What Some “Misfits” Taught Me About The “Near Win” – Letter From The Editor

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Letter From The Editor

What Some “Misfits” Taught Me About The “Near Win”

-September 30th, 2015-


When you hear “The Misfits” most people these days might think of the antagonistic rock star rivals from “Jem and Holograms.”

The Misfits #2


But long after the original 80s animated series first hit the airwaves, over two decades later, a new generation of “Misfits” were born, in the form of author James Howe’s novel “The Misfits” first published back in 2001.

The story revolves around a group of childhood friends facing the typical challenges of middle school, puberty, and the politics of popularity.

While these self-proclaimed “Misfits” all play a key role to the story, our central character is 12-Year-Old Robert “Bobby”, who narrates us into his small town world of Paintbrush Falls in upstate (i.e. FAR from NYC) New York.

Bobby’s friends include, Addie Carle, the height-conscious type-A academic and occasional “Mother Hen/*Wendy” of the group, who wields a vocabulary as big and grand as her principles. (*Wendy, see Peter Pan)



Skeezie, who at one time, might’ve become one of the story’s antagonists given his mischievous antics and penchant for teasing, but thanks to a kind gesture from Addie back in grade school, he instead became a good friend, who just dresses like the “hooligan” most folks blindly assume he is, but we, as the wide-eyed reader looking in, know better.

Last, but far from least, is Joe Bunch, the celebrity-obsessed, and outrageously flamboyant semi-closeted Gay boy whose as much comfortable in his own skin as those outside his friend and family circles are left confused at best-and feared at worst.

Of course, this being middle school, when kids fear something, they often belittle it, and during a time in life when differences of any kind are grounds for isolation and ostracization, it often resulting in name-calling and/or violence.



The irreverent, self-referential narrative will be quite familiar for those of you old enough to remember the sitcom, “The Wonder Years” starring a tween-to-teen FredOswald Savage  (who would later go on to voice the charming blue octopus, Oswald).

But while that iconic series had an (unseen) adult Kevin looking back on his life through junior high and early high school years, this story takes place within the confines of the first semester of 7th grade, and while Bobby occasionally tips his hand at certain chronology, he tells us his story in the way only a kid in that “Middle Place” between childhood and the early adolescence can, albeit in a more eloquent way.

As a reader, and an author myself, who takes pride in smart use of language, this is a refreshing change of pace from the more informal tone most books these days employ.

But for those of you worried about *KSLA (*Kids Sounding Like Adults Syndrome) not to worry, neither the prose or dialogue ever forgets that this a story about and narrated by a kid, and if you’ve heard the full cast audiobook version of “The Misfits” (as I did) where kids are playing “The Gang of Five” and the extended supporting cast, it further reinforces just how natural and real our proudly unconventional preteen heroes (and heroine, I didn’t forget, Addie) sound.

Those familiar with John Green’s books, and their smart use of language, will enjoy the depth found here.

While we often talk about YA/Adult reader crossover, but this is a book I feel is one of the few I’ve come across that has excellent crossover appeal for middle grade/YA readers.


2015 marks the 15th Anniversary of “The Misfits”

(As depicted in the banner above)

This book has garnered much praise amongst writers, and readers alike, since it’s release  quite the following and I’d 9781416913856first heard of the “The Misfits” back in 2011 (the book’s 10th Anniversary), right before the release of “Addie on the Inside”, the second of what would be three companion books set within the timeline shortly after the events of the first book. 





9780689839580“Totally Joe”, the first companion book, debuted in 2007, which brings us more insight to Joe’s emerging gay identity, something author James Howe himself had grappled with growing up.

While we’ve made some key progress in the decade plus since “The Misfits” debuted, most notably the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, more nuanced and varied portrayals of LGBTQ characters in books and other media, (versus the “comic” stereotypes from eras past), and recently the U.S. Supreme Court ruling same-sex couples have the legal right to marry (and have that marriage be validated) in all 50 states, we still have more work to do.

Especially amongst the transgender community, where trans women often receive the worse treatment, and amending our federal laws to disallow organizations to discriminate against LGTBQ people in the workplace, which, at the time of this writing, in most states of the nation is sadly still legal.

We also have to amend (if not totally revamp) the U.S. adoption laws to ensure same-sex couples (or single LGBTQ individuals) to adopt and raise children and teens, and ensure they’re entitled to the same health, federal/legal protections, and end of life benefits opposite-sex unions have.


