Friday, December 19, 2014

Blank pages

A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit.
 - Richard Bach
I've started many different posts over the past two weeks, but deleted them all. It's been a struggle. I've had a hard time concentrating and too little sleep. The demands of motherhood and homeschooling during the holidays have been overwhelming. Factor in grief to the equation, and I can certainly tell you that I am not Super Woman. (I always knew this, but there are some out there who, for whatever reason, seem to think I am!) I do not have "it" all together, nor do I pretend to have it all together.

My goal in this blog was to document my writing journey, and this is part of it. Blank pages. Frustration. Disappointment with myself. But it's not all bad. I've learned much, and I'm still learning. I set a goal when I began this blog to publish every week, but I'm recognizing my limits. When life is okay and things are running smoothly, I can meet the goal. However, when life squeezes the stress on thick (like a herniated disc) and daily life becomes a burden, it's time to inhale a big dose of grace.

It's okay to slow down. It's okay to say no. It's okay that writing right now isn't a priority. It doesn't mean I'm a failure. It doesn't mean I'm a "bad" writer. It doesn't mean I'll never succeed. It means there are seasons to everything. (Reading happens to be the current season, by the way!) It means I prioritize. It means I do what I can when I can. It means I seek God for direction.

Writing is most definitely not a sprint. It is complex. It is multifaceted. It is a process. Too often, we want to shortcut the process and skip to the end. But we singularly rob ourselves of the learning and character building that only comes from staying in it until the end. The hard part of the race is figuring out how to pace yourself. That, I have never been good at. Pacing is a lot like grace. It has to keep flowing. It has to be abundant, ever-present. It doesn't give up. It recognizes that every step is important. It honors the journey.

So while there has been blank pages as far as writing, those pages are permeated with an aura of grace. Without grace, expectations and goals become unrealistic rules. No matter the job or role, we all face "blank" days/pages. But it's those who give and accept grace that don't quit. And eventually, the blank pages will be filled with a beautiful story.


Friday, December 5, 2014

Time to slow down

Advent has begun. And it's a good thing. Because it's time to just slow down. The holiday season is defined by a dizzying flurry of activity. I am relieved and thankful for Advent, for the chance to slow our pace and reflect on the true reason we celebrate this season.

One effective way we do this in our family is by reading Advent books. It's a purposeful way to put a choke-hold on our busy calendar. We have our favorite titles from past years, as well as newly discovered ones. Below is our list:

Arnold Ytreeide books: (My suggestion is age 7 and up. Allow yourself adequate time for reading, as these can take about a half hour daily. Also implements the use of an Advent wreath and candles.)
Jotham's Journey 
Tabitha's Travels
Bartholomew's Passage
Amon's Adventure (for Easter)

Which Way is Christmas? (My suggestion is age 10 and under. Quick reading, about 10-15min./day.)

The Greatest Gift by Ann Voskamp (My suggestion is age 8 and up. Short, but thoughtful reading, about 15-20min./day.)
This book also offers the option of doing a "Jesse Tree" for which the reader can access a free download (code for access is in the book) of each of the 25 ornaments highlighting the Biblical story.

I also stumbled across these two resources for Advent books, but have yet to check out the titles myself:
My Top 5 Books on Advent by Paul-Gordon Chandler
Good News of Great Joy - Daily Readings for Advent by John Piper

What are your favorite Advent books and traditions, dear readers? I'd love to hear them! For the next several weeks, my prayer is that we would go slow and be struck by the wonder of God's love.

Friday, November 21, 2014

A book give-away!

***I received an email from Rafflecopter saying they had "issues" for a few days during the give-away. Therefore, I will be giving the book to whomever contacts me first. Thanks for understanding!***


The holiday season is upon us, and the retail world would like all to believe that if they just had that "one" thing, their life would be so much better, so much easier, so much more perfect. But those who grieve know better. They know that it isn't about "stuff." They may fail to see joy, or even find one thing for which to be thankful during this season. It's one of the reasons I wanted to do a book give-away. I hope that giving away this particular book will be a blessing and a comfort to whomever receives it.

Visit my grief blog below to enter a chance to win:

A Window Into Grief Blog

Friday, November 14, 2014

Connections

One of the most satisfying aspects of this writing journey has been making connections. Meeting other writers through attending conferences and participating in critique groups has been a great source of joy. I've never met a better bunch of people! They are so encouraging and truly sincere in wanting the best for you as a writer. They don't mince words and are honest in their critiques, but it's always for the purpose of making you a better writer.

I am not a natural when it comes to engaging people in conversation. I am far more comfortable behind the keyboard than I am making small talk face-to-face. However, I happen to be married to an extrovert, so I've picked up a few things over the past, shall we say, many years. One thing I've learned is to ask questions. My fear of appearing stupid has been quickly and easily overridden by my desire to know. When meeting other writers, I want to know why and what they write. I want to know how they persevere and what they think are non-negotiables in the writing process.

