Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Four Types of Author Events for Promoting Your Books at Libraries (Alissa Grosso)

I worked in libraries for years, and as an author I've done a number of library events to promote my books. Library events can vary greatly in terms of format and audience size. They can be a great way to promote your books as an author, but they can also be a lot of work. As far as what to expect, well, I would say expect the unexpected, but that's not too helpful.

It really depends on the type of event. Generally, I would break author-themed library events down into four main types of events. They are:

1. Solo Author Presentations
These might be billed as a "meet the author" event or a "local author" event. For one of these events
My 2011 solo talk at Eastern Monroe Public Library in Stroudsburg, PA
you will be the only author there and will (hopefully) be speaking to a group of people who have come for the event. You might be talking about your experiences as an author, your journey to publication or simply sharing a sort of behind the scenes look at writing your book. You could intersperse talking about your book with doing a short reading from your book. Think about including some visuals to help engage your audience, and be prepared to answer questions from aspiring authors about how they too can get their book published.

I've done solo author talks for a good-sized audience of twenty or more people and other talks where it was me, the library director and a couple of patrons. Even though I write books for teens, at least half the events I've done at libraries, the audience was all adults.

Some events I've been standing behind a podium at the front of a large meeting room, sitting in a chair facing the assembled crowd or, especially for the smaller events, seated in a circle along with people attending the event.

2. Author Panels
If you're not a big fan of public speaking or prefer not to do a solo author event, you can partner with other authors and do a panel style discussion at a library. Sometimes libraries put together their own panel and will invite you to join in, but most of the panels I've been part of at libraries have been organized by the authors themselves.

A YA author panel at the Cranford, NJ Public Library
If you're interested in being part of a panel, you'll want to get involved with different local author promotional groups. Some groups are organized simply by region, while others are by genre. At different points in my career I've been members of both sorts of groups and met some author friends as a result.

The nice thing about doing a panel discussion, is even if you don't get an audience for your event, you won't be alone because you'll have some other authors to talk to. The other nice thing about panels is with multiple authors, there won't be any lull in the conversation, and it keeps things interesting for the audience.

3. Writing Workshops
Leading a writing workshop is a fun way to inspire aspiring authors. These participatory style events mean you won't have to do as much in the way of public speaking, but they can take a fair amount of planning.

You may have to plan different workshops depending on the age of the attendees, the length of time
Working with young writers at the Little Flower Teen Writers Festival
allotted for the program and whether or not this is a one-day event or an ongoing workshop series.

They can be a lot of fun, and if you come from a teaching background or really enjoy teaching others a writing workshop is a great way to combine your love of writing and your love of teaching.

Basing your lessons or exercises around passages from your own books is a way to squeeze in a little bit of book promotion into your event.

4. Book Fairs
Sometimes called book fairs or author fairs or perhaps book festivals or expos these events usually involve multiple authors and little to no public speaking. In most cases, you'll be sitting behind a table with your books on display in front of you.

At the Bucks County Library Author Expo in 2018
Other than perhaps making sure you have enough hard copies of your books as well as some sort of takeaway promotional item or flyer that has your name and author website on it such as sticker or bookmark, you won't have to do much in the way of planning.

Usually these book fair style events run for a few hours or more, so they may require a greater time commitment, and while you'll hopefully sell some books at the event, you probably won't be earning anything near minimum wage for your time commitment.

From my experience, those with books for children, can usually do a little bit better than those writing for adults or even teens.

Library author festivals can be a great chance to engage with readers in person, and it's so much more thrilling to sell a book directly to a customer and autograph it for them then it is to sell books to unknown internet strangers.

Closing Thoughts
While selling books at library events can be hit or miss (remember, most regular library users tend to borrow books for free from their library) they are a great way to meet and engage with your fans and potential readers. It can be a lot of fun to share your books and your passion for writing with like-minded people. Plus it will give you the chance to explore some different libraries, which is always pretty cool.

If you're looking to do a presentation or other library event, start by reaching out to your local library. Then contact other libraries around your area either by phone or by sending an email.

Besides spending a lot of time hanging out in libraries, Alissa Grosso is the author of 7 books for adults and teens, and chronicles her author life in her weekly Awkward Author vlog and podcast. Find out more about her and her books at alissagrosso.com.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Building A School Visit is just like Building A...Sandcastle! (Jodi Moore)

Around the time I was shopping When A Dragon Moves In around to various agents and publishing houses, my friend Loren was working hard on her degree in library science. “I know it’ll be published,” she said (as good friends will say), “and you’ll be my first author visit.”

