S.J. Penner: a writerly vlogger you should totally watch

When I hear the word “vlog,” YouTubers like Casey Neistat, Elise Buch, and Alyshia Ford (PsychoTraveler) Presley Alexander (ActOutGames) come to my mind – YouTubers who frequently document themselves doing things.  Things which require moving around and going places and opening things.  But a vlog doesn’t need to be those things – it can involve sitting-down things too.  Like writing.  S.J. Penner does just that.  I’ve recently become Twitter-friendly with S.J., and when she started vlogging, I subscribed to her YouTube channel right away because I was hooked!

Vlogs like Mr. Neistat or Ms. Ford’s take me to places I’ve never gone and show me adventurous things I don’t see myself doing – things that are beyond me, way out of my league.  S.J.’s vlog shows me things I do do (or try to do) on a tri-weekly basis, things that I see as attainable and doable, like editing one’s manuscript, and it motivates me to get those those things done in my life.  (Also, can we talk about S.J.’s adorable pet bird, Marvin?  He’s quite the character, and S.J. often adds subtitles to his “Musings” whenever he chirps in the background. 😀 )

I’ve been working on putting the finishing touches to my WIP, Cliche, but there have been countless times where I had time to work on it, but simply didn’t feel motivated.  While watching S.J. write / edit her projects in her videos while trying to work on my own helped a ton – it made it feel like we were hanging out and doing these writerly things together.  S.J. shows us we’re not alone in the writerly world, with its ups and downs.

If that sounds at all interesting to you, I highly recommend checking out her YouTube channel.  Happy writing! 🙂




“When the Cool Kids Come Knocking at My Door” – a poem from my new audio collection

I just released a small audio collection of original poems and sound art, written and read aloud by yours truly.  “Cool Kids” is the first track in that collection.  If you’d like to hear me read it along with you, just press play!


Hello there, this is a courtesy visit to you

I wanna tell you what all the cool kids do

Because I wanna make a cool kid out of you

I’ll tell you the things I believe to be true


Hello there, kind sir, can I make you see

What other kids do doesn’t matter to me

There are so many things a person can be

Go swim in your oasis; I’ll stay in this tree


But ma’am, you really should show some respect

The things I can show, you might not expect

On all that I stand for my actions reflect

A grave, grave sin it would be to reject


But sir, I hope you’ll try to understand

Diversity is worth trying to comprehend

Please, sir, don’t cross my line in the sand

From across this line, I still shake your hand


So you really won’t try what the cool kids do

And try to enjoy all these things I hold true

I hope you get it, my favorite color’s blue

So if you join us, it can still be yours too


But I like my rainbow of my own choice

I prefer to tune out the background noise

As I try to figure out my own equipoise

I’m so sorry to disappoint you, boys


But please ma’am, if you simply believe

All of this goodness you soon shall receive

That’s all you need to do, then you can leave

To come back with joy, bearing your sheaves


Aha, I see what you’re doing there

Think you can use my words anywhere

Twist ’em and turn ’em, think I care?

‘Coz I know what works for me, so there!


But ma’am–


Have a nice day.

Allison Reads Bronte: Jane Eyre, Part Two

And now for another edition of the Brontesaurus.  (Yeah, I don’t think I’m keeping that name….)  I don’t know why I’m sharing this blow-by-blow reaction to Jane Eyre, but I think this blog’s the best place to do it.

I finished the Lowood School story arc in Jane Eyre.  One thing that really jumped out at me at the final chapters of this arc is the irony of the spring season at Lowood.  Inside the school’s walls, the students are stricken with a devastating plague, but on the outside, Jane vividly describes the beautiful changes in nature, the renewal of plant life, that comes with the new season.  Oh, and Helen Burns dies from the plague.  That’s pretty tragic.

Following the plague, people in power take note of Brocklehurst’s corruption, and start making improvements in the students’ living conditions.  Things take a turn for the better in this regard. Continue reading →

Review: Jelly Bean Summer by Joyce Magnin (courtesy of NetGalley)

I recently joined NetGalley, a website which provides professional readers (I guess I’m one now) and bookish bloggers (I guess that’s more like it) with advance reader copies of upcoming releases.  By the time I got my Jelly Bean Summer ARC, it was already a few days after the book was released (May 2nd, 2017), but I suppose reviewing it can’t hurt. 🙂  (In case it wasn’t obvious, all opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Publisher’s Details:

Age Range: 8 – 12 years

Grade Level: 3 – 7

Hardcover: 272 pages

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky (May 2, 2017)

Description: Set in 1968 during the height of Vietnam War, Jelly Bean Summer is the story of the unlikely friendship that forms between two lonely tweens during an unforgettable summer of camping on rooftops. 

Joyce has had it with her family (especially with UFO-sighting Elaine who loves her guinea pig more than her own sister). Her solution? Move out of the house and pitch a tent on the roof for the summer. But when she spots a boy watching her from a neighboring roof she’s stunned—and intrigued. 

