Before becoming a writer, if faced with a life or death situation where only creativity would save me, I’d be a goner. I marveled at the author creativity in books I read. And then one day, I had an idea. And the idea grew into a scene, and the scene into a chapter, and the chapter into a book. Ideas flowed like a waterfall around me, and for the first time in my life, I tapped into Creativity.
After nearly three years of non-stop writing, I think I’ve got it dialed in. I will list the seven places where I find my writing inspiration.
I head out on the road (or the treadmill in my garage), crank up the ole’ itunes, and, if my kids don’t interrupt me, I let the music surround me and immerse myself into a scene. Often the music is my muse, not necessarily the jogging (although pushing yourself while listening to music is a magical concoction). Most action scenes were born from exercise.
6. My Kids
Kids have a way of opening my brain to strange and fantastical ideas. My are kids are so goofy, but so inventive and creative. They role model what real creativity looks like.
If you can remember them after you wake up, these can be propane for your writing fire. I can think of at least four places in my novels where the idea came straight from a dream.
4. My Bathroom
Particularly, my shower. Apparently the monotony of shampooing has its merits.
3. Other Books
There’s a seed of plot design that can easily be manipulated to fit your work.
2. Pain and Grief
This was a big one for me. At the time I first began writing Emerald of Viridian, I was undergoing some serious grief (something I plan to blog about one day. But dang. That’s going to be tough.) Every time I felt anger, bitterness, or crushing depression, I would literally sit down, flip open my laptop, and write the offender right into the pages of my story. I actually have a real-life character in my books who embodies all the things that hurt me in real life. And writing about it really helped me heal. (I swear, singers actually like getting into relationships and then breaking up just because it adds fuel to their creativity.)
1. Real-life Experiences
The world around you is a cluster of millions of little untold stories. Have you ever been doing some mundane task and let your mind wander about something completely unrelated to what you’re doing? Like what if you had so much laundry, that it filled your bedroom and you were drowning in it? Or what if you could wave a magic wand and make your laundry go away? What if you figured out you could snap, and all your laundry would magically fold itself? What if snapping made your clothes disappear? What if you snapped, and you could make anything disappear? Then you had to go to the pit of hell to retrieve it. Would you do it for your laundry? Probably not. But what if you snapped at your kid, and then they landed in a pit of hell, and crap, now you’re stuck going to the pit of hell to get your kid that you really love, and you didn’t mean to snap at him. And there’s a moral in that. Don’t snap at your kids… Or maybe don’t fold so much laundry.
Anyway, there’s other take-aways from real-life too. At the time of writing this blog, Oregon is inundated with wildfires. All the smoke from the fires have drifted into our valley and settled, and let me tell you, I’ve never seen anything like it. Yesterday I saw someone post that we have the “worst air-quality in the world.” The weather channel labeled our air quality as “hazardous.” I’m not even allowing my kids to open the doors because smoke billows in. My husband came home from work (He works at Intel.) and smelled like campfire… from being IN the building. If there’s not a story there, then call me Buster. (Don’t actually call me Buster, okay?)
If you’ve got creativity, tap into it. The world wants a piece. I know I do. 😊
A few days ago, I was sitting in an insurance meeting when the speaker made a very subtle racist remark. The insurance man at my school was talking about identifying child abuse when he said, “You need to know the difference between a black guy on the play ground and a black guy at home.”
And I’m like “WHAT?!” (in my brain). I’ll admit, before Georgy Floyd, this type of remark might have not even registered for what it was, but in the moment, signals were flaring like crazy.
Thankfully, the remark was brought to the attention of the superintendent who called our insurance guy to talk to him about it. Turns out we were all wrong. The insurance guy was talking about identifying abuse, right? Over Zoom calls, words aren’t as clear, and our very kind insurance guy clarified that he had said “black eye,” not “black guy.” And this is where everyone exhales in relief.
First, I want to take a second to applaud my co-workers. Not only did they voice what I was too timid to say, but the superintendent confronted the man. In fact, he even made the remark, “I was worried we had to find a new insurance guy!” Our school takes racism seriously.
And that’s important, because we’re Christians.
