Book Blogging 101

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_593109293I don’t know about you, but every time I read a book, I want to share my thoughts with someone or even shout how much I love the book from the rooftops.

Since the second option might not be a socially acceptable answer, I’ve come up with a more appropriate way to share your feelings about a book: blogging.

A couple years ago, I actually created my own blog! It’s been a really fun way to vocalize my thoughts on different books that I read. While I do sometimes make recorded videos about my thoughts on a book, there is something to be said about the written word. For me, it’s sometimes much easier to write my thoughts down than to vocalize them out loud, because I can really craft my words and edit them if I write them down.

shutterstock_577600897Book blogging is also a great way to keep track of the books you read; I often go back to my blog to see what books I have and haven’t read. It’s also nice to be able to go back and read all about what you thought of the book. People will often ask me, “Is [insert book name here] a good book?” and I read so much that I will often go back and reference my blog posts in order to refresh my memory on what I read.

On the flip side, it’s just a fact of life that we won’t love every single book we read. It’s nice to, at that moment in time, be able to talk about what you didn’t like so when people ask why you didn’t love the book, you have specific reasons as to why you didn’t like it. Don’t be afraid to talk about a book you didn’t like, but always remember to be respectful about it. People will listen to your thoughts more if you explain specific reasons why you didn’t like the book instead of just saying you hate it and leaving it at that.

shutterstock_350982164Blogging is also a great way to connect with people; you can meet other bloggers and connect all about book blogging! You can bond with people about books you both mutually loved and even books you both mutually hated, especially if they are books most people love. When I went to BookExpo this past May, I got to interact with and talk to so many other book bloggers and make friends from all over the world!

I know starting a blog can be scary, but it’s such a great opportunity to express your views with the rest of the book community and maybe even people that aren’t readers! It’s a daunting task to figure out which platform you want to create your blog on, and my suggestion would be to start with WordPress. There are real company websites out there that use WordPress as a base to create the elaborate sites they now have.

51DanJuR0KL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’ve ever pondered starting a book blog, I highly recommend it! There is no time like the present! And if you’re looking for more tips and tricks check out our book, So You Want to Start a Blog.

Before College Summer Bucket List

By: Kylie Widseth

What a fun time in your life! The period between high school and right before you start college, a summer filled with endless possibilities. I decided to create a list full of five things you might want to consider doing this summer before you start your college days!

  1. Read that book you’ve always been meaning to – This is the time in your life when you (most likely) don’t have to worry about any assigned summer reading. It’s one of the first times that the world is truly your own library. You don’t necessarily have to read the classics anymore! If you’re thinking you aren’t much of a reader, just try to pick up a book that peaks your interest. Get out there and get reading!
  2. shutterstock_367732748Road trip – Go travel the world, travel your state or even travel your city – Take your friends and just drive the open road. As they say in the One Direction song, go to places you can’t even pronounce. Sometimes those small cities along the way create the best memories.
  3. Visit your favorite spots in your hometown – Go to your favorite restaurants, diners, and ice cream shop. Make sure to especially visit some of your favorite local places since they won’t be in your college town.
  4. shutterstock_358226081Spend time with friends – I know this seems like kind of an obvious one, but really, spend time with your friends! Especially those you know won’t be going on to the same college as you. Have sleepovers, go shopping, and eat at your favorite places! Or just sit around doing absolutely nothing together. The bottom line: just enjoy each other’s presence while you can.
  5. Get a job – Money is essential in college and college costs can rack up. Try to get a job to make some extra cash as you make your way into college.
  6. Dorm shopping – Shopping for your new place can be very fun, and it can also be overwhelming. Try to so some shopping here and there so you aren’t left with doing all your shopping in one single trip!
  7. shutterstock_609626255Have some alone time – Spend some time just doing you and being you on your own time. Go on a hike by yourself or just spend some time in your room watching YouTube or Netflix.

Regardless of what you decide to do with your summer, just remember to enjoy every second of it! You’re about to embark on a very exciting chapter of your life!

