On Resting and Prayer

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“There are days when we seek things for ourselves and measure failure by what we do not gain.
On the Sabbath we seek not to acquire but to share.
There are days when we exploit nature as if it were a horn of plenty that can never be exhausted. On the Sabbath we stand in wonder before the mystery of creation.”
Readings from The Shabbat, a Jewish book of prayer as quoted from Jen Hatmaker’s “7.”
Sometimes rest in his love is all that is required. Just rest, dear one. He who knit you in your mother’s womb knows your heartache and he sees.

9 Dos and Don’ts on How to Craft the Perfect Query Letter

If you’ve finished your book, the next step is representation or a small press. You’ve done your research and found the perfect agent who is simply gonna LOVE your work. But you have to make it from your email “Sent” box to her email “Read box” and this is not always easy.This means, of course, the dreaded query letter. Don’t know how to get started? Here are some quick tips.
1. Do find out who to send it to, specifically. Go on the agent’s website and find the name of the agent who is simply ON FIRE about your genre.
2. Don’t begin your letter with: “Dear Editor.” Nothing says “I’m a lazy writer who can’t be bothered with details” like a lack of research here.
3. Do follow the guidelines set forth on the website for submissions. If you go to all the trouble to write a query letter without checking the website first, you may miss the part where they decided to be “closed to unsolicited submissions.” Which, in this case, is yours.
4. Do pay attention to details. If the website says, “Send the first three chapters” or “wait for our response” follow their directions. Even if your query letter is awesome, if they don’t tell you to send it and you attach your manuscript, guess whose email is probably going to be ignored? Yours.
5.Don’t send out a spammish query directed towards many agents at once. You really have to make the agent believe that he or she is the perfect fit for your book–and this is the opposite of that.
6. Do be brief and value the agent’s time. Get to the point. Many agents quit reading after the first few sentences if it’s laborious to do so.
7. Don’t brag as if you’ve written the next Harry Potter or Hunger Games. It’s ok to mention that your book is targeted at the readers of a specific book, though.
8. Do mention previous publications, if it’s relevant. If you’ve won a writing contest or published a short story somewhere, mention it briefly. This automatically gives you a tiny bit of an edge over someone who hasn’t.
9. After hitting the “send” button, DO relax. Most agent’s websites give you a turn-around estimate of time you will probably have to wait to hear back from them. Don’t annoy them beforehand. This, dear writer, is the hardest part. Waiting.

Teen Speak: Three Things To Remember When Your Kid is Hurting

coffee in arkansas

It’s inevitable. As much as I’d love to take my  kids and bubble-wrap them from any sort of physical or emotional pain, it’s just not possible. Life happens to all of us, and sometimes it’s an all-up-in-your-face free-for-all that results in their pain.

Many times I never see it coming. A breakup or a giant fight with a best friend seems to come from nowhere and it’s intensely personal. It’s so, so difficult to remain a responsible adult when these things happen, meaning NOT going over there to give that brat a piece of your mind.

Yes, kids need to work out their own relationship issues…blah blah blah. Tell me that again when it’s two in the morning and your kid hasn’t stopped sobbing and it’s just heartbreaking.

Sometimes, it’s unavoidable and I can see it coming from a mile away. That’s the worst, I think. When I know when the day or event is coming that’s gonna cause emotional fallout and there’s just nothing I can do about it.

Sometimes I can help, gently suggesting solutions (if there are any) or hiring the Mafia to take care of the problem. Isn’t it infuriating when all you can do is watch someone mistreat and manipulate one of yours, knowing that despite your advice and pleas, it’s up to them to finally see the truth? It’s times like those I wish I had The Godfather on speed dial. “You come to me, on the day of my daughter’s wedding…”

Sometimes, though, there’s nothing I can do to fix the pain and that is an anxiety-ridden few days–or months–when I have to stand back and let things happen.

It’s so hard. I don’t want them to hurt.

But so very many things are out of my sphere of influence. When a best friend moves away. When a relationship breaks up leaving your kid as a casualty.  When those hard things life throws us hit us right in the eye and we can’t see for days because of it.

Here are 3 tips to help you through this time with your teen.

1.Be still, dear Parent. God loves your sweet teen even more than you do. He can see the bigger picture and he’s in control. Give your teen more hugs than usual and a bit more leeway than you normally would. Let him or her know that you are available to talk anytime.

2.Be available. Take him for ice cream to get out of the house. Invite another friend over to distract him. Be silly with him–watch a terrible movie together and laugh. Don’t be afraid to help him laugh.

3.Pray with him. Remind him of God’s presence. Pray for him also, basking them in the Spirit and speaking joy over them.

