Desperate or deliberate? 

My favorite college literature class focused on American Transcendentalists. A famous passage from that era from Henry David Thoreau reads:

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”



Note that Thoreau did not write: “I went to the woods to live desperately.”

Because I think that’s how many, if not most, of us live.

Desperate.

We are the Great Martha (Luke 10:38-42) Generation, the do-ers, the be-ers, the movers and the shakers.

We not only force our own lives to happen, we ultimately force what we believe to be the hand of God in our lives…even onto the lives of others.

We make the plans and then tell God to join us.

Our constant heart cry is, “Are we there yet?” when God wants us to be still and know and perhaps…perhaps to enjoy the ride. Our constant posture is shoulder-to-the-grindstone instead of resting in the easy yoke of His guiding hand.

We forge ahead when God says wait.

I attended the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference this weekend to sit at His feet, to renew my writing purpose, to refocus my all on Him, to clear my mind of everything that distracts and burdens and sucks the marrow out of my soul. The world does those things to an artist. The blessing and the curse of a creative is that we are born with ears that over-hear, with hearts that over-feel, our senses skittish and overwhelmed by all the world tells us we should be doing, rather than what the Creator made us to be. Spending time shoulder-to-shoulder with other writers seeking Him beneath ancient redwoods centers me again. 



Being with other writers and creatives makes me determined again to live deliberately.

Walking with Him, and not sprinting ahead.

Listening for Him, and not talking at Him.

Refusing to act on any muse other than the Spirit moving in my heart.

It is only in that intimacy, only in that grace, only in the mercy of his light and loving load that life becomes worth living.

Only then can story be written.

“For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:30

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What about you?

Do you live desperately or deliberately? 

Is your burden heavy or light?

What can you do to live more intimately, more in-step, with God, today?

My novel releases today. So what am I doing to celebrate?

I’m watching my son run.

My son runs like the wind. He pushes himself to the limit every day, practicing when he’s not feeling well, stretching when he feels strained, and pulling every last ounce of energy from the depths of his being in the final seconds of a race.

I want to live like that.

I want to write like that.

No matter what happens with this novel, I’ll know I’ve at the very least finished this race well. I’ve dug each sentence from my heart, turning and tweaking, stretching and straining, pouring over the text for years now. Yes, I’ve given it my best.

But there are more books left to edit.

More skills left to learn.

More books left to write.

More hope to pen for a weary, broken world.

So today, when my first novel releases, I am watching my son run.

I am grateful.

I am praying.

And I submit all my words, current and future, to The Author, that I may continue on in Him, and that I may finish strong and well whatever He has planned.

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race

And the winner of the first signed copy of #HowSweettheSoundNovel is……..

20140212-073817.jpgOn Wednesday, I opened up the first of a handful of opportunities for folks to win a signed copy of How Sweet the Sound here at my blog.

And the winner is….

Heather Day Gilbert!!!!!

Congratulations to Heather, a self-described, “a Southern/Appalachian gal,” who loves to be an influencer for books she enjoys. I sure hope she enjoys my Southern tale. Be sure to stop by her amazing blog some time.

And HUGE thanks to all who commented and asked questions. Here they are, along with the answers for you.

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Q: Heather says, “I know I’ve read one of your posts about the wait to get picked up as an author. What did you do to get through that waiting time? And I’m so excited for your book, being a Southern/Appalachian gal myself.”

A: It took me approximately eight years from the time I decided to actively pursue traditional publication until now. I did a lot of things during that time, which I blogged about here. Querying agents and landing a publishing house require patience, because it can feel like all you’re doing is waiting. You get to the point where you’re even grateful for rejections, because at least you’ve heard SOMETHING. But I’d say by far the two most helpful things I did to get me through the waiting were: 1) I wrote a weekly newspaper column–for three years, and for no pay. Sometimes I spat the 500 word article out in an hour. Other times, it took me 3-4 grueling days. But it kept me writing, and kept me humble, and kept me aware of just how much work–albeit fabulous work–writing really is. The second thing I did was focus other hobbies. I believe “art feeds art,” not to mention keeps a dull writer a little more well-rounded, so painting and upcycling furniture on days when the waiting felt particularly painful were great helps to me.

