New Publication Forthcoming!

August was just…a blur.

I had hoped for better this month, but September seems to be more of the same.

But I found out this afternoon a short story I had submitted will be published in a forthcoming anthology called Cursed Collectibles!

I don’t think I’ve written any short fiction the last few years as I’ve been focused on working on my books, but when I saw the topic of the anthology, I knew I had the perfect story to submit. It’s a story I had written for a class in college that’s been collecting dust on my hard drive. Of course, I ended up re-writing the whole thing anyway prior to submitting (at the suggestion of my writer’s group). But it was worth it because that story, now called “The Garden Party”, has a home! Yay!

Educated

Educated: A Memoir by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

Processed with VSCO with c1 preset

It’s rare for me to hear about a book and then actually get to read it right away. In this case, a friend was raving about it and when I said it sounded good, she brought me the book to read right away. And then I managed to convince my book club to read it a few days later.

This book was hard to put down. I read it on my vacation to Colorado so that means I finished in just a few days…which is a miracle for me right now. But Tara’s life is so interesting and the writing so beautifully done, it was impossible to quit turning the pages.

The story is disorienting at times as Tara herself is not quite clear on all the facts. And some of those facts have been deliberately obscured over the years. But even more disorienting than Tara’s memories are the truths she recounts in Educated. The truth that some people today are living this way in the United States. That there are children out there, growing up completely shielded from the truths of the world by their parents.

I deeply admire and respect Tara’s resilience in triumphing over her circumstances. Brigham Young University is not an easy school to get into, much less stay in. I think about my own college experiences and I cannot imagine college being my first formal educational experience, showing up to lecture not knowing what the Holocaust was or what a textbook is for. I surely would have failed miserably.

But Tara didn’t. And she not only succeeded, she did well enough to earn herself the opportunity to study at Cambridge and from there, her career and her destiny really took off.

The ending of Educated was really moving and heart-wrenching. I was reading it on the flight back and I was hurrying to finish it before the plane landed, otherwise I knew I’d have to park myself somewhere in the airport to finish the last handful of pages.

Educated was a really “Wow!” read and Tara is obviously incredibly intelligent and a gifted writer…I will definitely be looking for more writing from her in the years to come!

 

S.H.E: Share Heal Empower Review and Interview With Author Shannon Hogan Cohen

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower by Shannon Hogan Cohen

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower unveils the stories of twenty-four women from around the globe and across all ages and cultures, who courageously reached within to overcome extraordinary obstacles. Author Shannon Hogan Cohen has carefully crafted each story into mini literary masterpieces and paired each with art from a female artist.

thumbnail_E859C03A-B584-419E-94D1-209DDAC92BE7

Wow. Just wow.

That’s what I have to say about S.H.E. Share Heal Empower. For not being the type of book I typically pick up, it grabbed my attention and didn’t let me go.

Though maybe I shouldn’t say this isn’t my type of book because every single memoir I’ve ever read I’ve absolutely loved. From The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls to Summer at Tiffany by Marjorie Hart to Playing With Dynamite by Sharon Harrigan to Educated by Tara Westover (just read, review forthcoming), I’ve found memoirs to be beautifully touching and affecting.

So rather than saying this isn’t the type of book I typically pick up, I should say that I avoid picking up these types of books unless prompted because I don’t like feeling my feelings lol. I feel enough feelings in an average day to last me a lifetime.

You could say my hang up about memoir is similar to the hang up I have about reading World War II fiction, which is well-documented on this blog. Almost always end up enjoying the book (or straight up love it and call it the best book ever), but boy do I have a certain amount of resistance about it.

S.H.E. Share Heal Empower contains twenty-four stories from real women, recounting some of the hardest and darkest troubles of their lives. Each memoir was powerfully moving and inspiring. Reading through some of these stories truly made me grateful for my own life and everything I have.

