Review of 2017 Write Every Damn Day Book Bingo Challenge

In 2017, I decided to challenge myself and others to a Book Bingo (#2017weddbookbingo)! The card below needed to be blacked out by the end of the year. Although I read more books than the categories listed on the bingo card, this challenge gave me an opportunity to explore different genres and read a few books I might not have prioritized reading. Below is the list of books I read in 2017 for each category.


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A BOOK THAT BECAME A MOVIE OR TV SHOW: Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

A BOOK ALL OVER #BOOKSTAGRAM: The Gunslinger by Stephen King

A BOOK FOR YOUNG ADULTS: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

A BOOK IN A SERIES: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer

A BOOK YOUR BFF LOVES: Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

A BOOK FROM A DIFFERENT COUNTRY: The Storyteller by Walter Benjamin

A BOOK BASED ON A TRUE STORY: Yoga Girl by Rachel Brathen

A BOOK ABOUT WRITING: On Writing by Stephen King

A BOOK THAT RE-TELLS A FAIRY TALE: Cinder & Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

perfect strangewhereasafterlandlight we cantdustmissing girls

A BOOK RELEASED IN 2017: The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda

A BOOK OF POETRY OR SHORT STORIES: Whereas by Layli Long Soldier & Afterland by Mai Der Vang (both were amazing! I couldn’t only pick one for this list)

A BOOK WITH A BEAUTIFUL COVER: All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

A BOOK WITH TALKING ANIMALS: The Book of Dust by Phillip Pullman

A BOOK YOU MEANT TO READ IN 2016: All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda


To kick off 2018, I am participating in a yoga journey hosted by Yoga with Adriene. Her 2018 January series is called TRUE!  Some of you may have noticed that I changed my instagram username to @biblioyoga. I’m constantly re-defining myself and my goals and in 2018, I will earn my 200hr YTT certification to teach yoga! I selected a new name that illustrates my love of reading and writing with my love for yoga.


I am a fan of having a visual to help guide me in my journey. There’s something about checking boxes that is oh-so-satisfying! If you are looking for a great way to kick off your new year, I highly recommend this Yoga with Adriene’s at-home practice! Namaste y’all!

In 2018, I plan to launch another “challenge” like the book bingo, but I plan to combine reading, writing, and yoga. Keep following my instagram and checking the blog this month for more details. In the meantime, remember to Write Every Damn Day!


From Adventure to Eudaimonia

My word for 2017 was ADVENTURE! 🧜‍♀️

✈️ I went on lots of adventures to some new and some favorite places and traveled with many of my favorite people! 2017 – Marfa & Alpine. Galveston. Cape Cod & Provincetown. Charlotte, the Blue Ridge Parkway, & Asheville. Boston & Provincetown (again!). Kerrville. San Marcos. Fredericksburg. Wimberley.

🧘🏻‍♀️👩🏻‍💻 I also went on personal adventures in my writing and yoga practice. I stretched myself in ways I never have before and pushed myself to share my work and participate in communities that once intimidated me. I started a blog & an Instagram to connect with other writers and yogis. I listened to tons of podcasts about yoga, writing, and growth and attended events where some of my favorite writers were speaking (Neil Gaiman is a gem!) I took InPrint, All Writers, and Writespace courses and found a tribe of writers I appreciate in both Houston and other parts of the country. I found a new yoga studio home and an on-line home practice when I can’t make it to class.

📚 I read. A LOT! By creating my write every damn day book bingo instagram challenge, I held myself accountable and encouraged others to go on Adventures in books! I’ll post about my completed bingo reads soon! I am creating a new Bingo for 2018!

👩🏻‍🏫 I challenged myself in two new careers within Education and grew as both an educator and a human being. Working in the field of education means every day is a new Adventure full of questions, problems, and challenges that bring minds and hearts together.

👫 Because of all of the Adventures and time spent on growth, 2018 is bringing big things for me! And even though Adventure was my 2017 word, we are starting off the new year with an International one, Belize 🏝

🤗 My word for 2018 is EUDAIMONIA, which I am borrowing from Greek philosophy. It’s a word I connected with at 19 years old in my first philosophy course and continually reflect on. Eudaimonia (human flourishing) is a state of happiness, growth, and fulfillment. To both LIVE well and to DO well according to Aristotle helps you flourish, but eudaimonia is not simply a feeling of happiness that comes and goes, it is a state of being and an understanding of the full potential a human life has.

✨ To Eudaimonia and Beyond! ✨

🥂 Cheers to the New Year! 🍾

Making Time to Write

When I tell people that I am a creative writer, the first response I always receive is, “How do you have time?” At first, I made it seem like writing time randomly occurred, “Oh well…I just sit down for a little bit here and there” or “I have the weekends sometimes,” but the more I reflect on when I write, the more I realize that it is not a hobby that just pops up here and there.

I don’t HAVE time.

I MAKE time.


