Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

The National Gallery of Art… We went last weekend for my birthday and it was so cool. We saw work by Picasso and Matisse and Van Gogh, among many, many other artists — the gallery is enormous! I highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in DC. Beautiful, and free to view. 🙂

Reading

How to Keep Rolling After a Fall by Karole Cozzo, which is fantastic so far. Nikki is such a relatable, complex protagonist, and love interest Pax… all the swoon, guys. I’m loving the premise of this book — the fallout of a terrible cyberbullying incident — and I can’t wait to see how Nikki’s story plays out.

Watching

Fuller House, obvs. It’s so cheesy, but I’m kind of loving it. I’m also going catch up on Project Runway All Stars this week, and hopefully start The Fosters. I turned in my first round of Kissing Max Holden edits the other day, so I’ve got a sudden abundance of free time. 🙂

Listening To

I recently listened to Cristina Moracho’s Althea & Oliver, which I reviewed in yesterday’s February Reading Wrap-Up. The condensed version: A gritty story set in the late nineties that made my heart hurt bad. Now, I’m listening to Marie Rutkowski’s The Winner’s Crime (I read the novel last year) in preparation for this month’s release of The Winner’s Kiss.

Thinking About

The Author Bucket List I recently created. It’s got all sorts of professional goals on it (short-term and long-term) and I’m so looking forward to crossing items off as I accomplish them. (Speaking of bucket lists, I revised my Thirty Before 35 list, and I’m now calling it my Life List. Find it HERE, if you’re interested.)

Anticipating

The NoVaTEEN Book Festival! It’s this Saturday, and I’m volunteering my time to help with registration and room monitoring. Mostly, I’m just excited about all the fan-girling I’ll get to do, because the author line-up is aMaZiNg.  If you live in the area, you should come — it’s not too late to register, and it’s free. 👍

Wishing

You’ll check out the debut group I belong to, The Swanky Seventeens. We’re growing every day, our members’ books sound fantastic, and we’re currently featuring interviews with 2016 debut authors on our blog. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook, too.

Making Me Happy

My friend Jessica Love‘s second novel, In Real Life, releases today! Guys, I read an early version of this contemporary YA romance (think Catfish set in Vegas) a few years ago, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the finished copy. It’s an incredible story! Find its summary, advance praise, and order links HERE. Congrats, Jess! ❤

Did you post a “Currently…” this week?
Let me know in the comments, and I’ll be sure to visit! 

Thirty Before 35 –> Life List

(Read my original Thirty Before 35 post here.)

Sun

Tomorrow I turn 35. Yowza.

If you’ve been following along for awhile, you know I set some goals two years ago, when I turned 33. I’ve crossed quite a few off the list, which makes me really happy. I’ve also stopped caring about accomplishing others. Others still, I’m hoping realize one day. And so, I’m giving myself more time.

Indefinite time, in fact. 

I’m going to revise my Thirty Before 35 list, and I’m going to start calling it my Life List. I’ll add to it occasionally, too, because surely I’ll come up with new goals as time passes. I’m excited!

So, here’s my Thirty Before 35 list as it stands today…

  1. Bake a Rainbow Cake.
  2. Sell a novel (or two!).
  3. Complete a 500 piece puzzle.
  4. Have a picnic on the beach.
  5. Read and review a Stephen King novel.
  6. Drink a Hurricane in New Orleans.
  7. Have professional family photos taken.
  8. Run Disney’s Princess 1/2 Marathon.
  9. Attend a writers’ conference or festival.
  10. Order a Stitch Fix box.
  11. See a musical.
  12. Plan and host a tea party with my girl.
  13. Make a quilt.
  14. Take an international vacation.
  15. Watch Friday Night Lights in its entirety.
  16. Complete a three day juice cleanse.
  17. Write a manuscript that’s not contemporary YA.
  18. Pass 2K Twitter followers.
  19. Read Speak (my most shameful YA gap book).
  20. Host a brunch.
  21. Master “Space-A” travel.
  22. Attend a writers’ retreat.
  23. Get a massage.
  24. Make Chocolate Babka.
  25. Add another child to our family.
  26. Visit Mount Rushmore.
  27. Master “Crow” pose in yoga.
  28. Go to a(nother) country music concert.
  29. Plant an herb garden.
  30. Teach my daughter to swim (really well).

