Musings of Karen Bao


In Defense of Writing Less
By Karen Bao

When people ask me for advice on how to become an author, I say, “Read, write, and don’t forget to go play outside.” More than half of that sentence has nothing to do with books or the writing process, and here’s why.

Reading a great book, and then practicing the techniques you liked, will teach you how to write a story. But as for what to write – something that you and you alone could put on paper – only life can teach you that.

I’m a relatively new author, and I haven’t seen all that much of life yet, but actively not writing has become one of the most valuable uses of my time. My passion for science during high school and my conversations with my mother about Maoist China – which she experienced firsthand – fueled the first draft of Dove Arising. My recent research trip to Fiji, which was full of natural wonders, conservation challenges, and generous, perceptive villagers, provided ample inspiration for my current fantasy project. Funny enough, during those three weeks in the South Pacific, I hardly thought about writing, let alone wrote a single word of a story.

Stepping away from a computer or notebook not only provides inspiration for new books, it also solves problems in current drafts. When faced with writer’s block, I immediately leave my desk. But I didn’t always do this. Two years ago, I was editing Dove Exiled, and Murray, Wes’ troubled sister, absolutely refused to cooperate. I didn’t understand her at her core, which meant she was just a placeholder character, more symbol than person. Even after marking up edit letters and drafts, and nearly tearing my hair out, I still couldn’t portray Murray as a real person.

Then, as the next semester was starting, I took a break.

A month-long break.

Occupied with classes that challenged me and friends who understood me, I realized that I had more in common with Murray than I thought. And in the next draft? Boom. Murray became a complex human being who revealed herself to Phaet over the course of many pages.

History is full of writers who did so much more than just write. Charlotte Brontë, my favorite author of all time, was a talented artist, governess, teacher, and scorned lover – no wonder her books show such a deep understanding of human emotion. Mark Twain was, in no particular order, a prospector, soldier, lecturer, steamboat driver, and amateur scientist. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, of Americanah fame, studied medicine and political science before pursuing a writing degree. So what can we learn from these incredible people? Pursuing other interests in great depth will probably make you a better writer in ways you’re not even aware of yet.

So, if you’re having trouble with that scene, or want to write but aren’t sure what to write – shut down your computer. Close your notebook. Call a friend, go rock climbing, take a long drive, chase fireflies, dissect a plant – you choose. Even if you’re on deadline, breathe in the fresh air.

Your draft won’t even notice you’ve been gone.

Karen Bao

About Karen Bao

Karen Bao is a writer, musician, and aspiring scientist. She has a brother three years younger than her and a violin sixty years older than her. Born in California and raised in New Jersey, she currently studies environmental biology at college in New York City. Karen began writing Dove Arising at the age of seventeen.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook | Amazon


Dove Arising (Dove Chronicles, #1)

Dove Arising (Dove Chronicles #1)

Phaet Theta has lived her whole life in a colony on the Moon. She’s barely spoken since her father died in an accident nine years ago. She cultivates the plants in Greenhouse 22, lets her best friend talk for her, and stays off the government’s radar.

Then her mother is arrested.

The only way to save her younger siblings from the degrading Shelter is by enlisting in the Militia, the faceless army that polices the Lunar bases and protects them from attacks by desperate Earth dwellers. Training is brutal, but it’s where Phaet forms an uneasy but meaningful alliance with the preternaturally accomplished Wes, a fellow outsider.

Rank high, save her siblings, free her mom:  that’s the plan. Until Phaet’s logically ordered world begins to crumble…

Suspenseful, intelligent, and hauntingly prescient, Dove Arising stands on the shoulders of our greatest tales of the future to tell a story that is all too relevant today.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Thank you, Karen! This is something that I know many of us in the writing and publishing industry tend to forget. We run on our own schedules, work 24/7, and get frustrated quickly when things don’t work out, only to push harder. Because of this, we all have a tendency to forget that there’s a world out there we need to explore. If not for sanity, explore it for inspiration! This is a wonderful post, and we thank you so much from the bottom of our hearts for writing it and continuing to help writers everywhere achieve their dreams!

As always, a huge thank you to all of the authors who have, are, and will be participating in this feature. Your continued advice, tips, and stories help so many more people than you can know. You all are extremely loved and appreciated.

