Spread love through books!

This year, my November was chock-full of book events. It was a reminder of how important it is for writers to step away from their computers and their writing to connect with the community on a personal level. Here’s what I’ve been up to:

First, there was the BOCES Artist & Presenter Vendor Fair on November 1. Educators and administrators came through to meet artists of all shapes and sizes. I met some colorful characters, including the guys from AudioBody who had recently performed at my son’s school. Looking to book a gig for your school? Check out the arts & enrichment BOCES vendor listing.

Next, the annual Chronicle Book Fair in my hometown. It’s one of my favorite events in the community. I enjoy meeting other authors and connecting with readers. “This is your fan base!” one of my biggest supporters told me that day. The best part? My extra special visitors!

On the 7th, I attended the Lake George Jr/Sr High Volleyball banquet, an event that was bittersweet. Despite an undefeated record, the varsity team was disqualified from playoffs because they played one more game than was allowed in their regular season. The community was up in arms about this unjust and irrevocable decision that came from the NY state school athletic association. This hit home for me as an alum. As a gesture of support, I presented each player and coach an inscribed copy of Forte — which features a young girl who magically becomes a volleyball superstar in her small upstate town. Rather than a typical teenager response, these girls were genuinely grateful and appreciative. Their strength and spirit in the face of huge disappointment is truly an inspiration.


The last week of November, I had the honor of meeting with a local Girl Scout troop as part of a special visitor series on professional writers. We talked about story creation and fictional story telling. “A story isn’t a list of things that happen. A story has a shape.” They totally got it, and told me about their “story mountains” they are working on in ELA. One girl in the group was especially excited to meet me after winning my book basket at a school fundraiser (Brayden’s Family Fun Night).


November is typically the national month for writing, a la NaNoWriMo, the annual national writing challenge to complete a 50K-word novel in the month of November. How about NaNoPROMO?

You may have read my post about why I don’t do NaNoWriMo. It doesn’t mean I don’t write or edit or revise or work on my latest book(s) most every day. I do. But, for me, this month was about the other side of being an author — getting out there and spreading love through books.

But these events aren’t just about book promotion. They are my creative fuel. Giving my readers faces and voices and smiles . . . inspires me to keep writing.

Thank you to everyone who helped make it all happen.

#Janowrimo Report

It’s time to officially report on my first ever JaNoWriMo challenge! My goal was to write 1000 words (approx 2-3 pgs in Word) every day for month of January. So, how’d I do?

Break it down: On December 31, I had 19k words for my WIP (Forte‘s sequel). It was good to have this head start. The story was already progressing and it didn’t feel like I had to create something from nothing. My average daily log turned out to be 1200 words — a good length for a solid scene or even a chapter. Lowest day = 600s. Highest was over 1800. I wrote *every day* except one toward the end, and even on that day I was plotting out my next scene in my mind. I logged my progress on Twitter, which helped me stay honest and focused. And being able to post my daily success felt like a small reward.

Although I’d recruited some writer friends to join me in JaNoWriMo, I didn’t hear from many throughout the month. With one exception: fellow Xchyler Publishing author R.A. Smith of the Grenshall Manor Chronicles. Russell and I connected via Twitter almost daily, and I believe we inspired each other to keep writing every January day. Thank you, Russell!

So, now it’s February. And my WIP is at . . . drum roll please . . . 53922! Already a legit length for a YA novel, I have at least two or three more chapters to pen before it’s done. It’s so close, I’ve been trying to keep up my daily writing routine until the draft is complete.

There’s one problem with that routine: I’m kind of boring when I’m writing.

Seriously. The days are cold and I’m hibernating with my computer. Even if the writing part only takes an hour or two, the rest of my day is consumed by thinking about it. Momentum is so important, which requires consistency and focus. It’s like an obsession. On a rare lunch out with my bestie, when she wanted to catch up, I had little to offer.

“I’m, like, hyper-focused on my writing. That’s all. I’m doing the mom thing and I’m writing.”

“So, tell me about your writing!”

“No! I’m too superstitious. I have to get the draft done first.”

You can imagine how riveting the rest of our lunch conversation was. My poor husband. I’m sure he’s eager to have me back.

But here’s the thing — the story I’m working on? It’s exciting! But I’m the only one who’s experiencing it. I can’t wait to get the draft out to my beta readers so I can finally talk about it!

Want to know what it’s about? Here’s a draft blurb of Forte’s sequel:

It’s been two years since Sami neutralized toxic Aquamarine on Skene Mountain, the scar on the hill now a stark reminder of what she’d destroyed. Hoping to make amends, she vows to use her magic to rebuild earthly devastation — to heal the world with her music. Problem is, her magic is lost. Her boyfriend Jason is lost too, as he’s left for college. When Sami attends a summer music program in hopes of finding her magic, she finds her childhood crush Miles is also in the program. Caught in a love triangle, Sami begins to have visions of tragic natural disasters close to home. When these visions turn into reality, it seems the superstorms are not random but caused by someone with specific powers — and an evil agenda. It’s up to Sami to figure out how to use her new magic to halt the next superstorm before everyone she loves is destroyed.

writing journal

My brainstorming journal. (Gift from Mom) My loyal writing companion. Its pages would make no sense to anyone but me.

JaNoWriMo — GO!

Okay, folks! Time to declare our New Year’s Resolutions for 2017. Statistically, most resolutions don’t last beyond January, so mine perfectly applies. I’m not giving up sweets or wine. I’m not promising to workout more. I’m going to write.

