Sunday, December 23, 2012

Life Abundant (the wonders of people, enthusiasm, and long talks about heaven)

This photo has really no relevance to this post except that it's nearly Christmas. And I love snow.

“...the sun looks down on nothing half so good as a household laughing together over a meal, or two friends talking over a pint of beer, or a man alone reading a book that interests him..." -C. S. Lewis

Trying to sum up exactly what I'm wanting to convey in this post may be rather difficult.  I'm afraid it's one of those subjects that is hard to bring up and harder to do justice.

I'm talking about Thankfulness For Being Alive and the Many Wonders of People and Relationships and Long Talks about Heaven and Literature and Unashamed Excitement about Many Things.

I've got some pretty crazy awesome people in my life.  It's easy in the middle of the messy, uncomfortable, dirty parts of my life to forget how I've been blessed, in small ways and in large.

For some small ones, take snow. It tried to snow a couple times this past week and though it didn't stick around, I wondered (again) at the beauty of it, arriving in waves from the sky and giving the air that crisp, vibrant wintery smell.

Another small thing: Meals with friends. I got to eat a meal with my Bible study group this week, and then another meal with a friend's family the next day.   There is something very simple and beautiful about eating together.  Especially when you pay attention to all the little details, the way people laugh, the jokes they laugh at, the little looks they give each other as sarcastic (but loving) comments make their way around the table along with the casserole and the cookies.

On to some of the larger things.  I had Bible study small group with two girls on Thursday night.  We ended up talking about emotions and fears and Psalm 25 and then we got to pray together.  I got a fresh appreciation for the way they loved Jesus and, by consequence, loved me.

Then on Friday night I went to a "nerd Christmas party" with my literature group.  We talked about everything from science fiction to music, but the part of the conversation that engaged me the most was when we talked about Heaven.  

C.S. Lewis talked about Sehnsuct in a few of his writings; the uncanny longing in every human soul for joy, true joy, and for something just beyond our grasp and not found on earth.  

"That unnameable something, desire for which pierces us like a rapier at the smell of bonfire, the sound of wild ducks flying overhead, the title of The Well at the World's End, the opening lines of "Kubla Khan", the morning cobwebs in late summer, or the noise of falling waves."

The conversation on Friday night gave me a fresh dose of Sehnsuct.   We have this promise that God has gone to prepare a "place for us."

Don't all humans want a place for us?  We seek it out in so many ways, but I would venture to say that many of our endeavors come back to this longing for a place.   What amazed me was contemplating afresh this.   We have this hope beyond worlds, this hope and faith that there will be a Place for Us, and that Christ himself, the chief Person we were created to glorify and love has designed it.

He painted our name on the door with His blood.

Doesn't that just drive you speechless?  It doesn't often enough to me, but it should, and when I feel Sehnsuct most deeply and realize that it's fulfillment is in Jesus, then the silence and the peace fill the rivers of my soul again.

“There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.” -Lewis, again (and I shall never stop quoting him, never)

Being with people that share this longing for a Place and a Person is one of the best things for my soul.  

These people are excited about Life and about Miracles.  They are unironically enthusiastic about stories and music and Truth in Literature.  They appreciate mysteries and mountains and the place above the tree line where the silence is deep.    They talk about Heaven and their eyes light up.

You can see in their smile that they are not talking about a place they are mildly interested in.  

No, in these people, I see the fire blazing because their souls are alive, and they are seeking after the Person and the Place they were made for.

I am ridiculously blessed by God in the gift of knowing them.

Saturday, December 8, 2012


I will say that this has absolutely no relevance to the rest of this post.
So, I was tagged a few weeks (months?) ago by Micah at

Eleven Facts 
1. I am Canadian, which probably most of my followers already know.
2. I am an INTJ (Introverted Intuitive Thinker Judger) in the Meyer's Briggs personality type system.
3. My favourite TV show is Doctor Who for many, many reasons; one of the largest being that the Doctor gives me a fresh excitement for life, for adventure, and for living with meaning.
4. I love dystopian fiction and its ability to communicate Truth.
5. I began writing because I loved Narnia and wanted to write stories about it (2006-2008).  That grew into the writing of my own original fiction a couple of years later (2008-onwards)
6. My favourite book series is The Chronicles of Narnia, though Harry Potter is putting up a fight.
7. My favourite movie series is The Lord of the Rings.
8. I love the rain.  Where I live we get a lot of rain.
9. The first book that made me flat out cry was Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
10. I own 8+ nerd shirts, including 4 Doctor Who themed shirts. 
11. I play unashamedly with my sonic screwdriver and my fez and I enjoy fish fingers and custard.

My answers to Micah's questions:

1. If you met a Boggart/found your room at the God Complex/were marched towards room 101 in the Ministry of Love, what would await you? If it's a too personal of a question, just tell us your favourite ice cream flavour. Unless, of course, your worst fear is ice cream. Then you can just leave this blank.
hardy har har.  I'll go with room in the God Complex-oh, but that is a hard question.
My Boggart would probably be a lot like Augustus Water's worst fear.  Oblivion.
I like chocolate chip mint ice cream.  

2. How did Sherlock survive?

Mind control.
I have no hypothesis this late at night.  I've heard the squishy ball theory, the TARDIS theory, and a bunch of others. 

3. Which do you prefer - nice eyes or a nice smile?

Nice eyes.  Eyes say so much.

4. What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?

Sorry, was this supposed to be an educational question?  Cause it's past my bedtime.

5. What is the best smelling book you ever did sniff?

I'll say the box of old books that my Dad brought home one day.  They were all about 90-100 years old and smelled- oh, they smelled beautiful and ancient.

