Make a List of “Firsts” [Mental Health Monday]

At the time I had planned on writing this post there were a lot of things in the world that didn’t exist – COVID-19, to be exact. In fact, I held off on writing this post because I didn’t think it would be relevant for 2020. I think this is something that everyone can hear regardless of what’s going on though.

I have a couple of bullet journals because I like the idea of them. But they’re not really for me. I keep trying to find different ways to use them and fall up short. There’s one thing I use them for though that I’ve been consistent with and that’s making a list of “firsts.”

Mental Health Monday: Make a List of Firsts | Mental Health | Mental Health Matters |

What is a list of “firsts?”

I did a lot in 2018. I traveled six months out of the year. Granted, four of those trips were weekend getaways, three of them being to the same place, and five out of the six was to a place I’ve been before. Still, it was a lot of traveling for me and I did go to someplace and new and try something different.

It was that year that I decided to keep track of a list of firsts. So, it’s sort of like a simplified journal but also a list of accomplishments.

I can’t exactly what made me think of the idea in the first place but I did it for 2018 and have been doing it every year since. (Admittedly, I don’t have much written down for 2020 since… well, we can’t exactly go anywhere.)

Why I think having a list of firsts is important

It’s such a simple task that requires little thinking and takes about five seconds to write down. Whenever you do something new, something different you never saw yourself doing before, or something that you’ve put off on doing because you were afraid to, for example, keeping a list of those things is important.

You’re acknowledging your accomplishments

I went to Canada in 2018. It was my first trip out of the country, it was my first trip without my parents, and my first trip on an airplane. (Sure, I had been on a plane once before but I was three-years-old and I don’t remember it.)

Not only that but the trip was totally spontaneous. My sister and I saw an opportunity and we jumped on it. That’s not how I roll. I’m a planner and I need to figure everything out to the last, precise detail before doing anything.

While there’s nothing wrong with being a planner, I think being spontaneous once in a while is good for anyone. It was an accomplishment for me because I jumped out of my comfort zone and you know what? I had a blast. It may seem simple to someone else but it was a huge deal for me.

You can see how much you’ve grown

I’ll tell you that there are things I did in 2018 that I never thought I would do years prior to that. I would talk about it, of course, but never thought I would actually do it. Or, not until I felt more like an “adult,” if that makes sense.

On the days you’re feeling extra down, you can also look back at the list of firsts that you’ve done in the past or that you’ve done recently. Trust me, it makes you feel better.

You can clearly see all the things you thought you “couldn’t do” but you did them anyway. Even if it took you a while. I didn’t drive on the highway until five or six years after I got my license. Even then it was with a friend and I’ve only gone on the highway once or twice by myself since then.

But I can still say I’ve done it and I can do it.

See how far you can go

I like to keep one continuous list for the year and then restart it for the following year. I write each new thing in a different color because it’s prettier that way, so why not? I don’t even bother to break it up into months. Normally that’s something I would do but I like to just see all that I’ve accomplished over the year rather than each month.

I think part of that is because if I see that I did five things one month and none in another month it’ll feel uneven and I’ll start to wonder why one month was “better” than the other. Of course, no month is better than the other. We all try new things when we’re ready to try them.

Try keeping a list of firsts and see how much you can accomplish in a year. Don’t push yourself – just note the little things.

Take care of yourself.

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Short Story Sunday: “Format” [309]

Short Story Sunday 309: "Format" | Flash Fiction | Creative Writing |

Mae had seen a lot of things in her many years of teaching. She had students put in more effort than what was expected from them. She had also seen some children put in way less effort than they should have. Some kids had a good excuse for why they did this or that and others… well, they lied through their teeth. There was one student who almost didn’t get caught at all. Mae was impressed by their elaborate lie with full eye-contact and serious tone of voice. However, they were caught in the end and Mae had to pretend she wasn’t impressed at all and was, in fact, upset with her student.

There were some students on the other hand who seemed to take everything literal or they didn’t understand the directions no matter how clear Mae thought she was. She would ask a question in class and some of the kids would overthink it, thus coming to the totally wrong conclusion.

This was how some of her rubrics went when she assigned essays to her classes.

