Thursday, August 30, 2018

Back to School

By Cheryl Oreglia

Do you feel it? That subtle shift in temperature, the slightest re-positioning of the sun, a gust of wind that takes you by surprise, it's as if I'm caught up in the long good-bye to summer, freedom, and the gift of unmitigated time. How do we harvest that which we planted in our time of leisure, what fruits can we gather for the work that is before us, who will accompany me into this seemingly endless stretch of the unknown?

Today, near the end of our welcome back assembly at Notre Dame, we were asked to place our left hand on the shoulder of the person sitting next to us, and our right hand over our heart, as we set before God (life) a prayer for the new semester. I felt this heartfelt connection to everyone in the room as over seven hundred people bowed heads, bound to neighbor, bound by heart, offering up our gratitude and joy for the challenges that lay ahead. It was a powerful reminder we do not enter into this work alone. There are co-workers, staff, and most importantly our students who accompany us on this journey. Each dependent on the other, for not only safe passage from one grade level to the next, but a well defined curriculum that stretches the imagination, encourages critical thinking, and a school-wide dedication to life long learning.

Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it's off to work I go...

I love the first day of school although I usually get a severe case of the butterflies before the first bell. The students are excited, the classes are short, the expectation is simply to establish community. I've learned over the years if you fail at the first day it is almost impossible to get back on track. I think that might be true for many things in life? 

We have an amazing student body at Notre Dame and I've never been anything but enamored with my students (it is my hope they feel the same about me). This year did not disappoint. I floated home, enchanted, charmed, and excited to dive into a curriculum that not only challenges our deeply held beliefs, but asks us to confront controversial issues with compassion, humility, and respect. Our school motto teach them what they need to know for life.

I find the dynamics of a classroom not unlike the dynamics of a home. A place where you can take off your armor when you walk in the door, abide by agreed upon expectations and rules, confront the work that needs to be done together, striving for peaceful resolutions should conflict arise, and injuries call for amends. It can be difficult at times to keep peace in one's own family but removing the emotional reaction to what appears to be disobedience or a derogatory attitude is key to identifying the real issue. It is almost never about the behavior. It usually stems from hunger, exhaustion, anxiety, or fear of rejection, sometimes even the appearance of rejection. 
A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don't function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick. Brene Brown
I've learned to expect the unexpected the first week of school. My first block went off without a catch (other than a few technical glitches and mispronounced names) we warmed to each other. By block two I was forced out of my room, moved upstairs (due to a student on crutches who needed a ground floor room), and spent fifteen minutes corralling my confused students, sending others to hastily reassigned rooms. It was a bit of a snafu. But our sense of humor prevailed and we eventually pulled it together. My final block entailed a small group of students with an interest in discernment, pilgrimage, and journey. Martin Luther King, Jr. says the function of education is to teach one to think intensively and to think critically. Intelligence plus character - that is the goal of true education. 

“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church....a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it. And so it is with you...we are in charge of our attitudes.” Charles R. Swindoll
After my classes today I picked up my three granddaughters from daycare, their parents had work obligations, and I was available. I liken it to picking the short stick on purpose although managing to get three children (3years and under) from daycare to home is no simple task. The first challenge was opening the stroller which requires not only strength and agility, but an engineering degree, and enormous perseverance. It's a good thing I'm resourceful and when the hidden latch unexpectedly popped open things sort of fell into place. So with a whole new appreciation for previously unknown stroller operating skills I strut across the street to the daycare with a functioning carriage. 

I now realize (lifelong learner) you can leave the triple stroller outside of the facility while you gather the children, bottles, papers, sweaters, art work, and such, but I was blissfully aware of this policy (some people refer to it as ignorance), so I brought said stroller into the unusually small infant exchange area (not unlike picking up clothing at the cleaners) without a clue. I marred every doorway and may have dented the sheet rock in a few places. Try not to judge, it's like an obstacle course in there, wee ones running about, and of course I have the Winnebago of strollers to navigate. I was able to procure all of the grandchildren safely home so that's pretty much a win.

When we enter the house I mistakenly brought our dog Shaggy because he was needy after spending the entire day alone. But he's a dog, not very helpful, and by no fault of his own he sort of knocks the children over with his exuberant greeting. So with three crying children I race to the pantry and pull out the prohibited fish crackers before dinner. As quickly as possible I strap the one year old twins into high chairs, it's so much easier when they are secured, and generously dump fish crackers onto their trays. I hand Audrey a bowl because she is a big girl (three) and as for me I simply eat straight from the box.

