Sunday, July 20, 2014



You don a bitter orange peel cloak.

Tangy lemon tingles tart on my tongue.

I scoop the grapefruit quarter sans sugar

And smart at the startling sour.

Acerbic is what you’re offering.

No fruit-shaped confections ladled with fructose

Nor strawberries smothered in unctuous chocolate.

I scour the bland baskets with scorn

While dreaming of syrup-dripped candy.

Bittersweet is what you’re offering.

Sneakin’ down the street for satisfaction.

Praying to Virgin Mary for my sins.

I scoop the saccharine confections.

Savoring that sickeningly sweet thrill.

Anything, but what you’re offering.

And I wait for judgment’s final wrath. 

- Theresa Milstein

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Descent

The Descent

One moment’s lapse
Wine crimson spilled

One rhythm
God’s proof a
Wretched life saved

Conduits to
Wash away
Your sins
Gold bronze and
Black as coal dust

Lips cracked desert
Won’t heal for
What ragged scars

Eyes hold malice
Not mine your
Future confined

Secrets shameful
Hands restrained
The binds when
Mourning calls chill 

Tart utterances
The wound you
Left gaped rage raw

One moment’s lapse
Embraced yet
Mind still adrift

- Theresa Milstein

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Modern Steampunk

Modern Steampunk

You rivet and clunk—
Defective and dangerous—
Like HAL
Runs the erratic rhythm of
Time and space

We can only marvel—
At the jolts of power—
Even when muffled
Not exhausted

Wicked Witch of the West—
Extinguished by water—
Your coals
Roar unrestrained
Scorching scars

As you barrel out of control—
I fumble for the emergency brake—
Will YOU

- Theresa Milstein

Sunday, June 29, 2014



I pluck a card from the display.
The words within gargle in my throat
Until my tongue longs to spit the sour.
I swallow the urge,
And place the card back into its slot.
This ritual repeats until options exhaust,
Save the cloying cards below
And the ostentatious offerings above.

How does something so seemingly simple
As purchasing a greeting card
Become a game of betting and bluffing?
I loathe to trite complications.
For whatever you were,
Whatever you are,
Whatever we are…
I know what I am not.

I skulk over to the blank card section.
I can write the truth there.
Not the whole truth.
But enough.
I choose a card with flowers.
You like flowers, don’t you?

- Theresa Milstein

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

How to Make Your First Line POP!

I've known Jessica Bell for years, and I'm lucky to have met her in person in December. She's written a fab series of books (Writing in a Nutshell) to help writers. Read about her newest writer's resource, and find out about Jessica's generous offer

How to Make Your First Line POP!
by Jessica Bell

There’s nothing more important than starting your story right. So don’t forfeit the chance to make sure the first line of your novel really cries for readers’ attention.

There are a few points you might like to consider to make your first line the best it can possibly be. I believe the ideal first line does the following:

1. Poses a question. By this, I do not mean your first sentence should literally be a question; I mean it should introduce a conflict that has the potential to spark readers’ interest.

2. Hints at genre.

3. Is not too long. Punchy works best. Think about those infamous six-word stories: For sale: baby shoes, never worn. They embody so much complexity in so few words, don’t they? Aim for something similarly concise and complex. Think of your first sentence as a complete slice of life. It should conjure vivid imagery and intrigue.

4. Is noticeably related to the plot of your story. Even if a reader doesn’t immediately recognize it as such, the connection will dawn on them further into the book.

Before I give you an example of a good first line, let me show you a weak one:

My name is Janet and I don’t want to see my therapist.

Okay, let’s break this down.

Does it pose a question? Erm … yes, but not a very intriguing one. Something needs to be added for the reader to really want to know why Janet doesn’t want to see her therapist. At the moment, I’m not really interested in why because it hasn’t introduced any conflict.

Does it hint at genre? Possibly. Sounds like Women’s Fiction or Chick Lit to me. But honestly, it could be anything. If the next sentence reveals she’s a Cyborg with an identity crisis, then I’d be pretty sure it’s Science Fiction. But why should I wait until the second line?

Is it too long? Nope. At least it’s got that going for it.

Is it heavily related to the plot? I wouldn’t know. All I know is that the narrator’s name is Janet and she is complaining. Not a very compelling character trait to start off with, in my opinion.

Now that we’ve got the weak example out of the way, let’s move on to the strong example.

The deathcare therapists say, “Die happy, live happier.”

