Book Review: Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro

 

Review by Araceli Méndez Hintermeister

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Moss Jeffries is many things—considerate student, devoted son, loyal friend and affectionate boyfriend, enthusiastic nerd.

But sometimes Moss still wishes he could be someone else—someone without panic attacks, someone whose father was still alive, someone who hadn’t become a rallying point for a community because of one horrible night.

Six years ago, Moss Jefferies’ father was murdered by an Oakland police officer. Along with losing a parent, the media’s vilification of his father and lack of accountability has left Moss with near crippling panic attacks.

Now, in his sophomore year of high school, Moss and his fellow classmates find themselves increasingly treated like criminals by their own school. New rules. Random locker searches. Constant intimidation and Oakland Police Department stationed in their halls. Despite their youth, the students decide to organize and push back against the administration.

When tensions hit a fever pitch and tragedy strikes, Moss must face a difficult choice: give in to fear and hate or realize that anger can actually be a gift.

MY TWO CENTS: As a teenager, all you do is dream of being someone else, but for Moss, it is less about escaping his world and more about escaping himself. Since the loss of his father six years ago due to police negligence, Moss’s life is thrust into a state of disarray that is constantly afflicted by anxiety and self-doubt. Injustice is rampant in his community, and the death of his father is a marker of a world meant to dismantle communities that are different, whether it be in race, gender, sexuality, or other. Moss knows he should fight, but the pain is still real and it immobilizes him. While others want him to fight, rally, and march, Moss first wants to find peace so that freedom from his anger can finally bring about progress.

Through Moss, we learn that all the feelings he experiences are in fact his tools for survival. His mother teaches him that where he sees anger due to injustice, he can also find power, freedom, and strength that can lead to progress. Oshiro brilliantly gives us a challenging and truthful world that will foster profound discussion on a topic we shouldn’t be shying away from. I also admire that Anger is a Gift highlights how oppression targets so many due to their identities and shows us that we cannot ourselves rise while leaving others behind.

TEACHING TIPS: Police violence is a difficult topic to make sense of, let alone explain to others. With honesty, Anger is a Gift allows us to realize that the confusion and array of feelings that come with experiencing sensless violence in our communities are justified. Through Moss, we are allowed to experience how one individual utilizes those feelings to bring action rather than inmobilize him. Anger is a Gift can be used in conjunction to other books that explore police violence, but I encourage you to supplement your readings with news clips and articles that report on police violence. Encourage your students to identify the differences and potential biases in these reports.

RECOMMENDED READING: 

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Tyler Johnson Was Here by Jay Coles
  • All American Boys by  Jason Reynolds & Brendan Kiely

 

Oshiro_Mark.jpgABOUT THE AUTHORMark Oshiro is the Hugo-nominated writer of the online Mark Does Stuff universe (Mark Reads and Mark Watches), where he analyzes book and TV series. He was the nonfiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2015, and is the President of the Con or Bust Board of Directors. When not writing/recording reviews or editing, Oshiro engages in social activism online and offline. Anger is a Gift is his debut YA contemporary fiction novel.

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ABOUT THE REVIEWER: Araceli Méndez Hintermeister is a librarian and archivist with a background in public, academic, and culinary libraries. She has an M.A. in history and MLIS from Simmons College, where she focused her studies on the role of libraries and archives in the cultural preservation of the U.S.-Mexican border. Additionally, she holds a BA in ethnic studies from Brown University. Her research is greatly influenced by her hometown of Laredo, TX, which has led her to work in serving immigrants and underrepresented communities. Her current work is bringing new and diverse literature to the T in Boston through Books on the T. You can find Araceli on Instagram.

 

Book Review: The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

 

Review by Mark Oshiro

DESCRIPTION OF THE BOOK: Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about.

With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

MY TWO CENTS: I had a difficult childhood. I was queer and Latinx and stuck in a home with parents who did not understand either identity and certainly not the intersection of them. (I was adopted.) It meant that I felt that I existed in constant friction with them. That friction manifested in a deep, existential desire in me: I wanted acceptance. I wanted to live.

