New News

An MFRW Author Post – and check out the other blogs on the hop! 

I don’t watch TV news very much. In this world of instant communication, updates, and alerts, I can find exactly the news I’m looking for when I want it, no talking heads, no nothing new to reports. With the exception of natural disasters and political elections, which I am generally following on Twitter at the same time I am watching them on TV, I avoid televised news programs.

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I go to different places for different types of news. When I need information on what’s happening in the romance industry, I find Romance Twitter, a subset of up-to-the-minute information on book releases, copyright scandals, political events, and more. Twitter is where it happens the faster, where I checked for updates during the tornado that hit downtown Nashville in early March, where I followed news organizations when Boston was on lockdown during the bombings and we didn’t know if it was safe to go outside. 

When I want long-form science news, I read the Tuesday New York Times science section or explore what National Geographic has to offer, exciting stories on space exploration, environmental issues, modern evolution, and the depths of the sea. 

For politics, I look all over, at what my friends post on Facebook, the headlines of the Washington Post, my latest Twitter updates, and the articles and blogs that tend to filter in when I’m not looking. Sometimes, I check out the daily digest emails that come to my inbox. But other times, the news is just sort of there, collective and dancing in my face, like the 24-hour news cycle has come to life.

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I am a journalist. I committed years of my life to learning the history and the craft of reporting, to investigating ineffective government systems and legislation, to learning how to interview people who don’t want to be interviewed and how to interpret data and evidence as it is laid before me. In that time, I learned the fundamental lesson that we cannot get our news from a single source, that we must, as readers and consumers of media, be willing to analyze the information we take in, to cross-reference it against credible sources, to do a little bit of the hard work ourselves. 

When I studied in The Netherlands, my journalism professor was surprised to learn that our papers and news organizations claimed to avoid bias, that we pretended as if we didn’t have conservative and liberal media, though we all collectively acknowledge the open secret. In Europe, he explained, the newspapers were upfront about their ideology and political foundation. While it may have been a case of reading in an echo chamber, at least there was never any question of knowing so. Here, we pretend that we don’t know, that the news we consume does not come from individuals and ideologies, but is completely objective, without bias or subjectivity, the truth represented in its nudity. 

truth-166853_1280There is a quote in journalism, If someone says it’s raining & another person says it’s dry. It’s not your job to quote them both. Your job is to look out the fucking window and find out which is true.”

The same must be said for us readers and consumers of media. I am a great lover of the free press and consider it the fourth column of a democratic society, but in order for it to stay free of bias and government propaganda, in order for the truth, in whatever form it may take, to be as close to what is real as is possible, we must be questioning and discerning of the printed word.

We must ask where the information came from and, rather than take the words at face value, we must use the latest article, post, tweet, or commentary as a tool in our own arsenal to make informed, educated choices and develop sustainable opinions that are based in fact. 

So where do I get my news from? I get it from what I consider to be the most responsible source of them all—as many places as possible. 

 

Yes, in Barcelona

An MFRW Post – and check out the other blogs on the hop!

 

By the time I was nineteen, I’d been living on my own in Boston for two years, achieving high grades, working two jobs and rooming with women that would become my best friends. I thought I knew a few things, and maybe I did.

But I learned a hell of a lot more from the minute I got on the bus in New York City, a little weepy as I waved goodbye to my dad, whom I wouldn’t see for nearly four months. My best friend Emily picked me up at South Station and we set about finalizing her packing for our trip to Amsterdam.

Boston to Amsterdam via Iceland is January is one cold flight. But our three other roommates met us at the airport the next day and we started off on what would become the journey of a lifetime. 

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And goodness, it was. Our study abroad program was based out of a 14th century castle in the small Dutch town of Well, two hours south of Amsterdam via a bus and two trains. We had Fridays off from school and one skip day for each half of the semester, designed so we could spend each weekend traveling. And we traveled. We did Athens and Madrid and Berlin. Later, we would do Paris and Edinburgh and London, Pisa, Florence and Barcelona.