Asking questions has proved to be instrumental in building the writing connections I've made thus far. It's created new friendships, interesting dialog, and expanded my view of the writing world. It's fun, it's surprising, and it's unpredictable. I never know what kind of an answer I'm going to get, or even who I will end up connecting with. It's so far out of my comfort zone, but this is where I can stomp on fear and march forward with confidence and reap the spoils of newfound connections.


Fear can really mess with anyone, but for writers, I think it can feel extra thick. However, the best advice I've gotten regarding fear on this writing journey is to: 1) expect it, 2) face it, and 3) tackle it. Fear is part of the journey. There's no avoiding it. Writing is, by nature, vulnerable. Expect it and then face it head-on. Fear loses it's power when it's confronted. And when you're no longer controlled by it's power, you can then tackle it and get to the sweet payoff behind it. For me, the payoff has been making some amazing writing connections and gaining valuable writing knowledge because I faced my fear of putting my writing out there and of stepping out of my comfort zone.

I've been able to do this because of so many others who have done the same. They've been a great example, and I've appreciated their honesty, bravery, and encouragement. The act of writing may be a solitary process, but it's the connections we make as writers that make the writing come alive. Make some connections this weekend and write on!


Friday, November 7, 2014

If only I could be dramatic

After last month's critique group meeting, I've been feeling a bit overwhelmed. Actually, no. Stuck. Well, overwhelmed and stuck. It's discouraging and frustrating. The problem isn't a lack of ideas or writing material. It's a lack of climax or conflict in my writing. My picture book manuscripts have gotten favorable feedback, but the constructive criticism is the same. There is no drama, no problem to solve, no crescendo in the middle. Argh! Yet, my word count is good, my writing engaging, and the story line interesting. So what's a writer to do?

This, alas, is what I am still wondering. I can't seem to find my way. But rather than bang my head on the keyboard, I am pulling out reading material. I have several resource books on writing that I have yet to finish reading. I have learned much in the last three years, but it's only a drop in the bucket, really. The best thing I can do is simply keep learning, keep reading, and keep writing. It doesn't seem very exciting, but I'm o.k. with that. Writing isn't always exciting, but it's always personally rewarding, especially if one perseveres. My new mantra:




Friday, October 31, 2014

Desperation

I subscribe to my cyber-friend Kimberly's blog. She wrote a post this week that had me "Uh-huh'ing" and nodding the entire way through.

When You're Desperate to Be Pregnant (with the Things of God).

I want to be a published author, yes. But it is, honestly, not something I seek more than God. I am not desperate enough to skip steps to get my way or to circumvent the hard work of breaking into the traditional publishing world by self-publishing because I want to be published so badly I'll do anything to get it. (I'm not saying, btw, that all who self-publish do this. But, sadly, I've seen more that do than don't.) I am not willing to run ahead of God and His plan for me. I am content to write where I am at, whether published or unpublished.

Of course, it'd be thrilling to see my books in print and on a library shelf or bookstore shelf, but, like Kimberly, I have laid those plans and dreams down, down before the LORD. He is the one who directs my steps. (Proverbs 3:5-6) I trust in Him, with my writing, with my dreams, with my time. My life is not my own and neither is my time. Every breath I take is because He has allowed me yet another. I want my life and my writing to reflect His glory. I want to be desperate for Him. I am so glad to have had this reminder this week!  

Friday, October 24, 2014

Critique groups

What can I say about critique groups? Only that they are amazing, terrifying, invaluable, and humbling! I've been attending a critique group for many months now, and it's been worth every minute of the hour plus drive. The particular group I meet with has anywhere from 10-30 people on any given month, and we divide into groups of four to six people for critiquing.

We bring copies of our manuscripts, pass them out amongst our break-out group members, and take turns giving critiques. Critiques consist of reading a work aloud, spending several minutes in silence writing a critique, and then ending in sharing of individual feedback. Feedback is "sandwiched," meaning that we begin with a positive comment, followed by a "criticism," and ending with another positive remark.

Critiquing is nerve-wracking, humbling, and downright necessary. Unfortunately, it can feel a bit like stripping down to your underwear and asking for honest opinions about your body. Seriously. But the great thing is that you're not alone, and the purpose is truly to make you a better writer. Everyone is there for the same reason, not because we're perfect writers, but because we know there is always room for improvement. I believe that most writers would agree that they didn't get to where they are by themselves, meaning that any improvement in their writing had the input from others who desired to make it better, too. Who doesn't want to see others do their best?

