July 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

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.

This month I’m…

Reading: The Story, Randee Fraze (a friend and I read a chapter a day). Bonanza Girl, Patricia Beatty (reread). White Sands, Red Menace, Ellen Klages (reread). The Queen’s Rising, Becca Ross. The Fire by Night, Teresa Messineo (reread). Failing Up, Leslie Odom Jr. Sounds Like Me, Sara Bareilles. The Map of Salt and Stars, Jennifer Zeynab Joukhadar. High Heat, Carl Deuker (reread). Shadow of the Mountain, Margi Preus (reread). Night Hoops, Carl Deuker (reread). Heart of a Champion, Carl Deuker (reread). I’ll Never Change My Name, Valentin Chmerkovskiy. Fawkes, Nadine Brandes. Lily’s Crossing, Patricia Reilly Giff. 15 total.

Music: The Things I Didn’t Say, Adeline hill. Finding Neverland Broadway cast album. In My Dreams, Anastasia. B-a-b-y, Carla Thomas. Debora, T. Rex. Tequila, Baby Driver. Easy, Sky Ferreira. 25, Red Rocks Worship. Believer, Imagine Dragons.

Watching: Born to Be Wild documentary. Hillsong’s Let Hope Rise documentary. The BFG. Divergent. David Lopez videos. Paige Lowary: Unmasked. Jeopardy. World of Dance. Realities Of A Cross Country Team on the US-Mexico Border.

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.

Loving: Our Children’s Busyness Is Not A Badge of Honour by Tracy (Raised Good). Finding Your Self Behind the Illness by Callie (guest post at A Chronic Voice). Q&A with authors Teresa Messineo and Lauren Willig (Book Club Girl). You Didn’t Date? by Mrs. Zwemke (A Little Kernel). The Day I (Nearly) Died by Kenzie (Smudged Thoughts).

I blogged twice this month: EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: He’s Making Diamonds! and He’s Making Diamonds: What You Need to Know About Author S.G. Willoughby. I also blogged twice at THC: K.A. Emmons: Hardworking Creative and Painless Ways to Network (Also: Things Are Changing).

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!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He’s Making Diamonds: What You Need to Know About Author S. G. Willoughby

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.

He's Making Diamonds Front Cover

Click here to purchase Sara’s book, click here to watch the book trailer, and click here to follow her on Instagram.

EXCLUSIVE COVER REVEAL: He’s Making Diamonds!

(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 
  • Hope 
  • Praying through chronic illness 
  • Relationships in the midst of chronic illness 
  • And more!

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!
He's Making Diamonds Front Cover
I am LITERALLY so obsessed with this cover.
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.
It would also be a huge help to Sara if you’d add her book on Goodreads. To do that, simply click here. Sara’s book will be releasing on July 23rd!
And finally, Sara set up her cover reveal as a scavenger hunt, and my blog is the final stop! The clue word from my blog is: us.
Keep an eye out for Sara’s beautiful and encouraging book on July 23rd! She just may have someone very exciting writing the foreword…

June 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

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.

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!!

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.

This month I’m…

Reading: Caraval, Stephanie Garber. Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus, Nabeel Qureshi. Baby Island, Carol Ryrie Brink. No Promises in the Wind, Irene Hunt (reread). Undaunted, Josh McDowell. A Little Princess, Frances Hodgson Burnett (reread). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, J.K. Rowling (reread). We Were Liars, E. Lockhart (reread). Rilla of Ingleside, L.M. Montgomery (reread). The Green Glass Sea, Ellen Klages (reread). A Thousand Perfect Notes, C.G. Drews. 11 total.

Listening to: Drive, Ben Rector. Reckless Love, Cory Asbury. Dear Theodosia, Hamilton. Follow the Sun, Caroline Pennell. Finding Neverland original Broadway cast recording (especially: All Of London’s Here Tonight and When Your Feet Don’t Touch the Ground).

Watching: Spiderman Homecoming. Spoiled Rich Kid in the Library, part 2. Julia Robertson’s Vlogmas 2017. La La Land (rewatch). Bandstand (AWKSLGJSL YES) and the backstage vlogs.

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).

Loving: I didn’t have much time for reading blogs, but loved all of Brooke N’s blog posts. I blogged two times here (Sophie: One Year Later and Blog Tour: Story-Eyed [You Don’t Want To Miss This!]) and two times at THC (C.G. Drews: Hardworking Creative and 4 Ways To Break Out Of Creative Burnout [That Aren’t What You Think]).

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!

What did you do this month?