September 8, 2014 | 2 Comments »


Today’s blog is by Playlist Fiction author, Laura L. Smith, who admits it, she’s a concert junkie.

I am, and for as long as I can remember, have been a concert junkie.

It all started when I was three years old and my parents bought my older brother ninth row tickets to see the Jackson Five (yup, little Michael Jackson and his older brothers) play at St. John Arena in Columbus. We bopped in the tree tops to “Rockin’ Robin” and spelled out the lyrics to “ABC” and I tasted the thrill of music in the air, felt the pulse of bass drumming inside me thanks to mega amplifiers, and experienced the kind of energy that only occurs when crowds unite to cheer, clap, dance and sing to music they love.

That was my first concert. There have been countless more; when my dad took my squealing junior high friends and I to see Hall and Oates. Adam Ant, sporting my high-heeled boots, braids and ant makeup. Crying as Richard Butler poured out his heart singing “Ghost in You” as the front man for the Psychadelic Furs. My brother taught me to not just listen to music, but to feel it, and so I tagged along with him to countless dark, soulful alternative stars of the 90’s at dark, seedy clubs in Atlanta ranging from Jonathan Richman to Peter Murphy. There were the legends too, like Iggy Pop and David Bowie. When I became a “grown-up” there was the time I saw Frank Sinatra at a little outdoor amphitheater and the summer my husband and I saw the Bare Naked Ladies and The Wallflowers five times each because they popped up at every music festival we attended. I’ve done the big shows too; Rod Stewart, Garth Brooks, Paul McCartney, Peter Gabriel.

Adam Ant complete with braids and "ant makeup"


There are the comparison shows like how I saw REM at a little concert hall freshman year of college where my roommate and I shoved our way up front and then a decade later saw them third row of the Georgia Dome so close I could see Michael Stipes’ eyeliner. My hubby and I saw Bruce Springsteen in a three and a half hour marathon with the E-Street band and again playing an acoustic set with his release of The Ghost of Tom Joad. The Counting Crows are different every time I see them depending on Adam Durritz state of mind. I’ve seen U2 three times, two of which were nosebleed seats, all of them awe inspiring powered by Bono’s vocals and instrospective spiritual lyrics. And speaking of spiritual, I’ve been to those shows too, ones that increase my faith: Mercy Me and Chris Tomlin, The Afters, Phil Wickham and my favorite, Holly Starr.

The lead singer of the Counting Crows, Adam Durritz

The lead singer of the Counting Crows, Adam Durritz

Last week my husband took me to see the Gin Blossoms. He loves me, and therefore knows about my thing for concerts. It was a small crowd of diehard Gin Blossom fans in a ballroom in downtown Cincinnati. This is how close we were to the stage. The Gin Blossoms played like they were playing Madison Square Garden, singing in perfect key, giving high fives to fans, tossing out guitar picks, even taking pictures of the crowd on their smart phones. I still got the same thrill I experienced as a toddler as I danced and sang and clapped. Same buzz in my ears from the amps and same solid thump in my chest from the beat all the way home.

Laura Smith and her husband at the Gin Blossoms concert

Laura Smith and her husband at the Gin Blossoms concert

I’ve left out dozens of shows here, not because they didn’t rock my socks, but because I want to give the other Playlist authors a chance to chime in.

So now to them. I asked my fellow Playlist authors to share some of their concert experiences, because as you know by now, our Playlists, our music, inspires our writing. Here’s what they had to say:

What is the most recent show you’re been to?

Rajdeep Paulus: Need to Breathe

Laura Kurk: My daughter and I saw Panic! at the Disco last week on their This is Gospel tour. A couple of weeks before that, we saw Fall Out Boy with Paramour. We’ve seen them both before but really loved what they did on their tours this summer. Both of them were channeling Queen. Panic! sang Bohemian Rhapsody and that moment — with the entire, enormous crowd singing every word with them — made me cry. What a crazy, wonderful thing to share with your daughter and thousands of strangers.

