my writing bucket list


You can learn a lot about someone by looking at her bucket list. I found a handwritten one for writing I started in 2012 when I first got my booty into gear about writing for publication.

I know it’s not news to you how much I love a good to-do list, but bucket lists have always especially fascinated me. That makes that person come alive? Where do his or her priorities lie? What unique places does this individual mind go to in terms of this topic?

For the sake of accountability and fun (and because I’m turning 30!!!) I’ve added a tab to my website with my own writing bucket list in progress. And here it is — short, sweet, sometimes a little weird.

Finish a novel [x 2]

Sign with a literary agent

Write for The Writer’s Alley

Sign a book contract

Win a Genesis Award [x 2]

Publish an article in Relevant Magazine

Start a sustainable freelance business

Take a selfie with my own book at Barnes & Noble

Indie publish my NA series

Finish a NaNoWriMo month (50,000 words in one month)

Writing Retreat at Glen Eyrie Castle in Colorado Springs

Attend Mt. Hermon Writing Conference

Celebrate book contracts with my critique partners

Write a nonfiction eBook to give away

Research trip to Ireland :)

Teach a class at a conference

Research trip to Texas Hill Country

Does anything on this list surprise you? What are some of the things on your bucket list?

What are you doing to make it happen?

2015 pre-conference mix and mingle


It’s about that time again!

I can’t believe this is the third year for the pre-conference mix and mingle. In case you’re new here and have no idea what this is all about, it’s just a little link up with some questions that help us get to know each other before conference. I’ve loved the opportunity to meet people before I meet them in person, especially the first year in Indianapolis when I was a newbie  :) Assuming all technology goes according to plan, there should be a little link-up at the bottom of this post with links to different people going to conference and their own get-to-know-you questions.

Here’s what to do:

– Copy/paste and fill out your own answers (you don’t have to answer all of them!) in a post on your own website and paste the URL to that specific post (not your homepage) using this handy link-up tool. Just click on the blue button below that says “Add your link”. If you don’t have a website, feel free to answer the questions in the comments below!

– Make sure to link back to this post after you fill out your answers so any of your readers who are conference attendees can participate, too! The more, the merrier.

– Click through the links below to get to know other conference attendees before Dallas!

Here are the questions and my answers!

Name: Laurie Tomlinson

Location: Tulsa, OK

What you write/tagline/trademark: Contemporary Romance / “Stories of grace in the beautiful mess”

Place in the book world: Pre-published author represented by Rachel Kent of Books & Such Literary. Currently working on my third manuscript while the first two are out on submission!

On a scale of hugger to 10-foot-pole, please rate your personal space: All the hugs.

The unique talking point that will get you going for hours: Food, planners, and college football! (Go Longhorns!)

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, daughter who will be turning four while I’m gone, and five-month-old baby boy who is a new addition this year! But you’d better believe I’ll also be missing my yellow Lab snuggles.

Conference goals we can pray for? My goal is to soak in the joy of writing and be refreshed by the community of my writing people. Please pray that my eyes will be open for the vision/purpose God has for my writing journey and any opportunities He brings my way.

Anything we can celebrate with you? That my writing “muse” didn’t abandon me after a crazy year :)

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? You can like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my email list by clicking here! (I will NOT share your email with anyone and will only send an email with the very most important news.)

That’s it!

Be sure to check out who’s going to conference as (hopefully) the links start showing up!

If not, now you know a little more about me :)

when mamas create


{Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

Have you listened to the podcast Magic Lessons with Elizabeth Gilbert? The bestselling author who’s had Julia Roberts star in the movie version of her book (Eat, Pray, Love)? She’s on a mission to help artists get past their fears so they can do their thing once and for all.

I’ve only listened to the first episode, but was inspired by what was there. Obviously I can’t quite endorse it yet because I’ve only heard the first one, not to mention we have very different views on life and faith. But in the episode, Ms. Gilbert interviewed a woman who had the nagging desire to write. She became an English teacher instead and later had two children, shelving the dream and refining her craft in the meantime. Now that her kids are in school, she can’t ignore that niggling desire anymore. And she’s out of excuses, but she just can’t seem to get started. 

In Ms. Gilbert’s advice to her were some very important points that resonated with me in my current relationship with work and art and writing:

Mothers need to be given permission to do the things that ignite their souls. 

