Friday, February 10, 2017

My review: Night by Elie Wiesel

My last book review was June 2013 (17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma). And this, after not having reviewed a book since June 2012 (Skylark by Meagan Spooner). (Both of these are fantastic, by the way.)

I suppose the drastic changes of the last five years of my life have had a bit of an impact on my reading and reviewing. And truth be told, I hardly read much anymore. I think I went two years without reading anything I wasn't being paid to work on. I can count on one hand the books I've read the past 6 months that were strictly for pleasure (books I wasn't editing, writing, or discussing with my kiddo for homeschool). I'll try to get around to reviewing them all. Which shouldn't be too hard. I've only got five fingers on either hand.

But for now, I feel like I must discuss Night by Elie Wiesel, which I read in one day last week. It's not a recent book (1960, in fact). And though it has a 15-year-old protagonist, I don't know that I'd call it a YA. It's not a strictly-for-adults book either. I don't know what genre to fit this into, but I can tell you that it's profound. And it hurts.

In fact, this may be one of the most painful books you'll ever read. Like any book that forces us to confront a painful reality, that forces us to review our own biases and fragilities, this book wounds. But it's a necessary wound. And perhaps it can be but one very small step toward our own truth and reconciliation. Toward atonement. An estimated six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust*. Not by what we might deem "uncivilized" people, but by a cultured people. These people were murdered legally, by order of their government. And the rest of the world remained silent for a very long time. This is not our battle, we said. We have our own to protect, we said. Have faith that all will work out, we said. And many of us said: God will provide.

And then we turned our backs.

And many, many died terrible deaths. Up to six million Jews. 1.8 million non-Jewish Polish civilians. 312,000 Serb civilians. Up to 250,000 disabled civilians living in institutions. 1,900 Jehova's Witnesses. Up to 220,000 (Roma) Gypsies. Thousands of homosexuals. At least 70,000 of what they deemed "asocials." To say nothing of the many millions of Soviet civilians and prisoners of war that were killed, or of the political opponents murdered. To say nothing of the massive loss and overall displacement of many peoples.*

Night by Elie Wiesel gives us an opportunity to confront this dark stain of our past. You can choose to look away, if you want to. It's . . . depressing, to say the least. But I would urge you, and all people, to read this and other books like it, to confront the horrors of our history, so that we can see, and understand, how very fragile our humanity can be. Not so that we can feel weak, but so that we can strengthen ourselves, reinforce our humanity--fortify our compassion--and prevent such an atrocity from ever happening again.

*Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

by Elie Wiesel

Summary from Goodreads: Night is Elie Wiesel's masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie's wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author's original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man's capacity for inhumanity to man.

Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.

My Review

NIGHT by Elie Wiesel was a short read, but a brutal read, providing an up-close, first-person account of the horrors of the Holocaust. Written by a death camp survivor, NIGHT offers the reader a distinct sense of realism, which seems to diminish all sense of distance and remove from the nightmarish, all-too-real events. Every step of the way, you find your hopes lifting along with the young Elie's only to discover, like Elie, how much worse it could get. As you move from one paragraph to the next, you experience the abominable reality of the Holocaust as it unfolds. When it's over, you can only really be relieved. It's difficult to endure, even secondhand through words on a page, to witness such crimes against humanity and the impact it can have on even the most faithful.

But this is not a story about all the terrible things Hitler's Nazi regime inflicted on Jewish people and others. Rather, this is a story about a young Jewish boy who survived all those terrible things. This is a story about the loss of innocence and faith, and one boy's fight to remain humane in the face of an evil that denies him his humanity. Through it all, we see the impact of fear and suffering, and the ways that the most unexpected people can abandon their humanity. Too, NIGHT demonstrates the resounding impact that small acts of love, courage and kindness can have to sustain a person in the darkest of times. But above all, NIGHT reimagines a true story of survival--not to emphasize some sort of resilience of the human spirit, I don't think, but because we must remember all those who suffered and those who did not survive, those whose spirits and backs and lives were broken by atrocities no human should ever have to face--atrocities inflicted by a cultured people and too long ignored by the rest of the world.