Wake Up Early

I am definitely not a morning person. I am slowly attempting to become one by getting up and practicing yoga, but I wouldn’t call myself an “early bird”. Waking up early gives you time. This time does not necessarily have to be used to write (God knows I can’t form sentences at 5 AM), but it can be time to do other things like cleaning, reading, working out, or accomplishing tasks on your To Do list that might take up writing time later in the day. The morning gives you QUIET (especially if you have children or a hectic, quick-paced job). Start by waking up 10-30 minutes earlier than you normally do and just enjoy that quiet with a cup of tea or a short walk. After realizing how much you need that time for yourself, you become more excited about the practice of waking up early.

Schedule Your Writing

Put it in your calendar. Use a timer. You have a date with your computer or journal or whatever it is you use to write. Make a commitment and stick to it! I also like to schedule periodic writing time or writing retreats with friends to keep me motivated and productive. There are earlier posts about my past writing retreats! If you schedule a cup of tea a day (however long it take you to finish drinking it) or an hour on a timer, I guarantee you will focus and write.

Remove Distractions

Speaking of focus, it is important to remove distractions. People are distracted by different things. If I am at home, I want to clean. I keep my study tidy and sweep the floor before I sit down to write. My bookshelves are behind me, so I do not have the sudden urge to organize them. I make a pot of tea, so I do not get up and go into the kitchen only to accidentally notice the dishwasher needs to be unloaded.

In my study, I play music, so I can’t hear what is going on in the rest of the house. I shut all of the doors (one is slightly cracked for Scout, my cat to come and go as she pleases). These are my habits because I learned over time there are certain things that derail me. For many people, having their phone is a problem. I keep mine on silent and only check it when I have to go to the bathroom.

I wrote an earlier post about creating a writing space that you love. My study has become my little retreat for yoga and writing. Not everyone has an entire room dedicated to writing, but if you can create a corner in your apartment, I promise having an inspiring space helps a great deal!


Take a Class

I am a firm believer in taking creative writing classes as your funds and schedule allows. My first class (outside of academia) was an on-line novel writing class because I felt I did not have time to drive into the city for a course. On Tuesdays, I attended a  weekly virtual meeting with four other writers and an instructor in a chat room. I was accountable for submitting a weekly amount of words, as well as reading the submissions of others throughout the week and writing comments, which was truly a lot of work. However, I found that I had much more time to write and read than I thought I did. Instead of aimlessly watching television, checking social media, or walking around Target (guilty pleasure), I sat down and read the other writing. Because I knew I needed to submit writing every week, it motivated me to schedule time to write or write during my lunch break at work (if I had one).

This year, I completed two in-person classes about thirty minutes away from my house, which means I spend an hour driving to and from class on the weekends. Because I don’t live in the city, I chose to take my most recent class from 11 – 1 PM on Saturdays. The structure of this class gave me time to write, as well as discuss my writing and the writing of others, which truly makes you a better writer and motivates you to continue writing consistently.

If you can’t afford to take classes or find a place nearby, is an excellent way to keep yourself accountable and build a network with other writers who could possible serve as readers for you and give you feedback.

Find Your Tribe 

I’m fortunate to have a small network of other writers that I have built over the years. Three of my closest friends write creatively, and we often share work with one another for feedback before sending it off for publication. It’s important to have a tribe of people that are your motivators; people who constantly ask you what you are working on or writing about and want to unpack your project with you. This can easily be someone who does not write, but that loves to read or just likes to talk to you. It’s also important to find readers, which you can discover a variety of ways. Again, the internet is your friend, so on-line writing groups or websites like NaNoWriMo are great for building your tribe. Social media is another fantastic way to find readers. Search Twitter and Instagram using hashtags. Facebook has tons of groups like The Binders,  Writers Helping Writers and Fiction Writers Global that are easy to join. Be sure to give what you get as well; if someone offers to read for you, you should be open to reading for them as well.


Finally, always try to Write Every Damn Day! 


Yoga & Creativity


This salutation is often heard at the end of yoga class. We bow to show respect for our fellow yogis and the practice itself. We share the divine light illuminating from our heart chakra, anhata, with one another as we place our hands in front of our third eye. This sharing of divine love is not so different from the act of putting pen to paper or finger to keys. We practice yoga to understand our potential to connect with ourselves, others, and divine universal truths. We write to do the same.


Yoga teaches us the value of practicing regularly. It is a physical manifestation of our ability to grow, adjust, and refine our ability to connect with our spirit, mind, and body. Writing is no different. The more space we create for ourselves to write, the stronger our writing becomes.

