Sunday, September 29, 2019

Email Draft: Why I Walked the Camino

The following is an unsent email I wrote based on my experiences walking the Camino. The address is to the man I met, once when I let him back into our albergue and again later on down the road and at its end. For the complete story, see In Medias Res: Walking el Camino. Unlike my last post, this one is less of a narrative and more speculation.

Dear Looney,

It’s been a while. Well, maybe not a while. But four months can feel like a long time when you’re still waiting for an e-mail. It seems silly now—that I would’ve given you my name and contact information but neglected to ask for yours. Perhaps it doesn’t mean anything that I meant to ask. I just never found the opportunity.

Please don’t think that this correspondence is the result of some love sick girl. It’s not.

I haven’t yet had the opportunity to share why I walked the Camino. I’ve heard my parent’s reasons countless times, and I’ve shared a bit of my parents’ stories. While I may have shared the story of how you and I met (did you know I’ve told that story more often than we’ve talked?), I have yet to share why I walked the Camino.

Here goes.

It started off as a physical and philosophical challenge. Could my body handle 800 kilometers? What would it be like? After I read A Philosophy of Walking by Frederic Gros, I was honestly, dreadfully curious. What is it like to walk for days on end? Would I lose my sense of place on the road? Would I think of nothing but putting one foot after another?

Truth be told, I never got to that last, mind-numbing stage any more than I walked 800 kilometers. 260 km isn’t so bad, I suppose, but it’s still not 800.

All the same, as I walked along the road to Santiago, I came to learn more of what it meant to be a pilgrim, not just a mere passerby or tourist. I learned what it was like to take a journey with countless others from across the world, people from different backgrounds, different denominations, even different faiths, all seeking one destination. A pilgrim is a seeker—a traveler with a goal, sometimes a person seeking some self-inflicted penance.

What is that even like?

To use an old cliché, being a pilgrim felt like a small representation of life. But, at the same time, a pilgrimage is not like life. In some ways, it felt more real. How many people in everyday life will talk about their purpose instead of making meaningless small talk? How many people will open up about why they’ve forsaken the comforts of home—the convenience of modern transportation, the accessibility of the internet—simply to walk?

Walking the Camino felt real. I’ve never seen so many people tear up in one journey, whether at the foot of the Iron Cross or over breakfast because they’re morning a wife or daughter. Never have I gotten both my parents’ approval on a man I’d just met. Never had I come to the acceptance that my relationship with God is more than just an emotional connection. It’s so much more.

I guess you could say I started off the Camino looking for a spiritual reason to be walking. What was I doing, treading the path of so many before me? Those of great faith. Who am I to walk where they walked? What do I know, when I’m filled with all these doubts?

I didn’t even start the Camino with some spiritual purpose.

But still, I heard God speak.

It was on our own rainy day, believe or it not. The rain wasn’t a downpour or anything torrential, but after an hour, it was plain tedious. Even with our ponchos, we felt soaked to the bone. So it was that my family and I shuffled into a tiny art gallery on the roadside just to get out of the rain. There we met Art, a painter who created these beautiful watercolors and who prayed with us before we continued. There, along the road in a building that looked like any other, I gazed at the paintings and postcards and read their inscriptions, “Jesus said, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life.’”

There, I heard it. Not in audible words, just in an inclination.

Find the truth.

I’m not referring to my truth, or even your truth. But rather the truth. I’ve always enjoyed learning, and as the old saying goes, “The more I know, the more I know I don’t know.” There are so many things I want to learn.

How does climate change affect our world, and why are most conservative Christians adamantly against the very concept? Aren’t we supposed to be stewards of our world?

How can I be a Christian and show love to my friends who have openly admitted they aren’t religious?

How can I truly accept other people if I can’t even accept myself?

I can never learn everything. Such a task would be impossible and take the lifespan of the entire world. But maybe, just maybe, one day I can ask the right questions, challenge the right stereotypes, face the honest truth. It’s a daunting task. In some ways, I don’t feel up to it. But it starts with plain, bold, honestly.

Here it is, Looney. Did you lose my e-mail, or did you just forget?

Write me back.

I miss you.

