Friday, May 27, 2016

Some award-winning books to brag about

Being an editor, I often prefer to let other people's words—and their written works—speak for themselves. However, with three of my clients' books recently winning awards, I figured it was about time for me to brag a teensy bit.

Here's the scoop:
Claudia Whitsett 's middle-grade book, Between the Lines, was a medalist for the 2016 Independent Publisher Book Award (the “IPPYs” as they’re known), nabbing Silver in Multicultural Juvenile-YA Fiction. You've all heard me go on about the charming Between the Lines, which is the first in her Kids Like You series. Her website is

Leslie Johansen Nack's memoir Fourteen: A Daughter’s Memoir of Adventure, Sailing, and Survival, won in the Young-Adult Non-Fiction category at the 2016 National Indie Excellence Awards and was a Finalist in the Memoir (Overcoming Adversity/Tragedy/Challenges) category in the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Awards. I don't think of it as YA, specifically, but it would certainly be appropriate for mature, adventurous teens. See the trailer at

Last, but certainly not least:
Oz Monroe's debut novel, Soil-Man was named a 2016 IPPY Gold Medal Winner in the category of Horror (I consider it dark fantasy, but there you are) and was awarded the 2016 Next Generation Indie Book Winner for Best First Novelas well as a Readers' Favorite Five Star Rating. Read more about the author and and his book at

What do these three authors have in common? The courage to pursue their dreams, even when the hard work of being a writer goes on for years, unrewarded. The tenacity to do "one more rewrite" when everything screams, "I'm done!" The dedication to keep working on the manuscript, because it's not quite perfect, yet.

Oh, and they also have in common their proud Congratulations, all of you—you truly deserve all the praise your work is getting!

Naturally, many of my clients are writers whose books have won readers' hearts and minds but not won awards (yet). No matter, as their readership looks forward eagerly to each new installment of the world(s) and characters they have created. Write on!

And, of course, I want to give a shout-out to my clients whose work has yet to win acclaim—and in some cases, even see the light of day, yet, because they are doing "one more rewrite"!—hang in there. Your readers await you, and they will be glad you took the time to make your book(s) exceptional. Let's keep working...

hasta pronto!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Beauty, and Other Powerful Words

Today's blog is part of the Beauty of a Woman Blogfest 2016. The blogfest is a fun, inspiring, and empowering event and I hope all my readers will stop by today or sometime this week to participate—there are valuable prizes galore, including a free manuscript evaluation from Jenny Redbug! Here is a link to the fest page: BOAW 2016

Last year, I posted a piece about the Language of Beauty, and I don’t think I’ve ever gotten so many comments on a blog post. I wrote about how much our society focuses on the external beauty of women, and how there’s so much more than appearance to every female human out there. Everyone applauded the idea of using words besides “beautiful,” “pretty,” and “lovely” to describe other women, and especially young girls.

Well, I’ve been working on it—trying to find other ways to express my love and support for my women friends, rather than buying into praising their “surface” appeal. On social media, I try to find more meaningful words to applaud their newest profile pic (“this photo of you really sparkles”), or the post about their weight loss (“you’re looking strong and healthy!”) or a new hairdo (“you’re so bold!”).

It’s been more than a social experiment for me—it has been a wonderful shift in my whole outlook on life. Words are powerful, and how we label what we see every day, people included, has a profound impact on how we think and feel about the world and ourselves.

Like most women my age (I’ll be 55 this month), I have spent my life defining men as strong, smart, and brave—women tend to get labeled as beautiful, or nowadays “hot” (or not). In trying to be aware of my words, and their real meaning, I find I’m much less likely to judge another’s looks, style, or body.

Now, when I watch TV or scroll through social media posts, I try to look beyond a woman’s (or man’s) obvious appeal, and see what I can find out about them as a human being. Are they upbeat or low—could they use a boost? Are they involved in causes I can help shed light on? Are they creating any kind of art they’d like to hear my feedback on? Are they working on their physical strength in any way, like walking or doing yoga? Praise for action speaks louder than praise for something you were born with, like good genes.

