Category Archives: Write it

The NaNoWriMo Hole…

I have not actually stopped blogging, but if you’ve ever tried to NaNo…you know it becomes all consuming. ESPECIALLY if you are still living your life at the same time.

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This month, I have…

-Been teaching a new prep (I LOVE my English 1 students!)

-Taught, read, graded and re-graded research papers, outlines, and rough drafts (and I’m still not done with that)

-Had an AWESOME slumber party with the Grace Life Student Ladies (if you’ve never played Mafia with 15 teenage girls at midnight in your historical house with a dog underfoot, well let’s just say that was an awesome adventure)

-Recovered from a poinsettia attack (hey, ya’ll, I am tired of Christmas in November…not because I don’t have the spirit, but because I’m allergic to Holiday cheer. sheesh).

-And tried to Nano (I’m behind, but I don’t lose. So I WILL make 50,000 awesome words.)

SO…here’s a taste of what I’ve been doing with BLAZE this month:

*Special note, this scene is inspired by a story our pastor told about an experience he had taking one of our Global Outreach speakers to lunch. It really struck me and I wanted to find a way to share the concept with others. Thanks Jimmy Currence @GraceLifeChurch


 

“Gwyn’s my whole world,” Jeremy said, tossing his phone back in the console. “Her mother was going to give her up for adoption, but I convinced her to let me raise her. One of her conditions was that I stay in a small town. Not a hard decision to make—I didn’t want the military life anyway. So I left the West Point, and enrolled in a criminal justice program, then did the academy training and voila.”

“Wow—you did all that for your daughter?”

“I would do anything for her.”

“That’s beautiful.” Aidan looked out the window.

“It’s no more than what Jesus did for me.”

“What?” Aidan turned her head to look at Jeremy more closely. That was not what she expected him to say.

“Jesus. He gave up everything for me, his divinity, his popularity, even his life.”

“You know,” Aidan said slowly. “I believe all that, but I have a hard time understanding it.”

“I didn’t even believe it for the longest time,” Jeremy held the door open for her and then the chair as they sat at a small corner table near the back. “But I found it easier to understand and believe when I became a parent. When I look at Gwyn, I understand the kind of amazing love it takes for someone to sacrifice so much. It takes parental love, which is what He is and what he wants to be.”

“Hey, what can I get ya’ll today?” the waitress came up to the table, pad in hand.

“Hello, Patricia, I’d like a cup of black coffee and whatever this gorgeous woman will have.”

“A latte would be great.”

“That all for you?”

“Actually, I’d like to know if there is anything I could do for you, Patricia?” Jeremy asked the question sincerely and looked at her directly. And for the first time, Aidan looked up and really saw the woman in front of her. She looked tired, her hair was falling out of the bun that was probably carefully crafted sometime yesterday as this was an all-night diner the poor woman had probably worked a graveyard shift the same as the two of them. The more Aidan looked, the more she saw; lines around the woman’s eyes, a hole in the top of the woman’s shoe, and a stain on the apron that had been bleached, but still hadn’t come out. Aidan remembered what Edward had said about operating under the false illusion that everyone else was living a perfect life, and deep in her gut, she felt a little sick.

“Yes,” she said, almost as if it wasn’t her speaking. “Please, if there is anything we can do for you, Patricia, we’d like to serve you too.”

Jeremy looked at her, smiled and nodded his approval.

“Well, I’ll, um get your coffee, and think about that.”

“Thank you,” Jeremy said.

Aidan watched her walk off. “So what would you do if she says she needs money to pay her rent?”

“I’ll help her pay her rent.”

“Even if it’s like $1000?”

“Even so,” Jeremy took a breath. “That certainly wouldn’t be ideal, but God told me to serve this woman.”

“God told you? He spoke to you?”

“Well, yes. But not like a booming voice, Aidan.”

“Then how?” she was intensely curious. Edward kept telling her to listen to God, but that sounded crazy. God didn’t talk to people any more. And yet, here was Jeremy saying that he talked to God and God talked back!

“Well, the more you know God, the more you learn to recognize his voice. Sometimes I hear his voice through scripture, sometimes through the conversations I have with other believers, and sometimes through the feelings and nudges deep inside, those things that ‘just dawn on you’ or ‘you knew you shouldawouldacoulda’. I find that most of the time, those things are actually God’s spirit compelling us to move forward in his purpose.”

