Book Giveaway Celebration

I love celebrations! The times we remember, laugh, reminisce , dream. I love the tactile reminders of what was and is, the closure and the looking ahead. I don’t do well with stiff formalities because they usually make me want to laugh or do something distracting, but something deep inside feels satisfied when a milestone or important event is acknowledged sufficiently.

So I want to celebrate that now it’s five years that my book is out in the big, wide, beautiful world.

I maintain that the best authors don’t write because they have all the answers but because they’re the ones who are brave enough to wrestle with questions that might not have tidy answers. I have experience as a single, but I don’t do it perfectly, so the book isn’t about pat answers. My vision as I wrote was to give ladies a picture of what kind of life God is inviting them to even if theirs doesn’t have the color and shape of their expectations. I saw girls become desperate or depressed when they didn’t get boyfriends by age 26, and it grieved  me because I knew that desperation or depression was never what God designed them for.

What IS our design and purpose? That’s what I explore in the book.

I’m still exploring the question. I’ve slid into the same kind of depression/desperation/despair that I’ve seen in others. During the past five years, there were times when my closest friends told me maybe it’s time for me to read my book again. ugh. (I haven’t met any author who wants to go back to read their book. Never.) There were dark, dark nights. Even dark months, when I felt only questions and emptiness and heavy sighs. That was real, but so is the bright sunshine, the wide vistas, the incredible care of the wild, unpredictable, endlessly-loving Almighty.

So I’m still learning. Still reaching forward and messing up and living as falteringly and certainly as one does when she knows where and who Life is.

I’ve loved the interaction with readers, the feedback (mostly positive, thank God), the questions it sparked off, and most of all, the embarking on a  journey of wonder and knowing we are never, ever alone. Now I want to celebrate the amazing five years behind us.

I want to do a DOUBLE book giveaway to FIVE people–one for you and one for you to give away.  In comments here or by Facebook message or email, tell me why you want need a copy of the book, and who you’d give a copy to. The giveaway is open from April 5-10. I want to give the book to the desperate, depressed girls I wrote it for. Will you help me get it to them? Let’s go!

We Have a Winner and Advent

The random number generator chose #16 which means that Twila Burkholder won the giveaway for Tea and Trouble Brewing. Thanks to everyone who entered the drawing. It was way more fun than I was expecting, and it’s making me think about doing a giveaway for my own book, so stay tuned!

Until then, if/when it happens, you can order my book, Life is for Living (Not for Waiting Around) from the helpful people at CLR:

Christian Learning Resource
28500 Guys Mills Rd.
Guys Mills, PA 16327

Phone:  FREE 814-789-4769
Order line:  877-222-GROW (4769)

And for a sneak preview of the book, you can go to my blog and read the first page of each chapter. They’re listed on the sidebar, so have a look.

In other news, this morning I heard myself say “It’s snowing, I’m listening to Christmas music, eating a donut and drinking tea. Life is good!”

It’s true.

Advent is a beautiful season, waiting and focusing, expecting the light that will erase darkness. This is my favorite Advent hymn, though I wish I’d know and understand its original German lines.

Comfort, comfort ye my people, speak ye peace, thus saith our God;

Comfort those who sit in darkness, mourning ‘neath their sorrows’ load.

Speak ye to Jerusalem of the peace that waits for them;

Tell her that her sins I cover, and her warfare now is over.

Make ye straight what long was crooked, make the rougher places plain;

Let your hearts be true and humble as befits His humble reign.

For the glory of the Lord now on earth is shed abroad,

And all flesh shall see the token that His word is never broken. –Johann Olearius

Grace on a Plate

Grace isn’t shocking enough to make the headlines. The words that give life and breath to the panting and exhausted don’t usually get said loudly enough for the world to hear. They’re whispered, or mouthed, and seen only by several eyes. But that doesn’t make them less important or powerful.

Micha Boyett wrote wise words here after a public, unloving book critique and a soft, gracious answer to that–actually, an invitation for a meal. The result of this grace was a gentle apology, and a great illustration of how powerful mercy is.  I found these words beautiful and convicting because when I hear criticism about my book, I am carnal enough that I drafted  a scathing, frigid letter sooner than send a dinner invitation.

After Jesus’s disciples absconded, and started living as though they’d never been with Him, He pursued them, gave them a miracle at work, and cooked breakfast for them. I wish I could have been there. His grace to them that morning had to have changed them profoundly–which is what grace and mercy does in its quiet way, without headlines and hoopla.