Stephanie Morrill: Mumford & Sons

What is your favorite concert you’ve ever seen – and why?

Stephanie Morrill: Well, Mumford & Sons were amazing. I think it’s just the raw talent that makes them so good. Even the crazy drunk people couldn’t hold me back from enjoying it! Florence + The Machine was another fabulous concert. I was stunned by the power of her voice.

Rajdeep Paulus: Sting, because it was my first show ever!

Laura Kurk: Elton John – The One Tour – October 23, 1992. Because Sir Elton. Frankly, you haven’t lived until you’ve heard him sing Benny and the Jets live. He opened with Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me.”  The whole concert was highly distilled magic. It was white lightning.

What is your most memorable concert moment?


Rajdeep Paulus: I think when we first saw Family Force Five and the lead singer rolled over the audience in a Hamster cage ball and kept singing!

Stephanie Morrill: My first concert was a New Kids on the Block concert in L.A. when I was in second grade. We left school early for it and everything. I was die hard – NKOTB lunch box, bed sheets. The whole experience was so thrilling.

Laura Kurk: My most memorable is probably my first big concert. I was eleven or twelve (this was in the early 1980s) and my friend invited me to a George Strait concert in a rodeo arena of a small town in Oklahoma. I think Tanya Tucker opened for him. Amarillo by Morning was a big song then. I remember all the women in the crowd kept screaming for George to turn around so they could see his backside in his Wranglers. I wasn’t sure what all that was about, but I did laugh and sing a lot that night. We waited for him by his tour bus, and got to scream some more as he walked through the crowd. This was so early in his career but it was obvious, even to me as a child, that he was special.

Another memorable concert was 10,000 Maniacs in Austin in 1993, right before Natalie Merchant left the band. I remember it so well because it was my first concert with Alan, the man I would marry, and we sat in the balcony of an older concert hall. The crowd in the balcony was a little raucous and all the dancing caused the balcony to shift and bounce so violently that the fire marshal had Natalie stop singing and plead with us to stop dancing or she’d have to leave. The crowd under the balcony started moving into the aisles looking for safety. As dangerous as it was, though, no one stopped dancing and I remember being nervous through the entire set. I love Natalie, but I was glad when that concert ended.

Jennifer Murgia is in the middle of launching her latest YA novel, Forest of Whispers, so didn’t have time to chat with us here today, but I know she’s a huge fan of Duran Duran, Depeche Mode, Erasure and the Smiths.

How about you? What’s your all time favorite concert or concert moment?


Back To School – What’s In Your Backpack?

August 12, 2014 | 2 Comments »


For some of us summer is more than half over. For others, back to school happened…ummm… yesterday. Wow! Seeing all the First Day of School pics from the southern states gives me the back to school bug. Time to find new backpacks, the best deals of number two pencils, and determine if my girls need new runners, clothes, hair stuff and extra hair stuff to replace all the hair stuff lost in the same place those missing socks disappear to. I’m sure of it.

I’ll be honest, in the light of all the news of the horrors happening overseas in Iraq, I’ve struggled with how to handle the knowledge and what to do in light of the atrocities. Few of us are equipped to take a flight over there and confront the violence face to face. But we can make a difference by supporting those by sharing Social Media pics, signing petitions, and showing our solidarity for those who are dying at the hands of unspeakable genocide. We can also choose to live differently in our every day choices.

What’s in your BackPack this new School Year that wasn’t there Last Year? I say, pack a few things that no one can see, but you know are there:

1. Patience. For others and for yourself as you start new classes, face new challenges, and navigate the tumultuous waters of a new year.

2. Kindness. To your peers. Your teachers. And the new kid in town. Kindness really makes all the difference. Choose it daily.

3. Grace. Because nobody’s perfect. Including your parents and yourself. And in this world where there are enough voice cutting us down, be a voice of encouragement and hope, love and grace to those around you.