Summer Slump: 10 Long-term Cures for Summer Boredom

By: Kristen Joseph

July is typically the midpoint of summer vacation for most school-goers, which means it’s also primetime for a horrible case of summer boredom to set in. You’ve already done all the fun stuff you had planned for the summer, and now you’re just stuck sitting around marking off the days on your calendar until you start the new school year. Never fear! Here’s a list of ten things to do to that will keep you occupied for the rest of the summer:

1) Get a job. It may sound like a complete summer cliché, but getting a job — which means earning more pocket change — is a tried-and-true way to keep busy during the summer. You can learn a new skill, gain experience, and potentially do something fun with your free time. Regardless, you get paid. Definitely an upgrade from sitting on the couch all day. (If you’re worried about the interview process, here’s a handy-dandy survival guide, courtesy of Atlantic Publishing.)

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2) Learn an instrument. Or keep practicing one that you already know. There are so many benefits that you can obtain from playing any musical instrument, from gaining discipline to improving your memory. And the world of music is so vast that you’ll never run out of things to play. Or you could write a song yourself, once you master your instrument.

3) Volunteer. Many high schools and scholarship organizations require students to have a certain number of community service hours. And colleges like to see that you’re involved within your community, volunteering your free time with different organizations for the greater good and all that jazz. There are lots of fun ways to earn those community service hours, too. It’s a great way to make new summer memories while earning school credit.

4) Exercise. Just hearing the word sounds strenuous, but I promise you, exercising can actually be fun. You can either do it the standard way, or try some interesting new exercise routines. For example, I just started hula hooping with my best friend three times a week (the hula hoops are weighted so you end up burning more calories and work up a sweat). It’s been great so far! And I used to be terrible at hula hooping, but now I can keep it up for an entire hour. These workouts are honestly one of my favorite parts of the week.

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5) Dance classes. Another fantastic, untraditional method of exercise. Technical, enjoyable, rhythmic, character-building. You could learn types of dances like Latin, hip hop, or contemporary, and look like a pro busting a move to all of your favorite songs. Any type of dancing is just incredible; you definitely won’t regret this activity.

6) Learn a sport. Or keep playing one you already love. It’s a fun activity to do with friends, counts as exercise, and it counts as strength training for your brain, too.

7) Start a garden. You just need plants, water, sunlight, and a little bit of knowledge on how to properly care for your new green friends. For more info on how to easily grow your own garden, check out our book The Complete Guide to Growing Vegetables, Flowers, Fruits, and Herbs from Containers: Everything You Need to Know Explained Simply Revised 2nd Edition (Back to Basics).

8) Learn a new language. This activity will definitely be challenging, but think of how cool you’ll sound saying things in another language. And just imagine all of the new awesome places that you can visit to test out your newly acquired speaking skills.

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9) Write a story. Flex those creative muscles! With pen and paper — or fingers and word processor — you can create an entirely new world where literally anything can happen. You can even publish your stories online for fellow story-lovers to read. So work up your imagination and get to writing. I can’t wait to read your next bestseller. (If writing children’s books or screenplays is your thing, check out our books So You Want to Write a Children’s Book: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing and Publishing for Kids and So You Want to Write a Screenplay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing for Film, Video, and Television for tips on how to get started).

10) Read books! Come on, you had to know this was coming. Reading books is literally one of the best ways to pass the time no matter what season you’re in. Once you discover what genre you’re in to, there’s an endless treasure trove of books to add to your to-be-read pile.

And now you have ten activities to help you get through the rest of the summer. Enough to count on your fingers. You should mix the numbers of the activities up and assign each number to a finger…. Have you done it yet? Good, you have. Pick the numbers on your thumbs and decide which of the two activities you’re going to start today… like, right now… why are you still reading this? Go have fun with your new hobby!

 

So You Want to Write a Screenplay

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_630896453Have you ever wondered what it takes to make a big blockbuster movie? Well, it all starts with a screenplay that’s taken from a page of writing and made into what you end up seeing when you sit down in a nice plush movie theater seat.

But what exactly does it take to write a screenplay?

Haik Kocharian, a writer, director, and producer; shares three things you should consider before writing a screenplay.

The screenplay writing process is riddled with challenges. You have to develop, formulate, and refine the story. You have to make sure you have proper formatting, that you’ve closely proofread the text, and much more. The list of laborious and, at times, maddening tasks is long. But before you even write the first sentence, there are three issues you need to consider.

First, how do you balance success (or lack thereof) and self-esteem?

Second, how do you allow your idea to reach its full potential and avoid it becoming an idea that appeared exciting at first but was never developed?

