Thursday, July 19, 2018

I'm writing a book! (week 1)

If you've been around the blog for even just a few months, you'll probably know that I am head over heels in love with the art of writing. I love poetry, short stories (although I'm not terribly good at them) and most of all, I adore writing books.
There's been a significant amount of radio silence around here over the past month and a half, partially because I had an exam at the end of June that I was busy studying for, and partially because I've been picking up speed on a few writing projects ... I've been writing and sending queries out for Seeing Voices, and plotting and planning for a new novel. This one doesn't have a title yet, but the finishing details for my outline kind of fell into my lap by accident a few weeks ago, and when I found myself with enough detail to actually write the book (!) I decided to go ahead and do it. My goal is to have a rough draft all finished up before I have to go back to school and my free time drops to approximately 0.

Stats from week 1:
word count: 22,700 words out of an estimated 70-80,000 (that means I'm more than 1/4 the way there!)
chapters completed: 3.5 out of around 13
hours spent writing: 21? (that's a rough guess)

For those of you who may be curious, this book is about high school students, dogs, anxiety, friendships, first love, and puzzling out faith in God. One of my favourite characters is a Golden Retriever named Chica, and one of the characters I keep getting irritated with (before I remind myself to be mindful of the many different perspectives that make up a story) is an 11th grade student named Emma.
This is my first time writing a small amount of romance, which is terrifying (romances in books can go so wrong so fast) but also really fun (I am dying of cuteness and they haven't even held hands yet).
My main character's name is Darcy, and when I first started developing her character last summer, she was supposed to be a university student who loved astronomy and shared a house with three other girls. So far, stars haven't even been mentioned, she's turned into a high school student who lives at home, and one of the three other girls got cut completely from the plotline (the other two survived, but in very different roles than originally planned).

Week one has been exhilarating, hilarious, exhausting, and fun. Writing another book makes me feel like I am alive in a way that I haven't been in years. During first year university, I was so overwhelmed with the new workload (and a new job) that I put all recreational writing aside. I even thought sadly to myself that I would probably never write another book, that writing was something I did as a kid, when I had time. Just a silly fun hobby.

IT ALMOST KILLED MY SOUL. First year was really hard, and stressful, and made me feel worn out and gray and flat, like I was going through the motions for no reason at all. By the time I was finished, I had no ideas, no inspiration, and no desire to write again because I was so tired. I remember trying to make decisions about my job, my schooling (part time? Full time? Schedules and hours and calculating finances into the future) and just ending up in tears because I wanted to write so badly it ached. 

That was a huge turning point for me and ended up with me making the scary decision to cut back on my work hours for no other reason than I wanted more time to write. It hasn't always been easy (writing is actually really really hard work 99% of the time) but taking myself seriously, writing query letters, and planning outlines for new books makes me feel like my world has popped back into bright, vibrant colour.

So, after week one of my newest novel project, that's where I'm sitting. I'm tired, but thrilled. I can't believe how close I was to giving up on this altogether ... and I am so speechlessly thankful that I didn't. I'm putting my head down as we make our way into week two, ready to churn out another few chapters (right in the midst of full days of our church camp! ahh!)

What do you love so much that it makes your world come alive? Have you ever had to put it aside for a time? HOW DID YOU COPE?!?!?


Monday, May 28, 2018

3 ways to deal with WAITING

I feel as though I am always waiting for something.

Waiting to finish school, waiting for the next life stage, waiting to finish my book... I even spend a lot of time waiting for the weekend!

Look! for most of the world
is waiting
or remembering
Most of the world is time
when we're not here,
not born yet, or died - 
a slow fire 
under the earth ...

Mary Oliver* says that most of the world is waiting or remembering, longing for the past or hoping for the future. I am stuck in that trap just as much as anyone, but I don't want to be. There are beautiful things present Here, in my everyday life, little pieces of something sacred that I so often just miss altogether.
I think that wishing for the past or the future is a refusal to acknowledge everything that God is doing right now. I want to stop living so desperately, so stressed... if I think too far in the future, it rules my present life, too. So, without further ado ... my top 3 strategies for living a life rooted in the present!


