Sunday, November 16, 2014

How the real SpongeBob helped my family at a difficult time...

This is a repost of my article on The Rogue.

Pop culture often gets a bad rap, especially from those styling themselves as intellectuals and “real artists”.  Some argue that it dulls the senses, doesn’t encourage “higher thoughts” and deadens the cultural tastes.  A few critics would go further to say it poisons our minds. They are right in some ways. Popular culture wields a lot of power in defining the music, food, fashions and even the way we talk to others.

There is no doubt that pop culture is a giant menu and we get to pick what we consume. What we choose on that menu says a lot about who we are and what we want. What we want often changes with circumstances in our lives. Some days, we want a deep, reflective art film. Other days, we would rather watch a mindless comedy. While it’s important to nourish our brains and souls, sometimes we want something light. At times that’s all we can take when life gets too heavy.

When my third son came along, nothing was normal. He entered this life through an emergency C-section and nothing has been easy since. Jack was born with multiple birth defects including an open palate. This meant I couldn’t just take him home. I couldn’t hold my baby and feed him as I did with his older brothers. He spent the Holidays in the NICU hooked up to blinking machines. He should have been home with his family and the twinkling Christmas lights on our tree.

When I could finally bring him home there were monitors and an oxygen tank. Every two hours, day and night, I would use a breast pump. We’d push a tube through little Jack’s nose and into his stomach for feedings. During this time of no sleep, recovering from my surgery and heartbreak I wrestled to come to terms with the immensity of the truth. My child was not “normal”. He would not have an easy life. How do I help this tiny boy? What would his life be like? What would mine be like now? I didn’t know what to do.

I mourned and I prayed. I researched his condition. I couldn’t take it with my aching heart and on so little sleep.  Most of the time, I forced myself to eat more than Jello so that Jack would get the nutrients he needed to live. However, when it came to my pop culture buffet, I loaded up on everything that arty types say is not nourishing. Buffy and Alias were comfort food for the soul.

During the long hours of pumping and feedings,  I escaped into all five seasons of Alias and all the Buffy episodes I could get my hands on. It passed the time and it transported me into the lives of strong women who faced life and death, disappointment and betrayal, setbacks, sorrow and ultimately triumph. Sure, it was cheesy stuff and not exactly intellectually stimulating. However,  it truly helped as much as the medication I took to numb the pain and it also gave me hope.

Time went on. Jack needed constant special care. He grew and developed slowly. Jack’s life was punctuated by frequent doctor visits and discomfort. At a year old, he weighed only eleven pounds. Then there were several surgeries (with more to come).

Through this difficult time his personality emerged. Despite everything, he became a sunny, silly boy. His very favorite thing to watch on TV was SpongeBob SquarePants. Many parents I know find that cartoon annoying and off putting. We love it because it made Jack happy. He would smile and laugh at every episode. When he could finally speak, his first sentences came from the show. While In the hospital for surgeries,  Jack liked to have his SpongeBob blanket and doll. It brought him comfort and grounded him with its familiar, cheery yellowness.

SpongeBob is a pop culture icon. The cultural references and satirical characters tell us something about who we are. The archtypes are familiar ones: Squidward the pessimist, Mr. Krabs the greedy boss, Patrick the fool, Plankton the megalomaniac, among others.
However, I love how the star of the show, SpongeBob, is the most irrepressible optimist on TV, perhaps only rivaled by Leslie Knope of Parks and Rec. And that optimistic sponge, who finds fun in everything (and lessons) during hard times, is the character my struggling little boy identified with at a time when pain seemed to be the only thing he knew.

A couple of years ago, after his most recent surgery, we received a very special surprise. My uncle, comedian Mike Guido, is friends with Tom Kenny. Tom is the very talented actor who does the voice of SpongeBob. Mike told him about Jack and how he is a big fan of the show. Tom sent us a personalized voice recording as SpongeBob just for Jack. When we played it for Jack post-surgery he was the happiest little patient on the planet. He smiled and laughed and made us all listen to it over and over. It made me cry. To this day Jack enjoys listening to it and quoting it and it always warms my heart. (Listen to hear his message in the video above.)

