Dziękuję, Polska ! — & other things I never expected within a year of being published

Hey all! It’s been a while. A little less than nine months ago Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index (aka my first book) came out in the United States, and I must admit my focus has been away from this blog since — but some excitement is happening abroad, and while I stopped by to share it, I thought I would interrupt my hiatus with a quick list of highlights and things I have learned as a debut author so far, starting with said news:

1. Juniper has been nominated for Book of the Year 2017 (young adult) on Lubimyczytać.pl, the Polish equivalent of Goodreads!

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I was so stunned to see this. Even if I don’t win — even if I come in last place — I might never get over seeing my book alongside John Green’s and Nicola Yoon’s! Have a Lubimyczytać.pl account or know someone who does? You can vote on best young adult book of 2017 here!

2. Readers are the best. This may not come as a surprise to anyone, but readers sure keep surprising *me* with their boundless kindness and honors! The above is an extreme example — it was a big deal even to see Juniper translated into Polish, let alone nominated for anything — but really, everything from a shoutout in a Tweet to a quick message, fan mail, or “bookstagram” photo is spectacularly uplifting, and really strikes the heart every time. I’ve made excellent use of that tears-streaming-down-the-face emoji the last few seasons.

3. I’m really glad I joined Instagram. Confession: I did not own a smart phone until last year. But I made an account a little before I got one at the recommendation of another debut author, who had observed how nice it was to be tagged in posts and see some of the love your book was getting without seeking it out. As someone with epic anxiety around reading reviews, that approach really works for me 🙂

4. Postcards = business cards for your books. Book swag can come in handy in any number of situations, but in my opinion, postcards are the absolute best. I always carry some with me on the go, and if the fact that I write books for a living happens to come up in conversation (as it often does), I have a visual + one-line summary and all the book’s details in one neat place — and whoever I’m talking to can take it home with them!

I especially recommend book postcards if, like me, you either loathe being a salesperson, feel flustered to discuss your book on cue, or both.

5. Yes, Book 2 really does suck…but you’ve got people in your corner. If you’re an author or aspiring novelist, you’ve likely heard about the notorious struggles of writing a second traditionally-published novel. Every situation is different, but I can tell you from where I stand: IT’S ALL TRUE. Mainly it’s just that circumstances have changed and there are any number of unique pressures that weren’t there for your first book — but they add up, and whether it’s coming up with an idea everyone likes, meeting parameters, deadlines, or turning in the ugliest first draft of your life, the stress is alive and well.

BUT: the same people who helped you sell, and possibly publish your first book remain your steady champions. As long and harrowing as your path to Book 2 might be, your people want to see you succeed — and in my experience, are excellent about working with you to make it happen.

6. I have a favorite business expense?? I knew online giveaways (***see below!***) were A Thing, but I never expected I’d be so dang happy making semi-regular runs to the post office! Readers really appreciate the chance to win a copy of your book via social media or Rafflecopter, and every winner I’ve interacted with has been so wonderfully gracious and ebullient, I can’t help but grin too when I get to play Bookmail Fairy.

7. Some things don’t change. A few: imposter syndrome. Bottomless TBRs (I am only just now starting to catch up on all the excellent debuts I purchased last year). The desire to to urge people to leave a review*, but want to be more Person than Salesperson and thus only occasionally vague-Tweet about how much authors love and appreciate reviews 🙂

*Reviews help authors. They are appreciated in any capacity — Amazon, Goodreads, Barnes & Noble, etc. — but especially on Amazon, where I am told that 50 is the magic number to start enjoying the benefits of their algorithms.

Anything to add? Comment below!

And while you’re here…

***CURRENT GIVEAWAYS***

As of this posting, I am hosting TWO ongoing Juniper giveaways: one on Instagram and one on Twitter. Check them out for details! Winners will be drawn February 21, 2018.

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One month of Juniper, or: What’s it like to be a published author?

