Wednesday, November 4, 2015

IWSG: Published Book Review & the Perspective of Karma

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and non-insecurities too. On the first Wednesday of the month, a bunch of us gather on the blogosphere to share and visit one another.

Some fun news. Earlier this year, I submitted a book review to SCBWI Bulletin, the quarterly magazine of the Society of Children's Book Writers & Illustrators. My book review spotlights Jennifer R. Hubbard's LONER IN THE GARRET: A WRITER'S COMPANION. Shortly after I sent out my review, an editor informed me that my review was accepted and the check was in the mail. I'm giddy to share that my book review appears in the Fall 2015 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin. LONER IN THE GARRET is not a craft book but a book that acknowledges the vast range of emotions writers experience, including our many insecurities….so this is right up IWSG’s alley.

Karma is another topic I want to discuss today. The idealist in me has always wanted to believe if you do good things with clean intentions, you get mostly good things back and if you’re a jerk, you reap what you sow. Sometimes my inner cynic couldn’t help but to notice bad things happening to good people and bad people thriving on their toxic behavior. This is a simplistic statement on my part, as I don’t know every detail of people’s lives and of course, no one’s perfect. Without going into specifics, I still know enough to confidently make this generalization. While a number of stories in my writerly mind come from a hopeful and optimistic place, at other times, they come from a cynical perspective too. I find that some people refuse to acknowledge the grain (or bushel) of truth that can exist in the latter of these narrations. But I hope if I ever pursue the writing of these stories, they will find a welcoming audience that gets it.

What books for writers do you like?
Do you believe in karma? Why or why not?

Monday, October 26, 2015

The Listing Fest/Some Books I Read

Writer Bish Denham is hosting The Listing Fest today. Thanks for organizing, Bish!  From Bish's website: The rules are simple. All you have to do is sign up in the linky thingy below, grab the banner, and make a list. I suggest you keep your list to between 5 and 25 items long. 

Today, I’m listing some books I have read. (When I share these lists, I name only some books I’ve read in a time period, not all.)

1. LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell (Adult-St. Martin's Press) A woman in a strained marriage discovers a magical phone that allows her to have phone conversations with her husband from the past. 

2. LIKE SISTERS ON THE HOMEFRONT by Rita Williams-Garcia (YA-Lodestar) A teen mom, after having an abortion, is sent away from the city to the South to live with her uncle, aunt, and cousin, family she'd never met.

3. A SINGLE SHARD by Linda Sue Park (YA-Clarion) A boy living in 12th century Korea aspires to learn how to craft pottery.

4. WOVEN (YA-Scholastic) A murdered peasant boy teams up with a snobby princess, the only one who can see his ghost, to locate a magic needle. Check out my author interview.   

5. CAN'T WE TALK ABOUT SOMETHING MORE PLEASANT?: A MEMOIR (Graphic Novel for Adults, Non-Fiction- Bloomsbury USA) With humor and bittersweet nostalgia, a woman struggles to take care of her aging parents before they pass on. 

6. THE CHOKE ARTIST: CONFESSIONS OF A CHRONIC UNDERACHIEVER by David Yoo (Adult, Non-Fiction-Grand Central Publishing) This memoir shares essays detailing a Korean American man's many agonies-from bedroom anxieties to workplace drama to family-related angst. The first book I read by David was GIRLS FOR BREAKFAST, a YA novel. Check out my author interview.

7.  ROLLER GIRL by Victoria Jamieson (Graphic Novel for MG readers- Penguin) A girl sadly observes her best friend befriending her bully and moves on by participating in a roller derby camp.

8. BROWN GIRL DREAMING by Jacqueline Woodson (MG, Non-Fiction- Nancy Paulsen) Told in verse, an African American girl raised as a Jehovah’s Witness shares about her upbringing during the 1960s and 1970s.

9. THE ADVENURES OF BEEKLE: THE UNIMAGINARY FRIENDS by Dan Santat (PB- Little, Brown) An imaginary friend waits to be imagined by a child so he can become real.

10. THE TREE LADY by H. Joseph Hopkins, Illust. by Jill McElmurry (PB, Non-Fiction- Beach Lane) Kate Sessions, a teacher and horticulturalist, helps beautify and add green to San Diego by embarking on a tree planting campaign.

