why i read (and write) YA as an adult

DSC_0341The YA community, as readers and writers, consists of a wide range of people. Sometimes adults who are within the community are given a hard time. While this is diminishing (as far as I have seen), it is still there. Admittedly, I am even sometimes hesitant to go into the YA section in bookstores because I’m weary of being judged. (Ridiculous, I know.)

I was pondering YA a lot the other day. Truth be told, I’ve been in a big slump (which is why you haven’t heard from me) with reading and writing. It wasn’t until I read SMOKE IN THE SUN that I was reminded again just why I love YA so much.

When you’re an adult, it’s very easy to lose sight of hope and adventure. Maybe not always, and maybe I’m setting myself up to get a slew of comments on this. I think, for most adults, even if you are working your dream job and have everything you ever could have hoped for when younger– it’s still easy to get caught up in the every day “adulting” and lose a bit of yourself.

Yes, we grow and we learn and mature and all that truly good stuff.

But I think there’s always a piece of us that should stay, well, young.

I love YA for the hope. For the young adults facing problems so much bigger than themselves and conquering them. Maybe it’s not normal to see a seventeen year old save the kingdom/world… but some teenagers save their family every.single.day. It’s amazing to see a fourteen-year-old face problems that seem so far fetched, but when held to the “real life” scenarios some face, they’re nothing.

That’s hope. It’s hope that these everyday problems are conquerable, solvable, achievable. It’s hope that young adults in real life have the ability to do extraordinary things because these characters show them that it’s not impossible. It’s the hope of chasing dreams, love, life, adventures, jobs and the reality that it is scary, and that’s okay. It’s the hope that they can believe in themselves and not back down from challenges, but face them.

 

Hope is what makes me go back to reading it. Not because I can’t handle adult books, or because adult fiction is too boring or hard to read. And it’s not because I don’t think I could write adult fiction, either, because I imagine I could if I really put my mind to… and there’s part of me that hopes I can write at least one in my lifetime.

Goodness, though, that hope is so strong. It’s motivational, to see characters and write characters in a time or place or event that is outside of my own with that motivation and determination that we can sometimes lose. They don’t settle.

I’m not saying I’ve settled, and I’m not saying that I’ve lost hope. I’m saying that in this world we are a part of, there are things each and every day that can suck the life and hope out of a person. And, to me, YA counteracts it.

Hope.

True, undeniable, tangible hope.

That’s what I love about YA.

 

Do you read and/or write YA? I’d love to hear from you on this!

 

smoke in the sun by renee ahdieh, a review

34818921_656760461337893_6792604178645516288_n-1SMOKE IN THE SUN by Renee Ahdieh had a book birthday on June 5th! To tell you I was waiting on this sequel with so much anticipation would not do it justice. Almost exactly a year ago I did a review on the first book in this duology, FLAME IN THE MIST.

Here’s what Goodreads has to say:

After Okami is captured in the Jukai forest, Mariko has no choice—to rescue him, she must return to Inako and face the dangers that have been waiting for her in the Heian Castle. She tricks her brother, Kenshin, and betrothed, Raiden, into thinking she was being held by the Black Clan against her will, playing the part of the dutiful bride-to-be to infiltrate the emperor’s ranks and uncover the truth behind the betrayal that almost left her dead.

With the wedding plans already underway, Mariko pretends to be consumed with her upcoming nuptials, all the while using her royal standing to peel back the layers of lies and deception surrounding the imperial court. But each secret she unfurls gives way to the next, ensnaring Mariko and Okami in a political scheme that threatens their honor, their love and very the safety of the empire

This sequel did not disappoint. I was so excited when Amazon accidentally? sent this to me a few days early so I got a head start on reading it. I had missed spending time with Mariko and Okami, and this book brought me right back into their beautiful word.

I enjoyed getting to know new characters, but much like with the The Wrath & The Dawn duology, I was every-so-slightly disappointed that I didn’t get to know these characters as deeply as the others. At times the book felt a little rushed, and a little unfinished, with the additions. However, I was very, very thankful for the epilogue- because without it I’m not sure I would have loved this book as much as the first. Just being honest, here!