Successful writing isn't defined solely by being published. It's by doing the work of a writer, which means writing, learning the craft, and using the resources available (like critique groups, writing conferences, SCBWI, etc.). It means putting yourself out there despite the guaranteed criticism. But take heart, dear writer. Behind every good writer is a good critique group.

Friday, October 17, 2014

When you feel like a failure

So, writers? We're a curious bunch. We come off all confident and cocky when wielding a keyboard or slinging ink, and we've learned quickly how to develop thick skins. However, a common theme I've noticed the past three years as I've launched into the writing world is that many, if not most, writers struggle with self-doubt and feeling like a failure. Myself included. The problem is, we're too good at masquerading.

See, we're good with words. We're good at playing the game. But the game stops being funny when we hit the "enter" button or shove the submission envelope into the mailbox. Suddenly, fear and doubt take over, speaking things like, "That was a stupid thing to do." and "Why did you ever think you could be a writer?" The voice of failure cups his hand next to your ear and whispers, "Your writing stinks. No one wants to read what you write."

It'd be so easy to give up and give in, wouldn't it, when we hear these things? But the other thing I know about writers is that they are also persistent. (My mother always said "stubborn," but I say "determined.") Writers are passionate and that passion fuels our persistence. True writers recognize that failure is part of the process. They acknowledge that failure is not a reflection of who they are or of their writing. They see that failure is the most valuable of teachers. They use it to become better writers.

How appropriate and timely that I would come across the following post this week! http://www.stevelaube.com/most-important-word-every-writer-should-know/

When you feel like a failure, dear writer? Write on. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Five Minute Friday!




It's Five Minute Friday! I waited with bated breath for today's word. Dear God, it's like a runner lining up their toe at the starting line (which I would know exactly NOTHING about!), heart pumping, deep breaths being inhaled and exhaled, waiting for the gun to go off. So here goes! The word for today is: CARE

I'm wondering how many different directions one can go with the word "care." I'm not sure which direction I should take this. I could go with a spiritual bent, or I could go with a worldly one. I think I will go worldly.

What does it mean to care? When I think of "care," I think of compassion. To care necessitates having a heart of compassion. No one cares without being moved by compassion. I want to be a woman, a writer, of compassion. I want to take infinite care with the words I use. Words can heal. Words can wound. I care about the words I use. I want to make a difference with my writing.

Why does any writer want to write? Because they care. They care about the words they use. They care about the legacy they will leave behind. They care...and my time is up! Happy #fmfparty!





A little bit about Five Minute Friday:
http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/

Friday, October 3, 2014

Reviewing what's on the bookshelf

I finished reading "The Shack" last week. (Yes, 'cause that's how I usually roll. Always a day late and a dollar short on the trends.) It's a book that, most assuredly, is not considered light reading. In fact, I am still pondering over it, wondering what truths to pull from this fictional book. Because I do believe there are definite truths in it. For instance, Mack, the main character, must ultimately make the decision to forgive or not in order to have healing. I could give several more examples, but I don't want to give it away for anyone who hasn't read it yet. (I can't be the only last hold-out!)

I thought it was extremely well-written, perhaps because I can identify so closely with the theme of grief. I especially liked Mack's description of his grief as "The Great Sadness." Yep, that's an adequate description for child loss. I also thought the portrayal of the relationship between the Father, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit was quite good. It was interesting, of course, to consider calling God "Papa." On one hand, I completely agree. God is the perfect father, one with whom you can have an intimate, trusting relationship. Yet I also cringe just a bit because of the fear of losing the reverence of God, of not respecting Him as the Almighty. I am afraid there are those who make God so familiar that they lose their holy fear and awe of Him. So I continue to mull over this aspect.

I also liked that it portrayed God in ways that one would typically never consider. I believe we put God in a box, so to speak, way more than we care to admit. However, at the same time, I do think it crosses the line a bit to put God in the kitchen. (Read the book for context on this one!) God, again, is in the ultimate place of authority, both here and in heaven, I believe.

What I didn't like was how it ended. There is closure. It just seemed a bit too "tied-up neatly" for me. I didn't like it because I know that there are thousands of bereaved parents out there who don't get an answer, who don't find the closure they so desperately seek. Yet, I understand this is fiction. It's the way it works. It is the way we, as humans, want it to work. It is in our nature to want answers, to have things make sense. All in all, it's a great book. I read it less than a week, and that truly should tell you something!

I give it 4 out of 5 stars!




Friday, September 26, 2014

Friday, September 19, 2014

A bowl of lemons

I want to attend a writing conference that's coming up in just three weeks, but the finances simply aren't there. I'm bummed, but I am going to focus, instead, on spending my time wisely at home. I plan to block out "conference day" and do some reading and writing here (or at the library). It's possible, thanks to my amazing and supportive husband and some pretty incredible, independent, and capable kids, too!

