Giveaway: Mary's Clearing House

Welcome to Mary's Clearing House giveaway! No, I'm not going to show up at your house with a check for $10,000,000, but a box of books might! Here's the deal: I am literally clearing my house. I'm moving into a new apartment in a couple weeks, and it is smaller than my current apartment by a sizeable amount. I've been hoarding books for.... let's just say a while, and I haven't been keeping up with the giveaways I planned. SO I have decided to give them all away at once in a massive giveaway here on my blog, on Twitter, and on Instagram. 

What's up for grabs? I'm so glad you asked! How about all of THESE?




I've split them up into prize packs, and each one will have different methods for entering so you can pick and choose what you want to win and how many times you want to enter.

Here's the list of what's inside each prize pack and where it is available:
Hardcover copies of all five Throne of Glass books, 
including the B&N edition of Empire of Storms 

Everything is signed except
Six of Crows and The Glittering Court
(And yes, I know The Winner's Kiss isn't a series starter)
Edit: The Winner's Kiss also isn't signed

Contemporary starter pack - Twitter
Everything is signed except
Tell Me Three Things & Girl Against the Universe

Gayle Forman starter pack - Twitter
Everything is signed except Leave Me


Splintered trilogy - Twitter

2016 ARC starter pack - see below

Orphan Queen series - coming soon
Rebel Belle series - coming soon
Tracked series - coming soon
Sky Fall series - coming soon
Splintered series - coming soon

How to enter: 
Follow instructions and methods as stated on each giveaway. Multiple entries may be available. For Twitter, the only thing I ask is that you RT normally. Quote RTs are good for signal boosting, but they're too hard to track.

YES, you can enter to win multiple prize packs. YES, you can win multiple prize packs. NO, this giveaway is not open internationally. Sorry, INT folks. These giveaways are going to run for two weeks, and then I'll pick winners and ship around labor day weekend.

Also, with the exception of the ARCs, I bought all these books and I'm paying for shipping so please believe I will be verifying all the entries. You can find my full giveaway policies here. Any entries not in accordance with these policies will be disqualified. Please don't make me do that. I'm trying to pass these books on to someone who will love them. Now go forth and enter, and as always



2016 ARC giveaway
Because I know Heartless in particular is a big-ticket item, I have provided the most methods of entry for this giveaway. You may enter as many or as few times as you would like. Some of the methods (tweets, comments, shares) may be done once per day for the two weeks this giveaway will run. Just make sure if you share via Facebook or something that your account is public enough that I can verify your entries. Good luck!


a Rafflecopter giveaway


Mary's Minute: Moderating panels

Last week while preparing for an event at my library, I was hit on the head with post inspiration. MARY, I thought to myself, you've done a lot of these events! Do you think the bookish world would be interested in a post about moderating? So I asked, and Twitter said YES so here we are. I'm going to go over a few things, give some tips, and then I'll answer questions I received on Twitter.

Note: Please understand, I'm not trying to brag; I just have a lot of experience with panels and want to share those experiences, advice how to moderate / how to become a moderator, and answer a few questions. 

How are you qualified to talk about moderating bookish events?
I don't know if there's such a thing as being an expert in moderating, but if it is, I probably could be one. I have moderated nineteen panels and conversations for book launches, author tours, and book festivals for over two years. Additionally, it helps to really know YA—hot topics, trends,  themes, etc—and that's literally part of my job working in teen services at the library (it's okay if you don't work in a bookish job, but it does help!).

A photo posted by Julia ♡ Nollie (@nolliemarie) on


Step-by-step guide to moderating
First, we're going to assume there is a book event already happening in your area*, and you have already been chosen as moderator**.

*How do you get authors to visit you? Here is some advice how you can help make that happen.
**I'll answer how to be chosen as a moderator in the Q&A at the end.

