Monday, June 29, 2015

A Creative Approach to Parenting Your Athletic Child

We are a big soccer family. You betcha, we’ve been watching the Women’s World Cup over the past few weeks. We were even able to watch the game against Columbia alongside my soccer hero of a sister. (She played at UConn, met PelĂ©, and won All-American numerous times during her athletic career.) It’s been so exciting to cheer on the American women’s team.

But as most things do, it’s also triggered me to become reflective. All three of my girls are active in sports, one in dance and two in soccer. I’m constantly observing and absorbing as I parent my girls through their games and performances. And I’m learning more about who I am and who I want to be as a parent.

Creativity bleeds through all areas of life if we let it. The willingness to do something differently—to stretch yourself—to engage in something in a way that might at first seem unconventional or even strange. There’s a ripe opportunity for all parents to take a creative approach to parenting their children on the field and the dance floor…wherever they may participate.

I’m grateful for a dear friend of mine. We call each other often to hash out our weekends jam-packed with sports activities. We psychoanalyze the parents, keep ourselves in check, and remind one another of the very message that is so well communicated in the following TED Talk.

If you have children in sports I urge you to watch this.


The takeaway? Next time your kid tromps off a field, be it a diamond or rectangle…remember these words…
“I love watching you play.”

This rings true to the core for me. Watching my girls grow, work through difficulties on the field and dance floor, and fight to reach a more resilient layer within themselves—this is a sheer joy for me.

Do you love watching your kids play sports? What else do you think needs to change in youth sports today?

*Thanks to my friend Dawn for pointing me to this particular TED Talk.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Novel Pruning

Just like shrubs and bushes need to be cut back in order to help new growth to develop, sometimes the same needs to happen with the stories we write. Our novels must be pruned. Today I’m centering in on four ways we can snip away at our work. By taking time during edits to cut the following, we are in turn creating a healthier story.


It’s tempting to think every character we’ve invited into the story must stay. But our work isn’t Hotel California. They can leave after they’ve checked out and sometimes it’s our job as the author to evict them.
Some questions to ask in order to discern whether a character needs to stay or go…

Does this individual reveal anything important in this book? Does the character feel like an awkward third wheel in most scenes? Do you, as the author, know enough about this character to support them playing a role in the story? And probably the most important question, does this character move the plot along in any essential way?


It happens quite often as an author that I’ll hear conversations between my characters and then I’ll rush to capture them on the page. They feel important. They sound good. But I’ve spent enough time constructing novels and tearing them apart to realize there are times those conversations aren’t meant to be included in the book word for word. Sometimes they are just meant to reveal something deeper about a character, to help me get better acquainted.
Some questions to ask in order to discern whether a scene needs to stay or go…

Am I bored while reading this scene? Is this scene sticking out like a sore thumb? Are the events that occur in this scene part of an already flowing, fluid plot? Is this scene too contrived? Finally, does the particular scene do its job to move the plot forward?


Ask the editor I’ve hired for several books and she’ll tell you I’m a fan of stuffing multiple words in a sentence where only one—the best word—is needed. I’ve been learning to hack away at superfluous words. Words that in my head sound descriptive, but on the page come across clunky.
Some questions to ask in order to discern whether a word needs to stay or go…

Have I selected the best word in this sentence? Am I over-describing this? Does this word paint the most vivid picture for the reader? Does this word feel a bit like a rock climber dangling from a cliff? Is this word necessary to the sentence?

Dead Descriptions

I also sharpen my pruning shears when it comes to the cousin of unnecessary words, dead descriptions. You’d be surprised how many flowery corpses I encounter while reading (and even when going through early drafts of some of my books).
Some questions to ask in order to discern whether a description needs to stay or go…

Am I distracting the reader from the story with these details? Have I overdone it? Does the scene feel crowded or as though it’s bulging in a certain spot when upon further reflection you realize nothing is really happening? Do the descriptions better help the reader to understand a character or the setting? Am I leaving a certain section in because I love the way it sounds and not because it serves a purpose that involves moving the story forward?

What’s the hardest part about pruning your novel as you edit?

*Taking next week off. Catch you back here one week from today.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Everything Is Just Beachy

Recently my daughter celebrated her 13th birthday with a belated beach-themed party. Having just completed heavy edits, I welcomed the idea of getting wrapped up with a new project—a new creative focus. I dove in. In the week prior to the party I got beach-ified. With a huge nod to Pinterest... 

I created this seashell seahorse.

 Idea from Pinterest here.
Made starfish out of salt dough.

Idea from Pinterest here.

Then transformed a tray we rarely used into an oversized sand dollar.

Idea from Pinterest here.