4. Courage. To try new things. Meet new people. Join a new club or try out for a team. YOLO.

5. Prayer. There’s a whole lot of mess in this world that we live in. And sadness. And cruelty. And people who don’t see the worth of each other. Pray for your school. Teachers. Peers. And our world. Knowing you’re walking the halls of your school with a God who loves and cares deeply for each person in there.

Happy Back To School, ALL!




Rajdeep Paulus, author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones, is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic. As of June 2013, she’s also a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website or connect with her via FacebookTwitterPinterest,Tumblr, or Instagram.

science confirms it—cool kids aren’t cool for long

July 21, 2014 | 5 Comments »

KristinWiigGillyDanceLaura Anderson Kurk writes bittersweet stories for the YA crowd. Check out Glass Girl and Perfect Glass and look her up at Writing for Young Adults and Choose Now Ministries. Laura lives in College Station, Texas with her fine husband and two ginger-headed kids.



In what may be the best news ever for 99.9% of us, a new study published in Child Development proves what most had already figured out—“cool” kids are more likely to have problems later in life.

Remember when your mom told you that the kids who “peak” too young will find out that life goes downhill from high school? Turns out, science says she was right!

So three cheers for all of us who peaked after high school!


Researchers from the University of Virginia followed 184 teens, their peers, and their families for ten years, beginning when the teens turned thirteen. The kids all attended public school and the group was made of teens in suburban or urban areas in the southeastern United States from a variety of racial and socio-economic backgrounds.

Here’s what they found: the teens who were considered “cool” in seventh and eighth grades were those who acted “older” than their age, taking part in behaviors that mimic what older teens do. These kids who acted “older” in middle school were the ones who took part in delinquent behaviors in and out of school, became sexually active earlier than their peers, and valued “hanging out with attractive people” more than anything else. Sounds like Mean Girls, right?

But stay tuned … once these kids entered their older teen years and early twenties, they were pursuing ever more reckless behavior to stay “cool.”  This meant they often became dependent on drugs and alcohol and other reckless activities that got them noticed. And, by the age of 22, the kids in the study who had been “cool” had “fallen from social grace.”

Their peers rated the “cool” kids as less competent at maintaining relationships at 22 than the ones who hadn’t been “cool” early on. They were also more likely to be criminals, drug addicts, and alcoholics.

All of this is common sense, right? And I think young adult authors get it better than anyone. It’s why YA shelves are populated with characters who are trying to find their way in a world of mean girls and rude guys. The underdogs are the characters we relate to so well! 

Here are some of my favorites —
  • Jonah in How to Say Goodbye in Robot – I love this book so much and am continually amazed that it hasn’t received the praise it’s due. In fact, it’s kind of the underdog book in a world of “cool” books.  What a fantastic look at uncool kids and how they cope, or don’t cope. I am so in awe of Natalie Standiford’s writing.
  • Finley and Russ in Boy21 – These two guys are incredible apart but even more remarkable when they’re together. Matthew Quick gets the mind of the outcast and gives it to us in pure, unadulterated goodness.
  • Eleanor in Eleanor & Park – In Eleanor, Rowell created a character so awkward you almost have to look away, but ohmygoodness how I love her.
  • Quentin in Paper Towns – Ah, Quentin, one of the best guys, right? Of course, Green is the master of awkward male leads that you can’t help but adore.
  • Cullen in Where Things Come Back – John Corey Whaley is one of my favorite authors and Cullen is one of my favorite characters. Love his tender, uncomfortable ways.

I notice my list is light on female characters. Is this because female leads are whitewashed in ways male characters aren’t or do I just have an affinity for male characters?

Now it’s your turn. Who are your favorite “uncool” YA characters who remind you that “cool” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be?










July 14, 2014 | 1 Comment »




Today is the day, the day the latest Playlist Fiction title, the third book in the Status Update series, and my newest novel, It’s Addicting releases. Click the link to order now.

