“Restoring Your Energy”: An Interview with Kirstie Myvett

Author Kirstie Myvett resides in the rich cultural city of New Orleans with her family. She is a cofounder of KidLit in Color and believes that representation matters in all places and spaces, especially in the pages of books. She is a frequent contributor to Black New Orleans Mom blog, and her work has been featured in Country Roads Magazine. Her debut picture book, Praline Lady, was published in November 2020 by Pelican Publishing. Find her online at Instagram!

1. Tell me about your latest project. How did you get the idea? How long did it take to work on it? Did you hit any stumbling blocks along the way?

My latest project is a middle-grade story I started fifteen years ago! The idea came to me after researching 19th century Blacks in New York. I stumbled upon a historical event that literally would not let go of me, and vice versa. I spent close to a year researching and filling a binder with information to help me draft the book. 

I’ve had many stumbling blocks along the way. When I started this book, I had a toddler and two school-age children that required most of my time, so it was always on the sidelines or, honestly, forgotten while life and living happened. There were also stumbling blocks related to the writing itself. I collected lots of quotes and later realized many didn’t apply because it was outside the timeframe I chose for the story. 

2. Tell me about your creative process. Do you write every day? In spurts? Take me from an idea to a first draft to a finished product

I do not write every day. I write most days, but every day isn’t doable for me. When I get an idea, I pick one of my many notebooks and write it down. Then I research because 98% of my stories require research before I’m ready to start writing. I add historical information to the notebook in labeled sections: main characters, location, quotes, etc.

More recently, I’ve created outlines of chapters with a sentence or two describing what might happen in each chapter. I follow that loosely because once I start writing, sometimes my characters go in different directions or they make new discoveries. 

Once I finish the first draft, I let it sit for a week or longer. During this time, I usually write in my notebook holes I need to fill or questions I need answers to. The second draft is just me going through it with a colorful pen and noting things that don’t work or more questions I may have. I do multiple drafts before I share with a critique partner. (No one ever sees a first, second, or third draft from me.) Once I get feedback, I go through the manuscript again and usually by now it’s ready to be sent to my agent. I have a hard time letting go in my quest for perfection so I probably stay with a project longer than I should.

3. What are the things in your life that keep you busy and that potentially take you away from writing?

When my kids were younger, I didn’t have as much time to devote to writing. They are older now and no longer what keeps me away from writing, but other things pop up to take their place. 

For example, last year I resigned from a demanding position and that certainly kept me away from writing, as I had very long hours coupled with having to write and be creative in my position. This resulted in me not having any energy to devote to my own projects. 

Nowadays, I take breaks for my own mental well-being. I need space to let projects germinate in my mind and sometimes that means I don’t write at all for weeks at a time, and I’m okay with that.

I don’t write on a schedule, but I write most days and think about writing projects every day, and in my opinion, it all counts. 

4. What specific tools do you consider essential in your writing career? They could be aps, technology, even specific stationery items.

I have several lineless notebooks for each project I’m working on where I can fill with all my ideas and thoughts. Technology wise I really appreciate ProWritingAid and thesaurus.com. Google docs, post-it notes… basic writing tools. But I also LIVE on Google Books where you can access books, journals, and magazines in the public domain for free (publications 100 years and older). Since most of what I write is historical fiction, this is an invaluable resource for me as is chroniclingamerica.loc.gov where you can access historic newspapers for free. Both are essential to my writing projects.

5. Do you have a specific place you write? An office? Coffee shop? Or do you write wherever you are?

I usually write at home at my kitchen table or at a small desk in my bedroom. 

6. How do you handle a writing slump or the dreaded “writer’s block”?

When my creative juices aren’t flowing, I take that as an opportunity to do other things. I read more during this time also because reading is always inspiring and sometimes is just what I need to clear the blockage. 

7. Do you have any specific rituals related to your writing?

No, unless you count making a cup of coffee, hot chocolate, or tea before I get started in the mornings. If I’m lucky, I’ll have a danish or sweet treat, but really the only ritual is a warm beverage must be nearby.

8. Do you ever get overwhelmed or drained between your writing career and other responsibilities? How do you handle this feeling?

Yes, of course. But I’m really big on self-awareness and recognizing when I need to slow down, breathe, go for a walk and just pause. We’re expected to exist on a spinning hamster wheel in our society and plagued with feelings of guilt when we’re not, but that isn’t sustainable. Feeling drained or overwhelmed is a sure sign you need to slow down. The Nap Ministry helped reinforce my thinking about this rat race life we live in America. Resting is vital to restoring your energy so you can do the work you’re here to do.

