The Plight of a Young Writer

20180228_154738.jpgI graduate college in less than one year.  That in itself is terrifying beyond belief, since that is when I will have to start “adult-ing” for real.  I’m not too worried about it, really, except for the whole “what are you going to do with the rest of your life,” question.  This inquiry follows me everywhere like an annoying small child.  It follows me to work, to dinner, to my favorite coffee shop… and then it comes home with me and nestles up to stay for a while.

From the beginning, when I saw the possibility of this awkward and uncomfortable question (with an answer people would almost positively not approve of) lurking around the corner, I promised myself I would not back down.  I would not say what they wanted to hear (even though I’m not really sure what that is), but I would be completely honest.  I would answer, “I want to be an author.”  For the most part, I have kept to this promise.  There have been a few days I didn’t want to deal with this conversation, so I just shrugged, said “good question,” and moved on, acting like I have no plans and no idea what I’m doing with my life.  But I strive to not fall into a habit of that.

I am a writer.  I am not magically going to become one when I graduate because I am a writer now.  Hopefully, I will start making writing my career by the time I graduate, but that does not change the fact that I am writing currently.  That does not change the fact that I am on the slow, anxious, and painstakingly windy road to publication, or the fact that I do, in fact, have a plan.  I’m not sure how well some people understand that, yes, I do have back up plans if writing does not make me a sustainable wage at the start (they are, admittedly, shaky back up plans, but they exist nonetheless) and I will use them if I need to.  I hope to not need to, since first and foremost, my end goal is to be an author for a living.  And if that gets me reactions of suppressed laughter, half-hearted reassurances of “follow your dreams,” or a forced smile-and-nod, I’ll take it and run with it.


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Check out my poetry in Kentucky’s Best Emerging Poets and America’s Best Emerging Poets:



Circular Motion


We all feel like Oscar Wilde sometimes.  Well, at least like he felt when he said this quote, like we’re running in a hamster wheel going nowhere, spending an entire day debating over a single comma.  It’s like some days only move in a single circle; the moment you think you’ve gotten somewhere is the moment you realize you are right back where you started.  These are the most frustrating days.  The days it is easiest to give up or procrastinate or just bang your head against the keyboard.

Not to say that taking a step back or jarring a few brain cells is not exactly what is needed in these moments, because sometimes that is the perfect remedy, but other times what is needed is a step forward instead of around the circle again.  Skip over the comma or whatever is tripping you up.  Come back to it tomorrow or next week or the next time you start at the beginning and stumble across it again.  Work on another part of your story and then come back and fill in the holes.

I know that sounds so easy, but I also know it isn’t.  Sometimes that comma feels like life or death, but take a deep breath and remember that it is not.  It can be fixed later.  The rest of your story needs your attention, too.

Literary Cooking


The best thing ever is when you can do two of your favorite things at once. Especially when those two things are reading and eating. I like to think that C.S. Lewis did these two things often. When I was in England this past semester, I had planned to go to Oxford and visit the pub that Lewis and Tolkein frequented, yet alas, snowmageddon came in from the east (otherwise known as The Beast from the East) and we got snowed in. That pub is now on my “next time I find myself in England” list, but until then, I can live in Lewis’ legacy by reading and eating simultaneously.

It’s even better when the book and the food go together. Like reading The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and eating Turkish Delight. Sometimes, food can be like music in this aspect; it’s like that song that goes so well with the mood, but you can’t exactly place what makes it so perfect.

For me, I’m currently taking an American Literature course and we just finished post-civil war era literature. Naturally, that’s what I’ve been reading recently and, me being from the south, it’s put me in the mood for some good corn pudding.

So, in the mood of good food and some good literature, here is my mom’s amazing Corn Pudding recipe:


2 packages frozen corn

2 eggs, beaten

1/4 cup sugar

1 Tbs. flour

1 tsp. salt

1/2 stick butter


  1. Completely thaw corn.  Add eggs.
  2. Mix sugar, flour, and salt together.  Add to corn.
  3. Melt butter and stir into mixture.
  4. Pour into casserole dish and add milk to completely cover.
  5. Bake in 350° oven for 45 minutes.

