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?

After the Oscars . . . Rolling out the Red Carpet for a New Book!

March 3, 2014 | 1 Comment »



Not sure how many of you couched it last night for the Red Carpet event, and to be honest, there are years that go by when I’m happy to watch the highlights the next day and read the winners’ list online. Last night, we watched the Oscars, and for one reason alone: Frozen. It was the movie, although animated and without real live actors, per se, that moved us as a family, and we were excited to see if it would win any awards and even more excited to hear Idina Menzel sing it on stage.

Turns out the song, “Let it Go,” is also on the playlist for Seeing Through Stones, the latest release from Playlist Fiction. Because the best part of the Oscars, besides the hilarious Ellen who ordered pizza for a few lucky front row-ers, was the music. From Despicable Me’s “Happy” and U2′s tribute to Mandela to  Pink’s “Somewhere over the rainbow” and Bette Midler’s blast from the past trip back to Beaches, the performances made the night for me and the family who went to bed bleary-eyed waiting up for “Let it Go.” But the show stealer of the night was the spontaneous singing thank you when Darlene Love belted out a few lines from “His Eye is on the Sparrow!” For a nice little stroll down the 2014 Oscars musical lane, check out the countdown of the songs on Yahoo‘s blog.

If I had an Oscars event for Seeing Through Stones, I’d dress up Talia in Sandra Bullock’s blue dress (with a light sweater or shawl, of course), give Lagan Will Smith’s look with his tux, put Jesse in a John Stamos get-up and Summer would wear something like what Chrissy Teigen wore last night.


sandra bullock will smith










john stamos

chrissy teigen











[All images taken from Ellen's Report Card of Red Carpet Wear]

So I thought it only fitting to post the first Seeing Through Stones blog by rolling out the red carpet and sharing the Playlist.

“Dare You to Move” by Switchfoot

I used this song for my Trailer, which I risked life and limb to create. (Not really, but it was brrrrrr-ishly cold the morning I filmed the train scene!) Oh. And Jesse’s story is perfect with this song.

“Lightning Eyes” by Evan Chambers <—-FREE DOWNLOAD of the song of this up and coming artist and friend of a friend. :)

This would the Lagan and Talia song of the book! Yep. No spoilers, but this particular tune came before the scene. I guess there’s a first time for everything. :)

“You Got It” by Family Force 5

This is like a deleted scene song that would play in the background as Lagan daydreams about Talia.

“Somebody” by Bridgit Mendler  Lemonade Mouth

For the shelter. And all the women who are Somebody!

“Hope Is What We CRAVE” by for KING & COUNTRY


Possibly the Theme song of the book, because in the end, Hope is what Jesse and Talia crave.

“Free Fallin’” by Tom Petty

I kind of imagine the final scenes of the book with this song. Jesse. That is all I’m gonna say about that.

“Drifting” (feat. Dan Haseltine) by Plumb & Dan Haseltine

This would play during a key scene with Jesse as he struggles with his past.

“True Colors” by Cyndi Lauper

This song just reminds me of Summer. Colorful. Pretty.

American Noise” by Skillet

Think of this song as I picture Jesse finding his way around the streets of Chicago.

“Overcomer” by Mandisa

Another dedication to the women in the shelter. And Talia, of course.

“Kal Ho Naa Ho” by Sonu Nigam

Translated, “Tomorrow might not come,” and a little ethnic flavor to the playlist since the journey for both Talia and Jesse involves trying to find their place between yesterday and tomorrow.

“Through the Fire” by Chaka Khan

Well. I think that one is obvious.

“Let It Go”  by Idina Menzel Frozen

Because both Jesse and Talia have some “letting go” to work through in this book.

“Roll Away Your Stone” by Mumford & Sons

Had to find one song with the word “Stone” in it to go with the title! :)

“Latika’s Theme” by A.R. Rahman & Suzanne Slumdog Millionaire

One extra masala-marinated tune to throw in the mix. I just love this music and I can hear it in so many scenes with Talia.
Sorry for the skimpy explanations, but not wanting to give away any spoilers since the book just came out. If you’re like me, and like a little background noise when you read or write, you can create a playlist on Grooveshark and dive in.


Thank you from the top of my waterfalls to the bottom of my ocean floor heart for all your enthusiasm over Swimming Through Clouds last year. The wait is over! Welcome to the world, Seeing Through Stones. Go forth, and find your place on the bookshelves of their hearts. And don’t forget your evening wear and playlist for a night to remember.

