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I love to write, and over the years, related activities have become just as enjoyable and important to me– things like researching the market, educating myself, networking, and building community. I have put together a list of some of my favorite activities and resources for anyone who cares. Please, bear in mind, each writer must find her own way. What works for me may not work for others. Also, the activities and resources listed here are a small representation of what’s available to writers.


Attending Conferences

I love attending conferences and have made many industry and local contacts through them. I used to attend conferences with the purpose of selling a book. While that is an important goal, I now attend more for mingling and developing relationships.

Local conferences are usually a good entry point. A Google search can bring those up.

Traveling to conferences can get expensive, but the good ones are worth the journey.

Research every conference thoroughly before attending. Some are money makers and downright predatory. I like to check Absolute Write Water Cooler for comments about conferences. I have found that conferences that are run by reputable organizations, such as SCBWI, are usually helpful and safe.


Researching the Market

For as long as I have been writing, I have been researching the market, and I am constantly keeping up with my research because the market changes so much. My best research usually happens whenever I query a manuscript because that’s when knowing the market really matters. Here are some of my go-to sites for finding recent book and publishing news:

Publisher’s Weekly

Twitter – Agents and editors constantly announce book deals and news. Follow your favorite industry pros to get their latest tweets.

Media Bistro – Posts jobs in the publishing industry

Goodreads

 

Querying Agents and Editors

I am constantly revising my query letters, and I always check the reputation, preferences, and past deals of the agent or editor to whom I am submitting. Here are some websites I use to help with all of that:

Absolute Write Water Cooler

Agent Query

QueryTracker

Query Shark

Publisher’s MarketPlace

Manuscript Wishlist

Avoiding Scams

SFWA Writers Beware

-Checking the acknowledgement pages of books you like can be helpful in finding agents and editors to query.


Researching Audiences and Networking Online

I find it’s helpful to talk to people who read widely in the genres I write. It puts me in touch with my audience. One of my favorites things to do is to go into Barnes and Noble, and other bookstores, and ask the employees about the books they like. They usually love to talk about books, and some of my favorite readings have come from their recommendations.

I have also found Twitter and Reddit helpful when mingling with other writers and readers of my genre. Some writers use these sites, and others, to build platform. (Basically, platform = your following.)

There are lots of other social networking sites that my writer friends love. Google and search for the ones that suit you.

Finding or Building a Critique Group

I highly recommend that every writers finds or establishes a critique group. It’s hard work to find or make a group that works, but it’s totally worth it. It took me years (upwards of five) to find the right mix of writers to work with, and my groups are always changing.

I started by finding out about large critique groups at local conferences. These groups eventually broke into smaller ones. In my experience, smaller groups make the reading more manageable.

I have also found groups online through contests, and these group members have sent each other stuff through a Twitter thread or email. I prefer in-person groups, but every writers is different, and the online groups can oftentimes supplement in-person groups.

I have also had to start many groups of my own, depending on on where I was located and what my skill level was at the time.

Participating in Online Contests

I have gotten into a few online contests, but more importantly, almost every time I’ve entered one, I met fellow writers, and sometimes I’ve gotten feedback from industry professionals. Feedback is not guaranteed, but it is immensely helpful when given.

I find contests by following contest hosts on Twitter. Brenda Drake and Michelle Hauck are just two of the very many hosts that every writer should follow online.

Here is a short list of some of the contests I love:

Sub It Club – Contest Roundup – Lists all of the contests by month

Pitch Wars

Pitch Madness

Pitch Slam!

Query Kombat

Nightmare on Query Street

Sun versus Snow

PitchMas


Exchanging Work with Critique Partners and Beta Readers

I used to ask friends and family members to read pieces of my manuscript, but I have found that strangers who read widely in my genre are usually more honest. I have used Goodreads and Twitter to find beta readers (different from critique partners). I recommend swapping smaller portions of a manuscript with potential critique partners, and then swapping larger portions with those you click with.

Some of my writer friends hire editors to go over their manuscripts. This can be expensive, and finding the right editor for your project can take time. But this is another option.