When I thanked Tom he said, “I was happy to do that for Jack. Being able to do things like that is one of the perks of my job that I treasure. Sounds corny, but it’s true. In addition to the fun job, hopefully I get to make people who are dealing with challenges smile for a minute or two.”
Tom Kenny’s job is grounded in popular culture. It’s his vehicle for reaching out to others. And the way those messages and feelings are received is inextricably linked to the mode of communication that we call Pop Culture. Because that’s what it is. All commerce, everything that’s for sale, is an expression of wants and needs. Pop culture is a business that provides those things, both positive and negative. But it’s also the language we speak, how we express ourselves and communicate as a culture. Pop culture is the embodiment of our common ground and voice.

We should celebrate the good and examine the bad in our popular culture. It’s up to each of us to choose responsibly from that big cultural buffet. To quote the yellow sponge himself, “Let go of what kills you and hold on to what keeps you breathing.”

Thank you, Tom Kenny.

Monday, October 6, 2014

REMAKE by Ilima Todd

Imagine a future without family. A new YA novel from a debut author.
Nine is the ninth female born in her batch of ten females and ten males. By design, her life in Freedom Province is without complications or consequences. However, such freedom comes with a price. The Prime Maker is determined to keep that price a secret from the new batches of citizens that are born, nurtured, and raised androgynously.
But Nine isn’t like every other batcher. She harbors indecision and worries about her upcoming Remake Day—her seventeenth birthday, the age when batchers fly to the Remake facility and have the freedom to choose who and what they’ll be.
When Nine discovers the truth about life outside of Freedom Province, including the secret plan of the Prime Maker, she is pulled between two worlds and two lives. Her decisions will test her courage, her heart, and her beliefs. Who can she trust? Who does she love? And most importantly, who will she decide to be?
Ilima met with me the other day and loaned me an advance reader's copy of her novel. Once I started reading it, I was hooked. Not only was the story a fresh twist on the genre and the characters engaging, it made me think about how the social issues in the book relate to our own society. I considered my own views on what freedom truly is and what makes a person free. 
The story also made me examine the complex layers that our culture wraps around the authentic self. Do we over-complicate identity? What makes us who we truly are? Do we define ourselves according to the dictates of trend? And if so... isn't that the opposite of freedom? It also reconfirmed how much I value my family. The joy of being a part of a family and of being a mom is very important to me. What if those freedoms were taken away?
The main character, Nine, is brave but also tender and vulnerable. Torn by so many decisions and conflicting feelings makes her relatable to not only teens but anyone struggling to define themselves within the noise of culture and what is considered normal and acceptable. Her quest to see past all of that to find her inner truth is one that makes her both sympathetic and heroic.
With some great world building, memorable characters, adventure, self examination and some romance, REMAKE is a worthwhile YA read with heart that is both fun and compelling. I'm so ready for the sequel.
Writers Cubed is excited to have Ilima Todd as one of our Drill Sergeants for Teen Author Boot Camp 2015 this coming April. So, read her book and then come and meet her at TABC!

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Jessica Bell's, WHITE LADY, contest!


To celebrate the release of Jessica Bell's latest novel, WHITE LADY, she is giving away an e-copy (mobi, ePub, or PDF) to the first person to correctly guess the one true statement in the three statements below. To clarify, two statements are lies, and one is true:

Jessica Bell’s mother was born in ...
a. Germany
b. Australia
c. Greece

What do you think? Which one is true? Write your guess in the comments, along with your email address. Comments will close in 48 hours. If no-one guesses correctly within in 48 hours, comments will stay open until someone does.

Want more chances to win? You have until October 31 to visit all the blogs where Jessica will share a different set of true and false statements on each one. Remember, each blog is open to comments for 48 hours only from the time of posting.

If you win, you will be notified by email with instructions on how to download the book.

Click HERE to see the list of blogs.


*This novel contains coarse language, violence, and sexual themes.

Sonia yearns for sharp objects and blood. But now that she's rehabilitating herself as a "normal" mother and mathematics teacher, it's time to stop dreaming about slicing people's throats.

