Saturday, November 10, 2018

Goodreads Choice Award Ceremony - Here and Gone



Readers, I apologize for the delayed recap of the most awesome, most outstanding, super amazing Goodreads Choice Awards Ceremony that took place last week in NYC. 

Here's the highlight reel: 




Doors opened at 530pm for presenters. Yes, I said presenters! Goodreads Community Manager Emily, who did a bang up job putting the whole shingdig together, asked me and two other site influencers to present an award each to some of the authors at the event. Is that not the coolest thing ever??? So what you see above is the invitation to the 10th Anniversary ceremony, my name tag, a print out of my presentation speech (squee!), and a souvenier photo from a green screen booth that my hubby and I took. 



True to my nature, we were really early. so we took a walk around the space, snapping shots and soaking it all in. Little by little, the place began to fill up with Goodreads Influencers (power users of the site, like me!), authors, publishing staff, and Goodreads staffers. 



Pictured above, in the first photo, are the other two lucky and lovely ladies who presented that evening, Karen Brisette and Emily May. In the second photo, we are joined by Jeffrey, another site influencer, and Goodreads staffers Emily and Emily. Tee hee... so many Emilies. The Emily that is third from the left is the Community Manager who pulled this all together!


Then there was some mingling.... until it was time to present! Otis, the founder and CEO, kicked things off with a presentation about the site and the awards... and then.....



I got to lead off by presenting the Goodreads Achievement Award to Neil Gaiman! Of course, Neil wasn't in the crowd, he was on site at the film location of Good Omens, but he sent over an acceptance speech for us to watch. Emily May presented to Colleen Hoover (romance author), and Karen presented to Veronica Roth (of the Divergence series). Both of their authors were present and they got to hand them those cool glass awards you see the girls holding! 


After the awards were issued, there was a brief raffle, and they showcased the Goodreads Choice Nominees for each catagory for this year's awards. The evening then opened up for more networking. 



As we said our thank you's and goodbyes, I snagged a photo with the girl who pulled it all off, Emily, and with Otis (far right). And the staff sent us home with some goodies in a swag bag, pictured bottom middle - A book, a pair of wireless Goodreads earbuds, a charging power pack, and a journal, along with some chocolate, bookmarks, stickers and buttons. 

All in all it was all pretty dreamy, and is an evening for the record books. If it wasn't already clear, Goodreads really cares about its relationship with its users and customers. The staff continue to impress me with their thoughtfulness and their interaction with us is so genuine and passionate... they are always seeking ways to keep users like me engaged with the site and a continued part of its growth. I was thrilled to have been included in this once-in-a-lifetime experience!!!

And sadly, now... I have to slink back into "real" life..... until the next time!!

Monday, October 29, 2018

Goodreads Choice Awards Ceremony - Go Lit or Go Home

Monday has finally arrived, you guys! 


Tonight, I will be strutting in style at the Goodreads Choice Awards Ceremony in NYC. So today, I will be spending most of the morning freaking out about it and pulling my final outfit together. I'll be rubbing elbows with Goodreads staff, authors, and fellow site users like myself. There will be appetizers, drinks, and awards!! I can't wait!!!

A few days ago, I shared with you the amazing book purse that Novel Creations custom made for me. Today, I figured I'd give you a little peek at the other items I've aquired for the occasion. I'm warning you... I'll be decked out head to toe in bookish, literary goodies. Check it out....




Novel Creations, Jules Verne Book Purse: 


About Novel Creations: 

Working for a used book store, I would bring home the books they wanted to throw away. I just could not see them taking a dive in the dumpster. Eventually, I had to come up with an idea to recycle them. I found directions on how-to-make-your-own book purse and I knew that was it. Well, following those directions, I ended up making a HORRIBLE book purse. Nothing like the photo that was shown. After many mishaps and lots of improvements, I was able to make a book purse and good enough that family and friends wanted me to make them one! Because of my love of books, it was time to start sharing this creative bookish accessory with other book lovers and my Etsy shop was born in the year 2008. My book purses have been showcased numerous times on BuzzFeed, Geek.com, Chicago Times, L.A. Times, USA Today and Horror Finds.



Mohawk Scarves, Book Print (Dictionary) Scarf: 



About Mohawk Scarves:

The most identifiable thing about me, beside my awesome rambunctious boys, is my purple Mohawk. Being stopped often about either my hair or my scarf, I knew marrying the two was the perfect option for my little shop. After selling scarves locally I decided to venture out not only on Etsy but with what I handcraft for purchase. The profit I make goes toward my growing boys, participating in operation Christmas child, and our hobbit style home building process.



