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Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s

So the conversation at home went something like this:

Me: ohmystars, ohmystars, ohmystars!!! Guys, guys, guys!

Family: What? What is it?

Me: I just got a starred review! A starred review!!!

Family: That’s great! Good job! How many stars?

Me (frowning): Well only one, but–

Family (now also frowning): Isn’t one bad? I’m pretty sure one is bad. Gee. I’m really sorry, Mom

Me (exasperated): No! This is good. There’s only one available. It’s just one star. You either get it or you don’t. I got the maximum amount of stars offered.

Family: . . .

Me: Never mind. I’m going to go tell my writer friends. (tells writer friends)

Writer friends: ohmystars, ohmystars, ohmystars!!!

Here’s the review:

Issue: September 15, 2018

   Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s.

By Julie Wright

Nov. 2018. 320p. Shadow Mountain, paper, $15.99 (9781629724874)

One-eyed Silvia Bradshaw loves movies, and she quotes from them frequently. Additionally, she bears a striking resemblance to Audrey Hepburn. But Silvia’s career is not in front of the camera but rather behind the scenes as a film editor. Her job as assistant to a well-known editor is consuming all her time, since she increasingly ends up doing all the editing work as well as trying to get her boss sober enough to attend important studio meetings. In the last hours for the final edit of an important movie, Silvia has to drag her boss out of a nightclub, and Ben, a great pal from her last job, steps up to help. With her boss so drunk he isn’t conscious enough to even look at the film, Ben helps Silvia finish the job. But their fledgling relationship appears ill-fated when they are driven apart by misunderstandings and lawsuits filed by a rival studio. Wright (Lies Jane Austen Told Me, 2017) presents a terrific read for romance readers who like a “proper romance,” in which the social relationship, not the physical mechanics, is the point of the story. A thoroughly satisfying read with a great happily-ever-after conclusion.

And here is the book:

Lies Jane Austen Told Me

Back when I first started writing, I daydreamed of getting a Publisher’s Weekly review (the good kind–not the ones that make authors rethink their career choices), so when my publisher wrote me to let me know the review was in on Lies Jane Austen Told Me, it took me a long time to get up the guts to read the actual review. And then I cried when I finally did read it–not because the review was bad but because it was good and because I’m like that.

Lies Jane Austen Told Me
Photo credit to Shadow Mountain

“Wright does contemporary romance right in this diverting novel with just enough heft.”

-Publishers Weekly

“Employing her own deliciously dry sense of wit, Wright deftly pays homage to the inherent romantic wisdom found in Austen’s classic novels in this delightfully fun and refreshingly sweet contemporary romance.”

-Booklist

“Modern, clever, and funny, Wright’s novel is a smart remix of tropes from Austen’s work. Lies Jane Austen Told Me is a satisfying and sweet contemporary romance that knits together romantic classics with modern manners.”

-Foreword Reviews

These reviews are humbling to me in so many ways. They don’t mention the journey it took to get me here. They don’t say anything about the stupid books I’ve written or the rejection letters of my past. They don’t give a play by play on all the writing classes I’ve taken or books on writing I’ve read. Much like a diploma that declares a student adept at their chosen field of studies without showing the frustration of late nights and hours and hours of study and practice, these reviews feel like a graduation for me. This “diploma” was hard-earned and totally worth it.

Goals, Resolutions, and Other Things in the Try-Fail Cycle

Writers understand the try-fail cycle. We understand it perhaps better than anyone because we know it creates good tension. If the character succeeds the first time they try anything, then where is the tension? Where is the conflict? How is that character to grow?

It’s interesting that we love it in our fiction and hate it in our reality.

Because the try-fail cycle is real. It happens. And it happens to more than just writers. At this time of resolutions, goal setting, and do-overs, I’ve been thinking about my personal try-fail cycle. A friend of mine made an incredible bucket list of goals she had achieved and other goals that were still out there. I loved her list and realized that, on the try-fail cycle, I have failed enough that I’ve been able to succeed too.

That is what comes from not giving up.

And so I am shamelessly stealing this idea  and making my own list. Thanks Melanie Jacobson (Truly, thanks, girl. You rock). The ones with the asterisk are achievements unlocked. The ones in bold are still out there to be achieved.