“So how did God tell you to help this woman?” Aidan asked, willing to accept that explanation.

“When I walked in, it was like God pointed and said ‘look at her, Jeremy, she needs love’.”

The waitress came back with the coffee, and Jeremy looked up at her and smiled. “So, how can we serve you?”

“Are you serious?”

“Yes,” Jeremy nodded, and never broke eye contact.

“My car,” the waitress looked about ready to cry. “It stopped working this morning, and I’ve no idea why. I can’t afford a new one, and I doubt I can afford the repairs, but I need a car to get to my three jobs.”

Jeremy’s smile widened. “Done.” He pulled out a card. “This is my friend, Wallace. Call him today. He will tow your car and work on it free of charge.”

“What?” Patricia blinked.

“Seriously.”

“But, why?”

“Because I love Jesus and Jesus told me to love other people. Please?”

Patricia nodded, the tears were in her eyes as she took the card, and Jeremy focused back on Aidan.

“Your friend, he’ll really do it for free, or you’ll pay for it?”

“For free. Wallace has about 12 car dealerships in the area, but he owns his own body shop here that he takes on, by recommendation only, people who need assistance but can’t afford. He will work out a deal with them for payment, or he’ll do it for free. All Patricia has to do is call and give him that card I just gave her.”

“What a coincidence,” Aidan murmured.

“No,” Jeremy said firmly. “That was God.”

Aidan took a sip of her latte, because it was all she could do. Words would not come to her. Her heart was too full. Finally, she spoke.

“It’s hard for me, sometimes, to see God as caring,” she said quietly. “Maybe because he is pictured as parental. To me, parents cause a lot of pain.”

“I’m so sorry,” Jeremy reached across the table and took her hand. “That is unnatural. And it sucks.”

“My dad left when I was six; he took my twin sisters, Lilly and Lilac, with him. For years I wondered what I had done to make him hate me. Why I had driven him away. My mother blamed me too, and even now—you saw her—she’s not quite in her right mind, but I know she still blames me.”

“Aidan, it’s not your fault,” Jeremy started.

“No,” Aidan shook her head. “And I recognize that now, but in a way it is even though I didn’t actually do anything to cause it. The hurt still remains. I’m not sure either of my parents even considered what they were doing to me when they made their decisions, so ‘parents’ to me has always been a very selfish term.”

“Thank you for telling me that,” Jeremy nodded. “I could tell after the other day that it isn’t something you share.”

“No,” she sighed. “But I’m trying to move past it.”

Jeremy reached across the table and took her hand in his; he rubbed his thumb across her knuckles.

“It’s a long road to forgiveness,” he said.

“Forgiveness,” she repeated the word as if it were foreign.

“It took me a long time to realize that’s what I needed in my life too, but once I let go and forgave, especially my ex, God was able to move in and help me move on.”

“Forgive them,” Aidan tasted the words; they were bitter. “I’m not sure I’m ready for that.”

Jeremy nodded. “But you will be.” He finished off his coffee. Aidan’s had been gone for a while.

“Maybe,” she said, standing at the table.

“In the meantime,” Jeremy reached around and put an arm around her shoulders as they walked out to the car. “Let’s just take it one day at a time.”

“Now that,” Aidan said, hugging him around the waist. “I can do.”

Jeremy let go as they walked to the car and Aidan couldn’t stop smiling all the way home.

 

Tis’ The Season: Writing Conferences #SheSpeaks2015

Excited.

Jittery.

Anxious.

Nervous.

No, I’m not just reading out of a thesaurus; I’m getting ready for my very first writer’s conference.

*Insert squeal of an eight year old blonde girl in ringlets*

Yes, because that is how I feel inside. Granted, I’ve never squealed in my life—well maybe when I was eight, but even then it’s unlikely. I’m not much of a squealer (whining I did a lot of, but squealing…not so much). That in no way means I don’t get excited about things, because I am pumped.

I don’t know what this conference will bring.

Maybe nothing.

Maybe something.

And that is what is so exciting!

Not knowing the outcome means the possibilities are endless. Which also means I have very few expectations. And being amenable to a wide variety of outcomes means I can be satisfied no matter what happens in the end.