And then...it happened! Loren graduated, a lucky school snapped her up and Flashlight Press agreed to publish my debut picture book!

“Can you come the end of May?” Loren asked me over the phone.

“YES!” I Tigger-danced around the room. Then, reality hit. “But...I’ve never done this before. What do I do?”

There was a moment of silence. “I don’t know. I’ve never done this before either.”

Since research is something both librarians and writers love, we set off to find out: by asking teachers what they wanted in an author visit.

“Encourage our students to write,” one said.

“Talk about the parts of a story,” another suggested.

“Discuss the need for revision,” a kindergarten teacher (yes! A KINDERGARTEN TEACHER) weighed in. “These kids think they can get it right the first time.”

And so, using my husband's original sandcastle as a visual metaphor, I crafted concrete, relatable, interactive presentations with grains of inspiration as shared by teachers themselves.

Here’s what I provide:

K through 4th grades:

“Building a strong story is just like building a sandcastle!” 

From "organizing tools" and "digging for ideas" to "building a strong base" and "re-reading and revising", students are introduced to the parts of a story, including the daunting "story arc" using the award-winning picture book When A Dragon Moves In.

Primary grades: Students will first be detectives, fixing spelling and punctuation errors; then will act as artists, “painting a picture” with words. They will then participate in Cool Kids Theater, acting out a scene from the book, learning how to “immerse themselves” in the writing process.

Upper grades:  Using The Wizard of Oz as an example, we will discuss adding dimension to stories and layering characters (adding a little “meat” and a lot of “heart” to the “skeleton” of the tale) as well as Character vs. Plot-Driven work.

And you never know…the DRAGON may even MOVE IN!
Towards the end of the presentation, students will “meet” the dragon and explore a professional masking technique used in theater, thereby infusing a bit of art inspiration...and recycling!

NEW for 5th-12th grades:

“Unleashing the Power of Words”

A picture may be worth a thousand words; however, if we choose our words carefully, we can express ourselves with the power and flair to rival any artist.

In this session, students examine the rich emotion and nuances reflected in the illustrations of a picture book and then explore innovative methods they can use to strengthen their own words and concepts to develop believable, 3-dimensional characters, vivid settings and gripping plots.

Discussion topics include: What’s the difference between a plot-driven and a character-driven story, and why should we care? Can a character be all good or all bad? Adjectives and adverbs…creative or crutch?

Because here’s the thing: stories have the power to teach, to connect and to heal us. I share examples of books that serve these needs, and close by impressing upon students that there are stories missing the world needs to hear…their own.

As authors, we speak to the most important audiences in the world. This letter took my breath away, and reminds me of my mission, my passion and my responsibility. Every day.

I’d love to connect with you and your students. Contact me at https://www.writerjodimoore.com/contact for further details and scheduling. All attendees receive hand-signed bookmarks at the end of the presentation/day. Hope to hear from you soon!

Monday, February 10, 2020

A Few Common Themes by Sydney Salter

I craft a unique presentation for each audience, but I usually hit upon a few themes.

Spending a summer living amongst the descendants of the ancient Mayans inspired me to write my first novel Jungle Crossing. I love to research before I write any story because I love to learn new things.

Long before I wrote any fiction, I wrote in diaries. I have rarely missed a day of journaling since I was fourteen years old. Even the shortest most boring entries end up telling a more complete story.

Sometimes rereading those old journals (I don't do it often) is painful, but doing all that personal writing has taught me how to access emotions in my fiction writing. I encourage young writers to keep a journal.

I talk about how I wasn't a superstar student. I like to encourage those kids whose potential isn't recognized by teachers, or anyone, but who have a passion for something and ambition to succeed.

I talk about how hard I worked to learn how to write. Again, keeping a journal helped me get to that personal and honest spot. But I still had to learn how to spell - and I still had to learn about the importance of meeting deadlines.

I still practice my writing skills by doing short writing exercises, writing short stories, and playing with writing. I rarely reread these pieces. Writing practice has taught me to write fast and without self-criticism. You can always make bad writing better!

I talk about learning to deal with rejection. I use to keep all my rejection letters in a notebook, but now writers get ignored more than rejected. We still have to figure out a way to keep going. I often talk about how many novels I've written (12) versus how many I've sold to be published (5). Every story I've written has taught me something new - and I have no regrets! I will only regret not writing the stories I hoped to tell.

