top of page

US Book Show
Chat Transcripts


*All times in EST

Tuesday May 25th, 2021
4:30 PM Upcoming Author Chat
Chat with Sword and Silk Books authors about their books coming in 2021 and beyond.

Wednesday May 26th, 2021
1:30:00 PM Acquisitions
Authors, if you have ever considered submitting your book to independent publishers, this one's for you. Chat with our staff about the process, what to expect, and how to research publishers and avoid scams. 

4:30:00 PM Mental Health and Disability Representation in Fiction
The Sword and Silk Books authors discuss the importance of Mental Health and Disability representation in fiction and why they decided to include it in their books. 

Thursday May 27th, 2021
2:30:00 PM YA Parenting PanelThe Sword and Silk Books YA authors chat about parents in YA fiction.

3:30:00 PM Never Say Never and A Feeling Like Home Book Chat
Justine Manzano and Haleigh Wenger chat about their upcoming releases (and bring a few copies to giveaway).

Upcoming Author Chat

Sword and Silk Upcoming Authors talk about their books, their fears, and a Sword and Silk Books World Tour?!

Laynie Bynum Hey everyone! Our first author chat is coming up at 4:30 PM EST. Come hang around and hear from the authors of our upcoming titles!

Justine Manzano  Hi everyone! Welcome to our booth! My name is Justine Manzano, and I'm the author of Never Say Never. Never Say Never is a YA Contemporary novel about a girl named Brynn whose parents difficult relationship has shaken her faith in love. Little does she know, her friend is actually Aphrodite in mortal form, and she sees Brynn's   avoidance of relationships as a challenge. 

Ann M. Miller  Hi everyone! I'm Ann M. Miller, a proud Sword & Silk author! My YA Contemporary Sports Romance will be released by Sword & Silk Books August 2022. Here's a teaser: After a daredevil move at centerfield stops her heart, all Ali wants to do is play ball again, even if it means defying her dad. But when she falls for the nerd-hot guy her dad enlisted to keep her out of the game, she risks her heart in more ways than one.
Amelia Loken Hi, everyone! This is Amelia Loken, author of UNRAVEL, a YA Fantasy coming Spring 2022. When her uncle usurps her kingdom, deaf princess, Marguerite, challenges him with only the truth, her homemade invisibility cloak and the help of Tys, the one boy she never should have trusted.
Nicole Bezanson Hello! I write under the name Nicole Bea and my story is a new adult fantasy romance called Beneath the Starlit Sea: when sorceress Illyse is captured by the king's guards for her complacency in crimes against the kingdom, she finds herself falling for the mysterious human doctor she's been charged to work with while they try to solve a string of murders.

Nicole Bezanson  Thanks so much to everyone for coming to our booth and for joining us for this chat!

Haleigh Wenger Hi! I'm Haleigh Wenger, YA contemporary author. My second book, A Feeling Like Home, comes out August 3rd with Sword & Silk. My MC Paige moves across the country to live with her sister after pushing her parents too far. She deals with a developing chronic illness and grief while struggling to come into her own in a large family.
Amanda Pavlov  Hey ya'll! I'm Amanda Pavlov, I write speculative fiction of all stripes. My debut is a YA fantasy: a New Orleans gymnast on the brink of eviction takes a big leap and enters a cursed competition. MIND LIKE A DIAMOND will be available  this December.

Laynie Bynum  Thanks so much for people joining us and a huge thank you to our authors!

Laynie Bynum If your main character was here now, what would they be doing? Hugging a wall, shaking everyone's hand, scouring for ARCS?
Justine Manzano     Mine would DEFINITELY be scouring for ARCs and looking for every author chat she could find. 
Nicole Bezanson     Illyse would definitely be looking for all the books but also checking out all the neat plants in everyone's booth - just in case she could use some of the leaves in her magic!
Haleigh Wenger     Paige would be trying to pretend like she's too cool but discreetly grabbing all the romance ARCS she can find!
Amelia Loken     Marguerite would be doing a lot of watching. If she had her magical combs that work like hearing aids, she would feel comfortable meeting/greeting. If not, she would be sitting somewhere where she could embroider a "thread sketch" of the scene so she could remember all of this
Ann M. Miller     My character Ali would be trying to find all the books about sports...especially baseball! 
Amanda Pavlov     Lisette would probably be looking for something to pawn, hide your good jewelry.
Amelia Loken     Hide your jewelry! Ha!
Justine Manzano     Brynn would be safe with Lisette because she doesn't bother with frilly things like jewelry. ;)

Laynie Bynum        What made you want to write the book you wrote?
Amanda Pavlov     All of your characters have such cool names! How do ya'll come up with names for your characters?
Amelia Loken     I think Marguerite would feel comfortable hanging out with Illyse because M knows plenty of herbwitches, and as a skeinwitch herself is not averse to a little magic
Nicole Bezanson     Amanda, I pick all my names at random. Usually I find one name and then go to baby name websites and search "names like" the one name I have in order to name all my other characters!
Ann M. Miller     Ali's not that into jewelry either...but take away her cleats....look out! LOL
Haleigh Wenger     I've always wanted to insert a character with my own chronic illness--Crohn's disease--into a YA book. I was diagnosed at 15 and it definitely made parts of high school isolating. I wrote the book I wished I'd found back then!
Justine Manzano     Two questions! I'll take Laynie's first. Mine was a mix of reasons. I really wanted to write a book for children of divorce. I grew up in a divorced household and it can do things to your belief systems. Because you know love doesn't always end in happily ever after. That + my love for Greek mythology came together for Never Say Never. 
Ann M. Miller     I look for strong-sounding names that fit the character's personality somehow.
Haleigh Wenger     You do such a good job showing the family dynamic in Never Say Never, Justine!
Justine Manzano     For Amanda -- I don't really think about names that much, which is probably bad. I do collect names I love and then try to figure out the best character for it. 
Justine Manzano     Thanks Haleigh!
Amelia Loken     How did the story come? Well, I imprinted on The Princess Bride when I was young, and have been a fan of Sherwood Smith and Shannon Hale an Susan Dennard. So, I wrote my own but with a deaf protagonist. I was an ASL/English interpreter, and I'm losing my own hearing so that's a lot of my own story.
Haleigh Wenger     I'm a total name nerd. I always have a running list of names for real live people and book characters, ha!
Nicole Bezanson     My book was definitely highly influenced by The Witcher! I really wanted to explore more of Yennefer's character while putting my own spin on things, and have the love interest be a little bit more of a "cinnamon roll" while still maintaining a tough exterior.
Amelia Loken     Regarding names: I've always loved long, old-fashioned names. So Marguerite was on my list. :)
Haleigh Wenger     Nicole--cinnamon roll characters are the best! Sounds perfect!
Justine Manzano     I swear I'm not being biased when I say I want to read every one of your books, and I totally will. LOL
Ann M. Miller     I wanted to write my story because there were so few books about girls playing baseball! But a book where girls' baseball was already established and they didn't have to fight for their place among the boys. I was really inspired by A League of Their Own.
Amanda Pavlov     I'm a name nerd too Haleigh! I love researching surnames too. Originally, Lisette was named Kasmira but then I used that name for my actual daughter
Justine Manzano     Kasmira is a beautiful name <3
Nicole Bezanson     Haleigh - Garit might be a little bit of a stale cinnamon roll on the outside, but he has a gooey interior!
Amelia Loken     Love all the names!!!
Amelia Loken     Also, cinnamon rolls forever!!!
Haleigh Wenger     Amanda, love the you used the name for your daughter! So cool :) 
Ann M. Miller     Justine - I feel the same. I Actually all our books can be found on this handy Goodreads list:
Amanda Pavlov     Yall are too kind! Oh and I was inspired by a real life haunted house that I heard about on the radio when I was a kid. I only made it through the first realm but I always wondered what was in the other 12
Amelia Loken     I want to read all the books here too. I've pre-ordered the ones I can and impatiently waiting for them to drop into my e-reader!

