Sara’s Favorite Reads of 2017 (Plus, Another Double Giveaway!)

Isn’t it fun to look back on the books you’ve read in the past year? I always enjoy doing this, though I also prefer to wait until January to share my lists of favorites. Somehow the books I read around Christmas and New Year’s have a habit of shaking up those lists – and that certainly was the case again!

Out of the 56 fiction books I read in 2017, I’ve narrowed my favorites down to a top 10 of brand new books and a top 10 of previously published books. Plus, like with my Favorite Reads of 2016 post, I’ve added something fun for readers at the end of this post. 😉 So let’s dive in!

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Reflections on 2017, and What Matters More than Having the “Best Year Ever”

Last January, a friend gave me this New Year’s party hat. The timing for this sparkling “gift” couldn’t have been more appropriate: I was ready to send a YA fantasy novel to beta-readers, and 3 weeks into a crowdfunding campaign to help me afford a trip to the Iceland Writers Retreat. Not to mention I had a whole list of goals and plans for 2017, and if things worked out the way I’d hoped, maybe I’d be closer to my dream of being published by year’s end – a pretty good “best year ever.”

Today, that hat still sits in my writing space (a.k.a. my dining room table), and I’m no closer to being published than I was a year ago. But that doesn’t mean 2017 was “not the best year ever.” Rather, it turned out much differently than I thought it would.

Was it challenging? Absolutely. Discouraging? At times, yes. But it was also one of the most exciting, inspiring, and humbling years I’ve had the privilege of living.

For all those reasons, I can’t write this annual reflection post in the same way I’ve written those of past years. Instead of focusing on milestones, blog statistics, and defined plans that could change in a few months, I’d like to share what I learned this past year. How certain events sent my mental health spiraling and shook my faith and self-confidence. How other events and important choices helped me heal and made me look at life – even why I write – from a different perspective. How it all, in the end, reminded me that I’m intelligent, creative, and determined enough to rebound from setbacks. Continue reading

The Creativity Corner: Autumn 2017 (Plus, I’m on Hiatus for the Holidays)

I guess I should start this post by wishing you a Happy Winter Solstice… But I’m not a fan of winter. 😉 Either way, it’s hard to believe that another season has passed, and what an inspiring and productive autumn it was, creatively speaking. The funny thing is, when I was writing the end-of-summer Creativity Corner, I was already looking ahead to fall… and I realized that October and early November would be the best time to get as much writing done as possible before Thanksgiving and Christmas.

What a fantastic decision that turned out to be – because I’m stunned at how much I accomplished since then! I’ll get into all of that shortly. And as always, feel free to share what you’ve been reading and writing (or revising, editing, etc.) this past season in your comments.
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New DIY MFA Article on Identity as a Theme in YA Literature

DiyMFA

One theme I’ve wanted to cover for a while at my DIY MFA column is identity: who we are, what we want to be, and all of the joys and complications that comes with those explorations. This theme can be found in books across all genres, but it happens quite frequently in YA literature – frequently enough, in fact, that I opted to do something different than my usual case study. Thus, today’s post offers insights on how identity is addressed in YA lit, its importance to readers in this age group, and what to keep in mind if your YA manuscript covers this theme.

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What’s Making Me Happy: October 2017

Wait! It’s November now! Isn’t this post late? 

Well, sort of. (Better late than never, right?) But with my new DIY MFA article posting earlier this week and S.J. Higbee’s blog tour stopping here last week, today is the most convenient day to look back on the joys of October.

And, boy, do I need this post right now. October was very stressful, between sudden changes at my day job and unexpected (and expensive) car repairs. And when I’m already stressed / anxious about one thing, it’s so easy for me to get stressed / anxious about other things. If you’ve felt the same way lately, let’s take a moment to inhale deeply, exhale slowly, and give thanks for our accomplishments and joys over the past month. And as always, feel free to share what’s made you happy lately in your comments.

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The Creativity Corner: Summer 2017

Summer ends tomorrow, and what a busy season it’s been. Traveling, sightseeing, getting a head cold (OK, that wasn’t fun, but it did happen), and through it all I managed to get a lot of writing and reading done. So despite the busyness, it was a productive and satisfying summer. 🙂

Without further ado, let’s launch into the Creativity Corner for a recap of what I’ve been writing and reading, and other related happenings, since the end-of-spring edition in June.
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Authenticity, Vulnerability, and Synchronicity: My 2017 Writer’s Digest Conference Story

Wow. Was Writer’s Digest Conference really three weeks ago? Somehow it seems longer ago than that (maybe because I caught a cold on the final day, so it took a couple weeks to resume my normal routine). Yet I still remember that weekend as clearly as the last book I read – because the ideas and lessons I carried home this time struck very close to the heart.

It’s not right, then,  to write this year’s report as an in-depth overview like I did for last year’s. Instead, I’d like to share why WDC 2017 was so meaningful to me, more so than the 2016 or 2015 editions. So if you’re interested in learning about (or refreshing your memory of) the conference format, venue,  and range of writing and publishing topics, check out last year’s post. Otherwise, let’s start not at the beginning, but at the moment when the impact of this conference first began to sink in.
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The 2017 Blogoversary, Part 1: Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend + Giveaway

This Sunday, July 9th marks my eighth blogoversary! And based on the results of this recent poll, this year’s celebration is going to be… giveaways! (Many thanks to everyone who voted, btw!) This is perfect, because blogoversaries aren’t just a time of virtual cake, confetti, and fireworks. They’re also a great opportunity to thank readers for their friendship and support, no matter how long they’ve been following you. So, consider this week’s and next week’s posts my gift to you guys. (*bows in gratitude*)

For this first giveaway, I wanted to do something bookish, but something different from the usual “favorite reads or authors of all time” theme. Then I read these recent Top 10 Tuesday posts by Sarah J. Higbee and The Bibliosanctum, and a lightbulb turned on. So, here are Ten Unique Reads I Highly Recommend, along with links to my reviews at Goodreads. At the end you’ll find a Rafflecopter link and instructions for how the giveaway will work. Sounds like a plan, yes? 😀
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The Creativity Corner: Spring 2017

Can you believe that summer is here? 😮 It still feels like I was in Iceland last week. How on Earth has time zipped by so quickly??

Since a new season has begun, it’s time for an update on the past season’s creative happenings. And after a winter where I struggled with anxiety for a few weeks and my confidence in my writing hit rock-bottom, I’m happy to say that spring was a more productive, inspiring, and emotionally healthy season. It wasn’t free of bumps, but I’m moving forward and focused on new projects.

New projects?? What about The Keeper’s Curse? Or the novella? Yeah… I’ll explain what’s happening with them, too. But first…
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The Mystery Blogger Award

Goodness, this has been sitting in my Drafts box for a while…. (*blushes*)

So Jessica @ Elldimensional graciously nominated me for the Mystery Blogger Award back in January. It’s taken me a while, and for various reasons, but I’ve finally made time to accept and answer her questions. Thank you, Jessica! 🙂 And since I haven’t done an award or blog tag in some time, this should be a fun change of pace.

Some quick details about the Mystery Blogger Award, as described by its creator Okoto Enigma: “The Mystery Blogger Award is an award for amazing bloggers with ingenious posts. Their blog not only captivates; it inspires and motivates. They are one of the best out there, and they deserve every recognition they get. This award is also for bloggers who find fun and inspiration in blogging; and they do it with so much love and passion.”

I’ll save the guidelines for the end of the post. Let’s get to the good stuff first. 😉

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