Starting the Year Off Write

Badge_StartTheYearOffWriteIt’s one thing to set a bunch of goals for yourself.

It’s a whole other thing to set up an action plan to lead you into achieving those goals.

I’m good at the former. For example, my writing goals this year are to publish a picture-book, complete (and publish?) one of my two novels, and get an agent.

But really… I’ve had those goals for the last couple of years.

I even invest in achieving them each year, by attending conferences and workshops and staying connected with critique groups.

But this year, I’m Starting the Year Off Write.

That’s write.

I mean, right.

I’ve jumped into a challenge to kick-start 2014.

What’s the challenge?

Each day an established author will provide a writing exercise for you to complete.  If you complete the exercise and comment on that day’s blog post you will earn an entry toward the prize drawings.

Today is day two.

And they’ve already been two very productive days… days in which I’ve further improved my craft of writing. I’ve already written a basic draft to a new story, and tightened up an already polished one. HELLO?! Imagine what the other 19 days are going to do for my writing this year!

I’m excited.

And I’m inviting you to join! It’s not too late! You can even win prizes! Though, the ultimate prize is the 21 days of writing prompts that will have driven you and I forward in our goal-achievement.

But I’m not done there.

I need to sustain the momentum beyond January.

SOOOOooooo I’ve also joined:

12-x-12-new-badge12 x 12 2014. This challenge follows me for the next 12 months. “If you join, you will be encouraged and supported as you attempt to write one picture book draft a month, AND to revise one and submit one manuscript as additional, optional goals.”

Yes, please! This is exactly what I need to keep me writing a new manuscript each month, and submitting each month. You can join this one too! Registration ends on Friday, February 28th. With it, you get an entire year of support, encouragement, and resources.

I’ve also added Rate Your Story to my list of supports for achieving my writing goals this year.

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Rate Your Story is something I’ve used in the past to gauge the quality of my work. The service has improved and offers way more resources. I’m excited to get constant professional opinions of my work all year long.

And, as a reward to a writing contest I won this past year, I’m also in the process of completing the Writing Character-Driven Picture Books. At the conclusion of my class, I will get professional feedback on one of my stories from Marsha Diane Arnold.

I think it’s going to be a good year!!! I’ve gotten such great feedback from critique partners… now it’s about fine-tuning this skill and finding the agent and editors who will love my stories.

Are you in? What is your plan for achieving your goals this year? I hope you’ll join me at Start the New Year Write, Julie Hedlund’s 12×12 2014, Rate Your Story, or Writing Character-Driven Picture Books!

 

****UPDATE****

ReviMoButton-Logo3Just because I didn’t have enough on my plate (HA!) I went ahead and joined ReviMo as well… it’s only one week long (Jan 12-18) but the challenge is to do some substancial revising EACH day. I just couldn’t pass it up. And already, day one, finished off one of my manuscripts! Off to subbing I go! It’s too late to join for prizes, but you can still follow the great posts and revise!

Brave

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The brave man is the man who faces or fears the right thing for the right purpose in the right manner at the right moment.

– Aristotle

Fingers hover over the keys… hesitant to begin. To move them freely, to allow them access to the world of letters arranged in particular orders, stringing together thoughts, beliefs. To create and invent worlds and lives, all with reckless strokes and unscripted tapping.

This is a brave task.

To unlock the muse from the cage, to loosen it and watch it rise on wings and stretch out the kinks of confinement… this is to welcome the deepest fears made real. The tragedies that stories are made of. To step into the recesses of mind, open prison cells, torture chambers, and carefully guarded tombs… to turn on the light in the darkness of these cobwebs and faded flaws. And then to let fingers fly.

Bravery.

A writer is a brave soul, desperate for relief from the pressures of the worlds within, pressing against the bone and marrow as an en-wombed child kicks and squirms to make room and eventually, escape. Fear presents a new option. Keep it light; keep it shallow. Don’t go to the scary places of the soul and write from there… too painful, too out of control, too scary.

That writer never changes. Never grows. Is never brave.

