Summer Bucket List


The Swedish Midsummer celebration, with its crazy dances around the maypole, ushered in the easy, breezy season! After a long, darkish winter, I’m so excited about this bright and, hopefully, warm time of year.  My family and I follow a ritual practiced by many Swedes in this sprawling country: we flee the city and escape to a cottage by the water.  Our place is in the Stockholm archipelago, which is a cluster of 30,000 islands, skerries and rocks.  We’re usually there from the beginning of July until mid-August, but this year calls for adjustments since we’ll be sending our daughter off to college in New York and our son has an intensive soccer schedule.  We’d like to make the most of this summer together since it feels like we’re entering a new phase in our household.  The long-held tradition, with the four us ensconced in our home for weeks on end, no longer applies.  Kids grow up and have their own plans and, sadly, we parents have to adapt.  I can’t think of a better place to process the changes in our family dynamic than on an island, surrounded by nature and a view of the Baltic Sea.

Let me start off by saying that I love the contrast of being at the seaside and creating a cozy, color-filled environment; preparing lots of food; and welcoming guests.  However, my ambition level exceeds my capacity to deliver and I’ve often found myself exhausted and grumpy–disappointed that I didn’t take time out to enjoy the outdoors or read a book or play Scrabble or watch a movie.  I’ve made a conscious decision to avoid wallowing in regret this year, pining for a summer that didn’t meet my personal expectations.  So, I’ve given a lot of thought to what makes me feel fulfilled and how I’d like this summer to play out.

It’s been easy for me to get bogged down in domestic chores and claim that I don’t have time to do something active.  With all the Rosé and ice cream that’s consumed, I end up feeling bloated and lazy.  In order to combat that, I’ve vowed to do some kind of movement every day.  A power-walk in the forest, a promenade on the beach, tennis, and kayaking top my list.  I also have a backlog of podcasts I can listen to while I navigate the trails.

Reading for me is relaxation and, if the conditions are right, I can pore over two novels a week.  Here are some recent and upcoming releases that will be clambering for a spot on my bedside table!

My daughter going off to college has made me very sentimental and nostalgic.  I found the old photo album below when I was in New York last month.  Transferring pictures from this tattered scrapbook into a new one is a priority this summer–along with talking to my kids about the people and places from my youth. I’ve been rushing through the present and preparing so much for the future, the past has gotten short-changed.  I want to rectify this situation before it’s too late.  My husband also has a bunch of photos to arrange and I think this could be a great family activity, especially on a rainy day.

This photo album was a precious item in my childhood home. Before digital cameras, every picture was taken with care and valued.  I love the photograph of my parents from the Seventies!

I’d also like to start each morning by writing my thoughts, impressions, and feelings in a journal.  Being in the archipelago really clears my head. I often feel my most creative and coherent.  Unfortunately, my ideas and reflections disappear if I don’t record them.  Keeping a journal will exercise my writing muscles and keep me in the right mindset to tackle my new book, either by going through research material or writing a few more chapters.  However, I’ve learned that even the most prolific, successful authors have been known to take the summer off, so I shouldn’t feel too guilty if I don’t make significant headway ;).


Reduce my screen time!  I won’t reveal how much I average per day, but I think I’ve reached the point of diminishing returns.  A Digital Detox will open up dormant areas of my being–both mentally and physically.  I want to focus on wellness and self-care and know that a tech timeout is a key to that.  Although Instagram and Snapchat are filled with sumptuous holiday pics and adventures, I’ll have to put on the brakes and not fall too deep down the rabbit hole!  All things in moderation…

Getting together with family and friends in the archipelago is my definition of summertime bliss.  Setting a seasonal, thematic table and grilling is my favorite way to entertain.  This year I want to move away from the ubiquitous Rosé and Aperol Spritz and try different cocktails.  I’ve heard great things about the Hugo and Suze Tonic.  I also want to add new salads and meatless dishes to my repertoire.  Above all, I want to master the art of “effortless entertaining” and spend less time in the kitchen so I can enjoy my guests!

With my love of books, I’ve amassed quite a collection which I’d like to make available to others on the island.  I love the idea of the Little Free Library and have plans to build my own with one of these kits from Etsy.  I hope I can make it stable enough to stand upright!  But if all else fails, I’ll donate books to the village hotel and local grocery store.  I want to spread the read/share/exchange/enjoy concept!


I get very attached to our place and am reluctant to leave for excursions on neighboring islands.  I shouldn’t get so complacent though; the Stockholm archipelago is filled with wonderful small bays, beaches, and restaurants.  You can even go on a seal safari not too far from where we are!  I want to be more “adventurous” and do some day trips when the weather is nice.  I might even take a dip in the Baltic Sea.  But don’t listen to the Swedes: The water is not warm at 15C/60F!

What’s on your summer bucket list?


Festival Fever – #SWF19

IMG_4037I have long wanted to attend a writer’s conference, retreat, or festival, but scheduling conflicts and family obligations have always gotten in the way.  Little did I know there was already such an event in my own city!  In 2017, the Stockholm Writer’s Festival (SWF) was established as a non-profit organization to help writers hone their craft, provide them with the tools necessary to navigate the world of publishing, and foster a sense of community.  Catherine Petterson, SWF’s founder, describes it as a way for writers to find “their path to published.”  The event launched in 2018 and was a huge success, proving there was a need for a forum of this kind to educate, inspire, and network.

