I’ve joined a book club–and I love it!

Picture of poster showing a girl holding a red book in front of her face. The poster reads, "That's what I do. I read books."I know, I know. It’s shouldn’t be big news if an author is part of a book club. But can I confess something here? **looks around sheepishly** I’ve never taken part in a regular book club.

As a kid, I read the books suggested by my school or library, but I didn’t join group discussions about them. I guess I didn’t want to hear people potentially criticize a book I enjoyed. What can I say? I was fragile. Then, as I got older and talked endlessly about books, I joined short-term clubs led by publishers or literary agencies or even clubs with the focus of having the creators attend. So I’d get to meet the authors or illustrators or editors, etc. That’s amazing, right?

But a club with readers who aren’t publishing-adjacent? Not until November 2023 when I joined one of the many monthly book clubs offered by Boswell Books, my local independent bookstore. I’ll post reviews of those books soon, but for now, I just want to say how fun it is to read books outside of what I may have chosen and then talk with fellow readers about them. Further, it’s fascinating to hear from readers who speak freely about a story (because the creator isn’t right there to hear what they have to say) and expound on other elements of a book (because they may not have thought about industry reasons for certain publishing choices). PLUS, a couple of fellow authors whom I’ve invited to join have, so it’s an overall lovely time.

Do you want to make more friends in the new year? Join a book club. Or another club focused on a hobby or passion you enjoy. I hope joining adds fun and friendship to your life. As for my new enterprise, so far so good. 🙂

NaNoWriMo #2

Picture of a calendar for November 2023The more you do something, the more you learn, right? And what I learned this November is that I need to be on solid footing with my story before NaNoWriMo if I expect the month to work for me.

NaNoWriMo is National Novel Writing Month. I explained the idea and methods for it in last year’s post, found here, so I won’t repeat myself. But let me just say, NaNoWriMo 2022 was a success for me because I knew where I was going with the story before the start. This year? Oof, no.

See, I plot my stories. Other writers don’t. Whichever method works for you is great, but I’ve found I do better if I’ve thoroughly thought through my story, all the way through to the end. So I had planned to think deeply about my story ahead of time. I had planned to outline so I wasn’t wasting time writing drivel. Alas, time is a runaway freight train. It was suddenly November! I had to get my first day’s word count in! No time to lose!

Well, I kinda think I lost half the month, if you want me to be honest. My final word count was well below what I’d hoped–primarily because I was adrift, going back and forth and rethinking parts and blah blah blah.

So. Hear me, writers. I highly suggest you keep following your tried-and-true, nice-and-toasty, satisfying method ahead of NaNo. If you typically plot your stories, do it again before you start. NaNo is no time to charge across uncharted lands while also expecting to double or even triple your daily word count and yet expect magic. You know yourself, so believe in your trusty process. My two cents. I wish you luck.

Cover image of the book THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA


In February, I told you I’m representing Wisconsin in the upcoming spooky anthology THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA. I’m thrilled to tell you that the book is now AVAILABLE FOR PREORDER! Here’s a look at the cover, illustrated by by Solomon Hughes.

Cover image of the book THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA

Releasing from Macmillan Publishers on July 9, 2024
ISBN 9781250819413

Friends, there is simply no better way to support an author and their work than to preorder their books. Even if you think you won’t read the book for months or years, preorders count in the crucial first week of publication and can determine a book’s entire trajectory. So please do order a copy, either here or through your favorite bookstore. And trust me, by the time you get the book in July, you’ll be facing spooky season again and you’ll be ready to embrace some spine-tingling tales.

To remind you, this creepy collection features 52 twisted short stories, one from each state plus D.C. and Puerto Rico. My Wisconsin tale is personal and oh-sooooo-haunting. I spent countless hours at the Seven Bridges in my youth, so when I learned about this upcoming anthology, I knew I had to set a story there. My terrifying tale includes scenes from the archway, bridge, and trail shown below.

Sign at the entrance to South Milwaukee's Seven Bridges, which reads, "Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature"

It reads, “Enter this wild wood and view the haunts of nature.”

The Seven Bridges opening bridge, overlooking a deep gorge

The Seven Bridges opening bridge, overlooking a deep gorge

Image shows Seven Bridges trail

A trail dappled in light.