Before the panel:
Step 1: Read the book(s). It's really important that you familiarize yourself with the author(s) work if you're going to talk to them about it. If you're moderating a panel featuring several authors, definitely aim to read at least one book by each author, and prioritize their most recent or upcoming title. If they're promoting a series, definitely read book one as most authors will share more about the first book than the more recent book because they don't often share huge spoilers in case they have new readers in the audience. If you are moderating a conversation with one author, try to read several of their books, and definitely be very familiar with the title they're promoting.

HOWEVER, life sometimes gets in the way so also don't be hard on yourself if you end up not reading everything. It's okay!

Step 2: Make notes! I don't care if you know the book front and back, better than your own hand, you have it memorized and are the admin of the wiki: nerves can be a real thing. If you're in front of an audience and an author, you don't want to suddenly forget details you KNOW you know. Your notes do NOT need to be extensive because you're not going to be talking about the fine details most of the time. Honestly, I just write the book's title and the main characters.

Step 3: Ask the organizer for information and expectations. If the publisher asked you directly to moderate, they'll send you anything they want you to know. If you were asked by the host–a bookstore or library–you will want to ask them if they have any info from the author or publisher. This information can include sample questions, about the author, the book's summary, a timeline of the panel, etc. Definitely ask if there's anything they want you to share (read the author's bio, etc) or not share (personal information, certain spoilers if you're talking about a series, etc). For festivals, you may need to go over some "housekeeping" issues (schedule, rules, etc).

Step 4: Write your questions! Questions are a funny thing. Sometimes I write my questions weeks in advance, and sometimes I'll write them the day of, if I'm spending any amount of time with the authors. Conversations you have with them can be incredibly inspiring and direct the conversatin you have during the panel. Again, be very careful your questions aren't spoilery or leading to a spoilery answer.  Write more questions than you think you need. It is 100% better if you don't get to everything you prepared for than if you don't have enough material.

As for what to write questions about, anything and everything! You can ask book-specific questions (tell us about x character or x plot), writing (what does your space look like, plotter vs pantser, etc), whatever! Be creative. Be thoughtful. This is the part where it helps to be in the know about trends and topics affecting publishing and YA in particular. For instance, I moderated a We Need Diverse Books panel in 2015, and it was helpful to know the catalyst that started the push for more inclusion as well as the organization's goals. For a themed panel—like festival or convention panels—definitely devote the majority of your questions to the theme, but don't be entirely restrictive to it.

Notes in the margins are those I took during the panel
I do advise that, as moderator, you stay away from certain questions: where do you get your inspiration from? Will there be a movie? Do you have writing advice for aspiring authors? There's nothing wrong with these questions, but they are fairly typical. As moderator, you should be going a bit deeper. Plus, it's highly likely there will be young fans in the audience, and if there will be audience questions, these are popular ones for teen readers to ask.

OH! And stay away from yes/no questions unless you do a lightning round or are asking a follow up. I also don't care for recapping or similar questions.

Step 5: Print off or write down anything you might need. For me, I write all my questions by hand on a notepad*, but I always print off short bios for the authors UNLESS I'm at a festival and the panel will be on the short side. Then I simply ask them to introduce themselves and their books quickly. But my point here is, again, write things down. If you read their bios and want the authors to describe their books, write that down. You don't want to forget!

*I also keep a list of questions, both regular and lightning round, on the notepad of my phone if I think of something randomly or hear an excellent question at an event.

Day of/during the panel:
Step 6: Talk to the authors. If you have the chance beforehand, definitely ask the authors if they have anything they do/do not want to talk about. ALSO CHECK YOU CAN PRONOUNCE EVERYONE'S NAME (also titles and main characters if you're not sure, but especially the authors!)!!!!!!!

Step 7: Housekeeping / rules. If the author, publisher, or host has rules, go over them. Encourage the audience to take pictures and share the event via social media (share the hashtag if applicable!), but to turn off ringers. Explain the format of the panel (moderated questions, lightning round, audience questions? Reading, moderated questions, audience questions? Tell people what to expect!) and then jump on in!

