September is the New January

Long time, no blog, eh?

But I keep hearing on the Internet that September is the new January (bouquets of freshly sharpened pencils, anyone?), so here we go. I’d like to get back to sharing a little bit more of my life that’s not just artfully curated photos of books and kids. And I spent the long weekend at Decatur Book Festival and wound up hella motivated for all manner of things, so here we go!

Deactur Book Festival

DBF has always been my very favorite book festival in the world, and this year was no different! I got to be on an awesome YA rom com panel is Sona Charaipotra (Symptoms of a Heartbreak) and Nina Moreno (Don’t Date Rosa Santos), moderated by Mayra Cuevas (the forthcoming Salty Bitter Sweet), and I got to moderate a contemporary YA panel with Julie Buxbaum (Hope and Other Punchlines), Susan Kaplan Carlton (In the Neighborhood of True) and Julian Winters (How to Be Remy Cameron). Look, I love doing panels. I’m not shy, and I books and writing, and I love talking into a microphone. Sona, Nina, and I got to have a little fun with the Gilmore Girls boys there at the end, which is all I really ever want in this world. Thanks to everyone who bought a copy of Better Than the Best Plan!

I also got to see some incredible authors speak, including Jasmine Guillory, Tessa Dare, and Sarah MacLean. I know. I cheated on the YA stage A LOT with some adult and romance panels. I also picked up a copy of THE CARE AND FEEDING OF RAVENOUS GIRLS by Anissa Gray, who I got to see speak as well. Oh, and I got to see some of the authors from the BLACK ENOUGH anthology, edited by Ibi Zoboi, and knew immediately that I had to get a copy. I’m looking forward to diving into that one.

New Books!

If you follow me on Instagram, you know I’ve spent the last year writing and revision a draft of a book that has, until now, been known as #pizzaromcom. Well, that book finally got a title, and I got to announce it, and people went bonkers over it, which was super fun. IT’S KIND OF A CHEESY LOVE STORY is definitely my favorite of all my titles!  I also finished the revision on it at the end of August, and let me tell you, working on this book has been a straight up JOY. Writing has always been VERY hard for me, and by that I mean, the actual sitting down and DOING. IT. I’m a champion procrastinator. But with CHEESY LOVE STORY? Coming back to the computer every day was fun! I couldn’t wait to work on it, to remember where I’d left Beck and the gang, and what fun pizza puns I’d worked into the manuscript. It’ll probably still have one more round to go before it’s done, but I’m so happy about where this book is and where it’s going. April 2021!

September Goals

Ok, so back to DBF. Michelle Knudsen (Evil Librarian) did a panel with Corrie Wang (City of Beasts), moderated by the great and good Jackson Pearce, where she said that while she doesn’t write every day, she tries to touch her manuscript every day. That can be reading over something, jotting down a sentence, revising, or actually sitting down to write. And so that’s my September goal. Last month, under deadline on #pizzaromcom, I worked basically every day on that book. And I found it so much easier to come back to the chair every day when I still felt pulled in from the previous day’s work. Turns out my “binge it all at the very end” strategy was … well … not great. So inspired by that glorious revision experience, I’m aiming to touch my adult romance manuscript (#hotchef) once per day. And hopefully by the end of September, I’ll have a draft ready to send to my agent!


Hello Girls by Emily Henry and Brittany Cavallero — this is a YA Thelma & Louise that is so fun and feisty, while also being so full of thrillery tension that I couldn’t put it down. Several times during DBF I snuck off to find a quiet bench to read. I immediately passed it off to a friend, because this is one that I’m going to make everyone I know read (or at least the badass women in my life)

Don’t forget that my latest book, BETTER THAN THE BEST PLAN, is out NOW and still oddly inexpensive for the hardcover on Amazon. So get a copy, and if you read it, leave a review!

Goodreads ARC Giveaway!

Thanks to a well-timed Fierce Reads tweet, I saw that Goodreads has a giveaway where FIFTEEN arcs of Better Than the Best Plan are up for grabs. So you should definitely go enter asap! The giveaway ends May 3. CLICK HERE TO ENTER!

And if you’ve read an early copy, could you do me a favor and review it? This is a quiet little book, but it’s the little book that could. I’m determined. And thank you to everyone who’s already tweeted or posted about it! I appreciate each and every one of you!

March Recap

Finally finally FINALLY finished the first draft of #pizzaromcom and sent it off to my editor. I feel … some kind of way about it. I think it’s good? Ask me later.

