Remember Us

Oh, this will be a self-indulgent post, so you’ve all been forewarned.

I released Remember Us a year ago today. Not my first completed book, but certainly my first published one. A story written from beginning to end, revised, edited and then put out into the world for friends and family and strangers to discover.

I have a lot of mixed feelings about the entire process. On one hand, I am proud of that book and the work that went into. It is certainly one of my proudest accomplishments, and the young girl inside me who always dreamed of being a published writer still shrieks with glee that a book with my name on it can be purchased and read.

But it has also been an eye-opening exercise in how difficult it is to make yourself vulnerable to critique, how hard it can be to promote your work, and the struggle of being a small indie author.

I’ve learned in this year that the risk isn’t the writing. The risk, for me, wasn’t even in the publishing. The risk was one I didn’t take, and that was standing up and saying, I think this is good, you should read it. I was quiet and nervous and awkward about the whole thing. I didn’t seek out bloggers or PR or say much about the book at all because I was so damn scared.

What if it’s terrible?

What if I get bad reviews?

What if these people end my writing career before it’s even begun?

And so my first book release was very small. And in some ways, that’s okay. But the reason it stopped being okay with me was because I realized I was still hiding, and I was giving all these nameless, faceless people around an inordinate amount of power over my life, and my dreams. How could I begin to think that someone could steal my writing, my art, from me? Why was I paralyzed at the idea of someone not liking my book and leaving a bad review? Art, writing, it’s all subjective. I certainly don’t like every book I read (although I will say the nastiness I see in some reviews is completely unnecessary, but you know, THE INTERNET).

I took this accomplishment of mine, this story, and I hid it. I told myself that I’d taken the risk, put it out there, done the hard thing. But I don’t think I ever did. I think I found a way to make it look like I didwithout ever actually doing it.

Art is personal. While Remember Us is fiction, it was born from a very real place. It holds truth in it, and the characters and story are real and alive and most definitely personal. And once art is made public, I can’t always trust people to handle with care. And I guess that scared me. Maybe because I was afraid they would be right. That it really wasn’t very good.

Whew, the mind of a writer. Exhausting.

Here’s what I’ve learned, and am still learning—readers find the books they need. Books find their readers. Stories are powerful, a way to unlock something in us that very little else can. It’s no wonder we feel so strongly about our favourite books.

I can’t go back and change the launch of my first novel. And that’s okay. It was really beautiful in its own way, and I received so many lovely personal messages from people who connected with my characters, who enjoyed the story, who said they couldn’t put it down. It was a brave thing, and it took a lot for me to even tell my friends and family that I’d written a book (my writing has always been intensely personal, so that was scary enough). While I plan to do things differently with Book Two, I can’t say I have regrets about Remember Us. Because it’s still there, finding its readers. It’s still my very first published novel.

But as I work through Book Two and wrestle with the ways that it has been different, I can sense that this experience will be about putting myself out there a little more. Risking more for my art, for my readers, so that this story lands in the right places too. I want to make a bigger splash with this book, even if it feels really really scary.

I wrote a book! And it’s been in the world for one whole year! And I will write more books, and sometimes, I’m so ridiculously thankful that I stumbled back into this life that I can’t quite believe it.

Here’s to taking risks! *clink!*

PS. If you’re interested in reading my book, there’s a link on the homepage of this site.

Here’s the blurb from the back of the book:

Kylie Bartlett’s marriage is crumbling. There are fights and misunderstandings and words that no one can ever take back. Marriage can be hard, but she never expected this.

And then, he’s there. That boy. The one she loved first, a lifetime ago, the one who left—the one who she thought would be her one great heartbreak.

He’s back. And he’s not going anywhere.

Kylie never thought she’d have to make this choice again. And now, with her marriage in shambles at her feet, she wonders if this is the way it was always meant to be. Or should she leave the past where it belongs?

Remember Us is a story of love and marriage, of finding yourself, and of how things don’t always turn out the way you plan when you’re seventeen.


The Unpredictability of Creativity

This time last year, I was basically a week out from the launch of my first book, Remember Us. I believe I had even started the outlining and planning for what would eventually become my current work in progress. And at that time, my plan was to be publishing that book within the next year.

I finished the first draft with lots of time to be able to do that, and I had my cover artist booked. But, it didn’t feel right. There was a tug in my gut about the timing, and there was something not quite resonating with me about it. I pushed through, started work on my revisions, made a plan for editing. Shook it off.

