Friday, November 30, 2012

Blogiversary Giveaway

Two weeks ago my blog celebrated its first birthday. This is pretty significant for a few reasons but mostly because I wasn't sure I had enough to say to sustain a blog long term. Turns out it's been an incredible journey. I finished a manuscript for the first time, I read amazing books and I talked about my writing journey among other things. I love YA and MG and I love being able to share my adventures with you. A little over a year and 3300 pages views later, here I am still blogging :)

Since I grossly underestimated my own abilities (and this is definitely a good thing) I'm giving back to all of you with this most awesome giveaway in two parts with two rafflecopters, so make sure you check out both if you qualify.

Part One: The International Giveaway
I have some really awesome prizes that some of you are going to win, including:

1 Signed ARC of Venom by Fiona Paul

Awesome Author Swag:
  • The Selection Bookmarks (Kiera Cass)
  • Signed Venom Bookmarks (Fiona Paul)
  • Signed Elemental Bookmarks (Antony John)
  • Signed Slide Bookmarks (Jill Hathaway)
  • Signed Soulbound Posters (Heather Brewer)
Note: is I start getting a lot of entries I will add to this list. I have up to three signed mystery YA books that I can add. And trust me you want me to add them. If I do, you will automatically be entered for new prizes if you fill out the rafflecopter below. So no extra work for you!
Part Two: The US Giveaway
One lucky person (in the US or with a US mailing address) will win... not one, not two, not three, but FOUR signed YA books by amazing YA authors living in my hometown of St. Louis.

And these awesome books are:
A signed paperback of Katana by Cole Gibsen          A Signed hardback of Elemental by Antony John

A signed hardback of Venom by Fiona Paul         A signed hardback of Soulbound by Heather Brewer

a Rafflecopter giveaway
 A huge thanks to all my loyal followers and a big welcome to all the new visitors and followers. I look forward to chatting with all of you.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Thanksgiving Blog Hop - Giving Thanks

The holidays are coming. It's that time of year (and seriously where has this year gone?) where we sit down and think about the things we are really thankful for. Granted this is probably something we all should do more than once a year, but as part of the lovely and wonderful Brenda Drake's Blog Hop I'm going to share some of the things I'm thankful for.

My Writing:
I am so thankful for finding this huge part of my life that I never knew was missing. I've learned so much about myself and met so many wonderful people both in person and online because of my writing. Things I never would have discovered if I hadn't started reading and then following through on my ideas by putting them down on the page. I'm also hugely thankful that my family and friends have supported me every step of the way in my writing journey.

My Family and Friends:
My family and friends have not only supported me in my writing but in pretty much everything in my life. They are there when it really counts and always cheering me on. Every bump in the road or just when I need to vent, my family or friends (who have become an extended part of my family) are there to listen. They make me laugh and they make my life infinity more rich and full of love. And I know I don't talk about him much but I'm also thankful for my wonderful boyfriend. Not only does he put up with my crap, but is also extremely supportive of my crazy activities which includes my writing. He unselfishly gives me the necessary time and space I need to keep putting the words on the page and make them better.

My Job:
Another thing I don't talk about nearly enough. My job not only pays the bills and gives me spending money, but it also gives me the opportunity to work with some of the smartest people I've ever known. People that make me feel like I have a lot to learn and give me the drive to keep pushing and improving myself. Not to mention all the cool things I get to be involved in. I'm also thankful that my job provides me the opportunity to inspire young women to explore STEM fields and to help women succeed in the field of engineering. It's not easy being a female in a male dominated field, but I am extremely thankful for the things the women before me, fought for and established. I'm grateful that I can join them and help pave the way for future female engineers.

My Dog:
She's the best cuddle buddy in the world and she loves me unconditionally. Plus how can you not love this face?

There are many other things I am thankful for this year, including my health, but to list them would take forever because the list just goes on and on and on. I hope that in 2013 I have just as many, if not more, things to be thankful for. 

What are you thankful for?

Monday, November 12, 2012

On Bullying - It Gets Better

It's Bullying Awareness Week. So I wanted to take a moment to talk about my experiences with bullying and how I overcame it.

When I was younger I was bullied. Quite a bit. I never knew if it was because I am Jewish, or was small, or am smart, or was a goody-two-shoes or am a nerd or because of my last name or for any number of other reasons or just because. But I did know, even from a young age, that kids are cruel. Well, not just kids, people in general. Regardless, all of those things are a part of me, and I was bullied because I was trying to be myself. I won't go into too many specific details, but just so you have a small idea, I was called names, harassed in numerous forms on nearly a daily basis, and even physically bullied once or twice. I spent a decent chunk of my young life in tears, which only brought on more torture. And I know by no means was this the worst case of bullying ever in existence but that thought didn't and still doesn't make it feel better.
Boy meets World on Anne Frank and Antisemitism

The point is, anyone can be bullied for any number of reasons. When you say things that criticize who a person is or what they stand for then you are bullying. Just check out that video from one of my favorite shows growing up, Boy Meets World. It makes a great point about how something as seemingly harmless as a bad name can lead to something much much bigger.

