• Behind the Dedication: An Interview with Kate Laurens

    kaaaaaaaaateI’ve known Kate Laurens for three years now. She’s my roommate and my sister–by choice, not by blood. We participated in The Vagina Monologues together. She’s one of the strongest women I know. When I started writing Reflections, I knew I wanted to dedicate it to her. And when I told her about it, she suggested that I interview her. I loved the idea, so here we are.

    What was your reaction to finding out that I was writing a book for you?

    It’s just weird. I know bits and pieces of people make their way into books, but for me… I think it would be less weird if you based a character on me or something. It’s just so different when it’s like “this book is for you and it’s for what you’ve experienced.” It’s a good strange, but it’s strange at the same time. And it’s an honor because I know it’s not something done lightly.

    Why do you think this book is important?

    I’m really tired of people saying things like “We need start the conversation about whatever” because to me it just gets redundant after a while. A lot of people don’t know how to start the conversation or what to say about sexual assault. More than starting it, we need to change the conversation that we have. We need to stop saying, “What was she wearing?” and pointing fingers at the survivor and focus on preventing it, like where did we fail as a society? I think this book will make people think differently.

    And besides victim-blaming there are people who coddle the victims and don’t see them as real people anymore, only as delicate, fragile things, and that’s not good, either. You should just treat them like a person. It’s important for Rama to be the hero after going through trauma without having to be “fixed” or “come to terms” with it. Like, it’s just a part of her somehow, but it doesn’t fully define her.

    What do you have to say about the controversial nature of some of the material e.g. Rama’s sexual assault?

    I get why it’s controversial but I really think it’s just something people don’t want to talk about, maybe because they’re wrong. With sexual assault, people don’t want to admit that they’re using sexual assault as a plot device. That’s what drives me insane about a lot of TV shows and movies—trauma or assault happens to a woman and explains why she’s so emotionally attached or damaged. It’s never like, “oh, it’s good that she’s detached,” and like a man has to heal her or fix her. You don’t need to fix them. If they’re detached, that’s what they are. That’s how they deal with it. And it’s used to further the character of men, like “oh, I changed this damaged woman. I fixed it.” Just no.

    With Rama, yeah, it affects her, but it doesn’t define everything that happens with her.

    In a Jodi Picoult book I read that you can’t come back from a rape, and it’s not like you don’t carry it around with you, but it doesn’t become your identity. It doesn’t change the entire physical makeup of who you are. People want victims to be demure, traumatized beings and that’s not always what a victim is. It’s important for people to be confronted with a different picture of a victim, even if it makes them uncomfortable. One of my favorite quotes is “Art should disturb the comforted and comfort the disturbed.” If it makes people uncomfortable, that’s probably a good sign. We need to see that there are a thousand different ways to look at any given thing, even sexual assault, and there’s no right or wrong way to deal with it.

    What’s your experience with sexual assault?

    When I was 18, I was a new adult ready to take on the world. I had just overcome an eating disorder and was madly in love with this guy. We’ll call him Ary because he was basically the perfect Aryan man. We dated briefly in high school and I ended it because he was really physically pushy when we were together and I wasn’t comfortable. I also just think that a lot of the guys I dated I high school wanted to “save” me [ from my depression and anorexia]—and it was disappointing when they couldn’t.

    The summer after I graduated, Ary and I just picked up where we left off. And the first night we were together, he gave me a hickey without my permission, without even thinking about me having to cover it up, and it was like he was trying as hard as he could to mark me. I should have known then… time went on and it was like a whole year that I was with him. I was in a fantasy world. He wasn’t a good guy and everyone knew that but I always imagined that we would join the Peace Corps and go far away and no one would know who he was and we could start a new life and be happy. I never wanted to admit that it was what it was because I loved him. I really loved him. And in my twisted brain, he loved me, too, so he would never hurt me.

    The hickey thing never stopped. They weren’t hickies, they became bruises. They were painful, they hurt on my neck and my chest. One time, I had a whole bunch of them and I meant to confront him and I showed him the hickies and he held me down and forcibly took my clothes off and took a picture of me. Topless. I don’t know where that picture is. I don’t know what happened to it. I tried to take the phone and delete it and he hit me, and that was the first time he hit me. That was the first really bad thing he did, but I took it as him like messing around. Not anything serious.

    We’d get into romantic situations and I’d start off saying no, I didn’t want to go that far—we had had sex consensually before then—but he wouldn’t listen. He’d take off my clothes, I’d try to resist, he’d hold me down. “Your shirt’s already off,” “we might as well.” Especially since we’d been intimate before. I didn’t have a choice.

    Sex with him was the most painful thing I’d ever felt in my life, and he had me convinced it was supposed to be that way, so I never said anything about it. Afterwards, there was never any aftercare or niceness. He just treated it like it was no big deal. And I just thought that was the way sex worked, that was how it was supposed to be. I didn’t think anything of it.

    It wasn’t until I got to college and got my first college boyfriend—who took care of me—that I learned that sex was supposed to be enjoyable and I talked to him about Ary and he’d be like, “That’s not normal” and he never said “He raped you” or anything, because he could tell I still loved Ary. He listened to me and told me that that wasn’t how it was supposed to be. He never outright said, “He assaulted you” because he knew that it would hurt me.

    He was the only person I had after I ended it with Ary, and he kept me from going back. He proved that there are guys out there who will be nice to you. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago that I was willing to admit that what happened between me and Ary was rape and assault. I took pictures, and now I wish that I had kept them. That would’ve been proof I could’ve used in a case against him. I always imagine that he’s going to go to court someday—he does this to other girls—and I’m either going to have to testify or be a witness or something. If I had those pictures, I could nail him to the wall. I have nothing but my word. I wish I could warn other girls, but at the same time, I knew something like that would not have stopped me.

    As a survivor, what does this book mean to you?

    A big part of my recovery isn’t getting back to who I used to be, but it’s like you get cut and you have a scar. You keep going. You’re not a different person because you have a scar. It doesn’t change you—it’s a part of who you are, but it’s not all that you are. So many times it’s like, “she was a normal girl and then she was raped and her life is over” and then it’s about trying to get back to the person she was before, but she can’t get back there and like—that’s not it. No. This book offers a different perspective.