Third, and most important, understand why you want to write. The decision to write a screenplay means dedicating a good chunk of your life to an idea that might not bring you the success and recognition you desire. Before you embark on this exhilarating but risky journey, ask yourself a simple question: Why am I doing this?

Here is my advice on how to answer these three fundamental questions.

shutterstock_267148451Focus on your voice

Don’t compare, and don’t compete. Let’s say you’re living in Los Angeles, and you have a screenwriter roommate — same age as you — who lands an agent and is offered a position on a popular television series. You’re pretty happy for him, but you’re also jealous of his success. Questions keep running through your head. Why him and not me? My writing is just as good if not better than his. Why am I so unlucky? You feel weak, insecure, and discouraged. But you should not compare yourself with him or try to compete with his success. Don’t worry too much about what other people do and receive in their careers. Stay focused on your own vision, your own way of thinking. Write your story in your unique voice and focus your energy on writing the absolute best screenplay you can rather than expending your time and energy on comparing yourself to others.

Finish the first draft

Screenwriting can be a brutal and difficult creative process. This is particularly true when writing the first draft. Everything feels off. The characters appear flat and underdeveloped, the dialogue is a disaster, and the storyline is full of holes. At times, you feel as if you are unable to put a single sentence on the page. A terrifying doubt starts to linger: Is the story good enough? Perhaps your doubts are justified, and the story isn’t very good. But maybe it’s a diamond in the rough. You can only settle this question by finishing your first draft. Make your points, even if they aren’t yet well-defined, and put all of your thoughts and ideas in writing. Only after you have finished your first draft will you be able to assess the story’s potential.

Love what you do

This is perhaps the most important part. You should write screenplays because you have a story to tell, one that has inspired you and become a part of you. Write bravely, with vigor and excitement. Don’t be afraid to be original and take risks. We all seek recognition and success as a screenwriter. If you write with passion and determination, success will follow.

61mzgkRoMYLIf you’re interested in learning more about writing a screenplay, check out our book, So You Want to Write a Screenplay: A Step-by-Step Guide to Writing for Film, Video, and Television.

Book Sniffin’

By: Kristen Joseph

Okay, I think it’s about time for someone to ask these questions…. What’s up with book sniffing? What on earth even makes books smell like that? And why isn’t there an official term for this particular action? As a fellow book-lover (who enjoys the smell of a good tome on occasion), I decided to research this topic to satisfy my curiosity, and yours.

jpegAroma-Chemistry-The-Smell-of-New-Old-Books-v2-724x1024Old books and new books seem to have completely different scents. The reason? Chemistry. According to an article on CompoundChem.com—where I found the handy-dandy infographic on the left— older books contain a bunch of compounds that make them smell sweeter, particularly chemicals that produce vanilla- and almond-like aromas. This is why the sections of the library with the older books smell so amazing…. Now I really want to go sit around in a library. Queue the nostalgic sigh.

Some people say that they only like the scent of older books, but honestly, the new ones smell amazing too! They may not contain the delightful odor of almond or vanilla, but they still smell like relaxation and happy times (at least in my opinion). Newer books generally smell light and fresh too, as opposed to their older and sweeter counterparts. Nevertheless, these literary aromas are all fantastic.

bookloverNow for the fun fact that I discovered today: there’s actually a term for this. In both noun and verb form, bibliosmia is described as the smell of/act of smelling books. This wonderful word isn’t dictionary-official yet, but many book-lovers are pushing to get the term recognized. So there you have it. Some of the most important literary questions ever posed, answered. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to go take a whiff of the novel I’m currently reading.

Happy Sniffing!

Surviving College on a Shoestring

By Melody Wolf

College is expensive. Luckily, there are many resources out there to lessen the costs, but you have to be willing to put in the work. Bright Futures is one of the many reasons why families pack up and move to Florida to raise their kids. On top of the many quality colleges scattered throughout the state, there is also a scholarship that covers a decent chunk of that tuition. The best part? The scholarship is available to ALL high school students, no matter your race, income or background.

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There are three levels for the scholarship – all with different requirements for core classes, service hours and standardized testing scores (SAT and ACT). You can view those requirements here. For those of you looking to meet the minimum score to gain entry into your college of choice, I highly encourage you to go above and beyond in order to achieve the HIGHEST level of the Bright Futures Scholarship. I took the ACT multiple times, but I was only able to qualify for the middle level – this has been one of my biggest regrets of my high school career.

