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…
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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?

 

 

Blog Tour: Story-Eyed (You Don’t Want To Miss This!)

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.)

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(forever drooling over the beauty of this logo)
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!
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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.
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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.
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Check out Story-Eyed HERE to keep up with all the exciting stuff that’s coming.
You can also follow Abby on Goodreads, Pinterest, YouTube, and Twitter.
Are you friends with Abby? If not, you should be–she’s pretty great! Are you going to check out Story-Eyed? (Hint–the answer here is YES!)

Sophie: One Year Later

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.)

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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).

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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.

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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”).

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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.) 

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).

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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…

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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 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

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.

 

 

 

 

This month I’m…

Reading: The Fates Divide, Veronica Roth. The Vanderbeekers of 141st Street, Karina Yan Glaser. Children of the Storm, Natasha Vins (reread). God’s Smuggler, John and Elizabeth Sherrill (reread). The Blood Race, K. A. Emmons (reread). Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi. Shadow and Bone, Siege and Storm, and Ruin and Rising, Leigh Bardugo (reread). Amy and Roger’s Epic Detour, Morgan Matson (reread). Let Me Be A Woman, Elisabeth Elliott. Pacifica, Kristen Simmons. 12 total.

Listening to: Les Mis soundtrack. There Is More album, Hillsong Worship (especially You Are Life). Old Friends, Ben Rector. Budapest, George Ezra.

Watching: Tom Holland compilations. Guess videos from Cut. Hidden Figures. The Maze Runner. Baby Driver. Infinity War.

Loving: Query letters and discouragement, the cwtch. Quantified Activity Tracking to Prevent Chronic Pain Flares, Life in Slow Motion. 5 Tips For More Authentic, Natural “Un-Posing,” Lindsey Roman. I blogged twice at THC–Mikayla Christiansen: Hardworking Creative and How to Support Other Creatives (when you’re broke).

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.

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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?

 

April 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

April was busy–I use a different color pen for work, softball, church, etc. on my calendar, and every day looks like a rainbow! I focused on writing (new freelance jobs + Camp NaNo), coaching softball (we had two games per week–well, except for all the rain–and so did my brother’s baseball team), and closing out the school year with after-school tutoring at my nonprofit (I was there 1-3 afternoons a week, finishing the month with a fun meeting about summer camp). Also, I decided on a new church home (which I LOVE) and my family decided on a separate church.

As far as “fun stuff,” I was able to go to the park with friends; see Black Panther and go to dinner with Brooke N; see our friend Jesse play baseball a couple of times with various friends and family; see The Miracle Season with my dad; and see family friends in Les Miserables with my dad. AND, for Emma’s nineteenth birthday, Hannah and I drove up to her college and surprised her! We had a dorm room picnic, she opened gifts, and we walked around campus.

This month I’m…

Reading: Inner Lives of Deaf Children, Martha Sheridan. Thunderhead, Neal Shusterman. The Girl who could See, Kara Swanson. The Weight of Glory, C.S. Lewis. Do More Better, Tim Challies. All the Light we Cannot See, Anthony Doerr (reread). Lady Midnight (reread) and Lord of Shadows, Cassandra Clare. Disciplines of a Godly Woman, Barbara Hughes. Esperanza Rising, Pam Munoz Ryan. Ana’s Story, Jenna Hager Bush. Betsy Was a Junior and Betsy and Joe (both rereads), Maud Hart Lovelace. 13 total.

Music: Home, Morgxn. How Can It Be Time Already, Adeline Hill. What About Us, P!nk. Found Tonight, Lin-Manuel Miranda and Ben Platt. Riptide, Vance Joy. Johnnyswim’s Georgica Pond album. The Theory of Everything soundtrack. My WIP soundtrack, especially Warsaw Zoo 1939. Hillsong Y&F Youth Revival acoustic album, especially Where You Are. Do You Hear the People Sing, Les Mis.

Watching: Bruin Banter. Kidsmeet. Rise. Black Panther (for the second time). The Miracle Season. Dunkirk (my new FAVORITE movie ever). The Zookeeper’s Wife. The Book Thief (re-watch). We got a Netflix DVD subscription this month, and I’m excited to watch more movies.