It's a painful read, to be sure. Haunting. And it feels so close, like stepping into Elie's tattered shoes. But it's thankfully experienced from the safe distance of time and a book in your hands. It's a cathartic read. And a must read. It may not be a personal history, but it remains as a whole our history, and we honor those who have suffered by remembering them and confronting the painful reality of our history and their tremendous losses. Just as important, in learning this history not as a paragraph or two in some high school textbook far removed from actual experiences of those who lived through it, but as a secondhand experience through the eyes of a survivor, we can help to safeguard ourselves from apathy in the face of evil and prevent the repetition of such a history.

Note: For a companion read, you may wish to read Night alongside Man's Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl. You might also consider Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys, which I reviewed HERE.

About the author Elie Wiesel (from Goodreads): 
Eliezer Wiesel was a Romania-born American novelist, political activist, and Holocaust survivor of Hungarian Jewish descent. He was the author of over 40 books, the best known of which is Night, a memoir that describes his experiences during the Holocaust and his imprisonment in several concentration camps.

Wiesel was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986. The Norwegian Nobel Committee called him a "messenger to mankind," noting that through his struggle to come to terms with "his own personal experience of total humiliation and of the utter contempt for humanity shown in Hitler's death camps," as well as his "practical work in the cause of peace," Wiesel has delivered a powerful message "of peace, atonement and human dignity" to humanity.

On November 30, 2006, Wiesel received an honorary knighthood in London, England, in recognition of his work toward raising Holocaust education in the United Kingdom.

Final Note: While Night is considered to be autobiographical, the book ultimately published and sold in the U.S. as Night (Hill & Wang, 1960) is a truncated 106-page translated version of an 862-page memoir originally written in Yiddish by Elie Wiesel (in 1954), and published first in Argentina as the 245-page book Un di velt hot geshvign ("And the World Remained Silent"). Since its first publication, the book has been translated into 30 different languages, and in its simplicity and minimalist style, is considered to be one of the most powerful and influential books of Holocaust literature. Elie Wiesel, who recently passed away (July 2, 2016) at the age of 87, was a human rights activist who spent much of his life educating others about the Holocaust and campaigning for victims of oppression and genocide all over the world. Wiesel was a survivor who went on to become a hero and a champion of humanity.

Friday, October 23, 2015

It Gets Better

Trauma. Heartbreak. Pain.
Joy. Forgiveness. Letting go.

When I started this blog back in 2009, I was preparing to move back to the States from England, and I was scared. I didn't want to come back—I was happy where I was. So I focused all my energy on a manuscript I was writing at the time, trying to forget all the change that was happening around me. I was writing what I thought could be a groundbreaking concept in the YA world. Something new. Fresh. Exhilarating. I had been a writer for a long time, but for the first time, I was writing with the intention to sell.

And I believed myself to be a good writer. Actually, I was. I was. But I had so much to learn yet. For one thing, my oh so new, oh so fresh concept of a kickass angel romance was hardly novel. Had I bothered to check sales announcements—if I'd even known Publisher's Marketplace existed—I would've seen all the recent angel book sales. (May I point you to my wild-eyed post about this belated discovery: Angels Are Falling WTF.) I was ignorant, of course, as all writers are when dipping their toes into publishing. And while I recognized my ignorance to a large degree, I really had no idea how little I knew, that I was virtually an infant. I suppose because I had studied creative writing, had developed such a large body of work up until that point, I believed that this would be enough. That this gave me some sort of profound wisdom, an edge in the world of publishing.

Try not to laugh.

I wouldn't say it made me foolish. Just an infant. Naïve. Okay, foolish.

But I figured it out eventually. As soon as you learn something, you learn how hard you didn't know it before. And this, over and over, I learned.

Eventually though, you get sort of wise. While you never get used to rejection, never ever never, you get so that the processes feel rote, almost natural. Things you used to complain about you come to shrug about—it is what it is. All the information you seek online starts to feel borrowed and reused. Agents and editors you've followed start reposting old blog posts, because how many ways can you keep saying the same things? You start to realize that a lot of new agents aren't really any more informed than you are and are less experienced. You come to realize that you're no longer learning about the process, but teaching others. You get so that going to a writers conference is more about seeing old friends (and if you're very lucky, making new contacts) than learning something new, and after a while, even that gets tiresome, because everyone is tired, jokes are recycled, and the same publishing issues remain, as always, an issue.

