Friday, April 29, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

What is your favorite wedding memory?

*photos by flickr


Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Water Givers

And now for the 6th question from my 8 Questions Every Writer Must Ask Themselves post: Do I have enough affirmation and support nudging me to keep moving ahead during difficult patches?

This question makes me think of a race. A marathon, actually. I run so I know what starts happening to the body when the miles add up.

Same kind of break down happens to the mind in this wacko industry.

While running, our legs cramp up. While writing and pursuing publication, our brain cramps up. While running, we face the temptation not to take another step. While writing, we face the temptation not to write another word.

A hope deferred makes the heart sick (in the Bible somewhere). What I’m here to probe is other than a God-given soul-stirring (or slapping in some cases) what fuels that hope?

Water givers can.

8 Things to Note about Water Givers

  1. We’d run even if they weren’t there, but because they are we’re encouraged and able to run farther than we would on our own.

  2. They replenish our supply. Sweat sheds so much needed water to keep the body hydrated. Water givers give a palpable resource on this journey. They equate to those who offer critiques or an agent or editor willing to take a risk on our work.

  3. They seem to be waiting at the perfect spots. I’m convinced I need to start writing some of my water giving moments down. On the exact day I feel like throwing in the towel, I’ll receive an email or a call from a trusted friend uplifting my work in some way. (Someday I’ll tell you about the dreams others have had on my behalf.) For now, I swallow the water and use it to keep me plowing ahead.

  4. Water givers reach out. We can choose to kindly accept.

  5. They might run with us a while.

  6. They wait for us at the end of the race.

  7. They don’t expect anything in return. (I pray I’m a water giver to others!)

  8. They act on their desire to see us succeed, even cooling us off if needed.

Thank the water givers in your life today. They are a huge reason why you’ve made it this far.
Thanks, water givers!

Anything you want to share about some of your water givers?
*photos by flickr

Monday, April 25, 2011


When people refer to following their dreams they often use analogies with references to traveling a road...a path. Have you ever been venturing down one path suddenly struck that you were not where you wanted to be? Thankful, you caught sight of the sun streaming a column of light over a clearing. You made your way to a new path.

There’s always a way to a new path.

Today I’m listing several roads you may wish to walk away from as you pursue your dream. (In contrast, I’m also linking a beautiful song for your listening pleasure.)

Whitesnake Road
Sadly, I memorized some of the lyrics to this 80s song… “Here I go again on my own, going down the only road I’ve ever known. Like a drifter I was born to walk alone…”

Whitesnake Road is a path of deception. It’s dark. With each step we are repeatedly bombarded with the lie that we walk alone.

I am not alone. You are not alone. We are not alone.

The Road to Perdition
Slandering. Judging. Jealousy. Hypocrisy. We’ve been on this road without realizing it. We can spend so much time making note of all the others we see adding up miles on this road, we’re hesitant to admit we’ve trekked quite a few miles of our own. Tread marks to prove it.


Goodbye Yellow Brick Road
Unrealistic expectations. Living in a fairy tale world of entitlement and selfishness. Sometimes the best way home is to get off the yellow brick road and help others we find along the way. Scarecrow or tin man anyone?

Humility and service…detours.

Highway to Hell
Disregard for others.
Apathy. Hatred. Two sides, same coin.
Full speed ahead, destroying every relationship we’re in.

Empathy and tearing down pride are exits off this highway.

Road to Nowhere
Living someone else’s dream. Lack of confidence in what God’s called us to. Lack of trust. Distracted living.

Abandoning fear, risking & trusting direct us to another lighted path.

And then there’s Jack Hitting the Road


I’m thankful new paths are cleared for me every day. May I choose to take the first step toward the sunlight. And then keep walking in it.

*photo by flickr

Enjoy this:
Katie Herzig & Matthew Perryman Jones singing Where the Road Meets the Sun on YouTube

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Writer with a Redwood Vision

Unearthing the fifth question of my 8 Questions Every Writer Must Ask Themselves post, today I center in on willingness to grow.

