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  • Erica McGrath Agent Spotlight Interview and Query Critique Giveaway on 8/12/2024

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  • Agent Spotlights & Interviews have been updated through the letter "K" as of 3/28/2024 and many have been reviewed by the agents. Look for more information as I find the time to update more agent spotlights.

Importance of Taking Breaks in Your Writing Schedule by Debut Author Justine Pucella Winans and Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything Giveaway

Happy Monday Everyone! Today I’m excited to have debut author Justine Pucella Winans here to share a guest post in celebration of her YA thriller Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything. It sounds like a gripping murder mystery, and I’m excited to read it.

Here’s a blurb from Goodreads:

Murder most fowl? In this sardonic and campy YA thriller, an anxious, introverted nonbinary teen birder somehow finds themself solving a murder mystery with their neighbor/fellow anime lover, all while falling for a cute girl from their birding group . . . and trying not to get murdered.

Sixteen-year-old Bianca Torre is an avid birder undergoing a gender identity crisis and grappling with an ever-growing list of fears. Some, like Fear #6: Initiating Conversation, keep them constrained, forcing them to watch birds from the telescope in their bedroom. And, occasionally, their neighbors. When their gaze wanders from the birds to one particular window across the street, Bianca witnesses a creepy plague-masked murderer take their neighbor’s life. Worse, the death is ruled a suicide, forcing Bianca to make a choice—succumb to their long list of fears (including #3: Murder and #55: Breaking into a Dead Guy’s Apartment) or investigate what happened.

Bianca enlists the help of their friend Anderson Coleman, but the two have more knowledge of anime than true crime. As Bianca and Anderson dig deeper into the murder with a little help from Bianca’s crush and fellow birding aficionado, Elaine Yee (#13: Beautiful People, #11: Parents Discovering They’re A Raging Lesbian), the trio uncovers a conspiracy much larger—and weirder—than imagined. But when the killer catches wind of the investigation, Bianca’s #1 fear of public speaking doesn’t sound so bad compared to the threat of being silenced for good.

In this absurdist, bizarrely comical YA thriller that is at turns a deceptively deep exploration of anxiety and identity, perhaps the real murder investigation is the friends we make along the way.

Now here’s Justine!

I feel like I need to start out by saying two things: one, the most important writing process is the one that works for you, and all I can do is share what works for me.  Two: I love writing. The whole process of it. I don’t necessarily love every aspect of publishing, But I love coming up with ideas, finding the voice, those moments when words just seem to spill on your fingertips and the moment you stop is like waking from a dream. I’m obsessed with it.

But I don’t write every day. 

In fact, I kind of hate the pressure to “write every day” like we all have the motivation to get up at the crack ass of dawn and journal or jot down ideas or whatever go-getters expect you to be able to do at 5AM. If that’s you, awesome. Sincerely, I might make jokes about it but if it makes you happy, it’s golden. If it helps you, hell yeah, keep doing it. However, if that’s not you, you’re not any less of a writer. It’s okay. Seriously. 

Not only do I not write every day, sometimes, I won’t write anything in a week. A month. At one point in my post-starting-to-query, pre-getting-an-agent life, I think I went about a year. Shit, I don’t even write every day while I’m on deadline (almost every day, but I still try to keep at least one weekend day free, and you can bet I’m taking time off after I turn that project in). 


We need breaks. We need rest. Sometimes, we need a full day to stay in our underwear ordering to-go ramen from that amazing restaurant across the street and binging romance fantasy manhwas with a cat curled up next to us (or whatever your me-time of choice is). Writing is work. Whether or not you’re currently paid for it, or do it as a full-time, or a second full-time, or a hobby, it’s work. Even when it’s fun and you’re writing silly queer murder mysteries for teens, it’s WORK.

If my day job told me I had to work every day in order to get better, I’d quit. (Arguably, even five out of seven seems really excessive?) Why is there this pressure to not hold writing (a job) to some ridiculous standard?

I get it: sometimes, you have to. You have to open up that google doc and type through your lunches to make deadline (been there), you like to escape from things into your book on the daily. If it works for you, do it. But this is for the times when it doesn’t. When mental health happens. When life happens. When you just don’t freaking feel like it happens.