You get to a point where it feels like you're starting to stagnate in this business, where it seems growth has come to a screeching halt, and where publishing, despite the constant flux of the market, seems to never actually evolve.

In the midst of this wisdom acquisition and stagnation, however, I stopped writing. After a series of . . . losses (trauma? shit?), I—I don't know, I suffered, I guess. And lost even my writing, the one thing that had once sustained me in the worst of times. Take the world from me, but in losing my writing, I had lost the ability to comfort myself, and all that I had written seemed worthless and wasted without the ability to move forward. For a while, I was angry. Really angry. At the world, at myself, at everything that hurt. All this knowledge I had, this experience I'd accumulated, hours and hours spent writing, editing, querying, submitting, conferencing, social media-ing, schmoozing, worrying—and after years, it had all amounted to nothing. I slipped away from publishing, from social media, from myself.

But one day, I just started writing again. A sentence here. A month later, another. A paragraph or two here and there. And then one day, I'd completed a chapter. And so it goes. I am not the writer I once was, not nearly as fast or as prolific. But I am remarkably better. Much, much better.

And I say this without any intended boastfulness. It is what it is. Even in the midst of stagnation, we can grow inwardly. In the midst of great loss, we can and do evolve. My world view and my understanding of humanity has slowly transformed, growing, and somehow in this—in grief, in grasping for joy—my grasp of language has grown stronger. And as I return to writing, slowly, steadily, achingly, I begin to understand how much better I am than I was, and how much better I can be.

Publishing may not really evolve. But . . . life does.

And you. You evolve.

Trauma. Heartbreak. Pain.
Joy. Forgiveness. Letting go.

These things change you. Afterward, you will never be who you were. And neither will your writing. You both get better, stronger.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

A Writer's Sad, Sad Story

I get kind irritated when people say things like, "If writing is important to you, you will make the time." Or, "Writers write—if you're not writing, you're not a writer." Or, "If you're really passionate about this, you'll never stop trying."

Bah! We sure like to invent a lot of rules for things. So judgy. All these commandments posted in some meme or a tweet, and we writers so desperate for rules in an unfairly subjective universe soak it up like gospel, retweet, and rememe, and suddenly it's as if they're written in stone.

But these rules—they're not helpful, you know? We assume they are, like they're some sort of guidelines for what makes a writer, and if I can just get myself to do this or do that, then I can call myself a writer. But they're kind of . . . crap. They're designed to make some of us feel superior (those writing like gangbusters) and the rest of us inferior at what is already the worst time of a writer's life. Like, if you aren't doing XYZ, then clearly you're a suckturd that actually hates writing deep down, so go away, you failure, and leave us real writers alone to write in our Starbucks-infused let-me-take-a-selfie-of-my-typewriter-on-my-thighs caves o'wordporn.

But, it's not like you stop being a writer just because you aren't writing right now, any more than you stop being a mom because you aren't momming right this second, any more than you stop being a foodie because you stress-ate a pint of Chunky Monkey during the Republican debate, any more than—whatever, I could go on like this forever. It's like this—you don't have to sacrifice a goat to prove how faithful and spiritual you are. (Ok, that doesn't really clarify my point). I mean, you don't have to prove your identity or your value within that identity to anyone, not even to yourself. And just because you're not actively doing something right now doesn't mean it's not important to you.

I mean, yes, obviously if you have never written anything in your life, you're kind of a lame toolbag if you start handing out business cards advertising your Writerly status, especially if you always claim to be "working" on some novel while never having actually "worked." But this isn't what I'm talking about—and even then, I don't rightly care what you call yourself. I'm not talking about what we say we are or what we identify as. This is bigger than that. Sadder.