Does this pose a question? Yes! Why do people need “deathcare therapy?” It’s obviously not about offering support for the terminally ill, because why would it reference the afterlife? And it’s obviously not something only one therapist said, because it’s written in present tense to express a general truth. So it must be some sort of slogan. Perhaps it’s something that is preached through the media? Is it spiritual in nature? Or do people really get a second chance at life after they die? So many questions. I’m intrigued!

Does it hint at genre? I’d say so. I get a sense of Speculative Fiction or Psychological Thriller. Big change from my previous genre assumption.

Is it too long? No. I think this is a great length. It’s punchy, to the point, and full of intrigue.

Is it heavily related to the plot? I’d assume so. Why offer something so rich with implication if it has nothing to do with the story? From this first line, I’m assuming that this story is about life, death, and finding happiness. And perhaps within a moderately dystopian world.

Now it’s your turn. What’s your first line? Can you make it better?

1. Does your first line pose a question?
2. Does it hint at genre?
3. Is it short and punchy?
4. Is it related to the plot of your story?

Want more advice on how to self-edit your manuscript? Then you might be interested in Jessica’s new release, Polish Your Fiction: A Quick & Easy Self-Editing Guide.

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:

Writers, share your FIRST LINE 
in the comments section 
and Jessica will give you FEEDBACK
Leave a comment by Friday at midnight, June 6th EST.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

How I Found the Write Path

This is my contribution to the “How I Found the Write Path” project. Details are HERE.

Dear Me (from 8 years ago),

I know you’re in the middle of writing your first manuscript. You’re going to belt it out in 6 weeks, look at it a few times, and declare it done. Then you’re going to query it.


You’re so naive. You have much to learn.

In fact, if I were you I’d quit NOW. Seriously. (And invest in Apple.)

If you ignore my advice, you’re going to set yourself up for 8+ years of self-doubt.

It’s like being a model—not that I’d know—your friends and family tell you how beautiful you are. When you go on casting calls others will tell you that your eyes are too small, your legs aren’t long enough, and you need to lose 10 lbs. After that, all you’ll see are flaws and all you’ll hear are the comments about what’s wrong with you.

If I can’t convince you to quit—because you already feel the pulse of the ideas flowing through your veins, digging into your marrow, crackling in your nerve fibers—I’ve compiled 8 pieces of advice:

1.     Don’t be hasty. The average writer takes 10 years to become published. (And even then, it’s not like you can quit your day job.)

2.     Don’t wait 5 years to take that grammar course.

3.     Read more books about the craft of writing from the start. (Read lots of fiction too—but I don’t have to tell you that.)

4.     Don’t wait for bouts of inspiration to write or you’ll experience devastating droughts.

5.     Find more critique partners early in your writing journey.

6.     Realize that following 1-5 here doesn’t guarantee you’ll be published faster.

7.     Rough drafts are just that. Most of writing is revising.

8.     When you hit year 7, you’re going to start having “almost made it" moments. Don’t despair.

As I write this, I must admit, I’ve been despairing. A LOT. I’ll read a fantastic novel and think, “I’ll never be able to write this well. I’m a hack.” It’s also hard to hear about the writers who have written for less time and nabbed agents and publishing contracts. Sure, there are writers who toiled for longer before they reached success, but how can I be tough on myself if I concentrate on them? And it’s not jealousy. I’m asking, “What’s wrong with me?”

Try not to compare yourself with other writers’ journeys or anyone’s “rules” for success. You don’t have to write every day (though aim for nearly every day). You don’t have to write a certain word count per day. You don’t have to plot. There are examples of great writers in either the plotting and panstering camp, and most writers are a combo. You’ll read blogs, attend conferences, and workshops where people tell you what you HAVE to do. Just like with critique groups, you’ll get lots of advice, but you have to follow your INSTINCT.

The writing community is amazing. Supportive. Selfless. So, give as much as you get. In fact, give more. Console setbacks. Check in. Lift up. Cheer on. Celebrate successes.

And be sure to reach out for support when you need it.

Much about writing is lonely and angst claws at our gut. Sometimes we resemble that piece of Voldemort’s fractured soul at Platform 9 ¾.

Nobody understands this like other writers.

You’re a bad writer right now. You have to be bad in the beginning in order to get better. A novel is woven with many-colored threads. To become a master weaver, it takes hours of practice and we can always improve.

