About Marni Bates

My autobiography MARNI is in the Louder Than Words series and was on the New York Public Library Stuff for the Teen Age 2010 List. Kensington Teen then signed me on for a four book contract with AWKWARD being slated for publication Jan 1, 2012. And all of this before I've even graduated from Lewis & Clark College! I have no idea what's going to happen next, but I'm sure it's going to be fantastic!

The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give! (Mid-list Edition)

Hey everyone,

Wow! So people seem to really love the writing advice that I posted a few days ago. I want to give an extra big THANK YOU to everyone who reached out to me. There has been more than a little twirling here at Casa de Marni.

And then I realized something very important…

ALL of my advice was geared for aspiring authors. It’s the stuff that I wish someone had told me when I was starting out. I wouldn’t have shared this post if I didn’t think it was still applicable, but…each level of publishing has its own unique challenges. And I want to take a crack at some of the pressing issues that my author friends are dealing with right now.

So here’s The Best Writing Advice I REALLY Don’t Feel Qualified to Give… (The Mid-list Edition.)

1. Accept that most days your books will feel pretty irrelevant.

If someone (*cough* the nice neighborhood barista *cough*) says, “Uh…yeah! I think I’ve heard of your book!” there’s a small part of your brain that begins to shriek…

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But it’s okay! Let’s face it, flying under the radar might even be for the best. If they had read your book they might expect you to, y’know…speak in complete sentences.

And before I have coffee, this is my idea of witty banter…

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It’s not pretty, friends. It’s just not.

2. You will never master ALL the social media tools.

Facebook. Twitter. Instagram. Tumblr. YouTube. Goodreads. Pinterest. Amazon Author Central. Book trailers. Giveaways. Blogging.

Just listing them probably makes you feel guilty.

Especially since you’re supposed to keep up on popular culture, too. Jennifer Lawrence gets a haircut? You’ve seen it. Mindy Kaling gives an interview? You’ve read it.

You spend an eternity trying to prove yourself as a sparkling conversationist in 140 characters or less…only to make an enormous grammatical gaffe. Then you rush to delete the tweet, except someone has already “favorited” it.

So…you debate sending out a repeat tweet that fixes the mistake or pretending to be charmingly blasé about the whole thing.

Oh that? HAHAHAHA…I was distracted by pictures of Benedict Cumberbatch.

Then you post the pics because obviously he will fix everything for you.

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The crazy part is that ALL of this is supposed to look effortless. You’re supposed to have .gifs for any occasion, but it shouldn’t take time. Obviously, this is the reason you’re a mid-lister. If only you spent this much energy on your writing you would be a New York Times Bestseller!

At least, that’s what the majority of your family members will tell you.

Except here’s the annoying truth: Social media expectations will never disappear, especially in an age when author outreach is generally considered the most powerful form of promotion. What’s worse, your image is one of the few things in this industry that you can pretend to control. Book deals, marketing strategies, movie options…you have no say in these things.

Heck, even the next book deal is out of your hands!

So you have to find a way to balance social media duties with writing deadlines and, hopefully, a personal life.

If you figure out how to do this, please let me know. I tend to update madly for a few days and then become so overwhelmed that I start binge-watching TV shows on Hulu.

3. Don’t buy into your own image.

You aren’t the person you portray on social media. There are certain things you should never make public because nerd rage is a very real thing.

The fastest way to activate it is to say that you don’t get what’s so special about Firefly.

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Sometimes your sense of public and private will become blurry. Case in point: I was once told that I didn’t sound as awkward in my blog posts as I claimed to be in real life.

That took me aback for a second. And then I realized…yeah, you’re right! Because I don’t always want to publicize my screw-ups and mistakes. In fact, sometimes I get downright uncomfortable posting about my life. There was one night during my semester abroad in Australia when I experienced something incredible, mystical, borderline spiritual, and I instantly thought, “This would make a great blog post!” I promised myself right then and there that I wouldn’t treat my life as blog post fodder.