Make a to-do list for the next 24 hours, and stick only to the things on that list. (It doesn't have to be written down or legalistic ... more the idea of only thinking about things that immediately need your attention.) Refuse to spend time worrying or planning for events that are far in the future and turn your attention to what is happening right NOW.


Find something worth getting excited about that is happening now! Plan a little adventure - do something you like (even if it's just buying yourself a coffee). When I'm waiting for something that is still some time away, it can make my daily life feel like filler ... very bland. Looking for ways to remind myself that all time is special and beautiful (and fun!) can help me to stay rooted in what's going on TODAY.


Notice the good things that are going on around you! Don't let yourself get stuck in the "remember when ____" mentality (or the "I can't wait for ___") and remind yourself to be thankful for the way your life looks this year! Yes, I would love to be graduated and in a career and have 50 books published, but there are already so many good things in my life - so many dreams already coming true - and I'm trying harder to be thankful for those, instead of just looking at what I might be thankful for LATER.

 How good are you at waiting for things? What strategies do you use to stay focused on the present?


*(in her poem "Hummingbird Pauses at the Trumpet Vine")

Monday, May 14, 2018

things that make me happy // 676-696

676. watching gilmore girls when it's raining
677. Starbucks all day, every day
678. going out for dinner before youth with my small group
679. sunshine and playing volleyball in the park after work
680. wearing dresses on warm spring days
681. when my pupper gets a haircut
682. playing ball under the streetlights at youth
683. making dinner - especially if it includes shrimp and asparagus (but you'll already know this if you're following me on instagram)
684. driving fast down long country roads
685. long walks on warm mornings (wearing a DRESS FINALLY)
686. walking the same route I used to take home from high school and remembering what it was like to be in grade 11
687. reminiscing (what is it about spring that makes me so nostalgic?)
688. friendly starbucks baristas (I basically live here now)
689. birthdays (I'm finally 21!!!)
690. when my boyfriend takes pictures of me and I actually like some of them (a rare but very fun occurrence)
691. experimenting with the spices in my biscuit recipe and having it WORK when I totally thought I'd ruined them
692. writing query letters (even though it's terrifying)
693. coffee shop dates+city explorations
694. weekend retreats with our Jr. High group!
695. early morning devotions before breakfast in the chapel
696. jumping up and down with the grade 6 girls during worship

What's on your happy list this month? Do tell!


Monday, May 7, 2018

query letters and discouragement

Lately, I've been writing query letters. It's been a little bit of a thrill, putting the names of actual real-life agents and publishing houses before my one-paragraph pitch ... but it's also terrifying. When the book is just a concept, or a rough draft, you can dream big, because there's no one there to stop you. Writing query letters is the first step to realizing my dream of getting published, but it's also a reminder that soon, I'll be opening myself up to reality; the reality being that most of the people who read my one-paragraph pitch are going to say no. Some of them won't reply at all. And if you think about that too long, it's easy to get discouraged.

I spend so much time trying to fight back against people who think I can't do this ... even though I haven't sent out a single query letter out yet, I try to talk about my book like it's my job, partially because I hope that some day it is, and partially because I am trying so hard to make people understand how important this is to me. I try to hold my own work with as much respect as I'd like to receive from others, but it doesn't always work out the way I'd like it to. A lot of people think that it's a bit of a joke, a fad, maybe a hobby or a stage or something that I'll grow out of once I hit the real world.

And it stings. It's not easy to take the teasing of others when it's so clear that they don't understand that they're poking at a particularly fragile piece of who I am. It makes me feel like I have something to prove, like I want to work twice as hard to publish Seeing Voices just to show people that I did it, after all. But I don't want it to be like that. I don't want to go down the publishing road because I have something to prove ... I don't want to get this book published for someone else. I want to do it for myself - and out of a desire to share this story that I love with others.

