Saturday, October 18, 2008

Just a quick note. Last night my husband and I spent our evening playing freeze tag, hide-n-seek, follow the leader and duck-duck-goose with two of our granddaughters, Paisly and Zella. It was a time of joy, laughter and this overwhelming conformation that we are two of the wealthiest folks on the planet. With the economy going crazy and a wild and frustrating Presidential election ahead of us, and winter winds threatening to blow the fall leaves out of our yard faster than I'd like, this sweet moment in time made it all fade. Wall Street will do what it will do, after all the votes are in somebody will be elected , and winter...well it will come no matter how much I don't want it to. The important thing is the most important, friends and faith. And folks, I am blessed beyond measure with all three.

My family are my points of light. My friends are my icing. And my faith is the foundation of it all..."I can do all things through Christ who strengths me..."

I'm going to stop worrying about stuff and I advise you to do the same. And if you're having trouble, might I suggest a rousing game of duck-duck-goose with a couple of pre-schoolers...

Blessings, friends.

Friday, October 17, 2008


The other day I got an email from an editor asking me to tell them what my brand is as a writer. I had sent them a non-fiction proposal a few days before and I guess they have a little interest in me or they wouldn't have emailed me that question, right? Let's assume I'm right, okay. My ego is a little too fragile right now to think otherwise.

So if you were me, what would you have said? I've heard two schools of thought on this. The First School Of Thought comes from my friend and writer Jim Denny. I quickly wrote him the other day when I got this question and asked him what his brand is. Jim has written a whole bunch of non-fiction collaborative books with Pat Williams and many others. He told me he doesn't think non-fiction writers should have brands. He said and I quote, "I guess you can say my brand is that I am a writer who only writes about things that interests me and everything interests me."

The Second School Of Thought is that all writers even, non-fiction writers should have a brand...or must have a brand before they are marketable.

Oh, I misquote myself...there are THREE Schools Of Thought on this...the third being...fiction writers need a brand and non-fiction writers do not.

Oh, wait, I misquoteth myself again...there are FOUR Schools Of Thought on branding...the fourth being, non-fiction writers need a brand and fiction writers do not.

See why writers are nuts?

So what is a brand? I've been told it is that SOMETHING that sets you apart from the pack. It is that THING that when readers see your name on a book that can count on.

Okay... one agent's blog on brands said I should start with thinking about location and background and how that would color my writing. So, I tried that. I was born and raised in the south, but have spent the last 30 years or so living in the North. So, what if I said my brand was something like: "I have Southern skin with a Northern spin." "My right brain has a Mason Dixon line." "I talk like a Southern but think like a Upper?"(pronounced YOOPER for those Southerners who haven't lived in the North for the past 30 years or so like myself.)

Anyway, I had a deadline from the editor so I made up something I thought sounded as writerly as I could about my brand and sent it off to her. But to be honest, how does a writer who has only written one published book so far know what her brand is?

My first book was written out of an interest in telling a certain story in a certain way. It had nothing to do with being a Southern or a person who likes brats (pronounced BRAAT if you have a Upper accent). I wrote a book that was a joy to write and one which made me cry to write in parts and one that made me smile when I wrote other parts. It was a book that touched me profoundly as I wrote it and left me changed. If it did any of that for the 50,000 or so folks who have bought it so far then I guess I did my job...brand or no brand.

I'll let you know if my editor person liked my brand well enough to take a chance on me and this next story. If she does...great! I'll be on top of the world. If she doesn't...well...

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Giggles & Bows

A couple of weeks ago I attended my first American Christian Fiction Writer conference. I've been to the writer's conference at Mt. Hermon and the Festival of Faith & Writing at Calvin College. All three of these events are wonderful. They offer opportunities to meet other writers and to connect with editors and agents. And if you are a writer like me trying to get your work 'out there', that meeting editors and agents thing is important.

But you know what the most important thing is at these least for me? It is that giddiness that comes when I finally feel like I'm with my 'own kind'. By that I mean, these are the people who understand why I'm still writing after being rejected by publishers more times than I care to tell you. These folks understand what its like to sit in front of a computer and wrestle with which word is best to describe the smell of a wet dog. My kind get that. Regular people don't. When I tell non-writer people that my first book was rejected 29 times before it was finally picked up by Howard Publishing, they look at me like they would a sad little duck who has been tarred and choice. But folks at those conferences get it and nod their heads with that little gleam in their eye and say, "Well, there you go!"

Another gift was that I got to room with a dear friend and sister-writer, Phyllis Nichols. We had met last year at Mt. Hermon. We became fast friends in California almost the minute she entered our little cabin pulling and tugging her suitcase and said, "Hey!" We both have southern roots and connected with the first "ya'll." (I've posted a picture of us taken at the awards banquet...I'm the stunning silver-haired one.)

