What’s a Writer’s Job Description?

Writer Job DescriptionI’ve always found it fascinating what people do for a living. There are so many jobs and tasks out there, you can hardly imagine all the possibilities. But I also find it fascinating how people describe their jobs. How do they perceive their own work?

There’s an oft-told parable about three stone masons, or bricklayers, working on the building of a great cathedral. A traveler arrived in town, toured the exterior, and witnessed the construction.

Seeing a stone mason, he stopped and asked, “What are you doing?” This first mason answered simply, “I’m laying bricks.”

Turning a corner, the traveler saw a second stone mason and asked the same question: “What are you doing?” This second mason answered, “I’m erecting a wall.”

Moving on, the traveler spotted a third stone mason and asked again, “What are you doing?” This time, the third mason straightened his spine, beamed with pride, and responded, “What am I doing, sir? I am building a cathedral.”

I suspect the third stone mason experienced far more job satisfaction. He believed himself to be contributing to something big, beautiful, and lasting.

When writers get asked about their job, the easiest answer is simply “I write books.” It’s straightforward, understandable, accurate. However, many writers see it more deeply. Ask them what they do for a living, and you might get answers like:

  • I make up lies for a living, and people love me for it.
  • I weave imaginary worlds and invite others to join me there.
  • I create fictional characters, then make readers care about what happens to them.
  • I use to stories to inspire people to believe in love, justice, and goodness.

When I’m asked what I do, I usually answer, “I write teen novels.” That’s the crux of it. But…I have a different version in my head. Because what I see myself as doing is more like building a cathedral — contributing to something bigger, more beautiful, and lasting.

I tell stories that encourage teens to recognize they’re stronger than they think they are, that humor can get you through a lot in life, and that doing the right thing — however difficult — is the best thing for your heart and for your soul. I write books, but I hope they mean something to my readers.

Even if it’s just a fun story that gives them an escape for a weekend, that’s a goal worth pursuing as well. I think very highly of those authors who have brought me genuine smiles and made me laugh.

I hope teens also view what they do in life now, and in the future, as big, beautiful, and lasting. Because I know it truly can be. But a lot depends on your perspective.

How do you define what you do? Are you laying bricks or building a cathedral? What does that look like for you?

What Fall TV Premiere Are You Looking Forward To?

I’ve been perusing the TV schedule for this fall, with all the series and season premieres. Gone are some of the shows I watched regularly, like Hart of Dixie and Revenge. And new ones have taken their place.

While I might find a gem among the lot of new offerings this fall, what I look forward to more is the return of shows I’ve grown attached to — ones that happily continue, at least one more season. What am I look forward to?

TBBTIt started with this one on Monday night — the 9th season premiere of The Big Bang Theory. It’s tough to keep a series going that long and keep the magic. But I think this series has done well because the characters have grown as the series has continued, yet they still have their quirks and challenges. Also, TBBT hasn’t fallen into the temptation of tangents, like a police procedural that gets lost in the weeds of a romantic relationship, or a medical drama that wanders off into politics, or — let’s face it — most J.J. Abrams shows. TBBT has a clear identity, while mixing it up enough to keep fans watching.


CastleThen there’s Castle. I fully admit this is my catnip. A writer turned crime solver? A fabulous ensemble cast? Nathan Fillion? More, please. This show also demonstrates that the chemistry and interest need not die after the hero and heroine finally get together. In real life, there are still challenges involved in being a couple, especially if that couple works together in high-pressure situations as these two do. I do have a couple of suggestions for the show writers, though. We writers out here loved the references to real authors and especially the poker game, which has included such big-name authors as James Patterson, Steven J Cannell, and Dennis Lehane. Also, you might want to show Castle actually writing from time to time, so our families don’t think you just turn out novels in between family laser tag and book signings. Still, eager for another season!