In Barcelona, I learned a lot about myself.

No, this isn’t one of the myriad raunchy stories of my foreign conquests. If you want to hear those tales, you’ll have to buy me a drink first.

No, in Barcelona, which came after Madrid, which came after midterms, which came after a raucous week of Carnival festivities, I lost my passport.

Stomach drop. Heart stop beating. We were in Barcelona for two nights and the very first night, I found out that I might not be able to leave.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERANow, in truth, the travel gods were smiling down upon me. Our original rooming situation, a rented apartment, didn’t pan out (after we spent several hours sitting in a concrete staircase waiting for a landlord who never appeared) and so we traipsed to the hostel down the street. Where the woman at the desk after for passports. And thank heaven she did. Because when I reached into my bag, in the hidden compartment where I knew for a fact my passport was meant to be, I couldn’t find it.

That night, I grew up. A lot. That night, I didn’t allow the nerves or panic to set in. Instead, I got directions and hours to the embassy, located my spare passport photo, scrounged up the (eek) 140 euro it would cost and set an early alarm.

And it worked out fine. My passport looked like it had been printed in a basement, but it was an official basement. I ran into some trouble coming back from the United Kingdom, but just once. And I knew that if I could get through the heart-stopping, blinding panic of being in a foreign country without my passport and a flight in thirty hours, I could do a lot more than I thought.

Over the next weeks, I planned more and felt comfortable taking charge of our group– smart, headstrong women who often didn’t want to play leader. We navigated the bus routes of Pisa and trains of Florence. We would visit many more cities and meet many more people. And through all those challenges, and the many more that followed as I returned home to immediately go on a New Jersey to New Orleans road trip, returning to start my first summer as a sleep away camp counselor, I always knew I was capable of more than I thought. 

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In an emergency situation, I could be calm and handle myself. When the whole camp broke out with a 24-hour virus, creating what we dubbed Vomithon 2011, I knew I could get through it because I’d been through something scary as hell before and survived.

I’m not nineteen anymore, and sometimes little things still get to me. But that’s okay. The point is, that one silly little mistake, a sleepless night in a Barcelona hostel, changed me, made me know that I could rely on myself to get to the other side.

Oh, and I found my passport three months later. It had slipped into the lining of my purse. ♦

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Getting Dirty

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop!

 

I killed my sage.

My mother, a formally-trained botanist who owned her own organic gardening company for several years, tells me that sage is very hard to kill.

I tell her I killed it.

She says I must be very talented, indeed. She is a good mother.

I am trying to be a good mother, and thankfully I am trying on vegetation and nothing more human-y because I am not doing a very good job.

In my defense, container gardening is very difficult. In my defense, Nashville has been 85. Nashville has been 36. Nashville has been raining. Nashville has weather 70 mile per hour winds that have taken down barns. In my defense, I am trying.

Things appear to be getting better. I am growing sunflowers, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers. I am growing Montana wild flowers, crab apple tree seedings, potatoes, beans, carrots. I am growing zinnias, basil, gourds, and cat grass. All the babies, born from seeds, fostered with love.

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I’m even growing avocados from pits, which my very supportive boyfriend finally cut off because apparently, eight alien-like cups of germinating avocado pits on the counter is enough. For some people, I guess.

I killed all the herbs. I think it had to do with the apartment heat and then the apartment air conditioning. I definitely over-watered them and there wasn’t proper drainage in the cute, but maybe not so effective wall mount I got. I think the strawberry plant is dead too. It was too hot too quickly, so I learned my lesson there.

The citrus trees didn’t make it through the winter. Have you ever seen a plant rot from tip to stem. One of the avocado trees died in real time. 

I killed two succulents. 

It’s even harder to kill succulents than sage.

But the potato is sprouting. The basil is bigger every day. I’ve transplanted the zinnias. Everything is green and lush and happy. 

IMG_7442Gardening is messy. It is expensive and time-consuming. It is unpredictable and uncontrollable. And that is a good thing. When I bake cookies, I can measure out the exact amount of baking soda I need. When I go to the gym, I can set goals for quicker miles or higher weights. Existence is easier when there is control and calm and focus, when the numbers add up and the ends meet.

