february 2017 goals

It’s the first Monday of February, so now is when the fun begins, right? I’ve been going through my Powersheets really slowly and deliberately to refine what I want to prioritize. So each month, I want to create a doable list with those bigger aims in mind.

I just returned from Christy Wright’s Business Boutique seminar in California AND had the chance to join an IF: Local gathering this weekend, so there’s a lot to unpack and many wheels to get in motion this month. Here’s what’s on tap for February:

Writing:

  • Write book proposal for next project(s)
  • Outline and begin writing next novel
  • Work through one craft book: KM Weiland’s Structuring Your Novel
  • Finalize pre-release marketing plan for spring
  • Create Goodreads author page
  • BLOG. Like I said, I have lots to process and share!

Work:

  • Set a regular work schedule and keep laptop in my office during the day
  • 5 pages a week of new web content
  • Set up accounting programs for business (including the Wave app, which looks amazing!)
  • Make a style guide and blogging/social media image template
  • Build a content database + content calendar template
  • TAXES

Personal:

  • Establish a better sleep schedule and morning routine: I’d like to be in bed reading by 1030 with my alarm set using the new(er) Bedtime app on my iPhone!
  • Read two books for fun
  • Start 5K training app on my phone and run outside on warmer mornings
  • Meal planning every Sunday night and prep on Tuesdays
  • Set up meeting for CityChurch college women’s book club
  • Creative nonfiction once a week

There you have it! It looks like a lot, but a lot of it will be ongoing and some of it will take no time at all. Here’s to better habits, changes in mindset, hard work, and healthy balance. <3

What do you have planned for February?

{2016 in review} highlights + discoveries

525,600 minutes. How do you measure the life of a woman or a man? (Two points if you started singing that song.)

2016 was a doozy for many of us. But I think it’s important to remember the good that happened and take it with us. Here are my favorite highlights and discoveries from the year:

2016 highlights:

  • My first book contract in June!
  • Realizing that rest/selah is important than hustle
  • Too many firsts and memories with my children to name
  • Learning how much I didn’t know about justice and developing a passion for reconciliation and rehabilitation
  • Exploring one of my new favorite cities (Seattle) with my husband
  • Eating the best meal of my life at Silo in Nashville with my sisters
  • Listening to Allen Arnold speak at the OKC Christian Fiction Writers Conference
  • Lake weekend retreat for quiet and writing
  • The Olympics. What? I was really into them!
  • Reading under an umbrella next to the ocean with my husband in Playa del Carmen
  • Celebrating my sisters’ book releases!

Favorite 2016 discoveries:

  • Trader Joe’s in Tulsa (!!!) + their arugula pizza + Tahitian vanilla caramels
  • Bullet journaling
  • The zen of deleting Facebook from one’s phone!
  • Hand lettering videos on Instagram
  • Rediscovering my love of reading
  • Instant Pot = gamechanger!
  • The Quill for novel composition
  • How much easier it is to wash dishes with the help of podcasts
  • Google Keep
  • That my hair apparently wants to be wavy now (Whaaaat?)
  • A peaceful trail by my daughter’s school for morning walks with my cub
  • Spindrift Sparkling Water
  • Shawarma + cider
  • Tombow Dual Brush Pens
  • Little Free Libraries!
  • The calm of coloring and painting

A good sign? Feeling like I’m forgetting something!

What will you remember the most about 2016? I’m still trying to narrow down all of the wonderful books and movies from this year, so I will have to share more later this week!

I found a #littlefreelibrary in the wild!

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Please tell me you’ve heard of Little Free Library (#littlefreelibrary), boxes filled with bookish goodness that you read and return on the honor system? I had forgotten about them until I saw one out in the wild!

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I think I assumed they were only in bigger cities (I changed that from cooler cities because I LOVE mine), but lo and behold, there are apparently 40,000 around the world and several in Tulsa.

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This is what I chose, Love Does by Bob Goff, a book from a sensational man that I didn’t get the chance to finish because I gave my copy to my sister-in-law. I have shared 2339230 of his articles on my Facebook author page and can’t wait to dive in!

With this fun turn of events, I am going to read it and return it to the Little Free Library where I found it with a few additions from my personal library to introduce fellow Tulsa book nerds to some of my favorite authors! My children and I now have a new end-of-summer mission to visit as many as we can.

Check out this map of Little Free Libraries. Are there any near you?

If you see one in the wild, please tag me or hashtag #LFLinthewild so I can geek out with you! 

thoughts on privilege and the sacred miracle of each human life

In light of everything that’s happened this week, my post looks a little different today.

I spent yesterday absolutely devastated at the news. Fresh rounds of tears every time I remembered that my black friends are afraid because of the reality that, no matter where or how they live, things could go very wrong for them if caught in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Then I grieved for my police officer friends, GOOD, fierce, fair men I know would never use force against another human being unless their lives or others were legitimately in danger. Men who put their lives on the line and see terrible things to keep us safe, often with no recognition or overtime pay. And, yet, there’s a common thread. People just like them with families and futures have been murdered by strangers just for wearing a badge.

The police are trained to use their instincts, gut reactions from their hearts. The problem is, a select few who make the news — not all — have sick hearts or plain old bad judgment. And then the cycle of hatred continues with retaliation, maybe not on that street corner, but same story, different place.

This has to change. There has to be more reverence and accountability for the sacred miracle of each human life. 

I don’t identify as a liberal or progressive at all. But I don’t think the language of justice should be associated with any demographic or sociopolitical belief.

