Wednesday, March 31, 2010

If you don't laugh, you'll cry...

In keeping with the theme of rejection this week, and after having an unsuccessful stare-down with the brutal line-edits of my October release glaring at me from my kitchen counter, here's a few comics I couldn't resist sharing...

Maybe things aren't so bad for us after all ;)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Overcoming Rejection

Let’s be honest here – not many of us enjoy rejection. Granted, someone out there is thinking, Ohh! But I do! I do! Rejection just makes me try harder for what I want!


Now that we have the name-calling out of the way, it’s time for confessions.

Dear Mother Superior,

I am the worst hater of rejection ever. And I chose writing as a career. What can I learn from this?

- BJ

Dear B.J.,

You are an idiot.

- Mother Superior

OK, that’s not really what I needed to hear today. Because, to be honest, rejection isn’t the focus of this column.

The focus is overcoming rejection, which really can be summed up in one word: chocolate.

OK, that’s not the entire truth. The entire truth is that surviving rejection has more to do with fish than it does with chocolate. (Although I once ate an entire package of Double-Stuf Oreos® after reading a particularly heinous rejection letter).

I learned about the fish-cure on one particularly brutal writers' conference day. I’d just received a rejection from an agent who said (and I quote), “It’s not you – it’s me.”

I couldn’t believe it. What was this? Bad back-cover copy from a romance novel?

My heart was confused.

So I stalked to my room and pouted. And while I was there, I figured, Why not? I should hear from God about this. So I opened my Bible (though not my heart) and dutifully read the passage listed in my devotional for that day.

Here is what it said: “Cast the net again.”

You know the story. The disciples fished all night. They were tired. They were whiny. They were uncomfortable.

Sounds a lot like me at this moment, I thought. “God… I’m out of my comfort zone… God… rejection hurts…” Whine. Whine. Whine. Whine. Whine.

Cast the net again.

I was too tired to argue. So I dragged my tired, whiny, uncomfortable bum to the table of an agent who had told me 15 months earlier she was not accepting any new clients.

I cast the net again.

She. Said. Yes.

Here’s the moral of the story, folks. If God has told you to fish – fish. Do it all night if you have to.

Don’t stop and think long about your tired, whiny, uncomfortable bum. Because when the net comes up full of fish, it will be worth the amazing price of obedience.

Personally, I’m in my own phase of fishing right now… but I know from experience that obedience to God yields bountiful results.

So let's go forth... together... with nets on our backs and pockets full of chocolate.

B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith editorest.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Writer Jokes!

Sometimes we just need to laugh, don't you think? Here are a few jokes about writers I've found that crack me up:

A writer died and was given the option of going to heaven or hell.

She decided to check out each place first. As the writer descended into the fiery pits, she saw row upon row of writers chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they were repeatedly whipped with thorny lashes.

"Oh my," said the writer. "Let me see heaven now."

A few moments later, as she ascended into heaven, she saw rows of writers, chained to their desks in a steaming sweatshop. As they worked, they, too, were whipped with thorny lashes.

"Wait a minute," said the writer. "This is just as bad as hell!"

"Oh no, it's not," replied an unseen voice. "Here, your work gets published."


An author comes home to a burned down house. His sobbing and slightly-singed wife is standing outside. “What happened, honey?” the man asks.

“Oh, John, it was terrible,” she weeps. “I was cooking, the phone rang. It was your agent. Because I was on the phone, I didn’t notice the stove was on fire. It went up in second. Everything is gone. I nearly didn’t make it out of the house. Poor Fluffy is--”

“Wait, wait. Back up a minute,” The man says. “My agent called?”


A hungry lion was roaming through the jungle looking for something to eat. He came across two men. One was sitting under a tree reading a book; the other was typing away on his typewriter.

The lion quickly pounced on the man reading the book and devoured him. Even the king of the jungle knows that readers digest and writers cramp.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Bookmark This!!!

Yes, it's been one of those weeks. My deadlines have taken over my life, and I've barely had time to come up for air, let alone grab a cup of coffee.

