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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#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!

Countdown to Debut – plus, 10 more ARCs of Juniper up for grabs!

How did we get here? In less than two months now, Juniper Lemon’s Happiness Index hits bookstores!

I hardly know where to begin, but I think I’ll start with some excitement: Goodreads is giving away 10 advance copies of Juniper! If you’re a Goodreads member, you can enter with the click of a button here (where it says “Enter Giveaway”) through April 27!

Goodreads Giveaway in April

Other pre-release goings on at the moment:

  • Audiobook production is starting! The producer with Listening Library recently reached out to me to let me know the voice actress they had in mind for Juniper. I listened to some samples and I absolutely love her and I cannot WAIT to hear her bring Juniper to life!
  • I have a publicist now. Just assigned from my publisher a couple weeks ago. Figuring out this business a little bit by the seat of my pants, but we already have a local radio interview scheduled??
  • I’m trying out video! A rep at Penguin asked if I’d be willing to film a short video about the book for promo purposes. I have written out a script (it’s meant to be under one minute) and I’m getting excited about actually making it!
  • I’m working on promo efforts independently, too. On the advice of former debuts I am being careful not to spread myself too thin, and am instead concentrating on projects that I find enjoyable and not more time/effort/stress than they’re worth. These include, but are not limited to:
  • Creating a Juniper coloring page/colorable postcard (watch this space!), and
  • Planning a public release celebration to take place, most likely, the weekend after Juniper comes out. Key words so far: scavenger hunt. Raffles (open internationally). ICE CREAM.

Book 2 (unrelated to Juniper) currently hovers somewhere in the background, but I anticipate that may also move to a front burner quickly– and likely in the busy rush of release!

For now, it’s one day, one new step at a time.

Juniper ARC giveaway!!

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

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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:

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?

Spooktober Reading Bingo

In honor of October and open spooky season, I’ve put together a reading bingo for all things horror and Halloween. If you enjoy sinking your fangs into a good scary story, this card is for you!

Available in four designs (click image for full size, which should print as 8.5 x 11in):

Spooktober Bingo - v3 Spooktober Bingo - v4

Spooktober Bingo - v7 Spooktober Bingo - v2

Remember, your mark-off options don’t stop at books: short stories, poems, and even internet articles can count, too! Alternatively, swap out “Reading” for “Story” and you can use even more mediums: movies, video games, Halloween episodes, etc. Get creative, and most importantly: have fun!

“What is it about?” – a personal milestone

Today I mentioned to my sister I was working on a new book idea. Before she could even ask the time-feared question, “What is it about?”– the thing every author has probably hid beneath a table from at least once in their writing career– I elaborated. And in about two sentences, I delivered Who, What, and Why in a compelling package.

Not only that, but when she wanted to know more, I could expand off the cuff without a single er, um, or ah!

Me: (Reflecting a moment) Well that’s never happened before.

With my first book, ANY TIME someone asked what it was about I would start to explain, realize after a minute that I was rambling, trail off, get awkward, and quickly jump ship with “Pitch needs work” or “It’s still coming together.” Granted, that’s probably because the story was inferior (first novel = learning experience– I know worlds more about storytelling today), but regardless: because of that initial faltering, my body sort of learned to fear the question “What is it about?” early on. I’d clam up whenever asked, and if I could, avoid the topic entirely.

Which is why it was such a marvel to me to realize today that Hey, I just described a book premise with the ease of describing a movie, and not only that, but I lied: Today wasn’t the first time that’s ever happened. I’ve been quick-pitching the book that got me an agent to people who’ve asked about it for ages.

I’m getting better at this.

7 Things I’ve Learned About Coming Up With Ideas

Traditionally, I’ve always entered the brainstorm stage with equal parts dread and thrill: thrill because the slate is clean, the world is wide, I can write anything; dread because the page is blank, and so is my head, oh god, why did I choose writing?*

Between different drafts of projects this year, I’ve spent a lot of time seeking out, trying on, mocking up and tearing down ideas. Emphasis on the tearing down part (There’s a reason that this

ideas 1

is a writer stereotype.).