Read some incredible books this month. Daisy Jones and the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid. Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes. And a whole slew of Tessa Bailey books, starting with her forthcoming release Fix Her Up.

Started plotting an adult romance trilogy loosely based on the Jonas Brothers reunion. Each brother gets a book. I’m wicked excited.

Completed the Pure Barre 20 in 31 challenge and saw serious changes in my body. Namely, my biceps are defined and I can do pushups without putting my knees on the ground. I feel crazy strong. Also, I now own two pairs of Lululemon leggings.

My April goals include … more Pure Barre, plotting the JoBro trilogy, and reading more awesome books.


Hi friends! My next book, BETTER THAN THE BEST PLAN, comes out on June 25th from Farrar, Straus and Giroux (an imprint of Macmillan). And it’s available for pre-order now wherever you buy books! I’m super excited for this release, since it’s been … a while … since I’ve had a book out. This one also has one of my very favorite scenes I’ve ever written, a swoony little number set at one of those traveling parking lot carnivals.

Pre-orders are great for authors, because they show retailers and publishers that there’s increased interest. It can mean better placement in stores, bigger print runs, and more opportunities for events and appearances. So if you have $17.99 and want to know how to best support me as an author, pre-order the book!

Head on over to the publisher’s page and select your favorite retailer for a pre-order! 

Skincare for Dummies (I am the dummy)

If you follow my instagram stories at all, you know that I’ve been coping with heaping helpings of stress by diving head first into a giant vat of eye cream. Skincare! It’s potions class for your face! It makes you feel like a chemist in your bathroom! It’s alchemy for your skin! What’s not to love?

Since I’ve started learning and sharing, I’ve gotten several questions about how I got started. Because let’s be real, the world of skincare is sort of overwhelming, and if you’re not careful, you could empty your bank account and burn your face off. And no one wants that. So here are my tips for how I got started developing my new hobby/practicing some self-care.


Study Up!

Start with Her Royal Highness the Queen of Skincare Caroline Hirons. Her blog is a fantastic resource, especially her cheat sheets. If you want to start developing a routine, start with her routine cheat sheet, then fall down the rabbit hole clicking links and reading more of her posts.

I’m in a secret facebook group of friends who just talk about vanity. It’s great, and I’ve learned a ton from people I already trusted. If you’re looking to find your group of ladies (and a few gentlemen!) to answer your questions, I highly recommend the Forever 35 podcast Facebook group. Also, add Forever 35 to your podcast feed.

Don’t blow too much cash

I started by Googling things like “Best drugstore cleanser” and “Best drugstore moisturizer,” etc. Then I headed to CVS, which has a 100% money back return policy on beauty items. Just save your receipt and packaging (I keep it all in the shopping bag and toss it in my linen closet, so that if I need to return, it’s all there). This way you can start finding things you like on the cheap. Coupon hack: CVS also has a beauty club, and for every $30 you spend on beauty products, you get $3 extra bucks. They also have awesome coupons with your CVS card. I’ve saved tons!

When you’re ready to level up, hit Sephora or Ulta, where you can get samples! Don’t be shy, ask for what you want to try (hey, that sounds like a nice lil mantra). You can also buy travel sizes of a lot of items as well. Try try try! Sephora and Ulta also have great return policies, so you don’t have to be afraid to lose money.

One word of warning: you might want to avoid Amazon. Especially with Korean skincare, you can wind up with fake stuff, and you really don’t want that. There’s just no quality control there. If you’re looking for Korean skincare, I recommend OhLolly (super fast shipping!) or Peach & Lily. Sephora and Ulta also carry some stuff. And CVS also just added an entire Korean skincare section to their stores, so you can get a lot of great sheets masks and snail mucus there (and utilize that return policy if you/your face doesn’t like it).

Start small, then level up

I started with a cleanser, toner, SPF, and moisturizer routine. Then I added eye cream. Next came serums, and that’s where things really got exciting. Acid toning came next, and an overnight lip treatment. Now I’m onto facial oils. I have not attempted retinols yet, because frankly they make me nervous, but maybe down the line I’ll get there. But if you start small and add one thing at a time, you’ll be able to monitor the reactions you’re having and know when something doesn’t agree with you. It also keeps you from shocking your skin with a quick start.

Decide why you’re doing this

Yes, skincare is a lot about vanity, but that’s not entirely why I do it. I don’t expect it to dramatically alter my appearance (or alter it at all, actually). Sure, I hope it’ll keep me from getting monster zits and maybe even out my pores around my nose and chin, but I don’t think it’s going to cause me to age in reverse. I don’t think most people will notice a damn bit of difference when they look at me.

