What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen and I adored it. Awesome voice, plus a cleverly nuanced take on high school stereotypes and self-image and wanting more out of life. Recommend! I also read a super sexy NA, The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan, and I’ve gotta say… I loved it. Strong characters, dry humor, and a smokin’ hot college football player — yes please! Now, I’m reading Amy Reed’s Beautiful, which is stark and gritty and disturbing (the MC is 13 — holy hell!) but very well done.


My husband: “Why are you reading Avril Lavigne’s biography?”

What I’m Writing: I’m at a weird place, writing-wise. I’ve finished all of my beta reading commitments, I’m waiting on feedback from my agent on one manuscript, and I’m waiting on feedback from CPs on another. I’m mentally musing what I hope is going to be my next project (and I’m super excited about it!) but I haven’t actually written anything yet. I do have a first line in mind, and I’m paging through a nonfiction book for research, and I’m doing a lot of inspirational online image searches. This is sort of my process, I guess. I’m a slow, sort of muddled starter, but once I get drafting, I can move relatively quickly. Hopefully I’ll be there soon!

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Cleaning, exercising, hanging with my family…


Saturday we visited WonderWorks in Panama City Beach. It’s a really cool science museum and we had an awesome time. My daughter loved the Bubble Lab (obviously) and the Ropes Challenge, for which she wore a harness and tight-rope walked three stories in the air. I almost had a mommy-heart-attack!

IMG_6028Because I was super lame and didn’t send out Christmas cards last year (excuse: we were moving across the country), I’ve gotten my act together and ordered a bazillion to put in the mail come December. Above is one of the photos I used (from our little family photo shoot) because I think the sky is gorgeous.

What Works For Me: Writer friends… Mine are the best (no, really!) and they play a huge part in maintaing my sanity and lending me inspiration. Lately, I’ve been emailing/texting/tweeting/meeting for coffee (I still owe you, Amanda!) my writer buddies to chat about WiPs and reading and life and, particularly, the challenges of writing and being a mom and a wife and melding all of that together in a balanced, happiness-evoking way. Even when they don’t have all the answers, knowing that I’m not alone in the Writer Crazies is invaluable. <3

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma and whoa… It was a trip. The story turned out to be something completely different from what I was expecting and I am impressed. Such gorgeous writing! Now, I’m reading 17 First Kisses by Rachael Allen, which is adorable. I recommend it for the utterly authentic voice alone. It’s so much fun being in Claire’s head!

What I’m Writing: I took some much needed time away from the first draft of my road trip book, The Road So Far, and now I’ve finished an initial round a revisions. This story is a follow-up (or a companion — whatever) so it was a challenge to weave in pertinent elements/information from the first story without dumping big chunks of backstory into the narrative. Hopefully I’ve struck a balance. If not, I’m sure my trusted and brilliant readers will let me know. :-)

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Listening to This American’s Life‘s new program, Serial, and *loving* it. From the website: Serial is a podcast where we unfold one nonfiction story, week by week, over the course of a season. We’ll stay with each story for as long as it takes to get to the bottom of it. This season’s story is a sort of high school murder mystery/possible wrongful conviction situation and it is fascinating. Highly recommend!


We finally, finally, FINALLY had professional family photos taken! It’s only been six years. ;-) This was one of my Thirty Before 35 goals, and I’m super excited to cross it off the list. I’m also super excited about this sneak peek our photographer, Andrea Faye Photography, shared with me.


I found Autumn-colored M&Ms at the store the other day and thought cookies would be the perfect way to use them. I tried this recipe for the first time and they turned out so yummy!

  
Over the weekend we visited the Gulf Breeze Zoo, which is quaint and really fun. My daughter got a kiss on the hand from a giraffe!

What Works For Me: Taking inspiration from successful writers. This conversation between Lena Dunham (creator/star of HBO’s Girls, a show I adore) and author Judy Blume (the voice of my childhood) for instance (click the link for an edited transcript). So inspiring! Plus, book birthdays this week for two amazing books from two delightful authors: Bleed Like Me by Christa Desir and Of Scars and Stardust by Andrea Hannah. I’ve read them both and they’re fab!