And fear shows up as perfectionism, insecurity, guilt, procrastination, and anything else that keeps them from doing those things.

I’m going to say this up front: The number one person who needs to give a mother permission to create is herself. The mom on the podcast is one example of so many who are riddled with guilt that their desires and attentions are pointed on anything but their children. They second guess any compromise involving their kids and often err on the side of sacrifice.

But children notice things. When Mama creates, they will either see her guarding her time, protecting her art, working hard, and investing in becoming the best version of herself. Or, on the opposite end of the spectrum, they will see a martyr-mother and become conditioned to letting duties delegate dreams to the back seat — both hers and their own.

Yikes. The reality of that possibility makes me cringe.

The truth is, children of a certain age can learn to be self-sufficient during that pocket of time designated for your writing. They can learn to be creators themselves, if not in words or art, then in opportunities. Even if they’re not natural creatives, per se, they’ll live in a climate that encourages them to nurture their own dreams, give them feet, and pursue them unrelentingly.

Ms. Gilbert compared the guest caller to a plane on a runway. She’s spent plenty of time refining her craft, starting a blog, and building momentum, but she’s reached the point where it’s either run out of gas from excess taxiing, crash and burn into the neighboring field, or take off.

This is my commission, not just for moms, but for anyone with that chance within them that’s begging to be taken. It’s time to stop letting fear (and its various disguises) sabotage the passion God has given us. It’s time to take off, to do and create, find the healthiest balance, and discover the best version of ourselves so we can give more freely and love more deeply

{summer favs giveaway}

{edited} The winner is Stephanie J! I also drew a surprise second prize winner, Rachel Brown Dodson. 

I can’t thank everyone who entered enough for showing support to this author and me! I love love love doing giveaways, so keep checking back :) 

Can you believe it’s almost the end of July? Me neither. But to celebrate, I’m hosting a giveaway!


Enter below to win a prize bundle that includes:

I’ve been posting regularly on The Writer’s Alley, but I’m excited to get this website up and running again! You can check out the Rafflecopter to see how you can win, share the love about one of my favorite authors, and support my journey as an author at the same time.

Thanks for entering, and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

beauty from brokenness: the glorious dichotomy

{Originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

Today I went to the funeral of a 20-day-old baby, the firstborn son of some dear friends of ours. It was a hard, but beautiful day. This couple has been so faith-filled and authentic about their roller coaster journey from battling fiercely in prayer for his life to wrestling with God after his death. Praising Him endlessly.

But as their loved ones gathered to say goodbye, my friends led them in worship, using their gifts to serve and give God glory even in the face of crushing grief. The theme of the afternoon was that, even though no parents should have to lose a child, even though we don’t understand why it happened, God is still good. That’s constant, along with the fact that He’s always with us.

The baby’s brave and beautiful mother shared something that stuck with me, something I wanted to share. Because, I promise, it has everything to do with writing.

In a raw and poignant piece she wrote after her son’s death, “Where I Found God,” she talked about how she’s experienced God when everything in life was going according to plan and, now, when the ground disintegrated beneath her feet.

Our God didn’t change due to her circumstances, she said: He is constant. He always remains the same.

And she pointed out that we don’t have to wait to approach Him in our proverbial Sunday finest, with a pristine face, when it’s easiest to remember to praise Him. We can come to Him messy, broken, raw, speechless. Angry, even. We can ask Him questions and wrestle with Him when faith is living up to its definition, heavy on the “not knowing” aspect.

I think it’s important to capture this in our writing. To give our characters real problems where they begin to lose hope. Where they’re hanging by a thread. It’s important to show how they learn a full reliance on God and His strength, even if it takes them a bit to get to that point.

I think it’s important to show that the end doesn’t always turn out the way we imagined it would be, but it can still be beautiful.

But I think it’s our duty as writers to emphasize the beauty rising from the brokenness. God’s power being made perfect in weakness. That He will scale even the steepest of slopes to redeem a situation and then carry you on His back the whole way home.

Today, I was privileged to witness that dichotomy. The powerful worship of broken, grieving people held together by hope. The place where darkness couldn’t extinguish the light.

And in real life, in fiction, whatever, there’s nothing else that points people to Christ quite like it.

the most important ingredient in your writing recipe

{originally posted on The Writer’s Alley}

Hermione Granger is my spirit animal.

Just a little tidbit you may not know about me.