The Enchanted Page Decoupage Shoes: 



About The Enchanted Page: 

Unique items for the book lover's home and wardrobe.





Cute Polish Newspaper Nail Art: 



This is the one piece of my outfit I had to design all on my own. The video makes it seem super easy... and I assume with lots of practice I can probably get them to come out better, but not a horrible first attempt. Keep in mind I NEVER wear nail polish and when I do it typically looks like a six year old applied it, so I'm pretty chuffed with the results. heheheh.




I decided to keep the dress super simple. It's a sleeveless black slip dress (with pockets!) and I'll throw on a black waist belt with a silver buckle to round it all out. I promise to share photos later this week so you can see how it all comes together. But right now, it's time to have a panic attack about how I'm going to wear my hair and makeup!

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Badbass Book Purses, Biatch



Hey you guys! I received some pretty incredible news over the past few weeks and have been dying to share it with you all. But being unsure of just how much I can divulge beforehand, I wanted to give you a tiny little teaser....

As a long-time user and active moderator on the Goodreads website, I've been dubbed a "Power User", which is pretty badass all on its own, right?! Some of you may remember when they flew me and a handful of other users out to the California headquarters back in 2017 for a meet and greet with the team, and a brainstorming sesh?

Welp, Goodreads is upping their game and hosting a Choice Awards Ceremony in NYC this coming Monday. It's invite-only, and sounds like it's going to be the bash-to-end-all-bashes - power users, authors, and Goodreads staff members will be there in full force, and I swear, it's been totally taking me back to those whole when-i-was-a-kid-and-i-thought-christmas-would-never-come days.

To keep myself occupied and to make the wait for Monday a little less excruciating, I started searching the web for bookish attire... book-print dresses, scarves, shoes, whatever! I figure it this way... if I'm going to a once-in-a-lifetime book bash, I'm going to go in style! YOLO, biatches!

One of my very first searches landed me in this cool etsy shop called Novel Creations. It's run by Karen, and she custom designs handmade book purses. I immediately fell in love with this Jane Austen purse...


But as adorable as it is, I am ashamed to say I haven't actually read anything by her, and how embarassing would it be to be hanging out with all these like-minded book people, and have one of them ask which of her novels I liked the best, only to smile meekly and admit I'd not cracked one open yet. So I continued to snoop through the site until I landed on the perfect bag! Not only is it completely friggen decedant, but it's one of my all time favorite classic authors....

Behold....

The Jules Verne Book Purse!!!!



Not only is the purse gorgeous, but look at that packaging job... tucked loving into a box full of shredded book pages (I asked Karen if those were the pages that were once part of the Verne book, and the answer is yes, along with the pages of other books she was producing at the time!)

Just look at this thing, you guys!







If you dig this purse, I strongly recommend you check out Karen's shop! Karen has been an absolute doll and the work she does is just amazing.

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Here's a little more about her and her shop:


Repurposed Book Purses and Book Clutches by Novel Creations.

A New Chapter In Purses 

I handcraft these unique purses from actual hardback books and leather-bound books. These recycled book cover handbags and wallets make for a special bookish gift idea, or the most eye-catching pocketbook you will own. A literary chic style that book lovers adore! 

Book-loving Brides, writers, and bibliophiles enjoy a wonderful way to show off their great taste in books and literature and lets you enjoy a piece of your favorite books and poetry as you go about your day. 

Now creating Book Wallets from mini-hardback books, mini-leather bound books and paperback books! 

Novel Creations Since 2008 A New Chapter in Purses
www.etsy.com/shop/novelcreations


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And... as if she can't get anymore awesome... she's given us a coupon code to share with all of you! 
Get 15% off anything in her store using this code: 




If you end up purchasing a book purse or clutch from Novel Creations, we'd love to hear all about it! Share in the comment section below!

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Where Writers Write: Rita Dragonette

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!



Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 








This is Rita Dragonette. 

She is a former award-winning public relations executive turned author. Her debut novel, The Fourteenth of September, is a woman’s story of Vietnam which will be published this fall by She Writes Press. She is currently working on two other novels and a memoir in essays, all of which are based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, as well as on her transformative generation. She also regularly hosts literary salons to introduce new works to avid readers.