Obsessing over status, grades, exercise or a boyfriend could never become an addiction…could it? This third installment of the Status Updates series finds four college sophomore roommates finally getting comfy with the routines of dorm life. But Kat, Claire, Palmer, and Hannah soon begin to feel the nagging ache of innocent little addictions pulling them away from their true selves. Hang out with these four roomies to see if they can—or even want to—ditch these sneaky little hang-ups before they take over their lives.

the four main characters in the Status Updates series dive into sophomore year in It's Addicting

the four main characters in the Status Updates series dive into sophomore year in It’s Addicting

I’m so excited for this continuation of the lives of Claire, Kat, Palmer and Hannah. I had so much inspiration while writing this book, and as always, music was a big influence. So today, I officially unveil the It’s Addicting playlist. Many of these songs or hints of these songs are scattered throughout the book. Think of it as a treasure hunt or a challenge. Can you find them all?

Death Cab For Cutie “I Will Follow You Into the Dark”

Alphaville “Forever Young”

Eric Hutchinson “Rock and Roll”

One Republic “If I Lose Myself”

Kelly Clarkston “Stronger”

Carolina Liar, “Show Me What I’m Looking For”

Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love”

Berlin “Riding on the Metro”

Matt Nathanson “Faster”

The Sugarcubes “Birthday”

Cookie Monster “C is for Cookie”

Matt Maher “Lord I Need You”

Holly Starr “Psalm 23”

Les Miserables Soundtrack

One Republic “Counting Stars”

Jenny O “Learned My Lessons”

High School Musical Cast “When There Was Me and You”

Washed Out “Paracosm”

Jamie Grace “Beautiful Day”

R.E.M. “Losing My Religion”

Holly Starr “Undertow”

U2 “Bad”

What's on  your summer playlist?

What’s on your summer playlist?

How about you? What music is inspiring you? What’s on your summer playlist?




The Beach Read Deal!

June 23, 2014 | 0 Comments »

Spencer Hill Press Author Photo

Jennifer Murgia is the author of Playlist Fiction’s BETWEEN THESE LINES. 

It’s the story of a boy with a haunted past and a girl living with daily angst.

    They fall for one another.

    It doesn’t end well.

 Catch up with her at

    You’ll find her books tend to be dark and moody things.


It’s summer!


Finally, long days of sun shine, pool water, sand between your toes!

Some go camping and prefer the cooling shade of the trees.

Some love the heat and others just love to chill inside with the AC on full blast.

However you celebrate summer, we’re sure you’ve got a book in your hands, don’t you?

Come on . . . you do.

That’s why you stalk our page here at Playlist Fiction!

So if you’re on a quest for the perfect summer read, look no further!

beach read

Playlist Fiction’s got you covered! (With sunscreen!)



The perfect Summer Dealio!

Each PLAYLIST FICTION title is on SALE at Amazon!

5 Books for 5 Days for 5 Dollars!

It’s a summer steal!

PF Five Days Five Books Five Dollars.

That’s right! Each book is .99 Cents!

Just hop on over to AMAZON.COM and stock up on your summer reading!

5 Ideas for Making This Summer Great

June 9, 2014 | 5 Comments »

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.

I’m a girl who likes structure. Order. Routine. Basically everything that summer is NOT when you live your life by the school calendar.

As much as I enjoy the pool time and the ease of the morning routine, several weeks into the season, I start to feel uneasy about the whole thing. What have I really done with my free time? Why is it ten a.m. and I’m still in pajamas?


Here are 5 Ideas to ensure you make the most of your summer:

1. Help someone out.

As a kid, summer meant extra chores around the house. (During the rare summers that both my parents worked, it felt like all I did was chores. In hindsight, I’m pretty sure I imagined that.)

But whether helping out is enforced by parents or not, the extra time on your hands can be an opportunity to help people out. Are you making cookies? Take a batch to your neighbor. Planting flowers? Put one in a pot and give it to a friend as a surprise. You could write a thank you note to someone who’s helped you or touched your life. You could watch your niece and nephew for free.