Azelyn Klein

P.S. You never told me your actual name. I know, you gave me something you thought would be easy for my American tongue to pronounce. And it is, but might I trouble you for your real name?


Sunday, September 22, 2019

Mini Book Reviews: from Isle of Blood and Stone to Sadie

“There’s no rule that says you have to be a prodigy to be a hero,” [Nova] insisted. “If people wanted to stand up for themselves or protect their loved ones or do what they believe in their hearts is the right thing to do, then they would do it. If they wanted to be heroic, they would find ways to be heroic, even without supernatural powers.”

—excerpt from Renegades by Marissa Meyer

I’m changing things up a bit. Usually, this is the time of month where I’d post a book review if I’ve read a good one lately. Or I’ll just cram something else in its place. Seeing as I like to feature exclusive content on my blog before I post things on Goodreads and how my reading schedule is all sorts of messed up, I don’t have a book review for today.
I have five!

If you enjoy young adult and new adult novels, you’re in for a treat. Book are arranged by the order I read them.

Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier

Genre: young adult, fantasy
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mini description: secretive… shhhh

“The look Mercedes sent him was pained. ‘That is your first choice? Not every girl enjoys playing with dolls.’“Elias gave her a considering glance. He guessed again. ‘Knives?’”

Yes, Elias. Give the little ghost children knives. There’s no way that could possibly go wrong. A plot built on secrets with characters determined to unravel them, Isle of Blood and Stone swept me away with its world-building.

The sequel, Song of the Abyss, just came out, and I’m impatiently waiting for my library to get a copy. Anybody know how long it typically takes a library on the continental US to get new books? I’m used to waiting a year if that’s any sort of reference.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

Genre: young adult, science fiction, superheroes
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mini description: heroes?

I almost passed this one up, but I’m glad I didn’t. A story that plays on and embraces superhero tropes and culture, Renegades is an excellent page-turner. Not to mention the characters are well-developed, more so than from what I remember of The Lunar Chronicles, which I actually had some issues with. Renegades, on the other hand, confronts many aspects in its world.

If I could have any prodigy power from those in the book, I’d go with Honey’s. She can talk to bees and wasps and such. Never get stung again and have a lifetime supply of honey. I see no downsides to this aside from possibly getting labeled a supervillain. #savethebees #allthehoney

I recently talked my sister into reading the book. Mwuahaha! And I read the sequel, Arch-Enemies—which was a little mind-bending—and the third and final book, Supernova comes out this fall! Super excited!

The Boy Who Steals Houses by C. G. Drews

Genre: young adult, contemporary
My rating: 5 STARS!
Mini description: waffles

You know how I pre-ordered this book and kept ranting about Drews’ work? (By the way if you haven’t already, you should check out her blog at Paper Fury.) Well, I finally got around to reading her second book, and it was even better than the first! While I was reading it, I kept thinking things like, “Aw! That part’s cute… Oh… Oh, dear. There’s NO WAY this can end well.”

I’ll try not to give spoilers (or repeat authors in reviews on my blog, shhhh), but this book helped me through a recent bout of depression. You should check it out. And for all my American friends, you can buy it in print via Book Depository or other international sellers, AND it’s now out in e-book via Amazon and Barnes & Noble! *throws glitter that will permanently get stuck in the scales of my dragons*

For the full review, check out Goodreads.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Genre: young adult, contemporary
My rating: 5 STARS!
Mini description: relatable

The contemporary novels win the year. I’m just saying. Having read one of Zappia’s works before, I thought I’d give this one a try. Within the first few chapters or so, Eliza and Her Monsters had me hooked, and by that, I mean I-stayed-up-until-two-a.m.-hooked. Since graduating from college, I don’t do that with many any books. And the story hit close to home in its social anxiety and depression representation without belittling either.

For the full review, check out Goodreads.

Sadie by Courtney Summers

Genre: new adult, contemporary, mystery
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Mini description: fight for justice

Yeah, so this book ripped my heart out and stomped on it. A lot of people classify this one as young adult, but I’d put it in the new adult section, especially if you consider the age of the protagonist—19. It was a good book with a fast pace and alternating points of view, though the content was rather intense.