As the children are happily munching on prohibited foods I'm able to prepare the fruits, yogurts, and pasta as instructed by Julie. Audrey wants a blended drink? It took about twenty minutes to find all the parts to the blender, cut up the appropriate fruits, not allowing them to touch before blending (which makes them yucky), and managed to create just the right texture. Yeah, I was totally sweating it out. 

In the meantime the twins are starting to fuss so I spring into action and for an entire thirty minutes supply them with an endless array of cut up foods. They are crusted over with unspeakable stickiness by the end of the "meal." I consider carrying both highchairs out back and rinsing them down with the garden hose. I don't think my daughter would approve although I believe I can pull it off as entertainment?

After removing some of the crud I take our little entourage to the back yard where I quickly lose control of the situation. The perfect storm; pool, water, dirt, and dish soap ~ three kids and a dog. At some point the three year old starts losing it, she needs protein, attention, and maybe a little calm. As a grandma you can observe deviant behavior from a distance, it doesn't get to you like it did with my own kids. I can see beyond the expression into the source of the issue. Which is the only way to alleviate her distress as well as my own. With that all said it was not easy reigning her back in, even with professional distractions, and Grammie bribes. By the time Julie walks in the house I'm ready to crawl into the playhouse and curl up in the fetal position. She offered me a glass of wine so I preserved and helped with the baths. 

I guess the very long point I've been trying to make is I'm continually learning because life and the prevailing circumstances keep changing, I'm either compelled to react with empathy and compassion, or ruthless apathy. The goal, my harvest, the fruit of unmitigated time comes in the form of creativity. Creativity expands the mind, stretches it beyond ordinary human comprehension, resulting in a mind capable of transcending, of discerning new and complex situations claims Michael Johnson. We live in an unpredictable world, we need each other, along with creative problem-solving skills, and when strollers are involved perseverance and agility. 
Real education enhances the dignity of a human being and increases his or her self-respect. If only the real sense of education could be realized by each individual and carried forward in every field of human activity, the world will be so much a better place to live in. A. P. J. Abdul Kalam

Meet me in the comments, share a few of your own life lessons, or maybe you have a back to school story worthy of repeating.

I'm Living in the Gap when I'm not writing for Across the Board, drop by anytime.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Ten Reasons Why Cons Rock

Listen, I know that traveling is expensive and a hassle and that you often don't have time to put your life aside and go to a conference. I know it because the same happens to me. I also know that some writing conferences are ridiculously expensive and basically keep out regular folks like me. However, there are a plethora of reasons why you should try to go to at least one or two every year if you're seriously doing the writing thing. I spent some time this weekend at KillerCon in Austin, TX. The conference, put together by Wrath James White, used to be held in Las Vegas, and after a few years on hiatus, the new incarnation is here, and it is an awesome thing. In any case, instead of telling you about all the things I heard and read and did or about all the cool people I hugged and talked to, I'll give you ten reasons why you should go to the movies a bit less and eat at home more often so you can safe money to go to a writing conference. Here we go:

1. Old friends
I'm not going to lie: cons are sometimes like huge play dates with friends you don't see regularly. The writing community is great, but this is a big country and an even bigger world, so many of our friends live far away. Cons bring friends together.

2. New friends
Writers are weird. We have peculiar interests, keep bizarre hours, and constantly worry about what the people in our head are saying. Meeting individuals who inhabit the same reality is great. Also, writing conferences are about writing and books, so the ice is basically broken from the second you walk in because everyone in there is more than willing to talk about those things, which minimizes awkwardness. Adults usually have a hard time making friends, but wiring conferences are great places to meet new folks who are into the same things you are. Take advantage of that.

3. Creative energy  
The thing I love the most about the weeks following a conference is the creative energy inside me. When you get together with other writers and talk about your projects, something starts making you wanting to write with renewed passion and focus. Writing is a lonely gig, so whenever we get together with others who do the same thing day in and day out, we feed off each others' energy and amplify it. The result is an even greater desire to write. Yeah, that's a great thing.

