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Why I changed my publication date to be the same as inauguration day

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

I can’t think of a better way to explain how I’m feeling right now. Obvious cons: our current administration’s disregard for humanity, our future, and our Constitution. Pros: I have achieved a life-long dream of publishing a novel.

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Insane flash fiction about me having duck feet and bringing things to children accompanied by a note from my mother to my grandparents claiming that they might have a novelist on their hands.

My publication date was going to be Monday, January 23rd. But I woke up on January 20th really, really mad. And my husband said, why not today? So I pushed the date forward, and concentrated on publication day instead of inauguration day. And maybe it wasn’t the best idea. Even my dad said that he was staying off social media, so he didn’t see any of my posts (but he was my first customer, which he really wanted to be). On the other hand, my mom said that it worked – she spent her day thinking about my publication and not the other things that were going on.

And sometimes that’s the point of art, right? It’s not as simple as escapism, which can be useful, but we can’t just escape forever. Art gives us power and hope, something to focus on that lets us know that there are positive forces out there. And when I read, sometimes I read hopeless things. But when I write, I can’t help but include that glimmer, that nugget that readers can hold inside and know that there is good out there. And maybe it’ll take a while to get where we’re supposed to be, but they can know they’re not alone.

Reading goals for 2017: Read more. Read more diversely.

It’s a new year and time for some new reading goals! I love using the tracker in Goodreads. I’m actually terrible at the social aspect of Goodreads (but I’m trying to get better!) and I mainly use it for my own rating/records system. Fifty books is my normal goal most years, which I totally failed last year since I was up to my eyes in Harry Potter research for my Quidditch paper at the Harry Potter Conference and also editing my own book, which I read about five thousand times. So if that counts, I crushed my goal.

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I’m actually more excited about my reading goal this year than any other year because I’m definitely reading with a purpose. Aside from whatever my book club at work chooses (which tends to be pretty diverse), I’m only really reading diverse books and nonfiction about entrepreneurship/professional development/business as I start working on a side project about professional development for young creatives and begin my new novel, which has two POC protagonists.

What are diverse books? For me, it’s reading about women/POC/people with disabilities/LGBTQ+ people as well as books by those authors. Growing up, most of the books I read were written by white women or men and had white, female or male, able-bodied, middle class, straight protagonists. Some books assigned in school were diverse, but the majority were written by white men. When I was younger, I loved reading books about tall, brown-haired girls who were confident and funny and liked horses, unicorns, and other dorky things, because they were just like me. And there were so many of them!

As I started to write, I created similar stories; my mind ran wild with plots but the characters essentially stayed the same. I have always believed that the best way to improve your writing (and empathy, and education, and worldview, etc.) is by reading, so that’s what I’m doing. Bring on the diversity!

There are some great resources for diversifying your reading lists including The 25 Most Anticipated Books by Women, by Sarah Nović in Elle, My Year of Reading Books by Black Women by Alisha Acquaye also in Elle, and Book Riot’s newsletters, The Riot Rundown and What’s Up in YA?, which always have excellent links. I also follow We Need Diverse Books on Facebook and the resources on their website for both readers and writers is invaluable.

What’s on your reading list for 2017?

 

Read the pain away

It’s been twenty-three days since I had to look in the mirror and say to myself, “Donald Trump is our president-elect,” and hearing it, reading it, and thinking it hasn’t gotten much easier. I’ve been throwing myself even further into activism activities, whether it’s with the NYDA (the NY chapter of the Harry Potter Alliance), donating to organizations like these, reading everything I can and avoiding fake news, volunteering with NY Cares, or keeping an eye and ear out for moments of injustice anywhere.

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My AMAZING perk from the HPA’s Wizard Rock the Vote fundraiser.

The state of the world can be overwhelming so I, like always, have been turning to books for guidance, inspiration, escape, entertainment, empowerment, and education. Some of my favorite books to read when the world feels like too much are ones about young people harnessing their creative power to make a difference, save the world, or save themselves. Books like Ellen Wittlinger’s Hard Love, Kirstin Cronn-Mills’ Beautiful Music for Ugly Children, Jonas Jonasson’s The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden, Trenton Lee Stewart’s The Mysterious Benedict Society, and, always, Harry Potter. I also loved this piece by Ashley Bowen-Murphy over at BookRiot about the books BookRiot contributors read when “they need to remember fighting the good fight is worth it”.

It’s why I wrote It Will Set You Free; just the idea of a girl who wanted to be creative, to make a difference, to know herself a little more. I’d love to hear about your favorite books about using creativity to make a difference.

Keep reading, stay strong, and “never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it” (HRC).