This, sadly, has been a very controversial topic. What makes it sad is that while some people are throwing bombs and harming, or even killing, in the name of equality, others don’t even recognize that protesting is necessary. In my eyes, there are only facts, and the facts are extremely complex and nuanced.
Now I’m cracking my knuckles and saying, “Let’s dive in.” (I will be using Phil Vischer’s video entitled “Race in America” (Click link below to watch) as a basis for my history.) (And I know I’m using parenthesis like crazy and in ways I shouldn’t. Don’t judge.)
We must start back in 1863 when slaves were emancipated after the Civil War. Nine states enacted what are called “Vagrancy Laws” which made it illegal not to have a job (only for black people, mind you). These black people were collected up into the jail system and then forced to work- with no hope of being released. Ta da. Now whites had a bureaucratic system in place to enforce slavery in those states. Other laws were put into place prohibiting “mischief” and “insulting gestures” whereby police could also throw black people in jail.
In the 1900’s, Jim Crow was put in effect in all Southern states. With its motto of “Separate but Equal,” Jim Crow was anything but equal. The laws are jaw-dropping and extended from separate drinking fountains to public lynchings. If you aren’t familiar with Jim Crow, this is a fantastic website to scroll through. http://www.ferris.edu/jimcrow/what.htm.
In 1954, Jim Crow was ruled unconstitutional, but states did not immediately adopt the new laws. In fact, it took ten more years before the last of the Jim Crow laws were overruled by the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jim_Crow_laws)
According to Vischer, “The number one source of intergenerational wealth in America is home ownership.” He states in his video that the average black household has 60% of the income but only 10% of the wealth. Here’s why. In the 1930’s, the government developed a practice called “Redlining,” deeming a certain demographic as “high risk” for federally backed mortgages. In the 40’s, blacks could not only get a loan, but they were also prohibited from buying homes in white neighborhoods. Even black Veterans returning from WWII in the 40’s couldn’t get a GI Bill to get a mortgage.
Because of redlining, most blacks lived in the inner-city. At some point in the second half of the 20th century, factory jobs were moved to the suburbs, making it difficult for many blacks to commute because of lack of transportation. By 1987, only 28% of blacks had good, blue-collar jobs. “As unemployment increased, so did drug use. As drug use increased, so did crime.”
And thus began the cycle.
Here it is, 2020. And we are still seeing the perpetuation of a cycle that began in the early 20th century. A good friend of mine who is a police officer reminds me that the black community is five times more likely to commit a murder than a white person. (https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2018/crime-in-the-u.s.-2018/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-6.xls) Because of so much contact, they are at higher risk of being the focal point for police. And while this may be true, there are reasons for this that go well beyond what is happening at this moment. I think that generations of struggle are responsible for what is now coming to a head today, and there is still inequality and flaws not only in many government systems, but also in our society.
So what can we do? There are many systems that need to be fixed, and these could take years, if not decades to remedy. But what can we do on an individual level?
Here’s my conclusion. If you are reacting to the BLM movement with violence, please stop. You are only perpetuating the cycle of retaliation. Police are not the enemy. It is not black vs. police. It’s people vs. people.
If you are apathetic to the cause, please stop. You too are responsible for this cycle. Why? Because when people don’t feel heard or validated, they begin shouting. Consider your spouse or loved one. If they are presenting a problem to you, and you aren’t listening, they are going to get louder, eventually becoming angry and upset. Just stop and listen. Listen to the black people in your community and provide them support in whatever capacity you can. Almost everyone has a story of harassment, whether from civilians or police.
Next, we can ask ourselves what we can do in our own home. Education is key. Find out more about black history. What I mentioned is only the tip of the iceberg. This topic is extremely nuanced, and each individual has their own story. Talk to your kids. Explain to them that God created everyone- black, white, brown, and that we are all beautiful and made in His image.
My husband would kill me if he knew I was positing this, but he created an incredible website called http://www.sundaytosaturday.com. His heart is to educate people by curating information about different topics. He hasn’t publicized the website yet because he’s not finished, but he has a lot of information on the topic of race. (If you view it, you did NOT hear it from me. 😉 )
If you see racism happening in your own community, stand up for the inequality. (Unlike me,) don’t be afraid to voice your concern in a polite and gracious manner.
