Monday, December 29, 2014

I'm Getting Too Ambitious // What Happens When Bloggers Write Books

If you guys have been around the blog world for a couple months, you’ve probably seen something related to NaNoWriMo – a post, a picture, a Tweet, something.   You may have even cringed to read that word because, whether you participated or not, you’re probably at some level of being NaNoWriMo-ed out.   For those of you who don’t know much about it, NaNoWriMo (AKA, National Novel Writing Month) is a month-long event during which authors work towards a goal of writing 50,000 words of their novel all in 30 days.  They’re absolutely crazy!  From what I’ve heard, it’s really intense.  You type and type and type until your fingers bleed, and at the end you have a 50,000 words that more or less form a baby book which still needs a lot of work to become a published novel.  In spite of the difficulty, something about that has an irresistible draw for me.  I’ve always wanted to write a book, but over the last months, a few of my favorite bloggers showed me that I can write a book.  Like, now.  I want to write a book! There it is.  It’s official.

I have a lot of experience with rushing into things without a lot of consideration or prior knowledge, so about four seconds after I decided that I wanted to write a book, I was hit with images of me sitting on the floor, burned out and surrounded by half a novel’s worth of pages that would never become a real book.  I can’t say similar things haven’t happened before.  (Coughcough, the aftermath of Hurrican Scrapbook in my basement right now.) I do, however, really want to write a book – it’s a total bucket list item.   And because bucket list items a) are mandatory and b) deserve consideration and prior knowledge, I emailed some experienced authors to learn a little bit about what I’m getting myself into.  They were so, so helpful, and I know lots of things about writing books now that I didn’t before!  I’d like to share that with you so that we can both not end up burned out on the floor, but I’d probably want to introduce them to you anyway, because they’re great: meet Lindsay, Chelsea, and Rachael.

From left to right: Lindsay, Chelsea, and Rachael, blogger / author extraordinaires!

All three authors were bloggers first (I’ll give you all their information at the end so you can stalk them a little), and they’ve each chosen to expand their passion for writing into the novel world, which makes them pretty cool.  Chelsea’s book is in print, as in you could go to Barnes and Nobel right now and buy it, and Lindsay and Rachael are both well on their way.  They’re all writing fiction, but each with a different spin – they’re talking relationships and mystery and travel.  They’re all from different parts of the world, but the whole writing thing must be universal or else they cheated on this because they all had similar sentiments – unique, but sparked by the same passion.  I absolutely loved hearing from them and learning things about what writing a book and being an author are like.  Things I now know:

// Authors write about anything and everything.

Allie: What are you writing about?

Lindsay: My book is called “Seekers,” and it’s about a group of strangers who embark on the hunt for a long-lost hidden treasure shrouded in myths of sinister curses, hauntings and even murder.

Rachael: My book is about a girl who is about to leave her exciting life to travel for six months.  She gets to experience life in new places, and also learns a lot about her life on the way.

Chelsea: (Since I already knew, I didn’t ask Chelsea what her book was about; however, I want you to know – here’s the description from her website!)  Happy to be Alive, Because is a book about life and love and loss and friendship.  It’s for anyone who has ever struggled to understand the point of the hard stuff in life.  It’s for anyone who has ever had to try to be happy.  It’s for anyone who has ever loved their friends so fiercely, they think their heart may explode.  And it’s for anyone who, like me, loves to get lost in a story.

// Authors write about what speaks to them.

Allie: What inspired you to write what you’re writing?

Rachael: My life right now is really inspiring me to write about travel and learning about yourself.  We always read books about the girl who finds the boy, but instead of the boy, what if she finds herself?  The genre (as of right now) will be young adult fiction, one of my favorites to read and also something I have a lot of experience with because I am a middle school teacher.

Allie:  Your book deals with love, loss, friendships, and life stuff – things that lots of people can relate to, but are also very intimate.  How personal is the content of your books to you?

Chelsea:  It’s extremely personal, but not exactly in the way most people think.  For example, my main character loses her mom, something that I have never had to deal with.  I’ve experienced great love and great loss and great friendship, maybe just in different ways than my character.  That’s why writing a book is so cool – you get to include all of this personal stuff, but you get to twist it and turn it and mold it into your plot, disguising it as fiction. 