I talk about how to find stories. I love to do workshops with advice columns. Everyone takes the same scenario and quickly writes a story. It's really fun to see what everyone comes up with! No two stories are ever the same.

I always emphasize that writing is a skill that's important to every single person in the modern world. Some of us will end up writing stories, but others will write grants so that they can do their scientific research, fund their nonprofit work, or report about some other aspect of their business.

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Sparks of inspiration and information: Reaching out to Book Sellers, Teachers, Librarians and Book Clubs by Kimberly Sabatini

This month on the blog we're reaching out to book sellers, teachers, librarians and book clubs to let them know what sparks of inspiration and information we can provide to assist THEM!

This means, if you book me for a visit (in person or virtual) I have a magic hat full of things I can use to add to your day and make your life a little better. 

First thing to know is that there is some overlap in what these groups of book folks are looking for--despite the fact that they might have very different needs on other occasions.

What I'm going to do is give you the areas where I think I have something to add and I'll let you decide if any of those buttons are worth pushing. 

First and foremost--TOUCHING THE SURFACE (Simon Pulse, Simon & Schuster) has a professionally crafted Common Core Curriculum Guide.

Exploring the Authenticity, Originality, Tenacity, and the Community of Being a Writer
(Prepared by Debbie Gonzales — www.debbiegonzales.com)
Table of Contents:
Practice vs. Talent – Sentence Crafting
Excerpt: Touching the Surface
Authenticity – A Study in Voice
Originality – Writing Outside the Box
Community – e Peer Writers Workshop
The Peer Writers Workshop: Participant Information
Meet the Author: Kimberly Sabatini
Common Core State Standards Alignment:
English Language Arts Standards » Writing
English Language Arts Standards » Speaking & Listening
Touching the Surface: Synopsis
And you can find the link to the full TOUCHING THE SURFACE Curriculum Guide HERE.
isbn: 978-1-4424-4002-9
Note: The projects and lessons included in the document have been created to compliment the content of my school visit presentation and are intended to enhance the students’ program participation and reading experience. But if you are not able to arrange a visit with me--I would LOVE for you to use the curriculum in conjunction with my book. I'm a former Special Education teacher and I know that bringing kids to reading is a fluid process and I would be proud to help you out with that. 

But growing community does not only happen in schools. I know, I've been a member of the SCBWI (the Society of Childrens Book Writers and Illustrators for over a decade. I've journeyed from nervously stepping out and looking for my crew to just recently becoming the Assistant Regional Advisor for SCBWI Eastern New York
My calling--my purpose in this group is a community builder. 
So, whether you're looking for sessions on starting a critique group, finding the tenacity to keep writing despite any lemons tossed at you, learning how to write outside the box or you'd like a class on becoming best friends with similies, metaphors and analogies--I can be of service.  
And I am always available to take any group through my personal journey to publication with hands on materials from my process or interject this within my other presentations depending on time.
Lastly, I am ALWAYS developing as a writer, a teacher--that never leaves you--and a presenter. After reading TOUCHING THE SURFACE if your readers or book club members organically becomes inspired by the story or ignite something new in their journey as writers--feel free to reach out to me because I believe that sparks of inspiration should always find a way to glow brighter. 
If you have the time, I'd love to know who provided you your favorite author visit/event and what made it so special.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Safe Spaces ... and Dreams of Cupcakes (Mary Strand)

This month, we’re blogging about what librarians, teachers, booksellers, and pretty much anyone in the vicinity can expect from our visit.

On a good day? Cupcakes.

Seriously, you can expect ME ... along with books, bookmarks, and other author swag.

I haven’t yet brought a guitar, but that very concept is currently being discussed in connection with a possible book event with another author who (like me) is also a songwriter. But it would definitely have to be for the right crowd.

Book cupcakes at a Barbara Vey Reader Weekend

I’m an extrovert, which is rare for a writer, and not even remotely shy. I’m not the type to shove myself in anyone’s face, though, because it’s not my style. I can speak on pretty much any topic, sometimes even knowledgeably. (Sometimes not, but then whatever I say will be pretty funny.) I’m not a stand-up comic and don’t aspire to be, but I’m pretty funny if I’m in the mood, and I’m often in the mood.

I love Q&A’s, especially when the Q’s come from kids and teens. Kids and teens don’t get a pinched look on their face when asking why I write about the things I do. Although my books err on the “sweet” side, I think they’re realistic, and real life isn’t as neat and tidy as some parents of kid and teen readers want it to be, and I don’t pretend. Even though I write fiction.

