This past week was crazy: I was fully booked, made a ton of money, and did some really fun stuff. Here’s a glimpse into my life these days as a full-time freelance writer!
Sunday, September 2nd
I had a long day at the Decatur Book Festival on September 1st, and I wake up Sunday feeling awful–headaches, dizziness, nerve pain, the works–so I don’t make it to church. I have a quiet morning in bed with Sophie and my journal. When my family gets home from church we sit outside and talk (while Sophie hunts toads); then I start reading through the materials for month 4 of the freelance writing intensive I’m in (and get super excited about all the marketing coming up). I introduce my family to Girl Meets World (and am highly offended when they don’t like it), talk on the phone with Sara, read, journal, work on my novel, watch more GMW, and go to sleep at 8:30.
Monday, September 3rd (Labor Day)
I get up at 8:30 and get to work. Even though I knew I was already fully booked, I made a bad decision last week by telling a former client, sure, I can write 10 articles for you by Wednesday. So I write four short articles about different categories of apps for your car, answer all my Upwork and LinkedIn messages, and then meet my family at Waffle House for lunch. Afterwards, Joshua and Dad and I go to the batting cages. Then I work on my novel for an hour, which feels like such a luxury since I don’t normally have time for it during the work day! I work on my clients’ novel, go through the Month 4 materials some more, and let myself stop working at 5 and watch Girl Meets World because it is a holiday after all. I’ve always thought GMWwas funny and cute, but these days the message really resonates with me: it’s time to make the world your own. After dinner I play the piano and dulcimer and sing, and then I work on my road trip novel before falling asleep.
Tuesday, September 4th
I have a quiet morning of work alone with Sophie: three tech articles, some phone calls and invoices (including a call with a client where he gave me feedback on my work, which is basically my least favorite thing ever), some research for a business profile update (not as much as I’d hoped due to my computer crashing, which happens about once a day), and get sidetrack by a phone call from a big health company in Atlanta who wants to talk about their content needs.
After lunch I have to pick up Joshua from school, and I catch up with some family friends. I go back home for an hour of marketing (job applications and LinkedIn referrals) and then off to the post office, bank, and my nonprofit. It’s mostly new kids this year, but a little girl I was very close with last year comes back and I tutor her for two hours.
Then I buy tap shoes, which makes me SO RIDICULOUSLY OVER THE MOON HAPPY! Small group hasn’t started yet, so I go home. After a little reading and Netflix, I’m asleep by nine. A fun and exciting day even though Sophie chewed up my favorite sandals.
Wednesday, September 5th
I wake up so so exhausted. Yesterday was such a long day. Nothing exciting happens today (except that I discover the song Castle by Halsey), I just work at home from 9-6 (specific schedule below if anyone cares haha). After dinner I watch World of Dance, play the piano and sing for a while, and fall into bed at 8:30 with a headache and lots of nerve pain in my legs.
Thursday, September 6th
In the morning, I’m so exhausted and my legs are completely numb, but I make myself get up and work on this week’s business profile for two hours. Then I GO TO TAP CLASS AND IT’S ALL MY BEST DREAMS COME TRUE!! Little background: I did ballet, tap, and jazz for six years growing up, and I’ve missed it so much the last few years but haven’t been able to find a class. I finally registered for a senior tap class through my local park and rec, and I don’t remember the last time I was so excited for anything. The class is amazing; I’ve missed being around older ladies, and the class was the perfect skill level for me (I picked up most things easily, but there were still a few challenging combos). I can already tell this is going to be the highlight of my week every week!
Afterwards I’m dizzy and drowsy. I only have time for lunch and to research a blog post for a client before leaving to get in car line (I pick the little girls next door up from school every Thursday this year). When I finish babysitting I do an hour of work for a fitness website, and then after dinner I read until falling asleep.
Friday, September 7th
I’m tired and sluggish; I work from home all day long (details in the picture below) and am stressed. Highlight of the day–I finally get Jellie Bellies again! After work I watch Sierra Burgess is a Loser on Netflix, mostly because Noah Centineo is in it (but I like Shannon Purser too). It’s a funny movie, I like the theme of how so much ridiculous pressure is placed on high schoolers, and I love the Deaf representation. When Joshua gets home from baseball we have pizza and then I go to bed.
Saturday, September 8th
A much much needed quiet morning. I spend a couple of hours doing my most favorite thing in the world: listening to music, browsing Pinterest writing prompts, and writing snippets of the novels I’m going to write next (all YA contemporaries–my road trip novel, ice dancing novel, and dance novel). I’m so busy and stressed with work these days that I tend to binge fiction in any form I can get it (writing, reading, movies, TV) on the weekends. After writing, I tap dance for a while, and then my mom is babysitting and Joshua and I go to visit. We eat pizza, I feed the baby dinner, and we play fetch with the dog. Back home, I read until going to bed.
Their history teacher, Mrs. Smith, talked about Atlas that day.
“Cursed to hold a weight he couldn’t bear,” she said, tapping the textbook on her desk. “But he kept standing—not because he could, but because he had to. Atlas wasn’t given a choice: he was made to hold the stars.”
