Do You Read Like a Writer?

A version of this post originally appeared on the YA Buccaneers group blog. 


Has being a writer changed how you read? Do you look at words and sentences and plotlines and character arcs differently than you did when you simply read for pleasure?

(Two caveats up front: 1) Obviously, writers can and do and should read for pleasure! 2) I’m not necessarily talking about reading the way your English teachers made you read in high school, mining for symbolism and dissecting a book’s themes from a purely academic standpoint. Unless that’s your thing, in which case, have at it!)

I know that I tend to read differently now than I did before I got serious about my own writing. Reading is a form of inspiration. I look at authors who do such incredible things with words and I want to be like them. It’s also a form of continuing education. I’m constantly on the lookout for that “master class” moment, where an author shows me exactly how something should be done.

How does that play out in my writing life? Here’s an example. With my current manuscript [note: this book became HOW IT FEELS TO FLY], I’ve been struggling with my protagonist’s emotional stakes. The highs haven’t felt high enough and the lows haven’t felt low enough. In layman’s terms, there weren’t enough feels. So I decided to reread Lovely, Dark and Deep by Amy McNamara. This book killed me—in a good way—when I first read it. I felt a deep ache in my chest for the main character, Wren, and her emotional struggles. I cried.

The plot of Lovely, Dark and Deep is nothing like the plot of my current manuscript, but it has those deep emotional moments I felt like my project was missing. So I read it again, looking at how the emotions built to the climactic scenes. I saw how McNamara was often able to show more by withholding speech and action than if she’d filled the page with Wren’s anguish. I felt gutted all over again. And when I went back to my revision, I tried to apply what I’d learned.

The cool thing about this way of reading is that you don’t have to seek out “literature” to pick up writerly skills. If a book makes you laugh or cry, if you cheer for the heroine or swoon over the hero or want to cut off the villain’s head yourself—in short, if you had an honest emotional response to what was happening on the page—you can learn from it.

So here are my challenges to you: The next time you’re reading something—anything—and you think to yourself, Wow, I wish I could do X like this author, or I really admire how this author does Y, jot it down. Keep reading. Keep looking for clues. When you’ve finished enjoying the book, put on your critical thinking cap and start asking why whatever it was that you loved worked so well. Then, file that information away until you need it. I promise, you’ll be so happy when you’re dealing with an issue in your own writing and you realize exactly which of your favorite authors to turn to for advice.

Here’s the part where you jump in. What authors inspire you in specific, writerly ways? Do you read like this, looking for tricks of the trade and skills you can utilize in your own work? Do you have any advice to share that we can all put into practice? Let’s get a discussion going in the comments.

Meanwhile…happy reading! 


Welcome to the Spring 2017 YA Scavenger Hunt!


It's time, once again, for the YA Scavenger Hunt! Are you ready to enter to win lots and lots of books? I thought so! Here's what you need to know: 

Somewhere in this blog post, I've hidden an important number. Collect all of the secret numbers of the authors on TEAM PINK and add them up. (Don't worry—you can use a calculator!) Then, fill out the entry form HEREPeople who have the correct number will be entered to win a copy of every book from TEAM PINK! 

The contest is open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by SUNDAY, APRIL 9, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Find out more about the entire hunt—including what other authors/teams are participating—by visiting the YASH home page

Meet the Author!

This time around, I'm hosting Kim Briggs, author of the STARR FALL series. Kim once smashed into a tree while skiing. The accident led to a concussion, a cracked sternum, temporary notoriety as a sixth grader returned from the dead, and the realization that fictionalized accounts are way more interesting than just slipping on the ice.

An unhealthy obsession with conspiracy theories combined with a love of travel and happily ever afters led Kim to write her YA novel, Starr Fall, which released in November 2016. The second book in the series, Starr Lost, came out in January 2017, and Starr Gone is coming in June 2017—all with Inkspell Publishing. Kim's novella, Avalanche, is part of the Valentine Kisses Anthology and released February 14, 2017.

About Starr Fall: 

On the run from the Organization, Starr never planned on falling in love.

Starr Bishop's the complete package. A perfect smile, brains to match, and a winning attitude. Boys want to date her and girls want to be her. She's the type of girl you want to hate, if only she wasn't so damn likable. But don't worry, she's not interested in your boyfriend. Boys are one complication she can live without.

When the Organization decides she's not only the model student but also the ideal assassin, Starr'll need a lot more than high test scores and extracurricular involvement to get herself out of that commitment. Dark, moody, and dead sexy Christian Evergood is the last person she'd expect—or even want-to come to her rescue. From opposite ends of Webster High's social hierarchy, their lives collide in one electrifying moment. Christian isn't the Goth loner he pretends to be, he's a part Cherokee, All-American boy who wants to be a hero, Starr's hero. Christian makes Starr forget that the Organization is after her, but nothing will stop the Organization from collecting their top recruit.

By the way, the spot for junior class president just became available.

Bonus content: 

Kim's excited to share an excerpt from Book Two, Starr Lost! Enjoy... 




I tried to catch Frank by himself coming into school this morning but that was an epic fail. Between his harem of ex-girlfriends vying for another chance and Little Red attached to his arm, I’ll never catch him alone. Why did Christian ask for him anyway? Mr. Joe Cool Jock is the last person Christian would want to be friends with. Starr’s got to be with him.

I wonder how that’s going. Christian’s always acted as if Starr’s mission in life was to make his existence miserable. A vendetta of sorts. Then I told him what happened to her and he went all Superman.

Oh. My. God. There’s another one of those Jesus Freak grief counselors from that crazy new church in town. Between them and the pigs showing up at school and Beans, I can’t get a moment’s peace.

How the hell do I talk to Mr. Hollywood by himself? Someone like me can’t just go up to Webster’s royal court without violating at least a dozen archaic codes of social interaction, and today is one day I don’t want to draw unwanted attention. Whatever Christian and Starr got themselves into is freakishly colossal, and I won’t be the one to fuck it up.

I follow two basketball knuckle draggers down the hall. I’m almost to homeroom when they split ranks. One lumbers down the stairs to the dungeon—appropriate I know. The other cuts off toward the cafeteria—probably wants to eat a few freshmen in between classes.

Wait a second.

