Summer 2020

It’s been about two years since I utilized my blog platform. This summer is going to be quiet and largely spent at home, and I need structure to be productive. Blogging was a structure that I thrived in for years and one that I’d love to jump back into. I’ll be shifting my focus a bit, though I still plan to center my posts on YA and MG books.

Here are my personal projects over the next 8 weeks:

  • Supporting a staff summer reading program focused on diverse books (both YA and MG)
  • Listening to and reflecting on the podcast Teaching While White
  • Advocating for a more diverse English curriculum in public schools
  • Writing Act 2 of novel-in-progress (a sci-fi cooking mystery about the power of food to bridge cultural gaps)

What my posts will look like this summer:

  • Reviews of YA and MG books I’m reading
  • Reflections on teaching and my own cultural awareness
  • Actions we need to take as educators towards a more diverse curriculum that decenters whiteness
  • Writing check-ins

Until my next post, I highly recommend you check out this panel from the Gaithersburg Book Festival about diverse books:

How Diverse Stories Can Open Minds & Change the World

I hope your summer is off to a good start! Stay safe and well!


Struggling to begin a new project

Writer TearsFor the past year, I’ve been struggling with my writing life. I finished and submitted a manuscript to 28 agents. I received responses with varying degrees of interest, but no offers of representation.

I’m in this weird funk. I want to start something fresh and new. But whenever I go to work on a new project, I can get excited about the concept–but the characters don’t feel real to me.

With my previous book, the characters still feel like real, living, breathing people. They are as real to me as Hermione Granger or Ender Wiggin or Daenerys Targaryen.

In my efforts to begin a new manuscript, I’ve spent a lot of time reading books on character development. I’ve done extensive character planning sheets. My new characters have goals and dreams. I know where they have tattoos and who their secret crushes are. I know what haunts them in their backstory.

But they aren’t real people to me. I don’t catch myself thinking about them as I drive to work. I even get them confused by interchanging their names by mistake. I tried drawing pictures of them so that I would have some clear visuals to keep them all straight.

I’m hesitant to start writing any piece of the actual narrative because I’m worried it will be a total mess. If I don’t know my characters, how can I write anything? It will be inconsistent and confusing.

I wonder though, if I’m not allowing myself to let these characters in. I still yearn to work on my other project. To spend time with the characters I love and know. To finish their story.

But I also recognize that it’s likely time for me to move on to something new in order to grow as a writer. I hope that someday, when a new project lands me an agent and I have a debut novel, I’ll get asked, “What else have you got?” And that will be my opportunity to share this project that I love so much.

But until then I need to find a way to open my heart to something new.

What advice do you have to writers who are struggling to start a new project?

Should I dabble in fanfiction to find my groove again? Should I put my new characters in an empty room and write how they interact?

Any advice is much appreciated!

Summer 2018 Goals


Summer 2018 Goals

This teacher is officially on summer break! The 2017-18 school year was a special one for me as a teacher. I had some the kindest students that I’ve ever had the privilege of teaching. But most of all, I finally reached a point with my teaching where I felt fulfilled by my work. Everything clicked for me this year, and I had a powerful moment where my individual purpose and goals as a teacher became crystal clear.

However, I am very much grateful for the summer break. To recharge. To not have a two hour a day commute. And most of all, to pursue some personal goals.

I am trying to keep a lot of structure and deadlines to my summer in order to make it as productive as possible. I’ll be doing Sunday check-ins to reflect on progress with each goal.

Writing Goals:

  • Query one agent per week for finished manuscript. (9 agents total)
  • Write a 60k draft of new sci-fi project (1500 words per day)
  • Enter Pitch Wars (August 27-29)

Reading Goals:

  • Read one physical book, one audiobook, and one graphic novel per week.

Teaching Goals:

  • I am taking a course on “Having Hard Conversations” for professional development. This should help me as I go into my second year as the Cultural Proficiency Liaison at my school.

Fitness Goals:

  • Attend four exercise classes per week (Body Pump, Barre, Yoga, Body Sculpt).

30582403_10104292164499915_2551495175536902144_nWedding Goals:

  • I got engaged in April. (At a castle in Portugal to my favorite person in the whole wide world! Yay!) My main goal for this summer is to choose a wedding venue and set a date.

Definitely feel like these goals are ambitious when they are all written out. Yikes! But I’m super happy with where I am right now, and excited about where I’m headed.

Anyone else setting summer reading or writing goals? Let’s keep each other on track!


My Year in Books 2017

My Year in Books 2017

Overall, I wish I’d read more books and hit my goal of 50. I tended towards lengthy books this year and tackled several series, which definitely slowed me down. Audiobooks were a little over a third of my reading.

Goals for 2018: Decrease social media use. Set weekly reading goals. Read 3-4 books a month. I’m going to keep my overall goal at 50 books, despite not reaching it this year. I know it’s an achievable goal for me, especially now that I’m more savvy at checking out free audiobooks from the library via Hoopla and Libby (by Overdrive).

