I recently had the privilege to sit down for a podcast interview with my friend, Jordan Raynor, to discuss the the sometimes tense, but often beautiful, writer life from the perspective of faith and work.
Say that five times fast.
Jordan is the bestselling author of Called to Create, a book that “restores God’s position as the first entrepreneur, helping readers see the eternal value in the work they do today.”
Jordan’s upcoming release, Master of One, Jordan builds on that message, using his “story-driven, gospel-centric style to make the case that it is through excellent work that we glorify God, love our neighbors as ourselves, and earn the right to be heard by a world thirsty for truth.”
With this as his underlying message, Jordan’s podcast, The Call to Mastery, assembles a line up of speakers from all vocations who are intent upon working with excellence all to the glory of God and the good of others.
Jordan and I had a wonderful conversation about my work as a fiction author. We discussed the crazy dinner that Jordan and my husband had in London with Douglas Gresham, C. S. Lewis’s stepson and head of the C.S. Lewis Foundation, which resulted in a developing friendship between Doug and myself, ultimately culminating in a surprise endorsement from him for my newest novel,A Silver Willow by the Shore.
Over dinner and, cigars, Jordan and my husband and one other friend spent an entire evening talking with Doug about life, art, C.S. Lewis and theology. That night is now logged in my husband’s book as one of the most epic of his life. It may have even edged out the day we got married.
Jordan and I went on to discuss what it might look like to work as a Christian who is an author, but not necessarily define as a “Christian author”.
The discussion was rich and fun and multifaceted, covering everything from my daily habits as a writer to my most recommended books, to the unlikely person I consider a mentor.
Click here to listen to Jordan and I discuss faith and work from a writer’s perspective.
The verdict is in, and readers are loving my newest novel,A Silver Willow by the Shore! I couldn’t be more thrilled with the messages I am getting from readers about the impact this story of mothers and daughters, and of the longing for home, is having on each of them.
A Silver Willow by the Shore weaves together the stories of three generations of women, from the gulags of 1930’s Siberia, to the quiet oppression of 1980’s Soviet Moscow, to present day Tennessee. It is an unforgettable narrative of the treachery of secrets, and of the light that unites the heart of a family.
Click here to purchase your copy of A Silver Willow by the Shore!
Nine years ago, I started my first blog. Like a lot of people, I didn’t start off smoothly. It was a rough few months figuring out exactly what a blog should be, how to tell a story in a way that was interesting, how to share what was happening in our lives without oversharing.
Blogging filled a need for me. I was a writer, but I needed to practice the art of the written word, and I learned a lot in those early blogging days. I also had a lot of fun.
I owe a world of gratitude to the blogging community and all it has offered me. This is why it’s sort of painful for me to step away from it, but more and more over the last few months I’ve felt that it was time for me to take a hiatus from the blogging world.
I’ve fought this decision. I didn’t want to stop blogging, and discontinuing my blog goes against all conventional wisdom for writing and marketing books, but the current life stage in which I find myself demands that I make some changes.
Right now, my heart’s desire is to continue to build my publishing career, and with four kids, homeschooling, taxiing said children to ALL THE SPORTING EVENTS IN THE WHOLE WIDE WORLD, and every other daily responsibility that falls on my shoulders, something has to give.
Right now, I can either write good books, or I can write good blog posts. But I can’t do both.
So I will be taking a hiatus from the blogging world. I don’t know if I’m stepping away forever or for a time – I just know I need to give myself the freedom to walk away so I can focus on writing my next novel, as well as the novella I’ve been mulling over. I’m also fleshing out an idea for a new nonfiction book.
My brain is spinning with ideas, and this is exciting!
So, while I’ll be stepping away from blogging, I’m not completely disappearing. I still want to connect with all of you!
I’m going to start posting Facebook videos a couple of times a week on my Facebook page, and I would love to have you join me there. I’ll be discussing books I’m reading, talking about the writing process, telling funny stories – pretty much everything I would have done here only in short 2-5 minutes video bites.
