By Judy Christie

Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club time!

It’s time for one of my favorite author activities — our annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club.

This might be the easiest club ever — you don’t have to sign up and you’ll never need a name tag. From the green kitchen couch right here, we can chat about what we’re reading and recommend books to each other.

Whether summer will take you to faraway places, down the street to the neighborhood pool or to the sofa with a fan blowing on your face, the season is at hand for extra reading.

What’s on your list? Leave a comment below, and you’ll be entered in a drawing for a $25 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble or Amazon (your choice). We’ll draw at noon Central Time on June 30.

 

Gone to Green e-book free

To kick summer off, I’m giving away “Gone to Green,” my first novel, free, as an e-book on Amazon from June 15-19. You can download this onto a free Kindle app and read it on your smartphone, tablet or laptop—or your Kindle, of course.

https://www.amazon.com/Gone-Green-Book-1-ebook/dp/B01CX3AXNK

“Gone to Green” starts a 5-book series about big-city journalist Lois Barker who winds up running a small newspaper in rural Louisiana and falling in love with the town and the people. The series is upbeat, which perhaps we all can use these days, but it also tackles hard topics such as racism and social injustice.

 

A summer special on Magnolia Market

For more summer reading fun at a bargain, “Magnolia Market,” my Trumpet & Vine novel from HarperCollins, is on sale throughout June for $1.99.

https://www.amazon.com/Magnolia-Market-Trumpet-Vine-Book-ebook/dp/B00H6XM2NC

Avery Broussard needs a fresh start, but finds that’s not as easy as the self-help books make it sound. Running a corner grocery store in the fictional town of Samford—named for the street on which I grew up—she finds that she can recover from loss and move on to a second chance at love.

 

Working on the third book in the Wreath series

This summer I’m finishing the third book in the Wreath Willis series and enjoying Wreath’s journey.

Both teen and adult readers tell me how much they’ve enjoyed watching Wreath grow in “Wreath, A Girl” and “Wreath, In Summer.” Each of these books is available in digital and paperback formats.

https://www.amazon.com/Wreath-Girl-Willis-Novel-Book-ebook/dp/B00VMPS2RA

Wreath is a 16-year-old whose mother has just died; committed to graduating from high school, she lives alone in a junkyard in rural Louisiana until she can finish school, running from an evil man and trying to make a home with new friends.

 

Summer Reading Photo Contest

We’ll also have our second annual Summer Reading Photo Contest too! Take a “reading” shot of you or a friend or relative (with their permission, of course) and e-mail it to me judyatjudychristiedotcom (trying to fool the spammers with that).

Last year’s entries ranged from a reader photographing herself in a hammock to a friend reading in her motor home. A judge with photo experience will pick the winner, which will be announced the week after Labor Day. The deadline for e-mailing your entries is 5 p.m. Central Time, Wednesday, September 7. No worries! I’ll remind you again.

What are you reading this summer? Leave a comment for a chance to win a $25 gift certificate to buy books!

P.S. I love reading, writing and talking about books and have launched a Facebook author page. Please stop by to like it and keep up with contests, new books and other news.

Life after the junkyard: Sequel to “Wreath, A Girl” releases today!

My new novel, “Wreath, In Summer,” releases today, December 1, 2015, and I can’t wait for you to read it.

Wreath-In-SummerThis is the second novel in the Wreath Willis series, the sequel to “Wreath, A Girl.” I wrote it after hearing from readers who wanted to know what happened to Wreath after high-school graduation. Turns out, Wreath has lots of adventures ahead.

After high-school graduation, Wreath is ready for a summer of fun. However, a mysterious young stranger needs her help—causing her to make tough decisions and putting her in danger. Paperback and digital versions are available on Amazon.com, right here.

Wreath’s story is for readers of all ages, from age 11 through adulthood.

The comments of early readers have made me smile. A sampling:

“Wow! You have topped ‘Wreath, A Girl’ with the new book. The growth of Wreath is amazing. You’ve captured so well the problems of kids in that transition between high school and ‘real life’–be it college or work….It’s a wonderful story.” – From a Book Club Member and avid reader

“What an adventurous story, filled with twists and turns…If you loved ‘Wreath, A Girl,’ hang on for round two! Just when you thought Wreath’s biggest adventures were behind her, she enters into a summer filled with romantic twists, heart-pounding adventures, intrigue…highly recommended!” –Bestselling author Janice Thompson, who has written nearly 100 books

“I loved being part of Wreath’s summer before college…This is a wonderful YA story but also a great read for adults…because there are times when we all need someone to help us do the right thing. I sure hope there is more of this adventure to come!” New York Times bestselling author Lenora Worth

Hope you’ll read “Wreath, In Summer” soon. Haven’t read “Wreath, A Girl” yet or need a teen gift? You can order it in paperback or e-book here.