And here’s my new and improved…

Life List

Stay tuned for updates. 🙂

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Last Friday I came home to the most amazing surprise — a “congrats on your book deal!” package from my friend Tracey Neithercott. All kinds of wonderful things were included (First & Then, Jelly Bellies, and adorable paper products) but my very, very favorite item is the framed art below. It features a line from Kissing Max Holden and it made my heart incredibly happy. Thank you so very much, Tracey! ❤

Reading

Thicker Than Water by Kelly Fiore, which is fantastic so far. It’s a dark contemporary YA about drug addiction and its impact on a teen girl and her family. I can’t wait to see where it goes from here…

Watching

Over the last two weeks, I binge watched Making a Murderer, which was excellent. Obviously the documentary is biased and I’m still not 100% sure of the accuseds’ guilt, but I feel certain the trials were unjust. This decades-spanning story was both terrifying and utterly captivating. I recommend watching if you’re into true crime and/or criminal justice (or lack thereof).

Listening To

Erin Morenstern’s The Night Circusand it is magical. I’m not sure how I missed reading it when it was first published in 2011, but I’m so happy to be listening now. It’s narrated by Jim Dale (of Harry Potter audiobook fame) and he’s just as remarkable as the story’s plot and atmosphere and prose.

Thinking About

The weekend I spent on the Chesapeake Bay with these writers…

So thankful for stunning sunrise walks, time dedicated to my revision, and the opportunity to learn from and be inspired by these girls. ❤

Anticipating

The end of my first round of Kissing Max Holden revisions. I’m well on my way, and planning to be done by the end of February. I’m super excited about the changes I’m making — I think Jill and Max are benefiting. 🙂

Wishing

Okay, this is going to sound crazy, but I’m wish for snow — though not for me. (I hate snow. And winter. And being cold.) My daughter wants to sled and make snow angels and have snowball fights very badly, but so far we’ve had a super mild winter. For her sake, I’m hoping we get a few flurries soon.

Making Me Happy

The beach — I’ve missed it since we moved from Florida to Virginia. I feel very lucky to have been able to enjoy these views over the last few days. The Chesapeake Bay is beautiful; even though it was very, very cold, I found seashells and sea glass and even a shark’s tooth!

  

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My new yoga studio! My husband bought me a membership for Christmas and it is aMaZiNg. I’ve practiced yoga for several years now, but mostly at home. I’ve never consistently attended classes, but after just a few short weeks in the studio with instructors who are deeply knowledgeable about the practice, I’m hooked.

Reading

Julie Murphy’s sophomore novel, Dumplin’, a contemporary YA about a small town girl who loves Dolly Parton and ends up an unlikely participant in a local beauty pageant. So far, it’s as glorious as its cover.

Watching

My husband and I just caught up on Homeland and, as per usual, my favorite character appears to have died in the season finale. I’m sad. My falling in love with a TV character pretty much guarantees his or her demise, which is why I don’t watch much TV.

Listening To

The new season of Serial, for starters. It explores the case of Bowe Bergdahl, the Army soldier who was held as a POW by the Taliban for five years. I have a lot of feelings about Bergdahl and the circumstances under which he was captured, and I’m finding Sarah Koenig’s reporting compelling as usual. I’m also listening to a YA historical fiction, Stacey Lee’s Under a Painted Sky (using the new-to-me OverDrive app). I’m enjoying the story and the narration very much.

Thinking About

Goal setting, and the sort of 2016 I’d like to have. In the past, I’ve set a focus word for the New Year (ResolveAcceptanceStoicism, and Present) and tried to keep that word in mind as I went about the business of being a wife, mama, friend, and writer. This year, though, I’ve decided to create a mission statement, one that will hopefully remind me to live my best life in 2016. Already, it feels like a postive step forward…

Anticipating

My upcoming writers’ retreat! I get to spend four days in a lovely Maryland house with five of my favorite writer buddies. I’ve got plenty to do as far as my Kissing Max Holden edits go, and I’m super excited about a girls’ weekend away. Can. Not. Wait!

Wishing

For smooth sailing as I tackle a fairly substantial revision. I know the changes on my To-Do checklist are going to make for a stronger story, but man… I’d forgotten how challenging revisions can be! One tiny alteration, and I’ve suddenly got a waterfall of adjustments to make. But! I love revising a thousand times more than drafting, so no complaints here. 🙂

Making Me Happy

Guys, I signed a publishing contract. I have an amazing editor, and an edit letter I believe in. Kissing Max Holden is on Goodreads. I have an author page on Facebook. In 2017, my book is going to be a BOOK. How can I not be happy?!

