Recently, I started a gratitude journal. Well, actually I downloaded a gratitude app where everyday I post at least one thing that I’m grateful for. Some days, I even include a photo. I love it. I started using the app because I wanted to take time every day to reflect on what I’m grateful for in my life. Since doing so, I’ve noticed my generalized anxiety has gone down and my happiness has gone up.

I have so much to be grateful for:

My husband, who’s my best friend. My whole family, and especially my mother who does so much for me. My amazing friends. Our new home, where we’ll be hosting Thanksgiving dinner for the first time tomorrow. My new job. My ability to write and pursue my dreams. Even the little things – like the freedom to spend a Saturday morning reading in bed, or enjoy a good movie (just saw About Time and LOVED it), or even just a pretty sunset after work.

Really. So, so much to be grateful for.

YAB-give-thanks-smallThis month, the YA Buccaneers are giving thanks to writers. (<–Click the link to grab the badge and participate! It’s never too late!) I could list a whole bunch of authors whose work has inspired me. But I want to use this opportunity to thank YOU. All of you writer friends who’ve visited my blog or Twitter to offer support, encouragement, and commiseration. My blogging slowed the second half of this year but I really love being part of this community and plan to keep blogging and tweeting to stay connected to all of you.

I also want to thank my NYC Write Nite crew, who I don’t get to see on a weekly basis anymore–since I stopped working in NYC–but I love so much. They are such an incredible and talented group of women and I’m so excited for their accomplishments. Several have their debuts publishing in 2014 and 2015 so look out for them!

Michelle Shusterman – I Heart Band (January 2014)
Rebecca Behrens – When Audrey Met Alice (February 2014)
Kathryn Holmes – The Distance Between Lost and Found (2015)
Kim Liggett – Blood and Salt (2015)

I’m also very grateful for my wonderful critique partners, beta readers, and my Pitch Wars mentor Dahlia, who all helped me whip The Right Exposure into shape and offered encouragement as I began querying earlier this year. Querying has been quite the journey and I’m so happy to be putting my work out there and getting awesome feedback from agents.

And of course, I love my crew at the YA Buccaneers. It’s been a fun ride so far and I’m excited to see what 2014 will bring us!

See? Just writing this post made me feel all happy inside. Gratitude, guys. Try it!

For all of you celebrating tomorrow, have a happy Thanksgiving!!!

On Being Brave in 2013

2013 has been the toughest year so far in my journey toward publication. That’s because earlier this year, I sent my work out to literary agents for the very first time. Ever since, there have been happy moments (requests!) and sad ones (rejections!). Through it all, I’ve tried to remain hopeful and keep moving forward.

It hasn’t been easy, and as I wrote a couple of months ago, it’s affected my writing. Lately I’ve been in a funk, which is why I’ve been MIA around these parts.

I’ve realized the only way to get out of this funk is to adjust my mindset. I have no control over the outcome of querying, but I can control the way I think about this journey. My one resolution this year was to be brave. When I look back at the ways I’ve accomplished that this year, I feel really proud, even if I don’t have an agent or book deal yet.

In 2013 so far, I…

  • Clicked “send” on my first ever query.
  • Continued querying even after receiving rejections.
  • Revised my manuscript after receiving an R&R from an agent. It’s now much stronger!
  • Entered pitch contests on Twitter.
  • Posted my query, first 250 words, and first 5 pages to the WriteOnCon forums.
  • Attended New England SCBWI, despite not knowing anyone.
  • Began researching my new WIP, which is on a topic that intimidates me.

There were even moments this year when I wasn’t going to do one of the above things, but then remembered my commitment to being brave.


I’m not done querying yet, so there’s still hope that I’ll land an agent with my first manuscript. But even if I don’t, I can say that I’m really happy I pushed myself this year and did things that scared me. As 2013 begins to wind down with just two and a half months left, I want to continue to be brave. I want to keep querying and push aside doubt so I can get back to writing my next manuscript.

Here’s to a braver rest of 2013 and beyond!

