Learning to Read in College and Beyond

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This morning, Thomas L. Friedman had a truly insightful piece in The New York Times asking Where Did ‘We the People’ Go? In it, Friedman quotes his former teacher and friend, Dov Seidman, who states that “What makes us Americans … Continue reading

The Art of Radical Acceptance

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Radical acceptance is the psychological term for learning to live with sorrow we cannot change. It’s not a new concept, and it’s only slightly less trite, perhaps, than the famous 1970s prayer asking for the courage to change that which … Continue reading

Valentine’s Day Reads for Kids

I love holidays, and Valentine’s Day in particular is a good one because what’s not to love about love, right?

Here are some books that I think are perfect for reading on this special day with your little love and why I love them:

Picture Books:

Pandora, by William Mayne If this book doesn’t make you believe in the redemptive power of love, then there is seriously something wrong with you.

 

 A Visitor for Bear by Bonnie Becker Sometimes we don’t realize how much we need a friend until we realize we love them already.

The Old Woman Who Named Things by Cynthia Rylant Dogs. Love. Heart strings. You get the picture.

Early Chapter:

Davey’s Blue-Eyed Frog by Patricia Harrison Easton A princess who needs to be saved by a kiss and a little boy who has better things to do. What could go wrong?

Mango’s Revenge by Stephanie Logue When this Parrot escapes for a day off, love of his family brings him home.

Middle Grade:

Because of Winn Dixie by Kate DiCamillo Dogs. Love. How weird the South can be.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt In which our heroine has to choose between young love and mortality. Not as easy as you might think.

Young Adult:

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith Smith was way ahead of her time with this quirky coming of age love story.

Reckless by Cornelia Funke Beautifully written high steam punk fantasy with bubbling romance. What’s not to like?

And, last but not least, let me just mention that Leaving Kent State has a classic romance story line that I hope you will enjoy.

Happy Valentine’s Day reading!!

Resistance and the Main Stream Media

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As we enter a dark period in our country, where our new President is signing executive orders to ban certain immigrants from coming here, a ban that this morning was stayed by a Federal judge (as reported here), I have again … Continue reading

My Latest Review

Thanks to Isla Mcketta, I have a new review which you may check out here. When I was writing LKS, I was really struck by the parallels to our present time: social and civil unrest, racial tensions, terrorism (though in 1969-1970, this was largely domestic), and a general sense of upheaval and uncertainty. I love this review because it lets me know that these issues came forward in the way that I hoped they would. On inauguration day 2017, I feel especially blessed to be considered as a writer who has offered at least one reader hope. May we all forge a path to a brighter future together.

Tips to Keep You Motivated with Writing and Reading

Our celebrations of January 1 as our New Year has a somewhat murky history. According to the History Channel, we have Julius Caesar to thank for determining this date as our marker, when he followed the advice of an Alexandrian astronomer who told him to replace the lunar year with the more accurate solar year followed by the Egyptians. They incorrectly calculated the solar year to be 365 and 1/4 days (yes, Caesar is to blame for the original concept of leap year, too), and chose January 1st to begin the year.

By the middle ages, though, this miscalculation was messing with people’s calendars, so celebrating the new year on January 1st had fallen out of fashion. This led to our current Gregorian calendar.

The website Earthsky adds that January was also a natural choice based on the Roman feast of Janus, God of beginnings and doorways. Janus was depicted as having two faces, one that looked back into the past and one that looked ahead to the future. A god we can all relate to.

And so we choose this day of all days to celebrate Janus, to look behind us one last time before we start refreshed and reinvigorated. The question then becomes, how do we maintain this enthusiasm, particularly where our writing and reading are concerned? Here are my favorite tips for staying strong in the new year:

5. Build your community. Social media makes it easier than ever to find like minded people who share your love of reading and writing. Whatever your favorite platform is, twitter, instagram, Goodreads, or some other one I don’t even know exists, there are book lovers waiting to connect with other book lovers. Find them, they are your people.

4.  Even when you don’t have time to read all the books, stay up to date on the latest releases, make wish lists even if they are only in your head, and when you are able to commit to a book, you will have a vast selection collected from which to choose. Some great resources for finding books are Bookriot, Litpick, and NPR.

3. Steal time. Steal time to write and to read. Don’t wait for permission from anyone. Forge your own path toward your writing and your reading.

2. Be fearless. Write fearlessly. Read fearlessly. If you hate the book you’ve chosen, give it to charity. Make paper sculptures from its pages. Leave an honest review. But don’t blame yourself for not liking a book, even if its been hyped to the sky. Not every book is for every reader. Don’t try to write for every reader. Write the story you believe in and only that story.

1. If you truly love books and truly want to be a writer, don’t give up. No matter what. If there are days you don’t write or don’t read, that’s okay. Just don’t ever give up. It’s wrong, it will trespass on your soul and leave you feeling empty. Remind yourself that tomorrow you will write. Tomorrow you will read. For as many tomorrows as it takes.

These are my favorite truths to stay inspired. What are yours?

Five Young Adult Books for the Mom in Your Life

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It’s almost Mother’s Day, so here is my list of YA novels you may want to consider if you are looking for a great book for your mom. Nothing is hotter than YA right now, and for good reason-bookstore shelves are stacked with lots of wonderful YA reads. YA is honest, accessible, and just plain dreamy:

5. Being Henry David, by Cal Armistead. When a teen boy wakes up at Penn Station with no memory, he follows the only clue he has-a copy of Walden. Mom’s will be drawn right in to this lost boy thriller.

4. Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Bronte. I never promised they would all be modern classics. In this coming of age story, Jane tackles adversity, a Gothic mansion, and a lot of mystery.

3. I capture the Castle, by Dodie Smith. Yes, that Dodie Smith. The one who wrote 101 Dalmatians. In this charming tale, a young English girl, sequestered with her has been author father and an assortment of family oddballs in a dilapidated castle, discovers that life can bring you surprises in the most unlikely of places.

2. Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli. This retelling of the classic fairy tale brings us the story of Rapunzel through the eyes of the three key characters, Rapunzel, the Prince, and the Witch. Every true mom’s heart will soften when she reads the witch’s side of the story. This is a book that reminds the reader what it is like to be young.

1. Reckless, by Cornelia Funke. If your mom likes fairy tales and magic and a little romance, this is the story for her. Let her escape for a while to another time and place where fantasy reigns supreme. Funke’s imagination and beautiful language never fail to captivate.

Marketing a Novel for the Introvert

As authors, we eagerly seek the validation of publishers, sending out our polished manuscripts into a world stacked against them on the desperate hope that someone, anyone, will believe in our story as much as we do. A novel. A published novel. Rarely will you find someone writing one who doesn’t harbor the hope, secretly or openly, that his story will find an audience. Add into the equation that many writers are introverts and suddenly you have an interesting moment of truth when a publisher accepts a manuscript. An introvert with a published novel. That she needs to market. Yikes.

This is exactly where I now find myself. My young adult historical fiction novel, Leaving Kent State, was accepted this past November by Harvard Square Editions and will be forthcoming later this year. It’s a small press, so there is no massive marketing team waiting to lead me through the challenges of the debut author crucible. My publisher does have a plan in place to help me, but the more that I can do to promote the book myself, the more likely it will have a successful sales record. I’m still very early into this process, but here are five marketing tips that I’ve learned so far:

5. Check out websites for bloggers that discuss marketing. Selling a book is a lot like making a blog popular. These sites, such as The Nectar Collective, can give you  a lot of great advice about SEO, using social media as a marketing tool for your book, or organizing your marketing strategy.

4. Search for book reviewers and start making connections with them before you need to actually contact them to request a review. This isn’t that difficult. Search on Instagram, Goodreads, Twitter, etc. Once you tap into reviewers, you will see quite a lot. Notice how often they post, what kinds of books they like, and whom their audience is. These things will help you narrow a list, because you will most likely have to send them two ARCs (advanced reader copies) of your novel, and you are most likely going to be footing the bill for these ARCs yourself (unless you’ve landed a six figure deal with a big publishing house, and then you aren’t reading this anyway….)

3. Ask authors who are further ahead in the journey how they launched their first book. Take them for lunch or coffee. Writers are among the most generous of professionals with their time and ideas, probably because our journey to make a living as a writer is so challenging. There are as many ideas out there for marketing a book as there are books. Brainstorming with other writers about how you can make your marketing plan for your particular novel stand out is an invaluable resource for the debut author.

2. Contact independent booksellers. Call them, walk into their stores, email them. Because my novel is centered around the shootings that happened at Kent State University in Ohio on May 4th, 1970, I spent an afternoon looking through the websites of every independent bookstore in Ohio. Some clearly aren’t going to be interested in my book (for example, one specializes in Jane Austen and regency literature only). Some of them were listed as specializing in young adult literature, so I called to ask whether my book would be something they would carry. One of the stores, despite it’s description as a bookseller of YA, in fact only deals with books through middle grade (age 13). But when I called another bookseller and explained the reason for my call, the woman gave me a ton of helpful advice, both about independent booksellers in general and about the Ohio market in particular. I learned more about marketing my book in that fifteen or twenty minute conversation than I have from hours of my own research.

1.  Reach out to the people who have supported you and are further ahead in the journey. It took me a month, and encouragement from a friend (okay, actually two friends), for me to screw up my courage and ask for book blurbs from established writers I know. It was really hard for me to ask (I’m Italian). But everyone whom I asked was enthusiastically supportive of me. Which is awesome and generous and really, really helpful. But the point is, if I hadn’t asked, they wouldn’t have known that I wanted their help.

These are my top five marketing tips so far in my journey toward launch. What are yours?

A Novel Competition for Unpublished Women Writers of Young Adult Fiction

Whenever I find a competition that includes a YA category, I feel really good that YA is getting some of the recognition it deserves. Mslexia Publications, LTD, is once again offering its novel competition for unpublished women writers, and they include a Young Adult category. The deadline is September 21 to submit the first 5000 words of a completed novel in any genre.

Mslexia states that: The competition first prize is a rather marvellous £5,000, plus we have The Literary Consultancy on hand to offer four other finalists free manuscript feedback. And did we mention all shortlisted authors will be invited to meet literary agents at a special networking event in London? Being placed in the competition really is a unique opportunity to get your work out of the slush pile and into the hands of influential industry insiders.

Mslexia is a UK organization dedicated to the advancement of women writers. You can learn more about them at their website at Mslexia

For contest rules, click here

You may enter as many novels as you wish, although each comes with a fee of $25 pounds. So polish up those novel manuscripts and get them submitted!