Step 8: Be flexible. Sometimes a panel can really take off, and the authors feed off one another's answers, leading the conversation in a different, unexpected direction. This is a good thing (usually)! Keep an eye on the audience to make sure they're still engaged. If yes, let it flow. If not, you may need to gently steer the conversation back on track. If during the course of the conversation you're hit with inspiration, definitely feel free to ask follow-up questions.



Step 9: You're not the star. Personally, I think I'm hilarious. Really. I am highly entertained by myself, and I try to make my panels fun for everyone, authors and audience, but honestly, no one is there to see me, and I know it. There was an event I attended when I was not the moderator, and I was disappointed because the moderator spent most of the time having what seemed like a personal conversation with the audience. Her questions were unfocused and wordy, and she talked way too much. It left little time for audience questions, and honestly, it was boring. That experience is one I have never forgotten because I don't want to be that moderator.

I like to joke around when I moderate, but I always always keep in mind I'm not the reason the audience is there. Very, VERY occasionally I'll answer an audience question (last great book someone read, or something like that), but it's super seldom. You want your event to feel like a conversation, but moderators should not be the people talking the most. Basically, a moderator's job is to facilitate and focus discussion, not necessarily to participate.

Step 10: Keep track of time. Make sure you're aware of how long the panel is going so there will be time for questions and the signing.



Step 11: Be fair. "Life isn't fair" blah blah blah. Well, being the moderator comes with a modicum of power so use it well. Make sure each author is getting equitable amounts of time to talk and respond. I am so lucky I've never had someone hijack a panel, but you have to be prepared. It's not personal if you have to nudge someone back on topic or cut someone off, but do it respectfully. Also be fair to the audience. As above, leave plenty of time for a handful of audience questions.* Do give teens some precedence over adult audience members (for a YA or MG panel especially), but don't completely cut off adults. They're fans too! If you have a lot of audience questions, try to pick from different places; don't just stick with one group of friends.

*If the audience is feeling shy, you CAN always ask more of your own questions, which is why it's good to over-prepare! Also, if the audience IS shy, do your best to make them comfortable.

Step 12: Thank everyone! Thank the authors. Thank the host / bookstore / library / festival. Thank the audience. Thank the publisher.

Moderator Must Haves
Your questions! One of the most panicky moments I've ever had is when I sat down five minutes before a panel in 2015 only to realize I'd packed the wrong notepad and left my questions at home!

Pen/pencil. I keep a pen handy so I can write down quotes or additional questions as the panel progresses.

Watch/phone. To keep track of time. I also use it to talk to my coworkers if the event is at my library or take an audience photo, but it's important to not be stuck on your phone the whole time. Stay engaged!

Water bottle. You really, REALLY do not want to be in a position where you don't have a drink. Just in case. I guess you could have a different drink, but I recommend water in a bottle with a cap because it will cause the least mess in case of an accident and because it won't make you burp or anything weird.

Sense of humor. Oh, man, this is really really important and goes with being flexible. I'm pretty sure I've made a mistake on every single panel I've ever been on. The first time I moderated, I misread Veronica Rossi's bio and said she had "two husbands and a son" instead of a "husband and two sons." I said Mary Pearson wrote Kiss of Betrayal and Heart of Deception. I interrupted Marissa Meyer. My best friend's daughter sassed me from the audience when I asked if there were any audience questions, and she shouted out, "NO!" Just a couple weeks ago, I flubbed the CRAP out of Morgan Matson's bio. Roll with it. Laugh. Make fun of yourself. Take a deep breath. Take a drink. Move on. Don't let stuff like that rattle you. Remember step 9: You're not the star so nobody will care if you make a boo-boo. Seriously, I promise it'll be okay, and no one will remember what happened (although you will likely remember it forever because brains are jerks like that).

