Category Archives: Things that Make me go Ouch

Interrupted by American Idol Auditions &
Lessons Learned From The End of the Journey

This last week has been a whirlwind of excitement for my son and our family as we focused on his dreams instead of mine. American Idol auditions.

It started with a simple press release I sent out last Monday with the hope that some local media would respond to the subject line: Local Teen Wins Dream Ticket to American Idol Auditions This Summer. Then the calls and emails started coming in and as of this writing he’s been interviewed for the newspaper, radio,and television several times.

Here’s a snippet of the newspaper article by reporter Rita Sherrow:


While visiting Disney’s Hollywood Studios in Orlando, the 17-year-old and his cousins spotted the American Idol Experience…

“We thought, ‘It sounds like fun, so let’s try that out,’ ” Conroy said in a recent interview. “We were all surprised when I won.”

At the end of the day, the winners from all the previous rounds were invited to sing again. Conroy performed “Stand by Me,” a classic song he had never heard before that day and one to which he added his own “pop twist.” The audience liked what they heard, and he won a golden ticket to move to the head of the line for the “American Idol” auditions…All the daily winners of the “Experience” are invited to try out for the real thing.

It was an exciting interruption in my life and as you read this we have concluded our Idol journey. It didn’t work out as we hoped, and we are processing everything knowing God has a purpose and is in control. I will share more pictures and specific details in a post to come, but through this whole process I learned a few things that I will touch on briefly here, then write out more thoughts in a future post or two.

Sometimes Being Helpful isn’t Helpful

I took it upon myself to send out press releases thinking my son would enjoy the media attention, and he did, but there were other repercussions I didn’t anticipate. I also gave him unsolicited advice from time to time which only stressed him instead of helped him. I’m still learning what a parent’s support role to an almost 18 year old looks like!

Being Hopeful is Different Than Being Expectant

I’m still learning this balance. On the day of the audition a tv reported asked me about my expectations. I rambled off something like “I have no expectations and just wish for my son to do his best.” In retrospect that wasn’t completely honest. At the time I didn’t know it. We all had expectations of him making the first round auditions. And he didn’t. More thoughts to come later…

Sometimes Failures Lead You Down a Different Path

Even though we didn’t make it past the first round auditions, an other opportunity has already presented itself to my son, and I’m a tad envious and very excited for him. I’ll share more when I have more details.

A Child’s Disappointments Are Often Felt Hard by Parents

I touched on this a while back, but I didn’t expect to be hit this hard again. I think it goes back to my unintentional expectations of him getting through to round 2, and he didn’t. But his “rejection” just intensified my own writing rejections I’ve felt over the years. I’m still dealing and processing with all the emotions of that and the weekend Idol experience.

When Disappointments Hit Hard Offer Space and Grace

Whether you’re a parent or a kid, when disappointments hit we need to give each other space. I know when I’m dealing with a rejection I want to be left alone and so that’s what I tried to do with my son. I also offered grace as my family needs to do with me when I get a writing rejection. A lot of ugly oozes out of our rejection sores, but I tried to remind myself it’s only the hurt talking and I’ve oozed my fair share or ugliness.

Yes, our Idol experience is over and once again if we were completely honest with ourselves, it never really was my son’s  “dream.” In fact, if he hadn’t won the Dream ticket, he might not have auditioned and the perks were sweet.

Having the Dream ticket opened up new doors for him, but it could have been the thing to lock that Idol door. (More on that later) Then again, if Idol was not part of God’s plan for his life, better to keep that door locked!

Now your turn:

How do you deal with your child’s disappointments and rejections? What have your learned?


5 Rules to Avoid Disappointments

It’s been a while since I got a rejection, (mainly because it’s been a while since I submitted something.) They used to hit me hard, and sometimes they still do, if I don’t follow the 5 rules to avoid disappointments I’ve learned the hard way over the years.

This weekend I forgot the rules. I dropped my guard, and let a non-writing related disappointment overpower me. I’m still dealing with the emotional fallout and honestly, in the big scheme of life this disappointment is too ridiculous to share. But it hurts just the same. And when your kids are involved, it sometimes hurts worse.

So what will I do next time to avoid disappointments?