4. Feedback
Cons are a great place to get feedback on new writing. You can attend workshops when there are, consult with friends, and get a reading spot to try out new material. You can also bounce ideas off people who work in your genre or talk to those who have been doing it professionally for longer than you. This leads us to...

5. Readings
Lots of people hate readings. I'm one of them. In fact I've written about how incredibly boring readings can be. That being said, I keep going to them because sometimes you attend one that revives your faith in readings. Also, listening to your friends and favorite writers read their own work is a mesmerizing experience. Last but not least, sometimes readings can help you get the creative juices flowing.

6. Parties
No con worth going to is devoid of parties. Room parties, random parties, bar get the idea. I like partying. I like partying even more when I get to do it with people I like and don't get to see every week.

7. Books
Sure, you can but books online, but there's nothing like walking into a dealer's room packed with tables stacked with books. You can buy something and get it signed by the author immediately. You can see new stuff your favorite presses are about to publish but decided to give con goes an early taste. I could keep going, but the point is this: bring money for books and pack light so you can go back home with a suitcase full of books.

8. Panels
Just like readings, panels can be the quickest way to wishing for a nap or something new and exciting. When you have experts talking about an important topic, what you're doing is getting advice and education for free. Panels can evolve and turn into amazing discussions. They can be wild and entertaining as well as weird and touching, all depending on who is talking about what and why. And yes, going to a few weak panels is worth the risk just like watching horror movies is worth it for the occasional gem that comes across your screen.

9. Community 
Old and new friends are one thing, but the building a community goes beyond that. Building a community comes from meeting people and supporting what they do. It comes from becoming interested in what everyone is doing and supporting indie presses with your actions and your dollars. When you build something fatastic, getting people to support it is very easy, and that should be your goal as a writer.

10. Fun and mayhem
Yes, there are very serious writing cons out there, but if you write crime, horror, or bizarro, chances are you will be going to cons that are as wild as they are entertainment. I don't know about you, but I like having fun. That's why I try to get to cons at least once a year. This is also why I will now try to make it out more, and why I hope to see you there. 

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Interview: Marie Landry, Bookstagrammer, Talks Creativity, Hashtags and Connecting with the Bookstagram Community as an Author

Who loves #bookstagram? *Raises hand.* I stalk a lot of bookstagrammers over on Instagram. Like, a lot. The bookish love. The bookish photos. The bookish community. It all makes my book-loving heart ridiculously happy. One of my favorites is Marie Landry, who's a romance author and a bookstagrammer, and if you're a romance lover and you're NOT following her, you absolutely should be.

Marie was kind enough to sit down and talk with Across the Board this week and talk all things #bookstagram, including hashtags and how authors can connect with this vibrant, book-loving community.

First of all - the photos! The set up is amazing. Do you actually have all of the things you use in your photos or do you use stock photos? What kind of equipment do you use to take your photos?

Everything you see in my pictures is mine; I collect props - regular household items, bookish merch like candles and bookmarks, flowers, FunkoPops, etc., and of course the books, both physical and ebooks - and arrange the setup myself. They’re all taken in my bedroom/office either on my bed or on a table. I do a variety of flatlays and ones that show my bookshelves in the background. Some bookstagrammers have fancy cameras and lighting (I’m envious!) but I just use the camera on my 3-year-old Samsung phone and make sure to take pictures when the natural light is good.

Has your process changed now that you've been bookstagramming for a few years? If so, how?

I’ve learned a lot through trial and error, and from other bookstagrammers. Last year, I discovered the mobile app version of Lightroom and started using it to edit all my photos. It was a complete game changer, especially in the winter when the natural light was terrible. Lightroom can take a poorly-lit or dull picture and turn it into something bright and vibrant. I’ve also started taking as many photos ahead as I can; I try to spend one morning a week taking a bunch of pictures so I have a stock for the week and don’t have to haul out all my books and props every day.

The bookstagram community seems really creative, but how do you keep coming up with new ideas?

I’m constantly inspired by my fellow bookstagrammers. I love to look at other people’s pictures and I save my favourites to refer to for inspiration. I also participate in monthly challenges (and even co-host one) that give you daily prompts. They’re great for helping you think outside the box and keep things varied.

Your posts always have a fox in them. Is that your signature?

It is! A friend made it for me last Christmas because I love foxes. I used him in a few photos, then realized he’d make a great signature prop and now he’s in all my photos. A lot of people have told me how much they love Foxy, especially when he’s peeking out from somewhere. Oddly enough, having him in all my photos has helped me get even more creative.

