Blog

Motivational Monday

I’m a sucker for quotes. They’re great to plaster above my writing desk or to pin in my Pinterest to remind me, on the tough days, that everything is possible, that all I need to make it is “hope, trust, and pixie dust”–and a whole heap of work. One of my all-time favorite–and one I have on the back of my business cards–is by Walt Disney:

AllOurDreams_Disney

I believe this with all the fiber of my being. It doesn’t mean our dreams will come quickly. Or easily. Or exactly the way we imagine them. It doesn’t mean that you can’t take breaks because of certain life events and challenges. But it does mean that if we dream something, work hard, and keep trying, never giving up, then the chances are for us that we’ll succeed.

There are gazillion articles out there that quantify this. Like this one.

FamousPplRejections

But part of this journey involves failure. It’s natural, and I’m convinced we appreciate our successes that much more because of the times we’ve failed. With each attempt that hasn’t worked, we’ve learned and grown and stepped closer to our goal. Remember:

A Professional Writer

So don’t quit. Keep on keeping on. I know you can do it.

Blog

Book Review: JUST A DROP OF WATER

I only recently got the change to read JUST A DROP OF WATER by Kerry O’Malley Cerra and let me tell you–I’d been missing out!

Here’s the blurb:

JustADropOfWaterEver since he was little, Jake Green has longed to be a soldier and a hero like his grandpa, who died serving his country. Right now, though, he just wants to outsmart–and outrun–the rival cross country team, the Palmetto Bugs. But then the tragedy of September 11 happens. It’s quickly discovered that one of the hijackers lived nearby, making Jake’s Florida town an FBI hot spot. Two days later, the tragedy becomes even more personal when Jake’s best friend, Sam Madina, is pummeled for being an Arab Muslim by their bully classmate, Bobby.

According to Jake’s personal code of conduct, anyone who beats up your best friend is due for a butt kicking, and so Jake goes after Bobby. But soon after, Sam’s father is detained by the FBI and Jake’s mom doubts the innocence of Sam’s family, forcing Jake to choose between his best friend and his parents. When Jake finds out that Sam’s been keeping secrets, too, he doesn’t know who his allies are anymore. But the final blow comes when his grandpa’s real past is revealed to Jake. Suddenly, everything he ever knew to be true feels like one big lie. In the end, he must decide: either walk away from Sam and the revenge that Bobby has planned, or become the hero he’s always aspired to be.

A gripping and intensely touching debut middle grade novel by Kerry O’Malley Cerra, Just a Drop of Water brings the events of September 11, which shook the world, into the lens of a young boy who is desperately trying to understand the ramifications of this life-altering event. 

This novel is a Florida Book Award winner, winner of the Crystal Kite Award, and named to VOYAs Top Shelf Fiction for Middle Readers’ 2014 list.

I read JUST A DROP OF WATER in one day because I could not put it down. The chapter headings count down to that fateful September 11, 2001, which really increases the tension. It’s a day I remember vividly, and it’s tackled in just the right way for the target audience who did not live through it. There were so many poignant lines in it. One of my favorites is this: “Anger can lead us to a place of hatred and intolerance. And if we get to that point, then everything that really matters is already lost.” Anger–and what to do with that anger–is a constant theme in this novel, and it’s handled beautifully without being preachy. This is one of those stories I will read again and again.

JUST A DROP OF WATER is powerful and timely and it should be on all middle school lists. Jake and Sam are two best friends whose lives and friendship are turned upside down as a direct result of the horrific events of 9/11. It’s the story about friendship, doing what’s right, and not giving in to anger and fear. The storyline is gripping, the characters heartfelt and flawed, the voice on point, and the writing beautiful.

At our latest SCBWI Florida conference this past January, Kerry accepted the Crystal Kite Award with a touching and moving speech–there was not a dry eye in the house! It’s a testament to the heart that she brings to everything she does, including her novels.

Blog

Breaking my hiatus

Hello loves! I dusted this ol’ blog today and realized it’s been a whopping 8 months since I last came on here!

Shocked home-alone

I know. Cray cray.

I’m on a fabulous and wonderful sabbatical, where I get to write for an entire semester without worrying about the day job, and I feel so blessed to get to do this. It’s a wonderful opportunity. So I’m bringing back my Motivational Monday posts, and I have a couple of book reviews I’ll be posting.

Happy (belated) 2016, peeps!

Blog, Writing

Motivational Monday

I’ve been so deep in the writing cave, that I’ve neglected my Motivational Monday series. I’ve finished the first draft now, and it’s sitting, gaining perspective. 🙂 I’ve switched to revising a picture book manuscript and preparing for my fall classes, which start in two weeks. There’s never a dull moment! On that note, hope these are inspiring!

