Every Last Word Review

EVERY LAST WORD by Tamara Ireland Stone

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BLURB:

If you could read my mind, you wouldn’t be smiling. Samantha McAllister looks just like the rest of the popular girls in her junior class. But hidden beneath the straightened hair and expertly applied makeup is a secret that her friends would never understand: Sam has Purely-Obsessional OCD and is consumed by a stream of dark thoughts and worries that she can’t turn off. Second-guessing every move, thought, and word makes daily life a struggle, and it doesn’t help that her lifelong friends will turn toxic at the first sign of a wrong outfit, wrong lunch, or wrong crush. Yet Sam knows she’d be truly crazy to leave the protection of the most popular girls in school. So when Sam meets Caroline, she has to keep her new friend with a refreshing sense of humor and no style a secret, right up there with Sam’s weekly visits to her psychiatrist. Caroline introduces Sam to the Poet’s Corner, a hidden room and a tight-knit group of misfits who have been ignored by the school at large. Sam is drawn to them immediately, especially a guitar-playing guy with a talent for verse, and starts to discover a whole new side of herself. Slowly, she begins to feel more “normal” than she ever has as part of the popular crowd . . . until she finds a new reason to question her sanity and all she holds dear.

 

REVIEW:

Wow. Another great book. From the first chapter I was hooked, not only by the tension and characters, but also by the immersive writing.

The representation of OCD was accurate, in a way that let the reader experience and understand how it feels. It also, thankfully, strayed away from the stereotypical hand-washing/cleaning OCD (because there are many, many types) but wasn’t only about Getting Better and Overcoming it. Indeed, while this is important, the emphasis on the main character empowering herself and feeling competent and confident (which, ultimately, is what OCD therapy is about) not only feels more realistic and helpful, but also relatable for those with and without the disorder.

By this, I especially mean that OCD was not the defining quality or hobby of the protagonist, unlike some “mental health” ya books. This is important not only because it is more realistic, but also because it puts mental health in a better perspective– it doesn’t define someone, even if it is something they have to deal with and overcome. (Quick side-note on mental health terminology- someone isn’t OCD or schizophrenic or anxious, they HAVE OCD or schizophrenia or anxiety. It doesn’t define them, or become a part of them, no less than having cancer makes one cancerous).

Also, some comments on other reviews have mentioned that OCD wasn’t represented well. Indeed, everyone’s experience of any mental illness is different but if this isn’t a good representation, then I don’t know what is. Complex characters. Therapy and medicine-positivity, both of which were accurate. Raw emotions without being over-the-top. The use of techniques like breathing and exposure (like the mother with the scissors at the beginning). For example, just because one war story or love story doesn’t match your own doesn’t mean it isn’t an accurate representation, just as a mental illness story can be accurate without representing everyone’s experience.

Some people have also mentioned that it was part of the “love-solves-all” trope but it isn’t. Love-solves-all involves the love to come FIRST, not after. And PEOPLE WITH MENTAL ILLNESSES ARE ALLOWED TO HAVE LOVE/HAPPY ENDINGS without it invalidating their story. Indeed, love should not solve all. But it doesn’t in this case– some of it comes from her empowering herself, some from creating a healthier environment (changing friends, finding passions, gaining confidence) and some from classic therapy techniques like exposure or mindfulness. This is how love and mental illness should be portrayed.

This book also tackled a lot of issues that are either glossed over or skipped in other books, like dealing with toxic friends, the normality of feeling anxious/horrible/etc when friends are exclusive or mean, poetry and writing as a way to find community, bullying and reconciliation (not just from the bullied person’s perspective), owning up to mistakes, and much more.

In this way, the ending was fitting (and slightly unexpected) but in the best way. It wasn’t cliche or obvious, but it made sense. It wasn’t romanticizing things it shouldn’t, nor either happy or sad just because.

The writing itself was lyrical. The kind where you forget you are reading, but when you step back each line is strong and powerful and so well done. No wonder this book has gotten so much acclaim. If you are looking for an accurate representation of ‘pure-o” OCD (focused on thoughts for both obsessions and compulsions, rather than physical compulsions like handwashing), that portrays mental illness and relationships in the way it should be portrayed, then check out this book.

