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I’m passionate about literature for young people. I love books that portray diverse experiences and cultures. I’ll be sharing my novel writing process, news from the publishing industry, books and authors, and other posts.
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1. Agent News!

We’re in the middle of the year and 2016 has been one of competing emotions. We’ve lost musicians, artists, and heroes so that tugs at my heart strings. We’re still having to deal with the trauma of a mass shooting and my sympathy goes out to those families in Orlando. I also still very much miss my father who passed away in August 2014.

But there has also been some great things that have happened this year. Especially for my writer friends — publisher deals, agent matches, and book birthdays. Recently some good things have happened to me and I wanted to share that journey with you.

As many of you already know in late March I had major surgery and I was out on medical leave. In early February, I had heard about the #DVpit Twitter pitch contest, hosted by agent Beth Phelan. The event would focus on marginalized writers and the need for more diverse voices. For this event you would tweet a pitch of your book and if an agent favorited it, then it was an invitation to send a query.

At that particular time, I was still revising a YA manuscript and I knew that it wouldn’t be ready, but I had been thinking about revisiting a middle-grade project. I had just finished a swap with a good writer friend who told me the manuscript still had some fight and magic in it. So I figured if I felt like it, I could possibly revise while my body healed.

I had many near misses with this manuscript and I had put it away for a long time. When I took it back out, the overwhelming feelings of doubt came flooding back: How am I gonna make this better? How am I gonna fix this? Maybe I should just let this one go?

After my successful surgery and a few weeks into healing, I started revising. I fell in love with my characters once again and I actually started to believe what my writer friend had told me back in January: This book did have some fight and magic in it.

With the contest looming closer, I searched Twitter for successful pitches from past contests — anything with more than 10 favorites. I deconstructed them to figure out what made them work. Ya’ll, it’s hard enough to write a query letter that conveys what your story encompasses — but for a Twitter pitch, there is only 140 characters so to create one is almost like an art form.

I decided to use a mix of comparisons so that at a glance, an agent could see the heart of the book I was pitching. I decided on a well-known book series and a current TV sitcom — comps both easily recognizable to most people. Since my book is a ghost story with humor centering around an African-American family, this is the pitch I came up with:

BLACK-ISH + GOOSEBUMPS: Sarah & friends must use spunk and snoop skills to solve ghost mystery in Southern small town. #DVpit #MG #ownvoices

On the day of the #DVpit event, I was SO nervous but I put myself out there and to my amazement, I got over 45 agent favorites and I was also boosted by several editors. It was an overwhelming feeling and to be honest also kind of stressful.

I did my research and then only sent out queries to agents that I felt were a good fit not only for my middle-grade but for my other YA manuscripts and other projects I could write in the future. It was a crazy whirlwind. I got agent requests to read the full manuscript as well as several agent offers — but ultimately I went with the agent that I felt was the best for me.

A surreal experience to say the least!

It proves that ANYTHING can happen. For me, it was a mixture of timing, luck, and preparation. I had a completed manuscript, a polished query letter, and even a synopsis (bless my heart). I truly believe that having a manuscript ready to the best of my ability was the key. The query trenches can be very subjective and you will always get rejections but at the end of the day all you need is one YES.

I’ve always said that writing is what I love the most. It’s always what saves me when everything goes to hell and there is nothing else left. Even when I had to leave my words and characters on the sidelines when my life didn’t have any space, the writing was always there waiting for me. I never gave up. Now I can’t wait to see where this writing journey takes me next.

So thanks so much for letting me share my journey about getting my agent. :)

For those of you still on your agent journey: Keep striving. Keep writing. Keep revising. Most of all, don’t give up. Don’t throw away your shot. Your writing is important and you’re the only one in the Universe who can tell your story. And remember your story is just as important as all the others and also deserves to be heard. Best of luck to you in your writing. You got this.

5 Comments on Agent News!, last added: 6/23/2016
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2. Novel Widsom (32)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels and books that I’ve read.

