writing

When your book is launching into the world in two days

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The nightmares have begun. 

They started five days after I began my vacation last week. In all honesty I was quite proud they waited that long before interfering with my dreams. I dreamed the books at my launch party were all different—filled with typos and grammatical errors, some being an entirely different story altogether. I dreamed I forgot how to speak, I dreamed I forgot how to write. I dreamed no one came to my launch party. 

Anxiety and stress always try to snatch joy away from me. It's infuriating.

I awoke from the nightmares, filled my coffee mug, stared at the ocean outside my window, and took a deep breath, inhaling peace, remembering I hired an editor for a reason. There were no typos or grammatical errors or new story. I breathed again. It was just a dream.

When my feet hit the sand I looked out at the water. 

I pictured my novel nestled in my hands and saw the peach cover in the back of my mind. 

I opened my fists so my palms were outstretched.

I let go.


I have a notebook from when I was in eighth grade. It's completely full, an entire novel hidden inside of it. It was about a girl in high school, trying to figure out who she was in a world that seemed hard and sort of painful. The grammar is terrible, and I think I used "so" or "very" every other word.

Unbeknownst to me at the time, nine years later I would be halfway through journalism school releasing my real first novel—this time one that was not written in the eighth grade and was fully edited (Thanks, Mary!).

This little peach book in my hands represents a range of different experiences for me. I wrote the book because of one experience; I published it because of another. When I see this book, I see more than the characters—more than Sage and Maeve and Sol and Ky and Levi—I see me, I see my mother, I see this past winter and this past spring. 

Writing this novel was a form of therapy for me—it was a way for me to take my anger, frustration, sadness, and delight and pour it out in a healthy (ish) way. I would gently weigh my emotions in my hands, seeing anger through Levi and frustration through Maeve and sadness through Ky. I took all of the pieces of who I am and spread them out within the characters I created. 

I still don't know if I actually know how to write a novel. All I know is how I felt—and how writing about how I felt using fictitious characters was the only thing that made sense at the time. (It's still one of only ways I truly know how to process things.)

As the doors to this book swing wide open and she begins to make her way out into the world, I feel like an overprotective mother clawing to keep her child from running out onto the road. 

"This is my baby," I think. What if they hurt her? What if they hate her and criticize her and don't treat her as gently as she deserves?

For anyone who has ever created anything you know this is the most frightening part: the time when you have to give it away. Creating only to give it away is not for the faint of heart. But creating for just yourself seems far too lonely. 

So on Thursday I'll open my palms once more—albeit somewhat unwillingly—and give my baby away to the world. This peach book is what four years of my life looks like. After the past four years, I can finally say I am very proud to give her away to you. 

I will try not to cry any more than I already have; I will try not to throw up either. 

I hope you enjoy this story. I know I enjoyed creating it for you.

In which I reveal to you the cover of my novel

It's amazing to think that something you've been working on for four years might finally be becoming a tangible book you can hold in your hands. 

Self-publishing is no joke. I have never read so many forums on margin sizes or spent this much time Googling how to format a Word document. Each day I spend hours trying to make my novel just that much more precise, ensuring there are no extra spaces in the manuscript, and that the font is easy on your eyes. 

And all of this —all of the non-writing stuff—will be worth it as soon as you have this book in your hands. 

That time is coming. Today you are now able to PRE-ORDER my novel! I cannot express my excitement to you. 

Even more exciting, I can now show you the official cover. I love it so much. Huge gratitude to my friend and graphic designer, Brendon Downey, for making the cover better than I could have imagined. 

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What do you think? 

I love it.

I wanted the cover to be peach (you'll find out why when you read the novel). I also wanted to include a house. The book has a distinct theme about home. What does it feel like when someone leaves you behind? And what would it look like if they decided to come home again? Lastly, I am excited that we were able to incorporate some of my hand-lettering. 

You can pre-order Come Find Me, Sage Parker here:

*recommended if you're in the US

*recommended if you're in Canada

And if you haven't seen yet, you can download the first chapter for free here: 

And finally, I will leave you with the blurb that will appear on the back of the book. 


For nine years Maeve Parker has been waiting for her mother to come home. 