But I don't want to leave my fellow Scribble Chick readers with nothing this week, so I must introduce you to my new favorite writing blog (other than ours, of course) called Write it Sideways.

While it doesn't have topics specific to the Christian book industry, it does have some good, old-fashioned tips on great writing, the publishing biz, etc. And who couldn't use a few more great resources like that?

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Fear of falling

As I was thinking about what to post today, I saw a comment by a reader on a previous post that really struck me.

I will now quote said loyal reader: "As for writing, I know I'm not ready, though I've spent a lifetime at this...I tend to cling to my work, for fear of failure, when what I really need to be doing is setting it free to fly or to fall on it's own merit. It's something I'm working on within myself."

Those words really hit me because EVERY author can relate to them. We've all been there, and sometimes we feel like we still are. We've just learned to push aside the fear and realize that we have been given the awesome opportunity to live our dreams - so its worth the risk of rejection.

Here's a secret...I actually kinda liked my first rejection.

Not kidding.

I pitched for the first time at the ACFW conference in Nashville as a newbie so green I might as well have been a walking four-leaf clover. All at once, I was confident, terrified, excited, positive, nervous, hopeful, and full of fear. That really is possible, though it sounds like it wouldn't be. Everyone thought I was kinda crazy for pitching when I was brand new to the ACFW, it was my first fiction conference, I had no idea what I was doing, etc. My thought, however, was, I don't wanna waste any time! So why not dive in and start practicing now?

I stumbled through my pitch until my book didn't even make sense to myself, graciously accepted the form letter the editor handed me (I gotta give her props for not throwing it! haha) and showed myself out. I sat down in the workshop next to my friend, my heart racing, my stomach churning, my breath fast. She looked at me and raised her eyebrows. "How'd it go?" And then I said the words I would never have to say again, and I even said them with a smile. "I just got my first rejection."

It was such a freeing release, saying those words. Because you know what? It was OVER. I was done. I would never again have to live through a first time pitch and a first time rejection. Ever. Oh sure, I'd probably get a second rejection, probably three or ten or twenty, but that wouldn't be as bad as the first one.

And even better, I'd just proven to others and myself that I had done it - had put myself out there, took advance of the opportunities thrown my way, and TRIED. I jumped and fell but you know what? It didn't hurt that bad because I was looking at the big picture. The picture that showed I was officially in the game! I had PITCHED a MANUSCRIPT to a professional EDITOR in the PUBLISHING her face! And gotten rejected! I was totally in this now, and had no where to go but up. I finally felt like I was for real. Not a kid with a pipe dream but a professional actively pursuing a goal.

That was just more exciting than disappointing.
So think of your work that way, even if you aren't preparing for a face to face pitch and are preparing a query letter by mail or email instead. It's the same truth. When you send your work out there, regardless of the outcome, YOU ARE IN THE GAME. You are PURSUING PUBLICATION.

And guess what? Pursuing it puts you one step closer to getting it. =)

Don't rush yourself before you're ready, of course...dont just slap anything together and mail it. Be smart, be prepared, all that good stuff. But if you think you MIGHT be ready, chances are, you ARE ready.

So fly, little writer birdies. Fly!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Winner of Distant Melody...

We have a winner!

Today, I'm grateful to share Sarah's Sundin's debut novel, A Distant Melody, with one of our commenters. Sarah sent me a copy to preview... I know -- lucky, right? Today I'm giving a copy of that novel to Abbie Writes.

I'm excited about this book because the characters are genuine-- Sarah gets into the hearts of her characters... and consequently the minds and hearts of her readers.

Abbie, I think you'll enjoy this book. And so will the rest of you!

Come again soon for another round of See it First on Scribble Chicks!

Monday, March 22, 2010

When Push Comes to Bulldozing

When I was a little kid, I always thought the word "deadline" was probably one of the scariest words ever. I figured it had to mean that if you didn't finish whatever you were doing before your deadline ended, you died.