Nicole Bezanson     Amanda, I'm pretty sure I wouldn't have made it through the first one of the haunted house! You're braver than me!
Haleigh Wenger     Agree that everyone's books sound amazing! My favorite part is that they show all the many ways women can be strong <3
Amelia Loken     Haunted houses, I can't do 'em. I'm a total fraidy cat. Scary in books is okay, not real life jump scares.
Laynie Bynum     We started out with just an idea and a hope of what we would be. Now we have a whole goodreads list to ourselves :heart eyes:
Ann M. Miller     Yes, so many strong female characters in our books. I love that.
Justine Manzano     YES! All about the strong female characters in this place. :) 
Ann M. Miller     I'm still scared just thinking about the Haunted House at Disney World haha
Amelia Loken     #StrongGirls #StrongFemales
Haleigh Wenger     I truly used to have nightmares about Scooby Doo movies. I'm a scaredy cat for sure 
Nicole Bezanson     I totally agree with everything you have all said - I love how all the stories show the different ways the characters can be strong.
Laynie Bynum     When our acquisitions editor brought Amanda's book to me, I was worried I wouldn't make it through because I am such a chicken. Turns out the story is so good even a chicken makes it through the different levels.
Justine Manzano     I love spooky stuff! Although, fun time I went to a haunted house to make fun of my friends while they freaked out and ended up being scared into screaming by a guy posing as a statue. LOL
Haleigh Wenger     Good to know Laynie! I'm going to read it either way but I'd like to avoid nightmares lol
Laynie Bynum     If there is anyone hanging around who wants to ask our authors any questions, feel free to jump in!
Justine Manzano     Yes! Please! We love questions. :) 
Amelia Loken     Please do!!!
Nicole Bezanson     For anyone curious or looking for more information or longer blurbs on any of the books, please do feel free to also pop on over to the Sword and Silk website:
Amanda Pavlov     So down for audience questions! Also now I'm wondering what everyone's biggest fear is? 
Justine Manzano     I have an INTENSE fear of drowning. 
Amelia Loken     My sons and I play "would you rather" and I have to say that any kind of slow death or being covered in anything wriggly is soooo not my jam.
Justine Manzano     Wriggly?! GAH!
Haleigh Wenger     The DARK. 
Laynie Bynum     I've always struggled with an answer to that question. I'm like the hulk. That's my secret, I'm scared of everything lol
Ann M. Miller     I have a fear of heights...I get really, really dizzy. I can barely handle a step ladder lol
Amelia Loken     I am a RELUCTANT player of "Would you Rather."
Justine Manzano     Laynie, as everyone else is listing theirs, I'm beginning to think I'm more like you. 
Amelia Loken     What about the opposite of scary. What's a bucket list kind of thing you want to do?
Amanda Pavlov     Okay y'all are gonna think I'm batty but I'm a fraidy cat too! Writing and reading horror helps me work through fears though 
Haleigh Wenger     That makes sense, Amanda!
Ann M. Miller     Amanda - reading and writing helps me work through all kinds of anxieties actually. It's therapeutic! 
Justine Manzano     Oh Amelia, so many answers to that. I want to go inside a real castle. I want to travel to Italy and Ireland. I want to learn archery. SO MUCH. 
Haleigh Wenger     Bucket list, maybe eat my way around the world?! All the pastries and carbs!
Justine Manzano     Haleigh, this is why we get along. 
Amelia Loken     Bucket lists: Travel to Istanbul, or Great Britain, or New Zealand. Also, I want to really learn how to be good at fencing. (I took lessons for a while and had to quit).
Haleigh Wenger     haha Justine carbs are what dreams are made of
Ann M. Miller     Amelia - bucket list? To get to Europe one day. Never been. Traveling is not an option for me right now for obvious reasons but one day!
Laynie Bynum     What are some of your author bucket list items? Stuff you thought you'd only dream of when you first started writing?
Amelia Loken     Eating our way around the world. We should do it as a promo. I'm sure Sword and Silk would totally back us financially, right!?! ;)
Ann M. Miller     Okay Sword and Silk authors' trip! lol
Laynie Bynum     -gets nervous- uh
Justine Manzano     Author Bucket List? I want a television series based on my book. 
Amelia Loken     BOOK BOXES - And I'm' so excited that publishing with Sword and Silk will check this box.
Justine Manzano     That was a big one of mine too, Amelia! 
Ann M. Miller     The book boxes are extremely cool!
Justine Manzano     I happen to think Never Say Never would make a great movie. I'm biased of course. LOL
Amelia Loken     Also, after watching Shadow & Bone, I want the same thing. It was done so well. Jealous drooling
Kristin Jacques     I stan Sword & Silk Movie Productions 
Haleigh Wenger     Amelia, it was done really well! The casting was awesome 
Justine Manzano     I think S&B is one of the best book adaptations I've seen. 
Laynie Bynum     If there was a movie or TV show made, who would play your main characters?
Amelia Loken     Yep! I'm a Jesper-Fan and I want to melt Kaz's heart and I want to learn Inej's tricks...and just jump right into their world!
Ann M. Miller     Lili Reinhart (from Riverdale) would play Ali. Strong and feisty.
Justine Manzano     Brynn would have to be an unknown for sure. There aren't enough plus-sized teen actresses out there that get any play. But I see Val/Aphrodite is Peyton List from Jessie and Bunk'd. She's a little older now, but she could totally still do it. 
Amelia Loken     I used to imagine Jeremy Sumpter (played Peter Pan in 2003 version) would play the romantic interest, Tys in my book
Amelia Loken     I've imagined a younger Mads Mikkelson playing Marguerite's Dad/Uncle (their identical twins). He could be kind-hearted and diabolical 
Ann M. Miller     I haven't come up with who would play the love interest in my book. A guy who's both geeky and cute. I'm open to suggestions :) 
Amelia Loken     As for Marguerite, I'd love to have an actress who is multi-racial since that is an aspect of Marguerite that isn't emphasized but is there in alllll the backstory that didn't make it into the text. You can figure it out from context clues, but it doesn't smack you in the face.
Laynie Bynum     I immediately think Cole sprouse when people say geeky and cute but I think its just because hes been in soooo many book to movie adaptations 
Justine Manzano     Cole Sprouse is a current inspiration for the romantic interest in my other book. ;)
Ann M. Miller     Ooh Cole Sprouse could definitely work. Maybe add some glasses. lol 
Amanda Pavlov     Having your book made into a movie would be AMAZING but I would also die of happiness if I saw a stranger reading my book in the wild
Ann M. Miller     Justine - love that! Can't wait to read :) 
Justine Manzano     Yeah, I'm still in the market for my Adam. Latino intellectual who looks good in glasses. Find me one? LOL 
Justine Manzano     One that isn't my husband. LOL
Amelia Loken     LOL
Ann M. Miller     Amelia - love the diversity in your book. 
Haleigh Wenger     Justine, a younger Tyler Posey would have been perfect 
Justine Manzano     Haleigh, yes! 
Amelia Loken     I would love to see my book in the "wild." 
Laynie Bynum    " Some housekeeping things really quick:

If you missed this chat and want to read back through it, I will be posting a transcript on our webpage, so check back for that link!"
Laynie Bynum    " All of the books talked about can be found on our webpage and either added to goodreads or preordered. 

We will have several other chats, so check our ""Download"" area for a schedule. "
Laynie Bynum     Annnnndddd if you want a shot at grabbing Never Say Never or A Feeling Like Home yourself, make sure to join us for their book chat - where we will be giving away some ARCs
Amelia Loken     I'd also love to go on a podcast! Or on a panel. I work in Disability Access and Accommodation in my day job and now putting in it my fiction feels like "well of course!" But I want to talk about it more! Cool assistive tech, equipment life hacks are so fascinating to me!
Amelia Loken     Yay!!! This was so fun! Thanks ladies! I'm a big fan of my publishing-sisters! <3
Ann M. Miller     Yes, it was so much fun chatting with you all! This is a great group of authors! So proud to be a part of it.
Justine Manzano     Yes, it's been so great chatting with you all. I'm so proud to be working with you all! I said it privately, but I'll say it here too--this was the easiest panel ever because you all are so much fun. 
Nicole Bezanson     I love when we all get to talk books together!
Laynie Bynum     I speak for the company when I say we are so honored to have you be representing us with your books. We have such an awesome group of authors and I am so proud of each and every one of you <3
Amanda Pavlov    Such a great time chatting with y’all 🗡 Strong women who write strong women are my heroes 

Upcoming Author Chat

Acquisitions Chat

Our Editorial Department talks submissions and encouragement. 

And answers all the questions your insecurities wanted to know but didn't want to ask.

Laynie Bynum     Hey Everyone! If you are joining us for the Acquisitions Chat, please join me and welcoming MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy and Nicole Bezanson - the women behind the acquisitions.
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     Hello hello and welcome to our Acquisitions chat! I'm MaryBeth, the Editorial Director for Sword & Silk Books, and generally responsible for all things word-related.
Nicole Bezanson     Hello everyone! I'm Nicole, the Acquisitions Editor for Sword & Silk Books. I'm so excited to be here and to chat with you all about all things acquisitions!
Laynie Bynum     If you are hearing about us for the first time, we publish fiction from YA to Adult that features strong female (or female identifying) characters.
Laynie Bynum     We do accept (and publish!) New Adult. In fact, one of our new releases The Almost Queen is a New Adult Fantasy Romance.
Laynie Bynum     We love fantasy, romance, contemporary, mysteries, thrillers, and the genres in between. (And Nicole has a thing for mermaids. MB has a thing for enemies to lovers and the ONLY ONE BED trope)
Laynie Bynum     We're not a good fit for poetry, middle grade or picture books, or any books that glorify abuse or mistreatment of others. Also, a strong female (or female identifying) characters are a must cause that's kind of our thing. 
Laynie Bynum     MB, Nicole - anything you guys are particularly looking for right now?
Nicole Bezanson    " Oh, I have a list of things I'd love to see:

- A protagonist with a ghost sidekick or love interest

- Dark academia with a mystery element

- A story featuring mermaids or sirens

- Contemporary thrillers that take place in small towns

- Books that are set outside of the USA. I'd love to see something set in a snowy climate!"
Laynie Bynum     So, any advice for people wanting to submit their manuscripts?
Nicole Bezanson     It may sound simple but always read and follow submission guidelines carefully, ensuring you're making your best attempt to address the query to the correct person and that you've listed your title, genre, and word count. A personalized line about why you're submitting can be a great way to connect with an editor and stand out.
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     If you want to submit to us, first, we suggest doing it soon- we're going to be closing to unsolicited/unagented submissions as of June 1 to allow us time to catch up and focus on our upcoming releases. But that doesn't mean we won't be on the lookout for our next favorite story- we are continuing to be active in most of the upcoming Twitter pitch events.
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     And please read the guidelines. Recently we've changed from attachments to text in the body of the email only. Soon we may be changing systems again so just make sure you're up to date with the guidelines whenever you're considering submitting.
Laynie Bynum     So, I know the answer to this question, but for the people reading this who may not - Do they submit to any of our staff? Like, if I thought Jennia was the coolest (I love you all equally, just an example) could I query them? 
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     Though the staff have their preferences and favorite tropes, and they are the coolest, we ask that it just come to the acquisitions team, not to another team member specifically. Either to myself or Nicole is ideal.
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     Another thing I would suggest is to make sure your name- whether real or pen- is attached to your email. It's hard to respond to emails when you're searching for someone's name rather than 'coffeelover123'
Laynie Bynum     You can find our full submission guidelines on the website at
Laynie Bynum     They're pretty simple. Just an email to the right place with the right information. Make sure to follow standard query structure and let us know the metadata, plot, and your bio in your query. 
Laynie Bynum     That being said, do you guys have any helpful tips for people wanting to query small publishers open to unsolicited submissions?
Nicole Bezanson     There are also resources available on our website for how to put together a query letter / submission package if you feel uncertain as to what to include. 
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     As with any small publisher or agent, make sure you conduct your research thoroughly before committing to anything. You have worked too hard to get to this point to not take care when it comes to the next step in the journey.
Laynie Bynum     What are some key things to look for when researching publishers?
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     You definitely want to get a feel for their online presence, social media or otherwise. How anyone presents themselves can reflect on their company and their authors, and if you want to consider being a part of it, you need to make sure it's something you'll be comfortable attaching to your name as an author. 
Laynie Bynum    I usually look really closely at covers because that tends to be a good tell of how much time and effort they put into their books.

Also, it doesn't hurt to read a book or two that they publish and see the quality.
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     Definitely- you want to see what end product a publisher is going to produce to get an idea of what to expect
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     And should you get an offer from a publisher, always feel free to reach out to current authors signed with them. They'll be a great resource to let you know about their experiences from an author standpoint
Laynie Bynum     Oh, here's a question we get in our inbox a lot. What if you previously put your work up on something like a big orange site. Do we still take it even though its already had some readers?
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     As someone who is very active with the big orange W, absolutely we want to see your work, even if it's been on the site. Of course, should we sign a contract we would require it to be removed, but I feel that goes without saying.
Laynie Bynum     What makes Sword and Silk different than self-publishing? What benefits do authors have by publishing with a small press?
Laynie Bynum     Other than their awesome publishing siblings who were chatting here yesterday lol
Laynie Bynum     (Yes, Justine, that was a shout out. We see you.)
Nicole Bezanson     Self publishing is absolutely a great option for some authors, but there are still many who would prefer to leave some of the production to others in the industry who may have access to different resources and who cover the costs of formatting, cover design, etc. By publishing with a small press like Sword & Silk, you have the opportunity to publish while receiving things like marketing support.
Nicole Bezanson     It absolutely can depend on an author's personal goals and their vision for the book as well.
Justine Manzano     *waves*
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     JUSTINE!
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     Sword & Silk Books first acquisition!
Laynie Bynum     My favorite part is that money flows to the author. As an author, I've published several different ways. And OH BY can self publishing or even hybrid get expensive.
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     I personally appreciate the support system that a small press can provide.
Laynie Bynum     Another plus on the other side of the coin is that smaller publishers can pivot to the market. Meaning if shopper trends or book lover tastes change, we can still guide our authors down the right path - without worrying about our stockholder chairmen telling us we can't. It makes it easier to bring voices to the forefront that mainstream publishing might overlook. 
Laynie Bynum     Like New Adult, or - as our authors will chat about coming up here soon - Mental Health and Disability rep. 
Nicole Bezanson     Absolutely - small presses often have a level of flexibility that a larger publisher may not be able to match for a variety of reasons.
Laynie Bynum     I love our support system too MB. We had authors nervous for their chat yesterday - but we all helped calm their fears and walk them through it. I couldn't have asked for a better more supportive group.
Laynie Bynum     So before time gets away from me. Can you give me a glimpse of the process from an insider point of view. When an email query comes in, what happens to it then? And about how long does the process take?
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     So once the query hits my inbox, it gets added to our ever-growing spreadsheet that tracks every submission we've received. Then between Nicole and I we review the submissions and decide their next step. This could be a rejection (we don't like them either) or a request for the full manuscript, which then could become either a pass, R&R or offer.
Laynie Bynum     Does an R&R mean to just give up on submitting? Do you actually want to see it again or are you just being nice? (Every author ever's inner imposter syndrome asking)
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     Honestly, we really do want to see it again. I know being asked to Revise & Resubmit isn't what everyone wants, but it's much better than a rejection, and is like giving your manuscript another chance. So when we request an R&R we really do want to see it again. We just feel the revisions needed are best on the author to work on before we move to the next step.
Laynie Bynum     If I get a rejection, does that go for like alllll my work? Or can I send you other books later on?
Nicole Bezanson     Authors are more than welcome to submit a new story to us after a pass. We just ask that you follow the guidelines listed on the website and ensure that the book fits within what we are looking for (for example, we don't publish poetry collections at this time, so please don't send that our way).
Laynie Bynum     We're almost out of time and have to reset the booth for our next chat, but before we go - any words of encouragement for authors out there hoping to get their books into the world? We know what a lonely, hard place that can be at times.
MaryBeth Dalto-McCarthy     You wrote a novel- that's incredibly impressive. But also the easy part. Putting yourself out there is hard, and rejections can be harder. Just don't let it get you down- the industry is incredibly subjective and what may not work for one could be the best for another. Just keep at it
Nicole Bezanson     Authors hear it all the time when they are submitting to publishers but publishing is very subjective. What doesn't fit with us may be the perfect fit for somewhere else, or the opposite may be true and a story that was passed on at another small press might be just what we're looking for. It's hard to keep going, but you and your story are absolutely worth it!
Laynie Bynum     Your value and talent are not determined by a publishing contract or sales. Continue to write because you love it. Continue to grow. Don't trade your passion for writing for the glory of "has written". It's a marathon, not a sprint. Find your community and connect with them. 
Laynie Bynum    Ok, I'm sending these two back to the grind for now! (But they'll actually be around to answer any questions you might have). Come back at 4:30 and join our authors for a chat on Mental Health and Disability Representation in Fiction. 

All scheduled chat transcripts should be up on our website a few hours after the chat at:


Acquisitons Chat

Mental Health, Disability, and Chronic Illness Representation in Fiction

The Sword and Silk Books authors discuss the importance of Mental Health, Disability, and Chronic Illness representation in fiction and why they decided to include it in their books.

And cry some happy tears.

Laynie Bynum Now that I am crying with pride from that comment --
Welcome to the Mental Health, Disability, and Chronic Illness Representation in Fiction chat. 

Laynie Bynum We have three Sword and Silk authors with us today.

Laynie Bynum Amelia Loken - Author of UNRAVEL - coming SPRING 2022

Laynie Bynum Justine Marzano- Author of NEVER SAY NEVER coming June 15th, 2021 

Amelia Loken Hey everyone!!!

Justine Manzano Hi all! :) 

Laynie Bynum And Haleigh Wenger -Author of A FEELING LIKE HOME coming August 3rd, 2021 

Haleigh Wenger H! :)

VISITOR I'm so glad this is being talked about! I never saw myself represented in books but now I'm beginning to.

Amelia Loken This is so exciting! I'm so glad we get to chat about disability, mental health, and other kids of representation in YA and fiction in general!

Amelia Loken Madison, what is it that you want to see represented?

Laynie Bynum A brief reminder before we get started:
We are talking about pretty broad topics in this panel. Mental Health, Disability, and Chronic Illness are all different umbrella terms and our authors may talk about specific issues or one or more of the topics in general terms.

VISITOR I completely agree, Madison! I love seeing more books where there are more people facing the world with similar trials.

Laynie Bynum Also, since everyone's experience is different, our authors will be sharing their own experiences living and writing fiction with these issues. 

Laynie Bynum To start us off, authors, can you give us a little taste about how these issues show up in your writing world? 

Justine Manzano It doesn't always. There are some times where I honestly just want to write a world where the characters aren't coping with a disability. Writing is my escape, so I'm not always in the mood to only partially escape. Sometimes I just want to play in a world without these troubles. But the lens through which I see the world is tinted by my experiences in life.

