We’re Only Human…

… and we have bad habits. What habit would you like to kick? The Tuesdays want to know!

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I’m a first class worrier. The good news is that I don’t worry about everything, which lets me know that it’s a habit that can be broken. It’s an activity that sucks my energy and accomplishes nothing! I’m open to ideas as to how to stop.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: My husband’s helping me with this one. “Hmm, where should I start?” he says, tapping his chin, but actually he’s having a hard time thinking of something. “Crumbs in the kitchen?” he says (after a few minutes of thinking). Sure! If that’s my worst habit, I must be pretty special. But do I really want to kick this bad habit? I might need those crumbs!

Faran Fagen

Faran: A habit I’d like to kick is finding reasons not to exercise. It seems when I get busy that’s the first thing that goes, but it’s so important to stay healthy. Even stretching once a day can help prevent a pulled muscle.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: The bad habit I need to break is procrastination. Although I don’t really procrastinate in starting a project, I do in finishing it. Takes me a while to fully immerse myself because I overthink things.

Themed Thursday: Our Books Picks for Black History Month

February is Black History Month, so what better time to share some of our favorite black history books? Do you have a favorite book that celebrates or commemorates black history? We’d love to hear from you.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Color Blindness by Michelle L. Alexander is commentary on the reality of living in America while black. When we study black history in the month of February, it’s important to look at the social construct of how slavery is still affecting people today. Michelle Alexander takes a look at the hard numbers highlighting how many blacks today are still in subordinate status just like their ancestors. This is an eye-opening book for everyone.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: Never Caught: The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave, Ona Judge, by Erica Armstrong Dunbar. This nonfiction account was definitely an eye opener. As children, we’re taught to revere our first president, but this book shows George Washington in a new light. It also honors the life of Ona Judge, his runaway slave who—as the title suggests and through her own resourcefulness—was never caught, despite the president’s best efforts.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: Underground to Canada is a historical novel for young readers by Barbara Smucker. It was first published in Canada in 1977 and published in the United States as Runaway to Freedom: A Story of the Underground Railway. Based partially on a true story, the novel is set in the United States and Canada in the years leading up to the American Civil War and describes the hard lives of slaves in the American South and the people who helped them escape to Canada through the Underground Railroad. The novel is studied in Canadian schools. In it, a young slave called Julilly and her mother, Mammy Sally, are sold apart when their owner, Massa Hensen, falls ill. Julilly is taken to a plantation in Mississippi. There she meets Liza, another slave girl. Pursued by their master, the two girls and their friends, Lester and Adam, begin their escape from slavery. They make their way through the United States to Canada on the Underground Railroad with the help of Alexander Milton Ross, a Canadian abolitionist, eventually arriving safely, apart from Adam who dies of blood poisoning caused by his slave chains.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I’d recommend Walter Dean Myers’ Handbook for Boys. It may not be a historic book, but it takes you on the journey of a confused young African-American male who learns a lot about growing up from the wise workers at a barber shop. Amazing lessons from the barbers and the sharp customers who spend their time at the shop rub off on 16-year-old Jimmy, who narrowly escapes jail.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: Teammates, by Peter Golenbock. This is the moving story of how Jackie Robinson became the first black player on a Major League baseball team when he joined the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1940s. I love baseball and Jackie Robinson, and this story never ceases to fascinate me.

What’s the Dumbest Way You’ve Been Injured?

The Tuesdays want to know!

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: The dumbest way that I’ve been injured is one time when playing softball, I ran after a ball in foul territory. I never took my eye off of it. Unfortunately, I didn’t keep my eyes on the fence. I ran straight into it and immediately felt the wetness on my face. I got thirteen stitches that night and still have the scars on my face. My friends took a picture of my bloody face, and I still look at it from time to time, to remind me of my stupidity.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: This is literally a no-brainer. Over winter break when my son was coming home from college, I went to make him vegan food. Note to self: unplug the immersion blender before using it. Let’s just say the food was no longer vegan and I was pretty chewed up. At least the tip of my finger was. Worst part? Knowing I’d done it to myself.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: On Christmas Day a year ago I got a new slalom water ski as a gift. I was being wimpy and didn’t want to get in the water in advance because I thought it was too cold. I donned my gear on the swim platform of the boat and prepared to jump sideways into the water. I didn’t want to get my hair wet either, so as I jumped in I brought my arms down as fast as I could to slap the water and prevent my head from going under. Well, I didn’t jump out far enough, so the full force slap hit the swim platform, breaking my wrist. I was going to get wet anyway; if I’d only sucked it up and got in, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: When I was three, all the neighborhood kids were taking turns in the wagon riding down the hill in our backyard. It was finally my turn. Our neighbor, who was five, was supposed to be steering. As the wagon approached the clothes pole smack dab in the middle of the hill, he bailed, and I hit the pole. Of course I ran inside crying. Turns out my collar bone busted, so I guess I wasn’t being a crybaby that time.

