A couple of weeks ago, I heard a dean of admissions from the University of Virginia speak on the
dreaded subject of the college essay.
The gist of his speech? Be the best YOU.
He said, every year he reads countless essays from prospective applicants trying to be who they think UVA wants them to be.
Thomas Jefferson is my role model.
The Louisiana Purchase and me.
Why I Believe the Declaration of Independence Rocks!
And countless other themes that manage to mention the lawn, the academical village, or the rotunda.
The lawn at the University of Virginia.
These essays are not endearing to the admissions staff.
Because Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia, and writing about him is a warning that student X is trying to push his or her unique, but angular self into the UVA circle.
And losing an opportunity to be themselves.
It got me thinking how this applies to so many things. How many times are you filling something out and you see:
Tell us a little something about yourself.
Or what about those bio fields in social media? Or if you’re a writer, what about the author blurb, or About Me page?
Like the college essay, these descriptions could be your one shot to sum up YOU.
Maybe you’re thinking they’ll eventually see who you are, but what if that first impression is your only opportunity to go from person X, to the eXtra special, unique you?
For instance, UVA gets twenty-nine thousand applicants a year. Pinterest currently has forty million users. Twitter even more. And hundreds of thousands of books are published in the U.S. every year.
There’s bound to be A LOT of circles. And when you’ve seen one circle, well…they all blur into one massive blob. They become like white noise.
If you’re trying to make an impact, looking for connections, or just trying to be seen, then you don’t want to be the white noise.
If you want to be found, then you kind of have to let your INNER WALDO shine.
Not that it’s easy. I struggle with filling out those short bios. Here’s the latest author bio I’ve written.
Coleen Patrick grew up in New Jersey, Virginia, Michigan, Louisiana, and Indiana. Always being the new kid, she learned that books and friends are precious—and dessert. She never met a dessert she didn’t like (except for flan).
When she’s not writing, reading (or avoiding flan), she enjoys TV, arts and crafts, quoting movies, and trying to take cool photos.
She lives in Virginia with her husband and two kids.
Now this is short, but it seemed to take me forever. Because I wanted to be me (well me, in a few sentences), but at the same time it was cringing to be real.
It’s not easy to allow a part of yourself to be vulnerable. In this particular case, I was afraid to be a little funny. Except funny is important to me.
So how can you get started telling a little about yourself?
It might help to ask yourself some questions:
What do I like best about myself? What are my talents, interests? What do I believe in? What would my perfect day look like? What would I do if I had unlimited time or energy?
Find a way to be true to yourself.
Because somewhere out there, whether it’s a university, an employer, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, a bookshelf…someone is looking for YOU.
Why not make it easy for them to see you?
Do you have any advice on how to sum up you? What would you do if you had unlimited energy?
Have a spectacular week!
**If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox. Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.
Stop by and say HI to Patricia Tilton at Children’s Books Heal. I think book reviews are VERY hard to write, but Patricia does an amazing job!Read More
Hi all! I’ve got a special treat for you today…
As Aydan Fulbert settles into her new life in a new world, she realizes a few things. She’s healing from losing Brig. She’s coming to terms with her new home. And she’s lonely.
Rein Torvald’s return from his long absence helps alleviate her loneliness, but a darkness comes with him. Unsettling news about her father and the Sovereign has the potential to make her a fugitive all over again – from his world and hers.
Will Aydan allow her heart to be taken places she’s never been brave enough to go? Or will the threat of danger – of the Sovereign’s rage, and her father’s vengeful grudge, send her running?
What was the inspiration behind The Darkening?
When I first wrote this story, Shrilugh and The Darkening were all one book, told solely from Aydan’s POV.
When I changed the POV, the story really exploded, and needed to be divided into more than one book. Which is why the first book of the Saga ended rather abruptly, and why, if you read these two back-to-back, they’ll feel a bit like one piece of work.