 

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Why You Should Submit to a Literary Magazine

I wrote a small handful of short stories in high school, but almost always for class. In fact, almost all the short stories I have written so far have been for creative writing, even though I regularly work on novels in my free time. I have 2 short stories published, one pending publication, and one novel published with one in the query process. Although both novels and short stories take up precious time to write, they actually are mutually beneficial more than mutually detrimental.

  1. I’ve learned a lot about writing and my voice through short stories, especially with experimenting with points of view, tenses, subject matter, and styles (trying to write in another author’s style is both fun and informative—try it out). I’ve also learned a lot about dialogue, description and characterization through both novel writing and short story writing. The bonus is anything I learn about writing from one translates to another.
  2. Short story publications are great to include on book query letters and book publications are great to include on short story submissions. Also its just cool to say you’ve been published and literary magazines are a great way to do it.
  3. With short stories you can experiment and learn about being succinct. This includes giving brief but informative descriptions, short but effective character development, plot arcs in little words, etc. With novels you can learn about how to keep tension throughout the book but also how to increase and decrease it, character development with a broader set of characters, and commitment/consistency with writing as it takes more dedication to see a book through to completion.

Although much of this post has been about why you should write a short story, the next two points really emphasize why you should then publish said story.

  1. Although you should likely have someone else (a critique partner, writer friend, etc) read over your story before you submit (after you have read and re-read and edited it, of course), the worst-case scenario for submitting is getting told it won’t get published. Best case, you get a publication to your name and potentially money in the bank.
  2. It can help with the imposter syndrome. One hard thing about writing is going through most of the process without any feedback or reassurance. Getting a publication (while often subjective, so don’t be discouraged if you don’t get accepted the first time) can help feel like you’re on the right track in your writing career (because, spoiler, you are).

As per Literary Magazines, specifically, most don’t have a reading fee (which is great if you are a starving artist- in fact many times reading fees can be scams). Also, they are published online which you can link to your blog or social media. Finally, they are easy to find (thanks google) and there are many genres and subgenres (such as undergraduate writers, flash fiction, etc).

 

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Check out my publications and some of the places I’ve submitted to here. 

Our Year of Maybe Review

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Our Year of Maybe by Rachel Lynn Solomon. Pre-order it here. 

 

ABOUT THE BOOK:

From the author of You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone comes a stunning contemporary novel that examines the complicated aftermath of a kidney transplant between best friends.

Aspiring choreographer Sophie Orenstein would do anything for Peter Rosenthal-Porter, who’s been on the kidney transplant list as long as she’s known him. Peter, a gifted pianist, is everything to Sophie: best friend, musical collaborator, secret crush. When she learns she’s a match, donating a kidney is an easy, obvious choice. She can’t help wondering if after the transplant, he’ll love her back the way she’s always wanted.

But Peter’s life post-transplant isn’t what either of them expected. Though he once had feelings for Sophie, too, he’s now drawn to Chase, the guitarist in a band that happens to be looking for a keyboardist. And while neglected parts of Sophie’s world are calling to her—dance opportunities, new friends, a sister and niece she barely knows—she longs for a now-distant Peter more than ever, growing increasingly bitter he doesn’t seem to feel the same connection.

Peter fears he’ll forever be indebted to her. Sophie isn’t sure who she is without him. Then one heartbreaking night twists their relationship into something neither of them recognizes, leading them to question their past, their future, and whether their friendship is even worth fighting for.

 

MY REVIEW:

** I received a free ARC of Our Year of Maybe in exchange for an honest review**

Wow. This book was incredible. I couldn’t stop reading it, but unlike other books, there weren’t sections to skim over to get to the good parts– the story was tight with dialogue and action but not so much it was overwhelming.

