Thursday, December 17, 2020

Staying Motivated with Mindy Alyse Weiss

Today we sit down with children’s book extraordinaire, Mindy Alyse Weiss, and discuss how to stay motivated through the writing and revising process. In addition to writing funny, heartfelt picture books and middle grade novels, Mindy fosters community as the host of PBParty. 

Could you describe what #PBParty is and how it began?

PBParty started seven years ago, before I had the pleasure of joining as co-host. Authors Michelle Hauck and Sharon Chriscoe decided there wasn’t enough out there for picture books so they created an annual contest. The first year, they allowed a small amount of entries (I think it was a hundred or so) and it filled up in minutes! After that, they realized their contest was in such huge demand, they needed to allow more entries. Writers e-mailed the first fifty words of their picture books along with a query. Michelle and Sharon chose a diverse variety of the strongest entries to share with a few agents and editors in the final showcase. Through the years, they’d narrow it down from a few hundred to around 20 finalists and then agents and editors would request the full (and sometimes additional manuscripts) from the ones that caught their attention. 

How did you get involved?

In 2019, they asked if I wanted to participate and I said “Oh my gosh! It sounds like so much fun!” It kind of blew up. That year we had over 800 entries, allowing 2 per person. We eventually had to narrow it down to 1 entry per person because we only had a week to read all of them. With 1 entry per person, we received 526 entries this year.

What is it like being in charge of all those authors’ submissions?

It’s amazing! It makes you see from the agent’s side of the desk, which is such a gift. When you start out you think, “This is a maybe. This is a maybe,” and all of a sudden you’re thinking “Nope! We’ve seen something stronger, or more unique.” It really shows how some rise to the top and others sink to the bottom. There’s so much in the middle—making the final choices is incredibly hard. This year, we narrowed it down to 30 finalists. 

It’s interesting to see trends—March was full of chickens, worms, zombies, dragons, unicorns, and mermaids. They’re all popular children’s topics—but the amount of submissions with them makes them battle even more for a spot. 

We also have an Illustration Showcase that I launched my first year after talking to a talented illustrator who said he’d enter…but I’d never seen his work before. I thought “it’s so competitive with the writing finalists that if I see a gorgeous illustration, it’ll be hard to turn it down.” It’s become an important part of our final showcase. Agents and editors seem to love browsing for talented author/illustrators—and we love celebrating all the requests and offers. 

PBParty has been a huge hit! So many talented writers and author/illustrators have received agents and editors through this process. Last year, one entry had 18 requests! And at least eight finalists received offers, which is so exciting. I can’t wait to see all the 2021 entries in March!

How does it feel to be a central point in helping people connect with agents?

It fulfills me so much. Things like this are my sunshine, especially during COVID. 

I love celebrating successes. It’s incredible to fall in love with entries, happy dance when they make it into the final round or Illustration Showcase…then cheer for each request. I’m probably on the edge of my seat, squealing as much as the finalists—I want them ALL to succeed! 

Could you speak to how creating community helps with motivation as a writer?

During the PBParty contest in March, we’d have daily prompts that gave participants the opportunity to chat, answer questions, share tips, cheers, and support. When the contest ended, the PBParty chats always did. But in March, the pandemic hit and I tweeted “I’m so sad. I don’t want this to end.” They agreed and I said “Do you want me to keep asking questions?”

I played around with different questions and people were so encouraging. The next thing I knew, we were doing Motivation Monday. That’s when you make your goals for the week. Then, there’s Celebration Sunday. It’s so important to celebrate along your journey. People think “I want an agent,” “I want book sales” or “I want awards.” It helps to sit and make small goals you can accomplish. I love having some easy goals because you never want to go through a whole week thinking “I’ve accomplished nothing.” This way, you can turn around and realize you’ve checked so many things off your list. Challenge yourself to do at least one thing each week that you’re not so sure you can do. Hopefully you can!

Seven months ago, I realized I hadn’t written a new picture book in 2020. That’s unusual for me. I’d been revising, but I hadn’t written anything new. I was online and some other picture book writers were saying “I haven’t been able to write in the pandemic.” So I said “Let’s write a picture book! How’s Thursday?”

This morphed into an amazing, motivating monthly event called the PBParty New Draft Challenge & Critique Train. You can flesh out ideas and plot ahead of time, then write, write, write on challenge day—you have 24 hours to write a new PB draft (EST). Then, you shout “DONE” on Twitter and add your name to the Critique Train Google doc. You receive a critique from the person above you, and give a critique to the person below you. You can send any picture book you need feedback on. Fresh eyes are such a gift—and I love seeing new friendships and critique partners form through this, too! In October, around 50 new picture books were born during the challenge. I can’t wait to cheer for all the new PB drafts during the December 17th challenge! 

I’m grateful to the picture book communities that have motivated me—and it’s so fulfilling to add my contribution to the kidlit community. I love how we support each other, help motivate each other, and celebrate, celebrate, celebrate!

This would turn into a novel if I share them all, but here are a few that I love participating in:

Storystorm with Tara Lazar is every January. The goal is to come up with at least one idea (in any genre) per day and there are inspiring daily blog posts and tons of prizes…including the chance to have an agent look over your favorite ideas and tell you which seem like the strongest. This is where I get most, if not all, of the ideas I use for an entire year!  

I also love the 12x12PB Challenge with Julie Hedlund. The goal is to write/revise a picture book every month. It’s a supportive community with an active forum and Facebook group, a critique area, monthly webinars, and a post to celebrate good news each month. 

Justin Colón, runs PBChat which is another amazing community with Twitter chats. He also has a free, three month mentorship program each summer. There’s huge competition to get in with all the big name authors and illustrators who participate and an agent/editor showcase for the finalists to display their work after the mentorship ends. 

What advice would you share with aspiring writers?

Enjoy the journey. So many people only have their eye on agents and publication and that won’t get you anywhere alone. Don’t be in such a rush because the learning curve is huge. It’s so much better to learn how to do deep revisions before you’re on deadline with an agent or an editor. Take as many workshops and classes as you can. Critique groups are an absolute must. 

When you write a new picture book a month, you lose that “this has to be perfect” mindset. You can play around with new styles. Feeling like you have to be perfect bogs you down. Challenges help you let go of all the rules swirling around your head and write. There’s plenty of time to revise later…but you can’t revise a blank page. 