“I’ll be back soon, my darling,” her mother, Sage, said the day she left. “Don't you worry. I just need to go find myself.”

Do you have to run away in order to find yourself? Maeve wondered. When, exactly, do you know when that self you were so desperately looking for is found?

Now Maeve is sixteen-years-old and Sage still hasn’t returned.

Fiercely independent and disillusioned, Maeve has grown up with her mother’s ex-boyfriend as her only companion. Giving up all hope of Sage’s return, she convinces herself that mothers—and people—are unnecessary. When she meets Ky and Levi, she is adamant about keeping them at arms length. But Ky, the only true friend Maeve knows, and Levi, the boy with the startling blue eyes, crash through Maeve’s walls.

Then one of them is wrenched away—permanently. And Maeve is left dangling with the final words they left behind: go find Sage Parker. 

I wrote a novel and thought it was time to tell you

I wrote a novel. Three years ago I started writing it. Two years ago I finished. Today I decided to tell you. 

I've been meaning to tell you for awhile. But I was waiting... waiting for something bigger, for something more exciting. I wanted to tell you I had a huge publishing deal in New York City, a fancy literary agent, and a good shot at making it on the New York Times Best Sellers. 

My goal was to be twenty-years-old and utterly established. I had dreams and goals and a 5-step plan. I told God I would never self-publish. I told God I would only release my book if I made it to the top. Shooting for excellence, you know? I decided anything aside from the best would be simply considered as mediocrity. 

It took me two years to realize otherwise. The past few years I have been relentlessly querying literary agents in New York City. I would find the most popular young adult authors in the bookstore, then trace their literary agent's name and publisher who was listed on the back cover. I'd go home and query them, silently begging them to validate me as a writer and human being. I thought if someone well-known accepted my writing, then I must be worth something, too.

I was rejected over 50 times. Rejection letter after rejection letter landed in my inbox. Each one was kind, offering encouragement to try again at another time, or informing me that my story just didn't fit what they were looking for.

In the beginning, I used the rejection as fuel to send more letters, to tighten my writing, to take the time to pray about the right agent—who would surely send my novel to the top of the publisher's list.

But no matter what I did, I continued to be rejected.

Was I a bad writer? Should I not pursue writing fiction? Should I stick to journalism, or hand-lettering, or maybe move on to working at McDonald's?  

I thought I was only worth something as a writer if I was on the New York Times Best Sellers. 

God was slowly, kindly, tenderly teaching me something else. It took me two years to learn that the validity of my writing and the definition of my worth are not tied to a fancy literary agent or a publishing house in New York. 

So now, after years of telling God otherwise, I have decided to self-publish my novel. 

I had to get to the point where publishing it myself didn't feel like settling. It doesn't feel like settling anymore. It feels like the most exciting prospect of my life. 

My book used to be about becoming known. I can sincerely tell you it's not about that anymore. I'd like to start small, taking the hours and days and months and years I have spent on this story, and quietly offering it out into the world. 

Maybe it'll just be my mom and my sister and my best friend who read it. But that's okay. Because the lessons I have learned these past three years—that my worth and my writing are not determined by what anyone says or thinks—well, those lessons mean far more to me than getting on the New York Times Best Sellers. 

I haven't given up hope on that, though. But it's certainly not the driving force for why I write. It used to be. Not anymore.

Soon my novel will be released into the world. I'm petrified and elated and grateful that God has been so kind to me, quietly molding me into someone who recognizes her worth. 

I don't have a hard release date for the book yet. This is all very new to me, but I'll make sure to keep you informed as I continue in this process. This is what I can tell you for now: my book is titled Come Find Me, Sage Parker, and is a contemporary young adult novel. 

I cannot wait to share my words with you. I've been waiting three years. I'll try my best to wait a little longer. 

My identity isn't what I thought it was

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I am one month into college.

Currently I should be: writing two papers, creating a film, studying for a test, researching a prominent Canadian figure, reading my textbooks, and making a hefty amount of artwork so I actually have something to sell at my second art show this December.

Instead, I am writing to me and you.

Sometimes I think, "I used to be good at articulating. I used to be able to think about how I was feeling and immediately put those thoughts onto paper."

