Cover Reveal: EVERY LAST MINUTE

People like to say that writing is a solitary profession. It's one person, putting down word after word until paragraphs become chapters, and chapters become a final draft. But there is so much about creating a book that isn't solitary at all. For example, I have amazing critique partners and beta readers, who talk me through troublesome plot points, give me incredible feedback, and celebrate with me when a draft is done. When you're writing, it is invaluable to talk with people who believe in your story and want to help you tell it the best way you can. 

In order to get a book ready to publish, even more people join in. These are the professionals that work behind the scenes, helping authors take their final drafts and polish them to perfection. One of those professionals is Monica Haynes of The Thatchery. She is the cover designer that has created all of my book covers, including my newest book, EVERY LAST MINUTE. Talking with Monica about cover design and seeing the beautiful covers she creates is one of the most exciting times in the publishing process!

I first met The Thatchery when I was getting ready to publish RELUCTANT CASSANDRA. I was entirely new to the world of publishing. Making that initial call felt like I was crossing the threshold from "writer" to "author." I was so nervous! Like many first-time authors, I had a deep-seated fear that no one would 'get' my book. Monica quickly put my fears to rest. Her cover design was so perfect, it felt like she'd brought Arden McCrae and the town of Eagle Valley to life. Ever since, I've kept a printed-out version of the cover pinned to my bulletin board. It was confirmation that this story wasn't just a figment of my imagination anymore. Now RELUCTANT CASSANDRA was a real book, and other people could visit this world I created, too. 

This beautiful book cover opened so many doors when I started marketing RELUCTANT CASSANDRA. Selling does not come naturally to me. I even dreaded selling Girl Scout cookies when I was a kid, and those are possibly the most marketable things on this planet! So when I was speaking with booksellers or potential readers, I quickly noticed that I could let the cover do the hard work for me. If I started out just talking about the book, my own nerves would stop me from saying very much. But if I whipped out a bookmark or pulled up an image of the book cover on Amazon, I'd hear people say, "That looks amazing!" or "This looks exactly like something I would read! What's it about? Tell me more!"

Naturally, Monica is also behind the bookmarks and my Facebook banner. She designed the cover for my Channillo short story series, GHOSTS OF EAGLE VALLEY, too. Last year, she also created my website. It's safe to say I love everything Monica designs, and I'm a big fan of her work! (You can see more of her portfolio here.)

So when I finished self-editing EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first book in my Time Wrecker trilogy, I was eager to e-mail The Thatchery and see what Monica could dream up for the book cover. Despite the fact that this story has been running through my head for over six years, I had no ideas whatsoever about what the cover should look like. This story is science fiction, but it's also a romance. It explores the implications of time travel, but it also follows the marriage of two imperfect people that are perfect for each other. 

Monica's design took my breath away. I am beyond excited to share the cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE, designed by Monica Haynes of The Thatchery:

EVERY LAST MINUTE by Ellen Smith || Book cover designed by The Thatchery www.ellensmithwrites.com

More about EVERY LAST MINUTE:

Will and Mara Sterling are already living their dream. After surviving a tragic shooting, they both went on to finish college, fall in love, and start a new life together as husband and wife. That’s not to say things have been easy: Will suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder and Mara has debilitating chronic pain from her gunshot wound. Despite it all, they feel lucky to be alive and even luckier to be in love.

Then a new initiative from the Justice Department offers Will and Mara the chance of a lifetime. The shooter has been rehabilitated and his crime qualifies for a timeline rectification. With Will and Mara’s consent, they can all travel through time back to the original scene of the crime, giving the gunman a chance to put things right.

It sounds like a dream come true, but both Will and Mara have their doubts. Timeline rectification—called “time wrecking” by its critics—have been the center of a politically charged debate since its inception. Will and Mara aren’t entirely sure where they fall on this issue and the clock is ticking for them to decide. Is it moral to change time for the rest of the world, just to undo one crime? Is it moral to deny the gunman a chance to correct his past crimes? And what if this one ripple means that they never meet...or fall in love?

Set in 2011, EVERY LAST MINUTE is the first book in the TIME WRECKER TRILOGY.