Don’t Have Expectations

I know this sounds harsh and depressing, but over the years I’ve learned the higher my expectations, the harder the fall when disappointments come. Growing up I had one relative who would always promise things and never follow through. It hurt. Every time. So to deal with that disappointment I lowered my expectations of this person. And instead of expecting anything, I left the door open for the possibility that this person would come through.

This philosophy has also worked well in my friendships. You know the friends who promise you everything, but never follow through? I still love them, but I don’t expect them to keep their promises. I’m hopeful that they do, but my heart has been broken too many times to let my expectations of our friendship get too high. This also works well when submitting a manuscript. If I don’t expect a contract, I won’t be crushed when I don’t get one. By lowering my expectations, I’m guarding my self against disappointments, but not closing the door to possibilities.

Be Hopeful

Having low or no expectations doesn’t mean you have no hope. It just means that you’re okay with the way things will turn out. It means that you wish the outcome would go in your favor, but you’re fully aware it won’t. This is the second mistake I made this past weekend.

I let my expectations get too high that I forgot to be hopeful. Forgot to look at the big picture and put everything into perspective. I forgot there was a possibility of failure, and I’m dealing with the emotions that have been puffed up out of proportion.

Do Your Best

Whether you’re writing a novel or working full time for a company, if you focus on your performance instead of the outcome disappointments will be easier to handle. There are lots of reasons why we may not land a contract or get that promotion, but if the circumstances are outside of our control than it’s easier to say “I did my best and I (it) just wasn’t the right fit for me right now.” If you are proud of what you accomplished and have no regrets, than your disappointments should be easier to handle.

Remember Father Knows Best

I’ve learned over the years that God knows what He’s doing even though I don’t understand it most of the time. And his timing is perfect. He sees things I don’t and knows what’s best for me and you. I forgot that this weekend, and instead focused on what I wanted. By focusing on God’s will and plan, even though you may not know it, it will help calm the emotions that rise when you’re inner two year old wants to through a tantrum. And when that two year old does start to whine (and he will) you can say, “God’s up to something, and he’s got something better for me planned.”

Celebrate (with) Others

This might be the hardest thing yet, and maybe this is the one God’s still working on with me, but when someone else achieves the dream you’ve longed for, celebrate with them. Some of us aren’t there yet, I know. So I’m adding a caveat to this rule…

Take your mind off the prize you just lost and celebrate others! I’m not asking you (or myself) to cover your feeling and emotions, but I do think it’s important not to wally in misery. The best way to do that is to take your eyes off yourself and what you lost and celebrate what you have. It doesn’t have to be related to your disappointment, just choose to focus on the positive in your life, especially when the emotions rise.

Dealing with disappointments stink, and since I’m being honest and transparent here, I’ve frankly had more than my fair share of them, and I wish they would just stop. But I know they won’t, so next time I anticipate something that might bring about a disappointment, I’ll remember my 5 rules for avoiding disappointments.

How about you? What can you add to the list?



Take Chances, Make Mistakes, Get Messy!

Who can forget that beloved Ms. Frizzle who inspired her class to “take chances, make mistakes, and get messy!”All but play-it-safe Arnold loved Ms. Frizzle’s fieldtrips that took them to places they’d never been before, often leading them into scary and unfamiliar territory. But oh the adventures they had! Even Arnold would end up enjoying himself when he finally quit focusing on the danger.

Sometimes I feel like Arnold, wanting to remain in the comfort zone, showing my work only to safe people, people I know will love it. But to go places I’ve never been before (like publication) and to experience the excitement and wonder of taking chances (getting a contract,) I first need to get messy and not dwell on the mistakes I’ll make (writing my manuscript.)

The other day before I sent my proposal to my agent I reflected on Ms. Frizzles words again and felt a bit like Arnold. I’m still only learning to write a first draft without editing the whole thing as I go. It’s not easy to leave my mess on the page and move on. It’s not easy to see mistakes in my plot and know I must plow forward before I go back and fix things. And it’s not easy to take chances and hit send on my words before I believe they’re ready to be viewed by professional eyes.

But that’s what I did. I hit send on my proposal to my agent because ACFW conference is in few weeks, and I’d rather look like an idiot in front of him, then in front of an editor. It’s not easy to get feedback on our mess, but it’s necessary. In fact, it was my agent who once told me “you can’t fix nothing!” So I figured he, if anyone, would understand my mess!

