How to get a literary agent

Advice, Books, Writing

I haven’t written about this much on this blog, but you may have read on my bio that I am a writer. I write novels for young adults, and it has always been my dream to be traditionally published. This means getting my books published by an established publishing house, rather than self-publishing. (Oh boy, let’s see how many times can I use the word publish in this post!)

In most cases if you want to be traditionally published, first you need a literary agent. There are some exceptions — maybe you’re working with a very small press or you feel comfortable representing yourself. In general, getting an agent is the way to go. Even literary agents who are writers themselves often get an agent to help them get their books published.

That said, it’s hard to get an agent. Many a writer tries, fails, and gives up. There are rumors that you have to have an “in” in the publishing industry and you’ll never make it if you don’t schmooze and network and meet some people.

I am here to tell you it’s possible to get an agent the old-fashioned way, because I did it. No personal favors, no industry contacts, no help from anyone.

The Vegan Post

Fitness/Health, Food

Let me start by stating that I am not vegan. I feel compelled to write this post because of a documentary my family watched which caused my parents to go cold-turkey on all animal-based foods.

Before we watched the film, my parents loved fish, chicken, cheese, milk, ice cream… you get the idea. Now? They are doing their best to eat a “whole foods, plant-based diet” and trying to convince everyone they know to do the same. (As for me, I’m choosing vegan and vegetarian options more often, but I can’t bring myself to give up cheese or milk in my coffee quite yet.)

The movie is called Forks Over Knives and it’s currently available on Netflix. “Forks Over Knives examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the degenerative diseases that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.” (read more here)

Basically, these two doctors spent their careers experimenting (independently… they didn’t meet each other until later in life) and each came to the conclusion that people who eat a plant-based diet with no animal-based products have a significantly lower chance of getting cancer. The film even features some patients who were able to survive their cancer death sentences by changing their diet. And it’s not only about cancer. The film also interviews patients who got rid of diabetes, high cholesterol, and other health problems by switching to a vegan diet.

You’d think this would be all over the news, because we are always searching for a magical cure to cancer, right? Well, here’s the thing about this possibly magical cure. It’s easy, and it’s cheap. No one is getting rich off this breakthrough. There’s no fancy pharmaceutical drug that a company can charge millions for. It’s just a lifestyle change that anyone can make, with or without the help of a doctor. Frankly, it’s cheaper to eat a plant-based diet than an animal-based one.

“It is time to let food be our medicine.”

What do you think? Are you familiar with this film or with the claims it makes about a plant-based diet? Have you made the switch to veganism?

-L

What to read: what we’re reading now

Books

Book nerds, gather ’round. It is time for another installment of “what we’re reading now.”

 What Sophia’s reading now:

A TALE FOR THE TIME BEING by Ruth Ozeki

In Tokyo, sixteen-year-old Nao has decided there’s only one escape from her aching loneliness and her classmates’ bullying, but before she ends it all, Nao plans to document the life of her great-grandmother, a Buddhist nun who’s lived more than a century. A diary is Nao’s only solace—and will touch lives in a way she can scarcely imagine.

Across the Pacific, we meet Ruth, a novelist living on a remote island who discovers a collection of artifacts washed ashore in a Hello Kitty lunchbox—possibly debris from the devastating 2011 tsunami. As the mystery of its contents unfolds, Ruth is pulled into the past, into Nao’s drama and her unknown fate, and forward into her own future.  (via Goodreads)

 What Lauren’s reading now:

THE SWEETHEART by Angelina Mirabella

It’s 1953 and seventeen-year-old Leonie Putzkammer is cartoonishly tall and curvaceous, destined to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and living with her widowed father, Franz, in their Philadelphia row house. Until the day legendary wrestling promoter Salvatore Costantini walks into the local diner and offers her the chance of a lifetime.

A debut, coming-of-age novel in which a teenage girl from Philadelphia leaves her old life behind to become The Sweetheart, one of America’s most infamous female wrestlers. (via Goodreads)

 What Jenna’s reading now:

PARIS IN LOVE by Eloisa James

In 2009, New York Times bestselling author Eloisa James took a leap that many people dream about: she sold her house, took a sabbatical from her job as a Shakespeare professor, and moved her family to Paris. Paris in Love: A Memoir chronicles her joyful year in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. (via Goodreads)

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If you want more recommendations, have questions, or have suggestions for us, leave a comment!
-L

If you like Downton Abbey…

Quick Read, TV

I don’t know about you, but I loved this season of Downton Abbey. Somehow it was even better than last season. But after watching Sunday’s finale, I am already feeling a sense of loss. What am I supposed to watch now?

So I figured, with the end of this season of Downton, other people might have the same question. Lucky for you, I have some suggestions.

Mr. Selfridge

Another PBS Masterpiece series, Mr. Selfridge has 2 seasons out, with season 3 scheduled to start March 29th. This show takes place in London in 1919, the same period as Downton. It begins with American Harry Selfridge opening his first department store in London. The story follows the drama of Harry’s wealthy social circle as well as the lives of his shop employees. (Available on Amazon Prime.)

Call the Midwife

Also on PBS, Call the Midwife is quite possibly my favorite show of the last couple years. It’s had three seasons so far, with season 4 beginning March 29th. The show follows Nurse Jenny Lee, a young woman from a well-to-do family who moves to London’s impoverished East End to become a midwife in 1950. If you like heartwarming (and heartbreaking) stories about women, try this one. (Available on Netflix.)

Bomb Girls

I had never heard of this show when I stumbled upon it on Netflix. Once I got into it I was heartbroken that it only has 3 short seasons because it is so good. It takes place in Canada during WWII and tells the story of the women, from all walks of life, who work in a bomb factory. (Available on Netflix.)

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Sadly, this list doesn’t help me because I have already watched (and loved) these shows. Now what suggestions do you have for me?

-L

Face Masks

Beauty, Reviews, Skincare

As a skincare enthusiast, face masks have a special place in my heart. When you take the time to slather a bunch of goop on your face, let it sit for half an hour, and rinse it off, you are straight up pampering yourself. You are saying, “Hey skin, I love you.” Self-care is important. It’s good to be decadent sometimes.

I love trying new face masks, but there are a few that I always go back to.

LUSH Love Lettuce Fresh Face Mask

This mask is calming, scrubby, and natural. Plus, it’s bright green. I just feel like face masks should be bright green, don’t you? The scrubby bits are made of ground almonds so you do have to be careful not to rub too hard when removing it (be gentle with your skin!). This is one mask that makes my face brighter as soon as I rinse it off. It needs to be stored in the fridge and does need to be used up within a few weeks. One tub gives me 4-5 uses.

Moroccan Lava Rose-Vedic Blemish Relief Face Masque

Whew, that is a mouthful. From Shea Terra Organics, this mask is all natural and organic. It comes in powder form so you mix it with water (and don’t have to worry about it going bad). My skin feels healthier after using this mask, but it also smells strongly of thyme — I’m still not sure how I feel about that. I want to try Shea Terra’s other clay-based masks, especially the one made with camel’s milk!

Raw honey & lemon juice

{via}

This one is great if your skin needs moisture or if you are dealing with a breakout. Just mix a few drops of lemon juice with raw honey (you might need to heat it up if your honey is solid) and spread it over your skin. This also works as a spot treatment. Raw honey is great on its own, too.

Sheet masks

{via}

Sheet masks come in a million varieties. I stock up on them whenever I am in an Asian grocery store. I’ve never used the same type of sheet mask twice so I don’t have a specific recommendation. All I know is these are fun to use (and the packaging is so cute). At one point I used multiple sheet masks a week and left the product on my face when I went to bed (rather than rinsing it off) and my skin didn’t like that so much. So now I just use one every now and then and rinse the product off after removing the sheet. If you are ever in an Asian market and see some of these babies, try one! They are super cheap (just beware of spooking your roommates by walking around with one of these on your face).