//The entire writing process is full of roadblocks, and that’s part of what makes writers want to write, as crazy as that sounds.

Allie: As you worked on your manuscript, what did you learn about the writing process that surprised you the most?

Lindsay: How truly difficult writing a book is.  This sounds obvious, I can picture you reading this thinking, “This girl is an idiot, what on earth did she expect?” but in a way it was a complete revelation to me.  I think I had a highly romanticized notion of “writing” and the reality was vastly different.  I expected the words to flow effortlessly as I sipped my light roast coffee with my two cats sleeping soundly at my feet.  The real situation was more like me staring at my computer, forcing the words to come out when they didn’t seem interested in appearing, my eye twitching dangerously as I sipped my fourth Monster of the morning while my cats and husband were hanging out without me – often battling a voice of harsh negativity and self-doubt in my mind.  It was hard.  It was lonely.  It was spectacularly daunting.  But I kept. on. Going.  It’s okay if your writing process isn’t pretty, I learned.  All that matters is that you make the words happen.  And as for that voice of negativity in my hear, I think every writer deals with that.  I have to make an active choice to ignore it every single time I sit down to write.

Chelsea: I’ve had some nasty comments, too . . . people went out of their way to email me and let me know that they think my book is the worst thing on the face of this planet and I should probably just go die. Because of that, I’ve made it a point to always email or tweet authors when I finish a book, no matter how popular they are.  It hurts to see people say mean things about something you worked so hard on, so I try to spread some love around!

Rachael:  I have hated feeling like I never have enough time/motivation (let’s be honest, I’m a blogger AND an English teacher, so I’m constantly surrounded by words.  Sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming.  The worst part is the feat that what I’m writing might actually be total crap.  I’m always a little worried that maybe I’ll finish my book and it will be awful.  But at least I’ll have written a book, right?

// Writing is all about the people you have around you.

Lindsay:  The decision to write a book actually came rather quickly, for me.  I’ve loved to write my entire life, and once a few folks (my husband, my mom, Juliette of planted the seed, I decided, “Heck, there’s no time like the present, self, let’s dream up the plotline and write a damn book. “ It sounds so cheesy, but I honestly couldn’t have done it without the encouragement and support of my family and friends.  I swear, their words of affirmation were better than crack.  Not that I would know.  Probably.  (That was a joke, I don’t do drugs stronger than Tylenol.)

Chelsea:  It always feels incredible whenever someone reaches out to me and tells me they read my book-it’s an amazing feeling.  I love getting to start a conversation with someone who would otherwise be a stranger to me and ask them what their takeaway was. . . . I love writing, and I love writing buddies!  Writer's block doesn't stand a chance when you have friends you can talk through your words and stories a plots with.  If anyone else is a writer, I'd love to connect!

Rachael:  I also love my writing circle, which is when a small group of us get together every two weeks and share something different, whether it be writing a screenplay to poetry to novels!  It’s so inspiring to be around people like that.

// Writing is totally worth it.

Chelsea: (on seeing her book in print for the first time) It was so amazing!  My mom was in town, and when I saw that I had a fed-ex package slip on my door, I knew exactly what it was.  But it was 4:58 and the leasing office closes at 5:00, so my mom and I booked it across the parking lot to make sure we got there before they locked the doors.  Then we both took turns holding it and crying and taking pictures and laughing because it was so surreal—it was an amazing experience, and I’m so glad I got to share it with her.

Lindsay:  While I wrote the first draft I was figuring it out as I went. Now that it’s complete, it’s cool to step back and rethink my story with a more complete frame of mind.

Rachael:  I think the reason you should write a book is not only will you sound really cool at dinner parties, but it’s really rewarding to be working towards such a positive personal goal.  //

That’s it, you guys.  I’m writing a book.  Dangerously twitching eyes and happy crying over the first copy in print and wanting to give up and feeling like I’ve accomplished something really, really big? Sign me up, all of it.  I’m so sold!

Thanks so much for letting me be here today, Anna, and thanks for reading to words of a complete stranger, reader of Anna in Wonderland!  I appreciate you!  (Sidenote:  But let’s stop being strangers – you can drop by my regular blogging space and leave me a note, because I’d love to get in touch.)


P.S. As promised, you can meet Chelsea here and Lindsay here and Rachael here.  I'd highly recommend it!