And if there’s any single one thing we can do, it’s to love and respect each other well. Love and respect our police. So many of them are serving to protect us. Rioters are going so far as to throw bombs at them or trap them in their building and set fire to it. They go to work each day, burdened and abused by people flipping them off and calling them names when they are good people, all while trying to uphold justice. If you see a police officer, please offer them a smile instead.
Love black people. If you see someone getting mistreated, step up to make it right.
With grace and humility, aspire to recognize ALL people as worthy of our respect and love.
It doesn’t take a research expert, only a single parent, to tell you that last spring’s online education program was a disaster within a global disaster.
Now, heading back into the school year, you are faced with a tough choice. Where should you send your child? There are many options: public school, charter school, online school, private school, homeschool … which one should you choose?
I’ll answer the question that has been on many people’s minds right away. They all have their merits. If you keep reading, I’ll explain why.
I’m an educator. I’ve worked in education for fifteen years, teaching mostly high school and middle school but have dipped in the lower grades a tad. I’m also a mom of a three, five, and six-year-old. Add to my repertoire of experiences that I attended five different schools during k-12 (plus four years of college), and I have collected a bit of knowledge. This certainly does not make me an expert. But it DOES give me a strong opinion.
I was just talking with an educator who works at a school district in an affluent demographic. She said the public schools in her area were like private, only publicly funded. Eighth grade work she received had been performed at a college level. It was thrilling to hear.
Yet some schools on the other side of the river were far from that. In those schools, the biggest concern for the teacher was getting physically assaulted, and some of the students’ highest aspirations were to work at the strip club down the street. It’s these kinds of schools where I feel a strong aversion to send my child. What is another option?
Only recently has this little nugget come to my attention. Charter schools are publicly funded schools that function autonomously but that produce excellent results often using innovative thinking. For example, the charter school that my friend’s daughter attends touts twelve field trips a year. They also employ project-based learning which has shown to be a superior model because of its hands-on and all-encompassing method.
Another awesome thing about charter schools is that they are highly selective in their enrollment. While students are always selected for entrance by lottery, to remain there, one must… well, how do I say this. Your kid can’t be “that” kid. Otherwise, they will be relocated… back to public school. My friend said that the first two weeks of kindergarten were spent discussing behavior- how to share, how to communicate, how to get along. That sounds amazing. Because while we always have reading, writing, and arithmetic, in order to learn anything, we must know how to behave.
I only have one thing to say about online schools. They work best for the highly motivated. If your student does not fall into that category, I don’t believe that online school would be your best choice. In these times though, it is the only choice. So what can you, as a parent do? PLEASE GET INVOLVED. Please. As an educator, I beg you. You say you don’t know your commas from your quotation marks. That’s okay! Learn with your child. Set a schedule. (“School will happen between 9-2. We break for snack and lunch at 10 and 12. Have all your homework completed by 3:00, and then enjoy doing whatever you want for the rest of the day.”) Create barriers (i.e. “Jimmy, you may not have any screen time until you finish your school work.). Enforce this. You CAN. You’re the parent.
Create goals. Plan rewards. Work alongside them. Even if you’re busy, there’s always time to sit down next to your child and be there to answer questions. Maybe you have a deadline to meet at work and need to finish a report. Great. Sit down at the table with little Jimmy by your side. Together, you can each tackle your work. Model what hard work looks like, and show them how amazing it feels when you succeed. And if you aren’t sure how to do this, read a fantastic little parenting book called Love and Logic. It will change your life.
It’s private schools where my heart lay. Not only do they offer superior education, small class sizes, and a family-quality environment, but they can change the course of one’s life.
Here’s my personal story. I attended a small country public school during kindergarten and first grade. I remember dirty jokes, language, bullying, and fear even at this innocuous country school. And I didn’t even know it. I was raised in a Christian home where we went to church every Sunday, and my mom read us the Bible around our egg and pancake breakfast table. But even as a little six-year-old, I could see the trend of my life, though I didn’t know it.