But the nagging, as any good intuition, wouldn’t go away. And one of the things I’ve really learned in the last year or so is how important it is to listen to that small voice. Because if I don’t listen, then eventually the voice stops speaking…or I become numb to it, however you want to think of it.

Everything came to a screeching halt. I cancelled my cover artist, just in time, because he was just about to start work. I realized that I wanted to do some BIG work on the novel, to go in-depth on the revisions. I felt like I could make the book better. It was fine, but I was feeling like it could be great, and if that was the case, then I needed to do that.

Oh, the life of a creative.

I am learning that there’s no one way to do this. I’m learning that it’s okay to veer off course, to question, to wonder. I’m learning that just because something worked before doesn’t it mean it will work now. That I can change my mind, change my goals, embrace my own routine and methods. I’m re-learning that I need to listen to my intuition, to slow when it tells me, not to force things.

I don’t when this book’s time will be…I’m still aiming for 2016, but I know enough now that if I publish it before it’s ready, it won’t find the right readers. It won’t be the story it has to be. And that’s more important than when it’s published. Sooner isn’t better. When it’s ready is better.

Remind me of this next summer when I’m trying to launch a book in the fall—summer is just not my creative jam.


Over Consumption & Overwhelm

I totally grew up as the “read anything” kid— cereal boxes, instruction manuals, church bulletins left lying around. If it had words on it, I was game. And I am still so much like this…if I’m getting bored, I am looking for words to read. The problem, now, is that these words are usually found on my smartphone.

Sigh. I know. Another post about the overuse of phones and social media and how we all need to just walk away and take a break, smell the roses and all that?

Sort of. But hear me out. I am home with little people all day long, and sometimes it feels like my only connection to life outside of children is through my phone. Sports scores, news updates, Twitter, Facebook, whatever. I scroll to find something to read, something to pass the time.

Consume, consume, consume. That’s what’s happened. I am constantly taking in information, but not putting anything out there. Instead of engaging in dialogue on Twitter or Facebook, I’m watching someone else’s. Instead of taking the time to craft my own Instagram posts or blogs, I’m zoning out to others’. And there’s a balance, sure. I need to engage and take in from other people as well as put out my own information. But the over consumption is beginning to take its toll.

I was researching the other day, and it’s research for something that scares me. I’m trying to be intentional about learning more and stepping outside of my comfort zone and pushing myself. And so, I went to my old friend Google and began pulling up websites. And I read and I read and I read. And do you how I felt after a couple hours of this?


Not encouraged or inspired. I didn’t feel ready to tackle the task. I felt like closing my laptop and forgetting the whole damn thing. Because when all you do is take in information, this is what happens. And I really believe that overwhelm is just fear in disguise.

I’m not going to make a grand declaration about stepping away from my screens, because I don’t know if I’ll stick to it. I’m trying to walk away from it. I’m trying not to use it to numb myself or kill time, or procrastinate the hard things I need to do. My first step is admitting that I can feel the over consumption, that I can feel overwhelm creeping in on me and threatening to take me down.

I don’t want fear to win, in any form.

So I’m going to finish this up, shut down my laptop and turn off my phone. I’m going to let thoughts settle and my subconscious work a little, and I am going to walk away from the screens. I’ve consumed enough. Now it’s time to create.

Dream Deferred, Again and Again

I have always lived in a very all or nothing world. If I can’t do something exactly the way I want, when I want, I freeze and do nothing. Yes, it’s perfectionism, but it’s also fear. (Maybe perfectionism is just a fancy word for fear anyway.) Fear that I will give my very best and still fail. Fear that it won’t look the way I’ve always imagined. Fear that whatever I give still won’t be good enough.

I’ve had this one particular dream since I was a young girl—I want to go to France. I know, this is hardly unique. There are millions of people who have fallen in love with this country. I’m bordering on cliche here, but it is what it is. All things Francophone captured my heart when I was young, and have held on for all these years.

My husband and I have this dream of staying in Europe for two months or so one year, taking our kids and immersing ourselves in European culture. I mean, honestly, if we’re dreaming big dreams, I want to live there. But I would settle for a months-long stay.

We’re not there yet. His job still keeps him tied here, with only a couple weeks for vacations. Financially we can’t afford it yet, on a few different levels. And it just doesn’t feel like the time in our lives to be up and practically moving someplace else for a few months.

So I tucked it away as one of our “someday” things. And expected that would be the only way I would see France. In a big, grand travel moment.

