AND CO from Fiverr

So, I’m sure that all freelance writers and editors working with Fiverr have heard about Fiverr’s acquisition of the company AND CO. Frankly, Fiverr has covered it so much that it’s hard to miss. For those who haven’t heard, here’s the announcement on Fiverr’s blog, “The Do List”.

I’m sure most of you are thinking what I first did: so what? Why does it matter to writers and editors if Fiverr acquired AND CO? Well, for those of us running our own freelancing businesses, it means a great deal. The most important implication, however, is that AND CO services are now FREE.

What is AND CO? Why would freelancers care that their services are now free?

Image retrieved from dribble

AND CO is a freelance software which helps you do all the bookkeeping and nasty office stuff so that you can focus on creating. There’s an income and expenses tracker, a place to organize your projects (including sending invoices), and you can even write and sign contracts vetted by the Freelancers Union with your clients. Essentially, it can serve as your accountant, to-do list, and office assistant all in one.

Imagine all the time you could free up for editing and writing! Besides, it’ll be far more efficient than trying to keep track of everything in three or five programs and/or a hand-written planner.

AND CO from Fiverr has only been available for free for about a week, but I’ve already gotten a lot of use out of it.

I can finally keep track of my income and expenses without having to wrestle with Microsoft Excel. The graphs which AND CO generates also help me understand my net profit/loss much better, and the visual really gives me a feel for where I’m spending too much for my business and where I have a little more wiggle room.

I can also more easily keep a handle on my projects, both within and outside of Fiverr. So long as I remember to enter them into my tasks list, I have access to all of my projects in one place.

Unfortunately, I haven’t gotten the chance to try out the invoice creator yet. I should soon, though, probably within a week, and I’ll let you know how that turns out.

If you want to learn more about AND CO and give the software a try, make sure to check out their website.

What do you think about this acquisition? Can freelance writers and editors benefit from it? What would you do if you could save time on managing the administration of your freelance business? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: ode to poet by Annika Andersson

Trigger Warning: The book in today’s review, ode to poet by Annika Andersson, contains a poem which briefly mentions suicide. There are also portrayals of political/social views which some may find controversial. If you are triggered by such discussions or otherwise wish to avoid these topics, proceed with caution.

I want to follow up my discussion of prose and poetry with a review of another modern poetry collection. This collection is called ode to poet by Annika Andersson.

In its brief 36 pages, Annika Andersson’s ode to poet represents a wide variety of poetry topics and styles. Some of the themes discussed include the life of a poet, faults in communication, the horrid condition of humanity as portrayed on the news, and suicide. Each poem is bite-sized, creating a collection which is perfect for the busy reader looking for something to read in between shifts or while chauffeuring their children.

Image retrieved from Amazon

Andersson is definitely a modern poet. For most of the collection, her work does not follow any prescribed form or rhyming pattern. Even punctuation is irregular throughout the book, sporadic at best but always with a purpose. Andersson, much like T.A. Price, has an ear of her own and relies on it to craft her poems. Yet these poems provide a much different perspective from Price’s work, covering themes more common to city-dwellers and boasting a more “urban” voice and feel.

I think my favorite lines in this book come from “Savannah”:


and when I can find the time, I can’t

find the energy


Energy seems to be a rare commodity these days.


I straighten away from the mirror and

pull my hair

out of the top knot

in which it seems to permanently reside.

I have too much hair. I should really cut it.

I’ve been saying that for months.


Not only do I find these lines to be beautiful as poetry, I also connect with them on a personal level. I suffer from depression and, while it is mostly under control at the moment, I still have many days when energy and the will to care escape me. I believe that Andersson has captured these struggles perfectly in “Savannah”.

However, my favorite section in the collection is the second section, titled “Poetic Styles Through Time”. Andersson really flexes her writing muscles here, taking on eight different poetic movements from the late 18th to late 20th centuries. Better yet, she puts her own stamp on these styles and gives them modern twists.

My favorite poem from this section, from the book in general, is the one dedicated to the Harlem Renaissance style, titled “10 O’clock News”:


I turn on the television

Screen fills up with black and white

Static noise from indecision

Channels flash with colored light


–we bring news of yet another

Trayvon Martin been attacked–

Hoping praying not a brother

Son or father: family cracked


They deny that it’s a pattern

Claim there’s no repeat offense

But then why so many battered

But then why are we so tense


I turn on the television

For a transient escape

Instead greeted with a vision

Yet some more bright yellow tape.