Needless to say, overall, I am waiting to see what Renee Ahdieh has next. I am a huge fan.

If you’re in the Phoenix area, Renee will be in Tempe next Wednesday! I personally can’t wait to go. This will be my first reading/book signing- can you believe it? If you’re there, please make sure to say hi (if you like, of course)!

read across america week

28279245_598121117201828_7012762352416247332_nIt’s READ ACROSS AMERICA WEEK!

Or, at least, I’m making it such in my household. I know Friday (March 2nd) is the official Read Across America DAY. Why? Because that’s Dr. Seuss’ birthday, of course!

Dr. Seuss has always been my go-to for inspiration. Not because his words always ring true (even though they do) or because he’s a favorite (which he is)- but because he persevered as an author.

There are many authors out there who did. J.K. Rowling. Kathryn Stockett. John Grisham. They don’t even skim the surface. But Seuss was one of the first statistics I ever heard that I clung to. He was rejected 27 times. 27. Originally I heard 52, but these days if you google it, it says 27.

STILL.

DR. SEUSS.

THE Dr. Seuss was rejected twenty-seven times before someone finally decided to get his genius out there. Can you imagine having that on your gravestone?

“Here lies John Smith, he rejected Dr. Seuss”

No thanks.

But this week isn’t just about Dr. Seuss. It’s about the importance of reading. My last post was about how books can change and grow with you, and maybe the meaning changes when you re-read them as an adult or as you get older in general.

This is why it is so important to start reading young. Reading to your kids, your friends’ kids, heck- volunteering to visit a classroom or library and read. Kids aren’t going to develop a love of the written word if they are never truly introduced. They will never experience that amazing feeling of being transported into another world, another life- no matter how temporary.

If for some reason you haven’t picked up a book in a while, use this as an excuse to start reading again. Go. NOW. Stop reading this post and pick up a book that you’ve wanted to read but “just haven’t gotten to” and start now.

Reading is so important, even if you’re not a writer. Reading helps you have a longer attention span, it helps you learn, it helps your imagination continue to grow. Reading is amazing.

And if you say you don’t have time to read, tell me you haven’t binge-watched a Netflix show or watched a movie in the last week, month, months. It’s not the same, I get it. Sometimes you need TV to take your mind off things and not have to “work for it.” But… all the time?

I’ll just leave it there so I don’t get some hateful comments or anything. In all seriousness, though, go read! Even if you just pick up your favorite Dr. Seuss book this Friday– that’s still something.

Happy 114th birthday, Dr. Seuss. Your words will forever be timeless.

 

reading books then & now

31527F6E-4D80-4417-B79C-38E6F7F51364There aren’t enough days in the years to read all the books that I wish I could. To enjoy them and then read them again, and again, and again to absorb them. So many books, so little time.

I recently was rereading A LANTERN IN HER HAND by Bess Streeter Aldrich. An older book, I read it when I was a teenager and it didn’t really stick with me. Reading it now, though, as a mother of three- it stuck.

This is the way with books, I think. As we grow and learn and live, they change with us. Whether they are more or less applicable depends, but the pieces of your soul which they stick to can shift. It’s a beautiful, wondrous thing.

But I wonder, if because there are so many books and so little time, if we all take the time we do have to do this with the books that matter. To reread them, learn from them, understand them better. If we are only reading the new, new, new… if we only read books that are meant for younger readers when we are older or older readers when we are younger, are we benefitting from all the reading?

Yes, I would say. Don’t worry.

We always benefit from reading, but I think if we took more time we could benefit even more. Books help us through things, remind us of others, and help us escape. Every book has a different purpose.

If I hadn’t reread A LANTERN IN HER HAND, I would have missed the heartache of Abbie Deal. When I was younger I was more distracted by the idea of her not chasing her dreams and the fact that the book was very wordy and descriptive (less dialogue). Now, though, I understand and appreciate her sacrifice more than can be explained.

Rereading the HARRY POTTER books, for instance, or THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, with my oldest son- I am picking up on things that I have missed. (This is moreso with THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA, because I’ve reread HARRY POTTER far too many times.) But each time, the books change for the good and the bad.