There's more work to be done before this book will be ready to hit the shelves. I'll be collaborating with a professional editor, formatting the inside of the book, and making super-important publishing decisions (White pages or cream? Should I add book club discussion questions to the end, or just post them here on my website?) But seeing the gorgeous cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE reminds me that this story isn't just my work-in-progress anymore. Now it's a book--and there are lots of people helping me polish it up before I send it out to all of you.

I can't wait.

Thanks to The Thatchery for creating a beautiful book cover for EVERY LAST MINUTE! To see more of Monica's work, check out her website or find her on Instagram.

#TimeTravelStories Review: Tapestry

It's no secret that I love stories about time travel--in fact, I just finished writing one! Time travel is a premise with endless possibilities. Whether the story's message is ultimately dark, funny, thought-provoking, or anywhere in between, I always enjoy the ride back to the past (or into the future!)

One of my favorite time travel stories is actually an episode from Star Trek: The Next Generation. "Tapestry" appears in the sixth season and features two of the best characters on the show: Captain Jean Luc Picard, fearless leader of the starship Enterprise, and Q, an irreverent practical jokester with god-like powers. 

"Tapestry" Star Trek Next Generation S6E15 || TV episode review on www.ellensmithwrites.com

In the episode, Picard is shot and (presumably) killed. He is then confronted by Q, and they have what is possibly the funniest exchange in the history of Star Trek:

Captain Jean-Luc Picard: Q, what is going on?
Q: I told you. You’re dead. This is the afterlife. And I’m God.
Captain Jean-Luc Picard: You are not God!
Q: Blasphemy! You’re lucky I don’t cast you out or smite you or something.

from "Tapestry" (Episode 6:15 of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

According to Q, Picard was attacked during a diplomatic mission and died from damages to his artificial heart--his original, human heart would have withstood the shot. Picard admits to Q that he received the artificial heart as a young man. It seems the commanding and imperious Captain Picard was actually hot headed and impetuous in his youth: when he was a young cadet, Picard got into a bar brawl and was nearly killed. Receiving the artificial heart saved his life back then, but he has always regretted his decision to get involved in the fight at all.

Q gives Picard the chance to go back in time and relive the moment he's always regretted. When he goes back, Picard does choose to live more cautiously and he avoids the tragic fight. However, he discovers that choosing not to be a risk-taker early on greatly impacts the rest of his life. Rather than becoming the Captain of the Enterprise, Picard's career plateaus as a Junior Science Officer, doing routine tasks and staying out of harm's way.

Faced with this unintended consequence, Picard tells Q that he would rather die as the Captain than live this safe but less meaningful alternate life. Q sends him back in time to the bar brawl again, where Picard is stabbed through the heart--just as he was originally. Picard returns to the present day and awakens in the sick bay of the Enterprise, where he discovers that his life has followed its original path. It's up to the viewer to decide whether it was all a dream or one of Q's infamous mind-games on the captain.

One of the coolest moments in the episode is when Picard recounts the events to his friend and first officer, Will Riker. Picard says:

There were many things in my youth that I’m not proud of... they were loose threads... untidy parts of myself that I wanted to remove. But when I pulled on one of those threads... I unraveled the tapestry of my life.
— Captain Jean-Luc Picard

from "Tapestry" (Episode 6:15 of Star Trek: The Next Generation)

Whoa. 

I love the idea that the loose threads in our past are actually integral to the tapestry of our lives. But at the same time...I'm a writer, so I can't help but wonder "what if?"

  • What if it wasn't Picard's own failing that he regretted?
  • What if the one thing he would change about his past was a crime that somebody else committed?
  • What if that criminal offered to go back in time and take back what he did?

What can I say? The storyline in Tapestry puts my imagination into overdrive. This episode's take on time travel and past regrets is thought-provoking, compelling, and pretty darn funny, too. It's one of my all-time favorites--if you haven't seen it, you're missing out! You can get the full sixth season here (please note: link is an affiliate.)


Do you like time travel stories? So do I! I'm preparing to release EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first novel in my time travel trilogy, this fall! Drop your name and e-mail in the blue bar at the top of the page to receive news and updates!