Educating Myself

I am constantly looking to learn more about the craft of writing and the market. Aside from pursuing a formal education, I have found many online resources that have helped me grow as a writer. Some of my favorites are Brandon Sanderson’s YouTube lectures, The Accidental Creative Podcast, and Writing Excuses Podcast.

An Essay

As we flew out of Hartsfield-Jackson, I studied the summer landscape for pops of blue. They were everywhere. A sprinkling here. A dense patch there. Cool blue rectangles blinked up at the sky like iPhone screens. The occasional cobalt circle marked an above ground pool. Every now and then, I saw a lake shape, or an oval the color of minty blast toothpaste. An hour and forty minutes later, as we descended into Newark, I saw them again—blue oases punctuating the neighborhoods of New Jersey.

Growing up, my family always had some kind of pool—the kiddie pool in which Dad could just about fit a leg, the three-foot deep, twelve-foot wide Calico that kept us cool for the few summers it lasted. Then, came the pool that defined my childhood summers through high school—four-feet deep, eighteen-feet in diameter, and solid walls you could push off of, so long as Mom wasn’t looking. There were even golden plastic anchors on the top caps.

It seemed like everyone in the neighborhood got a pool the summer we did. I could walk down my street and point out each one—most of them, above ground, like ours. The occasional in-ground pool would crop up, stirring within me the desire to jump the fence and test the waters.

Fall was the saddest time of year, when we had to drain the pool and cover it in this horrible black tarp that would collect rainwater and attract ducks. One fall, a rumor circulated that a pool in the neighborhood had burst. It belonged to Jamie M, my sworn nemesis since the third grade, when I told her I hated her guts and she told me the same.

Word on the bus was that her brother had been inside the house, watching television when the pool collapsed and sent a flood of water into the living room. At first I didn’t believe the story. It sounded like a grand flood myth. But later that year, as I rode my bike past the M’s street, I glanced a peek at the backyard. A bare gray spot marked where the pool had once stood. I almost felt bad for Jamie, but mostly, I felt sorry for her pool.

I am thirty-two years old now, and it has been at least fifteen years since our pool has gone to pool heaven. It didn’t burst. Like most things on earth, it got old and fell apart. My parents had patched the liner so much that it looked like one of those pebbled pool bottoms.

This past summer, when my sister and I visited home at the same time, we lamented the absence of the pool, as we had done every summer since Dad took it down. Grass had grown over the perfectly flat plot of ground where the steel walls had once contained 7,600 gallons of water, along with all of our childhood hopes and dreams. My sister and I sat in lawn chairs, on the very spot where years before we’d have been floating on rafts.

“You know mom thinks D— started using heroin because we got rid of the pool,” my sister told me. Several years ago, our younger brother got into drugs. He was lucky to survive the few bad trips that left him hospitalized and in need of rehabilitation. He’s clean now, as far as we know.

That night, my husband and I took a walk through the old neighborhood. My head turned toward anything that sounded like a pool filter. Mostly, I found myself gazing at air-conditioning units, but once in a while, the sound was actually coming from a pool filter. I would lose myself, gawking through a fence at the crystal waters that I so badly wanted to touch. Jamie M has since moved from the neighborhood, her yard, still without a pool.

My husband knows I want a pool. “Just a little above ground thing,” I keep telling him. I have no idea if our town will allow us to get one, and we would need to build a fence, that’s for sure. Not only that, but our yard is tragically sloped—terrible conditions for a pool.

Toward the end of our walk, we came to this one fence that I’d remembered seeing a pool behind, as we’d driven past earlier that afternoon. My husband didn’t believe me when I told him there was a pool in the yard. The fence did a good job of concealing it.

“It’s one of those giant inflatable ones,” I exclaimed, with all of the enthusiasm of someone trying to convince someone else of a dire truth. “Look, there’s a skimmer.” I pointed to a pole with a net on the end of it, hanging horizontally across the opposite side of the fence.