I sometimes grow fearful that my own struggles have thus far been relatively small – meaning that the hardest times of my life surely still lie in front of me. Sure, I have had some dark moments and days, but compared to what some people have gone through, it’s really nothing. So I try not to think about the fact that law of averages should dictate that there’s trouble somewhere over the horizon.

But for me, reading S.H.E. was inspiring because reading through some of these stories, of these women who have gone through the most terrible hurts and the darkest times, gives me courage that when trouble does come from me, I’ll know that I’m strong enough to withstand it.

Out of the twenty-four stories in S.H.E. I connected most with the stories of Barbara Jean, Desiree, and Sonia Marie.

Barbara Jean because hers is a story of a life lived among horses and animals. She also recounted some heartbreaking experiences that hit me like a stab in the heart and made me tear up.

Desiree because I cannot imagine what I would do if I experienced what she had experienced losing her child in such a horrific way. But her courage to continue on and fight through her grief to a place where she gives back to others is truly inspiring.

Sonia Marie because it’s clear she is a fighter. Not only did she fight through her own terrifying health crises, she fought to be a strong single mother for her two sons, one of whom has his own health problems. And not only did she fight, but she’s another woman who had taken her darkest moments and used them as seeds to inspire others.

All three of these woman (and the twenty-one others in this book) have exhibited great courage in sharing their stories with the world. I have always believed that the best way to heal is to share with others. I think of it this way: when you are burdened with a terrible pain or hurt, every time you tell the story, you break off a small piece of your pain and give it to someone else to hold onto for you. And the people around you that love you are glad to do this for you because your tiny piece of hurt does not hurt them in the same way it hurts you. So they are able to help you shoulder your burden and over time, your own pain diminishes through this process of retelling and giving away a piece of the hurt.

If you’re looking for a moving, inspiring book to read with your book club or share with all the women in your life, don’t miss S.H.E. Share Heal Empower!

I was able to interview author Shannon Hogan Cohen shortly after the release of the S.H.E. audiobook and at the time of this publication, she is giving away a free copy of the audiobook to one lucky winner. Head on over to the S.H.E. Facebook and Instagram accounts to enter. Good luck!

prolific-preambles-2

What Inspired You to Create the S.H.E. Book?

Growing up, I experienced tension between my mother and father and knew my mother was silently suffering but unaware of the extent. As she slowly revealed her untold stories in my late twenties, I began to understand that this woman was not weak, which is how I always perceived her, but primarily a victim of social circumstance. She had done everything she could to conceal her struggles with my alcoholic father, his death at age thirty and her strained second marriage. My probing became healing for her. Her sharing became empowering. This book became an opportunity for other women to feel safe and do the same. I have learned, we are all wounded, we all worry and we are all weighed down by feelings of unworthiness. For me, the bedrock of love, friendship and community is vulnerability. These heartfelt exchanges provided me with connection and consolation, which is my hope for the reader.

Whose Story Did You Relate to the Most Out of the Twenty-Four Women You Interviewed?

Chapter Twenty-Four, Joni…my mother and who I dedicated the S.H.E. book to. Her rock solid resilience and unimaginable human spirit is inspiring. Nevertheless, each of the women who honored me with their profound stories gave me both a sense of courage and camaraderie that I had never known before. It has taken me years to put the jagged puzzle pieces of my life together. Life offered me clues to help solve my puzzle, but I ignore them at times. It was refreshing recognizing parts of myself in each of these women, who courageously reached within themselves to overcome extraordinary obstacles. These women and their stories together with the many others who have come into my life have created a circle of sisterhood. S.H.E. was born in the spirit of this.

How Did You Come to Include Art in the Book Alongside the Stories?