11. THE PEOPLE WE USED TO BE   by Madeline Mora-Summonte (Adult- Amazon) This collection of short stories, both light and dark, offers glimpses of people, young and old, in various journeys.

What books have you read lately?

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Author Interview with David Powers King & Book Giveaway

Years ago, David Powers King and I first connected through some writers bloghop. Since then, David scored a sweet publishing deal for WOVEN (Scholastic), a YA novel he wrote with co-author Michael Jensen. The story is about a peasant boy named Nels who is murdered. Only the snobby Princess Tyra can see his ghost. To save Nels, the two embark on an adventure to locate a magic needle. I particularly enjoyed the mystical ideas presented here about sewing, including the suggestion that we’re all threads being worked on by self-weaving looms creating various big picture tapestries.   

David and Michael generously offered to give away a book with this interview. So if you’re interested in receiving WOVEN, please follow my blog if you aren’t doing so already AND leave a comment on this post by the end of Wednesday, Sept. 16. The winner will be announced here on Thursday, Sept. 17.

Here’s David’s interview:

Tell me where you were born and raised.  What did you study in college? Did this subject influence your writing?
I was born in Burbank, California. Being near so many movie studios gave me mad respect for stories, and so I decided to give writing a shot when I was young. After studying behavioral science in college, I had plenty of tools for creating dynamic and engaging characters. Michael also lived in California for a time, but lived in Utah most of his life. He has a good eye for great stories, studied musical theater and has written a few musicals. 

How did you come up with the plot and world building behind WOVEN?
The story originated with a dream that Michael had over a decade ago, about a princess and a ghost in search of a magic needle. Shortly after Michael and I became friends and he told me about this concept, I fell in love with it right away. We had to make a story about this! So when thinking of a setting that would accommodate a princess and a magic system involving a needle, we built up a sewing-based magic system in a medieval setting. The more we brainstormed, the more natural everything fell into place. We’re very pleased with it.

I really liked the character Jilia. Her spunk and her attentiveness to Nels’s mother during a difficult time made her stand out. I wonder if there might be potential for a spin-off story featuring her, or if there’s any possibility of a romance between her and Nels in a different story, say a pre-WOVEN story?Jilia is one of our favorite characters as well, and her personality is, in large part, based on a cousin of mine. We’ve discussed the possibility of writing companion novels rather than direct sequels, which can give us room to write Jilia (and other characters) their own story in the WOVEN world. Our options are open at this point.

What's your advice for authors who want to collaborate to write a book? Collaborating on a book can be an enriching experience that helps strengthen your writing. So long as you are both committed to the goal and the story. Know early on what each other’s role is going to be. Stick to it. And be there for your collaborator when life strikes. A collaboration is not a “you” or “me” thing. It’s an “us” thing.

What authors/books did you like when you were a kid? 
So many to choose from! I would say my biggest writing influences and inspiration has come from the works of Lois Lowry, R.L. Stein, Orson Scott Card, Michael Crichton, James Dashner and Shannon Hale. Michael’s are Elizabeth George Spear’s CALICO CAPTIVE and THE WITCH OF BLACKBIRD POND, THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA by C.S. Lewis, CRICKET IN TIME by George Seldon and KIDNAPPED by Robert Lewis Stevenson.

What are you working on now? Any future projects we should look out for? 
In addition to drafting a sequel/companion novel to WOVEN with Michael, I currently have a YA zombie novel on submission, and we both have many more individual story ideas that can't wait to leap onto the page. For more updates, feel free to check our website at or my blog at

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

IWSG: #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter

Today is IWSG day, a monthly event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other things. On the first Wednesday of the month, a bunch of us gather on the blogosphere to share...I'm not here to discuss an insecurity today. Instead, I want to acknowledge that sometimes writers get understandably annoyed with stuff people say to them. On Twitter, I recently found #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter. 

A couple of my favorites came from writers I follow on Twitter, Medeia Sharif and Mark Koopmans:

Medeia and Mark, if you're visiting here, I want you to know I hear you! =)  *Fist pump*  (And Mark, that's such a cute picture you posted!) 