I found that same desire within the pages of The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo’s masterful and gut-wrenching debut. Told in verse, I devoured this book in one sitting, only taking a break to wipe at the tears that welled in my eyes. Acevedo has crafted a living, breathing world in Xiomara, and you can tell that from the very first page. Her unique voice, coupled with an engaging story about acceptance, rebellion, and identity in this Dominican-American teen, makes The Poet X a powerful read.

There’s nothing here I could nitpick, even if I tried. The pacing is brilliant, and my heart was racing as I approached the climax. Acevedo’s prose, which is informed by her years of work in slam poetry, is vivid, lyrical, captivating. There were countless sentences or lines that knocked me flat on my ass, and you’re certain to find one of your own. But it’s the characterization that gripped me the most. I related so intensely to Xiomara’s desire to live beyond the prescriptions of her mother’s religion that at times, I felt that Acevedo had reached deep down into a well within me, extracting the pain, terror, and—ultimately—vindication I experienced when I clashed with my own parents about my sexuality, my body, and my need to be my own person. The supporting cast is well-rounded and memorable (particularly Xiomara’s twin brother, Xavier, since I am also a twin), and they each affect the story in meaningful ways.

This is an astounding accomplishment, and I’m so thrilled that Dominican-Americans (and those who identify as Afro-Latinx) have a book that so brilliantly represents them. For fans of Jason Reynolds, Sandra Cisneros (particularly The House on Mango Street), and Liara Tamani’s Calling My Name.

TEACHING TIPS: Another reason I admired The Poet X is because Acevedo so seamlessly addresses weighty topics with ease and care, and the book never feels like it’s teaching you a lesson. The novel addresses issues such as sizeism, street harassment, homophobia, misogyny, sexual shame, and abuse, particularly when that abuse is paired with religion. Because the book is composed in verse that work like vignettes, it will be easy to assign essays or discussions based on specific poems. Acevedo’s language is modern and youthful, so I expect teens will connect with it quicker than most other works.

WHERE TO GET IT: The Poet X released on Tuesday. To find it, check your local public library, your local bookstore, or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

                        Photo: Bethany Thomas

Photo: Bethany Thomas

ABOUT THE AUTHOR (from her website): Elizabeth Acevedo was born and raised in New York City and her poetry is infused with Dominican bolero and her beloved city’s tough grit.

She holds a BA in Performing Arts from The George Washington University and an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Maryland. With over twelve years of performance experience, Acevedo has been a featured performer on BET and Mun2, as well as delivered several TED Talks. She has graced stages nationally and internationally including renowned venues such as The Lincoln Center, Madison Square Garden, the Kennedy Center of the Performing Arts, and South Africa’s State Theatre, The Bozar in Brussels, and the National Library of Kosovo; she is also well known for  poetry videos, which have gone viral and been picked up by PBS, Latina Magazine, Cosmopolitan, and Upworthy.

Acevedo is a National Slam Champion, Beltway Grand Slam Champion, and the 2016 Women of the World Poetry Slam representative for Washington, D.C, where she lives and works.

Her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Puerto Del Sol, Callaloo, Poet Lore, The Notre Dame Review, and others. Acevedo is a Cave Canem Fellow, Cantomundo Fellow, and participant of the Callaloo Writer’s Workshop. She is the author of the chapbook, Beastgirl & Other Origin Myths (YesYes Books, 2016)  and the forthcoming novel, The Poet X (HarperCollins, 2018).

 

 

Oshiro_Mark.jpgABOUT THE REVIEWER: Mark Oshiro is the Hugo-nominated writer of the online Mark Does Stuff universe (Mark Reads and Mark Watches), where he analyzes book and television series unspoiled. He was the nonfiction editor of Queers Destroy Science Fiction! and the co-editor of Speculative Fiction 2015. He is the President of the Con or Bust Board of Directors and is usually busy trying to fulfill his lifelong goal to pet every dog in the world. His YA Contemporary debut, Anger is a Gift, is out May 22, 2018 with Tor Teen.