I always pay attention to bookish hashtags. Which ones are your favorites?

First, for those who don’t know, you can use up to 30 hashtags per post, and I always use the full 30 for maximum exposure. (If you don’t like how it looks, post the hashtags in your comments with 5 lines of dots first so the comment collapses and hides itself.) You want hashtags with under a million photos, otherwise yours gets lost quickly, and with more than a few thousand so people actually see them.

A few of my favourites are #booknerdigan #booktography #bookcommunity #coverlove and #bookgeek. I also use hashtags for genres and categories, like #contemporaryromance and #yalovin, plus sometimes the name of the author whose book I’m posting. I have a list that I copy and paste, and I try to mix in at least a few different ones each time because apparently Instagram can flag you for spam if you always use the exact same hashtags. Also, be sure you’re not using banned hashtags because they won’t show up in searches - oddly enough #books is banned, so don’t use that one!

To authors who are hoping to connect with the bookstagram community, what advice would you give?

Bookstagram is a great place for authors to connect to readers AS readers. Talk about other people’s books at least as much as your own. Nobody likes people who are all about self-promo and that applies to bookstagram as well. I talk about my own books sparingly; I find Instagram stories and highlights are a great place to share information about my writing and my books so it doesn’t feel like I’m filling my feed with self-promo. To me, bookstagram is about building connections, and that takes time, especially if you’re an indie, newbie, or unknown author. Build a rapport with people, like and comment on their pictures, ask questions in your captions that will engage people.

Unless you’re attempting an actual bookstagram account (which should be all books all the time; I learned this the hard way a couple years ago when I tried to add in non-bookish pictures and had a lot of unfollowers, so I started a separate account), be sure to post some personal things too. People want to feel connected and they want to know the person behind the keyboard/phone. Give them little snippets of your real life - hobbies, travel, fashion, writing updates, whatever - and they’ll come to care about you and be invested in your personal story, which will hopefully lead them to being invested in the stories you write as well.

I love all of this advice. Also, time to stop using #books in my IG posts. Are you part of the bookstagram community? Any tips to add or questions for Marie? Post them in the comments!

Monday, August 20, 2018

Google Search: How do writers...?

A post by Mary Fan
Hey y'all! Mary here, and I'm back with another Google Search! You ask Google the questions, and I give you the *actual* answers, the one that silly search engine can't come up with! Hmm, let's see what the internet wants to know about how writers operate...
wants to know about how writers operate...

Alrighty, here you go!

How do writers make money?

First, you must understand that writers are not born—they’re made. Theoretically, anyone can write, but few will make it through the hallowed halls of the Academy of Witchcraft, Wizardry, Writing, and Weirdness, which must be attended by all writers before they’re allowed to put a single drop of ink to paper. Within this elite institution, pupils are taught all four crafts in tandem, though no one can quite define what exactly the difference between any of them is.

Anyway, back to the original question. Quite simply, as part of their training, writers are taught all kinds of convoluted supernatural tricks, including how to weave together combinations of letters to form spells that will convince a person to open their wallet and give you money. The true letter masters can create works so hypnotic that it doesn’t matter if the written material has anything remotely resembling quality—plot, setting, characters… none of that is necessary. All you need is to invoke the right supernatural forces.

How do writers get paid?

The above referred specifically to getting money from readers. Since “getting paid” implies something more institutional, I will assume that the question refers to how writers get paid by publishers. Well, you must understand that many publishers attended this same Academy and are well-versed in the kinds of otherworldly tricks writers use to hypnotize their victims—I mean readers—into buying their books. So these spells would not work on them. Rather, publishers seek to identify which of the writers asking for their support are the most skilled in these tricks. Once again, the quality of the written work doesn’t matter. The only thing the publisher is concerned with is whether the writer knows how to invoke the money-prying spells.

How do writers rooms work?

Two words: Battle royale. But with the aforementioned letter-spells instead of deadly weapons. Though one could argue that letter-spells ARE deadly weapons.

How do writers write?