6. Are you the crying type? (The Fall, Doomsday, Toy Story 3?)
Nope.  Sometimes I wish I was, but I'm an INTJ and we don't tend to be emotional.  I can work myself up to being emotional, but crying is usually off-limits unless I'm dealing with something really personal.  Or I'm really tired.
(Or I'm reading Harry Potter or The Fault in Our Stars, to date the only two books that have made me properly cry.)

7. Which fictional villain makes you the most frightened or angry?

Loki makes me frightened, but mostly because I love him as a character and want him to be redeemed.  That's not really a fear of him so much as it is a fear for him.  Bellatrix Lestrange is pretty terrifying.  And Oblivion. Because Oblivion is really a 'villain' of The Fault in our Stars.

8. What would your dream room look like? ...Your dream house?

I'll just describe the insides because I'm not good at visualizing structures.  The inside would be crisp, cream or white walls with black or red lettered quotes scattered throughout.  There would be many bookshelves, some hidden in warm, rounded corners with large comfortable chairs.  There would be words everywhere, in the bedrooms, in the living room, tucked into the corners of the kitchen and the front entrance.   It would be like a large hobbit hole with hundreds of books, well lit rooms, and speakers to blare (or trickle) music everywhere.  Imagine "Don't Panic" blasting through an entire house and a cup of tea and jammy dodgers sitting on the kitchen counter.  Then imagine me with a Narnia book in my hand and a stack of books under my arm, guitars on the wall and the smell of cinnamon.

9. If you could only see everything in one font, from now on, what font would you pick?

Something like helvetica or times new roman.

10. Mac or PC?


11. You're a contestant in the Hunger Games. Detail this for us. What's your strategy? Training score? Do you win, or ... not? If you feel like it, give us even more. Outfits? Favourite thing about the Capital? District? What's the arena like this year?

Gosh, Micah, do you want me to write a book?
My strategy is to hide and trick other contestants and try to stay alive for as long as possible and defer a messy death.  I'm definitely more of the 'flight' rather than 'fight'.   I climb trees, gather food, stay away from the other contestants at all costs.   
I definitely don't win.  First of all, I don't know that I would kill.  Under those circumstances my resolve might be weakened, but I don't honestly think I can say that killing under those circumstances is any more justified than any other circumstances.  I'd prefer to die rather than have to be a part of death.  Even though there can only be one winner, even though my not-killing would not stop others from killing.   I hope that I would be able to hold that resolve. So I probably don't last long.  Also, there's the fact that I'm small and physically not very strong or agile or talented in anything that doesn't involve words and a computer. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Dichotomy of Stories and Reality

I live a thousand lives tonight
Locked up inside my head
I chose the song of eternity
It ravaged inside my head
I live a thousand lives tonight
All faces black and red
I chose the people who never lived
I cried, and stayed in bed.
You're probably tired about hearing about stories from me.  It seems that's most of what I talk about.  I'm not here to apologize though.  However, today I am going to delve into something that may explain why I talk about stories so much, why they affect me, why I love them.

So here goes.  Baring a little bit of my soul here.  This idea that I'm going to share today is something I've cried over and thought through.  It's very personal to me, but it may be also something for some of you, particularly those who have ever thought that escaping in a story was the only thing that kept them sane.

"in dreams we enter a world that is entirely our own"

I finished reading the Harry Potter series last weekend.  It affected me quite deeply with the adventure, love, and loyalty of the characters; how they sacrificed for each other and the  courageous choices they made in spite of death staring them down. The themes, especially those of death and life, courage and friendship, hit me hard. (I may write a full review and post it here. We'll see.)

It had been rather a rough day at home, the day after I finished reading.  There were things heavy on my heart, real life struggles that hurt and drove me to my room alone.  In that moment, I wanted escape more than anything.  Harry Potter had affected me.  Even though the story had been filled with darkness, with danger- even with death, something in me longed for it above my real life. Harry said "Hogwarts is my home."  And in my longing for my own world to be made right- I wanted Hogwarts to be my home.  It was, despite it's darkness, a beautiful place.  It was adventure, it was escape. It was certainty that their lives meant something.  

Maybe it was certainty that my life meant something too.

All my life I've looked to stories for escape, I've been realizing.  All my life I've seen glimpses of life and love and courage in stories that have provided hope to me as I'm living the pages of my own story. Those stories have given me courage.  They've given me joy.  Most of all, they've given me hope.

"It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live."

So there's the dichotomy.  I've depended on stories, to be honest.  I've placed my heart in them, let them affect me and change me.  I don't regret what stories have done for me.

Sometimes, though, I think I dwell on stories and forget to live.  I love stories. I won't ever stop loving stories.  The story of the universe goes on- and we write and live our little stories inside of it.  I fully intend to keep reading and writing stories for the rest of my life, in expectancy that they will affect me, change me, give me hope and strength.

But even in that, I have often lacked the courage to step out of the story world and live fully in my own.  I saw a post on Tumblr that said "we need fantasy to survive because reality is too difficult."

Okay, so sometimes reality is difficult. Sometimes it is horrible. But we will never get beyond the darkness and into the light unless we step out with our swords drawn.  We will never experience life  in all it's beauty- and sorrow- unless we fling ourselves fully into it.

We will never live unless we come out of the dream world.  The dream world will live inside us forever, it will continue to make us more alive then we were.  But I realized that night that these stories matter because they echo my own heart.  My desires for my own story become entangled with the fictional story.  I want to live, to have the abundant life that I was made for.  I do not want to forget that truly living is courageous.

"The stories we love do live in us forever."

Our own stories, we hope will live forever.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Writing out of your soul

I must write for me.

