Wednesday, June 29, 2011


It's amazing to me the kind of shift a person's world can experience in a week.  A day.  An hour.

This time last week I was going about my life, pretty pleased with how things were moving.  Querying my book is a long process full of waiting and no's, but I expected that, and was finding it surprisingly easy to be patient and persistent.  Planning for the school year has been a breeze, and I was getting excited about the prospect of broadening the minds of my kiddos again.  And advocating for Annabell was trucking along.  People were spreading the word about her and special needs orphans like her, and her adoption grant fund was growing.

And then on Friday, Annabell disappeared.  And my world stopped.

For those of you here who don't follow my family's blog, Annabell is an orphan we're advocating for.  She lives in a country whose laws regarding adoption are changing, and she has fallen through the cracks during this time of upheaval.  There is hope that the situation in her country will be settled soon, and that she'll re-emerge adoptable.  It's just so incredibly difficult to trust God's timing and wait until that day comes.

Sweet Annabell has stolen my heart.  She's stolen my husband's heart, and my children's hearts.  And every time since last Friday I've looked at this blog, I just haven't had the gumption to write.  Not about writing, or my journey in writing, or silly writing.  The heartache over losing our sweet Annabell is just overwhelming.

Please join me in praying for this sweet girl.  Pray that things change in her country.  Pray that she is well cared for in the meantime, and loved.  Pray for her little brother, and for all the forgotten orphans of our world.

We live in a broken, shattered world, folks.  Imagine if each of us opened our eyes, and reached out just a little, the difference we could make.

If you want to learn more about Annabell, go here, here, or here.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Strange Love

This is Mr. Rochester.  To you he may look ugly and old, but he's my knight in shining (laundry room) armor.

Don't let the 'harvest gold' graphics, simple knob and button, or small door deceive you.  He wears his colors indifferently, with an 'I-am-what-I-am' attitude.  He doesn't try to impress me with silly talk of 'steam drying' or 'wrinkle control'.  And though his door is small, let me assure you, what's lurking behind it is anything but.

Yes, my fellow hausfrau friends, Mr. Rochester may not be as sleek and sexy on the outside as the newer models lurking in many of your laundry rooms these days, but he's never ceased to give me exactly what I need, and then some.  And after a failed, lukewarm relationship with an LG whose name I've already forgotten, Mr. Rochester's hot and fast abilities have me feeling the need to sing his praises.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

1+1+1=3 (Shocking, but true)

This is the story about how a little book I wrote turned into three.

Really, it's more the story about how I learned (it'd probably be more accurate to say began to learn) to digest constructive criticism.

The first words I put to paper in an effort to write a book were penned the summer of 2009.  I don't know when I decided to write, exactly.  I do remember being in the car with the hubs, saying to him, "I think I'm going to write a book."  I'm sure he wrote it off at the time as another one of my harebrained ideas that I was sure to outgrow.  I tend to have those.  Do the words worm farming mean anything to you?  Yeah, not proud of that one.

He may have written it off (justifiably so), but I didn't.  The idea in my brain just wouldn't shut up; it had to be let out.  My memories of writing that summer are a blur: I remember scribbling on a legal pad in my car at Sonic after grocery shopping.  Staying up until three in the morning, alternating between wine and coffee, writing.  Mumbling something incoherent to Thomas (on several occasions) when he'd ask what was for dinner.  I'd found a new addiction, and thankfully, my sweet family was very tolerant of it.  Seriously, I couldn't ask for a more supportive family.

I disappeared that summer, and by the time autumn rolled around, I had a finished (I thought) book in my hands.  (What I had a was a second draft.  And those of you who write know that a second draft is just a couple shades away from the pure junk that is a first draft.  But I didn't know that.  I was a total newbie, and in my mind, I'd finished a freaking book, people.  I was ready to go.)

So I decided to put it out for a little test run.  I asked a few friends to read it and give me their thoughts.  Some read it, some didn't.  The ones who did were incredibly supportive.  I mean, really supportive.  Way more supportive than what I think a second draft deserved.

But one tiny little suggestion ate at me like rust eats metal.  I can't even call it criticism, because it was so gently given.  The suggestion was that I rewrite the book (that was written from a first person perspective) in third person.

Rewrite the book from third person?  Are you kidding me?  Rewrite the whole darn thing??