Although I didn't participate in the hashtag fest, I could certainly think of a number of things people have said to me that caused my eyes to roll internally, such as...Since you got that rejection, why are you still writing? Yes, someone actually said that to me.

Can you add to the list #TenThingsNotToSayToAWriter?

Monday, July 27, 2015

Revisiting a Classic: DAUGHTERS OF EVE by Lois Duncan

Lois Duncan's DAUGHTERS OF EVE is one of my favorite YA reads. It’s also one of those rare books I could read more than once and with each reading, I can gain a new insight about what I think Lois is trying to say. (Side note: I just skimmed through the “modernized” version of the book. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Updating a book is unnecessary. Giving a classic a makeover is like plugging a helicopter into Van Gogh’s Starry Night.)                 

The book is about a group of high school girls who join a sorority called Daughters of Eve, led by a charismatic and matronly advisor named Irene. Irene influences the girls, having varying experiences with the boys and men in their lives, to distrust and hate men. Only the reader knows that Irene’s bitterness stems from her own personal disappointments.

Irene successfully manipulates the girls to “fight back against oppression” through anonymous acts of violence, which begin with a brutal gang attack on a boy.

DAUGHTERS OF EVE is about one group justifying its questionable behavior with the argument that they are fighting for respect. The book also shows that one can make a heroic show of standing up to bigotry and promoting a cause, all while being a despicable person at the same time. This is not a feel-good revenge story but a warning tale about a self-serving leader and her naive followers. 

The original book was published in 1979 and its portrait of mob mentality still rings true today. I would even go as far as to say that reading DAUGHTERS OF EVE in my youth helped cultivate this tiny bit of self-awareness: I can wholeheartedly support a cause but not be a fan of an Irene-like individual or entity that has postured themselves as a leader of the movement. I can also be in disagreement with the approach followers of a like-minded cause take to handle non-supporters when it involves bullying or hypocrisy masked as “standing up for the right thing.”

What books, fiction or non-fiction, have raised your awareness about the dangers of Irene-like leaders and their followers?

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Author Interview with Dianne Salerni

It’s been awhile since I posted an interview. This month, I bring to you Dianne Salerni, author of THE EIGHTH DAY series (HarperCollins) and a number of other books.  I’ve been following Dianne’s blog for some time, so I’m stoked to have her here on my blog. Dianne is a native and resident of Pennsylvania. She is an alumna of the University of Delaware, where she fondly remembers calling her mother to come pick her up when she didn’t feel like eating at the dining hall. Having studied Elementary and Special Education at UD, and then arming herself with a Masters in Language Arts Education from the University of Pennsylvania, Dianne taught fifth grade for 25 years. Imagine all the juicy story ideas she must’ve gathered from observing this age group! Dianne retired early and now writes full time.  

THE EIGHTH DAY is about a 13 year-old orphan named Jax who discovers a secret extra day of the week. On this day, it appears at first glance that the rest of the people in the world have gone missing. But Jax learns soon enough that people do exist here, and he gets caught in an ongoing war between two groups of people.

When I first heard about THE EIGHTH DAY from your blog, I daydreamed about what I would do if I discovered there was an eighth day where seemingly, only I existed. I decided I could spend that day working on my novel and catching up on pleasure reading. What would you do on an eighth day where only you existed?
If I had a secret day all to myself, I’d spend it visiting places that are normally so crowded you can’t enjoy them properly.  Maybe not Disney World, since no one would be there to operate the rides. But I’m recalling my visit to Versailles two summers ago when I was pushed and shoved and trampled by the crowd – and how after that experience I didn’t even bother trying the Louvre. Those are two places I would love to see with NOBODY else there!

Jax, your male protagonist, reminds me of many boys I know. What was your process exploring a boy’s POV in your writing?
This is where all my years of teaching fifth grade helped a lot! I’ve spent a lot of time around boys about Jax’s age. I know how they talk, how they think, and how they try to wiggle out of trouble. There’s one particular spot in THE EIGHTH DAY where Jax lies to his guardian, Riley, about something important. Some adult readers have questioned whether it was realistic for him to do so, given the stakes in that situation. But no tween reader has ever questioned it! They know as well as this teacher-turned-author does that most boys in that situation would lie, trying to keep themselves out of trouble above all else.