I was so excited when Catherine and her colleague, Sandra Carpenter, asked me to participate in SWF19 as a faculty member.  I had caught their attention through a mutual friend’s Facebook post about my Book Club Sneak Peek for Lagging Indicators.  They became curious about my move from traditional to indie publishing and wanted me to discuss why I had made the transition.  Not only had I never been to a writer’s gathering before–and it would be nerve-racking enough communicating with these savvy wordsmiths–I was now going to co-lead a panel about my indie experience with Jessica Lourey.  Luckily, I would have several months to think about what I wanted to say!

The unofficial start of SWF19 kicked off with an informal cocktail mingle for contributors and participants at a hotel near the festival location.  Nibbling on cheese and crackers, we chatted about our expat lives (if applicable) and writing interests.  I met so many nice people, many of whom are part of the Stockholm Writers Group.

I got up bright and early the next day to make it to Finlandshuset, the large and fully-equipped SWF19 venue.  It buzzed with the activity of introductions, registration, and a bubbling creative energy and anticipation.  I was a bit nervous since I was all by myself, but once I entered the packed Sibelius Room, I saw many familiar faces, including an old friend who had signed up for SWF because of my Instagram posts. The crowd was very diverse in terms of age and gender.  Many had completed manuscripts and were curious about next steps.  We were all at SWF for the same purpose and it was easy to connect.

Jane Friedman’s workshops were extremely illuminating.  Friedman is an expert on the publishing industry and on the reality for us writers in a rapidly changing landscape.  She broke down the Big 5 publishing houses; explained what a writer’s expectations from an agent should be; compared advances vs. royalties; advised on crafting query letters, non-fiction proposals, book blurbs, and backcover copy; addressed the topic of manageable book length (80,000-100,000 words); analyzed different forms of self-publishing (a service vs. DIY); and weighed in on artistic patronage in the modern age (Patreon).

Although I had made an informed decision when deciding to pursue the indie publishing route, Friedman’s presentation significantly increased my knowledge about the business and confirmed some of my theories.  For example, having a platform and built-in audience helps a prospect get noticed and bolsters the chances of a book deal.  Publishing houses offer very little support for most authors in marketing and promotions.  Rarely does a self-published work become traditionally published.  Friedman also spent time on the “business” of writing and the benefits of employing a business mindset to the post-publication process (marketing, promotions, events).  In spite of pressure to be well-versed on both the commercial and creative sides, Friedman stressed that the quality of the writing and story still matter!

Being surrounded by so many passionate writers was incredibly inspiring.  I applauded the winners of the First Pages Prizes and listened intently as they read the opening sentences of their work.  It took a lot of guts to share those lines with a room full of people!


My nervousness grew as the day for my panel discussion approached.  Jessica Lourey is a teacher, prolific writer, and accomplished speaker; I was an amateur in comparison.  I wanted to make the session worthwhile for the participants and didn’t want them to feel disappointed.  My best defense against performance anxiety has always been intense preparation, so I skipped the Saturday night mingle and stayed home to polish and study my notes.

My first session on Sunday was a 3 x 10 minute speed dating exercise where 4-5 participants asked me specific questions about the mechanics of publishing independently.  I was very frank about cost, the importance of putting out the most professional product within one’s budget, and the advantages of utilizing an indie publishing service. I then did a breakout session with Lourey that attracted 30 people.  I started by reading from my index cards, but soon found the confidence to let the words flow naturally.  I described the highs of getting a traditional book deal for Uptown & Down in 2004, and then the lows of trying to find my way back into the publishing world after a ten-year hiatus.  I was very open about my disappointment and sense of powerlessness–until I decided to become an indie author.  My goal was to demystify and democratize the publishing process.  There are so many good stories waiting to see the light of day.  They shouldn’t die for lack of a traditional publishing deal.

What did I learn from my first writer’s festival?

SWF19 reinforced that I’m in the right profession. I loved being surrounded by other enthusiasts and was hungry to absorb as much information as I could.  I did have moments when I wondered: Are people in this room more talented and productive than I am?  Who will get a book deal or be the next big-name author?  Can I write another book?  Depending on the speaker, I alternated from a sense of empowerment (workshop on indie publishing) to discouragement (panel with literary agents).  On the practical side, I discovered the broad reach of platforms such as BookBub, Facebook ads, giveaways, and audio books.  The feedback from my indie publishing sessions was very positive.  I enjoyed pepping writers and giving out tips.  As a result, I experienced a burning motivation to focus on my next project.  I also sold a dozen more copies of Lagging Indicators which wasn’t too bad either!

I was very honored and grateful to be included as a faculty member at SWF19 and took pride in the appropriateness of such an event happening in Sweden, a country with a long literay tradition and the Nobel Prize in Literature.  I want to commend and thank the organizers and volunteers for the amazing job they did.  Most of all, SWF19 exposed me to a thriving writer community and I have no doubt we will continue to boost and support each other!








Kungliga Djurgården/Royal Djurgården

I first came to Stockholm as a bright-eyed, nineteen-year-old New Yorker with my Swedish boyfriend.  We married nine years later and I’ve lived here since 1997, minus a 5-year spell when we were back in the US for my husband’s job.  Living this expat life has been exciting, interesting, and inspiring–as well as frustrating, confusing, and conflicting.  However, I wouldn’t trade it for anything else and am so grateful my husband coaxed me out of my comfort zone.  As the daughter of Haitian immigrants, I’m familiar with the challenges of combining two different cultures and have built up a strong reservoir of resilience and adaptability.  I choose to focus on the positives and the potential for growth in every situation.  That’s not to say I don’t have issues; my husband and kids can certainly attest to my Swedish pet peeves and #shakingmyhead moments!