5 Ways to Celebrate When You (Finally) Finish That Novel

It's been a quiet month for me on the blog, but a very, very busy month in my writing life. Most notably: I finished self-editing EVERY LAST MINUTE, the first novel in my Time Wreckers Trilogy.

The finished book is 90,000 words. 90,000 words, y'all. Turns out I had a lot to say.

Anyway, once I finally hit the last page and realized that I had done everything I could to tell this story, I felt an odd sense of loss. This story idea has been churning around in my head for six years. I wrote and edited this book once, put it in a drawer, wrote and published another book, and then came back to this one. I re-mapped it. Made a new outline. Wrote another draft and re-wrote it again. I spent the last few months grueling over some pretty tedious self-editing. 

Mara and Will Sterling have lived in my head for a long time. I am so ready to send them out into the world and tell you their story--but letting them go is bittersweet. 

However, there are a lot of exciting things ahead! Right now, EVERY LAST MINUTE is out with beta readers (thanks, guys!). Then I'll take their suggestions and make some more modifications before sending it off to a professional editor. I also get to work with the cover designer, send out some copies for early reviews...and maybe even plan a launch party. 

Speaking of parties, I strongly believe that those of us in a creative profession deserve to celebrate every step in the process. When I finished prewriting, I posted about my progress in an online writers community. When I finished drafting, for example, I bought myself a pretty scarf I'd been eyeing. Now that I'm done self-editing this behemoth of a manuscript, I picked five (yes, five) little ways to celebrate this moment in my writing life. Here they are:

5 Ways to Celebrate When You (Finally) Finish Your Novel || www.ellensmithwrites.com

1. Have a celebratory drink (or two)

It doesn't have to be alcohol (although this is definitely a champagne-worthy moment.) I finished my self-editing at two in the afternoon on a brutally hot summer day, so I fixed myself an ice cream float. Yum.

2. Take a walk

Seriously. Writing and editing involves a lot of time hunched over the keyboard. Get outside for a minute and re-acquaint yourself with the great outdoors. Breathe some fresh air. Remind yourself that your fictional world is pretty cool...but reality isn't so bad, either.

3. Call a friend

You can totally start the conversation with "Guess what? I finally finished editing that book!" But maybe try to follow that up with "Let's get together and hang out." Self-editing is a really intense time--once you come up for air, it's good to make time for your loved ones!

4. Read a book

Before you were a writer, you were a reader. Always make time to reconnect with your first love--books!  

5. Start another story

Because you already know that there's nothing like building a new world entirely out of words.

5 Ways To Celebrate When You (Finally) Finish That Novel || www.ellensmithwrites.com

How do you celebrate your creative accomplishments? Let us know in the comments!

Looking For The Forest (Must Be Somewhere Behind These Trees)

Despite the fact that everything from my website to my social media is tagged "Ellen Smith Writes," the truth is that I'm much more of an editor than a writer. ("Ellen Smith Edits" just didn't have the same ring to it ;) ) The first draft of anything I write, whether freelance or fiction, is generally pretty terrible. The first edit is a vast improvement simply because I go back and finish all my sentences! It takes several read-throughs--and often a few rewrites--before I'm ready to share anything I've written.

Editing is where I really see the difference in my work as a left-brained writer and a right-brained author. When I'm working on a freelance project, my editing process is very left-brained. I'll separate it into two phases: big-picture revisions and detail-oriented edits. First, I go through and make sure that the topic is clear, all the main points have been supported, and the paragraphs are in order. Then, I go back and delve into the nitty-gritty: grammar, spelling, and word choice.

Sounds nice and organized, doesn't it?

All that tidy left-brained thinking flies right out of my head when I start editing my fiction work. I'm too close to the story to see the big picture. I love these characters. I've replayed their struggles a hundred times in my imagination. I know this story inside and out. That makes it far too easy for me to obsess over the tiny details and miss the necessary big-picture revisions. As the saying goes, I can't see the forest for the trees. 

In my current work-in-progress, these are some of the "trees" I've been focusing on:

  • Are these sentences streamlined to pack a punch, or are they just short and choppy?
  • What gesture would this character make? Is she nervous or is she also a little annoyed?
  • Am I overusing all my favorite words? (it, heavy, glanced, sighed, and said)?