I’m a big fan of Cheryl Strayed’s writing and I also love the Dear Sugar podcast that she co-hosts.

One of my lovely writer friends sent me her latest book, Brave Enough, which is a collection of quotes. For those of you who have been reading this blog for a while, you know how much I love writing inspiration quotes. So I thought I would share this one with you.

braveenough

Don’t lament so much about how your career is going to turn out. You don’t have a career. You have a life. Do the work. Keep the faith. Be true blue. You are a writer because you write.”

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3. Writing-Related Podcasts

My recovery is going well and I’m in the home stretch. Time goes by so fast! I’ve been doing tons of reading and I even finished up a revision of my middle-grade novel as well. Next on tap is finishing up revisions on my YA novel and then hopefully starting a new project later this year.

Since I couldn’t really do a lot while on medical leave, I’ve been catching up on my podcasts. So I thought I would share some writing-related ones that I’ve been listening to and have enjoyed.

Story Grid Podcast

If you like the nuts and bolts of the fiction craft and how things work and come together, then this podcast may be a good one for you. The host is an editor who also has a good craft book also called The Story Grid.

First Draft with Sarah Enni

If you like to listen to authors and how they create their work and other background information on how their life affects their novels, this podcast is worth a listen. The host has interviewed a lot of YA authors and it’s a high possibility that she has or is getting ready to interview one of your favorites.

Minorities in Publishing

When Lee & Low published the results of the Diversity Baseline Survey, it put a spotlight on the fact that the majority of publishing has very little variation as far as race, orientation and disability. The host interviews professionals in the publishing field as well as authors and poets in the literary scene who come from minority populations. If you like listening to a different perspective or how to break into publishing industry as minority, this podcast is for you.

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4. Recovery Reading List

On March 21st, I’ll be having surgery and then a recovery period. This is my third surgery but I always get nervous going under the knife. I’ve been preparing my recovery nest with family and friends and will be in good hands. On the other side, I’ll feel much better and can focus on the healing process.

This is the first time in years that I’ve had this much time away from the software geek cave. Plus, since it’s mandatory that I rest — I have no choice but to focus on healing and taking good care of myself. Maybe this is a sign from my body that I just need to slow down, de-stress, and get well.

So with all this time for recovery, I’ve been looking over my vast To-Be-Read (TBR) list. Choosing to delve into all the books I’ve been wanting to read.

So here’s a few books from what I’m calling my Recovery Reading List that I thought I would share with you. I’ll see everyone on the other side of my recovery in May. I definitely welcome all well wishes and healing thoughts! :)

The Expanse Series

I’ve been obsessed with this sci-fi/space opera series since Season 1 aired on the SyFy channel. I’ve already read books 1 and 2 so I’m going to tackle the rest of the series. Book 6 will be coming out this summer.

expanseseries

Abaddon’s Gate by James S.A. Corey
Cibola Burn by James S.A. Corey
Nemesis Games by James S. A. Corey

The Inheritance Trilogy

I’ve heard so many good things about this fantasy trilogy so I’m very excited to read these books.

inheritancetrilogy

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin
The Broken Kindgoms by N.K. Jemisin
The Kingdoms of Gods by N.K. Jemisin

Horror

What’s a reading fest without a little horror? Or maybe that’s just me. Haha.

horror

The Troop by Nick Cutter
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
The Bazaar of Bad Dreams by Stephen King

Non-Fiction

A few non-fiction books that I’ve had on my TBR List for awhile now. Looking forward to reading these books.

nonfiction

True Love: A Practice for Awakening the Heart by Thich Nhat Hanh
Happiness: A Philopsopher’s Guide by Frederic Lenoir
Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes

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5. Novel Wisdom (31)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

I’ve been revisiting some of my favorite books. One of those is Mama Day by Gloria Naylor.

This author’s words are lush and magical and I love how she intertwines the mystical with humor and lovely turns of phrases.

MamaDay
From Miranda aka Mama Day, one of the POV voices of the novel Mama Day by Gloria Naylor.