Sometimes when things are going on in your life, you can’t write certain things. Don’t push yourself to write anything that pulls you down, particularly during a pandemic. You can always put work aside, switch to some writing that makes you smile and come back to it when you’re ready. Even if you’re busy or not sure you can write, do your best to write something every day. Set a timer for ten minutes (half an hour is great if you can swing it) and write. Don’t let writing slip out of your life because once you do, it can be difficult to get back into it. Keep it as part of your routine, but make it work for you.

All around me, I have motivational sayings. Every year, Julie Hedlund does a webinar series leading up to the holidays and she does something that I love and make part of my life now. Think of a word that you want for the year. The first year I was having a very tough year and my first thought was “survive.” And then I thought no, that is not going to be my word of the year and I switched that to “thrive.” The next year was “believe” and that was the year I got my amazing agent, Joyce Sweeney, and became part of The Seymour Agency family. Now I’m looking forward to this next year and I might borrow a word from a friend that is so perfect “bloom” but there’s another word I’m considering (take one look at my website and you’ll see why): “sparkle.” 

Don't Miss Out on
The December PBParty New Draft Challenge & Critique Train!

About Mindy Alyse Weiss:

Mindy Alyse Weiss is a glitter-loving kid at heart who loves viewing the world through a child’s eyes. Writing, reading, and hanging out with other book-loving people is her air. She’s written many humorous picture books and middle grade novels, but also enjoys tapping into the challenging parts of her life so she can spread sunshine and hope. 

Her heartfelt picture book manuscript, Mason’s Greatest Trick, won 5th place in the Writer’s Digest Competition and helped her receive a 12x12 PB scholarship. She’s had several pieces published in Highlights magazine, is the SCBWI FL Critique Group Coordinator and Free Meeting Facilitator, an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, a founding member and Administrator on the From the Mixed-Up Files…of Middle-Grade Authors blog and host of the PBParty chats, challenge, and annual contest.  Mindy lives in Florida with her husband, two daughters, and rescue dog and cat. She adores animals and would adopt every homeless one if she could. She also loves chatting with other book-loving people on Twitter and Facebook…and seeing their adorable pet photos! She’s thrilled to be represented by Joyce Sweeney.

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

The Call With Carol Coven Grannick

It was just another pandemic day. I planned to be busy with marketing and PR-related planning and doing after my morning cardio walk, stretches, and breakfast. But first, during an early hour of the morning, I had my coffee, checked emails, and noticed an interview with a new agent on "The Mixed-Up Files..." blog. I opened it, prepared for the usual description of wishlist requests that would have nothing to do with what I wrote. I felt a slow "zing" meander through my body as I read, "Lyrical picture books and novels in verse" (huh? really?) and a little statement indicating the kind of positive attitude and emotional resilience I write in my columns and guest blog posts. I finished the interview and looked up Joyce Sweeney at Twitter. "I'm not accepting submissions." Okay. I'm respectful of what people say. Ten or twenty years ago, I would have shrugged, felt sad for a few minutes, then moved on. On this day, though, well into my writing journey and feeling pretty comfortable with who I am and what I write, I decided to email Joyce. With respect for her statement about being closed to submissions, I let her know that I'd never seen such a good match, and that I'd appreciate it if she would consider my work once she reopened to submissions. And I meant it. I just wanted to connect, and respect the limit that was presented. Shortly after (I mean, a few minutes), I received a lovely email from Joyce: "I like your style, Carol—please send me your best work." I felt so immediately comfortable that I conveyed that my "best" work involved several different types of picture books, listed them, and asked her to choose. She did. She loved it, and asked for more...and then more...until I'd sent almost all my ready-to-go file of varied-subject, varied-voice picture books. She read, we talked, we signed. I have never felt so relaxed and comfortable with an agent. I trust her to care for my work and help me guide it in the right direction as necessary. As a longtime children's writer with a debut novel-in verse this September (2020), and poetry for the very young in a number of the children's magazines, I feel a freedom to refocus even more energy on my writing, since my written and revised work is in the best of hands.

About Carol Coven Grannick:

Carol Coven Grannick is an author, poet, and chronicler. Her poetry and fiction for young children has appeared or is forthcoming in numerous magazines, including Hello, Babybug, Highlights, Ladybug, and Cricket. She is a regular columnist for the Illinois SCBWI Prairie Wind, reporter for Cynthia Leitich Smith's award-winning blog, Cynsations, and a member of the GROG blog. Her awards include: Finalist, 2014 Katherine Paterson Award at Hunger Mountain (VCFA) Honorable Mention, 2018, Sydney Taylor Manuscript Competition Ragdale Foundation Writing Residency, 2016 Illinois Arts Council Grant, 2019. She is a member of The Society for Children's Writers and Illustrators and The Chicago Writers Association. She looks forward to many conversations with young readers about REENI'S TURN.


Thursday, December 10, 2020

The Call with Matt Tesoriero

My call story is filled Drama! Drama! Drama! I was honored to have been selected as a mentee with #PBChat. I polished, edited and re-worded three manuscripts with my mentors At the end of the mentorship program, we were given another amazing opportunity to post the first 50 words in an exclusive pre-vetted agent's/editor's micro site along with the other finalists. Weeks past without a single bite. Then miracles of all miracles I got a request for the full manuscript from an agent! Within 30 days she asked for an R&R...and R....More drama! The agent had not yet been announced so the 3rd R was to reveal her identity. Soon, the pandemic took over the world and was consumed by making sure my family was safe while dealing with a family emergency. THAT's when I got the email, offering me representation. I had been dreaming about this day for a long time and when it finally came to fruition, I was too distracted to even respond. Amazing how in life when you're not looking, wonderful things come to YOU! Today, I've signed with the amazing Joyce Sweeney. Identify revealed! And am on submission. OH, how I love DRAMA!

About Matt Tesoriero:

I make a delicious, spicy meatball!

I was born into a large Italian-American family where we talk and listen at the same time. Big hugs and loud conversations are in my DNA. I grew up in rural Upstate New York, but we didn’t milk any cows.  We preferred frolicking in open cornfields and swimming in the cold waters of the Finger Lakes. I’ve lived in Boston, London, San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale and just relocated to Orlando with my partner. I love Dunkin Donuts coffee.  It provides the magical juice I use to write. I’m a certified Spinning Instructor and enjoy seeing my riders flourish and grow.

With twelve nieces and nephews as my audience, I made up silly stories to entertain them. I wanted to be their favorite uncle. One of them told me, “Uncle Matty, you should write these stories down.” So I have. I always remember a day when I was volunteering as a teacher’s aide in a first grade class. I read “The Giving Tree” to the children. I remember how moved they were and how the story made me cry. That’s my goal as a writer: to create children’s stories with heart. To inspire, enlighten and entertain. I always root for the underdog and characters who feel different. PAVE. THAT. ROAD!

