What’s your Story?

photo credit: docbaty on Creative Commons
photo credit: docbaty on Creative Commons

A few years ago, a pretty young woman approached me in a Panera.

“Hi, you’re a writer, aren’t you?” She held out a business card.

Now, at this point, I had written my book and started my blog but I certainly didn’t think I would be recognizable to anyone! I figured we must have mutual friends or something.

“Um, yes, I am.” I held out my hand. “I’m Rebekah.”

“Lisa.” She shook my hand and told me that someone had told her I was a writer, and she was too so she wondered if we could have coffee soon and talk.

Why not?

That was the beginning of not only a wonderful friendship (because she’s amazing), but also the start of what would become Ink&Keys Writers Group. We are a small group of women (we keep our numbers small on purpose) who meet regularly as often as we can, to encourage one another and give each other feedback on whatever we happen to be working on at the time.

Some of us write fiction, some write Bible studies, some write blogs and some are still figuring out what we’re writing. But we all have come to realize that God  has given us a story to tell, in one way or another.

And that’s the message we hope to share. All of us—and yes, that means you too—have a story to tell. There is something in your story that someone else needs to hear. You have a voice and without your voice, something is missing in the overall story.

So how are you supposed to tell your story? Is it through writing? Maybe. But it might be through painting or graphic design or public speaking. There are so many creative ways that we can express ourselves. We are made in the image of The Creator, after all. It’s only natural that we would create.

And here’s the thing, everyone has a different size stage and that doesn’t mean the the stadium ones are better than the living room ones. You can shine in whatever arena you find yourself in.

If you write a blog and only fifteen people regularly read it, you are speaking into the lives of those fifteen people in a way that is impacting them.

If you create art and it only hangs on the wall in your mama’s house, you’ve brightened her day and that’s awesome.

The important thing is that you are creating. You are finding an outlet for the creativity that God designed you with. When you’re doing that, no matter how many or how few people are “consuming” it, you are more whole.

So go for it! Dust off that old paint set (and if they’re dried up, just go get yourself some new ones!), start keeping a journal, sign up for that public speaking class, drag out that sewing machine to make some doll clothes for your grand-daughter. Whatever it is that makes you feel more alive…that is what you need to do more of. It’s important enough to set aside time in your crazy, busy life to have a creative outlet.

You and your world will be better for it.

~rebekah

 

P.S. Ink&Keys will be on the radio today discussing this very topic. You can listen live at 1pm (Saturday 3/21/1/5) on WDCX or I will post the link to the archive after the fact. Hope you can tune in!

And click here for some of the resources from Ink&Keys.

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Ireland…With All Five Senses

I’m taking a leap. A few weeks ago I wrote about the word Jump (thanks to Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday prompt). I said that jump made me think of standing on the edge of a cliff knowing I was supposed to take a leap.

The Cliffs of Moher by sedoglia on Creative Commons
The Cliffs of Moher by sedoglia on Creative Commons

Well, I think I just did that. I booked a flight to Ireland. Not a sightseeing trip. Not a getaway with hubby. Just me and my computer heading to the Emerald Isle to write. (It’s a dream come true and without an amazingly supportive husband, it wouldn’t happen. Thank you babe!)

 

So, why Ireland? A few years ago, I wrote a novel called, Where the Pink Houses Are, set in a charming Irish country town. Thankfully, it seems some people really loved the book. (click the title above if you’d like to read a review ;)) The comment I most often hear is, “When are you going to write the next one?” My response has always been, “I’m working on it.” And that’s true, to an extent. I have written some chapters. I have some ideas.

 

But for almost two years now the nagging feeling in the back of my head is that I can’t write book two until I’ve been to Ireland. I can only “fake” it so long. Anyone I’ve talked to who has read my book and also been to Ireland tells me they can’t believe I haven’t been there. But I think that’s because their minds fill in the blanks. They are seeing it vividly because they have already seen it! I haven’t. And it handicaps me.

 

When I decided to set my book in Ireland, I knew it would be difficult, never having set my eyes on the multi-hued green hills. I chose a fictional town and called it Millway. But I actually based it off of Millstreet; a real town, location-wise, so that distances to Cork city & Limerick, etc. would be consistent. I wanted a reference point.

 

I figured google would be my best friend. And it was. I was able to look up any locations my characters visited and describe the scene from pictures. But I didn’t even try to describe the actual town because it’s not a tourist area so I didn’t have pictures. I just used my imagination. It was the best I could do and it worked, mostly because my main character, Brenna, was an American tourist. She didn’t know the town well, either. It was fine. But this time around, she will have lived there for a few years. It will be her home and she will know it better, so I should too, right?

 

That’s why I’m going to stay for a week in the very town I set my novel in. How cool is that?? This time around, I will actually be able to infuse the real town into my book. I will have a feel for the “personality” of the place. It will still be fiction. But it will feel so much more real to me…and hopefully to my readers!

