Thursday, December 19, 2013

2013 - A Year of Firsts


2013 was an amazing year – my debut year, one full of firsts, fears, and felicity.

In January, I revealed the cover for my debut novel, Reclaimed. I was so pleased with how it turned out, and the entire experience was surreal. That is another thing 2013 was – completely surreal.

The book went up for pre-order in March. Seeing my name on Barnes and Noble and Amazon was strange, like that person was completely separate from the one I am.

In May I had another first when I flew to NYC to attend BEA. Signings posters was incredible, as was getting to meet authors I admire, but the best part about BEA was getting to hang with all of the friends I’d met online. I can’t wait until we’re all in the same city again. Shenanigans!

In June I learned that Reclaimed had received two blurbs from authors I admire (Tiffany Schmidt and Mindi Scott). There was much jumping and squealing. Again, the idea that people whose writing I love also love mine was (and still is) so hard to grasp.

Kirkus gave Reclaimed a lovely review in July. I’m still not sure I believe that one.

August and September were ridiculously busy getting ready for Reclaimed’s release. I’m so grateful for my editor, my publicity team, and the Reading with Me girls.

October. My favorite month. The month Reclaimed begins. My birthday. Falling leaves and cooler temps and magic. And the release of my debut. It was a magical month indeed, full of author events and Twitter support and live chats. I saw my book on bookstore shelves. Finally, after three years, the characters I loved now no longer belonged only to me. It was so gratifying and humbling to hear that readers loved them too.

December has been a pretty exciting month as well, for reasons. J

 
The one regret I have this year is that I didn’t read as many books. I normally average around 100 books a year. Last year was my lowest at 62. This year was so busy that I read fewer than 50. But I read some great ones. Here are just a few of my favorites:

Eleanor and Park and Fangirl, both by Rainbow Rowell (This was the year I fell in love with Rainbow Rowell.)

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (I read this in March. I’ll re-read when/if I ever recover from it.)
 
Vicious by V.E. Schwab (And did you hear the movie news?)

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (I loved The Raven Boys, but I think I liked this one even better.)

Sweethearts by Sara Zarr (I love everything she writes.)

The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart (I know, I’m kicking myself for taking so long to find this one.)
 

2013 was a truly phenomenal year, and though I may be a bit sad to see it go, I am super excited about what 2014 will bring. There are so many great books just waiting to be discovered, and so many others that I’ve been waiting what seems like forever to read. My own writing is going well, and I have plenty to keep me busy in 2014. I’ll run my seventh marathon in February. I have exciting things planned for March. And I may just finally get to take that trip to England I’ve been dreaming about since I was in high school.

Thanks for coming along for the ride. Can’t wait to see where this road takes us.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

SHP Holiday Giveaway!



It's that time of year again. Time to eat too many sweets, watch cheesy Christmas movies, and begin to hope for a white Christmas. (Though in Louisiana, it's always green.) And it's time for the Spencer Hill Press Holiday Giveaway! The giveaway runs from December 8th-21st, and the prizes are amazing this year, so you're going to want to enter as many times as you can. (Visit J.L. Spelbring's blog for the full list of rules.) I've listed the goodies below, and the rafflecopter is at the very bottom. Good luck, and Happy Holidays!
 


Prizes:

Grand Prize:
Keshia Swaim: BLOOD BOUND
JK Rock:  CAMP BOYFRIEND and Swag
JL Spelbring: PERFECTION and Swag
Kelly Hashway: STALKED BY DEATH and Swag
DK Mok: THE OTHER TREE Swag
Trisha Woolridge: THE KELPIE
Darby Karchut: FINN FINNEGAN
Jennifer Allis Provost: COPPER GIRL
Sarah Guillory: RECLAIMED
Rhys A Jones: THE OBSIDIAN PEBBLE
Megan Whitmer: Writer Care Package
SHP Family: $25.00 Gift Card
Rich “Platinum” Storrs-SHP Editor: Query and 1st ten pages critique
Stocking full of candy

2nd Place:
Aubrie Dionne:  Paper Machete Box
JK Rock:  CAMP BOYFRIEND and Swag
JL Spelbring: PERFECTION and Swag
DK Mok: THE OTHER TREE Swag
Trisha Woolridge: DOORWAYS TO EXTRA TIME
Darby Karchut: FINN FINNEGAN
Brenda St John Brown: 2 Chapter Critique
Rhys A Jones: $5.00 Amazon Gift Card
SHP Family: $10.00 Gift Card
Stocking full of candy 

3rd Place:
JK Rock:  CAMP BOYFRIEND and Swag
JL Spelbring: PERFECTION and Swag
DK Mok: THE OTHER TREE Swag
Trisha Woolridge: bracelet
Darby Karchut: FINN FINNEGAN
Brenda St John Brown: $10.00 Amazon Gift Card
Kimberly Miller: Query Critique
Stocking full of candy


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, December 6, 2013

Writer vs Author


Before I was published, I read several articles by authors who encouraged unpublished writers to enjoy their time without deadlines and expectations, to enjoy getting to be a writer, someone who polishes words and crafts stories and spends time prancing around in their characters’ heads.