When I started writing seriously I was thirteen. It was a hard, amazing year, due to a lot of personal issues and a really huge season of doubt that broke into my baptism and subsequent growing Christian life.  In my eighth-grade poetry, though the rhythm is bad and the phrases are cliche, I can still feel everything that my soul was fighting with.  That writing was some of my first writing, and some of my worst.  But it was also some of my most honest.

I guess that's a defining trait of powerful writing.  It's honest.  It's honest about where it's been.  It's honest about tears and holding stuffed animals as a teenager because you can't explain that sorrow.  It's honest about how sometimes that stuffed lion that you call Aslan is more real and more alive and more comfort than anything. It's honest about those days you could rule the world, and the days you just want everything to be fixed.  It's honest about how sometimes you are weak and other times you could fight dragons.  Powerful writing tells the truth.  Even if the truth is stained and terrible along with its light and beauty.  Because the truth, the honest truth, sets free.

The truth hurts. Writing about those things was- is- so hard.  Putting it on paper is declaring it, waging war against it, admitting it to myself. When I wrote it down, I made it real in a new way.

"If he wrote it, he could get rid of it.  He had gotten rid of many things by writing them," said Ernest Hemingway.   A lot of people have pointed out how writing is like catharsis.  Writing, for me, helps me understand why I feel the way I do.  It helps me sort out truth from error.  It helps me to see in ways that I can't see when I don't write.   It helps me declare war and it helps me to fight that war. 

Words. Words on paper, black splotches on ink, changing lives. Changing ME. First and foremost, writing has changed me. I write for me. Oh, I write for others, but I write out of my own soul.  That's where the power of writing transforms.  

And hopefully, as words have healed and changed me, they might do the same for others.

I'm going to write anyways, because I have to write. For me, the most powerful urge is the one that comes from my soul.  That's the urge that calls me to understand the world, the God who made it and the strange and beautiful story that I am living.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

ramble on the eve of senior year's beginning

I don't even know about this school year.

I have so far to go, so many things to do.  So many things to learn.  So many things that need to change in my life.  So many hills to climb.

So many adventures to be had.

I'm terribly excited and terribly frightened.

Isn't that wizard?

How can something bring me so much joy and make me so thrilled and exhilarated- and yet scare the dickens out of me the next moment?

Why am I unconsciously running away from the things that I love, the things that I want?

Maybe these are just the ramblings of a tired me when I should be sleeping.

Maybe these are secret things that I usually don't admit to myself.

But this year is going to be good.

Maybe even great.

If only I follow the Lion.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

I don't think I want to be amazing...

...I think I want to be real.

I'm a perfectionist by nature.  Sometimes I am able to balance that fairly well, utilizing its strengths and downplaying its weaknesses.

But sometimes, it just makes me feel like a piece of perfect looking plastic with hidden scratches and a flawed structure.

Sometimes I need to be reminded how small and imperfect I am underneath everything I'm learning, underneath the success, underneath the life-that is-ever-so-wonderful.

I'm a small, weak, sinful person.

I have a strong God.

And sometimes I need the humbling reminder of that, of the fact that I can't do it all.  Of the fact that being wrong and being hurt and being vulnerable and messy isn't always a bad thing.  Of the truth that it's so much more fulfilling to be real and to be following Jesus honestly than to be putting up walls and painting pictures of a perfect person I'm not.

And it's so amazing to see God make beautiful things out of messes.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Awe. Writing. Life.

Sometimes I am nearly brought to tears and awe at this gift.  I read, I write, I love stories.  That's something that's been born in my soul.  It brings me to tears.  Over and over again it's changed my life. But sometimes I lose the love I had at first.  I forget how precious it is to feel the pages of an new book or to breathe in the smell of an old treasure.  I forget what it means to muse over a phrase that sings the song my heart cannot express.   I forget the ways that people in books can make me laugh and see the world in a new way.

But deeper than that- I forget that stories are a way for me to understand the world, understand life, and learn to enjoy life.  I forget the swelling of my soul in worship and amazement in a story of fall and redemption.  I forget the joy that comes with simply being alive and with hearing the stories of the humans on this fallen planet, where a rebellion has been launched and hope is not mere optimism.  I forget that everyone has a story, and that in the telling of stories we are changed beyond what can be described.

And then something sparks me to remember, like the cord that was wiggling out of it's socket has been plugged back in.  Then awe overwhelms me yet again.  Tonight was one of those moments.

Thanks, Father, for the awe of being alive.
Thanks, Father, for the beauty and tragedy and awe scattered like bits of blue flowers among grey plains.
Thanks, Father, for stories.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Where I've been: Snapshots

OYAN Summer Workshop 2012.  Olathe, Kansas.  Bigger on the Inside.
So...since it's been over two months since I posted on here, I thought I'd do a quick catch-up post to give my readers (if there are any, which I'm not entirely sure of) a glimpse into what I've been busy with the last two months.  I'm also writing a whole bunch of posts about things that God has been teaching me about life and writing which I'm excited to post over the summer (and that character series is really going to be rebooted, as in soon)!

Snapshot One: Broken Glass King
Currently the novel project that I'm working on is this novel called Broken Glass King.  It was born out of some of the ways that God was breaking me and healing me over the past year and it's a project I'm incredibly excited about.  I've posted about it in the past.  Probably you'll hear a lot more about it in the future months.

Snapshot Two: One more year in school
I'm realizing that this summer is my last summer of being a kid.  Come this time next year, I'll be graduated.   In some ways I'm terrified of what comes after this year, and in other ways I'm completely thrilled.   But even when I'm terrified, I am reminded that I am not alone and that any adventure, no matter how many dragons I face or fires I have to walk through, I have nothing to fear.  This year should be exciting.  God works in mysterious and beautiful ways.