And then I was reading this book last night, set partially in Paris, and I got that familiar ache, that pang. I want to go. I mean, what if the stars never align for us to take that trip? Am I willing to keep putting off this dream trip simply because I feel like the only way to do it is in this HUGE WAY, or no way at all?

I made a line in my budget today. France. And I’m saving now, a little bit at a time, and I have a new goal: France next year. For a couple weeks. Is it perfect, the way I’ve always imagined it? No. It feels like not nearly enough time. But what’s better? A little bit of time in a country I’ve been dreaming of for most of life, or no time at all?

It’s not all or nothing. It so rarely is. It’s a lie we tell ourselves to put off big things, to hold us back from doing stuff, from shipping our work, from seeing dreams come true. All or nothing is just a way we let fear win, with some modicum of practically and logic. I’ll do it when the time is right. I’ll do it eventually. I have time.

Today is as good a time as any to start throwing a little bit of money toward a dream.


Mid-Year Resolutions

I’m a big goal-setter. Every year, around late December I start thinking about the things I want to accomplish in the coming year. And last year, I only had two real “goals.” I wanted to read more, and I wanted to write more.

I was early in the writing of Book Two, and set myself a goal of finishing it in 2016 (check! It’s in the editing phase right now, with a planned release for Fall 2016). I knew I wasn’t going to be able to write every day, and I also knew that my best writing happens in the morning hours. Once I hit the afternoon, I become pretty useless when it comes to creativity. I had three days a week where I was going to be kid-free and able to write without interruption, so I put the hours in my calendar and did my best to stick to them every week. I also made a goal in Scrivener for how many words I wanted to write each day, and I borrowed an idea from my friend Elora Ramirez and tracked my word count on a whiteboard in my main hallway. Being able to write another 5k on my board kept me motivated and accountable. I didn’t finish the book as quickly as I wanted, but I did finish it, and that’s all that matters!

2016-04-27 21.31.21

Reading. I love books, and I’ve never really needed much outside motivation for that, but I’ve been really trying to push myself lately to read more books. I started out strong, but then I hit the same reading slump that’s plagued me the last couple years. I know there are a few reasons for this—I get frozen by decision paralysis, so I’ll finish a great book and not have something else lined up, and then I can’t decide what to read next. So I read nothing, and it kind of snowballs. And then I find myself sucked into my smartphone. Also, I was editing a couple manuscripts and I find when I’m in the swing of writing, I don’t read as much (everyone’s different, that just seems to be my process).

So. I’ve decided that I am not going to let the last few months kill my year, which has been my pattern in the last couple years (I have a serious “all or nothing” problem). It’s time for some mid-year resolutions, and mine revolves pretty exclusively around increasing my reading. The kids and I are heading to the library tonight to grab some books, and I’m turning off Netflix and putting my phone down for some reading. I’ve got plans for some series that are new to me, so at least if they’re good, I’ll always have something new to pick up.

I’m doing some pretty detailed tracking of my reading this year and really enjoying it; I love seeing what I’ve read. I haven’t been keeping track of what I’ve started and abandoned, though, and I think I’ll do a better job of that this time.

Do you have any summer reading goals? Read anything fantastic lately? What are your tricks for reading more?

No More Rules

I have always tried to follow the rules. When they were unfair, when they seemed ridiculous, even when I didn’t understand them. At my core, I am a rule-follower.

And I tried for so long to follow the rules around writing and creativity and publishing. I never considered that there would be any way other than agent, publishing house, book deal, published author.

But there is no agent, no book deal, no resounding YES or affirmation from the powers-that-be.

So this rule-follower took things into her own hands. I wrote a book. I published that book, myself. And felt oh so proud that I hadn’t waited around for someone to tell me that it was good enough. No one is going to stop me from seeing my dream come true.

But then I tried to fit my indie writing career into a box, because as it turns out, no matter where you are or how outside the box you think you are, there are always rules. There are always tips and suggestions and ways to do things. And in this Internet world, those things can change on a whim. And I have been trying to keep up, to do what I’m supposed to do, to follow the rules, expecting that rule-following will get me the results I want.

It hasn’t. Because it’s not me. So this space is my attempt to create my own box, my own rules, to embrace this writing and creative life in a way that feels true to me. I want to connect and chat, I want to share my writing world with you. There is no weekly or monthly letter, but you can sign up to hear when I’ve got something special happening. OR you could just send me an e-mail and we can get to know each other, instead of a simple exchange of information that doesn’t actually change either one of us for the better.

I waited so damn long to publish a book. And I did it my way. It really only makes sense to do the rest of this my way too.