Friday, August 29, 2014

10 Books That Have Influenced Me

My friend Jennifer challenged me on Facebook to list the ten books that have impacted me the most. While I typically avoid Facebook challenges, being the bookworm that I am, I rather liked this idea. Instead of posting an excruciatingly long status, I thought I'd take the opportunity for a blog post. So, here are some of the books that have shaped me--as a reader, a writer, and a person.*

*Disclaimer: This will in no way be an all inclusive list.

1. The Bible. Think me cheesy for including it if you will, but I wouldn't be the person I am today if not for this one. Favorite book of the Bible: John (because of all the gospel authors, John was truly a writer at heart).

2. Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. An honest conversation about Christianity--that is totally not boring. This book (and the movie) had a huge impact on my life and really cemented my desire to interact with people--and life--in a different way. There were many moments while reading this book that I wanted to shout its pages from the rooftops. Or at least tweet as many <140 character lines as possible.

3. Love Does by Bob Goff. I wrote an in-depth review of why this book is so amazing (you can click on the title right ^ there to read it). In short: Say yes to life and love people. Seriously, JUST LOVE PEOPLE. No strings attached. The stories of how Bob has lived out this ideal are crazy awesome. It will change your world.

4. The Mandie Books by Lois Gladys Leoppard. My first book love. I bought many a book in this series with my hard-earned allowance money. Mandy, her friends Joe and Celia, and Snowball the cat get into all sorts of trouble and solve mysteries. With a little bit of history thrown in. Seven-year-old me was in heaven, and knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up: A writer.

5. The Wind in the Willows. I can still vividly remember the moment I pulled this one off the library shelf. I was immediately charmed and quickly fell in love with Mole, Otter, Toad and Badger. Years later, it would be the inspiration behind the styling and adventure-filled pages of my first children's novel, The Fantastical Adventures of Pinkletin Frog.

6. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. I've talked before about my inability to make it through certain classic novels, but classic children's literature makes me swoon. And Alice is most certainly my favorite in that category. So much so, that my current work-in-progress has an awful lot to do with that magical world down the rabbit hole. Obviously classics are my muse.

7. Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. When I was a preteen/teen, Young Adult fiction wasn't even close to the caliber it is today. Thank goodness for Anne. She saved me from the stacks of angsty, gag-me-with-a-spoon teen fiction and introduced me to the beautiful world of literature. Anne and Gilbert will always be my favorite literary couple.

8. The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins. I've never cried so much while reading a book series. I was completely unprepared for just how much I would love these novels. Suzanne Collins has some mad, mad writing skills, y'all. Everything about these books, from the use of first person, present tense to the balance of victory vs. tragedy, is storytelling done right. And I'll have you know I was team Peeta all the way.

9. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien. My very first foray into the world of epic high fantasy, I didn't read these (or The Hobbit) until I was 25. I'm so glad I did. And even more glad I read them before seeing the movies. I think the fact that I can't get through the wordiness of a Jane Austen novel, but I devoured these books is pretty telling about my personality...

10. The Circle Books by Ted Dekker. I can't describe how mind-blowing these books are. Part contemporary thriller, part epic fantasy...you just have to experience it for yourself. Plus, Ted will always be my hero for pushing the boundaries of faith-based fiction and refusing to allow people to tell him what he is and isn't allowed to write.

Runners-Up. You didn't seriously expect me to stop there, did you? I have to give a quick shout out to Jane Eyre, The Chronicles of Narnia, the Flavia de Luce novels, and Watership Down. Also, my current obsessions: The Meaning of Maggie, and The Beekeeper's Apprentice. (If you need something to hold you over until Sherlock returns, I highly recommend that last one.)

Your turn! What is one book (or two or three or five) that has influenced you or your life's journey? Have you read and loved--or hated--any of the books on my list? Share in the comments!

Monday, August 18, 2014

A New Day

In my last post I talked about the joys of waiting...  

You send your manuscript, finally complete after months and months of grueling labor, to a magazine/publisher/agent...and then you wait. But...there are no guarantees. Sure, you could be waiting for that hallelujah-angel-chorus moment of acceptance. But you could also end up with that heartbreaking, pass-the-tissues-and-the-Ben-&-Jerry's-please rejection.