Twitter: @Matt_Tesoriero

Instagram: @MattTesoriero_Author

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Q&A with Kess Costales

 By Elisa Houot 

Who is your favorite poet and/or writer?

Do I have to choose one? I’m obsessed with Nikita Gill and Yrsa Daley-Ward. I love Warsan Shire and Andrea Gibson. When I’m real romantic, I swoon over Pablo Neruda’s work. John Keats wrote one of my favourite poems, La belle dame sans merci. Emily Dickinson was my highschool ob

I want to write a book like Catherynne M. Valente’s Deathless and dream of writing a collection of fairy tale retellings like The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I want to be Roshani Chokshi and V.E. Schwab, especially the latter’s jump across age categories. My friend (humblebrag all the time), June Hur, is truly one of my favorite writers because she’s so good at doing atmospheric. Like I hate her so much that I adore her. I want to write romance like Alisha Rai, Courtney Milan, and Tessa Dare. Helen Hoang is also incredible. 

Do you think there was room for two on the closet door to save Leonardo in Titanic?

Maybe there was room on the door, but would it float? Does it matter? That movie scarred me for life and I never want to go on a boat or ship or cruise, especially at night. 

What is the poem that moved you the most?

UGH I hate choosing. I think I was just holding my breath the whole time I read TEACHING MY MOTEHER HOW TO GIVE BIRTH by Warsan Shire. The whole book was phenomenal and stabs you right in the heart.

To my daughter I will say,

'when the men come, set yourself on fire.'

What is one thing we will never hear you say?

You will never hear me say that empathy isn’t one of the most important things to me. It’s something that everyone should have for so many reasons, but especially for how it impacts the way we perceive and treat people.

Mental health and inequality were my areas of focus while I was in university and while I’m not really in that field, my passion remains. When we have empathy, we’re able to look at what people might be experiencing. It’s essential as a storyteller to understand the complexities of people and life as a whole. 

What is the last music you’ve listened to?

I listen to music all day while at work. Usually you can catch me listening to some chill pop. Music for chilling. Pop is fun. I like fun and catchy. I’ve listened to Taylor Swift’s Folklore more times than I can count. I like Billie Eilish’s earlier songs, but also vibing with Hozier, Tate Mcrae Lennon Stella, Kina Grannis, Halsey, Julia Michaels, Ariana Grande, etc.

What is your current writing project? Can you tell us a bit about it?

The best way to describe my writing this year is one word: chaotic. You could also say I am starting over and trying to rediscover my love for writing stories, after the big realization in 2019 that a piece of my heart will always belong to poetry.

Right now, I am pants-ing a teen rom-com that’s a mashup of my favourite romance tropes. I’ve tried and failed with YA contemporary novels but I think this might be the one that gets done.  Oh god I hope I didn’t jinx it with that. 

Note: I did not run this by my agent, Lesley, yet and I hope she’ll like it because she’s liked everything else I’ve thrown at her so far. Hi Lesley, I can’t wait to bury you in an overwhelming amount of new books I plan to write.

Are you a dog person, or a cat person?

I am an animal person in general. I am the person who follows several animal instagrams, gets excited about going to the zoo or the aquarium. A lot of Torontonians have a love/hate relationship with raccoons, but I LOVE them and I got to pet one after a family of chubby baby raccoons surrounded me, looking for food. I washed my hands right away, of course, but only after squealing about how much I love the little babies.

I have a cat and a dog though. The cat, Kingslee, is my adorable baby/old man who just turned 12 this past summer. I tell everyone he will live to thirty because I cannot handle imagining otherwise. My baby. Forever. Always. I pull out my baby talk just for him. 

Are you a good cook? If yes, what is your specialty? If no, what is the dish you wish you were able to cook?

I’m more of a baker than a cook! I like that baking is more specific, especially with measurements. I have the hardest time with the vagueness of meal recipes, especially my mom’s, where the amount of an ingredient is “to taste”. I do make some Filipino dishes though, like beef mechado or our version of spaghetti (which typically involves banana ketchup).

I mostly bake cookies, but I also make cakes, with hopes of making my own wedding cake one day! The oven in my home is very small though, so I don’t bake much anymore. I do, however, make lots of mug cakes, especially ones with lots of sprinkles. One thing that I should actually make again (because it’s been forever and I love them so much) are oreo cheesecake cupcakes, where the oreo cookie is the crust. It’s so good. My mom is also forcing me to make a few different types of cookies for Christmas this year. How she thinks we’ll finish it all (since it’s unlikely we’ll have a big Christmas party like we usually do), I don’t even know!

What do you love most about writing?

Just… the creation of it all—the world, the characters, the relationships. There is so much you can do and the only limits to your imagination is you. There is so much growing we can always do to create and create and we only stop creating when we just do. 

What is your favorite movie from your childhood?

The Princess Bride. I’ve seen it so many times, I don’t even know the number. My earliest memory of watching it is asking my mom to put it on and her saying I’ve already seen it. I watch it every year! And I know all the lines.

What was the hardest poem to write in SO SAYS THE HEART? And in SPEAK YOUR DARKNESS?

The thing about SO SAYS THE HEART is that it’s my recovery book, following a major breakup. I got out of a relationship that was about to get to its 6th year. I had been living with my partner and we were talking marriage. We kept trying to convince each other that we would always be together, there would never be anyone else, etc etc.

But when something isn’t working, that’s what you have to accept. Coming to terms with that was pure agony, but since the beginning, I told my partner that if there are any doubts about being with me, we couldn’t be together. And so it ended. 

That meant SO SAYS THE HEART was painful. I cried writing half of the book. That first half? It’s bitterness and heartbreak and wondering what happened and why. The second part was when I started accepting it. Here’s the thing though: I wrote both parts at the same time, because some day were good, others were bad, and you can grieve a relationship, and grief isn’t some linear path. I was grieving, trying to heal, still grieving, and healing. Back and forth. 

Some line that will always stick out are these, from Father (pg 41 in SSTH):

We are not who we were.

You are not who I loved.

And I am not what you wanted. 

For SPEAK YOUR DARKNESS, it might be Prayer (pg 35).