At its very root, it’s an issue of seeing others as God sees them and loving as He loves, with no “but” or “except” or “despite” in our language. With no room for overcompensation or withholding.

No matter what we believe, who we vote for, or what we look like, we can never let those who are different from us forget how loved and valuable and important they are.

Here in my South Tulsa home, I acknowledge my privilege. I’m white, college-educated, married to a man, and we never have to wonder where our children’s next meal is going to come from or how we’re going to keep the lights on this month.

I have often remained silent in situations like this, wondering what I can possibly say or do that won’t come across as empty and reactionary and purely driven by the emotions of the moment. I know many of you may feel the same way, sometimes hopeless in our inability to empathize. But after hearing the hearts of the kind, intelligent, brave, hard-working individuals who have directly felt the pain of recent events, here’s what we can do:

We can pray. When we have no words, we can bring it to the Lord and do battle that way. We can remember that our hope is in the Lord and how much all of this is a reflection of people who are hurt and sick and longing for eternity — even if they don’t know that’s what they’re missing.

We can NOT waste our energy on unproductive guilt. Guilt will do nothing but perpetuate the gaps between people. Same with being numb or desensitized. We can lean in, instead.

We can acknowledge that racism and prejudice are ugly, broken, very REAL things, even if we think we’re far removed from them or haven’t experienced them firsthand. We can acknowledge that all the senseless deaths we have mourned in America are a drop in the bucket compared to what’s going on around the globe.

No matter what we believe, who we vote for, or what we look like, we can never let those who are different from us forget how loved and valuable and important they are. 

No matter how big our sphere of influence may be, or how insignificant we believe our voices are, we can stand up for what we believe in our communities. Even a stay-at-home mom can make a huge difference by raising her children to be fiercely kind and discerning and brave.

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We can acknowledge that darkness exists in this world and not turn our heads away from it, but focus on the beauty and perpetuate the love instead of the hate. 

true #squadgoals: why I love my 30s (vol. 1)

At the end of the summer, I’ll be 31. Still a baby in the grand scheme of things, I know. Still so much to learn.

So many people fear 30, like it’s some space-time continuum that magically causes all metabolism and fun to close up shop. But I’ve had almost a year in this new decade and would pick who I am now over who I was at 20 any. day.

These are the reasons why. 

Why I'd Love

My people know how to celebrate well. Period.

A week in which I experienced the biggest outpouring of love ended with a party our community group threw for our big news and the journey leading up to it. This, after two of said friends left a gift bag with a rainbow of office supplies and a giant slice of Tuxedo cheesecake on our porch the day I announced my contract. (They speak my language, y’all.)

We ended the week deliciously full of grilled chicken, veggies picked fresh from the garden, and homemade blueberry bread pudding. Full from watching our kids laugh and play in the sprinklers with their friends until a summer storm rolled in.

To borrow a phrase from Taylor Swift, this is the definition of true squad goals. Friends that will create a five-person assembly line when a newborn who doesn’t belong to them has a diaper blowout. It’s dessert on your doorstep, a random text message, or a surprise package in the mail when you’re going through a thing. Celebrations for the significant and everyday wins.

You might think I’m getting all nostalgic about what I have at age 30, but it’s more about what was missing that night — what I thanked God was missing. 

In my teens and twenties, my people-pleasing gene was out of control. I had a deep fear of missing out and wondered why I didn’t connect with everyone — not because I wasn’t satisfied with my own people, but because I had this insecurity that I wasn’t enough for the others. That if they didn’t approve, there was something wrong with me.  I spent so much time on this archaeological dig, the mission of which revolved between trying to figure out what that was and trying to figure out who I should be instead.

The other night, as we drove back into the city during a lightning-studded sunset, I realized that ever-present twinge, the curiosity and fear of missing out wasn’t there. And when did that even happen? At 30, I’ve learned that it’s about quality instead of quantity. It’s about loving and serving my Ones well.

And also, it’s about getting over myself a little.

Though I believe there’s value in every learning process, I wish I could tell 20s Laurie that it’s so much less pressure when we stop trying to be all things for all people and not to worry so much because the only ones that matter are the ones willing to embrace our particular brand of weird.

I love this conglomeration of people from past and present, from work and worship and school and writing and parenthood. It’s an ebb and flow rooted in seasons and settings, but it’s imperfect people loving and celebrating well who I can invite through my door and trust with my mess.

Here’s to friendship at any age that shows up,
that feels like welcome,
sounds like grace, trust, and intention,
looks like meeting needs — even when it means calling each other out.
Friendship that’s never too proud to ask for forgiveness,
asks only the questions that matter,
and adds lots and lots of laugh lines to your face.

Maybe you’re reading this closer to 20 and already have this stuff figured out. I’m proud. Or maybe you remember learning this at 30 and are all, Oh, girl, you have so much to learn. 

Bring it. I can’t wait.

Read Part 2: Pink Lipstick here. 

welcome to my table: a manifesto

 

{Not my table. Too clean to be my table.}

If I could compare my dreams for this space to one thing, it would be a huge farm table surrounded by people I love with all kinds of backgrounds and stories. That’s the most beautiful place to be.

There would be food involved, of course. Probably a huge bowl of pasta since that’s what I feed my unsuspecting friends to create that magical, carb-induced conglomeration of happiness and comfort that makes the stories spill out.

The table image has been done a lot lately, I know. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the past few months, it’s that the most important part of that is listening. I don’t want to sit at a table set solely by my own hands, nor do I want this website to be the info-heavy drivel of a content machine.

I want my friends to feast on the salad she brought, drink what they picked up on the way, and break the bread he graciously provided from his perfected sourdough starter. The feast is so much richer — and, I think, such a more accurate picture of Jesus that way.