Now, I still think "deadline" is one of the scariest words ever, but for different reasons. I like to believe that publishers are nice enough people to avoid going to extreme measures if someone is late with a manuscript. That being said, I've never been late for a deadline and most of the time, I've been a week, if not more than a week, early.

A lesson that was hammered into my brain during many a writing conference.

Before I got published, writing was fun. I got to write when I wanted to, when I felt like, when the mood was right. I never thought about word counts or page counts or anything really except what I wanted to write that day.

Then I signed a contract. And had to have a complete novel written by a date that was growing increasingly closer every time I blinked at my blank Word document.

Suddenly, writing was not so fun anymore. I had to write every day - whether I was sick, tired, sick and tired or just not in the writing mood. I couldn't just drop my writing and head out to meet a friend for coffee or go to the mall with my mom. Writing was no longer recreational.

It was work.

For those of you out there who are working for a publishing contract, one of the best exercises you can do is give yourself a deadline for your next manuscript. Mark a date four to six months away on your calendar and make yourself finish the book by then.

Consider it practice for the future.

Or, consider it a life-saver for the future. Instead of having near panic attacks like I had, you'll be breezily humming as you write along once you get your contract because you will have developed the skill to write even when you don't feel like it.

Forced Inspiration - it's a discipline that is both well-earned and priceless. Whenever you find something that just gets the wheels rolling, remember it and use it. Is it listening to music when you write? Crank the music! Is it sitting in a certain chair, at a certain desk? Plop on down there! Is it drinking a certain coffee drink? Start brewing because deadlines wait for no one.

"Deadline" is a scary word, but it can be way less scary if you're already used to them by the time you sign your contract.

Do you make deadlines for yourself? And how do you force inspiration?

Thursday, March 18, 2010

More Reading, Better Writing

Ever find yourself so focused on your writing that you've forgotten how to be a reader, too?

Yeah, I've been there, and after a good, long while, it's a problem—a big problem.

One of the things I actually remember from high school (truth be told, I've blocked most of it out) were the wise words of my A.P. English teacher Mr. Baye: "The best writers are readers, too, so I'd get going on Jane Eyre if I were you."

Side note: For whatever reason, I absolutely loathed Jane Eyre and put off reading it as long as I could. Maybe it's because Bronte's protagonist didn't quite measure up to those my favorite "Jane" came up with, (and everyone told me Bronte was similar, and in some cases, even better) or perhaps, it was my lame version of acting out. But whatever my problem with Jane was, the pages turned very, very slowly, and I hated every second of it.

Funny enough, I actually like the book now...guess I'm growing up.

Ok, tangent over—back to reading.

Sure, there's a million things vying for our time, and sometimes, it's difficult enough to find the time to pen our work in progress, let alone pick up a book. But if we're writing and not reading, it's simply too easy to get stuck in our own little world. Whatever I'm reading, whether it's good, bad or somewhere in between, it provides an opportunity for me to see what works well and what doesn't.

How does this particular writer develop his/her characters? Are the situations he/she creates believable? Why or why not? What is his/her voice like? What about word choice? Do they show not tell? (In fact, that's something I didn't really grasp‚in practice rather than theory‚until I read a few authors who committed this literary sin).

I don't know about you, but reading other people's work really revitalizes my writing. If I don't like what I'm reading, I make sure that whatever bugs me doesn't show up in my own writing. If there's something—a technique, an out-of-the-box way of describing something without a boatload of adjectives, a turn of phrase—I like, I write it down for future reference.

And have I mentioned that, above all, it's gotta be the funnest (yes, I said "funnest") research project around? I simply can't cram enough reading in my day.

However, since I'm pressed for time like everyone else on the planet, I make time for it in smaller increments—while waiting for a movie screening, dentist appointment, etc., right before bed, in place of watching a favorite TV show (that's what DVR is for, right?), basically whenever I can. Even if I only get through a couple of pages, that's certainly better than nothing—and I'm helping my writing career without even exerting much effort. Bonus!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Missed post

I'm sorry I didn't post today! I'd love to say something genius right now but guys, at the moment I'm drinking my 54908549th diet coke today (feels like it anyway!) and trying to veg from my headache after just putting my baby girl to bed with a 101 fever. She's been sick all day, threw up this morning, and has had fever spikes off an on all day/evening. She's on a ton of medicine trying to keep the fever down, had a cold bath earlier, and I'm gonna have to set my alarm to get up every hours to take her temp and shovel more tylenol and motrin down her throat.