* See my book in print with my name on the cover

* See my book at Barnes and Noble

See my book in hardcover

* Hit a best seller’s list

* See my book on a bookshelf in another state (thank you, New York!)

* Have my books made into audiobook

* Win a major peer-reviewed literary award

* Get an agent (my agent is awesome)

* Get fan mail (not going to lie, I really love my fan mail)

Get published with Disney Hyperion. (Seriously, I want an acceptance letter with Mickey Mouse on the letterhead. I want it like I want to breathe)

Have a box of my books, printed in a language I can’t read, arrive on my doorstep

* Rock a school visit like a boss

* Have a signing with a line that takes hours to work through (this comes from rocking a school visit like a boss)

Sell movie rights

See my books translated to the silver screen (I’d even eat popcorn to celebrate the occasion—even though movie popcorn always makes me sick)

* Be interviewed by a magazine

Get a starred review

* Speak at Comic Con

* Have one of my hero authors stand in my line and buy my book without any prodding from me

* Teach at a major writing conference

* Go on a multi-state book tour

* Go to BEA

Be sent to BEA by my publisher

See a stranger reading my book in the wild (people tag me with photos of people reading my books in the wild, but I’ve never seen it with my own peepers)

* Be on a favorite’s list at a library

Write all the books that are currently in my head.

Be a force for good in helping other authors.

There aren’t as many bolded items as there used to be, which is awesome. But the thing is that I have rejection letters,  abandoned manuscripts, and reviews that are so not nice that they have become hysterical to me. There were a lot of fails that gave me the privilege of changing a bold wish to an asterisk of accomplishment. Something I got from all this is that it is okay to fall and skin your knee. It’s even okay to fall and skin your heart. That’s what band aids and new days are for.

So whatever your thing is–writer or otherwise– there are goals out there to reach and resolutions to be made to reach them. Go out and try today. Don’t worry about the fail part; it may happen or not, either way is okay. Either way, you grow, stretch, become. Either way, you are on your way. 

“Laughter is timeless, imagination has no age, and dreams are forever.” –Walt Disney

 

Interview with Frank L. Cole

Tell us about yourself: one thing mundane, one thing fun, one thing exciting, one thing happy, one thing weird, one thing hilarious, and one thing of your choice.
  • Weird – I take baths. At least 3 or 4 a week. That’s where I go to read and to plot out a book. In the bath.
  • Mundane – I don’t like Jell-O at all. I think it’s stupid, like an annoying table decoration, wobbling in a bowl, which I won’t eat from. Ever. Oh, and I can’t stand whipped cream. Vomit.
  • Fun – In awkward situations or group meetings, I like to do stupid human tricks. Yoga poses, double-jointery, horrible impersonations (that sound nothing like the person I’m impersonating), and such.
  • Happy – I like to write while wearing wool socks.
  • Hilarious – I’ve been on National Television for slapping a wrestler.
  • Exciting – I sold another book! The World’s Greatest Adventure Machine will come out some time in 2017 from Delacorte, Random House.
  • My Choice – I’m a sleepwalker, sleep talker, night terror professional. I’ve stuck my hands in ceiling fans more times than I can count, and there are permanent indentations in my walls from where I’ve run headfirst into them because I was being chased while sleeping. Ask my wife, who had no idea I did this sort of thing before we were married. 
There you have it, folks . . . Frank has slapped a wrestler. I’m totally taking you out to Jello to celebrate. Not that anything can top wrestler-slapping, out of everything that has happened throughout your publishing career, what is your single best moment ever?

That phone call from my agent when we sold The Afterlife Academy. I thought I would be more composed, but I was standing at work surrounded by other managers and my boss, and my boss’s boss, and I squealed and leapt and twirled like an idiot.

Your favorite worst review (I’ll tell you mine if you tell me yours).

They all hurt, but this one was particularly rough and yet funny: 1-star on Goodreads. “Cute, imaginative, fun characters–but, boy, does it drag on. Too over the top for me. Should’ve been a short story.” That was my first Hashbrown book, which was not even 100 pages long. 