Snapshot Three:  The OYAN Summer Workshop 2012
I had no idea a writing workshop could do so much more than just encourage me in my writing.  I learned so much about writing.  I learned more about life and about God and about what His family looks like.  I made some amazing friends. We did some crazy things.   The OYAN family started on an adventure of wrecking normal for the glory of God.  I'm thrilled to see what comes next.  I could go on- but that's stuff for another post.

Saturday, May 5, 2012

revelation: the power of words

I had another writing revelation today.  It's something I've always known but hit me in the gut again after a conversation today.  It's profound how an old truth can become real again when it is said in a new way.  (This, by the way, is something writers need to know. There are no new Truths, just new ways to say old Truths.  Originality comes in saying an old Truth in a new, unique, coherent or powerful way.) 

I came out of the movie theatre today after watching The Hunger Games.  My uncle joked that "You're only one year away and then you can be a Career."  I said something about not wanting to be a Career.  Then someone else with us says "Your weapon can be writing."  I replied:

"Writing can't kill people."

And then it hit me.  What I said wasn't true.

Writing does kill people.

Mein Kampf. Origin of Species. Communist Manifesto.  Many, many other writings.  Writings that have led, either directly or indirectly to wars, injustices, lies, the murder of the innocent, and other evils.

Writing is always about ideas.  Whether it's a story, song, poem, essay or blog article, it's ultimately undergirded by ideas, views on the world, on life, and on right and wrong.  Ideas have consequences.  That's a cliche, but a true one.  The ideas expressed in writing may be just words, but they lead to actions.  Good ideas -and by good I mean True- lead to good actions.  Bad ideas -and by bad I mean False- lead to bad actions.   Wars start as a result of bad ideas.  Every thing we write has consequences.

"The tongue has the power of life and death." -Proverbs 18:20.  Our words- both on paper and in life- have consequences.  

I want to be sure that I know what I'm saying and to ensure that I am writing ideas that are grounded in Truth and that lead to good. 

Friday, May 4, 2012

What putting Noisemaker on hold has taught me about writing

Some writing days felt like this.
So, it's been a hard writing time lately.  For several reasons, not the least of which is my own inconsistency and procrastination.  But more than that, I've just been having a hard time making writing work.  There's been more than a few days where I've groaned and struggled and spent entire afternoons where I end up with nothing to show for it.   There's been a few days where I've nearly cried.  "Why won't this story just WORK?!"

Most of this stress came from a recent project called Noisemaker.  I loved the theme behind it.  It's based on something I'm passionate about and I delved right into plotting, creating characters, and developing the theme.  The story changed its form at least a dozen times over the course of March.  But as time went on, I was having a harder and harder time actually writing it. I could write lots about it, but the actual words on paper- the actual story- wasn't working.   It had me nearly pulling out my hair with the fact that I couldn't pin a plot down.  It had a setting and it had a theme, but connecting the plot and characters to it was the challenge.  With such a big theme, I could write reams of essays about it but as a story the hugeness of it was stumping me.

The theme behind Noisemaker was so big that fitting it into a plot was time consuming and draining.  And by draining, I mean mentally and spiritually draining.  It was a lot of plot problems and a lot of frustration.

The stress of the project was just compounded by the fact that I need to have a full novel draft ready by the end of June for a writing workshop I am going to attend.  I got to the point of despairing if I would ever even nail down a loose outline, never mind write Chapter One or "The end."

Eventually I had to realize that this project was too big.  At least for now.  It was too new, too massive in proportion.  It needed time to sit and ripen and develop in my mind.  It wasn't ready to come onto paper.  Maybe it would be soon, but forcing it before I was capable of writing it wasn't going to be good for me or the story. 

I don't mean that there isn't a time to force your way through a story.  I know that just because a story is hard doesn't mean that it's not ready.  I'm not advocating giving up when the going gets tough!  But in this case, Noisemaker was so consistently difficult and between my own stress and the helpful counsel of my mom we determined that it just wasn't the right time yet.

Now I'm working on a novel of a very different kind.  It's a novel idea that started when I was about 12.  I've written countless notes, character sketches, chapter outlines, and theme notes.  It's a much better developed story in my mind.  It's had plenty of time to ripen.  Ultimately, it's ready to become a full fledged novel.  It'll still be hard.  That's what writing is- not all sunshine and words flying onto the page.  But this story is one I feel much better equipped and ready to write.

Noisemaker is on the shelf presently. And it's a good thing, because now I'm writing a story that IS ready to be written.  This process has been a valuable one, as I've realized that I can't white knuckle writing.  Sometimes stories need to sit. Sometimes an idea is good- but not quite yet. 

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Why I love Lewis

"You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me."  -C.S. Lewis.   Mhmmmmm. That quote alone sums up many good things; Lewis, tea, and books.
The first C.S. Lewis book I read was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.  My sister and I snuggled up next to our mum and heard the story of the Pevensies, the witch, betrayal, and the Love of a Lion for the first time.  I was probably seven or eight.

Now it's years later, but that story- as well as any and all of C.S. Lewis' other works- continues to have an indelible impact on my life.

Lewis had an ability- a gift- of telling the straight Truth in a way that was both beautiful, honest, and memorable. He spoke in metaphors and stories that made sense- connecting the mind and the heart by the way he described things.  A friend mentioned to me something she had been reading lately about how Truth is always beautiful. Looking at Lewis, he seemed to understand that.  God is Truth, and He made Truth, and He made beauty, so of course when it comes down to it, truth will be beautiful and that which is really beautiful will be Truth. The truth I've seen in Lewis' books is always a beautiful truth.  Sometimes it's uncomfortable too, but then isn't that often the nature of both Truth and true Beauty.