Daniel looked to his left, where Celia sat a few desks over. She was slumped down in her seat, staring at her hands, not giving any sign she heard what the teacher was saying. Out the window behind her, snowflakes spiraled to the ground. He wanted to take her somewhere safe, hold her tight, make sure nobody ever hurt her again. But he didn’t know if he could.
–from my forthcoming ice dancing novel
What did you do this week? What does a typical week in your life look like?
August started with a twelve-day trip to Alaska with my grandpa, aunt, uncle, and Joshua. It was the MOST AMAZING TRIP EVER and I miss it so much. We stayed in Denali National Park for a few days; then we took a cruise that stopped in Haines, Juneau, and Ketchikan before ending up in Vancouver. Read more about the trip here.
When we got back, my grandpa stayed for a few days, and after recovering from the trip I dived back into work with a vengeance. Writing made up the bulk of the remainder of my month–tons of meetings, new clients, and marketing and learning and work–but I also started babysitting my next-door neighbors one afternoon a week and working at my nonprofit one afternoon a week. Fun stuff: brunch and shopping with Brooke, coffee with Andrea, met my (other) grandpa and watched a baseball game played according to rules from the 1800’s, and movie and dinner with Brooke.
Writing: Except for some work on the Atlanta > Anchorage flight and then a video call job interview on the ship (unfortunately, I didn’t get that job), I didn’t work at all in Alaska, and then I jumped back in with a serious 9-6 daily work schedule when we got back. I had a ton of meetings (like, SO many) and landed a ton of new clients: an ethnic advertising company I now write B2B blog posts for, an author who needed an editor for her YA magical realism novel, a company I now write business profiles for, and my DREAM CLIENT (literally still so so so so over the moon about this one and can hardly believe it).
In addition to meetings, I spent time doing assessments for two potential clients; for one, I took a course on sales emails, and it was extremely helpful although I didn’t get the job. I also began taking a persuasive copywriting course through Den 2X; this month we focused on low-hanging fruit, meaning lots of LinkedIn referral marketing. I also applied to 88 jobs, pitched four magazines, and sent out around 10 LOI’s, and I proofread the September issue of Georgia Family Magazine.
As far as guest posts and single articles, I had a feature published in Just Labs magazine, a success story published at WritersWeekly (and wrote another piece for WW, coming soon), wrote a guest post for CYC, wrote a pretty technical article on heat and metabolism for InBody, wrote a post for Write Naked, and had a devotional published here.
Fiction-wise, I came up with/messed around with dozens of new story ideas in Alaska, began editing World on a String when not editing my client’s novel, and wrote one of the best short stories I’ve ever written.
Grateful for: A moment on a bus driving through Alaska, curled in the seat, sharing earbuds with Joshua and laughing quietly at this. Meeting super sweet Alaskan homeschoolers in the hot tub. A girl I haven’t seen in three years sending me her Netflix login so I could watch To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (we have since switched our Netflix account from the DVD-only option o the normal one, largely so I can watch it again). Texting snarky comments to my accountability buddy during the mastermind of our freelance writing class. My little neighbor getting into my car and giving me pictures she drew for me at school that day. Friends who find spiritual allegories in movies. Spotify Premium.
My extended family (grandpa, aunt, uncle, brother) and I just got back from the adventure of a lifetime: twelve days in Alaska, including a weeklong cruise. We saw and did so many amazing things, and I’m definitely feeling the post-vacay blues. Here’s a rundown of everything the trip entailed!
(All photos in this post are mine.)
Wednesday, August 1st (Atlanta –> Anchorage)
Joshua and I met our grandpa, Uncle Robert, and Aunt Sherri in the Atlanta airport. We had an eight-hour flight straight to Anchorage; I had to purchase Wifi and spend most of it doing a work project. Once in Anchorage (I wished we had more time to explore the city), we took a bus ride to the hotel and I went right to bed, going to sleep to the sound of horse hooves clopping in the street.
Thursday, August 2nd (Anchorage –> Denali)
Breakfast in the hotel was our first encounter with the Eastern European college students that come in droves to work in Alaska during the summer. They get a special visa and work in restaurants or hotels.
Shortly after breakfast, we got on a train and spent the next eight hours riding through Alaska, which was so fun! We saw beautiful scenery, such as mountains and small circular lakes with swans. We also saw a house called the Dr. Seuss house that looks just like the Weasleys’ Burrow.
For lunch, we ate in the train dining room; it was SO much fun to sit by the window, eat delicious food, and watch Alaska go by. (Aunt Sherri: “This dining room is so elegant, like in the old movies when people go on trains.” Joshua: “And then someone with a gun comes barging in!”)
Finally, we arrived in Denali National Park and Preserve and checked into the Mckinley Chalet Resort, where we stayed in the Canyon Lodge. I was so exhausted, nauseous, and dizzy; my nerve pain was bad, too. We went to a dinner show but I didn’t take in much because I was so exhausted.
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Friday, August 3rd (Denali)
We took the shuttle (we spent half of our time at the resort waiting for shuttles) up to the main lodge for breakfast. I had the Denali Scramble every day: a biscuit with the most amazing freezer raspberry jam, scrambled eggs with ham/peppers/onions, and breakfast potatoes. I also had some of Joshua’s reindeer sausage, which tasted normal but a little coarse.
