Archive for the ‘Hearts for Hearts’ Category

Pay It Forward RT 2014 CHALLENGE–Collect, Donate and WIN!

Monday, May 5th, 2014

Pay It Forward
Romantic Times 2014 Challenge

WIN $100
for the
Charity of Your Choice…

And it costs you nothing!

Simply Collect books at
Romantic Times 2014, New Orleans,
and donate them in your community,
to those who cannot access books of their own.

button hearts for hearts

I challenge readers and authors to help me donate 50,000 books by the end of 2014, through my Hearts for Hearts Initiative.

And RT 2014 is the PERFECT opportunity to make HUGE headway in our goal.

How do you win $100 for the charity of your choice?

  • Set aside books from the free ones you collect at the 2014 Romantic Times convention in New Orleans, to donate to your community. It costs you nothing!
  • Not going to RT2014? Select books from your personal library to donate, find somewhere in your community to share them, and you’re in!
  • Report what you’ve collected and where you want it to go in your community, on the Anna DeStefano Author FB page or in the comments of this blog post. I’ll be talking more in both places about the Pay It Forward RT Challenge and Hearts for Hearts, from now through the convention.
  • I will choose a randomly selected winner from all who participate. The winner will be announced on the Anna DeStefano Author FB Page, and contacted from FaceBook (or via email, if you comment here), to ask where you’d like your $100 Prize donated!
  • Simple, right?

For donation recommedations
and exciting information about Hearts
for Hearts,

Together, we’ll build community, one story at a time!


By commenting/participating, you release Facebook from any involvement in or responsibility for this contest.

The owner of this blog/giveaway acknowledges that this promotion is in no way sponsored,
endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook.

Pay It Forward Friday: Mentoring

Friday, April 18th, 2014

Who do you know, who is where you’ve been, waiting for you to help them stretch their wings and soar far beyond their dreams?

Just about a year ago, I was asked to mentor a math/science wiz at my son’s magnet high school, who wanted to write a novel–a collection of short stories, actually. During our first meeting I realized that she in fact wanted to PUBLISH said novel. And as of this week, twelve months of hard work and back and forth and a lot of generous industry professionals pitching in to help later, she has.

Working with someone with stars in her eyes each time we talked about making her stories better and putting them out in the world for others to read has meant everything to me. I’ve received so much more than I’ve donated to this project, in inspiration and energy and the thrill of witnessing a seemingly impossible dream come true.

More to come on this project–I’ll write a full article soon about her journey and every single goddess in this industry who’s stepped in to make this happen.

But for now, as you help me celebrate Chinye Ijeli’s Fresco, I ask you to consider paying forward your gifts and talents and connections by helping someone else reach their goals and beyond!

Mentoring. This Pay It Forward Friday’s focus. Look into it. You’ll be glad you did!


What Will You Wednesday!

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014
What Will You Wednesday!
I will be grateful for every person I connect with today, letting them know whenever possible.
What will you “Pay Forward” today?

I will be grateful for every person I connect with today, letting them know whenever possible.

Pay It Forward Button

What will you Pay Forward today?

Building Community One Story at a Time…

Tuesday, April 15th, 2014

Pay it forward. We like the sound of it. We learn the difficulty of it. We must find our own way to it. We must make it real on a personal level, before it becomes a guiding  force in our lives.

For me, that way began with Building Community One Story at a Time, which is my 2014 challenge: for this blog going forward, for the life I’ve been blessed to have, for my family and writing and service and teaching and editing and mental well-being.

I’ve already experienced some amazing results this year, trying my personal Pay It Forward mantra on for size, taking it out for a spin, stretching it at the seams to see what gives, throwing a pebble into the stream and searching the ripples for what is real… You get the picture.  And you’ll get more details here, daily. I’m so excited to share. I hope to inspire. I long to create a space where others can’t wait to do the same. It’s time to turn up the volume and live my 2014 challenge out loud.

I’m all in.

pay it forward BW

Meditating on what could be my chance to give is no longer enough for me. There’s more calling me than thinking about it. There’s more calling each of us.