Where Rita Dragonette Writes




As I move off the cusp of transitioning from a consultant/part-time writer into full-time author status, I’ve been able to indulge a bit and turn my home office (a next-door condo) into a place with everything I always wanted in a writing space: lots of light, art for inspiration, a huge bulletin board for my outlines and notes, a giant desk, and lots of surfaces for all the stuff that surrounds a writer. What I particularly love are the ceiling-high bookshelves that make me feel like one of Max Perkins’s clients from the ’20s or ’30s. Hey, we’re writers . . . we imagine!




Planning this ultimate space was part of a process. I still struggle with establishing an intractable minimum three hours in the early morning as a writing schedule. I’m convinced that’s what is required to produce consistent work, and it’s my goal. So, it was important to make my work space esthetically pleasing, inspirational, comfortable, and a pleasure to spend so much concentrated time in, day in and day out. For example, I’ve filled it with art—mostly from great friends, including the four photographs that face my desk from brilliant photographer Karen Thompson. Looking up to see that genius as I stare off into space helps keep me on task. Once I’m here, I never want to leave and only depart when my neck and back decide they’ve had it for the day.



Practically speaking, after working on my dining room table for so long, I now am able to totally trash my work space (I’m a piler) and just close the door. What a luxury.

But to get started each morning I also needed to make sure my work space was sufficiently alluring not only to work in, but also to get me into. I have a tendency to go through the “concentric circles of procrastination” (my term for, first, I’ll clean out the refrigerator or pay all my bills), and that all-important boost to get me out of my kitchen, away from my newspaper, and down to the work of writing has to be wonderful or, in my case, musical.




Music was important to keep me in the mood while I was working on my novel, The Fourteenth of September. The story is set in the 1969-1970 time frame and those Soundtrack of Our Lives tunes are integral to the story. I can’t play music while I write (since I’d be singing along), but songs play in my head, scene by scene. I have even taken the seminal vinyl albums of the time and preserved their covers on a full wall as if they were art—and some of them genuinely are (Revolver, In Search of the Lost Chord). Knowing they are there, in the morning, after the newspaper, propels me towards my office. I open the door and pass the wall, scan the album covers and invariably a song “jumps out,” and lodges itself in the stereo of my mind to keep me company as I set up for the day…and I’m there.

It’s heaven.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Audio Series: Cryptofauna


Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.




Today, Patrick Canning reads an excerpt from his novel Cryptofauna. 
Patrick was born in Wisconsin, grew up in Illinois, and now lives in California with his dog, HANKCryptofauna is a humorous, existential adventure packed with monsters, puns, and friendship. A high-speed collision of American Gods and The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.









Click on the soundcloud image below to hear Patrick read an excerpt from his book:











What it's about: 

Could be his job as a janitor at an insane asylum, could be the meaninglessness of existence, could be the unwanted cilantro on his tacos. Whatever the reason, Jim has elected to commit suicide. But before he can do the deed, a mysterious resident at work equips him with a dog and a bag of ash, and throws him into a secret game known as Cryptofauna. Cryptofauna is played by Operators, persons of special abilities who battle one another to influence important events around the world. To become an Operator, Jim must survive being stranded in the Pacific Ocean, pass a bizarre examination by leprous French monks, and pluck the existential splinter from his troubled soul. If there’s time, he must also stop a rival player from ending all life on the planet. Underwater Norwegian lairs, obsession with a decent pair of socks, and shapeshifting animals obsessed with AM radio all make up the strange world of Cryptofauna, which might help Jim discover a reason to live, assuming he doesn’t die in the process.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Audio Series: The Hope Fault




Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.






Today, Tracy Farr reads an excerpt from her second novel, The Hope Fault, published by Aardvark Bureau / Gallic Books. Tracy is also the author of the novel The Life and Loves of Lena Gaunt, and her short stories have won awards and been published in anthologies and literary journals. Her first novel and many of her short stories have been adapted for radio, and The Hope Fault is currently being adapted for the stage. Originally from Australia, she’s lived in Wellington, New Zealand, for more than twenty years. You can catch her on Twitter or Instagram – she’s @hissingswan on both – or her website.