In April 2014, “Also Known As Elvis” gives us the skinny from Skeezie (legal name: Skyler), who as the title infers, also goes by “Elvis”, though you’ll have to read to find out why, and it’s not as obvious as you might think…


610t+dyr3PL._SL300_It wasn’t until this year that I experienced “The Misfits” for myself (via the aforementioned audiobook version), and I’m glad I did, and as many readers often say, wish I’d read it sooner.


I was 14 when Bobby and Co. first arrived on the kidlit scene, and I see many aspects of myself reflected in “The Gang of Five” (though there’s only four of them), and even now at 28, I feel their struggles and triumphs as fervently raw now as I would’ve then, perhaps even more-so because I see from my adult perspective, where some of those twists and turns can lead.

Something I learned in reading (er, listening) to this book, is I have to do a better job at embracing the “Near Win.”

As a writer, one of the many mottos you hear ad-nauesum is “Celebrate Every Success” which in all honesty is not easy for me. I don’t mean that in a snobbish way.

You both CAN and WANT to be living independently.

Instead you’re still living at home because you can’t afford to live anywhere else.

You want to do good work and be paid for it.

You’re shut out of most careers because you’re not a college graduate.


As a writer, it looks like this-

Selling A Book (Win)

Haven’t sold a book yet. But I finished a draft of a book. (Near Win)


Often being a writer involves making compromises, and some are easier (or at least more feasible) than others-


Indie/Self-Publishing is a viable option.

(Compromise to being unable to or infrequently publish traditionally)

The push-pull between “Just do it!” and “Do it right” are harder to navigate when you have limited finances and resources to bring a professional book to the market.


As much as I believe in the nuance of gender identity (whatever your sexual orientation), and that animal stories aren’t just for babies and preschoolers, I struggle with the gray areas in publishing, in particular, and life in general.

Sometimes I feel like a hypocrite because of this disparity, especially given recent conversations I’ve had with fellow writers recently, but now I’ve come to realize that I’m more narrow-minded than I wish was the case.

I can see gray areas in many ways, but not others, and like most things in life, the issues that hit closest to home are often the toughest areas for me to even SEE (let alone embrace) the near win.

Without spoiling the story for those of you unversed in the world of “The Misfits”, they too had a “near win” which resulted in the now infamous “No Name-Calling Week” imitative, reminding us words can hurt as much as physical violence.

Something to think about as we near October, and the start of “National Bullying Prevention Month.” 


Until next I write you, my dear readers, your lit. rat’s signing off.



Finding Joy and Strength Amidst Crisis – Letter From The Editor



Letter From The Editor

Finding Joy and Strength Amidst Crisis

-August 9th, 2015-

Three things happened to me last week-

1. My Grandmother’s Birthday

(Prelude To A Breakdown, for me, not her…)

2. The Day After my Grandmother’s Birthday

(Reflecting on unfulfilled goals and dreams)

3. August 6th 2015

(The Mental Breakdown Like None Before)

This trinity of events had forced me to face sobering realities and emotions I’ve too long buried. I’d already had two breakdowns earlier this year, and now I found myself falling further into despair.

Before I go on, I need to tell you something about me few outside my inner circle of offline relatives and online writer friends know.

 I have Asperger’s Syndrome, a form of high-functioning autism, and while most people who are familiar with or know someone with autism, associate it being a learning impediment, it’s also a social disorder. 

One of the issues I have when the media highlights autism, they only highlight the extreme cases, kids who can’t speak, struggle walking, unable to feed themselves, etc.

But RARELY (if ever) do people like me ever get even an honorable mention.

I can talk (albeit I sound like a chipmunk auctioneer and have to work at slowing down my speech), I certainly can walk, and I don’t need people to feed me, and I frankly I’ve been cooking my own meals since my teens. 

I don’t normally talk about my personal life on T.A.A., except in these occasional letters to you, my readers, and I’ve been very careful who I tell about my Asperger’s. 

One of the misnomers about people on the autism spectrum is that we’re developmentally stuck at the toddler level, while that’s sadly true for some kids, teens and adults with autism, it’s not my story.  

This is part of why I’ve had a hard time being at peace with having Asperger’s.

While I don’t deny it, I get frustrated when people confuse ANY negative feeling I have or express as being caused by my Asperger’s.