This is a thing I do for me. I do it because a) I like the way my skin feels now that I’m treating it well, and b) I like the way I feel while I’m taking time each morning and night to care for my skin. This is my self-care, right up there with reading trashy books and eating all the donut holes I can cram into my face. I do it because I like it. If it was torture, no way would I stick with a skincare routine. Shutting the door and quietly rubbing potions into my face is relaxing, and I’ve noticed that I’ve even slept better since I started (or as well as you can sleep when you still have a baby waking you up 2-3 times a night OH MY GOD).

I think it’s important to pick what your skincare goals are and focus on those with your products. And don’t try to make everything your goal, or you’ll be miserable. Just like everything else in life, set reasonable expectations. And have fun with it!

Ok, so wanna see my routines?

Morning Routine

(Presented in the order I use it)

  1. COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – I double cleanse with this in the morning. It’s cheap ($11), and COSRX is a reliable Korean skincare brand. It’s gentle, though it’s got a fairly odd smell (akin to dipping your face into a can of brand new tennis balls?). I think it’s the tea tree oil? Whatever, you get used to it.
  2. Thayer’s Rose Petal Toner – I love the smell of this, and it’s nice and soothing. Swipe it on with a cotton pad after cleansing. They sell this one (and some other scents) at Target. A big bottle is only $6.99.
  3. Iceland Hydrating Eye Stick – this is from CVS, and I have no idea if it really does anything, but it feels good, it smells good, and it looks adorable. It’s nice on my eye bags in the morning (hi, underslept mama of two small children here!). Another Korean skincare purchase. Another cheapie, only $8.99
  4. LilyAna Naturals Vitamin C Serum – baby’s first serum! I love this gentle Vitamin C for hydration and color correction and (they say) wrinkle reducer. I’ve definitely noticed decreased redness and dark spots since using this. This is one exception to the Amazon rule, because LilyAna naturals only sells on Amazon. Make sure you’re buying directly from them! $19.99, but when I purchased they had a coupon on Amazon for $4 off.
  5. Pacifica Dreamy Youth Day/Night Cream – this is my day moisturizer. It’s light without being greasy, and gets the job done. It’s also vegan and cruelty-free. Find Pacifica at Target, Ulta, and Whole Foods. It seems like a small bottle, but a little goes a long way. One pump will cover your face. $16.99
  6. Garnier Moisture Bomb Sunscreen – you’re supposed to wear sunscreen every day all the time forever, and I definitely was not, mostly because sunscreen just felt so icky on my face. Well, that’s because I was using, you know, beach/body sunscreen. Buy yourself a good, dedicated SPF of at least 30, apply it thoroughly every day, and make sure you use enough (a nickel size amount just for your face). I like this one because it goes on with no streaks or white cast, is moisturizing without being greasy, and has a nice, beachy scent without smelling like a surf shop. You can get it most anywhere. Mine is from CVS for $17.99

Evening Routine

(presented in the order I use it)

  1. COSRX Low pH Good Morning Gel Cleanser – yes, I know it says morning, but you can use it any time. And since I’m usually not wearing makeup, I double cleanse with this knowing I’m really just removing my SPF and moisturizer from the day.
  2. Pixi Glow Tonic – my first big leap in the skincare world was trying acid toning, because my blackhead situation on my nose and chin was little … um .. yikes, and my pores just seemed angry at me. This glycolic acid toner is seriously magic for me. My skin looks SO MUCH BETTER. The bottle says to use it day and night, but I only use it every other night to keep from over-exfoliating (it’s a thing, read up on it!). The best part? Unlike lots of other acids, this is sold at Target and is CHEAP. This sample size was $3 at Target (so try it out first!), but a full-size is only $15.
  3. Thayer’s Rose Petal Toner – after acids, you definitely want to be gentle on your skin, so I use this, with aloe vera, to soothe my skin.
  4. No7 Lift & Luminate Triple Action Eye Cream – I’m not 100% sure eye creams really do much, so I’m not in the market to drop big cash on one (seriously, eye creams get ‘SPENSY). I’m also not in this to eliminate wrinkles, so I don’t feel the need to go to town here. This UK brand is sold at Target, and this tube is about $20. It’ll last you forever, so don’t worry.
  5. Biossance Squalane + Vitamin C Rose Oil – here’s my splurge. Are you ready? A full-size of this costs $72 (oh god, I just cringed typing that). But I ordered this little free sample pictured above from Biossance (you get both this and the 100% Squalane for just the price of shipping), and when I tried it, it really REALLY agreed with my skin (I know, I was pissed … I wanted it to be a total scam so I didn’t have to buy it). I put this on as a first layer of moisture, only at night because it makes your face, well, oily. But come morning, your skin is so smooth and velvety. I love it. I also bought a full-size of the 100% squalane oil, because it’s a body hero for dry winter skin (hello knees and elbows!). It’s less than the rose oil, but not much less … but a little goes a very long way, so I expect this to last me at minimum 6 months, maybe longer. I skimp in other places to splurge here, and that’s fine with me.
  6. Burt’s Bees Night Cream – I tried 3 other night creams from CVS before I settled on this one (I returned them all, and I think they were starting think I was a scammer, but I finally found one!). I love that this one, layered over the rose oil, makes my skin super soft and velvety without feeling really heavy. And at only $18, it’s much cheaper than more luxury moisturizers.
  7. Burt’s Bees Overnight Intensive Lip Treatment – I’m a cherry carmex (in a tube!) addict during the day, and I used to just use it at night, too. But I bought this because I had CVS extra bucks, and I really feel like it’s gone a long way to hydrate my dry winter lips. And it’s only $9, so why not?