Once the chapters began to take shape it felt that a simple snapshot image of each woman was not enough. In addition to that, several of the women in the book chose not to have their actual likeness portrayed. I spoke with my sister Shelby, who is an amazing artist and she liked my idea.  In short, it felt right to invite twenty-four different women artists to create a unique portrait of each remarkable woman based on her storyline. I mindfully paired the artists who were able to read their woman’s chapter and were asked to fashion a specific stylistic piece. I continue to marvel at the insight and perception of each altruistic artist. Their representations came from all types of visual expression: pen and ink, fused glass sculpture, to traditional acrylic painting, and more. All the artists in the book are of different ages and abilities, which match the women they were interpreting.

What Was Your Writing (and Rewriting) Process Like?

I describe myself as an amateur scribbler. My writing process is very raw and rewrites only come after I have my husband read through the initial rough draft (of which he calls “homework”- but politely obliges). An author friend once told me years ago to read my pieces out loud and include inflection. This is extremely helpful during my writing and rewriting process, as I have the ability to be very verbose. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful editor, who understands my messy mind and has the ability to make my words pop off the page. Without her, these stories would not be architecturally solid.

Do You Use a Computer or Write By Hand Before Transcribing?

I am old-school; ink on paper. After each interview with a woman, I will listen to our conversation again and begin crafting the chapter in a black composition notebook. I am a tactile person. It is difficult for me to create from scratch on my computer with a blank screen staring at me. For some odd reason, a blank piece of white, lined paper is more inviting. Uni-bal Air rollerball gel pens are my preference. A cup of steamy coffee is mandatory.

What Were Your Biggest Takeaways From the Journey to Become a Self-Published Author?

The journey was extremely frustrating at times, but the end result was very rewarding. I spoke with several publishing houses, who wanted to tweak or modify my manuscript. This irritated me. I understand the need to “sell” books, but I was not willing to compromise certain women’s stories to appease them. Not knowing which direction to go at times was challenging at times, as I flailed forward not knowing if the decisions I was making were accurate. In the end, it all worked out. People came into my life at the right moments and were great mentors guiding me along the way. It feels fantastic to say, “I produced this masterpiece from start to finish.”

Will There Be a S.H.E. Volume 2?

Absolutely, in fact, I have twenty women already in my queue, who are ready to share their stories. It was prudent for me to take some time off and recharge. My goal is to begin interviewing and traveling to meet the women in late September of this year. My favorite part of the process is listening to the women share their life experiences, take those concentrated nuggets of wisdom and develop a storyline to celebrate their personal victories. I remind myself and the women I interview “We cannot choose what happens to us, but we can chose how we respond.”

S.H.E. book Volume One and the woman I am, and continue to become is the result of S.H.E. Sharing, Healing and Empowering.

 

Where Can People Find Out More About You, S.H.E, and Submit Their Own Stories?

On the S.H.E. website which is www.ShareHealEmpower.com. There is a tab called “Suggest a S.H.E.” which you can use to submit a story. And please connect with us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Youtube (as ShareHealEmpower) to see what we’re up to!

 

 

Featured Poem: August

August by Lizette Woodworth Reese

No wind, no bird. The river flames like brass.
On either side, smitten as with a spell
Of silence, brood the fields. In the deep grass,
Edging the dusty roads, lie as they fell
Handfuls of shriveled leaves from tree and bush.
But ’long the orchard fence and at the gate,
Thrusting their saffron torches through the hush,
Wild lilies blaze, and bees hum soon and late.
Rust-colored the tall straggling briar, not one
Rose left. The spider sets its loom up there
Close to the roots, and spins out in the sun
A silken web from twig to twig. The air
Is full of hot rank scents. Upon the hill
Drifts the noon’s single cloud, white, glaring, still.

 

via Poets.org

Week in Review July 23rd-29th

Yep.

I skipped a week.

It was a good week, just too busy to write it all up.

This week was busy, too, that only reason this blog happened was because I went on a vacation!

IMG_3466

Well. A working vacation. Maybe I’ll get to take a real vacation before the year is over. Haha. Or maybe not. I’m just excited that on 21st of July, I took the whole day off. Whole day! Imagine that! My last day off was March 31st.