Every time I saw an article like that, I thought: Easy for you to say. I assumed they didn’t remember the rejections, the worry, the doubt that the words they had bled over, the characters they loved so much, would never be seen by anyone else. I assumed they forgot what it felt like to doubt themselves.

They had not.

Both writers and authors still deal with self-doubt. They still aren’t as good as they want to be, and they worry they never will be. They still hate their first drafts (or maybe that’s just me).

Maybe what I’m saying isn’t true for everyone, but it is true for me. In my mind, the difference between being an author and being a writer is the business part. And for me, I love being a writer.

I want to immerse myself in my fictional world. I want to write new words, discover new characters, follow them on new journeys. I want to revise. (I really love that part.) I want to take the mess I’ve created and make it better. Smooth it out. Erase the wrinkles. Tuck in the corners. Tidy everything up.

I want to be a writer.

But sometimes I’m an author. Sometimes I have to answer interview questions. And work on marketing. (I’m not very good at that part.) I’ve done book talks and signings and Skype chats with classrooms. And I loved every single minute of it. I’m grateful for bloggers who are willing to interview me. I want people to hear about Reclaimed and read it. I adore my readers and am so very thankful.

And I absolutely love meeting with and talking to teens. They ask the best questions.

But if I’m not careful, being an author will start to siphon away the time I need to be a writer.

At the end of the day, it’s hard to take your art and make it a career. I’ve always had to horde my writing time, but that’s even more true now that I also have to carve out time for the author side of the equation.

Reclaimed has been out in the world almost two months now. I am so very grateful for readers, and bloggers, those who’ve emailed me how much they loved the book, and those who’ve written reviews. I’ve had a blast meeting you, answering your questions, sharing book recommendations. Thank you for taking this journey with me.

But now, I have to go write. It’s who I am after all.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!


2013 has been an incredible year, and I have so many things to be thankful for. I have an amazingly supportive family and wonderful friends. I’m healthy and happy. None of the year’s accomplishments can trump that. But this year my childhood dream came true – my debut novel was published.

Failure is not the worst thing that can happen. Never trying, never chasing down that dream – that’s the true tragedy. That’s the most important thing I learned from this process, and I’m so thankful I had to courage to try.

I’m thankful for my critique partners, who went through Reclaimed line-by-line, squealed over my cover, and recommended it to everyone they know. I’m grateful for my editor, Danielle Ellison, who helped make Reclaimed what she knew it could be. I’m so lucky to be able to work with Spencer Hill Contemporary and amazing people like Patricia Riley, Cindy Thomas, Patrice Caldwell, the Reading With Me Team, and everyone else who had a hand in shaping, polishing, and prepping Reclaimed.

And for the first time in my life, I have readers, and for that, I am truly thankful. Thanks for reading. Thanks for the reviews, the notes, the tweets, the excitement. Thanks for standing in line to have your book signed. For begging me to write a sequel. For sharing your favorite lines. Thanks for the support.

More than anything, I want to thank readers for sharing their stories with me. A sixteen-year-old girl wrote me a letter telling me how much she connected with Jenna because how Jenna feels about running is exactly how she feels about ice skating. She wrote about knowing what it’s like to want to escape a small town and how Jenna spoke to her. That meant more than I can express.

Just last week I signed a copy of Reclaimed for a 60+ year old woman who told me she’d already read the first chapter and that it reminded her of when she was a teenager. When she was younger, her father was very sick and in the hospital. When the tension was too much for her to take, she would ride up and down the hospital elevator, trying to catch her breath, trying to escape everything. While she was there, she met a boy. They flirted back and forth often, and after that, she never saw him again. If you’ve read Reclaimed, you know how similar that is to the opening chapter of the book, and I loved hearing her version of a similar tale.

I’m thankful for everyone who had a hand in getting Reclaimed to readers, and to readers who, because you picked up the book, became a part of the story.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

RECLAIMED's Solitude Point

One of the things that I love about writing is creating setting. I want readers to fully inhabit my fictional world, and I create that world by piecing together reality and imagination. I actually talked about writing setting just last month over at Book Savvy. I’ll wait while you check it out.

 
This past summer I filmed a video in Arkansas at Jack Creek, the bluff that served as the inspiration for Solitude Point in Reclaimed. Just yesterday I talked with my high school book club, and several of them told me that the scene where Jenna jumps off the point is their favorite. While my Point in the novel looks very different from the one in the video, I thought readers might enjoy a glimpse of Solitude Point’s real-life inspiration.


