Reading Resolutions


Happy New Year! For the past three years, in addition to a New Year’s Resolution, I set a reading resolution for myself. This year’s goal was 40 books, and I met my goal right before Christmas (you’ll see 45 on the list, but 5 were rereads, so I’m not really counting those). In this post I offer my list in the hopes you’ll pick one of them up in 2019. I listed my top 5 Nonfiction picks, then my top 5 Fiction picks (sooo hard to narrow that down), but the rest of the list is in no particular order. I can honestly say I enjoyed every book . . . I’m kind of a book whore 🙂

  1. Born A Crime by Trevor Noah *NF
  2. Everybody Always by Bob Goff *NF
  3. Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell*NF
  4. The Glass Castle: A Memoir  by Jeannette Walls *NF
  5. Enrique’s Journey: The True Story of a Boy Determined to Reunite with His Mother *NF
  6. Simon vs. The Homosapiens Agenda
  7. Violent Ends
  8. The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian
  9. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time
  10. One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus
  11. Olivia Twisted by Vivi Barnes
  12. Escape from Camp 14: One Man’s Remarkable Odyssey from North Korea to Freedom in the West
  13.  Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk
  14. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  15. THE LEAVING by Tara Altebrando
  16. BEHELD by Alex Flinn
  17. Unwind (Unwind Dystology)
  18. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood
  19. Unbelievably Bound by JC Reimer
  20. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe
  21. The Nazi Hunters: How a Team of Spies and Survivors Captured the World’s Most Notorious Nazi
  22. Side Effects May Vary
  23. Under the Feet of Jesus
  24. Emergency Contact by Mary H K Choi
  25. Love Does by Bob Goff
  26. Positively Beautiful by Wendy Mills
  27. Faultlines by Lucienne Diver
  28. Keeping Her Secret by Sarah Nicolas
  29. Fences by August Wilson
  30. Maus by Art Spiegelman *Reread
  31. Looking For Alaska by John Green *Reread
  32. Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse *Reread
  33. My One Word by Mike Ashcraft & Rachel Olsen
  34. The Stand by Stephen King *Reread
  35. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut *Reread
  36. The Shallows: What the Internet Is Doing to Our Brains
  37. Visual Note-Taking For Educators by Wendi Pillars
  38. 180 Days by Kelly Gallagher and Penny Kittle
  39. Write What Matters: For Yourself, For Others by Tom Romano
  40. Books for Living: Some Thoughts on Reading, Reflecting, and Embracing Life by Will Schwalbe
  41. Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha) by Tomi Adeyemi 
  42. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
  43. All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr
  44. Tuesdays with Morrie: An Old Man, a Young Man, and Life’s Greatest Lesson by Mitch Albom
  45. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

My goal for this year is 45 books! What’s your New Year’s Resolution? (Mine is to be content . . . there’s lots to be said for being content in our daily lives, and I’m looking forward to living with a word that reminds me to do that.) Any book resolutions? Cheers to Happy Reading in 2019! May the words you read open up new ways of thinking, inspiration, and possibilities!






#WritingGoals #LifeGoals

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to be an author and teacher. I’ve taught for 16 1/2 years now, in every grade from first through tenth (except 9th).

I’ve been a writer my whole life, but it wasn’t until January 2013 that I transitioned to published author. I signed a contract with a small press in May 2012 and had big dreams for my trilogy.

Upon my arrival into the pub’d world, I found my destination wasn’t what I exactly envisioned for my life. So once 18 Thoughts released in 2015, fulfilling my contract, I hung up my author’s hat. I was a little disappointed until I switched from teaching middle to high school English the following year. Being a published author definitely helped me on my journey to making that switch, and it gave me street cred with my skeptical students who saw “Elementary Education” listed on my degree hanging in my classroom.

Now my writing and life goals have merged. I’m not looking to write the next book, but looking for the book that will inspire my students to write in their Writer’s Notebook. Each day is an opportunity to give students something to spark their imaginations. One of my favorite writing activities is using poems for a mentor text. I always write along with my students, demonstrating my ‘vomiting words on a page’ under the doc camera so they understand that I’m handing them their license to play with beautiful words (no red pens here).