And please consider posting reviews of “Wreath, In Summer” and “Wreath, A Girl” on Amazon.com and Goodreads and spread the word to friends and family. Reviews are one of the nicest gifts you can give an author.

If you’re in the North Louisiana area, we’ll celebrate “Wreath, In Summer” with a launch party and book fair on Monday, December 7, 2015, 5 to 7:30 p.m. at Barnes & Noble in Shreveport. We’ll have refreshments and door prizes and visit about books! To give back to our community, B&N will give a portion of all sales to buy books and educational toys for children in need this Christmas–with the help of the wonderful Common Ground Community in the Cedar Grove neighborhood of Shreveport.

 

 

 

Reading-Photo Contest winners announced

How I loved all the entries! I planned on one prize but had to expand it to three. An independent judge chose the winners.

First-place winner: Girl on a train
First-place winner: Girl on a train

First place went to Carole J. of Calhoun, La., for a terrific photo of her friend reading on a train. The back story: “My friend Morgan T. and I were on our way to the village of Cruden Bay in northern Scotland. One of our favorite authors, Susanna Kearsley, set her novel ‘The Winter Sea’ at Slains Castle, which is just north of Cruden Bay. We took the train from Edinburgh to Aberdeen and then the bus from there. It was a long day but worth the adventure. Slains Castle is a beautiful sprawling ruin full of history and character, bringing the novel alive before my very eyes.”
Carole chose a $50 gift certificate to Amazon as her prize.

2nd place: A friend, a book & a dog
2nd-place winner: A friend, a book & a dog

Second place went to Lorraine L. of Benbrook, Texas, for her photo of a friend at a lake house. Dog Annie added to the photo fun. These two friends were reading Jodi Thomas’ “Harmony” books on their e-readers.
Lorraine receives a $20 gift card to Starbuck’s.

3rd-place winner: Reading takes us away ...
3rd place: Reading takes us away …

Third place went to Kimberley M. of Hornbeck, La., for her fun photo of herself reading in the hammock in her back yard. “The book I was reading was called ‘Dancing on Shattered Glass.’ It’s a book set in south Louisiana and is about a girl that finds herself in an abusive relationship although she knows it’s not pleasing to God. Also her mother prays for her throughout the story.”

This was our first-ever Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Photo contest. Photos could be shot anytime, anywhere, and all are used with permission of the subjects. We read on trains, boats, in RVs, at the beach, in hammocks in our yards, on porches …and on the kitchen couch, of course!

Now, on to our autumn reading! Tell us what you’re reading. Leave a comment below and let’s talk books!

Summer-reading photo contest: Show us what you’re reading!

Friend Neil Johnson, usually behind the camera, reads a Jack London book on a family vacation in Maine. (Photo by Cindy Johnson)
Friend Neil Johnson, usually behind the camera, reads a Jack London book on a family vacation in Maine.
(Photo by Cindy Johnson)

I love photos of people reading.

To celebrate the 4th annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club, we’re having a summer-reading photo contest.

E-mail your favorite summer-reading photo to judy(at)judychristie.com. I’ll share some on the blog. One reader will win a $50 gift certificate to Barnes & Noble or Amazon–your choice.

Any summer reading/book photo qualifies. You don’t have to be on vacation—would love to see your children or grandchildren reading or a shot of a favorite spot to read. Be creative!

You have until after Labor Day–the unofficial end of summer.

Deadline to enter is 5 p.m. CST Wednesday, September 9. Let me know where the photo was taken and confirm that you took it or have permission to enter it.

Old summer photos are eligible, too. Can’t wait to see your reading pictures!

And, leave a comment to let us know what you’re reading as summer winds down. Happy end-of-summer and happy reading!

Want to write a book? Writing Workshop August 29

Back-to-school is a great time to start or finish your book idea. I’m excited to join author friend Shellie Tomlinson at a workshop on writing and publishing on August 29. I’ll share tips on how to write fiction, and Shellie will talk about nonfiction. We’ll gather in Lake Providence, Louisiana. The cost is $45. Would love to see you there! To register: Writing Workshop.