My husband still didn’t believe me. It wasn’t until I made him trespass onto the property with me and stare through the fence that he saw what only I had eyes for—a jumbo inflatable pool, as blue as the internet icon on his desktop.

“I want one,” I said. And it’s the truth. I would settle for an inflatable pool because that would mean having one.

Later that week, I asked my mom about what my sister had said about our brother.

“It’s true,” she told me. “I don’t think D— would have gotten into drugs if we’d kept the pool.”

“Why?” I couldn’t follow Mom’s logic, but that didn’t surprise me. This was the same woman who, when she found out that I was moving to Atlanta and my sister to Shanghai, asked me, “Atlanta, Shanghai, what’s the difference?”

“If we’d kept the pool,” she explained, “his friends would have spent more time here. He wouldn’t have gone to their houses so much. They all had pools. That’s why he hung out with them in the first place.”

I got where she was coming from, but pool or no pool, I still think drugs would have found my brother. I didn’t say this to Mom.

Since our return to Atlanta, I’ve seen my husband googling inflatable pools. He keeps bringing up the cost, telling me how much water it will take to fill even a small one. He’s right, and I also realize I don’t need a pool. Hot as Atlanta summers can be, a pool is a luxury. Gosh, air conditioning is a luxury, and we already have that.

In an attempt to fill the 18’ x 48” hole in my heart, I took our daughter to swim in our county pool this summer. At a mile and a half away from our house, it’s our closest body of water. I will spare my county the embarrassment of the details, but let it suffice to say, the conditions were sad.

Many friends have let us join them at their (much nicer) community pools, and we have crashed every pool party imaginable, but there’s nothing more enjoyable, or convenient, than opening the back door of your house and walking across the lawn to your very own blue oasis. Yes, pools have to be maintained, but I would gladly vacuum the liner and tend to the waters, just as Dad made me do when I was old enough to read the pH test.

When I think about the world, the way most people live, I feel guilty for even wanting a pool. I once visited a lady in my church after her house had been robbed. The thieves took everything of value—electronics, silver, family heirlooms. As we sat at her kitchen table, talking about the robbery, I noticed her journal was opened to a page entitled “Gratitude List.” The page was filled from top to bottom with things she was grateful for. She said she always made a gratitude list whenever anything bad happened to her. It helped her to see what she had.

Last week, as I sat in my living room, watching our thermometer reading break ninety, I made a list in my head. I was grateful for food, water, air conditioning, clothes, my husband, my daughter, music, literacy, books… The list went on. I could have sat there listing things all day, which is something in and of itself to be thankful for.

I still want a pool. The desire is as deep as the hole we’d have to dig in our yard if we decided to get one. I don’t wish this desire away. I don’t go to yoga and exhale it out like stale air. I like my desire. I like the fact that I don’t have something I want.

In the deep end of my heart, there is still a little girl who cries in the department store when her mother won’t buy her the doll she’s been stalking. Something in me empathizes with that little girl. I almost like her. She knows what she wants, and she wants it deeply. How inhuman it would be, to never feel the guilt of wanting something you know you don’t need. How very dull.

I’ve been singing since I was five and have composed dozens of songs. I’m working on getting more more videos on YouTube. Here’s my latest:

“The Power of Love” (Acaepella, in the style of Celine Dion)
Yes, I stood in the middle of my living room and did this:

 

“Sway” (cover of the classic version)

 

“Kiss from a Rose” (cover of Seal)

 

 

My favorite online resources for vocal training:

~Eric Arceneaux
~Singwise Vocals
~
Dr. Mike Mew
~
Power to Sing
~
Rejoice in Your Voice
~Rachel’s English
~Tom Burke
~Freya Casey
~Felicia Ricci
~Andrew Byrne

Blog_sad

A Poem?

I. Denial

I shouldn’t have let you read my book.
It’s not your genre.

You must have skimmed the good parts.

Were you reading with your eyes squinted?

II. Anger

You’re a bad reader,
or maybe you’re just stupid.

No, I think you’re jealous.

III. Bargaining

What’s wrong with present tense?

Okay, maybe I’ll experiment with the tense.