Loving: 25 Unexpected Life-Transformative Secrets I Learned from 3 Days with Katie Davis Majors, Ann Voskamp. THEIR BLOOD BE LAID: PART 1, by Aimee. We Need Higher-Quality Christian Art, by Grace. Wanted: People to Lead Us in the Way of Wonder, The Gospel Coalition. 10 Reasons I Love Books About Siblings, by Cait.

I blogged twice this month: Meet My Camp NaNo Novel! and The Book Life Tag. I also blogged twice at THC: Jordan-Paige Sudduth: Hardworking Creative, and How to Advertise Yourself on Social Media (without being obnoxious).

Writing: I broke 30,000 words of my novel World on a String (exclusive snippet below), therefore winning Camp NaNo! The novel isn’t over yet, but I’m so proud of myself. (Also I killed a character on day 1, which I feel like is some kind of record.) I took Joan Dempsey’s dialogue class and had a great mentor session with Annie Twitchell. My publisher, Story Shares, sent me a Kindle with 6 months of Kindle Unlimited as a reward for being their bestseller. I had devotionals published on Reckless Abandon, The Life, and Love is Moving. I completed trial assignments for a couple of companies. I applied to 15 freelance jobs, pitched 6 magazines, and submitted fiction to 15 publications. And finally, I did some work for a marketing company and wrote 6 reviews (2,000 words each) for Runnerclick.

Grateful for: A random receptionist at my brother’s orthodontist who was just so happy and cheerful. Slow days at work when I sit in the main room organizing with our teacher, coloring with our kindergartner, and complaining about Common Core with tutors who come by. Friends I can unload on after doctor visits. My mom getting me a battery for my laptop so it no longer dies after twenty minutes (I thought that was a normal length of time for a battery…). Playing singing Catchphrase with my family (“the hurky turkey makes me turnt”). Friends who invite you into their dorm room on very short notice and make you peppermint tea, and friends who let me borrow their college campuses when I want to hang out on one! Talking on the phone about freelance writing to writing friends. Sunshine and music and mountains.

Tell me everything you did in April! And what’s your weather like?

 

 

 

The Book Life Tag

No one tagged me in this, I just thought it looked fun. I’m busy and not doing well physically and I need more fun in my life–so this blog is going to begin transitioning over to things like this, and you can find my more professional posts on THC every other week. Let’s plan my perfect book life!

Who would your parents be?

(Not from a YA book–that’s for sure.) I have to go with Molly and Arthur Weasley on this one! I mean, who wouldn’t want them as parents? JUST READ THIS and then excuse me while I cry.

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Who would be your sister?

Lila from V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy! Because she’s the best and she would stab anyone who wouldn’t let me have cake. (That sentence sounded suspiciously like something Cait would say.) Also because can you picture Molly and Arthur Weasley trying to parent Lila Bard?! Because I just did and now I’m dying.

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couldn’t find a picture of just Lila that I liked so here’s this beauty of a quote

Who would be your brother?

You guys have NO IDEA how many choices I had here. I’ve always wanted an older brother, I’m obsessed with sibling relationships in books, and this was so hard to narrow down. But I’m going to say Florian Beck from Salt to the Sea because he’s the best in every way. And I’ll take Peter Pevensie too because he’s the ultimate Older Brother™. OH–and Shade from the Red Queen series. Final answer is Peter Pevensie though.

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To the clear northern sky, I give you King Peter the Magnificent. 

Who would be your pet?

My first thought was Hedwig or Fang or Buckbeak, but I don’t want this whole post to be Harry Potter (actually, who am I kidding? I wouldn’t care), so I’ll come up with something a little more original and throw it back to Wilbur. Because Charlotte’s Web will always be such a nostalgic, true, beautiful book to me. And because I’ve highkey wanted a pet pig since I was eight or nine.

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Where would you live?

NARNIA OBVIOUSLY.

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Where would you go to school?

Hogwarts! Because Hogwarts is OBVIOUSLY in Narnia. #ravenclawpride

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Who would be your best friend?

Nina Zenik from the Six of Crows duology! Mostly because I know she’d always have food with her and that is the kind of best friend I want to have. It’s basically a requirement if we’re going to hang out on a regular basis. Although I’d also be down to be best friends with Elsie Dinsmore because she would be a much better influence than Nina, tbh.

Who would be your significant other?

CHOICES CHOICES. Possibly Kilorn from the Red Queen series, but definitely Solomon from the Out of Time trilogy or Joe from the Betsy series. They’re both really sweet genuine guys (and good-looking). 

Overall impressions from this post: 1) I kept thinking of characters from musicals to answer the questions and then reminding myself that it’s BOOKS. But maybe I’ll do it with musicals next because that would be so fun??? 2) I need to reread the Chronicles of Narnia because it has been too long. And 3) it is just REALLY messing with me to think about living in Narnia, and attending Hogwarts, and Lila Bard and Nina Zenik being there too. My fandoms are colliding but I’m kind of cool with it.

If this tag looks fun to you, feel free to do it on your blog! And answer your favorite question in the comments.

Meet My Camp NaNo Novel!

I don’t have words to express how much I love the novel I’m writing for camp, World on a String. Honestly, I’m obsessed with it. I came up with the basic premise for this two or three years ago; it’s part the Betsy series (Maud Hart Lovelace), part the Dark Artifices series (Cassandra Clare), part Bandstand the musical, and part something else entirely. It simmered in the back of my mind for a while, and now here we are. It’s full of long light evenings playing baseball in the corner lot, broken boys who light cigarettes on the porch with shaky hands, and girls who have spent their whole lives wanting something more and never realizing it was right in front of them all along. Here’s the synopsis and my playlist, plus a mini-aesthetic that I CAN’T STOP LOOKING AT:

Now that WWII is over, 18-year-old Julia thinks life will be perfect, just like the way it used to be. She has big plans for the summer of 1946: attending parties, getting a job, and going back to school. But when her friend Dan returns home from the battlefield changed forever—and when her father doesn’t return at all, forcing Julia to give up her dreams to care for her siblings, including a deaf little sister whom she’s never really known—she realizes that nothing will ever be the same again.

I’ve always been a pantser–which is entirely in contrast to my 100% left-brained self–but with this novel, I actually outlined EVERYTHING. Not a super detailed outline–it’s less than 2k–but certainly more than I’ve done for any other novel. And I think this outline is what’s going to catapult me to actually meet my goal this April (plus the fact my writing mentor + other writer friends are holding me to it). My goal is 25k-30k, and as of right now, I’m at 13k (I started a couple of weeks before camp began, though).

I thought it would be a problem to find time to work on this novel since I’m freelancing about 35 hours a week now, plus working at my nonprofit and coaching softball, but I think my outline is going to see me through. (Why didn’t I realize sooner that outlining is good for me?! *facepalm*) My minimum weekly word goal is 4,500, and by Monday morning of this week I was already at 4,200. So it’s going amazingly well so far (knock on wood!). Plus, my cabin is “super chill.” 😉

This novel has been SO FUN. If you know me, you know I’ve always been obsessed with WWII and the Holocaust (my debut novel is set during the Holocaust!); although I was bitten by the spec fiction bug a year or two ago, historical fiction was my first love, so it’s great to be back. And even though the Deaf character in my novel doesn’t speak ASL, I’ve gotten out my old DVD curriculum and started learning again, in addition to lots of other research–talking to my aunt who’s an audiologist, emailing with some people at Gallaudet, reading multiple fascinating books about Deaf children, watching Deaf vloggers on YouTube, etc.

I also feel like it’s important to note I killed a character on day one of NaNo, which has to be some kind of record. I literally made myself cry.

My long-term fiction plan right now is to finish draft 1 of World on a String by mid-May, if not the end of April; edit my dystopian novel Angelica in May/June; and then edit World on a String and begin looking for an agent.

I’ll be back later in April with snippets from World on a String. Stay tuned!

Are you doing camp? Tell me all about your project in the comments!

 

March 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

March was a happy and busy month characterized by so much writing success! I launched my new website, The Hardworking Creative; received my first ever royalty check for my book; had several great articles published, including a print article where I interviewed a world champion athlete; started writing a new novel; went to an amazing writer’s conference; got three big new long-term, steady writing jobs; and made lots of money. Wow!

That was the main focus of my month, but I also coached softball twice a week (LOVE), worked at my nonprofit 1-3 times a week (most interesting conversation: a fifth-grade Burmese refugee casually telling me about her arranged marriage), and my family began visiting a new church that we all really like.

My health was pretty bad this month, so don’t ask me how I managed to do all this fun stuff. But here it is: went to Hobby Lobby and lunch with Cari and Erin; went to lunch and boutiques with Andrea; Brooke N came over for lunch (lol my friends and I like food) after church; I made new friends and had the BEST day at the Atlanta Writer’s Workshop; we went to the farm with some old friends; Brooke N and I went out for lunch and Barnes & Noble; Mom and Joshua and I saw The Greatest Showman (third time) and got fro-yo; we went to a nursing home with our new church; Cari and I had dinner and went to PetSmart (always a good time); Dad and I saw Black Panther; we went to a party/Easter Egg hunt with our old church; and we went to a Stations of the Cross event at Adventures in Missions.

This month I’m…

Reading: Salt to the Sea, Ruta Sepetys (reread–the BEST). This Savage Song, V.E. Schwab. Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, Kate Douglas Wiggin (reread). A Cactus in the Valley, Olivia J. Bennett. I’ll Scream Later, Marlee Matlin. A Time to Die, A Time to Speak, and A Time to Rise, Nadine Brandes (MY NEW FAVORITE BOOKS IN THE HISTORY OF EVER). Sisters First, Jenna Bush Hager and Barbara Pierce Bush. Hello Universe, Erin Entrada Kelly. 10 total.

Watching: Building a Youpreneur Business Around a Personal Brand. Rise on NBC. The Greatest Showman (third time). Black Panther (loved it!). Bringing Up Bates. Lots of sign language vlogs as well as my old ASL curriculum DVDs (as research for my new novel).

Writing: Where do I start? Okay. I launched my new website/blog, The Hardworking Creative, on March 1st. I received a royalty check for Hope is the Thing with Feathers (so COOL) and sent my novel Angelica to be critiqued. I did lots of research for my new historical fiction novel World on a String and wrote 7k words of it. I wrote four short stories and submitted stories to 20 magazines; I also applied to 8 jobs and pitched article ideas to 5 publications. I got several fan emails from strangers, including a few people who literally begged me to be their freelance writing mentor. (?) I spent basically the whole month in phone meetings. I had a fantastic Skype mentoring session. I spent the BEST DAY OF MY LIFE at the Atlanta Writer’s Workshop. I began a new job writing for a running shoe website; a freelance job I started in Jan finally kicked in with some work; and I’m in the trial phase writing for two marketing companies. (Aka I have ZERO time to do any writing I want to do anymore–but, I’m making money.) Last but not least, here’s everything I had published: “Sports for Homeschoolers” (print–Practical Homeschooling magazine); “Next Generation Focus” (print–Up in Cumming magazine); “Freshman Year,” Sunlight Press; “The 5 Craziest Words in English and How to Use Them,” Craft Your Content; and “Declaring the Light,” The Life.

Listening to: Never Enough, Greatest Showman. Love Goes On, Hillsong Y&F. Bandstand soundtrack. Man of Sorrows. Glorious, Rise (so obsessed). Get your Hopes Up, Josh Baldwin. Runaways, Sleeping Wolf.

Loving: The Strength to be Still by Bethany. How to Study the Bible: The Verse Brainstorming Method by Grace. 5 Things You Should Be Doing EVERY DAY To Stay Creative + Focused! by Abbie. to my writer friends by Hanne. Chronic Pain and the Book of Philippians by Esther. Let’s Rethink Our Language of “Calling” by the IMB. YA Contemporaries NEED economic diversity! by Sherbet Lemon Reviews.

I blogged two times over here this month: Atlanta Writer’s Workshop: What I Learned and Get Your Hopes Up. I blogged four times over at THC, and you can check out those interviews and posts here. (I’ll be writing over there much more than over here now, so definitely go sub by email if you haven’t.)

Grateful for: Sunshine and flowers and coffee. Dealing with horrible people at work being made not so horrible by laughing hysterically about it with coworkers when the person left. Reading a book in Spanish to one of the cute little boys at work. Having a baby in the house on a regular basis. All my amazing writing opportunities!! Sitting around a table eating chicharrones with Hispanic and Indian kids. The fact that our new church is the CUTEST building in the middle of the CUTEST valley. Brownie pie for pi day. Coming home at 8 intending to go to bed, but staying up for two hours reading old journal entries with Mom and Joshua. Making Easter baskets for some kids in the foster system. My favorite four-year-old unexpectedly climbing into my lap when we praying. Sitting down on the bucket of balls to give my 8U team a pregame talk and half of them immediately trying to sit in my lap.

What did you do in March? Tell me in the comments!

Get Your Hopes Up

I haven’t had steady freelancing work since last September. I’ve had lots of one-time jobs, but no steady clients–that is, until this past week. In the last seven days, I’ve gotten four steady freelance writing clients. I’ve spent the week trying to learn how to use three online platforms and sitting in phone meeting after phone meeting and taking notes on the invoice format that each client wants. It started out as exhilarating and descended into just overwhelmingly stressful. (The only reason I have a spare fifteen minutes to write this blog post is because one of the online platforms is having technical issues this morning, so I can’t upload my post.) I was still working hard every day and applying to tons of jobs during those six months, so what’s the difference between six months of not much and then this sudden explosion of steady clients that just keep calling me? At first I was baffled. But now I think I know.

I can’t tell you how many times I used to say the phrase “I don’t want to get my hopes up” every day. It was a lot. I was talking with a friend about faith a couple of weeks ago, and also thinking about another friend of mine who has so much faith. I wrote in my journal last week, “I never want to get my hopes up. But because of Who God is, am I free to get my hopes up? Hope will not put me to shame.” I wrote the specific name of a website that I had applied for a position with, but had heard absolutely nothing from them for two weeks, which seemed unusual. Right after writing that in my journal, I opened my email and I had an email from them. The next day I got that job.

Then things just kept flooding in. I began writing for the running website this week. I began writing about fitness for a content company (I technically got this job back in Dec/Jan, they just didn’t have any work for me until this week). I had a few meetings with a marketing company, and I’m in a trial phase working for them. Then last night–when I was already figuring out how many of my weekend plans I could cancel in order to stay home and work–I got a phone call from a company that helps musicians market themselves (something that I’m very passionate about–the whole reason I started The Hardworking Creative–and wanted to do, but didn’t know how to get started), and I’m in a trial phase writing for them.

Like I said, it started out really exciting this week–Wow! I’m going to be writing 40+ hours a week and making an adult salary!–and descended into insanely stressful–Wow, I’m going to be writing 40+ hours a week. I keep shortening my time at the nonprofit I work for (even though I love it there and I feel like I’m meant to be there) because I have so much writing work, and I haven’t worked on my new novel all week. This is what I wanted–to be a full-time freelance writer. The money is great, most of the work is fun, and it’s validation for my decision to skip the college degree (at least for now) and stay home and work this year. So I shouldn’t complain. But there’s definitely going to be a learning curve. The problem isn’t the writing itself–it’s figuring out how each company works (daily meetings? Oh. Okay), when invoices are due (introducing my three daily planners and my phone reminder app), and how to use the dang online platforms (all I have to say about this is ughhhhh).

Hopefully things will settle into a rhythm soon. (Unless any more clients call? I wouldn’t be surprised.) A few people have asked me lately what my day to day actually looks like. It’s always different, but I hope to get into more of a set schedule soon. Ideally, I’ll start waking up at 8 (it’s a struggle #chronicfatigueproblems); do freelance writing work from 9-11; work out/eat lunch/do chores or VO or something away the computer from 11-1; do freelance writing work from 1-4; hopefully still have the energy from 4-6 to work at my nonprofit or work on my own projects (like writing my novel); and then read or coach softball after dinner. If that’s even feasible? More and more clients keep getting added to my planners–definitely more than six hours’ worth of work per day. I work on Saturdays and I wanted to knock out some tasks from my new jobs today, but no one is around to help me out. So I’m off to watch my brother’s baseball game (my 8U team had their first game last night and lost 23-0…) and see Black Panther.

Anyway. This was just a stream of consciousness type thing to say that I’m officially a full-time freelance writer making big money, but it is not all rainbows and unicorns, and that I don’t think it’s a coincidence that all these clients came flooding in right after I got my hopes up, because hope won’t put me to shame.

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Do you struggle with having faith and getting your hopes up?