Sunday, January 16, 2022

Out With The Old. In With The New. And Sometimes Back To The Old Again by Allie Burton

 Looking forward.

As a writer, sometimes you just need to switch it up. When you sit down at the keyboard and feel as if some of your writing is stale, it means it’s time to try something new.

I’ve written sixteen young adult fantasy books. In between my first two series (Lost Daughters of Atlantis and Warrior Academy), I wrote 6 adult contemporary romance books—a complete departure from young adult fantasy. The break did me good. I felt fresher when I started writing my current series, A Glass Slipper Adventure.

Now with the 5th book in the series coming out next month (Snow Warrior White), and in the final stages of writing the 6th book, it’s time for another break.

So what should my break be? My brain is sizzling with ideas.

A young adult historical? Or perhaps a young adult contemporary romance? Or back to the adult contemporary romance series I’d started? (I’d hinted at other books to come.)

So many possibilities.

And that’s what ‘out with the old, in with the new’ means to me. Possibilities.

While I will go back to my A Glass Slipper Adventure series (I have so many twisted fairytales to tell), I’m looking forward to starting something fresh to me. Something different. Something new.

Comment below if you’d like to vote for one of the above or suggest your own genre. I’m open to all…possibilities.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Out With Isolation, In With Community! (Sydney Salter)

 In 2022 I am finding new writing groups! 

Years ago when I first started writing fiction, a group of us in a new moms group discovered a shared passion for writing, so we started meeting in the Barnes & Noble children's section. Our toddlers would entertain themselves while we attempted some fiction (all of our kids grew up loving to read). My toddler is now weeks away from graduating from law school, the younger one is finishing college, so I've been at this writing stuff for a long time. 

Our Barnes & Noble group graduated to the cafe, and anyone with an inkling to write was welcome to stop by on Tuesday mornings for writing exercises, conversation, critiques, and camaraderie. Some days we had six or eight writers join us. People slipped away, others joined. And then we went through a lot of slipping away.

Now I am the only one who regularly writes fiction. So I stay home on Tuesday mornings now (even before the pandemic). Writing is hard. And the business of writing is even harder. I understand when people find easier passions to pursue. But I sure miss that sense of community and friendship. 

So I am getting back out there in 2022 and joining a craft, community, and career course through the Highlights Foundation, as well as a critique group through Women Writing the West. The f-*&#^)!-ing pandemic won't stop, so I am seeking virtual writing pals.

Out with isolation, in with community! 


Comment #6: Ashley! 

(Winner selected by random dice roll! Ashley won with double threes!)

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Greetings. All the best to you in 2022!

For the first three months of this year, I'm going to post reviews of three YA books I've recently read, loved and highly recommend.  Each features diverse characters, not often enough encountered in the genre.

I begin this month with The Prophetess by Evonne Marzouk

Why I loved this book.

There aren't many YA books that not only feature Jewish main characters but engage them with issues of faith.  This book does that and more.  It explores the mystical aspects of Judaism and also broadens its lens to include the ways in which people of faith across religious beliefs share similar values and commitments.  Plus, the writing is strong, the characters well drawn and intriguing, and some of the prose is quite beautifully crafted.

What the book is about.

Rachel is a high school senior in a Baltimore public school. While her family is Jewish, they aren't especially observant, except in situations, like holidays, out of respect for the Orthodox faith of Rachel's grandfather. When her grandfather dies early in the book, Rachel and her mother honor him and attend his Orthodox synagogue for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) services.  It's at this synagogue that Rachel first sees an older Jewish man praying and feels drawn to him. The man, Yonatan, offers to help Rachel understand some strange flashes of light she's been seeing. Soon, he teaches her a form of Jewish meditation and the flashes of light become visions that she doesn't quite understand.

When she has the opportunity to travel to Israel with a youth group, it is there that Yonatan introduces her to a number of modern-day prophets and prophetesses, including the revered, elderly Devorah. As Rachel's connection to these prophets develops and her visions become more pronounced, she must make a decision about the direction of her future and her commitment to her faith.

Why I recommend this book.

How does an American teenager living a typical high school life reconcile a calling to her faith that she would never have expected? What does this mean for her long-time crush on her friend, Chris, a sweet boy who is a devoted Catholic? How can she explain these strange visions and her connection to Yonatan to her parents and her older sister, a ballet student who appears to be starving herself? What is Rachel's responsibility to her people and to her obligation to repair the world (tikkun olam)?

These are only some of the questions explored in The Prophetess. Along the way, Rachel has to make many small decisions culminating in one life-changing choice. One of her greatest allies is Chris, who not only quickly understands why they cannot move toward a romantic relationship, but who also accepts without question Rachel's experience of the visions and her need to follow a new path. Because Chris is steadfast in his own faith, he easily understands Rachel's need to be committed to hers.

There are many books where religion is set up to be a teen's nemesis, especially more highly observant religions with stricter rules and practices. The Prophetess is one of the few books that turns this on its head and claims faith as not only a positive choice but a life-affirming and joyous one. The book introduces readers to mystical and Orthodox Judaism as possible and understandable options for personal fulfillment.  