Like I’d NEVER feel negative emotions or get angry if I didn’t have a mental disorder.

You don’t have to have stage 4 terminal brain caner to be afraid of death.

You don’t have to be abused to feel powerless and alone in your pain, be it physical, mental or emotional, or some combo thereof.

Your parents (or parental figures) don’t have to be negligent or uncaring to feel distant from you at times.

So why do too many people think that just because you have a mental disorder of any kind, everything negative is solely the fault of your disorder?

Yes, autism or other mental disorders color people’s reactions to a point, but I’m still a human being, and human beings feel anger, sadness and pain whether or not they have a mental disorder.

I’m allowed to be sad. Asperger’s or not.

I’m wired for anger. Asperger’s or not.

I’m meant to be a human being. Asperger’s or not. 

That said, I now realize I can underestimate how deep my Asperger’s effects and hinders the progress I want to make as a writer and in life.

It certainly didn’t help that my mother (who has Schizophrenia) often manipulates those around her, including me,  her own son, and especially my grandmother (her mother).

I know it’s at least part of why I set overambitious goals or benchmarks for myself.

I don’t want to be the soulless jerk who uses their issues as an excuse to get away with treating people bad.

Essentially, playing the “Insanity Defense” often overused in the criminal justice system.

But I now have to acknowledge that my limitations are more challenging than I first wished to admit.

Because my grandmother raised me, and is beginning to decline, I put more pressure on myself to be self-reliant, not because I was in a hurry to marry or have kids (future dreams I fear I’ll NEVER be able to do because I lack what being a good spouse or parents needs) but for the practical reason that she won’t be here forever, and I’ve no one else in my family I can turn to for help emotionally, financially or otherwise.

This is also why I get easily enraged when I read countless accounts of people saying all negative feelings are “optional.”


That just doesn’t compute for me.

Yes, pain of some kind is inevitable, but contrary to this popular myth, suffering is NOT “Optional.”

We say it’s okay to grieve the loss of a parent, sibling, or family pet, right?

Well, part of grieving is SUFFERING. If they didn’t matter in our lives, we wouldn’t be sad when they die, just because they’re not human doesn’t mean we valued them less. Yes, the relationship and its expectations are different, but no less valid.

No, my dog Pepper dying (2001-2014) won’t have the same impact as my grandmother dying, but both were important to me, and I’m at peace with Pepper dying, but getting there with my grandmother (who again raised me when my mother could not) will be a LOT longer a process to reach the same level of peace.

Just as writers are told not to rush the nebulous process, we can’t rush grieving, and grieving can’t exist with some degree of SUFFERING. 

Those who say otherwise are either in denial, or have a faith (be it spiritual or devoutly religious) so strong it gives them an anchor to ensure they don’t collapse entirely.

People say worrying it’s a useless emotion.

I don’t agree.

I think in the best conditions (barring chronic paranoia), worry is a cue from our subconscious to think about something or someone other than yourself.

Yes, we can overly worry about ourselves, but that’s a separate issue.

This is also barring noteworthy exceptions like the often preached “put your oxygen mask first” thing,  someone truly self-centered wouldn’t think of other’s needs at all, and thus not worry about them.

While it’s not helpful to worry all the time, it can remind us that we care about someone or something bigger than (or other than) ourselves.

You don’t have to be a paranoid/neurotic “Helicopter parent” to want your kids be safe, right?

If we’re worried about the safety of a close friend, relative or spouse, it may not fix anything, but it reminds us that we’re not always looking out for ourselves.

Sure, no one likes to be (or be around) a extremist worrywart, but neither do we wish to be around an arrogant, self-obsessed jerk either, right?

Just as there’s a BIG difference between self-obsession and self-worth, there’s just as wide a gap between a passive worrywart versus an proactive empathizer.

To say it’s optional is to dismiss all negative feelings we experience as humans I feel is a DANGEROUS and extremist mindset to condition someone with.

I didn’t choose to have Asperger’s, but I have it, I can’t get rid of it, but nor can I pretend it doesn’t effect me.

Plus, for those of you with devout faith as you anchor, how can you argue against negative feelings when God designed us to have them?

 Just because we can’t change something doesn’t mean it doesn’t effect us, nor does it mean we can will it away or pretend it doesn’t exist.

