Coiled and Swallowed, Driving Downtown to the Show, and Slip Away 

I'd like to announce that on March 23, 2021, I will be releasing Slip Away, my new book of poems.

At the same time, I will also be re-releasing my book of poems, Coiled and Swallowed (2010) as well as my book of poems, Driving Downtown to the Show (2012) with these new covers.

All three books will be available in ebook and print on all book retailers. I will also be recording audiobooks though those won't come out until later this year.

A few weeks ago, I had to put my cat, Frank, to sleep. I was devastated, and the only thing that helped was writing poetry. The idea for Slip Away was born. It is a collection of poems about loss. Actual loss through death, yes, but also the loss of relationships, the loss of childhood, the loss of dreams. 

I've been writing like crazy since then, and now I have a first draft of the entire collection. 

I know what you're thinking. "Wow, that sounds depressing, Sara." But actually, if you stick with me until the end of the collection, it has an uplifting message by the end. 

These poems are all very personal to me, and sharing them is giving everyone a peek into my soul, more so than my fiction or plays have.

For those of you wondering what's going on with my vampire trilogy, I've decided to shelf Until the Night Falls for the time being. I will definitely return to the trilogy at a later date, but my heart just isn't in it right now. Right now is not the time for me to write about vampires. 

The ebook versions of my poetry books will all be $1.99, or there will be a $2.99 bundle with all three books. (The print versions will be $4.99.) 

I am so excited to share these poems--both the old and the new--with you.

Thank you for making my 2020 better 

Well, it's that time again. The last day of the year. 

In normal times, I love New Year's Eve. I love reflecting back over the previous year and looking forward to the new one. But if 2020 was anything, it was definitely not normal. I'm cautiously optimistic about 2021: hoping for live performances to return, hoping to be able to hang out with my friends and family normally again, hoping to get a lot of writing done. 

I usually set reading and writing goals. I usually try to read 50 books a year and I set some ambitious goal about writing 300 words a day or publishing four books. I'm not doing that this year. I was going to set my Goodreads Reading Challenge to 25 books and just put it out there that I will finish my Shadow Vampires trilogy in 2021. Anything above that will be a bonus. 

2020 has definitely been difficult on a national (or even global) scale. There's been a lot of struggle. The pandemic, amplifying the fight for racial justice, the election. My heart goes out to anyone who has been sick or lost a loved one. 

At the same time, artistically and creatively, it was a pretty good year for me. I started the Find Creative Expression podcast, which I actually really enjoy doing. I have had so much fun having conversations about art and creativity with artists of all kinds. I started playing music again. I wrote tons of "joke songs" and even a real song, and I played an acoustic set that I live streamed from my living room. I "went wide" with my indie books--making them available on book retailers like Apple, Barnes and Noble, and Google Play. I had a Bookbub Featured Deal, which led to a lot more readers of We Own the Sky and The Muse Chronicles Trilogy. I had my first book traditionally published with Parliament House Press, and I had my first audiobook. I quit my day job and started freelancing full-time. 

Everything I was actually able to accomplish was due to your support. Whether you are a friend, family member, reader, podcast listener, or collaborator, thank you so much. Without you, I don't know that I would have made it through the year. Thank you so much for reading my work, for listening to my podcasts, for supporting my return to music, for every comment or like or share, for every review, for all of your support. It means the world to me. 

And so I look forward to 2021. But I don't have any expectations. I don't know what's going to happen this year. I don't know what it will look like. But I do know your support will continue to mean everything to me.

There is no right way to be a writer 

Well, it's the last day of November, which means lots of people are celebrating winning National Novel Writing Month - writing 50,000 words in 30 days. To all of those writers, I'd like to say congratulations!

I started out the month working on NaNoWriMo, but then I was so distracted by the election, I didn't get much done. I also committed to more freelance work than I actually should have and had to spend a lot of time doing that. And then I got to the point where I was desperately trying to finish my novel, Until the Night Falls, the sequel to Into the Shadows, my YA vampire paranormal romance. Revising everything I had already written became more important than writing and tracking new words, and I had the novel up for pre-order to be released on 12/29/2020. So I needed to send it to my editor, revise based on her feedback, and then have it proofread all by Christmas. So I ironically had to quit NaNoWriMo to finish my novel.

I spent most of the weekend trying to shape everything I had written into a somewhat cohesive novel, but at some point on Saturday, I realized it wasn't working, and I had to start completely over with a new document. (This isn't quite as dramatic as it sounds as I end up copy/pasting a lot of stuff I've already written but still.) I really wanted to avoid canceling my pre-order and postponing the release of the book as usually if you do that, Amazon won't let you use the pre-order feature for one year. It also felt like failing for me somehow. 

That got me thinking. Why did it feel like a failure? Was it because I had been comparing myself to indie writers who release five or ten or even twelve novels in a year? Was it because I was getting emails from writing coaches and successful authors talking about everything you HAVE to do to be a successful writer?

All throughout my studies of creative writing, I have heard so many "rules." Write every day. Don't start a novel with dialogue. Don't have a prologue. You have to create an outline first and plan everything out. But I have discovered that these rules are crap.    