Poor little girl, she's exhausted and puny and its breaking my heart! I wish I could be sick instead of her. =(

So prayers are appreciated for Little Miss and her stressed, tired Mommy! We all need sleep and healing and rest. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

When the Exhaust Fell Out

**** Just a note to say that next Tuesday is the Distant Melody giveaway! Go here to enter.****

Recently I took some of my music students to the store. As I pulled out in front of another car I heard the usual screams of terror from the back seat. I chalked it up to inexperienced passengers – until I realized the screams were ones of delight.

"Ms. Hamrick!" one student shouted over the roar of the engine, "Did you get your car souped-up?"

I racked my brain in kid-lingo. Souped-up? What could that possibly mean?

"The noise," he shouted. "Your car is really cool!"

I didn't have the heart to tell him the exhaust had fallen out.

To be honest, that's why I write humor -- because my exhaust fell out. Not my car's exhaust -- but my life's exhaust. Several years ago I was 17, single, scrawny, and sick. It was obvious to everyone else (including the kids who dubbed me "bubble kid") that I was miserable.

I started to write about my social misfit-ness... because we all know where there's money involved, 17-year-olds will do just about anything. In a weird non-masochist sort of way, making fun of myself improved my self-esteem.

I like to think of it as a reminder that God doesn't waste any of our pain. Today I am [age definitely withheld], married to the most amazing guy ever [who fell in love with me after reading my columns], healthy, and whole.

But I will still do just about anything for money...

So what about you? How is God redeeming the broken parts of your life? How does that affect your writing?

I'd love to hear about it.

BJ Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith Editorest.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Do you have a Prince Caspian spirit?

It's no secret the main goal of many writers is to have their novels published. But as we progress on our writing journeys, it's good to pause and ask ourselves, "Am I really ready to be published?"

A couple years ago I answered, "Yes, of course I'm ready. I've been been learning non-stop for twelve years. I'm more than ready!"

But as I got to thinking about this, a change came over me. I think it was the Lord tempering my zeal (in a good way). And believe it or not, I thought of Prince Caspian.

Remember in the book (and movie) where Aslan asks him if he's ready to be King of Narnia? His response was hesitation. He wasn't sure if he was. And Aslan said, in effect, "If you had said you were, it would have proven you weren't."

I realized that by admitting my uncertainties of being a published novelist I was actually in a better place than if I'd been cocky and sure. Granted, it's okay to have confidence. But is my heart in the right place? Am I clothing myself with humility and a teachable spirit? I hope my answer will always be yes to that question.

And here right now is another example of the power of story. C.S. Lewis penned Prince Caspian fifty years ago, before computers, the internet, Twitter, Blogger, and the like. And here I am writing about learning from his book.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dreaming vs Doing

I really liked what CJ said last week about dreaming, and I want to add a sort of Part Two to her excellent advice.

I've heard it said before, and you probably have as well - that if you don't do something different today, nothing will change tomorrow.

We all have dreams, right? Dreams about our families, dreams about the future, dreams about new polka dot shoes - wait, that's probably just me. lol And of course all writers have dreams about their writing careers.

I've realized over the last several years that while dreaming is important, it's not enough. Like CJ said, it's definitely half the battle. But once you have your dream in mind, then we have to take action to make our dreams come true. I'm not saying that it's up to us completely, because I firmly believe that God places dreams in our hearts and that He is willing and able to make them come true, for our good and for His glory...but we still have to be willing to do our part, to move forward in faith and not fear, and sometimes, get out of the way and let God work!

So how do we do that?

Well, I like lists.