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Guest Post // The Perks of Christmas in Edinburgh

Merry Christmas Eve!  Because it's Christmas time and that means doing festive things, I've got a really cool guest post coming at you today from my friend Carolyn.  She's going to give us a look at what it's like to do Christmas where she's from, in Scotland.  Enjoy!

Hi everyone. I'm Carolyn and I run a music and lifestyle blog called Carolyn's Simple Life. When Allie emailed me about writing Christmas guest posts for each others blogs I was so excited because I love Allie's blog and I love Christmas.

 I live in Scotland in the UK and one of my favourite things about Christmas time is exploring Edinburgh. I've visited the Winter Wonderland and European market a lot of times this year and I absolutely love it.

 I love looking around all the stalls at the European market because there are so many lovely trinkets and loads of amazing food. Me and my friend treated ourselves to some nutella crepes.



 I really enjoy wandering around Edinburgh with my camera any time of year but I especially love it at Christmas time because of all the amazing lights.

 The front of The Dome

 The back of The Dome 

 Inside The Dome 

 Inside The Dome 

 And although I didn't go on it this year I always love seeing the Ferris wheel on Princes Street.

 Every year since I was little I've always gone to Jenners Department Store to see their Christmas Tree. It's become a bit of a family tradition going to see the tree and I really enjoy it.


 The one thing I can always rely at Christmas time in Edinburgh is that it will be cold and there were almost, always be rain. Unfortunately I was rained on a few times while exploring the European market but apart from that I've really enjoyed Christmas in Edinburgh this year. 

 I hope that wherever you are in the world that you have a lovely Christmas and also a very happy new year!

 I also want to say a really big thank you to Allie for letting me write a guest post for her lovely blog.

 Carolyn x

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Warm Up! // How to Do Winter Without Freezing

It's been getting miiiighty chilly around here lately.  I won't use cold yet, because I know better than to pull that word out while it's still consistently 30 degrees or warmer.  It's not really cold, but very chilly? You bet. 

In past winters, I've let winter take me by surprise.  I generally spend a few weeks wearing skirts over just my bear, naked legs and neglecting to start the car a few minutes early to warm it up and promote global warming before I wise up and start fighting winter back.  Not this year!  Last year's especially wintery winter has instilled an intense fear of being cold in me, and I'm determined to spend almost all, if not the entire winter in relative warmth.  Spending 5 months feeling like this will do that to you.

I live in Southern Michigan, so we definitely don't see the worst of it.  It probably gets colder and more snowy in the North Pole and Alaska and maybe some parts of Siberia, so if anybody from there writes a blog post about how to stay warm, they're probably righter than me.  However, as someone who has spent a lot of life trying to be warm, I feel like I'm finally getting the hang of it, and I'd love to save you from a fate of sixteen cold years by just giving you the answers now.  Ladies and gentlemen, my expert guide on how to stay warm when it's -7 with relentless wind and snow, or any other version of cold.  

|  Buy a space heater. Make it your best friend.  My mom bought a space heater for her office last year, and I've gotten in the habit of keeping it about three feet from wherever I am at all times, plugged in and set to the highest setting.  Sometimes it smells like it's burning something, but then I remember that burning = heat and stop complaining.  (We bought ours from Costco - it's this one and I'm convinced that it's saved my life more than once!) 

| Drink hot water all day long.  Credit for this one goes to my mom, as well.  During winters when I was younger, she'd always drink a cup of hot water after dinner while the rest of us ate heaping bowls of ice cream.  We thought she was crazy, but I've since decided that she was definitely on to something.  Now, whenever I drink water, I heat it in the microwave for 1 - 1 1/2 minutes, and it is so much better.  You can feel it warming you from the inside out, and it's the best. Bonus:  drink your heart water in a cute mug like one of these.

| Learn how to best utilize your blanket.  And by that, I mean wrap yourself up like a burrito or baby Jesus.  No more half-hearted draping of blankets across your lap.  You deserve better.  Stand up, throw that thing over your shoulders, and wrap it around your whole entire body, feet included.  If your blanket isn't big enough, I highly recommend you buying a blanket that's man enough for the job.  (I'm so in love with sweater blankets lately - one of these should do the trick!)  Step two is to stay wrapped in the blanket as long as possible to generate body heat and keep it trapped inside.  This can double as reading time, Netflix time, or nap time, which is great because it won't interfere with your busy schedule. 

