Showing Up to the Page

I have a secret to admit: I haven’t written more than 15,000 words of fiction since I wrote Somewhere Only We Know. I wrote SOWK over a period of three months, but in the three years since I’ve only managed to write the equivalent of a quarter of that book.

I’ve been struggling a lot in my writing. No idea has felt quite right since SOWK. And I was so busy with so many different babysitting jobs that I felt like I never had long enough stretches in which to write.

So I decided to quit my job two months ago. My husband and I are blessed in that he earns enough to support us both, and I am doubly blessed that he wants me to stay home and write. I was sick of spending so much time and energy running around to five different babysitting jobs a week when what I want to do—what God has called me to do—is write.

However I was so exhausted by the time that I quit my jobs that I wasn’t ready to jump back into writing. Instead I’ve taken the last two months to rest and read a lot. I was hoping after doing so, and after going on our vacation to the Great Smoky Mountains, I’d feel inspired enough to jump back into writing.

One of the mornings on our vacation, I woke up before anyone else and decided to walk out on the deck to watch the sun rise. I took probably the most beautiful photograph I’ve ever taken that morning, but it’s not as inspiring as it seems.

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Pigeon Forge, Tennessee

That morning on the deck, I begged God to reach me, to show me how to do this, to change me, to show me how to write again.

But I felt nothing.

I took the photograph because I couldn’t believe the beauty before me, but I didn’t feel God speak to my heart that morning.

I had this blog post marked in my planner ever since I quit my job, figuring I’d get back to work by June and that I would be full of inspiration after resting and seeing the mountains. I was going to write about taking breaks and coming back to the page refreshed.

Instead I’m coming back almost as worn and weary as before, but with a new perspective. We can’t ask God for beautiful, inspiring sunrise moments on demand. We must simply show up to the work he’s called us to do, and do it.

I didn’t make a whole big schedule this time. I simplified my social media and blog planning to a minimum. I made a list of stories that I can work on. And I’m only trying to write 200 words each day. I’m just showing up to the page.

I’m trying.

I’m learning how to write again.

I’m focusing on nonfiction, because that seems to come a little easier right now.

I’m jumping into writing opportunities at my church.

And we’ll see how it goes and how God leads me. But I have to take the first step by putting my fingers to the keyboard again.

What I think is going to help me the most is that my husband and I are about to move into our first house. I will have my own library/office and my books will all be in the same place for the first time ever. I will finally have my own space in which to create, and I can’t wait to see what magic my new library will hold.

 

A Book I Turn to When…

Books can be friends and reminders. We turn to books to learn and sometimes to escape. Books can hold special memories and can be comfort to turn back to.

If you’re like me, these are your favorite books—the rereads you keep coming back to for different reasons. Today I wanted to share with you some of the titles I read over and over again, and why I turn to them.

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Some of my favorite rereads: Everlost by Neal Shusterman, Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson, The Selection by Kiera Cass, and Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

A book I turn to when…

…I want to go on an adventureThe Skinjacker Trilogy by Neal Shusterman

The Skinjacker Trilogy—Everlost, Everwild, and Everfound—are incredible books about the world between life and death. The series follows Allie and Nick as they journey through Everlost, and it’s full of so much adventure and imagination that I love turning back to these books.

…I want to escapeThe Selection Series by Kiera Cass

I think I’ve read the original trilogy more times than any other books. I’ve written on here many times how much I love these books. The Selection is simply a fun, swoon-worthy, light read that still packs an emotional punch.

…I want to be inspiredSpeak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Speak is probably my favorite book ever. This is such a powerful story about rape and healing and finding your voice, and every time I read it I feel so inspired.

…I want to enjoy a classicFahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

Fahrenheit 451 is my favorite classic novel, and one of only a few classics I actually like. I love turning back to this older book from time to time because it is science fiction at its best.

…I want to encourage myselfSomewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

Writing can be discouraging work, and if I need inspiration to keep going, what better work to turn back to than my own? Rereading my published book reminds me that I’ve done it before and can do it again.


What are your favorite rereads and why do you keep turning back to them?

My 2018 Summer TBR

I need sunshine. I love the warmth of summer and always feel more productive with the bright and long days. I especially love having a bunch of time to read in the summer. So since it’s finally starting to feel like summer here in Ohio, I thought I’d share what’s on my summer to-be-read (TBR) list.

The Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

I found this series at the library and was completely blown away by the first book, The Adoration of Jenna Fox. Set in the near future, these books explore how far is too far when it comes to medical technology. The best part about these books is the voice, and I couldn’t put the first book down. I can’t wait to finish the second book and read the third to find out how it all ends!

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The Jenna Fox Chronicles by Mary E. Pearson

 

Sea of Ink and Gold books by Traci Chee

The Reader and The Speaker were some of my favorite books I read in 2017. You know a book was good when you miss it after you’re done reading it, and I miss Sefia and all of the other characters from this series. I’ve been wanting to go back and read them again. The final book in the series comes out this fall, and I’m so excited for it.

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The Reader and The Speaker by Traci Chee

Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

This novel-in-verse is about a seventeenth century artist who is raped and who tries to find healing and a voice through her art. I’m interested in reading this both for the subject matter and because I’m trying to read more verse.

Now is Everything by Amy Giles

I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book from bloggers, and am excited to try it. It’s about a girl trying to escape an abusive household, so again I’m really interested in the subject matter.

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

I’ve already read this book twice in 2018, but I want to read it again. Part historical fiction and part science fiction, this novel is about lives being connected across centuries and just blew me away. This book has also had a huge influence on my work-in-progress, so I keep reading it to try to figure out how Anderson did it.

