31 August 2009

When Those Voices Get Really Loud...

Does anyone else hear them or am I the only one?

Their attacks are so specific, so highly focused, so perfectly targeted, that sometimes I wonder if they really will take me out. Or at the very least, if they are right.

Do you hear them too?

They tell me that I can't really do this, that I'm fooling myself, that it'll be a lifelong pursuit of something that will never really happen. They call me a fake. They say that I should just give up now instead of doing all this work, instead of trying again. After all, it's going to take so much energy, so much time. And for what? Hours upon hours of writing, weeks of editing, crafting of queries, proposals, and waiting... for more rejections? And what if this is it? What if this is the last story I get? What if I don't get any ideas after this one?

This one still deserves to be written. This one needs my very best.

If only I knew what it was about!

I don't know where y'all are in your writing journeys, your confidence levels, or in your lives. I've been struggling. There's been the beginning of a story inside of me for a long time. Months, in fact. And it just isn't coming. I finally got a name the other night, which led to a few more ideas. I have all of these pieces, but I don't have a story yet. I don't have a setting. And other than one or two characters, I don't have the rest of the cast.

Tonight, I found myself thinking of my last manuscript, the one I poured my heart and soul into. I gave everything. I still believe in it, but I need a crit group or an editorial service, I think. Something to polish it off before I try/query again. As I stared at the notebook on my lap, with a page filled with scribblings of possibilities for my new story, scribblings that are going somewhere but not any time fast, I heard those voices again. This time they told me that my last story was my best one, that this one wouldn't match up. That I couldn't do it again. They reminded me of the story that came before that one and how much emotional energy it required. And then they said, "Why try this time? Why are you doing this?"

Honestly, it's been a while since I've written creatively. I've done a few nonfiction pieces this summer and of course, started this blog. I've written some for my support updates and did some promotional stuff for a missions organization, but I haven't worked on a Story in a while. I miss it. I'm in this weird period of waiting. Once all the scribblings make sense, the story will just pour out. It always happens this way. Until then, it's more waiting. And in the waiting, the voices get louder and louder.

This post is me telling those voices to "shut up."

If we focus so much on the final destination, it's easy to lose the pleasure of the process itself. It's fun putting all of those pieces together and having them work. Writing is fun. And if we solely find validation in publication, then it will be so easy to get discouraged. It's got to be about more than that. I can't control if I get on the shelves or not. I can control how hard I work at writing. I can do my best with what I have right now. I can be faithful in this moment and trust that God will take care of the rest.

Thanks to all of you who reminded me of that last week, with your comments and blog posts.

As to the rest of my Story, I would be pleased to make your acquaintance just as soon as you are so willing to grace me with your presence....

***Some of you have mentioned that you've had problems linking to me for some reason. I tried to fix it; hopefully it worked! Those of you who had problems, can you tell if it's fixed now? Thanks for pointing it out! I appreciate all the help I can get!

26 August 2009


First of all, I just want to welcome all my new friends who now follow my blog! Thanks for coming over! It's great to meet all of you and I truly enjoy your blogs as well! This whole cyber writing world is a lot of fun!

Second, mucho thanks to Wendy of All In a Day's Thought who helped me realize my techno-goof. Many of you (you probably know who you are because I've been replying to your posts) I've been following for the past month but wasn't technically following in that list of friends with neat little boxes. I'm so technologically challenged that I thought I was! Anywho, hopefully that problem has been fixed now. I definitely meant no slight by it at all. This whole blog is teaching me a lot. I have a feeling that I'm going to learn as I go along, which means I'll make more mistakes before they can be remedied. Anywho... thanks, Wendy!

So... India. What would you like to know? :0)

This was my fifth trip to that incredible country, the third time this year. And honestly, it was an "accident" that I went at all. I was supposed to go to Cambodia, then stop through India for a few days on the tail end of things. Unfortunately, I had flight complications/problems in Delhi and got stranded on the way over. I never made it to Cambodia. Thankfully, that happened in a country where I had people to call and a place to stay! I don't know what I would have done if it had been anywhere else in the world.

So, what's it like over there?