Last weekend, I attended a Yoga & Watercolor workshop hosted by Yoga & Hops at 8th Wonder Brewery in Houston, TX. Nicole Peralta of  Instagram @artyogaplay led us through an hour-long flow. Afterward, she illustrated watercolor techniques and explained how the meditative state she reaches as a yogi is similar to the one she experiences while painting.

yoga and water

I tapped into my inner Cancerian and somehow painted jellies! I read about the meaning of jellyfish after this class and found out jellies are a symbol of acceptance and balance. Woah…

Watercolor is not something I personally practice, but the experience of transitioning from a group yoga practice to an artistic endeavor gave me more time for self-reflection. Often when we practice yoga, we hope to connect with our third eye chakra, ajna. “The third eye chakra acts as our direct connection to higher consciousness, ushering in amazing, soul-fulfilling jolts of creative inspiration. Think of it as the space where self-awareness, imagination and intuitive guidance meet, enabling us to focus and create something in alignment with the truth of who we are at our core” (Creative Katrina).


Aside from the third eye, your sacral chakra, svadhisthana, is truly the place where creativity (and sexuality, go figure) manifests. When you are in sync with your sacral chakra, your creative energy flows freely. There are many meditations and yoga videos on youtube to awaken your sacral chakra, so if you have never attempted to do yoga or meditate before writing, I highly suggest trying one out before your next writing session.

By first practicing yoga or meditation to connect with our chakras, we awaken our creative spirit, which is an empowering experience. Yoga, like writing, forces us to be self-reliant. No one else can balance your body in a handstand, just like no one else can write the same line of poetry as you. As we move through poses, we are growing as yogis. As we write sentences, each one we craft illustrates our ability to express ourselves. When we tap in to this creative, elusive energy, we are able to have truly transformative experiences.


One of my favorite yogis, Rachel Brathen, constantly shares her personal struggles and growth on her instagram @yoga_girl. I am currently reading her publication Yoga Girl; the book is a combination of memoir and self-help where she shares her journey to create a boho lifestyle in Aruba. I’ve found that much of her writing resonates with me, but this particular selection truly spoke to me:

“With time, you’ll notice changes within the body, the mind, and the breath. Yoga makes us strong but flexible. Yoga creates space where we once were stuck. Yoga cultivates a quiet mind and inspires concentration. Yoga allows the breath to grow deeper. Yoga is a space where, with practice, we can become more present in our day. And the deeper we go in our practice, the more natural it will be to take the yoga off the mat and into the rest of our lives (Yoga Girl, 8.)”

Yoga and writing are both practices that help us uncover truths about ourselves and the world around us. Both make us dig deeper and free us. By marrying these two practices, we are able to channel creative energy and share truth with the world around us.

The light in me honors the light in you.



Writefest: A Festival for Emerging Writers | Houston, TX


The morning of Writefest began with me frantically scrambling to try and find the right outfit. What do writers wear? My mind immediately went to the Beatniks…


damn you perfect vision!


It’s Houston. It’s hot.

Witty t-shirt.

I got rid of all my Urban Outfitters shirts long ago…

I’ve been to several academic conferences, but this is the first creative writing conference I’ve ever attended. It’s the first time that I’ve introduced myself to other people as a writer. It’s the first time I’ve had to vocalize my genre and what my novel is about to other people. Was it intimidating? YES! Was it worth it? Absolutely.

Writefest is a small, local writing conference, so the format was fabulous for someone who is new to the local “writing scene.” It consisted of several panels over a few days – many of which were for individuals new to publishing, which was perfect for someone like me! I received a ton of helpful tips that I would like to share with my readers. You will find these particularly helpful if you are new to publishing poetry and short fiction.

The Importance of Joining a Writing Community 

Writefest was created by a local Houston group, Writespace, that offers classes in writing. Throughout the festival, many of the panels and speakers encouraged the attendees to join a writing community. One way to find members of your tribe is to take local writing courses offered by places like Writespace in order to find other authors in your genre or that have similar goals as you who can offer constructive criticism.

After leaving academia, I personally found it difficult to find classes and establish my tribe of writers. Houston has grown tremendously in creating common spaces for writers, but I have also found that a writing group on-line can be incredibly helpful. If you need a group for motivation, Camp NaNoWriMo is an amazing resource. If you want feedback from beta readers, you can find both in-person and on-line groups on MeetUp. I personally have participated in a writing course through All Writers’ Workplace & Workshop the past few months. In our Thursday Night Novel Writing Group, we are able to submit up to 3,750 words for weekly edits from four other writers that serve as our readers, as well as line-by-line edits from an editor that is a published author. Once a week, we meet in a chat room for two hours to discuss the week’s offerings, and then we e-mail our notes to one another once we finish our discussion.

This experience is incredibly motivating, and I have received very valuable feedback from individuals living in four other states (there just so happens to be someone from Austin in my course). I chose All Writers’ Workshop because a friend recommended the course to me based on his experience and the low cost. You absolutely do not have to pay for feedback like this. You could easily establish your own writing groups via social media, but for me, selecting to participate in a course I am paying for has also motivated me to keep writing. Finally, if you have friends who are writers, try to set up meet ups or (like I have) find a cheap house on AirBNB and do a retreat!