I ran two miles that night.  This detail is significant because I haven't run two miles (or one mile, or a half-mile) since I was 19.  (I'm a shade older than that now.)  And I haven't run two miles since.  I was just bowled over by the suggestion.  Didn't this person know how much work I'd already put into it?  On that side of the looking glass, the few months that I'd spent writing seemed like an eternity (on this side, it's a laughable amount of time).  I think at the time I justified ignoring this person's suggestion by telling her and myself that I was going to write another book in the voice from another character in the story to fill in the parts she found dissatisfying.  Lame-o.

Anyway, I put the book away entirely for a few months.  It was the holidays, we were busy, and I didn't want to think about it.  Because in the back of my head, a little thought was nagging at me: Maybe it would be better from third person.

I fought that thought tooth and nail.  I did not want to rewrite the whole stinking book.  I didn't want to do it!  No!

And then, on a wintery day in 2010, I turned on the computer, and got to work.

Oh.  My.  Gosh.

My friend was right.  The book exploded (in a good way).  Things that were left unseen came to life, characters that were one dimensional grew in depth and understanding.  The plot thickened, relationships grew.  The two worlds I'd created - the fictional version of our own, and a brand new one - seemed to come alive.

And somehow, in that time, one book became three.  A little more than a year later, they're finished.  And I'm so proud of them - and proud of me.  Finishing this project has definitely been a defining time of personal growth for me.  Reaching a long-term goal has a way of shaping a person.  That stubborn I'm-sticking-with-it-no-matter-what attitude is something I've had to work for, to earn.  It doesn't come naturally to me.

And now I'm in a whole new process of waiting/persistence - the haunting chore of querying literary agents.  Will my stomach ever not be in knots when I go to check my email?  Will I ever be absolutely satisfied with my query letter to the point that sending it doesn't have me breaking out in sweat?  I don't know.  But I want to embrace this part of the journey, and let it take me where it may.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Underwear Drawer

Good morning, friendlies.

It's Monday morning, and I have a thousand things to do today (mostly laundry-cleaning-grocery shopping related.  Basically, the scourge of motherhood).  But thanks to an insanely busy week last week (including a garage sale to raise funds for Annabell), very little attention was given to this blog.  So I'm putting off the dull duties of hausfrau for just a little longer, to ask a question of you, my dear readers:

What's in your underwear drawer?

A while back, I read somewhere (it was ages ago, and I don't remember whose blog it was, so I'm afraid I can't give credit where credit is due.  If it was you, feel free to comment and leave a link!) about an author who, in order to get to know her characters better, went through their imaginary underwear drawers to see what they kept hidden/stashed there.  I loved this idea!  Even though I had all but finished the first three books of my series, I decided to do it, because it sounded like fun - I am a born snooper, and the chance to snoop through anybody's drawers unhindered is super-appealing.

It took awhile, and was harder than I thought it would be, but it was oh-so-good.  But then, in the moments after I was done, grinning at the secrets I'd unearthed about my characters, I found myself wondering: What do I have stashed in my own underwear drawer?

My grin turned to a frown as I thought about it.  Nothing.  I don't have anything hidden in my underwear drawer.

Really?  I asked myself.  Nothing?  Surely there's something.

I immediately marched into my bedroom and dug.  Nothing but undies and other unmentionables.  My frown deepened as insecurity turned me to my hubby's drawer.  Surely he didn't have anything stashed there, either.  Surely I wasn't alone in the nothing-but-underwear underwear drawer.

Wrong.  Tucked in the back, in a little cedar box were some momentos of his grandfather and great-grandfather, along with a card I'd given him on our wedding anniversary a few years back.

I turned and marched into my kids' room (I'm not proud of it).  Tooth fairy keepsakes, special toys, birthday cards, all sweetly tucked into their underwear drawers.  Even my three year old has treasures stashed there.

I sat myself on the floor and thought:  How is it all of my family kept treasures in their underwear drawer, while my own was lacking?  I mean, come on.  I'm a stasher, folks.  Of gargantuan proportions.  We've nicknamed the space between the wall and our bedframe 'China' (aka, the other side of the world) because of my fondness of stashing things there (don't judge).  And don't even bother trying to open my desk drawers.  They are crammed-full of heaven-knows-what to the point that opening them is difficult at best, deadly at worst.