Q & A:
I asked Twitter to send me any questions they had about moderating. I have answered a couple of them throughout this post, but here are the remaining questions.

Honestly, it's a little bit of luck, same as getting author events in your area. Before I started working at the library, my now-boss asked me to moderate one of her author panels because I had attended events at the library and established myself as a passionate and active member of our local YA book community by attending events, publicizing them, and often writing up recaps. Unfortunately, that particular invitation was rescinded because of Reasons, but she asked me a couple months later to moderate the library's summer panel, and now that I work here, I've become the de facto moderator for our events since none of my coworkers like being in front of crowds. And since my library hosts the North Texas Teen Book Festival, I always offer to moderate as many panels as possible (there were like 60 panels this year).

For non-library events, I have moderated just four (soon to be five) panels / tours outside of events that are controlled by my library. The first was a panel held at my best friend's library so hi, nepotism. Honestly, she had a last-minute opening and needed a moderator asap, and I had a free afternoon. The second was at a Barnes & Noble where a friend of mine is the event manager. It is possible the publisher asked her for suggestions, but I also have a professional relationship with that publisher after attending TLA and another one of their author tours. Either way, the publicist in charge of that tour emailed me via my blog email, and all information for the tour came through her, although I stayed in touch with B&N.

For the Penguin Teen tour I moderated in March, I am friends/acquaintances with the Half Price Book staff. I attend lots of their events and always offer assistance. In this case, the bookstore asked me to moderate and okayed it with Penguin. They acted as a liason, and I received all my information through them.

For Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff's Illuminae tour in May, this was the most incredibly lucky I've ever been. Amie and Jay announced their tour, which included a stop in Dallas. I tweeted them with GREAT enthusiasm and an offer to help*. A bookish friend tweeted to Amie and Jay saying they should pick me for moderator. They responded that they don't decide, but they'd pass it along. Eventually I was contacted by their publicist and was asked to moderate the event. I was not familiar with the staff at that particular B&N, but I introduced myself via email and stayed in contact with them until the event.



In September, I will be moderating a panel at the Mansfield Book Festival. They asked me to participate last year, but I was unable to attend because of work. When I declined the invitation, I expressed my interest to moderate in the future so they asked again this year, and I'm thrilled I'm finally able to attend. I am fairly certain they found me because of my work with the North Texas Teen Book Festival.

If you're looking to get your foot in the door, the best advice I can give you is to be active in the community. Attend every event you can, and always introduce yourself. Make contacts, but more than that, make friends. Create a wide network of bookish friends and acquaintances. Establish yourself in the community, both in person and online, and be active. I don't blog regularly and often, but I am very active on Twitter, and I attend as many events in my city and around the state of Texas. If your library hosts events, become a volunteer. If you live in a city that hosts a book festival, become a volunteer or a member of the teen press corps or street team (the North Texas Teen Book Festival and Texas Teen Book Festival both do this, Texas peeps!).

*NOTE: I would like to point out that Amie, Jay, and I had talked several times via Twitter, and I had met Amie at an event during her tour with Meagan Spooner for This Shattered World, so it was not an out of the blue offer for me to help with their signing. PLEASE do not just randomly tweet authors and publishers to be part of events!


This is a terrible situation, and I'm fortunate that I have never had this situation occur in one of my panels, but I have witnessed it both at book events I've been to and at Dragon Con, which is the only major convention I've attended. In my experience, the people who generally talk the most at a book signing are teens, and I think if they talk too much when asking a question, it's probably caused by nerves and genuine fan excitement because those things dumb the tongue, so to speak. I would know. Just check above to see my many panel fumblings. I have no problem with slightly rambly "oh my gosh I love you so much" questions and comments, and absolutely none of the authors I've worked with do either because these audience members are so sweet and earnest. They really do just love the author and his/her work and want to share the excitement and ask a question, and this is highly encouraged at these events. Teen readers, PLEASE bring that excitement to these signings and festivals. It's why we do them!

