YA Buccaneers

Motivation Vs. Vacation

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


I don't know about you, but I always find it difficult to feel motivated to work in mid-August. Maybe it's the heat. Maybe it's that perpetual almost-back-to-school feeling. Maybe it's everyone's beachy photos on social media. Maybe it's the fact that I'll soon be at the beach myself. 

[Note: this post is from 2016, but we will in fact be beaching again, little person in tow, in a few weeks! Just you wait for the baby swimsuit photos...sorry-not-sorry in advance. And for the record, while this summer has been a crash-course in new-parenthood, most summers I'm writing and promoting my work just as hard—if not harder!—than the rest of the year.] 

Whatever the case, there's no question that I could use a vacation. 

But here's the thing about being a writer, full-time or otherwise: it can be hard to let yourself take a vacation from the work. There's the sense of obligation—this book isn't going to write itself. There's how productive everyone else seems to be. There's the fear of missing out, of being left behind by writers who have more book deals and whose careers are progressing faster. And of course there's the guilt: if I'm not doing everything I can to help myself succeed, I'll have only myself to blame if I fail. 

Needing time off can feel like weakness. Taking a break can feel like quitting. 

So here's the reminder, for myself as much as for all of you who are in the trenches with me:

Rest is important. Vacations are important. Time spent not writing is important. 

But when should you indulge in time off? Deadlines permitting, I'd say...

1: When you finish a draft. 

After you type "The End," is your first instinct to scroll back to page one and start editing? What would happen if you saved and closed the document, instead? What if you spent the rest of the day lounging at the pool, or catching up on Netflix, or reading a book? 

Taking a few days or weeks away from a project when a draft is done isn't just good for your brain; it can also be good for the manuscript! Time off can give you the space and distance you need to assess your work more clearly. You might pick up on plot holes, character inconsistencies, and even typos that you'd miss if you dove back in without pausing to catch your breath.  

2: When you send out or turn in a draft. 

When you send a manuscript to your editor, your agent, or beta readers/critique partners, you probably aren't going to immediately start tinkering with it. But what about those other projects that have been waiting patiently for your attention? Should you shift gears right away? 

Your mileage may vary, but I've found that this is one of the best times to take a brief writing hiatus. When I sent a YA WIP off to my agent last July, I'd planned to jump right into the MG fantasy rewrite I'd been anxious about starting. But after two days of feeling paralyzed by the blank page, I realized I needed to give my brain an actual break. I told myself, You'll start the MG on Monday morning. Then I devoted some time to all of the things that can fall by the wayside during intense revision periods. I took on some additional freelance work. I cleaned the apartment. I cooked some delicious meals for myself and my husband. I took extra yoga and dance classes. 

I went a week without creative writing, and it didn't kill me. In fact, when I opened the MG document again, I felt refreshed and was able to hit the ground running. 

3: When you're hitting your head against the wall. 

I'm a firm believer in "the only way out is through." Most of the time, when I'm stuck on a chapter or scene, I'll find a way to get something down on the page. I'll jump ahead a few scenes. I'll sketch an outline that has actions but no emotions, or vice versa. But what about those times when forward progress feels completely impossible? 

This is, I think, when it's hardest to step away from the computer. The stubbornness kicks in. You don't want to let the manuscript defeat you, even if writing is like squeezing blood from a stone. 

So...make yourself take a break. Walk around the neighborhood. Do dishes. Work out. And if your head doesn't feel clearer in an hour, give yourself the rest of the day. Or a couple of days. That stumbling block will still be there when you return—and with any luck, the time off will help it look less like a mountain you can't climb and more like a stepping stone you can use to reach the next level. 

What about you? When do you find it best to take a step back from your writing? How do you find the balance between staying motivated and giving yourself permission to let go? Chime in in the comments! 

Enjoy the rest of your summer!


Up For a Hometown Adventure?

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


When my husband and I first met in 2009, I was writing a manuscript set in New York City—primarily in and around the subway system. The first summer we were dating, I convinced him to go on several research trips with me. We visited the NYC Transit Museum. We rode the A train all the way out to Far Rockaway, across Jamaica Bay to a beachy strip of land you can hardly believe is still part of NYC. We even toured the Atlantic Avenue Tunnel, an abandoned underground railway tunnel that is unfortunately no longer open to the public. (We had to enter through a manhole in the middle of one of Brooklyn's busiest streets—best date ever, right?) 

Summer 2014 adventures, clockwise from top left: Coney Island, the Unisphere at the Queens World's Fair site, the U.S.S. Intrepid, and the top of the Empire State Building.

Summer 2014 adventures, clockwise from top left: Coney Island, the Unisphere at the Queens World's Fair site, the U.S.S. Intrepid, and the top of the Empire State Building.

On those trips, I got the information I was looking for to enhance my manuscript. I learned more about the city I'd fallen head over heels with since moving here in 2004. But best of all, my husband and I started a tradition that has only grown over the past eight years. At the start of each summer, we come up with a list of "adventures" we want to go on together. We choose tourist attractions and unusual spaces within the five boroughs that we've never visited: museums, parks, monuments, skyscrapers, oddball hole-in-the-wall shops and restaurants, and much more. We've gone to the top of the Empire State Building; walked around the botanic gardens in Brooklyn, The Bronx, and Staten Island; ridden the roller coasters and eaten hot dogs (and watched the Mermaid Parade) at Coney Island; admired medieval art and tapestries at The Cloisters; taken walking tours of Manhattan's Lower East Side and the Financial District; visited the historic Tenement Museum and the U.S.S Intrepid—the list goes on and on. 

This summer, things are a little different: there's a third person to take into account, and she's not quite ready to adventure alongside us just yet! But for the past few months, I've been rewriting the same magical NYC manuscript that started this whole thing, so there are definitely adventures on the horizon. I'm ready to strap on my baby-wrap and explore this fantastic city, with the two people I love most by my side.  