Sometimes I think we tell people to “let go” or “move on” we’re in effect telling people to be androids with ZERO autonomy.

But that’s just as unrealistic as expecting a toddler to run the Boston Marathon with the composure and stamina of an Olympic-Class athlete.

Even the iconic “Rugrats” couldn’t pull that off, short of a daydream sequence.

This is probably what I feel most at odds with having been raised Christian. 

While I’m in no way excusing myself or others who do less than helpful things amidst feelings of pain and mental collapse, I don’t believe everything we say or do is ALWAYS a conscious choice, and nor do I believe we can command our emotions anymore than we can command the weather.

Yes, we all can be overly fixated on less than helpful things, but I often think we confuse self-control with being inhuman.

Do we have to kill someone we’re mad at? Of course not.

But can we turn the anger off with the ease of a light switch? NO.

Does every sad thing that happens illicit a tear-riddled breakdown? NO.

But is telling someone to “quit being a baby” helpful?

Unless you’re hyper-masculine, NO.

You don’t have to be a baby to feel the need to cry.

We also have to remember that crying in ACTUAL babies/toddlers is their primary form of communication, when people beyond the infant/toddler years cry, it’s our way of releasing intense emotion, not only when we’re physically or emotionally hurt, but even when we’re HAPPY.  

Though those “Happy Tears” don’t happen nearly as often as the tears from pain.

That may not be what some “Tough Love: Type-A Pragmatists” want to hear, but it’s the truth for many, including myself, and unlike me, you don’t have to have (insert mental illness here) to feel that way.

I’ve done and said my share of stupid things because of my inherently emotional nature, my temper, and simply not thinking things through.

But it’s these same hyper emotions that allow me to see things others around me don’t. Even if I can’t live up to the serene,  selfless and quite demeanor my grandmother modeled for me, doesn’t mean she failed instilling those values in me, I just don’t access them as easily as her.

It’s not just because she’s had 60+ years to practice these principles, it’s also her nature to not be as volatile in her emotions as me, that’s just as valid a point to make. 

That doesn’t make you a petty, bratty monster, that makes you HUMAN.

I’m in no way justifying the times I’ve (unmeaningly) hurt people or got things wrong, but to dismiss my pain as “optional” is like telling a child he’s a “demon” for teasing his sister.

Of course, teasing his sister isn’t nice, but neither is demonizing a child who feels jealous toward his sibling, and we all feel jealous at times, but that doesn’t mean we’re Satan’s apprentice, either.

The trick is helping the jealous sibling find ways to express his feelings of envy in ways that don’t discount him, without scarring either the siblings or the parents (or parental figure[s]) involved.  

A writer friend who helped me during similar dark times in my life says, “You can express the negative without being negative.” She’s right.

I don’t always succeed at this ideal, and I still feel it’s a nebulous fortune cookie saying at times, but it is possible.

Anyway, part of why I’ve been MIA on the blog since June is because of my previous mental episodes, and after last week’s breakdown, I took the first steps to get back into therapy, and because of the bureaucratic red tape that is the U.S. health care system (in Michigan if not America at large) the process won’t start until the end of August 2015.

I’ve had to put the blog and all my future book reviews on hiatus.

You can still find me on Twitter (via @TAA_Editor and @Taurean_Watkins), but much of T.A.A.’s day to day operations are on indefinite hiatus, and our YouTube Channel will have fewer new videos for some time.

This was not an easy decision to come to, but while I know I’ll lose momentum I always struggled to build, in the long run better that than lose any semblance of sanity I have left.

Sometimes doing the right thing for our personal growth/salvation clashes with what’s good for business, and this is the crossroads I’m at now.

As scared as I am about how I’ll take care of myself financially (and my ultimate goal is to grow T.A.A. as a media brand that alongside my author career would ideally feed me creatively AND financially to some significant extent) I have to put my sanity above all else.

Thanks to all who’ve reached out to me on Twitter and Facebook, and for those of you who’re loyal patrons of my “Bites From The Cheese Shop” newsletter. I know you’ve not recieved a new letter in weeks.

I don’t like breaking commitments, and without making excuses, understand that I don’t want to flood your inbox with anything that’s less than my base standards of providing whatever value I can muster.

This flies in the face of a lot of people who say “engage your list every day or week” but sometimes that’s not possible.

