Last December 13th I got a polite but firm rejection from an agent I wanted VERY MUCH. Now let's get this straight, here and now. I know she wasn't rejecting ME. She was rejecting my work. It's best to act like a grown-up in these situations and establish early on that one is a professional. But... It stung. It hurt. I was so upset. I gave myself a few days to wallow, as is expected when we get an answer we do not like. Pout and whine? Sure, but I had to grab those reins, put my foot in the stirrup and get back on the horse. I decided to that my only option was to follow her advice, and the advice of my writer friends. I read over my stuff, and admitted that it was sub-par, that I had to work harder, to push myself to read more, study more, learn more and find it within myself to be BETTER. But I did NOT do it alone. No writer works alone. I offer my work to my Audience of One. I rely on my critique peeps to read my work and to lay everything out in black and white. I ask normals to read and tell me what they think. They're cute, those normals. All...normal and stuff. And I do buckets of research!! I currently have a healthy library of craft books, no NOT to crank up my scrapbooking or glue gun skills, and 20 books about Navajo history. *Sidenote- it SLAYS me to read books written back in the 1960's or 70's. The condescending attitudes toward any culture that was not Anglo or industrialized is enough to make me want to scream. I'll read them, and learn what I can, but still? UGH! So, between December 2012 and September, I went to "school". I read my favourites- all of Laura Frantz's books, and Lori Benton's Burning Sky. Over and over and over. I watched how they did what they do, took note of where my heart dropped and where it stopped altogether! Then I went back and applied those skills to my arsenal. Not on their level, of course, but I did kill a few darlings! I have my own voice, my own way of telling a story, but learning from one's favourites is really, really helpful! As anyone who has read this blog since this past summer knows, I got rejected, again, on September 3rd. Once again, it hurt, and once again, I looked things over, talked to some very, very wise writer friends and did what I had to do to make my work stand out. Which meant, with roughly a week before I left for the big ACFW conference in Indianapolis, a re-write, edit, and more tweaking of the sample chapters that had just been rejected. Holy frijoles, it was an insane amount of work. But, did I want to go and be impressive and leave at least a few people thinking "She has something special!"? Or did I want to go and hang out? I was NOT going there to socialize!! Okay, not *entirely*. My husband took care of things so I could burn that proverbial candle. And burn it, I did. But I had to work hard, work harder, and then lay it all at the feet of my King. The moral of the story? Writers? God gives you the desire, the ache to tell stories. He gives you the brains. He opens the doors for you to learn, to grow and to bring your book baby to life. He wants your best. Not 'your best as defined by how you compare yourself to others', but He wants you to trust Him with your best. I went to the conference on the 12th. I saw people I'd only met online. I felt overwhelmed at times. At other times, I managed to stay above water and breathe in the moment. And most importantly? To live the moment I was in. Even though I had an appointment with My Dream Agent on the 15th, at 9am. I was SO ENTIRELY clueless, that at one point when I saw her, I asked her if I should bring my stuff. I know, right? DUUUUH. Hey, I'd never been to a writer's conference, so all weekend, I basically wore my name-tag upside down ... And as most of you know, on that September morning, as I wondered what the heck as going to happen, my Dream Agent offered representation, and I cried. A lot. There are two days in my writer life that I'll always remember. December 13th, when I stood at the base of the mountain and looked WAY up, self-doubt pressing into my heart. And September 15th, when my world changed direction and I could barely speak for the joy of it all. Both are equally important, because on both those days, standing in front of me, was God asking "To whom will you build an altar?" Him. Always Him.
So, on November 15th, I flew to Denver. On a plane.
And frankly, November 15th was a day that shall live in infamy...I yelled, YELLED, at an unhelpful, unsympathetic, snarky, sneering airport staff person who did SQUAT to help, ohhhh, 200 people.
I am not proud of my behaviour, but when a person simply shrugs her shoulders at the needs of 200 passengers, almost all of whom had less than 30 minutes to catch their flights, does nothing to quell their nerves and rolls her eyes at people who are really in trouble??