But life isn’t calm and focused and even the most type A personality will eventually find they can’t control everything, not the amount of rain that falls from the sky or the temperature of a southern summer or even the health of the plants we start with.

IMG_7419Gardening is a lesson in managing the unmanageable. We can arm ourselves with the right tools and educate ourselves on the right care. But sometimes knowing in advance isn’t enough. We have to be able to respond to things as they happen. We have to know how to react when nature doesn’t go exactly according to plan, because very rarely does anything go exactly according to plan.

I spent several hours this weekend planting and cleaning up my balcony. It’s not a very large space, but it’s just perfect for practicing skills I plan to use in the future.

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If we ever manage to find ourselves a house, I’d like to know how to create a more sustainable life. I’d like to know the signs of over or under-watering, I’d like to be an in an educated position to respond to whatever my garden–or my day–may throw at me.

Gardening is imperfect. So is life. The trick to them both is to arm yourself with a good trowel and expect that it won’t turn out as expected. Some days, you may kill the sage. But other days, you may peek out your window to that little patch of balcony, and catch a glimpse of a bright yellow sunflower turned up toward the sky.

Character Interviews – More Than Just Talking to Yourself

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop!

If you’ve been around the writing world for awhile, chances are that you’ve heard someone refer to character interviews. To the outsider, that idea may seem a little foreign and definitely strange – the characters in our fictional stories come from deep within our own creative minds, why do we need to interview them? Well, for the same reason we ever interview anyone – to know them better. 

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There is no right or wrong way to go about an interview, but I’m going to share some of my favorite techniques for better understanding, empathizing and, eventually, sharing my characters with the world at large. The truth is, most of the information gleaned from this odd process probably won’t make it into the story. But whether or not your readers know the information, it will ultimately make the book better.

 

Author to Author Questions

This is the really basic rundown, yes, no, maybe kind of questions. Do you know your character’s eye/hair/skin color? Do they have tattoos? What religion do they follow? These kind basic questions may seem obvious, but they’re so obvious that we sometimes don’t bother to answer them. Keeping a full list of these seemingly surface questions will help you in many ways – you’ll better know the trappings of the character you’re writing, and you’ll have a comprehensive resource of all the important information to refer to later. I can’t tell you how many times I have to go digging through old drafts or prequels in order to find something as simple as eye or hair color. And, if it does change throughout the story, you can kiss your readers goodbye.

Author About Character Questions

These are the more in-depth questions. These aren’t the ‘what religion are they’ they’re the ‘are they practicing their religion and how does it impact their daily lives and the events that take place throughout the plot’ kind of questions. Digging deeper can only happen once you understand your character’s basic traits, like hometown, first language, and favorite food. From those surface elements, begin wondering why?Why does my character dream in Russian? Why do they cook their mother’s recipes, but refuse to call home? Consider this a true interview – the kind a journalist might do on an interesting source. The above points are the potatoes and carrots, but this is the meat.

Author to Character Questions

Chances are, you’ll feel weird writing this one, but it’s a lot of fun too. Forget the above format – this isn’t question and answer time. This is full immersion in your character’s world. Consider writing this interview in prose format, with you, the author, sitting across from your character.

interview-1077974_1920You aren’t just there for answers to your questions, you want to observe every element of their demeanor, speech, and interaction with their environment. Are they happy to share and express their feelings, are they closed off and defensive? Do they bite their nails, twirl their hair, flick their lip ring or take a pie out of the oven? Using this time to observe your character in their natural environment is a great way to understand their ticks, behaviors, and motivations.

Character to Character

Take yourself out of the above scene, replacing the interviewer with another one of your characters, preferably one that makes your character feel something, be it anger, joy, lust or sadness. Observe the push and pull between them as you write the natural rhythm of the scene. Who’s asking the questions? Who’s actually answering them? How do they interact physically? Is the speech open or clipped?

