Tag Archives: reading

My First Pitch Wars Book Recommendations

25 Mar

A long, long time ago in a headspace that feels far, far away, I promised I would write about some of the books whose journeys’ I’ve been so fortunate to be a part of through Pitch Wars. It’s time to make good on my promise. Or at least begin. I haven’t used this space for recommending books before but, to be honest, it’s more fun than writing about writing. Especially now as the muse and I don’t commune very often these days.

It was a joy and honor to beta read for other writers in Pitch Wars. We were all hopeful and all working toward the same goal. We cheered each others’ victories and empathized with each others’ sadness when things didn’t go so well. As I read, there were books I knew–KNEW–would find representation and land on bookshelves someday. My instincts about others’ writing (at least) is something I still have confidence in, and I’m happy to say my instinct has been proven correct over and over again.

Herewith, two of the books I loved and believe you will, too.

FORGET ME NOT by Ellie Terry

Ellie and I beta read for each other very, very early on, and it felt like serendipity because our characters actually had a lot in common and we had some common themes in our stories. Her story was unique, and different from mine, in other ways. Two standouts: 1) the book was written half in verse and 2) her main character has Tourette syndrome. The way she wove those two facts together blew me away. You see, the half written in verse was from her main character, Calliope June’s, point of view. Poetry was the perfect vehicle to show Calliope June’s tics as well as her thoughts and fears. The other half, from the point of view of her new friend, Jinsong, who struggles to face the social pressure that comes with being her friend, is in prose. Each fits the voice of their respective character perfectly. This book is beautiful in it’s simplicity and deeply empathetic and realistic portrayal of fear and the power of friendship.



This story has something I love – a deliciously creepy feeling. Set in London, it already feels like an intriguing adventure even before the paintings come to life. But when they do–watch out! As Bryony’s family secret unfolds and she races to save herself and the terrorized people of London, you will be on the edge of your seat. It is quite a feat to create a story that is immediately relatable and entertaining to a young audience yet weaves in fine art, classic literature and history. I knew when I read it, this book had that magic combination that would entrance agents, editors and readers alike.


Both of these books can be ordered at Amazon (via the links in the headings or book cover photos) or through other booksellers online or in your neighborhood. If you prefer to use the library, ask them to order a copy if they don’t already have one in their inventory.

If you enjoy book recommendations, I promise to return with more. Soon.

Read Or Write Anywhere

26 May

I am luxuriating in the plush covers of my bed, looking out over the moonlit pool deck while soft music plays in the background. I type the perfect sentence to complete my novel. THE END. Ahhhh.

Ah, who am I kidding? It’s midnight, I’m keeping my eyes open with toothpicks. I’ve written and erased the same sentence over and over. I’m only on Chapter Two. But it’s all good, yo.

When I decided to get back in touch with my love of writing, I didn’t have kids. I could spend unbroken hours reading Poets & Writers, crafting story ideas and dreaming of where it all might lead. The thing is, I didn’t do all that and I didn’t get much completed.

Fast forward a few (sixteen!) years. Now I’ve got two kids with very full schedules, run a business, accept speaking engagements, volunteer with my kids schools (plural), belong to a critique group and yet…I’ve written more in the past two years than ever before. In this time, I completed a middle grade novel, made it into PitchWars 2014, revised and revised and revised that book and am now querying it.  I’m now 13,000 into my next novel.

How? I stopped waiting to “have the time”. I stopped waiting for huge chunks of uninterrupted hours to sit down and write. In short, I took the advice of Barbara DeMarco Barrett, the author of Pen on Fire: A Busy Woman’s Guide to Igniting the Fire Within. If I found fifteen minutes or ten or five, I wrote. IMG_6856

I wrote in the car line at school, I wrote at the kitchen island while dinner simmered on the stove, I wrote on road trips, I wrote in between soccer games. The key is: I wrote.  No amount of time was too little.

To all those writers out there whose lives are also over-full and chaotic, if you feel overwhelmed, just know that you are not alone. And, do whatever you can to squeeze in writing. Whenever, wherever. Which brings me to this awesome campaign I’m a part of, hosted by the YA Chicks, called #ReadOrWriteAnywhere. It’s a fun way to show how you are keeping reading and writing on your priority list as this summer kicks off. And, you can win some prizes – books, Author Skype visits, critiques and more!  Check it out at http://yachicks.blogspot.com/ and enter to win now through May 31st. And keep writing and reading!


Immersed in the storm

3 Aug

I was in the middle of a tornado tonight, listening to the roar of the train, watching the palm trees bend in half and bushes careening across a parking lot.

Well, not me, exactly. I was sitting in the middle of my comfy bed, laptop in front of me, listening to Pandora and writing about my poor main character trying to find shelter from a tornado.

It was in the midst of the scene, when my character was fleeing from swirling broken glass and tiles, that my husband decided to walk in and ask me a question.

I looked up at him and was barely able to stop from saying, “Run for cover!” I think he would have had me committed if that happened.

I remember reading Stormy, Misty’s Foal, one of the Misty of Chincoteague books, when I was a kid (I had horses but was still obsessed with books about horses). There was a spectacular storm scene, and I remember I was so caught up in the story that when my mom interrupted my reading (probably to do the dishes), I was completely freaked out that it was a beautiful, sunny day. I had actually thought it was storming outside.

I love when that happens. When I get so immersed in a story that I’m there—jumping in the icy water with Harry Potter as he tries to reach the Sword of Gryffindor, trembling with Edmund as he waits for the White Witch to decide his fate, sobbing with Wilbur when Charlotte dies. When a book takes me along for the ride, I know I’ve found a winner. This happened most recently with Shatter Me by Taherah Mafi (oh, Adam, sigh).

The experiences I’ve had as a reader lend themselves to my writing, as I try to immerse myself in whatever experience my character is dealing with (especially since I write in first person POV). My poor husband bears the brunt of this emotional writing. If I’m writing a scene where my main character is being treated poorly, I’ll be angry and will forget that my husband is an innocent bystander.

But if my character is in love…well, husband wins.

What’s the last book in which you felt completely immersed?

Slow Down and Feel Strong – Week 8 Task

18 Dec

In this chapter of Julia Cameron’s book, Walking in This World, one task in particular spoke to me.  The title was: Slow Down and Feel Strong.  Even though my work is finally slowing down at year end, I still feel myself in a rush.   It’s almost like the end of a 100 yard dash, where you’ve crossed the finish line but the momentum keeps your body moving forward and you just have to keep moving your legs so you don’t fall flat on your face.  Actually, a better analogy would be a small child who, at the end of the day is exhausted, yet they get even more wound up and are literally running mindlessly in circles. Yes, that’s what I feel like at the moment.  So, if I’m truly to enjoy these holidays, I need to slow down. 

The task is to write down a list of 5 areas in your life where you feel a sense of haste and pressure.  Then, to determine if your urgency is misplaced or if you can reset your timeline, and ultimately to slow down, be more in control and not make yourself crazy!  Here is my list:

1.    Reading.  This one is odd.  And a little sad.  Reading is one of my very favorite activities.  I couldn’t wait until the end of the semester so I’d have time to read some books for pleasure.  But am I finding it pleasureable?  So-so at best.  Why?  Because I am literally racing through them.  Just let me get to the end so I can see what happens.  Oh, and check it off my list.   That’s the subliminal refrain I can hear if I slow down for just a moment.  I’m skimming, not savoring.  Ugh.  

This one I definitely need to change my timeline on.  And go back to enjoying reading.

2.   Home ‘refurbishment’.  I know why I’m feeling skitchy about this one.  Because we just finished a major project but there are other, smaller ancillary projects that spun off of it.  You know how it goes – you remodel your kitchen, then it’s obvious the living room needs painting.  And the dining room, and the den.  And then, oh, those window coverings could use a little perking up.  And on it goes.   And I just want it done because I’ll be hosting for the holidays and I want everything to be just right.  

Okay, if I’m being realistic, this is one I can change my timeline on, too.  The truth is, my guests will have a good time no matter what color my living room wall is.

3.   Holiday cards.  I usually like writing and sending holiday greetings.  But I’m rushing through it this year and to be honest, it’s not doing anything for my holiday spirit.  This one I can’t change the timeline on if I actually want people to receive their cards before Christmas.   I’ve already blown the beginning of Hannukah deadline, but I can still make it by the end of the 8 days.  

I could just say ‘forget it, I’ll make them New Year’s card instead’.  But I’m not going to.  This timeline stays.

4.   Eating.   Now, this one sounds really odd, but with everything else going on, I find the very last priority in my day is eating.  I sometimes literally forget to eat lunch or breakfast.  This has never, and I mean never, been my m.o.   Not only do I get painfully hungry and grumpy if I don’t eat often,  I truly love good food.   The thing that makes me such a picky eater is the same thing that makes me go all When Harry Met Sally over the perfect heirloom tomato salad or lemongrass risotto – I can taste every flavor x10.  But now?  I’ll realize among my working, painting, cleaning, making meals for everyone else, rushing to the store and drycleaners and so on that I never made time to eat.   And when I do eat, I just shovel it in.   But don’t worry about me.  I’m not wasting away.  I’ve actually gained 5 pounds in the last few months. 

This is a basic self-care issue.  I need to and I will slow down, make sure I eat, and enjoy my meals once again.

5.   This blog post.  I know, this one’s a little bit of a cheat.  But since it’s 5 minutes until midnight and I said I would get this out “today”, I have to make a choice. 

And, the choice is…no pushing back the time.  Finish it and hit ‘publish’.  And that’s what I’m going to do.

Is Reading a Creative Effort?

5 May

Is reading a creative effort?  I’ve been pondering this question lately.  Actually, since I read the post Would You Rather Be Productive or Creative? on broadsideblog.wordpress.com.   It’s a thought provoking post, examining how one may come at the expense of the other.   I do often feel like these two things are in conflict, if by ‘productive’ we mean revenue producing.  

In a way, reading seems to be neither.   When I read, I am neither producing nor creating.  Interestingly, when juxtaposed with reading, the two seem more alike than different.  But I digress. 

The issue at hand is – am I being creative when I read?  Or is it another form of diversion?   Something else to do (albeit enjoyable) which keeps me from writing, or working, or paying bills?   Perhaps a form of self-soothing, enlisted in place of dealing with stressful, real-life issues?   It may be all these things, but I still feel it is a creative effort.   Why?   I suppose because it engages my imagination.  I picture the characters.  I picture the scenes.  And then, often I start picturing my own scenes, creating scenarios in my head for my own characters. 

I am delighted to find I’m not alone.  Charly Lester has again written a post on her blog, The Elementary Circle, that totally resonated with me: Give Yourself An Inspirational Day.  In it, she also mentions that when she is looking for inspiration, reading is on the top of her list.  

Although creative works do not happen without the ‘work’ part, it is also true that they do not happen without the inspiration.   Like the seed growing underground before finally sprouting and showing itself to the world, these thoughts, emotions, visions must germinate and begin drawing nourishment from the soil around them.  Reading is my soil.

Spending time in solitude with your artist child is essential to self-nurturing. ~Julia Cameron, the Artist’s Way

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