Meanwhile, here's the "forest":

  • Who are these characters--and what made them who they are?
  • What are the themes and messages in the story? Do they carry through?
  • Is this the best way I can possibly tell this story?

I'm at a point now in my work-in-progress where I've obsessed over every branch, twig, and leaf of each little tree. Still, I just don't feel quite right about this draft. I don't know if this story is fully told.

So there's one more thing I need to do before I send this out for beta readers and professional editing. I need to back up--wayyyyy up--and look at the big picture. I have to look for the whole forest, if you will.

It must be somewhere behind these trees. 

Looking for the forest (must be somewhere behind these trees) || ellensmithwrites.com

Writing Millennial Characters: A Look Back on 2011

Writing contemporary fiction feels like it shouldn't require a lot of research. My current novel takes place in 2011--a year I remember pretty well, since it was only six years ago! On the other hand, as I've been editing Every Last Minute, little questions keep popping up:

  • When did people start using smart phones instead of flip phones?
  • When did people start texting more than instant messaging?
  • Who invented the term #YOLO? And why'd we all start saying it, anyway?

Here's some of the research I dug up on my little trip down memory lane. Enjoy!

Writing Millennial Characters: A Look Back on 2011 || www.ellensmithwrites.com

Top Ten Songs of 2011:

  1. Rolling in the Deep- Adele
  2. Party Rock Anthem- LMFAO
  3. Firework- Katy Perry
  4. E.T.- Katy Perry
  5. Give Me Everything- Pitbull
  6. Grenade- Bruno Mars
  7. F**ck You (Forget You)- Cee Lo Green
  8. Super Bass- Nicki Minaj
  9. Moves Like Jagger- Maroon 5
  10. Just Can't Get Enough- The Black Eyed Peas

Most Popular Movies Released in 2011:

  1. Fast Five
  2. Thor
  3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
  4. X-Men: First Class
  5. Sucker Punch
  6. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  7. Drive
  8. Captain America: The First Avenger
  9. The Help
  10. I Am Number Four

Bestselling Adult Fiction Books in 2011:

  1. “The Help” Kathryn Stockett
  2. “The Help” (Movie Tie-In Edition) Kathryn Stockett
  3. “Water For Elephants” Sara Gruen
  4. “Cutting For Stone” Abraham Verghese
  5. “A Dance With Dragons” George R. R. Martin
  6. “The Confession” John Grisham
  7. “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo” Stieg Larsson
  8. “The Girl Who Kicked The Hornet’s Nest” Stieg Larsson
  9. “The Litigators” John Grisham
  10. “Room” Emma Donoghue

Trends and Current Events in 2011:

  1. Top 10 Twitter Trends of 2011 by Mashable
  2. Top 10 Fashion Trends of 2011 by LA Times
  3. Technology Trends of 2011 by the Telegraph
  4. What Was Your Top News Story of 2011? by CNN

Wow. Life in 2011 wasn't so far removed than life now on 2017. I say this as someone who typically types on a tablet, still watches the Duchess of Cambridge for fashion trends, and remembers watching the last Harry Potter movie as if it was just yesterday. 

At the same time, 2011 was very different from the year we're living in now. Obama was halfway through his first term as President. The Occupy Wall Street movement was just beginning, but it was two years before the Black Lives Matter movement began.

Even in contemporary lit, life varies a lot from year to year. It's fun to do the research and see what has (and hasn't) changed. 

10 Quotes from Influential Millennials

We all know the tired rhetoric about the millennial generation. We're entitled. Lazy. Spoiled. Obsessed with taking selfies and ignorant about the rest of the world.

As I said last week, millennials may have a bad reputation in our youth (just like all the generations before us), but that's not the whole story. We connect with each other constantly, which means we're aware of social issues that affect us around the globe. We've struggled to find work during the recession, which means we've taken on second jobs, side hustles, and even started our own businesses. We're well-informed, conscientious, and very, very hard-working.