India is like no place I've ever been. It's so hard to describe because it's just so different from the West. After all, it's the East. It's a completely different mindset, a completely different way of approaching life. Even the way people dress is different. Women wrap fabric around their bodies instead of dressing in separate pieces. Food is prepared differently, and traffic is insane. The closest thing I have to describe it is that it's like ultimate tetris on wheels at 70 miles an hour. There are no rules. And you're sharing the road with other motorcyclists (with multiple people or objects on board), bicycles, rickshaws, wagons, trucks, cars, buses, camels, donkeys, horses, elephants, and pedestrians, all going at breakneck speed and dodging each other. To be a good driver in India, you have to accomplish the art of not reacting. Because if someone swerves and almost hits you, they know you are there. They won't hit you, but if you swerve in reaction, you'll most definitely hit someone else. I've ridden down the world's most dangerous road in Africa, have personally driven in Africa, have been on some crazy roads in the Caribbean and South America, but nothing compares to India.

The picture below is of a rather tame moment in Indian traffic. It's a good picture of how things like lanes just don't matter there....

India has the power to make anyone crazy, I've decided. It's one of its many endearing qualities how insane it can be. Culturally, Indians cannot admit indifference or "I don't know". Because of this, you can ask someone and they will tell you a definite "yes" or "no" without actually knowing the answer. We like to call this the "Indian definite"... the very definition of "indefinite". Here's an example: the day before I left, my friend went to our landlord's tiny shop and purchased two packs of Chips Ahoy cookies. We all know what they look like: tiny, plastic bags that are bright blue in color, with pictures of cookies and the Chips Ahoy logo. She sat down on the bed and said, "Ah, I'm so glad I found these; I'm craving chocolate chip cookies." She then opened the package to find that inside were cheesy, salty chips. I'm not even kidding. There was nothing chocolate-y or cookie-ish about the contents. That, in summation, is life in India. If you make plans, they will be thwarted. If you need answers, you won't get them. Be prepared to have "India days", where you get absolutely nothing done and find that you've gone six steps backwards in the process. It's absolutely glorious. Infuriating, but glorious.

Honestly, I love India. I love how ancient and foreign it feels. I love how the people yell "chai" in the streets and the random people who chant as they pass by. I don't love being stared at (it's not a cultural taboo there and there aren't many caucasians where I go, so it's a bit like being a walking zoo exhibit), but then again, I do a lot of staring too. I love how all the buildings have rooftop access, and the crazy peacocks that strut around and loudly sound their cat-like cries.

India is a feast for the senses. It's so incredibly beautiful. The buildings are intricately decorated in bright colors; the vehicles are as well. The women wear swirls of bright fabric, the likes of which are shades that we wouldn't even dream of putting together--and they are dazzling. The air smells of spices, and depending on how close you are to a water source, of sulfur. I love chai, which, unfortunately, I didn't get to drink this time around. The picture below was actually taken at Easter. It's of me, my Indian friend, Paru, and another American named Jules. I'm the one in pink:

Everywhere are shrines to family gods, temples with statues atop and inside of them, icons and images painted on vehicles and on buildings. The primary religion in India is Hinduism, a polytheistic religion. The secondary religion is Islam. There's a huge influence of both of these religions in the culture.

I was there with an organization called Sixty1. We work with children who have been sold into the sex trade in Southeast Asia. Our primary work in India is at an orphanage, Asha House, and in a leper colony and slums. Though I've been involved and have relationships in all of these areas, this time around I spent most of my time at Asha House and with my Sixty1 friends who live in India. They (the staff) were moving houses. If you've ever moved, you know that it's a lot of work! I imagine it's even more so in a foreign country without the western conveniences that we have. Imagine moving heavy furniture in rickshaws and in a simple SUV instead of a moving truck. Anywho, I either spent my days with them or with the children at the orphanage.

Asha House, or House of Hope, houses almost thirty children. Not all of them are true orphans; many have parents that are still living. But these parents can't properly take care of their children. These kids are so precious! They are the sweetest children I have ever met, so well behaved. That doesn't mean that they are perfect, because they aren't. But they are so adorable. They look out for each other. And they LOVE Jesus, which is really cool!

Above is a picture of me with most of the children my last day there. Below is a picture of Suniya (pronounced "Sonya") and one of a girl named Ragina. Suniya has to be one of the silliest girls I've ever met. She's a constant blur of motion, so most of my pictures of her didn't come out. I love this one of her, though! Ragina is a little diva. She's such a drama queen and loves to sing songs in her native tribal language. She's so young and doesn't speak Hindi or English fully yet. Below that are pictures of the kids running and singing a song about a rickshaw driver:

My friend, Laura, is teaching all the little kids English. While the older kids are at school, she takes them into the "church room" and teaches them things like the days of the week and the months of the year. They need this tutoring in order to get into school. She's been teaching them about animals so she gave them all English animal names. Little Suniya is a the kangaroo, which is absolutely perfect for her. She's always jumping around. Ragina is the rabbit. The littlest boy, he's in blue and is in the picture above, is a monkey. The kids love to answer to their animal names and take great pride in saying, "Auntie! Mera nam Lamb!" or whatever they are.

