2006 In Review

As for us all, the end of the year affords a look back. In the span of twelve months, what challenges have I met and mastered? What has tripped me up? Where have I persevered? Where have I fallen short?

So many things come to mind as I consider 2006, but I’ll stick to writing for this venue. For the second year now, I set up a spreadsheet in January to track my writing productivity. I do it for two reasons: to keep myself accountable for actual writing time and to look back and realize (hopefully) that all the time snatched here and there added up to a measurable accomplishment. (I tweak the stats I keep each year to show this more accurately.)

And guess what? It continues to work. Not only did I revel in being able to log in numbers of words written, pages revised and critiqued, and books read, but as I entered the function equations to total my numbers for the year, I was shocked! Little does add up to a lot!

Given the circumstances of the year—my nephew’s heart surgery, selling and buying a house and moving—I felt some frustration at my lack of writing time. But feelings don’t necessarily reflect reality. In the midst of this crazy year, I wrote almost 7,000 more new words than last year! Add to that over 1500 pages rewritten or critiqued and 54 books read and I’d say I have nothing to be frustrated about!

Isn’t God good? Only He could have turned my offering of a few loaves of bread and a couple of fish into basket loads left over. I gave Him what I had, doing what He asked me to do, and He multiplied my effort above anything I could have imagined.

So tomorrow I’ll set up my spreadsheet for 2007, adding in new columns for research and pre-writing time spent—to keep myself accountable, but also so that at the end of next year I will again be able to see the grace of God in my life.


Another Christmas is relegated to memory. This one will not be forgotten for several reasons: for the stressful situations leading up to it, for it being our first in this house and the first with family nearby. It was the year of Dad’s big birthday bash—Celebration Station with all the kids and grandkids. He even played Laser Tag for the first time (the adults skunked the older kids.)

Today we are all a bit sluggish—watching movies, playing video games, trying to figure out all the electronic gadgets we got for Christmas, scarfing down leftovers. Down time is good. We can reflect on the past year and plan for the coming one.

But our respite won’t last long. Thursday we begin a two-day varsity basketball tournament. Tuesday is the first district game. Middle school basketball kicks into gear the next weekend with a tournament, too.

But basketball means school begins again. And when the kids return to classes, I can get back into my routine of writing. More on that later.

For now, I hope you and your family had a Christmas you will always remember.


A Request

If you are reading this, please stop and say a prayer for me. I am under an extreme amount of stress at the moment dealing with a family situation that roller-coasters up and down. I’m stretched to my limit. I’m begging the Lord for answers.

More after Christmas.

I hope.


Just when I thought things couldn’t get much worse (last week was an incredibly emotional week) . . .


I got rear-ended today.

The repair is estimated to take 2-3 weeks.

And I still haven’t finished my Christmas shopping!


A Gift of Hope

I admit it. I’ve wondered if I have what it takes for this writing thing. I mean, did God really gift me in this area or am I like the kid trying out for every NBA team because he has a dream, not realizing he lacks the talent level?

This week I got two rejections. Nothing new. Rejections are a way of life in the writing business. But these two were different.

I’ve had nice rejections before—the kind that are polite and personally written rather than a form letter. But never have they been as bittersweet or as personal as these two. Both came from well-respected people in the CBA. Both highly complimented my writing. Both left the door wide open for future submissions to them. But in the end, both rejected me.

I followed up with one and received further, unsolicited encouragement to keep working, that my writing was at the publishable level, I just hadn’t hit the right story and the right time yet.

The Lord knew I needed to hear that. I needed those words from Him through another to sweep away the discouragement that has nagged at my heart. It showed me yet again the power of words, especially written words—words in a medium that can be reviewed again and again without elapsed time to skew them into more or less than they originally were.

Last Christmas, the Lord gave me a gift on the 23rd—an acceptance of a short story for publication. This year He gave me another, in the form of two rejections that infused me with hope.

And isn’t that what Christmas is all about anyway? Baby Jesus in the manger, God in human form. He is our ultimate Hope.


An Early Resolution

Looking back over the last few posts, p.C. (pre-Christmas), I realized I’ve been a bit whiney lately. Yuck!

So here is my early resolution: NO MORE WHINING!!

My life is my life. So what if I can’t write as many hours a day as I would like? The fact of the matter is I still write consistently. And I ponder. While I drive kids I think through story lines, get to know characters. In snippets of quiet moments I jot down conversations that have drifted my way and situations I’ve observed. And I read—good books that will raise my standards and not-so-good books that exemplify how not to write—while I wait for ball games to begin or kids to pile in my car or a friend who is running late for lunch. (Sometimes even at a red light—but don’t tell!)

All of the above is writing work, even if it doesn’t net me a certain number new words every day. And until I have a deadline staring me in the face, I need to embrace the flexibility my writing affords.

So good-bye whiney writer. I’m leaving you in late 2006. This writer—one of the five bazillion other writers in the world—is moving forward, past whining to contentment.


My most favorite Christmas book is The Best Christmas Pageant Ever by Barbara Robinson. In my growing up years, we often spent Christmas vacation traveling to Colorado for a week of skiing. Reading this book aloud became one of our Christmas traditions. I would read, laughing and crying along with every one else.

Fast-forward thirty or so years. Last night I watched my daughter perform in the play "The Best Christmas Pageant Ever." A group of high school students brought Beth and Alice and Mrs. Armstrong and the Herdmans to life before my eyes. My daughter was Gladys, the youngest, meanest Herdman who infuses the role of the Angel of the Lord in a traditional Christmas pageant with much enthusiasm. (That's her in the picture. She had a blast looking dirty and mean!) I laughed, I cried. I remembered just how wonderful this story is. I’m ready to pull the slim volume from my bookcase and relive it once again.

It’s a short book, one you can read aloud in an hour or so. If you haven’t read it, or haven’t read it in a long time, give yourself and your family a treat for the holidays and enjoy it together. I promise you won’t be disappointed!


Christmas Movies

One of our favorite holiday traditions is the watching of Christmas movies between Thanksgiving and Christmas Day. It gets to be a bit challenging finding evenings with enough free time for a full length movie given that it is also basketball season for all three of my kids, but we always manage.

I have a collection of about 10 of our favorites. So far we’ve watched Elf and Holiday Inn. Okay, so you’re probably scratching your head and wondering about us right now. I mean, Will Ferrell and Bing Crosby? Who enjoys both? The answer: I do!

My definition of a good Christmas movie involves a couple of criteria. Number one: it has to have SOMETHING to do with the Christmas season. My boys question Holiday Inn on these grounds, but I think the song “White Christmas” and the fact that the movie begins on Christmas Eve and ends on the next New Year’s Eve, qualifies. Second, it must have a moment that makes me teary-eyed.

I’ve seen Elf several times, but the end always gets me. I always cry, in spite of Ed Asner as Santa Claus (or maybe because of!). And when Bing shows up on the Hollywood set and gets the girl with the song “White Christmas,” well, it’s hard to beat that.

Today I received the DVD version of one of my favorites: Christmas in Connecticut with Barbara Stanwyck. It goes in the unwatched stack of eclectic holiday movies including: Veggie Tales The Star of Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the animated Dr. Seuss version), It’s a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street (ONLY the Natalie Wood/Maureen O’Hara version, thank you), The Homecoming (the very first Waltons movie and a MUST for every writer), While You Were Sleeping, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and, of course, A Christmas Carol (the Alastair Sim version.)

So have a missed any Christmas-time tear-jerkers? What is your favorite Christmas movie? I hope you find time to watch it with you family—preferably with a sweet treat and a roaring fire.