Mine was a one star, one word, three letter review: BOO. I’m pretty sure she wasn’t trying to scare me but was instead boo-ing me off the literary stage. I felt terrible for all of three minutes before it struck me how hilarious a boo-review really was. And on the topic of reviews: what is your favorite book to read? And why?

I’m about to start reading Harry Potter again, for the umpteenth time. I just need to be whisked away into a believable world and I can’t think of another series that does that for me quite like those amazing Harry Potter books. I think I’ll start with book four this time, and work my way around to book three to finish, because why not?

You’ve been around a lot of authors throughout your career and, doubtless, have heard all kinds of writing advice. What’s the best thing anyone has ever told you about writing?

Move on from my book and write something else. If I had never listened to that piece of advice, I would still be peddling my first novel to agents and publishers and touting it as the greatest book ever. It’s not. And it took writing something else to help me realize that.

That is GREAT advice. What advice would you give to an aspiring author?

You should perpetually be working on your next project. I get excited just as I’m about to wrap up a book, knowing that I can start on something new. The discovery phase of writing is where I think someone advances the most as a writer.

Also great advice. Sooooo . . . E Book or paper?

Oh, paper. A million times over. You can chuck a book when something happens that ticks you off. You can’t do that to an iPad

Dude? You throw books? I don’t know how I feel about that. I sing to books and tuck them into shelves lovingly and pet new books who come to live in my house. (okay fine, I’ve thrown a book or two as well. Some of them just deserve it). Tell us about your process (not in book throwing, but in writing). Do you have daily word goals? Or do you squeeze the words in wherever they might fit?

I think my writing process is really unhealthy. I have to take days off work to write for huge chunks at a time. And then I won’t write for a week or two. Then, I have to reread what I wrote, which takes forever, and start all over. It truly is a miracle I was ever able to finish a book.

Any process that results in a finished work is a successful process to me. Speaking of success, if you could take any three authors to dinner, who would they be and why?

J.K. Rowling (but she’s buying), Stephen King (because I’m a nervous eater anyways, might as well give my indigestion a face), and Julie Wright because I hear she’s a hoot!

J.K. is buying? I am SO there! As long as we’re dreaming about meeting people we’re unlikely to chat with face-to-face, if your characters, Walter and Charlie, were to have a chance to say something about you as their creator, what would they say?

I think they would ultimately be happy with me, although they would have some bitterness towards me. We’d have to have one of those get togethers where they tell me how awful I was as a creator, because I just about gave up on them. Shelved them. Stuck them in a folder hiding on my desktop, because I didn’t think anyone would want to read about them. And every so often, they would scream at me, and I would read what I wrote and think, man, I really like these kids.

So there you have it. Frank is decidedly awesome and also signed a new book deal, which means we have more great stuff to read! Check his book out! He’ll also be speaking on panels at Comic Con, so if you’re going to be there (and you really should), make sure you check out his panels or have him sign your book at the Shadow Mountain booth where he will be signing copies of The Afterlife Academy.

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Life, the Universe, and Everything

LTUE is a highlight of my year. It is a time when I have the luxury of getting together with likeminded people to debate the finer points of the literature we all love. The symposium is one of reflection, education, and absolute fun. It’s a place to get your nerd on and wear it with pride. If you feel like talking nerdy with me, join us:

February 12-14, 2015

Provo Marriott Hotel & Conference Center

I’m kind of completely thrilled over this year’s schedule because, for the first time ever, I am on panels that will take a journey through the spectrum of being an author from start to finish. Panels allow a dialogue between  the panelists and audience that always feels like it’s just getting starting at the time it’s ending. Doing this series of panels will allow us to explore ideas of what it really means to be a writer with greater depth than we’ve had before. I’m serious. It’s thrilling. And I have very cool co-panelists.