Micah is writing about words and relationships across the internet, which is an important part of communication. But I want grace to be even more important to me in the real-time, real-life words and actions that I engage in every day, in as normal things as breakfast or dinner.

I find the Internet to be the hardest place to follow the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. Blessed is she who has the most blog hits? Blessed is he who stands by his theological stance with the most vigor and resentment?

On the Internet, we can talk a good game about Jesus. We don’t have to know each other. We don’t have to love each other from afar. Instead we can pick on each other’s wounds and brokenness and separate ourselves into more and more theological camps. Who needs denominations? We can just align ourselves with the blogger who reads the Bible the way we do and criticizes the ones we like to criticize.

We can be a generation of sarcasm, biting, and cutting. We can roll our eyes and slam the laptop shut. Then open it up again to see if all our friends on Twitter agree.

Or, we can learn earnestness from the example of Voskamp’s genuine kindness. We are also invited to hold the gospel out. We are invited to prepare a table and set a place for the one who criticizes our lives, our beliefs, our art. We are invited to live out the blessing of Jesus:

Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.

The world does not need angry theology: it needs a true, good story. It needs the good news that God’s compassion is deep enough to rescue, to remake, to restore our broken lives.

After all, we are followers of a Messiah who said in his kingdom our job is not to win the argument: it’s to make the peace, to see God, to show mercy.

A Writing Meme From Dorcas Smucker

Let’s be clear about this: I don’t do chain stuff or forwards. For various reasons. Two recipes or 50 questions about yourself to forward to 51 of your friends or email poems that have 152 emoticons in them that you MUST  forward unless you want to be attacked by a billy goat? I don’t do it. Life is too short. But Dorcas tagged me in a meme, which is (or can be) a different thing, and I answered her questions because they were about things I care about, and I had time to answer them.

(A meme is an idea or theme that spreads like a virus in the blogging world, and this one is about writing and I’m breaking the bendable rules by not preparing a list of more questions or bloggers.)

1. How long have you been blogging, and how often do you post?

I started the blog in ’08 when my book came out. Before that, I had a xanga site, which was more social to me than serious writing. There is no rhyme or reason as to how I often I post. I refuse to write just so that I get more hits on my site, or because it’s been awhile since I last posted. I only write when I feel there’s something inside that needs to get out. This is my 201st post here.

2. Have you had anything published, and if so, what and when?

Some devotional/inspirational articles in CLP’s “Companions” some years ago. I published my own book, written especially for single women, in ’08.

3. Who is the author who best speaks your language and who you would most like to be like, in style and message?

Philip Yancey speaks my language because of his honesty. I admire the way he explains his conclusions with words that are carefully chosen but still carry a cadence, a kind of rhythm.  I admire CS Lewis for the way he connects the spiritual and the tangible world. I’m relishing Les Miserables  but would NOT want to mimic Victor Hugo’s style.

4. What do you see as the unique message God has given you to share with the world ?

It has something to do with exposing beauty and truth. Also, I want to be a voice for those who have none, and an ear for those who those who have found none. In other words, be a facilitator, which may not necessarily mean writing.

5. Who or what has made you believe in yourself as a writer?

A teacher at school (Rosalind McGrath Byler) and a Calvary Bible school teacher (Ervin Hershberger).

6. Who or what has done the opposite?

Men who refused to market my book, were opposed to it because it didn’t fit their theology and disapproved of my using quotes from writers in other denominations.

7. Besides blogging, what types of writing have you done?

Journaling. Letters. Dabbled in verse and music composition but wasn’t willing to stick to it. In my head, I’ve written travel articles about my local area in Ireland.

8. Where would you like to be, writing-wise, in five years?

Working on my 2nd book.

9. What would need to happen to move you from here to there?

A lot of things that God and I keep discussing.

10. Any advice for beginning bloggers/writers?

Don’t write if you can help it. But if you can’t help but write, do! Read all the time, always have several books on the go, and don’t read rubbish.

11. Just for fun: what’s a skill you have that almost no one knows about? (example: I know how to develop black and white film in a darkroom.)

I can read and write words upside-down, across the table from my English students.

A Book Giveaway

Just to say–one of my oldest, bestest friends is giving you a chance to get a copy of my book on her xanga site.