What’s the first thing you think of when I mention The Redwood Forest?

And here’s where I’m going with that…

We All Start Small
The National Park Service offers this tree takeaway: “A redwood cone is the size of an olive. Each cone contains 60 to 120 seeds. One tree may produce 10 million seeds but only a few will reach maturity. If a seed settles in just the right place it may grow into a tree that will live more than 2,000 years.”

One seed, one thought, one novel idea can end up turning into an awe-inspiring massive beauty.

The common life span for a redwood is 500-700 years. These trees exude the perseverance of patient living.

Baby redwoods don’t peer up thinking “I’ll never be as tall as them.” Instead of focusing on what they’re not, they keep busy growing and remembering what they are sure to become.

The Great Influence of Outside Sources
As writers we are wise to accept help. The role of rain and fog profoundly influence why redwoods grow so tall. Reading books on the craft, joining writer’s groups, attending classes or conferences, and submitting to editors all have the potential to grow us as writers. I firmly believe in inviting the rain and fog. As a visionary, I’m an advocate of tapping into knowledge from outside sources as a means for growth.

The Power of Inside Sources
Redwood bark contains plenty of water-based sap. The bark is a key explanation for why they shoot up so high. Not only does the bark thrive on what it needs to grow, but it’s thick, so it’s protected from fires. Ever hear the importance of writer’s growing thick skin? Here’s a different take. Lean into your unique writer voice. Own it. It’s yours alone. That’s your water-based sap. At the same time, don’t let in discouraging thoughts and give in to the temptation to quit. Be filled with what’s needed to keep out what’s not needed.

Help from Friends
An eHow site about redwoods lends this detail, “Each tree intertwines its roots with those of nearby trees, adding strength and stability to the group or grove.” I can’t say enough about garnering support from friends on this journey and offering support in return. My writer friends have encouraged, challenged, inspired, and prodded me to continue reaching my goals. I feel rooted to them and quite simply…taller because of them.

Unexpected Protection
Connecting with other writers helps tremendously when it comes to learning about the industry (in regards to query writing, character development, and marketing to name just a few). I’ve discovered a wealth of knowledge about what not to do on agent blogs and other industry blogs. It’s amazing how many mistakes I made when I first started out. Thankful for the wind protection of other redwoods, I’m able to develop more sturdily as a writer.

Where We Root Matters
Redwoods are located where the soil is known for its richness. As much as I’m deeply indebted to my friends for helping me thrive as a writer, the bulk of my gratitude goes to my God. He’s why I don’t quit. He’s who reminds me why I do this even when it’s difficult. Because I’m rooted in Him, I trust I’ll grow so high as to touch Him someday. No matter what, I’ll live to glorify Him—His creation.

Humility is Attractive
Some of my favorite writers are the most humble people I’ve either met or witnessed. They are towering trees, but they serve (and market) as though they are seeds. They live in the memory of being a seed and yet they are majestic. These beautiful redwoods draw thousands to flock to national parks each year. National bestsellers, handling fame and attention with grace. Inviting more wide-eyes and dropped jaws. These enormous trees protect the younger ones and intertwine their roots with the baby trees below.

That's the way I want to grow.

How about you? Can you relate to the redwood vision?