Friday 9:00 am: From Start to Finish 1: Ideas and Preparation: Julie Wright, J.R. Johansson, Stephen Gashler, Tristi Pinkston, Bryan Beus (m)

Friday 1:00 pm: From Start To Finish 2: Drafting And Revision: Julie Wright, J.R. Johansson, Stephen Gashler, Tristi Pinkston, Bryan Beus (m)

Friday 4:00 pm: From Start To Finish 3: Publishing And Promotion: Julie Wright, J.R. Johansson, Stephen Gashler, Tristi Pinkston, Bryan Beus (m)

Saturday 6:00 pm: Writing for Children: Julie Wright, J Scott Savage, Ben Sowards, Andrea Pearson (m)

This is the symposium where I met incredible artist Kevin Wasden and Hazzardous Universe was born. This is the symposium that stretched me as an author and inspired me to write in a new genre. This is the place where a six foot tall steam punk dragon will be unveiled in anticipation of Jeff Savage’s new series. In short, this is the place to be this weekend. To learn more, and to be where all the cool kids are playing, go here: LTUE

And to celebrate the life the universe and everything, I leave you with a bit of fun trivia and an emoticon from God.

Trivia: The escape velocity to leave our galaxy (from Earth) is 42 Kilometers per second.

Latest picture from the Hubble Space telescope

Latest picture from the Hubble Space telescope

Connected

I’m a writer. Obviously.

I’m actually a lot of things: Wife, mom, daughter, sister, friend, housekeeper, student, marketer, photographer, cover designer, historian, cook (not a good cook though–more like the kind at a fourth rate restaurant in a creepy back alley; don’t ever ask me to cook for you if you value our life). In spite of all the things I do and am, writer defines me. My first indication of being a writer was in second grade. The teacher asked us to write down what we did best and how we thought we could use it as a career. I put down write as my thing I did best and put writer as my career choice. So I’ve known for a long time that this is who I am.

I’ve worked at being a writer my whole life, from poetry to short stories to novels to screen plays to articles to ad slogans. If a thing can be put into words, I’ve tried to be the one to make the words.

But I don’t always succeed. I have more rejection letters than most people I know. I have nice letters, form letters, letters that feel they were written by the head of the department of ruination, letters that sing praises to my words and curses to the timing. I have acceptance letters too. And I’ve actually made a career out of this thing I said I could do back in the second grade.

While cleaning out my garage the other day, I found something that halted pretty much all work: a box of old things. Really old things. The kinds of things where the paper crackles with fragility. Newspaper articles from my long dead great grandmother. Her name was Dezi Irene Dunlap.

She was a writer.

I had some vague knowledge of this before but never had I realized the depth of our connection. My great grandma wasn’t just a dabbler-writer. She was serious about her craft. The first news article–the one that caught my attention as I moved the box from one shelf to another– announced on the society page in bold print

Feasting the Muse . . .

The article shares the details of an awards banquet for short stories. A picture of my great grandmother ties up a good portion of the left bottom corner of the newspaper and the caption declares her to be a “national magazine writer for the Saturday Evening Post and other slicks” My great grandmother! How cool is she? And I hadn’t really known the extent to how much she wrote, to how dedicated she was to the craft.

Inside this particular box I found several of her stories as they were published in national magazines including the Ladies Home Journal, Saturday Evening Post and Good Housekeeping. I found rejection letters. I found signed contracts. I discovered she’d actually been the president of the League of Utah Writers at one point in her life.

And on April 16th, 1944, my grandma was featured in a newspaper article that  discussed how Salt Lake City would one day be a focal point of great creative writing. The article mentions how many Salt Lake writers were coming to the fore in ever increasing numbers, their names appearing in national magazines standing as a witness to their success.

It was interesting to me how seventy years later, Salt Lake could indeed be considered a focal point of great creative writing. With so many of my friends being on the New York Times list and so many more winning awards and signing movie contracts and myself achieving so many things in the literary world,  I can only smile. My great grandmother and I would have been great friends had we had the chance to know one another. She died just one year before I was born. We would have sat through banquets together, clapped and cheered for one another’s successes and maybe provided a thoughtful critique or two for each other. I am so glad I found this box and had a chance to connect to someone whose blood runs through my veins. Thanks, Grandma, for this connection to my past and congratulations on your successes, but more importantly . . . congratulations for sticking it out through the rejections and slush. That is an accomplishment to be truly proud of.

Grandma is the lady on the left

Grandma is the lady on the left

I wonder how long it took her to pin up her hair like that . . .

Find Your Story

I once had a writing teacher bring an old, muddy, scuffed-up boot to class where she plopped it down on her desk and said, “There’s a story in there somewhere. Start writing.” She sat down at her desk, and we went to work.