Mae had always been particular with a certain format for her essays. It was a creative writing class, yes, but there were some essays that needed to be written when it came to the “rules” for writing. These essays weren’t necessarily formal content in the case that the essay topic had a right or wrong answer. She was always curious where each one of her students was when it came to various pieces of writing advice.

With that said, there had always been a generic format for when it came to submitting your work of writing to a publisher, agent, or magazine. Mae knew a lot of her students had already begun submitting some of their short stories and poetry to different websites, magazines, and contests. She wanted to help them through that process by showing them how to submit each piece in the proper, professional manner.

Most submissions were wanted in a certain font such as Courier New. The font size should be around nine to 12-points with double line spacing. There were never any cover or title pages. The first page was the same page the story begun, but not until halfway down.

At the top left corner of that page was the student’s name and contact information. Of course, for the sake of the class, Mae always had the students write their name, which class day and time they were part of (she taught five creative writing classes and each semester got more difficult to tell them all a part), and the date as well as their school email. At the top right corner they needed to write the exact word count of their piece, excluding the heading and the title of the piece. Halfway down the page, centered, was the title of the piece. Then the story began.

Mae always thought she was pretty clear about those instructions. She wrote it all out in the rubric and she even included an example with her own information on it. It was the first page to an actual short story she had submitted long ago for publication.

Now she was at a loss. Mae had always looked forward to reading the various works of all her students. They wrote such an array of pieces and genres. She had a few poets, some who wrote in different genres such as different areas of fantasy, mystery, drama, general fiction, and more. She enjoyed every bit of it and she certainly loved seeing the various levels of creativity come from her students. Mae always got a smile whenever she noticed an improvement from one piece to the next from some feedback she had given her students.

Of course, feedback was always taken with a grain of salt. That was something Mae had always drilled into her students’ heads. Feedback was helpful and needed, yes, but in the end, it’s their story. They should listen to the feedback but the final decision for what’s right for the story is always up to the author.

So now Mae was reading some of the stories her students had submitted to her. This was their final project for the semester. They had been working on these particular stories since the beginning of the semester with smaller projects here and there as well as working on draft after draft of their longer story, their final project. Peer editing and self-editing have all been part of the process as homework and group projects for grades. She was eager to finally read these pieces since she had yet to look at their longer works. She always wanted to save these until the end so she could read the final works as not just a teacher but also a reader and truly be surprised about what was to happen at the end of whatever her students came up with.

The format for one particular student, however, stuck out to her like a sore thumb. Not only was this their final project as a huge grade for the class from the whole semester, but Mae had drilled the format into their heads and… well, now she wasn’t so sure if this was a mistake or if one of her students had given up after a semester of working hard.

The example Mae had given the class was her own information for a short story she had submitted a long time ago. She had students in the past input her information instead of their own believing they were meant to do so. Mae didn’t understand why some of them thought a magazine would want their teacher’s information rather than the actual author’s, but that was an entirely different conversation.

This student did not do that. No, they forgot to plug in all their information. Instead of their name, they had written, “[Name]” on their paper. They didn’t even fill in the day and time of which creative writing class they were a part of. (Now Mae needed to do some trial and error. She had to save this piece of work for last and figure out which student hadn’t been corrected yet so she could give it a proper read knowing which student wrote it.)

Mae had been teaching college level creative writing classes for quite a few years. In all her many years of teaching, she had never seen a student pass in a short story with a format such as this one. Surely, the student knew their own name and their class day and time so there was no need to put placement text. She didn’t understand the logic behind it.

She moved the story to the side not wanting to read it quite yet. She’d move onto the next story and, when she figured out which student forgot to input their own information, she’d roll their story up and bonk them on the head with it.

I hope you enjoyed the story. Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Please feel free to share this post.

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Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria by J.M. Bergen [Book Review]

This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission should you buy from these links at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

I was given a free ARC of this book from the author’s publicist at Book Publicity Services. The decision to review and all opinions are my own.

Title: Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria
Author: J.M. Bergen
Genre: Fantasy, Middle Grade

Series: The Elandrian Chronicles, book 2
Publisher: Elandrian Press
Publication Date: May 20, 2020


Book two takes place three months after the events of book one. Thomas and his friends seem to believe the battle is over though more dangers await them.

