In Memory of Natalie

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Choosing The Next Read

How do you choose what to read next?

When I was a kid, I'd borrow Dad's library card (because it had a higher check out limit) and borrow as many books as possible. Then I would read the whole stack, return to the library and do it all again.

Now I'm flighty.

I read by mood and availability. I have a giant To Read list, but if the book isn't available at the library, it gets moved down the list. I do buy books sometimes, mostly when I have gift cards and for certain authors, etc... But I read a LOT (see last year's list), so I can't justify buying every book I want to read anymore than I can justify eating out every time I'm hungry.

Even scrolling through available library books that are on my To Read list, I often fret. It's the equivalent of standing with the fridge door open, wanting something to eat but not able to decide on anything inside that cold food box. Ya know what I mean?

When I finally do start reading a book, I am usually glad I picked that one. But the actual picking can take forever.

I want to be that girl again. I want to check out a stack of books and then read them all without getting distracted by some other book that arrives in the mail or deciding I'm just not in the mood for the books I picked out yesterday.

Here is an actual scene from my house this week:

Me: (walking into the den with a hardback in one hand and a paperback in the other) I can't decide what I want to read. Do I feel like a quirky- 
Corey: (Interrupting) Left hand. Read the one in your left hand, the paperback. That's the one. There, I made your decision for you.

So I set the Terry Pratchett novel aside and started reading The School of Essential Ingredients. It's wonderful of course. Either book would have been a good read, but I AM SO RELIEVED TO HAVE THE CHOICE MADE FOR ME.

This method won't work all the time. I will continue to be flighty and indecisive.

How do YOU pick what to read next?

Friday, February 13, 2015

Poppies at Middle Places

It was around this time last year that Jesus told me “there will be poppies.”
I know for sure it was the 13th week of 2014, because the message was meaningful enough for me to create a Project Life card about it. The message was delivered not long after our trip to Israel. I was working on the book that is now with my new agent, but I was still with my previous agent at that time. My career had not gotten off to the start I expected, and I was struggling with what the future held.
I already shared with you that I tend to run away from Jesus when I am afraid of what He will tell me. This time last year, I was in that place. I was afraid my writing future was doomed and I didn’t want to deal with the possibility that the beautiful future I dreamed about would never be mine. But I can never run too far from Jesus. I always come full circle until I find myself sprawled at His feet.
Every. Single. Time… He picks me up. He dusts me off. He pulls me into His lap and tucks a loose strand of hair behind my ears. He kisses my forehead and laughs that soft Daddy laugh I know so well.
So that’s where I was, sitting in my bedroom with my Mac in my lap and my heart in my throat. I set aside the computer and lay down on my back on the bed. I closed my eyes and meditated, picturing myself lying beside Jesus. Having just returned from the Holy Land, I chose to meet Jesus there…
In a field of poppies.

Thursday, February 5, 2015


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Last summer, I made the decision to part ways with my previous literary agent. It was a hard decision but one I felt was best for both of us. Of course, that dropped me back into the query pool, and - in case you were wondering - no, it is not easier the second time around.

I was, however, excited and optimistic about my new manuscript. I dove into the query pool without any floaties and immediately got full and partial requests and celebrated. Of course, I also got rejections, and then I felt sad and questioned myself, but also sort of thought...

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Then, along came Pitch Wars. I'd gotten some conflicting feedback from agents and decided Pitch Wars might be the answer. I could get some insight on the conflicting input and stop feeling like slamming the door on it.

I got in! Yay!

And I got to work with Dannie Morin. She's awesome and able to analyze plot and structure in a way I am not so good at. And she had a LOT of input, and some of it matched the input I had gotten from agents and some of it didn't, but 99% of it rang true to me. And THAT is what I was looking for... feedback I clicked with in such a way I could use it to make my book better.

So I did.

I made it better.

And after Pitch Wars, I sent the manuscript off to the agents who requested it as part of the contest. Then I sent it off to the handful of agents who were waiting on my revision.

And then I waited.

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Luckily for my poor impatient soul, I didn't have to wait very long.

On a really icky day, I got my first offer of representation from an agent. I was on the phone with my best friend, being depressed over my really icky day, when the call came in. I'd like to tell you I am a very grown up professional and maturely ended my call with Leila and checked my voice mail and returned the agent's call.

But what I really did was squeal like it was Christmas morning as soon as I recognized the New York area code. I shouted at Leila, "I HAVE A CALL FROM NEW YORK!" Then I hung up on her, and because we have a drama-free friendship, she laughs about this and does not call me mean names.

At least, she only calls me mean names when we are using them as terms of affection.

From there, I had a two week whirlwind. Because I expected to get an offer (see, I do have some confidence) I had queried quite a bit, making sure any agent I really wanted a shot at working with had at least my query in hand when I got that first offer. So my next step was to let them all know, and then...

more waiting.

