Atlanta Writer’s Workshop: What I Learned

Yesterday I went to a writing conference at a fancy hotel near Atlanta, and it was basically the best day ever! (Totally exhausting physically–but amazing in every other way.) I came away with two big impressions: one, although I’ve always wanted to make a living through being an author specifically, I would be happy to work in this industry in any capacity. And two–I have SO MUCH to learn about writing. Anyway, today I’m going to summarize my notes for all you fellow writers! This is going to be long (and probably not very cohesive), so feel free to skim through and just hit the seminars that are most applicable to you. (I also got my first royalty check in the mail Friday, so I’m feeling very much like a #professional #author this weekend.)

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Block One: Wordbuilding in Fantasy and Science Fiction (Tips and Traps)

This was probably the session where I learned the most. I don’t technically write fantasy or sci-fi (I write dystopian and historical fiction), but I love reading them, and a lot of the advice was applicable to general writing as well. Here’s some of it.

The golden standard of worldbuilding is this: not a word left out, and not a word left in. Don’t omit anything essential; however, remember that the reader doesn’t need every detail. They need to visualize it, but no info-dumps. You will need to know a lot of things in your head about your world–history, economics, etc. You can even write this out if you want. But don’t use it. Just let it influence your story.

The weirder your world is, the more you need to anchor your reader at the beginning of the scene. Anchor it in time, place, and POV (the reader needs to know whose head you’re in). Provide concrete and sensory details.

If you need to give your readers information about your world–while avoiding info-dumps–a good way to do this is to have a character who’s clueless and needs to be explained to. (Lots of authors use this strategy; think about the first Harry Potter book, or when Lucy first stumbles into Narnia.) Another good vehicle for dispensing information (especially about politics) is to have people argue. (Plus, this is more entertaining!) Try throwing in a curmudgeon or a know-it-all to argue with; people like bickering. That’s why reality TV gets such high ratings. Arguing stems from goals and is a form of conflict. Tension on every page is what sells books, and arguing definitely adds tension.

Filler scenes are where books go to die. The kitchen table scene–where characters are sitting around and discussing either what just happened, or what’s about to happen–drives agents crazy. If possible, cut a scene like this.

In addition to the overarching conflict that’s the core of the novel, every chapter should: resolve current conflict (giving the reader immediate gratification), set up the conflict for the next chapter (making sure the reader keeps going), and hint at the conflict for the chapter after that.

Block Two: Voice and Craft–Tips on How to Write like the Pros

This session was mostly review for me, so I’ll just skim through my notes. Brian Klemes (former Writer’s Digest editor) recommended avoiding prologues whenever possible–especially prologues that happen out of time sequence. When starting your novel, open with conflict–not action. Have the main character face a challenge right away in order to help the readers get to know the character. Conflict drives readers’ emotions.

A “save the cat” moment is when you establish that your character is a good person (think about the firefighter rescuing the little old lady’s cat from the tree). Most books have this in the first 10 pages; think about Katniss volunteering in place of her sister. Alternatively, you could have a “kill the cat” moment.

Tighten your sentences; only use necessary words (not like this song). Keep dialogue short, too–in TV shows, characters never say goodbye when on the phone because it takes up unnecessary time.

Include hooks at the end of your chapter. A hook is different from a cliffhanger–cliffhangers are something big, whereas a hook can be smaller.

Pick up the pace of your novel; every five pages or so, give your MC something unexpected. JK Rowling does this well.

Develop your voice–the personality and style in which you write. This is like how every musician puts their own twist on the Star Spangled Banner. Be aware, though, that sometimes your character may have a different voice than your own.


I went to lunch with some new friends I met in the morning–one girl Lauren (plus her grandmother) whom I didn’t know previously, and another girl, Aleigha, whom I vaguely knew from the Young Writers Workshop Facebook page. We walked to the mall food court and had a great time talking. I also got to meet agent Tessa Emily Hall later in the day. Honestly, the best part of the workshop was interacting with other writers–when I walked in and saw the registration line, it hit me that all of these hundreds of people also wrote stories and also had big ambitions for their stories, and it was so cool.


Block Three: “Writers Got Talent”–A One Page Critique Fest

I slipped into this session at the last minute (literally) just because my friends were going–I didn’t submit the first page of my novel. But here are a bunch of random notes from the half-dozen agents that critiqued the first pages of several writers’ novels:

You only have a few seconds to grab agents. Don’t begin with lots of description or exposition–no one cares. We should know who your character is within the first paragraph. Never start off with someone dreaming or waking up. Be careful with the shape of the text (basically just how the words look on the page); again, avoid long info-dump paragraphs, and never include backstory at the beginning. Everything is about spacing out backstory. Agents like to see dialogue pretty soon on the page–have a good balance of narration, action, and dialogue. Make sure to establish your genre (history? No pop culture references. Fantasy? Add in fantasy elements on the first page). Avoid purple prose (lots of adjectives–a form of telling). If you make your reader be invested in something, follow through. And finally, never start an MG/YA book with a description of hair or clothes.