*photos by flickr

Monday, April 18, 2011

This is What is Wrong with our Country

Time for a call out. I make it a habit to be encouraging on this blog. But I felt the antithesis of encouraged after watching the following commercial.

~~~ The commercial conjures up these words instead: Materialism. Entitlement. Isolation. Disconnect from parents. ~ Painful? Lame you say? So young blue-eyed blonde boy, a lame parent it makes to sing on key, enthusiastic together about something other than a sweet ride, guilty of…what, harmonizing? We didn’t even see your parents. Not a face, nothing but a few wisps of hair. ~ I realize I’m interpreting 400 level lessons from a car commercial meant to incite laughter, a jovial guffaw at what families having to live without a built-in entertainment systems might possibly have to endure, but that’s how I roll. I cringe every time this commercial comes on. Why? Because I’d rather be in the car jamming with my folks than thinking I’m better than the rest of the world. ~ What’s your reaction to this commercial?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

You, in a nutshell…

*photos by flickr

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Serious Writer

And now to tackle the fourth question from my 8 Questions Every Writer Must Ask Themselves post:

Do I take myself seriously as a writer?

There’s a difference between piddling with writing as a hobby and hurling your energy and creativity into your novel(s) or book(s).

Do you piddle or hurl? It matters. How you perceive your time spent writing will influence how others perceive your time spent writing. Your answer to that question also has the potential to impact how devoted you are to the craft.

Below I’ve touched upon eight more points to help you measure where you land on the serious writer meter.

Do You Take it Bird by Bird

Do you regularly read books on the craft? Do you take notes? Every year do you challenge yourself to read a certain number of books to help improve your writing?

Do You Put Your Money Where Your Mouth (or pen) Is

Our pastor once said to us that you can learn a lot about what a person values by looking at their checkbook. Are you investing in editing services, conferences, or contests? The financial costs don’t have to amount to backbreaking expenses (i.e. a subscription to Writer’s Digest), but even a little money toward your field of interest shows you how serious you’re taking this writing gig.

What Say You When Friends & Strangers Ask What You Do

Do you get embarrassed and avoid answering the “what do you do” question? How you answer this question says a lot about how sincerely you are taking your role as a writer.

Time in a Bottle

How many hours a day do you spend writing? (Important clarification…WRITING your WIP, not tweeting, facebooking, texting, emailing, or even blogging for that matter…WRITING.) Do you bother to pay attention to the time you spend at the computer every day, week, month, and year? Are you tracking your progress?

Reach Out

This is a natural human phenomenon. We gravitate toward other like beings. Have you made concerted efforts to connect with other writers? Your answer to this will also reveal how serious how are about wanting to market your work eventually, too.

It’s Getting Better All the Time

Can you tell a difference in your writing from five years ago? How about one year ago? A sure sign of your steadfast devotion will result in obvious marks of improvement.

Love the One You’re With

You don’t have the one and done mentality, but you truly know how to love the one you’re with. You pour yourself into your WIP, but keep a stockpile of blossoming ideas ready and waiting for you to take on in the future.

Tools of the Trade

Anyone who is truly passionate about a project learns the best ways to overcome obstacles. Have you discovered how to stomp out writer’s block or times of inactivity?

So, where did you land on the serious writer meter? Did the arrow stop on flaming red or a cool blue? Do you piddle or hurl?

*photo by flickr

Monday, April 11, 2011

Carla Stewart on Inviting Characters to the Party

Hi Wendy! Thanks so much for asking me to talk about my favorite topic – developing characters. Trust me, I’m no expert, and the further into this writing journey I get, the less I know. What I do may not work for you but hopefully it will trigger your own creativity. I nearly always have a main character (protagonist) who pulls up a chair and says, “I have a story for you.” And generally, there is a situation that goes along with this character. I’ve come to think of this character as an extension of myself, one whose experiences interest me. This is important since I’ll be living and breathing her life for a long, long time. That said, there are some key elements I look for in choosing my characters.

Some essentials for a protagonist:

Goals and Motivations – something she would die for or that will alter her life in a negative way if she fails to reach her goal. What motivates her to reach this goal? You MUST do this character work before you begin your novel.

