Archive for the ‘writing’ Category


Emerging Beauty: Find beauty in your world. Post 13: books!

March 31, 2020
brass colored chandelier

Photo by Emre Can on

Read a book! As a writer, I read a lot—it’s my work and my practice. I’ve tried to recommend books published in the last couple of years, although there a few exceptions. If you have kids or teens, I’ve made a list for them, too. Enjoy!

Adult Fiction

The Nickel Boys: Colson Whitehead

A Gentleman in Moscow: Amor Towles

Circe: Madeline Miller

American Dirt:Jeanine Cummins

A Woman is No Man: Etaf Rum

The Friend: Sigrid Nunez

The Great Alone: Kristin Hannah

There, There: Tommy Orange

Writers and Lovers: Lily King

Water Dancer: Ta-Nehisi Coates

Bear Town: Fredrik Backman

Homegoing: Yaa Gyasi

Olive, Again: Elizabeth Strout

Lilac Girls: Martha Hall Kelly

The Great Believers: Rebecca Makkai

The Refugees(short stories): Viet Thanh Nguyen

Sabrina & Corina(short stories): Kali Fajardo-Anstine

State of Wonder: Ann Patchett (I liked it better than The Dutch House)

Top of my to-read Fiction list:

The Island of Sea Women: Lisa See


Me and White Supremacy: Combat Racism, Change the World, and Become a Good Ancestor; Layla Saad

The Five Invitations; Discovering What Death Can Teach Us About Living Fully: Frank


The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee: Native America from 1890 to the Present: David


The Immoral Majority: Ben Howe

The Choice: Embrace the Possible: Edith Eger (part memoir of the holocaust)

The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness: Michelle Alexande

Top of my NF to-read list: American Wolf: Nate Blakeslee 


The Distance Between Us:Reyna Grande

The Summer Isles: Philip Marsden

-Waiting for Snow in Havana: Carolos Eire

The Faraway Nearby: Rebecca Solnit

The Fire Next Time: James Baldwin (Non Fiction)

-Educated: Tara Westover

-The Honey Bus: A Memoir of Loss, Courage and a Girl Saved by Bees: Meredith May

Young Adult (I’m not a fantasy reader but there are great YA fantasy, sci-fi and dystopian books out there)

            The Poet X: Elizabeth Acevedo

            Shout: Laurie Halse Anderson

The Language of Cherries: Jen Marie Hawkins

We Were Here: Matt de la Pena

A Room Away From the Wolves: Nova Ren Suma

Boy Erased: A Memoir: Garrard Conley

We Are Okay: Nina LaCour

Dear Martin:Nic Stone

All the Bright Places: Jennifer Niven

The Serpent King: Jeff Zentner

You’ll Miss Me When I’m Gone: Rachel Lynn Solomon

I’ll Give You the Sun: Jandy Nelson

Story of a Girl: Sara Zarr

Two Boys Kissing: David Levithan

books by Ellen Hopkins (poetry format)

Top of my YA to-read list:

Skythe: Neal Shusterman

Upper middle grade (11-13)

The Bridge Home: Padma Venkatraman

            Refugee: Alan Gratz

The War That Saved My Life: Kimberly Brubaker Bradley

To Night owl from Dogfish: Holly Goldberg Sloan

Eventown: Corey Ann Haydu

The Only Black Girls in Town: Brandy Colbert

The Benefits of Being and Octopus: Ann Braden

Merci Suarez Changes Gears: Meg Medina  

            Ghost: Jason Reynolds

Millicent Min, Girl Genius:Lisa Yee

The Someday Birds: Sally J. Pla

Listen, Slowly; Thanhha Lai

The Good Hawk; Joseph Elliott

George: Alex Gino

Top of my NF to-read list: A Wish in the Dark: Christina Soontornvat and Genesis Begins Again: Alicia D. Williams

Younger middle grade (8-10)

The Runaways: Ulf Stark

Breaking Stalin’s Nose: Eugene Yelchin

Everlasting Nora:Marie Miranda Cruz

Bob: Wendy Mass

The One and Only Ivan: Katherine Applegate

Clementine Series: Sara Pennypacker

Books by Sarah Aronson and Kate DiCamillo

Picture books– there are so many to love!

As soon as I publish this list, I’ll think of 10 more to add, so feel free to contact me any time for ideas.

Stay well. Find emerging beauty.



Emerging Beauty: Interview with Sarah Aronson

March 29, 2020


A couple of years ago, I took an amazing class at the Highlights Foundation with Sarah Aronson, author of a some amazing books, including Just Like Rube Goldberg. I interviewed her as part of my quarantine series for many reasons. At the top of the list: she offers terrific advice for parents and kids, is a true creative spirit, and believes in the power of play.