I will yell.
And I know for a fact, I have not actually yelled in 4 years.
And all I said was "Excuse me?!"
Loud enough to freeze the crowd.
But I digress...
I landed in Denver, and then my dear friend Jeanne picked me up. We made our way back to Colorado Springs, and OH MY!! Look at the sky!! Hello Pike's Peak!
I spent a fabulous weekend at Casa del Jeanne and got to spend time with writer friends (Jill, Jeanne and Beth) and, and Normal Person Shari, who said "Okay, say something about writing, I need to eat." Which was a hilarious way to get her to stop talking so she could enjoy her breakfast.
Then on Monday the 18th, it was Time.
Time to pile into Amy's car and head south!!
Hola! New Mexico!!
There's Amy. She has a seriously awesome music collection!! Italian bagpipe music? Ooookay...
Oh, MAN, it was rockin'!!
Guess where we are? Go ahead, guess!
And the coolest thing? Amy knew the way to Santa Fe. Unlike Dionne Warwick.
That's me, writing postcards in Santa Fe. Where, umm, we do NOT go to Olive Garden. No, we find a local Mom and Pop Mexican place and stuff ourselves.
Monday evening, we got to Belen, which is south of Albuquerque. We stayed at the Super 8. It had plumbing and wifi. Insert grin here.
I was getting out of the car to go check in when there They were!! Andrew and Barbara!! Yeehah!!!
Amy and I ditched our stuff and I left her in peace while Andrew and Barbara and I invaded Pete's, and misbehaved until they started subletly hinted that the sidewalks were about to roll up and it was time to lock the place for the night.
Tuesday morning, Ted and Evie Charles arrived to take me for the week. It was HARD to say goodbye to Amy, very hard, but Bosque Redondo awaited us.
We drove for a few hours and then arrived at the Navajo Memorial at Fort Sumner, New Mexico.
Isn't it pretty there?
Look at the sparkling Pecos River.
And the pretty trees?
Oh, and the grandson of one of the prisoners.
Oh yes, Redheads, prisoners.
Bosque Redondo, or Hweeldi, as the Navajo people call it, was a prison camp. A terrible, horrible place where an estimated 2500 Navajo people died between 1864 and 1868.
And the age of Ted's grandfather when he was in prison for being a Navajo?
6 or 7 years old.
He was a CHILD.
Who are Ted and Evie Charles, and how did we get IN to an old prison camp?
I'm leaving tomorrow at 5:30am , that's AM, for a flight to Toronto, then on to Denver. From Denver, an angel will pick me up and take me to Colorado Springs for the weekend!! Jane Austin will be feted while I'm in The Springs. Then on Monday, another angel is driving me to Albuquerque...via??? SANTA FE!! Redheads, you have NO IDEA how THA-RILLLLLED I am to be merely driving through that town, let alone stopping for lunch and a teensy bit of shopping. From there, on to Albuquerque (ABQ), then, from ABQ, my 'Tour With Ted and Evie' begins. God is SOOOOO good. He's blessed me with people who will share their home and their Navajo culture and answer a tonne of questions. I am over the moon!! And yes, I will be documenting everything. I even have a voice recorder on my phone. Insert grin here. Feel free to start praying for them NOW. After that, I take the train from Gallup to ABQ, then I get to meet an online friend I've "known" for years. Yet another reason to be excited. Overnight in ABQ, then fly back to Denver, and another angel will take me back to The Springs. Or COS as they say. I fly home on the 27th and flop for a few days.
Then back to work. SQUEEEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!!!!! * that online friend is a girl,in case anyone is curious. NOT a Russian millionaire named Igor...