It’s been a good twenty years since that classroom and that boot, but the lesson was learned. There are stories surrounding us every day, everywhere we go, in everything we see. There is a story in the nail technician with chipped, cracked fingernails on her own hands. There is a story in the woman wiping tears from her eyes as she moves forward through traffic in her car. There is a story in the man who pulls into the driveway of a house after a long and grueling day at work only to remember that he hasn’t lived there since the divorce. I see stories in everything: in a smile, in a glance, in a snippet of overheard conversation. The ones I go after and dig deeper to unearth are the ones that usually have the most character–like the muddy boot. I want a story that’s been through something and is going somewhere.

I want a story that can walk over difficult terrain and climb mountains.

Recently,  I’ve come across a letter from my great, great aunt to my great uncle. I need to write the story found within for several reasons:

It’s my family history. It’s heart achingly real. And the story has feet wearing incredibly worn and muddy boots.

When I do school visits and other presentations, I am almost always asked, “Where do you get your ideas?” The answer is always the same: “There’s a story in there somewhere.” And by there “there” I mean everywhere.

So if you are in a creative slump, go out and find what kinds of stories you want to tell. What holds your interest? What makes you happy? What fills your creative well? Here are some exercises I do when it seems I can’t see the story through the mud.

  • Appreciate art. I am always inspired by someone else’s artwork. Kevin Wasden has been a tremendous resource and friend to my creativity over the years.
  • Find emotion. I need to have something that strikes an emotional chord. If I’m not feeling the love, neither is my reader.
  • Read. I get great ideas from reading, and usually those ideas have nothing to do with what I’m actually reading. It goes back to the art thing. I believe art begets art.
  • Listen. Everyone has a story–much like those old boots. Everyone has a past and a moment where they were either amazingly heroic or horrifically villainous. Listen to people. Besides, people are important and deserved to be listened to. My parents have excellent stories–some they would mind a great deal if I shared to my reading audience and others that they are happy to share. Tap your family resource (you know, without alienating that family).
  • Eavesdrop. This is a wee bit different from listening because you don’t want people to know you’re listening because it would maybe look creepy and stalker-ish.
  • Get back to work. Yes, work. Writing isn’t always fun, and sometimes you have to slug through the muddy words to get to the boot. Sometimes you have to look yourself in the eye in the mirror and say, “There’s a story in there somewhere.”

Because there *is* a story in you.

Comic Con 2014 report

Attending Comic Con 2014 turned out to be a marvelous investment of time. My kids have all wanted to go since last year’s event and have been pestering me to make sure it happened, so when I was given the opportunity to be a presenter, have a booth, AND attend, all my previous arguments over how Salt Lake is so far away melted, and we loaded up the car and went.

I asked my friends on Facebook if I should dress up in a costume or go as a serious, professional author. One of my friends, Bruce Eschler, said that I should dress up as Jane Austen. That way I could go in costume AND be a professional author.

Does it surprise anyone that I actually own a regency gown? No? And this is why I love you people. So I dressed up as Jane and took her on a tour of Comic Con. Jane had many experiences:

Being abducted by a mad man in a blue box would certainly be traumatizing enough for any upstanding British author, but then to be dropped into a sea of fifty thousand science fiction and fantasy fans? Let’s just say that poor Jane felt a tad bit overwhelmed.

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But she made friends fast and managed to snag herself a badge so she didn’t get kicked out. She especially enjoyed the princess party with kindred spirits!

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Things were going well enough until she ran into a little Troll Trouble.

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She wanted to go home after that, and some kid in a contraption called a Delorean offered her a ride home, but she ended up in some place called Hill Valley where things felt as dangerous as they did with the troll. That will simply not do at all.

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And then she met a cheeky little fellow who referred to her as his “precious.” Oh the mortification of it all!

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She was able to speak on a few writing panels discussing things like creating strong women in fiction, writing for youth, and making time in life for creativity and art. She had to work with the very incredible distraction of the emergency alert telling everyone to exit the building  because some prankster pulled the fire alarm. But the distraction proved to be a wonderful real-life example of working through, and around, distractions. She loved the metaphor of it all. She met up with some lovely people, but ultimately decided she might be better off in her own time. The mad man in the blue box was too busy to give her a lift back to her home, but he introduced her to a lovely weeping angel who offered to send her back in time.

