In Writing

Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event gives you a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from your favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes! At this hunt, you not only get access to exclusive content from each author, you also get a clue for the hunt. Add up the clues, and you can enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one book from each author on the hunt in my team! But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online until April 3rd.

And don’t forget to scroll all the way to the end of this post… besides the big contest, you have a chance to win a signed copy of THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY right here on this post.

This post in a nutshell:

1). Read how it works in “Scavenger Hunt Puzzle” below. If you’re a veteran, skip ahead!

2). Read about the author I’m hosting and the top-secret bonus material she’s sharing with you.

3). Copy down my favorite number (in ORANGE somewhere on this post).  

4). Enter to win a signed copy of THE SECRET SIDE OF EMPTY right at the end of this page.

5). Go to the next stop on this hunt (link at the end of this post).

6). Add up all the numbers on ORANGE TEAM and enter to win by clicking here.

There are eight contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one or all! I am a part of the ORANGE TEAM, along with some dear friends and great authors.


Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve hidden my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the orange team, and then add them up.

Entry Form: Once you’ve added up all the numbers, make sure you fill out the form here to officially qualify for the grand prize. Only entries that have the correct number will qualify.

Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 3, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.

Today, I am hosting E. Katherine Kottaras on my website for the YA Scavenger Hunt! [Insert author bio that will be provided for you here.]

Find out more information by checking out Kathy’s website or find more about the her awesome book here!

E. Katherine Kottaras’ website: click here
Check out her book on Barnes and Noble
Without further ado, here’s Katherine’s guest post

GIVEAWAY: In addition to a copy of HOW TO BE BRAVE, I’ll be giving away a hand-embroidered, hand-sewed pillow to celebrate the forthcoming publication of my second book, THE BEST POSSIBLE ANSWER. (Note: I’m working on this now. It’s a red, heart-shaped pillow that will say “YOU KNOW.”)

Bonus Material #1: FULL PLAYLIST for HOW TO BE BRAVE

Music is an essential part of the writing process for me. One of the first things I do, once I have the seed of an idea for a book, is creating a playlist. I listened to some of these songs on repeat while writing the first draft of HOW TO BE BRAVE; others I’ve chosen in retrospect. I hope you enjoy!

 Georgia Askeridis begins her senior year anxious, her mom having died over the summer. Before her death, her mom commanded her to live differently—to try everything at least once and to never be ruled by fear. But Georgia is lost in her grief, and she struggles to find ways to remember her mom. Her mom loved Nina Simone. I particularly love this song, and I could imagine Georgia hearing these lyrics and feeling like Nina understood her grief, her sadness. I also listened to the Remixed & Reimagined album on repeat while writing the first draft.

“I Can’t See Nobody” by Nina Simone

“I used to have a brain; I used to think of many things.

I watched the falling rain and listened to the sweet birds sing.”

“What a voice. Your mom knew how to listen to music.”

She did. This one in particular was one of my mom’s favorites. It’s weird, hearing Nina Simone’s raspy old voice without also hearing my mom’s humming along with it.

Georgia enlists her best friend, Liss, to help her create a Do Everything Be Brave List. But it’s not a lame bucket list. Not a Kiss in the Rain, Stay Up and Watch the Sunrise list. More of an I Want to Live Life list. Bold. Real. It’s the only way to honor her mom’s dying wish, but it won’t be easy. Georgia’s often plagued by her own cynicism and often too embarrassed to go beyond her comfort zone.

Georgia’s dad is also lost in grief. Plus, he’s Greek and old-fashioned and doesn’t know how to talk to her. Georgia struggles with her identity as a Greek-American. “Arnisi” by Melina Kana is one of my favorite songs from Greece.

Georgia remembers her family’s Greek parties from when she was a child where she loved to lose herself in the endless circles of dance, and she draws energy from these memories when she tries out for cheerleading (#7 on her list, and thus “Just Dance” by Lady Gaga) and tribal dances (#10, thus the Belly Dance Drum Solo by Raquy And The Cavemen).

So I hear the music and decide to just do it. Just have fun….I move and shake and spin and whirl. Audrey and I are jumping and smiling and I’m waving my arms and shaking my hips…. I’m dancing, and I’m alive, and this is my time. This is my day.

One of the most important items on Georgia’s Do Everything Be Brave List is “#6: Learn how to draw like Mom.” Art becomes an outlet for Georgia to express her grief. I love the lyrics of “Temporary Ground” because they speak to the experience of loss and death. But then, First Aid Kit’s “My Silver Lining” speaks to this same experience of feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of death, but the greater fear of not having lived. This song speaks to what drives Georgia – her desire to experience all life has to offer – and as they sing, “There’s hope” in that desire.

“Temporary Ground” by Jack White

“Moving without motion

Screaming without sound

Across an open ocean

Flying there on temporary ground.”


“My Silver Lining” by First Aid Kit

“I don’t want to wait anymore. I’m tired of looking for answers.

Take me some place where there’s music and there’s laughter.