Deadlines and responsibilities and demands and successes and failures and fears and dreams aside, there’s life to live. And paying what I’ve found forward, feeding myself with the energy of feeding others however I can, is that life for me. Living on “building” others up, in tangible and intangible ways every day, is already changing me. More than I could have imagined. It will change you, too. I challenge you to find out just how much.

Building Community One Story at a Time…

What does it mean to me? I’m not sure yet, but I’ll be finding my way out here every day. I invite you to search and experiment and share what you find, right along with me.

So far this year I’ve:

  • Begun a book-donation/community-based charity (Hearts for Hearts) and inspired friends, family, writers, publishing professionals and neighbors to donate thousands of books to those in need in their communities.
  • Mentored a high school senior, helping her (with assistance from more rock star publishing pro friends of mine) write, revise, edit, create cover art for and (very soon) indie publish her first novel on Smashwords.
  • Seeded a book donation program at my YMCA that drove member participation and resulted in a landslide of books and TWO community libraries (adult and children’s) for members who can’t afford to buy their own, all in a matter of months and launching by the end of April. A dream come true, and Hearts for Hearts is only getting started.
  • Begun a non-fiction project to share with other mothers/parents my experience raising and letting go of my teenager, proceeds of which will fund another, to-be-named, community-based assistance program for families not as lucky as mine who must conquer challenges I can’t possibly imagine WHILE dealing the insanity that is loving, inspiring, guiding and letting go of our children as they grow.
  • Started mentoring/freelance editing again for a few select clients, feeding my passion for helping writers learn how to create the very best they can and set their voice free in the world for readers to find.
  • Finished one new novel (a long novella, actually), and begun a second, in a new series about community and family and the struggles beneath the seeming calm in the ordered world so many of us see when we look out our suburban windows. By the end of 2014 I will be close to completing a third, and I could be more excited about the spin-off on Mimosa Lane (younger and full of energy and light AND deeper emotions and challenges and successes!) my publishers supporting!
  • Given a keynote at a reader event, focused more on the “person” of my reader/writer audience than the business of publishing. I have another scheduled for the fall. I couldn’t be more excited–more than I’ve been about any writer/publishing event I’ve been asked to speak at for years. The energy of immersing myself in that kind of “inspiring” opportunity was a revelation.

That’s my pay-it-forward start.

What will be yours?

It takes only one decision to go for it (in December of last year, Hearts for Hearts was only a flicker of an idea) to change your entire world’s view. Make that decision today. (more…)

Delayed Valentine’s Day? Let’s delay it all year!

Friday, February 14th, 2014

I live in the arctic tundra… I mean, in the balmy Deep South. In the last three weeks, we’ve had more snow and ice than we have in the last ten years–COMBINED. No one hundreds of miles of us has been able to leave their house for days this time around, let alone shop for their sweethearts.

So what does The Rumpus recommend you do? That’s right, The Rumpus… A kick asz cool site, and they’re spreading the word about Hearts for Hearts.


the rumpus

Looking for a last-minute Valentine’s Day gift for the book-lover in your life? Why not pay that gift forward to your community?

Romance novelist Anna DeStefano’s Hearts for Hearts initiative “to give back to their communities by donating books they already own to nearby assistance groups” such as “homeless shelters, Medicaid nursing facilities, or similar centers.”

HfH Image


There’s a lot of “Holy Valentine’s Day Interruptus Batman” going on around all over the place today. But what if Valentine’s weren’t about a single day? What if sharing love and inspiration and relaxation and escape were an everyday thing?

That’s what we want Hearts for Hearts to be. It’s a call to look closer at the community around you and find a way to help (the way the characters in my not-so-light-and-fluffy romance novels do). In my stories, there are always happy endings. But my characters and readers work harder than in a lot of other novels for their bright and shiny endings. The deeper emotions I hope their challenges stir ring truer to life, at least to me, and that makes the victories I live to write for these hard-working characters even more fulfilling.

So, yes, I write candy, hearts and flowers stories. Sort of. And I live in a candy, hearts and flowers neighborhood. Sort of.