Sara Bareilles’ song “Brave” has inspired me a lot lately. “Say what you wanna say and let the words fall out. Honestly I wanna see you be brave…”

How have you been brave this year?

A Dose of Inspiration

August has been a pretty awesome month. But in the midst of it all, one thing has been neglected: my writing. It’s not only because I’ve been out of town, and packing, and moving, and unpacking. A lot of it is because I’ve been hit with the big monster that is doubt.

I’ve been querying my first novel since January, and frankly, I can’t complain about how it’s going. It’s had its ups and downs, but I’m still in the game and there’s a lot of hope. But I’ve realized something: querying has led me to think about writing for publication, not just for my love of it. As a result, I’ve been second-guessing my new WIP’s premise–doubting whether it’s good enough–and instead of embracing the $hi*ty first draft, I’m judging everything I write. Before querying, I was able to put thoughts of publication out of my mind because I wasn’t at that step yet. Now I am, and it’s hard to ignore that while drafting a new manuscript.

It’s not good. Sure, I want to write another publishable manuscript, but I know that I can’t keep thinking about all that stuff while I draft. I need to focus on the story, not whether an agent or editor will like it, or whether it fits into the market. But how do I turn off my “query brain” while drafting?

Luckily for me, the writing community is full of inspiration and wisdom. The below blog posts and tweets were exactly what I needed to read, so I’m sharing them with you, in case you’re facing similar struggles.

  • From a live chat with author John Green (read the entire transcript here):

My advice to young writers trying to get published is not to worry so much about publishing. Worry more about writing. You have a lifetime to publish; right now you have the opportunity to write and write and write without the constraints of publishing. You can learn without having the stuff you learn follow you around in print. There is world enough and time for publishing. I always (still!) try to put writing first and publishing second.

I usually delete more than 75% of my first drafts when I’m revising. So I try to find out the bones of the story in that first draft and then tear it down and build it back up in future drafts once I have a sense of what needs to happen.

So my advice is this: write the novel that has been percolating in your head for years, or that came to you in a mind-blowing dream last night, or that was sparked by an obscure headline at the back of last week’s paper. These are the stories that come from that mysterious realm of inspiration that has nothing to do with logic or planning or marketing. And they’re also the novels that break out, because readers can feel the spark.

We also know how much timing and luck can play into getting an agent or a book deal, and that whether you have one is NOT a reflection of your talent. All it means is that you’re still on your journey, and we are here to cheer you on as you get there.

Ultimately, my dream is to become a children’s book writer, but whether or not I land an agent with this new manuscript, score a publishing deal, see my book in print, or win a slew of awards, the process of writing is enough for me. It has to be. It must blossom from a place of love. Writing well is too hard and too personal for it to only be about an end game.

  • From Twitter:

Repeat after me: there is no such thing as a single road to publication. Every path is different and comparison will murder sanity. — Victoria Schwab (@veschwab)

I thought about quitting after shelving “the book of my heart”; the very next ms got my first agent and first sale. #keepgoing — DahliaAdler (@MissDahlELama)

Dreams are meant to be chased. Hopes are meant to be fulfilled. Give yourself permission to be WHATEVER you want to be. — Tameka (@cocoaellewoods)

This weekend, I plan to dive back into my new WIP and write new words. I’m going to try to just wear my “writer hat” and focus on the story. Because it’s not only about publication. I write because it brings me joy. More than anything, I want to get back to that place. Wish me luck!

Thirty Before 30: A Dream Come True

When I first put together my Thirty Before 30 list in August 2011, I only included goals that I really wanted to accomplish, and were both realistic and within my control. That’s why I wrote, “Finish revising The Right Exposure” and “Query literary agents” instead of “Get published,” since I don’t have much control over whether a publisher wants to publish my books.

There was one goal on the list that I wasn’t sure would happen before I turned 30. It was a realistic goal, but the timing wasn’t completely in my control. I added it anyway because it’s been a big dream of mine for years, and I thought having it on the list might help motivate me to achieve it sooner.