I don’t know if I’m scared of dying, but I’m scared of living too fast, too slow.

Be it for reason, be it for love–

I won’t take the easy road.

A song’s never just sad;

There’s hope, there’s a silver lining.”

I shove my bed out from the center of the room against the wall. I push aside my desk, pile up my dirty clothes that cover the floor and stuff them into my closet.

I put on my favorites: Lorde and Jack White and First Aid Kit, and yes, even some Taylor Swift, and of course, Nina Simone.  I blast the music, and I force it out.

I force myself to do this.

First, I draw faces on my paper. My face. Her face. His face.

The list also includes: skinny-dipping, flambé, skydiving of course, and asking out Daniel, the guy she’s had a crush on since freshman year. I chose “Waiting (PAL Remix)” by Alice Boman and PAL because I think it’s one of the most romantic songs ever, and it could refer to Georgia’s questions about Daniel after he has to leave the state for a while.

As Georgia tackles the list, she opens herself up to new experiences and connects with her late mother in unexpected ways, but it also might mean tossing away parts of her that are most important, including her only true friends, Liss and Evelyn. Thus, I’ve included a few songs of regret, including “Elastic Heart” by Sia, “Should Have Known Better” by Sufjan Stevens, and “Pulaski at Night” by Andrew Bird (also to honor Chicago, my childhood home and the setting of HOW TO BE BRAVE). Plus a song of hope, redemption, and power: Santigold’s “Disparate Youth.”


Don’t look ahead, there’s stormy weather.

Another roadblock in our way.

But if we go, we go together.

Our hands are tied here if we stay.

I’ve also chosen “Awake My Soul” because I listened to the entire Mumford & Sons album on repeat while I was writing the first draft of How to Be Brave. This line in particular propelled me forward.

“Awake My Soul” by Mumford & Sons

“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die,

And where you invest your love, you invest your life.”

You’d look at me like I was that girl,

and you’d say, as though it were true:

You are possibility and change and beauty.

One day, you will have a life, a beautiful life.

You will shine.

Sara Bareilles’s song was released in 2013, but somehow I didn’t hear it first until earlier this year, when people started asking me if I’d heard it! Ever since, it’s become one of my favorite songs. My daughter and I blast it in the car – we sing, at the top of our lungs, “I WANNA SEE YOU BE BRAVE!” Definitely my HOW TO BE BRAVE theme song. One of the scariest parts of writing a book, especially one that is so personal, is having it published – in other words having other people read it! I’ve had to be brave in ways I never expected.

I am utterly grateful to those who have taken the time to read Georgia’s story and tell me that it’s inspired them to be brave in their own lives, from a reader whose father was diagnosed with cancer, to a reader whose parents were getting a divorce, to a reader whose mom died during her senior year of high school – you, the readers, have been the ones to inspire me to keep writing, to be brave. So, thank you.

“Brave” by Sara Bareilles

“Say what you want to say

And let the words fall out.

Honestly–I want to see you be brave.”

I hear my mom’s words: Be brave, Georgia.

Bonus Material #2: Georgia’s Dad’s Greek-style Spaghetti Sauce Recipe with Secret Ingredient(s)

(influenced by my parents’ recipe that we really did serve in our family restaurant!)

from Chapter 3 of HOW TO BE BRAVE:

Dad slides my history homework over and places a giant mound of spaghetti and meat sauce in front of me. “There,” he says. “Eat.”

            It’s just about the only way he knows how to communicate with me, through food. He kisses the top of my head and heads back to the front to count the register. It’s an hour before closing. The restaurant is empty. It’s slow tonight. A few regulars pick at their plates, but no one else is coming in….

         ….I wind a few strands of spaghetti around a fork and slurp it up. It’s so good, better than most places. I can taste my dad’s secret ingredient: cinnamon. He cooks all the food himself. He opens early at 6 a.m, closes at 7 p.m., and manages and cooks all day long.



Olive oil

3-4 medium onions, chopped

2 lbs. lean chopped beef (or crumbled tofu for veggie-version)

3 c. canned tomatoes, with juice, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 tsp. cloves, powdered

Secret Ingredient #1: 4+ tbs. cinnamon

2 bay leaves

4 tbs. tomato paste

Secret Ingredient #2: ¾ c. Harvey’s Bristol cream (or another dry sherry or red wine)

  1. Sauté onion in a few tbs. of olive oil for a few minutes. Add chopped beef and brown until cooked. Pour off any extra oil.
  2. Add tomatoes, garlic, cloves, bay leaves, salt and pepper, and cinnamon. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. Add water if necessary.
  3. Add tomato paste and liquor (or wine), and let cook for another five minutes.

Pour over pasta of your choice and top with Parmesan cheese.


Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a boatload of signed books. To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 7 (SEVEN!! Lucky number!). Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the ORANGE TEAM and you’ll have all the secret code to enter for the grand prize!  Click here to enter

To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author! That’s Sarah Jude.  You can find her by clicking here. In case of trouble with the link, you can also cut and paste her URL into your browser:
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