’s the times I’ve gone against my gut that fear has intervened and made me question my judgment. 

The decision to take a deal that didn’t seem fair…

The decision to work on a project I didn’t love…

The decision to take a job that didn’t align with what I truly wanted…

All of those decisions were based on fear. 

Am I glad I chose the way I did? I can’t say for certain, but sometimes, in my darkest hours, I would certainly say no. I deserved better. I didn’t practice self-kindness or self-respect. I feared I would never be good enough/smart enough/talented enough/worthy enough…

Other times, I would like to say the universe was giving me the opportunity to learn a valuable lesson – one I needed to absorb so that I could move forward and choose better next time. 

What do I fear? 

Where do I even begin? 

Failure, disease, loss, death, the unknown…

I fear for my children, my husband, my extended family, my friends, my colleagues, the environment, wildlife, the planet....

I fear creepy crawly things (spiders, bees, beetles, and other insects), as well as ghosts, basements, the dark, and all-things financial. Growing up without a lot of money will ingrain in you a fear of losing your roof and your means of existence – a fear so deep it’ll keep you awake at night and make you go against your gut in an effort to sustain a career and a means of affording for you and your family.

(I’m working on it.)

Along my path, I’ve also discovered that I have Trypophobia, a fear of holes – lots of ‘em, all smooshed up together. (I know, right? Pass me a pillow and point me to the nearest therapist’s couch.) I have no idea why I have this fear, but in my fear-inspired research I’ve learned that certain fears can be genetic. Take the fear of snakes, for example… Some who claim to have this fear have no idea where it came from, not having had any direct experience with snakes. Researchers have found that some fears can be hardwired, so to speak, imprinted on the brain, and passed down through generations. They’ve proven this theory in rats, using cherry blossoms. Google it if you’re interested. Really fascinating stuff. Just don’t ever ask me to look at a honeycomb. 

Happy Halloween, by the way. May you be a little less fearful this year.




Sunday, October 24, 2021

What scares me as a writer (Brenda Hiatt)

 This month we’re talking about the things that scare us. I’m someone who can’t read or watch horror. My vivid imagination loves to replay those situations and images and make them even scarier—usually at three o’clock in the morning. But as a writer, my biggest fear has nothing to do with creepy things that go bump in the night. 

No, what keeps me awake at night, and keeps me at my computer far longer than is probably healthy, is the fear that I’ll publish a book before it’s ready and disappoint my readers. Some would call this perfectionism, and I suppose it is, in a way. But really, it’s driven by fear. Fear that I’ll finally be exposed as a fraud. Fear that those readers who’ve been begging for my next book will think I cheated them by taking shortcuts. Fear that I’ll do my characters a disservice by not telling their stories properly. 


This kind of fear is a two-edged sword. On the one hand, it drives me to produce the very best books I can, as close to perfect as I can possibly make them. But on the other hand, it makes me a much slower writer than I’d be otherwise. No matter how many times I revise, I’m always sure that one more pass will turn up new things to fix or improve (which is usually true). That means I have a really hard time declaring a book “done” and ready for public consumption. I still do it—I’ve now published twenty-five books and counting. But it’s never, ever, easy. Or fast. 


Now that I’m indie publishing, with no all-powerful editor to prevent me from falling on my face in front of the whole reading world, that fear is even greater. Because now it’s all on me—and my freelance editor and beta readers—to decide whether a book is really, truly ready to see the light of day. I hear over and over that to be successful in the indie world, it’s important to produce books quickly. So I’ve spent way too many hours on workshops and books telling us how to write faster. But after trying various speed strategies, I’ve finally accepted that I’ll always be slow, at least by indie standards. And…I’m okay with that. Because my fear of releasing too infrequently isn’t nearly as strong as my fear of releasing a substandard book. That’s why more than a year will pass between the release of my last Starstruck book and the next one. 

However! To bridge that gap, I wrote a “secret” Starstruck holiday novella, and in record time! It was secret because I didn’t trust myself to craft a publishable novella in time for the holidays, so didn’t dare risk disappointing my readers by mentioning it ahead of time. Fortunately, because it was an idea I’d been toying with for quite a while, the writing flowed much more quickly than I expected, allowing time for all the revisions and editing I consider absolutely crucial before letting it go. 


Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t be terrified when Yuletide Perils goes live, less than a month from now. I’m always terrified by new releases, positive that my beta readers, editor, and I have missed something crucial. But that’s a terror I’m used to by now. Over time, I’ve learned that the best way to get over that fear, once the final file is uploaded to all the vendors, is to turn my attention to the next book–in this case, polishing my January release to within an inch of its life. 

Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times bestselling author of the Starstruck series. Look for Yuletide Perils: A Starstruck Novella to release November 18th. Available for pre-order now! 

Saturday, October 23, 2021


Fear Itself

By Christine Gunderson


This month we're writing about fear. There's a lot of grist for this particular mill lurking in my subconscious. I fear all the usual things; snakes, heights, enclosed spaces, dark alleys at night. I also fear driving on the Beltway, people not liking me and a worldwide shortage of gluten free Twinkies.


But Patty Blount, another writer here at YA Outside the Lines, eloquently touched on a less visceral fear, and that's the fear of giving up and giving in, of no longer doing the thing that makes you YOU. An athlete who no longer gets off the couch. A gifted teacher doing admin work. An inventor who follows someone's else's plan. A painter who gives up painting. A writer who quits writing.


I'm busy now with the world open again. Activities on hiatus during Covid are back with a vengeance, along with the time and driving that goes with them.


I've been doing final revisions on my manuscript since September, and I'm still not done. Each week I watch my writing time leach into trips to the pediatrician for covid, strep and flu tests every time someone gets a sore throat. My writing time melts into good things too, like birthday party planning and selling concessions to raise money for activities important to my kids. 


But at the end of yet another day without writing, a little voice whispers, give it up. It's not important. Your kids need you. It's self-indulgent. It'll never lead to anything. You're too busy. It's a waste of time. 


Giving into that little voice is my greatest fear. 


I fight this voice by reminding myself that days with writing are a thousand times better than days without, that I'm happier, kinder, more patient, more observant, more everything when I'm writing.


Life without writing is a half-life, a faint copy of something vibrant. Without writing I'm a half- person, depriving the universal puzzle of a tiny jigsaw piece. 


I believe we each have a mission, a reason for being here, and I believe the gifts and talents endowed by our creator, whoever you believe that creator to be, are given to us so we can fulfill this mission in the world.  


Engineers have to build. Teachers have to teach. Gardeners have to grow. Soldiers have to fight. Writers have to write.


What is your mission? And what gifts were you given to fulfil it? How do you fight against the voices of fear and doubt that attempt to derail you, to keep you from doing the job that only you can do, from creating the thing that only you can create?


Missions are hard. Most people choose not to accept them. But when we fight past the doubt, we become the person we are supposed to be, and the reward is a life without fear of failure or fear of success. True courage is taking the time, investing the energy, to be who we really are.




Christine Gunderson is writer who lives outside Washington, D.C. with her husband, children and Star the Wonder dog. When not writing, she’s sailing, playing Star Wars trivia, re-reading Persuasion, or unloading the dishwasher. You can reach her at

Friday, October 22, 2021

Nooooooooo! (by Patty Blount)

 Remember that old song from Kenny Rogers? You got to know when to fold 'em, when to walk away?


That's my writing career in a nutshell. I'm terrified my writing career is over. 

I haven't had a book release since 2018. I'm still writing, but the industry is just stalled and no one seems to know why. It 

Meanwhile, Netflix and Amazon are putting any damn thing on TV and I'm over here, waving my arms like a windmill screaming, "I HAVE STORIES FOR YOU!" 

I am still writing. I wrote a romantic suspense with series potential. I wrote a YA Christmas rom/com. I'm currently adapting SEND (my debut novel) into a school play. And I'm writing a YA horror I hope to self-publish. In fact, I'd hoped to have it available by Halloween this year, but life got in the way. 

That brings me to fear #2. My health. I have psoriatic arthritis, a painful and degenerative autoimmune disease. Since July, I've been in a state of flare, with random inflammation attacking all over my body. It's not just the skin rash. I've had pinched nerves, vestibular migraines and vertigo so profound, I could not lift up my head without vomiting. I've been on prednisone, a steroid, since July, which makes me gain weight. I'd been prediabetic for years and keep trying to lose weight, but the prednisone makes that impossible. A few weeks ago, I learned I'm now diabetic, too. And I'm still on prednisone. All of these health problems really cut into my writing. 

I am so scared I will never feel better. 