After breakfast, we got on a bus with our tour guide Justin and headed into Denali Park (the Serengeti of the Arctic) for eight hours. We saw lots of amazing scenery (360 mountains and meadows), and–although we were told not to brag–we also saw way more wildlife than most people see! We saw a moose with a calf, a grizzly bear with two cubs, Dall sheep, caribou, a wolf with pups (less than 3% of people see wolves on tundra tours), Arctic ground squirrels, ptarmigans, and an owl. We also drove on a road that was featured on a History Channel documentary of the world’s deadliest roads, got to know some of the people on our tour, and learned so much about Alaska.
By the time we got back, I was utterly exhausted. We had pizza for dinner and then I was in bed by eight.
Saturday, August 4th (Denali)
This was our free day in Denali. After breakfast (which started in the usual way: walking through the mountain mist listening to 25 by Red Rocks Worship), we saw a demonstration of how park rangers use sled dogs in Denali National Park. After that, Aunt Sherri and I went shopping, and then I went to the room and read (finishing Marley and Me in one sitting) and slept.
We went to Denali Square for dinner. I had chicken and waffles and we shared a skillet cookie. (Grandpa: “You know the worst part of this vacation? We haven’t had enough ice cream.”)
After dinner, we went to DogGoneIt, a family farm in Cantwell that trains sled dogs! We had intended to go to Husky Homestead, but all of the tours were full–and considering there were three full busloads of people (from our resort alone) headed there that evening, we were so glad there were eight people total on our tour.
We held two-week-old puppies, we saw the adult dogs head out for a training run, and we learned so much about the Iditarod. Mike, Caitlin, and their helpers were so friendly, and I highly recommend visiting DogGoneIt… I’ve been obsessed with the Iditarod since I was five or six, so it was a huge highlight of my trip!
Sunday, August 5th (Denali —> Seward)
There were several people who were part of our tour group on the land portion of our vacation and the cruise, and it was so fun spending time with them throughout the week–such as a couple with their granddaughter from Asheville, and my friend Kathy from Phoenix.
After breakfast at the main lodge, we got on a bus for another eight-hour ride with driver Sean–back down to Seward to get on the ship. We saw an igloo hotel with 40 pie-shaped rooms that was never opened because it never met codes. For lunch, we stopped at a very remote Mckinley Princess lodge; it was windy and was the first day I’d really been cold. Then we watched a movie on the Iditarod, stopped in a shopping center in Wasilla (where we saw a big German truck and were confused), and I listened to music and wrote down plans and goals for the fall.
We drove along one of the most beautiful scenic highways in the world. I listened to Only the Beginning of the Adventure and it was so beautiful. We also stopped at a rest stop on this highway that I could’ve lived at… mountains and fireweed (it looked like New Zealand) and so much beauty. I was the last one back on the bus.
Once in Seward, we boarded the cruise ship, had the drill, and went to dinner in the fancy dining room. I had seasonal greens, rainbow trout, and brownie cheesecake; our friends from Asheville came in and sat next to us; and we all tried not to be rednecks. The waiter brought Grandpa, who had ordered clam chowder, a bowl with a clam in it and said, “Enjoy your soup.” Then he walked away. Aunt Sherri cried laughing. The waiter came back and poured the liquid over it, but that was our big joke for the whole week.
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Monday, August 6th (at sea)
We had a late breakfast at the Lido (the deck 9 buffet) and then Uncle Robert, Joshua, and I went to the sports deck and played basketball and tennis in the wind and rain. Next, Joshua and I went swimming and sat in the hot tub; then I organized my clothes while he watched ESPN. We all five had a late lunch, Joshua and I played checkers in the library, and he and I played ping-pong.
It was a gala attire night in the dining room. I was feeling good about myself until I got back to the room and realized the back of my dress had been unsnapped ALL night. Hopefully no one noticed. The food was great: ham, salad of arugula and frisee, cracked pepper tenderloin and grilled shrimp, and Black Forest cake (well, that wasn’t great). We waved at friends and laughed hysterically about stuff and my aunt did a little matchmaking. What else are aunts for?
Tuesday, August 7th (Glacier Bay)
I was in the library at 6:30–I had to purchase Wifi so I could attend a job interview. After that, we had breakfast; then we heard a lecture by a ranger about Glacier Bay and a lecture by a cultural representative about the native people. I rested in the room, my own family stood me up and didn’t meet me for lunch, and then we got dressed to go on the deck and see the glacier.
Seeing the glacier was such an amazing experience! We saw it calve, which means a big chunk fell off; it made a thunderous booming sound, and our cruise ship rocked from the wave. It was amazing. After watching the glacier for a while, I rested in the room some more, and then Grandpa and Joshua and I went to dinner.
This was my favorite dinner of the week: halibut with a lemon potato puree and zucchini, plus chocolate puff pastry and raspberry tart. So so good! Then Joshua and I played four games of checkers in the library and ran all over the boat, laughed, and probably went some places we weren’t supposed to.
Wednesday, August 8th (Haines)
Our first stop in Haines was a hammer museum; then we went to a coffee shop for Wifi, and then to a museum about the Tlingit people. (Who are all Slytherins–that was my main takeaway).
