a reflection on reading & writing in 2016

2016 has been full of many challenges, personal and otherwise. But I’m not here to reflect on what many are calling the worst year ever through the large scope. I’m here to focus on a few smaller things in the thick of it all.

This year I felt like I really got on track with my reading and writing again. I didn’t meet every goal, and certainly didn’t accomplish everything I set out to do– but it was a beautiful year nonetheless.

Take a moment to step away from the craziness of the outside world, and focus in on your little bubble. If you did any of these things, you deserve an extra glass of champagne (or sparkling cider in my case), or a few extra chocolate covered strawberries– or whatever you use to celebrate the new year, get extra.

YOU WROTE

It doesn’t matter if you only wrote a sentence, a page, a chapter, or a whole book. YOU WROTE. Give yourself some serious pats on the back. This is more than so many do. We probably can’t count how many times we’ve heard, “I’ve always wanted to write, BUT–” or, “I have this great book idea, BUT–”

You didn’t give in to that BUT. You made it a priority to get something down on paper (per say).

YOU READ

It doesn’t matter if you didn’t finish the book yet. It doesn’t matter if you didn’t make it past page one. You picked out a book and decided you were going to read it. Despite all the other distractions in life. Despite that to-do list that could be clogging up your brain. You decided to take the time and READ.

“How do you find time to read?”

“I want to read, I just don’t have the time!”

These might seem legitimate when they’re being said, but the only way you HAVE time, is to MAKE time. You decided that reading was a priority, and you sacrificed something else that might not have been necessary to the HERE and NOW (or some dirty dishes, or dusting, or whatever) and chose, instead, to take time to do something that is important to you.

And reading IS important. Just as important as writing. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

YOU CREATED SOMETHING

An article. A Lego castle. A painting. A story. A poem. A new recipe. An old recipe. A work project.

Whatever it was, you created something. You took something out of nothing, or something old, and made it brand spanking new and all your OWN.

THAT IS AMAZING.

YOU FAILED

 

You cannot fail at anything unless you TRY. If you failed at something, that means you took the first step and tried.

You queried a bunch of agents and got rejected. You created something that ended up not working out. You literally took a test and didn’t do your best.

Failure is a beautiful part of life. It is what makes us human, what makes us risk-takers, what makes us artists. There is no life, no art, no beauty without failure.

Remember that.

 

Despite all the bad, look on 2016 with love. You’re still here, still breathing, still fighting– and you can only hope that 2017 will end just as well.

 

HAPPY (almost) NEW YEAR!

 

Also, on a more personal note: thank you for following and encouraging and being here for me. This blog was a new project of 2016, and I can’t wait to see it continue to grow in 2017. God bless.

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trackback thursday: howard hughes’ “spruce goose”

history_hughes_on_spruce_goose_speech_sf_still_624x352On November 2, 1947, the first and only flight of Howard Hughes’ “Spruce Goose” flying boat  took place in Long Beach Harbor, CA.

This flying boat few about a mile at an altitude of 70 feet. It wasn’t exactly like The Jolly Roger with pixie dust, but it can still be called a success.

This flying boat weighed 200-tons, made of plywood, and had eight-engines. It was the world’s largest airplane, designed/built/flown by Hughes.

Oh, and it cost a whopping $25 million to make.

Later this flying boat became a tourist attraction alongside the Queen Mary ship at Long Beach, and has since been moved to Oregon.

Also known as the Hughes H-4 Hercules, the Spruce Goose is the largest flying boat ever built and has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in history.

Want to see for yourself? Just head to the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon.

You can also see the picture above and check out the video below of the one and only epic flight!

 

how to face BIG changes

big-changesFollow-Up to Having an Open Mind to BIG Changes

When going through my first true round of edits, I was not the ideal writer. The manuscript was very near and dear to my heart, and I did not want to face the fact that it required a lot of work to make it the best it could be. Thankfully, my editor (the wonderful Katelyn) stuck it out with me, along with my fabulous critique partner (read more here) and neither of them took any of my tantrums personally.

Now, after completing my first round of edits with my agent on a manuscript, and anxiously awaiting more for another project, I feel I have grown immensely.

It doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when I have to cut a favorite scene. It doesn’t mean I agree with every suggestion or cut. It just means that I have learned to face the big changes with the end result in mind.

But oh how it took some learning.

You may recall I previously shared about having an open mind to big changes, in fact that post started out quite a bit like this one. Even if you have an open mind, though, how do you go about doing the big changes?  After all, they aren’t easy. You might be cutting out some love between two characters to make opening the door to a later romance easier. You might be combining characters into one because all the characters start getting confusing to your readers.