When I was six, my brother, who was in eighth grade, was a bit of a hellion. He was the guy who sped down the halls popping out ceiling tiles and creating general mayhem. One day, he broke into a chemical closet and tried to swallow what he though was poison. Thankfully, it was just iodine.
As the summer after the incident drew to a close, I think my dad panicked about the course of his son’s life. It was only days before school began, and he called my mom from work and demanded that she enroll us at a private school. And so my parents ripped us out of the public school system and plunked three of us into a small school called Faith Bible. I’d like to think of this as a major junction station in my life because my life literally jumped tracks. I’m not sure where I’d be today if it hadn’t been for my father’s rash decision, but I know it wouldn’t be where I am now. And I’m VERY grateful where my life is now.
And my brother who was suicidal? Yeah, he became a missionary pilot serving remote villages in the jungles of Indonesia for nearly fifteen years.
Only our stories can attest to the wonders of private education.
Last, but certainly not least, is homeschool. And here’s where most parents might balk. “I could NEVER homeschool my kid.” These aren’t just your words. They were my words three short months ago.
And then I began my investigation. A good friend of mine was homeschooled her entire life and is now beginning the same journey with her four-year-old. When I was talking about this option and what a disaster Covid teaching was last spring, she said something that resonated so loudly that I can’t get it unstuck from my mind. “What you were doing wasn’t homeschooling. It was crisis teaching.” And she was absolutely right. What we were doing was taking real-live classroom education and forcing it into a home-school/online mold that was a perversion of whatever the heck was supposed to be going on. And it shouldn’t surprise any one of us that it was an utter failure.
Our schools’ mantra was, “If learning is taking place, pass the students.” As for the affluent public school I mentioned earlier, their mantra was “If they have a pulse, pass them.” This wasn’t homeschool/online school/any-kind-of school. It was failure.
In Oregon, Kate Brown passed a mandate that shut down most counties’ schools. I feel the chances of success for online schools are better since that’s how we are starting the year. We won’t be forcing a classroom mold into everyone’s home. But, like I said earlier, you have to be a motivated learner to succeed. Not to mention that it’s taxing for a student of any age to stare at a screen all morning. And then when they are finished, they’re exhausted. And all they want to do is stare at a tv screen for the rest of the day.
So what can you do? If you’ve got young kids like me, it’s an easy choice. Right now, I’m addressing a very small audience. If you have a child that is pre-k through second or is unsuccessful with online learning, your best choice this year might be to homeschool. Again, you argue that you yourself barely know your “b” from “d.” (Okay, that’s a total exaggeration, but you get what I’m saying.) The great thing is that you don’t have to be a genius to do it. All you have to do is get a good curriculum (I’m using Abeka) and set up a schedule. That’s it. Really.
I have a friend in Alaska who’s been homeschooling for six years. Her schedule is drool-worthy. She rolls out of bed whenever her heart desires, then bakes some sort of breakfast delight every morning (bread, cookie, muffin). When that’s done, she gathers her four little chickies into the living room, sits down, reads a story, and school time begins. A few hours later, they are completely finished, and it’s time to play with friends, go to swim lessons, martial arts, or whatever else they are involved in. Sounds magical to me.
If you’re worried about social interaction, remember, your child wasn’t going to get it from online school anyway. But now, instead of being balled-and-chained to zoom meetings, your child has the ability to finish his/her work in about 2-3 hours (that is the average time for younger grades) and then have the rest of the day to do playdates, join Soccer Shots, have a homeschool group outing, etc.
All over the country, people are turning to homeschool this year, and most of them are looking for others to join them. All it takes is a little poking and prodding.
My first choice will always be private education. But with Covid changing life on an hourly basis and because of my husband’s and my work schedule, it was easier for me to take over schooling and keep all three boys at home. I’m eager to see things return to normal next year and get them back with their friends at their private school. But as for this year, I’m going to sit this one out.
What will you do? I’d love to hear about your personal experiences.
Nestled among mountains, tucked in one of the furthest corners of the world is a place that is more special to me than anywhere I’ve traveled. Perhaps its two parts beauty and three parts nostalgia, but Haines, Alaska is a place that has haunted my dreams for nearly two decades. And I’m not speaking figuratively here.