We cant become by remaining the same

Write and write and write

Just do it

Never Give Up3

Blog, Writing

Motivational Monday

I’m in the thick of rewriting my WIP and I’m happy to say it’s finally flowing, that I’m finally progressing. I’ve covered 27K in two weeks, and I’m hopeful that in another three, I’ll be done with the first draft. I finally worked through my desire to go back and re-read/edit every. freaking. scene. It was a struggle, but I pushed through it. What helped me? Remembering this:

Good thing about writing

It’s okay to make mistakes in the first draft. For me, it’s a journey of discovery, and in attempts to try to “get it right” right away, I was shutting down. I also realized that in order to be able to revise anything, I needed to write something first. And I had a plan, an outline. At first, I fretted that I didn’t have all the details worked out. That I only knew with certainty the major plot points, how it ends. I also had the first half more fleshed out, but that second half scared the bejeezers out of me. Because while I knew what was going to happen, I wasn’t sure how I was going to connect the dots. Then I remembered this:

Writing is like driving

And I took it by sections. As I connected the inciting incident to the first plot point, the events coming right after came into focus. As I connected the first plot point to the second, the details after that became clear. It’s been a dance. Write, flesh out outline more. Write, flesh out outline more. I’m happy with this progress, and I feel more confident with how the story is evolving. I have half the manuscript written, and though the other half is still blank:

Pages are still blank

You would think that with two other manuscripts under my belt, I would feel more confident and comfortable with this one. But truth be told, each one has brought with it a different process, and a different set of emotional expectations. I’ve done a lot of soul searching with this WIP. It’s too close to my own experiences with my autoimmune disorder, and because of that, it’s too painful at times. I find myself wanting to protect my MC–a lot, too much–and I’ve learned to identify this problem so I can fix it. Because it’s been hard to write, I know it’s important to write.

Never give up on a dream

I’m hopeful and optimistic I will be writing THE END by August 1st. Then I look forward to revision, when I can take this clump of words and continue shaping it into the story I know it can be.

Happy writing, everyone!

Blog, Writing

Motivational Monday: Don’t Give Up

I’m in the process of rewriting my WIP. And by rewriting, I mean starting back from the blank page when I was already half-way done because my story wasn’t working, even though I’d plotted it out. Even though I’d prepared. It just wasn’t working. If you’ve ever had to start over, I don’t have to tell you how frustrating that can be. All the work, gone. But it isn’t wasted because I learned along the way, and what I learned will hopefully make this new draft not suck so bad so I can move on with revisions. As I tackle this overhaul, I’m reminded of how difficult writing can be–and yet how absolutely amazing and rewarding it is if we simply follow through. So this is a reminder to all not to give up, regardless of where you are in the process. You’re just starting? Don’t give up. Querying? Don’t give up. On submissions? Don’t give up. Just keep writing, keep revising, and keep reaching for your dreams because they WILL happen if you’re willing to work for them.

Dont Waste Life

Writing Trouble

Story Untold

But perhaps one of my favorite quotes that reminds me it’s all possible–
and it’s a quote I have on my business cards–is this one:

Dreams Come True

Because…

Writing is Magic

Blog, Writing

Book Review: OLIVIA TWISTED

If you like retellings, Vivi Barnes‘ OLIVIA TWISTED is for you! It’s Oliver Twist with computer hackers. With alternating points of view, and tackling themes of abandonment, abuse, and hope–and of love and loss–Vivi delivers a novel that is emotionally true.

Here’s the blurb:OliviaTwisted

Olivia

He tilts my chin up so my eyes meet his, his thumb brushing lightly across my lips. I close my eyes. I know Z is trouble. I know that being with him is going to get me into trouble. I don’t care.

At least at this moment, I don’t care.

Tossed from foster home to foster home, Olivia’s seen a lot in her sixteen years. She’s hardened, sure, though mostly just wants to fly under the radar until graduation. But her natural ability with computers catches the eye of Z, a mysterious guy at her new school. Soon, Z has brought Liv into his team of hacker elite—break into a few bank accounts, and voila, he drives a motorcycle. Follow his lead, and Olivia might even be able to escape from her oppressive foster parents. As Olivia and Z grow closer, though, so does the watchful eye of Bill Sykes, Z’s boss. And he’s got bigger plans for Liv…

Z

I can picture Liv’s face: wide-eyed, trusting. Her smooth lips that taste like strawberry Fanta.

It was just a kiss. That’s all. She’s just like any other girl.

Except that she’s not.

Thanks to Z, Olivia’s about to get twisted.

What I loved about OLIVIA TWISTED most were the characters. The novel is told in alternating POVs from Olivia and Z’s perspective. When done well, I really enjoy dual POVs because they add depth to a work. Vivi did it well! The chapters headings contain the characters’ names, so we know immediately whose POV we’re in, but honestly, I didn’t need them. Olivia and Z’s voices were distinct enough that I just knew. This is so hard to pull off (I know–I’ve tried! lol) and Vivi did a fabulous job with channeling both characters. I loved Olivia. She was strong and stubborn and a quick-thinker–and the computer hacking part was so cool! I admit I know zilch about it, but the way Vivi works it into the plot, through the characters, was seamless. Z was mysterious and though he had this bad-boy exterior, his complexity was awesome. Sam was so much fun, too! I loved her.

There was a twist, which I sort of saw coming, but I wasn’t 100% correct. The pacing was perfect–I read this in practically one sitting, and Vivi had the perfect combination of tension and romance and action that kept me entertained, emotionally engaged, and reading because I NEEDED TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. I was hooked.

Vivi Barnes is one cool kid. She’s hilarious and sweet and so much fun to be around–just ask anyone who knows her or who’s met her at an SCBWI Florida Conference. (Every year, I look forward to seeing what elaborate costume she comes up with for the next conference ball!) You can follow her on Twitter or check out her website for updates. Her new book, PAPER OR PLASTIC, comes out winter 2015 from Entangled Teen! I can’t wait to read it!

I may have been late to OLIVIA TWISTED (it debuted Nov 5, 2013 and I didn’t get to read it until May 2014), but I’m so happy I finally did!