Block Four: How to Revise and Self-Edit Your Manuscript

Gather up feedback from betas, agents, and editors before jumping in. If you don’t agree with feedback but you’ve heard it more than once, think about it.

Character should be different, but consistent. They shouldn’t speak like the narrator–each one should be recognizable by the structure of their speech.

Really keep track of your days and times and make sure they flow, because people will nail you on that. And don’t let plot threads drop–even if it’s as small as mentioning that the characters started working a jigsaw puzzle, then they need to be shown finishing it at some point.

Do a search and kill all overused/weak words (really, very, pretty). Otherwise, you’re instantly marked as a newbie.

If people are saying they didn’t connect with your characters, think about POV. 3rd person is too far from the action and doesn’t cause connection; consider making it closer.

Some books call for a prologue, even though most people hate them. The person in the prologue should be the MC–or at least, the prologue should connect well to the rest of the story.

Rather than making an outline before you begin, try just making a list of things that need to happen at some point in the story. This might work for you if you float in-between being a plotter and a pantser (like me).

Commercial fiction–you see a movie in your head. It’s a page-turner. Literary fiction–beautiful words. The characters meander through. It doesn’t necessarily end well, but people love those beautiful words. Upmarket fiction–has a literary feel and a big hook. Something different. Girl on the Train, for example. It doesn’t translate to movies well. Mainstream fiction–not genre-driven. Appeals to a wide audience. If you’re not sure where your book fits, think about store bookshelves and how many words are in front of “fiction.”

Having a pro editor take a look at your manuscript before querying agents is a good idea. They’re typically $2-$4 a page. Never pay $10/page.

Block Five: 25 Questions You Need Answered Before you Seek an Agent or Self-Publish


Things that stuck out to me:

You don’t NEED an agent. Some publishers accept unaccented queries. However, you’ll have to handle the business stuff, and you may not have as many connections as an agent would.

If an agent charges you money to represent you, run.

#1 reason agents reject writers–writers query agents who don’t represent what they’re writing. Do your homework. Try the annual book “The Guide to Literary Agents.”

Query letters have four parts. Intro–the basics; book title/word count. Pitch–abbreviated version of your story (MC, their life, inciting incident, subplots, climax, and DON’T reveal the ending). Qualifications/credentials–don’t mention small awards, only big ones. Finally, end with why you picked that agent, or mention what books are comparable to yours. If an agent requests a synopsis, send 1-2 pages covering the plot points, challenges, and the ending.

Always keep 5 query letters in circulation. If there’s a point where you want to give up, query 20 more agents after that. For novels, 80-100 queries is a good benchmark.

When pitching agents, be helpful, kind, and make yourself visible/make friends before beginning the business stuff.

Always stay excited about writing. Enjoy every step in the process.

Wow! That was a lot. Which seminar would you have most liked to attend? Have you ever been to a writing conference? Did you learn anything from my messy notes? Did you/do you want to indie publish or go traditional?




February 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

I kicked off the month by hanging out at my friend Brooke N’s house, going to lunch with my friend Jayna, seeing The Death Cure (WHICH WAS SO SAD BUT SO GOOD), and making dozens and dozens of cookies. Then I got the flu and didn’t leave the house for six days; it was AWFUL. I turned 19 on the 11th, but most of my birthday plans had to be canceled because I was still getting over being sick; I did get to go to a Tim Hawkins concert with my dad, brother, and friend Anna, and my parents gave me a Ravenclaw blanket that I love.

Other fun stuff: I hung out at my former youth pastor’s house, went to Helen for the day with Madeleine, practiced at the ballpark with Joshua/Jesse/Anna/Caleb, and then my friends Emma and Hannah came and spent the weekend when I finally got well (it was eighty degrees and we did amazingly fun stuff like watch a movie on blankets in the backyard, and eat scones and fruit for brunch).

My grandmother, who had been living with us since the first of the year, went home at the end of the month. And softball practice started! I spent the whole month dying for practice to start so I could meet my team of eight-year-olds. (The first practices were the same weekend that, two years ago, my chronic illness that is part of what prevented me from playing college ball first surfaced.)

