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…


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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26 Things I’ve Learned So Far

I recently turned 26. Goodbye, quarter life crisis! Hello, glorious new year of awkward transitional 20s. (Don’t listen to me. I love my 20s.)

Taken on my bday. I am not 22.

Taken on my bday. I am not 22.

I don’t feel older, but I do feel more adult. There are still many regards in which I do not, but some things (liking chocolate doughnuts with rainbow sprinkles and YA books, for instance) will never change. I look forward to the next year of growth and experiment, and in the meantime present a handdrawn list of 26 things I have learned in recent years (inspired in equal parts by Laekan Zea Kemp’s traditional bday blog post and the 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far column in Writer’s Digest). Typed list follows for ease of reading.

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26 Things I’ve Learned So Far

1. Beauty, like humor, is subjective.
2. It’s better to buy one thing you need than two you don’t (even if the two things are cheaper).
3. True motivation can only come from within. You have to want something for yourself.
4. Everything you don’t absolutely need in order to exist is a luxury. Notice it. Appreciate it.
5. No two people, living or deceased, experience the world exactly the same way.
6. Life is a series of choices. You will have to make them.
7. No effort is wasted if we learn from it.
8. Love is free. Give it openly and make the world a better place—one smile, one affirmation, one kindness at a time.
9. People are sponges. You are what you eat, read, watch, do, listen to, associate with.
10. Don’t rely on other people to make your life meaningful. Make your own meaning. (But do let others add to it.)
11. Choose commitments with care.
12. If you don’t believe in yourself, how can anybody else?
13. Stress is a sign of growth. It means you are out of your comfort zone.
14. It is better to fail than to not even try.
15. Kindness can move mountains.
16. A person who shames others for loving something is arrogant and narrow-minded.
17. Confidence is everything.
18. Don’t judge a shirt by the way it looks on the hanger.
19. Small luxuries bring great joy.
20. Surround yourself with people you admire.
21. Remove yourself from negative/draining influences.
22. Pursue the things that energize you.
23. Keep electronics higher than liquids.
24. If you want more time, change how you spend it.
25. The longer you look, the more you see.
26. ENK (Everyone Needs Kindness).

Forum Friday: Do you have a literary bucket list?

If so, what’s on it? Writing fan letters to your favorite authors (or perhaps meeting them)? Visiting places from your favorite books, like the House on the Rock in American Gods (or the Harry Potter world in Universal Studios)? Going on a literary pilgrimage, or filling a library of your own with signed first editions?

A literary bucket list is something I’ve been meaning to sit down and commit to paper for a while now. Or at least brainstorm over. I think it’s always good to have dreams, and as a writer it could be especially nice to round out some of the Years Away, Distant Mountain goals like publication and viable authorhood with things you can cross off in a day. I’ll be interested to see what’s on other people’s lists! 🙂

The Things I Never Get To: A List

I love making lists. I love crossing items off them. I love the illusion of productivity in a world where there will never be enough time to read all the books, see all the sights, meet all the people, etc.

This morning, as a sort of obligation-free freewrite and creative warm-up (for which lists outside the planner are most brilliant), I thought I would draft a list of

Things I Always Mean To Do, But Somehow Never (Or Only After Great Delay) Get To And Really Ought To Do, in no particular order

  1. The sewing
  2. Go through closet and donate the things I never wear
  3. Read miscellaneous items (JFK’s “Strategy for Peace” speech, reread The Gettsyburg Address, the faux children’s book Go the F**k to Sleep) that have been on my to-read list forEVer
  4. Learn everything that comes after the introduction of “Stairway to Heaven” on guitar
  5. Practice the solo of “Santeria” until I can do it at something faster than slug-versus-treadmill
  6. Write letters
  7. Submit short stories and poems to magazines
  9. Garden Learn to garden
  10. LEARN THE PAST TENSE IN FRENCH (irregular verbs included)
  11. Find a French pen pal, or at least somebody practicing/wanting to learn so I have a reason to form sentences and look up words
  12. A whole assortment of writing-related and personal goals including, but not limited to, joining a critique group, traveling Europe, overcoming certain fears, and, eh, securing medical insurance before I turn twenty-six.

How about you? What are you always meaning to do, or have meant to do forever, but never get to?

Tech-Cleanse / Sabbath. Your thoughts?

I read an article a few months back which put forth the idea of taking a Tech Sabbath, or one day a week completely free of electronics (no TV, computer, Facebook, Twitter, or parking in front of any screen of any kind), with the intention of drinking in the world/replenishing one’s mind/body/spirit/eyesight. For the author herself, it had worked wonders.