 
 
Thanks to my dad for videoing it, and to my student Trent for the editing. :)  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

RECLAIMED Common Core Unit


As many of you may know, in addition to being an author, I’m a high school English teacher. I began teaching English in December of 2000, one day after finishing student teaching and one week before graduation. I have Master’s degree in Education, and I am Nationally Board Certified.

I became an English teacher because I wanted my life to be filled with books. I always thought I would get my PhD and teach college, but once I started teaching high school, I knew I had found my place. I love my job. I love teaching and talking books all day long. I love interacting with teens. They are so fun and interesting and have incredible possibility. They teach me so much each and every day.

I had a blast putting together this unit for RECLAIMED. It was created using the Common Core Standards for English. Teaching novels is my favorite part of my job, and I especially love figuring out new ways to look at a text and discovering supplemental texts to use to connect theme, character, plot, etc. This unit uses RECLAIMED as a sort of anticipatory set, then takes students into readings of classic literature. Of course, this is just a start, a skeleton. Take what I’ve done and add to it. Shape and mold it to fit your classroom.
 
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me. If you do use it in your classroom, I would love to hear from you. How did it work? What extra things did you do? I am available to Skype with classes, providing I can fit it around my own teaching. J

RECLAIMED Common Core Unit

Friday, November 8, 2013

RECLAIMED's Release Week

Sorry for the blog silence, but life has been crazy hectic. But oh so good. I want to thank everyone for the support, cheers, reviews, excitement, etc since Reclaimed released. This has been such a phenomenal and surreal experience.

Reclaimed released on Tuesday, October 15th. I woke up to buzz already on Twitter (thanks to all of you for that) and a sweet email from my amazing editor. (It would cause the first of what would be many happy tears on release day.)

When I walked into school, I was overwhelmed. The students and faculty had hung posters and bought balloons. They created what was essentially a “victory line” and cheered and clapped for me when I walked in. I was speechless. Everyone at the high school where I teach has been incredible. They really are my extended family.

 

I left work a little early to come home and enjoy the day. I filmed a flails video (which I may regret J). My husband and I went to Baton Rouge to see my book in a bookstore, then to a nice dinner.


 

Release day was more than I expected it to be, and I have all of y’all to thank.

On Friday and into Saturday we had the Reclaimed read-along. For twenty-four hours people were reading, tweeting favorite lines, and using Tumblr to post reactions. I posted early drafts and notes. Thanks so much to the Reading with Me Team for heading that up. It was so much fun to interact with readers and see which parts were their favorites. (Most often, they tweeted my favorite lines too.)

My launch party was on Saturday, October 19th. I arrived at the bookstore thirty minutes early with cupcakes and candy, to find that a crowd had already formed. I set everything up with the help of my best friend Leslie and my husband. Eric, the manager of the Books-a-Million, was amazing and had everything put together. He encouraged everyone to buy their books before I started signing. Seven minutes before the event, Reclaimed  sold out. I felt badly for everyone who didn’t get a book, but what a great problem to have! Some left and went to the other two bookstores in town, but they were all sold out as well. The bookstore started a list of people who wanted books, and it ended up being two pages long.






 
 
I didn’t get to visit with people as much as I wanted, as I was signing books for over an hour. It was so amazing to see my students, both past and present, as well as friends and even a few strangers who came out to the event. Eric told me that the store had never had that big of a turn-out for an event – not even when Sarah Palin was in town. J

 

Monday was the live chat. While it started off a bit rocky (dang technology), it ended up being a blast. Readers sent in great questions, and if any of you know me in real life, you know I’m quite chatty. I loved talking about the book, my characters, inspiration, and what’s coming next. Again, the Reading with Me Team did an outstanding job, and thanks to everyone who participated.
 
On Thursday, October 24th, my school had another signing for me. It was in our school library, and was a small gathering for those who couldn’t attend the launch party (though a few people came to both). What I really loved about this event was that I was able to really interact with attendees. I answered questions about Reclaimed, my writing process, my ideas, my current manuscript, and how a book becomes published. There were also several people there who had already finished the book, so I was able to have a spoiler chat with them. And there was cake, which always makes everything better.
 


 
The final event in my release whirlwind was the Houston Book Rave. I drove to Houston on Friday afternoon and met up with Mary Gray and Stacy Wells. These ladies are so much fun! Trini and Damaris of TrinDee events put on an incredible event. Meeting readers was the highlight of the weekend, particularly the middle school girls I talked with. I teach high school, so I don’t spend much time with middle schoolers, but they were so excited about the book and I had a lot of fun just chatting with them, both at the signing and then again at the after party. I also really enjoyed meeting other authors.


 

If you’ve read this far, thanks! Life has been rushing along ever since the release, and I couldn’t be more thrilled. I’ve also had a Google Hangout with students (shoutout to Lavaca High) and have library events coming up. If you are in the Fort Smith, Arkansas, area, I will be signing at the Books-a-Million at 7 PM on Wednesday, November 27, 2013.

