Guest post by Lauren Barineau
The Myth of “The Talk:” The Importance of Talking about Sexuality Early and Often with Kids
For most parents, the thought of having “the talk” with their kids is overwhelming. Not only do we feel unprepared to navigate conversations about sexuality, we worry that we’re sharing more information than our kids can handle, or that we’re giving permission for kids to engage in specific behaviors.
But, research indicates that the more frequently and openly we talk about sexuality with kids, the healthier they are.
Talking with kids early, often, and in age-appropriate ways about topics related to sexuality establishes you as a trusted adult and enables you to shift from having just “the talk” to having many talks through childhood. This helps kids process their attitudes and values around sex, informs their decisions as they get older, and removes feelings of stigma and shame. Below are some general tips for proactively starting conversations with your kids. So, what will you say today?
Sexuality is more than sex.
Although it’s likely that we grew up thinking about “sex ed” as the mechanics of reproduction and birth (and maybe how to prevent it), sexuality is much more than acts of intercourse. Instead, it’s a big umbrella under which information about boundaries, consent, body safety, friendships, romantic relationships, body image, gender roles, sexual orientation (and more!) falls. In our digital age, this even expands to sexting, pornography, and digital communication. And, starting the conversation about body parts and personal boundaries in small ways with your little kid helps you navigate conversations about asking for consent for sex as they grow into your big kids.
Avoiding the conversation is saying something about sex.
Many people are uncomfortable talking about sex with their kids - it’s understandable! Common reasons for this are that adults are worried they don’t know the answer or that kids aren’t developmentally ready. When you choose not to have critical conversations, kids are still learning about sex, but they’re learning that it’s something that your family doesn’t talk about, or that it’s shameful or bad. When parents avoid discussing sex, kids and teens feel closed off from important and reliable information and will likely seek information from less reliable sources.
Start small and gain confidence.
Committing to having positive and proactive conversations about sex doesn’t mean that you have to start at the deep end. Start where you feel comfortable, whether it’s explaining diverse families, or that most boys have a penis and most girls have a vulva, or perhaps that it’s okay to say no to hugs and kisses from family members you don’t want. The more often you talk, you’re letting your child know that you’re a trusted adult they can seek out for answers and you’re building your own muscle for more complicated conversations as kid’s get older. All conversations about sexuality, even small ones, normalize talking about it in safe and positive ways.
Clarify your own values about sex.
We all have values about sex (and not just about when it’s the right time for the first time). Talks about sexuality between families should include values and facts. It’s important to think about your sexuality values and consider how you might communicate those values to your kids. For example, have you ever considered how you feel about body hair removal? Who should remove hair? At what age? From which body parts? All of those answers reflect your values about that behavior. Also consider what influenced your values. It may be that they were based on generational differences, religion, or are rooted in bias about gender, sexuality, or race. Once we know what we believe and why, it becomes easier to share our values with our kids.
Post by Author Arielle Haughee
A Step-by-Step Book Marketing Timeline
Often when writers hear marketing, they turn and run screaming. Well, maybe not literally, but the word definitely causes anxiety for many. Questions abound: What do I do? When? How do I do it? How much time will it all take? Do I have to? Here is a quick answer: You will get out of marketing what you put into it. No marketing, no sales. But that doesn’t mean you have to spend every waking minute with a megaphone shouting on the street corner: “Buy my book!” (Please don’t.)
Just like one plotting method doesn’t work for all writers, one marketing plan won’t work for every author. The key is to think about what resources you have, including time, people, and money, and make them work the best for you. Marketing is like a science experiment. Test something out and see if it works. Sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t. The key is to learn as quickly as you can what does work for your particular book. And remember that this is a marathon and not a sprint. If you stop marketing after your pub day, your sales will stop, too.
When do I start with book marketing?
As soon as you can! The longer you have to make people aware of your book, the more people you will be able to reach. If this is your first book and you don’t have a cover yet, don’t worry. Marketing starts with you making people aware of who you are and what you do. That’s it. My name is Arielle and I am a children’s author. Bam. I just started my marketing with you. Spread the word on social media, when you’re chatting with friends, when meeting new people…it’s something you bring up in conversation. You don’t have to be pushy or salesy, just be yourself and talk about what you do, sharing the joy it brings you.