Many forms of Witchcraft, Wizardry, Writing, and Weirdness involve unsavory ingredients and horrifying rituals. I won’t go into them here, since I don’t want Google to ban this search result. But suffice it to say that by combining these ingredients and conducting these rituals, writers are able to come up with combinations of letters to achieve the desired result in their victims—I mean readers. I mentioned money above. But some writers think themselves above money and seek other rewards—cult status, personal fame, awards, etc. Letter mastery can be manipulated to achieve any one of these, regardless of the book’s content.

Now, becoming a letter master is not easy, and many who attempt it fail. That is why their wonderful books full of compelling characters and interesting plots never succeed in achieving any of the desired results of money, fame, prestige, etc. The writer simply didn’t know the right kind of hocus pocus. Meanwhile, plenty of letter masters haven’t a smidge of an idea how to actually craft a narrative, but have struck enough deals with enough supernatural entities to ensure success nevertheless.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Sharp Object of My Affection: A Backjacket Hatchet Job

What's up you guys?! It's K.G.G. and it's my turn to poke fun at a book. And I've selected Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. It's simply brilliant and I want to be in a club where we dissect the story in minutiae. But, alas, that isn't going to happen. So in honor of its resurgence, thanks to the talented Amy Adams in the HBO adaptation, I am going to summarize the story in the style of a Fox News Sunday (cause consequential stuff isn't reported on the weekends) anchor trying to understand the hype.

Fox News Lady
Hi everyone, and we're back. For our Foxy Reads Book Club, we're discussing Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects. (Crosses legs) It's the story of Camille Preaker, a 30-something-year-old newspaper reporter, who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri to cover the murder of a young girl. Is a serial killer on the loose?

Fox News Man

Fox News Lady
(Smiles) Oh it is.

Fox News Man
Did you enjoy it?

Fox News Lady
I guess. I found the main character a bit melodramatic. Her mother didn't love her. Yada yada yada. The kids at school are cruel. We get it. And Camille--how do I phrase this to our viewers--doesn't seem to respect her body. (cups her mouth and whispers) She cuts words into her skin. Her mother isn't all that loving.

Fox News Man
(shakes head) Another millenial blaming her parents for all her troubles. Am I right?

Fox News Lady
Be warned, there's a lot of cussing. I found that very offensive.

Fox News Man
Then why did you select it?

Fox News Lady
(calls out to her producer) Bruce, Bruce, why did we select this title? (listens) Oh right, Amy Adams is starring in the HBO adaptation. I just adored her in Enchanted. (touches earpiece) Breaking news: I just got word that Hillary Clinton is reading this book for her all-ladies book club in Chappaqua. She claims it challenges the notion of female violence. Well, there you have it, folks. More liberal propaganda to get Americans to read in the interest of understanding societal breakdowns and dysfunction, and it' all Hillary's fault. (shakes head, then smiles, upbeat). Next, we'll be interviewing Congressman Steve King about denying poor kids their free breakfast program to save your tax dollars. Stay tuned.

Monday, August 13, 2018

My Back-to-Writing Supply List

It was back-to-school for us last week. My daughter is in 7th grade, and in our school system that means it’s also her first year of middle school. She’s been so excited to start this new phase of her life.

And back to school for her means back to writing for me!

Don’t get me wrong—I love spending the summer with her. I embrace the whole ‘18 summers’ motto. But I also crave consistency and organization.

I did do some writing over the summer, more than I’ve been able to accomplish in the past thanks to my daughter’s long list of activities, but not on a consistent basis.

I will say that there’s one thing my daughter gets in her back-to-school ritual that I’m jealous of—supplies!

I think I have a bit of an addition to office supplies. I did break down and buy myself some new pens.

Although, one could argue that I already have enough pens and pencils...

I did refrain from buying a new journal. Like pens, I already have a lot of (unused) journals and they take up a lot more space than pens.

It was hard to resist though. They are so pretty.

If I could distribute a back-to-writing supply list, here’s what I’d put on it:

- Pens: Preferably the fine tip gel pens in pretty designs and multiple ink colors.
- Journals: Lined, inspiring, colorful
- Chocolate: Whatever format. All chocolate is good.
- New laptop: Yeah, the one I have works fine. But it’s big and difficult to write on the go.
- Wine: Preferably in the blush variety.
- Kleenex: My books even make me cry.
- Distraction Zapper: Okay, so I don’t think this exists, but if someone could invent it that’d be great.
- iTunes Gift Card: It’s always good to have some new music to write to.
- Ream of Paper: Need to prep for printing out that draft.
- Toner Cartridge: Might as well throw this in if I’m asking for stuff.
- Glue Sticks: I’m not sure why I’d need these, but every teacher seems to need an industrial-sized pack so I figure I should have some too.

