Coming up with a Book Cover

Book covers are tricky business. While I was writing that was one thing I never envisioned. Sure, I could see the character, each scene unfolding like a blockbuster movie, but an intriguing cover–nothing. I mean nothing. And for me that was kinda hard to accept being a former fashion major. Knowing what looks good visually comes naturally, I can dress people surely I can dress a book. Boy was I wrong.

I started researching book covers in my category, New Adult, and well, there were all kinds of girl-lusting-after-boy covers, or the hunky guy exposing his sculpted chest. Not quite my style. However, I read on NA Alley that book covers with people on them sell better. Even though I’m not the biggest fan of characters on the covers of books, I understand why this sells. We are so relational and want to connect with others. Seeing a real person on the cover probably draws interest just because of that fact. However, I still wasn’t sold on the idea. I’m a child of the 90s and I know just how silly people can look when fashion goes wrong. Seriously, these would have been models for book covers in the 90s.

90s fashion Will Smith 90s

And we all know what this looks like to us now. I just couldn’t.

So, I thought of all the cool campus type images I could use as cover art: buildings, mascots, book bags. Along with all the Reslife stuff like, key cards, duty logs, t-shirts galore.  But then there’s this little copyright issue I kept running into that killed the dream I had in me.  I’d have to get permission and pay for most of the images I thought would work best, which led me in a different direction. I wanted to have a picture that wouldn’t violate copyright laws but display something meaningful to the story. And I wanted to include a person too, but without showing their gender or fashion style. This is what I came up with.


How did you decide on cover art? I’d love to hear your thoughts. I have to figure out an image for the last installment of the Hall Speaks. 🙂

*image source: Will Smith picture from


The first ever novel about…

Residence Life.

Ok. I didn’t do this intentionally. I just thought it would be cool to write a story about my experiences as a live-in college professional. But working in student affairs didn’t allow for much time for this goal. I mean, who wants to write about their job after working a 12 hour day? However…

After the Virginia Tech shooting that occurred in 2007, I started thinking about the resident assistant story more, the unexplored point-of-view of teenagers confronting crises. And if that isn’t enough, they have to live with their peers and deal with these situations often while trying to get a degree.  RAs deserve to have a book just for them.

When I started actually writing this story in 2010, I couldn’t figure out how to pitch the book (#writerproblems101).  At the time the New Adult category wasn’t around and the literary world didn’t see an audience for college-aged characters. And Reslife culture is so unique like the military; unless you’ve lived in it it’s hard to understand. But I went to a writers’ conference anyway and pitched it to one agent. They loved it but wanted me to make the characters fit more into the YA genre. I thought about it but the story didn’t work for me as a YA. So I was kind of frustrated, and didn’t query. Why bother? My book didn’t fit. I couldn’t find one novel centered on Residence Life.

As I read more and more novels, I kept coming back to mine and thought: What do I have to lose if I actually publish it? Well, it could fail. But then I thought about some advice my friend Lisa gave me in grad school because I was scared of flunking out. I was more than struggling with a few of my classes. She said, “So what if you do fail and get kicked out, you can always do something else.” Those words relieved so much pressure I was putting on myself.  And for some reason, remembering what she said helps me to not be afraid. In honor of Dory from finding Nemo, I’ll just keeping writing, writing, writing!! I’m writing the first ever Residence Life novels and that in a way is success.

In the next few days I’ll post an excerpt from, The Hall Speaks #fallsemester. 🙂

Happy Holidays: These are a few of my favorite things

It’s that time of year again. And my husband can never get enough of the holiday cheeriness. He’s really an elf or was in a previous life. Before the Thanksgiving turkey was carved he was playing Christmas music. I, however, was still cranking my Foster the People station on Pandora. I enjoy the holidays; I do, even though I’m not much of a consumer or party-goer.

I’ve never left college, in a sense. So, I’ve been on a semester-like schedule for years, which leads me to one of my favorite things. When you work with college students you get the best breaks. I work with students at five different schools in the Maryland/D.C area and they’ll be out for a month. So that means, my schedule will clear up nicely and I’ll have time to go on vacation and write too. But here’s my list of favorite things about this time of year.

holiday tree

  • Glowing Christmas lights tracing homes, fences, poles, trees…I love it all.
  • Holiday feel-good movies: National Lampoon Christmas Vacation, Home Alone, The Grinch, Elf, these are a must watch for my family.
  • Snowflakes
  • Winter fashion: stylish coats, boots, hats, and scarves.
  • Christmas music
  • Seeing the excitement and wonder in my kids eyes Christmas morning.
  • All the yummy food that I get to indulge in once a year
  • Smelling the burning wood from the fireplace

Well, that’s about it.  What about you? What are your favorite things about this time of year?

The Non-Writer writes

I have this issue when it comes to writing. My brain is different. As a kid, I was removed from class and placed with an academic therapist because I couldn’t read. The letters clumped together just didn’t make sense. I’d get confused seeing my classmates breeze through reading assignments because I couldn’t. I hated reading, especially out loud. Reading is simple, but as a kid, I made it sound impossible. Eventually, my teacher stopped calling on me to read, and I didn’t mind one bit!  I loved school for the social aspect, but when it came to the work, I struggled.