We hope everyone has a great rest of your week!


Waiting on Wednesday: Gravity


As always, Waiting on Wednesday is brought to you by Breaking the Spine.


Title: Gravity

Author: Juliann Rich

Genre: YA, GLBT

Page count: 224

Release Date: November 15th, 2016


A shot at Olympic gold in ski jumping. It’s a dream that has been the exclusive property of male athletes. Until now.

For seventeen-year-old Ellie Engebretsen, the 2011 decision to include women’s ski jumping in the Olympics is a game changer. She’d love to bring home the gold for her father, a former Olympic competitor whose dreams were blown along with his knees on an ill-timed landing. But can she defy the pull of gravity that draws her to Kate Moreau, her biggest competition and the girl of her dreams?

How can Ellie soar through the air when all she feels like doing is falling hard?


About the Author:


Minnesota writer Juliann Rich spent her childhood in search of the perfect climbing tree. The taller, the better! A branch thirty feet off the ground and surrounded by leaves, caterpillars, birds, and squirrels was a good perch for a young girl to find herself. Seeking truth in nature and finding a unique point of view remain crucial elements in her life as well as her writing.

Juliann is the author of four young adult novels: CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE, SEARCHING FOR GRACE, TAKING THE STAND, and GRAVITY (forthcoming in November, 2016). She writes character-driven books about young adults who are bound to discover their true selves and the courage to create an authentic life…if the journey doesn’t break them.

Juliann is the 2014 recipient of the Emerging Writer Award from The Saints and Sinners Literary Festival and lives with her husband and an adorable but naughty dachshund named Bella in a quaint 1920’s brownstone in Minneapolis.


TTT: Favorite Reads with Male MCs


For this week’s Top Ten Tuesday it was a Freebie topic.  We decided to choose some of our favorite reads with male leads/ multiple POVs. As always Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly feature hosted by The Broke and Bookish.


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir


Harry Potter by J.K Rowling


The Maze Runner by James Dashner


Miss Peregrin’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs


The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater


The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan


Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake


Hounded by Kevin Hearne


A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro


Simon vs. the Homosapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli


Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo


I’ll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios


What are some of your favorite books with male leads? Let us know in the comments below!


Musings of Stacey Lee



Dialogue and Chopsticks
by Stacey Lee

My mother-in-law considers chopsticks the handiest tool in the silverware drawer, not only useful for eating, but also for fetching the pasta that falls out of the pot, scooping the last bits of honey from the jar, and pulling the bones from the fish. Dialogue is the chopsticks of a writer’s toolbox, and one of my favorite tools to use. It’s how writers move scenes and turn pages. It multitasks by revealing character and relationships between characters. It fills in back story. It can be used to increase tension, or conversely, provide comic relief. If a word wanted to save the world and ducked into a telephone booth, it would probably emerge as dialogue.

I strive to make my dialogue something on which an outsider would eavesdrop. We don’t listen in on mundane dialogue, but our ears perk up when we sense tension, good or bad. Writers amp tension even more by dropping in juicy details about the scene, and twist the screws in further when dialogue contrasts with what’s happening on the page.

Eavesdropping on strangers is actually one of my favorite ways to create dialogue. I’m doing it right now as I write this, from a tiny table at one of my favorite cafés. A French man in his late forties, his two young bilingual children— a boy and a girl— and an Asian woman, also in her late forties have parked next to me, each sipping their own hand-mixed ‘artisanal’ coffee drinks. I edited the details to make the scene more interesting.

Boy: Is that air conditioning piped in?

Man: Yes, I think so. (To woman). He’s smart, isn’t he smart? (He strokes her thigh under the table.)

Woman (loudly): He’s smart, just like you. (To kids) Who’s the boss here?

Girl (grinning): I am. I beat him in thumbs.

Boy: No, I beat her in thumbs.

Woman laughs too loudly. Challenges the girl to a thumb wrestle. As they wrestle, the man continues rubbing the woman’s leg under her short skirt, hard enough now that he may start a fire.

Man (to the woman suggestively): My thumbs are pretty good, too.