So, really, the inspiration for The Darkening came from the same place as my inspiration for Shrilugh: an old silo on the farm where I was raised. There’s a ladder that extends up past the top of it that looks kind-of like a door, and I’ve always, always wondered where that door would lead.
When I began writing Shrilugh that was my goal – to find out what kind of world was beyond that door.
Have you always been interested in being a writer?
Goodness, no! The thought never crossed my mind until about four years ago. I started writing on a whim.
The Hubster and I were driving past the farm where I grew up, and I was staring at that silo with the ladder-door, and said to him, “I think I’m going to write a book.” He looked at me like I was crazy. But I started writing that night, and knew I’d found it – the thing that would be my thing for the rest of my life.
What do you like most about writing and being a self-published author?
The fact that I can do a job, from home, that allows me to dig down into my creative self, is THRILLING. Really, this is my dream job. I get to be with my kids, be the stay-at-home mom that I’ve always wanted to be, and still have the satisfaction of a creative outlet. The fact that this creative outlet helps to provide for my family is just a bonus. Really, I can’t even begin to tell you how blessed I feel to be able to do what I do.
Being a self-published author has been a really good fit for me. There are days where I wish I could pass the business-side of writing to someone else – all the marketing and networking and stuff like that…it just doesn’t come easy to me. But overall, it’s been a really fun ride. To see my books in the hands of readers, and to hear their enthusiasm…it’s so totally worth any and all of the effort.
What’s one thing about you that will surprise readers most?
I have the most tame, Beaver-Cleaver-type life you could imagine. I’m probably the least surprising person in the world. Well, okay, there’s this – I really enjoy folding laundry. I love seeing the tidy piles build up, and thinking about my kiddos and how they’ve grown, and the smell of clean laundry. It’s soothing.
*heavy sigh* I just re-read that and realized how lame I sound. I wish I could have had something way cooler like, “Oh, I go parachuting,” or “Big game hunting in Zimbabwe is totally my thing”. But nope. I’ve chosen to stun you all with laundry.
What is your favorite snack food and beverage of choice?
Oh my goodness, my favorite thing to snack on are these almonds that have been roasted in cocoa powder. They are AH-MAZ-ING. Crunchy and sweet and perfect.
And if I’m not drinking water, I’m drinking coffee. Very rarely do I stray from either two of those beverages.
Where can you find Myndi?
Facebook: Myndi Shafer Stories
Pop on over to one of Myndi’s hang outs and say HI! Ask her about the Shrilugh Saga, The Darkening, or coffee.
I’ll be drinking fancy coffee this weekend. I’m off to spend a few days with my sister–a little road trip, and a lot of laughter.
Got a question for Myndi? What’s your beverage of choice?
**If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox. Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.
The first kiss. So much anticipation, so many possibilities…
Sweet. Romantic. Fun. Flirty.
Awkward. Toothy. Slobbery. Waxy.
Yes, waxy. That’s the first word that comes to mind when I think of my first kiss. Not all first kisses are good. In fact, mine was not good it was GOO. As in, Hello, Madame Tussauds.
But on the plus side, that bad kiss was the easiest sign ever that he was not the one for me (good thing, because as Taylor Swift might say, he was trouble when he walked in.)
Anyway, I consider my first kiss like a first pancake. Sometimes that first pancake doesn’t look like the rest of the batch. For whatever reason, it doesn’t turn out golden.
Not all pancakes turn out the way you want them too.
Luckily, there’s always room for a do-over. Same goes for kissing.
But is it possible to prevent a bad kiss in the first place?
Well, I found LOTS of advice on Ye Old Internet on how to avoid
a bad kiss the first pancake syndrome.
Awesome + Awesome = More Awesome
You need great ingredients. Once you have them, mix them with care. The key to combining ingredients is tenderness over toughness.
Make sure you have the proper amount of heat. According to The Pancake Handbook, “If they dance in a sprightly way for a few seconds, you’re good to go.”