In addition to the powerful message (which I know not everyone will agree with), I found the rhythm and structure of this poem particularly natural, like music, in a way. I suppose that that embodies the Harlem Renaissance, which is exactly what Andersson set out to do with this poem. I think, even more so than the other poems in this section, “10 O’clock News” best represents the era of poetic style which it is meant to imitate, and I would love for her to explore more work in this style.

All in all, I think that Annika Andersson’s ode to poet is a wonderful collection. It’s different from T.A. Price’s Bent, but the change is refreshing; I really enjoy reading a wide variety of poems about a wide variety of themes in a wide variety of styles, so going from Bent to ode to poet gave me that range of voices I’m always looking for in poetry.

As with most poetry, this book contains some debatable messages, which is fine. In fact, I think that’s preferable for any work but especially poetry. After all, the purpose of writing is to get us thinking and talking, and what gets us fired up more than topics which we passionately agree or disagree with?

You can order ode to poet in paperback through Amazon.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

What Prose Writers Can Learn From Poetry

Happy Saturday, valued readers! It’s finally the end of a busy and emotionally-conflicting week. Today I want to go down a route I’ve only explored on here a handful of times: poetry.

It seems that, nowadays, prose writers and poets are at odds. Poetry has taken a backseat to prose, with fiction becoming more popular among the masses. Even some prose writers have an aversion to reading poetry. Then we have the issue of which form better utilizes the art of writing. Poets argue that their work requires a better mastery of language, while prose writers argue that they have to be just as skillful in their pieces.

Honestly, this semi-rivalry is pointless. Whether you write poetry or prose, we all share a love of the craft and work hard to make sure our art is the best it can be. Many writers even straddle the prose/poetry boundary, choosing to work in both forms.

Image available at Waterstone Creations

John Milton and T.S. Eliot wrote both poems and essays. Edgar Allan Poe, while most famous for his short stories, is most praised for his poem “The Raven”. Ursula K. Le Guin, the late fantasy/science fiction icon, also composed poetry along with with her novels and essays. Despite the fact that I’m much better at prose works than poems, I dabble in both forms as well.

I think that all writers would do well to try both forms at least once, but I think prose writers in particular could learn a lot from poetry.

Poems require a level of control and concision that is paralleled in prose only by flash fiction. Even short stories, which need a lot of restraint to be done well, do not quite match poetry in this area. Poems can be long, but they must generate a flow and rhythm, which necessitates a careful use of words. Descriptions must be vivid and precise; each individual word must deliver a powerful punch; and some lines even have to deliver double-meanings in fewer words.

I know many prose writers could learn from this practice. (I happen to be among them.) Sometimes the freedom of prose, the lack of expectations regarding form, can make us a little sloppy with word choice, and we tend to ramble. That’s why editing is so important for prose writers. It’s important for poets as well, but it seems that prose writers don’t always pay as much attention to details as poets even in the editing stage.

Now, that’s not to say that prose does not require control and concision. I’m saying the opposite, in fact. The language in prose needs as much attention and honing as the language in poetry. The difference is that prose writers don’t always make that extra effort–they usually claim they are more “storytellers” than “writers.” Regardless, I think that prose writers would do well to take a page out of the poet’s book.

What do you think? Could prose writers learn from dabbling in poetry? And vice versa? Which do you prefer to write? Leave your thoughts in the comments section below.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Flipping Your Fat Loss Switch by John Griffin

Well, we’re nearing the end of another week, readers and writers. Today was my last day working for MeowShare (unless they decide to reinstate the English Special Force Team). Needless to say, I’m bummed. They said it was just a trial run but when you spend so many weeks with the same people, you grow attached, and I’m sad that I may never work with them again. The money didn’t hurt, either.

Life goes on, right? Change is inevitable; you just have to keep moving forward. That’s why I’m here, bringing you another book review. This book is a guide for purposeful change, i.e. weight loss and improving your health. Today I will be reviewing Flipping Your Fat Loss Switch: Trigger Your Paleolithic Genes to Burn Fat by John Griffin.