I stop in the middle of the hallway. One person makes the mistake of knocking into me. A claw swipe and a hiss sends the clumsy thumb sucker and the rest of Webster’s peons running for their lives.

I watch the knuckle dragger cut the breakfast line, and it gives me an idea. I rip a flyer off the wall and scribble a message on it. Just as I finish, Mr. Hollywood and Little Red stroll down the hall.

I shove the flyer in his free hand. “Hey, check out this band.”

He winks as he flashes his cheesy smile. I roll my eyes and walk away. We may be on opposite ends of Webster’s social hierarchy, but he never changes.

The morning drags on period after brutal period. Contemporary Issues used to be my favorite class—that is until Starr and Christian disappeared. Now New Lifer Tammy dominates every discussion, including weather updates, with her conservative agenda. I’ve taken to sharpening my fingernails into points. And don’t even get me started about Chemistry with Morris. That should be self-explanatory. Of course, English Lit’s all right. I miss Starr, but One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest sorta reads like my personal memoir.

When the bell finally releases us, we scamper like Pavlov’s dogs to the cafeteria. A few underclassmen fall victim to a well-placed shove as I barrel down the stairs, but no one dares complain. No one wants an up-your-junk meeting with my Docs.

Your next steps...

Still on the YA Scavenger Hunt? There are two things you'll need to move forward. One: My secret number—42. And two: Your next stop on the Hunt. Head to Claire LaZebnik's website for more great book content and goodies! 

And don't forget that somewhere on the TEAM PINK hunt, you'll find bonus content related to my second book, HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, which came out last year.

Oh, and one more thing: ***GIVEAWAYS!***

First, Kim is giving away a $10 Amazon gift card, plus a signed copy of STARR FALL, to one lucky winner! Here's the Rafflecopter: 

Second, I'm excited to give away signed hardcovers of *both* of my books, plus swag, to one winner! Use this Rafflecopter to enter:

Happy Hunting! 


It's the NYC Teen Author Festival!

Welcome to one of my favorite weeks of the year: the NYC Teen Author Festival! Every March, a ton of YA authors from all over the country come together to celebrate our books and talk about things that are important to our readers—and this year, it's the festival's 10th anniversary, which makes it extra special. I've been going to these events since I was in graduate school, aka several years before I was published. The fact that what was once inspiration and aspiration is now part of my professional life makes NYCTAF all the more sweet. 

I will admit, I haven't been as active this week as I have in years past. Pregnancy and a busy schedule have slowed me down a bit. But! Yesterday, I had my first formal event, as part of the annual Big Read. Groups of authors go to schools and libraries all over the city to read from their work and talk to students. My team was sent to Murry Bergtraum High School, which is in lower Manhattan. We spent an hour presenting our books and answering questions from a few different high school English classes—and the kids were fantastic! They listened attentively and had great questions. A few came up to talk to us afterward, and I ended up giving away my author copy of HOW IT FEELS TO FLY to a sophomore who said she'd enjoyed the excerpt I read. Fingers crossed she enjoys the whole book! 

Our Big Read team went out to lunch after leaving the high school. From l-r: Michael Northrop, me, J.J. Howard, Stephanie Kate Strohm, and Tara Crowl. (Not pictured, but also on our team: Sara Mlynowski.)

Our Big Read team went out to lunch after leaving the high school. From l-r: Michael Northrop, me, J.J. Howard, Stephanie Kate Strohm, and Tara Crowl. (Not pictured, but also on our team: Sara Mlynowski.)

Tomorrow, I'll be paneling at the New York Public Library on 42nd Street in Manhattan—yes, that's the one with the stone lions. The entire afternoon is filled with author panels; come from 1-5pm to catch them all! I'm on at 4:10, and my group will be sharing snippets from our childhood/teen writings as well as our newest publications, to show how far we've come. 

Then, on Sunday, I'll be at the festival's mega-signing at Books of Wonder! You can catch me from 1-1:30pm, but authors will be at the bookstore until 4pm. 

Check out the full NYCTAF schedule HERE! And if you end up coming to one of the events, please say hello! 


Welcome to 2017! (Yes, a Bit Late...)

If you're a regular reader of my blog, you may have noticed that I've been on a bit of a hiatus. This wasn't really planned. Life just spiraled away from me a little bit! For several reasons: 

In case you missed it, I'm pregnant! Baby Girl is due in June. So, the past couple months have been chock full of baby prep (picking out items for our registry, apartment-hunting and then deciding to stay where we are after all, rearranging and redecorating our current place...). Not to mention the brain space I'm already losing to baby worries. It's amazing how time-consuming it can be to think and fret and dream about the tiny human growing inside you! 

Also, I have been writing like a madwoman. I have some friends who have had a hard time doing creative work while pregnant; luckily, I have not been in that boat. I've been both inspired and determined to finish a rewrite of an old project before the baby arrives. Last week, I accomplished Goal One on that front: I sent a complete draft to my agent, to get her feedback. If all goes well, I'll do a revision based on her notes and send it back in May. Keep your fingers crossed for me. :)

Those two things together, plus the occasional freelance assignment, have meant I've had very little time for anything else—this blog included. But that doesn't mean I plan to let this space wither away. In the coming months, keep an eye out for sporadic updates from me. I've also got some pre-scheduled posts planned:

  • I'll be participating in the YA Scavenger Hunt in a few weeks. I love this bi-annual event, which showcases tons of Young Adult writers' newest releases and includes So Many Giveaways. Watch this space for a chance to win a ton of books! 
  • At the end of 2016, the YA Buccaneers (the group blog I'd been a part of since 2014) shuttered for good. We had a fantastic run, but we'd all reached the point where we were being pulled in too many different directions to keep the blog running smoothly. The site is still up, for now, so visit to take a trip down memory lane. Meanwhile, I've rescued some of my old posts, and I'll be re-sharing them here in the months ahead. 

I'll leave you with my Word of the Year for 2017. This is something I've done since 2013, instead of writing down a list of New Year's Resolutions. This single word represents my goal for myself for a given year—physically, emotionally, mentally, etc. In 2013, I chose Patience. In 2014: Momentum. In 2015: Gratitude. And in looking back at 2016, it appears that I meant to share a word, and never actually did. Whoops! 

