The year was 2008 …

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“When all the details fit perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story.”
Charles Baxter

Everything went right that year.

After writing thousands of words and submitting to dozens of publishers, I finally saw my stories in print.

The editor who mentored my work asked if I’d like to write a human interest column for her newspaper. Right up my alley. I also wrote for a glossy magazine about Upstate SC homes and their owners.

Our nearly hundred-year-old fixer-upper was featured in This Old House magazine. I wrote the story.

We sold that house the following month for four times what we paid.

My husband and I bought a downsized home of our dreams, 700 feet from the ocean, along the stretch of the Grand Strand called the Golden Mile.

Family was on track. Our son had a great-paying job, and our daughter and her boyfriend bought a house and began the remodel.

And I, well, I was miserable.

A turning point in my life. Whatever could go right, did. And still I was unhappy, scared, lost.

I found my answer at a book study. I don’t remember the title, only one sentence.

“If you’re unhappy, it may be because you’re still in pain.”

All the good life experiences couldn’t fix what was broken and hurting inside. That year brought me to my knees, where I belonged long before 2008.

Ever felt so low that getting on your knees was a step up?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I’m not especially good at focusing on you even when I know no one and nothing else can heal the pain and fill my emptiness. Because you’re graceful anyway, you’re doing for me what I can’t do for myself, bringing me to the end of myself so I can live fully for you.

On the side: The oil painting is of our home that was featured in This Old House. It was painted by artist Ruth Cox.

This post was rewritten and featured by Jeff Goins on his site, Wrecked. Click here to read “The Perfect Year – Wrecked.”

2017, A Great Year

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“Faith don’t come in a bushel basket, Missy. It come one step at a time. Decide to trust Him for one little thing today, and before you know it, you find out He’s so trustworthy you be putting your whole life in His hands.” Lynn Austin, Candle in the Darkness

The day before our son received a cancer diagnosis in late February, he wrote a rare post on Facebook, “New job, new city, and bringing a new life into our family … 2017 is shaping up to be a great year!”

He’d texted me earlier that month to say the year was off to a great start because Clemson University, his alma mater, brought home the 2016 National Championship.

At the end of last year, I overheard him telling his dad about 2017 being great since he and his wife had several promising things in the works.

My stomach tightened each time I heard “great,” and not because I didn’t think 2017 held a lot of possibility, but because sometimes we don’t perceive great in the same way God perceives it.

Almost a decade later, I still remember my “great” year that brought me to my knees. I wrote about it here, “The year was 2008 …

Great typically requires footwork, and a lot of it. It means change and not always the kind we want. Coming into greatness often means walking through trials and feeling emotions we hadn’t factored in when we did our planning.

Great means being in relationship with God, in relationship with others, and living our purpose.

I had doubts about whether our family had worked out matters of the heart enough to usher in greatness. Like in Romans 2:29, the verse says “heart matters” are the heart of the matter for God. Since I didn’t think we’d gotten that far yet, I questioned what it’d take to make it happen.

What would “great” cost us?

I was bothered enough to mention my son’s text in February’s blog post, “It’s Always Something.” Even though I trusted what I wrote, I still felt uneasy about the messiness I mentioned, “My son’s right, 2017 will be great even with its messy moments because it is always something, and sometimes it’s something beautiful.”

For one minute, I wished I had not prayed long and hard for us, asking for realness and restoration and godly relationships minus the things that sometimes come alongside like devastation and humiliation. I’ve held my breath while we have skirted those last two.

Just before our son’s biopsy confirmed stage 1 cancer, not the result we hoped for, he and his wife, who is pregnant with their first child, had a baby scare. Thankfully those test results turned out well.

Less than a week after my husband John and I returned home following our son’s surgery, John’s 87-year-old dad took a fall, hit his head on a brick stair, and was rushed into surgery. Doctors did all they could over the next fourteen days, but last week we said goodbye to Pop Pop. He died the day before Easter.

In light of reassuring calls and messages, friendship, and signs that life was happening as intended, my stomach calmed down and so did my spirit.

Historic Great Cross at St. Augustine, Florida at sunrise

 

I didn’t have to wonder anymore. I was witnessing the price of greatness.