I'm not fond of the adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade." But, in this case, I am making the best of it. It's not what I'd prefer, but it is what it is. I think it shows a parallel to writing, really. Only in the writing world, I believe it's what they call "rough drafts." Good writing doesn't just miraculously happen, even if there is talent. (There are a few geniuses, but it's rare.) It takes a bit of squeezing, shaking every drop of creative juice from the lemon. It's a tedious process, but one that's worth the effort.

As much as I'd like to attend the writing conference, I'll take my bowl of lemons, admire them for the beautiful, bright color they are, and then squeeze what I can from each one. They may be tart, but with enough sugar I'll make 'em sweet.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Wait? No, no, no

Perhaps one of the first lessons I learned on this writing journey was that writers wait for no one. Which, in the writer's world, means that once you submit your ms (manuscript), DO NOT WAIT. Do not, under any circumstances, sit around waiting for a reply. Instead, GET TO WORK on your next manuscript. Keep writing. Waiting is a no-no.

The average (and I use that term loosely) wait on a reply after a submission is three months. Three months! Many are longer than that, some are shorter. Waiting without writing is death to a writer's career. Now, this wasn't news to me. I didn't have to be told to keep working after I submitted, but I have met several writers who, when asked what is their wip (work in progress), reply, "Oh. I'm waiting to hear back from ______." 

Goodness. I'm rather dumbstruck when I hear that, but I'm also (no surprise) rather forthright. My response is usually, "Don't wait." I've never been good at waiting anyway, but in the writing business, it turns out it's a good thing. It means that the flow of creativity can continue. It means that our lives don't have to be put on hold while we wait. It means we can continue developing the necessary discipline of writing daily.

Waiting? No, not me. Here are 13 Ways How Writers Can Survive The Dreaded Waiting Stage.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Being brave

I look back over the past three years since actively pursuing this writing journey, and I am quite amazed at what I've done. I used to think of myself as a brave person, but in reality, I was not. Like many people, I was just good at talking big. As the saying goes, I was "All talk. No action."

But as the saying also goes, "Talk is cheap." and "Actions speak louder than words." So I am writing, reading, and educating myself on the craft of writing. I put myself out there, risking rejection and criticism, but am getting stronger and better for it. It's been an adventurous, courage-filled three years.

And I'm about to take yet another courageous step on this writing journey. It is simultaneously exciting and terrifying. However, I have nothing to lose...except fear. I encourage anyone who dreams, like I do, of being a published author to just put yourself out there. Do what it takes. Show up. Learn the business. Follow directions. Humble yourself. Be patient. Be persistent. Be brave.



Friday, August 22, 2014

Five Minute Friday

I do a lot of online reading, mostly pertaining to writing and learning the craft of writing. I could link all of the sites I've visited, but really, I don't do anything special to find them. I Google, people. I Google. Or I click links from other various writing sites. (That's how I found out about "Five Minute Friday.) You know, the saying, "One thing leads to another" is so true!

I stumbled across this idea of "Five Minute Friday" many months ago. I think it's a unique and wonderful concept. It's fun and, for me at least, takes the pressure off word count. It's an easily attainable goal. Who doesn't like those? What I find incredibly difficult, however, is NOT editing as I write!  Ooooheeee. Or I suppose I should say, "Uffda," seeing as I'm a true Minnesotan.


Anyhow, I rather enjoy a good challenge. The thought of hearing (imaginatively) "put your pencils down. The test is over." excites me. Check out the link below for more information on "Five Minute Friday."
http://katemotaung.com/five-minute-friday/

Friday, August 15, 2014

Blessing or curse?


Remember the '80's anti-drug television commercial that featured a man cracking an egg into a frying pan? In short, it said that by doing drugs, you fry your brain.

Now, I'm not doing drugs, I promise. But my brain feels fried right now. Words are my drug. They swirl endlessly around in my brain. However, there are times when I wish I could just shut them off. They interrupt my sleep. They distract me from the to-do list. They vie for my attention like a toddler pulling on my sleeve.

If only they acted in an orderly fashion. Instead, they leave my brain feeling scrambled. For someone who loves words, there are times I'm left shaking my head wondering if I've been blessed or cursed. However, it's not the words I lack. It's the order. I crave order. I need order. Even now, as I write this post, I do probably the "worst" thing a writer can do. That is, edit as I write. Instead, I should just write. Write. Then edit later

Because I edit as I write, it takes an inordinate amount of time. Add to the fact that it's virtually impossible for me to write with any type of noise in the background, and I've got a really good set up for scrambled thoughts. Just like the commercial I mentioned earlier. So what of this love of words that becomes an undeniable urge that requires expression? Is it a blessing or a curse?