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Those are my recommendations! What are your favorite face masks?

-L

Note: I am in no way affiliated with or compensated by any of these companies. These are just products I have enjoyed and purchased on my own.

My favorite travel blogs

Curated, Travel

I read a lot of blogs. It started a couple years ago when I stumbled across some travel blogs. I was immediately hooked, getting to know the bloggers and their stories and daydreaming about visiting the places they write about.

Travel blogs are ubiquitous — there’s something out there for everyone. If you’re looking for travel tips or just want to satisfy your wanderlust vicariously, check out my favorites.

Adventurous Kate

Arguably the most popular solo female travel blogger, Kate has been writing about her adventures for years. She quit her job at age 26 to travel and now she travels full-time and gets paid for it.

The Wanderlust Project

Sheryll blogs about her life teaching English in Asia, and also reviews Asian beauty and skincare products. She currently lives in Vietnam.

This Battered Suitcase

Brenna has been traveling for 8 years and has been to an astounding 90 countries. I’ve spent many a pleasant afternoon reading through her heartfelt and helpful blog posts.

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What are your favorite travel blogs? We can always use new adventures to read about!

-L

Anxiety

Advice, Fitness/Health

Sharing time: I used to think I was a very calm person because my emotions were pretty even-keeled. I thought I didn’t even know what anxiety was. But in the last year it has been brought to my attention (by a mental health professional) that anxiety is my baseline. I am pretty much always anxious, and have been my entire life. So my emotions might be even-keeled, but not necessarily in a good way.

Most of us struggle with anxiety — if not all the time, at least once in a while. Life can be stressful, and that’s why it is important to know how to take care of yourself.

Here are some easy ways to show your anxiety who’s boss.

Watch TV. Work out.
Both of these activities take your mind off your worries and force you to pay attention to something else. Whether it’s Mary’s gorgeous wardrobe on REIGN or feeling the burn while trying not to drop free weights on your toes, giving your brain a break for an hour or two will make you feel like a new person.

Take a hot bubble bath.
A hot bath relaxes your muscles, which in turn relaxes you. If you have trouble sleeping at night, soak in the tub before bed to calm down. Epsom salts and scented bubbles are always a good idea, but if you don’t have any the hot water will do you good on its own.

Clean your apartment and light scented candles.
I’m not suggesting a deep clean of every nook and cranny (unless you’re in the mood for that), but never underestimate the power of a quick tidy-up. Take five or ten minutes to put things away, wipe down tables and counters, maybe sweep or vacuum. Then light some candles. This is a great thing to do for your mental health because you are actively taking control of your environment and creating a positive change that you can enjoy immediately. It’s so much easier to relax when your place looks and smells pleasant.

Say what’s on your mind.
Literally, state your worry out loud to yourself. It helps you focus instead of freaking out, and puts your fear in perspective. Sometimes I find it hard to pinpoint exactly what I’m anxious about, so just the act of trying to form it into a sentence helps me realize I’m anxious about… well, nothing.

Now say the worst that could happen if your fear comes true.
For example, “if I don’t accomplish ___ then ___ might happen.” Often your next thought will be, “in which case I would…” and it helps you see that even if things get really bad it won’t be the end of the world.

Breathe.
It sounds cheesy, but it helps. I find that when I am anxious or stressed I tend to hold my breath. Taking some long deep breaths can help you relax instantly. Next time you’re anxious, take a deep breath for 10 seconds and then let it out slowly.

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Do you have any tips on dealing with anxiety? How do you relax?

-L

What makes an outfit?

Fashion, Quick Read

I have never been very good at this whole fashion thing. Putting together outfits doesn’t come easily to me.

Until I started paying attention to style a few years ago, I was the girl who wore leggings and a hoodie sweatshirt every day.

Now, even though I put a lot more thought and effort into my outfits than I used to, I still find myself wondering how other women manage to look so darn stylish and put together. Personally, I feel like I’m just wearing clothes… Not necessarily a complete outfit.

So I’ve been trying to figure out the answer to this question: what makes an outfit? And while I’m sure there are dozens of ways to answer that question, if I have learned one thing so far it’s that shoes are a secret weapon. Shoes can take an otherwise average outfit and turn it into something intentional, creative, and complete.

Let’s get some shoes.

What else do you keep in mind when creating an outfit?

-L

Soup to cure the winter blues

Curated, Food, Recipes

We are smack dab in the middle of winter, and it makes me want to fly a few thousand miles south to somewhere warm, or at least spend all day in a fluffy blanket drinking all the coffee in my kitchen.

But since I have a job to go to and don’t have quite enough miles for a last minute vacation, I have to find other ways to cure my winter blues.

That brings us to soup.

Soup is comfort in a pot. The act of cooking something warm and nourishing automatically makes you feel better. It forces you to slow down, and makes you feel good just knowing you are taking care of yourself.

Here is some soup inspiration for you. I can’t wait to get home and get one of these recipes cooking.

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Potsticker soup. Toss your favorite frozen potstickers and veggies in a flavorful broth. Yum. (Recipe here)

Potsticker soup
(via)

Pea and lettuce soup. Easy, healthy, delicious. The recipe suggests serving with a ham and cheese tartine (ham and cheese melted onto a roll of crusty bread) and I couldn’t agree more (although I might make mine with turkey and cheese). (Recipe)

Pea and lettuce soup

Chicken and rice soup. Classic comfort food. I want some now. (Recipe)

Chicken and rice soup

Quick spicy sriracha ramen noodle soup. A homemade take on instant ramen. And it’s spicy. Yes, please. (Recipe)

Spicy ramen

Miso soup with mushrooms and soba noodles. A little more complicated, but it’s vegan, healthy, and oh-so flavorful. Plus, mushrooms. I die for yummy, brothy, mushroomy soups. (Recipe)

Miso soup

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Let me know if you try any of these recipes! Do you have any favorite soup recipes? How else do you stay warm in the winter?

Get cooking! -L

What to read: What we’re reading now

Books

We are big readers over here. Between the three of us, we are constantly reading books that span a wide variety of topics and genres. So if you’re looking for your next book, we’ve got you covered! Check out what we’re reading now.

 What Sophia’s reading now:

THE WANDERER by Robyn Carr

From Robyn Carr, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the popular Virgin River novels, comes Thunder Point-the highly anticipated new series that will make you laugh, make you sigh, and make you fall in love with a small town filled with people you’ll never forget. (via Goodreads)

 What Lauren’s reading now:

THE DUD AVOCADO by Elaine Dundy

The Dud Avocado follows the romantic and comedic adventures of a young American who heads overseas to conquer Paris in the late 1950s. Edith Wharton and Henry James wrote about the American girl abroad, but it was Elaine Dundy’s Sally Jay Gorce who told us what she was really thinking. Charming, sexy, and hilarious, The Dud Avocado gained instant cult status when it was first published and it remains a timeless portrait of a woman hell-bent on living. (via Goodreads)

THE HIP GIRL’S GUIDE TO THE KITCHEN by Kate Payne

The author of The Hip Girl’s Guide to Homemaking shows you how to love your kitchen and learn to make creative, delicious food without breaking your budget. (via Goodreads)

 What Jenna’s reading now:

THE ROSIE EFFECT by Graeme Simsion

The highly anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestselling novelThe Rosie Project, starring the same extraordinary couple now living in New York and unexpectedly expecting their first child. Get ready to fall in love all over again. (via Amazon)

Make sure to read The Rosie Project before picking up the sequel 🙂

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What are you reading now? We can always use suggestions!
-L