World of Words: My Experience at Festival of Faith and Writing

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

I had the privilege of attending the Festival of Faith and Writing or #FFWGR on twitter hosted by Calvin College every two years. It’s THE literary event and it floods our city with artists, creative, wordsmiths, and readers.

Maybe I’ve mentioned before the power of community to inspire, motivate, and engage people. Well the #FFWGR community is a testament to that power. They are my people. What a sense of kindred spirit.

However, I have a confession and a regret. I’ve considered myself “well read” but even as a voracious reader I found that I had not read anything by any of the numerous speakers.

In the months leading up to the Festival I checked out the speakers and facilitators. Looking at their books and descriptions on Amazon. Visiting their author pages and websites. Hitting their social media sites. All to find, I knew a handful of names and their reputation in the writing world.

Despite having read zero of the represented presenters, I have to say what an awesome event. It was filled with great tips and advice; motivation and humility; and an energetic group of vibrant characters. Did I mention they are my peeps?

Mostly the Festival provoked in me a challenge and a desire to do what I love; to write. I learned that swimming in words surrounded by others who love words as much, is the place I am at my best.

At the end of each of the three days I was mentally and emotionally exhausted from all the interaction and knowledge. I am after all an introvert which means I get zapped by the social parts of life. And still, my mood was high. I didn’t yell at my kids like I do when I get home from working. I responded differently. They experienced a kinder, gentler mom.

Calvin Campus © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Calvin Campus
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Writing is many things. Speakers referred to writing as:

  • Higher calling
  • Stewardship
  • Self-Examination
  • Silence
  • Worship
  • Mirrors and Windows

For me, writing is all of that plus it is who I am. My sanity is tied to my writing. It relaxes me in the midst of hectic life. Writing helps me express what I feel, what I want to see in the world, and how I want to be remembered.

No matter how many times I quit, coming back to a world of words is like coming home. Every speaker and contributor, every participant, and every moment of the Festival was the jumpstart I desperately needed.

My favor quotes and the most tweet-able statements (please keep in mind that the speaker may have been quoting someone else and I didn’t do a good job of capturing that):

The cynics among you have a lot of blah, blah, blah to lay at your feet. Skepticism is good. Cynicism is the killer of dreams. ~James McBride

Fiction is the lie that tells the truth.

~Hugh Cook

We give language to longings that have yet to be articulated. ~Sharon Garlough Brown

If you will extract the precious from the worthless, you will be my spokesman. ~Tracy Groot adapted from Jeremiah 15:19

When we choose the right word, it’s worth a thousand pictures.

~Richard Foster

I gave up pontificating for Lent. ~

Silence is writing. If you want to be a better writer, if you want to have things to say, you need to spend time in silence. ~Nathan Foster

Failure is an integral part of success … recognition is earned not bestowed … If I’ve never failed at anything in life, I am setting my goals to low. ~Pam Munoz Ryan

True objectivity is fiction. We all write from a specific social location. ~Valerie Weaver Zercher

What I know about anything applies to everything. ~Anne Lamott

You are so loved and preapproved. ~Anne Lamott

The sacrament of puttering … Laughter is carbonated holiness. ~Anne Lamott

It’s the business of the writer to tell what haunts us. ~Valerie Sayers

Talent is a God-given gift often squandered. ~Valerie Sayers

Writing fiction is like being in your underwear in front of the world.

~Suzanne Woods Fisher

I will not offer to the Lord that which costs me nothing. ~Suzanne Woods Fisher adapted from 2 Samuel 24:24

All fantasy has a happy ending or at least a hopeful ending. ~G. Willow Wilson

Any belief system worth anything should tell an ethical message to all people. ~G. Willow Wilson

As writers of faith, we don’t have to operate with the scarcity principle because we serve at the pleasure of a generous Master.

~Rachel Held Evans

This is not a competition, it’s worship. ~Rachel Held Evans

Sitting in the sanctuary of his words. ~Rachel Held Evans

Amazing right? How can I not face writer’s block and rejection after hearing such statements of faith and writing? Bulletproof comes to mind.

I am still processing all of it. Ruminating.

I’ll tell you what though … since all of you are my peeps too, mark your calendars for the 2016 Festival of Faith and Writing.

I hope to see you there!

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Crochet Crazy

It’s been almost three months since I shelved my novel.  And more than six months since I’ve done any serious writing.

But my creativity needs to spill out some how. It needs a place to flow.  Where?