Don't get me wrong, there are definitely rules for writing - the structure of storytelling, how to develop characters, how to show and not tell, etc. - just as there are for every art form. But every rule in writing can be broken. Sure, it means a lot more when you break the rules if you have a good understanding of them first, but when it comes to process, there are no rules. 

Maybe I'm just never going to be like those indie authors who write ten books a year. Maybe some years, I will write five books, and some years, I will write none. Maybe I go through phases where I write every day, and then I go weeks without writing. (Well, creative writing. I absolutely do write something every day - whether it's a journal entry or web content about metal roofing equipment or a blog post about writing process.) 

Maybe it's okay that I will have four or five different drafts before I even figure out the shape of the entire plot. Maybe it's okay that I always start with something that won't end up in the final version. Maybe that's just my process. 

As it turns out, Amazon has temporarily suspended the rules about canceling pre-orders so I won't even suffer any consequences for canceling my pre-order, except of course the refunds Amazon will give to the people who have already ordered the book. And it has been so long since the first book came out (February 2019) that a few more months won't make a difference I think. I still plan to do some promotions with Into the Shadows right before I release Until the Night Falls that will hopefully get readers excited, but I was going to do that anyway. 

So I just wanted to say to all the writers -- whether you won NaNoWriMo or didn't finish or didn't even do it at all this year -- whether you write every day or sometimes go entire months or even years without writing -- whether you are someone who flies by the seat of your pants and discovers the plot as you write or someone who meticulously plans and outlines beforehand -- whether you need silence to write or you have to write to music or the noise of crowds chattering (well, not during a pandemic, but in normal times) -- there is no right way to be a writer. Whatever works for you is what works for you.

Does that mean you should never try anything different or try to use a different writing process? No. Does that mean your process won't evolve and change? Of course not. But you also first need to accept where you are. Cut yourself some slack. Don't try to fit into someone else's box. Someone else's process is entirely theirs, and every writer is different. 

Sometimes, life is going to get in the way of writing, too. So have some self-compassion, and give yourself permission to be the kind of writer you are. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The First Day of My New Life 

Anything could happen at any moment. You could get laid off from the job you thought you could count on, you could go on a date with a stranger who you end up falling in love with, you could get into a tragic car accident, you could win a huge sum of money, you could put yourself out there at the interview or the audition or with a new book or album, you could lose everything, you could lose everything, you could gain everything. The universe is infinite, and everything is temporary. Certainty is (as my friend, Brian Perry says) a myth. 

This is always true, but most of the time, we at least have the illusion of certainty. If there's one thing 2020 has done, though, it's shatter that illusion. 

Friday was my last day at my full-time day job. It seemed fitting that we were in this weird state of limbo as a nation last week, not knowing which way the election would go. It mirrored my own life, how I didn't exactly know what would happen next. 

I am immensely grateful for my time in that job. I have learned a great deal and grown tremendously, both personally and professionally. But much like we are turning the page as a nation to step into a new era, it's time for a new chapter in my own life. 

I have always known I wanted to be an artist, a storyteller, specifically a writer. I used to write plays when I was 7 years old and have the neighbors perform them on my driveway. I recently found boxes filled with notebooks and binders full of poetry, novels, stories, screenplays, and plays in the closet of my old bedroom at my parents' house. I have been writing plays, novels, screenplays, songs, and poems for almost 30 years. 

I have been seriously pursuing a career as an author since 2012 when I got my MFA in Creative Writing. Since that time, I have gone through many ups and downs: signing with a literary agent, seeing one of my plays on a professional stage, being on submission with the novel of my heart, studying with amazing NYT Bestselling authors, parting ways with my agent, becoming an indie author, and most recently, having a book published by a small press. I have been pursuing this career on the side of my other work, my day job. 

A little over two weeks ago, I decided to leave my day job. It's time to pour everything into my author career. 

This is a risk. While I have started making more money with my books over the last few months, I'm still not making "quit your day job" money, and I've lined up some freelance work to help me get by until I am making a living with my books. But I feel called to put my entire self into trying to be a successful author, a career author. And I believe I can do it 100%. 

I don't expect to be J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, but there are a ton of independent authors making a decent living, and I know I can be one of them. 

Will I have to work another day job in the future? Quite possibly. I have no idea what's going to happen. I do know one thing, though. I will never stop telling stories, and I will never stop pursuing a career as an author. No matter what happens.

No one knows what the future will hold. On New Year's Eve last year, I don't think anyone had an accurate idea of what 2020 would bring. But as I step into this new chapter, I am optomistic. I have hope. 

There's a song I used to always sing with the worship team at Unity North AtlantaI follow my vision, I follow it through. I change, I grow, I make myself new. And I follow my vision, I follow it through. 

So I'm stepping into this new chapter with that song in my heart.

Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 

September 10th is World Suicide Prevention Day. Authors, readers, and bloggers are uniting again his year to fight stigma, spread mental health awareness, and support the prevention of suicide. To encourage participation, we're giving away a $50 Amazon gift card and a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day t-shirt to one lucky winner.