So, all that said, this isn’t “Goodbye forever”

just “Goodbye For Now.”

The title of this letter is “Finding Joy and Strength Amidst Crisis” and you might be rightly wondering. where’s the joy in what I’ve shared?

At this point, my joy comes from the fact that in spite of the pain I faced last week especially, and all of my 28 years of last week, I’ve never once wanted to kill myself.

I never used drugs or alcohol to medicate myself, but I’m guilty of using food for this purpose, thankfully not to deadly extremes.

I consider that a testament to how much strength I do have that others worse of than me don’t, and I say it not to brag to those of you who have used these or other unhealthy self-medicating things, but only to put my own struggles in perspective.  

I happily spared myself and, by association my family, the pain of becoming an alcoholic or a drug addict common in my family.

But they’ve had to bear the brunt of of my hyper-emotional, raging temper, and traumatic outbursts I’m not proud of nor excuse, but  I also can’t erase from my biogenetic makeup.

Though they may look like childish outbursts for those on the outside of living with mental illness, these aren’t the same kinds of outbursts an actual child has.

I’m not whining for not getting candy or a video game (I still like those things, of course, but not getting them won’t depress me),  I just can’t deal with everything in a serene, cool and calm manner.

I used to think I was a hopeless child, even though I’m not a child anymore, despite what some people over 30 often felt.

Often as kids and teens we’re taught to “count out” our madness, but the kind of anger and rage I feel I can’t be counted away.

I’ve gotten as far as #50 and while I’m less inclined to destroy furniture, that’s as far as it goes.

I used to think that made me defective, but I now realize that my Asperger’s prevents a lot of common practices to regulate my emotions from working.  

It doesn’t mean counting doesn’t work for anyone.

It just doesn’t for me.

I don’t yet know what will work more consistently for me.

I just know counting down from madness isn’t my way.

I just hope we can find more strategies for those of us who have more volatile emotions like me.

This way we can spare those few people at our side at least some of our painfully potent emotions, that while we can’t turn off, we can lessen the impact, and to remind us that we’re not heartless monsters, even if our “not always 100% in our control” actions can look as such. 

Still, I can’t help but smile when I think of how the school of thought used by the kids of “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.”

When You Feel So Mad That You Want To ROAR!

Take A Deep Breath and Count To 4.

It doesn’t work for me.

But I’m glad for the kids this strategy will work for. 


Letter From The Editor – What Happens When You Can’t Enjoy Your Writer’s Journey


Letter From The Editor

What Happens When You Can’t

Enjoy Your Writer’s Journey

-May 11th, 2015-

“Just Enjoy The Journey.”


This is common phrase among writers these days. Right up there with “Read, Read, Read” and “Butt in Chair.”

But here’s the thing: what if you just DON’T love where you are now?

What if, despite being grateful for all you have in your life, there are times when you feel stuck, and no amount of positive self-talk keeps you grounded, hopeful, and even SANE?

Of course, and we’ve no way of knowing what the future holds, but if our present just feels like a standstill at best and a slow crawl at worst?


Slow and steady may still win races, but unlike the tortoise, we all don’t have 100+ years to make things happen.


Too often we look at impatience as childish. Sometimes it is.

But sometimes it’s simply a product of something

all too real: MORTALITY.


“Start by admitting ‘From cradle to tomb’ isn’t that long a stay.”

-Sung by Liza Minelli in “CABARET


We know that we’re not going to live forever.


Some of that impatience comes from the simple fact that we know mortals live and die, and we don’t want to say “I should’ve” via that classic “Death bed” scenario, never the fact we could die in other more immediate ways…


Has some of that “Seize the Day” mindset made us short-sighted? Sure, for many it did, myself included.


But again, if we only view impatience as childish, we’re denying ourselves or others a very REAL, URGENT and VALID sense of “Making my life count.”


Part of that is being able to pursue our dreams, not settling for less when the consequences are long-term (think marriage, kids, and/or a demanding career)


This isn’t the same as waiting long lines at the market, or for the latest shiny whatever from Apple (when you can’t pay someone to wait in line for you).


I’m talking about the BIG stuff. The things that will either positively or negatively affect your life for the long-term if not permanently.


This applies to all areas of life, but to keep things focused, I’m only going to focus on how this applies to writers.


This is something I battled a lot the past few years.