For context, I was raised Catholic and went to Catholic elementary and secondary school. I went to church every week, went to confession, read the Stations of the Cross every Good Friday. There was always a rosary in my family’s car. I always believed in god until I was a sixteen and falling into depression. I still cry thinking about sitting on my bedroom floor, wondering why I would feel this way and why god would do that to me. I still grapple with religion and when I am at my worst, I always wonder about god.

I stopped looking for angels in the sky.

Don’t press my palms together in prayer.

When I whisper under my breath,

I no longer call out to my god.

If he’s out there, if he’s real,

Then why won’t he hear me?

That is all I can ask of him now. 

If you watched the show, who is your favorite F.R.I.E.N.D ?

I grew up watching this show but I don’t really care about it, tbh. Unpopular opinion: I don’t think Netflix needed to spend soooo much money to keep the rights to having the show on the platform.

I’ve always liked Rachel’s outfits though.

Can you tell us more about your next writing projects, both novel and poetry?

Novel-wise, I’ve been revising a fantasy manuscript with con artists and witches, and that’s always been the project of my heart. It’s been so fun working on it again! I’ve also been working on a ghostly YA novel in verse, which should be interesting and hopefully very creepy. I have another project in the works that’s my teen rom-com with a massive trope mashup. And a new YA fantasy set after a revolution. I want to get back to writing romance soon though! Maybe something set in Casa Loma, a castle-styled mansion in Toronto. 

For poetry, I haven’t started on a big project yet, but I’ve been working on short collections that will be Kindle exclusives! The first of the series, LOVE LIKE INSECTS, came out on November 1st and has about 60 pieces.

Romantic poetry has always been my favourite to write and I’m sticking to themes to challenge myself instead of reusing the same metaphors.! For those with Kindle Unlimited, it will be free. 

What is on the top of your bucket list?

It used to be going to the Philippines, but I actually accomplished that in September 2019! Now, I’m not entirely sure what I would want to before I die. 

I want to see castles. Maybe Versailles? Or Neuschwanstein, the sleeping beauty castle in Germany that inspired Walt Disney. I want to see the tourist-y side of the Philippines with its beaches. 

Wait omg I want to touch a snow leopard and hug a red panda. Is that crazy? Whatever.

What is your all-time favorite book?

UGH I can never choose. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith. I have read it a million times. As mentioned earlier, Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente is iconic. So is The Bloody Chamber by Angela Carter. I think I might always love Roshani Chokshi’s The Star-Touched Queen. 

I also LOVE romance books, especially when they make me cry. I think I fully sobbed through Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai and The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang. On the YA side, I think I could read To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han a hundred times. 

What is the song you know by heart that you can’t help but sing every time you hear it?

Wannabe by the Spice Girls. That’s my anthem.

About Kess Costales:

Kess Costales (she/her) is a queer Filipino-Canadian author and poet represented by Lesley Sabga of the Seymour Agency. She holds an Honours Bachelor of Science in Psychology and Criminology and works at a receptionist at a non-profit organization in Toronto when she isn’t writing or daydreaming. Since 2019, she has self-published three poetry collections, and has had short stories published online and in print. You can follow her Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Wordpress (@kesscostales).

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Curiouser and Curiouser with Kyan Howland

Kyan Howland - Repped by Joyce Sweeney

Curiouser and Curiouser

Since being a child, I’ve felt how stories permeate the atmosphere.

Being a sensory synesthetic I wake every day to taste, listen, breathe, feel, and see everyday stories come and go. I worked decades as a hospice nurse witnessing those final moments, holding hundreds of stories with my heart, hearing both adventure and regret.

I’m especially curious about what others call mistakes. Like Miles Davis, I believe they can be music as you choose the next note and moment. As a writer and relentless editor, I’ve struggled with perfection but never let it keep me from making up homemade songs as a child died. I enjoy taking a few favorites and putting them to a new song on my guitar, like the one I did for a three year old called Oopsa' Daisy Dinosaur.  

And so when another mistake happened where the convertible top ordered was the wrong color, I went with it and made the most of it. Having a sandy top rather than black, demanded a blue car rather than silver. So with the help of friends I dipped my car deep sea blue. Then we added images of mermaids and ideas from stories and songs I wrote and put them all over my new art car. This has sparked much dialogue in parking lots as families ask about the rainbow hive or the phrase ‘slow is the new fast” uttered by the purple turtle on the bumper.

I believe taking time to be curious doesn’t kill the cat, whoever came up with that metaphor missed alot. As my blue cat Vega nestles beside me, she would agree, be curious and find the magic in the moment, which has never been more important at this time on the planet.

About Kylan Howland:

Kyan is an award-winning Singer/Songwriter and Author.  Her love of instruments from handspan to acoustic guitar, and her four octave voice make for an incredible reading and keynote.  Studying with Bobby McFerrin and earning her Masters in Creative Writing, she innovates with word and sound.  Westside Voice wrote “she enchanted both young and old”.  

She created the Lullaby Club online, where her stories, songs, and ASMR relax the whole family.  Her social media LIVES reach thousands and she’s been featured on Public Radio, as well as being a popular artist-in-residence at schools, hospitals, and conferences.  She painted her blue convertible with magical images from her stories and songs with the help of friends, and is beloved as the singing nurse.  

Having worked hospice and behavioral health, she knows the edge where a child jumps from a window and a grandmother reveals her secret cinnamon bun recipe with her last breath.   Her own NDE gave her a love life to cloud nine and a bravery to advocate for the planet and LGBTQ community.   

She lives on the shores of a great lake with her cat Vega, and they both turn mermaid on Saturdays, because life is too brief and beautiful, not to! 



Instagram: @kyanmermaid

Twitter: @MermaidKyan

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Meet Lauren Connolly and Her Characters

 By Elisa Houot

Lauren Connolly is a contemporary and paranormal romance author and librarian. She is the author of Rescue me, and took part in the Only One Bed anthology. You can find her on her website

Lauren majored in Professional Writing for her undergraduate degree, but never felt like she was truly pursuing a writing career until she started writing every day. The only reason she could stick with her daily writing practice was because she found the genre she loves to write: romance. For years, she avoided admitting how much she adores love stories because of the stigma the romance genre often faces. But when she embraced what she loved to write, that's when getting words on the page became easier.

Lauren’s favorite part about writing is when she elicits an emotional response from herself. This could be making herself cry, but she loves it even more when she makes herself laugh. She figures if she thinks the joke is funny, some reader will, too!