The email response came today. Before I opened, I took a deep breath, then hesitated. Then dove into the email, taking a chance, again. To my relief he said, “my writing is really good.” Of course, he pointed out a mess I needed to clean up before I showed an editor, but I took a chance and I’m glad I did. Now I can move forward with a little more confidence than before.

Are you taking chances or are your messes and mistakes keeping you from your next adventure?


Dare to Suck

This video kick in the butt pep talk is soooo what I need right now as I’m getting familiar with my 25,000 already written WIP and hearing the voices in my head say “this sucks!”

But sucking is good!

Without sucking I’d have a blank page! And in the words of my wise agent, “You can’t fix nothing!”

So here I go, purposefully sucking and getting over my have-to-edit-every-single-line-a-dozen-times writing OCD.

How about you? Do you suck???

Motivation to Keep Going

“Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11

What gets you out of bed on a lazy, rainy morning to brave a day of errands? What keeps you going when nothing you’ve planned is working? When your kids are defiant and your husband just doesn’t ‘get you’ and you’re friends, well, are only online?

How about when your dreams are crushed, and you’ve received that last writing rejection and just want to quit?

If you’ve been reading my posts and following my writing journey, you know it’s been an up hill battle for me. I write and study and attend writer’s conferences and write some more and get rejections. Then I start the process all over again. But what keeps me writing even when I say for the millionth time I’m going to quit are the little encouragements along the way.

A kind word from a friend, whether in person or on fb, a bible reading that connects with your soul, or an encouraging rejection…yes, in rejection we can find that little push we need to keep going. We just need to look past our hurts and hear what an editor or contest judge is really saying.

And then be brave enough to accept the truth and stubborn enough not to let it crush our dreams.

A little bit of encouragement along the way helps us move forward, but sometimes you have to look hard. Look hard, keep pushing, and pay it forward. Your encouragement to others just might be the thing that keeps someone else from quitting!

What encouragement can you find today?


Not Finaling in Genesis Doesn’t Make You a Loser!

Earlier today, Katie Ganshert wrote that she never finaled in the Genesis contest, yet is contracted for two books with Waterbrook Multnomah for a book she entered twice. Her post made me think about my own contest journey and road to publication, and how there are many hurting nonfinalists out there today questioning their writing and call.

I want to offer another voice of hope through my story.

I never finaled in the Genesis or any other contest, unless you count the time I entered in two different categories and made the top ten. Don’t get too impressed. There were only a little over a dozen entrants in each category and I didn’t win either category!

But I’m not a quitter, so the following year I entered again. I tried not to get too hopeful, but it bubbled until those dreaded results screamed YOU’RE A LOSER because you didn’t final.

Then the scores came back.

While most of the judges gave me great scores confirming my brilliance, there was one critiquer that showed no mercy. Of course, that one critiquer didn’t know what she was talking about and killed my chance of finaling!  But after the initial pain and disappointment wore off, it was that one critiquer that helped me grow as a writer.

So I honed my craft again, entered the next year, waited, hoped, prayed…failed! Same low ball score blew my chance again, but gave great comments.

Notice a pattern here?

The next year I didn’t plan on entering until a multi-published, award winning author friend encouraged me to do so. It was a different story in a different genre, and well, she knew what she was talking about, right?


Didn’t final!

Failed again!

Between contest failures I got my agent and champion Chip MacGregor who cared more about my writing and voice than my contest scores.

And my first novella comes out January 2012.

So to answer Katie’s Ganshert’s initial question can you get published without finaling in the Genesis contest?

The answer is YES!

What have I learned about entering contests?

Do it for the right reasons
Check your motives. If you’re only in it for the glory of an award, you need a reality check. Only ONE person can win and while finaling is an honor, no one really remembers the runners up, unless you keep it in your signature line!

Enter contests with an open mind and heart. When the scores come back, listen to the good, the bad, and the ugly. Then figure out how you can improve your craft. You just might get the most help from the lowest scoring judge!

Let Yourself Feel
It’s okay to feel sad, depressed or angry about a rejection or a contest loss. Just don’t wallow in it. I learned the hard way that before I read a rejection letter I should lock myself in a room for a while. Though I always think I can handle the rejection, my disappointment manifests in my shortness and lack of patience with my family. I never intend to take out my pain on those around me, it just happens. I also learned that when I allow myself time to grieve, then I am better able to handle life around me.