On Friday I was on my way out the door to run errands with a car full of kids and had just picked up my cell phone when I heard that adrenaline-inducing, new-email chime. I looked at the screen, saw the sender's address and my heart skipped a beat as I opened it and got my answer...



I haven't posted many details about this particular part of my writing journey which has been happening over the last few months, because in my opinion (and in the general opinion of writers and writerly professionals everywhere, if I'm not mistaken) it's not in good taste to kiss and tell, as it were, when querying. My writer's group, of course, knows all the nitty gritty details, but the long and short of it is this: I had a nibble on my novel query, sent an agent my manuscript, and after one phone call and several emails, sat back and waited to find out whether or not said agent would sign me.

In the end it was a no. A very sweet, very complimentary no, but a no nonetheless.

Honestly, I expected to feel crushed. Maybe even cry a little. Instead I found myself remarkably non-hysterical. In fact--dare I say it?--I felt relieved. Through this whole process I've grown and learned so much and received some invaluable encouragement and advice. Now I had my answer, and while it wasn't the answer I would have preferred, at least I knew that door was closed and the time had come to go knockin' on some new ones. So, I allowed myself the Ben and Jerry's (because you don't pass up the perfect excuse for indulging in tiramisu flavored ice-cream) and a good 20 minutes of pursuing the latest issue of Glamour (because Olivia Wilde) and then proceeded to stay up til almost midnight submitting my manuscript to Pitch Wars. And you know what? I think it's the most triumphant I've ever felt hitting "send".

After all, a dream isn't a very good dream if it's not worth fighting for, no?

Earlier last week, I bookmarked this quote for a future Picture Quote Monday and I think it's perfect for today. (Thank you to my friend Jacqui of Simply Jacqui Photography for the use of her photo). Here's hoping for some of that magic.


Friday, August 8, 2014

The Waiting Game is Afoot


I've never been all that good at waiting. When I was a kid, I'd make countdown calendars, painstakingly hand drawing every square and number, making fancy fonts for the month at the top. I'd start about September 1st and draw a big red X every night before bed until I made it through not just one, but TWO WHOLE MONTHS, and reached that glorious square marked MY BIRTHDAY!!!! Yes, I'm that annoying person who starts buying Christmas gifts in October. And my husband rarely gets his birthday or father's day gifts on the actual celebratory date in question because he knows it takes a minuscule amount of coaxing to convince me to hand them over early. (When it comes to Christmas I hold firm, but the rest of the year--once the postman delivers it, it's pretty much over).

But what I really hate is being forced to wait for some ambiguous point in the future which may or may not bring good tidings. Unfortunately, this is pretty much 45% of a writer's job description, right under the ability to survive on scant amounts of sleep and sanity. I've found that as a writer, waiting is one hundred thousand three million seven hundred and ninety-eight (to borrow a number from my six-year-old) times harder. At least I know that if I can just make it through the next 87 days (thank you, Siri), my patience will be rewarded with birthday cake--or in my case pie--mostly because I'll make it myself. It's so nice to be in control of things.

As a writer...no such luck.

You send your manuscript, finally complete after months and months of grueling labor, to a magazine/publisher/agent...and then you wait. But this time, there are no guarantees. Sure, you could be waiting for that hallelujah-angel-chorus moment of acceptance. But you could also end up with that heartbreaking, pass-the-tissues-and-the-Ben-&-Jerry's-please rejection. And since there's no saying when that reply will come, you can't even make a count-down calendar to help you cope. It's emotional Russian roulette. And if you're anything like me, the wait goes something like this:

I'm not going to get my hopes up.
Oh, please, oh, please, oh, please, oh, please...
They hate it. I'm doomed. It's never going to happen.
Maybe?


So, what to do? How do we make the waiting game not suck so much? In the wise words of Sherlock:


Really. In all honesty I'm just commiserating out loud here. Of course there are ways to try and distract yourself. A new writing project, a relaxing hobby, catching up on your Goodreads "To Read" list. Binge watching anything involving Benedict Cumberbatch that's available on Netflix. Now that I think about it, turning off the alert sound for new emails might not be a bad idea (nothing like a rush of adrenaline wasted on yet another 40% off sale at rue21). But, in the end, I suppose there's nothing to be done but...

Wait.

What about you? Patient, or impatient? What do you do to pass the time when you're forced to wait?