Here are ten quotes from influencers that show us what it means to be a millennial:

10 Quotes from Influential Millennials || www.ellensmithwrites.com

(Click on the image below to move through the slideshow. Enjoy!)

Did you enjoy this post? Let's keep the conversation going! Connect with me on Twitter, Instagram, or Facebook!

What Does It Mean To Be A Millennial?

Growing up, I heard my generation described by a number of different labels: New Boomers, Generation Y, and Generation Wired, just to name a few. Now that we've stumbled our way into our twenties and thirties, we finally seem to have settled on one label: Millennial.

I didn't spend a lot of time thinking about what it meant to be a millennial myself until I started writing Every Last Minute, my current work in progress. The main characters, Will and Mara, are about one or two years older than I am. Like me, they were in their twenties during the three years in which their story takes place: 2011, 2006, and 2015.

Do all these similarities mean that I can skip the research and write Will and Mara's story based off my own experience? Of course not. I'm far too Type A for that. :) Part of the pre-writing for this story meant researching what it meant for Will and Mara to grow up in the Millennial generation.

Writing Millennial Characters: What Does It Mean To Be A Millennial? || www.ellensmithwrites.com

My preliminary research did not inspire a lot of confidence. At first glance, it seemed that millennials had a pretty bad reputation. Here's the gist:

Millennials are lazy.

We're entitled.

We're obsessed with ourselves, our social media, and our tech gadgets.

We require constant praise and can't handle correction.

No one knows how to work with us, market to us, or kick our free-loading selves out of their basements.

Yowch. All that said, I'd hardly say we're any more despised than previous generations were in their heyday. This quote about "kids these days" was written over two thousand years ago:

They [Young People] have exalted notions, because they have not been humbled by life or learned its necessary limitations; moreover, their hopeful disposition makes them think themselves equal to great things — and that means having exalted notions. They would always rather do noble deeds than useful ones: Their lives are regulated more by moral feeling than by reasoning — all their mistakes are in the direction of doing things excessively and vehemently. They overdo everything — they love too much, hate too much, and the same with everything else.
— Aristotle

So if the young people of today are full of idealistic extremists with illusions of grandeur, then it seems we're right on track, historically speaking.

Personally, I think it's been pretty interesting to grow up in this generation: while the Internet was coming of age and taking on the world, we were, too. I was in third grade when the school librarian showed us how the school computer could connect to another school's computer through the miracle of the World Wide Web. I remember sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor of the library, listening to the extremely long dial-up sequence and thinking, "Ugh, this is taking forever. Nobody's going to want to sit through this more than once."

Boy, was I wrong.

Technology aside, there are a few more traits that set the millennial generation apart. Here's what else I found while doing research for my millennial characters:

Millennials: Confident. Connected. Open To Change.

I like stats, so I thought this article from the PEW Research Center had some interesting details about millennial demographics. Here are just a few:

  • 37% of 18- to 29-year-olds are unemployed or out of the workforce
  • About one-in-eight older Millennials (ages 22 and older) say they’ve “boomeranged” back to a parent’s home because of the recession.
  • One-in-four are unaffiliated with any religion
  • Only about six-in-ten were raised by both parents
  • About a third of millennials are parents themselves
  • One-in-five millennials are currently married

This tracks with a lot of what I've seen in my own life and with my character's lives too. We graduated during the Great Recession, after all: it's no wonder so many of us are unemployed, underemployed, or currently living with friends or family.

So what are millennials doing while we're waiting for our ships to come in? Well, most of us aren't waiting, actually:

Millennials are the True Entrepreneur Generation

When I was growing up, I pictured "having a job" to mean living the 9-5 life. I figured I would have a boss, a biweekly paycheck, and regular work hours. At the beginning of my adult life, I actualy did: I was a special education teacher for several years. Then I went in a new direction and branched out on my own as a freelance writer, editor, and author. I work from home, contract with individual clients, and work a somewhat flexible schedule. My work life looks nothing like I pictured growing up, but it looks a lot like many of my peers'.

Interestingly, both main characters in my work-in-progress work 9-to-5 jobs. Will is a middle school music teacher and Mara has a new job as a research assistant. Emphasis on new: when the story begins, Mara has been unemployed for several years. She's a millennial, after all, and finding a job in the recession is no easy feat.