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Comic Con was a blast. So many people had elaborate costumes that were simply stunning (such as the weeping angel). And it really was great to reconnect with so many of my friends and meet readers. My booth was great! I was able to do some magic tricks and sign a lot of books (which is always nice). And even better, my kids were able to have a FABULOUS time wandering the floor and seeing the sights. We had a blast, spent a lot, and went home exhausted. We are definitely going next year!

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Comic Con Fun

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I am privileged to speak at Comic Con and am so excited!  The panels I will be speaking on are:

 

Writing & Illustrating Books and Comics for Kids. Friday, September 5th, 6:00 pm.

 

Making Your Female Character Strong Without Turning Her Into a Fighting Machine. Saturday, September 6th,11:00 am.

 

Structuring Life to Support Creativity. Saturday, September 6th, 5:00 pm.

 

I will also be signing Spell Check and Hazzardous Universe at the Artist’s Alley throughout the whole weekend so if you are planning on being at the con (and let’s be honest, most the cool people WILL be at Comic Con if they can help it), please come visit me and say hi! And if you aren’t going to be there, you should reconsider; a world where the Tardis, a frozen Han Solo, and Studio C are going to be hanging out is definitely the place you want to be!

I love Dr. Who. And yes, I will be watching the new season premiere with the new Doctor tonight at 8. I can also be considered a rabid fan of Once Upon a Time. Emma Swan is my hero. She’s one of those strong female characters who doesn’t have to be a fighting machine.

What’s your favorite nerdy love?

Do Over

I have been writing for most of my life. I started my first novel when I was fifteen. Obviously there has to be a learning curve when you’re starting out so young. It took several years to find my writer’s voice, but before that actually happened I had two books published traditionally with a small niche publisher. The books did well and were best sellers in their particular spheres, and I really doubt I would have continued to write if those first few stepping stones hadn’t been placed before me.

But I grew as an author, finally found my voice, my style, and worked on the craft. I took classes, attended conferences, and read books on writing books. I was picked up by a much larger publisher and my career became something respectable. The problem was that those first two fledgling attempts at novel writing were still out there. I’d grown. I was better than that original author, and I cringed when people told me they read one of my first two books.

It was a beautiful day when the books went out of print. It was like a phantom from my past had finally been excised, and I could rest easy. But then people began writing me–librarians who wanted their old, worn copies replaced, fans who wanted to let other people read their books but who were afraid to loan out their copies because they couldn’t get new ones.

So I decided to maybe have a do-over with the second book (the first is beyond repair and I am going to let it be). The second one, however, had good bones–not great bones–but good. It just needed a makeover. So I opened the old document for the first time in twelve years.

It was kind of like opening a crypt filled with horrors. I rolled my eyes at my past author self so much I became dizzy. I shouted at myself as I came across phrases that were so bad, I wanted to hide for the sheer shame of them. I wondered where the adverb police had been during the creation of that book.

I learned a lot about writing in comparing my present author self to my past author self. I saw where natural raw talent trumped actual skill and allowed me to get published in the first place. But I also saw the glaring mistakes, the repetition, the lack of character motivation, the fingernail thin plot.

It was a huge overhaul and a lot of work. I truly believe it would have been easier to write a new book than it was to resurrect an old one, but the book reemerged from the ashes to be something so much better than its humble beginnings. It’s still not the quality of my current writing ability (remember good bones, not great bones), but I’m not sorry I took the time to have a do over. The education was well worth it.

A wonderful, classy designer  by the name of Crystal Liechty reimagined my cover and did such an amazing job that I nearly wept with joy. My previous cover wasn’t exactly lame but close enough.

I guess the point of this rather long ramble is that it’s important to be stretching and improving–no matter what your “thing” is. My thing is writing. Yours might be music, photography, theater or science. Whatever your thing is, it’s nice to look back and see progression and growth. Take the classes, read the books, get the education necessary to thrive in that one thing that fills the measure of your joy. And when you look back, you’ll have a journey worth talking about.

Here is the new cover for Loved Like That. (I really love it!):

Loved Like That