Likable and/or relatable – Who wants to root for a whiny character?

Flawed – Imperfections help make a character relatable

Secondary characters:

Antagonist / Villain – must have a goal that is as strong as that of the protagonist. The antagonist doesn’t have to be a character. It can be a force of nature, but people villains are fun. They must be strong, cunning, and deceitful. They must also have some redeeming quality and not be all bad. Someday I want to write a villain who seems like an angel of light, but is really the bad guy.

Sidekick – Here’s where your quirky characters shine! They bring out the best and worst qualities of the protagonist. This person is often opposite my main character in looks and personality, and they can say things the protagonist can’t.

Mentors – sometimes called advisors or helpers. I like to pick characters who don’t fit the mold for being mentors. Often a stranger or someone who has a questionable reputation. Angels unaware sort of characters who provide wisdom without being overbearing. Mentors often end up being my favorite characters in my books.

Foolish, selfish, or flawed characters – unlikable maybe, but not horrible people. They can also be characters your reader can sympathize with – victims or challenged in some way. I sometimes give them a character arc so that they learn something that reflects the main theme or plot of the story. Some examples would be former boyfriends, nosy or pushy relatives and neighbors, know-it-alls, etc. They add color and texture to the story.

Neutral characters – bystanders, officials, receptionists, children – they, too, can add color to the story without having a character arc.

No matter what role they play, your characters must be unique: speech, pet phrases, clothing style, social status. And quirky! Not in an outrageous way necessarily, but something that sets them apart. The fun thing about quirks is that you can also use them as metaphors or triggers that move the story forward.

Most of my characters are works in progress. None of them come to me fully fleshed out. And they sometimes do surprising things. Not all writers like surprises, but I’ve learned that secondary characters sometimes have a great deal to say.

I’m definitely a character first, plot last writer. The main thing I try to keep in mind is that secondary characters are crucial in advancing the plot and establishing theme, so they have to be chosen carefully. Just because they want to be in the story doesn’t mean they get to stay.

I’m getting ready to brainstorm a new novel, so this was a good review for me. A week ago my mind was blank. Then a male character showed up at my table one day and asked me to help him find someone. The ideas started flying, but I’m saying, “Whoa! I write stories with female protagonists. Who are you?” He’s desperate for my help, so I dunno. Maybe this will be “new ground” for me.

Which leads to my final point. Don’t be afraid of being unique. Just let the ideas flow and invite all the characters to the party. You can always decide who gets to stay and who doesn’t. Efficient? No, but you’ll have a blast writing your story.

Carla, thank you for swinging by to lend your wisdom on characters! To read more about Carla visit her website.

Broken Wings: Onstage, the singing duo of Gabe and Mitzi Steiner captured America’s heart for more than two decades. Offstage, their own hearts have throbbed as one for sixty years. Only now, Gabe has retreated into the tangles of Alzheimer’s leaving Mitzi to ponder her future alone.

Everyone believes Brooke Woodson has found the perfect man—a handsome attorney with sights on becoming Tulsa’s next District Attorney. If only Brooke felt more sure. If only her fiancĂ© could control his rage. If only her last chance at love didn’t come with so many scars.

Brooke and Mitzi’s story is one of an unlikely friendship birthed by providence and bathed in grace as the two women face difficult transitions arm in arm.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

When you hear the word quiet, you think of

*photos by flickr

**can't wait to share a cool guest with you on Monday!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Great Expectations

The third question I’m exploring from my 8 Questions Every Writer Must Ask Themselves is:

What do I expect out of this journey, including what are my expectations of those I come across along the way?

On this I 8 Wednesday, here are 8 layers to excavate while getting to the root of your expectations.

  • There’s a slippery slope between the word expectation and the word entitlement.

  • It’s one thing to have a goal and another thing to expect someone to make that goal happen for you.

  • If you’re thinking it’ll only take six months to secure an agent and then another six months to be published, you’re in for the shock of your life (and great disappointment).

  • If you’re hoping to be endorsed, but aren’t willing to give back in any way, there’s something wrong with that hope.