Faran Fagen

Faran: Easily the dumbest way I was injured happened when I was seven. I was at a friend’s house and we were bike riding down a steep  hill. The sunset was brilliant that day and as I stared at it, I plowed right into the back of a parked car. Luckily all I got were scrapes, bruises, and torn shorts. I was lucky.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: The first time I cracked my chin open and had to get stitches, it wasn’t that dumb. I was in first grade. I did a flip from the top rung of the money bars and ended up chin first on the gravel. Hospital, stitches… You’d think I would have learned a lesson. Then in second grade, I did the same exact thing–same monkey bars, same feat of acrobatics (a failed flip), same hospital. I still have the scars.

 

Themed Thursday: Our #OwnVoices Picks

The OwnVoices hashtag began last September when author Corinne Duyvis created it “to recommend kidlit about diverse characters written by authors from that same diverse group.” Since then, the label has evolved and now refers to any book written about diverse or marginalized characters by an author from that same diverse or marginalized group. And because all of us at Tuesday Writers are avid readers, we wanted to recommend some of our favorite #OwnVoices books. As always, we’d love to hear your picks as well.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I love books that open my eyes, books that tell stories that are outside my experience, especially ones where the characters live and breathe on the page and live on long after I close the book. If I Was Your Girl by Meredith Russo is one of those books. Written by a transgender woman about a transgender experience, If I Was Your Girl tells the story of Amanda Hardy as she tries to find herself and bounces between her pre-transition life and her post-transition life (where her body caught up to her reality). I really felt for this girl. And I highly recommend this book for anyone who’s looking—not only for a good story—but also for a story that resonates long after you finish it.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: Randi Pink’s novel Into White is a story borne out of her own life, growing up black in an all-white neighborhood. In the novel, main character LaToya prays to Jesus to be “anything but black.” One morning her prayer is granted. Her family can’t see the transformation, but she goes to school and tells the principal she’s an exchange student. Her long blonde hair and white skin seem to be the ingredients of popularity that’s evaded her. What Toya has to figure out is whether or not it’s worth it. You can see Randi’s Ted Talk here: Step Outside of Your Comfort Zone | Randi Pink | TEDxBirmingham. And you can find Randi’s website at The Basics.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: There are thankfully a sea of #ownvoices books to choose from. The #ownvoices book I’d like to boost is Sarah Nicolas’s Keeping her Secret. Sarah is this awesome library event planner and all around bomb person. Plus her book is unputdownable. Note the tag line: “All is fair in summer camp prank wars…” You want to read that, don’t you? Go ahead. Order it. I’ll wait.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I’m a huge fan of Matt De La Pena’s books, and a big reason is his penchant for marginalized characters. Sticky in Ball Don’t Lie struggles in a foster home, and ace pitcher Danny Lopez is haunted by a broken home and his racial identity in Mexican Whiteboy. In I Will Save You, De La Pena takes on mental illness in a way that will blow you away. His portrayal of these characters is both eye-opening and riveting, and through their journey we are faced with the hard road they face to reach a sense of peace and balance among turmoil. You can follow De La Pena on Twitter: @mattdelapena

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: My favorite #OwnVoices author is Simone Kelly who wrote Like a Fly on the Wall. In the book, Moraccan-born Jacques Berradi has a unique gift as an intuitive counselor. Kylie Collins goes to see him for insight, and a blackout strikes Miami, forcing them to work together. Can Jacques’s intuition reveal the scandalous history of Kylie’s mother and father? Will Kylie’s newfound detective skills uncover evidence about the death of Jacques’s father? And will the chemistry that charges their friendship bubble over into something much, much hotter…?  By the way, Simone is a vivacious personal coach and can be reached at: @ownyourpower.

Themed Thursday: What We Always Wanted to Be

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. It bothered me that I felt I had no particular skill in anything. I was good at most things (except sports!) but not exceptional in anything other than reading. If someone had asked me what I loved to do, then reading would have been top of my list. When I speak with teens now, I don’t ask what do you want to do when you grow up. I ask what do you love to do now.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: I went through so many different career choices as a kid. For years, it was to be a paleontologist. I was fascinated by dinosaurs. After that it turned to acting or writing. I wanted to do something that would entertain people. At least I got to accomplish one of my dreams.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I wanted to be either a sports writer or first baseman in the major leagues. I loved baseball, and first base was my favorite position because I loved catching the ball and also being the one to record most of the outs. I especially liked when the infielder made a bad throw, and I was able to catch it with a scoop or pick to sort of save the day. As for the sports writing, I loved sports and writing, so why not?