Other experts say the heat level should be so hot that it almost smokes.
Beware of the drool
Moisture level is crucial. It can make or break your pancake. Moisten but then wipe away the excess before your first pancake. You’re aiming for a golden, “greaseless experience.”
Don’t Rush It
Once you’ve got your pancake going, keep the following in mind:
Peek at your own risk.
Resist the impulse to press and flatten.
Moving too much may cause it all to fall apart.
Don’t stress over your first attempt. You get better with practice.
And keep in mind, there are many kinds of pancakes. Lots to choose from. For instance, the French have their own version.
But let’s leave crepes for another day.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
What are your thoughts on first kisses? How do you celebrate Valentine’s Day? What’s your favorite pancake?
For more posts about kissing, be sure to check out the INDIE-KISSING BLOGFEST over at the INDELIBLES!
**If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to receive my new posts straight to your inbox. Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.
Today’s topic: Reading.
Mission: Find a quote that highlights the awesomeness of bookish pursuits.
“Reading, after a certain age, diverts the mind too much from its creative pursuits. Any man who reads too much and uses his own brain too little falls into lazy habits of thinking.”
“Books are a uniquely portable magic . . .
If you don’t have time to read, you don’t have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”
I’m not feeling the genius quote.
I love to read. Last year I read 95 books. They didn’t zombify my brain. At least not in terms of creative pursuits. In 2012, I managed 72 blog posts, first drafts for two different stories, one second draft on another, and final edits on my debut YA contemporary novel, Come Back to Me. I also painted, glued, glittered, and tried to take some photographs.
Diverted mind? No, not in terms of creativity, anyway. I wish Einstein had looked into theories on doorways and the brain. How many times have you walked from one room to the next only to wonder what you went there for? It’s got to be those crafty door portals. They divert my thinking every time.
Evil, mind erasing portals.
But I will give Al some props for the lazy part. Because I have to admit my house now qualifies as a National Dust Bunny Preserve. Maybe even international. But hey I’ve been too busy being creative (okay, maybe I also watched a horrifying amount of TV).
Mostly though, I agree with Stephen King. Because I also believe books are a uniquely portable magic.
And because I’ve read Misery, you don’t go up against a writer who hobbles authors in his books.
What do you think? Are books a portable magic, or an outlet that diffuses creativity? Can you see the wisdom in both?
Have a spectacular week!
**If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox. Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.Read More
Last week my husband was at the Consumer Electronics Show in Vegas. He geeked out over Ultra HD televisions, the Tesla all-electric sports car and other beeping, laser thingamabobs.
In the midst of all this excitement, my gadget-loving design engineer stopped to get me a photo of a celebrity.
He figured it might be something I could use for my blog.
So he got in the line, elbow to elbow with photographers from Popular Mechanics and Reuters, and ended up standing there for over an hour to get me this photo:
Love gets me some Snookie.
Gotta love him. My husband knows very little about reality TV star Snookie or The Jersey Shore. To put this in perspective, it would be like me going to his office and taking notes for him on a meeting called, How to Choose the Right Plastic (this is a real thing). I’d have to drink A LOT of coffee to keep my mind focused on that subject. A lot. I can’t emphasize that enough. Especially considering the damage I’ve probably done to my brain after watching The Jersey Shore.
Maybe this gesture isn’t exactly romantic. It’s not a helicopter ride or a picnic overlooking a glacier like they do on The Bachelor. But sometimes we don’t have to shout so loud to say I’m thinking of you. You matter.
From scraping the ice from my car window, to bringing me a cup of tea when I’m working late . . .
And this too.
. . . I love the little things. They fill up my heart.
What do you think about love and the little things?
Have an amazing week!
*If you enjoyed this post, you can subscribe to my mailing list to receive my new posts straight to your inbox. Just add your email in the space at the top of the right sidebar under my photo.Read More
Each week I aim for optimism in my posts.