Yep, that's me, remember, the organized plotter/planner? haha. Don't hate me, Erynn!! :::ducking:::

Seriously though, a list can really help you accomplish your goals. Do you find yourself making New Years resolutions and not following through after the first few weeks? Next time, try making a list and writing it where you see it every day, somewhere that you can't avoid reality and deal with it in true Scarlett O'Hara fashion "tomorrow". If your goals are staring you in the face via a sticky note on your bathroom mirror every morning, wouldn't you imagine you'd be more motivated to start checking the items off?

So get pro-active today, and I don't mean the zit cream. I mean, get busy. Get moving. Quit wallowing with a book in your hands, wishing you could write that way, wishing you could be famous like the author whose work you're holding, and get to your computer (or, if you're taking Erynn's advice from Monday, your feathertip pen and inkwell! hehe) and start WRITING. Start TRYING.

And don't stop there. Writing is the ultimate key, of course, but take our other advice you've been reading about for months now. Devour writing craft books. Plan to attend an upcoming conference. Update your blog and website to be as professional as you can and start blogging regularly and gain a readership that will follow you to publication. Join a book club at your local library or bookstore and meet other readers or authors who can relate with you and inspire you and give you a future "in" when you're published.

Sometimes, as authors and even just people in general, we just need the occasional good, solid kick in the booty. So, this is my foot, sweetly adorned in a red polka dotted pump, kicking you in your sweatpant-clad booty. GO FOR YOUR DREAMS!

And go now!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Let Those Cookies Cool

It was a dreadful accident... but I realized it one nanosecond too late. I'd just sent the e-mail that would change my life forever -- the one that said "hello"... without the "o".


I tell you this somewhat crass and very incriminating story to illustrate a point: Spell-check doesn't always catch everything. Which means... we need to let our cookies cool.

My journalist-friend, Annette, told me this: "If you wouldn't pull fresh baked cookies out of the oven and bite in-- why send out writing when it's fresh?"

Because of my hellish e-mail, I agreed with Annette. Over the years I've learned a few tips for letting my writing cool:
  • Give pieces I'm submitting for publication at least 24 hours to cool, but not so long I lose interest.
  • Pick up the piece again when I'm not in a sarcastic mood.
  • Send it to a writer-friend for a second opinion if I'm really unsure.
  • Don't hit "send" until I know it's the absolute best I can do (no fair comparing myself to John Grisham, though, or I'd never send out anything).
As far as typos, apparently they can be forgiven. My church-friend who received the e-mail never said a word about it. Except I noticed her husband did preach a sermon about the torments of Hell the next Sunday...

What about you? Have you found a specific way to let your writing cool?
B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and Real Teen Faith editorest.

Monday, March 8, 2010

From Past to Present

I like to imagine what Jane Austen, Louisa May Alcott and L.M. Montgomery's writing lives were like. There weren't computers - goodness, there weren't even typewriters. Everything was painstakingly written by hand. None of this "oh, I'll just crop that section and move it to the next chapter." They had to rewrite it.

By hand.

When you consider the length of the works that they produced, it really makes me very thankful for my MacBook. And very curious to see what their hands looked like. I would imagine that they had hand muscles that would make any masseuse jealous.

It's romantic to think about though, isn't it? One of those girls, writing away at a table underneath a huge oak tree, the sunlight filtering through the leaves, the cows mooing in the distance. I love to picture L.M. Montgomery like her best known character, Anne of Green Gables - fiery, passionate, madly in love with Gilbert even though she won't admit it to herself.

I know very little about L.M. Montomgery's life, but I don't want to and here's why: Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott both died at a very young age, single and lonely.

I'd rather picture at least one of the great romance writers of their day getting a happily ever after.

In this day and age, an editor would mostly likely laugh at you if you handed in your book on 400 neatly handwritten pages. They would definitely lecture you if you didn't have a computer by which to receive their emails. And they would probably just stand and gape at you if you mentioned you didn't have a website or a blog.

Things have changed. No longer are the best writers crafting pages of intrigue with one of those awesome ink pens like in Pride and Prejudice - taking moments to get more ink and think a bit, but they're rarely looking away from their computer screen - even to glance out the window. No longer are novels considered a rare find - they are everywhere! And no longer is fiction a sweet reflection on life, it can be very weird and strange (hello? Did anyone see the previews for District 9? I rest my case).

