Miss Potter

I’ve been wanting to see the movie Miss Potter. When it came out in the theater, it was in limited places for a short time and I didn’t make it. Now the DVD is out. We rented it tonight. And I wasn’t disappointed.

This charming film starring Rene Zellweger and Ewan McGregor tells the story of Beatrix Potter, the author of all those fabulous children’s books about Peter Rabbit and Jemima Puddle-duck, and all the other animals who have adventures. It is funny and sad and poignant and joyful. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it. I loved the story of her writing and her publication. I loved her spunk. And the added bonus? A wonderful romance.

I think I’ll have to add this one to my personal collection.


Twenty Years and Counting

Twenty years ago tonight I walked down the aisle a gangly twenty-year-old. I walked up the aisle a married woman. Back then, our prospects included three years of him in law school, me finishing my final two years of college. Beyond that, we had only dreams of what would be.

Now Jeff has a thriving law practice, I am consistently growing as a writer (my lifelong dream), and we have three great kids who are getting closer to embarking on their own journeys in life. We’ve waded through financial struggles, relationship issues, personal issues, and childrearing difficulties. It hasn’t been easy or perfect, but it’s been good. Good for us individually and good for us as one flesh.

We aren’t breaking the bank to celebrate tonight (we did that when we went to NYC for my 40th birthday this past February!), but we’ll have a nice dinner (with a gift card from Christmas!), we’ll see a play, and we’ll enjoy the love and friendship that has blossomed through twenty years together.


My Writing Verse

I’ve always envied writers who have a verse that identifies them as a writer. I’ve even tried on some of the more popular “writing” verses for my own, but they never quite fit me. For awhile it really bothered me, as if I didn’t really have a calling since I didn’t have a verse. But gradually I got over it, knowing that the Lord has given and continues to give me in encouragement in walking this path.

Then today, in church, a man stood up and read two verses in Matthew 10. How is it that even when you’ve read the Bible all your life you continue to find verses you’d swear you’d never seen before! Anyway, he read verses 26 and 27, but he was really only talking about 26. I, on the other hand, couldn’t take my mind off verse 27. Here’s what it says (Jesus is speaking to his disciples before sending them out):

“What I tell you in the darkness, speak in the light; and what you hear whispered in your ear, proclaim on the housetops.”

The previous verse talks about things hidden being revealed. That was the point of the man’s talk. He asked if those verses made us feel free or fearful. My answer was fearful, but not because of v. 26. I’ve spent many years allowing God to reveal all the hidden ick in my heart. Whenever I find something new, it doesn’t scare me anymore to acknowledge that. I know the freedom there.

But the thought of telling in the light what He has spoken to me in the darkness, or shouting out what he’s whispered in my ear, THAT scares me! And yet, that so defines my fiction. Not that my stories are autobiographical by any means. But when it comes to core issues in the lives of my characters, I very often have at least a passing familiarity with those—in myself or in those close to me. Often, I have walked through the pain of bringing those issues to light and God has whispered His words in my ear, words that somehow find their way into my characters’ thoughts or dialogue or actions.

So now I have a writing verse, one that defines me, one that reminds me of the path He’s called me to walk, and one that feels tailor-made for me.


Preparation for the Race

The Snowflake Method for designing novels by Randy Ingermanson. I’ve tried to use it for years. It never worked for me.

Until now.

A couple of weeks ago I bought A Snowflake Analysis of the Novel: Gone with the Wind by Randy and his daughter Carolyn, who is an English lit major in her third year of college. Now I get it. Now I see I’d been making it more difficult than it was meant to be!

I studied the GWTW example (I’ve read the book several times, so it all made sense), then plunged in with my new novel idea. And guess what? I finished it!! The Snowflake, that is. But that means I have a roadmap for my plot, I’ve explored my characters inside and out, and I still have room for the process to grow organically as I write. And I found that I could tailor some of the snowflake method to how I write best. For instance, instead of character charts, as Randy suggests, or interviewing my characters, as other authors do, I snagged a tip from I can’t remember where and wrote my main characters’ autobiographies up until the time the story begins. That gave me the freedom to create as I went, plus it gave me not only the details about the characters I needed, but also their voice, which gives great insight into who they are.

I’m so excited. I feel like I’m in the starting gate, chomping at the bit to get in the race, just waiting for the gun to go off and the gate to open, freeing me to race down the straightaway. The gun goes off on Monday morning. I hope I make it to the finish line!


A Contest on Mary's Blog

Does anyone out there want a copy of Watching the Tree Limbs and its sequel Wishing on Dandelions? Both are by my friend Mary DeMuth. Both are excellent. One is a Christy Award Finalist this year.

Here's the catch: she signed these books to celebrities and sent them off. They came back. So she's holding a contest to see who gets the books. You can find the details here.

Go ahead. Take a chance. You might win two wonderful novels you can take with you on that relaxing vacation you're going to take. Or read them at the pool while the kids swim. Or hide from the mayhem and escape to another time and place. What do you have to lose?