While Alaska feels like a hop, skip, and a jump away from Oregon, the actual execution is a bit hairier. At least with children. A three-hour drive to Seattle saved us $500 (We would have had to drive an hour to Portland’s airport anyway), and a 2.5 hour flight brought us right into Juneau. We had to stay overnight in Juneau as the next ferry didn’t leave until seven the next morning.
Of all the travel, the ferry ride through the Inside Passage is by far my favorite and the most spectacular. On days when the sun is shining, you feel like you’ve been transported to paradise. The mountains are RIGHT THERE. They aren’t off in the distance. No. If you jump overboard and doggy-paddle a quarter mile, you could scale one as soon as you reach shore. The sun glistens off the white peaks that stand sentinel in a deep blue sky, and it sparkles and dances on the crystal water below. I’ve even seen whales along the route. Seriously people. Paradise.
Four hours later, our destination came into view- a compact little town that lay snugly between the Inside Passage and the base of a jagged mountain range. To access this town by car, one would have to drive north into Canada on the only road leading out of town and circle around the Yukon down to B.C. and then on into the U.S. I highly suggest flying.
This was my fourth visit to the tiny town of Haines. The last time I was there, I was a teenager.
Needless to say, visiting the place of my dreams was a little surreal. Everything looked the same, but the small changes throughout the town spoke of the years I’d been away.
One of the best things about being in Haines is staying with the locals. My generous and hospitable friend graciously allowed me, my husband, and my three rowdy boys to live with her for eight days. If this doesn’t attest to the inherent fortitude of Alaskans, then I don’t know what does.
When I was a girl, one of the most remarkable cultural differences I noticed among Alaskans was that the houses I visited had some sort of mounted head or animal skin on the wall. Alaskans hunt. And many of them do it to survive.
And although my gracious hosts had no animal parts on their wall, they assured me it wasn’t for lack of trying. I have every confidence that their walls will be covered in a few years. And even if they haven’t gotten that big kill yet, they are proficient in other areas. One of our hosts went subsistence fishing and caught twelve giant salmon (well, giant to me). He expertly gutted and cleaned them right in his back yard. To me, that’s pretty gritty.
The meals we ate during our stay were the stuff of dreams: Moose roasts, bear sausage, and salmon patties. Our days weren’t just full of good food. They were also full of adventure. Here’s just a few things we did:
Beach walks along the Chilkat Inlet.
Bonfires and s’mores in the back yard.
A quick hike to Battery Point (along a trail which gets a lot of bear traffic, although we didn’t see any.)
Kayaking near Rainbow Glacier
A Mt. Ripinsky run
A hike up Mt. Riley
A farmer’s market in Dalton City
Bear sighting at Chilkoot River
A trip to Mosquito Lake
A pit stop at 33-Mile restaurant (complete with goat out back)
Perhaps the most remarkable thing about this little town isn’t the places to visit, but the people who know each other by name. I once read a book by Heather Lende entitled “If you Lived Here, I’d Know Your Name.” It caught my attention because it made me think of Haines. When I read the jacket, I quickly learned that was because it was about Haines. I can attest to the title’s veracity. And to drive this point home, we even saw Heather walking her dogs along Chilkat River.
It was entertaining to me not just to run into people on the beach, walk into supermarkets, or visit coffee shops and have my friend immediately strike up a conversation, but I also got a kick out of going places by myself and having people cast a curious eye in my direction. Never did I feel like an outsider. I simply sensed a quiet curiosity and willingness to learn more. (By the way, people wave at each other when passing each other on the highway. By the time we left, I stopped asking my husband, “Did you know that guy?”)
Haines makes people, no matter from what walk of life, feel like they belong. And no matter how many times I visit, the town always waves its magic wand, leaving me spellbound and with a deep-seeded desire to return.
We were deep in the Alaskan wilderness. The sun beat down on our backs as we scaled the rocky mountain, a vertical face of hard gray shale and scraggly shrub. The kids did well climbing up, and at the top, the view was breathtaking.
It was the journey down when terror struck.
“Bear!” my son screamed.