But some weeks I feel like gloomy Eeyore. I doubt the positive message. I feel like a poser, or a Pollyanna. I wonder if you’ll think,
Who is this woman handing me these rose-colored glasses?
Because sometimes behind that optimistic message I feel defeated, frustrated.
These were supposed to be stars and other assorted cut out cookies.
This past week was no exception. There was a moment where I found myself jumping up and down because I was so excited (news for a future post!), and then there was one where I cried tears of frustration.
Now before you write me a prescription, this wasn’t one big massive mood swing (although can’t say I’m immune to those either). This week it was two unrelated things.
And way more frustrating than a crappy batch of cookies.
Enough to make me feel like I suddenly had no business writing about optimism.
Then while perusing the food blogs in my Google reader (never underestimate the power of a pretty picture of monkey bread), I read some posts from a blogger who recently gave birth to her second child. In between posts on yummy confections she updated readers on the ups and downs of getting to know her infant. The sleepless nights, the tricks that work and don’t work, and the worry.
The opening notes to The Beauty and the Beast of Motherhood.
And in her story, I recognized myself and my daughter, how our first night home from the hospital (many, many moons ago) my daughter cried and cried no matter how many times I changed her, fed her, swaddled her, held her. I remember staring at her and thinking (and crying), just tell me what you want.
But we don’t always get the answers. Sometimes after life shifts, or plans derail, it takes time to figure out what works. Eventually I figured out that my daughter loved her swing and white noise. She’d sleep and so would I. Then that would pass and there would be something new and equally exhausting to figure out.
My daughter, the gift. She also inspired me to write songs with lyrics like, Please go to sleep.
And as I thought about the new baby posts and the super cute photos of this tiny new baby girl and her mother’s face glowing with happy exhaustion, I remembered the joy. Eventually, light seeps through. We learn to deal.
It reminded me that my current confusion will pass too. Maybe I haven’t figured it out yet, but at least I know I’ve done it before.
And I hope that by focusing on the light seeping through each week, maybe I can inspire someone else to remember the joy too.
A big thank you to Kristan over at Confessions of a Cookbook Queen and her tiny new daughter. Their story was the one I needed this week to remind me to keep on keeping on.
Oh and just in case you’re wondering, this is what I did with that funky batch of sugar cookies:
Cookie dough truffles.
Where do you turn to get a dose of optimism?
Kids, do not try this at home. All stunts performed by a
free-spirited professional tour guide.
With the new year upon us, I want to send out an extra special thank you for stopping by and sharing in this adventure with me. You all add heaps of sparkle to this journey and I am SO grateful.
So here’s to getting the most out of life. Whether your adventure agenda for 2013 includes dangling your legs over the Grand Canyon or making room in your day for afternoon tea (yes please), here’s to a happy, healthy, successful and peaceful new year.
Wishing you all the best,
This weekend I baked.
Cream cheese cookie dough
Chocolate dipped cream cheese cookies decked out for a Chanukah party.
I remember my mom making Cream Cheese Leaves for me to bring to a Girl Scout meeting way back when. She dipped them in semi-sweet chocolate and then nestled them in a wax paper lined coffee can.
This is my mom’s recipe.
I think they are now her official Christmas cookie. My mom says she called them Cream Cheese Leaves because of the way the dough rolled off the spoons when she first made them. She pinched each and every one to make them look more leaf like.
My mom has great patience when baking.
Sometimes I do. But not this weekend. I used my handy-dandy cookie scoop to make precise dough balls.
Besides I was too occupied being a moving target.
And I wasn’t stopping at my mom’s cookies. I needed to try some new ideas for a cookie exchange party.
Next up, Compost Cookies!
Makes great dirt–not cookies.
These cookies have a funny name, but they are super easy. You start with your favorite chocolate chip cookie dough recipe. It can be vegan, gluten-free, whole grain–whatever you like . . .
It doesn’t have to be homemade. This works too–just let it soften at room temperature first.
