Voices of YA Tag

Thank you to Kristen Martin for pointing out this YA Tag created by Caitlin Lambert. To see Martin’s responses to the questions below, you can watch her video here.

ABOUT THE WRITERS:
What draws you to YA?
I usually read YA because a young person I know (niece, godson, etc.) suggests a book to me, or a parent does. They’re often quick, easy reads, which is a fun change of pace for me from the books I normally read.

Describe your writing process. Do you like outlines and structure, or seeing where the story takes you?
I prefer to have a general idea about the story I’m going to write before I start it. There has to be something in the story that intrigues me, or I won’t continue writing it. The hardest part about writing for me is thinking of a storyline that keeps my interest. I start with a concept, and then write to see where it takes me.

How long have you been writing? Where are you in your journey?
I wrote for my school newspaper in 7th grade, but I know I journaled and told stories verbally for years before that. I began writing consistently at 14, when I started writing poetry. I finished my first novel in 2014. Currently, I’ve joined a local writer’s group and am in the process of learning how to write scripts.

What do you need to write? Coffee? Music?
I need a good idea. If I have something nagging at my thoughts, then I have to write it. I prefer silence when I write.

If you could offer one piece of advice to another writer (OTHER THAN “don’t give up”), what would it be?
Read more. The more you expose yourself to the written word, the better you’ll be at writing yourself.

ABOUT THE BOOKS:
What book still has you reeling from its plot twist? (*no spoilers please*)
Whether good or bad, I cannot say, but I have the habit of putting a book down whenever something interesting happens in the story and thinking through all the possible outcomes I can imagine before continuing. For this reason, I cannot think of any books that had a plot twist I didn’t anticipate. Movies go far more quickly, and I was surprised by The Usual Suspects and The Game. I can’t think of any movies that left me “reeling,” but those two had good twists. I also really loved finding out what the Matrix was.

What books are you most anticipating for this year?
I don’t read YA regularly, so the only book I’m anticipating at the moment is Kristen Martin’s next book, Shadow Crown.

In your opinion, which YA book/series has the most unique premise?
I loved the Little House on the Prairie books growing up. I can’t think of other authors who’ve written embellished versions of their childhood and life in the way Laura Ingalls Wilder did. It’s unique to me, at least.

What is your all-time favorite quote from YA lit (I know, I’m cruel)?
From Little House in the Big Woods, Pa tells his daughter, “But Laura, I have brown hair too,” and Laura realizes she has no reason to be jealous of Mary for her blonde hair. His response has always stuck with me.

What book do you most hope will have a movie adaptation?
I enjoy reading books for their own sake. Books are written to be books, and I’m happy with them being books. If they become movies, that’s great, but they’ll never be how I imagined the story when I read it. While I don’t spend time hoping for movie versions, I’m always happy when an adaptation is done well.

If you’re reading this, tag! You’re it! Go forth and write your own response to this tag challenge. 🙂

A Writer’s Life for Me Tag Questions

This is in response to Kristen Martin’s vlog post, which you can watch here:
TAG | A Writer’s Life For Me

1. What kind of writer are you? (Fiction, poetry, plays, screenplays, non-fiction, more than one of these?)
Poetry is how I started writing regularly. I also write fiction, non-fiction, science fiction, and fantasy (short stories and novels).
I’ve posted over 100 of my poems here. Each word under PAGES along the right-hand side is the title link to a different poem. Click the link to read the poem. 🙂

2. When did you start writing? What made you want to try it?
I wrote for my school newspaper in 7th grade, but I know I journaled and told stories verbally for years before that. I began writing consistently at 14, when I started writing poetry.

3. What inspires your stories (or poems, plays, etc.)?
With poems, it’s usually a word, scenery, song, dream, or an idea that sparks a need for me to write about it. With novels, I generally want to tell stories I’ve never heard before, so I think of some idea that interested me and how that could be applied in a narrative way. With short stories, I’ve usually had writing prompts that caused me to write a short response.

4. What themes do you like to explore in your writing?
I don’t really think thematically yet when writing.

5. Are you a pantser or a plotter or a bit of both?
I was very much a plotter in my youth, but I never finished any of the novels I started. The first novel I did finish I totally pantsed. I think pantsing works better for me, but I’m such an organized person I still enjoy plotting.

6. Where are you at in your journey? Querying, agented, published?
I’m going back and learning the fundamentals of storytelling at this point. I’ve always written things that interest me, but I’ve found they don’t interest others. I’m learning how to express the same idea from multiple views so that my writing engages more readers.

7. Have you ever entered any writing contests? Finaled? Won?
Yes, I entered many in my youth. The newspaper I wrote for took first place in the state of Texas that year for middle school papers. I wrote an essay in high school that took third place in the state of Texas, and I won several poetry contests I entered back then. I stopped entering contests when I went to college, though.

8. Who are your writer heroes?
Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury were huge influences on me in my youth. I still adore them both.

9. Have you been to a writing conference?
Nope.

10. Top 3 tips you’d give to newbie writers?
Read. Write. Repeat.
Seriously, though, you do need to read to write better, and you do need to practice writing to be a better writer.

Feel free to respond to these questions yourself! 🙂

Autumn Arrives

Well, it’s been a while since I’ve been here! This year has gotten away from me. Still, Halloween is tomorrow, and then NaNoWriMo starts for many authors. I don’t think I’ll be doing that challenge this year, but it stands as a reminder to me to focus on my writing.

To get in the mood, I’m going to post some more of my poems from my book “To Thine Own Self.”

Here’s a list of the seven poems I’m posting this week:

Secrets

Snow

Autumn Nights

White Feathers

Little Lives

All He Asks

Beauty

This Leaping Year

I blinked, and it’s the end of February. This year is flying by in leaps and bounds! I’ve thrown myself into my day job, and am happy to report that it’s going well. I’ve made friends there, and will be hired on permanently when my temp assignment ends. I’m looking for a place to live near work, and I’m delighted to be moving closer. The 90 minute morning commute to work, along with the 90-120 minute evening crawl, is exhausting! All of this has kept me occupied, so I haven’t written much this year.

After a lot of back-and-forth with the publishing house that published my book eight years ago, they finally acknowledged that my copyright is expired. My poems are mine again! So I’m going to post some (maybe all) of those poems on my website. Wee!

I named my book “To Thing Own Self” after my poem by that name. I’ll post it and six others tonight. WordPress has changed how their website works, so here’s hoping I post them correctly!

Here’s a list of the seven poems I’m posting this week:

“To Thine Own Self”

Stay

My Friend,

The Gasp

To the Windswept Evening

After You’re Gone

When I Can’t Sleep

These are some of my favorite poems, so I’m excited to share them with you! I hope you enjoy them. If so, please leave a comment and let me know!  : )

 

 

 

5 ways to Improve Your Life in 2016

Here are five tips for areas of your life you can work on to improve this year:

 

1. Focus on Health

Every year, millions of people join gyms, go on diets, and focus on improving their physical health. Those who succeed at improving their health are the ones who incorporate small, manageable changes into their lives that they can follow on a daily basis.

If you feel the need to exercise more, joining a gym may not be the best approach for you. Try changing your daily routine to add exercise into your day. Develop a simple 5-10 minute stretching routine that you can do each morning when you wake up. Park farther away from the door when you go grocery shopping each week, or when you arrive to work each day, to give you a reason to walk more. Go for a walk on your lunch break for ten minutes, or take a short walk at the end of the work day before you head home. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Jog to the bus stop instead of walking. Look for opportunities to give yourself an excuse to up your normal exercise. Your exercise routine doesn’t have to be dramatic and impressive. All the little steps you add daily into your life will add up and give you positive health benefits that are enjoyable and easy to accomplish.

Sleep deprivation is the most significant health problem people face in our modern world. Poor sleep habits affect every area of a person’s life. For both physical and mental health, go to bed at a reasonable hour each night to ensure you get 7 to 8 hours’ worth of sleep. Being rested will help your body fight disease, maintain a healthy weight, focus and think more clearly, and give you a happier mood throughout the day.

If you have a habit of running late or procrastinating, decide to get up a half hour earlier than you normally do (which also means going to bed a half hour earlier). This choice provides positive mental health benefits, as you will feel less hurried and stressed throughout the day, and generally will feel more impressed with yourself for facing the day and choosing to greet it on your own terms. Early risers accomplish more each day than those who fall out of bed at the last minute because their attitude about the day is significantly different. They have decided to take charge of their lives, rather than run after it. You can be in control of your life, and the first step is giving yourself the time to do what you need to do each day.

 

2. Smile More

New Year’s resolutions tend to focus on physical health, and few people set goals to improve their mental health. A simple way we can all improve our mental health is to smile more often each day. Research has shown that adults tend to smile around 20 times per day. In contrast, children smile 400 times each day.* If you remember being happier as a child, it is because you were! The simple act of smiling will make you feel happier. Smiling has been shown to improve our overall health, and it helps to boost our immune systems too. A smile is also the fastest, easiest way to make you look more physically attractive to other people. Smiling helps you to relax, and it makes you feel more positive that you can accomplish what you’re doing. In fact, adults who smile more are also perceived by others to be more competent and capable than their frowning counterparts. So when in doubt, smile!