Interested in any of these books? You might also enjoy The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas (superheroes), In the Palace of Rygia by L. Nicodemus Lyons (non-magical fantasy), A Thousand Perfect Notes by C. G. Drews (contemporary, see book review), and Made You Up by Francesca Zappia (contemporary).


Let’s chat! Have you read any of the listed books? Which did you enjoy? Which are you most excited about reading? Want to more mini reviews like this one? Let me know!

Similar book reviews: Kids Like Us, Antiheroes, and A Thousand Perfect Notes

Sunday, September 15, 2019

A Writer's Guide to Job Interviews

Welcome back to my 2-part miniseries! Last month, I wrote about A Writer’s Guide to Job Applications, and today I’m here to post about the interview portion. Points one and two are all about preparation while the third is about the interview itself.

While actual interviews may come more often than manuscript requests, they’re still going to be fewer than the number of applications you send out. So when you finally make it to the interview stage, it can be exciting and nerve-wracking all at once. Here are a few tips I’ve employed for interview preparation.

1) Do Your Research

Come on, writers. You know you like this step. Or even if you don’t, it has to be done. But unlike writing a story, you can’t stop the middle of an interview to look up information on the company you’re applying to. You have to do that beforehand. And it helps a lot!

When I had my first ever job interview, I had no idea what I was doing. Even though I researched the company I was applying for, I failed to research confidence. So when the questions came up, I froze.
Some key information to know:

  • The company’s name and mission
  • The job position and salary estimate
  • Your mission

2) Have a Motivational Theme Song

You know how some writers like to pick certain songs for scenes or for their books? I know I do. I wrote Last of the Memory Keepers to the first How to Train Your Dragon soundtrack. Origami Swan shared the Doctor Strange soundtrack and Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. You get the picture.

When it comes to interview prep, you too can have a theme song (sung in your head during the interview, not aloud). I personally like “This is Me” from The Greatest Showman and this Marvel-themed adaptation of “We Will Rock You”:

Credit: Trailer Blend

3) Don’t Fall Your Face

Most how-to’s in of this type will teach you to have a firm handshake (important!) or proper posture (also important!), but I’m here to tell you that you can go into an interview without faceplanting. In all honesty, this is an actual concern I’ve had when trying something new. Fencing? Didn’t fall on my face. Job interviews? I’ve got this. Walking the dog on snow? Okay, that time I did faceplant, but that one’s on the dog.

Some tips to achieve proper upright position:

  •  Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
  • Exercise and stretch beforehand. Or if you don’t want to or don’t have time to shower, just stretch. It’s easier to have a clearer mind when you have a body that feels good.
  • Take a deep breath. Or two. Or three. Whatever it takes.
  • Stand tall. You made it this far. You deserve this interview. Remember, you are a writer! You are a (insert job position you’re interviewing for)!

It’s okay to make mistakes. If you do end up tripping, get back up again. If you forget which way you came from when you walk out of the office and walk down the wrong hallway, let your interviewer take the lead. (Yes, this happened to me. Yes, I still got the job.) If you stutter, don’t apologize. Just keep going.


Let’s chat! What are some of your tips for job interviews? Any fellow writers out there with a separate day job? Anybody have any tips for balancing work and writing? Tell me all!

Sunday, September 8, 2019

Book Hangovers

Terms in the book industry are weird. We’ve got cinnamon rolls that we ship—neither of which have anything to do with breakfast or the high seas. Writers experience writer’s block—though we still haven’t received a block of wood, thank you very much. And readers get book hangovers—who comes up with these terms? I don’t drink, so I don’t care for this last one, though I’ve certainly experienced it before.

Book Hangover: noun, 1) Being so engrossed with the last book you finished that you can’t get into a new book. 2) Having nothing to read, not necessarily the absence of reading material; synonymous without having nothing to wear or having nothing to do.

I wish I could say I’ve never had a book hangover, but it simply wouldn’t be true. Right before we moved, I set aside all the books I wanted bring while I didn’t have access to a library, and I slowly returned all my library books and forced myself not to check out any more.

Unfortunately, there happened to be several days in-between my setting aside the books and not having any library books, so I had no idea what to read. I tried asking my sister, and she kept pointing to books to which I said, “No… No… Just read that one… No… No… I HAVE NOTHING TO READ!”