The characters were strong and well-rounded, unique but not perfect (in the best way). Their actions were understandable and motivated and their feelings felt real without being smothering. Even the minor characters, like the parents, felt alive in the few scenes they got and were clearly separate entities rather than just One of The Parents.  The writing itself was strong, the dialogue genuine, and the plot realistic without being cliche.

I loved that this book took on a lot of topics that are not always covered in YA literature, but treated them as Things That Happen rather than Big Deals. For one, the main characters are Jewish (as opposed to the classic Christian protagonist) but are apologetically struggling to figure out how (and if) that defines them, as well as what role they want religion to take in their lives. (And, unlike some stories, there is no clear answer, or a right or wrong decision). Furthermore, the main male protagonist, Peter, is bi but the book is not a Coming Out Book where his sexuality Defines Who He Is, just as sexuality does not define one in real life. He doesn’t know everything about being bi, or queer culture, nor does he need to be a PhD level expert in both by the books end in order to justify his place in the queer community.

The idea of recovery from illness (and the struggles as well as opportunities it brings) is a topic that is not explored as much as the idea of Fighting Illness and Being Cured. Indeed, we often focus on survival, when often surviving can be the beginning of a larger challenge– living, especially when the way you view yourself (and your life) has changed immensely.  Indeed, surviving does not guarantee an easy road ahead, something Our Year of Maybe emphasizes. Relationships change, for better or worse, and one must figure out how they fit into the world and how they want the world to fit them.

All in all, this is a great book- both as a writer and a reader. It is a great story, created through great prose and writing, that tackles tough issues in the way they were meant to be tackled. Anyone looking for an example of how to write a great YA book, or anyone looking to read one should pick up Our Year of Maybe.

 

**Spoiler**

In terms of the end, I both loved it and wished it was different. I know it is the right ending for this book. Peter and Sophie shouldn’t be together– because their relationship wasn’t as healthy as they initially thought it was (and literature shouldn’t condone such things, just because its Romantic or Poetic- in this THANK YOU RACHEL, the book world needs more stories like this), because relationships don’t work out just because you’ve been through a lot together or love each other or whatnot, and because you can’t be in a great relationship until you know who you are on your own.  Also, while bi characters (and people) can be in heterosexual relationships without denying that part of them, they can also be in same-sex relationships and have a happy ending.

For these reasons I’m glad it ended the way it did.

But, of course, I would have liked it to have worked out, especially because I hate that she gave him everything- her time, her kidney, etc– and he gives her basically nothing in return. This is especially true since it seems to be a common theme in our society– women giving everything just to get some semblance of attention/love/respect in return. Having said that, though, I think Rachel does a great job in making sure the book does not condone this behavior and showing that it doesn’t end well to go about love in this way.

Interview with Yogi (& Author) Guan Shi Yin

Guan Shi Yin is a teacher, healer, and mystic who guides the way of love, unity, and harmony for the New Gaia. She has an extensive background in healing, teaching, and education and holds degrees and certifications in counseling and alternative health, business, and mindful and heartful education. This is her ninth book. Guan Shi Yin is a pseudonym.

Her book, Diary of a Yogi contains true stories from a spiritual teacher, healer and mystic that will help us awaken the extraordinary power of love in our lives and channel that love to make our dreams come true. You can buy the book here  and learn more here. 

Special thanks to TREE DISTRICT BOOKS for introducing us, as well as all their work for writers and the writing community. 

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1) What prompted you to turn this story into a book and seek publication for it?

My mom was my inspiration for this book. 

When I was just two years old, I had a recurring dream that I was a Tibetan monk who died on a bridge just as described in the story within this book. I had the same dream every night for a year. My parents were so worried as I woke up every night screaming. They took me to specialists until one doctor told them I was too hot, they took my blankets and clothes off and the dream stopped.

Then some months before my mom passed away she told me about a meeting she had with a Maori elder in an orchard when she was just 16 and the information she was given about my past lives and future which matched the dream I had at the age of 2. She said she didn’t tell me because she didn’t want me to be influenced by such a powerful prophecy and wanted me to live my life freely. She was scared I would leave her and become a monk!