2. Read great books.

You likely have required reading for the summer. Two or three books that you have to read for next year’s English class, which you hope to at least like well-enough. But once you knock those out, you will finally get to pick a book for yourself and you won’t have to write a 5 paragraph essay on it.

So far this summer I’ve read Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals by Ally Carter. They’re fun, creative, and clean. Excellent beach reads. (I’m guessing, anyway. I’m listening to the audiobooks, so I can tell you that they’re excellent for passing the time when folding laundry.)

What else is on my list for this summer? Lots of great YA including the third Heist Society, Perfect Scoundrels . I’ll dive into It’s Addicting, the third installment of Laura L. Smith’s Status Updates series. I’ll finally get to read Seeing Through Stones by Rajdeep Paulus.  A few others on my radar are Maggie Stiefvater’s The Scorpio Races and  Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein.

PF Five Days Five Books Five Dollars.

If you’re looking to loadup on YA books for the cheap, Playlist Fiction has a great deal coming up in just a few weeks. Swimming Through Clouds, Between These Lines, Glass Girl, It’s Complicated , and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet will all be on sale for .99. Which means you can grab FIVE young adult titles for just FIVE bucks. Sweet, right?

3. Pick one big thing you want to have accomplished at the end of summer and make a plan to do it.

What’s that thing—the project, the skill—that you spend the school year thinking, “I wish I had time to do THIS.” Is it watching all Oscar winning movies? Learning French? Writing a screenplay? Mastering the violin?

Wouldn’t it be great if by Labor Day you could tell people, “Hey, I did that thing I’ve always talked about doing”? What would it take to accomplish that? Come up with a goal, and then break it down by what you need to do each month, week, and day to make it happen.

4. Get your hands in the dirt, your feet in the water, and your skin in the sun.

During the school year, our life is a rush of getting to school, getting home from school, getting homework done, getting dinner eaten, getting practices (soccer, ballet, etc.) in, and getting to bed. There isn’t nearly as much time as I’d like for playing outside, but all that changes in summer.  We go for walks in the morning or evenings (or when it’s raining —that’s the best!) We go to our neighborhood pool. We take care of the herbs and vegetables we’ve planted.

Maybe you’re more of a lay-out-and-listen-to-music kind of girl, but you need just a tiny bit of dirt under your nails to make the summer official!

5. Make a list of small experiences you want to have. Type them up, print them out, and do them!

My family started doing this last year, and I absolutely love it. At the start of the season, we work together to compile a list of experiences we want to have. A few things on our list this year are to have a family movie night, have a dance party to “In Summer” from Frozen, go to a Kansas City Royals game, grill hot dogs and eat s’mores, and make homemade lemonade. We usually wind up with about 30 things we want to enjoy that summer. We type the list up, put it on the fridge, and then cross them off as we do them.

Not only does it help in those moments of, “So…what should we do tonight?” But in August when we’re school supply shopping and I’m inevitably thinking, “The summer went so fast!” I can look at all those crossed out items on the list and remember what a sweet summer it was.

What are your summer plans?

My First BEA and We Need Diverse Books

June 2, 2014 | 0 Comments »



Rajdeep Paulus is the author of Swimming Through Clouds and Seeing Through Stones. She  is mommy to four princesses, wife of Sunshine, a coffee-addict and a chocoholic.  As of this June 2013, she’s a Tough Mudder. To find out more, visit her website  or connect with her via Facebook  TwitterPinterest, or Instagram.


So this past week was a blizzard that I loved being whirled up in at my very first BEA (Book Expo of America) event in New York City. I met so many people. Talked books and love of story with lots more. And just walked around soaking in the air of book obsession attendees exhaled as they moved from author signing to free books to more author signings.