Fortunately, somewhere between all the desperate searching and lists and freewrites and plotting and summaries and metaphorical and actual crumpling of pages, I’ve managed to learn a few things about brainstorming and developing ideas efficiently. Things like:

1. Don’t wait until you’ve finished writing Project A to begin looking for/developing ideas for Project B. In the three novels I’ve written to date, I’ve always worked very one-project-at-a-time. While I think that’s productive in terms of keeping your head in the right story, it’s also a bit like going cold turkey off exercise or coffee or your favorite TV show whenever you get to a stopping point: suddenly a major part of your routine is gone, and you’re left dizzy and wanting and yes, probably even a bit cranky. You’ll save the stress if you have the core of another project (say, the logline) ready to go before you set the current one down.

2. Keep track of what interests you. Anything in this category has the potential to bleed into the important question, What is a story I’d want to read?, and its faithful companion, the story I want to write. Create a collection, real or virtual, for this express purpose, and if you’re ever in need of a starting point, just open it and play with its contents.

3. From one certainty, the world (Look for ideas in likely places). I’ve talked previously about sparks, the thing entire stories unfold from. While I still believe that sparks cannot be made, I do think we can be smart about where we look for them (see #2). And if we’re willing to mine away in a likely place, working at it even when we can’t see that first edge that glitters, chances are we’ll strike something precious eventually.

4. Think big (picture). Zoom out. When developing ideas into stories, start with overarching elements like concept, plot, conflict. Your spark might be a smaller detail, but the big stuff is fundamental. A good test to see if your story is ready to write (indeed, objectively sound and interesting enough to be worth writing): can you write a compelling synopsis in 100-250 words? How about a logline?

5. Legos, and let go. Here is why I’m suddenly feeling like I’ve learned something in this game: In playing with the bigger pieces first (attaching items that intrigue me to different characters, situations, formats, etc., and experimenting/rearranging them like Legos), I feel I’ve become able to recognize early on ideas that don’t sing: aren’t compelling enough, remind me too much of another story, would work better in another genre, etc. And when I do, I can swiftly set them aside and try something else.

6. There is value in knowing what you DON’T want to write, too. Seriously. Just crossing items off the list of endless possibilities (“not fantasy”; “not romance-based”; “no suicide, no road trip, no manic pixie dream girl”) is grounding and steers you in the right direction (or at least, away from the wrong ones).

7. If you’re focusing on a specific category, do recon. Ideally, you’re well read in that category already. Whether you are or not, one quick way to learn about it and maybe even generate ideas is to make a trip to the bookstore or library and spend time reading jackets. Reading the premises of many different stories in your genre, you’ll get a better understanding of what’s been done before and what hasn’t, what compels you and what doesn’t, not to mention find potential comp titles and additions to your TBR! All of which feeds into your idea pool.

Other things you’ve learned about finding and developing ideas? Share away!

Finally,

*I could not help but notice that part of this sentence formed a haiku:

The page is blank and

so is my head, oh god, why

did I choose writing?

My Summer Reading Giveaway! — on tumblr.

summer reading giveaway banner june 16Hey, guys! Two things have happened recently:

  1. Tumblr’s become the social media I’m most active on, which lead to
  2. I discovered the Book Depository.

The Book Depository is a magical and wondrous place where you can buy books online and ship them to over 160 different countries— FOR FREE. Yes. FREE. Shipping. Worldwide. As such, it is the perfect vehicle for internet-based giveaways. Which leads me to the grand announcement…

In honor of discovering TBD, some writing milestones, and an upcoming birthday, I am hosting my very own book giveaway on tumblr! The prize is $20 (USD) of books from the Book Depository. Full rules and details here. You can enter until August 22!

Please note that for ease of operation, this giveaway is open to tumblr users only. But I hope to see some of you over there!

Hope your summers (and summer reads) are off to a great start!