Here's my dare to you: Go on an adventure in your hometown or local region. Is there a museum or historical site in your area that you've been meaning to check out? Find the time. Have you heard about a beautiful nature trail in a nearby national park? Strap on your hiking boots. Don't let the day-to-day routine of living somewhere keep you from discovering everything that's unusual and fascinating and magical about your home. Go on an adventure. If you're a writer or other type of creator, you can't help but be inspired. And even if you're not, you're in for a fascinating experience.  

Tell me about the hometown adventure you want to take—or one you recently took—in the comments! While I'm home taking care of my newborn, I'll live vicariously through you!

Have fun...


Quieting Your Inner Editor

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


Have you ever started a first draft and gotten stuck revising (and revising…and revising…) 30 pages in? This post is for you—and it’s for me.

Hi, I’m Kathryn, and I sometimes have a problem with my Inner Editor.

A little background: When I started seriously trying to write a book, I was coming out of several years as a full-time magazine writer and editor. I still write articles in a freelance capacity. For short-form writing (and obviously for copyediting), my Inner Editor is a huge asset. It (she?) helps me quickly turn out polished, professional prose. But writing books is, well, another story. 

I worked on my first novel through most of grad school, and because I didn’t really know any other way to write, I approached the drafting process in small chunks. I’d polish and polish each chapter or section, and only when I was completely happy with it would I move on. (The writing workshop structure didn’t help in this regard, since I had to submit 20ish pages every few weeks.) It’s not that I wasn’t making forward progress. I was! I was actually writing a book! But wow, was I drafting slowly. Not to mention the fact that I got to the climactic scene near the end only to realize—whoops!—I didn’t have a bad guy. And this was the kind of book that required a bad guy.

I’d spent so much time on the individual trees that I’d lost track of the forest.

Fast forward a few years (and a few revisions and querying cycles with that manuscript). When I started my next book—which became THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND—I took a different approach from the get-go. I wanted to draft fast. I wanted a sense of urgency and momentum in the plot from Draft One, even knowing that I’d have holes and character inconsistencies and yeah, probably some terrible sentences and clunky dialogue. I started writing in May 2012 and had a finished draft by the end of July. It was a mess—but I was so proud. (And then the real work began…but that’s another conversation for another post!)

How did I pull it off? A big piece of the puzzle was quieting that Inner Editor that wanted everything to be perfect before I moved on. Here are some Inner Editor–quieting** tactics that worked for me. Maybe they'll work for you!

**Note: “Quiet,” not “kill”—I don’t advocate violence toward your Inner Editor! You need him/her!


When drafting, I try to start each writing session by reading over the last few pages I wrote. Reading—not editing. (Or trying not to…) That puts me in the right headspace to move forward. Not only does knowing where I am help me know what I need to write next, rereading what’s there also lets me jump into the voice and writing style more smoothly than if I just sat down and started hammering away at my keyboard. The more “in” the story I am, the less likely I am to get caught up tinkering on the sentence level.  


Obviously, as you write forward and continue to solidify the plot/characters in your head, you’ll realize that changes need to be made to what you’ve already done. But do you have to make those changes now? Sometimes you do; writing out a new scene to reflect a change can be just what you need to move forward. But in other cases, you can give yourself and your Inner Editor peace of mind by simply going back and adding a note. My early drafts are peppered with comments to deal with later. “Why exactly is she mad at him in this scene?” (I know they have to fight; I’ve written the fight; I’ll figure out the motivation later.) “From this page on, she plays tennis, not soccer.” (I can change all prior mentions of my character being a soccer player in Draft 2.) “Does anyone still use this word?” (My Inner Editor has a friend, the Inner Researcher, who would rather spend hours looking up minutiae online than write the scene with a placeholder.)

What I keep telling myself in this phase is, it’s not that I’m ignoring the problems. I’m acknowledging them, jotting down a detailed reminder or question to myself, and then going back to today’s task: writing forward.


This is hard, because this is the mental part of the equation: realizing that it’s okay for your draft to be messy, or inconsistent, or to just plain suck. I don’t like rereading something I wrote, even in a first draft, and feeling like it’s not good. I doubt anyone does. Sometimes it's a struggle to trust that I'll be able to fix problems down the road. So I have to turn to other writers for inspiration: 







Are you a champion first-drafter? What do you do to keep your Inner Editor at bay? Share your suggestions in the comments! 


Don't Let Laziness Win!

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


Today, I wanted to share something a yoga teacher shared with me. He was talking about yoga practice, but as I was listening to him, I couldn’t help thinking about how applicable his words were to my writing practice, as well. His topic? Avoiding laziness.

Lazy. It’s not a very nice word. None of us wants to think of ourselves as lazy—especially not when it comes to our writing goals! But the way my teacher was talking about it, it was less of a pejorative and more of an obstacle we all have to overcome as we strive to improve. He brought up three types of laziness that can get in the way of a good yoga practice—or writing practice, since that’s what we’re all about here! 


This is the most obvious form of laziness—not mustering the energy or the motivation to get things done. Sitting on the couch watching Netflix instead of writing or revising. Taking a nap during scheduled work time. Is there anything inherently wrong with needing downtime? Of course not. But if sloth is keeping us from meeting our goals, we might need to reassess how hard we’re willing to push ourselves.  


Those of us who are crazy-busy all the time couldn’t possibly be lazy, right? The only reason we aren’t writing as much as we should be is because we simply don’t have enough time. But how much of each busy day is devoted to necessary tasks, and how much to activities that are frivolous? Could we write instead of watching mindless TV or going to yet another happy hour? Could writing be squeezed into a lunch break? Battling this form of laziness is all about setting priorities—if writing is important, we shouldn’t let it be overshadowed by activities that aren’t.


