July: Joy (Fruit of the Spirit project, Month #2)

(Click here if you’re unfamiliar with this project.) When I began this month, I naively thought it was almost like cheating to have the month of joy occur when it was summertime and the living was easy! Fast forward thirty-one days, and I’m sitting here laughing at that thought. Frustrating friend drama, my health suddenly becoming much worse than it had been, financial worries about my future, a puppy that is seemingly incorrigible and bites me several times a day–overall, July was a very frustrating month, and to be honest I hardly ever exhibited joy. Hopefully I’ve learned a few things though.

Journal excerpts:

The joy of the Lord is our strength–rejoice! (Charles Spurgeon sermon on Nehemiah) When the soul has been saturated with the rain of penitence, the clear shining love makes the flowers of gladness blossom all around. Tears —> JOY (blessed are they that mourn). A divine joy–of the Lord–open to all who partake of it. God has given us appetites which carnal things cannot satisfy, but He has also given us satisfaction. We rejoice because there is a God, and because of His attributes of grace and faithfulness.

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I’ve had a Post-It note on the back of my bedroom door for years that said 1. God 2. Others 3. You. However, it wasn’t pointed out to me until this month that if you substitute the word Jesus for God, it becomes an acronym that spells joy: Jesus, Others, You. The only way to have fullness of joy is through Jesus. If your joy is based on anything else, then it’s not really joy–it’s happiness, and happiness depends on outward circumstances which you cannot control. But if your joy springs from Jesus, it will be full and everlasting, because He is the same yesterday, today, and forever–He is innately faithful and good and calls you His beloved. Joy is still something that we have to choose (I always have the picture in my head of our friend telling her little daughter when the frustration or whining began, “Choose joy”) and then work for, but if we keep our minds on Jesus and His goodness it will be so much easier than if we let our current situation dictate our mood.

 

Here’s one more quick tip for my fellow introverted blogger types: joy manifests itself in different ways in different personalities. Having joy doesn’t always mean that you’re running around with a huge grin on your face acting super over-enthusiastic. It’s a condition of your heart. Yes, it should be able to be seen outwardly too, but don’t feel like you have to go overboard and be something you’re not.

What did you learn through our month of joy? Next up is August: peace.

Camp NaNo Survival Guide: July 2017

Camp NaNo. It’s July 24th, and the initial rush and excitement (outlining! Meeting your cabin mates! Transforming a blank document into something magical!) has died down. The honeymoon phase is definitely over, and we’re down to the nitty-gritty–the hard work that reminds us of all the other things we’d rather be doing than slogging through this horrible first draft. But I’m here to tell you something important and something oh-so-true: you CAN finish your project. You CAN win NaNo. You ARE capable of completing your first draft, no matter how awful it may be (and let’s be honest, mine is looking pretty bad right now). However, I understand you might need a couple of tips to get through, so that’s what I’m here for. Minimize your novel document, wipe away your sweat and tears, and settle in to hear how you’re going to kick this thing.

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*is here. But I really wanted to use this meme, so let’s not quibble over technicalities. 

1. If you’re tired, go to sleep.

First, let’s define “tired.” I don’t mean “tired” as in, “I wrote for ten minutes and now I’m stuck; plus, it’s eight PM, so I deserve some Netflix before bed.” No. I mean “tired” as in, “I worked an eight-hour shift today, I have a cold, it’s 10 PM and I can literally barely keep my eyes open.” Be honest with yourself about when you just don’t really wanna write, and when you do physically feel bad. Since I know that I get too sleepy to function around eight PM, I try to write several thousand words earlier in the day. If I’m doing okay in the evening, surprise! Maybe I’ll get in a bonus thousand. But if not, I know I’m good, and I can just rest.

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2. Keep it simple.

After a long month of writing, words start to swim on the screen (if they haven’t yet, they will soon–believe me). You’ll probably get sick of your own voice, notice that you keep using the same three phrases over and over and OVER, and find yourself typing “fifty other ways to say ‘said'” into the Pinterest search bar. This is a bad idea on more than one level. First, we ALL know that Pinterest is #1 on the list of all-time worst distractions. But also, sometimes people just need to say stuff. They don’t need to murmur it, or this it, or that it–they just need to say it. Simple can be powerful; fancy language can distract from your story, especially if there’s so much of it that it seems unnecessary. But if you really feel like you need a word other than “said,” you can stick it in later. The first draft isn’t about perfect grammar or sentences that flow well or going back to set up that plot twist that you didn’t know you were going to do–the first draft is about locating the spirit and the magic of your work. The first draft is about making the story come alive. Keep your language simple, and you’ll thank yourself later.