Thank you to all of the readers, bloggers, students, and friends for an amazing week. It wouldn't have been as special without you. <3

Monday, October 14, 2013

Teen Read Week and Giveaway

Picture courtesy of ALA.
I became a teacher because I love books. I love the feel of them in my hands, the way they smell, and the fact that I get to live a thousand different lives within their pages. I love that they make me think, make me cry, make me laugh so hard my stomach hurts. I love the truths they reveal and the lies they tell. I became a teacher because I want to encourage others to love them too.

It’s always surprising to me to discover students who live in literature-free homes. I grew up surrounded by books – I read my parents’ books, borrowed from friends, and collected my own. I remember one Christmas I was most excited about receiving The Hounds of the Morrigan. I remember another Christmas where I spent the entire break reading Gone with the Wind. But I have students who don’t have a single book in their house, who’ve never seen a parent read, who can’t understand the draw of books.

When a student tells me they don’t like to read, I tell them they just haven’t met the right book yet.

And that’s my goal in life – to introduce my students to the right books, to help them find their literature soul-mates.

In order to do that, student must have access to books. Often the idea of going to a bookstore to buy a book is a completely foreign concept to them. It’s why classroom libraries, school libraries, and public libraries are so important.

I keep books in my classroom library and help the school librarian choose high-interest reads. The public librarian in charge of YA now comes to our school a few times a month so students can check books out. It’s so important to have books readily available for kids. Everything else is at their fingertips these days – books should be too.

So in honor of Teen Read Week, I’m donating several copies of RECLAIMED to school libraries. I would love for you to do the same – donate to school or public libraries, give to a teacher to keep in her classroom, leave it at a coffee shop with a note. Let’s put books in the hands of teens.

I’m giving away a $100 gift card to the bookstore of your choice. When you buy RECLAIMED this week, enter the rafflecopter and email your receipt to shcpreorder@gmail.com. If you choose to donate one, please let me know that. (I’ll be doing a post on how many books were donated during Teen Read Week.) In addition to the gift card, I will be giving away a thirty minute Skype chat with me. If you win, you are welcome to chat with me about the book, about writing, about knitting, whatever. Or, in honor of Teen Read Week, you can donate the chat to the school or library of your choice.

The giveaway runs through Sunday. I would love it if you would spread the word. The more books we can get in the hands of teens, the better.

When you give a book, you give so much more.

CONGRATS TO THE GIVEAWAY WINNERS! NICHOLE WON THE $100 GIFT CARD, AND TIFFANY WON THE SKYPE CHAT.  Thanks to everyone who participated!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, October 10, 2013

RECLAIMED READ-ALONG


On Friday, October 18th, at 5:00 PM EST, we will begin the 24-hour Reclaimed read-along. This is the time for everyone to be reading, tweeting, and reacting to Reclaimed. (But absolutely no spoilers. Let everyone enjoy the ride!) The times are just for us to be following along – you can join in at any time! 

Tweet spoiler-free lines you love, thoughts, selfies of your reactions, using the hashtags #RECLAIMED and #RWM. I’ll also be doing a live online chat on Monday, October 21st, at 9:00 EST so tweet your spoiler-free questions using the hashtags #RECLAIMED and #askGuillory. You can also leave your questions below in the comments.

I can’t wait to share this book with y’all.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

RECLAIMED Blog Tour!



Below you'll find my blog tour schedule. I'm so grateful to the bloggers for hosting me and for reading and reviewing Reclaimed. I'll link to the posts once they're up. (Y'all, it's really happening.)











October 11 -  Guest Post - Book Savvy



Friday, September 27, 2013

Surviving the Debut

I'm so grateful for the support of the writing community. I would not have been able to survive this process without help from the wonderful people I've met along the way. Today I'm thrilled to have authors Tiffany Schmidt, Mindi Scott, and Charlotte Bennardo, who all survived their debuts and were gracious enough to tell us just how they did that, as well as offer up advice to those of us who have yet to walk through that fire.

When did it feel real?

Tiffany: I’m still waiting for this one! I sometimes have lingering nightmares about query-letter rejections.

It felt real when I received my ARCs, and when strangers started Tweeting about reading SEND ME A SIGN. It felt more real when I held my finished copies, then saw them in bookstores. It felt even more real when I had interactions with readers at various signings.  Then surreal when I received my first fan mail and email, or when I had a blogger walk up to me at a bookstore event for a different author and tell me she was having a ‘fangirl moment,’ just seeing me.

I’m still living in a constant state of ‘pinch me’ because oftentimes it just doesn’t seem like this can possibly be true!

Mindi: I can’t think of a single moment that helped define it as “real.” More, I think it was a series of moments (seeing my ARCs for the first time, reading pro reviews of my work, having readers ask me to sign their books, bloggers using my book in their posts, receiving emails from fans) that all built upon one another in such a way that it became impossible to NOT believe.