 

Author Samantha Mabry on her Debut Novel, a Student’s Shrug, and Straddling Two Cultures

 

By Samantha Mabry

I teach English at a community college in downtown Dallas. Currently, some of my students are reading a book entitled Midnight in Mexico: A Reporter’s Journey Through a Country’s Descent Into Darkness by Alfredo Corchado. In his book, Corchado, who was born in the Mexican state of Durango and raised in California and El Paso, Texas, writes mostly about his own reporting on the drug trade and corruption in Mexico, but there’s also an interesting, underlying theme he explores regarding identity: what it means to straddle two worlds, to have a foot on each side of the border, but to never feel fully rooted, truly at home in either place. As he puts it, he can sometimes feel too American when he’s in Mexico and too Mexican when he’s in America.

Among my students, discussions have taken place regarding what it means to be a part of two cultures. When I ask if they’re able to relate to Corchado, many nod their heads, and one girl said, “Absolutely.” She then elaborated: “At home, I’m Mexican. At school, I’m American.” Then she shrugged. Like, obviously. She made it seem like it was pretty easy to understand what the different expectations are in different spheres of her life and that it took little effort and not a whole lot of thought to navigate those spheres.

I keep thinking about this student –in particular, that shrug. Like, what’s in that shrug? What does that shrug mean? I want there to be something deep in that shrug because I am critical by nature and like for things like shrugs to mean something, to be symbolic, to say something about what it means to be a Mexican-American young woman living in Texas right this minute. I keep thinking about all the comments I could have followed up with: Okay, so you’re Mexican in one place and American in another. Is there an identity that feels more true to you? Are you more Mexican than American? Would you say you are Mexican-American? Would you call yourself Chicana? Latina? Hispanic? Do these words, these markers of identity, matter to you, or am I just really wanting them to matter??

My mother is Mexican-American, though I think she would say she’s just American. Or Hispanic. My dad’s mother was from Puerto Rico, and his dad was white. I’m light olive-skinned with brown hair and brown eyes, but my last name, Mabry, is European. I first heard Spanish at my grandmother’s house but learned it properly in a classroom. I call myself mestiza because that’s what really rings true for me. I think that identity matters, and I think that –particularly for those from mixed backgrounds or with migrations or diaspora in their histories –identity can be fluid. I think that many Latinx people, like Alfredo Corchado, are standing with one foot here and one foot there. Some of them may be standing with an imbalance: one foot rooted in one place more heavily than the other. Some may feel as if they have many limbs, all which are reaching across geography and back into time. Some may feel, however, like they’re not straddling at all. It is not my place, of course, to tell another Latinx person how to be or how to feel.

In my book, A Fierce and Subtle Poison, both of the main characters are of mixed backgrounds, racially and culturally. They are a mix of white and non-white. Lucas, the narrator looks white, has a white kid’s name, but there’s something else there, tugging in his blood. Isabel is the product of an English father and native Puerto Rican mother, and sides with her mother when it comes to her identity. I specifically tried to make their histories and their identities complex. They are influenced –haunted and inspired, inspired or haunted –by their past. They are trying to fix centuries-old errors and clear new paths.

So…after all that, we’re back to the shrug. Is it simple, or is it complex? Is it a small gesture that signifies nothing, or something brimming with meaning? Maybe it’s simple: with these people, I am this one thing; with those people, I am this other thing. It’s easy to figure out. Simple, simple. Or maybe it’s complex: a gesture so full that words pale. It’s obvious that I want it to be the latter, but who cares what I want? I wrote a book about complex identities, one that I hoped explored nuance, but of course that’s not the only way to write about identity.  Someone –maybe me, maybe not –needs to write the story about the Mexican-American girl who is Mexican at home and American everywhere else. And maybe she is wildly complicated but not because of that, but because of all the other things that go on in a young woman’s life.

FOR MORE INFORMATION about A Fierce and Subtle Poison, which releases April 12, 2016 with Algonquin Young Readers, check your local public library, your local bookstore or IndieBound. Also, check out GoodreadsAmazon, and Barnes & Noble.

 

Samanth Mabry author photo

Samantha Mabry grew up in Texas playing bass guitar along to vinyl records, writing fan letters to rock stars, and reading big, big books, and credits her tendency toward magical thinking to her Grandmother Garcia, who would wash money in the kitchen sink to rinse off any bad spirits. She teaches writing and Latino literature at a community college in Dallas, Texas, where she lives with her husband, a historian, and her pets, including a cat named Mouse. A Fierce and Subtle Poison is her first novel.