Pinched Face: “Did your character really have to say ‘rat’s ass’? Do the sisters really have to talk about BOYS and the possibility of having SEX some day?”

Me: “They really do, because it’s true to their personality. Kids and teens are THINKING these things, and books are a safe space to explore those thoughts.”

Yeah. Kids and teens don’t ask questions like that.

I’m happy to read excerpts from my books, but most readers prefer Q&A’s. They can read on their own, but they can’t easily ask me questions and get answers unless we’re both in the same room. I think Q&A’s are a better use of the reader’s time, but hey: up to you. (You can also ask me questions on Goodreads, though, or via my website or my author email address. Go for it.)

The best book events feature at least a couple of authors, along with readers (some of whom might be future authors) who want to join in an open exchange of thoughts: about books, about anything they like. My book events provide a safe space for that, even when a few pinched looks on a few parents’ faces threaten that safe space. I simply don’t let them.

But cupcakes are good, 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 marystrand.com.

Wednesday, January 29, 2020

What I Learned in 2019 (Brian Katcher)

I learned how to install a dishwasher. That's all. That's the only thing I learned.

Ours broke down and Lowe's didn't offer free installation. The Lowe's guy, a former student of my wife's, said it wasn't too difficult, but if I didn't want to risk it, a plumber could do it for about $100.

I decided to try it myself. And much to my utter shock, I succeeded. Totally. It runs perfectly.

So, no new book contract. No great life lessons. But I did learn to do something practical. The end.

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Knowing Wrong from Write by Dean Gloster

            When I was twelve, my brothers and I would hike up a sagebrush-covered hill to Mass at the Carmelite Monastery of Reno, Nevada.

            It was very Sound of Music. A couple dozen of us locals sat in pews, while an equal number of nuns sang to guitar accompaniment, all overseen by a priest who’d done something unspecified bad enough to get reassigned to offering masses there.

            One day, at the opening of his sermon, the priest said, “We all do things we know are wrong. For example, I’m living with a woman…”

            That got my attention. Wait. What?

            We all do things we know are wrong.

            And then some of us wrestle with that, out loud, for a small audience. It was gripping, listening to priest discuss how he was conflicted. (I still remember parts of that sermon many decades later.)

Unfortunately, as those of us who write stories know, change is difficult. That’s one reason so many terrible things happen to protagonists—it takes a lot of suffering, and getting it wrong, and making wrong choices, to change in the end to make things right.

            Denial is strong. (Can we just ignore the problem? For now?) So is bargaining. (Can I change just a little bit?) In 2019, I learned two things, and they’re painful enough that I really have to change.

            First, in the category of real, physical pain, this year I have to get some parts of my lower spine removed. I’ve got a bulging disc and some spinal stenosis, and five years of serious pain has been enough.

The bad news: I need surgery. The good news:
They found a spine, so we know I’m not a Republican Senator. Whew!

            It’s mostly okay when I sit, but I used to plan scenes while walking or pacing, and that’s gotten painful. So if the surgery is a success, that may even make my writing easier.

            The other thing that’s gone wrong interferes even more with my writing. Instead of writing my current novel, I often procrastinate.

            Since November, 2016, that’s gotten worse, because I spend a lot of time on the flaming hellscape of political Twitter, jabbering away about the misdeeds of the current administration and its enablers.

            I like Twitter: I’ve always enjoyed writing jokes, and Twitter offers almost instant feedback and gratification. By contrast, as Alain de Botton pointed out, writing a book is like telling a joke and then waiting two years to find out if it’s funny.

            Writing novels is solitary, and I have some PTSD from a difficult childhood, which I’ve written about before here at YAOTL. So for me, Twitter offers a nice mix of being social with enough distance that the people I interact with don’t get close enough to be scary.

            I also treat Twitter as my personal quirky college radio station, to broadcast the weird, unasked-for things I feel like sending out—a tweet every morning about coffee, a tweet most days about writing, good night messages to people waking up in Australia, scathing political humor, and frequent current event limericks. (Yes, really. They’re my least popular tweets, but I keep doing them, anyway, because I like them.)

            And I believe that, especially in times like ours, when America is caging children of families legally seeking asylum and our institutions are under authoritarian assault, we all have duty to speak out somewhere. Particularly writers, who practice communicating clearly in a way to create a genuine emotional reaction.

We writers are told we must “create our platform.” Once we have one, though, we should also use it for more than ritual adverb sacrifices.