I will miss sharing my life in this medium, but for now this is the right decision. To whomever has hung on with me from the beginning (and there are a few of you!), I thank you for taking this life journey with me. You all have been such a blessing.
And for those of you who are new, I sure hope you’ll continue to follow along, because if I’ve learned anything during this blogging journey it’s that life is so much more fun when it’s shared!
Reading books with children in the house is a bit like trying to brush your teeth while eating Oreos.
Finding time to read has been a challenge since I took on the title of “Mom”. Where once upon a time I devoured books, now I simply nibble at stories here and there. Bedtime is my favorite time to read, but many days I find myself so exhausted by the time I lay down that my eyes close just minutes after cracking open my book.
In recent months, I’ve made more of an effort to fit reading back into my days. My reasons have been two-fold: First, I just miss reading. I miss getting lost in a book. Second, I want my kids to see me reading.
With the onslaught of social media, and the ever present electronics, I’ve found that motivating my children to read has become increasingly difficult. Too may other things vie for their attention, and reading is a chore. It is one more thing to check off the list so they can have their electronic time.
By sitting down in the middle of the room and reading in front of them, I hope to show my kids that reading is actually an acceptable, and even enjoyable, pastime. If I only read before bed, then they naturally assume that I never read books, either. And if I don’t do it, why should they?
It’s a huge challenge, but the effort has been worth it. I finished three books in January, which isn’t necessarily brag-worthy, but it’s something!
Below, I’m going to leave my review of the most recent book I finished, Everyone Brave is Forgiven. But first, tell me: When do you find time to read? Do you set reading goals for yourself each year, or just see what happens? Do you try to read in front of your kids?
I’m honestly still processing this book, trying to discern how I feel about it.
On one hand, it might be one of the most beautiful books I’ve ever read. The story in and of itself wasn’t overly impressive or unique, but the language used to tell the story was achingly poetic and rich…most of the time.
Sometimes, I simply didn’t know what the author was saying.
Chris Cleave is undoubtedly an incredibly talented writer. His use of language to describe a scene is awe-inspiring, and there were several times that I found myself rereading a paragraph just to soak in the description again.
“She laughed then, brightly and without complication, and he laughed too, and for a moment the war with its lachrymose smoke was blown away on a bright, clean wind.” (Everyone Brave is Forgiven, pg. 173)
Besides the face that I had to look up “lachrymose” to see what it meant (“tearful”), it was descriptions like this that often gave me goosebumps.
Sometimes, however, the descriptions were so wildly cheeky, I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what was being said.
“Rubble to build on caught no one’s attention but theirs. It did not catch the light, having no promise but what the brought with them. He tried not to be afraid. London was a lightening of the sky. It was the bloody last hour of a milk tooth. It was a city dying to begin.” (Everyone Brave is Forgiven, pg. 402)
I think I know what he was saying there, but I had to read that entire page several times before I finally just gave up and moved on.
As for the story itself, it was a sad one, but the war was a sad time, wasn’t it? My American sensibilities are constantly in conflict with the painful reality of history. Happily ever after is a notion that doesn’t fit well into the back drop of World War II, so as stories go, I appreciated the realism, even if I occasionally wish things could turn out differently.
In the end, I would recommend this book to others on the caveat that you may want to keep a dictionary nearby. And understand that this isn’t one of those quick beach reads. This is more a book to be savored, read slowly and digested carefully.
One of the recurring themes woven throughout the book I wrote with my friend, Wendy, is the idea that life ebbs and flows, and with each changing season we find ourselves facing new joys and new challenges.
When Wendy and I wrote Life Creative, I had just given birth to my fourth born, a cherubic little baby with gigantic princess eyes, and a precious disposition. Because my other three children were older, the newborn phase was completely different that fourth time around.
I actually had some space in my days thanks to school schedules, nap schedules, and a general rock star quality to life that year.
