Thursday, March 27, 2014

Do you journal?

Recently, I was invited to Career Day at Erwin Elementary School in Erwin, NC. I didn't even know our state had an Erwin, although I'm quite familiar with Erwin Road. After driving in the rain for an hour and a half from my home in Durham, I arrived at the school.

The staff in the office ushered me into a big, old library. Immediately, I was glad that I was to be stationed there. One of the things that captured my writer's heart was the cozy nook. What an inviting spot for young readers and even for me, an old reader.

The librarian set my novels on a podium in front of a white board. I barely had time to thank her when the door opened and in came a group of fifth graders. Full of questions, they were attentive. When I asked how many of them journaled, a dozen hands shot up. I was impressed.

Every thirty minutes after that, a new group of students entered and I repeated my spiel about what being a paid writer entails. Each time I asked, to my surprise, there were a number of third, fourth, and fifth graders who admitted to keeping a journal.

As I do with every student I encounter, whether young or old, I encouraged each of them to keep writing and reading.


What does journaling do for you?

*Gives you a safe place to write your thoughts
*Allows you to unleash your hurts, worries, and fears
*Teaches you about yourself
*Shows you how you handle your joys and woes
*Helps you solve many of your problems

If you have lost a loved one to death, journaling about your grief is an excellent way to deal with all the tough emotions. Instead of keeping them bottled up, the act of writing them out provides a healthy way to heal.

Whether you use a plain notebook or a fancy book, why don't you enter the world of journaling today?

And if you'd like to explore more writing opportunities and discover what writing can do for you, join us on April 7th for the next Writing the Heartache online workshop.

[First posted at Alice's Writing the Heartache blog.]

Friday, March 21, 2014

A mama finds treasures in a duplo box

In my closet sits one duplo box filled with handwritten cards. The cards were for my little boy Daniel. The boy is now gone, but the cards written to him still remain.

When we moved from the house where Daniel lived, Daniel didn't get to go with us. But the yellow duplo box with cards did. A few of the cards he'd received were after hs first surgery before we knew the lump in his neck was cancer. Most were sent to him during the months he was treated at UNC-Hospitals. The duplo box had been where he'd stored all these cards, cards that shared hopes for his healing, prayers, and even birthday wishes.

It's been seventeen years since Daniel took his last little breath. Yet it was just yesterday when I, his mama, felt like I could conquer the box. I pulled out a few cards from kids who had been in pre-school with Daniel. I pulled out cards from church groups, missionaries, friends of mine, and Daniel's teachers and young friends.

This box might be silent to most, but to me it speaks. It speaks of love and hope and the kindness of others who took the time to write to my son. The box also says, this boy lived. He died at age four, but oh, yes, he lived.

One of the Precious Moments cards was from a girl who shared the same birthday month as Daniel. Her name is Sophie, she'll be 23 this year, and Daniel at age four called her "Tophie." Another card, made from construction paper, from a girl named Crystal, captured my heart for its simplicity. I have no idea who Crystal is, but if I were to ever meet her, I'd tell her thanks for being so bold to share her love for Daniel. Her words have brought joy to my day all these years later. Daniel was loved and he loved.

Now that I have conquered this yellow box, I'll continue to pull cards out and read, smile, and remember. And yes, I'll cry. For any mama who has lost a child to death, tears are never far.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

If You're Going to Write a Negative Book Review, At Least Spell Correctly!

It's happened more often than we care to admit. The longer you are in the business, the higher your chances. Authors receive bad reviews.

It might just be one. Or ten. We know that everybody is entitled to his or her opinion. And as my husband says, "Opinions are like belly buttons, everybody has one and everybody's is different." (He also equates opinions with other body parts, but like my novels, this is a G-rated post, so I will refrain.)

When a woman wrote that she felt like goauging her eyes out while reading my debut novel, Rain Song, I must confess I was a bit bothered. As a new author, I hadn't expected such venom from another human. Then I ended up laughing as I tried to imagine what goauging eyes out looked like. Not finding a definition for goauging in any of my dictionaries, I thought that perhaps she had meant to write gouging. Gouging is a metal tool with a curved, sharp end that is used to cut and shape wood. Had that been what she felt like doing while reading my novel?

A bit gothic for this G-rated inspirational author to stomach.

Since Rain Song's debut at six years later, I still get unhappy reviews. Truthfully, I don't even read reviews for my novels anymore. In fact, I encourage new authors not to read the reviews for their books either.

You can get so bogged down in the poor reviews, you might feel like cow manure and never be able to lift a finger to write again.

That's not good.

However, I will let myself indulge in the reviews fellow authors receive. I have found some well-written unfavorable reviews on books I have enjoyed and some lengthy prose on books I wasn't as fond of, but the reviews were written with attention to detail and contained points that were thought-provoking. (To see examples of these, go to the Amazon page for The Help and look at some of those 2-star reviews.) I have also seen some poorly-written reviews for The Help as well as for lesser-known works.

Which brings me to, if you're going to write a bad review, can you at least do a little spell checking before letting it run wild and live on Amazon?

After writing a happy 5-star review for a book on journaling, I read a 2-star review for the same book. Sadly, the reviewer ended his review with, "Sorry to be such a "bad sport" about this book, but I just didn't find it worth whiled." Hmmm . . . I wonder if any book is worth whiled?

So let your voice be heard! Everybody needs an opinion! But if you are going to write a book review, particularly one that is negative, make sure you've gone over your grammar notes first.

Otherwise, you sound pretty silly.

Book Review: Journaling With Jesus

"How many of you journal?" I ask the participants in my writing workshops.

Many raise their hands, pros at knowing the value of putting pen to paper.

Others squirm in their seats and bite the end of their pens.

Some, after the workshop, vow to rekindle their journaling and make it a habit. Why? Because they learn the transforming power of writing through the heartache. After we've completed a couple of exercises like writing a letter or a poem, or even a psalm, they see how healing and healthy writing is.

Today I'm happy to post a review here for the books, Journaling With Jesus and The 40 Day Challenge. Both are by Carol Round, a self-syndicated columnist, Christian author, and inspirational speaker.

Journaling With Jesus is a practical book, short enough to read in one sitting. But that's not really the purpose of the book. There's more. Within the short pages is great advice, advice that Carol has found to prove true. She guides the reader into the art of prayer-journaling using examples from her own life and the lives of others. Does the book encourage others to partake in this wonderful gift? In a word, yes! In more words, writing for healing works!

As a mom who discovered the value of writing from loss when her son died, I was particularly moved by the chapter titled, "Writing through the Pain." Carol acknowledges that many of us have had lots of emotional pain. She ends the chapter with "Begin your journaling by having a dialogue with Jesus. Share the pain in your life."

And for those who are blocked and wake up unable to write? Carol suggests praying through a passage of scripture, such as a psalm. And there is nothing wrong with admitting you are blocked and being honest with Jesus. In fact, Carol stresses how using the tools of writing and prayer work so well together to bring us closer to an authentic relationship with Jesus.

The companion to Journaling With Jesus, is a workbook, The 40 Day Challenge. Each page of this book has a scripture verse, a short reflection, and a prayer. There is ample room for the writer to write a response on the lined page and then a "faith step" at the end of every page.

As an author and writing instructor, I recommend these books.

Both books are available on Amazon and these links will take you to them:
Journaling With Jesus
The 40 Day Challenge

Also, be sure to stop by Carol's website.