But for 2017, I've had one word at the top of my brain for a while now: 


Why? It's not only thanks to the phrase "Nevertheless, she persisted," which exploded following recent political events. It's also that the past twelve months have brought me a number of near-misses in terms of selling new books. It's easy to feel discouraged without another contract on the horizon. Are the two books that I have on shelves the only two I will ever publish? NO. I will continue to write and write and write. I will create manuscripts that I love, in the hope that someone else will love them just as much as I do. I will PERSIST. Even when the going gets tough. Even when everything in my life is about to change, with a baby on the way. Especially under those conditions. 

Do you have a word that encapsulates this year for you and your creative endeavors? I'd love to hear it! 


2016 Reading Wrap-Up

The end of the year is here, and I promised you one more blog post. Before Christmas, I shared my Top Ten Reads of 2016—check them out if you're looking to lose yourself in a wonderful book! This post's a little more nuts and bolts: I've tallied the final stats from my year-in-reading, and I've made pie charts! Yay, pie charts. 

First things first: my grand total for 2016 is... 93 books! I think that makes this my third most productive reading year ever, after last year (117 books, which will probably never happen again) and 2014 (94 books). Even better than the number: I enjoyed just about everything I read, which means all those hours were completely worth it. 

Here's the breakdown by age level: 

2016 books age breakdown.png

In last year's wrap-up post, I shared that I wanted to read more adult books in 2016. I beat last year's percentage by just a tiny bit, but I don't think I can really count that goal as met. So I'm setting it again for 2017! More adult books. Also, I plan to read a lot more middle-grade, as I dig into revising (and hopefully submitting) a middle-grade manuscript of my own. Expect the chart to be not quite so YA-heavy a year from now. 

Meanwhile, here's the genre breakdown from 2016: 

Last year, I lumped a lot of those smaller categories together, but this year it just didn't seem fair. Obviously, I still read a lot of straight contemporary, but look at what happens if you merge fantasy, historical fantasy, magical realism, and sci-fi! Probably close to a third of what I read this year was "genre" fiction. Maybe I can do even better next year. (That middle-grade manuscript I mentioned above is magical, so I'll need some inspiration...) 

Finally, in an effort to curb my book-buying habits, I returned to my shelves for a lot of rereads this year—16.1%, up from only 6% in 2015: 

Also tallied, but not with a chart: of the 93 books I completed this year, only seven had male authors. Sorry, dudes. It was the ladies' year. 

Do you keep a running list of what you read and how it adds up? Do you use it to help you set goals for the following year? Share in the comments! Meanwhile, I'll be back in January with an update on my blogging plans, and more. 

Happy New Year! 


Top Ten Reads of 2016

The end is near! The end of 2016, that is. 

This has been a year filled with ups and downs (and downs, and downs, and downs...)—but one area that was absolutely overflowing with ups was my reading life. As of writing this post, I've read 88 books since January 1. It's no match for last year's total, but still a pretty respectable sum. The best part: a lot of those books were truly amazing. 

Out of the 88, I picked my top ten for the year for this post. (I will, of course, issue an update if I read another stunner in the next week and a half!) My only eligibility criteria: regardless of year of publication, I had to read this book for the first time in 2016. Rereads of beloved favorites don't count. (Curious about my reread versus new-read ratio, and other 2016 reading stats? I'll be back with one more blog post before the end of the year with all the reading data you love!) 

So without further ado: My Top Ten Reads of 2016! 

This list really does encompass the entire year. ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE was the first book I read in 2016—a strong start!—and I finished THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR in early December. As for demographic, there are two adult books and eight YAs, which is honestly pretty representative of my reading patterns as a whole. And then there's genre: one historical, two (very different) fantasies, one magical realism, and six realistic stories, ranging from happy-ending romance to epic emotional journeys. Not bad! 

ALL THE LIGHT WE CANNOT SEE: A blind French girl and a German boy try to survive the devastation of World War II. Gorgeous prose, and filled with short vignettes that interconnect in surprising ways. 

THE SACRED LIES OF MINNOW BLY: After escaping from the cult that took her childhood and her hands, seventeen-year-old Minnow is in juvenile detention, debating whether to open up to a detective about the circumstances that put her behind bars. 

A DARKER SHADE OF MAGIC: There are multiple Londons—grey, red, white, and black—and Kell is one of the only people who can travel between them. In Grey London, Kell meets Delilah Bard, a thief and unlikely ally who convinces him to take her home to Red London with him. Meanwhile, a dark magic is brewing that will threaten each world...

UP TO THIS POINTE: An unexpected letdown sends ballet dancer Harper fleeing to Antarctica's McMurdo Station, where she comes to terms with her past and begins embracing her future during a cold, dark winter. 

THE SERPENT KING: Three outcasts in rural Tennessee—the son of a disgraced snake-handling preacher, an ambitious teen fashion blogger, and an epic fantasy nerd—face senior year together. Warning: this one's a tear-jerker. 

CHALLENGER DEEP: A before-and-after-and-during story about a high-schooler's descent into mental illness, where nothing is really as it seems. This is a compelling and harrowing portrayal of schizophrenia through the eyes of a person experiencing it in real time. 

ROCKS FALL, EVERYONE DIES: Aspen Quick is part of a magical family that prevents the cliff that overhangs his small town from falling. Aspen also has the ability to steal things from people: memories, emotions, scars. In one summer, he'll learn the uncomfortable truths about his family and his gift. 

GEORGIA PEACHES & OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT: When Joanna's radio evangelist father remarries and moves the family from Atlanta to a small north Georgia town, Joanna agrees to keep her sexuality a secret in exchange for her own radio show about teens and faith. Then, she meets a girl...

WHEN THE MOON WAS OURS: Miel grows roses from her wrists. Sam paints moons to hang in the trees. Together, they hide secrets about their respective pasts. Over the course of this lushly written, magical book, they each make peace with who they really are—and who they love. 

THE SUN IS ALSO A STAR: It's Natasha's last day in the United States: she's being deported to Jamaica. It's the day that's supposed to launch Daniel's future: he's interviewing for a college program his Korean parents want more than he does. Natasha doesn't believe in love. Daniel's a romantic and a poet. In one New York City day, they find and fall for each other. 