This simple exchange shows us a lot; that the woman is ‘new’ to this family and trying to make a good impression on the kids. That the kids aren’t hostile to this new person. That the man’s mind is on other things besides his kids.


Learn to use the chopsticks, and they will serve you and your writing well.


Chopsticks are the perfect way to eat popcorn or chips.

About Stacey

Stacey Lee is a fourth generation Chinese-American whose people came to California during the heydays of the cowboys. She believes she still has a bit of cowboy dust in her soul. A native of southern California, she graduated from UCLA then got her law degree at UC Davis King Hall. After practicing law in the Silicon Valley for several years, she finally took up the pen because she wanted the perks of being able to nap during the day, and it was easier than moving to Spain. She plays classical piano, raises children, and writes YA fiction.

Website | Twitter | Facebook | Pinterest | Tumblr | Goodreads

Under a Painted Sky

Missouri, 1849: Samantha dreams of moving back to New York to be a professional musician—not an easy thing if you’re a girl, and harder still if you’re Chinese. But a tragic accident dashes any hopes of fulfilling her dream, and instead, leaves her fearing for her life. With the help of a runaway slave named Annamae, Samantha flees town for the unknown frontier. But life on the Oregon Trail is unsafe for two girls, so they disguise themselves as Sammy and Andy, two boys headed for the California gold rush. Sammy and Andy forge a powerful bond as they each search for a link to their past, and struggle to avoid any unwanted attention. But when they cross paths with a band of cowboys, the light-hearted troupe turn out to be unexpected allies. With the law closing in on them and new setbacks coming each day, the girls quickly learn that there are not many places to hide on the open trail.

This beautifully written debut is an exciting adventure and heart-wrenching survival tale. But above all else, it’s a story about perseverance and trust that will restore your faith in the power of friendship.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository


Out Run the Moon

San Francisco, 1906: Fifteen-year-old Mercy Wong is determined to break from the poverty in Chinatown, and an education at St. Clare’s School for Girls is her best hope. Although St. Clare’s is off-limits to all but the wealthiest white girls, Mercy gains admittance through a mix of cunning and a little bribery, only to discover that getting in was the easiest part. Not to be undone by a bunch of spoiled heiresses, Mercy stands strong—until disaster strikes.

On April 18, a historic earthquake rocks San Francisco, destroying Mercy’s home and school. With martial law in effect, she is forced to wait with her classmates for their families in a temporary park encampment. Though fires might rage, and the city may be in shambles, Mercy can’t sit by while they wait for the army to bring help—she still has the “bossy” cheeks that mark her as someone who gets things done. But what can one teenage girl do to heal so many suffering in her broken city?

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Indiebound | Book Depository


The Secret of a Heart Note

“Most people don’t know that heartache smells like blueberries.”

As one of only two aromateurs left on the planet, sixteen-year-old Mimosa knows what her future holds: a lifetime of using her extraordinary sense of smell to mix base notes, top notes, and heart notes into elixirs that help others fall in love—all while remaining incurably alone.

The rules are clear: Falling in love would render her nose useless, taking away her one great talent. Still, Mim doesn’t want to spend her life elbow-deep in soil and begonias. She dreams of having a normal high school existence, including a boyfriend. But when she accidentally gives an elixir to the wrong woman, Mim has to rely on the lovesick woman’s son, the school soccer star, to help fix the situation. As she races to set the lovers straight, Mim quickly realizes that when it comes to falling in love, the choice isn’t always hers to make.

Stacey Lee is the author of the critically acclaimed UNDER A PAINTED SKY and OUTRUN THE MOON. Hopeful, funny, and romantic, THE SECRET OF A HEART NOTE is a sweet and charming coming-of-age story that speaks to all of the senses.

Available December 27 2016

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A huge thank you to Stacey Lee for taking the time to talk about the importance of dialogue and sharing your personal experiences creating dialogue. We truly appreciate the effort you put into telling your story.

As always, a huge thank you to all publishing/writing professionals who have, will be, and are participating in this feature. Thank you for helping our future writers.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!



Make Me Read It Readathon


Okay so I recently discovered this book challenge from my good friend Nori @ ReadWriteLove28 who knows how badly I need help making book decisions. I’m always asking her what to read next. Hopefully I can tackle several books during this challenge, but I’m not restricting myself to just the one week allotted. But first a bit about this challenge.

