Hang On

My older son was born with a desire to get off the ground.

IMG_6520coleropeFrom toddlerhood on, Cole has climbed. And climbed. And climbed higher.

When he was two, we transitioned him out of his crib in order to pass it on to his younger brother Chase, who spent the first couple months of his life sleeping in the pack-n-play. The boys are twenty-one months apart, so sharing furniture, beds, and toys was (is) a way of life.

The first night we moved the crib into Chase’s room, we put a gate in Cole’s bedroom doorway to block Cole in his room. My memories of that first night aren’t clear–probably wiped away from a lack of sleep.

But I do remember that one gate wasn’t enough to restrain our first-born.

Determined to teach Cole to stay in his new bed, we used two gates in his bedroom doorway the second night. We left a couple inches between them, and six-eight inches of daylight above the doubled-up gates. Either way, the gate-wall was at least six feet high.

Trev and I breathed a sigh of relief and settled in for a movie, or maybe an exciting evening of laundry and quiet. It didn’t last. The distinct pitter-patter-clunk-clunk-clunk then pitter-patter, pitter-patter of small feet carried from the hallway. Seconds later a grinning toddler rushed out of the hall and into our great room.

Cole had conquered his first warped (gate) wall at the age of 2 (leaving both gates intact).

He just turned fourteen, and still loves climbing. In fact, we discovered a local gym that offers parkour for kids and adults, and we go often, especially in the summer.

I don’t understand my son’s passion for climbing playground equipment, trees, gazebos, and buildings, but it’s probably the same thing that drives me to create characters and write stories.

 

During our last visit to the parkour place, Cole struggled to get up the biggest warped wall. We hadn’t made it to the parkour place often during the school year; instead he’d been doing different types of workouts at home.

But he set his mind to conquer the fourteen-foot, six-inch black wall and (after four tries), Cole finally made it. Once his fingers found and gripped the top, he hung there for a couple of seconds, relief loosening his taut frame.

IMG_6524cole3Once his grip was secure, the climb up proved easier than the journey to the top.
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All the desire in the world will only get him so far up that daunting obstacle. Cole must prepare beforehand to experience success on the big wall. Had he not been working out and rope and tree climbing in our backyard, he never would’ve made it.

Writing World Parallels:

  1. To reach the top (multi-book publication & readers who beg for more stories), years of preparation are necessary. A burning desire to climb higher with stories is a great foundation, but it takes…
  2. Words. Lots of words. I’m currently writing my seventh manuscript. While a couple of those aren’t fully edited, clean stories, they’re written (birthed during NaNoWriMo). Once I learned the basic foundation of story, POV, entered a few contests, exchanged chapters with critique partners, attended writing conferences, pitched {poorly} to agents, and heard positive feedback from other (respected) writers, I then needed to…
  3. Study the market and learn it not only takes a unique story with strong, clean writing, but also a great hook. What’s the heart of your story? One of the hardest things to grasp and create is a gripping hook.

    What is a hook? It’s the tempting morsel of your story you hand out to readers that (hopefully) draws them closer, for more.

    Readers are like fish. Smart fish. Fish who know authors are out to get them, reel them in, and capture them for the rest of their seagoing lives. But, like any self-respecting fish, readers aren’t caught easily. They aren’t about to surrender themselves to the lure of your story unless you’ve presented them with an irresistible hook. – K.M. Weiland

    IMG_6529 (002)Cole4. I used to wish this journey to publication was shorter. Easier. Less traumatizing and skin-thickening and rejection-gathering. But the <long> period of preparation is the exact foundation we need to climb up the publishing wall and hit that red button of victory.

    Writers, hang on. Keep practicing. Don’t give up! 

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A Perfect Gift

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God recently surprised me above what I could have asked or imagined. As my tears flowed and shock coursed through my veins, James 1:7 flashed in my mind.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.”

My local writers’ group asked if I’d put together a presentation on entering writing contests for our January meeting. Though the thought of getting in front of adults makes my stomach somersault, I’d had a feeling for months that this would be part of my writing path.

Sharing what I’ve learned. Helping other writers on their publishing journey. Guiding those a few steps behind, so they can catch up.

I was nervous but really excited {but nervous}.

(Did I mention I was nervous?) 

In preparation I pulled together this information and that information, eager to share all I’d learned in a *hopefully* positive and coherent manner.

A couple writer friends from the group got in touch, letting me know they’d be there. Grateful for their support, I gathered my materials that evening and headed to the church where we meet.

I arrived fifteen minutes early, just behind a group member who’s about to move. We chatted about the process of packing up her home of many years. I unloaded the books I’d brought and set out the paperwork for the presentation on entering writing contests.

A couple minutes later, another person walked in. When I glanced sideways, smiling a welcome, my breath caught.

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Someone so dear, so unexpected, walked in. And though we’d never met, I knew her.

Almost three years ago, Vie judged my entry in a contest (I didn’t know this at the time; we only connected afterward, when I emailed my thank you letters to judges).

Her comments on that entry (my middle grade story) touched and encouraged me tremendously. In some moments, those precious words kept me afloat amidst a sea of negativity and rejection.

  • I printed the email and taped her comments to my computer and the bulletin board in our office.
  • I read and reread those words when road blocks and closed doors and sheer time weighed on my shoulders and made me want to give up.
  • I hoped and prayed to meet her one day and give her a big hug for the gift she’d been and the kind encouragement she showed.

We live quite far apart, and finding an opportunity to meet at writing conferences never materialized.

So when she appeared that evening, smiling tentatively as I’m about to give a presentation on writing contests, I lost it. (She wasn’t sure if I’d recognize her.)

She said she’ll never forget my face. I just remember bursting into tears because of the gift it was to see her in person, at that moment.

(She happened to be in my home state when she saw my post about the presentation.)

Having her there….it meant the world. It was a gift from God I hadn’t expected. But isn’t that just like the Lord? We think we want this or that, and instead He surprises us with such good and perfect gifts.

This sweet woman’s encouragement three years ago also affirmed the heart of my presentation that night:

We’re not writing in a vacuum. Pray for others. Encourage others. God calls us to love and serve others on this writing journey (sometimes, even above ourselves).

This is the key ingredient to the writing life…loving and helping others. Otherwise, we write in vain.

“I thank my God upon every remembrance of you…” (Phil. 1:3)