What would be on your back-to-writing supply list?

~ Carrie

Thursday, August 9, 2018


A Post by Karissa Laurel
Happy Thursday, everyone! I’m excited to be sharing my inaugural post as a new contributing member of Across the Board. I look forward to appearing here semi-regularly with posts mainly focusing on fantasy and its sub-genre iterations.

For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Karissa Laurel. I live in North Carolina with my kid, my husband, the occasional in-law, and a very hairy husky named Bonnie. Some of my favorite things are coffee, dark chocolate, super heroes, and Star Wars. I can quote Princess Bride verbatim. When it’s warm, you’ll find me near water--on a boat or paddling kayaks. In the winter, I’ll be cuddled up with a book, or if I’m very, very lucky, you’ll find me on a ski slope.

I write primarily fantasy for adults and young adults, and I’m the author of The Norse Chronicles, an
urban fantasy series based on Norse Mythology from Red Adept Publishing. I’m also the author of
The Stormbourne Chronicles, a young adult epic fantasy series (with steampunk elements) from
Evolved Publishing.

Most recently, my magical realism short story, A Handful of Seeds, has been selected to appear in an upcoming young adult anthology called WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES. The anthology from Goldenjay Books, a young adult imprint of Blue Crow Publishing, releases on October 31, 2018, and Pre-Ordering is currently available (Links included at the end of this post).

The WICKED SOUTH anthology is what I’m here to talk about today. I’d like to introduce the editors,
NYT Bestselling Author, Emily Colin, and acclaimed author, Katie Rose Guest Pryal.

Hi, Emily and Katie. Thanks for taking the time to talk with me about WICKED SOUTH:
SECRETS AND LIES. First off, I’d like to start by asking you both to tell us a little about

Hi Karissa! Thank you so much for having us on your blog today. We are old friends who
first met in a fateful university fiction-writing course many years ago. In this course,
the professor teased us both terribly because we enjoyed—and wrote—stories that
weren’t (in his dubious opinion) literary enough.
He gave us both nicknames: Emily’s was “Anne Rice.” Katie’s was “Soap Opera.”

We were both horrified.

In retrospect, had we landed jobs writing like Anne Rice or for soap operas, today we’d be happy as
clams. But when you’re nineteen or twenty and you want to be a writer, and being a good writer has
a very narrow definition set by a stodgy teacher whose good opinion you are desperately seeking, an
experience like ours can turn you from your path.

Indeed, we both stopped writing fiction after that course—for years and years.

And then, we drifted back to fiction. And one day, on the phone, Emily said to Katie, “Young adult
anthology!” And Katie said to Emily, “Great idea!” And we said to each other lots of words that brought
this seed of an idea to life.

I’m particularly curious to know why y’all decided to develop a specifically young adult
anthology, and what inspired you to choose such an intriguing theme of secrets and lies?

Emily: The day that the idea for the anthology was born, Katie and I were chatting and we both
realized that in addition to writing fiction for adults, we’d both begun writing YA lit. This discovery
inspired us to create an anthology with a YA focus—which is especially exciting for us because,
in this first volume in the WICKED SOUTH series, our own YA stories are finding their way into
the world.

Katie: We gave a lot of thought to a theme because we do want to have the WICKED SOUTH
anthologies be a series (fingers crossed). While the word “wicked” can have negative connotations,
if you look in the dictionary (such as the OED), there are also less negative ones. Wicked can mean
“playfully mischievous,” or even, in more recent slang, it can mean “excellent,” or “wonderful.” While
this anthology features young adult stories of several genres, all of the stories are playful, or tricky, or

Why secrets and lies? The back cover says it best:

At the heart of each story in this genre-crossing collection lies a secret. A boy who is not a boy at all,
a neighbor with a mysterious identity, a tortured student with a list that isn’t what it seems, a girl who
abandoned the person she used to be at the bottom of a river.
Conflict and possibility are embedded in a secret’s very nature…betrayal and conspiracy are encoded
in its DNA. Secrets can transform. They can alienate, anger, or inspire.
One thing is for sure: They make a great story.