Here is Lauren’s advice for emerging authors: you don't have to write every day, but if you want to finish a project you will have to write during times where you have no inspiration. I believe it is unrealistic to expect bursts of inspiration to get you through an entire manuscript. Take advantage of those times when they come, but don't completely forget about your writing when your ideas feel flat. Keep working on your craft, until you learn how to inspire yourself!

Ladies and gentlemen, welcome! We are delighted to offer you a VIP ticket for our very special show today, starring our equally very special author, Lauren Connolly… and her characters.

Please give a round of applause to our guests…

Paige and Dash, from Rescue Me

Olive and Theo, from The Bed Hierarchy (available in the Only One Bed anthology)

Holly and Ben, from You Only Need One

Hannah and Nathan, from Love and the Library


Round One

Paige, Olive, Holly and Hannah sit on a large couch near Lauren while Dash, Theo, Ben and Nathan stay behind the scenes. 

Ladies! We will give you a scenario, and you will have to determine which of these gentlemen over there will be the best to have by your side. You can take your time and discuss it before giving an answer. Lauren will help you if you can’t reach a unanimous decision. The gentleman picked will earn five points.

First scenario. Who is most likely to prepare a grand gesture moment for your birthday? (And, for the utter romantics in the audience, tell us what he would do) 

Hannah – “Nathan definitely would. But he already named a slice of pie after me. Is there a way to top that? Can the guys hear us?” Hannah taps her mic. “Hey, Lucifer, I think you peaked early.”

Paige – “He named a pie after you? Is that an option that exists in this world? Dash, are you taking notes? Oh, sorry, I’m supposed to be on your side. Which I totally am! Um, yeah, so Dash is great at planning fun dates. He always tries to take me somewhere I haven’t been before. I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of exploring with him.”

Holly – “Ben and I don’t really do grand. He’s more likely to get me a bunch of small things that would make me happy. My favorite snacks, a new book, a fun board game. I’d rather have all those little gifts than some grand gesture. Plus, we just started a small business together, so money is kinda tight.”

Olive – “Okay, you all are sweet, but I’m warning you now: I’m here to win. Theo would crush a grand gesture. My guy is expected to pull out all the stops on my birthday. We’re talking video slide show of every picture we’ve ever taken together set to the sappiest love song in existence. He’d probably make me a crown, to alert everyone that they are in the presence of a badass. Then there’d be a dinner out on the town, cause he’s a shit cook. I still love him though. At some point during the day he’d find an adorable animal for me to pet, then there’d be a surprise video chat with my family because you do not leave out the Buchanan clan. And since I don’t know the age of our audience, I’m not going to give too much detail about birthday bedtime. But trust me, there’d be plenty of grand stuff happening then, too.”

A silent beat.

Lauren – “Wow, okay. That was a lot, Olive. And that does sound like an awesome grand gesture. But… I think I have to go with Hannah’s Nathan, only because he’s already proved he’s up for a grand gesture with that pie-thing.”

Olive – “Bullshit.”

Hannah – “Score!”

Five points for Hannah and Nathan.

Second scenario. You just fought with your love interest over something stupid, and neither of you is willing to admit they’re wrong. Who would be the most likely, between the four gentlemen, to reach out and apologize? 

Paige – “Dash! We’ve gotten so good at communicating, but also, he’d probably worry I’d tell my parents about our fight. I think my dad scares him. I mean, Dash isn’t really scared of him. Just a little. He may or may not have compared him to the Grim Reaper.”

Olive – “First off, I now want to meet your dad. And second, Theo would have to apologize because I’m never wrong. Just depends how long it takes him to figure that out.”

Hannah – “I’ve got to be honest, I’m not sure Nathan would. Arguing with each other is our thing. We’d probably have to settle the dispute by playing Mario Cart. Loser apologizes!”

Holly – “Ooo, I like that idea. Board game battle would be my choice! But Ben would definitely apologize before we got that far. I mean, I gave the guy my kidney. That pretty much means I win all arguments for the rest of eternity. Not that I’d hold that over him…” 

Lauren – “Good points all around, but Holly is definitely right about Ben. The guy just can’t stay mad at her.”

Five points for Holly and Ben.

Third Scenario. Who is most likely to prepare you a Sunday breakfast after you spent the Saturday night out late with your friends?

Olive - “Theo would make the best breakfast you could ever imagine!”

Hannah – “Didn’t you say he was a shit cook in round one?”

Olive – “Damn it. You weren’t supposed to remember that.”

Hannah – “Sorry. And anyway, Nathan isn’t much better. The guy lives off Kraft mac-n-cheese. But he would kindly escort me to the dining hall and offer to hold my tray for me!”

Holly – “Ben and I cook together all the time, so you can bet he’d have pancakes ready and waiting for me. Plus, my favorite green tea. He might even run to a bakery and grab some almond croissants. Crap, now I’m drooling. Does this game show have snacks?”

Paige – “Dash always makes sure I wake up to the smell of coffee, and after a late night out, I’d need that. Cooking breakfast, though? He’d might try. More likely he’d buy a dozen bagels or grab some beignets.”

Lauren – “Oh gosh, almond croissants versus beignets? That’s a tough one, but I think I have to give it to Dash. That idea of waking up to the smell of fresh coffee really sells it.”

Five points for Paige and Dash.

Lauren – “So that means Hannah and Nathan have five points. Holly and Ben have five. Paige and Dash have five. Then Olive and Theo have zero.”

Olive – “No points? How did we get no points?! This game is rigged!” 

Round Two

This round is called “Prove me you know me…” and this time, we invite Dash, Theo, Ben and Nathan to join their partners on stage. Before coming in front of you, Paige, Olive, Holly and Hannah answered a few questions about themselves. Now, we will test their significant others to see who know his lady best. Each good answer brings three points to the happy couple.

Ladies, when you met your love interest:

1-You were attracted to him but waited for him to prove himself to you before giving him a chance 

2-There was no chance in hell you would ever agree to a date with him

3-It was love at first sight

Ben – “Well, when we met, Holly was all about keeping things above board so nothing went wrong with the kidney donation. So, I’m going to go with option two, no way in hell.”

Holly – “That’s what I said!” Holly shows her whiteboard with the number two written on it. “I mean, I never expected him to be so hot, but I was still set on us only being friendly, nothing more.”

Ben – “But I wore you down.”

Holly – “You did. Weren’t happy with just a kidney, were you?” Holly sticks her tongue out at Ben.

Nathan – “I’m also going with number two. Shorty hated me when we first met.”

Hannah – “Well you called me Shorty! But he’s right. I thought he was Lucifer come to torment me. Still think that, only I fell for his devilish ways.” She holds up a board with number two.