What were your favorite reads of 2016? Share in the comments! 


Friday Five: Mid-October Fun Times's been quite some time since I did a Friday Five. But I have good reason for my delinquency! I have been busy, busy, busy. Here are just a few of the things that have kept me from blogging...

1) I sent my latest manuscript revision to my agent on Monday! I've been hard at work on this draft since getting her notes in August, making a lot of changes that I think have made the book significantly stronger. I've got my fingers crossed that my agent agrees... :) 

2) One of the reasons I wasn't around in September was that I had an overwhelming amount of freelance work, on top of the manuscript revision I mentioned above. But! On September 30, I concluded my contract with one of my freelance jobs. Since October 1, I have had twice as much time to devote to my fiction, and that has been a genuine pleasure. 

3) Speaking of October 1... I had a birthday! Hello, 34. 

4) I shared on Twitter the other day that I hadn't been reading much while I was deep in revision-land. That said, I did read a few spectacular books over the past couple weeks! Here are three realistic YAs I have to recommend: 

Two sweet love stories (GEORGIA PEACHES and MY UNSCRIPTED LIFE) and one bittersweet love story (SUFFER LOVE). So you can tell what kinds of stories I've been in the mood for lately!  

5) I don't think I've mentioned on here that I've fallen hard for "Jane the Virgin." In particular, I want Rogelio de la Vega to hang out in my vicinity, hashtagging things. (#RogelioMyBrogelio) If you're looking for a charming, funny, sometimes-ridiculous telenovela with plenty of heart and depth, the first two seasons are on Netflix. 

That's all for now...what's up with you? 


Welcome to the Fall 2016 YA Scavenger Hunt!

Who's ready to enter to win a TON of books? 

That's right—it's YA Scavenger Hunt time yet again. Interested in participating? Here's what you need to know: 

Somewhere in this blog post, I've hidden an important number. Collect all of the secret numbers of the authors on TEAM ORANGE and add them up. (Don't worry—you can use a calculator!) Then, fill out the entry form HEREPeople who have the correct number will be entered to win a copy of every book from TEAM ORANGE! 

The contest is open internationally. Anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by SUNDAY, OCTOBER 9, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Find out more about the entire hunt—including what other authors/teams are participating—by visiting the YASH home page

So without further ado...

For this hunt, I'm hosting author Gina Damico, whose new book WAX just released in August. 

Gina Damico grew up under four feet of snow in Syracuse, New York. She has since worked as a tour guide, transcriptionist, theater house manager, scenic artist, movie extra, office troll, retail monkey, yarn hawker and breadmonger. She is the author of the grim-reapers-gone-wild books of the Croak trilogy (CROAK, SCORCH, and ROGUE), HELLHOLE, WAX and the upcoming WASTE OF SPACE (2017), all published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Books for Young Readers. She lives in California with her husband, two cats, one dog, and and obscene amount of weird things purchased at yard sales. 

About WAX: 

Paraffin, Vermont, is known the world over as home to the Grosholtz Candle Factory. But behind the sunny retail space bursting with overwhelming scents and homemade fudge, seventeen-year-old Poppy Palladino discovers something dark and unsettling: a back room filled with dozens of startlingly life-like wax sculptures, crafted by one very strange old lady. Poppy hightails it home, only to be shocked when one of the figures—a teenage boy who doesn’t seem to know what he is—jumps naked and screaming out of the trunk of her car. She tries to return him to the candle factory, but before she can, a fire destroys the mysterious workshop—and the old woman is nowhere to be seen.

With the help of the wax boy, who answers to the name Dud, Poppy resolves to find out who was behind the fire. But in the course of her investigation, she discovers that things in Paraffin aren’t always as they seem, that the Grosholtz Candle Factory isn’t as pure as its reputation—and that some of the townspeople she’s known her entire life may not be as human as they once were. In fact, they’re starting to look a little . . . waxy. Can Poppy and Dud extinguish the evil that’s taking hold of their town before it’s too late?

Oooh...sounds super creepy!

Here's Gina's bonus content:

A note from Gina: This is a deleted scene from somewhere around the beginning of WAX. Poppy has just left a party where she was the victim of a humiliating prank – that part is still in the book, but this part was cut because the character was later cut. Enjoy!

And that wasn’t even the end of it. It was only the end of the humiliation portion of the evening; the weird-ass, what-in-the-hell portion had just begun. The one she would never tell another soul about.
For as she flailed down the suburban, poorly-lit street, wet and half-naked and wanting nothing more than to burrow under her covers and never come out again, a voice called out to her.
Poppy was an intelligent girl. Even in her state of extreme distress, she knew better than to stop and converse with a dark, creepy stranger emerging from the shadows. But something in that voice made her involuntarily pause, literally stopped her in her tracks.
In that one simply syllable: a world of fear. Embedded deep within the man’s baritone, a gritty, scratching rasp. An alien, unknown element that she’d never heard before. Something that had no business being in a human voice. Feedback on a hot microphone. A scientifically impossible sound wave. The screech of an ancient sea monster bubbling up to the surface.
Poppy stayed absolutely still.
The man stepped into the light of a streetlamp. He was ragged and mangy, like a feral dog. Long, greasy hair hung in front of his face. His clothes sagged from his bones. He walked with an odd gait, as if limping on a bad foot. When he got close enough to Poppy—and she let him get close, against her will, as if she’d lost the power to move—she could smell his stale, putrid breath puffing onto her tear-stained face.
She looked up into his eyes—again, not because she chose to—and cringed at the cold, unfeeling orbs looking back at her. The one on the left had a scar next to it, a pale, crescent-shaped gash framing the corner. Later she would remember that they were all black, no whites in them at all, though that could have just been a trick of the light. But what happened next was no trick. She was sure it happened, sure as she’d ever been about anything.
He asked her about the weather.
“Is it going to rain tonight?” he rasped. The aberration was still there in his voice, that staticky undercurrent.
“I don’t think so,” Poppy answered, surprised at how calm she sounded. She did not feel calm.
“Still hot tomorrow? More sun?”
“Yeah. The heat wave is supposed to break next week, I think.”
He gave his head a violent shake, upset by her answer. “That won’t work,” he growled to himself.
And even though Poppy was the one who looked like a drowned lemur, she found herself blurting, “Are you all right?”
The man didn’t answer. He stared at her, curious, cocking his head, as if deciding whether he should unhinge his jaw and devour her whole. Something flashed on his chest—a silver chain around his neck, glinting in the moonlight.
With that, he turned and retreated into the woods, shadows shuddering as he walked through the brush.
That should have been the end of it, but Poppy was still under his spell. Maybe it was the insanity that had come before. Maybe he looked like she felt. Maybe it was the whole To Kill A Mockingbird theme running through the evening and the bizarre thought that this man was her Boo Radley. Whatever it was, Poppy would never be able to figure out what compelled her to shout after him, “What’s your name?”
The shadows trembled.
The woods went silent.
She never saw him again.

Your next steps:  

Still on the YA Scavenger Hunt? There are two things you'll need to move forward. One: My secret number—34. And two: Your next stop on the Hunt. Head to Jeff Garvin's website for more great book content and goodies! 

And don't forget that somewhere on the TEAM ORANGE hunt, you'll find a deleted scene from my new book, HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, which came out June 14. Interested in an additional chance to win a copy, as well as some book swag? Check out the Rafflecopter below!  

Happy Hunting! 


Friday Five: The Returned-From-Awesome-Travels Edition

I'm back at my desk today after nine days away, and it's so nice to be sitting here with my coffee and my manuscript and my usual to-do list. Don't get me wrong—the time away was fantastic! But nine days on the road is a lot. For today's Friday Five, I thought I'd give a little recap of my travels, because as I said, it's been a blast. 

1) Last Wednesday, my husband and I flew to North Carolina to meet his family at the Outer Banks. It's our third year renting a beach house there, and this year was by far the most relaxing. I sat on the beach and jumped around in the waves and got some reading done and tanned a tiny, tiny bit...and even got in a couple hours of revision, with a nice view. When I was younger, beach vacations weren't my favorite. Now, I love the sand between my toes and the sound of the waves. (I've also learned how to sunscreen for optimal protection, making it less likely I'll end up as a lobster...) Plus, spending time with family is always a good thing! 

2) Duck Donuts, y'all. One of my favorite things about heading to the Outer Banks is this (now not-so-local) donut chain. They make them fresh on demand, literally churning out warm cakes and topping them with your choice of glazes and extras. While I am normally a chocolate person, at Duck Donuts I am addicted to their maple-bacon option. Seriously. To die for. 

3) After leaving the beach, my husband and I drove to Raleigh, where we enjoyed a relaxing day and a half before he had to head back to NYC. We ate some amazing food (if you're in the area, don't miss Angus Barn and Relish Cafe & Bar) and—hope he's not mad at me for sharing this—even got side-by-side pedicures. 

4) I continued solo to Asheville, where I had my first of two book events! I was lucky to get to panel with Jaye Robin Brown, Lauren Gibaldi, Ashley Herring Blake, and Amy Reed at Malaprop's, a beloved independent bookstore downtown, and the event went great. We were celebrating the release of Jaye's second book, GEORGIA PEACHES & OTHER FORBIDDEN FRUIT, which I can't wait to read! 

5) Our second panel was in Greenville, South Carolina, at Fiction Addiction—and it was extra fun because the audience included several fellow YA authors. Afterward, a bunch of us went out for Mexican food—and plenty of publishing gossip. Get a bunch of writers together and we'll book-talk for ages... Oh, and I have to give a shout-out to Lauren Gibaldi, for being an excellent travel buddy. We had so much fun exploring Asheville and Greenville together. :) 

What's been going on in your world? Can you believe it's already September?!?!


Friday Five: Writing Progress, Book Events, Good Reads, and More

I feel like I start too many of these Friday Five posts off by talking about the weather, so I won't tell you that as I write this, it's a temperature best described as "stupid-hot." But I'm inside, where it's air-conditioned, and here are this week's five good things: 

1) I finally managed to break 10,000 words on a new manuscript. This is an almost total rewrite of an old project, and I've been pretty scared of starting over after spending so much time with the existing version, but in the past two weeks, something clicked. I made myself sit down and write words, and in writing words, I figured out a few new plot details, and I keep having ideas for more, which is awesome. For me, 10K is usually where I feel committed to a project. If I can get that far, I can keep going. So yay! 

2) This past Sunday, I had a great time at Bookitcon: Chapter Two. This annual New Jersey book festival is run by a multitalented book blogger, Nori—who is an actual teenager. Seriously, she's amazing. And the event was too! I got to meet and chat with readers, bloggers, and other authors, participate in a panel discussion about surprises in publishing, and of course sell and sign books. Can't wait for next year. 

3) My husband and I have been watching Penny Dreadful on Netflix. I'd heard good things, but had been nervous that it would be too scary. And it is pretty scary—but it's also incredibly compelling. Gothic horror characters (Dr. Frankenstein and his Creature, vampire-hunter Van Helsing, Dorian Grey, and others) coming together to fight the forces of evil in Victorian London—more, please! We've just begun season two, so I may report back with further thoughts.... 

4) Continuing to love my new yoga studio. Wednesday's class kicked my butt—as it does each week. I love how that teacher, in particular, pushes us to safely go past where we think our edge is. Case in point: a tough set of one-legged poses (King Dancer to Half-Moon to Sugarcane and back up to King Dancer) that left me trembling...but still standing. Thumbs up. 

5) I've been reading some fantastic books lately! Here are four of them.  

Melissa Grey's THE SHADOW HOUR is the sequel to 2015's THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT. If you love urban fantasy, don't miss this story about a human girl (or is she?) caught in the middle of a centuries-old war between a birdlike race, the Avicen, and a dragonlike people, the Drakharin.

SPIN THE SKY is Jill MacKenzie's debut (out this November). I was so excited to read it because it's about a dancer, Magnolia, who goes on a reality TV dance competition to escape her family's bad reputation at home. Spoiler: I adored it, and will be talking it up more in the fall.

Virginia Boecker's THE KING SLAYER is the follow-up to 2015's THE WITCH HUNTER. It's a lush alternate-history fantasy set in a world where magic has been outlawed by the crown...but may not be as dangerous as the power that threatens it. Book two is every bit as good as book one.