The best part of what I do is making relationships with people. It makes it really hard to leave. But it makes it a lot of fun to come back! Because I've spent quite a bit of time in India, I have deep friendships with people, some of whom aren't Christians. Going back was awesome because I got to spend more time with them. And I have a HUGE praise--one of my friends came to Christ! I'm so overjoyed for her and the decision she's made. That's the whole reason why I do what I do.

So, I have a lot of stories, but that's just a little of the world I was in this month and what happened. If you'd like to see more pictures, please go to my picture site at http://picasaweb.google.com/ktsummer61. You'll see pics from when I was in India during the spring and this trip in one album titled "India 2009". If you'd like to know more about Sixty1 and Asha House, please go to www.sixty1.org or www.ashahouse.org. Thank y'all for reading! I hope you enjoyed this mini-trip to India! If you have any questions, please ask! I love talking about this stuff!

Have a great weekend and I'll see y'all on Tuesday at the regular time!

25 August 2009

Thank you, Academy!!!


So, it's official! I'm back in the States! And there's definitely a "woohoo" element to that, because while I truly love being overseas, this was a bit of a rough trip for me, travel-wise. Coming back was highly stressful, because I had a very tiny layover in London and seriously thought I was going to be stranded again. Praise God, that didn't happen! Well, to me at least. My suitcase is still somewhere far, far away. Anywho, I am in America. I am jet-lagged and not thinking straight at all. Of course, there are many who would argue that I usually don't anyway.

So, many of y'all will see me on your blogs this week, replying to your posts. I'm excited to do that again. If I say something loopy, please forgive me. My regular posting schedule will begin next week, however, I will come back before then and post about India. I just need to get my pics up and my thoughts somewhat organized first!

First, however, I have two people that I need to thank. The first is the illustrious JStantonChandler, who nominated me on her blog, Woolgatherings, for the creative blogger award last week. Thank you, Jen!

The rules are as follows:

1. Thank the person who nominated you for this award.
2. Copy the logo and place it on your blog.
3. Link to the person who nominated you for this award.
4. Name 7 things about yourself that people might find interesting.
5. Nominate 7 Kreativ Bloggers.
6. Post links to the 7 blogs you nominate.
7. Leave a comment on each of the blogs letting them know they have been nominated

Here are 7 things about me:

1. I love being outside. In the Spring, Summer, and Fall, I do everything I can to go outdoors.

2. I have a poodle, Mitsi Gail Boodylicous. Yes, she does answer to that name. And no, she is completely unaware that being a poodle is a laughable "profession". She's pretty confident that she is ferocious and reminds the UPS man of that whenever he drives through the neighborhood.

3. Even though I was born, bred, and raised in the South, I don't like sweet tea. And despite being a former college student and the fact that I'm currently a missionary, I don't drink coffee either. I don't like hot tea unless it's authentic Indian chai. I am, however, as all good Southerners should be, addicted to Coca-Cola. Just a little bit. Actually, who am I kidding? Just a lot. :0)

4. I'm also addicted to sunshine.

5. Growing up, my best friend was a military brat. I told her one day that I could never do what she does, that I would never leave my hometown. I went to three colleges in five years (that were in different parts of the State), and have traveled to or lived in what will be 22 countries by the end of September. I love what I do, but I can honestly say that I NEVER expected to do it!

6. My favorite color is purple, but I love all things bright. My goal in life is to always look like I just came off the beach (unless I'm overseas). And to be the Christian Loralai Gilmore. But that's a whole 'nother story. And I wear sunglasses pretty much all the time. And flip flops. And sleevless shirts.

7. If I could go back to school and study anything, it would be photography. And Hebrew and Greek. I want to read the Bible in the original languages. And marine archeology, because that's just awesome. I'm that person who believes that now that she is finished with school and never has to go back, she can actually start learning things that interest her.