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My most recent craft book purchase: The Emotion Thesaurus. ABC Family’s holiday movie marathon — here’s full the schedule! This recipe for Beer Mac-N-Cheese — the best homemade mac I’ve ever made. My new favorite pens: Pilot’s FriXion Point Erasable Gel Pens. And the beautiful #SipSwap mug (and super thoughtful extras!) sent to me by Laura Marcella.

Reading

Over the long weekend I read Sloth, an adult novel by Ella James. It was intense, and very good (I reviewed it HERE). Now, I’m reading Erin Bowman’s Vengeance Road. It’s as excellent as its cover implies. (Don’t forget to peruse my November Reading Wrap-Up HERE.)

Watching

Mockingjay – Part 2, finally. Overall, I think The Hunger Games movies are an excellent adaptation of the book series. Jennifer Lawrence is a goddess, and the films are visually stunning. Also, Effie and Haymitch? I buy it…

Listening To

I’ve been listening to my Kissing Max Holden playlist in the car a lot lately (driving my daughter nuts in the process). It’s full of awesome country music, plus a few fun poppy numbers, and includes songs by Taylor Swift, Johnny Cash, Lady Antebellum, Kenny Chesney, Tim McGraw, The Band Perry, Echo Smith, Dolly Parton, and Zac Brown Band, among others.

Thinking About

Some of my most anticipated 2016 YA releases…

Anticipating

The holidays! We’ve decorated our house; it looks lovely and festive. Now I need to get my shop on. My dad and my father-in-law are always the most difficult to buy for… Any gift recommendations for men in their early sixties?

Wishing

You’ll check out my post about how you can help support a fantastic literary event aimed at middle schoolers: Cavalcade of Authors West. It promotes Pacific Northwest YA and MG authors while introducing kids to a variety of genres and subject matter and promoting reading and writing within the community. And in case you didn’t know, today’s Giving Tuesday — the perfect day to donate to worthy causes. Click to support to Cavalcade of Authors West

Making Me Happy

The long holiday weekend, which is exactly what I needed to recharge for another week of substitute teaching.

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My New York & Company 7th Avenue Design Studio Knit Pants, which look like dress slacks and fit like yoga pants, currently buy one, get one free. The Emotion Thesaurus: A Writer’s Guide to Character Expression, which I bought because my writing descriptions are starting to feel quite stagnant; I’m loving how this craft book gives me fresh perspective. Shenandoah National Park, which we’ve now hiked twice — so beautiful. The YA Buccaneers, who invited me to guest post about my experience submitting to Swoon Reads. And my new Erin Condren notebook, which I’m using to compile family recipes and my go-to Pinterest favorites; it’s mostly filling up with desserts.

Reading

I finally finished Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers. It took me for-freaking-ever to get through, but that is in no way a reflection of my feelings about the book — I loved it! Ismae is a badass, and her story transported me to 15th century Brittany completely; I was totally caught up in the political intrigue and, of course, the most excellent romance. Now, I’m reading Shattered Blue by Lauren Bird Horowitz, a romance involving a girl and a Fae — not usually my thing. But this recent release is set at a Monterey boarding school, which is so totally my thing. Plus, the writing is gorgeous. I’m really liking it so far!

Watching

My new favorite You-Tuber, Ashley at That is All. I discovered her a few months ago while pouring over planner reviews (her review was a big part of the reason I bought an InkWELL Press planner for 2016), though the main focus of her channel is makeup. She’s delightful and she has cute kitties and I’ve picked up a few excellent skin care products on her recommendation.

Listening To

Am I the only gal who ends up with an anthem for each manuscript she drafts? For my current WiP, I’m listening to Matt Nathanson’s Faster on repeat, all the time. It’s inspiring all the romance. ❤

Thinking About

The tragic terrorist attacks that occurred in France and Beirut last week. My heart is broken for everyone affected.

Anticipating

The holidays. My husband and daughter love the many foods associated with Turkey Day (I love the pie) and my parents are coming for a visit during Christmastime. Looking forward to getting started on my seasonal decorating and shopping. Our Elf on the Shelf will be here before we know it. 🙂

Wishing

That she will always fall asleep with a book in reach.