While John listened to his dad’s surgeon talk to the family in the Neuro-ICU waiting room, he leaned close and whispered, “Is this what great looks like?”

I believe it is, and we notice it most during times like these.

Great is recognizing our dependence on God.

Great is cherishing others’ demonstration of God’s love.

Great is acknowledging God’s goodness when we have to let go of things we want to control and keep.

Finally, great is learning the lessons God teaches by way of suffering, grief, and letting go because He calls us to the emotional journey before He allows us to take the action journey.

In other words, He prepares us for the great things (great according to Him) that He’s put in front of us to do.

How great is your year? It’s not so much about our surroundings as it is about coming around to Him.

In This Together,
Kim

Thanks, Pixabay, for photos of the Great Wall of China and the historic Great Cross in St. Augustine, Florida.

One Foot On a Banana Peel, the Other at Kentucky Fried Chicken (a post about answering our calling at the age we are)

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“The days you work are the best days.” Georgia O’Keeffe

Four blog posts ago, I wrote “Choose Well” about sitting still so as not to miss the magic. This week’s post is about working, and for the same reason … so we don’t miss the magic.

A phone conversation gave me the idea for this post when a friend almost half my age said, “I’m afraid I’m going to be in my 40s, look back, and realize I haven’t accomplished my goals.”

I wanted to interrupt, but I didn’t, and say, “And your problem is? You’re not even mid-thirties.”

They finished, “I’ll end up feeling like a failure.”

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Before I gave into lecturing about accomplishments and age and having time on their side, my thoughts jumped to fried chicken. You know, the fowl that was fried up by Harland Sanders, the colonel of chicken and founder of Kentucky Fried Chicken at age 62 (after he retired and drew his first social security check). He may have something to say about purposely planning not to work and being without purpose at any age.

I wanted to lecture because, like my friend on the phone, I’m afraid of getting too old to accomplish what I want. If I’d started on my spiel, I would have been talking to myself. I’m happy Colonel Sanders stopped me, and even happier he’s a reminder we’re never too old to dream and live it. We’re never too old for magic. 

In the meantime and because I’ve been back and forth on this topic for several years, I met with my financial advisor to review our retirement plan and several options for moving forward with retirement faster. Even though friends who recently retired from teaching said they’d absolutely find something to do besides sit around, I figured my husband and I needed a plan in place for full retirement. I secretly held onto the idea of wanting a lot of time off until I wrote last week’s blog post, “Called to What?,” about finding work we love and working it to the end. We can’t be irresponsible about getting older, but it’ll undoubtedly make our “retirement” plan easier to save for if we don’t plan to retire.

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All that said … 

We’re rethinking everything. We want one week off a month for the rest of our lives, and, once in a while, two so we can travel. We want something to do, and we want to love it daily. We want purpose. We want to spend time with kids and grandkids, but not end up poster parents for codependency. We want to tap into creativity and maybe tap dance. Wait, I meant line dance. We want to continue most of what we’re doing now. I want to write. John wants to work on our houses.

A friend’s comment on last week’s blog post confirmed what we’d already envisioned for our lives (minus having a baby), but we started changing it up the more often clerks gave us senior discounts and the more often we thought about retirement looming. Sybil wrote, “The Bible does not use the word retire. Moses was 80 going strong. Sarah was 100, giving birth. Watch out world, there is a generation of great people wanting to fill their passions.”

Her comment reminded me of one of the quotes I shared last week. It’s by Howard Thurman, “Don’t ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

The world needs us to come alive before we retire and die. Once we’ve come alive, there’ll be no time to retire. 

Writer Richard Feloni put together an article about “People Who Became Successful After Age 40.” I thought it’d be fun and inspiring to share some of the personalities he wrote about.

Fun & Inspiring 

Jack Weil founded a popular cowboy brand, Rockmount Ranch Wear, and stayed its CEO until he died at age 107.

Rodney Dangerfield’s break as a comedian didn’t happen until he appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show at age 46.

Julia Child wrote her first cookbook that launched her career as a celebrity chef when she was 50.

Ray Kroc was a milkshake device salesman before buying McDonald’s at age 52 and making it into the world’s biggest fast-food franchise.