Melody Maysonet

Melody: When I was a kid, I always wanted to be a teacher and a writer. I’m happy to say that I became both of those things. A teacher first. (I was certified to teach English, grades 6-12, but ended up teaching at a community college.) And finally, after years of struggle (and a career change where I became a magazine editor for Wizards of the Coast and then a nonfiction book editor), I published my first book in 2015. I still have a hard time calling myself a writer, though. Maybe after I publish my next book…

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I wanted to be a nun. It used to be my wish when I was blowing out my birthday candles. I think I’m still fascinated with nuns. I was Catholic. I went to Catholic school. It was in the water.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: 

When I was a child I decided I wanted to be a nurse like my mother. I stuck with it and made nursing my profession. I’m glad I did. Although I am retired now, nursing offered many varied career pathways within the profession, so I never got bored.

 

Themed Thursday: Our Favorite Thing About Writers’ Conferences

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: It’s always wonderful to be at a writing conference with so many like-minded people. I love catching up with old friends and making new ones. My favorite thing about a writing conference is the little gems about craft that I learn. I always find I can’t wait to get back to my work in progress and try them out.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: My favorite thing about writing conferences is getting to spend time with friends and other writers. It’s always fun to get to be with people who have the same interests as you and who know what you’re going through.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: There are magic moments at writing conferences: when you get that one little tidbit of info that clicks in relation to your novel, when you are back together with your tribe, when the agent wants to see the full, and when two Joan Jetts meet on the dance floor and win the costume contest.

Faran Fagen

Faran: My favorite thing about writers’ conferences is meeting authors and hearing their stories about why they became a writer. Inevitably, the answer is to create more readers among children and make kids feel like they’re part of something special as they turn each page. That’s what I want too–to help kids feel they belong in this world. Meeting other writers with that same mission is beyond empowering.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: My favorite thing about writers’ conferences is the workshops themselves. I love hanging out with other writers–there’s a definite spirt of togetherness at every conference I attend–but the learning part is what stays with me. Almost every workshop I attend, I have an aha! moment, and it’s those yummy little morsels that help me improve my craft.

Our Writing Resolutions for 2018

Faran Fagen

Faran: My main writing goal for 2018 is to make my pages as exciting as possible so boys will read them. Would like my writing to coax a boy into reading who normally wouldn’t pick up a book. If I can do that, the writing must be strong.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I happened to look at my last year’s resolution, and this is what it said: “This year I’m determined to finish my next book (with revisions) so my agent can start trying to sell it.” Well, I guess I dropped the ball on that one (pardon the pun), but it’s not like I haven’t made progress. I’m over halfway done and the book is getting better all the time. This year (hopefully!) I’ll finish it.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I need to focus on the end of Flying Blind. I’ve gotten into a bad loop by going back to the beginning over and over. It’s time to loop near the end. I know what’s going to happen. I just need to get the words on the page. Once that’s done, I’m going to let the book rest awhile and begin my new book which has been dancing around in my brain for six months.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: I’m finishing up the revision of a novel that’s about a college freshman who parties like he’s possessed and the girl next door exorcist. My writing resolution is to write my next novel fast, not fretting about whether I’m getting things perfect as I go along. I want to get all my ideas out and let the revision process take care of the details.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: My New Year’s writing resolution is simple. Write more. I do spend a lot of time writing now, but I want to complete more projects. I usually take a lot of time to do each project, but now I want to get more done.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: Every year since I was first published, I’ve set new writing goals. I write these goals down. I pen easy goals, medium hard goals, and total stretch goals. Last year I wanted to extend my reach to readers by attending book festivals. I attended April is for Authors, the YA Fest in Easton, Pennsylvania, and Trinity Prep Author Fest. A pretty good year all in all. This year I want to continue with author festivals and also work on a picture book and a short story. In addition to having a book come out in March and revising my 2019 release. You gotta keep moving. Right? Comment below and tell us what your goals are for this year. I hope 2018 is a year filled with wonder and success for all of you.