Click on the soundcloud image below to hear Tracy read an excerpt from her book: 






What it's about:  

In The Hope Fault, Iris and her extended family gather on a rainy midwinter long weekend to pack up, clean up and clear out their family holiday home now that it’s been sold, and to celebrate with one last party. There’s more to it than that – particularly in the novel’s middle act, which plays with time, and moves away from the family in the house – but the experience of this novel begins and ends with a sense of being with this family, in this house, doing the things that families do: eating and drinking, annoying each other, ignoring each other, worrying about each other, arguing and making up, keeping and revealing secrets.

The novel is about the idea of home: how we make and unmake and remake a home; and how the notion (the who, where and what) of home can shift. It’s also very much a novel about anxiety and uncertainty, and the idea that the earth might shift, literally or metaphorically, at any moment, but we can’t know where or when; and we can’t know what the consequences – large or small or none at all – might be.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Page 69 Test: The Fourteenth of September

Disclaimer: The Page 69 Test is not mine. It has been around since 2007, asking authors to compare page 69 against the meat of the actual story it is a part of. I loved the whole idea of it and so I'm stealing it specifically to showcase small press titles - novels, novellas, short story collections, the works! So until the founder of The Page 69 Test calls a cease and desist, let's do this thing....





In this installment of Page 69, 


We put Rita Dragonette's The Fourteenth of September to the test!





What is The Fourteenth of September about?

In 1969, as mounting tensions over the Vietnam War are dividing America, a young woman in college on an army scholarship risks future and family to secretly join the antiwar movement, and is ultimately forced to make a life-altering choice as fateful as that of any Lottery draftee.


Set up Page 69 for us:

This page is the end of a letter that the main character—Judy—originally wrote to her mother, who has now returned it to her edited with caustic comments. Her mother was a World War II nurse who pushed Judy into applying for the army scholarship, which is causing Judy great angst. Her concern is, if by taking the army’s scholarship money, she is complicit in the escalating war that she is beginning to feel is unjust.  Judy knows her mother won’t be sympathetic to her dilemma…and that she will have to face her at some point. Judy’s initial letter was an attempt to soften her mother up a bit by offering a hint of her concerns.  It’s clear to Judy in this scene that her strategy has backfired, and she’s succeeded only in making her mother angry and suspicious.


Does this page give an accurate sense of what the story and theme are about?

The scene capsulizes the background of the choice that Judy eventually feels she has to make—her Coming of Conscience.  Her mother has been at her throughout her childhood about the necessity of going to college and was tremendously relieved when Judy won the scholarship, confident that her future was settled.  But Judy feels trapped in this military solution. Not only is she following in her mother’s footsteps, but more significantly, the world is very different than how her patriotic mother sees it. Judy has bargained with herself, through the Tet Offensive, the Chicago Democratic Convention, and more. But now that she’s away from home, among others who are actively protesting the war, she begins to realize she may need to break away from her mother and their joint plan for her future. This  scene is the beginning of that rift.





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PAGE 69
THE FOURTEENTH OF SEPTEMBER





What’s going on?

Her breathing sped up again, and she braced herself as she opened the letter fully and then recoiled, as if from a slap. Her original letter was written over with lines, circles, exclamation points, and question marks, a mosaic of clashing handwriting and violent annotations.
She couldn’t tell where to start and turned the letter sideways to read a sentence written down the margin. She touched the script, feeling the indentations, and pictured her mother’s long fingers strangling the ballpoint.

You’re in your last year before transferring and now, you decide to send WRITTEN communications like this!

She could barely read the comments for all the markings, but it was pretty easy to find the offending sentence, circled heavily: “I haven’t told anyone this semester about the army thing. It’s getting a little uncomfortable, if you know what I mean?”

No, I don’t know what you mean!

She felt what she had written had been pretty mild, actually. She had just tucked the two lines in, after the news about how Maggie was getting better about stretching the phone cord out into the hall and closing the door when Danny called after ten o’clock.

She had followed it with a diverting message about how she got a B+ on her chemistry exam though she felt she would have been lucky to get a C, and how much she liked her new dorm, which was co-ed with lots of students from the city.

She scanned the rest of the letter, seeing big circles around the words co-ed and city.

Watch yourself and who you’re associating with!

So much for trying to soften her mother up. She should have known better. Judy moved down to the comments at the end.

You’re questioning the very institution paying for your education? After all we went through? Am I going to have to listen to this all year?