And finally, I bought Charlotte Huang's 2015 debut FOR THE RECORD after meeting Charlotte at Bookitcon on Sunday, and I've already raced through it. It's about a singer who's brought in by her record label to front an existing band—and these guys are not happy to have her there. The book follows the group, Melbourne, on tour for a crazy summer, and it's so much fun. 

What's going on in your world? Can you believe it's already mid-August? 


Friday Five: Finished Drafts, Yoga Milestones, Ghostbusters, and Stranger Things

So, here in NYC, it's been HOT. And HUMID. Definite stay-indoors-where-the-AC-is-blasting weather. Luckily, I've had a lot of awesome things going on to keep me from wilting in the heat! Here's this week's Friday Five: 

1) I'm so excited to have sent a revised draft of my latest YA manuscript to my agent! I don't want to talk too much about it online yet, but I don't mind sharing that it's a contemporary ghost story set in Venice—a bit of a departure from my first two YA books, but such fun to write. I can't wait to hear what she thinks of the changes I made! 

2) Last week, in yoga class, I did a forearm stand (like a handstand, but you're on your forearms instead of your hands). It only lasted a moment, and I was so surprised to be up there that I promptly forgot how to come down, but...suffice it to say, my new yoga studio is paying off. 

3) My husband and I went to see the new Ghostbusters movie last Friday, and I loved it. It's so cheesy to say, but seeing those ladies onscreen kicking ghost-butt without having to look sexy or wait for instructions from a dude was really exciting! And Kate McKinnon is *everything* in it. Seriously. Holtzmann for the win.  

4) Is everyone watching "Stranger Things" on Netflix? We binge-watched this eight-episode show over the weekend, and I can't wait for season two! It's a mildly scary sci-fi series set in the 1980s—a mix of vintage Steven Spielberg and Stephen King, with plenty of other references thrown in. A young boy goes missing, a mysterious girl shows up in the woods, there's a lab on the outskirts of town running dangerous experiments.... Watch it! 

5) I've been doing the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge, and you should join in! Here's the list of reading prompts: 

Happy reading! I hope you're enjoying some sunshine while also staying cool. :) 


Friday Five: Book Events, Book Events, Book Events!

Two weeks ago, I was having a hard time coming up with a consistent Friday Five when there was so much ugliness and fear in the world. And today, I'm writing after a period of multiple new shootings, as well as a terrorist attack in Nice, France. It's really overwhelming. But that doesn't mean there haven't been good things happening, as well. So in the spirit of focusing on the positive, here's this week's Friday Five: 

1) I've had some really great book events for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY so far in July! On July 6, I paneled at the Jefferson Market Library in Manhattan, along with a bunch of other authors with new YA releases. And this past Tuesday, July 12, I had the privilege of participating in a panel that was all YA books featuring dancers—aka, right in my wheelhouse. Both events had wonderful discussions and attentive audiences, which is really all a writer can ask for. (I mean, that and selling some books...which I did. Yay!)

2) Tomorrow (July 16), I'm doing the first hometown event for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY! I'm so excited about this one. I've teamed up with fellow author Brooks Benjamin (MY SEVENTH-GRADE LIFE IN TIGHTS) and my hometown dance studio, Van Metre School of Dance in Maryville, TN, for a fun dance/book extravaganza. There will be book signings, dance performances, and more. I really hope some people—especially young dancers—show up!  

3) I did a forearm stand in yoga class on Wednesday. This is a pose I've only done successfully once or twice before—and that was several years ago. So I'm thrilled to think maybe I'm getting some of my old skills back! 

4) I've been rewatching the TV show Farscape (aired in the early 2000s, when I was in college), and I've reached season 3...which is all about the 'ship. I mean, other stuff happens, but...John/Aeryn truly happens, and it's amazing and swoony and heartbreaking. I can't wait to be emotionally compromised all over again. 

5) I'm currently reading (and loving) Victoria Schwab's newest YA novel, THIS SAVAGE SONG. What are you reading right now? Anything I should check out? 

Until next week! 


Friday Five: What a Long, Strange Week (Couple of Weeks...) It's Been

It can feel strange to celebrate anything personal when there's bad or scary news all over the world. But maybe when things feel uncertain or crazy, that's actually a good time to celebrate small victories and joys. So here's my Friday Five, encompassing the past two weeks! 

1) Yeah, book came out! HOW IT FEELS TO FLY is officially on shelves, and I couldn't be happier. It seems to be finding readers and getting a generally positive response—and hopefully the momentum will only build from here. Also, this past Tuesday I had my launch party at Books of Wonder, alongside authors Caela Carter (Tumbling) and Jennifer Castle (What Happens Now), and it went so well. We had a great panel conversation—here we are chatting about our books and our writing process. Can't wait to do more of these events and meet more readers. 

2) My wonderful sister was here to celebrate the book launch with me! It's always a pleasure to have her visit and catch up on sister-bonding time. Love you, Mary-Owen! :) 

3) I love seeing friends I don't see that often, and I love meeting their adorable babies, and in the past week I got to do both: first at a Prospect Park meetup with my grad school crew (two of whom now have baby girls) and then at my Books of Wonder party. (Not to mention all the book-world friends I've gotten to hang with at the other panels and events I've attended recently—June has been such a packed book month!) 

4) On Saturday night, my husband, sister, and I went to the Broadway musical Waitress, which is based on the 2007 movie of the same name. The show was so lovely, and I can't stop singing/humming the songs. Two thumbs way up! 

5) Last week I read my grad school friend Mia Garcia's debut YA novel, EVEN IF THE SKY FALLS, and I just loved it. It's a 24-hour whirlwind romance set in New Orleans during midsummer Mardi Gras, with a hurricane on the horizon. But it's not all about the swoons (of which there are many!). Protagonist Julie is in New Orleans on a Habitat for Humanity–style youth group trip, hoping to take a break from the mess of her life back home. When she ditches her group and heads off into the city by herself, she meets Miles, a charismatic musician with family/home life problems of his own. They agree not to share real names or baggage and embark on one of the most charming not-really-a-date first dates I've read in a while. This book made me smile, but it also had moments that were really wrenching and real. More Mia books, please! 