Another thing I appreciate love is that Lewis saw clearer than most the curtain of time and eternity.  His keen desire for something greater than this world (past the shadowlands) is so evident in his writing, both fiction and non-fiction.   In the Chronicles of Narnia, this shows up many times, but one that sticks out to me is the last paragraph or two of The Last Battle.

The dream is ended
"The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning."
And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot describe them. And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that the all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real stor. All their life in this world and all of their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story, which no one on earth has read: which goes on for ever: in which every chapter is better than the one before." -The Last Battle

^^ THAT ^^  Lewis is marvelous.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Wake up and get out of bed

"We read of spiritual efforts, and our imagination makes us believe that, because we enjoy the idea of doing them, we have done them.  I am appalled to see how much of the change which I thought I had undergone lately was only imaginary.  The real work seems still to be done.  It is so fatally easy to confuse an aesthetic appreciation of the spiritual life with the life itself- to dream that you have waked, washed, and dressed, & then to find yourself still in bed."  
-C.S. Lewis

I love this quote because it is something I have felt in my own life many times and something I want to fight against. It's that thing that makes me believe that I am noble and faithful and have done great things and then find myself in bed with the covers pulled over my face because I'm afraid of the shadows playing games on the floor.  The bounds of my comfort zone are merely my own fears  but actually getting up out of bed and putting my feet on the cold floor is the step hardest to take.   

Jesus is the one who takes my hand and helps me take that first step out of bed. He is the One that reminds me that being awake is infinitely better than remaining under the covers.

Good morning!


Thursday, April 5, 2012

'O! Wanderers in the shadowed land'

"O!  Wanderers in the shadowed land
despair not! For though dark they stand,
all woods there be must end at last,
and see the open sun go past:
the setting sun, the rising sun
the day's end, or the day begun
For east or west all woods must fail..."
-Frodo, The Fellowship of the Ring 
What did I say?   Beautiful.  And so very symbolic and True.   'the shadowed land' makes me think of C.S. Lewis' description of earth "the Shadowlands."  We are wanderers on this earth. But every dark wood has an end- and then the sunrise!

Right now I'm wandering on, learning as I go, feeling the wind on my cheeks and the biting cold in my bones.  Right now I'm growing thanks to the grace of God and His work in me through the Bible, situations, and people who love Jesus.   Every day I take steps forward, holding his hand, gazing at beauty and feeling the thump thump of the song of tomorrow in my heart.

A fellow wanderer in the shadowed land,

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Letters to the Characters: Kell Thurton

The closest resemblance I've found that Kell (my Hero from Broken Glass King) agrees looks like himself.
Dear Kell,

Today, I really don't feel like writing.  It's probably just me, but then I'm thinking, and I'm trying to write YOUR story, and it's just a complete fail.  Maybe you're not really alive, maybe you've died in my mind.  Maybe I left you alone for a couple weeks and you faded from reality into myth.  You were just coming out of your shell.  You were just taking those steps off the page and into my heart but something's slammed the lid on that and you are just a person sitting around in my head.  So tell me- why are you special, Kell Thurton?  Why shouldn't I just scrap your story and toss you into the folder of failed projects and forgotten people?  What about you can make me pry the lid back open and bring you again off the page and into something real.  You're so complex, aren't you.  Elusive but honest. Hiding but trying to escape your own little spinning head.  You want to be known but you just don't know how to express yourself.  You're half frightened to do it too. You want to open yourself up but it hurts and you don't know the right way to go about it without tearing apart your own soul.  Or the souls of others.  You're fighting in the war, but--

--Oh.  Fighting the war?

Is that what you need to do, Kell?
Leap back onto the page as a fighter, as someone who is on the front lines of the war?
Is that what I was missing about you?  I suppose I did create you to be a kind of diplomat, a keep-your-hands-clean leader who sat behind a desk and made tough decisions. But that way, you don't see the little girl dying in her father's arms. You don't pick up a sword and choose if you're going to run it through a man just like you. You're too plastic that way, too far away from the conflict.  Maybe that was part of the missing piece of you.

Come out of your box, Kell. I promise I'm throwing away the key- and I'll stop pre-deciding what kind of person you're going to be.  I'll follow you onto the battlefield and I'll write YOUR story.  Not my idea of what you as a puppet ought to do.

Love from your writer, 

Friday, March 30, 2012

Beyond the shadows is the sunshine

I crash through the forest, roots sneaking up towards my ankles, branches swatting my cheeks.   Somehow I've lost my way amidst the darkness. The trees close in, but I press on, ignoring the scratches on my arms as I keep on searching.  I've got to find my way home.  Safety is there, at home.  Security is there. 

We're all looking for something. We're frantically searching,  desiring purpose, meaning.   Fulfillment.

My heart has a song, and it's crying out.  It's a compass, and it's pointing to something.  It's desperate for something more than the pain and work and weariness of this world.  It hurts to see pain and not be able to do anything about it.  It hurts to live in the world with all its disappointments and sorrows.  I hurt for the children without parents.  I hurt for the parents who've lost their children. I hurt for the lost, the addicted, the dying, the betrayed.

I know I was made to live for more than this 60 or 70 year life on earth.  I was made for the sunrise, for the eternal shore, for the Home beyond the shadows of the dark forest.  

How does one live for eternity?

I know Truth. So why do I run away and pretend that I don't?  When I try to leave behind truth and bury myself in mud sooner or later it crashes around me and I am left with dry dust in my hands.

What good is it to gain everything in this life, to laugh at every joke and have 500 Facebook friends and wear the right clothes and be liked by all and yet not have God?  

