Saturday, August 29, 2015

Happy New Year!

I love fall...
I love anticipating fall.
I love back-to-school, which is ironic because I didn't like school when I was a kid.
When school supplies arrived on store shelves a pit would carve itself into my stomach.
When my kids were in school, fall marked the end of summer.
I thoroughly enjoyed having the kids at home all summer.
Summer days were filled with activities, day trips and crafts.
I also enjoyed watching the bus whisk them away at the end of it.
Now that they're grown and gone, I still look forward to fall.
To me, back-to-school is the new year.
Even more than January 1st.
I don't really care about January 1st.  But the first day of school, that's when I begin to take stock.

Maybe it's my love of school supplies.
I always slipped a few things in the cart for myself when the kids were little and now, I have no reason whatsoever to visit the school supplies section.
Why would I set foot in aisles filled with shopping cart jams and whining children?
Because, to me, it's fresher than a farmer's market.
Blank pages...
Fresh pens...
Glue...what will the glue be tasked to do?
Pencils and erasers...they smell so good.
Elements of learning and possibilities of genius.

I fall clean as well.  Some people spring clean...and maybe I should do a deep clean then too, don't judge me.
But I realize that we've been tracking dirt in the house all summer.
I love to garden, so it's an issue.
We will likely be stuck in the house more often during the winter, so I want to make it sparkling clean and pleasantly inhabitable.
So I clean.

And then there's the typical resolutions of every student:
"This year I will do my best, I will not procrastinate, I will get straight A's."
I'm not attending school, but I'm always learning.
I have things to do.
I want to do them well.
So I vow to myself to focus.
That's my constant resolution:
I tend to flit from one thing to another.
Not a bad thing, but not terribly effective in finishing projects in a timely manner.
So I resolve to focus.
Every single fall...
This fall is no different...

Then there's the baking, the pumpkins, the weather, the wind, the rain, the cold...
The cozy clothes.
I just love it all.

So Happy New Year my friends.
Enjoy the beauty of the season!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Writing Conference Report...

I recently attended my very first writing conference.
I've been putting it off.
Mostly due to my lack of believing I'm a writer.
And the fact that I haven't finished my novel.
Turns out, that doesn't matter.
I turned in the first 10 pages of my unfinished novel to be reviewed by a couple of agents.
I brought two of my children's books.
I brought several of my devotionals.
And I put my big girl panties on and decided to be brave.

We arrived and I immediately checked in for the boot camp.
A crash course in social media and establishing your platform...
My platform...
I've never considered a platform something to have...I, okay, gotta work on that.
I realized that I have a lot of work to do in addition to actually writing my novel!
Then we dove into the classes and workshops and lunches and dinners and meetings and panels...
It was 3 1/2 days of constant, unending inspiration and information.
I was overwhelmed.
But I learned so very much...
I learned something that will stay with me and shape my writing from this point on.

Some set up...
My underlying premise for writing is to share my faith.
I want to entertain.
I want to inspire.
I want to provide fun in word form.
Ultimately, though, I want to offer hope...I want to offer the possibility of salvation from hopelessness.
At least I thought I did.

The first day was a little discouraging.
Between a non-review of my novel manuscript - "Keep going."
I felt discouraged.  I wanted something more...even a negative bit of advice...tear it apart...I've never done this, give me something to grasp and learn from...
Nope, I doubt the first agent had even read it.
And, really, I've heard agents don't want to be bothered with unfinished manuscripts, what if it's never finished?
But this was a conference, where people come to learn, so I learned that it's's not worth their time.
Then I approached an editor to see if I could pitch a couple of devotionals (a huge risk for me...I don't just approach people...I don't just jump out of proverbial airplanes without a parachute!)
She told me that I had written for the parent and she was looking for parenting advise in dealing with children...not encouragement for parents.
Good to harm, no foul.  She was very nice.  I didn't lose any blood.
Then we had dinner with an editor.
Editors and agents host tables at these conferences and you sit and eat with them as if they're normal people.  (Turns out they are!)
We were going around the table sharing what we like to write and one of the things I shared is that I love to write encouragement for moms...among a host of other subjects.
"Moms don't read" was the editor's reply.
"I did" interjected one woman.
"You're the exception." he replied.
He's right, you know.  They're busy wiping bottoms and noses!
So the discouragement settled right into my heart.
Maybe this writing gig isn't for me, I thought.
Maybe I'm not meant to be an author.
Maybe I'm not good enough.

And then we settled in for our keynote address from a pastor in California.
His message:
Write as worship.
My heart soaked those three words into its core.
And God spoke to my spirit.
You are not writing for you, you're writing for Me.

My heart shifted and discouragement packed its bags and left the building.
Material success and accolades weren't important, joy was what I sought.
The joy comes in writing the words for the glory of my Savior.
So the conference continued into the second day and the third.
I had meetings with editors and sold some devotionals.
I received another review of my novel that offered critique and encouragement.
"Interesting character and the writing is good"
Thank you.
I pitched my children's books and the agent liked them.
My heart was encouraged.

So, the take-away for me is that when my heart is wholly focussed on the One who gave me every ability that I possess, I will find success.
Success is defined by the amount of joy in my heart, not the dollars in my pocket or my name on the cover of a book.

*The inspiration I soaked up from that conference has sparked such a flood of words since my return from my vacation.  I feared all of the information was dumped somewhere in Yellowstone National Park, but it's still knocking around in my noggin!  I'm so thankful for the opportunity to learn from well-known authors and editors.  They were so generous with their knowledge and experience.  So, so grateful!