Next, we headed to the American Bald Eagle Foundation. We heard a lecture on bald eagles, one on falcons, and one on the general ecosystem. After that, it was so cold and rainy we decided to call it a day and go back to the ship.
We played ping-pong after lunch, as well as three games of Scattegories. Then Joshua and I went to the hot tub. We intended to stay only a few minutes, but we met a homeschool mom, her daughter, and her friend (both of whom are exactly my age–they grew up in Alaska) and ended up talking to them for an hour. It was so fun.
For dinner we went to the Lido (buffet)–they were having a “Taste of Alaska.” I had salmon, but I mostly just ate plums (three) and chocolate pastries (two). We all five sat there laughing hysterically for an hour about nothing really while we watched Haines recede.
Thursday, August 9th (Juneau)
Our first activity in Juneau was to take the tram to the top of the cliff. It was so foggy we couldn’t see much, but we did do some shopping… then we rode down and did more shopping. Juneau isn’t a big city, but it seemed like one after Haines. It felt very Alaskan, and I loved it.
We came back to the boat for lunch and then went on a whale watching tour. To get to the boat, we drove through the largest temperate rainforest in the world (with my favorite bus driver/tour guide of the week, Tara. We had so many tour guides, I can immediately recognize good or bad ones now! Half of them are college students, and the other half are teachers). The whale watching tour was fun–we saw six humpbacks total. They’d come up and spout (once I was on the deck, and I could hear the sound); then they’d dive down. We also saw about a hundred sea lions… and, we saw sunshine for the first time since arriving in Alaska! On the way back to the cruise ship, we saw 20+ bald eagles sitting on lampposts.
For dinner I had shrimp tacos, salmon, and gateau Argentina (chocolate cake). I also had a scarring experience when I ate an entire anchovy without realizing what it was. The Indonesian waiters in the dining room had a celebration song they sang for birthdays/anniversaries, and they sang it eight times that night, which was the record for the week!
Friday, August 10th (Ketchikan)
We had breakfast and stood on the deck watching floatplanes take off and land. I loved Ketchikan; it was so bright, colorful, and cute.
We walked around a bit and went to the lumberjack show, which was overrated. Then we went back to the ship. I decided to stay on ship after lunch; I did some lunges around the deck and ran all 10 flights of stairs three times. Although I didn’t do any formal workouts during the trip–the gym was always too crowded–I did make a point to walk or run up all the stairs at least once a day, even though it killed me. After running stairs on Friday, I sat on the deck and started writing a short story, edited another short story, and reread World on a String (my April Camp NaNo novel) for the first time since finishing it.
Dinner was another gala attire night. I had delicious pan seared sea bass with parsnip puree and passion fruit cheesecake with Oreo crust. (Uncle Robert had foie de gras, which was another scarring experience.) At 9:00 we went to hear an hour-long program of Dvorak with the pianist, the cellist, and one of the violinists. It was wonderful!
Each night, we’d have a different towel animal in our room. It was a monkey on Friday.
Saturday, August 11th (at sea)
I slept late and just barely got breakfast. Joshua and I sat in the hot tub, had a very light lunch, and we heard Schumann’s Quintet in Eb, which was excellent. (Schumann is not Jamaican.) Then I packed and rested in bed for a while.
For dinner, I got Wiener schnitzel and trout, which were both good. We left early because I was panicked about making it to the music in time. That night was an American music program–Copeland, Bernstein, Gershwin, and the like. It was music the general public is more likely to know, so the musicians and audience alike really got into it, and it was fun.
After that the three of us (Grandpa, Joshua, and I) went to the Lido for chocolate cheesecake. Then Joshua and I caught the last 30 minutes of the comedian and magician’s show.
Sunday, August 12th (Vancouver –> Seattle –> Atlanta)
We spent breakfast and the subsequent time waiting for our bus saying goodbye to all of our friends. Then we had a 45-minute bus ride through Vancouver; I really loved the city. Customs was easy and we had a short flight from Vancouver to Seattle. We had lunch in the Seattle airport and then flew to Atlanta; I spent most of that flight rewatching The Parent Trap,which I love so much. We arrived in Atlanta around eleven PM and my parents picked us up.
When I finally got in my own bed at one AM, it felt like a lifetime had passed. This was the most amazing trip. I spent time with family, saw and did so many amazing things, and had a much needed break from work and life… I made great friends, had lots of adventures, and of course ate lots of amazing food! I’m so grateful for this trip, I miss it so much, and I’ve already booked a hotel for my next travel adventure. Alaska was the adventure of a lifetime!
Have you ever been to Alaska? Have you ever been on a cruise? Where is your favorite place you’ve ever been?
This wasn’t a super great month… it was kind of lonely and stressful and missing a lot of things. We started out the month with a fun 4th of July swimming, eating, and doing sparklers at our friends’ house; then we went to see my grandpa, uncles, aunt, and cousin in Mississippi for a long weekend, which was so fun. We visited my grandpa in Tennessee the following weekend. I “tutored” at a local elementary school once a week, fell in love with a new coffee shop, and Cari dragged me to Ulta for the first and last time. I went swimming at the lake with Hannah, had dinner at the lake with Brooke N, we went to the aquatic center with the kids my mom keeps, and we saw Newsies in theaters with a friend for the third time. I also had car problems and camera problems, which were not fun.