While being the wife of Melbourne's leading drug lord and simultaneously dating his best mate is not ideal, she's determined to make it work.

It does work. Until Mia, her lover's daughter, starts exchanging saliva with her son, Mick. They plan to commit a crime behind Sonia's back. It isn't long before she finds out and gets involved to protect them.

But is protecting the kids really Sonia's motive?

Click HERE to view the book trailer.
Click HERE for purchase links.

Jessica Bell, a thirty-something Australian-native contemporary fiction author, poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, is the Publishing Editor of Vine Leaves Literary Journal and the director of the Homeric Writers' Retreat & Workshop on the Greek island of Ithaca. She makes a living as a writer/editor for English Language Teaching Publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, MacMillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

Connect with Jessica online:

Monday, September 8, 2014

SLC Comic Con

Comic Con in Salt Lake City was beyond epic this year! Writers Cubed set up a table for Teen Author Boot Camp to advertise our next event on April 11th 2015! We are excited to announce that our keynote will be Brandon Sanderson!

We also launched our new book club CubeReads: Book club in a box. Subscribe to get our monthly book recommendations and book club hosting ideas. Check it out!

There was so much to do and see there! The celebrity guest list was huge and impressive. The fans in costume were fabulous to gawk at. I had a great time hanging out with my author friends and interacting with our boot-campers.

Authors Tyler Jolley and Renee Collins showing our swag!
It was fun to be involved on three different panels at Comic Con with some really great people. The fans are so enthusiastic and the atmosphere totally buzzes with synergy.
Me and J. Scott Savage

My first panel, Dealing With Rejection: An Artist and Creator Survival Guide, included my good friend,  J. Scott Savage.

After that I got to be on a panel, Making Your Female Character Strong Without Turning Her Into a Fighting Machine, with my good friend and fellow Cubie, Jennifer Jenkins. 

My last panel was my favorite! The Whedonverse: Why Writers and Creators Love Buffy, Angel, Firefly and the Rest. A couple of my author friends, Sara B. Larson and Bree Despain were on that panel with me and I think I love them even more because they love Buffy. =)
Sara B. Larson and Bree Despain with me, talking Joss Whedon!

I'm totally excited to participate in next year's Con. It is just too much fun! Shenanigans and hi-jinks with some of the most talented and enjoyable people I know!
Author Natalie Whipple, me and Sara B. Larson

My pals Tyler and Connie Whitesides

Cubie Margie Jordan, authors Jonathan Ryan and Tyler Jolley

YESSSS! The Aquabats!

Me and my girls, Margie and Lisa.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Against Her Will... and what I will and won't do as an agent...

My writing adventure on both sides of the fence continues. As I write and rewrite my own projects and read/review my clients’ manuscripts, I’m amazed at how the time flies by. I stare at the screen until my rear end hurts and then realize I haven’t gotten up to pace in a couple of hours. Are my eyes about to fall out? Maybe. The days go on and on this way. Paddling around in a sea of words, immersed in imaginary worlds. Work, work, work. Luckily, I have a passion for it—even if it can be rather intense at times. It’s exactly what I want to be doing.
And then after forever and yet all of a sudden I’m staring at the cover of a book with my own name on it. My most recent project has been to co-author a realistic YA called Against Her Will with Serita Stevens. The story takes place in a psych ward for teens and is based on some real things my co-author observed while working as a nurse for many years. The book releases in Spring of 2015! 
Speaking of wills, each of us decides what we will and won’t do. As an agent I will read for countless hours if I believe in the writer. I will give my honest opinion about what I read, and I will dedicate my time and energy into getting a project ready for submission. But there are few things I’ve decided I won’t do. I won’t rewrite or line edit for a client and I won’t submit anything I don’t have faith in... (to see full article read original post on The Rogue)

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Indiana Jo: Connector, Archaeologist and Agent

 My brilliant friend, author Lois Brown, recently told me she was reading about different personality types in The Tipping Point and that she thought I was a Connector. I looked it up and thought about that...Do I thrive on synergy?