AND to celebrate, I’m having my first BIG Giveaway with lots of winners and ways to enter. Pick up a copy of Seeing Through Stones and Dive into Talia and Jesse’s world.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Can’t come to your house and bake cookies but I can introduce to you a new book, and hopefully, Seeing Through Stones will bring you a little warmth to combat the winter blues. :)


And you? Did you watch the Oscars last night? What was your favorite part? Song? Dress or Ellen Line? :) If you were to attend, what would be your dream dress/outfit? Feel free to post or tweet me @rajdeeppaulus and/or @playlistfiction a pic!


PAULUS Raj Author photoRajdeep Paulus is the author of Swimming Through Clouds, 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 .


to all who wonder (and wander) — you’re okay

February 18, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Anderson Family Picture


Laura Anderson Kurk (the awkward girl with the middle part) 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.




A year or so ago, I was invited to sit down with a whole bunch of college students to share my disjointed thoughts.

Even though speaking to groups that large makes me want to rock in a corner somewhere, I did it happily because I LOVE THESE KIDS. I’ve written about Aggies from Texas A&M University on several occasions. Like here, here, and here! I feel all hopeful and giddy about the world again every time I’m with them.

In case some of you are headed to college or graduating soon and wondering about what life looked like for me at that time, I’m sharing some of the things I said to the Aggies that day. And please know that if there is a way I can help you as you wonder (and wander), email me. — laura (at) kurk (.) us — I promise I’ll respond.


1. Where did you grow up, go to school (high school & college)? 

I grew up in a little town in southeastern Oklahoma called Durant. It’s the home of the world’s largest peanut, so maybe you’ve heard of it. It was a great place to grow up because it was small and kind of off on its own. But it was also frustrating, in the same sense, because we literally had nothing to do. No theater, no mall, no . . . anything. We were left to our own devices and that was often really, really weird.


I had about three actual dates in high school. One of them went like this—the guy told me to wear grimy clothes and look dirty and kind of like a runaway and he’d do the same and we’d drive to the nearest truck stop and act sketchy to see whether the truck drivers ignored us or were curious. It was very romantic. This is my romantic history.

I graduated at 17 and kicked the Oklahoma dust off on my way to Texas. I was the only one I knew going to Abilene Christian University. I graduated from there with English and History degrees and then came to Texas A&M for a graduate degree in literature.


2. Tell us about falling in love, marriage and your family.

So I fell in love on an elevator when I was 23. It was not like the Aerosmith song at all. And that’s my love story.

His name is Alan Kurk and I still get butterflies when he walks in the room. We’ve been married almost 20 years and have two ginger-headed ragamuffins. Amelia is fifteen and Anderson is almost eleven.

alan and laura

And marriage is a real shelter, I’d say. It’s not what I thought of as a girl. It’s better. It’s more. It’s really safe and it gives us both a lot of confidence and strength. It blows my mind just knowing there’s someone who would die for me if necessary. And for us, we’ve always been so respectful of one another that there’s never been pettiness. It’s just easy. I fell in love with his heart and his mind and those things never change. And he has always loved my heart and the way my brain works and so I think we have a relationship built on respect and admiration and trust.


3. How did you become interested in writing?   Did you always know that is what you wanted to do? 

Image by Chainat

Image by Chainat

I was always this really subterranean kind of girl. Everything was so buried with me. I lived in my own head and didn’t know how to be anything except introspective. I wrote constantly as a girl and sometimes my older brother would find things I’d written and give me a hard time.

Writing for me has been a release and a way to figure the world out. I’ve always been fascinated by the way people talk to each other. I can remember sitting quietly as a kid watching the give and take between strangers. The pauses, the way their faces looked when they accepted information or thought of something new to say. The emotions. That’s what has always drawn me and I could reproduce these things I was hearing and seeing on paper and it was a thrill.


4. What’s your daily grind like?

The daily grind is real. I mean there’s the getting up and getting the family ready to face their giants and all the little details of life that will eat you alive if you let them. And they’ll suck creativity right out of you. So the daily grind for me is ignoring distractions and keeping my hands on the keyboard even when I don’t feel much like writing. What it really takes is the ability to pour your soul into everything you write and when your soul is thin, that’s difficult. So I have to look for ways to fill my own soul, and for me, that’s hanging around with people that I look up to, stalking musicians and artists and other writers.

And that’s an important thing for you guys to learn. At your age, you’re always looking forward to when life is going to begin. You’ll have a great job and money and new marriages and that’s when life begins you think. But you need to remember that life is life. You’re always going to be busy. You’re always going to be surrounded with distractions. They’ll change as you flow through different phases of YOU but the distractions of this world are overwhelming. You’re living right now. So live. Make a difference right now. It’ll never be any easier for you to develop the right priorities than it is right now.