I have seen exactly one adult attending one of these events (out of 100+ I've gone to) ask an annoying and condescending question, and the authors answered it as honestly, thoughtfully, and professionally as they did all the others they'd received, although they also made it clear the question was not entirely appropriate.

While at Dragon Con, I was at a panel with Sean Astin from The Lord of the Rings, The Goonies, and Rudy. During the Q&A portion, one person DID get waaaaay too involved and asked like a five part question about some seriously deep LotR mythology. I don't know whether that man was being a condescending jackass or if he was such a fan that he HAD to know the answer to these questions (although I would personally feel a Tolkien scholar would be a better person to ask than one of the actors, but hey, whatever), but the moderator cut him off kindly but firmly, and Sean answered one of the questions. I think that's the best and really only solution. Again, as the moderator, you're the timekeeper so you need to be mindful of that; plus, it's always better to get to as many audience questions as you can. If a signing will follow the panel, you can always remind the audience they'll have a chance to ask questions in the signing line.



And there you have it. Mary's guide to moderating. If you have any additional questions, I would love to hear them in the comments!

Review + Giveaway: The Beauty of Darkness by Mary E. Pearson



Rating: 5 stars
Pub Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Henry Holt & Co
Genre: young adult fantasy
Format/Source: hardcover, purchased
Status: Book 3 of The Remnant Chronicles


Summary:
Lia and Rafe have escaped Venda and the path before them is winding and dangerous - what will happen now? This third and final book in The Remnant Chronicles is not to be missed.


Bestselling author Mary E. Pearson's combination of intrigue, suspense, romance and action make this a riveting page turner for teens.

Challenge Accepted: ARC August 2016 - Updated


Welcome to my into post for this year's ARC August! ARC August is this awesome challenge created by Octavia and Shelly of Read. Sleep. Repeat. that allows participants to whittle down their TBRs specifically by targeting ARCs. 

What are ARCs? ARCs are Advance Reader Copies or Advance Review Copies. These are copies, usually either paperback or digital formats, of books that have not yet been widely released. Publishers create these books to send to book reviewers to create buzz for upcoming titles. ARCs are not able to be sold in bookstores and can't be part of a library's circulating collection.

Why is ARC August so awesome? Book blogging can sometimes be pretty stressful. It seems like there's an unending stack of unread books piling up around my apartment, and I feel like I never have enough time to give each title the attention it deserves. Additionally, there are a lot of book events over the summer: BEA, Book Con, ALA, Blog Bound Con, etc. During these conferences, it's not uncommon to walk away with new books in the double digits. ARC August allows bloggers the opportunity to focus solely on upcoming titles and create individual goals for books read and reviewed. 

Goals:
As always, I'm going to created two goals: books read + books reviewed

ARC August To Be Read:
Nevernight - Jay Kristoff
The Thousandth Floor - Katharine McGee
Three Dark Crowns - Kendare Blake
And I Darken - Kiersten White
Gap Life - John Coy
All the Feels - Danika Stone
Diplomatic Immunity - Brodi Ashton
The Lovely Reckless - Kami Garcia


ARC August To Be Reviewed:
(these are ARCs I read before August that I haven't reviewed yet)
This Adventure Ends - Emma Mills
Summer of Supernovas - Darcy Woods
My Lady Jane - Lady Janies
The Heartbreakers - Ali Novak
Defending Taylor - Miranda Kenneally
Gemina - Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
Riders - Veronica Rossi
The Wrath and the Dawn - Renee Ahdieh
A Torch Against the Night - Sabaa Tahir
The Unexpected Everything - Morgan Matson

Update:
I just decided that I'm going to be moving next month which means August just became cleaning-and-packing August. So I've decided to lower my goal to pick just 5 titles from each of the lists above instead of doing all of them. 