My book that came out a month ago was my first and nearly four years in the making. It didn’t take four years to write Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, but it did take four years to plan, write, revise, get an agent, revise, find a publisher, revise, complete a slew of publishing firsts, revise, and eventually end up in bookstores. Add on a practice book, the study of the craft, and a commitment to reading, and it’s probably been closer to five years since I decided to pursue writing fiction.

So what’s it like to finally be published?

The answer is…

Pretty much the same?

audrey hepburn quote

There are a few differences:

1. I’ve started carrying around a Sharpie. Not to be pretentious—because in regular life I sometimes encounter friends, acquaintances, etc. who’ve bought the book and would like it signed.

2. I have fans??? Most days I wake up to some kind of social notifications from readers who enjoyed the book. I don’t know if this will be the norm going forward or if it’s just because Juniper is new, but it’s lovely, moving, and really kind of astounding! I mean, I remember what a big deal it was for me the first time an author I admire even liked one of my tweets (B.J. Novak after a reading). To be on the other end of that is nothing short of magical—and has me paradoxically fangirling over my fans.

3. People who go out with me are suddenly eager to tell strangers what I do for a living and that my first book just came out. Friends and family have always been supportive of my writing, but now that there is physical proof of success out in the world, it is easier to talk about and boy, are your cheerleaders excited to share for you. Even I am more likely to admit to being a writer in public (but still don’t go out of my way to tell people).

It’s like when you eat out with a friend on a birthday and your friend (un)casually lets the waiter know what day it is.

WAITER: Oh, it’s your birthday? Happy birthday!

YOU: Hahaha, thanks. Yep, another year older. Whoop whoop.

FRIEND: IT IS HER BIRTHDAY BRING FORTH THE CAKE AND THE GLORY

There have also been many firsts in the last month. Scroll or click through the gallery to see some of my favorites as well as other highlights from the first month of publication.

To those who aren’t published yet but are working towards publication, I say: even if the world does not yet recognize what you are doing, you are Doing it. Write on.

#JuniperIRL Scavenger Hunt

Juniper IRL Bingo Card - web

Here’s a thing I don’t get to say every day: My first book came out on Tuesday!!

To celebrate the release of Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index, today I’m kicking off a Juniper-themed scavenger hunt that anyone can join online, or, if you happen to be in the Portland area, in person!

The hunt list (above – prints at 8.5 x 11 in) features a combination of spot-this-items and activity prompts. Here’s how the game will work:

Online (open internationally): June 3 – June 11

Play from anywhere in the world by sharing a photo of any item from the list online using the hashtag #JuniperIRL. Each social share may count as an entry for raffle prizes including copies of the book, $20 USD worth of books from the Book Depository, and a Juniper-themed prize pack featuring bath bombs, sweets, and beyond! Winners will be randomly selected on June 12 and contacted via email or direct message.

Note: If sharing a #JuniperIRL photo on Twitter, you are entered for prizes automatically. If sharing on another social platform, please copy the link to your post and paste it in the share widget (click below to go to it):

Share Widget (Rafflecopter)

PORTLAND ONLY: Sunday, June 4th

From 2:00 – 4:00pm on Sunday, June 4, Julie will be celebrating at the Brewery Blocks Starbucks downtown (1039 NW Couch; at the corner of 11th and Couch, across from Powell’s bookstore).

Show her photos of any five items from the Juniper hunt list for a small prize, which may or may not involve ice cream (there is a Ben & Jerry’s three blocks away. It may). Or just come say hi, color a postcard, and get a book signed!

I’ve had a blast putting this all together — I hope you all enjoy it!

Juniper ARC giveaway!!

Update 3/19/2017: The giveaway is now closed– the winner has claimed her prize! Congrats to Laura J!

frame only

Hello, friends! I’m excited to announce that I am giving away an advance reading copy of Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index— along with a prize! The winner of the raffle will receive the book and his or her choice of either:

  1. A $50 Amazon gift card, or
  2. A Fujifilm Instax Mini 8 Instant Camera (with one pack of film), winner’s color of choice.

