Monday, December 2, 2013

I won!

I wrote over 50,000 words in the form of a novel titled "Oh, the Insanity!" last month!
Unexpected side effects of winning include pride, a sense that I can accomplish anything, and increased self-confidence as a writer.
Now, what should I do with my manuscript? Should I submit it to my fans (some of whom have already asked to read it)? Should I go ahead and write an awesome query letter for agents?
I'm going to follow the advice of Katharine Grubb from and ignore my manuscript for at least 3 months, probably 6. Why? For several reasons.
1. Because I know that I need some distance in order to even consider starting the editing process.
2. Because the first draft is always horrible (pretty sure Anne Lamott nailed this truth).
3. Because seasoned writers have advised it.
4. Because I have a book draft to get an agent for already, as well as a memoir that needs finishing.

So I'm going to revel in my victory and return to my regularly scheduled writing programming. But maybe in 6 - 12 months I'll have a hilarious office comedy novel to publish. Maybe not. But I know I'll do Nanowrimo again next year.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Virginity and the Double Standard

As I'm working on my memoir, I'm spending some time discussing virginity, as it is a very relevant issue to my journey. And it occurs to me that our delightful double standard around sex is probably pretty punitive to men when it comes to virginity. After all, a woman who is a virgin probably has "reasons," but a virgin man is just a loser, right? I think about the movie the 40 Year Old Virgin (which I found hilarious). Would that movie had worked if the virgin had been Catherine Keener rather than Steve Carrell? Would it even have gotten made?
I'd love some feedback. What do you think society labels a virgin man? Do women virgins have more social acceptance? Why and how?

Thursday, October 17, 2013


So, Halloween is approaching, along with Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year's. Also in the works are my webinar all about creating holiday calm, a costume party for my husband and I, two trips with my 2 year old, and oh, yes, continued recovery from my emergency appendectomy last weekend.
So what's on my mind? NANOWRIMO, of course! I'm totally participating this year. Am I crazy? Oh, yes, totally. The only question on my mind is which book to write. I've been plugging away steadily on my memoir, and I hope to have a rough draft ready for beta readers by New Year's Eve. On the other hand, a light office comedy has been percolating in my head for months now. Should I use Nanowrimo to write a totally new fun book? Or to finish my memoir rough draft?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Truth About The Sky

A guest post by author Katharine Grubb. Her first published novel was the excellent book Falling for Your Madness. Her second novel, The Truth About The Sky has just been released, but she actually wrote that book first, in 10 minute intervals. I asked her some questions about her 10 minute writing process and about TTATS, and here are her answers. Writers with little time: take note!

You wrote this book in 10 minute increments, while raising and homeschooling 5 kids, making homemade bread, and generally being a fantastically busy mom. How would you suggest I make the most of the 10 minutes if I were using your plan?  

First of all, before you ever got started, I'd ask you what it is that you want. Do you want to complete a manuscript? Be rich and famous? Measurable goals are a very important starting point. Then once they are established, it is important to see them in small attainable chunks, like, brainstorm about my setting. Or, list ten things that influenced my character as a teen. You can't make the most of your time if you have no plan. Also, it helps if you are fast typist. It also helps that the small children in your house know you're working. Although how many years has it been? My kids still sometimes don't get it. 

Should I leave my computer asleep so I can just open it up and start typing? Should I skip all editing? How can I overcome a block?

At the time of my ten minute increment idea, my computer was in my kitchen, open on the counter, away from the water and food. I was able to leave documents open and make mad dashes to saved documents. I also used my  non-writing ten minutes to think about what I was going to do next. I prefer to skip all editing. I find that the free flow of thought is far more important in the beginning of composition than worrying about rules. I think there's a saying, write drunk and edit sober.  Which, I'm guessing, means that the composition stage should be fearless and free and when you only have ten minutes, you don't need to spend those precious seconds on whether or not something is spelled correctly. When every idea and free thought and rabbit trail has been spewed onto my pages, then I start the organizing and editing process. 

Did you do all your editing in 10 minute increments?