Plenty of movies begin
with a person waking up from a dream.

Yeah, I guess that’s cliche.

How about I start with my main character getting dressed
in front of a mirror?

I see what you’re saying about character consistency,
but that’s a huge edit.

My structure needs a little work,
my voice too.

I should read that ELEMENTS OF STYLE book
you told me about three years ago.


IV. Depression

My book sucks!

I’m so stupid.

No one is ever going to read my book.

Agents hate me.

I’ll never get into #PitchWars.

I’ll never get published.

I’m never doing NaNo again.

V. Acceptance

Thanks for the feedback.

I know I look annoyed,
but I really appreciate your comments.

You didn’t have to read all 280,000 words
of my novel.

You’re actually a pretty
perceptive reader.

My book will be better because of you.

Will you read it again
after I revise?

You’re such a good friend.

Let’s be critique partners.

I might self-publish someday.

If you like this poem, share it on Twitter:

Follow Alicia for more writing tips and insights:

Image from: http://wallgator.com/sad-love-stories-wallpaper-free-download-in-categories-love-stories/

Almost any writer who has queried agents knows that the task is daunting, and the odds of gaining representation are rather low. Agents get thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of emails a year, and from that, they might sign 2-3 clients–at best.

I’m not discouraged by these odds, but I have discovered an alternative route to pitching that I’ve really enjoyed–going through writers to get to agents. This doesn’t mean that I use my writer friends to pitch my book for me, or that I ask favors of my favorite authors. Rather, it means that I’ve been participating in Twitter pitch events hosted by agented writers who freely–and generously–offer their time to help emerging writers find agents.

I am a fan of this approach to pitching for many reasons. For one, the writers who host these events usually add a critique or feedback feature to their event, which means that writers get something they wouldn’t normally get via traditional querying–feedback. Most agents, like everyone else in the publishing world, are supremely busy, and they want polished manuscripts. Participating in Twitter pitches has helped me to see that some of my projects weren’t as polished as I thought, and this insight has saved me the grief of querying prematurely. Not only that, but I’ve gotten some decent feedback from these events, and that has helped with my revisions.

Another reason why I love participating in writer-hosted pitch events is that I make connections. I follow the mentors and writers participating in these events, and they follow me. More followers = more potential books sales when/if I finally do land that contract. More importantly, more followers = more friends and writing support.

All of this is to say that I think the traditional method of querying is changing. Instead of cold querying an agent, writers can participate in writer-sponsored pitch events first. The writers who host these events essentially serve as agency assistants–weeding through the slush and presenting agents with what they feel are the strongest entries. Many writers land agents this way and, those who don’t, still reap some kind of benefit.

If you’re interested in participating in such events, here’s a little list of some dedicated writers and groups who host them. I highly recommend following their blogs and following them on Twitter. If you know of anyone else who hosts similar events, then please, be a gem, and leave your recommendations in the comments.

Brenda Drake: @brendadrake
Michelle Hauck: @Michelle4Laughs
Authoress: @AuthoressAnon (FIY, The Authoress is not Miss Snark.)
Writeoncon: @WriteOnCon

Happy querying! And may the odds be ever in your favor.

This weekend I attended the Atlanta Writers Conference at the Airport Westin. This conference is very basic in its layout, and if you sign up for the right events, you can get some really great industry feedback. I’ve attended AWC twice so far, and I’ve found that the most worthwhile events are the mixer, the query letter critique, and the pitch sessions.

The mixer is free with your registration for any other conference event, and the agents and editors are obligated to attend. For the cheapest access to the mixer, attendees can sign up for a 30.00 Q&A panel and pay the required Atlanta Writer Club fee, which is 40.00. That would get you into the mixer for 70.00. Yes, for just 70.00 you can spend 3 hours nursing a martini while mingling with 6-8 industry professionals. I’ve made more contacts, and I’ve gotten more requests at this informal event than I have at any other formal pitch event that I’ve attended. Not to mention, I’ve met some of my best writer friends at this mixer.