 I do love to find ways to connect people, bring ideas together, and help create situations where individuals can benefit from the knowledge, skills or "hook ups" of one other. I tend to see the world as a web or a puzzle. I literally delight in finding ways to fit people and projects together and to see how people can help each other along their journeys. I instinctively feel that we're all the same in so many ways and can look to humanity as a whole for understanding.

Perhaps that's why my first major in college was Archaeology. To dig and search through the layers of dirt and through ruins to find connections to the past. Uncovering evidence that we are the same as the people who lived, worked, played, fought, loved and died before us. Looking for commonalities--proving that we are not alone in who we are. Sounds like why we read too. "We read to know we are not alone."

Owning that I am a Connector, it makes sense that my career has taken the direction that it has. Being an agent is a bit like being an adventurous archaeologist. The research, study and digging to find that special piece that should be shared with the world. Surviving the darts of edits and the crushing boulders of rejection--for the excitement of discovery and the motivation to find things that resonate with the collective conscious.

I feel very lucky to have found the clients that I have. They each have a different voice, but they all have something good to say--and they say it well. Their stories entertain, but also show us that we're all in this together and have much to learn from one another. You'll want to read these books. They belong in the big old library that holds our human story. Stay tuned...

Thursday, June 5, 2014

That moment when... I became a literary agent.

My passion has always been writing. And over recent years I've realized that I have another passion...other YA writers. Ever since being a part of founding and running Teen Author Boot Camp which, in the near future will be spreading to other locations, I have known that finding talented writers and helping them along is something I love to do.
So...I pursued this idea, and over time, one thing led to another and now I'm Junior Agent at Gateway Literary.This will be a journey. I know I have a lot to learn. But I feel certain that this is the path for me.
 I plan to focus on YA writers exclusively with particular interest in young writers, like the ones we see coming to TABC every year.

Stay tuned... because I'm sure I will have more to say along the way about this new phase in my career.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

My Journey To Black Belt

The statistic is for every 1,000 white belts who enter the dojo, only one black belt emerges.

I am that one.

Commitment, sacrifice, practice, endurance, sweat, pain, perseverance... attainment. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Michelle D. Argyle's book If I Forget You

My friend, and talented author, Michelle, has released a new book! Check it out!

Avery Hollister is a little more than absentminded. She has trouble remembering faces, names, and dates without her piles of lists and Post-it notes. When she heads off to college it takes her a week to realize the guy she's crushing on is, in fact, three different guys. With a faulty memory and three men who have no idea she's mixed them up, Avery doesn't know how to fix the mess she's made. But she knows she has to try, even if it means losing a love not even she could forget.

Get this book and find out why other authors are saying great stuff! CLICK

"Beautiful prose, interesting characters, and sizzling romance make this book simply unforgettable. I adored it." | Kasie West, author of The Distance Between Us
"Avery may have a bad memory, but I will never forget this book." | Natalie Whipple, author of The House of Ivy & Sorrow
"Achingly sweet and beautiful, If I Forget You stole my romantic reader heart."| Cassie Mae, bestselling author of Switched

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Teen Author Boot Camp 2014

 Another awesome TABC has come and gone!

This year was especially epic. In the months leading up to the conference Writers Cubed spent endless hours preparing for the almost 500 attendees who would descend upon Utah Valley University to attend the fourth annual writing conference just for teens.

Once again we joined host, Rebecca Cressman on KSL radio to talk about the upcoming TABC and our amazing line up of authors. Author Sara B. Larson came onto the interview with us.

The day of the conference was high energy and exciting. The teens came ready to learn and have fun.

 They filled the Grand Ballroom.

 When our awesome authors filed in the kids went nuts!

J. Scott Savage, Tyler Whitesides, Frank Cole, Sarah Eden, Peggy Eddleman, Tyler Jolley, B.K. Bostick, Renee Collins, Kasie West, Jonathan Ryan, Lisa Mangum, Amy Jameson, Bree Despain, Sara B. Larson, Ally Condie and our first keynote of the day, James Dashner!

Dashner gave a terrific presentation that kept the kids riveted. We are all excited to see the movie version of his book, The Maze Runner, out this fall.