I think writers can relate to this one even more than aspiring yogis. After all, having a hard time achieving a certain yoga pose isn’t quite the same as putting yourself and your writing out there and getting crushing feedback, or dozens of rejections, or bad reviews on a published work. Being a writer can be discouraging, and we all have to learn to cope with the difficult times—and celebrate the successes. So where does laziness factor in? Every time we avoid writing because “No agent will ever want to work with me, anyway,” or because “I’ll never figure out this tough scene, so why bother?” When we let discouragement keep us from trying, that’s a problem.

I left that yoga class truly inspired to work harder. To push the things that should be priorities in my life (including writing, but not only writing!) to their rightful place in my busy schedule. To write even when I’m feeling frustrated or discouraged about my progress. And the more I thought about my teacher’s words, the more I wanted to share them with my fellow writers! I hope thinking about laziness in a new way is as helpful to you as it was to me. 

After all, what's the first rule of writing? Butt in chair.

Now I'm going to take my own advice and get to work. :)


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 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 YABuccaneers.com 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! 


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. :) 


What's on the Horizon for October?

I can't believe it's fall! I can't believe September's almost over! I have no idea where the time is going. But at least October is gearing up to be an excellent month. Here are a few things you should definitely have on your radar: 

I'm participating in the YA Scavenger Hunt for the second time! Just to refresh your memory, this is the giant online event where a bunch of YA authors open up their blogs for readers to get sneak peeks of upcoming books, read deleted scenes from and learn other tidbits about published books, and enter for a chance to win a WHOLE LOT OF BOOKS. I'm on Team Purple, with 19 other amazing authors. The hunt is running October 1-4, so if you're interested in participating, check back here this coming Thursday to dive in! Each blog post includes a link to the next post and a clue to help you win the grand prize. Go HERE for more info.


The next thing you need to know for October is that the YA Buccaneers are hosting a month-long Fall Writing Bootcamp! More details will be announced on Monday, but I can tell you this: starting October 1, I'll be diving into a new project that I'm a bit nervous about, and I'd love to have other people bootcamping alongside me. Join us for writing and revising prompts, brainstorming sessions, word sprints, and much-needed writer camaraderie! More info will be HERE on Monday. 

Finally, I'm so, so excited to be talking about THE DISTANCE BETWEEN LOST AND FOUND at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville over Columbus Day weekend, October 9-11. My panel is on Sunday, 10/11, from 2-3:30pm. I'll be sharing the stage with fellow YA authors Helene Dunbar and Will Walton, with a signing immediately afterward. If you're in the area, please stop by and say hello! It's going to be such an amazing festival, with some truly spectacular YA events. For more on the Southern Festival of Books, go HERE.

(And on a personal note, my newest nephew is supposed to be born right around that time, so there is a great possibility that my visit will also include snuggling an adorable baby! Never mind the total adorableness of my other two Nashville-based nephews...) 

It's hard to be mad about how fast the year is moving when there are such good things on the horizon. Stay tuned for more! 


Friday Reads: YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge Check-In

A quick post today, just to share the latest book I read for the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge! It's a super fun one, not only in terms of the book itself, but also because it was edited by my editor at HarperCollins, Alexandra Cooper. I love seeing the results of Alex's work with other authors, and this book did not disappoint. 

KISSING IN AMERICA, by Margo Rabb, is about first love, friendship, family, grief, and loss. Eva Roth's father died two years ago in a plane crash, and Eva's relationship with her mom hasn't been the same since. While her mom seems to have completely moved on with her life, throwing herself into work and a new relationship, Eva still feels her dad's loss sharply. To ward off her grief, she's turned to romance novels—and when she's paired with heartthrob Will at an after-school tutoring session, Eva finds romance in real life. But Will moves to California, and Eva is left pining for him in NYC. So she concocts a plan: she and her best friend, Annie, will apply to be on a game show for gifted teens in L.A. They'll go on a cross-country road trip to get there. They'll win scholarship money, and she'll be reunited with Will. Of course, not everything goes according to plan... KISSING IN AMERICA made me laugh and cry. It's a vivid portrait of grief, but it's also filled with a spirit of adventure. I loved Annie and Eva's friendship so much. Highly recommend! 

I put it in the Road Trip category on my YAB Summer Reading Challenge bingo card: 

What have you been reading this summer? 



This past week, I crossed two more books off of my bingo card for the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge! Here's where my grid stands as of now: 

What's new since last week? First, after seeing tons of people raving about it on Twitter, I read Noelle Stevenson's NIMONA for the graphic novel category. What a delightful book! It's about a shapeshifting girl, Nimona, who apprentices herself to the land's leading supervillain, Lord Ballister Blackheart. With Nimona by his side, Blackheart is far more powerful than he'd ever dreamed possible. And together, the two uncover information that perhaps the heroes they fight aren't so heroic after all... NIMONA is a fast, fun read that I would recommend for just about every age. 

I also finally caught up with the rest of the YA world by reading Victoria Aveyard's RED QUEEN, which came out in February. It definitely didn't disappoint! RED QUEEN takes familiar epic fantasy tropes and spins them in new ways, keeping you turning pages faster and faster until the bitter end. I can't wait for the sequel, GLASS SWORD, which is due out next February. (In fact, I almost wish I'd waited longer to read RED QUEEN, if only because I could have grabbed book 2 right away!) 