She’s not old, it’s just that she and I just go back a long way. I’ve  blogged about her before here and here and here. The thing that amazes me when we get together or talk on the phone is how either of us gets a word in edgewise, but somehow it works. We can even be quiet together. But rarely. We’re generally pretty noisy.

So if you want to have a chance at winning a book for yourself or a friend, have a go there. And yes, well, she says some nice things about me, which is awfully kind of her.

I’m glad she’s doing this giveaway because  I’m not thinking about my book much right now. What I’m thinking about is the incredible gift of meeting Philip Yancey last Saturday. He’s my absolute favourite writer, and the wonderful day deserves a blog post. Sometime.

I’m not sure if I’m a writer, because ‘wroter’ seems to be more accurate: I wrote a book once. I dream of writing another book, hopefully in the next ten years, just because I love the experience. I love the research, the playing with words, rearranging them to make them work. But for now, I have one book finished, and you have a chance to win a copy.

Blog Keeping

I’ve now added new pages under the My Book widget on this blog. If you want to see how my book reads, I’ve posted the first page of each chapter. Only the first page, which means that some sentences are left unfinished. Enjoy!

If you want to order a copy or read what some readers have commented about the book, go to My Book.

Today’s Thanks

We talked long as we ate black currents from her bushes, my friend and I, soaking up the sun.

She told me of her friend: “She was older when she married, and their marriage is ok, but she’s not happy. She doesn’t like to be with my children, and she never comes to visit us. She wanted to have children, so maybe it hurts too much to be around them. She loves to give gifts, but says she hates to receive them. I don’t know how I can help her. She’s so alone, and has always been. What do I have that can help her? What’s the best way I can show her I love her–make her donuts every week? What do you think I should do? I wish you could talk with her. I wish she could read your book.”

I wanted to weep because I could be that lady except for God’s scandalous grace and my choices.

I said, “I’d love to talk with her–someday when I learn Polish better. But the thing she needs most is to give thanks now. You and I both know that both of us have a wonderful life, but there are still things we cry about. We’ll always have imperfections to deal with no matter where we live or who we’re married to or what dream has come true.

The one thing God asks is that we thank Him. Just this last Saturday, He told me very clearly You must thank me for this season of aloneness, these responsibilities, this experience. It doesn’t mean that I’m always dancing and laughing. I can be honest with God. David often did that. But always the rant must end in trust, rest, and thanks, even if we have to take ourselves by the scruff of the neck to say it.”

It’s good for me to hear myself say these things, otherwise sometimes I’d forget them.

Last night a friend and her son dropped in at school just to see if I was ok, or if I was too lonely. I’d have talked longer with her but another friend was coming to my house, who ended up staying til midnight. Life is very good. A long bike ride, eating berries in the sun, watching children play in water, drinking tea, a rich, absorbing book, a non-English-speaking friend who gave me a ride and was most gracious with my stumbling Polish.

My Thanks Journal is still the best discipline in my life. Tonight the list will be long.

Book Promotion

Because I self-published my book and live several thousand miles away from most of my readers, I’ve been limited in marketing it. I’m hugely indebted to many friends and relations who have gone to bat for me, and helped me with the logistics of shipping, handling, and promoting the book.

Now it’s your turn. If you do my legwork, you get free books!

Here’s the deal: If you refer Life is for Living to a bookstore and they order a minimum of twenty books, you earn a free copy of my book. There is no limit to the number of bookstores you can sign on (these will make great gifts so if you’ve already ordered one for yourself, you can save the next one for a friend). If the bookstores around you are small and don’t keep a big inventory but several sign up because of you and their orders combined total twenty, you will still get credited.

You can leave a comment here to tell me who you’ve talked to, but you need to make the initial contact to get credit. And be sure to remind the bookstore to tell CLR you referred them when they place an order! The helpful staff there will be glad to get your book to you!

Here is CLR’s contact info:

CLR Distribution

28500 Guys Mills Rd.

Guys Mills, PA 16327

Toll Free: 877-222-4769 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting              877-222-4769      end_of_the_skype_highlighting

Phone: 814-789-4769

Fax: 814-789-3396

Email: clr@fbep.org

Online: www.Christianlearning.org

My Book

Having spent four years poring over my book, I had come to the place where I couldn’t bear to look at it anymore. Recently I picked it up to browse through it for the first time in probably two years and I cringed several times. I understand this is normal for authors.