That’s all it’s about — can’t live without this, can’t live without that. You can live without anything you weren’t born with, and you can make it through on even half of that.

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6. My Word for 2016

I usually try to have a theme for the year. A word that gives me inspiration. A word that helps to give me focus and strive to live the meaning of that word.

For 2016, I feel like this is the year where I can embrace my “new normal”. 2015 was an aftershock year. The death of a parent is always hard but when it’s sudden, it’s a virtual shock that lingers. Trauma, stress, and sadness can leave its mark on you and finding your way through the storm is never easy.

So I thought about the promise of this new year and what it could bring me. I have many journeys to take this year. The first one is major surgery I’m having this spring. So I’m preparing mentally by thinking healthy and healing thoughts. Then there are decisions I need to make in this “new normal” that I’m now living.

And of course, there is the writing. Always the writing. The writing that has always saved me. There will be lots of writing!

When choosing my word, I focused on how I wanted to feel when the year is over. Not so much the accomplishments and goals but more about how I wanted to feel emotionally. I sipped coffee in my quiet space and reflected on the word that could convey the emotion I wanted to emulate. When I found it, I knew that this was the right one.

2016wordx

  • Springing back; rebounding.
  • Able to withstand difficult conditions.
  • Recovering readily from adversity.
  • Strong, tough, hardy, buoyant, and irrepressible.

Happy New Year everyone! Hope that this fresh start gets you on the path to what you want to accomplish. It always begins with that first step.

1 Comments on My Word for 2016, last added: 1/12/2016
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7. 2015 Book Favorites

I’ve been looking at all of the year-end book lists and getting even MORE recommendations for my To-Be-Read (TBR) list. Since moving into the city, I have been able to read more books. But I’ve also become a book hoarder as well and there is a ton of books still on my nightstand.

I think YA author Beth Revis said it best on Twitter:



However I still want to share with you some books that I did enjoy this year. Here’s a list of some of my favorites:

2015Favorites

Aurora by Kim Stanley Robinson
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older
Slade House by David Mitchell
The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin
The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
When by Victoria Laurie

Hope everyone is ending the year on a positive note and that 2016 will be even bigger and better for all of you! :)

2 Comments on 2015 Book Favorites, last added: 12/16/2015
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8. Novel Wisdom (30)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

This year I’ve been reading a lot of books from sci-fi author Nnedi Okorafor.

Her world-building is amazing and I’ve enjoyed reading about her characters and the choices that they have to make. I also enjoyed the feminist bent of her heroines as well.

phoenix
From Phoenix, the POV protagonist of the novel The Book of Phoenix by Nnedi Okorafor

I love books. I adore everything about them. I love the feel of the pages on my fingertips. They are light enough to carry, yet so heavy with worlds and ideas. I love the sound of the pages flicking against my fingers. Print against fingerprints.

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9. Big Magic

Recently I read the book Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert. She’s also the author of the mega-bestseller Eat, Pray, Love and the novel The Signature of All Things.

Big Magic is kind of like a manifesto for living and cultivating a creative life. Although it can apply to all sort of creative work, the author talks a lot about the writing life.

So I thought I would share some my favorite quotes/passages that you might also enjoy:

“Never delude yourself into believing that you require someone else’s blessing (or even their comprehension) in order to make your own creative work.”

“It’s a simple and generous rule of life that whatever you practice, you will improve at.”

“How you manage yourself between those bright moments, when things aren’t going so great, is a measure of how devoted you are to your vocation, and how equipped you are for the weird demands of creative living.”

“There’s no dishonor in having a job. What is dishonorable is scaring away your creativity by demanding that it pay for your entire existence.”

“Do what you love to do, and do it with both seriousness and lightness. At least then you will know that you have tried and that—whatever the outcome—you have traveled a noble path.”

“During my own periods of misery and instability, I’ve noticed that my creative spirit becomes cramped and suffocated. I’ve found that it’s nearly impossible for me to write when I am unhappy, and it is definitely impossible for me to write fiction when I am unhappy.”