This scene might find some use in your story, but more than anything you’ll walk away with a better of understanding of how your character manages uncomfortable questions or confrontation and how they deal with the people in their life – other characters in the story. For full effect, try this format with several of the most important characters.

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So, where do the questions come from? Well, the short answer is you. If you’re looking for the kind of questions listed in the very first type of character interview, you’ll find them with an easy Google search. But everything after that is up to you as the writer, telling the story you most want to tell.

In journalism, before approaching a story, we are told to write down the one question that will guide our reporting, interviewing and researching. It should be objective and open-ended. From there, we develop questions for our interviewees based on their experience and the kind of information we hope to glean from them.

Fiction is no different. Figure out the question your book is trying to answer, then look at the characters in your story and determine what kind of information you need to get out of them before the story can move forward. Once those questions are written down – and then answered – you will have a much more well-rounded person to write, something your readers will definitely notice. Is it weird – yes. But as an author, I am often deep in conversation with my characters, both on the page and in my head. We’re not known for being a bit of a nutty bunch for nothing.

Honestly, I don’t care.

There is no doubt in my mind that when my heroine and hero are arguing in my head on the way home from work or when I spend my run trying to outpace my fictional character running beside me, I am making my book better. I am taking two-dimensional characters off the page and giving them life, a realness that will drive the story.

Every writer has to find the path that works for them. Maybe interviewing your characters is just something that doesn’t work for you. But knowing the human or anthropomorphized element of the story is important. It’s fundamental. After all, journalism, fiction, or memoir, we will always seek the human element. ♦

 

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Somewhere in the City

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop!

 

At the moment, we are isolated in a 749 square-foot apartment in downtown Nashville and I am grateful every day for my balcony garden. I have spent hours and hours cultivating a green space in an urban environment, trees, vegetables, herbs, pollinating flowers, and fruits, all the while longing for earth to call my own.

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But the moment I’m calling a country estate or a little farmhouse like the one I’ve always dreamed of home, the moment I’ll be dreaming of this city balcony, of the constant squealing of the freight trains and the cacophony of city life. And thus the cycle continues ad infinitum.

It is not that I am impossible to please, but rather that I am too easily pleased, that I want all of these moments, sand between my toes, the jet-setting lifestyle, a well-loved, long-cultivated orchard, a leather-clad library, an eco-minimalist space. 

chair-1840526_640As writers, our job is to take in the world around us and to make sense of it. And how can I possibly make sense when I cannot see the country for the city, the ranch for the beach house? It is not merely in living spaces that I find myself constantly on the search for something new, but in jobs (journalist or astronaut, as if I ever had a chance ) in aesthetic wanderings — dark academia, boho beachy, rustic chic? I am forever dipping my toes into new ponds, exploring new hobbies, and forever dropping projects that no longer interest me. 

barn-1031613_640Because I need to know as much as I possibly can in order to find any answers to the questions we ask every day. I need to live in the city and the country, I need to learn salsa and violin and how to make pasta. I collect these skills and lack-there-of like a dragon and her gold, sitting upon snippets of language, trips to foreign lands, mythological texts, TED Talks, and historical periods. To be a writer is to be innately curious and to be curious is to never be satisfied, always searching, exploring, looking, on a journey that is the destination.

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And I love it. It may seem like I am never satisfied, never able to find what I am looking for, but that’s not true. I am always satisfied, always happy, always taking the next step toward that something that might be in the country and might be in the city, at the beach or in the mountains. Perhaps today is for high heels, or aviator sunglasses or floral dresses or leather jackets. Perhaps today is for tea or wine or coffee or lemonade. 

I am thankful because today, right now, in these challenging times, when the world has more questions than ever before, this little balcony garden in my city apartment feels like exactly where I’m supposed to be. For now, at least. 

Topics, Write and Wrong

An MFRW Author Post – and check out the other blogs on the hop! 