That goal was 28. Buy a house.

Today, two years later, and one year before I turn 30, my husband and I close on our first home.

Needless to say, we’re over the moon!

To fully understand what owning a house means to me, you need to know a little about my past.

I grew up in a nice suburb north of New York City with my two parents. I was an only child with a fur-sibling, a miniature poodle named Butternut. I loved our house. It was a white colonial with black shutters, a huge backyard with a swing set, and gorgeous original features on the inside, like multiple fireplaces. It was, admittedly, a bigger house than necessary for our family of three (plus a small dog), but I loved growing up there. All of my favorite childhood memories are from that house–coming down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa left me, summer backyard birthdays, sleepovers in my room, practicing tap routines in my socks in the hallway, the garden my mom helped me grow. I could go on and on.

Then, my junior year of high school, my parents separated and for financial reasons, we needed to sell the house. I was devastated. Not only was my family falling apart, but we had to leave our home. To make things worse, my mom and I moved into an apartment in the same suburb, but since it didn’t allow pets, we had to give Butternut away. (We gave him to my mom’s friend from work, who provided him a loving home and let us visit, but of course we missed him like crazy. It was depressing.)

My mom did her best to make our apartment into a comfortable home for the two of us, and for that I am extremely grateful. She even gave me the bigger bedroom, and made sure it was painted and decorated soon after moving in. We had to adjust to living in an apartment building instead of a private home. We eventually got used to it, but at the end of the day, it never compared to our house.

I still have dreams that take place in that house.

Fast forward to my early twenties, when I was living in Brooklyn with my then-boyfriend/now-husband. Even before we got engaged, we watched a lot of HGTV and dreamed of owning our own home. We loved Brooklyn but hated renting. We couldn’t wait to have our own private house, where we could decorate however we wanted, not have to deal with landlords or loud neighbors, and where we could build family memories like the ones I had in my childhood home.

After we got married in 2010, we began saving in earnest for a down payment. We made a lot of sacrifices. We even moved back in with my mom for a while so we could save what we’d been spending on expensive Brooklyn rent. (My mom, by the way, also dreamed of owning her own home again, and by this point she had purchased her own apartment. She was our inspiration!) Then last fall, we moved to a rental apartment in an area of Connecticut that appealed to us. In the past few months, we’ve fallen in love with our town, and decided we wanted to stay. The only problem was that this town–and the Northeast US in general–is expensive. We still had a long way to go before we’d have enough saved to buy a house.

IMG_3775Or so we thought. We ended up meeting a realtor who showed us some homes, including one that was smaller than what we originally wanted. But it had so many other great features, was move-in ready, in a perfect area, and listed at an amazing price. It’s an ideal starter home–a place where we can set down roots.

And now it’s ours. It’s an amazing feeling.

There are a lot of things about this house that I’m excited about. I’ve been pinning all sorts of inspiration photos in anticipation of decorating. But what I most look forward to are all the memories we’ll create. The BBQ’s we’ll have with family and friends on the deck in the backyard. The Sunday morning breakfasts we’ll cook together. And if we’re lucky enough, hopefully one day we’ll bring our own kiddo home to this house, and he or she will run down the stairs on Christmas morning to see what Santa left behind.

It’ll be priceless. And I. cannot. wait.


(That’s the last of my secrets! For now…)


I love the “Currently” meme that recently popped up on the blogs of  fellow writers, including Rebecca Behrens, Katy Upperman, Jessica Love, and Kate Hart. (Apparently it originated from here.) So I thought I’d play along…


 …Pinterest! Lately I’ve been pinning a lot of recipes since I’m trying to cook more. Last week I made two recipes that I’d pinned: this dish featuring Brussels sprouts, cranberries and Gorgonzola cheese that my husband and I LOVED (though we used quinoa instead of barley), and this lunch salad. Both were delicious and I’m excited to pin and use more recipes. Are you on Pinterest?