Finally, I'm in the middle of Dahlia Adler's UNDER THE LIGHTS, the sequel to her 2014 debut, BEHIND THE SCENES. UNDER THE LIGHTS follows two secondary characters from BEHIND THE SCENES: Vanessa Park, a Korean-American actress trying to break out in Hollywood (and finding unexpected romance along the way), and Josh Chester, a Hollywood bad boy trying to figure himself out in front of and behind the camera. So far, it's funny and insightful and swoony (ahem...Van and Bri...). I went ahead and added it to my bingo card, since I will definitely finish it today. :) 

Anyone doing the Summer Reading Challenge with me? Whether you are or aren't, what are you reading right now? 


Friday Reads: YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

It's the end of the summer! (Boo, hiss.) And I completed the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge! (Yay!) I did it by the skin of my teeth. But I did it! Over the past two weeks, I reread Jane Austen's PERSUASION—my favorite Austen novel—to fill the "classic" category. Then, I beta-read a friend's middle-grade manuscript that happened to be set on Sanibel Island, in Florida, which counted as my book set at the beach. And finally, this week I worked my way through ADAM OF THE ROAD, to fulfill the "book I disliked as a kid" category. Honestly, I don't remember reading ADAM OF THE ROAD, much less disliking it, but when I asked my mom for recommendations, this was the one that came to her mind! So how did it hold up? It was a bit slow, and you can definitely tell it's 70 years old…but I didn't hate it. Would I recommend it to a kid today? Perhaps, if the child in question was really into history, especially medieval history. Would I read it again? Probably not. Can't win 'em all.

Summer Reading 8-29

Here's the final rundown, with links to my original post about each book:

Biography or memoir: WILD by Cheryl Strayed

Non-YA book: LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

Classic: PERSUASION by Jane Austen

Debut author: BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler

Book with 'summer' in the title: THE SUMMER I WASN'T ME by Jessica Verdi

Book published the year I was born: THE BFG by Roald Dahl

Male protagonist: VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab

FREEBIE: FIRE WITH FIRE by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, THE STORYSPINNER by Becky Wallace, SHADOW AND BONE by Leigh Bardugo, and many more!

Book I disliked as a kid: ADAM OF THE ROAD by Elizabeth Janet Gray

Old favorite: THE HISTORY OF LOVE by Nicole Strauss

Book that's been on my TBR a long time: OCD LOVE STORY by Corey Ann Haydu

Printz Award winner: JELLICOE ROAD by Melina Marchetta

Book set at the beach: TURTLE TRACKS by Stefanie Wass (read in manuscript form)

Book with LGBT characters or themes: SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by Becky Albertalli

Book of poetry or novel in verse: CRANK by Ellen Hopkins

In total, I've read 26 books since we kicked off the Summer Reading Challenge! Not bad at all. As we go into the fall, I'm going to shift back into writing about and recommending books on a less formal schedule—but I promise not to stop Friday Reads entirely! And who knows…maybe I'll find time to blog about some other things, as well...

Hope everyone has a lovely Labor Day weekend!


Friday Reads: "In a World Just Right," "Written in the Stars," "Jellicoe Road," and "The BFG"

I feel like I read ALL THE THINGS this week! I can't remember the last time I plowed through four books in seven days. But they're all awesome books, all page-turners…and having sent my new manuscript off to its first few beta-readers, I had a little more time on my hands than usual. Here's the scoop:

In a World - Written in the Stars

I ended up with two more Fearless Fifteener ARCs this week: Jen Brooks' IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT and Aisha Saeed's WRITTEN IN THE STARS. Both were wonderful, and you should buy them in 2015. (That's going to be a theme whenever I comment on upcoming Fearless Fifteener releases going forward: buy them! Support talented debut authors!)

IN A WORLD JUST RIGHT is about a boy, Jonathan, who can create new worlds at will. As a high school senior in the real world, Jonathan is a loner, disfigured by a facial scar and generally ignored by his peers. In his favorite alternate world, he still has the scar, but he's dating the most popular girl in school, runs track, and has friends. One day he accidentally tries to kiss the real Kylie Simms, instead of the version that's his girlfriend, and the two Kylies begin to merge, taking on each other's characteristics. In order to save them both, Jonathan has to figure out the truth behind his world-building abilities. This book has a plot that twists and turns, keeping you guessing until the very end. Great for fans of sci-fi/fantasy and contemporary stories alike!

WRITTEN IN THE STARS is about a Pakistani-American, Naila, whose parents want her to have an arranged marriage. The problem is, Naila has fallen for a classmate, Saif, and she's been hiding her relationship from her parents. When they find out about her boyfriend, Naila's appalled and disappointed parents whisk her off for a "vacation" in Pakistan—and it soon becomes clear that they have bigger plans for her. I couldn't put this book down. Naila's journey from fairly typical American teen (despite being the child of conservative immigrant parents) to unhappy seventeen-year-old bride is wrenching and powerful. The ending made me cry. I highly recommend this book!

Next, I crossed two more books off my YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge bracket:

Jellicoe - BFGThey're both rereads: Melina Marchetta's JELLICOE ROAD for my Printz Award Winner and Roald Dahl's THE BFG as my book published the year I was born! I read JELLICOE ROAD several years ago, and I have to confess that I found it hard to get into at the beginning. Then, the ending blew me away. Upon rereading, I was hooked from page one. The story is really two stories intertwined: in present-day Australia, Taylor Markham is competing in a territory war at her boarding school against the local Townies and the Cadets who visit each summer. Taylor was abandoned on the Jellicoe Road by her mother years ago, and was raised by Hannah, a mysterious and sad woman who lives near the school grounds. Hannah, meanwhile, is writing a novel that tells the story of five friends dealing with heartbreaking loss two decades prior: Narnie, Webb, Tate, Jude, and Fitz. I don't want to spoil the way these two tales intersect, other than to say that if the start of the book doesn't hook you, keep going. It's well worth it.