Debut Celebration for The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey!

By Zoraida Córdova

I am super excited to have Melissa Grey with us at Latin@s in Kid Lit! I love fantasy, and I especially love when Latinas write fantasy. The Girl at Midnight has already received wonderful praise and starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist! To celebrate tomorrow’s launch of The Girl at Midnight, we are going to get to know the magic behind Melissa.

 

“Grey’s energetic debut offers a strong protagonist…[and the] well-built world, vivid characters, and perfect blend of action and amour should have readers eagerly seeking the sequel.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred

 

Zoraida: Tell me about The Girl at Midnight and your inspiration for it.

Melissa: In The Girl at Midnight, there’s a magical race of creatures that live beneath the streets of New York called the Avicen. They have feathers for hair and their existence is very much a secret, but they take in a human girl who goes by the name of Echo. Echo has run away from a bad home life and finds a new family in the Avicen, so when they’re threatened by a centuries-old war, she takes it upon herself to find the firebird, a mythical entity prophesied to end the conflict once and for a all.

The book really started with Echo and the firebird. I’m a huge fan of the ballet and the legend behind it, so my research into the folklore involving the firebird gave me a lot to think about when I was developing the plot. Echo was the first character to exist and she kind of predated the story. I came up with her first and eventually found a world for her to inhabit.

What is the best writing advice you’ve ever gotten?

It’s not specifically writing advice, but it can be applied to writing. When I was at art school, one of my professors told me not to be precious with my work. It was the first time I’d ever heard the saying “Kill your darlings” and it really stuck with me. I can be a perfectionist, so not treating my work as something delicate and inviolable was an eye-opening change of strategy. To me, it means not being afraid of scrapping drafts or whole chapters or even characters that aren’t working to the benefit of the work as a whole.

What was the hardest scene in your novel (if it’s not too spoilery)?

The last chapter was a struggle. I’m not a huge fan of cliffhangers, but as a writer, you do want to leave people wanting more, especially if you’re writing a series like I am, so I tried very hard to strike a balance between giving readers closure and enticing them to come back for the sequel.

How does your culture play a part in your fantasy (if at all)?

Well, I’m Puerto Rican and food is a huge part of that culture. I don’t include Spanish food specifically in the book, but Echo’s life pretty much revolves around food. It’s the foundation of a lot of her relationships, which is definitely something I can relate to.

Where would be your dream writing location?

A secluded little cabin in the Scottish Highlands.

Are there any lessons you learned while writing TGaM, and how is that helping you with book 2?

I learned that I have to trust my gut while not giving into my inner perfectionist. I also learned that I didn’t need to take every single criticism I received on the manuscript as gospel because sometimes my writing partners (and even my agent and editor) didn’t agree, so I had to trust my instincts.  

What books are you reading right now?

Right now, I’m reading The Archived by Victoria Schwab (it’s amazing), The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma (also amazing), and Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (amazing as well).

What do you wish to see more in YA?

That’s tough because I can only comment on what I’ve read and I don’t want to make it sound like I think YA as a whole (which is a super broad categorization) is lacking, but I will say that I love seeing books like Laura Ruby’s Bone Gap and Renee Ahdieh’s The Wrath and the Dawn that deal with the gray areas of morality and are peopled by characters that aren’t necessarily likable but are still deeply compelling.

Who would attend your magical fantasy tea party?

Echo, naturally. And some of her friends from TGaM. If it’s a magical fantasy, I assume I can invite anyone, real or fictional, so I’ll say Hermione Granger (Harry and Ron can come, too), Door from Neverwhere, Kell and Lila from A Darker Shade of Magic (Rhys can come, too), Tana and Gavriel from The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, and Finn, Petey, Roza, and Sean from Bone Gap. Oh, and all of the Raven Boys.

What is your favorite line from your book? (Or a couple of favorite lines. I know it’s hard to choose.)

At one point, Echo is backed into a corner and she basically has to bullshit her way out of it so she says to herself, “When in doubt, bravado.” I feel like that idea has carried me through life pretty well.