I’m currently in that hazy nexus between working with my editor on my debut novel, and trying to draft a new book, and trying to diversify what I can do, like being able to write short stories or novels outside the middle grade realm where I started and feel most at home.


Many writers, such as Jami Gold (@JamiGold), have recently stirred up heated discussion on the subject back in May 2014-


Is “Do What You Love” Good Advice?

The Value of “Crap” Jobs


I understand where Jami and others who commented are coming from (Though my reply to the latter post may have sounded otherwise).


However, for me I still feel it’s not that simple, it’s because I’ve seen too many in my life deny their dreams on the basis of survival, and as noble and pragmatic as that mindset is, it has a dark side, forsaking your passions entirely, not just for a “Season” or so. (As author Kristi Holl shared beautifully)


There’s a reason “Survive” isn’t a synonym for “Thrive” because they are not the same.


They can work together, but they’re NOT interchangeable.


I guess I’m just wondering what’s the greater evil here?


We may “Survive” by day jobs, and while some enjoy that divide between passionate and practical, others don’t, and while there is merit “Taking pride in jobs you don’t like” for some of us the duality of that existence isn’t just far from ideal, but it’s not sustainable.


Also, just because something “Pays the bills” does not mean you can live with it forever.


To me, the writers with “day jobs” who’re the most emotionally successful are ones who have jobs that while they may not directly tie to their role as a writer, they’re still fulfilling something that’s core to their external and internal needs, alongside whatever financial contribution it also makes.


Abusive bosses, questionable company ethics, and unsafe working conditions aside, if we can’t sustain the “logical” choice, it’s not logical for us.


Just because we’ll always need jobs in health care, that doesn’t I want to work in health care, some jobs require a certain mindset to do well in or even enjoy in spite of the challenges, and no one can teach you that mindset.


You either have it naturally or you’re willing to work toward attaining it.


Even in the case of the latter, your journey will be different than those who had the mindset from the beginning. 

It doesn’t nessecarilly mean they’re better at the job than you, but I do believe that some people have a more adaptable mindset than others. 


Technique can be learned, mindset’s harder to teach, and NO ONE can teach passion. 


Let’s not forget the additional decades of schooling to be a doctor in any field.


You definitely NEED a certain mindset to be a teacher and I know I don’t have it!


(I can’t even teach my grandmother how to use a computer without losing my head, I’d only be the teacher kids feared and hated because of my short temper among other things, and that’s assuming I had the inclination to endure years of certification training and dealing with school politics)


I always feel emotional in May. I’m already emotional by nature and May just times it to infinity.


Between Mother’s Day, my birthday, and constant talk of graduation, I feel left out and ashamed for my own formal education stalling.


It’s hard to imagine how I’ll stand on my own.


I know people across the spectrum say to take baby steps.


But here’s the thing, I’m not a baby, and I know people who say this don’t mean it in the literal sense. I just don’t feel this common advice is practical in every circumstance.


Baby steps aren’t building my income.

Baby steps aren’t changing my living quarters.

Baby steps aren’t enough anymore.


Many people, including my colleague Jami, have told me “College isn’t for everyone.”


But in a world where college degrees are required just to considered, how true is that now?


Nobody who who told me this can back that up with tangible examples of people (Born AFTER the 20th Century!) who THRIVED despite not having gone to college, or in my case, even high school, and NOT for lack of trying.


Maybe that’s why I things so seriously.

Why I take failure so hard.

I don’t have a safety net to fall back on. 


Yes, failure is part of the process, but that doesn’t mean all we want to feel, hear and see is failure.


My Grandma often tells me that are so many people that faced some variant of what I’m going throuhg. But when you’ve never known, met, or read about someone of that ilk, it’s hard to believe.


This is especially true for those on the Autism spectrum, including myself.


Unless you are living with, or know, and/or have raised a child or children with Autism, most of what you read and see are the most severe cases, and while those are stories worthy of being told, they’re not even CLOSE to YOUR story.


As those who are on my “Bite From The Cheese Shop” subscribers I recently have learned, I had to take a major step back to rethink my life in general, and my career as an author, after a serious breakdown in March 2015.


I had to make the difficult but necessary decision to put much of my work on T.A.A. and my author career on hold, with the key exception of my upcoming novel “GABRIEL” since that’s a contractual obligation I will and must meet, but everything else is on hiatus.


In spite of the challenges I’m faced with now and going forward, I still have hope, and I know I’ve made some progress, but things are shaky right now, and while I have to be careful not to drown in self-pity, I have to OWN that my fear and frustration is REAL, and that doesn’t mean I’m not grateful for what I do have.


To those who’ve reached out to me in private (you know who you are) I thank you, and for both new and long-time T.A.A. fans, I thank you for being on the journey with me, as much as you are able to, this isn’t goodbye, but rather “Until next time…”


Taurean J. Watkins (Taury) [@Taurean_Watkins]

-Editor-in-Chief/Literary Rat

Talking Animal Addicts


P.S: In spirit, I hope you’ll sing this with me-

NEVER TOO LATE: Letter From The Editor


Letter From The Editor

Never Too Late!

-January 3rd, 2014-

Dear Readers,

2014 has begun.

For this “Literary Rat” the first days of the new year are particularly poignant for me more so than years past.

As some in my inner circle may already know, I made the difficult decision not to retake the GED, a test for students (In the U.S.)  who weren’t able to graduate high school to attain certification which allows the student to be eligible for accredited college admission, and despite exceptions, it’s getting increasingly harder to begin a meaningful and reasonably profitable career without going to college, and as of January 1st, 2014, the test resets and becomes harder and more expensive to take, I took the test in 2012 but didn’t pass a few areas.

If I take the test again, I’ll be paying more to take it and I’ll have to begin again, and it will be harder, and desptie what some people told me, it wasn’t “Easy” before the change, and at this time, I can’t stomach taking it again.

I’ve never been a great tester.

But the weight and importance of this test weighed heavily on me.

It sickens me at times that this country, America, my country, is putting more stock in testing in general more than the actual living, breathing, people who take them. That teachers across the board are being constrained and chastised for not bringing up test scores more than giving the joy and tools to learn effectively. 

It’s downright insulting that we on the one hand put prospective teachers through a decade or more of schooling and training only to get them into a classroom of kids or teens, and then tell them how and what to teach like they spent the last 10 or 20 years of their lives and no NOTHING about teaching.

Why should all teachers be marginalized because a few aren’t effective? 

It takes a lot of courage to admit this. Because I’m a novelist at my core, and a lot of what I write is for children, this absent feather in my proverbial cap is especially hard to bear. But in 2014, I’ve made a necessary decision that will get my head and heart in better unison, 

As many authors, educators. and avid readers already know, author Kate DiCaMillo (Because of Winn-Dixie and The Tale of Desperaux) is the newest “Ambassador for Young People’s Literature” and as past ambassadors have done, each author has particularly focus or theme they champion during the time this period. 

if I ever hold that title, I know I have three competing ideas for what my focus as embassador. Until I have to make that decision, I’ll use T.A.A. to champion a specific focus for the year. That focus is in the text under the image in this letter I type-


Too often we put deadlines on ourselves to motivtate ourselves to take things seriously. Or we have to live with deadlines set by outside pressures, be it school, work, parenting, etc. But speaking solely for myself, more often than not deadlines only add pressure, pain, and guilt that I don’t need. It doesn’t make me a better writer. It doesn’t make me a better person. It only produces stress that keeps me from making any effort at all. Or I second guess myself so much it’s really not funny. 

I may very well have Charlie Brown beat in terms of how wishy-washy I can be at times…

But from this year onward, I will make my personal AND Professional motto be: Never Too Late

Our newest Ambassador for Young People’s Literature knows a thing or two about the words “Never Too Late.” It’s no secret many great writers today and in the past knew from an early age they’d be writers somehow, someway, but many like Kate came to her journey as a writer later in life.

As impatient as I am, and as much as the writing process demands patience, something authors who’ve been through the slogs of querying and drafting book after book for YEARS with no sales or reaching other key milestones too easily forget is that some of that impatience is positive!

While I could count off countless authors who didn’t publish until they were 50+, that’s really not the point I wish to make, the point I make in saying all this is that it’s not bratty impatience that spurs our desire to be authors, it’s that we know we don’t have forever to achieve our goals as writers.

Despite what some “Old Pros” in the business say, I’m full aware of my mortality, and while I can’t speak for all twenty-somethings, I’m speaking solely for me, and just because I may have more “Time” than many of my author friends who are as old or older than my sixty-something grandmother (my stand-in parent) that doesn’t mean my impatience comes from wanting things “Handed” to me without working for them.