Dash – “Uh, well, Paige had just gone through a bad break up, so I’m also going to say option two.”

Paige – “Dash! You dope! You’re the sexiest man I’ve ever seen, and you were working at a dog shelter. What straight woman wouldn’t have wanted to jump your bones immediately? Honestly, I was waffling between option one and three, but yeah, that break up was bad and I wasn’t ready to trust another man just because the sight of him set my panties on fire. Anyway, I said number one. Just waiting for you to prove I could trust someone again.”

Dash blushes furiously as his eyes try to devour Paige from across the stage.

Theo – “Well—”

Olive – “You better get this right.”

Theo – “I was—”

Olive – “We have zero points. I do not accept zero points.”

Theo – “Olive—”

Olive – “Just look into my eyes and read my mind.”

Theo – “Three! Happy?”

Olive beams across the stage. “Hell, yeah I am.” She holds up a board with the number three. “I knew he was the one the second he boosted me out a bathroom window so the cops wouldn’t catch us at that frat party. You know you’ve got a good guy when they help you run from the police.”

Theo – “Of course. It wasn’t my personality, or my intelligence, or my looks. Just my willingness to act as your accomplice.”

Olive blows him a kiss. “Love you.”

Theo rolls his eyes even as he grins.

Ladies, what is your partner’s most annoying habit you wish you could change?

Ben – “I’m going to say my obsession with comedies from the nineties, probably. Half the time I talk in Chris Farley quotes.”

Holly – “That doesn’t actually bother me. You know what does?” She holds up her board.

Ben – “Dark night walking? What does that mean? Like, a batman thing?”

Holly – “No! The fact that you walk around at night without turning any lights on. It freaks me the hell out! I keep thinking our place is haunted.”

Ben chuckles. “Yeah, I should probably stop that seeing as how you chuck things at my head whenever I do.”

Holly – “It’s self-defense.”

Nathan – “I’m not sure this counts as a bad habit, but I’m going to go with claiming the chair in the library she likes.”

Hannah – “It does count!” She holds up a board that reads ‘stealing the chair’. 

Dash clears his throat. “I guess, Paige doesn’t like it when I skip meals. Sometimes I forget to eat during the day. You know, I get busy, then it’s time to clock out, and I haven’t had lunch.”

Paige – “Yes!” Paige holds up a board that says, ‘Not eating enough’. “I want to feed him all the time. I’m constant shoving food in his pockets hoping he’ll remember.”

Theo sits in silence, staring at Olive.

Olive – “Well? Are you going to give an answer?”

Theo – “Just waiting to hear if you have any pre-answer commentary.”

Olive – “Smartass.”

Theo – “You know it. I’m going to say, Olive hates when I work during vacation. Since I work remotely for the most part, it’s hard to shut off that part of my brain even when we’re supposed to be relaxing.”

Olive – “You sir, are the smartest of asses.” Shows her board with ‘Not respecting vacation time!’ “Often I have to use creative threats to get him to power down his laptop.”

Theo shrugs. “Not sure I mind.”

Ladies, what are your all-time favorite songs?

Ben – “Crap. We always listen to Preston and Steve when we’re in the car together, but that’s a radio show. Um, music you like… maybe Kelly Clarkson?”

Holly – “Not a bad guess. But that’s not what I wrote.” She holds up a board that reads ‘In My Blood by Shawn Mendes’. She shrugs. “Kinda reminds me of you. And me. And how we didn’t give up.”

“I like that song,” Ben says softly, and they share a smile across the stage.

Nathan starts singing off key, “I like me better when I’m you.”

Hannah sings back, “I like me better when I’m with you.” She holds up a board with the words ‘I Like Me Better by Lauv.’

Nathan – “She played that on repeat for week straight.”

Hannah – “Still love it!”

Dash – “Paige likes listening to country. There’s this one song she always plays when she’s driving her Impala on some backroads. I think it’s called My Church.”

Paige – “I can’t believe you remembered!” She holds up her board with ‘My Church by Maren Morris.’

Theo – “Just based off of what you sing in the shower I’m going with WAP.”

Olive – “Damn it! You’re right, I should’ve written that. Still, your guess was in the ballpark.” She holds up a board with ‘Pynk by Janelle Monáe.’ 

Theo – “Ah, no, you’re right. I should’ve known you go with Monáe. That’s my bad.”

Olive sighs in defeat. “Maybe we should stick to beer pong instead of trivia.”

And our winning couple tonight, with twenty points, is…

Hannah and Nathan!

Thank you so much for joining us tonight, and we hope this made you want to read more about our lovely couples and their stories.

Nathan crouches down so Hannah can latch onto his back for a piggyback ride. They then proceed to march around the stage, cheering in triumph over their glorious victory.


Tuesday, November 24, 2020

The Call With Hannah Lapehn

Agent Lynnette Novak emailed me about a week after I queried her. In that email, she asked if she could set up a phone call. Of course, I said yes! I used the time in between to research pretty much everything about her, the Seymour Agency, and their reputation. I called my mentor, spoke with other writers and had lots of questions lined up to ask her. 

When Lynnette called, I knew right away that our personalities were going to mesh well. She had a lot of questions for me at first, then she talked about my story. That’s what really drew me in. Her passion for my work and her belief that it was something special was exactly what I was looking for. 

Lynnette’s transparency was also a selling point. She agreed to let me contact another client of hers, answered all my questions, and explained what her editorial style looks like. 

Lynnette offered me representation during that call. I took some time to mull it over and email other agents I had queried. Then a few days later, I signed the contract! 

About Hannah Lapehn:

Picture book writer Hannah Lapehn is a member of the SCBWI and Julie Hedlund's 12x12. She has attended many conferences including the Highlight Foundation's Crash Course into Children's Publishing, the SCBWI Middle of the Map conference, and Hannah Barnaby's picture book workshop. In 2019, she was selected by author Jill Esbaum for the PBChat Twitter Mentorship Competition. 

Hannah likes to write stories that make kids laugh and think about others. She's always on the lookout for creative ways to make that happen. 


Facebook: Hannah Lapehn

Twitter: @HannahLapehn


Thursday, November 19, 2020

What Should the Next Five Years of Disability in Publishing Look Like?

 By Madison Parrotta

Disability often remains the afterthought when it comes to diversity in publishing. Although more disabled authors are being represented and published, the numbers are still very low. And even though you may see more books than ever with disabled characters, it doesn’t necessarily mean that those books are Own Voices.