So, as happy as I am that the life expectancy of novelists has risen dramatically and that a woman who writes is no longer considered too smart for marriage, there are days when I wish I could be writing on Prince Edward Island, surrounded by green hills, huge trees and tons of flowers. I'd think the inspiration would be incredible.

Which is why today I'm going to take a few cues from the great women writers of the past. I'm going to think before I write. I'm going to remember that the written word is something that lasts - and so write carefully. I'm going to craft my characters to be real people with real flaws - something that each of those women excelled at and one of the main reasons I think their books are still so loved today.

And I'm going to remember that God is the "Author and Perfecter of our faith" and trust that even as He is shaping my life for His glory, He is also who I want to glorify most when I shape the lives of my characters.

And maybe, just maybe, I might write a section or two by hand today. I can always transcribe it later!

What are some of your favorite authors from the past? And what are some tips you've learned from them?

Friday, March 5, 2010

Are You Daring to Dream?

Some time ago I watched the movie October Sky. Based on the memoir Rocket Boys by Homer Hickham, the movie tells: "The true story of Homer Hickam, a coal miner's son who was inspired by the first Sputnik launch to take up rocketry against his father's wishes."

I was encouraged by this movie in ways I hadn't expected. Homer wasn't afraid to follow his dreams, despite severe opposition from his father and other towns folks. I kept asking myself as I watched, "Would I have had the guts to follow my dreams when faced with that kind of opposition?" Probably not. And unlike Homer, I have a supportive family.

The movie challenged me to strive for more and give my writing all of my dedication. If a teen boy like Homer can do it, so can I. But I need to want to succeed as a writer as much as Homer wanted to succeed with his rockets. And the cool thing is, wanting something badly is half the battle. Homer was horrible at math, but he studied and learned and eventually understood it. Deep in the mines he was pouring over his textbooks during lunch breaks. He got little sleep. He was dedicated to his dream.

How dedicated to your dreams are you? God puts dreams in our hearts for a reason. He has some way of fulfilling them if we will commit them to Him and follow that still small voice leading us. Don't be afraid to do something toward your dreams today. Even if it seems incredibly small. You won't be able to take big steps until you take the small ones.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hi, I'm Christa, and I'm Also a Non-Outliner

I'd like to think that I'm always a spontaneous, fly-by-the-seat-of-my-pants kind of girl.

But truth be told, most of the time I'd fall under the category of a "planner," which I guess makes sense when you're doing the freelance writing thing for a living. Basically, I'm managing a slew of writing deadlines with everyday life's responsibilities sandwiched in between, and that requires structure to make it all work.

But when it comes to writing my novels, I'm the veritable poster child for free spiritedness (like how I just made that word up...I'm guessing it's not in Webster's). In fact, I'm a lot like my fellow Scribble Chick, Erynn. I don't outline. For whatever reason, I simply don't have it in me. Sure, I have a basic idea of where my story is headed and a fairly firm grasp of who these characters are, but as far as the particulars, well, that comes to me as I type away.

And for me, I've found that this is the best way to create a compelling story. In the course of spending time with these fictional people that feel oh-so-real to me, scenarios naturally spring to mind that I probably wouldn't have thought of when outlining.

Now for some people, I totally get that outlines help provide a structure, a method to the forthcoming madness if you will. But for me, it's too tight of a box that prevents me from creating something probably far more promising than what I brainstormed for an outline.

Basically when crafting your proposal, your potential publishers wants to know that you have a strong story in mind—you know, something with a proper beginning, middle and resolution. But while a few details definitely will increase their faith in you, you don't have to feel like you must have every, teensy-weensy detail worked out to send something their way. I'm guessing they'd probably even prefer that you didn't tell them everything.

So why am I telling you this? Well, it's because I definitely remember the days of proposals feeling very daunting because I didn't have everything worked out yet. After a while, it almost becomes a procrastination tool—"Well, I don't know how the story is going to end, so I better not send that off just yet."