4th annual Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club: Happy reading!

Summer reading
Great photo from a “Magnolia Market” reader!

Greetings from the green kitchen couch–where my summer to-be-read stack is still quite tall!

This is our 4th year for the Kitchen Couch Summer Reading Club — another excuse (as though we need one!) to talk about what we’re reading. So, what’s on your bedside table? By your beach chair? On your Nook or Kindle or iPad?

I’ve had great summer writing adventures and have been reading along the way — from an excursion to Colorado (and a visit, of course to Tattered Cover) to a train ride from East Texas to Chicago.

Most recently I read “Outlander” by Diana Gabaldon–an unusual choice for me because I rarely read time-travel novels. I heard about this book, the first in a series, several years ago on Twitter, bought an e-version on sale (it’s still $1.99 as I write this) and read it on the train trip to a wedding.

The premise is immensely creative, the characters larger-than-life but oddly believable, and I learned a lot about Scottish history. The book made me reflect on advancements through the centuries. I enjoyed it–although I don’t plan to read others in the series because I have so many other authors I want to sample.

If you like G-rated books, be aware that “Outlander” has some pretty intense–sex and violence–scenes. They didn’t bother me but I don’t want you to be caught off guard.

Has anyone else read it? What do you think? (Or watched the TV series?)

More book talk for summer:

** I decided not to read “Go Set a Watchman,” which I’ve written about in my upcoming book column in The Shreveport Times (runs each Thursday). Main reason: I don’t care to read an unedited manuscript, unless it’s my own. If I were a Harper Lee scholar, I’m sure I’d feel differently. Would love to hear if you’re reading it and what you think.

** Thanks to all who are awaiting “Wreath, In Summer,” the second Wreath WillisWreathInSummerFINAL-Amazon (1) novel, written and in production. A release date will be announced soon, I promise! I can’t wait to share this next installment of Wreath’s story (sneak peek at cover to the right); she has many adventures during the weeks after high-school and must make tough decisions about helping others or staying on the sidelines. Her almost-boyfriend Law is back, along with Faye, Wreath’s newly-discovered grandfather, an intriguing teen and the child in his care–and a host of not-so-nice people!

If you haven’t read “Wreath, A Girl,” Adobe Photoshop PDFfirst in the series, I hope you’ll take a look before the new book comes out. And if you’ve read, please leave a review on Amazon. Really helps!

** Thanks to all who ordered “Magnolia Market” after a Book Bub special over the weekend. It’s been fun to watch this book rise in Amazon rankings and hear from new readers discovering this second book in the Trumpet & Vine series.Magnolia Market final cover 10.24.13

Your turn! Let us hear what you’re reading this summer. Any recommendations? Leave a comment for a chance to win a Starbuck’s gift card and a fun journal! I’ll draw at noon CST July 31. And congrats to booklover MA of Shreveport, La., who won our last drawing!

A Southern sense of place in stories: A conversation with Kimberly Willis Holt

As a reader and writer, I’m partial to southern stories. I live in Louisiana, a state full of so many tales that an author could spend a lifetime capturing them. Each of my eight novels is set in a fictional Louisiana town. So I particularly enjoy reading the middle-grade stories of author Kimberly Willis Holt, woven from her Louisiana roots.

Kimberly Willis Holt
Kimberly Willis Holt

Kimberly, who moved frequently as a child in a Navy family, considers Central Louisiana her “emotional home.” She draws on this setting and her Louisiana family’s gift for storytelling in each of her books—including her new middle-grade novel, “Dear Hank Williams.”

I first encountered Kimberly years ago at a book festival at the site of the iconic Louisiana Hayride where musical giants such as Elvis Presley got their start—a spot that plays a key role in Kimberly’s new book, “Dear Hank Williams.” (Sitting in the green room used by such musical stars offers a thrill all its own, but that’s a blog for another day.)Book Column Dear Hank Williams

“Dear Hank Williams” is set in Central Louisiana in 1948. Tate P. Ellerbee’s teacher has given her class an assignment–to learn the art of letter-writing. (As an avid letter writer, this is yet another thing I love about this book.) Tate’s chosen pen pal: Hank Williams, a singer she heard on the Hayride.

Kimberly has written such great novels as “My Louisiana Sky,” “When Zachary Beaver Came to Town” and “The Water Seeker.” She’s a National Book Award winner and has had her books made into movies. She pulls me in to stories with her keen sense of place and the emotions she evokes.