I think this proves the (subjective) quality of books. If they stand the test of time, change and yet mean something extraordinary to the reader, they are well worth the time to reread.

What do you think? Do you have any books you have reread that changed with time, or ones you hope/plan to reread?

agent odds are (not) in your favor

It’s a new year full of new goals. These are typically made up of word counts, edits, queries, deadlines, and the dream of book deals (at least for me).

In an industry where the odds don’t seem in our favor, it might be time to admit the truth: they aren’t.

May-the-odds-be-ever-in-your-favor

Sarah La Polla of Bradford Literary Agency wrote an end-of-year post where she shared her query stats. While this is different for every agent, it really puts numbers out there for (us) writers.

You can read her original post here, but in the end it came down to her receiving almost 4,000 queries in 2017. (And she was closed to queries for the summer!)

Let’s think about that number.

4,000.

Now, I’m not a true statistics person. I wish I could pull out how many queries writers send out on average, how many rejections writers get, and so forth. But in the end, it doesn’t work that way because this business is so subjective. (That’s what I’m telling myself so I don’t have to think much past the number above emboldened… and so I don’t even have to attempt any math.) One writer might get 100 rejections while another gets an agent their first time up to bat.

But the truth is, there are a lot more writers than there are agents- and we all want to volunteer as tribute.

tumblr_m1kn4vbKV11qbpbbro1_500

It can get discouraging to keep pushing on, project after project and/or query after query, in hopes of securing the agent of our dreams. And even then, if we are blessed with an agent, we have to go through the process all over again with editors/publishers. It’s never ending. And that agent might not be the one. You might have to go through the process with another agent before going through it with an editor or publisher. And the cycle continues!

So, why do we do it?

I can’t answer that question for you. I really can’t.

For me, it’s the desire I’ve had since I was about six-years-old to have my books on shelves at your nearest bookstore. To share the stories that I have embedded in my soul and are begging to get out into the world.

It’s because that no matter the ruts, no matter the breaks, no matter what life throws at me- I’m always craving words. Words, words, and more words.

I don’t show you the post from Sarah to depress you, but rather to encourage. The odds might not be in your favor, but know that if you keep working and pushing and dreaming and diving- you can be the exception to the rule.

You can be the one-in-four-thousand. 

Say it out loud. Be at peace with it.

The odds are not in your favor.

That way, when that agent and/or publisher comes calling- you’ll be even more proud.

kvXq8

 

 

give thanks for your writing

In a competitive business where everyone is hoping to make a break, it’s hard sometimes to be thankful for the season you’re in.

You might just be starting out with your novel (it is NaNoWriMo after all). You might be querying, starting with your new agent, on you third agent, about to score that deal, releasing your fifth book– who knows!

The thing is, the publishing industry is a crazy, scary, beautiful place. If we didn’t know that, we wouldn’t be writers… but sometimes it’s easy to forget it.

This is just a small reminder to give yourself a pat on the back, and it’s as much for me as it is for you, reader. Remind yourself that you’re amazing because you’ve actually put words to paper. You are one step ahead of those that “want to find time” or “always wanted to write.” And if you are one of those later people that I’ve mentioned, there is never a better time than now to start.

Yes, now. I mean, maybe finish reading this…but then get your butt off here and start writing your own words.

There are never going to be perfect conditions. Maybe you think you need to work for a while so you have the time to really focus on your writing after, or maybe you want to build your family roots before you write that best seller– but if you put off writing over and over and over again… eventually you’ll miss it.

Set your mind to it. Write. Even if you can’t come up with that amazing idea, just start writing something, anything.

Anything is better than nothing.

Give thanks, writer. You are in a beautiful season- even if you don’t think you are. There’s always something beautiful to find…and something beautiful to write.

[writing] dry spells can be natural

IMG_4877If I’m being honest, I am amazed by writers who write every day. I’m amazed by writers who can sit down and hash out a novel in one month. I’m amazed by writers who plot and plan and schedule and stick to it. I’m amazed by writers, period.

But there comes a time in every writer’s life, at least I believe this to be true, that they can’t do any of it. They sit to write and instead end up on Twitter for hours. They schedule writing time and instead settle down with a good book (or a binge-worthy Netflix show). They plot out a novel for the perfect month and then they have something come up that soaks up the time they had for writing, making them unable.

