2022 Ben Franklin Award Winner

The Girl in the Triangle has been named the 2022 Ben Franklin Award Winner in the historical fiction category! Thank you IBPA for this amazing honor!

2022 Ben Franklin Award Winner

IBPA Ben Franklin Award

I am beyond honored and grateful to the IBPA for recognizing The Girl in the Triangle as the 2022 Ben Franklin Award Winner for historical fiction! This has really been a whirlwind of a roller coaster ride and a dream come true! Thank you to everyone supporting me along the way.

The IBPA Benjamin Franklin Award program, includes over fifty categories recognizing excellence in book editorial and design. They are regarded as one of the highest national honors for independent publishers.

The awards are administered by the Independent Book Publishers Association (IBPA), with help from over 160 book publishing professionals including librarians, bookstore owners, reviewers, designers, publicity managers, and editors.

If you’re an author looking to navigate the self-publishing world- I highly recommend checking out the IBPA for all the amazing support they can offer!

For more information about self-publishing and why you should consider it, check out my blog and Author Coaching page!

The History of Unions in America

The History of Unions in America

What’s the story with unions?

The History of Unions in America

The History of Unions in America

Unions– love them, hate them– they’re an integral part of our labor history in America. And they’ve been in the news a lot recently. Between the fights with teacher unions and return to school plans last year to now Starbucks and Amazon locations voting to unionize– there are a lot of big feelings on this topic. But why is it so controversial?

Some Background History of Unions in America

The early forms of unions were craft guilds or mutual aid organizations working to protect workplace entry and conditions for skilled artisans. It didn’t raise too much resistance because these artisans were small in number as were the organizations who hired them. It wasn’t until industrialization that more of a gap between the workforce and employers came to be. Soon, workers began to see a threat emerging against both their wage and status.

The mid to late 1800s became a violent time in labor history. Unions utilized general strikes and rallied for standards like an eight-hour work day and livable wages. However, big businesses were heavily involved in government and local law enforcement as well as cohesive in supporting their own common interests. It was also socially accepted for employers to use brutal violence against striking workers. Therefore they succeeded in limiting the growth of trade unions and quashing most of their efforts at the time.

The turn of the century brought a new approach to union efforts. The American Federation of Labor was founded with the belief that individual unions were too fragmented to withstand the violence orchestrated against them. Instead, they recruited unions to band together under one large organization. Under AFL support, they were able to withstand the onslaught of retaliation from employers with unemployment pay and benefits.

The National Civic Federation (NFL) went one step further and brought leaders from both the trade unions and corporations together. Their explicit goal was diplomacy and with them the premise of collective bargaining was born.

Where the Controversy Comes In

On paper, unions appear to be entirely altruistic and no-brainers. However, as with everything in life– nothing is that simple. With larger organizations there are compromises in the name of the greater good at the expense of the individual. There are also politics that come into play.

Over the years, workers have rebelled against the idea of wages being garnished to support the union for what they felt was little return for their own individual benefits. Right to work laws came into play to support worker’s individual choice to opt out of union protection.

Some feel this has hampered unions and limited their protections and is why we have seen a downfall in their involvement and popularity in the last thirty years. We are a capitalist society that is run by the bottom-line. Both in our own households and in keeping a business running. But there are always two sides to every story.

When you’re arguing against an employer’s whim to fire or downsize without merit– you are also going to get an underperforming worker who is difficult to fire. You’re also going to get employers needing to make the difficult decision to raise prices for consumers to pay for a livable wage for their employee.

But on the other side, is it fair for a worker to be forced to choose between their safety, health or newborn infant and their paycheck? Or for an employer to mislabel a worker as an independent contractor to avoid paying benefits and taxes?

Just as the girls in the Triangle were fighting against the injustice railed against them– there are still many employees in this country with the deck stacked against them. Whatever the answer is– unionizing, legislation, or consumer support against corporations– we must be aware. The job is not done. Support is still needed– the fight for Worker’s Rights is far from over.

Read Joyana’s other posts on history, books and words here!

The History of the Dictionary

The History of the Dictionary

How did the dictionary come to be?