What are you happy about this week? 


Friday Five: It's the Final Countdown!

Okay, loyal blog readers: this is it. HOW IT FEELS TO FLY comes out in four days! 

How am I supposed to focus on anything else?? Nonetheless, I'll try to come up with a Friday Five that isn't all about me, me, me... ;) 

1) I've read some really great books lately. On Saturday, I blazed through Caela Carter's new YA, TUMBLING. It takes place during the Olympic gymnastics trials, and follows five girls whose fate will be sealed by two days of intense competition. Grace wants to be the perfect gymnast, but she always seems to come in second to her friend Leigh—whose parents push her to have a life that doesn't revolve around gymnastics. Wilhelmina wants a come-from-behind win, while Camille wants to walk away but fears disappointing everyone who's invested in her. And Monica is the girl no one notices—until she starts having the meet of her life. This book has so much power and emotion. If you're a sports fan, you'll love this story. But it's also for anyone who's a fan of girls dreaming big and kicking butt. (I can't wait to talk more about TUMBLING and the themes it shares with HOW IT FEELS TO FLY at my, Caela's, and Jennifer Castle's shared book launch on June 21 at Books of Wonder!) 


2) Another spectacular recent read: Neal Shusterman's CHALLENGER DEEP. It's no surprise that this book won last year's National Book Award for Young People's Literature—it's a gripping, raw, beautiful, and harrowing depiction of a teenager's descent into mental illness. Caden Bosch is a sophomore when his mind starts to fill with strange thoughts and beliefs that eventually take over. These early chapters are interspersed with Caden as a crew member on a ship traveling to Challenger Deep in the Marianas Trench, the deepest place on earth. As Caden's reality slips further and further away, the sea journey becomes more and more interwoven with his struggle. I don't want to spoil how it all fits together, but I will say that it's stunningly done. To read CHALLENGER DEEP is to get a tiny taste of the havoc schizophrenia wreaks on the mind. I was blown away. 

3) I'm almost at the halfway point of my current manuscript revision! Onward and upward. 

4) Hm. Had some really good ice cream this week. Thanks, Blue Marble!

5) HOW IT FEELS TO FLY comes out on Tuesday! Have you preordered? (If so, don't forget to fill out THIS FORM in order to claim your preorder prize!) Are you coming to see me at one of my upcoming EVENTS? Are you available to give me a hug and calm me down? I'd be so very grateful... :) 

What's new with you? 


Friday Five: Holy Heat Wave, Batman!

Well—summer is here! We went from a chilly and gray mid-May to 80+ degrees the past couple days. I'm not complaining too much, except that, well, our apartment is a sauna. Time to put in those window air conditioners... 

Here's the Friday Five: 

1) Another positive review for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY! This one's from Booklist: "Holmes’ look at anxiety feels wonderfully authentic, and readers will recognize, and sympathize with, the pressure Sam feels from family and friends. Filtering these issues through the lens of an athletic endeavor gives this added appeal." Yay! 

2) I finally feel like I'm hitting my stride with the revision of my next YA manuscript! It took me a while to find my way in, which definitely sometimes happens but was pretty discouraging. Hopefully it will be smooth(ish) sailing from here on out, no matter how long it takes.

3) Three-day weekend! Not only that—a three-day weekend with nice weather! Granted, as a freelancer, taking Monday off is my own choice rather than a luxury, but...three-day weekend!

4) I think all of our shows (aside from Game of Thrones and Orphan Black) ended this week. While this season of Arrow wasn't my favorite, I thought The Flash went out strong—and I'm especially excited to see where that ending twist takes season 3. Thoughts? 

5) Related to the above comment on the heat wave—I have just found perhaps the only cool spot in the apartment (sitting on the floor next to an open window), and I plan to stay here for some time. Hopefully it's conducive to some amazing writing/revising! 

How was your week?


Friday Five: I Think I'm Getting a Cold Edition

I think I'm getting a cold. I really, really don't want to be sick. But oh, the sinus headache...

Let's talk about good things, instead! 

1) I really enjoyed last weekend's production of A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE. Gillian Anderson was amazing, but so was the rest of the cast. The staging was so innovative—the set rotated and seating was in the round, which meant that our view of things was constantly changing. Geek-out moment: after the show, my friend and I were able to wave at Gillian in her Uber by the stage door, and she totally waved back. 

2) I'm slowly but surely making my way into my current book revision. It's detailed character work rather than plot work, which takes longer—and consequently feels like you've accomplished less at the end of each writing session than when you can say "I wrote 1000 new words!" or whatever. But I will crack these characters! I will! 

3) We finally had nice weather again this week. On Wednesday, I walked to and from my new yoga studio (~20 minutes one way), and it was really lovely to be outside in the middle of the day. Sun shining, but not too hot. Birds chirping. Trees and flowers in bloom. The walk really put me in the yoga mindset. Plus, walking is great for thinking about the above revision problems! 

4) Agents of SHIELD got really good this season, huh. Tuesday's season finale was awesome! 

5) My preorder giveaway is up and running! If you've preordered HOW IT FEELS TO FLY or plan to do so before June 13, and you want some exclusive book-themed goodies, go HERE to sign up. Your swag will go in the mail as soon as the book hits shelves! 

That's all for now. I've got writing to do... 

Have a great weekend! 


Friday Five: My Books Arrived, My Books Arrived!

Yesterday, I received the first finished hardcovers for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, as well as finished paperback editions of THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND. I'm still floating from seeing my books all lined up for their Instagram photo. So that seems like a good place to start! 


1) There really is nothing like holding the finished product of a thing you worked so, so hard on for so, so long. I had to feel the finish on the jacket, and then check out the naked spine, and flip through the pages.... And then I found one of my absolute favorite bits: the page where it says "Also by Kathryn Holmes: The Distance Between Lost and Found." (Meanwhile, inside the DISTANCE paperback: "Also by Kathryn Holmes: How It Feels to Fly.") I am officially a two-book author! Ahhh! 

(NB: HOW IT FEELS TO FLY still comes out June 14. This is just an early copy from the printer!)