There are so many parts of life that are just unbelievably good. Marriage and babies rank up there. But so does this time right now. Man, this is a good time. You’re unencumbered and you’re learning and growing and experiencing new things and forming opinions. Enjoy this time.


5. What do you wish you had known about life when you were in college?


  • I wish I had known that no one feels like they belong. We all feel like we’re on the outside looking in. Some of us are really good at faking it and in fact at times we all feel like insiders. But mostly, we’re outsiders. If I had realized that, things would have been easier.
  • I wish I had known that very few things in life have truly high stakes. These things that make us lose our minds with worry are really not big deals in five years. You’re either going to win. Or you’re going to lose. You’re either going to get it done. Or you’re not. And either way life will go on.
  • I wish I had known earlier that I could define myself. That I didn’t have to let other people define me and tell me what I could or couldn’t do. That I could unleash myself creatively and be brave about that earlier in life.
  • I wish I had known that it’s not good to hang your future on someone’s heart if it’s not a good heart.

6. What choices did you make in college, good or bad, that still have an impact on your life and relationships today?

Every one of them. Every choice I made then still has an impact. I laugh now because at the time it felt like my decisions were whims and I’d outlive them, good or bad. But now I see that you don’t outlive your decisions . . . you live them.

One good decision I made, I think, was to pursue a graduate degree in another place—which turned out to be Texas A&M. The good part of the decision wasn’t even the continuing education part of it. That was good. But the good part for me was learning to be alone, to be responsible for completely supporting myself, to figure out that I was capable of standing on my own two feet and making a go of something big. It gave me a ton of confidence – I know I can take care of things and get the job done.

7. What are some things that challenge you? 

My biggest challenge is fear. I’m a naturally fearful person. It backs in and parks itself in my head and heart and I have a really hard time putting one foot in front of the other. Fear has really physical manifestations in our lives. Paralysis, anger, frustration, it can tire us, nauseate us, make us shake all the time. I wrote once that what I’m most looking forward to about Heaven is the absence of fear. That’s it for me.

And, let me tell you, being a writer is made of fear. It’s a double-edged sword because good writing comes from a vulnerable place so you want to keep that vulnerability but you also want to be brave enough to put your words out there and let people judge them. It’s terrifying, really. But as much as failure scares me, regret scares me even more.  

And I think one thing I’ve learned is to let go. To say, what’s the worst that could happen? In all situations, I need to come to terms with being okay with outcomes. And it’s uncomfortable and prickly and it hurts. I want to hang onto control and fear because it’s what I’ve always known but I’m learning that I can’t.

Whew! That was long. Did you read it all? Yeah, right.




February 2, 2014 | 3 Comments »

pack your bagsPlaylist author Laura L. Smith loves to travel. In fact, she’s set both of her Playlist titles in cities she’s visited, Paris and Barcelona. Today she shares tips for packing for international travel.

As I was packing for my recent adventure to Guatemala I found myself repeatedly reciting a list of things I needed to bring. I love to travel, so I’ve got international trips down to a system. My list reminded me of the game I played in elementary school, I’m Going On A Picnic. You know the one — I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking an apple. The next person has to repeat what’s been said so far and add an item that starts with the next letter in the alphabet, like, “I’m going on a picnic and I’m taking an apple and my bikini.”

My Guatemala packing list went something like this. Your trips will be different than mine, but I hope my list helps you if you have aspirations to be an exchange student, go somewhere exotic for spring break, study abroad or back pack around Europe.

I’m going to Guatemala and I’m bringing….

You won't be able to charge your phone without an adapter.

You won’t be able to charge your phone without an adapter.

Adapters. Whenever you travel out of the country do a Google search to see what the outlets look like where you’re going. Rarely will other countries use the same three prongs we do in the U.S. You can buy adapters that will allow you to plug your flat iron, hair dryer, phone, tablet, etc. into the outlets in other countries. Amazon has a great, inexpensive selection. If you’re more of a last minute girl, Radio Shack has them, but expect to pay more.

Bag. I have the same string bag I’ve been using since I first went to Europe in 1990. I bought it for about 3 British pounds at the market at Covent Garden in London and it has survived a multitude of stamps on my passport. I use it as a daypack, to carry the necessities for a day of exploring, so I don’t need to lug a heavy purse or worry about where I’ve put it.

Cipro. This is the prescription drug for traveler’s diarrhea. I hope you don’t need it. But if you do, you’ll be glad you have it.

You can pass the time in airports and train stations playing everything from Euchre to Kings in a Corner.

You can pass the time in airports and train stations playing everything from Euchre to Kings in a Corner.