I want that for this space, too.

To be honest, I’ve been wrestling lately with how to do this right. I’ve been consuming all the podcasts and articles on brand, unsuccessfully pinpointing my ideal audience, and trying to reconcile all the strategies for building a fiction readership with the stories my fingers are itching to write. I’m trying to develop some sense of cohesion for this space when I’m balancing my small business, motherhood, my journey to novel publication, and what all of those things teach me against the backdrop of my faith.

I’m learning that I can’t write about everything — or at least not publicly.

That I need to listen and learn as much as I speak and teach. 

So much of the expert advice out there conflicts with itself and only leads to overthinking.

And taking care of the loves that I have is way more important than building a platform. That’s the only thing that’s worth anything.

So for the sake of some cohesiveness and takeaway, my writing/craft-related posts will now mostly be found on The Writer’s Alley, and for this season of life, here you’ll find:

  • Table Talk: Inviting my favorite friends to share how far they’ve come, what going after their dreams looks like, and anything else that’s inspired me so hopefully it can inspire you! Sometimes this will just be important things I’ve learned from other people.
  • Intentional Living: This encompasses all things time management (planners and lists!), accomplishing goals, making dreams happen no matter what, and living the rich and loving life God intended for us.
  • Book Reviews: Only the books I absolutely love! I mostly read clean contemporary romance, YA, and some sci-fi/fantasy here and there.
  • The Friday Mixing Bowl: Weekly updates, treasures from around the web, and other lately discoveries.

If you look at my website, the tagline is Stories of Grace in the Beautiful Mess. That’s the image I want my writing to evoke. If we go by the table metaphor, it means empty plates on the table of full and nourished people, stray noodles under the high chair because everyone is welcome, and proverbial crumbs of hope, that if God can work in this unlikely situation and orchestrate dreams in the most unexpected ways, He can do the same for you.

Pull up a chair, where the drinks are always fizzy and the cupcakes always have extra sprinkles 🙂

{friday mixing bowl} a very mindy reprieve + a little fancy in the mess

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How are the weeks flying by so quickly? I have no idea! As you will see, I’ve been very boring this week with client projects to work on + spending lots of time with my little family! To me, boring is never a bad thing. So here goes.

<< I’m currently >>

enjoying perfect spring evening walks with my little family

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The tree in this picture, when we were walking up to it, looked rose gold because of the way the sun was filtering through the white blooms next to it. Wish I could have captured that in a way that did it justice with my measly little phone!

loving the work I get to do every day…

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…even if it can get a little crazy sometimes. is that a theme around here?

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trying to add a little fancy here and there to make even a Wednesday lunch with my kids more special

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fitting in some reading…

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…in the middle of taxes and other adulty things!

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plus somehow watching…

via Bustle

The Mindy Project on Hulu when my brain is crammed to capacity and needs a little reprieve. Enough people told harassed me it would be the perfect show for me, so I tried it and can’t quit it as a little refresh button for my brain. Confession: I can confidently say that 94% of why I stayed is because Mindy’s nurse Morgan makes me wheeze-laugh.

<< link love >>

source: Bakerella

  • I don’t care who you are or what you’re currently eating or eliminating, you need a good chocolate chip cookie recipe that unites all people and soothes all that ails. This one from Bakerella has been my go-to for years. My daughter and I made them this week when her friend came over to play, and they are magical.
  • Loved this article from Canva on font pairing in their newsletter. For one, if you don’t have Photoshop and are not using Canva to make images for your social media and online marketing, you need to check them out now! And use this article as a guide for professional looking images. It  has exactly what I’ve been looking for to take my online marketing game to the next level!
  • My feedly might self-combust for being way behind on my blog reading this week, but my inner Hermione Granger geeked out at these 12 dozen places to educate yourself FO FREE, compiled by Marc & Angel Hack Life!
  • I also was floored by this post on getting dumped from Bob Goff on the Storyline blog. Love him! >> “God’s grace comes in all shapes, sizes, and circumstances as God continues to unfold something magnificent in me.” YES!

<< in case you missed it >>

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  • I wrote THE END on my third manuscript this week and threw a party! Still lots of work before it’s ready, but just having the bones of a story in place (for now) feels so good!
  • On Tuesday, I’ll be sharing my self-editing checklist on The Writer’s Alley —  unless a more timely topic hijacks my plans.
  • I’m also compiling an April Reads post that will go up at some point next week, along with my manifesto for this blog, if I ever figure out what that looks like 🙂

Do you ever have packed, boring, adulty weeks like this with a little fancy and loveliness squeezed through the cracks? Just me?

Hope you have a wonderful weekend!

beyond the bio

I totally stole this idea from the lovely Teresa, who I think is brilliant! It’s about going beyond the typical bio line and digging a little deeper with the end goal of giving this space the capacity for more meaningful connection. Here goes!