2) Last night, I got to attend the debut launch party for one of my New School MFA friends, Mia Garcia. Her book, EVEN IF THE SKY FALLS, came out on Tuesday, and I can't wait to read it! It's a YA romance set in New Orleans, and the action takes place in 24 hours...with a big storm on the horizon. Congratulations, Mia! 

3) Do you like YA thrillers? You'll love Amanda Panitch's second book, NEVER MISSING, NEVER FOUND, which releases in late June. I got to read an ARC this week, and it kept me up far too late on Tuesday night. I couldn't stop turning pages until I found out how it ended! The book is about Scarlett, who was kidnapped and held hostage for several years as a child before escaping. Now a teen, she just wants a normal life and a normal summer job. But when one of her new amusement park coworkers reminds her a bit too much of the girl she was held captive with all those years ago, the past threatens to swallow Scarlett all over again. Plus, another park employee has gone missing. Is it all connected? This book is fast-paced and twisty, and I loved it. You will too. 

4) Y'all, y'all, y'all: tomorrow (tomorrow!) I get to see Gillian Anderson in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn. I am SO EXCITED. 

5) I managed to make a particularly good pot of coffee this morning. Sometimes, it's the little things. *sips* 

What's good with you this week? 


Friday Five: Catching Up After a Few Weeks Off...

You may have noticed there was no Friday Five last week—and no Friday Five the week before that. Mea culpa! Real Life kicked me in the pants. Plus, my husband and I managed to visit both of our families in a 10-day span. That part wasn't so bad. In fact, it leads me right into...

Justin took this picture of me with nephews #3, #4, and #5 piled on my lap! All the snuggles. *heart-eyes*

Justin took this picture of me with nephews #3, #4, and #5 piled on my lap! All the snuggles. *heart-eyes*

1) Family time. We have five *adorable* nephews, two on his side of the family and three on mine, and it was a pleasure to see them all over the last two weeks! (The almost-nine-year-old would probably bristle at being called "adorable" on the Internet, but so be it.) Justin and I got to be super-uncle and super-aunt. We took the almost-six-year-old to the Air and Space Museum at Dulles Airport. We (along with my sister, the other super-aunt) shuttled the three-year-old and the almost-two-year-old to a fast-food playspace for lunch and running around, when my sister-in-law needed them out of the house. We played catch and pushed rope swings and watched various guys play on various mobile devices. It was a blast. 

2) When Real Life cuts in and I don't have time to write for a while, I always come back to it intimidated. I feel like maybe I'll have forgotten how to make stories. This is silly, I know. But nonetheless, it was a huge relief to sit down yesterday morning and write a tentative new first chapter for the magical Middle-Grade I'm starting to rewrite. Maybe I haven't forgotten, after all.

3) I've got a few events officially planned to promote HOW IT FEELS TO FLY this summer! Keep an eye on my EVENTS page for more details... 

4) Speaking of HOW IT FEELS TO FLY, there's been some great news on that front. First, I just found out that the book has sold to a French publisher, Hugo & CIE, who will translate it and produce a French edition (sometime within the next 18 months or so). Magnifique! Also, the first reviews are trickling in, and they're positive, which is such a relief. School Library Journal said FLY is "An empowering story for middle and high school readers searching for acceptance from themselves as well as others" and recommended it for summer reading. Yay! 

5) Captain America: Civil War tonight! #TeamCap

What's new with you? 


Friday Five: Friends and Rereads...and a Manuscript Milestone

It's time once again for the Friday Five! 

1) It's been Reread Week for me. I powered through two YA favorites, Jandy Nelson's THE SKY IS EVERYWHERE and Heather Demetrios's I'LL MEET YOU THERE, before picking up THE ROYAL WE by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. I devour new-to-me stories, but there's something so lovely about returning to a book you've read before and *know* will do exactly what you need it to do in the moment you pick it up. 

2) On Wednesday, I got to catch up with two friends I haven't seen in far too long. One had a baby five months ago (and so I got some baby snuggles as well!) and the other opened her own dance studio a year ago and has been swallowed up by that. I'm so glad we found time to hang out. Sometimes, it's all about making time—especially when, like me, you're the one that *doesn't* have the amazing excuse for being a recluse...

3) Yesterday, I got to the end of the current draft of my new manuscript! Since finishing the (admittedly abridged) first draft in January, I've added about 28,000 words, reorganized the whole middle, straightened out the emotional arc a bit... Yes, there's still quite a ways to go before it's anything resembling goodbut finishing a draft gets it one step closer. :) 

4) I'm planning book launch and promo stuff for HOW IT FEELS TO FLY. Fun fun fun, coming your way in just a couple months! 

5) We booked tickets to visit my family in Tennessee at the end of the month. Can't wait. 

What are you happy about this week? 


Friday Five: "Fiona" and Other Diversions

Another chilly spring afternoon, another late-in-the-day Friday Five! 

1) My sprained ankle is finally feeling *almost* back to 100%. I'm still babying it a little, because this is that delicate period when it's so easy to overdo things and prolong the recovery, but wow it feels good to not be limping around! 

2) On that note, I just got back from a new yoga class, and it's really nice to be moving at almost-full-out capacity. Plus, I haven't wheel-posed (that's a backbend) in a while, and I was still able to push up today without too much of a struggle. So, yay! 

3) Good news for a loved one. Can't talk about it yet, but I'm smiling. 

4) I had a lovely meeting with my agent yesterday where we chatted about my next couple projects. Hopefully you'll get to hear more about them soon, but for the moment: I am writing—a lot—and I am excited. 

5) This week's reading: another sophomore release for a Fearless Fifteener friend! Meredith Moore's FIONA is a modern-gothic thriller-romance set in Scotland. It's got castles and family secrets and bumps in the night and, of course, an eligible bachelor who's drawn to our heroine despite having many reasons not to succumb to her charms. Oh...the plot? Fiona takes a job as an au pair for the daughter of her mother's childhood best friend. Fiona's mom was mentally ill, and took her life several years ago, so Fiona is desperate to connect with any family or family friends she has left. But all is not as it seems—especially when Fiona starts hearing and seeing strange things in the castle and on the grounds. Is she following in her mother's footsteps—or is someone trying to make her think she's going crazy? Who would do that, and why? This is a lush page-turner, and it's out now. 

What's good in your world this week?