I don't want to turn around, years in the future, and realize that I put so much work into this just to impress people who didn't understand. I want to let them go, right now - stop caring about what they think and keep working hard because I believe in this book ... because I think this is worth something. 

So, I'll keep writing query letters. Someday soon I'll send them away, and at first, all I'll get back are rejections. But I'm going to keep going ... and even if it doesn't work this time, I'm going to write another book, and someday, I'll be sending off query letters for that one, too. The point is, I'm going to keep writing - because I love it, and because I don't do it to win success or brownie points or impress people. I'm doing this because I think it's important, full stop. And I'm not going to let a few days of discouragement hold me back.

What is important to you? What are you willing to fight for even when other people don't understand? Please share!


Monday, April 16, 2018

pancakes for exam season

It's a short post today, due to the fact that I have two exams this week and will be spending most of today studying!!

My area of Canada has been hit with an ice storm (in April!! wah!!) and it was so bad yesterday that most of the churches in town were cancelled, which meant my family suddenly had a free, unplanned day! I just realized I could have spent that time studying, but instead, I made these sweet potato pancakes for lunch ... and I'm not even mad about it. (yet. maybe when the last-minute stress sets in I will regret everything ... we'll see.)

I used this recipe from, but made a few changes (noted below) before putting the pancakes on the griddle!

    3/4 pound sweet potatoes
    (I just use 1 large sweet potato and hope for the best)
    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    3 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
    1 teaspoon salt

    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    2 eggs, beaten
    1 1/2 cups milk
    1/4 cup butter, melted
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp vanilla 
    (yesterday, I also added an extra 1/2 tsp nutmeg by mistake, and they tasted just as good!)

   1. Peel and cut your sweet potato before placing it in a pot of boiling water. Leave on heat until potato is soft - then drain and mash.
   2. Sift together dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet ingredients (sweet potato, eggs, milk, vanilla, butter) in another. Gradually add wet to dry to make a batter (do not overmix).
   3.  Scoop batter onto pre-heated and oiled pan. Flip when the middle begins to bubble (I find if you flip when just the edges bubble, it's too early ... but that could just be my pan). 

This is a quick and easy recipe that only makes about 12 pancakes (so you won't be standing at the stove all afternoon) and my new favourite way to take a study break. Let me know if you try it - and what changes you make! I'm always up for a little experimentation. 

How do you cope with exams? What are your favourite study snacks?


Monday, April 9, 2018

when it's still snowing in April

When it's still snowing in April and we're all just tired of it, I find it so easy to start connecting my happiness to the weather. In January, I expect snow, so when I wake up to another blizzard, I shrug my shoulders and roll with it.

In April? I start feeling like sunny days are my birthright, like if I have to live through one more day of snowfall something inside me is going to snap, and while it's true that warmer weather is just around the corner (right?) I don't particularly like living in slavery to sunshine.

So, in the absence of a spring breeze or two, here are my best coping methods/ways of finding joy even when it's freezing outside.

1. Make plans 
Sometimes this means meeting people at Starbucks! Going thrift shopping on Saturday morning! Making lunch at a friend's house! Or, if you prefer something a little more peaceful, a quiet night in (with chocolate!!!)

2. Listen to music while doing homework
(Especially the worship kind). I really like Housefires (Build My Life, Come to the River) lately, but I also enjoy some of the spontaneous worship by Bethel (King of My Heart, Do It Again/Yes and Amen).

3. Read a book!
If you're not a bookworm, maybe this isn't quite as helpful for you? But for me, escaping into a fictional world is exciting and fun and it gives me something to look forward to at the end of a long day. Currently I'm in the middle of the Red Queen series (it's kind of like a cross between the Hunger Games and Divergent, so some elements are very familiar, but I'm really enjoying it!) and the arc of Worlds Beneath (which is not only an enjoyable read but leaves me thinking long after I put it down!)