A friend asked me recently if I’d change anything in my book if I had the chance. I wouldn’t change the premise of the book, but I’d add some things, take other lines out. I’d definitely delete qualifiers and italics. I had no idea there were so many in there. It’s a peculiar feeling, reading my own book.

I wrote the book with the conviction that God didn’t intend His daughters to live in grey hues. I saw young women approach their thirties, and when there was no romance on the horizon, they became desperate or depressed. I knew that when they chose these options they were grieving God because He designed them for more than depressing jobs or marriages of desperation. I didn’t want to write a I’m-a-single-woman-hear-me-roar kind of book, but one that looks honestly at the losses that come from singleness, and finds joy and grace. Because that’s how big God is, and I love Him very much and I love how He keeps breaking out of the boxes we put Him in.

It could be that the book sounds chirpy and glib. If I rework it, I might try to fix that, put more depth in it, though now I don’t know how. The great thing about publishing your own book is that you can change things in it at the next printing. I like brainstorming about a new cover and a ‘new and improved’ edition. I’m open to suggestions.

I love hearing from my readers, hearing their stories, peeking into their worlds. I felt especially triumphant when a friend said she was reading it and it made her mad enough that she threw the book across the room. (She’s still my friend!) What’s the point of writing something that doesn’t evoke some response? I was also happy when a reader said the book inspired her to read The Chronicles of Narnia even though she had always said she wasn’t interested in backless wardrobes.

I’ve been amazed at how many mothers and pastor’s wives have told me that they were encouraged with the book’s message. I hadn’t intended the book to be something for them, so their audience is a bonus to me. When single men ask about it, I always tell them I didn’t write it for them, but if they read it they may get a good picture of the kind of woman they should be looking for.

I’m a dreadful business person, having an aversion to numbers and percents and such. I don’t like marketing my own book. (I was comforted recently to find that a favourite author feels the same way here.)

If you’re brainstorming for a gift idea for a lady, you might consider giving her a copy of Life is For Living. In the next day or so I’m going to post a promotion for the book, so stay tuned.

An Old Friend, A New Book

Michelle is one of my oldest, bestest friends. When I’m particularly sad or mad or glad, I pick up the phone and talk it out with her, and she listens and asks questions, and we shriek and lecture and giggle and howl by turns. Yup, it can get noisy.

Back in ’05, she and her husband and son lived here for seven weeks, and we were both working on our books. We’d sit cross-legged on her couch, each with a laptop, critiquing each other’s drafts. We’d hash out the issues we were writing/reading about, and delete and add paragraphs. It was brutal, safe honesty, and incredible fun, even though I’m pretty sure neither of us want to do it again. At least not for a long time.

It always amazes me that we get along so well, Michelle and I. We have lots of similar interests and passions, but we have lots of differences about less important things. She likes light blue; I don’t touch it. She doesn’t like desserts so much, but I do. She likes a more modern decor; my default is eclectic. My book was primarily for singles. Hers is for new brides. Our worlds could hardly be more diverse. But we get along like a house on fire.

Now her book is here! I got a copy yesterday. She co-authored it with her sister Christy. I am as proud of them as can be.

Authors don’t write books because they are masters of their subjects, or have all the answers. They write because they are more honest than most of the populace about the issues they live with, wrestle with, learn about. They are hungry students who know there’s more to learn. I didn’t write my book for single women because I believe that single is the best and only way to live, or because I want to be single all my life, or because I know everything about living well singly. I wrote because it was time to be honest about the scenario many ladies find themselves in, and because those ladies deserved a caring, sensitive voice.

Michelle and Christy wrote with the same motivations. Writing from the middle of their lives as new brides gave them a voice of understanding and credibility. The book is honest, personal, and articulate–a winning combination.

To order your copy of Marital Bliss with a kiss of reality, email Michelle at smilesbymiles[dot]gmail[dot]com. Visit their blog here to “meet” them and/or subscribe to updates. I like the fun, interactive blog even though none of it applies to me, so you have to know it’s a good one if I’ve subscribed to it.

I skimmed the book last night. Not being a bride, I’ll likely not be taking the time to read it from cover to cover. But I cheer for solid marriages and women who love their husbands and families well, and I will promote this book because of what’s in it and because the authors are stellar ladies who deserve big cheers for their enormous vision and creative wordsmithing. I believe the world will be more beautiful for what they wrote.

Bravo to Michelle and Christy!