Well, when the "drugs" are taken properly and do what they're supposed to do, they are a blessing. When the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart are pleasing to the LORD (Ps. 19:14), it is a blessing. Proverbs 25:11 also says, "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances." I pray that my writing is a blessing to others and that God would "order" them as He sees fit.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Friday came and Friday went

I'm not even going to bother justifying why I had nothing to post yesterday. Let's just suffice it to say Friday took long enough in coming, but only stayed a few minutes and left again. *sigh*

I am happy, nonetheless, that I posted on Tuesday! The Loft LinkUp was a welcome, "early" guest to the blog. I try to post every Friday; however, the LinkUp goes live every Tuesday. But that doesn't matter. Really. You can join and post at any time. 


The Loft Link Up

Again, here are the details about The Loft LinkUp from our host, Arabah:

To Participate:

1. Be creative. Feel free to use words, photos, video, audio, your family pet, whatever, to communicate on the weekly topic.
2. Listen twice as much as you talk. If you leave one link, visit two. Trust us on this one~wink.
3. Be a community. Include #TheLoft graphic and hashtag in your post and social media so we can find each other.  Also, share the great stuff you find when you visit around…we’ll be doing the same.
  
When you link up at The Loft, your link will appear on 6 blogs! We’d love for you to visit The Loft co-hosts and know who we are:
Leah
Kathy
Arabah
Jen
Rebekah
Kimberly

It’s that simple! Jump in and join us at The Loft.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Loft - a LinkUp

The Loft Link Up
#TheLoft

I threw my hat into the ring, stepped up to the plate, took the leap. Into where, you ask? Into The Loft, an online community of Christian bloggers. I'm way out of my comfort zone, but excited about entering a community rich in conversation and eager to connect with fellow bloggers.

This week's topic at The Loft is "I am..." I am a writer still trying to figure it out. I am a mother whose worst fear came true. I am a woman who is finding out that God is enough. And enough is enough. 

Join me, won't you, at The Loft? Follow the link HERE, and I'll see you there!

An InLinkz Link-up (Click the link to link-up!)   


Friday, August 1, 2014

Still swimming

After much frustration with one of my picture book manuscripts, I decided to throw it against the wall put it aside and concentrate my efforts on getting some "required" reading done. I shake my head in disbelief that I have to be intentional about reading. So intentional, in fact, that it's scheduled. What happened to the days of staying up all night with a good book? (Oh, yes, now I remember. AGE happened. Well, that and seven children and homeschooling.) So, ummm, guess I'll get back to that schedule now.

Aside from reading deliberately, I also had to get over not being able to finish a book quickly. I've had to learn to be content with reading however much gets read in whatever time presents itself. It means taking advantage of, say, fifteen minutes and being o.k. with that. For a concrete, sequential person like me, this is tough! I want to finish what I start, and I want to do it in one sitting. Fortunately, being a mom of many children already clued me in to this. But, for whatever reason, I've had a tough time applying it to areas of recreation. After all, who wants to be interrupted doing the things they love doing?

I found, however, applying the principle of "work first, play later" to be highly effective. It gives me the motivation I need to get the job done, with the effect of a sweet reward. Writing, as well as reading, takes great discipline. It's been a muscle that was, quite honestly, neglected and weak. It's also one, however, that I've enjoyed rediscovering and strengthening!

Above all, though, I'm learning that discipline goes hand in hand with grace. Without grace, discipline is a harsh task master and leads to dry, dead results that lack joy. It is like a stagnant pond. Grace, with discipline, however, leads to life and joy. It becomes a stream of living water. I'm taking a swim with grace. See you next Friday, dear reader!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Friday Guest Post!

I'm welcoming my friend Becky G. to the blog today to share some of her wonderful writing. You won't believe that she only recently began blogging. Her poetry is amazing, and I have no doubt I'll be seeing her stuff in "hardcover" one of these days. Enjoy your Friday visit with Becky G., dear readers!

 Trying to Keep my FOCUS
Fixed eyes and heart
On the One and Only
Christ Jesus my friend and savior in
Unwavering faithfulness and
Steadfast love

Dawn of a New Day
 
The glowing dawn sky resembled the start of a bright new day
Full of renewed faith that God has a wondrous plan to reveal along the way.
 
Whether it be clouds, rain, storm, or a brilliantly shining and rising sun,
A tiny seed of anticipation is planted deep inside the meditative and contented one.
 
Though yesterday was speckled with tears from hurtful disappointment and a lost love,
The ever compassionate Lord showers his goodness and blessings from the heavens above.
 
So begins a brand new day, although sometimes dark, frightful, and stormy it may be
A glimmering ray of hope is shining from here and into eternity.



To Read A Good Book



To read a good book, a story; to open the cover and its’ pages slowly unfold

is like walking into a delightful place of wonder which only the mind’s eye can behold.

