Tuesday, November 22, 2011


This year, I'm just really into the Thanksgiving vibe. For those of you who follow my MG and YA author blogs, you know that both are featuring "gratitude" as the theme of the month.

Gratitude, it seems, is a little like these flowers I just found in my front yard—at this time of year, my yard's a giant patch of brown. But once I noticed these little spots of purple, it was suddenly all I saw. Start focusing on what you're grateful for, and all the brown, scraggly annoyances in life fade away, too.

This month, I've been rerunning the below post everywhere I can. Originally written for Tracy Barrett's Goodbye day job! blog, it turned out to be my favorite guest post of all time, because it gave me a chance to talk about all the insanely incredible support I've received while working to get my writing career off the ground.

I'm definitely lucky, as the post explains...but as I find myself saying a lot lately, we're all lucky, in our own ways. Here's to focusing on the bright spot of purple, wherever it happens to pop up in your own life!


When I got my master’s in ’01, my mom invited me to stay home and devote my full-time efforts to getting a writing career off the ground (my lifelong dream). I figured it’d take a year or so to write a novel, then it’d sell (I was lucky enough to have placed poetry, short fiction, and literary critique in journals when I was in college, and was under the grand delusion that selling a manuscript would be a breeze for me), and in oh, two years or so, I’d have money in the bank, and I’d be off and running.

Okay, seriously. You can stop laughing now.

The truth is that it took seven and a half years just to get my first acceptance. In that time, my friends from college finished up PhDs, started teaching, doing research, became professionals. I often felt like all I had was a deep gash in the drywall where I’d spent months upon months banging my head against it.

And, let’s face it: I had guilt.

I cringe at the stereotypical portrait of the kid who’s living at home: the slacker who lies on the couch, playing video games, letting Mom do laundry, mooching, no sense of direction to speak of. That certainly has never been my life. I feel that your family is your family, regardless of what it consists of: your spouse and your children, or your siblings and parents. I participated in everything going on in my home: the upkeep, the repairs, the lawn, the floor-laying, the painting, the grocery shopping, the meal-planning…My office butts up against the laundry room, and, yes, I’ve always done my fair share of the laundry, as well.

Still, though: the guilt. You aren’t a responsible adult without feeling the sting of not contributing financially (I did teach piano and guitar lessons, and everything I made went to paying off what few bills I had—I got out of college with no student loans). Still, though, no matter how much I contributed, I often felt it wasn’t enough. I butted heads with my mom about finding work out of the house (she always talked me out of it). Instead, I worked, as we’d agreed, on my manuscripts: I created a floor-to-ceiling stack of them in those seven and a half years.

During those years, I learned to balance my writing with the comings and goings of a household. I can fix a lawnmower with one hand and outline a novel with another. I also learned that my greatest first reader is also the same person who insisted I stay home to write in the first place (Mom’s a great titler, too—she was the first to suggest the titles for both my published books). And when the triumphs finally arrived—selling a book, seeing my first book on a store shelf, getting the starred review, receiving a few lit prizes—my mom and brother, who had been my support, my sounding board for project ideas, my first set of eyes, took pride in it, too. They had a hand in it.

Come on—getting started is beyond rough. Everybody has to have some sort of help when they set out to forge a writing career. Now, when I step inside a library or a bookstore, I think there’s not just one person behind each of those titles, but a whole group of them—in addition to the writer, there’s some combination of parent, sibling, partner, spouse, etc., who supported that writer as they got started. It’s pretty incredible, when you stop to think about it…

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Okay, so I've said it time and time again: the skies here in SW Missouri are gorgeous. I even sing the praises of our skies on Twitter and Facebook...Last spring, one of my followers who also lives in the area tweeted about what a lovely day we were having, saying, "These are the skies Holly Schindler's always talking about!"

To prove to you just how beautiful our skies are, I've put together a short video. Just promise that when you watch you won't get too jealous!

Thursday, November 10, 2011


Confession: I've had a bit of a love-cringe relationship with ARCs (advance reader copies) ever since my second book, PLAYING HURT, was in development.

My first book, A BLUE SO DARK, only saw significant changes to two scenes in-between the book’s acquisition and publication. That’s it. So the ARC was also very close to the final copy, with the exception of just a few phrases or typos. PLAYING HURT, though, was revised globally after acquisition (most of the changes were focused on Clint’s chapters), and even after the ARCs were printed, I continued to tweak passages—primarily, I was working on the steamier chapters, trying to find the perfect balance between staying true to the feelings of young love and remaining tasteful.

While PLAYING HURT was in development, I’d stumble across reviews every once in a while of others’ books (like a lot of readers, I also learn about new authors via the blogosphere) in which the reviewer would say something along the lines of, “Great premise. Really awkward writing style.” And the author in me would think, “But you had an ARC,” because I was truly learning just how much can actually change between ARC and final copy.

Also, at the time, I kept running into ARCs in a local used bookstore. I actually bought Laura Lippman and Mary E. Pearson ARCs, mostly to get them off the shelves. (Do local readers truly know what they're getting with an ARC? I wondered.) ARCs are more like ads, I thought. Something to encourage people to buy the final copy. It’s not something that should be read as though it is the final copy.

Ever since, I’ve always wondered how bloggers approach reviewing ARCs. I realize that a blogger’s at a bit of a disadvantage. The publisher (or author) has given out an ARC in exchange for an honest review. The blogger can’t suddenly become a mind reader and know exactly what’s changed. They have to review what’s in front of them.

Curious, I went straight to the source. And I have to say, yet again, bloggers showed what a smart bunch they are.

In a nutshell, here’s how bloggers told me they handle ARCs:

  • Indicate in the review that their copy is an ARC.
  • Recognize an ARC is in a “semi-raw” state (I love that phrase).
  • Make allowances for typos, grammar, misspellings.
  • Realize that larger changes can often take place—to scenes, etc.
  • Write a review based on plot, characters, and overall writing style (rather than picking apart smaller details).
  • Make sure that they post a review in a timely manner. (One blogger even stated that they purchase a final copy if they don’t get the review done before the book releases. Gold star for that one…)
  • Make sure not to put out too many spoilers.
  • Still stay true to themselves by giving an honest reaction to a book—its premise, its characters, its general writing style—no matter where the book originated. (ARCs from authors or publishers are reviewed every bit as honestly as books from bookstores.)
  • In addition, many bloggers pointed out that they're not out to slam the books they didn't personally enjoy. Instead, their goal is to make sure the books they love get the most attention possible.

Seriously. How truly cool is that? I do believe I can now say I’ve gone from a love-cringe relationship to love-love. Thank you, bloggers…

Monday, November 7, 2011


I just can't quit coming up with them—metaphors to describe the way I sound when I cough, that is. But thanks to the absolute coolness of social networking, mention that you have a chest cold, and helpful suggestions pour in. Elderberry syrup and tea with ginger have been my biggest saving graces...

While I recoup, I've been thinking quite a bit about a blog post I've wanted to write for a while now...and in order to do it, I need some feedback from bloggers. Basically, what I'd like to know is if you review an ARC any differently than you review a finished copy.

To make responding easier, I've created a handy dandy little form (below). Fill 'er out, and I'll put up the post as soon as the responses stop coming in...and as soon as I take another spoonful of elderberry syrup!

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