An interesting idea that was emphasized by a few different voices at the conference was that the writing community is a Give-And-Take community. Do not establish these groups to use other people and not give back. That being said, don’t always expect to get what you give. Different writers have different priorities. This is also very true when publishing. When you send off your work, you are entering into a community, so it is important to make sure you are creating professional and positive relationships with editors.

Writing groups help keep you accountable. They also help you acculturate and become a part of the profession. It’s important to know that you are always writing for your readers, so what better way to understand the reader’s perspective than to get notes from a few friends? Also, the more you can have your writing read, the better. Use social media to share snippets, or even better, find a local establishment that hosts and open-mic night and get up and read. Amplify your voice and share your creativity with the rest of the world!

How To Find Literary Journals and Publications

Prior to attending this conference, I did not know the best way to search for publications. Often I saw calls-for-submissions on my social media accounts, or I would scroll through Poets & Writers website to try and find publications where I could submit my work. Although Poets & Writers is a fantastic resource (especially the magazine), it can be tedious to search for publications this way. There were several resources mentioned for finding places to publish, but the one most commonly used comes at a cost — $5 per month– Duotrope. Duotrope allows its users to sort by genre, pay, deadlines, etc. which is not a feature that other sites have. If you are a writer of speculative fiction, Submission Grinder is a solid resource. A few others that were mentioned that I personally have not used were RalanPoetry Markets website for poetry, New Pages, and Codex for speculative fiction.

The most widely used tool to actually submit your work is Submittable. This is an on-line system that tracks what you have submitted and where your publication is in the process – Accepted (yey!), Rejected (boo!), or In Progress. There are some literary journals and magazines that do not use Submittable, and instead ask for e-mail submissions, but I would highly recommend registering with Submittable. Under the Discover tab, the website also posts calls for submissions as well, but the information is not quite as extensive or searchable as Duotrope.

Finally, another great way to research where to publish is to be a reader of literary magazines and journals. You can also consider looking where your favorite authors have been published in the past to find magazines you might enjoy. If you read an anthology and like a short story or poem in it, look in the acknowledgments section to see where it originally appeared.

What To Consider Before Submitting

Something you must consider before sending out work is the type of writer you are trying to become. Are you submitting your work for payment, prestige or reach? Once you have an answer to this question, proceed according to your goals.

One of the presenters (whose publication goal is a combination of reach and payment), said her target is to publish each short story she writes in four formats – online, in print, podcast, and translated. I had never considered submitting my work for podcasts or to foreign markets. She explained that it is important to look at your rights in contracts in order to be able to publish your work in various formats.

When deciding where to submit your work first, it is a good idea to start with fast rejection/acceptance publication before submitting to ones that take a long time to respond. Duotrope can help you find this information.

Many publications allow for simultaneous submissions, but once your work is accepted for publication, you need to contact all of the others and let them know – check out how to track this in the last section of this article.

Also, I would not pay a fee to submit your work unless it is to a prestigious publication or to enter a contest. It is more common to pay a fee for literary fiction than it is for speculative fiction publications. If your publication goal is related to payment, traditional paid publishing contracts award about six cents per word. Make sure you always read the guidelines before submitting. If you are interested in publishing the story elsewhere or in another format, make sure you look at your reprint rights within the contract you receive. This information is often posted on their website as well. Most reputable publications give your rights back in about six months. Remember often reprints pay less, and royalties only pay is sometimes never awarded.

Cover Letters

Some of the most helpful advice I received at WriteFest was about formatting a Cover Letter. The most common advice was to be sure to follow the publications guidelines when submitting. If you have never read the magazine, be sure to look at their free sample on-line to make sure your work fits their aesthetic.

The essentials of cover letters it that they are 2-5 sentences (unless a publication specifies otherwise). The panelists said it might be helpful to mention that you are an emerging writer. This lets them know they are one of the firsts to publish you, and they feel more inclined to ask you to make edits, rather than rejecting your story outright.

To show that you are familiar with the journal, writing your cover letter to the editor serves this purpose. It is also good to have one sentence telling the magazine why you want to publish with them specifically. You can mention a story you read and enjoyed from the magazine or align your style to their aesthetic.

If you are submitting the piece multiple places, it might be good to note in your email. Also, if the piece has been published before or appeared on your blog, it would be good to share that information in your cover letter as well.

Do not give a synopsis of your story. The story should speak for itself.

Do not use google docs or weird links to submit your story – do whatever is specified in the guidelines. Do not use font that is hard to read. Typically, literary magazines and journals use a standard manuscript format (SMF). The SHUNN manuscript format is the typically what is expected by publications.

Track Your Submissions!

One of the most important steps that you can take as a writer submitting work is to create a method for tracking your submissions. Some people like to keep a handwritten journal or list, while others like to use their computers. Many of the presenters at Writefest highlighted the importance of knowing when and where you send your work.