I went to this conference with a list in my head of people I felt I needed to connect with in order for this conference to be a success for me. I had favorite writer's I wanted to meet and thank them for their books. I had writer's who I had only met online and wanted to hug them in the flesh. I had a couple of agents and editors I wanted to introduce myself to, etc., I prayed over this list and asked God to calm my spirit and to help me listen and let Him lead. And wouldn't you know, every single person on my list either came and sat beside me at a meal, or all of sudden were standing in line in front of me, or we'd meet face-to-face in the hall as we were running to our next class, or whatever. Every single one of them! Isn't that something?

I came home refreshed and inspired to keep at it. I had an agent ask for my full proposal as did an I was encouraged by writer's more published than I who sat and prayed with me about priorities, patience and listening to God's prodding.
Sometimes God speaks in a loud voice and sometimes He simply whispers. A couple of weeks ago at the conference, I experienced both. He spoke so loud I could do nothing but giggle, and at other times His whisper brought me to my knees. Blessings, friends. My hope for you this week is that you prepare yourselves to giggle and bow.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What's Your Story?

On June 15th, Gary and I and our son, Matthew and his wife, Sarah, and their two children will head off to Wisconsin Christian Youth Camp. We have been invited to be the featured speakers at Quest-WCYC’s family camp session. This is a first for us for several reasons. One, while Gary and I have presented together many times, we have never been presenters with any of our children. So, this opportunity to collaborate with Matthew and Sarah is exciting. Of course, if you’d ask Matthew and Sarah about now, I think you’d find them extremely nervous and regretting the day they agreed to this. But, I know that they are going to do an excellent job. They are a marvelous couple, who are balancing hectic schedules with jobs, church and everything else while raising two precious little girls to know God as their Creator and Jesus as their Savior. I remember those days well. The only difference is Gary and I were juggling the pressures of raising three boys instead of girls.

Our presentations will be centered on living our lives as Story. “Everyone’s story begins at home,” reads a plague we having hanging on our screened porch. We will all four being telling our stories through each of our own generation and prospective and how God is growing us all uniquely closer to Him. It should be interesting and fun. I’d like to invite any one interested to come along. We’d love to see you there.

Have you ever thought about your life as Story? As a writer, I know the elements that make a good story. First, you must have a strong lead character-- someone who makes a difference, who readers can care about and root for; someone who has goals—has something they want to accomplish. What do you want out of life? Spiritually speaking, do you have any goals? What are they and why do they matter? Are your goals noble? Self-serving? Or, are you one of those characters who just fly by the seat of his pants…wandering or waiting for something to happen?

Second, as you write your story, you must have conflict to make it a page-turner. What is getting in the way of you accomplishing your goals? What most often interferes with your story? What can you do about that?

Third, a good story must have resolution. While not all heroes ride off into the sunset, if they give it their all, then they do win…don’t they?

Well, there’s a little preview. Let me ask you…what is the ‘so what’ of your life story? You are here on this planet--you are getting up everyday and walking through your life but…so what? Is your story one that will matter when the last page is turned? Think about it.

Well, hopefully, I’ll see some of you in a week or so and spend some quality log-sitting time with you. And, I’d love to hear your story…

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


"Act your way into a better way of feeling"... The first time I heard that little saying was in 1974....34 years ago! Whoa! I cannot believe how times flies. That's another blog for another time. Anyway. Gary and I were in Chicago at a weekend Marriage Retreat hosted by Paul Faulkner and Carl Breechen (two really cool professors from Abilene Christian University). Believe it or not, Gary is the one who suggested we attend the retreat. See, what kind of sweet hubby he is? What husband actually wants to go to a marriage retreat without being forced to? Sorry, gals, he's all mine.

While at the retreat one of the speakers was talking about relationships and how sometimes we just can't count on our 'feelings' getting us through something challenging. In fact, sometimes our feelings totally let us down. Sometimes, our feelings entrap us and convince us that things will never be good again and that life is a mess and always will be so why bother. Well, what Carl, or was it Paul? was saying is that sometimes in marriage we stop 'feeling' love and the only way to get that feeling back is to act like we still feel it. Go through all the motions. Get up in the mornings and kiss him/her good morning. Fix breakfast and place a rose by the bacon. Call her in the middle of the afternoon just to say 'Hi'. Get what I'm saying? Paul or Carl, said that eventually if you act like you love this person and put all of your heart and soul into it, there is a good chance, you will once again, actually feel love for them again.