Earlier today, I was talking to one of my BFFs about how I've been feeling. She knows, of course, that despite the awesome that my life has in many ways become, it has been fairly complicated the last few years. That I work and work, because food, children, roof. That leisure time is rarer and more precious. And that writing, which was once my thing—my escape, my mirror, my need—is now a luxury, and also my bane. I talked about how in the spare time I have I still try to write sometimes but that I don't get far, and about how other times, I think I could write right now but then don't because it feels pointless. I talked about how instead I just sit there and close up and get sad because it's pointless and don't want it to be pointless. I told her that it feels like I'm standing at a window waving goodbye to a large piece of me, like "Goodbye, torso of Carolina," just sitting there sad because I know I can stop her from leaving but I don't know how.

I wrote my first story when I was seven years old, my first real novel when I was sixteen, seventeen. Since then, I have written countless novels and stories and essays and yadda yadda. I have dreamed of publishing for a very long time. Hope has been high—and low, the blows sometimes especially hard. But through it all, I have kept writing. It has been the one gift I could always give to myself, the special, intimate time inside my own head, escaping into other people's lives, which I could invent with my very own brain. As much as I have always loved reading books, I have loved writing them more. The most important thing to me was never really to have my stories read. I mean, I have shaped, twisted, and danced in my own words, watching and feeling the stories come to life from my own head, my own fingertips. I could always access a new story whenever I wanted. If there is magic in the world—this is it.

But now, the magic has slipped away, dissolving into the fog of work and life and life and life, and I grieve. There are writers who write. And there are writers who mourn not writing.

There are no rules. Sometimes there is time to write, and motivation, and words. And sometimes there is nothing but a blank screen and grief.

It doesn't matter what you call yourself. A writer. An author. An artist. An aspiring mother-fucking scribbler. This isn't what matters. When the words are gone, you're not not those things. It's just the words are gone. They're gone

The End.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Finding Home Again

You remember when you moved away from home? Like for that very last time? Maybe you got your first job and moved into your own apartment. Or maybe you got married. Or maybe you left mom and dad and moved into a commune to grow special herbs. And then you went back home to visit, and you were like . . . Oh.


This place is, like, familiar and stuff. But. It doesn’t fit anymore.

I’ve felt this way a lot in my life. Maybe we all do. That whole growing thing, and all. But in particular, the last couple-three years, my life has experienced a tremendous amount of change. Like WHOA NELLY change. Truth is, I did not see myself here five years ago. I thought I’d have a book out by now, maybe more. I thought I’d still be a full time writer, like I was then, maybe editing some for extra cash, but I imagined that I’d spend most of my free non-writing time either with my kids or baking or preparing for the next holiday or birthday, as I’d done for probably forever.

I did not imagine that I’d be tired all the time, my eyes so grainy and strained, they constantly ache.

I did not imagine that I’d go nearly two years having read only like 1.25 books.

I did not imagine that I’d be working twelve to sixteen hours a day, every day, editing other people’s writing.

I did not imagine I'd experience X, Y, Z, and other traumatic things.

And I certainly did not imagine that I’d go nearly two years without writing anything new.

But I also didn’t imagine that I’d be happy.

For a while there, I was afraid I might not make it to today. Loss became this truly palpable thing. And I came to understand helplessness at its absolute most terrifying worst. Sometimes I had to make the conscious choice to just not let go.

And then I made a new choice, and I started stepping. As in, out of bed. I started stepping, as in, to get dressed. I started stepping, as in, to apply for jobs. And I kept stepping and stepping, in part because I had some pretty amazing people in my life who loved me and climbed down to hell beside me and encouraged me to keep stepping some more, thank god. Thank them. And it got better. And better some more. And even better.

Then one day, even though I knew things still could be better in a lot of ways, it dawned on me that I could not be much happier. I did not know happiness could feel this good. And I began to feel whole again, settling into myself. I was home.

And then something happened. I received an email informing me that I had been given a reading slot at the upcoming World Fantasy Convention.

And I was like . . . Oh . . .


I’m not a writer, people. I haven’t been a writer for a long time. This world is familiar, but I don’t fit anymore.

Yet again, I have returned to a place that I once called home. And there's such a longing to stay. But. Fear. Inadequacy. FEAR. I can't do this.

Except. My friends Brad Beaulieu and Derek Silver have graciously, kindly, lovingly agreed to read with me, so that I don't have to read alone.

We're there for you, Brad said. We'll fill the room with happy faces.

So. Okay then. Okay. Deep breath.