Like our favorite wild-haired brainiac, I’m a reformed know-it-all, hopefully a little more bearable to live with than the girl whose hand was raised so high, her fanny had lift-off from the plastic, grade school chair-desk. But I still devour information about topics that interest me. Google has especially enabled this tendency. 

Now that you know this important piece of trivia about me, let me tell you what happened after pressing send on my second manuscript. I bought a ton of craft books. I studied the industry — both my little subsection of it and on the whole. I tried a variety of writing tactics recommended by plotters, pantsers, speed-writers, and the like. But despite abiding by my tried and true M.O., I began to flounder between book ideas. The DELETE key became my BFF.

Why were my first and second books so much easier to get on the page? After months, I finally had an epiphany this weekend.


Yes, it’s important to study what’s selling in the industry, to follow your agent’s recommendations if you have one, and to sharpen your craft until it reaches an almost deadly fine point. But there was one important thing I’d forgotten:

You have to write what you want to read. 

I learned that you can read all the books and blogs until you’ve fine-tuned a rubric with the most popular and sellable aspects in your genre, but if you don’t start with what makes your story one you’d like to read, 1) it likely won’t be unique enough to thrive in the industry, 2) it might not have the pulse that breathes life into the muscles and bones of the plot anyway.


So. What kinds of ideas spark your stories? Inspiration from real-life? Music? Movies? Themes or scriptures? That indignant feeling when you would have ended a novel differently? 


Tell us in the comments!

{valentine’s day 2015} my heart is full

a great way to end a great day {pictured: my yellow puppy Valentine}

This morning, I posted something super cheesy on Facebook. Not my normal M.O. at all. It went with an engagement picture taken 7.5 years ago.

I thought about how that girl had a vision of what love and romance looked like in her mind. Happy and hopeful and pretty low-maintenance, but a very limited scope on the subject.

She might have envisioned her eighth Valentine’s Day with her husband to be spent dropping the kid(s) off with a sitter for a romantic, adventurous night on the town. Taking advantage of the chance to dress a little nicer than usual and cementing affirmations of love over a nice meal at a new restaurant.

But you know what? Our eighth Valentine’s Day looked nothing like that. It was less bubbly and chocolatey and red, but better than the girl in that picture could have ever imagined.

Sometimes February 14 equals Braxton Hicks and work emails and rambunctious puppy-sitting and doing homework and flour-bombed kitchens and staying in sweats all day.

But my heart is full because of a man who took our girl to the gym so I could write this morning, made me Mac and Cheese for dinner, and held hands with me during a rental movie.

My heart is full because of a little girl whose excited little feet shuffle as fast as they can to get her stepladder the moment I start assembling ingredients to bake.

My heart is full because there is just as much festivity in soft pink accent nails and homemade sprinkle sugar cookies as in roses and chocolates and dimly-lit restaurants. Just as much love poured into a pan of elbow noodles from a box as there is in a $20 plate of salmon.

My heart is full not because of a calendar day designated for grand, sweeping gestures, but because of this day’s image stamped into my memory.

The practical reminder that love endures the other 364 days of the year, too.




my survival plan for 2015

I wasn’t going to do a Word of the Year.

Even though I did one in 2014, putting 365 days in a neatly wrapped box seems limiting. Daunting, even. Life is full of so many different, constantly changing, unexpected, beautiful experiences. And to be honest, I mostly don’t like the feeling that the #oneword idea is just a social media gimmick :)

But as I thought about what 2015 would look like for me, the word SURVIVE kept coming to mind. Adjusting to life as a work-at-home mama of two littles. A perpetual planner and administrator with a huge dream and no idea of what my daily schedule will look like.

Well, SURVIVE, I see your uneasy intimidation and raise you a swift kick in the jewels.


Yep. I’m not just going to survive in 2015; I’m going to thrive.

2015 won’t be represented by one word for me, but an entire lifestyle. I want to enjoy mothering a baby — this little boy for whom we’ve waited and prayed for so long — even more than I did the last time. I want to be intentional about my faith and life and work and writing in ways that maximize their potential to make me come alive and enable me to give best to those around me.

