Saturday, September 30, 2006

What Really Matters

While we sweat bullets over our proposals, queries, etc, while we wonder and worry and wait, I thought I'd talk about what really matters in the writing business.

Great stories told well will certainly get you a slot in a publishing house's line-up of books, but what really matters is attitude.

Maybe you're surprised. Maybe you disagree. Maybe you're right on both counts, but this is my blog, so I'm going to call it like I see it and what I see is that attitude is a good part of what it takes to make it as an author (and in life).

Sure, sales matter. Sure getting those books sold matters. In the long run though, when we're at the end of this life, what's going to matter isn't how many books we sold, how much money we made, whether or not we were bestsellers or total flops. What is going to matter is how many lives we touched, how many people we loved, how many people loved us back, and (most importantly) how well we did the work God gave us. Many of us consider writing our gift and our calling. I can't argue that it isn't, but I will say that our most important calling is to love God and then to love others. That means having servant spirits, seeking ways to lift up those around us, working every job with good heart attitudes.

That's hard. So much harder than writing a book. So much harder than writing a synopsis. So much harder than crafting a beautiful story. Having that good attitude no matter the circumstances means sacrificing self, it means looking beyond now and seeing the future as God does.

Personally, I think hard is an understatement. Sometimes I find it nearly impossible. But it isn't. The Spirit that dwells in me is greater than anything the world dishes out.

So, while I work on my latest project, while I critique and listen and wonder at the way things work out, I strive to keep what's important foremost in my mind - serving God, serving others, having the kind of attitude that is a blessing to those around me.

In the end, that's all that will really matter. The rest will burn away. And when that happens, I pray we will all be left with the beautiful riches that come from a life lived for Him.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Pay Back Time!

I had a blast at ACFW. Met lots of new people. Got to reconnect with old friends, good friends, and sisters of the heart. I laughed. Laughed some more. Stayed up waaaay too late.

And now it's time to get cracking.

Here's the trouble with taking time off writing - it's so hard to get back into the swing of things. I mean, let's be honest, we've all got lives aside from writing. Some of us work outside the home, some of us work from home, some of us homeschool kids. Then there's laundry, dishes, floors. BATHROOMS. The list goes on, but I won't depress myself by continuing. So, we come back from a wonderful conference feeling refreshed, renewed, and ready to continue pursuing our writing goals, but that means writing and writing means hard work above and beyond all the work we already do. Worse, it means facing our demons. You know the ones. They whisper into our minds and insist that everything we write is sludge from the bottom of a stagnant pond. If you've ever smelled sludge from the bottom of a stagnant pond, you know just how much it stinks.

So, for those of you who (like me) are having a hard time facing the computer, the WIP, the words that refuse to flow, here's a bit of advice (free of charge!). Think one sentence at a time, one paragraph, one page. Focus on moving forward rather than looking back. And never ever worry about making your work fit a particular publishing house or agent. If you're preparing to submit requested material, focus on your strengths, work on your weaknesses. Tell the story of your heart the best way you can without all the rules cluttering your head.

Most importantly, trust God. Self can do so little. God can do so much. Trust His timing, His perfect will, and believe that no matter the outcome you are walking safe in His love and acceptance.

If you have questions about submitting, queries, synopsis writing feel free to drop me a note.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

ACFW Conference Here I Come


Or maybe I'll pretend to go and just chill out by myself in a Maryland hotel for a while. That way I get to avoid:

A. Planes (why did man ever feel the need to fly? It's just not natural.)
B. Crowds (I really am an introvert. I'm just really good at pretending otherwise)
C. Humiliation (which I'm sure I will experience during the late night chats I'm co-presenting).

Of course, I've already paid for the conference and plane ticket, so I will be going. And I'm actually looking forward to it in a slightly neurotic, very anxious way. I only go to one conference a year, so this is my time to be Shirlee-the-author. A time when I feel confident about who I am and what I've accomplished in the publishing world. It's a time when I get to meet new people and reconnect with friends. A time when I can sit and think and listen and learn. When I refocus and renew my passion for what I do. It's a time when I know absolutely beyond a shadow of a doubt that I'm doing what God want me to do, and that writing really is my calling and my gift.

So, yeah, I'd kind of like to find a hotel in Ocean city and spend four days at the deserted beach, but I think I'll just go ahead and get on the plane tomorrow.

Look out Dallas! Here I come!

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Ready Or Not?


It's true. While you're all scrambling to perfect pitches and one sheets, packing clothes, making lists of what's needed and what's not, I'm doing nothing. Well as much of nothing as a homeschool mother of four/author/wife can do. I've not packed, not shopped, not thought about anything to do with the story I'd like to pitch to a certain editor that I'm hoping to meet.

This, gang, is called avoidance. If I don't think about it, it won't happen. Of course, it will happen. Come Thursday morning, I'll be boarding that plane and flying to Dallas. Do I know what I'll be wearing? NO. Do I know if I'm bringing my laptop? NO. Do I know who I'm flying out with? Well, yes, actually that is one thing I do know and have planned for.

Why do I bring this up? Because, whether or not I'm ready, my trip to Dallas will happen. That's life, isn't it? We can choose to tackle it head on, or we can choose to hide our heads in the sand, but one way or another, it's going to happen.

So, whatever it is you're avoiding, putting off, refusing to acknowledge, take a page from my book of lessons learned - it doesn't pay to avoid. Today, I go shopping, I get out my suitcase, and I finish the blasted proposal that just won't DIE. What is it that you need to do today?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Here's what I know

God is in control.

Through heartache, trouble, trial, disappointment. He is in control.

Through every moment, every tear, every triumph. He is in control.

He has promised to never leave us. Never forsake us. We can choose to embrace that or to doubt it, but it doesn't change the truth. He is in control.

How obvious. How true. How often overlooked. The simple idea that no matter what, no matter where, no matter how broken, wounded, joyful, or quiet, He is in that moment.

And He is in control.

Next week, many of us will be heading to Dallas for the ACFW conference. We're putting all our ducks in a row, making beautiful one sheets and practicing well-worded hooks. We've prepared proposals, thought through meetings, perhaps even written a script of what we want to say. And that's good. Being prepared, having a plan, working toward a goal, those are things we must do to move toward our dreams and His plans.

But in the end, it's His will, not ours. His timing, not ours. His purpose, His plan, and His perfect knowledge of what is best. Not ours.

That doesn't mean we have to understand it. It doesn't mean we even have to like it. It just is what it is.

I knew this when I started the journey toward publication, but my experiences as an author have brought this truth into sharp focus. I can choose to question, to worry, to wait with anxiety and trepidation, or I can release those things to God and let Him work out the details of where I'm headed and what He will do with the gift He's granted me. Even more, I can grasp my career with both hands, holding onto it with tight fists and determination, or I can let it go, watching it float on air breathed by His warm and wonderful grace. In the end, I cannot know where this journey is leading me. I can only trust that His will is best, His knowledge, His foresight, and His love for me determining the best path for my feet to trod.

Wherever you're going, whatever gift you are trying to use for Him, I pray that you will rest in the assurance that He is in control.

Monday, September 11, 2006


That's what I remember most about 9/11.

The world went silent, as if even the birds and animals held their breath and waited. Sometimes I think they are still waiting, wondering what further atrocities mankind can visit on itself. I know I am.

I've heard people blame God, religion, politics for what happened that day. I think it is our nature as humans to look for causes so that we can find solutions. Sadly, there is no solution. What happened has happened before on both smaller and larger scales. It will continue to happen until the end of time.

Maybe I sound like a pessimist. I'm not. I'm a realist. I look at humanity and I see the truth - there is both great good and great evil in the world. And perhaps even in each of us. No one is exempt from anger, hatred, and bigotry. We each have preconceived ideas, deep rooted insecurities, and the need to survive. Created in the imagine of God, we have minds that imagine, create, and question. Because of that, we have the ability to build up, to tear down, to pull together, and to divide.

Did 911 change me as a person? Yes. I no longer believe that safety is assured. I look for exits in stores, movie theaters, and malls, always, always planning how best to get myself and my children out if there is an attack. I will never fly without fear. Nor will I see a plane in pristine blue sky without remembering 9/11.

But it's changed me for the better, as well. Before, I thought heroes were for fiction. That true heroic acts were few and far between. Today, I know the truth. That there is a hero in every one of us. That when push comes to shove, people will reach out and lend a hand. More, they will sacrifice all they have to save people they've never met. They will work. They will fight. They will even die.

And the beauty of that is far more than can be expressed in words. I think, in the end, that beauty far outweighs the horror and ugliness of what transpired five years ago. What man meant for evil God used for good, bringing together a widely diverse nation and showing us the power of the human spirit and the truth of the hero that dwells in the heart of every man.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I Wonder

And maybe you're wondering, too. Where has Shirlee been? No sightings here. No sightings at Eharlequin. No Shirlee.

I'm here, though. Just quiet. Going through an introspective time in my life that started months ago. Wondering. Wondering. Wondering.

And maybe doing a little wandering, too. From one thought to the next. One idea to the next. And asking myself why I do all I do. What I hope to accomplish. Where I think I'm heading. More importantly, am I heading in the direction God wants me to go?

See? Introspection.

That probably scares some people. Sometimes it scares me. It's tough to look in the mirror and tougher still to grab a magnifying glass and move in close. Mostly, though, introspection doesn't bother me. It's the way I've always been. I often think that's why I became a writer. All the thoughts and feelings and questions that run through my head and my heart. Sometimes they just need a place to go. What better place than a blank white page that's waiting - maybe even begging - to be filled with something.

And so I return to my blog as I began it. Looking at a white page and wondering - how shall I fill it. So many possibilities.

Maybe I'll take a page from Heather Tipton and write a poem. That's always been my way of expressing what I'm feeling. I've got journals filled with bad poetry. LOL. You can check out some that's much better than mine at Heather's blog

If I were going to write a poem here, I'd write about time. Or life. Or death.

If I were going to.

Who knows? Maybe I will.

How about you?