Things We Didn’t Know We’d Have To Do As Writers

Melody Maysonet

Melody: Who knew I’d have to do so much self-promotion? My publicist told me that whenever I received a positive book review, to post it on social media. It got to the point where I was rolling my eyes at myself. (“Here she goes again… talking about how great she is.”) Self-promotion definitely doesn’t come naturally to me, but I’ve learned ways to do it without sounding like I’m full of myself. A lot of my strategy has to do with being grateful. So instead of saying, “Wow, I got a Kirkus Star! Aren’t I great?” I can say, “I’m so grateful to Kirkus for awarding A Work of Art the Kirkus Star.” (See how I slipped in that A Work of Art was named a best book of 2015 by YA Books Central? Oh, I meant, the Kirkus Star.) And yes, employing humor is another way to self-promote without sounding arrogant.

Faran Fagen

Faran: I didn’t know you’d have to put so much into marketing yourself on social media, but now that I’ve been doing it I enjoy it. I’ve gotten to meet people I never would have known, and I got to learn from new ideas. It’s also helped me keep in touch with old friends.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: I didn’t know how much self-promotion I was going to have to do. Sales, PR, putting myself out there on social media to beef up my web presence. It’s exhausting to think about, so I don’t. My father says to chip away at things. Just one thing at a time!

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: Revise, revise, revise, learn more about the craft of writing and revise yet again. When I set out to write a novel I was very naive about the process. I had a friend who had written a non-fiction book in a year. I thought it would take that long for me to complete a novel. I have learned that it’s a many layered process that takes the average fiction writer about ten years until they land an agent and publisher.

 

Best Concert

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: Barry Manilow – Copacabana Tour. I’d actually forgotten about it, but I was trying to remember a concert I really looked forward to–and it was this one! I was a freshman in college. My friend Melody (not our Tuesday’s Melody) and I had tickets. We went to the University of Illinois for the concert. It was a real happening!

Melody Maysonet

Melody: The best concert I’ve ever been to was Paul McCartney back in the mid-1990s. My then-boyfriend won tickets from a radio station (he was a HUGE Beatles and McCartney fan), and we drove three hours to St. Louis to see him. That was the first concert I’d ever been to, and no concert since can compare in terms of pure fan comraderie and excitement.

Jonathan Rosen

Jonathan: Tough one, since I’ve seen so many concerts where I’ve thought, This is the best! But two stand out above the rest. Bruce Springsteen and Barry Manilow both put on epic shows. Yes, they are two very different types of performers, but for their fans, they both give long shows, which cover a ton of their songs. Not that I didn’t love the other concerts I went to, but these two ranked among the best.

Faran Fagen

Faran: Best concert has to be Billy Joel on New Year’s Eve. He sounds so authentic live, and I sang along with every song. His concerts are always amazing because he has so may hits, and you never know which ones will be played. I also went with my wife and close friends, which made it more special. Billy even brought on some special guests, Howard Stern and Jimmy Kimmel, just before midnight.

Stacie Ramey

Stacie: I’ve attended many concerts over the years and all of them have been unique and wonderful experiences. I’ve been lucky. From Bruce Springsteen to Peter Gabriel to REM to The Who, I’ve loved them all. But my favorite all-time concert, even surpassing the two times I saw Eric Clapton or Tom Petty, my favorite concert was David Bowie. He brought so much magic to the stage. Man, he was something.

Books That Made Us Cry

Faran Fagen

FaranThe Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I read it often to my kids. Every time I get to the end where the “boy” sits upon the tree, I feel like I’m about to cry.

Cathy Castelli

Cathy: Don’t You Dare Read This, Mrs. Dunfrey by Margaret Petersen Haddix. It’s one of those books where I wasn’t sure I could read it straight through and maybe I had to peek at the end just to make sure everything was going to be okay. The main character, Tish, is left to care for her little brother when their mother abandons them. Tish’s English teacher has assigned a journal which Tish usually marks that her teacher shouldn’t read it. I felt so much anxiety for Tish and her little brother. It really got to me.

Melody Maysonet

Melody: I have two books that I’d like to mention. War and Rembrance by Herman Wouk, which is set during World War II (I re-read it every few years), and Far From the Tree by Robin Benway, which won this year’s National Book Award for Young Adult fiction.

Joanne Butcher

Joanne: The story that made me cry the most was a movie called The Mission. In it a Jesuit priest is sent over a waterfall tied to a cross by the “savages” he was sent to tame. It turns out the people weren’t really savage at all. I cried for the priest who was convinced by his church this was the right thing to do, and I cried for the native people whose lives were ruined by the intrusion into their way of life. At one point I was sobbing so loudly that my husband closed the windows because he was worried the neighbors would think there was something wrong.

Jonathan: I have a feeling that I’m not the only one with this, but I can’t and won’t, ever read Bridge to Terabithia again. Made the mistake of seeing the movie years ago, and it had the same result. That is it for me. No more visits to Terabithia.