I worked 10 YEARS for my first sale. As much as the phrase “One book doesn’t make you writer” is true, you still have to start somewhere, and I wish older writers would understand that some of the impatience is not because we don’t want to work hard. But it’s really hard to START. We can’t be authors without readers, and we can’t reach readers without our work being tight, and despite the advances in self-publishing, not everyone can afford that option, and for those of us who can’t write nonfiction, that only limits where we can submit our work.

Just like there’s ageism for experienced seniors, there’s ageism for us “Rookies” too!

But to all my honorable elders, please hear this, YOUTH ISN’T EVERYTHING!

You also need to understand that while some things may be easier than when you went to school and started working, a lot has changed, and if you don’t fit a certain mold, sometimes you get left behind, please don’t lump us in with the people who did give up without trying. I understand the need for accountability among teachers and students, but when people start DYING over stress from test scores, to quote Miss Clevel from the first animated Madeline special-

“Something is NOT right. Something is Quite Wrong. Something is NOT right! And so…I sing this song…”

What we have in youth we lack in experience, and it’s getting harder to get experience if you don’t meet certain criteria. 

In closing, please understand I’m not against education, but my experience is no less valid than those who got the kind of education that others like myself would envy.

I’m grateful I learned to read and do some basic math (Which I’m still sketchy with at times) but didn’t have many warm and empowering moments as many of my author friends did, and many of them are retired teachers or are still teaching, and I hope nothing I’ve said comes off as dishonoring your profession. Teachers the world over are doing or have done a job I could never do. 

As hard and sobering the road of a writer is, I at least have more of the freedom and self-direction many teachers today do not, and those who can spark engagement and joy in learning to kids and teens, in spite of the “Testing Absolute” environment many of us live in are nothing short of heroes.

So while I do my best to put the pain of my school experience behind me, I press on to forge my own path, and hope I won’t have to rely on family or government aide indefinitely, I will do my best to let go of the guilt and pain I had from my education experience, and not let it stop me from doing something with my life. 

While self-education can’t solve all my problems, it will serve me, even if it can’t pay my bills and taxes: It still matters.

Self-education HAS VALUE.

I HAVE VALUE. Whether I have degrees or not.

While I wish I were more self-reliant financially, I’m doing okay, and one day I will do better than okay, that’s in my reach, and some days it takes extra special effort on my part to remember and believe that.

Take Care, and remember, it’s NEVER TOO LATE for you, whatever you want to do to better your own life.

Your Literary Rat,

Taurean J. Watkins


Talking Animal Addicts

Letter From The Editor – Many Thanks


Letter From The Editor

-November, 28TH, 2013-


Many Thanks

My Dearest Readers,

As Thanksgiving  weekend (In the U.S.) lies before us, this is a great time (In between family, feasting, and general frenzy) to stop and reflect on how far you’ve come in your goals,

There are many things I’m thankful for that happened this year. In many ways, 2013 was more lucky than unlucky for me-

I sold my first novel!

The editor for the first phase of revisions truly clicked with me as much as the book.

I began my path toward using video to widen my reach as a writer. 

(Thanks to Katie Davis creating “Video Idiot Boot Camp“)

I began doing reviews for T.A.A. and increased my social media presence and usage.

I launched my “T.A.A. CARES” imitative to spotlight and aid authors and other content creators with PR and funding, and our first two spotlights achieved their funding goals and I can’t wait to own and review their books.

My first year doing PiBoIdMo was successful and came up with 30 picture book ideas (Wish me luck trying to draft them)

I got repay some people who helped me diversify my toolbox of skills as an author.

Were there things I didn’t accomplish? Of course.

I wanted to draft and revise a new novel to submission ready status.

To better foster community on T.A.A.  

I wanted to experiment with self-publishing but ran into issues of quality and lack of finances.

There’s more than this, but I try not to dwell on the negative, and this letter is meant to be hopeful…

Above all, I’m thankful that as 2013 in coming to an end, I made some strides in my slowly moving career, and I wish you all a safe and special Thanksgiving, and for those of you who celebrate Hanukkah (Which coincidences with Thanksgiving weekend in 2013), play a round of Dreidel for me!

Take Care,

Taurean J. Watkins (Taury)

-Editor-in-Chief/Literary Rat

Talking Animal Addicts