An Embarrassment of Pandas

I don’t usually tell people what my works in progress are. This is for several reasons. One is that I want the creative license to dramatically change my writing at the drop of a hat. That means I don’t want people to say, “But I really liked that idea! (or character, or what-have-you.)

Another reason is because I figure there are only a few select people who really care about the writing before it’s finished.

But the biggest reason is probably that when people know I’m working on a project, they ask me how it’s going. And then I stress out about it, because sometimes it’s not going so well. Or not going at all. Or I’ve completely abandoned it and started something new. Long story short, I don’t tell people about my works in progress because I’d rather give someone a pleasant surprise than look like a flake.

So… I have a pleasant surprise! I’ve just finished a book! It’s a poetry collection inspired by the absurd names we have for animals. For example, a group of crows is called a murder. A group of sharks is a shiver. Monkeys literally come in barrels. And the book is called An Embarrassment of Pandas. (Yes, that’s the real name for a group of pandas.)

And—added bonus—my good friend Holly Black agreed to do the illustrations for me (which is why that panda on the front cover looks so svelte and put-together.) The whole thing ended up with a kind of Shel Silverstein flavor, if I may flatter myself.

I’ve got a book signing here in Provo on Dec. 2 (and I’m only freaking out about it a little bit.) The event is at 11am at Pioneer Book (450 W Center Street), and there will be snacks. Obviously. The book is perfect for poetry readers of all ages, so everybody’s welcome.

And if you want to buy it online, click here!



Brown Girl Dreaming

brown girl dreaming

Brown Girl Dreaming is an autobiographical poetry collection by Jacqueline Woodson. Written at about a middle-grade level, the book follows her early childhood experiences, and how she came to love writing.

This book is simple and beautiful. It explores what it’s like to be a child, to not really understand your parents’ decisions, and what it was like to be a Black girl—in both the North and South United States—during the sixties. It also talks about friendship, family, and self-exploration.

I would recommend this book to anyone, especially young Black girls who love to write. ♦

Tips for Jerks

I’ve decided to write a new book. It’s going to be a calendar-style book of meditations. And the purpose of the book is to teach people how to stop being such jerks.

Those of you who know me are laughing, because I can be a jerk. But hey – if I can change, so can you!

I’ll be posting my ideas for becoming less of a jerk here in this part of the blog, under “Tips for Jerks.” Topic submissions are welcome. ♦

What to Write…

So, I finally got through a book signing and a book club, and now I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs, trying to figure out what to write next. And the problem isn’t finding ideas. It’s narrowing down the ideas. Let’s face it. I have a lot to say. And nobody wants to hear all of it. (Trust me…)

So here are a few of the ideas I’ve had bouncing around:

  • A poetry collection entitled “An Embarrassment of Pandas”
  • A book of funny stories entitled “I Get That Look a Lot”
  • A horror story about the colony of Roanoke
  • A series of steampunk fairy tales
  • A paranormal romance set in the fictional Confederate States, possibly involving demons
  • A self-help book
  • A vampire book, told backwards, with zombie potential
  • A lengthy essay entitled “How to Not Be a Jerk”

So far, I’m most inclined toward the lengthy essay… but that might just be because Facebook tends to induce ranting. Thoughts? ♦

I Wrote a Book!

Hey, everybody! Remember my brother, Andrew?

(If you don’t, try these articles:

Well, he’s hilarious. And in addition to being hilarious, as a small child, he was also destructive. You know that kid in the neighborhood, who seemed to get into trouble every two seconds? Yeah, Andrew was that kid.

So I wrote a book about him! One day, he may forgive me for this. (I deliberately avoided any dating stories, or other “seriously, I may kill you for this” topics.) And this post is my shameless plug; I figure if you read my blog, you might enjoy my writing at least enough to read it. So here’s the information about the upcoming book:

It’s being “prettified” right now (which means once I get over the croup, I’m fixing the typos.) It will definitely be on sale through Amazon by the new year, but I’m hoping to get it up and running by Christmas.

But, if you’d care to try your chances, you can also enter the Goodreads giveaway:

Goodreads Book Giveaway

Applesauce on the Ceiling by Rachel Unklesbay

Applesauce on the Ceiling

by Rachel Unklesbay

Giveaway ends December 31, 2015.

See the giveaway details
at Goodreads.

Enter Giveaway

More details to come, as I get this thing rolling! ◊

How to Publish an Indie Book: An Asymmetrical Guide


The Minimalists recently did a presentation at Pioneer Book, and my husband brought back a copy of their guide, How to Publish an Indie Book (by Colin Wright). At first, I was skeptical. I thanked my husband for being supportive of my writing, and thought back to some other “how to” books on publishing. Some of them were helpful. Most of them told you to drop everything and relentlessly hound publishing agencies.

These guys, however, have an interesting perspective. They tell you to avoid the publishers. And while many established authors will tell you to avoid self-publishing, it should be noted that this book is self-published, and we bought it. So I gave it a shot.

One of the first things they note is that self-publishing used to be a bad idea. It meant ordering 5,000 copies of your own book and then desperately hoping you could sell them all and make a profit. Now, however, there are a lot of companies (Amazon is my current favorite) that will publish on-demand, one at a time. You don’t have to pay up-front, which means even if you only sell three books, you don’t lose money.

This is probably the best how-to book I’ve ever read. It’s short, to the point, easy to read, and exhaustive. It walks you through the writing process, editing process, formatting process, and self-publishing process, with notes on which companies offer which services, and why you might prefer one over the other for certain types of books. It has helped me out tremendously – I’m now planning on publishing a book within the next few months.

I would highly recommend this book for any aspiring author, or even just any person who wants to improve their writing. I think the editing sections would be a great read for a high school student who wants to improve his or her English grade. (There is some occasional strong language, fyi.) And I now have a resource to go to, whether I want to publish a novel, a friend’s poetry collection, or my child’s first incoherent attempt at storytelling. If you’re a writer, go online and buy it. ♥

Happy Tuesday!

Lest I should only use this blog for venting and book reviews, I think I should point out a few things that make me happy.

  • It’s sunny today. Not just like, “Oh, look. The sun.” It’s a genuinely sunshiney kind of day. I went for a walk (to the end of the block, which is about as far as my baby belly will allow at this point), sat on a low stone wall and read a book, soakin’ up some rays. It felt great.
  • I’m nearly finished with a manuscript for a full-fledged book! That means I could actually get this thing published or something!
  • Know what I had for lunch today? Thanksgiving. In a tortilla. Stuffing, potatoes, gravy, turkey lunch-meat, and cranberry sauce, all rolled up into a tortilla. Thanksgiving taco.
  • Jurassic World is coming out on my birthday. I’m so excited for these dinosaurs.
  • This baby will be here in a month!
  • I don’t have to give birth to this baby for another month!
  • We have an apartment with ample room for this baby!
  • This picture has been my computer desktop for the past few months or so:
    hamster in a sweater
    Just look at this little guy. He’s adorable! He’s got that little sweater. I feel like the Hamster in a Sweater is probably my spirit animal.
  • Ethan will be done student teaching this week. Also, he got an extension on some of his homework, so he shouldn’t be keeling over dead anytime soon. I’m quite happy about this.
  • Nobody – I repeat, nobody – in our house is deathly ill right now. I am fine. Ethan is fine. Baby is wiggly.
  • There’s Christmas cookies everywhere!
  • Oh, right – Christmas!! ♦