| Wear (ridiculously thick) socks. Feet + cold floors, especially ones without carpet on them, is a recipe for disaster.  You lose most of your heat through your feet and head, so you can take care of one problem area by getting some socks on you!  I personally really like long socks for this; the longer they are, the warmer I feel.  My mom swears by these - she wears them all the time, including when she goes running in the dead of winter and before the sun has even thought about getting up.  Even better?  Wear socks and slippers, or socks and boots.  I wear my boots in the house.  It's totally okay, because my feet are never cold.  

| Stop showering, or never stop showering.  Okay, it's probably best not to completely cut showers out of your routine.  All I know is that showers leave my hair wet for 3+ hours, which makes me a lot colder.  If you can avoid showering (which, in colder, drier months, you can probably do more than usual), do it.  Either that or get in the shower and never, ever get out.  I think that I'm probably the happiest I ever am all winter long when I'm in the shower because it is just so dang warm in there.  For maximum results, you're going to either have to be really unhygienic or drown and blow up your water bill . . . is this starting to sound like a cult? 

| Exercise.  It gets that blood flowing, and flowing blood is hot blood.  I usually do something active for about an hour a day, so there's an hour of warmth right there, but doing a couple push ups or squats when you start to feel your extremities freezing can save the day.  Just make sure you don't sweat too much in order to avoid the necessity of a never-ending shower. 

| Get a pet and make it cuddle with you all. the. time.  So, no, a fish or lizard or snake probably isn't the best option.  In this case, bigger is better, or you can substitute size with quantity.  (For example ten puppies can probably keep you about as warm as one very large dog.)  Once you have your warm-blooded pet of choice, you're going to have to make it love you or purchase some form of bribery.  I generally opt to grab my dog or cat and hug them until they stop resisting, but if you're lucky, your pet might actually want to keep you company.  

I hope you're feeling warmer already!  With these easy steps, we can defy nature and beat winter coldness together.  That's the goal, anyway, and as I sit here in my knee socks, drinking hot water and wrapped in a blanket, I think things are going pretty well.  If only my hair wasn't wet . . . 


P.S. Do you live somewhere cold?  If so, what do you do to stay warm? Or do you just -shudder- embrace the way-too-low temperatures? 

Friday, December 5, 2014

Oh-oh, Here It Comes // Christmas Tag

I don't know if you've taken the time to realize it yet today, but there are twenty-three days until Christmas!  That's a short enough time to bust out the twinkling lights and sugar cookies, but long enough not to stress about it too much.  Now's the time to enjoy it, to take it all in and ignore the fact that I have finals coming up and zero dollars with which to buy 42305843 presents.  Carolyn over at Carolyn's Simple Life tagged me to answer a few Christmas-y questions, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't start answering right away because I can't resist anything remotely holiday-related. 

What is your favorite Christmas movie?

I LOVE THEM ALL!  If I absolutely had to pick, like, if you were threatening to steal my jar of peanut butter or something, I'd probably go with Home Alone.  And Home Alone 2, which is not cheating because it's basically an extension of the same movie.  I could watch Kevin drop bricks on two guys who seem to have some kind of supernatural immorality (more on that here) over and over again.  Never gets old.

Do you open your presents on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning?

It's Christmas morning.  When we were younger, the kids of the family were each allowed to open one present on Christmas Eve, and I, as the oldest, wisest child, usually saved my present for the next day and then relished the fact that I had one more present to tear into than my brother and sister did.  Anything to get ahead, man.

Do you have a favorite Christmas memory?

Believe it or not, flying out of town on Christmas day was actually pretty cool.  The airport was so chill, because who wants to fly on Christmas Eve? and our pilot called himself our sleigh driver and I thought that was hilarious.  Also, all of the lights looked so pretty from way up there.  Then there was the Christmas that our neighbors got a Wii and we the entire time we had off of school playing tennis, bowling, and recovering from our various video game-induced injuries.  Never have I been so thankful for someone else's present.

What's your favorite festive food?