Naturally, this has affected my own “self-talk,” too. When I’m assessing my reflection in the mirror, I find myself thinking words like “strong,” “cheery,” and “energized,” rather than using all those tired comparisons to past reflections that cause me to focus on “imperfections” like wrinkles, sags, and bulges. After all, I don’t want others to see me as simply my physical body, so why should I focus my energy on it?

True beauty is so much more than smooth clear skin or shapely curves—it is attitude, courage, intelligence, and compassion. It is not just loveliness, but loving kindness. Inner beauty comes from a willingness to engage with the world; the generosity to reach out a hand to those in need, and to help those we interact with to see and achieve their best potential; and the ability to get back up when the world knocks us down. Using this criteria, rather than a bogus BMI, or a scale of 1 to 10, every one of the amazing women in my life is a real beauty.

I hope you enjoy the blogfest...and that you celebrate your beauty today and every day...

hasta pronto!

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Three Quick Book Reviews

This year is flying by, and work is keeping me far too busy to read for pleasure as much as I'd like... However, I have read a few excellent books already in 2016.
The top three so far:

 Casualties by Elizabeth Marro. I had the pleasure of hearing this author speak at SCWC and, intrigued by her intelligence and wit, picked the book up immediately; I devoured it in a couple of days and would have finished it sooner, if I could have rearranged life so that I could sit and read all day. Marro is as brilliant on the page as she is in person, and I found myself highlighting passages in the book, purely for their beauty. Don't get me wrong, this novel is as hard-hitting and painful as the effect of war on human souls must be, and will make you weep unless you're made of stone. But gorgeous writing, real-as-life characters, and even moments of dark humor—yeah, it's all in there.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell. The author of this dual narrative YA novel breaks some rules, all to excellent effect. I'm sure I am not the first person to think "How did she know that about me?" while reading it. The publisher says this 2013 book "is the first young adult novel written by Rainbow Rowell." Trust me, most people would be happy to have written one book this good... Now I want to read her other books, too.  The book was briefly banned—for being too realistic about sex, I think. Sigh. Now there's a movie in the works.

The Wave by Susan Casey. The subtitle pretty much says it all: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks and Giants of the Ocean. This non-fiction book is as gripping as any thriller, and just as hard to put down. My husband Russel and I seldom love the same book, since his taste runs to hardcore non-fiction, but this book kept us both up nights. The globe-trotting Casey is a genius at distilling pertinent facts, and various expert's knowledge into digestible nuggets, all wrapped in colorful, compelling prose. I also recommend her book about dolphins, Voices in the Ocean.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Seven Ways Sailing is like Writing

I've been sailing, and living aboard a sailboat, for most of the last 27 years. I'm also a writer, and have worked at some combination of writing, editing, publishing, and teaching writing for the last 18 years. So, I know a little bit about both pursuits. And I think that...

Sailing is like writing because:

You need a destination, but often the best part of the voyage happens when you get off course—assuming you don't end up on the rocks. 

Getting there is not just half the fun, it's all the fun; sailing is about enjoying the moment, here and now, not rushing toward some arbitrary goal (if you were in a rush, you'd have a power boat).

It's something people all over the world have been doing for thousands of years, in order to explore, learn, and reach out—and it's still fun!

Most people think it's easy, even if they've never done it (Wish I had a dollar for every time someone said, "Gosh, that must be such a fun life, traveling and living on a boat").

Those who don't sail don't "get" it—and that's okay. It's impossible to explain what's so darn great about it, if you don't experience it yourself, in just the right way.

It's enviable, but somehow people still think they could easily do it, too, if they just had the time...

Lastly, sailing, like writing, uses your body and mind for an activity that often taxes them, but combines and unites them in ways that can sometimes be transcendent—allowing us to glimpse what is eternal and true.  

hasta pronto!