Writing: For the freelance writing course I’m in, we focused on our inbound marketing this month–namely, fixing up our websites and LinkedIn. You can check out my professional writer website here! For Georgia Family Magazine, I proofread the August issue and wrote seven localized articles on topics ranging from how kids’ vision affects their learning to how our society glorifies busyness to why martial arts is a great activity. I did some work for my new marketing client and learned a lot.
I applied to 99 short- or long-term freelance jobs (haha, I discovered the life hack to actually getting good clients on Upwork and got carried away… but, I spent lots of time talking with potential clients! I had lots of phone meetings and writing assessments/samples this month, and can’t wait to see how all these leads play out).
I had a devotional published here, another one published here, and an article on creative networking methods for writers published here. Besides finishing a short story for a contest my publisher was holding and submitting three other stories to publications, I didn’t have the creative energy to write any fiction this month, and I really missed it.
Grateful for: Blackout poetry in old books. My aunt’s homemade coconut ice cream. Receiving a Target gift card from someone literally five minutes after telling a friend that I wished I had money to buy rings at Target. Reliving my childhood by playing games on AmericanGirl.com. Friends’ dads who will fix my car in their driveway at nine PM.
What did you do this month? Tomorrow I’m flying to Alaska!!
In many ways, Sara is a normal teenager. She loves to read (some of her favorite books are The Chronicles of Narnia, God’s Smuggler, and The Blades of Acktar), and she likes to spend time with her family. But in many ways, Sara is different: she’s gone through a long journey of illness, she’s written a full-length book about it, and she has let God work through her in so many big ways.
This story begins on July 23rd, 2015, when Sara came down with strep throat. It’s a common ailment that most of us experience once every few years–but in Sara’s case, it was different.
“It triggered a huge decline in my health,” Sara said. “I was given one month to live without proper treatment. Eventually, I was diagnosed with Lyme disease, mold poisoning, and MCS.”
Although Sara’s health problems began with symptoms such as food sensitivities and joint pain, they became much worse over time–testing her faith, testing the faith of her family, and drastically changing their entire lifestyle. But Sara relied on her faith in God to help her stay strong. Today, she’s on the path to healing–and with healing comes new adventures.
“I’ve always enjoyed writing, though I began to write more seriously and regularly when I was about twelve,” Sara said. Her book He’s Making Diamonds, available in paperback or ebook form on Amazon, comes out today. The book came from the realization that so many people–not only Sara’s fellow chronically ill teens, but everyone–were struggling and asking questions, and that’s what the book speaks to. The main message of He’s Making Diamonds is that “God, out of love, has a good purpose in the midst of our pain and suffering. It isn’t wasted, and He’s using it to refine us to be more and more Christ-like.”
Sara’s book was written while she was sick, and it was a difficult process.
“The thing about chronic illness is that it’s so unpredictable. It was hard to make and reach goals… because I never knew when I was going to flare and be unable to write for weeks or months at a time. For example, back in January I thought, ‘July 23rd would be a cool date to publish my book on [since that’s the day I got sick]…’ but then I lost four of the six months I was banking on due to illness. It went from difficult to impossible.”
Sara points to God’s grace sustaining her throughout the journey. “It is sufficient for me,” she says, citing 2 Corinthians 12:9, her favorite Scripture passage. And these days, Sara is doing better–she’s not as sick as she used to be. Although every day is different due to symptoms coming and going, a day in her life might look something like this: get up early for a therapy horseback ride; come home for breakfast and to apply essential oils; and take supplements every twenty minutes while she works on writing projects for the rest of the morning. After lunch (which comes, of course, with a side of more supplements), Sara heads to a doctor appointment, which takes up the afternoon. Then comes dinner, more supplements, and watching TV or a movie with her family. “This is all assuming, of course, that nothing is abnormal,” Sara adds. “A very risky assumption!”
Her journey to self-publishing surprised her in some ways. “I’d done a lot of research about writing and indie-publishing beforehand,” Sara says, “but I was surprised by how encouraging and supportive every single person was along the way.” She points to everyone who helped her throughout the process–alpha and beta readers, cover designer, editor, foreword writer, and more. They’ve all helped Sara get He’s Making Diamonds, a book “for teens with chronic illness, by a teen with chronic illness,” to a place where you can buy it.
And that’s what I’m here to tell you to do–whether you’re a teen with a chronic illness or not. Although the book shares the lessons Sara has learned through her time of illness, they can apply to anyone who has experienced a period of suffering, so don’t feel like you can’t buy the book if you’re not a teen with a chronic illness! He’s Making Diamonds is Sara’s story of how God’s grace was sufficient through her time of suffering–and how it can be sufficient through yours.
(Make sure to read until the end of this post for the scavenger hunt clue!!)
A teen writing and publishing a book? Impressive. A teen writing and publishing a nonfiction book that’s raw, honest, and vulnerable about her struggles? Even more impressive. A teen writing and publishing this book as she struggled with multiple chronic illnesses? It’s confirmed, my friend Sara is a superhero! I met Sara a year or two ago through our blogs. We talk often via Instagram, email, and Skype, comparing notes on our writing and our chronic illnesses, and she amazes me with her faith and perseverance. Last fall/winter I had the pleasure of being an alpha reader for her book He’s Making Diamonds, a teen’s story of faith during chronic illness. It’s full of Scriptural truth and personal anecdotes, making it the perfect story for anyone who has faced struggles in life, not just teenagers with chronic illnesses. Here’s the official book blurb…
Are you a teenager trying to navigate faith through chronic illness? I’m here to tell you, you are not alone.