    What would you say to anyone who’s afraid that this novel will be triggering?

    I understand that some survivors won’t want to read it, but for me… every day is triggering. Sometimes I see someone with Ary’s hair color and freak out. My heart rate goes up, I can’t catch my breath—and then I turn around and it’s not him. I heard two of my students making rape jokes and I was probably harder on them than I should have been, but I don’t tolerate that. I walked over and said, “If I hear you say anything about rape or sexual assault again, I will report them.” If it changes their minds a little bit though, good. Little things like that happen every day, and you can’t really prepare for that. There’s always going to be something. There are triggers everywhere, and it’s important to see a character overcome something like that, especially when the scene is not explicit. It’s not focusing on the crime but on the person and how they overcome it… it’s worth reading.

    What are you hoping happens to Rama by the end of the book?

    I don’t know. I just hope she’s happy. Like me, I mean. I just want to be happy. I hope she finds calm in like the little moments. You know, the things you don’t really think about. And that she can hold onto them because in the end, that’s all that really matters.

  • Interview with Madeline Courtney

    Woman sleeping with Jane Austen book on her face
    Madeline Courtney is a lovely human being.

    I can’t remember when we met, but I know it was on Twitter.

    She is sweet, down-to-earth, and dedicated – no matter what is going on in her life, she makes it a point to update her Wattpad stories regularly. I wanted to get to know Madeline a little better, so I settled in for the following interview with her. By the end, you’ll think she’s as wonderful as I do. My questions are in bold, with her answers right after. Enjoy!

    B: When did you decide that you wanted to be a writer?

    C: I decided I wanted to be a writer… well, I’m not exactly sure when. I wrote my first story in the first grade, but I REALLY got into writing in the sixth grade. I wrote a “book” (28 notebook pages long) about a girl cursed to be followed by a vampire that would eventually kill her. It was way cool.

    B: What are some of your favorite books?

    C: This is a difficult question for me! Right now I’m totally obsessed with anything and everything Jane Austen, so… PRIDE AND PREJUDICE (of course), THE HOST by Stephenie Meyer, and FLOWERS IN THE ATTIC by V.C Andrews.

    B: What’s your writing process like? What about your routine?

    C: I have the weirdest routine. At the moment, I am a full-time writer (at least until the end of the summer. This is the deadline I give myself. After which I will find a full time job – probably at the library or Walmart or something – and write part-time), so I wake up every morning around 9:30. I have my coffee and watch SUPERNATURAL reruns until noon. Then I write from noon to three, AT LEAST. This is my crazy routine for the moment.

    B: What inspires you?

    C: Tumblr photography. It’s beautiful.

    B: What genres do you write in?

    C: I don’t have a specific genre. I can write anything… but I prefer to write fantasy or regency. These are my best genres. Sometimes I like to mix them together and create weird concoctions.

    B: You have quite the following on Wattpad. How did you find out about it? Why do you post your stories there?

    C: I found out about Wattpad through a friend. I wasn’t going to make one at first. I thought it was lame and there was no way anybody would want to read MY stories (boy, was I freaking wrong). I post my stories on Wattpad because it’s a great way to gain readers and make amazing friends. It also allows you to create a cover, which is awesome, and people can sample my writing before deciding if they really like the way I work or not. After all, you wouldn’t want someone to buy something they would end up hating, right?

    B: What do you have to say to anyone who’s afraid to post their writing online?

    C: Post whatever you feel comfortable sharing. If it frightens you, don’t do it. But I highly suggest it myself.

    B: What are you working on right now? Where can people read it?

    C: TRANSPORTED BY AUSTEN! A novel about a woman who finds herself suddenly transported into the Jane Austen novel, PRIDE AND PREJUDICE! Anyone can read it for free on Wattpad.

    B: What are some of your writing goals?

    C: I would LIKE to be able to write at least 3K words a day. That’d be cool.

    B: Where can people find you? (Website, social media, etc.)

    My Twitter, Facebook page, and Wattpad profile.

    What did you think of this interview? Would you like to be interviewed? Let me know in the comments, and make sure to check out Madeline’s work!

    Tweet tweet:

    .@MaddieC123 loves Wattpad, Jane Austen, and writing – check out @brianawrites’ interview with her. (Click to tweet)