Charlotte: When we got the call from Brian Farrey, our editor at Flux, it was a scream fest (really, the neighbors heard us screaming) so it felt real to me; I’d never had that “We want to offer you a contract” call before. Of course I worried until the contract was signed, sent, received, and copy returned that they’d change their mind. Once I had that binding contract, it was super REAL.

 
What would you tell your former self?

Tiffany: I’d tell my former self (and current self, since I still really struggle with this) to remember to enjoy the journey. Publishing is a slow, slow process, and release day will eventually arrive, but it’s so important to take time to enjoy and celebrate each step along the way.

Mindi: Watching time-travel movies has made it so that I can’t allow myself to even consider talking to my former self. Ha! Not to mention that my former self is such a skeptic that any needed words of encouragement would be wasted on her. ;-) 

Charlotte: I would say “Savor and remember this moment because there are going to be a lot of ups and downs, but this is a dream come true.”

 
How is the experience different? The same?

Tiffany: I’m still as impatient as can be, but there’s a little less of the breathless panic/anticipation of what’s next? As a debut, everything is new and scary and exciting. Things are still exciting (and sometimes scary) —I hope I never stop being thrilled and terrified of this industry— but the second time around, there’s a little less panic, a little less fear about “am I doing everything right?” Because there is no single ‘right’ way to be an author or handle promotions.  It’s all about finding a balance between life and writing and all the other non-writing writer stuff.

Mindi: Compared with my expectations? I thought getting published would change me in some huge way. It hasn’t. Small ways, sure, but not in big ways. I think the ways that is the same as what I expected is that having readers say that my book changed them in some way really is the most gratifying thing in all the world.

Charlotte: I get excited about all the contracts, although the one for Sirenz Back In Fashion was bittersweet; it originally was to be for books 2 and 3, not just 2. Things happen. The contract for my 3rd book, Blonde Ops, with a new publisher, made me just as giddy because there was competition and guess who got selected?


What is the best part about debut?

Tiffany: Besides the part where I got to see my dream come true and my story turned into a book? I loved being part of debut group (Yay, Apocalypsies!) and was so grateful to have a cohort of people going through the same challenges and fears and celebrations. And nothing is better than meeting bloggers, readers, librarians, teachers, or other writers. It’s so great to be a part of a community that loves books!

Mindi: Everything is exciting! There are so many firsts happening and so much that you don’t know what to expect.

Charlotte: That feeling of exhilaration- ‘I’m published! Someone likes my writing enough to pay me! I’ll see my book in bookstores and libraries!’ You only get that breathless, one-of-a-kind joy once.

 

What were you most afraid of? What are you most afraid of now?

Tiffany: Hmm. I think it was a toss-up between terrified of everyone hating my book or everyone ignoring it. I’m still not sure which would be worse, loathing or obscurity. On one hand, it’s so hard to handle criticism, but on the other, inspiring hatred means you’re at least provoking a reaction, whereas being unnoticed means you’ve put your heart on a page and no one cares?

I’m not sure I have a good, clear answer for this one. I’m also not sure that my answer has changed.

 
Mindi: I think my biggest fear is the same now as it was then: That I’ll have put so much into my writing and no one out there will care.

Charlotte: Initially, the thing I was most afraid of was that they’d change their minds, say they ‘made a mistake.’ Now I worry about sales, the next contract, the next manuscript, the next query.

 
What advice would you give debut authors?

Tiffany: First, celebrate yourself. You’ve achieved something spectacular and no one can ever take that away from you. Your book, your story, has earned a spot between covers and on bookshelves. While it can be so easy to get caught up in stresses about print runs, reviews, sales, and such, whenever you find yourself spiraling down the not-good-enough rabbit hole, stop and pat yourself on the back for what you’ve accomplished.

Second, don’t be afraid of the word ‘no.’ Use it when you need to. It’s remarkably easy to burn yourself out by saying yes to every request that comes your way. Make sure you know your limits. Make sure you protect your sanity and writing time. Remember: if you don’t leave yourself time to sit down to write your next novel, then we won’t get to read it.

…and that would be criminal!

Mindi: Some authors don’t read reviews of their work. Others read every single review. That’s a choice that everyone has to make. My advice is that you occasionally reevaluate your choice—especially if it starts getting in the way of your new writing. 

Charlotte: Enjoy the moment. Take pictures. Save posters announcing your debut. Save reviews (yes, even the bad ones!). Let people approach you to talk about the book- savor the spotlight because it’s all too brief and people quickly move on to the next debut.

 

 


Tiffany Schmidt is the author of Send me a Sign and Bright Before Sunrise, which comes out February 18, 2014 from Walker-Bloomsbury.

 







Mindi Scott is the author of Freefall and Live Through This.

 









Charlotte Bennardo is the co-author of the Sirenz series, as well as Blond Ops, which will be released by Thomas Dunn/St. Martins in April 2014.