Thank you so much for your preorder and overall support. May Halloween 2024 be frightening fun,





Positive Feedback

Oh, how wonderful it is to get positive feedback! How reassuring that you’re hitting the right notes, piquing reader interest, and traveling the right path. I’m sooo happy to have gotten positive feedback today at an agent roundtable, and I’m genuinely hopeful for the future of this piece.

You may have noticed that I have been quiet on this blog lately, and that’s because I’ve been hard at work on my current manuscript. I signed up for SCBWI‘s annual New York City conference and spent a good part of January completing homework for the revision workshop. The timing was perfect, which doesn’t always happen when you attend a conference. But here I was with a manuscript ready to revise, and I was eager to hear from great authors on how they do it. I took the homework seriously, and thus it proved very useful.

The workshop had me silently shouting Eureka! in my head and prompted me to write a whole new first chapter which garnered the positive feedback mentioned above. And the entire event was a joy. I got to see former publishing colleagues and friends old and new, from around the world. It was a fun return to NYC, and warmish for early February. I even got to see my first Broadway play. Here are a few pics for you to enjoy.

Expect me to remain, at least for a few weeks, on cloud nine from the agent’s feedback. And I’ll keep working on this piece. It’s almost ready. Nearly there. 🙂


Bryant Park in the Garment District, Manhattan, New York City

Bryant Park in the Garment District, Manhattan, New York City


Door plaque for book publisher Macmillan

Door plaque for book publisher Macmillan


Door plaque for Writers House Literary Agency

Door plaque for Writers House Literary Agency


Writers House fellows Catherine Bai and Silvia Acevedo

My Writers House fellow Catherine Bai


Writers House mentor Michael Mejias

My Writers House mentor, Michael Mejias, who’s kind of a big deal. 😉


Photo looking up from the archway of The Alwyn Court at 7th Ave & 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan, designed by Harde & Short in the French Renaissance style.

Looking up from the archway of The Alwyn Court at 7th Ave & 58th Street in Midtown Manhattan, designed by Harde & Short in the French Renaissance style.


Photo shows Silvia Acevedo holding the playbill for the Broadway play Pictures from Home staring Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, and Zöe Wanamaker

Holding the playbill for the Broadway play “Pictures from Home” staring Nathan Lane, Danny Burstein, and Zöe Wanamaker


Photo shows a ballroom full of conference attendees

So many creators!


Image shows pro panel at SCBWI's annual New York City conference

The pro panel talks publishing at SCBWI’s annual New York City conference


Photo showing workshop teachers Eliot Schrefer and Elana Arnold plus author Silvia Acevedo

Eliot Schrefer and Elana Arnold put on a great workshop. Note the bunny ears!


Photo shows illustrator Druscilla Santiago and SCBWI-Hawaii leader Akiko White with author Silvia Acevedo.

Narrative Art Award winner Druscilla Santiago, SCBWI-Hawaii leader Akiko White, and I enjoy a laugh at the Saturday Social.


Photo shows authors TeMika Grooms, Silvia Acevedo, and Jolie Stekly, whose work will appear in the MacMillan anthology "The Haunted States of America," fall 2024.

TeMika Grooms, me, and Jolie Stekly, fellow authors in the upcoming Macmillan anthology “The Haunted States of America,” coming July 9, 2024. If you have a young person in your life who loves spooky short stories, please look for this title. It’s friiiiighteningly good! 😉

What I’m reading: The Clackity and Save the Cat!

I spent all of November and more than half of December toiling away at my Work in Progress. I say toiling because it’s the first draft of a complete rewrite, and oy are first drafts rough. So, when I thought I’d finished the first draft, I took a break to enjoy the holidays and some just-for-fun reading. I’d heard good things about The Clackity  by Lora Senf and decided to give it a go.

Cover of book called The Clackity, by Lora Senf. Shows girl in front of creepy tree.


It is now one of my favorite middle grade books and at the top of my list in the spooky/horror category. In it, a young girl lives with her aunt in a town overrun with hauntings, some mild, some humorous, most harmless. However, Evie is told to follow one rule: stay out of the old slaughterhouse at the edge of town. When her aunt senses trouble there and disappears within its walls, Evie decides to go after her. The new world she discovers — and its dangers within — challenge any hope she has to rescue the only remaining member of her beloved family.