  • Interview with Nicole McArdle

    Nicole McArdle
    Photo by Nicole McArdle
    Pubslush is one of the best online resources for up-and-coming writers. I had never heard of it before I met Nicole, which is a tragedy. If you’re a writer, you definitely need to know what this website is about. Interested? Keep reading.
    How did you get involved with Pubslush?
    I studied advertising and marketing at SUNY FIT, which of course is best know for their amazing fashion majors. I knew almost immediately that I wanted nothing to do with the fashion industry, but wanted to utilize all that I was learning in my major in an industry I loved- publishing. That being said, as a transfer student, I found myself almost at graduation with only one internship under my belt, so I began a frantic search for internships within the publishing industry, which is how I found Pubslush  Once hired, I was in charge of running social media accounts for a Pubslush author, and was given the freedom to execute a lot of my ideas (perks of interning at a startup). I instantly fell in love with what the company was doing and became good friends with my co-workers, so when they offered me a full time position a year later, I didn’t even think twice about accepting.
    What makes your organization unique?
    Pubslush is a pre-publication platform that allows authors and publishers to raise funds and/or collect pre-orders while implementing strategic marketing before publication. We are niche, allowing us to cater to authors and publishers while providing them with a hands on experience. We’re unique in that there really is no one else doing what we do for authors.
    How do you decide if you want to follow someone on Twitter?
    Love this question, and this can actually help authors, or any business owner for that matter when working on their own twitter accounts. The minute I see automated, generic tweets, I know not to follow someone. To me, Twitter is one of the best tools to connect with people, and while scheduling tweets is a great idea, having disingenuous tweets going out every hour a day screams spam. I like to follow people who have similar interests, specifically authors, writers, publishers etc. because I always like to build connections within the industry. For me, a twitter account that manages to find a balance between having personality and being professional, is one that I want to follow.
    What’s your favorite candy?
    On the sweet side, gummy bears. On the chocolate side Maltesers.
    Talk to me about your Women on Wednesday feature. Where did it come from? How important do you think it is to have a feature like that? Why?
    Women on Wednesday is one of my favorite segments on the blog because it aims to highlight female authors while inspiring the authors reading the interview, who may be struggling to get published. Every writer has a story, and the journey to getting published always tends to be an interesting one, and a great reminder to first time authors to not give up!
    You recently interviewed me for Project Blogger (which I LOVED). What’s that all about? How can other bloggers get involved?
    Project Blogger is a fairly new segment, that allows me to feature people who are outside of the publishing industry. I started this segment because so many of my favorite bloggers began to write books about their blogging experiences, so I wanted to have the opportunity to not only feature them but to let them know Pubslush was there to help when the time came to publish.
    What do you write? What types of stories are you drawn toward?
    I love creative writing, I minored in it college and found that while most of my classmates were complaining about the length of their senior thesis, I was complaining that I couldn’t write more. For me, creative writing has always been therapeutic it’s amazing how much better you can feel after getting your thoughts on paper. That being said, I tend to love memoir more than any other genre. Knowing that events I’m reading about actually occurred, just brings a whole new level of depth to a book.
    Who are your favorite authors? What about favorite books? 
    I always feel like picking a favorite author is like picking a favorite child! If I had to choose I would probably say Wally Lamb because his stories are so beautifully crafted, David Sedaris because he always gets me to laugh out loud with his hilarious essays and Jaimie McGuire, not only because her books are the perfect light and steamy read but because I’ve been following her journey since she was an essentially unknown author selling her books for 99 cents on Nook. Since then she has gained a cult following and was picked up by Simon and Schuster. She is the perfect example of a self-published author persevering.
    As far as favorite books, I’d have to say White Oleander, Catcher In The Rye, Middle Sex and Beautiful Disaster. I’ve read all of these multiple times and always manage to get something new out of them each time.
    I just discovered the Writer’s Corner section of Pubslush. What is it? How does it work?
    Writers Corner is the newest addition to the blog. It’s basically a way for writers to share and promote their work for free. We’re always accepting submissions so if anyone’s interested let me know! 
    How important is social media marketing to writers’ success? How can writers use this strategy without annoying people?
    Social media marketing is vital to authors and when done correctly, can significantly impact the success of their book. My advice to authors is always this, pick one social media platform that you feel the most comfortable with and run with that. Don’t try to be a pro on every platform that’s out there because you’ll spread yourself thin. Second piece of advice, think of this process like dating. You have to take it slow and steady, and be genuine. Tweeting PLEASE BUY MY BOOK five times a day, is the best way to get people not to buy it!
    Nicole McArdle is the Marketing Director at Pubslush, a pre-publication platform for authors and publishers. When she isn’t helping authors strategize their campaigns, or tweeting away, you can find her in a Starbucks reading, or on a plane traveling the world. She likes to make new friends and share publishing tips, so shoot her a quick hello at @nicolemmcardle or nicole@pubslush.com.
    What do you think of Pubslush? What are your thoughts on social media for writers?

  • Interview with Ava Jae

    Author Ava Jae
    Photo by Ava Jae
    I’ve been following Ava Jae’s blog for less than a year, but it’s helped me as a writer more than I can say. What she lacks in age she makes up for in wisdom and experience. This woman is amazing. Want me to prove it? Read on for the interview.

    When and how did you start writing?

    While I dabbled with some writing before this, I really got serious about writing a novel when I was 13. Finished it at 14, queried at 15 (it was terrible, but it’s what got me started). As for the how…I basically daydreamed an idea for a book and decided to write it. Then I realized just how much I love writing and didn’t stop.

    Your blog Writability is one of my favorites. What are some things you wish you’d known when you first started blogging?

    Awww, thank you! ^_^

    So this may sound a bit like a cop-out, but I did crazy amounts of research before I started blogging, so I’m not sure I can think of anything that I wish I’d known before I started. That being said! Something that I think is important is to set out your goals before you start blogging. What do you want to achieve with your blog? What would you consider a success? That way, when you inevitably achieve that goal (and if you don’t quit, it is inevitable), you can celebrate and know that you achieved that goal.

    For example, when I first set out blogging, I said if my blog helped one person, it would be worth it to continue. Now, three years later, I frequently remind myself of that goal when I start to lose sight of it—it’s easy to get caught up with oh, if I just get x many hits or x many comments… and sometimes I have to step back and remind myself of my original goal, which I’ve now achieved several times over. It definitely helps to keep it in perspective. 🙂

    I know you’re pretty active on Twitter and you’ve even written posts about social media being a great tool for writers. How has Twitter helped you and your writing?

    How hasn’t Twitter helped me and my writing? I’ve learned so much from the writing community there—from excellent writing tips and resources, to book recommendations that I’ve learned from, to finding several critique partners and beta readers. As a bonus, I also nabbed two internships just from Twitter.

    What are your top five favorite books and why?

    Ughhh you are not asking me to choose five favorites. Seriously an impossible question. I guess if I HAVE to…these are in no particular order:

    The Harry Potter series (duh)—especially The Order of the Phoenix. To this day, I have never re-read a book as much as I re-read the first four books of the Harry Potter series (four times each! Which is probably not as much as some people, but still). (Also, I am aware of the irony that I re-read the first four books four times but not my favorite of the series, but I can only handle Sirius dying so many times, okay?). But I mean, what is there not to love about the Harry Potter series? Nothing will quench my love for the world of Harry Potter.

    The Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. A sexy, badass antagonist, incredible secondary characters, amazing worldbuilding, awesome magic system, a quick pace that has you flipping through the pages…what’s not to love? This is one of my all-time favorite YA Fantasy series and I recommend it basically to anyone considering YA ever. As long as they like fantasy, that is.

    Saint by Ted Dekker. Assassins + supernatural abilities + fabulous, dark voice = Saint. I love Ted Dekker (he’s one of my favorite authors of all time) and this is the second book of his I read (he’s written close to fifty now), and it still stands out to me as one of my favorites of his. Probably because I’m obsessed with assassins. And dark characters. And internal struggle. And all of that.