Also, quote of the month from a second-grade Hispanic girl at my nonprofit: we saw a police car go by outside the window and she said, “I hate polices. They always come to my house and take my mom to jail, and it makes me sad because then I don’t get to see her.” It was a stressful month at work because we lost several of our high school tutors, but gained several more kids.

Reading: (not much because I watched the Olympics every night instead) King’s Cage, Victoria Aveyard. All the Crooked Saints, Maggie Stiefvater. Jo’s Boys, Louisa May Alcott (reread). The Doldrums and The Doldrums and the Helmsley Curse, Nicholas Gannon. 5 total (I KNOW, I’M A FAILURE).

Listening to: Marching On, Rend Collective/Hillsong Y&F. 2 AM, Adeline Hill. No Wonder, River Valley Worship. Just the Beginning, Grace Vanderwaal. My Love, Gracie Bee. Right Hand Man, Hamilton.

Watching: The Death Cure and endless interviews with the cast. The Amazing Race. The Winter Olympics, and endless interviews with various athletes. My irl friend Ethan’s new YouTube videos. Emma Abrahamson’s YouTube videos. Kubo and the Two Strings.

Loving: One in-between Moment by Kyla Rain at Sea Foaming. basic [a slam poem] at Burning Youth. journal excerpts + pics 2017 by Olivia at summer of 1999. Interviewing my First Novel by Katie at A Writer’s Faith. ASPIRE: indies taking the world by storm / Keira by Kate at the goodness revolt. {THE GUIDE TO BEING A FULL-TIME DREAMER} how to chase your dreams without ignoring reality or being completely obsessive by Audrey at Audrey Caylin.


I blogged two times this month: “My Bucketlist” and “Cycles (I finished my novel???).”

Writing: I wrote lots of articles; one about Flannery O’Connor, one about unique words, one about my nonprofit. I was supposed to edit Angelica but haven’t really. I wrote three short stories, titled Lost Boy Rules, Safe, and Stone Citadel. I invested a ton of time into a secret project that’s coming TOMORROW. I applied to 13 freelance jobs, pitched four magazines/websites with article ideas, and submitted fiction to 18 magazines. I also had a bunch of stuff published: 5 Ways to Work Out with your Kids for Vitabella Magazine; Love the Local Eats for Cumming Local; Working for the Lord for Reckless Abandon Ministries; and Write Faster: 4 Tips from a Fired-Up Young Freelancer for Making a Living Writing. Go read them!!


Grateful for: Getting a totally unexpected Lush cosmetics package from a friend in Michigan after I’d had the flu all week. Valentine’s day food and presents and cards with my family. Eating praline brownies and watching the Olympics with my family late at night (8:30 is late for me ok). Finally getting to go back to work (at my nonprofit) after being out sick for two weeks. My friend and I having our first softball game back/first practice coaching on the same night and being deliriously excited together. Buying a gorgeous/soft/cute $8 green/gray cardigan that I’ve worn literally every day. MY FRIENDS because they are so. good. Finally getting a pull-up bar installed on my bedroom doorway. Anna coming to see me when I was alone at work and making me laugh hysterically.

What did you do this month? What was your weather like? What are you grateful for?

Cycles (I finished my novel??)

I wrote this blog post on the last day of January and today is the first time I’ve even opened my Angelica document until then. (And I must admit that I have tears in my eyes and literal goosebumps on my arms after reading through all 71 pages of cohesive story for the first time.) But–I’ll be back. That’s the whole point of this post, after all: cycles.

I’m almost done with my YA dystopian novel Angelica.

Typing that sentence feels weird–and scary–and hecka exciting.

Weird because what will I do with myself when it’s done and I’m not spending an hour each day with my characters? Scary because, even though I’m a published author, I’ve never gone through all the agents-queries-etc rigamarole. Exciting because at this time last year, I was getting feedback on a scene from Angelica at a writing group and telling a local author with resignation, “I never finish novels.” And she said with complete confidence, “You will write novels. You will write lots of novels.” For the first time, I feel like it actually might be true.

I started Angelica in January 2017 and worked hard on it for a while; I was at 16,000 words by the end of February. Angelica started as a few hundred-word snippets born from Pinterest inspiration, blossomed into something longer, and then stopped abruptly in March–which is what my “novels” typically do. But for once, I came back. I picked up Angelica again last August. It was so amazing seeing how I understood the story so much better; all the pieces were falling into place. I quit working on Angelica in early October–I basically gave up and just decided it would be a novella–and didn’t start again until the first of the year. I planned to just do edits, but somehow several new pieces of the story appeared and all fell together. On January 31st, 2018, I broke 40k, finished telling the story, and understood the story even more than ever.