Justine Manzano So, it does sometimes come in, and I've been working on opening up more to leaning into what I see through that lens. 

Justine Manzano For the record, I am disabled and chronically ill. I have ADHD, suffer from anxiety, depression, and PTSD, I have scoliosis, migraines, asthma, and fibromyalgia. My son is autistic, has ADHD, anxiety and depression. My world is built around chronic illness.

Amelia Loken My main character in my upcoming novel, UNRAVEL, is deaf. I have worked as a licensed ASL/English interpreter with many D/deaf and H of Hearing clients. I also now work in the field of Assistive Technology.

Haleigh Wenger In my upcoming book, A Feeling Like home, my MC Paige's dad has severe Crohn's disease and Paige spends the summer coming to terms with the increasingly obvious truth that she is also sick. I was diagnosed with Crohn's at 15.

Amelia Loken So, Marguerite is deaf with a small d because she is living as a princess in a land that doesn't have many/any assistance for the deaf or hard of hearing. So she tried to make do with her magical hair combs which I modelled after bone-conductive hearing aids.

Justine Manzano Amelia, I love the idea of magical hair combs as hearing aids. So clever

Haleigh Wenger Amelia, disability in fantasy is so important! Such a good way to explore these kinds of things 

Amelia Loken As the fantasy progresses, Marguerite learns "hand language" and this is beneficial to her and her allies as they face different challenges. By the end of the book, Marguerite accepts her identity as Deaf first.

Amelia Loken Yes, disability in fantasy is a great way to process the real life anguish/frustrations, but in a different setting. I really enjoyed reading the book SUPER SICK by Allison Alexander, the editor at MythosInk and her take on making sure that the disabled (or otherwise) characters get to PARTICIPATE in the adventure, not just on the sidelines, as a sidekick, or in the computer lab/lair.

Laynie Bynum When you were growing up, did you see yourself or the issues you write about represented in books?

VISITOR @Amelia, I'm looking for physical disability rep

Justine Manzano I remember reading Deenie by Judy Blume as a child and that being the only book I’d ever seen about physical disability and/or scoliosis. That (or even the essay I wrote on the topic) hasn’t aged well, because the treatments for scoliosis have changed quite a bit. 

VISITOR Amelia, I noticed you added the additional issue of abuse - your main character's hand being broken by her uncle. How much does this play a part in her development?

Justine Manzano All of my other various identities went unrepresented until I was much older. 

Haleigh Wenger Not so much growing up, but contemporary YA ( and YA in general) has come a long way! A lot of the older books portray disability as ugly or gross or undesirable in some way. Or make it clear that the character can never live a full life/ achieve their dreams

Haleigh Wenger obviously we know this is so far from true!

Justine Manzano We wouldn't be here if it wasn't, Haleigh! 

Haleigh Wenger yes!<3

Laynie Bynum I think putting out books where the main character is strong and brave (even if it takes them the event of the books to get there) and also has a disability/MH issue/or chronic illness is so important for the next generation's perception of those things. 

Amelia Loken I considered myself able-bodies when I was a child, and was treated as such. But, it seemed a lot of the disability rep I saw was the "poor friend": Clara in the book Heidi. Collin in the Secret Garden. Mary in Little House on the Prairie. It seemed to strengthen the idea that if you're different and can't keep up, at least the Main Characters can be a benevolent helper. 

Amelia Loken Not to say that compassion and benevolence is a bad thing, It's just that sometimes that can be turned into a way to focus on the able-bodied character as the "good guy."

Justine Manzano Agreed, largely about Collin and Mary. There was a lot about coping with illness, but not enough about triumphing over illness, and that was very discouraging for me. 

Laynie Bynum Do you guys have any recommendations for books that include these issues? (Other than your own, which if - I may say so myself - are pretty amazing).

Justine Manzano I haven't seen much in the way of fibromyalgia or migraine representation, but I've seen great anxiety rep. In Middle Grade, Meow or Never by Jazz Taylor was like looking in a mirror for my son. The Map from There to Here by Emery Lord is a YA book that does a great job of discussing chronic anxiety, especially for teenagers surrounding colleges and relationships.

Justine Manzano The Percy Jackson series has great ADHD and dyslexia rep. As far as depression goes, My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga and The Perks of Being A Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky.

Amelia Loken Marguerite does experience physical abuse by her uncle and her left hand is limited in motion for  all of the bbook. There's no Miracle Cure, However, there s a journey regarding this aspect as well, and it represents the insidious emotional abuse that Marguerite also experiences and there is healing there.

Justine Manzano When you said other than ours...I realized that my answer got cut off earlier on, but there is chronic illness rep in Never Say Never--Brynn's best friend Nina suffers from asthma. 

Amelia Loken I will also give a shout out to a book my sister and I read  back in the 80's I think, Izzy, Willy-Nilly that told of a girl who had physical disability (and other things) from an accident. I believe it was by Cynthia Voight.

Haleigh Wenger Shannon Hale's Real Friends and Best Friends have awesome OCD and anxiety rep! My kids love them. I also really liked Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon because even though there is no "real" illness (spoiler alert, sorry) the MC plans so much of her life around being sick and what she can do and where she can go. It's kind of dips in to how related chronic illness and mental health are

Amelia Loken Yes to all the stuff you guys just said.

Justine Manzano Best Friends and Real Friends are two of my son's favorite books, and he suffers from anxiety. They truly are great rep. 

Haleigh Wenger She does such a great job of describing how it feels!

Laynie Bynum Is there any tips you can give for writers who want to include representation for one of these topics in their own work?

Amelia Loken Also, I will add this regarding Mental Health. I have experienced Depression in a few different ways (Post-Partum and SAD) and have a teen who has clinical depression, and so finding it represented in books always makes me grateful. However, I have found that since my teen started his own experience, I have trouble finishing any contemporary book that has Depression or Mental Health issues in it. 

Amelia Loken I can read Fantasy with Mental Health issues, but Contemporary ones trigger me so badly...I just can't.

Justine Manzano It's difficult. It can be very painful to pour your illness into your books, but I would say to push through it. The world needs to hear your voice and your story. Nobody can tell it like you, and nobody has experienced the things you have the way you have. Your voice and story can help others. And isn't that what we want as authors? 

Haleigh Wenger Yes, Justine! so true 

Amelia Loken My suggestion is that if you can't deal with it head-on, you might be able to (or subconciously) deal with it sideways. 

Justine Manzano Amelia, can you elaborate on that? 

Haleigh Wenger I struggled with putting illness in my books for a while. I wanted the representation but it felt like "who would want to read about this?" or like it was too real. But it's true. It's important and cathartic and needed to write about our true experiences, even in fiction

Justine Manzano Yes! It took me a long time, and as I said earlier, it hasn't always. Then I started small. A short story about scoliosis. An essay about Post-Partum Depression.
I'm eager to write a book that really encompasses fibromyalgia and how it effects families. 

Amelia Loken I figured out (recently) that some of my depression feels were right on the page of UNRAVEL, but in the scenes where Marguerite is held in a dungeon. She has so little  left for her to affect. yet, she keeps choosing. She keeps trying. A couple of times she gives up, only to find new opportunities and she chooses to go on, to keep fighting andto try to win against her uncle

Haleigh Wenger I hope you do, Justine!

Justine Manzano Haleigh, I will do my best. I will probably have to make it weird somehow, but I'll figure that out. LOL 

Haleigh Wenger Amelia, that's really interesting. I think that's one great thing about fantasy! the ability to put in your own rep and turn it into something else if wanted

Justine Manzano Amelia, yes! In another book I've written, The Order of the Key, there is  a character with super strength, but the downside was that she felt pain more strongly. This was based loosely on my fibromyalgia. I wasn't ready yet to deal with it head on.  

Laynie Bynum That's one of the things I love most about the stories you all write. They don't sugar coat the reality of the issues your characters deal with. Was it hard at times to see your characters going through pain and not try to write them out of it or write a miracle solution to all of their issues?

Amelia Loken I have a few favorite books that have D/deaf rep that Laynie asked about earlier: Show  Me a Sign - historical. The Silence Between Us - as a former educational interpreter, this was an excellent representation of real life mainstreaming of deaf students. El Deafo!!!!  Iloved this graphic novel! Song for a Whale was my heart book and Ive used it to compare to aspects of my stuff, though it's MG

Amelia Loken Yes, it was hard to write the pain.

Justine Manzano Well, that depends on the kind of writer you are Laynie. I'm a terrible meany who loves to put my characters through conflict and pain. Still, there is something different about the kind of issue that there is no solution for, only degrees of better and worse. That makes it more difficult. 

Amelia Loken In so many revisions, I had to take away the "sugar-coating" that helped me put it on paper. I could make it more of what it needed to be, but what I couldn't face when it was pouring out of me,

Justine Manzano But for me, it's a product of making your character a "real person." Sometimes life sucks. Sometimes there is no cure or magical solution. That doesn't mean there isn't strength to be found there. 