    The Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi. Tahereh Mafi has one of the most incredible, distinctive, poetic voices I’ve ever read. I love her style, and even better, the Shatter Me series is an incredible example of amazing character development. My favorite of the series is tied between Unravel Me and Ignite Me but it’s an excellent YA series.

    Half Bad by Sally Green. I just finished this one and it’s an insta-favorite. The voice is absolutely incredible (seriously can’t recommend it enough to YA writers), the plot is exciting, the characters are complicated and interesting and GAH. It’s amazing. I could not adore it more (and I raved about it here).

    Tell me about your agent. How did you get her to represent you?

    I’m represented by Louise Fury of The Bent Agency and she’s amazing (hell, the whole team she works with is amazing). I’ve had an absolutely wonderful experience working with her and Team Fury and I really couldn’t ask for anything else. I’m delighted to be part of the team.

    As for the how, the short version is this: I wrote a lot of books, I received more rejections than I want to think about, I wrote more books, kept querying, entered contests, didn’t win and eventually got picked as a runner-up in Miss Snark’s October 2013 Mystery Agent blog contest. Louise was one of the mystery agents. She loved my book and many months later I was screaming on Twitter about my happy news.

    Long version is here.

    What’s your favorite quote about writing?
    “If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.” —Toni Morrison

    Also:

    “This sentence has five words. Here are five more words. Five-word sentences are fine. But several together become monotonous. Listen to what is happening. The writing is getting boring. The sound of it drones. It’s like a stuck record. The ear demands some variety. Now listen. I vary the sentence length, and I create music. Music. The writing sings. It has a pleasant rhythm, a lilt, a harmony. I use short sentences. And I use sentences of medium length. And sometimes, when I am certain the reader is rested, I will engage him with a sentence of considerable length, a sentence that burns with energy and builds with all the impetus of a crescendo, the roll of the drums, the crash of the cymbals–sounds that say listen to this, it is important.” —Gary Provost

    You’ve defended YA along with several others on Twitter. What are some things you wish people understood about young adult literature?

    SO MANY THINGS. That YA is a legitimate category. That YA novels aren’t any less powerful, emotional, exciting, beautiful and haunting than adult books. That YA is here to stay and while it’s not for everyone (no category or genre is), if you don’t at least give it a chance, you’re seriously missing out on some incredible stories. Also that YA isn’t written for teens, it’s written about teens—anyone can read them and there’s no shame in it.

    What’s your writing routine like? Tips for being productive?

    I get up around 5:30 AM, exercise (on weekdays), then write. I find that the later in the day it is, the harder it is for me to write (I guess my brain gets tired?), so I try to get it done nice and early in the day.

    As for being productive, the key is to figure out what schedule works best for you. I’m most productive in the mornings, but some people work their best writing magic at 2 or 3 AM. Experiment to see what works for you, then stick with it the best you can.

    What’s the best advice you’ve ever received and who did it come from?

    I like how you saved this question for last. I saved it for last while answering, too, because this is not an easy question. Hmm.

    I’d say my two favorite (that I can think of that moment) bits of writing advice are to finish the book and write what you want to read (which came from the first quote I shared above). I’m pretty sure I saw the first bit of advice in one of the many writing craft books I’ve read. The second came from the good ol’ internet.

    For more Ava Jae, check out her blog Writability or follow her on (@Ava_Jae), tumblrFacebook, or Youtube (bookishpixie). 

    What’s the best writing advice you’ve ever received?

  • Carly Heitlinger: Polished Prepster

    Carly Heitlinger, The College Prepster
    Photo by Carly Heitlinger
    Carly Heitlinger has been a part of my life for the past several years, since I discovered her blog during my freshman year of college. Although I’m no longer an undergraduate, I still love reading The College Prepster. When Carly agreed to answer some questions for me, I could hardly contain my excitement. Read on to hear what she had to say.

    What’s surprised you the most about blogging thus far?

    The community! I never really expected to find my best friends from this little thing I started in college. It’s interesting too because now the community isn’t just limited to bloggers; it’s bloggers, readers, social media and community managers… It’s amazing!

    What’s going to keep you up tonight after this interview?

    My friend has a non-profit that’s launching a new campaign so I’m going to stop by the event!

    What’s the best part of the next thing you’re doing?

    Learning about new industries. I know a lot about blogging and digital media, but this is a whole new ball game.

    How do you take your coffee?

    A splash of skim and half a Sweet’n Low

    You blog a lot about living in New York. What are your favorite things about the city?

    Central Park! I really do like living in the city because of all the opportunities and things going on… but it can be a lot! Having a huge space in the middle of the city with grass and trees is the best!

    What inspires you?

    I love being inspired by everything around me… You never know what might spark something for you!

    I loved your post on time management and getting everything done. What are some of your favorite tips for productivity and avoiding distractions?

    Prioritization is really key. Distractions are everywhere, but when you let something distract you, you’re really just saying that it takes priority.

    How has writing The College Prepster affected you in the “real world”?

    It has in that it’s become my career and it’s hard to imagine what my life would be like without it.

    You’ve mentioned before that you really struggle with anxiety sometimes. What are your tips for dealing with stress?

    Going for a walk or just finding a way to decompress like taking a couple of hours to watch a movie.

    What are some things on your dream list right now?

    Anything Valentino… ah!
    Need more Carly in your life? Make sure to follow her blog, The College Prepster, and look her up on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram.
    How do you feel about lifestyle bloggers? Where are some unexpected places you find inspiration?
  • Cherie Bond: Crossfit Queen

    I met Cherie in one of my college classes and totally loved her style. She’s bubbly, friendly, and one of the coolest people I know. I got to know her a little better through my involvement with the Wesley Foundation and grew to love her even more. Her passion for God and fitness shines through everything she does. Don’t believe me? Keep reading. 

    Check out this interview with a blogger who loves Jesus, fitness, and shopping at TJ Maxx - among other things!

    Fitness means a lot to you. How did you get involved with it?

