BOOKISH PEOPLE!

Hey, hey, two blog posts in less than a week, whaaaaat?! Must be the holiday spirit ;)

It’s been a minute since I’ve posted a Bookish People interview, so I’m really excited to let y’all in on this one. If you follow me on Instagram or FB, you saw the cover reveal of my friend Rachel Linden’s third novel, releasing next year, THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF BEES, and today you’ll get a chance to get to know her a little better! I’m excited to officially meet her in person in January when we’ll both be at the ALA (American Library Association) Midwinter conference.

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Here’s her interview…

1. Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.

I write women’s fiction novels about hope, courage and connection. All my stories feature strong female protagonists facing big life challenges, exotic international or Pacific Northwest settings, and social justice themes woven throughout.

Ascension of Larks is about a documentary photographer who loses the only man she’s ever loved and must embrace an unexpected life on remote San Juan Island. Becoming the Talbot Sisters details estranged twin sisters learning to be every day brave on an unexpected journey across Central Europe as they face issues like infertility, surrogacy and sex trafficking. The Enlightenment of Bees, (available July 2019) is the story of an idealistic Seattle baker. When her carefully planned life crumbles, she embarks on an international humanitarian trip to find her place in the world. It explores the sweet spot in life where our passions meet the world’s great need.

2. What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback?

I studied writing and literature for a semester at Oxford and my tutor Nigel, a brilliant, eccentric poet who wore felt slippers with curled up toes, gave me the best criticism. He told me a piece I wrote was technically adequate, but that he could tell I hadn’t put my heart and soul into it. “Storm yourself!” he urged me. “Stir up those deep passions in your soul and put more of your inner self on the page.” That was the best criticism/advice I’ve ever received! Now I try hard to really engage my own heart and soul in the stories I write. Thanks, Nigel!

3. Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?

I totally forgot my grown up nude high heels for my first ever TV interview! I was just wearing some normal brown leather walking flats. I tucked my feet under the couch and hoped the camera couldn’t see them!

4. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?

I have a toddler and preschooler, so my process is a bit harried and erratic. I brainstorm while doing normal life stuff –laundry and making mac-n-cheese - then buckle down and write like a fiend when I have a quiet hour or two. I’d describe my current process as a mixture of panic, sheer determination, and brisk efficiency!

5. Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?

I’m always fascinated by relational connection versus isolation and how we build a sense of place in the world and a sense of home. I’ve got a new story percolating about the strong bond between a grieving mother and her deceased child and about grace and forgiveness.

6. What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)

Oh you name it. Growing up I always had a book or two or four in my bag. Always. Weddings. Church potlucks. A blind date. I learned to wash dishes while reading a book! I am a true book nerd.

7. Tell us a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.

The Great Alone by fellow Pacific Northwest author Kristin Hannah. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Wall.

8. Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.

 One of my favorite books this year was The Bright Hour: A Memoir of Living and Dying by Nina Riggs. I expected a memoir about a young mother dying of stage 4 breast cancer to be terribly depressing, but Riggs’ philosophical bent, dark humor, and tender observations about life made it a remarkable book about how to live fully. I adored it! Also I finished it sobbing at 1 in the morning on my birthday. So readers, be warned!

9. What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?

I love details, those specifics that give a story a sense of place. Since I’ve lived abroad and traveled so much, I struggle if an author doesn’t give a well-rounded and authentic sense of place, especially if it seems like they haven’t been somewhere they’re writing about. I find it hard to really engage with the story. And it’s difficult as an author not to read other books with an editorial eye. If I find I’m editing sentences in a book I usually lay it aside and find a story that fully engages me as a reader and suspends that editorial side of me! I also want the books I read to affirming the value of this life in some way. I want to come away from each book enlightened, encouraged or at least entertained. If not, I feel cheated!

10. Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?

I love the tactile nature of real paper pages but since I lived in Europe for years, my faithful old first generation Kindle became my best book buddy! I could download books from the Seattle Public Library and it was my literary lifeline. I love the convenience of Kindle for travel too. As for a calendar…I use a hopelessly messy paper calendar shared by the entire family. Not the most effective method probably!

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?

I’m firmly in the chocolate camp! Preferably dark and European. Vanilla tastes like eating cold air to me, like eating nothing!

