Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Ask, Seek, Knock

"Zach, I'm not a mind-reader. If you need help or don't understand something, please ASK! I want to help you, but if I don't know, I can't."

My words to my son echo in my ears. So many times in the past, Zach has slipped under the radar because he hasn't spoken up in school. I haven't either. Not in school, but I've reached a point in my writing where something's got to give. I know quite a few authors through the writers' group where I'm a member. Do I ever ask for help? Usually it's like this:

"They'll say no."

"They're too busy."

"They're already helping people."

How do I know any of this? I don't.

Learning to ask for help is sometimes difficult for us independent types. We want to do it ourselves. Maybe we don't think enough of ourselves to believe anyone would help us. Or like Zach, do we think people "should know" we need help? I don't mean asking someone for help you've never met before and have no professional relationship. I mean, a writer asking a fellow writer for a hand.

I say these things because I know I'm not the only one who faces these dilemmas. Not wanting a critique or a line edit, but wanting some input and direction, and perhaps some correction, as painful at that may be.

"Ask, seek, knock" doesn't mean we're desperate. But then again, it doesn't mean sitting around waiting for someone to notice we could use some answers.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


Okay, so it's not really New Year's. But the ACFW conference ended and I'm home from Nashville. Wow, what a rollercoaster. Seeing my friends, making some new ones, meeting some critique partners for the first time--all terrific! And the classes, oh, my brain is full. I can't wait to listen to the CDs for classes I missed. There's no way I could do it all!

I also found out how much I still have to learn. I repented of squandering my time. I came off my high horse, realizing I have a long way to go to being a more excellent author. I liken it to rock climbing, something I'd love to do once I lose 100 pounds and get into shape (but that's another story). You can only go up one handhold or foothold at a time. Sometimes you hit plateaus and look around thinking, "Wow, how far I've come." But then tilt your head back a bit and see how much rock face there is left to climb. I'm climbing!!

I left the conference with a request for a manuscript and a proposal from two agents, and an editor requested a proposal of the same book. PLUS--drumroll!--my long-neglected novel, Star's Daughter, won first place in the Sci-Fi/Fantasy category of the Noble Theme contest. I couldn't breathe. I couldn't hear. I didn't know I had so many supporters--thanks, everyone! I too cheered and screamed for other friends who won or placed in different categories. I loved seeing my author friends Linda Wichman and Chris Lynxwiler win in their categories for Book of the Year. I remember their stories before publication, and it sure was exciting to see how far they've come.

So I'm checking Star's Daughter over once again before sending a query to a publisher looking for fantasy stories.

But back to the New Year's thing. I have a whole year between now and the next conference to get ready. So what am I going to do? Work and write like it's a New Year's resolution. I'm ready to go!

So, HAPPY NEW YEAR! Time to get my word count in for the night.

Monday, September 12, 2005

Nashville, here I come!

I'm so excited. I leave Wednesday for Nashville where I'm attending the American Christian Fiction Writers conference. The only downer is leaving my family and kitties behind, but I'll survive until Sunday. (Did I say I was excited?) Can't wait to see my writing buddy and roomie Linda Mae again, plus a ton of other author friends. I'm talking to at least one agent at the conference. We'll see what comes of that. I'm helping in the bookstore. I'm Christmas shopping for books too. I'm in a tizzy getting my business casual wardrobe together for one last go through. Yes, again, I'm excited. I'm getting about as repetitious as one of those doctors I transcribe for.

I finished my edits on Heart's Refuge and it was e-mailed to the editor on Friday, along with the other stories in our anthology. I loved working on this story. It was fun to write towards a goal and know that this book is a done deal. Yet even as I clicked the "send" button on the e-mail sending HR to Rachel, I got a tad queasy.

What if it's not as good as they expected? What if the copy editor makes a ton of changes? What if? What if? What if someone hates it? What if it offends someone? (I can't think how.) But then I'm feeling self-conscious again. The old case of nerves and self-consciousness reveals again how it's so easy to slip into selfishness, as if the story is a reflection of me. It's not. People think of us far less than we realize most of the time. I don't want to be self-conscious.

As I get ready to leave Wednesday afternoon, I want to keep this in mind. The more self-conscious I am, the more I'm in the driver's seat, the more I calculate every word, every gesture--the more I think I'm in the spotlight, the worse it gets. So let's repeat this together, "It's not about me." (And thanks to Rachel for the reminder!)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Fostering Hope

Sometimes there are problems so wide and deep that we never think we will come to the end of them. It's the end of the weekend and it's been emotionally draining. New stories emerge from the aftermath of the hurricane. You know what I didn't know? The size of the relief area is estimated to be around 90,000 square miles, roughly the size of Great Britain? Like many people, I've been shaking my head wondering, "Why did help take so long?" We want things to be in a 90-minute movie where the bad guys are stopped, the good guys triumph, and the "extra" who dies didn't really die because he was only acting. Somehow battalions of aid works and tons of supplies just "appear" on the scene. The waves of water are only computer-generated, the wreckage only props. Not so. Real life moves more slowly and makes us pay dearly.

