Being Ceaseless in the Face of Fear


One marvelous thing about being a child is their general lack of fear. When we were kids, some of us found ourselves at the top of a hayloft, leaping from the edge thinking we could fly. Others jumped into the deep end of the pool with the belief they could swim without any lessons. And there were even a few that thought every single person they passed on the street was a potential friend who wanted to talk to me…er, them. We didn’t realize stepping into that pen with the bull was a bad idea, nor did we know that climbing a tree could result in either getting stuck in said tree or falling to the ground from the highest branch. We weren’t scared of anything, and the world was ours to conquer.

Fear isn’t something we’re born with – it’s something we learn as we get older.

Oftentimes, as children, we’re told we can be anything we want and do anything we set our minds to, so we start making plans for our lives. Big plans. We want to become cowboys, firefighters, policemen, princesses, and singers. This builds our sense of optimism for the future, allowing us to live a carefree life, full of confidence and hope. But, at some point, someone we look up to – whether it be a parent, uncle, or the crazy neighbor next door – tells us the awful truth that life doesn’t work that way…that life isn’t fair and we don’t always get what we want. So, all our hopes and dreams of becoming a professional bull rider, a stunt man, or best-selling novelist go out the window and we instead opt for the boring life of being an accountant, a phone representative, a cashier, or a desk jockey.

But here’s the thing. That awful truth…the one that most adults seem to adhere to, isn’t necessarily true. It’s fear that causes people to stop dreaming and instead aim for extreme average-ness. Being practical is safer than being an idealist, but it’s also far more boring, right? And let’s face it…no one ever got exactly what they wanted out of life by playing it safe. But if what you want is that cubicle job typing numbers into a computer for a living, I’m not going to judge you. It takes all kinds in this world, and if that’s what drives you to get up each morning, then I’m honestly happy for you.

As for me, I’m not the cubicle type. Never have been. I’m far more at home either as a public speaker or sitting in my writing cave. Those are the things that energize me and makes me feel as though I am doing what I was meant to do in life. Anything less than that drains me, and I begin to fear I will never fully meet my potential. I have absolutely zero desire to be average – physically, mentally, or professionally. And because of that desire and drive to be better than average, I am constantly pushing my fears to their limits.

Now, by no means have I accomplished everything I want out of life, yet. I have dreams…giant water tower-sized dreams. And those dreams won’t be realized until I face my fears: my fear of failure, my fear of never accomplishing my goals, my fear of not making enough money, my fear of looking stupid, my fear of working hard and having nothing to show for it. But I’ve learned there’s a trick to it all. When fear rears its ugly head, I remind myself just how far I’ve already come. I remind myself that my 5th book is being published this summer, that I’m further along in my writing career than I was 6 years ago, and that I have a literary agent who is amaze-balls at her job. But mostly, I’ve learned to accept that the universe does its thing in its own time. While I would love to have everything I want out of life right this minute, I know it’s a process and will shake itself out when the time is right.


There are still things I’m afraid of. Heights, frogs, snakes, tiny holes packed together, being eaten by sharks (even though I live nowhere near an ocean), wiener dogs, spiders, death, and people running toward me with ski masks and a machete. Some of those fears are rational…some are not. The fact is, we have complete control over what we know we should fear and what our minds have made us believe we should fear. In fact, fear is nature’s way of letting us know that danger is close. But many times, the danger isn’t as bad as what our mind has made it out to be. Instead, it’s merely the fear of the unknown that we’re staring down, and that can be the most frightening of all.

I had a friend who recently found herself back in the dating scene after her divorce. She was afraid to get back out there, fearing that no one would find her attractive, it would be too stressful, that she was too old to start over, that there weren’t any good guys left, or that she’d end up with a serial killer. That fear of the unknown…not knowing how the dating scene would work out for her…is what she was ultimately scared of, but she eventually put those fears aside and took the plunge. She’s now in a serious relationship with a great guy who treats her the way she always wanted to be treated. The danger of finding a serial killer was there, and she even dated a few douche canoes in the process. But in the end, she overcame her fear and found the man of her dreams.