I did for this book. I also used evenings after my kids went to bed for a little more time. My goal was to find a way to get it done. I knew that I couldn't wait until life was perfect. I couldn't wait until all my children were self-sufficient. I couldn't wait until I had a full hour to give my book my attention. I had to do it now. I'm really glad I did. It did take me five years, off and on, to write The Truth About The Sky. But it's like my first kid -- I learned from all my mistakes on it.

How did you know your manuscript was ready for beta readers? 

I never really knew for sure if it was ready. This was my first book. I didn't have a lot of confidence when it came to showing my work to others. When I read it for the ten millionth time and thought that I couldn't improve upon it, as far as plot, characters, and general story-ness of it went, then it was time to send it to betas. My betas were very kind and helpful. Except one who told me that all future changes should go through her first. She got fired.

How did you locate your beta readers?

My beta readers were trusted friends who were either writers or extensive readers. They were like my circle of cheerleaders who believed in me, even when I didn't believe in myself. They were all very smart and articulated their comments precisely, but I tried to ask them specific questions about the book, to at least make it fun for them.  

You have self-published two novels. Would you consider using the traditional publishing model for these or future books?

I'm open to anything, actually. I really love the freedom that comes with self-publishing and I enjoy having the marketing opportunities. As a result of my first novel, Falling For Your Madness, I was contacted by a nonfiction publisher in the UK who wanted me to write a book for them about writing a novel in ten minute increments! This led to me finding an agent! So now, I'm represented by Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary, who negotiated my deal for me, and I'm days away from signing the contract. The book will be out in the spring of 2015 and I'll get to be a traditionally published writer too. I imagine this will help my credibility and platform all the way around. There are strengths and weaknesses to both methods of publishing. I want to write for a long time and have dozens of books out in the next forty years. I suspect that I'll be able to move back and forth between self-pub and traditional pub as time goes on. 

While this is a very funny novel, it also deals with serious issues of theology and family relationships. Do you view this as a "Christian" novel?

I do simply because I talk about Jesus. I'm also poking fun at the church and exposing the problem of expectations the church has of its members, rather than grace. I hope that the truth I'm presenting is softened by the humor. 

Thanks to Katharine Grubb for doing a guest post here. I was actually one of her beta readers for The Truth About the Sky, and I can vouch that it is a very funny book. Get your digital copy today! The Truth About The Sky.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Keeping it Real

So, we've been married 9 years. Unbelievable! It's been a fantastic and incredible experience. One reason I think we're still so happy together is that we've always managed to keep our discussions meaningful. It's been harder since we had a little baby, but we still keep going. How do we do it?
1. We keep a relationship journal. Every year on our anniversary, we write a message to each other. Then we set goals and reflect on goals we accomplished in the last year.
2. We go on dates. We used to hate the idea of "dates," but it We usbecame a necessity when our daughter entered the picture. Our one rule for these dates is that we cannot discuss her. We swap with another couple to eliminate babysitting fees.
3. We use the Internet. Whenever one of us wonders about a topic, the other one boots up the phone or iPad and checks Google. This has led to some great chats.
4. We pray for each other. Every night, after dinner, we exchange prayer requests, and then pray together, one for the other. Not only does this model family prayer for our daughter, but it gives each one of us a chance to open up about serious issues and concerns.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Hard Decisions

So, I'm planning to enter the Real Simple writing contest. The topic is the bravest thing you've ever done. Hands down, the bravest thing I've ever done is to get treatment for my vaginismus, persisting in the face of constant failure, complications, and even surgery. But while I know I can write an excellent essay on that topic, I know it's not a good match for Real Simple's audience. What to do?

So I'm doing it! I'm writing a great essay and submitting it. I'll be editing from my typical blunt writing style: no mention of labia or vaginas. But I'm not going to shy away from the problem. After all, it's just a contest!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Mother Love

My daughter is the most amazing two year old in the world. She can sing songs, play drums, and behave herself for short periods of time. Not to mention she is stunningly beautiful.
But of course, I'm her mother. I would think all these things are mind-blowing.
Child-rearing is at once the most transcendent and most mundane act in the world. The majority of women end up doing it, with varying degrees of success, and it provides an instant bond. Whenever I meet another mother whose child simply did not sleep, I want to embrace her as we laugh at all the futile advice we got and crazy methods we tried. It is repetitious, as you sing songs over and over, discipline infractions continually, and draw one thousand and one circles on paper with purple marker. There is the daily grind of feeding, clothing, and diapering a child while handling life's other obligations, whether from an external job or the household job. And then there is transcendence.
It's the moment when you watch this small creature make a joke. Or when you see her share food with her doll for the first time. The complete miracle that your body created a tiny little person who is now feeding herself and talking in 4 word sentences. That somehow life came into the world through your own action.