Recommended reading to go with this recipe: “The War Prayer” by Mark Twain, “Desiree’s Baby” by Kate Chopin, “Chickamauga” by Ambrose Bierce, and “The Open Boat” by Stephen Crane.

Enjoy!  🙂


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The Magnificent Ten:

Ten books aspiring young adult authors (or any writer, really) should read.

A big part of writing is reading; not only reading your own stuff, but reading other things as well. Sitting around reading YA novels may sound like a relaxing weekend activity, but if you are paying attention at all to the plot, characters, style, or any other element of the story, re-reading your favorite YA novel can become some of the most productive work you will ever do.

Some of the books on this list fall into this category, while others have a bit more explicit writing advice, but all ten of these books have helped me with my writing somehow, whether it is inspiration, ideas for character or setting, or style influence.

So without further ado, in no particular order, ten books every YA writer should read:

1. Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott)

This book is a conglomeration of memoir and the writing advice you needed to hear.

2. Hamlet (William Shakespeare)

This well-known play is a great example of how to write a grief-stricken and angsty teen.

3. To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee)

The classic tale of Scout and Jem in Maycomb County deals with vastly important and relevant ideas and events in a way that stays true to life, but also in such a way that a child can understand.

4. Tuck Everlasting (Natalie Babbit)

This story also deals with deep themes like love and mortality while letting the characters run the story, thus making the reader empathetic and understanding.

5. Fahrenheit 451 (Ray Bradbury)

This book illustrates the importance of words and literature.

6. Mosquitoland (David Arnold)

I just really love this book. It is a great example of a character-driven book that also has a very engaging plot.

7. Kids of Appetite (David Arnold)

Another one of my favorite books. It shows how character relationships can develop and how these relationships can develop characters individually.

8. The Outsiders (S.E. Hinton)

Kids of Appetite is very similar to The Outsiders in the sense of how it addresses characters and their relationships with each other.

9. A Million Junes (Emily Henry)

This is one of the best Romeo and Juliet adaptations I’ve ever read (and the only one I’ve liked at all). It is amazingly done and, hey, what young adult reader can’t go for a little Shakespeare-esque romance every once in a while?

10. A Separate Peace (John Knowles)

This book, once again, deals with deep, complicated topics (war and mortality in the case of this story) and goes through the characters’ journeys of coming to terms with the complicated world they live in.

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_Good writing is like a windowpane..._

George Orwell might be the last author you would think of in regards to transparency.  One of his most famous books, Animal Farm, is essentially a political commentary shrouded in metaphor.  That being said, though, Orwell is right in saying that good writing should be like a windowpane.

Imagine the car window on a rainy day.  Think about the drops of rain rolling down, the ones you used to race as a child.  Watch them slither down the glass like words down the page right before your eyes and the blurry landscape, warped by the water, speed by.  That window is a story.  It is transparent and clear and understood, but in a complicated way.  It is those tracks of water whisked away by the wind, leaving you chasing after the characters, wanting to know where they are going and if you can come too.

Sometimes, that window is about as see-through as a mirror, but it is transparent enough to show exactly what you needed to see.



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Goodbye, Existential Crisis!

20180530_095624_0001.pngThese writing quote Wednesdays are, on the one hand, good things for any writer to remember, but on the other hand, they are good opportunities to give myself a swift kick in the pants.  Today is no different.  If anything, this post more than any other I am writing for myself.  This post is me telling myself to write the things and above all, STOP WORRYING.

A writer’s attitude definitely affects the words that end up on the page, at least from my experience.  The moment I start feeling discouraged is the moment my writing suffers.  And by that, I mean that is the moment my writing screeches to a halt.  When I question the quality of my words, my words stop coming into existence.  When I sit down to write and start worrying I’m not being poetic enough or thought provoking enough or just… enough… that’s when I can hardly produce complete sentences.

I don’t know about you, but as a writer, Id like to be able to actually write things.  That’s why I have to constantly (and I mean constantly) remind myself to not question my writing, especially during the drafting stage.  Confidence is key in keeping the stories flowing, and that’s the important part.

So, remember:  Keep Calm and Edit Later.