Before I release the rambling hounds that are my own thoughts on this matter, I will ask you, the readers, today’s Forum Friday question: What are your thoughts about / experiences with disengaging from technology on a regular basis? What rules, if any, have you played by, and what did the results look like?

I am especially interesting in hearing from other writers.

Me, I had two reactions initially:

  1. That sounds lovely!
  2. I’m a writer. How am I meant to part with my computer (and my many scrawling notes, and outlines, and research documents, and thesaurus, and music, and the internet, which I intend to use for research, but invariably use for mindless shenanigans) for 52 days of the year? DO YOU KNOW how much productivity lost that is? DO YOU?

…Then again, if I spent 52 days of the year entirely away from the screen…

  1. I would probably get less headaches (+)
  2. more exercise (+)
  3. spend more time downtown (+) and more money (-)
  4. read more (+)
  5. write more without constantly hitting delete (+++++)
  6. but feel at a loss without my outlining documents (—)
  7. feel more refreshed (+)
  8. do more hands-on, artistic projects with tangible results (+)
  9. meet more people (+) and experience more (+)
  10. maybe pick up a new hobby? (+) volunteer? (+) 52 days a year is a LOT.

Alright, so when I make a pros and cons list it doesn’t look so bad. Maybe it wouldn’t equate to productivity lost at all. (It’s not like I’m constantly at the computer, either– but to go for whole days at a time without using it is rare for me.)

I keep coming back to that number, 52. Since I’m chasing my dreams I feel a sort of constant need to be productive and working towards achieving those distant goals, and part of me is stubbornly reluctant to surrender my main tool for that work.

But maybe a tech sabbath would be good for me. Maybe I’ll give it a try.

At least for a single day…and go from there.

Writing Challenge, Day 30: Reflections

30 Day Know Thyself Writing Challenge

Day 30: What will you take away from this challenge?

This challenge has been a fantastic exercise in discipline. It’s helped me treat writing like a job: something I must show up for each day and see through, regardless of how energetic (lethargic), creative (stodgy), and enthusiastic (dead to the world) I am feeling.

Needless to say some entries turned out better than others, but in a world where deadlines and chip-away progress are very real and standard I come away with a sense of accomplishment at having simply completed them all. The progress and especially the unanticipated inspiration storms that result from butt-in-the-chair dedication are empowering, to say the least. If only I could apply the same tactics to writing my first book—incremental goals and regular deadlines, that is—I think it would go from dream to reality much faster.

One unexpected spoil I take from this challenge is an increased sense of writing community both online and off. I admit I often fall on the side of cynicism when it comes to social media, and yet—among all of the pontificating, photo-posting, status updates, and other time-suck frivolities—we get these rare gems like Writer’s Relief and WordPress actually, successfully used as platforms to facilitate exchange. Each day I enjoyed reading and relating with comments left by other writers in response to the facebook prompts put out by Writer’s Relief, and each day I was met by a flurry of likes and comments on WordPress after posting my extended responses. I really feel that, thanks to the challenge, I have been able to reach and connect with writers I might otherwise have never encountered.

Thirty days of consecutive posts have also, I should mention, done wonders for my readership 😀 They are modest milestones for my sapling blog, but since undertaking this 30 day challenge The Read Room has passed both 1,000 page views and 50 followers. Huzzah!

Oh, and did I mention I had fun??? I submit some of my favorite entries as evidence:

12 Reasons to Read Julie Israel. You’re Welcome. Here I get into one of my favorite writing forms—lists—and save polar bears as well as school children.

Good Idea, Bad Idea In which I play off the old Animaniacs’ game with a ridicu-list of Dos and Don’ts for facilitating productive writing.

Ghosts, Superhorses, and Sock Monsters The question for this prompt was “What did you write (when you first started writing)?”

Enter Peter McBunterbeans In this entry on my strongest genre (playful/humor) I include an excerpt from a recent short story. Check it out! 😀

Of Swords & Excuses In which I relate a humorous, but unfortunately very true, agenda of reasons for evading the hard work of sitting in the chair and making a start.

Revision, or: Hell & Hot Pockets Tell me you are not intrigued by this title. Um, it’s basically a ranting freewrite about all the things that go wrong in my revision “process”. Also know as Murphy’s Law.

Some of my less playful, but more informative entries:

Stealing Inspiration (#lifehacks) Why every artist should steal.

Fables & Folklore In which I babble excitedly about fables, folklore, and fairy tales as well as why, even as adults, we should read them. P.S. Magical Realism! Woooo!

The Myth of the Muse This post is on inspiration, imagination, and how to brainstorm and generally be a genius.

Of course I welcome reader feedback, too. For those of you who followed, joined, or simply stumbled helpless and unsuspectingly onto one of my 30-day posts, please feel free to enter questions, comments, and interpretive dance moves.