When I read your call for submissions, it never crossed my mind to send in a story that wasn’t
somehow fantastical or magical, since that’s primarily what I write, but the stories in this
anthology are not all of one genre, are they?

We wanted the stories to be connected by the theme—”secrets and lies”—and not by genre. Indeed,
there is as much realistic fiction as there is paranormal in this book. (That said, both of our stories
have a supernatural angle!) We wanted to show that good storytelling crosses genres, and that a
strong theme can unite a group of diverse stories.

My story, A Handful of Seeds, was inspired by a meme posted on Twitter that said “Do not
worry about your contradictions—Persephone is both floral maiden and queen of death. You,
too, can be both.” In addition to editing the anthology, you both have contributed stories to
WICKED SOUTH. Can you tell me a little about what inspired your stories?

Emily: Sometimes, when I’m between writing projects, I seek inspiration in prompts—you never know
where they’ll lead you. On this particular occasion, I came across a writing prompt that read simply,
“A playground at midnight.” Though the playground in question doesn’t find its way into my story until
near the end, it was the inspiration for my characters—and the universe I built around them. I didn’t
write the story with secrets or lies in mind...but when I got to the end, I realized both were intrinsic to
the world I’d created.

Katie: A while ago, I started writing a novel, the first of a series, about my a group of kids that strongly
resemble my sons. When I began the series, I knew I wanted to write something that my kids could
read and would want to read, something set in the present day, featuring heroes like them. When
Emily and I conceived of WICKED SOUTH, I wanted to write a novella that was set in the universe
of that novel, but that could stand alone. So I wrote a prequel to the novel series. And that’s all I’m
going to say about it, otherwise I’ll risk giving something away.

Thanks to you both for taking the time to talk with me about this anthology. Here’s a bit more
info about the editors of WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES

Emily Colin is the New York Times-bestselling author of The Memory Thief and The Dream Keeper’s
Daughter. Her diverse life experience includes organizing a Coney Island tattoo and piercing show,
hauling fish at the Florida Keys’ Dolphin Research Center, roaming New York City as an itinerant
teenage violinist, helping launch two small publishing companies, and serving as the associate
director of DREAMS of Wilmington, a nonprofit dedicated to immersing youth in need in the arts.
A 2017 Pitch Wars mentor, she is the 2017 recipient of the North Carolina Sorosis Award for
Excellence in Creative Writing and the 2018 recipient of the North Carolina Greater Foundation of
Women’s Clubs Lucy Bramlett Patterson Award for Excellence in Creative Writing. Originally from
Brooklyn, she lives in Wilmington, NC, with her family.
Katie Rose Guest Pryal is a novelist, freelance journalist, and erstwhile law professor in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. She is the author of the Hollywood Lights Series, which includes ENTANGLEMENT (2015), LOVE AND ENTROPY (2016), CHASING CHAOS (2016),  HOW TO STAY (2017), and FALLOUT GIRL (2018), all from Blue Crow Books. With Raven Books, she is the author of LIFE OF THE MIND INTERRUPTED: Essays on Mental Health and Disability in Higher Education (2017).
As a journalist, Katie contributes to QUARTZ, THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION, THE (late,
lamented) TOAST, DAME MAGAZINE and other national venues. She earned her master’s degree in
creative writing from the Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins, where she attended on a fellowship.
Katie has published many books on writing, including HOW WRITING WORKS with Oxford
University Press. A professor of writing for more than a decade, she now teaches creative writing
and works as a writing coach and developmental editor when she’s not writing her next book.

WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES is an anthology featuring young adult stories by authors from
North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. Contributors are New York Times Bestselling author Emily
Colin, Elizabeth DeVido, award-winning author Lauren Faulkenberry, Amy Hyatt Fonseca, Lauren Fulcher,
award-winning author Robin Kirk, John Klekamp, Karissa Laurel, and Katie Rose Guest Pryal.

A portion of the proceeds from WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES will be donated to benefit literacy
programs at El Centro Hispano in Durham, North Carolina.

The editors hope  that this anthology be the first of many in the Wicked South series (and they plan for
each successive volume to benefit a different worthy cause).

Look for WICKED SOUTH: SECRETS AND LIES, available for pre-order now, and available for
purchase where all books are sold on Halloween, October 31, 2018.

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