I’ve broken that pledge more times than I would like to admit.

So I’m going to repeat this point–for myself, mostly–your life is NOT defined by your online presence.

4. Your friends will not always want to pimp your book stuff.

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You don’t want to retweet everything they do either, right? So don’t start blog posts with the expectation that every one of your witty, clever, effortlessly media-savvy friends will reblog, repost, or regurgitate the advice you thought sounded smart when you wrote it at 2am.

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This being the notable exception. Right guys?!

5. Accept that there WILL be times when you come across as desperate.

At some point, you will offer to mention your friend’s book in the comment section of a vlogbrothers YouTube video…if they’ll do the same for you. Or maybe you’ll create Wikipedia pages for each other!

All the while you’ll pretend that it doesn’t look like this…

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Same goes for Amazon/Goodreads/Audible reviews. We’ve all been there. It’s inevitable. Someday you will see strangers working on library computers and you’ll be tempted to ask them to give your work five stars.

You won’t bother them, of course. But mostly because the library is your second home and you don’t want the very nice librarians to physically escort you out.

6. You will get really, REALLY tired of hearing about John Green.

Actually, Laurie Halse Anderson did a brilliant job addressing this here! SPOILER ALERT: Her frustration isn’t with John Green. You should read it. Frankly, you should read everything she says because she’s a unicorn.

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I promised to stop calling her that though, so let’s keep it between us.

I’m sure John Green is totally fantastic. I just wish that it were possible to have a discussion on YA fiction without spending a solid five minutes on him. It’s not though. Partly because people like me feel the need to discuss his influence here.

*Shakes fist at self*

7. You’ll be tempted to become controversial.

I think one of the hardest parts about being a mid-lister is that you can catch glimpses at bestsellerdom and you think, “Man, if I networked to my highest potential, that could be me!” Then you realize that if you spent that much time voicing your opinions, inevitably something incredibly stupid will slip out. Being controversial suddenly sounds like a silver bullet.

If I mention Author X loudly enough, it will get me attention!

This is how good people become trolls.

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(And yes, I am fully aware that including #6 might make me a hypocrite. Just because I’m giving this advice doesn’t mean I always know how to take it. Should I have skipped #6 entirely? At what point does discussing a controversial issue become link-bait or trolling? I honestly don’t know. Feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section!)

8. Bullying is very real. And it sucks.

The writing community is an incredible place that includes the warmest, smartest, most fiercely loyal people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. And I’d like to point out that I’m not just talking about authors here. Editors, agents, reviewers, bloggers, librarians, conference coordinators…the passion, dedication, and heart that I’ve seen from all of these people, it’s incredible.

But there is still plenty of behind-the-scenes bullying that takes place every day.

Genre-bashing is nothing new, but somehow when it comes from inside the community it feels a billion times worse. Sometimes professional jealousy gets the best of people. It’s hard not to see it as a competition. As I mentioned in my other post, we’ve pretty much been trained to believe that there are a limited number of spaces available and that for us to reach our full potential, we’ll have to beat out somebody else. Publishing doesn’t actually work that way though. Your friend’s glorious, oh-my-freaking-god, seven figure book deal doesn’t have anything to do with the manuscript you’ve got on submission. The best course of action (which is excruciatingly hard sometimes!) is to keep your eyes on your own page.

9. You will survive bad reviews.

That said, I’ll never forget seeing my debut novel described as, “The devil’s way of poisoning young minds.” What confused me most was receiving 3/5 stars from that same reviewer!

To this day, I’m baffled.

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Then again, I know someone who received a 3/10 from a reader who said that a perfect score was The Holy Bible. I’m not sure how that compares to, y’know…a romance novel. All that begetting could be a little steamy, I suppose.

The surest way to maintain your sanity is to laugh your way through it. Or maybe that’s just my technique. Here’s a solid pro tip though: NEVER confront the reviewer.