Bright Futures is only for Florida, but other states offer similar programs. Put in the hours of studying and you will save LOTS of money – take advantage of this opportunity! For those of you who want to come out of college owing NOTHING, take a glance at this case study straight from our book: How to Go to College on a Shoestring:

The higher SAT score you have, the greater chance you will have of receiving scholarship awards from private sources and schools. Plus, the better chance you will have at being accepted into the best schools in the first place. Your SAT scores are the equivalent to all of your years of hard work in high school — they are that important. Not only are SAT scores considered a preview of how a test taker will do in college, they have become a yardstick for measuring life potential. Not necessarily fair, but it is true.

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You should start studying as early as possible for the SAT by using review books, but if you feel you need extra help, you should enlist the help of an experienced tutor. It is worth every penny, as the payback for getting more financial aid, and a higher quality education, could be tenfold.

By working with you to maximize your SAT score, you will have the extra edge you may need to get into the school that is first on your list and increase your possibilities to receive more grants and scholarships. Ultimately, that will lower how much you will have to pay back. The more prepared you are for the SAT test and the more comfortable you feel with test-taking, the better you will do on this very important test.

For more on avoiding all college expenses, consider purchasing our book: How To Go To College On A Shoestring!51KV5lg8QrL._SX340_BO1,204,203,200_.jpg

3 Types of Dreams

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_547906330For thousands and thousands of years, humans have worked to analyze the purpose and meaning behind the dreams that we see in our periods of sleep. Long ago, dreams were believed to be a way to predict the future, and individuals who could interpret and read dreams were highly regarded individuals.

Leah Fortner, a holistic counselor and life coach, who assists others on dream analysis, talks about three types of dreams that we can have.

One of the concepts that I teach others in my Dream Analysis classes is the ability to use dreams to connect to your higher self or unconscious in order to receive direction or advice about areas of concerns in your life. One method of doing this is to ask your subconscious a question before lying down for bed. I have personally experienced this and have had great insights and helpful information from these methods. Some people have a natural ability to connect and direct dreams, whereas others have to practice in order to create that bond of conscious to unconscious. However, everyone is able to use these tools with commitment and patience.

Learning to control your dreams, known as lucid dreaming, is a very exciting experience. All humans are capable of the same level of consciousness and so are all capable of lucid dreaming. It is something that, if it does not come naturally to you, will take practice. As you spend more time and energy with your dream experiences and practicing different methods for inducing lucid dream states, you will increase your ability to experience this state. The benefits of doing so are infinite and primarily unknown to our scientific culture. At the very least, it offers the dreamer the ability to experience a boundless reality where we can express ourselves freely without fear or caution.

shutterstock_559226803Another type of dreaming similar to lucid dreaming is astral projection, which is the ability to leave the body and experience a higher level of consciousness. There are different astral planes we can experience during these projections. It is a common experience for the dreamer to feel conscious of his or her body but unable to move it, often times occurring in a type of nightmare. This is, however, a form of astral projection, and because we are not used to the sensation of body awareness and conscious separation, it creates a level of fear in the dreamer.

I also believe that psychic dreams are a very real and amazing experience. There is a lack of logical reasoning when we try to understand how these types of dreams occur, but there is no denying it when it happens. A mother wakes in the middle of the night in hot sweats and deep panic because she has just had a nightmare that her daughter was in a terrible car accident and moments later the phone rings, on the other end a messenger shares that her daughter is in the hospital due to a vehicular collision. Can we really doubt the reality of this experience and the psychic energy that played out in her dream? Psychic dream experiences ask us to look deeper into this psychic energetic field and the amazing ability our subconscious has to tap into it.

51jodhiqr+L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re interested in learning more about dreams and dream interpretation, check out our book, The Young Adult’s Guide to Dream Interpretation.

Dog-friendly recipes

By: Kylie Widseth

shutterstock_141097474Believe it or not, sometimes our dogs can get bored of their dog food that they eat practically every day. But it doesn’t always have to be that way. There are recipes out there that are filled with “people food” that even dogs can eat.

If you’ve ever wanted to make your dog a special food that you made with love, we decided to give you the recipe!

Here is a recipe we picked out for sweet potato cookies:

Prep time: 45 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups oat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups brown rice flour
  • 2 cups cooked, mashed sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup oat bran
  • 1 Tbsp. honey
  • 1 egg
  • 1/3 cup water

Instructions:

shutterstock_97912838Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cook and mash the sweet potatoes. You can bake them or microwave them as you prefer. Put them in the food processor to make them smooth after cooking.