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

August McLaughlin and her "Embraceable" New Book: My Q&A with August

This month's blog post is a Q&A with author August McLaughlin, as part of a blog tour for her book, Embraceable. August McLaughlin is an award-winning, nationally recognized health and sexuality writer and host and creator of Girl Boner®. August is a public speaker, radio host, and journalist who uses her artistry to inspire other women to embrace their bodies and selves, making way for fuller, more authentic lives.
   The new book, Embraceable: Empowering Facts and True Stories About Women’s Sexuality, is a celebration of women’s sensuality, and deals with body image, among other diverse topics. August and I hit it off right away, since I grew up with serious body image issues—my mom's constant fight with weight affected my own budding self image, then I went into acting and got dangerously "brainwashed" into body dysmorphia by the "industry" before becoming a happy, healthy, curvy writer-editor. By the way, Body dysmorphia means you can't stop thinking about a minor (or imagined) flaw in your appearance.

I admire August's activism, enthusiasm, and passion, so I invited her to JennyRedbug to chat a bit. Here are my questions and her answers:

1.  The contributors to your new book, "Embraceable" are all ages, and I'll bet that they are every size and shape, too. Why are we so eager to limit the "acceptable size" that women should be?

The pressure on women to appear a certain way is an age-old problem, fueled by the sexism that's engrained in our culture—women being perceived as subservient trophies, versus capable equals —and perpetuated by big business. The diet, fashion, and entertainment industries are some of the largest and most influential in the world. Sadly, too many companies profit from women's insecurities.
    I’m really grateful for the body-positive movement that’s happening, but there’s a long way to go. We need to see more people of all ages, shapes, sizes and races in fashion and film, for example.

2. I know you have a history of dealing with body-image issues and body dysmorphia, in yourself and others...Do you still find yourself struggling with society's idea of what you should be/wear/look like?

I was very dysmorphic from very early on, around age five, well into my twenties. One major benefit of moving fully past a severe eating disorder, and all the hard work it required, is that I no longer place excess value on aesthetics—my own or others'. (Eating disorders typically aren’t about weight or looks, at their root, but they end up shifting your values in hugely damaging ways.) I wish more women reached the emotional place such recovery provides, without the hellishness of the illness.
    While I'd say the body image struggles are behind me, I still have occasional moments of self-criticism. When they arise, I remind myself that accepting myself as I am—“flaws” and all—sends a positive message to others. The world needs every good example. I look to women I admire, who don’t prize looks, for inspiration. Then I intentionally focus elsewhere, on what matters.

3. You love the word "authenticity"...what does that word mean to you, as far as women and their bodies?

Authenticity from a body image perspective means not attempting to fulfill someone else’s idea of what you should look like. It means loving, respecting, and accepting your body as it is, rather than fighting it—even (or especially) when doing so is hard.

4. I struggled so long with learning to love my (curvy) body, as an actress and performer. I wish I'd known then how good it feels to live in a body you're not trying to change/hide/erase. What do you wish you could tell your teenage self about her body?

I’d tell her that she’s wrong about her body, more than her body, and that she's 100-percent lovable and embraceable—no changes required. And because I know she’d roll her eyes and tune me out (ha), I’d also tell her that the road ahead isn’t going to be easy, but she’s going to make it through. Oh, and diet pills? Not a good idea.

5. What have you heard from readers of "Embraceable" about the chapters where you describe your struggles with anorexia? I would think that young women would respond to reading about that.

I’m just beginning to hear from readers, which has been moving. Women who’ve written me about my struggles with anorexia have been of a range of ages. I think it’s a struggle many can relate to on some level. Anorexia encompasses near universal issues: feeling unworthy, fighting yourself and your body, feeling broken and alone, food and weight challenges, addiction.

6. What would you like to say to young people, who are learning from the media, their peers—and perhaps their parents—to judge others by how they look?

Don’t listen. Live with curiosity and passion and wonder. Seek and pursue ventures that bring you joy and a sense of purpose. Cultivate your talents and surround yourself with people who love you for who you are, not your jeans' size. Spend time in nature. Remind yourself that you’re an extraordinary being who can choose to put her energy into bettering herself and the world.

Read more about August's new book on her site; you may purchase a copy of Embraceable at Amazon or Barnes &
hasta pronto!