I felt the story was so compelling that a lot of people might relate to it in terms of signs and symbols they are given in their lives that connect the dots and help answer questions like “Who am I?” and “Why am I here?” and “What is my mission on this planet?” as well as “Where do I find love?”

 

2) What was the writing process like?

I was able to feel the story flow through me like a movie, a series of images, much like a dream, connecting one to the other. 

As one of my good writer friends, Jane Tara, commented, it was like reading a vision or a visionary experience, as if I was channeling something. 

I would get up in the morning, watch the movie playing through in my head and listen to the voices and conversations and feel what they were feeling. Sometimes I would cry when I wrote and sometimes I would laugh. In some cases I would be taken back into the experience that I had so many years ago. 

In some ways it was like composing a piece of music. There were many layers that I could “hear”. The percussion provided a beat that seemed constant and stable as I wrote. The strings provided the emotion, wafting in and out of the main melody. The brass provided the drama, punctuating the story with strong feeling. And the wind provided the melody and higher realms when I entered into some things that were a little otherworldly. 

 

3) What advice do you have for other writers? Is there anything you wish you knew sooner in the process?

Have a really clear intention to begin with. If you are telling a personal story make sure you do that and really live it through the book. If you are writing non-fiction, research it really well, live the subject so you eat, sleep, and dream it. If you are writing fiction, live in your characters skin so your readers really live the characters with you. 

Then when you market the book, bring a message of love.

Reach out to help people, whether it is through your humor, your suspense, your information or your stories of love

Keep your focus as you are writing the book. Set aside a time and place that is just for writing. When you write, write, don’t have any distractions, let your family know, make it a sacred time and go deep within when you write. 

Make writing your passion. If it is the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning then that is writing calling you.

Write write write every day, practice practice practice.

When I think about it, I wish I had thought about my pitch a little more clearly. Get about 10 different writers or people that love reading to give you different perspectives on what you have written and summarize it for you and help you with your pitch. That way you can reach out to your audience much more easily. 

 

4) Tell me a little bit about your spiritual television channel with VoiceAmerica, Enlightened World. How did that come about and how does it relate to your book?

Enlightened World came about through my meetings with Dr. Ruth Anderson.

When I met Ruth, the founder of the Enlightened World Network, I felt touched by a kindred spirit and divine healer. She also works with the Divine Mother and the Archangels in a way that resonates with my approach and the way I work with people.

I was struck by how Ruth also wants to bring about positive change to everyone on the planet. She is creating a network, platform, and a voice for lightworkers everywhere to support–and be supported by–a global spiritual awakening. What could be more compelling or more needed at this time?

We connected, and now I’m so excited to be in charge of five new programming channels that bring fun, beauty, healing, love, wisdom, compassion, awakening, and transformation to people everywhere. These channels relate directly to my book Diary of a Yogi which is about awakening and transformation and the healing that happens when we open our hearts to the fun, beauty and love all around us. 

I also feel blessed to share the revelations and transformations that each one of us can experience through the channel called Diary of a Yogi. This is something that draws on my book.

 

5) What prompted you to launch your new channel, Author’s Corner? Who is the target audience and who would benefit from watching?

Ruth and I were talking about opportunities with other authors as I was going to do an interview with Kevin Schoeninger, author of Clear Quiet Mind: Four Simple Steps to Deep Inner Peace. The combination and timing seemed perfect so we spoke with the networks, RHG TV and VoiceAmerica and they agreed. The target audience is readers, a little like Goodreads for people exploring their purpose in life and wanting inspiration from creative souls like you and me, Molly. 

 

6) Tell me more about your own experiences with dreams. My first book, Insomnus deals with a girl who cannot control her dreams, which become real, but you mentioned that you have actually entered into people’s dreams. What was that like? 