4. Walk as much as you can
Especially on the sunny days! I usually try to walk as much as I can on campus, to snatch any sunlight I can get, but also because I'm much less fidgety in class (or at work) if I've walked for a bit first!

5. Stretch when you wake up
Any combination of deep breathing and stretching is great, even if it's just touching your toes for a few seconds after getting up!! If I don't stretch, around 11am I start to feel tense and irritable, but even five minutes to get the kinks out of my neck will last me almost all day.

What are your best coping strategies for such out-of-season weather? PLEASE SHARE!!


Monday, April 2, 2018

what I'm thankful for this Easter Monday

This Easter, things were different.

I bounced into church for all three of our Easter services with more energy than I've had in months, sang so loudly I almost lost my voice, and said everything at double-speed (until eventually I wore myself out and fell asleep on the couch on Sunday afternoon).

It was a bit of a whirlwind, but not as random as perhaps it sounds, because this year, I learned what it was to be a sinner. I have always been a sinner, and I knew that, but as a child, I had no understanding of what that meant. I knew I did bad things - but I also knew that a lot of people did a lot of worse things, and so it seemed to me that I was doing okay, and Jesus probably had a lot of other people to save and worry about, and he probably didn't pay that much attention to me.

This year, for a couple of reasons, I found myself confronted with my own sin in a new way. I'd make a mistake, and then I'd try to fix it, or go over it in my head until I'd rationalized it to the point where it wasn't that bad, or I didn't really mess up, or they didn't even notice, or whatever - and sometimes this worked! I'd figure that it was an honest mistake, and no one cared, and it was all good. And sometimes it was, but most often I'd get stuck, knowing that I had made a mistake but not knowing how to move on.

The lyrics to the song "Known" by Tauren Wells hit me real hard in the airport between Iceland and Canada, because he describes the process like this:

I'm fully known and loved by you
You won't let go, no matter what I do
It's not one or the other - it's hard truth AND ridiculous grace
To be known, fully known, and loved by you.

I'd been stuck at the "hard truth" side of things, convicted by the true fact that I mess up! I make mistakes! I am not a good person! But I hadn't understood that the grace of God does not operate INDEPENDENT of our sin. Jesus doesn't swoop in and go "woo! Grace exists!" and ignore our sin completely. He walks into the room and says "well, that's sin. you messed up. But you know what? I want you anyway, so I'm going to detach you from your sin. It's still sin - it's still bad - but it's no longer ATTACHED to you, because this grace is ridiculous and doesn't make sense and that's just how it is."

I kept trying to fix my mistakes on my own before coming to Jesus - I wanted to come to him good, so he'd be pleased with me, but I didn't realize that I can't make myself good on my own. I have to come to Jesus in full acknowledgement of my mistakes, and then I have to accept that He's the only one who can take them away. And once they're gone - they're just gone.

You can't understand what it is to be free until you know what it feels like to be a slave, and over the past few years I have known what it is to be in bondage. But because of that - because I was so conscious of my own mistakes - grace seemed sweeter and more outrageous this year than it ever had before.

Easter came at the perfect time: right as I was processing the dichotomy between sin and grace, my mistakes and Jesus's forgiveness, right as I was reminded of how many times GRACE has been a theme this year, how hard I have had to fight to hold onto freedom and not be dragged back into the familiar chains of guilt and sin, Easter snuck up on me and everything fell into place.

Understanding grace has been a process (some of which I documented on instagram, which you might have recognized as you were reading this post), and this weekend is not the first time I have been overcome with thankfulness ... but it was another piece of the puzzle, another reminder of why Jesus's death was so important, and I just ... I barely have words.

What are you reflecting on this Easter? How has God's grace been revealed to you this Resurrection weekend?