    Throughout high school, athletics and my personal health were the last things on my mind – McDonalds $1 sweet tea, that was always on my mind. At the beginning of my freshman year of college I felt like it was time to take control of my health. It all started with a classic start-up of power walking with a close friend. Before long, walking turned to running and running turned into weightlifting. While it sounds oh so simple in writing, it was possibly the hardest thing I ever took on. Now, it’s strange to look back and think about the days when fitness and honoring my body wasn’t apart of my life. (Read more about Cherie’s fitness journey here.)

    When’s the last time you did something for the first time?

    Mundane but mandatory: I finally learned how to use a scanner. Yikes.

    You’re open about your religious beliefs on your blog. What are some misconceptions about Christians that drive you up the wall?

    This will catch a lot of buzz, but I’m going to flip that question. I think there are more misconceptions about non-believers that Christians tend to believe #1 they don’t have the capability of kindness – false, Jesus is in them and more often than not their kindness is more genuine than that of a Christian, it’s our job to accept them and love them and pray that they too see Jesus in them #2 all non-Christians hate Christians – definitely false. I think Christians often give off the feeling that they aren’t liked and we like to be all secluded like it’s some big club. Ugh, hate that. Frankly, I think the misconceptions about Christians will stop when Christians stop believing misconceptions about others – now that, that drives me up the wall. (Read more about Cherie’s faith here.)

    How do you stay motivated?

    Jesus. Always Jesus. A lot of coffee, Pinterest, and constant encouragement by my family, friends, and coaches.

    What would you say to people who are intimidated by cross fit?

    “Your dreams aren’t big enough unless they scare you”. Use that feeling of intimidation to walk into a CrossFit box and believe that no matter who you are – weak or strong, you are capable and equipped. (Read Cherie’s post on conquering fear here.)

    "[The blog] has changed because I have changed. That's something to be thankful for." - Cherie Bond

    What are three of your guilty pleasures?

    Dark chocolate perfectly paired with a glass of pinot noir, Keeping Up with the Kardashians (yeah, I went there), weekly visits to TJMaxx – I’m a maxinista through and through.

    How has your blog evolved over time? Why do you think it’s changed?

    Whoa, so recently I went through a rebranding phase. I realized that after a year of blogging (happy 1 year WoW!) I no longer wanted my blog to just be about fitness. There’s so many more components to life that make up healthy living. I realized that I had more to say than just another paleo pancake recipe, but rather a multitude of topics that could inspire and uplift in more practical ways.To add to that I realized that the graphics were also a little low-key and it was important to me to include more professional graphics and even my own hand lettering! It’s changed because I have changed – that’s something to be thankful for. (Read more about Cherie’s hand lettering here.)

    What’s your writing/blogging routine like?

    On Sundays I sit down and jot down about 3-5 ideas that are potential topics for the week. Then, I’ll settle down at a local Starbucks with an americano (2 stevia, light soy please) and write my little heart out. If I hit a wall, I’ll explore pinterest or change up my music and then I keep going. Some weeks include inviting guest bloggers and even taking days off.

    How do you come up with post ideas?

    I’m inspired by so many things: readers of WoW, small talk with friends, the news, music. Gosh, you name it it’s probably inspired me in some way.

    How far into the future do you see yourself still blogging?

    I was literally contemplating this the other day. Waiting on Wildflowers has just now really taken on a whole new meaning to me. To see it making an impact and ultimately glorifying God encourages me to keep going and finally be brave about my writing. God willing and computer able, I hope to blog for quite some time. Not to mention, before long I’m sure I will have plenty of newlywed stories and topics to chat about!

    Want to keep up with Cherie? Check out her blog, Waiting on Wildflowers, and follow her on Pinterest.

    Have you ever tried crossfit? How is your relationship with health and fitness?

  • Shelby Bouck: Not Perfect, But Okay

    Shelby Bouck is sincere. That’s what I like about her. We’ve been Twitter friends for a while now so I took the plunge and asked to interview her. The sweet and beautiful blogger had a lot to say. Check out how cool she is below.
    If you love husky puppies, sweetness, and sincerity, read this interview with blogger Shelby Bouck.

     Tell me about your blog. What inspired you to start it?

    Honestly? I was in my public speaking class and we had a little downtime, and I said, “Hey, would you guys read a blog called How Not to Suck?” And all of them said yes. That was the moment I decided to write the blog, but the philosophy behind it came from a long time before that.

    Philosophy? Please explain.

    Well, it’s all in the title of the blog: How Not to Suck. In high school (and really a long time before that) my friends and I got caught up in this idea that nothing less than perfect performance was acceptable–at school, in extracurricular activities, at home. We never said it out loud, but it was understood, and it didn’t really work out in the long run, at least for me. The stress from feeling like I needed to be perfect all the time affected my relationships and my health. I got mono, I had back issues (not like Vogue in a doctor’s office, like a curved spine), I was constantly freaking out. Then, after going to college, I realized “perfect in every way” was a terrible goal, and that if I wanted to do really well at a few things, I’d have to let a few other things go. I wanted to let other people know it was okay to just be okay at stuff–and I’m still learning that myself.

    What do you wish you’d known before you started blogging?

    Twitter. Literally everything about Twitter. I actually didn’t think it was possible to say anything of value in 140 characters or fewer, at the time. I didn’t realize it wasn’t about making grand statements–it was about making friends and contacts. Becky Blades taught me a lot about that.

    Who?

    Becky Blades. She’s one of my mentors.. she wrote and published a book and directs the social media marketing for it. She taught me basically everything I know about Twitter, which is all about making sure strangers care about what you have to say.

    Do you have any tips for succeeding and having a good time on Twitter?

    As far as Twitter goes, MAKE FRIENDS. Follow people who follow people you follow. They’ll be interested in the same stuff as you. Be witty and observant, not mean.
    "Come up with solutions, don't just point out problems." - Shelby Bouck
    Your blog covers a wide range of topics. How do you decide what to write about when?
    Most of that happens because of what’s going on in my life at the time. All the cooking posts are in real time as I slowly stop being scared of my oven. This last post was looking back on another summer of employment at a big-box bookstore. Some topics I sit on for a while before I write them, because I think they’re extra important. I’ve been trying to write “How Not to Suck at Feminism” for six months and I still don’t think it’s ready.