I highly recommend using Excel to build a spreadsheet for tracking purposes. You can create columns for your title, genre, word count, acceptance/rejection, and the magazines where you submit your work. I like to put the date I submitted the work (and sometimes the date it is accepted or rejected). I use different colors to label the information. I color mine green when they are accepted, and red when they are rejected. Below is an example:

Screen shot 2017-04-09 at 2.54.03 PM

I use one spreadsheet with multiple tabs to track all of my publication information.  Each tab is divided by genre (poetry, speculative fiction short story, literary short story) and then a different tab totaling the pay I receive from any of my publications. This is incredibly helpful if you submit a work to multiple places, and it is accepted somewhere because as a courtesy, you need to contact the other magazines you submitted to and pull the piece.

If you are interested in seeing what rejection letters typically look like, check out WikiReject. 


Sorry to leave on the note of rejection, but remember, it’s a part of the process! I hope this information finds all of you well and proves to be helpful. Keep Writing & always remember to Write. Every. Damn. Day.


Creative Spaces in Average Places

If I had it my way, I’d be typing from a treehouse in Costa Rica while listening to birds chirping, trees rustling in the wind, and rain falling gently outside through breezy windows. Alas…my humble abode in Houston will have to do.


A girl can dream…

For years, I’ve struggled with finding the right words in my own home. In the past, I spent a ridiculous amount of time in coffee shops, libraries, parks, and places of “inspiration” telling myself that I would always need to relocate because my house was an area of distraction. I’d convinced myself I would never be productive at home because my thoughts would often turn from writing to, “I need to sweep the floors….do the dishes…clean the litterbox…watch the latest episode of whatever HBO or Netflix series I was currently addicted to…” and so it goes. Recently, however, I’ve realized that I can truly shut out all of my anxieties if I surround myself with inspiration and spaces throughout my home that allow my process to flourish.

I was wrong. (Yes, I know women don’t say that often…)

I’ve finally become incredibly productive in my own home, and I want to share the changes I’ve made to my space to ensure that creative writing can occur. I’m not offering a list on this particular post of changes you can make to your own space; instead, I’m describing mine, so you can all have a little insight into my writing habits to help you reflect on your own.


In my current home, I have an office that is both organized and just “messy” enough for me. I found an old desk on the side of the road and distressed it in yellow with some funky knobs. On my desk, you’ll find a few of my favorite characters–Rocket Raccoon and BB-8–as well as speakers that are always singing. I keep all of my necessary supplies at an arm’s length. Pens, pencils, scissors, highlighters, binder clips, glue sticks, white out, erasers, sticky notes, notepads, staplers, and journals are the usual suspects. I’ve found that having some lotion and a finger nail file nearby keeps me from getting up to search for one if a nail splits or my skin feels dry.


I’m someone that likes to write by candlelight, so there are lighters purposefully placed in drawers and nooks and crannies throughout my office. In case I want to move into the chair adjacent to the computer and work from my laptop, I keep a external hard drive in my desk drawer at all times. Sometimes it’s faster to save a document on my hard drive than to email to myself and open it on my laptop.


To the left of my desk is a cart with my printer, lots of colored paper, and my candle stash. Sometimes I like to print drafts on colored paper to help me differentiate between the edits. I always try to have an extra reserve of ink on hand in case I run out. The flowered case in front of my printer is where I store my previous drafts. It is an accordion style filing system. Within it, I keep printed copies of finalized stories, poems, and novel pages, as well as stamps and envelopes in case I see a call for submissions that requires a hard copy to be submitted. Expect a future post about how I track my submissions and utilize this filing system.

To the right of my desk, I have a small bookshelf that contains only the necessities. I know that if I put my TBR books on this shelf, I will never get any writing done because of the temptation to start reading instead. I have journals and books that serve as resources on the shelves, as well as a few pieces of art and props that I like to use when I feel inspired to take an Instagram photo or one for the blog. There is also a lamp on the top, which helps when the candlelight is not enough to keep me awake.


I am fortunate to have a closet in my office, which is incredibly helpful when I need to remove clutter. Most of the time, it’s organized, but if I need to pick up a stack and get it out of sight to focus, there’s always the closet to stick it in.You will notice a yoga mat hanging in a bag on the closet, as well as a basket in the corner with yoga materials. Often doing yoga or meditating before writing helps me focus. It can be a wonderful re-energizing practice as well when you feel like you are losing steam. I plan to write an entry about how yoga and mediation can fuel your writing in the future, but for now, know that having a mat, some candles, and/or mala beads nearby can be incredibly helpful!


Aside from the closet, I also have a storage stool that sometimes serves the purpose of “hiding junk” as well. I mostly use it to hold coloring books and coloring tools in case I need a mental break from writing. Coloring often helps me process where I want to go in a story. It’s also statistically proven to relieve stress – double Win!