Frustration can give way to rage that seeks to pin blame on anything and anyone that makes a convenient target. The he-said, she-said, they-did, they-didn't can go on and on forever. Those of us who aren't in the know except by what the media feeds us can't go on rumors and excerpts from broadcasts "someone saw." We let our experience and beliefs color our opinions of what we see.

For example, I know someone who doesn't understand why "all those people" didn't just leave New Orleans. He thinks, "they stayed so they could loot."

I told him (after I resisted the urge to share a piece of my mind with him not so subtly), "Not everyone has a reliable vehicle they can just fill up with gas and drive. Some people--the poor, the elderly, the handicapped--they have no one to help them. They had no way out." So of course they didn't leave. Where? How? Poverty has shown how it limits people. I relate to Paul's words: "I've had little. I've had a lot. I've learned to be content." And I've never forgotten the days when I didn't have a steady reliable paycheck. During times like that, I did what I could. So did they.

So now, waves of evacuees have reached my area. We're going to help out however we can. Please, again, help in your local area. One person can't do everything, but we can all do something.

I e-mailed some fellow authors for help when I had a brainstorm. I thought of a way to find hope and comfort in a tangible way for some refugees, especially the ones in the mass shelters around Texas. Hair care. No matter what her race, a woman likes to do her hair. Girls like to play "hair do." I asked what kind of styling products African-American women would need and appreciate. (It's been a long time since Sheila Lee was my roommate in college back in '86.) Here is what author Mary Griffith shared with me:

"Large tooth combs, rubber bands (Wal mart hare care .99 for about 500) or hair elastics (Goody or other), barrettes for the little girls, hair grease (coconut grease is about 2.00 for a big jar, there are smaller jars for about .96), shampoo (Motions, Cream of Nature or other AA line, again on Wal Mart black hair care aisle), conditioner (anything cholesterol from Queen Helene, Motions or other, again Wal Mart), Magic Shave for the men's razor bumps, relaxer kits (precise, soft and beautiful, African pride are all 5.00 and under at wal mart), lotion for skin (.99 Jergens is fine), afro picks, headscarves (in black hair section of walmart for 2.00)

Any of the above would be greatly appreciated. People will definitely want to do their little girl's hair which can be done with grease, rubber bands or hair elastics, barrettes and possible "knockers", those big balls on elastic bands that you twine around ponytails. You can find these things reasonably at Wal Mart, but if there is an Oriental beauty supply in your area, you may want to compare there as the barrettes and knockers may be cheaper there, but Wal Mart is very comparable."

So besides diapers and lotion and stuffed animals, I'm going to get a bunch of products so some of the ladies can feel a little bit "done" again. They may not have a permanent home, but they'll have a little dignity. And maybe that will foster a little hope. I pray so. We need hope for the long road ahead.

And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations,
knowing that tribulation produces perseverance;
and perseverance, character; and character, hope.
Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God
has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Thursday, September 01, 2005


God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with their surging.

This week I've been reminded at how precarious life is. I complain about the smallest things sometimes. I think now I'm going to keep quiet and count my blessings even more. I've heard some people saying about New Orleans, "All that sin got washed into the Gulf," and it sickens me. They act as if it's a good thing. These are people who call themselves Christians, i.e., followers of Christ. I read in my Bible that God so loved the world that He gave His only Son, and that whoever believes in Him should not die, but have everlasting life. That God didn't send His Son to condemn the world, but to save the world through His Son. I recall Zacchaeus, the tax collector and sinner who snuck a peek at Jesus when He came to town. And Jesus ended up inviting Himself to Zacchaeus' house for dinner--not banishing his sinner's house to the sea. Zacchaeus then realized he needed a change, and that Jesus could give him the change he wanted. Wow, and Zacchaeus ended up paying back with interest everything he'd swindled in his tax dealings (I think he was a card-carrying member of The Sinners' Club). The people Jesus really got cranky with were the religious ones who looked down on others and imposed legalism without changed hearts. While there are sinners in New Orleans, let's not forget the whole world is full of them. I'm a sinner who's found a way out because of Jesus' love, not His condemnation. I don't care if the ones suffering are sinners or blameless, because they deserve our compassion. Jesus would do no less.

CoffeeCup, the web site software company down in Corpus Christi, is soliciting donations that they're planning to truck up to the Astrodome. We're getting some boxes together to send down to them soon. If you want to get involved, check this out:

CoffeeCup Hurricane Relief

If you would rather give money, contribute to

The American Red Cross

Another way to give, especially if you live in the Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Alabama or Mississippi areas: Call your local school district and find out if there are any evacuees in your school district. These children are enrolling in school and have nothing right now. You can make a difference by donating clothes, school supplies, and other essentials while these families take refuge.

Lord, thanks for your blessings. Thanks for your mercy and grace, fresh and new every morning. Let us look to meet the needs around us. We may not be able to do everything, but we can all do something. Give wisdom to the relief workers and those in charge, bring order to chaos, peace to disorder, love from hate, hope from despair. Let your Spirit hover over the waters and make yourself known in this dark time.