I’m hosting the giveaway via Rafflecopter, so if you aren’t a member with them already, you may be prompted to sign up (it’s fast and free) when you click the link below.

Ready to play?

enter the giveaway

^

There’s a new cover in town…

Or rather, across the pond! Say hello to Juniper’s newest sister cover, that of the Penguin Random House Children’s UK edition!

uk-new-cover-2

Isn’t it beautiful?

This version is now also available for pre-order from Amazon UK! If you don’t live in the UK but are interested in this edition, sit tight– I will update this post with international vendor links such as The Book Depository’s (update: here it is!) when they become available.

For now, back to mooning over my screen…

jon-stewart-heart-eyes

Update: current places you can pre-order the UK edition:

Alternative Reading Goals: Go Deeper

The Bones Clocks aes 2

an aesthetic I made for The Bone Clocks

Every year on Goodreads, over a million readers “pledge” how many books they intend to finish that year: thirty. Fifty-two. A hundred and fifty. Goals vary widely and so does the average degree of completion, but one thing doesn’t:

People are always striving to read more.

As a writer, I am thrilled to see this. As a participant, I wonder about the practicality and tradeoffs of the system: namely, defining “more” as a higher number of books. More books does not necessarily mean more pages; nor does a total include the books one didn’t finish, or other (non-book) commitments to reading. A number is not a true reflection of the reading one has completed.

Perhaps more importantly, as someone who rarely finishes a book in one sitting—someone who would rather read in increments and absorb—reading “more” books, after a certain point, can start to mean getting less out of them.

So what’s a reader to do? How does she set a higher bar for herself without lessening her book by book experience?

I have some thoughts on that.

First, if you’re going to set a number goal, be realistic. If you can comfortably read a book a week, keep at it. Two? Read on. If you struggle to finish a book a month or even five in a year, don’t “pledge” fifty. Be honest with yourself. Reading should be fun, so start with something comfortable (or a bit of a push) and adjust as necessary.

Second, consider the value—what it means to you, personally—of reading more deeply, having more fun with certain books. While deeper activities with one book won’t count towards a number goal, they can certainly enrich your reading experience—and may make you more eager to pick up the next!

Here are some ideas for deeper engagement and more fun with the books you love*:

  • Write down references and vocab you don’t know as you’re reading. Look them up.
  • Make an aesthetic (example above).
  • Draw (paint, etc.) original fan art!
  • Make a playlist based on the book, your favorite character or chapter, etc.
  • Re-read a book or series that you love. A teacher of mine used to say that you had to read something three times to get the full value of it: once for pure enjoyment, the second and third to notice things you missed and appreciate how the story comes together.
  • Commit to reading an entire trilogy/series in a year, or even just several books by the same author (bonus points for back to back). You’ll start to see patterns and notice more when it’s fresh in your head!
  • Collect favorite quotes and passages along the way. When you finish reading, post or do something artistic with them. (Then post that!)

*Side note: This list makes a decent reading challenge in itself!

Other ideas? Share below!

 

 

The Last Day of November

I haven’t posted all this month, so I thought it time for a check-in.

Writing-wise, I’m excited to be developing a new Agent-approved book idea! I can’t tell you much about it yet (gag rule), but I can say the concept’s a rich playing field for the surreal within the contemporary. Already having fun with that. *cackles*

On other artistic fronts, after years of lusting for a high quality camera, I’ve finally, finally, FINALLY purchased a Nikon DSLR. I have experience shooting both film and digital, but I never imagined what a task it would be figuring out the controls in the vessel that combines them! I’m finally starting to get the hang of it though, and mapping features has been a good chance for me to review my photography basics.

Now if only the rain would let off so I could take it out to play more!