Well I’ve poured my creative expression in to crafting … I’ve been crochet crazy …

I don’t have a lot to say today but thought it would be fun to share some of my completed projects (Note none of the patterns are mine. I’ve gotten them from books or online. But all the color combos were personal choices) …

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Work in Progress © 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Work in Progress
© 2014 the Jotter’s Joint

Writing is still on the back burner but I am registered for some writing events coming up in March and April. I am hopeful that something new will spark as a result. I’ll keep you posted.

Until then … happy creating, whatever form that may be for you!

Dreaming of a White Christmas …

White Christmas © 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

White Christmas
© 2013 the Jotter’s Joint

I don’t have to dream of a white Christmas as you can see from this photo taken of my back yard.

From my house to yours … wishing you a merry Christmas! May it be as white and wonderful as I hope mine will be. And I doubt I’ll post anything new until next year so Happy New Year as well. Be safe as you ring in the new year.

Blessings,

Gail

Time to Retreat

Napoleons retreat from Moscow

Napoleons retreat from Moscow (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Retreat
Fall Back
Retreat

These words conjure up images of war.

You know …

Decorated gentlemen on horseback, led by an officer who is poised on his white stallion as he stares down the enemy. The color guard flying their flags so you know for whom they fight.

The officer shouts, “Charge,” and the battle begins.

Men start running toward one another, stomping out a rhythm of pending collision. Weapons ready. Their mouths open wide issuing battle cries. Gunshots ring out; contributing to an orchestra of chaos.

Wisps of smoke grasp with shady white fingers to catch hair and coattails flying past as if to draw the warriors back. Mid-cry the smoky air rises. It chokes and coughs fall from lips as it fills their lungs. It stings and tears spill down their dirty cheeks.

Battle cries turn from fierce to fearful as pain replaces courage and infantry men are injured. Rivers of red flow through the peaks and valleys of the fallen soldiers who litter the field; many lost lives and some lost limbs. This is the heavy price of war.

The Grande Armée Crossing the Berezina.

The Grande Armée Crossing the Berezina. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hope starts to wane as they watch their brothers in arms fall to the left and right. Where conviction of belief once went before them, confusion settles in. They look around, bewildered and wonder what cause they’re fighting.

At last in the distance a shout reaches them. It breaks through the noise of metal on bone and bone on bone.

The disembodied voice of the commanding officer shouts, “Retreat! Fall back! Retreat!”

He’s lost enough men today, in a matter of hours, which means he’s lost this battle. He wishes to keep the remaining soldiers safe, alive and well to fight another day and possibly win the war.

re·treat [ri-treet]noun

1.the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armedforce before an enemy, or the withdrawing of a naval force from action.

You’re wondering what this has to do with me? Well … this is my life: a war over time and self-care on the battlefield of busyness.

My enemies are my schedule: work, family, friends, committees, and personal goals; and my distractions: TV, movies, Facebook, twitter, podcasts, and anything else of interest. They all crash together vying for the optimal position in priority.

And I feel like I’m losing this battle. But I won’t lose the war.

So this weekend I responded to the call of my commanding officer to retreat. To take time to recharge, regroup, assess my losses, and ready myself to go back into battle.

My church hosted a women’s retreat which sold out quickly. My sisters in arms are all fighting on different fronts and needed this time …

re·treat [ri-treet]noun

5.a retirement or a period of retirement for religious exercises and meditation.

And, the busyness of life almost prevented me from going. We had scheduling conflicts with my husband who also had a retreat this weekend and his wonderful mom who came to stay with the dudes while we were away.

I missed part of the weekend retreat but am so thankful that I didn’t decide to bag the whole event. I was able to make the drive to the campgrounds in silence, watching the snowy landscape pass by. It allowed me to clear my head and my heart in preparation. (My apologies I didn’t get any pictures of the location.)

English: Snowy Day at Droop Mountain, WV

English: Snowy Day at Droop Mountain, WV (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When I arrived I had the privilege of hearing three moving testimonies of women I’ve known or observed over the years. Emotional and vulnerable stories about coming to faith that they hadn’t shared before. Stories that made me cry and celebrate their triumph.

In those moments, these courageous women let down their guard. It made me grateful for the community … for the solitude … for the reminder that we all need to rally together after a long hard fought battle.

I wish I could adequately capture the feeling of peace for you. I wish that you could understand how refreshed I feel with just one day away from my normal routine.

I am incredibly thankful.

Maybe you can relate … maybe you just need a break. It doesn’t have to be faith based like mine was but maybe you are craving the quiet so you can face another day.