How was your 2017 in books? What are you pleased with? What do you want to change in 2018?

Return to Blogging 2017

It has been over two years since I’ve posted, but I’ve missed blogging! I took a break for many reasons: completing my MFA, enjoying the beginning honeymoon stage of my relationship with my boyfriend, and moving homes/jobs.

Screen Shot 2017-10-04 at 2.54.41 PM

Ready to write!

But I realized that blogging helped me in two ways connected to productivity: getting my butt in the chair writing and giving me reading goals to work towards.

Having a writing schedule has always been the best way for me to produce new writing. While I want to be a fiction writer, not a full-time blogger, the act of producing blog posts helps me create a writing rhythm that my fiction writing benefits from as well.

I’m sure I’m not alone in saying that time management has only gotten more difficult in the time of social media. It is so easy to get sucked down a hole of distractions for an hour at a time.

It may seem contradictory to say that publishing posts online could then improve productivity! But I found that setting reading/reviewing deadlines and participating more in the online book world led to dedicating more time for reading as a whole.

Overall, having a blogging platform and the structure of regular posting increased my productivity as both a reader and writer. The one thing I have to keep aware of is not allowing my blogging writing to overwhelm my creative writing. Because ultimately, my end goal is to be a fiction writer not a book blogger.  🙂

The month of December:
Will feature reviews of all the books I read this year. Get ready to put some fabulous books on your to-read list!

Hughes Reviews has moved!

Hughes ReviewsWelcome to the new home of Hughes Reviews (and other wordy stuff)!

I’ve been wanting to make the change from Blogger to WordPress for awhile now.  I use WordPress for my teacher website and found it to be more user-friendly and to have a more streamlined appearance.

There are a couple different ways you can follow my new site:

  • Subscribing by email (sidebar to the right)
  • Liking my new Facebook page (also to the right)
  • Following me on Twitter @wordyhughes
  • WordPress users can also “Follow”

Choose the one that’s best for you, and I look forward to restarting my blog and sharing my love of books with you  🙂

MIA: Beach & Reviews to Come

I realize I’ve been dead on the blogosphere.  I’d intended to have a few days at home before heading to the beach, but then had some car issues that forced me to change my plans.  I’m currently vacationing at the beach where we have no internet service.  (I’m blogging from Panera right now.)  I have my iPhone, and have been reading lots of wonderful blog posts that I’m eager to comment on, but commenting is not convenient via iPhone.  Can someone please invent an app for that?!?!

I’ve been reading loads, and will have lots of reviews to type up when I get home. Here’s what reviews will be coming soon:

Across the Universe by Beth Revis (much delayed from grad school)

Feed by MT Anderson (much delayed from grad school)

Iron King by Julie Kagawa (finished reading)

Iron Daughter by Julie Kagawa (finished reading)

Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa (in progress paperback)

Iron Knight by Julie Kagawa (purchased)

Falling For Hamlet by Michelle Ray (in progress hardback)

Souless by Gail Carriger (in progress eBook)

And here are a few pics from my vacation:

Tanning on the Beach
Eating Crabs

MIA: Going to Harry Potter World

I’m going to be missing from the blogosphere for the next week because I’m going to Harry Potter World in Orlando, Florida!!!  I’m stoked.  I’ve been bugging my family to go since it opened and we’re finally doing it (and a week before my birthday, how awesome is that?!?!)  My grandparents also live down in Florida during the winter and I’ll get to spend some quality time with them, too.  Plus, 80 degree weather is way better than 20 degree weather. I am definitely going to need it, because this week I’m working two 14-hour workdays because of parent conferences.

So I won’t be around much.  All I’ll have is my iPhone for internet access.

I’m excusing myself from writing this week, which hopefully means I’ll knock a few books out and post some reviews when I get back.

And I’ll definitely have pics and a full review of Harry Potter World!  Wheeeee!

Anyone been to HP World already and have some tips to share?

Joined Twitter!

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I’d been waiting until I had an iPhone to join Twitter.  I’m really looking forward to connecting with bloggers and the book world in a whole new Twitterific way  ^_^

Woot Woot!  I’m trying to find everyone, so if I haven’t found you, follow me and I’ll follow you back!

Thoughts on Feeling Spoiled

Yes, I’m at grad school.  And yes it’s a lot of work.  And yes sometimes I feel overwhelmed.

But when it comes down to it, I’m spending my days lounging around reading books.  Whether comfortable in a porch rocking chair or cuddled on a couch in the library, it struck me that not many people can afford to spend their days like this.  Reading for 3-6 hours at a time.

And when I drive around down here, it becomes glaringly clear that the opportunities I have would be considered luxurious to a lot of the people around me.

I don’t know why I’ve been given such a good life.  Good family.  Good home.  Good education.  Good health.  It probably has a lot to do with this good country I live in.  So as much as I complain about the politics and the current state of education, I do see how lucky I am.

Happy 4th of July everyone.