What good is it if I have so much of a virtual life that I lose touch with my family?  What good is it if I isolate myself and read and study and write and think inspiring thoughts but neglect my God and His people?

Eternity in my heart means that I know God's Word and that it fills my mind.   It means that I resist the temptation to set my mind on things that will fly away like dust.  It means that I choose something Higher than the earth I'm standing on.

Eternity in my heart means I live for something bigger than the latest fad, something grander than a tv show, something more worthy than temporal pleasure. 

Eternity in my heart means just that....the reality and consequences of Forever imprinted upon my soul.

Think about Forever.    Think about what Forever means.  
And then live with Forever in your heart.

Live with the song of tomorrow.

Friday, March 23, 2012

A storyteller's glasses

The storyteller may forget the grocery list while she people watches and plots novels, but she's not trying to be forgetful.  It's just that her prescription for seeing the world includes the formula "Writer".
Sometimes I think that writers, and specifically storytellers, see the world in a slightly different way then everyone else.  

For example, when a writer reads history, she can find something interesting in almost any place and historical period.  The conflicts in history become feeding ground for stories.  Girls weren't allowed to go to war during the 1800's? How about a girl who does.  There were men on the Titanic who selfishly took valuable seats in lifeboats while women drowned? How about a girl who calls them out for it. Thus history becomes more powerful to a writer because she create characters who live that history and those conflicts.  Same goes for scientific discoveries, twists on old fables and fairy tales, and the ever potent question "What if?".

Then there's movie watching and book reading, both of which are simultaneously spoiled and enriched for a writer.  She can't see a film without picking it to bits.  If she's reading a book with lousy characters she has a lot less patience than she did before she was a writer.  She can distinguish why she likes certain stories and why she dislikes others. She notices themes. She is entranced by characters.  Hopefully, when a writer watches or reads a really good story, she is encouraged.  Hopefully, good stories spur her on to write her own stories with more passion, motivation, and skill.

Finally, when a Writer goes to the grocery store, the bratty child, over-talkative teenager, clerk with a chip on her shoulder, and man shouting into his cell phone all provide ideas about characters and stories.  The writer looks at things from the perspective of Story, Character, and Theme and sometimes misses the less consequential things, such as grocery lists and being places on time.  Also, the people who a writer knows are prime candidates for inspiration in her stories.  This includes, but is not limited to strange quirks, odd histories, funny mannerisms, strong character traits, and embarrassing stories.

So if you are a writer and you see the world through a slightly different pair of glasses, don't be alarmed. This is a perfectly normal thing for a writer to experience and should be encouraged, not downplayed. Enjoy the way you see the world.  Learn from it.  Hone that writer's lens prescription.

If you know a writer and they seem to notice the unnecessary random things while missing the grocery list - don't worry. They're just seeing the world through a very unique prescription.  And ultimately, we'll all benefit.


*These are generalizations. Not all writers will think particularly this way- this is just things, both humorous and serious that I have noticed about the way I view life as a writer. :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Classics never age

I'm reading Lord of the Rings again, and it's just as good a book now as it was the first time I read it.   Some things never age- classic books certainly don't.
"The road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say."
-The Fellowship of the Rings

Here's to amazing characters, poetry that breathes mystery and magic, and stories that pull back the veil and show me something beautiful.

Go read a classic book today. Turn off the computer, brew a cup of tea and chill on the couch with something that will never quite grow old.

"Bilbo was meant to find the ring, and not by its maker. In which case you also were meant to have it. And that may be an encouraging thought." -Gandalf

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What is a Christian Storyteller, (Part Two)

Yesterday I talked about a couple different faulty ways that people think about what being a Christian Storyteller means.  Today, I want to talk a little about what my passion as a Christian Storyteller is.
As a Christian and a Storyteller, this is my vision. This is not going to be the vision of all Christian Storytellers necessarily. That's something that every writer has to determine on their own.  This is simply my take on the subject.

I've written a number of different genres.  Some things I've written have been more obviously Christian, and some, like my current WiP, isn't.  But what I believe is important in my stories stays the same, regardless. 

As a Christian Storyteller, I am someone saved by Jesus and have my whole life committed to Him.  Therefore, as a writer, I have varying styles and levels of Christian content in my books, but they all have the same focus- to honor God and seek His will as I write Stories with Purpose and Truth.

So- what does being a Christian and a Storyteller mean?  Can Christians write non-Christian fiction?  I'd say they can.

Being a Christian Storyteller starts deep.  It starts with the heart. In fact, it starts way before you thought about being a writer. It starts with Jesus dying for you.  Then it starts in your life with God's mercy breaking into your sin and redeeming you into His family.  Being a Christian Storyteller starts with a new heart and a new life given to you by the Creator of the Universe (on an unrelated note, read this where Kelsey talks about the remarkably upside down love of Jesus.)

When Jesus grips your heart, you are going to be a very different writer.  After all, your love for stories is a gift from God.  And because He has bought you and you are His, this gift is now one you offer back TO Him for Him to use.  What you get you turn around and give back to the Giver. Upside down, but true.  And yeah, this is really personal to me right now.

God is the source and the center of me as a Christian Storyteller.  He guides this Storyteller.  Sometimes He may give me the vision to write a Christian story, and sometimes He calls me to write stories that are not specifically 'Christian' for HIS glory, to share Truth with the world in a way they will be able to see it. The thing is, whatever I write as a Christian Storyteller, I write for God. I write because He's enabled me.  I write to tell Truth and to bring joy and healing and light in places of darkness.

I write my heart out for my King.