Make Me Read It Readathon was created by Val @ The Innocent Smiley and Ely @ Tea & Titles.  I’ll be choosing the books I really want to read or that I think I should read and you get to vote! I’ll be making a few categories since I just have so many books. The challenge runs from July 9th to July 16th, but depending on the votes I’ll most likely extend it. More info and sign ups are Here!

Let’s get voting!

 Max votes is 4-5 for each poll. Just click until it won’t let you click anymore LOL!





Phew was that a lot of voting or what? I told you I have a hard time deciding what to read! I’ll be reading the book that has the most votes out of all 4 polls and work my way down the list. I’ll be using the hash tag #MakeMeRead on Twitter & Instagram (my icons are purple in the sidebar).



Musings of Lindsay Smith



Author Friendships
by Lindsay Smith

Writing is a solitary hobby, which I imagine is part of the attraction for many introverted writers like myself. But it’s also a frustrating pursuit, one here you need knowledge, friends, and a thriving support network to weather the ups and downs. You can rant all you want to your non-writer friends about your bookish frustrations, but chances are most of them think every sentence you write is gold and that the process that turns your wild ideas into a finished book is essentially magic. You need a peer group. You need author friends!


Critique Partners

Critique partners—writers who swap their stories to get fresh insights and suggestions—are often the first author friendships we forge as beginning writers. Sometimes you only trade drafts once, help each other out, and move on, but I know of many critique partners and even groups who’ve stuck together over the trajectory of their careers, through the process of agent-hunting and going on submission and landing that first book deal and beyond.

Generally I think it’s helpful to work with people who are interested in the same genres as you and at a similar stage of the publication process. The many writerly hangouts on various social media sites are perfect for finding like-minded crit partners and potentially developing longer friendships.



Not nearly as many people use an “accountabilibuddy” for their writing endeavors, but I think they’re just as important as crit partners—if not more so! “Accountabilibuddy” is the term I came up with my writing BFF Dahlia Adler (@MissDahlELama on Twitter). We generally don’t critique each other’s manuscripts, but what we do is email each other regular updates on our current projects, our ideas and tasks in the works, and—this is the crucial part—tentative deadlines for when we want to see those projects through.

Your preferences may vary, but I find checking in with my accountabilibuddy at least once a week to be a powerful motivator. I don’t want to be (gently) scolded if I fail to meet my goals without a good reason, and it’s super inspiring to see her checking things off her list, too! When many parts of the writing process are without any strict deadline (such as developing anything that isn’t already under contract), it’s great to have an external person to answer to when you let yourself slack.


Support Network

Last but certainly not least, local writing friends are invaluable. I’m so thankful DC has a fantastic YA writing community. It’s wonderful to be able to vent to people who understand the dark inner workings of publishing and writing, and to cheer each other on in-person at launch parties, joint panels, and more. Regular happy hours and write-ins don’t hurt, either!

Get to know your fellow local authors at bookstore events and more, and don’t be afraid to step outside your comfort zone—some of my closest writing friends are authors of contemporary novels, middle grades, and other categories that I otherwise wouldn’t typically pick up. But I love their books, and I can even hear their voices when I read their words. How cool is that?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Smith is the author of the YA novels SEKRET, SKANDAL, DREAMSTRIDER, and the forthcoming A DARKLY BEATING HEART, and is the lead writer for Serial Box’s THE WITCH WHO CAME IN FROM THE COLD. She lives in Washington, DC, with her husband and dog, and writes on foreign affairs.

Website | Goodreads | Twitter | Tumblr | Instagram

A Darkly Beating Heart

A time-travel story that alternates between modern day and 19th century Japan as one girl confronts the darkness lurking in her soul.

No one knows what to do with Reiko. She is full of hatred. All she can think about is how to best hurt herself and the people closest to her. After a failed suicide attempt, Reiko’s parents send her from their Seattle home to spend the summer with family in Japan to learn to control her emotions. But while visiting Kuramagi, a historic village preserved to reflect the nineteenth-century Edo period, Reiko finds herself slipping back in time into the life of Miyu, a young woman even more bent on revenge than Reiko herself. Reiko loves being Miyu, until she discovers the secret of Kuramagi village, and must face down Miyu’s demons as well as her own.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound



A high-concept, fantastical espionage novel set in a world where dreams are the ultimate form of political intelligence.