            All that said, we writers have our own work to do and to finish, which is different than spending hours a day on Twitter. And those of us who want to change our country for the better should spend our time doing that effectively. Liking tweets or writing anti-Trump jokes is not the same as accomplishing something in the real world, which requires things like donating money, registering voters, and going door-to-door to get out the vote.

            So for the next few months, I’ll be working hard to finish my next novel, and will be spending less time on Twitter.

            As the priest said in my youth, we all do things we know are wrong, or not, anyway, ideal for us. I hope this year to finish my current novel and to do more things right. (And write.)

Best wishes for a great 2020, and good luck to us all.

Dean Gloster has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts. 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 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.”

When Dean is not writing, studying Aikido, or downhill ski racing, he’s on Twitter, where--despite the limericks--he has over 136,000 followers: @deangloster

Monday, January 27, 2020

What's really important? (Jennifer R. Hubbard)

2019 reminded me, via the memorial services I attended and the cancer battles I witnessed, that life is short and unpredictable. I’ve been keeping in better touch with friends and relatives and deepening my spiritual life, and whatever else goes undone because of that, I don’t miss.

For the past few years, I’ve been finding my way back to the idea of writing what I need to say, more than what I think someone else expects or will approve of. It’s been a long slow process, but I’ve been enjoying writing more again.

Probably the question 2019 asked me, more than any other, was, “What’s really important?”

This is what I’m carrying into 2020.

Friday, January 24, 2020

First Things First (Brenda Hiatt)

My 2019 was full of disruptive changes. Last spring, my recent-retired hubby and I came to the difficult realization that Key Largo, where we’d planned to spend our golden years, wasn’t actually the best fit for us after all. Our place here is gorgeous and relaxing, but very isolated. This works well (honestly, too well) for me, because I’m such an introvert. 

While there, I can easily go weeks at a time without leaving the property or speaking to another human being, other than my husband. Good for writing, but probably not terribly healthy. My hubby, on the other hand, is an extreme extrovert and the isolation was really getting to him after a lifetime of interacting with coworkers and friends on a regular basis. Then there’s the issue of climate change and sea level rise, and the realization that in a dozen years or so we might not be able to sell the Key Largo house at all (if, say, most of the island is underwater by then). 

These epiphanies sent us on a search for alternatives and in June we bought a house in The Villages, a thriving active retirement community (a city, really) in north-central Florida. There we have activities galore to choose from, which is making my outgoing hubby very happy. I’ve started venturing out of my shell, too, and discovering fun stuff I enjoy out of the house. Along the way, we spiffed up our longtime family home in Indiana and sold it, then moved wholesale from there to The Villages. 

Needless to say, all of this impacted my writing time in a big way. I found myself increasingly frustrated and torn between all the stuff I needed and/or wanted to do and the writing I love. How to fit everything into my increasingly busy life? 

Maybe you’ve seen or heard about the illustration where you have a jar, some rocks, some pebbles, and some sand. If you put the sand in first, then the pebbles, the rocks won’t all fit in the jar. But if you put the rocks in first, then let the pebbles work their way into the gaps between the rocks, then pour the sand in to fill the remaining space between pebbles, everything fits! The rocks, of course, represent your top priorities. The pebbles are things that need to be done at some point (laundry, errands) but are hardly life-changing. And the sand is all the other “stuff” that eats up time without any measurable benefit. 

I’d seen variations on this illustration numerous times over the years but had never really managed to apply it to my life. Somehow, things like email and social media, not to mention all the distractions mentioned above, continued crowding out what could be writing time.

But in the fall of 2019 I attended two different writer conferences and the same message kept hitting me at workshop after workshop: do the important stuff first. Then I read a book by Becca Syme (one of those presenters), Dear Writer, You Need to Quit. In it, she challenged writers like me to write first thing, before anything else could claim my time. 

Girding my loins, I decided to accept that challenge. I’d forego my years-long habit of eating breakfast in front of my laptop while checking my email and social media and would instead write before going online. It was a scary concept. I could barely remember the last time I’d eaten breakfast without my laptop, except once or twice when the internet was out. By now, though, I was desperate enough to make real progress on my book to try almost anything.

And guess what? It worked! 

Not only did I start getting to my desk a full hour or two earlier than usual, I wrote more pages, faster, than I had in many months. In fact, I was easily meeting my daily page quota by noon! That meant I had the whole rest of the day to do other stuff. Fun stuff, necessary stuff, all the stuff. And lo and behold, it all fit! One unexpected benefit: without the distraction of the internet, I started eating breakfast with my husband, something we hadn’t done together since….well, ever. Already I have a feeling this new schedule will improve my marriage along with my writing productivity. 