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Vera Wang didn’t get started as a designer until she was 40. Gary Heavin was the same age when he opened the first Curves fitness center. Henry Ford was 45 when he created the Model T. My two favorites on the list are Laura Ingalls Wilder who published the first of her Little House books at age 65 and Grandma Moses who started her painting career at 78. Who is your favorite?

#GettingYourOwnLife can happen at any age, and it doesn’t have to be a fancy career like Vera Wang’s or a moneymaker like McDonald’s. It just needs to be work that gives us purpose. We can’t afford to get tired and retire before we figure it out, before we find our magic.

Where are you headed besides retirement?

In This Together,
Kim

I’m not sure it’s accurate about Colonel Sanders receiving his social security check, but I included it just in case it is since it makes a great story.

Thanks for the pics, Pixabay.com.

Set Me Free (Independence Day and my 100th blog post)

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“Freedom lies in being bold.” Robert Frost

One year ago this weekend, I started blogging. 

Beginning my blog on July 4th didn’t have any significance at the time. It seemed random. Our son and his girlfriend were staying with us for the weekend and she guided me through the set-up for Well-Written Days.

I wrote stuff like Mr. Potato Head’s lesson about the sense of walking. My father-in-law’s wise sayings. Dad’s military service.

I wrote about 2008, the turn-around year. I wrote about a fairy tale ended between Sandra Bullock and Jessie James.

I wrote words I wouldn’t say out loud because someone may not agree with me, may not like me, may not understand me.

Even now, after writing online for a year, my stomach sometimes tenses when I click “publish” to send what I’ve written to subscribers and Facebook friends and Twitter followers.

But once the words are in print, I feel over-the-top free.

Writing minimizes the distance between me and a life fulfilled. I remember a college professor saying, “Self actualization is when who you are and who you want to be come together.”

Today I’m writing Well-Written Days’ 100th blog post, which means I’m 100 posts closer to being who I want to be, who I was created to be.

What frees you? What moves you closer to being you?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I believe realizing and using our talents sets us free … a personal Independence Day, of sorts. Here’s to living the life God planned for us, more dazzling than fireworks!

Interview with Donn Taylor, Poet and more…

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Donn Taylor led an Infantry rifle platoon in the Korean War, served with Army aviation in Vietnam and worked with air reconnaissance in Europe and Asia. Afterwards, he completed a PhD degree at The University of Texas and taught English literature at two liberal arts colleges. He has more than 20 years experience teaching poetry, including at conferences like Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference.

His poetry collection Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond was published in 2008. His fiction includes a suspense novel, The Lazarus File, and a light-hearted mystery, Rhapsody in Red. He has published essays on writing, literary criticism, ethical issues and U. S. foreign policy.

He and his wife live near Houston, Texas, where he writes fiction, poetry and articles on current topics.

       

Thank you, Donn, for joining us and taking time to answer our questions. Well-Written Days is honored to share one of your poems with readers. Drop by anytime with more!

Give us some background about your poetry writing – how long you’ve been writing poems, what style you write and where your poems have been published.

Although I wrote song lyrics as early as age 14, I only began writing serious poetry as a junior in college—not much of it, but some worth reading. Then there was a long hiatus during military service, graduate school, and college teaching. Only after retiring from teaching have I had time to write. My main effort has been fiction, but I also had to prove to myself that I could write good poetry. In style, I’m a rebel against most of the poetry being written in today’s graduate schools. Though I do write some free verse, most of my poetry uses traditional meter and often uses traditional forms. Meter gives an extra dimension of meaning that free verse doesn’t.

My poems have been published in Christianity and Literature, The Lamp-Post (journal of the California C.S. Lewis Society), Discoveries (published by South-Central Renaissance Conference) and similar journals, as well as general-audience publications like The Presbyterian Record (Canadian). Most recently, they’ve been collected in a book titled Dust and Diamond: Poems of Earth and Beyond. They are previewed on my Web site, http://www.donntaylor.com/, with links to buy through Amazon.

Who are your favorite poets?

Do you have enough space for me to answer? Virgil, Dante, Ariosto, Spenser, Shakespeare, Donne, George Herbert, Milton, Andrew Marvell (lyrics only), Tennyson, some of Arnold and Clough, E.A. Robinson, Frost, some of Archibald MacLeish, W.H. Auden.