 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Waiting on the Debut

I wanted to do a post on waiting on a debut because I myself am waiting on my debut and wanted both commiseration and consolation. For me, now at about twenty days away, there are times when it still doesn’t feel real. I wanted to know how others were dealing with the wait and how others have survived the wait. (Check back later this week for advice from those who survived their debuts.) I’m so grateful that two lovely and incredible writers, Dahlia Adler and Jaye Robin Brown, agreed to let us in on just how they are surviving that wait.

 



When did it feel real?

Dahlia: This is horrible to say, but the thing that really made it hit home for me was seeing it on Goodreads and realizing I was now open to bad reviews. Like, the offer and seeing it on Publisher’s Marketplace and signing the contract and all of that was amazing, but the real gut Oh my God, this is happening came with the bad review realization.

Jaye Robin: Honestly? It still feels surreal. But I suppose all the official things —signing a contract, getting an advance check, programming a Harper Collins’ editor’s phone number into my cell phone—all work towards making it feel like it will eventually happen. I’m supposed to receive cover art in the next month or so, now that will be a milestone!

 
What are you most afraid of?

Dahlia: Oh, God, everything, pretty much. Mostly of letting people inside my head, I think. Not strangers—strangers are welcome!—but family, close friends… anyone who’s ever watched me kinda space out, writing in my head, or say no to plans because I have deadlines to make. I want them to read it and go “Ooookay, now I get it,” not, “Really? This is why she bailed on my party?” Writing is this thing everyone who loves me just assumes I’m good at, because I love it. But while passion and skill are both important, they aren’t the same thing. Having something out in the world will allow people to decide whether I only possess the former. It’s unnerving to think about. I’m trying not to!

Jaye Robin: Readers not connecting with my book.

 
What is the one thing you’re most excited about?

Dahlia: Just seeing the thing. On a shelf. Preferably not my own. I imagine it’s miraculous.

Jaye Robin: Readers connecting with Amber and her dreams!

 
What would tell your “before the book deal” self?

Dahlia: A lot of the “after” stuff is going to be like the “before”—a ton of hard work, and a ton of waiting. Only now, you have the pressure of having people invested in you, financially and otherwise. Appreciate this period right now when you’re only accountable to yourself.

Jaye Robin: Practice patience. And keep in mind that, to your editor, the manuscript you sweated and toiled over and had multiple beta readers and agent eyes on, is only a first draft. You’re starting from go again in many ways. Embrace it.

 
What advice would you give those who are in the middle of the querying/submission process?

Dahlia: Take the time to know what you really want, and to learn how things work. If you don’t understand why a bad agent is worse than no agent, or a bad contract worse than no contract, you are probably not ready to do this professionally yet. And that’s okay. You don’t automatically become ready to sign on the dotted line somewhere just because you finished writing a book. Research is part of the process. Don’t let anyone pressure you into going at a pace you’re not comfortable with, or a path you’re not comfortable with. It’s even okay to write for fun, I promise J

That said, if you do want to get published, don’t give up. It may be annoying to hear “Write something new!” or heartbreaking to realize it’s time to put that manuscript you love on a shelf, but the reality is, writing something new is always going to be part of being an author. Knowing when something doesn’t work right now? Always going to be part of being an author. And rejection? Always going to be part of being an author. So yeah, it pays to get accustomed to that early, and just keep going!

Jaye Robin: Work on other projects. Get invested in a new story. That way, if things don’t work out ideally, you’re not standing empty-handed! Always, always keep writing.

 

 
Dahlia Adler's Behind the Scenes will be released June 24, 2014, by Spencer Hill Contemporary. You should also follow her on Twitter because she's awesome, wears many hats (including a tiara), and dispenses wise advice.


Jaye Robin Brown's No Place To Fall will be out Fall 2014 with Harper Teen. You should follow her on Twitter because she is phenomenal, loves dogs (just look at that face), and is up early with the 5 AM writers' club!

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Don't Turn out the Light



Artwork courtesy of the
American Library Association.
It’s that time of year again: Banned Books Week, the one week out of the year that we throw a harsh light on those who would try to keep others in darkness. Those who want to project their prejudices and fears onto others. Those who want to hide the books.

Last year I wrote about how we should celebrate our right to read. This year I want to talk a bit about how my students are doing just that.

I teach sophomore English, and for the past few years, I’ve assigned Fahrenheit 451. I read the book myself when I was a sophomore in high school, and it had a profound effect on me. If you haven’t read it yet, you should. I recommend it to everyone. It’s a scary picture of what might happen if the book banners win, if books are indeed outlawed because of our fear of offending someone. It’s also a reminder that it is up to us to keep literature alive. In Bradbury’s world, books were not initially outlawed. It’s just that people stopped reading. They spent too much time getting offended and not nearly enough time listening.

The world is a scary place, and I understand that many parents want to protect their children from it. I get the need to shield children from the ugliness that life sometimes brings. But in doing so, we are also shielding them from its beauty. And while it is the parents’ prerogative to stand between their child and the world, it is not their job to monitor the morals of everyone else.

When we ban books, what we are doing is telling those who received comfort from those books that they are wrong. They are wrong to find beauty in something ugly. They should be ashamed of their feelings, their desires, their connection to something others view as sinful or shameful. We teach them to be silent. And when we do this, it is we who are wrong.

It is admiral for adults to want to stand between children and the world and become a shield against the darkness. But if I’ve learned anything about the dark, it’s that it creeps around our strongest fortifications, crawls into the gaps, finds a way through the keyhole.

Light is the only thing that chases away darkness. Literature is that light to many people. It’s that light to me.

It girds readers against ignorance and oppression. It comforts us and shows us we aren’t alone. Above all, it teaches hope.

Because in the end, we can’t protect those we love from the world. We can only make sure we’ve helped them to find their strength and to discover that hope.

One of the questions I asked my students after they’d read Fahrenheit 451 is which book they would memorize. If, like Montag, they were the one source of survival for a book, which one would they want to save at all costs? In looking at the books some of my students chose to memorize, to keep alive when all others may have been lost, you’ll see that each one holds a mirror up to life and reveals its ugliness, its darkest places. But in the end, each one gives us hope.

And hope is the strongest of shields.

 

Here are just a few of the books my students named:

The Bible (This was the most common response. The Bible is full of violence and war, of humans being at their worst, but in the end, there is hope.)

A history textbook (This was mentioned a couple of times. Students wanted to memorize the truth in order to gird themselves against lies.)

A Tale of Two Cities (Plenty of death here, but also love and sacrifice.)

The Fault in our Stars (Beautiful but harsh, am I right?)

The Hunger Games (Children killing each other for entertainment – not exactly Dick and Jane, is it? And yet it speaks to so many.)

Fahrenheit 451 (Just when hope seems buried, it rises from the ashes like a phoenix.)

1984 (This is the only one in the list that doesn’t end with hope. But that makes it the scariest of them all. The student wanted to memorize it as a warning – what would happen if we lost our hope altogether. The thought is chilling.)

To learn more about Banned Books Week and how you can celebrate your right to read, visit the American LibraryAssociation.

Monday, September 9, 2013

RECLAIMED Pre-Order Giveaway!

Reclaimed releases in just over a month, and while that thought often induces flailing and random hand flapping, more often than not, it just makes me really excited.
I know many of you have already pre-ordered the book. THANK YOU SO MUCH! It means a lot that people are excited and ready for Reclaimed to be released. If you haven’t yet pre-ordered, it’s not too late. Reclaimed is available in both paperback and e-book. The buy links will be at the bottom of this post.
We have some amazing prizes for those of you who pre-order the book. Just send an email confirmation of your pre-order to shcpreorder@gmail.com. This can simply be a screen shot of your receipt (minus your credit card info).
The first prize we're giving away is a signed poster of Reclaimed! We will choose 25 random winners from the email confirmations. And as more pre-orders come in, we’ll be giving away even more amazing prizes. (While I can’t divulge the secrets yet, trust me, you’re going to want to get in on this giveaway.) 
Once new levels of prizes are unlocked, you remain eligible as winners will be picked using a random generator.


Update:

Thanks to everyone who has already sent in their preorder confirmation. Signed swag will be sent your way soon! (Say that three times really fast.) It’s time to announce the other prizes up for grabs. Unfortunately, this contest is open to US residents only, as two of the prizes are heavy and I can’t afford to take out a loan for shipping. If, however, you live outside the US and you preorder the book, please send in your email confirmation and I will send you signed swag!

The first prize we are giving away is a gift basket filled with reclaimed items, including a painting of the lake from RECLAIMED on a piece of reclaimed cypress, a journal with recycled newspaper cover, and a candle holder made from a wooden yarn spool, as well as signed swag. (The winner is Paige! Your prize has been sent!)





The second prize we’re giving away is a handmade box. It is also made from reclaimed cypress (crafted by my amazing husband) and is a replica of the one mentioned in the book. (Just wait until you read the book. Trust me, you want this box.) It will also have a surprise in it! (The winner is Diane! Congrats! I'll be emailing you shortly.)

The final prize we are giving away is a $100 gift card to a bookstore of your choice. Enough said.


The contest ends October 21st. Use the rafflecopter to tweet about and post links to the contest, and don’t forget to send in your release-week order confirmation (which is worth 10 entries)!
Good luck!
Amazon         Barnes and Noble        IndieBound
a Rafflecopter giveaway

*If you already sent in your pre-order confirmation, you are still entered to win the last remaining giveaway - the giftcard. Continue to tweet about the giveaway for entries. For extra entries, buy RECLAIMED during release week. (Oct. 15-20) Thanks!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

RECLAIMED Playlist + Blog Tour

RECLAIMED comes out next month and I couldn't be more excited! (I typed that in Chandler's voice, by the way.) This book has been my heart since I started writing it in 2010, and I can't believe that I finally get to share it with the world.