I thought it was clever how you were able to weave Arthurian legend into your story. How was it like to take an existing story and put your own creative spin on it?
I loved taking the legends and stories and twisting them into something different. I ended up borrowing not just from Arthurian legend (for the Transitioners) but also from general Celtic mythology (for the Kin). This connection continues in the other books of the series, and occasionally I find something in the legends that makes a surprising parallel with what I’ve already written. For instance, when I named the race of people trapped in the eighth day “the Kin,” it was originally only a place-holder name, until I thought of something different. But I never did think of a better name, and the book went to print with Evangeline and her race called the Kin.

Much, much later, I was researching Celtic legends for Book 3, and I came across the Tuatha de Danann, a legendary race of people gifted in magical powers who arrived in the British isles in ancient times and ruled there awhile. Eventually they were defeated and driven away to a secret, hidden kingdom where they lived extended lives and were never seen by humans again. Kind of like the Kin in my story.

But here’s the part that was just a little freaky. Tuatha de Danann translates as the people, the nation, the tribe … or … the kin.

Can you tell me what is coming up for THE EIGHTH DAY series?
THE EIGHTH DAY is the first book of a 3-book deal, but there is an option clause for two more. When HarperCollins acquired THE EIGHTH DAY, I was asked to plan out 5 books, but to make sure the series could end on Book 3 if necessary. That seemed a pretty daunting task at first … and then I figured out how to do it. (Yay!)

In Book 2, THE INQUISITOR’S MARK, Jax – an orphan – discovers that his late father lied to him about who they were. Jax actually has an extensive family, including an uncle and an aunt, grandparents, and many cousins. Unfortunately, they happen to be members of the Dulac clan, the organized crime family responsible for killing everyone in Riley’s family. These people are anxious to meet Jax and give him a home. But they also want him to turn Evangeline over to their custody – and when they discover Riley escaped their previous assassination attempt, they want to fix that mistake as soon as possible.

In Book 3, THE MORRIGAN’S CURSE, a prison break at the ancient Welsh fortress of Oeth-Anoeth results in the escape of the Llyrs, a Kin family with such a powerful talent for working with weather, they were once treated like weather gods. Now free after centuries of imprisonment, they seek to break the Eighth Day Spell, and they have a secret weapon: Evangeline’s little sister Addie. Jax is determined to rescue her … but it seems like Addie doesn’t want to be rescued. She’s chosen her side of the conflict: the wrong one.

Any upcoming projects you’d like to share about?
I’m afraid I can’t talk about some of my projects, but I can tell you that I’m working on a synopsis and sample chapters as part of my proposal for the optioned books in the Eighth Day series. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

Which books/authors did you like to read while you were growing up?      
My first love was mysteries, and I quickly passed beyond the books meant for children (Nancy Drew, The Three Investigators) and on to my mother’s collection of Mary Stewart, Mary Roberts Rinehart, and Virginia Coffman. I also loved ghost tales and stories about madness and the bizarre. Think Shirley Jackson. Later on, in high school, I fell in love with fantasy and science fiction, tearing through books by Roger Zelazny, C.J. Cherryh, and Douglas Adams.

I think my writing as an adult, from WE HEAR THE DEAD and THE CAGED GRAVES to the Eighth Day series (not to mention various manuscripts that are, as yet, unpublished) shows the influence of all those authors! I don’t know if you are what you eat, but I believe you write what you read!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

A Tribute to the TV Show Revenge

It is IWSG day, an event Alex Cavanaugh started to get writers sharing about their insecurities and other things on the first Wednesday of the month. Here in California, it is around 11:30 PM on Wednesday, so I consider myself to have still “made it!”  I believe this is the latest I've ever posted my IWSG post. It has been such a busy summer. I sometimes feel like I'm behind on everything!

My husband and I finally finished watching the series finale of Revenge on our Tivo. While the show had its ups and downs for me as a viewer, the writers kept me hooked nonetheless. A brief intro to Revenge:  Amanda Clark (played by the talented Emily VanCamp) sought revenge on the people who framed her father, David Clark, for treason, and subjected her to a childhood of misery. At the top of her "you're going to be sorry" list were Hamptons royalty Victoria and Conrad Grayson, her father’s former lover and boss, respectively. Other targets were the corrupt judge and the district attorney paid off to wrongly convict Amanda's father, the author paid off to write his unauthorized biography, the therapist paid off to institutionalize Amanda as a child, the foster mother who abused Amanda, etc…

I admired Amanda’s careful execution of her plans, even the ones that failed. She planned ahead, refused to be intimidated by others, and kept working and waiting until she got her revenge.