The plot was well done since it picks up where the previous book left off. The story was already established with new ideas put into place. This was another fun adventure.


Most of the characters were already introduced in the first book. We get to know them a little more in this one but it’s refreshing to see them again. The kids are the lot of fun to follow in this story. They’re serious when they need to be but their kid-antics and mannerisms still come out here and there and it’s realistic.

Writing Style

Even though this book is classified as middle grade, I think it’s a fun read for all ages. The writing style isn’t “too young” yet it’s not complicated for a younger audience.

Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria


Writing Style


Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria is a great sequel to a unique series. I’m looking forward to book three.


Favorite Quote

“Dying would be a terribly ineffective way to save the world.”

J.M. Bergen, Thomas Wildus and the Wizard of Sumeria

About The Author

J.M.’s debut fantasy/magic series originally started as a bedtime story for his oldest son. The story turned into a saga, and one book turned into five.

When J.M. isn’t working on the Thomas Wildus books, you can find him playing with his kids, napping, or dreaming up new adventures.

If you ever meet him and can’t think of anything to talk about, you might ask about Herman the Shark, the Kai and Eli stories, or why Riddle-Master by Patricia McKillip is his all-time favorite book. Or maybe, just maybe, you’ll have questions and stories of your own (if you do, he’ll think that’s far more interesting).

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The Merry Writer Podcast: Episode 016 Now Live!

The Merry Writer Podcast | Creative Writing |

The Merry Writer Podcast

The Merry Writer started as a hashtag game on Twitter and Instagram. Hosted by Ari Meghlen and myself, The Merry Writer Podcast is a fun, friendly show about all things writing and bookish. Join us as we ask all the “write” questions.

Episode 016: When should writers be present online?

In this week’s episode, Ari and I discuss our thoughts on marketing where we talk about online presence for authors and social media. Be sure to give it a listen through the YouTube video below or any of the links below.

New episodes are published every Wednesday at 10:00 am EST (2:00 pm BST). Please subscribe to the podcast so you can be notified when a new episode goes live. Also, give each episode a “like” wherever you enjoy tuning in. It’ll help the podcast grow and we’d really appreciate it!

Thanks for listening!

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A Noble’s Path by I.L. Cruz [Book Review]

This post contains affiliate links which means I earn a small commission should you buy from these links at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support.

I was given a free copy of this book from the author. The decision to review and all opinions are my own.

Title: A Noble’s Path
Author: I.L. Cruz
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult

Series: Enchanted Isles, book 2
Publisher: Bosky Flame Press
Publication Date: January 31, 2020


A Noble’s Path, book two of the Enchanted Isles series, picks up where book one left off. There’s a lot at stake and Inez seems to be in more trouble than she was before.

I found the plot of this particular book to be especially well done since it truly hit the mark on the head when it came to snowballing the events of the first book into the second one. I enjoyed this one a lot.


All the characters were back and it seemed that some had more of a hand in the events than before which was nice to see. There was more romance between Inez and Zavier this time around too.

Writing Style

The author did a good job at explaining what happened in book two throughout book two. I always recommend reading a series in order but you can read this one without reading book one without feeling too lost.

The world holds up well in this one and I enjoyed jumping back into it.

A Noble’s Path by I.L. Cruz


Writing Style


A Noble’s Path held up to its potential following the first book and beyond. I’m looking forward to the third book.


About The Author

I.L. Cruz, Author |

I.L. Cruz wants to live in a world where words are chosen with care, shoes are as comfy as socks, and reading time is sacred.

She’s used her BA in international relations to sow political intrigue in her fantasy worlds and her MA in history to strive for the perfect prologue.

When she’s not engaged in this mad profession she indulges her wanderlust as often as possible, watches too much fanboy fare and reads until her eyes cross.

She lives in Maryland with her husband, daughter and a sun-seeking supermutt named Dipper.

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Have you read this book? Let me know your thoughts on it in the comments below. If you enjoyed this post, please share it around. Also, you can take a look at more Book Reviews here.

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