Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Blog Tour - "Porch Swing Girl" by Taylor Bennett (Teen Author!): Inspiration: Chase it, Find it, CAPTURE IT!

Today I have the incredible pleasure of welcoming teen author, Taylor Bennett, to my blog as a part of her blog tour! Taylor's debut YA Christian fiction novel, PORCH SWING GIRL, recently released with Mountain Brook Ink. I'm so enthused about this -- not only because Taylor is a fabulous teen author, but also because of this story. I haven't finished reading this yet, but I can already tell that this will book will be on the shelf of my favorites. (Fans of inspirational contemporary YA fiction, you do not want to miss this!)

See below to learn more about the book, the author, and hear her advice for writers!

About the Book:

What if friendship cost you everything? Stranded in Hawaii after the death of her mother, sixteen-year-old Olive Galloway is desperate to escape. She has to get back to Boston before her dad loses all common sense and sells the family house. But plane tickets cost money—something Olive gravely lacks.

With the help of Brander, the fussy youth group worship leader, and Jazz, a mysterious girl with a passion for all things Hawaiian, Olive lands a summer job at the Shave Ice Shack and launches a scheme to buy a plane ticket home before the end of the summer.

But when Jazz reveals a painful secret, Olive’s plans are challenged. Jazz needs money. A lot of it. Olive and Brander are determined to help their friend but, when their fundraising efforts are thwarted, Olive is caught in the middle. To help Jazz means giving up her ticket home. And time is running out. You want to write. Your fingers itch to grasp a pen, hug a pencil, dance across a laptop keyboard. You have words swirling in your brain, begging to be written—to be shared with the world.

So you sit down, put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), and you…


You stare down at that page and the words disappear. You grasp at empty nothingness and try to catch a few—just a few—and put them down on paper. But…


The empty page stares at you, mocking you. Laughing, even!

“You’re not a real writer,” it hisses. “REAL writers know what to write. REAL writers know how to write. You’re just a…”

Wait!! Don’t let that empty piece of paper call you a fake. You have the passion and drive to be a real author. What you need, dear writer, is INSPIRATION.

But what do you do when your idea well is dry as a bone?

You most certainly do NOT give up—in fact, don’t even think about giving up. Don’t let that empty page get in your head, don’t let that nasty internal editor keep you from writing. Don’t let procrastination rule the day.

No, instead, capture that spark—that tiny bit of inspiration, so small you barely know it’s there. Not sure how to do that? Don’t worry. I’ll help you.

To capture that inspiration, first you have to…

Chase it

First, make a list of what inspires you—don’t know where to start? Here are a few examples:

  • Listening to your favorite music—or something brand new
  • Browsing through a used bookstore and flipping through old books
  • Sipping coffee (or tea!) and watching the rain fall outside
  • Taking a walk on a deserted country road or through a bustling park
  • People-watching at a busy place like the mall, where you can observe many different kinds of people
  • Talking to someone interesting—your grandpa, who traveled the world when he was in the military; your mom, who teaches classes at the college; your little sister, who is convinced that unicorns are real

Find it

Now, go out and do one of those inspiration-sparking activities. For example, let’s say that you’re curled up in your favorite chair, sipping your favorite warm drink. Turn on some music (instrumental works best) and let your mind wander. Sometimes (and maybe I’m a little weird, I don’t know) I imagine myself as a character in a future book. I listen to the music and imagine it as a soundtrack to a movie. If it was a movie soundtrack, what would be happening on the screen?

Or if you choose to go people-watching instead, you might do something similar. Instead of imagining a story to go along with the music, you’ll be privy to thousands of stories, all unfolding in front of you. Maybe a young couple catches your eye, or a group of three friends. Perhaps your gaze is drawn to the pensive, thoughtful young lady behind the counter at the pretzel shop…you get the picture. Pick a person or two and imagine them as a fictional character—what might be going on in their life that would explain their actions?

The most important thing to keep in mind during this stage is that, no matter what you do, you need to ask questions—the WWWWWH method works well (who, what, when, where, why, how?) but don’t be afraid to dig deeper. Brainstorm a character’s backstory, as well as where they’ll be by the end of the story. Just make sure you keep questioning—and answering—until you have the first seed of an idea.

Capture it

Now that you have that story seed—that first spark of an idea—it’s time to get it down on paper. Quick, before you forget! There are several ways to go about this. You could…

  • Write a quick chapter one—use those questions you asked earlier to build a chapter full of unanswered questions and unexplored plot points. YOU might not even know the answer to those questions, but the simple act of writing them out in story form might be just what you need to discover which ones you’d most like to explore.
  • Scrawl out a list of scenes you imagine taking place in your book. Don’t worry about plot holes or going in chronological order—just get your ideas down on paper. Later, you can go back and organize them in a more formulaic three-act structure.
  • Freewrite—don’t necessarily write Chapter One, just pick up your pencil (or crack open your laptop) and start writing. Chat with your potential main character, write an exchange between two side characters—anything goes!
  • Make a Pinterest board. This is something I do for every one of my ideas, and it’s a great way to learn more about your characters and setting. As you search for images that reflect your story idea, keep asking those questions—when you’re done, you’ll have a board with pictures of characters, locations, and important objects, plus a better understanding of your story idea.
  • Talk to someone—sometimes the simple act of explaining your idea out loud will help cement it in your mind. Plus, if you find the right person to listen, they might even have a few ideas to offer. Brainstorming with another person is always a great way to capture that inspiration.

And…there you have it. Maybe there are a few ideas that will help spark your inspiration—and maybe not. Our brains are all different, and they all work in different ways. Just because these tips and tricks have helped me in the past, that doesn’t mean they’ll necessarily work for you. One of the most important things to remember while plotting and brainstorming is that what works for others might not necessarily work for you. And that’s fine. As you grow as a writer, you’ll develop your own system for finding, chasing, and capturing inspiration.