So why does my underwear drawer lack little secret treasures?  Am I that uninteresting, that non-sentimental that I own nothing secret and precious enough to hide in a place few would think (or be brave enough) to look?

I chewed on this for days.  It made me cranky.  There was a three-day span of time where I became snarky and cantankerous as I wondered: Am I a boring, heartless person?

Then I came out of the fog.  It started with a little clay heart that hangs from the lamp on my desk.  My son made it for me in kindergarten, for Valentine's day.  He's nine now, but every time I look at it, I remember that little six year old boy bringing it home with the proudest smile on his face.  Next to the lamp on my desk is a pinecone.  My seven year old brought it to me about a year ago.  I don't know why I've held on to it.  He just loves nature so much, and I think that's sweet.  Downstairs in a cedar chest I keep photos from college, along with a note from a guy I had a crush on.  In the linen drawer in the hallway I have a photograph of my mother, gaily laughing in an eternally happy moment.  As I thought about it, I realized I have thing after thing stashed somewhere in my home.  I've simply never thought to stash them in my underwear drawer, because my underwear drawer just isn't big enough.

That's been the funny thing, for me, with writing.  It causes all kinds of self-inspection.  Before beginning this process of putting pen to paper, of bringing a new world and all its inhabitants to life, I would have never given a rat's tail about my underwear drawer, and what it could reveal about the kind of person I am.  An unexpected fruit from the labor.

And it makes me you stash things - precious treasures or ugly secrets - in your underwear drawer?  Or do you keep your cherished things tucked in various places around your home where you bump into them now and again?

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's A Start

Imagine you have a thought in your head. An inkling of an idea. At first glance, that idea looks pretty good, but it would probably be wise to chew it over a little. Think it through.

Now, imagine that thought is a horse. Pull out your gran-pappy's old sawed off double barrel shotgun, take aim at the horse(thought), and shoot it dead. Then pull out your trusty baseball bat, and beat that dead horse. Beat it. Keep beating it. Never mind that it's already dead. Just keep beating.

That's what I do. I think an idea to death, and then I beat it some more just for good measure. Pretty soon the idea is unrecognizable, and I'm left wondering what it was I had been thinking in the first place.

How many good ideas have I talked myself out of? That I've beaten senseless to the point that it no longer resembles the promising thought I had in the first place? Waaaay too often. Because the possibility of a thought always has two sides - the side of success in the endeavor, and the side of failure. And fear of failure is a pretty strong thing, folks.

As I'm traversing this road to published-authordom (not a word, but humor me), I'm constantly being pushed into things that aren't comfortable for me. Not bad things, just new things that I find difficult to step out and try. Things that I would like to shoot, and then beat to death. Not because any of those things are bad, but because the fear of failure - of looking ridiculous, of being - gasp!- pitied, is almost crippling for me.

Which, by the way, I recognize is total crap.

Anyway, this blog was one of those things. As soon as I started contemplating it, I had a hundred reasons why I shouldn't. And after those reasons were dismissed as silly, it was as if all the thoughts in my brain coagulated into one grubby, tangled mess. There wasn't a coherent thought, except for this one: If you can't even draft an 'About Me', how are you going to actually write a post?

A silly, yet powerful argument. You should know that I already have another blog that follows our family as we homeschool. Check it out, if you want, here.  It's been a great way to keep our family and friends informed about what we're up to. And I'm comfortable with that blog. Because it's just us, being a family, and sharing that. The expectation (for myself) is pretty low.

But here I'm taking a step out and saying, "Why, hello world. Check out what I'm trying to accomplish!" That feels pretty dang intimidating. And yet, I know that if I want to get anywhere with this little book of mine, an online platform (as they call it) is necessary.

So, my dear friends, I'm asking for a couple of things from you:

(1) A little grace. I'm a newbie in this biz, and though I'm trying to take measured, cautious steps, I'm sure to flub up. It's pretty much guaranteed. When I do, please let me cry on your shoulder. Just a little.

(2) A little help. Stepping out onto the road of getting published can be rocky, rough, and lonely. Thankfully, I'm beginning to see that there is a real sense of camaraderie between writers, and I'm excited to join into that group of people. But for you non-writers out there who may stumble onto my humble blog, if you like what you see, please spread the word! I promise to be uber-grateful for each and every one of you.

Gosh, I have no idea if this is an adequate first post. It feels good, though, to have quit beating the dead horse, and get around to something slightly more productive.