Nevertheless, I’ve been reluctant to explore the expat experience in my own fiction.  I think this stems from my preferred strategy of staying positive, both as a coping mechanism and an awareness my life as a foreigner in Sweden is removed from a great deal of the stresses and stigmas many newcomers face.  However, I can still relate.  Half a century ago, my Haitian parents endured prejudice in America and my upbringing was tainted by racist incidents and the burden of constantly having to prove myself.  Thanks to their hard work and sacrifices, I came to Sweden with an American passport, a college degree, and the facility for learning a new language.  My Swedish fiancé had already paved the road and my arrival was greeted with acceptance, not suspicion.

I feel a sense of loyalty towards Sweden out of love for my husband, respect for the country where he was born and raised, and an obligation to the place where we have chosen to bring up our dual-nationality, bi-racial, multi-cultural kids.  Stockholm has been too close to home, both physically and psychologically.  But I’ve come to wonder if this approach prevents critical thinking and objectivity?  Sweden–like a character in any book–should be multi-dimensional, imbued with virtues and flaws.  A blemished character is much more complex and realistic than a spotless one.  Denying that complexity is disingenuous and minimizes the impact.  Many Swedish friends have urged me to write about my observations and interactions.  However, I’ve always feared borrowing too heavily from real-life would be predictable and might unintentionally offend. A roman à clef has never been my style and I doubt I can write one as skillfully–and scandalously–as Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada or Truman Capote’s unfinished Answered Prayers.

My daughter will start college in the US this fall and I’ve been thinking back to my journey from New York to Stockholm.  Those first few years were tough: the long, dark winters; short, dicey summers; sporadic loneliness; professional malaise; homesickness… Yet, I persevered and built a supportive network of close friends.  I’ve also tried to raise my kids with the American, Haitian, and Swedish values I hold dear.  Through it, my husband’s love and encouragement have been steadfast.  He backed my desire to write whole-heartedly and is my biggest cheerleader.

Being an expat has occasionally forced me to turn inwards as a strategy to handle bouts of alienation and reboot after adversity.  I was uncomfortable revisiting those struggles in my writing.  But after 20+ years, I’ve finally gained a hard-earned perspective and inner strength; I feel ready to make Sweden the backdrop for my next book.  I’m hoping to weave the expat framework in an intriguing way while still touching on the intersectionality of being an American woman-of-color in a European country.  I read Nella Larsen’s Quicksand in college and connected with the novel’s cross-cultural and interracial themes, along with Larsen’s courage for writing so close to her own life as the offspring of a Danish mother and African-American father.  My next book is NOT semi-autobiographical, but contemplating the characters and scenes has triggered many memories.

Spring has finally arrived in Stockholm; city parks and streets are abloom with cherry blossoms and magnolias.  Restaurants and cafés are full of outdoor patrons enjoying the season’s first glass of rosé.  The sun shines high in the sky as the hours edge towards Midsummer when it will never fully set.  Stockholm is buzzing and the drawn-out, gloomy winter has become a distant memory.  I think that’s the secret to living in Sweden: the possibility of a bright day makes up for all the gray ones.


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Brainstorming a New Novel

shutterstock_192195917Photo Source: Shutterstock

When Lagging Indicators came out on July 2, 2018, I was creatively drained.  I only wanted to focus on launching and promoting the novel.  I didn’t even think about new story ideas for the next book. Fast forward eight months later: the flurry of activity has settled down and I find myself analyzing everything as a potential storyline.

Since there were thirteen years between the release of my first novel, Uptown & Down (2005), and Lagging Indicators (2018), I understand that I may have missed a key window to build my career as a novelist. Yet, I’m so energized by the opportunities becoming an indie author has afforded me and take nothing for granted.  So, it’s time to get back to writing!  The beauty of publishing independently is that I retain creative control and can set my own publication date rather than follow a traditional publisher’s schedule, which can range from 12-18 months from manuscript submission.  If all goes according to plan, a new novel will hit the cybershelves by August or September 2020.  However, one crucial element remains ambiguous: What will the new book be about?

I underwent a creative drought for about five years after Uptown & Down was published and chalked it up to “writer’s block.”  I do believe a writer can struggle with producing new work and have an artistic slowdown but in my case, the real culprit was procrastination.  Aside from taking care of my family, I preferred doing everything except write: volunteering, cleaning, organizing, driving around, working out, traveling, shopping, decorating, lunching with friends… Quite simply, I wasn’t willing to invest the time and effort it takes to write.

Arguably, many of those experiences and encounters informed Lagging Indicators, but I think I missed out on that book-in-between because I was a little bit lazy and a lot afraid.  I feared my next book wouldn’t achieve the high standards of depth and resonance I had set for myself.  I’m a perfectionist and was terrified of a “sophomore slump.”  Writing is often about timing and the 2008 financial crisis finally triggered thoughts that eventually led to Lagging Indicators.  I had a premise and constantly asked “What if?” in order to create drama and suspense.

After studying other writers’ processes, I finally understand that you can summon the muse.  You can find a story idea, outline those chapters, and craft that scene if you’re not afraid to make mistakes.  Striving for perfection from the outset can be debilitating.  Allowing yourself to go in all sorts of directions is paramount to unleashing creativity.  Revisions will help you polish that story, but you need the raw material first.

For Book #3, I began by asking: What do I want to write about?  I knew that I wanted the story to take place in my adopted country of Sweden, but how would I incorporate that into an interesting plot?  Next, I wondered:  What kind of books do I enjoy?  What do I know?  How do I want to challenge myself the next time around?  Once I had rough answers to those questions, an idea began to take shape, but I didn’t love it. It felt a bit uninspiring, but I figured I could make it work.  Nevertheless, something nagged at me and the storyline didn’t generate the same passion as I’d had with my first two novels.  I stayed awake thinking about it one night when–out of the blue–a new tale appeared in my mind.  It was as though it had been waiting in the shadows, daring me to pay attention.  I got so excited that I wrote the backcover copy the next morning as a starting point.