Deck of cards. With travel there are delays and downtime and waiting. Cards take up zero room in your day bag and offer countless games to pass the time.

Epipens. Two of my kids are allergic to nuts. I’m allergic to fire ants. Enough said. If you have asthma bring your inhaler. Eczema? Bring your cream. Whatever medications you keep with you at home, make sure you pack them.

Footwear. I’m as crazy about shoes as the next girl, but traveling abroad is not the time to pack your snazziest heels or your favorite pair of riding boots. Think comfort. Think function. Sounds boring, but I promise you’ll be glad. I have never gone on an international trip where I didn’t walk several miles a day. A few I’ve found comfy enough to stroll the Champs D’Elysees and hike the side of a volcano, but still somewhat cute are Sketchers, TOMS or Soludos. Gym shoes always do the trick.

bring comfy sturdy shoes for lots of walking

bring comfy sturdy shoes for lots of walking


Granola bars. Or some other handy, portable snack. There’s always an uncertainty of when you’ll find your next meal and what it may be.

Hand Sanitizer. You will find yourself in bathrooms that have no soap or water. I like the fun scents from Bath and Body Works.

iPhone – make sure you can stay in touch. I encourage you to unplug from social media while you travel. Just soak in the trip. But maps come in awfully handy, so does the use of a phone to make calls, and don’t forget music or the built in camera to record your adventures!

Jeans. Dress them up, dress them down. Wear one pair and pack one more. Wear the daylights out of them.

Kindle. All the books I need for long flights or rainy days, including my Bible are loaded onto my one, thin, portable, handy device.

Language. Take time to learn the basics before you go. The library has language courses on CDs you can borrow for free. My fav is Pimsleur In ten days you’ll be able to ask directions, order a coffee, talk about train/plane schedules and other survival skills. It will make your trip less stressful and the natives will appreciate your effort.

Manicure. I’m a bit fanatic about my nails. I love to experiment with colors and cringe at chips. But two weeks on the road, means a minimalist approach. You don’t want to pack polish, because if it explodes in your bag – disaster! I paint mine the day before I leave with a neutral pink. It protects my nails. They look polished. But if they chip, which they will, it won’t be nearly as obvious.

Jot down thoughts and ideas, stuff in a napkin, map or business card to preserve  your memories

Jot down thoughts and ideas, stuff in a napkin, map or business card to preserve your memories

Notebook. You’ll see smell and experience so many amazing things on your travels. You’ll want a place to jot them down. It also comes in handy to play tic tac toe if your flight/train/bus is delayed.

Open mind. Things will be different. You might have your meal served to you on a leaf instead of a plate. You may order chips and get fries. There may not be air-conditioning. You might not be able to drink the water. But life is an adventure. Be open to the people, culture and experience God has in store for you.

Passport. Make sure yours is up to date. If you don’t have one, plan to apply for one three months prior to travel. Applications are at post offices and most college campuses.

Quetzals. This is the national currency of Guatemala. Your bank, or the bank at the airport can exchange U.S. Dollars for most world currencies. Sometimes local banks need advance notice to order foreign currency. Credit and debit cards are accepted in most countries, but many cafes, market stands, cabs, etc. only take local currency.


Have one in your day pack and plan your day.

Have one in your day pack and plan your day.

Rick Steves. This guy writes my favorite travel guides. He rates just about every cathedral, trail, museum, restaurant and hostel in Europe. His tips on reduced rates, shorter lines and tourist traps are priceless. Other great travel guides are Fodor’s, The Lonely Planet and MTV Travel Guides. Buy last year’s edition used and cheap on Amazon or check it out from your library prior to your trip.

Sunglasses. Sunscreen. Even in the winter, you may find yourself outside all day. Protect your skin!

T-shirts. For layering and comfortable travel wear.

Underwear. Pack lots.

Visa or MasterCard. Even if you have plenty of cash, a credit card will be invaluable if you need an emergency flight home, an unexpected prescription or an extra night in a hotel.

Webster’s pocket dictionary. You may know a few phrases or be fluent, but I promise there will be a time during in your trip, when you really, really, really need to know the word for something and don’t know it. I got mine for cheap on Amazon.

Xtra copies of your passport, hotel reservations, flight itinerary etc. Keep them somewhere different than where you keep your originals. If you have your passport in the hotel safe, stash these papers in your suitcase in your room. If your itineraries are in in your suitcase, keep a copy of them in your day bag. In the unfortunate event you lose your originals, you’ll be covered.

Be open to trying new foods, new ideas, new adventures. Be willing to say, "yes".

Be open to trying new foods, new ideas, new adventures. Be willing to say, “yes”.