  

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to.
And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished Cristin Terrill’s All Our Yesterdays and loved it. Highly recommend! Now I’m reading 17 & Gone by Nova Ren Suma. I’m not super far along yet, but the mystery is intriguing and the writing is gorgeous.

What I’m Writing: I’m still spending most of my work time beta/CP reading (aMaZiNg stories by Mandie Baxter, Riley Edgewood, and Alison Miller), but I have started revising The Road So Far (I’m happy to find that I still love it after six weeks away), and I’m thinking about my next project. Last week I asked my husband what I should write and his answer was REALLY GOOD. We’ve been brainstorming together (which is odd because he rarely helps me with writing stuff, but very cool too!) and I’m feeling super inspired.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: More of the usual…


I’m enjoying what’s left of Florida’s beautiful summer…

  
Watching Daphne and Daisy act extra cute…


And cheering on the sweetest little cheerleader.

What Works For Me: Visual inspiration. I use Pinterest obsessively and have boards for all my writing projects. I finally made my Where Poppies Bloom board public, though some WiP boards are still secret, like that of the story I’m musing now. Here are a few of the images I’ve pinned so far…

 
 

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

September Reading Wrap-Up

So many excellent books this month!
(As usual, cover images link to Goodreads pages.)

Landline by Rainbow Rowell – Oh, this book… *happy, happy sigh* It’s a perfect example of magical realism (the MC talks with her husband-in-the-past via a magic yellow landline telephone — YES), and it’s everything I want from adult fiction: thought-provoking, genuine, heartfelt. Plus, there were some truly funny moments. Georgie and Neal were both so uniquely wonderful, as were Heather and Seth and all of the tertiary characters (the pugs!). Rainbow Rowell writes relationships so beautifully and authentically, and this book left me wanting to be a better wife and mom and person. Love when that happens!


The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi – I was super excited to read this debut, a story about forbidden love in Afghanistan. I wanted it to be the YA version of A Thousand Splendid Suns (one of my Top Five Favorite Books Ever) and it did share similarities with that story. The Secret Sky was less romantic than I’d been anticipating, but I still very much enjoyed it. The details about Afghan culture and Muslim traditions were fascinating, and the characters were incredibly well-drawn. There were some brutal scenes in this novel, but its conclusion left me hopeful, and with a satisfying sort of curiosity. Check it out if you’re looking for riveting  contemporary YA with diverse characters and/or settings.


Ashes to Ashes by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian – One of my most anticipated reads of the year and I LOVED it until (major spoilers in white — highlight to read)... the end. I adore Jenny Han’s and Siobhan Vivian’s previous works and it pains me to say this, but I’m disappointed by how this trilogy ended. That has nothing to do with quality of prose or plotting or character development, and has everything to do with Reeve. He lost EVERYTHING even though (I think) he was the character who grew the most. I hated him in the first book, and now (thanks to some truly brilliant writing) I ♡ him. I desperately wanted a satisfying ending for him and he didn’t get one and I am just so bummed. Still. Which brings me to Lillia and Alex riding off into the sunset together, happily ever after. Just… no. REEVE AND LILLIA ARE SUPPOSED TO END UP TOGETHER! And then there’s poor Kat. She doesn’t get to go to her dream school and her dad, who’s awesome, up and dies from a heart attack. Why, authors? WHY?! *sad, sad, SAD face* I mean, I get it — writers have to be true to their story, but man… I’ve been SO invested in these characters. I wanted so much more for them. My reactions to this series have been intense since book one, and my passion for these fictional people says a lot about their world and their relationships and the arc of their story. I love that these books made me think hard about revenge and redemption, and I’m a huge fan of the trilogy. You should read it so we can discuss. :-)


Unlit Star by Lindy Zart – I’m not usually a fan of kissing covers, but I think this one’s sort of beautiful. Unlit Star came highly recommended and while the writing style and main character, Delilah (who’s a little prickly), took  some getting used to, I ended up totally consumed by the story. Truly — I read it in a day. Love interest Rivers is so appealing and the romance rang completely true. This novel reminded me a little bit of A Walk to Remember, so if those sorts of sad-but-lovely stories are your thing (they’re mine, obviously) give it a read.