I've got to tell you--not only has that bit of advice probably enhanced my own marriage ten-fold through these last 34 years, it has also gotten me through some other challenges along the way. Our family has had a pretty tough couple of years. If you read my last blog entry, you read about my botched knee replacement surgery, which resulted in a second knee replacement surgery on the same knee. What fun is that?! Also, my husband lost both of his parents within the same year. One of my dearest friends died suddenly with cancer--diagnosed in June and gone by October. One of our sons was in ICU for four days, another son has been suffering through a depression and my lovely 80-year-old mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent surgery and radiation treatments, and last spring our dog died. Dooley, the most faithful and generous yellow lab ever born became sick and died one sunny Saturday morning from a very brief illness (actually, we think he was a victim of the dog food poisoning that was happening around the country last year at this time). Devastated! Devastated! Devastated! I finally became undone...emotionally, spiritually and physically done in....and joy left me.

I felt no joy. I felt no promise of joy. I forgot what joy felt like.

And, then I remembered...'act your way into a better way of feeling.' Yeah...right. So one day recently, I woke up and decided to act joyful--just a little joyful--not a whole lot joyful--a smidgeon of joy would do for the first day. I showered. I took a walk. I climbed up to my office and continued work on my book ( a book that has taken a 'hit' from all of the above. Who can write when their dog has died?), and I watched a heron walk around the edge of our pond. I just stood there quietly and watched. Okay, enough joy acting for one day.

And then...I woke up the next day and showered and took a walk and worked on my book and called a friend and...enough joy acting for another day.

And then...I woke up and took a shower and....THEN not long ago, I woke up, sat up and before I took my shower, I found myself humming. What was this? Humming? Joyless people do not hum. Only joyful people hum, right? I was no longer pretending to be joyful, I actually FELT joy. Joy! Real joy! Mind you I didn't throw myself a party, or dance. I just hummed...because I felt joy. I acted my way back into a better way of feeling.

I'm just saying....if you are being challenged right now with something very hard and don't think you'll get through it, you might want to get up in the morning and take a shower and a walk and...if God is the Wonder I know Him to be, humming will truly will.

Blessings, friends.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

New Year's Resolution- 2008

Okay, so it’s been seven or so months since I last blogged. In fact this is only my second entry. Sorry. I will try and do better. … Today I am sick. I’ve got the punies. I guess I could have gone to church this morning, but to be honest, I simply wanted to be by myself. I need to wrestle with God about some things. So this morning I spent time in prayer as I read the book of Job. . . well most of it. I think what Job tells me is that God will do what He wants, when He wants and to whom he wants. Not out of anger or anything bad like that, but because He sees the bigger picture. He is telling us that this HERE, the life HERE is just what it is—fleeting and time is running out. We only get, say 80 to 90 (mostly less) years to do what we’re going to do; to give what we’re going to give; to play the part we are going to play—in advancing God’s kingdom—in proclaiming the Good News. And, then we go home.

During the storms of our lives, God promises us as He did Job, that we will always be able to feel His presence. He doesn’t promise to take the pain and sorrow away, only that He will be right there standing in our tears, holding us up and saying in some divine lovely language, “There, there.”

I wished I could shake my fist at God and dare Him to come out from behind His throne and meet with me. I wished if I did that, I could have the speech prepared that Job did-- that I could say with all honesty, “Try and find fault with me. I have done all that You’ve asked without malice and with honor.” Of course that’s my paraphrase, but that’s what I’m thinking Job said. I can’t do that. I haven’t lived as righteously as Job. I know malice well.

So, I guess I’m writing this to say; maybe I will try…try to be a better person this year. I’ve been coasting for the past two years. I’ve had two major operations on the same knee. In fact, I no longer have a right knee. I have this techie gadget where my knee used to be. It bends and does some incredible things but it has been a bear to get used to and it has created a lot of havoc in my life—my private life, the part of my life that has me getting up every morning hurting so badly I’m convinced it will be impossible to walk again. But I do get up and I do eventually walk with the aid of drugs and shear willpower. Now don’t feel sorry for me. I don’t. But I have had my bad days; Too many of them. I have allowed those bad days to get me off course; to forget why I’m here and who I am…so much so that I can’t do what Job did—ask God to meet with me on the porch to see how good I have been. I haven’t been that good. I haven’t been that faithful, at least, not as faithful as I want to be, should be, can be.

It is late January and I’m thinking now would be a good time, to get back to it—my life—my purpose—my mission—back to Kingdom stuff. If you, too, have gotten off course this last year, why don’t you join me. About 9 a.m. or so every morning, I’m hoping to get myself down on my good knee and invite God to meet with me—to help me be more like His faithful Job…accepting the good with the bad, the comfortable with the uncomfortable, and to accept the afflictions with the blessings. I know He’ll come.

Have a good week, friends…or whomever it is who might be reading this. Drop by again. Blessings…