The hulking grizzly was clomping down the mountain, heading straight for the kids! I raced toward them just as the bear was getting closer. And that was when my foot slipped out from under me. I fell hard on my wrist. Crack! Bone burst through the skin, blood spurting out. But I couldn’t pass out now. I had to save the children!
Still down on the ground, I managed to wrangle the loaded pistol from my back pocket. I only had one arm to steady the gun, and one shot to make it count. Just as the bear was about to devour the children, I took aim and fired. Bam! The bullet landed straight between the bears eyes. (They don’t call me ringer for nothin’.) The bear crashed to the ground, all but dropping right on the kids. I saved the children, but I lost an arm. It was a worthy sacrifice- one I would never hesitate to do again.
OK, fine. I know you all are calling my bluff. While the grizzly story was full of danger and valor, the real story is its opposite.
Last week my family and I took a vacation to visit an old friend and her family in Alaska. One day, we decided to go to a park. Up in Haines, Alaska, you might not be able to go to a movie theater or a bowling alley, but you can partake in death-defying activities such as riding around town on Onewheels and hoverboards. This particular family happened to own both. First, I tried out the new Onewheel. Hey! Not so bad! Now I thought I’d give it a go on the hover board. Such a sad, bad idea.
I got on. I got going. The hover board didn’t love going on the bark dust, so I moved over to some very short grass bordering a gravel parking lot. Being the newb that I was, I wasn’t able to steer the hoverboard at all, so it ended up taking me on a little ride into the gravel parking lot. According to the 10-year-old who owned it, I struck a rock and the thing flew out right from under my feet. My hand flew back, and I fell, injuring not just my pride, but also my wrist. It only took a few minutes before I realized something was really wrong. Turns out it was a fracture. I’m still not sure (even a week later) exactly what kind since it has yet to be properly x-rayed and casted, but it is broken. I know that much.
Before setting off for Haines Alaska, I told my spouse, I told all my friends, I told the world, that I only wanted one thing while I was there: To sit in a café and write. My first attempt to get up early and go was thwarted when my child ended up throwing up all night. So I planned to do it the next day. And that’s when tragedy struck.
I can’t do this blog post any justice though if I say it was a shattered dream. Because I did end up going to that coffee shop, and it was really epic. And I found that with my one good hand, it was all I needed to hit the backspace button to edit The Emerald of Viridian. Yeah, that one that had 126,000 words. I’m now down to 123,000. Apparently, Providence saw it fit that I only needed one good finger.
It’s not always easy to find an adventure with your kids. Fortunately, I have a sister-in-law with every hike in the Pacific Northwest mapped in her head (or so it seems). A few weeks ago, she recommended a little gem I’d never been to: Starvation Creek.
This roughly five-mile stretch of wide, paved trail takes its explorers past four waterfalls in about a two-mile long section. The Norz family didn’t make it to the fourth fall, so I can’t say with any accuracy at what distance this fall is located, but the first three made their appearance in less than a one-mile stretch.
After a picnic lunch at the base of Starvation Creek Falls, we headed out on our scooters for a mile before we turned around at the point that is now the profile picture on my “About Me” page. Next up was Hole in the Wall falls, a cute, little spurting falls where one and a half children almost died climbing a steep off-trail section of boulders.
Last but not least was Cabin Creek Falls. This one was probably my favorite since it was possible to hike all the way up to the top if you were agile enough to make it up the (what felt like) 200% grade of slippery rock.
Let’s just say that I stayed back with the two criers until my husband and first born made it back down.
Despite the crying, the kids did amazing. The easy scooter trail, the beautiful falls, and the picnic lunch made it feel like a true adventure.
Today I received my sixth rejection. Surprisingly, I was bolstered by its contents. The one sentence I fixated on was “I read your query with interest.” Interest. Now that’s something!
After I received my first rejection, I was surprised by how oddly encouraged I felt. It was a nice rejection letter. They didn’t say my story sucked. Fantastic.
The second letter, although not as nice, was also well-received.
By the third, my shoulders were starting to slump.
Number five was the killer though. It was short, sweet to the point. “Thanks for your query, but this isn’t right for our list.”