Making Me Happy

I have a job! Well, sort of. I recently joined the pool of substitutes in Fairfax County, hoping to work two or three days a week at my daughter’s elementary school. But on my first day of eligibility, I was offered a multiple-week position as an instructional assistant in one of the resource rooms. So, I get to visit various classrooms and work with kids on various subjects, including reading and writing, which is awesome. The only downside is that my daily drafting time has all but disappeared. Who wants to do nighttime sprints with me?

What’s currently making YOU happy?

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

My new Nikes, which I’ve been eyeing for months. Chestnut Praline Lattes with coconut milk, ’cause everything’s better with coconut milk. Erin Condren notebooks — since I’m going with an InkWell Press Planner in 2016 (!!!), I used my stockpile of EC credits to score a notebook and several dividers, and I’m going to use it to record family recipes. Finally, Pumpkin Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting — so yummy!

Reading

I recently finished Violent Ends, an anthology about a school shooting which totally blew me away. Find my review and an opportunity to win a copy of your own HERE. Last night I finished The Game Plan by Kristin Callihan, the recently released third book in her Game On series, which I’m kind of obsessed with. A smutty good time. 😉 Now I’m reading Grave Mercy by Robin LeFevers, which is excellent so far.

 

Watching

Parks and Recreation. Sitcoms aren’t usually my thing, but this one… I’ve been watching compulsively, and ~literally~ every episode makes me laugh. Plus, they’re short, easy to fit in while I’m folding laundry or cleaning a bathroom. (My life is so glam.)

Listening To

I 💜 Echosmith!

Thinking About

My WiP, a contemporary YA set in Northern Virginia/DC. It’s been extra fun to draft because I’ve taken myself on a few field trips to visit some of the locations where scenes are set. For example, the Washington National Cathedral, which is gorgeous. My WiP’s hovering right around 30K, and I’m currently brainstorming fun and unexpected ways to move it forward. 
Anticipating

November 15th, the last day readers can leave ratings and comments on their favorite Swoon Reads stories to help give them a shot at publication. After the 15th, Swoon Reads editors will start reading and considering… All the nerves! (Find my story, Kissing Max Holden, HERE.)

Related… A reader at Swoon Reads recently left the loveliest comment on Kissing Max Holden — totally made my day. An excerpt from her review: This seems like it wasn’t written to impress anyone. No ego in it – just humanity in all its joyous and shattering pieces.

Wishing

That I could relive this night! I met Judy Blume, guys, and she was wonderful. So sweet and enthusiastic and encouraging and inspirational. She was exactly the woman I’ve imagined over the nearly thirty years that I’ve been a fan. ❤

 

Making Me Happy

Sip Swap is approaching! I’ve signed up for this super fun writers’ mug exchange hosted by Kelsey Macke and Jessica Love — have you?!

What’s currently making YOU happy?

KISSING MAX HOLDEN’s ♥ Love List ♥

Cover

In case you’re on the fence about whether my swooniest story, Kissing Max Holden, is for you, I’ve compiled a Love List* which might help sway you. Below, you’ll find some of the many nuggets of inspiration that helped me draft and revise (and revise and revise) this story I love so much…

Coconut Ice Cream
Johnny Cash
Ford F-150s
Mistletoe
Baking
Foggy Mornings
Truffles
Fountain Soda

The Space Needle
Charming Pâtisseries

Slow Kisses
Frenzied Kisses
Up-Against-a-Wall Kisses
Pirates

Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Neighbors
Football
Drip Coffee
Rainy Days

Complex Families
Riverside Roads

Bunco
Small Towns
Christmas Tree Farms
Baby Sisters

Ambiguously Happy Endings

  

Intrigued? Read the first chapter of Kissing Max Holden HERE, or jump over to Swoon Reads, where you can read the story in its entirety, free!

*Love Lists are inspired by Stephanie Perkins’ post on Natalie Whipple’s blog.

Currently…

(I plan to do a “Currently…” post every other Tuesday. You should join me! Find the origins of the idea HERE.)

Currently

Loving

Bath & Body Works yummy “gourmand” inspired candles — Pumpkin Coconut and Buttercream Icing are next on my to-buy list. Also loving The Smithsonian’s National Zoo, which we visited last weekend. It’s free, and it’s full of  beautiful, unique animals, like pandas. So cute! Additionally, Dunkin’ Donuts Old Fashioned Donut ground coffee — my favorite. Finally, homemade lentil soup. My recipe’s in my head, but it’s similar to the one I linked. I add crumbled Italian sausage, though, because my husband believes all meals should involve meat.