9. How would you advise someone beginning their writing career to stay on task, persevere, and be productive?

Writing is a solitary and sometimes lonesome endeavor. We have to be purposeful in creating community so that we’re not alone and discouraged. I encourage writers to find your community and tap into the resources and support that will encourage you to keep going through the good and difficult times.

9 Essential Apps for My Writing Career (Productivity Tools for the Busy Writer – Part II)

I love hearing about which apps writers use to be productive. I’ve learned about and tried many of them in order to be as efficient as possible in managing my writing career. 

Again, I offer this list in the context of: I work full-time and manage a writing career part-time, while raising three children. Here is what works for me. Some of these may not work for you, while others may change your work habits and your life!

1. Google Docs (Purpose: Writing!): I admit that I spent years wondering what the cloud was and why everybody wanted to store stuff in it. However, Google Docs has changed my workflow and my work habits for the better. I keep all my active working documents – novels, stories, query letters – in Google Docs open in active browser tabs so that I can jump across from one to the other. I can also hop on to my phone using the Google Drive app and do some outlining or light editing that way. I use the spreadsheets in Google Drive to keep track of things such as where I’ve sent my stories, articles, and pitches, as well as my expenses and income. I pay an extra fee to Google every month, just a $1.99 to access extra storage. 

2. CamScan (Purpose: Scanning): This is a scanning app that allows me to snap a picture of any paper document and save it as a pdf. I can send the newly created pdf right from my phone as an email, a text, or other message with just a few more taps on my phone screen. There are other scanning apps that can work, but CamScan is free and quick, and it also saves all your pdfs for future reference, so I can recycle the paper document. This particular app is such a tremendous time saver: When I am invited to do a reading or speaking event, there is often a lot of paperwork involved, and so I can save time by scanning my signed contracts or W9s. It also helps with my editing: when I am editing a story or essay for a friend or student, I prefer to mark up the page in pen, then use CamScan to scan and return their manuscripts.

3. Square (Purpose: Taking payments): When you are at a book event, you need a selling app on your phone to handle on-site sales. I use Square, which allows me to take credit card payments. It’s also useful because it has an invoice feature, so if someone orders a book from me online, I can send them an invoice via email, right from Square, and they can make their payment at their convenience. Square also runs reports on sales for me, which I can use for tax purposes. 

4. Toggl Track (Purpose: Timer): There are any number of iterations of this concept – an app to set a timer that will help you stay on track when you write. I use Toggl Track, which allows me to have a Pomodoro-style timer. I set it for 15 minutes, during which I write without interruption, and then give myself a 5-minute break before doing it again.

5. Otter (Purpose: Dictation): I use the dictation function on my MacBook Air for a lot of this, but I also have a separate dictation app on my phone. It’s called Otter, which is free and works quite well. There’s another app that I’ve tried, Dragon, but I find it too expensive for my purposes. I also sometimes use the good old voice to text function on my cell phone. I use dictation a LOT – mostly to dictate ideas into notes for story ideas, blog post ideas, and emails.

6. WordPress (Purpose: Marketing): This website is hosted on WordPress, and I use the app to check messages, upload blog posts, etc. 

7. Libby (Purpose: Audio book listening): When you’re being productive, it’s important to fill the well. When you start exercising, you need to also increase your intake of water. Similarly, when you start writing more, you should increase your reading to fill the creative well, and audiobooks are an easy and intriguing way to do that (esp. when books are narrated by the authors or talented actors). 

8. Social Media (Purpose: Communication and Marketing): Ok, I’m cheating because this category encompasses at least 3 apps. I will be writing a forthcoming post on using social media to enhance your writing career, but I have a true love for it. It really connects me to readers, as well as to my editors and people in the publishing world. It also helps me build relationships with other writers in order to build a strong community online. The three important social media apps that I use daily are Facebook, Instagram, and, of course, Twitter. I have also dived more recently into LinkedIn (I’ve always had an account with them, but only recently have I been playing around with their platform).

9. Mile IQ (Purpose: Track mileage): When you do any kind of travel for your work (driving to a reading or meeting with your editing group, for example), you can deduct those miles as part of your expenses. An app like Mile IQ (there are many others) make it easy to track which miles are for personal business and which are related to your writing career so that you have an accurate record.

