Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Say Yes to Opportunities // Part One

This ended up getting a little long, so I split it up into two posts. Part two will be up next week.

In May I attended a weekend creative retreat with Ghost Stories Ink and SCBWI. Ghost Stories Ink is a group of writers and artists that take other creatives on ghost hunting adventures as a way to inspire creativity and help tap into atmosphere to enhance writing and art. I attended both of the writing sessions that day and they were fantastic. The first, led by GSI founder Jessica Freeburg, was about building an audience, even if you don't have a book deal. (The second was led by GSI historian Natalie Fowler and she discussed using research to enhance your writing. Her talk gave me the urge to run to my library right that minute to peruse the non-fiction section, but I was at a beautiful B&B with writing time ahead and a paranormal adventure to go on that night, so I stayed put.)

There were a lot great takeaways from Jessica's session, but the one that stuck with me most was:

Say yes to opportunities. 

It's so easy to say no to opportunities that come up. There are a variety of excuses: not enough time, I'm not good enough, what I did isn't good enough, they'd never choose me...

The list could go on and on.

In the past, I've had rare moments of saying yes. I submitted a poem to the literary journal for undergrads that my university put out. That poem was published. I also submitted a short story to that literary journal. It was rejected. There have been other, similar scenarios throughout the years, but more often than not, I've said no to opportunities more than I've said yes.

At this retreat I was given another opportunity: submit a short story based on our ghost hunting adventure to a contest. Winners of the contest would be published in their upcoming anthology. 

I walked away knowing that I had to say yes.

There were so many possible excuses that would allow me to say no. The deadline was less than a month away; it wasn't a lot of time to work on this story. And the best excuse of all: I had no idea what to write. I came up with blah story idea after blah story idea. I'd put some time and effort into them, until I'd finally push away my computer because they were going nowhere.

I kept working on it, because I had to say yes.

I was rewarded when a story idea finally took and I found myself writing about characters I liked in a situation that intrigued me. And along with a story idea that might actually work came a new round of excuses: they're never going to choose me, this isn't good enough.

And that last excuse actually had merit. While I finally came up with a story that I could write, I came up with it during the last few days of the contest. It didn't give me much time to draft, revise, have it read by someone else, and revise again. And the ending of the first draft...

The ending was not good enough.

It was laughable, in fact. I had a vision for the ending--a vision that wasn't going to work, no matter how hard I tried. And, it probably didn't look like it (it was that bad!), but I tried pretty hard to make it work!

When I finally gave up, the countdown was on to submit the story. I could have said no. In fact, that probably would have been the expected reaction from me. Instead, I said yes to the opportunity, even though I knew that my story wasn't good enough and it would become another rejection to add to the list.

And they ended up saying... yes!

They liked my story enough that they were willing to work with me on the ending. I was published in the anthology, along with another contest winner L. W. Edwards (who also gave me an opportunity that I'm working on saying yes to), the entire GSI team and other extremely talented writers.

I was determined to continue saying yes to opportunities.

(Spoiler alert: I quickly forgot that lesson.)

>> Linking up with Mia and Shelly for Write or Die Wednesdays.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Night Visions Anthology

Hello, friends!

It's been awhile since I updated this blog, but I have some posts planned and this space has been on my mind a lot lately.

For now I wanted to stop by to say that I have a short story in an anthology that was published at the beginning of the month! NIGHT VISIONS (not an affiliate link) is an anthology that was edited by Jessica Freeburg and Natalie Fowler of Ghost Stories Ink and was published by Red Sofa Books and features stories by the members of GSI and Jay Asher, among others.

We had a release party on Friday and it was so much fun! For more pictures from the night, check out my post on Dreams, etc.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Book Review // Fish Out of Water by Natalie Whipple

Note – I received an advanced copy of the eBook from the author in exchange for an honest review. 