Then mix and match 1 cup of your favorite add ins:
Candy bars, nuts, cereal, butterscotch chips, dried fruit, pretzels–whatever you want. Even leftover cookies, although that seems a tad cannibalistic.
Then drop and bake according to your recipe.
Up next, A Sprinkle of Fortune Cookie.
You take a basic sugar cookie dough (again, your tried and true favorite) and add in some freshly grated orange zest. After baking and cooling, dip them in melted white chocolate.
Then you can sprinkle crushed fortune cookies and colored sugar on top.
If you like extra sprinkles, then you’re a SPRINKY DINK, according to Urban Dictionary.
What is your favorite cookie? Are you a Sprinky Dink?
And to all those celebrating this week, warm wishes for a Happy Chanukah!
Today I am happy to have a very special guest here: Alarna Rose Gray. Alarna describes herself as an aunt, animal lover, and writer. To me she is also a new friend.
AND she has a brand new book!
Hello Pepi: A Toy Dog is for Real
There was a little puppy
With a coat of raven silk,
A lightning splash upon his chest
And paws of peppered milk…
Hello Pepi is the first book in a wonderful new series for children young and old. It is about the special friendship between a toy dog and his most important person. The verse is smart, sweet and wonderful to read aloud. The illustrations make me nostalgic for the picture books from my childhood. In short, the books made me smile.
Pepi is also based on a true story.
Here is that inspiration in Alarna’s words:
Hello Pepi is a collection of memories that form a fictional narrative of the life of one small dog.
But not just any dog.
Pepi was a dog that burst onto the scene of my life in a most unexpected way.
Pepi, Age 1
I had no intention of getting a dog. My flatmate at the time had suffered a terrible loss and wanted to get a puppy. Although between us we already had four cats!
We took a long drive across the city to the other side of town, and it was as we stood in the living room of a European lady that the magic happened.
He was a tiny black and white fella who made gentle cooing noises as I held him in my palm.
My flatmate had chosen his brother, the runt of the pack, and not wanting to separate the two, I made a snap decision to take the puppy home. Who can resist the cuteness of a little dog who quacks at the sight of you?
And this is where the reason for my writing the series came about.
It’s a common story. We fall in love with pets because we’ve bred them to be cute for us. But sometimes we don’t realise what that decision means.
At the age of eighteen / nineteen, having a dog, in particular, made me feel grown up and independent – that idea of being responsible for another living creature who you take out into the world with you.
Then the reality comes in. They need to be fed. Walked. Bathed. Cleaned up after. Trained. Not to mention all the very costly vet bills.
Little dogs, in particular, are quite high maintenance. They might be small, but they make up for it in energy, and (quite often) noise!
I’m a very quiet person, and can also be impatient. So the two together meant that I was in for some ride with Pepi!
Pepi, age 2
It really wasn’t until someone close to me pointed out how clever he was, that I truly began to appreciate his energy. And that’s the bittersweet tragedy of having pets. I don’t think we always appreciate how much they know, or what they give us… until it’s gone.
He suffered something similar to a stroke at fifteen. Even at that age, people in the street thought he was still a puppy, because he was so small, and full of energy. But he was never quite the same after that. He started slowing down. He got dementia. That’s when I decided to chronicle his life and spirit in verse.
He loved having the story read to him. He was a very musical dog, and the rhythm of the rhyme made him jump up in excitement. He knew it was about him, and he’d talk back as I read aloud.
And that’s it, really. I wanted to share the joy of the experiences I had with him, as well as the lessons that I learned. My puppy parenting was far from perfect. But he always knew he was loved, and never held that against me. Except when I forgot to give him treats. Then he held a grudge .
Little dogs are also much maligned. People think they are stupid, or blame them for provoking their bigger dogs into a fight. But there’s a lot more to them than that. It just requires us to see the world a little through their eyes…
Beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing your story Alarna.