Q:  Cynthia Herron asks, “I’m wondering, how much input were you allowed on the cover of How Sweet the Sound? (I love it BTW!)”

A: The cover design process is pretty fascinating to me, especially as someone who used to work as a graphic designer. First, I collected a bunch of images of currently published book covers I felt resembled the theme and feel of my story, and submitted those to the AMAZING designers at David C. Cook who took it from there. They presented me with three absolutely breathtaking–and completely different–cover options. Seriously, they were each impossibly, incredibly, out-of-this world exquisite. I asked close friends which they preferred, and talked to the design team about my thoughts about each one, and in the end, they chose the current cover from those three designs. I actually preferred a different one, but in the end, I am SOOOO glad they chose this one. I couldn’t have asked for or imagined a more beautiful visual representation of my words.

Q: Kathleen asks, “Will you consider taking up your column again?”

A: I so cherished the opportunity to write my weekly column, Life with a Twist, while it lasted! Finding the blessings and twists of hope in everyday life and finding ways to make social justice issues applicable to suburbanites was a great gift. However, creating and self-editing those seemingly brief, 500 words a week took a lot more time than it appeared. I stopped writing column to focus on my novels, and since my heart–and current workload–remain with novels, that’s where I continue to focus, too. Sometimes I do consider writing columns for a newspaper again, especially when there are down times in the editing process. And I did cut my teeth in journalism. Never say never, as they say!

Q: Alyssa Faith asks, “When did you first decide you wanted to be a writer?”

A: Great question, Alyssa. I wish I had a definite answer. The more I’m asked this question, and the more I read other author’s responses to it, the more I’m convinced no one really wants to become a writer–not exactly. I think perhaps when a child first learns that a crayon or a pencil can move along the surface of something … when certain souls learn that the images, then letters, then words of the heart can be pushed out through the hand and appear as tangible color and text … that for certain people, that means of expression becomes a need. Not a decision, but a need, something like breathing for the introvert who holds emotions so tightly within that only the gentle scratchings of a pen can free them to live.

Q: Molly asks, “Where you raised in Alabama? If not why a book set in the South? I will say it’s one of my favorite settings for a book!”

A: I was not raised in Alabama, nor anywhere close to the Mason-Dixon line or I-10. I have great insecurity and anxiety about this fact, that I am a Yankee writing a story about the South. I have vacationed in the area for over two decades, but I am aware this does not count. However, Alabama (the gulf coast, in particular) was where this story had to be told. Only in the ocean air, where the moon tugs relentless against the tide, and where the heat of the day blurs the hard and the concrete could such deep pain and redemption within a story like How Sweet the Sound occur. So, I hope true Southerners will forgive me for barging in to their neck of the woods. Y’all are welcome here in Indiana any time. :)

Q: Debbie asks, “Question, where did the unique names for characters come from?”

Oh, I’m so glad you asked about names! Naming characters is one of my favorite parts of writing fiction. I spend a lot of time researching the origins of names, looking at surname lists from setting regions, and discovering the ancient meanings of names. Sometimes a name on those lists immediately catches my eye, like “Princella.” Other times, I’m surprised when I like a name, and then learn by accident the meaning precisely fits the character, like “Anniston,” named after the town where the Freedom Riders stopped (a fact I learned well after I named her). Every single character I’ve ever named in this novel, and in my second (coming 2015), have deep and rich significance. Not everyone will know this or bother to look up the meanings of those names, but it helps me define and develop the characters as I write. I also believe names empower the characters as a story–and their role in it–unfolds. This reminds me of Isaiah 62:2-3,

“…And you will be called by a new name
Which the mouth of the Lord will designate.
You will also be a crown of beauty in the hand of the Lord…”

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Thanks again to everyone who commented and asked these fabulous questions.

And again, CONGRATULATIONS to HEATHER DAY GILBERT for winning the very first signed copy of How Sweet the Sound!