But the one with the trembling key, twists it in the lock, opens the door… overwhelmed by the possibilities of dancing skeletons, screaming terrors, and freed tormentors, the stuff that makes story raw, believable, true.

The stories we love… come from behind locked doors. Only the brave open them. Open them to listen to the stories of their enslaved. No matter how painful, how tragic, how terrifying. We let them talk and we take notes.

This. Is. Brave.

That book you love? It’s author wept, agonized, pleaded, and grieved as the characters sang their tales, weaving them into the very flesh of their author. Not just pen on paper. Soul made flesh, the hidden made public, a distant whisper given a face, a body, a home… a life. The characters sigh in relief, weight lifted with burden light. The writer carries it now.

No wonder we are morose. So melancholic. We bravely enter the jungles of the uncreated, chopping at bush, blood flowing from our injuries, to tell the urgent story that no one else can tell.

We are brave.

To be brave means that you’re strong and not afraid of something that’s really scary.

-My five year-old son, Corban

Reviewing Tangled Ashes by Michele Phoenix

TangledAshesCover I had the deep pleasure of reading and reviewing a book by Michele Phoenix, an alumni and former staff at Black Forest Academy.

Wow, that sentence seems so small compared to the magnitude of her time, energy, and entire person involvement with the community at Black Forest Academy, and Third Culture Kids worldwide.

I met Michele during a one week training with TeachBeyond at Wheaton College in 2010. I listened to her speak, looked over the books sitting on her table, and was moved by her heart for missionary children and their families.

We’ve stayed in touch on Facebook since that time… and unfortunately, her departure from BFA (after 19 years!) happened to coincide with our arrival… so we still don’t get to live in the same place.

How my writer’s heart longs for a local community of writers!

But alas, God has plans for her that are equally wonderful and life-changing… and need to occur stateside.

On to her books.

She has three: Tangled Ashes, Edge of Tidal Pools, and Shards of Shell.

She had been self-publishing her work… and after some divinely appointed circumstances, Tyndale House picked up two of her books! Considering the very few books they publish each year, this was incredible! From my side of the screen, I did a little dance and cheer for Michele.

And now I have the privilege of reading them! Edge of Title Pools was loaned to me by a dear friend as I prepared to enter the world at BFA of missionary children and third culture kids. I read it on our final road trip of fundraising this last July. It is very well written and felt clearly to me, a way that Michele was processing some of the harder aspects of her own life and ministry. And, as she writes, from the experiences of her friend who actually lives on the island and shares many experiences with the main character of the story.

I recently read Tangled Ashes. Having only read Edge of Tidal Pools, I sort of expected the same kind of dark themes and heavy writing. However, I was pleasantly surprised to find a whole new kind of writing from Michele. This book is quite different from Edge of the Tidal Pools.

I won’t give you much of the content of the book (you’ll have to read it yourself) however it is a historical fiction set in World War II France. She beautifully weaves together the stories of multiple characters and time periods, bringing true-to-life places from her childhood into the role of core setting for her story. One of my favorite things was going to her website after reading the book and viewing the photo album of the places she had written about. I loved that! Of course, reading this book while living in Germany only made it that much more exciting… to know that the contents of her story happened to close to the very places I curl up, entering into a world that was not too long ago and held major ramifications for the world and this part of it specifically.

The reading was not as heavy or dark as the former book I’d read, but still so powerful in communicating the messages of pain and redemption for believers and unbelievers alike. I also appreciate that the story doesn’t end with a neatly tied bow on every person’s struggle… because that is not how life works. Yet she leaves enough hope that your soul isn’t dragging on the floorboards in grief either.

Tangled Ashes is a great story and I truly recommend that everyone read it. Especially if you like historical settings and events, cross-cultural stories, and wonderful story-telling.

It should be noted that I don’t do many book reviews from this site… so count it high that I’ve taken time to do one today! That’s how much I think of Michele and her books.

On that note… I’ll let you go get your book and start reading.

Happy St. Nicholas Day!