3. When it’s going well, stop.

Some famous author (at the moment, I can’t remember who) once said that if the words are really flowing, then stop writing. It may seem counterintuitive, but it actually makes a whole lot of sense: if you know where you’re going, then the next time you can sit down and pick right back up. But if you write until all your words are used up, they’ll still be used up the next time you go to write.

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4. As much as possible, eliminate other writing.

I understand that this tip might not work for everyone, but it’s been invaluable to me: this month, the only writing I’m doing is a) content for the CrossFit company I work for, and b) my NaNo project. I typically mess around with flash fiction pieces, and apply for a bunch of freelance jobs, and enter about ten writing contests–but this month, I’m not. (well except I have applied for a bunch of blogging jobs but I haven’t gotten any of them so yanno) For me, I feel like it’s best to be solely focused on my NaNo project. I need to be able to live in one world at a time in order to bring that world to life in the most vibrant way that I can.

5. Find a real-life writing buddy.

If you’re a hermit an introvert and you see no point whatsoever in having a writing buddy–like Michelle here–that’s fine. I get it.

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But I’d definitely recommend that, if possible, you at least try having a writing buddy before you completely nix it! A friend who lives in my town is doing NaNo as well, so we met at Panera today to have lunch and then write. It’s fun and productive. If you can’t think of anyone, at least try to find an online friend to do word wars with. Word wars–where you and your buddy both write for a set amount of time and then compare how many words you each got done–really get me laser-focused because I’m so competitive (lol). Try joining the Young Writers Workshop Facebook group, or the Go Teen Writers group–people on there are always asking for word wars. And if you don’t have Facebook, email me! I’ll word war you any day, because I really want to win. 

How’s your NaNo project coming?  

I’M OFFICIALLY AN AUTHOR WHAT + buy my book and join my launch team!

So… I can’t believe this day is actually here. Y’all: I just published my debut children’s novel. My story was chosen from thousands of other manuscripts and published by a PUBLISHING COMPANY. Excuse me while I just !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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Here’s a little backstory to catch everyone up. I enter multiple writing contests a month, and last December, I entered a contest being held by Story Shares (a great organization that provides great stories for kids who are struggling readers). I found out about the contest right before the deadline and entered something on a whim, without even reading it over–a short story called Hope is the Thing with Feathers that I wrote during the fall of my junior year of high school for my composition class at Toccoa Falls College. I was selected as a top-ten finalist out of thousands of stories, and the folks in charge of the contest told me that one day in the future, they hoped to publish those ten stories as paperbacks. I doubted that would ever actually happen–until Memorial Day this year, when my lifelong dream was casually and unexpectedly dropped into my lap. I was at my grandparents’ house in Mississippi and had spent the day at my aunt and uncle’s house; when I got back to my grandparents’ house late that night, I was checking email before I went to bed. I saw the email from Story Shares saying that the project was a go and proceeded to jump up and down around the living room while my mom and grandpa laughed at me–I don’t think I slept much that night. From there, it was a whirl of signing the royalties agreement and choosing my author headshot and then obsessively tracking the package until MY book arrived on my doorstep today!!!!

 

Hope is the Thing with Feathers, a play on Emily Dickinson’s poem, is the story of a young girl looking for hope in the darkest of times. Amalie lives in Prague, but is taken to Terezin during the Holocaust, and participates in the famous children’s opera Brundibar that is shown to the Danish Red Cross. This isn’t one of my full-length novels; it’s a short story that’s on the longer side, and it’s geared for tweens (appropriate for children ages 12+). It will be distributed to kids who are struggling readers, and I hope that they’ll be inspired to write a story of their own when they reach the end of the book and see that I’m only eighteen. I’m so proud of this story–it represents my longtime fascination with the Holocaust, it’s meticulously researched, and I fell in love with the characters. If you want the full effect, listen to O Come, O Come, Emmanuel by the Piano Guys as you read it, because that’s what I listened to as I wrote it and I feel like the music is part of the story.

Go here to purchase my book! I didn’t think far enough in advance to plan a full-fledged blog tour, but if you order my book and you’re a blogger, I’m offering a small prize package for anyone who’d like to join my launch team by writing a review of my book and/or interviewing me on your blog. Just email me at hhudson412@yahoo.com when you have your book and we’ll work out the details. Now I’m going to go scream and celebrate and look at MY BOOK because I’M ACTUALLY AN AUTHOR!

If you order my book, I’ll love you forever!

Abbie’s Early Writings Tag!