Lillie Lainoff is the founder of Disability in Kidlit and an advocate for disabled writers of all kinds. Her debut, One for All, will be published in Winter 2022 with Farrar, Straus and Giroux. She obviously wants to see more disabled stories by disabled authors in the coming years—so many more that she can’t read them all—but there’s much more when it comes to disability diversity. 

Here is Lillie’s wishlist for more disability inclusion in publishing:

An end to traditional gatekeeping and a change to the structure of publishing. Most authors and publishing professionals know that the industry is made up of cis, straight, white, nondisabled women. There may be more diversity when it comes to internships and entry level jobs, but there needs to be an overhaul of more disabled workers in all facets of publishing and agenting, and especially in the higher roles. Getting disabled professionals to that level will involve figuring out why they’re not in these positions now. Is it because acquisition meetings aren’t accessible? Is it because they need to work remotely? Or maybe the salaries are too low? 

Disability representation in more genres. Right now, most disability representation is in contemporary MG and YA, though not all are #OwnVoices. While these are obviously great genres, the kids who are reading those stories have few stories to grow into as they get older and become adults, and the lack of disability diversity in other MG/YA sub-genres (and other adult genres like Science Fiction/Fantasy and Historical) does a disservice to all disabled readers. In addition, Lillie would like to see the eradication of sicklit and inspiration porn, as well as characters who are physically disabled and have mental illnesses and multiple disabilities.

An end to publishers using marketing and/or readership as an excuse to not buy disabled books. 20% of the US population is disabled, so there is definitely a wide readership. In addition, many disabled people read! When it comes to marketing, there’s not much research being done in terms of disabled readers or disabled books, and it’s difficult to have a market without that. But there is a shift happening, albeit slowly. 

About Lillie Lainoff:

Lillie Lainoff received her B.A. in English with a concentration in creative writing and distinction within the major from Yale University. She currently lives in Norwich, and is getting her MA in Creative Writing Prose Fiction from the University of East Anglia.

Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry has been featured in The LA Review, The Washington Post Outlook, Today’s Parent, via the Disability Visibility Project, Washington City Paper, and The Yale Daily News, amongst other places. She’s received recognition from Glimmer Train and The Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, and won the 2019 LA Review Literary Award for Short Fiction. She was a featured Rooted in Rights disability activist, and is the founder of Disabled Kidlit Writers (FB).

As an undergraduate, Lillie was a member of Yale’s Varsity Fencing team. As a senior, she was one of the first physically disabled athletes to individually qualify for any NCAA Championship event, and helped her team to an end-of-season 10th place ranking by the National Coaches Poll. She still fences competitively and coaches. In 2017, she was named a recipient of the inaugural Spirit of Sport award by the US Fencing Association.


Twitter: @lillielainoff


Instagram: @lillielainoff

Lillie Lainoff is represented by Jennifer Wills.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Q&A and Giveaway with Beth Vrabel!

By Elisa Houot

1. What was your favorite book to write ?

That’s such a tricky question! I loved, struggled, doubted and am proud
of each of my books. I think The Newspaper Club series was the most fun
to write, though. I braided my background as a journalist with my love
for small towns and quirky characters. Nellie, Gloria, Thom, Min,
Charlotte and Gordon were a blast to create!

2. Do you write while listening to music or do you need silence?

Spending so much time in newsrooms conditioned me to need a lot of noise
but no one talking to me. That’s why under ordinary times, I love
writing in coffeeshops. Right now, I actually have a framed picture of
my favorite coffeeshop hanging on my office wall! At home, my office is
in the heart of the house, right off the kitchen. I kick off writing
days by lighting a candle, settling into my armchair, and listening to a
Pandora station. The station itself shifts depending on the book. For To
Tell You the Truth, my June release, that was Ella Fitzgerald and the
Avett Brothers. For The Newspaper Club, I listened to a lot of The
National and The Frights.

3. What was your favorite middle grade book growing up?

Where the Red Fern Grows had a huge impact on me on a kid. I loved
Billy’s independence and determination.

4. Who is your favorite fictional character ever, and why?

Oh, this is a tough question for sure! Anne of Green Gables and I are
kindred spirits, so I’m going to have to go with her.

5. What is the one advise you would have to new writers?

My biggest piece of advice is to tell yourself the story first. Some of
the best writing takes place long before you ever pull up that new
document or turn to a blank page. Fall in the love with the characters,
imagine the critical moment when everything seems lost, think through
how you’re going to pull everything together at the end. And then, when
you’re so excited about this story that you feel like you might burst,
that blank white page won’t look intimidating; it’ll seem like an

Be sure to follow Beth on Twitter, Instagram, and "like" her Facebook page to be eligible for this giveaway to win book one and a poster of The Newspaper Club! 


Be sure to follow Beth on Twitter, Instagram, and "like" her Facebook page to be eligible for this giveaway to win books one and two of The Newspaper Club! 


About Beth Vrabel:

Beth Vrabel is author of the Cybils’-nominated Caleb and Kit, ILA award-winning A Blind Guide to Stinkville, JLG-selection A Blind Guide to Normal, The Reckless Club, the Pack of Dorks series, and The Newspaper Club. She lives in Connecticut with her family.




Tuesday, November 10, 2020

The Importance of Horror in Kidlit with Hannah Kates

By Madison Parrotta

Of the many genres in Kidlit, horror is one that tends to be tiptoed around, especially for middle grade books. Author Hannah Kates, however, shines a light on horror through her writing, and deems horror to not only be entertaining, but important for kids and teens alike. She names herself the “author of strange tales,” even though as a kid, she was easily spooked by everything and couldn’t watch scary movies.

Ironically, this fear got her started with writing horror for kids. As a kid, she one day came home to find that her hamster had had babies and then ate them, which made for a terrifying experience. This later inspired her work as an adult, and this was when she discovered that kids like scary books, even though horror is an underrated genre.

Even so, the common tropes of the horror genre are known to nearly everyone—vampires and werewolves. They’re not just made-up creatures from out of the blue, but they come from fear. Vampires are representative of the fear of consumption, while werewolves invoke a fear of all the changes that come with puberty. What one can glean from all this is that horror can teach lessons, especially to children.

According to Hannah, the most important thing that horror can teach is that fear isn’t necessarily a negative emotion. What is scary for kids and adults alike is usually things that don’t make sense, but when horror characters face their fears and survive, they are the ones who are in charge and have power. When kids see themselves represented in an MG or YA book, they realize they too can survive their own struggles.