Words hurt. Plain and simple. We can choose to ignore them, but let's be honest it doesn't make them hurt any less. But it's how we hear those words and whether or not we choose to let them affect us that really defines who we are as a person. And we don't always have to know exactly who that is, whether we are 10, 100 or somewhere in between. We are constantly in search of who we really are, and that's perfectly okay!

Today, I'm 30 years old, a Rocket Scientist (Aerospace Engineer), a writer, a giant nerd, and numerous other things. But it wasn't until recently that I really owned who I was and became comfortable with it. I was constantly worried about what people would think of me, constantly worried about the things I said (which isn't always a bad thing but would often cause me to clam up and shut down) and constantly just worried about everything. And you know what? That made me afraid of a lot of things including myself. I was afraid to be myself, and I was miserable. I let the words people said about me hold more weight than my own beliefs and views of myself. Their words stood as a wall between who I was and who I was really meant to be.

Once I stopped caring about what other people thought and started caring about what I thought of myself, I was able to open my eyes and find out who I really am as a person. And I discovered it is someone I truly love. Even better it was someone my family, friends, and those close to me really loved too. I was much happier and it showed. People noticed I had a smile on my face and it was because I was just being me.

Whether it's Anti Bullying month in October or National Bullying Awareness Week (Nov 12-17, 2012) or just any other day, time, or second, bullies don't rest and neither should we. If you are victim of bullying TELL SOMEONE, and keep on telling someone until you find someone who listens. I'm here today as a person who is comfortable in my own skin in large part because I constantly told people about what happened and I had a great support system. My parents and teachers listened and when they could, they did something, and that made all the difference. Especially just knowing that someone was listening and someone cared. So if you are a parent, teacher, friend, etc. of someone who is being bullied, PLEASE LISTEN, and stand up for that person. There's power in numbers.

Trust me, things get better. I moved passed all the hurt and realized I am a lot more than the nasty words people say and the horrible things they do. Those words can only hurt me and define me if I let them. And I don't! I am not afraid to show my true personality to the world. In doing so, I found myself - a confident successful woman, a rocket scientist, a writer, a reader, a Jew, a friend, a daughter, a sister, a granddaughter, a dancer, a podcaster, a nerd, and on and on and on.  

OWN WHO YOU ARE! Every single part of yourself. Don't leave anything out. Don't be ashamed or embarrassed to just be you. You will be a much happier person for it because you aren't expending excess energy trying to mask a part of yourself. That kind of stress weighs a person down. And when you do finally own who you are, surround yourself with people who like that person, and don't worry about those that don't. As much as we like to think we can please everyone in the world it's just not possible. So don't be upset if everyone doesn't like who you are because their are plenty of people that do, you are not alone. If you are reading this consider yourself a friend of mine. I promise to embrace you with kindness. You won't find any judgement or criticism here.

I hope that one day I can repay the favor of all those people who stood up for me, whether in kindness to them or in helping others. Because if it wasn't for them, I never would have had the opportunity to find myself - my REAL self. For that, I am eternally grateful!

If you are looking for a way to make a difference and combat bullying check out the <3 Less Than Three Anti-Bullying Conference Facebook Group. If you can, make plans to attend the Anti-Bullying Conference Saturday, October 19, 2013 at the Spencer Road Branch Library in St. Peters, MO. I'll be there and I hope you can come too!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

As a Writer at YALSA YA Lit Symposium

*image from

This weekend I attended the YALSA Young Adult Literature Symposium in St. Louis, Missouri. Now YALSA is an organization for librarians and the Lit Symposium is a conference by and large for them. So you are probably wondering why I as a writer wanted to attend this conference. I myself wondered the same thing as I approached the registration desk Friday afternoon and the ladies there asked which category I fit into for my name badge. I looked at the list, school librarian, public librarian, student, and off to the side the pre-printed and stuffed blue badges for the authors. I quickly discovered there wasn't a category for writer, unpublished, and aspiring author. And when I said aspiring author/writer I got some strange looks from the ladies behind the desk. My heart sank, and I hadn't even attended my first session.

As I walked into the opening reception Friday night I was more than a little nervous. I wondered if the people at this conference would question why I was there. But as I started filling out the Bingo mixer card and talking to the librarians something changed. The first question out of their mouths was "so what kind of library do you work in?" The first time I heard this I paused, took a deep breath, and cautiously responded with "well actually I'm a writer. I'm here to learn about the other side of the book world." And the reaction without pause was always (and I'm not exaggerating it was every time) met with a "That's so cool! What do you write?" I instantly relaxed. I quickly learned librarians are some of the coolest people I have ever met. Not only are they some of the friendliest people, but they want to talk about books because they love them. This is music to a writer's ears because we too at our hearts, love books, or else we wouldn't be writing them.