Friday, July 26, 2013


So my writing assignment this week for Alice Osborn's class is 2 pages of dialogue, with particular attention to avoiding "said" tags and using subtext. She sent us, as an example, a short story by Hemingway. In the story, a couple is discussing an operation, which according to Wikipedia, is abortion. Now, I didn't get it. I was completely flummoxed and had no clue that it was abortion they were discussing. I was so distracted by trying to figure out what they were discussing that I missed a lot of the imagery. Am I stupid? I like to think I'm not. But this subtext was just too "sub" for me.
What I've learned is that I am probably too obvious in my dialogue. I'll be working on that. I'll post my assignment after I've gotten some feedback.


Thursday, July 18, 2013

Little Fascist Panties

The icon of the Virgin Mary
Hides the wormhole vagina.
Princess Diana dressed in anarchist underwear.
Doris Day modeled Mussolini bikini briefs.
Audrey Hepburn donned Benedict Arnold boyshorts.
Mother Theresa wore angry g-strings.
Hidden, disguised, covered:
Our sexual cleft
Will emerge,
Will betray.

*The phrase “little Fascist panties” comes from the Tori Amos song “Precious Things.”

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Hero's Journey

As I have worked on my memoir for the last three years, I have struggled with an overarching metaphor to bring cohesiveness to my work. And finally I settled on the Hero's Journey. Thanks to George Lucas, most of us are familiar with the idea of the Hero's Journey. Any really good story follows the Hero's Journey arc. But what of the Heroine? Do women have their own journey? And if so, what is it?
Whenever I've looked into the Heroine's Journey, I find nothing. As best I can tell, any archetypal female journey is more akin to Maiden, Wife, Mother, Crone. Nothing wrong with that. I aspire to Cronehood myself. But it is not the journey that my memoir details. No, my memoir is the Hero's Journey. Call to Action, Death, Trials, Reconciliation with the Father, Ultimate Boon.
Maybe the idea that the genders need separate journeys is outdated now. Women are no longer given one or two options in life. What do you think?

And a shout out to Alice Osborn, who is teaching a course on the Hero's Journey starting this month!

Monday, May 20, 2013


My apologies to everyone out there who has PTSD, because I'm shamelessly altering your acronym for myself. I'll just say right up front that PTSD is a very terrible and serious condition. So is post partum depression, the disease I suffered from for about the first year of my daughter's life.
What I have now is PPPDSD, or Post Post Partum Depression Stress Disorder. When I go online to PPD forums, I am unable to offer sympathy or consolation or hope. I just feel myself begin to simultaneously panic and shut down. I was watching a newly born baby at church this weekend, and while I adored his tiny features and wibbly wobbly movements, I also began to feel a little sick to my stomach. I wanted to coo and want to hold him, but instead I emotionally checked out.
It's going to take me a long time to process the full extent of what my disease did to me in those first few precious months. I'm proud though. I'm proud of myself for getting help. I'm proud of myself for being open about my suffering, and not allowing shame to silence me. I'm proud of myself for accepting the help that was offered. But most of all, I'm proud of the fact that despite my disease, I was a good mama in those painful months. I gave up dairy so I could continue to breast feed. I took pictures and videos and made a scrapbook and movie so though my memories may be hazy, I have records. I hugged and kissed and cuddled my child, even when my emotions were so disconnected that I felt nothing. I was wise enough to go out and get help on the days that my disease threatened my self-control. I did not self-harm.
I hope with all my heart that one day I'll be able to directly help those who suffer from PPD. Until then, all I can do is tell my story and encourage those who are suffering to find the help they need, in exactly the form they need it.

Friday, May 17, 2013

When to write

I am really struggling with the necessary discipline to find a regular writing time. Such a challenge! I have all kinds of excuses, of course. By far my biggest hurdle is timing.
Tori takes a nap every single day, and on at least 3 days a week I'm at home with her while she naps. Seems like the perfect time to write, except all I really want to do in that time is take a nap myself. When Dale is home I want to spend time with him rather than write. Get up early in the morning and write? Are you kidding? Stay up late? Better option, but too many temptations around in the evenings. I've got an excuse for any time.
So what is a mother of a toddler to do? How can I get unstuck? I'd love suggestions.

What I'm Reading

I'm reading several books right now, as is my custom.
Jonathan Strange & Mr Norell by Susanna Clarke, because it was recommended on Good Reads
Carry On, Warrior by Glennon Melton because I fell in love with her blog and her book just came out
What Matters in Jane Austen, forgot the author name, because I love Jane Austen's novels
Fearless Girls, Wise Women & Beloved Sisters (feminist but old fairytales) by Kathleen Ragan because I love fairytales and wanted to research the feminist possibilities in them
Isaiah in the Bible for spiritual development

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Learning to Love My Body

So I love my body. And I'll tell you why.
I first started hating my body in high school, because that's what teenage girls do. My body looked like this:
Disgusting, right? The picture is cropped severely so you don't have to see my cankles, but you can pretty much count my ribs where my cleavage should be.
In college I was preoccupied, so I didn't spend too much time hating my body, but once I graduated I went right back to hating on it. Here's another picture of my horrible horrible body (I'm the one on the far left, "Posh Spice"):

Look at that. No boobs at all, all hips and thighs. Who could love a body like that? Time passed and I gained weight, and when I got married my dress was a size 10. Size 10! I couldn't believe it. Here's a picture of my hideously huge body in my wedding gown:

What a horse! Over the next few years I faced many challenges and a lot of stress, and I gained weight. But I also went on a journey of self-discovery. I faced my fears and anxieties about my body and learned to appreciate it. And I had an amazing epiphany. Whenever I looked at old pictures of myself, I longed for that skinny body. The very body that I loathed when I had it. My epiphany was this: no matter what I looked like, I hated the body I currently had and wanted the one I had had two years before. That was when I decided to just love the body I had. Because in 2 years, I would love it anyway, so why wait? I got pregnant and didn't watch my weight. When I went into deliver the baby and the nurse asked my weight, I honestly didn't know. I didn't weigh myself until my baby was 9 months old, and I weighed around 170. Keep in mind that in high school I weighed 105. Here's a picture of that 170 pounds:

So yeah, I'm done. I'm done falling into the trap of wanting the body I used to have. I'm not 100% thrilled with my weight (currently in the 150's), but I've never been happy with my body or weight, so why let that stop me? What about you? Are you ready to love the body you have today?

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Learning my own lessons.

I've been writing more lately. I'm going to write every day during Tori's nap (or while I've got the babysitter) for the next 21 days. I hope that will develop the habit. I had forgotten how difficult those first few words are. I just grit my teeth and do it, forcing myself to type the awkward embarrassing first sentences until my momentum carries me forward.
Today I worked on the proposal for the book my mom and I wrote, Daughters of God. We are still looking for an agent, and having a proposal will help. So I wrote, wincing at every sentence, because it was all horrible! As Anne Lamott would say, KFKD was definitely playing in my head. But because I read Bird by Bird and took it to heart, I wrote on. Whew, what a relief!
My next task for the day is prioritizing. I can't do everything, and yet I thought that with 12 hours of babysitting a week I could! What a shock! I need to coach myself a little more often, perchance.

Friday, March 22, 2013

Friday Seven

I'm going to get back into personal blogging. I really really am. So today I'm going to do seven quick takes. Why? Because really what I want to do is whine, and I'm pretty sure no one wants to hear that. (and editors, notice that I got 3 "reallys" in my intro, wow!)

7. In the spirit of gratitude, I give thanks for noise cancelling headphones, because even though it makes the crackers I'm eating sound weird, it blocks out the sound of my toddler protesting her nap and my husband vomiting into a trash can that I will empty out later today.

6. I bought Ritz cracker Short stacks, packaged in small tubes to preserve freshness and I have learned 2 things: a. I actually prefer my Ritz a wee bit stale. b. A small tube makes me eat more, because I get done eating and the tube is almost empty, so I just finish it off.