It’s a common story in the modern world: you decide to change your ways and lose that extra body fat, so you start to exercise and eat healthier. You’ve probably chosen moderate exercise like going for walks, jogging, yoga, and so on. After all, isn’t that what the doctors recommend? At first things seem to go well, you start to shed some pounds and maybe feel a little better. Then, after a few weeks of your new routine, you plateau. You try and raise your time exercising or cut back more calories, but you can’t seem to get that weight loss started again. You might have even gained a couple pounds. Eventually, you give up on the pursuit altogether and return to your old ways.

Image retrieved from Amazon

John Griffin knows this story from personal experience. It happened to him to a T, but then he took a turn many others do not: he ditched the moderate exercise for high-intensity interval training. He not only lost weight, but that weight loss was mostly body fat, he gained muscle, his memory improved, and more! But why? Why did the high-intensity interval training succeed where moderate exercise and dieting failed? Will it work for others trying to lose weight, too?

These are the very questions that Griffin addresses in Flipping Your Fat Loss Switch, and more. The answers may be more obvious than you’d think. All you have to do is go back in time to the days of our Paleolithic ancestors and how humans became hardwired to survive among predators.

I’m going to get this out of the way right now: I hate exercise. I hate it with a passion. The only forms of exercise I’ve found any joy in have been walking, riding the stationary bike, yoga, and playing with my dogs. This avoidance of exercise, along with a poor diet and unfortunate hormonal imbalances, has led to me gaining a lot of weight. That’s why I decided to give Griffin’s work a look, and he may have convinced me to try high-intensity interval training despite my hatred of exercise.

Griffin presents his arguments and advice in a very logical, well-organized, and well-written manner. He backs all of his assertions with reliable resources, namely a variety of articles in a variety of scientific journals. My only problem with this fact is that the explanation of why high-intensity interval training works and why moderate exercise fails dragged on. This issue was especially tedious because it was mostly in the beginning of the book. I appreciate Griffin’s depth of research, but a little more concision or spreading the information throughout the book would have been more palatable.

Like most authors of self-help books, Griffin is a professional in this field (certified personal trainer and health coach). Better yet, he knows his method works from personal experience. Frankly, if he hadn’t gained my trust through his personal anecdote of weight loss, which contained many moments that I recognize from my struggles, I may not have continued to read the facts behind his advice.

Griffin certainly knows how to pique a reader’s interest when it comes to weight loss, I’ll give him that. He emphasizes the benefits beyond the weight loss and the short amount of time high-intensity interval training takes, both of which are very important in the modern world. He also anticipated all of my questions and needs. He answered everything from why moderate exercise doesn’t cause weight loss to step-by-step instructions for starting a high-intensity interval training program when you’ve been sedentary for a long time. (I definitely need that tip!)

While his writing is excellent overall and his content compelling, I did notice proofreading errors off-and-on. Namely, I noticed commas where they shouldn’t be and commas missing from where they should be. However, the more annoying errors were the use of “highintensity” and “lowintensity” in place of “high-intensity” and “low-intensity”. Of course, I was reading the book on Kindle and it’s very possible that it was just a formatting error due to my screen size.

Overall, I really recommend this book for people who are looking to lose weight. I know that “high-intensity exercise” may sound like too much work compared to moderate exercise, but Griffin has convinced me that really isn’t. While it requires more work during the brief session, high-intensity interval training takes less time and produces more results.

As a book, Flipping Your Fat Loss Switch is engaging, fascinating, and convincing. I think that intellectuals will want to read it just to see another side of the weight loss debate. Still, we won’t know for sure if Griffin is right until we give his method a try for ourselves. As Griffin says, just remember to consult your doctor when making any health-related changes. And for the love of God, don’t forget to warm up first! (And if you pursue this training, please leave a comment below letting us know how it’s going!)

You can get Flipping Your Fat Loss Switch as an e-book or in paperback on Amazon. To learn more about John Griffin and get more tips on health and exercise, be sure to check out his website.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Beyond the Spiral Gates by Mutch Katsonga

Trigger Warning: The book reviewed in this post, Beyond the Spiral Gates by Mutch Katsonga, contains depictions of abuse, violence, and corporal punishment which can only be described as torture. If you are triggered by such depictions or otherwise wish to avoid them, proceed with caution.

Happy Hump Day, readers and writers! After yesterday’s announcement about the passing of beloved fantasy/science fiction writer Ursula K. Le Guin, I’ve decided to lighten the mood some by bringing you another book review. Of course, the topic of the book in this review is not a light one, but the writing and story are both thrilling and compelling. Today I’m reviewing Beyond the Spiral Gates by Mutch Katsonga.