 

At the risk of coming across as a cliche, I’m a Jersey Girl. You can take the girl out of Jersey (and drop her off in Nashville, for example) and she’ll still talk big, fast, and loud. I swear creatively and constantly, and I struggle nearly two years into living here, with southern niceties likely as much as they struggle with my speed of speech. I don’t walk away from indelicate subjects. 

And my books reflect them. To begin, I already write in the erotic romance genre. My stories have exhibitionism, voyeurism, BDSM, and menage themes. My research history at this moment is rife with articles on historical sex toys. My characters curse and that’s far from their great sin.

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But even when I wrote a book where I wasn’t allowed to curse, where I wasn’t allowed so much as one dry kiss (I snuck in damn and hell and a very chaste kiss), there were still certain themes that showed up time and again. 

They say you’re not supposed to talk about religion or politics. To read my books, from the most graphic and erotic to the most staid and sweet, you’d know my feelings on both without my ever spelling them out. 

My stories focus on agency, on choice, on progress, and on independence in all things. I write young girls who love science and reading and dresses. I write queer characters whose entire character identity does not revolve around their queerness. My heroes and heroines discuss such things as consent and emotional labor and the domestic sphere. And I have, even in my most decorous of books, brought up the subject of religious freedom and its role in American society. 

So whether I say the names of the people who stalk the news every night or I do not, it’s clear from the get-go what kind of book you’re holding in your hands. It’s the kind of book that speaks to the nation’s future, that rallies around issues of women’s rights and intersectionality and climate change. It’s the kind of book that says, in no uncertain terms, this is the world we live in and I’m making a stand. 

painting-2611922_640Because those are the kind of books I want to read and those are the kind of books I want to write. My creativity does not exist in a separate world than my political views. I come from a part of the country where progressive values and intersectionality evolve every day. I am currently living in an environment in a time in a country where to not speak out is to stand with the other side. And I simply can’t do it.

Do my stories ever speak to politicians or political action by name? Not usually. But I’ll discuss the sexism and racism within the FBI. I’ll acknowledge the fight for LBGTQIA rights in stories with queer heroes, and I’ll have overt conversations about a woman’s right to choose, female pleasure, and the other issues facing women today. Because whether in love stories or in new articles, those are issues I find important. 

Romance is and has always been a political genre. It is a genre that puts women at the forefront of their own stories, that celebrates our choices, inspires us to fight against barriers, encourages female friendships, and demands our partners do better. To be a political romance writer is nothing more or less than to be a romance writer. And that’s something I’ll say with pride. 

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My Shopping Cart 

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop! 

 

While I do love the occasional Target perusal (and subsequent coffee break) and my favorite book shop is the warehouse of second-hand stories where I always come home arms loaded, I do most of my shopping online, which has only become more true in recent weeks. Here are a couple of the fun things in my shopping carts right now! 

 

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Guys, I love absolutely everything Keds. They have this amazing collection with Kate Spade where everything is completely sparkly, but right now my obsession is with these amazing floral sneakers! There are so many options and I want them all! 

 

Floral Dresses 

71tlF6ACFxL._AC_UY679_I mean, it’s spring and I love florals. The only reason I don’t have more is because I can’t pick my favorites. 

 

Feeling Motivated

81P9iZ7NZFL._AC_SL1500_I get so into picking out the next planner that sometimes I don’t get it until several months into the year. But look at how cute this one is! 

 

Soil, soil, soil. 

61f7P49nyJL._AC_SL1500_I mean, it’s not just that I love when things look floral, I’m really into my garden right now and oops, guess who ran out of potting soil! My current balcony garden includes: avocados, sunflowers, cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, wildflowers, sunflowers, zinnias, cat grass, and basil. And I can’t wait to decide on what I’m growing next. 

 

Carrots! 

I mean, I have some sense of what I’m growing next! Look at how lovely and delicious these carrots are! And I’m thinking potatoes too. Because I can fit a whole farm on my balcony, right? 

 

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Dreaming of the day I can go back to the market! And when I’ll be able to fit this basket with my own veggies from the garden!