Ruth Bell Graham

Ruth Bell Graham is rejoicing with Jesus today. It made me cry to read it.

When I was a young mother, struggling with a headstrong child and a husband working long hours, I discovered Mrs. Graham’s book of poetry. I pulled out the volume and read a few again today. They resonate with me now as they did back then. Her poems are so real, so full of the struggle of being a wife and a mother, a human being, and a child of God.

I’ll miss knowing she’s a fellow pilgrim on this earth. Her wisdom, her grace, her strength inspire me to press on toward the mark of the high calling of Christ. And isn’t that the way we’d all like our lives to count?


Cleaning Up the Messes

Ah, summertime. It should conjure up thoughts of lazy days by the pool or watching movies in the heat of the day. Instead, it brings . . .

Dishes and laundry. Dishes and laundry.

How many times a day can I run the dishwasher and the washing machine? Today, it’s three each. Of course we fed eight people for dinner last night—on real dishes, including serving dishes. (My daughter is very into presentation.)

I have to keep reminding myself of the verse in Proverbs that, years ago, I heard applied to houses with children in them. I think it particularly applicable to summertime houses with kids in them!

Proverbs 14:4 Where no oxen are, the manger is clean, but much revenue comes by the strength of the ox. (NASB) The NIV translation of the second half of this verse says “but from the strength of the ox comes an abundant harvest.” Having kids means messes and hard work, but it also means an abundant harvest for the kingdom of God—in our own lives, in their lives, and in the lives of those our families touch.


The Hassles of Modernity

Nothing is easy anymore. Last week, I spent time on the phone and in the car trying to get my husband’s cell phone (w/pda) fixed or replaced. Since we pay for the full insurance every month, you’d think this would have been a simple matter.


I had to travel to the store designated for repairs (now 20 minutes away), only to be told I had to call a number and arrange for the replacement, only to be told I could have just been given a new phone at the store. I called the store back only to be told the people on the phone had given me the wrong information, so I should call them again. We finally got a new phone after three hours of hassle and a day in the mail.

Then we went to a hotel for the weekend. My husband had meetings there. I was going to write. I tried to hook up to the hotel internet to no avail. I followed the directions on the desk in the room, then I called the help number on those directions only to be told that they didn’t service that hotel any more. I finally got the new help number from the front desk and called again. This time I was told I needed a wireless bridge. I didn’t sound right, given that my laptop has a wireless card, but the woman insisted. So back to the front desk we went, only to be told they had no idea what a wireless bridge was. Back to the room, back on the phone. Someone finally figured out that my LAN setting was too fast for the connection after a frustrating hour. (I will say that the girl at the front desk felt so bad for all the trouble that she left me a snack basket in the room. That kind of customer service is all too rare these days.)

So today I call my new insurance company. My husband formed a new partnership as of June 1, thus the change. I have two mail order prescriptions and I need to get them changed over to the new mail order company. After fifteen minutes of automated voices asking me why I was calling, I got a real person only to be told they won’t transfer the prescriptions, they have to receive them new, which means I have to call and hassle each doctor’s office (my gp and my ophthalmologist) and make sure they fax in the newly written prescriptions. If they tell me I have to come to an office visit to get them, I think I’ll scream.



I don’t have much of it, I admit. But I’ve been getting better, at least in my personal life. What I’ve come to understand in the past week or so, though, is I don’t have any patience in my writing life.

Putting the words of a novel on the page and then refining those words is a long process. Months. Sometimes years. But when I get an inkling of an idea or a character, I’m not patient enough to explore it, to roll it around in my head and on paper before I start writing. Thus, as I get deeper into the story, something invariably goes wrong.

I guess it’s kind of like starting to build a tower without first counting the cost. Oh I count the cost in terms of time and energy, but I don’t count other costs—like not being able to show something for a day or week’s “work.” I like concrete definitions of accomplishment. So many words written. So many pages edited. When I spend hours thinking, writing notes, sifting through ideas, I look back at the end of a day feel a vague sense of dissatisfaction. As if the “productivity police” are going to arrest me for lack of evidence.

I’ve realized this as I’ve read and studied the process of writing again. It is more than just having a story or situation in mind. I also have to have some idea where I’m going with it. As a SOTP (seat-of-the pants, a non-outliner) writer, I’ve disdained having a final destination for my characters.

But in The Plot Thickens, Noah Lukeman provided me a new perspective on destinations. “It is like putting your character on a train bound for California. If he decides to get off in Arizona, that’s fine. If it turns out he should settle there and never get back on the train, that’s fine, too. But he never could have known about Arizona if he hadn’t first gotten on that train for California—if he hadn’t had some destination in mind.”

In my impatience, I put my half-formed, blindfolded characters on a train to nowhere. Perhaps if I’d take a bit more planning time to figure out a destination, my characters will still surprise me by their detours in the spinning out of their stories. In fact, they probably will. If only I can hold back, think and plan and ponder until that right moment. Then, having counted the cost, hopefully the tower can be constructed with less effort and more enjoyment than ever before.