How to Have a Fantastically Bookish Holiday

How to Have a Bookish ChristmasPhoto: Joanna Kosinska

It seems like more and more, the holiday season is just jam-packed with wall-to-wall everything, and that can be both exciting and utterly exhausting. It starts in October and doesn’t really let up until the beginning of January.

And with everything that’s going on during the holidays, how on earth are we supposed to tackle our amazing TBR piles of glorious books, much less spend time with those novels we’ve been writing?

I’ll tell you what, Pen Friends, I’m staring at an absolutely insane schedule this week, between the day job, a very tight freelance deadline, rehearsals for a play, and getting ready for Christmas (say what?! Christmas is in less than a week? How did that happen?), and I’m sad to say there will be little to no time for books this week. So many tears.

But fear not!

If any of you are in a similar space with too much to do and not enough time for holiday cheer, I have a suggestion! Make time for it. I know, I know, I’m crying just thinking about how I can cram another thing into my schedule, but hear me out. I’m going to try to listen to myself, as well.

True bookworms find clever ways to do bookish things (and this can apply to anything you care about, even if you’re *gasp!* not much of a reader). Sneak the important stuff into the gaps of your day.

Even if you’re just overwhelmed by the sheer amount of activity swirling around you, you can–and should–take a few minutes to just sit and be quiet. Make a list of the good things that have happened this year while brushing your teeth. Plot out your antagonist’s troubled backstory while cleaning your house for the ugly sweater soirée you’re hosting. Sneak in another chapter during your lunch break.

Want to make a holiday gathering fantastically bookish?

Here’s my idea for making the season bright and nerdy. Let’s take a page out of my favorite Icelandic Christmas tradition: every year, most Icelanders get at least one new book as a Christmas gift. Since they traditionally open gifts on Christmas Eve, once everyone receives said new book, they then all spend time quietly reading together.

How wonderful is that? It might not be the most spirited way to start a holiday party, but it sure sounds like a great way to wrap one up. If you’re having a gathering, invite your friends/family to bring a book they love, wrapped up all pretty. Then, let everyone open one, and voila! New books for all! You can even trade around until everyone has one they’re excited about. Finish the night with some reading time. (Have a bunch of extroverts in your group? Stage dramatic readings of your new books for added excitement!)

Wherever you find yourself this holiday season,

I hope you have a chance to slow down for a bit and experience some of the joy that this season can bring. And of course, may you be filled to the brim with great stories of all kinds.

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Dana, signing off to go find some hot cocoa.

YA Author Interview: Caitlin Sangster

Pen Friends~ It’s my honor to welcome YA Author Caitlin Sangster to the Spinning Pen. This amazing lady shares something very special with me– a love for travel and Asia! Which kind of inspired her debut, Last Star Burning– a thrilling dystopian, fantasy, fairytale, blend of awesome. Today she will share all kinds of gems with us: her writing journey, world building tips, and more!

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SP: Hi Caitlin! Thanks so much for joining us! First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

CS: Hi! I’m so glad to be here! I’ve been writing on and off since I was a kid, but started seriously writing about five years ago. I’ve lived in California, China, Taiwan, Montana, and, most recently Utah. In college, I did a BA in Asian Studies with an emphasis in China (and am, consequently, a huge Chinese history and politics nerd). I love to run and wish I were a ballroom dancer. Lost but very much not least, I have four delightfully disruptive children ages seven and under. Continue reading

Be a Book Hero

Pen Friends ~ We have an amazing guest with us today with an amazing topic to share. Megan LaCroix is a YA author, major book & author advocate, #BookRave creator, #PitchWars Mentee, blogger extraordinaire, and an explosion of inspiration and wisdom!

In her writerly way, Megan La Croix is going to share how to hero your favorite books and support authors you know! (Can all the authors out there say, Amen?)

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Be a Book Hero: Ways to Support Your Favorite Authors

If you read a book and you can’t stop thinking about it, consider going the extra mile to spread the word. Authors depend on word of mouth as it creates the best buzz, and this is where you can help. Here are seven ways to support authors—whether that person is a close friend, a CP, or someone you just discovered and fell in love with—so they can keep on publishing those words you crave! Continue reading

YA Author Interview: Jenny Park

Pen Friends ~ Welcome Jenny Park, YA Author of The Shadows We Know By Heart, to talk about her writing, agent, and publishing journey with us. If you are Tarzan fans, you’ll want to check out her debut, The Shadows We Know By Heart.
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SP: Hi Jenny! Thanks for joining us. First, can you please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?
Jenny: Thanks so much for having me! I’ve been writing for about six years now, and before that I was an art teacher for middle school students. Growing up, writing was never my thing, although I spent more time reading books than talking to people. It wasn’t until I was getting my master’s degree that I really kind of broke through the mental block/fear I had about writing since it was an online writing intensive program. But it was still years after that before I wrote my first draft.