THE BFG was one of my absolute favorite books as a kid. I have vivid memories of reading favorite passages over and over and laughing until I cried. The snozzcumbers! The whizzpoppers! The way different people from different countries have different flavors! (People from Turkey taste like turkey, while people from Greece taste greasy and people from Panama taste of hats.) When I discovered that this book was first published in 1982, and thus fit into one of my Summer Reading Challenge categories, I knew I was due for a reread—and rereading just cemented how much I can't wait to share this book with my own kids one day.

Summer Reading 8-15

Only three squares to go! (I still can't think of a book I disliked as a kid… I remember devouring just about everything! Mom? Help!)

What are you reading this week?



Friday Reads: Heavy Issues Edition

I didn't plan this, but the past week's reads all ended up being about heavy subjects. In a nutshell: September 11th, depression, suicide, and meth addiction. But don't run away yet! The books that covered these dark topics ranged from compelling to uplifting to heartbreaking to downright beautiful. 20344662I received two Fearless Fifteener ARCs at the end of last week, both very high on my "can't wait to read this" list. Kerry O'Malley Cerra's JUST A DROP OF WATER is a middle-schooler's-eye-view of the events surrounding September 11th. As the school year starts, Jake's biggest worry is beating his cross-country rival and securing a coveted Team Captain armband. But after September 11th, everything changes. Jake lives in Florida, far from the attacks, but he feels the repercussions in a very real way. His mom becomes fearful and paranoid. His best friend, Sam, gets beaten up for being Arab-American. Sam's father is detained and questioned by the FBI. Jake struggles to determine what's right in an incredibly hard situation. He doesn't always make the right choices, but he learns a lot. His story will give today's middle-schoolers insight into a historical event that happened just before they were born and shaped the world they live in. Although the descriptions of the day itself were hard to read, as someone who remembers that day all too well, the rest of the book was a compelling page-turner. I highly recommend this one, which comes out in just a few weeks.

18336965Right after that, I started Jasmine Warga's MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES. This book is about a depressed teen, Aysel (pronounced like gazelle), who enters into a suicide pact with a boy who's wracked with his own grief and guilt. But as Aysel gets to know Roman and finds herself opening up to him, she discovers that she wants to live. The concept might sound dark and sad—and it is. But this book is also profoundly hopeful. Aysel's journey is heartbreaking and difficult, and yet it also manages to be uplifting without minimizing the serious issue of depression. Part of what keeps the book from feeling unrelentingly bleak, especially at the beginning, is Aysel's wonderful voice. She's funny and snarky, and she peppers her narration with references to physics, her favorite subject. As she finds herself falling for Roman, there's a sweet vulnerability, as well. Really, I can't say enough about this book—and I don't want to say much more, for fear of spoiling the experience of reading it. MY HEART AND OTHER BLACK HOLES comes out a week before my own book, in February 2015, and you should definitely buy it.

270730For the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge, I read Ellen Hopkins' CRANK, a novel-in-verse that's based on Hopkins' daughter's descent into meth addiction. Hopkins is well-established on the YA scene at this point, and I'd never read any of her books (which are all written in verse), so this seemed like the time! What I liked most was the verse itself. Hopkins is a skilled poet, crafting poems within poems that contradict or elaborate on what's being said on the surface. She lays the words out on the page in ways that enhance the text, as well. And by telling Kristina's story in verse rather than using traditional narration, Hopkins is able to keep the story focused on raw, visceral emotion. My criticism would be that Kristina's voice didn't always feel authentic to a teenaged girl fighting a losing battle against "the monster" of meth. There were times I felt Hopkins—the adult author and mother of a girl very much like Kristina—intruding into Kristina's thoughts. But if you're interested in seeing how verse can propel a story forward in nontraditional ways, check this one out.

That's all for now! Next week, I'll have to try to read something a little more upbeat… Anyone have any beach book recommendations? :)

Summer Reading 8-8 ~Kathryn

Friday Reads: "Wild" by Cheryl Strayed and "Eren" by Simon P. Clark

Happy August! I don't know about you, but it seems like July simply flew by. I can't believe we're on the home stretch of summer—and of the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge! Here's what I read this week: UnknownCheryl Strayed's memoir WILD has been on my list for a while, and I'm glad I finally checked it off! Once I got into it, I had a hard time putting this one down. WILD follows Strayed's 1995 hike on the Pacific Crest Trail, from southern California to the Oregon-Washington border. She was 26. Her mother had recently passed away, and Strayed was in a downward spiral. She cheated on and then divorced her husband. She tried drugs. At the point when the memoir begins, she's a broken shell. She thinks that maybe going into the wilderness alone for a few months and doing this impossible hike will be what heals her. And it does, to an extent—though it also breaks her down a lot along the way. Strayed is a woefully unprepared backpacker, which gives some levity to what is otherwise a fairly somber book. I also read reviews stating that Strayed was a frustrating narrator, too self-centered and self-flagellating to spend time with. What kept me pushing forward at the start of the book was how unflinchingly Strayed writes about her past. She made a lot of mistakes, and she admits them. And, moving forward, she works to overcome them. I definitely recommend this book.

imagesI also got yet another Fearless Fifteener advance copy: Simon P. Clark's EREN, which releases this September. (Yes, we have a few Fearless Fifteeners who are actually 2014 debuts; it's too complicated to go into here!) This book doesn't fit into the Summer Reading Challenge categories I have left, but I was too fascinated by it not to tell you a little about it here. This book is middle grade fantasy marketed to fans of Neil Gaiman. It's about a boy, Oli, who discovers a creature in his attic—Eren—who seems to feed on stories. Oli has a lot going on in his real life, and talking to Eren feels like an escape. But there's more to the sinister Eren than Oli realizes. This book is about the stories we tell, and it's written in a format that tells stories within stories within the main story. It's a slim volume, but not a fast read; the pace is deliberate, forcing you to savor each story as it unfolds. And where it ends up is unexpected—at least, it was for me. This is a thoughtful, slightly creepy meditation on the power of storytelling, and if you're a Gaiman fan, you will probably enjoy this book as well.