…Stephen King’s On Writing. It’s part memoir, part writing craft book, and 100% brilliant! I have a feeling this will become one of my go-to books when I need some writerly inspiration (along with Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird.) Have you read it?


…the sixth season of Dexter. I’m a season behind since I don’t get Showtime at home. My husband and I are almost done with this season and it’s SO good! If my post on thrillers last week got you excited, you must check out this show. It’s about a serial killer who kills other serial killers. Such an interesting concept and the characters and story lines are so riveting. I highly recommend! Have you seen it? (No spoilers if you’re caught up already!)

thinking about…

…my manuscript. I’m SO close to being finished with this revision. I’m constantly thinking of ways to make it better before I start querying.


…this revision being finished so I can *finally* start writing something new after 3+ years of working on the same thing. My next book will NOT take this long. Mark my words. ;)


…that I had more time to write. The daily balance is tough sometimes but I’m making it work. I also wish I was more of a night owl and needed less sleep!

making me happy…

 …this time of year! Fall is my favorite season and I love everything about it: pumpkins, apple picking, crisp temperatures, foliage, etc. The weather in NYC has been gorgeous lately and it makes me so happy to be outside! I have a few fun fall-themed activities planned (a couple of which tie in to my Thirty before 30 list) so I’ll post as they happen. Are you also digging the fall?

If you end up doing this Currently meme on your blog, share the link so I can check it out!

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Blog Me MAYbe: May I Tell You Something About Myself?

First off, thank you to everyone who commented with your favorite high school memory a few weeks ago! Unfortunately, because of the migration from Blogger to WordPress, those comments aren’t visible here anymore, but I read every single one and loved them.

As promised, here’s my favorite high school memory…

It was senior year and I’d gone seventeen years without ever having a boyfriend. It was partly because I was shy and introverted when I wasn’t around my close friends. Also, there was nobody at school I really wanted to date. I’d had a few crushes over the years, but either they didn’t work out or I’d quickly realize the guy wasn’t worth it.

Until I met one boy. Let’s call him Jay (not his real name!). We’d been in the same high school for years but since our school was so big (my graduating class was over 600 students), he wasn’t on my radar. Until senior year, when we had English class together. Then I started volunteering at our local library, where he worked. Somehow we started talking and became friends. I liked my library job of course, but re-shelving books got kind of boring after a while so I began to look forward to the conversations we had in the stacks. We flirted a bit, but innocently. He had a girlfriend, after all. Of course he had a girlfriend. He was cute and kind and smart and charismatic. Did I mention he was cute?

As the year went on, we talked more and more, and I considered him a good friend. Then prom happened. He went with his girlfriend. I went with a friend from a different school. My date was a disaster and I remember watching Jay dance with his girlfriend, wishing I could have been his date instead. There was no way around it. I was smitten.

When it was time to sign yearbooks, I wrote Jay a nice message about how I was glad we’d become friends.

When I read his message in my yearbook, I was shocked.

In it, he wrote (I’m totally paraphrasing here): “You’re a cool girl. I like you. I wish things had been different this year and we could have dated.”

What the WHAT?! Did my crush just tell me that he liked me too?

I remember rushing to show my BFF my yearbook and asking her what I should do. All signs pointed toward me doing nothing. He still had that girlfriend. We were graduating in a couple of weeks and heading to separate schools in the fall.

But I couldn’t let the moment go. Even if it didn’t make sense, I had to tell him I felt the same way. (Hmm, sounds straight out of a YA novel, huh?)

So I emailed him. Told him I liked him back and wished too that we could have gotten together. I put it all out there, not knowing what would happen.

To make a long story short, he ended up breaking up with his girlfriend and we started dating. Squee! (Okay, so I felt a little bad for his girlfriend at first. But I honestly got over it pretty quickly because it’s not like they were going to get married and HELLO my crush actually liked me back!)