Which is your favorite poem you’ve written?

As close to a single favorite that I have would be “Cosmos in Wartime.” Why? It is a tribute to the wives of military men in combat, including of course my own wife. For the wives are the keepers of the values their husbands are defending. I also think it has the soft sounds appropriate to the subject. Like all poems, it should be read aloud.

COSMOS IN WARTIME  (© 1996, Donn Taylor)

There at the center of the universe,
An ocean and a continent away
From where I labor, calm at end of day
Descends, drawn down by likeness, to immerse
Her house in tender truths till she rehearse
For children deep assurances that say,
“This spirit-night, no strife nor storm shall sway
These quiet cradles, nor the world amerce
Souls of these innocents for ancient wrong
As price for human essence wrenched awry.”
She speaks in trust that only grace allows,
Modestly unaware her softness, strong–
Stronger than stone or steel–holds up this house
In love, to let the house hold up the sky.

Which is your favorite poem by another poet?

Among other favorites, I keep coming back to George Herbert’s “Sin’s Round.” It treats a vital subject, the nature of sin, concentrated into 18 poetic lines. Beyond that, it’s a perfect example of poetic form becoming a part of the message. For that reason, I use it as the climactic example in my class on “Broader Horizons in Poetic Technique.”

What makes a good poem?

In most cases, an important subject presented in beautiful language. In certain cases—satire, for example—the language might need to be appropriately harsh-sounding. In comic poetry, surprise multi-syllable rhymes like Byron’s rhyming intellectual with hen pecked you all.

What suggestions do you have for someone who is at the beginning of his or her desire to write poetry?

Above all, read a lot of different kinds of poetry. Study books like Lawrence Perrine’s Sound and Sense, which explain and illustrate the fundamentals of how poetry works, and William Baer’s Writing Metrical Poetry, which contains practical exercises. Join a group of poets who’re willing to study and learn. And write, write, write. Any skill, whether it’s basketball, piano playing or writing, is learned through practice.

One other thought: Don’t try to write poetry in a hurry. If it doesn’t come out exactly right, set it aside and come back to it later. It’s not unusual for one of my poems to take months before I think it’s ready. A few have taken years. As the commercial says, “Sell no wine before its time.”

What’s the difference in poetry and let’s say, a company buying “poems” to put on greeting cards and bookmarks? Do you see this writing as similar or a far stretch?

Different kinds of poems have different purposes and audiences—everything from greeting cards to high school cheers to Paradise Lost. I don’t have a problem with this as long as the poem doesn’t pretend to be more than it is.

When writers want to sell their poetry, what suggestions do you have for them?

Selling is more difficult than writing, and each person has to blaze his own trail. It’s also labor-intensive. You use a reference like Writer’s Digest’s annual Poet’s Market or the poetry section of Sally Stuart’s Christian Writer’s Market Guide to find publications you think might be compatible with what you’re writing. Then you buy sample copies to verify. Then you submit to a selection of those publications and keep a record of what you sent where. This is a tedious process that takes about a year to complete.

In your life, what does a well-written day look like?

If I’m writing poetry, I block out an entire morning to work—with no interruptions, I hope. (It helps to have an understanding wife who loves poetry.) The usual product is a number of fragments—a few good lines, some thoughts I’d like to work in if I can find words that fit, some good sounds I’d like to use. If I do this for several days, I usually have enough to scrape out a poem, though it may be weeks before it’s ready to bring out of the office. After such a morning, there’s no use trying to write, so I usually do light reading in the afternoon or work on honey-do’s around the house.

Do you have a favorite quote?

“Parkinson’s Law,” formulated by C. Northcote Parkinson: “Work tends to expand so as to fill the time available for its completion.”

On the side: For more, check out Donn Taylor’s website.

Home and Heart Renovations

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After: Kitchen floor

After: Kitchen floor

Before: Kitchen floor

Before: Kitchen floor

Of all the things I’ve done in my life, renovating homes has landed in the top two as being the most challenging, fulfilling, exasperating, exciting, and panic and passion-producing.

I’ve also probably learned more from my homes than just about anything or anyone. They’ve been a friend one day and a frustration the next.