As of this writing, I’ve completed the pivotal Chapter One, or about 5,000 words, with approximately 80,000 more to go.  I’ve also done preliminary character sketches and an outline.  However, so many scenes and dialogue popped up while outlining that I decided to just write and get that first draft up and running.  I’m cautiously optimistic about where this story will go.  I think it has potential, but who knows?  Most importantly, I’m fired up and that’s a wonderful place to be.

While it felt like an epiphany when the new novel idea surfaced, I did follow a few conscious steps to get my creative juices flowing.  I think it’s important to be in the right mindset and let go of self-imposed limitations.  Here are some methods I used to free my inner muse:


When I can’t write, I read.  Each book, whether literary or commercial fiction, teaches me something important about pacing, character development, etc.  I reread Animal Farm by George Orwell (1945) with my son last week and was floored by how intuitive and relevant that book still is today. The straightforward writing style and satirical narrative were a refreshing break from the works of popular fiction I’ve been reading lately.


My favorites are author interviews and I enjoy the in-depth profiles of Author Stories with Hank Garner; Moms Don’t Have Time to Read Books with Zibby Owens; and The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan.  Hearing about new books, how writers got their big break, and the creative process motivates and inspires!

Writer Blogs:

Jane Friedman is so helpful when it comes to writing tips and navigating the publishing world.  I’m so excited that she’ll be a faculty member at the Stockholm Writers Festival in May, where I will also be on a discussion panel about transitioning from traditional to indie publishing.  Julia Cameron and her Morning Pages are a great way to start the day and release unihibited thoughts.  Since I’m focused on a current story at the moment, I haven’t been following this method religiously but I appreciate her inspirational quotes and teachings.  I subscribe to Writer’s Digest and while they tend to bombard my Inbox with special offers for classes, there are at least 1-2 emails per week that tackle an element of craft that is relevant to what I’m working on.  

Exercise & Yoga:

In addition to my cardio and weight training, I’ve finally succumbed to the yoga bug. After sitting in front of the computer for hours on end, my shoulders and back ached so much, the only relief was stretching my stiff limbs.  I also wanted to feel more centered and present.  I’ve taken a couple of yinyoga classes and holding positions for several minutes challenges me to breath deeply and focus.  Eventually, my mind begins to clear and I’m less anxious.  I expand and release whatever’s been holding me back.

That sounds a lot like writing.


Fully Booked


Photo Source: Shutterstock

Books are back!

This might seem like a funny statement, but for years we’ve been predicting the end of physical books, the demise of the reader, the ascendence of  TV series and other forms of virtual entertainment on our smartphones…  However, 2018 was one of the best periods for the publishing industry, much to the relief of booksellers, authors, and their agents!  According to NPD Bookscan, hardcover sales increased, driven mostly by growth in adult nonfiction titles.  Bestsellers and critically-acclaimed books were in such demand this past holiday season, inventory was low and printers had difficulty keeping up.

Michelle Obama’s Becoming has sold over 3 million copies to date and her book tour continues to pack concert venues.  Bob Woodward’s Fear and Bill Clinton/James Patterson’s The President is Missing have also passed the million-copy mark.  Delia Owens’s debut novel, Where the Crawdads Sing has topped the New York Times Hardcover Fiction List and sold well over 290,000 copies in all formats.

Of course, Owens owes this phenomenal success to her talent as a writer and the unique story she wanted to tell, but she was also bolstered by being the September 2018 pick of Reese Witherspoon’s Hello Sunshine Book Club.  Witherspoon’s broad influence has made her the worthy successor to Oprah Winfrey’s groundbreaking Book Club.  Created in 1996, Winfrey’s monthly literary endorsements made her the fairy godmother of the book world.  With her seal of approval, lesser-known authors became household names, sales skyrocketed, and book groups grew into an intrinsic part of popular culture.  Winfrey’s daytime talk show ended in 2011, but through her O Magazine, she continues to recommend books that often deal with race and class.  Witherspoon gravitates towards female-centered narratives and her choices have boosted the careers of Jill Santopolo, Chanel Cleeton, and the February 2019 pick, Jasmine Guillory, to another level.  There’s also the matter of Liane Moriarty’s Big Little Lies which Witherspoon’s production company adapted into an HBO miniseries.  It went on to win four Golden Globe Awards and Season 2 will air in June.

Other celebrities have entered the book recommendation arena, including actress Sarah Jessica Parker with her own publishing imprint; actress and activist Emma Watson; NFL quarterback Andrew Luck; and late-night TV host, Jimmy FallonTrevor Noah of “The Daily Show” along with Seth Myers of “Late Night with Seth Myers” have also gotten in on the literature trend.  Both programs have featured diverse writers such as memoirist Darnell Moore and award-winning authors Rebecca Makkai and Jesmyn Ward.

I have always been a certified book groupie.  I go to as many author events I can in Stockholm and look for ones to attend in other cities when I’m traveling.  There is a palpable sense of awe listening to a writer you admire, not only hearing about what inspires them but also the struggles they encountered before reaching a position of commercial or critical success.  I love meeting other book groupies and discussing a particular author’s work.  As an indie author, these connections not only fuel me, they also provide better insight into the reading public.  What moves readers?  Which book events are the most successful?  Without these points of contact, I would feel very lonely in the literary world.