The message of The Prophetess can be summed up by Rachel herself in the final pages of the book, 

"I seemed to have left simple happiness behind months ago. What I had now was more complicated: a sense of purpose and meaning, a trust in something beyond myself. I had to believe I was doing the right thing, following my path where it led. When I focused on that, a deeper contentment seemed to resonate inside of me." 

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Happy New Year! (Mary Strand)

The official theme at our YAOTL blog this month is “out with the old, in with the new.”

In other words, HaPpY nEw YeAr!

Nail Gaiman has made an art form (appropriately enough) out of clever words to greet the New Year, so I’ll post one of my favorites of his:

(I always like the kissing part in particular. No wonder I love writing YA.)

Truth is, I love new starts: annually, of course, but also monthly, weekly, and even daily. I write a somewhat ambitious “list of 100” goals each year, and I’ve noticed in the last five years that I manage to accomplish between 37 and 40 of them every single year. But hope springs eternal! My list this year includes getting a motorcycle license, learning to box, and performing onstage at First Avenue. (Yo! A girl’s gotta dream big!)

My list of 100 contains my bigger dreams, but I also scribble out to-do lists every day and every week, in a desperate attempt to keep myself on track.

Along with a lot of my writer friends, I also choose a word of the year. It’s on a post-it note on the door to my office, theoretically to inspire me each day. For 2022, it’s “FRUITION.” As in, I’ve been working on a ton of different things, especially in writing and music, and I’m hoping they all come to fruition in 2022. Or, well, at least 37-40 of them. No! Maybe I’ll nail 50 of them this year. You never know!

Okay, my true confession is that I’m an utter realist trapped inside the body of someone who SOUNDS like a crazy-ass optimist. (As in, hope for the best but prepare for the worst.) But at the beginning of each year, and even each week, and first thing in the morning most days of my life, I’m indeed an optimist as I scribble out all the things I plan to accomplish.

My hopes often get blown to smithereens. But the next day, the next week, and definitely the next year I’ll try again.

And I hope. Even despite the last couple of years we've just endured, I always hope. I hope you do, too.

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

Monday, January 3, 2022

Persistence is Key – by Janet Raye Stevens

Happy New Year YAOTL’ers and welcome to 2022! This month’s theme is, fittingly, out with the old and in with the new. New year, new projects, and a new word to guide my writing journey—persistence. Well, not really a new word, since persistence has been the story of my writing journey since day one.

I’ve been at this writing thing a long, long time. I sent out my first query letter in 2006, back when queries went via snail mail and traditional publishing was the only way to go. I queried a major publisher with my first novel, a YA about a Scooby gang that takes on an immortal, soul-sucking demon. A surprisingly fast few weeks later, a thin self-addressed envelope landed in my mailbox. What I expected to be a rejection was an enthusiastic note from the editor, asking to read the full manuscript. Well, that was easy, I thought. Next stop, New York Times best-seller.

Haha…no. I sent the manuscript, got a rejection months later, and my writing career has been a study in persistence ever since.

After realizing my immortal, soul-sucking demon story suffered from terminal first-book-itis, I tucked it under my bed and moved on. Undaunted, I wrote and revised a bunch of novels and short stories, started twice as many more, and queried, queried, queried. In short, I persisted.

The ups and downs since then have been many, both personal and professional. I’ve packed up and moved four times (including one jaunt halfway across the country), seen my kids graduate high school and college and move onto their adult lives, and I said farewell to some precious pets and beloved family members. I let my hair go gray. In between, I wrote.

I had some success in the form of several short stories published. I got The Call from an agent, who called back two days later to say they’d changed their mind. Got The Call again several years later that moved my career forward, but ultimately didn’t work out. I got The Call from an agent for a third time and this time it stuck, but still no traditional publishing deal.

At the beginning of 2021, I made the huge decision to go all-in with self-publishing. All-in means I didn't just dip my toe into the indie publishing pool, I chose to jump off the highest diving board I could find and publish three books in the space of three months. And since that wasn't challenging enough, I released three books in *three* different genres: a sweet contemporary Christmas romance, a World War II-set Terminator meets Somewhere in Time time travel adventure, and a historical suspense with a paranormal twist, also set in WWII. 


It's been an often hectic, sometimes scary, sometimes frustrating, frequently exhilarating journey, and always, always satisfying. My persistence paid off. I achieved my goals. But there’s still challenging work to do. My journey continues in 2022 as I plan to publish three more books. 

Nevertheless, I’ll persist.

Janet Raye Stevens writes smart, suspenseful, and stealthily romantic time travel, mystery, paranormal, and historical fiction for all ages. 

Connect with Janet and discover her books at:   

Saturday, January 1, 2022

YA Outside the Lines News!

 All the latest from our regular bloggers:

Malinda Lo won the National Book Award in the YA category for her novel, Last Night at the Telegraph Club.  An interview with her can be found here.