Livia is a dreamstrider. She can inhabit a subject’s body while they are sleeping and, for a short time, move around in their skin. She uses her talent to work as a spy for the Barstadt Empire. But her partner, Brandt, has lately become distant, and when Marez comes to join their team from a neighborhing kingdom, he offers Livia the option of a life she had never dared to imagine. Livia knows of no other dreamstriders who have survived the pull of Nightmare. So only she understands the stakes when a plot against the Empire emerges that threatens to consume both the dreaming world and the waking one with misery and rage.

A richly conceived world full of political intrigue and fantastical dream sequences, at its heart Dreamstrider is about a girl who is struggling to live up to the potential before her.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound



An empty mind is a safe mind.

Yulia knows she must hide her thoughts and control her emotions to survive in Communist Russia. But if she sometimes manipulates the black market traders by reading their thoughts when she touches their skin, so what? Anything to help her survive.

Russia’s powerful spy agency, the KGB, is recruiting young people with mind-reading capabilities for their psychic espionage program. Their mission: protect the Soviet space program from American CIA spies. Why shouldn’t the KGB use any means necessary to make the young psychic cooperate? Anything to beat the American capitalist scum to the moon.

Yulia is a survivor. She won’t be controlled by the KGB, who want to harness her abilities for the State with no regard for her own hopes and dreams. She won’t let handsome Sergei plan her life as a member of elite Soviet society, or allow brooding Valentin to consume her with his dangerous mind and even more dangerous ideas. And she certainly won’t become the next victim of the powerful American spy who can scrub a brain raw—and seems to be targeting Yulia.

Goodreads | Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Indiebound

A huge thank you to Lindsay for sharing your insights on the importance of peer groups and author friendships! We truly appreciate your time and effort put into telling your story.

As always, a huge thank you to all publishing/writing professionals who have, will be, and are participating in this feature. Thank you for helping our future writers.

We hope you all have a wonderful rest of your week!



Waiting on Wednesday: Mirror in the Sky



Title: Mirror in the Sky

Author:Aditi Khorana

Genre: YA, Science Fiction

Page Count: 352

Release Date: June 21st, 2016


For Tara Krishnan, navigating Brierly, the academically rigorous prep school she attends on scholarship, feels overwhelming and impossible. Her junior year begins in the wake of a startling discovery: A message from an alternate Earth, light years away, is intercepted by NASA. This means that on another planet, there is another version of Tara, a Tara who could be living better, burning brighter, because of tiny differences in her choices.

As the world lights up with the knowledge of Terra Nova, the mirror planet, Tara’s life on Earth begins to change. At first, small shifts happen, like attention from Nick Osterman, the most popular guy at Brierly, and her mother playing hooky from work to watch the news all day. But eventually those small shifts swell, the discovery of Terra Nova like a black hole, bending all the light around it.

As a new era of scientific history dawns and Tara’s life at Brierly continues its orbit, only one thing is clear: Nothing on Earth–and for Tara–will ever be the same again.


About the Author:


Aditi Khorana spent part of her childhood in India, Denmark and New England. She has a BA in International Relations from Brown University and an MA in Global Media and Communications from the Annenberg School for Communication. She has worked as a journalist at ABC News, CNN, and PBS, and most recently as a marketing executive consulting for various Hollywood studios including FOX, Paramount and SONY.

MIRROR IN THE SKY is her first novel. She lives in Los Angeles and spends her free time reading, hiking, and exploring LA’s eclectic and wonderful architecture.



TTT: Most Anticipated LGBTQ+ of 2016


This week’s Top Ten Tuesday was all about our most anticipated releases for the second half of the year.  In honor of PRIDE month and recent events, we decided to share our most anticipated LGBTQ+ books coming out later this year. Also, I wanted to help Kelly and Lauren expand their TBR.