Jay and I dated all summer and it was the best. We had so much fun together, going to parties, hanging out with our mutual friends, making out in my car (tee hee). My parents had gotten divorced recently which was rough for me, especially since I was an only child. Jay forced me to talk about my problems out loud for the first time, and was really supportive. With him, I felt special and wanted. I was more self-confident. All in all, I became a better person that summer.

At the end of August, we broke up. He broke up with me. I was upset, but understood his reasoning. He didn’t want a long distance relationship, and we were going to different colleges, hours apart.

We kept in touch and talked on the phone a lot during those first few months of college. But eventually we moved on from each other. I missed him but it worked out well for me because I started dating the guy that I’d eventually marry.

It’s been a while since Jay and I have spoken but when I re-read his yearbook message and think about that summer, I can’t help but smile. It was the best time of my teenage life. :)

YA Cafe: Teens and Body Image

Welcome back to YA Cafe, where book lovers can gather and chat about teen literature. I’m your barista, along with Gabriela from iggi&gabi. Each Friday we pick from a menu of topics and share our thoughts on our respective blogs.

We’ve also got plans brewing for interviews, events and even some exciting giveaways, so stay tuned! Join the discussion by responding in the comments, on your own blogs or on twitter using the hash tag #yacafe.

Today’s Special: Teens and Body Image

First things first – the winner of our Eyes in the Mirror giveaway is…Kim! Congrats, girl! Shoot me an email at ghenetwrites(at)gmail(dot)com with your address and I’ll get it out to you.

For this week’s topic, I thought it might be fun to do something a little different and write about my own teen experience. I love reading blogs like Dear Teen Me and reminiscing about the good and bad moments of being a teen. It’s part of the reason why I love writing YA!

On Twitter this week, the hashtag #whatmakesmebeautiful has been going around. One of the things I believe makes me beautiful is my curly hair, but I haven’t always felt that way. When Gabi and I were in our MFA program together, our teen literature teacher had us write a couple of personal essays. One of them was on the theme of body image, so I’m going to share it with you. I’m warning you – it’s kind of long! But I hope you read it anyway. :)

I Am Not My Hair

As a baby, my hair was just another feature, like the beauty mark on my cheek or the birthmark on my shoulder. It was a trait that came from a mix of genetics from my African American, Haitian, Native American, and Greek ancestors. The halo of curls that went in all directions made me look cute and fit my wild personality at that age. But they could also be pulled back and forgotten about.

When I was old enough to go to school, I wore my hair in two braids. I rarely wore it out, except for special occasions and then most of the time it was straightened. I didn’t pay much attention to my hair, except for when my mom tried to untangle it after washing it and I’d scream and insist she was hurting me on purpose. My mom always combed it as gently as she could, but my hair was difficult to deal with.

When I started middle school and began doing my hair myself, I saw it as something more than just a characteristic of mine. I felt it defined my beauty. At that age, I was becoming independent and paid more attention to how I looked. I was a dedicated reader of teen fashion magazines, which made me think about my image, especially in comparison to the models on the pages and my peers. I bought clothes that fit the trends and started wearing makeup. I thought my curly hair was an important part of my image. I wanted to wear it loose, so I tried the products and hairstyles the magazines said were for my hair type, but never really were. Barely any of the tips worked, and instead of lustrous, defined curls, I usually ended up with a frizzy mess that I inevitably pulled back into a ponytail or bun.

One time I took my hair out of a ponytail was for my eighth grade yearbook photo. It was a spontaneous decision and I hadn’t realized how bad it looked. When I saw the picture in the yearbook, I was mortified. My hair looked dry and frizzy, and the curls were far from defined. My parents told me it looked fine and the picture was beautiful but I didn’t believe them. All I saw when I looked at the picture was my hair, and I thought it made me look ugly. I’d ruined the picture, and even now when I look at it, I can’t help but feel embarrassed for my eighth grade self. During that time, I was constantly frustrated with my hair. It was when my love-hate relationship with my curly hair began.