A bit about Sarah:

Sarah Aronson began writing for kids and teens when someone in an exercise class dared her to try. Since then, she has earned an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, and published three novels: Head Case, Beyond Lucky, and Believe. Her most recent books are part of a new young middle grade series about the worst fairy godmother ever, The Wish List. She is the cofounder and organizer of the Writing Novels for Young People Retreat at VCFA and has served as an SCBWI mentor in both Illinois and Michigan. She lives in Evanston, Illinois.


What inspires you and why?

This is the essential question, right? Inspiration is the magic start button to all my stories and it comes from all sorts of places. Of course, imagination. And memories. These things (which we now have lots and lots of time to nurture) are always an important part of my character development. But the world offers a variety of clues, too. Sometimes, I get ideas at the lake. Or from something I’ve read. Or overheard. (Don’t tell the three men who talk very loudly at my coffee shop, but I turned them into the Worsts in The Wish List!)

You talk a lot about the power of play. Can you explain what this means?

At first, “the power of play” meant “no expectations.” It also means writing what makes me happy. Or what sparks MY imagination. It means letting inspiration take my intuition where it leads. When I dared myself to play, what I was first saying is: embrace the process. Stop trying to be perfect. Stop apologizing for not being the smartest person in the room. You still have a lot to say.

Practically speaking, the power of play has widened the way I get ideas. Now I draw. I doodle. I make squares. And lists. Anything to get the pencil to the paper and open the portal to creativity. In this world of tricks and gadgets, I am a lot like Rube Goldberg. I wake up and ask: what is tickling my imagination?

When did you know you wanted to become a writer?

I was dared to write in 2000. I thought about it for maybe ten minutes. My daughter was reading Esperanza Rising. My son was reading Bunnicula. I decided that their books were more fun than mine. That day, I started writing.

What is your process as a writer?

On the best days, I wake up, do my morning pages and switch over to the computer or the notebook. Since the temptation of social media is hard for me to deal with, I use the pomodoro method. 25 min of writing. Followed by 5 min of thinking. I do that about three times. Then I take a break. The rest of my day is a combination of yoga, walking, reading and more writing. At night, I will spend a few minutes working on a “secret project.”

When I’m stuck, I will walk/doodle/make lists…ANYTHING to open the door. I’ll take anything. If nothing happens? It’s okay. I don’t get stressed. Tomorrow is another day.

Because of quarantine, I’ve had to make myself a schedule that includes writing spurts, teaching, reading and yoga. I should dedicate my next book to savasanah. I get my best ideas when I am on the mat focused on the poses. It is really easy to get distracted and sad. I miss seeing friends. Structure has been good for me.

What is your favorite book and why?

The Carrot Seed.
It’s a perfect book about determination. I could talk about it for hours. The subtext in the illustrations is amazing. When I’m stuck, I study it.

I love all kinds of books–all genres. I strive to read a little bit of everything. This year, I loved The Bridge Home, Other Words from Home, and Lovely War. I am in love with Candace Fleming and Eric Rohmann’s Honeybee. I could read Lindy West all day. Every day. I love mysteries, too. I just finished Parachutes by Kelly Yang. SO good.

What is your favorite book you wrote and why?

So, I know that many writers like to talk about “the book of their hearts,” but honestly? EVERY book comes from my heart. Writing is too hard to do to write a book I don’t care about deeply! And every book I’ve written–even the ones that never found an editor–has changed me as a writer, deepened my process. I love every one of them. Of course, writing The Wish List was amazingly special because it was my first series. It was so much fun to follow Isabelle’s story through four books. Just Like Rube Goldberg has been the greatest joy. We always say “trust the process” but when you are writing a picture book, you also have to trust a whole lot of people–especially the artist. Robert Neubecker’s work still STUNS me.

What advice do you have for parents at this time?

Let your kids read.
Let them write.
Let them play.
Let them make inventions.
Let them be a little bored.
I think this pandemic is going to change the way we do everything. I believe that play is the key to creativity. Put down those devices. See what happens. When I do that, I discover whole worlds!

What advice for kids do you have at this time?

Most of all: Have fun. Find your passion. You are perfect the way you are.
Also: Be easy on yourself. No one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes.
Also: Read what you want. If you want to reread a book 100 times, that’s good with me.
Create what you want. Find heroes. Strive to understand and engage with people not like you.
This world is YOURS. You are amazing. You give me hope. What advice do kids have for me?
In Just Like Rube Goldberg, I wrote:

In the wake of disaster, it can be hard for people to focus on their dreams. It can be even harder to feel hopeful.
But Rube didn’t give up on his dream.

And YOU shouldn’t give up on yours.
In fact, you should make your dreams a priority. Because this pandemic will end. And we need all of you to follow those dreams and make this world a better, kinder, more compassionate (and full of joy) place.

Where can people find you? (social media etc)

My website:
On HF Gather every Wed morning
On Twitter: @sarah_aronson
On IG: @sarahnaronson
On my newsletter every Monday.

If you have made a Rube Goldberg machine, share it on flip grid:

Now y’all know why Sarah’s one of my favorite teachers—her advice and perspective is the best. Thanks, Sarah!

Stay well. Find emerging beauty.