 

The Girl at Midnight debuts tomorrowApril 28th, 2015!

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Find Melissa on Goodreads.

 

Praise for THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT:

“Grey’s energetic debut offers a strong protagonist…[and the] well-built world, vivid characters, and perfect blend of action and amour should have readers eagerly seeking the sequel.” — Kirkus Reviews, Starred

“Sparks fly…This first novel will please fans of Cassandra Clare and Game of Thrones watchers with its remarkable world building; richly developed characters…[and] a breathtaking climax that…cannot come soon enough!”—Booklist starred review

“Inventive, gorgeous, and epic—Grey dazzles in her debut.” — Danielle Paige, New York Times bestselling author of Dorothy Must Die

“A stunning debut. Equal parts atmosphere and adventure … positively divine.” – Victoria Schwab, author of A Darker Shade of Magic

 

About THE GIRL AT MIDNIGHT:

For readers of Cassandra Clare’s City of Bones and Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and BoneThe Girl at Midnight is the story of a modern girl caught in an ancient war.

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known.

Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants … and how to take it.

But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Melissa Grey was born and raised in New York City. She wrote her first short story at the age of twelve and hasn’t stopped writing since. After earning a degree in fine arts at Yale University, she traveled the world, then returned to New York City where she currently works as a freelance journalist. To learn more about Melissa, visit melissa-grey.com and follow @meligrey on Twitter.

Depression in YA and the Latin@ Community

By Cindy L. Rodriguez

You're Lying graphicWhen I was 23 years old, I left Connecticut for Boston for what should have been an amazing experience. I had been recently hired to be a researcher for the Boston Globe’s award-winning investigative team, a dream come true for a young journalist. Over the next two years, however, depression slowly ruined me, although many people close to me never knew. I wrote about it for the Courant years later, when my mind was clear enough to make sense of it. Here’s an excerpt from that article:

“It was a rainy February night in 1997 when it became apparent that the depression was no longer a temporary emotion, but a disease that had invaded every part of my life. I had gotten into my car after work and cried all the way home. I can’t remember why. But I remember feeling like I was choking, like every nerve in my body was numb, like someone was squeezing my heart and everything good inside of me had been twisted around. I remember feeling hopeless.

“I knew then that this thing eating away at me would not just go away. For a long time, I was convinced it would. I believed that the admirable traits I inherited from those before me, like frankness and humor, would overpower this flaw.

“But days and months had blurred into more than a year. Fatigue had seeped into my bones and smiling became an effort — a false statement. I was tired all day and couldn’t sleep at night. I called into work sick with a flu I didn’t have. I pried myself off the sheets to make it in other days. My memory was deteriorating. I could listen to someone talk at length and not absorb a single word. I have no detailed recollection of certain events.

“Still, I thought the depression was situational. I was having a rough time at work, feeling beat-up emotionally and unappreciated. With my career being such a significant part of my identity, I felt shaken and unsure of my talents and abilities. Still, something inside of me was fighting back. I thought I could pull myself out of it.

“That February night, it was my mom who convinced me that this was bigger. That it was something that didn’t just belong to me — that I had inherited it. That it belonged to her and my grandmother before her. This was out of my control. ‘You are definitely depressed,’ she said. ‘Promise me you will see someone.’

“Six days later, I sat in a psychiatrist’s office, unsure of what to do exactly. Isn’t this a luxury for wealthy people? Or a necessity for people with real problems, like battered women? It was hard to justify needing this, being an otherwise perfectly healthy and successful 25-year-old. Yet, when I opened my mouth, a load of hurt poured out and the hour flew by.”

WhenReasonBreaks_CompTen years later, I was planning and drafting what would become When Reason Breaks, my debut novel about depression, attempted suicide, and the life and work of Emily Dickinson that releases February 10. While writing, I knew some readers would wonder why either of the two main characters–Emily Delgado and Elizabeth Davis–would want to kill herself. Nothing tragic happened to either of them. To some readers, none of their problems will be seen as good enough reasons to attempt suicide. They’ll want a big reveal moment: “Oh, she was (fill in the blank with a horrible experience). No wonder she’s depressed and suicidal. That’s a legitimate reason.”