But alas, Wendy and I were on to something when we wrote the following words:
“As the ocean ebbs and flows with the pull of the tide, so do a mother’s days, pulling away for a time, then gathering back close to the shore of family life. It’s not always easy. In fact, it is anything but easy. Constantly riding the waves of change, high and low tide, looking for our rhythm. Sometimes this in-and-out pull happens gently, while other times we crash like the white-capped waves. And through it all we learn to practice our unique artistic gifts like a spiritual discipline. These are the moments when we learn to drop anchor.” Life Creative, 2016
Once gain, the ebb and flow of life has brought with it a new phase – one that has me feeling less like a rock star and more like a psychotic squirrel on crack.
My cherubic baby has morphed into a wily toddler overnight, still with the gigantic princess eyes, of course. Only now those eyes of hers stare at you with a mischievous gleam, which can be quite unnerving at 3:00 in the morning.
She’s discovered that she can climb from her crib, and with this discovery a whole new world has opened up that she didn’t know existed. It’s also revealed something about her that my husband and I didn’t know until now:
Our daughter is a ninja.
She has an ability to pull herself out of bed and walk out of her room in absolute silence, so stealthy that when we wake to find her by our bed, or turn the corner to find her standing completely still in the dark, we nearly jump out of skin.
This new phase has turned an already crazy phase of life into a crazy and unpredictable phase of life.
Between our sports/homeschool/middle school/church/travel/ninja-toddler schedule, I have less time than ever before in which to work.
For many years, this little corner of the internet was the place where I worked out how I saw the world. It was my place to share thoughts, share funny stories, share heartaches, and to keep a record of our crazy life.
But the world has changed, blogging has changed, and my season of life has changed, and I need to be more careful with my quiet moments, which I’m mining out like gold right now.
Many of you who get these posts delivered directly to your mailbox signed up for this thanks to one of my book launches last year. Some of you are fiction lovers and are likely confused by the writer girl with her ninja toddler.
Others are creatives who, like me, have precious few quiet moments in your day, and you need to be judicious with where you spend those. So what to do with the writer girl and her ninja toddler?
I want to serve you all in this space, and to meet you where it’s most beneficial. In order to do that, I would love to hear directly from you.
Could you take a minute to fill out this brief survey? This is my way of making sure that the emails you receive from me are beneficial and helpful to you.
I do not have quiet children. I have the loud, gregarious type of children who enjoy being seen and heard, some of them more than others. And the more the noise ramps up, the more this mama feels like she is losing it.
It’s not just their voices, though. They’re into music now, so there’s always music playing in the background, which I love. I always dreamed of having a house filled with music and laughter. Only, and I’m revealing my age here, their music is loud and…dare I say annoying?
And it isn’t so much laughter that’s floating through the halls of my home as it is a mixture of bickering, posturing to be heard, and the telling of silly jokes that I think are supposed to be funny, but 99% of the time I don’t get the punchline.
I think maybe I am the punchline.
It’s been an intense season around here. No one told method launching two books in three months would leave me feeling poured out in ways I didn’t know possible. I hesitate to say anything because it sounds like I’m complaining.
For the record, I am not complaining.
If I were to list the number of blessings to come out of the last five months, this blog post would turn into a short novella. It’s been a wild, but extremely exciting ride, culminating in the release of the books, both of which I am immensely proud.
I’m also immensely tired.
I’ve felt all poured out the last couple of weeks. I sit down to write, and the words feel stuck. They can’t seem to make it from my fingers to the page, which is a problem when you make your living as a writer.
I think I just need some time. I need time to be with my family and not feel rushed.
I need time to exercise, coaxing my loose muscles back into shape.
I need time to let my neck heal, since I somehow seem to have injured it with all this rigorous book launching. (It’s ridiculous, I know. But I refuse to say my neck hurts because I’m getting old. I’m sticking with the whole “writing injury” thing.)
There’s this sense of angst that settles in my heart when I consider taking a break. Part of the business of writing requires that you build an audience. Know your people and talk to them. Publishers like that.