 

Whether or not I buy all these awesome goodies, they make me feel happy and optimistic about the future. I think that’s worth any amount of money. 

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On Top of the World

 

 

Dinner Over Athens

We look down at the ancient city below us and we eat delicious foreign fare, fresh fish from the sea we can see, sauces made with fresh vegetables, wine from local vineyards. We are hundreds of feet above Athens, the air as fresh as the food, smelling of ancient history and spirits.

Wandering the Canals

At night, Amsterdam is a city of lights and reflections. The cable cars beep, the bicycles beep, the boats blow long into the darkness. Everything is cobblestone and covered in a fine layer of dust and oil paint and soil from the tulips. 

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Drinking at the Brazen Head

This Irish pub is older than my country by several centuries. The wood and dirt stain dark with spilled ale and stories catch in the grain. I drink my Bailey’s and watch the lute player, who could just as easily be playing that ancient tune five hundred years in the past. I don’t know what year it is. I have to catch a plane in the morning, but nothing to tether me to the now.

Venice By the Moon

Venice whispers. It comes in the sound of lapping waves, tangling fingers against the aged stone. They say Venice is sinking, and it is, stairs disappearing below the water’s edge, but it could also be the mermaids, pulling the whole city beneath the brine. There is no question why Venice is known for Carnival. 

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Germany is For the Young

The Germans know their past, and build their cities with straight, hard lines. We take punctual metro trains to an underground warehouse– no sound regulations, the locals tell us. We are dressed for an American club, all tight skirts, and tall boots, but this dubstep madness is projecting Kafka on the wall and rolling cigarillos and plastering the bathroom in band posters to the beat of electronic reggae. We get back to the hostel when the sun is coming up, but it is a youth hostel and time has a different sort of value. Don’t worry about checkout, they tell us, sleep as long as you need. 

Paris is Not a Cliche

france-1930715_1920A young man in a suit plays a full-sized cello to a woman dancing in a red dress along the Seine. They have a basket of wine and cheese and flowers, but in the glow of the Eiffel Tower and the moon on the water, everything comes out the same, dark red. We buy postcards at vendor stalls that grew from the ground and sing songs in French we don’t know the lyrics to.

I have been a great many places in my life, watched the world unfold, sometimes new, sometimes old. I have eaten, danced and explored a hundred cities, a thousand towns. How can I pick the most beautiful, of these mirages and fantasies? How can I say one of these ancient histories sparkles more brilliantly than the next, when they all glow with their own stories, just as I glow with mine?

Every place I visit, every place I see, fills the pages of my books. Sometimes, it’s intentional, a book set in Paris or Amsterdam. Sometimes it’s an alley in London or the face of a man I once saw in a park. Sometimes, it is nothing more than the eternal quest for adventure. Travel is just as important to the writer as the pen or the keyboard. It opens the mind and whispers of details and promises of stories to come. Travel is the very best medicine for a blocked mind or a stalled story.

I can’t pick the most beautiful, because they are all beautiful and they are all mine–in those fleeting, indulgent moments I borrowed them from the world. And I will share them, give them back, every time I write and every time I dream of the next most beautiful place. ♦

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Write/Bake/Dance Like No One’s Watching

An MFRW Author Post – And check out the other blogs on the hop!

 

I’m a creative person. I come from a creative family, artists, designers, gardeners, actors. We love expressions, ideas, genuine curiosity and conversation that keeps us up too late. I’ve always been a writer, a world-creator, a storyteller, but as I’ve grown into my interests and hobbies, I’ve come to learn that the more creative outlets, the better. Here are some of my favorites!

 

Writing

Naturally, I have to start with this one! Writing isn’t a hobby and it isn’t a pastime. Writing is what I do everything else for. I work so I can write. I travel so I can write. I read so I can write. If I had to pick one singular thing that was it, writing wins. Writing always wins.

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Baking

It started out as an interest but lately baking, and to some extent, cooking as well has become a full-blown obsession. I watch baking shows all the time and I consistently think about flavors, herb gardens, and designs. I have no plans of becoming a professional baker, but amateur confectionary creation is one of my all-time favorite things.