I imagine some of you shaking your heads as you’re reading this. Dedicating your life to revenge is a bad idea. I don’t believe the writers of the show were promoting revenge as a pastime. But they were tickling the part of our moral center that aches to see justice served to people who seemed to have gotten away with their crimes. And don’t we writers sometimes write for that very reason? 

I also believe that creating or being an audience to a good revenge story can ease our insecurities about the world not being a just place. 

If you watched Revenge, what did you think of the show? The series finale?
What do you think is the appeal behind revenge stories?

Monday, March 23, 2015

When Evil Triumphs Over Good

Awhile back, when I was enrolled in an online YA writing class, I transferred my observation of the world as I saw it during my youth into my writing. For an assignment, I submitted a story outline where evil triumphs over good. My classmates disapproved of this conclusion. But it’s not fair that the villain doesn’t get their comeuppance! But the protagonist’s good deeds don’t pay off! I struggled with this feedback for awhile because I believed that my story's conclusion depicted reality.

I don't think there's any industry, community, or age group that's completely immune to people who don’t play nice, who bully, who are narcissistic and two-faced, who loudly assume causes for blatant self-serving motivations. Unfortunately, sometimes I see people like this thrive. At times, I’ve also seen generous and good-natured people get mistreated or exploited.

Growing up, I’ve read many stories where good behavior is rewarded, and I feel this paradigm in kidlit sets up a false expectation for young readers that life will always be fair if you play by the rules. I intended to show readers that life might not be fair, you might not get what is due to you, but you can move on….like the way I learned to move on during times in my life when I wasn’t treated fairly.

Still, I let my classmates’ and teacher’s feedback sink in. So I thought for a long time and finally decided I could try a different approach to my story.

Before arriving there, I also considered my feelings as an adult about consequences for good and bad behavior. So while I'm aware there are still terrible, unjust things that happen to many people around the world, I can't deny that sometimes the universe does come through, that things go around and come around, both the good and the bad, in twisted, unexpected ways.  Sort of on this topic...Years ago, author Nathan Bransford wrote a post called Doing the Right Thing that I found optimistic and enlightening. 

Have you ever needed some time to process feedback about your writing?  What got in the way of immediate acceptance of the feedback?

How do you feel about stories where evil triumphs over good? 

Monday, January 26, 2015

Author Interview with Phoebe North

For my first interview of 2015, I bring to you Phoebe North, author of the YA science fiction books STARGLASS and its sequel, STARBREAK (Simon & Schuster).  In the first book, we learn that Terra’s forebearers left Earth 500 years ago so that the future generation, one that Terra belongs to, can find a new home planet. So the only world Terra has known is one inside a small city contained within a spaceship.  

Terra’s mother was murdered years ago. Her father is cold and uncaring.  She is engaged to a boy who is aloof and unaffectionate toward her. What Terra has going for her is an apprenticeship where she learns about plants, and she brings knowledge of this subject with her when the spaceship lands…  

Where were you born, and where do you live now?  I was born and raised in New Jersey, and now live in New York State, after sojourns in both Florida and Northern Virginia.

How did your MFA in Poetry that you received from the University of Florida influence your fiction writing?
The MFA I received in poetry was the first step toward seeing myself as a professional writer. I'm very grateful for the time and dedication of my professors there, even if the experience was mostly instructive in teaching me the kind of writer I'm not--namely, a literary poet!

Was there a part of your childhood or adolescence that you weaved into your writing of STARGLASS and STARBREAK?
Sure. Like Terra, I lost a parent when I was young. I was also prone to falling wildly in love with boys who were all wrong for me. It wasn't until I met my now-husband (like Terra, at a fairly young age) that I realized that love should be healing, rather than damaging.