“No, you won’t have to listen to a damn thing,” Judy answered out loud, vowing never to write again. What’ll you do then, Mom, take out an ad in the CIU Clarion announcing my name, rank, and serial number? She ducked inadvertently, then shook herself, annoyed that even though she knew in advance the button her mother would push, she let it get to her anyway.

Judy was about to refold the letter when she noticed way down in the corner a scribbled Mom, as if her mother had nearly left it unsigned and then thought better of it.

She leaned back against the tree and watched the light flicker across the water leading back toward campus. She knew she would be expected to write something in return to acknowledge “message received.”  She toyed with two-word responses: “Got it!”  Or even, “Roger that!” But then she thought she might just stay silent and let her mother twist. She stood up, brushed the damp autumn leaves from her butt, and followed the lights back up the hill to the dorm.

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Rita Dragonette is a writer who, after spending nearly thirty years telling the stories of others as an award-winning public relations executive, has returned to her original creative path. The Fourteenth of September, her debut novel (She Writes Press 9/2018), is based upon personal experiences on campus during the Vietnam War, and she is currently at work on three other books: an homage to The Sun Also Rises about expats chasing their last dream in San Miguel de Allende, a World War II novel based upon her interest in the impact of war on and through women, and a memoir in essays. She lives and writes in Chicago, where she also hosts literary salons to showcase authors and their new books to avid readers.


Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Audio Series: Finding God in Ordinary Time



Our audio series "The Authors Read. We Listen."  was hatched in a NYC club during BEA back in 2012. It's a fun little series, where authors record themselves reading an excerpt from their own novels, in their own voices, the way their stories were meant to be heard.




Today, a
uthor, public speaker, and educator Christine Eberle reads an excerpt from her book Finding God in Ordinary Time, which releases on 9/17. Christine passionately explores the connections between Scripture, spirituality, and everyday life.  Her 25-year career as a college campus minister has given her countless opportunities to ask her favorite question (Where is God in all this?) and to listen for answers in surprising places.  Christine is a gifted public speaker, retreat leader, and church cantor, and performs dramatic interpretations of Biblical women.  In person and on the page, she invites us to encounter a God who has infinite compassion for people in pain, but little time for pious platitudes.  She currently serves as the Director of Campus Ministry at Gwynedd Mercy University near Philadelphia, PA.  You can follow her at christine-marie-eberle.com.









Click on the soundcloud image below to hear Christine read an excerpt from her book: 







What it's about: 


Take a wide-eyed look at your life--the commonplace, joyful, and even heartbreaking events--and discover the presence of God, hidden in plain sight. Forget bowing your head and closing your eyes. The secret to prayer is what happens when you're not trying to pray.

This is the invitation of Christine Eberle's Finding God in Ordinary Time. Each daily reflection contains a true story and a nugget of spiritual insight, accompanied by thought-provoking questions and a memorable Scripture quote. Together they reveal a God who is playful and affectionate, merciful and compassionate, and always relevant. Warm, accessible, and surprisingly funny, Christine offers spiritual nourishment to people skeptical or weary of religion, while still giving the faithful something to chew on.

Simple enough to be devoured in one sitting, this intimate little book is best enjoyed slowly. Each piece deserves to be savored and revisited through the unfolding of each ordinary, extraordinary day.



*TNBBC and its contributors take no stance on god or religion. 

Monday, August 27, 2018

Where Writers Write: Jennifer Spiegel

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!



Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 






This is Jennifer Spiegel. 

She is the author of three books, The Freak Chronicles (stories),  Love Slave (a novel), and And So We Die, Having First Slept (forthcoming in December from Five Oaks Press). She’s also half of the book-reviewing duo, Snotty Literati.For more information, go to www.jenniferspiegel.com







Where Jennifer Spiegel Writes
Part Deux



Am I the only writer who’s doing this twice? Yes, I wrote about my place before. Check it out here! It looks like I’m pretending to write in panty-hose. Really? Where’s the brie? Get me some shrimp!

Actually, it wasn’t as off as I anticipated. We moved since my last publishing bout. My “office” seems to be the hottest room in the new/now-old house (Why Do We Live In Arizona Again?), and so now I write on the couch, on my laptop, surrounded by miscellaneous pets. Different ones. My blog was (is) called “Bosco’s Going Down,” named—Pathetically? Sweetly?—after my cat, Bosco, who finally went down. Man, Bosco was a great cat. RIP Bosco.



So I write on the couch. (Kids at school, coffee in tow, music off.)