On the Wednesday train ride from Long Island into the city, I discovered that someone posted my very first, eva, one star review of Swimming Through Clouds. And I was thrilled! I had been waiting and waiting and waiting for someone to pick up my book and just hate it! Really. I knew it would happen eventually. And I just wanted to get through it. Knowing I could. Get through it. It was fine. Better than fine. I laughed out loud. And then I moved on. I guess it didn’t hurt that a USA Today writer recently posted a very nice review of the same book, calling Swimming Through Clouds, “a work of art,” and “must read YA.” Yeah, that definitely helped cushion the blow. Any-shu-way,

Here are my top ten BEA Moments from this year’s event!

1. I didn’t trip on the subway in my blue sari. Huge accomplishment for a girl who weathered morning rush hour to Manhattan before her first cup of coffee.

2. I met up with Playlist Street Member, April Hamrick And Playlist Fiction Sister/Author Jennifer Murgia!! For some yummy Italian food and we didn’t get kicked out. And we (okay, maybe some of us more than others, not gonna say who, Brooke DelVecchio and Lisa Amowitz,) but we were all definitely excited to see each other and be at BEA.

3. I met some of my favorite authors and received their autographs and had a ten second face to face with them. Scott Westerfeld and RJ Palacio (of Wonder fame) were my two faves. Ooh. and I have pre-release copies of books by Rainbow Rowell (thanks, Nisha for the detour in my meandering) and Westerfeld’s newest too!

4. I saw Tina Fey and Jason Bateman in the flesh. They were hilarious as they chatted about their upcoming movie. And as they exited stage right, I rushed to the front to hand Tina my card, but she was too quick and moved down a corridor that separated attendees from her with a flimsy curtain. I could still see her. She. Was. Right. There. I could have poked her side if I reached forward. I refrained.

5. I did not get arrested. And when I thought about sneaking past the curtain to give Tina Fey my card and beg her to READ MY BOOK, I took one giant step. Backwards. Because I didn’t want to get arrested. So there’s that.

6. I met and  hung out with Bloggers (at BloggerCon) who are like the torch bearers of Fiction in so many ways these days. And word on line is true in the flesh. They are all about books and they love authors. And they are really, REALLY, nice people!

7. I met up with a college roomie and we had a friendly, cost-free, therapy session of sharing our daily struggles. Best part, no prescriptions were filled and hugs go a long way! So sweet to see you, Simone!

8. I met up with my agent, Chip MacGregor and award-winning author Holly Lorincz, and we chatted books, book ideas, life and one star reviews. It was epic! And I’m reminded once again how blessed I am to have such a great agent!

9. I skipped the Disney-sized bathroom lines when a very nice custodial staff member opened up the men’s room for women. I was right there. So that saved oodles of time. Yep. That happened.

IMG_732710. And by far the best part of the entire weeks was the clear excitement over Diversity in Fiction with the movement that started weeks ago with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. Voices rose and over a million tweets supported the crescendo-ing desire to see more variety in the publishing world. And the session BEA held to champion Diversity was jam-packed before hosts I.W. Gregorio, Ellen Oh, Aisha Saeed, Marieke Nijkamp took the podium to share the vision and intro the guest authors, including Matt de la Pena, Grace Lin, Mike Jung, Jacqueline Woodson and Lamar Giles. What I think I loved about this more than something like this in years past is I see a difference in the book climate. I feel like in the past, it might have felt clearly like a us against them type of uphill battle. Today, for me personally, it feels a lot more like a celebration and a thirst that the majority of readers have for diversity on their bookshelves, regardless of their background. Maybe I’m wrong, but I hope I’m more right than wrong.

**ON a side note, I want to pay a brief tribute to the late Maya Angelou. I always loved the poem, “I know why the caged bird sings,” and she was an inspiration to many writers and readers alike. What I will cherish most is her advice she gave not too long ago at a NYC Public Library forum. She said, “People always tell you, write about what you know. I say, write about what you don’t know. Then, the sky’s the limit.”

