Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Wake up Honey-Girl

When my daughter finished her first year of kindergarten, I made a batch of almond bread biscotti as parting gifts for her teachers. Since our Australian school year finishes just before Christmas, I added green and red sugared cherries to the mix and tied them in cellophane bags with raffia. It was a labor of love, following a 'new to me' recipe, as I worked apron clad late into the evening before her last day of school. Close to midnight I admired my baking. Something was missing.

I had the perfect Christmas gift tags to go with our presents, but I knew the finishing touch should be my daughter's name in her own handwriting. I tiptoed into her room and after a few gentle taps managed to get her sleepy fingers to grip a pen.

"Wake up Honey-Girl... you need to write your name here. Sophie? Can you do that for Mummy?"

I guided her hand to the card and she looked at me with the stare of a sleepwalker - eyes open, still dreaming. After a few groggy attempts I gave up, switched the lights off and planned for another try in the morning. This time, her name embellished the cards with childlike flourish, and we delivered our parcels with Christmas wishes and heartfelt thanks.

As the years flew by, scribbling her name at the bottom of a card developed into a short paragraph, then two and in no time Sophie was writing entire thank-you letters to her teachers by herself. By high school, Christmas goodies emerged from the oven with her unique touch, as I hung around the kitchen with a coffee and watchful eye.

This week I watched Sophie write farewell letters to her teachers for the last time. In a few days she will begin her final year 12 exams and many of her beloved teachers and mentors will fade from her world. Words of appreciation and pretty cupcakes barely begin to express the bittersweet emotions and gratitude she is feeling. Like the closing credits in a movie, I watch again as the little girl who needed me to guide her hand over the page, pens her own words and puts finishing touches on gifts.

We do. We show. We guide... and then we watch, as our children step into the role of young adults. One by one our tasks diminish and our prayers increase as they make their own decisions and plans. We can even tuck ourselves into bed and drift off to sleep against the clatter of our little ones cleaning the kitchen after a baking session. They know to hang up the apron and switch the lights off when they're done... and if they need anything else, they can always wake us up.

Train up a child in the way is should go,
when she is old she will not depart from it.
Proverbs 22:6

Friday, October 15, 2010

Would you like to read my story?
Remember when Dorothy went to see the Great Wizard of Oz, and discovered he was only a man behind a curtain? Somehow he managed to find 'a brain', 'a heart' and 'courage' for her dear friends, but Dorothy was not so hopeful for herself.

She shook her head at the Wizard and cried, "Oh, I don't think there's anything in that black bag for me." And there wasn't.

That's how I imagined my editor and agent appointments might go at the ACFW conference. In my mind I figured there couldn't possibly be anything in their bag for an Aussie writer.

The good news is, I was wrong. There was a sweet reward for my writing efforts and like the lion, the tin man and scarecrow, this Dorothy received exactly what I needed for the onward writing journey.

From her bag of tricks, the editor produced two phrases regarding my writing, powerful enough to equip me with the courage and heart to continue on. Even though I didn't pitch my story to her, she took a quick look at it and pronounced it to be 'strong writing' with 'great cadence'. You may as well have pinned a badge of courage and brand new ticker on me that morning. I felt prouder than the lion with his fresh perm and scarlet ribbon. And just as brave.

My next appointment was with a literary agent who also read my first few pages. I'm not sure when I went from handing over my story, to hearing her say, "I want you to send me the first 3 chapters and a synopsis," but in that moment I became lost in those delicious words I'd travelled miles to hear. Someone wanted to see more of what I write, and possibly represent me as an agent. My feet did a little jig under the table, as I prayed an inner squeal of thanks.

There were more words, equally amazing and just as precious as gifts from the Wizard's black bag, and all worth the journey beyond the rainbow.

Just like Dorothy from Kansas, I was reminded the secret to making my dreams come true rests in my own ability to focus and work hard. There is no magic gift which will take me from unpublished to published writer, but there might be a few Glindas along the way to cheer when I click those ruby slippers, and point me toward 'home'.

Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Part Two

So what happens when Dorothy gets to fly beyond the rainbow? One Dorothy met a band of new friends, squeezed into a pair of sparkly shoes and followed a yellow brick road to adventure. For this Dorothy the story is similar. (Ok, indulge me here a little.)

I must admit, a pair of ruby slippers would have been a fabulous welcome to the 2010 ACFW conference in Indianapolis, but I won't complain, as a lanyard with my name and details, set the mood with equal flair. Tucked inside the zippered pouch, I slipped my meal tickets and the fluro pink note with my editor and agent appointment times. Yes folks, I was on my way to meet some very special people.

Writing giants roamed the halls and foyer, mingling with old friends and generously embracing new ones. Squeals of recognition and rapturous delight announced the arrival of delegates, some like me, who had come to met their writing buddies for the first time. 

The pleasure of spying and then being introduced to some of the voices of Christian fiction never got old. Names like Kim Vogel Sawyer, Cindy Woodsmall, Tracie and Jim Peterson, and Kaye Dacus, came alive, as Facebook friends reached out to become kindred spirits. 

During the 3 day conference, I discovered firsthand the generosity of established, multipublished writers, who remember what it's like to step into the world of writing with a heart full of dreams. Their  encouragement to persevere and work diligently built upon the teaching of mentors, craftsmen and craftswomen, who taught workshops and presented seminars. By the halfway mark of the weekend, I found myself like the much talked about teacup, struggling to cope with a deluge of information delivered by fire hose

Thankfully, my roomie, the gorgeous Jalana Franklin from Tennessee, listened while I tried to unpack all the wisdom about to topple me over, and together we sifted through each day's golden nuggets.

We worked late into the night, tweaking the stories of our hearts until plots fell into place and characters matched themselves with just the right name and motivation.

Exhausted but happy, I couldn't believe we never managed lights out before 1:30 am and with the alarm set for 5:30 we slept soundly, like we'd been tucked into a field of poppies in the shadow of the great Emerald city. For that is where I was headed in the morning - to meet with the wonderful world of editors and agents ... in a land that I'd heard of... once in a lullaby.