The beach party was a hit. Not sure my decorations stood out, but maybe just maybe, they added a little something special to the party. I know I had a blast creating them.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Hope of Heaven with Erin Keeley Marshall

When I met Erin at a writing retreat several years ago I took an immediate liking to her. I was drawn in by her stories and knew I wanted to stay connected with her. I’m so thankful we’ve stayed in touch. Today I’m excited to introduce Erin to you and her latest published work, The Hope of Heaven…

Wendy: What inspired you to work on your newly released book, The Hope of Heaven? Please share what it’s about… 

Erin: The Hope of Heaven is Al Hallene’s story of finding his oldest son, Alex’s, body after Alex committed suicide. But more than focusing on suicide, it is a wake-up call to the realities of depression and even more so about the close care of God in the painful parts of our lives. 

The story struck a chord in my heart because its themes of family, loss, hope, eternity, and deepening understanding of God resonate with a widespread audience. All of us want to know that our loved ones and ourselves will be okay; we crave a measure of control in a world that denies us that comfort. However, our Creator is also our Savior for eternity and our Sustainer for now, which means we have hope in him; he remains in control and utterly good as he meets us at our need. The Hallenes’ story put me in awe of their pain but in deeper awe of the Lord. I looked through hundreds of family pictures, watched hours of family movies, visited their roots in the Quad-Cities of Illinois, at the University of Illinois, and in Naples, Florida, and marveled at what a normal family they are. Any of us—actually, all of us—face losses in life, and we need to know that Someone holds us and even redeems our brokenness. There is a heaven and there is reunion coming in Him.  

Wendy: What is your advice for writers who find themselves shying away from deep topics for fear of being vulnerable?

Erin: Our vulnerable places are where our most meaningful connections with readers happen. I’m convinced that writers write to help process our own “stuff,” and readers read to connect with others who have similar questions of life. We’re in this gig together, more or less, and growth and unity happen when we understand together. Being ready to share is a personal journey, but take the risk and share a bit more than feels comfortable as long as there is purpose in it. Share the growth, share the question, share the hope. Share the confusion. Someone out there needs the blessing of knowing she is not alone in her junk, and oftentimes a second someone who comes to understand that truth is the writer herself.

Wendy: How many years have you been writing and what are some of your greatest lessons learned?

Erin: If I really get technical about the years, I have been writing since I was ten. That’s when I wrote my first Young Authors’ book. (The Mystery of the Jellybean Factory won that contest, BTW, so I guess it made me an award-winning writer!) I wrote a bit for my college newspaper and literary journal, and then after graduating I wrote bits for some of our team’s publications at Tyndale House, where I was a Special Sales editor. We specialized in selling to crossover markets. The bulk of my writing began eleven years ago after I married and moved to Arkansas. Having to leave my in-house, full-time job was both daunting and exciting. I had to find my own work, but I also had time to pursue it. It was sink or swim, and it’s been a fun job to have while settling in to a new place and then while my kids were tiny. We’re finishing up our first year with both kids full-time in school, and it’s been another learning phase for me as I find new definitions for balancing work and family life. My heart needs both, and both can be lovely and demanding at once.           

My greatest lessons learned? Wow, that’s a good question. I’ve been in publishing for two decades now, and there are projects I wish could redo. I was tenacious and accurate—to a fault sometimes in the early years. I’ve learned grace in many areas of life, and work is no exception. I’m always learning to release perfectionism and to delight in knowing that sometimes when I struggle with feelings of inadequacy, those times often are what yield the most encouraging comments from readers and editors. Writing is definitely an area where the Lord has provided in just the right way and time, over and over again. The art has become its own faith language I’ve come to know with God.   

Wendy: What are you hoping readers feel after they’ve read your book, The Hope of Heaven?

Erin: Awe at the love and majesty of this God who is beyond us yet cherishes us. Hope in the truth that this life is not the end. Grace that our weaknesses are held but don’t have to be held against us. Joy despite loss because we can know the Bridge in this life who will carry us to forever, when we believe. Beauty in healing. Mercy in depending. Deepening love for the other souls we live among on earth.

 Wendy: What are you working on now?

 Erin: I’m 30K words into a novel that keeps trying to kick my butt. It’s going to come down to sheer stubbornness to get this thing done. Love the story but my brain is drowning in details to make all the loose ends work. It is a romantic suspense that begins in a filthy Nazi barrack then journeys to New York’s Hudson Valley. Both places fascinate me.

As for nonfiction, I’m waiting to hear back about a kids’ devotional opportunity and for just the right editor for a collaborative narrative nonfiction proposal that I can’t say more about for now. I am excited about both.



Monday, June 8, 2015

Five Personality Types that could Adversely Affect Your Creativity

Sometimes I think if I were the only person on earth my creative abilities would be off the charts. People have an uncanny way of derailing our potential if we let them.

