Hello! Here’s another post from the great beyond to let you know you can now find updates on me through Substack. I’m still not abandoning my webpage because there’s so much history to it and I still love the look of it, plus I hope one day I’ll be able to add links to buy my books and such. But since I’m here, I’ll give a brief update. My book has been on submission for about a year now through my agent. In that year I have received full requests that ended in rejections and flat-out rejections, but no one has critiqued my writing itself. My book is still out there and I still have hope that Love, Sax, and All That Jazz will find the right home! While it’s been a year of this process, there are months that can pass by when someone is looking at your book before they give you a yes or no, so it’s a long game for sure!

I have been trying to work on a new book, but this time last year I found out I was pregnant with our second child, and she came in November, right after Thanksgiving! I’m still figuring out life as a SAHM to an extremely active preschooler and a chill baby and the time to write. It’s not as much as I would like, but I feel that when I do it and make myself focus, I can get some words down, and progress is progress. I’m liking this current project, a YA murder mystery with friends to lovers adapated from Agatha Christie’s Why Didn’t They Ask Evans?. I occassionally share snippets about it on my Instagram, where is the place you’ll find me most these days.

Delayed News

If you told me a decade ago that I would be writing my blog post sharing such exciting news three months after it happened, I would have been dumbfounded. But such is the sad state of my blog. But trust me, I’ve shared this elsewhere.

I have an agent!

*Cue confetti*

I signed with Stephanie Cardel of Lighthouse Literary in December, and we hit the ground running. Over the holidays and all through January I was revising, last month we sent our first round of proposals to publishers, and for now it’s just obsessing waiting and brainstorming/plotting/writing new and revised story ideas.

I have added a sign-up form on my About page for my newsletter, which I have been sending once a month since January. Get signed up to stay in the loop, since you know I’m not going to be prompt on here. Perhaps one day I’ll write out a “how I got my agent” post, but the short of it is that while I did not have to query long, this was a long process in terms of the years of hard work I put into getting this book in the best shape I could before I queried, wanting to be sure that I did not repeat my first attempt in 2017 of not being nearly as ready as I had hoped and believed.

I’m very hopeful for what’s to come. 🙂

The Changing State of YA

I have lately seen an outcry in the Bookstagram community from some that YA has become too mature. I can’t deny that this is true. I have had to become more careful over the years when I choose YA books to read because the spectrum of clean to explicit content is more all over the map in the genre than I believe it was 10 years ago. But this didn’t happen overnight. The writing has been on the wall for a while. Not to mention, a lot of previous YA-heavy readers abandoned ship a few years ago because they wanted something more mature.

I know that for me, while I am writing YA and still love pockets of it, I have slowly gravitated away from a lot of it as well. For me it’s not about YA being too immature, though there are YA books out there like that for me, but it feels too much like a minefield amongst the newer and unknown-to-me authors in the genre in terms of content. One of the things that gravitated me towards YA when I got back into reading a decade ago was that it was generally cleaner. Now that it’s harder to guarantee that, sometimes I just prefer to pick up something I know without a doubt will be clean.

What exactly defines clean is a whole other topic that could be discussed, but it’s not something I wanted to get into for this post.

As someone who is trying to break into YA publishing, it’s a little concerning for me to realize I might be a little bit “behind,” because the YA I want to write is closer to YA that was published in 2017 than YA being published in 2022. Though it’s not exclusively the case. For example, Caroline George is a good example of an author whose footsteps I would like to follow. And the truth is not that I can’t keep up with reading in the current market, and I still do have my pulse on pockets of it as previously stated, but the reader I am targeting is the one who preferred the style of YA books we were getting a few years ago (but seem like decades ago in 2022 publishing world). Does this make me outdated? I’m sure some would say so, but I see a lot of interest for this within the bookish community. Like I saw friends on Facebook asking for dystopia recommendations years after publishers were releasing new material in the genre.

A lot of clean YA fantasy authors are thriving with their works being self-published or published at Enclave, but there doesn’t seem to be the same community for contemporary. Again, I do believe the readers are there. There just hasn’t been a coalition of YA authors who write clean contemporary that have been formed that I am aware of. If you know of one, please let me know in the comments!

In case it sounds like I’m obsessed with exclusively squeaky clean books, that’s not the case. But there is something to be said about continuing to publish these books for the people who want them. As Charles Shulz once said, “There’s always a market for innocence.” I don’t think clean and innocence are necessarily interchangeable, but I do think there is something to that.

So yes, it’s my first blog post in two years and again, no promises that I am back regularly, but it felt high time to revamp things around here. So take a look around, and don’t forget to follow me on Instagram, where I’m at entirely too much.

Happy reading, friends! Let me know what you think in the comments about the current state of YA.