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  • I think collaborate is the most beautiful word in the English language, both audibly and in practice. 
  • There’s a 9-year age gap between my husband and me, which is a lot easier at age 30 than age 22 🙂
  • Worship music keeps me centered, especially when I have no words for God. This is a thing sometimes.
  • I’m a recovering know-it-all and still have a hard time not knowing things.
  • Though I only have two brothers by blood, God has sent me the best sisters ever!
  • Before kids, I was a half marathoner and have a hard time remembering that girl is still in there somewhere.
  • Where do I sign a petition to keep cursive writing taught in our schools? I’d become an activist for that even though my handwriting is a hybrid of each!
  • Confession: I’m becoming increasingly attached to the YA genre as I age (books and TV/movies). Like, stories I should be embarrassed to read but totally have no shame. What is that about?
  • ENFJ all the way!
  • Many friends in my real world only know my son as Cub.
  • I like 30 way, way better than 20.
  • Crossword puzzles are my jam.
  • I have this dream of a huge farm table in my backyard with lots of dreamy twinkle lights. It’s filled with a mess of family and friends and pasta bowls. That’s my happy place!
  • My brain is a mess of styles: MLA for college courses, APA for my job in college, AP for my big-girl job, and Chicago for novel writing. But one thing will always be finite truth: LONG LIVE THE OXFORD COMMA!
  • I don’t consider myself crafty or artistically inclined at all, but I’ve wanted to take up lettering as a hobby for a while, so I’m doing it! 
  • My husband and I cheer for rival college sports teams. GO LONGHORNS!
  • I’m a podcast junkie. Can’t stop, won’t stop!
  • My only TV “claim to fame” was the Food Network’s Throwdown with Bobby Flay. This foodie was on cloud 9 to visit the Pioneer Woman’s ranch for the first time, meet Bobby Flay (he totally touched my shoulder), Trisha Yearwood, and get to know Ree as the lovely, talented woman who is exactly the way she is on TV and her blog. that's me!
  • Despite my love for all things color-coded and listy, I am naturally a procrastinator for some things but can’t teach myself to be any other way. (Any tips?)
  • If I murdered to protect someone I love, my last meal would include Antoinette Bakery’s Mile High Chocolate Pie and Yokozuna’s chicken ramen, both in Tulsa. At least that’s what it would be today.
  • My best balance involves regularly running, reading, and creating.
  • In my perfect world, everyone would fight to make space for those things that make them feel alive and learn to fit them in around the adulty stuff.

Now that you know a little about me, tell me about YOU! Steal this idea for your website or tell me something I don’t know in the comments!

{friday mixing bowl} almost to THE END, two references to cake, and more

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Hi, y’all! This week’s Friday Mixing Bowl is coming to you on Saturday 🙂 I’m getting back into the swing of things after a whirlwind (and AMAZING) trip to Seattle, solo parenting for two weeks while husband is away on work, finishing a book, and finalizing my client line-up!

<< I’m currently >>

working on…

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the last stages my third manuscript, an inspirational New Adult story. Technically the first draft is finished, but it was too short! This is a “sequel-turned-prequel” to my first book, but I decided to strategically shelf it several months ago to start a new series with my second book instead. So I’m currently reading through it, filling in some holes with new scenes, and editing as I go. My lovely critique partner is shredding it up in 100-page increments, so I will get to those edits next.

listening to…

This Spotify playlist, a compilation of some of my favorite powerful worship songs right now. There is a lot going on in my headspace right now, and these songs keep me happy and sane. It’s very female-centric, which I don’t mind one bit 🙂

reading…

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I read an amazing book while I was in Seattle, Sway by Amy Matayo. It’s an inspirational new adult novel like the one I’m currently writing, basically the unicorn genre of the CBA and one that’s very close to my heart. This was my favorite of hers yet! OR if you’re looking for more of a straight-up contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn by Liz Johnson is beautiful and poignant. Check them out!

still stuck on…

credit: theartofsimple.net

this article on The Art of Simple website. “Those of us who choose to walk a path with intention through life can be a little prone to overthinking. (Wait. Is that just me?) We know we want to live lives connected to our communities, our neighbors, our friends, but sometimes we get so bogged down in good intention that we collapse under the weight of our own standards and do nothing at all.” The author learned that making a difference can really be as simple as putting a chocolate cake on someone’s porch. The idea of community and its ramifications has been heavy on my heart lately, so this article was timely and inspiring.

<< link love >>

source: iambaker.net

  • I did it again, y’all. I talked about cake twice in one blog post. But my tiny little baby is turning ONE in less than two weeks, so I have been researching frostings. Keep these recipes in your back pocket the next time you need to whip together an impressive cake, okay?
  • Ten TED Talks from Authors. I haven’t listened yet, but my dishwashing time is about to get a lot more interesting!
  • I’m very proud of my friend, Teresa, who wrote about  the importance of being teachable and doing whatever it takes to make your work better — even if that means starting over.

<< in case you missed it >>

Join us on The Writer's Alley!

  • I hosted author Liz Johnson on The Writer’s Alley on Tuesday, where she talked about why launching her career with Love Inspired Suspense prepared her for the release of her contemporary romance, The Red Door Inn. This is a subject I’ve always been curious about, so I was grateful she obliged me!! 🙂
  • Author Hillary Manton Lodge invited me to be a part of her author roundtable discussion about good writing/story music. So much fun to be featured with talented published author friends!
  • I also shared contest tips last week. Hope those come in handy during this busy contest season, whether you entered the Genesis or not!

Hope y’all are having a great weekend!

What are you up to?

the holy intersection of art & busy

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I walk past this office every day, an inviting and not-always-tidy place that reminds me something magical will happen there later that night.

It’s littered with evidence–like my son’s toy drum in the corner and my daughter’s handwriting practice on the hearth–that, yes, important things happen here. But I get the privilege of being surrounded by story all day: creating them, helping others tell their own, and living grand adventures with my family at the same time. The lines of balance are always shifting, sometimes pulling painfully. Yet I’ve realized the importance of making it work, of curating this beautiful intersection of worlds that almost feels HOLY in its broken, life-giving wholeness.