GrimmTwo fairy-tale based shows came out in the same year: Once Upon a Time and Grimm. Hubby and I watched the pilots of both, chose Grimm, and never looked back. This series has had a few bumps, in my opinion, but the ensemble feel of this show has grown. And we’re now attached to the story of not only the main character, but great supporting characters like Monroe, Hank, Rosalee, and Sergeant Wu. Also, I still recognize fairy tale plot lines from time to time, and I still have moments when I turn to the hubster and say, “Wow, didn’t see that coming.” For all those reasons, I’m ready to dive back into another season of Grimm.


iZombieBut the show I’m most eager to follow again is iZombie, a comic-based show co-developed with Rob Thomas (Veronica Mars, anyone?) which premiered last year. It’s a great twist on the zombie story, with protagonist Liv Moore eating brains, experiencing her meal’s memories, and then using that information to help solve their murders. There are so many fun little references thrown in, the supporting characters are perfectly cast, and the script has great dialogue. This almost makes up for Veronica Mars having such a short run. Actually, I take that back — nothing makes up for that. Anyway, I’m still ready for some more iZombie. Coming in October…


Miss FisherI would be remiss if I didn’t mention the series I’m currently catching up on, courtesy of Netflix. I discovered this Australian delight earlier this year and binge-watched two seasons. I nearly squealed with glee when I saw that the third season was now available. (Can’t get the show here in the States while it’s airing in Australia.) It’s Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, a fabulous show set in the 1920s and featuring larger-than-life Miss Fisher as a private detective. I confess to not having read the books by Kerry Greenwood, but this author clearly created an engaging character worth several seasons of a TV series. I hope it continues, but I’m savoring every episode of season three right now.

Your turn! What fall TV premiere are you anticipating with eagerness? What shows do you think you’ll give a trial showing? Anyone gems we might have missed that we should binge-watch on Netflix?

Sharing Hunter Has a Book Trailer!

Sharing Hunter is my young adult contemporary novel which finaled in the RWA­® Golden Heart® competition. It will be out on submission to publishing houses soon, but even before its release…I have a book trailer. Which is awesome!

The owner of BookVidz, Kim Handysides, approached me about making a trailer. She’d read some of the novel and thought it was a good match for her company. I was absolutely thrilled with this idea! Bookvidz took my premise and presented it so well in a professionally packaged video. So of course, I want to share it here:

Isn’t that cool?!

If you’re an author looking for a quality video company, I highly recommend BookVidz. Check out their services and more videos at Bookvidz.com and be sure to like their Facebook page.

Some People Will Hate Your Book

Heart & BookComing off a year in which my manuscript placed in a few contests, including the biggie RWA Golden Heart contest, you might think my book is just so dang wonderful, who wouldn’t love it? I’d like to think that too. But even though my book’s not yet on bookshelves and available to get book reviews scathing enough to make me scurry into a dark hole, I have no such belief.

Instead, I’ve realized that some people won’t like your book. And that’s okay. Among my fabulous contest scores are some mediocre and a few terrible scores. Why did some judges give it high marks and others wanted me to go back to the drawing board and rethink the whole novel? Because my novel isn’t for everyone. No author’s is.

The fact that not every reader adores Sharing Hunter puts me in good company. Check out these reviews, and then the book that sparked them.

“…no more than a glorified anecdote, and not too probable at that…” – The Chicago Tribune

“…an absurd story, whether considered as romance, melodrama, or plain record of New York high life.” – The Saturday Review

THE GREAT GATSBY, Scott Fitzgerald

“…no better in tone than the dime novels which flood the blood-and-thunder reading population… his literary skill is, of course, superior, but their moral level is low, and their perusal cannot be anything less than harmful.” — in The New York Times


“The book as a whole is disappointing, and not merely because it is a reworking of a theme that one begins to suspect must obsess the author. [The main character] who tells his own story, is an extraordinary portrait, but there is too much of him.” – The New Republic


“How a human being could have attempted such a book as the present without committing suicide before he had finished a dozen chapters, is a mystery.” – Graham’s Lady’s Magazinei


“the plan and technique of the illustrations are superb. … But they may well prove frightening, accompanied as they are by a pointless and confusing story.” — Publisher’s Weekly


Just take that last one. Guess what? Sendak didn’t write this book for everyone. It’s found its way into the hearts of children, of all ages, over the years. Here’s how the Library Journal‘s described it: “This is the kind of story that many adults will question and for many reasons, but the child will accept it wisely and without inhibition, as he knows it is written for him.”