But just a mile or so from me, there are pockets of need that I’ve been able to serve–by doing nothing more than giving away books. Books I’ve written, books I’ve read and loved, books my friends have been thrilled to share, too. My friends and I have personally given story (romance, fantasy, mystery, young adult, inspiration, non-fiction, you name it) to families living below the poverty level, foster care facilities, nursing homes, and even our local YMCA, where Hearts for Hearts has seeded new children and adult libraries for their members, many of whom join via scholarship.

What does a different kind of Valentine’s Day and paying it forward with story look like? After my initial Hearts for Hearts donation of a few hundred books to my YMCA, and my challenge to open libraries where books could be taken and donated without having to check them out (because so many of our members don’t have the ability the buy their own books and would want to take them home, and that’s EXACTLY what we want them to do) THIS is what the community “book drive” looked in January…

bin sign box


library cart sample

And the donations just keep pouring in….

donations pouring in

And the library isn’t due to open until March! (more…)

Love… What it means to you and me?

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

The best love stories are about so much more than the romance on the surface, even when the happily ever after ending is what all romance readers look for.

Some romance readers like sassy, some like funny, some like sweet, some spooky or dramatic or heart-pounding. But we’re all going readers reading for an ending that inspires and encourages and gives up hope that our lives could be just as well-crafted and happily-ended.

happily ever after

But love stories can be about so much more.

It’s this “more” that love can speak to, that I write for. How we love and how we relate and how we deal with or lives is shaped by the world around us. Our families, the ones who made us and the ones we build for ourselves, define so much of what we see as ours, and sometimes what we think we can’t. Our world view can tell us we’re loved. It can insist we’re unlovable. OR it can challenge us to fight for the love we need, no matter how many people might be standing in line to let us down. The families and community I write about find their happy endings, but not before I show them fighting as hard as they have to, to conquer some of the very real challenges we all do


I want that CONQUER THE WORLD reality for my characters, my readers, and myself. I want the the kind of happy ending we all hope for, no matter what gets in our way. The one where we’ll fight, and we’ll never fight alone, until we claim our HEA. And I HEART stories where kids are fought for and families are fought for and communities are fought for, no matter their challenges.

I’ve talked a little about Hearts for Hearts, and I’ll be talking more this month, as we celebrate Valentine’s day. Hearts for Hearts is about more. Seeing so much more in the world and lives around us, and seeing if we can’t dig in and help someone else fight. (more…)

How do hearts work in real life? Like this…

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Hearts for Hearts is gifting so many with the most amazing holiday EVER–me most of all. My house isn’t fully decorated. I gave out last night before the last of the ornaments went onto the tree. I’m behind in baking and writing and seeing friends. But as of this last week, I’ve personally donated hundreds of books to amazing opportunities for stories to reach out and touch people who need the boost the most this time of year!

Oh, and the kitties would like me to say that they helped. Lots. Actually, they’ve done all the work and I’m just taking credit.

YMCA DeStefano Donation Gizmo HELPS

So much has happened already for the program, and we’re only into the first official launch week. Joyce Lamb at USA Today has spotlighted us, Sheila Clover English at Readers Entertainment, too, and the amazing Barbara Vey at Publisher’s Weekly. They’ve all generously boosted our visibility to their followers readers. Donations are beginning to happen all over the country as a result. More stories about that to come. The excitement I’m hearing from donors and recipients is EXACTLY what we’d hoped for when we dreamed of what HfH could be.

Starting Monday, I’ll be asking readers and friends and fans like you to help get the word out. All the information you need is in the Hearts for Hearts category on the blog or my website Hearts for Hearts page. You can also follow my Author page on Facebook to keep up. Won’t you consider helping?

Why am I taking the time to do this?

Why am I asking you to get involved?

HfH Image

Hearts for Hearts is such an easy concept for people to grasp, it costs you nothing but a little time and the effort it takes to reach out into your community and see where a need might be. Building community, one story at a time, is what I’ve been doing with my novels from the very start. The chance to see that come to life outside the pages is just too tempting to pass up.