Millennials: The Cause Generation

Studies are finding that our generation is plugged in to humanitarian and social issues around the world--and we're doing something about it, too. This article from YouCaring shows that 84% of millennials (those of us with jobs, anyway) made a charitable donation in 2015. I'd say we're also pretty likely to take up calls to action we find online, such as making donations through websites, signing online petitions, and sharing news and calls for help on social media.

This was a lot of fun to research, since Will and Mara's story centers around a fictional social issue. In my story, timeline rectifications are available for rehabilitated criminals. In short, a repentant offender can agree to go back in time and undo his or her crime. The new timeline will pick up from there, ensuring that no one will even have a memory of the original crime.

The catch? The victims of the crime have to agree to the rectification. When Mara and Will discover the shooter that nearly took their lives could go back in time, the social issue of timeline rectification becomes less theoretical and all too real. The premise of the story may be science fiction, but the feelings of these two characters as they take on this issue? Not too removed from real life. 

If millennials are particularly involved in social justice or other causes, it's often because we have a personal connection. Maybe something as simple as seeing a good friend posting about an issue makes us want to join in the cause. Maybe our own experiences with unemployment or even poverty make us empathetic to those who have even greater needs. Or maybe, like Will and Mara, a cause involves us personally, and we have to decide where we stand.

So...what does it mean to be a millennial?

Whatever we choose.

Release Day for THE BLENDED ONES by Angela J. Ford

Which birthdays are the most fun to celebrate? Do you like milestone birthdays? Friend birthdays? "Thank goodness April the giraffe FINALLY gave birth" days?

I'm going to do you one better: the best birthdays are book birthdays.

The day a book is released out into the world is a huge cause for celebration for the author--and it's also a huge celebration for the readers. We've been waiting for this day since the words "pre-order" first appeared on Amazon. Some of us have been waiting and hoping for another book even longer than that. We might even have been stalking an author's blog and twitter feed, looking for signs that another book is in the works. (Did I say stalking? I meant "reading with enthusiasm." It's not creepy, I swear. Ahem.)

So you can imagine how excited I am that today is the long-awaited book birthday for The Blended Ones by Angela J. Ford. It's the second book in The Four Worlds series, and since I've already read Book 1: The Five Warriors, I'm thrilled that I get to dive right in to the next story!

Just take a look at the cover art:

THE BLENDED ONES by Angela J. Ford

You can tell this is going to be another epic fantasy adventure--perfect for readers that like to get lost in new worlds and go on quests of mythical proportions. Here's the synopsis:

Phyllis and her 17 year old twin sister, Ilieus, are blended ones. But Ilieus suffers from visions of darkness she is unable to discern. Forsaken by their parents the two cross the country in search of the Order of the Wise for help.

Cuthan the Charmer is mischievous enough to change anyone’s mind with a smile and a wink. Born into a family of treasure hunters, he’s searching for the key to unlocking his dormant powers.

Pharengon the Horse Lord was born to be King. Young and inexperienced he seeks a weapon to turn the tide of the war in his favor. But when his very own army betrays him, he will have to turn to the Lost Ones for assistance.

Caught in the fate of the Eastern World the youths’ destinies become twisted together in a frightful quest that will change the course of time. In the midst of their whirlwind adventure, they discover love, loss, and uncover the truth about who and what is behind the chaotic, spiraling events in the Eastern World.

The writer behind this epic fantasy is none other than Angela J. Ford. You might remember her from an author interview I posted back in October. In addition to writing the Four Worlds Series, Angela is a Digital Marketing Strategist and creator of the course How To Plan A Book Launch. She's also a fellow bookworm--if you want to talk about books, I highly recommend following her on twitter!

Angela J. Ford, author of THE BLENDED ONES

Angela J. Ford, author of THE BLENDED ONES

You can grab your paperback copy here and the Kindle version here. More good news: the Blended Ones is only 99 cents on Kindle through the end of this month!

Happy book birthday, Angela! I'm so excited to read The Blended Ones!