Here's where my Summer Reading Challenge bingo board stands as of today, August 1:

Summer Reading 8-1

Until next week… Happy Reading!


Friday Reads: "Landline" by Rainbow Rowell (Plus Some Mortal Instruments…)

This past week, I plowed through two *very* different books. One was written for adults, the other for teenagers. One was (mostly) realistic, the other the height of urban fantasy. One was fairly concise—I read it in a single evening—and the other was more than 700 pages long. And, um, only one counted toward my Summer Reading Challenge goals. Summer Reading 7-25

So we'll start there. I read Rainbow Rowell's Landline as my non-YA book because, well, I love her work, and I couldn't wait to read this one—which came out in early July—and that's where it fit on the bingo board. And it did not disappoint! Landline is about a couple whose marriage is on the rocks. Georgie knows things aren't good between her and her husband, Neal, but she doesn't know how to fix them. When she gets a great career opportunity that happens to conflict with a long-planned trip to see Neal's family for Christmas, she chooses her job—and Neal takes their daughters to Omaha without her.

UnknownAnd then she can't reach him. At all. He either doesn't pick up when she calls, or he's just stepped out, or it goes straight to voicemail. Wracked with guilt as the days pass, she finally gets through on the landline, calling from her old bedroom at her mom's house to his parents' home phone. The catch: the Neal that answers the landline is Neal from 15 years ago, right after the first time they almost split up. What I loved about this story is that it isn't really about the supernatural element at all. It's about the relationship between two people who have lost each other and want to find each other again. In speaking to past-Neal, Georgie remembers what brought them together in the first place—and realizes everything she has to lose if she doesn't fight to get him back. But she also knows how much she's hurt him over the years. Would it be better and kinder to save him from all of that by breaking up with him before they get married?

Truly, I can't recommend Landline—and all of Rowell's books—enough. Go buy them. I'll wait.

Unknown-1When I finished that one, I picked up Cassandra Clare's MASSIVE City of Heavenly Fire, the sixth and final book in The Mortal Instruments series. I raced through the first half of this series a little over a year ago, and so I was definitely excited for this last book. And it (mostly) lived up to my expectations! What I loved most was seeing all of the threads Clare introduced in TMI books one through five—and in her prequel trilogy, The Infernal Devices—come together in this finale. I love big, epic, sprawling stories where the world keeps growing, many different characters get to have their say, and small details and characters that were introduced in book two or a prequel become important players in the plot later on. Clare does that well, and it's what will most likely make me pick up her next series. (Especially since she basically set up the premise for the next set of books at the end of this one!) Are The Mortal Instruments books great literature? Nope. Do the characters sometimes behave in truly frustrating and irrational ways? Yup. But they're pretty addictive books nonetheless.

Now I've started Cheryl Strayed's Wild, which will be my Summer Reading Challenge memoir. More on that next week…


Friday Reads: "The Summer I Wasn't Me" and "Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda"

Another week, another two books checked off the Summer Reading Challenge bingo board! This week I took care of "Read a book with 'Summer' in the title" and "Read a book with LGBT themes or main characters." (Though really, both books I read fit into the latter category…) Check out my previous Summer Reading Challenge posts HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE. Look! I'm one non-YA book away from getting a bingo!

Unknown-5Jessica Verdi's The Summer I Wasn't Me isn't your typical summer camp story. It's about a girl, Lexi, who gets sent to a camp that promises to change her sexuality. Finding out Lexi likes girls practically destroyed her mother, who was already fragile after the recent loss of Lexi's father to cancer. To try to make things right—to rebuild her broken family—Lexi agrees to give "de-gayifying" a shot. But of course, once she gets to New Horizons, it's not as easy as she'd hoped. The camp's views seem antiquated at best, and harmful at worst. And there's the matter of Carolyn, the gorgeous blonde who's in Lexi's support group…

This was a fascinating read. Verdi does a great job of showing the various motivations behind the campers' desire to change (or at least to try), even while condemning the camp directors' delusional and occasionally cruel methods. The most interesting point to me was that, unlike in the other book I've read with this setting (Emily M. Danforth's The Miseducation of Cameron Post), Lexi goes to New Horizons genuinely wanting the treatment to work. Her inner conflict kept me turning the pages.

Unknown-6Book #2 this week, Becky Albertalli's Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda (a spring 2015 release that I got to read as part of the Fearless Fifteeners ARC tour), was charming, sweet, funny, and hopeful. With this one, the reason I kept turning pages is because I so badly wanted Simon to get his happily ever after! The book is You've Got Mail for the modern age, with two smart, articulate boys. Simon has been corresponding over email with a boy he knows only as Blue when another boy, Martin, sees their emails on a school computer. Martin likes Simon's friend Abby, so he blackmails Simon into helping him score a date. Anxious about being outed, and even more about outing Blue, Simon agrees. Hijinx ensue.

Simon is a great narrator, quippy and snarky and heartfelt. He wears his heart on his sleeve in his emails with Blue—the first guy who's really made him want to open up. I definitely don't want to spoil the surprise of who Blue turns out to be, but I will say that I was smiling pretty much nonstop near the end of the book. The romance is that sweet. Add this one to your TBR for 2015! I can't wait to buy my own copy and read it again.

That's it for now… what are you reading this summer?