An article I read this week on Medium.com, “Real Artists Have Day Jobs: Your Job is Just Your Side Gig,” discussed what defines a person as an artist. Major, major fist pumps and hallelujahs ensued on my end–and a little mourning for the people who don’t see themselves as true artists for whatever reason. Artists with asterisks of some kind.

The truth it took me ages to see is this: Your art is legitimate and important whether it’s your sole income or free therapy tucked into the best corners of your day. I wish more people would see that, even if you’re only doing it 15 minutes a day, your art is a vital part of who you are and deserves as much space and energy as you can give it. The people in that boat have been on my mind so much lately.

Whether you have time to work whenever inspiration comes or–like this blog post–it’s broken into the moments between crunching someone else’s numbers and wiping butts and driving all the places you need to go, I hope you’ll make space for what you know beyond a shadow of a doubt you were created to do and celebrate the holy, messy, beautiful intersection of all the parts of your life.

Your art is legitimate and important whether it's your sole income or free therapy tucked into the best corners of your day.

 

the story of a found manilla folder

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I was cleaning out a drawer this weekend when I found a manilla folder. It had this handout from brainstorming guru Michelle Lim and several copies of my resume.

It’s a perfect snapshot of 2013 and a tangible reminder of what God’s done since then. I had been working full-time from home for two years after my daughter was born but had just been laid off. So I was job interviewing, facing the logistics of working outside the home again. The ink was still wet on my first novel, written on Friday nights in a corner of a coffee shop, where I guarded my screen with an almost paranoid fear that people would see what I was doing and call me out: Fraudulent silly dreamer.

Then I was introduced at church to multi-published author Kathleen Y’Barbo, who I now call my writing fairy godmother. She invited me to her ACFW chapter meeting, where Michelle was giving a workshop. I took notes furiously — my first real foray into learning craft — with this roomful of strangers. People who were pursuing publication and talked about their work with no inhibitions. My kind of people.

After the workshop, I gathered up the nerve to talk to Michelle, ridiculously nervous, and her kindness immediately put me at ease. Immediately made me feel like a real writer. (She is seriously one of the most encouraging people I’ve ever met!)

The journey unfolded from there. I entered a contest, met my critique partners, queried my agent, and watched as one simple meeting and the encouragement of a few beautiful women formed the complex maze of my writing career. It was after this meeting that I started my own business with the support of my husband, not knowing how it was going to make ends meet at first but believing it would give me the freedom to do work I’m passionate about, the flexibility to be home with my children, and the space to grow my pursuit of publication.

If I zoomed out in this metaphor, I know I would see that I’m still chipping away at the beginning of the maze. But I’m grateful for every opportunity and redirecting wall that has come since that manilla folder — and every person who has been in the trenches with me!

Thanks for reading! I’d love to hear your story in the comments! You can also connect with me on my Facebook author page, where I share book recommendations, information about intentional living and the writing craft, and glimpses into life as a writer.

my writing bucket list

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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?

{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.

 

 

 

{tagged} 20 random questions

My lovely, sweet Casey Herringshaw tagged me in a 20 Random Questions post. So, since it’s been a minute on my blog and it’s Friday, I thought I’d share my answers!

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Here goes:

1. How tall are you?

5’6″ since I was 12 years old. Somewhere in the middle of average, and I’m okay with it. 🙂

2. Do you have a hidden talent? If so, what is it?

I like to sing, but that’s not really a secret. So I’m going to go with trashcan basketball. I am oddly good at landing wadded-up trash into a wastebasket from a distance, but only with my left (weak) hand. The more you know.

3. What’s your biggest blog-related pet peeve?

Mine is the opposite of Casey’s. I don’t like it when people feel they have to stick to a schedule so much that they are constantly apologizing for not blogging when life gets in the way. Life > blogging. Every time. I say be consistent, but you have no reason to be sorry when something comes up. 🙂

4. What’s your biggest non blog-related pet peeve?

Well, it all sounds kind of silly when I type it out. But I live in Oklahoma, and I don’t like it when people interchange words like “hill” and “heel”. I also don’t like it when people ignore the double verb infinitive rule with the verb “to need”. (When someone says “needs fixed” instead of “needs to be fixed”.)

5. What’s your favorite song?

Ask me again in five minutes. It will probably be different. I’d say my all-time favorite song is “With Everything” by Hillsong. I always go back to it. But right now, the entire You Make Me Brave album by Bethel Worship is getting worn. out. in my Explorer 🙂

6. What’s your favorite Etsy shop that isn’t yours?

I’m not on Etsy much, but I love prints and follow a lot of hand-lettering artists on Instagram. I’ve also really been into gold foil lately!

7. What’s your favorite way to spend your free time when you’re alone?

I like reading, watching old shows (i.e. House, MD) on Netflix, and writing or drawing 🙂

8. What’s your favorite junk food?

White cheddar popcorn, Tostitos Hint of Lime chips, Trader Joe’s dark chocolate peanut butter cups, and anything with Heath Bar.

9.  Do you have a pet or pets? If so, what kind and what are their names?

My favorite animal in the world is our four-year-old yellow Lab, Sampson Hamish. He’s the best dog ever and definitely like our first child.

AllieSampson

10.  What are your #1 favorite fiction and nonfiction books?

Hard to pick fiction. I’d say the Harry Potter series and the Christy Miller series. Both were most engaging to me and always stick out in my mind! Nonfiction is much easier. The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning changed. my. life.

11.   What’s your favorite beauty product?

I am not much of a beauty product girl, but since I’ve grown my nails out, I love Essie nail polish. I also LOVE Philosophy combo bubble bath/shampoo/body wash because they smell like cake and leave the skin oh-so-smooth!