We all have things in our past that we’re not so proud of. Whether we’re embarrassed by the time we farted in class during high school or we did something so violent that we’re too ashamed to let anyone know about it, each of us has something we wish we could undo. Unfortunately, that’s not how life works, and these events can have drastic consequences. Even something entirely out of our control or in which we’re the victim can haunt us and change the entire course of our lives. Such an event leads us to the incarceration of the narrator of Beyond the Spiral Gates at Wicksfield, a school and prison for criminal boys.

Image retrieved from Amazon

The unnamed narrator has been dealt a bad hand. Pampered by his mother after his father died when he was a few months old, the narrator’s entire world turns upside-down when his mother remarries. He’s abused by his stepfather for disobedience, and his mother, while loving and doting, does nothing to stop it. Things only get worse for the narrator when a couple of horribly chaotic days lands him in Wicksfield, where he and the other boys are terribly mistreated and viewed as nothing but demon-infested vermin who need to be exorcised. But what happens when the narrator finally gets a chance to escape—not just one of his daytime jaunts but a true, planned escape that could actually gain him his freedom? Will he take it? And what will become of him once he gets beyond the spiral gates of Wicksfield?

Beyond the Spiral Gates by Mutch Katsonga is a gripping, heart-wrenching tale of a young man’s coming-of-age journey, a physical, emotional, and spiritual trek with more twists and turns than you can imagine. I can usually predict the outcomes of these kinds of books—that’s why I so rarely bother with them anymore—and while I could still see much of what was going to happen next, Katsonga pleasantly surprised me with plot twists I actually did not expect.

I simultaneously wanted to keep reading until I was finished and had to take multiple breaks. So many moments were cringe-worthy and emotional that they necessitated those breaks in order for me to continue. For me, that’s the sign of a good book in this genre; it both had my adrenaline pumping and made me emotionally attached to the main character.

I think, perhaps, the biggest reason why I experienced such emotional turmoil in sympathy with the main character is because I know that institutions like Wicksfield once existed. One real-life example constantly came to mind while reading Katsonga’s work: Preston School of Industry in Amador County, California, better known as Preston Castle. (If you’re a fan of Merle Haggard or Neal Cassady, you might know it because both of them were once wards of Preston Castle.) Knowing that such deplorable conditions and abuse once happened to such boys, even criminal boys, makes the depiction in this novel even more heartbreaking.

The unfortunate flaw I saw in Katsonga’s writing is that many of the characters are one-dimensional stereotypes. In particular, Hector Sevene—the head of Wicksfield—and Switch—the narrator’s bully from his hometown of Hayvern—did not receive much development or growth despite being rather crucial to the story.

However, this could have been by design. The book is narrated in first person, and so the reader only gets the narrator’s views on these people. To someone as angry and mistreated as the narrator, these people, both of whom represent different miserable aspects of his life, would only be those one-dimensional, almost devilish stereotypes. It’s a toss-up and probably depends on how the reader decides to interpret it.

The biggest mystery in the novel—and, thus, the most compelling aspect—is why the narrator ended up at Wicksfield in the first place. The event haunts the narrator throughout his time at Wicksfield and beyond, but for much of the book these brief glimpses are all that Katsonga gives the reader. While a little frustrating, it also kept me reading even if the book sagged a little. Mind you, it did not sag often, but the mystery really helped to keep me interested whenever it did.

Katsonga’s writing is, for the most part, crisp and quick-paced. Still, I thought that Katsonga’s descriptions were sometimes drawn out unnecessarily and slowed down the narrative. Katsonga takes several paragraphs to describe the narrator’s anger at seeing Switch again and what he would have done if he had known who it was sooner. While this description is amusing in a bitter-sweet way, I felt the tension begin to dissipate and I just wanted to watch them fight already. Similarly long descriptions are scattered throughout the book, but the rest of the novel is written well enough that these passages do not detract much from the overall experience.

Overall, I highly recommend Katsonga’s novel for thriller and mystery lovers. I noticed some proofreading errors but they were very minor, such as misused commas, and that could have just been the difference between American English and Queen’s English. At 166 pages, it’s a very quick read, perfect for those brief moments of downtime. If you’re sensitive to violence and/or institutionalized abuse, you’ll want to avoid this book. However, if you can stomach such issues, you’ll definitely want to read Beyond the Spiral Gates.