Its’ story, its’ scene, and its’ characters soon find a dwelling place inside the soul and heart

of the enchanted reader whose fond remembrance of them will not soon depart.


 You can find more of Becky's wonderful writing at her blog Becky G? Oh, That's Me!.

Friday, July 18, 2014

What we do with the gifts given us


I bought this gem of a book a couple weeks ago. Several people in my critique group recommended it, and I can see why it came highly praised. I actually do not own a lot of books. (*Gasp* Surprising, right?! And homeschool curriculum doesn't count!) First of all, it takes a really powerful book for me to purchase it. The story has to be one that "sticks." Second, I rarely, if ever, read a book twice (unless it's a children's picture book). And third, space is extremely limited in my house. Eight bodies and the clothing that accompanies them is demanding enough. Add in the aforementioned homeschool curriculum, and we've pretty much hit our limit on available square footage.

I'm not finished with the book yet and constantly have to remind myself of my mantra "How do you eat an elephant?" (One bite at a time.) I want to enjoy what I'm reading, but I'm overwhelmed by the amount of information overload. Learning the craft of writing and becoming familiar with the world of publishing is a dizzying experience, a bit like a case of vertigo. It is tremendously helpful to remind myself that I am not on a deadline for learning. I want to do this writing and publishing thing well, not fast. Fast would be nice, but not beneficial. Thankfully, I'm old enough to recognize this bit of wisdom. Not to mention, I'm trusting the LORD for His timing and wisdom in the process. God has given me a gift with the written word, and I want to glorify Him with it. The gift He gives may be perfect, but the receiver isn't!

More and more, I am aware of how little I am and of how big God is. My son's death was the catalyst for my writing moving from passive to active, private to public. Before July 29, 2011, my stories would have remained in a file on my laptop. But losing Matt catapulted me into a new reality. The reality that this life is short and fear is a mirage. I decided then that I would no longer be controlled by fear, and if life is short, then I was done dawdling. If God gave me a gift for writing, then it's my responsibility to use it well.

As a bereaved parent, I also know that my son was a gift, a precious, precious gift. A gift that I took for granted and too often neglected to appreciate. After loss, it's too late to change the past, but it's never too late to address the future. In 11 days, we will mark the three year anniversary of when our son was made perfect in heaven. We wanted to commemorate it with doing something that reflected Matt and his personality and the gifts God gave him. Matt was brilliant at computers, especially PC trouble-shooting and repairs. So to mark the occasion, we have set up a GoFundMe campaign in which we will pay a random customer(s) computer bill at a local business on the 29th. Thus far, we are over half-way to our goal. I am humbled and blessed that so many would honor our son's memory in this way. It is truly appreciated. If you are interested, dear reader, in participating, please click on the link below Matt's picture.












http://www.gofundme.com/mattc3

We are all given gifts by God, and we all have a choice in what we do with them. What are you doing with your gift? I'd love to hear!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Writers are readers

For many years, I've heard the saying "Writers are readers," but I honestly didn't realize that not everyone was a reader. I simply assumed that because I loved reading so much, everyone else did, too. It was quite a shock, then, after I discovered that my husband was not a reader. Unbelievable! However, oddly enough (or to his credit?!), he loves to read encyclopedias and Rock and Gem magazines. Not exactly what I consider fascinating reading material, but he has, impressively, redeemed himself by supplementing our kids' science and history over the years with his expertise in those areas.


Reading was my first love. It was a weakness of mine until I had children. Then reality hit. One simply can't read all day long and manage a household and rear children well. Not well at all. Ask me how I know. Subsequently, the fiction books got shelved for many years, and out came parenting books and picture books. I've loved them all, but have really missed reading fiction and reading for pleasure.

However, one thing that becomes keenly evident in rearing children is that time flies. And fly it did. So here I am, finding that I once again have time to read for pleasure. And in this technology-crazed, social media-saturated world, it's not always easy choosing the quieter, more solitary route of reading. But reading offers an escape, the kind which social media and technology can't. It offers a private world in which to ponder, where imagination is limitless, and acceptance is abundant. Picking up a book and reading for pleasure has been so relaxing, like sinking into a warm bubble bath after a grueling day of work.

I've found the time spent reading was well worth it the past several weeks. It's been rejuvenating, and I've found my writing has benefited as well. How about you, dear reader? Have you read a book lately? I hope so! If not, here's some "mother" guilt for you. Go read...and enjoy it!

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Friday Funny

This is just too good not to share:

How to write gooder


Have a safe and fun weekend!

Friday, June 27, 2014

All work and no play...

This writing thing may be natural, but that doesn't mean it comes easily. It's been a trying week, and I came to the realization that I not only needed a break, but had sadly neglected an important aspect of writing lately. As a result, I was turning into Jack. You know, the boy who's all work and no play and therefore makes for a very dull character? Playtime for this writer means reading.