Or you might have to change the story of your book entirely because of plot holes or a more exciting direction edits took you.

Whatever the case, having an open mind doesn’t make it easy. Easier, maybe. But not easy.

READ IT

The easiest way to start your changes is to reread your manuscript with those changes/edits at hand.  Make notes where you know you’ll need to change things, but it read it through FIRST, especially if it’s been a while since you’ve done so. If you read your words with new changes in mind, it will (hopefully) open your mind to them more and spark some inspiration. It will also (hopefully) make the changes easier.

WRITE IT OUT

Now write it out…. Whether you want to actually write it or walk it out, you need to sit down and come up with a sort of new timeline of events thanks to the new change.

You might need to rearrange some chapters, or find every part those characters are in so you can cut or combine them, or cut some of the love tension and make it a completely different feel. Whatever the case, make notes while you’re reading and then get down to business. Don’t do the two unilaterally. Read, then write. Even if this is a challenge for you, it’s going to make it better/easier in the end.

TAKE YOUR TIME

(Unless you’re on a tight deadline)

You don’t want to rush big changes. They are, after all, BIG. You want to take your time and find all the places where you need to fix your manuscript so the changes work. If you’re not scrapping your project and rewriting the whole thing, you’re bound to miss a beat if you rush.

DO NOT RUSH.

Your editor, agent, publisher, friends, family—they’ll wait for you. The exception to this, of course, is if you’re professional other has given you a deadline—then stick to that deadline. But take deep breaths and don’t let the stress sink in.

 

Your manuscript is amazing. The changes will be amazing. But above all, YOU are amazing.

 

#writerslifeapparel updates

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Anna from “Midwest Charm with Anna” sporting #writerslifeapparel coffee, write, edit, repeat tank

#writerslifeapparel, if you didn’t know, is a shop I created with items for writers! For more information, check out the tab at the top of the site.

After a lot of consideration and debate, I decided to make a few changes with how the items are distributed. Since it’s a small, from-home business, and I was disappointed when I ran into so many problems this last cycle of distributing products. While most of these problems were in the hands of the US Postal Service and the shirt distributor, it made orders very much delayed and caused some undue stress because of it. Once more, as a company, it suffered a few losses.

Because of all this, I’ve decided to set-up shop a little differently until it’s more established. The shirts will now be hosted through TeeSpring once again, taking out the ‘middle man’ of shipping from home for the time being. If you were a lover of our coffee mugs, not to worry- those will be sold through Etsy.

I will take as many do-overs as I can in order to make this happen, so please follow along and help #writerslifeapparel serve you with the best products it can offer.

Thanks, as always, for embarking on this journey with me. I continue to be positive, excited, and grateful for the customers & followers of this blog.

To connect on social media, follow the links included:

Twitter

Instagram

Facebook

 

Oh, by the way, I got to share this news plus more about something fun over at Brenda Drake’s blog. Interested in some Pitch Wars swag at (potentially) a lower cost? Read about the auction going on tonight by following THIS LINK

 

trackback thursday: desegregating the army

 

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Desegregation of Troops, 1944. Picture courtesy of trumanlibrary.org

In July 1944, the U.S. Army started desegregating its training camp facilities.

 

Black platoons were assigned to white companies in a first step toward battlefield integration.

Sadly, this didn’t go over as smoothly with the troops as leaders had hoped. But we all know that part of history, right?

The official order for integrating the armed forces didn’t actually come until four years later in 1948, signed by Harry Truman.

Before this, black platoons date back to the Civil War. Although African Americans fought in the wars predating the Civil War, they actually were included in integrated militias and so forth.

I guess at this point it should come as no shock that our country was behind on this. During WWI, many African Americans went overseas to join because they wanted a chance. For example, Eugene Jacques Ballard graduated his flight training in 1917. The Georgia native had to go to France to become a pilot at the time. To read more, follow this link.

WWII also brought about African American troops and pilots. The most famous of these were known as the Tuskegee Airmen, who were the first African-American military aviators. There are many books, and at least one movie, dedicated to these brave men. To read more, check out Wikipedia or Amazon (for a list of books and movies).

 

 

 

 

trackback thursday: women’s rights convention

seneca-falls-meeting-1848-grangerJuly 19-20, 1848:

Women’s rights convention is held in Seneca Falls, New York. This convention marked the beginning of an organized women’s rights movement in the U.S.

Which, obviously, was a big deal.

 

The main ladies who organized this were:

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, who had four children at the time and was from upstate NY.

Lucretia Mott, a Quaker abolitionist.

 

How many women attended, you ask? Well, around 100 people attended– and 2/3rds of that was women.

At the convention they talked about voting rights, property rights, and divorce (to name a few things).