Needless to say, this is one lesson I plan to apply not only in 2020, but well into the future!
Brenda Hiatt is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of twenty-four novels (so far), including sweet and spicy historical romance, time travel romance and, with her Starstruck series, young adult science fiction romance. 

Thursday, January 23, 2020


By Christine Gunderson
This month we’re blogging about things we learned in 2019. This year I learned the meaning of word ‘endurance.’
            I learned it by watching a show with my kids called, I Shouldn’t be Alive.
            I Shouldn’t Be Alive features gripping stories told by people who, well, Shouldn’t Be Alive. Like the experienced outdoorsman who tipped his four-wheeler in the Yukon and was pinned underneath it for days as coyotes circled, looking for an easy meal. As the temperature dipped below zero, he had to survive the night using ingenuity and superhuman endurance. 
            Some of these stories involve “endurance athletes.” Like the marathon runner who fell into a ravine and was seriously injured in the middle of nowhere, with only her dog for company. Her leg was broken so she did sit-ups all night long to keep from falling asleep and succumbing to hypothermia. I’m not kidding. Hundreds and hundreds of sit-ups, with broken bones. She credited her survival to her training and mindset as an endurance athlete.
            Let me state for the record that I am not an endurance athlete. In fact, I the opposite of an endurance athlete. I am an I Just Spent Ten Minutes on The Peloton and Now I Am Exhausted and Need to Take A Nap and Eat A Brownie type of athlete.  So, when I watch I Shouldn’t Be Alive, I feel pretty inadequate. If I was pinned under a four-wheeler in the Yukon, the title of my episode would be, “She Fell Asleep and Was Eaten by Coyotes.”
            But I’ve been thinking about the word endurance and I’ve decided my definition is too narrow. Physical endurance is the first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word, but writing a novel is also an act of endurance. 
I just spent two days alone in a hotel room for hours and hours, writing. I had seven writer friends with me at the same hotel. We socialized at dinner and breakfast, but for the most part, we parked ourselves in our rooms with our laptops and wrote. 
            Keeping your derriere in the chair, your mouth closed and the TV off when the words aren’t coming is a form of endurance. Continuing to put words on the page when you have no idea what’s going to happen next is an act of endurance. And like so many acts of endurance, it’s also an act of faith; faith that there is a reward on the other side, that your efforts will yield fruit even if you can’t see what that fruit looks like as you labor. 
            I’m also learning that endurance doesn’t have to be a hardship. I love writing more than anything in the world, but writing a good book is hard. My parents have been married happily for fifty-one years but hearing the same stories from the same person for five decades is an act of endurance. Raising kids is an act of endurance. Stop any minivan you see on the street and ask the mom inside how many miles she’s driven this month. That’s endurance.
            I also have celiac disease and ulcerative colitis, two super fun auto-immune diseases that over the course of the years have limited my diet to air and water. Those are basically the only two things I can ingest without feeling crummy. But I stick to my restrictive diet because I want to feel good more than I want a donut (though I really, really love donuts). Denying myself everything on the menu but salmon, asparagus and the fruit bowl for dessert so I can stay healthy is an act of endurance. 
(Note to people who run restaurants: a bowl of fruit is NOT dessert and you should stop pretending that food without butter, sugar or chocolate is dessert. Because IT IS NOT. Would you like a cantaloupe cake on your birthday? No. You wouldn’t. So just stop this fruit-is-a-dessert ridiculousness and serve people with celiac disease the flourless chocolate tortes they deserve). 
            In 2019 I learned to expand my definition of this word and I learned to give myself credit for having some endurance. The book I started on Martin Luther King weekend in 2019 is now on submission. And this year on Martin Luther King weekend I started a new one. I have six thousand words so far. Only about 75,000 more to write. And I’ll get there, even when it’s hard, because to my surprise I’ve learned that I too have endurance.
            Just don’t ask me to run a marathon.
            Christine Gunderson lives outside Washington, DC, with a patient and supportive husband, three kids who love Star Wars as much as she does, and two high maintenance dogs who sleep under her desk when she writes. Her hobbies include sailing the Chesapeake Bay, re-reading Persuasion, and unloading the dishwasher. 