Friday Reads: Summer Reading Challenge, Freebies Edition

Over the past week and a half, I've read three books…and none of them fit any of the specific categories I have left on the Summer Reading Challenge bingo board, so I'm calling them all Freebies! 1402966739620But before I dive in, here's what I've accomplished so far, with links back to my posts about each one:

Read a book that's been on your TBR a long time: Corey Ann Haydu's OCD LOVE STORY

Read a book with a male protagonist: V.E. Schwab's VICIOUS

Read a book by a debut author: Dahlia Adler's BEHIND THE SCENES

Re-read an old favorite: Nicole Krauss's THE HISTORY OF LOVE 

Since rekindling my love affair with THE HISTORY OF LOVE, I managed to finish FIRE WITH FIRE by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian, which I had out from the library; read Becky Wallace's THE STORYSPINNER as part of the Fearless Fifteeners' ARC tour; and race through Leigh Bardugo's SHADOW AND BONE, which people have been telling me to read for what feels like forever. I really enjoyed all three, and for very different reasons!

YAB freebie books

One thing all three of these books have in common is that they're not the end of their story! FIRE WITH FIRE is the middle of a trilogy—and I swear, I thought the third book, ASHES TO ASHES, was already out. Imagine my disappointment to find that it won't be available for me to read until September! Meanwhile, THE STORYSPINNER is the start of a new fantasy series—and given that the first book doesn't hit shelves until March 2015, I know I will have a long wait to find out what happens next. Luckily, I waited to read SHADOW AND BONE, which is the first book in the Grisha trilogy, until the third book is out. I plan to buy and race through the next two as soon as possible.

So, what are these books about?

In FIRE WITH FIRE, three girls are plotting to right the wrongs people have inflicted on them. Unfortunately, not everything goes according to plan. (This edgy series started with BURN FOR BURN.) This is a Young Adult revenge thriller, with a supernatural twist that I don't want to give away.

In THE STORYSPINNER, a young storyteller finds herself at the center of a power struggle between the rulers of her kingdom and their magical neighbors. The thing that impressed me most about this book is that the story is told from many different perspectives, so it has a truly epic feel.

And finally, SHADOW AND BONE is a fantasy set in a Russian-inspired world where a magical upper class, the Grisha, wield power and influence. Alina, a young peasant, discovers that she herself may be a Grisha, and gets sucked into a dangerous power struggle led by the mysterious and alluring Darkling, the most powerful Grisha of all.

And now, on to the next books! :D

What are you reading? Anything blowing your mind?




Friday Reads (on Thursday): The History of Love by Nicole Krauss

1402966739620 I mentioned last week that this week's contribution to the YA Buccaneers Summer Reading Challenge was going to be one of my favorite books. I'm pleased to report that I found Nicole Krauss's THE HISTORY OF LOVE every bit as lovely and thought-provoking and heartbreaking the fourth (or fifth?) time around as I did on first read. If you haven't read this book, go get it now! It's a relatively slim novel that is so packed with beauty and meaning that you'll want to read it again and again—like I do.

Unknown-1THE HISTORY OF LOVE is a book about a book, also titled The History of Love. The novel-within-the-novel is magical realism, full of love stories that always come back to a single girl: Alma. Krauss tells her story from multiple points of view: a lonely old man, Leo Gursky, who escaped from the Nazis and made his way to New York City; a teenager from Brooklyn, named Alma after the character(s) in The History of Love, the book that brought her parents together; Alma's little brother, Bird; and a third-person narrator who gives more detail about The History of Love's author, Zvi Litvinoff. Each voice is unique and flawless.

I don't want to reveal all of the ways in which these stories intertwine, but everything starts with the book. For instance, Alma's father has passed away from pancreatic cancer, leaving her mother a shell of her former self. When her mother gets a commission to translate The History of Love into English, Alma decides to learn more about the man asking for the translation, and then to learn more about the book and its author. THE HISTORY OF LOVE twists and turns, bringing its characters together in unexpected ways and giving new meaning to seemingly inconsequential details right up to the end. And that ending…the last few pages make me cry every time. They're just so lovely.

Since this book is a reread, I have to mention how the story opens up more with each pass through it. One new facet that became more clear to me this time around is the way Jewish culture pervades the story. Leo uses an array of Yiddish expressions. Thanks to my husband and his family, I now understand those terms and their emotional interpretations much better than I did the first time I read the book. Similarly, Alma's mother and father met in Israel, and thanks to my trip to that country a few months ago, I felt like I could visualize and understand those references better, as well. Each time I pick up THE HISTORY OF LOVE, it's like I uncover another layer, and this time, with the Israel trip still fresh in my mind, I couldn't escape the spiritual and secular Jewish themes.

I don't know what else to say, other than: Read this book! 

(And yes, the first chapter, from Leo's point of view, can be a challenge. Push through it. I promise, you won't regret it!)


Friday Reads: VICIOUS by V.E. Schwab and BEHIND THE SCENES by Dahlia Adler

It's the end of week two of the YA Buccaneers' Summer Reading Challenge, which means it's time to check in! This week, I crossed two more books off my list: Vicious by V.E. Schwab and Behind the Scenes by Dahlia Adler. 1402966739620

HERE, you'll find what you need to know about the Summer Reading Challenge. Last week, I wrote about a book that had been on my TBR list for far too long. This week, I've got my debut taken care of, in Behind the Scenes, and I have…a bit of a wild card. Vicious could count as a non-YA book. It's also got a male protagonist. (Actually, two.) So I might cheat a little and see where it needs to fit in as I move forward with the challenge!