12. Coffee or tea? Or something else?

Bubbly water. I lived in Budapest for 5 years and Hungarians LOVE their sparkling water. Now I crave it.

13. Tell us what you’re working on now.

I’m finishing up edits for The Enlightenment of Bees and starting to plot book #4. I’m really excited about this one. It’s set on an island in the Pacific Northwest, but there’s a unique twist to the story!

To connect with Rachel, find her on her website, on Facebook, or on Instagram.

 

Bookish People: Colleen Oakley **Plus a Giveaway!!**

Contest closed--winner is Robin Ruiz!

This month's Bookish People interview features Colleen Oakley, author of Before I Go and Close Enough to Touch.

 

I was lucky to meet her a few months ago at The Book Exchange in Marietta, GA. She has a kindergartener and a second grader, like I do, so I'd imagine we're on the same page as far as trying to fit writing/editing/promotion in around the edges of parenting and life!

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**GIVEAWAY ALERT: To celebrate this week's paperback release of her most recent book, Close Enough to Touch, Colleen has generously offered one lucky reader a copy of the book! See details about the giveaway after her interview!**

Welcome Colleen!

1. Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.

My debut, Before I Go, is about a young woman dying of breast cancer, who decides, in the time she has left, to find a new wife for her husband to take care of him after she’s gone.

My latest, Close Enough to Touch is about a woman with a rare and potentially deadly medical condition—she’s allergic to other people.

2. What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback?

Tough question! Hardest criticism is pretty much any review that pans your book in a mean way. A blogger once wrote a one-word review: “Don’t”. I understand that not every book is for everybody, but after working so hard on something, it still stings!

3. Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?

I love enthusiastic fans! The best moments are always the people who are excited to meet you and love your work—it’s such a great feeling to see that something you’ve written has had such an impact on someone.

4. Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?

Definitely something in between. On deadline I write every day, but there’s nothing organized about me or my writing. I’m an OCD person’s worst nightmare.

5. Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?

There are so many! I have a list of book ideas that I can’t wait to tackle. As far as setting, I’d love to do a book set in Italy, just so I have the excuse to go there.

6. What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)

The carpool lane picking my kids up from school. I know I’m meant to be paying attention to make sure I don’t accidentally take out any children, but it’s a long line and a book helps pass the time.

7. Tell us a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett, Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, The Weight of Lies by Emily Carpenter, Windy City Blues by Renee Rosen, The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

8. Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I LOVE Taylor Jenkins Reid, but this book was a step out of her typical genre and I wasn’t sure I was going to like it when I started reading, but then I literally couldn’t put it down. It’s such a great page-turner with a fascinating— and multi-faceted— main character.

9. What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?

I don’t like clichés, predictable endings or boring dialogue—three things I work really hard as a writer to try and avoid (even though I don’t always succeed!)

10. Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?

Books— always print. Calendar— electronic

11. Chocolate or vanilla?

Both!

12. Coffee or tea? Or something else?

Coffee! And vodka.

13. Tell us what you’re working on now.

I’m halfway done with a book about dream telepathy— and whether true love is fated or a choice.

**To enter the giveaway for Colleen's book Close Enough to Touch, leave a comment here and tell us what you're reading now! Contest ends at 7pm CST Tuesday 8/15.

Thanks for reading and thanks Colleen for the interview and for the giveaway!

 

 

Bookish People: Joy Callaway

I'm so excited to be back with my next installment of the Bookish People interviews! This month, it's Joy Callaway, author of The Fifth Avenue Artists Society (available here!). The story follows a family of sisters during the Gilded Age of New York City. It's a love story combined with tragedy and heartbreak, and the period details (clothes, street scenes, etc) are enthralling. (Bonus--on Instagram, she often posts photos of period dress and homes from that period of time.)



1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.

The Fifth Avenue Artists Society
This is a story of secrets and family and history, but principally it’s about love, based on my great-great grandmother and her artistic siblings on the outskirts of Gilded Age New York high society. Pitched by its publisher as Edith Wharton-meets-Little Women, my main character, Ginny Loftin, is an aspiring novelist caught between the boy next door and a mysterious author who inducts her into Manhattan’s most elite artistic salon. Glitter and glamour aside, the story is really about what it means to be both a woman and an artist, and sounds the emotional depths Ginny is willing explore to protect her art, her family, and her chance at love.