You don’t need to feel guilty. You need that break. And that’s okay.

Writing is creative. We take from our lives, from our experiences, from the jokes that we landed once with friends and feel like we can reuse. We take from our pain, from our fears, from our imaginations. A lot of this doesn’t happen in front of a computer.

Maybe you didn’t add to your word count. Maybe you didn’t even open your document.

But did you watch a movie? Read a book or the new chapters of the 50+ reincarnated-into-a-romance-fantasy webcomics you’re subscribed to? (This is a self-call out. I deeply love them all.) Take a walk? A shower? Go on a drive? Treat yourself to something nice? Hang out with your friends or your family or your found family or your pets or even just yourself but somewhere different?

Did you take care of yourself? Drink water? Sleep? Do whatever it is that makes you happy?

That’s more important than the words on the page. That’s what will allow you to keep going, to keep being inspired, to keep the “holy shit I love books and writing and escaping into stories” fire burning because it will keep you, the brilliant, creative, writer who is a human and not a typing machine, from burning out.

The days of not writing are what can help you on the days that are. Relish in them. 

I feel like I have been writing all my life. Maybe it’s because of one of those people who simply doesn’t remember much of anything before I was like ten, but like so many of you, writing is part of who I am. I can’t imagine not coming up with some kind of story idea, some character, some voice to explore (although not always (or even usually) good ones). It made me realize that, in whatever form, storytelling will be there for me. I might spend some time away, thinking about my projects, or experiencing new lives by escaping into the work of others, or even doing nothing related to writing and books at all, but then I’ll come back to it (ideally refreshed or reinspired or, in dire straights, re-caffeinated).

Your work will be there for you. What is important is that you also show up for yourself and give yourself the time and care that you need to create.

If that’s not something you can do every single day?

That’s more than okay. Promise.

Thanks for all your advice, Justine! You can find Justine at:

Website: https://www.justinepucellawinans.com/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/justinepwinans

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/justinepwinans/

Giveaway Details

Justine is generously offering a hardback of Bianca Torre Is Afraid of Everything for a giveaway. To enter, all you need to do is be a follower of my blog (via the follower gadget, email, or bloglovin’ on the right sidebar) and leave a comment by April 29th. If your email is not on your Google Profile, you must leave it in the comments to enter the contest. Please be sure I have your email address.

If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog and/or follow me on Twitter or Justine on her social media sites, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry for each. You must be 13 years old or older to enter. This book giveaway is international wherever The Book Depository ships for free.

Upcoming Interviews, Guest Posts, and Blog Hops

Monday, April 24 I have an agent spotlight interview with Jennifer Chen Tran and a query critique giveaway

Wednesday, May 3 I have an interview with debut author Matt McMann and a giveaway of his MG spooky mystery Escape From Grimstone Manor and my IWSG post

Thursday, May 4 I’m participating in the Life’s a Beach Giveaway Hop

Monday, May 8 I have an agent spotlight interview with Ellen Goff and a query critique giveaway

Monday, May 15 I have an interview with debut author Jen St. Jude and a giveaway of her YA contemporary speculative If Tomorrow Doesn’t Come

Tuesday, May 16 I’m participating in the Mom’s Rock Giveaway Hop

Wednesday, May 17 I have an agent spotlight interview with Kristina Perez and a query critique giveaway

Monday, May 22 I have an agent spotlight interview with  Natasha Mihell and a query critique giveaway

Hope to see you on Monday!




Elizabeth Spann Craig said...

Excellent advice and some that I desperately needed to hear! Thanks. :)

Kate Larkindale said...

Such valuable advice. I see far too many writers killing themselves with the pressure to write every day.

Brenda said...

Wonderful advice, always more refreshed after taking some time off or a break.

Martin Porter said...

I feel SEEN! Writing is a job, and I sometimes go weeks without writing too, and kick myself for it thinking I am wasting time. But we all need a break sometimes.
Thank you for the interview!

Computer Tutor said...

I love that you go against the common wisdom to 'write every day'. I do but because I want to. Who says if that isn't your soul, it must be your actions? Glad you put that out there.