Do you ever have days when you just drop your jaw and think "But...I thought I had it all together? I thought when I hit (insert your age here) I'd stop screwing up?" Days when you crawl into bed and you're too weary to take out your contacts? Too indifferent to brush your teeth? Too worn out to even read? Stuff is coming at you from all sides and you toss it all in the air and curl up in your blankie and sigh? But you can't sleep because it feels like you've had 14 lattes...and they all tasted bad? You're a grown-up but all you want to do is call your mom and whine, and I mean WHINE about all the things that are piling up. But since you're a grown-up, you can't, because people need you to get it together and be present in the day to day life that you're supposed to have all together. But deep inside, there's a kid who just wants to lie down on the floor and play with Legos and eat Halloween candy until she's cross eyed and shaking. Yeah, yeah, I know. Normally I'm Perky McPerkerton. But yesterday Perky...wasn't. In late afternoon, when I got to where I was supposed to pick up #4, one person thought it'd be funny to tell me someone should have called, because he got injured. Then she waved it off, telling me she couldn't do that to me. She's a doll, so I wasn't too mad, AND I knew they'd have called. At least dinner was good. And so was the knowledge that I still have one TINY piece of Toblerone hidden in my house. And I have a steady supply of Earl Grey tea, and cream. When I woke up this morning, my hair was so bad I laughed out loud. It was pointing straight up and waving. Today is the day to fill the shoe boxes for Samaritan's Purse, how can that NOT be fun? And buy Canadian chocolate for certain people who I'll be seeing in a few days. My house is quiet. It's NOT snowing. I have more books than freckles. I have a lot of freckles. I just found out I have TWO pieces of Toblerone left. Make that none... I have the King of Heaven on my side, and I know I'm loved. I'll leave you with one more thing...
*tiny bit of housekeeping duties...and I feel uncomfortable asking this...but you on on the lower right, that 'followers' thingy? If you haven't already, and only if you want to, can you 'follow' this blog? Thanks. And now I feel all "will you go to the Fall dance with me?"
I am tired. Tigh yerd. I woke up at 4am yesterday. But when I'm writing this it's Tuesday night at 9:20pm. I'm so tired, I could laugh at a dish towel. "OH wow, it's COTTON! HAHAHA!" THAT kind of tired. So. Okay, up at 4am because I didn't want to sleep through two alarms and 5 snooze buttons to get our youngest to 6am hockey practice. I know, I KNOW, 6am is INSANE. Try it when it's -20. SO...we all roll in at 5:30am and wait. The "rink guy" always arrives at 5:30am and lets us in. So AFTER I suggested a bunch of the boys go sit in Quentin's truck, I went back to my van, turned on the heat and relaxed. Quentin's dad was all thankful and stuff that I let 5 boys goof off in his truck. Not really. And the rink guy? Let's just say he never arrived. We got home at 6:30am and I crawled back into bed. I rolled over at 8:30am and hopped out of bed, brushed my teeth and drove down to the hospital for my blood tests. Which were at 8:15am. Which is when I was alseep. Oops. Asleeep. I was all in a fluff and lather...liar... I didn't care at all. I took a number and waited with all the other sheep. Once I got my blood sucked out of my arm , I went up to the cafeteria and tried to act cool, but what I really wanted was a trowel to scrape vast quantities of food into my maw, as I hadn't eaten since the night before. When I saw the line up and the bacon and egg counter, all I could think was "If those people weren't there, I'd just use my hands and scoop up scrambled eggs. Sooooo. I went to Walmart, bought a few things...must stay awake...then went home. I sat at the computer and made stupid -girl comments on blogs then went back to the hospital for a neck x-ray....must stay awake...then to Costco...must get an ice cream...then home...must stay awake... Oh, did mention that the lady who took my paperwork for the x-ray gave me a very sweet, sympathetic smile and said "You should have gone straight to x-ray after your blood work. Didn't they tell you that?" Now, this lady was very nice. But I wanted to march down the hall to the blood suckers and yell "I could have been SLEEPING this morning, but, NOOOO, you couldn't figure it out and send me to x-ray??" But, that doesn't exactly sound all that coherent. So I didn't. Because I'm so nice I weep at my niceness. Not really, but what could I do? Other than whine. SO. Off to Costco for toilet paper, since between the family of SIX, we had 2 half rolls left and a 2 boxes of Kleenex. And you just know someone is going to bring home the Mother of all flu bugs...so I bought about 800 rolls at Costco and drive home and fell into the house and oh my... A fresh cup of Early Grey and a few chunks of well hidden Toblerone, and ahhhh. Don't worry, I know my kids don't read this. BTW? HAHAHA! It's in the dining room. Okay, I NEED to get to bed, because I am losing it... Oh wait...meaningful lesson for today? Don't eat the foil on the Toblerone.