I have a birthday next month. My mom died back in 2012 and ever since she passed, I keep this ridiculous count down in my head. "Just fifteen more years until you're the same age Mom was when she died." 

Next month, it will be fourteen years. 

It sounds like such a long time. 

It's not. 

I have stories to write. I want to see my sons marry and meet my grandchildren. I want to see my stories adapted to screen or stage. I want to see my stories hit bestseller lists. I want, desperately, to be healthy.

I may never see any of these things actually happen and the temptation is there, so strong, it practically has its own pulse. Just put the pen down. 


Watch some game shows. Eat the damn sugar. Close your eyes! 

But if I succumb, I may not have even those fourteen years. 

And that's the scariest thought of all. 

Thursday, October 21, 2021

The Ultimate Fear (Holly Schindler)

The absolute worst fear of all is that I would stop, at some point, hating older work.

Okay, so maybe hate is a strong term. But I would hate, hate, hate to get to a point where I read something I'd written several years ago and didn't see a million things I would do differently if I were to write it again.

It would mean I hadn't grown. I hadn't changed my mind a hundred different times about what a story was supposed to do. 

A while back, I got the rights to the very first book I ever published: A Blue So Dark. Blue gave me my first starred review. It won awards (silver medal in Foreword Reviews INDIES Book of the Year and gold medal in the IPPYs). 

And yet...

Sure, there are things I'd do differently. But should I? 

In a way, this book captures a moment in time--and in my life. It was a real struggle to figure out what would stay and what would go.

In the end, I didn't change the plotline or characters, none of the major points. But I did change it up quite a bit as far as the line edits went: I changed the language Aura, the main character, swears. I mean, she swears a lot.

People swear. they do. Especially when things get difficult. But in Blue, I think it's used to the point that it takes readers out of the story. 

I'm in the midst of typing the epilogue now--which means the next step will be formatting the ebook and print versions (I'm going to do both hardback and paperback editions). 

Be sure to sign up at my YA newsletter to find out when the book is available (I'm planning a super affordable ebook upon re-release): Holly Schindler's YA News.

Aaaand--drumroll, please--my official cover reveal:

Tuesday, October 19, 2021

The Lone Ranger, Ed Sullivan and Stories That Slide Away


John Clark posting from Cody, Wyoming during a long delayed tour of the National Parks in Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, South Dakota, and Utah.

When the topic of what we fear was chosen, my first thought was of a couple events from more than 60 years ago that scared the hell out of me then and that I still remember quite vividly. The first was a radio episode of The Lone Ranger where he and Tonto were fighting ghosts. I was supposed to be in bed asleep, but my parents were listening in the next room and the program was so realistic, I had nightmares afterward. The other was at about the same time. It was a short animated feature shown on the Ed Sullivan Show. Talk about setting up an audience—He cautioned viewers that they might want to have their children leave the room. Now what kid, hearing that is going to want to miss what’s coming next? It was A Short Vision, a British animated film by Joan and Peter Foldes released in 1956. The film, inspired by one of Peter's poems, depicts the destruction of the world, including mankind. The film's music was composed by Matyas Seiber, who composed music for Animal Farm two years earlier. That too, gave me nightmares.

Fortunately, one benefit of age is the ability to remember all the times you worried and fretted about bad stuff happening. Well 98% never does and you deal with the other 2%. However, there are a couple things that really scare me. The first is losing my sense of humor and quick wit. I’m the unofficial humorist and punster for the folks I swim with five mornings a week. If I’m not cracking a new joke, or creating a new pun within five minutes of getting in the water, someone will call me out.


It’s worth noting that the heated pool is also my ‘Place of Power,’ a location where ideas and plot twists come to me in a seemingly effortless way. That brings me to my second fear—losing the ability to come up with new story ideas. Even if I couldn’t write them, the thought of not being able to have a story appear in my head and start writing itself is terrifying.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

Crissa-Jean Chappell - Authors and Animals

It's such a delight to catch up with Crissa-Jean Chappell. In addition to being a YA author, she's also an artist. (I love and am fascinated by her process of sketching her characters as she writes.) I also confess her videos of her sweet cats are often one of my guilty pleasures. Here, she weighs in on the relationship between artists and animals:



cats and writers from crissachappell on Vimeo.