Another great event is the query letter critique. For 50.00, participants get feedback on their query letter, and at the end of the session, you can always ask your industry professional if s/he would like you to email them your revised query letter. If s/he says “yes,” then you’ve just tacked a successful pitch onto your critique. Way to kill two birds with one stone. Also, when I attended the query letter critique, there were two industry professionals present, which doubled my chances of getting a request.

Lastly, the pitch sessions can be helpful. I had a mixed experience with this event, as the written instructions didn’t match up with what the industry professional was expecting. The person who pitched after me had the same experience, and I wouldn’t be surprised if many others did as well. I’m guessing there was a miscommunication in the written instructions that we’d received. It’s really unfortunate to be in a situation like this, as it can sour the tone for everyone. Even so, the feedback from the pitch sessions is generally helpful.

On the flip side, I’ve talked with conference attendees who’ve expressed feeling disrespected or misinformed by their industry professionals during the pitch events. I’d imagine that this happens a lot at conferences everywhere. Think about it: A handful of weary, travel-worn agents and editors are in constant contact with droves of aspiring writers. Someone is bound to get cranky. It is unfortunate when feelings get hurt, and in my opinion, disrespect of any kind is inexcusable. But who am I?

There are some events at this conference that could benefit from improvement, namely the workshops. I usually pay for these because the titles sound enticing, but I have yet to be impressed by any of the speakers or the content.

I have never attended the manuscript critique, which is the most expensive event, at 150.00. I have nothing to say about this event as of yet.

I also have yet to attend the Q&A panels, but I’ve talked with other attendees who have said that the panels are helpful.

A word of advice to writers who are planning to attend an AWC event. You will maximize your time there if you research the industry professionals beforehand. Chances are that of the 6-8 editors and agents who attend, only 1-2 will be acquiring projects in your genre. I highly recommend studying their Twitter pages, bios, and any other relevant information you can find. Know thy audience, right?

I remember fondly learning about the Freytag Pyramid in elementary school English. The pyramid was a great introduction to my understanding of plot and climax, but as I got older, and the stories that I read became more complex, I discovered that this neat little pyramid just didn’t cut it. But through college, my lessons on plot never seemed to present anything different. Even recently, I attended a presentation in which the pyramid was brought up by industry professionals when discussing plot. That’s when I began to seek out some other analogy that would help me to better understand plot structure. 

I love a good roller coaster as much as I love a good book, and just this weekend it hit as to why that might be. Both roller coasters and (many) books are structured to give those who dare to enter a thrilling ride. I’m generalizing here, and I’m well aware that not all books and roller coasters are created equal. But for many books, I think that a roller coaster may be a more relevant analogy for plot than is the old pyramid. 

For those of you who might be scratching your heads when I mention the Freytag Pyramid, here’s an illustration of what I mean. In a nutshell, pyramid plot structure dictates that the story should begin in a state of normalcy, become complicated and conflicted, rise to a climax, and then return to a changed or renewed state of normalcy. I love this pyramid explanation of plot, and I think it’s a great way to get novice readers and writers to understand structure.

But I think a roller coaster is a more appropriate analogy for novels, especially the high concept ones. Here’s why: A roller coaster usually has more than one peak, or pyramid, if you will. I can’t think of any novel that I’ve recently read that didn’t have multiple climaxes. Yes, many stories contain a single major climax, or pyramid peak, that encompasses all of the others, but there are other climaxes.

In this way, each drop of a roller coaster is its own pyramid. Notice how many roller coasters begin with a huge drop. In stories, this first major drop is the first major incident in the novel. It’s the event that turns the main character’s world upside down. It’s the event that sets the tone and the course of action in motion for the rest of the story. In many ways, this first event is like that first gut-wrenching drop of a roller coaster ride. As a friend pointed out, this biggest drop should actually come at the end of the story. As you can see, just as roller coasters are limited by the laws of physic, this analogy has its limitations.

Secondly, roller coasters, like stories, contain loops–events that literally reverse the events of the story. These loops are the moments at which the reader realizes that a certain character isn’t who she said she was, or those moments at which the main character is set back on his or her journey. We could say the same of twists, too. Story twists, like roller coaster twists, throw unexpected motion into the plot.

Thirdly, many roller coasters have a big drop or surprise toward the end. In stories, this final surprise is the main character’s final obstacle. Oftentimes, this obstacle is surprising and unexpected. For instance, it’s when the villain who we thought was killed comes back to life, grabs his gun, and aims it one last time at the hero. Good stories, like good roller coasters, save this thrill for the end, executing it at the moment at which the audience least expects it.

And finally, a good roller coaster will gently drop you off at the exit, unharmed, but changed and exhilarated. Isn’t that just how a good story should leave you off? 

This roller coaster analogy is particularly helpful to me when I think of my role as a writer. I’m an engineer, a job title that is a lot easier for me to understand than “pyramid builder.” I guess writers are pyramid builders to some degree, setting our stories into place one brick at a time, but when I think of myself as a roller coaster “engineer” I can visualize my role better. I can see the design. I can feel the weight of responsibility in building my tracks properly. I can almost hear the screams and can picture the thrilled looks on my riders’ faces. As a story engineer, I understand better what it means to gain my readers’ trust while leading them through a perilous journey that makes harrowing amusement park lines well worth the wait.

I had the pleasure of attending SCBWI‘s SouthernBreeze SpringMingle 2014 in Atlanta this past weekend, and I must say, this conference packed a lot of punch. Not only did SCBWI schedule some of the industry’s most renowned editors and agents, but also the very reasonable entrance fee included three great meals, Starbucks coffee, and cookies that fell straight from the ovens of heaven. Let’s be real; it’s all about the food. In all seriousness, this conference was rich, both in its format and in the support that it offered to its attendees.

SpringMingle is by far the most spiritual conference I’ve been to, with several faith-based books making slideshow appearances. The facilitators held a moment of silence for “thanks” before each meal. Even the regional advisor, Claudia Pearson, wore a wide-brimmed hat, one for each day, that brought me right back to the Easter Sunday mornings in the old Presbyterian church of my childhood. I still see a hat like that every now and then at the church I attend a in Atlanta, but those sightings are few and far between.

Enough about food and hats. What about the conference itself? I went to the conference to meet agent and author Ammi-Joan Paquette as well as editor Cheryl Klein, perhaps best known for her work on the last two Harry Potter books. In addition to meeting these two lovely ladies, I got to see an inspirational presentation from the prolifically talented Ruth Sanderson, and a heart-warming presentation by Cheryl Willis Hudson, editor and author of “My Friend Maya Loves to Dance.” I also got an inside look at what an art director does thanks to the lovable and humorous Lucy Ruth Cummins.

My interactions with the panelists were warm and cordial and the unspoken “no pitching” rule, as in no pitching your books outside of a formal pitch appointment, added to the nourishing atmosphere of this conference. “No pitching” may sound like a huge turnoff to writers looking to sell their book, but let me explain why it’s not. “No pitching” encourages attendees to be in listening, as opposed to talking, mode. Removing the possibility for pitching also makes the presenters less on the defense and, thereby, more likely to strike up natural conversations with attendees. They don’t have to worry about being put on the spot, and attendees can get to know them on a personal level.

Just because you can’t pitch your project in person, does’t mean you can’t pitch via email later. In fact, all attendees were given special pitch instructions for each panelist. The message behind this pitch-later approach is clear: The quality of your writing is what really matters. It’s true that agents and editors might sign with you because you’ve successfully sold yourself to them, but when your book comes out, it’s the writing that sell its. Your book must sell itself. Unless you’re a celebrity, it usually doesn’t matter how charming, smart, or witty you are. Having thousands of Twitter followers is great, but numbers won’t impact the quality of your writing. The agents/editors at this conference are serious about publishing, and when they’re considering your book, they want to know that it can stand up on its own.

If you are planning to attend SCBWI conferences in the future, which I highly encourage you do if you write children’s books (all ages through YA), here are a few tips that I hope will help you to maximize your experience:
1) The Southern Breeze website is buggy. Be diligent and follow up with anything you sign up for.
2) The email list is hard to find, and if you’re not a SCBWI member, you might miss out on important instructions. Try to get on the listserv, if you can find it.
3) Follow the instructions (if you can find them) for anything you submit to the conference. The facilitators are strict about this.
4) Sign up immediately for critique sessions and one-on-one meetings with panelists because these slots fill up FAST.
5) Don’t expect questions or materials you’ve submitted for group activities to get addressed during the conference. You might be one of the lucky ones whose material/questions reach the top of the pile first, but think of any such feedback opportunities as icing on the cake.
6) Be patient. Almost all of the activities are run by volunteers, and things don’t always go smoothly.

Don’t let these minor glitches stop you from missing out on the wonderful opportunities awaiting you at the next SCBWI conference. Also, if you’re not a Christian, no worries. The faith-based touches are subtle and the quiet moment of “thanks” before dinner is religion-neutral. This group is truly all about the writing and the nurturing of that writing. For me, attending SpringMingle was like getting a big warm hug from a Southern grandmother who loves her pastel hats.

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A big thank you to Ninjaitis for nominating me for the Leibster Award, an award given to promising blogs with less than 1,000 followers. This is a just-for-fun kind of award, and it helps to promote new blogs. As a recipient of the award, Ninjaitis asked me to answer interview questions. Here they are.

1. What is a movie you could watch over and over? Matrix

2. What is your favorite book genre? (bonus points if you give me a recommendation for a book!) Can I add an “s” to the end of “genre,” to make it plural? Okay, if I had to pick one, I’d say YA, because YA encompasses LOTS of awesome books. HUNGER GAMES is probably my most recent favorite in the world of YA books.

3. Do you have a schedule for blogging or do you update randomly? Randomly, but I try not to go longer than a month without a posting.

4. How do you beat procrastination? I’ll let you know someday.

5. What is one thing in life that you will regret if you don’t try doing it? Reading at least 5% of the books on my ever-growing “to read” list.

6. What is your biggest fear? Not doing good or kind things when I know that I should.

7. If you were granted any wish right now, what would you do with it? I’d wish for world peace. Then, I’d have nothing to do, nobody would.

8. When you go to a theme park, what do you head for first? The roller coaster with the biggest drop and the most loops.

9. Who is your favorite Harry Potter character and why? Mrs. Weasley. She’s warm and maternal…and a witch.

10. What song is stuck in your head right now? Sting – “Don’t Stand so Close to Me”

I was also asked to list 11 random facts about myself. Here they are:

1. I drink at least 1 cup of tea a day.
2. Organizing drawers satisfies me like a gourmet meal.
3. I have a love-hate relationship with French macarons–love to eat them, hate to make them.
4. I cry whenever I watch Olympic ice skating.
5. Travel inspires my imagination more than pretty much any other life activity.
6. I love both cats and dogs, but I would classify myself as a cat person. It’s a texture things. Cats are just so fluffy.
7. In an alternative reality, I’d like to BASE jump from the Freedom Tower.
8. I chew gum like a cow.
9. I’m from the Jersey Shore.
10. I spent a night in a Mercedes in Italy once.
11. I boxed in graduate school.

My Nominations

Part of the fun of this award is that recipients get to nominate other blogs for it. I’ve selected the following blogs for the awards:

thejerseyfarmscribe
Caity’s Readviews
Writeous
MyInnerMG
The Writing Well


Accepting or Declining my Nomination

If I’ve nominated your blog for the Liebster Award, and you don’t accept, then that’s a-okay. Simply ignore my nomination. No response necessary. If you would like to accept the award, then please follow the 8 steps below:

The Official Rules Of The Liebster Award
If you have been nominated for The Liebster Award AND YOU CHOOSE TO ACCEPT IT, write a blog post about the Liebster award in which you:

1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.

2. Display the award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note that the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)

3. Answer 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.

4. provide 11 random facts about yourself.

5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have a less than 1000 followers. (Note that you can always ask the blog owner this since not all blogs display a widget that lets the readers know this information!)