Today is a noteworthy day: the one and only Abbie (waffle queen, blogging queen, life queen) made up her OWN tag, and I’m doing it!!! The idea of the tag is simple yet genius: to make fun of the horrible “books” we writerly types wrote when we were little (because, let’s be real, we all have some truly awful ones–especially me), but also to appreciate them. Those stories, no matter how cringe-worthy they seem now, served as the springboard to launch us into the illustrious writing careers that we all lead today. Right? Right. Except most of the time, I still feel like the little nine-year-old pounding away on her old Dell laptop who basically was like #WUT R WORDS 24/7. Anyway. It’s all good. Let’s dive in!

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1. 15 Kids… And Another on the Way!

I don’t even know where to start here. Okay. First of all, this whole book was basically an exact copy of 19 Kids and Counting–ninety pages of the Duggars, pretty much, except none of the names started with J because COME ON, then it would be WAY too obvious that I was copying. I think this was the first novel I ever finished, and I know for sure it was the most boring one I’ve ever written. Probably the biggest thing I learned from this book is that you have to have a plot and a conflict, or no one is going to read your book. (At some point during the writing of this book, when I was 11-ish, a girl my age who lived in my town had a book published and it was being sold in Barnes and Noble. I can distinctly remember jumping up and down, screaming, and telling my mom, “’15 Kids… And Another on the Way!’ is going to be in Barnes and Noble!'” Um, no. No, it’s not.) Also, don’t have fifteen main characters in one story. Just don’t. If the author herself can’t even keep track of all fifteen characters’ names and ages and preferences, how is the reader supposed to do it? Yeah. Enough said. In all seriousness, though, since this was the first full-length book I ever finished, it was kind of the bug that bit me to keep doing more.

2. Children of the Elements

This was basically a Percy Jackson fanfic, except I tried to tell myself it was a completely separate thing. C’mon, though: it’s a group of teenagers who live at this camp in the woods, they’re all cousins, and they each have a power related to the elements (some can control water, some can control air, some can control fire). If that’s not a blatant parallel of Percy Jackson, I don’t know what is. Something good did come out of this book, however: I learned how to let my favorite books and concepts inspire me and fire up my imagination instead of just completely copying them.

3. Eight Friends

This series was basically my life when I was nine, ten, and eleven. I think I ended up writing thirteen of these “books” (each one was about ten pages). The series was about a group of girls (I bet you can’t guess how many) who were friends, and it focused on their various adventures and misadventures at school (interspersed with plenty of long descriptions of their food and their clothes). I learned two big things from this series: one, how much fun it is to live in the world of your characters and to know each of them (even if there are eight of them) so intimately. And two: long descriptions of food are always acceptable. ALWAYS.

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again I couldn’t choose between Ron and Edmund

Sadly, all of my old stories are saved in a weird file type that I can’t open on this computer. I’ve tried and tried and tried, and it just won’t happen. I can see the titles of more stories, but I’m left to the little that I can remember about them off the top of my head. These stories include The Journey (basically a Narnia copy, lol), Trochenbrod (a weird but fun story about these people under siege in a walled city?), and many more stories about big families. Then we get into the books I wrote when I was a little older–twelve, thirteen, fourteen–which I remember as being much more sophisticated (?). Miracle on Avonshire Lane, Miriam of the Mountain, The Last of the Indians–stuff like that. As much as I want to reread these, on second thought, it might be better that they’re all locked on my external hard drive. One day when my really sophisticated novels are published (such as my current NaNo novel, that I’m supposed to be writing right now instead of blogging?) and people write biographies of me, I don’t want the whole world reading samples of my early writings. HA! Let’s be real, though: like that would ever actually happen…

I tag:

Hannah @The Relentless Daydreamer

Katie Grace @A Writer’s Faith

Megan @Pen and Ink

Audrey Caylin @Audrey Caylin

Laura @FlowersInMyBasket

If you’ve already been tagged or NaNo is absolutely killing you (bc same) or something, feel free to disregard this!

Which of my early stories would you most want to read–or, most NOT want to read?! Fellow writers, what are some of your craziest early stories?

June: Month in Review

This month revolved around three major things: a new puppy, freelance writing, and VBS! First of all, my parents surprised my brother and I on June 2nd by coming home with a puppy: Sophie, a seven-month-old beagle/basset hound mix. Even though she’s not housebroken, she bites a lot, and she’s super antisocial with anyone outside the family, it’s been SO GREAT having a dog again. I love being woken up at 6:30 every morning with puppy kisses, and having a furry little shadow wherever I go (unless my mom is home–Sophie loves Mom the best), and laughing hysterically when Sophie chases the laser pointer or falls over her own feet–both of which happen a lot (she’s not the brightest bulb in the box). I tried to narrow down the pictures:

 

The second thing that made up a big part of my month was freelance writing. It was my first month working for the CrossFit company that I now write for, and it was a really great month! I also identified and reached out to 40+ locally-owned businesses that might be potential clients, and I spent a lot of time educating myself more about freelance writing. All in all, this month was like drinking through a fire hose, but I loved it.

Third, we had VBS at our church–the best week of the year! I always teach music with Meghan, a friend from out of town. This year, we’d dance onstage for the opening Worship Rally; hang out/eat/talk/plan the day for forty-five minutes; teach four twenty-minute choreography classes to varying age groups; and then I’d go help in the nursery for forty-five minutes. We had 70-80 kids every day, which is a really fantastic number for our church, and five kids accepted Christ. Physically I felt pretty awful the whole week, but it was still so fun and rewarding!

 

Other fun things I did this month: bought a bunch of new clothes, went to a VBS promo event at church, had a Panera picnic at the Roswell Mill with my dad, went to lunch (at Panera) and shopping with my friend Madeleine, went to a local church’s college church service and then to Dunkin Donuts with my friend Cari, went to the splash pad with the kids my mom keeps, went to an outdoor mall with several friends, had lunch (at Panera) with my friend Brooke N, saw an outdoor movie (Fantastic Beasts) and got fro-yo with my best friend Hannah and then had a sleepover involving Harry Potter and lunch (at Panera), went to the birthday party of a little girl at church, went to dinner at–you guessed it–Panera with my friend Cari, met our friends’ new baby that was born this month!!, went to a fun museum with the kids my mom nannies and then to to Panera with my brother, and went to Lake Winnie (a theme park/waterpark in Tennessee) for a day with our friends to celebrate Joshua’s birthday. (Oh yeah, my brother turned 12 this month, so give him a shout-out in the comments!)

 

This month I’m…

Reading: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before, Jenny Han (ew). The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (brilliant). The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society, Mary Ann Shaffer. When Dimple met Rishi, Sandhya Menon (ew). Strange the Dreamer, Laini Taylor. Through Gates of Splendor, Elisabeth Elliott. Under the Lilacs, Louisa May Alcott (SO CHARMING AND PERFECT). 7 total (I KNOW, I’M A FAILURE. In my defense, I learned this month that puppies drastically decrease productivity).

Writing: In addition to all the freelance writing I already mentioned, I submitted to ten contests/magazines/websites, five of which required writing something new. Also I was supposed to be outlining my NaNo novel, but I didn’t really lol so YAY JULY.

Listening to: Messengers, Jared and the Mill. Summertime Romance, JohnnySwim. First Try, JohnnySwim. (Honestly, just the entire Georgica Pond album by JohnnySwim, over and over and over.) Glorious Day, Passion. Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down), Hamilton. Elohim, Hillsong Worship. Beautiful Day, Joshua Radin.

Watching: Chili Shi’s vlogs. Kate Cunningham’s videos. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (actually for the first time). The Making of Harry Potter, 1 & 2. Jordan Taylor’s vlogs. Alex Puccio: The Comeback Episode #1. The Season: Ole Miss Softball – Leaving a Legacy (Part One).

Loving: Is Writing a Real Job? by Tessa (guest post, Notebooks and Novels). what now by Elizabeth (chasing moonlight). dear people who have heard of this living, breathing human called a teen girl by Emma (Emma Grace Carter). What Millennials Need in the Church More Than Anything by Amanda (Scattered Journal Pages). eyes by Clara (The Zephyr). number six. by Lynden (-love lynden.). Having Compassion on Other People’s Petty Complaints When You Have a Chronic Illness by Sara (Romans 5:3-5). excerpts of life by Olivia (summer of 1999).

I blogged five times this month: You Can Do This (Book Review), Writing Tag!, Hailey Rants About Entitlement (or, Get Over It), How I #liveBANGS! (which won third place in the Bangs blog contest!), and June: Love (Fruits of the Spirit project, Month #1!)

Grateful for: Lying on Joshua’s bed with him and Sophie, watching I Love Lucy on the laptop. Taking a free online college astronomy course. Seeing a full rainbow on a few different days. Everything about Sophie (okay–almost everything). Lying on the floor on the stage at church, laughing hysterically with Meghan and almost choking on my Jolly Rancher. Sitting on the floor in the hallway with the two toddlers at church, feeding them ice cream and having conversations (in full sentences). Planning a trip to Savannah this fall! Many consecutive nights of long texting conversations with a friend, discussing how much we want another one of our friends to be saved–like, YES, this is the kind of deep friendship I’ve always wanted. Also, big things are coming, starting in early August–stay tuned for more details (if you live near me) about ROOTED! Overall June was a fantastic month and could not have been better!

What did you do in June? Do you have a dog? Can you believe it’s Independence Day weekend already? Cuz I sure can’t.