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Adventure is out there

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Imagine the feeling you get when you pick up a book you’ve been wanting to read for forever and you open that cover for the first time. You see the clean, crisp title page and your stomach knots up in anticipation of the adventure ahead. You’re holding an adventure in your palms.

Now imagine picking up the book you’ve looked forward to reading the most of all and under the title is your name. You wrote your favorite book and there it is, in your hands. Maybe it’s in hard back form or maybe it’s on copy paper or spread out between three disheveled composition books, but hey, you wrote that thing and you are not the same person now as when you started. You created the adventure in your hands and you have already started the journey.


things I’ve learned while pursuing a career in writing (so far):

  1. Dedication is key.

0219beacf35184d32651542ff87683c3.jpgThere is such a thing as a “casual writer” but I have found that not having a semblance of dedication to a writing habit adds bricks to a wall of writer’s block.  The less I write, the less confident I feel about my ideas and about putting words on paper.  The more I write, the more I am okay with spilling out every idea without worrying.  And more often than not, those ideas I was hesitant to write down end up being some of my favorites.  The more dedicated I am to writing, the more comfortable I am with trusting my own intuition and imagination; I am more familiar with my own style and desired outcome.

2.  With dedication comes perseverance.

I’ve put all kinds of work into my writing in the past year and a half.  That includes novel-ing, the occasional poem, and this very blog.  That means when things don’t exactly turn out the way I intended, yes I’m a bit upset or frustrated, but I’m also willing to put in more work to keep moving forward.  My soul and many hours of doing what I love (which my mom would say looks a heck of a lot like stressing out) have been poured into my writing, so I am more than willing to go just a little bit further to make it work.

3.  Location, Location, Location!

20180519_215233_0001.pngTheoretically, anyone can write anywhere.  While this is true, I find that I can focus (and therefore write) better in some places compared to others.  I know I’ve talked about this on here before (in this blog post), but it is so important.  My perfect writing spot could be totally different from someone else’s and that is perfectly fine.  The key is knowing where you work best.  Personally, I find it difficult to write at home.  I have so many things (like this tornado-stricken bedroom and an avalanche-waiting-to-happen of dirty dishes) that beg to distract me.  Therefore, I go somewhere else.  The park, a coffee shop, the library.  All I need is a laptop or notebook (depending on my mood) and some good background music.


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There is an aspect of awe in creating things.  Perhaps that is why people are drawn to it.  But, despite this awe, we have to forget it sometimes.  With all of that creation, with that comes fear and pressure; it can be a confusing mixture of apprehension and an urge to do something.  This combination is problematic, since at least for me, it can lead to a pacing anxiety.  I want to write, but I am afraid to write something wrong.

Forget all the implications that come with writing.  Focus on the words and the story, and do not be afraid to write.  Even if it isn’t what you intended, that can be changed and altered.  You can’t edit a blank page.  Just write.


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Everything I need to know I learned in elementary school

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A painter who aspires to create a masterpiece does not use cheap paint.  He uses the fancy paint that comes in a tube instead of a bottle.  He pulls out his best brushes.  He uses his most inspirational background music and gives the canvas his undivided attention.  This blank canvas deserves his best, because it’s going to be a masterpiece one day.

Do you remember in elementary school, when your teacher told you to paint a picture with your words?  It may seem like an over-simplified explanation, but it is so accurate. If you could close your eyes and listen to someone read your writing out loud, what would you see?  Would you see words scrolling across your eyelids, or would you see your story coming to life?

As students get older, teachers transition to the phrase “show, don’t tell,” to explain how a writer can use description to turn their story into a masterpiece.  That phrase is harder ambiguous and vague.  What does it even mean?  Well, it means exactly what they told you in third grade.  Paint a picture with your words.  Take it back to the basics and remember what you learned in the past.

Remember what it’s like to paint a picture and be proud of every detail.  Maybe it’s just a stick-figure drawing right now, but you captured the details of the figure’s posture and his shadow on the floor.  Maybe it’s a full-fledged landscape and you only need to try a little harder to enunciate the beady eyes peering out from the bushes.  No matter what stage your masterpiece is in now, make sure it’s a painting your readers can see through your words.  Make them see what you see when your eyes are closed.


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