I had an uncanny connection with a girl I call Rihanna in Diary of a Yogi. My meeting with my star family, which is how I refer to the extraterrestrials and my light family, the dolphins, had opened a way from this world into others. If you read the book you will discover what happened through my connections with a real extraterrestrial experience which was reported on television and radio and investigated by the USAF, and the dolphins which was witnessed by five of my friends who to this day are still amazed by it. Telepathy with Rihanna became as easy and natural as breathing, even without trying. I would suddenly find himself in her dreams, so I would call her, and she would confirm, “Yes, I was wearing a white dress with a necklace of pearls.” We could be in separate rooms and shown an object or given something to touch and we would both have an identical experience. Rihanna could hold a pack of cards, secretly draw a sequence and I could tell her what they were. 

We had discovered this by accident one night when we were in a meditation group. It was shortly after a trip to India and the Himalayas that I had made to see Swami Shyam. When I came back I was literally glowing. Everyone noticed it. I discovered on my return that by raising the energies up my spine while holding an intention I could trigger a similar energy in anyone that looked into my eyes. I knew this was the Naga energies working through me. One night as we were going around the circle and people were asking me to activate this energy or that intention, when I reached Rihanna I suddenly felt myself raised up and leaving my body and an instant later found myself in her body. It was most uncanny and incredibly unnerving and greatly upset our partners at the time. They wanted us to stop immediately which we did but the natural consequence of this unexpected skill was the desire to experiment. So consciously and unconsciously in dreams, the telepathy between the two of us unfolded.

 

7) How did you find out about Tree District Books? What was that process like?

Tree District Books is helping me with marketing. I met them through Twitter where Christina and Mick were kind enough to respond to my many questions which is what encouraged me to go further down the marketing road with them.

They are a very down to earth company with wonderful resources and a very personal feel. 

The process has been easeful with insightful questioning and some great advice on pitches.

They have helped me make connections I wouldn’t have made in any other way which I am deeply grateful for. 

My actual publisher is Hay House/Balboa Press.

They were instrumental in the publishing process itself and the launch of the book as well as some of the marketing happening now. 

 

8) Why should someone buy your book? What should they expect to get out of it?

The book is a gift from the heart, and helps you if you are struggling in any way with life and love or your health and finances or are trying to find your mission in life. It helps you connect the pieces of the puzzle. It is a diary, so a visionary experience and has a companion guide, Diary of a Yogi: Portals of Presence, which will be published soon. 

The book is a diary, a journey, and as readers have described, it takes you to places you never knew existed in your heart (Karin, Sweden), is like Autobiography of a Yogi blended with The Alchemist (Kevin, USA, author of Clear Quiet Mind), and enables the divine within you to unfold (Pauline, UK). 

 

9) What’s something you think people should do every day? Read, write, do yoga, meditate?

LOL yes! Read, write, do yoga, meditate! Climb every mountain, follow every rainbow and take a friend out to gaze at the stars. And don’t forget to have fun!

 

 

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Ways to Engage with the Writing Community

WAYS TO ENGAGE WITH THE WRITING COMMUNITY

Contests like PitchWars

While winning contests like these are great, especially because it will set you up with a mentor involved in the writing community, you don’t have to win to make connections. Through Twitter (especially by following hashtags) you can interact with and meet other writers going through the same process. This is a great way to meet CPs (critique partners) and author friends. In order to do so, comment on tweets, follow other writers, reach out on individual DMs, and write your own tweets about the process (and include the hashtag).

https://pitchwars.org/

Social media

Going off of #1, Twitter and Facebook and the like (your “platform”) isn’t about getting thousands of faceless followers, its about making individual connections so that you can build a support system and, ultimately, have more leverage for your books. (Would you rather buy a book from someone you’ve never talked to, or one with whom you exchange advice and comments, with whom you respect and admire? Other readers feel the same way).

Additionally, there are events such as PitMad where you can post a short pitch of your book and agents who are interested will like your tweet, allowing you to submit your query to those who are excited about your work (and make it so you can find additional agents without doing too much more research). Look out for other events like this you can take advantage of (such as DivPit, which is the same but for diverse authors).