Haleigh Wenger Yes and no. It felt mean giving something I wish I could take away from myself to a beloved character. But  it also felt necessary in a way? If I wanted to show the disease in a real way it had to actually be "real" 

Amelia Loken Allison Alexander looked at the manuscript for UNRAVEL at one point and she saw how I wanted to magically heal some of the issues (the broken hand, etc) and reminded me that readers who had real-life issues can't have their situations magically solved, so I needed to figure out something different. I found a better way, and its a goal for me to continue to find the better way .

Haleigh Wenger love that, Amelia!

Justine Manzano Amelia, I'm so glad you found that. 

Amelia Loken We're all learning here, right?

Justine Manzano Exactly! And every draft gets us stronger as writers. 

Justine Manzano I mean, the way I see it, there's something amazing in the fact that we have faced the things we have and are still working to pursue our dreams. There is triumph. It might not mean you get better. But there are other ways to triumph. 

Haleigh Wenger other ways to triumph for sure. 

Amelia Loken One of the things I read about neuro-divergent characters was a frustration from neuro-divergent readers in which there was always some "super power" or "extroardinary ability" that compensated for the "burden" of being autistic, etc. They were saying, we shouldn't have to COMPENSATE for being who we are. We don't need to be killed off, healed, further traumatized, etc in the story as a plot devic

Amelia Loken ...cont... and we don't need to be SUPER to justify existing.

Justine Manzano Yes, absolutely! 

Amelia Loken Yes, other ways to Triumph! Amen!

Laynie Bynum One of the things that drew me to your books is the journey your characters go through in becoming who they want to be. Do you think this journey is representative of your own in a way?

Amelia Loken Absolutely! I love YA. That's my JAM! But, how sad if we stopped maturing/growing when we reached 20yrs old. I've learned so much and expanded my ailities and world view in the past ten years (30-40s). I want that to be reflected in my work. But YA fits that because that is a period of tremendous growth and change

Amelia Loken I think friendships, found family, mentors, challenges that must be overcome that are a huge part of Kid Lit, adventure stories, etc are really there to help us translate our own experiences, right?

Haleigh Wenger Paige's journey is similar to mine in that we both kind of hoped we could ignore our symptoms and the illness would magically go away. I tried for years to power through until my body stopped me and I had to accept my illness and learn to take care of my body the way it is (not how I wished it was)

Justine Manzano Yes agreed. The YA genre is a great place to discuss that time when you're finding yourself and it hits that nice crossroads between that and being highly dramatic because it's a dramatic shift to become an adult. So it's great from a storytelling standpoint.
But I am much more comfy in my own skin and confident here in my late 30's. 

Laynie Bynum Since were on the topic and you all are YA writers - if there was one takeaway a young reader gets from your novel, what do you hope it would be?

Amelia Loken And we all feel like we are NOT ENOUGH in some way. Having representation (and there is an ever expanding field of rep out there) of various areas where we feel we're not enough can help us all. Whether we're D/deaf, neurodivergent, dealin with depression or anxiety, or our body seems to be it's own worst enemy... we can understand this. through story

Justine Manzano Laynie, I want teens to remember how important it is to love themselves for who they are, flaws and all. That you can learn and grow and become better, stronger people, but they should love themselves through every step. We learn, we grow, we change and it's all part of the human experience. 

Haleigh Wenger I hope YA readers see that there is so much strength in accepting yourself (your body, your flaws, your quirks) and that you can come to the other side of a struggle the person you want to be

Justine Manzano Amelia, yes! Seeing yourself in a story is intensely powerful. 

Amelia Loken For my story: you are a Queen (or a King or Ruler). You have all the strength and potential inside you. Rise up. Learn your skills and strengthen your talents, and go out there and let them all see how glorious you truly are. (And have hope in the dark times, because we all need hope)

Justine Manzano Haleigh -- twinsies. :)

Justine Manzano Amelia, I love that so much

Amelia Loken Oh, my gosh! I want to cry a little right now!

Amelia Loken Happy tears! 

Justine Manzano SAME! 

Laynie Bynum This hour has flown by, but if yesterday is any indication - they may turn the lights off on us soon.
Is there any last thoughts you'd like to put out there for our viewers now (and the ones who will read the transcript later)?

Amelia Loken I had so many good books I was thinking about sharing/recommending, but I will just recommend for any who are looking for (quality) disability rep to check out the Schneider Family awards (ALA) because they have the lists published on their website and there are so many good ones. They cover a wide range of representation and there's so much gold there. 

Justine Manzano Just want to repeat my earlier words. Write your story. if you're not being represented, be someone else's representation. :) 

Amelia Loken Also - the old adage - if you don't see what you want to read on the shelf...go write it yourself. That happened to me. 

Amelia Loken Yes, Justine! What I was trying to say!

Laynie Bynum Some ending thoughts from Sword and Silk:

Both Never Say Never and A Feeling Like Home are available for preorder now.
Amelia's book, Unravel, will go up for preorder in August - but you can add it to your Goodreads now!
You can find these, and more, on our website at

Laynie Bynum And be sure to join us tomorrow for a panel on Parenting in YA and as Justine and Haleigh go more in-depth about their upcoming books (and give some away!)

Mental Health

YA Parenting Chat

The Sword and Silk Books authors discuss the nuances of parenting in Young Adult novels. 

And share some tips for parenting real-life young adults.

Nicole Bezanson Hello and welcome to our YA Parenting Chat! Today we have with us some of our wonderful Sword and Silk authors to discuss the do's and don'ts of raising your main character.

Haleigh Wenger Hi everyone! Haleigh Wenger, author of A Feeling Like Home to bring you your first YA parenting tip:

Haleigh Wenger DON'T hook up with someone in your house where your teenage daughter could walk in on you. This one is pretty specific to Justine's book Never Say Never, but it's still widely applicable! Do be honest and open with your teen about sex and relationships, but refrain from too much information about your own sex and relationships so that your YA protagonist isn't permanently scarred.

Amelia Loken Ha Ha! Yes!

Justine Manzano HA! Haleigh! YES.
Hello there, Justine Manzano here, author of Never Say Never, and here is my first YA parenting tip: 

Amanda Pavlov This is great advice Haleigh. I am still trying to forget everything I ever learned about my parents sex life 

Justine Manzano Don't get too involved in your child's harrowing adventure. It is their story after all. -- Parents in YA are important, but the problem with getting too involved in the main story is, if there are adults who can do the thing, then the adults would do the thing. Very rarely would we hang back and let a kid solve their own problems when they're big enough to warrant an entire book.

Haleigh Wenger Amanda, same! My mom did a great job about being open but some stuff you just don't want to know lol

Ann M. Miller I would be scarred for life if that ever happened to me! LOL

Haleigh Wenger So true, Justine! it's a YA book for a reason!

Justine Manzano I was scarred, but just by the fact that my Mom was WAY too open. 

Justine Manzano Like, she was trying...but I know more than I ever wanted to. 

Amelia Loken Yeah, my teen boys say TMI or leave the room

Ann M. Miller Mine was the total opposite Justine! I was never told anything lol

Amelia Loken Oh Dear!

Amelia Loken Hi - Amelia Loken - Author of UNRAVEL, YA Fantasy coming Spring 2022. My first parenting tip: 

Amelia Loken Do try to protect your child from abusive or toxic family members, but if you don't have the guts/ability to keep your child safe, hiding your child away in an abbey or foreign country is a somewhat acceptable work-around. Bonus: you can be emotionally distant so your love can be revealed at a pivotal moment when your child needs inspiration to face that terrible relative (or similar danger).

Haleigh Wenger Love it, Amelia! Is this something we can expect in UNRAVEL?

Amelia Loken Okay.. maybe this is fantasy-specific. But I've seen this trope (and use a version of it) in my own novel

Amelia Loken Yep - in UNRAVEL ;)

Justine Manzano Or, when your child is acting up, send them to live with a relative. *cough* Haleigh *cough*

Ann M. Miller I'm intrigued by the abbey/foreign country move...can't wait to read UNRAVEL!

Amelia Loken Haleigh!!! Yep - contemporary version of this trope!

Ann M. Miller Hi everyone! Ann M. Miler here, author of A Heartbeat Away from You with my first tip:

Haleigh Wenger Ooh I didn't even realize haha but yes!

Amelia Loken Squee! Cant wait for y'all to read it too!!!

Ann M. Miller Don't be the helicopter parent who wont let your teen do anything. Your teen will just do the opposite of what they're being told. Of course, by the end of the book you'll reveal the personal issues that are making you hold on so tight. In the case of the dad in my book, he's afraid his daughter's heart is going to stop again, so he's extremely protective.

Amelia Loken Yeah, the threat of death will make a parent helicopter a bit.

Haleigh Wenger Aww I love good dads

Amanda Pavlov That sounds so sweet Ann. It's nice to see some YA parents caring TOO much as most are absent 

Ann M. Miller His heart is in the right place, but he's a bit over the top!

Amelia Loken We stan protective parents, but in books, that protectiveness has to move the plot forward.. or urge the teen to rebel!