“Showing Up for the Work”: An Interview with Fiction Writer Rosalia Scalia

Rosalia Scalia is the author of the story collection, Stumbling Toward Grace (Unsolicited Press, November 2021) and a second, forthcoming collection.  Her fiction has appeared in numerous literary magazines, including Notre Dame Review, North Atlantic Review, The Portland Review, Oklahoma Review, and many others. She works a full-time job in public relations, while also managing a busy writing career. I’ve long been impressed by her ability to manage her time, and she was generous enough to share her thoughts with me about getting the writing done! Check out her website: www.RosaliaScalia.com or find her on Twitter @RScalia and Instagram @CityGirlRo.

  1. Tell me about your latest project. How did you get the idea? How long did it take to work on it? Did you hit any stumbling blocks along the way?

I have several projects in the works, which is typical for me. I started working on a father/daughter story in Jan 2021 and it was going to explore the impact of misinformation on an older white man—the father. The original idea began with the conflict between them centering on the mask and other misinformation. Then my mom became infected with COVID-19 and died and the entire story changed. It stopped being something that lived in my imagination to something that transformed the way I experienced and viewed a death from covid. This changed the story and I ended up dropping the political aspects of the original idea.

A second project is a novel-in progress with a cast of characters I have been working on for awhile. Both projects hit stumbling blocks. The short story with the father/daughter duo took me months to reimagine. The novel-in-progress: I printed the entire work out and read it and decided a different character needed to be the main character. The existing main character was causing the point of view to collapse into itself because this character lacked the experience and depth to tell the story the way it needed to be told. So back to the drawing board and this time, I am taking a different approach to the work.

Both projects are the ones that I am currently focusing on, though there are several others waiting in the wings.

  1. Tell me about your creative process. Do you write every day? In spurts? Take me from an idea to a first draft to a finished product.

I try to write daily. Admittedly, just after my mom died, it took months for me to regain my footing but now I am back on track with the daily discipline. When words do not come, I had been doing writing exercises that tackle the story from a different perspective.

I had been writing at night, after a full day of writing at work, but now I am writing in the mornings before work.

This is not to say that every day yields great words and wonderful sentences. It means that I am showing up for the work, even if I end up deleting whatever I wrote. Every day of showing up is progress, albeit small steps. Each story is different in the process. 

Some stories just want to be born and come forth in nearly a finished, polished way. Other stories require hard labor and they exact a pint of blood. They key is to keep working on those stories that demand hard labor. They end up being the best stories. 

  1. What are the things in your life that keep you busy and that potentially take you away from writing? How do you manage your time between this and your writing?

I have children and grandchildren, extended family, and a full-time job. All of that keeps me busy and all of it provides the potential to take me away from writing time. In the past, I had to guard writing time, no matter when I wrote. Daily discipline is a commitment. It takes commitment to write, regardless of the designed writing time, and that means making time to write, despite the distractions. I write in the mornings before work. 

  1. What specific tools do you consider essential in your writing career?

Necessities: my laptop, Word, connection to the web to research items for the story. Books remain an important tool. I can’t say enough about reading—everything!  I do use Scrivener to compile books but I write in Word. 

  1. Do you have a specific place you write? Or do you write wherever you are? 

I have an office, but if I have quiet time and a quiet place, where there are no people to distract me, I can write.

  1. How do you handle a writing slump or the dreaded “writer’s block”? 

Writing exercises. Word prompts. Mimicking the work of writers I admire.

  1. Do you have any specific rituals related to your writing? 

I have my water bottle handy and also hot tea. My ritual is that no matter where I ended the day before, I must start at the beginning and read the entire story til I get to the part where I ended so that I can continue. I know that everyone always says not to revise when you are getting down a first draft, but I can’t help myself. 

  1. Do you ever get overwhelmed or drained between your writing career and other responsibilities? How do you handle this feeling? 

There is always a tremendous burden when other responsibilities interfere with writing, It is as if a siren call is sounding and I must answer it. The feeling is always telling me I must get back to work and that is what I do, even if I write two sentences. 

  1. How would you advise someone beginning their writing career to stay on task, persevere, and be productive?

Set deadlines and word counts to achieve in a day’s work. 

Set a specific time to write and stick to it. This may mean saying NO to many invitations. I have declined a lot of invitations to social gatherings but I never say why. I just say, I have a previous commitment at that time. 

Form a writing group or community. Writing is solitary so other writers are important. It’s important to create your own tribe of scribes, of like- minded friends and colleagues. 