Life happens. And sometimes, no matter how hard you try, writing doesn’t happen.

I am in a season of life where writing is very difficult. Not because I don’t make time to write, or because I don’t have a WIP ready for my attention- but because I’m so mentally wiped that even in my scheduled time, my brain is fried. If you’ve been where I am before, or you’re in the trenches of a hard-to-write-season with me- never fear. I have heard there’s light at the end of it, and whether this season lasts for a day, month, or years- here are a few uplifting things to remember.

It won’t last forever.

You are a writer, an author. You have written before and you will write again. Because if you are a true writer, the words of your stories and the stories of others make up your core in a way that you can never escape them. This season of life might be hard, and the well of creativity might run dry at the end of the day. Whether it’s because you are chasing little kids around day in and day out, or you’re starting a new job, or you’re going through some health issues, or someone you love has health issues– there could be so many reasons I can’t even continue, but whatever it is- know that it’s normal.

Don’t be hard on yourself.

As a writer, it’s hard not to see the success rate of others and play the comparison game. Whatever “success” looks like to you, remember that you are succeeding. Your life experiences, even the dry spells, contribute to your writing fuel. Some day you’ll sit down and remember what it was like to have no words, and spit out thousands onto a new page. Celebrate that you’re reading a book, or gaining experiences for a story, or blogging to keep those words flowing (woot woot). Don’t be hard on yourself. Celebrate yourself, because you need it now more than ever.

Just keep going.

Push through the season.

More than that, enjoy it. Enjoy this season of life- even if it sucks.

You might be craving the feeling of your fingertips brushing keyboard keys in a way that makes your head spin because the words are coming faster than your fingers can type. You might be reading someone else book and feeling as though you can do that, and start feeling low because you haven’t done it in a long time. You might be mad at this season because all you want to do is sit down and write and you feel a little robbed of your passion because it is who you are.

All of these things are normal, my friends.

Every writer who is a true writer will not walk away from it. You will come back for more, and the world will be waiting for your masterpieces.

 

Wait For Me book review

Sorry for the absence, guys. I am in a new season of life and it has been kicking my butt!

I had been waiting to read Wait For Me by Caroline Leech since before it came out. From the cover reveal to release, I’ve been very excited about this WWII Historical Fiction. And I was not disappointed! Here’s the description:

It’s 1945, and Lorna Anderson’s life on her father’s farm in Scotland consists of endless chores and rationing, knitting Red Cross scarves, and praying for an Allied victory. So when Paul Vogel, a German prisoner of war, is assigned as the new farmhand, Lorna is appalled. How can she possibly work alongside the enemy when her own brothers are risking their lives for their country?

But as Lorna reluctantly spends time with Paul, she feels herself changing. The more she learns about him—from his time in the war to his life back home in Germany—the more she sees the boy behind the soldier. Soon Lorna is battling her own warring heart. Loving Paul could mean losing her family and the life she’s always known. With tensions rising all around them, Lorna must decide how much she’s willing to sacrifice before the end of the war determines their fate.

The story of Lorna and Paul really brought me into Lorna’s world. I enjoyed getting to know the characters, and above all loved how much their relationship tugged on my heartstrings. The struggle of their story was real, and it was a good change from many other romances in YA literature.

I felt like I really got to know Lorna through her relationships and inner dialogue. She was a teenager that others can relate to, even with the historical time period. The only thing I wished for more of were perhaps descriptions of her surroundings. I wanted to see more of where she was in Scotland, and feel it with her. There was just a small piece missing in this, but it didn’t hurt the story or character development by any means.

One thing I have learned lately is to always read the notes from the author, especially when it comes to historical fiction. It’s intriguing to know what is real and what was changed for the sake of the story. I found it so reassuring to know that the author had received a letter from someone who had a grandmother who actually married a POW- knowing that Lorna and Paul’s story could have some truth to it made it that much more heart-wrenching.

If you love period pieces, particularly learning more about WWII, and you love a good romance- I highly recommend this book!