UnknownV.E. Schwab's Vicious was a really interesting read. It's the story of two men, Victor and Eli, who start researching EOs—or ExtraOrdinary people, those with unique abilities—in college, only to become EOs themselves. They also become mortal enemies. The book opens with Victor having just escaped from prison, after a decade behind bars. His mission: find his former friend…and kill him. But the cool thing about Vicious is that even though this is a story about people with the kinds of abilities you see all the time in comic books, the lines between hero and villain are truly blurred. Victor is ostensibly the villain of the piece, but he's more sympathetic—and maybe the evil things he's done are justified. Eli is ostensibly the hero—but he's killed more people than Victor, many of them innocents. Does it matter if he believes he's on a righteous mission? I don't want to spoil anything else, so I'll finish by saying: if you enjoy seeing superhero tropes subverted and reaffirmed and subverted again, don't miss this book.

behind-the-scenes-adler-coverAfter Tuesday's post, I hope you aren't tired of hearing me talk about Dahlia Adler and her debut Behind the Scenes, because I'm going to gush about her book now! I started reading it on the ride home from Dahlia's launch party on Monday night, and was finished by Tuesday evening. I won't recap the plot—you can learn more about that on Goodreads. What I will say is, how delicious is this book? I laughed, I swooned, I felt all the feels. Ally is a fun, snarky, maddening, and moving character, and Liam is…well, pretty much perfect. (Seriously, does that boy have a flaw?!) I also enjoyed getting a glimpse into the life of someone on the Hollywood fringes—BFFs with a rising star, and yet treated like a complete nobody in Hollywood circles. Ally's insecurity about her place in that world—in Liam's world—was as believable as it was heartbreaking. This is a fast, fun, sweet, and sexy read.

More books next Friday! As for what I'm reading now, I'll give you a teaser: It's in the "Re-read an old favorite" category, it's adult literary fiction, and it's one of my absolute favorite books. I'm loving it just as much this time, and I can't wait to share it here.


Going Behind the Scenes to Celebrate BEHIND THE SCENES!

  BehindtheScenesBlogTour3DahliaAdler (533x640)I'm excited to be part of the blog tour celebrating Dahlia Adler's YA debut Behind the Scenes, which releases today! I met Dahlia online (through my friend Ghenet), and I can honestly say she is one of my social media idols. Not only are her tweets constantly cracking me up, she's also a passionate and prolific blogger and a die-hard advocate for YA literature and its authors. I was able to attend her super-fun book release party last night, and I am now the proud owner of my very own autographed copy of Behind the Scenes! I started it last night, and so far, I'm in love.

Learn more about Dahlia on her website and blog.

Here's what you need to know about Behind the Scenes:

behind-the-scenes-adler-coverHigh school senior Ally Duncan's best friend may be the Vanessa Park—star of TV's hottest new teen drama—but Ally's not interested in following in her BFF's Hollywood footsteps. In fact, the only thing Ally’s ever really wanted is to go to Columbia and study abroad in Paris. But when her father's mounting medical bills threaten to stop her dream in its tracks, Ally nabs a position as Van's on-set assistant to get the cash she needs.

Spending the extra time with Van turns out to be fun, and getting to know her sexy co-star Liam is an added bonus. But when the actors’ publicist arranges for Van and Liam to “date” for the tabloids just after he and Ally share their first kiss, Ally will have to decide exactly what role she's capable of playing in their world of make believe. If she can't play by Hollywood's rules, she may lose her best friend, her dream future, and her first shot at love.


In honor of her book's release, Dahlia has asked a bunch of people to give a "behind the scenes" glimpse into our own lives. All of the YA Buccaneers are sharing info about our writing spaces and routines this week. (My post is HERE! Read about the other Buccaneers' writing spots HEREHERE, and HERE.) So, I figured for my personal blog I'd branch out and take a look at the other big passion in my life: dance!

I've written a little bit about being a contemporary dancer, and have shared some recent performance photos (for instance, HERE and HERE), but I haven't gotten down to the nitty gritty. And before you freak out and run away at the idea of seeing my dancer-feet up close and personal, I promise that I'm keeping the calluses and bunions under wraps! There are a few things that just don't need to be photographed and shared on my blog. :)

Let's kick things off with a shot of me sophomore year in high school. This is from an outdoor performance my ballet company did at the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina. (It ended up pouring down rain, thus the tent.) We were dancing to a selection of choral pieces by Brahms, sung live. Even (*ahem ahem*) years later, this is still one of my favorite performance memories!


Flash forward: I haven't taken a ballet class in a couple of years, and I keep meaning to get back to the barre. I do, however, take between two and four modern/contemporary dance classes a week, depending on my schedule and my mood. (I also take a yoga class or two a week, and all of that plus writing books and writing for work equals a pretty packed schedule.) Why do I keep at it? It isn't just that I love to perform, and need to stay in good shape to look my best onstage. It's also that I'm more productive with my writing if I take a break to fit in movement at some point in the middle of the day. Dancing takes me out of my head and puts me in my body. When class is over, I'm able to sit back down at the computer exhilarated, refreshed, and ready to focus. (And sweaty. Sorry, fellow coffee shop patrons!)

One of my favorite teachers, with whom I've been training pretty regularly since 2008, is Diane McCarthy. She was kind enough to let me take some photos in her class at the Mark Morris Dance Center in Brooklyn a few weeks ago. Yes, they're a little blurry. But this is behind the scenes, after all!


The new book I'm working on is about a teen dancer, which means all of my professional worlds are finally coming together. I'm drawing on my own experiences in the dance studio—especially my teen years performing with a regional ballet company—as well as things I've learned as a dance magazine editor and freelance dance writer over the past decade. I can paint my character's emotions, her physical sensations, and her studio environment on the page, because I've been there—and because I'm still there, as often as possible. Despite everything the character is going through in the book, I hope my love for dance shines through.

So there's your glimpse behind the scenes! Buy Dahlia's book!

And who am I kidding? It's not a behind-the-scenes-in-the-dance-studio post without a picture of my feet. But because I love and respect you all, I kept the socks on.

This is what I do to socks.