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