But what does this sunny outlook say about writing as a career?  Sadly, the statistics aren’t as rosy.  A recent survey of 5,000 published authors (both traditional and self-published) by the Authors Guild, a professional organization for book writers, reports that in 2017, the median-pay for full-time writers was $20,300; $6,080 for part-time writers.  Many factors have contributed to this: the consolidation of publishing houses which have led to fewer deals, smaller advances, and lower royalties; the disappearance of magazines and newspapers which were an additional source of income; and Amazon’s grip on the self-publishing, e-book, and resale market.  For the majority of writers, writing cannot be the sole source of income.  It’s either a side hustle or you have to have a side hustle to pay the bills!

Writing sounds like a luxury–or agony depending on how you look at it.  Nevertheless, I still believe that the pursuit of the writing life is a noble one, even if you don’t get published.  You do it because you love it.  Because you have to.  Because you wouldn’t feel complete if you couldn’t put your thoughts on paper…  So, good luck and keep writing!


shutterstock_789510346Photo source: Shutterstock

I am so grateful for the year that was.  Two-thousand-eighteen was the point at which I recommitted to my passion for writing and pursued a profession as a writer; it yielded growth and learning beyond my expectations.  As a result, I am so excited to tackle new projects and goals in 2019.  I write New Year’s Resolutions fully intending to follow them, but usually have mixed success.  That’s probably because I include things that I’m not fully committed to, like working out five days/week or packing less when I go on trips.  Finishing Lagging Indicators had been on my list since 2014 and I did it–albeit four years later.  It can take time to tick off a resolution and I believe that the effort, rather than a 365-day deadline, is much more important.  With that said, here are my Writer Resolutions for the coming year!

Set Up a Writing Goal.  I would like to finish the first draft of my new novel with a publication date of Summer/Early Fall 2020.  I hope to share some aspects of the writing process with you throughout the year.

Establish a Writing Schedule.  It’s really about showing up in front of your computer and writing.  Self-discipline and a strong work ethic, just like any other job. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but the words, the genesis of a story will eventually come. I think best in the morning, so I’ll start early and dedicate four weekdays to fresh writing and one weekday to edits.  My output goal for both of my novels has always been a chapter a week, not word count, and this system has worked for me.  I want to keep my weekends free to recharge my mind and spend quality time with my family.  Of course this is subject to change as the novel nears completion and the publishing process gets underway.

Read Two Books a Month.  For the bookworms out there who can read 1-2 books a week, I envy you!  I used to be that way prior to having children.  My goal for 2018 was one book/month and I achieved it.  I bought many more interesting books than I had a chance to read, but they’re now included in the 2019 #toberead pile.  Since I’m more alert and productive during daylight hours, I’ll pencil in reading time during the day.  The writer Elizabeth Gilbert believes in a weekly breakfast date at a diner or cafe with a book.  I will heed this simple but beautiful piece of advice.  I may even add a matinee movie in there sometimes!

Do Character/Plot/Scene Outlines.  I did this to a lesser extent with Uptown & Down, but with Lagging Indicators, everything flowed from my head.  My first novel was told from three perspectives while my second one was told exclusively from Mia Lewis’s point of view.  I will be returning to multiple viewpoints in my new work and this will require organization and mapping things out.  I look forward to the challenge!

Be Fearless.  I will block out the noise, hesitation, and self-consciousness and follow where the story takes me.  I will not worry about what other people think or how a story will be perceived.  I am writing fiction, not my autobiography.  I find that when I too closely associate my characters with myself, I hold back.  Writers must dare to ask tough, uncomfortable questions in order to find a compelling, authentic narrative.  Otherwise, we are only scratching the surface and doing a disservice to ourselves and our readers.

Edit, Edit, and Re-edit.  I will be relentless and strive for a tight, flowing narrative.  That old saying “kill your darlings” actually works!  If you love a certain sentence or section of your book, ask yourself if it’s essential to the story or if you’re just admiring your skills as a wordsmith?  I will also enlist other readers for advice, eschewing the embarrassment of showing family, friends, or a professional editor a first draft.

Conquering Writer’s Block.  It’s inevitable.  Hopefully this brain freeze won’t occur in the first stages of a new book, but it’s bound to surface after a significant period of writing time when your mind feels absolutely fried.  To counter this, I will read new books or re-read old favorites.  Digging into other writers’ compositions always invigorates me.  Conducting more research, character analysis, or visiting a location described in the work can also spur ceativity.  I will also engage in more cultural grazing.  This involves experiencing other creative forms such as fine art, theater, film, music… Every cultural connection has the power to inspire and motivate, so don’t feel guilty about putting that manuscript away and getting lost in something else!

Write a Monthly Blog Piece.  This trains my writing muscles and I enjoy it!

Attend a Writer’s Retreat.  This has been one of my Resolutions for several years, but with two busy kids and family obligations, it has not been easy to get away.  However, I have resolved to JUST DO IT and everyone around me will have to adapt.  Now, the big question: Which retreat from this amazing list??

Unplug.  I partake in a lot of screen time.  Time that could be spent reading or writing.  However, most of what I consume is related to the writing and publishing world.  I’ve learned so much through blogs, Instagram, and articles and am afraid of missing out on useful information. But I will sincerely try to block off a fixed amount of time for these pursuits because the fact of the matter is, my listening and focusing skills have diminished from too much screen consumption.  That concerns me and the first step to nipping a problem is admitting you have one!

Be Kind to Myself.  I will try not to feel insecure or depressed if I don’t achieve the aforementioned resolutions.  As long as I’m trying my best, I can feel satisfied.  There’s always the option to reassess and regroup.

Practice Gratitude.  Especially during those moments of frustration.  I am so grateful for the chance to pursue my writing dreams.  I thank my family and friends everyday for believing in me.  I am indebted to the readers who have read my books, given positive feedback, sent text messages, or written reviews.  This wave of support propels me forward :). Happy New Year!