I do sheet masks and clay masks from time to time, all of which I’ve picked up in the Korean skincare section at CVS (I really love the Peach Slices masks, and they’re only like $2.50/each). I also have a Korean cleansing balm en route that the ladies on Forever 35 recommended, so I’ll sub that in for one of my COSRX cleanses in the morning and at night. But I’m feeling pretty good about this routine. I think it’ll stick around for a while, at least until I start to use things up.

And if I suddenly come into some serious cash, you bet your ass I’m trying out Tata Harper/Drunk Elephant/Sunday Riley/Biologique Recherche… Until then, see ya CVS!

My Year in Reading – 2017 Edition

2017 has been a real beast, hasn’t it? I won’t even bother listing all the indignities and horrors of the world, because you know (or maybe you’ve forgotten because there have been so many … so I won’t remind you). But through it all, I’ve kept reading. And if there’s to be some bright spots in my year (other than Leo joining our family, which was pretty stinkin’ awesome), then it was that I read some really amazing books this year.


Ok, I didn’t smash my reading goal this year. I set a modest goal of 75 (I usually hit around or over 100), but hey, I was having a baby this year! What I didn’t factor in was Freddie’s second broken leg and the attendant difficulties that brought to sitting down with a good book. Still, 67 books read isn’t too shabby when you consider I grew and birthed a human, helped a toddler through two broken legs, and WROTE A BOOK


Ok, enough tooting of my own horn … now on to my favorite reads of the year (listed in the order I read them)

THE RULES FOR 50/50 CHANCES by Kate McGovern

What it’s about: Rose is a talented ballet dancer whose mother is battling Huntington’s Disease, a fatal genetic disease. Rose is trying to plan her future while also wrestling with the decision to find out if she, too, carried the gene.

This is a 2016 YA that I let slip by by, and I’m so glad I caught up with it this year. I was on a panel with Kate at Boston Teen Author Fest, and hearing her talk about this book and the people she met as she researched it was really special. It also has one of my favorite romances of the year, too.

If you love: the heart of Sarah Dessen mixed with the romance of Stephanie Perkins


What it’s about: Molly’s had a 26 crushes and no boyfriends. But when her twin sister falls madly in love, Molly thinks maybe it’s time to move past the unrequited stage so she doesn’t get left behind.

Becky is just such a delight, both in person and on the page. Simon was great (and how fun does that trailer look?), but her sophomore effort was FANTASTIC. I hope the Simon movie blows up so that eventually we get to see Molly, her family, and loveable Reid on the big screen.

If you love: funny families and sweet romance like Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

FAR FROM THE TREE by Robin Benway

What it’s about: when adopted Grace winds up pregnant and deciding to give her daughter up for adoption, she realizes it’s time to find her birth mother … only to find she has a biological brother and sister. The book follows the three teens as they wrestle with what family means and their places in it.

I read a galley of this several months before it was released, and as soon as I finished crying, I wrote an email to Robin telling her how mother-effing good it was. So cue my total lack of surprise but complete delight when Robin got named to the National Book Award Longlist, then the short list, and then WON THE DAMN THING. This book is so tender and gentle and full of big important emotions and small, sweet moments. It’s one I’ll return to when I’m feeling like I need writing inspiration, because the prose feels effortless. Have you read this yet? No? WHAT. ARE. YOU. WAITING. FOR?!