Yes. Yes. Yes, you would like to try the fried plantains. Yes, you would like to try jumping in the lake. Yes, you would like to hear the local’s explanation of the plants growing at the side of the road or why there’s a parade on a random Tuesday. You will learn so much if you’re willing to try. Never agree to something that makes you feel uncomfortable like going off with strangers, taking a ride somewhere you hadn’t prearranged or drinking the water in Central America, but be ready to say yes to something new.

Zeal. Get ready, get set, go. You’re off to great places!

Do you have any trips planned? What do you take with you wherever you go? What do you usually forget to pack?


Shout Out to Trendsetting Girls

January 19, 2014 | 1 Comment »

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 with a haunted present.

    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.


When I was a teen, style how-to’s came from magazines.

It was every girl’s dream to be a leggy model living the dream in NYC or a Hollywood glam girl.


No way!

But still . . . it’s what appealed to us. The epitome of fashion, style, savvy.

The real world? We went to school and tried to fit in with label conscious populars. What you wore defined you.

How much it cost propelled you to the top of the High School food chain.

Today, I applaud girls. They have a style that’s realistic, true to themselves and NOT what anyone else dictates.

Today, girls are teaching other girls more than fashion and I’m so excited at what I’m seeing!

The starved supermodels have been replaced by REAL teens uploading videos on YouTube and giving us a glimpse into what it’s like to be a girl in today’s world:

Beauty Product How-To’s

What’s in My Backpack?

Night-time Routines

What Braces Feel Like?

Through YouTube, instagram and Tumblr, today’s teen girls are learning the ropes on style, hygiene and tips.

From drugstore makeup to high end products sold at Sephora,

these girls have the knack to advise and encourage.

Every girl can be a beauty guru, every girl can beautiful,

every girl can be courageous enough to be herself.

What’s hot now?

Ordinary girls like MakeupbyMandy ~ who offers makeup how-to’s from everyday looks appropriate for school

to how to apply makeup for your prom.



And Bethany Mota, who’s earned the title Motavator with her down to earth style.

Everything from how to make your own hair bows, what to wear with high-tops, to making your own peppermint mocha at home.

Bethany Mota 1

Bethany has so many followers and an amazing style, she now has her own line at Aeropostale!

bethany mota 3

Life is more than being popular. You can be beautiful by being YOU.

Here’s to REAL girls! Here’s to remembering you are and encouraging others to do the same!

Do you have a fav trendsetter?

Comment below and tell Playlist!

Setting Goals That Will Help You Grow

January 6, 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.

Ever since middle school, I’ve loved New Year’s resolutions. I would make long elaborate lists of everything I wanted to do better next year. Sometimes right down to how many times a day I thought I should be putting on Chapstick. And sadly, I’m completely serious about that.

Year after year, I made long lists that absolutely nobody could survive day in and day out. And I spent a lot of time feeling angry with myself that I wasn’t preforming the way I thought I should be, that I wasn’t accomplishing all that I had hoped. I wasn’t getting a boyfriend or finishing a novel or making straight A’s.

Eventually I backed off of the minutia style of resolution making and started focusing on big picture stuff. I want to start exercising. I want to publish a book. I want to be more confident. That was no good either. Not only were the goals vague, but often I didn’t have control over whether they happened or not.

What I’ve discovered is that the best goals are about growth toward an accomplishment, not just achievement. Goals that help you grow:

  • Factor in the reality of a learning curve. A girl like me, who will always choose sitting on the couch and reading a book over going for a run, will not magically start exercising five days a week.
  • Help even if you don’t achieve the accomplishment you were after. Because even if you didn’t sell a photograph

So when I set goals, I try to think through the areas of my life (mom, wife, writer, blogger, grocery shopper) and how I can foster growth.

One of my goals for 2014 is to listen to two writing classes every week. I can do this when I’m in the car or at the grocery store without my kids. This likely won’t be the year that I hit the New York Times bestseller list, but I will have put in lots of hours to improving as a writer. I will have grown, and I believe that will pay off in the future.

If you have something you’re wanting to achieve, try figuring out what steps you can take to get closer to it. How can you get better at this skill? What books can you read? What experience do you need? Goals that help you grow ensure that at the end of 2014, you’ll be stronger and smarter than you were at the beginning.

Wrapping the Gift of Love & Other Oddly-Shaped Packages!

December 24, 2013 | 0 Comments »


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 with a haunted present.

    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.


Why is gift giving to those who mean the most to you the hardest?

Because it’s nearly impossible to wrap your feelings.

It’s impossible to wrap a huge thank you to your literary agent, who had the uncanny sense of putting 5 writers together to form a publishing bond.