Reading: a great many great books. TBR and TBRR (re-read) piles constantly on the rise. Will be posting a Top Reads of 2015 selection soon!

Watching: the second season of The 100 and the third of Parks & Rec. How I ever went this long without the comedic gold of Leslie Knope I’ll never know.

Listening to: Um, kind of falling in love with Panic! At the Disco lately. Since I got a set of Skullcandy, I swear I’ve been listening to Death of a Bachelor on repeat. I haven’t been this excited for an album to drop since AM! Also getting into Melanie Martinez, Halsey, and The Zolas, who I already liked, but keep finding more amazing singles from (Maggie Stiefvater introduces me to some of the best tunes).

Learning: assorted French. Said Nikon/photography. How to bottle the stars.

You?

Some things to remember when brainstorming

The phrase “back to the drawing board” should not induce panic or stress. Starting a new project is like being released into the wild: you are free, and the world is yours to explore. Your art can go anywhere, limited only by the bounds of your imagination.

So why can it be SO DARN INTIMIDATING?

As I pass into another phase of idea generation myself (brainstorming not only for the “next” project, but numerous which I could see myself pursuing), I’m (re)discovering key things that enable me to proceed in what can be an otherwise paralyzing freedom. Because they help me, I hope they will also be of use to others.

When brainstorming, remember:

  1. It’s all been done before. And that’s okay. Embracing this can be liberating rather than constrictive. [Recommended reading on this.] [A helpful chart.]
  2. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Not everything you write has to be toward your best novel yet, or even toward a novel at all. Pressure is crushing. Allow yourself to breathe.
  3. Writer’s block only truly happens when you stop writing. As long as you are writing, you are creating, and the act of creating is more important than whether what you create is good or not. (Hint: if you KEEP creating, even when you have nothing to say, every idea sucks, and you don’t know why in the name of France anyone ever encouraged you to pursue writing ever, eventually SOME of the stuff you make will be good, and you will find your springboard.)
  4. On the flip side of #3, epiphanies tend to occur away from the screen, so it’s also important to spend time not writing. This may sound totally contradictory to the previous point, but it isn’t. Writing is great for digging and jumpstarting and sometimes finding little pieces of your next idea, but often the great What if? questions that spurn whole novels come to us in the quiet moments we aren’t looking for them: washing dishes. Showering. Exercising. When we let our minds wander. So be sure to spend some time in a place your thoughts can unfold without interruption.
  5. When you’re really at a loss, go do something new. The greater our experience, the greater our pool to draw from. If your new experience doesn’t help you today, it may very well feed into another project tomorrow.

Other ideas? Share in comments below!

Homemade Calendar – December

december 2014 calendar 2I’m pretty pleased with how December turned out considering I was way behind and had no idea what I was going to do for my monthly artwork until the eve of the 31st! Since this is the last month in my 2014 homemade calendar series, I want to take a moment to observe some things I’ve learned in the course of doing it.

  1. The project began as simply a more colorful way to mark off the days– I thought it’d be an excuse to air out my art supplies. But as the months went on, it evolved from basic colored squares to full out compositions. Which was awesome! But very time consuming.
  2. I never regret the time I spend on my art projects. But I did, as the bar was raised, begin to feel a certain pressure each month to produce something at least as good or better. Which meant ALWAYS putting in solid time and effort. That part made it stressful when I had to cast about for subject ideas.
  3. But at the same time, I’m glad I had this sort of structure in place– it meant I was making at least one physical art work each month.

In conclusion: It’s been fun but also somewhat obligatory– which I suppose is normal of any pursuit one commits oneself to. It’s like showing up for a class or a job you enjoy: As much as you love the work and the content, it comes with pressure and deadlines and sometimes burnout. But you have to show up and turn in your stuff anyway, regardless of whether or not you want to. This is how progress is made, how projects are finished. I’m going to try to take that lesson forward as I set my priorities for 2015. Look for elaboration soon! And finally…

Happy New Year! 🙂