All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill – I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to read this story! It’s a total Katy Book, and I loved it completely (plus, hello, pretty new cover!). This novel’s world-building is thorough and its elements of time travel are well thought-out and gripping, but it was the romance that had me unable to put it down. I *adored* Finn and Em together (so sweet and steamy!), and I found myself rooting for Marina and James despite the twists and turns that kept coming. All Our Yesterdays is beautifully written and thrilling and romantic, with a kick-ass main character — I highly recommend it!

Tell me… What’s the best book you read in September?

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, or a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: Well… I finished Ashes to Ashesthe final book in the  Burn for Burn trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. I can’t comment on it yet. Let’s just say… It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had such a visceral reaction to a novel, and I’m still kind of traumatized. I also read Unlit Star by Lindy Zart, which came highly recommended and turned out to be a super emotional romance. Such a pretty cover, right? Now, I’m reading Cristin Terrill’s All Our Yesterdays and it is aMaZiNg. Totally twisty and romantic and unputdownable. I can’t wait to see how it wraps up!

  

What I’m Writing: Nothing! Where Poppies Bloom (which I finally wrote a summary for and posted HERE) is all revised and beautiful. It’s in my agent’s hands. I’m hoping she loves it! I’m celebrating by beta reading for some buddies, and musing my next WiP.

What Else I’ve Been Up To: Watching movies… My family and I saw Dolphin Tale 2 (cute but cheesy — not as good as the first) and The Maze Runner (exciting and unpredictable — we really liked it!). Plus, my husband and I watched 12 Years a Slave, which was brutal. To be honest, I’m not sure I’ll recover. If you haven’t seen it, I highly recommend it, but prepare yourself for heartbreak.


I’m keeping up with yoga, and I’m learning how to do inversions! I have never in my life tried to hold myself upside down, but I’m getting it. Don’t judge my form — I’m still practicing. Yay for progress! :-)


I made my first pumpkin-y recipe of the season, Melt-in-Your-Mouth Pumpkin Cookies. My husband: “These really do melt in your mouth.” :-)

What Works For Me: This week I’m inspired by all of the excitement regarding intellectual freedom, diverse books, and Banned Books Week. I did a post on the topic HERE. Some of my favorite challenged/banned books? To Kill a Mockingbird, Speak, Looking for Alaska, Twenty Boy SummerThe Hunger Games, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, and the Harry Potter series. What are some of your favorite challenged/banned books?

Tell me… What’s up with you today? 

Banned Books Week

From BannedBooksWeek.orgBanned Books Week is the national book community’s annual celebration of the freedom to read. Hundreds of libraries and bookstores around the country draw attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events. Banned Books Week was launched in 1982 in response to a sudden surge in the number of challenges to books in schools, bookstores and libraries. More than 11,300 books have been challenged since 1982. 

As a writer of young adult fiction that’s intended for an older teen audience, book censorship is an issue that hits close to home. Books are most often challenged by people and groups who, at their core, have the best of intentions: To protect children from explicit and/or difficult material. Still, censorship in any form is wrong. Parents have every right and responsibility to educate their children as they see fit, and to keep them from material they deem inappropriate. Librarians, teachers, religious organizations, and politicians should not.

Still, year after year, people and groups continue to challenge books, most often for the following reasons*:

1. The material is considered to be “sexually explicit.”

2. The material contains “offensive language.”

3. The material is “unsuited to any age group.”

Vague and subjective, right? 