Have you already started to develop that system? If so, how do you hunt it down? I’d love to hear about your process in the comments!

About the Author:

Homeschooled since kindergarten, Taylor Bennett is the seventeen-year-old author of Porch Swing Girl, which will be released by Mountain Brook Ink on May 1st. When she’s not reading or writing, Taylor can be found playing her violin or taking walks in the beautiful Oregon countryside. She loves to connect with readers via her author website, as well as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram (her favorite!), Pinterest, and Goodreads.

Connect with Taylor:


Blog Tour - "Porch Swing Girl" by Taylor Bennett (Teen Author!): Inspiration: Chase it, Find it, CAPTURE IT! @TessaEmilyHall #amwriting

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Where Do We Find Our Identity As a Writer?

“Writer” has been attached to my name for as far back as I can remember. Writing is how I spent my free time as a kid. English is the subject I excelled in growing up. Every teacher I had in elementary school knew I was a “writer” and that I aspired to become an author some day.

Maybe you, too, have been known as the “writer” in your family, amongst your friends, and/or in school. Perhaps “become an author” is a dream that’s been etched onto your heart for as long as you can remember as well.

When we’re accustomed to viewing ourselves as a writer—when we’re comfortable hiding behind this identity—it can hurt when others question this identity. When others doubt our ability or stomp on our dreams. When we receive a harsh critique or a rejection that makes us question whether we truly are a writer—or simply a wannabe. Someone who has a big imagination and far-fetched dreams.

Where should we turn when our identity as a writer is threatened? How can we find the confidence we need to hold our heads high and continue trekking along our writing paths—even when we stumble upon doubts, insecurity, and rejections?

We can start by reminding ourselves of these 3 things:

1. Our identity is not attached to our writer status.

Whether you’re published, unpublished, a bestseller, award-winning—whatever your writer status looks like, keep in mind that this is not who you are. Sure, it might be a passion. A dream. An achievement. But this is just one aspect of your life.

We’re not defined by our achievements or lack thereof. We’re not defined by our careers.

I think this is one reason why some writers often become destroyed when they receive negative feedback on their work—because they take it as if it were an assault to their identity. Thankfully, as Christians, we can find freedom through discovering our identity as a Child of the Most High. Our confidence is built when we can see ourselves through the eyes of Christ. When this becomes our identity, then we’ll be less tempted to fall apart if and when someone questions our ability to write.

2. People don’t have the authority to remove the calling God has placed on our lives.

Why have we been given this calling to write? So we can bless others through the gift of words. That’s always the intention God has behind giving gifts to His children—so we can use them to further His Kingdom and delve into greater intimacy with Him.

However, the enemy doesn’t want this to happen. His intention, on the other hand, is to thwart our attempts to pursue our callings. Why? Well, think about it: If we don’t believe in ourselves as a writer, then we won’t have the confidence we need to finish our books. And if we don’t finish our books, they won’t get published. And if they don’t get published, then the people we could have impacted through this gift remain unreached.

Obviously, that’s good news to the enemy, right? His plan is to stomp God’s plans, so he’ll do everything he can to prevent our ministry from being furthered. He may use other people to cause us to question our ability to write—all in attempts to steer us off course.

Fortunately, we don’t have to fall for this trap. We can remind ourselves that our calling isn’t diminished when we receive a rejection or criticism.

Yet when we do begin to doubt this calling, let’s return to the moment when we first discovered the joy of writing. When we first felt the nudge to use our words as a ministry. And when others attempt to cause us to trip, let's find reassurance by replacing their lies with the truth of God's promises.

3. We’re not going to please everyone.

That should be a relief, shouldn’t it? Think about your favorite author. Sure, you might purchase every new book this author releases—but if you look at their book reviews, you might find the occasional one or two-starred review. I’m sure there are those who have questioned that author’s ability to write as well.

Not everyone is going to receive and respond to your writing the same way. So go ahead—take the pressure off of yourself to write a book that “everyone loves”. (This can result in perfectionist paralysis, anyway.)

Instead, when you approach your projects, I suggest keeping in mind those who will some day fall in love with your books—those who will be impacted by your words. But even more than that: Write for the One who gave you this gift to begin with. Because true fulfillment doesn’t lie in receiving the approval of everyone; it lies in pleasing only One. Our Father. That can be accomplished when we use our gifts for His glory.

So if you’ve been struggling with your identity as a writer lately, I’d encourage you to return to the moment when you first felt called to write. Forget about the critiques. The rejections. Even the positive feedback you’ve received from others.

Instead, allow yourself to be immersed in the creation of your story (or non-fiction project) as you write. Not just because you’re a writer and it’s what writers should do, but because it’s the gift you’ve been given. And gifts are meant to be received by the recipient with joy.

It's only then, when we fully embrace our role (not identity) as a writer, that we can step into the fullness of what He has in store and be the writer He wants us to become. And nothing, not even a one-star review, can take this role away from us!

~ ~ ~

Where do you find your identity as a writer? What helps when you begin to doubt your ability to write or calling as a writer?


Where Do We Find Our Identity As a Writer? #writerslife @TessaEmilyHall

Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Conferences I'm Teaching at This Year

Conference season is officially underway! If you've been a reader of my blog for any time now then you know I'm a huge fan of writing conferences. (Probably because of the vital role they've played in my writing career!) Besides, what could be better than being immersed in a world of writing wonderland for a week?

If you can make it to any of the below conferences, please let me know! I'd love to meet you!

Are you attending a writing conference this year? If you could attend one conference for free, which one would you choose and why? Let me know in the comments!