Writing conferences

I am attending my first conferences this fall. It’s a great thing to do, especially if you are in the query phase (ie you have your manuscript done and polished and are looking for agents and/or publishers) or if you just want to meet other people in the field. Usually they consist of panels or information sessions as well as time to mingle with other attendees and opportunities to sit down with agents one-on-one. A quick google search can find conferences in your area, although often these events do cost money.

Writing workshops

Like conferences, this is a great way to meet writers and is usually run by published authors who can be great sources of information on publishing. I would say these are for authors at any stage, from starting out to having a complete manuscript because connections are always crucial, as is growing as a writer. Like conferences, however, they often cost money, but can be a great investment in your writing career.

Attend local events

Bookstores and literary centers (like The Loft in Minnesota) often have book signings or readings, book releases, open mics, or other literary events. It’s a great chance to meet authors, learn how to do events like this when your book comes out, and explore literary centers in your neighborhood. The bonus is they’re usually free, and sometimes have food.

Reach out to a writer you admire

Authors, like everyone else, love getting fan mail. Most they have links on their author page for ways to contact them (the URL of which you can find with a quick google search, or in the back of their book). I know many authors who have found mentors that way, or at least made lasting connections through reaching out. This can be extended to podcasts about writing where you reach out to the writer who runs it, or bloggers who write, or the random writer on Twitter who always makes you laugh with their tweets. Worst case they don’t reply to you. Best case, you have another connection in the writing community for support and advice, who you can also support and cheer on.

 

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Why You Should Consider Doing NaNoWriMo, On Your Own Terms

World Press Freedom Day

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month and occurs in November. During the month, many authors set out to start and finish a 50,000 word draft of a novel. You can set up an account to compete to win prizes, or just use it as a motivator to write more than you normally do. There is lots of support and discussion on social media while it is going on. Thus, participating can be advantageous in a lot of ways, as long as it is meeting the goals you want to meet.

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Just because November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), doesn’t mean November is suddenly free from all other responsibilities.

(Although that would be great- anyone know who to talk to in order to make this happen?)

Even though some people may be able to carve out hours into their day to write (or write fast enough to spit out a novel in a month), that doesn’t mean you can (or have to).

Frankly, one of the main constraints most writers talk about is having enough time. If you don’t have the time or whatnot to write a book in a month (as many people don’t), you don’t have to set yourself up to fail by making that your goal. Instead, pick a word/page/chapter count that is more realistic and make that your goal.

You may be in the middle of another project.

I know many writers who wanted to do NaNo but are currently editing their WIP (work in progress). That doesn’t mean you have to ditch the editing for a month (unless you want to- it can be great to set your work aside for a month and come back to it with fresh eyes). Instead, pick a goal that is editing related, or publishing related, or related to whatever stage you are at.

 

 

The “new day” or “new year” effect.

One positive aspect about NaNo, and why it works so well for many people is the psych principle of the “new year” effect. In essence, the reason we do New Year’s resolutions is because it gives us a clear boundary between our “old” self and “new” self- allowing for self-reflection and the perception of a clean slate. Although many don’t endure long-term, some do, and it is a great impetus for change for many people as it gives them the idea of a fresh start and the opportunity to change their day-to-day (or at least reflect on it). (Also, bonus, you can use this any time- just tell yourself today is a new day and use it to spark something new).

Writing quickly to finish can be a great motivator, but it doesn’t have to be your style or goal.

I know many people like to just “get the first draft done” and that you “can’t edit a blank page” but I also know that having to rewrite the entire book because the first draft was so bad is not a fun situation (I’ve done that for both of my books). If that isn’t your style, don’t feel like you have to write that way. (You can also do heavy outlining beforehand to minimize some of this, if you are a “plotter”).

There are many ways of measuring progress, including for editing, and other stages of novel writing.

As I mentioned above, pick a goal that is helpful and relevant to where you are now and where you want to be. Pick what aspects of editing you want done by the end of the month or to where in the book do you want to be through with edits or what draft round you’d like to be on.

If this is your first book, it likely will take longer than you expect (and that’s okay). It’s great to have lofty goals but also to keep realistic expectations (or more manageable secondary goals).

