Month: December 2018

The 2019 Writer’s Reading Challenge

It’s that time of the year when reading challenges are popping up on lots of blogs. There are so many great ones and I especially love the emphasis I’m seeing on underrepresented voices. As someone who’s gotten more serious about my writing in the last year, I’ve realized that this means getting more serious about reading.

As a kid, I’d sometimes go through a book a day– Goosebumps or Babysitter’s Club. In high school, I devoured my English class reading lists, always reading ahead of the class in 1984 or 100 Years  of Solitude.  Though I continued to read after graduation, the demands of college, then grad school, then parenthood slowed my pace waaaay down. Now I’ve been intetionally kicking it back into gear. If you’re a writer who, like me, wants to read to improve their writing, I’ve created this challenge for YOU– I hope it encourages you to push your limits with reading in a way that maximizes your efforts and deepens your involvement in the writing community!

  1. Beta read for another writer
    This will be more than worth the effort when you have a beta reader for your own book. It’s also incredibly helpful to see books in their unpolished form. Plus, won’t it be cool to be on someone’s acknowledgments page?
  2. Craft book
    My favorite is Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.
  3. Reread a book that inspired you to become a writer
  4. A “bad” book
    Don’t spend a lot of time on this one, but it can be nice to both give your brain a break and remind yourself of things you don’t want to do.
  5. A comparable title to your work in progress
  6. A fiction book with a similar setting
  7. A nonfiction book with a similar setting
  8. Read something out loud
    This is a nice way to really slow down and absorb the language of a book.
  9. A recent bestseller or breakout title in your genre
  10. A classic of your genre
    Something you’re embarassed not to have read yet. Maybe the book everyone says, “Oooh, like ______?” when you tell them about your own work.
  11. Something independently published
  12. The published book of a writer friend
  13. A book that’s been on your to-read list for a long time
    Get rid of the block that’s been stopping you from reading other things!
  14. A book by a woman of color (1)
  15. A book by a woman of color (2)
  16. A book by a woman of color (3)
    Don’t skimp! I want you to read (at least!) three of them!
  17. A book by an LGBTQ author
  18. A book renowned for beautiful language
  19. A book renowned for its social message
  20. Something out in 2019 that you preorder
  21. Something out in 2019 that you buy on publication day
  22. A book recommended by, or named as an influence on, a favorite author

You get an extra point for each review you write and each tweet or email you send to an author! Share your progress with #WritersReading2019 and Have fun!


Sneak Peek: Aspirant and the ESCAPE! Anthology

Pre-orders of the Writing Bloc anthology are officially available now! As a treat, I’m offering my readers a sneak peek of my story, “Aspirant.”

Let me know what you think and make sure to reserve your copy before the price goes up January 1!


“Sister Trái đất thơm, will you create the Facebook page for our young retreatants?” Sister Yêu asked in her calm Vietnamese accent.

“Of course,” Sister Trái đất thơm said. She had received the name, which meant “Fragrant Earth” when she’d accepted the mindfulness trainings. The other sisters, mostly Vietnamese, had oohed and ahhed over her new name, but the young woman had been slightly disappointed. Her native language was English, and “fragrant” didn’t necessarily have good connotations. “Fragrant Earth” made her think of the landfill down the street from her family home in Victorville, a city of about 120,000 in what felt like the middle of nowhere, Southern California. The other sisters had gotten names that meant things like “Open Heart” and “Pure Soul.” She wasn’t sure why the Elder nuns thought she was some smelly dirt.

Sister Trái đất thơm looked around at the room full of young people, all ages 18-30, who had come for the monastery’s annual young adult retreat, and smiled back at their smiling faces. Even to these people, who had chosen to come to a five-day mindfulness retreat, she knew she was a freak—though she was 22, she was most certainly not one of them. They saw her as something cute and quaint—  like a little mouse— something to be taken care of and to gain wisdom from. Like a little Yoda or something. She knew. It was the same way she had seen the monastics when she’d first arrived.

“Thank you, Sister,” Sister Yêu bowed to her, then turned back to the retreat goers. “In this way, you will be able to remain connected to each other, and, we hope, to your practice. When you use Facebook, you will be able to take a mindful breath and say to yourself, ‘My dear, breathe. You are online.” Sister Trái đất thơm smiled slightly, remembering how lame the mantra had sounded when she’d first heard it.


“Will you add me as a friend?” Aaron asked. He was tan and muscular and his scent was oddly familiar and attractive. Though he was from San Diego, he felt very East Coast to Sister Trái đất thơm— no-nonsense, tough but kind, a dry sense of humor.

“I will,” Sister Trái đất thơm said and smiled. She reached a hand up to feel her bald head, then recentered herself in the moment, noticing her feelings. She was attracted to Aaron— she had been all week. She could imagine his arms around her. He was so genuinely interested in what she had to say. She realized she was flirting—  something she hadn’t done since she’d begun the ordination process six months ago by submitting her letter of intent.

The feelings of guilt, of shame, swept over her immediately. “This is how you ended up getting raped,” she heard a small familiar voice in her head say. She was proud that a louder voice—  the one she had been nurturing since she’d come to the monastery said, “It’s just a thought, Julie. Thoughts aren’t facts. You’re thinking.”

Aaron smiled at her. “Awesome!” he said. “I’ll look forward to it.” He paused and laughed. “I mean, I’ll do my best to be in the present moment. But I’ll be happy when you find me!”

Sister Trái đất thơm laughed too. He saw her as a person, not some sage. He could tell she was a regular person who had just decided to come here and do this. Maybe he could imagine her with hair.