With that spirit in mind and to celebrate the 4th of July, I’d like to leave you with some beautiful words: a poem titled Good Night by Carl Sandburg. Maybe it’ll spark some creativity for you today 🙂

Many ways to say good night.

Fireworks at a pier on the Fourth of July 
spell it with red wheels and yellow spokes. 
They fizz in the air, touch the water and quit. 
Rockets make a trajectory of gold-and-blue 
and then go out.


Railroad trains at night spell with a smokestack mushrooming a white pillar.

Steamboats turn a curve in the Mississippi crying a baritone that crosses lowland cottonfields to razorback hill.

It is easy to spell good night. 
Many ways to spell good night. 


This has been another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.


And I’m killing two birds with one stone here today. I’ve decided to join Two Writing Teachers for their Slice of Life Challenge. Every Tuesday we share a story, a slice of life, on our blogs. Check it out!

slice of life

Writing Matters

Hard to believe this is my first blog post of 2018 . . . in June! Ever feel like you have nothing important to say, or nobody wants to read your thoughts anyway? That’s the spot I’ve been in. Teaching & everything that comes with it take up most of my time, and even though I love my job, I don’t feel the creative juices flowing for a blog post or any type of writing.

But Friday marked the start of Friday summer vacation! I like to plan ahead for the next school year while the last one is still fresh in my brain. It’s caused a lot of reflection about writing since I teach 10th grade English.

I believe very strongly that people who write without being asked to write are the most reflective, interesting people I know. But the types of writing school programs require of students don’t often foster people who won’t leave home without their journal! Every paper has to be an argument now, and I’m preparing my students for junior year when they’ll have to write a 4,000 word research paper. Can you hear the groaning and gnashing of teeth?

essay meme

As I reflect on my year, I’m conflicted by how much time I spent on the required, often dull writing tasks to inform and argue for their assignments and assessments. I can only recall two instances where I allowed them to write anything creative: a narrative about foil characters & a poem they wrote for a local contest. And I believe I have made a crucial mistake by not focusing on writing that’s beautiful and graceful, that stimulates creativity, that truly moves us.

It is the writing that takes an incorrigible delinquent like Louis Zamperini in the midst of WWII and describe events so stunning, you become convinced that truth is stranger than fiction. (Unbroken). It is writing that follows Jeannette Walls, a girl from a dismal West Virginia mining town where she was the poorest of the poor to the campus of Columbia University at the age of seventeen and makes you believe that anyone can make something of themselves in America (The Glass Castle). This is writing that reaches our very souls, allows us to ponder our own lives: past, present, and future. This is writing that you, my fellow authors, do every day. It’s meaningful, to you and to others, & it’s an experience I want for our youth. Not just because words are beautiful, and the world needs more beauty right now, but because I know that writing my 18 Things trilogy also taught me to seek answers to bigger questions (a very needed skill in education right now, students don’t know how to ‘think’ because the internet does that for them). Writing fiction also helped me to forgive and to come to terms with my jacked up childhood. My students need this sort of catharsis now more than ever. Through writing, they can heal, they can discover their own unique voice, and they can appreciate other points of view in a beautiful way (insert cure for their lack of development with interpersonal relationships & coping strategies here).

Susan Orlean perhaps says it best in the introduction to The Best American Essays: “All indications to the contrary, our voices matter to each other, that we do wonder what goes on inside each other’s head, that we want to know each other, and we want to be known. Nothing is more meaningful–more human, really–than our efforts to tell each other the story of ourselves, of what it’s like to be who are are, to think the things we think, to live the lives we live.”

There’s been a lot of discourse about school shootings in the past four months. Psychological and social development is largely due to not just nature, but nurturing environments. I want to create a nurturing environment in my classroom where words matter. With that in mind, I’m planning to take up my sword, my pen, and write again. Be an example. There is beauty and power in words still waiting to be discovered . . . .

This has been another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.


All I Want For Christmas Is A HUGE Book Sale!

CQ Holiday Sale
From my publisher, Curiosity Quills:

Happy holidays, everyone! It’s been another great year for CQ, with a plethora of new releases, including debut authors, sequels, and new novels from established authors. And of course, we wouldn’t have had this success without you, our loyal readers. So, as a thank you, between Sunday, December 17 and Sunday, December 24 SEVENTY-SEVEN CQ authors have opted in to discount their books. Some will be $1.99, but many are just 99 cents. That’s about 200 NOVELS that are on sale!