A Much Overdue Update

*Taps microphone*

Is this thing on?

This corner of the internet that I have neglected has remained in the back of my mind for the past year and a half, but when I half-heartedly renewed my domain again, I thought it was really and truly time to hop back on and post. I don’t know if anyone is reading this and I’m not promising regular content, but I did want to clear out the virtual cobwebs.

So we don’t have to go into the craziness of 2020, we’re all living it, but the other major life update I can share is that in May 2019 I welcomed my beautiful daughter in the world and obviously nothing has been the same since – both in the best way and the hardest way. She is now a crazy smart, crazy active, and crazy cute fourteen month old who wears me out and lights up my life all at the same time.

I am still actively reading, but it has slowed down quite a bit (unless we count my daily consumption of the works of Sandra Boynton as well as Corduroy’s Colors and whatever else baby girl’s favorite is that week). I am starting to feel burned out on YA, at least newer YA, as well as some of the negativity of the culture in general, and I am trying to get more into non-fiction, but have not actually read much of it yet. I think starting next month I will start a monthly goal of reading 1 YA fiction, 1 non-fiction, and 1 other fiction and see how that goes.

I am also on and off with writing lately, but since I am back in rotation with my writing critique group I need to get my act together and get back into that. Things have just been kind of crazy in my personal life these past couple of weeks, with my husband’s grandfather’s health failing (not technically COVID-releated, though I think being in lockdown didn’t help him), a less-than-relaxing vacation, and then my husband’s grandfather ultimately passing away. I am ready for things to normalize again, as much as they can these days anyway.

I would like to occasionally post again, but I’m not sure what it will look like if I do. 2019 feels so long ago I can’t imagine doing a post on my top reads of the year, and I’m not enthusiastic enough about my reads of 2020 to discuss what I’ve read so far this year. Mostly, this is just a little wave into hyperspace, to let you know I’m here. I’ve slowed down my activity on Twitter and somewhat on Instagram, but you can still find me there, @acshawya.

See you around…

My Top 10 Books of 2018

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Artsy Reader Girl. The theme for today is top ten reads of 2018. 

10. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I listened to this on audio and I know I missed some things, so I actually want to reread a physical copy in 2019. It was so magical and whimsical and I have a feeling I will love it more when I experience it again.

9. Goodbye Stranger by Rebecca Stead

This is a gem of a book, mature for middle-grade but not inappropriately so.

8. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater

I think a lot of people who didn’t love this expected something else. I had no expectations going into this and I found the story strange and mystical and ultimately endearing.

7. Second Chance Summer by Morgan Matson

Wow, this one gave me a lot of feels.

6. Legendary by Stephanie Garber

I liked Caraval but I enjoyed Legendary more. I had a harder time following the events in Caraval, but I was very intrigued by the Prince of Hearts and Donatella’s quest to discover Legend’s identity in Legendary. I’m very curious to see how everything will ultimately come together in Finale!

5. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

I was a little nervous about this one despite the praise, because I knew it was a little gruesome, and wasn’t sure if I had made an especially poor decision to listen to it on audio. But I quickly came to love Audrey Rose and Thomas and was actually able to stomach the gore. I found the ending a little predictable, though still heart-breaking and disturbing.

4. Escaping from Houdini by Kerri Maniscalco

It was fun to get to read the first three books so close together, and having Audrey Rose and Thomas trapped on a cruise where murder is prevalent proved for one wild ride.

3. Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

I read three Kasie West books this year and while I enjoy all of them, this one quickly made it to my top three favorite Kasie West books of all time (along with P.S. I Like You and On the Fence). I liked the list aspect a lot and the romance really worked for me.

2. Letters to the Lost by Brigid Kemmerer

I remember at a certain point of this book being really engrossed in it, but not really thinking it was going to be a favorite. I couldn’t fully relate to the characters’, and I knew they would end up together and I just wasn’t seeing it or feeling it. But the further I got into it, the story unfolded into something really profound for me and I enjoyed it so immensely that it clearly became a favorite for the year.

1. A Hint of Hydra by Heidi Lang and Kat Bartkowski

The predecessor of this book, A Dash of Dragon, was one of my favorites last year. These middle grade books are absolute delights – fun and adventurous, starring a smart heroine and a solid cast of secondary characters. This book was just as fun as the first and I can’t wait for book three! Also, I totally ship Lailu and Greg, even if they are only 13. 😉

My top ten books round out to include on adult fiction, two middle grade fiction, and seven young adult fiction titles. Three of these books I listened to on audio, and the remaining I read. It was a pretty decent year for reads, and I hope I won’t get too slowed down in 2019 by a new little person entering my life, but if so, it’ll be OK. 🙂

What were your favorite reads of 2018?