Philosophy - Ooey Gooey Cookie Fresh-Baked Cookie Shampoo, Shower Gel &amp; Bubble Bath

 

12.   When were you last embarrassed? What happened?

Ohmygoodness. It happens so often that I don’t notice anymore. It’s just ingrained in my DNA and part of everyday life.

13. If you could drink one beverage (besides water) for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Diet Dr. Pepper. No, that’s so bad for me. Let’s go with chai tea. Oregon Chai, if we’re really specific.

14.  What’s your favorite movie?

Love and Basketball. Yep.

15.  What were you in high school: prom queen, nerd, cheerleader, jock, valedictorian, band geek, loner, artist, prep?

I think I was kind of a mix between a choir nerd and drama geek who got good grades and played a few sports.

16.  If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?

My favorite cities are Colorado Springs and Austin. But I wouldn’t complain if, say, a beachfront property in Playa Santa Teresa, Costa Rica fell into my lap 🙂

 

17.   PC or Mac?

Mac. But not a Mac snob.

18.  Last romantic gesture from a crush, date, boy/girlfriend, spouse?

My husband surprised me with this gorgeous new office this week!

office

19.  Favorite celebrity?

That’s a tricky one. Talent-wise, I love Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner. Plus everything Greg Kinnear has ever done. Oh wait, the question was favorite celebrity not favorite actor. I don’t think I have one.

20. What blogger do you secretly want to be best friends with?

Now this is definitely more up my alley! I want to be best friends with Jessica from How Sweet Eats and Rachel Khoo, who is more of a celebrity TV chef than a blogger nowadays!

If you’re still reading, I love you. Please tell me something about yourself and how you would have answered the question that most stuck out to you! <3

2014 pre-conference mix and mingle

It’s that time again!

Last year, I loved doing this pre-conference mix and mingle. It definitely helped me learn new faces and get to know people my first year at conference 🙂 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 post (not your home page) 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 St. Louis!

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: Books, good food, and college football!

Loved ones at home you’ll be missing: My husband, three-year-old daughter, and yellow Lab!

Conference goals we can pray for? That my books will find their perfect publishing home and definitely for peace during pitches!

Anything we can celebrate with you? I’m a finalist in the Romance category of the Genesis contest.

One or two ways we can help you build your platform? Yes! You can like my author page on Facebook and sign up for my brand new 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.)

Link-up

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 🙂

the post I’ve started and deleted twice

I’ve been really nostalgic lately. Introspective, even. I blame it all on that new app Timehop that shows bits of your social media from that exact date in past years. Last night, this was my Timehop:

One year + one day ago, I started Book 2. The Laurie who wrote that Twitter update never would have guessed she was capable of writing a whole novel in 8 months. And the Genesis… I’m still stunned and have no idea what to say about it except that I’m grateful. Always floored when I think about it and grateful.

This week also marks one year since I queried my lovely agent. It was a freak thing, really. I read one of her blog posts and saw in her bio that she has a heart for the 20s and 30s audience. Then minutes later, an author friend I trust who knew I was beginning to research agents asked me if I’d ever thought of querying Rachel. Something clicked in my mind, and I just knew. I would’ve been fine if it worked out a different way, but Rachel became my “dream agent”, and I really believe great things will come from us as a team 🙂 It all started a year ago this week when I pressed send (with my eyes closed).

There’s another anniversary I can pinpoint as ridiculously significant. Something I never imagined would start this whole wonderful journey.

Getting laid off from my job.

My whole nostalgia kick essentially began on May 15, the one-year anniversary of being laid off. I was working full-time from home for the book publicity firm I’d been with for six years, all of my post-grad life. Miserable, if we’re honest. I’d known it was coming for awhile, that something needed to change. But for some reason, I held on to the safety of it with white knuckles.

On May 15, 2013, I entered the world of self-employment. All the uncertain and scary things. My wonderful, believing husband gave me permission to stay home with my daughter even though it was a risk to our family’s financial well-being. He stepped out in faith with me that, somehow, I could build a freelance business from scratch with enough work to meet our family’s needs and have the extra time to pursue a career as a writer.

And God. Wow, God. He’s been so faithful through this process. I’ve seen firsthand that He will always come through no matter what, even if it’s not what you thought it would look like.

{I’ve started writing this post 2-3 times since May and deleted it. But I’m posting this today in all of its disjointed, raw glory because I believe someone needs to read this.}

While God has been the definition of faithful, I’ve been the definition of a Simon Peter, walking out on the water and sometimes sinking in my belief that I can really do this. While I’ve only been writing novels and pursuing publication for a short time compared to some, being an author has been my dream since I was learning cursive in elementary school. And I’ve had my confidence shattered twice. Ugly. Messy. In splintered, seemingly irreparable fragments.

So when people ask about my writing journey, I tell them God’s opened a lot of doors for me. It’s cliche and I almost cringe when the words come out of my mouth, but then I always add that He’s had to dropkick me through those doors sometimes. I think He knows, based on my unique set of…intricacies…that it’s sometimes necessary 🙂 Over the last year, He’s taken my dream from the stuff of fragile confidence into the courage to say yes to risks and opportunities I’ve walked away from before. Into a strong, realistic vision that can withstand the weathering my writing needs to get better. And while the road to The Best It Can Be may take forever, I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be.

In this place, I still have a lot to learn. But this is what I can tell you:

Whether your dream is to be a published author or something else, I want to encourage you to take heart. Stop skirting around those seeds of doubt in your mind, name them, and obliterate them. Don’t let them waste another minute of your time.