Ann M. Miller Maybe he overcompensates since the mom IS absent LOL

Justine Manzano Awww, I can understand that. Good character motivation there. <3

Amanda Pavlov Hey y'all! I'm Amanda Pavlov , author of MIND LIKE A DIAMOND and my first tip is:

Amanda Pavlov Don't worry about feeding your teen; they should know how to use a microwave.
Do share your cake; it's half the calories.

Amelia Loken Food related tips! I am here for this!

Justine Manzano I share my cake with my son all the time. LOL

Ann M. Miller I always beg my son to share his cake with me :)

Haleigh Wenger LOL so important! I'm trying to put this to use with my preteen. Feeding yourself is an important skill!

Amelia Loken And as a mom of 5 teen boys.. this is true. Ramen, PB&J, grilled cheese, cold cereal and hard boiled eggs are the sustenance they live on

Justine Manzano Food in books. I expect to be very hungry reading your book, Amanda.

Amanda Pavlov There is lots of food in my book Amelia! It's set in my hometown of New Orleans, my favorite place to eat 

Ann M. Miller New Orleans - seems like such a cool setting for a book.

Amelia Loken I bet your food is the best rep among ours. New Orleans!!!!! Yum!

Haleigh Wenger Haleigh Wenger again with another YA parenting tip!:

Haleigh Wenger Do set boundaries with your YA protagonist at the beginning of the novel. Don't be surprised when they start pushing them halfway through. After all, that's what parent-teenager relationships are all about. It may sting. It may infuriate you. But honestly, having an independent and headstrong teen is what you want. They will grow on their own and it will be best for everyone because you'll be so p

Haleigh Wenger *proud :)

Amelia Loken Boundaries!!! Made to be crossed

Justine Manzano Is that supposed to start when their teens? Mine has been headstrong since BIRTH

Amelia Loken Some souls are just made that way, LOL

Haleigh Wenger Haha right?! I hear it just gets worse though. Amelia, can you confirm?!

Justine Manzano WORSE?!

Amanda Pavlov Yes I have toddlers who defy me daily and I have to remind myself that they'll be amazing leaders someday 

Haleigh Wenger Amanda, that's what we're hoping for!

Amelia Loken Yeah...except we did ours through negotiation... mostly

Justine Manzano I've been telling myself about my son's leadership skills for nearly 12 years. LOL

Haleigh Wenger My negotiation skills are not great. Bribery though... 

Justine Manzano All of his teachers tell me he's destined to be a lawyer. LOL

Ann M. Miller Mine just became a teen and the headstrong factor is there in full force LOL I swear he's going to become a lawyer with the debating he does!

Ann M. Miller Justine! Great minds!

Justine Manzano ANN...maybe they'll end up in law school together. 

Amelia Loken Most of my sons are pretty chill. And when they want something Im not comfortable with they are good at wearing me down or coming to a compromise (That I let them believe they win)

Ann M. Miller Justine Also I believe your son is a Logan as well?

Justine Manzano That's right, Ann. Your son is Logan too? 

Justine Manzano It's the name, man. n

Amanda Pavlov My husband is an attorney and even he can't out debate his kids some days 🤣

Ann M. Miller He is, yes :)

Amelia Loken OMGosh! Logan twinning!?!

Justine Manzano Indeed! 

Justine Manzano Okay, okay, okay. Let me do the next one. 

Justine Manzano Do keep your child's superpowers and magical inclinations as much of a secret as possible. Your child will absolutely appreciate it.-- Every YA parent seems to do it, right? They hold onto some deep, dark secret in a character's past, and only admit to it when the character has already figured it out for themselves. If my kid had some kind of superpower that could get them killed, I'd let them...

Justine Manzano know about their powers, but I'd make sure they were Super silent about it. No pun intended. 

Amelia Loken Oh wow! I've read a few books and seen a few movies with this portrayed. So good!

Ann M. Miller This happens in my YA fantasy...teen is totally in the dark about her magic.

Amanda Pavlov The exact same thing happens in MIND LIKE A DIAMOND, Justine

Haleigh Wenger Yes! This is such a frustrating trope. Frozen, anyone? If Elsa's parents just told Anna and helped Elsa train the whole thing could have been avoided


Ann M. Miller And then the kid always finds out in the WORST way

Justine Manzano But it happens in real life too. Not the magic thing, but the lack of parental communication

Amelia Loken Ha! We have this trope well represented at Sword and Silk! I can't wait to get my hands on your books, ladies!

Amanda Pavlov To be fair, I think this is a fair representation of real life too where parents often keep family secrets that their kids should know 

Haleigh Wenger oooh so true Amanda

Justine Manzano YES.

Amelia Loken Yeah, it wouldn't be a trope if it wasn't true in real life. :)

Ann M. Miller Secrets make for good drama

Amanda Pavlov Have any of your parents kept big secrets? Mine definitely have! (Though I'll be nice and not say what they are)

Ann M. Miller Not really big secrets but they were secretive about things like the birds and the bees LOL

Justine Manzano Oh yes. 

Amelia Loken My dad couldn't keep secrets. My mom's family had a few secrets that were doozies (came out after my granparents were gone)

Amelia Loken Okay, I got another tip, and this one is somewhat in UNRAVEL. But it's full blown in the WIP I'm currently working on:

Amelia Loken Don't be a narcissist. It's a really terrible burden for your child and they will spend years trying to untangle themselves from the trauma you inflicted upon them. On the other hand, if you can't help being a narcissist, rest easy that your kid will NEVER forget about you. (Just not in the shiny trophy Best-Parent kind of way.)

Amelia Loken Full disclosure: My dad was a narcissist and it affects so many of the parents I write. Ugh! Sorry readers. I'm processing through my fiction. Cheaper than therapy! And it makes interesting stories

Justine Manzano I know this feeling. 

Ann M. Miller Ooh that's a good one. That kid will be impacted for sure. 

Ann M. Miller Writing IS good therapy. It's where we work out our issues for sure.

Amanda Pavlov Free therapy drives almost all of my artistic choices Amelia. I highly recommend standup comedy for this reason

Amelia Loken Have any of you guys needed therapy because of parental missteps? Official therapy or otherwise?

Amelia Loken Stand up comedy! So impressed. 

Justine Manzano Oh, my therapist has told me I should write a memoir. I am VERY good at laughing through my pain. 

Ann M. Miller Another parenting tip from me!

Justine Manzano Amanda, I'm gonna need to see your stand up comedy act. 

Amanda Pavlov I feel so fortunate that one of my college professors identified my need for therapy and helped me start counseling. I think everyone would benefit from therapy. 

Ann M. Miller Don't ask your daughter's arch nemesis to keep an eye on her. In other words, don't meddle in your teen's life! This is specific to my book A Heartbeat Away from You. The dad meddles in his daughter's life by getting her enemy to spy on her. A misguided effort to keep her safe. Not his finest moment! But hey, better for the parent to look like the bad guy than the heroine!

Amelia Loken And there's a bit of enemy-to sweetheart in your book, right? So the nemesis doesn't stay the nemesis, right?

Ann M. Miller You'll have to read it to find out :) 

Amelia Loken I love the enemies-to-lovers or enemies-to-sweetheart tropes. Sigh! <3

Haleigh Wenger !!!

Amelia Loken You bet I'm gonna read it!

Ann M. Miller Enemies to loves is my favorite trope hands down. I think I might write too much of it LOL

Amelia Loken There can never be too much!

Ann M. Miller That is true. what am I saying? haha

Amanda Pavlov I have another parenting tip:

Amanda Pavlov Be a better parent than your parents were, but make sure your kid knows it 

Justine Manzano Tell them every chance you get!

Amelia Loken Rub it in their faces, guys!

Haleigh Wenger Haha it's an important part of the process!

Amanda Pavlov I mean, why do anything without demanding credit for it?

Haleigh Wenger Okay, this is my last YA parenting tip of the day: 

Haleigh Wenger Do feel free to be a one-of-a kind parent. All parents are embarrassing, even in fiction, so don't worry about hiding away your uniqueness. We need all sorts of parents and parental figures in YA novels, so all are welcome! Older siblings, wise mentors, found family, and parents of all kinds are just perfect––as long as you keep to your role as side character. 

Justine Manzano Found family is my favorite trope

Amanda Pavlov Found family is my favorite trope too! ❤️

Ann M. Miller Yes, celebrate your uniqueness!

Haleigh Wenger It's such a good one!

Amelia Loken There are some flamboyant parents in fiction and real life that I LOVE! And I ADORE found -family tropes 

Justine Manzano Okay here's another one from me. :)
Don't let your kids get kidnapped or taken by a government organization outside of your control. But if they do, definitely make sure to search just badly enough that you don't find them before they have the chance to save the day.

Amelia Loken Hee Hee Hee!

Amelia Loken "search just badly enough" 

Amanda Pavlov That sounds like a super fun plot Justine 

Ann M. Miller YA parents are really bad at saving their kids.

Haleigh Wenger LOL! Yes, let them save the day!

Justine Manzano I think I actually have to write that story. LOL

Amelia Loken Yeah -the YA kids gotta save themselves!

Amelia Loken Okay, kind of along those lines, I 've got another tip:

Amelia Loken Don't buy into the falsehood that your existential/financial/emotional crisis trumps your child's wellbeing. Don't be a trickster's gullible victim. Don't raid their college fund. Don't skip town for months (or disappear altogether), unless you're willing to face the consequences. Inciting your child's quest to redeem your name, get that cash back, or track the clues you left behind when you left.

Ann M. Miller Ooh are these also things we can find in UNRAVEL?

Amelia Loken This isn't really in UNRAVEL, but something I've seen a lot. One of my favorites with this was FIVE FLAVORS OF DUMB with an inciting event that the Deaf MC discovers her parents took her college fund to do Cochlear Implant Surgery in yer baby sister. So Deaf girl becomes a manager of a garage band to make quick cash for Gallaudet University

Amelia Loken Oh, after they used the cash, they intended to repay it... but dad got laid off instead. And all sorts of Deaf culture stuff is in play here. Lots of Deaf people are against CI surgery, so it's super distasteful the parents chose this.

Ann M. Miller Another parenting tip from me! Do give your teen some privacy. No one likes the creepy parent watching from the window at the end of a date. I think this one is pretty self-explanatory. Give the kid some space! But as has been said, do educate them about sex. 

Haleigh Wenger Yes! No matter how closely you watch, your teen will find ways to do what they want anyway. Trust them and educate them 

Amelia Loken Ugh! The first date that came to pick me up when my dad was home... what a nightmare. Dad invited him in and totally INTERROGATED HIM. I wanted to DIEEEEE!

Haleigh Wenger Amelia, oh nooo

Amelia Loken Yeah! So embarrassing

Ann M. Miller So embarrassing Amelia! My dad sulked on my first date. He was really upset his baby girl was growing up!

Amanda Pavlov See that was why I never admitted to my parents I was going on dates I saw how they treated my sisters' dates

Amelia Loken Questions about parents, college plans, career plans, everything!!!

Amelia Loken I'm the oldest :(

Justine Manzano Me and my husband have a running joke of what we'll do when my son brings a girlfriend over to meet his parents. It's totally made up and thank god he knows we're being silly, but we like to remind him of it whenever he starts talking about crushes. 

Ann M. Miller Yes after the first date I didn't tell them anymore. LOL 

Haleigh Wenger Oldest daughters especially get it the worst. My dad totally treated me and my brother differently and it was lame

Amanda Pavlov I'm older than she is, I wasn't interested in dating as soon though. Kind of a 10 Things I Hate About You kinda situation 

Amelia Loken Ahhhh! interesting, Amanda. And the differences between boys and girls, Haleigh - so unfair

Justine Manzano I was the baby. So by the time I started dating they'd mellowed out. 

Amelia Loken But, like Ann said, sometimes the baby in the family have it bad too

Ann M. Miller I was the baby girl with four older brothers and my parents were SUPER overprotective

Justine Manzano True. Actually, now that I think about it, it was my big brother that was the pain in my butt. 

Amanda Pavlov I have another tip!

Amanda Pavlov Don't educate your teen about the imminent danger they're in, just naively expect they'll stay home when you tell them to.

Amelia Loken HAAAA!

Justine Manzano Right, just set a curfew. Don't tell them the vampires are hunting her.

Amelia Loken Is this in your book, Amanda?

Haleigh Wenger Haha this happens so often. You'd think these book parents would learn!

Amelia Loken Book Parents. SMH

Ann M. Miller Parents are either overprotective or do nothing. No in between!

Amelia Loken Ann - I know, right?!?

Amanda Pavlov Yes, Amelia! Ruelle, Lisette's mom, is woefully ineffective at keeping her kid home. it doesn't help that Lisette is a gymnast with amazing escapist skills. 

Ann M. Miller Escapist skills - love that!

Haleigh Wenger Lisette sounds awesome!

Justine Manzano Yes! Lisette sounds so cool

Amelia Loken " a gymnast with amazing escapist skills" I'm dying!

Amanda Pavlov Thanks y'all! I am so glad I don't have to parent Lisette

Justine Manzano Oooh oooh! I have one!!!

Justine Manzano Do go away for a while once your child is old enough to be home by themselves. Nothing scary will happen when you're gone. They'll definitely be safe. You can't help them from all the way across the country. So you can still be a good parent while letting your kids have some room to breathe, and be in an over-the-top novel worthy adventure. And let's face it...that's what everyone wants, isn't it?

Amelia Loken Ha Ha Ha! :)

Haleigh Wenger It's not fun if there's no room for an over the top adventure!

Justine Manzano Nobody wants a boring life. 

Ann M. Miller A good parent always lets their kid have an adventure!

Amelia Loken I think reading/watching this happen in so many stories creates anxiety in a lot of parents. It's like Murphy's law. Nothing happens until you leave

Amelia Loken For about 5 years, whenever my husband and I went out on a date, there was blood or part of the house got broken

Haleigh Wenger Nooo that's so stressful 

Justine Manzano Dude, I was going to make a joke until you said that. YIKES.

Ann M. Miller Amelia - you probably never wanted to leave the house again!

Amelia Loken Finally, when we got home, I would stay in the car, and my husband would go check things out. Yell at whoever needed it, so I could come inside and not freak out

Justine Manzano I remember my parents going out on a date once and came back to find me and my siblings in a full out brawl. 

Amelia Loken My boys are pretty chill now, but when my kids were 5-14 and up to 9-18 it was inevitable.

Amelia Loken Of course, that's when we had the boys watch themselves ,rather than hire a babysitter... so...

Haleigh Wenger haha babysitters probably would have been caught in the crossfire!

Ann M. Miller Another parenting tip from me! Do tell your teenager you love them and are proud of them...before it's too late. Parents, always let your kids know how you feel about them. Too often those words are left unsaid, in books and in real life. Those words mean more than you know. This one is no joke!

Justine Manzano YES! 

Haleigh Wenger aw so important to remember irl too

Amanda Pavlov I'm glad you mentioned that Ann. SO important 

Amelia Loken Absolutely, Ann! I had a tip prepared that was along the same lines, but more tongue-in-cheek:

Amelia Loken If you're going to die, or you have to abandon your kid at an orphanage or with strangers, DO leave a letter or something. That kid needs to know they're loved, or that you're trying to put their best interests at heart. 

Amanda Pavlov Hahaha Is leaving a cryptic note okay? That's all my MC's mom can manage 

Amelia Loken So often, we think they MUST KNOW already how much we love them

Amelia Loken Cryptic Note! Ha! Yep.. 

Haleigh Wenger It counts lol!

Justine Manzano I'm pretty sure my son is embarrassed by how often I tell him. 

Ann M. Miller I knew my parents loved me of course but they weren't great at showing affection.

Justine Manzano Mine weren't either so I overcompensate. LOL

Ann M. Miller Justine, me too!

Amelia Loken Yeah, my boys have all cycled through times when it's not cool to have mom say "I love you."

Amanda Pavlov I am the same way! Hopefully my kids are even better parents than me 

Haleigh Wenger My 5 yo is convinced he can only love one person at a time and right now it's new baby sister. I say I love you and only get a "okay" back wahhh

Amelia Loken My dad didn't hug me after I hit puberty. I make sure my boys get hugs from me and my husband

Amelia Loken One person at a time... Ohhh!

Haleigh Wenger Aw Amelia, all the hugs

Nicole Bezanson Speaking of showing appreciation, thank you to everyone for joining us here today for our YA Parenting Chat. We hope you've had fun learning the do's and don'ts of parenting your YA protagonist.

Amelia Loken Thanks, Haleigh

Justine Manzano Amelia, you deserve all the hugs

Amanda Pavlov Hugs to all of y'all! It was so much fun chatting 

Amelia Loken Thanks, Justine! I want to HUG ALL OF YOU!

Ann M. Miller Hugs to everyone! Had a blast chatting with you!

Justine Manzano Yes! I always love hanging out with all of you! 

GUEST Thanks for having this, I enjoyed reading along

Nicole Bezanson For those of you who may have missed part of the chat or would like to review, a transcript will be posted on the Sword and Silk website at

YA Parenting Chat

Never Say Never and A Feeling Like Home Book Chat

Justine Manzano and Haleigh Wenger talk about their upcoming Sword and Silk Releases

Nicole Bezanson Hello everyone! Thank you for joining us for our Never Say Never and A Feeling Like Home book chat! We will be getting started in just a moment.

Nicole Bezanson We just came off a really entertaining chat about Parents in YA books if you're interested in scrolling down through the chat box and reading the transcript. Otherwise, it will be posted and available on our website shortly.

Nicole Bezanson I'd like to officially give a warm welcome to two of our Sword and Silk authors, Haleigh Wenger and Justine Manzano! During this chat, they will be available to talk about their upcoming releases, answer questions, and there will also be ARC giveaways for attending! 