If you keep at it, be prepared to meet people who say, “I’d like to be a writer, but I don’t have the time.” Writer friends will quit, no matter how much you try to encourage them. You will also contend with people who don’t understand why you’re still doing this writing thing when you no agent or publisher to show for it. And those rejections, even the kind ones, even those “almost” ones, will hurt. In those moments, you’ll need to dig deep to muster the courage to continue.

The thing is, we writers have stories to tell. And when we weave the many threads—we wonder how our brain could accomplish something that amazing. WE DID! We want out stories to touch others the way certain books have saved us. We want those readers to feel like we wrote the book just for them.

On this journey, hold every glimmer of progress to your breast.

We can’t give up.

Because just taking the journey is its own success.


Theresa Milstein
MG and YA Author
"Theresa's Tales"
Permission granted to use this post in the "How I Found the Write Path" e-book

Writers, any advice you'd like to add?  

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Diversity and Revenge

Sometimes I read an article that demands: WE need MORE DIVERSITY! 

There are also those posts with colorful charts to show the tiny percentage of covers representing people of diversity. There’s outrage over a book with a clearly dark-skinned main character who has been lightened a few shades like a tooth-whitening commercial. 

Then silence.

Author Ellen Oh has decided to do more.

Here’s her Tumbler campaign LINK. 

This is a 3-day campaign with something new each day. I hope you participate.

Even though I’m not a person of color, I in a very small way remember not feeling represented as a child and teen.

I noticed when most of the superheroes in cartoons were men.

I remember reading Beverly Cleary’s Fifteen. When I realized the girl in the book had short, dark curly hair that frizzed, I did a double-take. Then why did the girl on the cover have blonde hair? Why couldn’t she look like she was supposed to look? Was having brown curly short hair really THAT BAD?

And I think her eyes were brown in the book too.

I had brown curly hair and brown eyes. And I paid attention to what the media showed me. When I grew up, blondes with blue eyes ruled and brunettes played the sidekick. Those blondes had straight or wavy hair. "Three’s Company" was just one example.

And don’t even get me started on Barbie. By the time they made a brunette version, I’d outgrown playing with dolls.

If there was a brunette who broke the mold, I noticed. Everyone knew that Farah Fawcett ruled Charlie’s Angels, but at least Jacqueline Smith wasn’t a sidekick. Wonder Woman and Princess Leia gave me powerful brunettes. Sigourney Weaver was not only a powerful woman, but she also carried the movie.

Then Flashdance came out—a woman with curly hair was the attractive star.
(Didn’t they do a terrible job with the stunt-double’s curly hair?)

As a girl of European descent, if I felt like that with many representations of people like me on billboards and TV shows and books, then what do Asian, Indian, Muslim, Native American, African American, and Hispanic youth think when they see covers of books?

Where are they?

I was a kid a looonnnng time ago.
So much has changed.

Let our stories and our covers finally reflect us in all our varied glory.

Speaking of, before I heard about this campaign, I had chosen early May to promote Medeia Sharif’s new book. Two years ago, she was on my BLOG  for Bestest Ramadan Ever.

My picture for Ellen's campaign.
I'm not wearing makeup, but it's all about the cover,

Now Snip, Snip Revenge is OUT! Perfect timing for Ellen Oh’s campaign.

SNIP, SNIP REVENGE by Medeia Sharif
YA Contemporary, Evernight Teen
Release Date April 25, 2014

Beautiful, confident Tabby Karim has plans for the winter: nab a role in her school’s dramatic production, make the new boy Michael hers, and keep bigoted Heather—with her relentless Ay-rab comments—at bay. When a teacher’s lie and her father’s hastiness rob her of her beautiful hair, her dreams are dashed. The fastest barber in Miami Beach has made her look practically bald. 

With all her pretty hair gone, Tabby doesn’t believe she fits the feminine role she’s auditioning for. Michael is still interested in her, but he’s playing it cool. Heather has taken to bullying her online, which is easier to do with Tabby’s ugly haircut. Tabby spearheads Operation Revenge, which proves satisfying until all of her problems deepen. After messing up, she sets to make things right.

Author Bio
I’m a Kurdish-American author
who was born in New York City, and I presently call Miami my home. I received
my master’s degree in psychology from Florida Atlantic University. After becoming
a voracious reader in high school and a relentless writer dabbling in many
genres in college, I found my niche writing for young people. Today I'm a MG
and YA writer published through various presses. In addition to being a writer,
I'm a middle school English teacher. My memberships include Mensa, ALAN, and

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