You can find Beyond the Spiral Gates in both e-book and paperback form on Amazon.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin, Fantasy Icon

I’m sure that everyone has heard by this time of the unfortunate passing of prolific fantasy writer Ursula K. Le Guin. She died at age 88 in her Oregon home. No cause of death has been given, but her son says that she had been in poor health for a while. Still, her death was not exactly expected, and it certainly is a blow to the writing community.

Le Guin was the author of the Earthsea series and The Left Hand of Darkness. She’s well-known for the literary depth, political and moral commentary, and feminist sensibility which always weaved their ways into her works. She also published several collections of poetry and short stories, and just last year Le Guin released a book of her essays called No Time to Spare: Thinking About What Matters.

RIP Ursula K. Le Guin

I’ve discussed Le Guin in multiple posts on The Writer’s Scrap Bin. Last week, in fact, I included a quote from her on fantasy/science fiction and the cover for The Left Hand of Darkness in my post “Fantasy and Science Fiction: Underestimated Genres”.

Why wouldn’t I? Ursula K. Le Guin is arguably one of the most, if not the most, influential female science fiction/fantasy writer of the 20th and 21st centuries (thus far). In 2016, The New York Times called her “America’s greatest science fiction writer.”

Her awards don’t discourage that assertion. She was a joint Nebula and Hugo Award Winner, and she is one of the few women to be named a Grand Master of Science Fiction (an honor shared by my favorite science fiction writer, Anne McCaffrey), which is awarded by Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She also received the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She has also influenced many notable writers, including Neil Gaiman of American Gods and Coraline fame.

Following her passing, I think that it’s important for us all to study Le Guin’s works and approach to writing carefully, especially fantasy and science fiction writers. She raised these genres to a level of literary brilliance which people often do not attribute to them. She saw the potential in fantasy and science fiction and utilized that potential to explore the more complex aspects of humanity, including morality, gender relations, sexuality, religion, and politics.

I think that the best way we can honor her memory is to continue her work. I don’t mean that any of us should try and write some follow-up to The Left Hand of Darkness or a new installment in the Earthsea series. Instead, I think we should use our own worlds, imaginations, and unique flair to continue the commentary which she started in hers. Whether we agree with Le Guin’s perspective or not, it’s our responsibility to keep the conversation rolling and to not let fantasy and science fiction remain in the obscurity which is “popular fiction.”

You can learn more about this fantasy and science fiction legend on her website.

If you want a lighter way to remember Le Guin, I suggest checking out the rejection letter she received for The Left Hand of Darkness. Defying a publisher’s or agent’s expectations is one of the quickest ways to brighten a writer in a foul or sorrowful mood.

Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Stoicism by Abel Gray

Happy Monday! Another week has begun. Frankly, I’m not really in the mood for it. Given my current attitude, there’s some irony in the book which I am reviewing today: Stoicism: Be a Stoic, Live a Life of Joy and Cure Anxiety by Using Ancient Wisdom (The Happiness and Optimism of a Good Life) by Abel Gray.

Stoicism by Abel Gray is, as the title implies, a book about the Ancient Greek philosophy of stoicism and how it can be used to change your way of thinking and how you approach life for the better. In addition to explaining stoicism and how to use it in the modern day, Abel Gray explains the origins of the philosophy, how it has evolved over the centuries, and how it is used by today’s leaders and military.

Image retrieved from Amazon

Stoicism is not a light read. It’s full of philosophical terminology, history, and Ancient Greek names which can be hard to pronounce. Still, the lessons on positive thinking and not relying on destructible things (such as material goods and jobs) for happiness are useful even for those who aren’t into philosophy or history. The author mentions how large a role philosophy plays in the earlier parts of the book and even suggests that readers looking only for self-help start with chapter ten or twelve. (If that’s all you’re looking for, I actually recommend that you start with chapter eleven, which explains the importance and use of stoicism.) I just think that readers won’t get the most out of this book if they follow that strategy.

I found the history of stoicism incredibly interesting, but I had to read a few parts repeatedly to understand the explanations of the philosophy. I’m big into philosophical ideas and grew intrigued with the basic principles of stoicism as I read more of Abel Gray’s work. I am particularly focused on the idea that our perception, not external factors, makes our happiness. Nevertheless, I’m not much into philosophical terminology and often get lost if I don’t take my time with this sort of reading. Others may not have this problem, but those who do should really give themselves time to read and fully digest the first ten chapters of this book. I also don’t recommend it for nighttime reading; it’s much harder to concentrate then.