I did write almost the entire first draft of my new novel at a Starbucks in North Phoenix. Things got sad, though, and I left. First, I would’ve preferred a funky, local, downtown-ish coffeehouse, but I live in North Phoenix, home of Walmart/Sprouts/CVS/Starbucks. Second, I started to get sad when I realized I was waaaaayyyyy more attached to my local baristas than they were to me—like I loved them and, to them, I was just another loiterer, albeit white (Sorry! I couldn’t help myself!). Third, I got breast cancer and went through chemo, which resulted in me hiding out for months, bald—a routine I’ve yet to reverse in any real way, though I now have hair.

So, the couch.




Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Where Writers Write: Nicole Rivas

Welcome to another installment of TNBBC's Where Writers Write!


Where Writers Write is a series in which authors showcase their writing spaces using short form essay, photos, and/or video. As a lover of books and all of the hard work that goes into creating them, I thought it would be fun to see where the authors roll up their sleeves and make the magic happen. 







This is Nicole Rivas. 

Nicole is from Los Angeles and the Inland Empire. She earned a B.A. in English from California State University, San Bernardino and an MFA in Creative Writing from The University of Alabama, and now lives in Savannah, GA, where she teaches college English at Georgia State University. Her prose has been published in The Journal, Passages North, The Adroit Journal, and elsewhere. She can be found at www.nicolemrivas.com.












Where Nicole Rivas Writes




I sometimes envy writers who have clearly-defined workspaces and production schedules. I never have, though I suppose I enjoy it that way. Some weeks, the only things I write are grocery lists or uninspired text messages. And you're more likely to find me writing lying belly-down on a soft surface than sitting at a proper work station. Still, my desk at home contains some writerly essentials, like a printer, a typewriter (which I rarely use for fiction and more for spur-of-the-moment letters or postcards), and loads of pens and pencils that I like to use for marking up drafts of stories. My desk is also the home of my beloved Djungarian hamster, Cavo.






Writing and revision can be a daunting task, so it's nice to have a friendly rodent in the vicinity when I'm sitting down to work. Plus, I'm a writer who needs the room to be relatively quiet when I eke out sentences, so having a tiny, mostly-nocturnal creature around is up my alley. (Only occasionally do I have to oil that squeaky hamster wheel.) I also like to write by windows when possible--both for the sunlight and for viewing the interesting activity of passerby, both human and otherwise. I live across the street from a popular burger joint in Savannah, Georgia, so when I feel like observing a bit more vivacity, I simply open the blinds. It's much better than T.V.






But again, a desk isn't always my thing. In fact, it's probably not even my thing 50% of the time. A lot of my prose writing takes place in my living room using a combination of the couch and coffee table. I found this bean-shaped table on Facebook Marketplace, and I love that it has two surface areas. When I'm working on a large project, I can spread my laptop, books, notes, and whatever else on its two levels and have plenty of space to create, research, and revise with my feet up.






One thing that you'll always find on my coffee table or desk is a notepad and a Timex watch. If I have any sort of writing regimen at all, it's supported by these two objects. They give me a greater sense of place, grounding, and focus than most other objects. I use the notepad for my daily to-do lists, and also as a place to jot down notes about books I'm reading or ideas I have. (I admit, it's not the best organizational method, but it keeps me productive.) The Timex is for compelling me to write. While I don't have a set schedule for writing each day, I do press myself to write something when I have the time, usually for 30 minutes. Running the chronograph setting on this wristwatch makes the task feel achievable, and with my two cozy writing setups, I'm usually able to write well-past my goal time.

Thursday, August 2, 2018

Indie Spotlight: Sarah Ward and Aesop Lake

Sara Ward is the author of the recently released Aesop Lake. In today's Indie Spotlight, Sara explains why it's critical in this day and age to teach our young adults how to combat and overcome bullying and intimidation in an environment that currently appears to encourgage it....






Why Aesop Lake is Relevant Now 
by Sarah Ward




When is the right time for a young adult novel about bullying, harassment and being an ally? In our current political climate, our leaders act like bullies, intimidating others, and dismissing those without power, teaching our youngest generation of adults that the only way to get things done is to use force and coercion.

So, when it is the right time? That time is now.