Be sure to check in with Crissa yourself:

Sunday, October 10, 2021

Fear by Sydney Salter

I'm afraid of not getting another chance at publishing success--

I have spent the weekend at the Women Writing The West conference virtually from Portland, Oregon. No Powell's book buying spree 😢 I love this congenial group of ladies (and a few men) who tell stories about women who live west of the Mississippi. 

After so many great craft sessions, I am feeling so inspired about my stories. I have notes for a BIG revision on one project, thanks to a roundtable critique and a comment made by a speaker that made me realize that I was forcing a plot point that simply needs to go. I took notes about the NaNoWriMo story that I am planning for next month. I thought about the messy novel that is currently resting--and made some notes for the character swap I'm planning in that story. 

I am ready to write!!!! I am super excited about my stories. 

But I also heard that it's tough out there right now to get published--for all kinds of reasons. And I suck at social media. Really, I suck at enjoying social media. I feel really conflicted about what all that time scrolling through feeds does to people, especially my audience (who isn't all that interested in people my age, anyway). I worry that not having a huge following affects my submissions.  

I am a writer who needs to write, and would have stopped long ago if that were possible. I have so many stories that I'm excited to tell. And it's the only thing I want to do. Right now I work as a Small Claims Court Mediator--because all the people feed my storytelling. Everything I do seems to end with "so I can write about it."

Is that enough? Loving the writing. 

That's my super honest fear: that the novels I've already had published will be the only novels published in spite of writing many many more. 

In the meantime, I am going to shove my fears aside and keep working on my craft. Writing and writing and writing.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Eeeeeeeek! (Mary Strand)

This month at YA Outside the Lines, in honor of Halloween, we’re talking about what scares us.

If we’re supposed to talk about what scares us in the context of writing, I’m going to fail this assignment. My bad!

People tend to think of me as fearless. Being considerate and all, I tend to let people think whatever they want to think of me, even (or especially) when they’re wildly wrong and I’m secretly laughing at them.

On a macro level, I guess I am pretty fearless, because I’m never afraid to do what I want to do, and I’m never afraid to stand up for myself and what I want. Too many women in particular say they’re afraid to make waves or stand up for themselves, especially with their spouses/partners/cabana boys/kids, but that’s a really foreign concept to me. I can probably thank my mom for never letting fears like that even enter my mind.

But on a micro level? A random list of some things that scare me:





Sleeping in a tent (unless the tent is inside a room with deadbolts)

Spiders and really all bugs, especially speedy ones

Reenacting the shower scene in Psycho in real life

The Birds: ditto

Being alone in my house in the middle of the night


You think I'm kidding, but no.

Pretty much all other animals, too

Forgetting lyrics and/or chords while performing onstage

People who put raisins where chocolate chips should go (kidding) (somewhat)

Really, really, really tight spaces

Horror books or movies (so they’re a hard pass)



When I was a kid, I was afraid of tall buildings falling on me. No idea why.

I’ve also had two bouts with agoraphobia (not recently, thank God), in which I struggled to leave the house, which is particularly weird for an extrovert like me, but I came up with clever ways to resolve that, my favorite of which involved Punch Pizza.

I’m not afraid of Punch Pizza. I’m also cool with clowns.

So ... what scares you? (Besides my monthly blog posts, of course.)

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

Friday, October 1, 2021

Holly Schindler Interviews Carrie Jones, (Incredible) Writer Person

Confession: Carrie Jones's books were some of the first YAs I feel completely in love with when I first started trying my own hand at the genre. And I am beyond thrilled that she's joining us here today:


HS: You write for all ages, but you started out writing YA. Tell us about some of your YAs.


CJ: Actually, I started writing middle grade, but the first books I published were YA. I know! I know! So wild. 

I am terrible at picking favorite YA novels. It always feels like I’m saying I prefer one friend over another or one dog over another. Not that books are dogs! Although, how cuddly would a book/dog hybrid be? 


HS: What drew you to YA? 


CJ: My natural speaking and writing voice is a YA voice. I love the immediacy of it. I love how brilliant and passionate and exacting teens are. I think it’s the hardest genre to write because you can’t get away with things. 

M.T. Anderson said in his 2009 Printz Honor speech that “teen are conspicuously the opposite of bland and blank: They are incredibly eccentric, deeply impassioned about their interests, fantastically—even exhaustingly—knowledgeable. Their commitment to complexity of thought is, if anything, fiercer than an adult’s—because they have to fight so fiercely to defend it.” 