Most Challenged Books of 2013*:

  1. Captain Underpants (series), by Dav Pilkey – Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group, violence.
  2. The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison – Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group, violence.
  3. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie – Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
  4. Fifty Shades of Grey, by E.L. James – Reasons: Nudity, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit, unsuited to age.
  5. The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins – Reasons: Religious viewpoint, unsuited to age group.
  6. A Bad Boy Can Be Good for A Girl, by Tanya Lee Stone – Reasons: Drugs/alcohol, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit.
  7. Looking for Alaska, by John Green – Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, unsuited to age group.
  8. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, by Stephen Chbosky – Reasons: drugs/alcohol, homosexuality, sexually explicit, unsuited to age.
  9. Bless Me Ultima, by Rudolfo Anaya – Reasons: Occult/Satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit.
  10. Bone (series), by Jeff Smith – Reasons: Political viewpoint, racism, violence.

And, a few Classics that have been challenged at one time or another*: The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, Ulysses by James Joyce, Beloved by Toni Morrison, The Lord of the Flies by William Golding, and 1984 by George Orwell.

How can we stand up to book challengers?

1. By defending our right to intellectual freedom — the freedom to access information and express ideas, even if the information and ideas might be considered unorthodox or unpopular. We can talk about the danger of restraining the availability of information in our free society.

2. We can voice the importance of the First Amendment and the power of literature.

3. We can support librarians, teachers, booksellers, and members of the community to who fight to keep “inappropriate” books in library and school collections.

4. We can continue to buy, borrow, loan, read, talk about, and recommend banned and challenged books.

Tell me: What’s your favorite banned book?
And, how will you celebrate Banned Books Week?

*Statistics and lists borrowed from the American Library Association’s Banned and Challenged Books page, as well as BannedBooksWeek.org. Please do visit these sites for more information.

What’s Up Wednesday

“What’s Up Wednesday” is a fun weekly meme started by my friends Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk. From Jaime: It’s similar in some respects to the Currently… post, but it’s been whittled down to only four headings to make it quicker and more manageable on a weekly basis. You’re invited to join us if you’re looking for something to blog about, a way to let your blog friends know what’s been going on with you. If you’re participating, make sure to link your What’s Up Wednesday posts to the list on Jaime’s blog each week. That way, others can visit your post and check out what you’ve been up to. And now, here’s what’s up with me this week…

What I’m Reading: I finished The Secret Sky: A Novel of Forbidden Love in Afghanistan by Atia Abawi. It’s a modern-day story about two teenagers of different Afghan ethnicities who fall in love. It wasn’t as romance-focused as I’d been expecting, but I still thoroughly enjoyed it. Pick it up if you’re looking for unique, multi-cultural YA. Now, I’m reading Ashes to Ashesthe final book in the under-hyped Burn for Burn trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian. This is one of my most anticipated 2014 books (this series — SO GOOD), and I cannot wait to see how it all wraps up!

What I’m Writing: I’ve gotten notes back from a few brilliant and thoughtful beta readers (seriously, thank you so much, Erin and Sara! <3) and now I’m working on incorporating their feedback into Where Poppies Bloom, as well as cleaning it up and prepping to send it to my agent. All the nerves…

What Else I’ve Been Up To: I’ve been beta reading a lot over the last couple of weeks, and I count myself so lucky to be able to read for such creative and talented writers. My own writing is benefiting, plus it’s tons of fun.


Saturday was my daughter’s first official cheerleading effort and she did amazingly well. I would not call her a natural dancer and she’s normally a little bashful, but she she went all out at the game and I was super proud of her! Though, this WSU alum *really* wishes her uniform wasn’t purple and gold. :-)


I’ve been easing back into running after a long hiatus. It is SO hard to workout outdoors in Florida during the summer — for this Pacific Northwesterner, anyway. But, I miss running regularly. It’s my quiet meditation time, and it feels good to get out on the road again. Plus, new shoes!

What Works For Me: I’ve putting finishing touches on one manuscript and gearing up to heavily revise another, but to be honest, I’ve been a little lacking in motivation. So, I turned to Netflix for inspiration (and distraction) and found Tiger Eyes, the movie adaptation of Judy Blume’s classic YA novel. Guys, it was so good! My husband watched with me, and he couldn’t find anything to make fun of, which is saying a lot when it comes to “teen” movies. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a creative boost, and let me know what you think!

Tell me… What’s up with you today?