As much as I wish everyone would love my story as much as I do, some people won’t like my book, and a few may even hate it. Yet I wholeheartedly believe there’s an audience for my story. (And I’m crossing my fingers it’s a rather large audience.)

What book did you love that others didn’t? Or what book did you dislike that others loved?

Sources: 11 Beloved Books With Shockingly Bad Reviews – Buzzfeed.comMaurice Sendak’s Thin Skin – Slate.com12 Classic Books That Got Horrible Reviews When They First Came Out – Huffington Post15 Scathing Early Reviews of Classic Novels

The Golden Heart Speech I Wrote, But Didn’t Give

The RWA Awards Ceremony Program

The RWA Awards Ceremony Program

When you’re nominated for an RWA Golden Heart award, they tell you to write a speech. Even if you have absolutely no belief that you could possibly win, they repeat the need to have coherent words on a page to read just in case your name is called and you have to make your way to stage and say something into the waiting microphone.

Last Saturday night, when 2000+ writers and their guests convened for the annual RWA RITA and Golden Heart Awards Ceremony, the name announced for the Golden Heart, Young Adult category was Stephanie Winkelhake, a four-time finalist. My other fellow finalists — T.L. Summer, Diana Munoz-Stewart, and Mary Sullivan — and I applauded her well-deserved win. And I look forward to seeing all of our books on shelves in the coming years (so watch for them!).

But I still have this speech I wrote, and it seems a shame to waste it. So here goes nothing:

Who would you thank in a speech for an award you received? Have you ever delivered a victory circle speech?

Why Do Teens Prefer Print to Ebook?

Why Do Teens Prefer Print to EbookThat question — Why do teens prefer print to ebook? — has been in the topic of many conversations I’ve had with authors and parents over the last year. It’s a fact that has intrigued me, given how tech driven this young generation is. Why are they on their devices almost 24/7, but when it comes to books, they want to turn physical pages? Could anything feel more old-fashioned?

I’ve decided there are several good reasons why teens are more likely to read a print book than load up an ereader.

1. Teens view their device as a way to interact with others. Watch a teen pull out their cell phone and what are they likely doing? Texting a friend. Looking something up online. Watching a YouTube video. Playing a multiplayer video game. Snapchatting, Facebooking, Instagramming, Tumblring, etc. Devices are a way to connect to the world.

A book, however, takes you into a different world. Youth want to get lost in that book world, and it’s pretty hard to do that when you’re flipping pages on the screen and notification beeps keep interrupting. The real world, with all its connections, intrudes. The better way to shut off that stream of busyness and get lost in a story is to set aside the device and pick up a print book.

This might be changing with the generation who are toddlers and preschoolers now, because they’ve had more experience reading books on iPads and ereaders. But we’ll see…

2. Teens don’t have credit card accounts to purchase ebooks. And this is a biggie. Because you can’t buy stuff online without a credit or gift card number. My sons have often given me cash for items they want online, which I then buy with my yes-I’m-a-credit-worthy-adult VISA number.

Teens want freedom (understandably), so having to schlep to Mom and Dad every time they want a book on their device and get a credit card number kind of stinks. It’s more freeing to simply check out a book at the library or purchase one at the bookstore.

Parents and grandparents could impact this by having their teens establish book wish lists online and regularly purchasing and sending selections to a teen’s ereader. Also, public libraries have electronic book loans (like Overdrive) which make ebooks more available to teens.

3. Print books make a statement of self-expression. Tell me about your favorite books, and I’ll tell you something about who you are. Carrying a print book can be like a statement of style — conveying to the world around you how you view yourself. No one sees what’s on your ereader, but if you’re carrying around an anime book? A teen angst contemporary? A vampire novel?

Self-expression is a big deal as a teenager, because you’re honing in on who you are, what you like, what you’re about. Showing off what you’re reading can be part of that, and print books do it better.