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Secret Sisters (Harper, 7.11.17)
This story is based on the founding of the country’s first sororities! 

Illinois, 1881: Whitsitt College sophomore Beth Carrington has two goals to fulfill by the time she graduates: obtain a medical degree, and establish a women’s fraternity, Beta Xi Beta, that will help young women like herself to connect with and support one another while attending the male-dominated Whitsitt.

Neither is an easy task. The sole female student in the physicians’ program, Beth is constantly called out by her professors and peers for having the audacity not to concentrate on a more “fitting” subject like secretarial studies. Meanwhile, secret organizations are off-limits, and simply by crowding together in a dank basement room and creating a sense of camaraderie, she and her small group of fraternity sisters risk expulsion.

In order to have the fraternity recognized, she knows she needs help. She turns to the most powerful student on campus: senior Grant Richardson, Iota Gamma fraternity president and the scion of a Whitsitt family—a man she’s only acquainted with because of her longstanding friendship with his fraternity brother Will Buchannan. Staunchly traditional, Grant doesn’t see the purpose of this women’s organization, but captivated by Beth, he agrees to give her a helping hand. What she doesn’t know is how many will stop at nothing to keep her burgeoning organization out of the record books—and who she can actually trust along the way.

As Beth fights for her beloved Beta Xi Beta to be recognized, she will uncover deep secrets about the college and those who surround her, and will have to put both love and friendship on the line so that history can be made.

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2.     What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback.

I’ll lead off here by saying that I actually love criticism so long as it’s productive. I have a great group of critique partners who have read my work since my attempts at books that will never ever become real books and their advice is invaluable. I remember sending Fifth Avenue to my friend Renee and she immediately told me that this was “the one”. I trust them immensely and they never hold back if things need to be reworked or changed. I also have a ridiculously smart agent, Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, whose eye is always spot-on, and an editor, Emily Griffin, whose comments always challenge me.

Worst criticism=Goodreads. If you’re an author, resist the urge to look!

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?

My Costco signings were always so fun and often hilarious. I think it’s just a consequence of the variety of shoppers, but I had people stopping by my signing table telling me that they can vouch for the fact that UFOs and mermaids exist, that I should write about their grandma’s great-uncle’s cousin who was in the CIA, etc.

4.     Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?

It used to be orderly…sort of. I would put my two kids down for an afternoon nap, rush downstairs and write for an hour in the midst of Minnie Mouse stuffed animals, race cars, and puzzles, but now my three-year-old has quit napping, so I’m still trying to figure out a new routine. Right now it’s pretty erratic.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?

I’m interested in everything. Honestly. It’s sort of a downfall. I spend hours looking up historical tidbits that I never actually write about. But, generally speaking, I’m always most interested in American history from the Revolution through World War II. And, I don’t really get very excited about writing well-known historical events. I like taking little-known but remarkable occurrences and giving them a stage. 

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)

I’ve brought books about everywhere you can imagine, but maybe my most frequent inappropriate place is the bathroom when I’m trying to sneak in one more chapter and hiding from my kids. 

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.

Last Ride to Graceland by Kim Wright—Even if you’re not an Elvis fan, this book is amazing. Kim always writes such compelling stories and Last Ride to Graceland is Southern voice at its finest. I also just had a dream that I was Honey (one of the characters in this book) and I rarely dream. It’s that good.

Fates and Traitors by Jennifer Chiaverini—I love the depth of Jennifer’s research and this book is just phenomenal. It follows the women involved in John Wilkes Booth’s life and it’s harrowing and gripping and fascinating.

Goodnight From London by Jennifer Robson—This book isn’t out until May, but everyone should pre-order it immediately. Jennifer’s books are always so rich and this one is no different. It’s based in World War II London, and the main character, Ruby Sutton, is an inspiring, strong reporter whose unrelenting passion for her work and those she loves is a wonderful tribute to the real heroines of the press during the war.

8.     Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.

To be honest, I’m sort of a reading wimp. I generally stick to women’s fiction or historical fiction, but, interestingly enough, some of my critique partners write thrillers and fantasy and I LOVE reading what they write.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?

I REALLY dislike accents that aren’t done realistically. It just zaps you out of the narrative.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?

Paper all the way! I actually don’t have an e-reader or an electronic calendar.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?

Both!

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?

Coffee with coconut cream.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.