My reading comprehension was poor so it took forever for me to complete anything. English—I don’t have fond memories of that class. All the red marks on my paper convinced me that I irritated my teacher. Her frustration was all over my paper.  I felt dumb because I just couldn’t get my thoughts in order. And all the grammar rules intimidated me because I couldn’t experience them. How does one experience a comma or semicolon? It was information that I couldn’t connect to anything so I’d forget.

Later,  I learned I was dyslexic and it was a huge relief. Now my childhood totally makes sense—everything, my difficulties reading, my horrible spelling, misusing words, and my inability to figure out new words. Really, the list could go on. Having a dyslexic brain is cool most of the time. I can credit my creativity and love of seeing things differently to it, on the flip side, having this challenge really sucks as a writer. I feel like it’s having Asperger’s in the literary world. People with Asperger’s syndrome have difficulties picking up on social cues. I have difficulties with communication–I can’t pick up on the no-brainers of language sometimes. On my about page I mentioned that I would nearly hyperventilate when I had to write a paper in college. Now it’s easy to image why.

They only thing that has increased my literacy are good stories. Like I said, I hated reading until about eighth grade. Then I saw Anne of Green Gables, discovered a character I really loved, and decided to read the books. After that, I was hooked on reading because I naturally like people. And I learned that I could spend time with all kinds of folks by just reading a book.

Now to writing, it was the love of characters that started me on this journey. Simply, if it weren’t for people I wouldn’t write.  As a student affairs practitioner at Virginia Tech, I worked with some incredible students. I knew there’d be only one way for me to tell their story. So three years ago, I bought a laptop and started writing it. And it’s about that time I share.:)

Even though we can feel alone with our limitations, we are never alone.

So encouraging! Here are celebrities with dyslexia that inspire me.


jim carery steven speils bella-thorne-beauty-red-lips-lead

Five Things Writers can learn from Rocky

I met this guy named Rocky when I was in college. At Virginia Beach, actually, carrying around his guitar singing to whoever would listen. A free soul being himself, something that most people have a hard time doing. I knew I’d never forget him—he was so, so different—in a good way. So last year when I learned about Blood Brother, this year’s first place for the Sundance Festival, I wasn’t surprised that Rocky was the main character. I knew he’d make an impact one day. Honestly I thought he’d be in the music industry…but film is just as cool.

Real quick: Blood Brother is a documentary. In it, Rocky leaves everything to help children infected with HIV living in an orphanage in India. The film is incredible. I mean, incredible. At first, I was scared to watch the film because I didn’t want to feel saddened by children suffering and dying of AIDS. But I know so many of the special people who put this big story together. I know the directors wife really well along with her family. My husband lived with them for a while. So I had to support them— I had to, they all worked extremely hard on this project.

Being a writer, I’m always looking at everything through that lens. What can I learn? How will this make me a better writer? Naturally, I asked myself these questions after watching the movie. At one point in the film Rocky says, “I think some people think I’m crazy.” I don’t. Rocky taught me a lot through this documentary, and I can’t cover it all, but here are five things that I learned as a writer.

1. Heart- This is so important. Writers gotta have a lot of heart! Others may say passion is key. Passion alone can be a wrecking ball, so singularly focused on a goal and self-driven, and tragically running over anyone that gets in the way. And that’s not always a good thing. Heart, on the flip side, is a mix of passion and humility. Writers need to care about the readers and other writers. But it always troubles me seeing authors bash each other on reviews. I’m not discouraging honest reviews. However, if they remember an actual human being wrote the work they’re critiquing, it would probably help them filter mean, nasty comments.

2. Love- Need I say more? Well, just a little. Every story is about love. Even your story. Don’t forget what you love about writing. Even when it gets crazy-hard and you hate your work and think no one really cares. Remember why you fell in love with writing, and hold on to it when you get a negative review, have to start over, or when your book doesn’t sell.

3. Inspiration- Find this, and if you lose it, search for it until you find it again.  Inspiration is the magic; it’s powerful enough to separate the talented from the phenomenal.

4. Take Risks- It’s okay. Go for it—take the plunge! Be different, not for the sake of being different, but do what works best for your story. Even if it’s never been done. Ask any successful writer, ask any successful person for that matter, and they all take risks. Risks are how dreams become reality.

5. Ownership- In the movie Rocky does everything in the orphanage from cleaning gutters to cleaning and caring for children’s wounds. He “owned” his role in the orphanage. And whether you’re going traditional or self-publishing, take ownership of your work. No one cares about your characters like you do. Seriously, no one’s going to mull over that perfect word you used in a scene that took you days to decide on. You’ll also need to pay attention to all aspects of the business. From marketing to editing. Do whatever needs to be done because at the end of it all, it’s your name, your work, and your story that’s building a reputation.

What are you learning about being a writer?