It’s the little things, guys.

Anyway. Really committed to trying to shorten up these week in review posts. Lately I’ve been feeling like I’ve hit a good stride with my content schedule for Minute Marketing. But my personal/author blog has definitely been left in the dust and it’s mostly because this blog takes forever to do.

So to make up for the lack of consistent posting, here’s a largish update on Shadow of the Magician:

Last time I mentioned I was a little more than halfway through the revision, word count wise. But I’ve definitely slowed down a lot and have been struggling lately. I’ve been super disappointed about that, wondering how I was going to get out of the doldrums of the middle of the book and also make this not terrible for anyone else to read. But I had a great talk with my writer’s group on Monday and I think I know how to fix it. Yay!

I’m always amazed at how my unconscious brain seems to know what’s wrong with the book before I consciously figure it out. Any other writers experience this? Anytime the writing feels hard, I invariably realize there’s something wrong with the plot in that area. Of course, it takes me days or weeks to realize exactly what part is the problem. But it’s really incredible how my unconscious brain doesn’t let me cruise on by and keep moving forward to the end. And it would be SO easy for that to happen.

I’m still really excited about how the book is coming together. Really excited about. So excited that I think I’ve all, but made up my mind that if I can’t sell this book, I’m going to publish it myself. I’ve worked on it for so long and at this point, I feel like so many people have become invested in seeing this book to the end, so many people know about it, that I have to put it out there one way or another. After six years, the least I can do is format it into an ebook and buy a nice pre-made cover for it. Even if I don’t sell more than a couple copies of it, at least all the people who want to read it will get to do so. Better than letting it languish on my hard drive.

This isn’t a light decision. Once you self-publish, it’s pretty hard to go the other way. But I think this book deserves better than to be put back in the drawer.

So here’s my plan for the next few months: hoping to finish these edits either this month or next (but I really hope it’s this month). Then I’m going to get my pitch materials together and if all goes well, start querying agents hopefully in October/November before they close up shop for the holidays. This is probably too ambitious of a timeline, but whatever. A goal is a goal.

If you’re excited about maybe someday actually getting to read Shadow of the Magician, leave me a comment below!

IMG_3462

July 23rd – 29th Week in Review:

Started off Monday at the barn with Miss Pia. Is there any better way to start the week than at one of your favorite places? I honestly doubt it. Ended up running back to Mary’s again to buy Pia a fly mask because I literally just gave hers to Escobar cause she’d been fine with the flies all summer…until Monday when one of her eyes was all irritated. Luckily, Mary’s had a cute grey and pink version – it even has ribbons on it because it’s for breast cancer awareness or something like that. Anyway, she looks really cute in it. No pictures though because I needed to get to work.

Monday I really tried to squeeze in a lot of work before writer’s group because I knew I was going away for a few days and wanted to do as much as I could before I left. Tried to go to the library, got annoyed with all the people in the library, went to Panera Bread, got annoyed with how much stuff costs, but at least they have A/C, electrical outlets, AND chocolate chip cookies. It’s not all bad, I guess.

Honestly, on Tuesday I was kind of a mess. Was twenty minutes late to my morning meeting because I made at least five wrong turns. Not even exaggerating. I just could not drive the right way to save my life. We were meeting at Holsem so I thought I’d make up time by paying to park in the garage rather than looking for free parking. Except right when I pulled up, the gate to open the garage stopped working and that was a whole production for the parking attendant. Luckily, when I came back later she gave me free parking. Which is great because I promptly went home and bought one of those holder things for the phone so I can see the map while I’m driving.

I stayed at Holsem until lunchtime. Holsem is actually not a bad place to work. I got a lot done there. Too bad it’s more than twenty minutes from my house. After I finished at Holsem, I walked over to Pigment because I was thinking of recording my Quick Tip Tuesday video for Minute Marketing in front of their fabulous pink wall. But I realized that a) I’m not ready to take a selfie video on a street full of people b) I forgot my sunglasses in the car and c) it was like 90 degrees out.