It’s impossible to package up and place a bow on all the love, happiness, sincerity, encouragement and blessings I’ve come to know since the day Playlist Fiction was formed.

So if we were to give each other something – something that doesn’t require a box or paper or a card, what would it be?

Here’s what you’ll find beneath the virtual Playlist Fiction Christmas Tree ~ for each other (we picked Secret Santa’s!) and for our readers:

Rajdeep Paulus would give Laura Kurk:

A pony of course! Some hot Mama Cowgirl Boots. J And an iTunes Card so she can buy songs from all her favorite Indie Bands!

And for our readers: A BLUE stocking full of Post-its. Cloud-shaped Christmas Cookies. And Candy-cane flavored “Peppermint” Gum!!


Laura Smith would give Stephanie Morrill:

An awesome, fun, responsible, trustworthy babysitter for two full days. Stephanie is a young mom, and although that is an amazing stage of life, so much fun and excitement, it also makes it hard to find time for yourself. I would gift her those two days so she could do whatever she likes from napping to writing to visiting with friends to sitting alone with a good book. Ahhh. They always say to give a gift you would enjoyJ.

To our readers? There is no gift special enough, because they are so dedicated and priceless to me. However, I know they love to read, so I’d get them an Amazon gift card, so they could purchase a pile of books to fill 2014 with beautiful words and new adventures.

Laura Kurk would give Jennifer Murgia:

So my gift to you would be two tickets for you and your husband to Romania to visit Merry Cemetery (a small town Romanian cemetery filled with darkly humorous gravestones). Since 1908, those buried in this small cemetery have been gifted with a cross that bears real life details. Some are dark. Some are sarcastic and funny. Some are tragic and sad. Today, “Pop” carves all the words into crosses in his on-site workshop. The crosses are folk-art masterpieces.

Under the tree, you’ll find wrapped two Lufthansa tickets from NYC to Bucharest. You’ll stay at the Guesthouse Ileana in Spanta, Romania.

Of course, this gift is contingent upon my winning the Lotto …

For our readers, I would host a huge Christmas party in Texas and invite them all. I’d love nothing more than to sit around with them and talk about books!

Stephanie Morrill would give Rajdeep Paulus:

A willow sapling.

Jennifer Murgia would give Laura Smith:

A once in a lifetime opportunity to meet Duran Duran – includes a weekend stay in London, front row tickets for a reunion concert and backstage passes. Gift also includes “extra” role in a Duran Duran video and to be serenaded by Simon LeBon.

To our readers . . . a chance to “be” in our books. Playlist Fiction is a collection of stories that touch the heart, help you heal, and create new bonds. Our readers/fans would be given an incredible chance to help create characters and star in trailers.

Happy Holidays from all of us at Playlist Fiction!



December 13, 2013 | 1 Comment »

Today, Playlist author, Laura L. Smith shares her Christmas Playlist.

Growing up my dad would play The Beach Boys, Elvis, Johnny Mathis and don’t forget the Chipmunks, Christmas albums over and over while we sorted the branches of our artificial tree, screwed them into their base and decorated them with colored lights and tickly garlands of tinsel. After years of listening to Elvis sass his way through B-B-B-Blue Christmas and Alvin croon about the hula hoop that was tops on his Christmas list, I have it in my soul.

I love Christmas music.

I can’t help it. My musical tastes have changed over the years, and although the classics will always be classic, there are so many great new Christmas tunes too. It would take me days to list all the Christmas songs I love, but here is my current Playlist of Christmas favorites. Enjoy:

10. His Favorite Christmas Story by Capital Lights – it’s got a good beat and you can dance to it, plus I’m a sap.

9. You’re a Mean One, Mister Grinch by Thurl Ravenscroft – da da da da da da

8. Children Go Where I Send Thee by Natalie Merchant –love the reminder to follow God’s plan, not mine

7. The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole – classic, makes me feel Christmasy everytime

6. Christmas Song by Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds – despite the name, a completely different song than number 7, but a powerful modern take on a classic story

5. Yeshua, Jesus (O Come Let Us Adore Him) by Holly Starr – a brand new song this Christmas, her voice penetrates my soul

4. Carol of the Bells by Barlow Girl – gorgeous harmony

3. This is Christmas by Kutless  “What is Christmas if there never was a savior wrapped in a manger? What is Christmas without Christ?” These lyrics resonate

2. Little Drummer Boy by David Bowie and Bing Crosby – I’m a big time Bowie fan girl. The harmony with Bowie’s voice penetrating, “Peace on Earth”  gives me goosebumps

1. Do They Know It’s Christmas by Live Aid –maybe it was the collaboration of everyone from Boy George to Bananarama to Bono, maybe it was the vibe of tens of thousands of people crammed into Wembley Stadium with millions more watching from home, but I believe it’s the lyrics of this song that make me catch my breath. “But say a prayer. Pray for the other ones.” How grateful I am, that I live in a warm house with running water, that I have a Christmas tree in the corner with gifts wrapped and piled underneath. On Christmas morning I’ll drink coffee and feast on fresh fruit and croissants. How about you? So don’t forget to pray for the other ones this Christmas. “Feed the world. Let them know it’s Christmastime.”