Monday, March 12, 2012

What is a "Christian" Storyteller? (Part One)

In an online writing group I'm a part of somebody recently asked the question "If you're a Christian, do you have to write 'Christian' genre fiction?"  Some would say yes.  Most disagree to some extent.  I'd like to delve a little deeper and ask a question with a bigger scope.

"What does it mean to be a Christian Writer?" (or, more specifically, a Christian Storyteller, as what I'm referring to is fiction, not nonfiction).  Here are three things people may think a Christian Storyteller is or ought to be.

One: "A Christian Storyteller is someone who happens to be a Christian and also happens to be a writer, so therefore their writing has little or no connection to what they believe, either overtly or in more subtle ways."
Saying you're a writer who just happens to be a Christian is faulty reasoning.  It's akin to saying you're a teacher or a plumber or a songwriter who just happens to have Christian beliefs.  Some people say that we need to distance our own beliefs from our work.  But that's a serious problem.  This idea suggests that somehow your belief in Jesus is divorced from your real life.  It suggests that your Christianity is 'private' and has no real effect on who you are.  But that isn't God's calling.

God's calling encompasses all of life.  He wants the whole man, the whole person with all their hopes and dreams and plans and lifestyles.  Jesus demands that everything must come under His leadership.  Our lives- lives saved by grace- become lives given over to Jesus in every aspect, and that includes writing. 

Two: "A Christian Storyteller is someone who only writes overtly 'Christian' fiction, labeled Christian in genre and usually read mainly by a Christian audience."
I don't think this is quite so common of a view, but there probably are some who believe it.  In this idea, being a Christian and a writer means that you have to write "Christian" books.  I'm not saying anything against Christian stories. We need them. I've been encouraged and strengthened by Christian fiction. But if every Christian writer only writes books for the Christian marketplace, then Christians will have no influence in the world of literature outside of ourselves. It's a fallacy that all writers who are Christians must write overtly Christian stories.

If we are the salt and light of the world, then we NEED writers who are Christians writing books that non-Christians will read. Most of my favourite stories are not labeled "Christian."  But they point to beauty and Truth and draw me closer to Jesus.
As Christian storytellers, we have the opportunity to affect people, both Christians and non-Christians with the power of stories that honor and point to God even if they never mention His name.  It's tough, but it's needed.

Coming Tomorrow:  What is a "Christian" Storyteller (Part Two: My Vision)

Saturday, March 10, 2012

An Interview with Riwa Aretheni

So- I'm participating in the March blog chain hosted by Teens Can Write Too!  Read about it here.

Today I'm doing an interview with a character from (one of) my current works-in-progress, Noisemaker.   This is Riwa Aretheni, the Hero and POV Character; a 12-year-old redhead who never went to school and grew up without parents but does have a whole lot of passion and is intent on pursuing freedom and Truth.

Me: Riwa, welcome to the blog. I seem to be bad at describing you sometimes.  So, instead of that, I'll let you lead off.  What kind of person would you describe yourself as?

Riwa: Loaded question!  Do I have to answer?

Me: It's an interview, not a duck and evade training class.

Riwa:  Okay, I'll jump right in.  Young girl.  Young Noisemaker.  Silence is intent on squelching Noisemakers.  Girl is intent on NOT getting squelched and starts a revolution. Girl fights, girl fails, girl learns.  Me in a nutshell *grinning*

Me:  So what's a Noisemaker?

Riwa: We're the socially unacceptable minority.  Y'know, in one of those character sheet thingamabobs, they asked what my 'political leaning' was. You were filling out the forms and half the stuff you got wrong about me, but that much you got right.  REVOLUTION.  We don't like what the Silence is doing to the world. We don't like not being able to tell people what we believe and we don't like Truth getting shoved in prison.

Me:  Okay, so what does that look like, exactly?  What kind of revolution are you trying to start?

Riwa: It's a revolution of ideas, mostly.  Y'know, we're trying to bring free speech back into the public.  Nobody says anything anymore about what they actually think.  Everything's spoon fed and we're sick of it.  We do things to get peoples' attention.

Me: Yeah, like that stunt you pulled when you sabotaged the radio systems and jammed them from regular programming so you could speal your stuff?

Riwa: That was a fail. We learned from it.  why do you have to bring it up in public places?

Me: Because I'm trying to give these readers a glimpse of who you are.  Your choices define who you are, so I'm--

Riwa:  --you're showing them my choices.  I know your lingo.  Sometimes I make really stupid choices.
Me: Like me letting you on the blog?

Riwa: *a disinterested, unimpressed look*

Me: Moving on- do you have family?

Riwa: Yes.

Me:  Please humor me, Ri.  Who's your family?

Riwa:  No parents. One sister, two brothers, both older than me.  Will's a Noisemaker and the Silence wants to catch him, bad.  Ben's messed up.

Me: Messed up...?

Riwa: He's in training to be a Silence soldier.

Me: What about your sister?

Riwa:  Keriana? She's a lot older than me and she's in prison for telling Silence that she wouldn't change her style of journalism to suit them.  Now, tell me, does she get out eventually?  I haven't lived the end of the book yet.

Me:  Spoilers!

Riwa: *rolling eyes*  I can't stand it when you play that card. By the way, you really ought to hurry up on the whole writing thing.   I'm waiting...

Me: You should hear from some of my other characters.  Anyhow,  Let's not talk about the future right now, but the past. What's the worst failing you've had?

Riwa: Well, have I had it yet?

Me: *shaking head*

Riwa: O boy. Yeah, I guess saying it's like picking a scab and it gets better after, so yeah *deep breath*.  I backed down once. I didn't want to look bad in front of someone, so I gave up my freedom and got myself into a mess that cost everyone a lot of suffering.