The History of the Dictionary

The History of the Dictionary

We’ve all heard the phrase look it up in the dictionary. But how did it actually come to be? What is the history of the dictionary?

On April 15th 1747, Samuel Johnson published an English dictionary at over 43,500 words.

It wasn’t the first dictionary ever published, but it was by far the most comprehensive English language dictionary of its time. It was also the first that ever published etymologies and various meanings for words.

It took Johnson and and several part time copyists eight years to compile the definitions. Although comprehensive, it had many biases and limitations, most being that Johnson had some quirky ideas about standards for word inclusion.

There have been other dictionaries that have been published since Johnson’s edition– the most famous being Webster’s and the Oxford editions. Both of which were even more comprehensive in their development. However, were they any more objective?

I recently read an interesting book called The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams. It really heightened my understanding and awareness of the bias in the English language. Williams went into great detail to discuss the differences in word choices and meanings for class and gender. 

I feel this is something we still see today. Even with creations of “urban” dictionaries, there are still varying forms of slang, cultural, racial, regional, and even ageist bias in the use of the English language. 

Not to mention, with technology and social media- new words, phrases, memes and meanings are created at the speed of light.  Think of the new context behind the use of the name “Karen” or phrase “Let’s go Brandon.”

Is there any wonder that people will forever be lost in understanding the true implications of conversational English? 

Language is tricky, so much can be lost in translation, and understanding. However, there is also a beauty in its complexity. Could language ever be truly objective? Would we even want it to be?

 Much like a woman, words will always contain more than immediately meets the eye. You have to dig deeper to understand the true context and layers in its meaning. 

Maybe that’s the problem so far- these dictionaries have all been compiled by men… 😉

Check out Joyana’s other blog posts on words, history, and books here!

The Magic of Wordle

The Magic of Wordle

Why has this game swept the world so quickly?

The Magic of Wordle

Did you get today’s Wordle?

If you haven’t joined the Wordle bandwagon yet, you’re missing out! The game is spreading like a wildfire, gaining in popularity each day.  

So, what is it, and what’s the appeal? What is the magic of wordle?

Wordle was created by a software engineer in Brooklyn for his partner during the pandemic. First, it was just a private word guessing game the two of them played, but then they added it to a family What’s App group and before long it was shared with friends etc. After seeing the widespread appeal, they decided to release it to the world last October. 

Wordle is probably one of the simplest interface and concepts imaginable. It is literally just a five letter guessing game with six chances to guess the word of the day. Guess a letter correct and it changes color depending on placement and inclusion in the word. 

So, what makes Wordle so special vs other word games out there? Many would say it’s the shared community. Others say it’s the one word answer per day. It literally takes three minutes of your time and then you move on with your day. You can even stoke that competitive spirit by sharing your results on your social media feed with a widget blurring out the letters to prevent spoilers.

There’s also the user friendly approachability to the game. Anyone old or young can play. There’s nothing to download, just type it in online and it pops right up. I’ve played and compared letters with my seven-year-old son, my in-laws, strangers in line for coffee, and eighth grade students while subbing. 

That’s it, five minutes of using your brain to guess letters and you  share a secret with the world.

So, if you haven’t yet,  join the fun- and try the magic of Wordle

Do you really like word games and want to continue the fun after the five minutes? Here’s a few others to try:

FreeRice.com– Practice your vocabulary, grammar and trivia skills, all while donating rice/food to the World Food Programme!

Spelling Bee-  How many words can you make with seven letters?

Enjoy and happy word games!

Check out Joyana’s blog posts on words, books and life here!

Grammar- Should We Be Teaching It?

Grammar- Should We Be Teaching It?

Why Schools Feel It Is Not Necessary.

Grammar- Should We Be Teaching It?

Somewhere in the last twenty years schools decided to stop teaching grammar. This was not really discussed or debated– it just happened. Why?

The main argument has been a shift in educational philosophy. Instead of previous generations, where the focus was on rote learning and memorization and worksheets, new philosophies sing the praises of critical thinking and hands on learning. In theory, this is great. Critical thinking skills are necessary across the board and will set children up for success in life and in the workplace. But are these philosophies missing something?