If you love: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell or the smart introspection of John Green’s Looking for Alaska

TOP TEN by Katie Cotugno

What it’s about: on the eve of their high school graduation, best friends Ryan and Gaby face a decision about the state of their friendship, setting the story off on a countdown of the top ten best moments of their relationship.

This is the book I most fervently evangelized in 2017. The story is fantastic, but the magic is truly in the way it’s told. Katie presents the top ten moments in this friends-to-maybe-something -more story, and I just didn’t want to put it down. This one also has a really amazing and gentle depiction of anxiety. If you’re looking for a contemp you may have missed in 2017, go snag this one.

If you love: Jennifer E. Smith, Jenny Han’s To All the Boys series, or Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell


What it’s about: Desi decides to put her master planning skills to work to help her win the affection of Luca … by following to the letter the lessons of her father’s beloved K-dramas

Are you singing the song? I’m singing the song. And like the song, I Believe in a Thing Called Love is just so fun. And I say that as someone who has absolutely zero connection to K-dramas, that’s how good of a writer Maureen is. Her characters and story just sparkle off the page. And Desi’s father is one of my favorite parental characters I read this year.

If you love: The humor and voice of Audrey, Wait! by Robin Benway or the Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

I HATE EVERYONE BUT YOU by Allison Raskin & Gaby Dunn

What it’s about: Told in a series of emails and text messages, this one tells the story of two best friends off to college on opposite coasts and how they go about finding themselves and building new lives while still staying connected to their old ones.

This one was a fast read that had me laughing out loud. I was initially drawn to it because one of the characters goes to Emerson College, a school I worked at after I finished grad school. And hoo boy did this get this one get it right. Funny and heart wrenching.

If you love: snark, pop culture references, and the Jessica Darling series by Megan McCafferty


What it’s about: A graphic novel about Imogen, who’s leaving her family in the Renaissance Faire for the first time to head off to middle school

Oh man, was this book so real. I don’t want to say “painfully real,” because this book is like a warm hug, but we all know middle school is mostly a horror show. But it has such an uplift that I recommend it as a quick feel-good read to middles schoolers and grown-ups alike.

If you love: Judy Blume’s middle grade novels or Jamison’s first graphic novel, Roller Girl.

MOXIE by Jennifer Mathieu

What it’s about: Taking inspiration from her mother’s Riot Grrrl past, Vivian launches a ‘zine and a feminist revolution in her small, conservative Texas town.

This one was much-hyped in my mind, thanks to a blurb from Amy Poehler (who optioned the book months before its release) coupled with a truly kickass cover. I loved reading about Viv and her efforts to upend the casual misogyny that’s so familiar in football-centric high schools and small towns all over the country. Moxie girls FIGHT BACK!

If you love: smart feminist stories like The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau Banks by E. Lockhart or Not That Kind of Girl by Siobhan Vivian


What it’s about: Set in late 90s Shaker Heights, Ohio, the novel follows the intertwined lives of a picture-perfect suburban family and the bohemian artist mother and daughter who arrive to shake things up.

You’ve seen this cover. You’ve heard this title. This adult novel was everywhere in 2017, and as well it should be. I love the way Celeste Ng weaves us in and out of the various perspectives in this supposed suburban utopia. I couldn’t put it down.

If you love: contemporary literary fiction by authors like Jami Attenberg, Tom Perotta, or J. Courtney Sullivan


What it’s about: A memoir about navigating the racism inherent in comedy and the entertainment industry, a primer for white people on how to avoid being “that white person,” and a touching story of family across generations.

I did this one on audio, read by W. Kamau Bell, and I highly recommend it. His delivery is everything, and it’ll make you want to seek out more of his writing and comedy. It was also a much-needed salve for the dumpster fire that was the 2016 election.

If you love: comedy memoirs like Yes, Please! by Amy Poehler or Mindy Kaling’s books or the smart, sharp takes on race issues from authors like Roxanne Gay or performers like Key & Peele


What it’s about: Natasha and Daniel meet and start an unlikely romance on the day Natasha and her family are set to be deported

Another 2016 read that I didn’t get to until 2017, and to be honest, sort of avoided after all the hype. But when I finally picked it up, I realized all the hype was 100% deserved. It’s not just in the story, it’s in the telling. Nicola Yoon weaves in the perspectives of side characters across generations that add layers of meaning and emotion to an already beautiful story.