A couple days ago, I was able to sit with two of my Beta readers who buoyed my spirits. “Don’t start getting discouraged until you’ve received at least 100 rejections.” Or until December. Whichever comes first. It’s my amazing friends that shine a light on this darkening path. (You know who you are! And I love you!)
I recently stumbled upon a website called litrejections.com. Their slogan is “Rejection is an imperative test of one’s character.” Well said.
One writer faced rejection for five years before landing a deal. She’s had over $2 billion in sales. Only Shakespeare outranks her. It’s Agatha Christie.
J.K. Rowling received twelve rejections before the eight-year-old daughter of a Bloomsbury editor demanded to read the entire story.
One man faced years of rejection before his book was published. We now know him as C.S. Lewis.
The author of The DavinciCode was told that his work was “so badly written.” His book is the sixth most read book in the world.
It’s incredible that many of the books we hold dear, that have even shaped our childhood, faced rejection over and over again.
Today’s rejection was a reminder that even though something can be good, its potential is invisible until someone takes a gamble. And even if it feels hopeless, the point is to persevere.
However… Patience has never been one of my strengths. I’m willing to keep plying agents, but I’m considering momentarily jumping tracks. Here’s why. Finding someone to publish a YA urban fantasy with absolutely zero credentials is a lot like trying to build a rocket ship in your garage and hope it can fly to space. My story is 125,000 words. This exceeds a traditional word count by twenty-five thousand words. And that’s a LOT to cut. And that’s a LOT to invest in for an untried writer.
So maybe… maybe God is telling me to knock on other doors while the bells are still ringing behind me.
My three boys LOVE stories. And they love homespun tales that include grand feats achieved by none other than themselves. One night, while spinning my yarn, I unlocked an idea that was another seed to a story. And even in the middle of writing The Emerald of Viridian, I remember lying awake and forcing my brain to conjure the path that my new series would tread.
And I think I might… might see an open window along a row of closed doors. I’ve never written for children, and my true passion is YA, but this time, I feel like the letters I type are words I’m speaking directly to my boys. I can even see the reaction on their faces as I “pen” each scene. “Ooo, they’re gonna LOVE that!” “Oh yes! They’re gonna be so excited with this!”
Today I found myself completely engrossed in my tale, so excited that my hands were starting to shake (Although it probably had more to do with the double shot of espresso I was drinking.) So far, I’ve written about a fifth of it, although I have all the scenes sketched out.
In any case, I anticipate that this will be a shorter book that can be rapidly written. And if you have kids, especially boys, they could potentially love it.
I will keep ringing doorbells, but expect a knock on your door within the next several months! 😉
I remember the exact day. In fact, I remember the exact moment. I’d just had my third baby in less than 3.5 years, and this mama was tired. Tired in a way that isn’t like an I-just-stayed-up-all-night-and-now-I’m-exhausted tired. It was a weariness that seeps into one’s soul. That shoves you down as it reminds you that you haven’t slept in years. That you probably won’t sleep again for the rest of your life.
But the one respite I clung desperately to was my quiet time. Quiet time is revered in our house. Even though all my babies have grown out of naps, I still require one hour of “peace” in the middle of each day.
When my firstborn was a baby and I only had him, I had three blessed hours to call my own each day. What I did with those quiet, unadulterated hours, I can’t fully remember, but I do know I cleaned, did projects around the house, and sometimes read or did a puzzle. After my second son, I cleaned and read. After the third, I did nothing but read. I realized that I needed the dwindling time (sometimes only fifteen to twenty minutes) to fill me up.
I found that to escape the chaos of having three babies, I needed to immerse myself in a different world, even if just for a few minutes. It was a coping mechanism, and it worked.
After reading A Court of Thorns and Roses, I remember mulling over these incredible ideas that authors had. Where did they get them? I could never be that creative or imaginative. I mulled over this concept for a couple weeks.
If anyone ever asks me where I got my ideas for the Chronicles of Caelestis series, I’m going to joke and tell them they all came from my bathroom. But in truth, most of them did.
I was taking a shower, and when I was finished, I stepped out, grabbed my towel, was busy toweling off my legs when POW! The idea hit me like an explosion- a person who can travel to another world in their dreams. “That’s a new idea,” I thought to myself. “I’ve never read any book like that.”