Contest Judges are Subjective
Entering contests is a crap shoot. You might be the best writer in your critique group, but because you got a judge that was more strict or savoy on the writing rules, had a bad day before she sat down to judge your entry, or was turned off by something in your story that had nothing to do with your craft, you could get a low score. And not final. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer and will never get published.

Bottom line is that while some judges might think you’re brilliant, others might wonder why you even entered. Judges are subjective and you can’t base your writing and self worth solely on test scores, but be open to listening to all comments. If you receive consistent low score with all judges, then it’s a good idea to take a closer look at how you can improve your writing.

Be Kind and Gracious to Judges
I admit, I’m a tough judge. But I’m also thorough in my commenting. My goal is to be fair and  help writers grow in their craft, not be easy on them. Judges work hard and you may not agree with their evaluation, but you should be kind and send thank yous if it is permitted.

Don’t Air Your Complaints!
I once judged a contest where a disgruntled entrant who didn’t final complained to my contest coordinator that her submission had finaled in other contests and that the judge (me) didn’t know what she was talking about. The contest coordinator reviewed my critiqued and agreed with my findings!

This bitter attitude did not portray the writer in a positive light, and I’m sure when she calmed her emotions down, she regretted her actions. Don’t make the mistake of voicing your negative thoughts in public. In the end you will only look bad.

So if you didn’t final in the Genesis or another contest, all hope is not lost! Many published writers have been where you are now. We know the disappointment, the negative emotions, and internal dialogue bouncing around your head. Allow yourself to feel and grieve and maybe even avoid all those congratulation posts on the internet, then after the disappointment eases a bit, get right back in the game, celebrate with your friends who finaled, and grow in your craft.

Who knows, not finaling may just be the best thing for you and your writing!

What are YOUR contest experiences and how do YOU handle rejection?


My Journey to Balancing My Dreams

I’ve been thinking a lot about my personal goals, my children’s dreams, and what I want my family to look like. Unfortunately, all three are often in conflict with one another at different times.

I knew from a young age that I wanted to write and I’ve never doubted the calling, though I’ve struggled often with finding the time to pursue my dreams. I started my first novel right after I got married, then I had my first son and writing took a back seat to the demands of mothering.

I didn’t know there were writing support groups like ACFW, and I didn’t have writing friends to encourage me. I didn’t know I could write and raise children like so many do now, though in a way I’m glad I didn’t know. It allowed me to focus on my children and hold on to my dreams, knowing that one day my chance would come. So I set aside my WIP for ten years or so, had three more babies and did occasional magazine work. But my heart wanted to return to fiction.

I thought when my fourth child was two that it was finally time to start working on my own dreams of being published. Little did I know was that at the very same time God was calling me to homeschool.

What ensued there after was this stressed out mom trying to learn how to homeschool, be a good mother and write. Unfortunately, I felt like a failure on all three fronts at one time or another, somehow getting off balance at different times until my priorities became so out of whack that I had to sacrifice my writing and dreams for a season. The grieving process was real and painful. But in that grief this blog was birthed, and I started to interview other moms who seems to do it all. I grew as a mom and writer.

The other day I read something from Mary M. Byers that resonated with me.

“When you say yes to something in your life, you automatically say no to something else.”

I wish I would have understood that sooner. Then maybe I wouldn’t have been so anxious to move on to the next stage of my life and career. Maybe I would have savored each moment just a little longer.

Now as my kids are older and have dreams of their own, I’m trying to balance theirs with mine. It’s a never ending learning curve as I adjust and evaluate just how much dream pursuit this family can handle. How much I can handle and do before I burn out…

Will there be some regrets and what ifs? Probably, but if I remember that when I’m saying no to the pursuit of someone’s dream, I might just be saying yes to something more important!

Can you relate? What have you learned along the way?

Editing wasn’t Supposed to be THIS Hard!

When I contracted my novella in January and had to cut 30,000 words off my WIP, I knew it was going to be hard. In fact, I almost bailed on submitting the anthology to Barbour because I knew that would mean cutting more than half of my story. The pain of deleting my brilliant prose aside, I knew it would be difficult to edit this mystery whose characters and clues were tightly woven together.

But I signed that contract, took a deep breath, and said a prayer. I could do this!

I did okay cutting the first 10,000 and realized there were a lot of unnecessary words that went fairly easily. Then I started messing with my characters’ voice to save words and that hurt. So I moved on to boring, not so important scenes. Found a few of those. Cut out a couple of fun, but unnecessary characters and started the whole process again!