And don’t let worrying about how much time you’ve wasted waste anymore time, either.

Learn from your mistakes, surround yourself with positive influences that will help you grow, and go for it. Don’t be reckless, but be brave and work harder than you ever have before. Go for it the right way. You’re a unique soul, so you can’t really compare your journey to anyone else’s. The only thing you can do is own your dream and go after it.

And if it doesn’t work out this time?
If you’re wandering in the wilderness called Not Now?
Don’t give up.

Because if this is really your dream, you’re not capable of giving up anyway. 🙂

{blog hop} my writing process

CarlaStewart

I was invited to participate in a blog hop by the lovely and inimitable Carla Stewart, one of my favorite members of my local ACFW chapter and author of nostalgic novels like Chasing LilacsStardust, and The Hatmaker’s Heart. It’s authors talking about their writing process and tagging other authors to do the same!

So, here goes.

1) What am I currently working on? My first book is out being shopped to publishers, my second book is on my agent’s desk, and my third is becoming a living, breathing thing in my mind and on the page! It’s a prequel of sorts to my first book (some of the same characters) but could also stand alone. So far, I have about 15,000 words. It’s a contemporary romance exploring the struggles of the “new adult” age group.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre? My first and third books feature main characters that are in their early 20s, navigating the uncertainties of the real world for the first time where it seems most contemporary romances have more established characters in their late 20s/early 30s.

3) Why do I write what I do? To put it simply, because I want to tell stories of redemption and goodness prevailing even when the characters are broken and imperfect and their paths are heading as far away from fairy tale proportions as they possibly can. I want my stories to be realistic and relatable, told with integrity to real life, no matter how hard it is.

4) How does your writing process work? Since I’m fairly new to the game, I’m still learning the answer to this question. Usually, I write the “black moment” in the story first (around the 75% mark til the end). Then the beginning and then the middle, which is hardest for me. My stories typically start with a theme and then the characters. Usually I write by the seat of my pants, but this go-around, I’m trying my hand at plotting. We’ll see how it goes!

I’m grateful to be followed up by this group of talented author beauties! Check out their websites next Monday for their answers to these questions!

Halee Matthews started writing the moment she figured out how to hold a pencil, though her spelling has improved a bit since then. She has been a staff writer for several newspapers and magazines, and ventured into the freelance editing world in 2009. When she’s not typing wildly on her MacBook, savoring a cup of coffee, or taking her purple chucks out into the real world, you can find her hanging out at her blog, on Facebook, or on Twitter.

As a child, Amanda G. Stevens disparaged Mary Poppins and Stuart Little because they could never happen. Now, she writes speculative fiction. She holds a Bachelor of Science degree in English and has taught literature and composition to home-school students. She lives in Michigan and loves books, film, music, and white cheddar popcorn. Amanda’s first novel, Seek and Hide, will be available September 15, 2014 from David C Cook.

A Starbucks drinker, avid reader, semi-professional fangirl, and chocolate aficionado, Jessica Keller spends way too much time on Tumblr and Twitter. She writes both Young Adult Fiction and Romance. As a child Jessica possessed the dangerous combination of too much energy coupled with an over-active imagination. This pairing led to more than seven broken bones and countless scars. Oddly enough, she’s worked as a zookeeper, a librarian, camp counselor, horse wrangler, housekeeper, and finance clerk, but now loves her full-time work in law enforcement. She lives in the Chicagoland suburbs with her amazing husband, beautiful daughter, and two annoyingly outgoing cats that happen to be named after superheroes.

You can find her at www.JessicaKellerBooks.com, on Twitter @AuthorKeller, on Tumblr, or on her Facebook Author Page.

{throwback thursday} 6 years ago…

It’s no secret that I’m in the business of love stories. I have been my whole life. So with my sixth anniversary just two days away, I thought it would be fitting to write the ultimate Throwback Thursday post and offer a glimpse of our wedding day.

My whole life, I imagined what the person I married would be like. I never could have fathomed that I’d meet a man while working for my university at a summer camp, that we’d be reacquainted when I moved after graduation, or fall hard and fast for each other.

And that, on one of the only days it didn’t rain in April 14 months later, I’d marry him. It was a perfect 75-degree day, surrounded by our family and best friends. Truly magical.

wedding preview

wedding anticipation

wedding church

wedding DONE

reception cake

reception

Our wedding may have been the stuff of fairy tales, but I’m most grateful that God has demonstrated Himself in our marriage time and again. That He created someone with the unique qualities to lift me up, be strong where I am weak, and serve alongside me as my teammate in the pursuit of dreams.

That when we give our desires to God, they are no match for His goodness.

Happy anniversary, JT!! 

lessons from an {I-now-am-found} blue notebook

bluenotebook As a writer, I always keep a notebook close. (And chocolate chip cookies closer.) Just in case, like this morning, I awaken with a fleshed-out YA fantasy story that has manifested itself into a very vivid dream and I have seconds before it disappears into the black hole of forgotten thoughts. (Does this happen to anyone besides mothers of small children?) But imagine my anguish when my blue notebook went missing, taking with it various important sermon notes, lists (huge list maker –> this girl), and the plotted outline of my second manuscript, which at that point, only had about 30,000 words written. Here’s what I learned when I found it months and months later: 1) Sometimes it’s not the end of the world when plans don’t turn out the way you envisioned. I love this story way more now than the direction I’m reading in the blue notebook. In fact, I’m a firm believer that in life, when things deviate from plan, God ALWAYS has better. 2) This is what I get for cleaning and organizing my desk. Never. again. (Just kidding…mostly!)