I went downstairs. I Googled it. “Huh. That’s funny. I see one book in all the world written about this idea.” And the book I saw was obsolete. I couldn’t even see how one could get their hands on the self-published book. (I later found out that the Time Traveler’s Wife uses this idea (I think it’s that book), but I’ve never read it.)
I lay in bed that night. Suddenly scenes were bursting like fireworks in my head. Explicit scenes that I was watching play out like a movie in my mind. I could hardly sleep for watching this incredible scene (the first chapter of my book) play out.
I tried to shrug it off as silly. The only writing I’d done is volume upon volume of personal journaling. But the idea was so firmly attached to my brain, it felt like I had an alien like the one in The Host wrapped around it.
On February 4th, 2018, I wrote the first scene.
It was fun.
At quiet time, I wrote more. I didn’t tell my husband. He’d think I was crazy.
Throughout the day as I took care of my kids, I could see more of the book. Ideas were flying into my head so fast that I barely had time to scratch out notes in my phone or on loose pieces of paper around the house. After one week of non-stop writing, my husband finally asked what I was hiding. I blushed. “I guess I’m writing a book? I dunno. Just something fun to do.”
After two weeks, the skeleton of a trilogy formed in my head. I had all the major bones I needed, but the next months wove in the muscle. I wrote the first book in three months. It showed me I’d have four books. I debated whether to stop and try to publish it right then, or to go on and see exactly how this would play out.
I’m a perfectionist. The perfectionist in me feared that if I tried to publish it now, I would miss out on all the little clues that would be needed in the remaining books. If I rushed it and wasn’t positively sure what the details would be in the remaining books, I might make an irrevocable mistake. It took me three to four months to write the second rough draft. Then three to four more months to write the third book. At the end of the third book, I was shocked to find my fingers typing out a plot twist that not even I had anticipated. I was exciting my own self.
And it was going to make the fourth book into a 1,000 page tome. Looks like we’d have five books. Five books to represent the recurring theme of “five” in my novels. It was beyond perfect.
After every rough draft was finished, I’d wrestle with the idea of going back to polish that first one to try to publish it. But every time, I told myself that creative juices were flowing now. This time at home with my kids was precious. Now was the time to lay the foundation.
I’m so glad I did. My vision and goals changed throughout the writing process, but the story stayed the same. I’m excited for this book. I want it to be something that inspires young people to persevere through hard times and to detect their own flaws and use their own determination to fix them. Magic and fantasy are awesome, but at the end of the day, it’s by one’s own grit (and the grace and strength of God) that we overcome hardship.
Have you ever felt like you needed to get out? I mean really change things up?
“Claire,” you say. “Is this really the first blog question of your first post?You must be the newest of newbies to ask such an asinine question.”
Okay, okay. You’re totally right. It was dumb. Only because we all know we feel this way… umm… 187% of the time. Sooo… That’s why I’ve created “Adventure Mondays” in our home.
Adventures transport us to another world. They help us leave behind (even if very momentarily) the rat race that consumes our energy. Nature renews. Breaking away refreshes.
I consider myself lucky because I’m a teacher and have the summer off. My husband’s compressed workweek gives us the luxury of Monday’s.
Growing up in Portland, Oregon, there’s no shortage of amazing places to go, even with kids.
For this blog, we will transport ourselves in time four weeks ago. Our purpose: Seek Adventure. Our mission: Silver Falls. Our success rate: 95%
The two-mile loop intersected three waterfalls, had very little incline, and only one death-defying ledge. (My three-year-old almost died as he threw a rock into the water fifty feet below and began tottering on the edge before he found his footing and backed away. Phew! Another win for mama!)
Recommended for families? Yes. Adventure to be found? Yes. What are you waiting for? Go find your next adventure.
Why am I blogging? Lately I’ve been asking myself the same question. But it all comes down to one thing.
I love books.
I love reading, I love writing, and I really love living.
So why not write about it?
What kinds of books do you love? What is your favorite book? What is your favorite kind of story? What is your most exciting personal adventure? In this blog, I’d love to dive in to the good, the exciting, and maybe even the ugly.
I would love to hear from you! Please send me your feedback!