Brian recently lost his brother, and the two instantly bond over their messed-up families. To help Brian repair his brother’s truck, they concoct a scheme to build and sell tickets to a UFO display. Even Elaine agrees to help…until unexpected events test the limits of Joyce’s family ties.

Reader’s Score: 3.75 / 5 stars

Continue reading →

2017 Ch1Con Blog Tour

Hello readers! It’s that time of the year again – I’m participating in the Ch1Con 2017 Blog Tour, an annual tour in preparation for this year’s conference, which brings original content from the Chapter One Young Writers Conference team to a number of fantastic, writing-related blogs. You’re on one of those right now!

If you haven’t heard of it, the Chapter One Young Writers Conference (Ch1Con) is a writing conference entirely by and for young writers. The team is composed of a number of high school, college, and early-twenty-something writers, who work to create a unique, inclusive experience for young attendees. The conference, with its subset focus on the young adult novel, brings teens together to hear from accomplished speakers their own age, participate in professional workshops, and celebrate the influence young writers have on the world.

The first Ch1Con took place in Chicago in 2012 with six teenagers in attendance in person and countless others attending via an online live stream. It was an experiment limited to members of the Scholastic’s Write It community and their friends: could a group of teenagers from across North America really get together and run their own conference? The answer soon became apparent: yes. So, eager to get others involved in the fun as well, the team took the conference public in 2014.

This year, Ch1Con is bigger and brighter than ever, with more opportunities, cooler giveaways, and a new roundup of fantastic speakers headlining the conference on Saturday, August 5th in downtown Chicago, Illinois. Registration is currently open on the Ch1Con website for writers ages eleven to twenty-three and at an early bird discounted price of $49.99. The speaker lineup is up on the website now, featuring Kody Keplinger, author of a bevy of YA hits including THE DUFF (now a major motion picture!), literary agent superstar Brent Taylor, more.  (There’s also pizza, but more on that later….)

For my stop on the tour, I had the opportunity to interview not one, but three really awesome people who are involved with Ch1Con: Ariel Kalati (Associate Online Administrator), Emma Rose Ryan (Tumblr Expert), and Brett Jonas, Chief Creative Consultant.  All three are terrific writers, and through Thursday night Ch1Con Twitter chats, we’ve become Twitter-friendly in the past few months. 🙂

Here’s how our conversation went: Continue reading →

Great Resource: A Parent’s Guide to Anime from Anime Cafe

Truth be told, I don’t watch anime.  I love the art form and I enjoy the soundtracks to many well-known animes, but I don’t actually watch much of it.  RWBY and Avatar are really the only anime-style cartoons I’ve been able to enjoy.

It’s a cultural thing, really.  Japanese culture advocates for exposure to mature content from a young age.  They aren’t hesitant to include sensuality and graphic violence in their most kid-friendly cartoons.  I think that’s why I prefer Western, anime-inspired shows (although even my favorite, RWBY, is getting pretty mature).  I get to admire the artistic style of people with wacky-colored hair and bug-eyes without the culture-influenced elements I am incapable of appreciating as a prudish person.

Whenever people recommend animes to me, I usually check them out on IMDB first, but with little success.  In my experience, IMDB is fairly lax when it comes to animes and British productions.  Again, it’s probably a cultural thing, that maybe Japanese and British people are both okay with mature content that Americans (and prudish Americans especially) would not be as cool with.

Additionally, whenever I research animes that are kid-friendly (meaning with little to no explicit content), I usually find kiddie animes.  I’m a big kid now – I’d like a nice, big-kid-friendly storyline without too much violence or suggestive content.  The good news is, my research has finally paid off.

If you’re a prudish young person who’s new to the anime community like me, or you’re a parent who isn’t sure what to make of these weird cartoons your kids are talking about, I’ve found a resource that just might come in handy: A Parents Guide to Anime from The Anime Cafe.

They preface their guide with the following message:

Please note that we do not advocate censorship. … Ultimately, it is the parent’s responsibility to determine what is, and more importantly — what is not appropriate for their children.

This is exactly what I’ve been trying to say for years!  I have personal preferences and issues with the world around me, but I’m not one to impose my views on others.  If parents want to keep things from their kids, it’s their right  – and if parents want to expose their kids to mature content early on, it’s not what I’d do, but that’s their right too.   It’s nice to see a website that understands where I and many others are coming from, a site that understands the true meaning of free choice and parental discretion.

The site has a very nice, diverse list of animes at various audience maturity levels.  For me, I’m using the list and reviews to find animes that I could potentially watch.  Parents might find it useful to check titles their kids are asking about, and decide accordingly whether to bring them into their homes.

The one shortcoming I’ve noticed is that many of the modern titles my peers are recommending aren’t there.  It seems like this is a list of slightly older titles, but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad place to start.