Summer is almost here. School’s about to let out. Good luck with finals, all! What’s on your diverse summer reading list? Any fun vacations planned? Anyone else attend BEA and want to chime in with what they enjoyed!

Lift the Lid, and see what’s inside — how creativity inspires hope

May 5, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Amelia Kurk is a high school student in Texas. She serves as the youth journalist and imagespokesperson for Lift the Lid, Inc., a 501(c)(3) charity that encourages writing and self-expression in schools throughout the developing world.

See how at or find them on Facebook!

Dear Lift the Lid, This program is my mother and father–it means everything to me.

When I read those words written by a girl about my age in Kenya, who lost her mother and lives apart from her father, I realized something important. Something I’d been ignoring.

Every day, as I go from AP English to Journalism to World History, reading great literature and writing story after essay after poem, I am taking for granted this enormous gift in my life.

While I often complain about a short story assignment, girls living in the poorest of poor conditions in nations like Kenya and the Philippines would love for a teacher to sit with them and show them how to tell their own stories. They are so eager for the chance to be counted as students who have a voice and a story to tell.

team-sara_90Sara Goff, founder and director of Lift the Lid, Inc., has seen what creative education does in the lives of poor children in struggling schools. “I believe writing instills confidence and hope and I want to share that with kids who aren’t given the chance to shine,” Sara said. 

In her late twenties, Sara walked away from a seven-year career as a fashion buyer/merchandiser in New York City to pursue her passion for writing and to somehow make a difference in the world. She began leading writing workshops for the homeless and in inner-city schools.

After moving to London with her husband, Sara accepted the opportunity to attend a writing workshop in Kenya. Once there, she fell in love with the people and was profoundly moved by a young girl selling jewelry who gave Sara a piece of jewelry as a gift. Sara began to imagine this girl’s life–one with few options and many hardships. Within a few years, Sara had dreamed up, planned, and launched Lift the Lid, Inc., whose goal is to help struggling schools to give students the gift of creativity and self-expression through writing.

My favorite part of the Lift the Lid story is that Sara’s gift through her organization began because she received a gift from a girl who couldn’t afford it but whose heart was pure and generous.


Image: Lift-the-Lid, Inc.

I’m honored to play a very small role in helping Sara spread the word about this organization. I love telling people how easy it is to make a difference in the life of one student in a difficult situation.

Here’s all it takes. Go to, click on “How it Works” and follow the two easy steps. Pick any school you’d like to help from the list of participating schools. Give any amount you can (using PayPal or by check). And then wait for a poem written by a student encouraged by your donation.

“While we cannot guarantee that everyone will be inspired by every poem, we can guarantee that every poem is written by a child exploring his or her voice, expressing a glint of his or her soul,” Sara said. “Lift the Lid is more than an exercise in creativity; it is a place for forgotten children to be heard.”

The letter I quoted at the beginning of this post was written by a girl named Akinyi. Here she is—


She ended her letter to Lift the Lid like this:

“Please keep up your good work and remember our school.”

If you’re interested in learning more about how you could help Lift the Lid, Inc., check out the website or keep up with news on Facebook.





April 7, 2014 | 0 Comments »


Spencer Hill Press Author Photo

Jennifer Murgia is the author of Playlist Fiction’s BETWEEN THESE LINES. 

It’s the story of a boy with a haunted past and a girl living with daily angst.

    They fall for one another.

    It doesn’t end well.

 Catch up with her at

    You’ll find her books tend to be dark and moody things.


Playlist Fiction will be at YA FEST 2014!

Well, our books, that is!

So by now, with all the hype, you’ve heard of YA FEST, right? No? That’s ok, we won’t hold it against you. YA FEST is a book festival that unites teens and the library – the Palmer Branch of the Easton Area Library, specifically. It’s going to be a fun-filled, wild and crazy day with 51 authors who write Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction.