When sickness takes over your life, it’s a never-ending battle to make it through each day. How do you cope? How do you keep fighting? Most of all though, how do you find God in the midst of the suffering?
Through my own journey of sickness, I’ve struggled with the same questions—questions we all think but are afraid to ask. My name is Sara, and I’ve been sick with Lyme disease and more since I was fourteen.
Those questions you’re afraid to ask? I’ve asked them too—as have many others.
This book addresses topics and questions such as:
Why is there sickness?
Where is God in sickness?
Resting in the storm
How to deal with the way chronic illness changes you
Joy and despair
Praying through chronic illness
Relationships in the midst of chronic illness
The journey of illness is not an easy one, but hope remains. God hasn’t left us. He hasn’t forgotten us. On the contrary, He’s making diamonds out of us.
About the author: S. G. Willoughby is a seventeen-year-old girl with Lyme disease, toxic mold poisoning, and MCS. Currently, she resides in Arizona with her parents and two siblings. In her spare time she loves to write, read, and have adventures.
Without further ado, here is the GORGEOUS cover of Sara’s book, He’s Making Diamonds!
As if her book wasn’t exciting enough, Sara has partnered with a few other authors to give away three other books–Resistance by Jaye L. Knight, A World Through Autistic Eyes by Natalie Marie, and When Chronic Pain And Illness Take Everything Away: How To Mourn Our Losses by Esther Smith. To enter the giveaway, go here.
This was a busy and exhausting month, but also an exciting one. Most notably, I started Carol Tice’s Den 2X program, an intense six-month course for freelance writers to double their income. That has kept me busy with trainings, homework, and Zoom calls galore, and I’m absolutely loving every minute of it–I have been in desperate need of a freelance writing mentor and a freelance writing community for a while now, and I know this is going to take my career to the next level!
What else happened this month? We had Claymation Discovery camp at my nonprofit one week, where I served as a counselor + photographer, and I also tutored at a local elementary school one day a week. The week after summer camp, I taught music at my new church’s VBS. Trying to manage camp, VBS, and all of my freelance work was absolutely exhausting and I feel like I’ve basically been in a flare for all of June. Sigh.
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I had the amazing opportunity to serve as the volunteer photographer for a fantastic nonprofit that provides support to moms who were under pressure to abort, but chose life. Look at all these sweet, adorable families I got to meet!!
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Fun stuff this month: we had a surprise party for my brother Joshua’s 13th birthday, we had a swimming and board game night with friends, we went swimming in Cleveland with other friends, Dad and I had “the best pizza in metro Atlanta,” Joshua and I saw Bandstand in theaters (SO SO SO SO SO GOOD), and I visited Emma at college for a day.
Writing: Den 2X has been fantastic–1:1 coaching meetings, coffee breaks with my accountability buddy, and masterminds with the whole class. The month 1 materials involved analyzing current clients and making a list of 100 prospects (for me, these are fitness, nutrition, and education companies with a certain annual revenue). I took a LinkedIn training and an LOI training.
I wrote three blog posts for Valnet and three blog posts for JenReviews. I wrote two blog posts for Forgetful Chef via ContentPros. I wrote an article about service dogs for Just Labs magazine plus an article for Craft Your Content (forthcoming). I wrote 10 City Lists, five Unique Dream Experiences, and eight Human Dream Stories for Pepper Storm Media. I wrote two articles for Georgia Family Magazine and proofread the magazine before it went to press. I had a devotional published here, an interview about my daily life with chronic illness published here, and an article about a doable routine for writers published here; plus, I had an article about Flannery O’Connor come out in Authors Publish magazine. I finished out the month by landing a fantastic long-term new client! Plus, I applied to 48 jobs and pitched four magazines. I made a lot of money in June, but saved almost none of it because I do my taxes quarterly and they were due. Oh, the joys of being self-employed.
Sadly, the only fiction I had time for this month was to research and plot a short story for a contest my publisher is holding, plus submit short stories to nine publications. But I also had a flash fiction piece, Garden Party, published with Student Wordsmith (picture below).
Grateful for: Being sent home early from tutoring and taking the principal’s advice to relax and go swimming (the only time I’ve been to our pool this summer!). An adorable two-year-old at my new church walking into the nursery and coming right to me. Leaving the last day of summer camp with an arm full of Sharpie messages, names, and inside jokes (“I love you” “pls don’t leave me” “single lady”). Spending time talking with some amazing women at the pregnancy center I shot for. Friends who let me borrow their camera when mine has the audacity to break at the worst time ever. Having a freelance writing accountability buddy who texts me encouraging gif’s before meetings with prospective clients!
My friend Abby from Ups & Downs has launched an AMAZING new blog that you 100% do not want to miss. Here is some exclusive information about what’s going on at the new site! (All pictures and graphics in this post belong to Abby.)