  • How you handle your disappointment says a lot about your character. How you handle your success says a lot about your character.

  • By conducting research and talking to others in your field you’ll be able to ascertain reasonable expectations to set.

  • A valuable question to ask yourself from time to time is whether you’d still write if you knew you’d never get published.

  • Are you giving more than you’re taking? Are you devoting the necessary time that will result in some expectations being met? Do you put too much pressure on yourself or on others? How grateful of a person are you? How easy is it for you to grant grace?

Have you learned anything specific related to expecations on your journey?

*photo by flickr

Monday, April 4, 2011

Spouses of Writers Support

SOWS. Beautiful name, huh?

I met with a local author recently (something I’ve been in the habit of doing lately, meeting with writers in person as well as connecting online) and we agreed there really needs to be a support group for the spouses of writers. Now, I’m mostly kidding on this, but read the following mock meeting and tell me you don’t recognize a hint of yourself in there.

Jane: So, my husband’s been at it again.

Byron: At what?

Jane: He’s gone into the cave.

Emily: Oh, that’s nothing. At least he doesn’t talk to you at length about burgeoning (his word) characters. Or worse, every single new manuscript request. You should see the way he checks the computer for new emails 24/7. And the highs and lows. Writers truly are neurotic. He’s edited his novel more than once. What’s the deal, it’s like he’s obsessed with that manuscript.

Byron: You mean MS. I’ve learned to talk in acronyms. My wife’s done with her third MS and is on her fourth WIP. All HEAs, but IMHO they really aren’t all that happy. And now because she recently joined Twitter I’m called her DH.

Jane sips coffee, then: And what’s up with my husband struggling with his idea so much? He loved it at first, plotted the whole thing out. Plotting alone took him months. You should have seen the trail of notes all over our house. I thought they were love notes until I read the tidbits of research and descriptive phrases all over them. If you love an idea like that, what could possibly go wrong while you’re writing the middle?

Byron: I don’t know. I don’t get it though. They invest so much of themselves in their work, don’t they? It killed me to see my wife crying after her first rejection last week. Crying!

Emily: Oh, be a little more sensitive. She must love what she writes.

Byron: There’s love. And then there’s love. Ever seen that commercial with the lady kissing her dog? I’m just saying my wife was convinced she was horrible and that no one would buy her work. But she’s won awards. She’s wonderful. It’s like writers are required to sign up for a how to beat yourself up class before they pen their first word. Sensitivity on steroids.

Jane laughs and slaps her knee.

Emily: I’m just trying to figure out where these characters come from. I wonder if he writes about our fights.

Byron: I know my wife doesn’t. She has enough imaginary people bouncing around up there. (Points to head) She’d never use anything from real life. It’s like she’s not paying attention half the time. Either that or she’s taking mental notes for her next chapter.

Jane: And what’s up with all author photographs posed with such seriousness? I write therefore I can’t smile.

Emily: How about how funny they can be about others reading their work. Or the way they over-caffeinate themselves. Do they think it will inspire more great ideas?

Byron: Or working in their pajamas and skipping showers? Or the social networking craze to build that platform.

Jane: Or the horrendous waits they endure to be published. Masochists. (Shakes her head)

Emily: We may not get them, but we love their neurotic souls.

Jane & Byron in unison: Yeah, we love our crazies.

Okay, now for the fun question…whose spouse could you relate to in that entirely pretend, imaginary, made up, off the top of my head, fabricated (redundant much?) example? :D

*photo by flickr

Friday, April 1, 2011

Moving Thoughts Friday

Every Friday I’m going to ask a question. The questions I choose might be ambiguous on purpose. The goal is to have you answer the question according to your beliefs, where you’re at in life or a circumstance that might have recently impacted you. The only thing I ask is that you provide an explanation for why you answered the way you did.

It’s my hope to understand you better through this and also to gain a greater understanding of humanity and how people make decisions.

Pick a sport, any sport.

(My husband would like to remind my readers yesterday was Opening Day of baseball. And I'll throw out there that I start helping coach DD's soccer team next week.)

*photos by flickr

Taking Time

college applications                 homecoming                            flag football                basketball             SATs   ...