We have an opportunity to offer stories of ally-ship, confronting the bullies, and standing up in unity.  Aesop Lake is such a novel. Leda Keogh, the 17-year-old protagonist must face the challenge of doing the right thing after witnessing a hate crime against a gay couple.  She can protect her boyfriend and her family, or face the forces that control her, and help bring justice to a terrible situation. All too often we are faced with challenges without the guidance and support of others who can help us navigate to a positive outcome.

In Aesop Lake I’ve used three of Aesop’s Fables to frame the story.  These fables are simple messages that bring us back to core values about being human, might doesn’t make right, gentleness can be more persuasive than force, and there is strength in unity. Without standing on moral high ground, the characters in Aesop Lake must confront each other with words, and actions, and find the strength within to change the future.

Even if you don’t write novels, there are many ways that we can raise our kids to be able to stand up for others and help young adults learn to speak up and be allies to their peers.


Here are Five Ways to Help Young Adults be Allies in the Face of Confrontation


1. Talk about why it’s important to be an ally and what that means. Being an ally means recognizing oppression broadly and standing in solidarity with anyone who experiences oppression—whether or not the ally also belongs to a targeted group. Here is a great list from tolerance.org

- Do listen and ask how you can help / Don’t expect another person to educate you about their identity. 
- Do accept criticism thoughtfully /  Don’t broadcast your qualifications for being an ally.
- Do speak up when you hear biased language / Don’t apologize for the actions of your identity group.
- Do seek support from experienced allies within your identity group / Don’t expect credit for being an ally.
- Do acknowledge intersectionality /  Don’t selectively support one group over another.


2. Demonstrate how to stand up for others, if you don’t know yourself, learn:

- Recognize the feeling in your gut when something is not okay. When your stomach tightens up, your pulse quickens, you can hear the tone shift in a conversation, where someone is trying to exert power over another, verbally or emotionally.
- Be aware of your surroundings. Who else is around? What is your location? If you decide to act, can you reasonably assure your safety and that of the other person?
- Take a deep breath, and center yourself. Finding the courage to step out of your comfort zone and speak up requires some confidence. Many parents actually tell their children to mind their own business, don’t get involved if someone else is causing a problem. As a parent, a social worker and a youth group leader, I’ve talked with many teens who want to do the right thing, but don’t feel well equipped to even try.
- Speak clearly and directly to the person being threatened. Make eye contact with them.  Ask them, “Are you okay?” Do you need help?” Or, “May I talk with you for a moment?
- Wait for them to reply, and if the bully tells you to get lost, you could say, “Excuse me, I am talking with this person.” And then turn your attention back to the victim and repeat your question.
- Ask them to step away and once you have put some space between you, ask if they are okay. What can you do to help?”

3. Get involved in social issues, shining a light on injustices in your community. Participate in events such as gay pride parades, Black Lives Matter events and Take Back the Night marches. Helping young adult see that there are other people in their community that support these issues will build their confidence in standing up for someone. 

4. Set the expectation that they should help out if they see someone being bullied or at risk of being harmed. My friend, Rachel recently sent her son off to college with these words of wisdom; “If you see someone is at risk of being harmed or bullied, we want you to do the right thing and stand up for them. Don’t walk away and pretend you didn’t see it.”

5. Manage your own fears of raising an ally. As parents, we must support our children to learn to take some risks, to let their conscience be their guide. From the first time we watch them get on the school bus with the big kids, to helping them move into their first apartment or dorm room, we have our own worries about what might happen. With a healthy perspective we don’t lay those worries on our young adult, but instead, bolster them with confidence, reassuring them that they can do anything they set their mind to. Raising an ally, following the previous steps, will heighten our own fears, but it shouldn’t keep us from taking the next step.


We live in a world divided by hate groups, people choosing sides, turning their backs on each other. But there are also plenty of calls to action, you can stand up for what you believe in, march, protest and write letters…

The time to do so is now.





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Sarah Ward writes young adult fiction, poetry and journal articles in the field of child welfare. Over a twenty-five-year career as a social worker, Sarah has worked with young adults and families with harrowing backgrounds. She won the 2007 Editor’s Choice Award for the New England Anthology of Poetry for her poem “Warmer Waters,” and she is a member of the League of Vermont Writers since 2008. As a social worker, Sarah has published several journal articles, and was recently a co-author on an article published (December 2016) in Child and Youth Services Review titled, “Building a landscape of resilience after workplace violence in public child welfare.” In her limited spare time, Sarah enjoys a good book, a little yoga and a cup of tea in her home in Williston, Vermont.