Inventive and spooky. I highly recommend The Clackity for lovers of fright.



Image shows the book cover of Save the Cat Writes a Novel and depicts a cat hanging from a rope.

In January, I started reading (actually, re-reading) Save the Cat! Writes a novel: The Last Book on Novel Writing You’ll Ever Need by Jessica Brody. I bought this in 2018 when it came out, thanks to great reviews by people whom I respect. When I first tried reading it, though, I wasn’t in the right place with my writing and so I had a hard time getting out of it what others had. I knew I had to wait until the information would hit me more directly. I’m glad I did. With the first draft completed (so I thought) and heading into revision, I was in the mood for reading about story structure. This time, the info hit right. I see I have more to add to my first draft, but the book’s story beats will help guide those additions and future revisions. I’m so glad I revisited it.

Save the Cat! is a solid and fun guide to story structure, fundamentals, and spark. Recommended for readers who want to know how stories tick.


I’ve also been listening to more and more audiobooks the past few years. I haven’t really posted much about them, but let me say, it’s a joy to relax and have a story read to you.

I wish you happy reading in 2023.


(The above are Amazon Affiliate links, meaning I make a few pennies off the sale of each book, at no cost to you.)



NaNoWriMo mojo!

Logo for NaNoWriMo, showing an aqua blue with a shield showing writing utensils, topped with Viking horns, beside the words "National Novel Writing Month"

Well, wowee zowee and SHAZAM! I am AMAZED. Wanna know why? Because NaNoWriMo works, baby! It really, really works! I did it this year for the first time ever, and I am thrilled with the results.

In case you don’t know already, NaNoWriMo is short for National Novel Writing Month, and it’s basically an impetus to get writers crackin’. The idea is to hunker down in November with a goal of putting 50-thousand words toward a new novel. The non-profit org that runs it has all sorts of tools and methods to help writers achieve that goal. But many writers come up with their own rules/methods to meet their liking.

For example, I didn’t start a new novel. I used the movement to work on an existing project that has been laaaaaanguishing. Oy, this project is a whole other story for another day. *hides face in shame* To be clear, I didn’t finish the novel nor reach the 50k word-count goal. An event mid-month killed my progress for, like, a week. But that’s not what matters. What matters is that I GOT BACK INTO THE WRITING HABIT.


The habit of writing creates the urge to write. Now, nine days into December, I’m still writing, and I’m nearly done with the novel. Importantly, it’s a far better story thanks in part to thinking about and actively working on it so intensely for so long. I’m really happy with it so far. What more could I ask for from an artificial deadline?

I’ll tell you what else. Community.

My good friend and fellow author Valerie Biel mentioned to me ahead of November that she was doing NaNoWriMo with another friend, author Mary Behan, and I told her I was going to do it as well. We joined forces. In this pact, we had accountability, camaraderie, and a sounding board. Keep reading because you’ll want to know what we did that worked out so great.

Photo shows author Valerie Biel and her book titled Circle of Nine Beltany. Valerie is white, blonde, and has her hair pulled back into a low ponytail.

Valerie Biel

Photo shows author Mary Behan and her book titled A Measured Thread. Mary is white, has short white hair, and wears round, brown glasses.

Mary Behan

Valerie, who is an organizational goddess and also provides author services (check out her website), set up our communications: a shared calendar where we could enter our daily word count (accountability); weekly Zooms to discuss progress and whatever else (camaraderie); and a Facebook chat group to share spur-of-the-moment thoughts and gripes (a sounding board). This kept us in constant communication but never demandingly so. Perfection. Copy this method.

And one of the odd things we talked about? We all noticed during this month-long immersion into creativity that our nighttime dreams became more frequent and vivid, and we could better remember them in the morning. Isn’t that fascinating?

I’m so grateful to these ladies for providing encouragement then and still. And, hey, I’m thankful we decided to turn a totally-not-real deadline into a real one for ourselves. It really worked to get us out of our malaise. I hope you’ll try it someday if you too need the kick to get crackin’.