When I was depressed, I didn’t think I had a right to be because, like my characters, nothing tragic had happened to me. I wanted to have a significant event, something I could point to and say, “Ah-ha, that’s the reason. If I address this one, obvious, horrible thing that happened to me, then I’ll be okay.” But I didn’t have that thing. Many depressed people don’t. And with the absence of something obviously wrong in my life, I pushed through the days for far too long, thinking what some people might think about my characters: my problems weren’t significant enough.

This kind of thinking can lead to tragedy because the depression goes untreated, which I’ve discovered happens often in the Latin@ community.

National health organizations report that Latin@s are at higher risk for depression than other minorities. Women experience major depression more often than men, and of students in grades 9-12, significantly more Latinas attempted suicide than their non-Latina peers. Yet, most Latin@s with mental health problems go untreated. A lack of access to affordable services and the stigma attached to mental illnesses are cited as barriers to treatment. Untreated depression can lead to suicide, which is the third leading cause of death for all people aged 15-24.

These statistics got me thinking about depression in young adult fiction, and I realized that in the books I’ve read, white characters are more likely to land on a psychiatrist’s couch. Most of the Latin@ characters in novels I’ve read fight through mild to severe depression without medical help, or they are somehow detained, in a treatment facility or group home, and the therapy is required. In When Reason Breaks, one of the main characters visits a doctor and gets medication, but doesn’t take it. She finally accepts real help after her suicide attempt.

As the Latin@ population continues to grow, I hope barriers are removed so that more Latin@s seek treatment for mental illnesses. I also hope more YA writers tackle the variety of mental illnesses and show characters of color getting help at some point instead of suffering through their pain. Maybe more teens will see themselves in these books and understand that their problems are significant enough, that they don’t need a “real reason” to feel the way they do, because in reality, depression is the real reason.

 

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-442-4673

Suggested by book lovers online, here are some titles with Latin@ characters who struggle with different levels of depression.

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Guest Post: Five Things I’ve Learned After Marketing My Young Adult Debut

By Heather Marie

2014-03-07_1394157700After you sign a publishing agreement, whether it’s your first book or tenth, you immediately start to consider your marketing strategy. What people don’t tell you upfront is that you are about to embark on a crazy adventure of ups and downs, sometimes more downs than ups, and you’ll find yourself overwhelmed, exhausted, and maybe even depressed.

Don’t get me wrong, getting published is a flippin’ amazing experience! But the work doesn’t stop there. You wrote the book. You got it published. Now you have to sell it. And, yes, I mean you.

Your publisher and/or marketing team/publicist will be there to help you, but you have to be ready to put in some leg work. There are some things that work better for others, and some things you do that’ll completely flop, or some things that’ll blow everything else out of the water. The most important thing to remember is that you actually don’t have to do everything at once, if at all. You only have to do what works for you, period.

I learned this the hard way. After driving myself into the ground with marketing, I finally had time to reflect on what I won’t be doing next time around to spare my sanity.

1. Purchasing swag without draining your bank account in the process.

The minute you get the okay to tell the world about your book deal, you instantly want every promotional piece of swag you can get. First of all, swag is an excellent way to get your book out there. People love it and they’ll gladly take it off your hands, but let’s remember what happens to that swag once people get it. *eyes bookmarks scattered throughout my apartment* I can honestly say that my bookmarks have in no way helped with promotion. They’re just pretty to look at and that’s perfectly okay. However, I think next time I’ll save them for events or send them in bulk to libraries.

The pins and posters were fun as well, and I think the pins were a bigger hit than anything else. But I broke my back trying to get all of this stuff even after everyone told me not to. My advice would be to stick with what you can afford, but don’t feel obligated to go big. Of course, do what works for you, but also consider saving your funds to attend conventions where you can meet new readers in real life. If I’d known ahead of time the amount of money I’d end up spending, I would have held back and saved up for all the events I’ve missed out on.