I’m learning that I’m not a fast writer. In some ways I’m incredibly fast; when I write a 1,000-word short story each week, it never takes me more than thirty minutes. But with novels, I’m different. I work in cycles. I’m obsessed with a certain story for a month or two, and I get lots done–but then the feeling is gone and I don’t care. I’m ready for another story, another world. The key–which I had not found yet when I was younger–is to keep coming back, cycle after cycle, month after month, until the story is over. Which Angelica more or less is.

Even though I’m over Angelica at the moment, I plan to go through it a few more times and have it ready for a friend to critique by March 10th. I think I’m going to order myself a print copy from Lulu, both as a reward and to help me later when I do another round of edits. Then I’m going to continue to roll with the cycle and focus on other things. I need to finish my two middle-grade novels, Florida Market and Warsaw Children. I also need to spend time researching agents. After that, I have so many new novels to plot. I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a YA historical fiction novel titled I’ve Got the World on a String, but I’ve honestly been bitten by the spec fiction bug during the last several months, and I really just want to write spec fiction. Maybe I’ll write a sequel to Angelica. But then, I also kinda want to write a contemporary a la the short story Shatter Me I wrote last year. Basically, I don’t know! There are so many stories to be told, it’s difficult to narrow down which ones I want to tell.

But the point here is that every writer works differently, and I have finally learned that I work in cycles. Now that I know that, I can hack my own system and write more novels than ever before. I’m so excited–and I hope that before long, Angelica will be traditionally published and in your hands! Here’s an aesthetic to get you excited.




Fellow novelists, how do you work best? Do you bang out a 60k novel during NaNo, or does it take you years to get there? (Either way is fine!)

My Bucketlist

In my moments of spare time recently–which have been few and far between–I’ve been dreaming about exciting things I want to do in my life. This list definitely isn’t complete, but it’s what I’ve come up with so far–both career-related goals/dreams, and vacation/fun-related ones. In no particular order, enjoy my bucketlist!

1. Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando.

Preferably this will happen with Hannah, my best friend who is also obsessed with Harry Potter. I’m planning on this one happening in the next couple of years… as far as traveling goes, it’s very doable since it’s just one state away! I’m dying to go.


2. Vienna, Austria. Copenhagen, Denmark. Prague, Czech Republic. Warsaw, Poland.

Whenever someone asks me where I’d travel if I could travel anywhere in the world, I say Eastern Europe. Ahhh. Holocaust history, beautiful mountains, delicious food… honestly, need I say more? Unfortunately, my Europe tour may be several years down the road because money.

(For more places I want to go, hit up my “travel” Pinterest board… these are just top priority!)


3. Visit where the Narnia movies were filmed.

My favorite movies–this would be so cool! They were filmed primarily in New Zealand; below you can see the location of the battle between Aslan and the White Witch, which was filmed in Flock Hill, west of Christchurch. I also want to visit Cathedral Cove, the site of the Cair Paravel ruins–I love the beginning of Prince Caspian. So beautiful.


4. Adopt lots of dogs.

This will probably begin the very day I move out in a couple of years. I like big dogs–Golden Retrievers, Great Pyrenees (middle) (idk what the plural is??), St. Bernards, and Burmese Mountain Dogs (left). I’d also love a spaniel (right) because EARS, and I’ve decided beagles have their good points too (it’s just that Sophie personally doesn’t have very many of them).


5. Become a foster parent.

I have wanted to do this for years. Whether I do short-term respite care or foster to adopt, this is definitely a path I want to pursue down the road once I’m older and, again, have enough money to support not only myself, but other people too. Ha.

6. Compete on American Ninja Warrior.

If I am ever healthy again, the first thing I’ll do will be to start training towards this.

7. Visit cool libraries.

I don’t have any specific names, but I’ll find some! I’ve been to the Library of Congress, but wasn’t super impressed haha. I’m also going to have an amazing home library.

8. See a Broadway musical on Broadway.

Except all my favorites have closed. Boo. But more will come!

9. Take a road trip across the USA with friends and/or family.

I want to do this SO. BADLY.


10. Write for a national [print] publication.

Preferably a fitness magazine–or, it’d be great to have some fiction published in something with a huge circulation. I submitted fiction to the New Yorker a year ago and they declined me, but we’ll keep trying.

11. Release baby turtles into the ocean.

My mom has done this and I just think it’d be so cool.


12. Be in a movie.

Preferably with lines–not just as an extra. I have wanted to get into acting for the screen for YEEEEARS.