“So how do you shake off failure and shame in order to keep living a creative life? First of all, forgive yourself. If you made something and it didn’t work out, let it go.”

“Art is a crushing chore and a wonderful privilege.”

“Love over suffering, always.”

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10. Spooky TBR List

October is one of my favorite months. If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know how much I love scary and spooky things.

In previous posts, I’ve shared some of my favorites from ghost stories to creepy YA books.

So to celebrate the scary season, I thought I would share some of my recent reads and also include books I’ve put on my To-Be-Read (TBR) list.

Some recent spooky books I’ve read:

spooky1

Servants of the Storm by Delilah S. Dawson
Please Remain Calm by Courtney Summers
The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey
NOS4A2 by Joe Hill
In the After by Demitria Lunetta
Doctor Sleep by Stephen King

Right now, I’m reading The Southern Reach trilogy by Jeff Vandermeer.

southernreach

Definitely creepy and glad that all three books are all out. I’m currently reading Authority, which is the second book in the trilogy.

I also have put these books on my ever TBR leaning tower. Most of these are YA but there are some adult titles as well:

spooky2

Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due
Bleeding Earth by Kaitlin Ward
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay
Asylum by Madeleine Roux
The Girl from the Well by Rin Chupeco
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke

Do you love scary stuff? Have you read anything that kept you up at night? Given you nightmares? Or highly disturbed you? Let me know about it. Haha.

2 Comments on Spooky TBR List, last added: 10/14/2015
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11. Novel Wisdom (29)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

This author was recently at the 2015 Decatur Book Festival. If you love romance, then this is a book for you. It made its debut at #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List for Young Adult Hardcover.

Imagine if you were allergic to the world. You spent your whole life in your house — never venturing out — until you the love of your life moves in next door.

Maddy’s love interest, Olly, loves math and there is some discussion about chaos theory — how even one small change can lead to unpredictable results.

I know a lot of us think, “What if I have done this instead of that?” “How would my life have been different if I chose A instead of B?” The point is that we’ll never know because we chose a path and that is the path we are currently living. It does make you ponder though. At what moment was my life set on the current path I’m living? What would happen if I could change that moment?

yoon

From Maddy, the POV protagonist of the novel Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

I think if I could just find the moment, I could take it apart piece by piece, molecule by molecule, until I got down to the atomic level, until I got to the part that was inviolate and essential. If I could take it apart and understand it then maybe I could make just exactly the right change.

2 Comments on Novel Wisdom (29), last added: 9/16/2015
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12. 2015 Decatur Book Festival

This past weekend, I got the chance to attend the Decatur Book Festival.

At first I was going to take copious notes of the author panels so I could give a summary of the total goodness that happened but then I just got caught up and just couldn’t keep up with all the fabulous that I was hearing and seeing.

So instead I will share with you the books from the authors I met and who were featured at this year’s festival. So much book love! These authors were so gracious. I didn’t get all my books signed but hopefully my paths will cross with them in the future.

You may find some good book recommendations to include in your To-Be-Read (TBR) list.

dbf2015_3

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy
The Star Side of Bird Hill by Naomi Jackson
Balm by Dolen Perkins-Valdez
An Untamed State by Roxane Gay

dbf2015_1

The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh
Simon vs. The Home Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaiporta and Dhonielle Clayton
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera

dbf2015_2

The Living by Matt De La Pena
Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed
Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Shadowshaper by Daniel Jose Older

1 Comments on 2015 Decatur Book Festival, last added: 9/11/2015
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13. Octavia’s Writing Advice

I was first introduced to Octavia Butler when I was in a book club and we read Kindred. I had just started on my writing journey and I devoured the book. Then I got my hands on everything I could find that this author had wrote and officially fell in love with all of her words.

My ultimate experience was when Octavia Butler came to Spelman College here in Atlanta for a talk and I got her to sign my book.

Kindred

I’m currently reading Conversations with Octavia Butler, which is a collection of interviews curated by Conseula Francis. I’ve been reading this volume very slowly, savoring Octavia’s words and letting them marinate.

This past weekend, I read an interview that originally appeared in Callaloo magazine in 1997. She talks about talent and how would-be writers always struggle if they have it. She also has an essay about this same subject, “Furor Scribendi” from her collection Bloodchild: And Other Stories.

I wanted to share this particular passage — because it speaks so much to the truth of the writing craft:

Writing is very personal and it does hurt sometimes to be told that something is wrong with some work you really love and feel is perfect. Your writing is an expression of your inner feelings and thoughts and beliefs and self. One of the reasons it is difficult to learn to write professionally is that that kind of thing is so painful; rejection is so painful. It sounds as though you are personally being rejected, and in a sense you are — no matter how much somebody tells you not to worry, “It’s not you; it’s just the work.” But the work is you; so it hurts. You need to go through that, and you never really stop going through that, even though you’ve learned to write professionally; you go on learning. If you don’t go on learning, then your writing becomes stale, and you do the same thing over and over again.

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14. Favorite TED Talks

I’ve been a fan of the TED Talks since the inception and one day I need to go see one of these talks in person.

TEDTalks

I love how you can always learn new things and discover new ideas so I wanted to share a few of my favorites:

Susan Cain: The Power of Introverts

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: The Danger of a Single Story

Isabel Allende: How to Live Passionately — No Matter Your Age

Louie Schwartzberg: Nature. Beauty. Gratitude.

Maya Penn: Meet a Young Entrepreneur, Cartoonist, Designer, Activist

If you love TED talks, you might also like the TED Radio Hour podcast, which takes a collection of similar TED Talks to create a theme and then digs deeper into the idea.

Do you have any favorite TED talks? If you do, please share! I’m always on the lookout for more.

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15. Non-Fiction TBR List

As most of you know, I love me some books and I’ve been reading a lot of them lately. Mostly fiction but I also read a lot of non-fiction as well.

I have a number of non-fiction books on my To-Be-Read (TBR) list and I thought I would share some of them with you:

nonfic1_small

Rising Strong by Brene Brown
Why Not Me by Mindy Kaling
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
Brave Enough by Cheryl Strayed

nonfic2_small

The Dancing Mind by Toni Morrison
Notes of a Native Son by James Baldwin
Consider the Fork by Bee Wilson
The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert

2 Comments on Non-Fiction TBR List, last added: 8/22/2015
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16. Writing Inspiration (Twitter Version)

As ya’ll already know, I love collecting quotes — from books, movies, people — I also love when I find inspirational quotes related to specifically to writing.

I’ve already collected some of my favorite inspirational writing quotes that I posted on the blog previously but now I want to share some of my Twitter favorites.

2 Comments on Writing Inspiration (Twitter Version), last added: 8/12/2015
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17. Novel Wisdom (28)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

Hope everyone has been enjoying their summer. Technically summer is over here in Atlanta — school started this week! I’ve been reading so many books from my public library — they have the BEST selection. So much book goodness.

I’ve had this book on my To-Be-Read (TBR) list for awhile and found it during one of my library browses. Patrick Ness is one of my favorite authors. He is best known for the Chaos Walking trilogy. This genre of this book is hard to define — kind of a mix of sci-fi and horror — but it is a craft study on writing suspense and keeping the reader turning the pages.

It also has a lot to say about life and how it’s more than just one experience or one moment and how if you make through a trauma then there could joy on the other side.

I actually have two Novel Wisdom quotes to share from this book. One regarding books — which ya’ll know I love — and then another just based on beauty of nature.

MoreThanThis

From Seth, the POV protagonist of the novel More Than This by Patrick Ness

A book… it’s a world all on its own too. A world made of words, where you live for a while.

He’s seeing the actual Milky Way streaked across the sky. The whole of his entire galaxy, right there in front of him. Billions and billions of stars. Billions and billions of worlds. All of them, all of those seemingly endless possibilities, not fictional, but real, out there, existing, right now.

So much more that he’ll never see. So much more that he’ll never get to. So much that he can only glimpse enough of to know that it’s forever beyond his reach.

2 Comments on Novel Wisdom (28), last added: 8/5/2015
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18. Share Your Work

I recently read Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. It talks about the creative life and highlights 10 ways to find your audience by sharing your work and progress.

showyourwork

Here are some gems from the book that I thought I would share with you:

When she was young and starting out, Patti Smith got this advice from William Burroughs: “Build a good name. Keep your name clean. Don’t make compromises. Don’t worry about making a bunch of money or being successful. Be concerned with doing good work . . . and if you can build a good name, eventually that name will be its own currency.”

Don’t worry about everything you post being perfect. Science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once said that 90 percent of everything is crap. The same is true of our own work. The trouble is, we don’t always know what’s good and what sucks. That’s why it’s important to get things in front of others and see how they react.

Just do the work that’s in front of you, and when it’s finished, ask yourself what you missed, what you could’ve done better, or what you couldn’t get to, and jump right into the next project.

Make stuff you love and talk about stuff you love and you’ll attract people who love that kind of stuff. It’s that simple.

If you spend your life avoiding vulnerability, you and your work will never truly connect with other people.

Share what you love, and the people who love the same things will find you.

I also wrote a a blog post about the author’s other book, Steal Like An Artist.

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19. The Writer’s Guide to Persistence

Still in the revision cave. The middle is a rough place to be but there is light at the end of the tunnel of this current novel project. Still on track to be finished with this particular novel this summer.

Currently I’m reading The Writer’s Guide to Persistence by Jordan Rosenfeld. She’s also the author of one of my favorite craft books Make A Scene , which I also highly recommend.

This book is for writers who want to start and preserve a writing practice. Persistence is the key along with finding ways to balance writing with the rest of your life.

WritersGuidetoPersistence

I’m really loving the book so far. When I’m finished, I’ll be sure to share any gems that may also be helpful to you in your writing practice in another post.

For those of you on Twitter, you can follow the author @Jordanrosenfeld. She has a great hashtag #WritersGuide2Persistence where she gives great motivation and advice for keeping your writer’s practice on track.

Hope everyone is writing and that life is treating you well.

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20. Art & Fear

One of my favorite books on creativity is the book Art & Fear by David Bayles and Ted Orland.

Art&Fear

It’s a book I always go back to when I’m struggling with revisions or staying consistent with my writing.

Here are a few of the gems that I wanted to share with you from this invaluable book:

In large measure becoming an artist consists of learning to accept yourself, which makes your work personal, and in following your own voice, which makes your work distinctive.

Art is a high calling — fears are coincidental. Coincidental, sneaky and disruptive, we might add, distinguishing themselves variously as laziness, resistance to deadlines, irritation with materials or surroundings, distraction over the achievements of others — indeed as anything that keeps you from giving your work your best show. What separates artists from ex-artists is that who challenge their fears, continue; those who don’t, quit.

Quitting is fundamentally different from stopping. The latter of happens all the time. Quitting happens once. Quitting means not starting again – and art is all about starting again.

Talent may get someone off the starting blocks faster, but without a sense of direction or a goal to strive for, it won’t count for much. The world is filled with people who were given great natural gifts, sometimes conspicuously flashy gifts, yet never product anything.

In the end it all comes down to this: you have a choice…between giving your work your best shot and risking that it will not make you happy, or not giving it your best shot — and thereby guaranteeing that it will not make you happy.

If you’re on Twitter, you can also finds lots of inspiration and other quotes at #ArtandFear.

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21. Novel Wisdom (27)

This post is part of a series on the blog where I share some of the nuggets of wisdom and inspiration — related to writing and/or life — that I find steeped in the pages of novels that I’ve read.

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From Jude, twin sister of Noah and one of the narrators of the novel I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

Because who knows? Who knows anything? Who knows who’s pulling the strings? Or what is? Or how? Who knows if destiny is just how you tell yourself the story of your life?

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22. Imagine This

One of my favorite books last year was Imagine This: Creating the Work You Love by Maxine Clair. I recently revisited this book again to relish some of the gems of wisdom that it gave me.

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The author goes through her journey from a scientist to artist. It is a book about how to find and develop our inner and creative outlets. Here are just a few of my favorite passages:

“Perceptions about who should be doing what at what age are unproductive. It is never the wrong ime to express yourself.”

“When something chooses you, choose back. Commit and follow through. When you choose back, you give your word to yourself and to the universe.”

“In order to commit, you have to be clear about your intention, and mentally evaporate the fog that stymies your imagination.”

“The choices you make about the work you would love to be doing are always tied to your life purpose, and will bring fulfillment.”

“There is no such thing as too late, or already done. You are always coming into your next best-yet-to-be, waking up again and again to your newest expression.”

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23. Library Love

My love of libraries started when I was a kid when I used to go with my mother on Sundays and we would stay until it closed. I still remember the pale pink library card that I got when I was eight years old.

Since I’ve moved into my new place, I’ve been reunited with the public library that I loved when I first moved to Atlanta. Since I my commute is so much shorter now, I’ve been able to spend more time reading books. So. Many. Books.

For those of you who follow me on Twitter, you already know how I post my library finds.

So to celebrate my love, here’s a collection of my library finds since I’ve moved back into the city.





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24. No Money, More Problems

Yesterday morning during my (short) commute, I was listening to Dear Sugar, which is one of my favorite podcasts.

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In the 13th episode, the subject was about money.

One of the letters was about how a young woman felt bad that she was rich and wondered if it was her wealth privilege that gave her access to being able to be an artist.

It’s true that making art — especially writing — requires a lot of time, which many people don’t have because of family responsibilities, jobs, or bills.

Growing up working-class, it wasn’t even an option for me to even think about writing until I was on my feet financially and well into a career that could support me.

On the podcast, the hosts talk about the importance of having a patron. It got me thinking: Does being an artist require you to have a patron?

When I think of patron, I think of a rich person who sponsors you or getting an endowment or residency from an arts program. But maybe for people who don’t have access to such things, it could be as simple as a supportive critique partner or a writing mentor maybe even getting a scholarship to a MFA program. Cultivating an artist takes time, which in most cases also involves money.

It can be done of course. Anything worth having isn’t easy. It may take longer and require lots of discipline and focus to get where you want to be.

But I always think about the obstacles. I often wonder how many talented novelists we’ve lost due to them not having access to time and money.

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25. The Audacity of Self-Care

I was at the beach when I heard about the Charleston shootings. It just broke my heart. The kindness of strangers exploited by hate and racism.

It can be so overwhelming to figure out what you can do to make a difference. On my Twitter page, I have this pinned tweet, which is a paraphrase of a Theodore Roosevelt quote.



For those of you who have read this blog for awhile, you already know how close I was to my paternal grandmother. Growing up, we didn’t have much but my grandmother always took Sundays to take care of herself. She would wear her red lipstick, paint her nails, and do special treatments for her hair. Self-Care Sundays were born and I still continue this legacy today.

Life will continue to bring us challenges and we definitely have a lot of social justice work to do. But don’t forget about yourself. Sometimes it takes audacity to take care of yourself. It means in spite of everything, even if you have people who hate you, treat you unfairly, or persecute you, the practice of self-care means that you still have enough love to give the person that matters most. To paraphrase from one of my favorite poems — when everyday something has tried to kill you and has failed — self-care can be an act of defiance.

Speaking of self-care, here’s someone who takes it to whole other level. Here’s an Instagram post of Shakira the Shih-Tzu lounging on the beach enjoying the breeze and the sun.

This is a happy beach dog #beachlife #beachdog #dogsofinstagram #shihtzu

A photo posted by Karen Strong (@karenmusings) on



Take care of yourself!

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