And for today, everything will feel a tiny bit better. And again tomorrow, a bit more, until the pain is in the form of a shadow rather than itself. The sun will shine again, and when it does you’ll know. Your kid will smile and you’ll see it, just there. See it?

4 Paths To Publishing for Newbies

So you’ve finished your novel, and think it’s ready to go. Of course you know that self-publishing is an option, but for your particular work you’d like to get it into the hands of an agent or a smaller press. How do you go about finding someone to publish it?
1. Get a copy of the 2017 Writer’s Market. This will help you locate people or presses interested in your particular genre. If you write Young Adult fiction and approach a publisher or agent who only handles horror, you’re wasting your time. It’s like offering a steak to a vegan. No dice.
2. You can also get a copy of the 2014 Guide to Literary Agents if you don’t want to consider a smaller press. A large press is harder to pitch an unpublished writer to, so you must have an agent for representation. This book is an expansive guide to exactly which agents are looking for what. The same rule applies in that you must spend time looking for only those agents who represent your kind of work.
3. Go to a writer’s conference. There are great conferences all over the country that offer a short meeting with an agent as part of the conference fee. Even if you don’t gain representation, writer’s conferences are gold mines of information for writers in all stages of their work. The best writer’s conference I’ve been to is the DFW Writer’s Conference in Dallas, Texas. I have never walked away from that conference empty handed–I always learn valuable tips for writing and publishing. http://dfwcon.org/

4.Think about who you know. If you are an unpublished writer, the key is to get published somewhere, even if you don’t get paid at first. The longer your resume is, the more impressed a jaded agent will be. Some places to consider are local magazines and newspapers and contests. One of the very first places I published was an editorial for my local paper in Arkansas. That gave me the courage to submit a short story to my college’s literary arts journal. A while later, I revamped the story and submitted it to Chicken Soup for the Soul where they accepted it for publication. Having a story published in a nationally known brand like Chicken Soup really helped increase my credibility as a writer, and it helped when I approached big agents to at least look at my work. That’s what we are hoping for at first right? Just to get that “Ok, send it to me,” from the agent or editor of our choice. Getting your work in the hands of an agent is the very first step to approaching a book deal.

“Do You Speak American?” Documentary Interesting and Relevant

Do people judge you by your accent? Yes, they do. I say y’all, drop my g’s from verbs and generally sound hickish if I’m not careful.

One way we are beginning to see real education regarding dialects is within the power of the modern documentary. In Robert MacNeil’s 57-minute film, he travels around the southern United States to explore the roots and regional flavors associated with those dialects. Working with Wolfram and many locals from the Appalachian Mountains to Louisiana and Texas, MacNeil’s fascinating documentary examines the richness of each state’s heritage as reflected in the speech of their citizens.

In particular, MacNeil discusses the idea of southern speech discrimination as well as bringing forth the idea of the “New South Phenomenon” in which some people either fake or acquire a Southern accent for monetary gain, such as in country music.
He interviews John Fought, who identifies southerners as the “largest body of speakers in America—and growing.”
MacNeil’s work will be helpful to me in my defense of keeping southern dialect as a part of identity, even in the composition classroom. His view of dialects as a “cultural heritage” supports my argument that a southern twang needn’t take away from true scholarship. By turning scholarship into entertainment for the masses, the first step for nationwide acceptance can be reached.

http://www.pbs.org/speak/ahead/

Beauty products that actually work!

all things messy...

beautyquoteSo you’re walking through the store, and you “stumble” (by sheer accident I’m sure) into the beauty section.  “My, my, my” you think to yourself, “which one of these little products is going to change my whole look and solve all my beauty issues?” Come on, surely I’m not the only one who has ever done that?  Let’s be real, as women we are ALWAYS looking for the next new and improved product that will fix our every flaw.

Up until about a year ago, I had never stepped a foot inside of Ulta (I tried once and I literally had a massive panic attack and RAN out of the store as quickly as I could).  What caused this trauma?  Fear of the unknown! Makeup is not something that I think most of us are taught about when we’re younger, so we really only know what we always use and…

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A new chicken dinner? I’m in!

From my friend Jennifer’s blog at allthingsmessey.

all things messy...

Are you tired of those same ole’, same ole’ chicken dinners?  I know that as a mom/wife who cooks almost nightly, I have a million ways to use every kind of chicken you can throw at me…except chicken thighs.  I have never cooked chicken thighs before, and I’m not really sure why? I started to do some research on this cut of meat and found that apparently I’m not the only one who feels this way!

It turns out that this dark meat section of a chicken used to be so unpopular among consumers that manufacturers would bulk package a ton of them and sell them dirt cheap.  But, due to the increase in awareness by all the new cooking shows out there showing this to be the “hidden gem” of chicken, it is now quickly becoming the new favorite among consumers, even getting voted most popular when compared to…

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