If you love: Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan or Girls in the Moon by Janet McNally


What it’s about: A rookie journalist is given the chance of a lifetime — an exclusive interview with legendary film start Evelyn Hugo and the opportunity to unravel the mystery of her personal life

Written like a memoir, this novel takes you through decades of Hollywood history while slowly unraveling the mystery of Evelyn Hugo’s one true love and the lengths she went to to protect her family. It’s incredible juicy and page-turny with a surprise ending.

If you love: tales of old Hollywood like the You Must Remember This podcast


What it’s about: the 3rd book in the Diviners saga, this one follows the Diviners as they try to understand who the King of Crows is, how he’s connected to Jake Marlowe and Project Buffalo, and why ghosts have suddenly overrun New York (starting with a very creepy mental hospital).

Hoo boy has Libba Bray taken us there with the Diviners series. It’s almost hard to believe that she started this series well before our current political era, because the parallels between the eugenics movement of the 20s and the nationalism that we’re seeing today are almost chilling. And that’s without the creepy ghosties that Libba writes so well. This book also gave me my favorite single bit of writing of 2017, from her author’s note:

This is a book about ghosts.
For we live in a haunted house.

If you love: honestly, I don’t even know. Libba Bray is a true original. But if you love historical fiction that pops off the page combined with a bit of horror and a twisty, series-long mystery, then START READING THE DIVINERS RIGHT NOW OK?!

Making Plans (Only a Lil Late…)

Having a new baby is like being in the eye of a tornado. Having a new baby and a toddler is like being in the eye of a tornado and trying to juggle while you’re there. Having a new baby and a toddler with a broken leg is like being in the eye of a tornado and trying to juggle molotov cocktails.

Needless to say, it’s not the best atmosphere for writing a grocery list, much less writing a novel. I can hardly be blamed for forgetting that I once wrote books, and (unless I want to send the check back) will again.

But now Leo is 3 months old, and he takes semi-reliable naps. Freddie is about to turn 3 and is back to racing through the house (with dangerous obstacles carefully monitored, of course). And this means it’s time for me to emerge from my motherhood cocoon and become the beautiful author butterfly I know I can be (hi, my child has made me read THE VERY HUNGRY CATERPILLAR approximately eleventy billion times).

Signed copies of my books at Little Shop of Stories in Decatur, GA

Well, sometimes life has a way of handing you exactly what you need, a thing I realized while sitting in the audience of the Decatur Book Festival this weekend. I got to catch up with old author friends, meet new author friends, gab about books and writing, and just generally return to my bookish best self. I left, as I always do, renewed and full of get-up-and-go. I’m inspired to write ALL. THE. BOOKS.

And then Sunday afternoon, as I sat with a notebook and pen, I caught a glimpse of a few tweets from Kiersten White.

I’ve been at this for five years now, and I can honestly say that I’ve never attempted to think of my career this way. I’ve mostly spent my time careening from one deadline to the next, emerging to take big gulps of air between massive life events (four books in five years, two kids in three years, two broken legs in six months). And like Kiersten says, so much of this business feels totally out of our control. I think I submitted to that too much. But it’s time for me to take some of it back.

And so I flipped to a blank page and mapped out the rest of 2017. And then I projected forward to 2018. I even made a couple 2019 notes, since that’s when I’ll be launching my next book, BETTER THAN THE BEST PLAN.

I also made a list of all the big book ideas I’ve had rattling around in the “Someday” file in my head (I’ve wanted to write a contemporary middle grade for a long time, and I’ve got an idea for an adult book). And then I plugged those in, too.

I ended up dumping everything into a Scrivener file I titled “CAREER MAP,” which will make it easy to check up on my goals and revisit them as I go. There’s even a folder in there for all those book ideas.

And so, with a new baby and a toddler and just under four months left in 2017, I finally feel like my feet are under me again. It’s time to buckle down, keep my eyes on my own paper, and DO. WORK.


Dispatch from the Mom Life: Keeping a Schedule

I can’t believe I’m saying this, but Leo is 12 weeks old.


I blinked and the kid is cooing and grabbing things and sitting up in the bumbo seat. AND I’m finally starting to feel like I’ve got my feet under me with the whole mom-of-two thing. The key for me is structure.

I was mentioning my schedule on my Instagram stories, and I got a few questions about what that looks like. Which is why I’m pretending to be a mommy blogger for a moment and writing this up. Besides, a lot of my writer friends have new babies and are also still writing and editing books, so this is definitely a craft post, too. Being a write-at-home mom is no joke, guys. You can hardly separate the two jobs. True story: a man once asked me what I do. I told him I write YA novels. “Oh, so you don’t work at all?” he replied. And then I turned him into a pile of ash with the fire of my gaze.