Each novel in my YA coming of age trilogy is just 99 cents (Kindle copies).

Book 1: 18 Things

Book 2: 18 Truths

Books 3: 18 Thoughts

Merry Christmas, everyone, and Happy Reading!! I hope to be a bit better about blogging & visiting everyone’s blogs in the New Year. In the meantime, my hubby just started his own blog (a little late to the game, but better late than never!). It’s called Drinking & Nerding: ‘Where craft beer and pop culture are always on tap.’ Yeah, he’s punny so don’t say I didn’t warn you. Seriously though, you’ll make his year if you give him some blog love.

Peace out! And if your books are on sale for Christmas, please let me know in the comments!

2017 Reflection

At times, it seemed like there was no end to the horror that was/is 2017. To quote Star Wars: “So this is how liberty dies. With thunderous applause.”


Not only did the world seem to be falling apart, my youngest daughter turned 13 in January. I firmly believe there’s no harder job in today’s society than raising a teenage girl. And our oldest daughter started her senior year of high school! So I didn’t write much. I tried to write a novella, but my heart just wasn’t in it. Time with my kids is too precious. The other hard part about being a parent is letting them go, no matter how crazy they make you sometimes!

The only book related thing (outside of reading a ton of novels & pestering all of my students to read them) I really did was plan a literacy festival for my high school. I organized classroom visits for 15 YA authors with $8,000 in grant money received. Then the last hour of the day, the entire school headed out to the football field for food, games, activities, & prizes. Students got to get their books signed by the authors and take pictures with them there. It was a great day, and we’re hosting our 2nd annual festival in March. If you’re a teacher and would like more info on putting on author events for your school, feel free to email me! Or if you’re a YA author in the Florida area (or don’t mind traveling to Southwest Florida even though we can’t pay you) who would like to participate in future events, then please contact me!

So as I look back on 2017, with all its successes/failures, was there anything I would do differently? Yes. I think it’s the same thing I remind myself every year, every single year. To remember to slow down and enjoy the journey. This may seem like a small thing to many, but since I’m a task-oriented person, it’s sadly not an easy thing for me.

How was your 2017?

This has been another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.


Book Characters IRL

October’s Question: Have you ever slipped any of your personal information into your characters, either by accident or on purpose?
YAASSSS! The main protagonist in my 18 Things trilogy is named Olga Gay Worontzoff, and she’s named after her two grandmothers. As stated in my author’s bio to the right here, I really do have grandmothers named Olga and Gay but unlike my heroine, I’m not named after either one of them.
My character is also addicted to coffee, and I must admit, I have zero self-control when it comes to avoiding Starbucks.
Fun Fact: I met my hubs the first day of high school when I was 14 and heard the first of many voices in my head, whispering I’d marry him someday. In the meantime, I fell in love with someone else and dated him for three years while my future husband became one of my best friends. Hence, I could definitely relate to Olga’s love triangle in my series.
The most important way in which I’m like my MC is I turn to Jesus for his boundless love & amazing grace, for his ability to turn my despair into hope, and for giving me the desires of my heart in his perfect timing. Ecclesiastes 3:1 said it best:
Ecc 3
To be honest, I think all authors see a little of themselves in our characters. Through them we see our own goals, dreams, truths, fears, and thoughts. And we hope our readers see a bit of themselves in our characters, too.
This has been another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Check out the co-hosts this month for some more related posts:

Olga Godim, Chemist Ken,Jennifer Hawes, and Tamara Narayan!


Prose Pet Peeves

I read 16 books this summer from start to finish . . . others I started but never finished. Two of the novels I did finish but had some trouble with were written by the same author: Cormac McCarthy. For all his fame, I’d somehow never read any of his works. I started with The Road because I heard many high school English teachers using that one with success in their classes. Then I moved onto No Country For Old Men because I thought that title fit better with my curriculum; this year I’m focusing on international mindedness and appreciating other cultures/viewpoints. In the end, I didn’t add McCarthy to my syllabus because I just couldn’t get over his lack of punctuation. I didn’t want my students to start modeling his style and go, “But McCarthy did it!” when I broke out the red pen.

According to McCarthy: “There’s no reason to blot the page up with weird little marks. I mean, if you write properly you shouldn’t have to punctuate.”