And now I get to pass the award on! Woohoo! By the way, this really hard. All of you deserve it. Also, I tried really hard to award this to people who haven't received it yet. Just wanted to make someone else's day as Jen made mine!
The Lucky Seven are:
1. The writers at Novel Matters
2. Vikki at Life is a Stage
3. Krista at Krista's Reflections
4. Jon Chandler at Jon Chandler Photography
5. Jennifer Hudson Taylor at Author Jennifer Hudson Taylor
6. Candee Fick at Encouragement for the Journey
7. Jessica at My Thoughts Exactly

Congratulations to all!!!

Also, mucho thanks to the awesome Kelly Moran of Author Kelly Moran, who nominated me last week for the Lemonade Blog Award!

The Lemonade Award is a feel good award that shows gratitude or a great attitude. Here are the rules:
~Put the Lemonade Award logo on your blog or post.
~Nominate at least 10 blogs that show great attitude or gratitude.
~Link your nominees within your post.
~Let the nominees know they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
~Share the love and link to the person from whom you received the award.

And the award goes to...
1. Jody Hedlund of On the Path
2. Katie Ganshert of Brain Throw Up
3. Cindy R. Wilson of Cindy R. Wilson
4. JStantonChandler of Woolgatherings
5. Wendy of All in a Day's Thought
6. Heather Sunseri of Balance With Purpose
7. Jeannie Campbell of Where Romance Meets Therapy
8. Toni-Lyn Keller of TLK Photography
9. Candee Fick at Encouragement for the Journey
10. Jessica at My Thoughts Exactly

Wow. My brain is exhausted. If any of these links don't work, please forgive me! I enjoy each and everyone of your blogs, so it's been fun to "bless" you! Have a great day! I'll talk with you soon!!!

19 August 2009

Hope in India: A Creative Essay

Hey, Friends! This will be really quick because I don't have much time. But I wanted to share something with you so you can get a glimpse of the world I am in right now. This is a re-post of a creative essay I wrote at Easter while here in India. Unfortunately, I was unable to upload the picture that went with it. Hope you enjoy it!

The hot dusty streets, covered in trash and heavy with traffic, beat under a relentless sun. Red, blue, pink, green, yellow, orange, and purple—the colors of India move about as phantoms. They clothe the women, decorate the vehicles, and permeate the very air. There is no such thing as bleak here. No such thing as colorless. Even taste has color in India—the spice of fire, the aroma of garlic, brown grit of the dirt as it settles about clothes and through the air. India wraps around us from the inside out; it doesn’t so much invite us into her bosom as it pulls herself into ours.

This country of millions, with almost as many gods as there are people and more holidays than there are yearly rotations of the earth around the sun, goes about its day as if nothing is different. Sundays are not days of rest here as they are in the West; after all, Christianity is forbidden. They are business days just as any other—that is, unless the shop owners and businessmen observe a particular Hindu holiday at random.

Motorcyclists race past at breakneck speed, recklessly cutting corners and swerving in front of vehicles without care to the order and laws of driving. Cows languish in the already hot sun, chewing sedately with the rhythm of the morning. Camels, donkeys, and horses line the streets and pull carts of their own; other motorized wagons are overloaded with burlap sacks of petrified dung that is to be used for fuel. The sounds of the city fill the air—the insistent honking to indicate right of way, the yelling of those bartering at the market, the conversations of the pedestrians as they transverse the streets. Activity is everywhere; movement fills the air.

A white tent is erected in the middle of a village. Elections will come soon. The landfill has been covered with dirt and then again with carpet, the kind of plastic grass common to putt-putt attractions in the West. Chairs are lined up, empty save for the hopes of those who will fill them in just minutes. For now, the empty tent testifies of what is yet to be.

Minutes down the road, the lane is crowded with people. They wave the flag of India while dressed in saris and western wear. A banner hangs in front of them and drums pound their steady rhythm—one, two, three, four…and again, one, two, three, four…. It is the beat of attention, the calling of all who will watch this parade to take note: the candidate, the one who could save India, is here.

Just kilometers away, in a quiet room, fans circulate the warm air, desperately fighting a losing battle to cool the room. Orphans sit cross legged, barely fidgeting, their high pitched voices raised sweetly in song. A man stands at the front with an emerald green guitar. His eyes are closed and he sings fervently, proclaiming his praise and adoration of the Messiah.

These are the forgotten, the outcasts of India. Some of them have no home other than this one; others came here because they were abused, mistreated, or their families were too poor to feed them. Here they have found love, safety, protection. Here they have found Him.