Another source of inspiration is the art on my walls. I’ve filled the wall above my desk with Led Zeppelin portraits and the adjacent walls contain two autographed Ray Lamontagne posters. Both have inspired me as a poet, and I often write to their music and consider their lyrics when writing. I have a few of my favorite fictional characters on the wall too- a Wolverine cut out and a mint lithograph of Stitch reading The Ugly Duckling that my parents bought me at Disney World. When I was in graduate school, I made a black and white collage of the Beat poets, which also hangs in my office. All of the art on my walls motivates me to be a storyteller. I love each of these authors and characters for very specific reasons, and sometimes just looking up reminds me why I am a writer.


If I can’t find inspiration within my office, I can turn around and peer through the french doors into what I call my miniature library – someday it will look like Belle’s, complete with those awesome ladders you can roll around the shelves on. My study is primarily shelves of books. Joining the books, there are several Funko pops, collectible figurines, and LEGO sets of characters I love. I also have Led Zeppelin record box sets on top of my shelves for a little more classic rock! If I want to move into the space to write, there is a  small couch, coffee table, and rocking chair with lamps and candles nearby. The table next to my couch contains pens and lighters as well.


I’ve organized the drawer by my bedside to contain everything I might need in the middle of the night to write. A small flashlight, headphones, a book lamp, pens, highlighters, journals, post-its and the like line the interior of my nightstand. I also have a lamp on my bedside table, since whispering “Lumos” with a wand in my hand has failed to produce any light. I’m still waiting on an owl with my Hogwarts acceptance letter…

My beverage of choice when I am writing is tea. My kitchen is open to my living room, so it can be distracting to go in to the kitchen to make tea; I notice tasks like the dishes in the sink and begin cleaning instead of focusing on my writing. Instead, I’ve found the most amazing solution – an electric tea kettle! If I know I am going to be in another room writing, I can bring it, my tea box, and an extra container of water with me to make batches of tea. If you are a tea lover, I can’t recommend this little lifesaver enough!


Finally, no home or office is complete without a cozy chair and a cat! Find yourself a feline friend to help keep you company during your writing binges! Scout’s presence both relaxes me and encourages me to keep writing. She is named after one of my favorite protagonists, Scout from To Kill a Mockingbird, so her namesake alone serves as a reminder to keep putting pen to paper (or fingertips to keys).


In the future, I plan to post a list about the necessities for a productive writing space, but until then…I thought I’d share my personal space with you, dear readers, in hopes that it will keep you motivated and encourage you to Write. Every. Damn. Day.

From a Reader to a Writer

As a child, I found that my most memorable adventures happened between the pages of books. Whether I was off to Never Never Land, wandering around Wonderland, or deep in the Hundred Acre Woods, I found solace in worlds other than my own. I’ve been a voracious reader my entire life. I truly believe the hundreds of tattered and shelved books prepared me to be the writer I am today. What we absorb as readers, we use as writers. We may not always do it consciously. We may hope that we can write as well as our favorite authors. Either way, reading prepares you to be a writer.


Throughout my writing journey, I’ve learned that much of my fiction is an amalgamation of what I’ve learned from other stories. For the novel I am currently writing, I rely heavily on classic children’s literature, contemporary fantasy, and Southern Gothic fiction. Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird is assisting me in molding my protagonist and the fictional town where she lives. However, the town is also loosely based on the one I grew up in, so in blending my own narrative and borrowing ideas from others, I am creating. I would also credit Neil Gaiman for helping me seamlessly blend magic and realism. In deciding how to pace the fantastical moments of my novel and balance them with realism, I’ve found myself revisiting texts I read for a Magical Realism course I took in graduate school. The most difficult part of writing this novel has been finding the right balance –creating a world that others can envision and relate to while incorporating one that does not exist. Like the words of an incantation, if you are able to recognize the right combination of believable and unbelievable elements, magic can occur.

Some Advice Related to Reading & Writing:

  1. Read in your genre. Read outside of your genre. Think about the different voices and styles in the texts you are reading.
  2. Write in the books you are reading. I know you think those pages are sacred, but highlight, underline, and write notes in the margins. If you have these notes and resources to refer back to when you are writing, it will help you tremendously.
  3. For a writer, reading is not a hobby. Reading needs to be a habit. Read as much as you can and as often as you can. Create goals for reading. I keep a calendar and log the days that I am writing and reading and how much I have accomplished each day.
  4. Carry a book with you everywhere you go. You never know when the opportunity to read might arise. On days that I have time to eat lunch outside of the office, I always take a book with me.
  5. Experiment with your writing craft by using other authors to fuel it. Steal a beautiful sentence and riff off of it. Borrow a character to write a narrative or fanfiction. Examine sentence structure, diction, and tone and consider how you might borrow another author’s voice and strategies for your own writing. As much as we don’t want to be thieves, the narratives we read influence our writing.


Pop! Fizz! Clink!