Sad to say, it's been far too long since I picked up a fiction book and lost myself between it's pages. Books on grief and the craft of writing have been the focus of my attention for the past (almost) three years. To add some spark back into the routine, I went to the library in search of something different. Karen Kingsbury has always been a favorite author of mine, and it just so happened that, as I walked by the "New Additions" shelf, my eye caught her book titled Fifteen Minutes. I thrust the likes of Mrs. Kingbury's work alongside my younger boys' choices of Cynthia Rylant, Mo Willems, and Rob Scotton inside my book bag and checked out.

I had almost forgotten what it was like to slip into the world of fiction as a reader. I feel a bit like Lucy from The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe as she steps out of the wardrobe and finds herself presently at the lamp post in the world of Narnia, full of wonder and amazement. It's magical and refreshing. As with any good book, time ceases to exist while reading. Yet the demands of ordinary household duties bang loudly and consistently on the closet door in which they were shoved upon the opening of the book's cover. It's a herculean balancing act, I tell you, and one in which I've never been very successful at!

The good news, however, is that next week is vacation. It means I will have hours to spend on reading. It is much anticipated. It's also a time when I'm very thankful, indeed, for my Kindle. I get to carry oodles and oodles of books and not worry a bit about having enough room for them. Another bonus is that I've gotten most of my ebooks for free through the following website:  http://www.dccebooks.com/

I enjoy writing, but I also enjoy the fun of a good book. I'd love to hear what's on your summer reading list, so please leave me a comment with your current book title!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Five

Today's blog post features another "Friday Five," but this time I have five questions for you. The questions aren't limited to writers only, but are intended to simply spark some creativity and fun. I hope you enjoy them!



 1. What's your happiest childhood memory?
2. What's your favorite book of all time?
3. If you could live anywhere you wanted, where would it be?
4. What person (real or fictional) would you love to meet?
5. What one thing would you do if money, time, and/or other responsibilities weren't an issue?


Post your answers in the comments. I'd love to read them!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Friday Guest Post!

I'm excited to share my "blog spot" (Get it?! Blogspot?!) today with fellow SCBWI member Anna Staniszewski. Anna was born in Poland and raised in the United States. She grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. Currently, she lives outside Boston with her husband and their crazy dog. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of the My Very UnFairy Tale Life series and the Dirt Diary series. Her newest book, The Prank List, releases on July 1st from Sourcebooks. Anna has a great sense of humor and wonderful wisdom to share in today's post, "What to expect after the sale."

What to expect after the sale by Anna Staniszewski

It finally happened; you sold your first book! You’ve run around the neighborhood screaming the news and called your elementary school nemesis to gloat. Now what?

Every publisher is different, but here’s a general timeline of what to expect.

1. Silence. You’d think after all the excitement surrounding the sale, your editor would contact you the very next day to get cracking, but the truth is that selling a book means you’re now in the publisher’s queue. During the silence, make sure to start working on something new!

2. Marketing plan. The timing of this will depend on the publisher, but at some point you’ll probably receive an author questionnaire that will ask about you, your marketing/publicity connections, etc. You’ll quickly realize how very unmarketable you are, but keep in mind that this is just one of many tools that the marketing department will be using.

3. Revision Letter. We all dream of an editorial letter that’s a one-paragraph love letter with a couple of tiny suggestions thrown in, but chances are it will be very detailed and mind-bending. You’ll probably sit there staring at a wall for a little while after you read it, asking yourself how on earth you’re going to do the stuff your editor suggested. Fear not. You will find a way!

4. A cover. Again, the timing of this varies, but at some point you’ll either get a mock-up of the cover of your book or you’ll get the final version. Your editor might ask for suggestions or s/he might not. It can be hard to let go of control over what your book will look like, but remember that your publisher’s job is to know what sells books.

5. Another revision letter. Sometimes a book only goes through one big revision with an editor, but often you’ll receive at least two pretty significant editorial letters. This doesn’t mean your book was terrible to begin with. It simply means that your editor wants to make the book perfect so that everyone will fall in love with it as much as s/he did.

6. Line edits. You’ve fixed the big stuff and now it’s time to sweat the small stuff. This is where you’ll start to realize horrifying things about your writing, such as your reliance on words like “just” and “really.“ Luckily, the deadlines on line edits are usually pretty short or we’d probably all be rewording our books forever.

7. Copyedits. Now we’re really getting into the nitty gritty. This is your (almost) last chance to make any changes to the manuscript, and it is also when you’ll realize that you should have never been allowed to graduate from high school because you have no idea how to use commas.

8. Acknowledgements, dedication, and author bio. Now that the book is almost out in the world, it’s time to thank all the little people who helped you along the way and (if you wish) to dedicate the book to someone special.