Combine all ingredients and mix together until a dough forms. Roll out onto a lightly floured surface to 1/4 inch thickness. Use a cookie cutter or knife to cut into individual pieces.

Line cookie sheet with aluminum foil for easier cleanup.

Put the cookie pieces on foil-lined cookie sheet and place in oven.

Bake cookies for 20 to 25 minutes. Remove and allow to cool on a wirerack. Store in an airtight container in the fridge.

51KWIA6IifL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_If you’re interested in other dog-friendly recipes, check out our book, Canine Cuisine!

Back to the Basics: Grow Your Own

By: Melody Wolf

Ever wanted to grow your own garden? How about some fresh fruit? Or even just gain a couple of green friends inside? We’re here to help you utilize that green thumb and assist you in your growing needs! We have an entire collection of helpful gardening books in our Back to the Basics series. For those of you interested in trying your hand at gardening, here are a few tidbits to keep in mind (taken from a few of our many books):

The Complete Guide to Growing Windowsill Plants

growing windowsill

  • For a more consistent-looking spread, match the shape of your pot to the shape of your plant. If you want your plants to stick out more, then consider planting a round plant with lots of volume in a narrow pot. You can design your indoor plants any way you like – you have complete creative freedom!
  • A common misconception is that an indoor plant will require less effort and less care, but that couldn’t be further from the truth! They still require the same basic nutrients, being nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium carbonate. An important note is to fertilize more in the summer and less in the winter.

The Complete Guide to Growing Your Own Fruits and Berries

growing fruits and berries

  • For fruits and berries, spring is the best time to get the ball rolling… but ONLY in the northern regions. In the southern regions, the exact OPPOSITE is true. You see, in the south, the climate is too hot and humid for the plants to survive, so the best planting season is autumn. Just remember you can spring north but you can’t spring south… Instead, you fall south.
  • When looking for a prime place to plant, check if there are any bugs in the soil. If there are no crawly creatures, do NOT begin to plant your fruit there. If the soil can’t support bugs, odds are it can’t support the life of your plant.

We’ve pulled a couple need-to-know tips from two of our gardening books, now here are some final thoughts for you to consider when beginning your gardening adventure.

  1. Make sure to trim and prune! You want to water the plants – not its leaves.
  2. Keep a calendar. It’s amazing how easy it is to let time get away from you, and before too long you won’t know when you started fertilizing.
  3. Start with the basic plants. Some plants are easier to grow than others. Here are some easy-to-grow plants to start you out on your journey: sunflowers, dahlia’s, foxglove, roses, petunia and black eyed susan’s.

I hope you now have a better idea of where to begin! To continue expanding on your gardening knowledge, dive into our Back to the Basics series! We have a lot to offer to offer both beginners and experts alike!

So You Want To Write a Children’s Book

By: Melody Wolf

Writing a book is such a large task. Some people will spend an entire lifetime finding the perfect words to convey exactly what they’re trying to say because once your book hits shelves, you better hope you’re proud of it. But what happens when your audience still picks their boogers and has an attention span of a two-month old puppy? That’s right – I’m talking about the almighty genre of children’s books.

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For those of you that ever showed an interest in writing a children’s book or are actively looking to expand your writing career, here is some valuable advice from Susan Collins, taken directly from our book.

For some reason, I have always liked writing from a child’s point of view, even when I wrote fiction for adults when I was younger. After I had kids and was reading all these wonderful children’s books to them, it just made sense to try writing for children. I quickly discovered it is quite challenging and very fun. What other job would involve dreaming up an iguana who plays the blues? I think there is no better calling than writing for children. Although I do not like preachy books, I do hope to inspire kids and make them think as well as entertain them.

My advice to aspiring children’s book authors:

  • Make time to write on a regular basis
  • Go to a restaurant or a park if you get distracted at home
  • Read many children’s books
  • Hang out with kids, so you can see the world through their eyes
  • Find some writing buddies for critiques or just support

Being an author has been great fun. I love visiting schools and reading my book and talking about writing. I get a kick out of the kids. They come up to tell me stories or show me something they have written or just to give me a hug. Their openness and enthusiasm are inspiring.

If you’re interested in writing a children’s book, consider purchasing our book