 

pitch wars: pimp my bio

I’m doing something a little different today, y’all. My writing path has taken a lot of twists and turns as of late, but all for the best! Today I’m taking part in a little blog hop for Pitch Wars. Don’t know anything about Pitch Wars? Check out Brenda Drake’s blog for the details!

Who am I?

imageHeyyyyy. My name is Emily. I write Picture Books and Young Adults. I love Contemporaries and Historical Fictions Young Adults, so that’s where I sway with writing them! Picture Books are usually inspired by my three boys (5, 2, newborn!).

I am an extroverted introvert. I love people and going out and doing magnificent things– until I don’t, and then I’m very much over it. I am a homebody and not just because of my three kids, but because I love my comforts (if I’m being honest).

Living in Arizona means that we are pretty much hermits from May – October, which is a big change from where I come from (Western North Carolina, Asheville area). We’ve been in the desert for almost four years and I’m still not quite sure what to make of it.

So, a few fun things:

  • I grew up as one of three girls and now I’m a mother of three boys. Talk about a change!
  • I’ve known since the age of six I wanted to be a writer, even though I took some detours along the way (theater, music… other artsy-fartsy things).
  • I am a very passionate person (think Anne Shirley) and tend to put my whole being into everything I do. If I’m not feeling it, it doesn’t happen. My passion has to be in it– this can be wonderful and terrible at the same time.
  • My heart is in North Carolina, which is hard to admit since when I moved there at the wonderful age of 13 I swore I would hate it forever. Now it’s home- where I went to school, met my husband, married my husband, and had my oldest boy. I think it will always be home in many, many ways.
  • When I’m consumed by a writing project I tend to dream about it. A lot. It’s actually how I get a lot of my ideas. It’s definitely part of my process, in a weird sort of way.
  • I loooove being outside (another hard part about summer in the desert). Hiking, walking, beaching, laking… whatever and however you want to put it. Give me a body of water and some mountains- I’m one happy gal.

For more fun facts you can check out this post annnnnd this post, too. (Every birthday I like to share a few things about myself.)

MISSING

MISSING is a YA Contemporary loosely based on my personal experience when my high school best friend went missing and her remains were discovered when I was in college.

Sixteen-year-old Annie’s best friend is missing, and fingers may be pointing at her. Somehow classic good-girl Michelle disappeared without warning, launching Annie into a world of interrogations and secrets where everyone thinks she holds the key as Michelle’s number one confidante. As Annie tries to connect the dots of the case, Michelle’s sketchy dad makes it difficult as he paints a different picture of who his daughter was compared to the friend Annie thought she knew. Determined to uncover the murky truth surrounding Michelle’s missing person’s case, Annie starts to lose herself in an overflow of guilt, fear, and the desire for revenge.

When Michelle’s remains are found three years later in a location skeptically close to Annie’s childhood home, everyone starts finding closure, everyone except a 19-year-old Annie who is interrogated as a suspect in the new homicide case. Just when Annie is losing hope of ever discovering the truth, she’s approached by Michelle’s younger sister, Sam, who is now at the age when Michelle started having trouble with dear old dad. She has her own suspicions as to what happened to her half sister— and wants Annie’s help to prove it.

MISSING is a contemporary young adult with a PRETTY LITTLE LIARS meets THE FACE ON THE MILK CARTON feel, complete at 87,000 words.

Writing Process

big-changesMy writing process usually means sitting down with caffeine and freshly baked goods and spitting out some words/ revisions. I’m someone who goes for a vigorous walk (sorry, not a runner), whips something up in the kitchen, and then feels the words flowing.

I truthfully don’t write every day. At all. I know people swear writers should, but I see that everyone woks differently. When I’m on a roll, or deadline, I’ll definitely devote myself to writing as much as possible days in succession. But if I’m a little dry or have other pressing priorities- I give myself grace. I wouldn’t be a writer without my friends and family, so I can’t ignore them for the sake of my art (all the time, anyway).

A Perfect Mentor…

I would love someone who is in love with my novel as is, but sees even more potential with suggestions and edits. I love working with people to perfect the story and add more where it’s needed and take away what’s not.