Everything we want is on the other side of fear.

It’s a quote I use often, and not just on myself. Whenever someone comes to me and says there’s something they really want to do, I pull out this quote and clobber them over the head with it. And yet it seems that as many times I manage to convince someone else to follow their dreams and leap over that giant crap-heap of fear, I can’t seem to do the same thing for myself most of the time. There are still a lot of things I want to do – specific things I want to be. I want to be a full-time writer, no longer having to rely on a day job to pay the bills. I want to be a public speaker. I want to be a New York Times Best Selling author. And I want to take my family on their very first family vacation ever. But to achieve these specific goals, there are certain fears I need to face. The big one is this: stop being afraid of failure. At some point, I will need to just burn the boat and swim and see where the current takes me. That’s the epitome of fear…not knowing where the current (or life) is headed.

People are so busy living their fears that they don’t have the capacity to live their dreams.

I know better than anyone that it’s all easier said than done. Leaping over one’s fear takes more than just courage. It takes an incredible amount of faith. Faith that it will all work out the way you want. Faith that you are making the right decision. And faith that the universe will push you as you climb. Fear also has the ability to sabotage any success you may achieve. How many times have you nearly been successful at something only to say or do the wrong thing and fail because of it? I’m certain if you sit down and think about it, long and hard, and were completely honest with yourself, you’d be able to come up with numerous examples. I, myself, don’t have enough fingers and toes to count on regarding my own experiences. I am my own worst enemy. But knowing this and finally having that epiphany has allowed me to see my world in a different way.

If I’m being honest, one of my biggest fears at times has been my age. I’m not that young anymore, and I oftentimes wonder if time has killed any chance I have at success. Am I too old to achieve my goals? Has too much time passed for me to continually develop the skills and abilities required to be successful? And am I just too far along in years to learn something new and embrace a different way to become who I know I am inside?

But I meditate and ponder my existence, and I remind myself that age is only a number. Time isn’t my enemy…my fear of time is. I have unlimited time – however long I allow myself –  to achieve the things I want to achieve as long as fear isn’t an obstacle. And once I give myself permission to succeed, the world will know about it.

Be Ceaseless – The Blog Series

Ceaseless. The dictionary loosely defines it as “without pause or stop; unending”; however, I define it as “a person who is unstoppable; a way of being; the attitude a person takes when they do not allow people or circumstances to stop them from achieving their full potential”. It’s a word that defines who I am to the core of my being. I can’t go anywhere without being identified as “that ceaseless author”, a moniker I wear with pride.

But I have gone beyond that. Ceaseless is tattooed on my forearm for all the world to see – a constant reminder of how my children see me and a way to remind myself just how strong I truly am. Over time, it’s evolved into the hashtag #BeCeaseless – encouraging others to view their own circumstances in a different way. BeCeaseless is on t-shirts, bracelets, and even has its own Facebook page. It’s taken on a life of its own, and I’m proud to say that my own failures gave birth to this movement.

Yep. Failures.

For me, being ceaseless is a state of mind. A few years ago, I finally realized I was far stronger than I’d ever given myself credit for, and without that sudden clarity I hate to think where I’d be right now. My only regret in life is that I didn’t realize it all sooner. The fact that I was 43-years-old before I saw myself through my children’s eyes…as someone who is relentless…pushes me to do better and be better every single day. But I’m not doing it for them per say. While I want to set a good example, and be a role model to my kids, I’ve had to learn it’s okay to be a bit selfish about my own wellbeing and my life’s goals. No one is going to hand me the success I want out of life. I have to work hard and earn it. And now more than I ever, I know it’s within my grasp simply because I believe it.

That may seem like hokum and new-age thinking. But even quantum physics has a theory about the law of attraction. By thinking positively and expecting good things to happen, positive and good things will happen. Perhaps that is oversimplifying its definition, but you get the gist of it.