The truth is I like it, too. I like sharing my life with readers, and in turn I like them sharing their lives with me. But it’s time for me to give myself a little space.
I’ll be taking a blogging break. I just need to give myself the freedom to step back, not completely. I’ll still be sharing on Instagram, and on Facebook, and occasionally on Twitter. I would love to have you follow me in one of those spaces.
But I’m going to let this space breath for a little while. Because here’s the thing:
I’m working on a new book.
I’m really excited about it. I love the characters already, and I’m fleshing out the details. I’m ready to start diving in, but I need to give myself a break in other places in order to let my brain process. So I’ll be quiet in this space for awhile, but I do hope you’ll stay connected.
Because this journey is so much more fun with community.
As someone who has long desired, and worked toward, building a career out of her art, the struggle of charging for my work has never been one that I battled. It seemed only natural to charge for the time and effort I spent on projects, though perhaps I undercharged on occasion in an effort to gain exposure.
But whether or not to charge for creative skills offered is a surprising struggle for many women. I didn’t understand it until I started talking to moms about Life Creative.
The question of whether to charge, and how much to charge, is a real struggle for many women, particularly Christian women who view their work as an extension of ministry. With this is mind, Wendy and I set out to write a chapter in Life Creative that speaks specifically to this struggle.
Maybe you find yourself hashing through this very concept. You believe you have a discernible skill, and you’re offering beauty back to the world, but you’re unsure of whether to charge for it. This book is for you!
The following excerpt from the book offers just a glance at the encouragement offered to the creative who wants to make a business out of her art. I hope it will encourage you as you move forward.
Art is a valuable thing. Collectors of great masterpieces have bet their wealth on it, and if this is true, then we can naturally deduce that art- ists are valuable as well. We create beauty in a world that often feels ugly. When fires burn and terrorism reigns, we bring the healing light of hope through our artistic contributions.
[Tweet “Art is valuable; therefore, artists are valuable too. #lifecreative”]
Before we even talk about price tags and profit, let’s just grapple with this core component—we have something of worth to contribute to this world. Whether you create simply as an overflow and give your creations away freely, or you create with a long- ing to profit from your art, you, dear mom, bring value to this world. Rejoice in that! Yet for some reason as creatives, particularly creative women, we’re quick to shrug our shoulders and dismiss these gifts as frivolous, thereby undervaluing them before we even open shop. In this age that idolizes big platforms, bright lights, Internet fame, and viral success, these feelings of inadequacy lead us to question our small place in the online marketplace, and our worthiness to make a profit.
Dear creative friends, this must not be the case! You are a steward of talents. You may be familiar with the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14–30, where one servant is given one talent, another two, and another five—according to their abililites. Knowing that their master is a hard man, the first servant buries his coin in the sand, so that he doesn’t lose it. The man with two talents invests his money wisely and makes an impressive return.
And the servant entrusted with five talents yields his master five more, due to his shrewd stewardship. Of course Jesus is talking about talents, as in coins, but we’re talking about artistic talents too, because isn’t everything He gives us ours to steward wisely for the greatest return? So all of this leads me to ask: What will you do with what the Master has entrusted to you?
Bury it? Invest it? Use it? Charge for it? Give it away?
In all labor there is profit,
But mere talk leads only to poverty.” Proverbs 14:23
Regardless of the choice you make, the gifts you possess, along with the hours in your day, are entirely yours to steward, so steward them well. If you’ve offered your dreams back to the Lord, and you’ve given Him your surrendered yes to follow where He leads, then the banner of His grace now rests upon each decision you make. And if you long to make a profit from your art, then this is what I want you to take away: attaching value to the hours you spend laboring over each handmade treasure isn’t unbiblical for the creative Christian.
Currently Amazon is (most unfortunately) out of books. We’re trying to figure out why and what we need to do to rectify that situation. You can still purchase the book from Amazon, but it may be several days before you receive it.