9. First Pass Pages. This is it! The book is formatted the way it’s going to look when it’s printed, and this is your absolute last chance to catch any errors that weren’t caught before now. No pressure!

10. Advance reader copies. One day, probably out of the blue, you’ll receive ARCs of your book, and you’ll stare at them like they’re magic. It’s a book! It’s a real book! These are great for hugging and giveaways.

And after that, we all know what happens. Your book is published and becomes an instant success, and you buy a castle and make your elementary school nemesis work as your personal servant. The end.

You can visit Anna at www.annastan.com.  And don't forget...The Prank List releases July 1st. Perfect book to add to your summer reading!
Thanks for the guest post, Anna!

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dreams without goals

"Dreams without goals remain dreams. Just dreams. And ultimately fuel disappointment."
- Denzel Washington


My dear friend (our Brazilian son's mother) ;) posted a link on her FB wall and tagged me in it. My first thought was, "How am I going to read this?! I don't read Portuguese." But I clicked on it anyway because I knew she tagged me for a reason. Thinking that perhaps I could somehow navigate and find the English version, it finally dawned on me (Yeah, I'm a little slow on the uptake!) that I didn't need to read Portuguese in order to understand it. First of all, there's Google Translate. Second, there was an accompanying video. And guess what? Denzel speaks English! (Yep, I eventually figure things out the hard way!)

I watched the four minute video and was glad I did. Mr. Washington gave me the reassurance and encouragement I needed this week. In speaking of goals, he said, "Between goals and achievement are discipline and consistency." When it comes to writing, I think I have a better handle on consistency than I do discipline. It is something that I maintain two blogs weekly and have done so for an extended period of time. What I need to work on, however, is building discipline with my other writing.

I do believe God has given me the gift of writing, but that doesn't mean it requires no work or effort on my part. I am called to be responsible with what He gives. As a writer, part of that responsibility is to learn the craft. I am doing just that, and I'm so thankful for the awesome support and resources that God provides. My dreams do have goals!

Friday, May 30, 2014

Heave, ho

Short post today 'cause that's what happens when in a time crunch! I started out the week well, but haven't finished well due to an abundance of appointments with the kids. Argh. Frustrating. I have a new writing project I'm working on, and also plan to finish the re-writes on my Wordilicious manuscript. I hope to catch up tomorrow, however, and that I recapture the momentum from the beginning of the week!

Friday, May 23, 2014

Friday Five

I've been thinking this week about this writing journey I've been on. I'm quite amazed, actually, as I look back over the past two and half years at how many "firsts" I have experienced. Just for fun, I thought I'd post a "Friday Five" list.


1. I attended a writer's conference.
2. I submitted a query letter.
3. I pitched to an agent.
4. I got a rejection letter.
5. I joined a critique group.



Talk about being out of my comfort zone! The great thing, however, is that the more I do these things, the more comfortable I get doing them, and the more I learn. As Chinese philosopher Lao-tzu said, "The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." I'd say I've taken a few steps. 

Friday, May 16, 2014

Pushing forward

I usually don't struggle too much when it comes to finding something to write about. (Yes, I'm weird that way.) Writing prompts aren't something I typically need to use. I guess I just have the thinking that with homeschooling, six kids at home, two dogs, two cats, a hamster, and fish, why would I have trouble coming up with something to write about?

My problem isn't writing prompts, it's trying to stay awake when I finally get the chance to sit down and write! I absolutely love the picture below because 1) I love daisies and 2) I aspire to lie vertical in a field of daisies and 3) Falling asleep in a field of daisies is perfectly acceptable. Falling asleep at the keyboard, however, is not.

creative writing prompts

Happily, I've gotten better at disciplining myself to take advantage of the "short" moments, writing even if it means only for five or ten minutes. I'm learning to push forward through the excuses and lack of motivation, and it's paying off. I can't say that I like writing in haste, but I can say that I'm learning to see the value in it.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Blood from a turnip

I've felt a bit squeezed this week concerning writing, much like getting blood from a turnip. This week has been frustrating, and last week was emotionally draining. Since last week involved what would have been Matt's 19th birthday, I gave myself grace as far as writing was concerned. However, this week was literally filled to over-flowing with appointments, and next week is no better. I counted four different doctor appointments next week for five of us. Throw in trying to homeschool, prep for standardized testing, our anniversary, Mother's Day, and the usual household demands, and, well, there is precious little time left for writing.

I have, however, managed to consistently eek out whatever few minutes here and there that presented themselves during the week. It hasn't been my preferred or ideal writing venue, but I'm learning to accept that "good enough" is good enough, that perfection isn't the goal. The goal is simply to write and write well. Then edit, and edit some more. How utterly appropriate Jennifer Dukes Lee's post was this week! I hope when you read it that you are as encouraged as I was.