Contest Time! Win A Free, Personalized Book!

Hello, everyone! I'm thrilled to announce that I'm hosting my first blog contest. Are you excited? You could be the winner! :)

My friend and author extraordinaire, Christina Berry, has graciously agreed to sign a copy of her debut book, The Familiar Stranger.

Not only will she autograph the book, but she'll personalize it according to the winner's name! What could be better than that?

For her book The Familiar Stranger, Christina won the 2010 Carol Award for Long Contemporary, finaled for a 2010 Christy Award, and came 2nd in the 2008 ACFW Genesis Contest. Talk about an impressive resume, especially for a debut novel!

Contest Rules:

All you have to do to be eligible is "follow" my blog. If you're already a follower, then you're already eligible! If you're unsure how to "follow" me, just look in the right column of this page and click the button that says "follow."

Once I reach 50 followers, I will select one of them at random and contact you. Please make sure that your Google contact info is correct so that I can get in touch with you in the event you win the book. Also, keep checking back for blog updates about the winner!

Spread the word and tell your friends because the sooner this blog reaches 50 followers, the sooner you could win a free book!

In the meantime, be sure to check out Christina's website:


The Coat of Multi-Colored Dreams

The great poet Langston Hughes once wrote, "What happens to a dream deferred?" That question is what I want to write about today.

The story of Joseph is obviously one of the foremost stories about dreams given to us in the Bible, complete with what my pastor calls "dream squashers." Just because someone discourages you from your dream doesn't mean you should give up. It just means some people are negative. Don't let doubt or rejection keep you from the higher calling on your life.

Take Joseph. This guy has a couple dreams where things are bowing down to him, and he makes the mistake of telling his brothers, who are already seriously jealous of him. They jump on the opportunity to belittle his dreams and to strip him of his colorful coat. Now, Joseph could've easily allowed their attitude to get him down, and frankly, he probably did. I mean, they threw him into a cistern for goodness sakes! But he didn't let that stop him from pursuing the bigger dream he knew God had placed upon his heart.

Joseph's brothers thought they were robbing him of favor and stealing away his dreams when they took his coat. Little did they know, that was all part of the larger plan.

Let me share with you where I currently am in all of this and why the story resonates with me on such a deep level. My first manuscript is being evaluated by what I would consider my absolute dream literary agency. A couple years ago if someone would've told me this agent would be reviewing my work, I probably would've laughed--and I'm one to dream big! I realize the answer could very easily be yes, and it could also be no. Sometimes the anticipation makes me so excited I want to dance around my living room. But as I told one of my best friends who's going through something similar in her own life, this could just be my cistern. The thing is, I'm serious about this dream. And whether the agent calls me tomorrow to offer representation or sends me a letter of rejection, my daily steps are really going to be the same. I'm going to keep writing as much as I can, keep growing by studying the craft, and keep praying . . . because sometimes all we can see is the next step. As I told my friend, eventually all those small "next steps" will turn into a whole staircase of progress.

If there's one thing I want to say with this post, it's hold fast to your dreams because God's given them to you for a reason. Don't doubt your calling, and don't let naysayers bring you to defeat. Even if it feels like you're trapped in a cistern and things couldn't get worse, and even if they do get worse still, you'll find favor in the road ahead if your dreams are the Lord's.

What multicolored dreams has God given you, and how do you stay encouraged while pursuing them? How can we encourage each other on this journey?


Just Keep Writing!

You've seen Finding Nemo, right? One of my favorite lines from that movie (aside from "fish are friends, not food") is "just keep swimming." Isn't that the truth?

Recently I've been working on my third novel, and so far it's been the funnest thing I've ever written. I'm hoping that means it's also the most interesting! The problem? I've had zip motivation to write my master's creative writing thesis, which is a lot darker and more literary than my normal fiction style. I keep getting OCD about it, wondering if this word or that word is absolute the best it can be, etc. These kinds of mindsets can really cause the creative flow to come to a screeching halt.

What got me through the slump was ultimately a deadline, so I knew I had to get the material finished, whether or not I felt like it. With the ACFW Genesis contest upcoming and the holidays just past, you may feel like hiding away, putting on some fuzzy socks and watching a movie. But I want to encourage you to take time for both. It's certainly important not to overwork yourself to the point you zap our creativity, but at the same time, sometimes you just won't feel creative, and sometimes you have to write anyway.

I always tell my students to expect revision with writing. It's just part of the process. So if you're feeling the post-holiday blues, I encourage you to push through and keep writing! Sometimes it feels like a job because it is, but you'll be glad you worked through those barriers.

Hope you're all enjoying getting back into your normal routines after the Christmas break!


Scenes of Life

As I was falling to sleep the other night, I started thinking about scenes. Yes, you read that right. Scenes. I know that probably makes me a nerd, but I'm trying to strengthen the way I write scenes. I want each one to count.

I went to a paid manuscript critique at the most recent ACFW conference, and a best-selling author gave me some wonderful advice. She said to remember that each scene should serve a specific purpose. It should either further the plot or further character development.

That statement really stuck with me, and I've been thought about it almost every time I've sat down to write since then.

But it dawned on me the other night that the same thing applies to life. Every scene God sets before us, He has a purpose for. It's either to further our character or to further our story. Maybe both. But the important thing is that we remember we have a purpose.

How have you seen this play out in your own life? In what ways can you plan to pay attention to the "scenes" God puts in your life this year?