SCBWI’s faaaaaabulous Fall Luncheon

A weekend away can seem like an extravagance, but sometimes it’s worth every penny.

I’ve been in a bit of a creative rut. I allowed myself time this summer to read, but as September rolled around, I felt a bit stymied with my writing. Months ago, I suspected I’d appreciate an in-person writing event come October, and wow, was I right. This weekend was g.l.o.r.i.o.u.s in so many ways.

Sunday was the SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Luncheon, an event just a few hours long, in which writers meet up, enjoy a lunch, and hear a single speaker. Sara Schonfeld, editor at HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books proved to be an excellent speaker. More on this later.

Backing up, I decided to make a whole weekend of it. I booked a three-day stay at the hotel. The drive north was wonderful, all by itself. I think this is one of the most colorful Wisconsin autumns I’ve ever seen. Does that correlate with today’s early, first snowfall of the season? I have no idea, but the drive to Door County was stunning. Feast your eyes.

Wisconsin's fall foliage, Oct 2022

Wisconsin's fall foliage, Oct 2022

Wisconsin’s glorious fall colors (captured at a rest stop, don’t worry). 🙂

When I got to the hotel, my room was ready early, thank goodness, and I quickly settled in to write. Wow! I wrote like a person possessed. A change of scenery can induce that? You betcha. Mission accomplished by Day One.

Add, that my room was beautiful. Add, that I got a few hours socializing with great friends before the event even started. Add, that I learned to play pickle ball and, omg, it was so much fun! And add, our group’s first in-person event in three years. It was heavenly, this weekend. Truly.

Sailboat on Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin

A sailboat on Sturgeon Bay beside where we played pickle ball. We were having so much fun, we forgot to take a group picture!

Sara gave a well-presented, insightful talk on revising like an editor. No one could walk away without at least one (but likely many) new tactics to try when they get to that stage. I thoroughly enjoyed both her talk and getting to know her. She’s a delight.

photo shows a group listening to Sara Schonfeld, editor at HarperCollins imprint Katherine Tegen Books

Sara Schonfeld of Katherine Tegen Books and Deb Buschman, leader of SCBWI-Wisconsin

Sara Schonfeld of Katherine Tegen Books and Deb Buschman, leader of SCBWI-Wisconsin (photo courtesy of author Sandy Brehl)

Here are a few more photos of the luncheon. Special thanks to Deb Buschman and all SCBWI volunteers for putting on an outstanding event.

photo shows authors Silvia Acevedo, Amanda Zieba, and Christy Wopat

photo shows authors Pat Zietlow Miller and Kate Penndorf

photo shows attendees at the SCBWI-Wisconsin Fall Luncheon

The previous three photos are courtesy of author Sandy Brehl

photo shows Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, during the autumn of 2022

photo shows Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, fall of 2022

Just outside the ballroom, the view of Sturgeon Bay

If you’re thinking that your creative endeavors could use a change a scenery, you may be right. I recommend giving it a try. I’m so grateful I did. 🙂



WWA Anthology is out!

Image shows cover of the book "Wisconsin Writers Anthology 2022."I just added another title to the Books page of this website, and I’m thrilled that it contains my first published horror short story. Creepy short stories are definitely my bag. I love reading them. I love writing them. And I’m thrilled that my short story won an Honorable Mention in the Wisconsin Writers Association’s Jade Ring Contest and publication in its anthology.

This paperback is just $6.99 as of the date of this writing. That’s a bargain for 113 pages of original writing by Wisconsin creators, so order your copy here and support WWA and local authors!


*This post contains affiliate links, meaning I get a few cents if you order through that link, at no charge to you.

What I’m reading – Other Terrors and Less is Lost

It’s fall, and, while I typically try to hunker down and get writing again when the colder winds start to blow, I’m still heavily reading, so here’s what I’m enjoying (with $affiliate links).

Image shows covers of the books LESS IS LOST and OTHER HORRORS

OTHER TERRORS; AN INCLUSIVE ANTHOLOGY. This is a collection of creepy tales from critically acclaimed, diverse authors with a broad spectrum of diverse and contemporary characters. These wonderfully inclusive and modern tales are not only riveting but also manage give a reader creepy crawly chills. Whooeee, some of these stories really strike a nerve, and others will leave you seeing circumstances in a whole new light. I especially loved the story Waste Not by Alma Katsu because, ooh, what a line it crosses; also, Idiot Girls by Jennifer McMahon and The Turning by Hailey Piper. Shivers and shakes. Highly recommended.