I think that the only true hindrance for the readability of Stoicism is the structure. There seems to be two books at work in these brief 168 pages, one which discusses the history and principles of stoicism and one which shows how we can use stoicism. The introduction somewhat connects the two concepts, but I don’t feel that it frames the work well enough. The subtitle for Stoicism implies that this is a self-help book focused on that philosophy. However, the principles and historical evolution far outweigh the self-help section. Expanding the introduction and the self-help section as well as weaving the history and principles in with the self-help tips would have improved the structure immensely and made the work more palatable for those who aren’t really into the technical terms.

Overall, Abel Gray’s writing is smooth, polished, and easy to follow—as easy as this subject allows, that is. I only noticed a couple proofreading errors, which indicates professional editing to me. I believe that the principles of stoicism are explained well and the connections they have with modern, everyday life are good food for thought. The history is fascinating and helps set the stage for the principles; I found the influence of stoicism on Christianity to be particularly captivating. However, the structure does the work no favors. I worry that Abel Gray will lose readers partway through because the volume of information is so staggering all at once, especially for a self-help book, yet I also think that readers will miss out if they skip straight to the self-help section.

If you have an interest in philosophy, history, and/or exploring new approaches to happiness, I highly recommend Abel Gray’s Stoicism. Just remember that even though it’s less than 200 pages, it’s a lot of information and will take a while to read and digest properly.

You can find Stoicism by Abel Gray as an e-book and in paperback on Amazon.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can work something out.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Bent by T.A. Price

Happy Sunday, everyone! Today I want to shift gears from fiction and prose and give some attention to poetry. In particular, I want to introduce you to an engaging and talented modern poet named T.A. Price and review her collection of poems, Bent: 31 Poems.

Each of us has a story to tell buried in our pasts. We have had hard times, extraordinary times, beautiful times, times we’d rather forget. Regardless of the kind of story, we could all fill an entire book with our childhoods alone. That’s exactly what Price explores in Bent, the narrator’s unique story and connections in a series of poems.

Image retrieved from Amazon

Price’s poetry illustrates several strokes which go into the painting of the human experience: family, love, compassion, relationships, heartache, nostalgia, and more. Her poems include sweet moments of familial love as well as feelings of being the odd-man-out in your own family, tender hearts and heart break. The flair of a North Carolina upbringing shines in each line, giving the poetry a flair which can only be found in that state.

I am a fan of poetry, from Shel Silverstein’s childlike amusement and Dr. Seuss’s simplified political stances to the sophisticated call-to-arms of Percy Shelley and Robert Frost’s quiet self-reflection. Regardless, I’ve always been a bigger prose fan. Poetry, for me, is often too difficult to digest in just one read, which makes it hard for me to get and stay engaged in the poems. Still, Price’s poems are both easy to understand and compelling, allowing for me to complete the collection in one sitting.

That’s not to say that her work is oversimplified or lacks depth and/or variety of vocabulary. In fact, Price uses a mix of common vernacular and more complex terminology that her poems kept me on my toes, never so comfortable as to be bored but never frustrated with the amount of words I had to look up. Lines such as “across my splattered sky in hopeful sighting / of the perennial Trifid” are prominent in these poems. (Honestly, I hadn’t heard of perennial Trifid before Price’s poem “One Silver Vandoren Optimum Ligature”.)

Price utilizes her vocabulary to create vivid imagery and a soothing rhythm which is pleasant to the ear when read aloud. (It also helped to calm down Bubba when he was refusing to settle down for the night.) One of my favorite poems, “Ode to Jack”, embodies this beauty of imagery and sound:


Ode to Jack

Nocturnal hare on the barren desert ground

Acutest ears, alert to every sound

Agouti dorsal battledress of fur

On creamy, whitest legs, O saboteur

Of juniper, sweet clover, cactus feed

Sleep softly now on coriander seed,


The images are on the same level as Robert Frost, and the rhythm reminds me greatly of poems such as “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night”. Price’s poems are hypnotic, which allowed me to escape from my own problems for a while, no matter how brief a time it was.