So, what did I leave out? What’s your favorite Christmas song?

the way an artist loves another — writers and painters as friends

December 2, 2013 | 11 Comments »

the way an artist loves another blog tour for bethany's blog


If you’ve read either of my books, you probably picked up on my extreme love for fine artists.

In Glass Girl, Meg Kavanagh’s mother, Adele, is an artist whose sensitive nature makes life feel overwhelming at times. In Perfect Glass, Meg befriends Jo Russell, a cantankerous older woman who is considered one of the nation’s finest western artists. Both of these women have loads to teach Meg, who wants to be a writer. See, I believe with all my writer’s heart that fine artists and writers were meant to be friends — the soul-deep sort of friends. My painter friends teach me how to see the world more clearly and sometimes they rely on me to help them talk about the world.

My friends tend to be writers. I think writers and painters are really all the same—we just sit in our rooms. ~Howard Hodgkin

Often, when people ask me for advice about their writing, I tell them to get to an art gallery as quickly as possible. Or an art museum. Somewhere that allows them to be quiet with beautiful creations that came from brilliant artistic minds. For me, there is no clearer way to understand the world than by peeking into the mystery of art.

I am blessed beyond belief to call fine artist Mara Schasteen my friend. In fact, I call her more than friend … I call her mine. Emphasis on the possessive! We’ve been friends for years, through some beautiful days and some dark days. We’ve lost each other and found each other. We are separated now by many miles, but that doesn’t seem to matter. She’s oxygen to my soul.

We’re making lists of things we plan to talk about when we’re together for eternity.

Mara being goofy.

Mara being goofy.

I hatched a plan last week and got Mara on board. I was thinking about all of you dear Playlist Fiction readers who might love to get inside the head of an artist. Maybe you are artists. Maybe you’re writers who get the connection between the two acts of creation. Maybe you’re just curious about why artists are so odd. Whatever … here’s your chance.

I asked Mara to open up about the specific things I thought would interest you. You know, the “if you could ask an artist anything” kinds of questions.

So, here’s Mara the way she appears to me, all shimmer and shadow and translucence:

Laura: How old were you when you realized art would be your life? Did you tell your friends in high school what you thought you’d end up doing?

Mara: On the first day of first grade, I painted a watercolor meadowlark. I remember my own little hand sweeping a wet brush across beige construction paper. It felt right to me. I knew then. My parents say they freaked out when they discovered the painting hanging out of my backpack, bent and tattered all the way around. I was an artist from the first purple crayon I had in my hand at age two. I don’t remember considering myself to be anything else. And yes, all my friends in high school knew I was an artist to the core. I know I am incredibly blessed to have had this vision for my life from such a young age, but I promise — it doesn’t have to happen that way.

Laura: What were you like in high school? Total non-conformist? Shy? Nerd?

Mara: Nailed it! I was a total non-conformist, shy nerd! Seriously. I purposefully shopped for the most hilarious thrift store clothes I could find. And wore them. To school. I spent like five cents on my high school wardrobe. It was my way of sharing my sense of humor and coping with being from a low income family. One of my greatest finds we called “the llama sweater.” It was multiple shades of orange and it looked like it was made out of long, shaggy llama hair. It was so ugly! I laugh just thinking about myself wearing it. I was also a quiet person most of the time and a serious student. I was an accomplished violinist and National Honor Society member. I never once thought of myself as interesting. Not at all.

Laura: How many colors has your hair been?

Mara: My natural hair color went from red as a baby to blonde as a child, to very dark brown as a teen and then settled on reddish-brown as an adult. Nowadays, you can add silver to that. From a box, I’ve gone with everything from eggplant to platinum. So I guess you could say my hair has been about 40 colors.

Mara Schasteen Leaving, 2010 Oil on Canvas

Mara Schasteen
Leaving, 2010
Oil on Canvas

Laura: For a fine artist, what’s the balance needed between classroom training and real life experience? Do you need to go to college?