Tell me … what is your war? What battles have you lost and won? But most important … how do you retreat?

Definitions complements of dictionary.com

Images from Zemanta

Happy Birthday November and December

Christmas is so commercialized. So it was a refreshing relief to read this post by Britt over at A Physical Perspective.

And, thankfully, my husband saves me from most of the headaches and pressures. Like I don’t have to traipse around town to purchase gifts. He does all of our shopping on line. Plus, he knows what little dudes ages 8 & 6 would like for presents. One more reason why I love him.

Ultimately, a time of year that is supposed to represent peace often creates undue stress and heightened emotions.

I tell you these things so I can share an added obligation which some of you may experience …

Celebrating November and December birthdays.

© 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

Photo © 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

My youngest’s birthday is after Thanksgiving. Traditionally we have a family birthday party during the holiday weekend, making one of the desserts his birthday cake (complete with character of choice). It’s been nice and easy for me. I don’t always have to make or purchase the cake as other members of the family will volunteer.

This year he asked for a birthday party with some of his school friends to come to his house. How could we deny him?

So I find myself planning a 6 year old birthday party in December. Which I have to tell you he cried about, because:  “My birthday’s in November not December. I should have a party in November.” Sigh. Have I ever mentioned parenting is a tough gig?

I am agonizing over taxing invitees financially and sending out invitations last minute; praying that some of the 6 children he invited would come. Ugh! I am trying to figure out activities that a group of 6 year olds will enjoy without causing disappointment and embarrassment. Especially, when my dude tells me:  “They’ll think I’m a baby if we do that.” All of my activities suggestions have been vetoed. Plus he nixed his big brother’s recommendation of a scavenger hunt.

If you’ve read any of my posts where I mention my dudes you’ll know that they have definitive ideas about EVERYTHING, which has it’s pros and cons.

© 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

Photo © 2012 the Jotter’s Joint

Surprisingly, the response has been wonderful and all the kids can make it, but I still feel the pressure. And it makes me a little sad for any of you whose birthdays are during this time of year, especially if said birthday is swallowed up by the season never to be heard from.

Maybe some of you are like my older sister, who figured out ways to make it work for her:  “Just put 2 presents under the tree for me.” And she would buy herself a gift, wrap it and place it under the tree. That way she got at least one item she wanted.

I was always jealous of her opportunity to double her gifts. Being a January birthday myself meant, if folks remembered my birthday, they were still recovering from their Christmas spends. But, that’s a story for another day – about the perils of being a middle child.

Anyway, in case it’s not acknowledged by anyone else, I wish you a HAPPY BIRTHDAY. Hope someone sacrifices to give you a party or places more than one gift under the tree for you.

May your birthday be remembered in the midst of it all.

I’d Rather Be Writing …

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job. I enjoy it. It fills some of my basic needs like a way to earn a paycheck. It also gives me the opportunity to learn new things every day; the opportunity to educate others (to a degree); and there’s variety even when everything is exactly the same.

Oh and did I mention, I’m good at it. That’s not a brag, it’s a truth. I’m good at my chosen profession.

Can you guess what’s next? Can you hear what is coming? Can you imagine the word on the tip of my tongue, on the point of my pen?

BUT …

I wouldn’t say I love it. And it isn’t my dream. It wasn’t my first choice. Which is probably why I’d rather be writing?

Remember taking career assessments in school? You know that ones … based on your interests and skills, they tell you what potential careers you should pursue. Well when I took them in junior high and high school my current job didn’t show up on the list. None the less here is where I’ve ended up.

So what did show up on the list? Journalism. Every single time I took a career assessment. And that was the path I thought I would follow. I loved writing and reading but not research. I still feel this way.

I’m not a journalist but I am a writer. This is my personal declaration despite lack of publication.

I’d rather be writing … more than handwritten correspondence … more than clever blog post … more than emails and business letters.

I’d rather be writing more than anything else in the world. This alone makes me a writer, right?

 I find myself fully distracted at work and home. At the oddest moments I find myself craving a pen and paper or the click of my nails on the keys of my laptop. It’s so strong that I wish I could quit my job and walk away without regrets.

It’s NOT good. It’s NOT convenient. It’s NOT an option.

Do you have dreams or passions like this? A desire that’s all consuming? Feel free to share in the comments.

This distraction is paralyzing … You would think I’d be spurred on to write in the gaps of my days like a junky jonesin’ for a fix. But I don’t. Instead, I waste time watching TV or playing games on my computer (while I watch TV). I read or find any number of things to do with my time.