Now it seems as though I hardly ever write what I think. These days it feels as though I'm writing so much and simultaneously writing nothing at all.

Identity is a funny thing. People ask us, "What do you do?" Before school, I felt as though I had nothing to say. But now I have something. Now I can tell them, "I'm a journalism student. I go to school. I study. I write papers. I research. I procrastinate. I am learning to be a truth-teller in all I do. Also, I am very tired."

I can easily wrap myself around the idea that being a journalism student is who I am because it's currently what I do.

The other day I received a mark on an assignment I had finished. It was a terrible grade. And get this -- it was for a writing class. I saw the mark and instantly wilted.

I am supposed to be good at this. I am supposed to be a writer. People have told me I'm a good writer, and if people tell you that, it has to be true, doesn't it? If I get a bad mark in a writing class, does that prove I'm a bad writer? Am I in the wrong program? Why am I taking journalism if I can't actually write? And why is everyone else in my program approximately seventeen and a half years old? Why did I think it was a good idea to wait four years to go to school? 

It's astonishing what can happen when you make what you do into who you are. It's staggering how quickly you can crumble. When your identity is something shakeable, a feather can touch you and still you'll fall apart.

I am a writer, even after that bad mark. But it's what I do, not who I am. I am a journalism student, but it's what I do, not who I am. I am an artist, but it's what I do, not who I am.

Instead, who I am is this:

Deeply, immeasurably loved.

I think this on my commute, while I watch the sun rise. I am loved, I breathe in. Deeply loved, I breathe out. Immeasurably loved.

I like school. I like how my brain hurts from listening and thinking and digesting and wondering. I like digging deep into the lives of fascinating people, and being able to tell someone's story who may not be able to tell it on their own.

But it's not who I am. It's just what I do right now.

My identity is entirely different than that.

When you decide to go to college after swearing you'd never go

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I thought I'd go to my grave before I would ever go to college or university. I honestly thought I was going to be the girl who could prove to society that university is not needed to make it in the world.

For the record, I still think this. I still believe that your education does not determine your value, and that your grades and your degrees and your certificates and your diplomas do not determine your worth. I still believe your schooling does not determine your future.

But four and a half years after graduating from high school, I found myself humbly applying to college. I was terrified. I thought, "I have been standing on my no-school soapbox for years! And now I have to meekly climb down and admit that maybe I didn't know the things I thought I knew?" Admitting you might be wrong, or that you might think something different than you once did, is not my most favourite past time.

I have come to the conclusion that my life felt stagnant. All of my eggs were in one basket, the basket labelled "Get My Novel Published" and I felt as though I was not growing or flourishing like I hoped I would. I'm certainly not giving up on my novel. I'd just like to be writing other stories too.

It really came down to this: I realized that I want to better myself. By not going to school, I was missing out on an enormous amount of learning that I could use to broaden my skill set! It's almost funny how it took me, quite literally, years to realize this. (It often takes me awhile to understand things.) So I decided to take active steps toward getting better at the things that I love, and the things that I'm good at.

I was always scared to admit that I was good at something, in case that automatically doused me with arrogance. This is another thing I'm learning: it's okay to be good at something. And it's okay to want to continue to get better at it.

I always thought I wouldn't go to school so I could stick it to society and prove that they couldn't tell me what to do. But then I went to Africa and grew a little older, and hopefully a little wiser, and I met people and I went places and I heard stories I longed to write. I'd like to make a difference, you see. And three weeks ago that meant applying to Journalism four and a half years later than my friends did.

It's okay to be good at something.

It's okay to want to be better.

It's okay to do things a little late.

It's okay to change your mind.

I mean, here I am, a girl who swore she'd never go to school.

And then this morning I got accepted into college.

Living fearlessly authentic (or trying to)

Screen Shot 2016-05-17 at 11.55.39 AM I have watched seven episodes of The Office while writing this. I've scrolled through the entire dress section of the Topshop website, despite the fact that they are all severely overpriced. I have eaten two chocolate chip cookies along with a cup of milk, and suffice it to say, I have procrastinated writing at all costs.