I was thrilled when Gina at Willowday asked me to participate in The Creative Collective Sweden Julkalender/Annual Holiday Countdown!  As a fellow American and ex-pat living in Stockholm, I’ve long admired Gina’s myriad of talents (!) and her passion for creating beautiful objects and spaces.  She’s also a generous, inspiring artist who firmly believes in sharing her platform with other creatives.  When Gina requested a holiday post, I thought of the one treat that always brings me joy: Cupcakes.


Mia Lewis, the fictional, hard-charging Wall Street executive in my novel Lagging Indicators, has a soft spot for cupcakes.  They are her guilty pleasure and she loves to gorge on a box of dainty delicacies from Magnolia Bakery in New York.  She even finds a rustic cupcake café to eat her sorrows away after fleeing the city in professional disgrace. This little character detail–Mia’s love for these sweet, whimsical creations–was drawn from my own obsession with cupcakes.  I love that they’re a study in contradictions; miniature but over-the-top, decadent but designed for portion control.  Cupcakes were also the festive treat my mom baked by the dozens for my birthday.  I waited all year for the chance to bring them to school and hand out to my classmates at snack time.

I was disappointed to discover there was no such birthday cupcake tradition in Sweden when my own children were small.  However, I shouldn’t have been surprised; cupcakes evolved in the United States during the 19th Century.  They coincided with the shift from weighing out ingredients when baking to measuring out ingredients.  Cupcakes were originally cooked in small pottery cups and their “invention” saved significant baking time in the oven.  When muffin tins became popular in the 20thCentury, people began preparing cupcakes in these individual molds, adding to the convenience.

Cupcakes have become nothing short of a cult phenomenon and they invaded Sweden in the last decade.  Swedes call them muffins, which I find rather confusing, but I’m nevertheless thrilled that I’m able to find the baking paper, pans, and toppings needed to bring these small masterpieces to life.  


I adore making cupcakes for the holidays.  My specialty is pepparkaka, or gingerbread cupcakes, and I embellish them with a variety of Christmassy flavors and decorations.  My recipe is semi-homemade since I rely on the Kungsörnen Pepparkaka cake mix.  I’ve made gingerbread cake from scratch in the past and can honestly say that it didn’t taste any better, so I put all of my focus on the icing and garnish.  I use a base recipe for buttercream frosting from Domino’s Confectioner’s Sugar and convert the measurements, working with the Florsocker found in Sweden. 

My favorite holiday glazes are vanilla, cream cheese, and peppermint.  In addition to the standard red and green sprinkles, my toppings reflect a Yuletide motif: candy-cane shavings; pepparkaka cookie crumble; Hershey’s Kisses; Christmas M&Ms; mini-marshmallows; powdered cardamom; marzipan figures; metallic and winter-themed trimmings… Deep hues of red velvet, evergreen, and hot chocolate transform a humble cake into a sparkling gem.  Small in stature, but big on imagination, I think holiday cupcakes embody the magic and merriment of the season.  GOD JUL!

Marzipan figures from Thelins Konditori.


Bibliophiles can be tough customers.  It’s not easy shopping for books or literary-related gifts for people who are well-versed in authors and have specific thoughts about what they will or will not read.  Many bookworms I know are a fussy lot who take great pride in their esoteric tastes.  This is why it’s so much fun to shake things up with snazzy presents that will take them out of their dusty book zones!  Here’s my roundup of holiday goodies that will (hopefully) bring a smile to the most manic bibliomaniac among us.

Books are the most obvious place to start, but why not give a beautiful coffee table book with illustrations of literary people, places and things?  Or what about a cool tome that chronicles the edgy underground scene of writers, artists, and performers in New York during the 70s and 80s?  The Writer’s Map is a clever atlas of the fictional, inspirational, and real-life journeys that storytellers have narrated in their books–perfect for Harry Potter or Treasure Island fans.  I think that libraries are near-sacred spaces and Massimo Listri takes us inside the world’s most extraordinary temples of knowledge and information.  For the writer who loves fashion and books?  Legendary Authors and the Clothes They Wore will satisfy their sartorial and literary cravings.  Plus you can’t go wrong with Joan Didion on the cover!

I work better when I have good gear.  Blame it on the neurotic Virgo in me, but an organized desk breeds and organized mind.  But that doesn’t mean my desk accessories have to be boring!  Practicality and aesthetically-pleasing can go hand-in-hand.  Why settle for a plain stapler and tape dispenser when these marble gems can be found at Target?  I’m always searching for my phone or favorite pen underneath the papers on my desk and this valet tray would keep essential items in a designated spot.  The Hay Beak Scissors are a whimsical Danish design classic.  Swedish Svenskt Tenn’s weighty Alpha Omega bookends are a heritage piece that can be passed down from generation to generation.  The pewter Syltkruka Vase, also from Svenskt Tenn, is the perfect container for storing pens and pencils or filling with a small bouquet of flowers.

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I received this Smythson planner as a gift last year and I used it so much–despite being so dependent on my iPhone for managing appointments and notes. There was something so tangible and satisfying about writing stuff down and I found that I was less forgetful.  I’m treating myself to a new diary for 2019 and because it is such an investment piece, I handle it with care.  Smythson also has wonderful small notebooks to catalog a writer’s free-flowing thoughts!

While we’re on the subject of organization, I can’t seem to keep all my cords, devices, passport, etc together when I travel and am always frantically searching for something.  I think a Shinola Tech Travel Folio such as the one above would solve the problem!