How she approaches settings

“When I’m writing a story, I want to make the reader feel like they are in the setting. That’s achieved by many layers–not just the way a place looks, but the way the people interact with each other, what they talk and care about, too.”

Her attention to emotional impact

“My emotions are close to the surface. I think that’s why I’m able to easily add that dimension into my work. I’m not interested in reading or writing stories that don’t explore the heart.”

Choosing ideas to write about

“When you get excited about the idea, so excited that it will hurt you if you don’t write it, it’s probably time. For me, the excitement comes when I hear the voice of a character speaking to me. Then I know it’s time.”

Coming-of-age stories (which I love)

“…Almost all my ideas are coming-of-age ideas. To me a coming-of-age story is a story about a young person who has to make an adult decision. In doing so, life is never quite the same.”

For more, including public appearances and advice for writers, see http://www.kimberlywillisholt.com.

Are you drawn to books with a sense of place? What sorts of settings appeal to you? Hope you’ll leave a comment.

And congrats to blog reader M.A. who won our April drawing for a collection of Louisiana Booklovers’ items, including a signed copy of the new edition of  my YA novel, “Wreath, A Girl.” And to e-newsletter subscriber A.R. who won 10 signed copies of “Magnolia Market,” my fiction with a Louisiana flavor, for a book discussion. Have you signed up for my e-newsletter? I announce new books and contests there and will never share your e-mail address with others: http://judychristie.us9.list-manage.com/subscribe?u=381f56b0d0227bce67e22f87c&id=70b82b1335

Shower friends with favorite books—and build your to-be-read list

Bride-to-be Megan Katie
Bride-to-be Megan Katie

Megan Katie, a community sustainability planner in Chapel Hill, has loved books her entire life—so friends here in Louisiana celebrated her upcoming marriage by adding to her library.

Guests brought favorite titles and received XOXO bookmarks as favors. They played book-themed games and drew for a bookstore gift certificate.

Wouldn’t it be fun to adapt this for any occasion — book parties for babies, for graduation, for birthdays or for Mom’s and Dad’s Day?! Or, how about a book-lovers’ brunch where each person gives a book and gets a book? (I want to give one of these parties!)

Book talk spans the years

A mom and daughter hosted Megan’s party. “I love to read,” Laura, who will be a bridesmaid in Megan’s wedding, said. “Megan and I have been sending book recommendations to each other since we were little.”

“I love that people gave her a very diverse set of books…Some brought classics or their all-time favorites.”

Guests shared quotes from favorite books. “That was fun too,” co-hostess Wendy said, “because people said, ‘What book was that in?  I want to read that.’”

Megan the Reader

The bride-to-be is a member of the “Best Book Club in N.C.,” a group of women “in their late 20s and early 30s who get together to gossip and chat about books.” She always carries a book “because I never want to be without one if I have the opportunity to read.”

Shout-outs for classics & newer titles

Megan: “Hands-down, favorite author is Agatha Christie. I’m considering naming my firstborn daughter Agatha.”

Laura: “I love fiction, anything with a good plot. My favorite classic is ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’ by Alexandre Dumas. I also love the Harry Potter books, of course.” Her gift? “I wanted to give her something that I knew she hadn’t yet read, which wasn’t an easy task. I decided on ‘Where’d You Go, Bernadette’ by Maria Semple. It has been my favorite read in the past year. I took it to the beach last summer, and I didn’t want to put it down.”

Mother-of-the-bride Carla, who gets more pleasure from reading than perhaps anyone I know, gave her daughter, “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry.”  “My problem was that Meg and I share our ‘favorites’ with each other all the time, so I had to give her a relatively new book.  I had recently read this book and really enjoyed it.  It is about a bookstore owner; Meg and I both would love to work in a small bookstore.”

Wendy gave her all-time favorite book, “The Color of Water” by James McBride, the 2013 National Book Award winner. “It is a story of a woman whose love knows no bounds, combined with the respect, tenacity, values,  spiritual  discovery  and self-realization that she passes on to her children.”

Among the books given as gifts

“All The Light We Cannot See,” Anthony Doerr

“The Day After Tomorrow,” Allan Folsom

“This is the Story of a Happy Marriage,” Ann Patchett

“Yes, Please,” Amy Poehler

“Housekeeping,” Marilynne Robinson

“The Four Agreements,” Don Miguel Ruiz

”The Giving Tree,” Shel Silverstein

“The Help,” Kathryn Stockett

“The Cape Ann,” Faith Sullivan

What book would you take to a book party and why? Leave a comment for a chance to win a Louisiana booklover’s collection of goodies, including a copy of the new edition of my YA novel, “Wreath, A Girl.” I’ll draw at noon CST on April 21.  For more on “Wreath, A Girl,” see http://www.amazon.com/Wreath-Girl-Willis-Novel-Book-ebook/dp/B00VMPS2RA.

Congrats, too, to Annette R. of Shreveport who won my e-newsletter drawing of a set of 10 signed copies of  “Magnolia Market” for her book club or friends. If you haven’t signed up for my newsletter (on my home page), hope you’ll do so!


6 Ways to Catch Your Breath as the Year Ends

You probably feel like you don’t have time to read this post.

You really should be doing something else. Or a bunch of something elses.
photo 1 - Copy (5)
Maybe you’re wondering how you’ll make it to the end of the year without pulling out your last hair, spending your last cent or losing your last hint of joy.

A few reminders

Let me remind you of six simple ways to catch your breath. Most of us know what we need to do. We just find it tough to follow through. I, who wrote an entire series of Hurry Less Worry Less books, have to do a course correction every year at this time.

When I started preaching the Hurry Less Worry Less gospel, I hoped we were headed toward a calmer simpler world.

I was wrong. We continue to overschedule, overspend, overeat—and wind up overwhelmed.

But we can change. It takes ongoing effort–but it’s oh-so-worth-it.

By deciding to make a few changes now, we can enter the New Year with optimism and purpose:

1. Don’t try to do everything. Let some things go. Saying “no” to one thing is saying “yes” to another. Choose how you will spend your time, energy, emotions and money these next few days..and next year.

2. Set aside an hour and do as many of the little things on your to-do list as you can. You’ll be amazed at how much you can get done and how good it makes you feel. Do this a few times, and you’ll breathe easier.

3. Don’t fret. Instead go with the flow. Don’t agonize over whether you must get this sweater or that candle, whether you’ve bought enough for the children or need to get something for your ex-cousin-in-law. Your house does not have to be perfect. Don’t worry over the dust under the sofa or the spider web that appears when the sun shines into the den.

4. Don’t try to take care of everything you’ve let slide all year. You’re not going to finish a novel, lose 20 pounds and paint the bedroom in the next few days. Give yourself a little grace. You can begin to set new goals for a new year.

5.Look for the good in each day. Focus on what is working and what’s right, instead of what’s messed up or what’s wrong. Have some fun!

6.As you head into the New Year, believe you can make needed changes. Decide what you want your life to look like next year; write down a few steps to make happy changes happen. Consider what gives you energy and what drains your energy. Do more of the former, far less of the latter. Enter the year with a positive attitude. It can change your life!

How about you? What steps help you slow down and enjoy each day more? Leave a comment for a chance to win a signed copy of one of my novels. I’ll draw a winner from the comments at noon CST on December 26.
And congrats to reader Stephanie who won the great print (see below) from Louisiana artist Don Cobb.

Where Wreath lives!
Where Wreath lives!

Adobe Photoshop PDFP.S. If you’re looking for a book to give as a gift, hope you’ll take a look at the new edition of “Wreath, A Girl,” released earlier this month. It’s easy to wrap and inexpensive to mail. http://www.amazon.com/Wreath-A-Girl-Judy-Christie/dp/1502932326

“I do not know where I would be if I hadn’t read ‘Wreath'” — a new edition of a favorite book

A teenaged stranger wrote an essay about how a character in one of my books changed her life.

The new cover!
The new cover!

And this reader’s words helped change mine. Today I ask you to celebrate with me the result—a revised edition of “Wreath, A Girl.”

Fueled by this girl’s feedback and that of other readers—teens and adults—I’m launching a revised edition of “Wreath, A Girl” today. The book has a slightly different name (so readers won’t think it’s a Christmas decorating book) and a new cover. But it has the same message of resilience, perseverance and love. As part of today’s launch party, I’m giving away downloadable gifts when you buy the book. More on that here: http://tinyurl.com/WreathSpecialOffer

The Wreath Willis Series

And this revised version paves the way for the second Wreath Willis novel to release in spring 2015!

More moving words from the reader

The teen reader who inspired me said she was failing four out of eight classes in the eighth grade and had been told she would likely be held back from high school. In an essay contest on www.stageoflife.com some months ago, she wrote:

“It was soon after this when I started reading ‘Wreath,’ a book about a teenage girl who lost her mother and was doing everything she could to avoid going into foster care and still get a scholarship into college. She led a miserable life for a few months, living in a junkyard and working four hours a day in addition to school. However, she also had to learn to ask for and accept help when she was in desperate need.