Even when it hurts. Even when you have to call up your friend to ask if they secretly think your book sucks too. Even when you think that there’s been a slight misunderstanding that could totally be cleared up with a tweet…

If someone shares a negative review to you, either say nothing or thank them for taking the time to read your work. Then step away from the laptop.

Here’s what you do next: Remind yourself that book bloggers are made of awesome. Reviewers are people who care so passionate about books that they can’t wait to tell the whole world about the one they just read! That’s amazing!

There shouldn’t be conflict between authors and reviewers. We should be holding hands while cartoon birds flit above us and daffodils burst into full bloom. We should be so sickeningly cute that everyone outside the writing community is disgusted by our unwavering adoration of each other.

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I’m going to hazard a guess as to why that’s not actually the case.

Just because I love reviewers doesn’t mean I can read their work.

In fact, I can’t.

I’ve learned that I don’t trust myself with reviews, even glowingly awesome ones. They make me feel great for a few seconds, and then suddenly the project in front of me looks extra crappy. And yeah, I’ve been known to obsess over a particularly bad review for a few days. The way I see it, no matter how many stars I’m given, it interferes with my productivity.

I really wish I could read reviews without messing up my head. I don’t blame that on the bloggers. I also don’t blame my inability to listen to the audiobook version of my novels on the narrators. They are awesome. I am the one who panics over hearing my words said aloud.

And you know what? THAT’S OKAY.

I am a firm believer in doing what you have to do to protect your mental health. If a visit to Goodreads could activate some kind of emotional time-bomb inside you, don’t go there.

If you can read a review and think, “Oh wow! That’s such an interesting point. I’m going to make sure that I avoid that mistake in my next book!”…well, that’s awesome. Then it’s a real opportunity for growth and improvement.

My recommendation is to get a review/rejection buddy who will shower you with .gifs to get you through the hard times. And to know that avoiding reviews doesn’t make you weak. It doesn’t mean you need to toughen up. It means that you are taking your mental health seriously.

In this profession that’s an incredibly wise thing to do.

10. Please remember that you’re awesome.

It’s shockingly easy to forget that once upon a time, this was the dream. Maybe because now it feels like we spend most of our energy simply trying to stay relevant instead of writing. 

But the truth is that you did something awesome. You wrote a book. And against all the odds, you even got it published. That is an accomplishment that nobody can take away from you!

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Even Ron Swanson wants to celebrate with you.

So hang in there, fellow mid-listers!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. If this was useful to you, please let me know! I’m willing to post writing advice here every Monday if that’s something people seem interested in reading. So feel free to leave a comment here…or on my FB author page…or you could send a tweet…basically, unless you want to use Morse Code, I should be able to get your message!

The Best Writing Advice I Don’t Feel Qualified to Give…

Hey everyone,

So…it’s really weird being asked to give writing advice. I instantly want to say this…

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Fun fact: Nearly every writer I know (myself included) deals with imposter syndrome. Sadly, that does not mean we buy ridiculous outfits from thrift shops and pretend to be the reigning monarch of Khazibekustanzia. It means that we stare at the laptop screen and wait to read an email that says…

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Most writers spend most of their time thinking that they mostly suck at writing.

We tend to believe that everyone else has it figured out and that at some point (if we can just crack the NYT bestseller list!) then we’ll also feel like extra special unicorns. Except it doesn’t actually work that way. We just go right on doubting ourselves.

So why am I sharing this? It’s not, y’know…inspirational.

Except…it kind of is.

Hear me out, okay?

See, young aspiring authors tend to tell me that they’re scared to write a novel because they don’t think it will be all that great. It might even suck. Then they would have to admit that maybe they aren’t cut out for a career in publishing and…

Every. Published. Author. Feels. This. Way.

I’m not kidding.

But if we hadn’t forced ourselves to sit down and write–even when it sounded stilted and awkward and awful and repetitive and…you get my point–then we’d still be exactly where you are now.

So here is the advice that I in no way feel qualified to give you:

1. Write.

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If you want to write…then do it. Don’t sit around waiting for someone else to tell you that you should. Most people aren’t all that encouraging of a career in the arts. Don’t let that stop you from telling the story that you love.

