Sunday, January 31, 2010


My quiet time this morning took me to verses in Psalm 147 that I memorized a few years ago:

“His pleasure is not in the strength of the horse, nor his delight in the legs of a man. The Lord delights in those who fear him, who puts their hope in his unfailing love” (147:10-11).

It took only a few minutes of thinking about it to realize what it had to do with this day. This is the day I am submitting my story to an agent, so I decided a paraphrase would be appropriate.

“His pleasure is not in the skills of an agent nor his delight in a well-written story. The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope his unfailing love.”

Hmmm. Hope seems to be a way of life for writers. We’re always hoping for something—-for a conference invitation, for acceptance by an agent or a publisher, for the final arrival of you book in your hands. But even at that it isn’t over. Nowadays, anyone and everyone can review published works on line, so even after publication, one has to hope for good reviews from readers.

It’s a comfort to me that my God wants me to place my hope in Him. Not in a writers' group or critique partner. Not in an agent. Not in a publisher. Not in an advance. In Him. Just Him. The other things matter in their time and way, but the real anchor in life is hope in the God of the universe, in His pleasure and His delight.

I’m glad I don’t have to worry that I don’t own a horse and that my legs won’t carry me running more than a few feet anymore.

Saturday, January 9, 2010


Something happened today that hasn’t happened before. I came home from my local writers’ meeting discouraged rather than charged up.

Our topic for the day was helpful, and our discussions lively—but I had scarcely a word to say. The problem? Simply that I got a renewed view, not only of what it takes to get published but how far I am from arriving. Our leader was I’m one who knows personally about how long it takes to build up your craft. She mentioned two years—and I didn’t have the courage to correct her that it’s been closer to five.

Those five years had already been on my mind, and I think they are probably the bottom line of my current state of mind. In another two months it will be five years since I attended my first writers’ conference. That’s when I learned something so basic as having to have a main character rather than a nice ensemble cast, and the main character was to be someone with a problem that needed solution, someone who learned and grew as a person in the course of the story.

Fine. I settled on Sharon as the obvious one, and I think I’ve done well in giving a depth to her problem that wasn’t there before.

At the end of 2006, I connected to the American Christian Fiction Writers and Middle Tennessee Christian Writers, and I began to learn the craft of fiction writing big time. I’ve worked hard to apply what I’ve learned, and I’ve felt all along that I was getting somewhere.

Then at the big ACFW conference in September of 2008, it became clear that I needed to cut off the first six months of my story, including the reams of back story that had been plaguing me forever, and start the story when Sharon came back rather than when she left. I told everyone it would take me a couple of months. But here I am sixteen months later, still hanging on by a thread to one agent’s invitation to send him something—and I know that I’m still not fully ready. Last evening I was looking over my three sample chapters and was dismayed to find how many unresolved issues they still have.

This morning I debated whether to ask if I should still go ahead and submit to that agent, or if it is entirely too late, but I decided not to ask. I have nothing to lose by sending to him. All he can do is say no. Yes, it will be an opportunity lost, and I hate that, but I’ve tried hard, yet I haven’t arrived at where I need to be.

In the days ahead, I will share some specifics of what is troubling me today. Some of it has been troubling me for a long time. I’ll finish up with just one of those for tonight.

The feelings and reactions of others
I do not at all blame friends and family who don’t understand what is taking me so long. I don’t understand it myself, but I understand it better than they do. Yes, I can respond to hubby that “I have another life!” but it is more than that. It isn’t just time. Even when I have time, I often find it hard to focus and accomplish.

Another reason for the five years is that some of the things I’ve learned have been a challenge to master and apply, and time has relentlessly rolled along. I’ve written about some of those lessons in this blog.

Meanwhile, family members and my prayer partners watch from the sidelines, wondering and puzzling over what all this is about. Some of them, I know, wonder if I’m not ruining my story by trying to “improve” it. I’m positive I’m not, but until and unless I ever get a publisher, I can’t explain that to anyone else.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


We finished putting away the Christmas things today, and tonight with my pizza I finished the holiday apple cider. It was a special Christmas, a fairly quiet one, but that’s not at all bad. I’m not sure why, but this year we didn’t get through our Christmas-music CDs like we have other years. As we worked on the dismantling, we commented that sometime it is more work to put the Christmas things away than it was to get them out. True or not, putting Christmas away is always a bit melancholy for me. I’m glad our outdoor lights are still on outside my office window tonight, but this may be the last night for them as well.

I find interesting the way we measure “seasons” by different things. Besides the obvious ones of spring, summer, fall, and winter, there is childhood, puberty, parenthood, grandparenthood, retirement. Much of my life organizes by geography—Africa (childhood), Florida (boarding school), Wheaton (college), Michigan (school for hubby), Wheaton again (building a family), South America and Texas (mission work), and now Tennessee.

Another way to look at the seasons of my life is what I’ve been doing through the years—teaching, mothering, more teaching, writing curriculum, coordinating publications, and the last eleven years training and consulting.

Hmm. Now that I think about it, I can pars out the seasons of Tangled Strands in my life as well, some of them paralleling phases mentioned above. Creating the characters (young mother), writing the back story (South America), studying writing in a vacuum (pub-coordinator), and more recently studying writing in community with other writers and bringing the story up to standards of Christian fiction today.

Will there be a season of marketing, book signings, and reviews—both glowing and glaring? Only God knows, of course, but I haven’t given up on the possibility. Meanwhile, I’ll accept and align myself with the new season that is upon me—post-Christmas, new year, whatever you want to call it. The God who has seen me through all the others will see me through the next one.

In fact, who knows what exciting season He may know lies ahead?

Saturday, January 2, 2010


Chuck Swindoll was meddling this morning.

He actually did his part of the action almost thirty years ago when he wrote Growing Strong in the Seasons of Life, but what he said only crossed my quiet time this morning . He was talking about being thorough in our work and finishing things. Ouch.

I’ve been struggling lately with two things related to my writing—getting my proposal off to an agent and getting back to blogging regularly. I’ve read that agents and publishers are wont to check writers’ blogs to learn about not only their writing style but whether they are prompt and faithful in their writing. Getting back to doing it “if and when” I feel like it is not an option.

I got off track on this blogging last winter when my husband was in the hospital for sixteen days, with at least that many more in continued recovery. This past fall my primary focus was getting through the major revision of Tangled Strands, and I haven’t been able to get back in the groove. Those are reasons, but not excuses.

Now I have a new year in front of me. What is it about fresh new years that makes us think something is going to change? I’ve lived long enough to know that nothing changes just because of the arrival of a new year. If things are to change, it will be because we do what is necessary to make change happen. I gave up making resolutions many years ago, but I don’t ever want to become unwilling to change—to grow in good ways.

One of the Scriptures Swindoll included for further study was the familiar one in Colossians 3 about doing everything we do as unto the Lord: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men.” On the surface it might not seem that writing a novel can be working for the Lord rather than for men—but if it’s not, then I should have shut down my computer a long time ago.

Ah! That reminds me of a topic I’ve long planned to blog about someday. Does writing—or even reading—Christian fiction have a place in a Christian’s life? You can guess my perspective, but many who are wiser and more experienced than I have expounded it. It is worth some thought, and I’ll try to pull some of those thoughts together soon.