It's been sorta busy around here. And it's just going to get busier. So what does a mother of four do, when life kicks into gear and the schedules fill up? Leaves town. Again. On the 15, I'll leave for a 12 day research trek through Colorado and New Mexico. That give me 11 days to get A LOT done. Thankfully, I have earthly and heavenly constants. My own personal breakwaters, if you will.
A husband who proves time, and time again, that he is proud of me and supports my writing down to the nth degree. Kids who are proud of me, no matter what I do.
Even in the calm, my family are all there.
And a Saviour who gives me the creative skill to write and the opportunities to go and be in the places that I put on a page.
And who reminds me that no matter what happens, He knew about it before I was born.
And the world can go ahead and try to knock me over...
My back and hip joints are messing with me again. They are angry. I sound like bad Hemingway writing. "The spine was angry that day..." WHY is my back sore? I mean, why is my back almost always sore??? In June of 1998, we were in Toronto, to celebrate my in-law's 50th Wedding Anniversary. My back and legs were HURTING. The poor sciatic nerve on my right side was in trouble. Ow. Ow. Ow. So we found a chiropractor close by to where we were staying and went to him. The somewhat flamingly New Age-y twit told me if I felt a sneeze coming, to curl forward. I was clueless, so I believed him. WHAT. AN. IDIOT. That Saturday, we joined hundreds of friends and family in downtown Toronto and had a blast celebrating John and Stella's 50 years together. I was in an excruciating amount of pain. I was swallowing Advil and Tylenol and anything else I could get my hands on. I'd find a couch and lie down and weep. Late that night, actually, at 12:30am Sunday morning, I discovered I was pregnant. Joy mixed with worry because, holy cow, I had been taking some seriously strong pain killers!!! Everyone was very happy, but I was still in a whack of pain. Monday morning, we drove a few hours to the little town where we lived before moving to New Brunswick. A party awaited us, but I hid in the kitchen, catching up with my friends as we put the finishing touches on dinner. Then I felt a sneeze coming. So I curled forward. And what happened next can only be described as feeling like someone had shot me, at point blank range. And I swear on a stack of Laura Frantz and Lori Benton books that I have NEVER EVER been in that kind of pain. I've had 4 babies. I know pain. Long story short, we found out after I had the baby, that the soft little padding between L2 and L3 blew open. The intervertebral disc was now emptied of most of the fluid and I was laying in a heap on my friend's living room floor. I cannot begin to explain how bad it hurt. But I can tell you, I couldn't fully feel both my legs. As in, I couldn't walk. I couldn't stand up on my own. I lost 10 pounds in 10 days because it hurt to eat, drink and go to the washroom. I cried for weeks. We made it home, Lord knows how I survived that drive, and I called my doctor and began physiotherapy. No one knew the damage because I was pregnant, hence no x-rays. In 8 months of pregnancy, I had 9 pain free days. 9. Think about a knife in your back, for 8 months. Yes, 8. My son was 4 weeks early. Now think about delivering a 6 pound baby with the knife in your back. That was 16 years ago. That baby? Perfectly fine. Not a single health problem. But, my back will never heal. Surgery is a last resort and even then, the surgeon said that the risk of scar tissue forming over the initial injury is too high, unless I was in pain, 24/7. So, there you go. And yes, he was worth every moment of pain.
I have known Teri Graham-McAllister for almost as long as I've lived in New Brunswick. I'd say we've known each for roughly 17 years. I first met her when she was sitting in the church library, on a kiddie chair, having contractions. I may have freaked out. She was all "chilllll, they're just labour contractions, relaaaaaaaaaaaax." Okaaaaaay. I did NOT chill!! I was mildly stunned that anyone could be that calm! Teri is one of those people who smiles. She smiles all over. You cannot spend time with her and feel anything but good about yourself. She is LOVELY!