Why? When there are plenty of opportunities for me to focus on writing, the thing I’d rather be doing. Why am I squandering my dream?

It’s because it’s hard, as best described here by author and blogger, Jeff Goins. It’s because I’m most productive sitting at my desk at work in the early part of the day. It’s because I want it to be what I do in my “full time hours”.

Trust me … I know I need to use my time wisely so I can get to the point where I can transition to writing instead of carrying around this feeling. I will buckle down and get back to my novel.

Another personal declaration:  I am a full time writer, who’s on the road to writing full time.

Anyway, just so we’re clear. In case you missed the meaning of this post. Let me say it again … I’d rather be writing …

What would you rather be doing?

How Sweet it is to Be Loved by You …

Thanks to my super sweet blogger friend, Jenni over at News of the Times, for nominating me for a few awards. Sorry it took me so long to respond. This post is dedicated to the acceptance of the Super Sweet Blog Award.

Recipient Requirements:

  • Thank the Person who nominated you
  • Answer the 5 Super Sweet Questions
  • Nominate a baker’s dozen of other Super Sweet Bloggers and let them know

Super Sweet Questions (and my answers):

1. Cookies or Cake?

Cookies because they are portable. I guess I could say (cup)cakes for the same reason, but there is something about a crisp but chewy cookie still a little warm that makes me smile. Truth be told? My girlfriend calls me an honorary “Cookie Monster”.

2. Chocolate or Vanilla?

Both. They’re best (sweeter shall I say) when they are together.

3. What is your favorite sweet treat?

That really depends on the day and time. Right now I am enjoying a couple of Keebler Sandies Cookies – Toffee Shortbread with my coffee as a breakfast dessert. Later I will have a few squares of Hershey’s Symphony – Almond Toffee Milk Chocolate bar. MMMM!

4. When do you crave sweet things most?

I find myself wanting something sweet right after lunch or while watching late night TV.

5. If you had a sweet nickname, what would it be?

I guess I would have to choose … Brown Sugar. Oh or maybe Cocoa.

A Baker’s Dozen (not quite … I am watching my sweet intake. Not really but my list isn’t quite that long):

If you are reading this and have a super sweet recipe you’d be willing to share, feel free to do so in the comments. Just know I’m not a great baker but I love great baked goods.

The Booker Award

Thank you to my dear blogger friend, Jenni, of News of the Times for the nomination of this award. Her blog keeps me informed of issues in the world but not like reporting the news. She also has some stunning pictures that she shares. Take a moment to check out her site.

Accepting this award includes:

  • Nominate other blogs, as many as you want but 5-10 is always a good suggestion. Don’t forget to let your recipients know.
  • Post the Booker Award image.
  • Share your top 5 books of all time.

Listing my top 5 books of all time is more difficult than listing 7 things about myself, but here goes …

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.” The injustice that takes place in this story still amazes me. Even with proof we choose the path of ignorance and conformity to maintain our status in a flawed societal structure. We hide behind the law or religious belief and label our crimes against our fellow man as something other than what it is. I read this for the first time in high school with the naïve hope that one day it would not be true. And even though we’ve come a long way there are still places in this world where this type of injustice exists.

Unwind by Neal Shusterman

One of the teens in my life suggested this read. It’s a great book for generating discussion around topics like teen pregnancy, adoption, abortion, and government involvement in such issues. It shines a light on how our decisions for the sake of humanity can be just as horrific as the travesty we are fighting against. It has a creepy factor, like slowing down as you drive past an accident. Wondering if you’ll see something you don’t want to but secretly hoping you do.

Earth’s Children Series by Jean M. Auel

  1. The Clan of the Cave Bear
  2. The Valley of Horses
  3. The Mammoth Hunters
  4. The Plains of Passage
  5. The Shelters of Stone
  6. The Land of Painted Caves

Book 1 is my favorite in the series. Watching a young orphaned girl who is different; because she’s capable of forming words and has a rounded forehead, get adopted into a nomadic family who communicates without sounds. It shows us the first structures of authority we learn:  familial hierarchy, community, and then world. It gives us the chance to experience being different to the point of being ostracized. I have to admit that I haven’t been able to read Book 6, which came out in 2011, because it didn’t get good customer reviews and I don’t want to ruin a story line I’ve been following for 14 years. Eventually, I will read it so I can see what’s next for Ayla and Jondalar but for now I am content.

Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins

  1. The Hunger Games
  2. Catching Fire
  3. Mockingjay

Again a recommendation from a teen reader, she keeps me in interesting books. Although this story is one of personal discovery, fighting the system, overcoming and a romantic subplot, the real story is about power. How we gain and lose it. How we wield it. How when liberated we may make the same choices (or worse) as those who were relieved of their power. There is a burden of responsibility, to do what’s right or best, that goes with the authority we have over others. Violent and tumultuous but a good way to look at the world we live in today.

Watership Downby Richard Adams

The first time I read this book it was because I wanted to know the story behind the animated movie I watched as a kid. For some reason animation can make something serious seem a lot lighter than it really may be. The struggle to get to safety. The challenge of deciding who to follow and why.

Again, a difficult list to narrow down but hopefully, you’ll add some new books to your “must read” list both from here and from the following nominees, once they’ve posted their lists:

Thank you again to News of the Times for giving me the chance to share favorites from my bookshelf.

Happy reading …

Inspiring? Who Me?

Let me say a special thank you to my blogger friend Zen of zenscribbles who graciously nominated me for the Very Inspiring Blogger Award. Zen is a writer and a foodie (usually desserts). She tells quirky stories which keep life interesting. Please take a moment to visit her blog.

Accepting the nomination includes the following:

  • Thank the person who nominated you
  • Post the award some where on your blog
  • Tell 7 things about yourself
  • Nominate 7 blogs

So onto the hardest part … 7 things about me … that I haven’t already told you:

  1. I squint a lot. Not because I can’t see but because I’m thinking. Squinting makes me think of the TV show Bones in which they call the super smart people who work at the Jeffersonian “squints”. Oh not to imply that I think that I am super smart.
  2. I am obsessed with using imdb.com. I can’t watch anything without looking up the entire cast. It shouldn’t matter but I just need to see who they are and what they’ve done before.
  3. My husband says I snore but I deny it (vehemently) even though I’ve woken myself out of sound sleep before. (Please don’t tell my husband I said that. He’ll consider it an admission of guilt.)
  4. I am a horrid housekeeper, decent cook, and SUPER wife and mother. Well maybe SUPER is an exaggeration so I’ll go with super.
  5. I can read in the car and feel sorry for people who get motion sickness when they try to do it.
  6. I got my driver’s license late in life (I was 20) and I barely passed. Why do you need to know how to parallel park? Anyway, I think my driving is indicative of the “barely”. Oh but I wasn’t driving during the Chicago fender bender (just saying).
  7. My kids have started asking for cereal for dinner. And I don’t have a defense to say no since it’s usually my dinner choice. Did I claim “super” mom-ness? Oh well.

Forgive me for the short list of nominees …

Thanks again Zen!

It’s Lovely to be Recognized …

Thank you to my fellow bloggers:  Whitney of A Serendipitous Happenstance and Amanda of By Amanda Leigh for nominating me for the One Lovely Blog Award. I am flattered because both blogs inspire and encourage me in my writing journey as they share their journeys.

The rules for accepting this nomination are:

  • Link back to the blogger who nominated you.
  • Post the blog award image on your page.
  • Tell 7 facts about yourself.
  • Nominate 15 other blogs.
  • Let the nominees know they been chosen.

Seven things about me:

  1. Success and failure incite the same emotions in me:  fear and anxiety.
  2. Parenting is the single most difficult job I’ve ever had and it’s the only one I won’t ever quit.
  3. I recently found two brand new pairs of shoes in my closet. Both are at least two years old and never been worn. Not sure how that happened. This week will find me wearing them.
  4. I am a packrat … thankfully my husband is not. And only have my house is cluttered.
  5. Please don’t touch me, speak to me, or look at me funny until I am on cup of coffee number two. I am NOT a morning person. I need to ease into my day.
  6. Typically, I prefer the book to the movie except for In Her Shoes. My favorite line: “When I feel bad I like to treat myself. Clothes never look any good, food just makes me fatter. Shoes always fit.” So you’ll usually find me in the shoe section not clothing.
  7. When I focus on writing things that I perceive will be received well … it creates fear and anxiety. Only I don’t have control over the outcome:  Success or Failure. So forgive me if I just create without regard for receptivity.

In attempts to share the lovely I won’t be nominating my usual suspects. My favorites are always honorary nominees for me whether I specifically name them for an award or not. You can see them in my blogroll and they are definitely worth the visit.

Today, instead, I will nominate blogs that I’ve recently visited or may have only visited once or twice. They are worth taking a look at, so please show them some love:

Congratulations to the nominees! Share the lovely!