13. Write a script or somehow help in the directing/producing of a big movie. 

Like I said. Filmmaking has always been fascinating to me.

14. Go to the Little League World Series with Joshua.

We’ve been talking about this since 2013, I think. We’ve had our entire itinerary planned out for years, and we are so so excited. Hopefully this will happen within the next three to six years, when Joshua is in high school and when I have more money than I do now HAHA. (Money–and how I don’t have any–is a recurring theme throughout this bucketlist, if you haven’t noticed.)


15. Sign a thousand books that I’ve written.

I’ve signed about forty so far. I think? I’m planning on signing LOTS more.

16. Be on the NY Times bestseller list.

Because, this would just be too cool. Been dreaming of this for years.

17. Get my standing back and front tuck.

I’ve been an avid gymnastics fan for about four years now, and I would love to find the time to take an adult gymnastics class or something.

18. Get my splits back AND take lyrical or contemporary dance classes long-term.

Because I really really miss dance.

19. Go to the Olympics.

As a spectator, hahahahaha. #haileyforsoftball2020

20. Write a nonfiction devotional book.

For the most part, I want to write fiction books; I don’t want to make a living by churning out another devotional year after year. But I would really love to write just one devotional–I have a few ideas bouncing around.

21. Memorize a book of the Bible.

I started memorizing James a couple of years ago, and I did two-and-a-half chapters in English and one in Spanish before I kind of stopped. I don’t want to cheat and do 3 John or something… but I also shrink from the thought of memorizing Isaiah (my favorite book). I’ll have to find a happy medium.

22. Israel tour.

For years now, I have been dying to visit the Holy Land. I mean, how amazing would it be?


23. See the Passion Play in Oberammergau, Germany.

The next one is in 2020. Not sure if I’ll make that, but at some point this is definitely something I need to get checked off.

24. Live at the beach.

I don’t know whether this will be long-term, but I think it would be SO fun to rent a condo or cottage on Seaside or Rosemary beach and stay for at least a summer. I could spent the mornings and evenings walking on the beach, and write a novel all day.


25. Release a lantern at a Lantern Festival.

I had some friends who traveled to Alabama and did this last year, but I didn’t jump on the bandwagon quickly enough. I’m obsessed now, though.


What’s on your bucketlist? Anything on here that you want to do with me? All pictures in this post from Pinterest.


January 2018 Monthly Wrap-Up

January was characterized by transition; my grandmother came to live with us while she’s recovering from surgery. I officially left my home church (not completely full-time though) and began visiting around for something new. I invested a ton of time in a HUGE project (it’s literally my heart and soul) that’s coming March 1st. I became an official employee of the nonprofit I work for and tweaked my schedule a little–I work more hours a week than last year, but less days per week. I was asked to be the head coach of an 8U softball team this spring–wow, what a dream come true!! I went to way too many doctor’s appointments (which included fun stuff like my neuro making me drink baking soda every day). I also had a stomach virus for the first time in years and y’all, I would rather have D.I.E.D. a slow and painful death.

Fun stuff: I saw The Greatest Showman twice (AHHHHHHH MY LOVE FOR PASEK AND PAUL’S MUSIC IS ENDLESS), went to an outdoor mall with my brother and our friends Marshall and Thomas, went to Huddle House with a younger friend from church, had a photoshoot with my friend Jordan, went to a weekend choir festival with the youth choir from my home church (click here to watch a video I made of the weekend), and hung out at a cute coffee shop with my friend Reyvin. I also found out that my grandpa is taking my aunt, uncle, Joshua, and me on an Alaskan cruise this summer!!!


This month I’m…

Reading: Under the Lilacs, Louisa May Alcott (reread). The Blood Race, K.A. Emmons (TOO TOO DANG EPIC). A Darker Shade of Magic, A Gathering of Shadows, and A Conjuring of Light, V.E. Schwab (W.O.W. SHE IS MY NEW FAVORITE AUTHOR). Red Queen and Glass Sword, Victoria Aveyard (reread). The Night Circus, Erin Morgenstern (reread). All the Little Things, Brooke Norris (my irl friend!!). Lion, Saroo Brierly. 10 total.


I also made a bookstagram and you should go follow it–nothing fancy, just me fangirling.

Listening to: Moments to Memories, Adeline Hill. THE ENTIRE GREATEST SHOWMAN SOUNDTRACK, HUNDREDS OF TIMES. Also the Anastasia soundtrack, and Seventeen from Tuck, and Stuff We Did from Up (excuse me while I stare out the window at the rain and think melancholy thoughts about life).