Just LOOK at that smile!!! Isn't she gorgeous!?!?!?
And yes, that is her natural hair colour. Like, whatever...
Life hasn't always been roses and rainbows for Teri, but you know what? Lately, it's gotten pretty awesome. She has this sweet husband who ADORES her and awwww, I'm SO happy for her!! So, what does Teri have to do with this blogpost?
Teri can take some fairly great photos. Go check her Facebook page out, then come back, we'll wait....
Huh. It appears that I'm wearing enough make-up to go on The Stage. And it also appears that I umm, have no teeth. Oh, and sorry about the wind. It refuses to stop when I mentally commanded it to do so.
Last October I read Joanne Bischof's debut novel whilst holed up in my 3rd floor room at the lovely Hostel Santa Cruz in Sucre, Bolivia. I was dealing with a seriously un-fun bout of altitude sickness for which I received house arrest from our director, the beloved Alex Muir. You can read about that day here:http://talesfromtheredhead.blogspot.ca/2012/12/be-still-myaltitude-sickness-my-date.html As a I mentioned in that post, I had to remain in one place and "rest". Yeah, who wants to rest in a beautiful place like Bolivia? Well, considering the Oscar worthy display of suffering my SUV mates were treated to as we descended from 15,000 feet, apparently I did. So, I picked up Be Still My Soul and before I knew it, I wanted to hold poor Lonnie close and smite Gideon. I loved her second book, Though My Heart Is Torn, and repeatedly begged, bribed and bartered for an unfinished copy of the final book in the series. Here's the thing...Joanne cannot be bribed. She's FAR too sweet and nice. I had the honour of meeting her at ACFW and she is so calm and sweet and kind and I think I scared her... But un-bribable???? I know, right?! COME ON!! Who has integrity and keeps her word to her publisher and doesn't sell her Word files for Dairy Milks? Huh? Joanne Bischof, that's who. So, FINALLY I got my copy of My Hope Is Found and once I could actually sit down and read it, I gotta admit...
It was a tosser. What? A tosser. As in, "I'm so emotionally involved in this story that when X happened to X, I tossed the book and wailed!" But you know that feeling, don't you? That "I'm too feeble to jump up and down and scream, so I toss the book instead" feeling. As is expected, the storyworld is exquisite, the prose may as well have background music, it's that good. The characters are flesh and blood, the pain hurts and the joy is at least a half a box of Kleenex. I am worn out and thankful for a book as good as My Hope Is Found. The ending is true Bischof. If you've read the first two books in this series, you'll know exactly what I mean. And yes, I kept turning pages to see if there was more. Joanne didn't earn a Christy nomination for Be Still My Soul because she's good, she earned it because she's brilliant and can tap the tiny, hidden places of the reader's heart and fill them with music. Well done, Joanne, I give My Hope Is Found 5 Dairy Milks out of 5.
I leave tomorrow for Indianapolis and the ACFW conference. The what? The American Christian Fiction Writer's annual conference. I swear, Redheads, it is FAR easier for me to contemplate trekking to Bolivia to join a radio distribution mission team than to face 600-700 people at a conference. The hardest thing about going to ACFW from the 12th to the 15th ? Meeting agents? Meeting editors? The throngs of complete strangers? Nope. The most difficult thing? The most heart wrenching thing? I cannot join the radio team leaving for Bolivia on September 16th. Life is full of hard choices, and sometimes God takes away something we love and replaces it with something we love. And so here I am. Going towards something He's blessed, and walking away from something He's blessed. And I didn't have to make the choice, God made it for me, arranging things to so closely overlap that going to Bolivia would be impossible. He closed those doors with a look of love on HIs face. Then He blew open the doors for me to go to ACFW, I KNOW this.