At the beginning of the year, our social media swims with epic mountains overlaid with beautiful fonts spouting common phrases like “Every accomplishment begins with the decision to try” & “Dream it. Wish it. Do it.” The beginning of a new year always feels rejuvenating. There is an energy and pulse around everyone in January. As the year continues, the pulse fades rather quickly and everyone settles back into the humdrum of life. Why can’t our entire years be January – how’s that for a cheesy quote with a mountain behind it? Seriously though, for years, I’ve found myself saying, “Someday, I’ll publish my novel. Someday, I’ll publish my screenplay.” Well, my friends, 2017 is going to be my year because I am going to remove “someday” from my vocabulary and work towards my goals Every Damn Day!

In thinking about my personal goals, at the center is always my desire to create lasting happiness. I’ve struggled with depression throughout my life, and I have found that lasting happiness only occurs when I’m being creative and productive. Sure, I can eat healthier and lose some weight too, but I think if Happiness is my central goal, the desire to better myself physically and mentally will spiral from my pursuit of inner peace.

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the quest for inner peace

My 2017 Creative Goals:

  • Finish writing novel with editor/coach
  • Send off for publication by the end of 2017
  • Publish at least 5 pieces in magazines, journals, anthologies, or collections
  • Conduct at least 2 more writing retreats
  • Go on a solo writing retreat – I’m hoping for a solo teepee
  • Read publicly at least once this year
  • Register and attend Writefest in Houston
  • Successfully complete an on-line workshop
  • Attend Texas Book Festival in Austin (I’ve missed it the last few years)
  • Research potential MFA, PhD, and Writing Residencies
  • Continue posting on Instagram and Blog regularly
  • Participate in NaNoWriMo
  • Write. Every. Damn. Day.

Instagram & Blog Goals

  • Provide memorable and helpful content regularly
    • Instagram – at least 5 posts per week
    • Blog – at least 1 post per week
  • Host a reading and a writing challenge on Instagram
    • #2017WEDDBOOKBINGO – starting January 1
    • Create a monthly writing challenge during NaNoWriMo
  • Be authentic
  • Establish relationships with my followers

On New Years Eve, I posted my first reading challenge to my Instagram followers to help inspire their reading quests. I plan to send prizes to those participating in the Bingo and hope to complete it myself in 2017! The Bingo card is posted below. The rules are simple. You can strive for a regular Bingo (5 in a row) or try to Blackout the entire card by 2018. My followers should be posting examples of what they are reading for each category and sharing the Bingo card with others in order to win swag 🙂 All of the awards will be related to literature and writing 🙂 Be sure to follow me on Instagram at


In order to ensure a successful completion of my personal goals, I’ve made several writing friendly spaces in my home. I fully intend to share those spaces with you in my next entry. Expect lots of pictures and creative ways to make every room in your house, the perfect space to write! In making your own space encouraging, it becomes easier to Write. Every. Damn. Day.


On Submitting Your Work for Publication


Tonight, I found myself hoping to write; instead, I revisited a few of my short stories and decided it was time to send them off into the great unknown. Considering how many publications to submit to and finding the write ones to send a story to is completely overwhelming. A fellow writer friend and I chatted on the phone for a bit this evening and we both feel that knowing when a piece is complete is half the battle. Once you feel proud enough of one, the second hurdle  (for me, the more difficult one) is reading and researching where to submit. I’ve found both Poets & Writers and NewPages helpful avenues to begin my search for the perfect publication to print my stories.

The first short story I decided to submit, is entitled “Words.” It’s tale told from the perspective of a cat who wishes she had the words to tell her owner her boyfriend is cheating on her. I’m especially proud of the voice I created in this piece and hope that someone finds my feline raconteur worthy of publication.

The second piece is a work of creative non-fiction entitled “In Every Other Universe”; this piece was harder to send into the cosmos because it is a personal narrative about a failed relationship. It describes the moment that I knew I loved him, but that we could never be together again.


We were together. I forget the rest. – Walt Whitman

SPOILER ALERT: Last week, I went to see La La Land in theaters. The film is a musical meditation on how our own personal dreams intertwine and beautify our relationships. In love, we are often more likely to chase our destiny; however, when fate and practicality collide, love can fade, hearts can break, and the once harmonious melody that existed between two lovers can become a cacophonous misfortune. The metaphor of jazz as a respectful community of musicians that value the  individualistic talents of one another is carried throughout the film.  At the conclusion of the La La Land, Mia (Emma Stone) unexpectedly attends her former lover, Sebastian’s (Ryan Gosling’s), dream jazz club and envisions an entire future with the man she once loved.

“Every Other Universe” explores this type of junction from my own personal life, and as much as I would like to say those emotions no longer have power over me, I’ve had moments like Emma Stone’s where I envision an entirely different life for myself. This is not to say I am unhappy with my current life or husband; fiction that explores these twinklings is powerful because it is natural to question, wonder, and daydream about the possible outcomes of one’s own life. Is this not why we tell stories? Or how we create relatable characters? 