Flies buzz throughout the room, landing on feet and tickling bare necks. Brightly colored silks lay against dark brown skin, highlighting the deep, rich tones of their flesh. Feminine dark hair hides under beautiful shawls and hands wave in adoration. The One they sing of is not welcome in India, just as He was not welcome in their country and as they are forsaken by their’s. But He sees them. He loves them. And He is their King.

When He came so long ago, his people almost missed the significance of his short years on earth. They were looking for someone else—a mighty, conquering King, someone to come and deliver the followers of Yahweh from the oppression of a powerful and sometimes cruel government. They wanted freedom, not foreign occupation; celebration instead of crucifixions.

They were a people plagued with exile and slavery, first in the desert and then again in the pagan lands of Babylon and Assyria. Their temple was destroyed, their homes were no more, and the land of their birth had been laid to rubble many times over. They’d experienced the vilest of offenses as those who occupied their lands took captives, raped women, and violated the Holy of Holies. As unclean blood ran down that altar, they wept at the abomination.

For centuries they waited. Heroes made of flesh came; men who did extraordinary things for the people. Their gaze turned not from the impossibility of God to the limitations of man, expecting a carbon copy of what they had seen—only on a grander scale. This Messiah wouldn’t just help them for a short period of time; He would overthrow the mighty Roman Empire and establish His reign. His people would not be enslaved ever again. They would not be exiled, tortured, or imprisoned. They would be free.

So they waited. And they looked from one hero to the next, never expecting that their Messiah would be born in a manger surrounded by cattle—that his first breath would be polluted with the fragrant aroma of a stable in full capacity. They didn’t think that the first to bow before this King would be lowly shepherds and they most definitely didn’t expect this King to die on a cross barely three decades later. They wanted the messiah of their own image. But He was no such thing.

Instead of physical beauty, He was unattractive.

Instead of the widespread acceptance of His people, He was ridiculed, persecuted, and crucified according to their demands. Instead of physically overthrowing the government He spent three days in the grave. After He rose again and ascended into heaven, His people were sure that nothing would change. They were under occupation. They were not free. This man who called himself the Son of God could not have been the Messiah. They missed it. They missed him. And two thousand years later they still seek this Messiah, thinking that He is still to come and will finally do what they expected him to do all along.

As the parade marches down the street and music fills the air, the tent in the Delhi village will fill with people. They will hear fancy words and grand promises, lofty claims and even entreaties for their vote. The candidates know what they want to hear. The people want to be free—to be happy. They are tired of this difficult life. They want a messiah to help them from the cruelty of survival. They want a form of salvation that man cannot give.

Just kilometers down the road, a young orphan bows her head and folds her hands, squeezing her eyes shut. The drum echoes from far away, barely entering the room before being silenced by the whir of the fan. She stands and lifts her voice, proclaiming her belief in the Son of God and her love for Him. She thanks Him for what He has done. For today is the celebration of His death and resurrection, the cornerstone for her belief.

Once again, the outcasts, the lowliest of society, have found Him.

“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one form whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Isaiah 53: 2b-6

16 August 2009

Change, Change, Change....

Hey, Friends!

I know I said I'd be away until September 1st, but here it is, Sunday afternoon, and I have some time on my hands--and access to the internet! I have missed y'all! Hopefully things are well with all of you!

I've been thinking a lot about change this week, about what it means for our characters, for us as writers, and for the readers as well. Have you ever started writing a story and had it turn in a completely different direction? Ever had random people appear from out of nowhere, your characters make a decision that you didn't plan on, thus requiring the plot to go in a different direction, or something completely unexpected happen? Have you ever "dropped a bomb" without realizing it was going to happen until it actually did?

I've definitely had that happen to me in writing. My finished manuscript had a major character development change that I didn't see coming until I started writing chapter 15. When that happened, it was almost a relief because it answered a lot of questions that I had. Of course, it also created a lot as well. But when I tested it with critique partners, the response was positive: they felt that the change was authentic to the story and the character itself. Whew! But it's a scary moment to suddenly realize that things aren't what they seem.

Which begs the question: who really writes our stories? Do your characters often run away with it? Do they have a better idea of what's going on than even you do? And are we, even with our fully developed plots and scribbled plans, open to whatever changes may come? My experience with writing is that every change I've encountered has been for the best.

But oh, how I chafe at change in life.