I text my friend, "I am writing." I feel like if I text her this, the words will be forced to come quicker and I can go to bed. Also: accountability. Also: sometimes it's easier for me to talk about writing than to do the actual writing itself.

"What are you writing about?" She replies.

I sigh and look at the journal I haven't touched in weeks, then back at the blank screen with the agonizing, and frankly condescending, blinking cursor that mocks me. "I have no idea."

Why do we write -- to inspire people? to tell our truth the best way we know how? to escape from how we are feeling inside? Tonight I ask myself that same question over and over and over again: why do you write, Aliza?

To live an authentic life.

That, to me, is the truest answer right now. It varies from time to time, but for now that's why I write. I want to live an authentic life -- fearlessly authentic, if we're being truthful. I'm realizing that doesn't mean I'm not scared, because Lord knows there are so many days where I'm scared of so many things. Recently it's been the utterly terrifying thing called vulnerability. Which I think feels less like bravery and more like hurling myself off a ledge. Unfortunately in order to be authentic, you have to be vulnerable. It's a two-step process, and all the guac and chips in the world won't make it easier. (Although guac and chips do make some things easier.)

The problem with writing blog posts is that in order to live an authentic life, you have to practice what you write. Maybe that's why I haven't written much lately.

I was telling my friend this the other day, while driving under a mix of stars and city lights. It was late. Or maybe it was just really, really early. I can't remember. But I told him the same sentiment I wrote above. I said to him, "I have a serious problem. If I write something, that means I have to live it. I mean, I guess I don't have to, but I'd like to be as authentic as I can be. It's hard to write things only to have to live them out."

He laughed and said, "Maybe that's what you should write about then. How hard it is to be authentic, but how much you'd like to try."

So this is what I'd like to say: it's hard to be authentic, but I would very much like to try.

Flannery O'Connor said all the things best that I wish I had said: “If I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer but because God has given me credit for a few of the things He kindly wrote for me.”

That's authenticity, if you ask me.

So I think I'll be scared, and I think I'll keep feeling like I'm hurling myself off a ledge when I'm experimenting in vulnerability, but I'll try to be authentic all the ways I know how. And, to steal from Flannery, if I ever do get to be a fine writer, it will not be because I am a fine writer, but because God has given me credit for a few of the things he kindly wrote for me.

I turned down a book deal and this is why

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 11.41.45 PM This past October I was offered a book deal. A few days ago, I turned it down.

I hadn't sent out a book proposal because I wasn't even considering writing nonfiction. But a publishing house had somehow discovered my blog, liked what they saw, and wanted me to write a book. It's strange to even type that.

When they first emailed me, I was in the Lima airport in Peru at four in the morning. I think I literally squealed. I was elated, delighted, flattered, exhausted, and shocked. Mostly I couldn't believe it. I read the email over and over again, and I remember feeling like I was still on the plane, like I was flying or hovering, like my backpack didn't weigh a thing. I also distinctly remember feeling like I was on fire.

There was a lot going on inside of me that day.

Over the next few months the publisher, editor, marketer, and I chatted. They were nothing if not kind. We conceptualized ideas, talked about titles, looked over marketing plans, and did a lot of other book-ish things. I was happily overwhelmed through the whole process, until one week when I started having nightmares.

I am slowly learning that when I have anxiety, she often shows her face through dreams. She sneaks into my head at night, and I wake up feeling sad and confused and lonely. That happened for a week and a half. I was so tired, and didn't have much energy. I binge-watched a lot of Grey's. I didn't write.

Since they had offered me the deal, an endless loop had been playing in my mind: I'm going to be published! I'm going to be published! I'm going to be published! 

I thought being published was the epitome of success. I thought I would have something worthwhile to tell people when they asked me what I did for a living. I thought I would write this book, but I was thinking that for all of the wrong reasons.

I made a promise to myself years and years ago, back when I was seventeen-years-old, when I began writing a novel. The promise was this:

I will not write a book solely to get published. I will only write a book if I desperately, relentlessly, urgently need to write the book. I will write because I need to write, not because I hope to be published.

That was a promise I made to my heart, if only to help me come back to the reason why I started writing in the first place.