But, this time, my waiting involved me walking around checking my email every 1.3 seconds. I looked something like this...

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I won't go into the details. It was a crazy stressful time. I am obsessive when making decisions. I will stare at the windshield debating what I want to eat until Corey gives up and picks a place. If he waited on me, we might eat after I spent three months listing the pros and cons of every restaurant in Tupelo. And this decision was a much bigger deal than Firehouse Subs or Sweet Peppers.

On the final day, I had page after page of notes on each of the offering agents. All of them were good agents. All of them had good editorial comments on my book. All of them were capable of selling it.

But one of them stood out. Our phone call lasted three times as long as any of the others. And there was more than one phone call. I talked it over with my husband and my friends and it was clear to them and to me...

my decision was made.

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I am happy to announce, I have accepted an offer of representation from Peter Knapp at Park Literary.

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Saturday, January 24, 2015

Turns out, it is possible to be a crazy cat lady without being old or single.

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Sorry I've been scarce here. I'm still working on revisions. In order to focus, I've been going to Corey's office first thing each morning. Working there helps me treat my work as a job and not get distracted by things around the house. And I've been doing a fairly good job of not opening my Mac again once I come home in the afternoon. That's helping me maintain some form of mental balance.

My birthday is coming up on Tuesday. I'll be 33. I had planned to do another Birthday Acts of Kindness kind of thing this year, but with revisions in full swing, I changed my mind. Instead, we'll probably go to dinner after Corey gets out of a meeting that evening. I will spend the day working. But I ENJOY my work, so that's not a bad thing at all.

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Corey had to spend the last few weekends out of town. In his absence, I let one of the cats, The Doctor, sleep in our bed. As a result, he's become rather spoiled. If I roll over, he will crawl across me and lay down so I'm facing him again. He prefers to be touching me at all times, even if it's just one paw laid on my arm. It is both adorable and somewhat pathetic.

For both of us.

Turns out, it is possible to be a crazy cat lady without being old or single. ;)

I finally watched the season 8 finale of Doctor Who today. I like Clara less and less, but it was worth suffering through her just for that salute. I can say that without it being a spoiler, but if you watched it already, you know EXACTLY what I'm talking about.

Hopefully, I will have more of substance to share soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Candy Crush on Middle Places

I downloaded a bunch of games when I had the flu. I was worthless for reading and writing, so I watched endless Netflix shows and played on my phone – butt planted firmly in the recliner.
Of course, once I felt better, I quit playing those games.
I may still spend too much time with Candy Crush: Soda Saga.
I thought I’d play it for a while and then move on, but that didn’t happen. Each night, before bed, I find myself moving around candies, trying to “pop the bottles” and “save the bears.” I have thought, a few times, about how playing that kind of game is similar to revising my book. If I move this scene here, it changes everything over there, so now I have to come up with a new plan to fix that. And when I fix that, it changes where everything else is lined up, so now I have five new problems to solve.
It’s an easy metaphor.
Last night, however, something a little harsher hit me.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Heather the Heretic on Middle Places

Martin tells me they are out of school for December, and he is praying for a good harvest.
Martin lives in Kenya, and we exchange letters through Compassion International. He is the oldest of my Compassion kids and he writes the most often. On Saturday, I opened a letter from him, his thin writing in blue ink on beige paper, a lion yawning from the backside of the note. I read the letter aloud to my husband, sharing in the joy of Martin’s news of doing well in his classes and enjoying learning more about “the Christ” at the Compassion center in his village.
He finished his letter with a question. Martin asked me, “Are you remaining faithful to the Christ?”
My husband and I met eyes over the top of the page. He knows me so well. He knows all of the things I struggle with when it comes to Christianity and the Church. He jokingly calls me a heretic, but he loves me, and he never makes me feel like there is something wrong with me – with how I am currently handling my faith.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

And I Read 2014

In January...

I spent too much time playing Frozen Freefall on my phone.
I performed a poem on MLK Sunday at church.
We had to put Hocus to sleep. *sobs*
I turned 32.
Leila and I spent a weekend in Memphis.

And I read...

Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk by David Sedaris
A Storm of Swords by George R. R. Martin
**The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne Valente
A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L'Engle
**The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
**The Power of a Praying Parent by Stormie O'Martian
A Feast for Crows by George R. R. Martin
A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle
*Stand Tall by Joan Bauer

In February...

Corey and I traveled to Israel for almost two weeks.
I stood in the Sea of Galilee.
My heart broke for Palestine and Israel.
The boys spent two weeks with their grandparents in Tennessee.

And I read...