… Wreath taught me to never let others decide what my outcome was going to be, but also to never be afraid to ask for help.

Wreath inspired me to believe in myself and do all that I did. She is the reason I got straight As that semester and could go into high school with my friends.

To be honest, I do not know where I would be if I hadn’t read ‘Wreath.’”

This essay reminds me of the power of stories. I love writing novels that show how we can make it through hard times and how we all need a little help along the way—exactly the kind of novels I like to read, by the way.

I have to thank the wonderful Pulpwood Queen Book Club, the largest meeting book club in the world, too, for naming “Wreath” a Teen Book of the Year. And my 13-year-old granddaughter, who mentioned earlier this year that she had reread Wreath “and fell in love with her all over again.” And then there is my dental hygienist who emailed me to say she had recently gone back to Wreath, moved again by this story.

I hope you’ll order “Wreath, A Girl,” help this new edition get off to a great start–and get the free gifts (an assortment of creative things you can download easily, from me, author Lisa Wingate, fantastic mom food blogger Jessica Maher and Monica Carter Tagore at Rootsky Books). The celebration offer: http://tinyurl.com/WreathSpecialOffer Or take a look at the book, in paperback or e-book formats: http://tinyurl.com/Wreath-A-Girl.

During December, a portion of all sales will go to help homeless children–very much like Wreath Willis–here in North Louisiana. I hope that Wreath will find a home in your heart and guide you over a rough spot. Or maybe show you how to help a friend.

Win this print by Louisiana artist Don Cobb
Win this print by Louisiana artist Don Cobb

And let me hear from you. Has a book ever helped you through a tough time in life? Leave a comment for a chance to win a special framed print of VW vans in a junkyard, just like the one where Wreath lived for nearly a year. The painting is by Louisiana artist Don Cobb. I’ll draw at noon CST, December 8.

From middle school teacher to National Book Award finalist

A couple of summers ago, my husband, pre-teen granddaughter and I had one of those near-perfect vacation evenings in Los Angeles. Sitting on a patio on a lovely night, we visited with friend John Corey Whaley, who had moved to California to follow his writing dream and was writing his second novel, “Noggin.”

A California visit with Corey Whaley
A California visit with Corey Whaley
Former Louisiana teaching colleagues lined up for the release of "Noggin"
Former Louisiana teaching colleagues lined up for the release of “Noggin.”

The book, he told us, would be about a teenage boy who volunteers to have his head cryogenically frozen and wakes up five years later attached to another teenager’s body–a story about letting go of the past and coming to terms with the way people change.

Talk about change!

Corey’s fantastic real-life story gives “Noggin” a run for its fairy-tale money.

This week “Noggin” was named a Young Adult finalist for the National Book Award.

Corey, a friend since his days as a middle-school teacher with my husband, is one of the hottest young adult novelists in the United States.

He gave up teaching English and has become a discussion topic in those same classes. He writes with an offbeat spirit and deft turn of phrase. Reviewers mention his “oddball” and “madcap” style–and his unique ability to connect with readers.

His debut novel, “Where Things Come Back,” is a Southern story about a missing teenager in Arkansas and the reappearance of a thought-to-be-extinct woodpecker, a la the Ivory-billed.

That novel, released in 2011, changed Corey’s life. It won the Michael L. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Fiction and the William C. Morris Award for Debut Young Adult Fiction.

What he’s learned since writing his first book:
“I’ve learned to be more patient with myself–that sometimes I need a lot of time to develop characters and ideas and that writing a book isn’t about racing against the clock, but about making sure the story I want to tell is the one I take the time to actually put down on the page.”

Surprises in the writing life:
“I think the biggest surprise about being a full-time writer is how unbelievable other people find it–always asking ‘that’s all you do?’ But I always explain that it’s the only thing I’ve ever been very good at, so it’s the only thing I can do.

Advice to someone who wants to write a novel:
“Just write it already–if you have the right idea and the talent, the book will happen for you the way it’s supposed to. It’s true to write what you know, but also don’t be afraid to research what you don’t know for inspiration. And just know that every writer/author has to edit and change pretty much everything he/she writes, so there’s no perfect first draft–don’t beat yourself up trying to write one.”

How about you? Have you ever followed a dream? Leave a comment and tell us about it.