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Not Friday Five

My most recent newsletter (click to subscribe) outlines a little bit about my reasons for being quiet around these parts lately. I’m restructuring some priorities, to put it mildly.

It’s no wonder then that the links in my inbox that catch my eye talk about change and restlessness and anxiety (also, that’s just pretty much the nature of my inbox in general, but I digress).

The words that have resonated recently:

  1. What if the work we see to do isn’t a burden but the way we were meant to be in the world? What If by Austin Channing Brown.
  2. Jenny Lawson is one of my favorite people on the planet. This post makes me out-of-my-mind happy. I want this so bad for her (and the rest of us).
  3. Maybe you’re going through (or thinking about initiating) a major life change. Adjustment disorder is not so rare. Consider talking to someone about it.
  4. The only business plan that matters? Keep going – from Over the Rhine.
  5. Wil Gafney’s sermon on Michal is exactly what I needed to hear. Maybe you do, too.

24in48 is coming up next weekend, so I’ll see you again then, if not before. I hope you’ve had a great weekend!

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What I'm Into

I had to use the picture of ice cream because I just had my first snow cone of the season on Friday. That’s usually more of a May thing. Clearly, I’m slacking.

June was chaotic but mostly the fun kind. I traveled a little and worked a lot and played as much as possible.  Here’s what June looked like:

Favorite things to watch/read:

  • Michelle and I have decided to watch Supernatural together, because we are both scaredy cats but also we love the actors on this show. This way, we can watch the boys with their adorable quips and adorable etc. with someone who won’t make fun of us if we happen to watch it through the holes in the knitted blanket we’re hiding behind.
  • Inspired by this list, I am starting the whole Arrow/Flash/Supergirl/etc.-verse over again and watching it in order. I’m about to start The Flash again, and I am ridiculously excited about it.
  • Rupi Kaur’s The Sun and Her Flowers is my favorite book I finished this month. I love Kaur’s poetry. I recommend starting this book at an outdoor jazz festival and catching snippets of it on lazy afternoons sipping craft beer.
  • Leigh Kramer’s A Storied Life is wonderful. I definitely ugly-cried toward the end, so you should be prepared for that.

Favorite events:

  • I drove to Virginia to attend the writer’s retreat at God’s Whisper Farm (next year is June 21-23, if you want to go ahead and mark it on your calendar now). It was the first time I have driven halfway across the country by myself and the first time I led a workshop at a writer’s retreat. It was relaxing and inspiring and I recommend it to everyone.
  • I finished a rough draft of my Fishbowl manuscript. I won’t allow myself to touch it officially until September when I read through it and give it a first round of edits. Ever the loophole seeker, however, I have a pile of notes that I keep jotting down for when I tackle it seriously again. For now, I’m basking in the first step.
  • I got to help Hope with her tabling event at the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship assembly in Dallas. Getting paid to lure people with chocolate and talk about trade and coffee and hang out with Hope? Sign me up always.

Random favorites:

  • Pear liqueur. It may be my new favorite thing. Mix with pineapple/mango juice. Or whiskey.
  • Seeing students get more involved in civic events. We have had quite a few around town lately, and it’s exciting to see a bit of a younger crowd there.

What I’m looking forward to:

  • 3rd annual Hemingway party coming up this month. We’re going super easy (but always delicious) on the food and super plentiful on the hooch. You’re welcome, neighbors. Also, come on over.
  • 24in48 readathon! Few things thrill me as much as a weekend where I don’t leave the house (except for that one thing I’m leaving the house to do that weekend).

What are you into lately? I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer – hop over there to read more and add your two cents!

_Tell me a story..._ (1)

I have waited for this day for quite a few years. The moment I would wind down and type those final words.

“The End.”

Today, I finished the rough draft of my Fishbowl manuscript as I had it outlined. I expected to feel a rush of relief. A sense of accomplishment. Maybe even some euphoria.

Mostly, though, I feel like it’s not really finished.

As I wrote, I tried to stick to my outline, trusting that the story would expand to fill the gaps. What I discovered along the way were more gaps than I anticipated.

So. Many. Gaps.

Technically, I finished what I had planned to finish. I’m going to celebrate that.

(I am. I promise.)

I don’t think I’m actually done, though. I think there’s more to this story and these characters than I’ve managed to eke out.

I’m going to follow the wise counsel I’ve received to let it lie for a month or two before picking it up to edit.

But I suspect editing may really mean finishing.

Meanwhile, if you want to raise a glass to the quasi-finished Fishbowl, I’ll take it.

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“If you have to make a decision, picture yourself telling someone what you chose and then go with whichever option makes the better story.”

As a long-time follower of Leigh Kramer’s blog, I knew her first novel would be something special. She consistently displays acute interpersonal insight and seeks to understand different points of view. I was excited to meet the characters she created.

And A Storied Life delivered.

The family dynamics in this book ring so true that I felt like I was in the room with them. Through every heated or awkward conversation, with every guarded move, I felt the pressure and nerves Olivia was feeling. At the same time, I wanted to take her out for a cup of tea (or something stronger) just to give her a breather. It’s unusual for me to relate to a character on such a visceral level. I was on Olivia’s side from the beginning.