Mara: I needed to go to college. Even though I was a self-disciplined and motivated teenager, college was an important part of my journey as an artist. I didn’t go to art school, though! I went to a Christian university where I found myself pursuing a liberal arts degree in advertising design. I never took one painting class. This may seem totally out of line with my very clear vision as a fine artist, but looking back, I understand why God led me down that road. As a professional artist, I am now relying on my design skills more and more and they have proven to be an incredible resource for my work as a painter.

In life, doors open and doors close. Walk through the open ones with an awareness of your own potential to become great. Pursue the Light beyond those open doors. God will lead you through rooms of experience and meadows of inspiration. That is real life. If college is available to you, walk through that open door. Study what interests you most. Never cease learning your craft. The language of your art will shift and sway according to your teachers and influences, but your voice was given to you by God. The knowledge of your own voice is vital. That knowledge is slowly learned in solitude and the drawing inward of your thoughts — accomplished through long hours alone with your art.

Laura: Are there painting prodigies like there are musical prodigies?

Mara: More than we know.

“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”

–Albert Einstein


Laura: Are we losing kids who would have gone into the arts but are discouraged from that because of the job market/economy? What happens to a world with fewer artists?

Mara: I’m not sure I have any answers to these sensitive questions. I do know that this world steers us constantly in ways related to our culture, our time in history, our demographics, our religious and family backgrounds and the kinds of encouragement we get from others. So many factors seem out of our control. What is in our control is how we Love – and that is also art. When an otherwise talented painter finds herself a mother of four with a full time desk job, her art may be the cookies she makes for her family on Sunday afternoons. When a young man devotes his body and mind to the service of our country, his art may be in the poetic letters he mails home. Looking at it from this perspective, I know art will never go away. Neither will artists. We are reflections of an eternally creative being.

"I Dream in Aspens," Mara Schasteen

Mara Schasteen
I Dream in Aspens, 2013
Oil on Canvas


Laura: What’s the weirdest place you’ve ever painted?

Mara: I’m kind of obsessed with cemeteries. I’ve painted in a few and imagined myself painting in a few more. They are emotional, quiet places and I am drawn to them often.


Laura: What’s your favorite oil color to paint with?

Mara: Titanium White. Sometimes, I am amazed at how boring I can be.


Laura: Do you enjoy the business part of your career?

Mara: I did at first. I may enjoy it again in the future. Right now, I am going through a very introverted phase where I can hardly will myself to take a commission or send a painting to a show. Lucky for me, I have a very supportive husband who encourages me always in this regard. I would prefer to be a working artist with no business sense, but that is a luxury only strangely exceptional artists get to have.


Laura: What does it feel like to stand back and observe someone looking at your painting? Do you feel exposed and vulnerable or proud and powerful?

Mara: I have felt proud and powerful in the past. The more mature and skilled I become, the more exposed and vulnerable I feel. My heart is in the paint.


Laura: What would you do differently in your life if you had it to do over?

Mara: I would have started practicing Yoga as a teenager. I would have taken more music lessons. I would have read more books. If I could do it all over, I’d go into it with deep knowledge of my own inner and outer beauty. I think if I had loved myself more, I’d have loved those around me better, too.


Laura: Have you ever painted a piece on a wall where it might have been the tiniest bit illegal? Just a bit of Mara-grafitti? 

Mara: I painted a landscape in oil paint on the side of a rock in the Big Horn Mountains. I wonder if it is still there and what people must think when they see it. Maybe that sounds romantic, but truthfully, I had forgotten my canvas.


Laura: Why do I love John Singer Sargent so much?

Mara: Ha! John Singer Sargent approached his work with incredible skill, but at the same time he was willing to look deeply into a subject and explore themes not only from an aesthetic perspective, but from a very soulful one. His portraits are more than likenesses, they are commentaries of the sitter from his observation. Some of his most famous works were criticized as being an inaccurate likeness or of poor taste. Sargent seemed to be after something other than exact renderings in his pursuits. I think he felt deep passion and had to express this in color. I think you like Sargent because you sense struggle – even pain – expressed in glorious, rich strokes of perfectly placed paint. To his pursuit of excellence fueled by intense passion, you can deeply relate.


Laura: Who is your favorite contemporary fine artist?

Mara: Nancy Guzik.

Thank you, Mara!


This is me, Laura, standing on a rock in Colorado while Mara painted me en plein air.

This is me, Laura, standing on a rock in Colorado while Mara painted me en plein air.

Laura Anderson Kurk writes bittersweet, contemporary young adult books for readers like you. Her novels Glass Girl and Perfect Glass are available now. Laura lives in Texas with her husband and two children. For more information about Laura and her books, visit today!