The vivid setting of STARGLASS and STARBREAK came with parents having children through artificial wombs, telepathic dreaming, and a planet of interesting plant life. What tips do you have for effective world building?
Do tons of research, but don't feel obligated to let it all show. Reveal your world slowly and deliberately; readers will fill in the gaps, and your universe will feel much richer for it.

I’ve heard industry professionals say they’re not interested in books with religious content. As for myself, I liked the way you wove references to religion into STARGLASS and STARBREAK because it gave the story additional depth. How did incorporating Judaism into STARGLASS and STARBREAK affect interest of your book among agents and editors?
It seemed to be a real draw, in part because many professionals in New York publishing have Jewish backgrounds that are somewhat motley, like my own. Of course, I wouldn't call either book in the Starglass sequence "religious" per se. They're not preaching or trying to teach a lesson. But the religious background of the characters is grounded in real life religious identity. That sort of complexity of approach really helped make my books stand out, I think.

Who were your favorite authors/books to read while you were growing up?
I loved books with messy girls: The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett, A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle.

Are there upcoming projects you’d like to share about?
Too soon to say! :)

Thursday, January 15, 2015


Whenever there are many "rules" coming from different voices governing how a certain art form should be performed, it opens up an abundance of opportunities for an artist to “make mistakes.”

Whether they’re stated or implied, rules are dished out for all walks of art and creative genres…. Dancers need lean figures. An action movie must have at least one high-speed car chase. A fancy meal should be garnished with fresh herbs when plated.  Female protagonists ought to be likeable, be relatable, and always make smart choices.

Sometimes what a person calls a rule, I just regard as a suggestion. And sometimes what critics regard as a mistake is what I see as the artist experimenting, taking a risk, and/or making a genuine and good faith effort to do the right thing. 

So just because someone deviates from the rules, it doesn’t mean that the outcome of their work must necessarily be bad.

Recently, I read an article about a woman who once tried knitting a winter hat for herself, and she unintentionally left a hole in the back of the hat. Long story short, she put her ponytail through the hole and wore her hat out this way to “amuse” her family. Then, people around her began asking about getting a hat similar to hers, and a business was born.

So this woman’s success stemmed from her boldly showing the public her “mistake.”

Yes, sometimes a creative endeavor can lead to unmistakable mistakes...There’s another article I read about a woman celebrating not-so-successful crafting projects by launching a website and creating a book. On what the author describes as her “friendly fail site” are images of neat and polished finished projects that one might see on Pinterest, and images of how such a project someone attempted actually turned out. From her interview, it appears this woman wants to help people find humor in their mistakes, and to think about how to improve.

I like this idea of a safe haven for people to go to where they can show off their mistakes. I wish there were more safe places like this out there, especially on the Internet. 

How do you handle mistakes, real or perceived? 

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

IWSG: When a Writer Encounters Backlash

Today is IWSG day. Thanks to Alex Cavanaugh for organizing this monthly event where writers share about writerly insecurities and other things. 

Happy New Year, everyone! May 2015 be a fruitful year for you all.  One of my resolutions this year is to finally finish my novel. (Was that last year’s resolution too? Yikes, I don’t remember.)  

Update: I'm supposed to include an intro of myself for today's New Year IWSG here it is....My name is Cynthia and I'm a writer and reader living in California. I read all kinds of books- adult and kidlit/YA fiction and non-fiction. I'm currently working on a picture book and a YA novel. 

I am writing today’s Insecure Writer's Support Group post with an author in mind, someone whose name has been appearing on my Twitter feed.  Putting the pieces together, I learned this author recently set up a Kickstarter account to ask for optional donations so she could write a sequel to one of her books. Apparently, some people criticized her for this, and the author ended up taking down her Kickstarter page. 

I don’t know this author personally, and I haven’t read her work yet. Still, I feel bad for her. Her fundraising idea was clever, and not uncommon, as many (and I mean MANY) online campaigns seek donations for aspiring projects. I also imagine it’s not easy for many people to set up an online campaign seeking donations from the general public. It was a gutsy thing for this author to do. 

I hope that when the author recovers from the backlash, she would reopen her Kickstarter page, raise adequate funds, and write that sequel. I’d really hate to see someone put their publishing dream away because of others’ negativity.

What are your New Year resolutions? What motivates you to donate to a campaign or cause?