LESS IS LOST by Pulitzer Prize winning author Andrew Sean Greer. Its prequel, LESS, had me in stitches when I first read it in 2018, and I gave it five stars on Goodreads. I just reread it, and it still hilariously holds up. It’s the story of a struggling novelist who receives an invitation to his former lover’s wedding, and, rather than go, decides to accept every harebrained literary invitation he’s received, from places around the world, to escape. I’m only a few pages in to the sequel, and I can’t wait to see where Less takes us next.

What I’m Reading – Blackout; In the Wild Light; Less; and Aaron Slater, Illustrator

My cute cat Glyph, an adorable orange tabby, lying across the book Aaron Slater Illustrator

My sweet, affectionate cat Glyph enjoying “Aaron Slater, Illustrator”

I (and one of my cats) have been reading a lot lately. Like, a lot. I typically have a harder time writing in summer than other times of the year because, well, I want to be out enjoying summer, so this year I decided to mostly take a break from writing and instead catch up on reading, which I find easy to accomplish in the snatches of free time throughout the day.

So what have I been reading? Mostly young adult and picture books but also a classic as its sequel is coming out soon. Here are some of my noteworthy reads (with $affiliate links).

Cover of the book Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon. Black background, the word Blackout in yellow, and author names in purple.Blackout by Dhonielle Clayton, Tiffany D. Jackson, Nic Stone, Angie Thomas, Ashley Woodfolk, and Nicola Yoon, all critically acclaimed authors. This is a collection of contemporary, interlinking short stories set during a power outage in New York City. Warm and affirming, these Black love stories show characters in many stages of love and self-acceptance. It was a sweet read, and I loved loved loved walking through New York City with all of them. It reminded me of so many of my own walks and explorations when I lived and worked there in 2021 and 2022. Highly recommended.





Cover of the book In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner. Black mountains and an orange and yellow sunrise in the background, the title words in black, and author names in white.In the Wild Light by Jeff Zentner. Admittedly, I’m still in the first chapter, but just the first paragraph tells me I’m going to like this. I’ve always like Jeff’s writing and had the pleasure of hosting him at a writing conference for SCBWI-Wisconsin, which I co-led for a few years. I got so engrossed reading another book of his, that I missed my train stop and ended up way uptown instead of down. It was no problem, but seriously, if it could make me not hear three announcements and stops, that’s good writing.






Cover of the book Less by Andrew Sean Greer. Shows an animated white man in a blue suit falling through the blue air, with typed pages falling as well. The title is in grey, and the author name is blue, matching the falling man’s suit.Pulitzer Prize winning Less by Andrew Sean Greer had me in stitches when I first read it in 2018, and I gave it five stars on Goodreads. It’s the story of a struggling novelist who receives an invitation to his former lover’s wedding, and, rather than go, decides to accept every harebrained literary invitation he’s received, from places around the world, to escape. I’m rereading this because, YAY!!!, its sequel is coming out in just ten days. Can’t wait to dive back into this world.






Cover of the book Aaron Slater, Illustrator by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts. The cover shows a very young black boy, maybe six years olds with a pencil behind his ear and holding a vine, as if it were a balloon tether. The vine grows to show an eagle, a dragon, and nature motif from the boy’s imagination.And finally, Aaron Slater, Illustrator by Andrea Beaty and illustrated by David Roberts, in which a young boy, struggling to keep up academically with his peers, finds his voice through illustration and shares his talents with all those he loves. Such an important book with a protagonist you care for and certainly are rooting for. It’s just an exquisite book. It also has impeccable rhyme. If you’re a writer looking for mentor texts of rhyming picture books, here’s a great one to add to your list.





Also, today I enjoyed my first pumpkin spice latte of the season during breakfast, as I was writing this. Yummy. My rite of passage each fall. I loved it. 🙂

Have you read any good books lately? Tell me in the comments!

Image shows a toasted bagel with butter and a Starbucks coffee drink enclosing a pumpkin spiced latte.