There will be more teams in the future. There will also be more conferences. But for now, I'm not walking up a hill, bringing the Gospel to the Quechua Indians of Bolivia, I'm walking up a hill to bring the Gospel to Native Americans. I'll do my best, and leave no stone un-turned to write something that takes the reader's breath away. And I'm fairly certain God will get me back to Bolivia. But not next week. Vaya con Dios, Alex and Company!! Oh, and I won't be blogging for 2 weeks, see ya on the flip side!!!
If you've seen my Facebook page, you may have noticed the occasional post from The California Mission Ride.
Here's an explanation for their website...
ABOUT OUR JOURNEY
California’s 21 missions were founded by Franciscan missionaries and built by Indians of highly diverse tribes during the Spanish colonial era. Dotting the coastline from Sonoma to the Mexican border, these missions form the state’s first and most significant historic backbone. We asked ourselves what would happen if we rode from mission to mission on horseback. Could it even be done today? We decided to find out. And to make an educational documentary film about the journey.
Today, with all their complex history, the missions remain very much alive. Some are busy state parks. Others are monasteries. All are explored by over 5 million visitors each year.
On any given day, people crossing paths up and down the mission chain include park rangers, men and women of the cloth, students and teachers, and tourists from all parts of the world. There are also archaeologists, historians, animal tenders, bingo players, horticulturalists, artists, musicians, soldiers, and descendants of Spaniards and Indians who made the missions.
Approaching the missions on horseback, we’ll explore perspectives of life and land in California from angles rarely appreciated since the advent of the automobile. All along the way, we’ll use this site to chart our progress; to post information about special events and people; to blog about the journey; and to ask you to help us look for answers to questions big and small about California and Californians.
Our ride takes place in two stages, North and South. The North Ride begins in Sonoma on August 18, 2012, and ends in San Miguel on the mission’s fiesta day, September 16, 2012. The South Ride will pick up in San Miguel in mid-August of 2013, and we’ll try to reach San Diego, and then the Mexican border, by mid-September of that year.
Excuse me? 600 miles on horseback through the Missions of California???
The E in Jennifer?
It's for ENVY.
I said "Rolling on the floor, crying like a sooky baby... ENVY!!"
I'll stand around and wait, JUST like Daisy Paton!!
Okay, *I* will simply wait...
Okay, now that you've read that...don't you want to grab the nearest half Percheron/half Appoloosa and jump in the truck and drive to California and meet Daisy and Trigger? And Gwyneth. And Jules, and Windy, and Rod, and Melissa, and Leslie, and Jade and everyone else?
Gwyneth and Daisy.
Seriously? Is this not beautiful???
Who wouldn't want to ride for almost a month through the historic Missions of California??
I do!! I totally do! And I could, too! Oh MY WORD, what an awesome adventure that would be!!
And my dear husband AND My Intrepid Travel Partner just went "Oh NOOOOOO you could NOT!!"
He's just not totally convinced yet.
But she's right. I nearly got myself killed in 1983 when my darling horsey friend Cochise (and the Chiricahua Apache leader's real name was Cheis, BTW) and I had a rather intense afternoon and I ended up badly injured. I lost my all horse confidence that day, and that was also the very sad end to my riding adventures.
Look what Daisy taught Rod!
(Insert melancholy and pathetic whine here...) Unless Rod Rondeaux and Rachael Waller Rondeaux (oooh, her work is LOVELY...)take pity and have me come visit them at The Indian Stunt Ranch where I will look like a COMPLETE IDIOT and Rachael can take stunning photographs of me falling, crying and going to the ER.
Unlike Daisy, who is as tough as nails. Yes, that is a cast. Yes, she kept going.
Pay attention, Jennifer...
So, The California Mission Ride has totally captivated this wannabe.
The beauty of the horses, the stories of the riders and the grand scope of the adventure just about does me in. And the history!? Oh my, toss that all together and WOW!!
Redheads, I highly HIGHLY recommend liking their Facebook page, signing up for their blog and following these truly amazing people on an EPIC adventure!!