Okay, so we’re entering the gushing realm here, so I’ll refrain from going on and on and ask a couple of questions:


What kinds of writing conferences have you attended and what did you get out of them?


Evidently—tis the season! I follow a lot of blogs and everyone is talking about the conference season in full swing, so I want to know what’s out there, what’s going on, and what is the experience.

The conference I am attending is entitled “She Speaks” which is specifically for Christian writers and speakers.

I am not a speaker.

Oddly, though, because I am not a speaker, this conference appealed more to me. I’d like to be a speaker. Or rather, I’d like to be able to get up in front of a crowd and talk about my writing, hopes and dreams and to be able to encourage others to seek their own hopes and dreams without wishing that the floor would swallow me whole and send me straight to Fiji!

I know, I know. I’m a teacher—I should be an expert public speaker.

No—speaking in front of pre-pubescent, and pubescent pimple popping punks, princesses and princes (I love teenagers!) is completely different than speaking in front of a crowd of peers. Believe me. If you don’t, try it some time. You’ll see.

And I’m not saying it’s easier either, it’s just different.

My point is, I’d like to be a better speaker, so this conference has perks in more than one way—including networking prospects.

Even though my expectations are wide open, I have signed up for my track and so for those of you who follow (and those of you who pray) I’d appreciate your thoughts and prayers during these times! You’re my support and I want to make sure that I get the most out of this experience that I can; the only way I can do that is to call on ALL my support—and that includes YOU!

(Oh, and I know the dangers of posting this on the internet—but be warned I have a pit bull at my house and she’ll protect it while I’m gone—plus it’s not empty. I’m not stupid.)


Thursday 7/23

1-2 welcome, worship, devotion

-I love that the conference starts out with worship and devotion. The only way any of this work can be truly blessed is if it is DEVOTED back to the ONE who blessed me in the first place. AMEN.

2:15-3:15 Finding something to talk about

-Now, we all know that I have a lot to say, but this is about avoiding procrastination, and this kind of direction—focused direction can be helpful to someone who has been talking about being a writer since she was…six? And is just now doing something about it (hey—I’m going to be 30 in a month…better late than never, right?)

3:35-4:35 What is a platform and Why do I need one? Blogging 101

-Now, I’ve been blogging for a while, but I could definitely be better (and more consistent) with it. And building a platform is important—and not easy. I am looking forward to this. Suggestions bloggers? Always welcome

5:15-6:15 How to title your book and carry its theme throughout

-I always title my books LAST because I believe that the title should be carried throughout—so if it isn’t after I title the book then I can make those changes as I edit. I wonder what suggestions they’ll have in this workshop because I’ll admit that titling is NOT my forte.


Friday 7/24

9:30-11 General session

11:20-12:20 Social media and panel discussion

-I could always use help (and advice) in improving my PR.

2-3: Storytelling on the page

-During this I will also be meeting with a publisher. My appointment is at 2pm. It will likely only last about 15 minutes. PLEASE pray at 2pm on Friday if you pray at no other time during the conference. I don’t know if this publisher will be right for me or not, but it will be a good experience and I would like to make a good impression as it is an important contact regardless of how it turns out.

 3:30-5:30 Track meetings (Word power equals Sales Power; Overcoming procrastination) 

-At 3:30 I will also take time to meet with an agent. Again, I don’t know if this agent will be interested or right for me either, but also an important experience and contact and I want to make a good impression.

8:15-9:45 Main session


Saturday 7/25

8:30-9:30 welcome, worship, morning devo

9:50-10:50 Getting things done in ministry on a budget

-I find that many times people don’t like to talk about the financial aspects of writing and publishing. It needs more attention because it isn’t cheap! And you don’t make millions.

 11:10-12:10 Take the mystery out of marketing

-Ahhhhh, that WOULD be helpful.

1:15-2:15 Memoir writing

-A genre I haven’t tackled and haven’t thought about until recently…details to come.

2:45-5:45 bonus session (critique groups)

7-8:30 main session

8:30-9:30 dessert and mingle


As you can see, it’s a PACKED agenda and I’m excited. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE, if you do nothing other than just pray a little for me over the next few days I’d appreciate you—but more importantly pray for all the women at this conference because speaking and writing CAN make a difference in this crazy mixed up world of ours and the fact that there are so many women who want to try to make a difference really is a beautiful thing.