Current Grammar Curriculums

If you look at most public school primary grade curriculums there is a hole in grammar fundamentals. The approach is that students will learn these skills as they go. Teachers will use grading rubrics touching on punctuation and basic grammar principles as a scale to teach as necessary. But does this work? What happens when no one teaches the basic principles of the English language? Will a foundation ever be laid if students never learn the basic rules?

Arguments abound from high schools, colleges and superiors in the workplace saying no, students have not picked up these fundamentals. Today’s recent graduates including those with university degrees, seem to be unable to construct a simple declarative sentence, either orally or in writing. They cannot spell common, everyday words. Basic grammar and punctuation appear to be a complete mystery to recent generations.

Do We Need to Understand Grammar?

But is this a problem? Many would still argue no, that with technology capabilities what they are, it is no longer necessary to understand grammar ourselves. It is true that most writing is done on computers and tablets now. Most students no longer even carry notebooks and pencils to school. But should we rely on spell and grammar check for everything? Is it even entirely accurate?

The flawed approach to this argument is computers will never replace the conversational tone of human beings. In theory, grammar and spell check will pick up basic level mistakes, but will it ever replace the true understanding of sentence structure? Or possibly capture the beauty and fluency of the English language? 

Computers can also never replace the use of grammar understanding when it comes to our conversational interactions. Much like the cashier who can no longer make change on their own, our reliance on technology impairs our own intelligence and skillset to connect.

What are your thoughts on this issue? Are we sacrificing by losing our fundamental understanding of the English language?


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Banning Books in School

Banning Books in Schools

To Kill a Mockingbird- Childhood Classic or Book to be Buried?

Banning Books in Schools

February 19th marked six years since Pulitzer Prize winning Harper Lee passed away.

But there might very soon be a time where no one knows who she is. Although it’s not the first time Harper Lee’s novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, has faced controversy, Lee’s legacy might really be in danger.

The argument over banning books in schools is not new. There has been controversy for years over what is considered appropriate material for our students to read. Questions about depiction of race and sexual innuendo in books have constantly found themselves on the docket.

But like everything in this current political climate, this recent spree of banning books in schools feels different. More divisive and potentially permanent.

 There is no question that book censorship is on the rise. Parents, activists, school board officials and lawmakers around the country are challenging books at a pace not seen in decades. The American Library Association reports that in September of last year alone, the volume of book challenges in the US was up 60% over the same month in 2020.

Although book challenges have always been a topic at School Board meetings, what’s changing and potentially scary, is not only the new frequency of these challenges, but also the tactics. Before it might have been a school district issue. But now, book banning groups are pushing the challenges to law enforcement, government houses and even state races. There have even been efforts to propose legislation allowing criminal charges to be filed against school librarians who disregard the bans.

Social media is fueling the fire. Chapters of book challenging organizations are publishing hysteria invoking graphics and google docs and spreadsheets of “questionable books”  for parents to question for their children.

Here are my concerns and thoughts on this issue.

1. It’s one thing if parents really have an issue with the content in these books. But do they really or are some parents getting swept up in the social media hysteria?

2. What about freedom of choice? Why if a parent has an issue with a particular book for their child can it not be enough for just their child to opt out? Why must they get the book banned for every child in the school/district?

3. Is opting your child out doing more potential harm than good?

Parents are stuck between a rock and a hard place. We want to shield our children from all potential harm and evil in the world. But is that realistic?

Let’s be real, even if your child misses getting exposed to these topics in the book, it doesn’t mean they will never be exposed. If anything exposing them during the structured environment provides an opportunity for you to guide the conversation. It’s an opportunity for a parent to check in and answer questions and respond to emotions raised by the issue. Whereas, if the child is opted out of that text and gets exposed at another time, they’re on their own without that built-in support system.

We must remember, today’s children are tomorrow’s adults to shape what the world will look like. What happens when we limit alternative viewpoints? Say we do eradicate topics like the Holocaust, sexual assault or the ugly parts of our country’s racial history – what happens to that sheltered generation who never learns about them? Isn’t that even more dangerous? We need to provide them with the tools to learn about the past so they can do better in the future. 

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