Reading for pleasure is a cozy, self-indulgent exercise.  Why not take it to the next level and burn this divine, aptly-named Byredo Bibliothèque scented candle while enjoying the new private label Lost in the Stacks Coffee or Enchanted Library Blackberry Tea from Strand Book Store in New York City?  Drink from this New Yorker mug with a groovy illustration of the Strand itself!

These retro-inspired tee-shirts of classics from Out of Print would get even the most screen-obsessed person in a reading mood.  They’re also the perfect gift for the bibliophile who has one or two or three favorite works of literature!  Since 2010, Out of Print’s mission has been to spread the joy of reading by transforming literary classics into bookish apparel and accessories. With every purchase, you help them to donate books and support literacy programs around the world.

I love John Derian’s vintage aesthetic and these trays with decoupage images of fonts and phrases are a lovely way to bring the writing and book-loving theme to your home.

John Derian paperweights are stylish decorative objects to keep on your desk.  They also look great in a coffee table vignette or as part of a shelfie!

I don’t know about you, but I get the munchies if I sit too long at my desk and oftentimes the best energy-infusion is something sweet!  The holiday season brings with it a host of tempting flavors and colors and there’s no need to break the bank either.  Give classics like M&Ms or Hershey’s Kisses and popular peppermint bark in a glass jar or small basket to your writer and reader friends. Tie a ribbon around it, pair with a book you’ve already read and like, and they’ll be so touched and thankful!

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While in Los Angeles for her Becoming book tour, former First Lady Michelle Obama made a surprise visit to the Para Los Niños Tina and Rick Caruso Early Education Center, located in Skid Row, to spend time and read with a group of four-year-old children from an underserved area of Los Angeles. Mrs. Obama’s visit was in Partnership with Penguin Random House and First Book and is a part of Penguin Random House’s one million book donation in the Obama family’s name. (November 15, 2018)  Source

Do-it-Yourself gifts are usually the most personal as are the ones extended in the spirit of giving.  One organization that I support is First Book.  Since 1992, First Book has distributed more than 175 million books and educational resources to programs and schools serving children from low-income families in more than 30 countries.  Books have the power to transform lives and a donation–no matter how big or small–made in your or someone else’s name can have a significant impact.  This gift guide was meant to inspire and entertain, but the true meaning of the holidays centers around gratitude and community; spreading love, peace, and joy.  Wishing you and your nearest and dearest the very best for the season!

Fall Favorites: 2018 Edition

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Changing leaves, the brisk air, apple-picking, cozy sweaters… Autumn has officially begun and it always feels like a demarcation point, not unlike the first day of school.  I want to buy a fresh set of pens, notebooks and get back to work!  Aside from Lagging Indicators-related projects and an outline for my next novel, there are so many new releases and happenings that I’m excited about.  Fall offerings tend to be more sober and cerebral, encouraging introspection and providing deep sources of inspiration.  Creating an inviting home and work environment is also essential to finding energy as the days become shorter and darkness envelops us.  Here are some of the things I’m looking forward to this season!

Since I’ll be spending more time inside, sitting at my desk and working on my computer, burning scented candles will make the space feel less claustrophobic and bring the outdoors in.  Woodsy aromas like these–with a dash of pumpkin–make me feel like I’ve taken a walk in the forest.



Source:  Byredo; Aerin; DiptyqueNest Fragrances

Some trendwatchers have declared that pumpkin spice has reached its peak, but not for me!  I love nothing more than treating myself to anything infused with it. The Swedish pepparkaka is technically a gingerbread cake, but it has a zesty, peppery taste that reminds me of pumpkin spice (and I only bake it in the fall and winter) so I’ve included it in the mix.



Source: Williams Sonoma; Starbucks; Kungsörnen

Although I live in Sweden, I consider it my civic duty to vote from abroad.  I’m looking forward to filling out my absentee ballot and voting in the US Midterm Elections on November 6th.  Don’t forget to register to vote.  You can register from outside the United States too.

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Source: Cleo Wade for Gucci

Now, on the culture!  The arts, entertainment and literary events premiering this Fall are exceptional.  In an ideal world, I would go/read/see everything, but these are my highlights.


If I could only read one book this autumn, it would be Michelle Obama’s Becoming.  She was such an inspiration and role model as First Lady and continues to sprinkle fairy dust on us with her words of wisdom.  I have a feeling that since she and former President Obama are no longer in government, she can be more forthcoming.  I can’t wait to read more about her journey from the South Side of Chicago to the White House! image (15)Source

The Fall reading list is filled with so many other thought-provoking books from favorite as well as debut authors.



Source: Amazon


Settling into a movie theatre with a box of popcorn is one of my favorite Fall activities.  These are a few upcoming movies that have caught my eye:  Creed II, headlined by Michael B. Jordan—also reunites Sylvester Stallone with Dolph Lundgren—will be a fun watch with my kids; Widows, starring Viola Davis, to see with my husband; Bohemian Rhapsody because I grew up listening to Queen and Freddie Mercury’s life story fascinates me; and The Hate U Give based on Angie Thomas’s best-selling novel will be important viewing for the whole family.




Five years ago, the Hilma af Klint exhibit broke attendance records at Moderna Museet in Stockholm.  This groundbreaking Swedish female artist began creating bold abstract paintings in 1906—years before her male contemporaries—but she didn’t get the recognition she deserved. I hope her show at the Guggenheim Museum will be just as popular and introduce her work to a whole new audience.

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The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the soundtrack when it came out in 1998.  I’m thrilled she’s doing a 20th Anniversary Tour and that she’s coming to Stockholm on December 10th.  I’ll be checking this one out with my daughter!

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In between all this stimulation :), I’ll squeeze in relaxing weekends by the fire with my family in the Swedish archipelago.  What are you looking most forward to this Fall?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and recommendations!