Stanton drafted a “Declaration of Sentiments, Grievances, and Resolutions,” that echoed the preamble of the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men and women are created equal.

In this “declaration,” Stanton also brought forth these grievances for women:

  • Married women were legally dead in the eyes of the law
  • Women were not allowed to vote
  • Women had to submit to laws when they had no voice in their formation
  • Married women had no property rights
  • Husbands had legal power over and responsibility for their wives to the extent that they could imprison or beat them with impunity
  • Divorce and child custody laws favored men, giving no rights to women
  • Women had to pay property taxes although they had no representation in the levying of these taxes
  • Most occupations were closed to women and when women did work they were paid only a fraction of what men earned
  • Women were not allowed to enter professions such as medicine or law
  • Women had no means to gain an education since no college or university would accept women students
  • With only a few exceptions, women were not allowed to participate in the affairs of the church
  • Women were robbed of their self-confidence and self-respect, and were made totally dependent on men

While we have clearly progressed since 1848, I wonder if many women today would still see these as applicable grievances? Clearly not most of them, but some….

 

 

how working with an editor changed the way i write

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I was never good with criticism, good or bad. I have never been good with rejection, and I have never been good with someone telling me how to do something.

This sounds like a, “DON’T WORK WITH ME” advertisement as an author. BUT I PROMISE THIS WAS IN THE PAST!

After I finished my first true novel, one that had been years in the making, I sat down and was excited and ready to query. I wanted to start sending out my amazingness and have everyone faun over my words.

This was the dream. Isn’t it everyone’s?

Luckily, at this point in my writing I was blessed with a wonder CP who gently suggested that maybe I should consider working with an editor to work through some slow parts and make my manuscript the best it could be. While I wasn’t sure of cost and the idea of someone openly criticizing and making suggestions with my book-baby, I decided to give it a shot.

After e-mailing and going over some details back and forth, I began working with Katelyn from Stark Contrast Editing. I am blessed because I was basically her first client, and I think this is one thing that really made it easier on me to be open to criticism. She was patient and quick to respond, and understanding of many things I didn’t want to change at the time.

I can’t review Katelyn’s services justly, because she completely changed the way I write. She opened my mind to little things (action, not description) that I was pretty terrible at. Words or phrases that I overused (“sigh” and “that” and descriptive actions of the eyes), and so much more.

Though my first book was unsuccessful in scoring me an agent, I was confident that Katelyn had given me the tools to do even better. Once more, she encouraged me to start writing what I really wanted to write. I had worked with her on a YA Contemporary, but Historical Fiction was my passion, and ultimately I think my calling with writing.

I took her advice to heart and worked hard on my next manuscript. When consulting the very same CP who introduced me to Katelyn, she raved how much better this first draft was, and it was only off of her suggestions that I worked, queried, and scored an agent. Although I didn’t work with Katelyn on this one, I cannot deny that she didn’t completely makeover my writing process.

Yes, your book may be that good to begin with, but it seems to me there is no writer that has never had a typo or even just a sentence that didn’t make sense.

I would always suggest working with an editor over not– even if you don’t think you need one. Everyone needs an editor, and every writer is not an editor. Whether you hire someone or work with another writer in a personal way, it needs to be a trusted relationship that can help develop your story into a true masterpiece.

 

While I didn’t write this as a plug for Katelyn’s services, if you are looking for an editor I cannot recommend her more. She and Nikki (aka my wonderful CP I talked about) at Stark Contrast Editing are masters at what they do, and you couldn’t ask for better people to work with.

 

 

summer days and summer nights review

imageIt seemed impossible to review this volume of short stories in one post, but here I am– trying. Please keep in mind that I’m sure one review can’t do this collection justice, as each story has such fun quirks and it would be easy (but time consuming) to review each one individually.

Purchasing this book was a bit uncharacteristic for me. While I love short stories, I admittedly hadn’t bought a book of them since college. But with the Arizona summer heat settling in, and a collection of stories from such wonderful YA authors, it was too hard to pass up.

I get so wrapped up in each story I find myself always wanting more. I think that’s my trouble with short stories. The desire for more backstory, more details, more development– it’s always in me. So these little blips of love stories that are so easy to gobble up, I have a little heartache wishing for more.

With so many great contributing authors, I don’t want to pick and choose since each author has his/her own style, and each story is great for different reasons. But in the first five stories, I have to say that Libba Bray’s Last Stand at the Cinegore had me laughing out loud the most.

Here is what Goodreads has to say about the book:

Maybe it’s the long, lazy days, or maybe it’s the heat making everyone a little bit crazy. Whatever the reason, summer is the perfect time for love to bloom. Summer Days & Summer Nights: Twelve Love Stories, written by twelve bestselling young adult writers and edited by the international bestselling author Stephanie Perkins, will have you dreaming of sunset strolls by the lake. So set out your beach chair and grab your sunglasses. You have twelve reasons this summer to soak up the sun and fall in love.

Featuring stories by Leigh Bardugo, Francesca Lia Block, Libba Bray, Cassandra Clare, Brandy Colbert, Tim Federle, Lev Grossman, Nina LaCour, Stephanie Perkins, Veronica Roth, Jon Skovron, and Jennifer E. Smith.

 

Overall, if you are looking for something to read before the end of the summer, this should be it. These summer romances are perfect for long, sunny days lounging on the beach.

(Or, in my case, acting like you’re in hibernation until “normal” summer temperatures arrive. Thanks a lot, Arizona.)

 

the importance of reading

the importance of readingI have been challenging myself lately to watch less and less, and read more and more. At the beginning of this year I came to the somewhat shocking observation that I was watching more shows than I was reading books. And that just didn’t seem right.

There is something in our world that seems to push books farther and farther down the totem pole of entertainment. After all, why read the words and have to imagine it when, odds are, some director is going to do that for you in the future?

That is TOTALLY me being sarcastic.

I’m not down-playing everyone. There are so many beautiful, dedicated readers out there that sometimes it’s hard for me to imagine there are those who don’t like to read.

But they do exist.

What I have come to learn through this challenge, is that reading is a commitment. Even if you like to read, love to read, can’t live without reading– it’s a commitment. We are constantly distracted by screens, as I mentioned in writing through the distractions, and it’s so easy to use a hard day as an excuse to turn on the TV instead of picking up a book to “work” some more.

Don’t kid yourself. Even if you like to read, [I think] reading is work.

You have to use your mind to recognize the words, to reform the sentences the author already penned (typed) for you, to imagine everything the story is painting before you.

Your mind is not resting when you’re reading. It’s moving, understanding, contemplating–living.

Someone could argue that it’s the same when watching TV. You’re “taking it all in,” after all. But… you aren’t working. You’re staring. The TV doesn’t always have your full attention. In fact, more and more people can barely sit through a full-length movie because our minds are wired for the short term, the quick blips of information, just one picture.

See what I mean?

Reading is not for the faint of heart, or mind, or soul. It’s for those who want to continue living– to walk in someone else’s shoes. Regardless of how times and technology continue to progress, the written word is one of the, or arguably THE, strongest tools we will ever have.

That’s why it’s so important to keep reading.

If we lose the desire to use our imagination, to create, to learn, to thrive, to live– then we lose everything.

 

 

Want to read more about reading? Check out a reader lives a thousand lives, or these book reviews I’ve posted.

“Salt to the Sea” review

imageI was very excited to pick up Ruta Sepetys latest book, Salt to the Sea, as my next new read. I’m ashamed to say this is the first of hers I’ve read, and am now counting down the minutes before her other book, Between Shades of Grey, arrives in my mailbox.

After being slightly hungover from reading Passenger, I should’ve known this historical fiction was going to leave me dry in a different way. The four characters who I got to know and experience the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff with left me questioning myself as an adult and how I would have acted when I was younger. Emilia, most of all, left my heart aching.

Admittedly, it took me quite a while to really get into the book. Bouncing from one point-of-view to another left me, well, confused. The book started off with each character having a short introduction, to the point that I had to flip back and forth a few times before I got the characters straight. This seems common enough, but it kept me from getting deep into each character for the first fifty pages or so.

The writing style, however, and the over-all story and development of characters was just beautiful. Rita Sepetys seems like a kindred spirit to me, not hesitating to share with her audience the gruesome images of a worse-than-Titanic moment in history. Sepetys does not hold back, and it is because of that I was pulled deeper into the moment and blurry to the world around me as I followed Emilia, Joanna, Florian, and even Alfred, into the sea.

I don’t want to give any spoilers, but as this book is about an incredibly journey through East Prussia, ending with the sinking of a German vessel near the end of WWII… you shouldn’t be surprised that you’ll end the book with tears in your eyes and heart.

My favorite part of this book was actually found in Sepetys’s note at the end. She said:

“If historical novels stir your interest, pursue the facts, history, memoirs, and personal testimonies available. These are the shoulders that historical fiction sits upon. When the survivors are gone, we must not let the truth disappear with them.

Please, give them a voice.”

This is put into words exactly how I fell. Why I love reading historical fiction so much, and ultimately why I love writing it.

But that’s sharing for another time.

If you don’t mind taking a few pages to get your characters straight, and you’re intrigued by more than your typical WWII book– this one is for you.

 

 

 

 

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