I want to buy this book for everyone who is at a crossroads in their life, trying to choose between the options before them. Leigh does a great job of showing the struggle of unpacking choices that led down a path where Olivia didn’t necessarily intend to go.

My favorite part of the book, though, is the exposition of the family’s experience with hospice care. As my own parents are aging, and we are nearing a time in upcoming years when similar decisions are going to have to be enacted, this story relieved so many of my fears without being trite or formulaic. It would be so easy to tie a neat bow on this topic, leaving it flat, and that didn’t happen here. Leigh dove straight in and revealed the raw and touchy edges.

A Storied Life is the creation of a talented writer who does not shy away from the hard work of getting below the surface of what seems to be happening with her characters to reveal their motivations and desires. It makes them come alive and sets the story apart from others in its genre.

 

I am honored to have received an advance reader copy of the book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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Favorite thing about summer. FAVORITE.

Fresh peaches that practically burst when you touch them. Snow cones. Festivals and retreats and reunions. Lounging and reading. Air conditioning (because it’s already dabbling in triple digits here and Lord have mercy).

Ah, summer.

I don’t have to talk myself into fall and winter. I have made my peace with spring being my least favorite season, because allergies.

But the people looooove summer. And I just…don’t. But I also know how annoying it is to me when people complain about winter (just…shhhh. Let me enjoy the five minutes a year I’m not in a constant state of sweat and nausea in peace). Therefore, in the interest of not being the gnat swarm at everyone’s picnic, I decided to follow Joy the Baker’s lead and make a summer bucket list.

I know the purpose of a bucket list is typically accomplishment, and there’s an element of that in here. Mostly, though, this is a list of the things I’m looking forward to doing this summer.

  • Finishing Fishbowl. I’m super close to finishing my first rough draft of a full-length novel. Like…within-the-next-couple-of-weeks close. I’ve been playing with this manuscript for so long that I can’t imagine it being finished (well, the first step of finished, anyway). And it may expand in the editing process later, as I have pesky notes of a side view, and I’ll have to read it through to know if that’s a distraction or an important part of the story. But the bones will be written. So, so soon.
  • Road trip to Virginia to the writers’ retreat where I will be presenting my workshop. There are still spaces available, and you can read about it and register here.
  • Leave the house on purpose at least twice a week for fun. Not because I have work or errands or a meeting. Just to join civilization. It’s not something I need to do every day, but life is richer when I get out regularly. Summer is an easier time to do that.
  • 3rd annual Hemingway party. There may be dancing this year. There will definitely be alcohol and mixers and lots of food.
  • 24in48 reading challenge! July 21-22. Sign-ups are coming soon. I’ll keep you posted.
  • High school reunion in July.

I also need to settle into a better daily rhythm with the things I know that feed my soul. I started off well in January, but the goals have sort of fizzled. No, that’s an understatement. My resolutions tracking sheet (post forthcoming) is a desert. As most of the resolutions I set are activities designed to help me maintain balance and sanity, it makes sense that I have been scattered (tidy euphemism) as of late. I’ve been in survival mode for about three months. I know that there are other factors involved, so getting back to stability is not as simple as checking things off a daily to-do list, but the things on the list can help.

What are you doing this summer?

 

Friday Five 4

It’s National Donut Day, so that tells you everything you need to know about how my ability to focus is going to go this afternoon. Here are some things from the intrawebs I loved this week.

  1. I think I want Reimagining the Ignatian Examen. Examen is part of my nightly ritual, and I am interested in Thibodeaux’s perspective on it.
  2. “That’s the thing with my important life moments, they always seem to emerge slowly, like a Polaroid picture. I suspect few people have instant-capture aha moments. Especially those of us ensconced in the nebulous realm of anxiety where discernible lines between normal and neurotic cease, at some point, to exist.” I love this excerpt by Sarah Wilson, and I think I’m going to like the book.
  3. “We ask for wild dreams, for places to be our fullest selves, for the courage to walk outside of our fears and expectations of who we are, moving always towards what lies ahead. We keep going even when we can’t quite see the road.” From Ask Relentlessly by Hilary Yancey.
  4. I love this idea! Jen Hatmaker’s recap of the ceremony where graduating seniors honored their teachers. I defy you to read some of the things they said and not get a little teary. Then write a note to your favorite teacher.
  5. Literary quotes celebrating friendship from Book Riot. My favorites –
    “I knew when I met you an adventure was going to happen.” —A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh
    “Not a word passes between us, not because we have nothing to say, but because we don’t have to say anything.” —Khaled Hosseini, The Kite Runner

I’m looking forward to a weekend at the farm with the folks. Hope your weekend is relaxing, too!

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Most of the writers I meet describe their writing practice as either their hobby or their work (or a hybrid of the two). Today I’m over at Andi’s place talking about how to bridge the gap and make sure inspiration comes along. Hop over and give it a read!

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