You can contact Christine at her website: www.christinegunderson.com.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

This is so awkward but... (by Patty Blount)

In the interest of things I've learned, you first need some perspective. It appears... *coughs* well, I'm told... *clears throat* 



I said it. 

I'm the person who sees the negative, the cloud in every silver lining. The things my inner voice says are utterly cruel. I would NEVER speak that way to anyone – friend or enemy – so why is it okay to talk to myself like this?

Spoiler alert: It’s not.

A year or so ago, some friends told me directly that my negativity is the source of all that's wrong in my life. 

As you can imagine, that wasn't exactly music to my ears. But I heard it. One of those friends told me I'm too smart not to see that. And another handed me a gratitude journal. Each page has 3 blank lines for you to jot down what you're grateful for. 

I am ashamed to tell you how long it took me to find 3 things. So after I got over the shame, I decided to change and spent most of 2019 learning how to become my own best friend. I started therapy (highly recommend!), I began taking a more pro-active stance regarding the management of my chronic disease, and I used that journal.

At first, my entries were trite and pithy like, “I’m grateful for my husband and sons and my life.” But you know what? Those were the low-hanging fruit. The expected responses. The easy ones. I could easily have simply run that page off a copier and filled the entire journal with the same entries each day.

That would have been cheating, though. That would have been the journaling equivalent of developing a cardboard character.

So I dove deeper. I began to look for things I wish I could tell my mom, if she were still alive. Instead of listing weak blessings like “I’m grateful for my family,” I found the things that make my family –well, mine. Chris folded laundry. Or Fred read a chapter. Why am I grateful for these seemingly minor things? Because the auto-immune disease I battle makes it painful to pick up a heavy basket or climb stairs. Chris did that for me. Fred is dyslexic. Reading is painful to him. He did that for me.

These are things important to me; your mileage may vary. Over the last year, I’ve gotten so much better at seeing the good, finding the positivity, and an unexpected bonus to this has been a sort of calm, almost Zen-like attitude I never had before. I am finding it easier to cope with things like a spike in my pain or a flare-up of my disease, a crisis at work, or a scene that refuses to be written.

A year ago, when I struggled with a scene, my default response was to give up, to write something else, to just skip it because it was beyond my capabilities. Now, I'm more likely to double down and try harder simply because I've become my own cheerleader. I've learned what to say to myself that inspires and energizes and encourages rather than erodes and deflates. 

I've learned to look deeper into whatever's challenging me, be it a difficult scene or a crisis at work, and see it from a different lens. I never expected my mission to learn to love myself would also help me improve as a writer, but the truth is, it's improved ALL aspects of my life.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020


I released a couple of new indies in '19--both in the adult market: The Art of the Kiss and Sentimental Journey (Sentimental Journey is part of my ongoing Christmas at Ruby's series). Both were somewhat experimental. It's honestly what I love most about the indie world--being able to play and try new things, then take the material wide, to as many readers as possible, and find out what works, what doesn't, how I might improve, etc.

What both taught me is one of the most powerful lessons I've learned so far in writing: how to draft in a non-chronological way.

I used to think drafting a book out of order would result in the biggest pile of...well, mess. But it doesn't. At all. In fact, I'm finding it to be an easier way to draft (not a big fan of those first drafts at all), and I'm also finding it to be the quickest way to get to a finished product.

I do think (for me, at least) writing out of order works the best when I begin by outlining. In fact, I've heard plenty of other writers who claim their outline is  the first draft--which is a truly fantastic way to think of it.

Then, once the outline is done...

The fun begins.

Believe me. I've never said that about a first draft before.

I just start in. What's the chapter or section that interests me the most? It does not in any way matter what point of the story it is. I just write one scene. Then another, which may or may not be connected directly to the events of the first. I write all the most important passages. The turning points. What intrigues me. What makes my fingers itch. What's driving me to the keyboard. What I think will be the first chapter. The last.

During this kind of drafting, I feel like I have the ability to play. When things pop up, as they always do during a draft, I feel like I have the ability to stray from the story for a moment and draft a scene of nothing more than a what-if. What I discover during that straying session might be profound--might make me re-outline a whole portion of the book. Or, it might be something I trash, except for a few poetic lines I like enough to incorporate into other scenes. But I feel like it gives me the room to follow threads I might have felt obligated to ignore when drafting in a more chronological format.

It leads, in my opinion, to a better book.