2. When promoting on social media, timing is everything.

As exciting as it is to share that new piece of big news, try holding off on posting until you know people will see it. The best way to do this is to test a few things on your media accounts and see when you get the most hits. I’ve seen several people post brand new happenings in the super late hours when absolutely no one is around to see it, or in the way earlier hours when no one is even awake. What I’ve found is that my Facebook page gets the most hits on Monday’s in the late morning. I know that sounds crazy, but it’s true. Twitter on the other hand gets the most hits in the early afternoon on Fridays.

Obviously, I don’t only post big news on these days, but you can see what I mean about timing. I’ve gotten myself familiar with the certain times throughout the week that really make a difference. It’s easy for your posts to get lost in the craziness of social media, and if you want people to share or celebrate along with you, you have to familiarize yourself. Trust me. You’ll notice a huge difference in your posts when you do this. It’s hard for me to hold back, but if I find something out on a Saturday, I’ll wait until Monday to share it. Learning how to market yourself is so important. And when you do it is even more so.

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3. Breaking up your marketing so you’re not hitting your readers over the head.

Now that we’ve gone over the timing, let’s go over how much marketing you do at once. For instance, I had one week during release where I had a few major interviews/posts going up at once. I was honestly so sick of talking about myself at that point that I knew everyone else was sick of me, too.

Sometimes you don’t have control over what gets posted or when. At one point I had this amazing interview all scheduled with another major thing, and the interview was moved to another date which left my marketing team and I stuck. We had to run with it anyway, but ultimately the major thing wasn’t as successful as it could have been. Also, I had things get switched around so much that I was stuck promoting a billion things at once that flooded each other out.

The thing I learned here is that it’s okay to space things out. If that means waiting a few days or a few weeks, by all means do it. Sometimes it’s better to let people forget you have a new shiny book coming out and just be your normal human self for a while. That way, when that big thing gets promoted, people will actually stop and listen, as opposed to being like ‘meh.’

4. Telling people to buy your book is not going to make them buy your book.

It’s one thing to promote your book with fun posts and interviews or even a giveaway, but spamming them into buying your book isn’t going to work.

That is one thing I have never done, nor will I ever. Though that doesn’t necessarily mean I haven’t seen it done. An easy way to lose followers aka new readers is by spamming them with constant tweets and posts about buying your book. You know what I mean. The tweets that are very clearly generated through a website that posts your Amazon link every thirty minutes. What I am guilty of (going back to the fact #3) is promoting too many things at once, which can repel people from ever wanting to check your book out.–not because they don’t want to necessarily, but because it doesn’t seem new anymore.

People want to buy something they’re excited about. If something has been shoved into their face (newsfeed) enough, they’ll lose interest quick. Be yourself. Be real. That’ll sell your book more than any promotional link.

5. After all of this is said and done, please take time out for yourself.

You’ve published a book. Be proud of yourself right now. Allow it to sink in and really enjoy it. I’m serious. Being a published author is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment. I’ve never been happier, but damn, do I wish I would have allowed myself time to appreciate the small things.

I worked myself so hard those last few months prior to release, that afterwards I hit rock bottom. I was exhausted emotionally, mentally, physically, and whatever else. Being a writer means your job is never done and that is absolutely true. There will always be something you have to do, whether that’s your next manuscript, an interview, an event, etc. I’m excited for these things. I love it! But I always, always forget to take care of myself first.

I ignored all the signs that told me to slow down. When my personal life was getting too complicated, I dived even further into my writing. I pushed myself so hard that I didn’t realize how burnt out I was until I emotionally fell apart.

Your book and readers will always be important, but remember that your health is priority. Take a day off. Go out with your friends. Read a book or two over the weekend. Do anything!

Just don’t forget to take care of you.

Heather-AuthorPhotos-3-WEBSIZEHeather Marie lives in Northern California with her husband and spends the majority of her time at home reading. Before she followed her dreams of becoming a writer, Heather worked as a hairstylist and makeup artist for several years. Although she enjoyed the artistic aspect of it all, nothing quite quenched her creative side like the telling of a good story. When the day had come for her to make a choice, she left behind her promising career to start another and never looked back.

Heather was included in a Cosmopolitan Magazine article as a “Latina YA Author You Need on Your Radar.” Her debut novel, The Gateway Through Which They Came released in August from Curiosity Quills Press.