I’ve asked three people in my personal circle of friends and contacts, and the doors have opened to no less than 5 donation opportunities. (more…)

Hearts for Hearts…

Monday, December 9th, 2013

I’m a blessed girl, a lucky artist, and writer who’s been given an amazing opportunity to give back. Hearts for Hearts is my newest passion–a chance for each of us to make a difference in our communities, to give back and lighten someone else’s life, one story at a time–and I’m thrilled to have Joyce Lamb at USA Today and her Happily Every  After blog exclusively kicking things off today!

HfH Image

There’s so much to share. Too much for a single day, and some of the mechanics of the program are still being ironed out. A lot of authors and industry professionals are already on board, signing up to participate. Lots to do and people to talk with and exciting things to see unfold.

So stay tuned. Lots of fun and details and cool ways to get involved (and win some fun things) to come. But for now, I hope Joyce’s Q&A inspires you to look for opportunities to donate and get involved in your are. That’s my challenge for all my readers and fans–even if you don’t have much money or time this holiday season, find a way to reach out (with Hearts for Hearts, through story) to those around you who have less, and make a difference in their lives!

So, for now…

Let me know in the comments what you think, how you might be able to join us on this amazing journey, and any questions you might have…

I truly can’t believe this day is finally here. Thanks to the entire Nancy Berland Team for all the hard work, helping me bring Hearts for Hearts to life!

What opens your heart?

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Holiday cheer? Holiday giving? Holiday spirit? I want those things mean to me the same as they would any other time of the year.  I listed my “heart happy” goals yesterday, for the holiday and beyond, and rereading them now makes me smile. I’m actually thinking I should be reading them every morning. Every new day I don’t feel up for or ready to face or willing to tackle. Because it’s not about me, not entirely. Each day is about living and giving and sharing and belonging.

open heart people

Opening your heart to the world around you…what better goal to have? There’s an entire philosophy behind our need to belong and how it drives the majority of conscience and subconscious behavior. Why do we do the things we do, why do we give up on the things we do, and why do we avoid those very things we know we need to face most? Fear and doubt, I say. We worry, and feel insignificant or powerless, and are too often on a self-fulfilling path of “I can’t make that work so why bother.”

“Don’t do that,” my daily list says. The list at the bottom of yesterday’s post that I’ll shake myself awake with each new morning now, because I want this holiday and this life and this chance I have to write and live well to mean something  more than what I want (and am maybe a little afraid I can’t have) for  myself.

What about other people? How can I be useful and meaningful to them?

shared heart

That’s what I hope my writing’s about– (more…)

What’s a heart made of?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Holidays are for hearts. Whatever we celebrate this time of year, images of families and loved ones and friends and memories surround us. The season lifts us up, makes us homesick, sometimes brings unwanted sadness. Our hearts are in play. Done deal. We’re feeling something more, something deeper, something real.

I often wonder why–you know, besides the obvious manipulation by the media and advertisers, wanting us to spend, Spend, SPEND so we can feel even better (or worse) as we long for more of whatever we want (or have lost) most. What’s behind those heart strings tugging at our thoughts and memories and imaginations?

heart strings music

We’re more open around the holidays, even the jaded among us. We engage with the world and people around us, because it’s all closer, it’s all bigger. How can we not be affected?

Our minds are on the every day of work and kids and obligations and worries. We plod onward with all we think we are. But we’re also conditioned to feel certain ways in November and December and early January. Whether we want to or not, we’re trained from infancy to fit into the holiday mold our families before us have spent generations crafting. But what do we truly want our hearts to feel and believe and desire this time of year?

In matters of the heart, what’s habit and what’s intention? What makes us happy, and what are we doing because we’re told it should make us happy? If only we could tune in and find the magic of our own individual experience (as the world and the holidays experience and evolve and march onward around us), the hustle and bustle that distracts from more than this season would fade a bit…and we’d discover the holiday of oyr dreams.

heart happy shadow

That’s my plan this year, anyway. To be, in this moment, what my heart’s always wanted this time of year to be. To understand my hearts desire and see it come to life around me. To inspire, through my stories and my blogs and the other fun things coming soon that my publicist would smack me for talking about before its time (waving at Nancy Berland and her fabulous team while keeping mum’s the word for just a little longer), everyone I reach to long for the same.

Let’s say them out loud… (more…)