Perhaps you’ve seen my post about why I won’t ever do NaNoWriMo since the month of November is jam-packed with holiday festivities and preparations. In that post, I suggested January as a better month to focus on a daily writing routine. JaNoWriMo: January Novel Writing Month. I’m starting 2017 with a pledge to do something I love to do most in the world, every day: write.

I plan to work on my first draft of the sequel to ForteWith 15k words under my belt, Sami is back! She uses her music magic for a much different — altruistic — purpose…only to run up against the most surprising adversary. Throw in a love triangle and a new, urban setting, and you have the makings of a future page-turner. I’m so excited to get my first draft done. If you don’t have a WIP, start brainstorming today for your JaNoWriMo project!

JaNoWriMo will work somewhat differently than NaNoWriMo. There isn’t a website for it. There’s no submission form to log your word count. There won’t be badges to celebrate accomplishments. I’m not starting a national, non-profit community. I’m starting small (with, um, me). But I’d love company! Here are the rules:

  1. Comment below if you’d like to participate, declaring your personal daily word-count goal. For Nano, the idea is to complete a 50K-word novel. For Jano, let’s be realistic but also push ourselves a bit. My daily word count goal will be 1000 words.
  2. After you complete your writing goal for the day, tweet about your accomplishment with the hashtag #JaNoWriMo (and use my handle @jdspero). You will receive e-kudos for your hard work. Not on Twitter? Email me!
  3. In February 1, 2017, one “winning” participant will be chosen to guest star on my blog to share a synopsis and a teaser of their project.

At the end of every week, I’ll post some handy writing tips or a funny story about how I managed to squeak out my quota of words while juggling the schedules of three busy little boys. My job will be to offer inspiration, humor, and wine (ahem…or whine).

That’s it. Easy peasy!

Let’s do this. Who’s with me!

Why I say no to NaNoWriMo

NaNoWriMo, or National Novel Writing Month, is a non-profit organization that provides a community for novelists or wannabe novelists. Or, as their website says: a “fun, seat-of-your-pants approach to creative writing.” The goal is to finish a 50,000-word novel within the month of November.

I will not be doing NaNoWriMo this year, nor will I do it any year. Let me tell you why.

First, I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention the benefits of NaNoWriMo. They offer inspiration, encouragement, and awards. Winners (writers who successfully crank out 50k words) have a chance to win prizes, like a Scrivener discount. Many areas offer live support groups where NaNo writers meet face-to-face! Sounds great, right?

So why do I say no to NaNoWriMo?

Is it because by month’s end I’m afraid I’ll face 50,000 brain-vomit words that will need to revised and/or rewritten for months to come? Is it because I don’t believe forced creativity could ever produce anything worthwhile?

No. If either of these were true, I wouldn’t be a writer in the first place. Any good writer knows the first draft is always crap anyway, regardless of how quickly it appears on the page. If I didn’t believe in “forced creativity,” I would not have a single novel complete.

I’m a big fan of Natalie Goldberg’s Writing Down the Bones, which encourages writers to “get the bones down…and fix it later.” Even if you get stuck, you need to push forward or you’ll never see the end.

But once you have a draft, you are not nearly done. Perhaps there should be a NaNo-REV-Mo to help writers revise all those crappy NaNoWriMo first drafts?

But I digress.

The real reason I say no to NaNoWriMo is about logistics. Honestly, what alliteration-loving chump chose NOVEMBER to be the national month to write an entire freaking novel? Isn’t that month jam packed enough?

Here are 7 reasons why I say no to NaNoWriMo:

  1. I’m *just now* adjusted to my 3 kids’ varying routines in school / extracurriculars. Kind of. It took nearly 2 months and my calendar’s still a mess.
  2. Speaking of calendars. November is not a full school month. My kids are off for Veterans Day. For some reason they have an early-release day and a delayed-start day the week prior. They have 4 half days leading up to Thanksgiving break. Not to mention Thanksgiving break…adding up to a whole lotta hours the kids will be home and needing mommy.
  3. I have a candy hangover from Halloween. Actually, my children do, which is worse. Three sugared-up boys are crawling over my head as I type this.
  4. Hello? Thanksgiving? This year, we’re off to visit relatives for merry-making. Time for family fun, not writing. I’m not hosting, but I’m contributing to the effort. Am I the only one making pies and sweet potato mash and those asparagus-procuitto-appetizer thingys that should have a name?
  5. Speaking of holidays. How many shopping days left until Christmas? I don’t know what happens in your house, but in mine, the shopping falls under my list of responsibilities. And — decorations! Taking down harvest pumpkins and jack-o-lanterns, putting up and trimming the tree. Walter, our Elf on a Shelf, makes his first appearance the day after Thanksgiving. That’s in November, too.
  6. Daylight savings time. Fall back an hour. What’s that you say? We’re gaining an hour? Not in my house. Nothing like messing with the clocks to ensure no child has a decent night’s sleep. Bonus: sending your fourth-grader to the bus stop in the dark. Good stuff.
  7. 30 days. Seriously? NaNo powers that be, why not choose a month with 31 days? Come on, give us a little leeway here. Give us struggling novelists another day. Could you imagine what we could accomplish with another 24 hours?

I have a solution. JANUARY! Roll it in with the New Year’s resolutions. Maybe this is one we can keep. Hibernate with your laptop while the endless snow falls here in the North Country. Bonus: an extra day.