Last month I was part of the Authors are Rockstars tour with the awesome Katelyn over at Kate's Tales of Books and Bands, where she featured the RECLAIMED playlist. Check it out now, then tell me what you think!

Also, I believe there are still a couple of spots left for the RECLAIMED blog tour if you are interested. There are no ARCS left, so unless you already have one, the review portion of the tour is out. Fill out the form if you want to participate!


EDIT: That link is broken. Try this one! 

Monday, August 12, 2013

A Life of Passion


My creative writing class
from last year.
I’m very fortunate that I get to spend my life pursuing my two passions: teaching and writing.

They are similar pursuits. They're both stressful. Both sometimes require patience and occasionally a little outside help in the form of an adult beverage. And both require a person to pour in love and hard work and then let go and see what happens.
 
See, no matter how hard I work on lessons, the results are up to my students. How much they learn, how well they perform, have only a small amount to do with me. If I do my job correctly, they won’t need me eventually.

But it’s delayed gratification, because I don’t truly get to see the results until years later.

This is writing. Writers pour their hearts and souls into a manuscript, but it will be years until they see those results. And once they have let the book out into the world, it’s out of their hands. It’s up to the readers then, who will hopefully see the detail, feel the nuances, climb inside the world and inhabit, just for a moment, a world that was born out of passion.

Teaching and writing can be frustrating. There are times when you aren’t sure if what you are doing is worth is. But those moments are brief. It is in the action that I am truly satisfied. It is when I’m discussing literature with students that I am the happiest. It is when I am cuddled up with coffee and revisions that I am most content. It isn’t the accolades or recognition or milestones that do it for me – it is simply the doing.

It is this life that I want for my students.

I want to teach my students to think, to examine, to create. I want my students to spend their lives seeking knowledge, whatever that may look like. I hope to teach my students to want more out of life, not to simply exist, but to live, and to live in the way that they choose.

Above all, that’s why I teach - because I want my students to have choices. I want whatever they do in life to be a result of a choice, not a lack of options. If they want to dig ditches, I think that’s great, as long as they have chosen that rather than been forced to do that. That makes all the difference. I teach so that none of my students will look back and realize they couldn’t pursue their passion, whatever it was, because they lacked the skills. I give my students the tools to succeed in college so that if they don’t go, it will be because their passion lay in another field, not because they couldn’t get in. I want my students to find their passion and chase it down. I want their lives to be full of the things they love. I want them to wake up each and every day and feel just as happy, just as lucky, as I do, because they aren’t existing, they are living.

Above all, I teach and write because not doing so isn’t really an option. Because I love learning new things and lighting a fire in others. Because sometimes my skin can’t hold the words in any longer. Because my passion drives me to do so.

May yours do the same.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Giveaway winners!

Thanks to everyone who participated in the giveaway as well as those who helped spread the word. The winners are:

Vivien and Becky!

They've already been contacted, and the books will be headed their way shortly. If you didn't win, know that Send me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt and both Freefall and Live Through This by Mindi Scott are available now. You should probably go get them right now. I'll wait.

Also, though Reclaimed doesn't release until October 15th, you can pre-order from BARNES AND NOBLE, AMAZON, and INDIEBOUND.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Kirkus, Blurbs, and Free Stuff - heck yeah!

I’ve been sitting on some pretty exciting news for the last couple of weeks, and I finally get to share it!

Reclaimed got its first journal review! From Kirkus! They said its “nature-inspired metaphors add depth” and called it "intriguing." You can read the full review here, but let's just say I am thrilled that they liked it. And still a little in shock. But mostly thrilled.


Blurbs are a nerve-wracking experience. You know someone is reading your book and you pray that they like it and you pray even harder that they like it enough to say so. RECLAIMED was fortunate enough to get blurbs from two AMAZING authors whom I admire and respect.

 

Packed with atmosphere and surprises, Reclaimed is one of those rare books that kept me guessing throughout and inspired an immediate reread.
-Mindi Scott, author of Freefall and Live Through This


RECLAIMED broke my heart, changed my mind, and I couldn't turn the pages fast enough.
-Tiffany Schmidt, author of Send Me A Sign

 

So in honor of this exciting news, I’m giving away a copy of Freefall by Mindi Scott and Send me a Sign by Tiffany Schmidt. (Believe me, you want these books. They are both incredible.) I’m also giving away two annotated ARCS of Reclaimed. If you aren’t sure what I mean by annotated, it means I will leave you notes in the margins giving you insider information. It’s sort of like pop-up video for books. (And I just showed my age.)


Prize #1
Prize #2



 

The contest ends at 12:01 AM EST on August 8, 2013, and is open internationally.

 

Use the rafflecopter below to enter.
a Rafflecopter giveaway