YA FEST 2014


I’ve coordinated YA FEST since 2012 and will sign my books along with the incredible line up we have this year – and that list includes fellow Playlist Fiction Sister, Rajdeep Paulus. Can I spill how tremendously excited I am to finally meet Rajdeep IN PERSON?! (** I’ve arranged for us to sit by one another too!)

And while BETWEEN THESE LINES, SWIMMING THROUGH CLOUDS and SEEING THROUGH STONES will unite for the day, where are the other Playlist titles, you ask?  Stephanie Morrill, Laura L. Smith and Laura Anderson Kurk have donated their books—both Playlist and their back-listed titles—to the AMAZING raffles patrons will win the day of the festival. So, we may not ALL be under one roof in person, but our books will be!

And that’s not all! The Playlist Fiction Indie Sampler will be FREE the weekend of YA FEST!


Thinking of trekking to Easton PA for YA FEST 2014? Here’s what you’ll need to know:

YA FEST will be at the Palmer Branch of the Easton Area Public Library

1 Weller Place Easton PA 18045

10:30AM – 3:00PM

Come meet 51 Authors! Book sale (new and used)! Raffles! Discussion Panel!

For more information visit the YA FEST website and take a look at the books for sale and the authors attending:.

** Psst! It’s Rajdeep’s Birthday! today! Leave a Happy Birthday comment below for her! **



What makes a young adult novel a young adult novel?

March 17, 2014 | 0 Comments »

by Stephanie Morrill

Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and the Ellie Sweet books (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website including the free novella, Throwing Stones.



What is it about a young adult novel that makes it a young adult novel?


At first glance, this seems like a simple question. Well, the protagonist of course. The main character is a teenager. Yet even though I’ve been writing young adult novels for years, I find myself struggling to define what exactly makes something fit the genre. Much of what I say in this article will be a generalization, so I’m sure you’ll find exceptions as you think through the young adult books you’ve read and loved.

Quickly we can figure out that a young adult novel isn’t just a book that has a teenage main character. Because what about My Sister’s Keeper or The Pact by Jodi Picoult? The main characters are teenagers, but those aren’t young adult novels. Nor is White Oleander by Janet Fitch or The River King by Alice Hoffman.

While I think all those books could have been written as young adult novels (and you could make an especially good case for White Oleander) you would find all of them categorized as adult fiction. Why?

Partly, I think, is the scope of the novel. While they do have teenage main characters, with the exception of White Oleander, we also follow several adult storylines, which we don’t do in young adult novels. In a young adult novel, the reader’s view of the situation is narrowed so we see the world through the eyes of just the teenage characters.

Another common quality of young adult books is the questions the main characters ask. They frequently want to know why the world their living in works the way it does. Can it be done better? Is it right to do it like this? An undercurrent of pushing back on the old way of things, on the generation that came before them, is often found in a young adult novel. I would go so far as to say that in a young adult novel, it’s more important to raise questions than it is to answer them.

The protagonist of a young adult novel is frequently coming into a time in their life where they have more control over their future. In Divergent we see Beatrice choosing which faction she will spend her adult years in. In The Hunger Games we see Katniss in a new position to push back against the government that’s oppressed her all her life. And it’s not just a quality of dystopian novels. In Rajdeep Paulus’s contemporary young adult novel, Swimming Through Clouds, Talia is coming to a place where she can push back against her overbearing and abusive father. In my Playlist Fiction release, The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet, Ellie is discovering that she has a lot more control over her social situation than she allowed herself to previously believe.

Ellie Sweet quote

Young adult novels also leave the reader with a sense of a new beginning—that our main character is now on the path to leave behind childhood and embark on their adult years. (For books in a series, this is more true of the final book than it is the others.) The reader frequently catches a glimpse of the main character in this new world of responsibility. Like in Sarah Dessen’s This Lullaby, which follows a girl through her summer after graduating high school. The final scene jumps in time so we see her settled and doing well in her new life at college. We end with a new beginning.

What else can you think of that’s unique to the young adult genre?