Ended up shooting the video in my car before my next meeting in Carmel Valley. Thanks everyone who told me I looked great in that video! You too can get the look – all you need is an iPhone and a Chevy Trax natural windshield light filter! Make sure you don’t wash your car for two months – those dirt spots give your face a natural glow!

Seriously, what did I do to deserve you all? Lol.

Wednesday I went back to the barn for my last ride on Pia for the week. We have the Regional Adult Amateur Championships (RAAC) show in two weeks so I’m starting to get nervous about that. Hoping it goes better than the Temecula show. And better than the last RAAC. Last RAAC, we came in dead last. I think any place that’s not last would be cool. See, not all my goals are lofty.

Wednesday was another power work day followed by a night of packing for my trip to Colorado and daydreaming about the cooler weather I was about to experience.

Thursday I got up to do some work before the airport and…(I swear it’s always like this) ended up with a bunch of last-minute work I needed to cram in before I left for the airport. Much stress. Do not like. Luckily, the airport process itself was a breeze which was great because I did not leave at the time I planned to.

I had set aside the plane time as time to work on my book. Which was awesome. Got into a great groove. Which meant the flight was not nearly long enough. It seriously felt like twenty minutes.

Had a pretty smooth landing into Denver which I was immensely grateful for. I get motion sick and I tend to end up flying to Colorado when the weather is craziest. Also, I just don’t like turbulence. At all.

Got home from the airport just in time to leave to go meet some of my friends for sushi. I was so grateful and surprised by how many of my friends were able to make time for dinner with me since they don’t live around Arvada anymore. It was such a great night and the food was good, too.

Friday I got up early to work for awhile before my mom and I drove up to Estes Park to see my dad at his horse show. We rent a cabin up there which is super fun. Forget a beach house, some day I want to have a cabin in the mountains as a vacation home/writing retreat! After connecting at the cabin, we had dinner at the Dunraven Inn, which is a great spot for Italian food, but it’s on the outside of town so you will need to drive to it. But worth the trip! Make sure to make a reservation though.

IMG_3425

Saturday morning we went to the horse show to watch my dad ride and then we had lunch in downtown Estes Park at The Grubsteak. The burgers were SO good. I was surprised and so happy because I was starving.

After lunch, we walked around downtown before we went back to the cabin and then had dinner on the lake. Squeezed in a little more writing time after dinner and some reading before bed. Yay!

Sunday morning we packed up to go back home. Watched my dad at the horse show before driving back to Arvada. Then I did a little work before I went to meet my friend for dinner in Loveland and repacked to fly back to California on Monday.

IMG_3431

What I’m Reading:

Deep Work by Cal Newport (Finished!)

One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology edited by Lisa Mangum

Warstorm by Victoria Aveyard

Educated by Tara Westover (almost done!)

How to Write Copy That Sells by Ray Edwards

What I’m Listening To:

My Shadow of the Magician playlist. I make a playlist for each book I write and I did so much writing this week, the songs are stuck in my head.

What I’m Watching:

Nothing – is anyone surprised by this anymore?

What I’m Loving:

Colorado ❤

 

 

 

The Most Anticipated Books of 2018 and Other Bookish News

joao-silas-51725-unsplash

Enjoying this new series? I’ll be back next week with the latest rumblings in the literary world!

-Loving this roundup of the most anticipated books of the second half of 2018 on The Millions. What are you excited for?

-Check out this recent interview with Jeff VanderMeer in The Paris Review.

-Like scary stories? Check out this list of frightening books recommended by popular authors in The New York Times.

-More books picked by authors: Summer 2018 Reads. Check out Parts One and Two of this series in The Guardian.

-Black Panther fans! Shuri is getting her own comic book series! Check out the details here.

-The original map of Winnie-the-Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood has set a world record for a book illustration sold at auction. See what it sold for here.