A Loose Interpretation of the Word “Timeline”
It would be wonderful if all of us had the same amount of ample time to plan the perfect dates to do each task on the timeline below. But that’s not the real world. I see so many book marketing timelines that declare you “have” to release your cover image at exactly three months before you publish, then you “have” to set up preorders at exactly one month and so on. Even worse, there are writers out there who tell other writers that if their book is already out, it’s too late to start marketing. I am going to write this in shouty capitals: IT IS NEVER TOO LATE TO MARKET YOUR BOOK. Yes, it is ideal if you have a marketing plan in place months before your release, but sometimes people don’t learn this until after they’ve already gotten their book out.
So don’t worry. No matter where you are in the publishing process, you can start marketing. I’ve done a full year-long structured plan for a book release. I’ve also only had a few weeks. Last week I did a little experiment to see if I could format a book a bit differently and it ended up working. So this time I will be marketing after the book has already been up on Amazon. The point is: Start wherever you are.
Book Marketing Timeline
Usually I start by selecting a reasonable pub day, also known as your book birthday. Then I work backwards from there. Remember, jump in whenever you can. There are some things I recommend to do before pub day that you can do afterward. If you are being traditionally published, several of these steps will be completed for you. So, take a look and adjust as necessary to your situation.
There are a lot of things to do in there! Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop to explain the details of every single step because then I would be writing a book instead of a blog post. So here are some links to help you get more information about different steps:
The Unseen Hero
Guest post by Caroline Kelley
The Unseen Hero
As the sun rises, so does a mother’s eyes.
Like a well-oiled machine, she begins her day mechanically.
Going through the motions, without skipping a beat- making breakfast, packing lunches, cleaning up spills, dressing herself and her children, school drop offs and driving herself to clock in for an 8-hour shift.
When she clocks out, she fights through traffic to pick up her children from school, gets home, starts the laundry, begins making dinner, helps with homework, cleans, bathes the children, reads them a story, and puts them to bed.
In the quiet hours, while the children sleep, she still works. She finishes laundry, cleans the home, pays the bills, and makes the list for the next day’s tasks.
For 8 hours per weekday, she works for someone else.
For every other waking hour per day, she works tirelessly for her children.
One pays a salary, the other pays with love.
A mother’s work is never finished, you see, as even in the depths of sleep, her mind worries for all the what-ifs, unfinished tasks, and well-being of her children.
Her work is often overlooked and underappreciated, yet she carries on with a heart full of love.
Guest post by author Bay Collins
Yes! Book Clubs are Thriving.
Reading makes better writers. Writing stimulates analytical thinking. Thinking skills facilitates better communication. Communication inspires better communities and within the communities, starting or being a part of a book club is one of the most engaging activities inside and outside of the home. Regardless of age, millions are using their literacy skills to participate in book clubs in homes, libraires, meeting rooms and there's a shift to join book clubs through social media.
A lifelong learner and reader
The book club concept was founded as early as the 17th century and remains popular today. For many readers, their interest in reading commenced when someone selected and read the books, then the readings progressed to reading with others... a parent, a grandparent, a teacher or a librarian. And in the passage of time, autonomous reading prevailed with masterful creative thoughts and ideas to continue reading books with others.
Read a piece of work you never knew existed
The facilitator and book club members will select a book for the club members to read, members may choose a popular book from the past, books that are book club favorites or books on the best seller list. Books can vary from non-fiction, historical, poetry, mystery to romance and these various genres give the reader a variety of topics to explore and discuss.
Book clubs are a great way to see the world through another person’s point-of-view, sometimes the differences can be quite intense yet informative and these different perspectives encourage communication across generational and cultural differences. This type of learning takes place without a grade, and it helps individual retain information even if the novel is in the reader’s native language or an acquired language.
Being a book club member requires readers to be organized. There is a planned discussion date and readers should complete the novel to engage in a participative discussion. Being prepared may improve your reading speed, time management and can also help individuals overcome fear of public speaking.
Book discussion questions are uniquely aligned according to the book’s content and these questions often center around the characters, plot as well as the author’s insight. These questions are often given to the members prior to the meeting date which helps its members prepare for intellectual discussions.
A book club may or may not appeal to you
Book clubs are thriving and often consist of ten or less people. The latest trend is having a book club among family members nationally or internationally, now that is good news. However, it is commendable to know when a book club no longer suits your interest and it’s time to look for one that will meet your expectations to keep you reading ... there is a book club for you.
A final note: Book clubs are free to join and can be as close as a library, bookstore or on the internet. The assigned book for a book club discussion can be purchased or located online.