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Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson, Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough, and Now is Everything by Amy Guiles

Somewhere Only We Know by Bri Marino

Yes—I want to read my own book this summer! I’ve been struggling a lot lately with doubting myself. Reading your own writing is important because it reminds you that you’ve done it before and you can do it again.

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Somewhere Only We Know

What are you reading this summer?

Behind the Scenes of Somewhere Only We Know: Trees

In my behind the scenes post on Somewhere Only We Know’s setting, I wrote about how the clearing in the forest’s inspiration came from a classroom rather than nature. Even so, nature has a huge role in my book. Like Frankie, I feel closer to God in nature, and so when I was trying to create a space for all of the girls to come together, a clearing with a tree came to mind.

I know very little about trees, so I didn’t have a specific tree in mind when I first wrote the book. I just pictured it to be big and leafy. I chose which type of tree it was later on when I discovered what the name of one of the main characters— Lindsey—meant: “from the island of linden trees.” I learned that linden trees are large and deciduous, with a sturdy trunk and lots of leaves. A linden tree was the perfect, shady tree I needed for the girls.

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The setting of Somewhere Only We Know was inspired by this walking path by my parents’ house.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel Speak was a huge influence on me when writing Somewhere Only We Know. Speak is about a young girl starting high school with everyone hating her because she called the cops at the big party over the summer. What no one knows is that she called because she had been just been raped. And no one knows this because she can’t speak about it. Melinda has trouble talking at all. After her rape, she fell into silence. But then her art teacher assigns her a subject to make art with for the entire school year—trees. Melinda has trouble creating art about trees at first, but she is inspired by her teacher’s words that became the epigraph of my novel, and she finally starts to heal:

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Somewhere Only We Know‘s epigraph, which comes from Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Trees are powerful. Trees are a beautiful part of nature. They are not perfect. They have their scars. But they also provide comfort and shade and homes for animals. Trees show me God, and, in my novel, they show Frankie God as well.

Somewhere Only We Know’s New Cover!

My publisher updated Somewhere Only We Know’s ebook cover, and I wanted to share it here with you. I love the book’s original cover, but this new one is so beautiful!

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Somewhere Only We Know‘s ebook cover

I love how the fog in the picture covers the forest and gives you an eerie feeling. I also love how they used the lowercase font for the title and my name, like on the original cover. This new cover definitely stands out and makes me want to read the book all over again!

If you’d like to get the ebook version of Somewhere Only We Know with the awesome new cover, check it out here.

Happy Birthday, Somewhere Only We Know!

Tomorrow is Somewhere Only We Know’s first birthday!

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Somewhere Only We Know‘s first birthday!

I can’t believe that my book has already been out in the world for a whole year. I’m so proud of my debut novel and I love how it turned out. My family and friends helped me celebrate my book’s birthday last November with an incredible launch party. I’ll never forget how amazing that cake was with an edible image of my cover.

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This has been a really fun year being a published author. I love talking about my book and sharing its story of hope. I hope that the books I write going forward continue to inspire people as much as Somewhere Only We Know has.

Thank you all for sharing my publication journey with me. This is just the first of many years to come of being a published author, and I can’t wait to see what the future brings.

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My table at the Dayton Book Expo

Happy birthday, Somewhere Only We Know!

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Happy Birthday, Somewhere Only We Know!

Favorite Book Feature: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

There’s only a few months and a few Favorite Book Features left for the year. October’s featured book is one that was a great source of inspiration for my novel Somewhere Only We Know: Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Although most book lovers find it impossible to choose just one favorite book, if I had to, Speak would probably be the one.

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Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

 

Fourteen year old Melinda Sordino called the cops at the end-of-summer party, and as she starts her freshman year of high school no one will talk to her. Her old friends ignore her, and no one else comes near her except a self-centered new girl. But Melinda can’t get herself to talk about what happened the night of the party anyway. She tries so hard to forget it, even though it’s destroying her. Melinda spends the school year trying to draw trees for art class and make it through school without speaking. Because if she speaks, then she’ll have to speak the truth.

Speak is one of those books that stays with you for life. I wish I had heard of this amazing novel sooner, because Anderson is now one of my favorite authors. The best part of Speak is the book’s voice. It’s hard to define voice. Voice is the style something is written in, and when it is good it becomes a work of art. It’s something you know when you see it, and Speak has one of the strongest voices I’ve ever read. I think I like this book so much because I want to write like this. I want to create characters like Melinda who completely draw readers in to their stories. Melinda doesn’t speak much out loud, but in her head she is observant and witty. She has a story to tell, and readers get to hear it even if the people around her don’t.

I also love this book because of its connection to art. Melinda finds that she is able to use art to be able to express herself, even when she can’t find the words. I tried to do something like this in Somewhere Only We Know, but with writing. I love being creative and I make a lot of crafts, but I can’t draw. If I could I’m sure I would turn to art more, but instead I turn to words. And so the girls in my book turned to the written word to figure out other possibilities for their lives. In Speak, it is incredible to watch as Melinda attempts to draw trees and her teacher encourages her to dig deeper. I used a quote about this as the epigraph to my novel:

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The epigraph of my novel, from Speak

I have a great respect for Anderson because she chose to write about such difficult topics like rape and depression. Most people don’t want to talk about it or acknowledge that they happen, and people like to censor books about those topics in order to “protect” children from them. In “A Comment About Censorship” which appears at the end of my copy of Speak, Anderson writes, “Censoring books that deal with difficult, adolescent issues does not protect anybody. Quite the opposite. It leaves kids in the dark and makes them vulnerable… Our children cannot afford to have the truth of the world withheld from them.” A writer friend of mine put it another way when she said we shouldn’t shelter our kids but insulate them.

Teens need books like Speak and Somewhere Only We Know because real teens are experiencing these issues. And I’m going to continue reading and writing books like these.

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I love the message Anderson signs her books with!