I’ve laughed out loud because of them and, the next day, bawled my eyes out. We’ve sometimes had a love /hate relationship. I’ve sold a dream house and bought a dump. We have one by the beach and one near a mountaintop.

Every fixer-upper has lived up to the reputation of being “a money pit,” but not one of our six homes has ever let me down. 

They’ve been there every evening, warm fire in the winter and breezy fans in the summer, they speak up when they need something, quietly listen while I babble on and read aloud, and offer inspiration I may not have found by myself. They have felt safe. I always relate to them since they’re never finished, usually a mess, and creative in their own ways.

One of our homes was featured in This Old House magazine in 2008. Last week, our son’s and girlfriend’s home renovation was featured on This Old House’s blog. Our daughter and her fiancé are the ones who redid the tile floor in the pictures on this blog.

We’re a family of DeWalt-buying, Lowe’s-on-a-date-night going, caulk using, tool carrying, tile laying fixer-uppers.

What runs in your family?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It seems we’ve passed on our heart for homes in need of tender loving care. Who knew the homes would give it right back? Thank you, God, that we’re a family renovated.

Southern-Style Wisdom Passed Down, enjoy it like we say it

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“South Cackalacky – it’s not just a place, it’s a state of mind.” Unknown

Our relationship started like most, all over each other like “white on rice.”

John would pick me up in his 1966 blue and white station wagon and borrow a one-liner from his dad, “You look finer than frog hair.” We’d eat dinner, dance at a local club and usually end up parked behind his dad’s service station, “playing smushy face.”

John worked with his dad who everyone called EL (Everett Laverne or Ever Lovin’ – you choose after reading this). John pumped gas, took apart Volkswagen engines, and continued to be shaped by his dad’s sayings.

When I’d drive off after visiting them at work, particularly on a date night, I’d roll down my car window so EL could tell me, “Be good. If you can’t be good, be careful. If you can’t be careful, name it after me.”

Our wedding in a nutshell was the day John “bought the cow because the milk wasn’t free”. EL was there for us after we married, with cooking advice for me, “I wouldn’t eat that with your mouth,” and counsel to John if he wasn’t acting husbandly, “Smooth move, Ex-Lax.”

We were confident when we had children EL’s words would live on and influence them as well. Both times I was pregnant, he said, “You look like you swallowed an air hose.” If he hadn’t told me, who would?

In the kids’ younger years, he saved our son’s life, “You’re starving the boy to death. He’s so hungry he could eat the north end out of a southbound mule.” He saved our daughter’s social life, “If you keep cuttin’ her bangs that short she’s not gonna die, she’s gonna ugly away.”

John quoted his dad during our kids’ elementary school years. When enough was enough, he told them, “I’m going to beat you like a redheaded stepchild.” Every kid knows that’s a bad spanking. If they cried about not getting their way, John said, “I’m going to give you something to cry about.” And if they were good, they were “gooder than goat grease.”

He relied on his dad’s insights during the more-trying middle school days, when the kids whined, “Why can’t I? Everyone else is doing it.” He’d answer, “Don’t let your hippopotamus mouth overload your hummingbird butt.” As soon as our daughter “got a little too big for her britches,” he told her so. The day our son took a step toward him, John stepped up as well, “You aren’t big enough to whoop your old man, and by the time you are, you won’t want to.”

When our kids were high-schoolers, we heard, “If I had a TV, a phone in my room, a car, my own laptop, your credit card, and if I didn’t have to work for any of them, I’d be mature.” John said, “If a bullfrog had wings, he wouldn’t bump his butt.”

One of the kids would leave the house in a huff, “Limp on down the shoulder on the rim.”

They’d disappear when they thought we wanted them around, “I think they went to the bathroom and the hogs ate ‘em.”

And when teachers called about homework not being turned in, “We buy you books, send you to school and all you do is chew the backs off. We don’t want anymore calls, understood?”

The kids have long since moved out and moved on. On their packing day, John shared the same wisdom his dad shared with him, “The door only swings one way.”

To John and EL’s credit, their legacy lives on. Our daughter lives in South Cackalacky (that’s South Carolina, Southern style). And I overheard our son telling a friend, “My dad said when I was big enough to whoop him, I wouldn’t want to. And he was right.”

