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!

xx,
Olivia

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!

xx,
Olivia

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 Allrecipes.com, but made a few changes (noted below) before putting the pancakes on the griddle!

Ingredients:
    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!)


Directions:
   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?

xx,
Olivia 

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!!

xx,
Olivia


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?

xx,
Olivia


Monday, March 26, 2018

why I'm STILL writing the same book 3 years later ...

In the spring of 2014, I had an idea.

I'd finished writing my first full-length novel a few years before, and hadn't really worked on a substantial project since then, so when the names "Skylar" and "Mike" popped into my head, I grabbed onto them and held on with both hands. I will write another book this year! I thought to myself while guarding a the wading pool that summer. I will have the entire outline done in a few months! I declared, and it will be published within two years!

Needless to say, that did NOT happen. I couldn't think of any kind of plotline for the rest of 2014 - not one. I was stuck developing the characters, thinking about the nuances of their personalities, but unable to proceed with outlining because I just couldn't think of anything worth actually writing about.




Fast forward to 2015, when some sort of idea occurred to me, I outlined in a rush, and sat down and churned out 50,000 words during November (anyone ever heard of NaNoWriMo?) I was elated! Ecstatic! The book was finally done! It was great! It barely even needed editing! So I gave it to my sister, and she read it ... sloowwwwly ... much more slowly than she had ever read a book before.

And I knew that the book wasn't done yet. 

So, in a series of edits that I blogged about (editing, part 1, editing, part 2, and editing, part 3), I sat down and read through the book, ruthlessly noting any scenes that were boring or didn't make sense, and by the time I had finished, I'd decided that about 50% of the book needed to be deleted. Gradually, I made lists and timelines and notes upon notes upon notes, until I was confident that I had a strong NEW vision - I had enough content to fill the book back up to 100% when I was done cutting.

It was a whirlwind of a process, one I can't really remember unless I go back and read my own blog posts from those months. But at the end, I emerged with a book - again - and this one was better.

This brings us to 2017, when I was in school, and working, and desperately, painfully busy (too busy, actually, which is why in 2018 I made some changes and carved out a little breathing room in my schedule). Nothing much happened to the book in 2017, except that I TRIED to edit, stole hours here and there and combed through the chapters again, changed things, added dialogue, and asked my sister to read it again (I think she's read the book, in all of its versions, like 4 times? She's a saint).



But this year has been different. After writing and re-writing and polishing and editing for what felt like years (because, actually it was years. ha.) I still REALLY liked this book. It still felt like a piece of my heart, it still had the ability to make me laugh out loud, or tear up, and there were still chapters that I didn't like to read because they made me feel things I didn't want to feel ... and most importantly, I wasn't bored of it yet.

I'm not sure when I stopped looking at it like a hobby and started thinking about trying to get published - taking myself more seriously than I ever had before - but a big motivator behind taking time off this year has been  my desire to commit to this book and put a little work into the idea of trying to get published.

So 2018 has looked like a little less writing and a lot more research - I'm letting a few more people see the book, sending it away over email and trying not to think about other people reading it and maybe not liking it (WELP), and in my spare time, instead of writing, I'm searching for literary agents and publishing houses, drafting blog posts and trying to find contests to enter (did you know authors are supposed to have publishing history and qualifications even before they get published for the first time? HOW), and it's exciting! And tiring! And terrifying! And sometimes it feels like this goal is too big (and sometimes I'm convinced I'm going to get published tomorrow, which is worse, because that is SO not how this business works).

It's a lot more complicated - and a lot more work - than I expected, but even though I spend most of the time terrified, I really really love it. I always swore I would never write for a career, never try to be published, because I wanted my books to be MINE, but now I'm just so in love that I can't keep quiet about it. I love writing books - and editing books - and so far, trying to publish books (although, really, I'm just half a baby step down this path, so far).

So, in short, this is what I do. This is how I do it. And this is why I am crazy enough to spend years on the same book, (and why I'm not sick of it yet!!)


Here's my question to you - what do YOU love? ♥



If you're curious about what it was like to write an entire novel in a month, I have good news for you!! I captured the pain+joy in weekly recaps which you can find here! (1, 2, 3, 4) But first, you should read a little about what NaNoWriMo is (here

If you want a little more concrete information on what editing literally looks like, don't forget to check out the links I shared above!

MUCH LOVE TO YOU ALL,
Olivia

Monday, March 19, 2018

things that make me happy // 660-675





660. returning to this space after like six million years (aka three months) of not posting
661. the colour of the light in my living room when it's a sunny morning
662. these wildly decadent and delicious chocolate brownies with NO SUGAR ADDED 
663. thrift shopping on Sunday afternoons with my sister
664. anything that is minty in colour
665. the smell of coffee at absolutely anytime
666. train rides and holding hands on the streets of Toronto
667. art galleries
668. my puppy's leg healing up after months of stiffness
669. spring coming so so soon! March is almost over!
670. making choices and prioritizing
671. days spent writing and planning and figuring out what the heck a query letter even is
671. goals and plans and seventh-draft manuscripts (more detailed post coming next week) 
672. reading lots of YA and being able to call it "research"
673. handing in all my major papers for this semester!
674. peanut butter+banana on toast (my favourite breakfast right now)
675. double dates and late, late night spent talking

I'm sorry I vanished from this blog for three months with no warning! It's been a busy season (and with the grey Winter skies, I haven't had a lot of motivation) ... but things are changing and I'm back here again, and hoping to stay. Forgive me for my long absence?

What makes you happy in these almost-spring days?

xx,
Olivia