Sensory Writing Prompts
Post by Arielle Haughee
25 Sensory Winter Writing Prompts
Sensory details add realism to your writing and make the reader feel more connected to the work. Let’s get those creative juices going and do some practice working with sensory details as writing prompts. Look at the suggestions below and see if anything stands out to you. Can you combine more than one of these in a story?
There were so many great images, we included one extra!
Have fun and let us know which one(s) you worked with!
Guest Post by author Carissa Turpin
Writing Through Unprecedented Times
I was born in 1985, cementing my classification as an elder Millennial. If you poke around the internet—particularly Tiktok—looking for stereotypes about Millennials, you’ll find lots of muttering about side parts, skinny jeans, and participation trophies. There’s one attribute, however, that is often overlooked: the influx of trauma Millennials dealt with in their formative years.
I watched the events of September 11th, 2001 unfold on a television cart in my Social Studies classroom. The years that followed introduced additional moments of fear on a national and global scale: anthrax scares, school shootings, wars and bomb strikes, recessions and the bursting of bubbles, a bleak economy and job market. For this reason, breaking news alerts with their intense music and stoic-faced anchors still send a peal of panic through me. I still get my news in short bursts as watching 24-hours news channels still brings back a suffocating, expectant feeling.
In March of 2020, the world received news of the COVID-19 virus. Businesses, schools, events, and life as we knew it quickly ground to a halt. I watched all the developments with fear, yes, but also with a selfish degree of exhaustion. I had already dealt with my share of unprecedented times—how would I survive yet another?
Stuck within my house for the unforeseen future, I looked for ways to distract myself. Ordering delivery and panic buying toilet paper and watching entire seasons of television worked for some time, but eventually even these activities felt stale. It was time to address that frightened, tired Millennial within me.
I thought back to the first time I felt a sense of fear and helplessness and landed squarely on the predicted—and eventually underwhelming--Y2K disaster. Inspired by a conversation about Y2K I’d had with my middle school students only a few months before, I decided that I would channel my uncertainty into a story about an anxious pre-teen who didn’t know what the new millennium held for her. It felt good, as the author, to know that ultimately my young protagonist would be alright and perhaps even stronger for her experiences... That therapeutic writing sprint turned into Doomsday Dani, my first middle grade novel. It will be published in March of 2023.
An Outlet During Uncertain Times
Writing during moments of uncertainty needn’t take a global event. Writing buoyed me through my divorce, work related stresses, loneliness, and fear of all kinds. When I find myself in the midst of a unique situation—be it a newsworthy, historical event or a day that leaves me feeling glum—I try to produce something. If I’m not feeling up to tapping away at a novel or short story, I at least try to scribble in my one-line-a-day journal.
So, yes, Millennial stereotypes claim that we baby our dogs and make impulsive financial decisions. But don’t forget, too, that we’ve endured our share of uncertain global events. No matter your generation, I encourage you to write through unprecedented times. It will bolster your hope until you come out unscathed on the other side.
The Road to Self-Worth
Guest post by author Alicia Griffin
The Road to Self-Worth
The perception of a woman can be portrayed as one who holds many qualities and skills. She is one of grace and beauty, which amplifies her femininity. She masters composure and leaves you to wonder how she continues to do so under such extreme measures. Her skillful tactics are admirable yet expected. A beautiful woman indeed. But what happens when she questions her own self-worth?
There are so many factors that can play out in the, I’m not worthy, scheme of life for many of us. They can be detrimental. I can’t remember exactly when it all started for me. It could have been the minute I was exposed to what the media advertised what beauty should look like - slim with small waistlines, long legs, and full breasts. We tend to compare ourselves to other women, which has become the downfall spiral that most of us fall into. Nowadays, it’s much easier to do so. With social media and the internet just a swipe or click away, we can’t help but be exposed to this reality. Besides media exposure, rejection is another factor that plays a role in this scheme. I’m almost positive that I questioned my self-worth the minute I got rejected by the boy my heart throbbed for because his heart was set on someone else; in my opinion, someone prettier. Maybe it’s a combination of these, as well as other factors, which made me feel less worthy of the things I wanted.