I'm one of those people who moves slowly, who needs stability and the time to adjust to whatever comes. Which is funny, considering my other job (missions), which is nothing but constant change. Definitely a paradox. In writing, I'm definitely a little more open to it. Still, I'd prefer as few surprises as possible, simply because it means for less time spent re-writing.

How do you handle change, in real life and in writing? Have you ever gotten to the end of a story and finally realized what was going on? What surprises have come your way?

And speaking of surprises, I had a doosy this week! It's a LOOOONNNNGGG story (aren't they all), that began with me boarding a plan to Cambodia and getting stranded in India. Needless to say, it was a change of "international proportions". I am so thankful that it happened here, in India, where I have people to call and a place to stay, instead of anywhere else in the world. So that's where I'm writing from at the moment, in a little village in India on a humid Sunday afternoon. The rest of my time here will be spent with those precious orphans you saw pictures of last week and at a leper colony. I'll return to the States on the originally planned date and will return to the blog then. But I wanted you to know what was going on!

07 August 2009

A Book of Light

W. Dale Cramer’s
Summer of Light

"Religion," the Man with No Hands said quietly, staring at his feet. "Religion is what regular people get in order to stay out of hell. People who have already been to hell don't want religion, they just want to know God." --W. Dale Cramer, Summer of Light.

After writing Thursday's post, I knew the perfect book to feature this week. It wasn't even a contest. Summer of Light completely exemplifies what we talked about yesterday. As a writer, this book has taught me a lot about the Art of story. And best of all, it makes me laugh every single time. It might actually be a tie for the “most read” book on my shelves.

W. Dale Cramer's voice is very beautiful, full of natural imagery and a striking vocabulary. His stories are so unique and so well constructed that it's difficult to pull away and re-enter the "real world". As a Southerner, I really appreciate the world his characters live in. You see, this author is from my area of South Atlanta, something that really makes me tremble. Oh, to run into him at the post office! That would be really cool.

Of his four novels, Summer of Light is my favorite. It's also the only one he wrote in first person. Cramer seems to have a lot of fun with his protagonist, Mick, a construction worker who learns the hard way what it means to be “Mr. Mom.” Along the way he finds a renewed faith in God and also a deep passion for photography. With many hilarious events that take place and a world full of quirky characters, like a daughter nicknamed “Toad” and a diabolically intelligent dog named Andy, this is literally the funniest book I’ve ever read.

This is my “feel good” book, the book that literally makes me laugh out loud, even in a quiet room. I don’t have children, but I believe that all parents would really be able to commiserate with Mick, who is just trying to keep up with the speed of life. It’s a really good story. If you run into this book in a store or online, don’t miss the opportunity to read it. It’s definitely worth it.


Question for you: What books make you laugh?

This is my last post for a few weeks, because I leave on Monday for Cambodia. On the way back, I’m going to stop in India for a few days and see my “babies” (picture posted on Thursday’s blog) at Asha House. I will return at the end of the month, probably exhausted out of my mind but pumped as to what God is doing—and full of stories!!! Anywho, PLEASE COME BACK!!! I will try to post on here while I am away, but I cannot make promises as to how often that will happen. My time there is so short that I want to make sure I spend every moment I can with those I am ministering to. I plan to begin posting again (at the very latest) on September 1, 2009. See you all then!!!

For updates on my trip while I am away, please visit my missions blog at ktsummer.blogspot.com. Or just click on the link on my blog list. It’s the one titled: “Summer Daze”.

Have a great couple of weeks!

06 August 2009

Let's Play With Light!

On Tuesday, we talked about the power of darkness and how it is a great writing tool. Today we are going to talk about the importance of light.

English classes throughout high school and college were quick to point out light as a symbol for knowledge and truth. It’s easy to piece apart a story, find the different strands of light, and infer from what we discover. But if we do that, we miss the point.

One of my favorite hobbies is photography. I’ve always loved taking pictures, mostly because I want tangible memories. I want to be able to capture a story in a single snapshot, to find that picture that is worth more than a thousand words. In the past year or so, I’ve been able to learn a lot more about the art of taking pictures. Friends in the professional world have shared pointers with me. This past spring, my dear and incredibly talented friend, Kate Gazaway (please check her out because she is awesome—and she did not ask me to do this) patiently explained three main points of manual photography for me.

Simply stated, it’s a manipulation of light. Basically, the photographer is able to control the amount of light that is allowed into the shot by controlling the speed of the shutter, the ISO, and the aperture settings. Using this setting creates a contrast to photographs that the “auto” setting can sometimes miss. And then comes the fun stuff—playing with the light!