So Tis’ the Season to get your conference on.

The Artist Way Week 9-10: Take fear out of the driver’s seat, Ashley.

There is little in life more powerful than fear. It makes us sick. It cripples us. It steals years from viable living. We give fear power, fueling it when we should be putting our energy and intentionality into our creative pursuits. Can you imagine how much more productive we would be if we eliminated our fears and concentrated more on what we could do rather than what we might not be able to do?

Julia Cameron explains it best in her book The Artist Way with this epiphany: “Life expands or shrinks in proportion to one’s courage.”

But you can’t just wish away fear. You have to be intentional and vigilant about fear—how you handle it and, for that matter, how you mishandle it.


1 John 4:18 says, “There is no fear in love. But perfect love casts out fear […emphasis added].


This is not a passive act.

Not much in life is passive actually, and the sooner we learn this lesson the happier, more creative and fulfilled we will be.

One thing I’ve been learning (failing and then intentionally recovering from) to do is to be more intentional about praying (action) and asking for God’s help in making changes in my life (active) especially when I am fearful. And God knows I’ve had my share of fear—but He also knows that each time I have intentionally made a positive change I release something inside that has been trapped and eating away at my soul—like releasing a toxin.

The other day I decided to wallow in self-pity on my couch. Life was not going according to my plan that day and I was exhausted. I felt my options were limited and I was stuck—trapped in this never ending cycle of insanity. In short, I was afraid. I stayed in this emotional state for about 10 minutes—a world class pity party until I realized all this passivity was doing was making me feel worse and not better. It wasn’t about releasing emotion, it was about regressing into a childish tantrum.

Thankfully after a prayer for strength, I picked myself off the couch and did something about it. Once I took that active step, I felt 10,000 times better and it actually yielded an unexpected return—synchronicity at its finest.

Actions—activity—doing—that’s how you cast something out, not by passively allowing your fear to take control of you. You take control. And that’s why action is so cathartic and healing. Doing something literally puts you into a self-empowering mode, on a path where fear is no longer in the driver’s seat—you are, or better yet, God is. And who doesn’t want control like that?

The Artist’s Way Week 8: Created to be Creators, Ashley

Not that long ago, I was on a date. Inevitably we were talking about our professions and I had to confess: I am an English teacher.

Whenever I tell someone my profession I can expect one of two responses: “Wow” accompanied with wild-eyed shock, bewilderment and confusion. Stuttering, and maybe a bit of awe.

Or something that resembles disgust, an evoked memory of sorts surfacing and as I watched this man’s face fall, almost contorting, I was sure a second date wasn’t in our future.

It wasn’t long before I found out why: “My senior English teacher,” he said, bitterness dripping from his tongue to the now cold chicken, half-eaten parmesan on his plate. “She crushed me. I spent hours on a paper and when she gave it back to me it bled with all the red, judgmental ink. An F, for all that hard work.”

He poked at the chicken. I wondered whether or not you could taste the tangible bitter drippings.

I don’t remember how I responded, I don’t suppose it really mattered. I wasn’t the English teacher who crushed his creative soul, but I might as well have been. I know I have done the same. Not on purpose, of course, but by the very nature of my job—I deconstruct, I judge, I take apart, ripping work to the very seams. It’s what I’m paid to do. I quantify creativity that is never really meant to be quantified and for students who actually work hard to produce that piece, it can be debilitating to their creative egos.

I never get to appreciate my student work for what it is—a beautiful process of self-discovery.

Granted, this process is supposed to help them improve on their process of self-discovery, but as an academic I have to be careful. There is a fine line between butcher and doctor, destroyer and healer. Like a tightrope walker, one step in the wrong direction and I will plummet taking delicate psyches with me.

Through the process of reading The Artist’s Way I am beginning to understand not only more about myself, but the importance of what I do as a teacher—not only of academics but of creative aspirations. Not all of my students are writers, readers, or academics. But all of my students have creative souls, in some way shape or form, because they are all humans and it is a basic human need, maybe even a right, to create.

If we are created in God’s image, then we are created to be creators.