We're calling it: Sloshed and Sexy.

Because at least one of us will be downing a shot right before. In fact, all of you are invited to join us, drinks in hand. We'll be reading sex scenes so people will come. To the reading. We can all share a cigarette afterward.

So if you'll be at World Fantasy this year or in the vicinity, hope to see you there.

Friday, November 7, 10 PM, Arlington room.

And thus, I keep stepping and stepping. Finding home again.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Out Came Random Tolkien References and a Fabulous New Cover

So the response to my last post was kind of ... overwhelming. You know how when it's gray and rainy out for days and months and forever in a row, and it's the middle of December in the middle of hell and the sun will never come out again for as long as you live, and you will never, ever smile again because the world is a flame-retardant poopbag that has actually managed to catch fire and blaze like the deepest depths of Orodruin because of course? Well. You all extinguished the flame on the fiery poopbag, my friends--with your super offers for edit samples, and your tweets, and posts, and emails, and remarkable displays of kindness. Many thanks for that. I will soon track you all down individually and give you air kisses and virtual cheek squeezes.

*waves away the fading smoke to see you better*

The amazing thing about receiving kindness is that it sort of forces you to pause and wipe the ashes and dust from your lenses so you can view the world more clearly--and see that even though it's a fiery bag of crap sometimes, you don't have to look all that far to find a Samwise Gamgee cooking up some sausages and taters for you in the midst of the flaming shite. Besides the obvious benefits of receiving such help, the kindness is rejuvenating and utterly inspiring. And it makes me want to keep blogging. Weird, yeah?


I''ll take a tentative step towards blogging more regularly the easy way: with an announcement of a fabulous YA Mystery Romance and its gorrrrrgeous book cover, which happens to belong to my BFF and partner in crime and critiques and occasional glasses of Grey Goose (and sometimes sausages and taters). BEHOLD! I BRING YOU BEAUTY!

SCATTER by Michele Shaw

When you spend your whole life being invisible, being seen by the right person is worth giving up a few secrets ...

Ten. That’s the number of years seventeen-year-old CJ has been running from her father after witnessing her mother’s murder. And while she’s never been allowed out on Halloween, she’s good at being a ghost. With her real identity erased and no hope of staying put for long, she’s listed her chances for friendship, a first kiss, and college under “never gonna happen.”  

One. The number of people CJ can trust. That is until she and her aunt flee to yet another safe house where they find nothing is what they expected. Saddled with a nosy housemate she doesn’t want, entrance into a private school she can’t afford, and unexplained hostility from gorgeous classmate Boone, CJ is ready to move on. But she finds it isn’t so bad when her first-ever prospects for friendship and love slowly tempt her to step out of her secrets.

Zero. The probability that CJ can stay. With her father’s relentless drive to find her endangering anyone who dares to protect her, CJ must choose between her new life and doing what’s right, because the only thing worse than letting people go, is watching them die.

About the author: 
Michele Shaw is a young adult author, short story writer, poet, and editor who lives in the Midwest of the USA. She eats way too much candy while writing and snapping pictures of sunsets and has never met a dog she didn’t love. You can find her on Facebook, Twitter (@veertothewrite), and her website


How's that for a rad cover? Isn't it enticing? And I gotta tell you: I've read this book--read it actually when it was just a wee babe coming to life, and I loved it even back then. It's now a beautiful and fast-paced page-turner from Muse It Up Publishing. It's mystery. Love. Growing up. Thrills. And OMG OMG OMG I-CAN'T-READ-FAST-ENOUGH-BUT-DON'T-END-YET! Look it up, check it out, and put in your pre-order now on the Muse It Up website. (Seriously, it's an amazing price, too). And then find Michele on Twitter and Facebook and tell her I sent you (just be friendly though, not like super stalky or anything. Don't make it weird.)

So excited about this book. So so so excited. Can you tell?

*To those of you who have e-mailed about edit samples and haven't yet heard from me or are waiting for an additional response from me: my most sincere apologies. That overwhelming-ness is rather huge, and it's taking some time to get through e-mails while also editing and continuing to look for work, yadda yadda. But I promise I will respond! Thanks again! And I'm still hoping to see something kind of academic come in, too. Are you a college student? A writer for an online journal? Hit me up! I CAN HELP YOU. 