What does this look like? I’m not sure exactly. But here are a few ideas when it comes to work and writing:

  • Read at least one book a month with a goal of 15 in 2015. I think my total was, like, 5 in 2014, and that’s not okay. Books are just part of who I am. My brain needs the exercise. My fingertips need to feel the grain of pages.
  • Write in short increments every weekday with the end goal of finishing Jake and Adriana’s story. First draft and edits. I normally write about 1.5 books a year, and I’m confident I could do that even with the changes 2015 will bring. But I’d be content with one book. One ridiculously good one :)
  • Work a month ahead of time. It should come as no surprise to you that I’ve separated my regular work and writing-business tasks into things that can be done in advance + things that require daily or weekly maintenance. I’d like to get the majority of the next month’s work- and writing-related blog posts finished one weekend at the end of every month and then complete weekly tasks at the beginning of each week. This system is more sustainable and conducive to protecting creativity. Days will be freer for writing, spending time with my family, other creative endeavors, and more life-giving things!
  • Anticipate how I can spend my time most effectively to make sure everything gets accomplished, but realize that things aren’t in my own control but God’s. Or at least they should be. It’s absolutely best that way.
  • Don’t overthink things. My SisterChucks (writing sisters) and I have a motto and promise to each other not to overthink things. So I want to work on diverting unproductive thoughts before they can consume, sabotage, and steal my joy.
  • Enjoy. Above all enjoy it. To thrive in the John 10:10 “rich and satisfying life” God intended when He gave me freedom — even in moments the thief intends to “steal, kill, and destroy”.

Do you have any 2015 goals or big events coming up this year? Tell me what you hope your year will look like.

monday morning rescue

It’s the Monday after Christmas.
Many of us are getting back into our normal routines. 
Confronting real life things without the cushion of hope and light from Christmas. 
I’m listening to this song this morning as I catch up on work.
It’s worth at least six cups of coffee but without the crash :)
It’s like God’s words whispered into my heart —
(( and to be honest, sometimes human-penned words & lyrics like that don’t sit well with me. ))
But I hope the truths in this song will encourage you and sustain you this Monday morning!

“Come to Me” – Bethel Worship (You Make Me Brave)

(( Written by Jenn Johnson & John Hendrickson ))
I am the Lord your God
 I go before you now
 I stand beside you
 I’m all around you
Though you feel I’m far away
 I am closer than your breath
I am with you, wherever you go
I am the Lord your peace
 No evil will conquer you
Steady now your heart and mind
Come into my rest
Oh let your faith arise
Lift up your weary head
 I am with you, wherever you go
Come to Me, I’m all you need
Come to Me, I’m everything
Come to Me, I’m all you need
Come to Me, I’m everything
I am your anchor
 In the wind and the waves
I am your steadfast
 So don’t be afraid
 If your heart and flesh fail you,
I’m your faithful strength
 I am with you wherever you go
When the storm rages
 I won’t be afraid
I have locked eyes
On You face to face
Your voice I will follow
 Your eyes I will see
 I’ll come a little closer
Come close to me
You are my anchor
 In the wind and the waves
You are my steadfast
 I won’t be afraid
Even in the darkest night
I know You are there
So I press into You, Jesus
And lose all my doubt
You are my anchor
 In the wind and the waves
You are my steadfast
I won’t be afraid
If my heart and flesh fail me
 You’re my faithful strength
 You are with us
 Wherever we go
We come to You
You’re all we need
We come to You
Our everything

friday favs: fun gift ideas for writers


Shopping for the writer on your list? Unsure how to spend your gift cards? Here are a few ideas!

I’ve been seeing prettified pages from this ESV Journaling Bible all over Instagram. Since writers like to process and interpret through their pens, this could be a meaningful gift for the writer in your life. Valerie Wieners, who took the above picture, has an excellent FAQ page about hers!

Technically this one isn’t available yet, but isn’t this Hemingwrite Distraction-free Digital Typewriter such a cool concept? Looks like it will be out soon!

The Passion Planner. How to describe it? It’s an extremely practical way for the busy writer to track priorities and tasks and break it all down in a feasible way. I watched the video for the kickstarter campaign and adored the format of it! If you’re the try-before-you-buy type, you can download PDF copies of the weekly spread, but the actual planner has more resources to help with goal-setting and the like. Check out all of its features here.

Honorable Mentions: You can never go wrong with an Amazon Gift Card, impersonal as it seems. The writer in your life has plenty of comparable titles, craft books, and writing supplies to buy, so an Amazon card may give him/her permission to get something fun. Pens and office supplies are always high on my list. My favorites are here and here and here and here.

Writers, what ranks high on your wishlist?

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