The Under-Average Scale
As a child, I fell under the average weight scale. As a matter of fact, I fell under the average scale of practically everything! I was petite. By the time I was in high school, my girlfriends were far more developed than I was. They had, what I considered to be, the perfect bodies - while the occasional acne breakout was the only sign of puberty I exposed. It was embarrassing. I had no curves to claim my own. Nonetheless, there I was, far from the average group of well-developed teenage girls. As a result, I didn’t get much attention from the boys. In fact, I was ridiculed, which made me the result of their amusement. Their hearts were set on curvy girls, and I didn’t fit in their category. Unfortunately, they were influenced by society and how beauty was defined. We tend to look past a person’s personality and qualities because our first instinct as human beings is to size up their physical appearance. Is it wrong? Maybe so, but who are we to judge? The irony of it all.
A number of us fall under these well-developed adolescents. We may have been more easily desired if humanity would focus more on inner beauty rather than a woman’s breast size. Needless to say, and due to the lack of, insecurities crept its way into my subconscious mind. As a result, my self-esteem fell short, and I felt compelled to alter my physical appearance when I became of age. Did it improve my self-esteem? Only temporarily. I wasn’t aware that I had a lot of work to do - from the inside out.
As if dealing with self-image wasn’t enough, I always seemed to get wrapped up in poor relationships. They were anything but healthy and functional. These relationships left me confused and doubtful; more so of myself. They were manipulative, which in turn, made me believe that every obstacle we faced in the relationship was solely my fault. I recall a time when the way I dressed wasn’t desirable by my significant other. What was so wrong with the way I dressed, anyways? Yet, to appease him, I wore what he chose - leaving myself feeling so uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt completely lost. Was it worth it? Absolutely not, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was young, and unfortunately, blooming in confidence was not my forte.
Was I not enough?
Can we discuss infidelity? This is a big one! It can leave you questioning your self-worth as a whole. It did for me. Was I not enough? This question seemed to sneak into my psych daily. If I didn’t feel inadequate before, infidelity really shook the foundation beneath my very own two feet to make me feel exactly that. If he couldn’t be faithful to me, who possibly would?
It’s interesting how such a traumatic experience - and yes, infidelity can be traumatic to someone’s whole being - can alter the way you perceive yourself. It left me doubting whether I could trust or love again, whether or not I was worthy of love. It left me questioning whether I could have done something different to keep my significant other happy. Why can’t I be enough? But the truth is, and always was, I am enough. I am more than enough.
So many of us get consumed with the grief we feel from the betrayal that we fail to see our value. I had to dig deep to see that I am worthy of real love. Only then I realized that I was no longer willing to tolerate this kind of behavior. In the trajectory of my divorce, I learned that not everyone will value a person the way they deserve. It’s our job to know our self-worth, not anyone else’s.
With the trials and tribulations that in essence, we all do face, I grew to learn more about myself than I ever have. I drew into the silence and did much needed reflection. Soul searching was deep, and in turn, it allowed me to learn to accept my flaws just as much as my perfections. However, it didn’t come without hard work. I had to succumb to the painful memories. Only then was I able to learn to forgive. And that’s when the magic started to unfold. With time, I began making changes within myself. I learned to love myself the way I deserved to be loved. I no longer needed acceptance or validation from others. If I decided to wear a pair of denim jeans, a t-shirt, and no make-up on a Friday night instead of getting all dolled up, so be it. I was now making decisions for myself. With self-acceptance, I craved authenticity, and I made the decision to age naturally and gracefully. I gave myself the greatest gift I could have ever hoped for - self-worth and love.
When women know their self-worth, they demonstrate power, resilience, and beauty. We don’t need to seek validation from anyone. We can truly conquer anything in this world if we believe that we are truly enough.
Four Female Writers
Guest post by River Jayla
Four Female Writers
Liz Little likes to do the things Mama says you can’t do like have babies before college, or start a new business with no money, or move across the country and open a cafe/toy store or let people know who you really are and expect them to love you. She is a mathematician, writer, teacher, dancer and serial wife. Find her blog at https://cicadatreeproductions.wordpress.com
Tonya Spitler is the author of the upcoming Focus Journal The Caregiver's Journal for Avoiding Burnout. She is also a contributing author to the upcoming anthology Along the Shore: Strategies for Living with Grief edited by Cheryl Lynn West.
When she isn't writing or reading, Tonya is homeschooling her three tween/teen children. Tonya is a recent transplant to the central Texas area and enjoys exploring her new home with her family. Currently, you can find Tonya at her
or on Instagram @anovelchoicellc and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/anovelchoice/.
Arielle Haughee is the owner and founder of Orange Blossom Publishing.
Getting Into Writing
How I Met My Other
Writing Goals And Routines
Writing Picture Books