To understand what it’s like to have hair like mine, and its effect on me, you have to be familiar with the significance of hair in the African American community. Hair has been a defining factor in the image of African Americans ever since slavery, when light-skinned black women would straighten their hair to look white. Many black women, especially those who live and work in predominantly white environments, struggle with the image portrayed by the appearance of their hair. Dry, coarse and nappy hair is historically considered unfavorable, so most black women have their hair chemically straightened. I have a friend whose mother insisted she straighten her hair before a job interview, because she didn’t want her daughter to be judged by her hair and not get the job. Some women decide to keep their hair natural, whether in kinky curls, Afros or dreadlocks. In doing so, they express their individuality and self-acceptance, but they still have to deal with the fact that other people might judge them based on their hair and not their personality. When an African American woman’s natural hair is not judged, it’s usually because it defies the norm of black hair. The musician India Arie expresses this phenomenon in her song “I Am Not My Hair”:

“Good hair means curls and waves;
Bad hair means you look like a slave.”

My hair fits into the “good hair” category because it’s soft, long, and curly. Add that to my honey-colored complexion and many people don’t automatically believe I’m African American. They think I’m Hispanic.

There has always been a discrepancy between how I see my hair and how others–especially those in the black community–see it. When I was in middle and high school, I realized that my hair was different than most other black people around me. Because it was curly, they thought it was beautiful and were jealous over the fact that I don’t have to get it chemically straightened every few months or wear a swim cap in the pool. When I thought about it that way, I appreciated my hair and how in comparison it was easier to manage. But I always had trouble with my hair and felt it was a nuisance. The curls weren’t defined like I thought they should be, and I could never find the right hair products. Sometimes, I thought it would be easier to have hair that needed to be chemically straightened, because at least then it would consistently look nice. Having curly hair made me different than most other black people, and that isolated me from them.

Looking back at my high school years, there were several instances when my hair made me feel self-conscious about myself. One moment I remember distinctly was right before I started the ninth grade, when I went to get my hair cut at a black hair salon. The hairstylist didn’t know how to deal with my curly hair, so she straightened it before cutting it. The haircut looked nice when my hair was straight, but when I walked out of the salon with my mother, I started to cry because I realized it was too short. I’d wanted my hair to be a little longer than shoulder-length, but the woman at the salon cut it that length when it was straight. I knew when I washed my hair and my curls returned, they would be much shorter than I desired. Lo and behold, that was the case, and because my hair is so thick, it looked like an upside-down bowl of curls on top of my head. I hated it. The reason why I remember the haircut so well is because on the first day of ninth grade, when I had my ID photo taken, I wore my hair out. It was yet another picture that was ruined by my hair, and I didn’t wear my hair out again until it grew longer. I also didn’t show my ID photo to anyone who didn’t need to see it, and when I graduated, I threw it out.

There were times in middle and high school when I was proud of my hair, but those memories aren’t as clear in my mind. When I had a good hair day, I felt really good about myself. If my curls were bouncy and shiny like I wanted them to be, and especially if someone complimented me on them, they made me feel beautiful. On the other hand, when I didn’t like my hair, I didn’t like the rest of me either. I compared myself to my peers, I judged myself, and believed other people would think I was ugly because my hair looked bad. Because my hair was the first thing I saw when I looked at myself in a mirror, I thought others viewed me the same way. And since hair like mine was favored in the black community, I believed it was what made me beautiful.

Even now, I feel like the state of my hair greatly influences how I feel in a given day. My confidence level goes up when my hair looks the way I want it to, and I still feel somewhat insecure when my hair looks bad. But I’ve come to realize that beauty is relative and there isn’t just one definition. Even curly hair has a bunch of variations, and I’ve learned not to compare mine with others. Now I accept my hair as it is, with all of its imperfections. Though I still think my curly hair is a defining feature of my beauty, I know it’s only a piece of the puzzle. I’m not just beautiful when my hair is shiny and perfect looking. And if it isn’t perfect, I’m not automatically ugly. Simply put, I am not my hair.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Now tell me: what makes YOU beautiful? Don’t forget to hop on over to Gabi’s blog to read her post on this topic.