This week I nearly had a nervous break down. After cutting yet another scene (and weaving the information in somewhere else) I wrote to my agent telling him I was having a hard time swallowing this elephant. I couldn’t see how I could cut the last 6,000 words. He very wisely told me that when the ark is sinking, I should throw the elephant out first. In other words, find big chunks I could cut.

Problem was, I did that. Over and over again. Or did I? Sure I got rid of the easy stuff, then the scenes I could live without, but now 6,000 – 8,000 words shy of my goal I  have to take a harder look at my story and go chapter by chapter trying to salvage the voice and heart of my story as well as cut the stuff my book can live without.

Notice I didn’t say “what I can live without!”

It wasn’t supposed to be this hard, but it is. So I’m back to editing. When most writers are trying to increase their word count, I’m trying to cut mine. Here are some things I learned in the process.

Contractions are Your Friend

Any where I could use a contraction, I did. Unless your character is “proper” or foreign, most people talk in contractions anyway.

Cut the Unnecessary Words

You know that word or phrase your character ALWAYS uses all the time JUST like my character DOES. JUST cut it out ALREADY! I read somewhere to do a search for those words and CAPITALIZE them, so when you go BACK through you WIP, they jump out at you. This has helped me cut several thousand words!

Don’t Show Everything

I know it’s been drilled into us to show don’t tell, but a wise author once said that refers primarily to emotions! I learned that I could “tell” how a person got from point A to point D and skip the details in between. Not only will it make your story move, but it will cut the word count.

Resist the Urge to Explain (RUE)

In an effort to make my character’s motivations clear, I often tried to explain their motivations through internal dialogue, external dialogue or both. Then I started asking myself “does the reader need to know this now?” If the answer was no, I cut it out and looked for a shorter way to weave in the motivation later. I learned, most times it was unnecessary. I had packed the scene enough that I believe the reader understood without me telling. I’m still mastering this one, but I know I’ll hold a degree in cutting out the RUE by the end of this WIP.

Cut the Double Talk

I admit I’m wordy! Editing this story made me realize I often say the same thing a couple of times in different ways. For example, I might have internal dialogue and external dialouge that says similar things or my character might ask himself a question when it was already expressed in another way in a previous chapter. Not only can it be annoying to the reader, but it slows down the action. Just cut it out, not matter how much you’re in love with all the creative ways you’ve said it!

Pick Your Adverbs, Adjectives, and Conjunctions Carefully

Most times if your writing is strong, you don’t need many adverbs and adjectives. Sometimes you do. I noticed my adjectives would sometimes come in pairs. That’s when I chose one over the other. When it comes to starting a sentence, I seem to favor AND and BUT. I’m not sure why, but now that I know, I can go back and keep the conjunctions that add to the story. And I’m not talking word count.

Cut the Scene Short

I like to wrap up a scene sometimes with a cliff hanger, often times with internal dialogue. But I found that if I cut the last sentence or two from the scene, it still works. Often times it was better.

Editing our babies is one of the hardest things we do as authors. What ways have you found to make it easier?

Seasons of Writing and Waiting

In January, I was all set to dive into my WIP. I had just put my daughter in school full time, and I had my days mapped out by the hour. Then “I got the call.” The novella I submitted to Barbour for an anthology the week before was sold!

After the shock registered, I realized I had to abandon my current WIP in order to cut my 50,000 word story down to 20,000. Talk about a daunting task! But I dove in, obsessively cutting and laboring for weeks. Thanks to Snowmaggedon 2011, I managed to cut my story down to 35,000. I sent it off to my critique partners with the hope that they’d see a couple of threads and scenes I could cut.

That was almost a month ago. Or at least it seems like it. In the meantime, I got busy helping my 3-5th grade students write their stories. I haven’t worked on my own since!

Sometimes the hardest part of this writing journey is the waiting. Waiting for that season of life that allows you to write. Waiting for that time each day to write. Waiting on others whether it be critique partners, agents, or editors. Waiting on the call…

What you do in the waiting can have just as much significance on your writing than what you do when you’re busy. I used to be more anxious than I am now. But I’m learning to rest in Jesus and put my trust in him while finding other ways to keep myself busy toward achieving my goals.

What do you do while you’re waiting?

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