Also--this is something of a bonus point, but worth mentioning--when I was drafting chronologically, I often wrote unnecessary chapters, just trying to get to the next big scene. But when I write out of order, I tend not to write all those unnecessary sections. Which means I don't spend oodles of time composing chapters that I then have to spend time cutting back out when I'm in the midst of tightening the manuscript. So really, while writing out of order helps take the sting out of drafting, its benefits can also reach well into the revising process!

I'm using this out-of-order technique on all my books in 2020...well, all my new books.

**I'm also thrilled to announce that I'll be re-releasing my YA Playing Hurt and its sequel Play It Again this year! Playing Hurt has been given an update and has several new scenes...it will also release as a contemporary adult romance, rather than YA. Please subscribe to my Steamy Romance newsletter, for the official release date and other Playing Hurt news!

Saturday, January 18, 2020

Plans Can Change (Alissa Grosso)

I had big plans for 2019. I was going to write my first book series, a planned crime thriller trilogy. But things didn't quite go as planned.

In real life, I'm not a huge fan of plans. They stress me out, and I've found there's more joy in just letting the pieces fall where they may, but when it comes to writing, I've found that plans are a huge help to me. A one-time pantser, I've come full circle to be a true plotter.

So, I had a plan for the three books I wanted to write this year, and things were moving along pretty smoothly, albeit at a slower pace than I had estimated, but that's not surprise since I also tend to be overly optimistic about how long things will take.

Then I got to book three, what was to be my final book in my trilogy, and everything went off the rails. The book kicked my butt. I was struggling and struggling with it--trying to cram everything in it that needed to be there to wrap up the series and also make it into a coherent and enjoyable novel. It just wasn't happening. The book was a mess.

So, I took a step back from it, and that's when I had an epiphany. Maybe this series didn't need to be three books long. Maybe it was meant to be four books long.

Plans are a nice thing to have, but rigid adherence to them doesn't always work. Much as I've come to love outlines, deviating from them is sometimes a necessary thing. Being flexible in life as well as writing is sometimes the best course of action.

Technically, I've written those three books I meant to write. Well, I didn't complete the third until this month, but we can chalk that up to that eternal optimism of mine. But, I've yet to complete my first series. That won't happen until I write that fourth book.

So . . . 2020 is going to be the year I complete my first series. That's my plan, and I'm sticking to it.

Monday, January 13, 2020

Confessions of a Floptimist by Jodi Moore

Not gonna lie. This past year was rough.

I lost my dad December 2018, so 2019 was a year of difficult ‘firsts’: the first New Year’s Day I wasn’t able to share my silly resolutions with him. The first birthday of his I wasn’t able to call him on the phone to say, “I love you.” The first birthday of mine I wasn’t able to hear him say that to me.

Full disclosure? I told him anyway. Yep. I talk to him all the time. About my day. About our family. About my fears. About my dreams. Sometimes, I feel his hug. Other times, I can hear him roll his eyes. Both make me smile. (Okay, since I’m in full disclosure mode, both have prompted tears as well.)

Because if there’s one thing I’ve learned about myself this year, it’s that I’m a ‘floptimist’. You know, that tenuous soft spot between optimist and pessimist, that fragile balance between “if it’s not okay, it’s not the end” and full-on dystopia? In other words, if you evaluate my emotion on a scale of 1 to 100 Acre Wood, I’m a total mashup of Tigger and Eeyore.

A floptimist is someone who believes in oneself fully and unconditionally, except when one hits a bump in the road (a.k.a. "flops".) A floptimist will then cry or rant, but ultimately understands that a rejection, diversion, or even an overwhelming loss, however painful, can eventually be redirected, revised or crafted into something positive and/or inspiring. We acknowledge it hurts, but also recognize it promotes growth.

It’s a useful tool for me as a writer.

This past year, I found it a lifeline as a daughter. I wanted to create a scrapbook to honor my dad’s memory, to honor his legacy, to help us heal. But my Eeyore was in full swing. Like many families, ours had suffered some dark times, where there were limited photographs to commemorate birthdays, anniversaries and graduations. What’s more, the current politics were inflicting even more cracks. How could I do this? Where could I even start? Thankfully, Tigger bounced in right when I needed him most.

(Note: I found this t-shirt advertised on Etsy. It’s by Miko Tees. And now I want it, lol!)

Sure, there were things that had tried – and still aim – to tear us apart. But there was a lot more that we shared, that connected us, that bonded us: our love of music, of art, of sportsmanship. Our love of dancing, of parties, of food. Our love of holidays, of animals, of each other.

Our love.

Because ultimately, that’s what matters.

At least to this floptimist.