Persevere. Accept that every rejection is one step closer to an acceptance.

Productivity Tools for the Busy Writer (Part I)

One of my long-time hobbies is thrift shopping, because of the cool treasures I can find to contribute to (what I imagine is) my eclectic style. I have found everything from designer handbags to silk dresses to hand painted wine glasses. Recently, I scored an incredible leather bag that – no exaggeration – changed my life. 

I do admit that I have several beautiful bags and purses, and at some point I’m sure I thought each of them had “changed my life,” but this one truly did.

It’s a 100% leather briefcase tote; it’s slim with plenty of pockets and a sturdy but attractive handle. Best of all, it carries all of my key productivity tools so that I have them with me at all times. 

Like you, I’m a busy person who finds time in the cracks of my day to manage a writing career. I write while waiting for baseball practice to finish, while I am waiting for a meeting to begin, and while I am on hold with the insurance company. The cracks appear in my day unexpectedly, so I have to be ready. That means that I need to have my productivity tools with me at all times. This bag has accomplished that for me.

What do these productivity tools include? 

I will be writing a series about productivity tools, including software programs, apps, and other essentials. This is part #1, focused on the tools that I carry with me at all times (in my gorgeous leather tote!). They help me to stay productive throughout the day. 

Laptop An essential laptop, for me, is one small enough to fit in my bag. I have a 13″ MacBook Air, protected by a hard shell case. It is a truly powerful machine with many helpful and time-saving functions. For example, I deliver virtual presentations using this laptop, and the camera and mic are excellent. It has a dictation function which I use to dictate emails and memos. And it has a terrific capacity for memory, which I use to store lots of photos and content to maintain my blog.

The size of this laptop is important to me. Sometimes, I find a few spare minutes to work, so I want to edit an essay or send an email to an editor. I can pull this laptop out of my bag easily (I always keep it charged) and get to work, knocking an important task off my list. 

Headphones I keep a pair of standard headphones in my bag so that, no matter where I find time to work, I can block out noise. Ear buds, Air Pods… whatever you use, have something that you can pull out of your bag easily and quickly.

Cell phone Make sure your phone has a great camera so that you can take pictures to spruce up your social media posts and your blog.  I will freely admit that, while I have a Mac laptop, I have an Android cell phone, and I’m very content with my double life. The screen is quite large, which makes the phone convenient to type emails on and even work on documents. 

Hotspot  Whether you have a hotspot as part of your cell phone plan, or a separate device that you carry with you, make sure you have one. Many times I have had to log into a meeting or do some work on my laptop while I’m traveling, and having a reliable hotspot is essential. Those times I mentioned, where I pull out my laptop while waiting for baseball practice to finish? I need that hotspot. It’s also a good backup for times when you think you have reliable WiFi, but are surprised. I have checked into hotel rooms, unpacked my bag, and set up my work station only to find that the signal is weak and therefore unusable. Having a strong backup on my cell phone is an essential service for me.

Backup Battery Pack You need one to charge your phone and laptop. It can be a lifesaver. Period.

Journal  Can anyone truly call themselves a writer if they’re not carrying a journal? I actually have 2 journals that I keep in my bag at all times: a bullet journal (which I will be doing a separate post about) and a writing journal. Let me speak here about the writing journal, which is a place to keep all my ideas and perhaps even begin writing out the beginnings of stories or essays. If I find myself with a crack in my schedule, but do not want to take out my laptop, I pull out the writing journal. For example, if my team takes a long break during a meeting, or my students are working on an essay, I suddenly have 15 minutes available to me, so I spend it with my journal, writing, outlining, or brainstorming. 

Writing Instrument  Do not underestimate the power of a good pen or pencil. The productivity experts would call it, like the journal, an “analog tool.” Whatever you call it, having a pen that you like is essential. It is a terrific pleasure to write with a beautiful pen. You can be inspired to write simply by the feel and sound of your pen moving across the page. Don’t stick with only one: Sometimes I’m hooked on mechanical pencils, sometimes a good old Ticonderoga is essential, but my most trusted writing instrument is a good fountain pen. I keep extra cartridges with me at all times so I never run out of ink. If you have never tried writing with a fountain pen, get an inexpensive one and try it. 

Stay tuned for the next part in the series, focused on digital tools, such as apps and software programs essential for the busy writer.