I had a good time getting to hang out with all of our authors. Dashner and Savage are rock stars.

 My friend, actor Richard Sharrah popped in to say Hi and the kids swamped him for pictures. And my buddy, author Jonathan Ryan flew out from Ohio to present a great class on writing scary stories to make your reader pee their pants.

Ally Condie presented at the end of the day. She is one of the coolest, nicest people on the planet.

She even wore camo for the occasion! (=

Every year we are so impressed by the caliber of writing we see in out First Chapter Contest entries. These are talented teens! We absolutely love the kids and enjoy providing this awesome day for them. They are the bright future of writing and they have a lot to teach us.

 We couldn't do it without our fabulous, crazy, author friends. Every year just keeps getting better!

Many of the classes were recorded. We will be posting presentations from TABC on TABC TV.
Check them out!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Actresses Joey King and Ariana Guido think Teen Author Boot Camp is awesome!

Teen Author Boot Camp is coming up! We are all so excited! This will be a big year! Check out our awesome line up of authors at the TABC website!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Geek Goes Rogue...Tribute to Grant McCune...Star Wars FX artist

As some of you may have heard, I am a new contributing writer on the blog Geek Goes Rogue. Follow me there!

(As the next Star Wars Trilogy is being filmed, we here at Geek Goes Rogue are holding our breath. One of the things that made the original trilogy so great is that the worlds looked “lived in”, unlike the shiny worlds of the new trilogy. Here is a tribute who made that look possible, Grant McCune written by our brand new writer, Jo Schaffer)
When my husband,Clark and I lived in LA he had the absolute dream job for two Star Wars geeks like us. Working as Art Director for a Visual Effects shop called, Grant McCune Design put us at the very epicenter of all things Star Wars (and I do mean the original canon not the shiny knock offs that came later.)
Even a lot of die hard fans have no idea who Grant McCune is. In the 1970s when George Lucas started ILM he hired Grant to make the models for A New Hope. Grant had previously been working as a lab technician at a hospital and at that point had only done models as a hobby. But when his buddy, John Dykstra landed his job with ILM he dragged Grant along...

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Death In the House of Life by Roland Yeomans

 I've enjoyed reading the mystical adventures of Sam McCord... and he's back. Roland Yeoman's latest book, Death In The House Of Life, is available now. Get it today on Amazon!

Before Indiana Jones ...
   Before Alan Quartermain...
      There was ...
Samuel McCord

Join the cursed Texican as...
   He clashes with the last survivor of an extinct species in the Missouri of 1848.
   He communes with the Spirit of the Earth in the Hawaii of 1866.
   He is betrayed into the hands of the British government in 1895 Cairo.
Thrill to his escapes from ancient death traps in the ruins of the lost city of Tanis.
Match wits with him  
   As he duels grey aliens and seeks to decipher the mysteries left behind by the aliens who were the basis for the gods of Ancient Egypt.
   As he seeks to save the world and his marriage from the monster that is the eternal beauty, Meilori Shinseen …
     The Empress of a race from beyond the stars
    … and his wife.
DOC SAVAGE had no wilder crew to back him up than does Samuel McCord –
Mark Twain … Oscar Wilde … 
The genius Nikola Tesla  
The undead Ada Byron, creator of the first computer language in the 1840’s.
And the incomparable She Who Devours, the model for the Sphinx …
Empress Meilori Shinseen … McCord’s beloved wife.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Teen Author Boot Camp 2014

 Visit Our Site!

Hey, Boot Campers registration is open for TABC and you do NOT want to miss this year! We have an amazing line up of authors joining us. Including our fabulous keynote speakers:

 James Dashner is coming to TABC this March. We are super excited to have him hang with us. His bestselling books are climbing in popularity and The Maze Runner will be released as a major motion picture this year!

And we have totally scored to have Ally Condie come too! Her series Matched is a huge hit.

The other awesome thing this year for the attendees...we are having the event privately catered! No more cafeteria food! There will be a yummy lunch served up by The Brick Oven. Mmmm!

SO, if you are a teen who loves to write or know one who can get here...