Some people write the first draft of their first book during NaNo (which is great!) but many do not. Use it to give you that push if you are stuck, but be kind to yourself as to how much you can really expect to do in a month (and if you surpass it, great!).

 

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What Not To Do in YA- A Teen Writer’s Guide

What not to do in YA

I recently read a YA (young adult) book (which I will not mention) that made me both laugh and cringe at the same time. Mostly because the dialogue was so stilted and cliche, where every other word was lol or omg. Teens. Do. Not. Talk. Like. This.

Many adults i know use more texting abbreviations than I do. And now with smart phones there is no longer as much a need for these things. And even when there is, people do not spout them every other word. Omg they just don’t, like lol. (I hope that made you as uncomfy as it made me). *rant over*

Here are things to not include excessively in your YA novel/novella/etc.

  1. Lol/omg (see above).
  2. Kids acting dumb for no reason. Sure, youth do a lot of stupid things, but there is always a reason behind it, no matter how hidden. Try popularity, security, attention, affirmation, friends, wealth, success, etc. The bully isn’t bullying *just* because he’s a douchy guy, he’s also trying to assert dominance so no one messes with him, or gain respect from other guys, or get lunch money so he doesn’t have to reveal to everyone he’s poor. (Not condoning bullying, just condoning having round, complex characters).
  3. Emotionally unstable boy who makes for a questionable relationship, but all doubts are cast aside because of Love. Please stop making this a thing. Stalking is not romantic. Hot/cold emotions are not cute. Readers deserve better romantic role models so they know they deserve more than this.
  4. The girl who doesn’t know/realize she is beautiful until she gets male attention. Like the point above, the goal should not be to be oblivious of one’s attributes. Love should not fix everything, it should complicate things, like in the real world.
  5. Football and cheerleaders or other tropes without a spin. Been there, done that.

 

In terms of other cliches, I have to admit I love some of them (strong female character, apocalypse/dystopian, etc) AS LONG AS THEY HAVE A TWIST.

Should I say that again?

No one is going to make a completely unique story unrelated to any before it, and that’s okay. As long as it’s your story told your way, with new elements. For example: another kids-trying-to-survive story is meh but kids running to survive from acid blood rain on their way to solve a puzzle to get a lifetime supply of chocolate is a lot cooler. (weird, yes, and probably not something you should write a story about, but my point is still made, I think.)

Look up the cliches/tropes for your genre and make sure you haven’t included all of them in your book. Make sure the ones you did include have your own twist. Purposely include one or two but turn them on their head so the cliche is broken. Do whatever you want, just please do not include lol and like as every other word in the dialogue. Please.

 

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New Short Story

A short story of mine, The Art of Happiness, just got published in The Blue Nib Literary Magazine (Issue 35).

I wrote it as part of my creative writing class for my English minor, including cats, art, and depression into a second person narrative.

Click here to view it!

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How to fit in exercise and writing (when you don’t have time for either)

One thing I’ve noticed this summer is I either workout in a day or write, but usually not the two together. Part of it is because I tend to use the same time (after work, before dinner) for both. This means I have to get creative to fit in as much of each as possible.

Here are some ideas I’ve come up with (and have worked for me).