4. Print books allow teens to identify fellow readers and connect. While carrying around that print book, it’s easy to start conversations with fellow readers. “Oh, I read that!” “Did you like it?” “If you like that one, you should read ___.” We book nerds adore these moments of finding others who love the books we love. We also collect reading recommendations from like-minded readers. Friendships have sparked through noticing what someone else reads and commenting on it. Around the books we read, we build community.

This is especially true for trend books, like Harry PotterHunger Games, and The Fault in Our Stars. If you easily see the book cover in someone’s hands, it’s a conversation starter. However, ebooks are not visible to others, so you lose that opportunity.

5. Parents are more willing to buy print books for their teens. Parents supply quite a few books their teens read. And we know they’re actually reading the book when it’s a print copy in their hands. If a teen is on his/her ereader, who knows what they’re doing? It could be the book; it could be video games; heck, it could be something illegal…

Parents still lean toward putting a print book in their hands of their children, and that means teens are still reading print books.

Do I think the print book > ebook for teens trend is changing? Yes, I do. My teenagers didn’t grow up with iPads in their hands, but this upcoming generation did. Schools are also moving toward using devices for education, including making textbooks available on ereaders, so teens are getting used to reading on screens. Moreover, I believe the book industry will (eventually) find creative ways for young people to buy books without needing credit cards.

BUT I think there will always be room for print books. At least I hope so. Although I use an ereader plenty, I still love the feel of a book in my hands, the smell of freshly printed book paper, the crisp flipping sound as I turn pages. I like seeing the spines of my favorite books on my shelves.

Do you prefer print or ebook, and why? Why do you think teenagers still lean toward print books?

Sources: Young adult readers ‘prefer printed to ebooks’ – The GuardianDon’t Judge a Book by Its Cover: Tech-Savvy Teeens Remain Fans of Print Books – Nielson.com

Summertime Madness Book Lovers: My Picks

I’ve been immersed in YA reading this year, which is my favorite genre, of course. My TBR (to be read) pile looks like a crooked skyscraper. I completely relate to the “so many books, so little time” feeling.

So when humor author, and delightful conference roomie, Jess Witkins posted her recent book picks as part of the Summertime Madness Tag, I knew I wanted to play along.

Here are my choices for the questions included in Summertime Madness for Book Lovers!

1. Show a book with a summery cover.

Boys Like You by Juliana Stone. I’ve been reading through the young adult nominees for the RWA® RITA® awards, and this is the last one on my list, which I need to read pronto before the awards ceremony this Saturday, July 25.

Boys Like You

2. Pick one fictional place that would be the perfect destination for your summer vacation.

Narnia, please. I can’t wait to turn in my essay on What I Did for Vacation titled “The Real Lion King and Me.”

Magicians Nephew

3. You’re about to go on a flight to your Summer Vacation. But you want to read a book that lasts for the whole flight, so what novella do you choose?

Before there was Hunger Games or Divergent, there were dystopian stories like A Clockwork Orange, published in 1962 and featuring a teenage protagonist. Since I’ve never read this classic novella, I think it’s about time.

Clockwork Orange

4. You have a case of Summertime Sadness. What happy book do you pick up to shine a smile on your face?

I keep meaning to re-read A Long Way from Chicago by Richard Peck. It’s a middle grade book of short stories chronicling two kids’ summer visits to grandma in the country, and I recall laughing out loud as I read.


5. You’re sitting at a beach all alone, which fictional character would be your beach babe?

Let me be clear: My real-life character would be my husband, who beats any book crush I’ve ever had.

But…if I must choose…Thorne Carswell from The Lunar Chronicles. He’s introduced in Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, but he’s a main character in Cress. He’s got that sassy swagger with a heart of gold. *swoon*


6. To match your ice cream you want an icy cool sidekick, which fictional sidekick do you pick?

Right now, I’m all over hanging out with a character in my current work-in-progress (working title: Daring Charlotte): Kat would be an awesome BF to have on a summer vacation. But if I’m going with a published choice, how about Hermoine? She’s smart, brave, fun, and socially conscious (SPEW, anyone?). Plus, I love cats, so Crookshanks would be welcome.

Harry Potter Philosopher's Stone

What do you think of my choices? And given these questions, what books would be on your list? Share your favorite answers!