If you say so. But my annoyance at his lack of punctuation took me out of the story time and time again. Then it made me insecure. Do I use toooo much punctuation?! Is that my problem? I definitely haven’t achieved the success of McCarthy with my 18 Things trilogy.


What are your pet peeves when reading?

This has been another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage. Check out the co-hosts this moth for some more reading/writing/editing pet peeves:

Christine Rains
Dolarah @ Book Lover
Ellen @ The Cynical Sailor
Yvonne Ventresca
LG Keltner




Time for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

This month’s question: What is the weirdest/coolest thing you ever had to research for your story?

Okay, I’m seriously surprised Big Brother hasn’t come knocking on my door for all my weird internet searches. My 18 Things series include subjects such as the Underworld, spirit guides, angels, demons, demon possession, mind reading, portals and traveling across different dimensions, and lots of odd spiritual rituals. And yes, I researched them all online (no personal experience with those subjects whatsoever). The coolest thing for me was the portals because I really want time traveling across dimensions to be real. That feeling probably stems from from reading all those stories while growing up & wanting to escape my situation at the time. Alice in Wonderland, Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, Harry Potter and Platform 9 ¾, the ‘Gate of Hell’ in Dante’s Inferno, a wardrobe with a secret passageway to Narnia . . .


What do you think? Is portal-based time travel just something from a sci-fi movie, or something that could become a reality one day?

IWSG & Literacy Event


Time for another post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.

This month’s question: Have you ever pulled out a really old story and reworked it? Did it work out?

Sort of . . . 18 Things started out as another novel. Back then it was a stand-alone & nobody died. The main character had cancer though, and agents stated it sounded too much like a Bucket List Junior or A Walk to Remember. A few suggested I make it a trilogy and somehow throw in a paranormal twist because those were all the rage in YA at the time. The rest, they say, is history!

Speaking of 18 Things, I’ll be promoting it at an author panel & signing at the local Barnes & Noble Marketplace in Fort Myers in two weeks. As many of you will recall, I teach English and have organized author school visits for the past three years. This year is bigger and better with a huge festival featuring 15 authors! These are the authors that will join me at the bookstore in the evening. Most are from around the state, but we have one from Georgia, one from Ohio, and another from New York! If you’re in Southwest Florida, please come on out from 4-6 p.m. on Thursday, March 16th! 15% of our author sales will be donated back to my school for next year’s literacy festival 🙂




Hearing Voices


I’ve been reading a lot of novels lately, more than usual. Part of the reason is me staying away from social media a bit. I comment on issues when I feel I need to, and as a public school teacher, I definitely aired my grievances about Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education. But the truth is, other than organizing protests through social media, I don’t think it’s very effective to keep posting these “Hear Me Now” statements. The people who agree with you will “like” your comments and the ones who don’t will unfriend you or mute you, so what’s the point? But it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut sometimes, so I read.

My question is, when you read, do you hear voices in your head? Please tell me I’m not the only one! I hear voices in my head all the time anyway–of my characters–I’m not totally crazy. Yet. Right? Hearing voices is acceptable when you’re a writer (so I’ve been told). Although when I was writing the final book in my trilogy, 18 THOUGHTS, I did actually lose the argument to my main character, Olga. That was a whole new level of insanity 😉

But I was thinking about this month’s question: how has my experience as a writer changed me as a reader? For sure, it’s helped me appreciate every story a bit more. I know the blood, sweat, and tears that goes into making a book, and what little royalties you get out of it in the end. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the way I hear different voices for the various characters as I’m reading . . . that’s been going on for as long as I can remember.

How about you–what’s your reading experience like? Read any great books lately? So far this year I’ve read:

Smash & Grab by Amy C. Parker

The Devil You Know by Trish Doller

The Surrendered by Case Maynard

Because of the Sun by Jenny Torres Sanchez

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

The Night We Said Yes by Lauren Gibaldi

To be honest, I’d give all of these books 5 stars! They were wonderful!! Check them out if you’re looking to hear some new voices in your head 🙂

This has been a post for the Insecure Writer’s Support Group, the brainchild of Head Ninja, Alex J. Cavanaugh. Feel free to join us the first Wednesday of every month! Purpose: To share and encourage.