Continue reading

Query + Pages Critiques + Journals!

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Pen Friends ~ Looking for a query critique or your first chapter looked over? Nova McBee, SP host (in charge of Author Interviews & Book Reviews,) is offering her 2nd out of 3 Giveaways in November. Don’t miss out. She does the majority of query critiques at the SP and has become really good at pinpointing just how to make a query successful!

Thanks for all of your support and being part of our writing community!

Check here for details: November Giveaway Part 2!

Signing off,

SP gang!

 

How to Survive in the Creative Darkness

I feel like the only appropriate way to start this post is with a quote from George Washington in “Hamilton” by Lin-Manuel Miranda:

“Check it–

Can I be real a second?

For just a millisecond?

Let down my guard and tell the people how I feel a second?” 

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It’s one of those seasons for me where everything feels a little darker than usual. There’s a heaviness to the air, in my limbs, and in my soul. Yeah, it’s dramatic, but we’re writers. Drama comes with the territory.

I’m guessing most of you have been in one of these seasons, and if you haven’t, you likely will be at some point in the future. Especially for creatives, the dark seems to follow us around a little more.

So today, when I just don’t know if I can get the words out any other way, I have this bit of encouragement for you–and for myself.  Continue reading

Author Interview: Alexa Donne (& Author Mentor Match Founder)

Pen friends, if you’ve spent much time around here, you know how much we love the writing community! One of our favorite ways of learning and growing within that community is by participating in contests and mentoring opportunities, and today we are thrilled to chat with one of the founders of Author Mentor Match, the lovely YA author Alexa Donne!

*The current round of submissions for AMM is open now through October 24th, so if you’ve been looking for a mentor, now is the perfect chance to apply!

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SP: Welcome, Alexa! We’re so excited to have you join us. Can you please tell us a little about who you are and what you write?

Hi! Thank you so much for having me! I am Alexa Donne, a YA science fiction & fantasy writer whose debut novel, BRIGHTLY BURNING, will be coming out from HMH Teen on May 1, 2018. It’s a retelling of Jane Eyre, set in space.  Continue reading

Author Interview: Aimee Salter

Pen Friends ~ Meet Aimee Salter, author of A Dark Touch & Every Ugly Word, and 2017 PitchWars Mentor, who is here to share all kinds of writing gems with us.

Hi Aimee! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing? 

Hi there. Thank you for having me!

I’m Aimee L. Salter. I’m an American who grew up in New Zealand, married a kiwi, have a kiwi son, and am now back in Oregon permanently.

I’ve always dabbled with writing and have loved it since I was in elementary school. I had a couple false starts on books earlier in life, but the first manuscript I ever completed with an eye to publication was in 2009, when I was 33. I got my first publishing contract in 2014 when I was 38. Continue reading

What an English Major Learned at Writer’s Conference: A Guest Post by Hilary Bowen

Recently I attended a writer’s conference in a foreign country. To all of you wondering, foreign in this context means not America.

There were twelve of us there and we were there together for one week. Everyone learned lots of things. Including me. Five years and two English departments at institutions of higher learning and—I still don’t know it all.
So in light of that illuminating statement allow me to share with you three things I learned in my week away.

1. It All Started Because of a Dream:

ross-errillyEvery blog post you’ve read, every lecture you’ve attended, every book you perused, and all of your own experience will tell you that you must buckle down and work. Write that book, edit those sentences, iron out that plot, blah blah blah blah blah. But sometimes you have to cut loose and live a little. The writer’s version of a wild party. Remember why you like to write.

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Author Interview: McKelle George

Pen friends! McKelle George, an editor and debut author of Speak Easy, Speak Love –a 1920’s retelling of Shakespeare’s Much Ado About Nothing, is here to share her writing life and editing tips with us!

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SP: Hi McKelle! Thanks for joining us. First, please tell us a bit of who are you and how long have you have been writing?

Hi! I’m a young adult writer and my debut Speak Easy, Speak Love comes out this month. I’ve always done a little writing (mostly fanfic and RP), but I made the decision to seriously write the summer of 2011. (:

SP: So lets talk about your debut, Speak Easy, Speak Love. How did this idea develop? How long did it take for you to write it? Unknown-12 Continue reading