I can't write a book just to write a book. I mean I could -- but I don't want to. It has to be carved so deep within me that I will do literally anything to see its release. I feel this about other projects, other words. I didn't feel that about this one.

I will be so 100%, blatantly honest with you: for me, this book wouldn't have been about the words. It would have been about the idea that being published somehow would make me enough.

One day after the anxiety was on full blast in my brain, I woke up and started to fervently pray, using Philippians 4:6 and 7 as my lifeline: “Don’t worry about anything, instead pray about everything. Tell God what you need, and thank Him for all He has done. Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your heart and mind as you live in Christ Jesus.”

I wanted peace more than anxiety. I wanted my enough-ness to stem from God and not a publishing deal. I wanted Jesus more than anything. So I took my shaky hands and typed an email, clicked send, and didn't have a book deal any longer.

Immediately I wondered if I made a huge mistake. Would this be my only opportunity to be published? I asked God to confirm that I did the right thing. Not even a half hour later, I felt inexplicable peace.

Everything about this was good. The publishing house was kind, the concept was fantastic, the timeline lovely. It was all good. Which is, I think, why I was feeling so confused. If all of it was lovely, why was I anxious?

When the world offers you something gleaming on a shiny silver platter, it seems foolish to say no. It's so pretty, so tantalizing, so easy to pick up and run with. But in the deep recesses of my heart and soul I knew this shiny morsel wasn't right for me yet. I have to believe that what God has for me -- though perhaps not gleaming or shiny or silver -- is so much better.

Writing a book to try and prove your worth is not nearly a good enough reason to write a book.

I thought long and prayed hard about this, and the storyteller inside of me wants to write fiction until my fingers bleed. I thought I needed to be a nonfiction writer because that's what was being offered, but I know now that's not true. I thought I needed to accept a publishing deal, because maybe it will be the only one ever offered. But I want to trust God far more than all of this. I need to instead lean into what God has in store for me -- and quite honestly, I have no idea what that is.

So there we have it. Maybe foolish. Maybe brave. You can decide, because the truth is I don't mind which one you choose.

The world would like to hear what you have to say

Screen Shot 2015-10-11 at 10.43.41 PM I'm so tired of trying.

I try a lot for you, you know. Maybe you don't know. So I'll tell you: I try hard for you. I want a shiny, polished, profound piece of writing that is deep and share worthy. So I'll come here to this place and I'll sit down on this chair and I'll set my fingers on this keyboard and then... well, most of the time nothing comes for awhile. I'm generally too scared.

So I want to say this. To you, to me, to all the people who feel the tiniest inclination that they may possibly want to put down words: write. Stop trying so hard and write. Even when you're scared -- write. Especially when you're scared -- write.

The world would like to hear what you have to say. You're important. You're valuable. Therefore your words are too. Your story is significant -- a phrase my best friend created and reminds me of all the time. She's right, of course. (She's almost always right.) Your story is significant.

I desperately believe in writing, so I've talked to a few people about it before. A lot of the time the conversation goes something like this:

Person: "I want to write."

Aliza: "Then you should write."

Person: "I'm scared to write."

Aliza: "Me too."

Person: "But you have a blog."

Aliza (cue disbelieving laughter inside of my head): "Sure, sometimes I blog. Occasionally I blog. Truthfully I'm a terrible blogger. But I'll tell you -- every time I write a post, I'm always scared to post it. Every time I write some words, I'm always scared to share them. You just write anyway. You just write through the fear."

If you need to write, please write. If you're scared to write, please write. You're most likely going to be scared because writing is vulnerable, and being vulnerable is scary, but vulnerability is brave. You just have to write anyway. You just have to write through the fear.

You have to give Fear a piece of your mind. (Even if you don't really believe it yet.) You have to say: "Fear, the words I want to say are important and valuable and significant, and I am going to write them. I don't care if those words aren't quite perfect or profound or polished or shiny. I'm going to write down how I feel. I'm going to be truthful. I'm going to write."

I'll be here cheering you on. I firmly believe everyone needs someone to root for them. Spoiler alert: I'm rooting for you.

Write on, brave writer. Write on.

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 This is day twelve of the series 31 days of choosing brave. You can click here if you'd like a list of all the posts in these series, updated each day this October.

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