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2017: A Reflection, 2018: Here I come

Rachel Saylor

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This year, my husband and I declared it as, "The year of adventure!" I quit my job. We moved out of Boone, NC, which I called home for almost 8 years. We downsized and headed to London for three months. While there, we traveled to the Netherlands, Romania, Italy, Greece, Portugal, Scottland, Ireland, Saint Ives, and explored my favorite city of all time: London. If we could have figured out the complex visa situation, we would have loved to call London home, but as it was too tricky, we looked towards the next best thing. 

Portland, Oregon was on the horizon. We spent two months getting things in order, bouncing from one family's home to another. We lived out of our car, continuously unpacking and packing our things from one place to the next. Finally, in August, we packed everything we owned into our car and started the trek out west. What we imagined to be a short stay in Tempe, Arizona, quickly turned into a few months. 

Arizona is not a place I ever envisioned for myself to live, but it has been an absolute pleasant surprise. Since here, I've met an array of authors and fellow writers. I've connected like I never have before with people who share the same passion as me. I've learned more in the past five months about the industry than I have in the time I've been a writer leading up to this point. I'm so grateful for what Arizona has gifted me in this. We plan to stay here at least until the summer, but we aren't putting a cap on our time here either. Portland is still calling our name, but right now, I am embracing the magic of the desert life. Sure, I've only seen rain once since I've moved here, but I'm soaking in the sun while I have the opportunity. 

I wrote my second novel in 2017 (Title still to be decided), and I am so excited to share it with the world! I have beta readers reading it and making notes as I take a step back from the novel for now. Here's a little tease of what my new realistic young adult novel is about:

Mercer is an artsy, athletic, family oriented senior in high school who is hoping to make it to the end of the year and off to college in one piece. Something at her core tugs hard and she wonders what makes her different from so many others. She battles with accepting herself as she is and hopes desperately that her family can do the same.

Through love and friendship, Mercer takes on her last year of high school with her best friends, Camille: the feisty, outspoken beauty, Jed: the mature, intelligent, cool guy, Lainey: the perfect, hard-working, driven blonde, and Eli: the zesty, flamboyant Korean-American flaky friend, who all face their own troubles of relationships and the daunting task of figuring out what’s next.

I'm going to continue working on my first novel, Jasper's Mountain, with my editor. My goal is to have it printed and formatted into an ebook by the end of this year so that you can finally read the finished product. 

2018 is looking bright, and I'm ready to take my writing career to the next level. I hope you're pumped about this year too! Cheers to working hard and enjoying every minute of it. 

Book Review: Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Rachel Saylor

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Little Fires Everywhere inserts us into a progressive community structured around rigid rules and regulations in the 90’s called Shaker Heights. The community located in Cleveland is real, and author, Celeste Ng, actually grew up there. A mother-daughter combo Mia and Pearl land in Shaker to stay put after over a decade of vagabonding around the U.S. Their unconventional lifestyle both intrigues the young, impressionable teens of the Richardson family, while ruffling the feathers of the Richardson’s mom. 

Ng pushes you to think about the roots and beliefs in which you grew up and if you hold onto those ideals because you believe it to be the right way to live or merely because it’s what you were taught. She uncovers all of the different facets of what it means and feels like to become a mother. The characters struggle with constant judgement, revealing there is no black and white way about motherhood nor the decisions we make, but rather, a lot of grey space. The way a woman enters motherhood through surrogacy, adoption, or giving natural birth and then the decisions that mothers make as to how they will raise their children are all topics explored throughout Little Fires Everywhere. 

Ng brilliantly depicts what it is like to be human. She shows that no person is the perfect protagonist, making all of the right decisions, but rather everyone lives somewhere in the grey area. Some decisions made are questionable, others less so, but we as humans have to make decisions, we just have to carry them with us after we do so. Sometimes, our decisions lead to little fires that can cause harm, but then there can sprout some of the most beautiful growth from that. Ng asks: what will you do about your situation that you find yourself in now?  
 

Two Years of Writing

Rachel Saylor

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Writing is a passion I discovered after I went to college for Psychology, after I’d been working in a steady job in the social work field for a couple of years, and after I’d thought I already understood the course of my career path. It is not something I was born knowing I was destined to do. It was not what I studied in school. In fact, it was something I believed I was pretty bad at. These facts intimidated me when I jumped into the unknown. On better days I say, "To hell with facts!" On bad days, thoughts crop up and tell me I’m in over my head. 

I’ve been writing for two years now. For 1½ years I was still working my full time job in the social work field, and the last half year I’ve been traveling like crazy. Growth is inevitable when you consistently practice your craft. I’ve been able to look back on when meek Rachel began this journey and seen how much that growth is evident for me. I’m a firm believer that stagnation = death, and just because I’ve made leaps and bounds these past couple of years, I expect to make a whole hell of a lot more in the years to come. 

How did I grow? I practiced all the time. I wrote on my blog. I wrote things I never showed others. I wrote with alcohol, coffee, tea. I wrote early in the mornings, afternoons, evenings, in the middle of the night. I tested when I was best at my writing, (mornings seem to test the best). I wrote a nonfiction short and had people read and critique it. I met people in-person to go over their critiques and I edited and edited. I typed my short out on a typewriter, one click at a time and installed the piece in an old mailbox where the story I wrote took place. I made a writing group. I participated in the NaNoWriMo challenge and wrote my first novel. I’ve been editing the shit out of that novel. I got an incredible editor for my novel. I sent out work to get published. I got rejected. I talked with people about my writing - anyone who would listen. I met authors. I reached out. I put myself out there. I wrote more. I asked for more feedback from others. I pushed past the fear of feeling like my work sucks and still asked people to read my work. I asked questions. I reached out to others. I started a second novel. 

With each new step, confidence is sure to get closer on your heels. Even if one conversation was awkward as hell or a piece of writing was total rubbish, I’m growing as I make a point to plow ahead. Do I still have a long road ahead? Hell yes I do, but it feels so good to take the time to look back and see that my hard work has paid off in becoming a better and more confident writer. 

Wherever you are at in your journey of developing the skills and confidence in your passion, I hope you can feel encouraged to continue to put your heart and soul into it, knowing it’ll pay off, perhaps slowly but it will definitely happen.