Release Day for THE BLENDED ONES by Angela J. Ford || www.ellensmithwrites.com

Peeping In On Washington, D.C.'s Creative Scene

How do you know when spring has finally come to Washington, D.C.? Some people say it's when the cherry blossoms peak, while others wait for the annual White House Easter Egg roll. For the creatives living in the nation's capital, spring is ushered in by an annual contest featuring our favorite marshmallow treats: peeps!

Peeping In On Washington, D.C.'s Creative Scene || www.ellensmithwrites.com

As someone who loves both creativity and sugar in all its forms, I've looked forward to the Washington Post's Peeps Diorama Contest every spring for the last ten years. Not familiar? Take a peep at these sugary creations:

Source: The Washington Post
Classic Peeps: A Decade of Sugary Social Commentary by Elizabeth Chang

Aren't those great? My favorite is the diorama of the house from Up. So creative!

I was disappointed but not entirely surprised when the Post announced a few months ago that it would no longer hold the annual competition. The Peeps diorama contest was an awesome tradition, but if entries were already slowing down, it's best to end on a high note and discontinue it.

That said, I was thrilled to hear that Washington City Paper took up the baton and hosted a peeps diorama contest for 2017. The entries were just as rife with sugary social commentary as always, with The Peeple vs. O.J. Simpson taking first prize.

Source: Instagram feed for @washingtoncitypaper

You can check out all of the finalists here.

I love this fun local tradition and I hope Washington City Paper will host it again next year! Which Peep diorama was your favorite? Share it with us in the comments!

 

Can't Beat a Retreat!

One thing I love about the work-from-home life is how writing has become such a natural part of my daily routine. Although I schedule blocks of time for my freelance work, I can also squeeze in plenty of time for my fiction writing throughout the day. For example, it's easy to sit down to work on a draft while I'm waiting for the laundry to finish up or jot down notes on my story while I'm fixing dinner. I spend plenty of time working on my story at night, when the rest of the household has gone off to bed.

What would it be like to spend a day (or two!) devoted only to fiction writing? Over the weekend, I got to experience just that on my first writer's retreat.

photo credit: Sandra R. Campbell

photo credit: Sandra R. Campbell

A group of three other writers and I rented out the third floor of the fabulous Frederick Inn Bed and Breakfast in Buckeystown, Maryland. Buckeystown is just 40 miles outside of Washington, D.C., but it feels like an entirely different world. The small town setting and peaceful green spaces made the perfect escape for four writers who needed to quiet their minds and get down to work.

And work we did. The inn's third floor had four bedrooms surrounding a common area with a kitchenette, living room, and table. We set up our laptops around the table and started writing within minutes of our arrival.

Our writerly escape! Don't you love those stained glass windows? (photo credit: Sandra R. Campbell)

Our writerly escape! Don't you love those stained glass windows? (photo credit: Sandra R. Campbell)

When we needed a break, a quick walk through Buckeystown was a great way to get moving again!

Then it was back to the real business of the day: writing. All of us brought snacks and meals from home so we wouldn't have to go out to eat--although I was pretty tempted to spring for dinner at Alexanders!

Each of us accomplished and exceeded our writing goals for the retreat. I edited six chapters and wrote almost 5,000 words! It was two in the morning before I finally stopped working and crawled into my nice, soft bed. (I don't have pictures of how beautiful the bedrooms were because I barely slept! There are pictures of all the rooms on their website, though!)

In the morning, the innkeepers, Pat and Kirk, cooked a fantastic breakfast for us. The zucchini quiche was my favorite! Pat and Kirk were so much fun to talk to--they really went above and beyond to make our stay extra special!

Pat and Kirk, the wonderful innkeepers at The Frederick Inn! (photo credit: Sandra R. Campbell)

Pat and Kirk, the wonderful innkeepers at The Frederick Inn! (photo credit: Sandra R. Campbell)

Now that I've experienced how inspiring a writer's retreat can be, I definitely want to do it again! Huge thanks to Pat and Kirk and the Frederick Inn Bed and Breakfast for this fantastic experience!

If you’d like to read more about our writer’s retreat, check out my fellow retreaters blog posts: