My Blog Turns 1!

Today is my blog’s first anniversary!

On May 31st of last year, I published my first post about reading the Selection series and how meeting Kiera Cass helped me to finally write and publish my first novel.

I wasn’t sure if I was going to like blogging. Writers learn to write in other’s voices. We write as our characters and we tell their stories. It was an interesting experience to start writing as myself and to tell my own story. I’m really happy with how my blog and website have evolved over the last year, and I really enjoy posting about my writing, books I’m reading, and anything else that affects my life as a writer.

To celebrate my blog’s anniversary, I wanted to look back on some of my favorite posts from the past year. Help me celebrate and check out some of my old posts!

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Writing a New Story: This post explains what I want readers to take away from my novel, which is of course the most important part of writing the book in the first place.

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World Changers: In this one I explain my calling to be a writer and how I want to use writing to do what I can to make a difference.

Top 10 Reasons I Love My Husband: In honor of Valentine’s Day, I created this list of all the reasons I love my husband.

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Being a “Real” Writer: In this post I reflect on making writing my job and give my view on what makes someone a real writer.

Why I Love Engage City Church: In this one I brag about how awesome my church is.

Why Write?: Here I talk about an important lesson I learned back in college-that everyone has something important to say.

Reading Your Own Writing: When I read through my novel for the first time after it’s publication, I had both a negative and positive feeling about it. Here I write about trying to focus on the positive.

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Molly and me reading together

Finding Motivation: In this post I talk about having the right mindset to write and how I created a reward system to keep myself motivated.

Somewhere Only We Know Launch Party: Here I have pictures from and talk about my book launch party.

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Getting Re-inspired by Les Misérables: Lastly, in this post I talk about finding inspiration from my favorite story ever.

I hope you have enjoyed reading my blog over the last year, and I hope you continue to join me on my writing journey by reading my blog for the years to come!

5 Writing Tools I Can’t Live Without

Writing is a craft, and you can’t be any good at a craft without the right tools. These are the five tools I can’t live without.

Scrivener
I don’t know why I waited so long to get Scrivener. I had heard so many good things about it, and three months ago I finally bought this amazing software. Seriously, Microsoft Word is nothing compared to this. I love being able to keep all of my writing, research, outlining, and notes in the same place. And I love being able to jump around to work on different parts of what I’m writing, or to switch quickly between writing and outlining. Or even to work on both at the same time.

There was definitely a learning curve to get used to Scrivener. I spent several weeks going through the demo multiple times and reading the handbook. I’m sure there are still many things I need to learn, but for now I’ve got the hang of it. I highly recommend this software to any writer.

Planners
I never get anything done unless I have it written on a To Do List. I tend to be forgetful and have a lot of things running around in my head at once. At the start of each week I have to plan out everything that needs to get done so that I can stay organized and can accomplish what I need to. I have my weekly list of writing tasks, a social media planner, daily writing task lists, and my personal planner. I don’t know what I’d do without all of them.

Colored Pens
I love being as organized as possible, and color coding is a big part of that. I have my set of colored pens that I use for just about everything. Ink Joy pens are my favorite because the colors are bright and they’re easy to write with. Each story I work on has its own color that I use to make edits on paper copies, and I color code in all of my planners as well.

colored pens

Textbooks

I keep most of my writing textbooks on my desk so that they’re right in front of me and I can draw from them for help or inspiration. I have everything from a book on outlining to a book on language creation for science fiction to a baby name book. Some are from college, some I’ve read after college, and others I haven’t gotten to yet. But ever since graduating from college I’ve realized how important it is to continue my writing education, so I try to read from one of these textbooks every day. The craft of writing requires constant learning and fine-tuning in order to do it well.

K-Love

This last one is probably the most important. Writing is my calling, and I want to make sure that God is with me whenever I’m doing what he’s called me to do. So I have Christian radio play in the background all of the time when I’m writing. My favorite station is K-Love. Not only do I get to hear some of my favorite music and artists while I’m working, I get that constant reminder that God is with me and that I’m loved. This music has a way of pushing God’s promises, word, and love into your heart and mind, even if it’s just on in the background. I don’t think I’d be able to do the difficult task of writing every day if I wasn’t constantly listening to these good messages.

Hope Bracelets

I’ve been working on a way to combine two of my passions—writing and jewelry-making—and I am so excited to announce that I will now be selling Hope Bracelets!

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I’ve been making jewelry since I was twelve years old. I love all of the colorful beads and the peaceful calm I get when I’m making patters and stringing beads. I enjoy any chance I get to work with my hands and let my mind wander into my story worlds.

Ever since Somewhere Only We Know was published I had been trying to think of a way I could help spread the message of hope that the book offers and maybe raise some money for organizations that help victims of abuse. Then I found these really cute charms that say “hope” on them and I decided to make bracelets with them and give a portion of the proceeds to a local domestic violence shelter.

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All of the bracelets are green to tie in with the nature elements of Somewhere Only We Know. Each bracelet is handmade and one-of-a-kind. I’ll be selling them for $10.00 each and donating half of the proceeds to a local shelter.

Get a bracelet. Wear it. Spread hope. And know that part of your purchase is going toward a great cause.

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My One Year Anniversary with GenZ Publishing

One year ago today I got the email.

I was on my break from my customer service job at the mall, sitting in the food court. I checked my email on my phone while I was eating my lunch, and I instantly started shaking and crying.

A few weeks before, I had found a publisher on Twitter called GenZ Publishing. Their name had intrigued me, and so I had checked out their website. They said they were looking for new, innovative writers, particularly young adults writing for young adults. I was a young adult doing just that. I was unpublished and trying to write innovative stories for young adults. I responded to one of their tweets asking “What are you writing?” and told them about the book I was working on. They asked for me to query them even though my book wasn’t finished yet.

genz

I was actually pretty far from finishing the book. I had only been writing it for a month and a half at the time, yet it was flowing out quickly. I was only about a third done with the book, but I still spent the next couple days writing a query and sent it in to GenZ, along with the first pages of my book.

It only took two weeks to hear back from them, and I couldn’t believe they wanted to sign with me without even reading the complete book. I had known that Somewhere Only We Know was the story that was going to get me published. There was something special about it, with the way it just flowed out without me thinking too much about what I was writing. And as soon as I had found GenZ online, I just knew there was something special about them, and I hoped that they’d be the ones to publish me. So when I did hear back from them, I just started crying in the mall’s food court.

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since that life-changing moment. My life feels so different now. I was able to quit that job at the mall and write full-time. I now have a published book. I get to do what I love to do every day. My dream is still to sign with a literary agent and land a book deal with a big traditional publisher, but GenZ was the first stepping stone along my way, and I’ll forever be so grateful to them.

Genz with me

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Capitalization

When I started writing Somewhere Only We Know, without making the conscious decision to do it, I made all of the first-person narrator’s pronouns lowercase (i, me, my). Frankie, the narrator, is a very young girl and has already been abused for several months when the book begins. Because of her youth and the fact that she has already been a victim for some time and hasn’t been able to do anything about it, I knew that Frankie would feel powerless in her situation. And I made the unconscious decision to show this by not capitalizing her pronouns.

Likewise, whenever Frankie refers to her father—her abuser—his pronouns are always capitalized (He, Him, His). Frankie only refers to him as “Daddy” when her sister makes her, and she only tells us his actual name once—Carl. The rest of the time he is merely “He” or “Him.”

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As I wrote about here, my crazy capitalization was a nightmare when it came to proofreading the book. I got so used to typing the incorrect capitalization that I had used lowercase “i”s when other characters were speaking and uppercase “H”s both when other characters talked about the father and when referring to any other male character throughout the book. It’s been almost a year since I finished writing Somewhere Only We Know, and I only just recently stopped typing lowercase “i”s in everything I write.

However, even though I had to read the book many many times to catch all of the capitalization errors, I am so glad that I wrote Somewhere Only We Know this way. I believe the capitalization has a profound effect on how you read the book.

When a book is written in first-person, readers get to almost become that character, seeing everything they see and doing everything they do. I believe that the lowercase pronouns help readers to really feel what Frankie feels when they become her through reading the book. When you constantly see lowercase pronouns, you begin to think of yourself as a little bit “less than,” which is exactly how Frankie views herself because of her abuse.

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She feels powerless in her situation, and she shows this by referring to herself in lowercase letters. At one point in the book Frankie is writing a story and her friend asks why she writes her “i”s lowercase. Frankie responds, “i shrug. i never really thought about it before. i guess i just think i don’t deserve a capital. Maybe in some ways… i view myself as worthless too. Or if not worthless, at least unworthy.”

Because Frankie feels powerless, her father has all of the power, and so that’s why his pronouns are all capitalized. A couple months ago my husband said to me, “I like how you made the dad faceless.” Faceless? I hadn’t even realized I’d done that. We don’t really get to see what the father looks like in the book. Frankie refers to him as a “bear,” big and strong. We know he works in a factory and that he has dark hair. And we only get to hear his name once. He is just Him, with a capital “H.” The father has become this big scary monster, faceless and hidden behind the mask of his capitalized pronouns. Frankie has no power against him, no way to fight him. When we constantly see his capitalized pronouns, he becomes this unknown, powerful thing that no one can fight against.

The best part of the book is when Frankie finds a way to gain some power, but I won’t spoil it for you. You’ll have to read the book to see what happens.

I don’t recommend trying to mess with capitalization with your writing, because it took a lot of work to make sure it was done right, but I am so glad I did it for Somewhere Only We Know. I love the way it makes you read the book.

Upcoming Event: Dayton Book Expo

I’m so excited to announce that I will be appearing at the Dayton Book Expo on April 29th!

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This is going to be an amazing event for book lovers, featuring over 85 authors. It will take place at the David H. Pointz Conference Center at Sinclair Community College in Dayton, Ohio, from 11am-4pm on April 29th. Hundreds of book lovers will come together for a day full of book signings, panel discussions for aspiring writers, and a Kidz Zone with lots of fun activities. And local author Sharon Short is going to be this year’s featured author.

I am thrilled to be one of the many authors participating in this event. This is going to be my first public book signing, and I’m so happy I get to do this event alongside so many other awesome authors. Come out and find some new authors and titles to read!

Finding Motivation

Being self-employed is hard.

Getting to work from home and write is what I’ve always wanted to do, so of course I’m incredibly grateful. But a lot of days it’s difficult to get to work. It’s hard to sit down at the computer every day and write when I don’t often get to see visible results from the work I do.

I was called to do this, I know that. The only career that ever spoke to me was being a writer. I know that this is what God intended for my life. But then I’m alone at home during the day, and it’s really quiet with just me and my dog, and I have so much trouble focusing. The publishing world is so hard and most days seems impossible to break into. It’s hard to imagine myself getting a literary agent and get a book deal trough traditional publishing, like I’ve always dreamed.

Last week I read The Bestselling Author Mindset Formula by Jennifer Blanchard. Blanchard talked about how if you’re ever going to make it, you need to believe it. You need to have a bestselling author mindset. You need to tell yourself, “I will be a bestselling author,” because once you believe that, you’ll finally be willing to take the steps needed to get there.

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So after so many years of self-doubt, I’m choosing to believe it. I will be a bestselling author. I will one day get a traditional publishing deal and I’ll be able to walk into a bookstore and see my name on the shelves. My books will one day bear “New York Times bestselling author.” It will happen if I believe it. It will happen if I trust that this is what God has called me to do and I follow him to get there.

To help me stay motivated, I’ve made a reward system for myself. One sticker if I write so many words and one if I work so many hours each day, and I earn prizes if I fill out a sheet. I always thought it was a little silly when my professor said she used a sticker system, but I’m six days in already and I’ve noticed a huge difference.

Give a sticker or some other reward system a try if you’ve been struggling to find motivation to work. And try believing in yourself. Say to yourself that you’ll be a bestselling author. If you believe it, then you’re already on your way.