2. Write for yourself.

Don’t write for a bestseller list. Don’t write a dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle because you think it’s going to be the next big thing. I like to remind my friends that if the writing doesn’t make you crazy, the publishing industry will. Chasing a popular trend will only exacerbate that by a billion.

3. Accept that not everyone will like what you’ve written.

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Rejection is a huge part of this industry. I have some tremendously talented friends who have written heart-breakingly brilliant books…and they’ve been rejected by publishers. It’s not just publishers who will do the rejecting either. Everyone is a critic. This includes family, friends, teachers, and mentors. The trick is to find a select few people who can appreciate your writing style. If someone tries to make you sound like somebody else, ignore everything they tell you. 

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You might not want to say this out-loud though…

4. Try to accept what you have written.

It doesn’t have to be The Greatest Novel In The History of Novels. A dragon-unicorn-zombie love triangle doesn’t have to be a metaphor for anything.

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And yeah, it might suck. You might want to bash your head against a keyboard when you so much as think about that stupid book. That’s okay too. This isn’t baseball. An umpire isn’t going to yell, “You’re out!” if you write three less-than-stellar manuscripts. Nobody can bench you from writing except yourself.

5. Edit your work.

Let me be clear: YOU need to edit your work. Don’t just hand it off to a parent/teacher/friend/agent/paid consultant because you’re bored and editing is the worst. Nobody knows your book the way that you do. They can’t. Which is why you need to let your inner critic go to town before you hand it over to anyone.

6. Make friends within the writing community.

Not everyone understands our desire to spend time with people who don’t technically exist. So it’s incredibly liberating when you find someone who doesn’t find it weird that you want to know how to, oh I dunno, get away with muuuurder!

That’s right:

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It’s okay to form this community online. We’re a really nice group of weirdos.

I haven’t so much as high-fived some of my very best friends. What can I say? A bunch of them live on the opposite side of the country, which means getting together for coffee isn’t easy. Typing instead of talking in no way invalidates our friendship. In fact, I highly recommend following your favorite authors on Twitter. Authors tend to post fascinating articles on a whole range of subjects, especially on gender, race, sexuality, and psychology. It’s an easy way to find out more about the writing industry and to engage with people you admire.

7. Please, please protect your mental/emotional well-being.

Mental health should not be taken for granted. Ever. Studies from Sweden have shown that writers have up to a 50% higher chance of suicide than non-writer people. (I learned this from Natalie Whipples’ blog. She wrote an amazing set of writing tips that you should definitely check out here!) I admit, I worry the most about teenage writers for the simple reason that high school creates a false sense of competition. The “best” in the class is the person who hands in assignments to a teacher’s liking. The “best” in the school is most likely to be the person who does well on standardized tests.

These things have absolutely no bearing on the publishing world, yet it is incredibly hard not to cling to them when adults in positions of authority insist that grades/exams/essays will determine your college path, and thereby, your future.

What makes this situation so dangerous? When there is no one specific person you have to please, it’s easy to feel lost. It can also make some people strike out in an attempt to recreate a sense of hierarchy. How can you write a romance if you’ve never had one? What makes your work different from alllll the other dystopian/fantasy/mystery, etc. books out there? Why would anyone want to read that?!?

If someone says stuff like this to you-don’t walk, run to the nearest exit.

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An essential part of protecting your mental health is maintaining a non-toxic writing environment.

8. Try not to get too far ahead of yourself.

Don’t worry about getting an agent when you are halfway through the project. You have much bigger things on your plate, like creating a satisfying ending. I’ve come to realize that my least favorite part of the writing process tends to be the one I’m in. When I’m writing, I daydream about editing. When I’m editing, I fantasize about publishing contracts. When I’m on submission, I imagine book covers and brilliant ad campaigns. When I’m in promotion mode, I realize that it’s been forever since I wrote more than a blog post and what if I suck at it now?!