A Dance with Dragons by George R. R. Martin
Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
The Future of Us by Jay Asher
Thousand Words by Jennifer Brown
Lost Lake by Sarah Addison Allen
Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt
The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen

In March...

I spent a lot of time trying to process my experiences in the Holy Land.
I began the process of getting Haydn back into public school.
I organized lessons for the last months of homeschool.
I wrestled with the book I was writing.
My small group did the 7 Study and I learned some hard things about myself.
Haydn turned 12.

And I read...

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman
The Opposite of Fate by Amy Tan
The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
Girl at the End of the World by Elizabeth Esther
Couldn't Keep it to Myself by Wally Lamb
Atchison Blue by Judith Valente
Rilke's Book of Hours by Ranier Maria Rilke

In April...

I only wore 7 articles of clothing for 7 days.
I shared poetry via Instagram, daily, for National Poetry Month.
A tornado hit our town and destroyed so much.
My boys helped serve food at a church in the path of the twister.
My sister's youngest, Ronan, was born.

And I read...

*Wildwood by Colin Meloy
Where Fault Lies by Carrie May Lucas
**Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott
She Loves You, She Loves You Not by Julie Anne Peters

In May...

There was a lot of title brainstorming for the book I was writing.
Corey took a solitary silent retreat.
We adopted two kittens, The Doctor and River Song.
Corey spent a LOT of time doing tornado clean up.
I binged on Mad Men.
David turned 10.
Savannah turned 14.
I got to beta read Tracie's book.

And I read...

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger
The Hour I First Believed by Wally Lamb
The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
The 7 Experiment (Study Book) by Jen Hatmaker
It's Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
In the Dark Before Dawn: New Selected Poems by Thomas Merton
Lay it on My Heart by Angela Pneuman

In June...

I tried to regain my footing after completing a draft of Renascence.
My previous agent and I decided to part ways.
Haydn went to Camp Lake Stephens for a week.
I wrote a few vignettes.
My friend, Amanda, got married, and Corey did the ceremony.
One of my girls from our previous church got married. I felt old and very proud.

And I read...

The Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett
I Shall Not Be Moved by Maya Angelou
Witches Abroad by Terry Pratchett
Harmless by Dana Reinhardt
Deenie by Judy Blume

In July...

I returned to the query trenches.
I ate too much Taco Bell, because I was stressed.
I made an awesome new writer friend, Carlee.
Haydn got braces.
David and I went to South Carolina for a week.

And I read...

*Loser by Jerry Spinelli
*Melissa Explains it All by Melissa Joan Hart
What Happens Next by Colleen Clayton
Feathers by Jacqueline Woodson
The Group by Mary McCarthy
*The Alchemyst by Michael Scott
*Better Nate Than Ever by Tim Federle

In August...

I took a poetry class and really got a lot out of it.
The boys returned to public school.
I decided to enter Pitch Wars.
Gifs became a regular part of my blog.
I became a Jamberry consultant.

And I read...

Between by Megan Whitmer
The Secret Place by Tana French
Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock by Matthew Quick
Story of the World Vol III by Susan Wise Bauer
Divergent by Veronica Roth
Insurgent by Veronica Roth

In September...

I got into Pitch Wars with the awesome Dannie Morin as my mentor!
I had a bad experience and my friend, Amy, made me laugh until I felt so much better.
I dove headfirst into MAJOR revisions for Pitch Wars.

And I read...

To All the Boys I've Loved Before by Jenny Han
Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple
Nun Too Soon by Alice Loweecey
(Don't You) Forget About Me by Kate Karyus Quinn
Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor
The Rule of Saint Benedict by Benedict of Nursia

In October...

There was a lot more revising.
I beta-read for my friend, Carlee.
I spent a few days on Lake Martin with some of the Middle Sisters.
The Pitch Wars deadline arrived.
I was the TARDIS for Halloween.

And I read...

This One is Mine by Maria Semple
*Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
The Sweetest Hallelujah by Elaine Hussey

In November...

I spent a weekend with girlfriends in Brandon.
We bought onesies.
I participated in (and won) NaNoWriMo.
I ate a lot of Twizzlers.
I got a lot of requests in Pitch Wars.
There was a BIG happiness I will blog about soon.
I had family here for Thanksgiving.

And I read...

The Ghost in the Electric Blue Suit by Graham Joyce
Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan
*The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton
Larger Than Life by Jodi Picoult
The Memory Garden by M. Rickert
First Frost by Sarah Addison Allen

In December...

Corey and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary.
Our cats started spending more time outside to save the Christmas tree.
I caught the flu from Haydn and watched a LOT of Netflix.

And I read...

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus by Nabeel Qureshi
We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
**A Child's Garden of Verses by Robert Louis Stevenson
Greenglass House by Kate Milford
Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult
Homeland and Other Stories by Barbara Kingsolver



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