The occasions where we find a bit of ourselves in other stories, or hell even in the ones we write, are what make us continue to read and write. These moments make us human. These moments make us storytellers.

These moments should make us what to Write.




Winter Writing Retreat | Wimberley, Texas

better wimberley.jpeg

The Spirit of the Texas Hill Country is one unlike anywhere else. The rolling hills, the laid back lifestyle, and an expanse of dramatic sunsets and starry skies. Don Swander wasn’t lying when he wrote about his love of nighttime Texas celestial nirvana, “The stars at night are big in bright, deep in the heart of Texas.” Leaving the Hill Country and relocating back to Houston was one of the most heartbreaking decisions in my own personal life. For almost ten years, I could walk to quaint coffee shops to write and venture to campus to teach philosophy or attend classes and lectures to develop my own intellect. The loss of this community caused my soul to grow weary during my late twenties. The last few years, I’ve made space to write, but my practice is not what it once was. By hosting retreats and this website, I hope to reconnect with other writers, artists, creatives, yogis, intellectuals, and lovers of aesthetics.


Texas Sky

We only spent three days in the Hill Country, yet I feel so rejuvenated. My passion is reawakened, and I feel like I have a clear purpose once again. I am a writer. I was meant to put pen to paper and create. The practice of writing transforms when you are in a novel place. All three of us felt that leaving our every day lives in the Houston area behind allowed us to focus. We collectively shared our desire to write and recognized how difficult it is to put pen to paper when you find yourself distracted by the mundane tasks of everyday life. We are all allowing “life” to interrupt our practice of writing, and need to live by the motto of this website.

Write Every Damn Day.

I’ve always been fascinated by how a sense of place can inspire your writing. As an undergraduate, I enrolled in a course called, “The American Novel and Sense of Place.” Our discussions were centered around how the landscape and culture influenced a variety of novelists writing around the same time in America, spanning across the continent. We pondered how a place could influence an Author’s voice and storytelling. In the novel I am currently writing, my characters reside in a town similar to the one I grew up in during the 1930s. Abra draws inspiration from the bordertowns of Texas; interestingly, the décor of our AirBNB inspired her writing as well. The home was a Southwestern style with tribal masks, Mayan artwork, pottery, animal prints, and earth tones. When she and I met to conference about our writing, she kept discussing how the snakes in the artwork around the house were inspiring her story and research.


Our backyard

I found myself reading and writing near windows or outside in the morning. The backyard was covered in lush greens with the subtle mellifluous tone of wind chimes occasionally sounding. One of the reasons I selected this particular property was the ample mount of outdoor spaces to write. Unfortunately, a cold front blew into Texas, so we were bundled up outside – I took full advantage of the cold weather and used it as an excuse to wear my red panda kigurumi.

I think each of us found a time to enjoy the beauty of the property. Janeen spent a morning drinking tea and writing outside while Abra, a certified yogi, led me through a sequence that inspires creativity. She brought a book titled, Wheels of Life: A User’s Guide to the Chakra System by Anodea Judith, and began our practice with an edifying excerpt.

After we bowed to one another with Namaste, we decided to take advantage of the hot tub. Other than eating, this was the only time neither of us was reading, writing, sharing, or editing. I went on the retreat with the goal of writing 10,000 words. I reached 8,000, but I also received some valuable feedback, wrote poetry, read On Writing by Stephen King, and edited the first eight chapters of the novel. Overall, the three of us were incredibly productive, especially in the evenings.


Janeen writing fireside

Inside, we all found a comfortable spot together in one room by the fireplace at night to write. There is something enchanting about writing by fireside. The glow, the warmth, the crackling – all of it kept me awake and focused longer than I had anticipated. We each had our own room if we needed to be in a space of our own to write or conference one-on-one privately without disturbing one another.

I found myself writing all over the house. I felt invigorated and uninhibited. Writing away from home kept me from thinking about the laundry list of tasks I need to complete daily. Green tea, yoga, nature, and surrounding myself with other constructive and creative women truly made me the most productive I’ve been in years. As much as writing is a solitary activity, doing it in the presence of others is energizing and refreshing.

The only negative about our retreat – it wasn’t long enough. There is nothing more inspirational than being surrounded by writers in a cozy space.


Do we have to leave?

After checking out of our fabulous AirBNB, we explored Wimberely! It’s a eccentric, artsy town with adorable shops and a welcoming atmosphere. There are boots decorated by artists throughout, so each of us took a moment to snag a picture with a boot similar to ourselves.


Exploring Wimberley

Personally, I feel like this is the best gift I could have given myself for Christmas. I am a true Cancerian by nature,  constantly doing for others, but in hosting writing retreats, I’ve discovered a way to give to myself and others. If you are interested in participating in a rewarding experience, I intend to host another retreat in the Spring, as well as this summer. If you are interested in renting the same property featured in this post, Casa Grande – A Slice of Heaven in Wimberley, Texas , I highly recommend Mark as an AirBNB host.