 

But confession time…I’m a little scared. Not of traveling by myself. Been there, done that. I was scared of driving on the wrong side of the road trying to leave the Shannon Airport, but Michael, the charming B&B proprietor, assures me I won’t need to “hire” a rental car. His wife will be on “holiday” and will gladly drive an hour to the airport to get me. Really? (I’m already blown away by the Irish hospitality.) He also assures me I’ll have “the life of Reilly” while I’m there. And I believe him. My father’s from Ireland, as are all his relatives. In a way, this feels like a home-coming for me. So that part…doesn’t scare me.

 

Why am I scared then, you ask? Well I imagine it’s a fear that every writer has at some point; what if the words don’t come? What if I spend the money and take time away from my family and I still don’t come away with my story? That’s the scary part. There’s nothing I can do about it. I just have to trust that it will be there. That my story is waiting for me.

 

Before I booked my flight, I was still a little hesitant to make the jump. I thought maybe I was just making excuses; I should just try writing book two from home. And then, last night, I was reading a book my sister, Sarah, recommended to me years ago. A Circle of Quiet by Madeline L’Engle (think A Wrinkle In Time…one of my fav books as a child) is a must read for any writer or artist. Sarah told me that back then but I never got around to reading it. Now I know that I was just saving it for the right time. I have highlighted it like crazy, but one particular line jumped off the page last night.

 

Madeline was talking about how her characters often do things she doesn’t expect. That even if she has everything mapped out, she will sometimes have to change huge sections of her book if the characters surprise her with something. (That’s one of my favorite things about writing fiction!) So, her point was that her characters were fluid, unpredictable, changing and that was okay. But the next sentence was, “But I do have to know, with all five senses, the places in which these unpredictable people move.” Yes! Yes. That is what I needed to hear. I need to know Ireland with all five senses. So I’m taking the leap. I’ve booked my flight and I’ll just have to see where it leads me…and my characters.

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Acknowledgements: Quote from A Cirlce of Quiet, page 94 more...

Ditch the Asterisk

In the past, if you’d asked me what I do, I’d have probably said I was a stay-at-home mom. And that’s true…I have four kids who keep me very busy for most of my waking hours. But I’m also a writer. And since my book was published a few months back, it’s been easier to tell people, “I am a writer.” But what you wouldn’t have known is that if I told you I was a writer, I put a mental asterisk by that title in my mind. I’m a writer.*

I didn’t fully realize I was doing this until last week when I received my first industry review. I had been waiting anxiously for months to hear back about my Kirkus Indie review. Kirkus is actually known for very tough reviews and when you get a review, there is no guarantee it will be a good one. You just have to take what you get. (Of course you don’t have to publish the review if it’s bad.)

So I got an email from my publisher last week saying my Kirkus Indie review was ready. It was attached to the email so I read it from my inbox and was really excited. It was a great review (sigh of relief!) It was very affirming to get a positive review from a big deal in the publishing industry. I had gotten lots of positive feedback from friends who had read it but this felt different because it was unbiased and it was a professional review.

The next day I got another email saying that my review was now available on the Kirkus website. I clicked on the link and looked it over again. Yep, it was still good. Phew. But then I noticed a blue star next to the title of my book. Hmm. What did that mean? I didn’t have to look far to find out. At the top of the web page it read “For books of remarkable merit, look for the Kirkus Star.” What? My book is of remarkable merit? Oh my gosh! I got a Kirkus Star! I was shocked. I kept going back to the site for a couple days to make sure the star was still there. Maybe they put it there by accident? I was laughing at myself, but checking just the same.

I know I’m not alone. A lot of writers go through the roller-coaster emotions… “My book is great! Everyone will love it.”… “My book is terrible, no one will read it.” It’s normal, especially, I’m told, if you get a bad review or two. But my lack of confidence wasn’t really rooted in my book itself. After great reader feedback, I was pretty convinced my book was good. However, I’d had no industry confirmation of that. I don’t have an agent who tells me how much she loves my book. I don’t have a publisher who tells me they believe in my work.

See…I self-published, thus the asterisk. I didn’t think of myself as a full-fledged writer because anyone can self-publish and it doesn’t mean you have a great product. There is no validation in self-publishing. (Although, to be honest, I’ve read some things that were published traditionally that made me wonder how they ever got published.) Still, I hadn’t been “chosen” by a publisher so I gave myself an asterisk. Even after my book hit Amazon and Barnes & Noble and started getting great customer reviews, the asterisk was still there…hovering next to the word “writer.”

But now, a starred Kirkus review is giving me the courage to ditch the asterisk. I am truly a writer. I wrote a book and I write a blog and I’m going to keep writing. And whether I choose to self-publish again or seek out more traditional publishing avenues, when someone asks me what I do, I will tell them I am a writer. No asterisk.

How about you? Have you put an asterisk by anything in your life? Is there something that God made you to do but you’ve been too scared to fully embrace it? Maybe it’s time for you to ditch the asterisk, too.

Love,

rebekah

 

(This post was inspired by Jeff Goins’ 15 Habits of Great Writers. Today’s topic was “Declare” and he challenged us to declare that we are writers. So there ya go!)

If you’d like to read my Kirkus Indie Review, please click here and feel free to click the Facebook-“Like” button next to the review. That will post it on your Facebook page and I will be very grateful!!

 

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