I wasted far too many years on self-pity parties, pessimism, and blaming others for my problems. Everyone has their own demons – a past they’d like to forget and an uncertain future that seems doomed for failure. Skeletons hang in closets like neatly organized bedlam where we hope they’ll stay hidden from the curious eyes of society. I planned to keep my own skeletons hidden from everyone I knew for fear of being judged. But I recently discovered that by keeping my struggles buried, embarrassed to let others discover my failures and pain, no one would ever know the real me or why I am who I am.

There are incidents from my past I wish I could forget, but every traumatic event shaped the person I was to become. Through the tears, the hardships, and the pain, I am now someone that my younger self would be proud to know. Toxic people, fear, blame, and self-loathing will only stand in the way of letting you become the person you always thought you could be. Happiness is up to you. No one, not even me, can motivate you to become who you were always meant to be. That, my dear, is entirely up to you.

This is the first of many blog posts – a series that will ultimately make you see you’re not alone. My ultimate goal is to make you understand just how strong you are. Life is hard, yet you are made of harder stuff…but only if you believe it. As the days, weeks, and months go by, you will discover how broken I once was and how I was able to fight my way back to become the person I am today. I’m not perfect, and I am nowhere close to where I want to be in life…yet. But the point is this…through self-belief, ambition, perseverance, optimism, and planning, I know without a doubt one day I will succeed in everything I want to achieve because I am allowing it to happen.

You can achieve anything.

My hope for this blog series is this: that you discover the hero inside yourself. By figuring out how to let go of the past and embrace your future, you will find that you are free to become the champion of your own story.

As for me…I am ceaseless. I am strong. I am the she I always meant to be.

Who are you?

Grandmotherly Advice and Other Stuff for My Expectant Daughter

In 3 short months, I will become a grandmother. I find it funny how people congratulate me as if I had something to do with it. Other than giving birth to my daughter 22 years ago, my contribution ended there. But, I say thank-you nonetheless and smile. The important thing is this…I’m going to be a grandma…and an awesome one at that who will reach expert status in spoiling my new granddaughter. Yep…I have no shame.20160902_144333

But with my eldest having her first baby soon, I thought it would be good to dish out some grandmotherly advice to her in the only way I know how: In a blog post for everyone to see. After all, I’ve been a mom for 22 years. Surely I’ve learned something over the years. Right?

  1. Don’t be in a huge rush for big milestones. Things like rolling over, sitting up, crawling, walking, and talking are all wonderful things to experience and you should absolutely revel in each accomplishment. But don’t be in a hurry for any of it. Enjoy every moment of every day as it happens, because trust me when I say this: Before you know it, you’ll blink and your children will be grown and having babies of their own.
  2. You most definitely will be spending the first 2 years teaching your children to walk and talk and the next 16 to sit down and shut up.
  3. As your children enter their school years, you will inevitably want to step in and fight every single one of their battles for them against mean kids, teachers, and even their own friends. Don’t. They must…and I cannot emphasize this enough…MUST learn how to fight their own battles no matter how painful it is to watch. (As long as they aren’t being physically harmed. That’s another story. In those cases, you go full mom-mode and attack like a mama bear.) Otherwise, let them figure it out with a little guidance from you, of course.
  4. The more you use the word “no”, the more they’ll use it. Try to find a different way of saying it.
  5. Kids are messy. And they’re disgusting. And they one hundred percent don’t care that the couch in the family room is the first thing you and daddy bought together. Your child will ultimately spill milk on a cushion and you won’t know a thing about it until a week later when you’re trying to figure out where that awful smell is coming from. You will never have nice things as long as you have children living at home…whether they’re 6 months old, 6 years old, or 16 years old. Get over it.
  6. The first time your child uses a cuss word in front of you just to see your reaction, do not laugh or even smile. Not even a little bit. But you shouldn’t become overly angry and begin yelling, either. If you ignore it and act as though you didn’t hear it, they’ll stop. This is why your little sister only went through that phase for a week while a friend’s son never outgrew it. People may disagree with me on this one, but there’s something you should know about kids…they like attention…good or bad.
  7. Which brings me to number 7. It isn’t always easy, but praise the good and ignore the bad (to a point). Common sense is a given in certain scenarios, but let’s be honest. Our little angels don’t always act like little angels. Instead, they want to see just how far they can push mommy or daddy before the veins in our necks pop out and we lose our cool. They throw a tantrum at home, walk away. You walk away, you’ve taken away what they desire most. Your attention. But if they do something good, shower them with attention. Eventually, they’ll figure out that good attention is better than no attention at all.
  8. Manners are a lost art. Teach your children to say please and thank-you.
  9. For the love of all things holy, I’m begging you…if you’re out somewhere and your darling little angel begins to scream and throw a tantrum in public, do not just wander about the store and try to ignore it. One, it’s rude to the other people around you, but two…by ignoring this particular little gem, they’re trying to see how far they can push you. Now, I know I said you have to ignore the bad behavior, but I also said to use common sense. In situations like this, leave. Leave the store. I have literally left an entire grocery cart full of frozen items in the middle of an aisle and gone home ony to go back later…childless…and started my shopping all over again. In fact, I can think of 3 separate occasions where I’ve done this. None with you, of course. You were an angel. Your little sisters on the other hand…fb_img_1477098750909
  10. If you go to the store, never ever let your child wander from your sight. Not even for one second. This should go without saying. But I’ve worked retail during the course of my years and let me tell you something…it’s disheartening to see how many parents just let their children wander without thinking of the consequences.
  11. Yes. Stranger danger is a thing. Yes. You should teach them all about it. No. Don’t go so far as to terrify the crap out of them or you’ll never even be able to get them to go outside to get the mail from the mailbox. Trust me on this one.
  12. You will get a lot of advice about being a parent from people who have never been parents. Ignore that advice.
  13. You will get a lot of advice about being a parent from other parents who have read 30 books on the topic and believe that their way of parenting is the ONLY way to parent. Also ignore that advice.fb_img_1477098770567
  14. Don’t ever use the whole “counting to 3” trick. It rarely works and unless you’re willing to back up said threat of never allowing your sweet child to ever eat a cookie ever again (or other vain threats), getting all the way to 3 is just a waste of time.
  15. Life is what happens to you. Living is what you do as life happens. So make memories. Take lots of phots and print out those photos and put them in books. Go to the zoo. Go to a park. Go to the lake and swim. Make paper plate masks. Finger paint at the kitchen table. These are the things that your children will remember. Not the things you bought or the tangible things you gave them. It’s the things they learned and the moments they remember that will stick with them forever.
  16. From time to time, your kids will be mad at you. They’ll get over it.
  17. Read a book to your little one every night. Even when they’re only 6 months old. Read.
  18. Even if you can’t sing, sing to your little one every night. They don’t care if you’re on key or not.
  19. When they’re infants, if you’re cold, they’re cold. Bundle them up.
  20. When they’re infants, if you’re hot, they’re hot. Remove the blanket.
  21. As they get older, the same rules apply. But they will insist they’re not cold and will want to go outside without a coat when it’s 50 degrees. This is the time to go all “mom” on their butt and make them put one on…whether they like it or not.
  22. When your baby starts kindergarten, you will cry. Bring Kleenex.
  23. When your baby starts kindergarten, they will still let you kiss and hug them before getting out of the car.
  24. When your baby starts 1st grade, you are not allowed to kiss and hug them before getting out of the car. That’s for babies. But don’t get upset. You will still get plenty of hugs and kisses when they get home.
  25. When your baby starts junior high, you will cry.
  26. When your baby starts high school, you will cry.
  27. Never miss an opportunity to hold their hand, because one day they won’t let you.
  28. Never miss an opportunity to hug them and tell them you love them, because one day they’ll be a teenager and can’t be bothered.fb_img_1477098778046
  29. Never give your baby a bottle and then lie on the floor holding said baby straight up, tossing them in the air. God has a sense of humor and impeccable timing…and they will inevitably spit up inside your mouth. You’ve been warned.
  30. Think back really hard and remember all the times you thought you had pulled one over on your old mom. Guess what? You didn’t. And now there’s another you in the world. Let that sink in.
  31. Baby girls can pee for distance just like baby boys, so always keep a diaper under them when changing.
  32. When potty training, girls can projectile pee right over the seat just like a boy. Remember…butt back, lean forward. And if you forget, keep bleach wipes under the bathroom sink.
  33. Buy stock in Magic Eraser. It will clean just about anything that your child will try to destroy.
  34. Keep pens, pencils, colored pencils, markers, and crayons out of reach. Hence, the magic erasers.
  35. Give them lots of kisses.
  36. Don’t raise them, telling them how beautiful or handsome they are. Instead, tell them how they can do anything they put their mind to. Tell them to believe in themselves even when no one else will. Tell them to follow their dreams and not to let anyone…not even you…talk them out of it.
  37. When they’re teething, keep bibs on them all the time. It will keep them from drenching the front of their clothes all day long.
  38. Stepping on Legos barefoot in the middle of the night is payback for all the times your parents stepped on your Legos barefoot in the middle of the night.
  39. The “mother’s curse” has finally come true. Get ready for karma.
  40. Always allow him or her to express themselves. As long as they don’t get in trouble, get good grades, and are respectful, who cares how they wear their hair or how they dress? Remember your sister’s purple hair or that phase where you refused to comb your hair for 2 years and wore 20 rubber bracelets on each arm? You get the point.
  41. As your mother (and your baby’s grandmother), I will always…always…always be there to answer your questions and be a shoulder when the parenting thing gets rough.IMG_4977.JPG


Hear the Crickets has been NOMINATED!

Big news! My latest book, Hear the Crickets: Book One of The Gibborim Series, has been nominated for Paranormal Book of the year by Utopia. I am in honored that my supernatural thriller about fallen angels and a suicidal immortal is being recognized alongside other authors that I consider rock stars in the industry. It’s humbling to say the least. But to top it off, I was also nominated as Utopian of the Year. What an amazing honor…just to be nominated.


The voting is open to the public until May 27, so make sure you click on the link below and vote for all of your favorite authors, covers, cover models, etc. You can only vote once, so make it count. The ceremony will be held in Nashville, TN in June during UtopiaCon.

UtopiaCon 2016 Awards

Going Home Again

Author Thomas Wolfe said, “You can’t go home again.” But Thomas Wolfe didn’t grow up in Northwest Iowa.

Earlier this week, I traveled back to Sioux Center, Iowa for an author panel and book signing. It’s a place I know well. I grew up on a farm outside of Sioux Center and Hull, and if you’ve read my trilogy, The Dusty Chronicles, these places will probably sound familiar. The main character, Dusty Vermeer, begins to experience supernatural phenomena as she tries to balance out her feelings for her boyfriend and a spirit she’s never met. She goes to Boyden-Hull High School, attends a Reformed Church in town, checks out books at the local libraries, and goes on dates to the local Pizza Ranch and movie theater. The characters all call Northwest Iowa home: Dusty, Mark, Sadie, Kris, Sadie…to them it’s an amazing place to exist.

There are many locations I could have based my series, but Stephen King says one should write what you know. So, there’s a reason I chose to set my first book series in my hometown.

The people.

While I was only in town for a day and a half, I’d never felt more welcome anywhere in my life. I haven’t lived there in 30 years, but the folks are still as warm and friendly as ever. Everywhere I went, I was met with a smile and a “So happy to meet you!” People I had never met were friendly and welcoming. And, many members of my extended family still live there as well as quite a few of my childhood friends. They came out in droves to see me and support my career on Tuesday night.


While the whole reason I went back was to be a part of the Dessert with the Authors event at the public library in town, I was also determined to make the most of the short time I had there. I wanted to check out the areas that had influenced me when I was young – the same places that influenced many of the locations in my books. The first place I went was Casey’s Bakery at the mall just off of Main Street. Uncles, aunts, and cousins showed up to see me. As we all had coffee and breakfast together, I heard, “We’re so glad you’re here!” and “You’re far too skinny!” Both comments were good for my ego.

If you’ve read Imprint, you’ll remember a scene between Dusty and Sadie that takes place at Casey’s Bakery. Not only can you get cakes and donuts from there, but they also have traditional Dutch items such as almond patties and windmill cookies. After all, in a community that is primarily Dutch, it just wouldn’t be right without the Dutch baked goods. They also have an area where they serve hot breakfast items and have possibly the best coffee I’ve ever had…and as an author, I’ve had lots of coffee in my lifetime.


Casey’s Bakery in Sioux Center, Iowa

Later, I went back to the old homestead…the place that inspired Dusty’s farm and where she met Jack, her soulmate.


Remember that scene with  Dusty and Jack in the hay mow? Well, there you go.

My house still looks pretty much the same. The window in the upper left was my room (the same as Dusty’s) and the upper right was my brother’s growing up. And the doorway and stairwell that leads from the kitchen to the bedrooms upstairs hasn’t changed at all: the same door, the same wood paneling, and the same carpet on the stairs. It brought back a lot of memories of sneaking downstairs as a kid and trying to listen in on conversations between my parents and older brother. As the current owner walked me through the old house, I pointed out corners and rooms where major plots took place throughout the series. It was surreal to be back, walking through a home that had given me so many memories.

Later that day, I had lunch at the Pizza Ranch in Sioux Center. That restaurant and the mall in town all played a part in my trilogy. I didn’t manage to make it to Hull’s Pizza Ranch where Dusty and Mark had their first date, but I’m hoping to make it there during my next visit.


Mark and Dusty had a date night here. It’s also the same place that Dusty and all of her friends ate after a night at the indoor pool.


The parking lot where it all went down in book 3. Mark – 1, Austin – 0.

In the early afternoon, a reporter from the Hull Index came to interview me at the Pizza Ranch. To be interviewed by my hometown newspaper was exciting and a bit frightening. The reporter, June, was wonderful and easy to talk to. I just kept telling myself not to let my “awkward” show too much because…well…I’m awkward.

The time finally came for the signing at the Sioux Center Public Library.

It wasn’t the same library where I’d spent hours upon hours as a child. Sadly, the building is long gone due to a fire. But upon walking inside this new library, the feeling was the same. And seeing my book on display as you walk through the front doors…it was a moment I will never forget. After all, the Sioux Center Library was where it all began for me. It’s truly where I discovered my love of books, and for that I will be eternally grateful.

During the event that night, I talked about my publishing journey, my books, and why I write young adult. I even talked about my #beceaseless campaign and how it came about. Friends and family showed up to support me as well as the other authors in attendance. I’m hoping to come back later this year and give a creative writing workshop to local teens. I may need to lure them in with pizza, but then who can say no to pizza?

IMG_20160413_104848It was wonderful being home again. In fact, it even got me wondering if I should move back there one day. Only time will. But I learned something this week. I discovered that you can go home again. Especially if your hometown is anything like mine.

Hear the Crickets – Audio Book Pre-Order is Live!

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000038_00071]Skyy’s a freak. She’ll tell you so herself. Her past – a mystery. Her future – uncertain. Having spent most of her life avoiding humans in an effort to conceal her wings, she wants nothing more than to end it all, leaving behind the solitary life she’s been forced to live. But numerous attempts to die have proven immortality is both a curse and a nuisance. She now lives out her days in self-imposed seclusion to stay hidden from the world. But that quiet way of life is shattered when mysterious siblings arrive and reveal a destiny which sends her running for the hills. When an earth shattering discovery is made in the Badlands, history and science collide furthering the mystery behind Skyy’s past – and her future. Skyy will need to embrace her fate and confront an evil so ancient, only a miracle can keep the world from ceasing to be.

Pre-Order the Audio Book from Amazon

Why I Write Young Adult

Not too long ago, I read about an interaction between an author friend of mine and a dissatisfied reader who seemed to blame young adult protagonists for the unrealistic expectations of our youth today. Yep. You read that right. I wish I was joking, but sadly I’m not.

This particular reader was obviously a lover of the contemporary classics that once used to the norm within literary culture. Jane Austen, J.R.R. Tolkien, Mary Shelley, and even Harper Lee have each left an indelible mark in the world. These authors created strong characters, interesting worlds, and subliminal moral end-games that still stand on their own, even today. There are some in the world that will argue that only serious works such as these merit any kind of praise in the literary world.

But the world of young adult literature doesn’t contradict what these great authors worked hard to achieve. In fact, I truly believe that YA…good YA…is something that can create a movement of its own if given the chance. Much has changed since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein, and not enough has changed since Harper Lee penned her classic To Kill a Mockingbird. But what it comes down to is that each generation has its own trials, difficulties, and hardships to get through, and these are the very things that push authors such as myself to find a way to give our readers the ability to escape reality, if even only for a few hours at a time.

While having a conversation with my 12-year-old, I began to realize a correlation between the tribulations of the world today and the books that I write. At some point during our discussion, I told her, “It breaks my heart that I’m having to raise you in a world filled with so much hatred. I don’t understand how folks can live with so much hate. It must be exhausting to be filled with such animosity toward others all the time. If people were more accepting of each others’ differences, this world would be a much more peaceful place to live.” And it was in that moment that I had an epiphany.

Let’s take a look at some of the biggest successes in the young adult world today. There’s the series about a capitol that controls its citizens by forcing children to kill each other. Another series tells the story of a boy born with magical powers who, in the end, must defeat the evil that killed his parents. There’s one about a teenage girl who fights off aliens to rescue her brother, and yet another one that tells the story about a teenage girl who falls in love with a sparkly vampire. At first glance, these books may not appear to have any kind of deep, moral meaning. In fact, some of them may come off as shallow and self-serving.

But once you delve into the storylines, each appears to contain a deeper meaning such as a cautionary tale of pride, power, and ego. YA isn’t always just young, teenagers in love who recklessly traverse the world of high school by falling in love with the first person they meet. YA can be thought provoking and life changing, and at times can stab us in the heart as we fly through a box of Kleenex.

It’s unfair to group YA as a whole and say that it’s ruining literature and dumbing down its readers. While it’s true that there are plenty of books out there where you can turn off your brain and just enjoy the story, there are many YA authors such as myself that try to ensure that the story contains something of substance – something that will make the reader think about themselves, society, norms, and even love itself. John Green and James Dashner have mastered the art of subtext, forcing their readers to reconsider what teens actually go through and what they’re truly capable of. And while their books can make you cry, gasp, and hold your breath, their strong, brave, and optimistic protagonists can remind you that anything is possible if you want it badly enough.

I’ve chosen to write YA because the world is a scary place to grow up. Violence, hatred, poverty, and heartbreak are a part of a teenager’s world in this day and age. Good doesn’t always defeat evil, humanity doesn’t always do the right thing, and people die. And no matter how old you are, whatever you read should speak to you in some way. It can make you think, inspire you, or leave you questioning what you thought you knew. But sometimes just escaping reality for a few hours is good enough. So to blame young adult protagonists for unrealistic expectations of society’s youth is, I believe, unfair. If anything, a good YA protagonist will inspire today’s youth to be more than they imagined. Strong, brave, and optimistic.