Two Months Since Release: What I’ve learned so far…


July 2nd loomed large in my mind for months as I counted the days until Lagging Indicators would be released.  When that fateful date arrived, I was nervous but at peace:  I had done my best.  After years of research, writing, and rejections from traditional publishers, my decision to self-publish was the closure I’d been seeking.  I’d been posting teasers on Instagram and this blog for several weeks, generating some curiosity among my friends.  Many had pre-ordered the book and showed me a level of support and encouragement that still warms my heart.  Once the print and e-book became available on book-buying sites, the waiting game began.

Of course, I was eager to see what readers would think, but hadn’t expected all the valuable intelligence and insight I would gain in the process!  I’d shifted gears from a dreamy creative journey to a wild ride through the contemporary book world, picking up a crash course on promotions, marketing, social media, and influential literary websites along the way.  A whole new universe had opened up; one that I had shied away from because of my own struggles as a writer.  Rather than be daunted, it only reaffirmed that I want to do this. Here’s what I’ve learned in these last two months:

  • The reading public is alive and well.  With hectic schedules, we have so little discretionary time and how we choose to spend it is precious.  I was worried that in this Age of Netflix and the surrealness of current events (facts being stranger than fiction), people would be less likely to pick up a book for entertainment.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!  The literary community is thriving.  One only has to look at social media to find book lovers who gleefully post their current reads, reviews, and #TBR lists (a hashtag acronym for “to-be-read” that I just learned).  In spite of all the screens and images to distract, people are still craving the written word.  This has been the most gratifying realization.
  • A community of family, friends, and well-wishers goes a long way.  Even small words of pep made a huge difference in settling my publishing nerves.  As a result, I’ve learned to pay it forward by not only supporting other writers but also artists, designers, entrepreneurs, Ph.D. candidates… I try to lift up anyone working hard and pursuing a dream!
  • Writing may be my passion but self-promotion is my job.  I have to get Lagging Indicators and myself out there.  While I’m a writer first and foremost, I’m also an entrepreneur building a brand, especially as a self-published, indie author.  No one will know about my book unless I make it visible.
  • Engaging with social media is important.  I’m a big fan of Instagram (you can follow me at, but it can be tricky.  You don’t want to appear braggy, pushy or inauthentic, so it’s important to find that balance between marketing and authenticity.  Be yourself!  On Instagram, I can feature all the different things that I enjoy and from which I draw inspiration.  Followers are potential readers too.  Interact with them and ask questions in some posts to create a dialogue. I follow other established writers to see how they present themselves and even New York Times best-selling authors pursue a strategy of connecting with their audience via Instagram.  If Tayari JonesElizabeth Gilbert, and Emily Giffin, can do it, then so can I!
  • Don’t be afraid to hustle.  This can be intimidating if you’re not naturally wired that way.  I’m more of a soft-sell type, but it’s a very competitive landscape and I have to work hard to find a niche.  What makes Lagging Indicators unique?  Why should a reader buy it or a bookseller stock it in their store?  I have my selling points and, luckily, my pitch only gets better with time as the feedback comes in.  While it’s important to understand my demographic, I also don’t want to limit myself.  I’m continuously brainstorming for new, interesting activities and events that I can tie-in with the book.  Giveaways are a great tool to create buzz.  Reposting pictures of real people reading my book has also been alot of fun.  I love getting pictures of the #bookinthewild (another new Instagram expression/hashtag for me).  Ask friends to leave reviews on book-buying sites.  Book clubs and panels are also excellent ways to increase one’s author profile.  For example, my own Book Group event in May has led to inclusion at the Stockholm Writers Festival next spring.  I’ve also sent books to media personalities, influencers and thought leaders whom I admire.  I don’t know if they’ll even open their copy of Lagging Indicators, but I had nothing to lose by reaching out to them!
  • Keep abreast of the industry.  I’ve been educating myself on the contemporary female fiction/women’s fiction genre as well as comparable authors.  It’s crucial to remain up-to-date about other writers, trends, best-seller lists, deals, events, marketing strategies, etc.  It’s a lot to manage at times, but an hour or two each day can yield useful actionable information.  Plus, I love doing this, so I never consider it tedious work!
  • Talk about your work with pride.  Don’t be shy!  This can seem awkward in certain situations but usually leads to really interesting discussions.
  • Carry the book with you at all times. You never know if someone will ask to see it or want to buy a copy from you.  I love taking pictures of the book in different cities, countries, and settings.  Having it with me like an extra limb has become a welcome habit.
  • My skin is thicker than I thought.  I assumed I would fall to pieces over a lukewarm review, but I took it in stride.  It was more like “Hmmmm…” rather than “Ugh!” I see (constructive) criticism as learning opportunities and try not to take it personally.  I won’t become discouraged and will keep writing for my own development.  And no matter how hard I try, I can’t please everyone…
  • I’ve already started to think about my next book.  Given the thirteen years between Uptown and Down and Lagging Indicators, this is big news for me indeed!  But the past year of putting a laser-like focus on my writing, immersing myself in the self-publishing process, and following the book world has given me so much joy and purpose.  Yes, it’s a slog sometimes, but this is where I want to be.  I want to keep this momentum going so that I don’t fall into a slump.
  • Finally, I’ve drawn so much energy and motivation from the feedback I’ve received.  I’m floored by some of the in-depth analysis that pointed things out I hadn’t fully contemplated, opening my eyes to additional themes and issues.  Many readers could relate to Mia’s struggles and were rooting for her.  Others told me that she stayed in their minds long after they’d finished the book.  Some have even suggested Lagging Indicators should be a miniseries and that I should write a sequel.  Stay tuned…