Georgia Peaches and Other Forbidden Fruit by Jaye Robin Brown
(August 30)

Been Here All Along by Sandy Hall
(August 30)

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst
(November 22)

Jess, Chunk, and the Road Trip to Infinity by Kristin Elizabeth Clark
(November 8)

No Holding Back by Kate Evangelista
(October 18)

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore
(October 4)


As I Descended by Robin Talley
(September 6)

Timekeeper by Tara Sim
(November 1)

The Other Boy by M.G. Hennessey
(September 20)

Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
(October 4)

There you have it! What I love about this list is there’s a couple non-contemporary books with LGBTQ characters. So did any of these books make your list this week? Are there any LGBTQ+ books releasing this year that we should know about? I mean I know there’s a couple titles that didn’t make the list, but let us know down in the comments anyway!


The Beauty by Lindsay Mead | Indiegogo Campaign

The Hunter Legends is a Young Adult series about Hunters who defend their town against ravenous hellhounds. Lindsay Mead has launched an Indiegogo campaign to bring us, The Beauty, the sequel to The Beast. As a self-published author, Lindsay has a lot of additional costs such as covers, formatting, maps, and graphics. I haven’t read The Beast yet, BUT she had me at Steampunk Beauty and the Beast re-imagining!

I’m really excited about this campaign because, and I speak for the group as a whole, we love to help out self-published authors any way we can! Also, have you see then stunning paperback copy of The Beast!? I’m dying to see the cover of The Beauty!


You can read the first 2 chapters of both The Beast and The Beauty through the campaign page if you share the campaign on social media!

Check out the campaign HERE

The Beast

Demon possession has swept through Glace’s neighboring kingdom, turning humans into hellhounds. These great, fanged wolves are wild, desperate, and hungry. Only the sworn Hunters have kept them back for five long, bloody years.

At the young age of fifteen, Belle LeClair became a Hunter. She no longer remembers how many hounds she’s killed, or how many friends she’s buried. Still, Belle leads the hunt till a tragedy forces her deep into the dark kingdom. Her heart will be turned, her loyalty tested— and fate will intervene.

Amid a backdrop of Steampunk inventions and a harsh winter landscape, The Beast is a re-imagining of the infamous love between a beauty and a beast.

Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

About Lindsay Mead

Lindsay Mead lives in Michigan’s lower peninsula with her small dog, Suzie Q, and her fish, Oscar. When she isn’t writing, Lindsay is replying to comments on YouTube. There she uploads a video every day, documenting her writing, travels, and life adventures.

Website | YouTube | Twitter | Goodreads

Support an Indie Author! Donate to this awesome campaign!




Musings of A.C. Gaughen


If I Could Write A Letter To My 13 Year Old Self…
By A.C. Gaughen

Writing Prompt:
If you could write a letter to your child-self explaining your journey and what they need to prepare for, what would it say?

Dear 13 year old Annie,

So I know you just got your first rejection letter. You have zero perspective, so you can’t know how brave you were to send out your work (despite the fact that it was seriously just terrible, I’m sorry) to publishers as a 13 year old. You don’t know how amazing it was that you got a handwritten note in return—something that, as an adult and probably due to email, which wasn’t really a THING when you were thirteen, doesn’t happen. But best of all, you don’t know how incredible it was that you didn’t let that stop you.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written to you [see post here], but before, I was stupid enough to think that I should be giving you advice. This time, let me tell you what you taught me, kid.

1. Have faith in myself. You would think that me as the adult, who knows that all your hours of writing pay off, that most of the best dreams come true, that nothing is on fire by the end of puberty would actually have MORE faith in myself that you. But somewhere along the line, faith was really easy to lose. But you always held on, and it taught me that somewhere within myself, I have the ability to hold on.

2. By the way, hurting is not the same thing as losing my faith, my drive or my determination. You went through so much pain as a kid—you lost people. You had diabetes and really awful migraines. Your family cracked apart. There were even times when you really wanted to just totally give up. But you didn’t—you asked for help. You wrote until some kind of demon was exorcised from you. You coped your ass off.

3. Sadly, you also taught me to really enjoy clutter. Like notebooks and pens. So many notebooks and pens…which I have no idea what to do with in my little city apartment!

4. You gave me permission to really, really suck at writing. After our first few rejections, you stopped submitting for a while, and you just wrote. You wrote everything you could think of. You woke up early. You stayed up late. You were a sleep deprived little teenager with a sore shoulder from carrying notebooks like Rory Gilmore carries books, but you never judged yourself. You just wrote, and got better, and edited, and experimented. We never lit a book on fire, and I really appreciate that.