    With classes, assignments, blogging, work and personal obligations, how do you manage your time?

    Poorly. I am the world’s biggest procrastinator. I do things like think, “You can have some M&Ms when you’re done with your blog post” or “You can watch Orange is the New Black when you’ve done some studying”, but I usually end up doing the thing and the incentive at the same time, which totally defeats the purpose of the incentive. I do pay my bills way ahead of time, though. I’m aware that some things have horrible and immediate consequences like $75 late fees and ruined credit. I buy a planner every year and use it for a few months, and then think “I’m so good at planning things! I don’t need this, clearly!” #logic

    Who are some of your favorite bloggers? What do you like about them?

    Hyperbole and a Half is my blogspiration. Allie Brosh is the person who made me want to start a blog, any blog, in the first place. I still laugh-cry when I read her post about the Alot. Old Single Mom, who posts through the ChicagoNow website, is another one of my favorites… she’s a friend of mine, and we share a sense of humor and a tendency to wax poetic about things that are not poetic at all. Ashley from BigTopFamily has been great as well; she’s another one who’s adopted the “competence, not excellence” philosophy, and I love the way she talks about it.

    Do you have any tips or advice for new bloggers?

    Find your niche. Write about what only YOU can write about–or write about something everybody’s writing about from the unique perspective only you can bring to it. (You have something like that. It just might take a little bit to find it.) And have so much fun. If you’re not having fun, there’s no point. Also, try and write positive stuff–ADD to conversations, don’t just talk about what not to do or what’s wrong with things. Talk about what should happen instead. Come up with solutions, don’t just point out problems.

    What are three things on your bucket list?

    1) Write and publish a novel. 2) Travel. So much travel. Traveling everywhere. 3) Get a dog. A big shaggy husky. #3 was almost “shop at Macy’s for something other than makeup without going into debt”, but the dog won.

    Down-to-earth, charming, and ambitious. Shelby is the whole package. If you can’t get enough, you can check out her blog How Not to Suck and follow her on Facebook and Twitter.

  • Nan Broome: Fanfiction Fanatic

    One writing subgenre that often gets overlooked is fanfiction. Since the 50 Shades of Grey trailer dropped last week, people have been whispering about what fanfiction is and isn’t. With that in mind, I set out to find a fanfiction writer who could answer some of my more pressing questions. When I asked my good friend Nan Broome, he was more than happy to oblige me.
    Has 50 Shades of Grey piqued your interest in fanfiction? Check out this interview to learn the truth about the genre.
    How did you get into writing fanfiction?
    I actually first started writing when I was around 11 or 12, but that was my own content. Then around 13 or 14, when I first got into internet culture and fandoms, I started writing self-inserts with my favorite characters in the typical fandoms like Harry Potter and Pirates of the Caribbean. I posted a couple of the PotC stories to fanfiction.net and they received pretty positive reviews, so I kept writing. I don’t remember what the actual catalyst was for getting into it as a whole, or even when I created the fanfiction.net account but it’s kind of always been a part of my life. I like creating content and telling stories in a lot of different media.
    What’s your writing process like? How has it changed?
    Well, right now it’s usually inspired by a post I’ve seen or headcanons I develop as a result of day dreaming about the characters. Then I start writing, re-writing, etc. Usually when I finish I want to read it out loud two or three times to make sure the flow and syntax are what I want them to be. I know I wasn’t as stringent about the whole thing in my early years. Back then I think I just chunked out what I thought was good in the moment and posted it.
    Sounds like your style is pretty organic. What’s your organization like? Do you outline or are you more of a pantser?
    I guess more often than not it’s the latter. Like I said, I have a general prompt or inspiration and set my stories around that but if it’s a longer one, like an Always Sunny multi-chapter story I did a while back, then I’ll usually brain storm the direction ahead of time/during the writing process.
    What do you like to listen to while you’re writing?
    If I’m sitting down for a formal writing session, I’ll put on something orchestral. I prefer Mozart because it all tends to run together but I also like soundtracks; the Black Swan soundtrack specifically. More often I just have the TV on in the background because I tend to write in 5-10 minute chunks, take a break, etc.
    What are some common misconceptions about fanfiction that you’d like to debunk?
    I think the stigma behind it needs to be dealt with. There’s this idea of the “horny fangirl” writing smut about her favorite heterosexual characters but gay and in love and for some reason there’s such a stink on it. Fanfiction comes in all forms and from all different kinds of people. It’s fan-propelled content which can actually enrich the canon of the given media, even if only for the other fans that read it. I think it’s really cool for that reason, in the same way that fan art is cool. It’s passion and creativity. I mean, it can get weird, but no more so than any other media type.
    "There's a stigma behind [fanfiction] that needs to be dealt with." - Nan Broome
    What’s one thing you’ve learned from writing fanfiction and participating in the community?
    Whatever you write, someone’s going to read it. I wrote a Pulp Fiction/Les Misérables crossover and it got almost 400 views. Anything is possible.
    What’s the best thing about fanfiction? What keeps you coming back?
    Part of it is the feedback I get. I always perk up whenever I get a comment saying what I wrote was cute or (especially) in character. The other part is the ability to throw my favorite characters into whatever situation I want. If I want Hannibal Lecter to dance ballet, it’s done. If I want dead characters (like Stacker Pentecost) to come back, they’re alive. It’s an awesome level of control.
    What inspires you?
    I guess the biggest thing would be the different relationship dynamics of the characters I write for. Certain situations and responses work for some people and not others and I like exploring how they would react. Dialogue is always one of my favorite things to write because of that.
    How do you feel about fanfiction becoming more “mainstream” with works like the Fifty Shades Trilogy?
    Personally, I don’t care that it’s mainstream. It’s getting writers noticed and I think it should be kind of a compliment to the source material creator(s) that someone was so invested that they wanted to contribute to the canon. As for Fifty Shades, that specific book series is not representative of the community and really only contributes to that negative stigma I mentioned earlier (even if EL James is middle-aged). Not to mention the book series glorifies and romanticizes abusive relationships and violence towards women. I acknowledge its roots as Twilight fanfiction but given that it’s an alternative universe (AU) and the names were changed, I don’t really see it as fanfiction anymore. It’s its own thing.
    What tips or advice do you have for anyone interested in writing fanfiction?
    You have to start somewhere, and it doesn’t have to be posted. Feel free to practice in small doses; work your way up. Whatever you do end up putting out there, make sure it’s something you’re proud of.
    You can read some of Nan’s work on Archive of Our Own (NSFW) or follow him on Tumblr.
    How do you feel about fanfiction?
  • In Conversation with – Bob Gale, Co-Writer of Back to the Future