Me: One last question.  To move the conversation fowards, what is one thing that gives you hope?

Riwa:  Truth. I know that there is such a thing as Truth. And nothing can stop it.  We fight for freedom so we can enjoy Truth.  That's hopeful.  And when it rains.  Nothing smells like hope more than rain.

Me:  Well, with that I'll end this interview. Riwa, thanks for being in this interview and in my story.

Riwa: Can I duck and evade now?

Monday, March 5, 2012

My Favourite Characters #9: Robin Hood

Hm.  No picture for this character, since he's from a book that hasn't (yet) been published, and I'm not going to just go and find some random actor who plays Robin Hood :)   So you get a picture of a statue instead.
Honorable mentions for #9: Marcellus Gallio (The Robe), Albert Ingalls (Little House on the Prairie), and Henrik (Young Underground series)

First off, before I start, an important clarification.  There are many, many versions of Robin Hood as a character.  The one that is on this list however, is very specific.  He's from the pen of a teenage writer who I greatly admire, namely one Nairam of Sherwood.  if you want more background on her Robin, read this post on her blog. 

Storyline of Character:
He's an outlaw. Check for traditional Robin Hood stories.  He robs the rich, gives to the poor, and is a fantabulous archer.  Check again for traditional Robin Hood.  But beyond that, his story is unique.  There's no 'love at first sight' between Robin and Marian.  In this story, she believes he's a heretic and an outlaw.  She's also in love with the Sheriff of Nottingham and determined that she'll marry him and find the love she's never found from her father.  But Robin interferes. He's been a slave in the Sheriff's house and knows the things that happen to girls behind those walls.  After rescuing Marian from another rough group of outlaws, he convinces Marian to stay with his band in the forest. Marian plots to turn Robin in to the Sheriff and continues to treat him with the disrespect and condemnation she believes this heretic deserves.  But despite her plotting, he sticks with her, telling her the truth and showing genuine love for her.
(oh. Hard to describe this story in one paragraph.  Has anyone guessed that I struggle with being long-winded? So I'll stop here and not spoil the ending.)

Strong points of character:
Robin is more concerned with following Jesus than with keeping in step with the status quo.   He's an outlaw who steals from the rich to give to the oppressed poor and isn't afraid to tell off the political and religious leaders for their hypocricy.  But he's not all talk.  He truly cares for the poor and does more than just give them money.  He shares with them, works with them, stands with them and loves them in practical and emotional ways.
Also, his compassion extends itself in his actions in taking in Marian and loving her even when she is *cough* more than just a little rude to him- even when she betrays him. This compassion also shows up in the way he tells the Truth, regardless of the consequences because he cares about the PERSON who is hurting and needs God.
One more thing I really noticed is that Robin acknowledges his dependance on God's grace.  He knows he's failed in big ways and can't make himself good.  He's humble and knows he can't do anything apart from the radical mercy and strength that Jesus gives him.

Weak points of character:
If anything, he thinks too little of himself and he heaps too much guilt on himself for things in the past.  His self worth is very low and mistakes he's made haunt him and hurt him even once he's moved on from them.  Sometimes he has a hard time accepting grace and forgiveness.

What makes me Love this character:
His love for Jesus that spills out in his compassion for others and in his commitment to loving the unlovable.  In a very real way, Robin shows Marian what Jesus is like by his sacrifice and love.  I've read this book at least 2-3 times, and every time I finish it with a greater desire to love Jesus and love people.  A lot of that has to do with the example of what a life sold out to loving Jesus and loving people looks like in the person of Robin.
(And he's got a terrific sense of humor, especially when Marian or Much is around.)

Quotes from this character:

Robin gave a slight laugh. “I only wanted--I’ve tried--do I offend you?” 
“You are an outlaw.”
“Good reason for offense.” 
“But worse than that, you are a heretic.” 
“Because I love my God?” 
“You, a heretic? You cannot possibly love God!”
“No. Not as fully as he loves me. But weak as my love is, I--” 
“You ridiculous contradiction! One moment, you’re insulting and robbing a man of the church, the next you’re talking to me as if you were one of God’s most faithful servants.”
“I try to be.” The answer was quiet--too quiet. It was hard to see his face in the dim light. “I know that more often than not, I fail. But you aren’t going to make me give up, Marian. For me it is better to be labeled by the world a heretic then to know in my heart I am a hypocrite.”

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Teens Can Write Too (March Blog Chain)

I'm excited to be a part of a blog chain this month, hosted by Teens Can Write Too!

This month's theme is Character Interviews.   Ever day for the rest of the month there will be character interviews going on at the blogs of a group of teenaged story-writers. 

Today I'm posting the schedule for the blog chain, and on March 10th my post, an interview with one of the characters from my latest novel will be posted here!

March 5 — — Kirsten Writes!
March 6 — – Struggles Of A (Maybe) Teen Author
March 7 — –This Page Intentionally Left Blank
March 8 — – The Dreamers Adventures
March 9 — — Lily’s Notes in the Margins
March 10 — – A Box of Letters and a Cup of English Tea ^^ That's me!
March 11– –From My Head
March 12 — –The Word Asylum
March 13 — –Oh Yeah, Write!
March 14 — – A Farewell To Sanity
March 15 — — Novel Journeys
March 16 — — Comfy Sweaters, Writing and Fish
March 17 — – Oops Was That Out Loud?
March 18 — — Here’s To Us
March 19 —— The Incessant Droning of a Bored Writer
March 20 — –Teens Can Write Too! (We will be announcing the topic for next month’s chain)

**Please note as a disclaimer: I don't personally know these bloggers, so I can't vouch for them or the content on their sites.