Once the tension was released I was able to really enjoy the conference. Even as a writer, I found the sessions extremely informative and helpful. I learned about trends, what kids and teens today are really into, and where there are gaps in the young adult genre, from a first hand source. Something every writer and author struggles to keep on top of. Not that any writer/author should write to the trends but they should be very aware of the next big thing, and how their work fits into the genre. I learned even more than I already knew about fandom (fan fic, fan art etc.) something that many authors are surprisingly not aware of but should be. There's a whole world out there of teens who latch onto books and want to use their favorite characters and stories as inspiration for art, writing, videos, podcasts, etc. It gives teens a sense of belonging. And in fact, quite a few writers were born out of fandom. They started by using the inspirations of other authors and when they learned the craft of writing, they could then pursue their own ideas. And not I'm not talking about a certain badly written, published, fanfic that got a lot of attention this year, but I'm talking about wildly popular YA authors like Cassandra Clare who made her jump into publishing starting with fandom. In fact, any author tuned into their fandom through the internet has equally as frequent an opportunity to interact with their readers as a librarian does. Something that has changed significantly in recent years.

The sessions aside, which were extremely valuable, as a writer at this conference, I had access to a whole crowd of published authors. I spent a good chunk of Saturday having one on one chats with authors in my genre, picking their brains and getting advice on writing, querying, and the publishing process. It was some of the most valuable time I've spent as a writer at a conference. These authors not only generously gave me their time, but they met my questions with words of encouragement and support. They said that the fact I was attending conferences like this showed I was not only serious about the craft, but that I had a desire to learn and understand which is important for any writer. Some of them even went as far as to say they wish they'd attended more conferences before becoming published.

So this weekend I've learned a lot of amazing things about myself as a writer and writing as a craft. Authors are fabulously, supportive people who write and do amazing things like support librarians. But most of all librarians are not the stuffy, mean, old ladies we remember growing up. They are fantastic, cool, fun, caring, wonderful people that just love books. They love to read them, to talk about them and to get kids and teens reading them. And for that I realized, I don't have nearly enough librarians in my life!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Why I Love YA Books

It's no secret that I'm an adult who reads YA (young adult fiction). However, I don't often talk about why I almost exclusively shop for my reading material in the YA (and MG) section of the bookstore. There is something special about young adult books today. I think in part, my love stems from the fact that when I was young I loved to read. However, I could never find those action adventure, fantasy and sci fi books that you see all over the YA shelves today.

In fact YA didn't technically exist as an official genre when I was a growing up. Were there children's books? Of course, but there was nothing specifically designated between children's chapter books and adult reading. And guess what happened when I hit my teen years? I almost entirely stopped reading. I could make excuses and say homework, friends, extracurricular activities, etc. all got in the way, but the honest truth is I couldn't find a single book I wanted to read. Adult books were too far above my reading level and there were very few children's books I wanted to read (R.L. Stine being a huge exception). The fact that I wasted so many of my valuable teen years not reading, to this day makes me so unbelievably sad.

In High School, I took a Science Fiction English class. This was probably the single best class choice I ever made. In that class we read a little known (or big known) book called Ender's Game. And while YA was by and large an unheard of genre, and Ender's Game was technically classified as adult science fiction, today you will also find it in the YA section because at its heart Ender's Game is a Young Adult book. This book, my absolute all time favorite, made me fall in love with reading all over again. I hungered for more stories about Ender and I read every single one available. At the time there was the back three trilogy, and a brand new debut parallel novel Ender's Shadow centered about Bean. And then nothing. I waited for sequels to the Bean series but again, I'd run out of books.

Lucky for me, within two years a movie titled Harry Potter came out. This movie led me to all the wonderful things in the world Harry Potter, and once again I found a series of books I couldn't stop reading. From Harry Potter, I soon discovered a whole world of other readers who were reading Young Adult books. This is when I discovered that YA was a thing and there was not only one book, but shelves of them, an entire section in the bookstore in fact, of things I wanted to read. They were books that excited me about the possibilities of what if and books that allowed me to escape into gorgeous and adventure filled lands.

If it was not for Young Adult books I wouldn't read today, at all. Reading is an escape for me. I while away many hours with my nose in all the wonderful YA books. There are so many in fact that I can't keep up. And in reading so much, I've discovered another piece of myself that I never expected to find. The more I read, the more ideas started forming. Until one day they burst out of me onto the page. I became a writer. For a little over two years now, in addition to reading YA, I have spent countless hours pouring words onto the page writing my own YA and MG science fiction. A talent and joy I never would have discovered without YA books. Writing is a part of me I never knew was missing. Had I never picked up YA books to start, I wouldn't be where I am today. For that I am eternally grateful. And that is why I love YA books.

So if you've never read a YA book, I highly recommend the next time you are in a bookstore wander over to that section. The covers are beautiful. The stories are inviting and fantastic. I dare you not to find one book that interests you there. There is literally something for everyone. Pick up a book and start your adventure. Who knows what you might find about yourself inside that YA book.

This post was inspired by Beth Revis Celebrate Books Contest where you can win a signed library of 50 YA books. Be sure to check it out!