Today I’m throwing out five personality types that are sure to deflate your creative genius. So be on the lookout and manage your time with folks in your life who fit in these categories.

First up we have…

The Drain-O

They need you in the morning. They need you in the night. They need you when they’re beaming. They need you after a fight. What’s the key word in these sentences? Need. This individual will suck the creative juices right out of you if you just give them the right size straw.

The Priority Crusher

“That can wait. There’s always tomorrow. Wait until you’re inspired.” These three lines are familiar coming from the priority crusher. They don’t see the value in expending your energy on a project. (Especially pay attention to how this one will undermine your creative efforts if you don’t get paid for your project or if your craft doesn’t rake in lots of affirmation from others.)

The Doppelganger Assigner

This person makes it their job to compare your work to others. It doesn’t matter if they’re doing so in a positive manner or not. If there’s one thing I can’t emphasize enough about an untouchable creative spirit it’s that every single one of us bring something wholly unique into this world. Sure you can always find similarities between different artists, but someone who is passionately creative will always strive to imbue their own personal touch on everything they produce.

The Overly Critical Nag

You won’t win. Your project will never be good enough. You’ll never invest enough time, make enough money, create enough or clean your toilet bowl with Q-tips the way they do. Be mindful not to spend too much time with the person who is constantly finding ways to undervalue what you do creatively. Too many hours spent with this personality might lead you to actually second-guess what was more than fine to begin with. There are a whole slew of reasons why people do this—criticize as though they rule the world and all things in it—and most of them have very little to do with you or your creative talent.

The Rainbow Rider

I love this one. Because they mean so well. But that still doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t be wise about what’s really going on. They love you. They’ll call everything you do great because they want your approval, your friendship, your attention. This individual isn’t invested in your work at all and deep down really doesn’t care that much if you are either. They’ll sugarcoat things, dismissing how difficult it can be to stay disciplined with a project. They ride rainbows, look through rose-colored glasses, sweep all things difficult under the rug, and ride rainbows always landing in a thick pot gold, waving you along for the ride.

So, who have you been spending time with? Are they encouraging your creativity or not?



Monday, June 1, 2015

Six Ways to Give Your Creativity a Vitamin B12 Shot

Several months ago, after a doctor visit I discovered I’m vitamin B12 deficient. There were signs something was off. I’m glad I got to the root of what was happening with my body. Because there was a solution. And I’m on it. After a few weeks of receiving vitamin B12 shots in the arm, I now take the highest dose of vitamin B12 and I’m back in action.
Our ability to be creative can fall into a slump sometimes, too. Something can just feel “off.”
Today I’m hooking you up with six ways to inject you with a burst of creative energy. I’m all about inspiring you to get your imaginative juices flowing once again.
Change Up Your Routine
I recently was struck by what a successful entrepreneur admitted to doing in Fast Company. He shared how he frequently varied his routine, with the specific intention of allowing the floodgates of change and ingenuity to flow in. Sometimes we impede fresh ideas to filter in when we grow too accustomed to our days unraveling the same way. We become handcuffed by routine.
Step off the path. Turn off the phone. Drink coffee several hours after you wake up. Okay, now that’s just crazy talk.
Get More Sleep
Zzzz’s are good for mental clarity. Forgo the must-see TV show. That’s what TiVo is for. Your brain will thank you for it.
See Deep as the Veins
When’s the last time you noticed the veins of a leaf? They’re really quite beautiful when you take the time to have a closer look. The potential is out there for you to do this in all aspects of your life. Listening in on conversations while waiting at the doctor’s office. Noticing a relative’s wrinkles when they smile. Registering what happens to your body when you feel excited, scared, tired, etc. Look deeper. Feel deeper.
What’s Going Well?
One question. Wake up thinking about the answer to this one question. If you make a point of starting your day with a grateful perspective you might be surprised how many streams of innovative ideas shine down on you. Because you are making a choice to see a sun that’s always been shining.
Become a Five Senses Guru
Smell the budding flowers. Pet your dog a thousand times. Take time to savor the taste of an avocado. Spend ten minutes doing nothing but listening to the sounds of birds twittering outside your window. See a world in a grain of sand—make Wordsworth proud.
Try On Her Shoes
Imagine—really imagine what it’s like to be the grocery store clerk. What makes her laugh? Who is her best friend? Don’t just skate over the surface—what’s her favorite color, whether she’s married. Plumb the depths. Practice empathy. By envisioning what life might be like for another I’m willing to bet you’ll be blown away how your own life implodes with fresh inspiration.

What rejuvenates you when your creative juices are drying up?

*THE DELICATE NATURE OF LOVE is only .99 cents for a limited amount of time on Kindle! Buy your copy today!!! And I'd love your help spreading the word! 

Taking Time

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