Also, thank you thank you thank you again and again.

Friday, July 11, 2014

#TBF: LOVE in the Pages of a Diary

December 28, 1996

Dear Baby,

I went into labor today. Doctor sent me home and told me to return when the labor pains get closer. I don't know what I'm doing. Presumably they do. See you soon.

December 30, 1996

Dear Baby,

We've returned to the hospital. Labor pains have gotten stronger, but not much closer. Doctors won't induce or break my water until your actual due date of January 2. They gave me Demerol instead. It doesn't help. So far I've only seen two of the three doctors in my group practice. They are both stupid, old men. "I've done this many times, little girl." That's what the white-haired one said. Here's hoping the woman doctor will be in soon.

If I don't die first, see you soon.

January 1, 1997

Dear Baby,

The doctor gave me morphine. It doesn't seem to help.

I wish my mom were here. She would know what to do. I feel very alone. And scared. And OW.

Please hurry.

January 2, 1997

Dear Baby Girl,

Today you made me a mom, way sooner than I ever expected to be. I'm not sure yet how I feel about things.

You are so much tinier than I expected.

And so fragile. So, so breakable.

And this world is so big and heavy. It weighs on me so hard I am all but flattened by it. And I am so much bigger than you. But small yet. I worry I'm too small to protect you from it.

Nobody told me about the worry. How it will begin to consume you the moment you look into your newborn's eyes. For the first time ever, it's not a worry for yourself, but for another being, and that makes it somehow far more terrifying. You check the fingers and toes. The creases in the neck and the space behind the ears. You touch the bottoms of the feet and watch the toes curl. You slide fingers into the fists and feel the grasp of tiny hugs and never-letting-go. And then you think about germs and skinned knees and drowning water and betrayal and bullies and gossip and lies and people that hurt.

I want to believe I'm big enough, smart enough, wise enough to keep you safe. But I know better. I'm just a stupid kid. Everybody has let me know it, just in case I didn't already.

So there's this fear. As in, FEAR.

The nurse has left me to rest. Your dad went home to sleep. We're alone now. Just you and me, and you're sleeping in my arm, breathing softly, your tiny lips moving just slightly, just lying here totally trusting me, because you don't know better.

Just you and me, alone.

So, yeah FEAR.

But there's something else, something immense, and I'm only just starting to really figure it out. The thing is, I've felt love before. So many happy moments, where love seems to have filled me up. And it's made me weep when my heart has broken. When my dad left. When Johnny **** smashed the baby pumpkins in my mom's garden during my 13th birthday party. When my mom lost her job. When Dave **** broke up with me right before my Biology class with Mrs. ********, possibly the worst teacher in the history of ever, who told me to stop crying or she'd send me to the office.

In all the moments of joy and all the broken heart moments, I thought I knew what love was.

But now you. And now I know the truth.

This is love. LOVE. It is bigger than my swollen heart, bigger than me. Bigger than this awful world. Bigger than fear. You don't love me, yet or maybe never, but I love you.

I. Love. You.

I'm just a stupid kid, but I'm capable of LOVE. That makes me feel really strong. Maybe not smart enough. Or wise enough. But damn it, it makes me big enough.

January 4, 1997

My Dearest Girl,

I was nursing you today, just you and me on the daybed in your nursery. We finally seem to have gotten a hang of this feeding thing. You wrapped your little fist around my finger and looked up at me wide-eyed, with little droplets of tears at the corner of your eyes, and something broke inside me. Just shattered. You don't care how old I am or how much I don't know. In your eyes, I saw that you know how much I love you. You feel it. I know you do. And I realized today I am wholly and unconditionally yours. I made a promise to you in that moment. I swear to you I will never break it. I will love you as if our lives depended on it.

July 11, 2014

I still love you as if our lives depended on it.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

A Video: On My Haiti Experience and Brokenness

I had a different post ready to go today on writing a bannable book and decided (for the umpteenth time) not to publish it, despite this being Banned Books Week. Go me.

Instead I've decided, after much debate, to post the video of a presentation I gave over the weekend on my experience in Haiti last year. If you've followed my blog for a while, you know I went to Haiti last year with Mission Haiti Medical and a medical team comprised of (about) thirty people from all over Indiana, and that I kind of fell apart afterwards and hesitated to really discuss this trip with many.

But I was asked recently to talk about my experience at my church. They gave me a great amount of support last year, so, yeah. I couldn't put it off any longer. It was time to give back, if you want to call this presentation that. There were several remarkable presentations that day, but I went last, which, thank goodness because I turned into a blubbering mess all of the four times I spoke. I got so much support from so many of you, too, but I had come to the conclusion that posting this video would make me feel too vulnerable. The Internet is just so...huge. But then I received a card in the mail from a lady who was overwhelmed by my talk, moved to such a degree she took the time to send me a letter. And that was that. I was reminded of my own call to action despite vulnerability. If you watch this through to the end, you'll see what I mean. Sometimes things are really hard, but you do them anyway.

It's kind of long, though. You don't have to watch it. But it's here. Because I got a card in the mail.

Thank you to Joe and Bill and the amazing crew who made this video and to the missions team who invited me to speak.

Also? Thank you.

Friday, September 13, 2013

When Publishing Sucks You Dry, Have a Cupcake

Here's the thing about traditional publishing.

There is no way to predict when or if it will happen for you.

I know, right? Sucks. Because you can work and work--sometimes years--and never see any results from all your hard labor.

All right, so, you have some options.

1. You can quit. Easy peasy. Maybe this isn't for you. Eh, whatever. You can find another passion. I mean, seriously. You like to write; it's a part of your identity. But it's not who you are. You're a writer, but you are not your writing.* No need to get all emo and shit just because this crazy stupid, super-reliant on all-the-stars-aligning-just-right BS isn't happening for you. You must write to publish, but you don't have to publish to be a writer. Let's be honest: you've read so much crap, you know publishing doesn't necessarily mean you're a good writer, yeah? It stands to reason that not publishing doesn't mean you're a bad writer either. So, go. Do something else. Come back to this when the wanting far outweighs the pain of trying to get it.

2. You can self publish. A lot harder than quitting. No way to predict if you'll actually be any good at it either. Or make any money. But odds are if you self publish you'll make more money than leaving your manuscript sitting inside the desert wasteland that is your laptop. Might only be pennies. And you may end up spending all your pennies on marketing and booze to ease the sting of not becoming the next H.M. Ward, but whatever. Dude, you're totally published. Also, maybe you will become the next H.M. Ward.

3. You can keep writing. And keep querying. Keep submitting. Slowly go insane. Become an alcoholic. Destroy all your relationships. Shave your head, sell off all your possessions and join a nudist doomsday cult. Good luck with that.

4. You can keep writing. And keep querying. Keep submitting. And bake cupcakes. Lots and lots of cupcakes. And by cupcakes, I also mean garden. Or maybe build model trains. Or knit. Or have babies. Or mow geometric patterns into your lawn.

Basically? Keep living your life. Do things you can control, things that will be fruitful and multiply and ooze results.

This summer I started a garden for the first time. It was glorious.

I made loads of cupcakes and ate them all.

I experimented with pictures. Of feet.

I got a new tattoo. Sorry. Won't be showing you that one. Love you guys, but. Yeah. It's kind of privaty.

Also, I had a baby.

Just kidding. That's my friend's new baby. Crazy cute, huh?

Anyway, what I'm trying to say is that you can't let yourself get too caught up in the misery of not making it...yet. That yet can take a freakishly long time. So in the meantime, if you're not going to quit, and you're not going to self publish, do something that makes you feel good about yourself, something that makes you feel like you're the most accomplished accomplisher OF ALL TIME. There is so much out of your control with this publishing dream, but there are so many other dreams and projects and really cool things you can control. Life is cool, man. There is so much else besides writing that can make you feel totally okay with yourself while you're trying to make the writing thing take off. I mean, okay, all my broccoli and my cauliflower went to crap, but I have a ton of tomatoes and onions. And so. many. cupcakes. And feet.

No babies though. Nope. No babies.