The first three ebooks are available on Amazon here. But in celebration of the launch of her new series and the wonderful spirit of Pepi and friendship, Alarna would like to gift the first book to YOU.
So if you’d like an ebook of Hello Pepi #1, simply leave your email in the comments before Monday, December 10th.
Have an amazing weekend!
It’s Reader Paparazzi time.
It’s research, not stalking.
Reader Paparazzi is my Q & A series spotlighting YA readers (if you missed any previous interviews, click here or on the tab in the header above). I spend a lot of time inside the mind of fictional teens–writing and reading, so it’s great to get a little real YA world perspective to help with character inspiration, or to learn what holds a teen’s interest, or simply find a new book to read.
But it’s not only teens reading Young Adult novels. The popularity of YA spans the generations. Wikipedia says the typical age range is from ten to twenty-five, but I know plenty of adults are reading it. Plus, the categories of New Adult or Upper YA throw off the typical range also.
More than half of the eighty books I’ve read this year have been YA. Although I guess I don’t count since I also write YA–and because I’m just barely over twenty-five.
Anyhoo, today I bring you an interview with a college student. Ancient, I know. But Amanda is a prolific YA reader. She blogs about the books she reads over at her site Born Bookish. Check it out. You can find great reviews and segments like Breathtaking Book Covers and Wordlover Wednesday.
A big Reader Paparazzi hello to Amanda!
Amanda, what book are you reading right now?
You actually caught me in-between books! I started The Rise of Nine by Pittacus Lore a couple of months ago but have been so busy with review books I haven’t been able to finish it. Next up, is Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday.
I am a fan of The Number Four series! Of course, every time I go to your blog, I find new titles for my to-read pile!
Okay, now let’s get serious. What did you eat for dinner last night?
Macaroni & Cheese. Not the kind out of a box, I actually went out to eat and got fancy schmancy Mac & Cheese.
Yum! What was your favorite book when you were younger?
I can only pick one? Wow, that’s hard. I’m going to go with Abby: South Sea Adventures series by Pamela Walls.
What do you hope you will be doing five years from now?
I hope that I will have a job in the field of Graphic Design, one that I will enjoy doing everyday.
What are you most looking forward to right now?
My trip to London that I’ll be taking over Winter Break!
Sounds amazing. London is definitely on my bucket list.
What would you like to learn how to do—that you don’t know how to do?
So many things . . . American Sign Language is something I’ve always wanted to learn–and how to play violin.
What fictional character would you most like to meet and why?
I have to think about this one for a minute . . . Cammie Morgan from the Gallagher Girl series by Ally Carter because she is a spy, and what girl didn’t dream of being a spy when she was little?!
Yes, but all that intrigue can make a spy girl hungry!
So back to food. What is your favorite comfort food?
Chicken and stuffing
Top 3 songs playing on your iPod?
Small Bump- Ed Sheeran
Red- Taylor Swift
The Writer- Ellie Goulding (I just bought concert tickets for an Ellie concert tonight! I’m SO excited!)
You have a great blog segment on book covers—how important is the cover to you when choosing a book to read?
So important! If a book has a great cover it is pretty much guaranteed that I will at least pick it up, read the synopsis and decide from there. If I dislike a cover I won’t even bother reading the back. I know that’s horrible, but it’s the designer in me. I just can’t read a book if I hate the cover.
If you could Skype with anyone—who would you pick?
Does Perry the Platypus count? No? Okay. Then I would choose Taylor Swift.
Perry the Platypus is ready to Skype.
Quick fire fill in the blank:
I fear: Heights
I need: Chocolate
I love: Family
I am inspired by: Nature
Favorite word from your Wordlover Wednesday series: Lollygag
As in enough of. Got it.
Thank you Amanda!
Now, because Reader Paparazzi gets me feeling extra stalkerish and curious, tell me, what did YOU have for dinner last night?
I did NOT have Halloween candy for dinner.
Have an awesome week!