First, a note on developing a schedule. Mine came through a combination of following the kiddo’s lead and then providing a sense of structure around what it seems like he wants. Once you start recognizing the sleepy and hungry and happy patterns, you can anticipate what they’ll need and (hopefully, oh god hopefully) avoid a screaming fit.

I also try to follow the eat-play-sleep suggestion with Leo, which has helped me achieve that elusive unicorn skill of putting the baby down awake and letting him fall asleep on his own (it’s seriously magic). With Freddie I did eat-sleep-play, which meant I relied on nursing him to sleep. We had to do a lot more soothing with him to get him to bed at night. Leo is, thus far, less difficult on that front (PRAISE HANDS).

So here’s what my day with the kiddos looks like.

Leo and Freddie are awake. Freddie watches Netflix and eats breakfast, I feed Leo. Adam is usually the one who gets up with Freddie, especially if he pops out of bed between 6am-6:30 (as has been his habit … ugh). We tag team showers and getting kids dressed and packing lunch. We’re out the door by 8:40.

Drop Freddie at school (he goes 4 half days a week) and Adam at work. Then off to run errands if I have any. Leo usually snoozes in the car for 20 minutes during the drop offs, but the little stinker loves to wake up the moment Adam gets out of the car. Luckily he’s usually pretty happy to tag along on my errands without too much of a fuss.

Home to feed Leo, then a little play time on his activity mat or swinging on the porch swing.

Playtime with Leo sometimes involves teaching him the art of the selfie

Leo goes down for a good morning nap. If he doesn’t get this nap, he can be an absolute terror in the afternoon and will not take any more naps and it’s HORRIBLE. This nap is the key to my entire day. This nap is why I don’t meet Adam for lunch anymore. This nap is sacred.

If Leo’s not awake, then I wake him up, and we head out to pick up Freddie from school at 1pm.

Home, snack for Freddie, who watches Netflix while I feed Leo (no, we’re not afraid of screen time in this family … ask me to recite every Daniel Tiger song ever. I can do it!). I move Freddie towards nap by 1:45.

You’ll notice “housekeeping” doesn’t appear on my schedule …

Freddie is down for a nap no later than 2, then I have a little playtime with Leo before putting him down for a nap by 2:30 at the absolute latest. Sometimes if Leo is seeming ready, he goes down at 2pm right after Freddie.

If all goes well, both kids are asleep for about two hours. Sometimes it goes less, sometimes more. On bad days, one or both of them completely boycotts the afternoon nap. These days suck and usually involve a lot more television for the big kid.

Wake up whoever’s still asleep. Snack for Freddie upon wakeup. Feed Leo.

Pick up Adam from work, then figure out the dinner situation (we’re not meal planners, so every day usually ends with, “so what do you want to do for dinner?” Often the answer involves take-out).

The evenings are Adam’s domain. He usually does bath time around 6:30 or 7pm, with me pitching in as needed. Freddie’s bedtime has been creeping back lately, so he’s usually in bed by 8pm (I want that closer to 7:30). I feed Leo between 7pm-7:30, then he goes to bed.

All good children must be in their beds by 8pm or things start getting screamy around here. Sleep breeds sleep, and structure saves lives (or something). All I know is that when we start deviating from the schedule, a meltdown is usually close behind (sometimes that meltdown is my own).

Some days just wear you out

Freddie sleeps through the night and has since he was about 8 months old. Leo is down to 1 nighttime feed, usually around 3am. Some nights he wakes at midnight and 4am to eat. I just roll with whatever because at this stage Freddie was still waking every 3 hours like clockwork and I’m just so damn thankful that Leo loves his sleep like his mama.

Leo’s still in a bassinet in our room, but pretty soon we’re going to move him to his crib. I want to wean him off the swaddle blanket first before I send him off to his own room.

I’m betting you’re looking at that schedule and wondering, “So Lauren … when do you write the books?” Well … I get stuff done while they’re napping, but it’s not always writing time.

I won’t lie … I also spend a lot of their naps right now dicking around on my phone, because nap time is when I need to decompress from the nonstop parenting extravaganza that occurs when they’re awake. I’ve been going out in the evenings to get work done, thanks to the fabulous work of Adam, my partner in life and crime and parenting. As we get closer to my October deadline, I’ll probably get more serious about using their naps for work.