In Hannah’s words, “Life can often be frightening, confusing, and bring turmoil without any explanation or reason. Scary stories prove to us that we can make it through. We can be heroes, we can find help, and we can actualize these experiences/the second and third-order consequences they have in our lives.”

About Hannah Kates:

Hannah Kates ran away to join the circus at a very young age. Aside from being an author, she also considers herself a professional adventurer and has chalked up misadventures everywhere from the streets of Mumbai to the ranks of the French Foreign Legion. If she's not skulking around cemeteries, you can find her running for ridiculous distances, having tea with her corgi, Bilbo Handsomepants, or playing honky-tonk piano.


Twitter: @hannahkates1


Thursday, October 29, 2020

Author Spotlight: Jennifer Beckstrand - Mom, Mathematician, Author

By Leah Kornacki

Today we are very proud to shine a spotlight on our client and friend Jennifer Beckstrand. Jennifer has been represented by the agency for ten years now, and was discovered by our founder Mary Sue Seymour. We love Jennifer’s story, so we asked her to share more about how she came to be published and what advice she has for budding authors.

Jennifer is a lifelong fan of fiction, but didn't begin her journey as an author until well after she started a family. Jennifer's first passion was algebra, and she actually holds a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics. Even though She isn’t a career mathematician, Jennifer says the math degree was probably the best decision she’s ever made because it has come in handy getting all six of her kids through high school and college. 

Her dream of writing came after she had her fourth child and began to suffer from insomnia brought on by restless thoughts. When she couldn’t sleep, Jennifer would write a Western romance story in her head. Eventually, she looked forward to bedtime more than ever before because she could spend the time exploring more of her story.

“You know how about four kids into your life you suffer from chronic insomnia because you can’t stop wondering what you forgot to do that day—like hug your child or go to the bathroom? 

Anyway, that is basically how I started my writing career.”

Today Jennifer has 24 books published (with four more on the way!), but she wasn’t always a book writing machine. She says it took her 14 years to finish her first novel, a 130,000-word Western historical romance titled Rachel’s Angel, which won best novel in the League of Utah Writers Contest in 2008 and first place in the Inspirational category at the Utah Romance Writers Conference in 2009.

She says the first thing aspiring writers must make peace with is the very difficult and painful realization that not everyone is going to like their work.

“I pitched my book to one agent who wasn’t interested because she said it wasn’t “steamy” enough. Another agent judged my manuscript in a contest, and I could tell without her having to spell it out for me that she hated my story with a white-hot passion.” 

It was Mary Sue Seymour who finally showed interest in Jennifer’s work. Mary Sue was looking for an author who could write inspirational romance, and she knew Jennifer was the right fit for the agency. Today, we know Jennifer as a resident rock star in Amish Fiction, but it was Mary Sue who originally suggested she research the genre. Jennifer quickly put together three synopses and a fifty-page query of her first Amish romance.

“Soon thereafter, ON MY BIRTHDAY, Mary Sue called with an offer to represent me—and a charge to ‘hurry and finish that book.’”

Five months later, Jennifer signed a three-book deal with Guideposts Books for her first Amish romance series, Forever After in Apple Lake.

From the beginning, Jennifer has dedicated herself to becoming the best writer she could be. Early on, she sought help and guidance from her author friends and attended conferences and workshops. She didn’t go it alone, and she didn’t try to rely solely on her storytelling talents. Instead, she researched and read up on writing and editing fiction. Jennifer recommends aspiring authors pick up a copy of Self-editing for Fiction Writers. She says its principles made her a significantly better writer, and she promises she isn’t exaggerating when she says reading it was “absolutely life-changing.”

Jennifer has also co-written her own nonfiction book for helping creative people called Big Ideas. It’s about how to get better ideas and more of those “Aha! Moments” by allowing your brain to go into “rest mode” rather than trying to squeeze ideas and creativity out on demand. She says her ideas usually don’t come easily, and if the inspiration isn’t flowing, she will spend lots of time contemplating and ruminating, sometimes staring at a blank screen. The problem is, sitting still at a desk for more than a few minutes makes her fall asleep.

“The advantage of being a task-oriented, stay-at-home mother is that many of my daily jobs allow ample time for musing. I ruminate while puffing on the treadmill or running a vacuum over my carpet or taking a shower. I am notorious for long, indulgent showers—my guilty pleasure. I do my best thinking in there. (My apologies to the green movement. But I do recycle!)”

At the same time, Jennifer doesn’t give her hard work enough credit. She balances creativity with research. She doesn’t consider herself an expert on the Amish, but she puts in the time to get the facts right to create a believable world and characters that are a fair representation of Amish people and their culture.

“One thing I have discovered about the Amish is that they are just regular people trying to navigate life in the best way they know how, just like the rest of us. So I try to make my characters real, instead of cardboard cutouts of what people think the Amish are like.”

To create her amazing characters, Jennifer seeks additional inspiration by observing the people around her. Anna and Felty Helmuth from her Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series are heavily inspired by her parents, and she made a hero out of her daughter’s boyfriend in one of her books. This method seems to breathe life and humor into Jennifer’s characters. Above all, the magic in her work comes from telling stories centered on what she loves and believes in. 

“I would say, write what you love or writing becomes a drudgery very quickly. I love romance, humor, and faith-filled stories, so those are a pleasure to write.”

Jennifer’s formula for success has been equal parts dedication to her craft, dedication to her family, and a confidence that enables her to take criticism and use it. She understands that making mistakes are essential to the learning process, and she doesn’t let negative reviews get her down because she knows even the best writers get them. She says the only criticisms she takes to heart are from her beta readers, her agent, and her editor.

Jennifer says her favorite thing about being an author is hearing that readers enjoy her books, especially when her story has touched, inspired, or helped someone. Her next big goal as an author is to make the USA Today Bestseller list, and to get her first contemporary romance novel, Dandelion Meadows, published. In life, she says she is also striving to spend more time with her grandchildren and get better at pickleball.

Many thanks to Jennifer for sharing how she got started as an author and how she surmounts some of the challenges authors face. We love hearing how hard work and dedication can pay off!

Jennifer Beckstrand has several Amish fiction series including The Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill and The Petersheim Brothers. Lovers of Historical Western fiction should read her novel Jessie and James which is a humor-filled romance set in a late 1800s mining town. We can not recommend diving into her worlds enough!                                                                   
You can find out more about Jennifer and her books at her wonderful website:                                                                                                          

Also be sure to join her official Facebook group for updates, giveaways, and more fun!