  1. Read while working out (biking on a stationary bike works really well for this). You can read new books, read through your work in progress and make notes for later editing, or read books about the craft of writing. The neuroscience-y bonus to this is you tend to remember more of what you read while exercising (hint: use this to your advantage if you have to study for a test).
  2. Do a circuit during writing breaks (especially if using the Pomodoro writing method). The Pomodoro method means working for a certain amount of time (usually 25 minutes) and then taking a break (5 or 10 minutes) and then writing for a set time again. Thus, writing can be your break from working out and visa versa.
  3. Do a couch workout while watching TV or a TV “drinking” workout game. (Alternatively you could just not watch TV and workout instead, but if you don’t want to do something so radical, do this). Many popular shows have workout games, like drinking games. For example, when Character A says X, do 5 pushups, when Character B is mentioned, do 10 burpees. If you can’t find one online, make your own. Check out an example of a couch workout and workout game at the bottom of this page.
  4. Switch off days between writing and working out. Ultimately, there may not be time for you to do both every day, which is okay. Just switch off if that’s what you need to do.
  5. But, make sure to take classes or schedule in your workouts and writing time. Part of why writing time and exercise time slip away is because it isn’t scheduled in and it gets replaced by other things that aren’t always as important.
  6. Take the stairs. Do calf raises at your desk and bicep curls when you bring the milk up from the car. Basically, fit in exercise when you can. Get creative with it. (For inspiration, look at this video of a workout while baking.)
  7. Do HIIT or Barre or something that combines cardio with strength to maximize your time. As a bonus, they tend to be more fun than regular strength training or mindless treadmill running.
  8. Write on lunch breaks so you have more time to workout after work. I know this isn’t always possible, but it can be great if you’re eating at your desk anyway. Also, going in slightly early to work (or staying slightly later) and having a quiet, designated space to write for a bit can be a productive use of time.
  9. Make sure your workout matches your goals (staying active vs gaining muscle) and that its fun! For example, if you want to gain muscle, don’t have your workout be only running, or you won’t be using your time effectively.
  10. Listen to a writing podcast/audiobook while you workout. Or think about your work in progress so you are in the head space to write after your workout (or at least won’t spend writing time not knowing what to write).
  11. Work on your social media platform while working out so you don’t have to later (and have no excuse to be on your phone later).
  12. Combine relaxation and working out. For example, do yoga/stretching or a hot tub workout. This is great as a recovery day, too. (Because, fun fact, you shouldn’t be using the same muscle groups every day. Getting stronger means not only breaking down the muscle fiber but also allowing it time to grow back stronger). I included an example of a workout you can do in the hot tub below if that’s something you want to pursue.

Ultimately, finding time to workout is hard. Finding time to workout is hard. So don’t be hard on yourself if it’s something you struggle with. Just do your best and try to have fun 🙂

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A couch workout:

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A workout “drinking game”:

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Hot tub workout:

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Mental Health in YA Literature

I recently finished my latest book, Starvation, which is about a teenage wrestler with an eating disorder. There were multiple reasons for writing the book. For one, one of my high school friends struggled with an eating disorder and hearing how hard her recovery was made me start looking into the process. Additionally, I am studying neuroscience and clinical psychology to go into the field so what better than to create a book with my two loves, writing and mental health. This fall I will be co-president of my school’s mental health advocacy group which has made me realize the importance of making mental health information available in different forms, especially for younger readers who may not even know they have a mental illness until they read about someone going through something similar.

In my clinical psych class I was astounded to learn that boys make up 1:9 to 1:3 of anorexia patients. And still I have yet to find a YA book about a boy with anorexia. (I am, however, pleasantly surprised by the recent increase in mental health books, with both male and female protagonists, especially as it helps destigmatize disorders and start important conversations.)

On that note, here are some books that are consistently referenced as some of the best YA mental health books, that are said to accurately describe what it feels like to have the given disorder. I, personally had some issues with some of the books, but loved others. Wintergirls, for example, really helped me understand some of the thought processes behind anorexia. Also It’s Kind of a Funny Story and Will Grayson, Will Grayson are two of my favorites. (But check them out for yourself and comment your opinions below!)

Anxiety

Turtles All the Way Down

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Finding Audrey – social anxiety

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Every Last Word – OCD

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The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B – OCD

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Highly Illogical Behavior – agoraphobia

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Eating disorders

Wintergirls

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The Downside of Being Charlie

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Paperweight

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Trauma/PTSD

Speak

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The Perks of Being a Wallflower

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The Sea of Tranquility

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Depression

It’s Kind of a Funny Story

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The Memory of Light

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13 Reasons Why

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Will Grayson, Will Grayson

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All the Bright Places

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Fans of the Impossible Life

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Hold Still

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Bipolar

When We Collided

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Psychosis/delusions

Mosquitoland

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A World Without You

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Schizophrenia

Made You Up

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Schizo

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