Probably anything with sugar.  That's a cop out, sorry.  And I lied, because my favorite is definitely shrimp cocktail on Christmas Eve.  We have a tradition of coming home from church on Christmas Eve and throwing ourselves a little party with chips and dip, Christmas cookies, shrimp cocktail, sparkling white grape juice, and a Christmas movie.  The shrimp cocktail and bubbly, non-alcoholic wine make it classy and delicious.

Ok, and Christmas cookies, especially pretty ones like these, which taste like mint and chocolate.

Favorite Christmas gift?

I can't say I've ever met a present I didn't like, but I think the most excited I've been about one recently is when I got a giant box of 120 crayons for Christmas.  That was when I was 14, and I definitely spent the rest of Christmas break coloring and organizing them by color and making sure their points were always perfectly sharp.  I've always loved crayons.

Favorite Christmas scent?

The smell of our live Christmas tree is so good!  My parents are both allergic to it, but the smell is enough to keep them good naturedly popping allergy pills from Thanksgiving to New Years.  Also, anything that comes in a red cup at Starbucks makes my nose happy.  

My mom and I can be found chugging daintily sipping delicious liquids from said red cups on almost any given day of the Starbucks holiday season. 

Do you have any Christmas Eve traditions?

Oops, looks like I accidentally overachieved and already talked about some of those up there ^^^^, but wait, there's more!  We also still put out cookies and milk for Santa and carrots for the reindeer, along with a note.  The youngest, my sister, is 12, but I guess we're not willing to let it go just yet.  Personally, I'm pretty sure my parents encourage it because it means that they "have" to eat more cookies.  I'm on to you, Mom and Dad.

Besides that, we've started a Christmas Eve tradition of taking Christmas presents to moms and nurses at the Beaumont Hospital, which is in the Detroit area.  About 9 years ago, my brother, Jonah, spent about three weeks at Beaumont with something that's yet to be diagnosed by doctors.  All we know is that it caused him to temporarily lose the ability to talk, eat, and move on his own, and that Beaumont took really good care of us while we were going through that time.  For that reason, my mom has started using her cosmetics business to give something back to the people who were so good to my brother and the moms who are in the place where she once stood.  (If you'd like more information or to donate, shoot me an email at and I can hook you up!)  We always deliver the presents on Christmas Eve and visit with Jonah's nurses and therapists before heading downstairs for more drinks from red cups.  What else?

We also take pictures with Beaumont's convincing fake trees in their convincing fake garden.

Jonah's favorite part of the garden is the abundance of pillows.  He's doing a lot better now, by the way - he talks like some people breathe and eats with all the enthusiasm of a teenage boy.

What tops your tree?

An angel, of the crocheted variety I believe.  We stuff it with a bunch of Christmas lights and it looks really, really cool.

As a kid, what was the one crazy, extravagant gift that you always asked for but never received?

Since I'm intensely afraid of failure and let-downs, I generally try to avoid asking for things that I know I won't get.  I mean, I might wish for them in my head, but I never actually vocalize it - I guess that keeps it from sounding too real.  For instance, there was the time when I asked for gift cards toward getting an iPod for Christmas and secretly hoped that someone would just buy me an iPod, which they didn't.  They chose instead to get me the gift of learning how to save money, which is obviously waaayyyy more fun than the iPod I was able to buy five months later.

What's the best part about Christmas for you?

Oooohh, oh.  That's a toughie.  (Is toughie a weird thing to say?  I'm not even sure if I use it in everyday speech, but it looks even weirder in computer-print.  Let's just go with it.)   I love anything that makes life exciting and less ordinary than usual, so I totally embrace the novelty of the whole season.  That means listening to all the Christmas music, painstakingly wrapping presents, doing as many Christmas - themed activities as humanly possible . . . if it's festive, I'm totally into it.  If there's an option between a regular bag and a red, snowflakey bag at the store, you can guess what I'm choosing. 

Festive Christmas activities include driving through the light display an a major road near us every year - one year, I even ran through it!

The biggest thing about Christmas for me is that it's the time when I celebrate Jesus being born - that's the original intent of Christmas, even thought that's not usually the main focus any more.  I really like Jesus, and he's kind of a big part of my life, so celebrating his birthday is pretty meaningful, too!

What do you love about Christmas?  Any favorite traditions?


P.S. I'm tagging Itunu, Katelyn, and Katie to answer these questions in their own Christmas post!  The more Christmas in the blog world, the merrier, right?

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