I’ve just started working on a really really fun project—my first attempt at dual POV. It’s set in West Virginia in the 1830s.

You can find Joy on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and

Thanks Joy, and thank you for reading!

Bookish People--Emily Carpenter

It's been a while, guys! I'll update on life and books very soon, but today is the next installment of the Bookish People interviews. I'm excited to feature Emily Carpenter, author of Burying the Honeysuckle Girls (available here!), a Southern Gothic romp full of suspense, secrets, and mysteries. Much of the book takes place in the Mobile area and Birmingham, my two homes, so it was especially fun for me!

1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.
Burying the Honeysuckle Girls is a southern gothic suspense novel set in Alabama and The Weight of Lies is…a southern gothic suspense novel set in Georgia. They don’t sound different but I promise they actually are!

2.     What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback.
Somebody called Honeysuckle Girls misogynistic and said I must hate men, because the villains happened to be men. That stung because I was trying to tell a very particular story that did involve abuse—and trying to be unflinching about it. I never thought someone would think I approved of the abuse, so that was disappointing. But it’s part of being an author. Sometimes you’re misunderstood.

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?
This isn’t funny really, but it is the best. For my launch party, my sister made all the food. And she did this incredible centerpiece modeled after something from the book—an old cigar box with all these clues passed down from generations that Althea uses to solve the mystery of her mother’s disappearance. It was fabulous. Made me cry.

4.     Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?
It’s generally pretty orderly. I’m a creature of routine, and I typically like to write while my kids are in school, after I’ve done some sort of exercise. But I do love those moments at home, over the weekend, when I happen to have some time and everybody is otherwise occupied, and I can just hang out on the sofa and pound out some words. Those have ended up being some of my most productive times.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
I’d really love to do a ghost story one day. Really, really, really. Set in a spooky house. I’m obsessed with spooky houses.

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
I think I probably smuggled a book into church a time or two when I was a kid.

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.
Kate Moretti’s The Vanishing Year and Becky Albertalli’s forthcoming The Upside of Unrequited. Two books that are vastly different but both fantastic.

8.     Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.
I had no idea I was going to love the Twilight books the way I did. I mean, I don’t consider myself a literary snob or anything, but a YA vampire book? I thought I was going to be hate-reading it or something, you know, like oh, this silly book that everybody likes…. As it turned out, I was ridiculously into every one of them. I cried on a plane reading one of them because apparently obsessive love really speaks to me. Also, gorgeous, self-sacrificing vampires.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?
In his craft book Thrill Me, Benjamin Percy calls it “feckless pondering.” In his words, “momentum killing emotional fuss.” Readers absolutely need to understand adequate backstory and some of the main character’s inner thoughts, but it has to be employed strategically. If there’s too much stopping so the main character can ponder, I can’t get into the swing of the story, and I’ll put the book down. I’m getting more conscious of it in my own writing too. I think it takes a lot of skill to boil down the necessary information that a reader needs to just the right amount. It’s much easier to go on for paragraphs, explaining how everybody thinks and feels. But it’s deadly.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
I prefer print book, but I do read a lot of e-books. They’re just so convenient, easy to access in a pinch. I’m back to a paper calendar and I love it.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?
Chocolate all the way.

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?
Grande two-pump mocha no-whip from Starbucks. Dark roast Community coffee on my Keurig at home.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.
Another southern gothic suspense novel, this one set at a couples’ therapy retreat up in the north Georgia mountains where nothing is as it seems. 

You can find Emily on all the usual social media spots and on her website here

Thanks Emily for playing and thank YOU for reading!

Bookish People--Ella Joy Olsen

It's the second edition of the Bookish People interviews, and today I'm featuring author Ella Joy Olsen. Ella and I were matched as critique partners through WFWA (Women's Fiction Writers Association). She read The Hideaway for me and I had the privilege of reading her second book that will be published next year. Her debut, Root, Petal, Thorn, is out now (and available here!) Check it out if you love a blend of contemporary and historical fiction and old houses filled with heaps of history. 

 

1.     Give us a quick overview of the book(s) you’ve written.
A quick summary of my debut, Root, Petal, Thorn is: The braided stories of five fascinating women who inhabit the same historic home over the course of a century –love, heartbreak, and courage entwine each woman, and each generation, to the next.