What inspired you to launch your new blog Story-Eyed?
The inspiration came from reevaluating reasons why I write and create, a lot of this coming from art classes I took over the course of the year. As a writer, I want to be able to write the clash between good and evil, the gray areas which arise from such conflict, solely because untold narratives hide in these gray areas. From these narratives, I want readers to think and gain perspectives from these voices and use them as connections in the real world, and this is something I feel so strongly. Visual art is not my forte, but through it I learned the importance of shading and depth, how different shades of gray can help turn things multidimensional. This mission, these beliefs which I possess so strongly, is what I want people to gain from this blog.
What kind of posts can readers expect to see on Story-Eyed?
I’m going to be posting somewhat similar to how I posted before. I’m planning on posting adventure and thought posts filled with numerous photos, especially since college will bring on a plethora of experiences and places to travel. The main difference is there will be a greater concentration of writing advice and college help articles, alongside several new blog series posts I’m not going to reveal just yet! I’m really excited for it!
What is your favorite thing to write? Can you share any hints about your journey towards publication?
One of the unexpected things I love to write which I’ve been slowly getting accustomed to are personal essays. I hardly ever write about myself. Whenever I’m writing other forms, typically novels as the one I write most in volume, the characters and the story lines reflect the morals or messages I wish to convey. With personal essays, they’re typically written with the sole purpose of self-examination. It’s hard to portray exactly how you feel with spoken words. With personal essays, I can dig into the issue present in the story and therefore understand why. While it is sometimes painful to go in and reflect, it does provide some catharsis once you know the story is done. My journey towards publication? I won’t reveal much (yet) but I will be releasing a post that discusses this.
You’re entering college as a freshman this fall. Give yourself (and other rising freshies) one or two pieces of advice.
I could say many things. Take care of your mental health! Don’t be afraid to go on new adventures! These two things are important, but this encompasses both of them: find yourself a good group of friends and supporters. I am so incredibly blessed and thankful to have the most wonderful friends, teachers, and mentors who helped guide me through high school during the times when I had a public mental breakdown or wanted to go fangirl over movies. They mean so much to me that instead of focusing my senior statement about my plans, I talked about my friends in a video. It’s sad to know we are all heading different directions for college, but they will still be there to support you. Besides, this circle of people is always in a constant shift and can always grow.
How did you come up with the name Story-Eyed?
I actually bounced around between two different name ideas! Story-Eyed just came to me as I thought of names which would articulate the mission of the blog. The name also derives from comments from friends and people who have described me to look at the world with wide, hopeful eyes who absorbed every surrounding thing. It is a play on words, but it does describe the blog and I a lot.
What’s your favorite food and your favorite musical?
IT’S SO HARD TO CHOOSE FAVORITES! If I had to narrow it down to one, my favorite food would probably be ravioli stuffed with tons of cheese and drizzled in marinara sauce. My favorite musical would have to be Thoroughly Modern Millie. I love musicals focused on the Roaring Twenties; they’re so fun.
As of last Saturday, June 2nd, we’ve had Sophie for exactly a year! And since everyone in the blogosphere loves her so much (you wouldn’t love her if you met her), I thought I’d do an update post and talk about the past year. (There are a lot of photos–I tried to make collages, but WordPress wasn’t cooperating, so most of them are individuals.)
To recap, Sophie is our year-and-a-half year old beagle/basset hound. My mom had said for years that we’d never get another dog, but on June 2, 2018, she very unexpectedly came home from work with a puppy! We adopted Sophie from a shelter, so we don’t know much about her life before us. But it quickly became evident she is terrified of men and children. (When people come to the door, she barks and growls at them, but she’s shaking like a leaf.) She was quiet and timid for a few weeks at our house–then she settled in and started to show her true colors. She also attached herself to Mom. Last summer she was so little; for a solid week after we got her, we did nothing but sit around and look at her. When she got the hiccups we would all squeal about how cute it was (well, maybe that was just me).
Sophie eats everything. She has huge separation anxiety and she’s an anxious chewer. The only toy she can have (she ingests pieces of everything else) is a deer antler, and she whittles it down to choke size within two weeks (her trainer had a black Lab and said it took his Lab three months to go through an antler of the same size). Sophie’s favorite thing to eat is paper. If I stick a Post-It note somewhere low, the next thing I know it’s in her mouth; if I’m bringing in the mail, she jumps up and grabs an envelope of out my hands; if we leave a bookmark sticking out of a book, she will eat the bookmark. In addition to paper, Sophie loves to dust; she will obsessively lick any surface she can reach that has dust on it. And her favorite people food (not that we feed her much) is cheese–she magically appears whenever Mom is grating cheese. Sometimes she eats ice cubes if she feels like it. I taught her how to climb up on the step stool and sit if she wants a treat.
Despite what my dad might think, Sophie knows a lot of words: Sophie, Mommy, Daddy, Joshua, bone, ball, eat, treat, come (well, she chooses not to know this sometimes–she looks at you and calculates whether it’s worth it), sit, outside, walk, up. She follows us around the house (so closely she’ll bump into the back of our legs if we stop walking). If I’m working on my laptop, she will nap on my bed; if I’m cleaning my room, she’ll go get her bone and entertain herself (until she hears paper rattling–then she’ll come “help”).