Are you participating in ARC August? Have you read any of the books on my to-read list? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Blog Tour: You Before Anyone Else by Julie Cross & Mark Perini



Rating: 4 stars
Pub Date: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Genre: young adult contemporary romance
Format/Source: DRC, from the publisher
Status: companion to Halfway Perfect

Disclaimer: I was given a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review as part of the blog tour, which was organized & hosted by Irish Banana Tours.

Summary:
Model Finley needs someone to help her shed her "good girl" persona, so she'll try Eddie on for size.

New York City model Finley is fed up with hearing the same feedback at castings: she needs to take some serious action to wipe the "good girl" stamp from her resume if she wants to launch to stardom.

Enter Eddie Wells. He's shallow, predictable…and just as lost as Finley feels. Deep down, Finley is drawn to Eddie's bravado, his intensity. Except Eddie is hiding something. A big something. And when it surfaces, both loving and leaving Finley will become so much harder.

Review: Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (no spoilers, just gifs and a giveaway)



Rating: all the stars
Pub Date: October 18, 2016
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: young adult sci-fi space adventure mind fuck
Format/Source: ARC, BEA
Status: book 2 of The Illuminae Files
Link: Illuminae review


Summary:
Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed.

The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault.

Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion.

When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their hands.

But relax. They’ve totally got this. They hope.


Once again told through a compelling dossier of emails, IMs, classified files, transcripts, and schematics, Gemina raises the stakes of the Illuminae Files, hurling readers into an enthralling new story that will leave them breathless.

Blog Tour: Goldfish by Nat Luurtsema


Pub Date: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Genre: young adult contemporary, sports fiction
Status: standalone
Summary: Lou Brown is one of the fastest swimmers in the county. She’s not boasting, she really is. So things are looking pretty rosy the day of the Olympic time-trials. With her best mate Hannah by her side, Lou lines up by the edge of the pool, snaps her goggles on and bends into her dive… 

Everything rests on this race. It’s Lou’s thing.

… or it was. She comes dead last and to top it all off Hannah sails through leaving a totally broken Lou behind.

Starting again is never easy, particularly when you’re the odd-one out in a family of insanely beautiful people and a school full of social groups way too intimidating to join. Where do you go from here? Finding a new thing turns out to be the biggest challenge Lou’s ever faced and opens up a whole new world of underwater somersaults, crazy talent shows, bitchy girls and a great big load of awkward boy chat. 

Lou Brown guides us through the utter humiliation of failure with honesty, sass and a keen sense of the ridiculous. This girl will not be beaten.


Today on the blog, I have something special to share with you. My friend Jenny Connolly was a competitive swimmer, competing both for the University of Tennessee during her college days and at USA swimming events around the world. Reading Goldfish made me think of her (and miss her tons because we now live in separate states) so for my stop on the Goldfish tour, I'm interviewing Jenny about her days as a swimmer. She gives great advice how to not drown, how to follow your dreams, and some book recs!

My first-ever karaoke night with Jenny & our friend Ootz

Can you describe what an average day in the life of a competitive swimmer looked like for you? 
Jenny Connolly: It looks different for different age groups and different levels of swimmers. But at my highest level (college) I would have morning practice starting at 5:30am and going until 7:30am. Then class and lunch. If I'm lucky, I'd fit in a nap in the early afternoon. I'd have afternoon practice starting at 2:15pm going until 5:00/5:15pm. During some of those practices we would have drylands workouts (strength exercises). Three days a week we would have weights before practice. After afternoon practice we would have our own time whether that was tutor sessions, homework, study hours, eating dinner, and/or relaxing. Then bedtime. Saturday was a whole different story. We would have practice starting at 7:00am and go until about 10:00am, and then have weights for an hour after that. Ending times of practices would fluctuate due to a 20 hour practice limit.