It’s about a teenager named Mika, who loves fish and is looking forward to helping her parents with their work at the Monterey Bay Aquarium during the summer. All of that changes when her estranged grandmother appears on her doorstep. She knew that something happened when her dad stopped talking to his mother, but she didn’t know exactly what it was until her grandmother started to make racist comments about Mika’s mother. When her parents learn that her grandmother has Alzheimer’s, they decide to take her in to care for her, and Mika’s summer plans go out the window. Her beloved job at a pet store doesn’t even offer a break, as she must train in the owner’s insufferable nephew. And when her best friend is unavailable to turn to when Mika needs to vent due to family drama of her own, it looks like Mika’s in for the worst summer ever.

I don’t know how to talk about this book without giving too much away. This book grabbed my heart. I absolutely loved Mika and loved following her throughout the novel. I loved watching her as she dealt with and processed everything that came her way. This book deals with a lot of hard topics: racism, prejudice in general, and Alzheimer’s (which is a hard topic for me to read about). Whipple handled all of these topics so well and, while there was a message in the story, it didn’t feel message-driven. The characters, their personalities, and their stories were the shining features of the book. 

Another thing that I absolutely loved about this book is that I never really knew what to expect from characters. There were characters that I expected to dislike that I grew to care about. There were others that kept me guessing throughout the novel.

I felt like the book was a little bit of a slow-starter. I was really interested in the storyline early on in the novel, but I was easily able to put to put it down until about halfway through the novel, at which point I sat there and read until the end. However, life and work were pretty busy when I started reading this early in December and I finished it over Christmas break when I had time off work, so that may have been due to what was happening in my life.

There was a friend of Mika’s that I wanted to see more of. I was really interested in her story and would like to know more; however I wasn’t upset that we didn’t see more of her in this novel. Her appearances were all very fitting. If Natalie Whipple ever wrote a companion novel about that character, I would definitely read it!

Whipple’s descriptions were beautiful and spot on. By the end of the book I was craving Mika’s favorite dish—chicken saagwala—so much that I found a recipe and made it. Twice.

 Fish Out of Water will be released on February 10th. I highly recommend checking it out!

Have you read any of Natalie Whipple’s books? I’ve also read Transparent. Which one should I read next? I think I own all but the second Ninja book.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

After catching Little One in this position the other day, I decided that the ability to relax completely is a gift and dogs definitely possess it. This looks like ultimate relaxation! I love her little lip drooping. I had a chance to get some rest over the weekend—but not as much as she did!


I finished The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes last week and absolutely loved it! I’m still working on All Our Pretty Songs, but I took a break because I really want to read Just One Day by Gayle Forman. I’m a mood reader, so when the mood strikes I might as well go along with it! I also started The Lake by Banana Yoshimoto for the book club that I host on my lifestyle blog.


I’m still working on getting caught up on “M” novel. I have writing time scheduled and a catch-up plan in place!


The same as last week: writing without a detailed outline. I’m really enjoying discovering things as the story progresses and it’s made writing fun and enjoyable again.


Not a lot. School was closed on Monday for Martin Luther King, Jr. day so it was nice to have a long weekend. I did a little bit of prep work for my blog, a little bit of writing and a little bit of reading. I mostly did a whole lot of resting. The pup received lots of tummy rubs while I watched Gilmore Girls.


// What's up Wednesday is a linkup hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What's Up Wednesday

Hello, everyone! Wow, it has been awhile since I stopped by this place. One of my goals for the new year is to start updating this blog more often. I love this writing/personal blog of mine and would like to devote more time and attention to it. With my job change last year, it was too much to write for two blogs as well as work on my fiction writing. As always, if I'm not updating here, you can find me at my lifestyle blog, where I update every weekday and sometimes on the weekends.

It's Wednesday, so it's time for What's Up Wednesday! I have missed this feature and thought about it often during my hiatus from this blog.