In addition to “Ode to Jack”, my favorite Price poems are “On Passion” and “Clearing”, which was probably because they both relate directly to my own experiences. “On Passion” depicts the passion with which the narrator’s mother sewed and how that passion parallels the narrator’s passion for writing. “Clearing” discusses the narrator’s crowded and cluttered mind and how writing poetry acts as a clearing of this mess. I have an affinity for poems on writing, but “Clearing” speaks to me on a personal level, especially the first verse:


My head has only

so much space.

So many songs.

So many words.

So many kingdoms.

Stumbling blind.


I often say that it’s Hell inside my head because so much goes on in there at once, but Price has put this feelings to words better than I ever have.

If you’re looking for rhyming poetry or poetry which follows a certain form, this collection is not for you. Some of the lines rhyme, yes, but Price does not rely on established rhyming patterns or verse styles. Instead, she depends on her own ear, her own heart, and her own beat which, to me, is the sign of a truly wonderful poet in the modern era. I have to agree with an assertion made by Ron Rash in the forward, “She is clearly one of our state’s [North Carolina’s] best poets, and I hope this book gains her a wide and appreciative audience.” I highly recommend her work for poetry fans and those who love home-spun tales from rural areas. I can’t wait to see where Price’s poetry takes her next.

You can find Bent in paperback on Amazon, or you can order it through Price’s website while also learning more about the poet herself. Also be sure to check out T.A. Price’s Facebook page for more information and updates on her future work.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

Book Reviews: Lovebirds Fly South by Chris Leite

Warning: The book in today’s review, Lovebirds Fly South by Chris Leite, contains depictions of sex, violence, and severe mental illness. If you wish to avoid these issues, proceed with caution.

Happy Saturday, everyone! I want to start this weekend with another review, this time of a book that’s drastically different from The Darkling Threads and The Gospel of Nicholas. This novel is called Lovebirds Fly South by Chris Leite, and I don’t remember the last time I’ve read a book like it. My fantasy and science fiction readers may not be into it, but those who enjoy coming-of-age stories, pedestrian fiction, and incredibly insane (in the literal sense of the word) characters will love Leite’s work.

We all know what high school can be like: catty, backstabbing, full of drama. At least, that’s what I’ve seen in shows like Degrassi: Next Generation, and it’s what I’ve heard through second-hand stories. Personally, I never had to suffer through that sort of high school experience. (Thank God!) But plenty of us have, and it’s that sort of drama and craziness which Leite plays on in this book.

Image retrieved from Amazon

Kit is new to Brockton High, having decided to attend that school rather than one where he and his parents live so that he can play basketball. Little does he know that his appearance is about to turn the entire school upside-down as he becomes mixed in the affairs of Casey (Brockton High’s resident hot jock), Ashley (Brockton High’s resident hot mess), and Lucy (Brockton High’s ugly-duckling-turned-swan and Kit’s elementary school crush). What should have been a happy reunion with his old friend, Lucy, quickly morphs into a twisted world of scheming, cheating, dating, double-crossing, and insanity. Everything is not what it seems at Brockton High, a place where everyone’s motives are questionable and people are willing to do anything to get their way or preserve their reputations. So, pretty much, it’s like any other high school. But who will hook up with whom? Who will be betrayed, and who will be the traitors? Most importantly, will everyone survive to see their first real days of adulthood?

Lovebirds Fly South is a roller coaster ride of tension, relationships, and mystery. As often happens in life, the plot only thickens as the story progresses and layer upon layer of questions is added to the mix right to the very last page. I was hooked the moment that Kit and Ashley had their first “moment/not moment” during homeroom, and I had a hard time setting the story aside until I was finished with the entire 323 pages. Of course, each chapter—section? I’m not sure what to call them—is pretty short, usually only a few pages at a time. The shortness of these sections combined with the mystery and tension made it very easy for me to zoom through parts of this book before I would realize how late it had gotten.

I must also attribute this easy read to Leite’s writing. He develops a very unique narrator with a relatable, easy-to-follow voice, almost as though the narrator were right in front of me telling the story as part of the town’s latest gossip. This feeling especially appears whenever the narrator breaks the fourth wall and hints at future plot points or says things like “and the plot thickens.” Leite’s humor adds to this feeling and was one of my favorite parts of the book. My favorite line in particular is when Lucy’s stepfather says, in response to Lucy asking about work, “It’s good. Sometimes I fantasize about jumping out of the window and landing on my head, but other than that, it’s great.” These gems are prominent throughout the novel, and, for the most part, it made the drama and tension much more palatable.