Annmarie Weeks said...

Great advice! We all need breaks in everything we're working on, whether writing or crafting or cleaning the house! Variety & mixing things up is the spice of life! Thanks for the chance to win. I follow via email at amweeksoc at comcast dot net.

Annmarie Weeks said...

Posted on twitter here: https://twitter.com/amweeks00/status/1648100336438001664

Annmarie Weeks said...

I follow you on twitter! (amweeks00)

Liz A. said...

Wow, that voice. She's got it in spades. And that blurb with the list of various fears is golden. Love it. (I have a soft spot for such things. Not something I can do myself, so I admire it in others.)

Anonymous said...

This felt like a big old hug:) so reassuring and encouraging! Thank you both. Emilym.bailey3@gmail.com
I also shared on Twitter!

Mary Preston said...

I love finding debut authors and following their path.


Danielle H. said...

I'm going to keep this post to reread as inspiration. I struggle to write most days and found your advice just what I need in my life. I can't wait to read this book--it's on my TBR already as I love mysteries best. I follow Natalie's blog and Natalie on both Twitter and Instagram. I follow the author on Instagram and shared on tumblr: https://www.tumblr.com/yesreaderwriterpoetmusician/714952655680733184/importance-of-taking-breaks-in-your-writing?source=share

Sandra Cox said...

A birder with a gender identity crisis. Fascinating premise. Wishing you much success.
'Lo, Natalie:)

varda said...

A much needed refreshing take on writing advice. Thanks for that. And, although not an avid birder myself, I have a best friend who is a stop-the-conversation-in-the-middle-to-lift-her-binoculars birder, so I am birder-aware. Looks like a great plot for a book! Congrats!

tetewa said...

I enjoy reading new authors and great advice! Would love to get a copy of this one!

Donna K. Weaver said...

It can be surprising how hard it can be to take a break from writing because our brains don't want to shut down. Yet when we finally do, it's amazing how refreshing we feel after--and more creative.

Andrea Mack said...

I love this post so much! Thank you. I do love writing but there are so many other things I love to do too, and sometimes writing feels like work and not what I need after a long day. I'm going to save this and print it out so I can read it again and again.

I'm really intrigued by your book!! I am a bird-watcher, though wouldn't call myself a birder.

Jay Linden said...

Love this post. Tellling it like it is. I think about my stories all the time, when cooking, showering, going for a walk, getting to sleep, waking up. In my imagination I'm wandering around the world, being the characters - all this is deepening the story even if it isn't adding to the word count.

When I get come to a halt in a story its often because the next piece of the puzzle hasn't arrived. Something new is going to come in that will take it in a different direction than anticipated or add another layer or twist. Determinedly ploughing ahead would be pointless. So I do other things and the inspiration arrives in due course and the story is always the better for it. Thank you Justine for this reclaiming the writer's sanity post :-)

Elizabeth Seckman said...

Great advice. Best of luck on the new book!

Chrys Fey said...

Breaks and rest are a must to prevent burnout.

Leela said...

I'm an email subscriber.

Megan said...

Thank you for the giveawaway - I'd love to enter to win the book :)
GFC: Megan S.
Email: megan(dot)clarsach(at)gmail(dot)com :)
Tweet: https://twitter.com/WordsThatStay1/status/1652724754527272963

DMS said...

I absolutely loved this fresh, honest interview. I don't write every day either. I wish I could- but I definitely don't! Love the advice and wishing her much success! :)

Elizabeth Varadan said...

I love the idea that it's okay to take writing breaks. When I do, I usually return with much fresher ideas about what should happen next.

Kasey @ The Story Sanctuary said...

This book sounds fantastic. I think one of my favorite things is when an author blends comedy with something that's usually really serious, like a murder investigation. Great guest post by the author, too. It's easy to put the pressure on ourselves, and always a relief to hear someone successful remind us to chill a bit. :)

Linda Browne said...

I loved this interview, and totally agree with Justine Pucella Winans' call for more time for breaks and enjoyment of life outside of writing. I couldn't agree more! It's high time we had some employment standards for writers, too.