One good thing I can say for this writing cycle is that it keeps me motivated. It also helps that I’m only thinking one step ahead. If you haven’t finished writing, don’t start researching agents. You might find someone you think would be a great fit, only to become frustrated with the two-thirds of a novel that still requires an ending, not to mention a boatload of editing.

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9. Remember that you’re doing something awesome!

You are creating something entirely from your own mind. It just doesn’t get any cooler than that.

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Heck yeah, you can make things levitate!

In fact, you can even make this happen:

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So is the stress, frustration, panic, heart-breaking rejection and general emotional turmoil worth it?

Um…in a word?

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Seriously, guys.

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER is here!

Hey everyone!

I debated playing an April Fool’s prank, but…the truth is so much more exciting! I just received the Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) of AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER!

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Okay, I admit it. I probably reacted more like this…

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It just looks so beautiful! The wonderful people at KTeen really knocked it out of the park with the cover and…why don’t I just show you what I mean?

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*FLAILS ARMS* *HAPPY DANCES* *BLASTS CONFETTI*

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I love it so much I’m actually tearing up right now. I think it just hit me that this is goodbye to all my Smith High School friends. I feel so blessed that KTeen gave me the opportunity to say goodbye to my faithful companions. I’m going to miss each and every one of them.

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I’m never going to let you go. Never. NEVER!!!!!

This book is a love letter. Not just for my characters, but for all my fans. Thank you!

Thank you for reading my books. Thank you for handing them to your friends. Thank you for geeking out with me. Thank you for your letters/emails/tweets of encouragement. Thank you for believing in me.

I am so ridiculously lucky to have your support. It’s not something I will ever take for granted.

Let me put it this way…

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Also…

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And…

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AWKWARDLY EVER AFTER will be released on June 24th! You can preorder it here or you can try to win an Advanced Reader Copy in one of the giveaways that I’ll soon be running. OR you could do both!

Either way…

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Awkwardly yours,

Marni

P.S. I will be sharing more photos and fun times on my Facebook author page! You should totally check it out!

Overloaded with Awesome!

Hey everyone!

I woke up this morning with an incredibly handsome man in my bed.

Okay, yes, I left my door ajar and my housemate’s cat, Hamlet, seized the opportunity for a snuggle. I looked from him to my bedspread and when I didn’t find cat vomit on it I knew that today really was going to be an absolutely awesome day!

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“I’d NEVER puke on your bed, Marni. Not accidentally, at least….”

In fact, I’ve been having a really great week!

I spoke on a panel at the Lewis & Clark Gender Symposium!

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The topic: Frenzied Fangirling: Gender, Literature, and the Young Adult Novel. 

My Partners-in-crime: Lisa Burstein, Lauren Furnish, and Diana Weiner Rosengard.

The outcome: An afternoon of awesome!

Then I disappeared into my writing cave, emerging only for (drumroll, please)…adventure!

Basically,  I spent a whole day with my friend chasing waterfalls.

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This is the view from Crown Point, Oregon. Our first stop on the journey!

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Horsetail falls!

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So. Freaking. Beautiful.

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This is…I don’t even know. There were so many gorgeous waterfalls! It stole my breath away.

Speaking of theft…it turns out my great-grandfather was a total con man! My aunt is diving into our genealogy and has been regaling me with tales of his less-than-legal dealings. I guess he was kicked out of Mexico for pretending to be royalty.

I like to think this is where I get my love of the absurd.

BUT THE BIGGEST NEWS IS…

I have a new literary agent! I’m now working with Shannon Hassan at the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency and I couldn’t be more excited! She’s absolutely wonderful.

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^—This is Shannon. You can read more about her by going here!

Speaking of Shannon, I just emailed her my new book! I don’t want to reveal too much about it, but I can tell you that this is the first time I’ve finished a project and immediately wanted to spend more time in that character’s head.

So I think that’s a very good sign!

And on that note, I’m going to herd the dust bunnies in my room.

*twirls happily with broom*

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Hitting the books!