Two kinds of stigma continue to persist: public stigma and self-stigma. Public stigma occurs when other people view a person with a mental illness in a negative way. Public stigma feeds into self-stigma when people with mental illness internalize the negative talk they hear from others. 

Well-meaning people say things like, "Suck it up," "Choose to be happy," "Turn that frown upside down," or "Focus on your blessings," as if mental illness were a mood, a frame of mind, or an attitude that can simply be overcome at will. 

Often, people who suffer from mental illness blame themselves instead of seeking help. Just as a diabetic needs insulin, a person with mental illness may need treatment. 

People who contemplate suicide don't want to die; they just can't fathom how to live because they are so miserable. They can't see past their pain and misery, and they see no point in going on.

According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention, "Every year, suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. It is responsible for over 800,000 deaths, which equates to one suicide every 40 seconds." 

IASP explains that "[e]very life lost represents someone’s partner, child, parent, friend or colleague. For each suicide approximately 135 people suffer intense grief or are otherwise affected. This amounts to 108 million people per year who are profoundly impacted by suicidal behaviour. Suicidal behaviour includes suicide, and also encompases suicidal ideation and suicide attempts. For every suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts of suicide." 

If you're contemplating suicide, please don't do it! Instead, seek help. You might be suffering now, but you never know what tomorrow brings. Reach out to a friend or family member. See a doctor. If that doctor doesn't help, try another. Please don't give up. 

If you're in crisis, please reach out to the toll-free hotline in your region. You can find your hotline here: https://www.iasp.info/resources/Crisis_Centres/. 

If you are grieving the death of a victim of suicide and need help, here are resources that can help: https://www.iasp.info/resources/Postvention/National_Suicide_Survivor_Organizations/. 

If you suspect that someone you know may be contemplating suicide, please reach out. We often hesitate because we're afraid we might make things worse by saying the wrong thing. According to IASP, "Evidence suggests that this is not the case. The offer of support and a listening ear are more likely to reduce distress, as opposed to exacerbating it." 

Warning signs to look for include severe anxiety, agitation, hopelessness, rage, feelings of being trapped, a strong urge for vengeance, engaging in risky activities, excessive alcohol and/or drug use, withdrawing from people, trouble sleeping, and dramatic mood changes.

My Story

I've struggled with depression and anxiety since I was about 12 or 13, and while I've never actually attempted suicide, there were definitely times when I was so depressed I didn't want to live.

My depression and anxiety is manageable now but only because I take psychiatric medication and see a therapist regularly. There is no shame in admitting that you need help.

If you struggle with mental illness, please reach out for help. There are so many resources that will allow you to get help if you are open to it.

No matter what's going on in your life, it's temporary. And suicide is permanent. There's nothing you can't overcome with the right help. So don't be afraid to ask for it.

The Tour

Book lovers from all over the world have joined together to share their stories and spread mental health awareness. Please follow this tour guide to find our posts and to enter our giveaway for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card and a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 t-shirt: 

P.D. Workman, Author 

Triple A Book Blog 

Jessica Burkhart, Author 

Here Is What I Read Blog 

Crossroad Reviews 

Jazzy Book Reviews 

Book Corner News and Reviews 

I Love Books and Stuff Blog 

Luv Saving Money 

Debbie Manber Kupfer, Author

Ash Ineski, Author

Allie Burton, Author 

Book Butterfly in Dreamland

Tawdra Kandle, Author 

Quinn Loftis, Author 

Kat's Indie Book Blog 

Day Leitao, Author 

Steph Weston, Author 

Lanie Bynum, Author 

L.B. Carter, Author 

Holly and Mistletoe 

Eva Pohler, Author

 

The Giveaway

From September 1-10, enter for a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card and a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day t-shirt. There are lots of ways to enter below--choose one or all. You can also tweet daily for extra entries. We'll email the winner by September 11th.

Enter the giveaway

Other Ways You Can Help

1. On September 10th at 8 p.m. your time, light a candle to remember all those we have lost to suicide and to represent the hope of preventing suicide. People all over the world will be participating. You can send an ecard in 63 different languages to invite others to participate. Find the ecards here. 

2. Purchase a Book Lovers Unite for World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 for $20. For every shirt sold, five dollars is donated to the International Association for Suicide Prevention. Order yours here. 

3. Spread the word about this giveaway, to encourage more people to read our posts and tweet about overcoming stigma. Use the share buttons at the bottom of this post, and 

Click to tweet: #EntertoWin a $50 #giftcard and #Tshirt while fighting #stigma and spreading #mentalhealthawareness for #suicideprevention #WSPD.

Other Resources

Here are videos on suicide and mental helath that I have found to be helpful: 

The Bridge Between Suicide and Life 

You're Still Here: Living After Suicide 

This Is for All of You in a Dark Place 

Suicide Is Preventable

Also, I did a video several years ago about Tips for Writers With Depression

Special thanks to author, Eva Pohler, for putting this together!

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