Crafting a Chapter Book Series

 As a young girl, who lived in a rowhouse in South Philadelphia and played Wiffle ball in the street, I loved no book more than Anne of Green Gables. Anne was an orphan who was adopted by a pair of siblings who initially had wanted a boy to help them manage their farm. Instead, they got a spunky, red-haired, intelligent girl who stole their hearts. Though she was poor, Anne roamed through the woods and ran through the green fields of Prince Edward Island, a place that was far more beautiful than the paved streets and narrow alleyways of South Philadelphia.

As the daughter of immigrants, who often felt isolated among her American friends, I connected with Anne who was also an outsider in the town of Avonlea; people tended to think the worst of her because she was an orphan, and she dealt with their judgement fiercely. And her imagination and her loneliness often combined in ways that brought tears to my eyes, such as this sad moment when she faces being returned to the orphanage: “I’ve just been imagining that it was really me you wanted after all and that I was to stay here forever and ever. It was a great comfort while it lasted. But the worst of imagining things is that the time comes when you have to stop and that hurts.”

  I’ll say that later, as an older child, I realized that all the books I was reading starred white children; that bothered me more and more, because I could imagine myself in anyone’s shoes [that’s the power of readings, after all], but couldn’t there be a book that met me halfway? A book that, while I stretched my imagination to connect with it, simultaneously reached out to me?

Therefore, when I finally decided to write a children’s book, I wanted to carefully craft it so that it would reflect my values and my ideals. Therefore, I decided four things:

First, my main character would be a Palestinian American girl. Like me. Like my own daughter. It would be an #ownvoices book. I named my protagonist Farah [which means “joy” in Arabic] and gave her some fun traits — she’s funny, she’s smart, she’s curious, and she can be stubborn. She speaks Arabic at home with her parents and English at school with her teachers and friends, and I included a glossary of Arabic terms in the back of the book.

Second, Farah would be working class. This was very important to me, because many times, the characters we see in #kidlit books tend to be privileged kids. Money is never discussed because the reader is supposed to assume the character is financially comfortable. Farah’s family, however, struggles financially — her parents work hard, but they’re always pinching their pennies, and like any lower-income kid, Farah is acutely aware of this. It’s a testament to my own upbringing; I was raised in a family that was often short on money but had an abundance of love and affection.

Third, this book would be the first in a series. For example, as a kid myself, I read Anne of Green Gables several times before I saw, in a Scholastic flyer, that there was …  a second Anne novel? Indeed, Anne was a character who spanned an entire series:  Anne of Avonlea, Anne of the Island, Anne of Windy Poplars, and more. The story didn’t end at the closing of the first novel. I realized, with a thrill, that I never had to lose Anne. At its core, this is the appeal of the book series: the joy of finding a good book and realizing there’s a whole bookshelf at the library or bookstore with the Boxcar Children, Ramona Quimby, the Sweet Valley High twins, Nancy Drew, and the Hardy Boys. Later, I became a big Agatha Christie fan and followed Hercule Poirot and Sherlock Holmes.

The fourth thing was that Farah’s story would be a chapter book. I didn’t want to write a picture book, nor did I want to pen a novel for older, more advanced readers. I wanted kids in the younger grades as well as older kids who were still emerging readers to meet Farah Rocks. This was a deliberate decision because very little attention is given to the chapter book, one of the hardest-working genres in children’s literature. A chapter book, loosely defined, is a book targeted towards readers who have graduated from picture books [although, in my opinion, nobody should ever “graduate” from picture books] but who are not yet ready for novels. The chapter book is a happy medium — a long story, broken up into shorter chapters, lightly illustrated throughout.

The chapter book is a victory for the emerging reader. It’s a “real book”, as my own kids used to say, with just enough pictures to break up the text but not so many that the prose is de-emphasized. Finishing a chapter book makes a young reader feel like a big kid, and it creates a positive vibe around the experience of reading independently.

I’m excited to see where Farah goes on her adventures, but no matter what, I’m glad that she, and the series, reflect my values and my commitment to my readers.

Creating A Solid Morning Writing Routine

I used to envy writers who were independently wealthy, who did not have to get up to go to a mundane job to pay the mortgage and keep the heat on. I imagined a glamorous  and indulgent life in which I could spend my days writing, reading, and having business lunches with my agent.

The truth is that life was impossible for me, as it is for most people. I am raising three children, and I have always had to work full-time because of pesky little things like buying groceries and having health insurance. I knew that if I would be successful, I’d have to find another way. 

Hard, focused work produces results – this was something I knew. Octavia Butler’s words are taped above my desk: “First, forget inspiration. Habit is more dependable. Habit will sustain you whether you’re inspired or not.” I was already disciplined as a writer – at least I had been,  until I became a mother. When my children were infants, my good habits suddenly devolved into chaos –  I was scribbling in a notebook while sitting at the pediatrician’s office and dictating into my phone while cooking dinner. 

My “writing time” became so erratic that it was stressing me out, so I finally accepted that I would have to use the mornings.  This was not an easy decision. In fact, I prided myself on being a “night owl,” a person who could write only when the house was dark and quiet. But the presence of babies in the home meant that I was too exhausted to stay up late to write. Besides, who knew what the night would bring? A colicky baby? An infant who was suddenly hungry at 2am?

It would have to be 5:00am. 

For almost sixteen years, I have been waking up at 4:50, making a pot of coffee, and sitting down to do the hard work of writing. In this way, in the dark hours of the morning, I have written over 12 books, including two award-winning short story collections and a successful chapter book series. Below, I will describe some tips and techniques that have helped me perfect a productive and fulfilling early morning routine. 

  1. Claim a space. It’s important to select one area in your home where you can write quietly (ideally a space that does not have a television). While a dedicated study or office space would be helpful, there’s no need for it to be a permanent space. For years, I wrote on a couch in my living room and carried around a bag containing my books, laptop, and pens. Now, I have a desk in the corner of my dining room, as well as a leather club chair that I call my “reading chair.” Between the two is a small bookshelf, where I keep my mentor texts (see below).

2. Prepare the space every evening. A good writing morning begins the prior evening. Before you go to bed, it’s vital to organize your space. Remember that you will be tired –  be kind to your future, sleepy self by having everything in place. Stack your books, charge your laptop, make sure you have your special pens. Make it inviting: put out a favorite blanket, get your favorite coffee mug ready, place a lamp on the table. 

3. Create a visual or sensory “trigger.” What will entice you to come to your space and write? What will pull you out of your bed? For me, it’s the coffee pot brewing (which I have loaded and set the night before, of course). For others, it’s the sacred act of lighting a candle and writing while it burns. 

4. Keep mentor texts nearby. Mentor texts are books whose style, themes, or language inspire you. They are the books you want to emulate. Keep them nearby and consider starting your morning routine by reading through a passage or two to put you in the proper mindset. 

5. Work in chunks of time. I use a version of the Pomodoro method. I will set my phone’s timer to 10-minute chunks, maybe 15-minute chunks if I feel good. When the timer goes off, I allow myself a few minutes to check Twitter (hello, #5amwritersclub) or re-read a passage from a mentor text that inspires me. Then I set the timer again and get back to work.

6. Stop in a good spot. This classic tip is attributed to Hemingway… when you’re in the middle of a great scene and you know what will happen next, stop there for the day. The next morning, you will be able to easily jump back into the writing again, thus avoiding a difficult return to the manuscript. 

7. Prepare a reset strategy. There will be moments when your attention and energy start to flag. Get ready for these moments and have a strategy for resetting your focus. What works for me is to get up, brew a fresh pot of coffee, and while I’m waiting, read aloud from my mentor texts. 

8. Honor the time. Let’s face it: you will have bad mornings. Your daughter’s softball game may have gone into extra innings the evening before. Maybe you were invited out to a celebratory dinner for a colleague. Maybe your child was up all night with a cough. The bottom line: you are exhausted, so the writing is not flowing. Don’t go back to bed! It’s important to honor that time. Going back to bed today means you’re more likely to do it again; instead, you must get to the end of your designated writing period. However, instead of trying to write, do those other things that all writers must do: Get out your mentor text, or a new book that was recently published, and read. Reading modern work – being familiar with the types of books you want to write –  is an important part of the professional life of a writer. Perhaps you can scan through the websites of potential magazines where you might send your work to preview potential markets (the directory at the clmp.org site is a great resource). The idea is to do something related to writing in order not to waste it.  

I hope these tips are useful! I’ll add more tips in the future. Follow me on Twitter/Insta to learn when I update them! @SusanDarraj

Arab American Heritage Month

April is Arab American Heritage Month! It’s been a joy to see that, every year, this month gets more and more media traction, lending more visibility to our community. I’m bringing back an article I wrote for Arab American Heritage Month for Baltimore Beat Magazine, where you can read my thoughts on what this month means as well as learning a quick and easy hummus recipe.