This book has been through soooo many revisions over the last decade, I don’t want a mentor to be afraid to work on it with me because of the event that inspired it,

I would love a mentor that can guide me and eventually become an amazing connection/friend/…well…mentor. The writing world is a scary, beautiful, intimidating place and the more writing friends/mentors one has, the better it is and the more possible dreams seem.

 

Good luck to everyone! Please feel free to connect/reach out. Other places to find me:

Instagram

Twitter

Facebook

bad habits as a writer

IMG_0133Happy Independence Day, fellow Americans!

As writers, we often see advice circling the inter webs. Whether you’ve joined writing groups/pages on Facebook, or you’re plugged in on Twitter, or you follow tons of writing blogs (ahem)- you’ve probably seen it all.

What NOT to do as a writer.

What to do to be a successful writer.

The best habits of successful writers.

Advice from [insert known author here].

All of these things are wonderful, don’t get me wrong. And I’ll be honest and say this piece probably isn’t 100% different from something else you’ve read. But if I’ve learned anything as a writer, it’s that every writer’s process is different. So it doesn’t hurt to read as much advice as possible, and read it all with a grain of salt.

My bad habits are a writer are as follows:

procrastination

self-doubt

chasing new book ideas before finishing another one

At least two of these aren’t always bad things for others, but for me they can be crippling. Here’s what I’ve learned to do with each of them– or what I’m still learning to do.

Practice makes progress, right? Something like that.

Procrastination

It’s no surprise that this is one of my downfalls. I am a procrastibaker. When I can’t think of what to write next, I turn to baking (and eating) a lot. It’s easy to procrastinate with social media and, well, life getting in the way of writing.

But I’ve learned that if I truly set aside a time– even if that time is just once a week, or preferably once a day– and make it my own, I do much better.

It doesn’t keep me from getting on Twitter and complaining about writer’s block or posting a picture on Instagram about my writing layout, but it does at least make me commit that time to things that revolve around writing.

Usually, when that happens- I can hash out a few words and count it as a success.

Self-Doubt

This one is killer, guys. Doubting yourself, your dreams, your goals, your abilities– this is a big NO-NO.

The problem with that, though, is it means it’s even easier to give into.

If you’re sitting down to write and have no words, or you suddenly think your book isn’t good enough, or a writer friend is having more success than you, or you had to part ways with your agent and you doubt if you’ll score another one, or you got rejected from a publishing deal, or you got a bad review– all these things can make that DOUBT seep in big time.

I’m not telling you to not acknowledge the doubt. I’m not telling you to NOT talk to someone and ignore it, or to not cope because you shouldn’t have this “bad habit.” I’m telling you it’s NORMAL to feel self-doubt.

Just don’t let that doubt make you give up. Don’t let that doubt keep you from seeing your amazing potential. Because if you’ve come this far, you HAVE potential. Cope how you need (I suggest baking/ice cream/wine/coffee dates), and then get back to writing / trying!

 

Chasing New Book Ideas… before finishing another one

I’ve written on this before. Chasing new book ideas is not a bad thing at all. Having ideas is what helps you as a / makes you a writer.

But time and time again I’ll find myself starting and stopping, starting and stopping, starting and stopping.

Sometimes this is for the best– especially if an idea cannot pan out (whether it’s because you don’t have enough to fill it in, or the story just isn’t good, or whatever the case).

If this is the only writing that one is doing, though… it might be time to reevaluate.

When I get into this cycle, I know it’s time to sit down and plot. Look at a new idea and see if it’s a FULL idea, or if it’s just a scene that I really want to write. If that’s the case, it’s better as a short story or something saved for a project it will fit into some day. Write that bit, get it out of your system- give it life- and then continue on with something else that has more grit.

 

As I’ve said, every author is different. Some have designated writing time daily, some only need it once a week. Other writers are in a different season of life and may only get a weekend a month to truly WRITE. And that’s OK. Every writer is different.

In the end, the best you can do is to admit your bad habits as a writer- or what you see as bad habits- and find a way to process them. Acknowledging them is the first step, and then you can move forward in defeating them. They won’t disappear by any means, but they will become more manageable.

Who knows. Maybe they will disappear. But I haven’t gotten that far just yet.