Reading

I recently finished Love Fortunes and Other Disasters by Kimberly Karalius, which was just as cute as its cover. In the spirit of Halloween, I’m currently reading a YA horror, Daughters Unto Devils by debut author Amy Lukavics, which is atmospheric and creepy and spectacular so far.

 

Watching

I finished Gilmore Girls! Spoilers ahead… I’m so relieved by how things wrapped up between Luke and Lorelai — they are so obviously meant to be! Even though they were left sort of open ended (as in, they didn’t marry or move in together or start a family), as far as I’m concerned, they’ve gotten their happily ever after. I’m not so content with how things ended between Rory and Logan, though, especially considering they were together for three years. Logan definitely had his faults, but he totally grew on me and was my favorite of Rory’s boys. Even though I understand why she didn’t accept his proposal, the whole “Goodbye, Rory,” followed by Logan just walking away felt… abrupt.

ETA – GILMORE GIRLS SERIES REVIVAL COMING TO NETFLIX!

Now I’m watching Parks and Recreation, and it’s totally cracking me up. I’ve got such a crush on Chris Pratt!

Listening To

Little Big Town’s Girl Crush. I’ve been obsessing over it since the beginning of the summer and I’m still amazed by the awesomeness of its lyrics.

Thinking About

Our weekend trip to the pumpkin patch. We visited Cox Farms, an enormous farm in Northern Virginia, and had a blast even though it was freezing. (Okay, it was, like, fifty degrees, but my fingertips were numb and the wind chill was practically glacial.) We walked a corn maze, went on a hayride, ate apple cider donuts, petted baby cows, flew down slides, and picked out some very cute pumpkins. Highly recommend if you live in the area. 🎃🍂
Anticipating

Halloween! Aside from carving our pumpkins, we’re ready. My daughter changed her mind about dressing up as a black cat; now she’s going as a movie star. We picked out a fancy dress and a feather boa and some super star sunglasses — all adorable. She’s so excited to trick-or-treat!

Wishing

For warmer weather. *womp womp* I know I sound like a broken record, but I just don’t get fall. It’s so cold and windy, and my yard is a mess of leaves, and — call me crazy — but I think Pumpkin Spice Lattes are gross. Give me iced tea and afternoons by the pool any day!

Making Me Happy

The flattering, humbling, and entirely inspiring comments I’ve been getting about my manuscript Kissing Max Holden over at Swoon Reads. I’m awed (but not at all surprised) by how supportive you all have been. Seriously. THANK YOU. If you missed my original post about Kissing Max Holden, you can find it HERE. You can find the story in its entirety (and read for free!) HERE
What’s currently making YOU happy?

Podcasts For (YA) Writers

Guys, I love a good podcast. I listen in the car, when I’m cooking, while I’m folding laundry, when I put on makeup, and while I mow the lawn. I’ve got lots of favorites, but today I’m focusing on my preferred writerly podcast. The four I’ve featured below are particularly beneficial for YA writers, but I suspect all sorts of creative-types can benefit from these conversations on craft, industry, inspiration, relationships, and ingenuity. Images link to podcast websites. From iTunes: “Podcast interview series featuring authors, an epic road trip, music, bookstores, tall tales & more, hosted by Sarah Enni.”

From iTunes: “The craft of creative writing, screenwriting, playwriting, children’s books, and literary fiction as discussed by Cheryl Klein and James Monohan. We share tips and techniques of interest to any writer, student, or fan of quality prose fiction, screenplays, plays, English literature, etc. Each episode, we analyze popular novels, movies, Broadway shows, television shows, short stories, and more. Featuring various expert guests as well as material from Cheryl Klein’s book ‘Second Sight’ and James’ app ‘The Storyometer.'”

From iTunes: “A candid discussion of sexuality, culture and young adult fiction, featuring YA authors Christa Desir and Carrie Mesrobian.”

From iTunes: “Author Sara Zarr in conversation with writers, visual artists, musicians, filmmakers and more, with a focus on the practical and psychological aspects of creativity and the creative process.”

What are your favorite (writerly or otherwise) podcasts?