Or "I don't think I'm going to work on that today because I haven't decided how this conflict is going to resolve."

Yes, at some point, you'll have to address that in your manuscript. But don't let the details prevent you from moving ahead. There will always be a million reasons not to submit your ideas (fear of rejection, fear that it'll never get read, fear that your story isn't solidfied enough), but believe me, it's absolutely, positively worth the risk.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Monkeying Around

My mom was watching my 19 month old today, as I started a new part time job. For the time being, I'll be working three days a week doing title work/abstracting for oil and gas leases. Thankfully, my mother can babysit for me that partial week so I can do my part to help our finances during this tough season in our lives. Prayers still appreciated! I'm just grateful that I can earn signifcant money doing this part time and still have four days a week with my Little Miss, and still have time to write. =)

The only issue with my mother babysitting is that for some reason, Little Miss decided a few months ago that she doesn't like her crib over there anymore. She officially hates it, and that's that. She refuses to nap in it or sleep overnight during an occasional slumber party, after a literal year of doing just that. Now she cries/screams as if she's scared of being alone, which is ridiculous because she's perfectly happy and content in her bed in her room here at our house. She only slept in our room for the first 2 months or so of her life, in a Pack N Play, while she was a tiny newborn. I guess its just different not being at Home.

Regardless, my mother and I decided we would kinda force her through it, because with her being there three days a week now, she needs to get into a good nap routine for all of our sake's.

So, my mom followed with the plan. Tucked her in, turned on the mobile, told her to have a good nap, and left the room, leaving the door open a crack. She said mass screaming occcured. She waited a few minutes, didn't cease. Went back in, gave her a hug, tucked her back in, etc. Rinse and repeat. Still, adament refusal to be alone.

My mom was just about to go in and try another time when suddenly, the guest room door opened, and Little Miss toddled out, still crying and red-cheeked, sputtering "Hi Nana! Hi Nana!"

We're still unsure how she managed to get out of her crib alone. She's never even tried to climb out before!! That, my friends, is what you call Sheer Determination.

My mom said that she burst into tears and hysterical laughter all at the same time as Little Miss came to find her. It was the sweetest, most pitiful thing she's ever seen in her life. I can just picture it!!! Then Little Miss pointed to the couch, so my mom gathered up Blankie and Gigi (the stuffed giraffe that might as well be Little Miss' third arm) and snuggled up and she fell sound asleep immediately. She finished her nap on the couch surrounded by pillows, and that was that.

And this is one Mama who is totally fine with saying "whatever works" and leaving it alone!

The rest of the evening I've been teasing Little Miss about being an escapee. Now we know that crib is officially through being an option, which was probably her goal all along. Oh well. It had a good run.

I can't help but laugh as I picture Little Miss monkey-ing her way out of the crib and onto the floor. She's fearless sometimes, which is definitely her Daddy in her! As much as I hate that the crib (at Nana's anyway, thankfully not here yet!) is officially bye-bye, I have to admire her drive.

Maybe we can apply that level of determination to our writing today. Are you feeling stuck? Trapped? Alone? All of the above? Then push through it. If Little Miss can find a way out, so can you!

Feeling lonely in this solitary writing venture? Hey, just shoot one of us an email and we'll wallow with you. I can guarantee you that whatever you are thinking/feeling/doubting/scared of, you are definitely not alone.

Maybe today you need to swing off the confines that are boxing you in and give yourself the emotional permission to go crying to your Father. Are you afraid of never getting that first contract? Scarred from a bad review? Frustrated that you write and write and seem to never get anywhere? Hurt from a negative comment from a critique partner? God understands your fears, concerns, doubts, and sorrows, and He's waiting with a soft blanket of comfort to wrap you up. Don't be afraid to go find Him.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Mount Hermon... A Magical Place

Mount Hermon Christian Writers’ Conference was something I planned to do… you know, after I moved to Hollywood, cast myself as Dolly Parton, and produced my debut film with Matthew McConaughey.