    Via: Flickr

    Back to the Future is one of my favorite movies. This is due not just to the fact that I love eighties films, but also to the acting, directing, and most importantly, the writing. One of the best interviews I’ve read was a conversation with Bob Gale, one of the co-writers of Back to the Future. I’d like to share a little bit of the interview with you.

    What do you think about theories on how to write?
    First and foremost – don’t let anyone tell you they have a ‘method’ for making a story into a success. Nobody does, and if anyone says they do, they are lying. There is no magic formula, and mercifully, there never will be. If there was such a method, there would be no bad stories, and I don’t think that’s the case now, is it?! All you can ever do as a writer is write your own story your way. Master your craft, of course, by reading stories, and learn from what other writers say about what worked for them, and from teachers about story theory. The information you can get this way is all interesting, and adds to your personal ability, but you must accept all these opinions only for what they can do in helping you to establish for yourself a working method that works for you.

    Remember, even with a formula or rule book that seems incredibly convincing or appears to be globally accepted, all that’s happening is that someone is giving their opinion; and often that someone hasn’t actually had any success themselves. Formal learning is only useful if it helps you to find your own voice and establish your own personal method. Your rules are the only ones that really matter for your story.

    Do you consider story structure in your own development process?
    No. Of all the magic ‘how to write’ methods, I specifically don’t agree with any that are based around story structure. Structure is not a good starting point for a creative process. Stories develop around characters and their behaviours, learning and growth. Structure results from this development. Of course, structure does exist at the scene level, and as you write your scenes, your story will gain a structure under the surface, but it’s not a starting point for development. People talk about acts and how they must deliver the story in three acts or five acts, but acts don’t even exist for a novelist or scriptwriter! Acts are there for practical reasons in physical theatre – to change costumes and switch scenery around – but acts have no place in defining how you create your story. Yes, you can define where acts start and finish once a story is complete (I’m not sure why you’d want to, but you can) but there’s no sense whatever in trying to write a story driven by acts – or even consider acts – unless it is genuinely going to have a curtain going up and down, or the modern equivalent – advertisement breaks in a TV story. For a novel or film script – forget about acts.

    How do you develop your own stories?

    All writers face the same starting point. We start with a story idea and the challenge is to get from this idea to a beautifully developed story that remains faithful to that original idea. Let me tell you how Back to the Future came together.

    Like any other writers, Robert Zemeckis and I started with an idea, and ours looked like this:

    “A kid goes back in time. He meets his parents when they were young and his mother falls in love with him.”

    That was it. The idea. The starting point. From here, we began with the logical assumption that the story will have three characters – a son and his parents. What do we reasonably know about these characters? Well, if his mother is going to fall in love with the son instead of his father, he must have different qualities from his father. So we said, what if, instead of his father being paternal to him and telling him how to behave, it was the other way around? After all, in 1955, his father is just a kid himself, so why should he be paternal? Marty from 1985 could be the streetwise, strong one, and his father can be unassertive and learn from his son. It is this difference between them that attracts his mother to Marty instead of his future father. Excellent.

    So the character of George McFly takes on some shape, as does the character of Marty and Lorraine, and the story is developing through this knowledge of character. If he goes back in time, how did he time travel? In a time machine – where did it come from? Who built it? What does it look like? Maybe a corporation is making it. But, why? Maybe it is government property and it gets stolen. Maybe it’s a product of a crazy inventor, and bingo, we knew that was right, and Doc Brown was born – our fourth character. How, what, where, why…?

    And for each answer we came up with, there was a set of logical implications that began to build the story. So, for example, we asked ourselves, if Marty goes back in time, what will he do when he gets there? Well, what would you do in Marty’s position? We would invent something we know about from the future that would make us famous, wouldn’t we? So we said, wouldn’t it be great if he invents rock and roll? What would this mean to the story? Well, it set the timeframe – it meant that he had to go back to around 1955. It also meant that, somewhere in the setup, Marty had to show he can play music, so his band in 1985 and his ability to play guitar and his musical ambition got its place in the story setup, and therefore in his character. Similarly, we thought why doesn’t Marty invent the skateboard? Same thing – we decided Marty would invent the skateboard in 1955, so we needed to establish him as a skateboarder in the setup. You can see straight away from these two small examples that Marty’s character is emerging all by itself – the character actions deliver behaviours – he’s going to be a guitarist in a band and he’s going to be a skateboarder – and this in turn affects the plot – he enters a Battle of the Bands competition and he gets about town using a skateboard. Plot driven by characters reacting in accordance with their natural character.

    Just from these few questions and answers leading to more questions and more answers we have characters and behaviours that drive our story, in service of that original idea. We know that Doc Brown is a crazy scientist who invents a time machine. We know Marty is a streetwise cool kid, who rides a skateboard, plays in a band and goes back in time. We know that Marty’s mum, Lorraine, in 1955 is a romantic. She’s looking for a boyfriend and is constantly thinking about love. We know that Marty’s dad, George, in 1955 lacks confidence and is unassertive, and that is why Lorraine will fall for Marty instead of George when they meet. Look at that! All directly deduced from the original idea, which means the characters and behaviours make sense and the story has a cohesion and integrity as a result.

    Of course, this is only a short excerpt of the interview. To read the whole thing (which I recommend doing), you should go here.