Surely you have some sayins to share with us. Go ahead. I’m dying to read them.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Southern-style livin’ may not top the list for being politically correct, but let me tell you, I’m tickled pink with how our family turned out. Thanks to old-fashioned, ever-lovin’ common sense.


Interview with C.J. Darlington, Part 1 – the silly part

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C.J. Darlington with her book cover for “Thicker Than Blood”

C.J. Darlington’s first novel, Thicker Than Blood, won the 2008 Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest.

Her second novel, Bound by Guilt, is set to release in February 2011.

She is the co-founder of the Christian entertainment website http://www.titletrakk.com/. She makes her home in Pennsylvania. When she’s not writing, she’s reading. That is, when she’s not answering interview questions from bloggers like me.

C.J. graciously answered all twenty something of them, even though my in-house editor (my husband) said it was way too many. And if this isn’t enough info about C.J., there’s more on her blog and her website at http://www.cjdarlington.com/.

Are there any questions that haven’t been asked? Oh yeah, the silly ones.

If you were a cartoon character, who would you be? Of course, please tell us why on each one of these even though I didn’t ask it over and over.

Are there any cartoon characters who are hermits? I could be that. Sometimes there’s a bit of Eeyore in me, but I’d much rather be a character like Charlie Brown or Snoopy.

How about a car? Which one would you be? What kind of car do you drive? Any significance to choosing it? We had a car a while back named “Little Red” – chose it because my husband wanted to drive in a British sports car club.

Someday I would love to have a 70’s era pickup truck. I just love the look of those things, but it wouldn’t be very practical. I have no idea how they drive, and I’d want something with 4-wheel drive too. I grew up in the East, but I’m a western girl at heart. I love the American West, and an old pickup would fit perfectly with my dream of someday living out there on a place with lots of room to roam and a view of a beautiful mountain. Plus, if I ever own horse I could pull a horse trailer with a pickup.

My favorite obsession in the world – what kind of shoe would you be? I’m sure I’d buy and add you to my shoe collection.

Something simple yet durable. Either a worn cowboy boot, a pair of work boots, or some comfie Merrell hiking shoes. I’ve always loved getting dirty and spending time outdoors. I don’t mind spending extra on a pair of shoes if I know they’re going to last me for years.

I’m putting this under sillies because TV can be pretty nutty to watch these days. Do you have favorite shows?

Project Runway is a favorite, which surprises me because I am the last person to care about fashion shows, but I have a lot of fun watching the dynamics of all the designers. It’s fun to see what sort of crazy outfits they come up with too. Another one I enjoy watching is Dirty Jobs. The guy who hosts it (I forget his name) cracks me up. I love the cop shows too. Some old shows I enjoyed are Jericho, Earth 2, and Joan of Arcadia. The BBC version of Robin Hood is pretty good too so far, but I’ve only watched a few episodes of Season 1.

What about pets? Thankfully, I think God made them silly to help us lighten up. Tell us about yours – their names and any funny habits they have. Is cereal their weakness also?

My dogs definitely help me to lighten up. I love animals and have three dogs with my sister Tracy. Two are pure bred Whippets, the other is a Whippet mix. His name is Story. Quite appropriate, don’t you think? We also have a big cat named Cubby who spends his days sleeping under a lamp on the shelf above my computer. Unless he decides to come down and plop in front of my keyboard. Or stand in front of the monitor!

What book would you be? What was your favorite childhood book when you were five?

I loved the Richard Scarry books, anything by Robert Lawson but especially Rabbit Hill and The Fabulous Flight. There was this series I loved which included titles like Meet George Washington, Meet Abraham Lincoln and Meet the North American Indians. I would get those at the library almost every time we went.

Come again tomorrow and Wednesday for answers to questions like, “What does C.J. stand for?” I know, I am curious also.

Part 2, About her book and the art of writing

Out of the Closet on Research

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Someone's coming!

Someone’s coming!

“If you’re having trouble writing a story, it’s because you haven’t done enough research.”

That was a helpful tip about writer’s block from the editor who first published my work, but never a problem I’d encounter. Researching is my favorite, kind of like Buddy the Elf likes smiling. I once searched for more than five hours to find electrical panel covers for a $50 home improvement article.