5. Toddler is in obsessive book mode, so I'm going to use her nap time today to hide the books I'm sick of reading.

4. I wrote this haiku after my toddler puked on me twice on Monday. "Pee, poop, and vomit. The motherhood baptism. God's love, seen anew." I'm very proud of it.

3. The sunshine is gorgeously deceptive today, since the high is only going to be in the 40's, but it looks like a 70 degree day.

2. I suspect this week of cold weather coming up will demolish my tulips once again. NC is apparently not a good place for tulips.

1. I missed my comedy writing class again this week. Last month it was cancelled: this month I was recovering from vomit city. I sincerely apologize to my readers: I'm sure you wish I had some comedic brilliance to share, but apparently the universe disagrees. In the future I will simply submit all my husband's brilliant comedy and claim it as my own.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

My Work In Progress, Blog Hop

1) What is the working title of your next book? V Memoir. I haven't started thinking about the final title. If you have a great idea, put it in the comments!

2) Where did the idea come from for the book? I struggled in silence for years while I dealt with physical problems that prevented me from full intimacy with my husband. I don't want other women (up to 15% of women suffer from dyspareunia) to suffer the same way: I want them to know they are not alone.

3) What genre does your book fall under? Memoir

4) What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition? Hmm, since I'm the main character, I'd like someone gorgeous to play me. Perhaps Zooey Deschanel? Husband suggested Rachel Weisz. Johnny Depp would play Husband, naturally. My doctor would totally be Eugene Levy, for comic relief. Kristin Wiig could play the insane sex therapist we saw. 

5) What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book? The account of my journey for physical and spiritual healing as I dealt with vaginismus and vestibulitis.

6) Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency? I am currently looking for an agent.

7) How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript? About two years.

8)What other books would you compare this story to within your genre? I like Vicodin and Chocolate, by Jennette Fulda. Fulda handles her chronic pain condition with humor and deep authenticity, which is my goal as well. Susanna Kaysen wrote a memoir, The Camera My Mother Gave Me, on the same topic that I'm dealing with, but the tone and message of her memoir is very different from mine.

9) Who or what inspired you to write this book? As I journeyed through this nightmare, I kept encountering women who shared my problems but felt just as alone as I did. I don't want any more women to hide in shame and secrecy any more.

10) What else about the book might pique the reader’s interest? While my specific situation does not apply to everyone, my spiritual struggles are relevant to anyone who has been disappointed by God.

11) How did you find the courage to let people see your personal inner thoughts? People often compliment me on my courage in sharing this personal and painful journey. But I don't feel courageous, just honest. I learned through hard experience that secrecy makes everything worse. It's so much easier and healthier to lay it all out there and say, "hey, I'm broken," than it is to pretend that I'm put together and perfect. When I share, women know they are not alone. I create a space of community, and that redeems my suffering.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Fighting for my Marriage

Tonight I was privileged to hear Glennon Melton, of the Momastery blog, speak. In the beginning of her talk she mentioned women fighting for their marriages. And I had my instinctive thought of "not me."
See, I was extraordinarily blessed by God in my marriage. I met a man who is so compatible with me that we were completing each other's sentences after a couple of months. Sickening, I know. We have similar values, the same sense of humor, shared passions, etc. Our marriage is so great I have to pinch myself.
A split second after I discounted her comment, it suddenly hit me that I did have to fight for my marriage. I'm going to be deliberately vague right now, but I discovered, on my honeymoon no less, that I had a physical condition that adversely affected my marriage. Those of you who don't have this problem are no doubt confused, while my sisters in pain know exactly what I'm referring to. But right now, the problem itself is unimportant. What I chose to do with it is the point. I chose to fight.
I fought for my marriage. I saw doctors, specialists, therapists. I spent countless hours willingly suffering for the sake of my marriage. I was unwilling to let go. For five years, I fought for my marriage, and finally God gave us victory.
And tonight, when wonderful Glennon Melton acknowledged all of us women, applauding us for showing up and fighting, I acknowledged myself. And I cried. This is why I am writing a memoir about my fight. This is why my marriage is so strong today. This is why Husband and I are who we are. Because we fought for our marriage. And I'm proud.
Carry on, Warrior!