Haleigh Wenger Hey everyone! I'm Haleigh Wenger, YA contemporary author of A Feeling Like Home. So excited to chat this afternoon!

Justine Manzano Hi everybody! My name is Justine Manzano, I'm a freelance editor and a geeky author of geeky YA fiction. You can learn all about me at :) I'm so excited to join you all!

Haleigh Wenger A Feeling Like Home is about Paige, a teen from Seattle, whose dad is seriously sick. She acts out in the form of graffiti and break ins and kind of loses herself. Her parents send her to Texas to live with her older sister and hopefully shape up and in the process she finds herself getting sick as well. It's a big summer of change and discovery for Paige!

Justine Manzano I'm the author of Never Say Never, a book about a girl whose parents' relationship destroys her faith in love. But little does she know, her friend is secretly Aphrodite...and she sees Brynn's disbelief in love as a challenge. Love can suck - and it's about to blow up in their faces. 

Haleigh Wenger Justine, coming off of the parenting chat, I love that we both have parental problems in our books!

Justine Manzano We'd love to tell you everything you want to know about our books (except the ending ;) ) so feel free to throw some questions our way!

Justine Manzano Haleigh, isn't it funny? Brynn's parents are a mess. 

Haleigh Wenger I'm glad they kind of redeem themselves though!

Nicole Bezanson Justine, Haleigh - how did you come up with the premise of your books? Any particular inspiration?

Haleigh Wenger A Feeling Like Home is a combination of two book ideas I had. The first was a rebellious teen who was sent away (what would push loving parents to send away their child?) and then the idea of a teen with Crohn's Disease, something I'd wanted to write about since my own diagnosis

Justine Manzano Mine was a combination of things. I wanted to tell a story that children of divorced parents could understand. I was that teen and I needed that then. That desire collided with my love for Greek mythology, and this is what came out. 

Nicole Bezanson I love that! What about your main characters? Do they come from any place in particular like the story ideas?

Haleigh Wenger Here's the rundown on Paige: My MC Paige comes from a big family and she is the youngest. Her dad is sick with Crohn's disease and in and out of the hospital and her mom seems to busy for Paige. I go the inspiration for her in wanting to write a character who starts out as unlikeable and blossoms

Justine Manzano Brynn is so much fun. She's snarky and sarcastic and she is so incredibly frustrated with life. Not only is she fed up with her parents, but she also recently changed her look to something really edgy, and everyone in her small town is acting like it means her entire personality has changed. 

Justine Manzano Fun fact: As I was writing this character, I realized she was a combo between my sister in law and me. When my sis in law was reading it, she actually predicted Brynn's reaction to something, and that's when I knew I was doing something right. 

Nicole Bezanson I love that parents and family play an important role in both of your books, especially following our previous panel on Parents in YA books. Speaking of that, both of your books are contemporaries. Do you find that genre to be one of your favorites? Was there any particular reason you chose to write a contemporary over say, an epic fantasy?

Haleigh Wenger A combo of two real life people is so cool!

Jennia D'Lima Have other people in your real lives influenced any of your characters?

Justine Manzano Haleigh - if you ever meet my sis-in-law, she's far funnier than me, but still just like me. 

Haleigh Wenger I've always been drawn to contemporary for a few reasons. It has the opportunity to be so real to life and explore so many emotions. It also is a fun way to explore dialogue I'd never ACTUALLY say, lol. And the world building is a bit easier than an epic fantasy!

Nicole Bezanson Hahaha, totally agree about the worldbuilding! What about you, Justine?

Justine Manzano It's funny because fantasy is actually my favorite genre. But contemporary can be very interesting to play with because there's that real world element that I love. So all of my fantasy tends to be contemporary. This one ended up being far more contemporary than fantasy. :)

Haleigh Wenger So awesome that you write both!

Justine Manzano Thanks! I really just love injecting everything with a little bit of weird. 

Nicole Bezanson So, Justine, now that you've brought up writing in different genres and including different elements in writing - there's a plot twist in your books that involves Greek mythology. How did that idea come about?

Justine Manzano Right on topic! I started with the idea of the divorcing parents, but I felt like I wasn't connecting properly with the story. it was missing something. At first I had the concept of a matchmaker. And then I thought about it and said, "let me take this up a notch"

Justine Manzano And that matchmaker became Aphrodite. This was in the outlining stage. 

Justine Manzano But as soon as I introduced that idea into the story, it clicked for me. 

Haleigh Wenger Was she always going to be a teen Aphrodite??

Nicole Bezanson That's so great too, when an element really brings the story together and makes everything fall into place. Love it when that happens!

Justine Manzano Yes, she was always a teen. It made sense to me that it would be something she would try to be secretive about. like she'd just plant ideas at first. Until she felt she NEEDED to tell her. 

Justine Manzano It's like magic. Because after that element fell into place, all of the conflicts and all of the character motivations came together like magic. 

Haleigh Wenger Love it! She's such a sneaky instigator

Justine Manzano She totally has her own agenda. 

Nicole Bezanson In reference to conflict, Haleigh - you have a refreshing take on the love triangle in your book. Can you tell us more about Paige's two boys and the difference between them?

Haleigh Wenger I know there are strong feelings about love triangles on either side, but I personally love them when done well. I think the key to a good love triangle is that both romantic options represent something the MC wants. That's what I tried to do with Joey and Griffin!

Haleigh Wenger Griffin is Paige's ex boyfriend in Seattle and a very comfortable person for her. They started out as good friends and he is that person that is there for her no matter what. He would do anything for her and she knows it. 

Haleigh Wenger Joey is a new boy in her sister's neighborhood in Texas and he is the opposite of both Paige and Griffin. He follows the rules, is stubborn about doing his own thing, and challenges Paige. She's not sure if she likes that!

Justine Manzano I love the way each of their dynamics sound. 

Justine Manzano Lots of potential there. 

Nicole Bezanson I love a good love triangle, especially when it's given a fresh twist!

Haleigh Wenger They're so fun to explore!

Laynie Bynum Without giving away the endings, did you already know how you wanted your books to end when you started them?

Justine Manzano You just have to do it right. It's true for every trope, I think.

Justine Manzano Funny enough, I knew exactly how I wanted to end it, but I wobbled in the middle. I considered changing what I was doing, but changed my mind and stuck to my original goal. 

Haleigh Wenger I did know the ending. My writing process usually starts with a clear beginning and ending, but nada in the middle lol

Justine Manzano Me too! 

Justine Manzano That's why when I got to the middle, I started to consider a direction change. But in the end, I know I did the right thing.

Nicole Bezanson Here's a fun one for you both: if your main character was represented by a color, what color would they be and why?

Justine Manzano I'm going to cheat with my answer. A black circle with an orange center. 

Haleigh Wenger Great question! Paige would be purple! Kind of cute erring on angsty! 

Nicole Bezanson I definitely need to know why, Justine!

Nicole Bezanson And Haleigh, that's funny since one of the primary colors on your book cover is purple!

Haleigh Wenger I know! Goes to show how much of a genius Lucy is!

Justine Manzano So on the inside, she's bright and sunshine, but you've got to break through some of her anger to get there. 

Nicole Bezanson Oh, I love that explanation!

Justine Manzano Brynn just wants to find her own way to be happy. 

Nicole Bezanson And one final question before we close: do you plan on doing anything special to celebrate your release?

Haleigh Wenger I definitely plan on doing something, but I'm not sure what yet! I've always wanted a cake with my book cover on it! Though I might get too attached and not want to eat it :)

Justine Manzano Yes! On June 18th at 7PM EST, I will be doing a Zoom launch party with YA author Zoraida Cordova as the moderator. We'll be chatting about Never Say Never and I'll be giving away some swag. :) You can register here:

Haleigh Wenger Can't wait, Justine!

Nicole Bezanson Oooh, a book cake! That would be an amazing way to celebrate! And we're all so excited for your Zoom launch, Justine!

Jennia D'Lima Looking forward to it, Justine!

Justine Manzano Thanks! The more the merrier if anybody here wants to sign up! :) 

Justine Manzano Haleigh! YAY for a book cake!

Nicole Bezanson Thank you so much to everyone for joining in on our Author Chat today and for learning more about the process and characters behind Never Say Never and A Feeling Like Home! 

Nicole Bezanson And thank you to our authors as well!

Justine Manzano Thank you so much for hanging out with us!

Nicole Bezanson For those of you who may have missed part of the chat or would like to review, a transcript will be posted on the Sword and Silk website at

Nicole Bezanson If anyone hanging around has a question or further comments for any of the panelists, please do feel free to leave a note here.

Nicole Bezanson Thanks Justine and Haleigh! :)

GUEST Thank you for everything you do! Strong female characters are always needed, and I am glad publications such as yourself are making sure they are read!

Laynie Bynum And we just got the notification that Never Say Never was voted one of IndieReaders best books of May!

Laynie Bynum Thanks Julian! It's comments like those that keep us going!

Justine Manzano We all agree 100%. Strong female characters, and those that are strong in all kinds of ways, are so important. 

NSN ad AFLH Book Chat
bottom of page