I was proud to write for less than $5 an hour. I marked it up to being competent rather than obsessive-compulsive about research.

However, there was another researching habit I kept behind closed doors. I secretly visited a certain website dozens of times daily, but only when I was home alone or in the wee hours of the morning. It was the first site I’d check to gather information, but the last I’d admit to when discussing research with writers.

You may have already guessed it – Wikipedia.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, it’s just I got the wrong first, second and third impressions.

My husband walked in one afternoon when I had Wikipedia in plain view.

“Anyone can add to that site. You know that, right?” he said.

“Someone monitors the additions, don’t they?”

He didn’t know.

Next, a writer friend told me she wouldn’t be caught dead using Wikipedia.

By the time I heard an editor talk about the website’s inaccuracies, I was already hiding my habit.

Still, from the shadows of my office, Wikipedia jump-starts nearly every article I write. The site shares link after link to stories that cover millions of topics. I’ve found names and dates on Wikipedia, which have led to original articles that in turn shared little known facts. And typically I find a fascinating fact or two in Wikipedia’s writeup that, when verified, turns out to be true.

So, why am I coming out with this now?

Because Wikipedia also came out of the closet. They made the cut.

Writer’s Digest, on display in stores until October 11, 2010, named Wikipedia one of the 101 best websites for writers.

From the article,“While not an end-all for fact checking by any means, Wikipedia is an excellent starting point for gathering information.”

What’s your take on Wikipedia?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Thanks, Writer’s Digest, for promoting Wikipedia and easing my guilt.

On the side:

Wikipedia on Writer’s Digest

Wikipedia on Wikipedia


Revisions with C.J.Darlington and Lyn Riddle

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Karen Watson (Tyndale), C.J. Darlington, and Jerry B. Jenkins (Photo by Cindi Koceich)

C.J. Darlington, in 2008, was awarded a contract with Tyndale House Publishers by Jerry B. Jenkins at his Writing for the Soul Conference.

C.J. began writing her novel when she was 15. Almost that many years later, she saw Thicker than Blood in print.

And its evolution? The first line alone went through seven revisions. She generously gave permission to share the rewrites and to also share her take on each one.

From the story written at age 15:
Christy Thomas worked at Robert Kuller Real Estate in Billings, Montana.
Um, can we say boring?

1st draft at age 19:
Christy Thomas didn’t see the red lights until they were directly behind her, flashing madly.
I think the lights were rabid.

2nd draft:
She pulled off the highway, her arms and fingers tense with fear.
This was my melodramatic phase.

3rd draft:
Christy didn’t see the cop until he was tailing her.
I was on the right track with this one, I think.

Manuscript submitted to Operation First Novel contest in 2004:
Christy wished the cop would just shoot her.
Apparently I took too seriously the advice to begin with a bang.

Manuscript submitted to Operation First Novel contest in 2008:
Christy didn’t see the cop until his red lights spun in her rearview mirror.
Eventually I saw the error of my ways and went back to this.

Published first line:
Christy Williams didn’t see the cop until his red lights flashed in her rearview mirror.

When I awoke the morning after reading C.J.’s first lines, I imagined her reading from my stories. I heard editor Lyn Riddle, who I wrote for at a regional paper, editing each line.

“I soaked up the beauty of the forest,” read C.J.

“Soaking is what you do in a tub, not the forest,” said Lyn. “You walk through the forest and notice rough bark on trees.”

I edited out fluff and flowery words and put in their places straightforward passages. 

“Please, just tell the story,” said Lyn. It was another of her suggestions to improve articles.

Remembering it encouraged me to cut 42 words from “Off Topic Again” because I was off topic. 

“Writing is rewriting.”

I spent the afternoon doing just that, following Lyn’s advice that writing is all about the revision.

Obviously, C.J. and Tyndale House Publishers agree.

How many times are you willing to rewrite a post, an article, a chapter? Does rewriting bug you or do you appreciate refining your work?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’m willing to revise and be revised.

On the side: More to come from C.J. Darlington in an upcoming interview that will appear “write” here on Well-Written Days. I hope you’ll join us.

“Today is a Great Day to (re)Write” by Steve Laube @ The Steve Laube Agency.

Photo credit: Cindi Koceich of Selah Photography Studios