Hey everyone,

I am hard at work on a brand new book project! It’s super exciting, and a little nerve-wracking, and…well, a whole lot of fun! I think this picture kind of says it all…

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See all those books? Yeah, that barely scratches the surface. I’ve got half a dozen books on a variety of subjects sitting at home. I don’t think I studied this hard when I was in college! Which just goes to show that I should’ve stuck to my guns and majored in spies, thieves, and assassins years ago. (P.S. Colleges should totally hand out  B.A. degrees in badassery. I stand by this statement.)

I’d tell you more about the project, but then I’d have to…

*scans Life Magazine’s Most Notorious Crimes in World History* *gulps uncomfortably*

Let’s leave that to your imagination, shall we?

So right now I’m trying to read ALL the books and write ALL the words and do ALL the responsible adult things, like, y’know, wash laundry before I run out of clean clothes. I also have some super exciting news that I will be sharing with all of you soon! (Really soon. As in, maybe tomorrow!)

But there ain’t no mountain (of things on my To Do List) high enough to keep me from gettin’ to yooooouuuu!

If you send me a letter or a postcard, I will totally respond to it. In fact, I got a PO box in Portland specifically for you!

You just need to mail it like this:

Marni Bates

PO Box 86183

Portland, OR 97286

Cool, right?!

On that note, I think I hear some hardened criminals calling my name. It’s time for me to get back to work!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Joining an Art Group!

Hey everyone,

So I recently joined an art group! I wanted something small that would allow me to be creative without putting any more pressure on me. So I’m super excited to be part of the Word a Week project!

Here is how it works:

Every week I will create something that centers around a previously chosen word. Then I will post my picture (along with the artwork created by the group members) on the Word a Week blog.

It is going to take me some time to get the knack of posting from two different places. So if you see a weird post from me that just has a whole bunch of pictures…that’s why!

You can check out this week in art right here!

And on that note, time for me to get back to writing!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni

Helllloooo 2014!

Hey everyone,

I suck at New Year’s resolutions. Once I even managed to mess up my resolution not to make any resolutions!

I’m the total New Year’s resolution cliché. I start out with good intentions. I’m even willing to use positive visualization…

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And then I actually try the thing I’ve resolved to accomplish.

Which quickly leads to this…

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Because why would a smart person resolve to do this thing?! WHY?! It sucks. It’s hard. I’m not good at it. I don’t wanna…

And this is my response when my friends and family remind me of all those idealistic plans…

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Every. Single. Year.

I think part of the problem is that you are supposed to master something by the end of the year. And that is awfully daunting to a girl who still has burn marks on her neck from a 3am encounter with a marshmallow.

I’m not even making that up.

But I realized something about myself recently. Something that I probably should have figured out years ago.

I’m really good at failing.

I don’t mean this in a bad way either. I don’t think that I am a failure. I absolutely love my life, my friends, and my job. But when it comes to making a mess…I’m something of a natural. I once asked my best friend whether she thought I’d make a better assassin or a better chef.

She said that the only way I’d ever kill someone was if I attempted to cook for them.

I think that sums up my culinary skills pretty nicely.

Now normally this is when I’d feel obligated to make a resolution that involves cooking classes. To read recipes when cooking. Heck, maybe even buy a cookbook!

I don’t want to use recipes though. That takes all the fun out of it for me. And I don’t want to feel guilty if I take a cooking class and then can never reproduce the dish without supervision.

I don’t want to feel pressured to prove myself. Especially not in the kitchen.

Which is why this year I am resolved to be more open to failure. I could make some poorly constructed sushi rolls. Or I could have a super awkward encounter with a dance partner while attempting to tango. I could very easily mix up my left and my right in the midst of an ice skating class…and faceplant on the ice.

And if it turns out I actually have a knack for any of those things, well, that’s cool! If not, that’s fine too!

I just want to keep trying new things. And laughing. I expect to laugh a lot in 2014.

So on that note…

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I hope you have an incredible new year!

Awkwardly yours,

Marni