One day a week I have them both home with me all day, and on those days I usually do a morning outing for Freddie, anything from the local museum to the park to Barnes & Noble to play in the children’s section (bless the Thomas the Tank Engine train table!). And then during Leo’s morning nap Freddie and I will do an activity like play dough or coloring.

Leo can start at the mother’s morning out program at Freddie’s preschool when he’s 6 months old, so sometime early next year he’ll probably head there one or two days a week so I can have a good chunk of time to work. Until then, I’m momming like a boss and writing when I can.

Got any tips for creating a schedule? Share ’em in the comments!

August Goals

I’m starting to get my feet under me with the whole parenting of two kids at once thing, and since today is the first day of a brand new month (when kids in my town started back to school … WHAT?!), I’ve decided it’s time to set a few goals.

+ Work on my revision at least 15 minutes each day … hopefully I can sneak in more, but 15 minutes is a totally manageable amount of time right now, ie, an amount of time I won’t run and hide from. I can squeeze it in during a baby nap, or after the kiddos go to bed but before I pass out from parenting exhaustion.

+30 Day Plank Challenge … ok, so there’s lots to be said about a postpartum body, but when you’re parenting two kids, the most important thing is to be strong and healthy. And today, when my toddler had a meltdown at the park while I had the baby in the wrap, I had to scoop up the toddler and haul him half a mile back to the car in the scorching heat WHILE wearing the baby. That was like, 45lbs of kid. It was immediately clear that I need to keep myself strong. So I’m hopping on iStroll’s 30 Day Plank Challenge. Join me, won’t you? Today is only 20 seconds! Easy peasy (we will not talk about day 30, when the plank is 5 minutes!)

+Read 2 books … remember when I’d easily put away 7 or 8 books in a month? HA! Those days will come again, but for this month, I’m aiming for 2.

What are your August goals?

Clinging to the weekend

I’ve given up trying to be productive during the week. I’m basically just at the mercy of the tiny humans, and all I can do is hang on for dear life until I crash in the evenings (they, thankfully, are pretty good night sleepers … we will not discuss the baby during the daylight hours other than to say He Who Does Not Nap is a good nickname … not a catchy nickname, but apt). But thanks to my stellar partner, I have Saturday and Sunday to … um, blog? Ok, let’s get the promote-y stuff over with first, shall we?

+Meant to Be is on sale for $1.99 for Kindle and Nook (and will be for another couple weeks, I think). As a result of said sale, Meant to Be is currently the #1 Bestseller in Teens & Young Adult Fiction about Women & Girls, which is really on-brand for me (the category, not the #1 Bestseller status … that’s more of a novelty!).

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+I also did this great interview for YA Interrobang (a site I love and respect for pieces like this) for their backlist series. I got to talk about my second novel, Being Sloane Jacobs, which I love and wish more people would read. In the interview, shared how roller derby and the women I skated with inspired BSJ, and how I wrote it to help girls connect with their inner badass. And while we’re on the subject, Being Sloane Jacobs is only $5.99 for Kindle, so if you feel so moved by the interview, there ya go!

Once upon a time I would have tried to write, but now Im trying to keep the toddler from touching everything and the baby from coming unhinged

+So what else is going on? 77 days until my revision deadline, and man am I having a hard time juggling writing and two kids. I’ll figure it out eventually, I’m sure, but right now it feels like I’m learning to walk all over again or something. It’s a phenomenon I should probably write about (the transition from writing with no kids to writing with one kid to writing with two), but you know … who has the time? Anyway, BETTER THAN THE BEST PLAN will get done, and it will be rad. Winter 2019. Mark your calendars.

+Speaking of time, my blogposts are just going to be bulleted, ok? Who’s got the mental energy for transitions?

Really, Target?

+Speaking of kids, this is sort of a weird shirt to put on your toddler, no? I mean, I like The Doors, and I’m pretty free-to-be in my parenting, but Morrison is a bit of a questionable role model, no?

+And finally, I just finished Ready Player One by Ernest Cline, so inspired after seeing the trailer for the movie. I liked the book (maybe a little overly-detailed in a few places), but am confused about what’s going on in the trailer for the most part. I’ve moved on to rereading Sarah Dessen’s Someone Like You.

+Speaking of reading, I bought myself a Kindle Paperwhite, because every time I try to read on my phone I wind up social media-ing myself to death. I know, exercise some self-control, Morrill. But the truth is I’m a child and I had to spend $100 to stop refreshing Instagram all day. So far I’m a fan. Also loving this cute composition notebook cover I got.

Ok,  I leave you with a question … any good Kindle deals? Always looking to feed my e-reader!