Still, this humor and voice sometimes gave the characters a one-dimensional feel; in fact, many of the characters were very stereotypical. I’m particularly pointing to Ashley’s henchmen: Holly, Polly, and Molly. They were such Valley Girl sheep, Ashley could have told them to jump off a cliff and they probably would have while only being concerned about chipping a nail on the way down. I wanted to strangle them, and not just because they did something I disagreed with. They flat out annoyed me and, sometimes, pissed me off. The only saving grace with this sort of character development is that Leite probably made them flat on purpose. Within the context of this novel, I see these one-dimensional characters as satirical commentary on teenagers and young adults in the modern era. In fact, I’d argue that all the characters are remarks on modern society, particularly modern youth, in one way or another.

My favorite character is Sabrina with my second favorite being Cheri. Ashley is wonderfully unique and insane—I’m pretty certain she’s schizophrenic, based on her symptoms—but her malicious side makes it too difficult for me to connect with her like I usually do with mentally-ill characters. Sabrina, on the other hand, is a genuine and beautiful young woman despite her shortcomings. She has her insecurities like all of us and that leads to some very bad choices, but she still stays true to herself as much as possible. Cheri only appears briefly throughout the novel, but I love her attitude and strength. She had the courage to stand up to Ashley and she is unapologetically herself, even with her boyfriend J., and I think that such female characters are too underrepresented in literature even today.

For the first few sections, the plot seemed a bit disjointed. Leite throws multiple perspectives at the reader in a short amount of space, and I originally worried there would be no clear connection at all. Nevertheless, the connection soon became clear as Ashley’s mental state was revealed. Leite masterfully weaves each character’s story with the others after that point, which actually also helped to add more dimension to previously flat characters such as Casey.

Overall, this book is wonderful, although not my typical read. It is full of suspense, drama, twists, and emotional turmoil. Not all of the flat characters gain dimension, but those who do really come into their own and those who don’t serve as great comic relief. I noticed a few missplaced commas and missing words throughout the novel, but it’s nothing that another round of proofreading with a fresh set of eyes can’t fix. It certainly isn’t a reason for people who love edgy coming-of-age to not read Lovebirds Fly South. I also think that Leite left the perfect opening for more books with these characters, and I can’t wait to see where he takes them.

You can buy Lovebirds Fly South by Chris Leite as an e-book on Amazon.

Do you know of any books I should read? Want your work reviewed on this blog? E-mail me at or message me on Fiverr and we can arrange something.

Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011

New Page: Stephanie’s Scrap Bin

Hello, readers and writers! I’m happy to announce that I’ve added a new page to The Writer’s Scrap Bin, “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin”.

What is “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin”? It’s the place where I will be sharing pieces of my work that I am not confident enough to submit for publication. It is a glimpse into my personal scrap bin, the place where all my unfinished and unpublished work go until I decide they’re worth pursuing  again.

This new page will contain my discarded poems, flash fiction stories, and uncategorized works. Keep in mind that the works on this new page are fairly rough drafts. Still, I think it will help other struggling writers who read this blog if they saw the sort of work that I have thrown into my scrap bin, even temporarily. (Plus, this will get some people off my back in regards to seeing some of my work. You know who you are.)

I already state this on the web page and I certainly hope that I won’t have this problem with a community of talented, trustworthy writers, but just for legality’s sake I am going to restate it here:

All pieces posted on “Stephanie’s Scrap Bin” are the original work and property of Stephanie Hoogstad, owner, operator, and lead writer of The Writer’s Scrap Bin. As such, any copying and/or distribution of this work without prior consent and acknowledgement of the source will result in legal action being taken against the offending party or parties.

With that out of the way, I encourage everyone to check out the work on this page. It may not be any good but, hey, we all have work that we think will never see the light of day, right? I just request that you not be too harsh in any comments you make. Critique helps a writer grow, but I don’t want to be ripped apart for work in my scrap bin. None of us really want to be judged by the work that has not made it to publication.

So, please, read and enjoy! And if you have any pieces from your own “scrap bin” or a scrap bin experience that you would like to share, drop a line in the comments below. I’m sure that other struggling writers would appreciate seeing that other writers have missteps and doubts, too.


Designed by Stephanie Hoogstad circa 2011