Below are three photos I’ve taken in the past few months. One was taken with a simple point-and-shoot that was on manual setting. The next was with my friend’s camera, a Nikon D40. I fell in love with his camera and promptly invested in my own, which took the final picture. (By the way, I have officially named my camera my “husband”. So if you ever read of him, please know that I am not speaking of a person).

The first picture, of my friend and an Indian orphan named Jyoti, is quite dark.

The second, of my little ones at Asha House in India, is so good. The light hits their beautiful, innocent faces at just the right place. Can you see baby Tabitha trying to stand in the background?

And finally, a picture with too much light. It’s overexposed, but I have to say, I love how the colors of the hammock just POP!

As difficult as it’s been to learn manual photography—and I am by no way claiming to be an expert or even “good”—the more I’ve learned about contrast, color, texture, and light. The science of photography is very much a part of the Art of photography.

Isn’t it the same way with us? How we use light—how we manipulate it, control it, and most of all, let it flow from us—will color the stories that we write.

What do you think? What are some tools that you use to play with light?

Tomorrow there is going to be a special book feature, partially because I have one that is so perfect that I can’t imagine not doing it and partially because I am leaving the country this weekend and will be away for a few weeks. I’ll explain more about that tomorrow. Anywho… I’ll see you then!

The children pictured above are a part of Asha House (or House of Hope) in India. They are sponsored by an organization called Sixty1. Please go to www.sixty1.org for more information or www.ashahouse.org for info on the children. Also, please feel free to message me about them, how to pray for them, or even how to sponsor them if you are interested.

04 August 2009

Afraid of the Dark?

Hi, Friends!

Last week, while thinking about the “who” behind my inspiration, my mind took an interesting turn. So the theme for this week was borne: the importance of both light and darkness in writing. Today we’re talking about darkness.

This can be a tricky subject for Christians. We know what the Bible says—that “we are children of light and need to live as children of light” (that’s in Ephesians 5, I believe), but for right now, while we are on earth, we are exposed to darkness. It’s not fun. It hurts. We ache for the day that there will be no more darkness. But for now, it’s our reality.

I truly believe, that, as writers, we have a responsibility to authenticity. If we write stories that are all light, they lose an extra dimension, as if we were walking around at high noon without a shadow. That’s the point of conflict, right? To heighten the intensity of the story? Without conflict, it’s a flat plot. Maybe interesting to those who love us, but that won’t make the bookshelves.

Which begs the question: In the world yet to come, when we write, will our stories lack conflict because there is no darkness? That’s something I often wonder. Or, because we will remember what it was like on this side of things, do you think it will still have a presence in the things we create? I’d love to know your opinions of this!

The thing about darkness is that we all understand it. We weren’t supposed to—absolutely not. But we do. We know what it means to grieve, to struggle, to battle, and to be betrayed. We know how it feels to be lied to, stolen from, and hurt by others. We understand our depravity without Christ, weakness, and fear.

And we can use that to make an incredible story.

Over the past few years, I’ve literally seen God bring Psalm 30 to life: “You take my mourning and turn it into dancing; you take my sadness and turn it into joy.” That doesn’t mean that it’s gone completely. That doesn’t mean that I forget all about what happened to me and how it made me feel. It means that God brings restoration. He makes those things new. In the darkest night, He is the one who brings the light.

Darkness is an incredible tool for a writer. It’s probably my most favorite of all, something that made my classmates and professors at my small Christian college uneasy. When they wrote about style and syntax, I wrote on insanity and death. The darker the better. Because there’s a secret, you see. The greater the darkness, the more powerful is the smallest light. When you’re in a pitch black cave, a single match will illuminate it. When you’re emotionally in that grave, the tiniest ray of hope is brighter than a midsummer’s day.

One of my greatest influences is Edgar Allan Poe. I love his stories. I love his rhythm, I love his characters, and I love how he uses darkness in his stories. And that definitely carries over into my novels. My characters battle some pretty dark things. But the thing about Poe is that in his stories, darkness wins. There is very little, if any light. Very little grace, love, and hope. His stories are profound. They resonate simply because they are so hopeless.

Here’s the secret: any darkness, no matter how deep, when infused with faith, loses its power. Darkness should never get the glory. It’s only left as a contrast, as a testament to what had been—but what is not anymore.

A story about the incredible power and love of God.

Isn’t that what we write anyway?