My sophomore book Where the Sweet Bird Sings will be published in September 2017. The teaser is: Though she has a loving husband, Emma Hazelton is adrift, struggling to rebuild her life after a tragedy. But one day, a simple question and an old black-and-white photograph prompt Emma to untangle the branches of her family tree, where she discovers a legacy of secrets. What connects us to one another? Is it shared history? Is it ancestry? Is it blood? Or is it love?

2.     What’s the hardest or best criticism you’ve received, either after your book was published or as you were editing, revising, or getting feedback.
After processing the thoughtful feedback from a critique partner, I realized I have to keep my characters out of their own heads. Sometimes they (meaning I) spend too much time explaining why they are upset, sad, happy (and so on). The reader should be able to figure these things out if the rest of the story is told well.

3.     Funniest (or best or worst) thing that happened during a book signing or book tour?
I have a stalker who shows up to all of my events. He’s actually a nice old-ish guy and has a fair amount of time on his hands, apparently, because he goes to the readings of many local authors. The creepy thing is that he tags himself in all of my event photos on Facebook. I’ve had to change my settings.

4.     Describe your writing process. Is it orderly, scheduled, daily? Erratic, middle-of-the-night, gimme-a-piece-of-paper now? Or something in between?
When I’m actively creating a story I write my best stuff between about 6:00am and 10:00am. After those frenzied hours I can still work on editing, playing with language, and social media because it doesn’t require so much brainpower. I plan the days I’m going to write based on a weekly schedule and try to stick with it.

5.     Is there a topic/theme/setting you’re particularly interested in that you’d like to write about in a future book?
Dreaming of new book ideas is one of my favorite things! Every idea at conception is so perfect and lovely. A new one I’m toying with is set in the Gilded Age in NYC when scientific exploration was occurring at a rapid clip via the American Museum of Natural History. Science and conspicuous consumption all in one story.

6.     What’s the strangest/most inappropriate place you’ve ever brought a book? (Example, a family dinner, a baseball game, etc.)
Until I had a Kindle (with backlight) I spent many pre-dawn hours in hotel bathrooms reading. I’m not a great sleeper so on family vacations I’d sneak into the bathroom, flip on the light, and read propped against the bathtub for hours.

7.     Tell me a few recent books you’ve read that you really liked.
I’m trying to read as many books as I can by my writing buddies. Last month I finished The Memory of Us by Camille DiMaio, Echoes of Family by Barbara Claypole White, Secrets of a Charmed Life by Susan Meissner, Sweet Carolina Morning by Susan Schild, Thought I Knew You by Kate Moretti. I am surrounded by talent. I loved them all!

8.     Can you name a book you liked that you didn’t think you would? Maybe because of the subject matter, or an author you didn’t think you enjoyed, or a genre you weren’t used to reading.
My book club read In Love and War, a memoir written by Admiral James Stockdale about his time as a POW during Vietnam. It was long, detail jammed, and written in the 1980s, so the style of writing was a little antiquated…but after getting into the story, it was fantastic and illustrated a time/political climate I knew little about. I’d read about the protests during the Vietnam War, of course, but this was written by one of the soldiers who believed solidly in country and duty.

9.     What are your pet peeves as a reader—something you read in books that really bugs you?
I’m a pretty forgiving reader and look to find something I love in every book that I read. I guess I’ll give up on a book if the characters act too often in ways that defy logic, meaning their responses are too extreme, or not justified. I also don’t love a bunch of preaching/religion in a book.

10.  Books: print or e-reader? Similarly, calendar: paper or electronic?
I always have both a print book and an e-reader and an audio book going at the same time. I love the feel of print, the backlighting of an e-reader, the multitasking option of audio. Calendar: paper. Hands down.

11.  Chocolate or vanilla?
I feel like I’m not an either/or kind of girl. Both.

12.  Coffee or tea? Or something else?
Again, both. Coffee in the morning, tea in the afternoon.

13.  Tell us what you’re working on now.
Currently I am taking time to “fill the well”. My debut published at the beginning of September and right after that I worked long hours on content edits for Sweet Bird. I need a little time to cross a few things off my real-life list, including Christmas prep and planning a family vacation. I’m also taking time to read like crazy. However, my brain is constantly churning through new story ideas. I’ll be eager to write fresh words after the New Year.

You can find Ella on all the major social media hangouts and at her website

Thanks to Ella and to you for reading!