6. Create a new list of questions for the blogger to answer.

7. List these rules in your post (You can copy and paste from here.) Once you have written and published it, you then have to:

8. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!)

Questions for Nominees:

1) What’s you’re favorite city in the world and why?
2) When’s the last time you sang? What song?
3) Name three items in your wallet, purse, or pocket.
4) What’s something you always desired as a child–real or imagined–that you still want?
5) If you could give the future generation one sentence of advice, what would it be?
6) What’s something you never did in high school that you wish you had?
7) What three books do you think everyone should read?
8) What’s one thing you would do if you were invisible for a day?
9) Name a book that you don’t like to admit you’ve never read.
10) Give two alternative first names you’d go by if you had to.
11) If you could say one thing to your favorite teacher, right now, what would you say?

All the Best!

Whether I’ve over-enthusiastically latched on to the first person I met in grade school, or rigorously tried to follow in the footsteps of the writers I love, I’m guilty of having ridden a coattail or two in my life. Coattail riding is helpful, especially when you’re new to something, but too much riding can prevent you from finding your own way, in life and in your career. At some point, you’ve got to spread your own wings, or as some would say, cut the umbilical cord.

Below are 5 signs to help you identify coattail riding in your life. If you see yourself exhibiting any of these signs, then I encourage you to take steps to shedding the training wheels…like right now.

1) You mimic your friend/colleague’s every move. When I first became a full-time writer, I made friends with a published author, and I tried to find out everything I could about how she got to where she was in her career. There’s nothing wrong with this kind of information gathering. In fact if you’re an aspiring anything, I highly encourage that you talk to successful people in your field, to find out more about their journey. However, such information gathering can morph into coattail riding if you strive to do everything in the same way that you’re friend did. It’s fine to borrow wisdom and principles from others, but avoid using someone else’s journey as a blueprint for yours.

For instance, one principle that I learned from my writer friend is that it’s important to attend writing conferences. And while I may attend some of the same conference that she goes to, I also attend others that interest me. Now my friend and I have doubled the information between us. I can tell her about my conferences, and she can tell me about hers.

2) You drop your successful friend’s name into conversations and emails whenever you can. I am guilty as charged here. As an undergrad, I studied under a relatively famous poet, whom will go unnamed. I used this professor’s name every time that I could, hoping to dazzle my way to literary popularity. But I’ve come to realize that at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter how well your famous friends or teachers write. You will be judged by how well you write. Plus, you might scare off your other friends if you keep name dropping. Either, they’ll feel intimidated by your prestige, or they’ll think you’re arrogant. A few of your buddies might be awestruck by the names you drop, but if you keep at it, you might be left with an entourage, rather than a solid group of friends.

3) You feed into your friend’s love of flattery. Chances are that the friend whose footsteps you’re following, or whose name you keep dropping, will be flattered by your attention. You may be tempted to feed this person’s love of flattery. Don’t do it. You’ll become his/her entourage then, and you and this friend will never develop a balanced relationship.

4) Your successful friend sees you as a charity case. On the other hand, the person you admire might see you as needy. You tirelessly leach information, and your friend doesn’t find this flattering at all. In fact, it’s bordering on pathetic. She hates to see you in this way and continues to meet with you out of pity. Again, your relationship is imbalanced.

5) You feel like you have nothing valuable to offer to others. At this point, your coattail riding is so bad that you see yourself as a charity case. You grow bitter about your lowly position at the bottom of the ladder, and you doubt that you have anything valuable to offer to others. Reality: You may be lower on the totem pole than others, but your experiences are unique–different from anyone else’s. In that sense, you have an infinitude of information to offer. Even if you can’t express yourself as eloquently as your successful friend does, or if you have nothing to offer her career-wise, your experiences are valuable in some other way.

For example, your life might provide interesting writing material for your friend, or your quirky obsession with gourmet tea might add depth and richness to your conversations.

Remember, relationships are rarely all business. Someone has to keep things interesting, and that someone can be you. Just let go of those coattails and take flight in your own special way.