  • From the Archives: Interview with Molly Ford, SP&A

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    I’ve been following Molly Ford’s blog, Smart, Pretty, and Awkwardfor a few years now. I’ve loved every minute of it. The concept of the blog is simple: each post contains three bits of advice on how to be smarter, prettier, and (less) awkward. Since the simple things in life are often the most captivating, it is no wonder that Molly Ford is as successful as she is. Recently, I set up a couple of interview questions for Molly to answer. She was gracious enough to oblige. Here’s how it went:

    1. In your guest post on The Future Buzz, you talk a little bit about starting a blog. What are some tips you can give about blogging?

    Great question. My best advice that I often give is the Three Month Rule: blog for three months without telling anyone. This gives you time to find your voice in private and confirm that you really like blogging, and it also gives your readers a back log of posts to read and fall in love with for when you do start going public and promoting your blog.

    I would emphasize the importance, especially in the beginning while you are growing your audience, of writing consistently. Everything else—the layout of the site, social media promotion, press outreach, etc. can come later.

    2. In that same article, you say, “I honestly thought the blog would just be a flash in the pan, just something else I would try, but after a month or so I realized how much I was liking it and just kept writing.” What about blogging appeals to you the most?

    I think what appeals to me most about blogging is the ability to share something from my heart to an audience that I hope benefits from my writing. I never write a tip that I don’t do myself or wish I had done, so everything I write feels very personal. I like that.

    3. Also in the Future Buzz post, you discuss coming up with the idea for SP&A. Where did you get such a unique blog concept?

    I honestly wish I had a better answer for this! I knew I wanted to write an advice blog because I don’t want to put super-personal information online, and because I enjoy reading self-help books. Just focusing on “How to be Prettier,” with beauty/fashion tips, was my first thought, but that type of advice wasn’t enough to cover all the topics I was interested in, so I added How to be Smarter. Then I wanted a third topic so the site name would flow well, so I added How to be (less) Awkward to round out the set. I was originally planning for the third section to be called How to be Awkward and have the tips be tongue-in-check and the opposite of what to do, but adding in the (less) made more sense in the long run.

    4. Each post on your blog contains three pieces of advice and an inspirational quote. How do you usually discover these items?

    I write down ideas for tips all day long. I keep a super long chain of notes in my phone, as well as in a physical notebook I carry around in my bag. I also usually keep a running draft email in gmail of links I’d like to use.

    For the quotes, I usually search around for a quote either by a specific author or about a specific topic. Since the quotes are usually the most last-minute thing I include in the post, they are usually the most up-to-the-minute personal: for example, if at that moment I’m feeling happy about a good date or reading a book that references Eleanor Roosevelt, the quote will either be about happiness or relationships, or by Eleanor Roosevelt.

    5. After reading the SP&A Press page, it’s clear you’ve developed a following. How has your Internet presence affected your life?

    I think about this a lot. I think having an Internet presence has probably affected how new people interact with me, but not the people I’ve known forever. Everyone googles everyone before first dates or job interviews now, so new people probably relate to me differently based on what they have seen online, but not the friends or people I’ve met in real life first or had pre-blog.

    6.Based on your blog, you must be a very dedicated individual. How do you stay motivated?

    Probably my best tip for staying focused is: no fluff. It it doesn’t add value or make me happy, I don’t do it. There’s just not time.

    Probably the best example of no fluff in my life is that I also don’t watch (hardly any) TV. I don’t even own a TV or Netflix account or anything. I know it’s not a popular opinion to say that you don’t watch television, but I really think that not having that in my life leaves me with more free time, which I try to then use wisely.

    7. Your About page says that you live in New York City. What are your favorite and least favorite things about living in the Big Apple?

    I will cross the four-year mark of living in New York City this year, and I think I love it more than when I first moved here, which is saying a lot because I cried from happiness on my move-in day post-college. New York City is everything, the good and the bad. And there is probably nothing I could say that would be terribly unique to my experience about living here: it’s wonderful, it’s cultured, it’s full of events, it’s expensive, it’s loud, I live in a shoebox. But to paraphrase an email I sent in 2009 to a friend justifying my decision to live in NYC, “I might have anxiety from living in New York, but I would have much worse anxiety about not living here.” New York City is just the place for me. But I also want to be careful about over-romancing NYC, though: it’s not for everyone.

    But I would wish for everyone a place they love as much as I love New York. You have to find your New York.

    8. Most of your quotes come from famous individuals. Who are your personal role models?

    I love Becky Quick from Squawk Box, Bethenny Frankel, and especially Nora Ephron, who has always been my main role model. I also closely follow Sheryl Sandberg’s career and Lori Gottlieb’s writings.

    9. It’s also clear that you enjoy reading. What are some of your favorite books?

    I read mostly non-fiction, with a focus on business, pop psychology, and narrative non-fiction (memoirs, etc). Nora Ephron’s books have probably had the biggest impact on my life in my college and post-college years, but Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers was also a huge influence to me when I read it. I saw Malcolm working in a coffee shop on the east side once, that was awesome. And of course I love Gretchen Rubin…

    10. Finally, since you and I both enjoy The Happiness Project, what habits or practices have you created after reading Gretchen Rubin’s book?

    The Happiness Project was another total life-changing book for me, and I try not to use clichés like “life-changing” lightly. I just love the idea of small tweaks to make life better—that’s the sort of formula my blog is built around. One of my favorite quotes of the author’s, Gretchen Rubin, is that one of the Secrets to Adulthood is to “Be Gretchen.” I love that phrase: “Be Gretchen!”. She’s talking about it in the context of herself, obviously, but I love the idea of just doing you. There are many things I do that others probably would not enjoy, and vice versa. That’s okay. I just have to Be Molly. That’s really the only person that I can be realistically be 100% of the time anyway.

    Molly Ford is such an inspiring woman. She’s creative, kind, and self-reliant. As a role model and a person, I consider her to be someone worth admiring. If you’ve never read Smart, Pretty, and Awkwardgo check it out right now. Thanks, Molly!

    What do you think of Smart, Pretty, and Awkward? What writers or bloggers should I interview next?

    Click to tweet: Read @thecollegenov’s interview with blogger @SmartPrettyAwk! http://wp.me/p2FPLe-EM