5. Speaking of which, there’s a book you’re going to start writing two years from now and your future editor LOVES it. It took us the remaining 16 years to figure out the best way to write it, but at its heart, it still belongs to you.

6. A book isn’t a book unless there’s kissing. LIFE LESSON.

7. You always put your people first—you pride yourself on being a good and loving friend. Thank you for that, because some of the people in your life now are still around, and they mean everything to me—but it also meant that you taught me to try and see our characters like our best friends: with all of their faults, with all of their best qualities, and love them as complete people.

8. You taught me that I may have chosen the only profession where having the same interests as my 13 year old self is totally ok.

9. Looking back on it, I think you really knew when you were ready. Somehow, you knew the difference between the books that were teaching us something and the books that could one day be shared with the world. You were able to identify tools and resources that helped make up the difference, and you went after them. You learned. You adapted. You worked like hell. And sometimes I wish I were better now about trusting my instincts to know when I’m ready and when I just need a little more time to suck at something.

10. That “have faith” thing doesn’t end with myself. You taught me how to have faith in my writing, because sometimes it takes 16 years to figure out how to write a story, but YOU DO KNOW HOW TO WRITE YOUR STORY. You gave me that faith in my own writing.

11. Love books for more than what they can teach you. You were the queen of staying up late into the night so you can finish a book and hold it to your chest and tear up because you just loved it so much. As an adult, sometimes I’m afraid of that passion, because it makes me doubt my own writing. It’s hard to be creative with someone else’s words swirling lovingly in your mind. But it’s part and parcel to loving books with an open heart, and I always try to remember that.

12. More dragons. Always more dragons.

13. The biggest thing I’ve learned from you is that writing isn’t publishing. Writing is this beautiful experience of learning and occasional self-loathing, of playing and practicing. It’s flawed, and it rejoices in its flaws. Writing is the thing I can control, the thing I love, and publishing is just the candy shell around the exterior. It’s shiny and delicious, but ultimately, we’re in this for the chocolate center. It’s so easy to forget that, but I just think of you, happy with nothing but a composition notebook and an RSVP pen, and I remember. Thank you for giving me something that is both a simple joy and a lifelong learning process.

Thank you for never giving up.

Much love,

Your older and less-wise self.

A.C. Gaughen

About A.C. Gaughen

A. C. GAUGHEN is the author of Scarlet, Lady Thief and Lion Heart. She serves on the board for the non-profit Boston GLOW, creating opportunities to encourage and engage teen girls in the Greater Boston area. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from St. Andrews University in Scotland and a Masters in Education from Harvard University.

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Scarlet (Scarlet, #1)

Scarlet (Scarlet #1)

Will Scarlet is good at two things: stealing from the rich and keeping secrets – skills that are in high demand in Robin Hood’s band of thieves, who protect the people of Nottingham from the evil sheriff. Scarlet’s biggest secret of all is one only Robin and his men know…that she is posing as a thief; that the slip of a boy who is fast with sharp knives is really a girl.

The terrible events in her past that led Scarlet to hide her real identity are in danger of being exposed when the thief taker Lord Gisbourne arrives in town to rid Nottingham of the Hood and his men once and for all. As Gisbourne closes in a put innocent lives at risk, Scarlet must decide how much the people of Nottingham mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles have the rare power to unsettle her. There is real honor among these thieves and so much more – making this a fight worth dying for.

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This post had me tearing up and trying so hard to hide it while I’m sitting at the front of my classroom and all my students are so patiently working. This was so amazing and refreshing to read. It just brings me back to all of the times I doubted myself, that other people doubted me, and all of the life lessons I’ve learned from being exactly who I am. I think I’m going to write a letter to my 13 year old self too… This needs to be a “thing.”

A huge thank you to A.C. Gaughen and all of the other amazing book-ish professionals who have contributed, are contributing, or will contribute to this feature. You all have no idea how much you continue to inspire and help writers of all kinds from all over the globe. You’re some of the most amazing people I will ever get the pleasure to know.

Have a wonderful week, and we hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s post!