Loving: What if my clothing purchases are contributing to someone else’s poverty? by Amy. Surrendered Dreams by Eliza (Window into My World). Why Kids Books Should Be a Little Sad by Kate DiCamillo (for Time). Across the Globe by Elizabeth Anne (chasing moonlight).

I blogged twice this month: Fighting Injustice Without Hate (I feel like the title doesn’t really address what the post is actually about, but go read it because this is really important to me), and Fruit of the Spirit Project: January (Gentleness).

Watching: Amazing Race. American Ninja Warrior. Julia Robertson’s road trip vlogs. JessetheReader. Interviews with the cast of The Death Cure.

Writing: In the way of fiction, I began working on my dystopian novel Angelica again and wrote about 12k words, doing lots of important expanding; it’s now at exactly 40k, the end is in sight, and I remembered how much I LOVE this story. I’m also writing one short story a week this year. The first four were titled Circus Runaway, When You Left, Above the City, and Rain in Paris. I submitted fiction to 18 magazines/contests, and I also took a course on Show, Don’t Tell from Excelsior Writing School that was extremely fun and helpful! (Over on my Facebook, I’m doing a flash giveaway with cute bookmarks–and while you’re there, check out the cookies I’m selling to help Sara).

In the way of freelancing, I technically started a big new job this month, but haven’t actually gotten any work yet. It’s a weird, unpredictable process. *shrugs* So I filled my time applying to 18 jobs and pitching 17 magazines/websites. I also joined the Reckless Abandon blog team, and had a phone interview for a dream fitness writing job. I was asked to develop a writing curriculum and I wish I had time. I had a devotional published here, a health and wellness article published here, and another devotional published here. And Hanne interviewed me!


Grateful for: This little boy in the movie theater who made best friends with us and then was breakdancing and had the whole theater clapping for him. That it snowed again… but also, getting fro-yo and going to the park on a 70 degree day. Being used by God to encourage a friend. The reaction of a friend’s younger sister when I ran into her at work. A fun (and well-paying) voiceover job where my reading of the script will be piped through the building at an escape room-type thing in an amusement park. Also I realized that I love Chinese food this month which I never knew before!


This conversation is worth noting:

Today Joshua ate a chocolate that had “Kahlua” listed as the flavor. Mom pointed out that that was a kind of alcohol. Joshua (who’s twelve) said, “Drat! I was trying to stay sober. There goes my dry January.”

Big takeaway from January: it’s not a wasteland just because I labeled it one. 

What did you do this month? Have you read V.E. Schwab’s books? Are you having snow, or 70 degree weather, or both? Tell me everything!

Fruit of the Spirit Project: January (Gentleness)

“Let your gentleness be evident to all.” –Philippians 4:5

Gentleness is such a nice concept, such a nice trait. Matthew 11:29–Jesus is gentle. He connects gentleness with humility–gentleness is wanting to humbly help other people. Meek and lowly are also related words. Jesus was gentle to the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). God is overwhelmingly gentle with us. Being gentle doesn’t mean we should be a doormat; we still need to be strong in our beliefs. However, it does mean we should be loving when we express said beliefs to others.

this picture is totally unrelated to this post but I miss that time last month when Georgia became Narnia

We’re coming up on our final month of the Fruit of the Spirit project: self-control. In February, I’m not going to eat any refined sugar except my birthday dessert, and I’m only going to allow myself to visit each social media platform that I’m on one time per day for 15 minutes each time (unless I’m working–for example, scheduling Facebook posts for the nonprofit I work for). Sort of like a mini-Lent. Feel free to join me!

What did you learn about gentleness this month? How do you plan to work on having self-control in February?

Fighting Injustice Without Hate

If you’ve been living under a rock, this week Larry Nassar, USAG (USA Gymnastics) doctor who sexually abused hundreds of girls, was sentenced to 175 years in prison.

I’ve been an avid gymnastics fan for several years. I remember seeing Nassar on TV or in photos from every event. I remember when the first accusations started to surface, and USAG brushed them under the rug. I remember when the more prominent gymnasts, the ones whom you’ve probably heard of even if you aren’t a gymnastics fan, started to speak out and could no longer be ignored. All of this led up to last week, when over 150 athletes testified in court. Among them was Jordyn Wieber, one of the first gymnasts I ever fell in love with and started following. I cried when I watched her video. Something of this magnitude is difficult for anyone to hear about, but so many of the survivors’ sentiments resonated with me personally.


This is basically all that has been in my Twitter newsfeed, and I was incensed about the whole thing. But when I started to find myself thinking the same kind of sentiments about Nassar that I saw on Twitter–which I won’t repeat because they’re so ugly–I was brought up short. As a Christian, how should I respond to this issue? I hate what Nassar did and I am all about empowering the survivors and educating the next generation to prevent any child ever being abused again–but is it okay to hate Nassar himself?

The Bible says no. (Luke 6:27-28, Matthew 5:44, Matthew 7:12, Romans 12:14, Proverbs 20:22) I know it’s an easy call for me to make, because I didn’t stand up in that courtroom and speak. If you’re going to hate someone, Nassar is an easy target and a worthy one. I will never condone his actions or attempt to justify them. But my life as a Jesus follower is supposed to be about love. If you’ve been following this case as well, and maybe you’re not a Christian and plan to continue hating Nassar with a vengeance, I am 100% not preaching at you. Please do not get the impression that I’m saying “everyone has to love child molesters!” I am saying, though, that I was personally convicted this week about the way I was approaching the whole situation. I can be passionate about injustice, yeah–but without hating its perpetrators.

Christians are supposed to abhor what is evil (Romans 12:9), and if that isn’t clear by now, I do. I completely abhor what happened to these 150+ women; I abhor any kind of abuse, and I hurt for anyone who has a story of it. But we’re also commanded to love. So simple, and yet so difficult when you hear about someone like Nassar.

Empowering girls has been a theme in my life lately and I am all about it. I was making a birthday card this week for an elementary school girl in my life; she speaks five languages and translates for her parents. Their financial situation is so bad, they couldn’t even buy her a cake for her recent birthday. I told her I think she’s a fantastic writer and artist and I know she’s going to go far in life, because I don’t think anyone has ever told her that before. Then recently I was having a conversation with a girl at church who complained that her “boyfriend” (insert me rolling my eyes into my head because she’s in FIFTH GRADE) won’t stop hugging her even though she asked him to stop, and I told her that she needs to get an adult to back her up because no one should touch her if she doesn’t want them to. And also, I’ve been asked to be the head coach of an 8U softball team this spring (dream come true!!!), and there is so much I want to teach them on and off the field that I don’t even know where to start.

I don’t necessarily agree with all of the connotations that come with the word “empower” and how it is used today. But, I am ALL about telling girls they have value and they are worthy and LOVED. I am all about USAG (finally) making steps towards change. I am all about applauding the 150+ brave survivors who spoke in the courtroom. I just think that I needed a perspective shift this week. Because as a Christian, I can fight fiercely all day long for the causes I believe in–which I 100% plan to do. I just don’t want to hate anyone.

Have you been following the Nassar case? Do you think it’s okay to hate the people who commit crimes? How do you empower the young girls around you?


December: Faithfulness + Mini Month in Review

For my Fruit of the Spirit project, this month focused on faithfulness. Faithfulness is really similar to loyalty, in a lot of ways; if you think about God’s faithfulness to us, He shows it by always staying close and guiding us through trials, so we should display that same kind of loyalty to Him and to others. When I’m faithful/loyal to someone, I want them to be able to depend on me. And being faithful to God is also about obeying His commands.

I won’t talk about everything I did this month, because you were here for most of it! Click here to go to day 1 of Blogmas, and then you can click through to the rest if you missed any. My highlights include selling my book at the Blairsville Holiday Stop & Shop, having an amazing adventure in the snow with Madeleine, having the kids’ Christmas musical at church, being in a movie with my brother and best friend, working working working like crazy (+ getting a big long-term content writing job), and having an amazing Christmas day. It was such a full month, in a very good way.

This last week after Christmas was filled with lots of reading and lots of playing Exploding Kittens (a super fun card game that Joshua received). Besides a trip to the doctor and a trip to look at Christmas lights with my dad (+ Joshua and I going to the batting cages today), I haven’t left the house in a week, which has been SO nice because I was gone basically every single other day in December! I organized my bathroom, room, and books (all 325 of the ones in my room), and later in the week I got back to work with writing/VO/working out. I also spent a lot of time planning my upcoming month and the upcoming year (I love planning, lol). And today my grandmother is coming to live with us for a couple of months as she continues to recover from her surgery. Also, I became a Goodreads author this week–please take a moment to go mark my book as “want to read,” or, if you’ve read it, leave a review! It helps me so much. (I also noticed this morning that an ebook I wrote for a client is on Goodreads as well, so feel free to mark it too.)

This month I’m…

Reading: Off Balance, Dominique Moceanu (reread). Gold Medal Winter and Gold Medal Summer, Donna Freitas (rereads). The Long Winter and Little Town on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder (rereads). Since You’ve Been Gone and The Unexpected Everything, Morgan Matson (rereads). Uninvited, Lysa TerKeurst. Little Men, Louisa May Alcott (reread). 9 total, and I read 135 books total this year.

Writing: This is not at all a comprehensive list of what I did. Blogmas impacted my record-keeping in a bad way. But, I did submit fiction to five magazines/contests, pitch three magazines, and apply for 14 jobs. I had a devotional published here, and a couple of guest posts published on friends’ blogs: Suffering in Silence and 2017: Set Free. I was also interviewed at the Modern Witnesses blog.

Listening to: Do You Love Me?, Miracle of Miracles, and Matchmaker, Fiddler on the Roof. Once Upon a December, Anastasia. World’s Best Friend, Amelie. Prologue, Great Comet. Up on the Housetop, Pentatonix. Drummer Boy, Justin Bieber (honestly, not even ashamed). Jingle Bell Rock, Bobby Helms. Other assorted Christmas tunes. You and I, JohnnySwim. Time Stood Still, Adeline Hill. This is Me, The Greatest Showman (this video is ELECTRIFYING, wow. Please go watch–these amazing creatives giving it everything they’ve got for their passion project of seven years just gives me chills).

Wow what a month! I had so much fun blogging it all. What was the highlight of your December?


Blogmas 2017 Day 25

Last night, I laid in bed thinking about how a book that wrote was wrapped up under multiple Christmas trees, waiting to be opened–and how cool that is!

I had told Joshua to wait until eight to wake me up today, but then a friend texted at 6:30 to wish me Merry Christmas, so I gave up on sleeping–but I did stay in bed with Sophie until eight. Opening presents was SO fun! We tried to make it last as long as possible. I gave my dad a satirical journalistic article I wrote about his life, plus a rock that I painted with the Atlanta Braves logo. I gave my brother some stamps from all over the world (ordered from Etsy) for his stamp collection, and a rock I painted with the Hamilton logo. I gave my mom a painting of Sophie done by a lady in my town (and also her favorite tweet, in her stocking).



In my stocking I received lots of candy, socks (one pair with Sophie’s face on them), EOS lip balm, and paint. From my immediate family I received a Harry Potter calendar, two wooden signs for my room, a dystopian card game called Coup, and five books: Uninvited, Little Men, Mark My Words, A Writer’s Guide to Harry Potter, and The Emotion Thesaurus. Then I went shopping on Amazon with money from extended family (which was SO fun, because I don’t really shop for myself). I bought some notecards with watercolor Bible verses on the fronts, a Harry Potter Trivial Pursuit game (can’t stop screaming about how excited I am about this), the Hamilton CD for my car, and four more books: The Blood Race, Wired for Story, Looking for God in Harry Potter, and All the Light we Cannot See.



Sophie was pretty good this morning–she loves to eat paper, but she had new squeaky tennis balls in her stocking, so she was okay. Eventually she did get banished, though. With six balls, she reminded us of this video (so now Joshua and I have spent the evening laughing hysterically at dog vines).


My aunt, uncle, and cousin came for lunch. We had our typical meal–ham, sweet potato souffle, baked pineapple, chicken and dumplings, rolls, green beans, corn, chocolate pie, and cherry dump cake. Then we visited for a few hours and had such a nice time. Joshua and I looked through the stamps I gave him and built his new Lego set. When our company left, I was exhausted, and I read a couple of my new books until we ate leftovers for dinner. It couldn’t have been a better Christmas.


Thanks for sticking around for all 25 days of Blogmas! I was looking forward to Blogmas all year, and I’m sad to see it go. But I have lots of exciting new content coming up. I’ll probably be posting bi-weekly the next few months; I’ll finish up my Fruit of the Spirit project (next installment coming this Sunday, along with a mini month in review), I might review a few books, and I definitely have some rants in store. My family got one at the dinner table tonight that they didn’t even ask for: in a nutshell, it drives me crazy when people want something, but they aren’t actively DOING ANYTHING ABOUT IT. If you want something, go get it. You have to work for it. At the end of this year, it’s an amazing feeling to think about all the things I wanted at this time last year, and to see how they have now come to pass. (Hey, I’m still in a bestseller contest through Sunday, so go buy my book! Winners will be announced in early January, and I fully expect my name to be at the top–but that can’t happen without your help.)

The next couple of days will be filled with reading and card games and organizing projects, and then I’ll slowly get back into the swing of writing work. We’re also preparing for a transition–more on that this weekend. It has been a crazy great December and I’m so glad you came along with me!

Here’s what I did last year on December 25th. What did you do today?