I’d read all about M.H. Most of the authors I admired/stalked got started in this magical place. And I thought, “How nice. Maybe some day after I (a) get a life (b) get a manuscript (c) get a shorter list of lame excuses… I’ll go.”

The truth was… I was terrified.

Then it happened. In a moment of what could only be described as extreme delusional insanity, I submitted an essay to Cec Murphey’s Mount Hermon scholarship competition.

The delusions continued when I learned I was one of the “winners”. This was better than a role in Hollywood, I thought. Plus, now I could skip the wig and implants.

Then I realized… I had to write a book proposal.

I’ll spare you the next several months of despair, gloom, and chocolate. Ultimately I did share my proposal with an agent beneath the beautiful canopy of California redwoods. Then I trudged back to my gorgeously furnished room, looked in the mirror, and saw the booger hanging out of my nose.

I wish I was making that part up.

The next part I am also not making up: I still do not live in Hollywood, do not look like Dolly Parton, and do not film with Matthew McConaughey. I do, however, have a contract with the agent I met at Mount Hermon – which only goes to prove that M.H. is, indeed, a magical place.

For more information about Mount Hermon Christian Writers' Conference, visit

B.J. Hamrick is a journalist, humorist, and the editorest of She was in no way bribed or compensated for this post... Mount Hermon really is just that amazing.

Monday, March 1, 2010

So what if I DON'T outline?

When I was little, I decided there were two kinds of people: Chocolate Chip Cookie lovers and Oatmeal Raisin Cookie lovers. Just so you know, I'm firmly in the first group. I find the idea of fruit (dried or not) in cookies to be a little too nutritious (not to mention repulsive and squooshy).

And, since I started writing, I've learned there are two kinds of writers: The Outliners and the Non-Outliners. Most of the Outliners I know are extremely good at what they do - they take a week or so to write a rough outline and then they write the book. But I have met people who spend months - if not years - crafting the perfect, ironclad plot for their novel. They've done research, they've done character sketches, they've written languages for the novel.

The only thing they haven't written? The novel.

I think you can see what camp I belong to - definitely the Non-Outliners. It's my favorite thing in the world to sit down to a blank Microsoft Word document and type Chapter One and just go from there. It's fun, it's exciting, it keeps me interested in the book.

But, like Betsy mentioned on Wednesday, writing professionally, or wanting to write professionally, means - gulp - writing a proposal.

As much as I'm a fan of proposals in life (a sappy sense of romance is a definite perk from that Chocolate Chip Cookie club), a proposal in writing should carry a big sign that says "Hi, I'm Here To Ruin The Non-Outliner's Momentum, Excitement and Life As She Knows It."

Okay, maybe it's not quite that bad. :)

So, let's say you are a non-outliner like me. How do you write a proposal and still wake up excited to write the next morning? How do you continue to press on when you already know exactly how the story is going to end?

The answer? You just do it, to borrow a slogan from a sneaker company. You have to try to focus on the little details. Yes, you already know the ending. BUT, maybe you don't know the main character's favorite breakfast cereal, or their morning routine or something that might throw one of those fabulous little shoelace plots into the story (you know, one that weaves through the whole book but has really nothing to do with the main plot).

Editors are concerned with knowing the gist of the book. So, give them the gist - but save the details for the thrill of discovery. Maybe you have to have a scene where your character gets their wallet stolen in a seafood joint and that fateful theft starts him on a journey to rediscovering his hometown. The whys, whos, and wheres of that are still totally up to you! He/She could be at Red Lobster and the waiter steals the wallet to pay for his sick child's medical bills OR he/she could be at the cafe in SeaWorld and it's stolen by a man who thought he was stealing from his ex-wife's new mob boss boyfriend.

The joy is definitely in the details.

So, don't be afraid to go after that proposal. Chase it down and scratch out that picket sign so it now reads, "Hi, I'm Here To Challenge Your Writing Style." And then wake up the next morning with a renewed sense of yes, I can do this.

After all, us Non-Outliners are nothing if not used to change. :)