*Elizabeth of Liz Writes Books wrote a brilliant post on this concept: "Writing is not Breathing." Check it out. Please. It's time we stop treating writing like it's the end-all and be-all of who we are. That's an unhealthy attitude that creates the cynical, emotionally-drained writer on the cusp of a nervous breakdown contemplating the most dramatic, stranger-than-fiction ways to end it all. Do not be that kind of writer. You are more creative than that. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013


It's Bookanista Thursday. YAHOO!

(In case you didn't know... GWUCER= Giveaway, Winners, Update, Cover [Eggs] Reveal)

UPDATE: So, I'm nearly finished with this new book I'm writing. It's pretty much consumed every spare moment and all my thoughts since forever. All my conversations now go like this:

Friend: I couldn't believe my husband did that. I wanted to kill him. Gawd.
Me: Yeah, but you've got to admit it's kind of funny. Sort of reminds me of this thing Henry did when he saw Lacy in that bar, you know, when her hand was in--
Friend: Henry? As in your fictional character?
Me: ....

I'm pretty sure I'm having a love affair with this thing. It's an obsession that made me think I wouldn't post again until after I was done with Henry* and Lacy.* But then I got the opportunity to be a part of this really awesome cover reveal for Stasia Ward Kehoe's upcoming YA, THE SOUND OF LETTING GO. And oh my gawd. LOOK.


Lord, but that's gorgeous. There's something just a little risqué about it, something so sensual about a woman's neck and naked collar bone. And then there's that dandelion, so full of promise and wishes that could, maybe, possibly come true, and on the tippy-tips of her fingers it's being extended to--her lover? Or you? As in, "Blow." But with that bubble filter the dandelion almost looks like it could also be a flower with one last petal. He loves me, he loves me not. All's I can say is if this cover is at all indicative of what's within those pages? Gangnam style YES.

The Sound of Letting Go

by Stasia Ward Kehoe 

For sixteen years, Daisy has been good. A good daughter, helping out with her autistic younger brother uncomplainingly. A good friend, even when her best friend makes her feel like a third wheel. When her parents announce they’re sending her brother to an institution—without consulting her—Daisy’s furious, and decides the best way to be a good sister is to start being bad. She quits jazz band and orchestra, slacks in school, and falls for bad-boy Dave.

But one person won’t let Daisy forget who she used to be: Irish exchange student and brilliant musician Cal. Does she want the bad boy or the prodigy? Should she side with her parents or protect her brother? How do you know when to hold on and when—and how—to let go?

Okay, so I read Stasia's last book, AUDITION, and loved every inch of it. Truly spectacular. TRULY. YES. (My Review of AUDITION, P.S.) So basically I will read anything Stasia publishes, no question. But even if I didn't know Stasia had written this, I'd definitely want to pick this one up. Really looking forward to it. Check it out on Goodreads!

GIVEAWAY: Guess what, chicos! Stasia is holding a super giveaway. You can win:

  • A Signed Hardcover of AUDITION by Stasia
  • Swag package from authors Gretchen McNeil, Carrie Harris, Elana Johnson, & Jessi Kirby

Awesome, right? But you only have a week to enter, so hurry!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Also, be sure to check out what the other Bookanistas are highlighting today:

Lenore Appelhans  wonders at ALL YOU NEVER WANTED by Adele Griffin

Shari Arnold loves SOMETHING LIKE NORMAL by Trish Doller

Tracy Banghart embraces IMPOSTOR by Susanne Winnacker

Shelli Johannes-Wells  delights in Cory Doctorow’s LITTLE BROTHER and HOMELAND

Nikki Katz gets the shivers for 3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

Stasia Ward Kehoe, Carolina Valdez Miller & Debra Driza  sing out for the cover of THE SOUND OF LETTING GO

Jessica Love raves about ROAD TO TATER HILL by Edith M. Hemingway

Katy Upperman celebrates THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY by Katja Millay – with giveaway!


WINNERS of the Bookanistas Big Relaunch Giveaway:

Winner of the Signed Bookanista Books:
Kim Aleman

Winner of package number two of Bookanista favorite reads:
Chandler Baker

Congratulations Kim and Chandler! Both winners have been contacted. Huge thank you to all who entered and promoted. Keep an eye out for more giveaways!


*Names have been changed to protect the innocent