How can you not be compelled and honored to write for teens? 


HS: As you get farther from your own teen self, do you find it harder to tap into the YA voice? How do you keep it fresh?


CJ: Oh. That’s hard. I don’t contemplate it too much. When the characters come out, they come out as character with attitudes and tweaks and flaws. I almost feel like it’s less about the ‘voice’ and more about the teen mindset, what they care about, that impassioned need to become, to evolve, to be, and to understand that runs through the current of so many young adult novels. It’s more about that than worrying that my narrator ’sounds’ seventeen. 


HS: How do you see the genre having changed since your first YA?


CJ: The text right now feels a bit more densely rich—I’m talking sentence structure. Hopefully becoming more diverse in authors and subject matter and narrative structures. YA was very heavily white, written by middle class (and up) able-bodied women and men who went to college and often graduate school. Any increase in a more heterogeneous assortment of story and writers is such a win because it means that teens get to read difference, find empathy and discover worlds that aren’t homogenous. 


HS: What’s your favorite YA to read? (When I started publishing, vampires were all the rage. I’ve always had a soft spot for contemporary realism.)


CJ: This is a really hard question for me. I like thrillers. A lot. And I also like those quieter, lyrical novels. I’m really all about extremes, apparently. In my editing work, I read a lot of YA fantasy (of all sub-genres), so I think I’m steering a bit away from them in my pleasure reading. 


HS: How has your own YA work changed? Has it changed because of the genre itself? Because of our political climate, etc?


CJ: I’ve always been a bit all over the place when it comes to genre and YA. I’m slowly working on some stories that are a bit more complicated structurally, which are probably going to terrify my poor agent. They are really more call-backs to my first three YA novels (contemporary realism) rather than the YA that allowed me to not live in a car, which was YA fantasy and the NEED series.

I think a lot about Audre Lorde’s quote when I think about writing YA and writing for teens. She has a million quotes of brilliance, but the one that I’m referencing is, “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and be eaten alive.” 

That’s what’s going on with me and my YA and hopefully the world right now. It’s time for to embrace defining ourselves and leaning into that power of creation both on the page and outside of it.  As writers for young adults and kids, we have a responsibility for our stories to resonate with possibility and authenticity. 


HS: I’m in the midst of revising and republishing my first YA—have you looked at your own first YA recently? What do you think of it? 


CJ: That is so great for you, Holly! I’m so excited that you’re doing that! 

For me? Um, no. I have a panic attack if I look at my old books. I’m a bit like Adam Driver. He can’t watch himself on the screen. I can’t hear my words on the page. 


HS: I’ve been following you for some time on Patreon, where you’ve published new work across genres. Can you talk a bit about your experience there? What it’s been like writing YA in real time?


CJ: Thank you so much for supporting me there. It means so much to me. Every week not the audio part of the Patreon, I start to choke up because it’s so kind for people to be there on that journey with me. 

And the journey itself? IT IS SO TERRIFYING! Yes! That’s in caps. Writing a chapter a week in real time and putting it out there makes me think of my newspaper past and a bit of improv. It’s really vulnerable because you’re showing people how your story develops, warts and all, but it’s also so freeing because you can allow your brain to just produce and produce and produce. If you want to be responsible and get that chapter out, then you have to silence your imposter syndrome or your internal critic or inner editor. 


HS: Where do you feel YA is headed? (I mean, you’ve got a crystal ball, right? 😁)


CJ: Oh my gosh. Hopefully to even bigger and better worlds and stories, where we recognize, celebrate and accept stories that we never imagined before. Stories that challenge. Stories that resonate. Stories that are different. Stories that are unafraid. 

People always seem to think of big change as a one-time event, but industries and art evolves. Revolutions and evolutions simmer and bubble and don’t just happen on one day for five hours. Progress is like that. I think YA is progressing and it’s becoming more and more a genuine journey towards truths. 


HS: Working on any YA stuff now?


CJ: Oh my gosh. Always. I have some paranormals that are pretty straight-forward and a mystery series going on. 

I’m working on a couple novels with slightly more complicated structures. One has some fantastical elements woven throughout and is narrated by Love and the other is a bit more of a treatise about entitlement and violence. 

That was a horrible pitch, wasn’t it? All my currently published YA and the ones that are coming out super soon are on my website,


Thank you so much for having me here, Holly! I hope you’re own writing (and revising) is going well!