I am currently reading All Our Pretty Songs by Sarah McCarry and the writing is so beautiful! It's the kind of writing that you just want to read slowly and savor, which is perfect because I haven't had a lot of time to read in recent weeks. And I've been listening to The Girl You Left Behind by Jojo Moyes, which I have also been enjoying. I've been sitting at my desk before work starts when the building is still fairly empty with earbuds in so that I can listen to more of the story. I was looking at Moyes's other books and saw that there's a novella with the characters from this novel that takes place before it starts, so I'm looking forward to reading that over the weekend.

I started what I'm calling my "M" novel this month and my goal is to write 1600 words a day. My daily word count goal is always what I'd like my word count to average out to each week. I'm a little behind. Life has been so busy lately that I haven't had as much time as usual to sit down and write, but I have no plans yet for the weekend, so I should be able to schedule in ample writing time.

I don't have much an outline for "M" novel right now and I've been enjoying being able to discover my story as I write. I'm sure I'll reach a point where I need to start planning a little bit more, but for now, I'm enjoying just writing.

I've discovered that the beginning of January is pretty busy in my new(ish) work place.

And today I've been enjoying the heatwave in Minnesota. Don't get me wrong, I actually enjoy the frigid winter months as it provides the perfect excuse to stay inside reading and writing, but it also makes my new office very cold. I've been huddled by a space heater, wearing the same sweatshirt every day because it's the warmest during these freezing cold snaps, so it's nice to have a day where the temperature is around 19 degrees and I feel more comfortable stepping away from my space heater. And wearing something new. :)


// What's up Wednesday is a linkup hosted by Jaime Morrow and Erin Funk,

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

What's Up Wednesday // 12

It has almost been two months since I stopped by this blog, so I thought it was about time that I make an appearance. Things have been a little hectic and it was all I could do to stay on top of my lifestyle blog. I think an already-prepared editorial calendar was my saving grace for keeping that blog going at times. But I think things are finally settling down--I'm feeling more settled, at least. And I might have enough energy and brain power to keep the two blogs running.

And in honor of National Dog Day (yesterday), here is a picture of my pup.

If you're wondering if she's just sweet as she looks... she totally is. And please excuse the dog hair on the couch. Life with a long-haired dog = covered in dog hair all the time, even after vacuuming/washing/lint rolling.

What I'm Reading

I'm between books that I'm reading right now, but I'm currently listening to A Hundred Summers by Beatriz Williams and I love it! It's actually fun to do kitchen work right now with that book playing.

What I'm Writing

I haven't been writing too much with all that's been happening, but the creative bug is coming back and I have been drafting scenes. I'm hoping with the long weekend up ahead that I'll have plenty of time to get into the writing groove again.

What Inspires Me Right Now

Happiness. With everything that's going on right now I'm really happy and I'm always inspired to write when I'm happy.

What Else I've Been Up To

Well, the thing that had me so preoccupied during RSW (when I actually participated) is that I started a new job in the middle of July. I feel like I'm settling in well, although there's something to new to learn every day. (That's a good thing!) And I really enjoy the new environment. So that's been exciting, but also a bit tiring and distracting from my writing. And blogging here.

What's up with you?

Monday, July 7, 2014

Ready. Set. WRITE! // Week 5

1. How I did on last week's goals. I was able to get the time that I needed to reacquaint myself with my novel. I looked over my notes and read the most recent scene that I wrote, and I wrote a query letter and a letter to my novel, which are tips that I've read about before.

2. My goal(s) for this week. 1) Write 5,000 words. 2) Start plotting the novel that I'd like to write after this one.

3. One word/phrase that sums up what I wrote/revised. An aunt and niece working together.

4. The biggest challenge that I faced this week. I didn't really feel like I faced many challenges this week.

5. Something I love about my WIP. It takes place by the ocean. Have I mentioned this before? I guess if I didn't mention it specifically, it was a good guess based on the lighthouse that I mentioned a few weeks ago. I love stories that take place by the ocean.

Ready. Set. WRITE! is a summer-long intensive to write and revise as much as possible during the summer. It is hosted by Erin L. Funk, Jaime MorrowAlison Miller, and Katy Upperman.