*Source (click here for a cool video all about smiling): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U9cGdRNMdQQ

 

3. Focus on Finances

One of the biggest sources of stress people face in their daily lives is financial concerns. The beginning of a new year is the perfect time to sit down and evaluate your financial situation. Most people only worry about their monthly expenses. Now is the time to write down all the expenses that you reasonably expect to pay in the coming year – taxes, transportation, doctor visits, medications, birthday and holiday gifts, vacation plans, etc. List out every expense you anticipate having this year. Then write out how much you expect to earn this year.

If your annual income is insufficient to cover the expenses you expect to have this year, now is the time to decide how to best address this situation. You may need to cut back on your expenses. Do you really need to buy a new car this year, take that vacation, or join a gym? You may have to decide to turn off the cable because it’s not in your budget and start reading more books from the library instead. If you are already living a “no frills” life and have no extras that you can cut, then you need to consider other options. You may need to work more hours at your current job, or take a second job. You may need to find a cheaper place to live or get a roommate, find a less expensive form of transportation to take to work, or look into consolidating your debt so you have fewer bills you’re paying each month. You may need to look into bankruptcy options, or speak with a financial expert on how you can avoid such measures.

Planning for financial problems at the beginning of the year will keep you from being surprised at the last minute later on. Even if you can’t make ends meet, you are aware of the problem and can be actively seeking solutions to your financial problems. Being proactive will lower your stress and keep you from feeling overwhelmed by your finances. You can take control of your financial situation, no matter how dire it may be. You simply need to be honest with yourself and face the problem with a realistic attitude.

On the other end, if your finances are sound and you will make more money than you need to cover your bills this year, then you can look into long-term planning for your future. Set up a savings account to cover any emergencies that may arise during the year. Set up a retirement account, or take other financial measures to save for the day you can’t work… or just don’t want to any longer. It takes years to save for a secure retirement, and you’re never too young to start that process. If you already have a retirement plan set up, evaluate if you should increase your contributions to it this year.

Financial planning is a process everyone at every income level should do at least once a year – so why not start your new year off by accomplishing this task? Making this effort now will help you to plan better for the year ahead, feel more in control of your own life, and be happier throughout the year.

 

4. Learn Something New

Successful people never stop learning. They are always reading about the world or technology, learning about the industry they work in, or developing themselves in some positive way. It’s the beginning of a new year, and the perfect time for you to expand your own knowledge base about the world and grow as a person.

Learning about the politics of your country – all the parties and their platforms – helps you to be a better citizen at the voting booth, and may make you less frustrated with “the other party” because you will understand the broader scope of issues politics is trying to address in the world. Catching up on the latest medical and technological advances of last year keeps you engaged in the problems society is solving, and helps you to understand how your life may be impacted by the changes these solutions will bring.

In your personal life, learning more about your profession is a great way to improve your happiness and value at work. Learning a new skill or hobby that has nothing to do with work is a wonderful way of expanding your focus in general, and it makes you a more interesting person to be around. The only dumb people in the world are the ones who think they already know everything and so have stopped asking questions. Learn to improve your life. Seek out knowledge. Do something you’ve never done before, like dancing or drawing. Be interested in the world around you because it is amazing, and you should be a part of it.

 

5. Volunteer

Ask anyone who makes a habit of helping others, and you will hear how it makes them feel better about themselves and life in general. Volunteering your time, skills, or help to others helps you love yourself and other people. It is something we can all do. People tend to think of volunteering as going to an organization and signing up for several hours a week, and it’s great if you want to do that! But volunteering can also be as simple as giving your neighbor a ride to the grocery store with you once a week when you go because you know they have no way of getting there on their own, or picking up groceries for them because they’re too sick to go themselves. It could be as simple as offering to babysit for free so a parent you know can have time to go take care of something they need to do, or have an evening off now and then just to relax. It could be visiting the sick in the hospital who have no one else to talk to. It could be mentoring someone at work who is struggling, or volunteering to tutor a child in math, reading, or some other subject you know well.

Opportunities to volunteer exist everywhere; you just have to look for them. When you help others, you help yourself. You see the positive way your life impacts the world, and you get to share your skills and abilities with someone who will be grateful for your help. You will value others more, as well as yourself. So do more volunteer work! Starting volunteer work at the beginning of the year will make it easier for you to set up a pattern of giving that you can maintain throughout the year.

 

So here are five steps you can take now to improve your life and make 2016 a great year. I hope you go for it!