The weekend is almost here, y’all! Any big plans? I’m visiting my friend Halee for a weekend of writing and fun. Hope you have a great one!

dragons, commandments, goldfish: what I learned from karen ball

This past weekend, the Oklahoma City chapter of the ACFW hosted a mini-conference featuring author/editor/agent extraordinaire Karen Ball. With the years she’s poured into the industry, she had so much valuable insight to impart on writers of all stages and genres in attendance.

Okay, people. We’re talking about the same Karen Ball who discovered authors among the likes of Francine Rivers and Karen Kingsbury. So basically, Redeeming Love never would have been a thing if it weren’t for her. That might be a bit of a stretch, but clearly, the woman knows her stuff.

She talked about everything from “dragons” out to destroy fiction to the passion behind writing to a little story about a goldfish that’s apparently pretty well-known in the ACFW circles 🙂 If you have the chance to hear Karen Ball speak, RUN (to not from). She’s a compelling speaker, a gifted teacher, and even a talented singer, we learned.

There’s one thing she said that resonated with me the most, though. I could write a month’s worth of posts about the pages of notes I took with her industry and craft advice. But if you asked me what was most important, I wouldn’t even flinch to tell you this is it.

“What’s the most important commandment?” Karen asked us.

And like diligent Sunday school children, we recited, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength.” Actually, we never could figure out which order they went in, but it worked.

“And what’s the second greatest command?”

“Love your neighbor.”

“…As?”

As yourself.”

It’s easy when you’re working hard in any profession to lose sight of taking care yourself–especially if you’re pulling off a precarious balancing act with other things. But if I took care of my neighbor the way that I took care of myself right now, it wouldn’t be pretty. I wouldn’t feel good about myself if I let someone skimp on sleep, neglect healthy living habits, and allow his/her life to fall out of balance under my care.

So why would I do that to myself?

I think a lot of us writers become absorbed in deadlines, writing, revising, building platform, critiquing, and especially researching that we forget to love ourselves and take care of ourselves. No matter what stage of life I’ve been in, from student to working 40+ hours a week to balancing a full-time job with taking care of a baby that doesn’t sleep and writing a novel, I’ve learned two things. 1) It’s all about balance. 2) Even a little bit of effort goes a LONG way.

It’s Oct. 22, and I have yet to post my writing goals for this month. (Though there are many.) So I’m going to post a different kind of list. My personal list–my manifesto of sorts–of decisions I can make that have proven to help me be my healthiest and happiest self. Achieving the balance in life that makes things run more smoothly.

thelist

 

prayer + running outside +  mindful eating + treating + {enough} sleeping + internet rationing + journaling + dressing immediately + pampering {this happens never} + planning + water drinking + being present + serving + singing + creating + maintaining my house = Happy Laurie

I am constantly adding to this list, constantly failing at keeping it, and would never expect to follow it perfectly. But if this is something I can strive for, if just even one of these habits will stick, then I think loving myself will help me love my neighbor.

Isn’t that sort of what this whole writing thing is all about?

What’s on your personal manifesto of self-care? If you’ve had the opportunity to meet Karen or hear her speak, what’s your favorite memory?

the formula for success

davidsbike

scenes from my very first story – “David’s First Bike”

First of all, thanks so much for the encouragement regarding my new adventure! It not only is a huge boost in the confidence department, but a good reminder that I’m doing exactly what I need to be doing!

Those who have known me for a little while know that this website isn’t my first shooting match. Over the last 10+ years, I’ve staked my claim on several little patches of the Internet expanse, evolving from my first, angst-filled LiveJournal my senior year of high school to a healthy living-mommy blog hybrid.

While my content has been changing according to what’s going on in my life, the World Wide Web has done just a little transformation of its own since 2002. Now, pretty much everyone has a website (and I love that!) but there seems to be a certain formula to standing out among the crowd.

Let’s assume, just for giggles, that you’re not a celebrity. You have to work hard to prove that you’re knowledgeable, fresh, relevant, and most importantly, engaging about your subject matter, whether that’s documenting life as a stay-at-home mom, writing recipes, or breaking life changing news. But again, there are also some rules to follow — or at least a prescription for success.

When I first got the idea to start this website, I became hyper-vigilant of this formula. I studied other writers’ websites and read articles about platforms and niches and areas of expertise. A lot of this I already knew because of my experience as a book publicist. But to establish myself as a credible source with industry professionals, other writers, and perhaps someday, even my readers, would I have to stop using words like “doneski” and “wowsers” in civilized conversation? Would I have to limit the number of baby pictures with which I was inundating my Twitter feed?

Then there’s my whole hang-up with expertise. If I limited myself to writing about what I fully know, this website would be a whole lot of books, random sports trivia, and some Harry Potter and Madea movie quotes thrown in for good measure.

Let me just say this up front because it will be better for everyone involved: I don’t claim to be an expert about anything. But if I had to choose, and I will, it would be books–particularly stories, both to be specific and to provide a broader spectrum. I’ve been writing stories since I was a little kid (see image above for proof), have read more books than is probably healthy, studied literature in college, and promote books for a living. Besides that, I feel the number one perk about getting older has been the ability to truly appreciate the stories that are taking place all around me. The redemption and beauty God has written and orchestrated in my own friends’ lives.

So while I’m not an expert about anything, maybe you can find out something about life and books and grace alongside me as I learn. And I’ll do my best to be myself: genuine, evolving, and hopefully unapologetic. To me, that’s the most important formula for success on this adventure.

No promises about the Madea movies, though.