Sometimes we think she’s brilliant (for instance, when we ask her where her bone is and she runs to another room and returns with the antler), but most of the time we think she’s not the brightest bulb in the box. Sophie is constantly losing her Mommy and running around the house, panicked, looking for her; when Mom is gone, Sophie mopes around, doesn’t chew on her bone, and runs to the front door whenever a car door slams somewhere in the neighborhood. If we say anything at all in an excited tone, whether it’s a word that sounds like “Mommy” or not, Sophie will run to the front door and get excited. (As I was writing this blog post, I was watching a video where Sophie was running around the house frantically looking for Mom. On the video I say “Where’s Mommy?!”, and when Sophie heard that phrase she jumped up onto the couch and attacked me.)
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Sophie is my work buddy! Sometimes she will nicely get on the couch under the blanket and snuggle with me; sometimes this involves her walking on my laptop keyboard and deleting whatever I’ve just written. In the mornings at 5 AM when my mom leaves for work, Sophie gets in bed with me and goes under the covers (for a small 17lb dog, she takes up the ENTIRE bed).
When my dad turns off the TV and it’s bedtime, Sophie jumps off the couch and rolls over on her back because she doesn’t want to go to bed. She also has all kinds of tricks up her sleeve for when I’m trying to put her in the crate so I can get out the door.
Sophie has a luxating patella in one leg, where her kneecap regularly dislocates itself. It doesn’t cause her pain right now, but she’ll need surgery eventually. We’re technically supposed to keep her still, but when she starts doing a zoomie–racing in a circle as fast as she can around the house or the yard–there’s nothing that can stop her.
When we come home and rescue Sophie from the crate (which she tears up while we’re gone because she is so frantic), she will jump on us as if she has springs in her legs. Sometimes she jumps so high, her teeth grab the sleeve of our short sleeve shirts. She does this at other times, too–sometimes she will randomly begin biting us and attacking us. It seems like she’s so excited, she just doesn’t know how to contain herself other than biting our face. We’re trying to redirect that energy…
Sophie snores very loudly. She also has a habit of heaving a big sigh whenever we scoot her over on the couch, just to let us know how put out she is.
We have a family of toads who live in the backyard, and Sophie likes to hunt them. (This is a funny video Joshua and I made about the toads.) She also hunts bugs. She’s like a cat–she will slap her paw down to trap the roly-poly or whatever it is. She also chases the laser light like a cat. It’s different having a hunting dog; she likes to “bury” her antler in the couch and then go digging for it. Sophie is a mess but we love her so much!!
Do you have a dog? Does your dog do funny or weird things?
May was very busy, and I very nearly burned out physically and emotionally until everything thankfully came to a stop at the end of the month. I wasn’t at my nonprofit at all, but I was crazy busy and stressed trying to finish up the softball season, and super relived when it was over. I also got a lot of new freelance writing clients, aka more stress.
But so much fun stuff happened too! I watched some friends win their high school softball state championship; had a picnic and shopping day with Madeleine; hung out with a former youth pastor and his wife; and spent multiple Saturdays and Sundays and weeknights at the ballpark with friends, watching games and playing around and then going out for ice cream or Ihop afterwards. I met NYT bestselling author Victoria Aveyard, went to lunch with friends, spent a fun evening at Brooke N’s house for dinner and a movie, and also went out for dinner and a movie with Brooke another night. I had a fun day road tripping for Hannah’s graduation from COLLEGE. I spoke to two 7th-grade English classes about writing. My family went to a cabin in the North Carolina mountains for four days, which involved lots of reading on the porch, eating ice cream sandwiches, and visiting cool places such as the Road to Nowhere. Sadly, we also spent the end of the month in Tennessee for my grandmother’s funeral.
Writing: I did a lot of work for a travel app through a UK media company (having a really fantastic and fun experience with them)–I wrote guides to 18 US cities, wrote four “Unique Dream Experience” articles (bucketlist-type vacations), and wrote four “Human Dream Stories” (interviewing people about cool things they’ve done). I also wrote eight 2,000-word reviews for RunnerClick and transitioned to something that’s more like being on staff instead of just freelancing. I accepted a LOT of new positions–IAPWE, Georgia Family Magazine (associate editor and proofreader), JenReviews (long-term fitness writer), Valnet (parenting website), and had to turn down several jobs because of money and time. I applied to 33 freelance jobs, pitched article ideas to four magazines, and submitted fiction to 9 publications. I had a devotional published here, another here, and wrote this blog post; I also wrote articles for Craft Your Content and the IMB. I did a quick edit of World on a String, sent it for critiquing, and dove back into edits on Angelica. I spoke to two 7th-grade English classes about being a professional writer.
Grateful for: Riding home at night with my friend after her softball games, eating Chick-fil-a and feeling the warm breeze through the open sunroof while my dad texts updates on our brothers’ game (for the benefit of my friend’s dad, my brother’s coach). Ice cream with family friends just like old times. Going for pizza downtown with our baby after getting passports. Playing tic-tac-toe on the kids’ menu at restaurants with friends’ little siblings. Working in the nursery at my new church for the first time and getting my baby fix.
What did you do in May? What are your summer plans?