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Dancing

Is one of the best ways to work out! I dance at the gym. I dance in the kitchen. I dance in front of the mirror. I give my cat one-woman Cole Porter productions. I absolutely love to dance. It helps me work out the kinks, emotional or physical and it makes me happy. What could be wrong with that?

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Crafting

I love working with paper. It such a weird and specific medium, but it also creates a whole world of possibilities. I’ll spend hours crafting the perfect pop-up cards and 3D designs and I truly enjoy it. It’s a little more love to the people I share my cards with.

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Acting

I decided long ago that I was only allowed to have one artistic passion that would require a lifelong struggle and drive, so I focused on the writing and allowed my love for acting to fade. The truth is, though, I love to act. It gives new perspective to the written word and, as a writer, I am always looking for new perspective.

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For now, that’s all that I can think of. I love to create in myriad forms, love to paint my nails unique designs and styles, love to sketch in the margins of my notebooks. At the end of the day, as any type of artist, it matters that we create however feels right. We make friendship bracelets or murals, we craft confectionery creations or paper palaces. As long as our muse is working, that’s enough. Now, I’m off to watch more Great British Baking Show.

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Art and Soul

I am six years old, sitting in my playroom with one of several cartoon-covered journals in my hand. The pages are scribbled with thousands of single-syllable words in pinks and purples: character names, magic spells, fantastical places I’m going to visit one day.

I am ten years old, and my elementary school teacher has sent home a poem I wrote about Jell-O because she thinks it’s good enough that my parents should see it.

I am twelve, fourteen, sixteen years old and my love for writing has developed a name, has become a tangible element of my life that I can explore and expand and understand.

I am seventeen years old and deciding I want to go to a college that will support and influence the one thing I have been consistently good at my whole life, the one thing I cannot live without.

I am twenty-two years old and graduating with a journalism degree and top honors from a place I couldn’t have loved more and no idea where I’m going next.

girl-1081721_1920I am twenty-four years old and I am sitting in my bedroom turned office in my childhood home. It is early and a soft fog keeps the morning sun at bay, muted and a little distant. Some days, when the edits bog me down or the rejections come too often, my dream of being a writer feels that distant too, that far away and muted and intangible.

I am twenty-seven years old and recording the day to day experience of living during a global pandemic, contextualizing and working to understand my experiences through my art. It grounds and gives me an outlet in times of distress and crisis, control over a single piece of my day, if nothing else. I can record what is happening. 

But other days, most days, I embrace that intangible fog and look out to the distant horizon with more than a little hope. A million interests and loves have come and gone in my life – sports, books, school programs, and summer camps. I have taken road trips, backpacked Europe and started companies. I have learned languages, found lovers and love, made cakes and grown vegetables, failed and succeeded more times than I can count. And through all of that, through the ups and downs, the adventures, experiences, fears and joys, I have always, always been a writer. It is not an interest, it is not a fleeting, passing fancy that I will one day grow away from, it is not a dream.

At least, not really. old-1130738_1920

I will always be a writer. I have been a writer long before I understood that telling stories and making up friends was not something I would grow out of. I will never stop being a writer. It is not a dream.

The dream is where I don’t have to be something else. The dream is a life where I work hard enough, get up early enough, hit my word count goals enough days of enough weeks of enough months until I can support myself writing, until I am a full-time novelist in profession as well as passion. The dream is to support myself with my art.

It won’t be easy. Six years after I first forayed into the publishing world, I have my battle scars. I have already faced seemingly insurmountable challenges and I know there are many more before me. From where I sit, the fog still has yet to clear.

But that’s okay. Because dreams should be everything. Dreams don’t have to be rational. They have to be all-encompassing, wild, fantastic. Because that makes it worth it. Even if I have to change my dream of one day being a full-time writer, even if my dream takes another form, a different shape, a road I haven’t yet seen on the map, I will be happy. After all, it is still early and when the fog does clear, there will be a great, shining sky behind it.♦

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