Eventually, she just gave up on me. After a day of reading boredom, I finally settled on Esperanza Rising. Sure, I’m still learning, but overall, I’ve come up with some methods that have helped keep me from getting a book hangover.

Genre Hopping

I’m not saying you should read two different genres at once, though if that works for you, go right ahead (see next point). What I mean by this point is switching genres each time you finish a book, unless you only like one genre (how?). For example, if you just finished a fantasy novel, try a contemporary or nonfiction.

Not only does this form of genre hopping help me get into a new story better, it also helps me enjoy it more. I’ve found myself leaving higher star ratings. That’s not to say that I haven’t had my fair share of books I haven’t enjoyed, but it’s been easier to get into the ones that I do.

Bribe Reward Yourself

Sometimes, I have a hard time getting through nonfiction and classics than I do historical fiction or YA. I’ve found that listening to audio versions of nonfiction helps me because I can be productive at the same time. While listening to a book, I’ll often clean or commute. I’ve also found that sometimes, I’ll read a YA book after a chapter or two of another book, especially for classics as dense as Moby-Dick or Les Miserables.

Of course, if you just can’t get into the book or you don’t want to read it, there’s no 
saying you must finish it. Unless it’s for class. Then, you poor unfortunate soul, bribe yourself. In my undergraduate and postgraduate degrees, I would study for 45 minutes, then read a chapter or two in a fiction novel. That’s actually how I finished all 1,000 pages of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell in a week. Everybody needs a study break. Why not enjoy it by reading?*

*Granted, you should take other study breaks too, like going outside, eating food, and hanging out with friends. As a former hermit, I can confirm that these are helpful methods too.

Know Your Reading Habits

On an average day, I focus best on writing in the morning and reading in the afternoon. If I try to read in the morning, my eyes start watering, even with reading glasses. If I try writing in the afternoon, I usually can’t focus. Of course, there are exceptions such as when I’m traveling or visiting with friends, but this schedule is generally the one I follow.

As such, when I start a book in the afternoon, I either try to finish it that evening or the next day. If I finish a book too earlyat say, two o’clock—I may not know what to do with myself the rest of the day. For some reason, I just can’t read two books in one day, unless it’s a series.

Likewise, I’ve found that if I’m in the mood for a certain genre, I should pick that one up, even if I’m in the middle of another book. While this can cause some plot confusion, it can also keep the forward momentum going. If I try to force myself to read a book I’m not interested in at the moment, I’m just going to find ways to avoid the book more and more. Lately, I’ve been struggling with getting into some graphic novels—which is weird because they’re generally quick, easy reads—so I picked up Sadie and quickly breezed through the novel.

It all depends on what you like. And of course, most of these tips have to do with the first definition of a book hangover: being so engrossed with the last book you finished that you can’t get into a new book. I still have yet to figure out what to do when I have nothing to read.

Let’s chat! When’s the last time you had a book hangover? What are some methods you use to avoid them?


Literary references: Pam Muñoz Ryan’s Esperanza Rising, Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell, and Courtney Summers’ Sadie.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Poem: Origins (Audio)

I’ve been having a hard time writing poetry lately, but I’ve managed to dig up one I wrote in England that fits my experiences lately. New places. New people. New questions. As I’m making the transition from a military community back to civilian culture, it can be hard to find people who understand what it means to move all the time.

At least I am finally out of a tiny hotel room and into a rental cabin while my family is house hunting. With a little bit of breathing room, I’m back to making audio poems! Let me know if you’d like audio for the previous two poems as well.


Is there anything particularly Canadian about a goose
who lives in Maine or the Carolinas, Mexico or England?
Honk a little, girls. Don’t be afraid to let them
hear your voice or see your black-striped faces.
You’re only as brave as your feathers.
Canadian Goose, Canada Goose, where are you from?
Not this dumb question again.
Currently: Mexico.


Let’s chat! How long have you lived where you’re currently living? What’s the farthest you’ve ever traveled?

Interested in an audio version of Fireflies and Concrete Forest, Paper Meadows? Let me know!