Did you ever have any race rituals or mottos that got you through tough moments?
Jenny: I didn't have any real "mottos" that I'd say... But I did focus on what I could control in that race or practice. In meets I would always say a prayer before every race, and I would tell myself to trust my training and my coach, and then I'd try to clear my head of all thoughts and just focus on racing. In practice I'd just try to focus on the set at hand at that particular practice and tell myself that I just needed to take one set at a time.

What's your favorite stroke and/or least favorite stroke? Why? Also, feel free to share tips how to not drown while attempting the butterfly. 
Jenny: My favorite stroke is butterfly, but I was best at backstroke. Butterfly and backstroke just came naturally to me. I was a powerful swimmer, so butterfly came pretty easy to me. Breaststroke was my least favorite... Either you get the rhythm of breaststroke, or you don't. And I could just never get it down. Tips on not drowning during butterfly.... that can be tough... haha. I think just finding the rhythm and using your walls when you turn to get as much air (and sometimes rest) that you can! :)


Brag about yourself for a minute: what was one (or two!) moment/race/tournament you are super proud of?
I've always been very proud of my Junior and Senior year at SEC's (Conference Championships). It was the Friday night session and I was seeded first in 2 events (100 butterfly and 100 backstroke) and had the 400 medley relay (backstroke leg). That is a LOT of competing at a championship meet for just one session. But I'm proud of that meet because my mind was more powerful than it had ever been and I was the toughest I'd been as a competitor. I won both individual events and my team won the relay. Three event wins in one session. It was pretty spectacular.
I would just like to add that watching Jenny compete was pretty spectacular. 

Who are you cheering for in the Olympics / who is your favorite swimmer?
MOLLY HANNIS. She's a former Tennessee teammate of mine! She made the Olympic Team in the 200 breaststroke. Everyone cheer her on! She's a spectacular person and a great role model.

I have no idea why this picture happened, but okay. 
Boss lady friends are the best kind of friends.

What advice would you give to someone who is pursuing their passion?
Don't stop! You're in charge of your future. So decide to take charge, dig deep, and just do it. You'll be amazed at what great experiences and memories you'll have and create.

And, finally, do you have any book recommendations?
Not for swimming... But I'm totally going to brag here- my sister, Rebecca Connolly, is a published author. She writes clean historic romance novels (Regency Era). They are AWESOME. Very witty. I couldn't put her books down! So far 3 are out in this series. They are called An Arrangement of Sorts, Married to the Marquess, and Secrets of a Spinster. Look her up!

So... the mc's name in Secrets of a Spinster is Mary. Jenny, did your sister base that book on my life?? Thank you, Jenny, for taking the time to answer my questions! *sends all the long-distance hugs*

Purchase Links:
 photo B6096376-6C81-4465-8935-CE890C777EB9-1855-000001A1E900B890_zps5affbed6.jpg  photo 111AD205-AA04-4F9E-A0F4-C1264C4E9F30-1855-000001A1E8CEB6D7_zps9b730b94.jpg  photo KoboIcon_zps515cdc1a.jpg  photo B1426D4C-9EEC-4C0B-A1FB-90524B03C0CA-1855-000001A1E82B3B3E_zps17d98f4d.jpg
About the Author:
Nat Luurtsema is a BAFTA-nominated screenwriter, a BAFTA Rocliffe alumni, stand-up comic, author, actor and a third of sketch group Jigsaw.

She has just finished directing WYRDOES, a comedy feminist ‘Macbeth’, with backing from Film London, Film4 and the British Arts Council. It will be a part of the Shakespeare Lives worldwide tour, which will play to an audience of 500 million.

Nat plays Tallulah Bankhead in FLORENCE FOSTER JENKINS, directed by Stephen Frears.

Nat is developing two feature films and adapting the novel Spilt Milk Black Coffee by Helen Cross, for Mighty Atom Entertainment.

Nat’s latest book is a Young Adult novel – GIRL OUT OF WATER – to be published June 2016 in the UK, Germany, France and Italy. It will simultaneously publish as GOLDFISH in USA.

Author Links: